The Pacific Island port of Makasar used to be a fairly peaceful outpost of the United States Navy. But now, entire American families are vanishing without a trace and no one has any ideas about where they might be. William M. Corry, captain of the super-sub U.S.S. Shenandoah has orders to get to the bottom of the mysterious disappearances. At first, he suspects the unpredictable Chinese troopers patrolling the area, but after a little investigating, Corry realizes that the disappearances of the Americans cannot be the fault of the Chinese—they are as worried as he is. Corry refuses to believe the wild rumors of native cannibals…until he accidentally unearths the real enemy: a force with power beyond anything humankind has ever known!
About the Author
The late G. Harry Stine graduated from Colorado College in Colorado Springs, Colorado (his hometown), with a bachelor’s in physics. Before deciding on a science degree, he studied psychology and premedicine at the University of Colorado. Stine was a prime consultant on the definitive NASA study on space industrialization in 1977–1978. He also developed financial and management scenarios for Solar Power Satellite systems (1979), and worked on the military implications of those systems (1980). He testified before Congress four times concerning the need for and direction of future space programs and lectured on space warfare at the US Army War College.
Read an Excerpt
Starsea Invaders Series
By G. Harry Stine
OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIACopyright © 1993 G. Harry Stine
All rights reserved.
"Captain, this is the OOD. We have a masdet contact. A big target, sir."
Captain William M. Corry reacted immediately in his usual cool, collected manner. He'd been engrossed in studying the action options available to him when the U.S.S. Shenandoah reached Makasar. This was a typical power projection mission for a carrier submarine such as the Shanna. However, the matter of the missing American businessmen, factory supervisors, and their families put a different spin on it. The American embassy in the Sulawesi capital had been unable to get the local government of the island republic to act. So Corry knew it wasn't going to be a straightforward mission.
He fingered his terminal and saw that LCDR Natalie Chase, the boat's Navigation Officer, was the OOD on this watch.
Then he activated his intercom, composed himself in a fraction of a second, and replied, "This is the Captain. Do you have any specifics on the target, Commander?"
No one would guess that William M. Corry had always had a speech impediment. He was a stutterer. But he always had it under control. The boat's Medical Officer, CDR Laura Raye Moore, knew it, and the fact was part of his naval medical record. But everyone else believed that Corry's habit of pausing before speaking was merely the Commanding Officer's way of carefully considering what he was going to say before he said it. This was truly the case, of course.
Corry wasn't upset at being interrupted for a mere masdet contact report. Every one of the crew knew that Chinese Han class boats might be in these waters. The East Indies had become one of the twenty-first-century's hot spots because of conflicting interests. West World's investment in the resources of the Indies was hotly contested by the growing interests of China. And the equally growing sea power capabilities of the People's Republic of China could mean that the huge Asian nation was involved in whatever was going on in Makasar.
"No, sir," Chase replied. "Only that it's big. And it's extremely quiet. Present course looks like zero-two-five toward Bone Bay. The target will cross our bow in approximately thirtytwo minutes at its present vector. Range unknown. The only other data I have on it are somewhat unbelievable. Its apparent displacement is on the order of fifty thousand tons."
Corry decided the contact was no Chinese Han boat.
"Is it closing, Commander?" the CO of the Shenandoah asked with some anxiety. An unknown IX that large running silently submerged could be a threat, given the international political situation in the Orient.
"Not at the present time, sir," the nominal Navigation Officer of the SSCV (see Glossary) replied, then went on to explain, "I wouldn't bother you except we've never seen any submersible this large on the mass detector before."
"You were quite correct in notifying me, Commander. I'll be right there. Carry on. Steady as she goes. Come to Condition Two," Corry told her.
"Come to Condition Two. Aye, aye, sir!" Chase repeated the order back to him.
The Flores Sea wasn't a nominal operational area for the United States Navy's Rivers class aircraft carrier submarines. And it was the first time one of the 390-meter ships, the only ones large enough to mount the new underwater mass detector, had been in these waters. The OOD had properly notified the Commanding Officer of unusual data from a new underwater sensing system.
Fifty thousand tons submerged put the target in the same displacement class as the SSCV-26 U.S.S. Shenandoah. Yet, none of the other four Rivers class ships were in this region. That's why Corry had received orders from CINCPAC to divert from air exercises at the Kwajalein Naval Air Training Area.
Whatever the target was, it merited Corry's immediate attention.
Bringing the ship to Condition Two was a prudent move. It wouldn't awaken the one-third of the ship's crew who were asleep, and it wouldn't put the Air Division or the Marine Battalion on alert, only on notification. But it would double the on-deck complement.
The intercom came alive with a quiet female voice repeating, "Hear this! Hear this! Come to Condition Two! Condition Two!" Back in the twentieth century, the United States Air Force had learned that people paid more attention to a female voice. The U.S. Navy had been late in accepting this finding, along with others like it.
Corry slipped his wireless neurophone over his left ear and "heard" the same voice repeating the message in his head. Its electronic signals interfaced in a noninvasive manner with Corry's nervous system.
Unlike many other members of his crew, Corry was a traditionalist in dress. He never wore the blue poopie suit affected by submarine crews. He buttoned the collar on his khaki shirt and tightened his black tie. When he left his cabin, he was only a few steps from the control room.
The ten-meter-by-ten-meter control room or bridge was only one reason the crew's nickname for the Shenandoah was "the starship." Even Corry believed it would make a better starship bridge set than those appearing on some of the television space operas.
"Good morning, Captain," the small, slender, dark-haired woman officer greeted him as she arose from the command chair.
"Good morning, Commander," Corry replied. Protocol required this exchange, but Corry didn't greet the other officers and crew members on duty. "I have the con."
"You have the con, sir," she repeated back to him but only stepped aside. He hadn't relieved her as OOD.
"Please give me a status report, Commander." Corry knew what it was, but he asked anyway.
"Sir, the ship is at one hundred meters, course three-one-zero true, speed forty knots. Position zero-seven-slash-four-niner-slash-two-five south, one-two-zero-slash-five-zero-slash-zero-three east. Mister Leighton will update the nav computer on the hour, sir." Chase confirmed the reading on the digital telltale above the helm position.
Corry could see it. To an outsider, this procedure might seem redundant. However, on a submarine nothing is done without purpose. No one assumes anything. The digital readout could be in-op.
In the twenty-first-century world of automation, artificial intelligence, nanotechnology, neuroelectronics, and robotics, the United States Navy continued to rely on people. Naval technology was a tool to help people to do what the CNO wanted them to do.
Corry was joined almost at once by three other officers—a full Commander, a pretty naval aviatrix wearing the pips of a Commander on her flight suit, and a stiff Marine Major.
"Good morning, Captain!" The spare, trim CDR with black hair and piercing blue eyes was dressed as Corry in khaki shirt and slacks with a properly knotted black tie.
"Good morning, XO," Corry replied to CDR Arthur E. "Zeke" Braxton.
"A big target, sir. Could the Chinese have something bigger than the Han boats?" Braxton asked, looking at the masdet remote display.
"I'm reluctant to assume anything at this point, XO. Or to do anything right now. Let's see if we can get some more data on this IX masdet contact first," Corry advised his Number Two officer and paused.
"Good morning, Captain," said the attractive young woman who had accompanied the Executive Officer. "Sir, I can launch two Sea Dragons within a minute of surfacing if you need to have a look," she said.
"Good morning. Commander. Yes, you might ready those planes, Terri," Corry told her, addressing CDR Teresa Ellison by her nickname. As the ship's Air Officer and CAG, she was an aggressive, shit-hot pilot in her own right. She was not known for being hesitant to initiate action of any kind. Her air combat experience confirmed that. Corry often had to temper her tiger juice with a bit of caution. He was glad she was aggressive. However, sometimes that trait had to be channeled properly. "Right now, I want to find out if the masdet has spotted a humping big whale or something we should be worried about."
"Good morning, Captain," Marine Major Bart Clinch spoke up. "Sir, it could be a Chinese submersible landing craft. Intel has been hinting at it."
"Good morning, Major. I appreciate your input. I've seen the OPNAV reports, too."
"Nothing to get your water hot about, Bart," Zeke remarked to him.
"You'd better hope my water's hot if it's something we have to force to the surface and board," Clinch growled.
"And it could be a false target, Bart," Braxton reminded him, trying to maintain the friendly, cooperative nature of interchange between officers in an SSCV. This was tough to do. The boat's people were different from the "brown shoe" aviation department. Both were different from the gung-ho Marine battalion. It made for interesting times. And it either created outstanding diplomats among the officers of the Shenandoah or they were gracefully reassigned elsewhere in the Navy on the recommendation of the Captain.
"Zeke's right," Corry added, also trying to play the diplomat. He would rather be a diplomat than a martinet. Although the captain of a naval vessel was still the last of the absolute monarchs, Corry preferred leadership by example to command by terror. "The masdet is so new that we could be getting an anomalous reading from it."
"Why not ping the target and see what it does?" Terri suggested. That remark was typical of her aggressive approach to life.
"I may do so after it crosses our bow. And I'll let it do that without changing our course or depth. If the target is indeed another ship, we're the burdened vessel here," Corry observed thoughtfully. To him, any unidentified underwater object that moved was a "target." The old submariner's adage said that a ship is either a submarine or a target.
However, Corry was concerned about this "anomalous" reading from the newly installed mass detector. For the first time, a submarine had "underwater eyes" other than active or passive sonar. The new mass detector sensor somehow made use of the arcane principles of modern physics. For fifty years, the science johnnies at White Oak Laboratories had dreamed of it and tried to figure out how to make it work. Now the tech-weenies had brought it to reality. The "masdet" could detect the presence of an object having a density different from its surroundings. How it accomplished this was still more classified than even the Captain of the Shenandoah was privileged to know. Only the "Special Sensors Officer," LT Charles Ames, knew anything about the masdet.
So the Commanding Officer of the carrier submarine—itself an impossibility a hundred years before—said to his XO, "Zeke, you might want to stick your head into the masdet compartment and monitor this firsthand for me, please. I'll listen for you on N-fone channel Tango."
Braxton undipped the N-fone from his ear and adjusted it. "Aye, aye, sir." And he was gone.
"Stick around, Terri," Corry told his CAG. "You might as well watch this develop here."
"Yes, sir!" Ellison really wanted to Jump up to PRIFLY and get two of the Black Panthers ready to launch when and if the Shenandoah surfaced. But she was in contact with her Flight Deck Officer, LT Paul Peyton, by N-fone channel. That would have to do for now.
So Corry and two of his division officers sat in the control room and watched.
Most naval operations—especially those that involved SSCVs—meant a lot of waiting. Even on the attack boats engaged in interdiction or defensive/ offensive actions, people had to wait while ships and targets moved. Sometimes it was a matter of watching and waiting to see what the other vessel was doing.
The masdet made it easier. It would have been the best of all worlds if the masdet could provide range data on targets whose mass was unknown. In this instance, mass had to be inferred from gravitational effects on the environment. That made ranging problematical based on secondary effects.
Masdet signal has changed, sir, was the quiet N-fone report to Corry from his XO in the masdet compartment.
Corry touched his ear lobe and activated his N-fone transmitter. What's happening, Number Two?
He heard Zeke's "voice" in his head. Mister Ames says the target has surfaced. The target's situation at the air-water interface has changed the signal.
Number Two, has it detected us?
I don't know, Captain. It hasn't pinged us.
Any other acoustic signals?
Mister Goff says negative, just the usual organic noises out there, sir.
Terri Ellison also heard the exchange on the N-fone channel. "Captain, if it's on the surface, let my chickens go take a look at it!" she insisted verbally.
When Corry didn't answer immediately, she urged, "Sir?"
He shook his head. "No, Terri, not if it hasn't spotted us. And I don't think it has."
"But, sir!" Her hands were clenched into fists.
Terri Ellison revealed again the aggressive side of her personality in an environment that left Corry no alternative but to deal with it at once. He didn't like to do that on the bridge. He would rather have talked to her privately afterward.
Corry had never regretted the Navy's decision to allow women in combat leadership roles. He knew that the sort of warrior woman who was good enough to perform well under combat conditions was far more aggressive than most men. Rudyard Kipling had been right about the female of the species.
So he gently laid a hand on Terri's shoulder, as a father would calm an agitated daughter, and gave her a firm but gentle reprimand. "Commander, our orders are to proceed to Makasar and carry out a power projection mission. Our presence must convince the Sulawesi government to take some action concerning the continual disappearances of American citizens on the island. I don't intend to chase unidentified masdet contacts. We'll continue to monitor the contact as long as we can. However, we'll not deviate from our mission unless that target takes aggressive action against us. Understood?"
Ellison relaxed, but the fire didn't leave her eyes. She paused before replying in a crisp manner, "Yes, sir!"
Captain, the contact is gone! came the report from Zeke Braxton in Corry's ear. Like it took off and went airborne!
Sure enough, the masdet monitor screen showed no mass anomaly out there any longer.
Corry rose to his feet. "Order stand down from Condition Two, Commander," he told the OOD. "Resume the watch. You have the con. Steady as she goes."
"Aye, sir. Stand down from Condition Two. Steady as she goes. I have the con," the petite officer repeated. The Chief of the Watch responded the same way when she passed the order on to him.
"What's the ETA for Makasar?" Corry then asked her.
Natalie Chase stepped over to the navigational displays where the Assistant Navigation Officer, LT Bruce Leighton, was on watch. It didn't take her more than fifteen seconds to respond, "Fourteen hours and ten minutes, sir. I expect we'll be able to surface inside the harbor mole at sunrise as planned."
Corry touched his ear again. Zeke, I want to see the division officers and chiefs in the main wardroom at ten hundred hours for a final scrub of the operation tomorrow.
Aye, sir! I'll plan to close the Dolphin Club at fourteen hundred hours then.
Corry turned to the Air Officer. "Terri, you're on edge today. Take an hour before the Oscar briefing and work off some steam. Find someone to take some lumps with you in the gym."
"Is that an order, sir?" Ellison snapped back deferentially.
"No, just a bit of advice. The time for aggression may come tomorrow."
Ellison wasn't a bit offended or even set back by that remark from the Commanding Officer. She had pre-combat jitters, and she knew it. The crazy masdet contact hadn't helped, coming some fourteen hours before surfacing at Makasar. She also knew what would take the sharp edge off her jitters if either Bart or Zeke was available. And if the Dolphin Club stayed open long enough after the Papa briefing.
Commander Teresa Ellison was a twenty-first-century Amazon.
Excerpted from First Action by G. Harry Stine. Copyright © 1993 G. Harry Stine. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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