Hey Everyone, welcome back! 🙂
I’m pretty sure that you’re all itching to get back to Annihilation, so let’s get to it, shall we? 🙂
Annihilation by Paul Byers (Part 2)
“Captain’s personal log: This has been an extremely disappointing deployment. We were on station for 87 days with no sign of the new Chinese sub so I used my discretion and we left early and are heading home. I really think Naval Intelligence dropped the ball on this one; I just hope they didn’t waste too much of the taxpayers’ money for this faulty information. On the way home I thought about ordering a series of ‘angles and dangles’ exercises to get the crew back in shape, but decided against it. I know how much the crew ‘loves’ it when we drive the sub like a roller coaster up and down at 28 degree angles at 35 knots. ”
Just then the executive officer stuck his head in the door. “Excuse me Captain, but you wanted to know when we were about eighty miles out from Pearl.”
“Very good, Abe. Bring her up to sixty feet and radio Pearl; tell’em to put out the welcome mat, we’re almost home.”
“Is it going to be the usual again this time?” The captain asked.
Abe Hollis, smiled. “Yes sir! Who am I to mess with tradition? Besides, it’s your turn to buy.”
“I was hoping you’d say that. I could sure use a piece of hula pie.”
“Very well then, carry on.”
“Yes sir!” Hollis smiled and saluted then disappeared, heading back to the conn.
Deacon leaned back in his chair and smiled. Abe had been his XO and friend for the past two years and the two of them had formed a sort of tradition when they returned from a deployment. They would get themselves the biggest, thickest steaks they could find then go and eat it either under the sun or stars, rain or shine, whatever the time of day. The point was to enjoy it in the freedom of the open air. In this case, since they were in Pearl, Duke’s Waikiki would be the restaurant of choice. The open-air dining right on the beach would be perfect and the passing scenery would certainly be an improvement on their blue overalls and khakis.
The smile slowly faded into a bittersweet crescent on his face. This was probably going to be their last “tradition” meal together. Abe had worked hard and had put in his time and he would recommend to Admiral Martin that Abe was ready for his own boat.
He also had to start thinking about how to finish his own career. With twenty-plus years in the Navy, he could retire anytime. Or, he could stay in and push for Rear Admiral but he just couldn’t see himself commanding from behind a desk. He knew he could do it, but what would be the point? And as much as he loved his job, and being a sailor, he still missed the land; especially the forests. He had grown up in the tall fir trees of Oregon and had often thought about getting a house at the base of the Cascades near Portland. There he could enjoy the tress but only be only a few hours away from his parents who still lived in his childhood home on the Columbia River.
Lost in his daydream, he could almost smell the fir and pine trees when Hollis stuck his head back in the door. The happy smile that had left his quarters a few minutes ago on his XO’s face was now replaced with a grim and concerned expression.
“Captain, we can’t raise Pearl. We’ve tried on all frequencies and all our equipment checks out.”
Deacon didn’t say a word as he got up and followed his XO back to the conn.
“Bring the boat up to periscope depth and raise the antenna. Normal procedure was to do a complete 360-degree sweep with the scope to search for any surface ships; Captain Deacon only made it a quarter of the way around before he stopped.
“Oh my God.” He stammered. “Helm, what’s our present course?”
“Course 090 degrees, sir, due east.”
“Take a look.” He motioned to Hollis.
Hollis looked through the periscope and echoed his captain’s words. “Oh my God…is that…”
“Pearl Harbor.” Deacon said as he stepped back up to the scope. The entire eastern sky was filled with plumes of dark, billowing smoke, all originating where the Hawaiian Islands were supposed to be. He flipped to thermo imaging and even from this distance could see the bright orange and red images of the intense heat of the fires. One of the innovations that the Texas had was that she didn’t have the traditional line-of-site periscope. Instead she had a photonics mast, which contained high-resolution cameras, along with light-intensification and infrared sensors. It was like watching through a TV screen rather than a lens.
“Conn, sonar. I’ve got a contact bearing 015 degrees heading due west at 270, range 35,000 yards at 950 feet.” Every head in the control snapped around and starred at the sonar operator. The young crewman stared intently at his scope and pressed his headset against his ear.
“It’s a Graney class Russian sub, sir.” he said, still oblivious to the fact that he was now the center of attention of the entire boat.
“Confirmed sir; her screw sounds match our records. It’s the K-329, the Severodvinsk, Russia’s newest fast attack nuke sir, and she is hauling ass.”
The young sonar operator stopped himself, life on a submarine was less rigid than on a surface ship, but protocols were still enforced. “Sorry sir, I meant if she had wings she’d be flying. She’s rated at 35 knots but she’s pushing 41 and then some.”
“Do you think she nuked Pearl Harbor?” Hollis asked.
Deacon didn’t reply as he continued to stare into the periscope. Suddenly he spun around. “Lower scope. Chief of the Boat, take us down to 800 feet, make tubes one and two ready in all aspects including opening outer doors.”
“Aye sir! Depth 800 feet, tubes one and two ready in all aspects including opening outer doors.”
“Sonar, conn, range to target?”
“Conn, sonar, target has closed to 29,000 yards. At present course and speed she’ll pass within 8,000 yards on our port side.”
“I want a targeting solution for when the 329 is abreast of us.” Deacon said to Hollis, “I want our fish coming up on her backside, I don’t want her to hear them coming.
“Does she know we’re here?” Deacon asked, turning to the sonar operator.
“I don’t think so, sir, and with as much noise as she’s making, I don’t think they care.”
With quiet and trained efficiency, the crew of the Texas set about their task of preparing to exact revenge on the Russian submarine. Hollis studied the read-outs from the Fire Control station, checked and re-checked the calculations. He wanted to make sure their torpedoes found their mark. Captain Deacon, however, stood by silently, as if in a state of shock.
“Target is reaching optimum firing solution, sir,” Hollis reported.
Deacon just stood there.
“Sir, we need to fire or we’ll lose the solution and have to recalibrate.”
“Stand down. Do not fire.”
“Sir! That sub out there just wiped Pearl off the face of the map and you want to let it go?”
“Something’s not right here. All stop! Rig the ship for silent running.”
“You heard my orders, Mr. Hollis.”
“Aye sir! Chief of the Boat, all stop. Rig the boat for silent running.”
“Sonar, conn, range to target?”
“Conn, sonar, range is 22,000 and decreasing. Sir! I’m picking up something else.”
“Negative. I don’t know how to describe it. It’s like a vibration.”
“In the water?”
“Then a surface contact?”
“It’s not that either, sir.”
Both Hollis and Deacon looked at each other at that reply.
“Then what or where is it?” Hollis asked.
“It’s like it’s in the air, hovering just above the surface. I know that sounds ridiculous, sir, but I don’t know how else to describe it…. wait a minute…splashes… two objects, big ones just entered the water. They’ve acquired the Russian sub, tacking and closing at an incredible rate, almost like underwater missiles.”
Suddenly the sonar operator screamed and ripped off his headphones. A moment later, the Texas pitched down and rolled onto her side as powerful shock waves shook her from nearly five miles away.
Despite the violence of the wave, the Texas slowly righted herself and no damage was reported other than the day’s lunch was now all over the deck.
“What was that?” Hollis shouted.”
“Bearing on the K-329?” Deacon asked
“The “hovering” sound is gone… and so is the Russian submarine.” The sonar operator said, looking up at the captain in surprise.
“Reacquire it,” Deacon ordered.
He readjusted his headset and equipment and listened intently for a moment. “There’s nothing to reacquire sir, the sub is just gone. I don’t hear the usual sounds of groaning metal as it twists in the pressure of the deep water as it descends. I don’t think there are any pieces big enough left to collapse into each other.”
The control room on the Texas was silent, stunned by the sudden and complete destruction of the Russian boat.
“Even several direct hits from our Mk 48 torpedoes would leave some of the hull sections intact. We don’t have any weapons that would produce the kind of destructive power we’ve just witnessed.”
“Then who has?” Hollis asked. “The Chinese?”
“Chief of the Boat, you have the conn. Maintain current position and stand the crew down from battle stations. Mr. Hollis, you’re with me,” Deacon ordered then went straight to his cabin.
“The question, Abe, may not be who, but perhaps what, sank the Russians,” Deacon said sitting at his desk in his cabin.
The First Officer just looked at the captain. “Sir?”
Deacon held up his hand. “I know what you’re thinking, but I haven’t lost my mind and I didn’t bang my head against the bulkhead. Humor me and just hear me out. We have no contact with anybody on any channels, Pearl Harbor looks to be completely destroyed and we’ve just seen a Russian sub blown out of the water with the likes of something we have never seen before.”
“You’re not talking about…aliens, are you sir?” Hollis shook his head and sat down. “I don’t know, Brett, I’m not quite ready to believe in little green men yet.”
“And neither am I, but right now that’s the only explanation that seems to fit. But what I do know is that we are in a state of war and we need answers. We’ll make our way to Pearl, listening all the way and drop a shore party to investigate.”
The Texas quietly arrived off Pearl Harbor early the next day but stayed submerged, listening for any signs of life or hints of threats. Deacon sent two teams of four divers each to scout the harbor and surrounding area at nightfall.
Early the next morning when the teams returned, Deacon met them in the recovery room, not even giving them a chance to change out of their wetsuits before he got their report.
“What do you have, Lieutenant?” Deacon asked, barley giving the man a chance to take off his facemask.
“It’s bad sir. It’s like a ghost town up there sir, both on and off base, we couldn’t find any people…alive that is. The entire base at Pearl has been destroyed and most of the surrounding city, but it’s funny, parts of the city are untouched, looking like something out of a travel brochure. There’s no sign of radiation so no nukes were used, but the extent of the destruction is unimaginable. We found this,” he said, handing the captain a satchel, “in what looked like some sort of aircraft, but it was like nothing I have ever seen before.”
Thank you, Lieutenant, I’ll want a full report on my desk in an hour.”
Deacon sat in his tiny cabin with his first officer reading the scouts’ reports and drinking coffee. Hollis noticed Deacon take something out of his desk drawer. “You’re not seriously going to eat that are you? It’s got to be what, at least three months old?”
Deacon carefully unwrapped a powdered doughnut and dunked it into his coffee. “I put it in the freezer on our second day out and was saving it. Now seems to be as good a time as any to eat it. Who knows?” He said shrugging his shoulders. “This could be the last one I get for a very long time.”
Deacon took a bite then set it on a napkin. “I don’t think we have much choice here, Abe. The information we got from the shore parties has brought up more questions than answers. I think we need to go to the West Coast.”
“That’s a pretty big risk sir.”
“I know, but I don’t think we have any other choice. We’ve got to know what’s going on. Pearl may be an isolated incident, a specific case of terrorism, but I really don’t think so. Besides, we’re going to be running out of supplies pretty soon and I think we’ll have a better chance of getting what we need and a better chance of collecting useful information if we head for the mainland.
“Aye sir. I’ll get us underway immediately. You want to head to Bangor or San Diego?”
“Take us south, I don’t want to be caught in the shallows of the Puget Sound.”
“California, here we come.”
Tension on the Texas was at an all-time high. Deacon had never seen his crew so worried, but then again, they had never been in a situation like this before. None of their training could have prepared them for this. But he also knew that they weren’t worried for themselves so much as they were for their families. The utter destruction of Pearl Harbor made everyone wonder who or what they were facing. He knew his crew were trained professionals and would handle themselves accordingly; still this unknown threat was weighing heavily on everyone’s mind. Right now he knew the Texas was his country’s best hope, but he refused to believe that they were its only hope. They couldn’t be alone…could they?
That day the boat was unusually quiet, and the somber mood carried over into the mid- watch. But at 2100 hours the silence was shattered.
Pretty cool so far, right? 🙂 You’ll just have to wait until Friday for the conclusion!
And now here’s the second of Paul’s guest-blogs, giving us some more insight into the writing of and research behind Annihilation. 🙂
When writing a story, whether long or short, research is always very important. I love digging and poking around, finding little tidbits of information to throw into a story. For me, the hard part is deciding how much to put in and how much to leave out, what is necessary for the story and what I think is just plain cool.
Annihilation, is a story about a United States nuclear powered submarines and I came across some interesting facts about the history of submarines.
The first US Navy submarine was purchased in 1900 for around $150,000 ($4 million today.) it had a crew of 6, was 53 feet long, weighed 63 tons (a modern Abrams battle tank weighs 67 tons) and could dive to a depth of 75 feet and travel at 6 knots.
Forty years later, the WWII Gato class submarine was the backbone of the US Pacific Fleet. It weighed 1500 tons, had a crew of 60 and was 311 feet long. It had a test depth of 300 feet and had 10 torpedo tubes and could make 21 knots on the surface and 9 knots submerged.
In the story, the USS Texas is a Virginia class attack submarine. It weighs in at a whopping 7800 tons, is 377 feet long with a crew of 135. Test depth is 800 feet and she can do more than 25 knots and breaks the bank at $1.8 billion and is armed with nuclear weapons. But one of the innovations I found most interesting is the fact that it does not have a traditional periscope.
Instead of mirrors and lenses, the sub utilizes a pair of telescoping masts with each mast containing high-resolution cameras, infrared sensors and infrared laser rangefinder. All the information is displayed on more than a dozen LCD screens throughout the control center. Talk about your ultimate video game!
As you can see there is a lot of information to be had, but just how much is really needed for the story? It’s a constant battle for me to choose what the reader needs to know for the story and what is interesting, cool, but unnecessary clutter. You be the judge.
There are some other interesting facts in the story, but I can’t mention them here as I would have to make a spoiler alert, so you’ll just have to keep reading.
Don’t forget to check out Paul’s website, and for those who would rather finish Annihilation (and the rest of the tales in the Act of God collection) on their eReaders, follow this link to purchase your copies at Amazon US. 🙂
Until Friday’s EPIC conclusion,
Be (well, er) EPIC!