Sh’fath dulakh k’lathna vah
Djebdu methakha vektha K’t’rahl
Shev’kha ezekhadja tredzkhan’th
And when the stars mark the eons
Drowned K’t’rahl shall rise again.
And Dread Shev’kha walk once more.
Thus said Kalyana the Old, as written in the Book of Ancient Days.
Jovan Crncevic typed the last few characters into the computer and waited while the spreadsheet crunched the numbers. Modern computers sped the calculations, but he and his minions still had to enter the data they compiled from many sources.
He folded his hands in his lap and affected a serene smile while the computer completed the calculations.
Had the time come? The Order knew it would be soon, but “soon”, as measured by the slow march of stars across the heavens, could be millennia. New measurements, made by Astronomers all unknowing, refined the predictions. Members of the Order tabulated news events. Analysts compared those lists with prophesy. Those results too refined the predictions. And Jovan had just entered the latest refinements.
The computer beeped and displayed the results. A simple line of text, to herald the doom of mankind.
Dread Shev’kha was returning.
Admiral Lloyd Cunningham never questioned his orders. He did not know how Dawn of Islam has managed to steal a Los Angeles class submarine, with a full complement of missiles and the Pentagon wasn’t talking. His task was simpler. He had to find them. He had to stop them.
The thunder of flight ops penetrated even to quarters.
He didn’t think they had the codes to launch. But then, he wouldn’t have thought they could have stolen the submarine either.
He sipped at his tea and pretended a calm he did not feel. The Navy ran on coffee. On those occasions when someone drank tea, it was iced tea. But when the Admiral wanted hot tea, the Admiral got hot tea.
The stolen submarine carried three Special Weapons, nukes. Three cities that could be wiped off the face of the Earth, in addition to the damage she could do with her conventional load of Tomahawks.
“Mississippi reports a contact,” his Exec, Adrian Kruger, said. “Could be the target. If it is, they’re heading up Baffin Bay.”
Cunningham set down his cup. “Baffin Bay?”
Kruger spread his hands. “Your guess is as good as mine. Truman is best positioned to respond, or maybe we could send assets via Thule.”
Cunningham nodded. “Good. But let’s not close in too quickly. If that’s a false contact and they’re somewhere else…” He picked up his tea, took a sip, and set it back down. “Let’s bring the, um, the Indiana I think, is patrolling the Arctic?”
“Right. Let’s bring the Indiana down into the north end of Baffin Bay. If they’re there, let’s keep them there.”
“Aye aye, sir.”
“That’ll be all.”
As Kruger left, Cunningham picked up his tea and leaned back in his chair. “What are they planning?”
“Will you look at that!” Damjan Bankovich leaned close to the display for the seismometer. The instrument itself stood deep in the building’s basement, on concrete pillars that extended all the way down to the bedrock. “Right on schedule, and bigger than the last three.”
Oliver Albertson, the supervisor for the small seismologic section, looked from the display chart to the clock and then back. “Four minutes early.”
“Each one has been four minutes early,” Damjan said, “every day, four minutes earlier than the one before. Want to bet that when we correlate with the other stations, we find it’s right smack on forty-nine south, one twenty-three west?”
Albertson jumped up and began pacing. “But that doesn’t make any sense. It didn’t make any sense yesterday. It didn’t make any the day before. And it doesn’t make any today. There’s nothing there to create earthquakes of this size, and this daily pattern? Okay, I could maybe, maybe, see something happening triggered by tidal forces. Maybe.”
“There’s Tolstoy’s work,” Damjan said.
“If you can call it that.” Albertson waved his hand in dismissal. “Anyway, the timing is wrong. Solar tides? That would be same time every day. Lunar? That would be fifty minutes later each day, not four minutes earlier.”
Albertson stopped. He turned to face Damjan, then slowly raised one hand to point at Damjan’s chest. “You did not just suggest that the stars are causing this, did you?”
Damjan raised his hands. “I’m not suggesting anything. I’m just saying. The timing matches.”
“That it does,” Albertson admitted. “But it’s got to be coincidence.” His voice went soft. “It’s got to be.”
“As you were,” Cunningham said as he entered the Flag Bridge before anyone could announce him.
Kruger stood with his hands folded behind his back at one of the large map displays, installed with the most recent upgrade. “Admiral.”
“Adrian.” Cunningham stood next to Kruger and began inspecting the map. “What have you got for me?”
“I think we’ve got them. We’ve got a Poseidon staging out of Thule. They’re running deep and running quiet, but we’ve had contacts—“ He reached out to touch the map. “—here, here, and here.”
Cunningham reached out and spread his hand over the area encompassed by the three contacts. “We sure it’s them?”
“You know any other nuclear subs that can be in that area? Quieter than the Russian’s nukes, and if it were a diesel, it would have had to come up by now. It’s them.” Kruger tapped at the top end of the bay. “Indiana is patrolling here.” Tapped at a strait between two islands to the west, Elsmere Island to the north and Devon Island to the south. “Stockdale and Farragut patrolling here.” A wider gap between the Devon Island and, further south, Baffin Island. “The Mason, Bulkeley, Mitscher, and Nitze here.” He turned to look at Cunningham. “If we bring up the battle group before they can get around the south end of Baffin Island, we can box them in. There will be no place they can go while we close the noose on them.”
Cunningham nodded. “Do it.” He reached up and ran his finger across the southern end of Baffin Bay. “In the meantime, have the Poseidon concentrate its sweeps here. Block them in, but don’t press them too hard. If we can keep them penned without panicking them…well, they still have those Special Weapons.”
“I agree, Admiral.”
Cunningham turned at the new voice. Petty Officer Third Takagi stood waiting at his side. “Yes, PO?”
“Message, sir.” He held out a pad.
Cunningham nodded and accepted the pad. “Thank you. Carry on.”
“Aye aye, sir.” PO3 Takagi turned and left.
Cunningham glanced at the pad then up at Kruger. “Another tsunami warning.”
“Every day for the past week.” Cunningham tapped the pad with the back of his hand. “All in the Pacific though. Nothing that will affect us here.”
“Still, strange though.”
“I’d be a lot more interested—“Cunningham turned back to the map of Baffin bay. “—if I didn’t have to worry about terrorists with a nuclear armed submarine.”
Coming soon in Paperback and Kindle.
In the meantime, you might take a look at my recently released fantasy novel, The Hordes of Chanakra: