Big Blue Snippet Five

Story starts here

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CHAPTER THREE

Debris littered the ocean below the big Hercules aircraft. White had never seen such destruction, not even during his last tour in the war-torn Middle East.

The radio came to life, “Theresa One, provide ETA to station.”

White glanced at his copilot.

“Thirty-four mikes,” Lieutenant Tim Cedeno in the right seat of the Hercules said on the intercom. Thirty-four minutes.

White nodded and keyed the radio. “Base, Theresa One, estimated thirty-four mikes to station. Will loiter. Vector airways on station and in vicinity.”

“Roger Theresa One, please report on potential survivors found. Coast guard cutter is en-route; will retrans commo or provide local freq for on-site comm net.

“Roger base. Out.”

“Coast Guard?” Cedeno said. “You saw the port back there. It’s nothing but wreckage.”

“Boats at sea when the tsunami hit,” White said. “If they weren’t too close to shore, they could ride it out.”

Cedeno nodded and looked out the window. “Damn, it’s a mess down there.”

That it is, White thought but did not say.

The Hercules flew on in its own small world marked by overcast sky above and flotsam dotted sea below. About fifteen minutes later the radio again came to life.

“Theresa one, base, Coast Guard cutter is onsite and requesting you join their net, one four seven point two seven zero.”

“Base, Theresa One, wilco.” On the intercom he added. “Tim, dial in the VHF, pretty please.”

“Go, Jay.”

“Unidentified Coast Guard cutter, this is Air Force Charlie One Three Zero, call sign Theresa One, joining your net.”

Roger Theresa One, this is Coast Guard Cutter Seven Five One, welcome to the net. Our six is requesting overflight of grid coordinates One One Sierra Mike Sierra Two Eight One Four Niner Seven Eight Two One Seven to One One Sierra Mike Sierra Six Two Zero Niner Seven One Six Zero Niner Seven. Please report visual of survivors.”

“Roger that, we are inbound. One eight mikes ETA.”

“One eight mikes, Roger. Cutter Seven Five One out.”

“Survivors?” Cedeno looked at White.

White shrugged. “Boats caught offshore. People caught at the edge of the tsunami and swept out to sea who managed to grab something.”

Cedeno leaned to his right and stared down at the water. “Do you really think we’ll find anybody?”

“Dunno,” White said, “but I took the family to the beach this morning. That could have been us down there. So we’re going to take a really, really good look.”

“Gotcha.”

“Harry?” White looked back at the flight engineer, Staff Sergeant Harry Antoniewicz. “Check with the loadmaster. Confirm we’re ready to drop teams.”

“On it, Captain.” Antoniewicz unbuckled, twisted out of his seat, and headed toward the rear of the aircraft.

#

Cunningham ascended to the flag bridge. Despite the late hour, this far north sunlight still washed across the deck of the carrier.

Kruger handed him a clipboard. “Fires extinguished on the Gonzalez and she’s got one of the turbines running. She’s creeping south for repairs. And, the Indiana is overdue for contact.”

Cunningham took the clipboard and scanned down the report it held. “And our target?”

“The contact continues to move north and nearing Indiana’s last reported position, which could explain the lack of communication. She could be deep and preparing to engage. It continues to shrug off everything we’ve dropped on it.”

“‘The contact’? Cunningham looked over the top of his glasses at Kruger. “I understand people are reluctant to name the sub, considering it was one of ours, but ‘the contact’?”

“It’s not that, Admiral.” Kruger pressed his lips together and shook his head. “You’re going to think I’m crazy.”

“Maybe. But spit it out.”

“I don’t think our contact’s the sub.”

“And what else might it be?”

“I don’t know, sir, but consider. I don’t care how good the sub crew is or how lucky, there’s just no way that they could shrug off that many torpedoes. We’ve been sending them back out as fast as we could get them refueled and rearmed and it just ignores them, just continues to move north. And they’ve dropped hydrophones. The fish are exploding so it’s not a matter of some kind of string of duds.”

“Nevertheless, it is out there. But, continue.”

“Well, how does a Los Angeles boat produce such a big return to sonar. And it’s sound? Sonar tells me they’ve never heard a sub sound like that.”

“Damage from the explosion?” Cunningham said.

“Then it would have to be damage we’ve never seen before,” Kruger said. “But what if it’s not damage we’ve never seen before. What if it’s something else we’ve never seen before.”

“Like what?”

“I don’t know, sir. I just don’t know. But I think the explosion was on board and the Boise became part of the expanding plasma of that explosion. And what’s out there, what we’re following, what we’re torpedoing, is something else.”

Cunningham looked Kruger up and down. If his exec was getting spooked by this, what rumors were running through the rest of the crew? He shrugged. Whatever that thing was they were chasing, they would know soon enough.

He froze at the thought. Apparently, the chase was getting to him, too.

#

“Sir, may I see your identification please?” The security guard at the Air Force base said.

Damjan handed his license out the window of the rental car. Albertson, in the passenger seat, leaned across to hand his own license out.

“We’re here to see General Kincaid.”

The guard made a note and handed the licenses back. “Gentlemen, I’ll have to phone this in.”

Damjan nodded and the guard entered the small shack next to the gate. A moment later he returned to the car. “Gentlemen, the general is expecting you.” He gave them brief, but clear, directions to the proper building. “When you get there, check in with the NCOOD, and he’ll pass you through to the General.”

“NCOOD?” Damjan asked.

“NCO, that’s Non-Commissioned Officer Of the Day. It should be obvious when you get there.”

“Thank you,” Damjan said.

The guard gestured and the gate opened. For a moment, Damjan amused himself by thinking the guard opened the gate by magic rather than simply signaling to someone sitting by a switch in the shelter.

The directions led to a low office building. No cars occupied any of the spaces marked visitor parking. Damjan parked the car and he and Albertson ascended the short flight of steps to the entrance to the building.

A few minutes later they sat in General Kincaid’s office.

“If the pattern continues, and there’s no reason to expect it to stop, then in about six hours the Pacific Ocean is going to have the biggest earthquake the world has ever known,” Albertson said.

“And you want to go out there to see what’s happening,” Kincaid said. “And how are you going to do that when whatever’s happening is covered by fifteen thousand feet of water?”

Albertson looked at Damjan, who looked back and shrugged. “We don’t think it’s under fifteen thousand feet of water. By our measurements, and other centers confirm them, the last earthquake occurred three thousand feet above the sea floor, or where the sea floor was.”

Damjan waved at the window. “That’s why the tsunami was so bad. A huge uplift, far larger than we would normally expect from an earthquake of that magnitude. It moved a lot of water and, well, you’ve seen the results.”

“And what are you expecting to accomplish?”

“I don’t know,” Albertson said. “At this point we don’t know what’s happening. All we’ve got are seismograph readings. Satellite images are blocked by a continuous overcast that started about the time of the first earthquake and have continued ever since. The clouds block visible light and infrared both and, reading between the lines, I’m guessing it’s stopping the military stuff too, radar and whatever else you’ve got up there.” He paused, looking at Kincaid. Kincaid, for his part, sat impassively, neither confirming nor denying what Albertson had said.

A moment later, Albertson continued. “Those clouds above us now are part of the same system. A pattern of clouds stretching from there to here, nearly six thousand miles. A cloud pattern covering nearly half the world.” He threw up his hands. “And we know nothing, absolutely nothing, about what’s going on out there. Anything we can find out, anything at all, is more than we have.”

“Well, as it happens, Washington agrees with you. Unfortunately, I don’t have anything that can reach your target. Do you know what that location is called?”

Damjan looked at Albertson who looked blank.

“It’s called the Pole of Inaccessibility. It’s the spot in the ocean furthest from any land. If I had a C-17 and a tanker or two, maybe, but I don’t. What I’ve got, what I can shake loose, are a couple of C-130’s, one a tanker. Can get you about halfway there by the time you think that next earthquake will hit. You’ll still be almost three thousand miles away.”

“That’s like going to New York when you’re trying to get a look at Los Angeles!” Damjan said.

Kincaid spread his hands. “Best I can do with the resources to hand.”

“It’s not even worth…”

Albertson laid a hand on Damjan’s arm. “If that’s the best you can do, then we’ll just have to accept it. Can your, uh, C one thirty you called it, drop instruments for us into the ocean.”
Kincaid smiled, “I think it might be able to do that.”

“Then I guess that’s what we need to do,” Albertson said. “I really meant it. Anything at all is more than we have now.”

Next installment

***

Coming soon in Paperback and Kindle.

In the meantime, you might take a look at my recently released fantasy novel, The Hordes of Chanakra:

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Big Blue Snippet Four

Story starts here

“Contact!”

Cunningham looked up at the call.

“Gonzalez reports sonar contact. Coordinates One Eight X-Ray Whisky Eight Eight Three Seven Four Seven Zero Six Seven Three. Estimated heading Three Four Seven, speed seven knots.”

Cunningham looked at the map and measured out the distance from the carrier to the contact with his hand. “Take about half an hour to get a couple of Seahawks there?”

Kruger nodded. “About that, Admiral.”

“All right, get them on the way. I’d better get on the horn with Washington.”

“Admiral?”

A Petty officer arrived with a cup of tea. Cunningham took it and took a sip before answering.

“Before we go weapons free, I want to make sure. A Russian or Chinese sub skulking on Baffin Bay would be an incident. Sinking it could be war.”

Alarms sounded in the flag bridge, triggered by a signal from one of the other ships.

“PO, Report,” Cunningham said.
“Message from the Gonzalez. Detonation, nuclear. They–“ the PO drew in a deep breath then slowed down. “Gonzalez reports they were close enough to take damage. They’re taking water. Damage control is working on it but they are requesting assistance.”

“Damn,” Cunningham said, then louder, “All right, people. It’s not like we haven’t considered the possibility. I want–” He looked at the display. “–the Chosin to rendezvous with the Gonzalez and render aid. For the rest, keep the search up. If they didn’t blow themselves up, this could be a decoy so they can try to slip away.”

“Not likely,” Kruger said.

Cunningham nodded. “Not likely. But I don’t want to take chances when it comes to a stolen attack boat.”

“Aye Aye, Admiral.”

“In fact–” Cunningham took another sip of his tea. “Radio Thule. Get those Poseidons in the air. Have them search north of the explosion while we cover this side.”

Orders echoed down the chain. Cunningham watched the controlled chaos of the flag bridge as the search proceeded.

Damage reports came from the Gonzalez. She was still taking water but the pumps were keeping up with it. The crew had extinguished a fire in the number two engine room.

The Chosin came alongside the Gonzalez, ready to provide personnel and material support for the smaller ship’s damage control efforts. The Gonzalez transferred her injured personnel to the larger ship.

Meanwhile, helicopters swept the area ahead of the battle group, searching for any sign that the stolen submarine still hid from them.

Three cups of tea and one trip to the head marked the passage of time.

“Contact! Big contact.” The radioman echoed Papa Three, the call sign of the Poseidon aircraft reporting the contact, along with grid coordinates. “Estimated heading three four eight degrees. Estimated speed one seven knots.”

“He must have been lying doggo,” Kruger said. “Got spooked. Decided to run.”

“Then why only one seven knots?” Cunningham tapped his upper lip as he thought. “Should be going nearly twice that fast if he’s actually running.”

“Damaged? Too close to the explosion?”

“Could be.” Cunningham drew a deep breath. “All right. Give the order. Weapons free. Take it out.”

“Aye Aye, sir.” Weapons free.”

“Papa Three reports torpedo away,” the radioman reported. “Detonation.” A short pause. “Contact still proceeding. Same course and speed. Papa Three requests instructions.”

“The order was ‘weapons free,'” Cunningham said. “‘Take it out’.”

Ten times the torpedoes dropped. Ten times, they detonated. Ten times the contact continued unabated.

Kruger stared at Cunningham, shock on his face. “Admiral, I don’t understand.”

Cunningham shook his head. “That has to be the worst shooting I’ve encountered in my career.”

“No, sir,” Kruger said. “Eleven torpedoes and miss with every one? Not possible.”

“Then the torpedoes were defective.” Cunningham sighed. “All right. Rotate in the other birds. Keep dropping torpedoes on it until it goes down or it surfaces. In the meantime, bring the group up to full. Let’s go chase it down.”

Kruger shook his head. “Sub battles are supposed to be slow and sneaky, not involve racing across the ocean at flank speed.”

#

“Did you even look at these results?” Albertson frowned over his computer screen at Damjan, sitting on the other side of his desk in his small office. “Or did you look at a map?”

“I did,” Damjan said. “And I didn’t believe them either. But that’s what the math says.”

“Then your math is wrong.”

“Checked it five times,” Damjan tapped the computer screen. “Same results. The math is not wrong.”

“Then the measurements are wrong. GIGO.”

Damjan sighed and leaned back in his chair. “If they were, I could not find it. I also pinged the other stations just to confirm. Nobody would go on record confirming my results but they all confirm the data.”

“I can see why they wouldn’t confirm the results. This is flat out impossible.”

“’Once you’ve eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.’”

“And an earthquake epicenter a thousand meters above the sea floor is impossible. ‘Once you have eliminated the impossible…’”

“But look,” Damjan said. “Consider the tsunami, how much bigger it was than anticipated. The warnings that went out were all pro forma. Given where the earthquake was, and its magnitude, we weren’t expecting much. The water displaced by a thousand-meter rise in the seafloor however…”

“And how do you explain a thousand-meter rise in the sea floor? To keep the seismic moment down to what we actually measured, you’d practically have to liquefy the rock.”

“A new hotspot, maybe? A really big one melting the rock and allowing it to rise without a lot of shear force?”

“All right,” Albertson said. “I’m not saying that’s even possible, but a hot spot like that would cause the mother of all thermal plumes. There’s not a lot of ship traffic in that region, but we should be able to pick it up on satellite imagery.”

Albertson tapped at his computer keyboard. “Let’s see what we can get from weather satellites.”

A few keystrokes later, a four km resolution image of the southeastern Pacific Ocean appeared on the screen. A disk of white covered the center of the image, trailing off in tendrils curving in a clockwise direction.

“That’s different,” Damjan said. ”Anticyclonic rotation?”

“Not usually associated with large cloud formations at their center.” Albertson said. “But it’s not the clouds we want to see.” He tapped at the keyboard again.

The image changed. Details changed, the date at the bottom of the screen flipped to the previous day, but the overall cloud pattern remained. Albertson typed again. Same result. And again. Still the same result. He flipped through the archives until finally the pattern changed—the day before the first of the first of the daily earthquakes.

Damjan watched as Albertson’s fingers flew over the keyboard. Infrared imaging. Radar imaging. Nothing broke through that cloud layer. Whatever was happening under those clouds, none of the satellite data to which Albertson had access revealed it.
Albertson leaned back in his chair and stared at the screen. He tapped on the edge of his desk, lost in thought. A bit later he looked up. “You up for a trip?”

“Pardon?”

“Something very strange indeed is going on out there. I’m going to try to get some emergency funding to take a look. Want to come along?”

“Wouldn’t miss it. Should I start calling you Indy now?”

Albertson laughed. “Please, no. I’m going to have enough trouble getting the funds to go peek under some clouds.”

#

White finished making notes from the weather report. High overcast. Winds from the southwest, strong but steady. The hold of his C-130 Hercules contained a mix of emergency supplies and a para-rescue team. Search and Rescue ops. With the Herky they could come in low, precision drop supplies to stranded people, or drop a rescue team if they found something that called for it.

White loved the Hercules. He keyed the radio.

“Ops, this is Theresa One. Request marshaler for run-up.”
A few minutes later, a voice came on the intercom. White recognized it as Tech Sergeant Thomas Gnad. “Hey, Jay Jay, how’s it hanging.”

White laughed. “My wife calls me ‘Jay Jay.’ You can call me ‘Captain White.'”

“Sure thing, Jay. Don’t break the plane this time, okay.” Gnad’s voice turned serious. “You’ve got a minor leak in the port side landing gear hydraulics. Should still be good to go though.”

“Landing gear hydraulic leak, copy.” White said. “Any other open issues?”

“Negative. Stand by for engine start.”

“Ready for Engine Start,” White said.

“Order of the day is three one two four. That’s three one two four.”

“Three one two four, copy.”

“Start three.”

The gas turbine of the number three engine roared to life, the propeller spinning into an invisible blur.

Engines one, two, and four joined number three in assaulting the air.

“Theresa One,” Gnad said, suddenly all business. “Disconnecting now. Stand by to receive direction from hand signals.”

“Awaiting hand signals, copy,” White said.

From the flight deck of the Hercules White watched Gnad dash from his position underneath the wing to take a position forward of the airplane. Following Gnad’s hand signals, White’s plane, call sign Theresa One, made its way to the Taxiway.

“Ops, this is Theresa One,” White said into the radio. “Ready to taxi.”

“Roger, Theresa One. Proceed to runway two two. You are cleared for immediate takeoff.”

White nodded. With civilian aviation grounded due to the disaster and the rest of the squadron lined up behind Theresa One there was no one on whom they had to wait. He turned to his copilot. “It’s good to be the King.”

Next Installment

 ***

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Big Blue Snippet Three

Starts here

CHAPTER TWO

White stopped the car at the gate guard’s gesture. He rolled down the window as the guard approached the side of the car, his military ID ready in hand.

The guard took the ID, looked at it, and handed it back. He saluted. “Sir.”

White tucked the ID into his wallet, dropped the wallet into the car’s cup holder, and returned the salute.

“Sir,” the gate guard said. “Orders. All personnel are to report to their units immediately on arrival.”

White looked down at himself, still clad only in a swimsuit. “Do I have time to change, sergeant?”

“Orders say immediately, Sir.” The sergeant smiled. “Uniform of the day is whatever you’re wearing right now.”

“I see. Thank you, Sergeant.”

The gate started to open and the sergeant saluted once more. White returned the salute before putting the car in gear and proceeding onto the base.

“Sounds serious,” Amber said from beside him.

“With that tsunami?” White stopped to let a base shuttle cross through the intersection, then turned to follow it. Other cars joined them, coming from the direction of base housing. “They’ll want everything they can get to help.”

Ahead, the bus pulled up to its stop and people began to pour out. White eased the car around the bus and turned into officer parking. Ignoring the parking spots, he stopped in front of squadron office building and put the car in park.

“I’ve got a suit here.” He unfastened his seat belt and opened the door. On her side of the car, Amber mimicked his action. “You might want to bring my other one. Who knows how long it’ll be before I can get home.

Amber leaned toward him. He leaned across the center console and kissed her. “Love you.”

“Love you too, sweetie,” She said. “Be careful.”

“Avoid the edges of the air,” White said with a smile. “Don’t worry. We haven’t left one up there yet.”

He got out of the car and ran up the steps to the squadron office. Behind him, Amber rounded the car and slid into the driver’s seat.

“Bye, Daddy!” Bobbi called from the back seat.

White paused, his hand on the building door. He turned and waved. “Bye, Punkin. See you soon.”

“Remember to pray for Daddy, sweetie,” Amber told Bobbi.

“I will.”

White grinned as Amber drove off. Search and Rescue no doubt. Supply drops maybe. Lots of flight hours but a piece of cake. It wasn’t like anybody would be shooting at his bird.

#

Crncevic swore softly. Next town, he promised himself. Next town he’d get the bus’ radiator fixed. For now he had his sleeves rolled up while he poured water into the radiator.

Flashing blue and white lights drew his attention away from the radiator. He set the water can down and rolled down his sleeves. After wiping his hands on a rag, he adjusted the celluloid collar at his throat. He scowled. The ecclesiastical garb defiled him. But needs must in the Dread Lord’s service.

The crunch of gravel on the shoulder of US Highway 12 heralded the deputy’s approach.

“Afternoon, Padre.”

Crncevic pasted a smile on his face. “Deputy.”

The Deputy looked the length of the bus, an old school bus painted a neutral gray. White lettering spelled out “St. Sebastian’s Cloister” on its side. He peered into the engine compartment. “Trouble?”

Crncevic waved at the engine compartment. “Radiator. If I can just get us to the next town…Roundup, isn’t it?”

The deputy nodded.

“Well, then, I can get it fixed and we can proceed on our way.”

“You’re a bit off the beaten path, aren’t you? What brings you out this way?”

Suspicion, Crncevic wondered, or just curiosity?

“The tsunami, of course.”

The Deputy cocked his head to one side, the question plain on his face.
“We’re on our way to help with the relief effort.” Crncevic waved down the road. “We didn’t want to interfere with the official relief convoys so we stuck to back roads and–” He spread his hands, indicating the stopped bus. Looking up at one of the acolytes looking out the windshield at him, he made an unobtrusive gesture with the fingers of his right hand before dropping his hands to his sides. “–here we are.”

The Deputy nodded and leaned in to take a closer look at the radiator and its overflow tank. “It’s a piece yet to Roundup and you’re still awfully dry. I’ve got a water can in my cruiser. Let’s get you topped up and back on the road.”

“That would be most kind, Deputy.”

While the deputy went back to his cruiser, two of the acolytes, dressed in simple black robes, emerged from the bus. “Eminence?”

Crncevic raised a finger in warning. “Brother Padraic, Brother Simon, is there a problem?”

The acolyte to whom Crncevic had assigned the name Brother Padraic, caught his breath then said, “No, Father. We simply wished to stretch our legs for a bit while we’re stopped.”

“Of course.”

The two walked toward the rear of the bus as the deputy returned with a five gallon can. They nodded amiably as they passed the deputy who nodded in return.

At the front of the bus, the deputy popped the cap on the can and started pouring it into the radiator.

While the water glugged into the radiator, the two acolytes returned.

“How can I thank you, Deputy?” Crncevic said.

“Oh, my pleasure, Father.” The deputy shook the can as the last of the water ran into the radiator. “Glad to help.”

The first genuine smile of the encounter spread across Crncevic’s face. “Oh, you have helped indeed,” he said as the two acolytes stepped up to the open door of the bus, “more than you can possibly imagine.”

As Crncevic’s nod, “Simon” pivoted and pressed a stun gun to the back of the deputy’s neck. As the deputy stiffened and fell, the two grabbed his arms while other acolytes boiled out of the bus.

From within his own clothing, Crncevic removed a ceremonial dagger. He held it out to one of the acolytes.

“Over there,” he said, nodding in the direction of a hollow that would not be visible from the road.

“The Dread Lord rises!” The acolyte whispered as he took the dagger.

“Dash cam,” Crncevic said to another acolyte. He pointed to the police cruiser. “Pull the memory completely. Don’t just erase the file. Then soak everything with gas. We’ll burn it with the deputy when we’re done.

The acolyte nodded.

From the hollow, the deputy’s screams began.

Next

***

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Big Blue Snippet Two

Starts here

“Five…four…three…two…one…” Damjan flipped a finger at the display just as the trace jumped. “Right on schedule. Exactly one sidereal day from yesterday’s quake.”

Albertson rested one hand on the back of Damjan’s chair as he leaned closer to the display. “When you’re right; you’re right. And as much as I hate to say it, you’re right. Look at it go.” The trace wobbled wildly. “If it’s the same location.”

“It is. Bets?”

“If it is,” Albertson said, “Then that’s got to be an eight point five, maybe a nine.” He stood and turned aside. Damjan turned to follow the direction of his gaze. A chart on the White Board marked the daily increasing strength of the seismic anomaly. “A nine,” Albertson said. “A nine would keep the trend going.”

Albertson shook his head. “If the trend continues it will pass the Valdivia quake tomorrow.”

“And in a week?” Damjan looked from the chart back to the seismograph readout, then back to the chart. “It can’t. The trend has to stop sometime.” His voice softened, took on a distant quality. “In fact, I’m sure this is an eight point five. It’s already leveling off.”

A few minutes later the computer spat out the numbers combining the results of their own observations with those of all other seismograph stations in the network. Magnitude nine. Still gaining half a magnitude per day.

#

“Catch, Daddy!”

Captain Jamal White, USAF, looked up in time to snatch from the air the ball his daughter had thrown. He grinned and threw it back, then turned back to the cooler. He grabbed a soda for his wife, Amber, and a beer for himself. While he still had the cooler open, he called out to his daughter, “You want a drink, Bobbi?”

“Orange!” Bobbi called back.

White dug a can of orange soda out of the cooler and turned to face Bobbi.

“Here, catch!” He tossed the can underarm toward her.

Bobbi dropped her ball and snatched the can out of the air.

White turned to Amber and grinned. “She’s going to be a good fielder some day.” He held out the soda.

Amber took the soda and held the can to the side of her face. “Maybe she won’t want to play baseball.”

White laughed and sat, leaning back in the shade of the beach umbrella. “Then she won’t have to.”

He sipped at his beer while looking at his wife. She was as beautiful as the day he’d met her at his younger brother’s track meet. She’d been a senior on his track team. Slim, hair trimmed close, with milk chocolate skin, she left all the other girls in the meet behind, in more ways than one.

He asked her out that afternoon, eight years ago. A year later they were married. Two, and Bobbi came along.

“Have I told you lately that I love you?” He asked.

“Not in the last–” Amber looked at her watch. “–hour, I think.”

“Well, I do.” He leaned in toward her and ran his hand up her side, allowing it to drift forward on her torso for just a moment.

Amber laughed and slapped at his hand.

“Daddy?” Bobbi called from behind him. “Where’s the ocean going?”

“Where’s the…” White turned. His beer slipped from nerveless fingers. The waterline had retreated far beyond the normal low tide line and was still retreating fast.

“Bobbi,” White said in as calm a voice as he could manage. “Run to daddy, please.”

“But, Daddy.”

“Run to daddy, please.”

As Bobbi began to run, White turned his head to his wife. “We’re leaving. Now.”

“But…”

White scooped up his daughter onto his left hip. “Now. Run.”

He lunged to his feet and grabbed Amber by the arm pulling her up.

“But our stuff…”

“Leave it.” Despite his best efforts to remain calm, White could hear the fear breaking through in his own voice. “Run!”

Amber’s eyes opened wide. She turned and started to sprint toward the lot where they’d parked their car.

White followed. Eight years since she’d given up track but she could still run. “Just go!” He said when she slowed. “Don’t wait for me.”

His words were useless. Amber kept glancing back and White knew that she was restraining herself, not letting him fall behind. In response he pushed himself harder, driving himself faster.

They reached the car, a small Toyota which White wished were a Ferrari, a Porsche, anything fast. He dumped Bobbi unceremoniously in the back seat, then scrambled into the driver’s seat.

“Buckle up!” He said as he started the car. He did not wait for them to comply as he pulled, tires squealing, out of their parking space.

Horns blared as White swerved past cars looking for places to park. His right rear fender bounced off a parked car as he half-slid out of the lot and into the street.

He had minutes, and very few of them to get to high ground. It might already be too late.

Which road? Which road led uphill? He turned left, blaring through a residential area at increasing speed. Willing the car to go even faster.

Light reflected from the rear-view mirror, blue and red. White ignored it. Straight road. Foot to the floor.

“Jay Jay,” Amber said, “The police…”

White just shook his head slightly, pushing the distraction of the blinking lights behind him to the back of his mind. He glanced in the rear view mirror. There was the police cruiser all right and behind him? Behind him the ocean rose in a wall.

Ahead rose the crest of the hill. Were they high enough? They had to be. They wouldn’t get any higher. He took his foot off the throttle and gradually started to brake, timing his braking so that the car rolled to a stop at the very crest of the hill.

The police officer pulled up behind him and got out of his cruiser. He approached White car with gun drawn.

“Out of the car! Out of the car now!”

White released his seatbelt and opened the door. He placed both hands on top of his head as he stepped out of the car.

“Officer,” he said, his voice mild, “I think you’re about to have a whole lot more to worry about than a few traffic violations.”

“A few traffic violations?”

Keeping his hands on top of his head, he folded his right hand into a fist while keeping the index finger extended, pointing back the way he had come.

The officer scowled, then, after a moment, glanced in the indicated direction. His face paled. His gun arm drooped. “My God,” he whispered.

“Officer,” White said mildly, “I think you’re about to get very busy. And I’m going to have to get back to base since we’ll probably be doing search and rescue right alongside you.”

“My God,” the officer repeated.

“Officer?” White raised his hands from his head, keeping them open and just above and outside his shoulders.

No response.

“Am I free to go?”

“My God.”

White shrugged, got back in the car, and drove off.

Next

***

Coming soon.

In the meantime, you might take a look at my recently released fantasy novel, The Hordes of Chanakra:

Big Blue–Snippet One

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?”

“Yes, sir.”

“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.”

“Sidereal day?”

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.”

“ETA?”

“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.”

“Again?”

“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.”

Next

***

Coming soon in Paperback and Kindle.

In the meantime, you might take a look at my recently released fantasy novel, The Hordes of Chanakra: