Big Blue Snippet Ten

Story starts here

Damjan woke with a groan. “Who designed these seats? I thought torture was illegal.” He sat up. “Professor?”

Albertson was not in his seat, nor anywhere visible in the aircraft cargo bay. One of the aircraft crew was sitting slumped over a small table, fast asleep.

“Professor?” Damjan called.

No answer.

Damjan stood up and walked to the front of the Aircraft. The door in the side of the aicraft was open, the air-stair extended.

“He couldn’t have,” Damjan said.

Damjan tapped the sleeping crewman, Andoniewicz, on the shoulder. “Hey. Excuse me.”

The crewman opened his eyes and sat up. “Huh? What?”

Damjan waved at the open door. “I think Doctor Albertson has gone loco.”

Antoniewicz scowled for a moment at the open door. “Shit. All right. Let me tell the Captain.”

A few minutes later the two of them crowded into the flight deck along with the two pilots.

“You’re telling me he just wandered off,” White said. “He just opened up the hatch and wandered off.”

Antoniewicz spread his hands. “Sorry, Captain. Article Fifteen me if you want, but I was sitting going over supplies and the next I knew Bankovich was tapping me on the shoulder. I guess I fell asleep.”

“You fell asleep.” White said. “A civvie, with no previous experience in military aircraft, let alone the C-130, gets up, opens the front hatch, lowers the air stair, and wanders into the night because you fell asleep.”

“No excuse, sir.”

White pinched the bridge of his nose and shook his head. “All right. We’ll deal with that later. As tempted as I am to just leave him out there, Washington would have my ass. So you, Sergeant, are going to take our young friend here and go look for him. You will stay within sight of the airplane at all times. You will take extreme care. You will not get yourself or your companion killed or lost. Am I clear?”

“Yes, sir,” Antoniewicz said.

“Dismissed.”

“Yes, sir.”

Antoniewicz turned and motioned for Damjan to precede him through the door.

“This is just lovely,” White said softly behind Damjan as he left. “Just lovely.”

Antoniewicz followed Damjan out of the flight deck and closed the door. At the open exit to the aircraft. he said, “Wait here.”

Damjan waited. Antoniewicz spun the knob on a locker quickly and soon had it open. He pulled out a vest, which he tugged over his shoulders. He removed several long, curved magazines from the locker and stuck them into pouches on the vest. Finally, he removed a short machine gun, An M4 or M16, Damjan was not sure how to tell them apart, from the locker, snicked a final magazine into the gun, and slung it over his shoulder.

“There’s never a damn Seal around when you want one,” Antoniewicz said as he reached Damjan. “Look, kid, I’m not special forces or anything. They issued this gear after Sheberghan but–” He reached up and patted the wall of the plane. “–I’m just the guy who takes care of this bird. But, I’m the guy who’s here and since I figure the two pilots have to stay with the plane, that means I’m the guy who has to go looking for your boss.” He frowned. “You’re not under the UCMJ, but I think you’ll find in an emergency like this he’s got a lot of authority. Still, there’s limits on what we can order you to do so…”

“I’ll go,” Damjan said. “I’ll do whatever you say. He’s not just my boss. He’s my friend.”

“Good.” Antoniewicz nodded. “Shouldn’t be any problems. We haven’t seen sign of anything living near here. Still, just because we haven’t seen anything doesn’t mean it isn’t there. We’ll take it carefully. I’ve got the carbine, so I’ll lead.” He pulled his helmet onto his head. A light mounted on the right side of the helmet, just above eye level. “Stay close behind me, but not to close. Couple steps maybe. And if you could keep an eye behind us and shout if you see anything, that would be good.”

“I’ll do my best,” Damjan said.

Damjan followed Antoniewicz out of the plane. The heat hit at him like running into a wall. Damjan scowled and looked back at the plane. With the engines shut down since they landed, and thus no air conditioning, the interior of the plane should have been as hot, if not hotter. It was almost as if the heat was in his mind, not his body. He shook the idea off as nonsense. It was hot. Of course it was hot. They had flown probably more than a thousand miles south of Los Angeles. That put them into the tropics. The same clouds that would keep it cooler during the day would hold heat in during the night, keeping it warmer.

The plane had just somehow remained cool in this tropic location. Good insulation? Maybe.

“Any,” he whispered then stopped and swore at himself. He continued in a normal voice. “Any idea where to start first?”

Before Antoniewicz could answer, a scream split the night.

#

A rap at the door woke Cunningham. He sat up in his bed. “Come.”

Kruger opened the door and stepped into the room. “Sorry to wake you, Admiral, but we just got a report from the Gonzalez.”

Cunningham nodded. The Indiana remained missing, contact long overdue. Wider searches still showed no sign of the Boise. Cunningham believed that Kruger was right; the nuke had destroyed the Boise. But Washington insisted they continue the search.

With the tsunami disaster in the Pacific, the Navy had no other assets to assign him. His battle group, the handful of other vessels he had acquired previously, and the aircraft flying from Thule were all he had to pursue the search.

“All right.” Cunningham held out a hand.

Kruger hesitated a moment. “You’re not going to believe this, sir.”

“After everything we’ve already been through?” Cunningham said. “I think you’d be amazed at what I can believe.”

Kruger shrugged and handed the notepad over. “They sent in Morse, on an odd frequency. One of the intercept techs picked it up.”

Cunningham nodded. He fumbled for a moment for his glasses, then slid them onto his face and looked down at the notepad.

ALL STATIONS, USS GONZALEZ. MEGAFAUNA NOT AQUATIC. AMPHIBIOUS. MADE LANDFALL, KILLINIQ ISLAND, CANADA. REPTILIAN APPEARANCE. BIPEDAL. HEIGHT ESTIMATED ONE TWO ZERO METERS. DISPATCHED SEAHAWK TO RECORD CREATURE. CREATURE EMITTED A HIGH TEMPERATURE GASEOUS STREAM FROM MOUTH. STREAM ASSOCIATED WITH DIRECTED EMP, ABLE TO AFFECT HARDENED SYSTEMS. HELICOPTER DAMAGED, ATTEMPTED TO RETURN TO GONZALEZ, PURSUED BY CREATURE. GONZALEZ IN SUPPORT OF DAMAGED HELICOPTER ENGAGED CREATURE WITH FIVE INCH. NO EFFECT. CREATURE EMITTED GASEOUS STREAM AT GONZALEZ RENDERING ALL RADIO AND RADAR EQUIPMENT INOPERATIVE. ELECTRONICS FORWARD INOPERATIVE. INTERNAL HARDENED ELECTRONICS AFT REMAIN FUNCTIONAL.

FOLLOW UP LAUNCH SINGLE HE TOMAHAWK. CREATURE DIVERTED, RETURNED TO SOUTHERLY COURSE. SUCCESSFULLY RECOVERED HELICOPTER. PENDING FURTHER ORDERS, CONTINUING SOUTH ATTEMPTING TO KEEP CREATURE UNDER SURVEILLANCE.

Cunningham looked over the top of his glasses at Kruger. “So we’re faced with semi-aquatic fire-breathing dragons now?”

“Sounds more like a Japanese giant monster to me.”

“I’d like to believe that Commander Smith has lost his mind,” Cunningham stood and reached for his uniform shirt. “But I know Chris. He’s entirely too sane and too mindful of his career to even consider something like this as a joke.” He pulled the shirt on over his arms and began buttoning it. “All right, send out a Hawkeye to locate them. Follow up with someone to pick them up, render aid as needed, and keep an eye on that thing if they can. Have them keep their distance from the creature until we know more, or get orders.”

He sat on the bunk to pull on his trousers. “EMP, huh? We need to see if they have any surviving video because, frankly, when I report this to Higher, they’re going to think I’ve lost my mind.”

***

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 Nine

Story starts here

CHAPTER FIVE

One swift slash of the knife in the dim glow of a single lamp. Blood sprayed from the severed carotid artery.

“Sh’fath dulakh k’lathna vah. Djebdu methakha vektha K’t’rahl,” the acolytes of the Dread Lord chanted as Crncevic held up a bowl to catch the spurting blood.

The spurting stopped along with the heart of the sacrifice. The flow of blood slowed to a trickle, then a drip. Crncevic turned to face the wall, holding the bowl of blood before him. A fresh-dried coat of whitewash covered the wall. Gouges through the whitewash at each of the corner formed letters in the script of the Old Ones.

The acolytes continued their chant. “Shev’kha ezekhadja tredzkhan’th. Sh’fath dulakh k’lathna…”

Crncevic lifted the bowl high and stepped toward the wall.
The lamp blinked. Crncevic frowned. The lamp continued to blink. Crncevic turned to the acolyte at the front of the group and held out the bowl. “Continue the ritual.”

The acolyte bowed and took the bowl. Crncevic strode to the door of the small room, sparing a glance for the corpses, each with their throats slashed, piled in the corner.

In the hallway outside the room, Crncevic removed the hood and mask that covered his head. He stripped off the polyethylene rain suit and nitrile gloves. A quick glance showed no trace of blood on his priest’s garb.

With a sigh, he opened the door to the stairwell and climbed from the basement where the Order’s work proceeded to the ground floor where their public face waited.

“Father!” another acolyte, who had remained here to tend the lost and wounded that came to them, called as he entered the main foyer of the abandoned building in which they had set up housekeeping, “I was just about to call you.”

Crncevic looked from the acolyte to the two police officers who stood in the doorway.

“I’m sorry, Father,” one of the policemen said, “but could you come with us, please?”

“Is there a problem?”

The officer shook his head. “One of the search teams found someone and, well, he asked for a priest. I remembered you setting up an aid station here and…”

“Of course, Officer. Let me get my things.”

“Thank you, Father,” the officer said. “Truth is, I don’t think that guy’s going to make it.”

Crncevic forced a friendly smile to his face. “Then we had best hurry.”

Crncevic collected his bag, which contained the things a priest would have in ministering to the sick and dying. He pulled on a jacket against the chill outside then extended his hand toward the door. “Shall we?”

A big SUV with police insignia stood in the street, its engine running. One of the officers opened the back door for Crncevic and he climbed in. The two officers got into the front seats. “Shouldn’t take long, Father.”

Crncevic said nothing as the police officers pulled out. He ran his hand over his bag while affecting a serene expression while inside he wanted to scream. Two days. The pause before the final rise of K’t’rahl had continued for two days. It was time to receive the Dread Lord’s word. He should have been there to complete the ritual. Instead, the charade forced upon the order required he be here instead.

Very well, he would give that doomed fool his Last Rites, but in his heart he would dedicate his soul to Dread Shev’kha, one more to prepare for the rise.

#

“Negative,” White said. “Procedure is to stay with the plane.”

The white strip was as smooth as it looked, a perfect runway. The only difficulty on the landing had been the crosswind.

“But how are we going to find where we are without a search?” That scientist, Albertson, had been the loudest voice insisting on going out “exploring.” White would have expected the younger one, Damjan, to be the reckless one.

“We stay with the plane,” White said. “The Air Force, Coast Guard, Navy, whoever, will be looking for us when we don’t come back. And the plane is a much easier target to spot than a few people wandering around. We…stay…here.”

“Captain’s right,” Damjan said. “Here we’ve got shelter, food–we do have food, right?”

White nodded.

“Water,” Damjan continued, “everything we need to stay safe. Safe is good. And this plateau is high enough that if another tsunami comes through….”

“All right, all right,” Albertson said. “I still think we should go take a look.” He stabbed a finger down at his laptop computer. “I’ve searched. I drew a circle that marked as far as we could possibly have gone. There’s nothing like this island in it anywhere.” He stopped, then pointed at White. “Have you ever been to Hawaii?”

“Sure,” White said. “Took my wife there for our honeymoon.”

“This island is bigger than Lahaina, almost as big as Moloka’i.” He spread his arms, indicating the island around them. “Do you think we’d miss something like that? This is impossible, utterly and completely impossible, yet here it is. And you’re saying not to even go look at it?”

“That’s exactly what I’m saying.” White reached forward and closed the cover of Albertson’s laptop. “We wait for rescue.”

Albertson threw his hands in the air then let them drop to his lap. “I’ve got to get out there.”

White shook his head. “Not going to happen.”

#

The Seahawk seemed determined to end up in the sea.

“Not gonna happen,” Pomerantz said as the Seahawk bucked. He picked up a bit more altitude then shouted, “Geoff? Our friend?”

“Still following us,” despite Torgersen’s shout, without the intercom Pomerantz could barely understand him over the noise of the helicopter. “We’ve put some distance between us but he’s still coming.”

Pomerantz swore. That glowing stuff the creature had shot or spit or breathed at them had done a number on the engine. The Seahawk was barely staying in the air. He should have simply zipped back to the ship leaving the lumbering beast far behind. Instead it was a race, a race they seemed to be winning at least.

The smoke trail behind them thickened. The Seahawk slowed and began dropping again.

“Damn.” Pomerantz could hear the rotor slow. He eased up on the collective to try to slow their descent.

“Charlie? Any ideas?” He waved at the dead instrument panel and muttered. All of the electrical displays were cold and blank. “Stupid glass cockpit. Stupid upgrade. Give me my instruments back.”

“I’m guessing oil,” Rodriguez said “She’s not going to last much longer.”

Pomerantz spared a glance backward. The creature was wading after them, waist deep now. Ahead? There was the Gonzalez, looking more beautiful than Pomerantz could ever remember.

“Trailing smoke, limping back, followed by a monster. Think they’ll know something’s wrong over on the Gonzalez?”

“They’d better,” Rodriguez shouted back.

Pomerantz adjusted the engine controls, trying to coax a little more power out of it and eased the collective a little farther upward. The Seahawk shuddered but climbed. He looked down at the waves, still closer than he liked. Hard to judge how fast they were going over water. Not very.

Ahead, the crew on the destroyer had apparently spotted them and began to turn in their direction.

“Looks like momma’s coming to get us,” Pomerantz said. The pitch of the engines’ whine increased. Pomerantz frowned and looked up. Rotor speed seemed to be about the same. He cursed. “Not the transmission too. Come on, baby, hold together just a little more.”

Next to Pomerantz, Rodriguez leaned forward. “Flags on the deck. I think someone’s trying to signal us.”

“Get the glasses,” Pomerantz said. “See what you can see.”

“On it.” Rodriquez opened the case that held a pair of binoculars, used for Search and Rescue, occasionally on recon missions. He peered through them at the destroyer. “That’s Baker waving the signal flags. He’s…he’s signaling us to port.”

“To port? Why?”

“I think he’s saying to get out of their line of fire.”
Pomerantz stared at the Gonzalez. The turret for the five inch gun swiveled in their direction. The barrel rose. “Oh shit!”

He pulled hard on collective and cyclic sticks while pressing on the left pedal, coaxing all the speed he could get out of the crippled helicopter in a hard left turn.

Seconds later, the helicopter lurched and dropped in response to the air sucked away by the passage of the five inch shell.

“Jesus! Fuck!” Geoff’s scream came from the rear of the helicopter even over the noise of rotor and engines. “God damn! What the fuck was that!”

“Incoming” Rodriguez shouted back. “Hang on.”

Pomerantz fought the helicopter’s controls, struggling to maintain altitude while running farther out of the way of the incoming shells.

The Gonzalez fired again. Again, the helicopter lurched, less strongly this time as they were farther from the projectile’s flight path.

“Geoff!” Pomerantz shouted. “How about our friend? Are they hitting? Is it doing anything?”

Two more shots. Two more lurches, the second little more than a bump. Torgersen stuck his head up from the rear. “They’re hitting. A monster that size? How could they miss. Doesn’t seem to be doing anything though.”

Another burst of the glowing vapor streaked past them, this one not directed at them. It splashed against the front of the Gonzalez. Flames broke out on the decks of the destroyer. Torgersen dropped back into the rear compartment of the helicopter.

Cold clutched at Pomerantz’ gut. “Shit.”

The captain on the Gonzalez was clearly thinking fast. The ship launched a Tomahawk which streaked past them toward the monster.

“That gave him pause!” Torgersen shouted from the rear. “He’s stopped.” A moment later he stuck his head forward again. “He’s swimming south. I guess he didn’t like that last one.”

Pomerantz shook his head, looking at the burning destroyer. “Or maybe he just didn’t care.”

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:


Click on the cover image to get the book.

Big Blue Snippet Eight

Story starts here

“I do not believe this,” Lieutenant Junior Grade Steve Pomerantz brought the Seahawk around for another pass at the giant, dinosaur creature. He loved reading about dinosaurs as a kid but this thing? This thing was ten times the size of a T Rex. It walked mostly upright, like the kids’ books had shown and not with the stretched out posture scientists later decided T Rex and similar theropods used.

“You’ve said that,” his copilot, Ensign Charlie Rodriguez, said.

The creature ignored them as it continued to stride through the Canadian countryside. Every few steps it would stop, turn one way, then another, almost as if it were searching for something.

So far, the creature ignored them.

“That’s a big sucker.” Pomerantz turned the helicopter sideways, giving Geoffrey Torgersen, the sensor operator, a good look with the extra cameras installed on the bird.

“That, too, you have said.” Rodriguez laughed.

“Getting a good look, Geoff?”

“Good enough that we should be collecting a check from Toho.”

“Toho?” Pomerantz asked.

“Make all those giant monster movies,” Torgersen said. “Although we really need to be in Tokyo for this.”

Pomerantz laughed again. “All right. I’m going to see if I can get in closer for the next one.”

“Recommend you maintain distance,” came in over the radio from the Gonzalez.

“I think we’re good,” Pomerantz replied. “That creature isn’t fast. Can’t be at that size, I expect. I’ll stay well out of reach.”

“Understood. Be careful.”

Pomerantz turned sideways to the creature then, with deft motions of cyclic and collective stick, edged closer to the creature.

“Damn, that thing is huge!” Torgersen said as the helicopter approached to within two hundred meters of the creature.

Pomerantz made another adjustment to the controls, bringing the helicopter to a stop relative to the creature. He hovered in front of it, just edging away as it stepped forward.

“It’s looking at us,” Torgersen said.

The creature lumbered toward them, picking up speed. Pomerantz danced the helicopter away, keeping a steady distance.

“Um, Lieutenant?” Torgersen said. “I’ve got a bad feeling about this. Think we’ve got enough pictures maybe? I’ve got a gig’s worth of video back here.”

“Charlie?” Pomerantz said.

“I agree, Steve. Time to boogie.”

The creature opened its mouth, emitting a roar that, from that distance struck like a wall of sound. Then, from the creature’s mouth streamed a jet of glowing vapor. The jet passed just in front of the helicopter.

Pomerantz felt a wash of heat as the jet passed. A shockwave caught the helicopter and tossed it up and back. the instrument panel lit up with warning lights and alarms.

“Fire! Fire! Fire!” Torgersen cried.

“Charlie!” Pomerantz cried as he fought to regain control of the helicopter. Oil pressure was all over the place just before the display winked out Sensor, or…? Rotor speed? No way. They’d be falling like a rock. He glanced up. The rotor seemed to be spinning at a normal pace. The sound seemed to be right. Sensors then.

Other displays started to shut down.

“Gonzalez,” Pomerantz shouted into the radio, “That thing shot, or spat, or something at us. Electrical systems…” He glanced at the radio. No lights. No indicators. Nothing. Turned off? He punched the switch. Still nothing. “Fuck.”

“Charlie? He shouted.

“I’m good,” Rodriguez responded, his voice muffled despite his shouting over the noise of the damaged helicopter. No intercom. “Fire suppression system out. Geoff got it with the handheld.”

“Right,” Pomerantz shouted back. “We are so out of here.”

What had just happened? Pomerantz wanted to believe it was not real, was a hallucination. But a crippled Seahawk told a different story.

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:


Click on the cover image to get the book

Big Blue Snippet Seven

Story starts here

CHAPTER FOUR

The primitive cargo plane’s loadmaster tapped Damjan on the shoulder “How’s your friend?”

Damjan looked to his side at Albertson who curled up in the web seat–kind of like a vertical hammock–eyes glassy and face slack.

“Better, I think, but no promises,” Damjan said. “Better have more of those bags ready.”

“Captain wants you two up front,” the loadmaster said. “Can your friend…”

Albertson raised a hand to the back of his mouth for a moment then shook his head. “I’ll manage.” Shakily, he rose to his feet.

Damjan unfastened his seatbelt and stood. After a moment’s thought, he bent down and drew his computer bag from under the seat.

The loadmaster spotted the action and nodded. “This way.”

He led them past the large fuel tanks that filled the center of the aircraft to the front of the plane.

“Anything?” the person in the left seat of the plane was saying as they entered the flight deck.

“Nothing yet,” the person in the right seat said. “This isn’t set up to search by what an island looks like.”

“Captain?” The loadmaster said.

The person in the left seat looked back. “Right. Thanks, Harry. Tim, your plane.”

“Co-pilot’s plane.”

The person in the left seat, the captain, Damjan presumed, unbuckled and stood. He held out a hand. “Captain Jamal White,” he said.

Albertson took White’s hand. “Oliver Albertson. Pleased to meet you.”

White held his hand toward Damjan, who took it. “Damjan Bankovich.”

“Mr. Albertson, Mr. Bankovich. We have a problem. I wanted to talk to you because it may be related to this…mess.”

“How can we help?” Albertson asked.

“We’re currently circling an island that shouldn’t be there. All our charts say there’s nothing where our navigation equipment says we are. We lost GPS signal several hours ago.”

“I did warn the general that that could happen,” Albertson said.

White nodded. “Whatever’s blocking satellite radar is also blocking GPS satellite signals. Got it. But we’ve got an inertial system that’s pretty good. And it says we’re right where we’re supposed to be. Only problem is, none of our charts show an island of any kind, let alone one that big. So, since islands don’t just appear out of nowhere, something must be wrong with the navigation system. We’re lost.” He pointed at one of the instruments. “I’ve got about fifteen minutes before I have to make a choice. Either we try to retrace our path using a compass and inertial nav that got us lost in the first place, or we try to land here, on this island. If we try to retrace our path we’ll have to get very lucky to meet up with the tanker. Otherwise, we ditch in the ocean and the results are not likely to be good. Landing here depends on finding a flat spot big enough. But the Herky is pretty sturdy. We should be fine. Worst case, we ditch near the shore and get a bit wet.”

Albertson looked at his watch and winced. “If you have to do that, waiting another two hours would be best.”

“Oh?”

“Have to agree,” Damjan said. “If the next earthquake goes as scheduled there could be a big tsunami coming through here by then. And we’re a lot closer to the epicenter, meaning it will be that much bigger. I wouldn’t want to be on, or even near, the shore when it hits.”

“So what do you want from us?” Albertson asked.

“Help searching charts,” White said. “If we can find where we are, we can find how to get back.”

“We can do that,” Albertson said. I’ve got charts stored in my laptop and…”

“Just one thing,” Damjan said. “You said islands don’t appear out of nowhere.”

Albertson clapped a hand over his face and sighed, but did not interrupt.

“I wouldn’t be too sure,” Damjan continued. “I know it sounds crazy, but the measurements on that last earthquake? Well, it looks like they raised the sea floor several thousand feet. Maybe it pushed an island up as well.”

White looked at Damjan like he had lost his mind, which, Damjan thought, might well be true. Then White shook his head. “In any case, I have to know. We either make rendezvous in the tanker, ditch in the ocean, or find someplace to land. I really don’t want to ditch so we either find where we are or we land here. It’s our best chance.”

#

Ruggedly handsome, Commander Chris Smith could have stepped right out of a recruiting poster for the Marine Corps. Instead, he commanded the Arleigh Burke class destroyer, the USS Gonzalez. Originally a Flight I design, the latest refit had given the Gonzalez some Flight II capability, including increased Tomahawk capacity and a hangar and flight deck for one Seahawk helicopter.

Smith peered through his binoculars at the horizon while listening to the latest damage control report. The Gonzalez was hurt, badly, but repairs were continuing as they limped for home. Admiral Cunningham had also tasked them with keeping track of the creature; Washington had simply called it a previously unknown species of giant fish.

Smith had seen the footage. That was no fish. He did not know what it was, but it was no fish.

“Chief Bowman says the number three turbine is toast, but the others are all functioning and we’ve got both screws. The old girl’s still got fight in her, Skipper.”

“Good,” Smith lowered the binoculars and looked at his Exec. “Status on the contact?”

“Still heading south by southwest. It will have to turn soon. About to run into Killiniq Island.”

“If it turns south…”

His exec nodded. “’Consistent with a prompt return to Norfolk Naval Shipyard for repairs, you are to follow and monitor the recently discovered example of aquatic megafauna.’ I don’t think the Admiral knew quite how to word that order.”

“Can you blame him?” Smith shook his head. “’Aquatic megafauna’? That was no fish.”

“What do you think it was, then? A giant dinosaur, released from stasis by that nuke?”

“Isn’t that how all the giant monster movies start?” He put the binoculars to his face and focused on the horizon. That, whatever it was, remained submerged.

Reports continued to trickle in. Additional repairs completed or systems logged irreparable short of port. In the meantime, the sonar track of the creature continued to move toward the shallows off the island ahead.

“It’s got to turn soon,” Smith said to himself. If it goes south, fine. If it goes north…”

“Captain?”

“Our orders did say ‘Consistent with a prompt return to Norfolk,’ right? If it goes north, we continue south and we’re done.”

“The Admiral won’t like–“

In the distance, a few hundred meters offshore, the head of the creature burst from the waves, followed by its neck with its rows of irregular dorsal plates.

“What the fuck!” For a moment Smith wondered who had spoken, then realized that he had himself.

More of the creature rose from the water as it moved toward the shore. Shoulders. Yes, those were shoulders, from which protruded short arms. Not so short as those of a Tyrannosaurus Rex, but short.

“A dinosaur,” Smith’s exec whispered.

“No dinosaur was ever that big.” Smith licked his lips. “Get a Seahawk ready. I want film of that thing. They’re to follow it as long as they can and see what it does.” He shook his head. “Washington had enough trouble swallowing the idea of a previously undiscovered giant fish. ‘Aquatic megafauna.’ What do you think they’re going to say about–” He waved his hand in the direction of the creature, “–that.”

#

“Dr. Albertson?” White said. He’d circled halfway around the island, looking for suitable spots to land while the two scientists had poured over charts in their computers trying to identify it. “Anything?”

“I’m sorry. Our system isn’t designed to search on the shape and size of an island and we have to…”

“Anything?”

“Sorry, no. Nothing. We have not been able to identify this island.”

“All right,” White said. He turned to Cedeno. “I’m calling it. We land here.”

“Where?” Cedeno asked.

White pointed. “There. That plateau. It looks flat enough and it’s high ground in case…”

“In case we’re down there when another tsunami comes through.”

“Harry, get these people back to their seats and strapped in. Landing in an unprepared field. You know what it’s going to be like.”

“Sir,” Antoniewicz said. “Gentlemen, if you’ll come this way.”

“Okay, Tim,” White said when the others had left, “We’re going to make a pass first. Low and slow. See what we’re coming into before we bring her around and set her down.”

“Check.”

“Watch our ground track. Try to judge crosswind.”

“Check. Eyeballs peeled.”

White brought the plane around and settled it into a glide. “Throttle down,” he said, echoing verbally his actions on the controls. “Flaps twenty degrees.”

The ground approached. White slid the flap lever the rest of the way. Their approach steepened. When they had descended to a few hundred feet above the plateau, he eased the throttle forward, leveling out.

“I make ten knots drift to starboard,” Cedeno said.

“Ten knots starboard drift,” White repeated.

“There. Two o’clock,” Cedeno said. “Do you see what I see?”

White looked in the indicated direction. “A runway? Or a road?”

A white stripe crossed the plateau ahead of them, featureless so far as White could see from this distance and altitude but easily large enough for the Hercules to land on it.

“Whatever it was,” White said, “it’s a runway now.”

He slid the throttles forward, starting to bring the aircraft up and around in preparation for entering a landing pattern.

Next Installment

***

Coming Soon in Paperback and Kindle

In the meantime, why not check out my science fiction novel, Survival Test?

Big Blue Snippet Six

Story starts here

 “Truxton reports sonar contact, Admiral,” Kruger told Admiral Cunningham. “She’s launched Seahawks and is preparing to engage with torpedoes.”

Cunningham nodded.

Kruger stood at the communication terminal, his hand cupping an earpiece to the side of his head as he repeated key information for Cunningham.

“Contact has reversed course. Heading toward us. Speed, twenty knots. Depth, seventy-five meters and decreasing.” Kruger looked up. “She’s heading for the surface.”

Kruger spoke briefly into the microphone. Cunningham could not hear what he said. A moment later, Kruger looked up, “If the contact maintains current course and speed she’ll pass about a mile off our starboard bow.”

Cunningham smiled. “I think not. It’s time to send this thing to the bottom. All ships and aircraft, weapons free.”

“Periscope wake sighted!” Kruger said, echoing what he heard on the channel he monitored.

Cunningham reached out a hand and touched Kruger on the shoulder. He pointed, out past the carrier’s starboard bow.
White curls cut through the surface of the sea, far too big to be the wake of a periscope. More wakes appeared before and behind the first as rows of large irregular plates broke the surface and cut through the swells. The plates, a dull blue-green, rose out of the water in a long string. Large plates getting smaller to the front and, more slowly, to the rear, of their direction of travel.

As Cunningham watched, a scaly head rose from the water at the front of the rows of plates with the plates now evident as running along the spine of some enormous creature.

The blunt, wedge-shaped head was huge, easily the size of a two story house. The jaws opened wide, revealing rows of jagged teeth. The whole creature had to be at least the size of a Virginia class submarine, if not an Ohio.

A moment later, the head dipped back into the water and the plates, the dorsal plates, began to sink back into the sea.
Kruger swore softly. “That’s what we’ve been tracking?”

Cunningham turned and looked at Kruger. “Tell me someone got video of that.”

Cunningham sighed. “All right. Get on the horn with Washington. I want sonar mapping and maybe ROVs where the nuke went off. I’m going to presume that it’s not just coincidence that this thing came up where the De Moines’ nuke went off. Let’s see what we can find out. Put our assets on tracking this thing but cease fire. Just track it for now.” He rubbed his lips for a moment. “And send some Seahawks out to see if they can find what happened to the Indiana.”

“Aye aye, Admiral.”

“And put together any footage we got along with every instrument reading on that thing. This is going to be a hard sell.”

#

“We’ve lost GPS signal,” Cedeno said.

White nodded. “They warned us that might happen. Whatever’s blocking satellite radar is also blocking GPS.”

The Hercules had been flying for six hours. They had topped up from their companion tanker three hours previously and were now flying alone under the heavy cloud layer.

They had stripped the Hercules to the bare minimum for this mission. Even so, in another three hours they would have to turn around.

“What do you think’s doing that?” Cedeno said, pointing at the dead GPS unit.

“Radar’s still working,” White said. “Got to be something in the clouds. Maybe some kind of salt being thrown up by whatever’s causing all this. Gets into the upper atmosphere, mixes in with cloud droplets and boom, instant microwave shield. Or maybe not. Ask the professor types in the back.”

At Cedeno’s shrug, White leaned back and went into what he thought of as his pilot’s trance. In this state he was alert, able to respond if anything needed his attention, but those parts of his mind which grew distracted or bored simply shut down.

Time passed.

“Coming up on the drop zone,” Cedeno said just as White opened his mouth to say the same thing.

“Right,” White said. “Ping Harry to tell the professors to get their gear ready to drop.”

“Roger that,” Cedeno said, “Just let me…what the hell?”

“Tim?”

“Where the flying fuck did that come from?”

“What are you…” From the corner of his eye, he saw Cedeno looking out the window to the right. He leaned forward to look past him.

In the distance, a smudge marred the horizon–land, where no land should be.

“What the hell?”

“We’re lost,” Tim said. “Whatever screwed up GPS must be doing something to the inertial and our compass.”

“That’s impossible,” White stabbed a finger at the screen displaying the Inertial Navigation System readout. “Inertial’s entirely self-contained. And remember what we were taught? First thing people tend to do when they’re lost is stop trusting their compass.”

“An island that size not on any chart? It’s got to be at least twenty miles across.” Cedeno waved outside at the island. “You think they’d miss a twenty mile, or more, island out here? We’re fucked!”

White chewed on his lower lip for a moment. If they were lost, and it looked like they were, their reserve allowance for fuel suddenly became very important. Still… “All right, let’s head over that way and see if we can get some idea where we are, what island that is. And see if we can find the nearest place for a great landing.”

As the old saying went, any landing you walked away from was a good one. A more recent addition to the saying held that a great landing was one where you can use the plane again.

Ditching in the ocean was never a great landing and rarely a good one.

“And let’s get the professors up here. Maybe they know something.”

Cedeno nodded. “On it.”

As the Hercules banked into a gentle turn, White stared at the island in the distance. Where were they? And where had that island come from?

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:

Big Blue Snippet Five

Story starts here

Before we start, we have proposed cover art:

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:

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

 ***

Coming Soon in Paperback and Kindle

In the meantime, you might try my Military SF novella “Live to Tell”: