Chapter 7 - Crosswinds
USS Chancellorsville, Persian Gulf
At 0300 the Duty Officer could wait no longer. They had been tracking an Iranian patrol boat since midnight and it was on a steady intercept course. Whoever was aboard that boat was hailing the Chancellorsville over the international Guard channel in very bad English.
He picked up the PA system and signaled, “This is the Duty Officer, Captain to the CIC please.”
Three minutes later a beleaguered looking Captain Carson arrived in the CIC.
The Duty Officer said, “Sorry to wake you sir but we have a situation developing. At midnight a Huangfeng Class missile boat left Kharg Island making 20 knots. They entered the channel and have been making a bee line toward our position ever since.”
Carson grunted, “Huangfeng Class? That’s a Chinese copy of the old Russian Osa II. It’s a piece of crap. So what do we have: defectors or suicidal hardliners?”
The Duty Officer said, “They’ve been hailing us on Guard off and on for an hour.”
Captain Carson looked at the tactical display and did a little mental calculation. “I’m betting we’ve got a defector. Wake up our marines and spin up the ready helicopter. If we’ve got a defector, we’re not going to give him a chance to change his mind.”
“Mr. Roberts: contact the Okinawa and request a translator.”
Ten minutes later the ships SH-60 Seahawk lifted off from the flight deck and quickly traversed the twenty miles to the target.
“Bravo 11 to Chancellorsville; the target has slowed to 5 knots and is running under a white flag. We can see a person on deck waving a white flag signaling surrender. What are your instructions?”
“This is Chancellorsville actual. Take them and be careful.”
There was a pause for a few minutes and a tense quiet fell over the CIC.
“This is Charlie Team to Chancellorsville; we have control of the boat. Looks like a senior Revolutionary Guard officer and his family. We will rendezvous with you and turn them over to your custody.”
By 0400 General of the Revolution Nasim Naderi, his wife and three children were aboard the Chancellorsville with 20 kilos of papers.
* * *
USS Seadragon, South China Sea
The new Seawolf class submarine was moving slowly along a 1200 meter depression in the ocean floor using her towed array sonar to monitor Chinese ship movements.
Captain Summers was on the bridge watching the plot when the call came from the senior sonar operator. “Con: New Sonar contact. Designate as Goblin-331 and Goblin-332. They are on course 045 making turns for 25 knots. Range is 17000 meters. Sonic signature of both matches the new Jing class boomers.”
Summers said, “Well now, where are you going in such a hurry?”
He ordered, “Sonar: tag those two contacts. Con: adjust course to get in their baffles. Engine room: bring our speed up slowly I don’t want to spook them. Let’s see where they are going.”
“Comms: Send this to CincPac—have located two Jing class boomers. Give position, course, bearing and speed. Seadragon trailing. Stop. Use the VLF transmitter. I want to stay under the thermal layer and not go shallow. I don’t want them to have any idea that we’re back here.”
* * *
USS Chancellorsville, Persian Gulf
The nameless CIA translator emerged from his interrogation of General Naderi in a daze.
Captain Carson asked, “So, what does he have?”
“It’s the keys to the kingdom sir. The attack on the Persian Gulf was supposed to be a coordinated action with the Peoples Republic of China and North Korea. The Iranians had to go early because their operatives in the United States were captured and identified. The Chinese and the North Koreans couldn’t advance their time table.”
Carson asked, “In your opinion, will they still go?”
The translator said, “From their point of view, there is no reason for them stop. In their opinion the United States is paralyzed by epidemics in our largest cities. We’ve got to get this information up the chain of command ASAP.”
Carson said, “When were they supposed to move?”
“Five days— this coming Tuesday.”
Carson said, “Mayday. That’s just beautiful. How can I help?”
The translator said, “I need to get back to the Okinawa right away with our asset and his papers. We’re set up and can do a better analysis and translation over there. Can I use your chopper?
* * *
Office of the President of the United States
President McMahan had just been briefed on the intelligence gathered by the Chancellorsville and he looked grim.
The Joint Chiefs of Staff had been called into a very early morning emergency session and no one was pleased with the prospect of fighting two very dangerous opponents with four days warning.
McMahan asked, “Why would China attack her largest trading partner? It just doesn’t make sense.”
Charles Schuler, Deputy Director of Intelligence for the CIA answered, “We’re also China’s primary rival for military supremacy in the region and the resource market. If they are able to hurt us badly and achieve a military victory over Taiwan, they emerge from our shadow and are able to economically and militarily dominate the Western Pacific. They think that now, with much of our country coping with the Iranian plagues, is their chance to move.”
McMahan said, “OK. They’re going to move. What can we do about it?”
General Kerney of the Army said, “We can hold the North Koreans. They’ll give us hell for three days and we’ll lose some ground but we have substantial forces there since the current Great Leader has been acting so erratically.”
Admiral Stinson said, “Taiwan is going to be very difficult. If we can stop the Chinese before they land, we have a chance. If they land in force, I doubt Taiwan can stand.”
The President said, “What can we get in theater in time to make a difference?”
General Wallace of the Air Force said, “If the Taiwanese would permit it we could fly significant assets directly onto the island. If not we can station B-1s and other assets forward to Guam and Okinawa that could significantly help the navy.”
Admiral Stinson said, “I’ve got the Abraham Lincoln battle-group making a speed run to the area now but any way you cut it, she’s going to be a day late. Once she is in position her air group will be significantly outnumbered. John C. Stennis and her battle group just put to sea from Seattle. They are heading for Japan and will be in striking distance by the deadline. I’ve got all Aegis and SDI equipped ships in the Pacific command standing and more coming via the Panama cannel. It’s all just a matter of distance.”
The President asked, “What about the Marines out of San Diego and Pearl?”
Stinson said, “I’m not sure they would be useful in the kind of brawl that we’re likely to see. I’ve got Inchon and Normandy and their escorts headed to Guam. If we need them they can be available rather quickly.”
“I’ve got another big worry. Two of the Chinese brand new Jing class boomers just left their bases in a big hurry moving out into blue water and avoiding the Taiwan. It’s my opinion that is a gun aimed at out West Coast. I’ve got a Seawolf class attack submarine trailing them.”
McMahan asked, “What do the Chinese have in the way of ICBMs?”
General Wallace answered, “The Chinese don’t want to get into a nuclear shoot out with us. They would lose badly. We know that they’ve got 16 old liquid fueled missiles with hydrogen warheads at a launch complex in a remote area deep inside their territory. We can’t say what else they might have up their sleeve but their boomers are their most dangerous weapons. The boomer’s missiles and warheads are modern and accurate. They could make our West coast into a radioactive wasteland.”
McMahan stood and his Generals saw a hint of anger in his eyes. “By God we’re not going to let them. This is my direct order to your services: bring every possible weapon—every ship, plane and sharp rock to bear and do it quietly. They don’t know that we’re on to them. The business in the Middle East was a surprise attack but now we know they are coming and it is my intention to give them pure hell.”
“Admiral Stinson, I have a special order for you. I want that Seawolf boat on those boomers like a cheap suit. If they even pretend like they are preparing to launch the Captain of that boat has a Presidential Directive to blow them out of the water.
“Gentlemen- keep me informed of our progress. I am about to speak to the Presidents of Taiwan and South Korea and give them the sort of news that no one should have to hear. Dismissed.”
* * *
Pine Lake, Colorado
Pine Lake, Colorado was a pretty little town that grew up around a lake in the valley between two mountains. Only 20 people lived there year round but there were dozens of expensive summer homes and hunting lodges patronized by well heeled citizens of Denver.
It was one of Lance Corporal “Fast” Eddie Carbonell’s favorite parts of his daily patrol route because the people were always friendly and the owner of the local quick-stop/café always insisted on providing them with a coke and a snack.
As Carbonell’s patrol approached the small town on the two lane county road that ran through the small town and valley from North to South, Carbonell saw a plume of smoke rising from above the tree line and got a sick feeling.
Eddie said to his driver, “Hey Dirk, step on it. It looks like trouble.”
He picked up his radio mike, keyed it and said, “Sierra Hotel, this is Echo 75 on patrol along county road 30. Be advised; we see a plume of smoke rising from Pine Lake. Could be nothing but it might be trouble.”
“Echo 75, Sierra Hotel acknowledges. Do you need backup?”
Eddie replied, “We don’t know yet. Will advise.”
When the patrolling Hummvee emerged from the forest and got a view of the town, Carbonell’s worst fears were realized. All of the structures were trashed and the quick-stop/café was on fire. There were bodies in the street.
Eddie gasped, “mi dios!” He picked up the mike and said, “Sierra Hotel, this is Echo 75. We have arrived in Pine Lake. It looks like raiders have hit the place. We’ve got bodies in the street and a couple of the structures are on fire. Please send backup, advise the sheriff’s office and coroner.”
“Roger that Echo 75. Render what aid and assistance you can. We’ll have people there ASAP.”
Eddie split his men into two teams and fanned out over the small town. Each house had been hit and the raiders had killed everyone. The team could tell that the summer houses around the lake had been ransacked. After doing a quick recon of the town, the team found no signs of life and returned to their vehicle.
On the way to the hummer Eddie saw something in the road that caught his eye. He walked over to an odd piece of trash in the road. He picked it up with the blade of his knife. I was a cheap night vision head set that he had seen on sale at WalMart.
He bagged the night vision goggles and said to his partner, “This explains how they are getting around at night.” They continued back to the hummer and called it in.
When the other pair returned from their circle around town, Eddie said to his men, “This is bad. So far the raiders have only hit isolated and usually unoccupied dwellings. They’ve significantly upped their game and I see some real bad signs. I’ve done two tours in Iraq and I know RPG damage when I see it. These bad boys have some serious firepower. Stick close to the vehicle. This whole town is a crime scene now.”
* * *
Jimmy said, “Take it easy, remember to breath and squeeze the trigger, don’t jerk it”.
Ronny took careful aim with the Mimi-14 and fired at the series of targets.
Brian said, “7 out of 10: that’s your best shooting so far. Good job Ronny.”
He blushed and said, “Once you get past all the racket, shooting is fun.”
Tom grinned. Bobby and Ronny had both come a long way from being badly gun shy to decent shots over the last few days. They were even more confident and outgoing. His plan to keep it low key, take it step by step, emphasizing safety and above all to build confidence had worked like a charm.
Bobby yelled from the house, “Tom, Gaddis wants to have a word with you.”
The boys were manning the radio in shifts during the daylight hours now. Too much was happening and they had all decided that they had to face it no matter how ugly it was. Besides, whoever was watching the radio got to browse the internet so it wasn’t a bother.
Tom said to the boys, “Shoot another couple of clips apiece and then wrap up OK.”
He ran inside and went to the radio. Bobby handed him the mike and Tom said, “Sierra Hotel, this is Eagle Rock, how can I help you.”
“Eagle Rock, this is Sierra Hotel actual. Be advised that we’ve got a problem with raiders. Over the last few days we’ve had a number of attacks on isolated dwellings and finally a bad one on Pine Lake last night. We’ve got a large number of heavily armed men that can move cross country in 4X4s and motorcycles.”
Tom said, “You’re just full of good news today Sierra Hotel. Do you have any idea who they are and where they’re from?”
“They appear to be operating at least 30 miles off to your North but I thought you needed to know. The area sheriffs think it’s a biker gang that moves around cooking meth out in the country and selling it in Denver or Westward over the mountains. They got plenty of places to hide and a lot of friends out here. They appear to be using commercial night-vision gear to get around at night.”
Tom said, “We’ll watch our security system closely. We’ve got a pretty serious fence, video surveillance and the house can’t be seen from the road. We should be fine but if we see anything we’ll give you a call.”
“Roger that Eagle Rock. Keep your eyes open. Sierra Hotel out.”
Tom sat back in his chair. He had been afraid of something like this. He had to think this through very carefully.