Book: Days of Perdition

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Commander McFadden stood in the missile spaces of the Alaska, looking at the boat’s complement of Trident missiles.  The team was working on the final missile, and once they were done he would order the submarine to launch depth.  He wasn’t as confident as Admiral Packard that this would work.  When he’d pressed the issue and demanded to know exactly how they were bypassing the built in safeguards he wasn’t happy with the answer.

They weren’t using the logic built into the warheads, they were installing newly written code that would supposedly fire the nuclear trigger at a predetermined time after launch.  Basically the engineer had written a virus that could cause a detonation.  His navigator and XO had stared aghast at this bit of information, voicing their concerns before locking themselves away and calculating the time to use for each missile.

They had completed their work before the engineering team had finished loading the code into all the warheads; having two other officers double-check their calculations.  They’d been accurate on their first attempt and now stood watching as the time to detonation was programmed into the last Trident.

“We’re ready, skipper.”  The weapons officer said after double-checking the entry against a copy of the calculations.

“Very good,” McFadden said, turning and picking up the handset of a sound powered phone that connected directly to the control room, telling the duty officer to ascend to launch depth.

Moments later the deck tilted slightly as the boat began to rise in the ocean, McFadden and his XO heading for the control room.  Once there the CO listened briefly as reports flooded in.  Nothing was on sonar.  Nothing within detection range of the Alaska’s sophisticated electronic suite of listening gear.

“Boat’s at launch depth, Captain.  Sonar is still clear.  Ready to open doors on your order.”  The XO said a few minutes later.

“Open missile doors,” McFadden said without hesitation.

“Open missile doors, aye, sir.”  The XO repeated the order back, then turned and passed it on to a Petty Officer seated at a panel that controlled the Alaska’s missiles.

“Doors are open, Captain.  We’re green across the board.”  The XO reported a few moments later.

“Very good, XO.  Commence firing.”  McFadden ordered.

The order was repeated and a few moments later the first Trident missile was forcefully ejected from its tube out of the top of the Alaska’s hull by a powerful gas generator.  When the missile broke the surface of the water its rocket motor fired and at the nose an aerodynamic spike was deployed to reduce atmospheric drag.  Roaring skyward, the missile continued to gain speed and altitude as it headed for a spot over the central United States.  If the Alaska’s calculations had been correct it would detonate just above the Earth’s atmosphere.

“Torpedos!”  The shouted alarm came from the Alaska’s young sonar operator.

“Close missile doors!  Flank speed, emergency dive current bearing!”  McFadden barked.

The crew in the control room responded immediately, the big submarine vibrating as the propeller spun up to its max speed.

“Sonar, where are those fish?”  The XO shouted as he checked on the angle of their descent. 

There wasn’t an answer and both he and the Captain rushed to the small room where the sonar operators worked.  They stopped as one when they saw the waterfall display a sailor was staring at in horror.  Four seconds later two Russian Shkval, rocket assisted torpedos detonated on either side of the Alaska. 

Less than a second later the sub’s pressure hull was crushed between the twin concussions, rupturing and letting cold seawater flood in.  The officers and crew were all killed by the overpressure inside the steel cylinder before the Alaska began its descent to the bottom of the north Pacific.  They had only gotten one missile away. 

Five years earlier the SVR had co-opted an American software engineer who worked for the Navy contractor that provided sonar systems.  After several payments totaling five million dollars to an offshore account, he had inserted a few lines of code into a scheduled software patch that made the Navy’s sonar deaf to specific acoustic signatures.  The Russian Akula class attack submarine that had been shadowing the Alaska for over a month, undetected, closed its torpedo tube doors and disappeared into the cold, dark depths.

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Next: 49. 41