Thursday, October 28, 2021


U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Roadell Hickman

Commander Riley O'Bannon was watching the COB¹ as he checked the systems on the computer screen in front of him. The COB had a great poker face, there was no telling what was going through his mind by watching him, it could be great news, it could be terrible news, but O'Bannon had learned to wait for MMCM² Charlie Vickers' reports, he was nearly always dead on.

Vickers turned and looked at his Captain, "We're good Cap'n, all systems are up and running, including comms."

"Thanks COB. Sonar, Conn, are we clear?"

"Conn, Sonar, one passive contact at 227 relative, very weak, keeps fading in and out."

"Jenkins, let's get the mast up and see if anyone is around."

"Clear all around Cap'n, no contacts."

"OOD, you have the Conn, I'm going down to the Comms shack."

"Aye, OOD has the Conn, Captain is off the Conn.³"

CDR O'Bannon looked over the message he had written out for the Comms operator on duty. It looked good, it explained succinctly what was going on with his boat and what he made of the situation around his position in the Sea of Japan roughly a hundred miles south-southeast of the Russian port of Vladivostok.

They'd been lying low for two weeks repairing the damage they had sustained when they had had a near miss by a torpedo which had been on top of them so fast that they had had little time to react. O'Bannon was convinced that they had had an encounter with a Shkval or some variant of that Russian torpedo. Thing was incredibly fast, thank God it wasn't that maneuverable.

Now he had his top sonar guys going over the recordings leading up to the encounter. They had detected nothing until the torpedo had been less than ten minutes out. Was it Russian, or did the Chinese have a copy of that damned thing?

He really needed to know.

"Colonel, good news." MACS Sorge handed Colonel Tanaka a message flimsy.

Tanaka opened it, read the brief message than shouted over at Harry Fairchild, who was asleep on the office couch, "Harry! Gudgeon is alive!"

Fairchild snapped awake, a habit he had learned in his many years at sea, and grunted out, "Damn that's good news. Do we have a report from the captain?"

Sorge answered, "Still being decoded Sir. First message just said, 'Gudgeon alive, repeat, Gudgeon alive. Details to follow.' The second message is pretty long Sir."

Tanaka nodded and before he could speak, Sorge told him, "They'll have it to you as soon as possible, Sir."

Jack Bishop woke up, he swore he could smell coffee, real coffee, and, damn, was that bacon? Rolling off the cot he'd slept on he felt a twinge in his lower back, reminding him that he wasn't getting any younger.

"Mornin' Major." Sgt. Jefferson had taken to calling Bishop "Major" when she had learned from Ida Kasparian that Bishop had been medically retired from the Army as a major. He'd served "only" twelve years before being badly wounded in Ukraine, badly enough that he had been forcibly  retired from active duty.

"Sarge, is that real coffee? And bacon, where did we get bacon?"

Sgt. Jefferson smiled and said, "Don't ask," nodding over at Billy Kasparian.

Billy saw the exchange and said, "Hey, Mr. Washington 'found' a pig, I knew how to turn said pig into bacon, I mean come on, I am a farmer."

Bobby Washington came in with an armload of firewood and put it down near the fire. "Yeah, I found a pig, sounds better than 'I stole a pig' I guess."

As Bishop loaded his plate with bacon, he smiled and said, "Wherever and whatever Mr. Washington, this is good stuff. Thanks. What's on the agenda for today?"

Washington nodded at Pablo Mendoza and said, "Pablo heard a rumor that there's a few gangbangers in his old neighborhood. We think it's high time we drove 'em out."

"Are they armed?" Bishop asked.

"They sure are, do you think they'll hang around once you open up on 'em with automatic weapons? All they've got, according to Pablo's neighbors, are pistols and a couple of shotguns. They think they've got it made since the police up and quit." Washington said.

Billy Kasparian looked up from his breakfast, "The cops quit?"

"Sure did," Washington explained, "wouldn't you if they stopped paying you and released the criminals you brought in?"


"Serious as a heart attack, Mr. K."

Tanaka read the decoded message from USS Gudgeon again, looking up at Harry Fairchild he asked, "A Shkval torpedo?"

"It's Russian for 'squall,' damned things are really fast, but you have to hit dead on as they don't turn worth a damn." Fairchild answered.

"But it is a Russian torpedo, for sure."

"Nope, could be Chinese. Before all this nonsense started we had intel indicating that the Chinese stole the design and actually made some improvements to the reliability of the beast. The chief sonarman aboard Gudgeon analyzed the recordings they had, system does that automatically, and he said it didn't look like the Russian version of the thing. Could be a new variant, but it's 'probably' Chinese, not Russian." Fairchild looked around the room.

"But it's fishy, the Russians are sheltering the Vice President, who is suspected of treason, and now this. It could be the Russians, or it could be the Chinese. But Gudgeon is alive, so is her crew, that's the important thing right now. Which raises the question, what's our next move Colonel?"

"Did Gudgeon ever penetrate Russian territorial waters?" Tanaka asked, his face said 'don't you dare bullshit me.'

Fairchild looked at the floor then back up at the colonel, "It's possible, we do it a lot. Usually our boats get in and out without anyone being the wiser, I've done it myself on more than one occasion."

"So it could be a Chinese attack or it could be self-defense, sort of, on the Russians' part?"

"Yup, I can't think of a third possibility."

"Where's Gudgeon headed now?"

"Yokosuka. We'll have a full report when she pulls in, couple of days probably."

Tanaka nodded then said, "So we wait."


"What's up Sarn't Jefferson?"

"We're getting low on ammo, Sir. We need to get back to base. I think Mr. Washington and his team have things under control here."

Bishop nodded, they had moved into Pablo Mendoza's old neighborhood and driven the gangbangers out of the buildings they were holed up in. Once in the open they had tried to surrender, Mendoza's neighbors weren't having it. All of the 'bangers had died. Bishop had counted twenty-seven dead, among them three women. He felt sick but the locals were jubilant.

The downside was that they couldn't stay, they had expended a lot of ammunition in the brief firefight. The intention had been to overawe the gangbangers, which they had. Now they had to restock their ammo, he had asked, but there was no ammunition available within twenty miles of Albany. So back to base.

"All right, let's mount up people. Mr. Washington, you gonna be okay?"

"I think so," he stuck his hand out, "thanks for the help, Major."

Bishop shook Washington's hand, "I wish there was some way you could contact us if you need us again."

"Unless the Chinese come back, I think we'll be okay. Drug dealers just want to sell drugs and make money, fightin' wars ain't what they're about, least not when the other side is organized and shoots back."

"Good luck Sir." Bishop left to climb into the MRAP, he'd let Ida drive this time. She was better at it anyway.

¹ Chief of the Boat - The senior enlisted sailor aboard a U.S. submarine.
² Machinist's Mate Master Chief Petty Officer
³ I probably have the verbiage wrong, anyone care to correct?


  1. Might be " the conn... " my time on subs is measured in days and generations old. I retain a respect for the dedication and professionalism of our submariners. I have known a couple in the interim.
    Good as always, Sarge.
    Boat Guy

    1. I wasn't really sure conn versus bridge, so I went with bridge. I'm still waiting to hear from some others in the U-Boot crowd.

    2. Conn is correct. No place to put a bridge on a sub.

    3. Fair enough, I modified "bridge" to "conn." The only reference to a bridge on a submarine that I could find was the "bridge cockpit" atop the sail.

    4. You could probably have left it. You do write these stories exceptionally well.

    5. Ah, but I like to be as accurate as possible.

  2. SHTF like this scenario and law enforcement "goes away" there'll be a lot of folks who would regret that law enforcement wasn't around. Good to see the sub survived and now I'm wondering about the implications of a VP hiding out in a foreign embassy. How do you winkle that SOB out of there? You're making me think too much this early in the morning Sarge!

    1. I'm working on getting the VP out in the open. (Consider that a sneak preview.)

    2. Too many people have no idea what would come out of the woodwork, if the police went away.

    3. There are many people who have no idea about a lot of things they take for granted!

  3. Good on the sub. They are better off when they are a hole in the ocean, and not popping up above the layer to comm or look around.

    Me and Billy have that in common, we both know how to make bacon. I would like his recipe, mine takes a couple days...

    I sure hope there's no trouble for the RTB, being low on ammo is no go place to be.

    1. I don't anticipate them having trouble returning to base, but then again, my Muse loves to throw curve balls!

  4. A 200 knot torpedo? That's quick!
    Well at least it sounds quick to me....:-)

    1. An underwater, self-cavitating (to make the water slicker) rocket, to be precise. That they didn't hear the torpedo being launched means it was launched at about the distance they heard it from (sound travelling far faster underwater than in air.) Nasty weapon if it hits. But as our host noted, if you can avoid it (probably the reason they didn't get contact on the launcher) then chances are good you'll survive.

      Whomever fired was stupid. Always fire a backup if you can. Use the ChiCom Squall to throw off the Ami sub and shoot a wire-guided torp afterwards. If you've got a lock on an Ami sub, then take the friggin shot.

      Wonder what kept our firing boat from firing? Torpedo tube problems? (Rumors are of the torpedo causing torpedo room fires and other issues.)

    2. Interesting to learn the various ways they obtain supercavitation; understand they can slow it down when "within target range" to obtain more manuverabilty

    3. Rob - That's very fast for an underwater vehicle.

    4. Beans - Many times you won't "hear" a torpedo being launched based on range, water conditions, and the direction your arrays are "pointed." As to having a "lock" on an underwater contact? Only if you're pinging, passive gives you a "ballpark" of where the target is, going active to get a "lock" is a good way to get killed. We may hear more about the boat which fired the Shkval, we might not. You know how fickle I am, er, I mean my Muse is. As to the firer being stupid? You might take the shot then have a casualty onboard which prevents you from taking a second shot. So they might be stupid, they might be unlucky, either case can often have the same outcome.

    5. boron - I didn't know that bit, the slowing down. Not sure what you mean by "within target range" unless you mean within the target's detection range which depending on a lot of things can be very long or very short. Underwater warfare is slow, nasty, and full of educated guesswork.

    6. The attacker could have picked up GUDGEON on het trailed sonar, from below a thermal layer, with the tail on the other side of the layer, from the attacker.

    7. There are many detection scenarios, I didn't cover them as they're not critical to the story.


    8. The Skval slows down and goes active with internal sonar and then goes final speed run. It travels so fast that the launching boat can't guide it and its internal systems aren't strong enough.

      If the torp didn't do a slow down, look, speed up run, that would explain why it missed.

  5. Offline. Wow. That will create a World War faster than fast accidentally.

    In such situation as described, it is doubtless that community justice will quickly reassert itself (both good and ill). In point of fact, with Law Enforcement and the rule of law gone, there is not restraining mechanism to prevent community action. I do not think a lot of people understand that.

    It has always pained me that we have never gotten along with the Russians (I mean, I would like us all to get along of course and I understand in rather painful detail the reasons we do not). For whatever reason, I should think we should be better friends than we are.

    Your last part does bring up an interesting question: in the event of a coup, who recognizes (or unrecognizes? Not sure of the word here) the existing government? Certainly the Russians and Chinese in your scenario have no reason to; I wonder what others will do.

    1. Without Law Enforcement serving as a thin shield, the overall citizenry will go either full victim or full vigilante. It's an off/on solution where a functioning judicial/law enforcement system is a dimmer switch.

      As to friends with Russia? Nobody is ever friends with Russia, not even Russia. Paranoia and skepticism have been part of 'being Russian' since well before the Rus ever took over.

      As to which 'government' to recognize? The answer is easy. Whichever government you (as a nation) think that will better serve your (as a nation or as a leading/controlling group) needs. So in the above case, both the ChiComs and Russians will probably love to support the corrupt government, as that entity or entities (circles within circles, Venn diagrams of corruptness) would be easy to control on a global stage (just look at our current corrupt government...)(which, of course, sucks.)

      Very few governments or nations actually work to recognize the 'Right' government or nation. It's mostly just about recognizing whatever group of kleptocrats that will allow one to line one's foreign pockets the most.

    2. Beans, I am sure you are quite right about Russia. Sigh. So much of a rich culture there (some amazing woodworking).

      And yes, you are of course correct. The government that best meets the needs of other nations will be the one recognized.

    3. TB - The main storyline in the movie Crimson Tide is the receipt of a nuclear release order, then losing communications halfway through the EAC (Emergency Action Message) which authorizes the launch. Communications is often an overlooked part of war, command and control relies heavily on good communications.

    4. Beans - As to Russia, as many times as they've been invaded you can understand why they have a deep distrust of foreigners.

      Law enforcement keeps the idiots from blatantly committing crimes, remove all law enforcement and you get Chicago. Or worse.

    5. TB - Good point, as de Gaulle said, "No nation has friends, only interests." He was spot on.

    6. Without LE gangs and warlords will move into the power vacuum... be a different kind of law enforcement then...

    7. Well, not "law" enforcement in any civilized manner. Then the law becomes whatever the warlords want it to be.

    8. Or whatever law the Committees of Vigilance decide it shall be. The people do get a vote.

    9. Depends a lot on the social structure that might evolve. Depends on the society before everything collapsed as well.

  6. First time I remember hearing about a cavitating torpedo was, I believe, in John Ringo's "Vorpal Blade." And how to make a sub go much faster than it's non-official already fast speed was to put a pointed super-cavitation initiator on the front of said sub, said initiator consisting of a long sword-like object full of holes so as to allow gasses to escape and form the cavitation bubble around said sub.

    I love it when sci-fi books actually have real science in them.

    What was the damage from? The warhead or just the torpedo passing nearby and the evasive maneuvers to not get hit? And why didn't Gudgeon get a target lock and fire an ADCAAP at the firer? Soooooo much unsaid, grrrrr. And, no, though one of my ancestors was named 'Patience,' you may have noticed that that moniker and that thought don't really apply to me.

    As to our boys in Albany, thus the eternal struggle over vehicles. You can carry people, bullets and beans, but depending on how much of which is most important, the other two will suffer, which is why the M2/M3 Bradley conundrum exists. One is a troop carrier first/fighting vehicle second - thus inadequate levels of ammo for a sustained fight, and the other is a Scout/Attack vehicle first/carrier second - thus 4 man crew and lots and lots and lots of ammo making it more of a light tank in it's role than a personnel carrier.

    And with the problems internal and external to Communist China in this (OAFS') universe, the overall supply of illegal drugs and precursor chemicals to make drugs will be shut down big-time. There goes the ChiCom leadership's pocket money. And a lot of people who are a worse drain upon the American medical system than all the old-timers that get the blame. Overall, if we (as a nation) survive in this universe, the removal of drug gangs, incurable drug users, all the various low-lifes that support the previous two, and a metric poop-load of leftist agitators and politicians, we should come out as damaged but stronger as a nation, and with a very 'Jeffersonian' reaction to external and internal threats (Oh, a threat. STEP ON IT, HARD. Walk away.) and the appeasers and finaglers will be muchly reduced (like, oh, please have the Washington DC coup people go into the State Department and track down the traitors in there, please? Pretty please?? With sprinkles on top???)

    1. Ah Beans, you have so many questions (good ones, for sure). Whether the Muse will answer them, well that's a bigger question, innit? I believe in leaving certain things to the imagination, I think you've noticed that. 😁

      Yes, I really need to deal with Foggy Bottom.

  7. We've got our problems, and are sorting them out. I can see (in my mind) county & city conventions, leading to state conventions (not always aligned to old state lines; Duluth - to - Rochester with a bulge around the Twin Cites becoming New Minn, other parts becoming eastern NoDak and SoDak, and a state of St. Croix from eastern MN and western WI ....) Big population centers have different needs (real needs) than rural needs, and those between a third set. Part of our problem in more than a century is our not recognizing this. We can sort it out ... if we survive.

    Top down is probably not the best scheme, no matter who or what is on top. We have no George Washington. We need that Roman who refused and made it stick.

    1. The needs of the city dwellers are usually different (sometimes vastly) from those of the people in the sticks. I often hear talk of parts of California, Washington, and Oregon splitting off to join existing states (Idaho) or becoming new states. It could serve the needs of the citizens better, but what happens when the demographics change over time? An interesting question, I had no idea there was talk of the same thing in Minnesota.

      That would make an interesting book all by itself. (Not that I feel qualified to write it.)

    2. I was living in very rural Minnesota when the majority of the state population had finally moved to the twin cities area... Politically rural concerns were then on the back burner.

    3. Sarge - I do not have knowledge of all areas, but I can more than assure you that a great deal of California away from the coast and capitol city is quite different in beliefs than what you see in the media.

    4. Rob - And the rural areas feed those cities, be a shame if the food stopped coming in, it could happen.

    5. TB - Two of the progeny live in the Central Valley, the politics there are very conservative from what they tell me. Especially among the Latinos, they believe strongly in family and God. Anathema to the left wingers who run the state.

  8. A bit of a nit-pic, but there are few, if any, Boatswain's Mates on submarines today, we don't have small boats for them to manage and the regular crew are line handlers when required. Most likely ratings for COB are Machinist Mate (MM), Torpedo Mate (TM), Sonar Tech (ST) or Electronics Tech (ET). MMs and ETs have both nuclear and non-nuclear ratings and stations so there are a lot of them. The first Bull Nuke (MMCM) on the Omaha came back later as COB.

    In context the COB is likely an ETCM or a ITCM (Information Systems Tech).

    Navy ratings are weird and submarines are even weirder yet.

    1. I made the COB an MMCM, makes perfect sense that they would be somewhat rare in the Silent Service.


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