Monroe Doctrine : Volume V
…and it said, “I am the future.”
Had the Chinese government gone too far?
Deep in an underground production facility, far away from prying eyes, President Yao Jintao stood and watched—row after row of machines busily working to build other machines that would fight and destroy their enemies. Killers were creating killers for as far as he could see.
The terror was immediate.
President Yao sensed they’d crossed a line.
Was it too late to turn back?
South Korean and American soldiers stared down their Chinese counterparts along the Yalu River, just like they had 75 years before. With winter on the way and both armies dug in, who might make the first move?
Nobody was prepared for what came next.
Out of the swirling snow and ice, there was movement. Someone was out there, or worse, some thing. Jade Dragon has just launched Project Terracotta, and the world would never be the same.
Would humanity be able to stop the evolution of the machines?
You’ll love this tense fifth book in the series because this one strikes close to home, and we must all be prepared for when science-fiction becomes our reality.
Get it now.
Release date: May 17, 2022
Publisher: Front Line Publishing Inc.
Print pages: 410
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Monroe Doctrine : Volume V
Don’t Mess With Texas
August 10, 2025
USS Texas SSN-775
East China Sea
Three months—that was how long the Texas had been on station, sowing chaos and spreading terror throughout the East China Sea. Since their arrival, they had managed to sink eighty thousand more tons of Chinese warships and another one hundred and thirty thousand tons of cargo and freight. Captain Kurt Helgeson’s little squadron of underwater warriors, comprised of his own ship, the Texas, two Los Angeles fast-attack submarines, the Cheyenne and the Tucson, and his two remaining Orca II autonomous underwater vehicles or AUVs, was wreaking hell on the Chinese. However, their romp these last three months across the East China Sea hadn’t been without cost.
The Texas had lost one of their Orcas from the constant aerial ASW drones above them and a second in a battle against their primary target—the Chinese Type 095 sub they’d been sent to sink. They’d had to use the Orca to draw off a pair of torpedoes that had been fired at them by the Type 095 in a duel that had nearly cost them their lives. They had been on a near-twenty-four-hour stalk with the Chinese sub, which had resulted in Helgeson having to sacrifice the Orcas to save the Texas and hopefully rescue the Illinois in the process. Unfortunately, the newest Chinese torpedo had sniffed the ruse out and sunk the Illinois and the Orca. Helgeson knew it was only dumb luck that had saved his own boat during that engagement.
During the battle, Helgeson had been certain they had landed a torpedo hit on the Type 095—they’d heard it impact. What they hadn’t heard was the accompanying breaking-apart noises one usually heard as the sub was crushed from the sudden loss of its pressured hull. He wasn’t certain, but there was a possibility the bastard might have escaped to fight another day.
“Sorry to interrupt, Skipper. Latest comms traffic from 7th Fleet. We’re retracting the comms buoy now,” his comms officer said as he handed him a clipboard with several sheets of paper attached to it.
Taking the clipboard, Helgeson leafed through the papers. His heart sank when he saw a report letting them know of not just one other submarine loss but two.
“Bad news?” asked Kristin Evans, the XO of the Texas, as she walked up next to him.
He handed her one of the reports. “They got the Springfield, and the Jefferson City.”
“What? How?” was all she managed to stammer out. Each sub loss was a real blow to the community. Each time they served on a sub, that group became family, and as they served on more boats over the years, their family grew.
“Same thing that almost got us a few times. Those damn ASW drones that fly up and down the coast. Between the drones and those autonomous ASW catamaran ships they keep cranking out, they’re making it damn hard and costly to keep running these kinds of missions near their coastal waters.”
As the war progressed, the Chinese AI, Jade Dragon, had employed a series of surveillance drones to cover more and more of the waters off the coasts of China to hunt American submarines. The aerial drones were now being augmented with autonomous catamaran ships outfitted with specialized sonar equipment and torpedoes. Working together, they were succeeding in turning some areas off the Chinese coasts into no-go zones for allied submarines.
“I wish there was a better way for us to go after that specific threat.”
Helgeson shrugged. “In a way, it creates a unique opportunity for us. If the enemy thinks those zones are safe for their ships, then they’ll be a target-rich environment for us. Let’s just hope Big Navy figures that out and decides to keep the rest of the force away from them and let us focus on it—we’re better suited to operate against it. Plus, we can’t keep losing subs like this. We aren’t going to have any left.”
Looking through the rest of the papers on the clipboard, he saw they had received a new set of orders—actually, a modification to their existing ones. 7th Fleet wanted them to pick up some passengers and ferry them to Taiwan. Apparently, the SOF community wanted to start placing some assets on the island.
Twenty-four hours later, Helgeson studied the plot table, making sure they were at the exact location they were supposed to be. In another five minutes, they would surface the boat. If all went according to plan, his passengers would be waiting to be picked up. They’d be on the surface just long enough for the operators to store their gear and climb aboard before they’d submerge again.
“Chief of the Boat, bring us to periscope depth,” Helgeson called out.
The command was echoed, and the Texas began a slow, steady, and controlled rise to periscope depth. Once they were at the appropriate level, the new and improved periscope was raised above the waves. Built into the masts of the periscope was a suite of electronic sensors that immediately began a sweep of the area, looking for any trace of electronic activity within a hundred-mile radius of the Texas. If there was a UAV out there sending or receiving data, this device would detect it. It also carried out a single 360-degree ground and air radar sweep of the area, giving the Texas a detailed view of everything in their vicinity. If a hostile ship or aircraft was nearby, then they’d scrub surfacing and go deep to avoid detection.
“The coast looks clear, Captain,” Lieutenant Imus said as he craned his neck over the captain’s shoulder.
“Very well, Lieutenant. COB, bring us to the surface and prepare to bring aboard our guests.”
With the order given, the Conn was abuzz with activity. Orders were given and repeated back for verification. A call went out over the ship’s 1MC, alerting the crew about what was about to happen and letting other stations on the sub know what to do. Once the Texas broke the surface, they were on the clock. They needed to get their guest aboard the boat as quickly as they could and get back beneath the waves and to the safety of the deep.
“XO, you have the Conn,” Helgeson announced and then turned to head to the sail and the entrance where the special operators would enter the submarine.
“XO has the Conn,” announced the COB loudly as Commander Evans walked over and took a seat in Helgeson’s chair.
As he made his way through the boat, Helgeson still found himself in awe of how incredible this new sub was. Everything about it just seemed futuristic, from the redesigned hallways and bulkheads to the overhead lighting. Unlike previous sub designs where one could see pipes, cabling, and everything else along the walls and the ceiling of the boat, the Texas had smooth walls that were slightly curved—it made it seem more like they were aboard a spacefaring starship than a submarine. Anything that needed to be accessed was discreetly hidden behind these easily removable panels. The lighting inside the sub was also improved greatly because of the panels, which covered up all of the normally exposed wiring and had built-in LEDs. During the daytime hours, the lighting was kept at a certain level, while at night, the lights were dimmed to let people’s bodies notice the difference. It hadn’t seemed like a big deal to Helgeson at first, but the lighting cycles actually had a noticeable effect on his mood and how his mind handled the day-to-day stresses of being under the waves in a tight space.
The big brains had spared absolutely no expense on this boat. One thing Helgeson was very pleased with was a tried and tested concept Russian submarines were known for. The US Navy had quietly “borrowed” the concept for this one-off, highly modified Seawolf. Instead of the standard hull design the Navy had used for more than seventy years, the Texas sported a double titanium pressure hull. That meant that it could go deeper than any boat in the American Navy, and in a pinch, it could sprint to nearly forty-five knots. If that Type 095 was still alive, Helgeson would find it and put it on the bottom.
Once Helgeson reached the lockout room, he saw what had to be two teams of special operators they had picked up. He greeted them briefly and asked the commander of the group to come find him once they had had a chance to settle in. He wanted to go over the mission orders and talk next steps. Approaching a hostile shore to insert SOF forces wasn’t exactly a risk-free endeavor.
When Helgeson returned to the Conn, he saw that Evans had already gotten them back to a depth of two hundred meters. They were moving at thirty knots as they looked to put some distance between themselves and the pickup point, in case it had somehow been under surveillance.
Thirty minutes later, a SEAL commander by the name of Walt “Jank” Jankowski poked his head on the bridge. “Hello, Captain. You asked for me to come see you.”
Nodding, Helgeson turned back to Evan. “XO, you have the Conn again. COB, with me; I want you in on this. Let’s go, Commander. We’ll head to the officers’ wardroom.”
Helgeson, Jankowski, and Master Chief Petty Officer Melvin Schmall made their way to the officers’ wardroom. Helgeson had asked Schmall to come along because he had a lot of experience helping to insert special operators on land. During his first ten years in the Navy, he’d spent some time in the SEALs, delivering team members to the coast in underwater submersibles and vehicles. When Schmall could no longer work in the SEALs, he had transitioned to the silent service, having spent a lot of time with them during his SEAL years. When Helgeson’s previous COB hadn’t been able to deploy for medical reasons, Master Chief Schmall and two others had been offered as alternatives. Knowing the Texas might be involved in this very type of mission in the future, Helgeson had chosen Schmall. Three months later, he was glad he had.
Entering the wardroom, Helgeson thought he’d see two SEAL officers. Instead, he saw a SEAL officer and a pair of Army soldiers he hadn’t expected. When everyone had arrived and was in the sail, they were still in their wetsuits, so Helgeson had assumed they were all SEALs.
Seeing Helgeson’s perplexed look, Jankowski offered, “Ah, yeah—not all us monkeys are the same. This here is Major Thorne, and Chief Warrant Officer Four Smith.”
The Army soldiers stood, offering a handshake. “Hello, Captain. I apologize for the secrecy. I’m the Bravo Company CO for Operational Detachment Alpha 7322. This is my assistant team chief, Warrant Officer Four Smith. We’re… part of your other mission assignment.”
Helgeson lifted an eyebrow at that. “Huh, you don’t say. I saw something hinting at some sort of special assignment that would be delivered in person. I suppose you’re the one carrying the orders?” Before the Army officer could reply, Helgeson pulled a folder marked classified out from under his arm and placed it on the table between them. “This is all I’ve received about your pickup and mission. If there’s been an amendment to our orders, then I need to see it and verify its authenticity.”
Commander Jankowski nodded and pulled a set of orders out of a sealed bag, handing them to Helgeson. The Army major did the same.
Before taking the two sets of orders to read over and verify, Helgeson looked at Major Thorne and Chief Smith. From a glance at the left breast pocket and above on their uniforms, it was clear these guys had a lot of schooling and experience under their belts. His father had served in Special Forces, so he knew better than most what all these badges meant. They each had the Special Operations Diver badge, along with the Pathfinder badge, Military Freefall Parachutist badge, Parachutist badge, and a Combat Infantryman badge with a single star on it. It was obvious to him these guys had likely seen a lot of combat as of late.
Helgeson handed the orders to Schmall. “Run these down for me, COB, while I talk with these gentlemen. Let me know if they check out.”
“Sure thing, Cap’n,” Schmall replied as he snatched them up and headed for the comms shack.
Returning his gaze to the operators sitting opposite him, Helgeson said, “OK, let’s dish, gents. What’s going on?”
Jank laughed at the informal comment before turning serious. “Sir, call me Jank; everyone does. I’ll go over my mission and let the major say his piece.”
Jank spent the next thirty minutes going over his team’s job. Their primary objective was to assess a handful of beaches that could be used as potential amphibious landing sites. This involved taking samples and seeing what kind of soil, rock, sand, and dirt made up the composition of the ground surface. This information was incredibly important to know. If the soil was soft and loose, then it wouldn’t be suitable to land track vehicles, particularly heavy ones. If the soil was made of hard mud, it might work better for tracks than it would for wheeled vehicles. They also needed to identify what kind of defenses had been built around each possible landing zone. Was it heavily protected by cement-reinforced machine-gun bunkers? Were there heavy mortar or artillery units and teams nearby? How far away were reinforcements? What kind of reinforcements were in the area and what routes would they need to take to reach the landing zones? All that information had to be figured out well in advance of any decision to launch a seaborne invasion.
When Jank had finished detailing his mission, Major Thorne explained his. Unlike the SEAL team, his mission wasn’t focused on the beach area. His ODA team’s job was arguably much harder, and they’d be staying behind enemy lines, not returning with the SEALs. They’d been given two Commander’s Critical Information Requirements or CCIR missions. The first was to identify any HQ-9 and HQ-12 SAM systems that might be near the possible seaborne landing zones so they could be eliminated prior to any seaborne invasion. Their second and arguably most challenging mission was to identify any local resistance groups and look to grow and mentor them into effective guerrilla forces that could harass the occupation force and be ready to support the invasion and sow general chaos in the enemy rear areas and supply routes.
When the COB came back, he let Helgeson know their orders checked out. They were legit. The Texas had been reassigned to support the infiltration of both their groups.
“OK, so this isn’t something I ever thought I’d end up doing when I went through the Combat Diver Course,” Sergeant Rusten Currie commented as he finished stowing his gear in the crew quarters they were going to be staying in.
“Maybe so, but this is cool as hell,” added their medic, Sergeant Mark Dawson.
This was the first time any of them had ever linked up with a submarine for a mission like this outside of a training exercise. Typically, if they had to do a water insertion, it was utilizing a riverine craft or RIB of some sort. Meeting up with a submarine for a real insertion behind enemy lines was a first for them.
Major Thorne commented, “Yeah, well, there’s no other way for us to get inserted in Taiwan. We clearly can’t HALO or HAHO in, so this seems like a pretty good alternative if you ask me.”
“Hey, as long as they get us there, I don’t really care. I’m eager to get back on land,” Currie commented. “By the way, sir, what more can you tell us about this contact we’re supposed to meet?”
“You know, that’s a good question. All I was told was the contact was likely a member of their intelligence service and he’d be the one to connect us with the leadership still in charge on the island and any resistance forces still fighting,” Thorne explained.
“Huh, so you’re saying we’re going in kind of blind on this one?” Dawson joked sarcastically.
The others laughed, knowing this was how things worked sometimes. You had to stay Semper Gumby and be ready and able to adapt and overcome. At the end of the day, if the source didn’t work out, it wasn’t like they couldn’t continue on with the rest of their mission.
When combat operations in Venezuela had ended, their company, along with Charlie Company, which had stayed in Colombia, had immediately been deployed to Okinawa, Japan. Their ODA had taken on a couple of 1st Group members who spoke Chinese, and the rest of the team had undergone a couple-month crash course in the language as well. Then they had been deployed to augment and support 1st Special Forces Group as Big Army prepared to pivot everything to Asia. Now they found themselves being sent into Taiwan to begin preparations for its eventual liberation.
When newly promoted Major Thorne had returned from his briefing with the ship’s captain, he’d informed them it would take close to three days to get them on station. They’d deploy the SEALs first, then move further down the coastline and drop them off. It should be a simple handoff, assuming they didn’t run across any juicy naval targets along the way. Thorne told them the captain had made it clear he wouldn’t shy away from sinking a PLA warship or two, even if it meant delaying their arrival by a day.
“Well, I don’t know about you guys, but I have a couple of really good books I downloaded on my Kindle device. If you need me, you know where to find me,” Currie joked as he stretched out on his rack with his e-reader in hand.
“Suit yourself,” Dawson replied, pulling out a deck of cards. “I’m feeling kinda lucky tonight. Who’s in?”
Despite the extremely cramped quarters on the sub, they managed to play a wild and raucous game of poker. True to his word, Dawson cleaned house. Before a big mission like this, it was always a good idea to let off some steam—there was no reason to live on an adrenaline rush until it was necessary.
Regardless of the years of training and nearly a year of combat, it was still nerve-racking to plan an attack on an adversary that was actively trying to kill you. The Texas was less than sixteen hours from reaching the infiltration point to drop the SEALs off when they detected a large grouping of PLA warships moving steadily through the center of the Taiwan Strait.
The Dallas and the Lubbock were the only Orca IIs they had left. Helgeson had placed the Dallas six thousand meters in front of them and four thousand meters to their left. The Lubbock had been positioned similarly except on the right. This helped to expand their search capabilities immensely. It also gave them enough of a heads-up on this approaching PLA naval force for Helgeson and his officers to devise a battle plan to fully exploit all of the Texas’s weapon capabilities.
Tensions were high. It felt like a typhoon was racing toward them at flank speed on the surface of an angry sea. The Dallas and Lubbock were already detecting the fleet’s ASW assets—everything from their helicopters to their autonomous catamarans that had been sinking so many of the American subs as of late. They were clearing a path, dropping sonobuoys and dipping sonars, listening and searching for any possible threats to their charges.
Captain Helgeson knew the next few hours would be critical to their survival. He made sure to eat some food from the galley and grabbed a second mug of Death Wish coffee, a brand that was extra-caffeinated. He needed to keep his mind sharp. One of the lieutenant junior grades had made it his mission to make sure there was always a fresh pot of Death Wish available at all times to the members of the Conn. Helgeson had developed a habit of pushing everyone to their maximum abilities. People didn’t always know what their limits were until those limits were tested, and Helgeson tested them hard and on a regular basis. Some crews would despise a captain for that, but not his crew. They had come to respect the hell out of him and knew what he was doing was pivotal to keeping them alive. After their first mission, he had earned their regard, and they’d charge the gates of hell for him if he so ordered.
“What’re we looking at? Do we have a disposition of the enemy fleet yet?” Helgeson asked as he walked up to the sonar tech’s station. They’d been repositioning the Orcas to get a better look at what kind of warships they were dealing with.
Sonar Technician First Class or STS1 Vanderhaden removed his headphones, turning his head to look away from the computer screen he had been so intently looking at. “Yes, Captain. We’re starting to get a solid picture of their fleet. It’s big, sir. I can get you the individual ship names if you’d like, but basically, utilizing the library of ship names and the sounds of their screws, the Dallas was able to detect and delineate a single Type 052C destroyer, two Type 052D destroyers, four Type 054A frigates, and four Type 056 corvettes. These last eight ships appear to be the bulk of the ASW support for this fleet. However, the real prize they’re escorting appears to be one of those new Type 60 Dingyuan-class battlecruisers, the Zhanmadao.”
Helgeson lifted an eyebrow at that. “Wow, this is a big fleet we stumbled upon. This must be their East Sea Fleet they’ve been keeping bottled up within the Taiwan Strait.”
Just then, the other junior sonar tech next to Vanderhaden ripped his earphones off. “Holy cow, the Lubbock just caught the acoustics of the Type 003 Shanghai. It’s trailing just behind the battlecruiser—we almost missed it.”
Vanderhaden whipped his head around in surprise as he grabbed for his headphones. He held them tight to his ears for a moment as he adjusted something on his controls. A few seconds later, he turned to face Helgeson, his headphones still on his ears. A smile spread across his face. “The kid’s right, Skipper! It’s the Shanghai. I’ll be damned—we almost missed it, but it’s there, following right up close next to the Zhanmadao like it’s trying to hide its acoustic noise with the battlecruiser.”
Helgeson’s teeth began to show as a wicked grin spread across his face. “COB, bring the boat to battle stations. We’re going hunting.”
The lights across the sub changed from their standard lighting configuration to a constant red light as a soft tonal warning sounded twice, letting everyone know they needed to report to their battle stations. Hatches were closed, crewmen were woken up, damage control stations manned along with their weapon systems. In minutes, every department across the boat reported to the Conn that they were ready.
Commander Evans walked over to the large plot room at the back end of the Conn. This was a brand-new room built into the sub. It was a twenty-first-century-looking CIC with computer monitors mounted on the walls and several weapon technicians manning stations. STS1 Vanderhaden had moved from his sonar station to take one of the empty seats in the plot room as he brought up his station.
“Captain, the boat is secured and rigged for attack, torpedoes. All stations report ready for action,” Master Chief Schmall informed him. The COB was staying on top of the crew like white on rice. The former SEAL ran a tight ship when it came to the enlisted, something Helgeson had come to appreciate.
Turning to face his XO, weapons officer and tactical action officer or TAO, he asked, “Thoughts? How should we best prosecute this attack?” As captain, he valued their opinions, and more than that, he wanted to get them involved in these kinds of decisions. Soon they’d be getting promoted and taking over command of their own subs, so Helgeson felt it his duty to prepare them.
Lieutenant Jay Munn suggested, “I propose we place the Dallas here and let her sink as close to the bottom as she can and lie in wait. On the opposite side of the strait, we have the Lubbock sit here. As the fleet sails past them, we have the Orcas each launch a spread of torpedoes against a frigate and two corvettes. They’d need to cut the wires so they can reload and begin their sprint and depth change to this location here, six kilometers further away and a depth of five hundred meters. It’ll throw their ASW assets completely off.” He paused for a second and then added, “Captain, if they can get repositioned to this location before their torpedoes are detected, it’s going to sow chaos in the convoy when they fire off their second barrage of torpedoes. Their ASW assets are going to be split going after contacts on either side of their fleet, leading them to believe they’re under attack by at least two submarines. It’ll force them to rush the Shanghai and the Zhanmadao out of the strait to get into open water.”
“And right into our loving arms,” Commander Evans said, finishing his thought for him. She turned to Helgeson. “I like it. It’s bold, Skipper. They’ll never expect something like this. Plus, when the Orcas get their second shots off, it’ll place another eight torpedoes in close proximity to the Shanghai, forcing their hand.”
“If we do that, then I highly recommend we initiate the attack here and we do it in the next hour,” Lieutenant Adam Watts chimed in.
Helgeson raised an eyebrow at the proposal, asking, “You want to initiate the attack with cruise missiles instead of torpedoes? Why?”
The others at the plot table had the same quizzical looks on their faces as they waited for Lieutenant Watts to explain. The submarine-launched cruise missiles did give the Texas the ability to really reach out and touch someone while not directly placing the boat in immediate danger. As the ship’s weapons officer, if there was truly someone who understood the sub’s weapon capabilities, it’d be Lieutenant Watts.
“OK, so this modified Seawolf has ten bow torpedoes with a rotary magazine containing thirty-five Mk 48 torpedoes. Then we have another twenty UGM-84 Harpoon II SLAM-ERs. We can fire our first volley of ten SLAMs here. This is also where we fire off our complement of UGM-109B Tomahawk antiship missiles. That’ll force the defenders to deal with a multipronged cruise missile attack in addition to the torpedoes. Now, once we’ve fired our first volley, we move to a new firing location here while we’re reloading. Once in position, we fire our second volley. At this point, we dive and go deep. We hit flank speed, sprint like hell and get beneath the thermocline, put as much distance between us and the two launch points as possible and circle back to a new attack position with our torpedoes. While we’re repositioning, we use that time to reload our tubes with Mk 48s and prepare to fire again as the fleet tries to race out of the straits,” Watts explained, walking them through his proposed attack.
Helgeson lifted his chin as he thought the proposal over. A lot was riding on what he did next. It was an outlandish and audacious plan, that was for sure. It was only possible because of recent weapon modifications made to the bow torpedo room. No previous American submarine had ten torpedo tubes, let alone a rotary reload system. It was an entirely new concept and opened up a new set of tactics and ways to employ their weapons.
Helgeson growled in frustration at the situation. “Damn, I wish we had our other Orcas right now. We’d really be able to lay a hurt on them. XO, give Eng a heads-up—looks like we’re going to see just how much speed we can pull from his glowsticks,” he said, referring to the uranium fuel rods used to maintain the nuclear fission in the boat’s reactor.
Then the voice of reason interrupted his train of thought, and Helgeson turned to hear his COB add his two cents. “Captain, I’m not opposed to us attacking these ChiCom bastards. A carrier and that last battlecruiser are too big a target to let go by. However, it does need to be said, Skipper—we have two SOF teams on board right now and our attack is likely going to seriously jeopardize our ability to insert them and therefore their mission. There’s a lot riding on these two teams completing their objectives.”
The XO really should have been the one to mention this, but seeing that she hadn’t, his COB had apparently felt he should. Maybe it was his own SOF background, but their mission was just as vital as sinking the PLA warships.
Grunting at the counsel, Helgeson only shook his head. He’d practically forgotten about them until the COB had brought it up. He wasn’t used to ferrying SOF guys around. The Texas was supposed to be prowling the seas, sinking PLA warships, not being a taxi for SEALs and Army ODA teams.
Biting his lower lip, Helgeson blew some air out and then cursed a few times under his breath. “Damn, COB, you had to remind me of those guys. Having them on board changes things dramatically.”
“How so? We have a chance to sink the Shanghai—it’s worth more than some SEALs carrying out a beach reconnaissance or an Army SOF team doing some recon inland,” countered Evans skeptically.
Helgeson shook his head in disagreement. “No, XO, it isn’t. If anything, that ODA team’s mission is more important than the SEALs’ mission or sinking the Shanghai.”
“Sorry to interrupt, Captain, but how do you figure?” Lieutenant Munn countered, almost in disbelief at what he was hearing.
“Last night I was reading up on their mission—what little I’m allowed to know of it. They’re to make contact with some resistance groups on the island and then work to develop a guerrilla force to counter the PLA presence in preparation for us reinvading the place. They also have some CCIRs to look for some of those HQ-12 radars and some new ballistic missile early-warning radars their AI is apparently using to track some sort of new weapon platform the Space Force has been using. As to the SEALs, their job is to do some prep work as the Marines plan an amphibious assault on the island,” Helgeson explained. As he told them a little more about their guests’ missions, they started to understand how this attack could seriously impede it from happening.
Still, Helgeson knew they couldn’t let these prize targets slip by unmolested. They’d never be able to live with it, having them in their sights and letting them escape. Over the next twenty minutes, he devised a new plan that would leverage their two remaining Orcas, getting them as close as possible to the Shanghai and then unloading their torpedoes on the carrier at near point-blank range. This way, they could take their strike at a high-value target without risking the SOF teams’ insertion.
If they had to sacrifice their last two Orcas to sink the Shanghai, it was a trade worth making. To maximize the Orcas’ chance of success, the Texas would fire off their SLAMs from a distance of twenty-eight kilometers and then look to escape the area by diving deep and making use of their improved engine to put as much distance as possible between themselves and the hornet’s nest they were about to poke.
With the new plan in place, they moved to put it into action. It would take the two Orcas three hours to get in position and then an estimated two more for the Shanghai to cross within their programmed kill box. Assuming, of course, that neither of them were detected. While the Orcas were on the move, the Texas made best possible speed to their launch position.
Type 60 Battlecruiser Zhanmadao
East China Sea
Senior Captain Guo Jingyi ran his fingers across the blade that his ship was named after. The zhanmadao was an anticavalry sword, long and elegantly designed to slice through the legs of horses. It was a brutal weapon, and so was the ship he commanded. The Dingyuan class was designed for war; the weapons she could bring to bear against China’s enemies were as formidable as any he had ever seen in his twenty-seven years of service to the People’s Liberation Army Navy. The Zhanmadao was designed for one singular purpose—to close with China’s enemies and put them to the sword. If there were gods in the heavens, he would get his chance to slice through his enemies today.
“XO, status report.”
Though his tone was calm, the ice in his words made his executive officer stiffen. On a warship, it was beneficial if the commander and the executive officer got along. It was better if they were friendly. Captain Guo Jingyi and Commander Wu Feng had no such relationship. Guo found his XO wanting in all respects. He came from a connected family and had been given all the opportunities that Guo had had to fight for his entire life. It was by sheer force of will that he had clawed his way to command this ship.
Men from privileged families had sailed to senior rank and lived comfortable lives with perfect wives, fancy automobiles, and summer cottages on the coast. Not Guo—he came from a fishing village downstream from a factory that had polluted the water and destroyed his family’s livelihood. The water had poisoned his mother and father and many others in his village. After he had watched them die an agonizingly slow death from disease, he had run as far away as he could until he was able to join the People’s Liberation Army Navy. When he was allowed to test for a commission in the Navy, he had poured his heart and soul into his studies. His determination had paid off, and he had been accepted into a commissioning program and eventually into surface combatant school. He’d excelled in every assignment he’d been given, his potential only surpassed by his ambition. While his peers had all gotten married and started families, he’d studied and volunteered for deployment after deployment, until finally he had been offered command of this vessel. On the Zhanmadao, Guo ran his crew harder than any captain in the navy. Any man on his ship who failed in his duties or qualifications was gone—there were no exceptions.
“Sir?” His XO’s words snapped him from his thoughts. He was annoyed, not so much at his XO, as he usually was, as that he’d allowed his mind to drift.
“Apologies, XO, my mind is focused on many things. Please, continue.”
His tone softened; he wanted this fool to be sharp, not walking on eggshells.
“Yes, Captain. As I was saying, all departments report ready for action. The Shanghai has ASW sorties pushed out one hundred kilometers in all directions and the corvettes are pushed ahead in a picket line with their sonars actively searching.” His XO paused for a second before adding, “Sir, I’m concerned.”
“Concerned? Why?” Guo hissed, with more venom in his voice than he’d meant.
“We have no submarines screening our flanks or our rear. The Americans have pushed a lot of their remaining submarine force into the Pacific and into our own territorial waters. We are partially blind with no subs of our own.”
Instinctively Guo knew this to be true, yet as he felt the vibration of the Zhanmadao beneath his feet, it was as if it was talking to him, assuring him his ship had nothing to worry about. Guo had no concerns, only a desire to hunt.
“Commander, every sensor in this fleet is attuned to the air, surface and three hundred fathoms down. If there are Americans beneath the waves, we will find them and kill them. You’d do best to focus on that and stop worrying like an old woman.”
“Yes, Captain.” Wu bowed his head slightly, then went about ensuring the bridge crew was prepared for what he knew was coming.
USS Texas SSN-775
East China Sea
Helgeson was at the master plot. On the one hand, this new tech was amazing; on the other, he missed the old analog tables. Yet this table was a marvel of integrated technology. It afforded him a 360-degree virtual view of the world around him, even at his current depth of eight hundred and fifty feet beneath the surface. If he donned the VR headset, he could actually look around outside the boat with the sonar arrays embedded into the hull’s anechoic tiles. The “big brain” of the ship’s computer could generate a real-time virtual rendering of the world outside the Texas. More than once when he had the headset on, he’d been startled at how real the ocean seemed. The boat had been nearly bumped by a whale a few weeks ago, and when he’d put the goggles on to look around, he’d been absolutely amazed to see the whale just off the starboard bow. The virtual rendering of the animal was so vivid and lifelike.
The officer of the deck was at the plot with him, intently working on his tablet. The tablet let him scroll through the different layers of data that the plot processed and stored; at any given moment, with the touch of a button or the swipe of a finger, the plot could display the current status of the reactor, how much desalinated water the boat currently had, the status of weapons, even who hadn’t read or replied to the last dump of familygrams when they were at periscope depth.
“Skipper!” OC2 Allen said a little too excitedly.
“What have you got?” asked Captain Helgeson, raising an eyebrow.
“Sir, the Dallas has initiated her attack. Lubbock is also spooling up its attack computer. They’re green across the board and have adjusted their attack vectors to hit the fleet from its starboard quarter.”
Helgeson looked to his command tablet, found the window he wanted, and tapped it. It showed him what Allen was seeing but in 2-D. The Orcas were communicating with the Texas by a narrow-beam laser in burst “beams,” as their big-brain computer called it. The green laser was able to transmit data over large distances due to the power the microreactors aboard the Orcas could generate to push the beam through the deep. To him it was all ones and zeros, but the real-time data that could be sent back and forth was a huge boon for the Texas, especially during battle.
He saw that the Orcas had determined the greatest threat to be the Type 60. The Dallas took the lead and angled itself for the most likely first-hit probability in its attack scenario. Helgeson saw that the Lubbock had positioned itself across the strait as programmed. Then, just as predicted, the frigates and corvettes had adjusted their formation to provide screening support for the carrier. It was a perfect setup for Lieutenant Munn’s attack. Helgeson briefly looked up at Lieutenant Munn and smiled, then reached up and grabbed the 1MC, taking a deep breath before he spoke.
“All hands, this is the captain. Dallas and Lubbock are about to begin their attack. When they commence firing, the Chinese fleet will break for open water at flank speed. Once they cross into open water, we will launch our attack in earnest. Things are going to get hairy in the next hour. I need you all to do your jobs, remember your training, and pray to whatever God you believe in. I’ll see you on the other side—God bless Texas. That is all.”
Helgeson placed the 1MC back in its cradle. He briefly closed his eyes and took in a deep breath of the recirculated air, once again making the mental switch and preparing himself for battle.
East China Sea
Dallas’s combat information systems were now all online and she was processing nearly five terabytes of information a second. The acoustics of the Chinese ships, the salinity of the surrounding sea, temperature variances of self and programmed targets, weapon statuses of loaded torpedoes, all possible angles of enemy evasion while reloading, and probable enemy countermeasures. If the computer that ran the Dallas could smile, it would be smiling with satisfaction right now. It had no thoughts of its own; it was simply a weapons platform with a preprogrammed mission set and a left and right lateral limit of mission variances. In its “brain,” Dallas noted that the closest frigates were altering course slightly and angling back toward the larger ships. It adjusted the targeting coordinates in each of its torpedoes and set two to wake homing and two to immediate active homing. It verified the weapons had received the new instructions, and a fraction of a second later, the Dallas fired her four Mk 50 lightweight torpedoes.
As soon as the weapons cleared the tubes, Dallas’s microreactor went into overdrive. It increased its speed to thirty knots, while simultaneously reloading four more Mk 50 lightweight torpedoes. As soon as the torpedoes were loaded, the tubes were flooded, readying the Dallas to fire a second volley. The targeting AI was taking in enormous amounts of data, and based on that data, it made a last-second microadjustment to the torpedoes, having them zero in beneath and amid each programmed target. When the Dallas received verification from Lubbock that it had initiated its attack almost simultaneously to Dallas’s, the second volley of torpedoes was sent on its way while the Orcas went about reloading for what would hopefully be at least one more volley.
Type 60 Battlecruiser Zhanmadao
East China Sea
Senior Captain Guo nearly jumped from his chair as the klaxon came to life. The 1MC loudly announced, “Action stations, torpedo! Action stations, torpedo!”
“Sonar! Direction and bearing of weapons?” demanded the XO. This made Guo smile. It seemed in a pinch, the man wasn’t useless after all.
“Sir, weapons bearing eight-seven degrees, range four thousand meters and closing!”
“Sir, torpedoes in the water, bearing two-seven-zero degrees, three thousand, seven hundred and fifty meters and closing, speed thirty-six knots!”
“Are we being targeted?” demanded Guo, fighting to keep his voice calm.
“Negative, sir. The weapons appear to be aimed at our escorts.”
“Can you identify the type of weapons?”
“Not specifically, sir, but their acoustics aren’t those of a heavyweight weapon.”
For a moment, Guo was puzzled. Why would anyone fire a weapon that couldn’t outright kill one of their ships? Anything short of a 530mm weapon would bounce off the Zhanmadao. Unless…
“Communications, get me the Shanghai now!”
“Sir, the Shanghai has ordered all ships to flank speed and head for open water!”
“No, damn fool! We have to evade, tell them!”
“Sir, Shanghai repeats, flank speed, and head for open water!”
Guo was furious. This was a mistake. If they made for the open water, they’d be an easy target. He’d be damned if he was going down without a fight.
“Weapons! Fire two Yu-7 torpedoes along the last known bearings of those weapons. Prepare to launch the Type 87 ASW rockets and prepare the depth charges!”
“All ahead flank!” Guo then ordered, wanting to get his ship moving so he’d have the ability to maneuver should he need to.
As the engines revved up to maximum power, the ship, despite its size, literally launched itself forward as it ramped up to maximum speed. Guo felt himself pressed against his seat, forcing a smile to spread across his face. He marveled at the awesome power of this thirty-two-thousand-ton warship as it lurched forward, cutting through the sea as it made a sharp turn to match the bearing of the Shanghai. Guo watched as the bow of his own ship dipped into the sea and a massive plume of water washed over the deck as he cut through the ocean. The Shanghai was only eleven hundred meters off his port bow now. Seeing the massive carrier sprinting for all she was worth, Guo bit into his lower lip nervously; he knew they were now in a fight for their lives. Right or wrong, the captain of the Shanghai was turning tail and running, hoping like hell his escorts would be able to finish off whoever was trying to sink them while he did what he could to save one of the last two carriers the Chinese Navy still had.
Guo turned to his sonar operators, barking, “Sonar, find me something to kill!”
USS Texas SSN-775
East China Sea
Helgeson watched in near real time as the Orcas prosecuted their attack on the Chinese fleet. As Munn had predicted, they made for the open sea. The AUVs fired two salvos each of their Mk 50 lightweight torpedoes, putting sixteen fish in the water in a very short period of time. The speed and violence of action caught the Chinese by surprise. Thirteen of the sixteen fish found their marks, putting two of the Type 054A multirole frigates on the bottom. Another two of the four ASW frigates were sunk and a third was taking on water and fighting for her life. The fourth frigate seemed to have stayed back to render assistance and search for survivors. Surprisingly, the Orcas had evaded detection and were now sprinting at flank speed beneath the thermocline to catch up to the Texas.
“Weps, status of our missiles?”
“Sir, all weapons loaded, outer doors open, weapons show ready in all respects.”
“TAO, disposition of remaining enemy ships?”
“Sir, the Type 003 is directly ahead of us on a near-perfect intercept course. Distance is forty-two kilometers, speed thirty knots.”
“Distance to the destroyers, and the Type 60?”
“Sir, the destroyers are spread out in front of the Shanghai. The Type 60 is parallel to the carrier.”
“XO, COB, meet me at the plot.”
Helgeson walked over to the plot and pulled up the current tactical overlay. Pulling the screen down until the Texas was at the bottom, he hit play on the scenario Lieutenant Munn had programmed. They all watched the display as it played out. When it finished, he glanced at the countdown timer in the corner of the table.
“We have exactly eight minutes and thirty-eight seconds given our distance and closing speed. Any last-minute ideas?”
Helgeson made eye contact with each one of them, holding their gaze until they shook their heads. Finally, his eyes met Commander Evans’s.
“Sir, just one last thought. If we’re going to proceed and take the SEALs and Green Berets to their mission after this, speed is going to be our ally. I propose a slight modification to our plan.”
Helgeson furrowed his brow, then nodded. “OK, let’s have it, XO. We’re short on time.”
“I say we fire both salvos of missiles at once,” Evans began, a serious look on her face. “Since we’re going to have to go into a hover to fire the Tomahawks, it only makes sense to kick out the Harpoons at the same time. Once we’ve cleared all the Tomahawks, we haul ass to our secondary position and reload all tubes for our second Harpoon attack. While we’re doing that, we can position the Orcas here and have them lay down two more spreads of torpedoes each. This will maximize the confusion within the PLA fleet, and just when our first attack and the Orcas’ attacks are hitting, we’ll be launching our final volley of Harpoons. Then we dive and go to flank speed for the thermocline before we go quiet and let the Orcas loiter and take shots as needed from just above the thermocline, giving the PLA something to go after while we can slip away and get around to the other side of Taiwan to prepare for our next mission.”
Helgeson thought about her plan for a second. Then he smiled at her. She’d just made up for her earlier tactical lapse in not recognizing the importance of the mission of the SEALs and the ODA team they had on board. She’d gotten her head back in the game and had likely come up with the best strategy to sink the Shanghai.
“I like it, XO. TAO, have OC2 Allen push the new commands to the Orcas. Let’s get to it, people—we don’t have much time left.”
The COB looked at Helgeson and smiled. “Don’t mess with Texas!”
The Texas angled up ten degrees and leveled off at one hundred and fifty feet. Her speed was an even twelve knots. In the Conn, the atmosphere was tense. Most everyone had tunnel vision on their assigned stations. Helgeson’s eyes were watching the clock. He had been gripping the arm of his chair so tightly that his knuckles were white. Looking down, he relaxed his grip, then felt the pounding in his head again.
Damn it. Not now, he thought to himself. Looking at the clock again, Helgeson watched it count down the last few seconds. Three, two, one…
“TAO, begin firing all VLS pods, then fire all tubes. Once the VLSs are complete, close the VLS doors and reload all tubes for the same mission!”
His commands were echoed across each station, setting into motion the largest, most complex attack the Texas had ever initiated. Now it was in the hands of fate and the battle-tested efficiency of the crew of the USS Texas.
Helgeson felt the deck shudder as the ten upgraded Harpoon antiship missiles were ejected from their tubes. Once the Harpoons had been fired, the six vertical launch pods began to eject their six Tomahawk antiship missiles. It was going to take the sub three minutes to launch all thirty-six Tomahawks. Looking at his command tablet, where he’d left the weapons status page open, Helgeson was pleased to see how damn fast the rotary magazine was at reloading the tubes. It worked just like a wheel gun in the old west. The fact that the tubes automatically shut and purged the water for the autoreload was a time-saver, and he was thankful for it.
“Sir, tubes one through ten are reloaded, weapons ready in all respects. All Tomahawks have been fired, VLS doors have been closed,” declared Lieutenant Watts, the excitement clearly evident in his voice.
“Outstanding. Fire tubes one through ten! Then launch countermeasures! Officer of the Deck, take us twenty-five degrees down angle, make your depth six-zero-zero feet! All ahead flank once we’ve completed the firing sequence.”
As the commands were echoed in the Conn and the final cruise missiles were ejected from their tubes, the bow of the Texas angled sharply down as she began to accelerate to forty-four knots. The acceleration was like nothing any of them had felt before on a submarine. The rpms that the counter-rotating impellers inside the pump-jet propulsor achieved were simply mind-boggling. The microreactor increased power to the impellers, and the speeds the Texas could generate made her one of the fastest things underwater.
Helgeson looked at the timer. The second salvo had just broken the surface; traveling at high subsonic speeds, they’d reach their targets in just under three minutes.
“TAO, load tubes one through six with those improved Mk 48s, tubes seven through ten with the CATs.”
“Aye, sir! Load tubes one through six with improved Mk 48s, tubes seven through ten with the CATs.”
CAT stood for Countermeasure Anti-Torpedo. It was a canister that was loaded into a torpedo tube. The canister contained two lightweight antisubmarine, antitorpedo torpedoes. They hadn’t used them yet, but in theory, anything that could distract a torpedo about to climb up their backside was a good thing, and he wasn’t taking any chances with a Type 60 above them—that, and the ChiComs’ ASW game had gotten much better since the start of the war. That damn AI calling the shots had become a severe pain in the ass for the US Navy.
Type 60 Battlecruiser Zhanmadao
East China Sea
Senior Captain Guo was furious. He’d watched helplessly as the frigates and corvettes were hit repeatedly by torpedoes and blown from the water. The ASW helos from the Shanghai seemed completely unable to find the damned American submarines. Each time they’d gotten a possible location, they’d dropped a mixture of Yu-7 and Yu-11 torpedoes, only to have them lock on to nothing and drift harmlessly away into the abyss. He knew it had to be their Orcas. Even if he found one to kill, there would be no joy in it, knowing there were no Americans on it to put on the bottom. As he was about to ponder putting his fist through something, the klaxon blared again.
“Vampire, vampire, vampire!” the radar technician shouted loudly to be heard over the other commands and shouts throughout the CIC.
Wu, Guo’s XO, began to speak but was cut off. Guo had had enough; he was taking control now.
“Distance and bearing,” he demanded.
“Sir, distance twenty-eight kilometers, bearing dead ahead!”
“Vector our ASW assets along that bearing, fire torpedoes along generated bearings and set to active homing. Prepare antiship missile countermeasures. Find me that damn sub!”
As his commands were echoed, he motioned to the wall-mounted digital display and barked at Wu, “Assessment? Where do you think that submarine is?”
Wu looked like a different man to Guo. He seemed to be more alive, not the sheepish simpleton Guo had always thought he was. He seemed almost confident, now that they were in the heat of battle. This was the Wu he wanted to see more often.
“Sir, the sub is likely located—”
“Vampire, vampire, vampire!”
Wu was cut off by the second announcement of incoming missiles. Guo’s head snapped to the radar operator once again. “Bearing?”
“Sir, same bearing.”
“What?!” he exclaimed.
“Yes, sir, same bearing. Same pattern. Oh, the count just jumped from ten to forty-six new contacts. Speed five hundred kilometers per hour and closing.”
Guo looked at the clock on the wall. The first ten missiles had been detected fifteen seconds ago—that meant they’d be in range of their close-in weapon systems in less than forty-five seconds. The CIWS would already have begun tracking the missiles, and in another twenty seconds, it would begin to shoot them down. This didn’t make sense—it was stupid to fire missiles that could be easily shot down. What the hell were the Americans up to?
“Sonar, find me that submarine! Begin dropping depth charges, set to variable depths below one hundred meters!”
With his commands being echoed, he looked at his XO. He, too, now wished they’d had a submarine escort beneath them.
USS Texas SSN-775
East China Sea
Helgeson looked at the timer on his tablet, then glanced at the timer on the wall.
“NAV, what’s our depth?”
“Sir, current depth is five-niner-niner feet.”
Helgeson turned to Schmall. “COB, fifteen degrees up on the bow. TAO, fire tubes one through six. Cut wires on tubes one and two and set to active homing once they clear the thermocline. Set weapons three and four to wake homing. Set weapons five and six to cruise at launch depth until they’re one thousand meters from targets, then go to active homing. Reload tubes one and two, same mission.”
He barely heard the crew echoing his commands as he set the timers on his tablet. He was now firmly in the zone and already thinking about his next move and anticipating the move of his opponents.
Type 60 Battlecruiser Zhanmadao
East China Sea
As expected, the CIWS began engaging the incoming missiles. Even on the bridge, he felt the vibration of the Type 730 as the 30mm cannons spat fire into the sky. They would lay down a wall of steel and rip the incoming missiles to shreds. Even if the weapons were programmed to attack from different vectors, the crisscrossing of the weapons would decimate the incoming threats. Looking around the room, he saw the XO’s head snap to the side. He watched him pick up a phone, then he turned on the bridge mic.
“Bridge, CIC! Two torpedoes in the water! Bearing four-five degrees starboard, distance two thousand, three hundred meters, speed thirty knots. Weapon is actively homing!”
“CIC, Bridge. Can you identify the weapons?”
“Bridge, CIC. Yes, sir, American Mk 48 heavyweight torpedoes.”
Guo smiled to himself. There it was—now the attack made sense. The missiles were a diversion so they could get their torpedoes away. But the torpedoes had gone into active homing too soon. He knew the American subs had four tubes, so that meant they’d fire two more shots and would have to reload. He had to act quickly, but he had some time.
“Right hard rudder! Report all bearings as relative. Fire torpedoes along generated bearings!”
He was on the hunt! An American submarine—the game was now afoot. Just then, he saw a bright flash out the portside window. The Shanghai had taken a hit just below the flight deck amidships. A huge fireball blossomed from the hit, followed by thick black smoke.
“Damn them. Hard left rudder, cross behind the Shanghai!”
“Hard left rudder, aye!”
“Bridge CIC, torp—”
The call was cut off as the entire ship shuddered from a monstrous explosion beneath the Zhanmadao. Guo was knocked off his feet.
“Damage report!” Wu demanded. “All departments, damage report.”
Guo tried to shake the cobwebs from his head, but the ringing in his ears was tremendous. As he scrambled to his feet, he saw the Shanghai take another hit, this time from below the waterline. It was as if the water around the ship was bubbling. No, he realized—it wasn’t bubbling, it was boiling. He’d never seen anything like it. The water was actually boiling. It caused the back of the carrier to sink a dozen or more meters into the water before it popped back up. Guo immediately knew the ship had taken some serious damage from the hit. Its speed was bleeding off and it looked like it might be coming to a halt.
“CIC, Bridge. Where in the hell did those torpedoes come from?!” Guo roared angrily.
“Bridge, CIC. Directly astern, Captain. We couldn’t hear them, so we have no bearing from which to backtrace them.”
Guo was about to tell the helm to alter course when he was knocked to his feet a second time. As he was falling, he saw the sky. That seemed odd to him until he realized the front of his ship had been lifted from the water. Then he felt the explosion. Then he felt nothing at all.
Two Hours Later
USS Texas SSN-775
East China Sea
Lieutenant Munn and OC2 Allen finished their report to Captain Helgeson and Commander Evans. The cruise missiles had all been shot out of the sky save for one, which had scored the first hit on the Shanghai. When the Texas had fired its torpedo spread, Helgeson had targeted the Shanghai specifically, hoping that at least a few would score hits and cause what was left of the fleet to turn back for the homeland. In the meantime, once the Orcas detected the Chinese ships altering course and firing their close-in weapon systems, they defaulted to a preestablished attack pattern, increasing their speed and pushing their microreactors to their mechanical limits. Once they were in firing range, they fired two additional salvos of torpedoes at the Shanghai and Zhanmadao from behind. Their weapons had been set immediately to active homing with the wires cut.
As the torpedoes from the Texas were trying to sneak through and get to their targets, the Chinese ships had unknowingly presented their backsides to the Mk 50 torpedoes from the Dallas and Lubbock.
“Lieutenant Watts, Petty Officer Allen, you are both to be commended for your actions today. I’m recommending you both for the Bronze Star with Valor device. Petty Officer Allen, I’m also going to recommend you for direct commission. Your preprogramming that secondary mission in the Orcas to attack aft once we were engaged was brilliant, and I want to thank you for what you did today.”
Petty Officer Allen blushed. It seemed he wasn’t accustomed to praise coming directly from the captain. “Thank you, sir. I kind of anticipated what you would order me to do, so I programmed that attack scenario into the Orcas. I’m just glad it worked.”
“Lieutenant Watts, your plan today was flawless. It demonstrated out-of-the-box thinking and an absolute mastery of your role as the weapons officer of the Texas. When the time comes, I intend to recommend you for promotion and get you to XO school as soon as possible.”
“Thank you, sir. I guess all that time spent in the simulator on Isla Socorro paid off.”
Helgeson then turned his attention to his XO. “Commander Evans, your last-minute suggestion to change the plan was also instrumental in the success today, and with that, I’ll give you the honors.”
Helgeson pulled out eight three-by-five-inch Chinese flag magnets and tossed them to her. As the officers and senior enlisted in the wardroom began to clap, Evans walked over to the wall and started a new row on the board, commemorating the ships that the crew of the USS Texas had sent on eternal patrol.
“COB, I think it’s time you and I take a walk and go talk to our guests about how we’re going to insert them behind enemy lines.”
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