Days of Burning, Days of Wrath – Snippet 07

Chapter Three

There are five normal methods of launching a Condor, including rolling them out the loading ramp of an airship.  The other four are to a) carry or toss them over the edge of a cliff, b) via the balloon launch system, c) self-launching with the on-board propeller or jet, model depending, and d) via a ground winch.  There are advantages and disadvantages to each method.

–Legionary Field Manual 16-243 (Top Secret), Glider Operations

SdL #1, SSK Megalodon

There was a strip in the Bay of Balboa, between the fortress that was the Isla Real and the two not quite so large islands to the east of it, that had never been mined.  Into and through that strip, in widely spaced column, under the watchful gaze of the constellation known as “the Leaping Maiden,” passed seven Meg Class coastal defense submarines, refueled, rearmed, well-rested, and ready for action. 

First in order came the Meg, itself, under its skipper, Conrad Chu.  The submarine was mostly submerged, leaving only the bump that passed for a sail above the water.  In a square depression stood Chu, image intensifying binoculars pressed to his eyes, scanning the shore to the west, the shore where the Zhong Soldiers and Marines of Task Force Wu suffered under a galling bombardment from what had to be hundreds of rocket launchers, guns, and mortars, some of them quite heavy, indeed.  Though there were still more guns on the once poisoned landscape of the Isla Santa Josefina, on the opposite side of the passage, these remained silent, lest the flash of their firing silhouette the passing submarines.

Chu cursed as the binoculars ghostly green images flared with the shell bursts, went dark, came back to life, and flared again, only to come back to life.  Not knowing how much of that the device could take, Chu lowered them, being carefully first to turn them off lest the greenish slow give away the sub’s position.

Though no star shells hung in the air, the blasts were frequent enough to give a pretty fair view of the action ashore, as fair, at least, as the two-mile distance could allow. 

Chu felt a momentary surge of pride in the men ashore, with both sides of whom he shared genes.  Though Balboan by birth, by the overwhelming percent of his genetic heritage, and by loyalty, he probably felt a greater pride in the remnants of the Zhong invasion, stubbornly holding on by their fingernails and with no weapon so powerful as their sheer guts and determination. 

Have I a distant and long-lost cousin there, he wondered, another Chu fighting for his own country?  Good luck to him, or good luck to them, if so.
         The Meg and the other six coastal defense submarines trailing it had their clickers turned off.  These – sound makers that replicated the clicks of imperfectly cut turning gears – had been a method for convincing Balboa’s enemies that the submarines were easy to detect, hence no threat. 

And that’s probably a trick we’re never going to get away with again, the skipper thought.  From now on it’s mostly silence, stealth, and seamanship; techno sneakiness and relying on an enemy’s overconfidence are played right out.  Well, not against the Taurans, anyway.  We might fool the Zhong or Federated States.

This far out from the mainland, and not being in the shadow of the directional antennae that kept the global locating system from working on the island, Chu’s sub knew its location down to the meter. 

At a certain point, and with the bombardment now several miles behind him, Chu ducked and slid the cover to the sail’s conn over to cover the depression, then ducked down and dogged the overhead hatch behind him.  The cover wasn’t watertight, it merely served to limit the amount of noisy turbulence that could give away the submarine’s position.

“Chill the rubbers,’ he ordered.  “Dive the boat.  Make your depth twenty meters.” 

Chu and Meg had kept the same crew for years, all good men, and smart, all graduates of the legions’ Cazador School, hence reliable beyond the norm for sheer toughness and determination.  Indeed, they’d been together so long on the same boat that all of them were cross-trained to do at least one other crewman’s job.

Huerta, Chu’s exec, answered with, “Aye, Captain, twenty – two zero – meters.”

From the diving station Auletti, normally the sonarman and himself standing in for another submariner, announced, “Make my depth twenty meters, aye, sir.”  Aleman added, “Chilling the rubbers, aye, sir.”  A third said, “Helm, fifteen degree down angle on planes.  Making my depth twenty meters.”

Huerta, facing forward, said, “Forward group admitting ballast, Captain…aft group admitting ballast.”

The crew automatically leveled the boat after reaching depth.  Chu then ordered that they check for leaks. 

“Engineering, no leaks, Skipper…Power room, no leaks, Captain…Forward sonar chamber dry…”

“Head for Point Alpha,” Chu ordered.    This was a gap in the undersea ridge that ran from one corner of the Bay of Balboa all the way to the other.  Once they crossed it, they would move to Point Bravo, not far in distance but much deeper, and then parallel the coast to the Zhong logistics base and port at the Isla Catalina.  There, four of the subs would wait until the emergence of the Classis from internment and arrival on the scene set the Zhong to movement. The other three would advance to link up with the Classis as near to the port of internment as possible.

Then we shall reap large, thought Chu.  Then we shall reap large, indeed.

BdL Dos Lindas, Puerto Bruselas, Santa Josefina

“Where the hell did they get that huge band?” Roderigo Fosa asked, of nobody in particular. 

His senior non-com. Sergeant Major (for the Classis used mostly military, rather than naval ranks) Ramirez, answered, “I asked, sir; it’s the Aserri Symphony Orchestra and Chorus, out showing their unquestioned and complete support for both the new regime and its chief ally.”  Ramirez spoke with a tone of contempt that was pretty much second nature to him. 

“Then where did they get the sheet music for our songs?”

“That, I cannot say.  All things, considered, though, sir, it wouldn’t surprise me in the slightest if the Duque had the music printed here several years ago, against the day.”

“I’ll ask him, next time I see him,” Fosa agreed.  It wasn’t, in fact, all that far-fetched a possibility.  And if not Carrera?  Well, Professor Ruiz, chief of propaganda, might have done so on his own initiative.

The Orchestra, itself, along with the chorus, were giving a fine and moving rendition of the old Volgan war song, translated into Spanish as La Guerra Sagrada, the Sacred War:

“…let your noble wrath

Boil over like a wave.

This is the people’s war

This is a sacred war.”

“Nice touch, really,” Fosa said.  “Nice, too, that several months of otherwise carefree maintenance have our ships so ready. By the way, is the tightbeam calibrated?”

“Yes, sir,” said Ramirez, “both the main one and the ones for the Crickets and drones.”

“Good, I was beginning to worry.”

As he spoke, two columns of ships, with two frigates and four corvettes in each column, began to steam out of the port.  Both of the capital ships, the Dos Lindas and the heavy cruiser Tadeo Kurita, had already been pushed into formation by the tugs of the port.  A fifth frigate, an anti-aircraft ship rather than an anti-submarine ship, like the other four, was on station between them. 

Not that the two capital ships didn’t have impressive – possibly illegal, but definitely impressive – anti-aircraft capability of their own, with, between them, five powerful anti-aircraft lasers, two of them mounted high.  Still, the frigate’s long-range missiles, for days when the weather prevented getting much use from the lasers, were very comforting.

The crew for those lasers scanned the sky continuously for any approaching enemy aircraft, as did the radar, and several dozen men with very powerful binoculars, standing watch on all the ships. 

Meanwhile, the carrier’s handful of helicopters supplemented the ASW squadrons, dipping and listening, or taking more active measures, for sign of enemy submarines.  Continuous sorties of reconnaissance and strike aircraft – modified crop dusters, basically – leapt from the deck to track, attack, and slow down Marciano’s retreat to the corner of Santa Josefina defined by the border with neighboring Cordoba, Lago de Cordoba, and the Mar Furioso.  Most of the crop dusters – Turbo-Finches – carried as much as two metric tons or ordinance, generally a mix of machine guns, rockets, and bombs, however there were eleven product improved versions – called “Gabriels” – that carried twice that, at rather greater speed.