by David McLeod
"Global Explorer 1, Russia 0"
"Sonar reports an underwater contact," Captain Izzard said. It was 3:00 AM. Jonathan and I had just reached the bridge, and were still zipping up our jump suits. The captain's summons had been urgent.
"We're strictly in passive mode," he said. "Signals from the sensor array suggest a submarine about 100 nautical miles west-by-west-north-west. I called you because it's moving directly toward us."
Our detour to the Japanese whaling ship had taken us farther west than we'd planned. Based on the 1957 IGY charts, there was a branch of one of the Pacific currents nearby, so we extended the towed array and started taking measurements. Only two days had passed before the captain's call to the bridge.
"Who knows?" I asked.
"Bridge crew, only—the helmsman and the comm tech," he said. They were both Sea Cadets. The cadets often pulled the night watches. They didn't mind. There weren't many boys their age who got to steer a 300-plus-meter ship, or monitor downlinks from Chinese, Russian, Indian, and South Korean spy satellites. And, somehow, the helmsmen always preferred the wheel on my "old-fashioned" side of the bridge.
"I've called Sonar Technician Klystera to join us," Captain Izzard said. "Would you summon Cadets O'Brian and Jones—just in case."
I nodded, and picked up one of the telephones.
A middle-aged man responded to the bridge. Nicky and Davie were close behind.
"I think we have something for you, Mr. Klystera," the captain said. "Would you take the sonar station?"
I gestured Nicky and Davey to their stations at the rear of the bridge.
The man immediately sat down and put on large and well-padded earphones. After a few minutes, he pulled them off and said, "Submarine, sir. Not one of ours . . . I mean, not a USA ship. I wish we had the library of signatures, but they're classified."
"Command F4," Jonathan said. He was looking over the man's shoulder. "The library is on the server; command F4 will start a program to do an automatic comparison."
"The library is Top Secret!" the tech said. He thought for a moment, and then said, "At least, it used to be."
The USA Navy had provided the library. They weren't entirely sure why, but the family admirals knew which buttons to push to get approval. It's not like anyone couldn't have collected them . . . all someone would need was a small detector, a Mac mini computer, and an excuse to be in a small boat near submarine bases. Okay, maybe that last bit could be a problem.
The only reason the database was classified was that the Navy didn't want to admit they had it—and that the Navy had signatures of allied nations' subs, too. It had been easy for us to hack the Russian database. Even though their files had no signatures of their own subs, I think the family admirals may have done some horse-trading with that database, too.
The sonar tech watched as the program eliminated ships and narrowed its search, before displaying the three best matches on the screen.
The man listened intently, and looked closely at the screen before announcing, "The submarine's acoustic signature matches that of a Russian vessel—the Murmansk—but it was reported lost at sea three years ago."
"The sub is now 75 miles from us," Jonathan added.
The signature of a pirate. I understood. Whether it was a pirate or someone who had stolen—or bought—the Russian sub was not important. What was important was that this was likely an enemy. We would almost certainly come under attack.
The captain knew this. "Commander? I think we need some additional systems on line."
"Yes, sir," I agreed. This was the captain's show. He was in charge during emergencies, and this was as close to an emergency as we had ever seen. He didn't need my agreement, but I was inordinately pleased that he had asked for it.
"Cadets O'Brian and Jones, activate the tectonic test stations," the captain ordered. "Commander Anconia? Secure the bridge."
The captain, Jonathan, Nicky, Davey, and I understood. What would come next would need keen eyes and fast reflexes, and both Nicky and Davey had those, as well as extensive training on simulators in the conference room. And, this was something we didn't want to share with too many people.
I lifted the spring-loaded cover over a button, and pressed it, locking the doors to the bridge.
At the rear of the bridge, at computer stations that had been used only twice before, Nicky and Davey began to run system checks on heretofore-unused routines. Jonathan brought up images from his system.
Nicky and Davey reported all systems go. Jonathan's system showed that the sub was now 50 miles from us. That was within torpedo range. The vector display showed it still moving toward us, approaching from our starboard side.
"Sound General Quarters," the captain ordered. "Set Condition Zulu." Although the bridge was soundproofed, we could hear the ah-ugah horns that were the traditional signal for General Quarters. I was relieved, rather than frightened. General Quarters would put everyone in life jackets. The Sea Cadets' and science team members' General Quarters stations were at their lifeboats. Condition Zulu meant that more experienced crew members would be closing and dogging watertight doors throughout the ship. We would be as prepared for disaster as we could possibly be.
Ten minutes passed. The sub continued to close.
"Engine room, make revolutions for 20 knots," the captain ordered. "Mr. Anconia, take the science station and make ready to cut the sensor cable. Engine room, prepare to make revolutions for flank speed."
Klystera spoke. "They're opening torpedo tubes. Signature confirmed."
"Cadets, take out any torpedoes," the captain ordered. "Helm hard to port. Mr. Anconia . . . "
My hand hovered over the guillotine control. The captain didn't finish his order. He watched the display screens.
"Torpedoes launched," Davey and Klystera said at the same instant.
It was a toss-up whether Davey or Nicky fired first. From the two aft tectonic test station rooms, anti-missile weapons dropped into the sea, homed in on the torpedoes, and destroyed them in spectacular explosions before they had moved more than 100 meters from the submarine.
"The explosions were much bigger than I expected," the sonarman said. "The torpedoes were not a low charge to frighten us. They meant to sink us."
I looked at the captain. He knew what my look meant. The Anconia's Greek ancestors were the first to codify what became known as the Golden Rule, the do unto others rule. The original version allowed for doing first, if necessary to protect yourself.
Neither Nicky nor Davey paid us the least bit of attention, but kept their eyes on their screens. That was good. Whoever was in command of the submarine decided to try again.
"No need to wait until he fires," the captain said. "He's shown he's an enemy, and sealed his fate."
"Torpedo tubes flooding," sonar reported.
"Cadets? Take him out—sink him," Captain Izzard ordered.
The commander of the submarine had once tried to destroy us. His second attempt would be his own doom, and not ours.
Nicky and Davey knew what they had been asked to do. They did not hesitate. I felt their confidence in Captain Izzard's leadership. That confidence had built trust and a bond that I could almost see.
The sub captain opened two torpedo tube doors. Before they were completely opened, Nikki and Davey hit firing buttons. They had selected hypersonic missiles that flew from the aft pair of the four secret rooms across the water and then dropped into the ocean. The missiles reached their target before the 20-foot-long torpedoes had left the tubes. A second pair of missiles was only seconds behind the first.
With torpedo doors open, the sub was especially vulnerable. Add the shock of four explosions to the pressure of the water at depth, and the torpedo tubes likely were breached. The forward torpedo room must have flooded, instantly. I watched on Jonathan's display as the submarine began an unrecoverable dive to the depths.
"Hull implosion," Klystera said a few minutes later, and took off his earphones. I reached over Nicky and Davey's shoulders and turned off their displays.
"It's over, guys. You saved us. You saved us all. Thank you."
And I have my revenge, I thought. But the Russians will never know it.
"Gentlemen?" Captain Izzard addressed everyone on the bridge. "The Global Explorer is an unarmed research vessel. Mr. O'Brian and Mr. Jones did not launch weapons in defense of this ship. What might appear to have been weapons are charges we can set off to create vibrations in tectonic plates on the ocean floor. The vibrations can then be examined using seismometers to tell us more about the composition of the earth below the sea. You know we have done that, before. It is part of our research.
"All of the explosions we heard were internal to an unknown submarine which appears to have sunk.
"You know this is not entirely true. Can you accept that, and can you keep it secret in order to protect your mates' lives, and your own?"
He looked from person to person, and received a "Yes, sir" from each one—another tribute to the captain's leadership, I thought.
"Thank you, all. If you ever want to talk more about this, I am always available to you."
"Captain?" I said. "Thank you. Would you please keep the ship on station, here, until we can think this through? Tomorrow will be soon enough, however."
It was a mission commander decision, and I read the Captain's approval.
The door to our quarters clicked open. There were only four people who could override the locks: the captain, the ship's doctor, Nicky, and Davey. "Nicky," I whispered to Jonathan.
I felt the covers being pulled back. I felt a warm and trembling body slide into the bed.
"And Davey," Jonathan whispered.
We both felt the boys' fear and trepidation. They knew what they had done. Although they had saved the Explorer and its crew, their mates and their lovers, they had killed the crew of a submarine in a faceless battle, a battle the submarine could not have won. Tonight, they sought comfort and cuddles.
"Alexander?" Nicky and Davie were developing telepathy from their association with Jonathan and me, although they didn't realize it, yet. Now, I understood that Nicky felt I was awake and enjoying the sensation of his warm body entwined with mine.
"Alexander, don't you think it strange that boys older than you and Jonathan would come to you for comfort? That we knew you would cuddle us and not expect sex, last night?"
"Nicky? Do you not think that Jonathan and I needed comfort and cuddles, too? Did you not know we knew we could cuddle with you and not expect sex? We created the weapons you and Davey used. We created the technology that destroyed that submarine. Did you not know that we were feeling frightened and upset, too?"
Nicky thought for a moment. I could almost see the thoughts as they flashed through his mind. Almost, but not quite. Soon, though.
"I think I did—feel that, I mean—last night," Nicky said.
"Time to tell them, don't you think?" Jonathan had been awake long enough to hear Nicky and me.
"Almost. Come on, guys, showers and—" I looked at the clock. Chronometer. Whatever.
"Lunch." I kissed Nicky and pushed toward him good feelings and love, as well as my tongue.
"Alex! I've already got an erection! And I don't think that's what you meant by lunch," Nicky said, and then laughed. I was glad to see that he could laugh.
The day was Saturday, and lunch was brunch, and buffet for everyone. We all filled trays, and found a small table. I'd thought we might discuss Nicky and Davey's developing telepathy. However, that had to wait for something much more urgent.
"Alexander? You know, don't you, where the sub sank?" Davey asked.
"You mean Davey Jones's Locker?" I said.
"I'm serious, Alexander! It's in the Mariana Trench. Did you know it was a national wildlife refuge? We have just dumped a nuclear reactor down there, haven't we?" Davey asked.
"Yes, actually, I knew that, Davey. We did, and we have to fix that. Everyone had enough lunch? We need to get to the bridge."
"Captain? We have a problem. Dav . . . Cadet Jones will explain."
The captain grasped immediately the problem Davey described.
"We've been station-keeping since the attack," Captain Izzard said. "We know where the sub was, and can probably find it, but salvage? From the bottom of the Mariana? Not likely."
"Oh, yes," I said. "It's going to take some work, but we have everything we need."
Recovering the Russian sub's nuclear reactor from the Mariana Trench took a lot more work than I had thought it would, but once people understood the mission and the reason for it, everyone chipped in thoughts, ideas, and sweat.
We removed one of the aircraft elevators—a steel platform about 4000 square feet—and suspended it from the spare sensor array cable—without sensors. The machine shop welded capstans to the shafts of the elevator motors. The motors were designed to easily lift the elevator platform plus the nearly 20,000 kg of the E-2 Hawkeye aircraft; the reactor's listed weight of 15,000 kg wouldn't faze them. Then, with Jonathan and Davey at one station and Nicky and me at another, we took both submersibles into the Mariana trench.
We found the sub quickly—the magnetometer was off the scale, but there were complications I hadn't thought of, mostly about containing radioactive materials in the reactor's recirculating system.
Dr. Purdom sent Tommy to explain. "Sir, the Russians' system is more primitive than ours. We use a two-stage system. Liquid sodium is circulated through the reactor core. It transfers its heat to a water loop which is not radioactive and which runs our turbines. The Russians take a shortcut. Their reactor is water-cooled; they use radioactive steam to operate the turbines for electricity and the propeller."
"What you're telling me is that we have to recover more than the reactor, and make sure we don't release radioactive water while we do that," I said.
"Yes, sir. As soon as you get the hull opened, I'd like to take a look at the systems . . . " Tommy began. "I mean, if that's okay, sir."
I tried to match Tommy's formality, since he seemed to be comfortable with it. Ritual is what makes for relationships, I thought, and knew I would have to revisit that thought.
"Mr. Samson? Not only do I want you to look at the systems, I want you to be in charge of the team that secures the reactor, turbines, and anything else radioactive. Will you accept that responsibility?"
"Sir, yes sir!" Tommy said without hesitation.
It took us more than three weeks of 24-hour per day operations to cut open the hull, remove the reactor and turbines, put them on the platform, and haul them to the surface. No regular submersible could have done it, but ours were powered by micro-fusion generators and operated by remote control. They didn't have to surface. I was glad, too, that we'd trained a bunch of crew members and cadets in submersible operations.
We piped video of the operation through the on-board TV system. Before the recovery was over, we had recruited a dozen more people who wanted to learn submersible operations, and several who wanted to learn more about the flora and fauna of the ocean depths.
We kept the recovery operations in-house for the moment—asking people not to discuss it in any messages or emails, but gave some time to take pictures of the depths, and made time on the submersibles for sample collection.
By the time we had recovered the reactor, turbines, and some other pieces of the sub, an ocean-going tug with a massive crane and a barge had reached us. The tug had a cash-under-the-table contract to a subsidiary of a subsidiary of a Becker Corporation subsidiary, although the tug's captain and I were the only ones who knew about the Becker connection.
"Jonathan, do you remember that piece of plane with the tail number? If we were to tuck that in with the wreckage of the sub, the Russians would get a pretty clear message. What do you think?"
"Pick your battles, Alexander. Pick the ones you think you can win," he said.
"Right. That's what I thought," I said.
Before the barge departed, we spot-welded the piece of aircraft to the side of the reactor. There is no way it could be missed.
As soon as I was sure the salvage mission would be successful, I had called my father and asked him to visit. He flew to Guam where one of our planes met him the day after the barge with the reactor left for Vladivostok. Dad could see that our plane was an amphibian, and I don't think he was expecting a carrier landing. I was a little afraid of his reaction until I saw his eyes when he stepped from the plane.
"Alex? That, as you would say, was awesome!" he said, and gave Jonathan and me his trademark bear hugs. When I introduced Nicky and Davey, they got hugs, too. I knew Dad was smart.
When I told Dad about the piece of airplane with part of the tail number, I thought he would explode—with laughter.
"You approve?" I asked.
"Yes, I approve!" he said. "Whose idea was it?"
"Jonathan and mine," I said. "The barge will arrive in six days. When it does, it's going to cause problems."
Dad got a far-away look in his eyes. "Will you let me take care of that, Alex?"
There were two loose ends. One was explaining the call for general quarters, and the explosions. Everyone on the ship had heard them, although only the Captain, the sonar tech, four Sea Cadets, Jonathan and I knew about our missiles.
The best way to lie is to tell part of the truth. We had agreed to the story that night on the bridge: sonar had detected an unknown submarine headed directly for us, triggering general quarters and Condition Zulu. There were explosions on the sub; the sub had sunk. Everyone bought it. At least, we never heard any hint otherwise. If anyone had seen the missiles being fired, they kept it to themselves.
The second loose end was the rest of the submarine at the bottom of the Mariana Trench. We had left a lot of metal and contaminants. A conference call among Dad, Uncle Ricardo, and me took care of that. The voyage of Uncle Ricardo's first mineral exploration vessel would become a "public relations" voyage; they would recover the rest of the sub—and display it in San Diego for the world to see. At the same time, they would demonstrate our capability for deep ocean mining. It was a "do what is right" thing that was going to cause a lot of interest in everything Anconia. And piss off the Russians. And, ultimately, make a lot of money.
As it turned out, there was a third loose end, one that I hadn't thought of. Tommy Samson cornered me after breakfast.
"Commander? Something's peculiar. I need to talk to you."
I was a little surprised that Tommy had used my title, and I felt his uncertainty and a little fear. "Cadet Samson, of course. Please come with me."
I led him to the conference room where we could talk without concern about being overheard. "What's the matter?"
"Alex, when I wasn't working with the submersible crews, I was on duty in the reactor control room. One of my tasks is to monitor power demand at each Power Distribution Center, and switch on additional generators when needed. I know what's happening. When you first powered up the control room, I got a surge demand. No problem. But when you launched the submersibles, there was no increase in demand. I remember hearing that they require something like 1,200 amps at 400 volts of DC current each, but for three weeks, we never sent anything like that to the submersibles' PDC."
That's all he said. He sat silently, waiting for me to speak.
"Tommy, you're in a position of great responsibility. You've learned about something that people have died to protect. It's knowledge that people have died trying to steal. If those people knew you even suspected the existence of this knowledge, they would do anything to make you tell them.
"I will tell you the truth, but only if you truly understand the risk to yourself, and agree to accept that risk."
Tommy thought for a moment. "Alex? Everything Dr. Purdom is teaching me was, at one time, protected by what the USA and my country called a "Q-clearance." I know things that the average person will never know, and I know how to keep it secret. Dr. Purdom hasn't said, but I think some of the things he teaches me are still secret, maybe top secret.
"And I am not afraid. Please tell me; I promise never to tell."
So I told Tommy about nuclear fusion. I saw that he understood, but I also saw a little push-back.
"Tommy? I believe you will keep this secret, but I see in your eyes that you still have some questions."
"This is going to make nuclear fission reactors obsolete, isn't it?" He asked. "What will happen to all the people whose education and training, whose careers and lives depend on that?"
"Dr. Purdom, the black gang, your dad, and you," I said softly.
Tommy nodded. "And a lot of others."
"Tommy, thank you for thinking of that, and for reminding me of it." I thought for a minute. "It's going to take everything those people know, all they have learned, and more to implement fusion power. I promise to keep that in my plans. Can I count on you to help?"
I saw from the light in his eyes and the promise in his heart that I had gained another ally.
Dad left the next morning. I got his message from Guam that the carrier takeoff with the catapult had been a real kick in the ass, and one that my little brothers were looking forward to. The message was in the clear on a standard frequency for ocean-going vessels. I thought about that, and realized that Dad wanted certain people to know he'd been on the Explorer and that he planned to bring others of his family on his next visit. His message had been part of his plan.
I had felt Nicky and Davey strongly when Dad had hugged them, and I think they felt something more than the hug. It was way past time for the talk.
Jonathan and I cornered Nicky and Davey at lunch. "Guys? We found a few glitches in the submersible control software during the salvage operations. Would you report to the conference room at 1400 for a little debugging session?"
Normally, we didn't lock the door of the conference room when we were working on the computers. Nicky and Davie heard the lock click, and I felt their curiosity.
"Nicky? Davey? You're wondering why I locked the door. I could have figured that out, but I didn't have to. I felt it in your minds. So did Jonathan."
"Guys?" Jonathan said. "You know that we love you and would never hurt you. Hanging around with us has changed you."
Jonathan and I watched them carefully, but saw no fear. So I continued. "Jonathan and I are telepaths. We can talk to each other and feel what the other is feeling mind-to-mind, without words. You are becoming that way."
I was about to say more when Nicky turned to Davey. "See? I told you so!"
"You knew?" Jonathan asked.
"Pretty much for the past few weeks . . . ever since the night we sank the sub and came to your bed for cuddles. And especially the next morning, when Alex . . . um . . . "
I grabbed Nicky in a hug and pushed love and lust. "You mean like this? You don't have to answer," I said. And kissed him—hard. And we both got that way. Jonathan and Davey were quick to follow.
No one except Jonathan noticed that I locked the bedroom door behind us . . . without touching it. That would have to be discussed, too, but later.
Five AM. Francisco Anconia picked up a softly buzzing telephone. Even though the signal was encrypted, the voice message was in code: "Please forward mail to 11 Bleak Street."
The barge will arrive in four and one half hours, he interpreted, and glanced at the clock. It will be dark, there. Good. The tug will be much more likely to leave undetected.
Beside Francisco, his wife turned on a lamp, and then waited, silently. She knew that if one of the children were in danger, he would have told her immediately.
"Thank you." Francisco hung up the phone and picked up the one beside it.
"Please get the American Secretary of State on the line."
Francisco's conversation with the Secretary of State was brief. "Good morning, Barbara. I am sorry to disturb you so early in the morning, but this is important and urgent. Please have the Russian Ambassador at my office in Fairfax, Virginia at 9:00 AM today. No one other than the ambassador, and no time other than 9:00 AM will be acceptable. The subject of the meeting is an international incident involving nuclear materials.
"You may tell him that. The situation has been contained and the president has been briefed. You must not tell the ambassador that. I will fill you in when this is resolved."
Mr. Anconia listened for a few seconds, thanked the Secretary of State, and hung up. He smiled. Today was going to be a rewarding day.
"What is it, dear?" Mrs. Anconia asked.
"Alexander is going to pull the Russian's chain," Francisco replied. "And the president and I are going to pull it even harder. Let's get coffee, and I'll tell you all about it."
At eight o'clock, Mr. Anconia picked up the encrypted telephone and pressed four buttons.
"This is Frank Anconia. Is the President awake?"
"Good morning, Todd. The events we discussed on Wednesday will come to a head at 9:30 our time this morning. I've asked Barbara to have the Russian Ambassador in my office at nine. I'll keep him occupied until 9:30. Four hours should give them enough time, don't you think? Would a 1:30 meeting this afternoon work for you?"
"Yes. Yes. I'll see you, then."
Francisco Anconia debated calling Alexander to tell him that the plan was in motion. He looked at the clock and thought for a moment before shaking his head and smiling. Alexander and Jonathan and those two Sea Cadets would not appreciate being wakened at this time of night—or interrupted.
The Russian Ambassador to the United States sat at a conference table. Tea and coffee had been offered. He had accepted coffee. Then, he fidgeted.
Twenty minutes passed. The man thought about leaving, but the orders from the American Secretary of State were quite clear and quite firm. Words about a significant international incident and a nuclear disaster were sufficient to keep the ambassador in his seat.
Francisco Anconia entered and sat at the table opposite the Ambassador. He did not greet the man, but immediately began speaking.
"Three years ago the Russian nuclear powered attack submarine Murmansk was reported lost in the sea north of Polyarny. Your country provided the world press extensive coverage of salvage operations to remove the nuclear reactor and to recover the bodies of the crew. It is puzzling, therefore, that four weeks ago and 1,500 miles east of Formosa, the Murmansk launched torpedoes against the Global Explorer, which is an unarmed research vessel flagged by both the United States and the United Nations, and crewed with representatives of more than sixty member nations of the United Nations—including my son."
"Do not interrupt me, Mr. Ambassador.
"The Global Explorer began life as a warship, but was converted to a research vessel. The crew of the Explorer heard the Murmansk on sonar, and identified its sonar signature. They heard the sound of torpedo tubes opening, and of torpedoes being fired. They were able to avoid the torpedoes. They heard explosions. They heard the sounds of the submarine sinking and imploding."
Mr. Anconia pressed a button and the flat-screen televisions that surrounded the room lit. The image was a map.
"Your country's submarine sank in the Mariana Trench, perhaps the deepest point in the world's oceans. It is also a National Wildlife Refuge, so designated by the United States. The crew of the Explorer realized that the submarine's nuclear reactor presented the risk of an ecological disaster. They recovered the reactor as well as bits and pieces of the Murmansk, and have shipped them to Vladivostok. The barge with the salvaged material will arrive at Vladivostok in five minutes."
As Mr. Anconia spoke, video of the salvage operation played on the television screens.
"The flash drive on the table before you contains a recording of the Murmansk's sonar signature, of torpedoes being fired, and of the sub imploding. It also contains more video of the salvage operation, including images that clearly identify the Russian submarine."
Mr. Anconia pressed a button; the scene on the video screens changed.
"The Murmansk complement was nominally seventy men. Six months ago, your people murdered two of my family and an innocent child in your attempt to kidnap Jonathan Romanov. Please tell the KGB thug who is currently ruling Russia that he must consider the scales to balance in this particular matter, and that I will respond most unfavorably to vendetta."
Mr. Anconia leaned back in his chair. "You may now speak."
The ambassador understood, immediately. "You say that the scales have been balanced. Are you saying that forces of the United States destroyed the Murmansk?"
"You and your superiors may read into my words anything you wish."
Francisco Anconia stood, turned, and left the room. The Russian Ambassador's hand trembled as he put the flash drive in his pocket.
Francisco Anconia and the President of the United States reached the Pentagon at nearly the same moment. The President's three Marine helicopters landed on the mall of the River Entrance. The Anconia Industries helicopter landed on the helipad at the northwest side. The President was closer to the War Room, and was waiting when Mr. Anconia arrived.
"Hello, Frank. The DCI tells me that the Russians have their drawers in a knot." He held out his hand to be shaken.
"Hello, Todd. That was the idea," Francisco said. He accepted the president's handshake. The two men had been roommates at college, and their friendship had thrived since those years.
Francisco looked around the room. The Joint Chiefs stood in one corner; a clutch of admirals and generals in another. A group of junior Navy and Air Force officers huddle in another corner as if unsure of their status. Navy mess stewards had placed water glasses at each place; they added coffee and condiments. When they left the room, the President sat.
"Please be seated, everyone," he said. "Those of you who do not already know Mr. Francisco Anconia certainly know who he is. What you may not know is that his son is the mission commander of the science ship, Global Explorer. That ship is flagged by both the United States and the United Nations. Most of the crew and science staff are United States citizens. The ship's crew includes a hundred Sea Cadets from sixty countries, all of whom are allies of or friendly to the United States.
"Frank? Would you take it from here?" the President asked.
"Yes, Mr. President. Thank you. I understand that the rest of today's program is classified Top Secret with a strict need-to-know.
"What only a few of you know is that the Global Explorer was attacked by a Russian submarine four weeks ago. The Explorer evaded the attack. The submarine sank to the bottom of the Mariana trench after several explosions were heard on the Explorer's sonar.
"The crew of the Explorer conducted salvage operations, and recovered the sub's nuclear reactor from a depth of 11,000 meters. They've shipped the reactor and other identifying parts of the sub to Vladivostok."
Francisco paused to allow a susurrus of whispers to die.
"The Russians have been notified. They have had several hours to examine the reactor and wreckage. According to a senior USA official, they have their drawers in a knot.
"The Russians may believe that the destruction of the submarine was caused by the Explorer or by forces of the USA.
"In any case, they know that the Explorer is capable of operations at incredible depths. While the US Navy's Trieste reached the bottom of the Mariana Trench in 1960, she was capable of little more than observation. The only other significant mission to the Mariana was four years ago, by the Deepsea Challenger. In 2012, the Challenger returned with some samples. That vessel would not be capable of salvaging a nuclear reactor. The capabilities of the Explorer are many orders of magnitude greater than any seen, before."
Francisco had given a flash drive to the President's military aide. Now, he put the first image on the screen.
"The top line is the sonar signature of the submarine that attacked the Explorer. The bottom line is the sonar signature of the Russian submarine Murmansk. To my eye, they appear identical."
The president spoke. "Admiral Wainwright? Can you help us understand this?"
"Mr. President, Mr. Anconia, two weeks ago, we received a sonar recording of a submarine and were asked to identify it. Our experts conclude with greater than 99% confidence that it was a recording of the Murmansk, a Russian submarine reported to have sunk in the Arctic Ocean three years ago.
"The US intelligence agencies gather more information than we can examine in detail, and depend on leads from various sources to point us to what needs to be scrutinized. After learning that the Murmansk might not have sunk, we examined thousands of images and recordings of the sonar signatures of submarines entering and leaving Russian ports.
"We have already found four images and three sonar recordings of the Murmansk at Russian submarine bases after its reported sinking. We conclude from this information that the Murmansk was operating with the knowledge and support of the Russian Navy, and that it is unlikely that the captain and crew had gone rogue or that the sub had been sold to someone."
"Thank you, Admiral," the president said. "Frank, you have more, I believe."
"I do. Less than a year ago, Russian agents kidnapped my son's companion, Jonathan Romanov, because they thought he might have information useful to them. We rescued Jonathan. As part of the kidnapping, the Russians murdered an innocent child and a flight crew—members of my family. Jonathan's kidnapping was, I think, an overt strike against Anconia Industries by the criminal enterprise—the kleptocracy—that is the current government of Russia. Anconia Industries is, I believe, a proxy for the United States of America."
Francisco turned to the president. He knew what the man would say; they'd hammered it out over brandy and cigars several days ago.
"Folks," the president began, "in the time of Queen Victoria, the life of a British citizen was sacrosanct. If one were killed, kidnapped, or unjustly arrested in a foreign country, the entire weight of the British Empire, including its navy and army, were thrown into the fray.
"The first real war fought by these United States was the First Barbary War. The Battle of Derna, in 1805, gave us the line in the Marine Corps Hymn, "To the shores of Tripoli." The president had been a Marine and had seen combat in the Middle East and Africa. He had seen his mates die. The room was silent when he took a moment to allow his emotions to subside.
"That war was fought to protect the interests of the USA, specifically commercial interests, which were being preyed upon by pirates. This was not the only time that the power of this country's military was used to protect our citizens and their interests abroad.
"You don't need to be a student of history to understand that sometimes we went too far, and protected interests that were plundering third world countries."
After retiring from the Marine Corps, the president had been a professor of history at a famous military school in South Carolina. He knew and taught history as it was, not as it had been whitewashed.
"Public reaction to our misuse of power has made us reluctant—even afraid—to use our power, even when it was justified. A previous administration failed to take action in the Middle East, for example, and then depended on stealth to create publicity favorable to itself rather than dealing with the problem in a conclusive and straightforward manner.
"I have been in office for only two months. That is not long enough to create the trust between us that I believe to be essential. I cannot demand your trust. In time, I hope to create that trust. For the moment, however, I do require your loyalty.
"The media are setting up a press conference in the Operations Deputies' Conference Room. I will announce the first in a series of foreign policy guidelines for this administration. I would like the Joint Chiefs to be seated with me at that time.
"I will announce that although might does not make right, the might of the United States, military and economic—including the full resources of Anconia Industries, although I will not say that—will be used to support that which is right. I will mention, only as an example, of course, that the Global Explorer will be protected by US military forces and that any attack on her or any ship flagged by this country will be considered an attack on the United States of America.
"I will remind the world that our embassies, consulates, and diplomatic missions are sovereign soil and that any attack upon them will be met with force and retaliation, and that any nation which cannot protect our embassies and bases which exist under treaties and status of forces agreements must accept that we will conduct military operations in their countries.
"I will tell the world that any attack on the USA either on our soil or on our legitimate and legal interests anywhere in the world will be met with force. We will track terrorists to their place of origin and we will retaliate. Countries which offer havens, training grounds, or breeding grounds for terrorists will be dealt with most harshly.
The president paused, took a breath, and added. "There will be more, but that's about all I can squeeze in a thirty second sound bite on the cable networks."
That got the laugh he hoped for, and broke the tension in the room.
Chapter End Notes: The title of this chapter, as well as thoughts on leadership and the structure of the chapter were all suggested by Brendan. Thank you!
The information about exploration of the Mariana Trench by the Triest and the Deepsea Challenger is correct in your reality, as is the designation of that part of the ocean as a National Wildlife Refuge by the USA—the only country ever to have visited and returned with specimens.
DCI is "Director of Central Intelligence."