“Walt, just checking in to see how your preparations are going.”
The admiral was speaking on the phone with his Army counterpart, a call which had just been connected by the admiral’s adjutant, Lieutenant Commander Lowe.
“I think everything’s as ready as it can be right now, Ed, considering what we know at this point. I’ve ordered radar to be on alert around the clock and all ground security forces are in place. There’s a good bit of grumbling amongst the enlisted since liberty has been drastically curtailed, but the NCOs are dealing with it.
“I have also been informed that the FBI is rounding up a good many nationals who have been under surveillance for a long time. They’re trying to be as discreet as possible so that the round-up doesn’t raise too many alarms, and the embassy is under close scrutiny. The Feds are ready to move in quickly and secure the place if necessary. For right now, they’re playing it pretty close to their chests so there won’t be a tip-off that we’re into their diplomatic codes. Some of the guys that the FBI picked up were actively photographing military facilities and some were even sketching locations of all your ships in harbor.”
“Holy cow, Walt, these guys seem to have infiltrated everywhere. Even Navy security has picked up a few of these people and they’re safely tucked away in the brig right now.
“Our people in the Crypt are inundated with messages and the volume is certainly being turned up. It really looks like something is going to break pretty soon.”
“I agree. I assume you’re still getting current updates from Washington; they seem to be breaking some of the codes that our guys aren’t working on.”
“Yeah, something comes through every few hours. At least, by being able to combine their work with our own, we’re getting a better picture of intentions. Thank God for good communications and people smart enough to see the overall picture.”
“Right. Okay, stay in touch. Looks like we’re both going to be sleeping on the office couch tonight.”
As the admiral placed the phone handset in its cradle, his office door opened and the adjutant entered with paper in his hand.
“Sir, one of our ships patrolling just outside the harbor defense zone has reported what they believe to be a submarine about to enter the zone. They know their orders are to assume any subs operating there to be enemy, but they’re exercising extra caution and asking for directions.”
“Tell them the current orders are correct. All our subs are either in harbor or accounted for and none of them are operating in that area. Let the captain know he’s authorized to sink, damage, or capture that sub at his discretion. Also, repeat the order about hostile contacts to all operating ships. There should be no further reason to contact headquarters for confirmation. The only ships we have operating are surface units and identification of them should pose no problems.
“Oh, and I assume the anti-sub nets at the harbor entrance are in place?”
“Absolutely, sir. The nets are only opened and closed immediately after the entry or departure of ships from the harbor.”
“Good, see to it…and right away.”
As the adjutant left the office and pulled the door closed behind him, the admiral ran his fingers through his rapidly graying hair as he often did when confronted with a puzzle.
‘I wish I had a better picture of what’s happening everywhere,’ he mused to himself. ‘I sure as hell hope I haven’t overlooked something.’
The klaxon had already sounded “general quarters” as the perky little ship laid on steam and, “taking the bone in her teeth,” charged off in the direction of the sub sighting. Contact had never been lost with the sub, even while awaiting a response from headquarters, but now it was time to let the boat running below the surface know that its presence was not a secret.
The return message from the admiral had been hastily relayed to the ship’s captain on the bridge and he quickly palmed the address system handset as he prepared to speak to the crew of the ship.
“This is the Captain. We’ve been ordered to make contact with a submarine about to enter the harbor defense zone. We’ll capture it if we can or sink it if we must. I can’t tell you what all this means right now. It may be the beginning of a shooting war. Just do what you’ve been trained to do and trust in your shipmates. That is all.”
Cutting through low waves and creating bow waves reflecting its thirty-knot speed, sailors on the fantail quickly readied the depth charges that would be flung overboard once a solid contact with the sub was made.
The captain was hoping that the subsurface explosions would only damage the ability of the sub to remain submerged and force it to the surface. He was still harboring doubts that this sub had hostile intentions and, if it turned out to be friendly, uninjured crewmen in a damaged vessel would require a lot less explaining than a drowned sub and a dead crew.