Liberators
Author: Godfrey Raphael

Chapter 3
First Blood

Chapter Three: First Blood

 

Aboard the submarine K-312

Somewhere in the Kara Sea

September 24, 2008 0722 Rivymiyitevko time (0322 Krakozhian time)

 

The nightmares always came every time they set sail. They always ended with the death of the submarine. But Captain First Rank Tanya Kalinina always had them ever since she joined the Krakozhian Navy during the Great War of the Republic. Perhaps, she thought, it was her mind’s way of processing the coming danger.

 

This time, the dream began at dawn, and the submarine was dead in the water, both screws gone and with the enemy submarine bearing down on them. As they sonar supervisor shouted that the enemy had launched torpedoes, Tanya watched the chaos surrounding her on the conn with detached curiosity, as if she wasn’t a part of the unfolding scene. Even the explosion that struck the aft end of the submarine didn’t faze her, and as a huge wall of water engulfed the conn, she felt neither fear nor panic as it swept her towards the planesman’s station—

 

Tanya woke up in her cabin, the stickiness of dried sweat clinging to her face. She was breathing hard, her heart was beating, and she felt like she had just run a marathon. She found herself staring at the curved ceiling above her bunk, which reminded her of a coffin, which was probably where her loved ones would see her for the last time, if she was lucky enough to survive this conflict. In reality, if ever her submarine was sunk by enemy action, there would be nothing for her family to bury. Most probably, her body, as well as the bodies of her crew, would remain in the submarine and become fish food.

 

She was brought out of her reverie when she heard a soft knocking on the door to her cabin. She knew only one person who was brave enough to knock on her door when she was asleep. She sighed, got up, and opened the door.

 

“Please tell me we’re not under attack.”

 

Captain Second Rank Natalya Tudenko stared at her commanding officer. “Not yet, Comrade Captain. Are you all right?”

 

Kalinina wiped off the sweat on her forehead and said, “I just had a bad dream, but I’ll be fine. What is it?”

 

“Sonar reports that they have acquired tonals at bearing three-two-three. Anna’s working on it, but she believes it’s a Whiskey.”

 

“A Whiskey?” The Krakozhian Navy didn’t operate Whiskey-class submarines anymore, at least, not to Kalinina’s knowledge.

 

“Yes, Captain. Why?”

 

“Are there any other friendly forces in the area?” Kalinina asked Tudenko.

 

“I think the K-287 is around here somewhere. The battleship Rivymiyitevko is also nearby.”

 

“Battleship?” Kalinina immediately ran towards the bridge which had become a hive of activity since sonar first reported the new contact.

 

Zampolit, I have the conn,” Tanya said, taking her place in the commander’s seat. The political officer, or zampolit, nodded at the captain and returned to her place behind the navigator.

 

“Conn, sonar, I have a positive identification on Number-1.” Number-1 was the callsign for this contact. “It’s definitely a Whiskey, Captain.”

 

“Do you have anything else, Anna?” asked Tanya.

 

“Wait a minute, Captain.” Captain-Lieutenant Anna Poverin checked the sonar’s waterfall display to confirm her readings. “Our bearing on Number-1 is now at three-two-seven, and the range is at 31,000 yards.”

 

Suddenly, the waterfall display stopped scrolling across the screen. Poverin typed in a few commands into the console, but the screen remained still. “Damn these computers!” she said. “Restart the system.”

 

The seaman—actually, a woman—sitting beside her reached for two switches on the panel above her, pulled them down, and then pressed a small black button beside her monitor. The display was momentarily reduced to static, and then the waterfall display returned, with a single solid band appearing where three fuzzy lines used to be.

 

If there was one drawback to Krakozhia’s Hotel-class subs, it would be the onboard computer. Its American-made processors were simply too fast for its Soviet-made motherboard to keep up with, which sometimes caused problems, especially in the heat of battle. Now, with its programs operating at their normal processing levels once again, the sonar computer passed on its data to the fire control, which quickly created a path for a torpedo to follow, if ever one was launched.

 

“Firing solution ready, Captain,” said Tudenko, acting as the fire control officer.

 

Now came Tanya’s dilemma. She had a good firing solution on the enemy Whiskey, but her current orders prevented her from firing weapons unless it was for self-defense. But she also had orders to protect Krakozhia’s assets in the area at all costs. Should she obey one order while disregarding the other? Or should she wait until a solution to the problem presents itself?”

 

Onboard the rebel Whiskey, the captain was concerned only about his mission: sink the Krakozhian battleship Rivymiyitevko. He was bringing his submarine closer to his target when the K-312 came, destroying all of his plans for a sneak attack. Nothing on earth could ever hope to hide the noise generated by the water flowing around his sub’s irregularly shaped sail. After weighing his options, the captain ordered a change in course and headed for the Krakozhian submarine, which he deemed posed a greater threat to him and his vessel.

 

“Conn, sonar, torpedo in the water!” said Poverin. “Type British Mark 8, bearing three-two-five.”

 

“All back full! Release countermeasures!” said Kalinina. The submarine groaned as its twin five-bladed screws pulled the two-thousand ton behemoth backwards. Many in the crew winced at the noise that the sub was making.

 

“Explosion on bearing three-three-zero, Captain,” said Poverin. “The Mark 8 self-destructed at 15,000 yards.”

 

“Range to Number-1?” asked Kalinina.

 

“30,000 yards. They must have moved in closer while we were in reverse, but we couldn’t hear him through our own noise.” It was the most plausible reason she could come up with. Sonar performance degraded the faster its platform went.

 

“Firing solution has been updated, Captain,” said Tudenko.

 

“Very well. Make tubes one and two ready, including opening the outer doors.”

 

“Make tubes one and two ready, including opening the outer doors, aye,” Tudenko repeated.

 

“Firing point procedures, Number-1—“

 

Suddenly, Poverin said, “Conn, sonar, we have twin explosions in the last known bearing of Number-1!”

 

“Sonar, conn, say again?”

 

“We have twin explosions in the last known bearing of Number-1, conn. I can also hear some breaking-up noises. I think Number-1 is dead.”

 

“I’ll say,” muttered the seaman beside Poverin.

 

“Any information as to who fired the shots that killed Number-1?”

 

“Nothing yet, Captain, but I have tonals on bearing two-seven-zero, sounds like twin five-bladed screws making turns for twelve knots. I’m getting the plant noise; I hope it can help me identify the contact—“

 

“What is it, Anna?” asked Kalinina.

 

“I can’t believe it! It’s K-287, Captain! They were the ones who killed the Whiskey!”

 

The K-287, commanded by Captain Gennady Poryk, was the first nuclear submarine to fire a shot in combat since the HMS Conqueror during the Falklands War. The torpedoes fired by the K-287 were only the first and second of three thousand torpedoes expended throughout the conflict.

 

Over Renechev, Rivymiyitevko

0850 Rivymiyitevko time (0450 Krakozhian time)

 

“Begorod Six, this is Colt Two, and we are passing over the target now.”

 

“Begorod Six copies, Colt Two. You are cleared for your mission.”

 

“Colt Two copies. Out.”

 

Colt Two was an Antonov An-2 biplane, and an old one at that, with almost fifty years of service in various air forces. It had been converted into a reconnaissance aircraft, and had a bulky Soviet-era computer connected to five cameras dating back from the eighties mounted on the belly of the aircraft. The computer made analog copies of the film, as well as sending it over to the Krakozhian command center in Yerotsk via Begorod Six, a Beriev A-50 airborne warning and control system (AWACS) aircraft. Because of the computer’s size, there was little in the way of extra fuel, and the Antonov was already stretching its limits with this trip.

 

The pilot turned around to face the technician, who was bent over the computer doing something to its innards. “Our mission has been approved,” he said. “Turn it on.”

 

“Roger,” replied the technician, pushing a red button on the machine’s front panel. The computer began to hum, the hard drive began to whir, and lights on the panel began to turn on. “Units one to five are running normally,” said the technician, “and data transfer is at 16,400 bits per second.” He gave the machine a friendly pat and then headed for the cockpit. “How long should I keep it running?” he asked.

 

“Until I tell you to shut it down,” replied the pilot. “This is just a thirty-second run, and it will be over soon.”

 

“Colt Two, this is Begorod Six,” said the communications officer onboard the Beriev. “We are receiving your take, and it is good.”

 

“Good to know, Begorod Six,” replied the pilot.

 

“That’s it for me, I guess,” said the technician. “Shout when the run’s over.”

 

The technician felt that he had barely settled into his seat when the pilot said, “You can turn it off now, Vanka, the run’s finished. You may also want to use your safety harness.” After securing himself to his seat, he threw a small metal switch on the computer’s side, and he watched as five small lights went out. “Units one to five have been safed,” he said.

 

The pilot brought the Antonov to a gentle left bank, which brought the plane back on its original flight path. The technician rewound the magnetic tape which held the photographic data of the Renechev coast and placed it in a waterproof box. It was standard operating procedure for all manned reconnaissance aircraft, in case they were shot down and the data had not yet reached its destination.

 

An incidental look out of the window made the technician notice a thin white trail of smoke steaming across the sky. The fact that it was getting nearer convinced him that it was only one thing. “Pilot?” he asked. “Are you receiving a threat warning on your system?”

 

“No,” the pilot replied, “but it’s an old system. Maybe it doesn’t recognize the seeker—“

 

The explosion from the British-made Rapier surface-to-air missile destroyed the Antonov’s rudder. The explosive warhead pierced the fuel tank, sending red-hot fragments through the volatile aviation fuel. The combustion of almost a ton of the fuel created a huge fireball, and the shockwave was felt as far away as Sonolovichyrevko, almost twenty kilometers away from the explosion. The pilot was dead before he could finish his sentence.

 

“Pilot? The feed from Colt Two stopped.”

 

The pilot of Begorod Six turned around and found a fireball where the Antonov once was. “Radio,” he ordered, “get Colt Two on the line, immediately.”

 

“Colt Two, this is Begorod Six, please respond.” The communications officer repeated the message twice, but no one replied to all three. “Navigator,” he said, “do you see anything on the radar?”

 

“Negative, Radio. It’s like they disappeared from the face of the earth.”

 

“Comrades, I’m picking up multiple search radars,” said the defensive systems officer. “They look like British Rapiers and Soviet Ganefs.” Although the Soviets had their own designations for their weapons, the Krakozhians preferred to use the NATO designations because of its ease of use.

 

“One of those probably got Colt Two,” said the pilot. “Reconnaissance, how much data do you have?”

 

“Thirty-three and a half photographs, comrade. It should be more than enough to update our strategists’ landing plans.”

 

“That settles it then, comrades,” said the pilot. “Our mission is over, and it is time that we return home. DSO, turn off all of our jamming systems, and navigator, shut down our radars.”

 

“Is it wise, Captain?” asked the navigator. “It looks like we have some rainsqualls ahead of us.”

 

“Yes, shut off the nose Doppler. The rebels could use it to track us down and shoot.”

 

Had the pilot decided to change course five minutes later, the Beriev A-50 would have been shot down, becoming the second Krakozhian aircraft destroyed since the Civil War. The crew of the downed Antonov would be awarded the Hero of the Republic of Krakozhia posthumously, and they would be glorified into socialist figureheads who died fighting for their Republic.

 

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