Liberators
Author: Godfrey Raphael

Chapter 8
Sneaking In

Chapter Eight: Sneaking In

 

Aboard the submarine K-312

Somewhere in the Kara Sea

October 5, 2008 0320 Rivymiyitevko time (October 4, 2008 2320 Krakozhian time)

 

"Although it does not meet all of the expectations it has been given, the KL-135 reactor core is a success and therefore should be recommended for use in all of our fleet's nuclear-powered ships." Captain Tanya Kalinina read the sentence again before finally saving it into her laptop. It was part of a performance report on the new reactor core that her submarine was using—luckily, it was installed before Krakozhia declared war on Rivymiyitevko, therefore they had time to break it in before actually using it in a combat situation. Using a unique mixture of uranium and plutonium, the K-312's two nuclear reactors were now capable of producing 26,000 horsepower each, equivalent to 2.6 megawatts, enough to power a large city for six hours. The result was that the submarine now had a top speed of thirty-eight knots, a vast improvement from the thirty-five knots that the old DZ-80 core used to provide. And for a behemoth like the K-312, speed was somewhat of an essential.

 

She, along with her sister sub the K-287, was escorting the fleet oiler Ivan Igorovsky to the safety of Yerotsk Bay. Although a transit at such an early hour would cover her from the threat of anti-shipping missiles, nothing could protect the Igorovsky from any hidden submarines with a decent sonar outfit except another submarine with better sonar. They were travelling at a leisurely ten knots, the Igorovsky's top speed fully laden with supplies and fuel for the Krakozhian Navy. Easily the biggest consumers were the Project 1010 battleships, with their 58,000 ton weight and top speed of thirty-two knots.

 

The cabin telephone rang, its low warbling tone shaking Kalinina from her thoughts. Shutting down her computer, she reached for the telephone and said, "This is the captain."

 

"Captain, sonar wants you to come down and check something out. Don't ask me; Anna didn't tell me anything," Natalya Tudenko quickly added.

 

"Fine. I'm coming over." Kalinina hung up and went to the sonar room. There, she found Captain Lieutenant Anna Poverin at work on her console and being helped by her assistant, a seaman. "What is it?"

 

"Oh, Captain!" Poverin turned around and removed her earphones. "Well, something came up on the sonar." She pointed at the waterfall display on the screen. "The Igorovsky is on bearing one-eight-oh, and K-287's over on bearing one-five-six. The contact on bearing two-eight-nine came ten to fifteen minutes ago. We're getting only tonals so far, and I'm still going through it."

 

"Range?"

 

"50,000 yards, Captain. A rain squall just erased the convergence layers." Suddenly, Poverin raised her hand. "I have it! Contact on bearing two-eight-nine is a probable Romeo-class submarine, with a single five-bladed screw making turns for ten knots. Should I assign it a Number designation?"

 

"Fine. I'll be in the conn." Kalinina took a few more steps before reaching the conn, located just in front of the sonar room. "Captain has the conn," she said as soon as she stepped in.

 

"Aye, Captain has the conn."

 

"Sonar, conn, report when range to Number-16 closes to 30,000 yards." Number-16 was the designation of the Romeo.

 

"Aye, conn."

 

"Helmsman, turn to bearing two-eight-nine and maintain course. We don't want to shoot at our own ships." The deck shuddered as the helmsman made the course change, the submarine churning through the unyielding water.

 

"Fire control, how's the solution coming?"

 

"We have a solution, Captain," replied the fire control officer. "We just need them to get closer."

 

The good news was that they didn't have to wait for the enemy to fire at them before they could fire back. Since Krakozhia and Rivymiyitevko were now officially at war, submarines were now free to fire at will. Had it been different, it could have meant the loss of a vital fleet oiler against a clunky old diesel-powered submarine. It hardly seemed fair, did it?

 

"Conn, sonar, Number-16 is at 30,000 yards and closing," Poverin reported from the sonar room.

 

"Open the outer doors for tubes one and two. Fire control, how's the solution?"

 

"Solution updated, Captain."

 

"Firing point procedures, tubes one and two on Number-16." Five minutes later, the Captain said, "Match bearings and shoot, tubes one and two!"

 

"Tubes one and two fired electrically. Units are running hot, straight, and normal."

 

The TEST-99 torpedo, a product of the Gudin Design Bureau, the main producer of weapons for the Krakozhian Armed Forces, was a weapon of the twenty-first century. With eight hundred pounds of a top-secret explosive known only as ZhP-036 for a warhead, it was a versatile weapon, one that could take a submarine or a surface ship out of action—permanently. It could even disable a battleship or a Typhoon-class submarine long enough to retreat and rearm. It also pleased some of the older submarine captains that still preferred the thrill of launching torpedoes over the Gudin Gu-1M, the encapsulated submarine-launched version of the Starscream anti-shipping missile. A Hotel-class submarine like the K-312 could carry as much as twenty of these torpedoes.

 

"Torpedoes have acquired, Captain," said Poverin.

 

"Cut the wires, close the outer doors, and reload," Kalinina told the weapons officer.

 

"Conn, sonar, I'm hearing heavy cavitation noises from Number-16. I can also hear noisemakers in the water." The submarine's efforts were valiant but futile. The Romeo could go thirteen knots on a good day. The TEST-99 could three times as much without even trying. And it was not a good day for the Romeo. The enemy submarine was steadily bombarded by the torpedoes' active sonar as they got closer for the kill.

 

"Conn, sonar, two explosions on bearing two-seven-five. I can also hear breaking-up noises." The first torpedo exploded underneath the sail of the submarine, while the second detonated just behind the screw, peeling off the aft end of the Romeo. All hands were lost.

 

The conn was not as noisy as it had it been when they had achieved their first kill. Her crew had grown more disciplined throughout the first weeks of the conflict—she still couldn't think of it as a war—and for that, Tanya was proud. She may be able to turn them into a well-oiled machine after all.

 

"Conn, sonar, contact on bearing one-nine-nine!" shouted Poverin. "It's a German Type 206-class submarine. He must have been playing dead in the water because we didn't detect him earlier. Whoever that submarine captain is, he's a smart guy," she told her assistant.

 

The atmosphere in the conn, which had already began to relax, was tense once again as the news of another enemy submarine in the area reached them. "Sonar, conn, range to contact?" asked Kalinina.

 

"36,000 yards, Captain," replied Poverin. The Type 206 was labeled Number-17.

 

"Fire control, firing point procedures, tubes seven and eight on Number-17. Open the outer doors, match bearings, and shoot!"

 

Torpedo tubes seven and eight were located in the aftmost compartment of the K-312. Because of space limitations, only four torpedoes could be loaded into the aft torpedo room, if one didn't count the two already inside the tubes. And it couldn't be the bulky TEST-99 torpedoes designed for the 533-millimeter tubes in the forward torpedo room. The torpedoes in the aft compartment were the smaller KhKh-94, which could fit into the 460-millimeter tubes there. Made by the Khabarov and Kholoi Design Bureau, it was developed both for the Navy's reserve diesel submarines, as well as the aft tubes of the active boats. And for behemoths like the K-312, which couldn't exactly turn on a dime, aft torpedoes could be a benefit.

"Torpedoes cleared and left their tubes, Captain," replied the aft torpedo room commander.

 "Very well, Olga," replied Kalinina. "Shut the outer doors and reload."

 

Unlike the TEST-99, the KhKh-94 torpedo was armed with only two hundred pounds of common plastic explosives. However, it did leave a little more room for fuel, particularly for the carbon pellets which were the main component of the PBK-5 formula, the staple fuel of every Krakozhian-made weapon. Because of the KhKh-94's smaller design and lighter weight, the two torpedoes went faster than the TEST-99 could have—they were travelling at sixty knots each already—and they completed the transit between the K-312 and the rebel submarine in an astonishing five seconds. The enemy crew never heard what was coming until it was too late.

 

"Conn, sonar, two explosions on bearing two-oh-five," said Poverin. "It's dead, Captain." It was acknowledged by a click on the telephone.

 

"I don't think I'll be able to sleep, Lieutenant, what with all that adrenaline in my body," said Poverin's assistant as she removed her earphones.

 

"You'll get used to it, Seaman," she assured her. "Trust me, I know."

 

Rivymiyitevko Cosmodrome

0647 Rivymiyitevko time (0247 Krakozhian time)

 

"Lazlo, Anatoly, a word with you two, please."

 

The two Rivymiyitevko sergeants walked towards Major Deranka, who waved them into a small room. The two were a little hesitant, because they had come to like the Krakozhians, and they couldn't stomach the thought that they would have to betray them to Konstantin Benin after they had so callously rejected his rule.

 

"I hope you're not thinking of turning over the Communists, Major," said Lazlo Kumshyk. He was dragged into the Rivymiyitevko Independence Movement by his older brother, who truly believed that Konstantin Benin was the way forward. He was an ardent Democratic bastard, Lazlo's brother, and when he was killed during the Battle of Balukin Prospect, Kumshyk thought of it as good riddance.

 

"Nothing of the sort, Segeants," Deranka quickly replied. "Why would I stab Krakozhia in the back like that? What made you think of such a thing?"

 

"I wanted to make sure, Major," replied Kumshyk.

 

"I already swore an oath to the gods that I will never betray the Krakozhians. And I have promised Mirakunin the Guide that I will help them in any way that I can." Mirakunin was the messenger of the gods in Krav legend, and he was also the Overseer of the Vow, whose job was to make sure that all promises, vows, and oaths were kept. It was said that he gave birth to the Deranka bloodline when he once came down from the heavens, therefore making Vladislav a descendant of the gods. In the old days of the Empire, he would have been a member of the nobility at the least, but today he was nothing but fodder to hold back the Krakozhians. Not this time, he thought. "Now, our Krakozhian comrades have asked for our help in reconnoitering the Rivymiyitevko Air Force Base. Can I count on your help?"

 

"I'm all for it, Major," replied Anatoly Tufuny. "It's time we returned to the communist fold." Unlike Kumshyk, Tufuny had voluntarily joined the Rivymiyitevko Independence Movement but he was soon sickened by Benin's debauchery. He had a young daughter to take care of, and he wanted to raise her in a place where she had a real future ahead of her. As soon as the war was over, he would have himself repatriated and move to the Krakozhian mainland.

 

"I'm with Anatoly, Major," replied Kumshyk.

 

"It's agreed, then," said Deranka. "Prepare yourselves. You'll be leaving in a few hours."

 

"Gavrina and Vyacheslav will be the ones to stake out the airfield," said Captain Kutuzov. "Comrade Klimov, because he can plot every kind of battle we might get in there, and Comrade Kumilyova because she will be the one to tell our captured comrades of Krakozhia's return." He pointed to a picture of a man wearing the old uniform of the Krakozhian Army. "This is Major Vladimir Petrovich Malenkov, whom sources say is leading our more resilient comrades in this prison camp the rebels have built inside the airfield. He is the man whom we must talk to if our plan is to succeed. He is the key for controlling Rivymiyitevko. Are there any questions, comrades? None? Good. We will move out in a few hours."

 

Rivymiyitevko Air Force Base

0900 Rivymiyitevko time (0500 Krakozhian time)

 

Major Malenkov woke up at nine in the morning, as he always had for almost six years. It was a routine he never broke, and for that Captain Ashchenko was astonished. They spent the next two hours pushing carts full of tools for the RIM mechanics. But, with more personnel being moved to Rivymiyitevko for what they called the "final defense," he found himself doing maintenance for their Q-5s, always under the watchful eye of a single armed guard. It was a good move, for who would trust an enemy prisoner with a very important piece of equipment? But they need not have bothered, Malenkov thought, because he knew next to nothing about the Q-5.

 

Malenkov was finally allowed to leave at eleven o'clock. As he was being escorted back to the camp, the Major watched as five trucks full of troops stopped in front of the administration complex. He estimated it as a full infantry regiment. The unit patches on their sleeves were also different from those worn by regular RIM troops. The new arrivals had a black bear with a raised paw on their sleeves, which could only mean one thing: they were the Democratic Revolution Corps.

 

Malenkov ran towards the fence separating the prison from the rest of the airbase. Beyond it stood the commander of the Rivymiyitevko Central Military District, General Ivan Penin, who was talking to his deputy, Colonel Igor Sazanin. Beside them stood another man, and judging by his uniform, he was the commander of the Corps detachment.

 

"What's going on here?" he shouted, rattling the fence at the same time. Sazanin excused himself from the two and walked towards Malenkov. "What in blazes are you doing, Major?" the Rivymiyitevko colonel said through gritted teeth.

 

"What are the Democratic Revolution Corps doing here? They can't be up to any good."

 

"President Benin has kindly turned over a whole regiment from the Corps over to General Penin," said Sazanin. "He feels that the Central Military District is in immediate danger now that the Krakozhians have complete control of the Renechev District."

 

"So it is the Krakozhians!" Malenkov threw his fist at the fence. "All of those rumors I've been hearing in the camp were true. Tell me, when will Amazenkov withdraw again?"

 

"Mikhail Amazenkov is dead, Major Malenkov. He died four years ago, a wreck of what was once a general officer."

 

"Wait. How did you know that?"

 

Sazanin stopped pacing and faced Malenkov through the fence. "That is none of your business anymore, Malenkov. We may talk to each other, but that is because my superiors have no patience to talk to you Communists. I doubt that you will invite me to your child's birthday party, because I know I wouldn't."

 

Malenkov leaned closer to Sazanin, stared back at the man's eyes and said, "If you talk about my children again, I will kill you."

 

But instead of being terrified, Sazanin only sneered. "Do it, Major. Nothing except these chains holds you back."

 

Malenkov seethed, but across the fence, just beyond Sazanin, was one of the fiercest military units in the land. If he ever got out, a hundred rebel guns would open fire on him before he got beyond his first step, and everything he worked hard for would be for nothing.

 

"What did he do now, Volodya?" asked Ashchenko, watching Sazanin return to the administrative compound. "I've told you before; nothing scares that man. I'm willing to bet that if that man met a basilisk, it's the basilisk that would turn into stone.

 

"Have you ever experienced you family being threatened, Yuri?" Malenkov asked in a voice low yet full of anger. Ashchenko shook his head. "Of course. You don't even have a family, Yuri."

 

"That's where you're wrong, Comrade Major," replied Ashchenko. "You were my family. The entire air wing was my family. Why do you think I didn't leave your side when I had the chance? Why do you think I'm willing to spend six years stuck with you, the girl, and the kids? Come on, Volodya, why don't we talk about it over a bottle of Stolichnaya? Be and Mehmet just brought back a case from the tunnel."

 

1215 Rivymiyitevko time (0815 Krakozhian time)

 

The Ural-4320 truck that made its way down the road that led to the airbase stopped before the guardpost as directed. As the guards began a manual inspection of the vehicle, the commander stepped out of the booth and walked towards the driver He held up his hand with his palm facing upward, the universal sign of asking for papers.

 

"How are you doing, Ivan?" asked Lazlo Kumshyk, handing over orders written and signed by Major Vladislav Deranka.

 

"Oh, I'm doing fine, Lazlo. My wife just wrote to me and she said that she was carrying our third child."

 

"It must have been a busy night before you left, eh, Ivan? I see you're in the Corps now." Kumshyk pointed at the bear on Ivan's sleeve. "I was wondering when you guys will show up here. Is there a detachment for the Cosmodrome?"

 

"That's the thing, Lazlo. Communications became so screwed up that Sonolovichyrevko can't reach you guys anymore."

 

"No need to worry about us, Ivan. We can hear Sonolovichyrevko quite clearly, but we can't talk back to them. I hope you can spare us some personnel to fix our lines."

 

"Ah, that we cannot do, Lazlo; I'm sorry. By the way, is there anything you want to declare?"

 

"All I have back there are supplies, medicines, a few periodicals, and two rookies. It looks like we're about to face a long conflict."

 

"I think it will be long, all right. By the way," Ivan lowered his voice so that only Lazlo could hear, "sometimes I hope that I can just throw down my rifle, walk to the Krakozhian frontline and surrender. I think all that Benin's concerned of right now is himself, but I have three mouths to feed besides myself, and now I have a fourth one to take care of."

 

"Sometimes, Ivan, I wish I could do that too. Sometimes."

 

"Thank you, Lazlo, you are a true friend." Then, in a louder voice, he said, "Let them pass."

 

As the truck rumbled through the gate, Kumilyova, who had been sitting in the back, said, "Can you believe the security in this place? They didn't even look at us!"

 

"On a lighter note," replied Klimov, "that gate is a potential chokepoint for this base. If there were any vehicles here, and all of its cargo aircraft were in other places, they risk being ambushed just by using that gate."

 

"We're here, guys," said Anatoly Tufuny from the driver's cab up front. "Now, if you could help us unload those crates…"

 

The four proceeded to remove the crates from the back of the truck and placing them in a loading dock. Klimov looked bored doing this duty, but underneath his placid face, Kumilyova knew, he was taking in every detail of the camp, setting up firing lanes and trying to predict where the enemy would be and where they would go—

 

"Shit," muttered Klimov.

 

"Huh? What is it?"

 

"Do you see those guys with a black bear with a raised paw on their sleeves? They're the Democratic Revolution Corps, supposedly the most dedicated soldiers in Rivymiyitevko, and they're under the personal command of Konstantin Benin and Ekaterina Domshomidova. This is a bad sign, Gavrina. Do you think they're onto us?"

 

"That's impossible," replied Kumilyova. "Captain Kutuzov always had one of us watching over the communicators, and we never let anyone in or out of the Cosmodrome. The Democratic Corps being here must be a coincidence."

 

"Will you two pick up the pace?" said Kumshyk. We're already bringing out the periodicals, and you're still carrying that crate of shells. Ah, here comes help now."

 

A tall, lanky kid was walking towards them. He was wearing the old uniform of the Krakozhian Army, and he didn't look much older than either Kumilyova or Klimov. There were three phalluses on his sleeves, and below that, the seal of the Rivymiyitevko Provincial Militia. "Privyet," he said, flashing a toothy smile. "I am Sergeant Marko Zhuzhev of the 995th Air Wing of the Rivymiyitevko Air Militia. Will you need any help?"

 

"No, thanks," said Klimov, placing his crate on top of the one Kumshyk had just laid down. "We can handle ourselves."

 

"How about you, miss?" asked Zhuzhev. "Is there anything I can do for you?"

 

"No, I'm fine," said Kumilyova. But as she headed back for the truck, she could still see that Zhuzhev was following her. "Excuse me, but may I ask you what are you doing here?"

 

"Oh, nothing. I just wanted to ask you: are you a Krakozhian?"

 

"That question stopped Kumilyova in her tracks, but she quickly recovered and said, "What's it to you?"

 

Zhuzhev took note of the pause and then he leaned closer to Gavrina. "You partner is not as arrogant as those capitalist pigs," he said. "If I had asked the question I asked you and your partner to those people, I would have been handed a ton of work. Your partner didn't do that, but he looks like he's in a bad mood, doesn't he?"

 

"That's because you disturbed him from his to attack the base." The words were out of her mouth faster than she could stop herself. Beside her, Zhuzhev now had a wild gleam in his eyes. Kumilyova thought about taking her Tokarev and shooting the young bastard, but then she remembered her mission, and she decided to ask him a question. "Where is Major Malenkov?"

 

Zhuzhev's eyes suddenly widened in shock, and a small part of Kumilyova felt happy seeing it. He retreated for a few seconds before finally running away. For a second, she thought that he was running towards one of the Rivymiyitevko soldiers, but then the sergeant went into the prison camp. Kumilyova shrugged, placed the crate she was holding onto the loading dock and turned around, only to find her way blocked by a heavyset man. Few things could shock her, but the man's sudden appearance was simply too much.

 

"I am Major Malenkov," he said in a deep baritone. "I hear that you are looking for me."

 

Kumilyova took a moment to regain her composure before she spoke. "How can I be sure that you are the real Major Malenkov?"

 

"Ask me a question that only the real Major Malenkov would know the answer to," he said in reply.

 

"If only you knew the answer, then how can I ask you that question?"

 

Malenkov laughed in amazement. "Yes, that is true. I am Aviation Major Vladimir Petrovich Malenkov of the Rivymiyitevko Air Militia. You are…?"

 

"Vasilina Petrenko." Although he had passed her identification test, Kumilyova was still hesitant to tell him her real name, and therefore he gave him one from a regrettable part of her past.

 

"So, Ms. Petrenko, may I assume that you are a Krakozhian?" And although Kumilyova had passed Malenkov's test, he was not yet ready to divulge his plans to her yet.

 

"So what if I am? Are you going to run off and report me?"

 

"That is where you are sorely mistaken, Ms. Petrenko. You see, I am a dedicated communist, and I would never do anything to hinder the nation's progress. All I can say is that I am taking the necessary steps to help. Let me tell you something," said Malenkov, leaning closer to Kumilyova. "Benin's forces are desperate. His soldiers would as soon as surrender to Krakozhia as defend Rivymiyitevko to the last drop of their blood. But to me, the only good Democrat is a dead Democrat."

 

"I just wanted to tell you that help is coming, Comrade Major," said Kumilyova.

 

"Why don't you let me and my men hasten the process? There are only two ways for this place to fall into Krakozhian hands: with us commanding the base or with our dead bodies littering the place."

 

"So, have you seen Major Malenkov?" asked Klimov. They were back inside the truck, now headed back for the Rivymiyitevko Cosmodrome. "Did you pass on the message?"

 

"Of course," replied Kumilyova. "But I think he's planning something in his head, something that must go way back."

 

"While you're on the subject, Gavrina, the presence of the Democratic Revolution Corps worries me. You better be sure that Major Malenkov was something planned in his mind, because if he doesn't, a ten-man squad wouldn't be enough to hold back a full regiment of democratic zealots for long."

 

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