Liberators
Author: Godfrey Raphael

Chapter 13
Task Force Oscar

Chapter Thirteen: Task Force Oscar

 

Aboard the submarine K-331

Somewhere in the Barents Sea

October 8, 2008 0005 local time (October 7, 2008 2105 Krakozhian time)

 

Despite the apparent success of the Krakozhian submarine flotilla, it was a little known fact that there were only five submarines operating in the theater. The small size of Yerotsk Port simply couldn't accommodate more than that number, and the engineers rebuilding Renechev Port had only managed to clear one pier for use by naval units. Images of the ports full of ships were merely propaganda to boost morale in friendly forces and strike fear in the hearts of their enemies. But all that was about to change, albeit just a little.

 

The Krakozhian Navy had commissioned a new submarine, the K-331, just a few months before the declaration of war against Rivymiyitevko. It was a French Rubis-class submarine, built in the Cherbourg shipyards and modified for use with the Krakozhian Navy with the help of ATMASH and DAPMASH personnel. With a complement of eight officers and fifty-seven crew members, it was one of the smallest nuclear submarines in existence, and it was about to make its presence known in the Kara Sea theater.

 

Captain First Rank Genrikh Nikolayevich Amenkov was one of the youngest skippers in the fleet, second only to the likes of Gennady Poryk, Tanya Kalinina, and Fyodor Sheshenko. At thirty-one years of age, he was a highly decorated officer, serving with distinction in the fabled river battles of the Great War of the Republic. The irony was that he didn't intend to become a sailor in the first place; he had wanted to become a tank driver when he was young. The K-331 was his first command; he had received his promotion only a few months before.

 

The K-331 was currently somewhere off the coast of the Arkhangelsk Peninsula, near the Russian port of Murmansk. Genrikh couldn't wait to get back in action, because the K-331 couldn't fire at an enemy submarine until its existence had been officially confirmed by Admiral Vasily Domovich. He knew the logic behind the decision, but deep down, he wanted to do some damage and scare the enemy out of his pants.

 

"Captain, sonar, I report two sonar contacts near our starboard baffles," said the sonar supervisor. "Their range is about 70,000 yards."

 

"Anything on their bearings?" asked Amenkov.

 

"The contacts are intermittent, but when I pick them up clearly, they both appear on bearing 060."

 

Relative to the submarine, bearing 060 was directly in line with Murmansk, which meant that those contacts came from there. Although it had declared itself neutral in the Rivymiyitevko invasion, Russia would not hesitate to report a sighting—more properly, a sonar recording—of a French submarine in an active theater. Of course, being neutral in this conflict too, the French would deny its navy's involvement in Rivymiyitevko, but they would drop hints of a submarine sale to Krakozhia. And that was the end of Adzhitekova and Domovich's deniability.

 

"Keep an eye on those contacts," Amenkov ordered. "If they find us, our mission is compromised."

 

After a few hours, the sonar supervisor said, "The two contacts have moved to within thirty thousand yards, Captain. I believe that they are Oscar-class submarines. Should I label them Number-19 and Number-20?"

 

"Aye." Oscars were a bad sign, thought Genrikh. If, by some unknown twist of fate, the Russian government allied themselves with Rivymiyitevko and sent these monstrous guided missile submarines to help the small rebel state, the Krakozhian Navy would have no chance. But if he sunk those subs, he could provoke an international incident, since there was no proof—yet—that Russia had sold those subs to Rivymiyitevko. It was a case of damned if you do, damned if you don't, and he didn't like it one bit.

 

"Captain, I am receiving a message to come to periscope depth," said the communications officer. That usually meant very important message traffic, but if they tried to ascend to periscope depth, they stood the risk of being heard by the Oscars. Genrikh's only hope was that the enemy's sonar was not as advanced as his. "Come to periscope depth," he ordered.

 

When the K-331 reached sixty feet—periscope depth—Genrikh ordered the communications mast to be raised. A few minutes later, the communications officer ran to the bridge and handed him a sheet of paper. It read:

 

TO: KRAKOZHIAN SUBMARINE K-331

FROM: COMMANDER, SUBMARINE FORCE

 

1. KGB AGENTS REPORT REBELS HAVE PURCHASED TWO OSCAR CLASS SSGNS FROM RUSSIA. SUBS HAVE DEPLOYED FROM MURMANSK.

 

2. FOLLOW SUBS BUT DO NOT REPEAT DO NOT ATTACK.

 

3. TRANSFER ALL DATA TO SUBMARINE TENDER ROKOSSOVSKY UPON ARRIVAL TO YEROTSK.

 

4. ADMIRAL D. N. KALININ SENDS.

 

ENDS.

 

The message didn't help Genrikh one bit. If the Rivymiyitevko Independence Movement had bought and crewed those subs, then the odds had been turned overwhelmingly against him. It wasn't fair, actually. Krakozhia had tried to purchase Oscars from the Russians as part of a financial aid package, but the admirals had refused. Instead, they agreed to sell two Delta-IV-class SSBNs and an India-class rescue submarine for a reduced but still substantial price. If only the negotiators had known that Konstantin Benin had paid said admirals five billion dollars to keep the deal from becoming true, they would have countered with a decidedly bigger price.

 

"Slow down to three knots," ordered Amenkov. "Let those contacts pass us, and then we'll trail them."

 

"Aye, captain," replied the executive officer.

 

Outside Sonolovichyrevko Bay

October 9, 2008 2255 Rivymiyitevko time (1855 Krakozhian time)

 

"Captain, Numbers-19 and -20 are turning to bearing 278," said the sonar supervisor.

 

Amenkov nodded in reply. It had been two days since they began following the rebel Oscars, but for the crew it felt like a millennium. At a more conventional speed of twenty knots, they would have been in Yerotsk a day ago, but since the Oscars were travelling at a slower twelve knots, they had to slow down to keep track of them.

 

"Wait, sonar, can you say the bearing again?" asked Amenkov.

 

"Bearing 278, Captain."

 

"What's the nearest landmass on that bearing?"

 

"Landfall on bearing 278 will be at Babayev Prospect Port in Sonolovichyrevko, Rivymiyitevko."

 

Shit, thought Amenkov. Babayev Prospect Port was the headquarters of the Rivymiyitevko Naval Militia, the Krakozhian Navy's principal adversary in the Kara Sea theater. If the world wanted proof that these two Oscars were now under rebel control, this was it. But the world didn't work like that; it wanted really real proof, and there was only one way to get that.

 

"Set a course for bearing 278," he ordered. The sub shook as the water fought the submarine's turn. After a few minutes, the K-331 was on its way to the belly of the beast that was Rivymiyitevko. Closer and closer the Rubis went into enemy waters, and Amenkov had the engines going at a now-hazardous fifteen knots. This chase went on for a few minutes before the crew noticed that maybe they had pushed their luck a little too far.

 

"Captain, I have an active sonar on bearing 085 at 23,000 yards," said the sonar supervisor. "The source appears to be a Chinese Hainan-class submarine chaser, making turns for thirty knots."

 

"Rig ship for silent running," Amenkov ordered.

 

"Rig ship for silent running, aye," replied the executive officer. Meanwhile, the Hainan was labeled Number-22. The crew waited with bated breath as the Hainan's active sonar got closer and closer to their submarine until finally, the Hainan was right over them. Genrikh winced as a sonar ping bounced off the sub. Turning to the sonar supervisor, he asked, "Is the Hainan slowing down?"

 

"No, Captain," he replied. "It's still going at thirty knots."

 

"Any chance of the Oscars detecting us?"

 

"There's a very slim chance of detection, Captain, but we're right at the intersection of their respective baffles. We got lucky on that one."

 

Lucky they may be, but it was still too close for comfort. Amenkov said, "We can't risk such contacts anymore. Once we get to Babayev Prospect, we'll take those pictures as fast as possible and get out of there."

 

Outside Yerotsk

October 10, 2008 0845 Rivymiyitevko time (0445 Krakozhian time)

 

"Captain, we're approaching the Rokossovsky's position."

 

"Aye," said Amenkov. "Raise periscope."

 

Looking through the periscope, Amenkov was surprised to see a freighter where a submarine tender was supposed to be. "Sonar, are you sure that the contact is the Rokossovsky?" he asked.

 

"Absolutely, Captain. I can recognize its engine noise anytime."

 

Amenkov looked into the periscope again. Instead of a submarine tender, there was only a Finnish-flagged freighter named Vidkun Quisling there. Was he supposed to trust his boat with a foreign ship bearing the name of a fascist collaborator? Suddenly, a flash of light caught his eye. Turning the periscope, he observed a series of flashes that he soon understood to be Morse code.

 

SUBMARINE K-331, SUBMARINE K-331, PLEASE SURFACE IMMEDIATELY.

 

Screw it, he thought. "Diving officer, take us up," he ordered.

 

The Rubis rose from the water and parked next to the freighter with precision. Amenkov was the first one out. Opening both hatches that led to the conning tower, he continued towards the ladder that hung on the side of the ship and climbed his way to the bridge. There, to his surprise, he found Admiral of the Fleet Vasily Vasilyevich Domovich, commander of the Krakozhian Navy. "I'm glad you finally found us, Captain," he said.

 

"Yes, Admiral," replied Amenkov. "This new tender of yours fooled me."

 

"Oh, there's nothing new about this tender. This is still the Rokossovsky that we knew and loved. The only thing that's changed is her appearance. Do you remember the Danish freighter that was seized by Somali pirates back in 2007?"

 

"Yes, sir. Her name was the Ole Kirk Christiansen, da? And a Russian Spetsnaz team from the Pyotr Velikiy took back that vessel?"

 

"All of those questions are correct, Comrade Captain. And that ship that we are talking about is the one in which we are standing right now."

 

"Amazing!"

 

"I know, Captain. We took the concept of the armed merchantman developed by the British back in the First World War and applied it to some of our auxiliary ships. The Rokossovsky is the first of those new warships."

 

It made sense, to Amenkov at least. Submarine tenders, and all of the other types of auxiliary ships, were the backbone of any navy. The loss of even a single tender could cripple a sizable portion of the fleet. But nobody had thought of arming them with anything more than a five-pounder gun until today.

 

"By the way, I presume you're looking for Admiral Kalinin," said Domovich. "Unfortunately, he couldn't come because of administrative difficulties within his staff. But before he took care of his problem, he asked me if I could kindly take over command of the mission about Oscar-class submarines. So, let's have it."

 

Amenkov launched into a detailed explanation of his encounters with the Oscars, from first contact near Murmansk to their close call with the rebel Hainan near Sonolovichyrevko. Domovich stood silent throughout the report and then said, "It seems that the rumors about Konstantin Afanasiyevich are true. He has struck a deal with our Russian comrades."

 

"Yes, Admiral, it looks like they did," replied Amenkov.

 

Domovich took a deep breath. "What have you gotten yourself into, Vasily?" he muttered to himself. Then, to Amenkov, he said, "These Oscars are a proven threat to Krakozhian activity in the area. I want them either berthed in Yerotsk flying the Krakozhian flag or sitting on the bottom of the Kara Sea. I'm taking you off your primary mission of sinking rebel shipping and giving you this one. I also give you free rein with naval assets. I'll have a letter sent to you that you can show to our sailor comrades if ever they don't understand my orders to you."

 

"Yes, Comrade Admiral."

 

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