Story 8 - Shadow in the Night.
Ross put the receiver down and shook his head, but he didn't hang up. He slammed his fist on the desk, angrily. "That idiot is getting himself killed," he said bluntly. "The Coast Guard is on its way. What the hell does he think he can do with a Coast Guard cutter? Jack's way out of his league, messing with nuclear subs."
The second unloading operation proceeded much better than the first, and at a more hectic pace. The weather had become worse and by the looks of it there was more to come.
"Those guys are insane," commented Ross, "look at the waves and the spray whipped up by the gust."
It was quite a show. It was a miracle the sailors weren't blown off the deck of the sub. How they managed to guide a heavy piece of cargo out of the hole and transfer the hoisting hooks in mid air in a storm like that, was unbelievable, but they did it.
Ross reached for the phone. "Listen, here comes the third crate now. It is coming from the second sub. What do you think is going on? A first strike!!!"
I closed my eyes. The Ogarkov Plan is for winning a thermonuclear war. Its maximum option is a blueprint for a calculated first strike attack. Whoever calls the first strike controls the battle, I remembered Ross saying.
"No Sir," I heard Ross answering the phone again, "No I didn't tell Jack to go out! I specifically told him not to go, I have witnesses here that can confirm that. Jack went on his own. Can you call him back?... No, I don't believe the Russians have spotted him yet. But I don't know... What did my boss say? He thinks the situation is becoming very delicate? God he has a way with words. It's damn scary if you ask me. Isn't anyone doing anything?... No Sir, Jack may force them to do something rash... I hope you can call him back, Sir... No, no, please don't hang up, I'll stay on the line."
After the third crate was dangling over the side of the fishing boat, before it
was even lowered onto its deck, the sub's tower crane was being disassembled. One of the subs began to submerge. Then the second sub slid out of sight. The wave action caused the crate to hit the deck of the fishing trawler, apparently quite hard. After this, all the lights were turned off.
The trawler was barely visible now. It had become dark. We could see only shadows. Ross managed to increase the contrast somewhat. The moving shadows were obviously people. One was lighting a cigarette. The match looked like a flare. Then there was a sudden commotion, and within seconds an
F-4 Phantom appeared low under the cloud cover. It flew less than a hundred feet over the vessel, disappeared and came back for a second run. During the
over-flights nothing was moving on the boat.
"They must have picked the F-4 up on radar," said Tony.
Seconds later the frantic activity started again and then stopped once more. We could make out someone on the bridge, a large shadow waving his arms around. The vessel changed course and began steaming south.
"I think they've seen Jack's cutter on radar," said Ross. He had barely gotten these words out, when a cloud of smoke obscured the ship. There was a fire, and then a sleek object emerged from the smoke, leveled off, moving towards us.
"God they're shooting at us!" yelled Ross.
I stood petrified, shaking. The telescope tracking mechanism locked itself onto the shell and followed it, but soon lost it.
"No, they are not shooting at us," said Tony calmly. "I've seen incoming shells before. This is not a shell. It's coming in too slow, too low, and too steady. This is one of those cruise missiles that they've unloaded."
"I have heard about rocket launched cruise missiles!" said Ross and grabbed the telephone receiver again. "Sir! One of the missiles has just been launched," he said calmly and quietly, as if he was in awe of it, or he felt that all hope was lost. "This means the war is on," he said quietly.