CARRIER 7: AFTERBURN By Keith Douglass

forcing at least some of the seawater out of compartments already

flooded. He became aware of Yuri Aleksanyan clinging to a stanchion a

meter away, his eyes bugging from his paste-white face as he stared at

the overhead. “Easy, my friend,” Vyatkin said softly, and the first

officer flinched as though he’d been struck. “Easy. We live or die on

the laws of physics. It’s out of our hands, now.”

“We are rising!” the rating manning the sub’s blow planes yelled. “One

hundred twenty meters. .. and rising!”

The angle of the deck increased as the bow came up higher. The stern,

smashed, and waterlogged, was dragging at the Kislovodsk, trying to pull

him back into the black depths tail-first. The vessel lurched sharply,

flinging Vyatkin away from the periscope, smashing him painfully against

the main ballast control console as the lights flickered and dimmed once

again until the only illumination was from small, self-contained

emergency lighting units near the deck. A terrible grating, shrilling

noise filled the near-darkness, coming from beyond the aft bulkhead. At

first he thought someone was screaming back there, but the scream grew

louder, and still louder, reaching a pitch and a volume that no human

throat could possibly manage. The scream gave way to thunder. .. and the

sub jolted hard, whip-snapping from starboard to port to starboard

again, as though it were a bone being worried by a particularly large

and playful dog.

The scream, Vyatkin realized with something like sickness in his soul,

was Kislovodsk’s death cry, the shrilling of steel tearing like cloth.

1759 hours (Zulu +3)

Control room, U.S.S. Orlando “I’m getting break-up noises, Captain!”

Davies reported. He had to listen hard, pressing the headphones against

his ears to shut out the cheering of the crew.

“All right people!” Captain Lang shouted. “Quiet down!”

“As you were, there!” Callahan, the Chief of the Boat, added. “Stand

to!” The noise subsided.

Lang was standing just behind Davies’s chair. “A kill?”

“Captain. ..” He shook his head. “Damn.”

“What is it?”

“Okay. .. it’s a bit confused out there. The blasts scrambled the water,

y’know? For a minute, I thought I heard two subs, though.”

Lang’s eyes widened. “Two-”

“No, it’s okay. I think the torp launch we heard was a decoy. I can

still hear it. .. running at zero-nine-eight, at about thirty knots.

Making noises like our contact, but I’m also getting definite break-up

noises. I think the contact launched a decoy just before our ADCAPS took

him down.”

“Oh, shit!”


“We may have jumped the gun a bit on that one. Okay, Davies. Is he going


“Up, I think.” The sonarman listed a moment longer. “Yes, sir. I’m not

getting any engine noise, but there’s lots of bubbling, hull stress and

structural flexing sounds. And it’s headed toward the roof.”

“Diving Officer! Bring us up. .. slow. Follow the contact UP.”

“Coming up slow, Captain,” the diving officer of the watch repeated.

Lang felt the deck tilting up beneath his feet. He felt sick inside, a

mingling of combat eagerness and shock at what had just happened. “If

that poor bastard didn’t launch on us,” he said softly, “we’d better be

on hand to render assistance.”

1804 hours (Zulu +3)

Russian Submarine Kislovodsk For a time, the Kislovodsk hung suspended

between the surface and the black depths below. .. caught in a very

temporary balance between buoyancy and flooding. Then, with a final

grinding shudder, the keel parted just beneath the sub’s reactor

compartment; hull plates and ribbing shredded like paper as the aft

third of the Russian submarine tore free and plunged into unrelieved

night, trailing bubbles, oil, and a thin, spreading plume of

radioactivity from the ruptured reactor containment vessel.

The forward part of the sub leaped toward the surface with an explosive

jolt. Moments later, the crippled vessel’s prow burst up through the

surface and into the air above in a vast explosion of spray. It was

already well past sunset and the sky was overcast, but enough twilight

remained to gleam from the white foam breaking across the bow and past

the low, rounded sweep of the sail. In seconds, the aft, forward, and

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