“Damn,” Coyote said. “So here we don’t even know if these guys are
guests or POWS.”
“I imagine we’ll find out soon enough,” Tombstone said. He shouted, to
make himself heard above the clatter of the next incoming helicopter.
“Maybe sooner than we really want to know.”
And Coyote knew he was right.
2245 hours (Zulu +3)
Office of the Commander, Crimean Military District Sevastopol, Crimean
Military District “Come in, Nikolai Sergeivich.”
Vice-Admiral Dmitriev entered the ornate, luxurious office. The place
was richly furnished, paneled in dark red wood, and with an elaborate
and expensive parquet wood floor. General Sergei Andreevich Boychenko
was not known for his abstemious or purse-pinching habits.
“You sent for me, Admiral?”
“I did. I did. Sit and be comfortable.” Boychenko, a lean, hawk-like man
with silver hair and a vast array of medals on his uniform coat, was
sitting behind the expanse of his desk. An elaborate silver samovar rose
from a wheeled cart beside the desk. The commanding officer of the
entire Crimean Military District gestured at a glass. “Tea?”
“Thank you, sir.” As he helped himself to the tea service, Dmitriev
wondered why he’d been summoned here. He assumed it had to do with the
sudden loss of contact with the Kislovodsk. .. and the subsequent loss
of contact with the American carrier group. He tried to read Boychenko’s
manner but failed utterly. The man betrayed no emotion–if, indeed, he
possessed any at all in the furst place. Boychenko had always struck
Dmitriev as something of a cold fish.
With the dark Russian tea steaming in his glass, he took a seat opposite
the desk. Boychenko’s corner office overlooked the port of Sevastopol,
as his did, but had larger windows and a more expansive view. The harbor
was spread out practically at his feet; normally, city and waterfront
together made a splendid sight, colored lights agleam on still, black
water, but a blackout was in force and there was little to see now. The
entire district was on full alert, of course, with the threat from
Ukraine hanging over the Crimea. Too, the Crimea was suffering from a
general power shortage, and the blackout helped save electricity.
Dmitriev thought it a singular mark of disgrace that so great a city as
Sevastopol, or the fleet anchored there, could no longer afford to keep
its lights on at night.
A third wall of the wood-paneled office was taken up by a large framed
map of southern European Russia and Ukraine. Unit positions were plotted
by pins bearing tiny colored flags, red or blue for Russian forces, gray
for Ukrainian. The gray flags were heavily clustered along the northern
Black Sea coast, from Odessa in the west to the shores of the Sea of
Azov in the east. Dmitriev noted, with a cold, sinking sensation, the
number of Ukrainian flags clustered north of the Crimean isthmus. .. and
how few red flags opposed them.
“We have had word from the Kislovodsk,” Boychenko said without further
“What!” Dmitriev sat up straighter in his chair, nearly spilling his
tea. “How? When?” As commander of the Black Sea Fleet, he should have
been the one to hear, not Boychenko, his immediate superior.
“About an hour ago. Ah, do not worry, my friend. You were not cut out of
the chain of communications. It was not the Kislovodsk, precisely, that
“Not the Kislovodsk. What do you mean, Comrade General?”
“My office received a radio communique, in the open, from an Admiral
Tarrant, aboard the American cruiser Shiloh. The Kislovodsk was sunk–by
accident–at about eighteen hundred hours this evening.”
“Sunk!” Dmitriev’s eyes narrowed. “An accident, you say?”
“That is what we were told, and I am inclined to believe the story.
Captain Vyatkin, apparently, was being urged to leave the area by
antisubmarine warfare forces. He chose to fire a noisemaker torpedo in
order to deceive the Americans and was torpedoed when they assumed he
was firing on their carrier.”
“Were there. .. were there survivors?”
“Surprisingly, yes. Apparently the Americans initiated rescue operations
as soon as they realized that a mistake had been made. At last report,
sixty-eight officers and men had been pulled from the sea. Fifteen were