Monday, December 28, 2015

Tipping Point by David Poyer - Showcase

Tipping Point is the 15th in the widely popular and acclaimed Dan Larsen series, enjoy the showcase!





















ISBN-13: 9781250054432
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Release Date: 12/08/2015
Length: 320pp
Buy It: B&N/Amazon/Kobo/IndieBound

Overview

Captain Dan Lenson is under fire both at sea, and in Washington. His command of the first antiballistic-missile-capable cruiser in the Fleet, USS Savo Island, is threatened when he's called home to testify before Congress. There, he must defend his controversial decision to prevent a massive retaliatory missile attack by Israel against civilian targets in the Mideast. Shaken by the near-end of his career, Lenson returns to command uncertain of his own future, but determined to do his best by a damaged ship and an increasingly divided crew. Ordered to the Indian Ocean, Savo cruises off East Africa, protecting shipping lanes from pirates. But this seemingly-routine patrol turns ominous when an unknown assailant begins assaulting female crew members. But then, an explosive showdown begins between India and Pakistan...with Savo Island, and her unique but not yet fully battle-ready ability to intercept ballistic missiles, standing alone between two nations on the brink of the first theater nuclear war. Dan will have to battle tsunami-driven seas, incoming weapons, and a quickly tilting balance of power, as China moves inexorably in her bid to displace America in the far Pacific. The fifteenth novel in David Poyer's acclaimed series of naval adventures featuring Dan Lenson, Tipping Point is an action-packed, utterly authentic story of duty, war, and the stress of command, by the most popular living author of American sea fiction. 


Read en Excerpt courtesy St. Martin's Press:


1

Crete



EVEN the hills looked ancient. They stretched away mile after mile, bright green under the spring sky, patched with bleached rock where the spare soil had worn away. Over centuries, no, millennia …

Dan Lenson glanced at his wife. Her head was turned away, blond hair flickering in the warm wind from the open passenger-side window. The breeze smelled of sage, rosemary, cypress, a warm mingled scent blowing off the myrtle-covered hills. Blair had flown in the day before, and he’d left his executive officer in charge while he took two days’ leave.

“My wife, the congresswoman,” he murmured.

She pressed a finger to his lips. “Don’t jinx me, okay? It’s by no means a shoo-in.”

The rented BMW was headed south, along a winding two-lane coast road lined with rustling olive groves, each a slightly different blue or green. Violet and cream flowers bloomed along the verge, and the blue Mediterranean murmured on their left. No one seemed to build near the water here. Maybe, Dan thought, they remembered ancient disasters. Earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, tsunamis … classical civilization had risen atop a tectonic fault line.

They’d dined the evening before at a restaurant atop one of those myrtle-choked hills. Cheese pies, Cretan rice, slow-cooked wild hare with artichoke hearts, followed with phyllo-dough pastries and candied fruit. He’d told her how the English word candy had come from a town near where they were going: ancient Candia. And she’d told him what she was doing at SAIC, where a shadow cabinet convened when her party was out of national office. She’d tried the raki, and sputtered it out, to the amusement of the other diners.

They’d stayed overnight in Mperetiana, at a hotel overlooking the sea. The bay was so narrow he could look across to the gray speck that was USS Savo Island, moored at the long pier at the naval base. A crane barge lay alongside. It had extracted the remaining missiles aft, both the live ones left from the brief but fierce engagement with an Iranian task force the month before, and the dud rounds damaged in an electrical fire before that. Now the whole magazine, wiring and controls, was being refurbished by a Tiger Team from Norfolk.

But for a few hours, he’d almost forgotten his responsibilities. Renewed passion and ripped-off clothes, along with strange little arguments, quickly extinguished flares of temper. But just as quickly, recurring.

They’d coupled again hungrily this morning, followed by an hour of sleeping in. Showered, and enjoyed a leisurely breakfast. Then back on the road, toward Heraklion, on the island’s northern coast. He slouched in his seat, one hand on the wheel, the other on her shoulder. Now and then his skin stung, whipped by strands of her blowing hair.

“Knossos. One kilometer,” she said, folding the tourist map and tucking it back into a worn cordovan briefcase. “So that was the right place to turn.”

“You nailed it. Again.”

She made a face. “Oh, shut up. That must be it, on that hill. My God … it’s huge.

The asphalted lot they pulled into was nearly empty; only a few dozen cars. When they got out the air reverberated. Silent, except for the wind, and the chirrup of insects.

“I used to read about this place.” She gazed up at the columns. “When I was a kid.”

“We must’ve read the same books.” He stretched the kinks out, examining the pillars. Bright red and blue, ocher and yellow, they tapered toward their bases, inflated-looking pillows of stone. Behind them the famous mural of the bull-leapers was just visible. “Looks like we’d better take some water.”

Plastic half-liters tucked into their pockets, they joined a tour, and trailed the group up into the ruins. He saw now why so many of the reconstructions were porticoes, elevated roofs; they provided shade from that relentless sun. Halted inside, they listened to a long explanation of how the English archaeologist Arthur Evans had excavated what he interpreted as the ancient palace of the shadowy bull-king Minos. And then, later, decided to “reconstruct” it in reinforced concrete, with frescoes by modernist artists. The whole talk came first in Greek, then in French, and last in English. Then they moved on to the next stop, where the whole process was repeated.

Half an hour into the tour, he turned to see Blair lagging back. “We’re going to lose the group,” he called.

“Let them go on ahead. I want to say something,” she murmured. “I didn’t want to bring this up last night, and spoil our … reunion. But we need to talk.”

“About what?”

“About the ruckus you’ve stirred up.”

He blinked into the burning sun. The concrete trapped the heat radiating off the walls. Sweat trickled down his face. “What ruckus?”

“Your shooting down that Israeli missile. I’ve had to field questions about it. So far, I’ve managed to put them off. But at some point, I’m going to have to take a position.”

Dan cleared his throat. He’d thought they were going to enjoy the day. See the sights. “Can’t you just hand them off to the Navy? Say it’s a military question?”

“This isn’t just a military issue anymore. Anything that has to do with supporting Israel is political, Dan. Highly. And it’s getting even bigger than that. Have you heard about the Lenson Doctrine?”

He frowned. “The what?”

“That’s what Cal Thomas—that newspaper columnist—what he called it. In a very hostile piece, by the way. The ‘Lenson Doctrine’: If we have the capability to intercept a ballistic missile strike, at least one targeted against a civilian population, we have the moral obligation to do so. No matter whom the strike’s against.”

Dan said slowly, “I wasn’t making policy; it was what my orders said. Priority three: offensive missiles targeted against civilian populations.”

“That was NCA draft guidance, Dan. And it certainly didn’t mean for you to intercept counterstrikes by our own allies.”

“It didn’t mention any exceptions. And I’d already knocked down an Iraqi missile.”

“Uh-huh. Absolutely literal, like always … Is that the Academy mind-set? Or your own patented Dan Lenson blinders?”

“Sounds like a loaded question to me.”

She blew out and glanced away. “It’s getting hot … want some water?”

“Not yet.”

“Anyway, whether you intended it or not, that’s how your action’s being interpreted in some quarters. And I have to say, knowing the way you operate, it wouldn’t be out of character.”

“What’s that mean?”

“Your fucking idealism, or naivete, or whatever it is, gets in the way of your common sense.”

“Now you sound like Nick Niles. But don’t we oppose the use of weapons of mass destruction? Isn’t that what Iraq was all about—toppling Saddam because he had that capability? And he didn’t actually even use them. Except on his own people.”

“You forget the Iran-Iraq war. He used gas then, too.”

Dan shrugged. Ahead, the group had stopped before a fresco of a young man against a background of stylized lilies. The somniferous drone of the guide’s canned lecture went on and on, like a fat fly’s buzzing. First Greek, then French … Dan couldn’t keep the irritation out of his voice. It was easy for pundits—or wives—to second-guess a decision he’d had thirty seconds to make. And he was still sure, or at least pretty sure, it had been the right call. “Look, let’s discuss this later, all right? I’m sorry you’re taking heat. Or that it’s hurting you politically. If it is. But my decisions have nothing to do with you. If I screwed up, if they’ve lost confidence, the Navy will relieve me. If not, you’ve got nothing to worry about.”

“Nothing to worry about.” She looked away, pretending, he guessed, to examine the fresco. “Does that include Lieutenant Singer?”

“Singer … You mean Lieutenant Singhe? Amy? What about her?”

“The way she was looking at you. Aboard your ship. You don’t find her attractive?”

“She’s part of my wardroom, Blair. I don’t get paid to rank the attractiveness of my junior officers.” But even to his own ears, that sounded evasive. And Singhe was more than attractive; more like some Hindu goddess of erotic desire, in tight-fitting blue coveralls that outlined every curve … Damn it. “Anyway, I’m married.”

“Nice compliment, Dan. Meaning that if you weren’t…?”

“It is a compliment. Or didn’t last night convince you?”

She took his arm, but still didn’t meet his gaze. “It was nice. So was this morning. But we don’t see each other very often. I knew you’d be gone a lot, but I didn’t realize exactly how long. Or how much I’d miss you. The Navy seems to be eating you alive. Even when you’re around, you’re not here. Like last night—”

He smiled. “You seemed to like it.”

“I don’t mean that.” She punched his arm with a sharp knuckle. “I mean at dinner. You hardly looked at me. You just stared across the water, toward your ship.”

He sighed. The group was out of sight. He wasn’t sure where it had gone. The most likely way seemed to be down a long corridor. He took her arm, and they strolled toward a pool of cool shadow. Birds chirped overhead: swallows, nesting in the porticoes, their droppings like white paste on the bright ocher paint. “This’ll probably be my last sea tour. Then, some twilight assignment ashore. Conning a desk.”

“That wouldn’t be so bad, would it?” She sounded hopeful. “And then what? I could put your name out in DC. In certain circles. If you wanted me to.”

He shrugged. They came to stone steps leading downward, and took them. The shadows deepened, and a musty smell rose. “God, that’s better,” she said. “It’s like an oven up there. And all that sparrow shit—yech.”

“I miss you too, Blair. But I seem to be at my best at sea.”

“You mean you like it best at sea.”

This seemed to be one of the less-frequented corridors. The stone was rough ashlar coated with scarred plaster. It didn’t look like the reconstructions. Here and there figures were inscribed, very faintly, on the surface. Maybe this wasn’tthe way the group had gone. They walked a few yards, turned right in the gloom. Something skittered away—a small gray-green lizard. She flinched. “You sure this is right?”

“No. Anyway, what’re you getting at?”

“I don’t begrudge you what you want to do, Dan, but we’ve had this conversation before. I thought once you had a plan, for life outside the Navy. They already offered you a medical retirement. Because of your lungs, right?”

“My lungs are fine.” He coughed into a fist, wheezing dramatically.

She rolled her eyes. “Very funny. But I’m not the government-issue service wife you seem to need, Dan.”

“No, you’re much higher powered.”

“Don’t flatter me. I’ve spent a lot of time around generals’ wives. They’re usually the reason their husbands became generals. Shrewd, hardworking women, behind the scenes. We need to think about where we’re going.” She looked away. Then added, in a lower voice, “If we stay together.”

He halted in the near darkness. “What does that mean?”

“Just that I’m coming up on some decision points of my own. If this campaign fails—”

“You’re not going to lose. Not with Checkie pulling for you. And all his wealthy buddies.” He looked back along the corridor, dark behind them, even darker ahead. “Crap … I don’t think this is part of the regular route.”

As they retraced their steps she murmured, “There are more voters in Maryland than my stepdad’s friends. And the other side’s going to put a bargeload of money against us.”

“Uh-huh … Did we go right here, or left? I don’t remember.”

“Right, I think … There’s a banking bill coming up. We’ve got to regulate the financial market more tightly, or there’ll be hell to pay. For the whole economy.”

“But aren’t you taking contributions from the bankers?”

“I’m not sure what that’s supposed to mean, Dan. But I don’t like your tone.”

He lifted his head, suddenly realizing that the dust they were walking on was unmarked, save for the curving arabesques of the lizards. “We never came this way. No tracks.”

“We should’ve turned left back there, I guess.”

“Maybe.”

She laughed, a low, throaty sound. “Lost in the Labyrinth. Without even a lousy spool of thread to guide us out.”

“At least we’re together.”

“Ariadne and Theseus?”

He pulled her close. “At least we’re together,” he said again, this time into the familiar scent of her hair, blinking back the sting of incipient tears. Holding her in the musty, close dark, breathing the dust of millennia. What had she meant, if? He couldn’t ask again. She evaded questions she didn’t want to answer. Was she talking about another man? He didn’t think so. But he’d been wrong before, about women. About a lot, actually.

All things came to dust in the end. The fine silt beneath their feet had dreamed too, fought, hated, loved. Again and again, wearing different faces.

Someone was calling, from above. The guide sounded worried. “We’re down here,” Dan shouted up through a gap in the stone. And shortly thereafter they were trudging up time-hollowed stone steps, back into the blazing sun.

* * *

THE ship lay at the end of a finger pier, the green and buff mountains rising beyond. It reared above them like a falling tower as Dan pulled into the space with the welded steel sign that read COMMANDING OFFICER USS SAVO ISLAND.

When he turned off the engine he could hear the steady roar of blowers and machinery, could smell the mingled scents of turbine generator exhaust and fuel and fresh paint and overcooked food. Below him seamen on a float wielded rollers on long poles. Fresh haze gray gleamed on the sheer. As he held the door for Blair, a welding arc sputtered halfway up the overlofty, top-heavy-looking superstructure. Flat squarish panels with truncated corners, not quite octagons, were set like breast badges just below the bridge.

The panels were SPY-1 antenna arrays. The Ticonderogas had been designed around them, mating a Spruance-class hull and propulsion to the most powerful radars ever put to sea. Within a radius of three hundred miles, an Aegis cruiser could detect and track over a hundred possible targets simultaneously, and reach out with scores of missiles to destroy enemy aircraft threatening the massive carriers that centerpieced U.S. or NATO battle groups.

The bells announcing his arrival bonged out. “Savo Island, arriving,” the 1MC said, the topside loudspeakers strident and metallic. The absentee pennant floated down.

The autumn before, Dan had stood by the window of the vice CNO’s temporary office, looking out toward the Pentagon. He and Niles had staggered out together on 9/11, through burning fuel and collapsing ceilings, over torn-apart bodies.

“So, Lenson,” Admiral Niles had rumbled, slapping his desk, “I keep my promises. Still want a ship?”

“Yes sir,” he’d murmured. Someone had engineered his promotion, even after he’d been officially passed over. It wasn’t supposed to happen, but there’d been “irregularities.”

“You made captain. Sure you don’t want to cash in your chips, go make some real money?”

He didn’t answer, and Niles had slammed the desk again. “You might actually be a good fit … But you won’t have long. She’s out there on a national-level mission. If this ship doesn’t turn around, and I mean on a dime, I’ve got another O-6 with his bags packed. And tread light this time, Lenson. No more Gaddises. No moreHorns.

He winced now, inwardly, as he saluted the flag, then turned to face his officer of the deck. Blair stood at attention, hand over her heart. A small woman with a pointed face, chunky hips under dark blue shipboard coveralls, and blond hair smoothed back under her fore-and-aft cap stepped out onto the main deck and saluted. Staurulakis had been fleeted up from operations officer at Dan’s recommendation when the previous exec had self-destructed. “Good evening, Captain. Mrs. Lenson. Hope you had a good trip.”

“You remember Cheryl Staurulakis, Blair. Acting exec.”

The two women shook hands. “Nice to see you again, Cheryl. But it’s Ms. Titus, not Mrs. Lenson.”

“Sorry, ma’am.” Staurulakis said to Dan, “We’re about to begin reloading the after magazine, Captain.”

“What’s going in first?”

“I asked if they could load the 4As first.”

The Standard Block 4As were new, still-experimental antimissile rounds. The autumn before, just before this deployment, Savo Island had gone from a baseline Aegis 7 to a new mission: theater ballistic missile defense. The Navy’s go-to antiaircraft missile had been grown with a higher-energy booster and a lighter proximity-kill warhead to gain the range and altitude needed to intercept a reentry body. This was its first deployment, and most of the experts said it was too early. Not only that, but when she was operating in antimissile mode, the ship was practically blind to other threats. He nodded. “And they said?”

“They wanted to load in a specified order given the cell layout. Said it might not get the 4As in first, but it’d be faster overall. I gave them the okay.”

“All right, we’ll let that stand.” He checked the TAG Heuer Blair had given him as a wedding gift. “We set up for dinner? Got the word, the commodore’ll be here?”

“Yessir, they’re setting up in the unit commander’s cabin.”

“That’s the suite?” Blair asked.

Staurulakis nodded. Dan told her, “Make sure the bed gets made up. The commodore will probably stay over.”

* * *

AS dusk fell the First Division rigged floodlights and the Tiger Team worked on. After he got Blair settled with a cup of coffee and the CNN feed in his in-port cabin, and scanned his e-mail, he went aft to check on the rearming.

The vertical launch system magazines had no launcher. Or, rather, each cell was its own, with the missile boosting vertically until it cleared the ship, then arching over to its departure azimuth. The upside was that a launcher casualty didn’t put you out of business at a ticklish time. The downside was that rearming was slower than with the older systems, and required a crane, which meant you couldn’t rearm at sea. Each of the square gray stenciled canisters that housed the missiles had to be poised above its cell, cables connected, connections tested, then lowered, very carefully, so as not to bend the loading rails.

He crossed the afterdeck to the open module. The coveralled, hard-hatted civilian technicians nodded. He waved back and looked down as gulls circled, crying out in the failing light. Forty feet, two levels down, nearly to the bilge. A narrow catwalk halfway down gave the gunners’ mates access to the canisters. A stench of burned insulation and propellant welled up. When a missile had shorted out and lit off, he’d had to flood an entire eight-round module, ruining a few million dollars’ worth of weapons. But if the others engines had ignited—or, worse yet, the blazing-hot exhaust flame had set off their high-energy warheads—there wouldn’t have been much left of USS Savo Island.

Chief Angel Quincoches saw him and ambled over. In charge of the VLS, he’d been first to go in after the fire. Dan returned his salute. “Chief.”

“Captain.”

“These guys on the ball?”

“We checked behind them as they got the new cables and control units in. One set of control units had to be replaced again. Defective from the factory, far’s we could tell.” The chief petty officer checked his watch. “Been problems with the crane, too. A bent sheave.”

“Fixed now?”

“That’s what they tell me. Sir.”

“Keep ’em moving. The commodore’s coming aboard tonight. We might get orders. Are we checking the hatches, the hatch components, gaskets?” They were one of the biggest failure items.

The senior enlisted nodded, short, as if Dan shouldn’t have had to ask.

“What are we ending up with, loadout-wise?” He knew the numbers by heart, having thrashed it out in midnight sessions with the exec and the strike and weapons officers, with input from the squadron weapons officer, the type commander, and the COMNAVSURFLANT Ballistic Missile Defense Readiness Office. But it never hurt to make sure you were getting what you expected. Especially the way tensions were running up with Iran and Pakistan, and China now, too. There’d been something on CNN moments ago, about massive capital outflows from that country.

“New totals aft are twenty-four of the new RIM-162s, four Tomahawks, and four regular SM-2 Standards. Twelve new Block 4A rounds total: two in the forward cells, ten aft.”

Dan nodded. They’d left the States with only four of the experimental rounds, which he’d expended in two engagements. The Combat Systems Weapon Inventory screen in CIC loomed in his nightmares, counting down as whatever dream-battle he was fighting progressed. Until he was left with zeros, and cruise missiles incoming, and he’d wake shaking and sweating.

He didn’t need imagination to guess what would happen then. He’d seen it, aboard USS Horn, and Reynolds Ryan, and Turner Van Zandt.

He didn’t want his name associated with another disaster. Not because of his career. That was over, after this tour. Especially after what Blair had said about congressional interest. He just didn’t want more corpses on his conscience.

The chief corpsman, “Doc” Grissett, was leaning against the bulkhead in the passageway outside the unit commander’s cabin. “You asked for a report on our cleanup, Skipper. We replaced all the air filters and disinfected all the ventilation ducts we could reach.”

“Is that going to solve our problem?” Savo had been plagued by a flulike illness among the crew, especially in forward weapons berthing, though there’d been cases throughout the ship. One seaman had died in his bunk. They’d shipped the body back to Bethesda, but the cultures had been inconclusive.

“Hope so, sir. Scrubbed out with bleach.”

The 1MC bonged. One, two; three, four; five, six bells. That would be Jenn Roald. He spun on his heel and headed for the quarterdeck, conscious, too late, that he was still in civvies.

* * *

THE unit commander’s stateroom was actually a small suite, first a large room with desk, terminal, and table, then a smaller bedroom, with a compact head and shower aft of that. On the rare occasions when an officer senior to the commanding officer was aboard, he operated out of here.

Or she, as was the case tonight. Fine-boned, thin-faced, Jennifer Roald held a cup of punch at the table, which was spread with white linen. To his relief, she was in civilian clothes too, a dark pantsuit that looked both dressy and as if she could inspect an engine room in it. He and Roald dated back to the West Wing, where she’d run the Situation Room. Now she commanded the squadron that Savo was, however loosely, attached to.

This was the first time he’d seen the silver service laid out. The old metal glowed with a soft light. The dishes were finer china than the heavy, thick wardroom settings. The food, though, would be straight from the crew’s mess—jerk chicken, steamed green beans, brown rice, butterscotch ice cream—laid out by CSSN Longley. Dan’s culinary specialist stood half at attention by the galley door, in a white jacket for once without food stains. The evening’s guests were Blair, in a green sequined one-shoulder sheath that sparkled as she moved; Cheryl Staurulakis; Commodore Roald; and Dr. William Noblos, the acerbic, nay-saying rider from the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab. Also, the commanding officer of Naval Station Souda Bay, Captain Nichols Blomqvist, and his opposite number on the Greek side, Captain Photios Stergiou, Hellenic Navy. They were in service dress blue. Stergiou handed over a bottle of wine with a smirk. Knowing, no doubt, that U.S. ships were dry. Dan thanked him and set it aside.

Circulating, he got involved in a discussion of the cracks in the superstructure with Blomqvist and Roald. Ticonderogas were aluminum from the main deck up, for lightness, but the whole class had been subject to cracks. His inspection had located two. “My welders tell me you’ll be ready to go in a day or two, Commodore, Captain,” the shipyard commander assured them. “Do you have sailing orders yet?”

Dan deferred to Roald, who murmured, “Expecting them any day.”

“Back to the protection-of-Israel mission?”

She glanced at Dan, who cleared his throat. “Um, actually, the Israelis seem to have a pretty good handle on the ABM role now. Iron Dome. Patriot, for the terminal phase. And their new Arrow system, for midcourse intercept.” He swirled his glass of alcohol-free pineapple-and-Sprite punch.

“So you might deploy elsewhere?”

The commodore sidestepped the question. Dan understood why; Blomqvist should’ve known better than to ask. Stationing of the Navy’s sole antiballistic missile asset was decided at the National Command level, Pentagon or West Wing. As his wife had pointed out that morning, it wasn’t just a military question anymore.

When he glanced around, Blair, on the settee, had crossed those long legs she was famous for. The Greek couldn’t look away. “And this lovely lady, she is spoken for?… Oh, the captain’s wife. How unfortunate. I mean, for me.” He bent to kiss her hand. Blair shot Dan a mischievous smile over Stergiou’s bent back. He took a seat next to her, but spoke to Dan. “I understand you have a Greek exec.”

“That’s her over there, speaking to Dr. Noblos. Tall guy with white hair. Actually Staurulakis is her married name. She’s not Greek by birth.”

They were starting on the salad when someone tapped at the door. A face showed at the circular view port. Longley hesitated, glancing at Dan, who nodded.

It was the duty radioman—the rate was IT now, information technician, but everybody still called them radiomen—cradling a clipboard. Routine messages came over e-mail via the ship’s network. Important or time-sensitive ones got walked directly to the CO. Dan rose. “Excuse me, please.”

“Sir? There’s also a message for the commodore.”

“Both of us?” Roald got up too, smooth forehead furrowing.

In the passageway, door closed, the radioman handed each of them a clipboard. The same message, apparently, addressed to Roald as squadron commander, Dan as commanding officer.

After a moment Roald murmured, “Dan … I’m sorry.”

He sighed, finishing the terse sentences. Captain Daniel V. Lenson, United States Navy, was to turn over command of USS Savo Island and report as soon as possible to the CNO’s office in Washington. A flight would be scheduled from Akrotiri in a separate message.

The door cracked, eased open, and a shining blond head emerged. “Something important?”

“Blair. I’ve been, uh, ordered back to Washington.”

“Oh, no, Dan. No.”

Roald put her hand on his forearm, but didn’t say anything. He took a deep breath, fighting for control. “Guess I thought … but it’s not something I didn’t expect. Just figured it would happen faster. And when it didn’t … well, never mind.”

“I’ll get your … placeholder aboard tomorrow morning. We can helo him in,” Roald said. “But this doesn’t sound like a relief for cause, Dan.”

“It’s hard to tell,” Blair put in. She took Dan’s clipboard and squinted at it. “It doesn’t say, temporary or permanent?”

Roald shook her head. Dan took the clipboard back and read it again. The words didn’t change. Bitterness seeped in, but he quelled it, lifting his chin. “Anyway, it’s been a good command. A good ship.”

“You’re leaving her better than you found her,” Roald murmured. “And as far as I can see, you fought her beautifully. Maybe they just want to pick your brain about tactics.”

“They’d send somebody out to interview the Aegis team, or recall Bill Noblos, for that. I’m afraid … Oh well.” He jotted jerky initials and handed the clipboard back.

“Want me to help you pack?” Blair said.

“Not that much to get ready, actually.” Her dress threw green smears of light in the darkened passageway. He drew her close, then remembered where he was and let her go.

“I’ll get back to our guests,” Roald said. She handed her clipboard to the messenger, and opened the stateroom door. Murmured over one shoulder, “Let me know if you need anything. Just for the record … whatever happens in DC, your detachment fitness report from me will be two-blocked, Dan.”

“Thanks, Commodore.”

“Jenn. Make it Jenn.”

He nodded, something in his throat hinting he’d better not trust his voice. It was the first time he’d ever heard her say anything not strictly objective. Blair was still clinging to his arm. He cleared his throat. “Well … we can fly home together, I guess.”

“Actually, I think I’ll stay with my original reservation. Keep the room tonight, and fly back commercial Tuesday. It’s always a hassle, trying to deal with the military flights as a dependent.”

No, probably not that appealing, after being the equivalent of a three-star in the Department of Defense leadership. “Yeah,” he said unwillingly. “Okay. Whatever.”

“Do you want a moment?”

“Maybe. Yeah.”

Alone in the passageway, he braced his arms against the bulkhead, feeling through his bones the faint hum of a live ship. He’d barely gotten to know her. Her foibles, her capabilities, the little things that made her different from all the rest. Now someone else would sit on her bridge. It didn’t seem fair. As far as he could see, he’d made the only decision possible.

“Good-bye,” he told her, lips barely moving. Knowing it was sentimental, silly, talking to a mindless thing of metal and fuel and electronics as if it were alive.

Ridiculous, really.

But to a Navyman, it felt right.



Copyright © 2015 by David Poyer


Praise for David Poyer:

“The action is so detailed that readers paying close attention could take over the captain's chair and drive the boat themselves.” —Publishers Weekly on The Cruiser

“Poyer is a master of the modern sea adventure, pitting both men and women against unseen enemies and turbulent waves.” —Kirkus on The Cruiser

“Don't expect any of the plotlines to be wrapped up neatly, as in so many novels. This is an ongoing sea saga filled with more trouble than any captain and crew should have to endure. First-class storytelling by a master of the genre.” —Kirkus (starred review)

"Poyer combines a deep knowledge of all things seaworthy (including the latest technology) with a grasp of geopolitics, insight into the human heart, and a philosophic temperament. Try this book - you may be hooked." –Christianity Today



Dan Lenson Books in order
      

    

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MEET DAVID:

Aka D.C. Poyer.

DAVID CHARLES POYER was born in DuBois, PA in 1949. He grew up in Brockway, Emlenton, and Bradford, in western Pennsylvania, and graduated from Bradford Area High School in 1967. He graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis in 1971, and later received a master's degree from George Washington University.

Poyer's active and reserve naval service included sea duty in the Atlantic, Mediterranean, Arctic, Caribbean, and Pacific, and shore duty at the Pentagon, Surface Warfare Development Group, Joint Forces Command, and in Saudi Arabia and Bahrain. He retired in July 2001.


Today's Gonereading item is:
and I LOVE BOOKS Blanket
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