Chapter 1 – A New War
Aboard USS Whipple (FF-1062)
200 miles northwest of the Hawaiian Islands
1300Z 10 March 2007
Lt. Commander Rodney Joynal, Executive Officer (XO) of the USS Whipple, knelt atop the prayer rug beside his bunk facing what would suffice for east aboard a ship at sea. Completing his prayer, he placed the rug inside the slim wall locker, and removed another item – a cell phone wrapped in a thick plastic bag. He removed the phone; hit the power button, and brought up the app he’d created for this day’s work. The app now showed an array of “connections” to other cellular phones using the same app. There were five connections in total. He clicked on connection 1 labeled “cabin” and hit enable. This turned on the alarm clock function, which was set for 03:00, and caused the partner device to activate. He quickly gathered his Kapok life vest, a small copy of the Koran given to him by his mother before she was killed in 2003, a long curved knife, and a small colt revolver.
He placed the pistol and cell phone in his jacket pocket, the knife in a scabbard hanging from his shoulder inside the jacket, and the plastic bag in a leg pocket of his coveralls. As he opened the door to the cabin, he muttered, Allahu Akbar, and stepped into the Officer’s Country passageway. He turned towards the nerve center of the ship’s combat function, the Combat Information Center (CIC), and the bridge just 30 feet further ahead up a flight of stairs. He stopped outside the captains “at sea” cabin and again reached for the cell phone. He enabled connection 2 labeled “CO” and saw confirmation on the screen that the device was indeed enabled.
LCDR Joynal then headed towards the ladder to descend to the lower decks. He passed few sailors moving from one place to another during their watches, or heading for their bunks for some much needed sleep. They had been on deployment for the last 6 months, and the ship’s crew was feeling the effects of port and starboard watches – some four hours on / four hours off, and others standing watches with longer or shorter durations. At sea life was a twenty-four hour monotonous game of drills, maintenance, watches, and boredom – interrupted only by chow and rack time. All of the sailors acknowledged the XO’s presence, usually by stepping aside and standing at attention. Most accompanied by a “good morning sir” or some variant. All looked at him, but no one saw the grim determination in his eyes and the missing banter an XO usually shares with his crew, nor did they comprehend that he was carrying a Kapok life vest.
He walked through the mess deck where a Radioman Stryker on mess duty noticed him and offered coffee and a midnight ration sandwich, referred to as “midrats” by everyone in the Navy.
“No thank you, just making my rounds” Joynal replied.
He continued towards the ladder leading to the engineering spaces. After a long descent into the bowels of the ship, he reached the “fire-room” and entered. No-one jumped to attention here, nor did they move to give the XO more room. These were watch-standers on duty, which monitored the two boilers and other crucial integrated systems that were the lifeline of any ship at sea. Nothing could be permitted to interfere with their vigilance, not even military tradition. The senior watch officer on duty, a young Lieutenant Junior Grade (LTJG) named Howell, walked up to the XO and said “Good morning XO, something I can do to help you?”
“No thanks Howie, just making my rounds” he replied as he moved towards the hatch on the opposite wall from the entry.
“Aye-Aye sir, I’ll be here in the control room if you need anything”
“Thank you, I’ll be out of your hair shortly”
The XO weaved his way through the hot fire-room, where oil permeated the air around the compartment, and navigated around the boilers heading to the starboard side of the ship. He reached a water tight door, unlocked it, and entered a five foot by ten foot space where he stored his footlockers and other items. This was a common hiding place for items intended to bypass customs checks during port calls in exotic places like Hong Kong or Korea. In fact, he’d labeled the area off limits because he’d bought a fine set of China in Hong Kong two weeks before. This was “his” space now, and everyone knew it. Over the last 6 months, he’d carefully, but easily, smuggled 800 pounds of Semtex plastic explosives aboard the Whipple. Smuggling items aboard the ship is easy because Executive Officers are beyond question by anyone lower in rank than the Captain. He brought the one pound bricks of explosives aboard one block at a time, and each carried enough explosive power to do serious damage if properly placed. He stored 400 pounds in the footlockers in this compartment on the starboard side of the ship below the waterline. The fire-room was the most critical and vulnerable area of the ship, and any explosion here would have a catastrophic impact on the aged ships ability to stay afloat. Another fifty pounds was in the CO’s cabin, and fifty pounds in his own cabin wall locker. He quickly enabled connection 3, closed the compartment and locked it with his own padlock.
Smiling with satisfaction at the ease by which this mission unfolded, he walked around the fire-room making the usual rounds so as not to draw too much attention to his short visit to the locker, and then headed for the control room.
“All looks shipshape tonight Lieutenant. Anything I should be aware of?”
“No sir, both boilers operating normally, no further problems with the fresh-water condenser since they flew in parts the other day. For being so old, and six months at sea, the old girl held up well.”
“She’s done well, and so has the crew. This is her last deployment in any case” he said knowingly. “All the other Knox class frigates have been decommissioned years ago. This is the last of her kind.”
“Yes sir. It’s a shame. She’s had some great service and never let us down.”
“Well, we’ll be back in Pearl in another eight hours. I guess you volunteered to take the first duty rotation upon mooring again didn’t you Mister?”
“No sir, I did that overseas because I’m married and wanted to earn some extra money. I want to be the first off this tub when we hit Pearl!”
“You will get in line mister! I will be the first, or second depending on how you go about figuring the rank structure aboard this “tub” Mr. Howie!”
LTJG Howell chuckled and replied “Yes Sir, in line sir!”
The XO smiled and addressed the other members on duty in the control room “You all keep your eye on the ball. We are a few short hours out of home port. We do not need any trouble between now and then, you hear me!”
“Yes sir” they all replied in unison.
Then a young seaman noticed the Kapok life vest and had the nerve to ask the XO “What’s with the life vest sir?”
Without missing a beat the XO replied, “You didn’t hear about me Seaman Johnson? You didn’t know that I can’t swim!” he said chuckling, and as he left the compartment, he heard the Seaman ask the Lieutenant “Is that true sir?”
The XO then climbed the ladder to the main deck and went forward, through the crews berthing compartment, to the forward torpedo room situated directly beneath the five inch gun mount. He entered the torpedo room and looked around. Under the torpedo on the starboard wall rack was a footlocker he’d asked the Weapons Officer if he could store there. Below the footlocker was the storage area for the main five inch gun mount. Hundreds of rounds of ammunition all piled up in perfect order for his purposes. Above him was the ASROC (Anti-Submarine Rocket) launcher as well. Perfect setting for the 200 pounds of explosives he’d chosen for this location.
He quickly pulled the cell phone out of his pocket, selected connection 4, hit enable and left the compartment. It was now 02:40. Twenty minutes to get off this “tub” before detonation.
He walked quickly to the after part of the ship where the helo deck was located. The Mighty Whipple carried aboard an SH60 Seahawk helicopter for her primary role in battlegroup anti-submarine operations, and entered the storage area just inside the hangar. He found his footlocker stored against the bulkhead and quickly pulled out the cell phone. He hit enable on connection 5, smiled at the thought of the hundred pounds of explosive, and left the compartment heading for the fantail where one last obstacle awaited him.
The XO glanced at the plaque on the quarterdeck showing the ships name, commissioning statistics, and her motto “Resources Beyond Calculation” – “Well, I did have all the resources I needed for this mission” he thought to himself irreverently.
The ships lookout was standing his watch looking aft for any potential threats or problems “like a man going overboard” the XO thought. He watched the young sailor closely, scanned the area for any other personnel, and waited. At 02:55 he pulled the sheathed knife from its ornately decorated scabbard, walked up behind the lookout, grabbed him by the hair, jerked his head back, and slid the razor sharp knife across his throat.
It was so early, and he was extremely tired. So at 02:56, Petty Officer 3rd Class Michael Duran never had a chance to understand what was happening to him. He felt his head being jerked back, emitted a small groan of surprise, and then felt the warm blood spewing from his neck.
The XO removed the sound powered phone from the Talker’s head, threw it aside, let his body fall to the deck and spat on him. He strapped the Kapok life vest on, threw the knife and scabbard overboard, shouted “Allahu Akhbar,” climbed over the after rail, and jumped in.
This is the only chapter I will release before publishing the Ebook in its entirety.
This work is copyrighted ©2016 by James L. Jones/www.RV-Writer.com