"This team spins a great tale."
-- W.E.B. Griffin, author of the bestselling Brotherhood of War series and many others
FINAL BEARING, co-written by Don Keith and CDR. George Wallace, USN (ret), a former nuclear submarine captain, takes the reader aboard a nuclear submarine as she and her crew battle a vicious South American drug lord.
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Juan de Santiago is not only a billionaire coca grower, he is also a deranged revolutionary; the commander of the most powerful private army in South America. Backed by power-hungry rogue nations who supply him with the latest weaponry, de Santiago devises a plan that will dishearten the American anti-drug effort and make him El Jefe once and for all. A successful soldier in Florida's antidrug war, Tom Kincaid is an expert on Colombia, with connections that lead directly to Juan de Santiago himself. But when U.S. politicians demand a publicity-driven drug bust, they blow the cover of Kincaid's carefully crafted network, leaving most of his informants dead, and get the DEA agent exiled to the relative backwater of Seattle.
Commander Jonathan Ward and his crew on the old attack sub Spadefish are on one last mission. They are to launch a strike that will put de Santiago and his empire out of business for good. They are getting help from Bill Beaman and his SEAL team, who are searching for the secret laboratories of de Santiago. Following deep jungle trails and hiking the lofty mountains of the ancient Inca Empire, they are intent on driving a stake through the heart of de Santiago's drug empire.
But there is a leak in the Colombian government. Beaman and his SEALs are being stalked. From the old highways of the Incas to the plush haciendas of the drug lords, guerrilla armies are lurking, striking out at those who threaten their lucrative trade. And at the same time, a futuristic mini-sub leaves Colombia. Destination: Seattle. And it is loaded with the most lethal, addictive substance known to man.
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PRAISE FOR FINAL BEARING
"Not since Ned Beach have readers been treated to such a marvelous blend of authentic submarining and great storytelling. Readers will gladly lose sleep reading this one...a magnificent achievement."
-- John J. Gobbell, author of When Duty Whispers Low and The Last Lieutenant
"(FINAL BEARING) is a rip-snorting submarine adventure as up-to-date as tomorrow's headlines."
-- Stephen Coonts, author of Flight of the Intruder, Hong Kong, and a total of nine New York Times bestsellers.
"Riveting; you won't want to put it down. Too close to the truth. Wallace and Keith achieve a winner..."
-- George Emery, Vice Admiral, USN (ret), Former Commander, Submarine Force, US Atlantic Fleet
"Don Keith and George Wallace take you to the heart of the action as America fights a secret battle in a brilliantly portrayed South American setting. This team spins a great tale."
-- W.E.B. Griffin, author of the bestselling Brotherhood of War series and many others
"Compelling characters, exciting plot, exotic settings, and a fascinating use of military technology combine to make Commander Wallace's and Mr. Keith's book a rousing blockbuster of a story."
-- Robert Vaughn, author of Touch the Face of God
"Submarine enthusiasts will find satisfaction in the tale of the last patrol of the aging USS Spadefish. Do Captain Jonathan Ward and his submarine have what it takes for one more crucial mission? Authors Keith and Wallace take you along to find out while weaving in parallel stories that round out this entertaining book. An engaging read!"
-- Don Gentry, Webmaster, SubmarineSailor.com
"...a full quota of vivid combat scenes...and if you are aware of what sailors feel when a beloved ship reaches the end of her career, the book...achieves real power. Above average for its salty breed...relax and enjoy."
"The story is fast paced, exciting and one you don't want to put down until the end. A classic modern day story of man and technology in the battle of good vs. evil."
-- Homeland Defense Journal
"If you can still feel the roll of a submarine at periscope depth and the anxiety produced by a sudden alarm from the Reactor Plant Control Panel, if you still enjoy action-packed adventure and the surprises a good piece of fiction can bring to your easy chair, you'll love this saga."
-- Naval Submarine League
Excerpt from FINAL BEARING
Copyright 2003 by Don Keith and George Wallace. All rights reserved.
Commander Jonathan Ward slapped up the periscope handles in obvious exasperation. Reaching over his head, he grunted in disgust, and snapped around the large red periscope lift ring, lowering the scope.
"Dammit, XO! That damn merch just won't move!” he complained to his executive officer. “He's still sitting up there and we can't shoot ‘til he leaves. How much longer until the launch window closes?"
Ward wiped the sweat away from his forehead with the back of his hand, half dreading the answer he would get to his question. His blue poopie suit had long since wilted. Wide, dark streaks of sweat ran down its back. He paced across the side of the periscope stand, trying to walk off the nervous energy while he waited for his XO to finish checking figures.
Except for the skipper’s footsteps on the deck, the crowded control room of the nuclear attack sub Spadefish was surprisingly quiet. The only other sound in the stifling air was the hum of the vent fans, straining to remove the body heat of twenty closely packed human beings.
Lieutenant Commander Joe Glass finally looked up from the chart table jammed into the forward starboard corner of the control room.
"Another five minutes, Skipper. Not enough time to shoot," he reluctantly reported.
A chart of the Southern California coastline was spread out on the table before him. It was crisscrossed with colored lines representing all the ship traffic in the area. Joe Glass was trying his best to find an open spot somewhere in the mess of tangled spaghetti surrounding a dot that represented Spadefish. There simply wasn't one.
Glass was the perfect counterpoint to Jonathan Ward in several ways, some obvious from appearance, others not. Where Ward was tall and razor slim, Glass was short, stocky, and prone to a paunch. Ward's thick shock of blonde hair was a contrast to Glass’s rapidly receding brush of dark hairline. Ward tended to assay a situation instantly, then moved quickly and decisively. Glass was more likely to ponder a problem studiously before moving toward the solution. The crew had long since dubbed them Mutt and Jeff, but only when they were for certain beyond earshot.
Lieutenant Steve Friedman turned from the computer console where he sat. He too had a complex picture before him, a mess of dots on the screen that he had been intensely staring at for the last several minutes. Now that Glass had broken the silence, Friedman chimed in with his own report, speaking slowly, precisely, exactly as he had been trained to do, but in a thick Southern accent.
"Captain, I have tracking solutions on sierra four-five, sierra four-nine and sierra five-four."
Ward acknowledged with little more than a nod.
"Skipper," came another voice from across the control room. It was Stan Guhl, the Spadefish’s weapons officer. He turned away from his launch panel to speak once the captain had looked his way. His accent was flat and nasal, “New Yawk” all the way, almost certainly Queens or Brooklyn. "The torpedo room reports the Tomahawk in tube two has another ten minutes before we need to down-power it."
Ward nodded and quickly absorbed all the information he had just garnered.
"Very well, Weps," was all he said though. He stepped down from the raised periscope stand and looked over Friedman's shoulder. "Whadda you have, Steve?" he asked quietly.
Despite his youthful face, Steve Friedman was a master at operating the CCS Mark II fire control system. He had an uncanny ability to extract the most information out of the least input, sometimes seeing things in the scrawl of figures and cryptic symbols on the CRT that Ward swore couldn’t be represented there.
"Well, Skipper," he began in his slow Alabama drawl, "Sierra four-five is the closest. He must be that merch y’all are looking at. Range four thousand. Speed ten. Course about zero-two-five. CPA in fifteen minutes at three thousand yards, bearing three-four-seven. I'm guessing he’s headed into Long Beach."
CPA stood for "closest point of approach," the closest the contact would get to Spadefish if all the analysis was correct. Sub skippers started to get awfully nervous when vessels came within a couple of thousand yards. There were too many collisions on record, caused when the ships got too close then unknowingly turned toward the submarine while the skipper was looking the other way.
And how many sugars is the merchant ship’s captain having in his cup of coffee? Ward thought. It wouldn’t have surprised him if the kid could tell him. He looked at the stick diagram that showed the computer’s opinion on the more important matter at hand though.
“Yeah, that looks about right. He might be a little broader in aspect. I could see across his main deck. The forward king posts were almost in line. That would bring his range in some and put him just about at CPA now."
Friedman twiddled a bit more with the push stick controls, moving the sight diagram slightly.
"Yeah, Skipper. I can make that work. The other two are farther out. CPAs at about eight thousand."
Ward let out a long breath and reluctantly turned to the senior captain who was standing quietly, observing from the back of the control room.
"Captain Hunsucker, we won't be able to launch in the time window. Too much interfering traffic in the area. I'm drafting a message to Pearl now to tell them. I’m also requesting a new launch basket. Just too damn much going on up there."
Mike Hunsucker appeared to be ignoring the captain as he studiously scribbled something in his steno pad, writing with such force his jowls bounded slightly. Now the scratching of his pen point on paper was the only sound in the room. Finally, the older man glanced up, looking at Ward over the top of his half glasses.
"Very well, Captain. Let's meet in your stateroom in five minutes."
Mike Hunsucker eased himself into the little fold-down settee in the captain’s stateroom. It had always been a running joke among submariners. The “stateroom” was hardly “stately,” and certainly not what the name might imply aboard, say, a luxury cruise ship. About the only nod to grandeur was the dark walnut-colored Formica that covered the bulkheads. It was, in actuality, small and Spartan. Jon Ward preferred to call it compact and utilitarian.
Barely the size of a small walk-in closest, the room contained everything that the captain needed in the way of a place to live and from which to command a nuclear attack submarine. The communications equipment next to the settee allowed him to talk with anyone throughout the sub. And, when he was patched to the sub's radios, his voice could reach to anywhere on the planet. The small course, speed, and depth repeater on the forward bulkhead enabled him to keep track of the sub's movements, too. Right now they told him that Spadefish was at periscope depth, and that they were heading slowly out to sea, farther away from the crowded California coast.
Hunsucker didn’t even take a sip of the coffee from the cup in front of him before he began.
"Jon, I’ll be direct. Your boat isn't doing very well. This is supposed to be a Tactical Readiness Examination. So far we haven't seen any tactics at all. My team is not impressed."
Ward slumped back in his chair but he met the senior captain’s direct gaze.
"Mike, be fair for a moment. You just left command of Topeka a couple of months ago. You can't have already forgotten what it's like."
The JA phone buzzed before Hunsucker could respond. Ward instinctively reached to yank it out of its stainless steel holder, then saw the senior captain’s nod that the interruption was okay.
Ward held the handset to his ear and pinched the push-to-talk button in its grip.
"Captain, Officer of the Deck. Message sent to SUBPAC reporting the interference and asking for a new launch basket and launch window. Receipt acknowledged."
The ship's Navigator, Lieutenant Earl Beasley, was standing watch as the OOD, controlling all of the operations of the sub.
"Very well. Tell me as soon as they answer. Meanwhile, stay at periscope depth. Continue on to the western boundary of our operations area. We'll bet on them giving us a new area farther out."
Beasley acknowledged and Ward replaced the phone. As he turned back toward Hunsucker, he saw that the older man had finally raised the coffee cup to his lips. Ward spoke before the other man could swallow the thick, black liquid, hoping to make his point while he had the chance.
"Well, we asked. Don't know what they'll say. Anyway, back to what I was saying. You want us to do a Tomahawk launch simulating a wartime fight, but also following all the peacetime safety rules. All right, so far we're on the same wavelength. But then you put the launch basket close in-shore off LA…so close we can practically keep score in the beach volleyball games…and you give us a tiny operating area in one of the most heavily trafficked shipping lanes in the world. How do you expect us to show you anything except how damned proficient we are at not running into shiploads of Toyotas?"
Hunsucker set his cup back down deliberately and leaned forward, a stern expression on his face. The sparkle in his beady eyes seemed almost gleeful, though.
"Jon, remember that you have the proud distinction of having the oldest boat in the fleet. This is the last Sturgeon-class left. Your reactor core is almost exhausted. We set this all up close to shore to save your core as much as possible." He grinned and smacked his lips. "And you still serve some damn fine coffee."
Ward finally breathed and let a small smile play across his face, but he doubted he was out of the woods with Hunsucker yet. Still, the tension that had gripped him for the last couple of hours was partially relieved.
"Its from Kauai. Good Hawaiian stuff. The supply officer gets it from a friend on a boat based in Pearl. I never ask what we’re giving them in return. Anyway, I know we have an old boat. We fight that every day. Talk to the engineer. That is if you can ever catch him with his head out of something else that’s gone on the fritz." Ward sipped his own coffee. Hunsucker was right. Compared to most boats, the Spadefish’s brew was spectacular. "This boat is older than he is, for God sakes. She's still a class act, though. You know that, Mike. She does a lot of things that even those new Virginia-class boats won't be able to. Just give us a chance and we’ll show you a few things."
“All right, Jon, but we need to talk about this next drill.” Hunsucker’s small eyes went steely and Ward felt a slight shiver climb up his spine. “I think we’ll have an opportunity to see what you and Spadefish can do, all right.”
Joe Glass stepped through the door that connected the captain's stateroom with his own, separated only by a head that both men shared.
"Excuse me, Skipper. We've spun down the Tomahawk in tube two. Request permission to back haul it from tube two and load an exercise ADCAP. We need the exercise fish in the tube for the torpedo shoot this afternoon."
Ward glanced in Hunsucker’s direction. The senior captain could tell them to never mind, to wait for word from Pearl Harbor that the test was still a “go.” But he quickly nodded his agreement that the crew could proceed getting ready, assuming an affirmative from the Pacific submarine command in Hawaii.
"XO, back haul the Tomahawk in tube two and reload with an exercise ADCAP torpedo,” Jonathan Ward ordered, then glanced back at the senior captain. There was something about the expression on the man’s face that bothered him. He had a sudden thought. “And Joe, stick around for a few minutes. I want you to listen to the briefing for this next drill"
Glass didn’t hesitate. He squeezed into a seat at the little settee.
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