For those that would like to sample some of my work, here’s the new novel’s start.
Dragonet: Allah’s Instrument
By Kent Book © 2006
The behemoth passes quietly through the pressures of the deep; its blackness makes it noticeable in the stygian water and the light that filters down through the fathoms mottles its skin.
It is a hunter, it’s old and tired, but still aggressive if need be. It is patient; it listens passively; it forebodes ill if aroused; and it is on its last mission. Dragonet, its name given by others, glides forward to its destiny, scattering its much smaller namesake as its masters drive it to its reckoning.
Dragonet moves through the darkness, perhaps not as quietly as when it was younger or as quietly others of its kind, but quietly enough still that few have the aural quality to hear its passage from above. It is fast in contrast to the pressure and resistance of the water that surrounds it, its shape and form increases its speed submerged, but hinders its progress when on the surface.
In its thirty years of life, Dragonet has been a warrior of outstanding successes. It has been to war with others of its kind, opponents and enemies of the deep, its mind made up by other entities as the others are as well. It has killed those of the deep and the surface–water and land–in self-defense and in aggression, but always with the welfare of its masters and their nation in mind.
The Masters are warriors themselves, though seldom confronted face-to-face with their enemy; still they use Dragonet to exert their will over others that would do the same if given the chance. They never attack without provocation and only after much thought and concern. The Masters are not those that make war for the need to make war, they respond to aggression and death to live and preserve their nation against those that would tear it asunder.
It knows nothing; it only serves its masters. It is not sentient and therefore knows nothing of its future or past. The glory it achieves is known only by those that control it and sometimes by the world as a whole, but most of its work and victories are kept by only a few. To be sure, although it knows nothing of its history, Dragonet is a proud name and its service has been exemplary.
Its masters have decided that its usefulness is at an end; it is to retire and is on its way to that rest. But, first a stop to show itself to the Masters’ nation, in recognition of its successful mission, sacred and primary — the defense and protection of the nation and its people. There is to be much fanfare made of its past and arrival; there will be many that will come to look and visit; and some that come for other reasons, but Dragonet knows nothing of any of that. It goes as commanded, blind to the need of recognition, deaf to the applause and music that will greet it; unmindful of its future. The behemoth of the deep moves to history, and all but one of those inside look forward to its arrival and eventual retirement. That one knows more than the rest; he knows that Dragonet has more to do and what that mission will be. He controls Dragonet and uses it for a cause passed to him by others that have little care for Dragonet’s history—they only care for what it can do as it dies.
The mindless warrior slows as it begins its careful ascension toward the surface. The Masters inside listen intently to the water that surrounds it lest another denizen of the water come to close, endangering it.
The United States Ship (SSN-775) Dragonet is coming up from the deep and to its final mission.
“CONN, SONAR, there are no contacts close aboard.”
“SONAR, CONN, Aye.”
“CONN, ESM, no close contacts.”
“ESM, CONN, Aye.”
LCDR Robert abu Saliemen walks the periscope around, surveying the grey water and lightening overcast skies; he decides and calls out, “Diving Officer, maintain your head and surface the ship. Chief of the Watch, set the maneuvering watch.”
LTjg Cummins acknowledges the captain, “Maintain my head and surface the boat, aye.” Leaning forward from his bench, he instructs the helm and planesman.
The master chief responds, “Set the maneuvering watch, aye.”
The orders are those that have been given thousands of times throughout the world and its many seagoing nations since the first submarine, the USS Holland, and for over one hundred years. Trained crews respond automatically to such orders without any thought, for hesitation in the sub service is death.
As preparations continue for surfacing, LCDR Saliemen turns the periscope over to the Navigator, who states, “Officer of the Deck, I relieve you.”
Saliemen responds, “I stand relieved. The Navigator has the CONN.” He steps down from the periscope stand and retreats to his stateroom behind the SINS binnacle. It will be a while before they make their way up the Hudson into the New York City waters and there is time for him to relax before he moves into the conning tower to oversee their approach. As he settles into his desk chair, he hears the bustle of the crew moving from their at sea stations to their maneuvering watch stations. Over the 1MC, the COW calls the crew to Field Day—an all hands, other than those on watch, sprucing up of the boat for their arrival and the dignitaries and visitors that will come aboard.
One of the mess hands has brought a silver pot of tea expecting his relief from duty and he pours the light liquid into the porcelain cup on the tray. Robert “Bob” abu Saliemen sips the hot light flavored tea and reflects on the dawning day. Submarines’ design allows smooth passage beneath the waves and because of the drag of the water on the surface, there is tedium in surfacing and maneuvering a submarine into a busy waterway. The design of the exaggerated bullet-nose helps water pass over and around it and increase the speed of the ship as the water moves through the screws; and not meant to slice the waves as a surface ship’s bow does. Today’s cruise on the surface would be smoother than most because of the calm wave action he noted as they prepared to surface. All submariners know the pounding the sub takes when surfacing in any storm or deep swells, and they all hate it. A submarine on the surface is little more than a bobbing, rolling vessel under power and most submariners are the worst surface sailors in any Navy, as seasickness is decidedly more prevalent. When submerged, there is almost no movement other than the vibration the machinery and engine produces –seldom is their world other than one sitting in one’s home. But as a submarine rises closer to the surface, wave action can be felt somewhere between periscope depth and the surface, although sometimes it can be as deep as two hundred feet if there is a high numbered class storm.
The captain noted the slight roll and understood they were now on the surface. The speaker next to his built in desk announced orders for moving the CONN to the on-surface position high above the main deck in the sail. He sipped again at the tea and pulled his log book from its place to make note of the time and action taking place. Another tedium–long centuries have been annotated by all mariners as their various ships have made their way from one port to another. A Master’s sacred responsibility is not only to his ship, but foremost to the lives of his crew, and must note or record just about everything for reasons of documentation, for. His every decision and command is subject to intensive scrutiny if ever the ship is placed in harms way and damaged; whether in time of war or peace. Those that ply the waters of the Earth are led by Captains and they give their lives into their care and direction. It is a fine line for most sailors who readily trust those put in place to command, it’s even more so on submarines for their smaller crews and the inherent danger in its operation. Much is made of the surface fleet mockery of submariners, “Why would you want to sink a perfectly good ship?”
The answer, “To find perfectly good targets.” To submariners there are only two kinds of ships: submarines and targets; and they are a prideful bunch of men that learn and train to live upon and control the undersea vessels.
Saliemen initials the entry he just made and almost blindly returns the log book to its place; his gaze fixes on the framed pictures on the shelf next to that place where also stands his Qur’an.
Four pictures tell the story of his life. The class picture from his Naval Academy graduation; and the one of he and his best friend at their commissioning, their arms draped around the other’s shoulder, wide and bright smiles on their faces. The third is his wedding party picture, the same friend standing to his left, his best man; and the fourth, the latest picture of his family taken only four months before. He stands next to his wife with their two children—a son and younger daughter—at their feet, it’s a casual setting unlike all the others where he is in uniform.
There is a detachment he notes as he looks at the pictures, as if he has already divorced himself from that life. He feels the shamed pride of that history, but pushes it down so it doesn’t conflict with his mission. His whole life, the teachings of his father, the teachings of the Holy Qur’an, the academic study of his youth and early adulthood, and further study to become a commanding naval officer, has brought him to this time and place.
He takes the Qur’an from its place and holds it reverently. He caresses the leather cover as one would a lover’s skin—he holds his future in his hands and wills himself to think of his studies and the promises contained in the passages. He cares nothing for some of the promises told to him—they aren’t in the book—he believes in the words the Prophet gave to mankind for achieving Paradise.
A knock at his stateroom door interrupts his reverie, and places the book back on the shelf.
“Come,” he answers the knock.
The second-class radioman opens the door and hands the Captain a clipboard, “Captain, here is the latest traffic. There are order confirmations and instructions on top with the other disseminating traffic for your approval.”
“Fine, give me a few and I’ll have them ready for delivery,” he responds.
The radioman shuts the door and Saliemen flips through the papers noting the subject of each. Mostly mundane U.S. Naval pulp work—the thousands of trees sacrificed to military communications down through the centuries stand testament to the redundancy of need. He initials each document as he reads, makes notes to the division officers as needed for clarification and keeps the last message page. He leans sideways and opens the door—the radioman turns back to the opening to receive the clipboard from the Captain, asking “Anything special, Captain?”
“Nope, just the usual. Please deliver as required.” He doesn’t release his hold on the clipboard. “Is the internet up?”
“Yessir, you should be able to get on when you want.”
“Thanks, Robson.” He releases the clipboard and the sailor spins away to deliver the traffic messages.
Saliemen leaves the door alone for the moment, listening to the activity in the control room just outside. The stateroom’s location is convenient but it’s a curse. There is no isolating insulation in the control room’s shared wall and though he sleeps with his head on the end away from the wall, he always hears much of the conversations as he drifts off to sleep. Long ago he acquired the ability to shut the noise out, but the voices always came through. He supposed it was his punishment for being the commanding officer of the ship.
The voices today are light and casual. There is talk of who is going where and what there is to do when they dock and once released for liberty. He looks at the paper he kept and pulls out his laptop, opens it and waits for it to synchronize to the ship’s intranet.
As soon as he had the connection, he sends an e-mail confirming the message’s subject, authorizing the recipient to proceed with reservations and arrangements.
Next he quickly types out a brief communication to his wife,
Surfaced. Arriving 1230 Navy Pier. Hotel Confirmed.
His brief syntax was old habit, he had never mastered the longhand capacity of emails, it was the training to be concise and conserve words in message transmissions from the old days. Back then when radio traffic, especially from submarines, was intermittent and quick—as the longer you stayed at periscope depth the better chance of detection, and detection could be damaging to the safety of the ship. Those days were gone, but training and operations still warranted some of the old steadfast rules and he obliged. He also knew his wife was used to his messages, of course the emails he received from her were more letters than messages; still he knew she would be appreciative of his even sending the brief words.
Technology had changed so much, even how the Navy performed many procedures, but there were still the SOPs that hadn’t changed in the last sixty years; and those that hadn’t were almost always for security reasons. Back in the day, he would have never confirmed his ships movement. He had little to worry now as just about everything leaked or posted to the internet; and Dragonet was no longer a threat to anyone in a military sense.
They had left the yards four days before, after stripping most of the warlike abilities from the ship. It no longer had any fire-control equipment or weapons, the classified crypto and electronic gear was gone. There were empty equipment bays throughout the ship evidence of its rape; and still more would be stripped after its decommissioning and before its permanent docking as some museum. Dragonet would be lucky in that regard; saved from the eventual disassembly that many other ships he had served on had met as their fate. Silversides, his first ship, was nothing but a memory for those that had served on her–she was no more; other than the reclaimed scrap melted down and forged into parts for another ship.
They had moved the ship from Newport News shipyards to a sub pier in Norfolk, and then only for a day to take on supplies in preparation for the two day transit to New York for the Fleet Week celebrations. Dragonet would take part in the festivities with her decommissioning with all the pomp and circumstance due her record. At the same ceremony, Saliemen would receive his gold oak leaf in promotion to Commander as well as his orders to take command of the newest Seawolf class submarine in Charleston. He had been the XO of Dragonet before the yard work and took command when the Navy promoted the CO to full four bar Captain and moved to COMSUBLANT as a division head for the Admiral. So his first true and sole command was to take the ship up the coast, dock it and leave it; but he reflected, a command was a command and it worked well for his ultimate mission. He knew he would never again set foot on any other deck of a ship as Commanding Officer. In fact, later this day, the deck he commanded now would be the last deck he would ever walk in this life.
To continue ask in comments below or email me and I’ll forward the First Chapters for you; and if you’ll give some input on the story, characters, etc. I’ll send more. I’ll look forward to hearing from you.