Lazard Courtois’ POV
Fifth Fleet Headquarters
US Navy Central Command, Bahrain
“Come on, they want to talk to us,” Ben said. His right arm was in a sling, he’d broken it when he was hurled across the passageway by the missile blast, and his right temple was stitched and bandaged. I got to my feet gingerly, my ribs had been bruised and taped and my left ankle was broken and in a cast. Grabbing my crutches, I was led past the Marine guard and into the room.
Vice Admiral Philo T. Griffin, the Fifth Fleet commander, was at the head of the conference table. On the video screen was the situation room in the Pentagon, with the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, the Secretary of Defense and the National Security Advisor. He didn’t introduce the other staff or CIA members around the table in either place. “Sit, gentlemen. The CIA has brought us up to speed on your previous missions, and I’m still trying to get my head around it. Right now we need to know what happened on this one.”
“We found and lost the submarine that had found the entrance to the Garden of Eden, Admiral,” Ben said. “Lazard dove the site alone, and freed the cable that had fouled it on our second mission. The Chosin picked us and it up and hightailed it out of there. The sub was tied down to the flight deck, and when the fires were out it was missing.”
He nodded. “Would the sub float if it wasn’t damaged?”
“Yes sir,” I said. “The ballast tanks were inflated, and the valves to flood the tank are fail-closed. I suppose if the explosion breached the tanks it would sink, but you’d have to flood the tanks on each side to do that.”
“The tanks were fully operational when I got down to it,” I said. “The tanks had been manually vented and the sub was shut down. My daughter and her husband must have scuttled it after it got stuck.”
“We have to assume the Iranians have or will retrieve the submarine unless we can get to it first,” Ben said. “It’s imperative they not find out what is going on.”
“Sir, I don’t have assets in the Northern Gulf to conduct a search right now,” Admiral Griffin said. “My forward assets are escorting the Chosin back here, and the rest are protecting the Lincoln. With tensions as high as they are, I can’t even send planes up there without risking a further incident.”
An Air Force officer entered the room, handing a photograph to the Secretary of Defense. He grimaced and passed it to the Chairman, then around the room. The Secretary looked up at us. “It doesn’t matter now, they have it. Our satellite picked up activity at the Bushehr naval base, a patrol boat was unloading its cargo under heavy guard. It’s our minisub.”
“Please tell me there is nothing on the sub that would help them,” the Chairman said.
“I’m sorry sir, the submarine’s guidance system is fully computerized. All location and video data is recorded in a solid state drive as well as the computer on the remote control console. You already have that data.”
“Is it encrypted? Password protected?”
“No sir. It’s our submarine, we developed it for use in oil rigs and underwater structures, not spying on other countries.”
“Is it difficult to retrieve? How long do we have?”
“It’s pretty easy, just remove the water cover and hook up to the USB port,” I said. “Takes about five minutes if you know what you’re doing. The GPS location and depth are on the video recording, so if they see the entrance, they will know EXACTLY where it is.”
“All right, the Iranians will know the Garden exists and the entrance is in their backyard soon. What are our options?”
“Limited, sir. We have no naval forces within eight hours of the operating area, which is inside Iranian waters. The area is crawling with patrol and missile boats.”
“We’ve intercepted transmissions to Iranian Navy and Army forces, large numbers have been ordered to the Bushehr area. Most concerning is the relocation of mobile antiship missile batteries to that area and south,” the CIA man at the Pentagon said. “This was in response to the recent incident and continues a lower-scale buildup since the sinking of our spy trawler. Once they know what we were after, it’s only going to get worse.”
“Look, we’re talking about the Garden of Eden, as hard as it may be to believe, it exists. If the Garden is there, so is the Tree of Life. If the Iranians find their way in and bring the fruit back out, we could be looking at thousands of fanatical Islamic warriors who can’t be killed,” Ben said. “We can’t let them get in there, EVER.”
“We’re not going to be able to sneak in again, that’s for sure,” Admiral Griffin said.
“If we can’t have it, we sure as hell can’t let them have it,” the Chairman said. “We’ll need to destroy it, close up that entrance completely.”
“You’re right, we don’t have a choice in this anymore, we have to destroy it and quickly. What are the options,” the Secretary of Defense asked.
“The entrance is in the side of a rock formation, almost three hundred feet below the surface,” Ben said. “You’re not going to destroy it from above without a nuclear weapon.”
“We’re not going nuclear, not on their soil,” SecDef said. “What else?”
“We could drop bombs, put them on timers so they sink to the bottom?” The Air Force General looked back at his staff.
“The location has to be exact,” Ben replied. “If they go off on top of the rock, it may not be enough.”
“It could be enough if they’re big enough,” he said. “Give me a few hours to talk to the bomber guys and see what we can come up with.”
“SEALs could do it,” Admiral Griffin said. “We put them on the USS Louisville, she’s operating in the southern Gulf. We get her up there and the SEALs dive from underwater and place charges. It’s the only way we can be sure.” The Louisville was a Los Angeles-class attack submarine out of Pearl Harbor.
“Can you get a submarine up there?”
“It will be tight, there’s not a lot of depth and a lot of interferences around with the oil rigs, but I don’t see we have a better option right now,” Admiral Griffin said. “From the video we saw, we’re going to have to get right up to the entrance and blow the overhanging rock. The SEALs can place charges where they are needed, and we’re out of there before it blows.”
The Secretary of Defense nodded. “Start making preparations for both options and keep brainstorming more. I’m going to brief the President, we meet again in four hours,” he said. “Admiral Griffin, for now I want you to deescalate the situation. Get the Chosin back and keep the Lincoln focused on self-defense, we don’t need any more reasons for the Iranians to close the Gulf. The threats they’ve made today to do so have already sent oil prices spiking, and shipping companies are delaying transits.”
“Understood, sir. I’ll make preparations with the Louisville.”
“Yes, Mr. Secretary?”
“I’m sorry about your daughter and her husband. They were true patriots, both of them.”
“Thank you, sir.”
“Admiral, have them both flown back, but escort them from the room for now so we can speak openly.”
We were led out by one of the aides, and soon were at the airfield boarding a passenger jet operated by the Air Force for VIP’s. I sat in the leather chair, trying to get comfortable. “I’ll never get them back,” I said softly as the engines wound up.
“Burial at sea isn’t the worst way to be at rest,” he said. “Look, eventually this story is going to come out, it’s inevitable. When that happens, your daughter and her husband will be the ones who discovered the Garden of Eden, the greatest archaeological discovery in the history of Mankind. You can be proud of them, I know I am.”
“She deserved far more.”
“Life doesn’t give you what you want all the time, does it. She was happy, they were in love, and they were doing what they loved, and it cost them their lives. Shit happens, you know?”
“It does.” I closed my eyes as we taxied out, remembering my daughter for the joy she had been in my life.
USS Louisville (SSN 724), 70 nautical miles north of Bahrain
Commander Jim Jacobs POV
“CAPTAIN ON THE BRIDGE,” the Quartermaster said as I came into the darkened room. I had been inspecting the machinery lower level area with the Chief Engineer when Radio had notified me of flash traffic inbound.
“Sonar, report contacts,” I said over the 21MC as I sat in my chair.
“Four contacts, all merchants, closest bearing 020 range fifteen thousand yards,” was the reply.
“Officer of the deck, periscope depth.” The message required a response, so we would have to extend the radio mast. We were operating in an area of relatively open water, depths were between a hundred and fifty and two hundred feet. We slowly rose from a hundred and twenty-five feet to sixty. The periscope was raised, and I followed it up as I did a full rotation scan, then a second slower one. Nothing around. “Raise the radio mast and report our location.”
A minute later, we were on our way back down. Our orders were to surface and take on a SEAL team and their equipment. It took twenty minutes on the surface to take the four SEALS and their equipment on board. From the bags, I could see it was a dive mission. The explosives didn’t surprise me, but the target sure as hell did. The Lieutenant in charge of the dive team briefed me and my Executive Officer as we sped north. “My team has been ordered to blow up the entrance to the Garden of Eden to prevent it from falling into Iranian hands,” he said.
It just got worse from there.
The operating depth wasn’t much different than what we had now, but this was no peacetime sneak-and-peek. He filled us in on the recent events with the Chosin and the intelligence on Iranian naval movements. “Jesus Christ, they’re sending us into the teeth of them,” the XO said.
“Yes, but they only have one true warship in the area,” I said. The Sahand was a Mouge-class frigate, small at 2500 tons, but had a limited sonar capability. The frigate was last seen in the area where the Chosin had been hit. “The rest are patrol boats?”
“Yes, mostly Revolutionary Guard but some Navy missile boats.” The Iranians had little anti-submarine capability.
“Where are their submarines?”
“Still in port,” he said. That was good, the only true danger to a submarine was another submarine.
We talked for another twenty minutes, hashing out the plan.
That night it went into play. Getting in had been interesting; the area was a beehive of activity, with dozens of vessels in the area. The Iranians had a perimeter set up about ten miles away, and another cluster of patrols over the area. We put the periscope up in between the two lines, marking and identifying the targets. “Weapons, flood tubes two and four. Maintain solution on targets Charlie and Foxtrot, snapshot procedures,” I said. These were the Iranian frigate Sahand and a larger missile patrol boat; the rest weren’t big enough to be a danger to us. The fire control computer would keep the torpedoes ready to fire in a moment if needed.
We advanced slowly to about two hundred yards from the target and went into a hover at two-hundred-foot depth. The four SEALs were geared up and in the forward escape compartment. When we were set, I gave the go-ahead for the SEALs to deploy. They went on tank air and flooded the small compartment before swimming out.
The next forty minutes was nerve-wracking. Submarines weren’t meant to be sitting ducks, and that is exactly what we were right now. When the forward escape hatch closed again and the air started to push the water out, I let out a breath and calmed myself. “Officer of the deck, turn to 190 and speed five knots,” I said. Time to sneak out of here.
The ping echoed through the submarine as we started to move forward. “Conn, sonar, active sonar from contact Charlie, Iranian frigate Sahand.”
We were only six miles from it, well within active sonar range. There was nothing to do but get away. “Increase speed to ahead flank,” I said.
“Flank aye,” the helmsman replied.
“Conn, sonar, cavitating,” came over the 21MC. When we were in shallow water and the screw went too fast, it would create air bubbles and noise. We were being pinged with active sonar, so I didn’t care.
“CONN, SONAR, TORPEDO IN THE WATER BEARING 310.”
”Fire tubes two and four, flood tubes one and three,” I said. There was a whoosh sound as the first torpedo fired, followed quickly by the second. Our rules of engagement allowed us to fire if fired upon, and our torpedoes were smarter than theirs. The torpedoes carried by the frigate were wire-guided until the small active sonar could lock on. “Make course 150,” I said. The smaller torpedo had a limited range, and if we got lucky we’d outrun it before it could lock on. In any case, putting it aft of us would give us more time. “Chief, ready countermeasures.”
“Conn, sonar, torpedo bearing 322 has gone active and has locked.” You could tell by the pattern of the pings when it was searching and when it had the target, and the pings became faster. The time between pings told you how close it was. “Range estimated four thousand yards.”
“Conn aye.” I looked over at my Weapons officer. “Time to torpedo impacts?”
“Thirty-two seconds for Charlie, one minute ten seconds for contact with Foxtrot,” my Weapons officer said.
“Sonar, conn, call out ranges to torpedo every five hundred yards,” I ordered.
“Aye sir. Range two thousand five hundred.” I looked at out speed, ten knots and slowly climbing, it wasn’t enough. The Louisville was as long as a football field including the endzones, and at almost seven thousand tons, we didn’t accelerate quickly. “Two thousand yards.”
“Captain, tubes one and three flooded.”
“Conn, sonar, both Mark 48’s have acquired targets,” sonar reported.
“Ten seconds to Charlie,” Weapons said.
“Conn, sonar, fifteen hundred yards.”
I counted down, knowing my big and fast torpedo would hit faster than theirs. The frigate had turned to pursue, putting it closer to my shot, while we were running from theirs. There was a loud explosion and a shock wave as it struck home.
“Conn, sonar, one thousand yards.”
“Chief of the watch, standby countermeasures on my mark,” I said.
“Five hundred yards.”
“Release countermeasures! Right full rudder!” There was a pop as the countermeasures launched; kind of like an underwater Alka Seltzer, it started emitting a cloud of bubbles meant to distract the enemy torpedo into locking onto it. There was a second explosion, probably from the patrol boat.
“Steady course 270,” I ordered. We were turning at a right angle to the oncoming torpedo, and hopefully by the time it realized it had lost the target and reaquired, it would be too late.
The Executive Officer looked over at me and let out a sigh. I heard people coming in, the SEAL leader had arrived. “We didn’t find the entrance, sir. We found a rock outcropping where it was supposed to be, but no overhang and no opening. We planted charges just in case.”
A new loud pinging, then a second, could be heard through the hull. “CONN, SONAR, TWO TORPEDOES IN THE WATER DEAD AHEAD!”
“Left full rudder, launch countermeasures,” I ordered.
It didn’t work, and as the pings turned to a near-continuous tone I looked at my men. “It’s been an honor, gentlemen,” I said, just before the explosion.
Iranian Military Command Center
Bunker outside Tehran
“We got the submarine, sir!” We watched the feed from the helicopter that had dropped the torpedoes in front of it.
There was a cheer, then the red phone rang. The Defense Minister was on the line; he listened for about twenty seconds. “Execute Operation Clean Sweep.”
All along the coastline, antiship missile batteries launched weapons at targets both military and civilian. The focus of the attacks was the Lincoln battlegroup, the secondary every oil tanker in the Gulf, whether anchored or moving.
An hour later, Iran formally declared war on the Great Satan (The United States) and Israel, launching nuclear missiles built with North Korean help towards military facilities in the Gulf and as far as Europe.
Israel retaliated, and the nuclear war quickly escalated as Russia, China, Great Britain, France, North Korea and the United States were pulled in.
There was no morning in the morning. The radioactive clouds and dust blocked out sunlight from the earth, hurling it into a nuclear winter that would last for decades.
Ten years later, the Earth’s human population had dropped to the hundreds, and almost all animal life was gone. Things were better in the southern hemisphere, which had avoided most of the nuclear explosions, but the ice age killed them slowly. The two billion who died in the initial war were the lucky ones. Five years later, the only humans left were in Eden.
A hundred years later, the sea level having lowered hundreds of feet with the huge ice sheets that had formed over the continents, the rock disappeared, and the birds and animals burst out into a new world. God had taken the seeds and vegetation and propagated them into the world to prepare their way. When they were well established, he let the grazing animals out. The Middle East was back to a warm and fertile zone, and the grasses and trees were already growing strong.
Ten years later, he let the predators go. Once they left the safety of the Garden, God’s creation returned to mortality. They lived and died, the predators feeding on the burgeoning population of animals as they spread.
Then the sons and daughters of Eden emerged. Despite their common parentage, God had ensured they were made with enough genetic diversity to support repopulating the world. Charlotte had been busy, raising twelve dozen children, with her children contributing two hundred and eighty-seven grandchildren and forty-two great grandchildren. The Tree of Life had been removed from the Garden; although they might live hundreds of years, they would all die, unlike their parents.
“It’s time,” God said as he appeared next to James and Charlotte. “The Garden is closing again. You must choose to be in it, or to live out there with them.”
“You will never be apart from us no matter where we are,” Charlotte said as she took her husband’s hand. “We want to be with our children.”
“Then go forth and multiply,” he said. “The Garden is being emptied, never again will it be needed.”
James called the unicorns over; the pair had become trusted companions in their decades together. James helped Charlotte up on her back, then he mounted the male. “Where to,” Charlotte said.
James looked at the landscape, grassy plains and trees stetched in three directions, while the edge of the Gulf was to their east. “Let’s follow the Euphrates,” he said.
“Race you,” she said with a grin as she spurred her unicorn into a run.
“Now who’s being the child,” he yelled as he followed.
God watched them with a smile, then sealed the Garden entrance forever.
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