Prelude to Final Engagement
As the Venturer sped above the thermal layer at the top speed of thirty-six (36) knots, Captain Holt and his officers began planning a course of action to be taken. Damage Control at this time reported that they had successfully repaired most of the damaged electronics, however the damage report did not fill the crew with hope. It was found that the lower two torpedo tubes had become jammed by the explosion, meaning that Venturer could only use half its firing capacity. Worse still, the front SONAR systems had been damaged, meaning active SONAR was out of the question.
Despite this Captain Holt was adamant to continue his pursuit of K-559. Commander Brindley commented on the decision as being unanimous in her questioning at the inquiry. SLBM launched MIRVs, as she stated, were reported to be able to hit most major cities East of the Mississippi River within one thousand (1,000) miles from their launch origin. As such the officers would have to rely on passive SONAR, knowing that K-559 was now increasingly suffering from more noise generation. Either Captain Andropov would have to slow his submarine down further or continue at his current pace and increase his risk of detection.
Whilst both options were a win-win situation for the crew of the Venturer, there was one complication that Captain Holt had hoped to avoid. ‘The Pillars of Lenin’ Channel was a notorious one for NATO forces due to the fact that the Channel had multiple exits on the other side of the GIUK SOUS Line. Although there were only two, their distance apart was greater than passive SONAR range. Without knowing whether Andropov would slow down there was no way to determine which one of the two exits he would pick. Thus it came down to a coin toss as to which exit Venturer would sail to.
Captain Holt ordered his officers to take a break and ordered a stand down from Action Stations. By this time it was 0140hrs and it would take an estimated time of 13 hours to sail to the central point from which Venturer would be equidistant from the exits. Named after Lenin’s greatest followers, the ‘Stalin’ and ‘Trotsky’ exits each offered an alternative reason for their choosing. It was apparent that Captain Andropov would choose one of these exits when arriving at the fork. It was up to Holt to determine which one.
‘Stalin’ exit seemed the more enticing of the two. For a start it was the more direct path into the Atlantic and was the wider of the two exits. At the same time it was located further North and would place the North East United States and Canada in range within five (5) days at K-559’s present pace. Many of the officers voiced their opinion that this would be the logical choice, regarding Andropov’s supposed breakdown it was clear he was looking for normality. Thus they reasoned he would use this exit.
Captain Holt on the other hand believed that Andropov would use the ‘Trotsky’ exit instead. Studying the available notes on Andropov and the Borei-class submarine he determined that Andropov was not above taking risks. Andropov had clearly shown this by going rogue against the Russian Federation and sinking the Kazan without offering surrender. As such Holt believed that ‘Trotsky’ offered the better choice. Holt also knew that the distance game was something Andropov would be willing to play, as the Northern stretch would be heavily patrolled by all available NATO forces, whilst the Southern stretch would be wider and less guarded. Despite going against most of his officers, Captain Holt ordered the Venturer to the ‘Trotsky’ exit at 0201hrs.
As Venturer raced to the ‘Trotsky’ exit, Captain Holt filed his official report on the engagement and ordered the radio mast to be sent. Reporting on his actions against Captain Andropov Captain Holt stated his opinion regarding the action taken of going against the common assumption. He informed all ships nearby the ‘Stalin’ exit to be on high alert however and sent a recording of the new sound being made by K-559. Acknowledgment came through from the USS San Francisco, who was the nearest submarine to the ‘Stalin’ exit.
The rest of the voyage to ‘Trotsky’ was one of restless sleep for the crew. In order to boost their spirits Captain Holt ordered that each of the crew be offered a large breakfast that they could choose from. He also conducted a morning mass in the recreational quarters of the submarine. At 0900hrs he ordered the ship to be surfaced and granted each of the crew ten minutes to stare at the sky and take in the fresh air. An hour before their arrival, a single bottle of Captain Holt’s private brandy was handed out in double shots for all willing. No one refused.
In the captain’s log of the Venturer Captain Holt made the following statement regarding his choices:
Captain Andropov has proven to be an unpredictable opponent. Were it not for the poor hand he has been dealt with I fear that by now he would be past our ability to stop him and would reach the United States without issue. I can only hope that my estimate was right. If it is not, then I have doomed the world to not Nuclear Armageddon, but worse, for I pray the United States does not retaliate on all our behalves.
At 1328hrs Venturer arrived at ‘Trotsky’ exit. As it waited for contact Captain Holt was reported to be staring at the SONAR screen waiting for an appearance of his foe. All around the submarine tension could be felt in the air. Sailors became more mechanical in their movements, deliberate as if each action would be their last. The crew knew that failure was not an option. Venturer would sink K-559 even if it meant mutual destruction. Then a square appeared on the contact screen. A loud sound of rushing water and grinding propulsion was reported. K-559 had arrived.