A sneak peek into something I'm writing: [hr][/hr] On the red-lit navigation deck of a featureless black teardrop gliding under the dotted line separating the Phillippine Sea from open Pacific waters, a lithe, agile man in his early forties restlessly paced his fiefdom. His delicate Fujianese features, though pleasant, indicated a choleric nature brought to the limit of its endurance. One might be forgiven, upon seeing his bookish forward lean and loping stride and errant forelock of salt-and-pepper hair that repeatedly had to be disciplined with jerky backhanded shoves of a bony wrist, that the man was a distraught lecturer, or an irritated government bureaucrat. Only his dress whites belied his chosen profession: commanding officer of the Qin-class attack submarine #415; an archer holding a quiver made of eleven thousand tons of steel and titanium, a quiver that housed twenty-four torpedoes, sixteen long-range cruise missiles, and ten anti-ship missiles. "Depth is four-fifty and climbing." The whispering of the helsman was that of a boy; Commander Luo Yiwan wondered how long his innocence would last. Climbing up - a bad moment, no matter how many times you did it. Cresting the spine of the Mariana Islands - an even better naval chokepoint for the Americans than the infamous GIUK gap facing the Russians - in the last hours of peace before all hell broke loose? A part of Yiwan wished he could smoke, but he believed in obeying the rules he set down for his crew. Instead, his wrist brushed back more of his hair. Yiwan turned to his intercept officer, whispered back. "Where's the P-8? Still digging around, or out of reach?" Yiwan and his crew had already gotten lucky once. After they deposited two Ming 'children' on fiber optic cables off the southeastern coast of Honshu, JMSDF ASW had left them alone, thinking the noisy old Mings, filled with a healthy complement of high explosives instead of human beings, were all that was of this particular Chinese sortie, and missing the quiet nuclear attack sub slipping southeast. VLF orders had then instructed Yiwan to approach Guam and take up a picket position two hundred kilometers northwest of the island, awaiting the USS John F Kennedy sortieing from Pearl Harbor; then shadow the carrier group as soon as they made contact for the next two days. Yiwan had no intention of being that predictable. Guam was the most-heavily fortified US base in the Pacific, next to Pearl Harbor itself. For three hundred kilometers around the island, the seabed was littered with mines, magnetic and passive sonar detectors, and prowling American ASW aircraft and submarines. Instead, Yiwan was going on a tiger hunt east of the Marianas. If the gambit worked, they would be able to intercept the carrier group and fulfill their mission, then vanish into the uncharted murk of the Central Pacific, a black shark nearly a half-mile underwater operating on minimum reactor power, hoping to loop back to a home port that might already be rubble by the time they arrived. If it didn't, they would have two hours of quiet before dying to the pressure wave of an enemy torpedo, ordinary seawater compressed to thirty times atmospheric pressure cracking the double-layered titanium and steel hull like an eggshell. If they could evade detection. If the thermal inversions masked their sonar signatures just right. If they found a lucky shadow the random flickering of the Earth's magnetic field. If. If. If. Submarine warfare was a warfare of conditionalities, of contingencies, and of rapid-fire coordination - blind. Most submarines ran on loose guidance and oversight, a level of aufragstaktik unthinkable to their surface brethren. Once they left port, sub commanders behaved like football players - there was no way to shout across the pitch, but they had to work together to get the ball into the goal. The reason was more practical than tactical: VLF radio stations tossed wavelengths as long as ten kilometers from antenna grids that used up more electricity than an aluminum smelter, and yet could still only reach a few hundred feet into electrically conductive salt water. ELF radios could reach still further, to combat depths, but the rate of message transmission was less than a few characters per minute. And those were only one-way communications. To reply, a submarine had to come to periscope depth, with only a few tens of feet separating the fragile vessel from deadly ASW systems. Yiwan remembered his first lessons as a fresh ensign two decades ago, aboard a stinking diesel-fired hand-me-down from the Soviet Navy, where half the sub, it seemed, was engaged in a silent mutiny against the crew and the other half was actively trying to kill them. The commanding officer had taken them down to test depth, which, for those flimsy rust buckets, was not that deep at all - or at least it had seemed that way until the portside air vents malfunctioned and stayed open, rolling the entire vessel on its side and sending them closer and closer to the death zone where the water pressure would crush them. No way to ascend - no way to radio for help. When the request for volunteers to fix the broken vents came, then First-Lieutenant Luo had stayed behind, hidden mental weakness manifesting itself into actual physical nausea, and he watched his two bunkmates - his best friends - scamper through sparking, topsy-turvy, claustrophobic, tunnels, successfully repair the mechanism, and then step into a puddle of salt water and short-circuiting batteries, thrash about, soil themselves, and die mere meters away from their huddling comrades. Luo had played a coward, and it had saved his life. Now, the machines were much better, but Yiwan wondered if the men had changed at all. "The P-8 is out of range, Commander Luo." That was one obstacle out of the way. Now, if they could just have another stroke of luck. If. [hr][/hr] February 6th, 2023, 1:19PM UTC+8 BREAKING - China demands Japan allow Chinese security agencies 'rendition rights' across all Japanese territories and towards all Japanese citizens to assist in investigating FM assassination February 6th, 2023, 2:05PM UTC+8 BREAKING - Japan refuses Chinese demands 'with prejudice', suggests China should 'invite' the Japanese military to protect Japanese citizens in China February 6th, 2023, 2:36PM UTC+8 China breaks diplomatic relations with Japan and reiterates earlier demands as ultimatum [hr][/hr] A last minute briefing filled with nervous sweat - Colonel Wu Taifu noted the weather over Guam - clear, as the â€˜fanumnanganâ€™ dry season had started â€“ a perfect environment for smart EO bombs looking for an exposed target. At 12:00 PM, the pilots shuffled into their planes, still lodged in tunnels under forty feet of granite. The colonel taxiied up as number two in the third element of the second squadron. Other regimental commanders might sit back in a recon bird, but Taifu preferred to command from a striker, figuring that if he expected his boys to load their planes to the point of making them less maneuverable than a school bus and then get up close against CAPs and SAMs, so should he. One by one, like mating termites, the planes emerged from the tunnel onto the main runway and took off. Before engaging the throttle, Taifu turned around and glanced at Captain Shu, his Weapon Systems Officer. The boy's face wore a nervous smile. Taifu told him to cheer up, and that they would be home for dinner. The squadrons flew out, aimed straight for Taiwan. The colonel did not know why the vectors told them to graze the island, but as his ESM receivers stayed quiet even though he could plainly see the island's northern coast, he began to guess why. Someone, likely a few sympathetic Taiwanese officers, had queered-up the ROC's long-range radars - or turned them off entirely. The Americans now had a gaping hole in their defense grid, and they didn't even know it. No doubt, Taifu thought, other regiments would be pouring through the breach, getting into position to strike Japanese and American facilities from behind. Then he forced his mind back to his own mission. The J-20s and H-10s arced due east, flew out 600 nautical miles, and found the cryptic low-powered IFF beeper of a solar-powered tanker drone. Six blue-paneled, gull-winged propeller craft, each nearly the size of an H-10 bomber and filled with 180,000 liters of avgas, loitered above the sunlight-blocking cloud cover. Taifu finished dancing with refueling drogue and merged back into squadron formation, then glanced at Captain Shu. The boy looked calm - no, he looked ready. Another 700 nautical miles to the weapons release point.