Bill Todd -- Jones: A Novel of the Early Cold War
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 Chapter 24

Nuking Leningrad

Wentworth Huntington Thurmond was aware that his wife, Barbara, raised sensitive subjects soon after sex. She was wise to do so. With her blonde hair all over the pillow and her hand gently massaging his stomach, she purred,

"We're being screwed by the navy."

It was a thought that had occurred to Went himself. His hero status was gradually waning as the war receded into the past, and he had lately come to think that he was unlikely to have an important role in the navy of the future. He sighed assentingly, and she added,

"You sank more ships and killed more Japs than the rest of those fuckers you work with put together. Isn't there any reward beyond bits of ribbon."

"You know the navy. You wouldn't mind so much if we weren't now living in a civilian community."

Barbara briefly moved her hand lower to see that all was well and said,

"Our friends all seem to have twice as much money as we do."

"The lobbyists have three times as much."

Barbara filled in a few details, with particular emphasis on the houses their friends lived in. She then asked,

"Could you become a lobbyist?"

This, too, had previously occurred to Went. He wanted to have some fun. Barbara also wanted to have fun. Their ideas of fun didn't entirely converge, but both kinds of fun required money. More than the combination of his salary and the income from his modest inheritance. Much more. He replied,

"An interesting thought. The trick is to get the sort of position in the navy that allows a graceful arabesque to a lucrative civilian position."

"How do you do that?"

"Just being a sub commander doesn't do it. I'll have to somehow get within shouting distance of the centers of power and decision-making in DoD."

"But suppose you do get let in on some big secrets. You can't just go to a defence contractor, tell him what you know, and explain how you can help him take advantage of it."

"There are ways of indicating to them that one isn't just an ordinary line officer. They have very sensitive noses, and they'll immediately pick up on a mere whiff of service with an important planning agency."

"Like that CASP place that you're going to now?"

"Exactly. But I'm hardly established there. I'm only following in the wake of Jones and Heike."

"I haven't met Jones, but I certainly wouldn't trust that little Heike. I'm sure she has her own agenda, and it might land you in the soup."

"She and Jones have been helping CASP steal JOAD's computer."

"Does JOAD realize that?"

"There are suspicions. I, of course, have to remain above suspicion at JOAD, and in the navy generally. Whatever else happens, there will be subs to be built and contracts to be let."

"So you didn't help steal the computer, you just did nothing to prevent it?"

"I think it's pretty obvious that I couldn't have prevented it. But I'm probably not weeping and wailing as loudly as I should be."

"You're not good at that kind of pretense, Went. You also don't seem ambitious to most people. Neither the military nor the civilians are going to pay a lot of money to a man who makes jokes about their grand designs."

"I've held all that in check with General Smith."

"Is he the one who counts?"


"You'll have to help him get what he wants, get a promotion to a position with an impressive title, and then resign."

"Of course, I'll never get such a position if they have the slightest inkling that I might resign."

"You'll have to fool everyone, Went."

"I've always been better at shooting people in the gut than fooling them. You don't have to fool them after you've shot them."

"Oh, Went! That's exactly the wrong way to talk. Our friends don't say things like that. Killing people is out. It doesn't get you up the corporate ladder."

"No, not even if you create a vacancy by shooting your boss."

"Look, you can be the new sort of man if you really try. A lot of it is just not saying everything that comes into your head."

As he agreed to censor himself, Went did some things that made Barabara giggle.

When Jones came walking across the marble floor of the Union Terminal, Heike Herrnstein was immediately aware that something had changed within him. Then, instead of picking her up and spinning her playfully around, he hugged her more meaningfully and kissed her ear. But she didn't ask what had happened. They were due immediately at JOAD, and then later at CASP. She said,

"I've got that hand-played sub vs. escort simulation you designed running on the machine."

"Good. Any problems?"

"Only a couple of minor assumptions were missing. The original game didn't have a rule which said that depth charges sink in water. I had to do a little research to find out how fast they sink."

"It's so easy to overlook the law of gravity. According to William James, we shake the stars when we nod our heads."

"Is that actually true?"

"I suppose it must be."

After some other diffuse conversation, they arrived at Went's office. Went remarked,

"Admiral Benson pointed out some things that I missed."

Heike was suddenly uneasy. Had Went and Benson discovered some new way of starting an atomic war? As if there weren't already enough ways. Went continued,

"I don't know why I didn't notice it before, probably because I'm so used to misleading Mercator projections."

He then picked up the inflatable globe Heike had left with them. Measuring distances, he said,

"We don't have to penetrate the Gulf of Finland to attack the Soviet Union.

Heike asked,

"Don't we still have to figure on a thousand mile range?"

"Much of the eastern North Sea is within a thousand miles of Leningrad, Smolensk, and the Red Army bases in western Russia."

Jones replied,

"I suppose the Russians will start patrolling that area with destroyers."

Went made a peculiar face and said,

"Yes. The Russian destroyer force."

It turned out that the Russians, following the French, had built super destroyers, bigger and more powerful than the ordinary ones. Went pointed out,

"Three of them might defeat a cruiser, but they aren't any more effective than an ordinary destroyer against subs. Moreover, since they're more expensive, the Russians could only build thirty five or so."

Jones said,

"And they have to be split between the far east, the Black Sea, and the Baltic."

"That's right. The perennial problem of the Russian navy. There might be no more than fifteen in the Baltic and fewer than that out in the North Sea."

Heike was now afraid that she was temporarily losing Jones to Went. He settled in so comfortably to these discussions of killing ten million people. Anyway, she had to hold her end up, so she said,

"I suppose the Russians don't have much anti-submarine experience."

Went nodded forcefully.

"Exactly right! The most important factor of all. They've never had to counter a major sub campaign. We and the British have practically a monopoly on that kind of experience."

Jones added,

"And the Japanese."

"Well, yes. Except that most of them are dead. Anyhow, a handful of Russian destroyers who don't know how to hunt subs are hardly going to be any threat at all."

Jones asked,

"What about the other escorts?"

"They simply don't have anything like our fleet of DE's, or the British corvettes and frigates. We built them because we found we had to have plentiful cheap escorts. Again, the Russians haven't even found out what they'll need."

Jones replied,

"I think they have certain light forces they took from the Germans."

"Yeah, but it'll be a matter of Russian peasants staring at German guages and machinery and pulling the wrong levers."

Heike was tempted to say something about under-estimating the potential enemy, but she instead said,

"We've got the submarine vs. destroyer simulation computerized. If you give me the figures on the Russian ships, I'll enter them."

"Okay. Is General Smith going to let us run the game a couple of hundred times and get some statistical results?"

"It seems so."

Went laughed and added,

"As long as he likes the results."

Jones said,

"I think he sees the air force as a much more dangerous competitor to the army than the sub force. He may allow us our niche if we don't try to make too much of it."

That was more than Heike would have said directly to Went. The rest of JOAD, for example, would have strongly objected to being confined to a niche. But Went didn't seem to take umbrage. Instead, he replied,

"In the worst case, General Smith might effectively veto Admiral Benson's plans for a missile attack on the Soviet Union. But, then, we could concentrate on the defense and on anti-submarine submarines."

Heike asked,

"Wouldn't that be a big disappointment for you, Went?"

"It will be for the admiral, but I'm rapidly getting more flexible and seeing more opportunities."

"Really? I thought you wanted to blow some things up."

"Well, there's a problem with missiles. You create a big explosion, but it's a thousand miles away and you don't get to see it. If you torpedo another submarine, you see it blow up and hear the bang."

Jones said,

"It looks as if we'll be encroaching on the ASW Command."

"Sure, but they don't have backing in high places, or in congress. On that score, I've completed the arrangements for us to go out on a PT boat and do some experimenting."

Heike had hoped that Went had forgotten about that. She didn't ask when the exercise would be, but determined to work up a set of excuses for any likely date.

When they were in Heike's car, headed for Virginia, she asked,

"What do you think Went's up to now?"

"I think he imagines himself in an anti-sub sub stalking a Russian sub, all set to fire the torpedo."

"Isn't he too senior now to be in a sub?"

"No, a fancy new sub would probably have a full commander in charge. The anti-sub subs will probably be called 'killer subs.' Went will like that."

"Is he also prepared to torpedo Admiral Benson's dreams?"

"I don't think he would personally. But he's realistic enough to think that General Smith may."

"Yes. With our help."

Jones smiled and added,

"It looks as if we'll be engaging in one kind of treachery rather soon."

"But it's consistent with our overall aim. Hardly anything would be more provocative than sneaking subs with missiles within range of Moscow."

"Yes. It's one thing to have missiles ready to retaliate, but Benson may have in mind a first strike out of the blue."

"It's funny. He was extremely unpleasant to me, but he still doesn't seem at all like Genghis Khan."

"He isn't. He's just trying to find a role for submarines."

"If it's true that the Russians are practically defenseless against a missile attack from the North Sea, we'll have a hell of a time skewing our model enough to make it look impossible."

"I think General Smith will help us find a way. He's not learning to program for nothing, and it'll put him in a very powerful position. He can say that he's helped construct the model himself. No one else of his rank will be able to argue with him."

They had now hit the Georgetown traffic jam, and, seeing a nice little "undiscovered" place to eat, they stopped. When munching, Heike asked,

"Anything new in Cincinnati?"

"The journal arrangements are going well. I'm getting submissions, and Tensy said that your call for papers is about ready to go."

"Yes. That's fine. Anything else?"

"Well, one of my colleagues got promoted, and, in the general euphoria, he seems to want me to sleep with his wife."

Heike had known that there was something having to do with women, but it was still a little shock. She remained outwardly cool and asked,

"But you haven't?"

"No. I've only had lunch with her. She seemed not to want to have an affair. Not that I asked, or anything."

"I had a long talk with your Miss Sarah Swift when I called for you one day."

"Yes, she said so."

"A most interesting young lady. I gathered that Cincinnati is quite a hotbed of sexuality."

"Only around Sarah and her friends. I thought she was too dangerous even before I got my appointment. She's having an affair with Roger Ennis, the man who wants to pair me with his wife."

"Is she the one who Sarah says is so beautiful?"

"Yes, probably so."

"And her saying she doesn't want to have an affair probably means that she really does."

"It could be. The ground is shifting under me a bit. For the first time in my life, I feel safer with someone else than on my own."

"You mean, you feel safe right now?"

"Yes, I think so."

"Is that because you aren't with this lady, or because you're with me."

"Both, I think."

"Ah, you're a romantic fool, Jones."

Jones amazed Heike by not taking it as a joke. He quite seriously replied,

"One of my friends told me recently that he was going to spend the next month on romance with his new girl friend, and then get back to topology."

"Which proves that he doesn't know the meaning of romance."

"He's a good mathematician. That may interfere with it."

"Is that also what's wrong with me? I'd be more romantic if I proved fewer theorems."

Jones finally seemed to realize that he was being teased. Heike then said,

"Your sense of humor is usually pretty active. You must have flipped over this woman."

"It was a surprise, but I don't think it's healthy, or very lasting. Sarah doesn't help. She's actively promoting an atmosphere in which every sort of sexual craziness is encouraged. She told me that I was a stick-in-the-mud."

"She told me that you needed to be drawn out of yourself. I was amused that she thought I could do it."

"I appreciate your sanity, Heike. Went and General Smith, and the others, are just as crazy as Sarah, but in different ways. You remain unaffected."

"Unlike those men, I don't have any passing urges to toss bombs or charge machine-gun nests. All I can do is encourage them in their rational moments."

"Yes. I'm getting to that point myself. Maybe we could educate each other in the area of sex."

"Does that just mean seducing me?"

"No. I'm confused enough to know that I'm not on top of these situations. You have some problems, but you may still be ahead of me."

"My friends, the secretaries, think I'm nearly hopeless. But I do know better than that. I can deal with anything that's very gradual. And, of course, it has to be intellectualized. Is that sick?"

"Not really. Just letting nature do its work would be quite foolish for me."

"For most people. That's how young kids wind up with lots of children, hardly any means of support, and no future."

General Smith had them taken right to him when they arrived. As they climbed the stairs, it occurred to Heike that she didn't know what the legal situation was. Their sub v escort simulation involved data that was classified TOP SECRET. General Smith, she assumed, would also have that clearance. But the navy was almost as anxious to keep its secrets from the other services as from the enemy. Unfortunately, the classification system hadn't been designed with that end in view, and it equally covered all the services and civilians. In the event, Smith said,

"There's no need to show me anything on paper. You can just tell me the upshot of your recent work for the navy in a couple of sentences."

She replied, without having a chance to confer with the obviously nervous Jones,

"The background is that Soviet sub defenses aren't up to much. Hence, our subs in the North Sea, armed with atomic missiles, should be able to destroy Leningrad and perhaps even Moscow. The results of running our simulation a statistically significant number of times could be expected to confirm that."

"What's the range there?"

"About a thousand miles."

"When do they expect to get such missiles?"

"Within two years."

Smith actually laughed, not cynically, but as if at a one- liner.

"Oh the navy! For a start, a missile big enough to carry an atomic warhead would require a battleship or carrier, not a sub. They may possibly get smaller in the future, but twelve years would be a reasonable estimate, not two. In the second place, we don't have a missile with a range of anything like a thousand miles."

Jones seemed surprised, and said,

"Five years ago, the German V-2s were reaching London. They must have had a range of a few hundred miles."

"We're hardly beyond the V-2 now. The United States has virtually ignored missile development. We've just brought the Redstone arsenal back to life with von Braun, but I don't think we could field missiles as good as the V-2 in any quantity. The Soviets, needless to say, are way ahead of us."

Heike replied,

"Admiral Benson has remarked on Soviet progress in that area."

"So he's aware of that. I wonder why he thinks we have a thousand-mile missile in our immediate future. Anyhow, an attack with a couple of atomic missiles and no reserves wouldn't destroy the Soviet Union. It would probably only trigger an invasion of western Europe."

Heike replied,

"I'm not sure that detailed information on missile development gets to JOAD. But I'm pretty sure that Admiral Benson really believes in this strategy, sir."

"Well and good. Give him what he wants. Nothing based on such a crazy assumption will be taken seriously, but you needn't tell him that."

Jones now asked Heike,

"Can we finish this up in a couple of weeks?"

She agreed, and General Smith rejoined,

"Good. We've got something much bigger on tap."

It soon appeared that the much bigger thing was a full-scale simulation of atomic war between the United States and the Soviet Union under a variety of initial assumptions.

Bill Todd -- Jones: A Novel of the Early Cold War
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