Authors: Patrick Robinson
This book is respectfully dedicated to everyone who opposes the reduction of U.S. Naval budgets, especially those politicians willing to reverse the process.
The President of the United States (Commander-in-Chief U.S. Armed Forces)
Vice Admiral Arnold Morgan (National Security Adviser)
Robert MacPherson (Defense Secretary)
Harcourt Travis (Secretary of State)
General Tim Scannell (Chairman of the Joint Chiefs)
U.S. NAVY SENIOR COMMAND
Admiral Alan Dixon (Chief of Naval Operations)
Admiral Dick Greening (Commander-in-Chief Pacific Fleet [CINCPACFLT])
Rear Admiral Freddie Curran (Commander Submarines Pacific Fleet [COMSUBPAC])
Rear Admiral John Bergstrom (Commander Special War Command [SPECWARCOM])
Commander Donald K. Reid (Commanding Officer)
Lt. Commander Dan Headley (Executive Officer)
Lt. Commander Jack Cressend (Combat Systems Officer)
Lt. Commander Josh Gandy (Sonar Officer)
Master Chief Petty Officer Drew Fisher (Chief of Boat)
Lt. Shawn Pearson (Navigation Officer)
Lt. Matt Singer (Officer of the Deck)
Lt. Dave Mills (ASDV helmsman)
Lt. Matt Longo (ASDV navigator)
U.S. NAVY SEALS
Commander Rick Hunter (Team Leader, Assault Team Two)
Commander Russell “Rusty” Bennett (Overall Commander, Assault Team One)
Lt. Commander Ray Schaeffer (Team Leader, Assault Team One)
Lt. Dan Conway (Second in Command, Assault Team One)
Lt. John Nathan (High Explosives Chief, Assault Team One)
Chief Petty Officer Rob Cafiero (Base Camp Chief, Assault Team One)
Petty Officer Ryan Combs (machine gunner, Assault Team One)
Combat SEAL Charlie Mitchell (Electrics, Assault Team One)
Lt. Dallas MacPherson (Second in Command and Explosives Chief, Assault Team Two)
Lt. Bobby Allensworth (personal bodyguard to Commander Hunter)
Chief Petty Officer Mike Hook (explosives assistant to Lt. MacPherson)
Petty Officer Catfish Jones (combat assistant to Lt. Allensworth)
SEAL Riff “Rattlesnake” Davies (machine gunner, Assault Team Two)
SEAL Buster Townsend (Assault Team Two)
NATIONAL SECURITY AGENCY, FORT MEADE
Admiral David Borden (Acting Director)
Lt. Jimmy Ramshawe (Security Ops Officer)
President: Captain Cale “Boomer” Dunning
Judge Advocate General: Captain Sam Scott
Judge Advocate/Observer: Captain Art Brennan
Trial Counselor: Lt. Commander David “Locker” Jones
Defense Counselor: Lt. Commander Al Surprenant
CHINESE HIGH COMMAND
Admiral Zhang Yushu (Senior Vice Chairman Peoples’ Liberation Army/Navy Council)
Admiral Zu Jicai (Commander-in-Chief, Navy)
CIVILIAN OIL TANKER MASTERS
Commodore Don McGhee (
Captain Tex Packard (
Kathy O’Brien (Admiral Morgan)
Jane Peacock (Lt. Ramshawe)
It was pretty damn hot for baseball. Only a light…
Admiral Arnold Morgan was alone in his office contemplating the…
On Saturday morning, April 7, at first light, the Chinese warships…
With Lieutenant Ramshawe on his way home now, sworn to…
By the start of the final half hour of the…
Admiral Morgan’s call to SPECWARCOM was essentially a request to…
On the face of it, Big John was not making…
The message from the communication room was not very clear.
It was too quick even for STRONG NET, the brand-new…
News of China’s tightening stranglehold on the island of Taiwan…
The Battle for Keelung had now lasted for five days,…
This was Commander Rick Hunter’s final briefing of his team…
On an academic level, it was the limpet mine of…
Lieutenant Commander Headley had offered Commander Reid every courtesy, including…
Rick Hunter and Dan Headley returned home to the bluegrass…
Hunter Valley Thoroughbred Farms
It was pretty damn hot for baseball. Only a light breeze ruffled the sweltering bluegrass paddocks in this big thoroughbred breeding farm along the old Ironworks Pike, out near the village of Paris. And young Dan Headley couldn’t hit Rick Hunter’s fastball to save his life.
“Easy, Ricky…take something off it…I can’t hit that….” But again and again the baseball came screaming in, low and away, and slammed into the base of the red barn wall behind the hitter. And the tall 16-year-old pitcher kept howling with laughter as his best buddy swung and missed yet again.
“You gotta concentrate, Danny.”
“The baseball, stupid.”
“How can I, when I can’t even see it? Nobody could see it.”
“Pete Rose coulda seen it,” said Rick solemnly, referring to the former Cincinnati Reds legend.
“Pete Rose coulda seen a howitzer shell.”
“Okay, one more?”
“Nah. I’m all done. Let’s go back and get some lemonade. I’m sweating like a bull.”
Rick Hunter pulled off his glove, stuck the ball into the pocket of his jeans, and tied the sleeves of his warm-up jacket around his waist. He jumped over the post-and-rail fence into a wide paddock containing a half dozen mares and foals. Dan Headley followed him, swinging the Louisville Slugger bat, looking over at the foals, at the Kentucky-bred baby racehorses, the best of whom may one day hear the thunder of the crowds at Belmont Park, Royal Ascot, Saratoga and Longchamp. Perhaps even Churchill Downs.
“Still beats the hell outta me why you don’t just stay here and get rich,” said Dan. “Raisin’ the ye’rlings, sellin’ ’em for fortunes, just like yer daddy…. Jeez, Rick. You got it all made for you, right here.”
“Danny, we been havin’ this particular conversation for the biggest part of three years. And my answer ain’t varied none. I just ain’t interested. ’Sides, in my judgment, this bull market for thoroughbreds ain’t here forever.”
“Well, it’s been here for more’n ten years. Ain’t showing no sign of flagging.”
“It’ll collapse, ole buddy. Bull markets always do in the end. And right then there’s gonna be a whole lot of penniless ole hardboots around here…guys who thought their good luck was some kinda birthright.”
“Yeah, but that ain’t why you plan to leave. You’re leavin’ because it bores you…even with all that money swilling around. But why the hell you want to be an officer in the U.S. Navy instead of riding around here like some goddamned czar…master of the Hunter Valley, right here in the thoroughbred breeding capital of the world…well, like I said. Sure beats the hell outta me.”
“Well, you’re planning to leave with me, right?”
“Sure I am, Ricky. But, Christ, my daddy’s just the stud groom here. Your ole man owns the whole place. And you don’t even have any brothers and sisters. It’s all gonna be yours. All two thousand acres of it. And all them goddamned blue-chip broodmares.”
“Come on, Danny. You understand the horse-breeding business better’n I do. You could make a real go of it yourself, if you wanted. Your daddy’s got a coupla mares of his own. Everyone has to start somewhere.”
“Ricky, I couldn’t save enough money for a place like this in a thousand years. I’d just end up another stud groom. Anyone could see why I’d rather be Captain Dan Headley, commanding officer of a U.S. Navy battle cruiser, than Danny Headley, stallion man at the Hunter Valley.”
“Raisin’ horses bores you too, don’t it?” said Rick, grinning, in the sure knowledge that he had a soul mate.
“Some. But I just don’t have the advantages.”
“Wouldn’t change nothin’ in my opinion. You just want adventure…I guess like me. Fast horses take too long to raise. We just ain’t got the time, right?”
Dan grinned. He was much shorter than the towering Rick Hunter, and he had to walk about half a stride faster to lay up with his lifelong friend. They moved steadily across the magnificent grassland, walking on a slight uphill gradient, watching the foals edging toward them, eager, curious, the mares moving at a much slower pace behind.
“Who’s that chestnut filly by?…”
“Which one, Danny? The one in front with the white star?”
“Yeah. She’s gonna have a backside like a barmaid when she grows up.”
“Guess she could have a motor. She’s by Secretariat, out of a halfway decent daughter of Nashua.”
“That’s real local, right? Nashua next door, and the Big Horse is just up the road.”
Kentucky horsemen always referred to the 1973 Triple Crown winner as the Big Horse, despite his unspectacular performance in the stud.
“Dad owns the mare, swears to God Secretariat’s gonna be a great sire of broodmares. We’ll be keeping that filly for sure.”
“How about that little bay colt over there, the one who keeps pushing the others around?…”
“He’s by Northern Dancer. Typical, kinda boisterous and small. He’ll go to the sales, probably end up in Ireland with Mr. O’Brien. Unless the Arabs outbid everyone. Then he’ll end up in Newmarket, which ain’t quite so good.”
“Guess the dark gray is by the Rajah, right?”
“That’s him. He’s by our own Red Rajah. Bart Hunter’s pride and joy. That stallion is one mean sonofabitch. But my daddy loves him, and your daddy copes with him. Bobby Headley, best stallion man in the bluegrass. That’s my old man’s verdict.”
“Well, I been around the Rajah for five years, and I ain’t seen nothin’ mean about him.”
“I have. Trust me. He just don’t like strangers, Dan. But he acts like an old dog when your daddy’s with him.”
They walked on, to the fence, climbed it and came around into the main yard, walked right into Bobby Headley, hurrying down to the feed house. He was a slim, hard-eyed Kentucky horseman of medium height, not as handsome as his dark-haired 16-year-old son, and he had a deep resonant voice that seemed out of place in a man so lacking in bulk.
“Hey, boys, how you doin’?” he said, looking at the baseball bat. “Still gettin’ that fastball past ’im, eh, Ricky?”
“Yessir. But it ain’t easy. Lose your concentration, and that Danny can really hurt you.”
Bobby Headley chuckled. “Hey, Dan, do me a favor, willya? Run along to Rajah’s box and pick up my brushes. I left ’em right inside the door.”
“Sure. Rick, will I see you back at the house?”
“In five, right?”
Dan Headley jogged along to the three big stallion boxes at the far end of the yard, unclipped the lock on the eight-year-old Red Rajah’s door, and slipped inside, muttering softly, “Hey, Rajah, ole boy…how you bin? They still treatin’ you good?”
The big stallion, just a tad under 17 hands, and almost milk white now with the advancing years, did not have a head collar on and he was not tethered on a long shank to the sturdy iron ring on the wall. This was a bit unusual for a stallion of his hot-blooded breeding. The powerful ex-California Stakes winner was a grandson of the fiery Red God, out of a fast daughter of the notorious English sire Supreme Sovereign.
To a professional horseman this was an example of breeding made in hell, a recipe for a truly dangerous stallion. Supreme Sovereign was so unpredictable, so lethal to any human being, they kept a high-powered fire hose in his box, in case of an emergency.
Red Rajah himself had several times attacked people, but he’d been a high-class miler in his time, a good tough battler in a finish, and he was a highly commercial sire, standing for $40,000. In the last couple of years, Bobby Headley seemed to have him under control.
The Rajah gazed at young Dan Headley moving softly behind him. He betrayed no anger, but those who knew him would have noticed his ears set slightly back, and his eye flicking first forward, then back; far back, looking at Dan without moving his head.
The boy bent down to pick up the brushes, and as he straightened up, the stallion moved, imperceptibly. Dan, sensing a shift in the horse’s mood, reacted like the lifelong horseman he was, lifted up his right arm like a traffic cop, and murmured, “Whoa there, Rajah…good boy…easy, ole buddy.”
Right then Red Rajah attacked, quite suddenly, with not a semblance of warning. He whipped his head around and slammed his teeth over Danny’s biceps, biting like a crocodile, right through the muscle and splintering the big bone in the upper arm. And he didn’t let go. He dragged the boy down, pulling him onto the straw, preparing for the killer-stallion’s favorite trick, to kneel on his prey, like a camel or an elephant, crushing the rib cage. The thoroughbred breeding industry is apt to keep this kind of savagery very quiet.
Dan Headley screamed, with pain and terror. And his scream echoed into the yard. Rick Hunter was on his way down the walkway toward the main house when he heard it. No one else did. A thousand dreads about the true nature of the grandson of Red God flew through his mind.
Back in the barn, Danny screamed again. He was facing death. He knew that, and he kicked out at the stallion, but it was like kicking a pickup truck.
Rick Hunter was by now pounding across the grass quadrangle toward the boxes as he heard his friend’s second scream. He dashed straight to the first box where Red Rajah lived. When he got there he searched instantly for a weapon, and saw the trusty Louisville Slugger against the wall. Grabbing it with his right hand, he whipped open the door and faced with horror the scene before him—Danny, blood pouring from his smashed right arm, trying to protect himself against the onslaught of the stallion looming over him, preparing to kneel.
Rick never hesitated, wound back the bat and slammed it into Red Rajah’s ribs with a blow that would surely have killed a man. It did not, however, kill Red Rajah. The great white horse swung his head around, as if deciding which of the two boys to attack first. So Ricky hit him again, with all his force, crashing the bat into the ribs of the stallion, simultaneously yelling, “GET OUT, DANNY! FOR CHRIST’S SAKE GET OUT…SHUT THE DOOR BUT DON’T LOCK IT….”
Dan Headley, half in shock, maddened by the pain, rolled and crawled out of the box. Still flat on the ground, he kicked the door shut. And 16-year-old Rick Hunter turned to face the raging horse again.
By now he was in the corner 15 feet from the door, watching the Rajah backing off a stride or two. Rick held the bat in both hands, not daring to swing in case he missed the head, and the horse came at his throat, or, much more likely, his testicles.
In a split second he got his answer. Red Rajah came straight at his face, mouth open. Rick shoved the bat straight out in front of him, still holding the handle with both hands. And the Rajah’s teeth smashed down onto it, splintering it like matchwood.
Ouside Dan Headley had passed out from the pain.
And now Rick was on his own. Again the Rajah moved away a stride, his ears flat back, his white-rimmed eye still flicking back and forth. Rick’s mind raced, back to a conversation he had once had with an old local hardboot, who had told him,
There’s only one way I know to stop a stallion who’s bent on killing you
Rick Hunter dropped down onto all fours, knowing that if this ploy failed he might be as dead as Danny would have been if he hadn’t arrived in time.
Rick flattened himself into the pose of the horse’s most ancient and feared enemy, the lion. He tried to assume the crouched, threatening stance of a big cat preparing to pounce, trying to reawaken thousands of years of unconscious phobia in the psyche of the horse. He burrowed his boot into the straw, made a scratching noise on the concrete beneath, snarled deeply, staring hard into the horse’s eyes.
Then he moved his head forward and let out a roar and then another, crawling one step nearer. Red Rajah stopped dead. Then he moved a half step backward, a slight tremor in both shoulder muscles. He backed up some more, dipping his head as if to protect his throat. It was an instinct, not a reaction.
Rick roared like a lion again, all the while trying to get the warm-up jacket from around his waist. The fight seemed to have gone right out of the Rajah, who was now standing stock-still. And he was not prepared when the six-foot-four-inch heir to Hunter Valley jumped up and dived at his head, ramming the jacket hard down over his eyes and face.
Red Rajah was in the pitch dark now, and no horse likes to move when he’s unable to see anything. He just stood there, stock-still, trembling, blind now, with the jacket still over his head. And Rick carefully edged toward the door, eased it quietly open, and made his escape, slamming the lock shut as he went.
Outside, Dan was conscious again. Rick hit the alarm bell, and sat with his buddy until help arrived minutes later.
He, and both of their fathers, remained with Dan all night in Lexington Hospital, while two surgeons meticulously restitched the muscle, reset and pinned the shattered right arm.
And in the morning when Dan was in the recovery room, the patient finally came to, slowly focusing on the young lion from Hunter Valley. He shook his head in silent admiration of his friend’s courage. And then he grinned, and said, “Jesus, Ricky. You just saved my life. I told you we’d be better off in a warship.”
“You’re right there, ole buddy,” said Rick. “Screw this racehorse crap. You can get killed out here. I’d rather be under fire. You think Annapolis is ready for us?”