"Here, take a look!" he said, handing the binoculars to me, then shaking the hand that he had hurt hitting the railing. "That's a Russian boat all right," he said to me. He rushed back inside. He said something about having to telephone.
"It's too heavy," his voice came thinly from his office. "No, our fishermen aren't that crazy to stay out in a storm like that!"
He closed the door while he spoke on the phone.
The boat seemed to be in trouble. I gave the glasses to Heather and then to Sylvia. Moments later Ross called us all into his office. "We'll watch them with the big telescope," he said.
He was considerably calmer now. He turned the lights off in the office, opened both windows and removed the black velvet cover that had hidden a large reflective type telescope. He aimed it carefully towards the boat. It was an exquisite instrument, finished in velvet black and chrome. I couldn't see a scratch on it. He had it mounted on a heavy table. I was just about to comment on it when Sylvia and Heather came into the room.
"It looks like the boat is sinking," said Heather urgently as she came in. "Shouldn't someone radio for help?"
"It seems to me they have lifeboats in the water beside them," said Sylvia.
Ross ignored them both.
I gave the binoculars to Tony. He simply shook his head at what he saw.
Within seconds the telescope was outfitted with a video attachment and a computer controlled tracking device. Ross opened a closet beside his desk that contained the electronics for the thing and a large screen.
"All right then, let's see," said Ross while the computer was scanning for the fishing boat.
"I suppose we will know in a few seconds whether the boat is sinking or not," I said to Ross.
"Pray that it is sinking!" Ross answered.
Within moments the boat came into view in perfect focus. What we witnessed seemed remarkable to me, considering the relative darkness and the poor weather that was upon us by then. Ross operated the computer, zooming in so that the boat filled the entire screen. Then he switched to what he called "image processing," and the boat stood out in even more perfect detail. It was rather chilling to watch a Russian warship with such a detailed clarity. We could see the individual sailors on board. The boat certainly wasn't sinking.
"Look at this," Ross said. "It's one of the spy ships of the Soviet Northern Fleet. They have lots of these."
He told us while we watched that the Soviet's Northern Fleet is the largest of the four fleets of the Soviet Union. It is based at Murmansk on the Barents Sea, with the bulk of it being based farther south on the north side of the Kola Peninsula at a gigantic complex of naval bases and support installations that constitute the greatest concentration of military power anywhere in the world.
"Just look at the shape of the antenna on the lower stern deck. It is part of a high-speed data link using satellite communication facilities. From there it goes all the way back to the Kola."
He told us that the Kola complex is 60 km long and includes 16 complete air bases, all with runways of over 2000 meters. "It's the hub of the Soviet northern flank and possibly the most defensible military installation on the planet. The area is remote from population centers, tucked away behind northern Finland. It is superbly protected against air attacks by its location hidden between mountains. It is also protected against any possible naval intrusion, by being located at the end of a rather large inland sea. He said the Kola is also the most forward air defense center the Soviet Union has against strategic bombers using the polar route from the USA against the Soviet heartland."
It certainly was amazing to realize how much was tied into the little fishing boat that we watched.
"They might be watching us on TV at the Kola," Tony joked.
"They could very well do that," said Ross. "They're watching the entire coastline, especially up here near the Norfolk naval installations."
"They wouldn't be equipped with nuclear armed missiles?" Tony asked.
Ross shook his head. "Information gathering is their reason for being here. In a ten-minute nuclear war the precise timing of everything makes all the difference. They are monitoring everything that goes on."
Ross stepped aside and looked out of the window from where the boat was barely visible now in the growing darkness. "Damn! How dare they come so near to the coast!" he said angrily. "I wish the Coast Guard would believe me and chase them back out."
He went to the cabinet and turned the video recorder on. "They'll have to believe me now," he said.
I asked him what it was that the girls had recognized as lifeboats. I couldn't see anything.
"They were on the left side," said Heather, "black, quite big, almost too big for lifeboats. There seemed to be two of them."
"Something is going on out there," said Ross, "I can feel it in my bones. Something doesn't add up." He went to the telescope again and added an infrared filter. The image processor adjusted itself accordingly. Suddenly Sylvia and Heather shouted in unison; "There it is!"
There was something black there indeed, like a lifeboat near the fishing vessel, or rather two, one beside the other. But they were far too steady for lifeboats.
"No, those are submarines," said Sylvia calmly.
"What submarines!" yelled Ross, pushing Tony aside, who stood in his way. He added another filter. Now the black painted submarines were more visible. "Quickly everyone, turn all the lights off in the house!" Ross shouted, "...in the kitchen too," he yelled at Tony, "quickly please!"
He worked some more with the image processor. On the screen before us were the clear outlines of two submarines, each one submerged to its tower that was barely visible. Both subs were aligned in parallel with the fishing boat.
"Get those lights out," Ross repeated, "if they see us watching, we may be as good as dead. And the basement lights too!" he shouted towards the kitchen.
After a little more fiddling, the sub's identification markings became visible.
"That's an old Yankee-1 class sub. They are used as nuclear-powered supply ships and attack submarines," said Ross after a few moments, wiping the sweat off his forehead.
He said that the Northern Fleet has sixty percent of the Soviets' nuclear missile subs. He also told us that most of them are permanently stationed off the US coast for pin-down missions against ICBM fields. The goal is to prevent our missiles from being launched while their big SS-26s are coming in from Siberia to destroy our missiles in their silos. "Whoever strikes first, has nine-tenths of the battle won."
Ross added that the subs' missiles might also be targeted against our coastal cities to destroy our harbor facilities. He suggested that such an attack might take somewhat less then three minutes, from start to finish. "Some of the subs' missiles might even be targeted against our strategic bomber fields," he said, "which can be reached in less than eight minutes.
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