50 fathoms deep, the Atlantic water is cold and dark. The water between that depth and the surface is referred to as “the layer” by those whose business it is to know such things. It is officially called the thermocline by oceanographers, and consists of that portion of the ocean where sunlight reasonably permeates, and the temperature of the water is fairly consistent. That same consistency also means that any sound generated within the thermocline tends to remain there, and can travel for quite some distance, bouncing between the surface and the bottom of the layer like a rubber ball between walls. Beneath the layer, however, things take a decided change.
Below the thermocline, sound tends to bend and distort it interesting ways. The layer itself can act like a roof, bending sound down until it reaches an area of such great pressure than it is bounced back up, the process repeating itself until the sound waves run out of energy and meld into the ambient noise of the ocean. Even the temperature and salinity of the water can add to the mix, and refraction and reflection vie to see which can most affect radiant noises. If a monster wished to hide from prying eyes and ears, no better place could be found than beneath the layer, and that is where the Kraaken swam.
Captain Yevgeny Suvarov was well acquainted with the properties of sound in water. For more than 20 years he had served aboard submarines of the Soviet Navy, and in that time had done all that was asked of him and more. His reputation was legend, and he had mastered his career because he believed in his nation, enjoyed his work, and, above all, he was an honorable man. He led by example, and his men believed in him, because there was not a system or procedure aboard his submarine that he did not know. The Petty Officers who trained the rest of the enlisted crew knew to teach their charges well, for Captain Suvarov was the final arbiter of who was promoted, and who was demoted. There was respect between him and his crew, because they trusted him, and many aboard wished that other officers shared his drive, if not his knowledge. Every man aboard knew, too, that if they were in the right, the Captain would back them fully. If they had been slack or negligent, however, well… it was best not to dwell on where that would lead.
Suvarov glanced around the operations room, and habitually noted the time on his wrist watch. The watch was a gift from an American navy officer, another submariner, whom he had met years before in Moscow. Suvarov had been tasked to meet and develop a dossier on him. The American was assigned to the United States Embassy, and likely was also developing what intelligence he could.. Such was the old game, and it had been played for years before either of them had met, and would continue long after they had both passed on. There were certain rules, protocols, which would be observed, but beyond that, everything was fair game.
The American interested Suvarov, and, over time, both had developed a mutual respect, if not friendship. The watch had been a gift when the American left for another posting, a gesture of respect from one professional to another. Over the years, he had wondered what became of the American. The watch kept perfect time, and, amusingly, was always a sticking point with the Zampolit, the political officer assigned to every Soviet unit. Zampolits had no sense of humor, and always questioned why a leading Soviet officer would wear an American watch. Suvarov was quick to remind them that it was a gift from an old friend, worn as a mark of respect, and as a reminder that the Americans could, on occasion, produce qualiy items.
This was the Captain’s second tour as commanding officer of Soviet Ballistic Missile Submarine Monchegorsk. He (all Soviet vessels were referred to in the masculine) was named for an obscure Russian town. The idea was pure propaganda, designed to stoke the patriotic fires of the farmers and workers by naming a great vessel after their little community. It made them feel a part of something bigger than themselves, and preserved the illusion that the Party actually cared about them. Suvarov knew this, but didn’t care. The name wasn’t as important as what it could be made to represent, and a fine reputation would enhance the ship’s name, and raise the moral of the sailors who wore it on their caps and uniforms. The better the morale, the better the sailors would endure the hardships of life aboard a boomer, and that was what REALLY mattered to Captain Suvarov.
Monchegorsk had been on patrol for just over 30 days now, and so far, Suvarov was relatively pleased with how things were going. He had the luxury of returning to a boat he had previously commanded so he was familiar with it’s habits. Submarines, like any machine, have their own individual characteristics, and, as a man knows when his car isn’t running right, Suvarov could always tell when something wasn’t just so. Tonight, however, things seemed to be running smoothly. Another bonus was his crew, most of whom had sailed with him before, so there was a confidence and familiarity between them. His one regret was in the manner of his taking command of Monchegorsk. The officer slated to take the boat on patrol had developed an affinity to Vodka, more so than normal. One week prior to Monchegorsk’s sailing date, the new Captain had decided to celebrate his good fortune, and, taking his Executive Officer with him, the two made the rounds of all the local bars. Being thus fortified, they made a decision to walk back to their quarters. Neither apparently heard, let alone saw, the train.
With just 5 day’s notice, Captain Yevgeny Suvarov had been called back to his old command. “Stupid… such a waste” thought Suvarov as he settled into his chair in the Operations Room. Both would have made fine commanders, and both left families who now would have to learn some other way to get by and rebuild their lives. As he was contemplating all this, the COMMS officer handed him a folder of decoded message traffic. Weather reports, updated intel on ship movements, normal traffic all. He skimmed over each document and hoped for a quiet end to this watch.
Suvarov subconsciously heard the click over the intercom before he heard the voice “CON, Sonar. We have a contact bearing 045 degrees… sounds like a sonobuoy hitting the water.” Yevgeny knew that the Americans had come out to play. “Game on”, he thought.