Minister Chiang rubbed his spherical and really clean chin. Lin Bao watched the display. Within the background, past the hurried comings and goings of the sailors on the bridge, he might see the horizon. A haze hung concerning the ocean. It took Lin Bao a second to know what had prompted it—this haze was all that was left of the Carl Levin and the Chung-Hoon. And it could, he suspected, quickly be all that was left of the John Paul Jones. Ma Qiang’s concern was merited, Lin Bao thought. This operation from its inception had all the time been restricted in scope. Its goal—the ultimate, uncontested management of the South China Sea—might solely be undermined in one in every of two methods: first, if their forces didn’t destroy this US flotilla; and second, if by means of a miscalculation this disaster escalated past a single, violent demonstration.
“Admiral,” Minister Chiang started, addressing Ma Qiang, “is it your perception that the John Paul Jones might be saved?”
Ma Qiang paused for a second, spoke to somebody off-screen in a hushed voice, after which returned his consideration to the teleconference. “Comrade Minister, our greatest estimates are that the John Paul Jones will sink inside three hours if unaided.” Lin Bao might see that the Zheng He was turning into the wind to be in probably the most advantageous place to launch its plane. Abruptly on the distant horizon a sew of darkish smoke appeared. At first it was so faint that Lin Bao mistook it for an imperfection within the teleconference’s connection. Then he understood: It was the John Paul Jones burning a dozen miles off.
Minister Chiang started stroking his chin as he weighed whether or not to order this closing blow. A decisive engagement was important, however he wanted to proceed with warning lest a miscalculation trigger the incident to spiral right into a broader battle, one that might threaten his nation’s pursuits additional afield than the South China Sea. He leaned ahead in his seat. “Admiral, you might be cleared for launch. However hear intently; there’s a particular message we should ship.”
The dank air. The putrid scent. If Wedge hadn’t identified any higher, he would’ve thought he’d been detained within the public restroom of a Greyhound bus terminal. Blindfolded, he sat cuffed to a metal chair bolted to the ground. He could not see something apart from the irregular permutations of shadow and ashy mild that performed across the room from what he suspected was a window close to the ceiling.
A door creaked open, heavy on its hinges. From the sound, Wedge might inform it was steel. A set of uneven steps approached, like somebody with a slight limp. Then a scrape on the ground as a chair was dragged over. Whoever sat throughout from him sat clumsily, as if the motion had been awkward for them. Wedge waited for the particular person to say one thing, however there was solely the odor of their cigarette. Wedge would not be the one to talk first. He knew the Code of Conduct for POWs, an unique membership into which he’d been inducted solely hours earlier than.
“Main Chris ‘Wedge’ Mitchell …” got here the voice throughout from him.
Then his blindfold was yanked off. Overwhelmed by the sunshine, regardless that the room was poorly lit, Wedge struggled to see. He could not fairly concentrate on the darkish determine throughout from him, who continued, “Why are you right here, Main Wedge?”
Slowly, his eyes adjusted. The person asking questions was wearing a inexperienced uniform with gold embroidered epaulets of some significance. He had an athletic construct like a runner and a hostile face with a protracted, hook-shaped scar that traced from above his eyebrow to beneath his cheek. His nostril was compressed right into a triangle, as if it had been damaged and reset many occasions. In his palms he held the identify patch that had been velcroed onto Wedge’s flight swimsuit.