The Last Israelis
The Last Israelis
Chapter 2: A Drill Cut Short
As captain of the Israeli Navy's mightiest vessel, Daniel Zion rarely felt powerless and anxious. But something sinister was astir and neither his rank nor his formidable submarine could help him. Why had Admiral Rafi Levy suddenly ordered him to cut the submarine drill short and return to shore after just ten days?
This unexpected command came on the heels of two other surprising developments over the last eight days, both of which Daniel had learned from the daily updates sent to his submarine by headquarters. Eight days ago, naval command relayed to Daniel what international news channels were all reporting: that the Prime Minister of Israel had been hospitalized overseas. Then, yesterday, naval command sent him an update with another alarming piece of headline news: Iran had declared that its nuclear program was now safely hidden in Fordo and therefore impervious to any Israeli military attack.
Was there some kind of connection between these dramatic developments from the last eight days and Admiral Levy's abrupt order to return to shore briefly before a major mission? Daniel searched his commanding officer's voice for a clue. But his deep and perfectly calm voice sounded almost purposely indecipherable.
" We need to resupply the Dolphin. And we'll be hosting a four-hour picnic for the entire crew and their family and friends," Rafi added. "We've arranged quite the feast for everyone. It's the least we can do, since your next mission will commence immediately after that."
Thus, even though Daniel controlled the Dolphin submarine, equipped with eight torpedoes and ten Popeye Turbo cruise missiles that could deliver a 200-kiloton nuclear warhead 1,500 kilometers away, the captain could do nothing in the face of Rafi's command. In a simple, two-minute exchange over the submarine's high frequency radio, the admiral had summarily revoked the two-week shore leave that Daniel and his crew had been impatiently awaiting for the last ten days.
" Sir, with so little notice, we may be the only people at the picnic."
" I realize that. It was a spontaneous decision in naval command. We just have to invite everyone and hope for a good turnout," Rafi said. "Not many people can change their schedule and show up with just two hours' notice. But we should at least make the effort. So I'll need contact details for any additional guests the crew may want to invite, to increase the odds that someone will be waiting for them upon arrival."
" Yes, Sir. I'll speak to them about it."
Daniel earned his rank in part thanks to his keen instincts, and there was definitely something inauspicious about the hasty change of plans. "What mission could be so urgent that our naval exercises and two-week shore leave had to be abruptly cancelled?" he wondered to himself.
The captain knew from experience that insufficient breaks from the submarine could set his men off. Physical and mental pressure – from thousands of kilometers of water traveled in a small, enclosed space – tended to shorten the crew's temper, lower its morale, and decrease its efficacy. With enough uninterrupted time in a submarine, things had a way of deteriorating quickly and dangerously. But his superiors knew this as well as Daniel did. So there must have been a good reason for them to do this.
" Maybe this is a picnic before doomsday," he joked darkly to himself. "One last taste of heaven before hell." In the absence of facts, speculation could easily take over, and Daniel didn't have the whole picture – just an uneasy gut. Even his superiors didn't have the whole picture. Only God and History had t