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Authors: David Poyer

China Sea


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Title Page

Copyright Notice




Prologue I

Prologue II

Prologue III

I: The Ship

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

II: Easting

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

III: Tntf

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

IV: The Far Side of the Line

Chapter 19

Chapter 20

Chapter 21

Chapter 22

Chapter 23

Chapter 24

Chapter 25

The Afterimage


St. Martin's Paperbacks Yitles by David Poyer

Blockbuster Praise for David Poyer and China Sea



To all those who have vanished without a trace,

Without a word,

Without a sign

Into the eternal mystery of the sea.

But especially to the officers and men


, and HMAS

The gods forgot you.

But we never will.


Ex nihilo nihil fit.
For this book I owe thanks to James Allen, Harry Applegate, John J. Becker, Eric and Bobbie Berryman, Walter G. Clarke, Tom Cooney, Howard Denson, Joe Donohue, Sharon Doxey, Clark Driscoll, Heather Freidel, Noel Galen, Herb Gilliland, Vince Goodrich, Guy Grannum, Frank Green, Pegram Harrison, Cheryl King, Steven Klepczynski, Keith Larson, Carol Lewis, Lee Livermore, Luís Manuel Machado Menezes, Paula Mills, Gail Nicula, Doug Palmer, Kevin J. Philpott, Lenore Hart Poyer, Jarvis Rathbone, Sally Richardson, Mark Roberts, Beverly and Don Rock, Arthur Sanford, Jerry Sapp, Jack Schmock, H. Peter Schorr and the USS The Sullivans Foundation, Sandra Scovill, Maurice Shaw, Rob Taishoff, Jerry Todd, James Tomczak, Doug Undesser, Steve Wilks, George Witte, Elizabeth Wolf, Bob Wright, Andrew Young, J. Michael Zias, and others who preferred anonymity. As always, all errors and deficiencies are my own.


Capt.n Kidd Commission to Seize Pyrates.


William the Third etc. to Capt:n William Kidd Commander of the Ship Adventure Galley or to the Commander of the said Ship for the time being. Greeting. Whereas Wee are informed that … Our Subjects, Natives or Inhabitants of New England, New Yorke, and elsewhere in Our Plantations in America, have associated themselves with divers other wicked and ill disposed persons and do against the Laws of Nations daily commit many and great Pyracies, Robberies, & Depredations, upon the Seas in the parts of America, and in other parts, to the Great hinderance, & discouragement of Trade and Navigation and to the Danger and hurt of Our loving Subjects, Our Allies and all others navigating the Seas upon their lawful Occasions. Now Know Yee, that Wee being desirous to prevent the aforesaid mischiefs and as farr as in Us lyes to bring the said Pyrates, Freebooters, and Sea Rovers to Justice, have thought fitt and do hereby give and Grant unto You the said Capt:n William Kidd full Power and Authority to apprehend, seize, and take into Your Custody as well … all such Pyrates, Freebooters and Sea Rovers being either Our Own Subjects or of other Nations associated with them, which you shall meet with … with their Ships and Vessells, and also such Merchandizes, Money, Goods, and Wares as shall be found on board or with them in case they shall willingly yeild themselves; But if they will not Submitt without fighting; Then You are by force to Compell them to yeild … And Wee do hereby enjoine You to keep an Exact Journall of Your Proceedings in the Execution of the premises. In Witness etc. 26
January 1695/6.

Warrant to my Lord Keeper of the same Date to affix the Great Seale.

William R.


20° 05' N, 118° 36' E: WEST OF THE LUZON STRAIT

THE full moon soared over a hazy sea. Beneath it, like a fallen galaxy, rode a scattering of lights so vast no eye could encompass them all.

But a goldenglowing tactical display did. The maritime patrol plane had been aloft for eight hours. Now it churned through the summer night, back to its base in Japan. The petty officer at the console only occasionally glanced at the picture that reached out three hundred miles. Yellow on black sketched the downward-pointing dagger of Taiwan. To the east, a speckle of islands, then the blunt rump of Luzon. To the west, the coast of China. And scattered across the center of the screen, the ships and aircraft that had maneuvered here over the last week.

That exercise had just ended, terminated early in order to respond to aggression and violence in the Persian Gulf. He was starting to shut down his equipment when he noticed a spike on one of the screens.

It showed the output of a sonobuoy he'd dropped an hour earlier. A dangling microphone, deep in the sea. He debated not reporting it, but finally depressed the switch on his headset mike as he pulled a keyboard toward him. “Charlie Charlie, Delta Lima. We have a surface contact out here. Two four-bladed props, steam propulsion tonals. I call it as a large combatant, nationality unknown.”

Forty-five miles astern, on the carrier, a petty officer clicked a transmit button. “Roger, Delta Lima. Have you been advised, we're hauling ass to rescue Kuwait. You're gonna have to keep tabs on the China Sea by your ownselves now.”

The aircraft, droning through the dark: “Roger, understand that, but I don't think this is an exercise contact.”

On the carrier, the petty officer hesitated. Then he heard the chief's voice, behind him. “You gonna pass that on up or am I?”

*   *   *

TWO minutes later the phone buzzed in the battle group commander's cabin. The admiral blinked himself awake with difficulty. Sleep had been all too short for the last few days. You were supposed to need less as you got older, but he wasn't sure he bought that theory. When you missed it, you didn't feel as sharp as you had at thirty, eager to jump into the cockpit after a long night partying.

“Yeah,” he grunted.

The flag watch officer gave him the essentials. An unidentified surface combatant had been detected west of the force. Did he want them to identify it, considering the exercise had ended? “Sure, why not,” the admiral said. “Detach a screen unit; let him check it out. No, make it two; include the Japanese if they haven't detached yet.”

“Do we need to adjust formation course and speed, sir?”

“I don't think so. What's the Luda group doing?”

Three Chinese warships and a submarine out of the big South Sea Fleet base at Zhanjaing had shadowed the battle group since the exercise began. The staff watch officer reported they were clear to the northwest. The admiral told him to maintain formation course for the Strait of Malacca. He hung up, rolled over, and went back to sleep almost instantly.

*   *   *

John Young
reached the ship's estimated location at 0050. So far this was standard procedure. Any surface, subsurface, or air contact in the battle group's vicinity was tracked and identified. If the craft belonged to another navy, it would often try to maneuver into an attack position. Each side would hold contact as long as possible, gathering data and training sensor operators. It was a pickup game at sea, officially denied by all parties, but nonetheless engaged in.

The battle group commander was jerked awake again at 0115. “What is it?” he snapped.

“It's the unidentified contact they reported on the last watch, sir. Message from the surface action unit commander. It's evading.”

“Evading?” The admiral came fully awake. “Any identification yet? Anything on ESM?”

ESM was electronic surveillance measures, classifying ships and other threats from the signatures of their radio and radar. “No, sir. He turned west and went to high speed as soon as he realized they were attempting to intercept.
John Young
tried flashing light, but he didn't respond.”

John Young.
Talk to the commander personally. Tell him to maintain the pursuit. Try to identify. But stay outside four thousand yards. Don't crowd him.”

The watch officer rogered and hung up. The admiral turned over but couldn't sleep.

At 0120 he let himself into the Command Decision Center. CDC was built of small interconnected rooms lit by dim blue overhead lights. Narrow walkways labyrinthed gray consoles. He pulled himself into a chair, staring at the large-screen display as the tactical action officer began briefing him on increased air activity in the Gouangzhou Military Region.

At 0136 the Tactical Officer's Plot, which tracked the surface picture out to thirty-five miles, called down to advise that the Luda group had altered course toward the task force. The admiral rogered, watching plane after plane rise into the air over southeastern China. A few minutes later he ordered all units to Condition Three.

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