Short Stories

South China Sea Fantasy

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Haze gray and underway.  CDR Rusty Davis shifted restlessly in his rack.  Rusty was CO of the USS Donald J. Trump (DDG-138).  She was steaming slowly in the waters of the South China Sea (SCS) near the Spratly Islands.  A 4th generation Navy man, Rusty was unconsciously monitoring the motions of his ship and thinking about his grandfather, Vice Admiral George W. Davis, Jr. and the lessons of the sea that he learned from Papa growing up.  Rusty was born to the sea, the latest of his family to take this path, a life of endless family separations, frequent transfers, dangerous operations at sea, and mostly dull midwatches, and the exhilaration of a fast ship knifing through the water.  He should be sleeping.  He needed to be at his best come morning.  His crews’ lives, the success of the mission, the very future of the nation depended on him being able to flawlessly command his ship in the morning.  TRUMP had been detached from the FORD battle group a few days before for independent duty.  They had quickly transited into the SCS for another Freedom of Navigation Operation (FONOP).  The US had conducted hundreds of these “drive by” operations for decades.  The frequency of FONOPS increased long ago when the People’s Republic of China (PRC) began illegally militarizing SCS waters.  His operation was going to be a bit different but few aboard knew the details.  His brain was whirring with plans and possibilities along with worry that somehow the PRC knew what was about to happen and the s#!+ was about to hit the fan.  Of course, the PRC knew the TRUMP was in “their” waters and even though the ship’s sensors showed no active contacts near, he knew they were closely watching TRUMP.  He was surprised at the silence from the PRC.  Usually by now, his ship would be escorted and harassed by a PLAN ship or at least be overflown by PLAAF aircraft.  Perhaps these operations were getting so routine they didn’t even bother.  In late 2037, tensions were higher than ever but after years of jockeying for position in the Indo-Pacific plus an all-out economic war, miraculously nothing had set off a shooting war….yet.  

America’s Wake Up Call.  As early as 2011, Donald Trump had been pointing out China’s economic abuses of the US and the West.  Coming from the business world and after trying to develop business in China, years before he became President, he came to the conclusion that the entire US model related to the People’s Republic of China (PRC) was fundamentally wrong.  He recognized that the decades long experiment to liberalize and moderate their political system had failed miserably.  He saw as few others had, that the PRC’s real plan was to rule the world.  As he assumed office in 2017, the US still had the world’s strongest military and the world’s greatest economy.  These were the two singular factors necessary to neutralize the PRC while still possible.  If the PRC was to be stopped it could only be the US who would do it.  Trump also worried that if the US sat idly by while the PRC became the world’s preeminent military and economic power, future generations would look back and blame him for not stopping them.  Upon becoming President, his days started with classified briefings on the world including the activities of the PRC.  He was stunned!  What they were doing was terrifying and wrong not just within their own borders but all around the world.  These briefings made more of an impression on him than anything else in his life.  The classified briefings laid bare the horrifying nature of the PRC.  Their predatory economic behavior was only a tiny part of their nature.  The briefings exposed their stranglehold over the lives and fates of their own people and the mass murders by the regime of any who stood in the way of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).  The CCP’s quest for power intended the fulfilment of the Chinese version of manifest destiny…their core belief in Han superiority and the Middle Kingdom’s right to rule the world.  And, that rule would be with an iron fist.  If the CCP succeeded, millions would die including millions of Americans and billions more would be cast into political and economic slavery.  He loved America and wanted to leave a legacy and a safer America for his family and for all Americans.  Trump decided to fundamentally change the US’s military and economic policy and relationship towards the PRC.

The Impossible Dream Team.  When President Trump was defeated in his re-election campaign in 2020 but long before he left office, he secretly launched “Manhattan Project China (MPC)”.  He had long believed the CCP was the enemy of the free world and ultimately it would take a military defeat to stop them.   MPC was begun in secret known to only a handful of people. Trump knew little about military weapons or strategy.  However, he looked at a map and a flow diagram of the world’s economy and saw in an instant why the PRC was building a world-class military at breakneck speed and why the SCS was critical to the support of their economy and plans to expand power and influence around the world.  The CCP was evil and they must be stopped close to home in the SCS before they got strong enough to create mischief on the high seas all over the world.  So, he kicked off MPC with a rah-rah speech to a few trusted insiders and left the small team of visionary entrepreneurs, top scientists from DARPA and the Navy, and a few iconoclastic escapees from Silicon Valley to come up with some magic. The team was led by Rear Admiral Heather Holloway….yes, granddaughter of that Holloway, the former CNO.  Heather had graduated at the top of her naval academy class, became a nuke, and had become a Navy scientist at an early age.  An early selection multiple times, she grew tired of chasing the career and so had moved into the highly classified Navy R&D world and became a superstar with her staggering intellect and relentless drive often being compared to the inimitable Admiral Rickover.  The timetable was long and would not come to fruition while Trump was in office.  Trump was fine with that.  Trump put the steps in motion that would lead to TRUMP’s operation and ……all in secret, the best kept secret since the original Manhattan Project.  The MPC was small, easily hidden in the black budget.  It was overseen by senior non-political professionals in the intelligence game and it chugged along in silence intent on producing an edge, a breakthrough which would enable the US to neutralize the CCP.

Surprise….He’s Back.  When Trump left office in early 2021, his secret MPC chugged along quietly and effectively under Admiral Holloway’s innovative leadership.  Since it consumed very little resources in the huge Defense budget and it held out the promise of something revolutionary but no one would talk about it or give credit to Trump, the new administration just left it alone to see what it could develop.  Slowly but surely the MPC made progress on multiple ground-breaking technologies.  Not surprisingly, Trump ran again in 2025 and won in a huge landslide for his second term.  He was delighted to learn that his MPC was alive and well. 

Let’s Not Make a Deal.  Once back in office, having secretly begun the work of MPC, he began to downplay any talk of a military confrontation with the PRC and increasingly emphasized that the way to beat them was an economic war instead.  He knew misdirection was a winning strategy.  Taking advantage of the CPC’s lies and obfuscation regarding the pandemic of 2020-2022 that had wreaked havoc on millions of lives and economies all over the globe, he launched dozens of initiatives through Executive Order, de-regulation and at times cooperation with Congress to ramp up the economic war.  The PRC had demonstrated unequivocally to world that they could not be trusted to conduct themselves in a civilized manner so momentum was on his side.  Through publicity and promotion of America first economic growth policies and playing on the fears of much of the world of an increasingly more powerful PRC, a totalitarian state hostile to the US and the West, an aggressor against every other nation in the region and around the world, and an oppressor and murderer of its own citizens, Trump successfully orchestrated a more and more comprehensive economic war on China.  Despite the economic war and while the world watched with increasing horror, the PRC continued to militarize the SCS and beyond, continued to build hundreds of new, modern and lethal ships for their Navy and aircraft and missiles of every type, continued to buy up ports and real estate around the world, and ramped up its economic bullying of nations in every hemisphere.   Silently in the shadows of the R&D world, MPC continued on.

Adios to the PRC.  As Trump’s 2nd term progressed, he increased the economic pushback that had begun in his first term.  A major step was the rebuilding US pharmaceutical and personal protective equipment industries.  Next, Trump issued Executive Orders that jumpstarted development of rare earths used in manufacturing and national defense by providing tax credits and incentives for exploration/refining and eliminating unnecessary, burdensome environmental restrictions.  This rapidly terminated US dependence on China for rare earths.  Midway through his second term, Trump announced our goal of a complete embargo on all trade with the PRC over time.  American companies were already leaving China for other countries where conditions are better and this exodus increased when Trump announced his plans.  Most US companies who had not already done so, began the process of leaving China for better climes.  The next dramatic step Trump took with help from Congress was to ban China from US markets and from buying US companies and real estate.  Trump seized or froze their assets similar to measures taken in the past with respect to Iran and the DPRK.   On the cultural front late in his second term President Trump started deporting Chinese nationals who are here…students, diplomats, and business people.  And, strict rules were implemented regarding visas for Chinese citizens wanting to study, visit or work in the US.  The flow of Chinese trade into the US fell to a trickle.  This all out economic and cultural war stunned the PRC but it did not cause a retreat from their ambitions or behavior on the world stage.  The PRC became more and more isolated from the West and from Asian nations with strong economies like Japan, Australia, Republic of Korea, Republic of China, Vietnam, and Singapore.  The world became more polarized into two camps with everyone in the world literally holding their collective breaths in anticipation for the spark that would set off World War III.  Trump knew that one day someone like CDR Davis would be in the SCS to command an operation that would change everything.  Before he left office in January 2029, he briefed President Ron DeSantis and the incoming House and Senate leaders on the existence of MPC but not the substance.  Not even he knew at that stage what wonders of technology were being explored.  With President DeSantis’ wholehearted approval, MPC silently, inexorably chugged along.  

Conjuring Magic.  Admiral Holloway and her team had every resource at their disposal, unlimited funding, complete secrecy within the bowels of Oak Ridge national laboratory and other labs, and the most creative, fertile minds in the nation.  When she was appointed to the post in secrecy, she was given carte blanche….she and her team could look at anything under the sun that would defeat the PRC and defeat them in a manner that would not lead to further conflict.  A defeat so perfect and so effective, it left them with zero options but to stand down in the face of our awesome powers.  Sadly, President Trump did not live to see his plans come to fruition.  After his passing, President DeSantis asked the Secretary of the Navy to name a Burke class destroyer after President Trump.  It was that ship that was to deliver the fruits of Trump’s dream and Admiral Holloway and her team’s efforts.  President Trump’s plan was so brilliant, so perfect that the Presidents that followed him regardless of party, kept MPC going and when it was perfected after President Winfrey left office, President Cotton had no reservations about quickly giving the authorization to put our new weapons into use against the PRC.

Mission Impossible.  It was still before dawn but Rusty got up, put his uniform on and headed for the bridge.  The Bosun of the watch cried out, “The Captain’s on the bridge”.  The watch was mostly silent, the crew going about their duties quietly, almost somberly but professionally.  Only a few in the crew knew what was going to happen or why they were there.  Most figured it was just another FONOP just like hundreds that had been done over the years.  Rusty checked their position and looked at his watch.  Almost time.  As the sun started peeking out over the eastern horizon, Rusty quietly gave the order to the OOD, “Set your course for Fiery Cross Reef.  Make your speed 15 knots.”  The OOD, LT Aaron Ramsey knew what they were up to.  He had been briefed on the OPLAN and its details after they had been detached from the FORD a few days ago.  His only job was to get the ship into position……the rest would be up to CDR Davis and his guest, Admiral Holloway.  Yes, Admiral Holloway was on board but she was incognito. Only a few who had a need to know knew she was aboard and why.  She was there to change everything.  

Game on.  When TRUMP was 3 hours out from raising Fiery Cross Reef, Rusty went below to the flag/commodore quarters and quietly knocked on the door.  It opened immediately with Admiral Holloway standing there with a broad smile on her face.  Admiral Holloway was dressed casually in a blue Navy jumpsuit that contained no rank insignia or nametag.  Since coming aboard TRUMP she had kept to her quarters.  She had been spirited across the quarterdeck quietly in the middle of the midwatch shortly before they left Yokosuka a week ago.  On the deck next to her was an innocuous looking black case about the size of a large suitcase.  Rusty said, “It’s almost time, Admiral”.  Heather jumped a bit and frowned….”Please call me, Heather.”  Even at this late date, she did not want her cover blown.  With her non-descript Navy blue jumpsuit with no name tag or insignia, most of the crew assumed she was just another tech rep riding the ship to check out a new piece of hardware.  Sure, it was unusual for a tech rep to occupy the flag/commodore stateroom but perhaps she was some sort of VIP.  She picked up the bulky case and they headed for the bridge.  Again, the cry, “The Captain’s on the bridge.”  Rusty and Heather went out onto the starboard wing of the bridge to take in the sea air and to scan the horizon ahead to see if they could see anything.  The sea was empty.  “When are you going to activate it?’ Rusty asked quietly.  He already knew the answer but he was nervous and did not know what else to say.  “At 20 miles”, she said quietly, “Remember to slow to 10 knots.”  They continued on in silence for quite a while.  LT Ramsey stepped onto the starboard wing and announced, “20 miles Captain.”  Rusty replied, “Very well.  Slow to 10 knots”.   He quickly walked over to the big eyes and swiveled them around to the bearing where he should be able to see Fiery Cross Reef coming up over the horizon.  And, there she was.  He could see some of the higher structures and buildings.  LT Ramsey disappeared back into the bridge and quickly the ship lost speed.

Now for something completely different.  Admiral Holloway set the case down on its side and opened it.  In view was a small instrument panel with switches, knobs and indicators with no labels.  She bent down and flicked a few switches and then stood back up.  Rusty did not notice any change but then he would not have.  They were now inside a multi-dimensional energy field…everything inside looked normal to them.  

Rusty stepped back inside the bridge and grabbed the mike for the 1MC.  “This is the Captain.  We are approaching Fiery Cross Reef.  All hands are to stay below decks.  There is no danger.  We are testing a new device.  If all goes well, the operation will be done and over in a few hours.  Stay below decks and go about your normal business.  As a precaution, we will now go to General Quarters.  Set condition Zebra throughout the ship.”  Even though they had slowed to 10 knots the picture ahead of them was changing rapidly as they approached.  They could see the island clearly now and towers and antennas, buildings, the port where a few ships were tied up, the runway in the distance a bit.  It was eerie.  

Now What Happens?  Rusty stepped up to the OOD and announced, “This is the captain, I have the conn.”  Rusty quietly gave the orders that slowed them further and tweaked the course that had them in the center of the channel going right into the little harbor.  The bridge crew held their breath and silently went about their duties.  They had no idea what was going to happen.  Once into the harbor, the Captain gave the order, “All stop.”  The TRUMP slid quietly to a stop in the middle of the tiny harbor.  It was early morning but the Chinese base was a beehive of activity already.  Cars and trucks on the roads, PLAN people walking around, planes landing and taking off from the adjacent runway.  No one paid them a bit of attention.  No one could see them.  They could not be seen on radar or by any other means.  They emitted nothing outside the invisible dimensional shifting sphere that now surrounded them.  TRUMP was cloaked.  Not like the hokey Star Trek device from decades ago where the supposedly invisible Klingon vessel still could be seen because of distortions in space.  TRUMP was contained in a cross dimensional, multi-phase state which in effect made them completely disappear…..completely!  Inside the sphere, the motionless ship went about its business.  After about half an hour, Admiral Holloway went back out onto the starboard wing of the bridge…back to the case sitting on the deck.  She bent down and flicked a single switch on and left it on for about 3 seconds.  “That should do it”, she said and straightened up and went back into the bridge and sat back down in the Commodore’s chair.  What Rusty did not know nor any in the crew was they weren’t just testing the “cloaking” device.  Admiral Holloway’s case also contained the world’s most powerful EMP device ever devised.  Powered by a micro-miniaturized fusion reactor tied to a specialized emitter, in the 3 seconds she had turned it on, the EMP device had fried the circuits of every single piece of PRC electronics within a mile or so of the TRUMP, even the EMP hardened devices.  When the EMP activated, car engines died.  Computers died.  Radars died.  Comm died.  Everything electronic died.  She had timed the use of the EMP device to ensure no aircraft were close enough to be affected.  A bit of a panic started to spread among the PLAN personnel at Fiery Cross Reef.  They knew something had just happened to make all their equipment, all their electronics to simultaneously stop working but they didn’t know what.  All of TRUMP’s equipment was immune to the EMP having been secretly backfitted back in Yokosuka at the last maintenance availability with a clever IFF chip that prevented the EMP device from affecting anything in which it was installed.   

Hasta La Vista, China.  TRUMP stayed in the harbor for an hour.  Then, quietly as a mouse, they got underway, spun around slowly, and headed out of the harbor and back to sea.  Once clear of the breakwater, Rusty and Heather breathed sighs of relief that it had gone off so smoothly and spontaneously fell into a big hug.  They had done it.  Or, rather she and her team had done it.  It wasn’t a secret any more or wouldn’t be for long.  Once well away from Fiery Cross Reef, Admiral Holloway went back onto the bridge wing, knelt down, switched everything off and picked up her case.  She had a smile on her face and a faraway look in her eye.  Rusty asked, “Are you smiling at the success of the cloaking?”  She replied, “I suppose, Mostly I was thinking of something else.”  She had tested the device extensively under all sorts of conditions and it had always worked flawlessly.  So, going in, she really had no doubt it would work.  She was thinking of several other advanced devices that she could not wait to use in the field.  Rusty grabbed the 1MC mike and said, “Secure from General Quarters, set the normal underway watch.  Our mission was a complete success but I cannot tell you anything more about it.  Watch the news as soon as you can.”

Coup De Grace.  At precisely noon that same day, President Cotton picked up the phone and called Chairman Xi on the red phone.  Yes, Chairman Xi was still in charge although he was now in his 80’s and showing early signs of dementia.  Despite the PRC having stolen much of the US’s biomedical expertise they could not help the Chairman hold onto his senses.  Chairman Xi was expecting the call and dreading it.  He already knew what was going to happen.  President Cotton was going to ask for his unconditional surrender.  And, Xi had no choice but to give it.  After all, it is impossible to fight an invisible enemy.  An, enemy that also apparently had perfected a deadly EMP weapon so small, it could be carried in a suitcase.  What else did Heather Holloway have up her sleeve?  Stay tuned!

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