The bestselling novels of David Poyer have been read by millions around the world, and The New York Times Book Review has proclaimed: "Poyer knows what he is writing about when it comes to anything on, above or below the water." Now he unleashes a heart-pounding new novel combining the thrilling elements of military intrigue, Pentagon politics, Chinese espionage and human drama in his finest work to date.
It was a missile that would change the world. He was the man at ground zero.
Once Lieutenant-commander Dan Lenson had a ship and a family. Now he is on his own, deep within Washington's military industrial complex. His task: shepherd a controversial weapon through the Navy's testing process to deployment. But powerful forces are lined up against the Tomahawk missile-- and against Lenson. For Dan Lenson, separating his enemies from his friends is the beginning of the most dangerous war of all...
About the Author
David Poyer's naval career has included service in the Atlantic, Mediterranean, Arctic, Caribbean, and Pacific. His nineteen novels have won millions of readers around the world, and his sea fiction is required reading in the Literature of the Sea course at the U.S. Naval Academy. Tomahawk is the fifth in his novel-cycle of the modern Navy, which also includes The Med, The Gulf, The Circle, and The Passage. He lives in Virginia with his wife and daughter.
DAVID POYER's sea career included service in the Atlantic, Mediterranean, Arctic, Caribbean, and Pacific. He's the author of over forty novels and works of nonfiction including the War with China series: Tipping Point, Onslaught, Hunter Killer, and Deep War. Poyer's work has been required reading in the Literature of the Sea course at the U.S. Naval Academy, along with that of Joseph Conrad and Herman Melville. He lives on the Eastern Shore of Virginia.
Read an Excerpt
By David Poyer
St. Martin's PressCopyright © 1998 David Poyer
All rights reserved.
Slowing for the exit off 395, Lcdr. Daniel V. Lenson, U.S. Navy, squinted into a sparkle like the sunlit sea. It came from ten thousand parked cars, surrounding the five-sided building like breaking surf around a high island.
Lenson had gray eyes and sandy hair. The top ribbon on his short-sleeved whites was the blue and red on a white field of the Silver Star. Above that was the ship and wave insignia which meant Surface Line. The oldest, the proudest, but in some ways the least forgiving community in the Navy.
When a horn blared behind him, he snapped his attention back to the off-ramp. Eight A.M., and the summer air was already hot. He cranked his window shut and turned the air conditioning on full.
Today, he was starting his first tour of shore duty. No more six-month deployments. No more in-port duty sections. Time to relax, start postgraduate work, have his daughter visit — in short, get a life after four stressful at sea tours.
Parking was horrendous. He searched for half an hour before he found a space out in the wasteland. At the south entrance, lines of buses idled, waiting to discharge passengers. A jet roared overhead, taking off from National Airport. A handful of demonstrators stood holding signs, the arriving mass dividing to stream in around them.
He remembered all at once, as if he'd blocked it out till now, the last time he'd been here. The court of inquiry. He'd been so doped up, he didn't recall it well. Just hour after hour sitting in the anteroom, waiting to testify. Seeing a man in the cafeteria he'd known was dead. He still didn't have an explanation for that. Then those iron minutes facing four admirals across a green baize table, while he spoke the words that had cauterized his pain but crippled his career.
A lot had changed since then. Susan was gone, and their daughter, Nan, with her. Bringing Barrett back from Cuba outweighed the fitness report Ike Sundstrom had nailed him with after the Syrian incursion. But with nine years in, he had to decide soon whether he was going to get out, try something else, or go for a full twenty. Before it was too late to start over.
He took a deep breath. Turning from the rising sun, he joined the throng of uniforms and suits and dresses heading up a long stairway. A moment later, he was lost in the hurrying crowd.
Off the main corridors the Pentagon became narrow 1940s-tacky passageways ceilinged with rusty air ducts and dripping pipes and sagging cable runs. He wiped sweat off his forehead as he compared room numbers with his orders. When a second knock brought no response, he let himself in.
A tiny front-desk area held an enlisted man and a computer. A daisy-wheel printer clattered. Dividers of frosted glass hived minuscule offices.
"Lenson, Lenson," the petty officer muttered. He stared at the orders, then turned them over, as if they might have something on the back.
"Actually, I'm not due for a couple days yet, but I thought I'd start getting checked in."
"Been to Navy Annex yet? Up on the Hill. They're gonna want to see you about your medical records, service records." The second-class looked at the front of the orders again.
"Something wrong?" Dan asked him. 'This is Deputy Chief of Naval Operations, Surface, right?"
"Oh yeah. But I didn't get any — let me make a call, all right? You want to sit over there, there's a paper you can look at."
He lost himself in Navy Times, a discussion of the bloody stalemate in the Iran-Iraq war. Then flipped to an article about the six-hundred-ship fleet. Congress was wavering in their support of the buildup, now that they'd seen the price tag.
He looked up, then rose. The other officer didn't introduce himself. Instead, he said, fanning himself with Dan's orders, "There's some kind of glitch here, uh, Lenson. I remember talking to the detailer about you, but my confused and vague impression was that you dropped out early in the selection process. Trouble is, we got a body already reported in to this billet."
"Gee," said Dan. He honestly couldn't think of anything else to say.
"Look, you're early. May be a perturbation in the system — it just hasn't caught up to you yet. You can hang your hat here till you get things straightened out. Or you could check this all out with your detailer."
Dan grabbed his hat. "That sounds like the best thing to do, sir. I'll run up and see him, then get back to you."
An hour later, he stuck his head into Alan Sonders's cubicle at the Navy Annex. Sonders was bald, and old for his rank. Scribbled-on printouts hung from the wall by dull silvery duct tape. Charlie Brown scowled down from a cartoon that had been photocopied too many times. The caption read "God put me on earth to accomplish a certain number of things. Right now, I am so far behind, I will never die." The detailer greeted him with a millisecond handshake and pushed more printouts off a chair. "Nice to meet you in person," Dan said.
"Yeah, see? We don't really have forked tongues and gill slits." The phone fang; Sonders said, "Excuse me," and started talking. When he hung up, it rang again. He looked around. "Hat," he said, pointing. Dan handed it to him. "Lunch?"
"Sure." He wasn't hungry, but it looked like the only way they were going to get to talk.
They ate "lunch" standing up at machines in the basement. Sonders got a cherry pie sealed under a solid white rime of sugar. Dan settled for coffee.
"Okay, what can I do for you today?"
He refreshed Sonders's memory: that he was coming off a Kidd-class destroyer out of Charleston. That Sonders had sold Dan on the job over the phone. Eight to five, he could see how the Pentagon worked, then go to school in the evenings. That there were three women to every single guy in D.C. "The orders came through. They look kosher. But when I go over there, there's somebody else in the billet."
"Yeah, one of our new female-type ship drivers. Off White Plains."
"So where am I going?"
"Well, you're still gonna be in D.C. So your personal arrangements are not going to be any different." Sonders sharked half the pie. He mumbled around it, "Ever hear of an outfit called JPM-Three?"
"Know an Evans? Scott Evans?"
"I don't think so."
"How about Barry Niles?"
Dan said slowly, "I knew a Commodore Niles.'
"Rear admiral now. Here's what happened. You were headed for OP-Oh three, like we discussed. Then I got a call from this Evans. Colonel, Air Force, apparently the number two over there. Niles just got tapped to take over as director. He wants bodies, line types strong in engineering and engineering duty officers. I read them a list and you got the nod. They have a Brickbat, so there wasn't a lot I could do. I tried to call you in Charleston, but —"
"Okay, I got most of that, but what's a Brickbat?"
"Systems acquisition talk for highest national priority. Sure you don't want one of these pies? They got apple, peach, cherry —"
"No thanks. What's JPM stand for?"
"Joint Project Management Office."
"What exactly does that mean?"
"I'm getting blank tape on the specifics, but I know it's something with missiles. You an 'up round' on missiles?"
"I was weapons officer on Barrett. We had Standard and Harpoon. And a lot of bugs, too."
"Then maybe it's a good match. It's in Crystal City, south of the Pentagon. I'll call over, find out where they want you to report in."
"So you're saying I'm shanghaied."
"A strong word, but not inappropriate."
Dan didn't have a good feeling. The few times he'd seen Niles — Commander, Destroyer Squadron Six then — he hadn't come away with the warm fuzzies. "Does this happen often? Getting jerked around like this?"
"Not often, but it happens."
"Good sign? Bad sign?"
Sonders looked back toward the elevator and swallowed the last bit of pastry. "Can't say for sure; I don't sit on the boards. But truth be told, it could be stellar, getting handpicked by a flag officer." He licked his fingers. "Give you one piece of advice. It's nice to be early, but once you show your face, you don't want to disappear again. Where you staying?"
"I just got in. Figured I'd go over to Anacostia, stay at the Q tonight."
"I'd get myself a place first, get settled. That way, you can hit the ground running." Sonders crumpled the wrapping and sighed. "Gotta get back. Want that point of contact?"
"Yeah, thanks, then I'll get off your desk."
He followed Sonders back to his office, fighting a growing anger and apprehension.CHAPTER 2
The detailer's advice about getting a place to live before he reported in sounded reasonable. He got a Post at the BOQ and spread it and his map out on the bed. He'd be working at Crystal City, north of Alexandria, and going to George Washington University. A place near the subway would mean he wouldn't have to drive to work.
He found an apartment in a six-story brick tower — a ten-minute walk from the Courthouse Metro stop — then drove across the river into Georgetown for dinner. He couldn't take his eyes off the women. Some carried briefcases, others shoulder totes; a few younger ones, students probably, wore backpacks. There were blondes and redheads, Asians who reminded him of Susan, Ethiopians, Koreans, poised New Englanders with good bone structure. Their glances slid past as if he were invisible.
He spent his first night in the apartment in his sleeping bag, drinking himself to sleep with a bottle of scotch.
The next morning, he stood holding an empty briefcase as the escalator sped him rapidly down into the earth.
Above him, the new buildings of Arlington rose till they were eclipsed by curved concrete. The sky contracted to a blue oval. And still steel hummed underfoot, bearing him and hundreds of others steadily into the depths. He remembered the London Underground, pictures of people huddled in it during the Blitz.
This one was new, pristine concrete, shining terra-cotta tile. A knot of foreigners and tourists stood baffled before the electronic ticket machines. He had to take an orange train, then transfer at Rosslyn to the blue line; past Arlington Cemetery, Pentagon, Pentagon City, and off at the Crystal City exit. He paced back and forth along the platform until brightening and dimming lights signaled him to stand back.
The car was white, the color of the future. It accelerated in near silence. Lights whipped past, occulting subterranean black. The other passengers read or stared into space. A woman knitted. Not one paid any attention to this wonder. He'd ridden subways in Paris, Rome, and Boston, but this felt futuristic. Then he realized: This was the future. He'd wondered, when he was a kid, what it would be like.
The escalator extruded him not into daylight but into another slice of the future: a subterranean shopping mall. He navigated through spotless tiled hallways, like the passageways of sunken ships, flooded not with water but with fluorescent light.
When he emerged at last, the sky was eclipsed by fog. He wondered where Rickover's office was. He had to be around here somewhere, the gnomelike legend who had built this place from nothing.
National Center One was twelve stories high, with a gray concrete-slab exterior and vertical slits for windows. He showed his ID to a sentry and joined a line of uniforms and sport jackets in front of the elevators.
When the doors hissed open, he followed the tide to a gray metal security door. Two Air Force officers stepped around him. One inserted a card into a slot. The lock thought it over, then clicked open. The other man looked at Dan. "Forget your card?"
"Don't have one yet. Reporting in. Is this JPM-Three?"
"Yeah — better known as Joint Cruise Missiles." The major waved him through. "I'll take him to Shirley," he told his companion. To Dan, he said, "This way."
He followed, down a narrow corridor carpeted with orange so bright, he squinted involuntarily. Walls and carpet were new, but boxes of cans and trash, cable assemblies, and stacks of used computer paper lined the hallway. The effect was odd, as if the future didn't have anybody to pick up the trash or vacuum the carpets.
He was relieved to have the security officer say she was expecting him. Ms. Shirley Toya sat him against the wall, took his picture, and told him the ground rules while they waited for it to develop. He had to wear his pass at all times, and turn anyone in he met without one. Window blinds stayed closed. No cameras or tape recorders were allowed into the building. Any suspicious contacts from outsiders had to be reported. No gifts over a value of five dollars could be accepted from contractors. She handed him the badge. His face stared back from under wavy plastic.
"You'll be working for Captain Westerhouse, on the eleventh floor. Here's your key card. We change the combination the tenth of each month. Any questions? ... Then I'll take you down. Maybe stop a couple of places on the way, get you introduced."
He glanced into offices as they passed. Men at desks, civilians, Air Force, Navy. Not many women, except for secretaries. Pictures of jet aircraft and missiles lined the walls. Soft music played. Aside from that, the hushed hum of the air conditioning, and the ripping tap of an electric typewriter, the place was quiet. The Venetian blinds were down, and tilted so you couldn't see the buildings opposite.
"Just a minute. Let me tell Carol you're here," she said, and ducked into a door marked DIRECTOR. A moment later, she popped out again. "Admiral Kristofferson's free at the moment. You can go right in."
Kristofferson? He'd expected Niles. He straightened, sucking in a breath.
The director's office was sparely furnished. Dan was about to sound off, but the other was already standing, extending his hand. Kristofferson was stocky and graying, with a touch of bulldog about the face. Looking at Dan somewhere about the level of his chest, he said in a surprisingly soft voice, "Lieutenant Commander Nelson?"
"Lenson, sir. Dan Lenson."
"Lenson, nice to see you. I was just heading out the door, but let me welcome you aboard."
"Glad to be here, sir."
"I understand this assignment's a surprise for you."
"Yes, sir, thought I was going over to OPNAV."
"You might find this more challenging technically. More risky career-wise, too." Kristofferson smiled, but it didn't last more than a quarter second.
Dan mumbled something, not sure how he should respond to that. The admiral snagged his cap off a stand. "Sorry. Things on my mind. ... Anyway, we're a joint office, about thirty percent Air Force at the moment, the rest Navy and civilian. You'll work for Dale Westerhouse, PMA for surface ship systems, replacing one of the surface IOs."
Dan was making a mental note to ask somebody later what PMAs and IOs were when Kristofferson added, in a musing tone, "Every once in awhile, everything has to change. But every revolution devours its fathers."
The admiral snapped back into focus. "Sorry ... Have you met Colonel Evans yet? Shirley, you might want to take him in to see Bucky." Kristofferson shook his hand again, grip firm and dry. He bent over his secretary's shoulder for a moment, then headed down the corridor.
The deputy's office was next to the director's. Dan didn't know how formal he was supposed to be, so he took three steps in and came to attention. "Lieutenant Commander Lenson, sir."
"Oh, yeah. Our new hire. Come on in, have a seat." Col. Scott Evans was slim and sharp-looking, and the slate-blue Air Force uniform matched his eyes. He had an easy grin, a firm grip from a small, strong hand, and a faint western twang. A pipe sent up a contrail from a silver tray. He pointed Dan to a leather settee, where he looked up at pictures of F-105s.
"Flew Thuds in Vietnam," said the colonel, following his gaze. He clamped the pipe between his teeth and leaned back again, adding to the haze below the ceiling. "Not the best of times, but I miss 'em sometimes. This job's the farthest from a cockpit I've ever gotten."
"Is that so, sir?"
"Uh-huh. I'm an Air Force brat. My dad flew the B-twenty-nine, B-thirty-six. He was the first guy to get a thousand hours in the B-forty-seven. I grew up on the tour. Carswell, Fort Worth, Little Rock, Omaha. Well, tell me about yourself. That an Academy ring?"
"Yes, sir. Spent most of my time in destroyers. This is my first shore tour."
"You're one of Admiral Niles's boys, aren't you? He doesn't say much, but he said something about knowing you, when we went over the list of available personnel. Must have been favorable if he wanted you in here."
"I served under him before, sir, but I don't really know him."
"Don't be apologetic about it. That's one of the paths to the top in our business. Find a boss who rewards loyalty and competence, stay on his wing and match his climb rate." Evans relit the pipe from a silver lighter shaped like a MiG. "Well, you know basically what we do here, right?"
"I've read about cruise missiles, sir. But I can't say I know a lot about them."
Excerpted from Tomahawk by David Poyer. Copyright © 1998 David Poyer. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
To much military-techo speak for my taste. It gives good insight into how military weapons are procured and tested, but entire pages were unintelligible because of the jargon. It takes place mostly on land and in the Pentagon. I prefer his sea adventures.
This is a well written story than will keep you on the edge.