Monday, November 16, 2015


Meyer watched as an electrician took out a wall switch cover revealing burned out wires. The man pulled out the wires to see the extent of the damage and was relieved to find the burned portion was only a little over an inch long. He began clearing out the melted material around the wire and trimmed it before reattaching it to a new wall switch.

"Can you see what caused it to short circuit," Meyer asked.

"It was probably installed incorrectly, sir," the man replied. "Whoever worked on this probably trimmed off too much insulation and the wires touched causing the short circuit. I've seen it happen before, sir." The electrician had noted that Meyer seemed edgy and was trying to be reassuring. He'd heard about Meyer's mutterings about the spate of electrical malfunctions. Does he think we're incompetents?

Meyer stopped talking and appeared to be thinking deeply. He suddenly whirled around and left, leaving the electrician who seemed thankful to be out of his scrutiny.

Meyer went to the control room and found Captain Werner bent over the charts with Fischer. He moved closer and overheard what they were discussing.

"If that aircraft came straight from his carrier, they are sure to head in our direction. If they sail at 16 knots, we will meet around here." Werner pointed at a spot in the chart in the middle of the ocean.

Fischer nodded and measured the distances. "That means we should meet them in about four to five hours' time."

Werner leaned his elbows on the chart table. "Yes, I suggest we start preparations in case they are traveling faster than our estimate."

"Right." Fischer straightened and moved off toward the bow spaces. Meyer waited for Werner to notice him.

"Yes, Meyer. What is on your mind?" Werner had been aware of Meyer's presence all along. Since the man had not tried to get his attention, it was probably not important.

"We had another electrical short, Captain."

"Are you referring to the lights in the officer's compartment, Commander?" Werner already knew.

"Indeed I am, Captain, and that is the third defect since we set sail on this trial turned mission."

Werner sighed and motioned to Meyer to walk with him. They headed toward officer's country. People were either on their way to their duty stations, relaxing in their cubicles, or down in the mess for a meal. Everything seemed calm and tranquil.

"You designed this boat Meyer, did you not," Werner began. "Or at least you had a hand in its design."

"Yes, I did, Captain," Meyer replied, sensing that Werner was going to try and belittle his fears. "A lot of this came from my ideas."

Werner nodded. "The electrical installation, however, was not your jurisdiction?"

Meyer shook his head. "No, Captain. I do not install wall switches or wire panels. I gave the concept and someone else would turn the concept into something usable or tangible."

"I see. So, you mean you know nothing about electrical installations?" Meyer could see where Werner was headed with this line of questioning. Just as they entered the darkened area of the compartment, the lights came back on. "Ah, that is much better."

Werner looked at Meyer with a serious look. "Meyer, do you have any ideas why we are experiencing these...short circuits, you call them?"

Meyer nodded to answer the last question. "Captain, these problems could be caused by a number of things. Poor installation, substandard materials, or maybe the radiation from the reactor is making the insulation on the wires brittle or causing them to deteriorate."

Werner almost paused at that. Meyer had described the effects of radiation poisoning once before and that lesson had caused a small amount of chill to come over him whenever he passed through the reactor room. But that was the effect on human flesh, not other materials.

"You're saying that we have a radiation leak?"

"No, Captain. Our detectors have not detected raised levels of radiation." The submarine was equipped with radiation detectors that clicked when it sensed radiation. The more it clicked, the higher the radiation levels.

"But if the detectors are not sensing anything, it must be something else then," Werner replied. "Poor installation or substandard materials, as you said."

"Correct, Captain," Meyer said. "But if it is indeed one or both reasons, it is possible there may be more. We may be endangering our lives and this vessel by continuing."

Werner had to admit that Meyer was making sense and he considered the course of action the young commander had wordlessly suggested. He thought about the expected encounter with an Allied vessel.

Werner took a deep breath. "Commander, in about four hours or so, we are expecting to meet up with an Allied force, possibly an aircraft carrier and her escorts. We will engage this force and fire a spread of torpedoes at them. As soon as we know if we hit them, we will turn back to base. You have my word."

Meyer wrestled with his thoughts. He really wants to sink a ship and bring back a pennant. We are risking this vessel to satisfy one man's ego. On the other hand, coming into base with a pennant flying would surely be a convincing factor when the Admiral speaks to Donitz and, later, the Fuehrer. Will a few more hours make a difference? Meyer reluctantly nodded his head.

Werner smiled widely. "Good, Commander. Now we must prepare for our attack. The quicker we sink their ships, the quicker we can get back to base."

And I can't wait to get this over with, Meyer thought.

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