Russell Moran: The Gray Ship

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Russell Moran The Gray Ship
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    The Gray Ship
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    Coddington Press
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    Альтернативная история / popadanec / на английском языке
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    New York
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The Gray Ship: краткое содержание, описание и аннотация

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Captain Ashley Patterson is a 36 year old black woman, the Commanding Officer of a nuclear guided missile cruiser. While steaming toward Charleston, South Carolina in April 2013, the ship encounters a time warp or wormhole. Suddenly, Captain Patterson and her 930 crew members find themselves in the year 1861, two days before the start of the Civil War. They were to participate in a ceremony to commemorate the 152nd anniversary of the Battle of Fort Sumter. Abraham Lincoln wants to win the war, and he sees this ship as a key to victory. But Captain Patterson and her crew want to return home to the 21st Century. For them, the Civil War was history. Now, they find that it has only just begun. Does she risk mutiny, or commit treason.

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Russell F. Moran



A story begins with an idea, which then develops into a concept that eventually becomes the story. Like most of my work, this book began with conversations with my wife, Lynda. I have always been a Civil War buff, fascinated by its grandeur and its horror. The idea of a modern warship in the Civil War popped into my mind during one of those conversations. To pull that off, of course, I knew that the book would be based on the science fiction sub-genre of time travel. That’s the only way I could get a nuclear powered cruiser to 1861. I enjoyed The Final Countdown by Martin Caidan, the 1980 novel about the USS Nimitz getting caught in a time portal during a freak electric storm and time travelling to Pearl Harbor on the eve of the attack. Lynda and I talked for hours about the captain and his (or her) character. Ashley Patterson became part of the concept.

This is a work of fiction, and any similarity between a character and a living person is a coincidence. There are, however, historical figures in the book, including Abraham Lincoln, Jefferson Davis and President Barack Obama. Although these are real people, the scenes in which they appear came out of my head.


An author can’t be his own editor. You’re too close to the subject. You skip over the grammar and punctuation because you’re concentrating on The Story. No matter how many revisions you go through, you are bound to miss a lot of errors. An editor looks for grammatical and punctuation errors, but he also brings a fresh eye to the story itself and spots inconsistencies. I thank my friends Bill Holland from Olympia, Washington and Nick Wartella from Sayville, New York for their bi-coastal efforts. I also thank my wife Lynda for her countless hours of input into this novel.

I also thank my friend Lloyd (Hoss) Miller, Rear Admiral, Retired, United States Navy. Admiral Miller was the first commanding officer of the USS California, the ship that plays the pivotal role in the story. His technical input was invaluable, but I must emphasize something here. This is a work of fiction, and because it’s a novel, I changed some facts to serve the story. For one thing, I had to bring the California out of mothballs for The Gray Ship because the ship had been decommissioned in 1999. I also added Tomahawk cruise missiles to the ship’s arsenal, although the historic California didn’t carry them.

Admiral Miller makes a cameo appearance in the book, but obviously the scene is fictional. I won’t tell you why it’s obvious. You’ll find out. In the scene, Admiral Miller is a strong leader, a gentleman, and a very likeable person. That’s not fiction. That’s the truth.

I hope you have as much fun reading this book as I had writing it.

Chapter 1

“Captain, we have a problem.”

Captain Patterson hit the reply button on the intercom next to her bed.

“What is it, Lieutenant?”

“It feels like we’re going aground, Ma’am.”

Because the Captain’s sea cabin is only 10 feet away, she’s on the bridge in seconds. She always wore fresh fatigues to bed so she can respond to an emergency in uniform, not a bathrobe. It is 0307 (3:07 A.M.).

The ship went through a strange turbulence, an underwater commotion the likes of which no one on the ship had ever experienced, a soft bumping sensation, not like waves, but more like the ship was riding over a herd of whales. In 30 seconds, the bumping stopped.

“What’s our depth, Lieutenant?”

“Sonar shows 200 feet, Captain.”

“Any sign of marine life?”

“No, Ma’am. Sonar shows nothing between us and the bottom except water.”

“Damage control report?”

“Nothing so far Captain except for a few broken dishes in the mess hall.”

What happened next was an event that would forever change the lives of the crew of the USS California. At 0309, the dark night changed to a bright noon. The sun was high in the sky, and the sweet smell of ozone, when the bright sun mingles with the ocean, was as pleasant as it was terrifying.

All departments reported to the bridge in order of protocol.

“Captain, we’ve received reports from almost every department,” said the Officer of the Deck. “Engine room, AOK; reactor room, AOK; after-steering station, AOK…”

“Lieutenant, please tell me what’s wrong, not what’s right.”

“Aye, Captain. We’ve lost all GPS navigation, ship-to-shore communications, and ship-to-ship communications. We have no Internet connections, email, or cell phone service.”

* * *

Petty Officer Third Class Andrea Dunne was exchanging text messages with her mother in Norfolk, Virginia. Her mother has liver cancer, and she is getting worse every day.

“Mom, please tell me the truth. Don’t try to make me feel better, I want you to feel better.”

“Well, honey, the doctor was just here and he said…” There was no more message. Dunne was frantic. Her mother was about to tell her something important and the message stopped. She tried to send email, but the send command didn’t work. The message on her IPhone said that there was no cellular network available. She tried to phone, but got the same message: no cellular network available.

* * *

Lieutenant Kevin Fitzpatrick stood watch in the Combat Information Center doing a routine check of satellite positions. The software displayed a computer simulation of satellites in range of the California. Suddenly, all satellite images disappeared from his screen. He tried to “ping” the code for each satellite. Not one responded. He assumed it was a software malfunction. Dozens of satellites can’t just disappear, Fitzpatrick thought.

* * *

At the Pentagon, Lieutenant Fran Talierco was on watch at the Office of Naval Operations, NavOps. Her job, as deputy watch officer, was to monitor the positions of all Navy ships in the Eastern Atlantic via Global Positioning System or GPS.

“Oh my God,” yelled Talierco, “where’s the California?”

Lt. Commander Frank Orzo, the Duty Officer, hurried to Talierco’s station. “What happened Fran?”

“The California just disappeared,” said Talierco. Because every ship had multiple redundant GPS devices aboard, they both knew it was impossible for a ship’s position to disappear if one malfunctioned. That could only happen if a ship sank.

“Call them by phone,” said Orzo. Talierco called the satellite number for Captain Ashley Patterson, the CO of the California. A recorded message said, “The number you are calling is not in service at this time.” She tried the number of the Executive Officer of the California. Same message.

“I’ll try the Ticonderoga to see if they can get the California on radio,” Talierco said. The USS Ticonderoga steamed twenty miles east of the California’s last position. Talierco spoke to the Officer of the Deck (OOD) on the Ticonderoga who immediately radioed the California.

“I get no response, Lieutenant,” said the OOD on the Ticonderoga.

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