The Opening Gambit of the Next War

Setting the Board

In the Pacific Ocean, a submarine mast quietly broke the surface of the warm water just before midnight. Its hatch cracked open, and its crew quickly went to work opening dry storage containers and inspecting their contents on the fore and aft decks. The submarine’s captain was thankful for the low winds, calm seas, and dark blanket provided by the new moon. Although off the coast by more than twelve miles, the submarine could not afford to be identified. Capt. Zhao hoped his fellow captains farther up the coast were laboring under equally favorable conditions.

Almost three hundred miles away, Capt. Matt Chandler had just gotten his children to sleep; they were fighting off colds, and bedtime had taken longer than anyone preferred. Being that Matt was a spouse in a dual-military marriage, the kids were his to care for this evening while his wife was flying unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) from a small control building at Creech Air Force Base. Out of habit, he checked his phone, though knowing there would not be a text message from her. As a UAV pilot himself, he knew that her phone would be turned off and locked in a box at the entrance of the secure facility while she was flying. Matt sent text messages to his mom and his sister, both to check in with them and to confirm that the upcoming family gathering on Labor Day was still on.

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