Myolie’s hand was at her mouth when she saw the rear of the Tenacious lift up from the water several meters amidst a pillar of white-green water that spouted forty meters high like a geyser, and then settle down as black smoke and flame poured out from the waterline. When the Aster had launched from the front of the ship, she knew from videos that it was a missile launching from the ship and not one striking the ship, though the flame and smoke that the Aster left behind might have been easily mistaken by someone not in the know for a missile impact. It was, in a way, a thing of beauty. But the second water and light show had been the torpedo hit, and the beauty became a beast.
Through the binoculars Myolie saw another small silver-gray tube with a thin streak of white smoke heading towards the Tenacious. It was just seconds away when it suddenly popped up, rising into the air at a sharp angle as if it had decided that one strike against Nengy’s frigate was enough. The anti-ship missile continued its ascent, streaking over the Tenacious while slightly zigzagging left and right.
“Missile overhead, Lieutenant. It’s either locked on to another target or malfunctioned. Herakles still operational. Aster one and two have fallen into the sea. Should I launch another?” Nengy thought for just half a second, trying to block out the sirens screeching around him while balancing against the aft and stern list.
“Launch two more Asters. It’s better to take out an errant anti-ship missile than have it hit another ship.”
“Aye aye, sir, launching two Asters. Firing Asters three and four.” Seconds later, the ship shook as one of the missiles flew away.
“Sir, missile three is a misfire!” one of the other weapons crewman reported.
“Missile four is airborne and locked onto target, correcting its trajectory now.”
As one, everyone on the MBS observation deck yelled in panic when they saw the anti-ship missile that had missed the Tenacious heading towards them. Far away, it seemed to move slowly, leaving behind a mix of gray and black smoke. Up until that moment, everyone had remained transfixed as the ships jerked left and right, launching air defense missiles into the air and shooting the close-in weapons support rotary guns at the closest missiles. Some atop the MBS, while conscious of the tragedy, observed the sea battle transfixed, as if it were the last seconds of a tie-breaking FIFA world cup penalty round.
The uncle had been speaking to himself, narrating events to anyone within earshot, with his legs planted firmly on the wood deck. He knew each ship by name and type. After the Bangor, Winnipeg, and the Tenacious it was the turn of the USS Stockdale, though the missile seemed to hit the tip of the fore, causing only superficial damage. An Indonesian corvette and French destroyer swerved to avoid unseen torpedoes, colliding into one another as they did so. The Indonesian KRI John Lie was split in half by the much larger and heavier French ship, the Chevalier Paul, and by the time the uncle saw that a missile was heading towards the MBS, the John Lie had nearly sunk. All of this in just half a minute.
What cruel commander would try to destroy the MBS? Myolie wondered as she took a few steps back towards the exit as the missile headed towards the building, as if she could flee down fifty-one stories before the missile struck – if indeed it was going to. Then it dawned upon Myolie: the top of the MBS looked like a ship! The architectural genius of the MBS with the appearance of a cruise liner sitting atop three pillars of glass and concrete did not account for a naval battle within its shadows, and the building was to become a victim of its own originality.
The missile came fast on the heels of its own sound so that only a few seconds passed between the shriek of its engine and the warhead’s explosion. The MBS observation deck shook, knocking everyone off their feet, and Myolie was certain that she saw the wood floor ripple as if it were as soft as gelatin. Her ears were ringing and her stomach felt as if someone had punched her, but she knew she was alive. The 165 kg warhead had struck too low, most of its force exploding within the relatively empty spaces in the hotel rooms rather than decimating a major support beam and collapsing the deck, or striking the deck itself and spraying Myolie and the others with fuel, metal shards, and throwing their bodies off of the fifty-five stories with a massive shockwave.
Pulling herself up by grabbing onto a bent railing, the glass barrier beneath it shattered, she searched for the Tenacious. Though many ships had moved, Nengy’s ship was still easy to find as it had barely left its original position. Black smoke hovered above it, reaching towards the sky like a death angel. Suddenly, its rear deck exploded, followed seconds later by a detonation at the front that was so strong that pieces flew hundreds of meters into the air. Water embraced the ship and the sea swallowed up Lieutenant Nengyi Yew. The fuel tanks had caught fire followed by an explosion that had quickly set the ammunition magazine alight. What the torpedo had not immediately destroyed, the frigate’s own wares completed.
Yet still another airborne object was approached. A white missile came bearing down towards her: the Astrid that Nengyi had fired to destroy the anti-ship missile. With the Tenacious all but sunk and unable to issue guidance commands and the air defense missile’s target gone, the Astrid simply continued on its trajectory. Myolie last sensation was one of bitterness that she was being smitten by her own husband’s missile.
For them it was the end, but for Asia it was just the beginning.