The protagonist is an older officer, possibly one who started his career in an ocean-going navy; the rest of the crew is younger, and probably multi-national.

The setting is a command satellite for a cloud of laser/particle beam satellites deployed in orbit as a defence against nuclear war (and maybe also a means of retaliation). If I'm recalling correctly there are 3 (if I'm wrong there are more, not fewer) command satellites, each controlling a share of the lasers. The defense is international; command of the stations is split among the powers. (I think one is U.S. commanded, one is Chinese and the third is Russian/Soviet.) The crews themselves, however, are drawn from all over the world; I recall characters from Europe, India, etc. There is some friction between the commander and his crew, or perhaps a lack of respect from them.

The commander receives a message by some covert channel from one of the other commanders; they are going to jointly declare martial law over Earth and take power. He doesn't wish to do this, but is threatened with being shot down if he doesn't join the conspirators. He stalls for time and starts lowering the orbit of the station. When they notice, the other stations take this as evidence that he is going to work against them, and start attacking.

The attacks are carried out by the finger-of-god satellites; by lowering orbit he has reduced the number of enemy satellites that can be brought to bear. His crew finally start working together; enemy satellites that come into range are shot at, one of the young commanders thinks of using their shuttlecraft as active armour, and a young engineer organizes a damage-control party. (I'm reasonably sure she was European, and he was Indian.)

The damage control party tries to beat the odds by chasing salvos (that specific term was used), but ultimately the odds catch up to them. Fortunately their sacrifice was not in vain, because before the satellite can be completely crippled, Earth manages to take back control of the other command stations, ending the threat.

  • This sounds strongly reminiscent of -- but distinct from -- Heinlein's "The Long Watch". – Beta Aug 7 at 13:53

Battle Station by Ben Bova. I read it in the collection There Will Be War X.

Although if this is the story your memory has gone slightly astray. It starts with a surprise attack on the station Hunter commanded by Commander J. W. Hazard (I'm not sure we ever learn his first name).

The Hunter was one of nine orbiting battle stations that made up the command-and-control function of the newly created International Peacekeeping Force’s strategic defense network. In lower orbits, 135 unmanned ABM satellites armed with multimegawatt lasers and hypervelocity missiles crisscrossed the Earth’s surface. In theory, these satellites could destroy thousands of ballistic missiles within five minutes of their launch, no matter where on Earth they rose from.

The instigator of the coup is Buckbee:

“This is Buckbee, commander of station Graham. I want to speak to Commander Hazard.”

Sliding in front of the screen, Hazard grasped the console’s edge with both white-knuckled hands. He knew Buckbee only by reputation, a former U.S. Air Force colonel, from the Space Command until it had been disbanded, but before that he had put in a dozen years with SAC.

“This is Hazard.”

Buckbee’s lips moved slightly in what might have been a smile, but his eyes remained cold. “Hazard, you’ve just lost your bridge.”

“And six lives.”

Unmoved, Buckbee continued as if reading from a prepared script, “We offer you a chance to save the lives of the rest of your crew. Surrender the Hunter to us.”


Buckbee nodded, a small economical movement. “We will bring order and greatness out of this farce called the IPF.

The reference to chasing salvos is when one of the young officers, Varshni, says:

“I have operated on the principle that lightning does not strike twice in the same place. In old-fashioned naval parlance this is referred to, I believe, as ‘chasing salvos.’”

The bit about using the shuttles as shields is part of their plan to lower the station:

“Sir,” Yang said, turning slightly toward him, “I’ve been thinking about the minimum altitude we can achieve. Although the station is not equipped for atmospheric reentry, we do carry the four emergency evacuation spacecraft and they do have heat shields.”

“Are you suggesting we abandon the station?”

“Oh, no, sir! But perhaps we could move the spacecraft to a position where they would be between us and the atmosphere. Let their heat shields protect us — sort of like riding a surfboard.”

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  • To Yang he explained, "We can use the lifeboats' heat shields as armor to absorb or deflect incoming laser beams. Not just shielding, but active armor. We can move the boats to protect the most likely areas for laser beams to come from." – DavidW Aug 7 at 14:26
  • This is definitely the story. I wasn't confident enough to include in the question that he was a sub captain or that there was a "run silent, run deep" element; I actually had that but took it out. The only elements I got outright wrong were the number of stations, and the way the crew worked together (really well, in the story). His second was Norwegian and the head of damage control was Indian. – DavidW Aug 7 at 14:30
  • FWIW, I read it in Bova's anthology Battle Station. – DavidW Aug 7 at 14:31

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