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The Cardinal Of The Kremlin 1

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Written by Administrator

Posted on 28 April 2011

The Cardinal Of The Kremlin -- Tom Clancy -- (1988)

(Version 2002.11.06)

(Jack Ryan Timeline -- Jack Jr. in Kindergarten)

Prologue -- Threats -- Old, New, and Timeless

They called him the Archer. It was an honorable title, though his countrymen had cast aside their reflex bows over a century before, as soon as they had learned about firearms. In part, the name reflected the timeless nature of the struggle. The first of the Western invaders -- for that was how they thought of them -- had been Alexander the Great, and more had followed since. Ultimately, all bad failed. The Afghan tribesmen held their Islamic faith as the reason for their resistance, but the obstinate courage of these men was as much a part of their racial heritage as their dark pitiless eyes.

The Archer was a young man, and an old one. On those occasions that he had both the desire and opportunity to bathe in a mountain stream, anyone could see the youthful muscles on his thirty-year-old body. They were the smooth muscles of one for whom a thousand-foot climb over bare rock was as unremarkable a part of life as a stroll to the mailbox.

It was his eyes that were old. The Afghans are a handsome people whose forthright features and fair skin suffer quickly from wind and sun and dust, too often making them older than their years. For the Archer, the damage had not been done by wind. A teacher of mathematics until three years before, a college graduate in a country where most deemed it enough to be able to read the holy Koran, he'd married young, as was the custom in his land, and fathered two children. But his wife and daughter were dead, killed by rockets fired from a Sukhoi-24 attack-fighter. His son was gone. Kidnapped. After the Soviets had flattened the village of his wife's family with air power, their ground troops had come, killing the remaining adults and sweeping up all the orphans for shipment to the Soviet Union, where they would be educated and trained in other modern ways. All because his wife had wanted her mother to see the grandchildren before she died, the Archer remembered, all because a Soviet patrol had been fired upon a few kilometers from the village. On the day he'd learned this -- a week after it had actually happened -- the teacher of algebra and geometry had neatly stacked the books on his desk and walked out of the small town of Ghazni into the hills. A week later he'd returned to the town after dark with three other men and-proved that he was worthy of his heritage by killing three Soviet soldiers and taking their arms. He still carried that first Kalashnikov.

But that was not why he was known as the Archer. The chief of his little band of mudjaheddin -- the name means "Freedom Fighter" -- was a perceptive leader who did not look down upon the new arrival who'd spent his youth in classrooms, learning foreign ways. Nor did he hold the young man's initial lack of faith against him. When the teacher joined the group, he'd bad only the most cursory knowledge of Islam, and the headman remembered the bitter tears falling like rain from the young man's eyes as their imam had counseled him in Allah's will. Within a month he'd become the most ruthless -- and most effective -- man in the band, clearly an expression of God's own plan. And it was he whom the leader had chosen to travel to Pakistan, where he could use his knowledge of science and numbers to learn the use of surface-to-air missiles. The first SAMs with which the quiet, serious man from Amerikastan had equipped the mudjaheddin had been the Soviets' own SA-7, known by the Russians as strela, "arrow." The first "man-portable" SAM, it was not overly effective unless used with great skill. Only a few had such skill. Among them the arithmetic teacher was the best, and for his successes with The Russian "arrows," the men in the group took to calling him the Archer.

He waited with a new missile at the moment, the American one called Stinger, but all of the surface-to-air missiles in this group -- indeed, throughout the whole area -- were merely called arrows now: tools for the Archer. He lay on the knife-edge of a ridge, a hundred meters below the summit of the hill, from which he could survey the length of a glacial valley. Beside him was his spotter, Abdul. The name appropriately meant "servant," since the teenager carried two additional missiles for his launcher and, more importantly, had the eyes of a falcon. They were burning eyes. He was an orphan.

The Archer's eyes searched the mountainous terrain, especially the ridgelines, with an expression that reflected a millennium of combat. A serious man, the Archer. Though friendly enough, he was rarely seen to smile; he showed no interest in a new bride, not even to join his lonely grief to that of a newly made widow. His life had room for but a single passion.

"There," Abdul said quietly, pointing.

"I see it."

The battle on the valley floor -- one of several that day -- had been under way for thirty minutes, about the proper time for the Soviet soldiers to get support from their helicopter base twenty kilometers over the next line of mountains. The sun glinted briefly off the Mi-24's glass-covered nose, enough for them to see it, ten miles off, skirting over the ridgeline. Farther overhead, and well beyond his reach, circled a single Antonov-26 twin-engine transport. It was filled with observation equipment and radios to coordinate the ground and air action. But the Archer's eyes followed only the Mi-24, a Hind attack helicopter loaded with rockets and cannon shells that even now was getting information from the circling command aircraft.

The Stinger had come as a rude surprise to the Russians, and their air tactics were changing on a daily basis as they struggled to come to terms with the new threat. The valley was deep, but more narrow than the rule. For the pilot to hit the Archer's fellow guerrillas, he had to come straight down the rocky avenue. He'd stay high, at least a thousand meters over the rocky floor for fear that a Stinger team might be down there with the riflemen. The Archer watched the helicopter zigzag in flight as the pilot surveyed the land and chose his path. As expected, the pilot approached from leeward so that the wind would delay the sound of his rotor for the few extra seconds that might be crucial. The radio in the circling transport would be tuned to the frequencies known to be used by the mudjaheddin so that the Russians could detect a warning of its approach, and also an indication where the missile team might be. Abdul did indeed carry a radio, switched off and tucked in the folds of his clothing.

Slowly, the Archer raised the launcher and trained its two-element sight on the approaching helicopter. His thumb went sideways and down on the activation switch, and he nestled his cheekbone on the conductance bar. He was instantly rewarded with the warbling screech of the launcher's seeker unit. The pilot had made his assessment, and his decision. He came down the far side of the valley, just beyond missile range, for his first firing run. The Hind's nose was down, and the gunner, sitting in his seat in front of and slightly below the pilot, was training his sights on the area where the fighters were. Smoke appeared on the valley floor. The Soviets used mortar shells to indicate where their tormentors were, and the helicopter altered course slightly. It was almost time. Flames shot out of the helicopter's rocket pods, and the first salvo of ordnance streaked downward.

Then another smoke trail came up. The helicopter lurched left as the smoke raced into the sky, well clear of the Hind, but still a positive indication of danger ahead; or so the pilot thought. The Archer's hands tightened on the launcher. The helicopter was sideslipping right at him now, expanding around the inner ring of the sight. It was now in range. The Archer punched the forward button with his left thumb, "uncaging" the missile and giving the infrared seeker-head on the Stinger its first look at the heat radiating from the Mi-24's turboshaft engines. The sound carried through his cheekbone into his ear changed. The missile was now tracking the target. The Hind's pilot decided to hit the area from which the "missile" had been launched at him, bringing the aircraft farther left, and turning slightly. Unwittingly, he turned his jet exhaust almost right at the Archer as he warily surveyed the rocks from which the rocket had come.

The missile screamed its readiness at the Archer now, but still he was patient. He put his mind into that of his target, and judged that the pilot would come closer still before his helicopter had the shot he wanted at the hated Afghans. And so he did. When the Hind was only a thousand meters off, the Archer took a deep breath, superelevated his sight, and whispered a brief prayer of vengeance. The trigger was pulled almost of its own accord.

The launcher bucked in his hands as the Stinger looped slightly upward before dropping down to home on its target. The Archer's eyes were sharp enough to see it despite the almost invisible smoke trail it left behind. The missile deployed its maneuvering fins, and these moved a few fractions of a millimeter in obedience to the orders generated by its computer brain -- a microchip the size of a postage stamp. Aloft in the circling An-26, an observer saw a tiny puff of dust and began to reach for a microphone to relay a warning, but his hand had barely touched the plastic instrument before the missile struck.

The missile ran directly into one of the helicopter's engines and exploded. The helicopter was crippled instantly. The driveshaft for the tail rotor was cut, and the Hind began spinning violently to the left while the pilot tried to autorotate he aircraft down, frantically looking for a fiat place while his gunner radioed a shrill call for rescue. The pilot brought the engine to idle, unloading his collective to control torque, locked his eyes on a fiat space the size of a tennis court, then cut his switches and activated the onboard extinguishing system. Like most fliers he feared fire red fire above all things, though he would learn the error soon enough.

The Archer watched the Mi-24 hit nose-down on a rocky edge five hundred feet below his perch. Surprisingly, it didn't burn as the aircraft came apart. The helicopter cartwheeled viciously, the tail whipping forward and over the nose before it came to rest on its side. The Archer raced down the hill with Abdul right behind. It took five minutes.

The pilot fought with his straps as he hung upside down. He was in pain, but he knew that only the living felt pain. The new model helicopter had had improved safety systems built in. Between those and his own skill he'd survived the crash. Not his gunner, he noticed briefly. The man in front hung motionless, his neck broken, his hands limply reaching for the ground. The pilot had no time for that. His seat was bent, and the chopper's canopy had shattered, its metal frame now a prison for the flyer. The emergency release latch was jammed, the explosive release bolts unwilling to fire. He took his pistol from the shoulder holster and started blasting at the metal framework, one piece at a time. He wondered if the An-26 had gotten the emergency call. Wondered if the rescue helicopter at his base was on the way. His rescue radio was in a pants pocket, and he'd activate it as soon as he got away from his broken bird. The pilot cut his hands to ribbons as he prised the metal away, giving himself a clear path out. He thanked his luck again that he was not ending his life in a pillar of greasy smoke as he released his straps and climbed out of the aircraft to the rocky ground.

His left leg was broken. The jagged end of a white bone stuck clear of his flight suit; though he was too deeply in shock to feel it, the sight of the injury horrified him. He holstered his empty pistol and grabbed a loose piece of metal to serve as a cane. He had to get away. He hobbled to the far end of the ledge and saw a path. It was three kilometers to friendly forces. He was about to start down when he heard something and turned. Hope changed to horror in an instant, and the pilot realized that a fiery death would have been a blessing.

The Archer blessed Allah's name as he withdrew his knife from its sheath.

There couldn't be much left of her, Ryan thought. The hull was mainly intact -- at least superficially -- but you could see the rough surgery made by the welders as clearly as the stitches made on Frankenstein's monster. An apt enough comparison, he thought silently. Man had made these things, but they could one day destroy their makers in the space of an hour.

"God, it's amazing how big they look on the outside..."

"And so small on the inside?" Marko asked. There was a wistful sadness in his voice. Not so long before, Captain Marko Ramius of the Voyenno Morskoi Flot had conned his ship into this very drydock. He hadn't been there to watch U.S. Navy technicians dissect her like pathologists over a cadaver, removing the missiles, the reactor plant, the sonars, the onboard computers and communications gear, the periscopes, and even the galley stoves for analysis at bases spread all over the United States. His absence had been at his own request. Ramius' hatred for the Soviet system did not extend to the ships that system built. He'd sailed this one well -- and Red October had saved his life.

And Ryan's. Jack fingered the hairline scar on his forehead and wondered if they'd ever cleaned his blood off the helmsman's console. "I'm surprised you didn't want to take her out," he observed to Ramius.

"No." Marko shook his head. "I only want to say goodbye. He was good ship."

"Good enough," Jack agreed quietly. He looked at the half-repaired hole that the Alfa's torpedo had made in the port side and shook his head in silence. Good enough to save my ass when that torpedo hit. The two men watched in silence, separated from the sailors and Marines who'd secured the area since the previous December.

The drydock was flooding now, the filthy water from the Elizabeth River rushing into the concrete box. They'd take her out tonight. Six American fast-attack submarines were even now "sanitizing" the ocean east of the Norfolk Navy Base, ostensibly part of an exercise that would also involve a few surface ships. It was nine o'clock on a moonless night. It would take an hour to flood the drydock. A crew of thirty was already aboard. They'd fire up the ship's diesel engines and sail her out for her second and final voyage, to the deep ocean trench north of Puerto Rico, where she would be scuttled in twenty-five thousand feet of water.

Ryan and Ramius watched as the water covered the wooden blocks that supported the hull, wetting the submarine's keel for the first time in nearly a year. The water came in more quickly now, creeping up the plimsoll marks painted fore and aft. On the submarine's deck, a handful of seamen wearing bright orange lifejackets for safety paced around, making ready to slip the fourteen stout mooring lines that held her steady.

The ship herself remained quiet. Red October gave no sign of welcome for the water. Perhaps she knew the fate that awaited her, Ryan said to himself. It was a foolish thought -- but he also knew that for millennia sailors had imputed personalities to the ships they served.

Finally she started to move. The Water buoyed the hull off the wooden blocks. There was a muted series of thuds, more felt than beard as she rose off them ever so slowly, rocking back and forth a few inches at a time.

A few minutes later the ship's diesel engine rumbled to life, and the line handlers on the ship and the drydock began to take in the lines. At the same time, the canvas that covered the seaward end of the drydock was taken down, and all could see the fog that hung on the water outside. Conditions were perfect for the operation. Conditions had to be perfect; the Navy had waited six weeks for them, a moonless night and the thick seasonal fog that plagued the Chesapeake Bay region this time of year. When the last line was slipped, an officer atop the submarine's sail raised a hand-held air horn and blew a single blast.

"Under way!" his voice called, and the sailors at the bow struck the jack and put down the staff. For the first time, Ryan noticed that it was the Soviet jack. He smiled. It was a nice touch. On the sail's aft end, another seaman ran up the Soviet naval ensign, its bright red star emblazoned with the shield of the Red Banner Northern Fleet. The Navy, ever mindful of traditions, was saluting the man who stood at his side.

Ryan and Ramius watched the submarine start to move under her own power, her twin bronze propellers turning gently in reverse as she backed out into the river. One of the tugs helped her turn to face north. Within another minute she was gone from sight. Only the lingering rumble of her diesel came across the oily water of the navy yard.

Marko blew his nose once and blinked a half-dozen times. When he turned away from the water, his voice was firm.

"So, Ryan, they fly you home from England for this?"

"No, I came back a few weeks ago. New job."

"Can you say what job is?" Marko asked.

Arms control. They want me to coordinate the intelligence side for the negotiations team. We have to fly over in January."


"Yes, it's a preliminary session -- setting the agenda and doing some technical stuff, that sort of thing. How about you?"

"I work at AUTEC in Bahamas. Much sun and sand. You see my tan?" Ramius grinned. "I come to Washington every two-three months. I fly back in five hours. We work on new quieting project." Another smile. "Is classified."

"Great! I want you to come over to my house then. I still owe you a dinner." Jack handed over a card. "Here's my number. Call me a few days before you fly in, and I'll set things up with the Agency." Ramius and his officers were under a very strict protection regime from CIA security officers. The really amazing thing, Jack thought, was that the story hadn't leaked. None of the news media had gotten word, and if security really was that tight, probably the Russians also didn't know the fate of their missile submarine Krazny Oktyabr She'd be turning east about now, Jack thought, to pass over the Hampton Roads tunnel. Roughly an hour after that she'd dive and head southeast. He shook his head.

Ryan's sadness at the submarine's fate was tempered by the thought of what she'd been built for. He remembered his own reaction, in the sub's missile room a year before, the first time he'd been so close to the ghastly things. Jack accepted the fact that nuclear weapons kept the peace -- if you could really call the world's condition peace -- but like most of the people who thought about the subject, he wished for a better way. Well, this was one less submarine, twenty-six less missiles, and one hundred eighty-two less warheads. statistically, Ryan told himself, it didn't count for much.

But it was something.

Ten thousand miles away and eight thousand feet above sea level the problem was unseasonable weather. The place was in the Tadzhik Soviet Socialist Republic, and the wind came from the south, still bearing moisture from the Indian Ocean that fell as miserably cold drizzle. Soon it would be the real winter that always came early here, usually on the heels of the blazing, airless summer, and all that fell would be cold and white.

The workers were mostly young, eager members of the Komsomol. They had been brought in to help finish a construction project that had been begun in 1983. One of them, a masters candidate at Moscow State University's school of physics, rubbed the rain from his eyes and straightened to ease a crick in his back. This was no way to utilize a promising young engineer, Morozov thought. Instead of playing with this surveyor's instrument, he could be building lasers in his laboratory, but he wanted full membership in the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, and wanted even more to avoid military service. The combination of his school deferment and his Komsomol work had helped mightily to this end.

"Well?" Morozov turned to see one of the site engineers. A civil engineer, he was, who described himself as a man who knew concrete.

"I read the position as correct, Comrade Engineer."

The older man stooped down to look through the sighting I scope. "I agree," the man said. "And that's the last one, the gods be praised." Both men jumped with the sound of a distant explosion. Engineers from the Red Army obliterating yet another rocky outcropping outside of the fenced perimeter. You didn't need to be a soldier to understand what that was all about, Morozov thought to himself.

"You have a fine touch with optical instruments. Perhaps you will become a civil engineer, too, eh? Build useful things for the State?"

"No, Comrade. I study high-energy physics -- mainly lasers." These, too, are useful things.

The man grunted and shook his head. "Then you might come back here, God help you."

"Is this -- "

"You didn't hear anything from me," the engineer said, just a touch of firmness in his voice.

"I understand," Morozov replied quietly. "I suspected as much."

"I would be careful voicing that suspicion," the other said conversationally as he turned to look at something.

"This must be a fine place to watch the stars," Morozov observed, hoping for the right response.

"I wouldn't know," the civil engineer replied with an insider's smile. "I've never met an astronomer."

Morozov smiled to himself. He'd guessed right after all. They had just plotted the position of the six points on which mirrors would be set. These were equidistant from a central point located in a building guarded by men with rifles. Such precision, he knew, had only two applications. One was astronomy, which collected light coming down. The other application involved light going up. The young engineer told himself that here was where he wanted to come. This place would change the world.

Chapter 1 -- Reception of the Party

Business was being conducted. All kinds of business. Everyone there knew it. Everyone there was part of it. Everyone there needed it. And yet everyone there was in one way or another dedicated to stopping it. For every person there in the St. George Hail of the Great Kremlin Palace, the dualism was a normal part of life.

The participants were mainly Russian and American, and were divided into four groups.

First, the diplomats and politicians. One could discern these easily enough from their better-than-average clothing and erect posture, the ready, robotic smiles, and careful diction that endured even after the many alcoholic toasts. They were the masters, knew it, and their demeanor proclaimed it.

Second, the soldiers. One could not have arms negotiations without the men who controlled the arms, maintained them, tested them, pampered them, all the while telling themselves that the politicians who controlled the men would never give the order to launch. The soldiers in their uniforms stood mainly in little knots of homogeneous nationality and service branch, each clutching a half-full glass and napkin while blank, emotionless eyes swept the room as though searching for a threat on an unfamiliar battlefield. For that was precisely what it was to them, a bloodless battlefield that would define the real ones if their political masters ever lost control, lost temper, lost perspective, lost whatever it is in man that tries to avoid the profligate waste of young life. To a man the soldiers trusted none but one another, and in some cases trusted their enemies in different-colored uniforms more than their own soft-clothed masters. At least you knew where another soldier stood. You couldn't always say the same of politicians, even your own. They talked with one another quietly, always watching to see who listened, stopping occasionally for a quick gulp from the glass, accompanied by another look about the room. They were the victims, but also the predators -- the dogs, perhaps, kept on leashes by those who deemed themselves the masters of events.

The soldiers had trouble believing that, too.

Third, the reporters. These could also be picked out by their clothing, which was always wrinkled by too many packings and unpackings in airline suitcases too small for all they carried. They lacked the polish of the politicians, and the fixed smiles, substituting for it the inquisitive looks of children, mixed with the cynicism of the dissolute. Mainly they held their glasses in their left hands, sometimes with a small pad instead of the paper napkin, while a pen was half-hidden in the right. They circulated like birds of prey. One would find someone who would talk. Others would notice and come over to drink in the information. The casual observer could tell how interesting the information was by how quickly the reporters moved off to another source. In this sense the American and other Western reporters were different from their Soviet counterparts, who for the most part hung close to their masters like favored earls of another time, both to show their loyalty to the Party and to act as buffers against their colleagues from elsewhere. But together, they were the audience in this performance of theater in the round.

Fourth came the final group, the invisible one, those whom no one could identify in any easy way. These were the spies; and the counterespionage agents who hunted them. They could be distinguished from the security officers, who watched everyone with suspicion, but from the room's perimeter, as visible as the waiters who circulated about with heavy silver of champagne and vodka in crystal glasses that had been commissioned by the House of Romanov. Some of the waiters were counterespionage agents, of course. Those had to circulate through the room, their ears perked for a snippet of conversation, perhaps a voice too low or a word that didn't fit the mood of the evening. It was no easy task. A quartet of strings in a corner played chamber music to which no one appeared to listen, but this too is a feature of diplomatic receptions and doing without it would be noticed. Then there was the volume of human noise. There were well over a hundred people here, and every one of them was talking at least half the time. Those close to the quartet had to speak loudly to be heard over the music. All the resulting noise was contained in a ballroom two hundred feet long and sixty-five wide, with a parquet floor and hard stucco walls that reflected and reverberated the sound until it reached an ambient level that would have hurt the ears of a small child. The spies used their invisibility and the noise to make themselves the ghosts of the feast.

But the spies were here. Everyone knew it. Anyone in Moscow could tell you about spies. If you met with a Westerner on anything approaching a regular basis, it was the prudent thing to report it. If you did so only once, and a passing police officer of the Moscow Militia -- or an Army officer strolling around with his briefcase -- passed by, a head would turn, and note would be taken. Perhaps cursory, perhaps not. Times had changed since Stalin, of course, but Russia was still Russia, and distrust of foreigners and their ideas was far older than any ideology.

Most of the people in the room thought about it without really thinking about it -- except those who actually played this particular game. The diplomats and politicians had practice guarding their words, and were not overly concerned at the moment. To the reporters it was merely amusing, a fabulous game that didn't really concern them -- though each Western reporter knew that he or she was ipso facto thought an agent of espionage by the Soviet government. The soldiers thought about it most of all. They knew the importance of intelligence, craved it, valued it -- and despised those who gathered it for the slinking things they were.

Which ones are the spies?

Of course there was a handful of people who fitted into no easily identified category -- or fitted into more than one.

"And how did you find Moscow, Dr. Ryan?" a Russian asked. Jack turned from his inspection of the beautiful St. George clock.

"Cold and dark, I'm afraid," Ryan answered after a sip of his champagne. "It's not as though we have had much chance to see anything." Nor would they. The American team had been in the Soviet Union only for a little over four days, and would fly home the next day after concluding the technical session that preceded the plenary one.

"That is too bad," Sergey Golovko observed.

"Yes," Jack agreed. "If all of your architecture is this good, I'd love to take a few days to admire it. Whoever built this house had style." He nodded approvingly at the gleaming white walls, the domed ceiling, and the gold leaf. In fact he thought it overdone, but he knew that the Russians had a national tendency to overdo a lot of things. To Russians, who rarely had enough of anything, "having enough" meant having more than anyone else -- preferably more than everyone else. Ryan thought it evidence of a national inferiority complex, and reminded himself that people who feel themselves inferior have a pathological desire to disprove their own perceptions. That one factor dominated all aspects of the arms control process, displacing mere logic as the basis for reaching an agreement.

"The decadent Romanovs," Golovko noted. "All this came from the sweat of the peasants." Ryan turned and laughed.

"Well, at least some of their tax money went for something beautiful, harmless -- and immortal. If you ask me, it beats buying ugly weapons that are obsolete ten years later. There's an idea, Sergey Nikolay'ch. We will redirect our political-military competition to beauty instead of nuclear weapons."

"You are satisfied with the progress, then?"

Business. Ryan shrugged and continued to inspect the room. "I suppose we've settled on the agenda. Next, those characters over by the fireplace have to work out the details." He stared at one of the enormous crystal chandeliers. He wondered how many man-years of effort had gone into making it, and how much fun it must have been to hang something that weighed as much as a small car.

"And you are satisfied on the issue of verifiability?"

That confirms it, Ryan thought with a thin smile. Golovko is GRU. "National Technical Means," a term that denoted spy satellites and other methods of keeping an eye on foreign countries, were mainly the province of CIA in America, but in the Soviet Union they belonged to the GRU, the Soviet military intelligence agency. Despite the tentative agreement in principle for on-site inspection, the main effort of verifying compliance on an agreement would lie with the spy satellites. That would be Golovko's turf.

It was no particular secret that Jack worked for CIA. It didn't have to be; he wasn't a field officer. His attachment to the arms-negotiation team was a logical matter. His current assignment had to do with monitoring certain strategic weapons systems within the Soviet Union. For any arms treaty to be signed, both sides first had to satisfy their own institutional paranoia that no serious tricks could be played on them by the other. Jack advised the chief negotiator along these lines; when, Jack reminded himself, the negotiator troubled himself to listen.

"Verifiability," he replied after another moment, "is a very technical and difficult question. I'm afraid I'm not really that conversant on it. What do your people think about our proposal to limit land-based systems?"

"We depend on our land-based missiles more than you," Golovko said. His voice became more guarded as they discussed the meat of the Soviet position.

"I don't understand why you don't place as much emphasis on submarines as we do."

"Reliability, as you well know."

"Aw, hell. Submarines are reliable," Jack baited him as he reexamined the clock. It was magnificent. Some peasant-looking fellow was handing a sword to another chap, and waving him off to battle. Not exactly a new idea, Jack thought. Some old fart tells a young kid to go off and get killed.

"We have had some incidents, I regret to say."

"Yeah, that Yankee that went down off Bermuda."

"And the other."

"Hmph?" Ryan turned back. It took a serious effort not to smile.

"Please, Dr. Ryan, do not insult my intelligence. You know the story of Krazny Oktyabr as well as I."

"What was that name? Oh, yeah, the Typhoon you guys lost off the Carolinas. I was in London then. I never did get briefed on it."

"I think the two incidents illustrate the problem we Soviets face. We cannot trust our missile submarines as completely as you trust yours."

"Hmm." Not to mention the drivers, Ryan thought, careful not to let his face show a thing.

Golovko persisted. "But may I ask a substantive question?"

"Sure, so long as you don't expect a substantive answer." Ryan chuckled.

"Will your intelligence community object to the draft treaty proposal""

"Now, how am I supposed to know the answer to that?" Jack paused. "What about yours?"

"Our organs of State security do what they are told," Golovko assured him.

Right, Ryan told himself. "In our country, if the President decides that he likes an arms treaty, and he thinks he can get it through the Senate, it doesn't matter what the CIA and Pentagon think -- "

"But your military-industrial complex -- " Golovko cut Jack off.

"God, you guys really love to beat on that horse, don't you? Sergey Nikolayevich, you should know better."

But Golovko was a military intelligence officer, and might not, Ryan remembered too late. The degree to which America and the Soviet Union misunderstood each other was at one and the same time amusing and supremely dangerous. Jack wondered if the intelligence community over here tried to get the truth out, as CIA usually did now, or merely told. Its masters what they wanted to hear, as CIA had done all too often in the past. Probably the latter, he thought. The Russian intel agencies were undoubtedly politicized, just as CIA used to be. One good thing about Judge Moore was that he'd worked damned hard to put an end to that. But the Judge had no particular wish to be President; that made him different from his Soviet counterparts. One director of the KGB had made it to the top over here, and at least one other tried to. That made KGB a political creature, and that affected its objectivity. Jack sighed into his drink. The problems between the two countries wouldn't end if all the false perceptions were laid to rest, but at least things could be more manageable.

Maybe. Ryan admitted to himself that this might be as false a panacea as all the others; it had never been tried, after all.

"May I make a suggestion to you?"

"Certainly," Golovko answered.

"Let's drop the shop talk, and you tell me about this room while I enjoy the champagne." It'll save us both a lot of time when we write up our contact reports tomorrow.

"Perhaps I could get you some vodka?"

"No, thanks, this bubbly stuff is great. Local?"

"Yes, from Georgia," Golovko said proudly. "I think it is better than the French."

"I wouldn't mind taking a few bottles home," Ryan allowed.

Golovko laughed, a short bark of amusement and power. "I will see to it. So. The palace was finished in 1849, at the cost of eleven million rubles, quite a sum at the time. It's the last grand palace ever built, and, I think, the best..."

Ryan wasn't the only one touring the room, of course. Most of the American delegation had never seen it. Russians bored with the reception led them around, explaining as they went. Several people from the embassy tagged along, keeping a casual eye on things.

"So, Misha, what do you think of American women?" Defense Minister Yazov asked his aide.

"Those coming this way are not unattractive, Comrade Minister," the Colonel observed.

"But so skinny -- ah, yes, I keep forgetting, your beautiful Elena was also thin. A fine woman she was, Misha."

"Thank you for remembering, Dmitri Timofeyevich."

"Hello, Colonel!" one of the American ladies said in Russian.

"Ah, yes, Mrs..."

"Foley. We met at the hockey game last November."

"You know this lady?" the Minister asked his aide.

"My nephew -- no, my grand-nephew Mikhail, Elena's sister's grandson -- plays junior-league hockey, and I was invited to a game. It turned out that they allowed an imperialist On the team," he replied with a raised eyebrow.

"Your son plays well?" Marshal Yazov asked.

"He is the third-leading scorer in the league," Mrs. Foley replied.

"Splendid! Then you must stay in our country, and your son can play for Central Army when he grows up." Yazov grinned. He was a grandfather four times over. "What do you do here?"

"My husband works for the embassy. He's over there, shepherding the reporters around -- but the important thing is, I got to come here tonight. I've never seen anything like this in my whole life!" she gushed. Her glistening eyes spoke of several glasses of something. Probably champagne, the Minister thought. She looked like the champagne type, but she was attractive enough, and she had bothered to learn the language reasonably well, unusual for Americans. "These floors are so pretty, it seems a crime to walk on them. We don't have anything like this at home."

"You never had the czars, which was your good fortune," Yazov replied like a good Marxist. "But as a Russian I must admit that I am proud of their artistic sense."

"I haven't seen you at any other games, Colonel," she said, turning back to Misha.

"I don't have the time."

"But you're good luck! The team won that night, and Eddie got a goal and an assist."

The Colonel smiled. "All our little Misha got was two penalties for high-sticking."

"Named for you?" the Minister asked.


"You didn't have those on when I saw you." Mrs. Foley pointed to the three gold stars on his chest.

"Perhaps I didn't take off my topcoat -- "

"He always wears them," the Marshal assured her. "One always wears his Hero of The Soviet Union medals."

"Is that the same as our Medal of Honor?"

"The two are roughly equivalent," Yazov said for his aide. Misha was unaccountably shy about them. "Colonel Filitov is the only man living who has ever won three in battle."

"Really? How does someone win three?"

"Fighting Germans," the Colonel said tersely.

"Killing Germans," Yazov said even more bluntly. When Filitov had been one of the Red Army's brightest stars, he'd been a mere lieutenant. "Misha is one of the best tank officers who ever lived."

Colonel Filitov actually blushed at that. "I did my duty, as did many soldiers in that war."

"My father was decorated in the war, too. He led two missions to rescue people from prison camps in the Philippines. He didn't talk about it very much, but they gave him a bunch of medals. Do you tell your children about those bright stars of yours?"

Filitov went rigid for a moment. Yazov answered for him. "Colonel Filitov's sons died some years ago."

"Oh! Oh, Colonel, I am so sorry," Mrs. Foley said, and she really was.

"It was long ago." He smiled. "I remember your son well from the game, a fine young man. Love your children, dear lady, for you will not always have them. If you will excuse me for a moment." Misha moved off in the direction of the rest rooms. Mrs. Foley looked to the Minister, anguish on her pretty face.

"Sir, I didn't mean -- "

"You could not have known. Misha lost his sons a few years apart, then his wife. I met her when I was a very young man -- lovely girl, a dancer with the Kirov Ballet. So sad, but we Russians are accustomed to great sadnesses. Enough of that. What team does your son play for?" Marshal Yazov's interest in hockey was amplified by the pretty young face.

Misha found the rest room after a minute. Americans and Russians were sent to different ones, of course, and Colonel Filitov was alone in what had been the private water closet of a prince, or perhaps a czar's mistress. He washed his hands and looked in the gilt-edged mirror. He had but one thought: Again. Another mission. Colonel Filitov sighed and tidied himself up. A minute later he was back out in the arena.

"Excuse me," Ryan said. Turning around, he'd bumped into an elderly gentleman in uniform. Golovko said something in Russian that Ryan didn't catch. The officer said something to Jack that sounded polite, and walked over, Ryan saw, to the Defense Minister.

"Who's that?" Jack asked his Russian companion.

"The Colonel is personal aide to the Minister," Golovko replied.

"Little old for a colonel, isn't he?"

"He is a war hero. We do not force all such men to retire."

"I guess that's fair enough," Jack commented, and turned back to hear about this part of the room. After they had exhausted the St. George Hall, Golovko led Jack into the adjacent St. Vladimir Hall. He expressed the hope that he and Ryan would next meet here. St. Vladimir Hall, he explained, was set aside for the signing of treaties. The two intelligence officers toasted one another on that.

The party broke up after midnight. Ryan got into the seventh limousine. Nobody talked on the ride back to the embassy. Everyone was feeling the alcohol, and you didn't talk in cars, not in Moscow. Cars were too easy to bug. Two men fell asleep, and Ryan came close enough himself. What kept him awake was the knowledge that they'd fly out in another five hours, and if he was going to have to do that, he might as well keep tired enough to sleep on the plane, a skill he had only recently acquired. He changed his clothes and went down to the embassy's canteen for coffee. It would be enough to keep himself going for a few hours while be made his own notes.

Things had gone amazingly well these past four days. Almost too well. Jack told himself that averages are made up of times when things went well and times they went poorly. A draft treaty was on the table. Like all draft treaties of late, it was intended by the Soviets to be more a negotiating tool than a negotiating document. Its details were already in the press, and already certain members of Congress were saying on the floor how fair a deal it was -- and why don't we just agree to it?

Why not, indeed? Jack wondered with an ironic smile. Verifiability. That was one reason. The other...was there another? Good question. Why had they changed their stance so much? There was evidence that General Secretary Narmonov wanted to reduce his military expenditures, but despite all the public perceptions to the contrary, nuclear arms were not the place you did that. Nukes were cheap for what they did; they were a very cost-effective way of killing people. While a nuclear warhead and its missile were expensive gadgets, they were far cheaper than the equivalent destructive power in tanks and artillery. Did Narmonov genuinely want to reduce the threat of nuclear war? But that threat didn't come from the weapons; as always it came from the politicians and their mistakes. Was it all a symbol? Symbols, Jack reminded himself, were far easier for Narmonov to produce than substance. If a symbol, at whom was it aimed?

Narmonov had charm, and power -- the sort of visceral presence that came with his post, but even more from his personality. What sort of man was this? What was he after? Ryan snorted. That wasn't his department. Another CIA team was examining Narmonov's political vulnerability right here in Moscow. His far easier job was to figure out the technical side. Far easier, perhaps, but he didn't yet know the answer to his own questions.

Golovko was already back at his office, making his own notes in a painful longhand. Ryan, he wrote, would uneasily support the draft proposal. Since Ryan had the ear of the Director, that probably meant that CIA would, too. The intelligence officer set down his pen and rubbed his eyes for a moment. Waking up with a hangover was bad enough, but having to stay awake long enough to welcome it with the sunrise was above and beyond the duty of a Soviet officer. He wondered why his government had made the offer in the first place, and why the Americans seemed so eager. Even Ryan, who should have known better. What did the Americans have in mind? Who was outmaneuvering whom?

Now there was a question.

He turned back to Ryan, his assignment of the previous evening. Well along for a man of his years, the equivalent of a colonel in the KGB or GRU and only thirty-five. What had he done to rise so quickly? Golovko shrugged. Probably connected, a fact of life as important in Washington as in Moscow. He had courage -- the business with the terrorists almost five years before. He was also a family man, something Russians respected more than their American counterparts would have believed -- it implied stability, and that in turn implied predictability. Most of all, Golovko thought, Ryan was a thinker. Why, then, was he not opposed to a pact that would benefit the Soviet Union more than it benefited America? Is our evaluation incorrect? he wrote. Do the Americans know something we do not? That was a question, or better still: did Ryan know something that Golovko did not? The Colonel frowned, then reminded himself what he knew that Ryan did not. That drew a half-smile. It was all part of the grand game. The grandest game there was.

"You must have walked all night."

The Archer nodded gravely and set down the sack that had bowed his shoulders for five days. It was almost as heavy as the one Abdul had packed. The younger man was near collapse, the CIA officer saw. Both men found pillows to sit on.

"Have something to drink." The officer's name was Emilio Ortiz. His ancestry was sufficiently muddled that he could have passed for a native of any Caucasian nation. Also thirty years of age, he was of medium height and build, with a swimmer's muscles, which was how he'd won a scholarship to USC, where he'd won a degree in languages. Ortiz had a rare gift in this area. With two weeks' exposure to a language a dialect, an accent, he could pass for a native anywhere in the world. He was also a man of compassion, respectful of the ways of the people with whom he worked. This meant that the drink he offered was not -- could not be -- alcoholic. It was apple juice. Ortiz watched him drink it with all the delicacy of a wine connoisseur sampling new bordeaux.

"Allah's blessings upon this house," the Archer said when he finished the first glass. That he had waited until drinking the apple juice was as close as the man ever came to making a joke. Ortiz saw the fatigue written on the man's face, though he displayed it no other way. Unlike his young porter, the Archer seemed invulnerable to such normal human concerns. It wasn't true, but Ortiz understood how the force that drove him could suppress his humanity.

The two men were dressed almost identically. Ortiz considered the Archer's clothing and wondered at the ironic similarity with the Apache Indians of America and Mexico. One of his ancestors had been an officer under Terrazas when the Mexican Army had finally crushed Victorio in the Tres Castubs Mountains. The Afghans, too, wore rough trousers under their loincloths. They, too, tended to be small, agile fighters. And they, too, treated captives as noisy amusements for their knives. He looked at the Archer's knife and wondered how it was used. Ortiz decided he didn't want to know.

"Do you wish something to eat?" he asked.

"It can wait," the Archer replied, reaching for his pack. He and Abdul had brought out two loaded camels, but for the important material, only his backpack would do. "I fire eight rockets. I hit six aircraft, but one had two engines and managed to escape. Of the five I destroyed, two were helicopters, and three were bombing-fighters. The first helicopter we killed was the new kind of twenty-four you told us about. You were correct. It did have some new equipment. Here is some of it."

It was ironic, Ortiz thought, that the most sensitive equipment in military aircraft would survive treatment guaranteed to kill its crew. As he watched, the Archer revealed six green circuit boards for the laser-designator that was now standard equipment-on the Mi-24. The U.S. Army Captain who'd stayed in the shadows and kept his mouth shut to this point now came forward to examine them. His hands fairly trembled as he reached for the items.

"You have the laser, too?" the Captain asked in accented Pashtu.

"It was badly damaged, but, yes." The Archer turned. Abdul was snoring. He nearby smiled until he remembered that he had a son also.

For his part, Ortiz was saddened. To have a partisan with the Archer's education under his control was rare enough: He'd probably been a skilled teacher but he could never teach again. He could never go back to what he'd been. War had changed the Archer's life as fully and certainly as death. Such a goddamned waste.

"The new rockets?" the Archer asked.

"I can give you ten. A slightly improved model, with an additional five-hundred-meter range. And some more smoke rockets, too."

The Archer nodded gravely, and the corners of his mouth moved in what, in different times, might have been the beginnings of a smile.

"Perhaps now I can go after their transports. The smoke rockets work very well, my friend. Every time, they push the invaders close to me. They have not yet learned about that tactic."

Not a trick, Ortiz noted. He called it a tactic. He wants to go after transports now, he wants to kill a hundred Russians at a time. Jesus, what have we made of this man? The CIA officer shook his head. That wasn't his concern.

"You are weary, my friend. Rest. We can eat later. Please honor my house by sleeping here."

"It is true," the Archer acknowledged. He was asleep within two minutes.

Ortiz and the Captain sorted through the equipment brought to them. Included was the maintenance manual for the Mi-24's laser equipment, and radio code sheets, in addition to other things they'd seen before. By noon he had it all fully catalogued and began making arrangements to ship it all to the embassy; from there it would be flown immediately to California for a complete evaluation.

The Air Force VC-137 lifted off right on time. It was a customized version of the venerable Boeing 707. The "V" prefix on its designation denoted that it was designed to carry VIP passengers, and the aircraft's interior reflected this. Jack lay back on the couch and abandoned himself to the fatigue that enveloped him. Ten minutes later a hand shook his shoulder.

"The boss wants you," another member of the team said.

"Doesn't he ever sleep?" Jack growled.

"Tell me about it."

Ernest Allen was in the VIP-est accommodations on the aircraft, a cabin set exactly atop the wing spar with six plush swivel chairs. A coffeepot sat on the table. If he didn't have some coffee he'd soon-be incoherent. If he did, he'd be unable to go back to sleep. Well, the government wasn't paying him to sleep. Ryan poured himself some coffee.

"Yes sir?"

"Can' we verify it?" Allen skipped the preliminaries.

"I don't know yet," Jack replied. "It's not just a question of National Technical Means. Verifying the elimination of so many launchers -- "

"They're giving us limited on-site inspection," noted a junior member of the team.

"I'm aware of that," Jack replied. "The question is, does that really mean anything?" The other question is, why did they suddenly agree to something we've wanted for over thirty years...

"What?" the junior member asked.

"The Soviets have put a lot of work into their new mobile launchers. What if they have more of them than we know about? Do you think we can find a few hundred mobile missiles?"

"But we have surface-scanning radar on the new birds, and -- "

"And they know it, and they can avoid it if they want to -- wait a minute. We know that our carriers can and do evade Russian radar-ocean-recoil satellites. If you can do it with a ship, you can damned sure do it with a train," Jack pointed out. Allen looked on without comment, allowing his underling to pursue the line in his stead. A clever old fox, Ernie Allen.

"So, CIA is going to recommend against -- damn it, this is the biggest concession they've ever made!"

"Fine. It's a big concession. Everyone here knows that. Before we accept it, maybe we ought to make sure that they haven't conceded something that they've made irrelevant to the process. There are other things, too."

"So you're going to oppose -- "

"I'm not opposing anything. I'm saying we take our time and use our heads instead of being carried away by euphoria."

"But their draft treaty is -- it's almost too good to be true." The man had just proved Ryan's point, though he didn't see it quite that way.

"Dr. Ryan," Allen said, "if the technical details can be worked out to your satisfaction, how do you view the treaty?"

"Sir, speaking from a technical point of view, a fifty-percent reduction in deliverable warheads has no effect at all on the strategic balance. It's -- "

"That's crazy!" objected the junior member.

Jack extended his hand toward the man, pointing his index finger like the barrel of a gun. "Let's say I have a pistol pointed at your chest right now. Call it a nine-millimeter Browning. That has a thirteen-round clip. I agree to remove seven rounds from the clip, but I still have a loaded gun, with six rounds, pointed at your chest -- do you feel any safer now?" Ryan smiled, keeping his "gun" out.

"Personally, I wouldn't. That's what we're talking about here. If both sides reduce their inventories by half, that still leaves five thousand warheads that can hit our country. Think about how big that number is. All this agreement does is to reduce the overkill. The difference between five thousand and ten thousand only affects how far the rubble flies. If we start talking about reducing the number to one thousand warheads on either side, then maybe I'll start thinking we're on to something."

"Do you think the thousand-warhead limit is achievable?" Allen asked.

"No, sir. Sometimes I just wish it were, though I've been told that a thousand-warhead limit could have the effect of making nuclear war 'winnable,' whatever the hell that means." Jack shrugged and concluded: "Sir, if this current agreement goes through, it'll look better than it is. Maybe the symbolic value of the agreement has value in and of itself; that's a factor to be considered, but it's not one within my purview. The monetary savings to both sides will be real, but fairly minor in terms of gross military expenditures. Both sides retain half of their current arsenals -- and that means keeping the newest and most effective half, of course. The bottom line remains constant: in a nuclear war, both sides would be equally dead. I do not see that this draft treaty reduces the 'threat of war,' whatever that is. To do that, we either have to eliminate the damned things entirely or figure something to keep them from working. If you ask me, we have to do the latter before we can attempt the former. Then the world becomes a safer place -- maybe."

"That's the start of a whole new arms race."

"Sir, that race started so long ago that it isn't exactly new."

Chapter 2 -- Tea Clipper

"More photos of Dushanbe coming in," the phone told Ryan.

"Okay, I'll be over in a few minutes." Jack rose and crossed the hail to Admiral Greer's office. His boss had his back to the blazing white blanket that covered the hilly ground outside the CIA headquarters building. They were still clearing it off the parking lot, and even the railed walkway outside the seventh-floor windows had about ten inches' worth.

"What is it, Jack?" the Admiral asked.

"Dushanbe. The weather cleared unexpectedly. You said you wanted to be notified."

Greer looked at the TV monitor in the corner of his office. It was next to the computer terminal that he refused to use -- at least when anyone might watch his attempts to type with his index fingers and, on good days, one thumb. He could have the real-time satellite photos sent to his office "live," but of late he'd avoided that. Jack didn't know why. "Okay, let's trot over."

Ryan held open the door for the Deputy Director for Intelligence, and they turned left to the end of the executive corridor on the building's top floor. Here was the executive elevator. One nice thing about it was that you didn't have to wait very long.

"How's the jet lag?" Greer asked. Ryan had been back for nearly a day now.

"Fully recovered, sir. Westbound doesn't bother me very much. It's the eastbound kind that still kills me." God, it's nice to be on the ground.

The door opened and both men walked across the building to the new annex that housed the Office of Imagery Analysis. This was the Intelligence Directorate's own private department, separate from the National Photographic Intelligence Center, a joint CIA-DIA effort which served the whole intelligence community.

The screening room would have done Hollywood proud. There were about thirty seats in the mini-theater, and a twenty-foot-square projection screen on the wall. Art Graham, the chief of the unit, was waiting for them.

"You timed that pretty well. We'll have the shots in another minute." He lifted a phone to the projection room and spoke a few words. The screen lit up at once. It was called "Overhead Imagery" now, Jack reminded himself.

"Talk about luck. That Siberian high-pressure system took a sharp swing south and stopped the warm front like a brick wall. Perfect viewing conditions. Ground temp is about zero, and relative humidity can't be much higher than that!" Graham chuckled. "We maneuvered the bird in specially to take advantage of this. It's within three degrees of being right overhead, and I don't think Ivan has had time to figure out that this pass is under way."

"There's Dushanbe," Jack breathed as part of the Tadzhik SSR came into view. Their first look was from one of the wide-angle cameras. The orbiting KH-14 reconnaissance satellite had a total of eleven. The bird had been in orbit for only three weeks, and this was the first of the newest generation of spy satellites. Dushanbe, briefly known as Stalinabad a few decades earlier -- that must have made the local people happy! Ryan thought -- was probably one of the ancient caravan cities. Afghanistan was less than a hundred miles away. Tamurlane's legendary Samarkand was not far to the northwest...and perhaps Scheherazade had traveled through a thousand years earlier. He wondered why was it that history worked this way. The same places and the same names always seemed to show up from one century to the next.

But CIA's current interest in Dushanbe did not center on the silk trade.

The view changed to one of the high-resolution cameras. It peered first into a deep, mountainous valley where a river was held back by the concrete and stone mass of a hydroelectric dam. Though only fifty kilometers southeast of Dushanbe, its power lines did not serve that city of 500,000. Instead they led to a collection of mountaintops almost within sight of the facility.

"That looks like footings for another set of towers," Ryan observed.

"Parallel to the first set," Graham agreed. "They're putting some new generators into the facility. Well, we knew all along that they were only getting about half the usable power out of the dam."

"How long to bring the rest on-stream?" Greer asked.

"I'd have to check with one of our consultants. It won't take more than a few weeks to run the power lines out, and the top half of the powerhouse is already built. Figure the foundations for the new generators are already done. All they have to do is rig the new equipment. Six months, maybe eight if the weather goes bad."

"That fast?" Jack wondered.

"They diverted people from two other hydro jobs. Both of them were 'Hero' projects. This one has never been talked about, but they pulled construction troops off two high-profile sites to do this one. Ivan does know how to focus his effort when he wants to. Six or eight months is conservative, Dr. Ryan. It may be done quicker," Graham said.

"How much power'll be available when they finish?"

"It's not all that big a structure. Total peak output, with the new generators? Figure eleven hundred megawatts."

"That's a lot of power, and all going to those hilltops," Ryan said almost to himself as the camera shifted again. The one the Agency called "Mozart" was quite a hill, but this area was the westernmost extension of the Himalayan Range, and by those standards it was puny. A road had been blasted to the very top -- there wasn't a Sierra Club in the USSR -- along with a helicopter pad for bringing VIPs out from Dushanbe's two airports. There were sixteen buildings. One was for apartments, the view from which must have been fantastic, though it was a prototypical Russian apartment building, as stylish and attractive as a cinderblock, finished six months before. A lot of engineers and their families lived in it. It seemed strange to see such a building there, but the message of the building was: The people who lived here were privileged. Engineers and academicians, people with enough skill that the State wanted to look after them and their needs. Food was trucked up the new mountain road -- or, in bad weather, flown in. Another of the buildings was a theater. A third was a hospital. Television programming came in via satellite earth-station next to a building that contained a few shops. That sort of solicitude was not exactly common in the Soviet Union. It was limited to high Party officials and people who worked in essential defense projects. This was not a ski resort.

That was also obvious from the perimeter fence and guard towers, both of which were recent. One of the identifiable things about Russian military complexes was the guard towers; Ivan had a real fixation for the things. Three fences, with two ten-meter spaces enclosed. The outer space was usually mined, and the inner one patrolled by dogs. The towers were on the inner perimeter, spaced two hundred meters apart. The soldiers who manned the towers were housed in a better-than-average new concrete barracks --

"Can you isolate one of the guards?" Jack asked.

Graham spoke into his phone, and the picture changed. One of his technicians was already doing this, as much to test camera calibration and ambient air conditions as for the purpose Ryan intended.

As the camera zoomed in, a moving dot became a manshape in greatcoat and probably a fur hat. He was walking a big dog of uncertain breed and had a Kalashnikov rifle slung over his right shoulder. Man and dog left puffs of vapor in the air as they breathed. Ryan leaned forward unconsciously, as though this would give him a better view.

"That guy's shoulder boards look green to you?" he asked Graham.

The reconnaissance expert grunted. "Yep. He's KGB, all right."

"That close to Afghanistan?" the Admiral mused. "They know we have people- operating there. You bet they'll take their security provisions seriously."

"They must have really wanted those hilltops," Ryan observed. "Seventy miles overland are a few million people who think killing Russians is God's will. This place is more important than we thought. It isn't just a new facility, not with that kind of security. If that's all it was, they wouldn't have had to put it here, and they for damned sure wouldn't have picked a place where they had to build a new power supply and risk exposure to hostiles. This may be an R and D facility now, but they must have bigger plans for it."

"Like what?"

"Going after my satellites, maybe." Art Graham thought of them as his.

"Have they tickled any of 'em recently?" Jack asked. "No, not since we rattled their cage last April. Common sense broke out for once."

That was an old story. Several times in the past few years, American reconnaissance and early-warning satellites had been "tickled" -- laser beams or microwave energy had been focused on the satellites, enough to dazzle their receptors but not enough to do serious harm. Why had the Russians done it? That was the question. Was it merely an exercise to see how we'd react, to see if it caused a ruckus at the North American Aerospace Defense Command -- NORAD -- at Cheyenne Mountain, Colorado? An attempt to determine for themselves how sensitive the satellites were? Was it a demonstration, a warning of their ability to destroy the satellites? I Or was it simply what Jack's British friends called bloody-mindedness? It was so hard to tell what the Soviets were thinking.

They invariably protested their innocence, of course. When one American satellite had been temporarily blinded over Sary Shagan, they said that a natural-gas pipeline had caught fire. The fact that the nearby Chimkent-Pavlodar pipeline carried mostly oil had escaped the Western press.

The satellite pass was complete now. In a nearby room a score of videotape recorders were rewound, and now the complete camera coverage would be reviewed at leisure.

"Let's have a look at Mozart again, and Bach also, please," Greer commanded.

"Hell of a commute," Jack noted. The residential and industrial site on Mozart was only one kilometer or so from the emplacement on Bach, the next mountaintop over but the road looked frightful. The picture froze on Bach. The formula I of fences and guard towers was repeated, but this time the distance between the outermost perimeter fence and the next was at least two hundred meters. Here the ground surface appeared to be bare rock. Jack wondered how you planted mines in that -- or maybe they didn't, he thought. It was obvious that the ground had been leveled with bulldozers and explosives to the unobstructed flatness of a pool table. From the guard towers, it must have looked like a shooting gallery.

"Not kidding, are they?" Graham observed quietly.

"So that's what they're guarding..." Ryan said.

There were thirteen buildings inside the fence. In an area perhaps the size of two football fields -- which had also been leveled -- were ten holes, in two groups. One was a group of six arranged hexagonally, each hole about thirty feet across. The second group of four was arrayed in a diamond pattern, and the holes were slightly smaller, perhaps twenty-five feet. In each hole was a concrete pillar about fifteen feet across, planted in bedrock, and every hole was at least forty feet deep -- you couldn't tell from the picture on the screen. Atop each pillar was a metal dome. They appeared to be made of crescent-shaped segments.

"They unfold. I wonder what's in them?" Graham asked rhetorically. There were two hundred people at Langley who knew of Dushanbe, and every one wanted to know what was under those metal domes. They'd been in place for only a few months.

"Admiral," Jack said, "I need to kick open a new compartment."

"Which one?"

"Tea Clipper."

"You're not asking much!" Greer snorted. "I'm not cleared for that."

Ryan leaned back in his chair. "Admiral, if what they're doing in Dushanbe is the same thing we're doing with Tea Clipper, we sure as hell ought to know. Goddammit, how are we supposed to know what to look for if we're not told what one of these places looks like!"

"I've been saying that for quite a while." The DDI chuckled. "Bob won't like it. The Judge will have to go to the President for that."

"So he goes to the President. What if the activity here is connected with the arms proposal they just made?"

"Do you think it is?"

"Who can say?" Jack asked. "It's a coincidence. They worry me."

"Okay, I'll talk to the Director."

Ryan drove home two hours later. He drove his Jaguar XIS out onto the George Washington Parkway. It was one of the many happy memories from his tour of duty in England. He loved the silky-smooth feeling of the twelve-cylinder engine enough that he'd put his venerable old Rabbit into semi-retirement. As he always tried to do, Ryan set his Washington business aside. He worked the car up through its five gears and concentrated on his driving.

"Well, James?" the Director of Central Intelligence asked.

"Ryan thinks the new activity at Bach and Mozart may be related to the arms situation. I think he might be correct. He wants into Tea Clipper. 1 said you'd have to go to the President." Admiral Greer smiled.

"Okay, I'll get him a written note. It'll make General Parks happier, anyway. They have a full-up test scheduled for the end of the week. I'll set it up for Jack to see it." Judge Moore smiled sleepily. "What do you think?"

"I think he's right: Dushanbe and Tea Clipper -are essentially the same project. There are a lot of coarse similarities, too many to be a pure coincidence. We ought to upgrade our assessment."

"Okay." Moore turned away to look out the windows. The world is going to change again. ft may take ten or more years, but it's going to change. Ten years from now it won't be my problem, Moore told himself. But it sure as hell will be Ryan's problem. "I'll have him flown out there tomorrow. And maybe we'll get lucky on Dushanbe. Foley got word to CARDINAL that we're very interested in the place."


"But if something happens...

Greer nodded. "Christ, I hope he's careful," the DDI said.

Ever since the death of Dmitri Fedorovich, it has not been the same at the Defense Ministry, Colonel Mikhail Semyonovich Filitov wrote into his diary left-handed. An early riser, he sat at a hundred-year-old oak desk that his wife had bought for him shortly before she'd died, almost -- what was it? Thirty years, Misha told himself. Thirty years this coming February. His eyes closed for a moment. Thirty years.

Never a single day passed that he did not remember his

Elena. Her photograph was on the desk, the sepia print faded with age, its silver frame tarnished. He never seemed to have time to polish it, and didn't wish to be bothered with a maid. The photo showed a young woman with legs like spindles, arms high over her head, which was cocked to one side. The round, Slavic face displayed a wide, inviting smile that perfectly conveyed the joy she'd felt when dancing with the Kirov Company.

Misha smiled also as he remembered the first impression of a young armor officer given tickets to the performance as a reward for having the best-maintained tanks in the division: How can they do that? Perched up on the tips of their toes on bough on needlepoint stilts. He'd remembered playing on stilts as a child, but to be so graceful! And then she'd smiled at the handsome young officer in the front row. For the briefest moment. Their eyes had met for almost as little time as it takes to blink, he thought. Her smile had changed ever so slightly. Not for the audience any longer, for that timeless instant the smile had been for him alone. A bullet through the heart could not have had a more devastating effect. Misha didn't remember the rest of the performance -- to this day he couldn't even remember which ballet it had been. He remembered sitting and squirming through the rest of it while his mind churned over what he'd do next. Already Lieutenant Filitov had been marked as a man on the move, a brilliant young tank officer for whom Stalin's brutal purge of the officer corps had meant opportunity and rapid promotion. He wrote articles on tank tactics, practiced innovative battle drills in the field, argued vociferously against the false "lessons" of Spain with the certainty of a man born to his profession.

But what do I do now? he'd asked himself. The Red Army hadn't taught him how to approach an artist. This wasn't some farm girl who was bored enough by work on the kolkhoz to offer herself to anyone -- especially a young Army officer who might take her away from it all. Misha still remembered the shame of his youth -- not that he'd thought it shameful at the time -- when he'd used his officer's shoulder boards to bed any girl who'd caught his eye.

But I don't even know her name, he'd told himself. What do I do? What he'd done, of course, was to treat the matter as a military exercise. As soon as the performance had ended, he'd fought his way into the rest room and washed hands and face. Some grease that still remained under his fingernails was removed with a pocketknife. His short hair was wetted down into place, and he inspected his uniform as strictly as a general officer might, brushing off dust and picking off lint, stepping back from the minor to make sure his boots gleamed as a soldier's should. He hadn't noticed at the time that other men in the men's room were watching him with barely suppressed grins, having guessed what the drill was for, and wishing him luck, touched with a bit of envy. Satisfied with his appearance, Misha had left the theater and asked the doorman where the artists' door was. That had cost him a ruble, and with the knowledge, he'd walked around the block to the stage entrance, where he found another doorman, this one a bearded old man whose greatcoat bore ribbons for service in the revolution. Misha had expected special courtesy from the doorman, one soldier to another, only to learn that he regarded all the female dancers as his own daughters -- not wenches to be thrown at the feet of soldiers, certainly! Misha had considered offering money, but had the good sense not to imply the man was a pimp. Instead, he'd spoken quietly and reasonably -- and truthfully -- that he was smitten with a single dancer whose name he didn't know, and merely wanted to meet her.

"Why?" the old doorman had asked coldly.

"Grandfather, she smiled at me," Misha had answered in the awed voice of a little boy.

"And you are in love." The reply- was harsh, but in a moment the doorman's face turned wistful. "But you don't know which?"

"She was in -- the line, not one of the important ones, I mean. What do they call that? -- I will remember her face until the day I die." Already he'd known that.

The doorman looked him over and saw that his uniform was properly turned out, and his back straight. This was not a swaggering pig of an NKVD officer whose arrogant breath stank of vodka. This was a soldier, and a handsome young one at that. "Comrade Lieutenant, you are a lucky man. Do you know why? You are lucky because I was once young, and old as I am, I still remember. They will start to come out in ten minutes or so. Stand over there, and make not a sound."

It had taken thirty minutes. They came out in twos and threes. Misha had seen the male members of the troupe and thought them -- what any soldier would think of a man in a ballet company. His manhood had been offended that they held hands with such pretty girls, but he'd set that aside. When the door opened, his vision was damaged by the sudden glare of yellow-white light against the near blackness of the unlit alley, and he'd almost missed her, so different she looked without the makeup.

He saw the face, and tried to decide if she were the right one, approaching his objective more carefully than be would ever do under the fire of German guns.

"You were in seat number twelve," she'd said before he could summon the courage to speak. She had a voice!

"Yes, Comrade Artist," his reply had stammered out.

"Did you enjoy the performance, Comrade Lieutenant?" A shy, but somehow beckoning smile.

"It was wonderful!" Of course.

"It is not often that we see handsome young officers in the front row," she observed.

"I was given the ticket as a reward for performance in my unit. I am a tanker," he said proudly. She called me handsome!

"Does the Comrade Tanker Lieutenant have a name?"

"I am Lieutenant Mikhail Semyonovich Filitov."

"I am Elena Ivanova Makarova."

"It is too cold tonight for one so thin, Comrade Artist. Is there a restaurant nearby?"

"Restaurant?" She'd laughed. "How often do you come to Moscow?"

"My division is based thirty kilometers from here, but I do not often come to the city," he'd admitted.

"Comrade Lieutenant, there are few restaurants even m Moscow. Can you come to my apartment?"

"Why -- yes," his reply had stuttered out as the stage door opened again.

"Marta," Elena said to the girl who was just coming out. "We have a military escort home!"

"Tania and Resa are coming," Marta said.

Misha had actually been relieved by that. The walk to the apartment had taken thirty minutes -- the Moscow subway hadn't yet been completed, and it was better to walk than to wait for a tram this late at night.

She was far prettier without her makeup, Misha remembered. The cold winter air gave her cheeks all the color they ever needed. Her walk was as graceful as ten years of intensive training could make it. She'd glided along the street like an apparition, while he gallumped along in his heavy boots. He felt himself a tank, rolling next to a thoroughbred horse, and was careful not to go too close, lest he trample her. He hadn't yet learned of the strength that was so well hidden by her grace.

The night had never before seemed so fine, though for -- what was it? -- twenty years there bad been many such nights, then none for the past thirty: My God, he thought, we would have been married fifty years this...July 14th. My God. Unconsciously he dabbed at his eyes with a handkerchief.

Thirty years, however, was the number that occupied his mind.

The thought boiled within his breast, and his fingers were pale around the pen. It still surprised him that love and hate were emotions so finely matched. Misha returned to his diary.

An hour later he rose from the desk and walked to the bedroom closet. He donned the uniform of a colonel of tank troops. Technically he was on the retired list, and had been so before people on the current colonel's list had been born. But work in the Ministry of Defense carried its own perks, and Misha was on the personal staff of the Minister. That was one reason. The other three reasons were on his uniform blouse; three gold stars that depended from claret-colored ribbons. Filitov was the only soldier in the history of the Soviet Army who'd won the decoration of Hero of the Soviet Union three times on the field of battle, for personal bravery in the face of the enemy. There were others with such medals, but so often these were political awards, the Colonel knew. He was aesthetically offended by that. This was not a medal to be granted for staff work, and certainly not for one Party member to give to another as a gaudy lapel decoration. Hero of the Soviet Union was an award that ought to be limited to men like himself, who had risked death, who'd bled -- and all too often, died -- for the Rodina. He was reminded of this every time be put his uniform on. Beneath his undershirt were the plastic-looking scars from his last gold star, when a Qerman 88 round had lanced through the armor of his tank, setting the ammo racks afire while he'd brought his 76mm gun around for one last shot and extinguished that Kraut gun crew while his clothing burned. The injury had left him with only fifty- percent use of his right arm, but despite it, he'd led what was left of his regiment nearly two more days in the Kursk Bulge. If he'd bailed out with the rest of his crew -- or been evacuated from the area at once as his regimental surgeon had recommended -- perhaps he would have recovered fully, but, no, be knew that he could not have not fired back, could not have abandoned his men in the face of battle. And so he'd shot, and burned. But for that Misha might have made General, perhaps even Marshal, bethought. Would it have made a difference? Filitov was too much a man of the real, practical world to dwell on that thought for long. Had he fought in many more campaigns, he might have been killed. As it was, he'd been given more time with Elena than could otherwise have been the case. She'd come nearly every day to the burn institute in Moscow; at first horrified by the extent of his wounds, she'd later become as proud of them as Misha was. No one could question that her man had done his duty for the Rodina.

But now, he did his duty for his Elena.

Filitov walked out of the apartment to the elevator, a leather briefcase dangling from his right hand. It was about all that side of his body was good for. The babushka who operated the elevator greeted him as always. They were of an age, she the widow of a sergeant who'd been in Misha's regiment, who also had the gold star, pinned on his breast by this very man.

"Your new granddaughter?" the Colonel asked.

"An angel," was her reply.

Filitov smiled, partly in agreement -- was there any such thing as an ugly infant? -- and partly because terms like "angel" bad survived seventy years of "scientific socialism." The car was waiting for him. The driver was a new draftee, fresh from sergeant school and driving school. He saluted his Colonel severely, the door held open in his other hand.

"Good morning, Comrade Colonel."

"So it is, Sergeant Zhdanov," Filitov replied. Most officers would have done little more than grunt, but Filitov was a combat soldier whose success on the battlefield had resulted from his devotion to the welfare of his men. A lesson that few officers ever understood, he reminded himself. Too bad.

The car was comfortably warm, the heater had been turned all the way up fifteen minutes ago. Filitov was becoming ever more sensitive to cold, a sure sign of age. He'd just been hospitalized again for pneumonia, the third time in the past five years. One of these times, he knew, would be the last. Filitov dismissed the thought. He'd cheated death too many times to fear it. Life came and went at a constant rate. One brief second at a time. When the last second came, he wondered, would he notice? Would he care?

The driver pulled the car up to the Defense Ministry before the Colonel could answer that question.

Ryan was sure that he'd been in government service too long. He had come to -- well, not actually to like flying, but at least to appreciate the convenience of it. He was only four hours from Washington, flown by an Air Force C-21 Learjet whose female pilot, a captain, had looked like a high-school sophomore.

Getting old, Jack, he told himself. The flight from the airfield to the mountaintop had been by helicopter, no-easy feat at this altitude. Ryan had never been to New Mexico before. The high mountains were bare. of trees, the air thin enough that he was breathing abnormally, but the sky was so clear that for a moment he imagined himself an astronaut looking at the unblinking stars on this cloudless, frigid night.

"Coffee, sir?" a sergeant asked. He handed Ryan a thermos cup, and the hot liquid steamed into the night, barely illuminated by a sliver of new moon.

"Thanks." Ryan sipped at it and looked around. There were few lights to be seen. There might have been a housing development behind the next set of ridges; he could see the halolike glow of Santa Fe, but there was no way to guess how far off it might be. He knew that the rock he stood on was eleven thousand feet above sea level (the nearest level sea was hundreds of miles away), and there is no way to judge distance at night. It was altogether beautiful, except for the cold. His fingers were stiff around the plastic cup. He'd mistakenly left his gloves at home.

"Seventeen minutes," somebody announced. "All systems are nominal. Trackers on automatic. AOS in eight minutes."

"AOS?" Ryan asked. He realized that he sounded a little funny. It was so cold that his cheeks were stiff.

"Acquisition of signal," the Major explained.

"You live around here?"

"Forty miles that way." He pointed vaguely. "Practically next door by local standards." The officer's Brooklyn accent explained the comment.

He's the one with the doctorate from State University of New York at Stony Brook, Ryan reminded himself. At only twenty-nine years old, the Major didn't look like a soldier, even less like a field-grade officer. In Switzerland he'd be called a gnome, barely over five-seven, and cadaverously thin, acne on his angular face. Right now, his deep-set eyes were locked on the sector of horizon where the space shuttle Discovery would appear. Ryan thought back to the documents he'd read on the way out and knew that this major probably couldn't tell him the color of the paint on his living-room wall. He really lived at Los Alamos National Laboratory, known locally as the Hill. Number one in his class at West Point, and a doctorate in high-energy physics only two years after that. His doctor's dissertation was classified Top Secret. Jack had read it, and didn't understand why they had bothered -- despite a doctorate of his own, the two-hundred-page document might as well have been written in Kurdish. Alan Gregory was already being talked of in the same breath as Cambridge's Stephen Hawking, or Princeton's Freeman Dyson. Except that few people knew his name. Jack wondered if anyone had thought of classifying that.

"Major Gregory, all ready?" an Air Force lieutenant general asked. Jack noted his respectful tone. Gregory was no ordinary major.

A nervous smile. "Yes, sir." The Major wiped sweaty hands -- despite a temperature of fifteen below zero -- on the pants of his uniform. It was good to see that the kid had emotions.

"You married?" Ryan asked. The file hadn't covered that. "Engaged, sir. She's a doctor in laser optics, on the Hill. We get married June the third." The kid's voice had become as brittle as glass.

"Congratulations. Keeping it in the family, eh?" Jack chuckled.

"Yes, sir." Major Gregory was still staring at the southwest horizon.

"AOS!" someone announced behind them. "We have signal."

"Goggles!" The call came over the metal speakers. "Everyone put on their eye-protection."

Jack blew on his hands before taking the plastic goggles from his pocket. He'd been told to stash them there to keep them warm. They were still cold enough on his face that he noticed the difference. Once in place, however, Ryan was effectively blinded. The stars and moon were gone.

"Tracking! We have lock. Discovery has established the downlink. All systems are nominal."

"Target acquisition!" another voice announced. "Initiate interrogation sequencing...first target is firing circuits enabled."

There was no sound to indicate what had happened. Ryan didn't see anything -- or did I? he asked himself. There had been the fleeting impression of...what? Did I imagine it? Next to him he felt the Major's breath come out slowly.

"Exercise concluded," the speaker said'. Jack tore off his goggles.

That's all?" What had he just seen? What had they just done? Was he so far out of date that even after being briefed he didn't understand what was happening before his eyes?

"The laser light is almost impossible to see," Major Gregory explained. "This high up, there isn't much dust or humidity in the air to reflect it."

"Then why the goggles?"

The young officer smiled as he took his off. "Well, if a bird flies over at the wrong time, the impact might be, well, kind of spectacular. That could hurt your eyes some."

Two hundred miles over their heads, Discovery continued toward the horizon. The shuttle would stay in orbit another three days, conducting its "routine scientific mission," mainly oceanographical studies this time, the press was told, something secret for the Navy. The papers had been speculating on the mission for weeks. It had something to do, they said, with tracking missile submarines from orbit. There was no better way to keep a secret than to use another "secret" to conceal it. Every time someone asked about the mission, a Navy public-affairs officer would do the "no comments."

"Did it work?" Jack asked. He looked up, but he couldn't pick out the dot of light that denoted the billion-dollar space plane.

"We have to see." The Major turned and walked to the camouflage-painted truck van parked a few yards away. The three-star General followed him, with Ryan trailing behind.

Inside the van, where the temperature might have been merely at freezing, a chief warrant officer was rewinding a videotape.

"Where were the targets?" Jack asked. "That wasn't in the briefing papers."

"About forty-five south, thirty west," the General replied. Major Gregory was perched in front of the TV screen.

"That's around the Falklands, isn't it? Why there?"

"Closer to South Georgia, actually," the General replied. "It's a nice, quiet, out-of-the-way sort of place, and the distance is about right."

And the Soviets had no known intelligence-gathering assets within three thousand miles, Ryan knew. The Tea Clipper test had been timed precisely for a moment when all Soviet spy satellites were under the visible horizon. Finally, the shooting distance was exactly the same as the distance to the Soviet ballistic missile fields arrayed along the country's main east-west railway.

"Ready!" the warrant officer said.

The video picture wasn't all that great, taken from sea level, specifically the deck of the Observation Island, a range-instrumentation ship returning from Trident missile tests in the Indian Ocean. Next to the first TV screen was another. This one showed the picture from the ship's "Cobra Judy" missile-tracking radar. Both screens showed four objects, spaced in a slightly uneven line. A timer box in the lower right-hand corner was changing numbers as though in an Alpine ski race, with three digits to the right of the decimal point.

"Hit!" One Of the dots disappeared in a puff of green light.

"Miss!" Another one didn't.

"Miss!" Jack frowned. He'd half-expected to see the beams of light streaking through the sky, but that happened only in movies. There wasn't enough dust in space to denote the energy's path.

"Hit!" A second dot vanished.

"Hit!" Only one was left.


"Miss." The last one didn't want to die, Ryan thought.

"Hit!" But it did. "Total elapsed time, one point eight-zero-six seconds."

"Fifty percent," Major Gregory said quietly. "And it corrected itself." The young officer nodded slowly. He managed to keep from smiling, except around the eyes. "It works."

"How big were the targets?" Ryan asked.

"Three meters. Spherical balloons, of course." Gregory was rapidly losing control. He looked like a kid whom Christmas had taken by surprise.

"Same diameter as an SS-18."

"Something like that." The General answered that one.

"Where's the other mirror?"

"Ten thousand kilometers up, currently over Ascension Island. Officially, it's a weather satellite that never made its proper orbit." The General smiled.

"I didn't know you could send it that far."

Major Gregory actually giggled. "Neither did we."

"So you sent the beam from over there to the shuttle's mirror, from Discovery to this other one over the equator, and from there to the targets?"

"Correct," the General said.

"Your targeting system is on the other satellite, then?"

"Yes," the General answered more grudgingly.

Jack did some numbers in his head. "Okay, that means you can discriminate a three-meter target at...ten thousand kilometers. I didn't know we could do that. How do we?"

"You don't need to know," the General replied coldly.

"You had four hits and four misses-eight shots in under two seconds, and the Major said the targeting system corrected for misses. Okay, if those had been SS-18s launched off of South Georgia, would the shots have killed them?"

"Probably not," Gregory admitted. "The laser assembly only puts out five megajoules. Do you know what a joule is?"

"I checked my college phyzzies book before I flew down. A joule is one newton-meter per second, or zero-point-seven foot-pounds of energy, plus change, right? Okay, a megajoule is a million of hundred thousand foot-pounds. In terms I can understand -- "

"A megajoule is the rough equivalent of a stick of dynamite. So we just delivered five sticks. The actual energy transferred is like a kilogram of explosives, but the physical effects are not exactly comparable."

"What you're telling me is that the laser beam doesn't actually burn through the target -- it's more of a shock effect." Ryan was stretching his technical knowledge to the limit.

"We call it an 'impact kill,'" the General answered. "But, yeah, that's about it. All the energy arrives in a few millionths of a second, a lot faster than any bullet does."

"So all that stuff I've heard about how polishing the missile body, or rotating it, will prevent a burn-through -- "

Major Gregory giggled again. "Yeah, I like that one. A ballet dancer can pirouette in front of a shotgun and it'll do her about as much good. What happens is that the energy has to go somewhere, and that can only be into the missile body. The missile body is full of storable liquids -- nearly all of their birds are liquid fueled, right? The hydrostatic effect alone will be to rupture the pressure tanks -- ka-boom! no more missile." The Major smiled as though describing a trick played on his high school teacher.

"Okay, now, 1 want to know how it all works."

"Look, Dr. Ryan -- " the General started to say. Jack cut him off.

"General, I am cleared for Tea Clipper. You know that, so let's stop screwing around."

Major Gregory got a nod from the General. "Sir, we have five one-megajoule lasers -- "


"You're standing right on top of one of them, sir. The other four are buried around this hilltop. The power rating is per pulse, of course. Each one puts out a pulse-chain of a million joules in a few microseconds -- a few millionths of a second."

"And they recharge in..."

"Point zero-four-six seconds. We can deliver twenty shots per second, in other words."

"But you didn't shoot that fast."

"We didn't have to, sir," Gregory replied. "The limiting factor at present is the targeting software. That's being worked on. The purpose of this test was to evaluate part of the software package. We know that these lasers work. We've had them here for the past three years. The laser beams are converged on a mirror about fifty meters that way" -- he pointed -- "and converted into a single beam."

"They have to be -- I mean, the beams all have to be exactly in tune, right?"

"Technically it's called a Phased-Array Laser. All the beams have to be perfectly in phase," Gregory answered.

"How the hell do you do that?" Ryan paused. "Don't bother, I probably wouldn't understand it anyway. Okay, we have the beam hitting the downside mirror...

"The mirror is the special part. It's composed of thousands of segments, and every segment is controlled by a piezoelectric chip. That's called 'adaptive optics.' We send an interrogation beam to the mirror -- this one was on the shuttle -- and get a reading on atmospheric distortion. The way the atmosphere bends the beam is analyzed by computer. Then the mirror corrects for the distortion, and we fire the real -shot. The mirror on the shuttle also has adaptive optics. It collects and focuses the beam, and sends it off to the 'Flying Cloud' satellite mirror. That mirror refocuses the beam on the targets. Zap!"

"That simple?" Ryan shook his head. It was simple enough that over the previous nineteen years, forty billion dollars had gone into basic research, in twenty separate fields, just to run this one test.

"We did have to iron out a few little details," Gregory acknowledged. These little details would take another five or more years, and he neither knew nor cared how many additional billions. What mattered to him was that the goal was now actually in sight. Tea Clipper wasn't a blue-sky project anymore, not after this system test.

"And you're the guy who made the breakthrough on the targeting system. You figured a way for the beam to provide its own targeting information."

"Something like that," the General answered for the kid. "Dr. Ryan, that part of the system is classified highly enough that we will not discuss it further without written authorization."

"General, the purpose in my being here is to evaluate this program relative to Soviet efforts along similar lines. If you want my people to tell you what the Russians are up to, I have to know what the hell we're supposed to look for."

This did not elicit a reply. Jack shrugged and reached inside his coat. He handed the General an envelope. Major Gregory looked on in puzzlement.

"You still don't like it," Ryan observed after the officer folded the letter away.

"No, sir, I don't."

Ryan spoke with a voice colder than the New Mexico night. "General, when I was in the Marine Corps, they never told me that I was supposed to like my orders, just that I was supposed to obey them." That almost set the General off, and Jack added: "I really am on your side, sir."

"You may continue, Major Gregory," General Parks said after a moment.

"I call the algorithm 'Fan Dance,'" Gregory began. The General almost smiled in spite of himself. Gregory could not have known anything about Sally Rand.

"That's all?" Ryan said again when the youngster finished, and be knew that every computer expert in Project Tea Clipper must have asked himself the same thing: Why didn't I think of that! No wonder they all say that Gregory is a genius. He'd made a crucial breakthrough in laser technology at Stony Brook, then one in software design. "But that's simple!"

"Yes, sir, but it took over two years to make it work, and a Cray-2 computer to make it work fast enough to matter. We still need a little more work, but after we analyze what went wrong tonight, another four or five months, maybe, and we got it knocked."

"Next step, then?"

"Building a five-megajoule laser. Another team is close to that already. Then we gang up twenty of them, and we can send out a hundred-megajoule pulse, twenty times per second, and hit any target we want. The impact energy then will be on the order of, say, twenty to thirty kilograms of explosives.

"And that'll kill any missile anybody can make..."

"Yes, sir." Major Gregory smiled.

"What you're telling me is, the thing -- Tea Clipper works."

"We've validated the system architecture," the General corrected Ryan. "It's been a long haul since we started looking at this system. Five years ago there were eleven hurdles. There are three technical hurdles left. Five years from now there-won't be any. Then we can start building it."

"The strategic implications..." Ryan said, and stopped. "Jesus."

"It's going to change the world;" the General agreed. "You know that they're playing with the same thing at Dushanbe."

"Yes, sir," Major Gregory answered. "And they might know something that we don't."

Ryan nodded. Gregory was even smart enough to know I that someone else might be smarter. This was some kid.

"Gentlemen, out in my helicopter is a briefcase. Could you have somebody bring it in? There are some satellite photos that you might find interesting."

"How old are these shots?" the General asked five minutes later as he leafed through the photos.

"A couple of days," Jack replied.

Major Gregory peered at them for a minute or so. "Okay, we have two slightly different installations here. It's called a 'sparse array.' The hexagonal array -- the six -- pillar one -- is a transmitter. The building in the middle here is probably de- I signed to house six lasers. These pillars are optically stable I mounts for mirrors. The laser beams come out of the building, reflect off the minors, and the mirrors are computer-controlled to concentrate the beam on a target."

"What do you mean by optically stable?"

"The mirrors have to be controlled with a high degree of I accuracy, sir," Gregory told Ryan. "By isolating them from the surrounding ground you eliminate vibration that might come from having a man walk nearby, or driving a car around. If you jiggle the mirrors by a small multiple of the laser-light frequency, you mess up the effect you're trying to get. Here we use shock mountings to enhance the isolation factor. It's I a technique originally developed for submarines. Okay? This I other diamond-shaped array is...oh, of course. That's the receiver."

"What?" Jack's brain had just met another stone wall. "Let's say you want to make a really good picture of something. I mean, really good. You use a laser as your strobe I light."

"But why four mirrors?"

"It's easier and cheaper to make four small mirrors than one big one," Gregory explained. "Hmph. I wonder if they're trying to do a holographic image. If they can really lock their illuminating beams in phase… theoretically it's possible. There are a couple of things that make it tricky, but the Russians like the brute-force approach...Damn!" His eyes lit up. "That's one bell of an interesting idea! I'll have to think about that one. "

"You're telling me that they built this place just to take pictures of our satellites?" Ryan demanded.

"No, sir. They can use it for that, no sweat it makes a perfect cover. And a system that can image a satellite at geosynchronous altitude might be able to clobber one in low earth orbit. If you think of these four mirrors here as a telescope, remember that a telescope can be a lens for a camera, or part of a gunsight. It could also make a damned efficient aiming system. How much power runs into this lab?"

Ryan set down a photo. "The current power output from this dam is something like five hundred megawatts. But -- "

"They're stringing new power lines," Gregory observed. "How come?"

"The powerhouse is two stories -- you can't tell from this angle. It looks like they're activating the top half. That'll bring their peak power output to something like eleven hundred megawatts."

"How much comes into this place?"

"We call it 'Bach.' Maybe a hundred. The rest goes to 'Mozart,' the town that grew up on the next hill over. So they're doubling their available power."

"More than that, sir," Gregory noted. "Unless they're going to double the size of that town, why don't you assume that the increased power is just going to the lasers?" -

Jack nearly choked. Why the hell didn't you think of that! he growled at himself.

"I mean," Gregory continued, "I mean...that's like five hundred megawatts of new power. Jesus, what if they just made a breakthrough? How hard is it to find out what's happening there?"

"Take a look at the photos and tell me how easy you think it would be to infiltrate the place," Ryan suggested.

"Oh." Gregory looked up. "It would be nice to know how much power they push out the front end of their instruments. How long has this place been there, sir?"

"About four years, and it's not finished yet. Mozart is new. Until recently the workers were housed in this barracks and support facility. We took notice when the apartment building I went up, same time as the perimeter fence. When the Russians start pampering the workers, you know that the project has a really high priority. If it has a fence and guard towers, we know it's military."

"How did you find it?" Gregory asked.

"By accident. The Agency was redrawing its meteorological data on the Soviet Union, and one of the technician decided to do a computer analysis of the best places over there for astronomical observation. This is one of them. The weather over the last few months has been unusually cloudy, but on average the skies are about as clear there as they are here. The same is true of Sary Shagan, Semipalatinsk, and another new one, Storozhevaya." Ryan set out some more photographs. Gregory looked at them.

"They sure are busy."

"Good morning. Misha," Marshal of the Soviet Union Dmitri I Timofeyevich Yazov said.

"And to you, Comrade Defense Minister," Colonel Filitov replied.

A sergeant helped the Minister off with his coat while another brought in a tray with a tea setting. Both withdrew when Misha opened his briefcase.

"So, Misha, what does my day look like?" Yazov poured two cups of tea. It was still dark outside the Council of Ministers building. The inside perimeter of the Kremlin walls was lit with harsh blue-white floods, and sentries appeared and disappeared in the splashes of light.

"A full one, Dmitri Timofeyevich," Misha replied. Yazov wasn't the man that Dmitri Ustinov was, but Filitov had to admit to himself that he did put in a full day's work as a uniformed officer should. Like Filitov, Marshal Yazov was by background a tank officer. Though they had never met during the war, they did know one another by reputation. Misha's was better as a combat officer -- purists claimed that I he was an old-fashioned cavalryman at heart, though Filitov cordially hated horses -- while Dmitri Yazov had won a reputation early on as a brilliant staff officer and organizer -- and a Party man, of course. Before everything else, Yazov was a Party man, else he would never have made the rank of Marshal. "We have that delegation coming in from the experimental station in the Tadzhik SSR."

"Ah, 'Bright Star.' Yes, that report is due today, isn't it?"

"Academicians," Misha snorted. "They wouldn't know what a real weapon was if I shoved it up their asses."

"The time for lances and sabers is past, Mikhail Semyonovich," Yazov said with a grin. Not the brilliant intellect that Ustinov had been, neither was Yazov a fool like his predecessor, Sergey Sokolov. His lack of engineering expertise was balanced by an uncanny instinct for the merits of new weapons systems, and rare insights into the people of the Soviet Army. "These inventions show extraordinary promise."

"Of course. 1 only wish that we had a real soldier running the project instead of these starry-eyed professors."

"But General Pokryshkin -- "

"He was a fighter pilot. I said a soldier, Comrade Minister. Pilots will support anything that has enough buttons and dials. Besides, Pokryshkin has spent more time in universities of late than in an aircraft. They don't even let him fly himself anymore. Pokryshkin stopped being a soldier ten years ago. Now he is the procurer for the wizards." And he is building his own little empire down there, but that's an issue we'll save for another day.

"You wish a new job assignment, Misha?" Yazov inquired slyly.

"Not that one!" Filitov laughed, then turned serious. "What I am trying to say, Dmitri Timofeyevich, is that the progress assessment we get from Bright Star is -- how do I say this? -- warped by the fact that we don't have a real military man on the scene. Someone who understands the vagaries of combat, someone who knows what a weapon is supposed to be."

The Defense Minister nodded thoughtfully. "Yes, I see your point. They think in terms of 'instruments' rather than 'weapons,' that is true. The complexity of the project concerns me."

"Just how many moving parts does this new assembly have?"

"I have no idea -- thousands, I should think."

"An instrument does not become a weapon until -it can be handled reliably by a private soldier -- well, at least a senior lieutenant. Has anyone outside the project ever done a reliability assessment?" Filitov asked.

"No, not that I can recall."

Filitov picked up his tea. "There you are, Dmitri Timofeyevich. Don't you think that the Politburo will be interested in that? Until now, they have been willing to fund the experimental project, of course, but" -- Filitov took a sip -- "they are coming here to request funding to upgrade the site to operational status, and we have no independent assessment of the project."

"How would you suggest we get that assessment?"

"Obviously I cannot do it. I am too old, and too uneducated, but we have some bright new colonels in the Ministry, especially in the signals section. They are not combat officers, strictly speaking, but they are soldiers, and they are competent to look at these electronic marvels. It is only a suggestion." Filitov didn't press. He had planted the seed of an idea. Yazov was far easier to manipulate than Ustinov had ever been.

"And what of the problems at the Chelyabinsk tank works?" Yazov asked next.

Ortiz watched the Archer climbing the hill half a mile away. Two men and two camels. They probably wouldn't be mistaken for a guerrilla force the way that twenty or so would have. Not that this had to matter, Ortiz knew, but the Soviets were to the point now that they attacked almost anything that moved. Vaya con Dios.

"I sure could use a beer," the Captain observed.

Ortiz turned. "Captain, the thing that allowed me to deal with these people effectively is that I live the way they do. I observe their laws and respect their ways. That means no booze, no pork; that means I don't fool with their women."

"Shit." The officer snorted. "These ignorant savages -- " Ortiz cut him off.

"Captain, the next time I hear you say that, or even think it real loud, will be your last day here. These people are working for us. They're bringing us stuff that we can't get any place else. You will, repeat will treat them with the respect they deserve. Is that clear!"

"Yes, sir." Christ, this guy's turned into a sand-nigger himself.

Chapter 3 -- The Weary Red Fox

"It's impressive -- if you can figure out what they're doing." Jack yawned. He'd taken the same Air Force transport back to Andrews from Los Alamos, and was behind in his sleep again. For all the times this bad happened to him, he'd never quite learned to deal with it. "That Gregory kid is smart as hell. He took about two seconds to identify the Bach installation, practically word for word with the NPIC assessment." The difference was that the pbotointerpreters at the National Photographic Intelligence Center had taken four months and three written reports to get it right.

"You think he belongs in the assessment team?"

"Sir, that's like asking if you want to have surgeons in the operating room. Oh, by the way, he wants us to infiltrate somebody into Bach." Ryan rolled his eyes.

Admiral Greer nearly dropped his cup. "That kid must watch ninja movies."

"It is nice to know that somebody believes in us." Jack chuckled, then turned serious. "Anyway, Gregory wants to know if they've made a breakthrough in laser power output -- excuse me, I think the new term is 'throughput.' He suspects that most of the new power from the hydroelectric dam will go to Bach."

Greer's eyes narrowed. "That's an evil thought. Do you think he's right?"

"They've got a lot of good people in lasers, sir. Nikolay Bosov, remember, won the Nobel Prize, and he's been in laser-weapons research ever since, along with Yevgeniy Yelikhov, noted peace activist, and the head of the Laser Institute is Dmitri Ustinov's son, for God's sake. Site Bach is almost certainly a sparse array laser. We need to know what kind of lasers, though -- could be gas-dynamic, free-electron, chemical.' He thinks it'll be the free-electron kind, but that's just a guess. He gave me figures to establish the advantage of putting the laser assembly on this hilltop, where it's above about half of the atmosphere, and we know how much energy it takes to do some of the things they want to do. He said he'd try to do some backwards computations to estimate the total power of the system. The figures will be on the conservative side. Between what Gregory said, and the establishment of the residential facilities at Mozart, we have to assume that this site is intended to go into formal test and evaluation in the near future, maybe operational in two or three years. If so, Ivan may soon have a laser that can snuff one of our satellites light out of business. Probably a soft kill, the Major says -- it'll smoke the camera receptors and the photovoltaic cells. But the next step -- "

"Yeah. We're in a race, all right."

"What are the chances that Ritter and the Operations people can find out something inside one of those Bath-site buildings?"

"I suppose we can discuss-the possibility," Greer said diffidently, and changed the subject. "You look a little ragged."

Ryan got the message: he didn't need to know what Operations had in mind. He could talk like a normal person now. "All this traveling around has been pretty tiring. If you don't mind, sir, I'd just as soon take the rest of the day off."

"Fair enough. See you tomorrow. But first -- Jack? I got a call about you from the Securities and Exchange Commission."

"Oh." Jack bowed his head. "I forgot all about that. They called me right before I flew to Moscow."

"What gives?"

"One of the companies I own stock in, the officers are being investigated for insider trading. I bought some of it right when they did, and SEC wants to know how I decided to buy it just then."

"And?" Greer asked. CIA had had enough scandals, and the Admiral didn't want one in his office.

"I got a tip that it might be an interesting company, and when I checked it out I saw that the .company was buying itself back. So what got me to buy in was that 'I saw they were buying in. That's legal, boss. I have all the records at home. I do all this by computer -- well, I don't since I came to work here -- and I have hard copies of everything. I didn't break any rules, sir, and I can prove it."

"Let's try to settle that in the next few days," Greer suggested.

"Yes, sir."

Jack was in his car five minutes later. The drive home to Peregrine Cliff was easier than usual, taking only fifty minutes instead of the usual seventy-five. Cathy was at work, as usual, and the kids were at school -- Sally at St. Mary's and Jack at kindergarten. Ryan poured himself a glass of milk in the kitchen. Finished, he wandered upstairs, kicked off his shoes, and collapsed into bed without even bothering to take off his pants.

Colonel of Signal Troops Gennady Iosifovich Bondarenko sat across from Misha, straight of back and proud, as so young a field-grade officer should be. He did not show himself to be the least intimidated by Colonel Filitov, who was old enough to be his father, and whose background was a minor legend in the Defense Ministry. So this was the old war-horse who fought in nearly every tank battle in the first two years of the Great Patriotic War. He saw the toughness around the eyes that age and fatigue could never erase, noted the impairment to the Colonel's arm, and remembered how that had happened. It was said that Old Misha still went out to the tank factories with some of the men from his old regiment, to see for himself if quality control was up to standards, to make certain that his hard blue eyes could still hit a target from the gunner's seat. Bondarenko was somewhat in awe of this soldier's soldier. More than anything else, he was proud to wear the same uniform.

"How may I serve the Colonel?" he asked Misha.

"Your file says that you are very clever with electronic gadgets, Gennady Iosifovich." Filitov waved at the file folder on his desk.

"That is my job, Comrade Colonel." Bondarenko was more than just "clever," and both knew it. He had helped develop laser range-finders for battlefield use, and until recently had been engaged in a project to use lasers in place of radios for secure front-line communications.

"What we are about to discuss is classified Most Secret." The young Colonel nodded gravely and Filitov went on. "For the past several years the Ministry has been financing a very special laser project called Bright Star -- the name itself is also classified, of course. Its primary mission is to make high-quality photographs of Western satellites, though when fully developed, it may be able to blind them -- at a time when such action is politically necessary. The project is run by academicians and a former fighter pilot from Yoyska PVO -- this sort of installation comes under the authority of the airdefense forces, unfortunately. I would have preferred myself that a real soldier was running it, but -- " Misha stopped and gestured at the ceiling. Bondarenko smiled in agreement. Politics, they both communicated silently. No wonder we never get anything done.

"The Minister wants you to fly down there and evaluate the weapons potential of the site, particularly from a reliability standpoint. If we are to bring this site to operational status, it would be well to know if the damned-fool thing will work when we want it to."

The young officer nodded thoughtfully while his mind raced. This was a choice assignment -- much more than that. He would report to the Minister through his most trusted aide. If he did well, he would have the personal stamp of the Minister in his personnel jacket. That would guarantee him general's stars, a bigger apartment for his family, a good education for his children, so many of the things he'd worked all these years for.

"Comrade Colonel, I presume that they know of my coming?"

Misha laughed derisively. "Is that the way the Red Army does it now? We tell them when they are to be inspected! No, Gennady Iosifovich, if we are to evaluate reliability, we do it by surprise. I have a letter for you here from Marshal Yazov himself. It will be sufficient to get you past security -- site security comes under our KGB colleagues," Misha said coolly. "It will give you free access to the entire facility. If you have any difficulty at all, call me at once. I can always be reached through this number. Even if I am in the banya, my driver will come and fetch me."

"How detailed an evaluation is required, Comrade Colonel?"

"Enough that a weary old tanker like me can understand what their witchcraft is all about," Misha said humorlessly.

"Do you think you can understand it all?"

"If not, I will so inform you. Comrade Colonel." it was a very good answer, Misha noted. Bondarenko would go far.

"Excellent, Gennady Iosifovich. I would much rather have an officer tell me what he does not know than try to impress me with a truckload of mudnya." Bondarenko got that message loud and clear, it was said that the carpet in this office was rust-red from the blood of officers who'd tried to bullshit their way past this man. "How soon can you leave?"

"This is an extensive installation?"

"Yes. It houses four hundred academicians and engineers, and perhaps six hundred other support personnel. You can take up to a week doing your evaluation. Speed here is less important than thoroughness."

"Then I'll have to pack another uniform. I can be on my way in two hours."

"Excellent. Off with you." Misha opened a new file.

As was generally the case, Misha worked a few minutes later than his Minister. He locked his personal documents in secure files and had the rest picked up by a messenger whose cart wheeled them to Central Files a few meters down the main corridor from his office. The same messenger handed over a note saying that Colonel Bondarenko had taken the 1730 Aeroflot flight to Dushanbe, and that ground transport from the civil airport to Bright Star had been arranged. Filitov made a mental note to congratulate Bondarenko for his cleverness. As a member of the Ministry's in-house General Inspectorate, he could have requisitioned special transport and flown directly to the city's military airfield, but the security office at Bright Star undoubtedly had some of its people there to report the arrival of such a flight. This way, however, a colonel from Moscow could just as easily be mistaken for what colonels in Moscow usually were -- messenger boys. That fact offended Filitov. A man who had worked hard enough to attain the rank of a regimental commander -- which really was the best job in any army -- should not be a staff slave who fetched drinks for his general. But he was sure that this was a fact in any military headquarters. At least Bondarenko would have a chance to try out his teeth on the feather merchants down in Tadzhikistan.

Filitov rose and reached for his coat. A moment later, briefcase dangling from his right hand, he walked out of the office. His secretary -- a warrant officer -- automatically called downstairs for his car to be ready. It was waiting when Misha walked out the front door.

Forty minutes later, Filitov was in soft clothes. The television was on, broadcasting something mindless enough to have been imported from the West. Misha sat alone at his kitchen table. There was an open half-liter bottle of vodka beside his evening meal. Misha ate sausage, black bread, and pickled vegetables, not very different from what he'd eaten in the field with his men, two generations before. He'd found that his stomach dealt more easily with rough foods than the fancy ones, a fact that had thoroughly confused the hospital staff during his last bout of pneumonia. After every other bite, he'd take a brief sip of vodka, staring out the windows, whose blinds were adjusted just so. The city lights of Moscow burned brightly, along with the numberless yellow rectangles of apartment windows.

He could remember the smells at will. The verdant odor of good Russian earth, the fine, green smell of meadow grass, along with the stink of diesel fuel and above all the acidic reek of propellant from the tank's guns that stayed in the cloth of your coveralls no matter how many times you tried to wash it out. For a tanker, that was the smell of combat, that and the uglier smell of burning vehicles, and burning crews. Without looking, he lifted the sausage and cut off a piece, bringing it to his mouth atop the knife. He was staring out the window, but as though it were a television screen, what he saw was the vast, distant horizon at sunset, and columns of smoke rising along the perimeter of green and blue, orange and brown. Next, a bite of the rich, thickly textured black bread. And as always on the nights before he committed treason, the ghosts came back to visit.

We showed them, didn't we, Comrade Captain? a weary voice asked.

We still had to retreat, Corporal, he beard his own voice answer. But, yes, we showed the bastards not to trifle with our T-34s. This is good bread you stole.

Stole? But, Comrade Captain, it is heavy work defending these farmers, is it not?

And thirsty work? was the Captain's next question.

Indeed, Comrade. The corporal chuckled. From behind, a bottle was handed down. Not State-produced vodka, this was Samogan, the Russian bootleg liquor that Misha himself knew well. Every true Russian claimed to love the taste, though not one would touch it if vodka was handy. Nevertheless, for this moment Samogan was the drink he craved, out here on Russian soil, with the remains of his tank troop standing between a State farm and the leading elements of Guderian's panzers.

They'll be coming again tomorrow morning, the driver thought soberly.

And we'll kill some more slug-gray tanks, the loader said. After which, Misha did not say aloud, we'll withdraw another ten kilometers. Ten kilometers only -- if we're lucky again, and if regimental headquarters manages to control things better than they did this afternoon. In either case, this farm will be behind German lines when tomorrow's sun sets. More ground lost.

It was not a thought on which to dwell. Misha wiped his hands carefully before unbuttoning the pocket on his tunic. It was time to restore his soul.

A delicate one, the corporal observed as he looked over his Captain's shoulder at the photograph for the hundredth time, and as always, with envy. Delicate like crystal glass. And such a fine son you have. Lucky for you, Comrade Captain, that he has his mother's looks. She is so tiny, your wife, how can she have had such a big boy as that and not be hurt by it? God knows, was his unconscious reply. So strange that after a few days of war even the most adamant atheist invoked the name of God. Even a few of the commissars, to the quiet amusement of the troops.

I will come home to you, he'd promised the photograph. I will come home to you. Through all the German Army, through all the fires of hell, I will come home to you, Elena.

Just then mail had come, a rare-enough occurrence at the front. Only one letter for Captain Filitov, but the texture of the paper and the delicate handwriting told him of its importance. He slit the envelope open with the bright edge of his combat knife and extracted the letter as carefully as his haste allowed so as not to soil the Words of his love with' grease from his battle tank. Seconds later he leaped to his feet and screamed at the stars in the twilight sky.

I will be a father again in the spring! It must have been that last night on leave, three weeks before this brutal madness began...

I am not surprised, the corporal observed lightly, after the fucking we gave the Germans today. Such a man leads this troop! Perhaps our Captain should stand at stud.

You are nekulturny, Corporal Romanov. I am a married man.

Then perhaps I can stand in the Comrade Captain's stead? he asked hopefully, then handed the bottle down again. To another fine son, my Captain, and to the health of your beautiful wife. There were tears of joy in the young man's eyes, along with the grief that came with the knowledge that only the greatest good fortune would ever allow him to be a father. But he would never say such a thing. A fine soldier Romanov was, and a fine comrade, ready for command of his own tank. And Romanov had gotten his own tank, Misha remembered, staring at the Moscow skyline. At Vyasma, he'd defiantly placed it between his Captain's disabled T-34 and an onrushing German Mark-IV, saving his Captain's life as his own ended in red-orange flames. Aleksey Il'ych Romanov, Corporal of the Red Army, won an Order of the Red Banner that day. Misha wondered if it was fair compensation to his mother for her blue-eyed, freckled son.

The vodka bottle was three-quarters empty now, and as he had so many times, Misha was sobbing, alone at his table.

So many deaths.

Those fools at High Command! Romanov killed at Vyasma. Ivanenko lost outside Moscow. Lieutenant Abashin at Kharkov -- Mirka, the handsome young poet, the slight, sensitive young officer who had the heart and balls of a lion, killed leading the fifth counterattack, but clearing the way for Misha to extract what was left of his regiment across the Donets before the hammer fell.

And his Elena, the last victim of all...All of them killed not by an external enemy, but by the misguided, indifferent brutality of their own Motherland.

Misha took a long last swallow from the bottle. No, not the Motherland. Not the Rodina, never the Rodina. By the inhuman bastards who...

He rose and staggered toward the bedroom, leaving on the lights in his sitting room. The clock on the nightstand said quarter of ten, and some distant part of Misha's brain took comfort in the fact that he'd get nine hours' sleep to recover from the abuse that he inflicted on what had once been a lean, hard body, one that had endured -- even thrived on the ghastly strain of prolonged combat operations. But the stress Misha endured now made combat seem a vacation, and his subconscious rejoiced in the knowledge that this would soon end, and rest would finally come.

About a half hour later, a car drove down the street. In the passenger's seat, a woman was driving her son home from a hockey game. She looked up and noted that the lights in certain windows were on, and the shades adjusted just so.

The air was thin. Bondarenko arose at 0500, as he always did, put on his sweatsuit, and took the elevator downstairs from his guest quarters on the tenth floor. It took him a moment to be surprised -- the elevators were operating. So the technicians travel back and forth to the facility round the clock. Good, the Colonel thought.

He walked outside, a towel wrapped around his neck, and checked his watch. He frowned as he began. He had a regular morning routine in Moscow, a measured path around the city blocks. Here he couldn't be sure of the distance, when his five kilometers ended. Well -- he shrugged -- that was to be expected. He started off heading east. The view, he saw, was breathtaking. The sun would soon rise, earlier than Moscow because of the lower latitude, and the jagged spires of mountains were outlined in red, like dragons' teeth, he smiled to himself. His youngest son liked to draw pictures of dragons.

The flight in had ended spectacularly. The full moon had illuminated the Kara Kum desert flatlands under the aircraft -- and then these sandy wastes had ended as though at a wall built by the gods. Within three degrees of longitude, the land had changed from three-hundred-meter lowlands to five-thousand-meter peaks. From his vantage point he could see the glow of Dushanbe, about seventy kilometers to the northwest. Two rivers; Kafirnigan and Surkhandarya, bordered the city of half a million, and like a man halfway around the world, Colonel Bondarenko wondered why it had grown here, what ancient history had caused it to grow between the two mountain-fed rivers. Certainly it seemed an inhospitable place, but perhaps the long caravans of Bactrian camels had rested here, or perhaps it had been a crossroads, or -- He stopped his reverie. Bondarenko knew that he was merely putting off his morning exercise. He tied the surgical mask over his mouth and nose as a protection against the frigid air. The Colonel began his deep knee-bends to loosen up, then stretched his legs against the building wall before he started off at an easy, double-time pace.

Immediately he noticed that he was breathing more heavily than usual through the cloth mask over his face. The altitude, of course. Well, that would shorten his run somewhat. The apartment building was already behind him, and he looked to his right, passing what his map of the facility indicated to be machine and optical shops.

"Halt!" a voice called urgently.

Bondarenko growled to himself. He didn't like having his exercise interrupted. Especially, he saw, by someone with the green shoulder boards of the KGB. Spies -- thugs -- playing at soldiers. "Well, what is it, Sergeant!"

"Your papers, if you please, Comrade. I do not recognize you."

Fortunately, Bondarenko's wife had sewn several pockets onto the Nike jogging suit that she'd managed to get on the gray market in Moscow, a present for his last birthday. He kept his legs pumping as he handed over his identification.

"When did the Comrade Colonel arrive?" the sergeant asked.

"And what do you think you are doing so early in the morning?"

"Where is your officer?" Bondarenko replied.

"At the main guard post, four hundred meters that way. The sergeant pointed.

"Then come along with me, Sergeant, and we will speak with him. A colonel of the Soviet Army does not explain himself to sergeants. Come on, you need exercise, too!" he challenged and moved off.

The sergeant was only twenty or so, but wore a heavy greatcoat and carried a rifle and ammo belt. Within two hundred meters, Gennady heard him puffing.

"Here, Comrade Colonel," the young man gasped a minute later.

"You should not smoke so much, Sergeant," Bondarenko observed.

"What the hell is going on here?" a KGB lieutenant asked from behind his desk.

"Your sergeant challenged me. I am Colonel G. I. Bondarenko, and I am doing my morning run."

"In Western clothing?"

"What the hell do you care what clothes I wear when I exercise?" Idiot, do you think spies jog?

"Colonel, lam the security watch officer. I do not recognize you, and my superiors have not made me aware of your presence.

Gennady reached into another pocket and handed over his special visitors pass, along with his personal identification papers. "1 am a special representative of the Ministry of Defense. The purpose of my visit is not your concern. I am here on the personal authority of Marshal of the Soviet Union D. T. Yazov. If you have any further questions, you may call him directly at that number!"

The KGB Lieutenant scrupulously read the identification documents to make sure they said what he'd been told.

"Please excuse me, Comrade Colonel, but we have orders to take our security provisions seriously. Also, it is out of the ordinary to see a man in Western clothes running at dawn."

"I gather that it is out of the ordinary for your troops to run at all," Bondarenko noted dryly.

"There is hardly room on this mountaintop for a proper regime of physical training, Comrade Colonel."

"Is that so?" Bondarenko smiled as he took out a notebook and pencil. "You claim to take your security duties seriously, but you do not meet norms for physical training of your troops. Thank you for that piece of information, Comrade Lieutenant. I will discuss that matter with your commanding officer. May I go?"

"Technically, I have orders to provide escort for all official visitors."

"Excellent. I like to have company when I run. Will you be so kind as to join me, Comrade Lieutenant?" The KGB officer was trapped, and knew it. Five minutes later, he was puffing like a landed fish. "What is your main security threat?" Bondarenko asked him maliciously, since he did not slow down.

"The Afghan border is one hundred eleven kilometers that way," the Lieutenant said between wheezes. "They have occasionally sent some of their bandit raiders into Soviet territory, as you may have heard."

"Do they make contact with local citizens?"

"Not that we have established, but that is a concern. The local population is largely Muslim." The Lieutenant started coughing. Gennady stopped.

"In air this cold, I have found that wearing a mask helps," he said. "It warms the air somewhat before you breathe it. Straighten up and breathe deeply, Comrade Lieutenant. If you take your security provisions so seriously, you and your men should be in proper physical shape. I promise you that the Afghans are. Two winters ago I spent time with a Spetznaz team that chased them over a half dozen miserable mountains. We never did catch them." But they caught us, he didn't say. Bondarenko would never forget that ambush...


"They cannot always fly in bad weather, my young Comrade, and in my case we were trying to establish that we, too, could fight in the mountains."

"Well, we have patrols out every day, of course."

It was the way he said it that bothered Bondarenko, and the Colonel made a mental note to check that out. "How far have we run?"

"Two kilometers."

"The altitude does make things difficult. Come, we will walk back."

The sunrise was spectacular. The blazing sphere edged above a nameless mountain to the east, and its light marched down the nearer slopes, chasing the shadows into the deep, glacial valleys. This installation was no easy objective, even for the inhuman barbarians of the mudjaheddin. The guard towers were well sited, with clear fields of fire that extended for several kilometers. They didn't use searchlights out of consideration for the civilians who lived here, but night-vision devices were a better choice in any case, and he was sure that the KGB troops used those. And -- he shrugged -- site security wasn't the reason he'd been sent down, though it was a fine excuse to needle the KGB security detail.

"May I ask how you obtained your exercise clothing?" the KGB officer asked when he was able to breathe properly.

"Are you a married man, Comrade Lieutenant?"

"Yes, I am, Comrade Colonel."

"Personally, I do not question my wife on where she buys her birthday presents for me. Of course, I am not a chekist." Bondarenko did a few deep knee-bends to show that he was, however, a better man.

"Colonel, while our duties are not quite the same, we both serve the Soviet Union. I am a young, inexperienced officer, as you have already made quite clear. One of the things that disturbs me is the unnecessary rivalry between the Army and the KGB."

Bondarenko turned to look at the Lieutenant. "That was well said, my young Comrade. Perhaps when you wear general's stars, you will remember the sentiment."

He dropped the KGB Lieutenant back at the guard post and walked briskly back to the apartment block, the morning breeze threatening to freeze the sweat on his neck. He went inside and took the elevator up. Not surprisingly, there was no hot water for his shower this early in the morning. The Colonel endured it cold, chasing away the last vestiges of sleep, shaved and dressed before walking over to the canteen for breakfast.

He didn't have to be at the Ministry until nine, and on the way was a steam bath. One of the things Filitov had learned over the years was that nothing could chase away a hangover and clear your head like steam. He'd had enough practice. His sergeant drove him to the Sandunovski Baths on Kuznetskiy Most, six blocks from the Kremlin. It was his usual Wednesday morning stop in any case. He was not alone, even this early. A handful of other probably important people trudged up the wide marble steps to the second floor's first-class (not called that now, of course) facilities, since thousands of Moscovites shared with the Colonel both his disease and its cure. Some of them were women, and Misha wondered if the female facilities were very different from those he was about to use. It was strange. He'd been coming here since he joined the Ministry in 1943, and yet he'd never gotten a peek into the women's section. Well, I am too old for that now.

His eyes were bloodshot and heavy as be undressed. Naked, he took a heavy bath towel from the pile at the end of the room, and a handful of birch branches. Filitov breathed the cool, dry air of the dressing room before opening the door that led to the steam rooms. The once-marble floor was largely replaced now with orange tiles. He could remember when the original floor had been nearly intact.

Two men in their fifties were arguing about something, probably politics. He could hear their rasping voices above the hiss of steam coming off the hotbox that occupied the center of the room. Misha counted five other men, their heads stooped over, each of them enduring a hangover in grumpy solitude. He selected a seat in the front row, and sat.

"Good morning, Comrade Colonel," a voice said from five meters away.

"And to you, Comrade Academician," Misha greeted his fellow regular. His hands were wrapped tightly around his bundle of branches while he waited for the sweat to begin. It didn't take long -- the room temperature was nearly one hundred forty degrees Fahrenheit. He breathed carefully, as the experienced ones did. The aspirins he'd taken with his morning tea were beginning to work, though his head was still heavy and the sinuses around his eyes swollen. He swatted the branches across his back, as though to exorcise the poisons from his body.

"And how is the Hero of Stalingrad this morning?" the academic persisted.

"About as well as the genius of the Ministry of Education." This drew a painful laugh. Misha never could remember his name...Ilya Vladimirovich Somethingorother. What sort of fool could laugh during a hangover? The man drank because of his wife, he said. You drink to be free of her, do you? You boast of the times you've fucked your secretary, when I would trade my soul for one more look at Elena's face. And my sons' faces, he told himself. My two handsome sons. It was well to remember these things on such mornings.

"Yesterday's Pravda spoke of the arms negotiations," the man persisted. "Is there hope for progress?"

"I have no idea," Misha replied.

An attendant came in. A young man, perhaps twenty-five or so and short. He counted heads in the room.

"Does anyone wish a drink?" he asked. Drinking was absolutely forbidden in the baths, but as any true Russian would say, that merely made the vodka taste better.

"No!" came the reply in chorus. No one was the least interested in the hair of the dog this morning, Misha noted with mild surprise. Well, it was the middle of the week. On a Saturday morning it would be very different.

"Very well," the attendant said on the way out the door. "There will be fresh towels outside, and the pool heater has been repaired. Swimming is also fine exercise, Comrades. Remember to use the muscles that you are now baking, and you will be refreshed all day."

Misha looked up. So this is the new one.

"Why do they have to be so damned cheerful?" asked a man in the corner.

"He is cheerful because he is not a foolish old drunk!" another answered. That drew a few chuckles.

"Five years ago vodka didn't do this to me. I tell you, quality control is not what it used to be," the first went on.

"Neither is your liver, Comrade!"

"A terrible thing to get old." Misha turned around to see who said that. It was a man barely fifty, whose swollen belly was the color of dead fish and who smoked a cigarette, also in violation of the rules.

"A more terrible thing not to, but you young men have forgotten that!" he said automatically, and wondered why. Heads came up and saw the burn scars on his back and chest. Even those who did not know who Mikhail Semyonovich Filitov was knew that this was not a man to be trifled with. He sat quietly for another ten minutes before leaving.

The attendant was outside the door when he emerged. The Colonel handed over his branches and towel, then walked off to the cold-water showers. Ten minutes later he was a new man, the pain and depression of the vodka gone, and the strain behind him. He dressed quickly and walked downstairs to where his car was waiting. His servant noted the change in his stride and wondered what was so curative about roasting yourself like a piece of meat.

The attendant had his own task. On asking again a few minutes later, it turned out that two people in the steam room had changed their minds. He trotted out the building's back door to a small shop whose manager made more money selling drink "on the left" than he did by dry-cleaning. The attendant returned with a half-liter bottle of "Vodka" -- it had no brand name as such; the premium Stolychnaya was made for export and the elite -- at a little over double the market price. The imposition of sales restrictions on alcohol had begun a whole new -- and extremely profitable -- part of the city's black market. The attendant had also passed along a small film cassette that his contact had handed over with the birch branches. For his part, the bath attendant was also relieved. This was his only contact. He didn't know the man's name, and had spoken the code phrase with the natural fear that this part of the CIA's Moscow network had long since been compromised by the KGB's counterintelligence department, the dreaded Second Chief Directorate. His life was already forfeit and he knew it. But he had to do something. Ever since his year in Afghanistan, the things he'd seen, and the things he'd been forced to do. He wondered briefly who that scarred old man was, but reminded himself that the man's nature and identity were not his concern.

The dry-cleaning shop catered mainly to foreigners, providing service to reporters, businessmen, and a few diplomats, along with the odd Russian who wished to protect clothing purchased abroad. One of these picked up an English overcoat, paid the three rubles, and left. She walked two blocks to the nearest Metro station, taking the escalator down to catch her train on the Zhdanovsko-Krasnopresnenskaya line, the one marked in purple on the city maps. The train was crowded, and no one could have seen her pass the cassette. In fact, she herself didn't see the face of the man. He in turn made his way off the train at the next station, Pushkinskaya, and crossed over to Gor'kovskaya Station. One more transfer was made ten minutes later, this one to an American who was on his way to the embassy a little late this morning, having stayed long at a diplomatic reception the previous night.

His name was Ed Foley; he was the press attaché at the embassy on Ulitsa Chaykovskogo. He and his wife, Mary Pat, another CIA agent, had been in Moscow for nearly four years, and both were looking forward to putting this grim, gray town behind them once and for all. They had two children, both of whom had been denied hot dogs and ball games long enough.

It wasn't that their tour of duty hadn't been successful. The Russians knew that CIA had a number of husband-wife teams in the field, but the idea that spies would take their children abroad wasn't something that the Soviets could accept easily. There was also the matter of their cover. Ed Foley had been a reporter with the New York Times before joining the State Department -- because, as he explained it, the money wasn't much different and a police reporter never traveled farther than Attica. His wife stayed home with the children for the most part -- though she did substitute-teach when needed at the Anglo-American School at 78 Leninsky Prospekt -- often taking them out in the snow. Their older son played on a junior hockey team, and the KGB officers who trailed them around had it written up in their file that Edward Foley II was a pretty good wingman for a seven-year-old. The Soviet government's one real annoyance with the family was the elder Foley's inordinate curiosity about street crime in their capital, which was at its worst a far cry from what he had written about in New York City. But that proved that he was relatively harmless. He was far too obviously inquisitive to be any kind of intelligence officer. They, after all, did everything possible to be inconspicuous.

Foley walked the last few blocks from the Metro station. He nodded politely to the militiaman who guarded the door to the grimly decorous building, then to the Marine sergeant inside before going to his office. It wasn't much. The embassy was officially described in the State Department's USSR Post Report as "cramped and difficult to maintain." The same writer might call the burned-out shell of a South Bronx tenement a "fixer-upper," Foley thought. In the building's last renovation, his office had been remade from a storage room and broom closet into a marginally serviceable cubicle about ten feet square. The broom closet, however, was his private darkroom, and that was why the CIA station had had one of its people in this particular room for over twenty years, though Foley was the first station chief to be housed there.

Only thirty-three, tall but very thin, Foley was an Irishman from Queens whose intellect was mated to an impossibly slow heart rate and a poker face that had helped him earn his way through Holy Cross. Recruited by CIA in his senior year, he'd spent four years with the Times to establish his own personal "legend." He was remembered in the city room as an adequate, if rather lazy reporter who turned out workmanlike copy but never would really go anywhere. His editor hadn't minded losing him to government service, since his departure made room for a youngster from Columbia's School of Journalism with hustle and a real nose for what was happening. The current Times correspondent in Moscow had described him to his own colleagues and contacts as a nebbish, and rather a dull one at that, and in doing so gave Foley the most sought-after compliment in the business of espionage: Him? He's not smart enough to be a spy. For this and several Other reasons, Foley was entrusted with running the Agency's longest-lived, most productive agent-in-place, Colonel Mikhail Semyonovich Filitov, code name CARDINAL. The name itself, of course, was sufficiently secret that only five people within the Agency knew that it meant more than a red-caped churchman with princely diplomatic rank.

Raw CARDINAL information was classified Special Intelligence/Eyes Only-A, and there were only six A-cleared officials in the entire American government. Every month the code word for the data itself was changed. This month's name was SATIN, for which less than twenty others were cleared. Even under that title, the data was invariably paraphrased and subtly altered before going outside the A fraternity.

Foley took the film cassette from his pocket and locked himself in the darkroom. He could go through the developing process drunk and half-asleep. In fact, a few times he had. Within six minutes, the job was done, and Foley cleaned up after himself. His former editor in New York would have found his neatness in Moscow surprising.

Foley followed procedures that had been unchanged for nearly thirty years. He reviewed the six exposed frames through a magnifying glass of the type used to inspect 35mm slides. He memorized each frame in a few seconds, and began typing a translation on his personal portable typewriter. It was a manual whose well-worn cloth ribbon was too frayed to be of use to anyone, particularly the KGB. Like many reporters, Foley was not a good typist. His pages bore strikeovers and X-outs. The paper was chemically treated, and you couldn't use an eraser on it. It took nearly two hours for him to finish the transcription. When done, he made a final check of the film to guarantee that he hadn't left anything out, nor made any serious grammatical mistakes. Satisfied, but with a tremor that he never quite got over, he crumpled the film into a ball and set it in a metal ashtray, where a wooden kitchen match reduced the only direct evidence of CARDINAL's existence to ashes. He then smoked a cigar to disguise the distinctive smell of burning celluloid. The folded typescript pages went into his pocket, and Foley walked upstairs to the embassy's communications room. Here he drafted an innocuous dispatch to Box 4108, State Department, Washington: "Reference your 29 December. Expense report en route via pouch. Foley. Ends." As press attaché, Foley had to pick up a lot of bar bills for former colleagues who held him in contempt that he didn't bother returning; he had to do quite a few expense reports for the cookie-pushers at Foggy Bottom, and it amused him greatly that his press brethren worked so bard at maintaining his cover for him.

Next he checked with the embassy's courier-in-residence. Though little known, this was one aspect of life at the Moscow post that hadn't changed since the 1930s. There was always a courier to take the bag out, though nowadays he had other duties, too. The courier was also one of four people in the embassy who knew which government agency Foley really worked for. A retired Army warrant officer, he had a DSC and four Purple Hearts for flying casualties out of Vietnam battlefields. When he smiled at people, he did s& in the Russian way, with the mouth but almost never the eyes.

"Feel like flying home tonight?"

The man's eyes lit up. "With the Super Bowl this Sunday? You're kidding. Stop by your office around four?"

"Right." Foley closed the door and returned to his office. The courier booked himself on the British Airways 5:40 P.M. flight to Heathrow.

The difference in time zones between Washington and Moscow virtually guaranteed that Foley's messages reached D.C. early in the morning. At six, a CIA employee walked into the State Department mail room and extracted the message forms from a dozen or so boxes, then resumed his drive to Langley. A senior field officer in the Operations Directorate, he was barred from any further overseas duty due to an injury sustained in Budapest -- where a street hoodlum had fractured his skull, and been locked up for five years by the irate local police. If only they'd known, the agent thought, they'd have given him a medal. He delivered the messages to the appropriate offices, and went to his own office.

The message form was lying on Bob Ritter's desk when he got to work at 7:25. Ritter was the Agency's Deputy Director for Operations. His turf, technically known as the Directorate of Operations, included all of the CIA's field officers and all of the foreign citizens they recruited and employed as agents. The message from Moscow -- as usual there was more than one, but this one counted the most -- was immediately tucked into his personal file cabinet, and he prepared himself for the 8:00 brief, delivered every day by the night-watch officers.

"It's open." Back in Moscow, Foley looked up when the knock came at the door. The courier stepped in.

"The plane leaves in an hour. I have to hustle."

Foley reached into his desk and pulled out what looked like an expensive silver cigarette case. He handed it over, and the courier handled it carefully before tucking it into his breast pocket. The typed pages were folded inside, along with a tiny pyrotechnic charge. If the case were improperly opened, or subjected to a sudden acceleration -- like being dropped to a hard floor -- the charge would go off and destroy the flash paper inside. It might also set fire to the courier's suit, which explained his care in handling it.

"I should be back Tuesday morning. Anything I can get you, Mr. Foley?"

"I hear there's a new Far Side book out..." That got a laugh.

"Okay, I'll check. You can pay me when I get back."

"Safe trip, Augie."

One of the embassy's drivers took Augie Giannini to Sheremetyevo Airport, nineteen miles outside of Moscow, where the courier's diplomatic passport enabled him to walk past the security checkpoints and right onto the British Airways plane bound for Heathrow Airport. He rode in the coach section, on the right side of the aircraft. The diplomatic pouch had the window seat, with Giannini in the middle. Rights out of Moscow were rarely crowded, and the seat on his left was also vacant. The Boeing started rolling on schedule. The Captain announced the time of flight and destination, and the airliner started moving down the runway. The moment it lifted off Soviet soil, as often happened, the hundred and fifty passengers applauded. It was something that always amused the courier. Giannini pulled a paperback from his pocket and started reading. He couldn't drink on the flight, of course, nor sleep, and he decided to wait for dinner until his next flight. The stewardess did manage to get a cup of coffee into him, however.

Three hours later, the 747 thumped down at Heathrow. Again he was able to clear customs perfunctorily. A man who spent more time in the air than most commercial pilots, he had access to the first-class waiting rooms still allowed in most of the world's airports. Here he waited an hour for a 747 bound for Washington's Dulles International.

Over the Atlantic, the courier enjoyed a Pan Am dinner, and a movie that he hadn't seen before, which happened rarely enough. By the time he'd finished his book, the plane was swooping into Dulles. The courier ran his hand over his face and tried to remember what time it was supposed to be in Washington. Fifteen minutes later he climbed into a nondescript government Ford that headed southeast. He got into the front seat because he wanted the extra leg room.

"How was the flight?" the driver asked.

"Same as always: borrr-inggg." On the other hand, it beat flying medivac missions in the Central Highlands. The government was paying him twenty grand a year to sit on airplanes and read books, which, combined with his retirement pay from the Army, gave him a fairly comfortable life. He never bothered himself wondering what he carried in the diplomatic bag, or in this metal case in his coat. He figured it was all a waste of time anyway. The world didn't change very much.

"Got the case?" the man in the back asked.

"Yeah." Giannini took it from his inside pocket and handed it back, with both hands. The CIA officer in the back took it, using both hands, and tucked it inside a foam-lined box. The officer was an instructor in the CIA's Office of Technical Services, part of the Directorate of Science and Technology. It was an office that covered a lot of bureaucratic ground. This particular officer was an expert on booby traps and explosive devices in general. At Langley, he took the elevator to Ritter's office and opened the cigarette case on the latter's desk, then returned to his own office without looking at the contents.

Ritter walked to his personal Xerox machine and made several copies of the flash-paper pages, which were then burned. It was not so much a security measure as a simple safety precaution. Ritter didn't want a sheaf of highly flammable material in his personal office. He started reading the pages even before all the copies were done. As usual, his head started moving left and right by the end of the first paragraph. The Deputy Director for Operations walked to his desk and punched the line to the Director's office.

"You busy? The bird landed."

"Come on over," Judge Arthur Moore replied at once. Nothing was more important than data from CARDINAL.

Ritter collected Admiral Greer on the way, and the two of them joined the Director of Central Intelligence in his spacious office.

"You gotta love this guy," Ritter said as he handed the papers out. "He's conned Yazov into sending a colonel into Bach to do a 'reliability assessment' of the whole system. This Colonel Bondarenko is supposed to report back on how everything works, in layman's terms, so that the Minister can understand it all and report to the Politburo. Naturally, he detailed Misha to play gofer, so the report goes across his desk first."

"That kid Ryan met -- Gregory, I think -- wanted us to get a man into Dushanbe," Greer noted with a chuckle. "Ryan told him it was impossible."

"Good," Ritter observed. "Everybody knows what screwups the Operations Directorate is." The entire CIA took perverse pride in the fact that only its failure made the news. The Directorate of Operations in particular craved the public assessment that the press constantly awarded them. The foulups of the KGB never got the attention that CIA's did, and the public image, so often reinforced, was widely believed even in the Russian intelligence community. It rarely occurred to anyone that the leaks were purposeful.

"I wish," Judge Moore observed soberly, "that somebody would explain to Misha that there are old spies and bold spies, but very few old and bold ones."

"He's a very careful man, boss," Ritter pointed out.

"Yeah, I know." The DCI looked down at the pages.

Since the death of Dmitri Fedorovich, it is not the same at the Defense Ministry, the DCI read. Sometimes I wonder if Marshal Yazov takes these new technological developments seriously enough, but to whom can I report my misgivings? Would KGB believe me? I must order my thoughts. Yes, I must organize my thoughts before I make any accusations. But can I break security rides...

But what choice do I have? 1f I cannot document my misgivings, who will take me seriously? It is a hard thing to have to break an important rule of security, but the safety of the State supersedes such rules. It must.

As the epic poems of Homer began with the invocation of the Muse, so CARDINAL's messages invariably began like this. The idea had developed in the late 1960s. CARDINAL's messages began as photographs of his personal diary. Russians are inveterate diarists. Each time he began one, it would be as a Slavic cri de coeur, his personal worries about the policy decisions made in the Defense Ministry. Sometimes he would express concern with the security on a specific project or the performance of a new tank or aircraft. In each case, the technical merits of a piece of hardware or a policy decision would be examined at length, but always the focus of the document would be a supposed bureaucratic problem within the Ministry. If Filitov's apartment were ever searched, his diary would be easily found, certainly not hidden away as a spy was expected to do, and while he was definitely breaking rules of security, and would certainly be admonished for it, there would at least be a chance that Misha could successfully defend himself. Or, that was the idea.

When I have Bondarenko's report, in another week or two, perhaps I can persuade the Minister that this project is one of truly vital importance to the Motherland, it ended.

"So, it looks like they made a breakthrough on laser power output," Ritter said.

"'Throughput' is the current term," Greer corrected. "At least that's what Jack tells me. This is not very good news, gentlemen."

"Your usual keen eye for detail, James," Ritter said. "God, what if they get there first?"

"It's not the end of the world. Remember that it'll take ten years to deploy the system even after the concept is validated, and they haven't come close to doing that yet," the DCI pointed out. "The sky is not falling. This could even work to our benefit, couldn't it, James?"

"If Misha can get us a usable description of their breakthrough, yes. In most areas we're further along than they are," the DDI replied. "Ryan will need this for his report."

"He's not cleared for this!" Ritter objected.

"He had a look at Delta information before," Greer noted.

"Once. Only once, and there was a good reason for it -- and, yes, he did damned well for an amateur. James, there's nothing here he can use except that we have reason to suspect Ivan has made a power -- throughput? -- breakthrough, and that Gregory kid already suspects it. Tell Ryan we've confirmed the suspicion through other assets. Judge, you can tell the President yourself that something's up, but it'll have to wait a few weeks. It shouldn't go any farther than that for a while."

"Makes sense to me." The Judge nodded. Greer conceded the point without argument.

There was the temptation to voice the opinion that this was CARDINAL's most important mission, but that would have been too dramatic for any of the three senior executives, and besides, CARDINAL had provided CIA with a good deal of important data over the years. Judge Moore reread the report after the others had left. Foley had tagged onto the end that Ryan had literally bumped into CARDINAL after Mary Pat had given him the new assignment -- and right in front of Marshal Yazov. Judge Moore shook his head. What a pair, the Foleys. And how remarkable that Ryan had, after a fashion, made contact with Colonel Filitov. Moore shook his head. It was a crazy world.

Chapter 4 -- Bright Stars and Fast Ships

Jack didn't bother asking which "asset" had confirmed Major Gregory's suspicions. Field operations were something that he struggled -- successfully for the most part -- to keep at arm's length. What mattered was that the information was graded as Class-1 for reliability -- CIA's newly adopted grading system used numbers 1 -- 5 instead of letters A -- E, surely the result of six months' hard work by some deputy-assistant-to educated at Harvard Business School.

"What about specific technical information?"

"I'll let you know when it comes in," Greer replied.

"I got two weeks to deliver, boss," Ryan pointed out. Deadlines were never fun. This was especially true when the document being prepared was for the President's eyes.

"I do seem to recall reading that somewhere or other, Jack," the Admiral noted dryly. "The people at ACDA are calling me every day for the damned thing, too. I think what we'll do is have you run over to brief them in person."

Ryan winced. The whole point of his Special National Intelligence Estimate was to help set the stage for the next session of arms negotiations. The Arms Control and Disarmament Agency needed it also, of course, so that they'd know what to demand and how much they could safely concede. That was quite a bit of additional weight on his shoulders, but as Greer liked to tell him, Ryan did his best work under pressure. Jack wondered if maybe he should screw one up sometime, just to disprove that idea.

"When will I have to go over?"

"I haven't decided yet."

"Can I have a couple of days' warning?"

"We'll see."

Major Gregory was actually at home. This was fairly unusual; even more so, he was taking the day off. But that wasn't his doing. His General had decided that all work and no play were beginning to take their toll on the young man. It hadn't occurred to him that Gregory could work at home as well.

"Don't you ever stop?" Candi asked.

"Well, what are we supposed to do in between?" He smiled up from the keyboard.

The housing development was called Mountain View. It wasn't a rousing bit of originality. In that part of the country the only way not to see mountains was to close your eyes. Gregory had his own personal computer -- a very powerful Hewlett-Packard provided by the Project -- and occasionally wrote some of his "code" there. He had to be careful about the security classification of his work, of course, though he often joked that he himself wasn't cleared for what he was doing. That was not an unknown situation inside government.

Dr. Candace Long was taller than her fiancé at nearly five-ten, willowy, with short, dark hair. Her teeth were a little crooked because she'd never wanted to suffer through braces, and her glasses were even thicker than Alan's.

She was thin because like many academics she was so enthralled with her work that she often forgot to eat. They'd first met at a seminar for doctoral candidates at Columbia University. She was an expert in optical physics, specifically in adaptive-optics minors, a field she'd selected to complement her life-long hobby, astronomy. Living in the New Mexico highlands, she was able to do her own observations on a $5,000 Meade telescope, and, on occasion, to use the instruments at the Project to probe the heavens -- because, she pointed out, it was the only effective way to calibrate them. She had little real interest in Alan's obsession with ballistic-missile defense, but she was certain that the instruments they were developing had all kinds of "real" applications in her field of interest.

Neither of them was wearing very much at the moment. Both young people cheerfully characterized themselves as nerds, and as is often the case, they had awakened feelings in one another -- feelings that their more attractive college fellows would have not thought possible.

"What are you doing?" she asked.

"It's the misses we had. I think the problem's in the minor-control code."

"Oh?" It was her mirror. "You're sure it's software?"

"Yeah." Alan nodded. "I have the readouts from the Flying Cloud at the office. It was focusing just fine, but it was focusing on the wrong place."

"How long to find it?"

"Couple of weeks." He frowned at the screen, then shut it down. "The hell with it. If the General finds out that I'm doing this, he might never let me back in the door."

"I keep telling you." She wrapped her hands around the back of his neck. He leaned back, resting his head between her breasts. They were rather nice ones, he thought. For Alan Gregory it had been a remarkable discovery, how nice girls were. He'd dated occasionally in high school, but for the most part his life at West Point, then at Stony Brook, had been a monastic existence, devoted to studies and models and laboratories. When he'd met Candi, his initial interest had been in her ideas for configuring mirrors, but over coffee at the Student Union, he'd noticed in a rather clinical way that she was, well, attractive -- in addition to being pretty swift with optical physics. The fact that the things they frequently discussed in bed could be understood by less than one percent of the country's population was irrelevant. They found it as interesting as the things that they did in bed -- or almost so. There was a lot of experimentation to do there, too, and like good scientists, they'd purchased textbooks -- that's how they thought of them -- to explore all the possibilities. Like any new field of study, they found it exciting.

Gregory reached up to grasp Dr. Lang's head, and pulled her face down to his.

"I don't feel like working anymore for a while."

"Isn't it nice to have a day off?"

"Maybe I can arrange one for next week...

Boris Filipovich Morozov got off the bus an hour after sunset. He and fourteen other young engineers and technicians recently assigned to Bright Star -- though he didn't even know the project name yet -- had been met at the Dushanbe airport by KGB personnel who'd scrupulously checked their identity papers and photographs, and on the bus ride a KGB captain had given them a security lecture serious enough to get anyone's attention. They could not discuss their work with anyone outside their station; they could not write about what they did, and could not tell anyone where they were. Their mailing address was a post-office box in Novosibiirsk -- over a thousand miles away. The Captain didn't have to say that their mail would be read by the base security officers. Morozov made a mental note not to seal his envelopes. His family might be worried if they saw that his letters were being opened and resealed. Besides, he had nothing to hide. His security clearance for this posting had taken a mere four months. The KGB officers in Moscow who'd done the background check I had found his background beyond reproach, and even the six interviews that he'd gone through had ended on a friendly note.

The KGB Captain finished his lecture on a lighter note as well, describing the social and sport activities at the base, and the time and place for the biweekly Party meetings, which Morozov had every intention of attending as regularly as his work allowed. Housing, the Captain went on, was still a problem. Morozov and the other new arrivals would be placed in the dormitory -- the original barracks put up by the construction gangs who'd blasted the installation into the living rock. They would not be crowded, he said, and the barracks had I a game room, library, and even a telescope on the roof for astronomical observation; a small astronomy club had just formed. There was hourly bus service to the main residential facility, where there was a cinema, coffee shop, and a beer bar. There were exactly thirty-one unmarried females on the base, the Captain concluded, but one of them was engaged to him, "and any one of you who trifles with her will be shot!" That drew laughter. It wasn't very often that you met a KGB officer with a sense of humor.

It was dark when the bus pulled through the gate into the facility, and everyone aboard was tired. Morozov was not I terribly disappointed at the housing. All the beds were two-level bunks. He was assigned the top berth in a corner. Signs on the wall demanded silence in the sleeping area, since the workers here worked three shifts around the clock. The young engineer was perfectly content to change his clothes and go to sleep. He was assigned to the Directional Applications Section for a month of project orientation, after which he'd receive a permanent job assignment. He was wondering what "directional applications" meant when he drifted off to sleep.

The nice thing about vans was that lots of people owned them, and the casual observer couldn't see who was inside, Jack thought as the white one pulled into his carport. The driver was CIA, of course, as was the security man in the right seat. He dismounted and surveyed the area for a moment before pulling the side door open. It revealed a familiar face.

"Hello, Marko," Ryan said.

"So, this is house of spy!" Captain First Rank Marko Aleksandrovich Ramius, Soviet Navy (retired), said boisterously. His English was better, but like many Russian émigrés he often forgot to use articles in his speech. "No, house of helmsman!"

Jack smiled and shook his head. "Marko, we can't talk about that."

"Your family does not know?"

"Nobody knows. But you can relax. My family's away."

"Understand." Marko Ramius followed Jack into the house. On his passport, Social Security card, and Virginia driver's license he was now known as Mark Ramsey. Yet another piece of CIA originality, though it made perfect sense; you wanted people to remember their names. He was, Jack saw, a little thinner now that be was eating a less starchy diet. And tan. When they'd first met, at the forward escape trunk of the missile submarine Red October, Marko -- Mark! -- had worn the pasty-white skin of a submarine officer. Now he looked like an ad for Club Med.

"You seem tired," "Mark Ramsey" observed.

"They fly me around a lot. How do you like the Bahamas?"

"You see my tan, yes? White sand, sun, warm every day. Like Cuba when I went there, but nicer people."

"AUTEC, right?" Jack asked.

"Yes, but I cannot discuss this," Marko replied. Both men shared a look. AUTEC -- Atlantic Underwater Test and Evaluation Center -- was the Navy's submarine test range, where men and ships engaged in exercises called miniwars. What happened there was classified, of course. The Navy was very protective of its submarine operations. So Marko was at work I developing tactics for the Navy, doubtless playing the role of a Soviet commander in the war games, lecturing, teaching. Ramius had been known as "the Schoolmaster" in the Soviet Navy. The important things never change.

"How do you like it?"

"Tell this to nobody, but they let me be captain of American submarine for a week -- the real Captain he let me do everything, yes? I kill carrier! Yes! I kill Forrestal. They would be proud of me at Red Banner Northern fleet, yes?"

Jack laughed. "How'd the Navy like that?"

"Captain of submarine and me get very drunk. Forrestal Captain angry, but -- good sport, yes? He join us next week and we discuss exercise. He learn something, so good for all of us." Ramius paused. "Where is family?"

"Cathy's visiting her father. Joe and I don't get along very well."

"Because you are spy?" Mark/Marko asked.

"Personal reasons. Can I get you a drink?"

"Beer is good,"' he replied. Ramius looked around while Jack went into the kitchen. The house's cathedral ceiling towered fifteen feet -- five meters, be thought -- above the lush carpeting. Everything about the house testified to the money spent to make it so. He was frowning when Ryan returned.

"Ryan, I am not fool," be said sternly. "CIA does not pay so good as this."

"Do you know about the stock market?" Ryan asked with a chuckle.

"Yes, some of my money is invested there." All of the officers from Red October had enough money salted away that they'd never need to work again.

"Well, I made a lot of money there, and then I decided to quit and do something else."

That was a new thought for Captain Ramius. "You are not -- what is word? Greed. You have no more greed?"

"How much money does one man need?" Ryan asked rhetorically. The Captain nodded thoughtfully. "So, I have some questions for you."

"Ah, business." Marko laughed. "This you have not forgotten!"

Colonel Bondarenko was careful to keep his face impassive. Despite having written orders from the Defense Minister, and despite belonging to a completely different uniformed service, he was dealing with a general officer with patrons of his own in the Central Committee. But the General, too, had to be wary. Bondarenko was wearing his newest and best-tailored uniform, complete with several rows of ribbons, including two awards for bravery in Afghanistan and the special badge worn by Defense Ministry staff officers.

"Comrade General, I regret whatever inconvenience I have caused you, but I do have my orders."

"Of course," Pokryshkin noted with a broadening smile. He gestured to a silver tray. "Tea?"

"Thank you."

The General poured two cups himself instead of summoning his orderly. "Is that a Red Banner I see? Afghanistan?"

"Yes, Comrade General, I spent some time there."

"And how did you earn it?"

"I was attached to a Spetznaz unit as a special observer. We were tracking a small band of bandits. Unfortunately, they were smarter than the unit commander believed, and he allowed us to follow them into an ambush. Half the team was killed or wounded, including the unit commander." Who earned his death, Bondarenko thought. "I assumed command and called in help. The bandits withdrew before we could bring major forces to bear, but they did leave eight bodies behind."

"How did a communications expert -- "

"I volunteered. We were having difficulties with tactical communications, and I decided to take the situation in hand myself. I am not a real combat soldier, Comrade General, but there are some things you have to see for yourself. That is another concern I have with this post. We are perilously close to the Afghan border, and your security seems...not lax, but perhaps overly comfortable."

Pokryshkin nodded agreement. "The security force is KGB, as you have doubtless noted. They report to me, but 'are not strictly under my orders.' For early warning of possible threats, I have an arrangement with Frontal Aviation. Their aerial-reconnaissance school uses the valleys around here as a training area. A classmate of mine at Frunze has arranged coverage of this entire area. If anyone approaches this installation from Afghanistan, it's a long walk, and we'll know about it long before they get here."

Bondarenko noted this with approval. Procurer for wizards I or not, Pokryshkin hadn't forgotten everything, as too many general officers tended to do.

"So, Gennady Iosifovich, exactly what are you looking for?" the General asked. The atmosphere was somewhat milder now that both men had established their professionalism.

"The Minister wishes an appraisal of the effectiveness and reliability of your systems."

"Your knowledge of lasers?" Pokryshkin asked with a raised eyebrow.

"I am familiar with the applications side. I was on the team with Academician Goremykin that developed the new laser communications systems."

"Really? We have some of them here."

"I didn't know that," Bondarenko said.

"Yes. We use them in our guard towers, and to link our laboratory facilities with the shops. It's easier than stringing telephone lines, and is more secure. Your invention has proven I very useful indeed, Gennady Iosifovich. Well. You know our I mission here, of course .22

"Yes, Comrade General. How close are you to your goal?"

"We have a major system test coming up in three days."

"Oh?" Bondarenko was very surprised by that.

"We received permission to run it only yesterday. Perhaps the Ministry hasn't been fully informed. Can you stay for it?"

"I wouldn't miss it."

"Excellent." General Pokryshkin rose. "Come, let's go to see my wizards."

The sky was clear and blue, the deeper blue that comes from being above most of the atmosphere. Bondarenko was I surprised to see that the General did his own driving in a UAZ-469, the Soviet equivalent of a jeep.

"You do not have to ask, Colonel. I do my own driving because we do not have room up here for unnecessary personnel, and -- well, I was a fighter pilot. Why should I trust my life to some beardless boy who barely knows how to shift gears? How do you like our roads?"

Not at all, Bondarenko didn't say as the General speeded down a slope. The road was barely five meters wide, with a

"In your debriefing, you mentioned that you ran an exercise in which you fired a missile, and then a missile was fired at you.

###   "Yes, years ago -- was 1###1...April, yes, it was twenty April. I command Delta-class missile submarine, and we fire two rockets from White Sea, one into Okhotsk Sea, other at Sary Shagan. We test submarine rockets, of course, but also the missile defense radar and counterbattery system -- they simulated firing a missile at my submarine."

"You said it failed."

Marko nodded. "Submarine rockets fly perfectly. The Sary Shagan radar work, but too slow to intercept -- was computer problem, they say. They say get new computer, last thing I hear. Third part of test almost work."

"The counterfire part. That's the first we heard of it," Ryan noted. "How did they actually run the test?"

"They not fire land rocket, of course," Marko said. He held up a finger. "They do this, and you understand nature of test, yes? Soviets are not so stupid as you think. Of course you know that entire Soviet border covered with radar fence. These see rocket launch and compute where submarine is -- very easy thing to do. Next they call Strategic Rocket Force Headquarters. Strategic Rocket Force have regiment of old rockets on alert for this. They were ready to shoot back three minutes after detecting my missile on radar." He stopped for a moment. "You not have this in America?"

"No, not that I know of. But our new missiles fire from much farther away"

"Is true, but still good thing for Soviets, you see."

"How reliable is the system?"

That drew a shrug. "Not very. Problem is how alert the people are. In time of -- how you say? -- time of crisis, yes? In time of crisis, everyone is alert, and system may work some of time. But every time system works, many, many bombs do not explode in Soviet Union. Even one could save hundred thousand citizens. This is important to Soviet leadership. Hundred thousand more slaves to have after war end," he added to show his distaste for the government of his former homeland. "You have nothing like this in America?"

"Not that I have ever heard about," Ryan said truthfully. Ramius shook his head. "They tell us you do. When we fire our rockets, then we dive deep and race at flank speed, straight line in any direction."

"Right now I'm trying to figure out how interested the I Soviet government is in copying our SDI research."

"Interested?" Ramius snorted. "Twenty million Russians died in Great Patriotic War. You think they want to have this happen again? I tell you, Soviets are more intelligent about this than Americans -- we have harder lesson, and we I learn better. Someday I tell you about my home city after I war, destruction of everything. Yes, we have very good lesson in protect Rodina."

That's the other thing to remember about the Russians, Jack reminded himself. It wasn't so much that they had abnormally long memories; they had things in their history that no one would forget. To expect the Soviets to forget their losses in I the Second World War was as futile as asking Jews to forget the Holocaust, and just as unreasonable.

So, a little over three years ago, the Russians staged a major ABM exercise against submarine-launched ballistic missiles. The acquisition and tracking radar worked, but the system I failed due to a computer problem. That was important. But -- I

"The reason the computer didn't work well enough -- "

"That is all I know. All I can say is was honest test."

"What do you mean?" Jack asked.

"Our first...yes, our original orders were to fire from known location. But the orders were changed just as sub- I marine left dock. Eyes-only to Captain, new orders signed by aide to Defense Minister. Was Red Army colonel, I think. Do not remember name. Orders from Minister, but Colonel sign them, yes? He wanted the test to be -- how you say?"


"Yes! Not spontaneous. Real test should be surprise. So my I orders sent me to different place and said to shoot at different time. We have general aboard from Voyska PVO, and when see new orders he is banana. Very, very angry, but what kind of test is it without no surprise? American missile submarines do not call on telephone and tell Russians day that they shoot. You either are ready or not ready," Ramius noted.

"We did not know that you were coming," General Pokryshkin noted dryly. precipitous drop on the passenger side of the car.

"You should try this when it's icy!" The General laughed. "We've been lucky on weather lately. Last autumn we bad nothing but rain for two weeks. Most unusual here; the monsoon's supposed to drop all the water on India, but the winter has been agreeably dry and clear." He shifted gears as the road bottomed out. A truck was coming from the other direction, and Bondarenko did all he could not to cringe as the jeep's right-side tires spun through rocks at the road's uneven edge. Pokryshkin was having some fun with him, but that was to be expected. The truck swept past with perhaps a meter of clearance, and the General moved back to the center of the blacktopped road. He shifted gears again as they came to an upslope.

"We don't even have room for a proper office here -- for me at any rate," Pokryshkin noted. "The academicians have priority."

Bondarenko had seen only one of the guard towers that morning as he ran around the residential facility, and as the jeep climbed the last few meters, the Bright Star test area became visible.

There were three security checkpoints. General Pokryshkin stopped his vehicle and showed his pass at each of them.

"The guard towers?" Bondarenko asked.

"All manned round the clock. It is hard on the chekisti. I had to install electric heaters in the towers." The General chuckled. "We have more electrical power here than we know bow to use. We originally had guard dogs running between the fences, too, but we. had to stop that. Two weeks ago several of them froze to death. I didn't think that would work. We still have a few, but they walk about with the guards. I'd just as soon get rid of them."

"But -- "

"More mouths to feed," Pokryshkin explained. "As soon as it snows, we have to bring food in by helicopter. To keep guard dogs happy, they must eat meat. Do .you know what it does for camp morale to have dogs on a meat diet when our scientists don't have enough? Dogs aren't worth the trouble. The KGB commander agrees. He's trying to get permission to dispense with them altogether. We have starlight-scopes in all the towers. We can see an intruder long before a dog would smell or hear one."

"How big is your guard force?"

"A reinforced rifle company. One hundred sixteen officers and men, commanded by a lieutenant colonel. There are at least twenty guards on duty round the clock. Half here3 half on the other hill. Right here, two men in each of the towers at all times, plus four on roving patrol, and of course the people at the vehicle checkpoints. The area is secure, Colonel. A full rifle company with heavy weapons on top of this mountain -- to he sure, we had a Spetznaz team run an assault exercise last October. The umpires ruled them all dead before they got to within four hundred meters of our perimeter...One of them almost was, as a matter of fact. One pink-faced lieutenant damned near fell off the mountain." Pokryshkin turned. "Satisfied?"

"Yes, Comrade General. Please excuse my overly cautious nature."

"You didn't get those pretty ribbons from being a coward," the General observed lightly. "I am always open to new ideas. If you have something to say, my door is never locked."

Bondarenko decided that he was going to like General Pokryshkin. He was far enough from Moscow not to act like an officious ass, and unlike most generals, he evidently didn't see a halo in the mirror when he shaved. Perhaps there was hope for this installation after all. Filitov would be pleased.

"It is like being a mouse, with a hawk in the sky," Abdul observed.

"Then do what a mouse does," the Archer replied evenly. "Stay in the shadows."

He looked up to see the An-26. It was five thousand meters overhead, and the whine of its turbine engines barely reached them. Too far for a missile, which was unfortunate. Other mudjaheddin missileers had shot the Antonovs down, but not the Archer. You could kill as many as forty Russians that way. And the Soviets were learning to use the converted transports for ground surveillance. That made life harder on the guerrillas.

The two men were following a narrow path along the side of yet another mountain, and the sun hadn't reached them yet, though most of the valley was fully lit under the cloudless winter sky. The bombed-out ruins of a village lay next to a modest river. Perhaps two hundred people had lived there once, until the high-altitude bombers came. He could see the craters, laid out in uneven lines two or three kilometers in length. The bombs had marched through the valley, and those who had not been killed were gone -- to Pakistan -- leaving only emptiness behind. No food to be shared with the freedom fighters, no hospitality, not even a mosque in which to pray. Part of the Archer still wondered why war had to be so cruel. It was one thing for men to fight one another; there was honor in that, at times enough to be shared with a worthy enemy. But the Russians didn't fight that way. And they call us savages...

So much was gone. What he had once been, the hopes for the future he'd once held, all of his former life slipped further away with the passage of every day. It seemed that he only thought of them when asleep now -- and when he awoke, the dreams of a peaceful, contented life wafted away from his grasp like the morning mist. But even those dreams were fading away. He could still see his wife's face, and his daughter's, and his son's, but they were like photographs now, fiat, lifeless, cruel reminders of times that would not return. But at least they gave his life purpose. When he felt pity for his victims, when he wondered if Allah really approved of what he did -- of the things that had sickened him at first -- he could close his eyes for a moment and remind himself why the screams of dying Russians were as sweet to his ears as the passionate cries of his wife.

"Going away," Abdul noted.

The Archer turned to look. The sun glinted off the plane's vertical rudder as it passed beyond the far ridges. Even if he'd been atop that rocky edge, the An-26 would have been too high. The Russians weren't fools. They flew no lower than they had to. If he really wanted to get one of those, he'd have to get close to an airfield...or perhaps come up with a new tactic. That was a thought. The Archer started ordering the problem in his mind as he walked along the endless rocky path.

"Will it work?" Morozov asked.

"That is the purpose of the test, to see if it works," the senior engineer explained patiently. He remembered when he'd been young and impatient. Morozov had real potential. His documents from the university had shown that clearly enough. The son of a factory worker in Kiev, his intelligence and hard work had won him an appointment at the Soviet Union's most prestigious school, where he had won the highest honors -- enough to be excused from military service, which was unusual enough for someone without political connections.

"And this is new optical coating..." Morozov looked at the mirror from a distance of only a few centimeters. Both men wore overalls, masks, and gloves so that they would not damage the reflecting surface of the number-four mirror.

"As you have guessed, that is one element of the test." The engineer turned. "Ready!"

"Get clear," a technician called.

They climbed down a ladder fixed to the side of the pillar, then across the gap to the concrete ring that surrounded the hole.

"Pretty deep," he observed.

"Yes, we have to determine how effective our vibration-isolation measures are." The senior man was worried about that. He heard a jeep motor and turned to see the base commander lead another man into the laser building. Another visitor from Moscow, he judged. How do we ever get work done with all those Party hacks hanging over our shoulders?

"Have you met General Pokryshkin?" he asked Morozov.

"No. What sort of man is he?"

"I've met worse. Like most people, he thinks the lasers are the important part. Lesson number one, Boris Filipovich: it's the mirrors that are the important part -- that and the computers. The lasers are useless unless we can focus their energy on a specific point in space." This lesson told Morozov which part of the project came under this man's authority, but the newly certified engineer already knew the real lesson -- the entire system had to work perfectly. One faulty segment would convert the most expensive piece of hardware in the Soviet Union into a collection of curious toys.

Chapter 5 -- Eye of the Snake! Face of the Dragon

The converted Boeing 767 had two names. Originally known as the Airborne Optical Adjunct, it was now called Cobra Belle, which at least sounded better. The aircraft was little more than a platform for as large an infrared telescope as could be made to fit in the wide-bodied airliner. The engineers had cheated somewhat, of course, giving the fuselage an ungainly humpback immediately aft of the flight deck that extended half its length, and the 767 did look rather like a snake that had just swallowed something large enough to choke on. What was even more remarkable about the aircraft, however, was the lettering on its vertical tail: U.S. ARMY. This fact, which infuriated the Air Force, resulted from unusual prescience or obstinacy on the part of the Army, which even in the 1970s had never shut down its research into ballistic-missile defense, and whose "hobby shop" (as such places were known) had invented the infrared sensors on the AOA. But it was now part of an Air Force program whose coverall name was Cobra. It worked in coordination with the Cobra Dane radar at Shemya. and often flew in conjunction with an aircraft called Cobra Ball -- a converted 707 -- because Cobra was the code name for a family of systems aimed at tracking Soviet missiles. The Army was smugly satisfied that the Air Force needed its help, though wary of ongoing attempts to steal its program.

The flight crew went through its checklist casually, since they had plenty of time. They were from Boeing. So far the Army had successfully resisted attempts by the Air Force to get its own people on the flight deck. The copilot, who was ex-Air Force, ran his finger down the paper list of things to do, calling them off in a voice neither excited nor bored while the pilot and flight engineer/navigator pushed the buttons, checked the gauges, and otherwise made their aircraft ready for a safe flight.

The worst part of the mission was the weather on the ground. Shemya, one of the western Aleutians, is a small island, roughly four miles long by two wide, whose highest point is a mere two hundred thirty-eight feet above the slate-gray sea. What passed for average weather in the Aleutians would close most reputable airports, and what they called bad weather here made the Boeing crew wish for Amtrak. It was widely believed on the base that the only reason the Russians sent their ICBM tests to the Sea of Okhotsk was to make life as miserable as possible for the Americans who monitored them. Today the weather was fairly decent. You could see almost to the far end of the runway, where the blue lights were surrounded by little globes of mist. Like most flyers, the pilot preferred daylight, but in winter that was the exception here. He counted his blessings: there was supposed to be a ceiling at about fifteen hundred feet, and it wasn't raining yet. The crosswinds were a problem, too, but the wind never blew where you wanted up here -- or more correctly, the people who laid out the runway hadn't known or cared that wind was a factor in flying airplanes.

"Shemya Tower, this is Charlie Bravo, ready to taxi."

"Charlie Bravo, you are cleared to taxi. Winds are two-five-zero at fifteen." The tower didn't have to say that Cobra Belle was number one in line. At the moment, the 767 was the only aircraft on the base. Supposedly in California for equipment tests, it had been rushed here only twenty hours earlier.

"Roger. Charlie Bravo is rolling." Ten minutes later the Boeing started down the runway, to begin what was expected to be yet another routine mission.

Twenty minutes later the AOA reached its cruising altitude of 45,000 feet. The ride was the same smooth glide known by airline passengers, but instead of downing their first drinks and making their dinner selections, the people aboard this aircraft had already unbuckled and gone to work.

There were instruments to activate, computers to recycle, data links to set up, and voice links to check out. The aircraft was equipped with every communications system known to man, and would have had a psychic aboard if that Defense Department program -- there was one -- had progressed as well as originally hoped. The man commanding it was an artillery-man with a masters in astronomy, of all things, from the University of Texas. His last command had been of a Patriot missile battery in Germany. While most men looked at airplanes and wished to fly them, his interest had always been in shooting them out of the sky. He felt the same way about ballistic missiles, and bad helped develop the modification that enabled the Patriot missile to kill other missiles in addition to Soviet aircraft. It also gave him an intimate familiarity with the instruments used to track missiles in flight.

The mission book in the Colonel's hands was a facsimile print-out from the Washington headquarters of the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) telling him that in four hours and sixteen minutes the Soviets would conduct a test firing of the 55-25 ICBM. The book didn't say how DIA had obtained that information, though the Colonel knew that it wasn't from reading an ad in Izvestia. Cobra Belle's mission was to monitor the firing, intercept all telemetry transmissions from the missile's test instruments, and, most important, to take pictures of the warheads in flight. The data collected would later be analyzed to determine the performance of the missile, and most particularly the accuracy of its warhead delivery, a matter of the greatest interest to Washington.

As mission commander, the Colonel didn't have a great deal to do. His control board was a panel of colored lights that showed the status of various onboard systems. Since the AOA was a fairly new item in the inventory, everything aboard worked reasonably well. Today the only thing currently "down" was a backup data link, and a technician was working to put that back on line while the Colonel sipped his coffee. It was something of an effort for him to look interested while he had nothing in particular to do, but if he started looking bored, it would set a bad example for his people. He reached in the zippered sleeve pocket of his flight suit for a butterscotch candy. These were healthier than the cigarettes he'd smoked as a lieutenant, though not so good for his teeth, the base dentist liked to point out. The Colonel sucked on the candy for five minutes before be decided that he had to do something. He unstrapped from his command chair and went to the flight deck forward.

"'Morning, people." It was now 0004-Lima, or 12:04A.M., local time.

"Good morning, Colonel," the pilot replied for his crew. "Everything working in back, sir?"

"So far. How's the weather in the patrol area?"

"Solid undercast at twelve-to-fifteen thousand," the navigator answered, holding up a satellite photograph. "Winds three-two-five at thirty knots. Our nay systems check out with the track from Shemya," she added. Ordinarily the 767 operates with a crew of two flight officers. Not this one. Since the Korean Air 007 flight had been shot down by the Soviets, every flight over the Western Pacific was especially careful with its navigation. This was doubly true of Cobra Belle; the Soviets hated all intelligence-gathering platforms. They never went within fifty miles of Soviet territory, nor into the Russian Air Defense Identification Zone, but twice the Soviets had sent fighters to let the AOA know they cared.

"Well, we aren't supposed to get very close," the Colonel observed. He leaned between the pilot and copilot to look out the windows. Both turbofans were performing well. He would have preferred a four-engined aircraft for extended over-water flight, but that hadn't been his decision. The navigator raised an eyebrow at the Colonel's interest and got a pat on the shoulder by way of apology. It was time to leave.

"Time to observation area?"

"Three hours, seventeen minutes, sir; three hours thirty-nine minutes to orbit point."

"Guess I have time for a nap," the Colonel said on his way to the door. He closed it and walked aft, past the telescope assembly to the main cabin. Why was it that the crews doing the flying now were so damned young? They probably think I need a nap instead of being bored to death.

Forward, the pilot and copilot shared a look. Old fart doesn't trust us to fly the goddamned airplane, does he? They adjusted themselves in their seats, letting their eyes scan for the blinking lights of other aircraft while the autopilot controlled the aircraft.

Morozov was dressed like the other scientists in the control room, in a white laboratory coat adorned with a security pass. He was still going through orientation, and his assignment to the minor-control team was probably temporary, though he was beginning to appreciate just bow important this part of the program was. In Moscow, he'd learned how lasers work, and done some impressive lab work with experimental models, but he'd never truly appreciated the fact that when the energy came out the front of the instruments the task had only begun. Besides, Bright Star had already made its breakthrough in laser power.

"Recycle," the senior engineer said into his headset.

They were testing the system calibration by tracking their mirrors on a distant star. It didn't even matter which star. They picked one at random for each test.

"Makes one hell of a telescope, doesn't it?" the engineer noted, looking at his TV screen.

"You were concerned about the stability of the system. Why?"

"We require a very high degree of accuracy, as you might imagine. We've never actually tested the complete system. We can track stars easily enough, but..." He shrugged. "This is still a young program, my friend. Just like you.

"Why don't you use radar to select a satellite and track on that?"

"That's a fine question!" The older man chuckled. "I've asked that myself. It has to do with arms-control agreements or some such nonsense. For the moment, they tell us, it is enough that they feed us coordinates of our targets via landline. We do not have to acquire them ourselves. Rubbish!" he concluded.

Morozov leaned back in his chair to look around. On the other side of the room, the laser-control team were shuffling about busily, with a flock of uniformed soldiers behind them whispering to themselves. Next he checked the clock -- sixty-three minutes until the test began. One by one, the technicians were drifting off to the rest room. He didn't feel the need, nor did the section chief, who finally pronounced himself satisfied with his systems, and placed everything on standby.

At 22,300 miles over the Indian Ocean, an American Defense Support Program satellite hung in geosynchronous orbit over a fixed point on the Indian Ocean. Its huge cassegrainfocus Schmidt telescope was permanently aimed at the Soviet Union, and its mission was to provide first warning that Russian missiles had been launched at the United States. Its data was downlinked via Alice Springs, Australia, to various installations in the United States. Viewing conditions were excellent at the moment. Almost the entire visible hemisphere of the earth was in darkness, and the cold, wintry ground easily showed the smallest heat source in precise definition.

The technicians who monitored the DSPS in Sunnyvale, California, routinely amused themselves by counting industrial facilities. There was the Lenin Steel Plant at Kazan, and there was the big refinery outside Moscow, and there -- "Heads up," a sergeant announced. "We have an energy bloom at Plesetsk. Looks like one bird lifting off from the ICBM test facility."

The Major who had the duty this night immediately got on the phone to "Crystal Palace," the headquarters of the North American Aerospace Defense Command -- NORAD -- under Cheyenne Mountain, Colorado, to make sure that they were copying the satellite data. They were, of course.

"That's the missile launch they told us about," he said to himself.

As they watched, the bright image of the missile rocket exhaust started turning to an easterly heading as the ICBM arced over into the ballistic flight path that gave the missile its name. The Major had the characteristics of all Soviet missiles memorized. If this were an SS-25, the first stage would separate right

The screen bloomed bright before their eyes as a fireball six hundred yards in diameter appeared. The orbiting camera did the mechanical equivalent of a blink, altering its sensitivity after its sensors were dazzled by the sudden burst of heat energy. Three seconds later it was able to track on a cloud of heated fragments, curving down to earth.

"Looks like that one blew," the sergeant observed unnecessarily. "Back to the drawing board, Ivan."

"Still haven't licked the second-stage problem," the Major added. He wondered briefly what the problem was, but didn't care all that much. The Soviets had rushed the -25 into production and had already begun deploying them on railcars for mobility, but they were still having problems with the solid-fuel bird. The Major was glad for it. It didn't take a great degree of unreliability in missiles to make their use a very chancy thing. And that uncertainty was still the best guarantee of peace.

"Crystal Palace, we call that test a failure at fifty-seven seconds after launch. Is Cobra Belle up to monitor the test?"

"That's affirmative," the officer on the other end replied. "We'll call them off."

"Right. 'Night, Jeff."

Aboard Cobra Belle, ten minutes later, the mission commander acknowledged the message and cut off the radio channel. He checked his watch and sighed. He didn't feel like heading back to Shemya yet. The Captain in charge of the mission hardware suggested that they could always use the time to calibrate their instruments. The Colonel thought about that one and nodded approval. The aircraft and crew were new enough that everyone needed the practice. The camera system was put in the MTI-mode. A computer that registered all the energy sources the telescope found began to search only for targets that were moving. The technicians on the screens watched as the Moving-Target Indicator rapidly eliminated the stars and began to find a few low-altitude satellites and fragments of orbiting space junk. The camera system was sensitive enough to detect the heat of a human body at a range of one thousand miles, and soon they had their choice of targets. The camera locked on them one by one and made its photographic images in digital code on computer tape. Though mainly a practice drill, this data would automatically be forwarded to NORAD, where it would update the register of information of orbiting objects.

"The power-output breakthrough you've made is breathtaking," Colonel Bondarenko said quietly.

"Yes," General Pokryshkin agreed. "Amazing how that happens, isn't it? One of my wizards notices something and tells another, who tells another, and the third says something that works its way back to the first, and so on. We have the best minds in the country here, and still the discovery process seems about as scientific as stubbing your toe on a chair! That's the odd part. But that's what makes it so exciting. Gennady Iosifovich, this is the most exciting thing I've done since I won my wings! This place will change the world. After thirty years of work, we may have discovered the basis of a system to protect the Rodina against enemy missiles."

Bondarenko thought that was an overstatement, but the test would demonstrate just how much of an overstatement. Pokryshkin was the perfect man for this job, however. The former fighter pilot was a genius at directing the efforts of the scientists and engineers, many of whom had egos as large as a battle tank, though far more fragile. When he had to bully, he bullied. When he had to cajole, he cajoled. He was by turns the father, uncle, and brother to all of them. It took a man with a large Russian heart to do that. The Colonel guessed that commanding fighter pilots had been good training for this task, and Pokryshkin must have been a brilliant regimental commander. The balance between pressure and encouragement was so hard to strike, but this man managed it as easily as breathing. Bondarenko was watching how he did it very closely. There were lessons here that he could use in his own career.

The control room was separate from the laser building itself, and too small for the men and equipment it held. There were over a hundred engineers -- sixty doctorates in physics -- and even those called technicians could have taught the sciences at any university in the Soviet Union. They sat or hovered at their consoles. Most smoked, and the air-conditioning system needed to cool the computers struggled mightily to keep the air clear. Everywhere were digital counters. Most showed the time: Greenwich Mean Time, by which the satellites were tracked; local time; and, of course, Moscow Standard Time. Other counters showed the precise coordinates of the target satellite, Cosmos-1810, which bore the international satellite designator 1986-102A. It had been launched from the Cosmodrome at Tyuratam on December 26, 1986, and was still up because it had failed to deorbit with its film. Telemetry showed that its electrical systems were still functioning, though its orbit was slowly decaying, with a current perigee -- the lowest point in its orbit -- of one hundred eighty kilometers. It was now approaching perigee, directly over Bright Star.

"Powering up!" the chief engineer called over the intercom headsets. "Final system check."

"Tracking cameras on line," one technician reported. The wall speakers filled the room with his voice. "Cryogen flows nominal."

"Minor tracking controls in automatic mode," reported the engineer sitting next to Morozov. The young engineer was on the edge of his swivel chair, eyes locked to a television screen that was as yet blank.

"Computer sequencing in automatic," a third said.

Bondarenko sipped at his tea, trying and failing to calm himself. He'd always wanted to be present for a space rocket launch, but never been able to arrange it. This was the same sort of thing. The excitement was overpowering. All around him machines and men were uniting into a single entity to make something happen as one after another announced the readiness of himself and his equipment. Finally:

"All laser systems are fully powered and on-line."

"We are ready to shoot," the chief engineer concluded the litany. All eyes turned to the right side of the building, where the team on the tracking cameras had their instruments trained on a section of the horizon to the northwest. A white dot appeared, coming upward into the black dome of the night sky...

"Target acquisition!"

Next to Morozov, the engineer lifted his hands from the control panel to ensure that he wouldn't inadvertently touch a button. The "automatic" light was blinking on and off.

Two hundred meters away, the six minors arrayed around the laser building twisted and turned together, coming almost vertical with the ground as they tracked after a target sitting above the jagged, mountainous horizon. On the next knoll over, the four mirrors of the imaging array did the same. Outside, alarm klaxons sounded, and rotating hazard lights warned everyone in the open to turn away from the laser building.

On the TV screen next to the chief engineer's console sat a photograph of Cosmos-181O. As the final assurance against mistakes, he and three others had to make positive visual identification of their target.

"That one's Cosmos-1810," the Captain was telling the Colonel aboard Cobra Belle. "Broken recon bird. Must have had a reentry-motor failure -- it didn't come back down when they told it to. It's in degenerating orbit, should have about four more months left. The satellite's still sending routine telemetry data out. Nothing important, far as we can tell, just telling Ivan that it's still up there."

"The solar panels must still be working," the Colonel observed. The heat came from internal power.

"Yeah. I wonder why they didn't just turn it off...Anyway, the onboard temperature reads out at, oh, fifteen degrees Celsius or so. Nice cold background to read it against. In sunlight we might not have been able to pick out the difference between onboard and solar heating...

The mirrors in the laser-transmitter array tracked slowly, but the movement was discernible on the six television screens that monitored them. A low-power laser reflected off one mirror, reaching out to find the target...In addition to aiming the whole system, it made a high-resolution image on the command console. The identity of the target was now confirmed. The chief engineer turned the key that "enabled" the entire system. Bright Star was now fully out of human hands, controlled wholly by the. site's main computer complex.

"There's target lock," Morozov observed to his senior.

The engineer nodded agreement. His range readout was rapidly dropping as the satellite came toward them, circling its way to destruction at 18,000 miles per hour. The image they had was of a slightly oblong blob, white with internal heat against a sky devoid of warmth. It was exactly in the center of the targeting reticle, like a white oval in a gunsight.

They didn't hear anything, of course. The laser building was fully insulated against temperature and sound. Nor did they see anything on ground level. But, watching the television screens in the control building, a hundred men balled hands into fists at the same instant.

"What the hell!" the Captain exclaimed. The image of Cosmos-1810 suddenly went as bright as the sun. The computer instantly adjusted its sensitivity, but for several seconds failed to keep pace with the change in the target's temperature.

"What in hell hit...Sir, that can't be internal heat." The Captain punched up a command on his keyboard and got a digital readout of the satellite's apparent temperature. Infrared radiation is a fourth-power function. The heat given off by an object is the square of the square of its temperature. "Sir, the target temperature went from fifteen-C to...looks like eighteen hundred-C in under two seconds. Still climbing...wait, it's dropping -- no, it's climbing again. Rate of rise is irregular, almost like...Now it's dropping. What in the hell was that?"

To his left, the Colonel started punching buttons on his communications console, activating an encrypted satellite link to Cheyenne Mountain. When he spoke, it was in the matter-of-fact tone that professional soldiers save for only the worst nightmares. The Colonel knew exactly what he'd just seen.

"Crystal Palace, this is Cobra Belle. Stand by to copy a Superflash message."

"Standing by."

"We have a high-energy event. I say again, we are tracking a high-energy event. Cobra Belle declares a Dropshot. Acknowledge." He turned to the Captain, and his face was pale.

At NORAD headquarters, the senior watch officer had to quickly check his memory to remember what a Dropshot was. Two seconds later, a "Jesus" was spoken into his headset. Then: "Cobra Belle, we acknowledge your last. We acknowledge your Dropshot. Stand by while we get moving here. Jesus," he said again, and turned to his deputy. "Transmit a Dropshot Alert to the NMCC and tell them to stand by for hard data. Find Colonel Welch and get him in code here." The watch officer next lifted a phone and punched the code for his ultimate boss, Commander in Chief of North American Aerospace Defense Command, CINCNORAD.

"Yes," a gruff voice said over the phone.

"General, this is Colonel Henriksen. Cobra Belle has declared a Dropshot Alert. They say they have just seen a high-energy event."

"Have you informed NMCC?"

"Yes, sir, and we're calling Doug Welch in also."

"Do you have their data yet?"

"It'll be ready when you get here."

"Very well, Colonel. I'm on the way. Get a bird up to Shemya to fly that Army guy down."

The Colonel aboard Cobra Belle was now talking to his communications officer, ordering him to send everything they had via digital link to NORAD and Sunnyvale. This was accomplished in under five minutes. Next the mission commander told the Flight crew to return to Shemya. They still had enough fuel for two more hours of patrolling, but he figured that nothing else would be happening tonight. What had taken place to this point was enough. The Colonel had just had the privilege of witnessing something that few men in human history ever saw. He had just seen the world change, and unlike most men, he understood the significance of it. It was an honor, he told himself, that he would just as soon have never seen.

"Captain, they got there first." Dear God.

Jack Ryan was just about to take the cloverleaf exit off I-495 when his car phone rang.


"We need you back here."

"Right." The line clicked off. Jack took the exit and stayed in the curb lane, continuing to take another of the sweeping cloverleaf exits back onto the Washington Beltway, and back to CIA. It never failed. He'd taken the afternoon off to meet with the SEC people. It had turned out that the company officers had been cleared of any wrongdoing, and that cleared him, too -- or would, if the SEC investigators ever closed their file. He'd hoped to call it a day and drive home. Ryan grumbled as he headed back toward Virginia, wondering what today's crisis was.

Major Gregory and three members of his software team were all standing by a blackboard, diagramming the flow of their mirror-control program package when a sergeant entered the room.

"Major, you're wanted on the phone."

"I'm busy, can it wait?"

"It's General Parks, sir."

"His master's voice," Al Gregory grumbled. He tossed the chalk to the nearest man and walked out of the room. He was on the phone in a minute.

"There's a helicopter on its way to pick you up," the General said without any pleasantries.

"Sir, we're trying to nail down -- "

"There'll be a Lear waiting for you at Kirtland. Not enough time to get you here on a commercial bird. You won't need to pack. Get moving, Major!"


"What went wrong?" Morozov asked. The engineer stared at his console, an angry frown on his face.

"Thermal blooming. Damn! I thought we'd put that one behind us."

Across the room, the low-powered laser system was making another image of the target. The monocolor image was like a close-up black-and-white photograph, though what would have been black was maroon instead. The television technicians made up a split-screen image to compare before and after.

"No holes," Pokryshkin noted sourly.

"So what?" Bondarenko said in surprise. "My God, man, you melted the thing! That looks like it was dipped in a ladle of molten steel." And indeed it did. What had been flat surfaces were now rippled from the intense heat that was still radiating away. The solar cells arrayed on the body of the satellite -- which were designed to absorb light energy -- appeared 'to be burned off entirely. On closer inspection, the entire satellite body was distorted from the energy that had blasted it.

Pokryshkin nodded, but his expression hadn't changed.

"We were supposed to have chopped a hole right through it. If we can do that, it would look as though a piece of orbiting space junk had impacted the satellite. That's the kind of energy concentration we were looking for."

"But you can now destroy any American satellite you wish!"

"Bright Star wasn't built to destroy satellites, Colonel. We can already do that easily enough."

And Bondarenko got the message. Bright Star had, in fact, been built for that specific purpose, but the power break through that had justified the funding for the installation exceeded expectations by a factor of four, and Pokryshkin wanted to make two leap sat once, to demonstrate an antisatellite capability and a system that could be adapted to ballistic-missile defense. This was an ambitious man, though not in the usual sense.

Bondarenko set that aside and thought about what he'd seen. What had gone wrong? It must have been thermal blooming. As the laser beams chopped through the air, they'd transferred a fractional amount of their power as heat in the atmosphere. This had roiled the air, disturbing the optical path, moving the beam on and off the target and also spreading the beam wider than its intended diameter.

But despite that, it had still been powerful enough to melt metal one hundred eighty kilometers away! the Colonel told himself. This was no failure. It was a giant leap toward a wholly new technology.

"Any damage to the system?" the General asked the project director.

"None, otherwise we'd not have gotten the follow-up image. It would appear that our atmospheric-compensation measures are sufficient for the imaging beam but not for the high-power transmission. Half a success, Comrade General."

"Yes." Pokryshkin rubbed his eyes for a moment and spoke more firmly. "Comrades, we have demonstrated great progress tonight, but there is still more work to be done."

"And that's my job," Morozov's neighbor said. "We'll solve this son of a bitch!"

"Do you need another man for your team?"

"It's part mirrors and part computers. How much do you know about those?"

"That is for you to decide. When do we begin?"

"Tomorrow. It'll take twelve hours for the telemetry people to organize their data. I'm going to catch the next bus back to my flat and have a drink. My family is away for another week. Care to join me?"

"What do you think that was?" Abdul asked.

They had just gotten to the top of a ridge when the meteor had appeared. At least, it had looked like a meteor's fiery track across the sky at first. But the thin golden line had hung there, and actually marched upward -- very quickly, but it had been discernible.

A thin golden line, the Archer thought. The air itself had glowed. What made the air do that? He forgot where and who he now was for a moment, thinking back to his university days. Heat made air do that. Only heat'. When a meteor came down, the friction of its passage...but this line could not have been a meteor. Even if the upward stroke had been an illusion -- and he wasn't sure of that; eyes could play tricks -- the golden line had lasted for nearly five seconds. Perhaps longer, the Archer reflected. Your mind couldn't measure time either. Hmph. He sat down abruptly and pulled out his note pad. The CIA man had given him that and told him to keep a diary of events. A useful thing to do; it hadn't ever occurred to him. He wrote down the time, date, place, and approximate direction. In a few more days he'd be heading back to Pakistan, and perhaps the CIA man would find this interesting.

Chapter 6 -- One if by Land

It was dark when he arrived. Gregory's driver came off the George Washington Parkway toward the Pentagon's Mall entrance. The guard raised the gate, allowing the nondescript government Ford -- the Pentagon was buying Fords this year -- to proceed up the ramp, loop around the handful of parked cars, and drop him off at the steps right behind a shuttle bus. Gregory knew the routine well enough: show the guard the pass, walk through the metal detector, then down the corridor filled with state flags, past the cafeteria, and down the ramp to the shopping arcade lit and decorated in the style of a 12th-century dungeon. In fact, Gregory had played Dungeons and Dragons in high school, and his first trip to the dreary polygon of a building had convinced him that the authors' inspiration had come from this very place.

The Strategic Defense Initiative Office was beneath the Pentagon's shopping concourse (its entrance, in fact, directly under the pastry shop), a space about a thousand feet long that had previously been the bus and taxi stand -- before the advent of car bombs had persuaded the nation's defense community that automobiles were not all that fine a thing to have under the E-ring. This portion of the building, therefore, was the newest and most secure office -- for the nation's newest and least secure military program. Here Gregory took out his other pass. He showed it to the four people at the security desk, then held it against the wall panel that interrogated its electromagnetic coding and decided that the Major could enter. This took him through a waiting room to double glass doors. He smiled at the receptionist as he went through, then at General Parks's secretary. She nodded back, but was annoyed to be staying so late and was not in a smiling mood.

Neither was Lieutenant General Bill Parks. His spacious office included a desk, a low table for coffee and intimate talks, and a larger conference table. The walls were covered with framed photographs of various space activities, along with numerous models of real and imagined space vehicles...and weapons. Parks was usually a genial man. A former test pilot, he'd marched through a career so accomplished that one would expect a bluff-hearty handshaker to have done it. Instead, Parks was an almost monkish person, with a smile that was at once engagingly shy and quietly intense. His many ribbons did not adorn his short-sleeved shirt, only a miniature of his command-pilot's wings. He didn't have to impress people with what he'd done. He could do so with what he was. Parks was one of the brightest people in government, certainly in the top ten, perhaps in the top one. Gregory saw that the General had company tonight.

"We meet again, Major," Ryan said, turning. In his hands was a ring binder of perhaps two hundred pages that he was halfway through.

Gregory came to attention -- for Parks -- and reported-as-ordered, sir.

"How was the flight?"

"Super. Sir, is the soda machine in the same place? I'm a little dried out."

Parks grinned for half a second. "Go ahead, we're not in that much of a hurry.

"You have to love the kid," the General said after the door closed behind him.

"I wonder if his mom knows what he's doing after school." Ryan chuckled, then turned serious. "He hasn't seen any of this yet, right?"

"No, we didn't have time, and the Colonel from the Cobra Belle won't be here for another five hours."

Jack nodded. That was why the only CIA people here were himself and Art Graham from the satellite unit. Everyone else would get a decent night's sleep while they prepared the full briefing for tomorrow morning. Parks could have skipped it himself and left the work to his senior scientists, but he wasn't that sort of man. The more Ryan saw of Parks, the more he liked him. Parks fulfilled the first definition of a leader. He was a man with a vision -- and it was a vision with which Ryan agreed. Here was a senior man in uniform who hated nuclear weapons. That wasn't terribly unusual -- people in uniform tend to be rather tidy, and nuclear weapons make for a very untidy world. Quite a few soldiers, sailors, and airmen had swallowed their opinions and built careers around weapons that they hoped would never be used. Parks had spent the last ten years of his career trying to find a way to eliminate them. Jack liked people who tried to swim against the tide. Moral courage was more rare a commodity than the physical kind, a fact as true of the military profession as any other.

Gregory reappeared with a can of Coca-Cola from a machine near the door. Gregory didn't like coffee. It was time for work.

"What gives, sir?"

"We have a videotape from Cobra Belle. They were up to monitor a Soviet ICBM test. Their bird -- it was an SS-25 -- -- blew, but the mission commander decided to stay up and play with his toys. This is what he saw." The General lifted the remote-control for the VCR and thumbed the Play button.

"That's Cosmos-1810," Art Graham said, handing over a photograph. "It's a recon bird that went bad on them."

"Infrared picture on the TV, right?" Gregory asked, sipping at his Coke. "God!"

What had been a single dot of light blossomed like an exploding star in a science-fiction movie. But this wasn't science fiction. The picture changed as the computerized imaging system fought to keep up with the energy burst. At the bottom of the screen a digital display appeared, showing the apparent temperature of the glowing satellite. In a few seconds the image faded, and again the computer had had to adjust to keep track on the Cosmos.

There was a second or two of static on the screen, then a new image began to form.

"This is ninety minutes old. The satellite went over Hawaii a few orbits later," Graham said. "We have cameras there to eyeball the Russian satellites. Look at the shot I save you."

"'Before' and 'After,' right?" Gregory's eyes flicked from one image to another. "Solar panels are What's the body of the satellite made of?"

"Aluminum, for the most part," Graham said. "The Russian go in for ruggeder construction than we do. The internal frames may be made of steel, but more likely titanium or magnesium.

"That gives us a top-end figure for the energy transfer," Gregory said. "They killed the bird. They got it hot enough to fry the solar cells right off, and probably enough to disrupt the electrical circuitry inside. What height was it at?"

"One hundred eighty kilometers."

"Sary Shagan or that new place Mr. Ryan showed me?"

"Dushanbe," Jack said. "The new one."

"But the new power lines aren't finished yet."

"Yeah," Graham observed. "They can at least double the power we just saw demonstrated. Or at least they think they can." His voice was that of a man who had just discovered a fatal disease at work on a family member.

"Can I see the first sequence again?" Gregory said. It was almost an order. Jack noted that General Parks carried it out at once.

This continued for another fifteen minutes, with Gregory standing a bare three feet from the television monitor, drinking his Coke and staring at the screen. The last three times, the picture was advanced frame by frame while the young Major took notes at every one. Finally he'd had enough.

"I can have you a power figure in half an hour, but for the moment, I think they've got some problems."

"Blooming," General Parks said.

"And aiming difficulty, sir. At least, it looks like that, too. I need some time to work, and a good calculator. I left mine at work," he admitted sheepishly. There was an empty pouch on his belt, next to his beeper. Graham tossed one over, an expensive Hewlett-Packard programmable.

"What about the power?" Ryan asked.

"I need some time to give you a good number," Gregory said as though to a backward child. "Right now, at least eight times anything we can do. I need a quiet place to work. Can I use the snack room?" he asked Parks. The General nodded, and he left.

"Eight times..." Art Graham observed. "Christ, they might be able to smoke the DSPS birds. It's for damned sure they can wreck any communications satellite they want. Well, there are ways to protect them

Ryan felt a little left out. His education was in history and economics, and he hadn't quite learned the language of the physical sciences yet.

"Three years," General Parks breathed as he poured some coffee. "At least three years ahead of us."

"Only in power throughput," Graham said.

Jack looked from one to another, knowing the significance of what they were worried about, but not its substance. Gregory came back in twenty minutes.

"I make their peak power output something between twenty-five and thirty million watts," he announced. "If we assume six lasers in the transmission assembly, that's -- well, that's enough, isn't it? It's just a matter of racking enough of them together and directing them at a single target.

"That's the bad news. The good news is, they definitely had blooming problems. They only delivered peak power on target for the first few thousandths of a second. Then it started blooming out on them. Their average power delivery was between seven and nine megawatts. And it looks like they had an aiming problem on top of the blooming. Either the mounts aren't shock-mounted properly or they can't correct for the earth's rotational jitter. Or maybe both. Whatever the actual reason, they have trouble aiming more accurately than three seconds of arc. That means they're only going to accurate plus or minus two hundred forty meters for a geostationary satellite -- of course, those targets are pretty stationary, and the movement factor could count either way."

"How's that?" Ryan asked.

"Well, on one hand, if you're hitting a moving target -- and low-earth-orbit birds move across the sky pretty fast; something like eight thousand meters per second -- there are fourteen hundred meters per degree of arc; so we're tracking a target that's moving about five degrees per second. Okay so far? Thermal blooming means that the laser is giving up a lot of its energy to the atmosphere. If you're tracking across the sky rapidly, you keep having to drill a new hole in the air. But it takes time for the bloom to get real bad -- and that helps you. On the other hand, if you've got vibration problems, every time you change your aiming point, you add a new variable into your targeting geometry, and that makes things a lot worse. Shooting at a fairly stationary target, like a communications satellite, you simplify your aiming problem, but you keep shooting up the same thermal bloom until you lose almost all your energy into the air. See what I mean?"

Ryan grunted agreement, though his mind had again reached beyond its limit. He barely understood the language the kid was speaking, and the information Gregory was trying to communicate was in a field that he simply didn't understand. Graham jumped in.

"Are you telling me we don't have to worry about this?"

"No, sir! If you got the power, you can always figure out how to deliver it. Hell, we've already done that. That's the easy part."

"As I told you," the engineer told Morozov, "the problem isn't getting the lasers to put the power out -- that's the easy part. The hard part is delivering the energy to the target."

"Your computer cannot correct for -- what?"

"It must be a combination of things. We'll be going over that data today. The main thing? Probably the atmospheric-compensation programming. We'd thought that we could adjust the aiming process to eliminate blooming -- well, we didn't. Three years of theoretical work went into yesterday's test. My project. And it didn't work." He stared off at the horizon and frowned. The operation on his sick child hadn't quite been successful but, the doctors said, there was still hope.

"So the increase in laser output came from this?" Bondarenko asked.

"Yes. Two of our younger people -- he's only thirty-two and she's twenty-eight -- came up with a way to increase the diameter of the lasing cavity. What we still need to do, however, is come up with better control of the wiggler magnets," Pokryshkin said.

The Colonel nodded. The whole point of the free-electron laser that both sides were working on was that one could "tune" it much like a radio, choosing the light frequency that one wished to transmit -- or that was the theory. As a practical matter, the highest power output was always in about the same frequency range -- and it was the wrong one. If they'd been able to put out a slightly different frequency the day before -- one that penetrated the atmosphere more efficiently -- the thermal blooming might have been reduced by fifty percent or so. But that meant controlling the superconducting magnets better. They were called wigglers because they induced an oscillating magnetic field through the charged electrons in the lasing cavity. Unfortunately, the breakthrough that made the lasing cavity larger had also had an unexpected effect on their ability to control magnetic-field flux. There was no theoretical explanation for this as yet, and the thinking of the senior scientists was that there was a minor, though undiscovered, engineering problem in the magnet design. The senior engineers, of course, said that there was something wrong in the theorists' explanation for what was happening, because they knew the magnets worked properly. The arguments that had already rocked the conference rooms were spirited but cordial. A number of very bright people were struggling together to find Truth -- the scientific kind that did not depend on human opinion.

Bondarenko's mind reeled at the details even as he scribbled down his notes. He'd thought himself knowledgeable on lasers -- he had, after all, helped to design a wholly new application for them -- but looking at the work that had been done here, he thought himself a toddling child wandering through a university laboratory and wondering at the pretty lights. The principal breakthrough, he wrote, was in the lasing-cavity design. It allowed the enormous increase in power output, and had been made over a table in the canteen when an engineer and a physicist had jointly stumbled across a piece of Truth. The Colonel smiled to himself. Pravda was actually the word they used. "Truth" was the exact translation, and the two young academicians had spoken it so artlessly. Indeed, that was a word that had gained currency at Bright Star, and Bondarenko wondered how much of that was an inside joke of some sort or another. "But is it pravilno," they would ask of a fact. "Is it truthful?"

Well, he told himself, one thing was truthful enough. Those two people who'd met to discuss their love life -- Bondarenko had already heard the story in greater detail -- over a canteen table had combined to make a colossal leap forward in laser power. The rest would come in good time, Bondarenko told himself. It always did.

"So it appears that your main problem is computer control, both of your magnetic flux field and the mirror array."

"Correct, Colonel." Pokryshkin nodded agreement. "And we need some additional funding and support to correct these difficulties. You must tell them in Moscow that the most important work has already been done, and proven to work."

"Comrade General, you have won me over."

"No, Comrade Colonel. You merely have the intelligence to perceive the truth!" Both men had a good laugh as they shook hands. Bondarenko couldn't wait for the flight back to Moscow. The time had long passed when a Soviet officer needed to fear at the delivery of bad news, but the delivery of good news was always good for one's career.

"Well, they can't be using adaptive optics," General Parks said. "What I want to know is where their optical coatings came from."

"That's the second time I heard about that one." Ryan stood and walked around the table to get his circulation going. "What's the big deal about the mirror? It's a glass mirror, isn't it?"

"Not glass -- can't handle the energy. Right now we're using copper or molybdenum," Gregory said. "A glass mirror has its reflecting surface at the back. This kind of mirror, the reflecting surface is on the front. There's a cooling system on the back."

"Huh?" You should have taken more science courses at BC, Jack.

"Light doesn't reflect off the bare metal," Graham said. It seemed to Ryan that he was the only dummy in the room. And be, of course, was the one tapped to write the Special National Intelligence Estimate. "It reflects off an optical coating. For really precise applications -- an astronomical telescope, for example -- what's on the face of the mirror looks like a skim of gasoline on a puddle." "Then why use metal at all?" Jack objected. The Major answered.

"You use metal to keep the reflecting surface as cool as possible. We're trying to get away from it, as a matter of fact. Project ADAMANT: Accelerated Development of Advanced Materials and New Technologies Group. We're hoping the next mirror will be made out of diamond."


"Artificial diamond made from pure Carbon-12 -- that's an isotopic form of regular carbon, and it's perfect for us. The problem is energy absorption," Gregory went on. "If the surface retains much of the light, the heat energy can blast the coating right off the glass, then the mirror blows apart. I watched a half-meter mirror let go once. Sounded like God snapping His fingers. With C-12 diamond you have a material that's almost a superconductor of heat. It permits increased power density, and a smaller mirror. General Electric just learned how to make gemstone-quality diamond out of Carbon-12. Candi's already working to see how we can make a mirror out of it."

Ryan looked through his thirty pages of notes, then rubbed his eyes.

"Major, with the General's permission, you're coming up to Langley with me. I want you to brief our Science and Technology people, and I want you to see everything we've got on the Soviet project. Okay with you, sir?" Jack asked Parks. The General nodded.

Ryan and Gregory left together. It turned out that you needed a pass to get out of here, too. The guards had changed shifts, but looked at everyone just as seriously. On reaching the parking lot, the Major thought Jack's XJS was "boss." Do they still say that? Jack asked himself.

"How does a Marine get to work for the Agency?" Gregory asked as he admired the interior leather. And where does he get the coin to afford this?

"They invited me. Before that, I taught history at Annapolis." Nothing like being the famous Sir John Ryan. Well, I don't suppose they have me listed in any laser textbooks...

"Where'd you go to school?"

"Bachelor's at Boston College, and I got my doctorate right across the river there, at Georgetown."

"You didn't say you were a doctor," the Major observed. Ryan laughed at that. "Different field, pal. I have a lot of trouble understanding what the hell you're up to, but they stuck me with the job of explaining what it all means to -- well, to the people who do the arms negotiations. I've been working with them on the intelligence side for the last six months." This drew a grunt.

"That bunch wants to put me out of business. They want to trade it all away."

"They have their job, too," Jack allowed. "I need your help to persuade them that what you do is important."

"The Russians think it's important."

"Yeah, well, we just saw that, didn't we?"

Bondarenko got Off the plane and was agreeably surprised to find an official car waiting for him. It was a Voyska PVO car. General Pokryshkin had called ahead. The working day was over, and the Colonel instructed the driver to take him home. He'd write up his report tomorrow and present it to Colonel Filitov and later, perhaps, brief the Minister himself. He asked himself over a glass of vodka whether Pokryshkin had handled -- he didn't know the Western expression "stroked" -- him enough to create a false impression. Not enough, he told himself. The General had done quite a job of selling both his program and himself, but this was not mere pokazhuka. They hadn't faked the test, and they'd been honest in detailing their problems. All they were asking for was what was really needed. No, Pokryshkin was a man with a mission, willing to put his career -- well, if not behind it, then at least alongside it; and that was all anyone could reasonably ask. If he was building his own empire, it was an empire worth building.

The pickup was made in a way that was both unique and routine. The shopping mall was quite ordinary, a roofed-over promenade of ninety-three shops, plus a cluster of five small-screen theaters. There were six shoe stores, and three for jewelry. In keeping with the western location of the place, there was a sporting-goods store that catered to sportsmen, and had a wall full of Winchester Model 70 hunting rifles, something one does not often see in the East. Three up-scale men's clothing establishments dotted the concourse, along with seven for women. One of the latter adjoined the gunshop.

That suited the owner of Eve's Leaves, since the gunshop had an elaborate burglar-alarm system; this, combined with the mall's own security staff, allowed her to maintain a sizable stock of exclusive women's fashions without an overly expensive insurance package. The shop had started shakily enough -- the fashions of Paris, Rome, and New York do not translate well west of the Mississippi River, except perhaps along the Pacific Coast -- but much of the academic community came from both coasts, and clung to their ways. It didn't take much exposure at the country clubs for Anne Klein II to become a hot item even in the Rocky Mountains.

Ann strolled into the shop. She was a very easy customer to fit, the owner knew. A perfect six, she put the clothing on only to see how it looked. She never needed any alterations, which made life easy on everyone and allowed the owner to discount what she bought by five percent. In addition to being easy to fit, she also spent a lot of her money here, never less than $200 per visit. She was a regular, coming in every six weeks or so. The owner didn't know what she did, though she looked and acted like a doctor. So precise, so careful about everything. Oddly, she paid cash, the other reason for the discount she got, since credit card companies got a percentage of the sales figure in return for a guarantee of payment. This returned the five percent to the owner, and then some. It was a pity, she thought, that all of her customers couldn't be like this. Ann had brown bedroom eyes and hair, the latter shoulder-length and slightly wavy. Willowy, with a petite figure. The other odd thing was that she didn't ever seem to use perfume of any kind; that's what made the owner think she was a doctor. That and the hours she came in -- never when it was crowded, as though she were entirely her own boss. That had to be true, and the "doctor" dressed the part. This appealed to the owner. Every time she moved about, you could see the purpose in her stride.

She picked up the skirt and blouse combination, leaving for the dressing rooms in the back. Though the store owner didn't know it, Ann always used the same dressing cubicle. While in there, she unzipped her skirt, unbuttoned her blouse, but before she put the new set on, she reached under the plain wooden shelf that you could sit on and removed a cassette of microfilm that had been taped there the evening before. This went into her purse. Next she dressed and paraded outside to the mirrors.

How can American women wear this garbage? Tania Bisyarina asked her smiling image in the mirror. A captain in Directorate S of the First Chief (also known as the "Foreign") Directorate of the KGB, she reported to Directorate T, which oversees scientific espionage and works in cooperation with the State Committee for Science and Technology. Like Edward Foley, she "ran" a single agent. That agent's code name was Livia.

The cost of the outfit was two hundred seventy-three dollars, and Captain Bisyarina paid in cash. She told herself that she'd have to remember to wear this outfit the next time she came back, even if it did look like rubbish.

"See you soon, Ann," the shop owner called to her. That was the only name by which she was known in Santa Fe. The Captain turned and waved back. The owner was a pleasant-enough woman, for all her stupidity. Like any good intelligence officer, the Captain looked and acted quite ordinary. In the context of this area, that meant dressing in what passed for a moderately fashionable way, driving a decent but not flashy car, and living in a style that denoted comfort short of actual wealth. In this sense, America was an easy target. If you had the right lifestyle, nobody questioned where it came from. Getting across the border had been almost a comic exercise. All the time she'd spent getting her documents and background "legend" exactly right, and all the Border Patrol had done was to have a dog sniff the car for drugs -- she'd come in over the Mexican border at El Paso -- and wave her through with a smile. And for that -- she smiled to herself eight months later now -- I actually got excited.

It took forty minutes for her to drive home, checking as always to be sure that she didn't have anyone following her, and once there she developed the film and made her copies; not quite the same way Foley did, but close enough not to matter. In this case she had photographs of actual government documents. She placed the developed film in a small projector and focused the frame on the white paint of her bedroom wall. Bisyarina had a technical education, one of the reasons for her current assignment, and knew a little about how to evaluate what she'd just received. She was sure it would make her seniors happy.

The next morning she made her drop, and the photographs traveled across the border into Mexico on a tractor-trailer rig belonging to a long-haul concern based in Austin. It was delivering oil-drilling machinery. By the end of the day the photos would be in the Soviet Embassy in Mexico City. The day after that, in Cuba, where they would be placed on an Aeroflot flight direct to Moscow.

Chapter 7 -- Catalysts

"So, Colonel, what is your assessment?" Filitov asked.

"Comrade, Bright Star may be the most important program in the Soviet Union," Bondarenko said with conviction. He handed over forty handwritten pages. "Here is the first draft of my report. I did that on the airplane. I'll have a proper copy typed today, but I thought that you'd -- "

"You thought correctly. I understand that they ran a test

"Thirty-six hours ago. I saw the test, and I was allowed to inspect much of the equipment both before and after. I was profoundly impressed with the installation and the people who run it. If I may be permitted, General Pokryshkin is an outstanding officer, and the perfect man for that post. He is decidedly not a careerist, but rather a progressive officer of the finest type. To manage the academics on that hilltop is no easy task -- "

Misha grunted agreement. "I know about academicians. Are you telling me he has them organized like a military unit?"

"No, Comrade Colonel, but Pokryshkin has learned how to keep them relatively happy and productive at the same time. There is a sense of...a sense of mission at Bright Star that one rarely encounters even in the officer corps. I do not say this lightly, Mikhail Semyonovich. I was most impressed by all aspects of the operation. Perhaps it is the same at the space facilities. I have heard such, but having never been there, I cannot draw the comparison."

"And the systems themselves?"

"Bright Star is not yet a weapon. There are still technical difficulties. Pokryshkin identified and explained them at length to me. For the moment, this is still nothing more than an experimental program, but the most important breakthroughs have been made. In several years, it will be a weapon of enormous potential."

"What of its cost?" Misha asked. That drew a shrug.

"Impossible to estimate. It will be costly, but the expensive part of the program, the research and development phase, is largely completed. The actual production and engineering costs should be less than one might expect -- for the weapon itself, that is. I cannot evaluate the costs of the support equipment, the radars, and surveillance satellites. That was not part of my brief in any case." Besides, like soldiers all over the world, he thought in terms of mission, not cost.

"And the system reliability?"

"That will be a problem, but a manageable one. The individual lasers are complex and difficult to maintain. On the ether hand, by building more than the site actually needs, we could easily cycle them through a regular maintenance program, and always have the necessary number on-line. In fact, this is the method proposed by the chief project engineer."

"So they've solved the power-output problem, then?"

"My draft report describes that in rough terms. My final paper will be more specific."

Misha allowed himself a smile. "So that even I can understand it?"

"Comrade Colonel," Bondarenko replied seriously, "I know that you have a better understanding of technical matters than you care to admit. The important aspects of the power breakthrough are actually quite simple -- in theory, that is. The precise engineering details are rather complex, but can easily be deduced from the redesign of the lasing cavity. As with the first atomic bomb, once the theory is described, the engineering can be worked out."

"Excellent. You can finish your report by tomorrow?"

"Yes, Comrade Colonel."

Misha stood. Bondarenko did the same. "I will read over your preliminary report this afternoon. Get me the complete report tomorrow and I will digest it over the weekend. Next week we will brief the Minister."

Allah's ways were surely mysterious, the Archer thought. As much as he'd wanted to kill a Soviet transport aircraft, all he had to do was return to his home, the river town of Ghazni. It had been only a week since he'd left Pakistan. A local storm had grounded Russian aircraft for the past several days, allowing him to make good time. He arrived with his fresh supplies of missiles and found his chieftain planning an attack on the town's outlying airport. The winter weather was hard on everyone, and the infidels left the outer security posts to Afghan soldiers in the service of the traitorous government in Kabul. What they did not know, however, was that the Major commanding the battalion on perimeter duty worked for the local mudjaheddin. The perimeter would be open when the time came, allowing three hundred guerrillas to attack straight into the Soviet camp.

It would be a major assault. The freedom fighters were organized into three companies of one hundred men each. All three were committed to the attack; the chieftain understood the utility of a tactical reserve, but had too much front to cover with too few men. It was a risk, but he and his men had been running risks since 1980. What did one more matter? As usual, the chieftain would be in the place of greatest danger, and the Archer would be nearby. They were heading for the airfield and its hated aircraft from windward. The Soviets would try to fly their craft off at the first sign of trouble, both to get them out of the way and allow them to provide defensive support. The Archer inspected four Mi-24 helicopters through his binoculars, and all had ordnance hanging on their stubby wings. The mudjaheddin had but a single mortar with which to damage them on the ground, and because of this the Archer would be slightly behind the assault wave to provide support. There was no time to set up his usual trap, but at night this was not likely to matter.

A hundred yards ahead, the chieftain met at the appointed place with the Major of the Afghan Army. They embraced and praised Allah's name. The prodigal son had returned to the Islamic fold. The Major reported that two of his company commanders were ready to act as planned, but the commander of Three Company remained loyal to the Soviets. A trusted sergeant would kill this officer in a few minutes, allowing that sector to be used for the withdrawal. All around them, men waited in the bone-chilling wind. When the sergeant had accomplished his mission, he'd fire off a flare.

The Soviet Captain and the Afghan Lieutenant were friends, which in reflective moments surprised them both. It helped that the Soviet officer had made a real effort to be respectful of the ways of the local people, and that his Afghan counterpart believed Marxism-Leninism was the way of the future. Anything had to be better than the tribal rivalries and vendettas that had characterized this unhappy country for all of remembered history. Spotted early on as a promising candidate for ideological conversion, he'd been flown to the Soviet Union and shown how good things were there -- compared to Afghanistan -- especially the public health services. The Lieutenant's father had died fifteen years before of infection from a broken arm, and because he had never found favor with the tribal chief, his only son had not led an idyllic youth.

Together the two men were looking at a map and deciding on patrol activities for the coming week. They had to keep patrolling the area to keep the mudjaheddin bandits away. Today the patrols were being handled by Two Company.

A sergeant entered the command bunker with a message form. His face didn't show the surprise he felt at finding two officers there instead of one. He handed the envelope over to the Afghan Lieutenant with his left hand. In his right palm was the hilt of a knife, now held vertically up the baggy sleeve of his Russian-style tunic. He tried to be impassive as the Russian Captain stared at him, and merely watched the officer whose death was his responsibility. Finally the Russian turned away to look out of the bunker's weapon slit. Almost on cue, the Afghan officer tossed the message on the map table and framed his reply.

The Russian turned back abruptly. Something had alerted him, and he knew that something was wrong before he'd had time to wonder why. He watched the sergeant's arm come up in a rapid underhand movement toward his friend's throat. The Soviet Captain dove for his rifle as the Lieutenant threw himself backward to avoid the first lunge. He succeeded only because the sergeant's knife caught in the overly long sleeve of his tunic. Cursing, he freed it and lunged forward, slashing his target across the abdomen. The Lieutenant screamed, but managed to grab the sergeant's wrist before the knife reached his vital organs. The faces of the two men were close enough that each could smell the other's breath. One face was too shocked to be afraid, the other too angry. In the end, the Lieutenant's life was saved by the cloth of an ill-fitting tunic sleeve, as the Soviet flipped the safety off his rifle and fired ten rounds into the assassin's side. The sergeant fell without a sound. The Lieutenant held a bloody hand to his eyes. The Captain shouted the alarm.

The distinctive metallic chatter of the Kalashnikov rifle carried the four hundred meters to where the mudjaheddin waited. The same thought rippled through everyone's mind: the plan had been blown. Unfortunately, there was no planned alternative. To their left, the positions of Three Company were suddenly alight with the flashes of gunfire. They were firing at nothing -- there were no guerrillas there -- but the noise could not help but alert the Russian positions three hundred meters ahead. The chieftain ordered his men forward anyway, supported by nearly two hundred Afghan Army troops for whom the change of side had come as a relief. The additional men did not make as much of a difference as one might expect. These new mudjaheddin had no heavy weapons other than a few crew-served machine guns, and the chieftain's single mortar was slow setting up.

The Archer cursed as he watched lights go off at the airfield, three kilometers away. They were replaced with the wiggling dots of flashlights as flight crews raced to their aircraft. A moment later parachute flares began turning night to day. The harsh southeast wind blew them rapidly away, but more kept appearing. There was nothing he could do but activate his launcher. He could see the helicopters...and the single An-26 transport. With his left hand the Archer lifted his binoculars and saw the twin-engine, high-wing aircraft sitting there like a sleeping bird in an unprotected nest. A number of people were running to it as well. He turned his glasses back to the helicopter area.

An Mi-24 helicopter lifted off first, struggling with the thin air and howling wind to gain altitude, as mortar rounds began to drop within the airfield perimeter. A phosphorus round fell within a few meters of another Hind, its searing white flash igniting the Mi-24's fuel, and the crew leaped out, one of them aflame. They'd barely gotten clear when the aircraft exploded, taking a second Hind with it. The last one lifted off a moment later, rocking backward and disappearing into the black night, its flying lights off. They'd both be back -- the Archer was sure of that -- but they'd gotten two on the ground, and that was better than he'd expected.

Everything else, he saw, was going badly Mortar rounds were falling in front of the assault troops. He saw flashes of guns and explosives. Above the noises came the other sound of the battlefield: the battle cries of warriors and the screams of the wounded. At this distance it was hard to distinguish Russian from Afghan. But that was not his concern.

The Archer didn't need to tell Abdul to scan the sky for the helicopters. He tried using the missile launcher to search for the invisible heat of their engines. He found nothing, and returned his eyes to the one aircraft he could still see. There were mortar rounds falling near the An-26 now, but the flight crew already had the engines turning. In a moment he saw some lateral movement. The Archer gauged the wind and decided that the aircraft would try coming into the wind, then flare left over the safest portion of the perimeter. It would not be easy to climb in this thin air, and when the pilot turned, he'd rob his wings of lift in the quest for speed. The Archer tapped Abdul on the shoulder and began running to the left. He made it a hundred meters when he stopped and looked again for the Soviet transport. It was moving now, through the black showers of dirt, bouncing across the frozen, uneven ground as it accelerated.

The Archer stood to give the missile a better look at the target, and immediately the seeker chirped on finding the hot engines against the cold, moonless night.

"V-One," the copilot shouted over the noise of battle and engines. His eyes were locked on the instruments while the pilot fought to hold the aircraft straight. "V-R -- rotate!"

The pilot eased back on the yoke. The nose came up, and the An-26 took a final bounce off the hard dirt strip. The copilot instantly retracted the landing gear to reduce drag, allowing the plane to speed up that much quicker. The pilot brought the aircraft into a gentle right turn to avoid what seemed to be the heaviest concentration of ground fire. Once clear, he'd come back to the north for Kabul and safety. Behind him, the navigator wasn't looking at his charts. Rather, he was deploying parachute flares every five seconds. These were not to help the troops on the ground, though they did have that effect. They were to fool ground-launched missiles. The manual said to deploy one every five seconds.

The Archer timed the flares carefully. He could hear the change in the seeker's tone when they fell clear of the aircraft's cargo hatch and ignited. He needed to lock on to the plane's left-side engine and to time his shot carefully if he wanted to hit his target. In his mind he had already measured the point of closest approach -- about nine hundred meters -- and just before reaching it, the aircraft ejected another flare. A second later, the seeker returned to its normal acquisition tone, and he squeezed the trigger.

As always, it was almost a sexual release when the launcher tube bucked in his hands. The sounds of battle around him vanished as he concentrated on the speeding dot of yellow flame.

The navigator had just released another. flare when the Stinger impacted on the left-side engine. His first thought was one of outrage -- the manual was wrong! The flight engineer had no such thoughts. Automatically, he punched the "emergency-kill" switch to the number-one turbine. That shut down the fuel flow, cut off all electrical power, feathered the propeller, and activated the fire extinguisher. The pilot pushed the rudder pedal to compensate for left yaw induced by the loss of portside power and pushed the nose down. That was a dangerous call, but he had to measure speed against altitude, and he decided that he needed speed most of all. The engineer reported that the left-side fuel tank was punctured, but it was only a hundred kilometers to Kabul. What came next was worse:

"Fire warning light on number one!"

"Pull the bottle!"

"Already done! Everything's off."

The pilot resisted the temptation to look around. He was only a hundred meters above the ground now, and couldn't allow anything to interfere with his concentration. His peripheral vision caught a flash of yellow-orange flame, but he shut it out. His eyes went from the horizon to his airspeed and altimeter and back again.

"Losing altitude," the copilot reported.

"Ten degrees more flaps," the pilot ordered. He reckoned that he had enough speed now to risk it. The copilot reached down to deploy them ten degrees farther, and so doomed the aircraft and its passengers.

The missile explosion had damaged the hydraulic lines to the left-side flaps. The increased pressure needed to change the setting ruptured both the lines, and the flaps on the left wing retracted without warning. The loss of left-lift nearly snap-rolled the aircraft, but the pilot caught it and leveled out. Too many things were going wrong at once. The aircraft started sinking, and the pilot screamed for more power, knowing that the right-side engine was already firewalled. He prayed that getting into the ground effect might save his bird, but just holding her straight was nearly impossible, and he realized that they were sinking too fast in the thin air. He had to put her down. At the last moment the pilot switched on his landing lights to find a fiat spot. He saw only a field of rocks, and used his last vestige of control to aim his falling bird between the two biggest. A second before the aircraft hit the ground he snarled a curse, not a cry of despair, but one of rage.

For a moment the Archer thought that the aircraft might escape. The flash of the missile was unmistakable, but for several seconds there was nothing. Then came .the trailing tongue of flame that told him that his target was fatally injured. Thirty seconds after that, there was an explosion on the ground, perhaps ten kilometers away, not far from the planned escape route. He'd be able to see what he'd done before dawn. But he turned back now, hearing the sputtering whine of a helicopter overhead. Abdul had already discarded the old launch tube and attached the acquisition/guidance package to a new tube with a speed that would have done a trained soldier proud. He handed the unit over, and the Archer searched the skies for yet another target.

Though he didn't know it, the attack on Ghazni was falling apart. The Soviet commander had reacted instantly to the sound of gunfire -- the Afghan Army Three Company was still shooting at nothing at all, and the Soviet officer there couldn't get things going right -- and gotten his men into their positions in a matter of two hectic minutes. The Afghans now faced a fully alerted battalion of regular troops, supported by heavy weapons and hidden in protective bunkers. Withering machine-gun fire halted the attack wave two hundred meters from the Soviet positions. The chieftain and the defecting Major tried to get things going again by personal example. A ferocious war cry echoed down the line, but the chieftain stood directly into a line of tracers that transfixed him for nearly a second before he was thrown. aside like a child's toy. As generally happens with primitive troops, the loss of their leader broke the heart of the attack. Word spread throughout the line almost before the radio call was received by the unit leaders. At once, the mudjaheddin disengaged, firing their weapons wildly as they pulled back. The Soviet commander recognized this for what it was, but did not pursue. He had helicopters for that.

The Archer knew something was wrong when the Russian mortars started deploying flares in a different place. Already a helicopter was firing rockets and machine guns at the guerrillas, but he couldn't lock on to it. Next he heard the shouts of his comrades. Not the reckless howls of the advance, they were the warning cries of men in retreat. He settled down and concentrated on his weapon. His services would really be needed now. The Archer ordered Abdul to attach his spare seeker unit to another missile tube. The teenager had it done in under a minute.

"There!" Abdul said. "To the right."

"I see it." A series of linear flashes appeared in the sky. A Hind was firing its rocket pods. He trained his launcher on the spot and was rewarded with the acquisition sound. He didn't know the range -- one cannot judge distances at night -- but he'd have to risk it. The Archer waited until the sound was completely steady and fired off his second Stinger of the night.

The pilot of the Hind saw this one. He'd been hovering a hundred meters above the burning parachute flares, and pushed his collective control all the way down to dive among them. It worked. The missile lost lock and ran straight at one, missing the helicopter by a bare thirty meters. The pilot immediately pivoted his aircraft and ordered his gunner to salvo ten rockets back down the missile's flight path.

The Archer fell to the ground behind the boulder he'd selected for his perch. The rockets all fell within a hundred meters of his position. So it was man against man this time...and this pilot was a clever one. He reached for the second launcher. The Archer regularly prayed for this situation.

But the helicopter was gone now. Where would he be?

The pilot swept to leeward, using the wind, as he'd been taught, to mask his rotor noise. He called in for flares on this side of the perimeter and got a response almost instantly. The Soviets wanted every missile-shooter they could get. While the other airborne helicopter pounded the retreating mudjaheddin, this one would track down their SAM support. Despite the danger involved, it was a mission for which the pilot lusted. The missileers were his personal enemy. He kept clear of the known range of the Stinger and waited for the flares to light the ground.

The Archer was again using his seeker to search for the helicopter. It was an inefficient way to search, but the Mi-24 would be somewhere in an arc that his knowledge of Soviet tactics could easily predict. Twice he got chirps and lost them as the helicopter danced left and right, altering altitude in a conscious effort to make the Archer's job impossible. This was truly a skilled enemy, the guerrilla told himself. His death would be all the more satisfying. Flares were dotting the sky above him, but he knew that the flickering light made for poor viewing conditions as long as he kept still.

"I see movement," the Hind's gunner reported. "Ten o'clock."

"Wrong place," the pilot said. He brought his cyclic control to the right and slid horizontally as his eyes searched the ground. The Soviets had captured several of the American Stingers, and had tested them exhaustively to determine their speed, range, and sensitivity. He figured himself to be at least three hundred meters beyond its range, and if fired upon, he'd use the missile's track to fix his target, then rush in to get the missileer before he could shoot again.

"Get a smoke rocket," the Archer said.

Abdul had only one of those. It was a small, finned plastic device, little more than a toy. It had been developed for the training of U.S. Air Force pilots, to simulate the feel -- the terror -- of having missiles shot at them. At a cost of six dollars, all it could do was fly in a fairly straight line for a few seconds while leaving a trail of smoke. They'd been given to the mudjaheddin merely as a means to scare Soviet flyers when their SAMs had run out, but the Archer had found a real use for them. Abdul ran a hundred meters and set it up on the simple steel-wire launcher. He came back to his master's side, trailing the launching wire behind him.

"Now, Russian, where are you?" the Archer asked the night.

"Something to our front, something moved, I am sure of it," the gunner said.

"Let's see." The pilot activated his own controls and fired two rockets. They hit the ground two kilometers away, well to the Archer's right.

"Now!" the Archer shouted. He'd seen where the Russian had launched from, and had his seeker on the spot. The infrared receiver began chirping.

The pilot cringed as he saw the moving flame of a rocket, but before he could maneuver, it was clear that the missile would miss him. It had been launched close to where he'd fired before.

"I have you now!" he shouted. The gunner started pouring machine-gun fire at the spot.

The Archer saw the tracers and heard the bullets sprinkling the ground to his right. This one was good. His aim was nearly perfect, but in firing his own guns, he gave the Archer a perfect point of aim. And the third Stinger was launched.

"Two of them!" the gunner shouted over the intercom.

The pilot was already diving and veering, but he had no flares around him this time. The Stinger exploded against a rotor blade and the helicopter fell like a stone. The pilot managed to slow his descent, but still hit the ground hard. Miraculously there was no fire. A moment later armed men appeared at his window. One, the pilot saw, was a Russian captain.

"Are you all right, Comrade?"

"My back," the pilot gasped.

The Archer was already moving. He had tested Allah's favor enough for one night. The two-man missile team left the empty launcher tubes behind and ran to catch up with the retreating guerrillas. If the Soviet troops had pursued, they might have caught them. As it was, their commander kept them in place, and the sole surviving helicopter was content to circle the encampment. Half an hour later he learned that his chieftain was dead. The morning would bring Soviet aircraft to catch them in the open, and the guerrillas had to reach the rockfields quickly. But there was one more thing to do. The Archer took Abdul and three men to find the transport that he'd killed. The price of the Stinger missiles was the inspection of every downed aircraft for items in which the CIA might have interest.

Colonel Filitov finished the diary entry. As Bondarenko had pointed out, his knowledge of technical material was far better than one might suspect from his academic credentials. After over forty years in the higher echelons of the Defense Ministry, Misha was self-taught in a number of technical fields ranging from gas-protection suits to communications-encryption equipment to...lasers. Which was to say that while he didn't always comprehend the theory as well as he might have wished, he could describe the working equipment as well as the engineers who assembled it. It had taken four hours to transcribe it all into his diary. This data had to go out. The implications were too frightening.

The problem with a strategic-defense system was simply that no weapon had ever been "offensive" or "defensive" in and of itself. The nature of any weapon, like the beauty of any woman, lay in the eye of the beholder -- or the direction in which it was pointed -- and throughout history, success in warfare was determined by the proper balance of offensive and defensive elements.

Soviet nuclear strategy, Misha thought to himself, made far more sense than that of the West. Russian strategists did not consider nuclear war unthinkable. They were taught to be pragmatic: The problem, while complex, did have a solution -- while not a perfect one, unlike many Western thinkers they acknowledged that they lived in an imperfect world. Soviet strategy since the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962 -- the event had killed Filitov's recruiter, Colonel Oleg Penkovskiy -- was based on a simple phrase: "Damage Limitation." The problem wasn't destroying one's enemy with nuclear weapons. With nuclear weapons, it was more a question of not destroying so much that there would be nothing left with which to negotiate the "war-termination" phase. The problem that occupied Soviet minds was preventing enemy nuclear weapons from destroying the Soviet Union. With twenty million dead in each of two world wars, the Russians had tasted enough destruction, and craved no more.

This task was not viewed as an easy one, but the reason for its necessity was as much political as technical. Marxism-Leninism casts history as a process: not a mere collection of past events, but a scientific expression of man's social evolution that will -- must -- culminate in mankind's collective recognition that Marxism-Leninism is the ideal form for all human society. A committed Marxist, therefore, believed in the ultimate ascendancy of his creed as surely as Christian, Jew, and Muslim believed in an afterlife. And just as religious communities throughout history have shown a willingness to spread their good news with fire and sword, so it was the duty of the Marxist to make his vision a reality as quickly as possible.

The difficulty here, of course, was that not everyone in the world had the Marxist-Leninist view of history. Communist doctrine explained this away as the reactionary forces of imperialism, capitalism, the bourgeoisie, and the rest of their pantheon of enemies, whose resistance was predictable -- but whose tactics were not. As a gambler who has rigged his gaming table, the communists "knew" that they would win, but like a gambler, in their darker moments they reluctantly admitted that luck -- or more scientifically, random chance -- could alter their equation. In lacking, the proper scientific outlook, the Western democracies also lacked a common ethos, and that made them unpredictable.

More than any other reason, that was why the East feared the West. Ever since Lenin had assumed control of -- and renamed -- the Soviet Union, the communist government had invested billions in spying on the West. As with all intelligence functions, its prime purpose was to predict what the West would and could do.

But despite countless tactical successes, the fundamental problem remained: Time and again the Soviet government had gravely misread Western actions and intentions; and in a nuclear age unpredictability could mean that an unbalanced American leader -- and, to a lesser extent, English or French -- could even spell the end of the Soviet Union and the postponement of World Socialism for generations. (To a Russian, the former was more grave, since no ethnic Russian wanted to see the world brought to Socialism under Chinese leadership.) The Western nuclear arsenal was the greatest threat to Marxism-Leninism; countering that arsenal was the prime task of the Soviet military. But unlike the West, the Soviets did not see the prevention of its use as simply the prevention of war. Since the Soviets viewed the West as politically unpredictable, they felt that they could not depend on deterring it. They needed to be able to eliminate, or at least degrade, the Western nuclear arsenal if a crisis threatened to go beyond the point of mere words.

Their nuclear arsenal was designed with precisely this task in mind. Killing cities and their millions of inhabitants would always be a simple exercise. Killing the missiles that their countries owned was not. To kill the American missiles had meant developing several generations of highly accurate -- and hugely expensive -- rockets, like the SS-18. whose sole mission was to reduce America s Minuteman missile squadrons to glowing dust, along with the submarine and bomber bases. All but the last were to be found well distant from population centers; consequently, a strike aimed at disarming the West might be carried off without necessarily resulting world holocaust. At the same time, the Americans did not have enough really accurate warheads to make the same threat against the Soviet missile force. The Russians, then, had an advantage in a potential "counterforce" attack -- the sort aimed at weapons rather than people.

The shortcoming was naval. More than half of the American warheads were deployed on nuclear submarines. The U.S. Navy thought that its missile submarines had never been tracked by their Soviet counterparts. That was incorrect. They had been tracked exactly three times in twenty-seven years, and then never more than four hours, Despite a generation of work by the Soviet Navy, no one predicted that this mission would ever be accomplished. The Americans admitted that they couldn't track their own "boomers," as the missile submarines were known. On the other hand, the Americans could track Soviet missile submarines, and for this reason the Soviets had never placed more than a fraction of their warheads at sea, and until recently neither side could base accurate counterforce weapons in submarines.

But the game was changing yet again. The Americans had fabricated another technical miracle. Their submarine-launched weapons would soon be Trident D-5 missiles with a hard-target-kill capability. This threatened Soviet strategy with a mirror-image of its own potential, though a crucial element of the system was the Global Positioning Satellites, without which the American submarines would be unable to determine their own locations accurately enough for their weapons to kill hardened targets. The twisted logic of the nuclear balance was again turning on itself -- as it had to do at least once per generation.

It had been recognized early on that missiles were offensive weapons with a defensive mission, that the ability to destroy the opponent was the classical formula both to prevent war and achieve one's goals in peace. The fact that such power, accrued to both sides, had transformed the historically proven formula of unilateral intimidation into bilateral deterrence, however, made that solution unpalatable.

Nuclear Deterrence: preventing war by the threat of mutual holocaust. Both sides told the other in substance, If you kill our helpless civilians, we will kill yours. Defense was no longer in protection of one's own society, but the threat of senseless violence against another. Misha grimaced. No tribe of savages had ever formulated such an idea -- even the most uncivilized barbarians were too advanced for such a thing, but that was precisely what the world's most advanced peoples had decided -- or stumbled -- upon. Although deterrence could be said to work, it meant that the Soviet Union -- and the West -- lived under a threat with more than one trigger. No one thought that situation satisfactory, but the Soviets had made what they considered the best of a bad bargain by designing a strategic arsenal that could largely disarm the other side if a world crisis demanded it. In achieving the ability to eliminate much of the American arsenal, they had the advantage of dictating how a nuclear war would be fought; in classical terms that was the first step toward victory, and in the Soviet view, Western denial that "victory" was a possibility in a nuclear war was the first step toward Western defeat. Theorists on both sides had always recognized the unsatisfactory nature of the entire nuclear issue, however, and quietly worked to deal with it in other ways.

As early as the 1950s, both America and the Soviet Union had begun research in ballistic-missile defense, the latter at Sary Shagan in southwestern Siberia. A workable Soviet system had almost been deployed in the late 1960s, but the advent of MIRVs had utterly invalidated the work of fifteen years -- perversely, for both sides. The struggle for ascendancy between offensive and defensive systems always tended to the former.

But no longer. Laser weapons and other high-energy-projection systems, mated to the power of computers, were a quantum jump into a new 'strategic realm. A workable defense, Bondarenko's report told Colonel Filitov. was now a real possibility. And what did that mean?

It meant that the nuclear equation was destined to return to the classic balance of offense and defense, that both elements could now be made part of a single strategy. The professional soldiers found this a more satisfying system in the abstract -- what man wishes to think of himself as the greatest murderer in history? -- but now tactical possibilities were raising their ugly heads. Advantage and disadvantage; move and countermove. An American strategic-defense system could negate all of Soviet nuclear posture. If the Americans could prevent the SS-18s from taking out their land-based missiles, then the disarming first strike that the Soviets depended upon to limit damage to the Rodina was no longer possible. And that meant that all of the billions that had been sunk into ballistic-missile production were now as surely wasted as though the money had been dumped into the sea.

But there was more. Just as the scutum of the Roman legionnaire was seen by his barbarian opponent as a weapon that enabled him to stab with impunity, so today SDI could be seen as a shield from behind which an enemy could first launch his own disarming first strike, then use his defenses to reduce or even eliminate the effect of the resulting retaliatory strike.

This view, of course, was simplistic. No system would ever be foolproof -- and even if the system worked, Misha knew, the political leaders would find a way to use it to its greatest disadvantage; you could always depend on politicians for that. A workable strategic defense scheme would have the effect of adding a new element of uncertainty to the equation. It was unlikely that any country could eliminate all incoming warheads, and the death of as "few" as twenty million citizens was too ghastly a thing to contemplate, even for the Soviet leadership. But even a rudimentary SDI system might kill enough warheads to invalidate the whole idea of counterforce.

If the Soviets had such a system first, the meager American counterforce arsenal could be countered more easily than the Soviet one, and the strategic situation for which the Soviets had worked thirty years would remain in place. The Soviet government would have the best of both worlds, a far larger force of accurate missiles with which to eliminate American warheads, and a shield to kill most of the retaliatory strike against their reserve missile fields -- and the American sea-based systems could be neutralized by elimination of their GPS navigation satellites, without which they could still kill cities, but the ability to attack missile silos would be irretrievably gone.

The scenario Colonel Mikhail Semyonovich Filitov envisaged was the standard Soviet case study. Some crisis erupted (the Middle East was the favorite, since nobody could predict what would happen there), and while Moscow moved to stabilize matters, the West interfered -- clumsily and stupidly, of course -- and started talking openly in the press about a nuclear confrontation. The intelligence organs would flash word to Moscow that a nuclear strike was a real possibility. Strategic Rocket Force's SS-18 regiments would secretly go to full alert, as would the new ground-based laser weapons. While the Foreign Ministry airheads -- no military force is enamored of its diplomatic colleagues -- struggled to settle things down, the West would posture and threaten, perhaps attacking a Soviet naval force to show its resolve, certainly mobilizing the NATO armies to threaten invasion of Eastern Europe. Worldwide panic would begin in earnest. When the tone of Western rhetoric reached its culmination, the launch orders would be issued to the missile force, and 300 SS-18s would launch, allocating three warheads to each of the American Minuteman silos. Smaller weapons would go after the submarine and bomber bases to limit collateral casualties as much as possible -- the Soviets had no wish to exacerbate the situation more than necessary. Simultaneously, the lasers would disable as many American reconnaissance and navigation satellites as possible but leave the communications satellites intact -- a gamble calculated to show "good" intent. The Americans would not be able to respond to the attack before the Soviet warheads struck. (Misha worried about this, but information from KGB and GRU said that there were serious flaws in the American command-and-control system, plus the psychological factors involved.) Probably the Americans would keep their submarine weapons in reserve and launch their surviving Minutemen at Soviet missile silos, but it was expected that no more than two to three hundred warheads would survive the first strike; many of those would be aimed at empty holes anyway, and the defense system would kill most of the incoming weapons.

At the end of the first hour, the Americans would realize that the usefulness of their submarine missiles was greatly degraded. Constant, carefully prepared messages would be sent via the Moscow-Washington Hot Line: WE CANNOT LET THIS GO ANY FURTHER. And, probably, the Americans would stop and think. That was the important part -- to make people stop and think. A man might attack cities on impulse or in a state of rage, but not after sober reflection.

Filitov was not concerned that either side would see its defense systems as a rationale for an offensive strike. In a crisis, however, their existence could mitigate the fear that prevented its launch -- if the other side had no defenses. Both sides, therefore, had to have them. That would make a first strike far less likely, and that would make the world a safer place. Defensive systems could not be stopped now. One might as easily try to stop the tide. It pleased this old soldier that intercontinental rockets, so destructive to the ethic of the warrior, might finally be neutralized, that death in war would be returned to armed men on the field of battle, where it belonged.

Well, he thought, you're tired, and it's too late for that sort of deep thinking. He'd finish up this report with the data from Bondarenko's final draft, photograph it, and get the film to his cutout.

Chapter 8 -- Document Transfer

It was almost dawn when the Archer found the wreckage of the airplane. He had ten men with him plus Abdul. They'd have to move fast. As soon as the sun rose over the mountains the Russians would come. He surveyed the wreck from a knoll. Both wings had been sheered off at the initial impact, and the fuselage had rocketed forward, up a gentle slope, tumbling and breaking apart until only the tail was recognizable. He had no way of knowing that it had taken a brilliant pilot to accomplish this much, that getting the airplane down under any kind of control was a near miracle. He gestured to his men, and moved quickly toward the main body of wreckage. He told them to look for weapons, then any kind of documents. The Archer and Abdul went to what was left of the tail.

As usual, the scene of the crash was a contradiction. Some of the bodies were torn apart, while others were superficially intact, their deaths caused by internal trauma. These bodies looked strangely at peace, stiff but not yet frozen by the low temperature. He counted six who'd been in the after section of the aircraft. All, he saw, were Russians, all in uniform. One wore the uniform of a KGB captain and was still strapped in his seat. There was a pink froth around his lips. He must have lived a little after the crash and coughed up blood, the Archer thought. He kicked the body over and saw that handcuffed to the man's left hand was a briefcase. That was promising. The Archer bent down to see if the handcuff could be taken off easily, but he wasn't that lucky. Shrugging, he took out his knife. He'd just have to cut it off the body's wrist. He twisted the hand around and started --

-- when the arm jerked and a high-pitched scream made the Archer leap to his feet. Was this one alive? He bent down to the man's face and was rewarded by a coughing spray of blood. The blue eyes were now open, wide with shock and pain. The mouth worked, but nothing intelligible came out.

"Check to see if any more are still living," the Archer ordered his assistant. He turned back to the KGB officer and spoke in Pashtu: "Hello, Russian." He waved his knife within a few centimeters of the man's eyes.

The Captain started coughing again. The man was fully awake now, and in considerable pain. The Archer searched him for weapons. As his hands moved, the body writhed in agony. Broken ribs at the least, though his limbs seemed intact. He spoke a few tortured words. The Archer knew some Russian but had trouble making them out. It should not have been hard -- the message the officer was trying to convey was the obvious one, though it took the Archer nearly half a minute to recognize it.

"Don't kill me..."

Once the Archer understood it, he continued his search. He removed the Captain's wallet and flipped through its contents. It was the photographs that stopped him. The man had a wife. She was short, with dark hair and a round face. She was not beautiful, except for the smile. It was the smile a woman saved for the man she loved, and it lit up her face in a way that the Archer himself had once known. But what got his attention were the next two. The man had a son. The first photo had been taken at age two perhaps, a young boy with tousled hair and an impish smile. You could not hate a child, even the Russian child of a KGB officer. The next picture of him was so different that it was difficult to connect the two. His hair was gone, his skin tightly drawn across the face...and transparent like the pages of an old Koran. The child was dying. Three now, maybe four? he wondered. A dying child whose face wore a smile of courage and pain and love. Why must Allah visit his anger on the little ones? He turned the photo to the officer's face.

"Your son?" he asked in Russian.

"Dead. Cancer," the man explained, then saw that this bandit didn't understand. "Sickness. Long sickness." For the briefest moment his face cleared of pain and showed only grief. That saved his life. He was amazed to see the bandit sheathe his knife, but too deeply in pain to react in a visible way.

No. I will not visit another death upon this woman. The decision also amazed the Archer. It was as though the voice of Allah Himself reminded him that mercy is second only to faith in the human virtues. That was not enough by itself -- his fellow guerrillas would not be persuaded by a verse of scripture -- but next the Archer found a key ring in the man's pants pocket. He used one key to unlock the handcuffs and the other to open the briefcase. It was full of document folders, each of which was bordered in multicolored tape and stamped with some version of SECRET. That was one Russian word he knew.

"My friend," the Archer said in Pashtu, "you are going to visit a friend of mine. If you live long enough," he added.

"How serious is this?" the President asked.

"Potentially very serious," Judge Moore answered. "I want to bring some people over to brief you."

"Don't you have Ryan doing the evaluation?"

"He'll be one of them. Another's this Major Gregory you've heard about."

The President flipped open his desk calendar. "I can give you forty-five minutes. Be here at eleven."

"We'll be there, sir." Moore hung up the phone. He buzzed his secretary next. "Send Dr. Ryan in here."

Jack came through the door a minute later. He didn't even have time to sit down.

"We're going in to see The Man at eleven. How ready is your material?"

"I'm the wrong guy to talk about the physics, but I guess Gregory can handle that end. He's talking to the Admiral and Mr. Ritter right now. General Parks coming, too?" Jack asked.


"Okay. How much imagery do you want me to get together?"

Judge Moore thought that one over for a moment. "We don't want to razzle-dazzle him. A couple of background shots and a good diagram. You really think it's important, too?"

"It's not any immediate threat to us by any stretch of the imagination, but it's a development we could have done without. The effect on the arms-control talks is hard to gauge. I don't think there's a direct connec -- "

"There isn't, we're certain of that." The DCI paused for a grimace. "Well, we think we're certain."

"Judge, there is data on this issue floating around here that I haven't seen yet."

Moore smiled benignly. "And how do you know that, son?"

"I spent most of last Friday going over old files on the Soviet missile-defense program. Back in '81 they ran a major test out of the Sary Shagan site. We knew an awful lot about it -- for example, we knew that the mission parameters had been changed from within the Defense Ministry. Those orders were sealed in Moscow and hand-delivered to the skipper of the missile sub that fired the birds -- Marko Ramius. He told me the other side of the story. With that and a few other pieces I've come across, it makes me think that we have a man inside that place, and pretty high up."

"What other pieces?" the Judge wanted to know.

Jack hesitated for a moment, but decided to go ahead with his guesses. "When Red October defected, you showed me a report that had to come from deep inside, also from the Defense Ministry; the code name on the file was WILLOW, as I recall. I've only seen one other file with that name, on a different subject entirely, but also defense-related. That makes me think there's a source with a rapidly changing codename cycle. You'd only do that with a very sensitive source, and if it's something I'm not cleared for, well, I can only conclude that it's something closely held. Just two weeks ago you told me that Gregory's assessment of the Dushanbe site was confirmed through 'other assets,' sir." Jack smiled. "You pay me to see connections, Judge. I don't mind being cut out of things I don't need to know, but I'm starting to think that there's something going on that's part of what I'm trying to do. If you want me to brief the President, sir, I should go in with the right information."

"Sit down, Dr. Ryan." Moore didn't bother asking if Jack had discussed this with anyone. Was it time to add a new member to the fraternity? After a moment he delivered his own sly smile.

"You've met him." The Judge went on for a couple of minutes.

Jack leaned back in his chair and closed his eyes. After a moment's thought, he could see the face again. "God. And he's getting us the information...But will we be able to use it?"

"He's gotten us technical data before. Most of it we've put to use."

"Do we tell the President this?" Jack asked.

"No. That's his idea, not ours. He told us some time ago that he didn't want the details of covert operations, just the results. He's like most politicians -- he talks too much. At least he's smart enough to know that. We've had agents lost because presidents talked too much. Not to mention the odd member of Congress."

"So when do we expect this report to come in?"

"Soon. Maybe this week, maybe as long as three -- "

"And if it works, we can take what they know and add it to what we know..." Ryan looked out the window at the bare limbs of trees. "Ever since I've been here, Judge, I've asked myself at least once a day -- what's most remarkable about this place, the things we know or the things we don't?"

Moore nodded agreement. "The game's like that, Dr. Ryan. Get your briefing notes together. No reference to our friend, though. I'll handle that if I have to."

Jack walked back to his office, shaking his head. He'd suspected a few times that he was cleared for things the President never saw. Now he was sure. He asked himself if this was a good idea and admitted that he didn't know. What filled his mind was the importance of this agent and his information. There were precedents. The brilliant agent Richard Sorge in Japan in 1941, whose warnings to Stalin were not believed. Oleg Penkovskiy, who'd given the West information on the Soviet military that might have prevented nuclear war during the Cuban Missile Crisis. And now another. He didn't reflect on the fact that alone in CIA, he knew the agent's face but not his name or code name. It never occurred to him that Judge Moore didn't know CARDINAL's face, had for years avoided looking at the photograph for reasons that he could never have explained even to his deputy directors.

The phone rang, and a hand reached out from under a blanket to grab it. "H'lo."

"'Morning, Candi," Al Gregory said in Langley.

Two thousand miles away, Dr. Candace Long twisted around in her bed and stared at the clock. "You at the airport?"

"Still in Washington, honey. If I'm lucky, I'll fly back later today." He sounded tired.

"What's happening anyway?" she asked.

"Oh, somebody ran a test, and I have to explain what it means to some people."

"Okay. Let me know when you're coming in. Al. I'll come out to get you." Candi Long was too groggy to realize that her fiancé had bent a rule of security to answer her question.

"Sure. Love ya."

"Love you, too, honey." She replaced the phone and rechecked the clock. There was time for another hour's sleep. She made a mental note to ride into work with a friend. Al had left his car at the lab before flying east, and she'd ride that one out to pick him up.

Ryan got to drive Major Gregory again. Moore took General Parks in his Agency limo.

"I asked you before: what are the chances that we'll find out what Ivan is doing at Dushanbe?"

Jack hesitated before answering, then realized that Gregory would hear it all in the Oval Office. "We have assets that are working to find out what they did to increase their power output."

"I'd love to know how you do that," the young Major observed.

"No, you don't. Trust me." Ryan looked away from the traffic for a moment. "If you know stuff like that, and you make a slip, you could kill people. It's happened before. The Russians come down pretty hard on spies. There's still a story floating around that they cremated one -- I mean they slid him into a crematorium alive."

"Aw, come on! Nobody's that -- "

"Major, one of these days you ought to get out of your lab and find out just how nasty the world can really be. Five years ago, I had people try to kill my wife and kid. They had to fly three thousand miles to do it, but they came anyway."

"Oh, right! You're the guy -- "

"Ancient history, Major." Jack was tired of telling the story.

"What's it like, sir? I mean, you've actually been in combat, the real thing, I mean -- "

"It's not fun." Ryan almost laughed at himself for putting it that way. "You just have to perform, that's all. You either do it right or you lose it. If you're lucky, you don't panic until it's all over."

"You said out at the lab that you used to be a Marine..."

"That helped some. At least somebody bothered to teach me a little about it, once upon a time." Back when you were in high school or so, Jack didn't say. Enough of that. "Ever meet the President?"

"No, sir."

"The name's Jack, okay? He's a pretty good guy, pays attention and asks good questions. Don't let the sleepy look fool you. I think he does that to fool politicians."

"They fool easy?" Gregory wondered.

That got a laugh. "Some of them. The head arms-control guy'Il be there, too. Uncle Ernie. Ernest Allen, old-time career diplomat, Dartmouth and Yale; he's smart."

"He thinks we ought to bargain my work away. Why does the President keep him?"

"Ernie knows how to deal with the Russians, and he's a pro. He doesn't let personal opinions interfere with his job. I honestly don't know what he thinks about the issues. It's like with a doc. A surgeon doesn't have to like you personally. He just has to fix whatever's wrong. With Mr. Allen, well, he knows how to sit through all the crap that the negotiations entail. You've never learned anything about that, have you?" Jack shook his head and smiled at the traffic. "Everybody thinks it's dramatic, but it's not. I've never seen anything more boring. Both sides say exactly the same thing for hours -- they repeat themselves about every fifteen or twenty minutes, all day, every day. Then after a week or so, one side or the other makes a small change, and keeps repeating that for hours. The other side checks with its capital, and makes a small change of its own, and keeps repeating that. It goes on and on that way for weeks, months, sometimes years. But Uncle Ernie is good at it. He finds it exciting. Personally, after about a week, I'd be willing to start a war just to put an end to the negotiation process" -- another laugh -- "don't quote me on that. It's about as exciting as watching paint dry, tedious as hell, but it's important and it takes a special kind of mind to do it. Ernie's a dry, crusty old bastard, but he knows how to get the job done."

"General Parks says that he wants to shut us down."

"Hell, Major, you can ask the man. I wouldn't mind finding out myself." Jack turned off Pennsylvania Avenue, following the CIA limousine. Five minutes later, he and Gregory were sitting in the west wing's reception room under a copy of the famous painting of Washington crossing the Delaware while the Judge was talking to the President's national security advisor, Jeffrey Pelt. The President was finishing up a session with the Secretary of Commerce. Finally, a Secret Service agent called to them and led the way through the corridors.

As with TV studio sets, the Oval Office is smaller than most people expect. Ryan and Gregory were directed to a small sofa along the north wall. Neither man sat down yet; the President was standing by his desk. Ryan noted that Gregory appeared a little pale now, and remembered his own first time here. Even White House insiders would occasionally admit to being intimidated by this room and the power it contained.

"Hello again, Jack!" The President strode over to take his hand. "And you must be the famous Major Gregory."

"Yes, sir." Gregory nearly strangled on that, and had to clear his throat. "I mean, yes, Mr. President."

"Relax, sit down. You want some coffee?" He waved to a tray on the corner of his desk. Gregory's eyes nearly bugged out when the President got him a cup. Ryan did his best to suppress a smile. The man who'd made the presidency "imperial" again -- whatever that meant -- was a genius for putting people at ease. Or appearing to, Jack corrected himself. The coffee routine often made them even more uneasy, and maybe that was no accident. "Major, I've heard some great things about you and your work. The General says you're his brightest star." Parks shifted in his chair at that. The President sat down next to Jeff Pelt. "Okay, let's get started."

Ryan opened his portfolio and set a photograph on the low table. Next came a diagram. "Mr. President, this is a satellite shot of what we call sites Bach and Mozart. They're on a mountain southeast of the city of Dushanbe in the Tadzhik Soviet Socialist Republic, about seventy miles from the Afghan border. The mountain is about seventy-six hundred feet high. We've had it under surveillance for the past two years. This one" -- another photo went down -- "is Sary Shagan. The Russians have had ballistic-missile-defense work going on here for the past thirty years. This site right here is believed to be a laser test range. We believe that the Russians made a major breakthrough in laser power here two years ago. They then changed the activity at Bach to accommodate it. Last week they ran what was probably a full-power test.

"This array here at Bach is a laser transmitter."

"And they blasted a satellite with it?" Jeff Pelt asked.

"Yes, sir," Major Gregory answered. "They 'slagged it down,' as we say at the lab. They pumped enough energy into it to, well, to melt some of the metal and destroy the solar power cells entirely."

"We can't do that yet?" the President asked Gregory.

"No, sir. We can't put that much power out the front end."

"How is it that they got ahead of us? We're putting a lot of money into lasers, aren't we, General?"

Parks was uncomfortable with the recent developments, but his voice was dispassionate. "So are the Russians, Mr. President. They've made quite a few leaps because of their efforts in fusion. They've been investing in high-energy physics research for years as part of an effort to get fusion-power reactors. About fifteen years ago that effort was mated with their missile-defense program. If you put that much time and effort into basic research, you can expect a return, and they've gotten plenty. They invented the RFQ -- the radio-frequency quadrapole -- that we use in our neutral-particle beam experiments. They invented the Tokamak magnetic-containment device that we copied up at Princeton, and they invented the Gyrotron. Those are three major breakthroughs in high-energy physics that we know about. We've used some of them in our own SDI research, and it's for sure that they've figured out the same applications. "

"Okay, what do we know about this test they ran?"

It was Gregory's turn again. "Sir, we know that it came from Dushanbe because the only other high-energy laser sites, at Sary Shagan and Semipalatinsk, were under the visible horizon -- I mean, they couldn't see the satellite from there. We know that it wasn't an infrared laser, because the beam would have been seen by the sensors on the Cobra Belle aircraft. If I had to guess, sir, I'd say that the system uses the free-electron laser -- "

"It does," Judge Moore noted. "We just confirmed that."

"That's the one we're working on at Tea Clipper. It seems to offer the best potential for weapons applications."

"Can I ask why, Major?" the President asked.

"Power efficiency, sir. The actual lasing occurs in a stream of free electrons -- that means they're not attached to atoms like they usually are, sir -- in a vacuum. You use a linear accelerator to produce a stream of the electrons and shoot them into the cavity, which has a low-energy, laser shining along its axis. The idea is that you can use electromagnets to oscillate the electrons crosswise to their path. What you get is a beam of light coincident with the oscillation frequency of the wiggler magnets -- that means you can tune it, sir, like a radio. By altering the energy of the beam, you can select the exact light frequency you generate. Then you can recycle the electrons back into the linear accelerator and shoot them back into the lasing cavity again. Since the electrons are already in a high-energy state, you gain a lot of power efficiency right there. The bottom line, sir, is that you can theoretically pump out forty percent of the energy you pump in. If you can achieve that reliably, you can kill anything you can see -- when we talk about high energy levels, sir, we're speaking in relative terms. Compared to the electrical power that this country uses to cook food, the amount needed for a laser defense system is negligible. The trick is making it really work. We haven't done that yet."

"Why not?" The President was interested now, leaning forward slightly in his chair.

"We're still learning how to make the laser work, sir. The fundamental problem is in the lasing cavity -- that's where the energy comes off the electrons and turns into a beam of light. We haven't been able yet to make a very wide one. If the cavity is too narrow, then you have such a high power density that you fry the optical coatings both in the cavity itself and on the mirrors that you use to aim the beam."

"But they've beaten the problem. How do you think they did it?"

"I know what we're trying to do. As you draw energy into the laser beam, the electrons become less energetic, okay? That means you have to taper the magnetic field that contains them -- and remember that at the same time you have to continue the wiggling action of the field, too. We haven't figured that out yet. Probably they have, and that probably came from their research into fusion power. All the ideas for getting energy out of controlled fusion are concerned with using a magnetic field to contain a mass of high-energy plasma -- in principle the same thing we're trying to do with the free electrons. Most of the basic research in that field comes from Russia, sir. They're ahead of us because they've spent more time and money in the most important place."

"Okay, thank you, Major." The President turned to Judge Moore. "Arthur, what does CIA think?"

"Well, we're not going to disagree with Major Gregory -- he just spent a day briefing our Science and Technology people. We have confirmed that the Soviets do have six free-electron lasers at this place. They have made a breakthrough in power output and we're trying to find out exactly what the breakthrough was."

"Can you do that?" General Parks asked.

"I said we're trying, General. If we're very lucky, we'll have an answer by the end of the month."

"Okay, we know they can build a very powerful laser," the President said. "Next question: is it a weapon?"

"Probably not, Mr. President," General Parks said. "At least not yet. They still have a problem with thermal blooming because they haven't learned how to copy our adaptive optics. They've gotten a lot of technology from the West, but so far they don't have that. Until they do, they can't use the ground-based laser as we have, that is, relaying the beam by orbiting mirror to a distant target. But what they have now can probably do great damage to a satellite in low-earth orbit. There are ways to protect satellites against that, of course, but it's the old battle between heavier armor and heavier warheads. The warhead usually wins in the end."

"Which is why we should negotiate the weapons out of existence." Ernie Allen spoke for the first time. General Parks looked over to him with unconcealed irritation. "Mr. President, we are now getting a taste -- just a taste -- of how dangerous and destabilizing these weapons might be. If we merely consider this Dushanbe place to be an antisatellite weapon, look at the implications it has for verification of arms-treaty compliance, and for intelligence-gathering in general. If we don't try to stop these things now, all we'll get is chaos."

"You can't stop progress," Parks observed. Allen snorted. "Progress? Hell, we have a draft treaty on the table now to reduce weapons by half. That's progress, General. In the test you just ran over the South Atlantic, you missed with half your shots -- I can take out as many missiles as you can."

Ryan thought the General might come off his chair at that one, but instead he adopted his intellectual guise. "Mr. Allen, that was the first test of an experimental system, and half of its shots did hit. In fact, all of the targets were eliminated in under a second. Major Gregory here will have that targeting problem beaten by summer -- won't you, son?"

"Yes, sir!" Gregory piped up. "All we have to do is rework the code some."

"Okay. If Judge Moore's people can tell us what the Russians have done to increase their laser power, we have most of the rest of the system architecture already tested and validated. In two or three years. we'll have it all -- and then we can start thinking seriously about deployment."

"And if the Soviets start shooting your mirrors out of space?" Allen asked dryly. "You could have the best laser system ever made on the ground, but it won't do much more than defend New Mexico."

"They'll have to find 'em first, and that's a much harder problem than you think. We can put 'em pretty high up, between three hundred and a thousand miles. We can use stealth technology to make them hard to locate on radar -- you can't do that with most satellites, but we can do it with these. The mirrors will be relatively small, and light. That means we can deploy a lot of them. Do you know how big space is, and how many thousands of pieces of junk are orbiting up there? They'd never get them all," Parks concluded with confidence.

"Jack, you've been looking at the Russians. What do you' think?" the President asked Ryan.

"Mr. President, the main force we're going against here is the Soviet fixation on defending their country -- and I mean actually defending it against attack. They've invested thirty years of work and quite a pile of money in this field because they think it's something worth doing. Back in the Johnson administration, Kosygin said, 'Defense is moral, offense is immoral.' That's a Russian talking, sir, not just a communist. To be honest, I find that a hard argument to disagree with. If we do enter a new phase of competition, at least it would be defensive instead of offensive. Kind of hard to kill a million civilians with a laser," Jack noted.

"But it will change the whole balance of power," Ernest Allen objected.

"The current balance of power may be fairly stable, but it's still fundamentally crazy," Ryan said.

"It works. It keeps the peace."

"Mr. Allen, the peace we have is one continuous crisis. You say we can reduce inventories by half -- again, so what? You could cut Soviet inventories by two thirds and still leave them with enough warheads to turn America into a crematorium. The same thing is true of our inventory. As I said coming back from Moscow, the reduction agreement now on the table is cosmetic only. It does not provide any degree of additional safety. It is a symbol -- maybe an important one, but only a symbol with very little substance."

"Oh, I don't know," General Parks observed. "If you reduce my target load by half, I wouldn't mind all that much." That earned him a nasty look from Allen.

"If we can find out what the Russians are doing different, where does that leave us?" the President asked.

"If the CIA gives us data that we can use? Major?" Parks turned his head.

"Then we'll have a weapons system that we can demonstrate in three years. and deploy over the five to ten years after that," Gregory said.

"You're sure," the President said.

"As sure as I can be, sir. Like with the Apollo Program, sir, it's not so much a question of inventing a new science as learning how to engineer technology we already have. It's just working out the nuts and bolts."

You re a very confident young man, Major," Allen said professorially.

"Yes, sir, I am. I think we can do it. Mr. Allen, our objective isn't all that different from yours. You want to get rid of the nukes, and so do we. Maybe we can help you, sir."

Zing! Ryan thought with a hastily concealed smile. A discreet knock came at the door. The President checked his watch.

"I have to cut this one short. I have to go over some antidrug programs over lunch with the Attorney General. Thank you for your time." He took one last look at the Dushanbe photo and stood. Everyone else did the same. They filed out by the side door, the one concealed in the white plaster walls.

"Nice going, kid," Ryan observed quietly to Gregory.

Candi Long caught the car outside her house. It was driven by a friend from Columbia, Dr. Beatrice Taussig, another optical physicist. Their friendship went back to undergraduate days. She was flashier than Candi. Taussig drove a Nissan 300Zsports car, and had the traffic citations to prove it. The car fitted well with her clothes, however, and the Clairoled hairstyle, and the brash personality that turned men off like a light switch.

"'Morning, Bea." Candi Long slipped into the car and buckled the seat belt before she closed the door. Driving with Bea, you always buckled up -- though she never seemed to bother.

"Tough night, Candi?" This morning it was a severe, not quite mannish wool suit, topped by a silk scarf at the neck. Long could never see the point. When you spent your day covered in a cheap white lab coat, who gave a damn what was under it -- except Al, of course, but he was interested in what was under what was under, she thought to herself, smiling.

"I sleep better when he's here."

"Where'd he go?" Taussig asked.

"Washington." She yawned. The rising sun cast shadows on the road ahead. "How come?" Bea downshifted as she accelerated the car up the freeway on-ramp. Candi felt herself pressed sideways against the seat belt. Why did her friend have to drive this way? This wasn't the Grand Prix of Monaco.

"He said that somebody ran a test, and he has to explain it to somebody or other."

"Hmph." Beatrice looked at her mirror and left the car in third as she selected a slot in the rush-hour traffic. She matched velocities expertly and slid into a space only ten feet longer than her Z-car. That earned her an angry beep from the car behind. She just smiled. The nondriving part of her psyche took note of the fact that whatever test Al was explaining hadn't been American. And there weren't too many people doing tests that this particular little geek had to explain. Bea didn't understand what Candi saw in Al-Gregory. Love, she told herself, is blind, not to mention deaf and dumb -- especially dumb. Poor, plain Candi Long, she could have done so much better. If only she'd been able to room with Candi at school...if only there were a way to let her know. "When's Al going to be back?"

"Maybe tonight. He's going to call. I'll take his car. He left it at the lab."

"Put a towel over the seat before you sit in it." She chuckled. Gregory drove a Chevy Citation. The perfect car for a geek, Bea Taussig thought. It was filled with the cellophane wrappers from Hostess Twinkies, and he washed it once a year whether the car needed it or not. She wondered what he was like in bed, but stifled the thought. Not in the morning, not after you just woke up. The thought of her friend...involved with that made her skin crawl. Candi was just so naive, so innocent -- so dumb! about some things. Well, maybe she'd come around. There was still hope. "How's the work on your diamond mirror coming?"

"ADAMANT? Give us another year and we'll know. I wish you were still working with my team," Dr. Long said.

"I can see more on the administrative side," Bea answered with remarkable honesty. "Besides, I know I'm not as smart as you.

"Just prettier," Candi noted wistfully.

Bea turned to look at her friend. Yes, there was still hope.

Misha had the finished report by four. It was delayed, Bondarenko explained, because all the most-secret-cleared secretaries were busy with other material. It was forty-one pages long, including the diagrams. The young Colonel was as good as his word, Filitov saw. He'd translated all of the engineering gobbledygook into plain, clear language. Misha had spent the previous week reading everything he could find in the files on lasers. While he didn't really understand the principles of their operation all that clearly, he had the engineering details committed to his trained memory. It made him feel like a parrot. He could repeat the words without comprehending their significance. Well, that was enough.

He read slowly, memorizing as he went. For all his peasant voice and gruff words, his mind was an even sharper razor than Colonel Bondarenko believed. And as things turned out, it didn't have to be. The important part of the breakthrough appeared simple enough, not a matter of increasing the size of the lasing cavity, but of adapting its shape to the magnetic field. With the proper shape, size could be increased almost at will...and the new limiting factor became a part of the superconducting magnetic-pulse-control assembly. Misha sighed. The West had done it yet again. The Soviet Union did not have the proper materials. So, as usual, the KGB had secured them in the West, this time shipped through Czechoslovakia via Sweden. Wouldn't they ever learn?

The report concluded that the other remaining problem was in the optical and computer systems. I'll have to see what our intelligence organs are doing about that, Filitov told himself. Finally, he spent twenty minutes going over the diagram of the new laser. When he got to the point at which he could close his eyes and recall every single detail, he put the report back in its folder. He checked his watch and punched the button for his secretary. The warrant officer appeared at the door in a few seconds.

"Yes, Comrade Colonel?"

"Take this down to Central Files -- Section 5, maximum security. Oh, and where's today's burn-bag?"

"I have it, Comrade."

"Get it for me." The man went back to the anteroom and returned a moment later with the canvas bag that went daily to the document-destruction room. Misha took it and started putting papers into it. "Dismissed. I'll drop this off on the way out."

"Thank you, Comrade Colonel."

"You work hard enough, Yuri Il'ych. Good night." When the door closed behind his secretary, Misha produced some additional pages, documents that had not originated at the Ministry. Every week or so he took care of the burn-bag himself. The warrant officer who handled Filitov's clerical work assumed that it was because of his Colonel's kindness, and perhaps also because there were some especially sensitive papers to be destroyed. In any case, it was a habit that long predated his own service to the Colonel, and the security services viewed it as routine. Three minutes later, on the way to his car, Misha walked into the destruct room. A young sergeant greeted the Colonel as he might have greeted his grandfather, and held open the chute to the incinerator. He watched as the Hero of Stalingrad set down his briefcase and used his crippled arm to open the bag as the good arm elevated it, dumping perhaps a kilogram of classified documents into the gas-fed fire in the Ministry's basement.

He could not have known that he was helping a man destroy evidence of high treason. The Colonel signed off in the log for having destroyed the documents from his section. With a friendly nod, Misha left the burn-bag on its hook and walked out the door to his waiting staff car.

Tonight the ghosts would come again, Misha knew, and tomorrow he'd take steam again, and another package of information would go to the West. On the way to his apartment, the driver stopped off at a special grocery store that was open only to the elite. Here the lines were short. Misha bought some sausage and black bread, and a half-liter bottle of Stolychnaya vodka. In a gesture of comradeliness, he even got one for his driver. For a young soldier, vodka was better than money.

In his apartment fifteen minutes later, Misha extracted his diary from its drawer, and first of all reproduced the diagram appended to Bondarenko's report. Every few minutes he'd spend a second or two looking at the framed photograph of his wife. For the most part, the formal report had tracked with the handwritten one; he had to write only ten new pages, carefully inserting the critical formulae as he went. CARDINAL reports were always models of brevity and clarity, something that came from a lifetime of writing operational directives. When he was finished, he put on a pair of gloves and walked into the kitchen. Magnetically attached to the back side of the steel panel at the bottom of his West German -- made refrigerator was a small camera. Misha operated the camera with ease, despite the inconvenience of the gloves. It took only a minute for him to photograph the new diary pages, after which he rewound the film and extracted the film cassette. He pocketed this and replaced the camera in its hiding place before removing the gloves. Next he adjusted the window shades. Misha was nothing if not careful. Close examination of his apartment's door would show scratches on the lock, indicating that it had been picked open by an expert. In fact, anyone could make the scratches. When it was confirmed that his report had reached Washington -- tire scuff marks on a predetermined section of curb -- he'd tear the pages out of the diary, take them to the Ministry in his pocket, put them in the burn-bag, and dump them down the chute himself. Misha had supervised the installation of the document-destruction system twenty years before.

When the task was complete, Colonel Mikhail Semyonovich Filitov looked again at Elena's picture and asked if he'd done the right thing. But Elena merely smiled as she had always done. All these years, he thought, and it still troubles my conscience. He shook his head. The final part of the ritual followed. He ate sausage and bread while his long-dead comrades of the Great Patriotic War came to visit, but he couldn't bring himself to ask those who had died for their country if he was justified in betraying it. He thought they would understand even better than his Elena, but was afraid to find out. The half-liter of vodka didn't provide the answer either. At least it drugged his brain to insensibility, and he staggered off to bed just after ten, leaving the lights on behind him.

Just after eleven, a car drove by the wide boulevard that fronted the apartment block, and a pair of blue eyes checked the Colonel's windows. It was Ed Foley this time. He noted the shades. On the way to his own flat, another covert message was passed. A Moscow sanitation worker set up a collection of signals. They were innocuous things, a chalk mark on a lamp post, for example, each of which would tell a part of the cutout team to be at their assigned posts. Another member of the CIA Moscow Station staff would check the cues at dawn, and if anything was amiss, Foley himself could abort everything.

As tense as his job was, Ed Foley found many aspects of it amusing. For one thing, the Russians themselves had made it easier by giving CARDINAL an apartment on a heavily traveled street. For another, in making such a hash of the new embassy building, they prevented him and his family from living in the new compound, and that forced Foley or his wife to drive down this boulevard every night. And they were so glad to have his son on their hockey team. That was one thing he'd miss on leaving this place, Foley told himself as he got out of the car. He now liked junior-league hockey better than baseball. Well, there was always soccer. He didn't want his son to play football. Too many kids got hurt, and he'd never be big enough. But that was in the future, and he still had the present to worry about.

He had to be careful saying things aloud in his own apartment. Every room in every flat occupied by Americans was assumed to be more heavily bugged than an ant farm, but over the years, Ed and Mary Pat had made a joke of that, too. After he came in and hung up his coat, he kissed his wife, then tickled her ear at the same time. She giggled in recognition, though both were thoroughly tired of the stress that came with this post. Just a few more months.

"So how was the reception?" she asked for the benefit of the wall microphones.

"The usual crap," was the recorded answer.

Chapter 9 -- Opportunities

Beatrice Taussig didn't make up a report, though she considered the slip Candi had made significant. Cleared for nearly everything that happened at Los Alamos National Laboratory, she hadn't been told about an unscheduled test, and while some SDI work was being done in Europe and Japan, none of it required Al Gregory as an interpreter. That made it Russian, and if they'd flown the little geek to Washington -- and, she remembered, he'd left his car at the lab; so they'd sent him a helicopter, too -- it had to have been something big. She didn't like Gregory, but she had no reason to doubt the quality of his brain. She wondered what the test was, but she wasn't cleared for what the Russians were up to, and her curiosity was disciplined. It had to be. What she was doing was dangerous.

But that was part of the fun, wasn't it? She smiled to herself.

"That leaves three unaccounted for." Behind the Afghans, the Russians were sifting through the wreckage of the An-26. The man talking was a KGB major. He'd never seen an air crash before, and only the cold air on his face had kept him from losing his breakfast.

"Your man?" The infantry Captain of the Soviet Army -- until very recently a battalion advisor to the puppet Afghan Army -- looked around to make sure his troops were manning the perimeter properly. His stomach was as settled as it could be. Watching his friend nearly gutted before his eyes had been the greatest shock of his life, and he was wondering if his Afghan comrade would survive emergency surgery.

"Still missing, I think." The aircraft's fuselage had broken into several pieces. Those passengers in the forward section bad been bathed in fuel when the plane had hit the ground, and were burned beyond recognition. Still, the troops had assembled the pieces for nearly all the bodies. All but three, that is, and the forensic experts would have to determine who was surely dead and who was still missing. They were not normally so solicitous for the victims of an airline crash -- the An-26 had technically been part of Aeroflot rather than the Soviet Air Force -- but a full effort was being made in this case. The missing Captain was part of the KGB's Ninth "Guards" Directorate, an administrative officer who'd been making a tour of the region, checking up on personnel and security activities at certain sensitive areas. His travel documents included some highly sensitive papers, but, more important, he had intimate knowledge of numerous KGB personnel and activities. The papers-could have been destroyed -- the remains of several briefcases bad been found, burned to ashes, but until the death of the Captain could be confirmed there would be some very unhappy people at Moscow Center.

"He left a family -- well, a widow. His son died last month, they tell me. Some kind of cancer," the KGB Major noted quietly.

"I hope you will take proper care of his wife," the Captain replied.

"Yes, we have a department to manage that. Might they have dragged him off?"

"Well, we know they were here. They always loot crash sites, looking for weapons. Documents?" The Captain shrugged. "We're fighting ignorant savages, Comrade Major. I doubt that they have much interest in documents of any kind. They might have recognized his uniform as that of a KGB officer, then dragged him off to mutilate the body. You wouldn't believe what they do to captives."

"Barbarians," the KGB man muttered. "Shooting down an unarmed airliner." He looked around. "Loyal" Afghan troops -- that was an optimistic adjective for them, he grumbled -- were putting the bodies, and the pieces, into rubber bags to be helicoptered back to Ghazni, then flown to Moscow for identification. "And if they dragged my man's body off?"

"We'll never find it. Oh, there's some chance, but not a good one. Every circling vulture we see, we'll send a helicopter out, but..." The Captain shook his head. "The odds are that you already have the body, Comrade Major. It will just require some time to confirm the fact."

"Poor bastard -- desk man. Wasn't even his territory, but the man assigned here is in the hospital with gallbladder problems, and he took this job in addition to his own."

"What's his usual territory?"

"The Tadzhik SSR. I suppose he wanted the extra work to get his mind off his troubles."

"How are you feeling, Russian?" the Archer asked his prisoner. They couldn't provide much in the way of medical attention. The nearest medical team, made up of French doctors and nurses, was in a cave near Hasan Khél. Their own walking casualties were heading there now. Those more Seriously hurt...well, what could they do? They had a goodly supply of painkillers, morphine ampuls manufactured in Switzerland, and injected the dying to ease their pain. In some cases the morphine helped them along, but anyone who showed hope of recovery was placed on a litter and carried southeast toward the Pakistani border. Those who survived the sixty-mile journey would receive care in something that passed for a real hospital, near the closed airfield at Miram Shah. The Archer led this party. He'd successfully argued with his comrades that the Russian was worth more alive than dead, that the Americastani would give them much for a member of the Russian political police and his documents. Only the tribal headman could have defeated this argument, and he was dead. They'd given the body as hasty a burial as their faith permitted, but he was now in Paradise. That left the Archer now as the most senior and trusted warrior of the band.

Who could have told from his flint-hard eyes and cold words that for the first time in three years there was pity in his heart? Even he was bemused by it. Why had those thoughts entered his head? Was it the will of Allah? It had to be, he thought. Who else could stop me from killing a Russian?

"Hurt," the Russian answered finally. But the Archer's pity didn't stretch that far. The morphine the mudjaheddin carried was only for their own. After looking to be sure that no one saw, he passed the Russian the photographs of his family. For the briefest instant his eyes softened. The KGB officer looked at him in surprise that overcame the pain. His good hand took the photographs, cupping them to his chest. There was gratitude on his face, gratitude and puzzlement. The man thought of his dead son, and contemplated his own fate. The worst thing that could happen, he decided within the cloud of pain, was that he'd rejoin his child, wherever he was. The Afghans could not hurt him worse than he already was in body and soul. The Captain was already to the point that the pain had become like a drug, so familiar that the agony had become tolerable, almost comfortable. He'd. heard that this was possible, but not believed it until now.

His mental processes were still not fully functional. In his twilight state he wondered why he hadn't been killed. He'd beard enough stories in Moscow about how the Afghans treated captives...and was that why you volunteered to handle this tour in addition to your own...? He wondered now at his fate, and how he'd brought it about.

You cannot die, Valeriy Mikhailovich, you must live. You have a wife, and she has suffered enough, he told himself. Already she is going through...The thought stopped of its own accord. The Captain slid the photo into a breast pocket and surrendered himself to the beckoning unconsciousness as his body labored to heal itself. He didn't wake as he was bound to a board and placed aboard a travois. The Archer led his party off.

Misha woke with the sounds of battle reverberating through his head. It was still dark outside -- the sun would not rise for some time -- and his first considered action was to go into the bathroom, where he splashed cold water on his face and washed down three aspirin. Some dry heaves followed, over the toilet, but all that came out was yellow bile, and he rose to look in the mirror to see what treason had done to a Hero of the Soviet Union. He could not -- would not -- stop, of course, but...but look what it is doing to you, Misha. The once clear-blue eyes were bloodshot and lifeless, the ruddy complexion gray like a corpse. His skin sagged, and the gray stubble on his cheeks blurred a face that had once been called handsome. He stretched his right arm, and as usual the scar tissue was stiff, looking like plastic. Well. He washed out his mouth and trudged off to the kitchen to make some coffee.

At least he had some of that, also bought in a store that catered to the members of the nomenklatura, and a Western-made machine with which to brew it. He debated over eating something, but decided to stick with coffee alone. He could always have some bread at his desk. The coffee was ready in three minutes. He drank a cup straight down, ignoring the damaging heat of the liquid, then lifted his phone to order his staff car. He wanted to be picked up early, and though he didn't say that he wanted to visit the baths this morning, the sergeant who answered the phone at the motor pool knew what the reason was.

Twenty minutes later Misha emerged from the front of his building. His eyes were already watering, and he squinted painfully into the cold northwest wind that tried to sweep him back through the doors. The sergeant thought to reach out and steady his Colonel, but Filitov shifted his weight slightly to fight against the invisible hand of nature that held him back and got into the car as he always did, as though he were boarding his old T-34 for combat.

"The baths, Comrade Colonel?" the driver asked after getting back in front.

"Did you sell the vodka I gave you?"

"Why, yes, Comrade Colonel," the youngster answered.

"Good for you, that's healthier than drinking it. The baths. Quickly," the Colonel said with mock gravity, "and I might yet live."

"If the Germans couldn't kill you, my Colonel, I doubt that a few drops of good Russian vodka can," the boy said cheerfully.

Misha allowed himself a laugh, accepting the flash in his head with good humor. The driver even looked like his Corporal Romanov. "How would you like to be an officer someday?"

"Thank you, Comrade Colonel, but I wish to return to the university to study. My father is a chemical engineer and I plan to follow him."

"He is a lucky man, then, Sergeant. Let's get moving."

The car pulled up to the proper building in ten minutes. The sergeant let his Colonel out, then parked in the reserved spaces from which he could see the doors. He lit a cigarette and opened a book. This was very good duty, better than tromping around in the mud with a motor-rifle company. He checked his watch. Old Misha wouldn't be back for nearly an hour. Poor old bastard, he thought, to be so lonely. What miserable luck that a hero should come to this.

Inside, the routine was so fixed that Misha could have done it asleep. After undressing, he got his towels, and slippers. and birch branches, and moved off to the steam room. He was earlier than usual. Most of the regulars hadn't shown up yet. So much the better. He increased the flow of water onto the firebricks and sat down to allow his pounding head to clear. Three others were scattered about the room. He recognized two of them, but they weren't acquaintances, and none seemed in the mood to talk. That was fine with Misha. The mere act of moving his jaw hurt, and the aspirin were slow today.

Fifteen minutes later the sweat poured off the white body. He looked up to see the attendant, heard the usual cant about a drink -- nobody wanted one just yet -- plus the line about the swimming pool. It seemed the likely thing for a man in this job to say, but what the precise wording meant was: All secure. I am ready for the transfer. By way of reply, Misha wiped the sweat off his brow in an exaggerated gesture common to elderly men. Ready. The attendant left. Slowly, Misha began counting to three hundred. When he got to two hundred and fifty-seven, one of his fellow alcoholics stood and walked out. Misha took note of this, but didn't worry about it. He had far too much practice. When he got to three hundred he rose with a jerking movement of his knees and left the room without a word.

The air was much cooler in the robing room, but he saw that the other man hadn't left yet. He was talking to the attendant about something or other. Misha waited patiently for the attendant to notice him, which he did. The young man came over, and the Colonel took a few steps to meet him. Misha stumbled on a loose tile and nearly fell. His good arm went forward, The attendant caught him, or nearly did. The birch sticks fell to the floor.

The young man swept them up in an instant and helped Misha to his feet. In another few seconds he'd given him a fresh towel for his shower and sent him on his way.

"Are you all right, Comrade?" the other man asked from the far end of the room.

"Yes, thank you. My old knees, and these old floors. They should pay more attention to the floor."

"Indeed they should. Come, we can shower together "the man said. He was about forty, and nondescript except for his bloodshot eyes. Another drinker, Misha observed at once.

"You were in the war, then?"

"Tanker. The last German gun got me -- but I got him, too, at the Kursk Bulge."

"My father was there. He served in the Seventh Guards Army under Konev."

"I was on the other side: Second Tanks, under Konstantin Rokossovskiy. My last campaign."

"I can see why, Comrade..."

"Filitov, Mikhail Semyonovich, Colonel of Tank Troops."

"I am Klementi Vladimirovich Vatutin, but I am no one's hero. It is a pleasure to meet you, Comrade."

"It is good for an old man to be shown respect."

Vatutin's father had served in the Kursk Campaign, but as a political officer. He'd retired a colonel in the NKVD, and his son had followed in his footsteps, in the agency later redesignated KGB.

Twenty minutes later, the Colonel was off to his office, and the bath attendant had slipped out the rear door again and entered that of the dry-cleaners. The store manager had to be called from the machine room, where he'd been oiling a pump. As a matter of simple security, the man who took the cassette from his hand was supposed to know neither the man's name nor where he worked. He pocketed the cassette, passed over three half-liter bottles of liquor, and returned to finish oiling the pump, his heart rate up as it always was on these days. He was quietly amused that his cover assignment as a CIA "agent" -- a Soviet national working for the American intelligence agency -- worked very much to his personal fiscal benefit. The under-the-counter marketing of alcohol paid him in "certificate" rubles that could be used to buy Western goods and premium foodstuffs at the hard-currency stores. He balanced that against the tension of his assignment as he washed the machine oil off his hands. He'd been part of this line of cutouts for six months, and though he didn't know it, his work along this line would soon be ended. He'd still be used to pass along information, but not for CARDINAL. Soon thereafter the man at the baths would seek another job, and this link of nameless agents would be dissolved -- and untraceable even to the relentless counterintelligence officers of the KGB's Second Chief Directorate.

Fifteen minutes later, a regular customer appeared with one of her English coats. It was an Aquascutum with the zippered-in liner removed. As always, she said something about taking special care to use the gentlest process on the coat, and as always he nodded and protested that this was the best cleaning shop in all of the Soviet Union. But it didn't have pre-printed check forms, and he wrote out three by hand on carbon-sets. The first was attached to the coat with a straight pin, the second went into a small box, and the third -- but first he checked the pockets.

"Comrade, you've left some change. I thank you, but we do not need the extra money." He handed this, and the receipt, over. Plus something else. It was so easy. Nobody ever checked the pockets, just as in the West.

"Ah, truly you are an honorable man," the lady said with an odd formalism common in the Soviet Union. "Good day, Comrade."

"And to you," the man replied. "Next!"

The lady -- her name was Svetlana -- walked off to the Metro station as usual. Her schedule allowed for a leisurely walk in case of problems at either end of her exchange. The streets of Moscow were invariably crowded with bustling, unsmiling people, many of whom looked at her coat with brief glances of envy. She had a wide selection of English clothing, having traveled to the West many times as part of her job at GOSPLAN, the Soviet economics planning ministry. It was in England that she'd been recruited by the British Secret Intelligence Service. She was used in the CARDINAL chain because the CIA didn't have all that many agents in Russia who could be used, and she was carefully given jobs only in the center of the chain, never at either end. The data she herself gave the West was low-level economic information, and her occasional services as a courier were actually more useful than the information of which she was so proud. Her case officers never told her this, of course; every spy deems him or herself to possess the most vital intelligence ever to make its way out. It made the game all the more interesting, and for all their ideological (or other) motivations, spies view their craft as the grandest of all games, since the y must invariably outsmart the most formidable resources of their own countries. Svetlana actually enjoyed living on the jagged edge of life and death, though she did not know why. She also believed that her highly placed father -- a senior Central Committee member -- could protect her from anything. After all, his influence enabled her to travel to Western Europe two or three times a year, didn't it? A pompous man, her father, but Svetlana was his only child, the mother of his only grandchild, and the center of his universe.

She entered the Kuznetskiy Most station in time to see one train leave. Timing was always the tricky part. In rush hour, the Moscow Metro trains run a mere thirty seconds apart. Svetlana checked her watch, and again she had timed her arrival perfectly. Her contact would be on the next one. She walked along the platform to the exact spot for the forward door on the second car of that train, ensuring that she'd be the first one aboard. Her clothing helped. She was often mistaken for a foreigner, and Moscovites treated foreigners with deference ordinarily reserved for royalty -- or the gravely ill. She didn't have to wait long. Soon she heard the rumble of an approaching train. Heads turned, as they always did, to see the lights of the lead car, and the sound of brakes filled the vaulted station with high-pitched noise. The door opened, and a rush of people emerged. Then Svetlana stepped in and took a few steps toward the back of the car. She grabbed the overhead bar -- all the seats were filled, and no man offered his -- and faced forward before the train lurched forward again. Her ungloved left hand was in her coat pocket.

She'd never seen the face of her contact on this train, but she knew that he'd seen hers. Whoever he was, he appreciated her slim figure. She knew that from his signal. In the crush of the crowded train, a hand hidden by a copy of Izvestia ran along her left buttock and stopped to squeeze gently. That was new, and she fought off the impulse to see his face. Might he be a good lover? She could use another one. Her former husband was such a...but, no. It was better this way, more poetic, more Russian, that a man whose face she'd never know found her beautiful and desirable. She clasped the film cassette between her thumb and forefinger, waiting the next two minutes for the train to stop at Pushkinskaya. Her eyes were closed, and a millimeter of smile formed on her lips as she contemplated the identity and attributes of the cutout whose hand caressed her. It would have horrified her case officer, but she gave no other outward sign of anything.

The train slowed. People rose from their seats, and those standing shuffled about in preparation to leave. Svetlana took her hand out of the pocket. The cassette was slippery, whether from water or some oily substance from the cleaners she didn't know. The hand left her hip -- a last, lingering trail of gentle pressure -- and came upward to receive the small metal cylinder as her face turned to the right.

Immediately behind her, an elderly woman tripped on her own feet and bumped into the cutout. His hand knocked the cassette from Svetlana's. She didn't realize it for a moment, but the instant the train stopped, the man was on all fours grabbing for it. She looked down more in surprise than horror to see the back of his head. He was going bald, and the shroud of hair about his ears was gray -- he was an old man! He had the cassette in a moment and sprang back to his feet. Old, but spry, she thought, catching the shape of his jaw. A strong profile -- yes, he'd be a good lover, and perhaps a patient one, the best kind of all. He scurried off the train, and she cleared her mind. Svetlana didn't notice that a man sitting on the left side of the car was up and moving, exiting the car against traffic a second before the doors closed again.

His name was Boris, and he was a night-watch officer at KGB headquarters now on his way home to sleep. Ordinarily he read the sports newspaper -- known originally as Sovietskiy Sport -- but today he'd forgotten to get one at the kiosk in the headquarters building, and he'd accidentally happened to see on the dirty black floor of the subway car what could only be a film cassette, and one too small to come from an ordinary camera. He hadn't seen the attempted pass, and didn't know who'd dropped it. He assumed that the fiftyish man had, and noted the skill with which the man had retrieved it. Once off the car, he realized that a pass must have taken place, but he'd been too surprised to respond properly, too surprised and too tired after a long night's duty.

He was a former case officer who'd operated in Spain before being invalided home after a heart attack and set on the night desk in his section. His rank was major. He felt he deserved a colonelcy for the work he'd done, but this thought, too, was not in his mind at the moment. His eyes searched the platform for the gray-haired man in the brown coat. There! He moved off, feeling a small twinge in his left chest as he walked after the man. He ignored that. He'd quit smoking a few years before, and the KGB doctor said that he was doing well. He got within five meters of the man, and closed no more. This was the time for patience. He followed him through the crossover to the Gor'kovskaya Station and onto the platform. Here things got tricky. The platform was crowded with people heading to their offices, and he lost visual contact with his quarry. The KGB officer was a short man and had trouble in crowds. Could he dare to close farther? It would mean pushing through the crowd...and calling attention to himself. That was dangerous.

He'd been trained in this, of course, but that was over twenty years behind him, and he frantically searched his mind for procedures. He knew fieldcraft, knew how to identify and shake a tail, but he was a First Directorate man, and the shadowing skills used by the ferrets of the Second Directorate were not part of his repertoire. What do I do now? he raged at himself. Such a chance this was! The First Directorate men naturally hated their counterparts in the Second, and to catch one of them at -- but what if there might be a "Two" man here? Might he be observing a training exercise? Might he now be the subject of curses from a "Two" man who had a case running on this courier? Could he be disgraced by this? What do I do now? He looked around, hoping to identify the counterintelligence men who might be working this courier, He couldn't hope to discern which face it was, but he might get a wave-off signal. He thought he remembered those. Nothing. What do I do now? He was sweating in the cold subway station, and the pain in his chest increased to add another factor to his dilemma. There was a system of covert telephone lines built into every segment of the Moscow subway system. Every KGB officer knew how to use them, but he knew he didn't have time to find and activate the system.

He had to follow the man. He had to run the risk. If it turned out to be the wrong decision, well, he was an experienced field officer in his own right, and he had looked for the wave-off. The "Two" people might tongue-lash him, but he knew he could depend on his First Directorate supervisors to protect him. The decision now made, the chest pain subsided. But there was still the problem of seeing him. The KGB officer wormed his way through the crowd, enduring grumbles as he did so, but finally finding his way blocked by a gang of laborers who were talking about something or other. He craned his neck to get a look at his quarry -- -yes! still standing there, looking to the right...The sound of the subway train came as a relief.

He stood there, trying not to look too often at his target. He heard the subway doors open with a hiss, heard the sudden change in noise as the people got off, then the rasping shuffle of feet as people crowded forward toward the doors.

The car was full! His man was inside, but the doors overflowed with bodies. The KGB officer raced to the rear door and fought his way in a moment before it shut. He realized with a chill that he might have been too obvious, but there was nothing he could do about that. As the train began moving, he worked his way forward. The people seated and standing noticed this untoward movement. As he watched, a hand adjusted a hat. Three or four newspapers rattled -- any of these signals could be a warning to the courier.

One of them was. Ed Foley was looking away after adjusting his glasses with a right hand that wore one glove and held another. The courier turned back forward and went over his escape procedures. Foley went over his own. The courier would dispose of the film, first exposing it by pulling it out of the metal cylinder, then dumping it in the nearest trash receptacle. That had happened twice before that he knew of, and in both cases the cutout had gotten away cleanly. They're trained how, Foley told himself. They know how. CARDINAL would be warned, and another film would be made, and...but this had never happened on Foley's watch, and it took all of his discipline to keep his face impassive. The courier didn't move at all. He got off at the next stop anyway. He'd done nothing unusual, nothing that didn't appear normal. He would say that he'd found this funny little thing with the -- was it film, Comrade? -- stuff pulled out on the floor of the train, and thought it merely trash to be disposed of. In his pocket, the man was trying to pull the film out of the cassette. Whoever took it always left a few millimeters out so that you could yank all of it -- or so they'd told him. But the cassette was slippery and he couldn't quite get a grip on the exposed end. The train stopped again and the courier moved out. He didn't know who was trailing him. He knew nothing other than-that he'd gotten his wave-off signal, and that signal also told him to destroy what he had in the prescribed way -- but he'd never had to do it before. He tried not to look around, and moved out of the station as quickly as anyone else in the crowd. For his part, Foley didn't even look out of the train's windows. It was nearly inhuman but he managed it, fearing above all that he might endanger his cutout.

The courier stood alone on a moving step of the escalator. Just a few more seconds and he'd be on the street. He'd find an alley to expose the film, and a sewer to dump it in, along with the cigarette he'd just lit. One smooth motion of the hand, and even if he were picked up, there would be no evidence, and his story, drilled into his head and practiced there every day, was good enough to make the KGB wonder. His career as a spy was now over. He knew that, and was surprised at the wave of relief that enveloped him like a warm, comfortable bath.

The air was a cold reminder of reality, but the sun was rising, and the sky was beautifully clear. He turned right and walked off. There was an alley half a block away, and a sewer grate that he could use. His cigarette would be finished just as he got there, yet another thing that he'd practiced. Now, if only he could get the film out of the cassette and exposed to sunlight...Damn. He slipped off his other glove and rubbed his hands together. The courier used his fingernails to get the film. Yes! He crumpled the film and put the cassette back into his pocket, and --

"Comrade." The voice was strong for a man of his age, the courier thought. The brown eyes sparkled with alertness, and the hand at his pocket was a strong one. The other, he saw, was in the man's pocket. "I wish to see what is in your hand."

"Who are you?" the courier blustered. "What is this?"

The right hand jerked in the pocket. "I am the man who will kill you, here on the street, unless I see what is in your hand. I am Major Boris Churbanov." Churbanov knew that this would soon be false. From the look on the man's face, he knew that he had his colonelcy.

Foley was in his office ten minutes later. He sent one of his men -- actually a woman -- out on the street to look for the signal that the dump had been made successfully, and his hope was that he'd simply goofed, that he'd overreacted to a commuter who was trying too hard to get to work. But...but there was something about that face that had said professional. Foley didn't know what, but it had been there. He had his hands fiat on the desk and stared at them for several minutes.

What did I do wrong? he asked himself. He'd been trained to do that, too, to analyze his actions step by step, looking for flaws, for mistakes, for...Had he been followed? He frequently was, of course, like all Americans on the embassy staff. His personal tail was a man he thought of as "George." But George wasn't there very often. The Russians didn't know who Foley was. He was sure of that. That thought caught in his throat. Being certain about anything in the intelligence business was the surest route to disaster. That was why he'd never broken craft, why he never deviated from the training that had been drilled into him at Camp Peary, on the York River in Virginia, then practiced all over the world.

Well. The next thing he had to do was predetermined. He walked to the communications room and sent a telex to Foggy Bottom. This one, however, went to a box number whose traffic was never routine. Within a minute of its receipt, a night-watch officer from Langley drove to State to retrieve it. The wording of the message was innocuous, but its meaning was not: TROUBLE ON THE CARDINAL LINE. FULL DATA TO FOLLOW.

They didn't take him to Dzerzhinskiy Square. KGB headquarters, so long used as a prison -- a dungeon for all that happened there -- was now exclusively an office building since, in obedience to Parkinson's Law, the agency had expanded to absorb all its available space. Now the interrogations were done at Lefortovo Prison, a block from the Sputnik Cinema. There was plenty of room here.

He sat alone in a room with a table and three chairs. It had never occurred to the courier to resist, and even now he didn't realize that if he'd run away or fought the man who'd arrested him, he might still be free. It wasn't the idea that Major Churbanov had had a gun -- he hadn't -- but simply that Russians, in lacking freedom, often lack the concepts needed for active resistance. He'd seen his life end. He accepted that. The courier was a fearful man, but he feared only what had to be. You cannot fight against destiny, he told himself.

"So, Churbanov, what do we have?" The questioner was a Captain of the Second Chief Directorate, about thirty years old.

"Have someone develop this." He handed over the cassette. "I think this man is a cutout." Churbanov described what he'd seen and what he'd done. He didn't say that he'd rewound the film into the cassette. "Pure chance that I spotted him," he concluded;

"I didn't think you 'One' people knew how, Comrade Major. Well done!"

"I was afraid that I'd blundered into one of your operations and -- "

"You would have known by now. It is necessary for you to make a full report. If you will accompany the sergeant here, he'll take you to a stenographer. Also, I will summon a full debriefing team. This will take some hours. You may wish to call your wife."

"The film," Churbanov persisted.

"Yes. I will walk that down to the lab myself. If you'll go with the sergeant, I'll rejoin you in ten minutes."

The laboratory was in the opposite wing of the prison. The Second Directorate had a small facility here, since much of its work centered on Lefortovo. The Captain caught the lab technician between jobs, and the developing process was started at once. While he waited, he called his Colonel. There was as yet no way to measure what this "One" man had uncovered, but it was almost certainly an espionage case, and those were all treated as matters of the utmost importance. The Captain shook his head. That old war-horse of a field officer, just stumbling into something like that.

"Finished." The technician came back. He'd developed the film and printed one blow-up, still damp from the process. He handed back the film cassette, too, in a small manila envelope. "The film has been exposed and rewound. I managed to save part of one frame. It's interesting, but I have no idea what it actually is."

"What about the rest?"

"Nothing can be done. Once film is exposed to sunlight, the data is utterly destroyed."

The Captain scanned the blow-up as the technician said something else. It was mainly a diagram, with some caption printed in block letters. The words at the top of the diagram read: BRIGHT STAR COMPLEX #1, and one of the other captions was LASER ARRAY. The Captain swore and left the room at a run.

Major Churbanov was having tea with the debrief team when the Captain returned. The scene was comradely. It would get more so.

"Comrade Major, you may have discovered something of the highest importance," the Captain said. g

"I serve the Soviet Union," Churbanov replied evenly. It was the perfect reply -- the one recommended by the Party. Perhaps he might leap over the rank of lieutenant colonel and become a full colonel...

"Let me see," the chief debriefer said. He was a full colonel, and examined the photographic print carefully. "This is all?"

"The rest was destroyed."

The Colonel grunted. That would create a problem, but not all that much of one. The diagram would suffice to identify the site, whatever it was. The printing looked to be the work of a young person, probably a woman because of its neatness. The Colonel paused and looked out the window for a few seconds. "This has to go to the top, and quickly. What is described an here as -- well, I have never heard of it, but it must be a matter of the greatest secrecy. You comrades begin the debrief. I'm going to make a few calls. You, Captain, take the cassette to the lab for fingerprints and -- "

"Comrade, I touched it with my bare hands," Churbanov said ashamedly.

"You have nothing to apologize for, Comrade Major, your vigilance was more than exemplary," the Colonel said generously. "Check for prints anyway."

"The spy?" the Captain asked. "What about interrogating him?"

"We need an experienced man. I know just the one." The Colonel rose. "I'll call him, too."

Several pairs of eyes watched him, measuring him, his face, his determination, his intelligence. The courier was still alone in the interrogation room. The laces had been taken from his shoes, of course, and his belt, and his cigarettes, and anything else that might be used as a weapon against himself, or to settle him down. There was no way for him to measure time, and the lack of nicotine made him fidgety and even more nervous than he might have been. He looked about the room and saw a mirror, which was two-way, but he didn't know that. The room was completely soundproofed to deny him even the measure of time from footsteps in the outside corridor. His stomach growled a few times, but otherwise he made no sound. Finally the door opened.

The man who entered was about forty and well dressed in civilian clothes. He carried a few sheets of paper. The man walked around to the far side of the table and didn't look at the courier until be sat down. When he did look at him, his eyes were disinterested, like a man at the zoo examining a creature from a distant land. The courier tried to meet his gaze impassively, but failed Already the interrogator knew that this one would be easy. After fifteen years, he could always tell.

"You have a choice," he said after another minute or so. His voice was not hard, but matter-of-fact. "It can go easily for you or it can go very hard. You have committed treason against the Motherland. I do not need to tell you what happens to traitors. If you wish to live, you will tell me now, today, everything you know: If you do not do this, we will find out anyway, and you will die. If you tell us today, you will be allowed to live."

"You will kill me anyway," the courier observed.

"This is not true. If you cooperate, today, you will at worst be sentenced to a lengthy term in a labor camp of strict regime. It is even possible that we can use you to uncover more spies. If so, you will be sent to a camp of moderate regime, for a lesser term. But for that to happen, you must cooperate, today. I will explain. If you return to your normal life at once, the people for whom you work may not know that we have arrested you. They will, therefore, continue to make use of you, and this will enable us to use you to catch them in the act of spying against the Soviet Union. You would testify in the trial against them, and this will allow the State to show mercy. To show such mercy in public is also useful to the State. But for all this to happen, to save your life, and to atone for your crimes, you must cooperate, today." The voice paused for a beat, and softened further.

"Comrade, I take no pleasure in bringing pain to people, but if my job requires it, I will give the order without hesitation. You cannot resist what we will do to you. No one can. No matter how brave you may be, your body has its limits. So does mine. So does anyone's. It is only a matter of time. Time is important to us only for the next few hours, you see. After that, we can take all the time we wish. A man with a hammer can break the hardest stone. Save yourself the pain, Comrade. Save your life," the voice concluded, and the eyes, which were oddly sad and determined at the same time, stared into the courier's.

The interrogator saw that he'd won. You could always tell from the eyes. The defiant ones, the hard ones, didn't shift their eyes. They might stare straight into yours, or more often at a fixed point of the wall behind you, but the hard ones would fix to a single place and draw their strength from it. Not this one. His eyes flickered around the room, searching for strength and finding none. Well, he'd expected this one to be easy. Perhaps one more gesture...

"Would you like a smoke?" The interrogator fished out a pack and shook one loose on the table.

The courier picked it up, and the white paper of the cigarette was his flag of surrender.

Chapter 10 -- Damage Assessment

"What do we know?" Judge Moore asked. It was a little after six in the morning at Langley, before dawn, and the view outside the windows matched the gloom that the Director and his two principal subordinates felt.

"Somebody was trailing cutout number four," Ritter said. The Deputy Director for Operations riffled through the papers in his hand. "He spotted the tail just before the pass was made and waved the guy off. The tail probably didn't see his face. and took off after the cutout. Foley said he looked clumsy -- that's pretty strange, but he went with his instincts, and Ed's pretty good at that. He put an officer on the street to catch the shake-off signal from our agent, but it wasn't put up. We have to assume that he's been burned, and we have to assume that the film is in their hands, too, until we can prove otherwise. Foley has broken the chain. CARDINAL will be notified never to use his pickup man again. I'm going to tell Ed to use the routine data-lost signal, not the emergency one."

"Why?" Admiral Greer asked. Judge Moore answered.

"The information he had en route is pretty important, James. If we give him the scramble signal, he may -- hell, we've told him that if that happens he's to destroy everything that might be incriminating. What if he can't re-create the information? We need it."

"Besides, Ivan has to do a lot to get back to him," Ritter went on. "I want Foley to get the data restored and out, and then -- then I want to bust CARDINAL out once. and for all. He's paid his dues. After we get the data, then we'll give him the emergency signal, and if we're lucky it'll scare him enough that we can get him to come out."

"How do you want to do it?" Moore asked.

"The wet way, up north," the DDO answered.

"Opinions, James?" Moore asked the DDI.

"Makes sense. Take a little time to set up. Ten to fourteen days."

"Then let's do that today. You call the Pentagon and make the request. Make sure they give us a good one.

"Right." Greer nodded, then smiled. "I know which one to ask for."

"As soon as we know which, I'll send our man to her. We'll use Mr. Clark," Ritter said. Heads nodded. Clark was a minor legend in the Operations Directorate. If anybody could do it, he could.

"Okay, get the message off to Foley," the Judge said. "I'll have to brief the President on this." He wasn't looking forward to that

"Nobody lasts forever. CARDINAL's beat the odds three times over," Ritter said. "Make sure you tell him that, too."

"Yeah. Okay, gentlemen, let's get to it."

Admiral Greer went immediately to his office. It was just before seven, and he called the Pentagon, OP-02, the office of the Assistant Chief of Naval Operations (Undersea Warfare). After identifying himself, he asked his first question: "What's Dallas up to?"

Captain Mancuso was already at work, too. His last deployment on USS Dallas would begin in five hours. She'd sail on the tide. Aft, the engineers were already bringing the nuclear reactor on line. While his executive officer was running things, the Captain was going over the mission orders again. He was heading "up north" one last time. In the U.S. and Royal navies, up north meant the Barents Sea, the Soviet Navy's backyard. Once there, he'd conduct what the Navy officially termed oceanographic research, which in the case of USS Dallas meant that she'd spend all the time possible trailing Soviet missile submarines. It wasn't easy work, but Mancuso was an expert at it, and he had, in fact, once gotten a closer look at a Russian "boomer" than any other American sub skipper. He couldn't discuss that with anyone, of course, not even a fellow skipper. His second Distinguished Service Medal, awarded for that -mission, was classified and he couldn't wear it; though its existence did show in the confidential section of his personnel file, the actual citation was missing. But that was behind him, and Mancuso was a man who always looked forward. If he had to make one final deployment, it might as well be up north. His phone rang.

"Captain speaking," he answered.

"Bart, Mike Williamson," said the Submarine Group Two commander. "I need you here, right now."

"On the way, sir." Mancuso hung up in surprise. Within a minute he was up the ladder, off the boat, and walking along the blacktopped quay in the Thames, where the Admiral's car was waiting. He was in the Group Two office four minutes after that.

"Change in orders," Rear Admiral Williamson announced as soon as the door was closed.

"What's up?"

"You're making a high-speed run for Faslane. Some people will be meeting you there. That's all I know, but the orders originated at OP-02 and came through SUBLANT in about thirty seconds." Williamson didn't have to say anything else. Something very hot was up. Hot ones came to Dallas quite often. Actually, they came to Mancuso, but then, he was Dallas.

"My sonar department's still a little thin," the Captain said. "I've got some good young ones, but my new chief's in the hospital. If this is going to be especially hairy...7

"What do you need?" Admiral Williamson asked, and got his answer.

"Okay, I'll get to work on that. You have five days to Scotland, and I can work something out on this end. Drive her hard, Bart."

"Aye aye, sir." He'd find out what was happening when he got to Faslane.

"How are you, Russian?" the Archer asked.

He was better. The previous two days, he'd been sure that he'd die. Now he wasn't so sure. False hope or not, it was something he hadn't had before. Churkin wondered now if there might really be a future in his life, and if it were something be might have to fear. Fear. He'd forgotten that. He'd faced death twice in a small expanse of time. Once in a falling, burning airplane, hitting the ground and seeing the instant when his life ended; then waking up from death to find an Afghan bandit over him with a knife, and seeing death yet again, only to have it stop and leave. Why? This bandit, the one with the strange eyes, both hard and soft, pitiless and compassionate, wanted him to live. Why? Churkin had the time and energy to ask the question now, but they didn't give him an answer.

He was riding in something. Churkin realized that he was flying on a steel deck. A truck? No, there was a flat surface overhead, and that, too, was steel. Where am 1? It had to be dark outside. No light came through the gunports in the side of -- he was in an armored personnel carrier! Where did the bandits get one of those? Where were they --

They were taking him to Pakistan! They would turn him over to...Americans? And hope changed yet again to despair. He coughed again, and fresh blood erupted from his mouth.

For his part, the Archer felt lucky. His group had met up with another, taking two Soviet BTR-60 infantry carriers out to Pakistan, and they were only too happy to carry the wounded of his band out with them. The Archer was famous, and it could not hurt to have a SAM-shooter protect them if Russian helicopters showed up. But there was little danger of that. The nights were long, the weather had turned foul, and they averaged almost fifteen kilometers per hour on the flat places, and no less than five on the rocky ones. They'd be to the border in an hour, and this segment was held by the mudjaheddin. The guerrillas were starting to relax. Soon they'd have a week of relative peace, and the Americans always paid handsomely for Soviet hardware. This one had night-vision devices that the driver was using to pick his way up the mountain road. For that they could expect rockets, mortar shells, a few machine guns, and medical supplies.

Things were going well for the mudjaheddin. There was talk that the Russians might actually withdraw. Their troops no longer craved close combat with the Afghans. Mainly the Russians used their infantry to achieve contact, then called in artillery and air support. Aside from a few vicious bands of paratroopers and the hated Spetznaz forces, the Afghans felt that they had achieved moral ascendancy on the battlefield -- due, of course, to their holy cause. Some of their leaders actually talked about winning, and the talk had gotten to the individual fighters. They, too, now had hope of something other than continued holy war.

The two infantry carriers reached the border at midnight. From there the going was easier. The road down into Pakistan was now guarded by their own forces. The APC drivers were able to speed up and actually enjoy what they were doing. They reached Miram Shah three hours later. The Archer got out first, taking with him the Russian prisoner and his wounded.

He found Emilio Ortiz waiting for him with a can of apple juice. The man's eyes nearly bugged out when he realized that the man the Archer was carrying was a Russian.

"My friend, what have you brought me?"

"He is badly hurt, but here is what he is." The Archer handed over one of the man's shoulder boards, then a briefcase. "And this is what he was carrying."

"Son of a bitch!" Ortiz blurted in English. He saw the crusted blood around the man's mouth and realized that his medical condition was not promising, but...what a catch this was! It took another minute of following the wounded to the field hospital before the next question came to the case officer: What the hell do we do with him?

The medical team here, too, was composed mainly of Frenchmen, with a leavening of Italians and a few Swedes. Ortiz knew most of them, and suspected that many of them reported to the DOSE, the French foreign intelligence agency. What mattered, however, was that there were some pretty good doctors and nurses here. The Afghans knew that, too, and protected them as they might have protected the person of Allah. The surgeon who had triage duty put the Russian third on the operating schedule. A nurse medicated him, and the Archer left Abdul to keep an eye on things. He hadn't brought the Russian this far to have him killed. He and Ortiz went off to talk.

"I heard what happened at Ghazni," tbe CIA officer said.

"God's will. This Russian, he lost a son. I could not -- perhaps I had killed enough for one day." The Archer let out a long breath. "Will he be useful?"

"These are." Ortiz was already riffling through the documents. "My friend, you do not know what you have done. Well, shall we talk about the' last two weeks?"

The debrief took until dawn. The Archer took out his diary and went over everything he'd done, pausing only while Ortiz changed tapes in his recorder.

"That light you saw in the sky."

" seemed very strange," the Archer said, rubbing his eyes.

"The man you brought out was going there. Here is the base diagram."

"Where is it, exactly -- and what is it?"

"I don't know, but it's only about-a hundred kilometers from the Afghan border. I can show you on the map. How long will you be staying on this side?" Perhaps a week," the Archer answered.

"I must report this to my superiors. They may want to see you. My friend, you will be greatly rewarded. Make a list of what you need. A long list."

"And the Russian?"

"We will talk to him, too. If he lives."

The courier walked down Lazovskiy Pereulok, waiting for his contact. His own hopes were both high and low. He actually believed his interrogator, and by later afternoon he'd taken the chalk that he used and made the proper mark in the proper place. He knew that he'd done so five hours later than he was supposed to, but hoped that his controller would put that off to the evasion process. He hadn't made the false mark, the one that would warn the CIA officer that he'd been turned. No, he was playing too dangerous a game now. So he walked along the dreary sidewalk, waiting for his handler to show up for the clandestine meet.

What he didn't know was that his handler was Sitting in his office at the American Embassy, and would not travel to this part of Moscow for several weeks. There were no plans to contact the courier for at least that long. The CARDINAL line was gone. So far as CIA was concerned it might never have existed.

"I think we're wasting our time," the interrogator said. He and another senior officer of the Second Directorate sat by the window of an apartment. At the next window was another "Two" man with a camera. He and the other senior officer had learned this morning what Bright Star was, and the General who commanded the Second Chief Directorate had given this case the highest possible priority. A leak of colossal proportions had been uncovered by that broken-down war-horse from "One."

"You think he lied to you?"

"No. This one was easy to break -- and, no, it was not too easy. He broke," the interrogator said confidently. "I think we failed to get him back on the street quickly enough. I think they know, and I think they've broken off the line."

"But what went wrong -- I mean from their point of view, it might have been routine."

"Da." The interrogator nodded agreement. "But we know that the information is highly sensitive. So, too, must be its source. They have therefore taken extraordinary measures to protect it. We cannot do things the easy way now.

"Bring him in, then?"

"Yes." A car drove up to the man. They watched him get in before they walked to their own vehicle.

Within thirty minutes they were all back in Lefortovo Prison. The interrogator's face was sad.

"Tell me, why is it I think that you have lied to me?" the man asked,

"But I have not! I did everything I was supposed to do. Perhaps I was late, but I told you that."

"And the signal you left, was it the one to tell them that we had you?"

"No!" The courier nearly panicked. "I explained all of that, too."

"The problem, you see, is that we cannot tell the difference between one chalk mark and another. If you are being clever, you may have deceived us." The interrogator leaned forward.

"Comrade, you can deceive us. Anyone can -- for a time. But not a very long time." He paused to let that thought hover in the air for a minute. It was so easy, interrogating the weak ones. Give hope, then take it away; restore it, and remove it yet again. Take their spirits up and down until they no longer knew which was which -- and, lacking a measure of their own feelings, those feelings became yours to use.

"We begin again. The woman you meet on the train -- who is she?"

"I do not know her name. She is over thirty, but young for her age. Fair hair, slim and pretty. She is always dressed well, like a foreigner, but she is not a foreigner."

"Dressed like a foreigner -- how?"

"Her coat is usually Western. You can tell from the cut and the cloth. She is pretty, as I have said, and she -- "

"Go on," the interrogator said.

"The signal is that I put my hand on her rump. She likes it, I think. Often she presses back against my hand."

The interrogator hadn't heard that detail before, but he immediately deemed it the truth. Details like that one were never made up, and it fitted the profile. The female contact was an adventuress. She was not a true professional, not if she reacted like that. And that probably -- almost certainly -- made her a Russian.

"How many times have you met her like this?"

"Only five. Never the same day of the week, and not on a regular schedule, but always on the second car of the same train."

"And the man you pass it to?"

"I never see his face, not all of it, I mean. He is always standing with his hand on the bar, and he moves his face to keep his arm between it and me. I have seen some of it, but not all. He is foreign, I think, but I don't know what nationality."

"Five times, and you have never seen his face!" the voice boomed, and a fist slammed down on the table. "Do you take me for a fool!"

The courier cringed, then spoke rapidly. "He wears glasses; they are Western, I am sure of it. He usually wears a hat. Also, he has a paper folded, Izvestia, always Izvestia. Between that and his arm, you cannot see more than a quarter of his face. His go-ahead signal is to turn the paper slightly, as though to follow a story, then he turns away to shield his face."

"How is the pass made, again!"

"As the train stops, he comes forward, as though to get ready to leave at the next station. I have the thing in my hand, and he takes it from behind as I start to leave."

"So, you know her face, but she does not know yours. He knows your face, but you do not know his..." The same method that this one uses to make his pickup. That's a nice piece of fieldcraft, but why do they use the same technique twice on the same line? The KGB used this one too, of course, but it was harder than other methods, doubly so on the Metro's crowded, frantic rush-hour schedule. He was beginning to think that the most common means of transferring information, the dead-drop, wasn't part of this line. That, too, was very curious. There should have been at least one dead-drop, else the KGB could roll up the line -- maybe.

They were already trying to identify the source of the leak, of course, but they bad to be careful. There was always the possibility that the spy was himself (or herself?) a security officer. That was, indeed, the ideal post for an intelligence agent, since with the job came access to everything, plus foreknowledge of any counterintelligence operations under way. It had happened before -- the investigation of a leak had itself alerted the spy, a fact not discovered until some years after the investigation had been terminated. The other really odd thing was that the one photographic frame they had was not of a real diagram, but rather of a hand-drawn one.

Handwriting -- was that the reason that there were no dead-drops? The spy could be identified that way, couldn't he? What a foolish way to --

But there was nothing foolish here, was there? No, and there wasn't anything accidental either. If the techniques on this line were odd, they were also professional. There was another level to this, something that the interrogator didn't have yet.

"I think that tomorrow, you and I will ride the Metro."

Colonel Filitov woke up without a pounding in his head, which was pleasure enough. His "normal" morning routine was not terribly different from the other sort, but without the pain and the trip to the baths. He checked the diary tucked away in the desk drawer after he dressed, hoping that he'd be able to destroy it, as per his usual procedure. He already had a new blank diary that he'd begin with when this one was destroyed. There had been hints of a new development, on the laser business the previous day, plus a paper on missile systems that he'd be seeing the following week.

On entering the car, he settled back, more alert than usual, and looked out the window during the drive into work. There were a number of trucks on the street, early as it was, and one of them blocked his view of a certain piece of curb. That was his "data-lost" signal. He was slightly annoyed that he couldn't see where it was, but his reports were rarely lost, and it didn't trouble him greatly. The "transfer successful" signal was in a different place, and was always easy to see. Colonel Filitov settled back in his seat, gazing out the window as he approached the spot...there. His head turned to track on the spot, looking for the mark...but it wasn't there. Odd. Had the other marker been set? He'd have to check that on the trip home tonight. In his years of work for CIA, several of his reports had been lost one way or another, and the danger signal hadn't been set, nor had he gotten the telephone call asking for Sergey that would tell him to leave his apartment at once. So there was probably no danger. Just an annoying inconvenience. Well. The' Colonel relaxed and contemplated his day at the Ministry.

This time the Metro was fully manned. Fully a hundred Second Directorate men were in this one district, most dressed like ordinary Moscovites, some like workmen. These latter were operating the "black" phone lines installed along with electrical service panels throughout the system. The interrogator and his prisoner were riding trains back and forth on the "purple" and "green" lines, looking for a well-dressed woman in a Western coat. Millions of people traveled the Metro every day, but the counterintelligence officers were confident. They had time working for them, and their profile of the target -- an adventuress. She was probably not disciplined enough to separate her daily routine from her covert activities. Such things had happened before. As a matter of faith -- shared with their counterparts throughout the world -- the security officers held that people who spied on their homeland were defective in some fundamental way. For all their cunning, such traitors would sooner or later connive at their Own destruction.

And they were right, at least in this case. Svetlana came onto the station platform holding a bundle wrapped in brown paper. The courier recognized her hair first of all. The style was ordinary, but there was something about the way she held her head, something intangible that made him point, only to have his hand yanked down. She turned and the KGB Colonel got a look at her face. The interrogator saw that she was relaxed, more so than the other commuters who displayed the grim apathy of the Moscovite. His first impression was of someone who enjoyed life. That would change.

He spoke into a small radio, and when the woman got on the next train, she had company. The "Two" man who got on with her had a radio earpiece, almost like a hearing aid. Behind them at the station, the men working the phone circuit alerted agents at every station on the line. When she got off, a full shadow team was ready. They followed her up the long escalator onto the street. Already a car was here, and more officers began the surveillance routine. At least two men always had visual contact with the subject, and the close-in duty rotated rapidly among the group as more and more men joined in the chase. They followed her all the way to the GOSPLAN Building on Marksa Prospekt, opposite the Hotel Moscow. She never knew that she was being followed, and never even attempted to look for evidence of it. Within half an hour, twenty photographs were developed and were shown to the prisoner, who identified her positively.

The procedure after that was more cautious. A building guard gave her name to a KGB officer who admonished him not to discuss the inquiry with anyone. With her name, a full identity was established by lunchtime, and the interrogator, who was now running all aspects of the case, was appalled to learn that Svetlana Vaneyeva was the child of a senior Central Committee member. That would be a complication. Quickly, the Colonel assembled another collection of photographs and reexamined his prisoner, but yet again he selected the right woman from a collection of six. The family member of a Central Committee man was not someone to -- but they had identification, and they bad a major case. Vatutin went to confer with the head of his directorate.

What happened next was tricky. Though deemed all-powerful by the West, the KGB has always been subservient to the Party apparatus; even the KGB needed permission to trifle with a family member of so powerful an official. The head of the Second Directorate went upstairs to the KGB Chairman. He returned thirty minutes later.

"You may pick her up."

"The Secretary of the Central Committee -- "

"Has not been informed," the General said.

"But -- "

"Here are your orders." Vatutin took the handwritten sheet, personally signed by the Chairman.

"Comrade Vaneyeva?"

She looked up to see a man in civilian clothes -- GOSPLAN was a civilian agency, of course -- who stared at her oddly.

"Can I help you?"

"I am Captain Klementi Vladimirovich Vatutin of the Moscow Militia. I would like you to come with me." The interrogator watched closely for a reaction, but got nothing.

"Whatever for?" she asked.

"It is possible that you can help us in the identification of someone. I cannot elaborate further here," the man said apologetically.

"Will it take long?"

"Probably a few hours. We can have someone drive you home afterward."

"Very well. I have nothing critical on my desk at the moment." She rose without another word. Her look at Vatutin betrayed a certain sense of superiority. The Moscow Militia was not an organization that was lavished with respect by local citizens, and the mere rank of captain for a man of his age told her much of his career. Within a minute she had her coat on and the bundle under her arm, and they headed out of the building. At least the Captain was kulturny, she saw, holding the door open for her. Svetlana assumed from this that Captain Vatutin knew who she was -- more precisely, who her father was.

A car was waiting and drove off at once. She was surprised at the route, but it wasn't until they drove past Khokhlovskaya Square that she was sure.

"We're not going to the Ministry of Justice?" she asked.

"No, we're going to Lefortovo," Vatutin replied offhandedly.

"But -- "

"I didn't want to alarm you in the office, you see. I am actually Colonel Vatutin of the Second Chief Directorate." There was a reaction to that, but Vaneyeva recovered her composure in an instant.

"And what is it that I am to help you with, then?"

She was good, Vatutin saw. This one would be a challenge. The Colonel was loyal to the Party, but not necessarily to its officials. He was a man who hated corruption almost as much as treason. "A small matter -- you'll doubtless be home for dinner."

"My daughter -- "

"One of my people will pick her up. If things run a little late, your father will not be upset to see her, will he?"

She actually smiled at that. "No, Father loves to spoil her."

"It probably won't take that long anyway," Vatutin said, looking out the window. The car pulled through the gates into the prison. He helped her out of the car, and a sergeant held the door open for both of them. Give them hope, then take it away. He took her gently by the arm. "My office is this way. You travel to the West often, I understand."

"It is part of my work." She was on guard now, but no more than anyone would be here.

"Yes, I know. Your desk deals with textiles." Vatutin opened his door and waved her in.

"That's her!" a voice called. Svetlana Vaneyeva stopped dead, as though frozen in time. Vatutin took her arm again and directed her to a chair.

"Please sit down."

"What is this!" she said, finally in alarm.

"This man here was caught carrying copies of secret State documents. He has told us that you gave them to him," Vatutin said as he sat behind his desk.

Vaneyeva turned and stared at the courier. "I have never seen that face in my life! Never!"

"Yes," Vatutin said dryly. "I know that."

"What -- " She searched for words. "But this makes no sense."

"You've been very well trained. Our friend here says that his signal to pass on the information is that he runs his hand across your rump."

She turned to face her accuser. "Govnoed! This thing said that! This" -- she sputtered for another moment -- "worthless person. Rubbish!"

"So you deny the charge?" Vatutin inquired. Breaking this one would really be a pleasure.

"Of course! I am a loyal Soviet citizen. I am a Party member. My father -- "

"Yes, I know about your father."

"He will hear of this, Colonel Vatutin, and if you threaten me -- "

"We do not threaten you, Comrade Vaneyeva, .we ask for information. Why were you on the Metro yesterday? I know that you have your own car."

"I often ride the Metro. It is simpler than driving, and I had to make a stop." She picked her package up off the floor. "Here. I dropped off the coat for cleaning. It is inconvenient to park the car, go in, and then drive on. So I took the underground. Same thing today, when I picked it up. You can check at the cleaners."

"And you did not pass this to our friend here?" Vatutin held up the film cassette.

"I don't even know what that is."

"Of course." Colonel Vatutin shook his head. "Well, there we are." He pressed a button on his intercom set. The office's side door opened a moment later. Three people came in. Vatutin waved to Svetlana. "Prepare her."

Her reaction was not so much panic as disbelief. Svetlana Vaneyeva tried to bolt from the chair, but a pair of men grabbed her by the shoulders and held her in place. The third rolled up the sleeve on her dress and stuck a needle in her arm before she had the presence of mind to shout. "You can't," she said, "you can't...

Vatutin sighed. "Ah, but we can. How long?"

"That'll keep her under for at least two hours," the doctor replied. He and his two orderlies picked her out of the chair. Vatutin came around and got the parcel. "She'll be ready for you as soon as I do the medical check, but I anticipate no problems. Her medical file is clean enough."

"Excellent. I'll be down after I have something to eat." He gestured to the other prisoner. "You can take him away. I think we're done with him."

"Comrade, I -- " the courier began, only to be cut off.

"Do not dare to use that word again." The reprimand was all the harsher for its soft delivery.

Colonel Bondarenko now ran the Ministry's laser-weapons desk. It was by the decision of Defense Minister Yazov, of course, as recommended by Colonel Filitov.

"So, Colonel, what news do you bring us?" Yazov asked.

"Our colleagues at KGB have delivered to us partial plans for the American adaptive-optics mirror." He handed over two separate copies of the diagrams.

"And we cannot do this ourselves?" Filitov asked.

"The design is actually quite ingenious, and, the report says, an even more advanced model is in the design stages right now. The good 'pews is that it requires fewer actuators -- "

"What is that?" Yazov asked.

"The actuators are the mechanisms which alter the con tours of the mirror. By lowering the number of them you also reduce the requirements of the computer system that operates the mirror assembly. The existing mirror -- this one here -- requires the services of an extremely powerful supercomputer, which we cannot yet duplicate in the Soviet Union. The new mirror is projected to require only a fourth as much computer power. This allows both a smaller computer to operate the mirror and also a simpler control program." Bondarenko leaned forward. "Comrade Minister, as my first report indicated, one of the principal difficulties with Bright Star is the computer system. Even if we were able to manufacture a mirror like this one, we do not as yet have the computer hardware and software to operate it at maximum efficiency. I believe we could do so if we had this new mirror."

"But we don't have the new mirror plans yet?" Yazov asked.

"Correct. The KGB is working on that."

"We can't even replicate these 'actuators' yet," Filitov groused. "We've had the specifications and diagrams for several months and still no factory manager has delivered -- "

"Time and funds, Comrade Colonel," Bondarenko chided. Already he was learning to speak with confidence in this rarest of atmospheres.

"Funding," Yazov grunted. "Always funding. We can build an invulnerable tank -- with enough funds. We can catch up with Western submarine technology -- with enough funding. Every pet project of every academician in the Union will deliver the ultimate weapon -- if only we can provide enough funding. Unfortunately there is not enough for all of them." There's one way in which we've caught up with the West!

"Comrade Minister," Bondarenko said, "I have been a professional soldier for twenty years. I have served on battalion and divisional staffs, and 1 have seen close combat. Always I have served the Red Army, only the Red Army. Bright Star belongs to another service branch. Despite this, I tell you that if necessary we should deny funds for tanks, and ships, and airplanes in order to bring Bright Star to completion. We have enough conventional weapons to stop any NATO attack, but we have nothing to stop Western missiles from laying waste to our country." He drew back. "Please forgive me for stating my opinion so forcefully."

"We pay you to think," Filitov observed. "Comrade Minister, I find myself in agreement with this young man."

"Mikhail Semyonovich, why is it that I sense a palace coup on the part of my colonels?" Yazov ventured a rare smile, and turned to the younger man. "Bondarenko, within these walls I expect you to tell me what you think. And if you can persuade this old cavalryman that your science-fiction project is worthwhile, then I must give it serious thought. You say that we should give this program crash status?"

"Comrade Minister, we should consider it. Some basic research remains, and I feel that its funding priority should be increased dramatically." Bondarenko stopped just short of what Yazov suggested. That was a political decision, one into which a mere colonel ought not stick his neck. It occurred to the CARDINAL that he had actually underestimated this bright young colonel.

"Heart rate's coming up," the doctor said almost three hours later. "Time zero, patient conscious." A reel-to-reel tape recorder took down his words.

She didn't know the point at which sleep ended and consciousness began. The line is a fuzzy one for most people, particularly so in the absence of an alarm or the first beam of sunlight. She was given no signals. Svetlana Vaneyeva's first Conscious emotion was puzzlement. Where am I? she asked herself after about fifteen minutes. The lingering after effects of the barbiturates eased away, but nothing replaced the comfortable relaxation of dreamless sleep. She was...floating?

She tried to move, but...couldn't? She was totally at rest, every square Centimeter of her body was evenly supported so that no muscle was stretched or strained. Never had she known such wonderful relaxation. Where am I? She could see nothing, but that wasn't right, either. It was not black, a night cloud reflecting the city lights of Moscow, featureless, but somehow textured.

She could hear nothing, not the rumble of traffic, not the mechanical sounds of running water or slamming doors

She turned her head, but the view remained the same, a gray blankness, like the inside of a cloud, or a ball of cotton, or -- She breathed. The air had no smell, no taste, neither moist nor dry, not even a temperature that she could discern. She spoke...but incredibly she heard nothing. Where am I!

Svetlana began to examine the world more carefully. It took about half an hour of careful experimentation. Svetlana kept control of her emotions, told herself forcefully to be calm, to relax. It had to be a dream. Nothing untoward could really be happening, not to her. Real fear had not yet begun, but already she could feel its approach. She mustered her determination and fought to hold it off. Explore the environment. Her eyes swept left and right. There was only enough light to deny her blackness. Her arms were there, but seemed to be away from her sides, and she could not move them inward, though she tried for what seemed like hours. The same was true of her legs. She tried to ball her right hand into a fist...but she couldn't even make her fingers touch one another.

Her breathing was more rapid now. It was all she had. She could feel the air come in and out, could feel the movement of her chest, but nothing else. Closing her eyes gave her the choice of a black nothing over a gray one, but that was all. Where am I!

Movement, she told herself, more movement. She rolled around, searching for resistance, searching for any tactile feeling outside her own body. She was rewarded with nothing at all, just the same slow, fluid resistance -- and whichever way she turned, the sensation of floating was the same. It mattered not -- she could tell not -- whether gravity had her up or down, left side or right. It was all the same. She screamed as loudly as she could, just to hear something real and close, just to be sure that she at least had herself for company. All she heard was the distant, fading echo of a stranger.

The panic started in earnest.

"Time twelve minutes...fifteen seconds," the doctor said into the tape recorder. The control booth was five meters above the tank. "Heart rate rising, now one forty, respiration forty-two, acute anxiety reaction onset." He looked over to Vatutin. "Sooner than usual. The more intelligent the subject..."

"The greater the need for sensory input, yes," Vatutin said gruffly. He'd read the briefing material on this procedure, but was skeptical. This was brand-new, and required a kind of expert assistance that he'd never needed in his career.

"Heart rate appears to have peaked at one seventy-seven, no gross irregularities."

"How do you mute her own speech?" Vatutin asked the doctor.

"It's new. We use an electronic device to duplicate her voice and repeat it back exactly out of phase. That neutralizes her sound almost completely, and it's as though she were screaming in a vacuum. It took two years to perfect." He smiled. Like Vatutin he enjoyed his work, and he had here a chance to validate years of effort, to overturn institutional policy with something new and better, that had his name on it.

Svetlana hovered on the edge of hyperventilation, but the doctor altered the gas mixture going into her. He had to keep a very close watch on her vital signs. This interrogation technique left no marks on the body, no scars, no evidence of torture -- it was, in fact, not a form of torture at all. At least, not physically. The one drawback to sensory deprivation, however, was that the terror it induced could drive people into tachycardia -- and that could kill the subject.

"That's better," he said, looking at the EKG readout. "Heart rate stabilized at one thirty-eight, a normal but accelerated sinus rhythm. Subject is agitated but stable."

Panic didn't help. Though her mind was still frantic, Svetlana's body drew back from damaging itself. She fought to assert control and again felt herself become strangely calm.

Am I alive or dead? She searched all her memories, all her experiences, and found nothing...but...

There was a sound.

What is it?

Lub-dub, lub-dub...what was it...?

It was a heart! Yes!

Her eyes were still open, searching the blankness for the source of the sound. There was something out there, if only she could find it. Her mind searched for a way. I have to g to it. I must grab hold of it.

But she was trapped inside something that she couldn't even describe. She started moving again. Again she found nothing to grab, nothing to touch.

She was only beginning to understand how alone she was. Her senses cried out for data, for input, for something! The sensory centers of her brain were seeking sustenance an finding only a vacuum.

What if I am dead? she asked herself.

Is this what happens when you're dead...Nothing. ness...? Then a more troubling thought:

Is this hell?

But there was something. There was that sound. She concentrated on it, only to find that the harder she tried to listen the harder it was to hear. It was like trying to grab for a cloud of smoke, it was only there when she didn't try to -- but she had to grab it!

And so she tried. Svetlana screwed her eyes shut and concentrated all of her will on the repeating sound of a human heart. All she accomplished was to blank the sound out o her own senses. It faded away, until it was only her imagination that heard it and then that, too, became bored.

She moaned, or thought she did. She heard almost nothing. How could she speak and not hear it?

Am I dead? The question had an urgency that demanded an answer, but the answer might be too dreadful to contemplate. There had to be something...but did she dare? Yes!

Svetlana Vaneyeva bit her tongue as hard as she could. She was rewarded with the salty taste of blood.

I am alive! she told herself. She reveled in this knowledge for what seemed a very long time. But even long times had to end:

But where am I? Am I buried...alive? BURIED ALIVE!

"Heart rate increasing again. Looks like the onset of the secondary anxiety period," the doctor observed for the recording. It really was too bad, he thought. He'd assisted in preparing the body. A very attractive woman, her smooth belly marred only by a mother's stretchmarks. Then they'd oiled her skin and dressed her in the specially made wetsuit, one made of the best-quality Nomex rubber, so smooth that you could barely feel it when dry -- and when filled with water, it hardly seemed there at all. Even the water in the tank was specially formulated, heavy in salt content so that she was neutrally buoyant. Her gyrations around the tank had twisted her upside down and she hadn't known. The only real problem was that she might tangle the airlines, but a pair of divers in the tank prevented this, always careful not to touch her or to allow the hose to do so. Actually, the divers had the hardest job in the unit.

The doctor gave Colonel Vatutin a smug look. Years of work had gone into this most secret part of Lefortovo's interrogation wing. The pool, ten meters wide and five deep, the specially salted water, the custom-designed suits, the several man-years of experimentation to back up the theoretical work -- all these went to devise a means of interrogation that was in all ways better than the antiquated methods KGB had used since the revolution. Except for the one subject that had died of an anxiety-induced heart attack...The vital signs changed again.

"There we go. Looks like we're into the second stage. Time one hour, six minutes." He turned to Vatutin. "This is usually the long phase. It will be interesting to see how long it lasts with this subject."

It seemed to Vatutin that the doctor was a child playing an elaborate, cruel game; as much as he wanted what this subject knew, part of him was horrified by what he watched. He wondered if it came from fear that one day it might be tried on him.

Svetlana was limp. Tremors from the extended hours of terrors had exhausted her limbs. Her breaths now came in shallow pants, like a woman holding off the urge to deliver her child. Even her body had deserted her now, and her mind sought to escape its confines and explore on its own. It seemed to her consciousness that she separated from the useless sack of flesh, that her spirit, soul, whatever it was, was alone now, alone and free. But the freedom was no less a curse than what had gone before.

She could move freely now, she could see the space around her, but it was all empty. She moved as though swimming or flying in a three-dimensional space whose limits she could not discern. She felt her arms and legs moving effortlessly, but when she looked to see her limbs, she found that they were out of her field of view. She could feel them move, but. they weren't there. The part of her mind that was still rational told her that this was all an illusion, that she was swimming. toward her own destruction -- but even that was preferable to being alone, wasn't it?

This effort lasted for an eternity. The most gratifying part was the lack of fatigue in her invisible limbs. Svetlana shut out her misgivings and reveled -in the freedom, in being able to see the space around her. Her pace speeded up. She imagined that the space ahead of her was brighter than that behind her. If there were a light she would find it, and a light would make all the difference. Part of her remembered the joy of swimming as a child, something she hadn't done in...fifteen. years, wasn't it? She was the school champion at swimming underwater, could hold her breath far longer than all the others. The memories made her young again, young and spry and prettier and better-dressed than all the others. Her face took on an angelic smile arid ignored the warnings from the remaining shreds of her intellect.

She swam for days, it seemed, for weeks, always toward the brighter space ahead. It took a few more days to realize that the space never got any brighter, but she ignored this last warning of her consciousness. She swam harder, and felt. fatigue for the first time. Svetlana Vaneyeva ignored that, too. She had to use her freedom to advantage. She had to find where she was, or better yet find a way out of this place. This horrible place.

Her mind moved yet again, traveling away from her body, and when it had reached a sufficient height, it looked back down at the distant, swimming figure. Even from its great height it could not see the edges of this wide, amorphous world, but she could see the tiny figure below her, swimming alone in the void, moving its spectral limbs in futile rhythm...going nowhere.

The scream from the wall speaker almost made Vatutin bolt from his chair. Perhaps Germans had heard that once, the scream of the victims of their death camps when the doors were shut and the gas crystals had sprinkled down. But this was worse. He'd seen executions. He'd seen torture. He had heard cries of pain and rage and despair, but he had never heard the scream of a soul condemned to something worse than hell.

"There...that ought to be the beginning of the third stage."


"You see," the doctor explained, "the human animal is a social animal. Our beings and our senses are designed to gather data that allow us to react both to our environment and our fellow human beings. Take away the human company, take away all sensory input, and the mind is totally alone with itself. There is ample data to demonstrate what happens. Those Western idiots who sail around the world alone, for example. A surprising number go insane, and many disappear; probably suicides. Even those who survive, those who use their radios on a daily basis -- they often need physicians to monitor them and warn them against the psychological hazards of such solitude. And they can see the water around. They can see their boats. They can feel the motion of the waves. Take all that away..." The doctor shook his head. "They'd last perhaps three days. We take everything away, as you see."

"And the longest they've lasted in here?"

"Eighteen hours -- he was a volunteer, a young field officer from the First Directorate. The only problem is that the subject cannot know what is happening to him. That alters the effect. They still break, of course, but not as thoroughly."

Vatutin took a breath. That was the first good news that he'd heard here. "And this one, how much longer?"

The doctor merely looked at his watch and smiled. Vatutin wanted to hate him, but recognized that this physician, this healer, was merely doing what he'd been doing for years, more quickly, and with no visible damage that might embarrass the State at the public trials that the KGB now had to endure. Then, there was the added benefit that even the doctor hadn't expected when he'd begun the program...

"So...what is this third stage?"

Svetlana saw them swimming around her form. She tried to warn it, but that would mean getting back inside, and she didn't dare. It was not so much something she could see, but there were shapes, predatory shapes plying the space around her body. One of them closed in, but turned away. Then it tinned back again. And so did she. She tried to fight against it, but something drew her back into the body that was soon to be extinguished. She got there just in time. As she told her limbs to swim faster, it came up from behind. The jaws opened and enveloped her entire body, then closed slowly around her. The last thing she saw was the light toward which she'd been swimming -- the light, she finally knew, that was never there. She knew her protest was a vain one, but it exploded from her lips.

"No!" She didn't hear it, of course.

She returned now, condemned to go back to her useless real body, back to the gray mass before her eyes and the limbs that could move only without purpose. She somehow understood that her imagination had tried to protect her, to get her free -- and had failed utterly. But she couldn't turn her imagination off, and now its efforts turned destructive. She wept without sound. The fear she felt now was worse than mere panic. At least panic was an escape, a denial of what she faced, .a retreat into herself. But there was no longer a self that she could find. She'd watched that die, had been there when it happened. Svetlana was without a present, certainly without a future. All she had now was a past, and her imagination selected only the worst parts of that

"Yes, we're in the final stage now," the doctor said. He lifted the phone and ordered a pot of tea. "This was easier than I expected. She fits the profile better than I realized."

"But she hasn't told us anything yet," Vatutin objected.

"She will."

She watched all the sins of her life. That helped her to understand what was happening. This was the hell whose existence the State denied; and she was being punished. That had to be it. And she helped. She had to. She had to see it all again and understand what she'd done. She had to participate in the trial within her own mind. Her weeping never stopped. Her tears ran for days as she watched herself doing things that she ought never to have done. Every transgression of her life played out before her eyes in fullest detail. Especially those of the past two years...Somehow she knew that those were the ones that had brought her here. Svetlana watched every time she had betrayed her Motherland. The first coy flirtations in London, the clandestine meetings with serious men, the warnings not to be frivolous, and then the times she had used her importance to breeze through customs control, playing the game and enjoying herself as she committed her most heinous crimes. Her moans took on a recognizable timbre. Over and over she said it without knowing.

"I'm sorry...

"Now comes the tricky part." The doctor put on his headset. He had to make some adjustments on his control board. "Svetlana..." he whispered into the microphone.

She didn't hear it at first, and it was some time before her senses were able to tell her that there was something crying out to be noticed.

Svetlana...the voice called to her. Or was it her imagination...

Her head twisted around, looking for whatever it was. whispered again. She held her breath as long as she could, commanded . her body to be still, but it betrayed her yet again. Her heart raced, and the pounding blood in her ears blanked out the sound, if it was a sound...She let out a despairing moan, wondering if she had imagined the voice, wondering if it was only getting worse...or might there be some hope...

Svetlana...Slightly more than a whisper, enough to detect emotional content. The voice was so sad, SO disappointed. Svetlana, what have you done?

"I didn't, I didn't -- " she sputtered, and still could not hear her own voice as she called out from the grave. She was rewarded with renewed silence. After what seemed an hour she screamed: "Please, please come back to me!"

Svetlana, the voice repeated finally, what have you done...?

"I'm sorry..." she repeated in a voice choked with tears.

"What have you done?" it asked again. "What about the film..."

"Yes!" she answered, and in moments she told all.

"Time eleven hours, forty-one minutes. The exercise is concluded." The doctor switched off the tape recorder. Next he flicked the lights in the poo1 room on and off a few times. One of the divers in the tank waved acknowledgment and jabbed a needle into Subject Vane9eva's arm. As soon as her body went completely limp, she was taken out. The doctor left the control room and went down to see her.

She was lying on a gurney when he got there, the wetsuit already taken off. He sat beside the unconscious form and held her hand as the technician jabbed her with a mild stimulant. She was a pretty one, the doctor thought as her breathing picked up. He waved the technician out of the room, leaving the two of them alone.

"Hello, Svetlana," he said in his gentlest voice. The blue eyes opened, saw the lights on the ceiling, and the walls. Then her head turned toward him.

He knew he was indulging himself, but he'd worked long into the night and the next day on this case, and this was probably the most important application of his program to date. The naked woman leaped off the table into his arms and nearly strangled him with a hug. It wasn't because he was particularly good-looking, the doctor knew, just that he was a human being, and she wanted to touch one. Her body was still slick with oil as her tears fell on his white laboratory coat. She would never commit another crime against the State, not after this. It was too bad that she'd have to go to a labor camp. Such a waste, he thought as he examined her. Perhaps he could do something about that. After ten minutes she was sedated again, and he left her asleep.

"I gave her a drug called Versed. It's a new Western one, an amnesiac.

"Why one of those?" Vatutin asked.

"I give you another option, Comrade Colonel. When she wakes up later this morning, she will remember very little. Versed acts like scopolamine, but is more effective. She will remember no firm details, and very little else that happened to her. It will all seem to be a fearful dream. Versed is also an hypnotic. For example, I can go back to her now and make a suggestion that she will not remember anything, but that she may never betray the State again. There is roughly an eighty-percent probability that both suggestions will never be violated."

"You're joking!"

"Comrade, one effect of this technique is that she has condemned herself more forcefully than the State ever could. She feels more remorse now for her actions than she would before a firing squad. Surely you have read 1984? It might have been a dream when Orwell wrote it, but with modern technology, we can do it. The trick is not breaking the person from without, but doing it from within."

"You mean we can use her now...

Chapter 11 -- Procedures

"He's not going to make it." Ortiz had gotten the embassy doctor, an Army surgeon whose real job was to assist in the treatment of wounded Afghans. Churkin's lungs were too badly damaged to fight off the pneumonia that had developed during his transit. "He probably won't last out the day. Sorry, just too much damage. A day sooner and maybe we might have saved him, but...The doctor shook his head. "I'd like to get a preacher to him, but that's probably a waste of time."

"Can he talk?"

"Not much. You can try. It won't hurt him any more than he already is. He'll be conscious for a few more hours, then he's just going -to fade out."

"Thanks for the try, doc," Ortiz said. He almost sighed with relief, but the shame of such a gesture stopped him cold. What would they have done with a live one? Give him back? Keep him? Trade him? he asked himself. He wondered why the Archer had brought him out at all. "Well," he said to himself, and entered the room.

Two hours later he emerged. Then Ortiz drove down to the embassy, where the canteen served beer. He made his report to Langley, then over the next five hours, sitting alone at a corner table he left only for refills, he got himself thoroughly and morosely drunk.

Ed Foley could not allow himself that luxury. One of his couriers had disappeared three days earlier. Another had left her desk at GOSPLAN and returned two days later. Then, only this morning, his man in the dry-cleaners had called in sick. He'd sent a warning to the kid at the baths, but didn't know if it had gotten to him or not. This was not mere trouble in his CARDINAL network, it was a disaster. The whole point of using Svetlana Vaneyeva was her supposed immunity from KGB s more forceful measures, and he'd depended on several days' resistance from her to get his people moved. Warning orders for the CARDINAL breakout had arrived but were still awaiting delivery. There was no sense in spooking the man before things were fully ready. After that, it should be a simple matter for Colonel Filitov to come up with an excuse to visit the Leningrad Military District headquarters -- something he did every six months or so -- and get him out.

If that works, Foley reminded himself. It had been done only twice that he knew of, and as well as it had gone before...there were no certainties, were there? Not hardly. It was time to leave. He and his wife needed time off, time away from all this. Their next post was supposed to be -on the training staff at "the Farm" on the York River. But these thoughts didn't help him with his current problem.

He wondered if he should alert CARDINAL anyway, warn him to be more careful -- but then he might destroy the data that Langley was screaming for, and the data was paramount. That was the rule, a rule that Filitov knew and understood, supposedly as well as Foley did. But spies were more than objects that provided information, weren't they?

Field officers like Foley and his wife were supposed to regard them as valuable but expendable assets, to distance themselves from their agents, to treat them kindly when possible but ruthlessly when necessary. To treat them like children, really, with a mixture of indulgence and discipline. But they weren't children. CARDINAL was older than his own father, had been an agent when Foley was in second grade! Could he not show loyalty to Filitov? Of course not. He had to protect him.

But how?

Counterespionage operations were often nothing more than police work, and as a result of this, Colonel Vatutin knew as much about the business of investigation as the best men in the Moscow Militia. Svetlana had given him the manager of the dry-cleaning shop, and after two perfunctory days of surveillance, -he'd decided to bring the man in for interrogation. They didn't use the tank on him. The Colonel still did not trust the technique, and besides, there was no need to go easy on him. It annoyed Vatutin that Vaneyeva now had a chance-to remain free -- free, after working for enemies of the State! Somebody wanted to use her as a bargaining chip for something or other with the Central Committee, but that was not the Colonel's concern. Now the dry-cleaner had given him a description of another member of this endless chain.

And the annoying part was that Vatutin thought he knew the boy! The dry-cleaner had soon told him of his suspicion that he worked at the baths, and the description matched the attendant whom he himself had talked to! Unprofessional as it was, it enraged Vatutin that he'd met a traitor that morning last week and not recognized him for what. What was that colonel's name? he asked himself suddenly. The one who'd tripped? Filitov -- Misha Filitov? Personal aide to Defense Minister Yazov?

I must have really been hung over not to make the connection! Filitov of Stalingrad, the tanker who'd killed Germans while he burned within a knocked-out tank. Mikhail Filitov, three times Hero of the Soviet Union...It had to be the same one. Could he be the --

Impossible, he told himself.

But nothing was impossible. If he knew anything, Vatutin knew that. He cleared out his mind and considered the possibilities coldly. The good news here was that everyone of consequence in the Soviet Union had a file at 2 Dzerzhinskiy Square. It was a simple thing to get Filitov's.

The file was a thick one, he saw fifteen minutes later. Vatutin realized that he actually knew little about the man. As with most war heroes, exploits performed in a brief span of minutes had expanded to cover a whole life. But no life was ever that simple. Vatutin started reading the file.

Little of it had to do with his war record, though that was covered in full, including the citations for all of his medals. As personal aide to three successive defense ministers, Misha bad been through rigorous security screenings, some of which Filitov knew about, some of which not. These papers were also in order, of course. He turned to the next bundle.

Vatutin was surprised to see that Filitov had been involved in the infamous Penkovskiy case. Oleg Penkovskiy had been a senior officer in the GRU, the Soviet military intelligence command; recruited by the British, then "run" jointly by the 515 and CIA, he'd betrayed his country as thoroughly as any man could. His penultimate treason had been to leak to the West the state of preparedness -- or lack thereof -- of the Strategic Rocket Forces during the Cuban Missile Crisis; this information had enabled American President Kennedy to force Khrushchev to withdraw the missiles that he'd so recklessly placed on that wretched island. But Penkovskiy's twisted loyalty to foreigners had forced him to take too many risks in delivering that data, and a spy could take only so many risks. He'd already been under suspicion. You could usually tell when the other side was getting just a little too clever, but...Filitov had been the one who provided the first real accusation

Filitov was the one who'd denounced Penkovskiy? Vatutin was astounded. The investigation had been fairly advanced at that point. Continuous surveillance had shown Penkovskiy to be doing some unusual things, including at least one possible dead-drop, but -- Vatutin shook his head. The coincidences you encounter in this business. Old Misha had gone to the senior security officer and reported a curious conversation with his GRU acquaintance, one that might have been innocent, he'd said, but it made his antennae twitch in an odd way, and so he felt constrained to report it. On instructions from KGB, he'd followed it up, and the next conversation hadn't been quite so innocent. By this time the case against Penkovskiy had been firmed up, and the additional proof hadn't really been needed, though it had made everyone involved feel a little better .

It was an odd coincidence, Vatutin thought, but hardly one to cast suspicion on the man. The personal section of the file showed that he was a widower. A photo of his wife was there, and Vatutin took his time admiring it. There was also a wedding picture, and the Second Chief Directorate man smiled when he saw that the old war-horse had indeed been young once, and a raffishly handsome bastard at that! On the next page was information on two sons -- both dead. That got his attention. One born immediately before the war, the other soon after it began. But they hadn't died as a result of the war...What, then? He flipped through the pages.

The elder had died in Hungary, Vatutin saw. Because of his political reliability he'd been taken from his military academy, along with a number of cadets, and sent to help suppress the 1956 counterrevolution. A crewman in a tank -- following in his father's footsteps, he'd died when his vehicle had been destroyed. Well, soldiers took their chances. Certainly his father had. The second -- also a tanker, Vatutin noted -- died when the breech on the gun in his T-55 had exploded. Poor quality-control at the factory, the bane of Soviet industry, had killed the whole crew...and when had his wife died? The following July. Broken heart, probably, whatever the medical explanation had been. The file showed both sons had been models of young Soviet manhood. All the hopes and dreams that just have died with them, Vatutin thought, and then to lose your wife, too.

Too bad, Misha. I guess you used up all your family's good luck against the Germans, and the other three had to pay the bill...So sad that a man who has done so much should be...

Should be given a reason to betray the Rodina? Vatutin looked up, and out the window of his office. He could see the square outside, the cars curving around the statue of Feliks Dzerzhinskiy. "Iron Feliks," founder of the Cheka. By birth a Pole and a Jew, with his odd little beard and ruthless intellect, Dzerzhinskiy had repelled the earliest efforts by the West to penetrate and subvert the Soviet Union. His back was to the building, and wags said that Feliks was condemned to perpetual isolation out there, as Svetlana Vaneyeva had been isolated.

Ah, Feliks, what would you advise me right now? Vatutin knew that answer easily enough. Feliks would have had Misha Filitov arrested and interrogated ruthlessly. The merest possibility of suspicion had been enough- back then, and who knew how many innocent men and women had been broken or killed for no reason? Things were different now. Now even the KGB had rules to follow. You couldn't just snatch people off the street and torture whatever you wanted out of them. And that was better, Vatutin thought. KGB was a- professional organization. They had to work harder now to do their job, and that made for well-trained officers, and better performance...His phone rang.

"Colonel Vatutin."

"Come up here. We're going to brief the Chairman in ten minutes." The line clicked off.

KGB headquarters is an old building, built around the turn of the century to be the home office of the Rossiya Insurance Company. The exterior walls were of rust-colored granite, and the inside was a reflection of the age in which it bad been built, with high ceilings and oversized doors. The long, carpeted corridors of the building, however, were not terribly well lit, since one was not supposed to take too great an interest in the faces of the people who walked them. There were many uniforms in evidence. These officers were members of the Third Directorate, which kept an eye on the armed services. One thing that set the building apart was its silence. Those walking about did so with serious faces and closed mouths, lest they inadvertently let loose one of the million secrets that the building held.

The Chairman's office also faced the square, though with a far better view than Colonel Vatutin's. A male secretary rose from his desk and took the two visitors past the pair of security guards who always stood in the corners of the reception room. Vatutin took a deep breath as he walked through the opened door.

Nikolay Gerasimov was in his fourth year as Chairman of the Committee for State Security. He was not a spy by profession, but rather a Party man who'd spent fifteen years within the CPSU bureaucracy before being appointed to a middle-level post in the KGB's Fifth Chief Directorate, whose mission was the suppression of internal dissent. His delicate handling of this mission had earned him steady promotion and finally appointment as First Deputy Chairman ten years earlier. There he had learned the business of foreign intelligence from the administrative side, and performed well enough to gain the respect of professional field officers for his instincts. First and foremost, however, he was a Party man, and that explained his chairmanship. At fifty-three he was fairly young for his job, and looked younger still. His youthful face had never been lined by contemplation of failure, and his confident gaze looked forward to further promotion. For a man who already had a seat both on the Politburo and the Defense Council, further promotion meant that he considered himself in the running for the top post of all: General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. As the man who wielded the "sword and shield" of the Party (that was indeed the official motto of the KGB), he knew all there was to know about the other men in the running. His ambition, though never openly expressed, was whispered about the building, and any number of bright young KGB officers worked every day to tie their own fortunes to this rising star. A charmer, Vatutin saw. Even now he rose from his desk and waved his visitors to chairs opposite the massive oak desk. Vatutin was a man who controlled his thoughts and emotions; he was also too honest a man to be impressed by charmers.

Gerasimov held up a file. "Colonel Vatutin, I have read the report of your ongoing investigation. Excellent work. Can you bring me up to date?"

"Yes. Comrade Chairman. We are currently looking for one Eduard Vassilyevich Altunin. He is an attendant in the Sandunovski Baths interrogation of the dry-cleaner revealed to us that he is the next step in the- courier chain. Unfortunately he disappeared thirty-six hours ago, but we should have him by the end of the week."

"I've gone to the baths myself," Gerasimov noted with irony. Vatutin added his own.

"I still do, Comrade Chairman. I have myself seen this young man. I recognized the photograph in the file we're putting together. He was a corporal in an ordnance company in Afghanistan. His Army file shows that he objected to certain weapons being used there -- the ones we use to discourage the civilians from helping the bandits." Vatutin referred to the bombs that were disguised as toys and designed to be picked up by children. "His unit political officer wrote up a report, but the first verbal warning shut him up, and he finished his tour of duty without further incident. The report was enough to deny him a factory job, and he's floated from one menial assignment to another. Co-workers describe him as ordinary but fairly quiet. Exactly what a spy should be, of course. He has never once referred to his 'troubles' in Afghanistan, even when drinking. His flat is under surveillance, as are all of his family members and friends. If we don't have him very quickly, we'll know he's a spy. But we'll get him, and I will talk to him myself."

Gerasimov nodded thoughtfully. "I see you used the new interrogation technique on this Vaneyeva woman. What do you think of it?"

"Interesting. Certainly it worked in this case, but I must say that I have misgivings about placing her back on the street."

"That was my decision, in case no one told you," Gerasimov said offhandedly. "Given the sensitivity of this case, and the doctor's recommendation, I think that the gamble is one worth taking for the moment. Do you agree that we shouldn't call too much attention to the case? Charges against her remain open."

Oh, and you can use it against her father, can't you? Her disgrace is his also, and what father would want to see his only child in the GULA G? Nothing like a little blackmail, is there, Comrade Chairman? "The case is certainly sensitive, and is likely to get more so," Vatutin replied carefully.

"Go on."

"The one time I saw this Altunin fellow, he was standing beside Colonel Mikhail Semyonovich Filitov."

"Misha Filitov, Yazov's aide?"

"The same, Comrade Chairman. I reviewed his file this morning."

"And?" This question came from Vatutin's boss.

"Nothing at all that I can point to. I hadn't known of his involvement in the Penkovskiy case..." Vatutin stopped, and for once his face showed something.

"Something is troubling you, Colonel," Gerasimov observed. "What is it?"

"Filitov's involvement in the Penkovskiy matter came soon after the death of his second son and his wife." Vatutin shrugged after a moment. "An odd coincidence."

"Wasn't Filitov the first witness against him?" asked the head of the Second Directorate. He'd actually worked on the fringes of the case.

Vatutin nodded. "That's right, but it was after we already had the spy under surveillance." He stopped for another moment. "As I said, an odd coincidence. We are now after a suspected courier who was running defense data. I saw him standing next to a senior Defense Ministry official, who was involved in another similar case almost thirty years ago. On the other hand, Filitov was the man who first reported Penkovskiy, and he is a distinguished war hero...who lost his family under unfortunate circumstances..." It was the first time he had strung all his thoughts together.

"Has there ever been a hint of suspicion against Filitov?" the Chairman asked.

"No. His career could scarcely be more impressive. Filitov was the only aide who stayed with the late Minister Ustinov throughout his career, and he's hung on there ever since. He functions as a personal inspector-general for the Minister."

"I know," Gerasimov said. "I have here a request over Yazov's signature for our file on American SDI efforts. When I called about it, the Minister told me that colonels Filitov and Bondarenko are assembling data for a full report to the Politburo. The code word on that photographic frame you recovered was Bright Star, was it not?"

"Yes, Comrade Chairman."

"Vatutin, we now have three coincidences," Gerasimov observed. "Your recommendation?"

That was simple enough: "We should place Filitov under surveillance. Probably this Bondarenko fellow also."

"Very carefully, but with the utmost thoroughness." Gerasimov closed the file. "This is a fine report, and it would seem that your investigative instincts are as sharp as ever, Colonel. You will keep me posted on this case. I expect to see you three times a week from now until its conclusion. General," he said to the head of "Two," "this man will get all the support he needs. You may requisition resources from any part of the Committee. If you run into objections, please refer them to me. We may be certain that there is a leak at the highest level of the Defense Ministry. Next: this case is classified to my eyes and yours. No one -- I repeat, no one will know of this. Who can say where the Americans have managed to place their agents? Vatutin, run this one to earth and you will have general's stars by summer. But" -- he held up a finger -- "I think you should cease drinking until you are finished with this one. We need your head clear."

"Yes, Comrade Chairman."

The corridor was nearly empty outside the Chairman's office when Vatutin and his boss left. "What about Vaneyeva?" the Colonel asked sotto voce.

"It's her father, of course. General Secretary Narmonov will announce his election to the Politburo next week," the

General replied in a neutral, quiet voice.

And it won't hurt to have another friend of the KGB at court, Vatutin thought to himself. Might Gerasimov be making some sort of move?

"Remember what he said about drinking," the General said next. "I've heard that you're hitting the bottle very hard of late. That's one area of agreement between the Chairman and the General Secretary, in case no one ever told you."

"Yes, Comrade General," Vatutin replied. Of course, it's probably the only area of agreement. Like any good Russian, Vatutin thought that vodka was as much a part of life as air. It occurred to him to note that his hangover had encouraged him to take steam that morning and notice the crucial coincidence, but he refrained from pointing out the irony involved. Back at his desk a few minutes later, Vatutin took out a pad and began planning the surveillance on two colonels of the Soviet Army.

Gregory took usual commercial flights home, changing planes at Kansas City after a two-hour layover. He slept through most of the transit and walked straight into the terminal without having to chase after any baggage. His fiancée was waiting for him.

"How was Washington?" she asked after the usual welcome-home kiss.

"Never changes. They ran me all over the place. I guess they figure scientific types don't ever sleep." He took her hand for the walk out to the car.

"So what happened?" she asked when they were outside.

"The Russians ran a big test." lie stopped to look around. This was a technical violation of security -- but Candi was part of the team, wasn't she? "They slagged down a satellite with the ground-based lasers at Dushanbe. What's left looks like a plastic model that got put in the oven."

"That's bad," Dr. Long observed.

"Sure is," Dr. Gregory agreed. "But they have optical problems. Blooming and jitter both. It's for sure they don't have anybody like you over there to build mirrors. They must have some good folks on the laser end, though."

"How good?"

"Good enough that they're doing something we haven't figured out yet," Al grumped as they reached his Chevy. "You drive, I'm still a little dopey."

"Will we figure it out?" Candi asked as she unlocked the door.

"Sooner or later." He couldn't go any further than that, fiancée or not.

Candi got in and reached to unlock the right-side door. As soon as Al was seated and strapped in, he opened the glove compartment and extracted a Twinkie. He always had a stash. It was a little stale, but he didn't mind. Sometimes Candi wondered if his love for her resulted from the fact that her nickname reminded him of junk food.

"How's work on the new mirror going?" he asked after snapping down half of the Twinkie.

"Mary has a new idea that we're modeling out. He thinks we should thin out the coating instead of thickening it. We're going to try it next week."

"Mary's pretty original for an old guy," Al observed. Dr. Mary Greene was forty-two.

Candi laughed. "His secretary thinks he's pretty original, too."

"He should know better than to fool around with somebody at work," Gregory said seriously. He winced a moment later. "Yeah, honey." She turned to look at him, and they both laughed. "How tired are you?"

"I slept on the flight."

Just before reaching around her, Gregory crumbled the Twinkie wrapper and tossed it on the floor, where it joined about thirty others. He flew around quite a bit, but Candi had a sure cure for jet lag.

"Well, Jack?" Admiral Greer asked.

"I'm worried," Ryan admitted. "it was pure dumb luck that we saw the test. The timing was cute. All of our recon birds were well below the optical horizon. We weren't supposed to notice -- which is hardly surprising, since it's a technical violation of the ABM treaty. Well, probably." Jack shrugged. "Depends on how you read the treaty. Now you get into the 'strict' or 'loose' interpretation argument. If we pulled something like this, the Senate would go nuts."

"They wouldn't like the test that you saw." Very few people knew how far along Tea Clipper was. The program was "black." More classified than top secret, "black" programs simply did not exist.

"Maybe. But we were testing the aiming system, not an actual weapon."

"And the Soviets were testing a system to see if it was -- " Greer chuckled and shook his head. "It's like talking metaphysics, isn't it? How many lasers can dance on the head of a pin?"

"I'm sure Ernie Allen could give us an opinion on that." Jack smiled. He didn't agree with Allen, but he had to like the man. "I hope our friend in Moscow can deliver."

Chapter 12 -- Success and Failure

One of the problems with surveillance of any individual is that one must determine how he or she spends an ordinary day before one can establish what resources are needed for the operation. The more solitary the person or the activity, the harder it generally is to keep a covert eye on him. Already, for example, the KGB officers trailing Colonel Bondarenko hated him thoroughly. His daily jogging routine was an ideal activity for a spy, they all thought. He ran about entirely alone on city streets that were largely vacant -- vacant enough that everyone out at that time was undoubtedly known to him by sight, and vacant enough that he would immediately notice anything out of the ordinary. As he ran around the residential blocks in this part of Moscow, the three agents assigned to keep an eye on him lost visual contact with him no less than five times. The sparse trees they might hide behind were bare of leaves, and the apartment buildings stood like tombstones on fiat, open land. In any of those five times, Bondarenko might have stopped to retrieve something from a dead-drop or could have made one himself. It was more than frustrating, and added to this was the fact that this Soviet Army Colonel had a service record that was as immaculate as a field of freshly fallen snow: exactly the cover that any spy would contrive to acquire for himself, of course.

They spotted him again turning the corner for home, his legs pumping vigorously, his breath marked in the air behind him as small clouds of vapor. The man in charge of this part of the case decided that half a dozen "Two" officers would be needed just to shadow the subject for his morning runs. And they'd have to be here an hour earlier than he was expected to run, enduring the dry, bitter cold of the Moscow dawn. People from the Second Chief Directorate never considered themselves fully appreciated for the hardships of their job.

Several kilometers away, another team of three was quite satisfied with their subject. In this case, an eighth-floor apartment in the building opposite the subject's was obtained -- the diplomat who lived there was abroad. A pair of telephoto lenses was focused on Misha's windows, and he was not a man who troubled to lower his shades or even to adjust them properly. They watched him go through the morning routine of a man who'd had too much to drink the night before, and that was familiar enough to the "Two" men who watched in heated comfort from across the street.

Misha was also sufficiently senior at the Defense Ministry that he rated a car and driver. It was an easy thing to reassign the sergeant and to substitute a shiny young face fresh from the KGB's counterintelligence school. A tap on his phone recorded his request for an early pickup.

Ed Foley left his apartment earlier than usual. His wife drove him over today, with the kids in the back of the car. The Soviet file on Foley noted with amusement that she kept the car on most days to run the kids around and generally socialize with the wives of other Western diplomats. A Soviet husband would keep the car for his own use. At least she wasn't making him take the Metro today, they observed; decent of her. The militiaman at the entrance to the diplomatic compound -- he was really KGB, as everyone knew -- noted the time of departure and the occupancy of the car. It was slightly out of the ordinary, and the gate guard looked around to see if Foley's KGB shadow was here today. He wasn't. The "important" Americans got much more regular surveillance.

Ed Foley had a Russian-style fur hat, and his overcoat was sufficiently old and worn that it didn't look terribly foreign. A wool scarf clashed slightly with it, protecting his neck and hiding his striped tie. The Russian security officers who knew him by sight noted that, as with most foreigners, local weather was the great equalizer. If you lived through a Russian winter, you soon started dressing and acting like a Russian, even to the point of looking slightly downward when you walked.

First the kids were dropped off at school. Mary Pat Foley drove normally, her eyes flicking back and forth to the mirror every three or four seconds. Driving here wasn't all that bad, compared to American cities. Although Russian drivers could do the most extraordinary things, the streets weren't terribly crowded, and having learned to drive in New York City, she could handle nearly anything. As with commuters all over the world, she had a route composed of indirect shortcuts that avoided the handful of traffic bottlenecks and saved a few minutes each day at the cost of an extra liter or two of benzin.

Immediately after turning a corner, she moved expertly to the curb and her husband hopped out. The car was already moving as he slammed the door shut and moved off, not too quickly, toward the side entrance of the apartment block. For once Ed Foley's heart was beating fast. He'd done this only once before and didn't like it at all. Once inside, he avoided the elevators and bounded up the eight flights of stairs, looking at his watch.

He didn't know how his wife did it. It pained his male ego to admit that she drove so much more precisely than he did, and could place her car at any spot she wished with an accuracy of five seconds, plus or minus. He had two minutes to get to the eighth floor. Foley accomplished it with seconds to spare. He opened the fire door, and anxious eyes scanned the corridor. Wonderful things, corridors. Especially the straight, bare ones in high-rise apartment buildings. Nowhere for people to lurk with their cameras, with a bank of elevators in the middle, and fire stairs at both ends. He walked briskly past the elevators, heading toward the far end. He could measure the time with his heartbeats now. Twenty yards ahead, a door opened, and a man in uniform came out. He turned to set the lock on his apartment door, then picked up the briefcase and headed toward Foley. A passerby, if there had been one, might have thought it odd that neither man moved to avoid the other.

It was over in an instant. Foley's hand brushed against CARDINAL's, taking the film cassette and passing back a tiny rolled slip of paper. He thought he noted a look of irritation in the agent's eyes, but nothing more than that, not even a "Please excuse me, Comrade," as the officer continued toward the elevators. Foley walked straight into the fire stairs. He took his time going down.

Colonel Filitov emerged from the building at the appointed time. The sergeant holding the door of his car noted that his mouth was working on something, perhaps a crumb of bread caught between his teeth.

"Good morning, Comrade Colonel."

"Where's Zhdanov?" Filitov asked as he got in.

"He took ill. An appendix, they think." This drew a grunt.

"Well, move off. I want to take steam this morning."

Foley came out of the building's back entrance a minute later and walked past two other apartment blocks as he made his way to the next Street over. He was just reaching the curb when his wife pulled over, picked him up almost without stopping. Both took a few deep breaths as she headed toward the embassy.

"What are you doing today?" she asked, her eyes still checking the mirror.

"The usual," was the resigned reply.

Misha was already in the steam room. He noted the absence of the attendant and the presence of a few unfamiliar faces. That explained the special pickup this morning. His face gave nothing away as he traded a few friendly words with the regulars. It was a pity that he'd run out of film in his camera. Then there was the warning from Foley. If he were under surveillance again -- well, every few years some security officer or other would get a bug up his ass and recheck everyone at the Ministry. CIA had noticed and broken up the courier chain. It was amusing, he thought, to see the look on that young man's face in the corridor. So few people were left who knew what combat was like. People were so easy to frighten. Combat taught a man what to fear and what to ignore, Filitov told himself.

Outside the steam room, a "Two" man was riffling through Filitov's clothing. In the car, his briefcase was being searched. In each case, the job was done quickly and thoroughly.

Vatutin himself, supervised the search of Filitov's apartment. It was a job for experts whose hands were in surgical gloves, and they spent much of their time looking for "tell-tales." It could be the odd scrap of paper, a crumb, even a single human hair placed in a specific spot whose removal would tell the man who lived in the flat that somebody had been here. Numerous photographs were taken and rushed off for developing, and then the searchers went to work. The diary was found almost at once. Vatutin leaned down to look at the simple book that sat openly in the desk drawer to be sure that its placement wasn't secretly marked. After a minute or two, he picked it up and started reading.

Colonel Vatutin was irritable. He hadn't slept well the previous night. Like most heavy drinkers, he needed a few drinks to sleep, and the excitement of the case added to the lack of a proper sedative had given him a fitful night of tossing and turning; it showed enough on his face to warn his team to keep their mouths shut.

"Camera," he said curtly. A man came over and started photographing the pages of the diary as Vatutin turned them.

"Somebody's tried to pick the door lock," a major reported. "Scratches around the keyhole. If we dismantle the lock, I think we'll see scratches on the tumblers also. Somebody's probably been in here."

"I have what they were after," Vatutin said crossly. Heads turned throughout the apartment. The man checking the refrigerator popped off the front panel, looked underneath the appliance, then put the panel back in place after the interruption. "This man keeps a fucking diary! Doesn't anybody read security manuals anymore?"

He could see it now. Colonel Filitov used personal diaries to sketch out official reports. Somehow, someone had learned this, and got into his flat to make copies of.

But how likely is that? Vatutin asked himself. About as likely as a man who writes out his memories of official documents when he could just as easily copy them at his desk in the Defense Ministry.

The search took two hours, and the team left in ones and twos, after replacing everything exactly the way they'd found it.

Back at his office, Vatutin read the photographed diary in full. At the apartment he'd merely skimmed it. The fragment from the captured film exactly matched a page at the beginning of Filitov's journal. He spent an hour going through the photographs of the pages. The data itself was impressive enough. Filitov was describing Project Bright Star in considerable detail. In fact, the old Colonel's explanation was better than the brief he'd been given as part of the investigation directive. Tossed in were details of Colonel Bondarenko's observations about site security and a few complaints on the way priorities were assigned at the Ministry. It was evident that both colonels were very enthusiastic about Bright Star, and Vatutin already agreed with them. But Minister Yazov, he read, was not yet sure. Complaining about funding problems -- well, that was an old story, wasn't it?

It was clear that Filitov had violated security rules by having records of top-secret documents in his home. That was itself a matter sufficiently serious that any junior or middle-level bureaucrat would lose his job for it, but Filitov was as senior as the Minister himself, and Vatutin knew all too well that senior people regarded security rules as inconveniences to be ignored in the Interest of the State, of which they viewed themselves as the ultimate arbiters. He wondered if the same were true elsewhere. Of one thing he was sure: before he or anyone else at KGB could accuse Filitov of anything, he needed something more serious than this. Even if Misha were a foreign agent -- Why am I looking for ways to deny that? Vatutin asked himself in some surprise. He took himself back to the man's flat, and remembered the photographs on the walls. There must have been a hundred of them: Misha standing atop the turret of his T-34, binoculars to his eyes; Misha with his men in the snows outside Stalingrad; Misha and his tank crew pointing to holes in the side armor of a German tank...and Misha in a hospital bed, with Stalin himself pinning his third Hero of the Soviet Union medal to his pillow, his lovely wife and both children at his side. These were the memorabilia of a patriot and a hero.

In the old days that wouldn't have mattered, Vatutin reminded himself. In 4he old days we suspected everyone.

Anyone could have scratched the door lock. He'd leaped to the assumption that it was the missing bath attendant. A former ordnance technician, he probably knew how. What if that is a coincidence?

But if Misha were a spy, why not photograph the official documents himself? In his capacity as aide to the Defense Minister, he could order up any documents he wanted, and smuggling a spy camera into the Ministry was a trivial exercise.

If we'd gotten the film with a frame from such a document, Misha would already be in Lefortovo Prison

What if he's being clever? What if he wants us to think that someone else is stealing material from his diary? I can take what I have to the Ministry right now, but we can accuse him of nothing more than violating in-house security rules, and if he answers that he was working at home, and admits to breaking the rule, and the Minister defends his aide -- would the Minister defend Filitov?

Yes. Vatutin was sure of that. For one thing, Misha was a trusted aide and a distinguished professional soldier. For another, the Army would always close ranks to defend one of its own against the KGB. The bastards hate us worse than they hate the West. The Soviet Army had never forgotten the late 1930s, when Stalin had used the security agency to kill nearly every senior uniformed officer, and then as a direct result nearly lost Moscow to the German Army. No, if we go to them with no more than this, they'll reject all our evidence and launch their own investigation with the GRU.

Just how many irregularities are going to show up in this case? Colonel Vatutin wondered.

Foley was wondering much the same thing in his cubbyhole a few miles away. He had had the film developed and was reading it over. He noted with irritation that CARDINAL had run out of film and hadn't been able to reproduce the entire document. The part he had before him, however, showed that the KGB had an agent inside an American project that was called Tea Clipper. Evidently Filitov deemed this of more immediate interest to the Americans than what his own people were up to, and on reading the data, Foley was tempted to agree. Well. He'd get CARDINAL some more film cassettes, get the full document out, and then let him know that it was time to retire. The breakout wasn't scheduled for another ten days or so. Plenty of time, he told himself despite a crawly feel at the back of his neck that was telling him something else.

For my next trick, how do we get the new film to CARDINAL? With the usual courier chain destroyed, it would take several weeks to establish a new one, and he didn't want to risk a direct contact again.

It had to happen eventually, he knew. Sure, everything had gone smoothly the whole time he'd run this agent, but sooner or later something happened. Random chance, he told himself. Eventually the dice would come up the wrong way. When he'd first been assigned here and learned the operational history of CARDINAL, he'd marveled that the man had lasted so long, that he'd rejected at least three offers for breakout. How far could one man push his luck? The old bastard must have thought he was invincible. Those whom the gods would destroy, they first make proud, Foley thought.

He put it aside and continued with the task of the day. By evening, the courier was heading west with a new CARDINAL report.

"It's on the way," Ritter told the Director of Central Intelligence.

"Thank God." Judge Moore smiled. "Now let's concentrate on getting him the hell out of there."

"Clark's being briefed. He flies over to England tomorrow, and he meets the submarine the day after that."

"That's another one who's pushed his luck," the Judge observed.

"The best we got," Ritter replied.

"It's not enough to move with," Vatutin told the Chairman after outlining the results of his surveillance and search. "I'm assigning more people to the operation. We've also placed listening devices in Filitov's apartment -- "

"And this other colonel?"

"Bondarenko? We were unable to get in there. His wife does not work and stays home all day. We learned today that the man runs a few kilometers every morning, and some additional men have been assigned to this case also. The only information we have at present is a clean record -- indeed, an exemplary one -- and a goodly portion of ambition. He is now the official Ministry representative to Bright Star, and as you see from the diary pages, an enthusiastic supporter of the project."

"Your feeling for the man?" The Chairman's questions were delivered in a curt but not menacing voice. He was a busy man who guarded his time.

"So far, nothing that would lead us to suspect anything. He was decorated for service in Afghanistan; he took command of a Spetznaz group that was ambushed and fought off a determined bandit attack. While at this Bright Star place, he upbraided the KGB guard force for laxness, but his formal report to the Ministry explained why, and it is hard to fault his reasons."

"Is anything being done about it?" Gerasimov asked.

"The officer who was sent out to discuss the matter was killed in a plane crash in Afghanistan. Another officer will be sent out shortly, they tell me."

"The bath attendant?"

"We are still looking for him. No results as yet. Everything is covered: airports, train stations, everything. If anything breaks, I'll report to you immediately."

"Very well. Dismissed, Colonel." Gerasimov went back to the papers on his desk.

The Chairman of the Committee for State Security allowed himself a smile after Vatutin left. He was amazed at how well things were going. The masterstroke was the Vaneyeva matter. It wasn't often that you uncovered a spy ring in Moscow, and when you did so, the congratulations were always mixed with the question: Why did it take you so long? That wouldn't happen this time. No, not with Vaneyeva's father about to be appointed to the Politburo. And Secretary Narmonov thought that he'd be loyal to the man who'd arranged the promotion. Narmonov, with all his dreams of reducing arms, of loosening the grip of the Party on the life of the nation, of "liberalizing" what had been bequeathed to the Party Gerasimov was going to change all that.

It wouldn't be easy, of course. Gerasimov had only three firm allies on the Politburo, but among them was Alexandrov, the ideologue whom the Secretary had been unable to retire after he'd changed allegiance. And now he had another, one quite unknown to the Comrade General Secretary. On the other hand, Narmonov had the Army behind him.

That was a legacy of Mathias Rust, the German teenager who'd landed his rented Cessna in Red Square. Narmonov was a shrewd operator. Rust had flown into the Soviet Union on Border Guards Day, a coincidence that he could not explain -- and Narmonov had denied KGB the opportunity to interrogate the hooligan properly! Gerasimov still growled about that. The young man had staged his flight on the only day in the year when one could be sure that the KGB's vast force of border guards would be gloriously drunk. That had got him across the Gulf of Finland undetected. Then the air defense command, Voyska PVO, had failed to detect him, and the child had landed right in front of St. Basil's!

General Secretary Narmonov had acted quickly after that: firing the chief of Voyska PVO and Defense Minister Sokolov after a stormy Politburo session where Gerasimov had been unable to raise any objections, lest he endanger his own position. The new Defense Minister, D. T. Yazov, was the Secretary's man, a nobody from far down the numerical list of senior officers; a man who, having failed to earn his post, depended on the Secretary to stay there. That had covered Narmonov's most vulnerable flank. The complication it added now was that Yazov was still learning his job, and he obviously depended on old hands like Filitov to teach it to him.

And Vatutin thinks that this is merely a counterespionage case, Gerasimov grunted to himself.

The security procedures that revolved around CARDINAL data precluded Foley from sending any information in the normal way. Even one-time-pad ciphers. which were theoretically unbreakable, were denied him. So the cover sheet on the latest report would warn the A fraternity that the data being dispatched wasn't quite what was expected.

That realization lifted Bob Ritter right off his chair. He made his photocopies and destroyed the, originals before walking to Judge Moore's office. Greer and Ryan were already there.

"He ran out of film," the DDO said as soon as the door was closed.

"What?" Moore asked.

"Something new came in. It seems that our KGB colleagues have an agent inside Tea Clipper who just gave them most of the design work on this new gollywog mirror gadget, and CARDINAL decided that that was more important. He didn't have enough film left for everything, so he prioritized on what the KGB is up to. We only have half of what their laser system looks like,"

"Half might be enough," Ryan observed. That drew a scowl. Ritter was not the least bit happy that Ryan was now A-cleared.

"He discusses the effects of the design change, but there's nothing about the change itself."

"Can we identify the source of the leak on our side?" Admiral Greer asked.

"Maybe. It's somebody who really understands mirrors. Parks has to see this right quick. Ryan, you've actually been there. What do you think?"

"The test I watched validated the performance of the mirror and the computer software that runs it. If the Russians can duplicate it -- well, we know they have the laser part down pat, don't we?" He stopped for a moment. "Gentlemen, this is scary. If the Russians get there first, it blows away all the arms-control criteria, and it faces us with a deteriorating strategic situation. I mean, it would take several years before the problem manifests itself, but...

"Well, if our man can get another goddamned film cassette," the Deputy Director for Operations said, "we can get to work on it ourselves. The good news is that this Bondarenko guy that Misha selected to run the laser desk at the Ministry will report to our man regularly on what's happening. The bad news -- "

"Well, we don't have to go into that now," Judge Moore said. Ryan didn't need to know any of that, his eyes told Ritter, who nodded instant agreement. "Jack, you said you had something else?"

"There's going to be a new appointment to the Politburo Monday -- Ilya Arkadyevich Vaneyev. Age sixty-three, widower. One daughter, Svetlana, who works at GOSPLAN; she's divorced, with one child. Vaneyev is a pretty straight guy, honest by their standards, not much in the way of dirty laundry that we know about. He's moving up from a Central Committee slot. He's the guy who took over the agricultural post that Narmonov held and did fairly well at it. The thinking is that he's going to be Narmonov's man. That gives him four full voting members of the Politburo who belong to him, one more than the Alexandrov faction, and -- " He stopped when he saw the pained looks on the other three faces in the office. "Something wrong?"

"That daughter of his. She's on Sir Basil's payroll," Judge Moore told him.

"Terminate the contract," Ryan said. "It would be nice to have that kind of source, but that kind of scandal now would endanger Narmonov. Put her into retirement. Reactivate her in a few years, maybe, but right now shut her the hell off."

"Might not be that easy," Ritter said, and let it go at that. "How's the evaluation coming?"

"Finished it yesterday."

"It's for the President's eyes plus a few others, but this one's going to be tightly held."

"Fair enough. I can have it printed up this afternoon. If that's all...?" It was. Ryan left the room. Moore watched the door close before speaking.

"I haven't told anyone yet, but the President is concerned about Narmonov's political position again. Ernie Allen is worried that the latest change in the Soviet position indicates a weakening in Narmonov's support at home, and he's convinced the boss that this is a bad time to push on a few issues. The implication of that is, if we bring CARDINAL out, well, it might have an undesired political effect."

"If Misha gets caught, we get the same political effect," Ritter pointed out. "Not to mention the slightly deleterious effect it'll have on our man. Arthur; they are after him. They may have gotten to Vaneyev's daughter already -- "

"She's back at work in GOSPLAN," the DCI said.

"Yeah and the man at the cleaners has disappeared. They got to her and broke her," the DDO insisted. "We have to break him out once and for all. We can't leave him flapping in the breeze, Arthur. We owe this man."

"I cannot authorize the extraction without presidential approval."

Ritter came close to exploding. "Then get it! Screw the politics -- in this case, screw the politics. There is a practical side to this, Arthur. If we let a man like this go down, and we don't lift a finger to protect him, the word will get out -- hell, the Russians'll make a TV miniseries out of it! It will cost us more in the long term than this temporary political garbage."

"Hold it for a minute," Greer said. "If they broke this Party guy's daughter, how come she's back to work?"

"Politics?" Moore mused. "You suppose the KGB's unable to hurt this guy's family?"

"Right!" the DDO snorted. "Gerasimov's in the opposing faction, and he'd pass the opportunity to deny a Politburo seat to Narmonov's man? It smells like politics, all right, but not that kind, More likely our friend Alexandrov has the new boy in his back pocket and Narmonov doesn't know about it."

"So, you think they've broken her, but let her go and are using her as leverage on the old man?" Moore asked. "It does make sense. But there's no evidence."

"Alexandrov's too old to go after the post himself, and anyway the ideologue never seems to get the top spot -- more fun to play kingmaker; Gerasimov's his fair-haired boy, though, and we know that he's got enough ambition to have himself crowned Nicholas the Third."

"Bob, you've just come up with another reason not to rock the boat right now." Greer sipped at his coffee for a moment. "I don't like the idea of leaving Filitov in place either. What are the chances that he can just lay low? I mean, the way things are set up, he might just talk his way out of anything they can bring against him."

"No, James." Ritter shook his head emphatically. "We can't have him lay low, because we need the rest of this report, don't we? If he ni7ns the risk of getting it out despite the attention he's getting, we can't then leave him to fate. It's not right. Remember what this man's done for us over the years." Ritter argued on for several minutes, demonstrating the ferocious loyalty to his people that he'd learned as a young case officer. Though agents often had to be treated like children, encouraged, supported, and often disciplined, they became like your own children, and danger to them was something to be fought.

Judge Moore ended the discussion. "Your points are well taken, Bob, but I still have to go to the President. This isn't just a field operation anymore.

Ritter stood his ground. "We put all the assets in place."

"Agreed, but it won't be carried out until we get approval."

The weather at Faslane was miserable, but at this time of year it usually was. A thirty-knot wind was lashing the Scottish coast with snow and sleet when Dallas surfaced. Mancuso took his station atop the sail and surveyed the rocky hills on the horizon. He'd just completed a speed run, zipping across the Atlantic at an average of thirty-one knots, about as hard as he cared to push his boat for any extended period of time, not to mention his running submerged far closer to the coast than he would have preferred. Well, he was paid to follow orders, pot to love them.

The seas were rolling about fifteen feet, and his submarine rolled with them, wallowing her way forward at twelve knots. The seas came right over the spherical bow and splashed high on meeting the blunt face of the sail. Even the foul-weather gear didn't help much. Within a few minutes he was soaked and shivering. A Royal Navy tug approached and took station off Dallas' port bow, leading her in to the loch while Mancuso came to terms with the rolling. One of his best-kept professional secrets was an occasional touch of seasickness. Being on the sail helped, but those inside the submarine's cylindrical hull were now regretting the heavy lunch served a few hours earlier.

Within an hour they were in sheltered waters, taking the S-turns into the base that supported British and American nuclear submarines. Once there, the wind helped, easing the slate-gray bulk of the submarine up to the pier. People were already waiting there, sheltered in a few cars as the lines were passed and secured by the submarine's deck crew. As soon as the brow was passed, Mancuso went below to his cabin.

His first visitor was a commander. He'd expected a submarine officer, but this one had no service badges at all. That made him an intelligence type.

"How was the crossing, Captain?" the man asked.

"Quiet." Well, get on with it!

"You sail in three hours. Here are your mission orders." He handed over a manila envelope with wax seals, and a note on the front that told Mancuso when he could open it. Though often a feature in movies, it was the first time this had happened to him as a CO. You were supposed to be able to discuss your mission with the people who gave it to you. But not this time. Mancuso signed for them, locked them in his safe under the watchful eyes of the spook, and sent him back on his way.

"Shit," the Captain observed to himself. Now his guests could come aboard.

There were two of them, both in civilian clothes. The first came down the torpedo-loading hatch with the aplomb of a real sailor. Mancuso soon saw why.

"Howdy, skipper!"

"Jonesy, what the hell are you doing here?"

"Admiral Williamson gave me a choice: either be recalled to temporary active duty or come aboard as a civilian tech-rep. I'd rather be a tech-rep. Pay's better." Jones lowered his voice. "This here's Mr. Clark. He doesn't talk much."

And he didn't. Mancuso assigned him to the spare bunk in the engineer's stateroom. After his gear came down the hatch, Mr. Clark walked into the room, closed the door behind him, and that was that.

"Where do you want me to stash my stuff?" Jones asked.

"There's a spare bunk in the goat locker," Mancuso replied.

"Fine. The chiefs eat better anyway."

"How's school?"

"One more semester till my masters. I'm already getting nibbles from some contractors. And I'm engaged." Jones pulled out his wallet and showed the Captain a photo. "Her name s Kim, and she works in the library.

"Congratulations, Mr. Jones."

"Thanks, skipper. The Admiral said you really needed me. Kim understands. Her dad's Army. So, what's up? Some kind of spec-op. and you couldn't make it without me, right?" "Special Operations" was a euphemism that covered all sorts of things, most of which were dangerous.

"I don't know. They haven't told me yet."

"Well, one more trip 'up north' wouldn't be too bad," Jones observed. "To be honest, I kind of missed it."

Mancuso didn't think they were going there, but refrained from saying so. Jones went aft to get settled. Mancuso went into the engineer's stateroom.

"Mr. Clark?"

"Yes, sir." He'd hung up his jacket, revealing that he wore a short-sleeved shirt. The man was a little over forty, Mancuso judged. On first inspection, he didn't look all that special, perhaps six-one, and slim, but then Mancuso noted that the man didn't have the normal middle-age roll at the waist, and his shoulders were broader than they looked on the tall frame. It was the second glance at an arm that added a piece to the jigsaw. Half hidden under the black hair on his forearm was a tattoo, a red seal, it seemed to be, with a wide, impudent grin.

"I knew a guy with a tattoo like that. Officer -- he's with Team-Six now."

"Once upon a time, Captain. I'm not supposed to talk about that, sir."

"What's this all about?"

"Sir, your mission orders will -- "

"Humor me." Mancuso smiled out the order. "They just took in the brow."

"It involves making a pickup."

My God. Mancuso nodded impassively. "Will you need any additional support?"

"No, sir. Solo shot. Just me and my gear."

"Okay. We can go over it in detail after we sail. You'll eat in the wardroom. Right down the ladder outside, then a few feet aft, on the starboard side. One other thing: is time a problem?"

"Shouldn't be, unless you mind waiting. Part of this is still up in the air -- and that's all I can say for now, Captain. Sorry, but I have my orders, too.

"Fair enough. You take the top bunk. Get some sleep if you need it."

"Thank you, sir." Clark watched the Captain leave, but didn't smile until the door closed. He'd never been on a Los Angeles -- class submarine before. Most intelligence missions were conducted by the smaller, more maneuverable Sturgeons. He always slept in the same place, always in the upper bunk in the engineer's stateroom, the only spare bed on the ship. There was the usual problem stowing his gear, but "Clark" had done it enough to know all the tricks. When he'd finished that, he climbed up into the bunk. He was tired from the flight and needed a few hours to relax. The bunk was always the same, hard against the curved hull of the submarine. It was like being in a coffin with the lid half-open.

"One must admire the Americans for their cleverness," Morozov said. It had been a busy several weeks at Dushanbe. Immediately after the test -- more precisely, immediately after their visitor from Moscow had left -- two of the six lasers had been defrosted and disassembled for service, and it was found that their optics had been badly scorched. So there was still a problem with the optical coating, after all. More likely quality-control, his section chief had observed, dismissing the problem to another team of engineers. What they had now was far more exciting. Here was the American mirror design that they'd heard about for years.

"The idea came from an astronomer. He wanted a way to make stellar photographs that didn't suffer from 'twinkling.' Nobody bothered to tell him that it was impossible, so he went ahead and did it. I knew the rough idea, but not the details. You are right, young man. This is very clever. Too clever for us," the man growled briefly as he flipped to the page on computer specifications. "We don't have anything that can duplicate this performance; Just building the actuators -- I don't know if we can even do that."

"The Americans are building the telescope -- "

"Yes, at Hawaii. I know. But the one at Hawaii is far behind this one, technically speaking. The Americans have made a breakthrough that has not yet found its ways into the general scientific community. Note the date on the diagram. They may actually have this one operating now." He shook his head. "They're ahead of us.

"You have to leave."

"Yes. Thank you for protecting me this long." Eduard Vassilyevich Altunin's gratitude was genuine. He'd had a floor on which to sleep, and several warm meals to sustain him while he made his plans.

Or attempted to. He couldn't even appreciate the disadvantages under which he labored. In the West he could easily have obtained new clothing, a wig to disguise his hair, even a theatrical makeup kit that came with instructions on how to alter his features. In the West he could hide in the back seat of a car, and be driven two hundred miles in under four hours in Moscow he had none of those options. The KGB would have searched his flat by now, and determined what clothing he wore. They'd know his face and hair color. The only thing they evidently did not know was his small circle of friends from military service in Afghanistan. He'd never talked to anyone about them.

They offered him a different sort of coat, but it didn't fit, and he had no wish to endanger these people further. He already had his cover story down: he'd hidden out with a criminal group a few blocks away. One fact about Moscow little known in the West was its crime situation, which was bad and getting worse. Though Moscow had not yet caught up with American cities of comparable size, there were districts where the prudent did not walk alone at night. But since foreigners didn't often visit such areas, and since the street criminals rarely troubled foreigners -- doing so guaranteed a vigorous response from the Moscow Militia -- the story was slow getting out.

He walked out onto Trofimovo, a dingy thoroughfare near the river. Altunin marveled at his stupidity. He'd always told himself that if he needed to escape from the city, he'd do so on a cargo barge. His father had worked on them all his life, and Eduard knew hiding places that no one could find -- but the river was frozen, and barge traffic was at a stop, and he hadn't thought of it! Altunin raged at himself.

There was no sense worrying about that now, he told himself. There had to be another way. He knew that the Moskvich auto plant was only a kilometer away, and the trains ran year round. He'd try to catch one going south, perhaps hide in a freight car filled with auto parts. With luck he'd make it to Soviet Georgia, where no one would inspect his new papers all that closely. People could disappear in the Soviet Union. After all, it was a country of 280,000,000, he told himself. People were always losing or damaging their papers. He wondered how many of these thoughts were realistic and how many were simply an attempt to cheer himself up.

But he couldn't stop now. It had started in Afghanistan and he wondered if it would ever stop.

He'd been able to shut it out at first. A corporal in an ordnance company, he worked with what the Soviet military euphemistically referred to as "counterterrorist devices." These were distributed by air, or most often by Soviet soldiers completing a sweep through a village. Some were the prototypical Russian matryoshka dolls, a bandanaed figure with a roly-poly bottom; or a truck; or a fountain pen. Adults learned fast, but children were cursed both with curiosity and the inability to learn from the mistakes of others. Soon it was learned that children would pick up anything, and the number of doll-bombs distributed was reduced. But one thing remained constant: when picked up, a hundred grams of explosive would go off. His job had been assembling the bombs and teaching the soldiers how to use them properly.

Altunin hadn't thought about it much at first. It had been his job, the orders for which came from on high; Russians are neither inclined by temperament nor conditioned by education to question orders from on high. Besides, it had been a safe, easy job. He hadn't had to carry a rifle and go walking in the bandit country. The only dangers to him had been in the bazaars of Kabul, and he'd always been careful to walk about in groups of five or more. But on one such trip he'd seen a young child -- boy or girl, he didn't know -- whose right hand was now a claw, and whose mother stared at him and his comrades in a way he would never forget. He'd known the stories, how the Afghan bandits took particular delight in flaying captured Soviet pilots alive, how their women often handled the matter entirely. He'd thought it clear evidence of the barbarism of these primitive people -- but a child wasn't primitive. Marxism said that. Take any child, give it proper schooling and leadership, and you'd have a communist for life. Not that child. He remembered it, that cold November day two years ago. The wound was fully healed, and the child had actually been smiling, too young to understand that its disfigurement would last forever. But the mother knew, and knew how and why her child had been punished for being...born. And after that, the safe, easy job hadn't been quite the same. Every time he screwed the explosives section onto the mechanism, he saw a small, pudgy child's hand. He started seeing them in his sleep. Drink, and even an experiment with hashish hadn't driven the images away. Speaking with his fellow technicians hadn't helped -- though it had earned him the wrathful attention of his company zampolit. It was a hard thing he had to do, the political officer had explained, but necessary to prevent greater loss of life, you see. Complaining about it would not change matters, unless Corporal Altunin wanted transfer to a rifle company, where he might see for himself why such harsh measures were necessary.

He knew now that he should have taken that offer, and hated himself for the cowardice that had prevented the impulse. Service in a line company might have restored his self-image, might have -- might have done a lot of things, Altunin told himself, but he hadn't made the choice and it hadn't made the difference. In the end, all he'd earned for himself was a letter from the zampolit that would travel with him for the rest of his life.

So now he tried to expiate that wrong. He told himself that perhaps he already had -- and now, if he were very lucky, he could disappear, and perhaps he could forget the toys that he'd prepared for their evil mission. That was the only positive thought that his mind had room for, this cold, cloudy night.

He walked north, keeping off the dirt sidewalks, staying in shadows, away from the streetlamps. Shift workers coming home from the Moskvich plant made the streets agreeably crowded, but when he arrived at the railyard outside the plant, all the commuting was over. Snow started to fall heavily, reducing visibility to a hundred meters or so, with small globes of flakes around each of the lights over the stationary freight cars. A train seemed to be forming up, probably heading south, he told himself. Switching locomotives were moving back and forth, shunting boxcars from one siding to another. He spent a few minutes huddled by a car to make sure that he knew what was happening. The wind picked up as he watched, and Altunin looked for a better vantage point. There were some boxcars fifty or so meters away, from which he could observe better. One of them had an opened door, and he'd need to inspect the locking mechanism if he wanted to break inside one. He walked over with his head down to shield his face from the wind. The only thing he could hear, other than the crunch of snow under his boots, was the signal whistles of the switch engines. It was a friendly sound, he told himself, the sound that would change his life, perhaps lead the way to something like freedom.

He was surprised to see that there were people in the boxcar. Three of them. Two held cartons of auto parts. The third's hands were empty, until he reached into his pocket and came out with a knife.

Altunin started to say something. He didn't care if they were stealing parts for sale on the black market. He wasn't concerned at all, but before he could speak, the third one leaped down on him. Altunin was stunned when his head struck a steel rail. He was conscious, but couldn't move for a second, too surprised even to be afraid. The third one turned and said something. Altunin couldn't make out the reply, but knew it was sharp and quick. He was still trying to understand what was happening when his assailant turned back and slashed his throat. There wasn't even any pain. He wanted to explain that he wasn't...concerned...didn't care...just wanted of them stood over him, two cartons in his arms, and clearly he was afraid, and Altunin thought this very odd, since he was the one who was dying...

Two hours later, a switch engine couldn't stop in time when its engineer noted an odd, snow-covered shape on the rails. On seeing what he'd run over, he called for the yardmaster.

Chapter 13 -- Councils

"Beautiful job," Vatutin commented. "The bastards." They've broken the rule, he said to himself. The rule was unwritten but nevertheless very real: CIA does not kill Soviets in the Soviet Union; KGB does not kill Americans, or even Soviet defectors, in the United States. So far as Vatutin knew, the rule had never been broken by either side -- at least not obviously so. The rule made sense: the job of intelligence agencies was to gather intelligence; if KGB and CIA officers spent their time killing people -- with the inevitable retaliation and counter-retaliation -- the primary job would not get done. And so the business of intelligence was a civilized, predictable business. In third-world countries, different rules applied, of course, but in America and the Soviet Union, the rules were assiduously followed.

Until now, that is -- unless I'm supposed to believe that this poor, sad bastard was murdered by auto-parts thieves! Vatutin wondered if CIA might have contracted the job out to a criminal gang -- he suspected that the Americans used Soviet criminals for some things too sensitive for their own lily-white hands, That would not be a technical violation of the rules would it? He wondered if the First Directorate men ever used a similar dodge...

All he knew right now was that the next step in the courier chain was dead at his feet, and with it his only hope of linking the microfilm to the American spy in the Defense Ministry. Vatutin corrected himself: He also knew that he'd have to report this to the Chairman in about six hours. He needed a drink. Vatutin shook his head and looked down at what was left of his suspect. The snow was falling so rapidly that you couldn't see the blood anymore.

"You know, if they'd only been a little bit more clever putting his body on the tracks, we might have written it off to an accident," another KGB officer observed. Despite the horrendous work done to the body by the wheels of the locomotive, it was clear that Altunin's throat had been expertly sliced by a narrow-bladed knife. Death, the responding physician reported, could not have taken longer than a minute. There were no signs of a struggle. The victim's -- the traitor's! -- hands were not bruised or cut. He hadn't fought back against whoever had killed him. Conclusion: His killer was probably known to him. Might it have been an American?

"First thing," Vatutin said. "I want to know if any Americans were away from their flats between eighteen and twenty-three hours." He turned. "Doctor!"

"Yes, Colonel?"

"Time of death again?"

"Judging by the temperature of the larger pieces, between twenty-one and midnight. Earlier rather than later, I think, but the cold and snow cover complicate matters." Not to mention the state of the remains, he didn't add. Vatutin turned back to his principal assistant. "Any who were away from quarters, I want to know who, where, when, and why."

"Step up surveillance of all the foreigners?" the man wondered aloud.

"I'll have to go to the Chairman for that, but I'm thinking about it. I want you to speak to the chief Militia investigator. This is to be classified most-secret. We don't need a mob of fumbling policemen messing this affair up."

"Understood, Comrade Colonel. They'd only be interested in recovering the auto parts anyway," the man noted sourly. This perestroika business is turning everyone into a capitalist!

Vatutin walked over to the locomotive driver. "It's cold, isn't it?"

The message was received. "Yes, Comrade. Perhaps you'd like something to take away the chill?"

"That would be very kind of you, Comrade Engineer."

"My pleasure, Comrade Colonel." The engine driver produced a small bottle. As soon as he'd seen that the man was a colonel of the KGB, he'd thought himself doomed. But the man seemed decent enough. His colleagues were business-like, their questions had been reasonable ones, and the man was almost at ease -- until he realized that he could be punished for having a bottle on the job. He watched the man take a long pull, then hand the bottle back.

"Spasibo," the KGB man said, and walked off into the snow.

Vatutin was waiting in the Chairman's anteroom when he arrived. He'd heard that Gerasimov was a serious worker always at his desk by seven-thirty. The stories were right. He came through the door at seven twenty-five and waved for the "Two" man to follow him into his office.


"Altunin was killed late last night in the railyards outside the Moskvich Auto Factory. His throat was cut and his body left on the tracks, Where a switch engine ran over it."

"You're sure it's him?" Gerasimov asked with a frown.

"Yes, he was positively identified. I recognized the face myself. He was found next to a railcar that had ostensibly been broken into, and some auto parts were missing."

"Oh, so he stumbled upon a gang of black marketeers and they conveniently killed him?"

"So it is meant to appear, Comrade Chairman." Colonel Vatutin nodded. "I find the coincidence Unconvincing, but there is no physical evidence to contradict it. Our investigations are continuing. We are now checking to see if any of Altunin's comrades from his military service live in the area, but I am not hopeful along these lines."

Gerasimov rang for tea. His secretary appeared in an instant, and Vatutin realized that this had to be part of the regular morning routine. The Chairman was taking things more easily than the Colonel had feared. Party man or not, he acted like a professional:

"So, to this point, we have three confessed document couriers, and one more positively identified, but unfortunately dead. The dead one was seen in close physical proximity to the senior aide of the Defense Minister, and one of the live ones has identified his contact as a foreigner, but cannot positively identify his face. In short, we have the middle of this line, but neither end."

"That is correct, Comrade Chairman. Surveillance of the two Ministry colonels continues. I propose that we step up surveillance of the American Embassy community."

Gerasimov nodded. "Approved. It's time for my morning brief. Keep pushing for a break in the case. You look better now that you've cut back on your drinking, Vatutin."

"I feel better, Comrade Chairman," he admitted.

"Good." Gerasimov rose, and his visitor did the same. "Do you really think that our CIA colleagues killed their own man?"

"Altunin's death was most convenient for them. I realize that this would be a violation of our -- our agreement along these lines, but -- "

"But we are probably dealing with a highly placed spy, and they are undoubtedly most interested in protecting him. Yes, I understand that. Keep pushing, Vatutin," Gerasimov said again.

Foley was already at his office also. On his desk were three film cassettes for CARDINAL. The next problem was delivering the damned things. The business of espionage was a mass of interlocking contradictions. Some parts of it were devilishly hard. Some carried the sort of danger that made him wish he'd stayed with the New York Times. But others were so simple that he could have had one of his kids handle it. That very thought had occurred to him several times -- not that he'd ever entertain it seriously, but in moments when his mind was affected by a few stiff drinks, he'd muse that Eddie could take a piece of chalk and make a certain mark in a certain place. From time to time, embassy personnel would walk about Moscow doing things that were just slightly out of the ordinary. In summer, they'd wear flowers in buttonholes, and remove them for no apparent reason -- and the KGB officers watching them would anxiously scan the sidewalks for the person at whom the "signal" was aimed. Year round, some would wander about, taking photographs of ordinary street scenes. In fact, they scarcely needed to be told. Some of the embassy people merely had to act like their eccentric American selves to drive the Russians nuts. To a counterespionage officer, anything could be a secret sign: a turned-down sun visor in a parked car, a package left on its front seat, the way the wheels were pointed. The net effect of all these measures, some deliberate, some merely random, had "Two" men scurrying all over the city running down things that simply didn't exist. It was something Americans did better than Russians, who were too regimented to act in a truly random fashion, and it was something that made life thoroughly miserable for the counterspies of the Second Chief Directorate.

But there were thousands of them, and only seven hundred Americans (counting dependents) assigned to the embassy.

And Foley still had the film to deliver. He wondered why it was that CARDINAL had always refused to use dead-drops. It was the perfect expedient for this. A dead-drop was typically an object that looked like an ordinary stone, or anything else common and harmless, hollowed out to hold the thing to be transferred. Bricks were especially favored in Moscow, as the city was mainly one of brick, many of which were loose due to the uniformly poor workmanship found here, but the variety of such devices was endless.

On the other hand, the variety of ways to make a brush-pass was limited, and depended upon the sort of timing to be found in a wishbone backfield. Well, the Agency hadn't given him this job because it was easy. He couldn't risk it again himself. Perhaps his wife could make the transfer...

"So, where's the leak?" Parks asked his security chief.

"It could be any one of a hundred or so people," the man answered.

"That's good news," Pete Wexton observed dryly. He was an inspector in the FBI's counterintelligence office. "Only a hundred."

"Could be one of the scientific people, or somebody's secretary, or someone in the budget department that's just in the program itself. There are another twenty or so here in the D.C. area who're into Tea Clipper deep enough to have seen this stuff, but they're all very senior folks." SDIO's security chief was a Navy captain who customarily wore civilian clothes. "More likely, the person we're looking for is Out West."

And they're mostly scientific types, mostly under forty." Wexton closed his eyes. Who live inside computers and think the world's just one big videogame. The problem with scientists, especially the young ones, was simply that they lived in a world very different from that understood and appreciated by the security community. To them, progress depended on the free transfer of information and ideas. They were people who got excited about new things, and talked about them among themselves, unconsciously seeking the synergism that made ideas sprout like weeds in the disordered garden of the laboratory. To a security officer the ideal world was one where nobody talked to anyone else. The problem with that, of course, was that such a world rarely did anything worth securing in the first place. The balance was almost impossible to strike, and the security people were always caught exactly in the middle, bated by everyone.

"What about internal security on the project documents?" Wexton asked.

"You mean canary traps?"

"What the hell is that?" General Parks asked.

"All these papers are done on word processors. You use the machine to make subtle alterations in each copy of the important papers. That way you can track every one, and identify the precise one that's being leaked to the other side," the Captain explained. "We haven't done much of that. It's too time-intensive."

"CIA has a computer subroutine that does it automatically. They call it Spookscribe, or something like that. It's closely held, but you should be able to get it if you ask."

"Nice of 'em to tell us about it," Parks groused. "Would it matter in this case?"

"Not at the moment, but you play all the cards you got," the Captain observed to his boss. I've beard about the program. It can't be used on scientific documents. The way they use language is too precise. Anything more than inserting a comma -- Well, it can screw up what they're trying to say."

"Assuming anyone can understand it in the first place," Wexton said with a rueful shake of the head. "Well, it's for damned sure that the Russians can." He was already thinking about the resources that this case would require -- possibly hundreds of agents. They'd be conspicuous. The community in question might be too small to absorb a large influx of people without someone's notice.

The other obvious thing to do was restrict access to information on the minor experiments, but then you ran the risk of alerting the spy. Wexton wondered why he hadn't stuck to simple things like kidnappings and Mafia racketeering. But he'd gotten his brief on Tea Clipper from Parks himself. It was an important job, and he was the best man for it. Wexton was sure of this: Director Jacobs had said so himself.

Bondarenko noticed it first. He'd had an odd feeling a few days previously while doing his morning run. It was something he'd always had, but those three months in Afghanistan had taken a latent sixth sense and made it blossom fully. There were eyes on him. Whose? he wondered.

They were good. He was sure of that. He also suspected that there were five or more of them. That made them Russian...probably. Not certainly. Colonel Bondarenko was one kilometer into his run, and decided to perform a small experiment. He altered his route, taking a right where he normally took a left. That would take him past a new apartment block whose first-floor windows were still polished. He grinned to himself, but his right hand unconsciously slapped down on his hip, searching for his service automatic. The grin ended when he realized what his hand had done, and felt the gnawing disappointment that he did not have the wherewithal to defend himself with anything other than bare bands. Bondarenko knew how to do that quite well, but a pistol has longer reach than a hand or foot. It wasn't fear, not even close to it, but Bondarenko was a soldier, accustomed to knowing the limits and rules of his own world.

His head swiveled, looking at the reflection of the windows. There was a man a hundred meters behind him, holding a hand to his face, as though speaking on a small radio. Interesting. Bondarenko turned and ran backward for a few meters, but by the time his head had come around, the man's band was at his side, and he was walking normally, seemingly uninterested in the jogging officer. Colonel Bondarenko turned and resumed his normal pace. His smile was now thin and tight. He'd confirmed it. But what had he confirmed? Bondarenko promised himself that he'd know that an hour after getting to his office.

Thirty minutes later, home, showered, and dressed, he read his morning paper -- for him it was Krasnaya Zvesdra, "Red Star," the Soviet military daily -- while be drank a mug of tea. The radio was playing while his wife prepared the children for school. Bondarenko didn't hear either, and his eyes merely scanned the paper while his mind churned. Who are they? Why are they watching me? Am I under suspicion? If so, suspicion of what?

"Good morning, Gennady Iosifovich," Misha said on entering his office.

"Good morning, Comrade Colonel," Bondarenko answered.

Filitov smiled. "Call me Misha. The way you're going, you will soon outrank this old carcass. What is it?"

"I'm being watched. I had people following me this morning when I did my run."

"Oh?" Misha turned. "Are you sure?"

"You know how it is when you know you're being watched -- I'm certain you know, Misha!" the young Colonel observed.

But he was wrong. Filitov had noticed nothing unusual, nothing to arouse his instincts until this moment. Then it hit him that the bath attendant wasn't back yet. What if the signal was about something more than a routine security check? Filitov's face changed for an instant before he got it back under control.

"You've noticed something, too, then?" Bondarenko asked. "Ah!" A wave of the hand, and an ironic look. "Let them look; they will find this old man more boring than Alexandrov's sex life." The reference to the Politburo's chief ideologue was becoming a popular one in the Defense Ministry. A sign, Misha wondered, that General Secretary Narmonov was planning to ease him out?

They ate in the Afghan way, everyone taking food barehanded from a common plate. Ortiz had a virtual banquet laid out for lunch. The Archer had the place of honor, with Ortiz at his right hand to act as translator. Four very senior CIA people were there, too. He thought they were overdoing things, but then, the place that put the light in the sky must have been important. Ortiz opened the talking with the usual ceremonial phrases.

"You do me too much honor," the Archer replied.

"Not so," the senior CIA visitor said through Ortiz. "Your skill and courage are well known to us, and even among our soldiers. We are ashamed that we can give you no more than the poor help that our government allows."'

"It is our land to win back," the Archer said with dignity. "With Allah's help it will be ours again. It is well that Believers should strive together against the godless ones, but the task is that of my people, not yours."

He doesn't know, Ortiz thought. He doesn't know that he's being used.

"So," the Archer went on. "Why have you traveled around the world to speak with this humble warrior?"

"We wish to talk with you about the light you saw in the sky."

The Archer's face changed. He was surprised at that. He'd expected to be asked about how well his missiles worked.

"It was a light -- a strange light, yes. Like a meteor, but it seemed to go up instead of down." He described what he had seen in detail, giving the time, where he'd been, the direction of the light, and the way it had sliced across the sky.

"Did you see what it hit? Did you see anything else in the sky?"

"Hit? I don't understand. It was a light."

Another of the visitors spoke. "I am told that you were a teacher of mathematics. Do you know what a laser is?"

His face changed at the new thought. "Yes, I read of them when I was in university. I -- " The Archer sipped at a glass of juice. "I know little of lasers. They project a beam of light, and are used mainly for measuring and surveying. I have never seen one, only read of them."

"What you saw was a test of a laser weapon."

"What is its purpose?"

"We do not know. The test you saw used the laser system to destroy a satellite in orbit. That means -- "

"I know of satellites. A laser can be used for this purpose?"

"Our country is working on similar things, but it would seem that the Russians are ahead of us."

The Archer was surprised by that. Was not America the world's leader in technical things? Was not the Stinger proof of that? Why had these men flown twelve thousand miles -- merely because he'd seen a light in the sky?

"You are fearful of this laser?"

"We have great interest," the senior man replied. "Some of the documents you found gave us information about the site which we did not have, and for this we are doubly in your debt."

"I, too, have interest now. Do you have the documents?"

"Emilio?" The senior visitor gestured at Ortiz, who produced a map and a diagram.

"This site has been under construction since 1983. We were surprised that the Russians would build so important a facility so near to the borders of Afghanistan."

"In 1983, they still thought they would win," the Archer observed darkly. The idea that they'd felt that way was taken as an insult. He noted the position on the map, the mountaintop nearly surrounded by a sweeping loop of the Vakhsh River. He saw immediately why it was there. The power dam at Nurek was only a few kilometers away. The Archer knew more than he let on. He knew what lasers were, and a little of how they operated. He knew that their light was dangerous, that it could blind.

It destroyed a satellite? Hundreds of kilometers up in space, higher than airplanes could fly...what could it do to people on the ground...perhaps they'd built so close to his country for another reason...

"So you merely saw the light? You have heard no stories about such a place, no stories of strange lights in the sky?"

The Archer shook his head. "No, only the one time." He saw the visitors exchange looks of disappointment.

"Well, that does not matter. I am permitted to offer you the thanks of my government. Three truckloads of weapons are coming to your band. If there is anything else you need, we will try to get it for you."

The Archer nodded soberly. He'd expected a great reward for the delivery of tbe Soviet officer, then been disappointed at his death. But these men had not visited him about that. It was all about the documents and the light -- was this place so important that the death of the Russian was considered trivial? Were the Americans actually afraid of it?

And if they were fearful, how should he feel?

"No, Arthur, I don't like it," the President said tentatively. Judge Moore pressed the attack.

"Mr. President, we are aware of Narmonov's political difficulties. The disappearance of our agent will not have any more of an effect than his arrest by the KGB, possibly less. After all, the KGB can't very well raise too much of a ruckus if they let him slip away," the DCI pointed out.

"It's still too great a risk," Jeffrey Pelt said. "We have a historic opportunity with Narmonov. He really wants to make fundamental changes in their system -- hell, your people are the ones who made the assessment."

We had this chance before and blew it, during the Kennedy Administration, Moore thought. But Khrushchev fell, and we had twenty years of Party hacks. Now there may be another chance. You're afraid we might never get another opportunity as good as this one. Well, that's one way to look at it, he admitted to himself.

"Jeff, his position will not be affected any more by extracting our man than by his capture -- "

"If they're on to him, why haven't they grabbed him already?" Pelt demanded. "What if you're overreacting?"

"This man has been working for us over thirty years -- thirty years! Do you know the risks he's run for us, the information we've gotten from him? Can you appreciate the frustration he's felt the times we ignored his advice? Can you imagine what it's like to live with a death sentence for thirty years? If we abandon the man, what's this country all about?" Moore said with quiet determination. The President was a man who could always be swayed by arguments based on principle.

"And if we topple Narmonov in the process?" Pelt demanded. "What if Alexandrov's clique does take over, and it's back to the bad old days all over again -- more tension, more arms races? How do we explain to the American people that we sacrificed this opportunity for the life of one man?"

"For one thing, they'd never know unless somebody leaked it," the DCI replied coldly. "The Russians wouldn't make it all public, and you know that. For another, how would we explain throwing this man away like a used Kleenex?"

"They wouldn't know that either, unless somebody leaked it," Pelt answered in an equally cold voice.

The President stirred. His first instinct had been to put the extraction operation on hold. How could he explain any of this? Either by an act of commission or omission, they were discussing the best way to prevent something unfavorable from happening to America's principal enemy. But you can't even say that in public, the President reflected. If you said out loud that the Russians are our enemy, the papers would throw a fit. The Soviets have thousands of nuclear warheads aimed at us, but we can't risk offending their sensibilities...

He remembered his two face-to-face meetings with the man, Andrey Il'ych Narmonov, General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. Younger than he was, the President reflected. Their initial conversations had been cautious, each man feeling out the other, looking both for weaknesses and common ground, for advantage and compromise. A man with a mission, a man who probably did wish to change things, the President thought --

But is that a good thing? What if be did decentralize their economy, introduce market forces, give them a little freedom -- not much, of course, but enough to get things moving? Quite a few people were warning him about that possibility: Imagine a country with the Soviets' political will, backed up by an economy that could deliver quality goods both in the civilian and military sectors. Would it make the Russian people believe again in their system; would it revive the sense of mission that they'd had in the 1930s? We might be faced with a more dangerous enemy than ever before.

On the other side, he was told that there is no such thing as a little freedom -- one could ask Duvalier of Haiti, Marcos of the Philippines, or the ghost of Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi. The momentum of events could bring the Soviet Union out of the dark ages and into the 20th-century era of political thought. It might take a generation, perhaps two, but what if the country did start to evolve into something approaching a liberal state? There was another lesson of history: Liberal democracies don't make war on one another.

Some choice I have, the President thought. I can be remembered as the regressive idiot who reinstated the Cold War in all its grim majesty -- or the Pollyanna who expected the leopard to change its spots, only to find that it had grown bigger, sharper fangs. Jesus, he told himself as he stared at his two interlocutors, I'm not thinking about success at all, only the consequences of failure.

That's one area in which America and Russia have paralleled their history -- our postwar governments have never lived up to the expectations of our people, have they? I'm the President, I'm supposed to know what the Right Thing is. That's why the people elected me. That's what they're paying me for. God, if they only knew what frauds we all are. We're not talking about how to succeed. We're talking about who'll leak the reason for the failure of policy. Right here in the Oval Office, we're discussing who'll get the blame if something we haven't yet decided upon doesn't work.

"Who knows about this?"

Judge Moore held his hands out. "Admiral Greer, Bob Ritter, and me at CIA. A few field personnel know about the proposed operation-we had to send out the heads-up signal -- but they do not know the political issues, and never will. They don't need to know. Aside from that, only we three at the Agency have the entire picture. Add you, sir, and Dr. Pelt, and that makes five."

"And already we're talking about leaks! Goddamn it!" the President swore with surprising passion. "How did we ever get so screwed up as this!"

Everyone sobered up. There was nothing like a presidential curse to settle people down. He looked at Moore and Pelt, his chief intelligence advisor, and his national security advisor. One was pleading for the life of a man who had served America faithfully and well, at peril of his life; the other took the long, cold look at the realpolitik and saw a historic opportunity more important than any single human life.

"Arthur, you're saying that this agent -- and I don't even want to know his name -- has been giving us critically important data for thirty years, up to and including this laser project that the Russians have operating; you say that he is probably in danger, and it's time to run the risk of getting him out of there, that we have a moral obligation to do so."

"Yes, Mr. President."

"And you, Jeff, you say that the timing's bad, that the revelation of a leak so high up in their government could endanger Narmonov politically, could topple him from his leadership position and replace him with a government less attractive to us.

"Yes, Mr. President."

"And if this man dies because we haven't helped him?"

"We would lose important information," Moore said. "And it might have no tangible difference in its effect on Narmonov. And we'd be betraying a trust to a man who has served us faithfully and well for thirty years."

"Jeff, can you live with that?" the President asked his national-security advisor.

"Yes, sir, I can live with that. I don't like it but I can live with it. With Narmonov we have already gotten an agreement on intermediate nuclear arms, and we have a chance at one on strategic forces."

It's like being a judge. Here I have two advocates who believe fully in their positions. I wonder if their principles would be quite so firm if they were in my chair, if they had to make the decision?

But they didn't run for President.

This agent's been serving the United States since I was a junior prosecutor handling whores in night court.

Narmonov may be the best chance we've had for world peace since God knows when.

The President stood and walked to the windows behind his desk. They were very thick, to protect him from people with guns. They could not protect him against the duties of his office. He looked at the south lawn, but found no answers. He turned back.

"I don't know. Arthur, you can get your assets in place, but I want your word that nothing will happen without my authorization. No mistakes, no initiative, no action at all without my say-so. I'm going to need time on this one. We have time, don't we?"

"Yes, sir. It will take several more days before we have the pieces in place."

"I'll let you know when I make my decision." He shook hands with both men and watched them leave. The President had five more minutes before his next appointment, and used the time to visit the bathroom that adjoins the office. He wondered if there were any underlying symbolism in the act of washing his hands, or did he just want the excuse to look at himself in the mirror? And you're supposed to be the man with all the fucking answers! the image told him. You don't even know why you went to the bathroom! The President smiled at that. It was funny, funny in a way that few other men would ever understand.

"So what the hell do I tell Foley?" Ritter snapped twenty minutes later.

"Back off, Bob," Moore warned. "He's thinking about it. We don't need an immediate decision, and a 'maybe' beats hell out of a 'no.'"

"Sorry, Arthur. It's just that -- damn it, I've tried to get him to come out before. We can't let this man go down."

"I'm sure he won't make a final decision until I've had a chance to talk with him again. For the moment, tell Foley to continue the mission. And I want a fresh look at Narmonov's political vulnerability. I get the impression that Alexandrov may be on the way out -- he's too old to take over from the current man; the Politburo wouldn't stand for replacing a relatively young man with an old one, not after the death parade they had a few years back. Who does that leave?"

"Gerasimov," Ritter said at once. "Two others may be in the running, but he's the ambitious one. Ruthless, but very, very smooth. The Party bureaucracy likes him because he did such a nice job on the dissidents. And if he wants to make a move, it'll have to be pretty soon. If the arms agreement goes through, Narmonov gains a lot of prestige, and the political clout that goes with it. If Alexandrov isn't careful, he'll miss the boat entirely, get moved out himself, and Narmonov will have his seat nice and safe for years."

"That'll take at least five years to accomplish," Admiral Greer noted, speaking for the first time. "He may not have five years. We do have those indications that Alexandrov may be on the way out. If that's more than a rumor, it might force his hand."

Judge Moore looked up at the ceiling. "It sure would be easier to deal with the bastards if they had a predictable way of running things." Of course, we have it, and they can't predict us.

"Cheer up, Arthur," Greer said. "If the world made sense, we'd all have to find honest work."

Chapter 14 -- Changes

Passage through the Kattegat is a tricky affair for a submarine, doubly so when it is necessary to be covert. The water is shallow there, too shallow to run submerged. The channels can be tricky in daylight. They are worse at night, and worse still without a pilot. Since Dallas' passage was supposedly a secret one, a pilot was out of the question.

Mancuso rode the bridge. Below, his navigator sweated at the chart table while a chief quartermaster manned the periscope and called out bearings to various landmarks. They couldn't even use radar to help with navigation, but the periscope had a low-light amplifier, which didn't quite turn night to day, but at least made the starless darkness look like twilight. The weather was a gift, with low clouds and sleet that restricted visibility just enough that the low, dark shape of the 688-class submarine would be difficult to spot from land. The Danish Navy knew of the submarine's transit, and had a few small craft out to ward off any possible snoopers -- there were none -- but aside from that, Dallas was on her own.

"Ship on the port bow," a lookout called.

"I got him," Mancuso answered at once. He held a pistol-like light-amplifying scope and saw the medium-sized container ship. The odds, he thought, made it an East Bloc vessel. Within a minute, the course and speed of the inbound ship were plotted, with a CPA -- Closest Point of Approach -- of seven hundred yards. The Captain swore and gave his orders.

Dallas had her running lights on -- the Danes had insisted on it. The rotating amber one above the masthead light marked her positively as a submarine. Aft, a seaman struck down the American flag and replaced it with a Danish one.

"Everybody look Scandinavian," Mancuso noted wryly.

"Ja-ja, Kept'n," a junior officer chuckled in the darkness. It would be hard for him. He was black. "Slow bearing change on our friend. He isn't altering course that I can tell, sir. Look -- "

"Yeah, I see 'em." Two of the Danish craft were racing forward to interpose themselves between the container ship and Dallas. Mancuso thought that would help. All cats are gray at night, and a submarine on the surface looks like...a submarine on the surface, a black shape with a vertical sail.

"I think she's Polish," the Lieutenant observed. "Yeah, I got the funnel now. Maersk Line."

The two ships closed at a rate of a half a mile per minute. Mancuso turned to watch, keeping his scope on the ship's bridge. He saw no special activity. Well, it was three in the morning. The bridge crew had a tough navigating job to do, and probably their interest in his submarine was the same as his main interest in their merchantman -- please don't hit me, you idiot. It was over surprisingly fast, and then he was staring at her stern light. It occurred to Mancuso that having the lights on was probably a good idea. If they'd been blacked out and then spotted, greater notice might have been taken. They were in the Baltic Sea proper an hour later, on a course of zero-six-five, using the deepest water they could find as Dallas picked her way east. Mancuso took the navigator into his stateroom and together they plotted the best approach to, and the safest place on, the Soviet coast. When they'd selected it, Mr. Clark joined them, and together the three discussed the delicate part of the mission.

In an ideal world, Vatutin thought wryly, they would take their worries to the Defense Minister, and he would cooperate fully with the KGB investigation. But the world was not ideal. In addition to the expected institutional rivalries, Yazov was in the pocket of the General Secretary and knew of the differences of opinion between Gerasimov and Narmonov. No, the Defense Minister would either take over the entire investigation through his own security arm, or use his political power to close the case entirely, lest KGB disgrace Yazov himself for having a traitor for an aide, and so endanger Narmonov.

If Narmonov fell, at best the Defense Minister would go back to being the Soviet Army's chief of personnel; more likely, he'd be retired in quiet humiliation after the removal of his patron. Even if the General Secretary managed to survive the crisis, Yazov would be the sacrificial goat, just as Sokolov had been so recently. What choice did Yazov have?

The Defense Minister was also a man with a mission. Under the cover of the "restructuring" initiative of the General Secretary, Yazov hoped to use his knowledge of the officer corps to remake the Soviet Army -- in the hope, supposedly, of professionalizing the entire military community. Narmonov said that he wanted to save the Soviet economy, but no less an authority than Alexandrov, the high priest of Marxism-Leninism, said that he was destroying the purity of the Party itself. Yazov wanted to rebuild the military from the ground up. It would also have the effect, Vatutin thought, of making the Army personally loyal to Narmonov.

That worried Vatutin. Historically, the Party had used the KGB to keep the military under control. After all, the military had all the guns, and if it ever awoke to its power and felt the loosening of Party was too painful a concept on which to dwell. An army loyal exclusively to the General Secretary rather than the Party itself was even more painful to Vatutin, since it would change the relationship the KGB had to Soviet society as a whole. There could then be no check on the General Secretary. With the military behind him, he could break KGB to his will and use it to "restructure" the entire Party. He would have the power of another Stalin.

How did I ever start along this line? Vatutin asked himself. I'm a counterintelligence officer, not a Party theorist. For all his life, Colonel Vatutin had never dwelt on the Big Issues of his country. He'd trusted his superiors to handle the major decisions and allow him to handle the small details. No longer. By being taken into Chairman Gerasimov's confidence he was now inextricably allied with the man. It had happened so easily! Virtually overnight -- you have to be noticed to get general's stars, he thought with a sardonic smile. You always wanted to get noticed. So, Klementi Vladimirovich, you got yourself noticed all right. Now look where you are!

Right in the middle of a power play between the KGB Chairman and the General Secretary himself.

It was actually quite funny, he told himself. He knew it would be less so if Gerasimov miscalculated...but the crowning irony of all was that if the KGB Chairman fell, then the liberal influences already put in place by Narmonov would protect Vatutin, who was, after all, merely doing the job assigned him by his duly appointed Superiors. He didn't think that he'd be imprisoned, much less shot, as had once been the case. His advancement would be at an end. He'd find himself demoted, running the KGB regional office at Omsk, or the least pleasant opening they could find, never again to return to Moscow Center.

That wouldn't be so bad, he thought. On the other hand, if Gerasimov succeeded...head of "Two" perhaps? And that wouldn't be very bad at all.

And you actually believed that you could advance your career without becoming "political." But that was no longer an option. If he tried to get out, he'd be disgraced. Vatutin was trapped, and knew it. The only way out was to do his job to the best of his ability.

The revery ended as he turned back to his reports. Colonel Bondarenko was totally clean, he thought. His record had been examined and reexamined, and there was nothing to indicate that he was anything less than a patriot and an above-average officer. Filitov is the one, Vatutin thought. As insane as it seemed on the surface, this decorated hero was a traitor.

But how the hell do we prove that? How do we even investigate it properly without the cooperation of the Defense Minister? That was the other rub, if he failed in his investigation, then Gerasimov would not look kindly upon his Career; but the investigation was hindered by political constraints imposed by the Chairman. Vatutin remembered the time he'd almost been passed over for promotion to major and realized how unlucky he'd been when the promotion board had changed its mind.

Oddly, it did not occur to him that all his problems resulted from having a KGB Chairman with political ambition. Vatutin summoned his senior officers. They arrived in a few minutes.

"Progress on Filitov?" he asked.

"Our best people are shadowing him," a middle-level officer answered. "Six of them round the clock. We're rotating schedules so that he doesn't see the same faces very often, if at all. We now have continuous television surveillance all around his apartment block, and half a dozen people check the tapes every night. We've stepped up coverage of suspected American and British spies, and of their diplomatic communities in general. We're straining our manpower and risking counterdetection, but there's no avoiding that. About the only new thing I have to report is that Filitov talks in his sleep occasionally -- he's talking to somebody named Romanov, it sounds like. The words are too distorted to understand, but I have a speech pathologist working on it, and we may get something. In any case, Filitov can't fart without our knowing it. The only thing we can't do is maintain continuous visual contact without getting our people in too close. Every day, turning a corner or entering a shop, he's out of sight for five to fifteen seconds -- long enough to make a brush-pass or a dead-drop. Nothing I can do about that unless you want us to risk alerting him."

Vatutin nodded. Even the best surveillance had its limitations.

"Oh there is one odd thing," the Major said. "Just learned about it yesterday. About once a week or so, Filitov takes the burn-bag down to the incinerator chute himself. It's so routine there that the man in the destruct room forgot to tell us until last evening. He's a youngster, and came in himself to report it -- after hours, and in civilian clothes. Bright boy. It turns out that Filitov looked after the installation of the system, years back. I checked the plans myself, nothing out of the way. Completely normal installation, just like what we have here. And that's all. For all practical purposes the only unusual thing about the subject is that he ought to be retired by now."

"What of the Altunin investigation?" Vatutin asked next. Another officer opened his notebook. "We've no idea where he was before being killed. Perhaps he was hiding out alone somewhere, perhaps he was protected by friends whom we have been unable to identify. We've established no correlation between his death and the movement of foreigners. He was carrying nothing incriminating except some false papers that looked amateurishly done, but probably good enough for the outlying republics. If he was murdered by CIA, it was a remarkably complete job. No loose ends. None."

"Your opinions?"

"The Altunin case is a dead end," the Major answered. "There are still a half-dozen things that we have to check out, but none has the least promise of an important break." He paused for a moment. "Comrade..."

"Go on."

"I believe this was a coincidence. I think Altunin was the victim of a simple murder, that he tried to get aboard the wrong railcar at the wrong time. I have no evidence to point to, but that is how it feels to me."

Vatutin considered that. It took no small amount of moral courage for an officer of the Second Chief Directorate to say that he was not on a counterespionage case.

"How sure are you?"

"We'll never be sure, Comrade Colonel, but if CIA had done the murder, would they not have disposed of the body -- or, if they were trying to use his death to protect a highly placed spy, why not leave evidence to implicate him as a totally separate case? There were no false flags left behind, even though this would seem the place to do so."

"Yes, we would have done that. A good point. Run down all your leads anyway."

"Of course, Comrade Colonel. Four to six days, I think."

"Anything else?" Vatutin asked. Heads shook negatively.

"Very well, return to your sections, Comrades."

She'd do it at the hockey game, Mary Pat Foley thought. CARDINAL would be there, alerted by a wrong-number telephone call from a pay phone. She'd make the pass herself. She had three film cassettes in her purse, and a simple handshake would do it. Her son played on this junior-league team, as did Filitov's grand-nephew, and she went to every game. It would be unusual if she didn't go, and the Russians depended on people to stick to their routines. She was being followed. She knew it. Evidently the Russians had stepped up surveillance, but the shadow she rated wasn't all that good -- or at least they were using the same one on her, and Mary Pat knew when she saw a face more than once in a day.

Mary Patricia Kaminskiy Foley had typically muddled American ancestry, though some aspects of it had been left off her passport documents. Her grandfather had been an equerry to the House of Romanov, had taught the Crown Prince Aleksey to ride -- no small feat since the youngster was tragically stricken with hemophilia, and the utmost caution had needed to be exercised. That had been the crowning achievement of an otherwise undistinguished life. He'd been a failure as an Army officer, though friends at court had ensured his advancement to colonel. All that had accomplished was the utter destruction of his regiment in the Tannenberg Forests, and his capture by the Germans -- and his survival past 1920. Upon learning that his wife had died in the revolutionary turmoil that followed the First World War, he'd never returned to Russia -- he always called it Russia -- and eventually drifted to the United States, where he'd settled in the suburbs of New York and remarried after establishing a small business. He'd lived to the ripe old age of ninety-seven, outliving even a second wife twenty years his junior, and Mary Pat never forgot his rambling stories. On entering college and majoring in history, she learned better, of course. She learned that the Romanovs were hopelessly inept, their court irredeemably corrupt. But one thing she'd never forget was the way her grandfather wept when he got to the part about how Aleksey, a brave, determined young man, and his entire family had been shot like dogs by the Bolsheviks. That one story, repeated to her a hundred times, gave Mary Pat a view of the Soviet Union which no amount of time or academic instruction or political realism could ever erase. Her feelings for the government which ruled her grandfather's land were completely framed by the murder of Nicholas II, his wife, and his five children. Intellect, she told herself in reflective moments, had very little to do with the way people feel.

Working in Moscow, working against that same government, was the greatest thrill of her life. She liked it even more than her husband, whom she'd met while a student at Columbia. Ed had joined CIA because she had decided very early in life to join CIA. Her husband was good at it, Mary Pat knew, with brilliant instincts and administrative skills -- but he lacked the passion she gave to the job. He also lacked the genes. She had learned the Russian language at her grandfather's knee -- the richer, more elegant Russian that the Soviets had debased into the current patois -- but more importantly she understood the people in a way that no number of books could relate. She understood the racial sadness that permeates the Russian character, and the oxymoronic private openness, the total exposure of self and soul displayed only to the closest friends and denied by a Moscovite's public demeanor. As a result of this talent, Mary Pat had recruited five well-placed agents, only one shy of the all-time record. In the CIA's Directorate of Operations, she was occasionally known as Supergirl, a term she didn't care for. After all, Mary Pat was the mother of two, with the stretchmarks to prove it. She smiled at herself in the mirror. You've done it all, kid. Her grandfather would be proud.

And the best part of all: nobody had the least suspicion of what she really was. She made a final adjustment in her clothing. Western women in Moscow were supposed to be more conscious of their dress than Western men. Hers were always just a touch overdone. The image she projected to the public was carefully conceived and exquisitely executed. Educated but shallow, pretty but superficial, a good mother but little more, quick with her Western display of emotions but not to be taken very seriously. Scurrying about as she did, substitute-teaching occasionally at the kids' school, attending various social functions, and endlessly wandering about like a perpetual tourist, she fitted perfectly the preconceived Soviet notion of an American female bubblehead. One more smile in the mirror: If the bastards only knew.

Eddie was already waiting impatiently, his hockey stick jerking up and down at the drab carpet in the living room. Ed had the TV on. He kissed his wife goodbye, and told Eddie to kick ass -- the senior Foley had been a Rangers fan before he learned to read.

It was a little sad, Mary Pat thought on the elevator. Eddie had made some real friends here, but it was a mistake to get too friendly with people in Moscow. You might forget that they were the enemy. She worried that Eddie was getting the same sort of indoctrination that she'd gotten, but from the wrong direction. Well, that was easily remedied, she told herself. In storage at home she had a photograph of the Czarevich Aleksey, autographed to his favorite teacher. All she really had to do was explain how he'd died.

The drive to the arena was the routine one, with Eddie getting ever more hyper as game time approached. He was tied as the league's third leading scorer, only six points behind the lead center for the team they were playing tonight, and Eddie wanted to show Ivan Whoeverhewas that Americans could beat Russians at their own game.

It was surprising how crowded the parking lot was, but then it wasn't a very large parking lot and ice hockey is the closest thing to religion permitted in the Soviet Union. This game would decide the playoff standings for the league championship, and quite a few people had come to see it. That was fine with Mary Pat. She'd barely set the parking brake when Eddie tore open the door, lifted his dufflebag, and waited impatiently for his mother to lock the car. He managed to walk slowly enough for his mother to keep up, then raced into the locker room as she went up to the rink.

Her place was predetermined, of course. Though reluctant to be overly close to foreigners in public, at a hockey game the rules were different. A few parents greeted her, and she waved back, her smile just a little too broad. She checked her watch.

"I haven't seen a junior-league game in two years," Yazov said as they got out of the staff car.

"I don't go much either, but my sister-in-law said that this one is important, and little Misha demanded my presence." Filitov grinned. "They think I am good luck -- perhaps you will be too, Comrade Marshal."

"It is good to do something a little different," Yazov conceded with mock gravity. "The damned office will still be there tomorrow. I played this game as a boy, you know."

"No, I didn't. Were you any good?"

"I was a defenseman, and the other children complained that I checked too hard." The Defense Minister chuckled, then waved for his security people to go ahead.

"We never had a rink out where I grew up -- and the truth is I was too clumsy as a child. Tanks were perfect for me -- you're expected to destroy things with them." Misha laughed.

"So how good is this team?"

"I like the junior league better than the real ones," Colonel Filitov answered. "More -- more exuberant. I suppose I just like to see children having a good time."


There weren't many seats around the rink -- and besides, what real hockey fan wanted to sit? Colonel Filitov and Marshal Yazov found a convenient place near some of the parents. Their Soviet Army greatcoats and glistening shoulder boards guaranteed them both a good view and breathing space. The four security people hovered about, trying not to look too obviously at the game. They were not terribly concerned, since the trip to the game had been a spur-of-the-moment decision on the Minister's part.

The game was an exciting one from the first moment. The center for the other team's first line moved like a weasel, handling the puck with skillful passes and adroit skating. The home team -- the one with the American and Misha's grandnephew -- was pressed back into its own zone for most of the first period, but little Misha was an aggressive defenseman, and the American boy stole a pass, taking it the length of the rink only to be foiled by a dazzling save that evoked cheers of admiration from supporters of both sides. Though as contentious a people as any on earth, the Russians have always been imbued with generous sportsmanship. The first period ended zero-zero.

"Too bad," Misha observed while people hustled off to the rest rooms.

"That was a beautiful breakaway, but the save was marvelous," Yazov said. "I'll have to get them this child's name for Central Army. Misha, thanks for inviting me to this. I'd forgotten how exciting a school game could be."

"What do you suppose they're talking about?" the senior KGB officer asked. He and two other men were up in the rafters, hidden by the lights that illuminated the rink.

"Maybe they're just hockey fans," the man with the camera replied. "Shit, it sounds like quite a game we're missing. Look at those security guards-fucking idiots are watching the ice. If I wanted to kill Yazov .

"Not a terribly bad idea, I hear," observed the third man. "The Chairman -- "

"That is not our concern," the senior man snapped, ending the conversation

"Come on, Eddieeee!" Mary Pat screamed as the second period began. Her son looked up in embarrassment. His mom always got too excited at these things, he thought.

"Who was that?" Misha asked, five meters away.

"Over there, the skinny one -- we met her, remember?" Yazov said.

"Well, she's a fan," Filitov noted as he watched the action swing to the other end. Please, Comrade Minister, you do it...He got his wish.

"Let's go over and say hello." The crowd parted before them, and Yazov sidled up on her left.

"Mrs. Foley, I believe?"

He got a quick turn and a quicker smile before she turned back to the action. "Hello, General -- "

"Actually, my rank is Marshal. Your son is number twelve?"

"Yes, and did you see how the goalie robbed him!"

"It was a fine save," Yazov said.

"Then let him do it to somebody else!" she said as the other team started moving into Eddie's end.

"Are all American fans like you?" Misha asked. She turned again, and her voice showed a little embarrassment. "It's terrible, isn't it? Parents are supposed to act -- "

"Like parents?" Yazov laughed.

"I'm turning into a little-league mom," Mary Pat admitted. Then she had to explain what that was.

"It is enough that we've taught your son to be a proper hockey wingman."

"Yes, perhaps he'll be on the Olympic team in a few years," she replied with a wicked, though playful smile. Yazov laughed. That surprised her. Yazov was supposed to be a tight, serious son of a bitch.

"Who's the woman?"

"American. Her husband's the press attaché. Her son's on this team. We have a file on both of them. Nothing special."

"Pretty enough. I didn't know Yazov was a lady's man."

"Do you suppose he wants to recruit her?" the photographer suggested, snapping away.

"I wouldn't mind-"

The game had unexpectedly settled down into a defense struggle that hovered around center ice. The children lacked the finesse necessary for the precise passing that marked Soviet hockey, and both teams were coached not to play an overly physical game. Even with their protective equipment, they were still children whose growing bones didn't need abuse. That was a lesson the Russians could teach Americans Mary Pat thought. Russians had always been highly protective of their young. Life for adults was difficult enough that they always tried to shield their children from it.

Finally, in the third period, things broke loose. A shot on goal was stopped, and the puck rebounded out from the goalie.

The center took it and turned, racing directly for the opposite goal, with Eddie twenty feet to his right. The center passed an instant before being poke-checked, and Eddie swept around to the corner, unable to take a shot at the goal and blocked from approaching it himself by a charging defenseman.

"Center it!" his mother screamed. He didn't hear her, but didn't need to. The center was now in place, and Eddie fired the puck to him. The youthful center stopped it with his skate, stepped back, and sent a blazing shot between the legs of the opposing goalie. The light behind the cage flashed, and sticks went soaring into the air.

"Fine centering pass," Yazov noted with genuine admiration. He continued on in a chiding tone. "You realize that your son now possesses State secrets, and we cannot allow him to leave the country."

Mary Pat's eyes widened in momentary alarm, persuading Yazov that she was indeed a typical bubbleheaded Western female, though she was probably quite a handful in bed. Too bad that I'll never find out.

"You're joking?" she asked quietly. Both the soldiers broke out into laughter.

"The Comrade Minister is most certainly joking," Misha said after a moment.

"I thought so!" she said rather unconvincingly before she turned back to the game. "Okay, let's get another one!"

Heads turned briefly, mainly in amusement. Having this American at the game was always good for a laugh. Russians find the exuberance of Americans immensely entertaining.

"Well, if she's a spy, I'll eat this camera."

"Think on what you just said, Comrade," the officer in charge whispered. The amusement in his voice died in an instant. Think on what he just said the man told himself. Her husband, Edward Foley, is regarded by the American press as a dolt, not smart enough to be a proper reporter, certainly not good enough to be on the staff of the New York Times. The problem was, while that was the sort of cover that every real intelligence officer dreamed of, it was one naturally shared by all the government-service dolts serving every nation in the world. He himself knew that his cousin was a cretin, and he worked for the Foreign Ministry.

"Are you sure you have enough film?"

Eddie got his chance with forty seconds left. A defenseman fanned on a shot from the point, and the puck skittered back to center ice. The center flipped it to the right as the flow of the game changed. The other team had been on the verge of pulling its goalie, and the youngster was out of position when Eddie took the pass and streaked in from his left. Edward Foley II turned sharply and fired behind the goalie's back. The puck clanged on the post, but fell right on the goal line and dribbled across.

"Score!" Mary Pat howled, jumping up and down like a cheerleader. She threw her arms around Yazov, much to the consternation of his security guards. The Defense Minister's amusement was tempered by the realization that he'd have to write up a contact report on this tomorrow. Well, he had Misha as a witness that they'd discussed nothing untoward. She grabbed Filitov next.

"I told you you were good luck!"

"My God, are all American hockey fans like this?" Misha asked, disengaging himself. Her hand had touched his for a half-imaginary fraction of a second, and the three film cassettes were inside the glove. He felt them there and was amazed that it had been done so skillfully. Was she a professional magician?

"Why are you Russians so grim all the time -- don't you know how to have a good time?"

"Maybe we should have more Americans around," Yazov conceded. Hell, 1 wish my wife were as lively as this one! "You have a fine son, and if he plays against us in the Olympics, I will forgive him." He was rewarded with a beaming smile.

"That's such a nice thing to say." I hope he kicks your commie asses all the way back to Moskva. If there was anything she couldn't stand, it was being patronized. "Eddie got two more points tonight, and that Ivan Somebody didn't get any!"

"Are you really that competitive, even with children's games?" Yazov asked.

Mary Pat slipped, just a little, so fast that her brain couldn't keep up with the automatic reply: "Show me a good loser, and I'll show you a loser." She paused, then covered the mistake. "Vince Lombardi, a famous American coach, said that. Excuse me, you must think me nekulturny. You're right, this is just a game for children." She smiled broadly. In your face!

"Did you see anything?"

"A foolish woman who gets overly excited," the photographer replied.

"How quickly will you have the film developed?"

"Two hours."

"Get moving," the senior man said.

"Did you see anything?" the remaining officer asked his boss.

"No, I don't think so. We've watched her for nearly two hours, and she acts like a typical American parent who gets too worked up at an athletic match, but just happens to attract the attention of the Defense Minister and the main suspect of a treason case. I think that's enough, Comrade, don't you?" What a grand game this is...

Two hours later, over a thousand black-and-white photographs were laid on the officer's desk. The camera was a Japanese one that put a time reference on the lower edge, and the KGB photographer was as good as any newspaper professional. He'd shot almost continuously, Stopping only long enough to replace the oversized film magazines on the autodriven camera. At first he'd wished to use a portable TV camera, but the photographer had talked him out of it. The resolution wasn't as good, nor was the speed. A still camera was still the best for catching something quick and small, though you couldn't read lips from its record as you could with a videotape.

Each frame required a few seconds as the officer used a magnifying glass to examine the subjects of his interest. When Mrs. Foley entered the sequence of photos, he needed a few more seconds. He examined her clothing and jewelry at some length, and her face. Her smile was particularly mindless, like something in a Western television commercial, and he remembered hearing her screams over the crowd. Why were Americans so damned noisy?

Good dresser, though, he admitted to himself. Like most American women in a Moscow scene, she stood out like a pheasant in a barnyard -- he snorted annoyance at the thought. So what that the Americans spend more money on clothing? What did clothing matter to anyone? Through my binoculars, she looked like she had the brains of a bird...but not in these photos -- why?

It was the eyes, he thought. In the still photos her eyes sparkled with something different from what he'd watched in person. Why was that?

In the photographs, her eyes -- they were blue, he remembered -- were always focused on something. The face, he noticed, had vaguely Slavic cheekbones. He knew that Foley was an Irish name, and assumed that her ancestry was Irish, too. That America was a country of immigrants, and that immigrants cross ethnic lines in marriage, were foreign concepts to the Russians. Add a few kilograms, change her hair and clothing, and she could be any face encountered on a street in Moscow...or Leningrad. The latter was more likely, he thought. She looked more like a Leningrader. Her face proclaimed the slight arrogance affected by people from that city. I wonder what her ancestry really is.

He kept flipping through the photos, and remembered that the Foleys had never been given this sort of scrutiny. The file on both was a relatively thin one. They were regarded by "Two" as nonentities. Something told him that this was a mistake, but the voice in the back of his head wasn't yet loud enough. He approached the last of the photographs, checking his watch. Three in the damned morning! he grumbled to himself and reached for another cup of tea.

Well, that must have been the second score. She was jumping like a gazelle. Nice legs, he saw for the first time. As his colleagues had noted up in the rafters, she was probably very entertaining in bed. Only a few more frames till the end of the game and...yes, there she was, embracing Yazov -- that randy old goat! -- then hugging Colonel Filitov --

He stopped dead. The photograph caught something that he hadn't seen through the binoculars. While giving Filitov a hug, her eyes were locked on one of the four security guards, the only one not watching the game. Her hand, her left hand, was not wrapped around Filitov at all, but rather down by his right one, hidden from view. He flipped back a few frames. Right before the embraces her hand had been in her coat pocket. Around the Defense Minister, it was balled into a fist. After Filitov, it was open again, and still her eyes were on the security guard, a smile on her face that was very Russian indeed, one that stopped at the lips -- but in the next frame, she was back to her normal, flighty self. In that moment he was sure.

"Son of a bitch," he whispered to himself.

How long have the Foleys been here? He searched his weary memory but couldn't dredge it up. Over two years at least -- and we didn't know, we didn't even suspect...what if it's only her? That was a thought-what if she were a spy and her husband were not? He rejected the idea out of hand, and was correct, but for the wrong reason. He reached for the phone and called Vatutin's home.

"Yes," the voice answered after only half a ring.

"I have something of interest," the officer said simply.

"Send a car."

Vatutin was there twenty-five minutes later, unshaven and irritable. The Major merely set out the crucial series of photographs.

"We never suspected her," he said while the Colonel examined the pictures through a magnifying glass.

"A fine disguise," Vatutin observed sourly. He'd been asleep only for an hour when the phone rang. He was still learning how to sleep without a few stiff drinks beforehand-trying to learn, he corrected himself. The Colonel looked up.

"Can you believe it? Right in front of the Defense Minister and four security guards! The balls of this woman! Who's her regular shadow?"

The Major merely handed over the file. Vatutin leafed through it and found the proper sheet.

"That old fart! He couldn't follow a child to school without being arrested as a pervert. Look at this -- a lieutenant for twenty-three years!"

There are seven hundred Americans attached to the embassy, Comrade Colonel," the Major observed. "We have only so many really good officers -- "

"All watching the wrong people." Vatutin walked to the window. "No more! Her husband, too," he added.

"That will be my recommendation, Comrade Colonel. It would seem likely that they both work for CIA."

"She passed something to him."

"Probably -- a message, perhaps something else."

Vatutin sat down and rubbed his eyes. "Good work, Comrade Major."

It was already dawn at the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. The Archer was preparing to return to his war. His men had packed their new weapons while their leader -- now that was a new thought, the Archer told himself -- reviewed his plans for the coming weeks. Among the things he'd received from Ortiz was a complete set of tactical maps. These were made from satellite photographs, and were updated to show current Soviet strongpoints and areas of heavy patrol activity. He had a long-range radio now on which he could tune to weather forecasts-including Russian ones. Their journey wouldn't start until nightfall.

He looked around. Some of his men had sent their families to this place of safety. The refugee camp was crowded and noisy, but a far happier place than the deserted villages and towns bombed flat by the Russians. There were children here, the Archer saw, and children were happy anywhere they had their parents, and food, and friends. The boys were already playing with toy guns -- and with the older ones, they were not toys. He accepted that with a degree of regret that diminished on every trip. The losses among the mudjaheddin demanded replacements, and the youngest were the bravest. If freedom required their deaths -- well, their deaths came in a holy cause and Allah was beneficent to those who died for Him. The world was indeed a sad place, but at least here a man could find a time for amusement and rest. He watched one of his riflemen helping his firstborn son to walk. The baby could not do it alone, but with each tottering step be looked up at the smiling, bearded face of a father he'd seen only twice since birth. The new chief of the band remembered doing the same for his being taught to walk a very different path...

The Archer returned to his own work. He couldn't be a missileer anymore, but he'd trained Abdul well. Now the Archer would lead his men. It was a right that he'd earned,

and, better still, his men thought him lucky. It would be good for morale. Though he had never in his life read books on military theory, the Archer felt that he knew their lessons well enough.

There was no warning -- none at all. The Archer's head snapped around as he heard the crackling sound of exploding cannon shells, then he saw the dart-shapes of the Fencers, barely a hundred meters high. He hadn't yet reached for his rifle when he watched the bombs falling free of the ejector racks. The black shapes wobbled slightly before the fins stabilized them, their noses tipping down in slow motion. The engine noise of the Soviet Su-24 attack-bombers came next, and he turned to follow them as his rifle came up to his shoulder, but they were too fast. There was nothing left to do but dive to the ground, and it seemed that everything was happening very, very slowly. He was almost hovering in the air, the earth reluctant to come to meet him. His back was turned to the bombs, but he knew they were there, heading down. His eyes snapped up to see people running, his rifleman trying to cover the infant son with his body. The Archer. turned to look up and was horrified to see that one bomb seemed to come straight at him, a black circle against the clear morning sky. There was no time even to say Allah's name as it passed over his head, and the earth shook.

He was stunned and deafened by the blast, and felt wobbly when he stood. It seemed strange to see and feel noise, but not to hear it. Instinct alone flipped the safety off his rifle as he looked around for the next plane. There it was! The rifle came up and fired of its own accord, but made no difference. The next Fencer dropped its load a hundred meters farther on and raced away before a trail of black smoke. There were no more.

The sounds came back slowly, and seemed distant, like the noises of a dream. But this was no dream. The place where his man and the baby had been was now a hole in the ground. There was no trace of the freedom fighter or his son, and even the certainty that both now stood righteously before their God could not mask the blood-chilling rage that coursed through his body. He remembered showing mercy to-the Russian, feeling some regret at his death. No more. He'd never show mercy to an infidel again. His hands were chalk-white around the rifle.

Too late, a Pakistani F-16 fighter streaked across the sky, but the Russians were already across the border, and a minute later, the F-16 circled over the camp twice before heading back to its base.

"Are you all right?" It was Ortiz. His face had been cut by something or other, and his voice was far away.

There was no verbal answer. The Archer gestured with his rifle as he watched a newly made widow scream for her family. Together the two men looked for wounded who might be saved. Luckily, the medical section of the camp was unhurt.' The Archer and the CIA officer carried a half-dozen people there, to see a French doctor cursing with the fluency of a man accustomed to such things, his hands already bloody from his work.

They found Abdul on their next trip. The young man had a Stinger up and armed. He wept as he confessed that he'd been asleep. The Archer patted his shoulder and said it wasn't his fault. There was supposed to be an agreement between the Soviets and the Pakistanis that prohibited cross-border raids. So much for agreements. A television news crew -- French -- appeared, and Ortiz took the Archer to a place where neither could be seen.

"Six," the Archer said. He didn't mention the noncombatant casualties.

"It is a sign of weakness that they do this, my friend," Ortiz replied.

"To attack a place of women and children is an abomination before God!"

"Have you lost any supplies?" To the Russians this was a guerrilla camp, of course, but Ortiz didn't bother voicing their view of things. He'd been here too long to be objective about such matters.

"Only a few rifles. The rest is outside the camp already." Ortiz had no more to say. He'd run out of comforting observations. His nightmare was that his operation to support the Afghans was having the same effect as earlier attempts to aid the Hmong people of Laos. They'd fought bravely against their Vietnamese enemies, only to be virtually exterminated despite all their Western assistance. The CIA officer told himself that this situation was different, and, objectively, he thought that this was true. But it tore at what was left of his soul to watch these people leave the camp, armed to the teeth, and then to count the number that returned. Was America really helping the Afghans to redeem their own land, or were we merely encouraging them to kill as many Russians as possible before they, too, were wiped out?

What is the right policy? he asked himself. Ortiz admitted that he didn't know.

Nor did he know that the Archer had just made a policy decision of his own. The old-young face turned west, then north, and told himself that Allah's will was no more restricted by borders than was the will of His enemies.

Chapter 15 -- Culmination

"All we need to do now is spring the trap," Vatutin told his Chairman. His voice was matter--of-fact, his face impassive as he gestured to the evidence laid out on Gerasimov's desk.

"Excellent work, Colonel!" The Chairman of the KGB allowed himself a smile. Vatutin saw that there was more in it than the satisfaction of closing a difficult and sensitive case.

"Your next move?"

"Given the unusual status of the subject, I believe we should attempt to compromise him at the time of document transfer. It would seem that the CIA knows that we have broken the courier chain from Filitov to them. They took the unusual step of using one of their own officers to make this transfer -- and make no mistake, this was an act of desperation despite the skill with which it was done. I would like to expose the Foleys at the same time. They must be a proud pair for having deceived us this long. To catch them in the act will destroy that pride and be a major psychological blow to CIA as a whole."

"Approved." Gerasimov nodded. "It is your case to run, Colonel. Take all the time you want." Both men knew that he meant less than a week.

"Thank you, Comrade Chairman." Vatutin returned at once to his office, where he briefed his section chiefs.

The microphones were very sensitive. Like most sleepers, Filitov tossed and turned quite a bit in his sleep, except when dreaming, and the reel-to-reel tape recorders kept a record of the rustle of linen and the barely intelligible murmurs. Finally a new sound came through and the man with the headphones gestured to his comrades. It sounded like a sail filling with wind, and it meant that the subject was tossing the covers off the bed.

Next came the coughing. The old man had lung problems, his medical file said. He was particularly vulnerable to colds and respiratory infections. Evidently he was coming down with something. Next he blew his nose, and the KGB men smiled at one another. It sounded like a locomotive whistle.

"Got him," the man on the TV camera said. "Heading toward the bathroom." Their next set of sounds was predictable. There were two television cameras whose powerful lenses were framed on the apartment's two windows. Special settings allowed them to see into the apartment despite the glare of morning light.

"You know, doing this to someone is enough," a technician observed. "If you showed anyone a tape of one of us right after waking, we'd die of simple embarrassment."

"This one's death will be of another cause," the senior officer noted coldly. That was one problem with these investigations. You started identifying too closely with the subject, and had to remind yourself periodically just bow loathsome traitors were. Where did you go wrong? the Major wondered. A man with your war record! He was already wondering how the case would be handled. A public trial? Could they dare to go public with so famous a war hero? That, he told himself, was a political question.

The door opened and closed, indicating that Filitov had gotten the copy of Red Star dropped off daily by a Defense Ministry messenger. They heard the gurgling of his coffee machine, and shared a look -- this bastard traitor drinks good coffee every morning!

He was visible now, sitting at the small kitchen table and reading his paper. He was a note-taker, they saw, scratching on a pad or marking the paper itself. When the coffee was ready he rose to get milk from the small refrigerator. He sniffed at it before adding it to the cup to be sure it hadn't gone bad. He had enough butter to spread it lavishly on his black bread, which they knew was his usual breakfast.

"Still eats like a soldier," the cameraman said.

"He was a good one once," another officer observed. "You foolish old man, how could you do it?"

Breakfast was over soon thereafter, and they watched Filitov walk toward the bathroom, where he washed and shaved. He returned to view to dress. On the videoscreen, they saw him take out a brush to polish his boots. He always wore his boots, they knew, which was unusual for Ministry officers. But so were the three gold stars on his uniform blouse. He stood before the bureau mirror, inspecting himself. The paper went into his briefcase, and Filitov walked out the door. The last noise they heard was the key setting the lock on the apartment door. The Major got on the phone.

"Subject is moving. Nothing unusual this morning. Shadow team is in place."

"Very well," Vatutin replied and hung up.

One of the cameramen adjusted his instrument to record Filitov's emergence from the building. He took the salute from the driver, got into the car, and disappeared down the street. A completely unremarkable morning, they all agreed. They could afford to be patient now.

The mountains to the west were sheathed in clouds, and a fine drizzle was falling. The Archer hadn't left yet. There were prayers to be said, people to console. Ortiz was off having his face attended to by one of the French doctors, while his friend was riffling through the CIA officer's papers.

It made him feel guilty, but the Archer told himself that he was merely looking for records that he himself had delivered to the CIA officer. Ortiz was a compulsive note-taker, and, the Archer knew, a map fancier. The map he wanted to see was in its expected place, and clipped to it were several diagrams. These he copied by hand, quickly and accurately, before replacing all as it had been.

"You guys are so square," Bea Taussig laughed.

"It would be a shame to spoil the image," Al replied, a smile masking his distaste for their guest. He never understood why Candi liked this...whatever the hell she was. Gregory didn't know why she rang bells in the back of his head. It wasn't the fact that she didn't like him -- Al didn't give a damn one way or the other about that. His family and his fiancée loved him, and all his co-workers respected him. That was enough. If he didn't fit into somebody's notion of what an Army officer was supposed to be, screw 'em. But there was something about Bea that -- "Okay, we'll talk business," their guest said with amusement. "I have people from Washington asking me how soon -- "

"Somebody ought to tell those bureaucrats that you don't just turn things like this on and off," Candi growled.

"Six weeks, tops." Al grinned. "Maybe less."

"When?" Candi asked.

"Soon. We haven't had a chance to run it on the simulator yet, but it feels right. It was Bob's idea. He was about due, and it streamlined the software package even better than what I was trying. We don't have to use as much AI as I thought."

"Oh?" The use of AI -- artificial intelligence -- was supposed to be crucial to mirror performance and target discrimination.

"Yeah, we were overengineering the problem, trying to use reason instead of instinct. We don't have to tell the computer how to think everything out. We can reduce the command load twenty percent by putting pre-set options in the program. It turns out to be quicker and easier than making the computer make most judgments off a menu."

"What about the anomalies?" Taussig asked. "That's the whole point. The AI routines were actually slowing things down more than we thought. We were trying to make the thing so flexible that it had trouble doing anything. The expected laser performance is good enough that it can take the fire-option faster than the AI program can decide whether to aim it -- so why not take the shot? If it doesn't fit the profile, we pop it anyway."

"Your laser specs have changed," Bea observed.

"Well, I can't talk about that."

Another grin from the little geek. Taussig managed to smile back. I know something you don't know!, is it? Just looking at him made her skin crawl, but what was worse was the way Candi looked at him, like he was Paul Newman or something! Sallow complexion, even zits, and she loved this thing. Bea didn't know whether to laugh or cry...

"Even us admin pukes have to be able to plan ahead," Taussig said.

"Sorry, Bea. You know the security rules."

"Makes you wonder how we get anything done." Candi shook her head. "If it gets any worse, Al and I won't be able to talk to each other between..." She smiled lecherously at her lover.

Al laughed. "I have a headache."

"Bea, do you believe this guy?" Candi asked.

Taussig leaned back. "I never have."

"When are you going to let Dr. Rabb take you out? You know he's been mooning over you for six months."

"The only mooning I expect out of him is from a car. God, that's a ghastly thought." Her look at Candi masked her feelings exquisitely well. She also realized that the programming information that she'd gotten out was now invalid. Damn the little geek for changing it!

"That's something. Question is, what?" Jones keyed his microphone. "Conn, Sonar, we have a contact bearing zero-nine-eight. Designate this contact Sierra-Four."

"You sure it's a contact?" the young petty officer asked.

"See this?" Jones ran his finger along the screen. The "waterfall display" was cluttered with ambient noise. "Remember that you're looking for nonrandom data. This line ain't random." He typed in a command to alter the display. The computer began processing a series of discrete frequency bands. Within a minute the picture was clear. At least Mr. Jones thought so, the young sonarman noted. The stroke of light on the screen was irregularly shaped, bowing out and narrowing down, covering about five degrees of bearing. The "tech-rep" stared at the screen for several more seconds, then spoke again.

"Conn, Sonar, classify target Sierra-Four as a Krivak-class frigate, bearing zero-nine-six. Looks like he's doing turns for fifteen or so knots." Jones turned to the youngster. He remembered his own first cruise. This nineteen-year-old didn't even have his dolphins yet. "See this? That's the high-frequency signature from his turbine engines, it's a dead give-away and you can hear it a good ways off, usually, 'cause the Krivak doesn't have good sound-isolation."

Mancuso came into the compartment. Dallas was a "first-flight" 688. and didn't have direct access from the control room to sonar as the later ones did. Instead, you had to come forward and step around a hole in the deck that led below. Probably the overhaul would change that. The Captain waved his coffee mug at the screen.

"Where's the Krivak?"

"Right here, bearing still constant. We have good water around us. He's probably a good ways off."

The skipper smiled. Jones was always trying to guess range. The hell of it was that in the two years that Mancuso had had him aboard as a member of the crew he'd been right more often than not. Aft in the control room, the fire-control tracking party was plotting the position of the target against Dallas' known track to determine range and course of the Soviet frigate.

There wasn't much activity on the surface. The other three sonar contacts plotted were all single-screw merchantmen. Though the weather was decent today, the Baltic Sea -- an oversized lake to Mancuso's way of thinking -- was rarely a nice place in the winter. Intelligence reports said that most of the opposition's ships were tied alongside for repairs. That was good news. Better still, there wasn't much in the way of ice. A really cold season could freeze things solid, and that would put a crimp in their mission, the Captain thought.

Thus far only their other visitor, Clark, knew what that mission was.

"Captain, we have a posit on Sierra-Four," a lieutenant called from control.

Jones folded a slip of paper and handed it to Mancuso.

"I'm waiting."

"Range thirty-six thousand, course roughly two-nine-zero." Mancuso unfolded the note and laughed. "Jones, you're still a fucking witch!" He handed it back, then went aft to alter the submarine's course to avoid the Krivak.

The sonarman at Jones's side grabbed the note and read it aloud. "How did you know? You aren't supposed to be able to do that."

"Practice, m'boy, practice," Jones replied in his best W. C. Fields accent. He noted the submarine's course change. It wasn't like the Mancuso he remembered. In the old days, the skipper would close to get photos through the periscope, run a few torpedo solutions, and generally treat the Soviet ship like a real target in a real war. This time they were opening the range to the Russian frigate, creeping away. Jones didn't think Mancuso had changed all that much, and started wondering what the hell this new mission was all about. He hadn't seen much of Mr. Clark. He spent a lot of time aft in the engine room, where the ship's fitness center was -- a treadmill jammed between two machine tools. The crew was already murmuring that he didn't talk very much. He just smiled and nodded and went on his way. One of the chiefs noted the tattoo on Clark's forearm and was whispering some stuff about the meaning of the red seal, specifically that it stood for the real SEALs. Dallas had never had one of those aboard, though other boats had, and the stories, told quietly except for the occasional "no shit!" interruptions, had circulated throughout the submarine community but nowhere else. If there was anything submariners knew how to do, it was keeping secrets.

Jones stood and walked aft. He figured he'd taught enough lessons for one day, and his status as a civilian technical representative allowed him to wander about at will. He noted that Dallas was taking her own sweet time, heading east at nine knots. A look at the chart told him where they were, and the way the navigator was tapping his pencil on it told him how much farther they'd be going. Jones started to do some serious thinking as he went below for a Coke. He'd come back for a really tense one after all.

"Yes, Mr. President?" Judge Moore answered the phone with his own tense look. Decision time?

"That thing we talked about in here the other day...

"Yes, sir." Moore looked, at the phone. Aside from the handset that he held, the "secure" phone system was a three-foot cube, cunningly hidden in his desk. It took words, broke them into digital bits, scrambled them beyond recognition, and sent them out to another similar box which put them back together. One interesting sidelight of this was that it made for very clear conversations, since the encoding system eliminated all the random noise on the line.

"You may go ahead. We can't -- well, I decided last night that we can't just leave him." This had to be his first call of the morning, and the emotional content came through, too. Moore wondered if he'd lost sleep over the life of the faceless agent. Probably he had. The President was that sort of man. He was also the sort, Moore knew, to stick with a decision once made. Pelt would try to change it all day, but the President was getting it out at eight in the morning and would have to stick with it.

"Thank you, Mr. President. I'll set things in motion." Moore had Bob Ritter in his office two minutes later:

"The CARDINAL extraction is a 'go'!"

"Makes me glad I voted for the man," Ritter said as he smacked one hand into the other. "Ten days from now we'll have him in a nice safehouse. Jesus, the debrief'11 take years!" Then came the sober pause. "It's a shame to lose his services, but we owe it to him. Besides, Mary Pat has recruited a couple of real live ones for us. She made the film pass last night. No details, but I gather that it was a hairy one."

"She always was a little too -- "

"More than a little, Arthur, but all field officers have some cowboy in them." The two Texas natives shared a look. "Even the ones from New York."

"Some team. With those genes, you gotta wonder what their kids'll be like," Moore observed with a chuckle. "Bob, you got your wish. Run with it."

"Yes, sir." Ritter went off to send his message, then informed Admiral Greer.

The telex went via satellite and arrived in Moscow only fifteen minutes later: TRAVEL ORDERS APPROVED. KEEP ALL RECEIPTS FOR ROUTINE REIMBURSEMENT.

Ed Foley took the decrypted message into his office. So, whatever desk-sitter got cold feet on us found his socks after all, he thought. Thank God.

Only one more transfer to go! We'll pass the message at the same time, and Misha'll catch a flight to Leningrad, then just follow the plan. One good thing about CARDINAL was that he'd practiced his escape routine at least once a year. His old tank outfit was now assigned to the Leningrad Military District, and the Russians understood that kind of sentiment. Misha had also seen to it over the years that his regiment was the first to get new equipment and to train in new tactics. After his death, it would be designated the Filitov Guards -- or at least that's what the Soviet Army was planning to do. It was too bad, Foley thought, that they'd have to change that plan. On the other hand, maybe CIA would make some other sort of memorial to the man...

But there was still that one more transfer to make, and it would not be an easy one. One step at a time, he told himself.

First we have to alert him.

Half an hour later, a nondescript embassy staffer left the building. At a certain time he'd be standing at a certain place. The "signal" was picked up by someone else who was not likely to be shadowed by "Two." This person did something else. He didn't know the reason, only where and how the mark was to be made. He found that very frustrating. Spy work was supposed to be exciting, wasn't it?

"There's our friend." Vatutin was riding in the car, wanting to see for himself that things were going properly. Filitov entered his car, and the driver took him off. Vatutin's car followed for half a kilometer, then turned off as a second car took over, racing over to a parallel street to keep pace.

He kept track of events by radio. The transmissions were crisp and businesslike as the six cars rotated on and off surveillance, generally with one ahead of the target vehicle and one behind. Filitov's car stopped at a grocery store that catered to senior Defense Ministry officials. Vatutin had a man inside -- Filitov was known to stop there two or three times per week -- to see what he bought and whom he talked to.

He could tell that things were going perfectly, as was not unexpected once he'd explained to everybody on the case that the Chairman had personal interest in this one. Vatutin's driver raced ahead of their quarry, depositing the Colonel across the street from Filitov's apartment building. Vatutin walked inside and went up to the apartment that they had taken over.

"Good timing," the senior officer said as Vatutin came in the door.

The "Two" man looked discreetly out the-window and saw Filitov's car come to a halt. The trailing car motored past without a pause as the Army Colonel walked into the building.

"Subject just entered the building, a communications specialist said. Inside, a woman with a string-bag full of apples would get on the elevator with Filitov. Up on Filitov's floor, two people who looked young enough to be teenagers would stroll past the elevator as he got out, continuing down the corridor with overly loud whispers of undying love. The surveillance mikes caught the end of that as Filitov opened the door.

"Got him," the cameraman said.

"Let's keep away from the windows," Vatutin said unnecessarily. The men with binoculars stood well back from them, and so long as the lights in the apartment were left off -- the bulbs had been removed from the fixtures -- no one could tell that the rooms were occupied.

One thing they liked about the man was his aversion to pulling down the shades. They followed him into the bedroom, where they watched him change into casual clothes and slippers. He returned to the kitchen and fixed himself a simple meal. They watched him tear the foil top off a half-liter bottle of vodka. The man was sitting and staring out the window.

"An old, lonely man," one officer observed. "Do you suppose that's what did it?"

"One way or another, we'll find out."

Why is it that the State can betray us? Misha asked Corporal Romanov two hours later.

Because we are soldiers, I suppose. Misha noted that the corporal was avoiding the question, and the issue. Did he know what his Captain was trying to ask?

But if we betray the State...

Then we die, Comrade Captain. That is simple enough. We earn the hatred and contempt of the peasants and workers, and we die. Romanov stared across time into his officer's eyes. The corporal now had his own question. He lacked the will to ask it, but his eyes seemed to proclaim: What have you done, my Captain?

Across the street, the man on the recording equipment noted sobbing, and wondered what caused it.

"What're you doing, honey?" Ed Foley asked, and the microphones heard.

"Starting to make lists for when we leave. So many things to remember, I'd better start now."

Foley bent over her shoulder. She had a pad and a pencil, but she was writing on a plastic sheet with a marker pen. It was the sort of arrangement that hung on many refrigerators, and could be wiped clean with a swipe of a damp cloth.

I'LL DO IT, she'd written. I HAVE A PERFECT DODGE. Mary Pat smiled and held up a team photo of Eddie's hockey squad. Each player had signed it, and at the top in scrawling Russian, Eddie had put, with his mother's coaching: "To the man who brings us luck. Thanks, Eddie Foley."

Her husband frowned. It was typical of his wife to use the bold approach, and he knew that she'd used her cover with consummate skill. But...he shook his head. But what? The only man in the CARDINAL chain who could identify him had never seen his face. Ed may have lacked her panache, but he was more circumspect. He felt that he was better than his wife at countersurveillance. He acknowledged Mary Pat's passion for the work, and her acting skill, but -- damn it, she was just too bold sometimes. Fine -- why don't you tell her? he asked himself.

He knew what would happen -- she'd go practical on him. There wasn't time to establish another series of cutouts. They both knew that her cover was a solid one, that she hadn't even come close to suspicion yet.

But -- Goddamn it, this business is one continuous series of fucking BUTs!

OK BUT COVER YOUR CUTE LI1TLE ASS!!!! he wrote on the plastic pad. Her eyes sparkled as she wiped it clean. Then she wrote her own message:

LET'S GIVE THE MICROPHONES A HARD-ON! Ed nearly strangled trying not to laugh. Every time before a job, he thought. It wasn't that he minded. He did find it a little odd, though...

Ten minutes later, in a room in the basement of the apartment building, a pair of Russian wiretap technicians listened with rapt attention to the sounds generated in the Foley bedroom.

Mary Pat Foley woke up at her customary six-fifteen. It was still dark outside, and she wondered how much of her grandfather's character had been formed by tbe cold and the dark of the Russian winters...and how much of hers. Like most Americans assigned to Moscow, she thoroughly hated the idea of listening devices in her walls. She occasionally took perverse pleasure in them, as she had the previous night, but then there was also the thought that the Soviets had placed them in the bathroom, too. That seemed like something they'd do, she thought, looking at herself in the mirror. The first order of business was to take her temperature. They both wanted another child, and had been working on it for a few months -- which beat watching Russian TV. Professionally, of course, pregnancy made one hell of a cover. After three minutes she noted the temperature on a card she kept in the medicine cabinet. Probably not yet, she thought. Maybe in a few more days. She dropped the remains of an Early Pregnancy Test kit in the waste can anyway.

Next, there were the children to rouse. She got breakfast going, and shook everyone loose. Living in an apartment with but a single bathroom imposed a rigid schedule on them. There came the usual grumbles from Ed, and the customary whines and groans from the kids.

God, it'll be nice to get home, she told herself. As much as she loved the challenge of working in the mouth of the dragon, living here wasn't exactly fun for the kids. Eddie loved his hockey, but he was missing a normal childhood in this cold, barren place. Well, that would change soon enough. They'd load everyone aboard the Pan Am clipper and wing home, leaving Moscow behind -- if not forever, at least for five years. Life in Virginia's tidewater country. Sailing on the Chesapeake Bay. Mild winters! You had to bundle kids up here like Nanook ofthefucking North, she thought. I'm always fighting off colds.

She got breakfast on the table just as Ed vacated the bathroom, allowing her to wash and dress. The routine was that he managed breakfast, then dressed while his wife got the kids going.

In the bathroom, she heard the TV go on, and laughed into the mirror. Eddie loved the morning exercise show -- the woman who appeared on it looked like a longshoreman, and he called her Workerwommannn! Her son yearned for mornings of the Transformers -- "More than meets the eye!" he still remembered the opening song. Eddie would miss his Russian friends some, she thought, but the kid was an American and nothing would ever change that. By seven-fifteen everyone was dressed and ready to go. Mary Pat tucked a wrapped parcel under her arm.

"Cleaning day, isn't it?" Ed asked his wife.

"I'll be back in time to let her in," Mary Pat assured him. "Okay." Ed opened the door and led the procession to the elevator. As usual, his family was the first one to get moving in the morning. Eddie raced forward and punched the elevator button. It arrived just as the rest of the family reached the door. Eddie jumped onto it, enjoying the usual springiness of Soviet elevator cables. To his mother, it always seemed as though the damned thing was going to fall all the way to the basement, but her son thought it entertaining when the car dropped a few inches. Three minutes later they got into the car. Ed took the wheel this morning. On the drive out, the kids waved at the militiaman, who was really KGB, and who waved back with a smile. As soon as the car had turned onto the street, he lifted the phone in his booth.

Ed kept his eye on the rearview mirror, and his wife had already adjusted the outside one so that she could see aft also. The kids got into a dispute in the back, which both parents ignored.

"Looks like a nice day," he said quietly. Nothing following us.

"Uh huh." Agreed. They had to be careful what they said around the kids, of course. Eddie could repeat anything they said as easily as the opening ditty of the Transformers cartoon. There was always the chance of a radio bug in the car, too.

Ed drove to the school first, allowing his wife to take the kids in. Eddie and Katie looked like teddy bears in their cold-weather clothing. His wife looked unhappy when she came out.

"Nikki Wagner called in sick. They want me to take over her class this afternoon," she told him on reentering the car. Her husband grunted. Actually, it was perfect. He dropped the Volkswagen into gear and pulled back onto Leninskiy Prospekt. Game time.

Now their checks of the mirrors were serious.

Vatutin hoped that they'd never thought of this before. Moscow streets are always full of dumptrucks, scurrying from one construction site to another. The high cabs of the vehicles made for excellent visibility, and the meanderings of the look-alike vehicles appeared far less sinister than would those of unmarked sedans. He had nine of them working for him today, and the officers driving them communicated via encrypted military radios. Colonel Vatutin himself was in the apartment next door to Filitov's. The family who lived there had moved into the Hotel Moscow two days before. He'd watched the videotapes of his subject, drinking himself to insensibility, and used the opportunity to get three other "Two" officers in. They had their own spike-microphones driven into the party wall between the two flats, and listened intently to the Colonel's staggering through his morning routine. Something told him that this was the day.

It's the drinking, he told himself while he sipped tea. That drew an amused grimace. Perhaps it takes one drinker to understand another. He was sure that Filitov had been working himself up to something, and he also remembered that the time he'd seen the Colonel with the traitorous bath attendant, he'd come into the steam room with a hangover...just as I had. It fitted, he decided. Filitov was a hero who'd gone bad -- but a hero still. It could not have been easy for him to commit treason, and he probably needed the drink to sleep in the face of a troubled conscience. It pleased Vatutin that people felt that way, that treason was still a hard thing to do.

"They're heading this way," a communications man reported over the radio.

"Right here," Vatutin told his subordinates. "It will happen within a hundred meters of where we stand."

Mary Pat ran over what she had to do. Handing over the wrapped photo would allow her to recover the film that she would slip inside her glove. Then there was the signal. She'd rub the back of her gloved hand across her forehead as though wiping off sweat, then scratch her eyebrow. That was the danger-breakout signal. She hoped he'd pay attention. Though she'd never done the signal herself, Ed had once offered a breakout, only to be rejected. It was something she understood better than her husband had -- after all, her work with CIA was based more on passion than reason -- but enough was enough. This man had been sending data West when she'd learned to play with dolls.

There was the building. Ed headed for the curb, jostling over the potholes as her hand gripped the parcel. As she grabbed the door handle, her husband patted her on the leg. Good luck, kid.

"Foleyeva just got out of the car and is headed to the side entrance," the radio squawked. Vatutin smiled at the Russification of the foreign name. He debated drawing the service automatic in his belt, but decided against it. Better to have his hands free, and a gun might go off accidentally. This was no time for accidents.

"Any ideas?" he asked.

"If it was me, I'd try a brush-pass," one of his men offered.

Vatutin nodded agreement. It worried him that they'd been unable to establish camera surveillance of the corridor itself, but technical factors had militated against it. That was the problem with the really sensitive cases. The smart ones were the wary ones. You couldn't risk alerting them, and he was sure that the Americans were alerted already. Alerted enough, he thought, to have killed one of their own agents in that railyard.

Fortunately, most Moscow apartments had peepholes installed in them now. Vatutin found himself grateful for the increase in burglaries, because his technicians had been able to replace the regular lens with one that allowed them to see most of the corridor. He took this post himself.

We should have put microphones on the stairwells, he told himself. Make a note of that for the next time. Not all enemy spies use elevators.

Mary Pat was not quite the athlete her husband was. She paused on the landing, looking up and down the stairwell and listening for any sound at all as her heart rate slowed somewhat. She checked her digital watch. Time.

She opened the firedoor and walked straight down the middle of the corridor.

Okay, Misha. I hope you remembered to set your watch last night.

Last time, Colonel. Will you for Christ's sake take the breakout signal this time, and maybe they'll do the debrief on the Farm, and my son can meet a real Russian hero...

God, I wish my grandfather could see me now...

She'd never been here before, never done a pass in this building. But she knew it by heart, having spent twenty minutes going over the diagram. The CARDINAL'S door was...that one!

Time! Her heart skipped a beat as she saw the door open, thirty feet away.

What a pro! But what came next was as cold as a dagger made of ice.

Vatutin's eyes widened in horror at the noise. The deadbolt on the apartment door had been installed with typical Russian workmanship, about half a millimeter out of line. As he slipped it in preparation to leap from the room, it made an audible click.

Mary Pat Foley scarcely broke stride. Her training took over her body like a computer program. There was a peephole on the door that went from dark to light:

-there was somebody there

-- that somebody just moved

-- that somebody just slipped the door lock.

She took half a step to her right and rubbed the back of her gloved hand across her forehead. She wasn't pretending to wipe sweat away.

Misha saw the signal and stopped cold, a curious look on his face that began to change to amusement until he heard the door wrenched open. He knew in an instant that the man who emerged was not his neighbor.

"You are under arrest!" Vatutin shouted, then saw that the American woman and the Russian man were standing a meter apart, and both had their hands at their sides. It was just as well that the "Two" officers behind him couldn't see the look on his face.

"Excuse me?" the woman said in excellent Russian.

"What!" Filitov thundered with the rage only possible to a hung-over professional soldier.

"You" -- he pointed to Mrs. Foley -- "up against the wall."

"I'm an American citizen, and you can't -- "

"You're an American spy," a captain said, pushing her against the wall.

"What?" Her voice contained panic and alarm, not the least amount of professionalism here, the Captain thought, but then his mind nearly choked on the observation. "What are you talking about? What is this? Who are you?" Next she started screaming: "Police -- somebody call the police. I'm being attacked! Somebody help me, please!"

Vatutin ignored her. He had already grabbed Filitov's hand, and as another officer pushed the Colonel against the wall, he took a film cassette. For a flicker of time that seemed to stretch into hours, he'd been struck with the horrible thought that he'd blown it, that she really wasn't CIA. With the film in his hand, he swallowed and looked into Filitov's eyes.

"You are under arrest for treason, Comrade Colonel." His voice hissed out the end of the statement. "Take him away."

He turned to look at the woman. Her eyes were wide with fear and outrage. Four people now had their heads out of doors, staring into the hall.

"I am Colonel Vatutin of the Committee for State Security. We have just made an arrest. Close your doors and go about your business." He noted that compliance with his order took under five seconds. Russia was still Russia.

"Good morning, Mrs. Foley," he said next. He saw her struggle to gain control of herself.

"Who are you -- and what is this all about?"

"The Soviet Union does not look kindly upon its guests stealing State secrets. Surely they told you that in Washington -- excuse me, Langley."

Her voice trembled as she spoke. "My husband is an accredited member of the U.S. diplomatic mission to your country. I wish to be put in contact with my embassy at once. I don't know what you're jabbering about, but I do know that if you make the pregnant wife of a diplomat lose her baby, you'll have a diplomatic incident big enough to make the TV news! I didn't talk to that man. I didn't touch him, and he didn't touch me -- and you know it, mister. What they warned me about in Washington is that you clowns love to embarrass Americans with your damned-fool little spy games."

Vatutin took all of the speech impassively, though the word "pregnant" did get his attention. He knew from the reports of the maid who cleaned their apartment twice a week that Foleyeva had been testing herself. And if -- there would be a larger incident over this than he wanted. Again the political dragon raised its head. Chairman Gerasimov would have to rule on this.

"My husband is waiting for me."

"We'll tell him that you are being detained. You will be asked to answer some questions. You will not be mistreated."

Mary Pat already knew that. Her horror at what had just happened was muted by her pride. She'd performed beautifully and knew it. As part of the diplomatic community, she was fundamentally safe. They might hold on to her for a day, even two, but any serious mistreatment would result in having a half-dozen Russians shipped home from Washington. Besides, she wasn't really pregnant.

All that was beside the point. She didn't shed any tears, showed no emotion other than what was expected, what she'd been briefed and trained to show. What mattered was that her most important agent was blown, and with him, information of the highest importance. She wanted to cry, needed to cry, but she wouldn't give the fuckers the satisfaction. The crying would come on the plane ride home.

Chapter 16 -- Damage Assessment

"It says a lot about the man that the first thing he did was to get to the embassy and send the telex," Ritter said at last. "The Ambassador delivered his protest note to their Foreign Ministry before they went public on the arrest for "conduct incompatible with diplomatic status."

"Some consolation," Greer noted gloomily.

"We ought to have her back in a day or less," Ritter went on. "They're already PNG'd, and they're going on the next Pan Am flight out."

Ryan squirmed in his chair. What about CARDINAL? he wondered. Jesus, they tell me about this superagent, and a week later...They sure as hell don't have a Supreme Court over there that makes it hard to execute people.

"Any chance we can do a trade for him?" Jack asked.

"You are kidding, boy." Ritter rose and walked to the window. At three in the morning, the CIA parking lot was nearly empty, only a loose handful of cars sitting among the piles of plowed snow. "We don't even have anybody big enough to trade for a mitigation of sentence. No way in hell they'll let him out, even for a chief of station, which we don't have."

"So he's dead and the data is lost with him."

"That's what the man's saying," Judge Moore agreed.

"Help from the allies?" Ryan asked. "Sir Basil might have something hopping that can help us."

"Ryan. there is nothing we can do to save the man." Ritter turned to take out his anger on the nearest target of opportunity. "He's dead -- sure, he's still breathing, but he's dead all the same. A month, or two, or three from now, the announcement will be made, and we'll confirm it through other assets, and then we'll pry open a bottle and have a few to his memory."

"What about Dallas?" Greer asked.

"Huh?" Ryan turned.

"You don't need to know about that," Ritter said, now grateful to have a target. "Give her back to the Navy."

"Okay." Greer nodded. "This is likely to have some serious consequences." That earned the Admiral a baleful look from Judge Moore. He now had to go to the President.

"What about it, Ryan?"

"On the arms-control talks?" Jack shrugged. "Depends on how they handle it. They have a wide range of options, and anybody who tells you he can predict which one they'll choose is a liar."

"Nothing like an expert opinion," Ritter observed.

"Sir Basil thinks Gerasimov wants to make a move on the top spot. He could conceivably use this toward that end," Ryan said coolly, "but I think Narmonov has too much political clout now that he has that fourth man on the Politburo. He can, therefore, choose to go forward toward the agreement and show the Party how strong he is by moving forward for peace, or if he senses more political vulnerability than I see in the picture, he can consolidate his hold on the Party by trashing us as the incorrigible enemies of Socialism. If there's a way to put a probability assessment on that choice that's anything more than a wild-ass guess, I haven't seen it yet."

"Get to work on it," Judge Moore ordered. "The President'll want something hard enough to grab hold of before Ernie Allen starts talking about putting SDI on the table again."

"Yes, sir." Jack stood. "Judge, do we expect the Sovs to go public on CARDINAL's arrest?"

"There's a question," Ritter said.

Ryan headed for the door and stopped again. "Wait a minute."

"What is it?" Ritter asked.

"You said that the Ambassador delivered his protest before their Foreign Ministry said anything, right?"

"Yeah, Foley worked real fast to beat them to the punch."

"With all due respect to Mr. Foley, nobody's that fast," Ryan said. "They should have had their press release already printed before they made the pickup."

"So?" Admiral Greer asked.

Jack walked back toward the other three. "So the Foreign Minister is Narmonov's man, isn't he? So's Yazov at the Defense Ministry. They didn't know," Ryan said. "They were as surprised as we were."

"No chance," Ritter snorted. "They don't do things like that."

"Assumption on your part, sir." Jack stood his ground. "What evidence backs up that statement?"

Greer smiled. "None that we know of right now."

"Damn it, James, I know he's -- "

"Keep going, Dr. Ryan," Judge Moore said.

"If those two ministers didn't know what was going down, it puts a different spin on this case, doesn't it?" Jack sat on the back of a chair. "Okay, I can see cutting Yazov out -- CARDINAL was his senior aide -- but why cut out the Foreign Minister? This sort of thing, you want to move fast, catch the newsies with the breaking story -- for damned sure you don't want the other side to get the word out first."

"Bob?" the DCI asked.

The Deputy Director for Operations never had liked Ryan very much -- he thought that he'd come too far too fast -- but, for all that, Bob Ritter was an honest man. The DDO sat back down and sipped at his coffee for a moment. "Boy may have a point. We'll have to confirm a few details, but if they check out...then it's as much a political operation as a simple 'Two' case."


The Deputy Director for Intelligence nodded agreement.

"We may not be talking about just losing a good source," Ryan went on, speculating as he spoke. "KGB might be using this for political ends. What I don't see is his power base. The Alexandrov faction has three solid members. Narmonov now has four, counting the new guy, Vaneyev -- "

"Shit!" This was Ritter. "We assumed that when his daughter was picked up and let go that they either didn't break her -- hell, they say she looks okay -- or her father was too important for them to -- "

"Blackmail." Now it was Judge Moore's turn. "You were right, Bob. And Narmonov doesn't know. You have to hand it to Gerasimov, the bastard has some beautiful moves...If all this is true, Narmonov is outnumbered and doesn't know it." He paused for a frown. "We're speculating like a bunch of amateurs."

"Well, it makes for one hell of a scenario." Ryan almost smiled until be reached the logical conclusion. "We may have brought down the first Soviet government in thirty years that wanted to liberalize their own country." What will the papers make of that? Jack asked himself. And you know that it'll get out. Something like this is too juicy to stay secret long...

"We know what you've been doing, and we know how long you've been doing it. Here is the evidence." He tossed the photographs onto the table.

"Nice pictures," Mary Pat said. "Where's the man from my embassy?"

"We don't have to let anyone talk with you. We can keep you here as long as we wish. Years, if necessary," be added ominously.

"Look, mister, I'm an American, okay? My husband is a diplomat. He has diplomatic immunity and so do I. Just because you think I'm a dumb American housewife, you think you can push me around and scare me into signing that damned-fool confession that I'm some kind of idiot spy. Well, I'm not, and I won't, and my government will protect me. So as far as I'm concerned you can take that confession and spread mustard on it and eat it. God knows the food over here is so bad you could use the fiber in your diet," she observed. "And you're saying that that nice old man I was taking the picture to was arrested too, eh? Well, I think you're just crazy."

"We know that you have met him many times."

"Twice. I saw him at a game last year, too -- no, excuse me, I met him at a diplomatic reception a few weeks ago. That's three times, but only the hockey matters. That's why I brought the picture. The boys on the team think he's good luck for them -- ask them, they all signed the picture, didn't they? Both times he came, we won big games and my son scored a couple of goals. And you think he's a spy just because he went to a junior-league hockey game? My God, you guys must think American spies are under every bed."

She was actually enjoying herself. They treated her carefully. Nothing like a threatened pregnancy, Mary Pat told herself, as she broke yet another time-honored rule in the spy business: Don't say anything. She jabbered on, as would any outraged private citizen -- with the shield of diplomatic immunity, of course -- at the rank stupidity of the Russians. She watched her interrogator closely for a reaction. If there was anything Russians hated, it was to be looked down on, and most of all by the Americans, to whom they had a terminal inferiority complex.

"I used to think the security people at the embassy were a pain," she huffed after a moment. "Don't do this, don't do that, be careful taking pictures of things. I wasn't taking a picture, I was giving him a picture! And the kids in it are Russian kids -- except for Eddie." She turned away, looking into the mirror. Mary Pat wondered if the Russians had thought that touch up themselves or if they bad gotten the idea from American cop shows.

"Whoever trained that one knew his business," Vatutin observed, looking through the mirror from the next room. "She knows we're here but doesn't let on. When are we turning her loose?"

"Late this afternoon," the head of the Second Chief Directorate answered. "Holding her isn't worth the effort. Her husband is already packing up the apartment. You should have waited a few more seconds," the General added.

"I know." There was no point in explaining the faulty door lock. The KGB didn't accept excuses, even from colonels. That was beside the point in any case, Vatutin and his boss knew. They'd caught Filitov -- not quite in the act, but he was still caught. That was the objective of the case, at least so far as they were concerned. Both men knew the other parts of it, but treated them as though they didn't exist. It was the smartest course for both.

"Where is my man!" Yazov demanded.

"He is in Lefortovo Prison, of course," Gerasimov answered.

"I want to see him. At once." The Defense Minister hadn't even paused to take off his cap, standing there in his calf-length greatcoat, his cheeks still pink from the chilly February air -- or perhaps with anger, Gerasimov thought. Maybe even with fear...

"This is not a place to make demands, Dmitri Timofeyevich. I, too, am a Politburo member. I, too, sit on the Defense Council. And it may be that you are implicated in this investigation." Gerasimov's fingers played with a file on the desktop.

That changed Yazov's complexion. He went pale, definitely not from fear. Gerasimov was surprised that the soldier didn't lose control, but the Marshal made a supreme effort and spoke as though to a new draftee:

"Show me your evidence here and now if you have the balls for it!"

"Very well." The KGB Chairman flipped open the folder and removed a series of photographs, handing them over.

"You had me under surveillance?"

"No, we've been watching Filitov. You just happened to be there."

Yazov tossed the prints back with contempt. "So what? Misha was invited to a hockey game. I accompanied him. It was a good game. There is an American boy on the team -- I met the mother at some reception or other -- oh, yes, it was in George Hall when the American negotiators were last over. She was at this game, and we said hello. She is an amusing woman, in an empty-headed sort of way. The next morning I filled out a contact report. So did Misha."

"If she is so empty-headed, why did you bother?" Gerasimov inquired.

"Because she is an American, and her husband is a diplomat of some kind or other, and I was foolish enough to allow her to touch me, as you see. The contact report is on file. I will send you a copy of mine, and Colonel Filitov's." Yazov was speaking with more confidence now. Gerasimov had miscalculated somewhat.

"She is an agent of the American CIA."

"Then I am confident that Socialism will prevail, Nikolay Borissovich. I didn't think that you employed such fools -- not until today, that is."

Defense Minister Yazov allowed himself to calm down. Though new to the Moscow scene -- until very recently he'd been commander of the Far East Military District, where Narmonov had spotted him -- he knew what the real struggle here was all about. He did not, could not believe that Filitov was a traitor -- did not believe because of the man's record; could not believe because the scandal would destroy one of the most carefully planned careers in the Soviet Army. His. "If you have real evidence against my man, I want my own security people to review it. You, Nikolay Borissovich, are playing a political game with my Ministry. I will not have KGB interference in the way I run my Army. Someone from GRU will be here this afternoon. You will cooperate with him or I will take this to the Politburo myself." Gerasimov showed no reaction at all as the Defense Minister left the room, but realized that he'd made an error of his own. He'd overplayed his hand -- no, he told himself, you played it a day too soon. You, expected Yazov to collapse, to bend to the pressure, to accept a proposal not yet made.

And all because that fool Vatutin hadn't gotten positive evidence. Why couldn't he have waited one more second!

Well, the only thing to do is to get a full confession from Filitov.

Colin McClintock's official job was in the commercial office at Her Britannic Majesty's Embassy, just across the Moscow River from the Kremlin, a location that predated the revolution and had annoyed the Soviet leadership since Stalin's time. But he too, was a player in the Great Game. He was, in fact, the case officer who "ran" Svetlana Vaneyeva and had seconded her to the CIA for a purpose which had never been explained, but the orders for which had come direct from London's Century House, the headquarters of the SIS. At the moment, he was taking a group of British businessmen through GOSPLAN, introducing them to some of the bureaucrats with whom they'd have to negotiate the contracts for whatever they hoped to sell to the local barbarians, McClintock thought. An "Islander" from Whalsay off the Scottish coast, he regarded anyone from south of Aberdeen as a barbarian, but worked for the Secret Intelligence Service anyway. When he spoke in English, he used a lilting accent laced with words spoken only in Northern Scotland, and his Russian was barely comprehensible, but he was a man who could turn accents on and off as though with a switch. And his ears had no accent at all. People invariably think that a person who has trouble speaking a language also has trouble hearing it. It was an impression that McClintock assiduously cultivated.

He'd met Svetlana this way, had reported her to London as a possible target for recruitment, and a senior SIS officer had done just that in the second-floor dining room of Langan's Brasserie on Stratton Street. Since then McClintock had seen her only on business, only with other British subjects and Russians around. Other SIS officers in Moscow handled her dead-drops, though he was actually responsible for her operations. The data that she'd gotten out was disappointing but occasionally useful in a commercial sense. With intelligence agents you tended to take what you got, and she did forward insider gossip that she picked up from her father.

But something had gone wrong with Svetlana Vaneyeva. She'd disappeared from her desk, then returned, probably after interrogation at Lefortovo, the CIA had said. That made little sense to McClintock. Once they got you into Lefortovo, they had you for more than a day or two. Something very strange had happened, and he'd waited for a week to figure a way to find out exactly what it might have been. Her drops were untouched now, of course. Nobody from SIS would ever go near them except to see if they'd been disturbed, from a discreet distance.

Now, however, he had his chance, taking his trade delegation across the room that held the textile section of the planning agency. She looked up and saw the foreigners walking by. McClintock gave the routine interrogation signal. He didn't know which reply he'd get, nor what the reply would really mean. He had to assume that she'd been broken, totally compromised, but she had to react some way. He gave the signal, a brush of his hands against his hair as natural as breathing, as all such signals were. Her reply was to open a desk drawer and extract either a pencil or a pen. The former was the "all clear" signal, the latter a warning. She did neither, and merely returned to the document she was reading. It almost surprised the young intelligence officer enough to stare, but he remembered who and where he was, and turned away, scanning other faces in the room as his hands fluttered nervously about, doing various things that could have meant anything to whoever was watching.

What stuck in his mind was the look on her face. What had once been animated was now blank. What had once been lively was now as emotionless as any face on a Moscow street. The person who'd once been the privileged daughter of a very senior Party man was different now. It wasn't an act. He was sure of it; she didn't have the skill for that.

They got to her, McClintock told himself. They got to her and let her go. He didn't have a clue why they'd let her go, but that wasn't his concern. An hour later he drove the businessmen back to their hotel and returned to his office. The report he dashed off to London was only three pages long. He had no idea of the firestorm it would ignite. Nor did he know that another SIS officer had sent another report the same day, in the same pouch.

"Hello, Arthur," the voice on the phone said.

"Morning -- excuse me, good afternoon, Basil. How's the weather in London?"

"Cold, wet, and miserable. Thought I might come over to your side of the pond and get some sun."

"Be sure to stop over to the shop."

"I planned to do that. First thing in the morning?"

"I always have room on the calendar for you."

"See you tomorrow, then."

"Great. See ya." Judge Moore hung up.

That was some day, the Director of Central Intelligence thought. First we lose CARDINAL, now Sir Basil Charleston wants to come over here with something he can't talk about over the most secure phone system NSA and GCHQ ever came up with! It was still before noon and he'd already been in his office for nine hours. What the hell else is going wrong?

"You call this evidence?" General Yevgeniy Ignat'yev was in charge of the counterespionage office of the GRU, the Soviet military's own intelligence arm. "To these tired old eyes it looks as though your people have jumped onto thin ice looking for a fish."

Vatutin was amazed -- and furious -- that the KGB Chairman had sent this man into his office to review his case. "If you can find a plausible explanation for the film, the camera, and the diary, perhaps you would be so kind as to share it with me, Comrade."

"You say you took it from his hand, not the woman's." A statement, not a question.

"A mistake on my part for which I make no excuses," Vatutin said with dignity, which struck both men as slightly odd.

"And the camera?"

"It was found attached magnetically to the inside of the service panel on his refrigerator."

"You didn't find it the first time you searched the apartment, I see. And it had no fingerprints on it. And your visual record of Filitov does not show him using it. So if he tells me that you planted both the film and the camera on him, how am I supposed to convince the Minister that he's the one doing the lying?"

Vatutin was surprised by the tone of the question. "You believe that he is a spy after all?"

"What I believe is of no importance. I find the existence of the diary troubling, but you would not believe the breaches of security I have to deal with, especially at the higher levels. The more important people become, the less important they think the rules are. You know who Filitov is. He's more than just a hero, Comrade. He is famous throughout the Soviet Union -- Old Misha, the Hero of Stalingrad. He fought at Minsk, at Vyasma, outside Moscow when we stopped the fascists, the Kharkov disaster, then the fighting retreat to Stalingrad, then the counterattack -- "

"I have read his file," Vatutin said neutrally.

"He is a symbol to the entire Army. You cannot execute a symbol on evidence as equivocal as this, Vatutin. All you have are these photographic frames, with no objective evidence that he shot them."

"We have not yet interrogated him."

"And you think that will be easy?" Ignat'yev rolled his eyes. His laugh was a harsh bark. "Do you know bow tough this man is? This man killed Germans while he was on fire! This man looked at death a thousand times and pissed on it!"

"I can get what I want out of him," Vatutin insisted quietly.

"Torture, is it? Are you mad? Keep in mind that the Taman Guards Motor-Rifle Division is based a few kilometers from here. You think the Red Army will sit still while you torture one of its heroes? Stalin is dead, Comrade Colonel, and so is Beriya."

"We can extract the information without doing physical harm," Vatutin said. That was one of KGB's most closely guarded secrets.


"In that case, General, what do you recommend?" Vatutin asked, knowing the answer.

"Let me take over the case. We'll see to it that he never betrays the Rodina again, you can be sure of that," Ignat'yev promised.

"And save the Army the embarrassment, of course."

"We would save embarrassment for everyone, not the least you, Comrade Colonel, for fucking up this so-called investigation."

Well, that's about what I expected. A little bluster and a few threats, mixed with a little sympathy and comradeliness. Vatutin saw that he had a way out, but that the safety it promised also promised to end his advancement. The handwritten message from the Chairman had made that clear enough. He was trapped between two enemies, and though he could still win the approval of one, the largest goal involved the largest risk. He could retreat from the true objective of the investigation, and stay a colonel the rest of his life, or he could do what he'd hoped to do when he began -- without any political motives, Vatutin remembered bleakly -- and risk disgrace. The decision was paradoxically an easy one. Vatutin was a "Two" man --

"It is my case. The Chairman has given it to me to run, and I will run it in my way. Thank you for your advice, Comrade General."

Ignat'yev appraised the man and the statement. It wasn't often that he encountered integrity, and it saddened him in a vague, distant way that he could not congratulate the man who demonstrated this rarest of qualities. But loyalty to the Soviet Army came first.

"As you wish. I expect to be kept informed of all your activities." Ignat'yev left without another word.

Vatutin sat at his desk for a few minutes, appraising his own position. Then he called for his car. Twenty minutes later he was at Lefortovo.

"Impossible," the doctor told him before he had even asked the question.


"You want to put this man into the sensory-deprivation tank, don't you?"

"Of course."

"It would probably kill him. I don't think you want to do that, and I am sure that I will not risk my project on something like this."

"It's my case, and I'll run it -- "

"Comrade Colonel, the man in question, is over seventy years old. I have his medical file here. He has all the symptoms of moderate cardiovascular disease -- normal at this age, of course -- and a history of respiratory problems. The onset of the first anxiety period would explode his heart like a balloon. I can almost guarantee it."

"What do you mean -- explode his heart -- "

"Excuse me -- it's difficult to explain medical terms to the layman. His coronary arteries are coated with moderate amounts of plaque. It happens to all of us; it comes from the food we eat. His arteries are more blocked than yours or mine because of his age, and also, because of his age, the arteries are less flexible than those of a younger person. If his heart rate goes too high, the plaque deposits will dislodge and cause a blockage. That's what, a heart attack is, Colonel, a blockage of a coronary artery. Part of the heart muscle dies, the heart stops entirely or becomes arrhythmic; in either case it ceases to pump blood, and the whole patient dies. Is that clear? Use of the tank will almost certainly induce a heart attack in the subject, and that attack will almost certainly be fatal. If not a heart attack, there is the somewhat lesser probability of a massive stroke -- or both could happen. No, Comrade Colonel, we cannot use the tank for this man. I do not think that you wish to kill him before you get your information."

"What about other physical measures?" Vatutin asked quietly. My God, what if I can't...

Tom Clancy - Tom Clancy

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