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The Cardinal Of The Kremlin 2

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Written by Administrator

Posted on 28 April 2011

"If you're certain that he's guilty, you can shoot him at once and be done with it," the physician observed. "But any gross physical abuse is likely to kill the patient."

And all because of a goddamned door lock, Colonel Vatutin told himself.



It was an ugly rocket, the sort of thing that a child might draw or a fireworks company might build, though either would know better than to put it on top of an airplane instead of its proper place, underneath. But it was atop the airplane, as the runway's perimeter lights showed in the darkness.

The airplane was the famous SR-71 Blackbird, Lockheed's Mach-three reconnaissance aircraft. This one had been flown in from Kadena Air Force Base on the western rim of the Pacific two days before. It rolled down the runway at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, before the twin flames of its afterburning engines. Fuel that leaked from the SR-71's tanks -- the Blackbird leaked a lot -- was ignited by the heat, much to the entertainment of the tower crew. The pilot pulled back on the stick at the appropriate time, and the Blackbird's nose came up. He held the stick back for longer than usual, pointing the bird into a steep forty-five-degree climb on full burner, and in a moment all that was left on the ground was a thundering memory. The last view the people had was of the twin angry dots of the engines, and soon these disappeared through the clouds that wafted by at ten thousand feet.

The Blackbird kept going up. The air-traffic controllers at Las Vegas noted the blip on their screens, saw that it was barely moving laterally, though its altitude readout was changing as rapidly as the wheels of the slot machines on the airport concourse. They shared a look -- another Air Force hot dog -- then they went back to work.

The Blackbird was now passing through sixty thousand feet, and leveled off to head southeast toward the White Sands Missile Range. The pilot checked his fuel -- there was plenty -- and relaxed after the exhilarating climb. The engineers had been right. The missile sitting on the aircraft's back hadn't mattered at all. By the time he'd gotten to fly the Blackbird, the purpose of the back mount had been overtaken by events. Designed to hold a single-engine photoreconnaissance drone, the fittings had been removed from nearly all the SR-71s, but not this one, for reasons that were not clear from the aircraft's maintenance book. The drone had originally been designed to go places the Blackbird could not, but it had become redundant on discovery of the fact that there was nowhere the SR-71 could not go in safety, as the pilot regularly proved on flights from Kadena. The only limit on the aircraft was fuel, and that didn't play today.



"Juliet Whiskey, this is Control. Do you read, over," the sergeant said into the headset.

"Control, this is Juliet Whiskey. All systems go. We are nominal to profile."

"Roger. Commence launch sequence on my mark. Five, four, three, two, one: mark!"

A hundred miles away, the pilot punched burners again and hauled back on the stick. The Blackbird performed as beautifully as always, standing on her tail and rocketing into the sky before nearly a hundred thousand pounds of thrust. The pilot's eyes were locked on his instruments as the altimeter spun around like a maddened clock. His speed was now thirteen hundred miles per hour and increasing, while the SR-71 showed her contempt for gravity.

"Separation in twenty seconds," the systems operator in the back seat told the pilot. The Blackbird was now passing through a hundred thousand feet. The target was one-twenty. The controls were already mushy. There wasn't enough air up here to control the aircraft properly, and the pilot was being even more careful than usual. He watched his speed hit nineteen hundred several seconds early, then:

"Standby for separation...breakaway, breakaway!" the man in back called. The pilot dropped the nose and started a gentle turn to the left that would take him right across New Mexico before heading back to Nellis. This was much easier than flying along the Soviet border -- and, occasionally, across it...The pilot wondered if he could drive down to Vegas to catch a show after he landed.

The target kept going up for a few more seconds, but surprisingly did not ignite its rocket motor. It was now a ballistic object, traveling in obedience to the laws of physics. Its oversized fins provided enough aerodynamic drag to keep it pointed in the proper direction as gravity began to reclaim the object for its own. The rocket tipped over at one hundred thirty thousand feet, reluctantly pointing its nose at the earth.

Then its motor fired. The solid-fuel engine burned for only four seconds, but that was enough to accelerate its conical nose to a speed that would have terrified the Blackbird's pilot.



"Okay," an Army officer said. The point-defense radar went from standby to active. It immediately saw the inbound. The target rocket was pushing itself down through the atmosphere at roughly the same speed as an ICBM warhead. He didn't have to give a command. The system was fully automated. Two hundred yards away a fiberglass cover exploded off a concrete hole drilled in the gypsum flats, and a FLAGE erupted skyward. The Flexible Lightweight Agile Guided Experiment looked more like a lance than a rocket, and was nearly that simple. Millimeter-wave radar tracked the inbound, and the data was processed through an onboard microcomputer. The remarkable part of this was that all the parts had been taken off the shelf from existing high-tech weaponry.

Outside, men watched from behind a protective earthen berm. They saw the upward streak of yellow light and heard the roar of the solid rocket motor, then nothing for several seconds.

The FLAGE homed in on its target, maneuvering a few fractions of degrees with tiny attitude-control rockets. The nosecap blew off, and what unfolded would have looked to an outsider like a collapsing umbrella's framework, perhaps ten yards across.

It looked just like a Fourth of July rocket, but without the noise. A few people cheered. Though both the target and the FLAGE "warhead" were totally inert, the energy of the collision converted metal and ceramic to incandescent vapor.

"Four for four," Gregory said. He tried not to yawn. He'd seen fireworks before.

"You're not going to get all the boosters, Major," General Parks chided the younger man. "We still need the midcourse systems, and the terminal-defense ones."

"Yes, sir, but you don't need me here. It works."

For the first three tests, the target rocket had been fired from a Phantom fighter, and people in Washington had claimed that the test series had underestimated the difficulty of intercepting the inbound warheads. Using the SR-71 as the launch platform had been Parks's idea. Launching the drone from higher altitude, and with a higher initial speed, had made for a much faster reentry target. This test had actually made things slightly harder than was expected, and the FLAGE hadn't cared a bit. Parks had been a little worried about the missile-guidance software, but, as Gregory had noted, it worked.

"Al," Parks said, "I'm starting to think that this whole program is going to work."

"Sure. Why not?" If those Agency pukes can get us the plans for the Russian laser...



CARDINAL sat alone in a bare cell, one and a half meters wide, two and a half meters long. There was a bare light bulb overhead, a wooden cot with a bucket underneath, but not a window except the spy hole in the rusted iron door. The walls were solid concrete, and there was no sound at all. He couldn't hear the pacing of the corridor guard, nor even the rumble of traffic on the street outside the prison. They'd taken his uniform blouse, and belt, and his polished boots, replacing the last with cheap slippers. The cell was in the basement. That was all he knew, and he could tell from the damp air. It was cold.

But not so cold as his heart. The enormity of his crime came to him as it never had. Colonel Mikhail Semyonovich Filitov, three times Hero of the Soviet Union, was alone with his treason. He thought of the magnificent, broad land in which he lived, whose distant horizons and endless vistas were peopled with his fellow Russians. He'd served them all his life with pride and honor, and with his own blood, as the scars on his body proclaimed. He remembered the men with whom he'd served, so many of whom had died under his command. And how they had died, defiantly cursing the German tanks and guns as they burned alive in T-34s, retreating only when forced to, preferring to attack even when they knew it to be doomed. He remembered leading his troops in a hundred engagements, the frantic exhilaration that accompanied the roar of the diesel engines, the reeking clouds of smoke, the determination even unto the death that he had cheated so many times.

And he'd betrayed it all.

What would my men say of me now? He stared at the blank concrete wall opposite his cot.

What would Romanov say?

I think we both need a drink, my Captain, the voice chimed in. Only Romanov could be both serious and amused at the same time. Such thoughts are more easily considered with vodka or Samogan.

Do you know why? Misha asked.

You've never told us why, my Captain. And so Misha did. It took but a brief flicker of time.

Both your sons, and your wife. Tell me, Comrade Captain, for what did we die? Misha didn't know that. Even during the shooting he hadn't known. He'd been a soldier, and when a soldier's country is invaded, the soldier fights to repel the enemy. So much the easier when the enemy is as brutal as the Germans were...

We fought for the Soviet Union, Corporal.

Did we, now? I seem to remember fighting for Mother Russia, but mainly I remember fighting for you, Comrade Captain.

But --

A soldier fights for his comrades, my Captain. I fought for my family. You and our troop, they were my only family. I suppose you also fought for your family, the big one and the little one. I always envied you that, my Captain, and I was proud that you made me part of both in the way that you did.

But I killed you. I shouldn't have --

We all have our destiny, Comrade Captain. Mine was to die young at Vyasma without a wife, without children, but even so I did not die without a family.

I avenged you, Romanov. I got the Mark-IV that killed you. I know. You avenged all the dead of your family. Why do you think we loved you? Why do you think we died for you? You understand? Misha asked in surprise.

The workers and peasants may not, but your men will. We understand destiny now, as you cannot.

But what shall I do?

Captains do not ask such questions of corporals. Romanov laughed. You had all the answers to our questions. Filitov's head jerked up as the latch slipped on the door of his cell.

Vatutin expected to find a broken man. The isolation of the cell, the prisoner stripped of identity and alone with his fears and his crimes, always had the proper effect. But while he looked at a tired, crippled old man, he saw the eyes and mouth change.

Thank you, Romanov.



"Good morning, Sir Basil," Ryan said as he reached for the man's bags.

"Hello, Jack! I didn't know they were using you as a gofer."

"Depends on who I'm going-fer, as they say. The car's over this way." He waved. It was parked fifty yards away.

"Constance sends her love. How is the family?" Sir Basil Charleston asked.

"Fine, thanks. How's London?"

"Surely you haven't forgotten our winters already."

"No." Jack laughed as he wrenched open the door. "I remember the beer, too." A moment later both doors were closed and locked.

"They sweep the wheels every week," Jack said. "How bad is it?"

"How bad? That's what I came over here to find out. Something very odd is happening. You chaps had an op go wrong, didn't you?"

"I can say yes to that, but the rest'll have to come from the Judge. Sorry, but I was just cleared for part of it."

"Recently, I'll wager."

"Yep." Ryan shifted up as he took the turn off the airport road.

"Then let's see if you can still put two and two together, Sir John."

Jack smiled as he changed lanes to pass a truck. "I was doing the intelligence estimate on the arms talks when I broke into it. Now I'm supposed to be looking at Narmonov's political vulnerability. Unless I'm wrong, that's why you've flown over."

"And unless I'm very far off the mark, your op has triggered something very serious indeed."

"Vaneyev?"

"Correct."

"Jesus." Ryan turned briefly. "I hope you have some ideas, cause we sure as hell don't." He took the car to seventy-five. Fifteen minutes later he pulled into Langley. They parked in the underground garage and took the VIP elevator to the seventh floor.



"Hello, Arthur. It's not often I have a knight chauffeur me about, even in London." The bead of SIS took a chair while Ryan summoned Moore's department chiefs.

"Hi, Bas'," Greer said on entering. Ritter just waved. It was his operation that had triggered this crisis. Ryan took the least comfortable chair available.

"I'd like to know exactly what went wrong," Charleston said simply, not even waiting for the coffee to be passed around.

"An agent got arrested. A very well-placed agent."

"Is that why the Foleys are flying out today?" Charleston smiled. "I didn't know who they were, but when two people get ejected from that delightful country, we generally assume --

"We don't know what went wrong yet," Ritter said. "They should be landing at Frankfurt right about now, then ten more hours till we have them here for the debrief. They were working an agent who -- "

"Who was an aide to Yazov -- Colonel M. S. Filitov. We've deduced that much. How long have you had him?"

"It was one of your folks who recruited him for us," Moore replied. "He was a colonel, too."

"You don't mean...Oleg Penkovskiy...? Bloody hell!" Charleston was amazed for once, Ryan saw. It didn't happen often. "That long?"

"That long," Ritter said. "But the numbers caught up with us."

"And the Vaneyeva woman we seconded to you for courier service was part of that -- "

"Correct. She never came close to either end of the chain, by the way. We know that she was probably picked up, but she's back at work. We haven't checked her out yet, but -- "

"We have, Bob. Our chap reported that she'd -- changed somehow. He said it was hard to describe but impossible to miss. Like the hoary tales of brainwashing, Orwell and all that. He noted that she was free -- or what passes for it over there -- and related that to her father. Then we learned of something big in the Defense Ministry -- that a senior aide to Yazov had been arrested." Charleston paused to stir his coffee. "We have a source inside the Kremlin that we guard rather closely. We have learned that Chairman Gerasimov spent severa1 hours with Alexandrov last week and under fairly unusual circumstances. This same source has warned us that Alexandrov has a considerable urge to sidetrack this perestroika business.

"Well, it's clear, isn't it?" Charleston asked rhetorically. It was quite clear to everyone. "Gerasimov has suborned a Politburo member thought to be loyal to Narmonov, at the very least compromised the support of the Defense Minister, and been spending a good deal of time with the man who wants Narmonov out. I'm afraid that your operation may have triggered something with the most unpleasant consequences."

"There's more," the DCI said. "Our agent was getting us material on Soviet SDI research. Ivan may have made a breakthrough."

"Marvelous," Charleston observed. "A return to the bad old days, but this time the new version of the 'missile gap' is potentially quite real, I take it? I am awfully old to change my politics. Too bad. You know, of course, that there is a leak in your program?"

"Oh?" Moore asked with a poker face.

"Gerasimov told Alexandrov that. No details, unfortunately, except that KGB think it highly important."

"We've had some warnings. It's being looked at," Moore said.

"Well, the technical matters can sort themselves out. They generally do. The political question, on the other hand, has created a bit of a bother with the PM. There's trouble enough when we bring down a government that we wish to bring down, but to do so by accident...

"We don't like the consequences any more than you do, Basil," Greer noted. "But there's not a hell of a lot we can do about it from this end."

"You can accept their treaty terms," Charleston suggested. "Then our friend Narmonov would have his position sufficiently strengthened that he might be able to tell Alexandrov to bugger off. That, in any case, is the unofficial position of Her Majesty's government."

And that's the real purpose of your visit to us, Sir Basil, Ryan thought. It was time to say something:

"That means putting unreasonable restrictions on our SDI research and reducing our warhead inventory in the knowledge that the Russians are racing forward with their own program. I don't think that's a very good deal."

"And a Soviet government headed by Gerasimov is?"

"And what if we end up with that anyway?" Ryan asked. "My estimate is already written. I recommend against additional concessions."

"One can always change a written document," Charleston pointed out.

"Sir, I have a rule. If something goes out with my name on the front, it says what I think, not what somebody else tells me to think," Ryan said.

"Do remember, gentlemen, that I am a friend. What is likely to happen to the Soviet government would be a greater setback to the West than a temporary restriction on one of your defense programs."

"The President won't spring for it,", Greer said.

"He might have to," Moore replied.

"There has to be another way," Ryan observed.

"Not unless you can bring Gerasimov down." It was Ritter this time. "We can't offer any direct help to Narmonov. Even if we assume that he'd take a warning from us, which he probably wouldn't, we'd be running an even greater risk by involving ourselves in their internal politics. If the rest of the Politburo got one whiff of that...I suppose it might start a little war."

"But what if we can?" Ryan asked.

"What if we can what?" Bitter demanded.





Chapter 17 -- Conspiracy



"Ann" came back to Eve's Leaves earlier than expected, the owner noted. With her usual smile, she selected a dress off the rack and took it to the dressing room. She was out by the full-length mirrors only a minute later, and accepted the customary compliments on how it looked rather more perfunctorily than usual. Again she paid cash, leaving with yet another engaging smile.

Out in the parking lot, things were a little different. Captain Bisyarina broke tradecraft by opening the capsule and reading the contents. That evoked a brief but nasty curse. The message was but a single sheet of notepaper. Bisyarina lit a cigarette with a butane lighter, then burned the paper in her car's ashtray.

All that work wasted! And it was already in Moscow, was already being analyzed. She felt like a fool. It was doubly annoying that her agent had been completely honest, had forwarded what she'd thought was highly classified material, and on learning that it had been rendered invalid, had gotten that word out quickly. She would not even have the satisfaction of forwarding a small portion of the reprimand that she would surely get for wasting Moscow Center's time.

Well, they warned me about this. It may be the first time, but it will not be the last. She drove home and dashed off her message.



The Ryans weren't known for their attendance on the Washington cocktail circuit, but there were a few that they couldn't avoid. The reception was intended to raise money for D.C. Children's Hospital, and Jack's wife was a friend of the chief of surgery. The evening's entertainment was the big draw. A prominent jazz musician owed his granddaughter's life to the hospital, and he was paying off- that debt with a major benefit performance at the Kennedy Center. The reception was intended to give the D.C. elite a chance to meet him "up close and personal" and hear his sax in greater privacy. Actually, as with most "power" parties, it was really for the elite to see and be seen by one another, confirming their importance. As was true in most parts of the world, the elite felt the need to pay for the privilege. Jack understood the phenomenon, but felt that it made little sense. By eleven o'clock the elite of Washington had proved that they could talk just as inanely about just as little, and get just as drunk, as anyone else in the world. Cathy had held herself to one glass of white wine, however; Jack had won the toss tonight: he could drink and she had to drive. He'd indulged himself tonight, despite a few warning looks from his wife, and was basking in a mellow, philosophical glow that made him think he'd overdone the act a little bit -- but then it wasn't supposed to look like an act. He just hoped to God everything went as planned tonight.

The amusing part was the way in which Ryan was treated. His position at the Agency had always been a sketchy one. The opening comments went something like, "How are things at Langley?" usually in an affected conspiratorial tone, and Jack's reply that CIA was just another government bureaucracy, a large building that contained lots of moving paper, surprised most questioners. The CIA was thought to have thousands of active field spooks. The actual figure was classified, of course, but far lower.

"We work normal business hours," Jack explained to a well-dressed woman whose eyes were slightly dilated. "I even have tomorrow off."

"Really?"

"Yes, I killed a Chinese agent on Tuesday and you always get a day off with pay for that sort of thing," he said seriously, then grinned.

"You're kidding!"

"That's right, I'm kidding. Please forget that I ever said it." Who is this averaged bimbo? he wondered.

"What about the reports that you're under investigation?" another person asked.

Jack turned in surprise. "And who might you be?"

"Scott Browning, Chicago Tribune." He didn't offer to shake hands. The game had just begun. The reporter didn't know that he was a player, but Ryan did.

"Could you run that one by me again?" Jack said politely. "My sources tell me that you're being investigated for illegal stock transactions."

"It's news to me," Jack replied.

"I know that you've met with investigators from the SEC," the reporter announced.

"If you know that, then you also know that I gave them the information they wanted, and they left happy."

"You're sure of that?"

"Of course I am. I didn't do anything wrong and I have the records to prove it," Ryan insisted, perhaps a little too forcefully, the reporter thought. He loved it when people drank too much. In vino veritas.

"That's not what my sources tell me," Browning persisted.

"Well, I can't help that!" Ryan said. There was emotion in his voice now, and a few heads turned.

"Maybe if it wasn't for people like you, we might have an intelligence agency that worked," observed a newcomer.

"And who the fuck are you!" Ryan said before he turned. Act I, Scene 2.

"Congressman Trent," the reporter said. Trent was on the House Select Committee.

"I think an apology is owed," Trent said. He looked drunk. "What for?" Ryan asked. "How about for all the screw-ups across the river?"

"As opposed to the ones on this side?" Jack inquired. People were drifting over. Entertainment is where you find it.

"I know what you people just tried to pull off, and you fell right on your ass. You didn't let us know, as the law requires. You went ahead anyway, and I'm telling you, you're going to pay, you're going to pay big."

"If we have to pay your bar bill, we'll have to pay big." Ryan turned, dismissing the man.

"Big man," Trent said behind his back. "You're heading for a fall, too."

Perhaps twenty people were watching and listening now. They saw Jack take a glass of wine off a passing tray. They saw a look that could kill, and a few people remembered that Jack Ryan was a man who had killed. It was a fact and a reputation that gave him a sort of mystery. He took a measured sip of the chablis before turning back around.

"What sort of fall might that be, Mr. Trent?"

"You might be surprised."

"Nothing you do would surprise me, pal."

"That may be, but you've surprised us, Dr. Ryan. We didn't think you were a crook, and we didn't think you were dumb enough to be involved in that disaster. 1 guess we were wrong."

"You're wrong about a lot of things," Jack hissed.

"You know something, Ryan? For the life of me I can't figure just what the hell kind of a man you are."

"That's no surprise."

"So, what kind of man are you. Ryan?" Trent inquired.

"You know, Congressman, this is a unique experience for me," Jack observed lightheartedly.

"How's that?"

Ryan's manner changed abruptly. His voice boomed across the room. "I've never had my manhood questioned by a queer before!" Sorry, pal.

The room went very quiet. Trent made no secret of his orientation, had gone public six years before. That didn't prevent him from turning pale. The glass in his hand shook enough to spill some of its contents onto the marble floor, but the Congressman regained his control and spoke almost gently.

"I'll break-you for that."

"Take your best shot, sweetie." Ryan turned and walked out of the room, the eyes heavy on his back. He kept going until he stared at the traffic on Massachusetts Avenue. He knew that he'd drunk too much, but the cold air started to clear his head.

"Jack?" His wife's voice.

"Yeah, babe?"

"What was that all about?"

"Can't say."

"I think it's time for you to go home."

"I think you're right. I'll get the coats." Ryan walked back inside and handed over the claim check. He heard the silence happen when he returned. He could feel the looks at his back. Jack shrugged into his overcoat and slung his wife's fur over his arm, before turning to see the eyes on him. Only one pair held any interest for him. They were there.



Misha was not an easy man to surprise, but the KGB succeeded. He'd steeled himself for torture, for the worst sort of abuse, only to be...disappointed? he asked himself. That certainly wasn't the right word.

He was kept in the same cell, and so far as he could determine he was alone on this cellblock. That was probably wrong, he thought, but there was no evidence that anyone else was near him, no sounds at all, not even taps on the concrete walls. Perhaps they were too thick for that. The only "company" he had was the occasional metallic rasp of the spy hole in his cell's door. He thought that the solitude was supposed to do something to him. Filitov smiled at that. They think I'm alone. They don't know about my comrades.

There was only one possible answer: this Vatutin fellow was afraid that he might actually be innocent -- but that wasn't possible, Misha told himself. That chekist bastard had taken the film from his hand.

He was still trying to figure that one out, staring at the blank concrete wall. None of it made any sense.

But if they expected him to be afraid, they would have to live with their disappointment. Filitov had cheated death too many times. Part of him even yearned for it. Perhaps he would be reunited with his comrades. He talked to them, didn't he? Might they still be...well, not exactly alive, but not exactly gone either? What was death? He'd reached the point in life where the question was an intellectual one. Sooner or later he'd find out, of course. The answer to that question had brushed past him many times, but his grasp -- and its -- had never quite been firm enough...

The key tattled in the door, and the hinges creaked.

"You should oil that. Machinery lasts longer if you maintain it properly," he said as he stood.

The jailer didn't reply, merely waving him out of the cell. Two young guards stood with the turnkey, beardless boys of twenty or so, Misha thought, their heads tilted up with the arrogance common to the KGB. Forty years earlier and he might have done something about that, Filitov told himself. They were unarmed, after all, and he was a combat soldier for whom the taking of life was as natural as breathing. They were not effective soldiers. One look confirmed it. It was fine to be proud, but a soldier should also be wary.

Was that it? he thought suddenly. Vatutin treats me with wariness despite the fact that he knows...

But why?



"What does this mean?" Mancuso asked.

"Kinda hard for me to tell," Clark answered. "Probably some candyass in D.C. can't make up his mind. Happens all the time."

The two signals had arrived within twelve hours of one another. The first had aborted the mission and ordered the submarine back to open waters, but the second told Dallas to remain in the western Baltic and await further orders.

"I don't like being put on hold."

"Nobody does, Captain."

"How does it affect you?" Mancuso asked.

Clark shrugged eloquently. "A lot of this is mental. Like you work up to play a ball game. Don't sweat it, Cap'n. I teach this sort of thing -- when I'm not actually doing it."

"How many?"

"Can't say, but most of them went pretty well."

"Most -- not all? But when they don't -- "

"It gets real exciting for everybody." Clark smiled. "Especially me. I have some great stories, but I can't tell 'em. Well, I expect you do, too."

"One or two. Does take some of the fun out of life, doesn't it?" The two men traded an insider's look.



Ryan was shopping alone. His wife's birthday was coming up -- it would happen during his next Moscow trip -- and he had to get everything out of the way early. The jewelry stores were always a good place to start. Cathy still wore the heavy gold necklace he'd given her a few years before, and he was looking for earrings that would go with it. The problem was that he had trouble remembering the exact pattern...His hangover didn't help, nor did his nervousness. What if they didn't bite?

"Hello, Dr. Ryan," a familiar voice said. Jack turned with some surprise.

"I didn't know they let you guys come out this far." Act II, Scene 1. Jack didn't let his relief show. In that respect the hangover helped.

"The travel radius cuts right through Garfinckels, if you examine the map carefully," Sergey Platonov pointed out. "Shopping for your wife?"

"I'm sure my file gave you all the necessary clues."

"Yes, her birthday." He looked down at the display case. "A pity that I cannot afford such things for mine...

"If you were to make the appropriate overtures, the Agency could probably arrange something, Sergey Nikolay'ch."

"But the Rodina might not understand," Platonov said. "A problem with which you are becoming familiar, are you not?"

"You're remarkably well informed," Jack muttered. "That is my function. I am also hungry. Perhaps you might use some of your fortune to buy me a sandwich?"

Ryan looked up and down the mall with professional interest.

"Not today." Platonov chuckled. "A few of my fellow...a few of my comrades are busy today, more than usual, and I fear your FBI is undermanned for its surveillance task."

"A problem the KGB does not have," Jack observed as they moved away from the store.

"You might be surprised. Why do Americans assume that our intelligence organs are any different from yours?"

"If by that you mean screwed up, I suppose it's a comforting thought. How does a hot dog grab you?"

"If it's kosher," Platonov answered, then explained. "I'm not Jewish, as you know, but I prefer the taste."

"You've been here too long," Jack said with a grin.

"But the Washington area is such a nice place."

Jack walked into a fast-food shop that specialized in bagels and corned beef, but also served other fare. Service was quick, and the men took a white plastic table that sat by itself in the center of the mall's corridor. Cleverly done, Jack thought. People could walk past and not hear more than a few random words. But he knew Platonov was a pro.

"I have heard that you face some rather unfortunate legal difficulties." With every word, Platonov smiled. It was supposed to appear that they were discussing ordinary pleasantries, Jack supposed, with the added dimension that his Russian colleague was enjoying himself.

"Do you believe that little prick last night? You know, one thing I actually admire about Russia is the way you handle -- "

"Antisocial behavior? Yes -- five years in a camp of strict regime. Our new openness does not extend to condoning sexual perversion. Your friend Trent made an acquaintance on his last trip to the Soviet Union. The young...man in question is now in such a camp." Platonov didn't say that he had refused to cooperate with the KGB, and so earned his sentence. Why confuse the issue? he thought.

"You can have him with my blessings. We have enough of them over here," Jack growled. He felt thoroughly awful; his eyes were pounding to escape from his head as a result of all the wine and insufficient sleep.

"So I have noticed. And may we have the SEC also?" Platonov asked.

"You know, I didn't do anything wrong. Not a damned thing! I got a tip from a friend and I followed up on it. I didn't go looking for it, it just happened. So I made a few bucks -- so what? I write intelligence briefs for the President! I'm good at it -- and they're coming after me! After all the -- " Ryan stopped and stared painfully into Platonov's eyes. "So what the hell do you care?"

"Ever since we first met at Georgetown some years ago, frankly I have admired you. That business with the terrorists. I do not agree with your political views, as you plainly do not agree with mine. But as one man to another, you took some vermin off the street. You may choose to believe this or not, but I have argued against State support for such animals. True Marxists who want to free their peoples -- yes, we should support them in any way we can -- but bandits are murderers, they are mere scum who view us as a source of arms, nothing more. My country gains nothing by it. Politics aside, you are a man of courage and honor. Of course I respect that. It is a pity that your country does not. America only places its best men on pedestals so that lesser ones can use them as targets."

Ryan's wary look was replaced briefly with one of measurement. "You have that one right."

"So, my friend -- what will they do to you?"

Jack let out a long breath as he focused his eyes down the corridor. "I have to get a lawyer this week. I suppose he'll know. I'd hoped to avoid that. I thought I could talk my way out of it, but -- but this new bastard in SEC, a pansy that Trent -- " Another breath. "Trent used his influence to get the job for him. How much you want to bet that the two of them...I find myself in agreement with you. If one must have enemies, they should at least be enemies you can respect."

"And CIA cannot help you?"

"I don't have many friends there -- well, you know that. Moved up too fast, richest kid on the block, Greer's fair-haired boy, my connections with the Brits. You make enemies that way, too. Sometimes I wonder if one of them might have...I can't prove it, but you wouldn't believe the computer network we have at Langley, and all my stock transactions are stored in computer systems...and you know what? Computer records can be changed by someone who knows how...But try to prove that one, pal." Jack took two aspirins from a small tin and swallowed them.

"Ritter doesn't like me at all, never has. I made him look bad on something a few years back, and he isn't the sort of man to forget that sort of thing. Maybe one of his people...he has some good ones. The Admiral wants to help, but he's old. The Judge is on his way out, supposed to have left a year ago, but he's hanging on somehow -- he couldn't help me if he wanted to."

"The President likes your work. We know that."

"The President's a lawyer, a prosecutor. He gets even a whiff that you might have bent a law, and it's amazing how quick you can get lonely. There's a bunch in the State Department who're after my ass, too. I don't see things quite their way. This is a bitch of a town to be honest in."

It's correct, then, Platonov thought. They'd gotten the report first from Peter Henderson, code-named Cassius, who'd been feeding data to the KGB for over ten years, first as special assistant to the retired Senator Donaldson of the Senate's intelligence committee, now an intelligence analyst for the General Accounting Office. KGB knew Ryan to be the bright, rising star of the CIA's Intelligence Directorate. His evaluation at Moscow Center had at first called him a wealthy dilettante. That had changed a few years ago. He'd done something to earn him presidential attention, and now wrote nearly half of the special intelligence briefing papers that went to the White House. It was known from Henderson that he had assembled a massive report on the strategic-arms situation, one that had raised hackles at Foggy Bottom. Platonov had long since formed his own impression. A good judge of character, from their first meeting at Georgetown's Galleria he'd deemed Ryan a bright opponent, and a brave one -- but a man too accustomed to privilege, too easily outraged at personal attack. Sophisticated, but strangely naive. What he saw over lunch confirmed it. Fundamentally, Ryan was too American. He saw things in blacks and whites, goods and bads. But what mattered today was that Ryan had felt himself invincible, and was only now learning that this was not the case. Because of that, Ryan was an angry man.

"All that work wasted," Jack said after a few seconds. "They're going to trash my recommendations."

"What do you mean?"

"I mean that Ernest Fucking Allen has talked the President into putting SDI on the table." It required all of Platonov's professionalism not to react visibly to that statement. Ryan went on: "it's all been for nothing. They've discredited my analysis because of this idiot stock thing. The Agency isn't backing me up like they should. They're throwing me to the fucking dogs. Not a damned thing I can do about it, either." Jack finished off the hot dog.

"One can always take action," Platonov suggested.

"Revenge? I've thought of that. I could go to the papers, but the Post is going to run a story about the SEC thing. Somebody on the Hill is orchestrating the hanging party. Trent, I suppose. I bet he put that reporter on me last night, too, the bastard. If I try to get the real word out, well, who'll listen? Christ, I'm putting my tight little ass on the line just sitting here with you, Sergey."

"Why do you say that?"

"Why don't you guess?" Ryan allowed himself a smile that ended abruptly. "I'm not going to go to jail. I'd rather die than have to disgrace myself like that. God damn it, I've risked my life -- I've put it all on the line. Some things you know about, and one that you don't. I have risked my life for this country, and they want to send me to prison!"

"Perhaps we can help." The offer finally came across.

"Defect? You have to be joking. You don't really expect me to live in your workers' paradise, do you?"

"No, but for the proper incentive, perhaps we could change your situation. There will be witnesses against you. They could have accidents.

"Don't give me that shit!" Jack leaned forward. "You don't do jobs like that in our country and we don't do them in yours."

"Everything has a price. Surely you understand that better than I." Platonov smiled. "For example, the 'disaster' Mr.

Trent referred to last night. What might that have been?"

"And how do I know who you're really working for?" Jack asked.

"What?" That surprised him. Ryan saw past the pain in his sinuses.

"You want an incentive? Sergey, I am about to put my life on the line. Just because I've done it before, don't you think that it's easy. We have somebody inside Moscow Center. Somebody big. You tell me now what that name would buy me."

Your freedom," Platonov said at once. "If he's as high as you say, we would do very much indeed." Ryan didn't say a word for over a minute. The two men stared at each other as though over cards, as though they were gambling for everything each man owned -- and as though Ryan knew that he held the lesser hand. Platonov matched the power of the American's stare, and was gratified to see that it was his power that prevailed.

"I'm flying to Moscow the end of the week, unless the story breaks before then, in which case I'm fucked. What I just told you, pal, it doesn't go through channels. The only person I'm sure it isn't is Gerasimov. It goes to the Chairman himself, direct to him, no intermediaries, or you risk losing the name."

"And why am I supposed to believe you know it?" The Russian pressed his advantage, but carefully.

It was Jack's turn to smile. His hole card had turned out to be a good one. "I don't know the name, but I know the data. With the four things that I know came from CONDUCTOR -- that's the code name -- your troops can handle the rest. If your letter goes through channels, probably I don't get on the airplane. That's how far up the chain he is -- if it's a he, but it probably is. How do I know you'll keep your word?"

"In the intelligence business one must keep one's promises," Platonov assured him.

"Then tell your Chairman that I want to meet him if be can arrange it. Man to man. No bullshit."

"The Chairman? The Chairman doesn't -- "

"Then I'll make my own legal arrangements and take my chances. I'm not going to jail for treason either, if I can help it. That's the deal, Comrade Platonov," Jack concluded. "Have a nice drive home."

Jack rose and walked away. Platonov did not follow. He looked around and found his own security man, who signaled that they had not been observed.

And he had his own decision to make. Was Ryan genuine? Cassius said so.

He had run Agent Cassius for three years. Peter Henderson's data had always checked out. They'd used him to track down and arrest a colonel in Strategic Rocket Forces who'd been working for CIA, had gotten priceless strategic and political intelligence, and even inside American analysis of that Red October business of the previous -- no, it was two years now, wasn't it, right before Senator Donaldson had retired -- and now that he worked in the GAO, he had the best of all possible worlds: direct access to classified defense data and all his political contacts on the Hill. Cassius had told them some time before that Ryan was under investigation. At the time it had been merely a tidbit, no one had taken it seriously. The Americans were always investigating one another. It was their national sport. Then a second time he'd heard the same story, then the scene with Trent. Was it really possible...

A leak high up in KGB, Platonov thought. There was a protocol, of course, for getting important data directly to the Chairman. The KGB allowed for any possibility. Once that message was sent it would have to be followed up. Just the hint that CIA had an agent high in the KGB hierarchy...-

But that was only one consideration.

Once we set the hook, we will own Dr. Ryan. Perhaps he is foolish enough to think that a one-time exchange of information for services is possible, that he will never again...more likely that he is so desperate that he does not care at the moment. What kind of information might we get from him?

Special assistant to the Deputy Director for Intelligence! Ryan must see nearly everything! To recruit so valuable an agent -- that hadn't been done since Philby, and that was over fifty years ago!

But is it important enough to break the rides? Platonov asked himself as he finished off his drink. Not in living memory had the KGB committed an act of violence in the United States -- there was a gentlemen's agreement on that. But what were rules against this sort of advantage? Perhaps an American or two might have an auto accident, or an unexpected heart attack. That would also have to be approved by the Chairman. Platonov would give his recommendation. It would be followed. He was sure of that.

The diplomat was a fastidious man. He wiped his face with the paper napkin, put all the trash in the paper drink cup, and deposited it in the nearest receptacle. He left nothing behind to suggest that he'd ever been there.



The Archer was sure that they were winning. On announcing his mission to his subordinates, the reaction could not have been better. Grim, amused smiles, sideways looks, nods. The most enthusiastic of all had been their new member, the former Major of the Afghan Army. In their tent, twenty kilometers inside Afghanistan, the plans had been put together in five tense hours.

The Archer looked down at phase one, already complete. Six trucks and three BTR-6O infantry carriers were in their hands. Some were damaged, but that was not unexpected. The dead soldiers of the puppet army were being stripped of their uniforms. Eleven survivors were being questioned. They would not join in this mission, of course, but if they proved to be reliable, they would be allowed to join allied guerrilla bands. For the others...

The former Army officer recovered maps and radio codes. He knew all the procedures that the Russians had so assiduously taught to their Afghan "brothers."

There was a battalion base camp ten kilometers away, due north on the Shékabad road. The former Major contacted it on the radio, indicating that "Sunflower" had repulsed the ambush with moderate losses and was heading in. This was approved by the battalion commander.

They loaded a few of the bodies aboard, still in their bloody uniforms. Trained former members of the Afghan Army manned the heavy machine guns on the BTR carriers as the column moved out, keeping proper tactical formation on the gravel road. The base camp was just on the far side of the river. Twenty minutes later they could see it. The bridge had long since been wrecked, but Russian engineers had dumped enough gravel to make a ford. The column halted at the guard post on the east side.

This was the tense part. The Major made the proper signal, and the guard post waved them, through. One by one the vehicles moved across the river. The surface was frozen and the drivers had to follow a line of sticks across to keep from becoming trapped in the deep water that lay under the crackling ice. Another five hundred meters.

The base camp was on a small rise. It was surrounded by low-lying bunkers made of sandbags and logs. None were fully manned. The camp was well sited, with wide fields of fire in all directions, but they'd only man their weapons pits fully at night. Only a single company of troops was actually in the post, while the remainder were out patrolling the hills around the camp. Besides, the column was coming in at mealtime. The battalion motor pool was in sight.

The Archer was in the front of the lead truck. He wondered to himself why he trusted the defected Major so fully, but decided that this was not a good time for that particular worry.

The battalion commander came out of his bunker, his mouth working on some food as he watched the soldiers jump out of the trucks. He was waiting for the unit commander, and showed some annoyance as the side door on the BMP opened slowly, and a man in an officer's uniform appeared.

"Who the devil are you?"

"Allahu akhbar!" the Major screamed. His rifle cut down the questioner. The heavy machine guns on the infantry carriers ripped into the mass of men eating their noon meal while the Archer's men raced to the half-manned bunkers, it took ten minutes before all resistance ceased, but there was never a chance for the defenders, not with nearly a hundred armed men inside the camp. Twenty prisoners were taken. The only Russians in the post -- two lieutenants and a communications sergeant -- were killed out of hand and the rest were placed under guard as the Major's men ran to the motor pool.

They got two more BTRs there and four trucks. That would have to be enough. The rest they burned. They burned everything they couldn't carry. They took four mortars, half a dozen machine guns, and every spare uniform they could find. The rest of the camp was totally destroyed -- especially the radios, which were first smashed with rifle butts, then burned. A small guard force was left behind with the prisoners, who would also be given the chance to join the mudjaheddin -- or die for their loyalty to the infidel.

It was fifty kilometers to Kabul. The new, larger vehicle column ran north. More of the Archer's men linked up with it, hopping aboard the vehicles. His force now numbered two hundred men, dressed and equipped like regular soldiers of the Afghan Army, rolling north in Russian-built army vehicles.

Time was their most dangerous enemy. They reached the outskirts of Kabul ninety minutes later, and encountered the first of several checkpoints.

The Archer's skin crawled to be near so many Russian soldiers. When dusk came, the Russians returned to their laagers and bunkers, he knew, leaving the streets to the Afghans, but even the setting sun did not make him feel secure. The checks were more perfunctory than he expected, and the Major talked his way through all of them, using travel documents and code words from the base camp so recently extinguished. More to the point, their route of travel kept them away from the most secure parts of the city. In less than two hours the city was behind them, and they rolled forward under the friendly darkness.

They went until they began to run out of fuel. At this point the vehicles were rolled off the roads. A Westerner would have been surprised that the mudjaheddin were happy to leave their vehicles behind, even though it meant carrying weapons on their backs. Well rested, the guerrillas moved at once into the hills, heading north.



The day had held nothing but bad news, Gerasimov noted, as he stared at Colonel Vatutin. "What do you mean, you cannot break him?"

"Comrade Chairman, our medical people advise me that both the sensory-deprivation procedure, or any form of physical abuse" -- torture was no longer a word used at KGB headquarters -- "might kill the man. In view of your insistence on a confession, we must use...primitive interrogation methods. The subject is a difficult man. Mentally, he is far tougher than any of us expected," Vatutin said as evenly as he could. He would have killed for a drink at the moment.

"All because you bungled the arrest!" Gerasimov observed coldly. "I had high hopes for you, Colonel. I thought you were a man with a future. I thought you were ready for advancement. Was I mistaken, Comrade Colonel?" he inquired.

"My concern with this case is limited to exposing a traitor to the Motherland." It required all of Vatutin's discipline not to flinch. "I feel that I have already done this. We know that he has committed treason. We have the evidence -- "

"Yazov will not accept it."

"Counterintelligence is a KGB matter, not one for the Defense Ministry."

"Perhaps you would be so kind as to explain that to the Party General Secretary," Gerasimov said, letting his anger out a bit too far. "Colonel Vatutin, I must have this confession...

Gerasimov had hoped to score another intelligence coup today, but the FLASH report from America had invalidated it -- worse still, Gerasimov had delivered the information a day before he'd learned that it was valueless. Agent Livia was apologetic, the report said, but the computer-program data so recently transmitted through Lieutenant Bisyarina was, unfortunately, obsolete. Something that might have helped to smooth the water between KGB and the Defense Ministry's darling new project was now gone.

He had to have a confession, and it had to be a confession that was not extracted by torture. Everyone knew that torture could yield anything that the questioners wanted, that most subjects would have enough incentive in their pain to say whatever was required of them. He needed something good enough to take to the Politburo itself, and the Politburo members no longer held KGB in so much fear that they would take Gerasimov's words at face value.

"Vatutin, I need it, and I need it soon. When can you deliver?"

"Using the methods to which we are now limited, no more than two weeks. We can deprive him of sleep. That takes time, more so since the elderly need less sleep than the young. He will gradually become disoriented and crack. Given what we have learned of this man, he will fight us with all of his courage -- this is a brave man. But he is only a man. Two weeks," Vatutin said, knowing that ten more days ought to be sufficient. Better to deliver early.

"Very well." Gerasimov paused. It was time for encouragement. "Comrade Colonel, objectively speaking you have handled the investigation well, despite the disappointment at the final phase. It is unreasonable to expect perfection in all things, and the political complications are not of your making. If you provide what is required, you will be properly rewarded. Carry on."

"Thank you, Comrade Chairman." Gerasimov watched him leave, then called for his car.

The Chairman of the KGB did not travel alone. His personal Zil -- a handmade limousine that looked like an oversized American car of thirty years before -- was followed by an even uglier Volga, full of bodyguards selected for their combat skills and absolute loyalty to the office of chairman. Gerasimov sat alone in the back, watching the buildings of Moscow flash by as the car was routed down the center lane of the wide avenues. Soon he was out of the city, heading into the forests where the Germans had been stopped in 1941.

Many of those captured -- those who had survived typhus and poor food -- had built the dachas. As much as the Russians still hated the Germans, the nomenklatura -- the ruling class of this classless society -- was addicted to German workmanship. Siemens electronics and Blaupunkt appliances were as much a part of their homes as the copies of Pravda and the uncensored "White TASS" news. The frame dwellings in the pine forests west of Moscow were as well built as anything left behind by the czars. Gerasimov often wondered what had happened to the German soldiers who had labored to make them. Not that it mattered.

The official dacha of Academician Mikhail Petrovich Alexandrov was no different from the rest, two stories, its wood siding painted cream, and a steeply pitched roof that might have been equally at home in the Black Forest. The driveway was a twisty gravel path through the trees. Only one car was parked there. Alexandrov was a widower, and past the age when he might crave young female company. Gerasimov opened his own door, checking briefly to see that his security entourage was dispersing as usual into the trees. They paused only to pull cold-weather gear from the trunk of their car, thickly insulated white anoraks and heavy boots to keep their feet warm in the snow.

"Nikolay Borissovich!" Alexandrov got the door himself. The dacha had a couple who did the cooking and cleaning, but they knew when to stay out of the way. This was such a time. The academician took Gerasimov's coat and draped it on a peg by the door.

"Thank you, Mikhail Petrovich."

"Tea?" Alexandrov gestured toward the table in the sitting room.

"It is cold out there," Gerasimov admitted.

The two men sat on opposite sides of the table in old overstuffed chairs. Alexandrov enjoyed being a host -- at least to his associates. He poured the tea, then dished out a small amount of white-cherry preserves. They drank their tea in the traditional way, first putting some of the sweetened cherries into their mouths, then letting the tea wash around them. It made conversation awkward, but it was Russian. More to the point, Alexandrov liked the old ways. As much as he was married to the ideals of Marxism, the Politburo's chief ideologue kept to the ways of his youth in the small things.

"What news?"

Gerasimov gestured annoyance. "The spy Filitov is a tough old bird. It will take another week or two to get the confession." "You should shoot that Colonel of yours who -- " The KGB Chairman shook his head. "No, no. One must be objective. Colonel Vatutin has done very well. He ought to have left the actual arrest to a younger man, but I told him that it was his case, and he doubtless took my instructions too literally. His handling of the rest of the case was nearly perfect."

"You grow generous too soon, Kolya," Alexandrov observed. "How hard is it to surprise a seventy-year-old man?" "Not him. The American spy was a good one -- as one might expect. Good field officers have sharp instincts, if they were not so skilled, World Socialism would have been realized by now," be added offhandedly. Alexandrov lived within his academic world, the Chairman knew, and had little understanding of how things worked in the real one. It was hard to respect a man like that, but not so hard to fear him.

The older man grunted. "I suppose we can wait a week or two. It troubles me to do this while the American delegation is here"

"It will be after they leave. If agreement is reached, we lose nothing."-

"It is madness to reduce our arms!" Alexandrov insisted. Mikhail Petrovich still thought nuclear weapons were like tanks and guns: the more, the better. Like most political theorists, he didn't bother learning facts.

"We will retain the newest and the best of our rockets," Gerasimov explained patiently. "More importantly, our Project Bright Star is progressing well. With what our own scientists have already accomplished, and what we are learning about the American program, in less than ten years we will have the ability to protect the Rodina against foreign attack."

"You have good sources within the American effort?"

"Too good," Gerasimov said, setting down his tea. "It seems that some data we just received was sent out too soon. Part of the American computer instructions were sent to us. before they were certified, and turned out to be faulty. An embarrassment, but if one must be embarrassed, better that it should result from being too effective than not effective enough."

Alexandrov dismissed the subject with a wave of the hand. "I spoke to Vaneyev last night."

"And?"

"He is ours. He cannot bear the thought of that darling slut of a daughter in a labor camp -- or worse. I explained what is required of him. It was very easy. Once you have the confession from the Filitov bastard, we will do everything at the same time. Better to accomplish everything at once." The academician nodded to reinforce his words. He was the expert on political maneuvering.

"I am troubled by possible reactions from the West." Gerasimov noted cautiously.

The old fox smiled into his tea. "Narmonov will have a heart attack. He is of the proper age. Not a fatal one, of course, but enough to make him step aside. We will assure the West that his policies will continue -- I can even live with the arms agreement if you insist." Alexandrov paused. "It does make sense to avoid alarming them unduly. All that concerns me is the primacy of the Party."

"Naturally." Gerasimov knew what was to follow, and leaned back to hear it yet again.

"If we don't stop Narmonov, the Party is doomed! The fool, casting away all we have worked for. Without the leadership of the Party, a German would be living in this house! Without Stalin to put steel in the people's backbone, where would we be, and Narmonov condemns our greatest hero -- after Lenin," the academician added quickly. "This country needs a strong hand, one strong hand, not a thousand little ones! Our people understand that. Our people want that."

Gerasimov nodded agreement, wondering why this doddering old fool always bad to say the same thing. The Party didn't want one strong hand, much as Alexandrov denied the fact. The Party itself was composed of a thousand little, grabbing, grasping hands: the Central Committee members, the local apparatchiki who had paid their dues, mouthed their slogans, attended the weekly meetings until they were sick to death of everything the Party said, but still stayed on because that was the path to advancement, and advancement meant privilege. Advancement meant a car, and trips to Sochi...and Blaupunkt appliances.

All men had their blind spots, Gerasimov knew. Alexandrov's was that so few people really believed in the Party anymore. Gerasimov did not. The Party was what ran the country, however. The Party was what nurtured ambitions. Power had its own justification, and for him, the Party was the path to power. He'd spent all of his working life protecting the Party from those who wished to change the power equation. Now, as Chairman of the Party's own "sword and shield," he was in the best possible position to take the Party's reins. Alexandrov would have been surprised, scandalized to learn that his young student saw power as his only goal, and had no plan other than status quo ante. The Soviet Union would plod along as before, secure behind its borders, seeking to spread its own form of government into whatever country offered the opportunity. There would be progress, partly from internal changes, partly from what could be obtained from the West, but not enough to raise expectations too much, or too rapidly, as Narmonov threatened to do. But best of all, Gerasimov would be the man with the reins. With the power of the KGB behind him, he need not fear for his security -- certainly not after breaking the Defense Ministry. So he listened to Alexandrov's ranting about Party theory, nodding when appropriate. To an outsider it would look like the thousands of old pictures -- nearly all of them fakes -- of Stalin listening with rapt attention to the words of Lenin, and like Stalin, he would use the words to his own advantage. Gerasimov believed in Gerasimov.





Chapter 18 -- Advantages



"But I just finished eating!" Misha said.

"Rubbish," the jailer responded. He held out his watch. "Look at the time, you foolish old man. Eat up, it'll be time for your interrogation soon." The man bent forward. "Why don't you tell them what they want to hear, Comrade?"

"I am not traitor! I'm not!"

"As you wish. Eat hearty." The cell door hit its frame with a metallic rattle.

"I am not a traitor," Filitov said after the door closed. "I'm not," the microphone heard. "I'm not."

"We're getting there," Vatutin said.

What was happening to Filitov was little different in net effect from what the doctor was trying to achieve in the sensory-deprivation tank. The prisoner was losing touch with reality, though much more slowly than the Vaneyeva woman had. His cell was in the interior of the building, denying the prisoner the march of day and night. The single bare light bulb never went off. After a few days Filitov lost all track of what time was. Next his bodily functions began to show some irregularity. Then they started altering the interval between meals. His body knew that something was wrong, but it sensed that so many things were wrong, and was so unsuccessful in dealing with the disorientation, that what happened to the prisoner was actually akin to mental illness. It was a classic technique, and it was a rare individual indeed who could withstand it for more than two weeks, and then it was generally discovered that the successful resister had depended on some outside register unknown to his interrogators, such as traffic or plumbing sounds, sounds that followed regular patterns. Gradually "Two" had learned to isolate out all of these. The new block of special cells was sound-isolated from the rest of the world. Cooking was done on a floor above to eliminate smells. This part of Lefortovo reflected generations of clinical experience in the business of breaking the human spirit.

It was better than torture, Vatutin thought. Torture invariably affected the interrogators, too. That was the problem. Once a man -- and in rare cases, a woman -- became too good at it, that person's mind changed. The torturer would gradually go mad, resulting in unreliable interrogation results and a useless KGB officer who would then have to be replaced, and, occasionally, hospitalized, in the 1930s such officers had often been shot when their political masters realized what they had created, only to be replaced with new ones until interrogators looked for more creative, more intelligent methods. Better for everyone, Colonel Vatutin knew. The new techniques, even the abusive ones, inflicted no permanent physical harm. Now it almost seemed that they were treating the mental illnesses that they inflicted, and the physicians who managed the affair for the KGB could now confidently observe that treason against the Motherland was itself a symptom of a grave personality disorder, something that demanded decisive treatment. It made everyone feel better about the job. While one could feel guilty inflicting pain on a brave enemy, one need only feel good about helping to cure a sick mind.

This one is sicker than most, Vatutin thought wryly. He was a touch too cynical to believe all the folderol that the new crop of "Two" people got today in Training-and-Orientation. He remembered the nostalgic stories of the men who'd trained him almost thirty years before -- the good old days under Beriya...Though his skin had crawled to hear those madmen speak, at least they were honest about what they did. Though he was grateful that he had not become like them, he didn't delude himself by believing that Filitov was mentally ill. He was, in fact, a courageous man who had chosen of his own free will to betray his country. An evil man, to be sure, because he had violated the rules of his parent society, he was a worthy adversary for all that. Vatutin looked into the fiber-optic tube that ran into the ceiling of Filitov's cell, watching him as he listened to the sound pickup from the microphone.

How long have you been working for the Americans? Since your family died? That long? Nearly thirty years...is it possible? the Colonel of the Second Chief Directorate wondered. It was an awesome amount of time. Kim Philby hadn't lasted nearly so long. Richard Sorge's career, though brilliant, had been a brief one.

But it made sense. There was also homage to pay to Oleg Penkovskiy, the treasonous GRU Colonel whose capture was one of "Two's" greatest cases -- but now poisoned by the thought that Penkovskiy had used his own death to elevate the career of an even greater spy...whom he himself had probably recruited. That was courage, Vatutin told himself. Why must such virtue be invested in treason! he raged at himself. Why can they not love their Motherland as I do? The Colonel shook his head. Marxism demanded objectivity of its adherents, but this was too much. There was always the danger of identifying too closely with one's subject. He rarely had the problem, but then he had never handled a case like this one. Three times Hero of the Soviet Union! A genuine national icon whose face had been on the covers of magazines and books...Could we ever let it be known what he had done? How would the Soviet people react to the knowledge that Old Misha, Hero of Stalingrad, one of the most courageous warriors of the Red Army...had turned traitor to the Rodina? The effect on national morale was something to be considered.

Not my problem, he told himself. He watched the old man through the hi-tech peephole. Filitov was trying to eat his food, not quite believing that it was time to eat, but not knowing that his breakfast -- all meals were the same, for obvious reasons -- had been only ninety minutes before.

Vatutin stood and stretched to ease the ache in his back. A side effect of this technique was the way it disrupted the lives of the interrogators themselves. His own schedule was wrecked. It was just past midnight, and he'd gotten a bare seven hours of sleep in the past thirty-six. But at least he knew the time, and the day, and the season. Filitov, he was sure, did not. He bent back down to see his subject finishing off his bowl of kasha.

"Get him," Colonel Klementi Vladimirovich Vatutin ordered. He walked into the washroom to splash some cold water on his face. He peered into the mirror and decided that he didn't need to shave. Next he made sure that his uniform was perfectly turned out. The one constant factor in the prisoner's disrupted world had to be the face and image of his interrogator. Vatutin even practiced his look in the mirror: proud, arrogant, but also compassionate. He was not ashamed of what he saw. That is a professional, he told himself of the reflection in the mirror. Not a barbarian, not a degenerate, but only a skilled man doing a difficult, necessary job.

Vatutin was seated in the interrogation room, as always, when the prisoner came in. He invariably appeared to be doing something when the door opened, and his head always had to come up in semisurprise as though to say, "Oh," is it time for you again? He closed the folder before him and placed it in his briefcase as Filitov sat in the chair opposite his. That was good, Vatutin noted without looking. The subject doesn't have to be told what he must do. His mind was fixing upon the only reality he had: Vatutin.

"I hope you slept well," he told Filitov.

"Well enough," was the answer. The old man's eyes were clouded. The blue no longer had the luster that Vatutin had admired in their first session.

"You are being properly fed, I trust?"

"I have eaten better." A weary smile, still some defiance and pride behind it, but not as much as its wearer thought. "But I have also eaten worse."

Vatutin dispassionately gauged the strength in his prisoner; it had diminished. You know, the Colonel thought, you know that you must lose. You know that it is only a matter of time. I can see it, he said with his eyes, looking for and finding weakness under his stare. Filitov was trying not to wilt under the strain, but the edges were frayed, and something else was coming loose as Vatutin watched. You know you're losing, Filitov.



What is the point, Misha? part of him asked. He has time -- he controls time. He'll use all he needs to break you. He's winning. You know that, despair told him.

Tell me, Comrade Captain, why do you ask yourself such foolish things? Why do you need to explain to yourself why you are a man? asked a familiar voice. All the way from Brest-Litovsk to Vyasma we knew we were losing, but I never quit, and neither did you. If you can defy the German Army, certainly you can defy this city-soft slug of a chekist!

Thank you, Romanov.

How did you ever get on without me, my Captain? the voice chuckled. For all your intelligence, you can be a most foolish man.



Vatutin saw that something had changed. The eyes blinked clear, and the weary old back straightened.

What is sustaining you? Hate? Do you so detest the State for what happened to your family...or is it something else entirely...

"Tell me," Vatutin said. "Tell me why you hate the Motherland."

"I do not," Filitov replied. "I have killed for the Motherland. I have bled for the Motherland. I have burned for the Motherland. But I did not do these things for the likes of you." For all his weakness, the defiance blazed in his eyes like a flame. Vatutin was unmoved.

I was close, but something changed. If I can find what that is, Filitov, I will have you! Something told Vatutin that he already had what he needed. The trick was to identify it.

The interrogation continued. Though Filitov would successfully resist this time, and the next time, and even the time after that, Vatutin was drawing down on the man's physical and emotional energy. Both knew it. It was just a matter of time. But on one issue both men were wrong. Both thought that Vatutin controlled time, even though time is man's final master.



Gerasimov was surprised by the new FLASH dispatch from America, this one from Platonov. It arrived by cable, alerting him to an Eyes-Only-Chairman message en route in the diplomatic pouch. That was truly unusual. The KGB, more than other foreign-intelligence agencies, still depended on one-time-pad cipher systems. These were unbreakable, even in a theoretical sense, unless the code sequence itself were compromised. It was slow, but it was sure, and the KGB wanted "sure." Beyond that level of transmission, however, was another protocol. For each major station, there was a special cipher. It didn't even have a name, but ran directly from the rezident to the Chairman. Platonov was more important than even CIA suspected. He was the rezident for Washington, the chief of station.

When the dispatch arrived, it was brought directly to Gerasimov's office. His personal code clerk, a captain with impeccable credentials, was not called. The Chairman deciphered the first sentence himself, to learn that this was a mole warning. The KGB did not have a stock term for a traitor within its own ranks, but the higher ranks knew the Western word.

The dispatch was a lengthy one and took Gerasimov fully an hour to decode, cursing all the while at his clumsiness as he deciphered the random transpositions in the thirty-three-Russian alphabet. An agent-in-place inside KGB? Gerasimov wondered. How high? He summoned his personal secretary and ordered the files on Agent Cassius, and Ryan, I.P., of CIA. As with all such orders, it didn't take long. He set Cassius aside for the moment and opened the file on Ryan.

There was a six-page biographical sketch, updated only six months previously, plus original newspaper clippings and translations. He didn't need the latter. Gerasimov spoke acceptable though accented English. Age thirty-five, he saw, with credentials in the business world, academia, and the intelligence community. He'd advanced rapidly within CIA. Special liaison officer to London. His first short-form evaluation at Dzerzhinskiy Square had been colored by some analyst's political views, Gerasimov saw. A rich, soft dilettante. No, that was not right. He'd advanced too rapidly for that, unless he had political influence that appeared absent from the profile. Probably a bright man -- an author, Gerasimov saw, noting that there were copies of two of his books in Moscow. Certainly a proud one, accustomed to comfort and privilege.

So you broke American money-exchange laws, did you? The thought came easily to the KGB Chairman. Corruption was the way to wealth and power in any society. Ryan had his flaw, as did all men. Gerasimov knew that his own flaw was a lust for power, but he deemed the desire for anything less the mark of a fool, He turned back to Platonov's dispatch.

"Evaluation," the message concluded. "The subject is motivated neither by ideological nor by monetary considerations, but by anger and ego. He has a genuine fear of prison, but more of the personal disgrace. J. P. Ryan probably has the information which he claims. If CIA does have a highly placed mole in Moscow Center, it is likely that Ryan has seen data from him, though not the name or face. The data should be sufficient to identify the leak.

"Recommendation: The offer should be accepted for two reasons. First, to identify the American spy. Second, to make use of Ryan in the future. The unique opportunity offered has two faces. If we eliminate witnesses against the subject, he is in our debt. If this action is discovered, It can be blamed on CIA, and the resulting inquiries will damage the American intelligence service severely."

"Hmm," Gerasimov murmured to himself as he set the file aside.

Agent Cassius's file was far thicker. He was on his way to becoming one of KGB's best sources in Washington. Gerasimov had already read this one several times, and merely skimmed until he reached the most recent information. Two months earlier, Ryan had been investigated, details unknown -- Cassius had reported it as unsubstantiated gossip. That was a point in its favor, the Chairman thought. It also disconnected Ryan's overtures from anything else that had developed recently.

Filitov?

What if the highly placed agent whom Ryan could identify was the one we just arrested? Gerasimov wondered. No. Ryan was himself sufficiently high in CIA that he would not confuse one ministry with another. The only bad news was that a leak high in KGB wasn't something Gerasimov needed at the moment. Bad enough that it existed at all, but to let the word get outside the building...That could be a disaster. If we launched a real investigation, word will get out. If we don't find the spy in our own midst...and if he's placed as highly as this Ryan says...what if CIA discovered what Alexandrov and I...?

What would they do?

What if this...? Gerasimov smiled and looked out the window. He'd miss this place. He'd miss the game. Every fact had at least three sides, and every thought had six. No, if he were to believe that, then he had to believe that Cassius was under CIA control, and that this had all been planned before Filitov had been arrested. That was plainly impossible.

The Chairman of the Committee for State Security checked his calendar to see when the Americans were coming over. There would be more social affairs this time. If the Americans had really decided to put their Star Wars systems on the table -- it would make General Secretary Narmonov look good, but how many Politburo votes would that sway? Not many, so long as I can keep Alexandrov's obstinacy in control. And if I can show that I've recruited an agent of our own that high in CIA...if I can predict that the Americans will trade away their defense programs, then I can steal a march on Narmonov's peace initiative myself...

The decision was made.

But Gerasimov was not an impulsive man. He sent a signal to Platonov to verify some details through Agent Cassius.

This signal he could send via satellite.



That signal arrived in Washington an hour later. It was duly copied from the Soviet Raduga-19 communications bird both by the Soviet Embassy and by the American National Security Agency, which put it on a computer tape along with thousands of other Russian signals that the Agency worked round the clock to decipher.

It was easier for the Soviets. The signal was taken to a secure section of the embassy, where a KGB lieutenant converted the scrambled letters into clear text. Then it was locked up in a guarded safe until Platonov arrived in the morning. That happened at 6:30. The usual newspapers were on his desk. The American press was very useful to the KGB, he thought. The idea of a free press was so alien to him that he never even considered its true function. But other things came first. The night-watch officer came in at 6:45 and briefed him on the events of the previous night, and also delivered messages from Moscow, where it was already after lunch. At the top of the message list was a notice of an eyes-only-rezident. Platonov knew what that had to be and walked to the safe at once. The young KGB officer who guarded this part of the embassy checked Platonov's ID scrupulously -- his predecessor had lost his job by being so bow as to assume that he knew Platonov by sight after a mere nine months. The message, properly labeled in a sealed envelope, was in its proper cubbyhole, and Platonov tucked it in his pocket before closing and locking the door.

The KGB's Washington station was larger than that of CIA in Moscow, though not large enough to suit Platonov, since the number of people in the mission had been reduced to numerical equivalence with the American Embassy staff in the Soviet Union, something the Americans bad taken years to do. He usually summoned his section chiefs at 7:30 for their morning conference, but today, he called one of his officers early.

"Good morning, Comrade Colonel," the man said correctly. The KGB is not known for its pleasantries.

"I need you to get some information from Cassius on this Ryan business. It is imperative that we confirm his current legal difficulties as quickly as possible. That means today if you can manage it."

"Today?" the man asked in some discomfort as he took the written instructions. "There is risk in moving so rapidly."

"The Chairman is aware of that," Platonov observed dryly.

"Today," the man nodded.

The rezident smiled inwardly as his man left. That was as much emotion as he'd shown in a month. This one had a real future.



"There's Butch," an FBI agent observed as the man came out of the embassy compound. They knew his real name, of course, but the first agent who'd shadowed him had noted that he looked like a Butch, and the name had stuck. His normal morning routine was ostensibly to unlock a few embassy offices, then to run errands before the senior diplomatic personnel appeared at nine. That involved catching breakfast at a nearby coffee shop, buying several newspapers and magazines...and frequently leaving a mark or two in one or several places. As with most counterintelligence operations, the really hard part was getting the first break. After that it was straight police work. They'd gotten the first break on Butch eighteen months before.

He walked the four blocks to the shop, well dressed for the cold -- he probably found Washington winters pretty mild they all agreed -- and turned into the place right on schedule. As with most coffee shops, this one had a regular trade. Three of them were FBI agents. One was dressed like a business woman, always reading her Wall Street Journal by herself in a corner booth. Two wore the toolbelts of carpenters and swaggered to the counter either before or after Butch entered. Today they were waiting for him. They were not always there; of course. The woman, Special Agent Hazel Loomis, coordinated her schedule with a real business, careful to miss work holidays. It was a risk, but a close surveillance, no matter how carefully planned, could not be too regular. Similarly, they appeared at the café on days when they knew Butch was away, never altering their routine to show that their interest was in their subject.

Agent Loomis noted his arrival time on the margin of an article-she was always scribbling on the paper -- and the carpenters watched him in the mirrored wall behind the counter as they savaged their way through their hash-browns and traded a few boisterous jokes. As usual, Butch had gotten four different papers from a newsstand right outside the coffee shop. The magazines he got all hit the stands on Tuesdays. The waitress poured his coffee without being asked. Butch lit his customary cigarette...an American Marlboro, the favorite of the Russians...and drank his first cup of coffee as he scanned the first page of the Washington Post, which was his usual paper.

Refills were free here, and his arrived on schedule. He took a scant six minutes, which was about right, everyone noted. Finished, he picked up his papers and left some money on the table. When he moved away from the plate, they could all see that he'd crumpled his paper napkin to a ball and set it in the saucer next to the empty coffee cup.

Business, Loomis noted at once. Butch took his bill to the register at the end of the counter, paid it, and left. He was good, Loomis noted yet again. She knew where and how he made the drop, but still she rarely caught him planting it.

Another regular came in. He was a cabdriver who usually got a cup of coffee before beginning his day, and sat alone at the end of the counter. He opened his paper to the sports page, looking around the café as he usually did. He could see the napkin on the saucer. He wasn't quite as good as Butch. Setting the paper in his lap, he reached under the Aetna and retrieved the message, tucking it in the Style section.

After that, it was pretty easy. Loomis paid her bill and left, hopping into her Ford Escort and driving to the Watergate apartments. She had a key to Henderson's apartment.

"You're getting a message today from Butch," she told Agent Cassius.

"Okay." Henderson looked up from his breakfast. He didn't at all enjoy having this girl "running" him as a double agent. He especially didn't like the fact that she was on the case because of her looks, that the "cover" for their association was a supposed affair which, of course, was pure fiction. For all her sweetness, her syrupy Southern accent -- and her stunning good looks! he grumped -- Henderson knew all too well that Loomis viewed him as half a step above a microbe. "Just remember," she'd told him once, "there's a room waiting for you." She was referring to the United States Penitentiary -- not "correctional facility" -- at Marion, Illinois, the one that had replaced Alcatraz as the home of the worst offenders. No place for a Harvard man. But she'd only done that once, and otherwise treated him politely, even occasionally grabbing his arm in public. That only made it worse.

"You want some good news?" Loomis asked.

"Sure."

"If this one goes through the way we hope, you might be clear. All the way out." She'd never said that before.

"What gives?" Agent Cassius asked with interest.

"There's a CIA officer named Ryan -- "

"Yeah, I heard the SEC's checking him out -- well, they did, a few months back. You let me tell the Russians about that..."

"He's dirty. Broke the rules, made half a million dollars on insider information, and there's a grand jury meeting in two weeks that's going to burn his ass, big-time." Her profanity was all the more vivid from the sweet, Southern-Belle smile. "The Agency's going to hang him out to dry. No help from anybody. Ritter hates his guts. You don't know why, but you heard it from Senator Fredenburg's aide. You get the impression that's he's a sacrificial goat for something that went wrong, but you don't know what. Something a few months back in Central Europe, maybe, but that's all you heard. Some of it you tell right off. Some you make them wait till this afternoon. One more thing -- you've beard a rumor that SDI may actually be on the table. You think it's bad information, but you heard a senator say something about it. Got it?"

"Yeah." Henderson nodded.

"Okay." Loomis walked off to the bathroom. Butch's favorite coffee shop was too greasy for her system.

Henderson went to his bedroom and selected a tie. Out? be wondered as he knotted it partway, then changed his mind. If that were true -- he had to admit that she'd never lied to him. Treated me like scum, but never lied to me, he thought. Then I can get out...? Then what? he asked himself. Does it matter?

It mattered, but it mattered more that he'd get out.

"I like the red one better," Loomis observed from the door. She smiled sweetly. "A 'power' tie for today, I think."

Henderson dutifully reached for the red one. It never occurred to him to object. "Can you tell me..."

"I don't know -- and you know better. But they wouldn't let me say this unless everybody, figured that you paid some back, Mr. Henderson."

"Can't you call me Peter, just once?" he asked.

"My father was the twenty-ninth pilot shot down over North Vietnam. They got him alive -- there were pictures of him, alive -- but he never came out."

"I didn't know."

She spoke as evenly as though discussing the weather. "You didn't know a lot of things, Mr. Henderson. They won't let me fly airplanes like Daddy did, but in the Bureau I make life as hard on the bastards as I can. They let me do that. I just hope that it hurts 'em like they've hurt me." She smiled again. "That's not very professional, is it?"

"I'm sorry. I'm afraid I don't know what else to say."

"Sure you do. You'll tell your contact what I told you to say." She tossed him a miniature tape recorder. It had a special computerized timer and an antitamper device. While in the taxicab, he'd be under intermittent surveillance. If he tried to warn his contact in any way, there was a chance -- how great or small he did not know -- that he'd be detected. They didn't like him and they didn't trust him. He knew that he'd never earn affection or trust, but Henderson would settle for getting out.

He left his apartment a few minutes later and walked downstairs. There was the usual number of cabs circulating about. He didn't gesture, but waited for one to come to him. They didn't start talking until it pulled into the traffic on Virginia Avenue.

The cab took him to the General Accounting Office headquarters on G Street, Northwest. Inside the building, he handed the tape recorder over to another FBI agent. Henderson suspected that it was a radio as well, though actually it was not. The recorder went to the Hoover Building. Loomis was waiting when it got there. The tape was rewound and played.

"CIA got it right for once," she observed to her supervisor. Someone even more senior was here. This was more important than she'd thought, Loomis knew at once.

"It figures. A source like Ryan doesn't come along real often. Henderson got his lines down pretty good."

"I told him that this may be his ticket out." Her voice said more than that.

"You don't approve?" the Assistant Director asked. He ran all of the FBI's counterintel operations.

"He hasn't paid enough, not for what he did."

"Miss Loomis, after this is all over, I'll explain to you why you're wrong. Put that aside, okay? You've done a beautiful job handling this case. Don't blow it now."

"What'll happen to him?" she asked.

"The usual, into the witness-protection program. He may end up running the Wendy's in Billings, Montana, for all I know." The AD shrugged. "You're getting promoted and sent to the New York Field Office. We have another one we think you're ready for. There's a diplomat attached to the UN who needs a good handler."

"Okay." The smile this time was not forced.



"They bit. They bit hard," Ritter told Ryan. "I just hope you're up to it, sonny boy."

"No danger involved." Jack spread his bands. "This ought to be real civilized."

Only the parts you know about. "Ryan you are still an amateur so far as field ops are concerned. Remember that."

"I have to be for this to work," Jack pointed out.

"Those whom the gods would destroy, they first make proud," the DDO said.

"That's not the way Sophocles said it." Jack grinned. "My way's better. I even had a sign put up at the Farm that quotes me."

Ryan's idea for the mission had been a simple one -- too simple, and Ritter's people had refined it over a period of ten hours into a real operation. Simple in concept, it would have its complications. They all did, but Ritter didn't like that fact.



Bart Mancuso had long since gotten used to the idea that sleeping wasn't included in the list of things that submarine skippers were expected to do, but what he especially hated was a knock on the door fifteen minutes after he was able to lie down.

"Come!" And die! he didn't say.

"FLASH traffic, eyes-only-captain," the Lieutenant said apologetically.

"It better be good!" Mancuso snarled, snapping the covers off the bunk. He walked aft in his skivvies to the communications room, to port and just aft of the attack center. Ten minutes later he emerged and handed a slip of paper to the navigator.

"I want to be there in ten hours."

"No sweat, Cap'n."

"The next person who bothers me, it better be a grave national emergency!" He walked forward, barefoot on the tile deck.



"Message delivered," Henderson told Loomis over dinner.

"Anything else?" Candlelight and all, she thought.

"Just wanted to confirm. They didn't want new info, just to back up what they already had from some different sources. At least, that's the way I read it. I have another delivery for them."

"Which one's that?"

"The new battlefield air-defense report. I never could understand why they bother. They can read it in Aviation Week before the end of the month anyway."

"Let's not blow the routine now, Mr. Henderson."



This time the message could be handled as routine intelligence traffic. It would be flagged to the Chairman's attention because it was "personal" information on a senior enemy intelligence official. Gerasimov was known in the higher echelons of KGB to be a man interested as much in Western gossip as Russian.

It was waiting when he arrived the next morning. The KGB Chairman hated the eight-hour time differential between Moscow and Washington -- it made things so damned inconvenient! For Moscow Center to order any immediate action automatically risked having his field officers cue the Americans as to who they were. As a result, few real "immediate-action" signals were ever sent out, and it offended the KGB Chairman that his personal power could be undone by something as prosaic as longitudinal lines.

"Subject P," the dispatch began, the English "R" being a "P" in the Cyrillic alphabet, "is now the target of a secret criminal investigation as part of a nonintelligence matter. It is suspected, however, that interest in P is politically based, probably an effort on the part of progressive congressional elements to damage CIA because of an unknown operational failure -- possibly involving Central Europe, but this is not RPT not confirmed. P's criminal disgrace will be damaging to higher CIA officials due to his placement. This station grades the intelligence reliability of tbe case as A. Three independent sources now confirm the allegations dispatched in my 88(B)531-C/EOC. Full details to follow via pouch. Station recommends pursuing. Rezident Washington. Ends."

Gerasimov tucked the report away in his desk.

"Well," the Chairman murmured to himself. He checked his watch. He had to be at the regular Thursday morning Politburo meeting in two hours. How would it go? One thing he knew: it would be an interesting one. He planned to introduce a new variant on his game -- the Power Game. His daily operational briefing was always a little longer on Thursdays. It never hurt to drop a few harmless tidbits at the meetings. His fellow Politburo members were all men to whom conspiracy came as easily as breathing, and there hadn't been a government anywhere in the last century whose senior members did not enjoy hearing about covert operations. Gerasimov made a few notes, careful to choose only things that he could discuss without compromising important cases. His car came around at the appointed time, as always accompanied by a lead car of bodyguards, and sped off to the Kremlin. Gerasimov was never the first to arrive, and never the last. This time he walked in just behind the Defense Minister.

"Good morning, Dmitri Timofeyevich," the Chairman said without a smile, but cordially enough for all that.

"And to you, Comrade Chairman," Yazov said warily. Both men took their seats. Yazov had more than one reason to be wary. In addition to the fact that Filitov was hanging over his bead like a sword out of myth, he was not a full voting member of the supreme Soviet council. Gerasimov was. That gave KGB more political power than Defense, but the only times in recent history that the Defense Minister had had a vote in this room, he'd been a Party man first -- like Ustinov had been. Yazov was a soldier first. A loyal Party member for all that, his uniform was not the costume it had been for Ustinov. Yazov would never have a vote at this table.

Andrey Il'ych Narmonov came into the room with his usual vigor. Of all the Politburo members, only the KGB Chairman was younger than he, and Narmonov felt the need to show bustling energy whenever he appeared before the older men who were arrayed around "his" conference table. The strain and stress of his job were telling on him. Everyone could see it. The black bush of hair was beginning to gray rapidly, and it also seemed that his hairline was receding. But that was hardly unusual for a man in his fifties. He gestured for everyone to sit.

"Good morning, Comrades," Narmonov said in a businesslike voice. "The initial discussion will concern the arrival of the American arms-negotiations team."

"I have good news to report," Gerasimov said at once.

"Indeed?" Alexandrov asked before the General Secretary could, staking out his own position.

"We have information that suggests that the Americans are willing in principle to place their strategic-defense program on the table," the KGB Chairman reported. "We do not know what concessions they will demand for this, nor the extent of the concessions in their program that they are willing to make, but this is nevertheless a change in the American posture."

"I find that difficult to believe," Yazov spoke up. "Their program is well along -- as you yourself told me last week, Nikolay Borissovich."

"There are some political dissenters within the American government, and possibly a power struggle under way within CIA itself at the moment, we have just learned. In any case, that is our information, and we regard it to be fairly reliable."

"That is quite a surprise." Heads turned to where the Foreign Minister was sitting. He looked skeptical. "The Americans have been totally adamant on this point. You say 'fairly reliable,' but not totally so?"

"The source is highly placed, but the information has not been adequately confirmed as yet. We will know more by the weekend."

Heads nodded around the table. The American delegation would arrive noon Saturday, and negotiations would not begin until Monday. The Americans would be given thirty-six hours to overcome their jet lag, during which there would be a welcoming dinner at the Academy of Sciences Hotel, and little else.

"Such information is obviously a matter of great interest to my negotiating team, but I find it most surprising, particularly in view of the briefings we've been given here on our Bright Star Program, and their counterpart to it."

"There is reason to believe that the Americans have learned of Bright Star," Gerasimov replied smoothly. "Perhaps they have found our progress sobering."

"Bright Star penetrated?" another member asked. "How?"

"We're not sure. We're working on it," Gerasimov replied, careful not to look in Yazov's direction. Your move, Comrade Defense Minister.

"So the Americans might really be more interested in shutting our program down than in curtailing theirs," Alexandrov observed.

"And they think that our efforts have been the reverse of that." The Foreign Minister grunted. "It would be nice for me to be able to tell my people what the real issues are!"

"Marshal Yazov?" Narmonov said. He didn't know that he was putting his own man on the spot.

Until now, Gerasimov hadn't been sure about Yazov, about whether he might not feel safe taking his political vulnerability over the Filitov matter to his master. This would give him the answer. Yazov was afraid of the possibility -- CERTAINTY, he corrected himself. Yazov has to know that by now -- that we can disgrace him. He's also afraid that Narmonov won't risk his own position to save him. So have I coopted both Yazov and Vaneyev? If so I wonder if it might be worth keeping Yazov on after I replace the General Secretary...Your decision, Yazov...

"We have overcome the problem of laser power output. The remaining problem is in computer control. Here we are far behind American techniques due to the superiority of their computer industry. Only last week, Comrade Gerasimov furnished us with some of the American control program, but we had not even begun to examine it when we learned that the program was itself overtaken by events.

"I do not mean this to be criticism of the KGB, of course -- "

Yes! In that moment Gerasimov was sure. He's making his own overture to me. And the best part -- no other man in the room, not even Alexandrov, understands what just happened.

" -- actually, it illustrates the technical problem rather clearly. But it is only a technical problem, Comrades. This one, too, can be overcome. My opinion is that we are ahead of the Americans If they know this, they will be fearful of it. Our negotiating position to this point has been to object to space-based programs only, never ground-based since we have known all along that our ground-based systems have greater promise than their American counterparts. Possibly the change in the American position confirms this. If so, I would recommend against trading Bright Star for anything."

"That is a defensible opinion," Gerasimov commented after a moment. "Dmitri Timofeyevich has raised a thoughtful issue here." Heads nodded around the table -- knowingly, they all thought, but more wrongly than any would dare guess -- as Chairman of the Committee for State Security and the Minister of Defense consummated their bargain with nothing more than a glance and a raised eyebrow.

Gerasimov turned back to the head of the table as the discussion went on around him. General Secretary Narmonov watched the debate with interest, making a few notes, not noticing the gaze of his KGB Chairman.

I wonder if that chair is more comfortable than mine.





Chapter 19 -- Travelers



Even the 89th Military Airlift Wing worried about security, Ryan was glad to see. The sentries who guarded the "President's Wing" at Andrews Air Force Base carried loaded rifles and wore serious looks to impress the "Distinguished Visitors" -- the U.S. Air Force eschews the term Very Important Persons. The combination of armed troops and the usual airport rigamarole made it certain that no one would hijack the airplane and take it to...Moscow. They had a flight crew to accomplish that. Ryan always had the same thought before flying. As he waited to pass through the doorway-shaped magnetometer, he imagined that someone had engraved on the lintel: ABANDON ALL HOPE YE WHO ENTER HERE. He'd just about overcome his terror of flying; his anxiety now was of something else entirely, he told himself. It didn't work. Fears are additive, not parallel, he discovered as he walked out of the building. They were taking the same plane as the last time. The tail number was 86971. It was a 707 that had rolled out of Boeing's Seattle plant in 1958 and had been converted to the VC-137 configuration. More comfortable than the VC-135, it also had windows. If there was anything Ryan hated, it was being aboard a windowless aircraft. There was no level jetway to traverse into the bird. Everyone climbed up an old-fashioned wheeled stairway. Once inside, the plane was a curious mix of the commonplace and the unique. The forward washroom was in the usual place, just across from the front door, but aft of that was the communications console that gave the plane instantaneous, secure satellite-radio links with anyplace in the world. Next came the relatively comfortable crew accommodations, and then the galley. Food aboard the airplane was pretty good. Ryan's seat was in the almost-DV area, on one of two couches set on either side of the fuselage, just forward of the six-seat space for the really important folks. Aft of that was the five-across seating for reporters, Secret Service, and other people considered less distinguished by whoever made such decisions. It was mainly empty for this trip, though some junior members of the delegation would be back there, able to stretch out a bit for a change.

The only really bad thing about the VC-137 was its limited range. It couldn't one-hop all the way to Moscow, and usually stopped off for refueling at Shannon before making the final leg. The President's aircraft -- actually there were two Air Force Ones -- were based on the longer-range 707-320, and would soon be replaced with ultramodern 747s. The Air Force was looking forward to having a presidential aircraft that was younger than most of its flight crew. So was Ryan. This one had rolled out of the factory door when he'd been in second grade, and it struck him as odd that it should be so. But what should have happened? he wondered. Should his father have taken him to Seattle, pointed to the airplane and said, See, you'll fly to Russia on that one someday...?

I wonder how you predict fate? I wonder how you predict the future...At first playful, in a moment the thought chilled him.

Your business is predicting the future, but what makes you think that you can really do it? What have you guessed wrong on this time, Jack?

Goddamn it! he raged at himself. Every time I get on a fucking airplane...He strapped himself in, facing across the airplane some State Department technical expert who loved to fly.

The engines started a minute later, and presently the airplane started to roll. The announcements over the intercom weren't very different from that on an airliner, just enough to let you know that the ownership of the plane was not corporate. Jack had already deduced that. The stewardess had a mustache. It was something to chuckle about as the aircraft taxied to the end of runway One-Left.

The winds were northerly, and the VC-137 took off into them, turning right a minute after it lifted off. Jack turned too, looking down at U.S. Route 50. It was the road that led to his home in Annapolis. He lost sight of it as the aircraft entered the clouds. The impersonal white veil had often seemed a beautiful curtain, but now...but now it just meant that he couldn't see the way home. Well, there wasn't much he could do about that. Ryan had the couch to himself, and decided to take advantage of the fact. He kicked off his shoes and stretched out for a nap. One thing he'd need would be rest. He was sure of that.



Dallas had surfaced at the appointed time and place, then been told of a hitch in the plans. Now she surfaced again. Mancuso was the first one up the ladder to the control station atop the sail, followed by a junior officer and a pair of lookouts. Already the periscope was up, scanning the surface for traffic, of course. The night was calm and clear, the sort of sky you get only at sea, ablaze with stars, like gemstones on a velvet sheet.

"Bridge, conn."

Mancuso pressed the button. "Bridge, aye."

"ESM reports an airborne radar transmitter bearing one-four-zero, bearing appears steady."

"Very well." The Captain turned. "You can flip on the running lights."

"All clear starboard," one lookout said.

"All clear port," echoed the other.

"ESM reports contact is still steady on one-four-zero. Signal strength is increasing."

"Possible aircraft fine on the port bow!" a lookout called. Mancuso raised his binoculars to his eyes and started searching the blackness. If it was here already, it didn't have his running lights on...but then he saw a handful of stars disappear, occulted by something.

"I got him. Good eye, Everly! Oh, there go his flying lights."

"Bridge, conn, we have a radio message coming in."

"Patch it," Mancuso replied at once.

"Done, sir."

"Echo-Golf-Nine, this is Alfa-Whiskey-Five, over."

"Alfa-Whiskey-Five, this is Echo-Golf-Nine. I read you loud and clear. Authenticate, over."

"Bravo-Delta-Hotel, over."

"Roger, thank you. We are standing by. Wind is calm. Sea flat." Mancuso reached down and flipped on the lights for control station instruments. Not actually needed at the moment -- the Attack Center still had the conn -- they'd give the approaching helicopter a target.

They heard it a moment later, first the flutter of the rotor blades, then the whine of the turboshaft engines. Less than a minute later they could feel the downdraft as the helicopter circled twice overhead for the pilot to orient himself. Mancuso wondered if he'd turn on his landing lights...or hot-dog it.

He hot-dogged it, or more properly, he treated it as what it was, a covert personnel transfer: a "combat" mission. The pilot fixed on the submarine's cockpit lights and brought the aircraft to a hover fifty yards to port. Next he reduced altitude and sideslipped the helo toward the submarine. Aft, they saw the cargo door slide open. A hand reached out and grabbed the hook-end of the winch cable.

"Stand by, everybody," Mancuso told his people. "We've done it before. Check your safety lines. Everybody just be careful."

The prop wash from the helicopter threatened to blow them all down the ladder into the Attack Center as it hovered almost directly overhead. As Mancuso watched, a man-shape emerged from the cargo door and was lowered straight down. The thirty feet seemed to last forever as the shape came down, twirling slightly from the torsion of the steel winch cable. One of his seamen reached and grabbed a foot, pulling the man toward them. The Captain got his hand and both men pulled him inboard.

"Okay, we got ya," Mancuso said. The man slipped from the collar and turned as the cable went back up.

"Mancuso!"

"Son of a bitch!" the Captain exclaimed.

"Is this any way to greet a comrade?"

"Damn!" But business came first. Mancuso looked up. The helicopter was already two hundred feet overhead. He reached down and blinked the sub's running lights on and off three times: TRANSFER COMPLETE. The helicopter immediately dropped its nose and headed back toward the German coast.

"Get on below." Bart laughed. "Lookouts below. Clear the bridge. Son of a bitch," he said to himself. The Captain watched his men go down the ladder, switched off the cockpit lights, and made a final safety check before heading down behind them. A minute later he was in the Attack Center.

"Now do I request permission to come aboard?" Marko Ramius asked.

"'Gator?"

"All systems aligned and checked for dive. We are rigged for dive," the navigator reported. Mancuso turned automatically to check the status boards.

"Very well. Dive. Make your depth one hundred feet, course zero-seven-one, one-third." He turned. "Welcome aboard, Captain."

"Thank you, Captain." Ramius wrapped Mancuso in a ferocious bear-hug and kissed him on the cheek. Next he slipped off the backpack he was wearing. "Can we talk?"

"Come on forward."

"First time I come aboard your submarine," Ramius observed. A moment later a head poked out of the sonar room.

"Captain Ramius! I thought I recognized your voice!" Jones looked at Mancuso. "Beg pardon, sir. We just got a contact, bearing zero-eight-one. Sounds like a merchant. Single screw, slow-speed diesels driving it. Probably a ways off. Being reported to the ODD now, sir."

"Thanks, Jonesy." Mancuso took Ramius into his stateroom and closed the door.

"What the hell was that?" a young sonarman asked Jones a moment later.

"We just got some company."

"Didn't he have an accent, sort of?"

"Something like that." Jones pointed to the sonar display. "That contact has an accent, too. Let's see how fast you can decide what kinda merchie he is."



It was dangerous, but all life was dangerous, the Archer thought. The Soviet-Afghan border here was a snow-fed river that snaked through gorges it had carved through the mountains. The border was also heavily guarded. It helped that his men were all dressed in Soviet-style uniforms. The Russians have long put their soldiers in simple but warm winter gear. Those they had on were mainly white to suit the snowy background, with just enough stripes and spots to break up their outline. Here they had to be patient. The Archer lay athwart a ridge, using Russian-issue binoculars to sweep the terrain while his men rested a few meters behind and below him. He might have gotten a local guerrilla band to provide help, but he'd come too far to risk that. Some of the northern tribes had been co-opted by the Russians, or at least that was what he'd been told. True or not, he was running enough risks.

There was a Russian guard post atop the mountain to his left, six kilometers away. A large one, perhaps a full platoon lived there, and those KGB soldiers were responsible for patrolling this sector. The border itself was covered with a fence and minefields. The Russians loved their minefields...but the ground was frozen solid, and Soviet mines often didn't work well in frozen ground, although Occasionally they'd set themselves off when the frost heaved around them.

He'd chosen the spot with care. The border here looked virtually impassable on a map. Smugglers had used it for centuries, however. Once across the river, there was a snaky path formed by centuries of snowmelt. Steep, and slippery, it was also a mini-canyon hidden from any view except direct overhead. If Russians guarded it, of course, it Would be a deathtrap. That would be Allah's will, he told himself, and consigned himself to destiny. It was time.

He saw the flashes first. Ten men with a heavy machine gun and one of his precious mortars. A few yellow tracer streaks cut across the border into the Russian base camp. As he watched, a few of the bullets caromed off the rocks, tracing erratic paths in the velvet sky. Then the Russians started returning fire. The sound reached them soon after that. He hoped that his men would get away as he turned and waved his group forward.

They ran down the forward slope of the mountain, heedless of safety. The only good news was that winds had swept the snow off the rocks, making for decent footing. The Archer led them down toward the river. Amazingly enough, it was not frozen, its path too steep for the water to stop, even in subzero temperatures. There was the wire!

A young man with a two-handed pair of Cutters made a path, and again the Archer led them through. His eyes were accustomed to the darkness, and he went more slowly now, looking at the ground for the telltale humps that indicated mines in the frozen ground. He didn't need to tell those behind him to stay in single file and walk on rocks wherever possible. Off to the left flares now decorated the sky, but the firing had died down somewhat.

It took over an hour, but he got all of his men across and into the smugglers' trail. Two men would stay behind, each on a hilltop overlooking the wire. They watched the amateur sapper who'd cut the wire make repairs to conceal their entry. Then he, too, faded into the darkness.

The Archer didn't stop until dawn. They were on schedule as they all paused a few hours for rest and food. All had gone well, his officers told him, better than they had hoped.



The stopover in Shannon was a brief one, just long enough to refuel and take aboard a Soviet pilot whose job it was to talk them through the Russian air-traffic-control system. Jack awoke on landing and thought about stretching his legs, but decided that the duty-free shops could wait until the return leg. The Russian took his place in the cockpit jump seat, and 86971 started rolling again.

It was night now. The pilot was in a loquacious mood tonight, announcing their next landfall at Wallasey. All of Europe, he said, was enjoying clear, cold weather, and Jack watched the orange-yellow city lights of England slide beneath them. Tension on the aircraft increased -- or perhaps anticipation was a better word, he thought, as he listened to the pitch of the voices around him increase somewhat, though their volume dropped. You couldn't fly toward the Soviet Union without becoming a little conspiratorial. Soon all the conversations were in raspy whispers. Jack smiled thinly at the plastic windows, and his reflection asked what was so damned funny. Water appeared below them again as they flew across the North Sea toward Denmark.

The Baltic came next. You could tell where East and West met. To the south, the West German cities were all gaily lit, each surrounded by a warm glow of light. Not so on the eastern side of the wire-minefield barrier. Everyone aboard noticed the difference, and conversations grew quieter still. The aircraft was following air route G-24; the navigator in front had the Jeppesen chart partially unfolded on his table. Another difference between East and West was the dearth of flight routes in the former. Well, he told himself, not many Pipers and Cessnas here -- of course, there was that one Cessna...

"Coming up on a turn. We'll be coming to new heading zero-seven-eight, and entering Soviet control."

"Right," the pilot -- "aircraft commander"-responded after a moment. He was tired. It had been a long day's flying. They were already at Flight Level 381 -- 38,100 feet, or 11,600 meters as the Soviets preferred to call it. The pilot didn't like meters, even though his instruments were calibrated both ways. After executing the turn, they flew for another sixty miles before crossing the Soviet border at Ventspils.

"We're heeere," somebody said a few feet from Ryan. From the air, at night, Soviet territory made East Germany look like New Orleans at Mardi Gras. He remembered night satellite shots. It was so easy to pick out the camps of the GULAG. They were the only lighted squares in the whole country...what a dreary place that only the prisons are well lighted

The pilot marked the entry only as another benchmark. Eighty-five more minutes, given the wind conditions. The Soviet air-traffic-control system along this routing -- called G3 now -- was the only one in the country that spoke English. They didn't really need the Soviet officer to complete the mission -- he was an air-force intelligence officer, of course -- but if something went wrong, things might be different. The Russians liked the idea of positive control. The orders he got now for course and altitude were far more exact than those given in American air space, as though he didn't know what to do unless some jerk-off on the ground told him. Of course there was an element of humor to it. The pilot was Colonel Paul von Eich. His family had come to America from Prussia a hundred years before, but none of them had been able to part with the "von" that had Once been so important to family status. Some of his ancestors had fought down there, he reflected, on the flat, Snow-covered Russian ground. Certainly a few more recent relatives had. Probably a few lay buried there while he whizzed overhead at six hundred miles per hour. He wondered vaguely what they'd think of his job while his pale blue eyes scanned the sky for the lights of other aircraft.

Like most passengers, Ryan judged his height above the ground by what he could see, but the dark Soviet countryside denied him that. He knew they were close when the aircraft commenced a wide turn to the left. He heard the mechanical whine as the flaps went down and noted the reduced engine noise. Soon he could just pick out individual trees, racing by. The pilot's voice came on, telling smokers to put them out, and that it was time for seat belts again. Five minutes later they returned to ground level again at Sheremetyevo Airport. Despite the fact that airports all over the world look exactly alike, Ryan could be sure of this one -- the taxiways were the bumpiest anywhere.

The cabin talk was more lively now. The excitement was beginning as the airplane's crew started moving about. What followed went in a blur. Ernie Allen was met by a welcoming committee of the appropriate level and whisked off in an embassy limousine. Everyone else was relegated to a bus. Ryan sat by himself, still watching the countryside outside the German-made vehicle.

Will Gerasimov bite -- really bite?

What if he doesn't?

What if he does? Ryan asked himself with a smile.

It had all seemed pretty straightforward in Washington, but here, five thousand miles away...well. First he'd get some sleep, aided by a single government-issue red capsule. Then he'd talk to a few people at the embassy. The rest would have to take care of itself.





Chapter 20 -- The Key of Destiny



It was bitterly cold when Ryan awoke to the beeping sound of his watch alarm. There was frost on the windows even at ten in the morning, and he realized that he hadn't made sure the heat in his room was operating. His first considered action of the day was to pull on some socks. His seventh-floor room-it was called an "efficiency apartment"-overlooked the compound. Clouds had moved in, and the day was leaden gray with the threat of snow.

"Perfect," Jack observed to himself on the way to the bathroom. He knew that it could have been worse. The only reason he had this room was that the officer who ordinarily lived here was on honeymoon leave. At least the plumbing worked, but he found a note taped to the medicine cabinet mirror admonishing him not to mess the place up the way the last transient had. Next he checked the small refrigerator. Nothing: Welcome to Moscow. Back in the bathroom, he washed and shaved. One other oddity of the embassy was that to get down from the seventh floor, you first had to take an elevator up to the ninth floor and another one down from there to the lobby. Jack was still shaking his head over that one when he got into the canteen.

"Don't you just love jet lag?" a member of the delegation greeted him. "Coffee's over there."

"I call it travel shock." Ryan got himself a mug and came back. "Well, the coffee's decent. Where's everybody else?"

"Probably still sacked out, even Uncle Ernie. I caught a few hours on the flight, and thank God for the pill they gave us.

Ryan laughed. "Yeah, me too. Might even feel human in time for dinner tonight."

"Feel like exploring? I'd like to take a walk, but-"

"Travel in pairs." Ryan nodded. The rule applied only to the arms negotiators. This phase of negotiations would be sensitive, and the rules for the team were much tighter than usual. "Maybe later. I have some work to do."

"Today and tomorrow's our only chance," the diplomat pointed out.

"I know," Ryan assured him. He checked his watch and decided that he'd wait to eat until lunchtime. His sleep cycle was almost in synch with Moscow, but his stomach wasn't quite sure yet. Jack walked back to the chancery. The corridors were mainly empty. Marines patrolled them, looking very serious indeed after the problems that had occurred earlier, but there was little evidence of activity on this Saturday morning. Jack walked to the proper door and knocked. He knew it was locked.

"You're Ryan?"

"That's right." The door opened to admit, him, then was closed and relocked.

"Grab a seat." His name was Tony Candela. "What gives?"

"We have an op laid on."

"News to me-you're not operations, you're intelligence," Candela objected.

"Yeah, well, Ivan knows that, too. This one's going to be a little strange." Ryan explained for five minutes.

"'A little strange,' you say?" Candela rolled his eyes.

"I need a keeper for part of it. I need some phone numbers I can call, and I may need wheels that'll be there when required."

"This could cost me some assets."

"We know that."

"Of course, if it works..."

"Right. We can put some real muscle on this one."

"The Foleys know about this?"

"'Fraid not."

"Too bad, Mary Pat would have loved it. She's the cowboy. Ed's more the, button-down-collar type. So, you expect him to bite Monday or Tuesday night?"

"That's the plan."

"Let me tell you something about plans," Candela said.



They were letting him sleep. The doctors had warned him again, Vatutin growled. How was he supposed to accomplish anything when they kept-

"There's that name again," the man with the headphones said tiredly. "Romanov. If he must talk in his sleep, why can't he confess...?"

"Perhaps he's talking with the Czar's ghost," another officer joked. Vatutin's head came up.

"Or perhaps someone else's." The Colonel shook his head. He'd been at the point of dozing himself. Romanov, though the name of the defunct royal family of the Russian Empire, was not an uncommon one-even a Politburo member bad had it. "'Where's his file?"

"Here." The joker pulled open a drawer and handed it over, The file weighed six kilograms, and came in several different sections. Vatutin had committed most of it to memory, but had concentrated on the last two parts. This time he opened the first section.

"Romanov," he breathed to himself. "Where have I seen that...?" It took him fifteen minutes, flipping through the frayed pages as speedily as he dared.

"I have it!" It was a citation, scrawled in pencil. "Corporal A. I. Romanov, killed in action 6 October 1941...defiantly placed his tank between the enemy and his disabled troop commander's, allowing the commander to withdraw his wounded crew...Yes! This one s in a book I read as a child. Misha got his crew on the back deck of a different tank, jumped inside, and personally killed the tank that got Romanov's. He'd saved Misha's life and was posthumously awarded the Red Banner-" Vatutin stopped. He was calling the subject Misha, he realized.

"Almost fifty years ago?"

"They were comrades. This Romanov fellow had been part of Filitov's own tank crew through the first few months. Well, he was a hero. He died for the Motherland, saving the life of his officer," Vatutin observed. And Misha still talks to him...

I have you now, Filitov.

"Shall we wake him up and-"

"Where's the doctor?" Vatutin asked.

It turned out that he was about to leave for home and was not overly pleased to be recalled. But he didn't have the rank to play power games with Colonel Vatutin.

"How should we handle it?" Vatutin asked after outlining his thoughts.

"He should be weary but wide awake. That is easily done."

"So we should wake him up now and-"

"No." The doctor shook his head. "Not in REM sleep-"

"What?"

"Rapid Eye Movement sleep-that's what it's called when the patient is dreaming. You can always tell if the subject is in a dream by the eye movement, whether he talks or not."

"But we can't see that from here," another officer objected.

"Yes, perhaps we should redesign the observation system," the doctor mused. "But that doesn't matter too much. During REM sleep the body is effectively paralyzed. You'll notice that he's not moving now, correct? The mind does that to prevent injury to the body. When he starts moving again, the dream is over."

"How long?" Vatutin asked. "We don't want him to get too rested."

"Depends on the subject, but I would not be overly concerned. Have the turnkey get a breakfast ready for him, and as soon as he starts moving, wake him up and feed him."

"Of course." Vatutin smiled.

"Then we just keep him awake...oh, eight hours or so more. Yes, that should do it. Is it enough time for you?"

"Easily," Vatutin said with more confidence than he should have. He stood and checked his watch. The Colonel of "Two" called the Center and gave a few orders. His system, too, cried out for sleep. But for him there was a comfortable bed. He wanted to have all of his cleverness when the time came. The Colonel undressed fastidiously, calling for an orderly to polish his boots and press his uniform while he slept. He was tired enough that he didn't even feel the need for a drink. "I have you now," he murmured as he faded into sleep.



"G'night, Bea," Candi called from the door as her friend opened up her car. Taussig turned one last time and waved before getting in. Candi and the Geek couldn't have seen the way she stabbed the key into the ignition. She drove only half a block, turning a corner before pulling to the curb and staring at the night.

They're doing it already, she thought. All the way through dinner, the way he looked at her-the way she looked at him! Already those wimpy little hands are fumbling with the buttons on her blouse...

She lit a cigarette and leaned back, picturing it while her stomach tightened into a rigid, acid-filled ball. Zit-face and Candi. She'd endured three hours of it. Candi's usual beautifully prepared dinner. For twenty minutes-while the finishing touches had been under way, she'd been stuck in the living room with him, listening to his idiot jokes, having to smile back at him. It was clear enough that Alan didn't like her either, but because she was Candi's friend he'd felt obligated to be nice to her, nice to poor Bea, who was heading toward old-maidhood, or whatever they called it now-she'd seen it in his stupid eyes. To be patronized by him was bad enough, but to be pitied...

And now he was touching her, kissing her, listening to her murmurs, whispering his stupid, disgusting endearments and Candi liked it! How was that possible?

Candace was more than Just pretty, Taussig knew. She was a free spirit. She had a discoverer's mind mated to a warm, sensitive soul. She had real feelings. She was so wonderfully feminine, with the kind of beauty that begins at the heart and radiates out through a perfect smile.

But now she's giving herself to that thing! He's probably doing it already. That geek doesn't have the first idea of taking his time and showing real love and sensitivity. I bet he just does it, drooling and giggling some punk fifteen-year old football jock. How can she!

"Oh, Candace." Bea's voice broke. She was swept with nausea, and had to fight to control herself. She succeeded, and sat alone in her car for twenty minutes of silent tears before she managed to drive on.



"What do you make of that?"

"I think she's a lesbian," Agent Jennings said after a moment.

"Nothing like that in her file, Peggy," Will Perkins observed.

"The way she looks at Dr. Long, the way she acts around Gregory...that's my gut feeling."

"But-"

"Yeah, but what the hell can we do about that?" Margaret Jennings noted as she drove away. She toyed briefly with the idea of going after Taussig, but the day had been long enough already. "No evidence, and if we got it, and acted on it, there'd be hell to pay."

"You suppose the three of them..."

"Will, you've been reading those magazines again." Jennings laughed, breaking the spell for a moment. Perkins was a Mormon, and had never been seen to touch pornographic material. "Those two are so much in love they don't have the first idea of what's going on around them-except work. I bet their pillow talk is classified. What's happening, Will, is that Taussig is being cut out of her friend's life and she's unhappy about it. Tough."

"So how do we write this one up?"

"Zip. A whole lot of nothing." Their assignment for the evening had been to follow up a report that strange cars were occasionally seen at the Gregory-Long residence. It bad probably originated, Agent Jennings thought, from a local prude who didn't like the idea of the two young people living together without the appropriate paperwork. She was a little old-fashioned about that herself, but it didn't make either one of them a security risk. On the other hand-

"I think we ought to check out Taussig next."

"She lives alone."

"I'm sure." It would take time to look at every senior staffer at Tea Clipper, but you couldn't rush this kind of investigation.



"You shouldn't have come here," Tania observed at once. Bisyarina's face didn't show her rage. She took Taussig's hand and brought her inside.

"Ann, it's just so awful!"

"Come sit down. Were you followed?" Idiot! Pervert! She'd just gotten out of the shower, and was dressed in a bathrobe, with a towel over her hair.

"No, I watched all the way."

Sure, Bisyarina thought. She would have been surprised to learn that it was true. Despite the lax security at Tea Clipper-it allowed someone like this inside!-her agent had broken every rule there was in coming here.

"You cannot stay long."

"I know." She blew her nose. "They've about finished the first draft of the new program. The Geek has cut it down by eighty thousand lines of code-taking out all that Al stuff really made a difference. You know, I think he has the new stuff memorized-I know, I know, that's impossible, even for that."

"When will you be able-"

"I don't know." Taussig smiled for a second. "You ought to have him working for you. I think he's the only one who really understands the whole program-I mean, the whole project."

Unfortunately all we have is you, Bisyarina didn't say. What she did was very hard. She reached out and took Taussig's hand.

The tears started again. Beatrice nearly leaped into Tania's arms. The Russian officer held her close, trying to feel sympathy for her agent. There had been many lessons at the KGB school, all of them intended to help her in handling agents. You had to have a mixture of sympathy and discipline. You had to treat them like spoiled children, mixing favors and scoldings to make them perform. And Agent Livia was more important than most.

It was still hard to turn her face toward the head on her shoulder and kiss the cheek that was salty with tears both old and new. Bisyarina breathed easier at the realization that she needed go no further than this. She'd never yet needed to go further, but lived in fear that "Livia" would one day demand it of her-certainly it would happen if she ever realized that her intended lover had not the slightest interest in her advances. Bisyarina marveled at that. Beatrice Taussig was brilliant in her way, certainly brighter than the KGB officer who "ran" her, but she knew so little about people. The crowning irony was that she was very much like that Alan Gregory man she so detested. Prettier, more sophisticated though Taussig was, she lacked the capacity to reach out when she needed to. Gregory had probably done it only once in his life, and that was the difference between him and her. He had gotten there first because Beatrice had lacked the courage. It was just as well, Bisyarina knew. The rejection would have destroyed her.

Bisyarina wondered what Gregory was really like. Probably another academic-what was it the English called them? Boffins. A brilliant boffin-well, everyone attached to Tea Clipper was brilliant in one way or another. That frightened her in her way, Beatrice was proud of the program, though she deemed it a threat to world peace, a point on which Bisyarina agreed. Gregory was a boffin who wanted to change the world. Bisyarina understood the motivation. She wanted to change it, too. Just in a different way. Gregory and Tea Clipper were a threat to that. She didn't hate the man. If anything, she thought, she'd probably like him. But personal likes and dislikes had absolutely nothing to do with the business of intelligence.

"Feel better?" she asked when the tears stopped.

"I have to leave."

"Are you sure you're all right?"

"Yes. I don't know when I'll be able to-"

"I understand." Tania walked her to the door. At least she'd had the good sense to park her car on a different block, "Ann" noticed. She waited, holding the door cracked open, to hear the distinctive sound of the sports car. After closing the door, she looked at her bands and went back to the bathroom to wash them.



Night came early in Moscow, the sun hidden by clouds that were starting to shed their load of snow. The delegation assembled in the embassy's foyer and filed off into their assigned cars for the arrival dinner. Ryan was in car number three-a slight promotion from the last trip, he noted wryly. Once the procession started moving, he remembered a driver's remark from the last time, that Moscow had street names mainly to identify the pothole collections. The car jolted its way east through the city's largely empty streets. They crossed the river right at the Kremlin, and motored past Gorkiy Park. He could see that the place was gaily lit, with people ice-skating in the falling snow. It was nice to see real people having real fun. Even Moscow was a city, he reminded himself, full of ordinary people living fairly ordinary lives. It was a fact too easy to forget when your job forced you to concentrate on a narrow group of enemies.

The car turned off October Square, and after an intricate maneuver, pulled up to the Academy of Sciences Hotel. It was a quasi-modern building that in America might have been taken for an office block. A forlorn string of birch trees sat between the gray concrete wall and the street, their bare, lifeless branches reaching into the speckled sky. Ryan shook his head. Given a few hours of snowfall, and it might actually be a beautiful scene. The temperature was zero or so-Ryan thought in Fahrenheit, not Celsius-and the wind almost calm. Perfect conditions for snow. He could feel the air heavy and cold around him as he walked into the hotel's main entrance.

Like most Russian buildings, it was overheated. Jack removed his overcoat and handed it over to an attendant. The Soviet delegation was already lined up to greet their American counterparts, and the Americans shuffled down the rank of Soviets, ending at a table of drinks of which everyone partook. There would be ninety minutes of drinking and socializing before the actual dinner. Welcome to Moscow. Ryan approved of the plan. Enough alcohol could make any meal seem a feast, and he'd yet to experience a Russian meal that rose above the ordinary. The room was barely lit, allowing everyone to watch the falling snow through the large plateglass windows.

"Hello again, Dr. Ryan," a familiar voice said.

"Sergey Nikolayevich, I hope you are not driving tonight," Jack said, gesturing with his wineglass to Golovko's vodka. His cheeks were already florid, his blue eyes sparkling with alcoholic mirth.

"Did you enjoy the flight in last night?" the GRU Colonel asked. He laughed merrily before Ryan could reply. "You still fear flying?"

"No, it's hitting the ground that worries me." Jack grinned. He had always been able to laugh at his own pet fear.

"Ah, yes, your back injury from the helicopter crash. One can sympathize."

Ryan waved at the window. "How much snow are we supposed to get tonight?"

"Perhaps half a meter, perhaps more. Not a very large storm, but tomorrow the air will be fresh and clear, and the city will sparkle with a clean blanket of white." Golovko was almost poetic in his description.

Already he's drunk, Ryan told himself. Well, tonight was supposed to be a social occasion, nothing more, and the Russians could be hospitable as hell when they wanted to be. Though one man was experiencing something very different, lack reminded himself.

"Your family is well?" Golovko asked within earshot of another American delegate.

"Yes, thank you. Yours?"

Golovko gestured for Ryan to follow him over to the drink table. The waiters hadn't come out yet. The intelligence officer selected another glass of clear liquor. "Yes, they are all well." He smiled broadly. Sergey was the very image of Russian good fellowship. His face didn't change a whit as bespoke his next sentence: "I understand that you want to meet Chairman Gerasimov."

Jesus! Jack's expression froze in place; his heart skipped a beat or two. "Really? How did you ever get that idea?"

"I'm not GRU, Ryan, not really. My original assignment was in Third Directorate, but I have since moved on to other things," he explained before laughing again. This laugh was genuine. He'd just invalidated CIA's file on himself-and, he could see, Ryan's own observation. His band reached out to pat Ryan on the upper arm. "I will leave you now. In five minutes you will walk through the door behind you and to the left as though looking for the men's room. After that, you will follow instructions. Understood?" He patted Ryan's arm again.

"Yes."

"I will not see you again tonight." They shook hands and Golovko moved off.

"Oh, shit," Ryan whispered to himself. A troupe of violins came into the reception room. There must have been ten or fifteen of them, playing gypsy airs as they circulated about. They must have practiced bard, Jack thought, to play in perfect synchronization despite the dark room and their own. random meanderings. Their movement and the relative darkness would make it hard to pick out individuals during the reception. It was a clever, professional touch aimed at making it easier for Jack to slip away.



"Hello, Dr. Ryan," another voice said. He was a young Soviet diplomat, a gofer who kept notes and ran errands for. the senior people. Now Jack knew that he was also KGB. Gerasimov was not content with a single surprise for the evening, he realized. He wanted to dazzle Ryan with KGB's prowess. We'll see about that, Jack thought, but the bravado seemed hollow even to himself. Too soon. Too Soon.

"Good evening-we've never met." Jack reached into his pants pocket and felt for his keychain. He hadn't forgotten it.

"My name is Vitally. Your absence will not be noticed. The men's room is that way." He pointed. Jack handed over is glass and walked toward the door. He nearly stopped dead on leaving the room. No one inside could have known it, but the corridor had been cleared. Except for one man at the far end, who gestured once. Ryan walked toward him.

0h, shit. Here we go...

He was a youngish man, on the short side of thirty. He looked like the physical type. Though his build was concealed by an overcoat, he moved in the brisk, efficient way of an athlete. His facial expression and penetrating eyes made him a bodyguard. The best thought that came to Ryan was that he was supposed to appear nervous. It didn't require much in the way of talent to do so. The man took him around the corner and handed him a Russian-made overcoat and fur hat, then spoke a single word:

"Come."

He led Ryan down a service corridor and out into the cold air of an alley. Another man was waiting outside, watching. He nodded curtly to Ryan's escort, who turned once and waved for Jack to hurry. The alley ended on Shabolovka Street, and both men turned right. This part of town was old, Jack saw at once. The buildings were mostly pre-revolution. The center of the street had trolley tracks embedded in cobblestones, and overhead were the catenary wires that supplied power to the streetcars. He watched as one rumbled past-actually it was two trains linked together, the colors white Over red. Both men sprinted across the slippery street toward a red brick building with what looked like a metal roof. Ryan wasn't sure what it was until they turned the corner.

The car barn, he realized, remembering similar places from his boyhood in Baltimore. The tracks curved in here, then diverged to the various bays in the barn. He paused for a moment, but his escort waved him forward urgently, moving to the left-most service bay. Inside it, of course, were streetcars, lined up like sleeping cattle in the darkness. It was totally still in there, he realized with surprise. There should have been people working, the sound of hammers and machine tools, but there was none of that. Ryan's heart pounded as he walked past two motionless trains. His escort stopped at the third. Its doors were open, and a third bodyguard-type stepped down and looked at Ryan. He immediately patted Jack down, seeking weapons but finding none in a quick but thorough search. A jerk of the thumb directed him up and into the tram.

It had evidently just come in, and there was snow on the first step. Ryan slipped and would have fallen had not one of the KGB men caught his arm. He gave Jack a look that in the West would have been accompanied by a smile, but the Russians are not a smiling people except when they want to be. He went up again, his hands firm on the safety rails. All you have to do...

"Good evening," a voice called. Not very loudly, but it didn't have to be. Ryan squinted in the darkness and saw the glowing orange light of a cigarette. He took a deep breath and walked toward it.

"Chairman Gerasimov, I presume?"

"You do not recognize me?" A trace of amusement. The man flicked his Western-made butane lighter to illuminate his face. It was Nikolay Borissovich Gerasimov. The flame gave his face exactly the right sort of look. The Prince of Darkness himself.

"I do now," Jack said, struggling to control his voice.

"I understand that you wish to speak with me. How may I be of service?" he asked in a courtly voice that belied the setting.

Jack turned and gestured to the two bodyguards who were standing at the front of the car. He turned back but didn't have to say anything. Gerasimov spoke a single word in Russian, and both men left.

"Please excuse them, but their duty is to protect the Chairman, and my people take their duties seriously." He waved to the seat opposite his. Ryan took it.

"I didn't know your English was so good."

"Thank you." A courteous nod followed by a businesslike observation: "I caution you that time is short. You have information for me?"

"Yes, I do." Jack reached inside his coat. Gerasimov tensed for a moment, then relaxed. Only a madman would try to kill the chief of the KGB, and he knew from Ryan's dossier that he was not mad. "I have something for you," said Ryan.

"Oh?" Impatience. Gerasimov was not a man who liked to be kept waiting. He watched Ryan's hands fumble with something, and was puzzled to hear the rasp of metal scraping against metal. Jack's clumsiness disappeared when the key came off the ring, and when he spoke, he was a man claiming another's pot.

"Here." Ryan handed it over.

"What is this?" Suspicion now. Something was very badly wrong, wrong enough that his voice betrayed him.

Jack didn't make him wait. He spoke in a voice he'd been rehearsing for a week. Without knowing it, he spoke faster than he'd planned. "That, Chairman Gerasimov, is the warhead-control key from the Soviet ballistic-missile submarine Krasny Oktyabr. It was given to me by Captain Marko Aleksandrovich Ramius when he defected. You will be pleased to know that he likes his new life in America, as do all of his officers."

"The submarine was-"

Ryan cut him off. There was scarcely enough light to see the outline of his face, but that was enough to see the change in the man's expression.

"Destroyed by her own scuttling charges? No. The spook aboard whose cover was ship's cook, Sudets, I think his name was-well, no sense in hiding it. I killed him. I'm not especially proud of that, but it was either him or me. For what it's worth, he was a very courageous young man," Jack said, remembering the ten horrible minutes in the submarine 's missile room. "Your file on me doesn't say anything about operations, does it?"

"But-"

Jack cut him off again. It was not yet the time for finesse. They had to jolt him, had to jolt him hard.

"Mr. Gerasimov, there are some things we want from you."

"Rubbish. Our conversation is ended." But Gerasimov didn't rise, and this time Ryan made him wait for a few beats.

"We want Colonel Filitov back. Your official report to the Politburo on Red October stated that the submarine was positively destroyed, and that a defection had probably never been planned, but rather that GRU security had been penetrated and that the submarine had been issued bogus orders after her engines had been sabotaged. That information came to you through Agent Cassius. He works for us," Jack explained. "You used it to disgrace Admiral Gorshkov and to reinforce your control over the military's internal security. They're still angry about that, aren't they? So, if we do not get Colonel Filitov back, this coming week in Washington a Story will be leaked to the press for the Sunday editions. It will have some of the details of the operation, and a photograph of the submarine sitting in a covered drydock in Norfolk, Virginia. After that we will produce Captain Ramius. He'll say that the ship's political officer-one of your Department Three men, 1 believe-Was part of the conspiracy. Unfortunately, Putin died after arriving, of a heart attack. That's a lie, but try proving it."

"You cannot blackmail me, Ryan!" There was no emotion at all now.

"One more thing. SDI is not on the bargaining table. Did you tell the Politburo that it was?" Jack asked. "You're finished, Mr. Gerasimov. We have the ability to disgrace you, and you're just too good a target to pass up. If we don't get Filitov back, we can leak all sorts of things. Some will be confirmed, but the really good ones will be denied, of course, while the FBI launches an urgent investigation to identify the leakers."

"You did not do all this for Filitov," Gerasimov said, his voice measured now.

"Not exactly." Again he made him wait for it: "We want you to come out, too."

Jack walked out of the tram five minutes later. His escort walked him back to the hotel. The attention to detail was impressive. Before rejoining the reception, Jack's shoes were wiped dry. On reentering the room he walked at once to the drink table, but found it empty. He spotted a waiter with a tray, and took the first thing he could reach. It turned out to be vodka, but Ryan gunned it down in a single gulp before reaching for another. When he finished that one, he started wondering where the men's room really was. It turned out to be exactly where he'd been told. Jack got there just in time.



It was as worked up as anyone had ever been with a computer simulation. They'd never run one quite this way before, of course, and that was the purpose of the test. The ground-control computer didn't know what it was doing, nor did any of the others. One machine was programmed to report a series of distant radar contacts. All it did was to receive a collection of signals like those generated by an orbiting Flying Cloud satellite, cued in turn by one of the DSPS birds at geosynchronous height. The computer relayed this information to the ground-control computer, which examined its criteria for weapons-free authority and decided that they had been met. It took a few seconds for the lasers to power up, but they reported being ready a few seconds later. The fact that the lasers in question did not exist was not pertinent to the test. The ground mirror did, and it responded to instructions from the computer, sending the imaginary laser beam to the relay mirror eight hundred kilometers overhead. This mirror, so recently carried by the space shuttle and actually in California, received its own instructions and altered its configuration accordingly, relaying the laser beam to the battle mirror. This mirror was at the Lockheed factory rather than in orbit, and received its instructions via landline. At all three mirrors a precise record was kept of the ever-changing focal-length and azimuth settings. This information was sent to the score-keeping computer at Tea Clipper Control.

There had been several purposes to the test that Ryan-had observed a few weeks before. In validating the system architecture, they had also received priceless empirical data on the actual functioning characteristics of the hardware. As a result they could simulate real exercises on the ground with near-absolute confidence in the theoretical results.

Gregory was rolling a ballpoint pen between his hands as the data came up on the video-display terminal. He'd just stopped chewing on it for fear of getting a mouth full of ink.

"Okay, there's the last shot," an engineer observed. "Here comes the score...

"Wow!" Gregory exclaimed. "Ninety-six out of a hundred! What's the cycle time?"

"Point zero-one-six," a software expert replied. "That's point zero-zero-four under nominal-we can double-check every aim-command while the laser cycles-"

"And that increases the Pk thirty percent all by itself," Gregory said. "We can even try doing shoot-look-shoot instead of shoot-shoot-look and still save time on the back end. People!"-he jumped to his feet-"we have done it! The software is in the fuckin can!" Four months sooner than promised!

The room erupted with cheering that no one outside the team of thirty people could possibly have understood. 9

"Okay, you -laser pukes!" someone called. "Get your act together and build us a death ray! The gunsight is finished!"

"Be nice to the laser pukes." Gregory laughed. "I work with them too."

Outside the room, Beatrice Taussig was merely walking past the door on her way to an admin meeting when she heard the cheering. She couldn't enter the lab-it had a cipher lock, and she didn't have the combination-but didn't have to. The experiment that they'd hinted at over dinner the night before had just been run. The result was obvious enough. Candi was in there, probably standing right next to the Geek, Bea thought. She kept walking.



"Thank God there's not much ice," Mancuso observed, looking through the periscope. "Call it two feet, maybe three."

"There will be a clear channel here. The icebreakers keep all the coastal ports open," Ramius said.

"Down 'scope," the Captain said next. He walked over to the chart table. "I want you to- move us two thousand yards south, then bottom us out. That'll put us under a hard roof and ought to keep the Grishas and Mirkas away."

"Aye, Captain," the XO replied.

"Let's go get some coffee," Mancuso said to Ramius and Clark. He led them down one deck and to starboard into the wardroom. For all the times he'd done things like this in the past four years, Mancuso was nervous. They were in less than two hundred feet of water, within sight of the Soviet coast. If detected and then localized by a Soviet ship, they would be attacked. It had happened before. Though no Western submarine had ever suffered actual damage, there was a first time for everything, especially if you started taking things for granted, the Captain of USS Dallas told himself. Two feet of ice was too much for the thin-hulled Grisha-class patrol boats to plow through, and their main antisubmarine weapon, a multiple rocket launcher called an RBU-6000, was useless over ice, but a Grisha could call in a submarine. There were Russian subs about. They'd heard two the previous day.

"Coffee, sir?" the wardroom attendant asked. He got a nod and brought out a pot and cups.

"You sure this is close enough?" Mancuso asked Clark.

"Yeah, I can get in and out."

"It won't be much fun," the Captain observed.

Clark smirked. "That's why they pay me so much. I-"

Conversation stopped for a moment. The submarine's hull creaked as it settled on the bottom, and the boat took on a slight list. Mancuso looked at the coffee in his cup and figured it for six or seven degrees. Submariner machismo prevented him from showing any reaction, but he'd never done this, at least not with Dallas. A handful of submarines in the U.S. Navy were specially designed for these missions. Insiders could identify them at a glance from the arrangement of a few hull fittings, but Dallas wasn't one of them.

"I wonder how long this is going to take?" Mancuso asked the overhead.

"May not happen at all," Clark observed. "Almost half of them don't. The longest I've ever had to sit like this was...twelve days, I think. Seemed like an awfully long time. That one didn't come off."

"Can you say how many?" Ramius asked.

"Sorry, sir." Clark shook his head.

Ramius spoke wistfully. "You know, when I was a boy, I fished here-right here many times. We never knew that you Americans came here to fish also."

"It's a crazy world," Clark agreed. "How's the fishing?"

"In the summer, very good. Old Sasha took me out on his boat. This is where I learned the sea, where I learned to be a sailor."

"What about the local patrols?" Mancuso asked, getting everyone back to business.

"There will be a low state of readiness. You have diplomats in Moscow, so the chance of war is slight. The surface patrol ships are mainly KGB. They guard against smugglers-and spies." He pointed to Clark. "Not so good against submarines, but this was changing when I left. They were increasing their ASW practice in Northern Fleet, and, I hear, in Baltic Fleet also. But this is bad place for submarine detection. There is much fresh water from the rivers, and the ice overhead-all makes for difficult sonar conditions."

That's good to hear, Mancuso thought. His ship was in an increased state of readiness. The sonar equipment was fully manned and would remain so indefinitely. He could get Dallas moving in a matter of two minutes, and that should be ample, he thought.



Gerasimov was thinking, too. He was alone in his office. A man who controlled his emotions even more than most Russians, his face displayed nothing out of the way, even though there was no one else in the room to notice. In most people that would have been remarkable, for few can contemplate their own destruction with objectivity.

The Chairman of the Committee for State Security assessed his position as thoroughly and dispassionately as he examined any aspect of his official duties. Red October. It all flowed out from that. He had used the Red October incident to his advantage, first suborning Gorshkov, then disposing of him; he'd also used it to strengthen the position of his Third Directorate arm. The military had begun to manage its own internal security-but Gerasimov had seized upon his report from Agent Cassius to convince the Politburo that the KGB alone could ensure the loyalty and security of the Soviet military. That had earned him resentment. He'd reported, again via Cassius, that Red October bad been destroyed. Cassius had told KGB that Ryan was under criminal suspicion, and-And we-I!-walked into the trap.

How could he explain that to the Politburo? One of his best agents had been doubled-but when? They'd ask that, and he didn't know the answer; therefore all the reports received from Cassius would become, suspect. Despite the fact that much good data had come from the agent, knowledge that he'd been doubled at an unknown time tainted all of it. And that wrecked his vaunted insights into Western political thought.

He'd wrongly reported that the submarine hadn't defected, and not discovered the error. The Americans had gotten an intelligence windfall, but KGB didn't know of it. Neither did GRU, but that was little comfort.

And he'd reported that the Americans had made a major change in their arms-negotiation strategy, and that, too, was wrong.

Could he survive all three disclosures at once? Gerasimov asked himself.

Probably not.

In another age he would have faced death, and that would have made the decision all the easier. No man chooses death, at least not a sane one, and Gerasimov was coldly sane in everything he did. But that sort of thing didn't happen now. He'd end up with a subministerial job somewhere or other, shuffling papers. His KGB contacts would be useless to him beyond such meaningless favors as access to decent groceries. People would watch him walking on the street-no longer afraid to look him in the face, no longer fearful of his power, they'd point and laugh behind his back. People in his office would gradually lose their deference, and talk back, even shout at him once they knew that his power was well and truly gone. No, he said to himself, I will not endure that.

To defect, then? To go from being one of the world's most powerful men to becoming a hireling, a mendicant who traded what he knew for money and a comfortable life? Gerasimov accepted the fact that his life would become more comfortable in physical terms-but to lose his power!

That was the issue, after all. Whether he left or stayed, to become just another man...that would be like death, wouldn't it?

Well, what do you do now?

He had to change his position, had to change the rules of the game, had to do something so dramatic...but what?

The choice was between disgrace and defection? To lose everything he'd worked for-within sight of his goal-and face a choice like this?

The Soviet Union is not a nation of gamblers. Its national strategy has always been more reflective of the Russians' national passion for chess, a series of careful, pre-planned moves, never risking much, always protecting its position by seeking small, progressive advantages wherever possible. The Politburo had almost always moved in that way. The Politburo itself was largely composed of similar men. More than half were apparatchiks who had spoken the appropriate words, filled the necessary quotas, taking what advantages they could, and who had won advancement through a stolidness whose perfection they could display around the table in the Kremlin. But the function of those men was to provide a moderating influence on those who aspired to rule, and these men were the gamblers. Narmonov was a gambler. So was Gerasimov. He'd play his own game, allying himself with Alexandrov to establish his ideological constituency, blackmailing Vaneyev and Yazov to betray their master.

And it was too fine a game to quit so easily. He had to change the rules again, but the game did not really have any rules-except for the one: Win.

If he won-the disgraces would not matter, would they?

Gerasimov took the key from his pocket and examined it for the first time in the light of his desk lamp. It looked ordinary enough. Used in the designed manner, it would make possible the deaths of-fifty million? A hundred? More? The Directorate Three men on the submarines and in the land-based rocket regiments held that power-the zampolit, the political officer alone had the authority to activate the warheads without which the rockets were mere fireworks. Turn this key in the proper way at the proper time, he knew, and the rockets were transformed into the most frightening instruments of death yet devised by the mind of man. Once launched, nothing could stop them...

But that rule was going to be changed, too, wasn't it?

What was it worth to be the man who could do that?

"Ah." Gerasimov smiled. It was worth more than all the other rules combined, and he remembered that the Americans had broken a rule, too, in killing their courier in the Moskvich railyard. He lifted his phone and called for a communications officer. For once the longitudinal lines worked in his favor.



Dr. Taussig was surprised when she saw the signal. One thing about "Ann" was that she never altered her routine. Despite the fact that she'd impulsively visited her contact, heading to the shopping center was her normal Saturday routine. She parked her Datsun fairly far out, lest some klutz in a Chevy Malibu smash his door against hers. On the way in, she saw Ann's Volvo, and the driver's side visor was down. Taussig checked her watch and increased her pace to the entrance. On going in, she turned left.



Peggy Jennings was working alone today. They were spread too thin to get the job done as fast as Washington wanted, but that wasn't exactly a new story, was it? The setting was both good and bad. Following her subject to the shopping mall was fairly easy, but once inside it was damned near impossible to trail a subject properly, unless you had a real team of agents operating. She got to the door only a minute behind Taussig, already knowing that she'd lost her. Well, this was only a preliminary look at her. Routine, Jennings told herself on opening the door.

Jennings looked up and down the mall and failed to see her subject. Frowning for a moment, she commenced a leisurely stroll from shop to shop, gazing in the windows and wondering if Taussig had gone to a movie.



"Hello, Ann!"

"Bea!" Bisyarina said inside Eve's Leaves. "How are you?"

"Keeping busy," Dr. Taussig replied. "That looks wonderful on you. "

"She's so easy to fit," the shop owner observed.

"Easier than me," Taussig agreed glumly. She lifted a suit from the nearest rack and walked to a mirror. Severely cut, it suited her present mood. "Can I try this one on?"

"Surely," the owner said at once. It was a three-hundred-dollar outfit.

"Need a hand?" "Ann" asked.

"Sure-you can tell me what you're up to." Both women walked back to the dressing rooms.

Within the booth, both women chatted away, discussing the everyday things that differ little between women and men. Bisyarina handed over a slip of paper, which Taussig read. The latter's conversation stuttered for a moment before she nodded agreement. Her face switched from shock to acceptance, then switched again to something that Bisyarina did not like at all-but the KGB didn't pay her to like her job.

The suit fitted rather nicely, the owner saw when they came out. Taussig paid the way most people did, with a credit card. Ann waved and left, turning to walk past the gun shop on her way out the mall.

Jennings saw her subject come out of the shop a few minutes later, carrying a clear plastic garment bag. Well, that's what it was, she told herself. Whatever was bothering her the other night, she went shopping to make herself feel better and got another one of those suits. Jennings followed her for another hour before breaking off the surveillance. Nothing there.



"He's one cool dude," Ryan told Candela. "I didn't expect him to jump into my lap and thank me for the offer, but I expected some reaction!"

"Well, if he bites, he'll get word to you easy enough."

"Yeah."





Chapter 21 -- Knave's Gambit



The Archer tried to tell himself that the weather was no man's ally, but surely this was not true. The skies were clear, the winds cold and from the northeast, sweeping down from the frigid center of Siberia. He wanted clouds. They could move only in darkness now. That made progress slow, and the longer they were here in Soviet territory, the greater the chance that someone would notice them, and if they were noticed...

There was little need to speculate about that. All he had was raise his head to watch the armored vehicles motoring along the Dangara road. There was at least a battalion stationed around here, possibly a whole regiment of motor-rifle troops who constantly patrolled the roads and tracks. His force was large and formidable by mudjaheddin standards, but against Russians in regimental force on their own land, only Allah Himself could save them. And perhaps not even Him? the Archer wondered, then chastised himself for the unspoken blasphemy.

His son was not far away, probably less than the distance they'd traveled to be here -- but where? A place he would never find. The Archer was certain of that. He'd given up hope long ago. His son would be raised in the alien, infidel ways of the Russians, and all he could do was pray that Allah would come to his son before it was too late. To steal children, surely that was the most heinous of all crimes. To rob them of their parents and their faith...well, there was no need to dwell on that.

Every one of his men had reason enough to hate the Russians. Families killed or scattered, homes bombed. His men did not know that this was the usual business of modern war. As "primitives," they felt that battles were affairs for warriors alone. Their leader knew that this had stopped being true long before any of them was born. He didn't understand why the "civilized" nations of the world had changed this sensible rule, but he only needed to know that it was. With this knowledge had come the awareness that his destiny was not the one he'd selected for himself. The Archer wondered if any man truly chose his fate, or was it not all in greater hands than those which held book or rifle? But that was another complex, useless thought, since for the Archer and his men, the world had distilled itself to a few simple truths and a few deep hates. Perhaps that would someday change, but for the mudjaheddin the world was limited to what they could see and feel now. To search further was to lose sight of what mattered, and that meant death. The only great thought held by his men was their faith, and for the moment that was enough.

The last vehicle in the column disappeared around the bend in the road. The Archer shook his head. He'd had enough of thinking for the present. The Russians he'd just watched had all been inside their tracked BMP infantry carriers, inside where they could be kept warm by the fighting vehicle's heater; inside where they could not see out very well. That was what mattered. He raised his head to see his men, well camouflaged by their Russian-issue clothing and hidden behind rocks, lying in crevices, paired off, which allowed one to sleep while the other, like their leader, watched and kept guard. The Archer looked up to see the sun now in decline. Soon it would slide behind the mountain ridge, and his men could resume their march north. He saw the sun glint off the aluminum skin of an aircraft as it turned in the air high overhead.



Colonel Bondarenko had a window seat and was staring down at the forbidding mountains. He remembered his brief tour of duty in Afghanistan, the endless, leg-killing mountains where one could travel in a perfect circle and seem to go uphill all the way. Bondarenko shook his head. That, at least, was behind him. He'd served his time, tasted combat, and now he could go back to applied engineering science which was, after all, his first love. Combat operations were a young man's game, and Gennady Iosifovich was over forty now. Having once proven that he could climb the rocks with the young bucks, he was resolved never to do so again. Besides, there was something else on his mind.



What's happening with Misha? he asked himself. When the man had disappeared from the Ministry, he'd naturally assumed that the older man was ill. When the absence had lasted several days, he took it to be serious and asked the Minister if Colonel Filitov had been hospitalized. The reply at the time had been reassuring -- but now he wondered. Minister Yazov had been a little too glib -- then Bondarenko had gotten orders to return to Bright Star for an extended evaluation of the site. The Colonel felt that he was being shuffled out of the way -- but why? Something about the way Yazov had reacted to his innocent inquiry? Then there was the matter of the surveillance he'd spotted. Could the two things be connected? The connection was so obvious that Bondarenko ignored it without conscious consideration. It was simply impossible that Misha could have been the target of a security investigation, and even less possible that the investigation should develop substantive evidence of misdeeds. The most likely thing, he concluded, was that Misha was off on a top-secret job for Yazov. Surely he did a lot of that. Bondarenko looked down at the massive earthwork of the Nurek power dam. The second string of power lines was almost done, he noted, as the airliner dropped flaps and wheels for a landing at Dushanbe-East He was the first man to leave the aircraft after landing.

"Gennady Iosifovich!"

"Good morning, Comrade General," Bondarenko said in some surprise.

"Come with me," Pokryshkin said, after returning the Colonel's salute. "You don't want to ride that damned bus." He waved to his sergeant, who wrested away Bondarenko's bag.

"You didn't need to come yourself."

"Rubbish." Pokryshkin led the parade to his personal helicopter, whose rotor was already turning. "One day I must read that report you drafted. I just had three ministers here yesterday. Now everyone understands how important we are. Our funding is being increased twenty-five percent -- I wish I could write that kind of report!"

"But I -- "

"Colonel, I don't want to hear it. You have seen the truth and communicated it to others. You are now part of the Bright Star family. I want you to think about coming to us full time after your Moscow tour is finished. According to your file, you have excellent engineering and administrative credentials, and I need a good second-in-command." He turned with a conspiratorial look. "I don't suppose I could talk you into an air-force uniform?"

"Comrade General, I -- "

"I know, once a soldier of the Red Army, always a soldier of the Red Army. We will not hold it against you. Besides, you can help me with those KGB boneheads on perimeter guard. They can bluster their expertise at a broken-down fighter pilot, but not against a man with the Red Banner for close combat." The General waved for the pilot to take off. Bondarenko was surprised that the commander wasn't flying the aircraft himself. "I tell you, Gennady, in a few years this will be a whole new service branch. 'Cosmic Defense Troops,' perhaps. There will be room for you to create a whole new career, and plenty of room for advancement. I want you to give that some serious thought. You will probably be a general in three or four years anyway, but I can guarantee you more stars than the Army can."

"For the moment, however...?" He'd think about that, but not in a helicopter.

"We're looking at the mirror and computer plans the Americans are using. The chief of our mirror group thinks he can adapt their designs to our hardware. It will take about a year to come up with the plans, he says, but he doesn't know about the actual engineering. Meanwhile we're assembling some reserve lasers and trying to simplify the design to make maintenance easier."

"That's another two years' work," Bondarenko observed.

"At least," General Pokryshkin agreed. "This program will not come to fruition before I leave. That's inevitable. If we have one more major test success, I will be recalled to Moscow to head the Ministry office, and at best the system will not be deployed before I retire." He shook his head sadly. "It's a hard thing to accept, how long these projects take now. That's why I want you here. I need a young man who will carry this project all the way through. I've looked at a score of officers. You're the best of them, Gennady Iosifovich. I want you here to take over from me when the time comes."

Bondarenko was stunned. Pokryshkin had selected him, doubtless in preference to men from his own service branch.

"But you hardly know me -- "

"I did not get to be a general officer by being ignorant of people. You have the qualities that I look for, and you are at just the right part of your career -- ready for an independent command. Your uniform is less important than the type of man you are. I've already telexed the Minister to this effect."

Well. Bondarenko was still too surprised to be pleased. And all because Old Misha decided that I was the best man to make an inspection tour. I hope he's not too ill.

"He's been going over nine hours now," one of the officers said almost accusingly to Vatutin. The Colonel bent to look in the fiber-optic tube and watched the man for several minutes. He was lying down at first, tossing and turning fitfully as he tried willing himself to sleep, but that effort was doomed to failure. After that came the nausea and diarrhea from the caffeine that denied him sleep. Next he rose and resumed the pacing he'd been doing for hours, trying to tire himself into the sleep that part of his body demanded while the remainder objected.

"Get him up here in twenty minutes." The KGB Colonel looked at his subordinate with amusement. He'd slept only seven hours and spent the last two making sure that the orders he'd given before turning in had been carried out in full. Then he'd showered and shaved. A messenger had fetched a fresh uniform from his apartment while an orderly had polished his boots to a mirrorlike luster. Vatutin finished off his own breakfast and treated himself to an extra cup of coffee brought down from the senior-officers' mess. He ignored the looks he was getting from the other members of his interrogation team, not even giving them a cryptic smile to indicate that he knew what he was doing. If they didn't know that by now, then the hell with them. Finished, he wiped his mouth with the napkin and walked to the interrogation room.

Like most such rooms, the bare table it held was more than it appeared to be. Under the lip where the tabletop overlapped the supporting frame were several buttons that he could press without anyone's noticing. Several microphones were set in the apparently blank walls, and the single adornment on them, a mirror, was actually two-way, so that the subject could be observed and photographed from the next room.

Vatutin sat down and got out the folder that he'd be putting away when Filitov arrived. His mind went over what he'd do. He already had it fully planned, of course, including the wording of his verbal report to Chairman Gerasimov. He checked his watch, nodded to the mirror, and spent the next several minutes composing himself for what was to come. Filitov arrived right on time. He looked strong, Vatutin saw. Strong but haggard. That was the caffeine with which his last meal had been laced. The façade he projected was hard, but brittle and thin. Filitov showed irritation now. Before, he'd shown only resolve.

"Good morning, Filitov," Vatutin said, hardly looking up.

"Colonel Filitov to you. Tell me, when will this charade be over-?"

He probably believes that, too, Vatutin told himself. The subject had so often repeated the story of how Vatutin had placed the film cassette in his hand that he might have halfway believed it now. That was not unusual. He took his chair without asking permission, and Vatutin waved the turnkey out of the room.

"When did you decide to betray the Motherland?" Vatutin asked.

"When did you decide to stop buggering little boys?" the old man replied angrily.

"Filitov -- excuse me, Colonel Filitov -- you know that you were arrested with a microfilm cassette in your hand, only two meters from an American intelligence officer. On that microfilm cassette was information about a highly secret State defense-research installation, which information you have been giving for years to the Americans. There is no question of this, in case you have forgotten," Vatutin explained patiently.

"What I am asking is, how long you have been doing this?"

"Go bugger yourself," Misha suggested. Vatutin noticed a slight tremor in his hands. "I am three times Hero of the Soviet Union. I was killing the enemies of this country while you were an ache in your father's crotch, and you have the balls to call me traitor?"

"You know, when I was in grammar school, I read books about you. Misha, driving the fascisti back from the gates of Moscow. Misha, the demon tankist. Misha, the Hero of Stalingrad. Misha, killer of Germans. Misha, leading the counterattack at the Kursk Bulge. Misha," Vatutin said finally, "traitor to the Motherland"

Misha waved his hand, looking in annoyance at the way it shook. "I have never had much respect for the chekisti. When I was leading my men, they were there -- behind us. They were very efficient at shooting prisoners-prisoners that real soldiers had taken. They were also rather good at murdering people who'd been forced to retreat. I even remember one case where a chekist lieutenant took command of a tank troop and led it into a fucking swamp. At least the Germans I killed were men, fighting men. I hated them, but I could respect them for the soldiers they were. Your kind, on the other hand...perhaps we simple soldiers never really understood who the enemy was. Sometimes I wonder who has killed more Russians, the Germans, or people like you?"

Vatutin was unmoved. "The traitor Penkovskiy recruited you, didn't he?"

"Rubbish! I reported Penkovskiy myself." Filitov shrugged. He was surprised at the way he felt, but was unable to control it. "I Suppose your kind does have its use. Oleg Penkovskiy was a sad, confused man who paid the price that such men have to pay."

"As will you," Vatutin said.

"I cannot prevent you from killing me, but I have seen death too many times. Death has taken my wife and my sons. Death has taken so many of my comrades-and death has tried to take me often enough. Sooner or later death will win, whether from you or someone else. I have forgotten how to fear that."

"Tell me, what do you fear?"

"Not you." This was delivered not with a smile, but with a cold, challenging glare.

"But all men fear something," Vatutin observed. "Did you fear combat?" Ah, Misha, you're talking too much now. Do you even know that?

"Yes, at first. The first time a shell hit my T-34, I wet my pants. But only that first time. After that I knew that the armor would stop most hits. A man can get accustomed to physical danger, and as an officer you are often too busy to realize that you're supposed to be afraid. You fear for the men under your command. You fear failure in a combat assignment, because others depend on you. You always fear pain -- not death, but pain." Filitov surprised himself by talking this much, but he'd had enough of this KGB slug. It was almost like the frenetic excitement of combat, sitting here and dueling with this man.

"I have read that all men fear combat, but that what sustains them is their self-image. They know that they cannot let their comrades perceive them to be less than what they are supposed to be. Men, therefore, fear cowardice more than danger. They fear betraying their manhood, and their fellow soldiers." Misha nodded slightly. Vatutin pressed one of the buttons under the table. "Filitov, you have betrayed your men. Can't you see that? Don't you understand that in giving defense secrets to the enemy, you have betrayed all the men who served with you?"

"It will take more than your words to -- "

The door opened quietly. The young man who entered wore dirty, greasy coveralls, and wore the ribbed helmet of a tank crewman. All the details were right: there was a trailing wire for the tank's interphones, and the powerful smell of powder came into the room with the young man. The coverall was torn and singed. His face and hands were bandaged. Blood dripped down from the covered eye, clearing a trail through the grime. And he was the living image of Aleksey Il'ych Romanov, Corporal of the Red Army, or as close to it as the KGB could manage in one frantic night's effort.

Filitov didn't hear him enter, but turned as soon as he noticed the smell. His mouth dropped open in shock.

"Tell me, Filitov," Vatutin said. "How do you think your men would react if they learned what you have done?" The young man -- he was in fact a corporal who worked for a minor functionary in the Third Directorate -- did not say a word. The chemical irritant in his right eye was making it water, and while the youngster struggled not to grimace at the pain it caused him, the tears ran down his cheeks. Filitov didn't know that his meal had been drugged -- so disoriented was he by his stay in Lefortovo that he no longer had the ability to register the things that were being done to him. The caffeine had induced the exact opposite of a drunken state.

His mind was as wide awake as it had been in combat, all his senses sought input, noticed everything that was happening around him -- but all through the night there had been nothing to report. Without data to pass on, his senses had begun making things up, and Filitov had been hallucinating when the guards had come to fetch him. In Vatutin he had a target on which to fix his psyche. But Misha was also tired, exhausted by the routine to which he had been subjected, and the combination of wakefulness and bone-crushing fatigue had placed him in a dreamlike state where he no longer had the ability to distinguish the real from the imaginary.

"Turn around, Filitov!" Vatutin boomed. "Look at me when I address you! I asked you a question: What of all the men who served you?"

"Who -- "

"Who? The men you led, you old fool!"

"But -- " He turned again, and the figure was gone.

"I've been looking through your file, all those citations you wrote for your men -- more than most commanders. Ivanenko here, and Pukhov, and this Corporal Romanov. All the men who died for you, what would they think now?"

"They would understand!" Misha insisted as the anger took over completely.

"What would they understand? Tell me now, what is it that they would understand?"

"Men like you killed them -- not I, not the Germans, but men like you!"

"And your sons, too, eh?"

"Yes! My two handsome sons, my two strong, brave boys, they went to follow in my footsteps and -- "

"Your wife, too?"

"That above all!" Filitov snarled back. He leaned forward across the table. "You have taken everything from me, you chekist bastard-and you wonder that I needed to fight back at you? No man has served the State better than I, and look at my reward, look at the gratitude of the Party. All that was my world you have taken away, and you say that I have betrayed the Rodina, do you? You have betrayed her, and you have betrayed me!"

"And because of that, Penkovskiy approached you, and because of that you have been feeding information to the West -- you've fooled us all these years!"

"It is no great thing to fool the likes of you!" He pounded his fist on the table. "Thirty years, Vatutin, thirty years I have -- I have -- " He stopped, a curious look on his face, wondering what he had just said.

Vatutin took his time before speaking, and when he did so, his voice was gentle. "Thank you, Comrade Colonel. That is quite enough for now. Later we will talk about exactly what you have given the West. I despise you for what you have done, Misha. I cannot forgive or understand treason, but you're the bravest man I have ever met. I hope that you can face what remains of your life with equal bravery. It is important now that you face yourself and your crimes as courageously as you faced the fascisti, so that your life can end as honorably as you lived it." Vatutin pressed a button and the door opened. The guards took Filitov away, still looking back at the interrogator, more surprised than anything else. Surprised that he'd been tricked. He'd never understand how it had been done, but then they rarely did, the Colonel of the Second Chief Directorate told himself. He rose, too, after a minute, collecting his files in a businesslike way before he walked out of the room and upstairs.

"You would have been a fine psychiatrist," the doctor observed first of all.

"I hope the tape machines got all of that," Vatutin said to his technicians.

"All three, plus the television record."

"That was the hardest one I've ever come across," a major said.

"Yes, he was a hard one. A brave one. Not an adventurer, not a dissident. That one was a patriot -- or that's what the poor bastard thought he was. He wanted to save the country from the Party." Vatutin shook his head in wonderment. "Where do they get such ideas?"

Your Chairman, he reminded himself, wants to do much the same thing -- or more accurately to save the country for the Party. Vatutin leaned against the wall for a moment while he tried to decide how similar or how different the motivation was. He concluded quickly that this was not a proper thought for a simple counterintelligence officer. At least not yet. Filitov got his ideas from the clumsy way the Party treated his family. Well, even though the Party says it never makes mistakes, we all know differently. What a pity that Misha couldn't make that allowance. After all, the Party is all we have.

"Doctor, make sure he gets some rest," he said on the way out. There was a car waiting for him.

Vatutin was surprised to see that it was morning. He'd allowed himself to focus too fully these last two days, and he'd thought that it would be nighttime. So much the better, though: he could see the Chairman right now. The really amazing part was that he was actually on a fairly normal schedule. He could go home tonight and get a normal night's sleep, reacquaint himself with wife and family, watch some television Vatutin smiled to himself. He could also look forward to a promotion, he told himself. After all, he'd broken the man earlier than promised. That ought to make the Chairman happy.

Vatutin caught him between meetings. He found Gerasimov in a pensive mood, staring out his window at the traffic on Dzerzhinskiy Square.

"Comrade Chairman I have the confession," Vatutin announced. Gerasimov turned.

"Filitov?"

"Why, yes, Comrade Chairman." Vatutin allowed his surprise to show.

Gerasimov smiled after a moment. "Excuse me, Colonel. There is an operational matter on my mind at the moment. You do have his confession?"

"Nothing detailed yet, of course, but he did admit that he was sending secrets to the West, and that he has been doing so for thirty years."

"Thirty years -- and all that time we didn't detect it..." Gerasimov noted quietly.

"That is correct," Vatutin admitted. "But we have caught him, and we will spend weeks learning all that he has compromised. I think we will find that his placement and operational methods made detection difficult, but we will learn from this, as we have learned from all such cases. In any event, you required the confession and now we have it," the Colonel pointed out.

"Excellent," the Chairman replied. "When will your written report be ready?"

"Tomorrow?" Vatutin asked without thinking. He nearly cringed awaiting the reply. He expected to have his head snapped off, but Gerasimov thought for an infinity of seconds before nodding.

"That is sufficient. Thank you, Comrade Colonel. That will be all."

Vatutin drew himself to attention and saluted before leaving.

Tomorrow? he asked himself in the corridor. After all that, he's willing to wait until tomorrow? What the hell? It didn't make any sense. But Vatutin had no immediate explanation, either, and he did have a report to file. The Colonel walked to his office, pulled out a lined pad, and started drafting his interrogation report.



"So that's the place?" Ryan asked.

"That's it. Used to be they had a toy store right across from it, over there. Called Children's World, would you believe? I suppose somebody finally noticed how crazy that was, and they just moved it. The statue in the middle is Feliks Dzerzhinskiy. That was a cold bloody piece of work -- next to him Heinrich Himmler was a boy scout."

"Himmler wasn't as smart," Jack observed.

"True enough. Feliks broke at least three attempts to bring Lenin down, and one of them was pretty serious. The full story on that never has gotten out, but you can bet the records are right in there," the driver said. He was an Australian, part of the company contracted to handle perimeter security for the embassy, and a former commando of the Aussie SAS. He never performed any actual espionage activities -- at least not for America -- but he often played the part, doing strange things. He'd learned to spot and shake tails along the way, and that made the Russians certain that he was CIA or some sort of spook. He made an excellent tour guide, too.

He checked the mirror. "Our friends are still there. You don't expect anything, do you?"

"We'll see." Jack turned. They weren't being very subtle, but he hadn't expected that they would. "Where's Frunze?"

"South of the embassy, mate. You should have told me that you wanted to go there, we'd have hit it first." He made a legal U-turn while Ryan kept looking back. Sure enough, the Zhiguli -- it looked like an old Fiat -- did the same, following them like a faithful dog. They went past the American compound again on the way, past the former Greek Orthodox church known to embassy wags as Our Lady of the Microchips for all the surveillance devices it surely contained.

"What exactly are we doing?" the driver asked.

"We're just driving around. The last time I was here, all I saw was the way to and from the Foreign Ministry and the inside of a palace."

"And if our friends get any closer?"

"Well, if they want to talk with me, I suppose I might oblige," Ryan answered.

"Are you serious?" He knew Ryan was CIA.

"You bet." Jack chuckled.

"You know I have to do a written report on things like that?"

"You have your job. I have mine." They drove around for another hour, but nothing happened. That was to Ryan's disappointment, and the driver's relief.



They arrived the usual way. Though the crossing points were shuffled at random, the car -- it was a Plymouth Reliant, about four years old, with Oklahoma tags -- stopped at the Border Patrol control booth. There were three men inside, one of whom appeared to be asleep and had to be roused.

"Good evening," the Border Patrolman said. "Could I see some identification, please?" All three men handed over driver's licenses, and the photographs matched. "Anything to declare?"

"Some booze. Two quarts -- I mean liters -- for each of us." He watched with interest as a dog sniffed around the car. "You want us to pull over and pop the trunk?"

"Why were you in Mexico?"

"We represent Cummings-Oklahoma Tool and Die. Pipeline and refinery equipment," the driver explained. "Mainly large-diameter control valves and like that. We're trying to sell some to Pemex. The sales stuff is in the trunk, too."

"Any luck?" the Border Patrolman asked.

"First try. It'll take a few more. They usually do." The dog handler shook his head negatively. His Labrador wasn't interested in the car. No smell of drugs. No smell of nitrates. The men in the car didn't fit the profile. They looked fairly clean-cut, but not overly so, and had not chosen a busy tune to make the crossing.

"Welcome back," the patrolman said. "Safe trip home."

"Thank you, sir." The driver nodded and dropped the car into drive. "See ya."

"I don't believe it," the man in the back said, once they were a hundred meters away from the control point. He spoke in English. "They don't have the first idea of security." "My brother's a major in the Border Guards. I think he'd have a heart attack if he saw how easy that was," the driver observed. He didn't laugh. The hard part would be getting out, and as of now they were in enemy territory. He drove right at the posted speed limit while local drivers whizzed by him. He liked the American car. Though it lacked power, he'd never driven a car with more than four cylinders and didn't really know the difference. He'd been in the United States four times before, but never for a job like this, and never with so little preparation.

All three spoke perfect American English, with a prairie twang to coincide with their identification papers -- that's how they all thought of their driver's licenses and Social Security cards, even though they could hardly be called proper "papers." The odd thing was that he liked America, especially the easy availability of inexpensive, wholesome food. He'd stop at a fast-food place on the way to Santa Fe, preferably a Burger King, where he'd indulge his love for a charcoal-cooked hamburger served with lettuce, tomatoes, and mayonnaise. That was one of the things Soviets found most amazing about America, the way anyone could get food without standing in a block-long line. And it was usually good food. How could Americans be so good at difficult tasks like food production and distribution, he wondered, and be so stupid about simple things like proper security? They just didn't make any sense at all, but it was wrong -- dangerous -- to be contemptuous of them. He understood that. The Americans played by a set of rules so different as to be incomprehensible...and there was so much randomness here. That frightened the KGB officer in a fundamental way. You couldn't tell which way they'd jump any more than you could predict the behavior of a driver on a highway. More than anything else, it was that unpredictability that reminded him that he was on the enemy's ground. He and his men had to be careful, had to keep to their training. Being at ease in an alien environment was the surest route to disaster -- that lesson had been pounded home all the way through the academy. There were just too many things that training could not do. The KGB could scarcely predict What the American government would do. There was no way they could be prepared for the individual actions of two hundred-plus million people who bounced from decision to decision.

That was it, he thought. They have to make so many decisions every day. Which food to buy, which road to take, which car to drive. He wondered how his countrymen would handle such a huge load of decisions, forced upon you every day. Chaos, he knew. It would result in anarchy, and that was historically the greatest fear of Russians.

I wish we had roads like this at home," the man next to him said. The one in the back was asleep, for real this time. For both of them it was the first time in America. The operation had been laid on too fast. Oleg had done several jobs in South America, always covered as an American businessman. A Moscovite, he remembered that there, once you were twenty kilometers beyond the outer ring road, all the roads were gravel, or simply dirt. The Soviet Union did not have a single paved road that led from one border to another.

The driver -- his name was Leonid -- thought about that. "Where would the money come from?"

"True," Oleg agreed tiredly. They'd been driving for ten hours. "But you'd think we could have roads as good as Mexico."

"Hmph." But then people would have to choose where they wanted to go, and no one had ever bothered to train them how. He looked at the clock on the dashboard. Six more hours, maybe seven.



Captain Tania Bisyarina came to much the same conclusion as she checked the dashboard clock in her Volvo. The safe house in this case wasn't a house at all, but an old house-trailer that looked more like the sort used as mobile offices by contractors and engineers. It had started life as the former, but ended as the latter when an engineering firm had abandoned it a few years before, after half-completing their project in the hills south of Santa Fe. The drainage lines and sewers they'd been installing for a new housing development had never been finished. The developer had lost his financing, and the property was still tied up in court battles. The location was perfect, close to the interstate, close to the city, but hidden away behind a ridge and marked only by a dirt access road that even the local teenagers hadn't discovered yet for their post-dance parking. The visibility question was both good and bad news. Scrub pines hid the trailer from view, but also allowed clandestine approach. They'd have to post an outside guard. Well, you couldn't have everything. She'd driven in without lights, having carefully timed her arrival for a time when the nearest road was effectively deserted. From the back of her Volvo, she unloaded two bags of groceries. The trailer had no electricity, and all the food had to be nonperishable. That meant the meat was plastic-wrapped sausage, and she had a dozen cans of sardines. Russians love them. Once the groceries were in, she got a small suitcase from her car and set it next to the two jerricans of water in the nonfunctional bathroom.

She would have preferred curtains on the windows, but it was not a good idea to alter the appearance of the trailer too much. Nor was it a very good idea to have a car there. After the team arrived, they'd find a heavily wooded spot a hundred meters up the dirt road to leave it. That was also a minor annoyance, but one for which they had to prepare. Setting up safe houses was never as easy as people thought, certainly not the covert kind, even in places as open as America. It would have been somewhat easier if she'd had decent warning, but this operation had been laid on virtually overnight, and the only place she had was the rough-and-ready spot she'd picked out soon after arriving. It wasn't intended for anything other than a place for her to hole up, or perhaps safeguard her agent should it ever become necessary. It had never been intended for the mission at hand, but there wasn't time to make any other arrangements. The only other alternative was her own home, and that was definitely out. Bisyarina wondered if she'd be disciplined for not having scouted out a better location, but knew that she'd followed her instructions to the letter in all of her field activities.

The furniture was functional, though dirty. With nothing better to do, she wiped it off. The team leader coming in was a senior officer. She didn't know his name or face, but he had to have more rank than she did for this kind of job. When the trailer's single couch was reasonably presentable, she stretched out for a nap, having first set a small alarm to wake her in several hours. It seemed that she'd just lain down when the bell startled her off the vinyl Cushions.



They arrived an hour before dawn. The road signs made it easy, and Leonid had the route completely memorized. Five miles -- he had to think in miles now -- off the interstate, he turned right onto a side road. Just past a road sign advertising a cigarette, he saw the dirt road that seemingly led nowhere. He switched off the car's lights and coasted up to it, careful to keep his foot off the brake lest his taillights betray him in the trees. Over the first small ridge, the road dropped and curved to the right. There was the Volvo. Next to it was a figure.

This was always the tense part. He was making contact with a fellow KGB officer, but he knew of cases where things hadn't gone quite right. He set the parking brake and got out.

"Lost?" the woman's voice asked.

"I'm looking for Mountain View," he replied.

"That's on the other side of town," she said.

"Oh, I must have taken the wrong exit." He could see her relax when he completed the sequence.

"Tania Bisyarina. Call me Ann."

"I'm Bob," Leonid said. "In the car are Bill and Lenny."

"Tired?"

"We've been driving since dawn yesterday," Leonid/Bob answered.

"You can sleep inside. There's food and drink. No electricity, no running water. There are two flashlights and a gasoline lantern -- you can use that to boil water for coffee."

"When?"

"Tonight. Get your people inside and I'll show you where to move the car."

"How about getting out?"

"I don't know yet. What we have to do later today is complex enough." That launched her into a description of the operation. What surprised her, though it shouldn't have, was the professionalism of the three. Each of them had to be wondering what Moscow Center had in its head when it ordered this operation. What they were doing was insane enough, much less the timing. But none of the four allowed their personal feelings to interfere with business. The operation was ordered by Moscow Center, and Moscow knew what it was doing. The manuals all said so, and the field officers believed it, even when they knew they shouldn't.



Beatrice Taussig awoke an hour later. The days were getting longer, and now the sun didn't shine in her face when she drove to work. Instead it stared right through her bedroom window like an accusing eye. Today, she told herself, the dawn marked what was supposed to be a really new day, and she prepared herself to meet it. She started off with a shower and blow-dried her hair. Her coffee machine had already switched on, and she drank her first cup while she decided what she'd wear today. She told herself that it was an important decision, and found that it required more of a breakfast than a cup of coffee and a muffin. Such things require energy, she told herself gravely, and fixed eggs to go along with the rest. She'd have to remind herself to go light on lunch as a result. Taussig had kept to a constant weight for the past four years, and was very careful of her figure.

Something frilly, she decided. She didn't have many outfits like that, but maybe the blue one...She switched on the TV as she ate her breakfast, catching the CNN Headline News blurb about the arms negotiations in Moscow. Maybe the world would become a safer place. It was good to think that she was working for something. A fastidious person, she put all her dishes in the dishwasher rack before returning to her bedroom. The blue outfit with the frills was a year out of date, but few at the project would notice -- the secretaries would, but who cared about them? She added a paisley scarf around her neck to show that Bea was still Bea.

Taussig pulled into her reserved parking place at the normal time. Her security pass came out of her purse and went around her neck, suspended by a gold chain, and she breezed in the door, past the security checkpoints.

"Mornin', doc," said one of the guards. It had to be the outfit, Bea thought. She gave him a smile anyway, which made it an unusual morning for both of them, but didn't say anything, not to some high-school dropout.

She was the first one in her office, as usual. That meant that she fixed the coffee machine the way she liked, very strong. While it was perking, she opened her secure file cabinet and took out the package that she'd been working on the previous day.

Surprisingly, the morning went much more quickly than she had expected. The work helped. She had to deliver a cost-projection analysis by the end of the month, and to do that she had to shuffle through reams of documents, most of which she'd already photographed and forwarded to Ann. It was so convenient to have a private office with a door, and a secretary who always knocked before entering. Her secretary didn't like her, but Taussig didn't mach care for her, either, a born-again jerk whose idea of a good time was practicing hymns. Well, a lot of things would change, she told herself. This was the day. She'd seen the Volvo on the drive in, parked in the appropriate place.



"Eight-point-one on the dyke-meter," Peggy Jennings said. "You ought to see the clothes she buys."

"So she's eccentric," Will Perkins observed tolerantly. "You see something I don't, Peg. Besides, I saw her coming in this morning, and she looked fairly decent, except for the scarf."

"Anything unusual?" Jennings asked. She put her personal feelings aside.

"No. She gets up awfully early, but maybe she takes time to get untracked in the morning. 1 don't see any special reason to extend the surveillance." The list was long, and manpower was short. "I know you don't like gays, Peg, but you haven't even got a confirmation on that yet. Maybe you just don't like the gal," he suggested.

"The subject is flamboyant in mannerisms but conservative in dress. Outspoken on most things, but she doesn't talk at all about work. She's a collection of contradictions" And that fits the profile, she didn't have to add.

"So maybe she doesn't talk about work because she's not supposed to, like the security weenies tell them. She drives like an Easterner, always in a hurry, but she dresses in conservative clothes-maybe she likes the way she looks in clothes like that? Peg, you can't be suspicious about everything."

"I thought that was our job," Jennings snorted. "Explain what we watched the other night."

"I can't explain it, but you're putting your own spin on it. There's no evidence, Peg, not even enough to intensify the surveillance. Look, after we get through the people on the list, we'll take another look at her."

"This is crazy, Will. We have a supposed leak in a top security project, and we have to pussyfoot around like we're afraid we might offend somebody." Agent Jennings stood and walked over to her desk for a moment. It wasn't much of a walk. The local FBI office was crowded with arrivals from the Bureau's counterintel office, and the headquarters people had usurped the lunchroom. Their "desks" were actually lunch tables.

"Tell you what -- we can take the people who have access to the leaked material and put 'em all on the box." On the box meant subjecting everyone to a lie-detector test. The last time that had been done here, it had nearly started a revolution at Tea Clipper. The scientists and engineers were not intelligence types who understood that such things were necessary, but academics who considered the whole process an insult to their patriotism. Or a game: one of the software engineers had even tried using biofeedback techniques to screw up the test results. The main result from this effort, eighteen months before, had been to show that the scientific staff had a great deal of hostility to the security weenies, which was not much of a surprise. What had finally stopped the testing was a wrathful paper from a senior scientist who'd shown that a few deliberate lies he'd told went undetected. That, and the disruption it had caused within the various sections, had ended things before the program had been completed.

"Taussig didn't go on the box the last time," Jennings noted. She'd checked. "None of the admin people did. The revolt stopped things before they got that far. She was one of the people who -- "

"Because the software bunch brought their protests to her. She's admin, remember, she's supposed to keep all the scientific people happy." Perkins had checked, too. "Look, if you feel this strongly about it, we can come back to her later. I don't see anything myself, but I'll trust your instincts -- but for now, we have all these others to check out."

Margaret Jennings nodded her surrender. Perkins was right, after all. They had nothing solid to point to. It was just her -- what? Jennings wondered. She thought Taussig was gay, but that wasn't such a big thing anymore -- the courts had said so in enough cases -- and there was no proof to support her suspicion anyway. That's what it was, she knew. Three years earlier, right before she'd joined the counterintelligence office, she'd handled a kidnapping involving a couple of...

She also knew that Perkins was being more professional about it. Even though a Mormon, and straighter than most arrows, he didn't let his personal feelings interfere with business. What she couldn't shake was the gut feeling that despite everything logic and experience told her, she was still right. Right or wrong, she and Will had six reports to fill out before they went back into the field. You couldn't spend more than half your time in the field anymore. The rest was always stuck at a desk -- or a converted lunch table -- explaining to people what it was that you did when you weren't stuck at a desk.



"Al, this is Bea. Could you come over to my office?"

"Sure. Be over in five minutes."

"Great. Thanks." Taussig hung up. Even Bea admired Gregory for his punctuality. He came through the door exactly on time.

"I didn't interrupt anything, did I?"

"No. They're running another target-geometry simulation, but they don't need me for that. What's up?" Major Gregory asked, then said, "I like the outfit, Bea."

"Thanks, Al. I need you to help me with something."

"What?"

"It's a birthday present for Candi. I'm picking it up this afternoon and I need somebody to help me with it."

"Eek, you're right. It is in three weeks, isn't it?"

Taussig smiled at Al. He even made geeky noises. "You're going to have to start remembering those things."

"So what are you getting her?" He grinned like a little boy.

"It's a surprise, Al." She paused. "It's something Candi needs. You'll see. Candi drove herself in today, didn't she?"

"Yeah, she has to see the dentist after work."

"And don't tell her anything, please? It's a big surprise," Bea explained.

He could see that it was all she could do to keep her face straight. It must be some surprise, he smiled. "Okay, Bea. I'll see you at five."



They woke after noon. "Bob" trudged to the bathroom first before he remembered that there was no running water. He checked the windows for signs of activity before he went outside. By the time he was back, the others had water boiling. They only had instant coffee, but Bisyarina had gotten them a decent brand, and the breakfast food was all typically American, loaded with sugar. They knew that they'd need it. When each had finished his "morning" routine, they got out their maps and their tools and went over the operation's details. Over a period of three hours, they walked through them mentally until each man knew exactly what had to happen.



And there it was, the Archer told himself. Mountains made for long views. In this case, the objective was still two nights' march away, despite the fact that they could see it now. While his subordinates tucked their men into hiding places, he rested his binoculars on a rock and examined the site, still...twenty-five kilometers away? he wondered, then checked his map. Yes. He'd have to take his men downhill, cross a small stream, then up the slopes on a man-killing climb, and they would make their last camp...there. He concentrated his viewing on that spot. Five kilometers from the objective itself, shielded from view by the mountain's contours...the final climb would be a hard one. But what choice was there? He might give his people an hour's rest before the actual assault. That would help, and he'd also be able to brief his men on their individual missions, and give them all time to pray. His eyes went back to the objective.

Clearly, construction was still under way, but on this sort of place, they'd never stop building. It was well that they were here now, in a few more years it would be impregnable. As it was...

His eyes strained to make out the details. Even with binoculars he couldn't make out anything smaller than the guard towers. In the first light of dawn he could see the individual bumps that marked buildings. He'd have to be closer to make out items on which the last-minute details of his plan would depend, but for the moment his interest was in the lay of the land. How best to approach the place? How to use the mountain to their advantage? If this place were guarded by KGB troops, as the CIA documents he'd inspected had said, he knew that they were as lazy as they were cruel.

Guard towers, three, north side. There will be a fence there. Mines? he wondered. Mines or not, those guard towers would have to go fast. They'd hold heavy machine guns, and the view from them commanded the terrain. How to do that?

"So that is the place?" The former Army Major came down beside him.

"The men?"

"All hidden," the Major answered. He spent a minute examining the place in silence. "Remember the stories about the Assassins' stronghold in Syria?"

"Oh." The Archer turned sharply. That's what it reminded him of! "And how was that fortress taken?"

The Major smiled, keeping his eyes to the objective. "With more resources than we have, my friend...if they ever fortify the whole hilltop, it would take a regiment with helicopter support even to get inside the perimeter. So how do you plan to do it?"

"Two groups."

"Agreed." The Major didn't agree with any of this. His training -- all of it supplied by the Russians-told him that this mission was madness for so small a force, but before he could contradict a man like the Archer he would have to show his combat skills. That meant running mad risks, in the meantime, the Major would try to nudge his tactics in the right direction.

"The machines are on the slopes to the north. The people are on the knoll to the south." As they watched, the headlights of buses were moving from one place to the other. It was shift-change. The Archer considered that, but he had to make his attack in darkness and leave in darkness, else they'd never get away.

"If we can get in close without being detected...may I make a suggestion?" the Major asked quietly.

"Go on."

"Take everything in together to the high ground in the center, then attack downhill against both places."

"It's dangerous," the Archer noted at once. "There is much open ground to be covered on both sides."

"It's also easier to reach the jump-off point unobserved. An approach by one group is less likely to be spotted than one by two groups. Place our heavy weapons there, and they can observe and support both assault teams..."

Here was the difference between an instinctive warrior and a trained soldier, the Archer admitted to himself. The Major knew better than he how to measure hazards one against the other. "I don't know about the guard towers, though. What do you think?"

"I'm not sure. I -- " The Major pushed his commander's head down. A moment later an airplane streaked down the valley.

"That was a MIG-21, reconnaissance version. We are not dealing with fools." He looked to make sure that all his men were under cover. "We may just have had our pictures taken."

"Did they -- "

"I don't know. We'll have to trust in God for that, my friend. He has not let us come this far to fail," the Major said, wondering if that were true or not.



"So where are we going?" Gregory asked in the parking lot.

"Meet me at the mall, south side of the lot, okay? I just hope it'll fit in the car."

"See you there." Gregory walked to his car and drove off. Bea waited a few minutes before following. There was no sense in having anyone notice that they left at the same time. She was excited now. To combat this, she tried driving slowly, but it was so out of character that it merely fed her excitement, and as though by its own accord the Datsun seemed to work its way up through the gears and change lanes. She arrived in the mall parking lot twenty minutes later.

Al was waiting. He'd parked his car two spaces away from a station wagon, well out from the nearest store. He'd even picked more or less the right place, Bea Taussig noticed as she pulled in alongside his car and got out.

"What kept you?" he asked.

"No real hurry."

"So now what?"

Bea didn't really know. She knew what was to happen, but not how they planned to do it -- in fact, she didn't even know for sure that it was a they doing it. Perhaps Ann was going to handle the thing all by herself. She laughed to cover her nervousness.

"Come on," she said, waving for him to follow.

"This must be some birthday present," Gregory noted. Off to his right, he noted a car backing out of its place. Bea noted that the lot was crowded with cars but not people. The afternoon shoppers had gone home for dinner, the new arrivals were just beginning their activity, and the movie crowd wouldn't come for another hour or so. Even so, she was tense as her eyes scanned left and right. She was to be one lane over from the movie entrance. The time was right. If anything went wrong, she almost giggled to herself, she'd have to pick out a large, bulky present. But she didn't have to. Ann was walking toward her. She carried nothing but a large purse.

"Hi, Ann!" Taussig called.

"Hello, Bea -- oh, it's Major Gregory."

"Hi," Al said, while he tried to remember if he knew this woman or not. Al didn't have much of a memory for faces, so occupied was his brain with numbers.

"We met last summer," Ann said, confusing him all the more.

"What are you doing here?" Taussig asked her controller.

"Just some quick shopping. I have a date tonight, and I needed -- well, I'll show you."

She reached into her purse and pulled out what to Gregory looked like a perfume dispenser -- or whatever they called those little spray gadgets, he thought while he waited. He was glad Candi wasn't like this. Ann seemed to spray some of the stuff on her wrist and held it up to Bea's nose as a car came down the lane.

"Candi would love it -- what do you think, Al?" Bea asked as the dispenser came up toward his face.

"Huh?" At that moment he got a face full of chemical Mace.

Ann had timed it perfectly, spraying Gregory just as he was taking a breath, and aimed it to get under the glasses into his eyes. It seemed that his face had been set afire, and the searing pain went down into his lungs. In a moment he was on his knees, hands to his face. He couldn't make a sound, and couldn't see the car stop right beside him. The door opened, and the driver only had to take half a step before chopping him on the side of the neck.

Bea watched him go limp -- so perfect, she thought. The car's rear door opened and hands came out to grab his shoulders. Bea and Ann helped with the legs as the driver got back in. Just as the rear door closed, Gregory's car keys flew out the window to them, and the Plymouth rolled away, having hardly stopped at all.

Instantly, Ann looked around. No one had seen them. She was sure of it as she and Bea walked back away from the stores to where the cars were.

"What are you going to do with him?" Bea asked.

"What do you care?" Bisyarina replied quickly.

"You're not going -- "

"No, we're not going to kill him." Ann wondered if that were true or not. She didn't know, but suspected that a murder was not in the cards. They'd broken one inviolable rule. That was enough for one day.





Chapter 22 -- Active Measures



Leonid, whose current cover required him to say, "Call me Bob," headed for the far end of the parking lot. For an operation with virtually no planning, its most dangerous phase had gone smoothly enough. Lenny, in back, had the job of controlling the American officer they'd just kidnapped. A physical type, he'd once been part of the Soviet "special-purpose" forces, known by the abbreviation Spetznaz. Bill, next to him, had been assigned to the mission because he was a scientific intelligence specialist; the fact that his area of expertise was chemical engineering hadn't mattered to Moscow. The case called for a scientific specialist, and he was the closest.

In the back, Major Gregory started to moan and move. The chop on his neck had been enough to stun, but not enough to produce any injury more serious than a blinding headache. They hadn't gone to all this trouble to kill the man by accident, something that had happened before. For the same reason, he hadn't been drugged. An exercise much more dangerous than most people might think, it had once accidentally killed a Soviet defector whose mind, as a result, had never been picked by the people of the Second Chief Directorate. To Lenny he seemed much like an infant coming out of a long sleep. The smell of chemical Mace was thick enough in the car that all of the windows were down a few inches to keep it from overpowering the KGB officers. They wanted to use physical restraints on their prisoner, but those might be troublesome if spotted. Lenny was able to control the American, of course. It was just that caution, the distillation of experience, taught them to take nothing for granted. For all they knew, Gregory's hobby might have been unarmed combat-stranger things had happened. When he became vaguely conscious, the first thing he saw was an automatic pistol's silencer pressed against his nose.

"Major Gregoriy," Lenny said, using the Russian pronunciation for a purpose, "we know that you are a bright young man, and perhaps a courageous one also. If you resist, you will be killed," he lied. "I am very skilled in this. You will say nothing at all, and you will be still. If you do these things, no harm will come to you. Do you understand-just nod if you do."

Gregory was fully conscious. He'd never quite been out, merely stunned by the blow that still made his head as taut as a swollen balloon. His eyes were shedding tears as though from a leaky faucet, and every breath seemed to light a fire in his chest. He'd commanded himself to move as they pulled him into the car, but his limbs had ignored his frantic wishes while his mind raged at them. It had come to him in an instant: That's why I hate Bea! It wasn't her snotty manner and her weird way of dressing at all. But he set that one far aside. There were more important things to worry about, and his mind was racing as it had never raced before. He nodded.

"Very good," the voice said, and strong arms lifted him off the floor and onto the rear seat. The metallic prod of the pistol was against his chest, bidden under the other man's left arm.

"The effect of the chemical irritant will pass in about an hour," Bill told him. "There will be no permanent effect."

"Who are you?" Al asked. His voice was a mere whisper, as raspy as sandpaper.

"Lenny told you to be still," the driver replied. "Besides, someone as bright as you must already know who we are. Am I correct?" Bob looked in the mirror and was rewarded with a nod.

Russians! Al told himself in a combination of amazement and certainty. Russians here, doing this...why do they want me? Will they kill me? He knew that he could not believe a thing they said. They'd say anything to keep him under control. He felt like a fool. He was supposed to be a man, an officer, and he was as helpless as a four-year-old girl-and crying like one, he realized, hating every tear that dripped from his eyes. Never in his life had Gregory felt such a killing rage. He looked to his right and realized that he didn't have the smallest chance. The man with the gun was almost twice his weight, and besides, he did have the gun pressed right against his chest. Gregory's eyes were blinking now almost like the windshield wipers of a car. Lie couldn't see well, but he could tell that the man with the gun was watching him with clinical interest, no emotion at all in his eyes. The man was a professional in the application of violence Spetznaz, Gregory thought at once. Al took a deep breath, or tried to. He nearly exploded in a convulsion of coughs.

"You don't want to do that," the man in the right-front seat cautioned "Take shallow breaths. The effect will pass in time." Wonderful stuff, this chemical Mace, Bill thought. And anyone could buy it in America. Amazing.

Bob was now out of the enormous parking lot and driving back to the safe house. He had the route memorized of Course, though he was not entirely at ease. He hadn't had the chance to drive it beforehand, to practice travel times and plot out alternative routes, but he had spent enough time in America that he knew how to drive lawfully and carefully. Driving habits here were better than in the Northeast...except on the interstates, where every Westerner felt the God-given right to race like a maniac. But he wasn't on the interstate, and on this four-lane highway the late rush-hour traffic moved placidly from light to light. Lie realized that his time estimate had been overly optimistic, but that didn't matter. Lenny would have no problem controlling their guest. It was quite dark, there were few street lights and theirs was just one more car driving home from work.



Bisyarina was already five miles away, heading in the opposite direction. The inside of the car was worse than she'd expected A neat person, she was appalled to see that the Young man had virtually covered the floor with plastic wrappers of Some sort, and she wondered why the Chevy wasn't full of ants. The very thought made her skin crawl. She checked her mirror to make sure that Taussig was there. Ten minutes later she pulled into a working-class neighborhood. All of the houses had driveways, but even here most families had more than one car, and the extra ones were parked on the street. She found a vacant spot by a corner and pulled over to it. Taussig's Datsun appeared beside the Chevy, and she left it there, just another car parked at the curb. When Taussig halted at the next stop sign, Bisyarina rolled down her window and tossed Gregory's keys into a sewer. With that ended what was the most dangerous part of the mission for her. Without being told, Taussig drove back toward the shopping mall, where Bisyarina would retrieve her Volvo.

"You're sure you won't kill him," Bea said again after another minute.

"Quite positive, Bea," Ann replied. She wondered why Taussig bad suddenly acquired a conscience. "If I guess correctly, he might even be given the chance to continue his work...elsewhere. If he cooperates, then he will be treated very well."

"You'll even assign him a girlfriend, won't you?"

"It's one way of keeping men happy," Bisyarina admitted. "Happy people work better."

"Good," Taussig said, surprising her controller quite a bit. Taussig explained after a moment: "I don't want him hurt. What he knows will help both sides make the world safer." And I just want him out of my way! she didn't say.

"He's too valuable to hurt," Ann observed. Unless things go wrong, in which case other orders might apply...



Bob was surprised when the traffic backed up. He was right behind a mini-van. Like many American drivers, he hated the things because he couldn't see around them. He opened the ashtray and pushed in the cigarette lighter while he frowned in frustration. Bill, next to him, fished out a smoke also. If nothing else, it helped to mask the acrid stink of the Mace which still permeated the cloth upholstery of the car. Bob decided that he'd leave all the windows open when he parked tonight, just to get rid of the smell. His own eyes were watering, now that there was no blowing air to carry the chemical vapors out of the car. It almost made him feel sorry about the straight dose they'd given their prisoner, but at least it was preferable to a drug that might kill, or a blow that could break his scrawny little neck. At least he was behaving himself. If all went according to plan, by the end of the week he'd be in Moscow. They'd wait a day or so before heading into Mexico. A different crossing point would be used, and a diversion, not yet set up, would probably be used to ensure their speedy crossing into that convenient country, where one could catch a plane to Cuba, and from there a direct flight to Moscow. After that, this team of the First Chief Directorate would have a month's rest. It would be good, Bob told himself, to see his family again. It was always lonely abroad. So lonely that once or twice he'd been unfaithful to his wife, which was also a violation of standing orders. Though not a violation that many officers 'took seriously, it was something of which he wasn't proud. Perhaps he could get a new posting at the KGB Academy. He had the seniority now, and with a mission like this under his belt...

Traffic started moving again. He was surprised to see the mini-van's blinkers go on. Two minutes later he was horrified to see why. A jackknifed tractor-trailer blocked the entire road, with the remains of a small car crushed beneath its front wheels. What looked like a score of rotating ambulance lights illuminated the efforts of police officers and firemen to extricate whatever fool had been driving the small import. Bob couldn't even tell what sort of car it had been, but like the majority of the other drivers, he stared at the wreckage with fascination for a few seconds, until he reminded himself who and where he was. A black-clad police officer was replacing flares on the pavement and waving all southbound traffic onto a side road. Bob reverted to intelligence officer in a moment. He waited until there was a clear path around the cop, and shot past. That earned him an angry look, but nothing more. Most important, the policeman hadn't gotten much of a look at the car. Bob raced up a hill before he realized that another effect of his hesitation was that he couldn't see where the detoured traffic was heading.

I didn't bring the map, he thought next. He'd destroyed it because of all the markings on it. In fact, the car held no maps at all. Maps were dangerous things to have, and besides, he knew how to memorize all the information he needed for his missions. But he hadn't been here long enough to learn the area, and knew only one route back to the safe house. Goddamn these "immediate-priority" operations!

He took a left at the first crossroads, onto a curving street into a residential development. It took several minutes for him to realize that the land here was so hilly that all the roads curved back and forth upon themselves to the point where he didn't know which direction he was heading. For the first time, he began to lose his composure, but only for an instant. One mental curse in his native language reminded him that he couldn't even think in Russian. Bob lit another cigarette and drove slowly as he tried to orient himself. The tears in his eyes didn't help.

He's lost, Gregory realized after a moment. He'd read enough spy novels to know that they were taking him to a safe house-or a clandestine airfield?-or another vehicle that would carry him...where?-but as soon as he recognized the same car that they'd passed a few minutes before, he had to stop himself from smiling. They'd actually done something wrong. The next turn they took went downhill, and Gregory confirmed his suspicion when he again saw the rotating lights at the car wreck. He noted the curses as the driver pulled into a driveway and had to back up before they could climb the hill again.

Everything Russians hated about America flooded back into Bob's consciousness. Too many roads, too many cars-some damned fool of an American had run a stop sign and I hope he's dead! the driver raged at the parked cars on the residential street. I hope he died screaming in agony. It felt better to get that thought out from the back of his mind. Now what?

He continued on a different route, taking the road over the crest of the hill, where he was able to look down and see another highway. Perhaps if he went south on this one, it might connect with the road he'd been on...It was worth a try, he thought. To his right, Bill gave him a questioning look, but Lenny in the back was too busy with the prisoner to know that anything was badly wrong. As they picked up speed, at least the air through the windows allowed his eyes to clear. There was a traffic light at the bottom of the hill but there was also a sign that said NO LEFT TURN.

Govno! Bob thought to himself as he turned right. This four-lane road was divided by a concrete barrier. You should have spent more time studying the map. You should have taken a few hours to drive around the area. But it was too late for that now, and he knew that he hadn't had the time. That left them heading back north. Bob checked his watch, forgetting that there was a clock on the dashboard. He'd already lost fifteen minutes. He was out in the open and vulnerable, on enemy ground. What if someone had seen them in the parking lot? What if the policeman at the wreck had taken down their number?

Bob didn't panic. He was too well trained for that. He commanded himself to take a deep breath and mentally examined all the maps he'd seen of the area. He was west of the interstate highway. If he could find that, he still remembered the exit he'd used earlier in the day-was it still the same day?-and get to the safe house blindfolded. If he were west of the interstate, all he had to do was find a road that went east. Which way was east-right. Another deep breath. he'd head north until he saw what looked like a major east-west road, and he'd turn right. Okay.

It took nearly five minutes, but he found an east-west highway-he didn't bother to look for the name. Five minutes after that he was grateful to see the red, white, and blue shield that informed him the interstate was half a mile ahead.

Now he breathed easier.

"What's the trouble?' Lenny finally asked from the back. Bob replied in Russian.

"Had to change routes," he said in a tone far more relaxed than he'd felt only a few minutes earlier. In turning to reply, he missed a sign.

There was the overpass. The green signs announced that he could go north or south. He wanted to go south, and the exit ramp would be-

In the wrong place. He was in the right lane, but the exit went to the left, and was only fifty meters ahead. He swerved across the highway without looking. Immediately behind him, an Audi driver stood on his brakes and Jammed his hand on the horn. Bob ignored the irrelevancy as he took the left turn onto the ramp. He was on the upward, sweeping curve and was looking at the traffic on the interstate when he saw lights flashing in the grille of the black car behind him. The headlights blinked at him, and he knew what would come next.

Don't panic, he told himself. He didn't have to say anything to his comrades. Bob didn't even consider making a run for it. They'd been briefed on this, too. American police are courteous and professional. They didn't demand payment on the spot, as the Moscow traffic police did. He also knew that American cops were armed with Magnum revolvers.

Bob pulled his Plymouth over just beyond the overpass and waited. As he watched his mirror, the police car stopped behind his, slightly more to the left. He could see the officer getting out, carrying a clipboard in his left hand. That left the right one free, Bob knew, and that was the gun hand. In the back, Lenny told the prisoner what would happen if he made a noise.

"Good evening, sir," the police officer said. "I don't know what the rules are in Oklahoma, but here we prefer that you don't change lanes like that. Could I have your driver's license and registration, please?" His black uniform and silver trim made Leonid think of the SS, but this wasn't the time for such thoughts. Just be polite, he told himself calmly, take the ticket and move on. He handed over the proper cards and waited as the police officer started filling out the ticket blank. Perhaps an apology was due now...

"Sorry, officer, I thought the exit was on the right side, and-"

"That's why we spend all that money on signs, Mr. Taylor. Is this your correct address?"

"Yes, sir. Like I said, I'm sorry. If you have to give me a ticket, I guess I deserve it."

"I wish everybody was that cooperative," the officer observed. Not everyone was, and he decided to see what this polite fellow looked like. He looked at the photograph on the license and bent down to make sure it was the right person. He shined the light in Bob's face. It was the same face, but..."What the hell is that smell?"

Mace, the officer knew an instant later. The light swiveled. The people in the car looked normal enough, two in the front, two in the back, and...one of the people in the back was wearing what looked like a uniform jacket...

Gregory wondered if his life was really on the line. He decided that he'd find out, and prayed the policeman was alert.

In back, the one on the left side-the one in the jacket-mouthed a single word: Help. That merely made the policeman more curious, but the one in the right-front seat saw him do it and stirred. The cop's instincts all lit off at once. His right hand slid down to his service revolver, flipping the safety strap off the hammer.

"Out of the car, one at a time, and right now!"

He was horrified to see a gun. It appeared as though by magic from the guy in the right-rear, and before he could get his own revolver out-

Gregory's right hand didn't get there in time, but his elbow did, spoiling Lenny's aim.

The officer was surprised that he didn't hear anything except a shout in a language he couldn't understand, but by the time that occurred to him, his jaw had already exploded in a puff of white more heard than felt. He fell backward, his gun out now and shooting of its own accord.

Bob cringed and dropped the car into gear. The front wheels spun on the loose gravel, but caught, hauling the Plymouth all too slowly away from the noise of the gun. In the back, Lenny, who'd gotten off the one shot, slammed the butt of his automatic on Gregory's head. His perfectly aimed shot should have gone straight through the policeman's heart, but he'd gotten the face instead, and he didn't know how good the shot had been. He shouted something that Bob didn't bother listening to.

Three minutes later the Plymouth went off the interstate. Below the accident that still blocked the highway, the road was nearly clear. Bob took the dirt road off it, lights out, and was at the trailer before the prisoner regained consciousness.



Behind them, a passing motorist saw the policeman on the shoulder and pulled over to assist him. The man was in agony, with a bloody wound to his face and nine missing teeth. The motorist ran to the police car and put out a radio call. It took minute before the dispatcher got things straight, but three minutes after that a second radio car was there, then five more in as many minutes. The wounded officer was unable to speak, but handed up his clipboard, which had the car's description and tag number written down. He also still had "Bob Taylor's" driver's license. That was message enough for the other officers. An immediate call was put out over all local police frequencies. Someone had shot a police officer. The actual crime that had been committed was far more serious than that, but the police did not know, nor would they have cared.



Candi was surprised to see that Al wasn't home. Her jaw was still numb from the Xylocaine shots, and she decided on soup. But where's Al? Maybe he had to stay late for something. She knew that she could call, but it wasn't that big a deal, and with the way her mouth felt, there wasn't much in the way of talking she could have done anyway.



At police headquarters on Cerrillos Road, the computers were already humming. A telex was dispatched at once to Oklahoma, where brother police officers took immediate note of the magnitude of the crime and punched up their own computer records. They learned at once that there was no license for Robert 1. Taylor of 1353 N.W. 108th Street, Oklahoma City, OK 73210, nor was there a Plymouth Reliant with tag number XSW-498. The tag number, in fact, did not exist. The sergeant who ran the computer section was more than surprised. To be told that there was no record of a tag wasn't all that unusual, but to get a no-hit on a tag and a license, and in a case with an officer-involved shooting was pushing the laws of probability too hard. He lifted the phone for the senior watch officer.

"Captain, we have something really crazy here on the Mendez shooting."

The state of New Mexico is filled with areas belonging to the federal government and has a long history of highly sensitive activities. The Captain didn't know what had happened, but he knew at once that this wasn't a traffic incident. One minute after that, he was on the phone to the local FBI office.



Jennings and Perkins were there before Officer Mendez came out of surgery. The waiting room was so crowded with policemen that it was fortunate the hospital had no other surgical patients at the moment. The Captain running the investigation was there, as were the state police chaplain and half a dozen other officers who worked the same watch as Mendez, plus Mrs. Mendez, who was seven months pregnant. Presently the doctor came out and announced that he'd be fine. The only major blood vessel damaged had been easily repaired. The officer's jaw and teeth had taken most of the damage, and a maxillary surgeon would start repairing that. damage in a day or two. The officer's wife cried a bit, then was taken to see her husband before two of his fellows drove her home. Then it was time for everyone to get to work.

"He must have had the gun in the poor bastard's back,"

Mendez said slowly, his words distorted by the wires holding his jaw together. He'd already refused a pain medication. He wanted to get the information out quickly, and was willing to suffer a little to do it. The state police officer was a very angry man. "Only way he coulda got it out so fast."

"The photo on the license, is it accurate?" Agent Jennings asked.

"Yes, ma'am." Pete Mendez was a young officer, and managed to make Jennings feel her age with that remark. He next got out rough descriptions of the other two. Then came the victim: "Maybe thirty, skinny, glasses. He was wearing a jacket-like a uniform jacket. I didn't see any insignia, but I didn't get much of a look. He had his hair cut like he was in the service, too. Don't know the eye color, either, but there was something funny...his eyes were shiny, like-oh, the Mace smell. Maybe that was it. Maybe they maced him. He didn't say anything, but, like, he mouthed the words, you know? I thought that was funny, but the guy in the right-front reacted real strong to that. I was slow. I shoulda reacted faster. Too damned slow."

"You said that one of them said something?" Perkins asked.

"The bastard who shot me. I don't know what it was. Not English, not Spanish. I just remember the last word...maht, something like that."

"Yob' tvoyu mat'!" Jennings said at once.

"Yeah, that's it." Mendez nodded. "What's it mean?"

"It means 'fuck your mother.' Excuse me," Perkins said, his Mormon face fairly glowing scarlet. Mendez went rigid on his bed. One doesn't say such things to an angry man with a Hispanic name.

"What?" the state police Captain asked.

"It's Russian, one of their favorite curses." Perkins looked at Jennings.

"Oh, boy," she breathed, scarcely able to believe it. "We're calling Washington right now." "We have to identify the-wait a minute!-Gregory?" Perkins said. "God almighty. You call Washington. I'll call the project office."



It turned out that the state police could move the fastest. Candi answered a knock on the door and was surprised to see a policeman standing there. He asked politely if he could see Major Al Gregory, and was told that he wasn't home by. a young woman whose numbed jaw was coming back to normal as the world around her began to shatter. She'd scarcely gotten the news when Tea Clipper's security chief pulled up. She was a mere spectator as a radio call was sent out to look for Al's car, too shocked even to cry.



The license photo of "Bob Taylor" was already in Washington, being examined by members of the FBI's counterintelligence branch, but it wasn't in their file of identified Soviet officers. The Assistant Director who ran counterintel ops was called in from his Alexandria home by the senior watch officer. The AD in turn called FBI Director Emil Jacobs, who arrived at the Hoover Building at two in the morning. They could scarcely believe it, but the wounded police officer positively identified the photograph of Major Alan T. Gregory. The Soviets bad never committed a violent crime in the United States. This rule was so well established that, the most senior Soviet defectors, if they wished, were able to live openly and without protection. But this was even worse than the elimination of a person who was, under Soviet law, a condemned traitor. An American citizen had been kidnapped; to the FBI, kidnapping is a crime hardly different from murder.

There was, of course, a plan. Even though it bad never happened, the operations experts whose job it was to think about unthinkable happenings had a pre-set protocol of things that had to be done. Before dawn thirty senior agents were taking off from Andrews Air Force Base, among them members of the elite Hostage Rescue Team. Agents from field offices throughout the Southwest briefed Border Patrol officers on the case.



Bob/Leonid sat by himself, drinking tepid coffee. Why didn't I just keep going and make a U-turn down the street? he asked himself. Why was I in a hurry? Why was I excited when I didn't have to be?

It was time to be excited now. His car bad three bullet holes in it, two on the left side and one in the trunk lid. His driver's license was in the hands of the police, and that carried his photograph.

You won't get a teaching post at the academy this way, Tovarishch. He smiled to himself grimly.

He was in a safe house. He had that much consolation. It might even be safe for a day or two. This was clearly Captain Bisyarina's bolt-hole, never intended to be any more than a place where the officer could hide out if forced to run; Because of that, it had no telephone, and he had no way of communicating with the local resident officer. What if she doesn't come back? That was clear enough. He'd have to risk driving a car with known license tags-and bullet holes!-far enough to steal another. He had visions of thousands of police officers patrolling the roads with' a single thought: find the maniacs who shot their comrade. How could he have let things go so bad, so fast!

He heard a car approach. Lenny was still guarding their prisoner. Bob and Bill picked up their pistols and peered around the edge of the single window that faced on the dirt road to the trailer. Both breathed easier when they saw it was Bisyarina's Volvo. She got out and made the proper all-clear gesture, then came toward the trailer, holding a large bag.

"Congratulations: you've made the television news," she said on entering. Idiot. That part didn't need to be said. It hung in the air like a thundercloud.

"It's a long story," he said, knowing it to be a lie.

"I'm sure." She set the bag on the table. "Tomorrow I'll rent you a new car. It's too dangerous to move yours. Where did you-"

"Two hundred meters up the road, in the thickest trees we could squeeze it into, covered with branches. It will be hard to spot, even from the air."

"Yes, keep that in mind. The police here have some helicopters. Here." She tossed Bob a black wig. Next came some glasses, one pair set with clear lenses, and the other, a pair of mirror-type sunglasses. "Are you allergic to makeup?"

"What?"

"Makeup, you fool-"

"Captain..." Bob began with some heat. Bisyarina cut him off with a look.

"Your skin is pale. In case you haven't noticed, a large number of the people in this area are Spanish. This is my territory and you will now do exactly as I say." She paused for a beat. "I'll get you out of here."

"The American woman, she knows you by sight-"

"Obviously. I suppose you want her eliminated? After all, we've broken one rule, why not another? What fucking madman ordered this operation?"

"The orders came from very high," Leonid replied.

"How high?" she demanded; and got only a raised eyebrow that spoke volumes. "You're joking."

"The nature of the order, the 'immediate action' prefix-what do you think?"

"I think all of our careers are mined, and that assumes that we-well, we will. But I will not agree to the murder of my agent. We have as yet not killed anyone, and I do not think that our orders contemplated-"

"That is correct," Bob said aloud, while his head shook emphatically from side to side. Bisyarina's mouth dropped open.

"This could start a war," she said quietly, in Russian. She didn't mean a real war, but rather something almost as bad, open conflict between KGB and CIA officers, something that almost never happened, even in third-world countries, where it usually involved surrogates killing other surrogates, and for the most part never knowing why-and even that was rare enough. The business of intelligence services was to gather information. Violence, both sides tacitly agreed, got in the way of the real mission. But if both sides began killing the strategic assets of their opponents

"You should have refused the order," she said after a moment.

"Certainly," Bob observed. "I understand that the Kolyma camps are lovely this time of year, all glistening white with their blanket of snow." The odd thing-at least it would seem so to a Westerner-was that neither officer bothered considering surrendering with a request of political asylum. Though it would have ended their personal dangers, it would mean betraying their country.

"What you do here is your account, but I will not kill my agent," "Ann" said, ending discussion of the issue. "I'll get you out."

"How?"

"I don't know yet. By car, I think, but I will have to come up with something new. Perhaps not a car. Perhaps a truck," she mused. There were lots of trucks out here, and it was not the least unusual for a woman to drive one. Take a van across the border, perhaps? A van with boxes in it...Gregory in a box, drugged or gagged...perhaps all of them...what are customs procedures like for such things? She'd never had to worry about that before. With a week's warning, as she would have had for a proper operation, she'd have had time to answer a lot of questions.

Take your time, she told herself. We've had enough of hurrying, haven't we?

"Two days, perhaps three."

"That's a long time," Leonid observed.

"1 may need that long to evaluate the countermeasures that we are likely to face. For the moment, don't bother shaving."

Bob nodded after a moment. "It is your territory."

"When you get back, you can write this up as a case study in why operations need proper preparation," Bisyarina said. "Anything else you need?" - -

"Very well. I will see you again tomorrow afternoon."



"No," Beatrice Taussig told the agents. "I saw Al this afternoon. I"-she glanced uneasily at Candi-"I wanted him to help me with-well, with picking up a birthday present for Candace tomorrow. I saw him in the parking lot, too, but that was it. You really think-I mean, the Russians...

"That's what it looks like," Jennings said.

"My God."

"Does Major Gregory know enough that-" Jennings was surprised that Taussig answered instead of Dr. Long.

"Yes, he does. He's the only one who really understands the whole project. Al's a very bright guy. And a friend," she added. That earned her a warm smile from Candi. There were real tears in Bea's eyes now. It hurt her to see her friend in pain, even though she knew that it was all for the best.



"Ryan, you're going to love this." Jack had just gotten back from the latest round of negotiations at the Foreign Ministry building, twenty stories of Stalinesque wedding cake on Smolenskiy Bul'var. Candela handed over the dispatch.

"That son of a bitch," Ryan breathed.

"You didn't expect him to cooperate, did you?" the officer asked sardonically, then changed his mind. "I beg your pardon, doc. I wouldn't have expected this either."

"I know this kid. I've driven him around Washington myself, when he came east to brief us..." It's your fault, Jack. It was your move that caused this to happen...wasn't it? He asked a few questions.

"Yeah, that's a virtual certainty," Candela said. "They screwed things up, looks like. That sounds like an overnighter. Hey, the KGB officers aren't supermen either, pal, but they follow their orders, just like we do."

"You have some ideas?"

"Not much we can do from this end but hope the local cops can straighten things out."

"But if it goes public-"

"Show me some evidence. You don't accuse a foreign government of something like this without evidence. Hell, there's half a dozen engineers in Europe who've been murdered by left-wing terrorist gangs in the last two years, all working on the fringes of the SDI program, not to mention a few 'suicides.' We haven't made a public issue of that, either."

"But this breaks the rules, damn it!"

"When you get down to it, there's only one rule, doc- Win."

"Does USIA still have that global TV operation going?"

"Worldnet, you mean? Sure. It's a hell of a program."

"If we don't get him back, I will personally break the Red October story world-wide, and flick the consequences!" Ryan swore. "If it costs my career, I'll do it."

"Red October?" Candela had no idea what he was talking about.

"Trust me, it's a good one."

"Tell your KGB friends-hell, it might even work."

"Even if it doesn't," Ryan said, more in control now. It's your fault, Jack, he told himself again. Candela agreed; Jack could see it.



The funny part, the state police thought, was that the press wasn't given the real meat of the case. As soon as the FBI team arrived, the rules were established. For the moment, this was a simple case of a police shooting. The federal involvement was to be kept secret, and if it broke, the word would be that an international drug-trafficker was on the loose and that federal assistance had been requested. The Oklahoma authorities were told to tell any inquiring journalist that they'd merely provided identification help to a fellow police force. Meanwhile, the FBI took over the case, and federal assets began to flood the area. Citizens were told that nearby military bases were conducting routine exercises-special search-and-rescue drills-which explained the abnormal helicopter activity. People at Project Tea Clipper were briefed on what had happened and told to keep this secret as close as all of the others.

Gregory's car was located in a matter of hours. No fingerprints were found-Bisyarina had worn gloves, of course-nor was any other useful evidence, though the placement of his car and the location of the shooting merely confirmed the professionalism of the event.



Gregory had been the Washington guest of men more important than Ryan. The President's first appointment of the morning was with General Bill Parks, FBI Director Emil Jacobs, and Judge Moore.

"Well?" the President asked Jacobs.

"These things take time. I've got some of our best investigative minds out there, Mr. President, but looking over their shoulder only slows things down."

"Bill," the President asked next, "how important is the boy?"

"He's priceless," Parks answered simply. "He's one of my top three men, sir. People like that cannot be replaced very easily."

The President took this information seriously. Next he turned to Judge Moore. "We caused this, didn't we?"

"Yes, Mr. President, in a manner of speaking. Obviously, we hit Gerasimov in a very tender spot. My estimate agrees with the General's. They want what Gregory knows. Gerasimov probably thinks that if he can get information of this magnitude, he can overcome the political consequences of the Red October disclosure. That's a hard call to make from this side of the ocean, but certainly there's a good chance that his evaluation is correct."

"I knew we shouldn't have done this..." the President said quietly, then shook his head. "Well, that's my responsibility. I authorized it. If the press..."

"Sir, if the press gets wind of this, it sure as hell won't be from CIA. Second, we can always say that this was a desperate-I'd prefer to say 'vigorous'-attempt to save the life of our agent. It doesn't have to go any further than that, and such action is expected of intelligence services. They go to great lengths to protect their agents. So do we. That's one of the rules of the game."

"Where does Gregory fit into the rules?" Parks asked. "What if they think we might have a chance of rescuing him?"

"I don't know," Moore admitted. "If Gerasimov succeeds in saving himself, he'll probably get word to us that we forced him into it, he's sorry, and it won't happen again. He'd expect us to retaliate once or twice, but it would probably stop at that, because neither KGB nor CIA wants to start a war. To answer your question directly, General, my opinion is that they may have orders to eliminate the asset entirely."

"You mean murder him?" the President asked.

"That is a possibility. Gerasimov must have ordered this mission very quickly. Desperate men make for desperate orders. It would be incautious of us to assume otherwise."

The President considered that for a minute. He leaned back in his chair and sipped at his coffee. "Emil, if we can find where he is.

"The Hostage Rescue Team is standing by. I have the men in place. Their vehicles are being flown out by the Air Force, but for the moment all they can do is sit and wait."

"If they move in, what are the chances that they'll save him?"

"Pretty good, Mr. President," Jacobs replied.

"'Pretty good' doesn't cut it," Parks said. "If the Russians have orders to take him out-"

"My people are as well trained as anyone in the world," the FBI Director said.

"What are their rules of engagement?" Parks demanded.

"They are trained to use deadly force in the protection of themselves or any innocent person. If any subject appears to be threatening a hostage, he's a dead man."

"That's not good enough," Parks said next.

"What do you mean?" the President asked.

"How long does it take to turn around and blow somebody's head off? What if they're willing to die to accomplish their mission? We expect our people to be, don't we?"

"Arthur?" Heads turned to Judge Moore.

The DCI shrugged. "I can't predict the dedication of Soviets. Is it possible? Yes, I suppose it is. Is it certain? I don't know that. Nobody does."

"I used to drive fighter planes for a living. I know what human reaction times are," Parks said. "If a guy does decide to turn and shoot, even if your man has a gun on him, he might not be fast enough to keep Al alive."

"What do you want me to do, tell my people just to kill everybody in sight?" Jacobs asked quietly. "We don't do that. We can't do that."

Parks turned to the President next. "Sir, even if the Russians don't get Gregory, if we lose him, they win. It might be years before we can replace him. I submit, sir, that Mr. Jacobs' people are trained to deal with criminals, not folks like this, and not for this situation. Mr. President, I recommend that you call in the Delta Force from Fort Bragg."

"They don't have jurisdiction," Jacobs noted at once.

"They have the right kind of training," the General said. The President was quiet for another minute. "Emil, how good are your people at following orders?"

"They will do what you say, sir. But it will have to be your order, in writing."

"Can you get me in touch with them?"

"Yes, Mr. President." Jacobs picked up the phone and routed a call through his own office in the Hoover Building. Along the way it was scrambled.

"Agent Werner, please...Agent Werner, this is Director Jacobs. I have a special message for you. Stand by." He handed the phone over. "This is Gus Werner. He's been the team leader for five years. Gus passed on a promotion to stay with the HRT."

"Mr. Werner, this is the President. Do you recognize my voice? Good. Please listen closely. In the event that you are able to attempt the rescue of Major Gregory, your only mission is to get him out. All other considerations are secondary to that objective. The arrest of the criminals in question is not, I repeat, not a matter of concern. Is that clear? Yes, even the possibility of a threat to the hostage is sufficient grounds for the use of deadly force. Major Gregory is an irreplaceable national asset. His survival is your only mission. I will put that in writing and hand it to the Director. Thank you. Good luck." The President replaced the phone. "He says that they've considered this possibility."

"He would." Jacobs nodded. "Gus has a good imagination. Now the note, sir."

The President took a small sheet of writing paper from his desk and made the order official. It wasn't until he was finished that he realized what he'd done. This was not an intellectual exercise. He'd just handwritten a death warrant. It turned out to be a depressingly easy thing to do.

"General, are you satisfied?"

"I hope these people are as good as the Director says," was all Parks was willing to say.

"Judge, any repercussions from the other side?"

"No, Mr. President. Our Soviet colleagues understand this sort of thing."

"Then that's it." And may God have mercy on my soul.



No one had slept. Candi hadn't gone to work, of course. With the arrival of the investigative team from Washington, Jennings and Perkins were baby-sitting her. There was the remote possibility that Gregory would escape, and in this event, it was deemed that he'd call here first. There was another reason, of course, but that wasn't official yet.

Bea Taussig was a veritable tornado of energy. She'd spent the night straightening the house and brewing coffee for everyone. Odd as it seemed, it gave her something to do besides sitting with her friend. She did a lot of that, too, which no one thought especially odd. It was one of the things friends do.

Jennings took several hours to note that she was wearing an outfit that actually looked feminine. She had, in fact, gone to the trouble the previous day to make herself look rather nice. Most of that was wreckage now. Once or twice she'd shed tears herself when she and Candi cried together, and what had been a properly decorated face now showed streaks. Her clothes were wrinkled and the paisley scarf was in the closet, wrapped around the same hanger that held her coat. But the most interesting thing about Taussig, Jennings thought from her chair, was her mental state. There was tenseness there. The bustling activity of the long night had alleviated it to some degree, but...there was more to it than just being helpful, the agent thought. She didn't say this to Perkins.

Taussig didn't notice or care about what the agent thought. She looked out the window, expecting to see the sun rising for the second time since she'd last slept, and wondered where all her energy was coming from. Maybe the coffee, she thought to herself with an inward smile. It was always funny when you lied to yourself. She wondered at the danger that she herself might face, but put that worry aside. She trusted Ann's professionalism. One of the first things she'd been told on starting her second career was that she would be protected, even to the death. Such promises had to be real, Ann had said, because they had a practical dimension. It was a business, Bea thought, and she felt confident that those in it knew how to handle themselves. The worst thing that could happen was that the police and FBI would rescue Al, but they were probably already gone, she told herself. Or maybe they'd kill him, despite what Ann had told her the previous night. That would be too bad. She wanted him out of the way. Not dead, just out of the way. She remembered the table talk at the project about how some German, Italian, and British people working in SDI-related projects had died mysteriously. So there was a precedent, wasn't there? If Al got back alive...well, that was that, wasn't it? She had to trust her controller to run things. Too late now. She turned her attention to her friend.

Candi was staring blankly at the far wall. There was a picture there, a laser-print of the space shuttle lifting off from Cape Canaveral. Not a proper picture, but something Al had picked up for free from one contractor or another and decided to hang on the wall. Bea's thoughts returned to Candace. Her eyes were puffy from all the tears.

"You have to get some rest," Bea told her. Candace didn't even turn her head, hardly reacted at all, but Bea put her arm around her friend's shoulder and lifted her from the couch. "Come on."

Candi rose as though in a dream, and Bea guided her out of the living room and up the steps toward the bedroom. Once inside, she closed the door.

"Why, Bea? Why did they do it?" Candi sat on the bed, and her stare was merely at a different wall.

"I don't know," Bea said, more honestly than she knew. She really didn't know, but then, she really didn't care.

The tears started again, and the gasping breaths, and the running nose as she watched her friend contemplate a world that someone else had torn apart. She felt momentary guilt that she was one of those who'd done it, but knew that she would make it whole again. A timid person despite all her flamboyance, Bea had found unexpected courage in herself by working for a foreign government, and more courage still in doing something that she had never expected them to ask. One more thing remained. She sat down next to her friend and held her close, bringing her head down on the offered shoulder. It was so hard for Bea. Her previous experiences had been passing college affairs. She'd tried to find in herself something different, but the men she'd dated had not satisfied. Her first sexual experience at the clumsy hands of a teenage football player had been so awful...but she wasn't one to psychoanalyze herself. With strangers or mere acquaintances it was one thing, but now she had to face herself, to face her own image in the eyes of a friend. A friend in pain. A friend who needed. A friend, she reminded herself coldly, whom she'd betrayed. It wasn't that she hated Gregory any the less, but she could not ignore the fact that he meant something to her friend, and in that sense he was still between them even here, alone in the bedroom. That worthless little caricature of a man who had on this very bed...

Will you ever replace him? she asked herself.

Will you even try?

If you were willing to remove him, and hurt her, and then not even take the risk...what does that make you?

She wrapped her arms tight around her friend, and was rewarded with a returning grasp. Candi was merely trying to hold on to part of her shattering world, but Bea didn't know that. She kissed her friend on the cheek, and Candi's grip grew stronger still.

She needs you.

It took all of Bea's courage. Already her heart was beating fast, and she ridiculed herself as she had for years. Bea the Confident. Bea the Tough, who snarled back at whomever she wished, who drove her kind of car, and wore her kind of clothes, and to hell with what anyone thought. Bea the Coward, who even after she had risked everything lacked the courage to reach out to the one person in all the world who mattered. One more hesitant step. She kissed her friend again, tasting the salt of her tears and feeling the desperate need in the arms that wrapped around her chest. Taussig took a deep breath and moved one hand down to her friend's breast.



Jennings and Perkins came through the door less than five seconds after hearing the scream. They saw the horror on Long's face, and something both similar and very different on Taussig's.





Chapter 23 -- Best-Laid Plans



"It is the position of the United States government," Ernest Allen said from his side of the table, "that systems designed to defend innocent civilians from weapons of mass destruction are neither threatening nor destabilizing, and that restrictions on the development of such systems serve no useful purpose. This position has been consistently stated for the past eight years, and we have absolutely no reason to change it. We welcome the initiative of the government of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics to reduce offensive weapons by as much as fifty percent, and we will examine the details of this proposal with interest, but a reduction of offensive weapons is not relevant to defensive weapons, which are not an issue for negotiation beyond their applicability to existing agreements between our two countries.

"On the question of on-site inspections, we are disappointed to note that the remarkable progress made only so recently should be..."

You had to admire the man, Ryan thought. He didn't agree with what he was saying, but it was the position of his country, and Ernie Allen was never one to let personal feelings out of whatever secret compartment he locked up before beginning these sessions.

The meeting officially adjourned when Allen finished his discourse, which had just been delivered for the third time today. The usual courtesies were exchanged. Ryan shook hands with his Soviet counterpart. In doing so, he passed over a note, as he'd been taught to do at Langley. Golovko gave no reaction at all, which earned him a friendly nod at the conclusion of the handshake. Jack had no particular choice. He had to continue with the plan. He knew that he'd learn in the next few days just how much of a high-roller Gerasimov was. For him to run the risk of the CIA disclosures, especially with the threat of a few even more spectacular than Jack had promised...But Ryan could not admire the man. His view was that Gerasimov was the chief thug in the main thug agency of a country that allowed itself to be controlled by thugs. He knew that it was a simplistic, dangerous way to think, but he was not a field officer, though be was now acting like one, and hadn't yet learned that the world which he ordinarily viewed from the air-conditioned safety of his desk on CIA's seventh floor was not so well defined as his reports about it. He'd expected that Gerasimov would cave in to his demand -- after taking time to evaluate his position, of course, but still cave in. It hit him that he'd thought like a chess master because That's how he'd expected the KGB Chairman to think, only to be confronted with a man who was willing to throw the dice -- as Americans were wont to do. The irony should have been entertaining, Jack told himself in the marble lobby of the Foreign Ministry. But it wasn't.



Jennings had never seen anyone so thoroughly destroyed as Beatrice Taussig had been. Beneath the brittle, confident exterior had beaten what was after all a lonely human heart, consumed by solitary rage at a world that hadn't treated her in the way that she desired, but was unable to make happen. She almost felt sorry for the woman in handcuffs, but sympathy did not extend to treason, and certainly not to kidnapping, the highest -- or lowest -- crime in the FBI's institutional pantheon.

Her collapse was agreeably complete, however, and that's what mattered right now, that and the fact that she and Will Perkins bad gotten the information out of her. It was still dark when they took her outside to a waiting FBI car. They left her Datsun in the driveway to suggest that she was still there, but fifteen minutes later she came in the back door of the Santa Fe FBI office and gave her information to the newly arrived investigators. It wasn't all that much, really, just a name, an address, and a type of car, but it was the beginning the agents needed. A Bureau car drove by the house soon thereafter and noted that the Volvo was in place. Next, a crisscross telephone directory enabled them to call the family directly across the street, giving them one minute's warning that two FBI agents were about to knock on their back door. The two agents set up surveillance in the family's living room, which was both frightening and exciting to the young couple who owned the tract house. They told the agents that "Ann," as she was known, was a quiet lady whose profession was unknown to the family, but who had caused no trouble in the neighborhood, though she did occasionally keep eccentric hours, like quite a few single people. Last night, for example, she hadn't gotten home until rather late, the husband noted, about twenty minutes before the Carson show ended. A heavy date, he thought. Odd that they'd never seen her bring anyone home, though...

"She's up. There go some lights." One agent picked up binoculars, hardly needed to see across the street. The other one had a long-lens camera and high-speed film. Neither man could see anything more than a moving shadow through the drawn curtains. Outside, they watched a man in a tubular bicycle helmet ride past her car on his ten-speed, getting his morning exercise. From their vantage point they could see him place the radio beeper on the inside surface of the Volvo's rear bumper, but only because they knew what to look for.

"Who teaches them to do that," the man with the camera asked, "David Copperfield?"

"Stan something -- works at Quantico. I played cards with him once," the other chuckled. "He gave the money back and showed me how it's done. I haven't played poker for money since."

"Can you tell us what this is all about?" the homeowner asked

"Sorry. You'll find out, but no time for it now. Bingo!"

"Got it." The camera started clicking and winding.

"We timed that one close!" The man with the binoculars lifted his radio. "Subject is moving, getting in the car."

"We're ready," the radio replied.

"There she goes, heading south, about to lose visual contact. That's it. She's yours now."

"Right. We got her. Out."

No fewer than eleven cars and trucks were assigned to the surveillance, but more important were the helicopters orbiting four thousand feet above the ground. One more helicopter was on the ground at Kirtland Air Force Base. A UH-1N, the two-engine variant of the venerable Huey of Vietnam fame, it had been borrowed from the Air Force and was now being fitted with rappelling ropes.

Ann drove her Volvo in what appeared to be a grossly ordinary fashion, but behind her sunglasses her eyes returned to her mirrors every few seconds. She needed all her skills now, all her training, and despite a mere five hours of sleep she kept to her professional standards. Next to her on the seat was a thermos of coffee. She'd already had two cups for herself, and would give the rest to her three colleagues.



Bob was moving too. Dressed in work clothes and boots, he was jogging cross-country through the woods, pausing only to look at a compass on a two-mile path through the pines. He'd given himself forty minutes to make the trip, and realized that he needed all of it. The high altitude and thin air had him gasping for breath even before he had to deal with the slopes here. He had put all the recriminations behind. All that mattered now was the mission. Things had gone wrong for field operations before, though not any of his, and the mark of a real field officer was the ability to deal with adversity and fulfill his task. At ten minutes after seven he could see the road, and on the near side of it was the convenience store. He stopped twenty yards inside the woodline and waited.



Ann's path was a random one, or seemingly so. Her driving took her on and off the main road twice before she settled down to the final part of the trip. At seven-fifteen she pulled into the parking lot of the small store and went inside.

The FBI was down to two cars now, so skillful had the subject been at evading the surveillance. Every random turn she made had forced a car off her tail -- it was assumed that she could identify any car seen more than once -- and, a frantic call had been sent out for additional vehicles. She'd even chosen the convenience store with care. It could not be watched from anyplace on the road itself; traffic flow would not permit it. Car number ten went into the same parking lot. One of its two occupants went inside, while the other stayed with the vehicle.

The inside man got the Bureau's first real look at Ann, while she bought some donuts and decided to get some more coffee in large Styrofoam cups, plus some soft drinks, all of them high in caffeine content, though the agent didn't take note of that. He checked out right behind her with a paper and two large coffees. He watched her go out the door, and saw that a man joined her, getting into the car as naturally as the fiancé of a woman who liked to drive her own car. He hustled out of the door to his car, but still they almost lost her.

"Here." Ann handed over a paper. Bob's picture was on the front page. It had even been done in color, though the picture quality from the tiny license frame was not exciting.

"I'm glad you remembered to wear the wig," she observed.

"What is the plan?" Leonid asked.

"First I will rent you a new car to get you back to the safe house. Next I will purchase some makeup so that all of you can alter your complexions. After that, I think we will get a small truck for the border crossing. We'll also need some packing crates. I don't know about those yet, but I will by the end of the day."

"And the crossing?"

"Tomorrow. We'll leave before noon and make the crossing about dinnertime."

"So fast?" Bob asked.

"Da. The more I think about it -- they will flood the area with assets if we linger too much." They drove the rest of the way in silence. She went back into the city and parked her car in a public lot, leaving Leonid there as she crossed the street and walked half a block to a rental car agency right across the street from a large hotel. There she went through the proper procedures in less than fifteen minutes, and soon thereafter parked a Ford beside her Volvo. She tossed the keys to Bob and told him to follow her to the interstate, after which he'd be on his own.

By the time they got to the freeway, the FBI was nearly out of cars. A decision had to be made, and the agent in charge of the surveillance guessed right. An unmarked state police vehicle took up the coverage on the Volvo while the last FBI car followed the Ford onto the highway. Meanwhile five cars from the early part of the morning's surveillance of "Ann" raced to catch up with "Bob" and his Ford. Three of them took the same exit, then followed him along the secondary road leading to the safe house. As he matched his driving to the posted speed limit, two of the cars were forced to pass him, but the third was able to lay back -- until the Ford pulled to the shoulder and stopped. This section of the road was as straight as an arrow for over a mile, and he'd stopped right in the middle of it.

"I got him, I got him," a helicopter observer reported, watching the car from three miles away through a pair of stabilized binoculars. He saw the minuscule figure of a man open the hood, then bend down and wait for several minutes before closing it and driving on. "This boy is a pro," the observer told the pilot.

Not pro enough, the pilot thought, his own eyes locked on the distant white dot of a car's roof. He could see the Ford turn off the road onto a dirt track that disappeared in the trees.

"Bingo!"



It had been expected that the safe house would be isolated. The geography of the area easily lent itself to that. As soon as the site was identified, an RF-4C Phantom of the 67th Tactical Reconnaissance Wing lifted off from Bergstrom Air Force Base in Texas. The two-man crew of the aircraft thought it was all something of a joke, but they didn't mind the trip, which took less than an hour. As a mission, it was simple enough that anyone could have done it. The Phantom made a total of four high-altitude passes over the area, and after shooting several hundred feet of film through its multiple camera systems, the Phantom landed at Kirtland Air Force Base, just outside Albuquerque. A cargo plane had brought additional ground crew and equipment a few hours earlier. While the pilot shut down his engines, two groundcrewmen removed the film canister and drove it to the trailer that served as an air-portable photolab. Automatic processing equipment delivered the damp frames to the photointerpreters half an hour after the plane had stopped moving.

"There you go," the pilot said when the right frame came up. "Good conditions for it: clear, cold, low humidity, good sun angle. We didn't even leave any contrails."

"Thank you, Major," the sergeant said as she examined the film from the KA-91 panoramic camera. "Looks like we have a dirt road coming off this highway here, snakes over the little ridge...and looks like a house trailer, car parked about fifty yards -- another one, covered up some. Two cars, then. Okay, what else...

"Wait a minute -- I don't see the second car," an FBI agent said.

"Here, sir. The sun's reflecting off something, and it's too big to be a Coke bottle. Car windshield, probably. Maybe a back window, but I think it's the front end."

"Why?" the agent asked. He just had to know.

She didn't look up. "Well, sir, if it was me, and I was hiding a car, like, I'd back it in so's I could get out quick, y'know? "

It was all the man could do not to laugh. "That's all right, Sarge."

She cranked to a new frame. "There we go -- here's a flash off the bumper, and that's probably the grille, too. See how they covered it up? Look by the trailer. That might be a man there in the shadows..." She went to the next frame. "Yep, that's a person." The man was about six feet, athletic, with dark hair and a shadow on his face suggesting that he'd neglected to shave today. No gun was visible.

There were thirty usable frames of the site, eight of which were blown up to poster size. These went to the hangar with the UH-1N. Gus Werner was there. He didn't like rush jobs any more than the people in that trailer did, but his choices were as limited as theirs had been.



"So, Colonel Filitov, we now have you to 1976."

"Dmitri Fedorovich brought me with him when he became Defense Minister. It simplified things, of course."

"And increased your opportunities," Vatutin observed.

"Yes, it did."

There were no recriminations now, no accusations, no comments on the nature of the crime that Misha had committed. They were past that for the moment. The admission had come first as it always did, and that was always hard, but after that, once they'd been broken or tricked into confessing, then came the easy part. It could last for weeks, and Vatutin had no idea where this one would end. The initial phase was aimed at outlining what he'd done. The detailed examination of each episode would follow, but the two-phase nature of the interrogation was crucial to establishing a cross-referencing index, lest the subject later try to change or deny particular things. Even this phase, glossing over the details as they went, horrified Vatutin and his men. Specifications for every tank and gun in the Soviet Army, including the variations never sent to the Arabs -- which was as good as giving them to the Israelis, therefore as good as giving them to the Americans -- or even the other Warsaw Pact countries, had gone out to the West even before the design prototypes had entered full production. Aircraft specifications. Performance on both conventional and nuclear warheads of every description. Reliability figures for strategic missiles. Inside squabbling in the Defense Ministry, and now, entering the time when Ustinov had become a full voting member of the Politburo, political disputes at the highest level. Most damaging of all, Filitov had given the West everything he knew of Soviet strategy -- and he knew all there was to know. As sounding board and confidant for Dmitri Ustinov, and in his capacity as a legendary combat soldier, he'd been the bureaucrat's eyepiece onto the world of actual war-fighting.

And so, Misha, what do you think of this...? Ustinov must have asked that same question a thousand times, Vatutin realized, but he'd never suspected.

"What sort of man was Ustinov?" the Colonel of "Two" asked.

"Brilliant," Filitov said at once. "His administrative talents were unparalleled. His instincts for manufacturing processes, for example, were like nothing I've seen before or since. He could smell a factory and tell if it was doing proper work or not. He could see five years in the future and determine which weapons would be needed and which would not. His only weakness was in understanding how they were actually used in combat, and as a result we fought occasionally when I tried to change things to make them easier to use. I mean, he looked for easier manufacturing methods to speed production while I looked at the ease with which the end product could be used on the battlefield. Usually I won him over, but sometimes not."

Amazing, Vatutin thought as he made a few notes. Misha never stopped fighting to make the weapons better even though he was giving everything to the West...why? But he couldn't ask that now, nor for a very long time. He couldn't let Misha see himself as a patriot again until all of his treason was fully documented. The details of this confession, he knew now, would take months.



"What time is it in Washington?" Ryan asked Candela.

"Coming upon ten in the morning. You had a short session today."

"Yeah. The other side wanted an early recess for something or other. Any word from D.C. on the Gregory matter?"

"Nothing," Candela replied gloomily.



"You told us they would put their defense systems on the table," Narmonov said to his KGB chief. The Foreign Minister had just reported otherwise. They'd actually learned that the day before, but now they were totally sure that it wasn't mere gamesmanship. The Soviets had hinted at reneging on the verification section of the proposal that had already been settled in principle, hoping this would shake the Americans loose, even a little, on the SDI question. That gambit had met a stone wall.

"It would seem that our source was incorrect," Gerasimov admitted. "Or perhaps the expected concession will take more time."

"They have not changed their position, nor will they change it. You've been misinformed, Nikolay Borissovich," the Foreign Minister said, defining his position to be in firm alliance with the Party's General Secretary.

"Is this possible?" Alexandrov inquired.

"One of the problems gathering intelligence on the Americans is that they themselves often do not know what their position is. Our information came from a well-placed source, and this report coincided with that from another agent. Perhaps Allen wished to do this, but was forbidden to."

"That is possible," the Foreign Minister allowed, unwilling to push Gerasimov too hard. "I've long felt that he has his own thoughts on the issue. But that does not matter now. We will have to change our approach somewhat. Might this signal that the Americans have made another technical breakthrough?"

"Possibly. We're working on that right now. I have a team trying to bring out some rather sensitive material." Gerasimov didn't dare to go further. His operation to snatch the American Major was more desperate than Ryan himself guessed. If it became public, he'd stand accused within the Politburo of trying to destroy important negotiations -- and to have done so without first consulting his peers. Even Politburo members were supposed to discuss what they did, but he couldn't do that. His ally Alexandrov would want to know why, and Gerasimov could not risk revealing his entrapment to anyone. On the other hand, he was certain that the Americans would not do anything to reveal the kidnapping. For them to do so would run an almost identical risk -- political elements in Washington would try to accuse conservatives of using the incident to scuttle the talks for reasons of their own. The game was as grand as it had ever been, and the risks Gerasimov was running, though grave, merely added spice to the contest. It was too late to be careful. He was beyond that, and even though his own life was on the line, the scope of the contest was worthy of its goal.



"We don't know that he's there, do we?" Paulson asked. He was the senior rifleman on the Hostage Rescue Team. A member of the Bureau's "Quarter-Inch Club," he could place three aimed shots within a circle less than half an inch in diameter at two hundred yards -- and of that half-inch, .308 inches was the diameter of the bullet itself.

"No, but it's the best we got," Gus Werner admitted. "There's three of them. We know for sure that two of them are there. They wouldn't leave one man guarding the hostage while they were someplace else -- that's unprofessional."

"It all makes sense, Gus," Paulson agreed. "But we don't know. We go with this, then." That part wasn't a question.

"Yeah, and fast."

"Okay." Paulson turned and looked at the wall. They were using a pilot's ready room. The cork on the walls, put there for sound-absorption, was also perfect for hanging maps and photos. The trailer, they all saw, was a cheap-o. Only a few windows, and of the two original doors, one had been boarded over. They assumed that the room near the remaining door was occupied by the "bad guys" while the other held the hostage. The one good thing about the case was that their opponents were professionals, and therefore somewhat predictable. They'd do the sensible thing in most cases, unlike common criminals, who only did things that occurred to them at the time.

Paulson switched his gaze to a different photo, then to the topographical map, and started picking his approach route. The high-resolution photographs were a godsend. They showed one, man outside, and he was watching the road, the most likely route of approach. He'd walk around some, Paulson thought, but mostly he'd watch the road. So, the observer/ sniper team would approach overland from the other side.

"You think they're city folks?" he asked Werner.

"Probably."

"I'll come in this way. Marty and I can approach to within four hundred yards or so behind this ridge, then come down along here parallel to the trailer."

"Where's your spot?"

"There." Paulson tapped the best of the photos. "I'd say we should bring the machine gun in with us." He explained why, and everyone nodded.

"One more change," Werner announced. "We have new Rules of Engagement. If anybody even thinks that the hostage might be in danger, the bad guys go down. Paulson, if there's one near him when we make the move, you take him down with the first shot, whether he's got a weapon out or not."

"Hold it, Gus," Paulson objected. "There's sure as hell going to be -- "

"The hostage is important, and there is reason to suspect that any attempt to rescue him will result in his death -- "

"Somebody's been watching too many movies," another team member observed.

"Who?" Paulson asked both quietly and pointedly.

"The President. Director Jacobs was on the phone, too. He's got it in writing."

"I don't like it," the rifleman said. "They will have somebody in there baby-sitting him, and you want me to blow him away whether he is threatening the hostage or not."

"That's exactly right," Werner agreed. "If you can't do it, tell me now."

"I have to know why, Gus."

"The President called him a priceless national asset. He is the key man in a project important enough that he briefed the President himself. That's why they kidnapped him, and the thinking is that if they see that they can't have him, they won't want us to have him either. Look at what they've done already," the team leader concluded.

Paulson weighed this for a moment and nodded agreement. He turned to his backup man, Marty, who did the same.

"Okay. We have to go through a window. It's a two-rifle job."

Werner moved to a blackboard and sketched out the assault plan in as much detail as he could. The interior arrangement of the trailer was unknown, and much would depend on last-minute intelligence to be gathered on the scene by Paulson's. ten-power gunsight. The details of the plan were no different from a military assault. First of all, Werner established the chain of command -- everyone knew it, but it was precisely defined anyway. Next came the composition of the assault teams and their parts of the mission. Doctors and ambulances would be standing by, as would an evidence team. They spent an hour, and still the plan was not as complete as any of them would like, but their training allowed for this. Once committed, the operation would depend on the expertise and judgment of the individual team members, but in the final analysis, such things always did. When they were finished, everyone started moving.



She decided on a small U-Haul van, the same-size vehicle as that used for mini-buses or small business deliveries. A larger truck, she thought, would take too long to fill with the proper boxes. These she picked up an hour later from a business called the Box Barn. It was something she'd never had to do before -- all of her information transfers had been done with film cassettes that fitted easily into one's pocket -- but all she'd needed to do was look through the Yellow Pages and make a few calls. She purchased ten shipping crates made with wood edges and plastic-covered cardboard sides, all neatly broken down for easy assembly. The same place sold her labels to indicate what was inside, and polystyrene shipping filler to protect her shipment. The salesperson insisted on the latter. Tania watched as two men loaded her truck, and drove off.



"What do you suppose that is all about?" an agent asked.

"I suppose she wants to take something someplace." The driver followed her from several hundred yards back while his partner called in agents to talk to the shipping company. The U-Haul van was far easier to track than a Volvo.



Paulson and three other men stepped out of the Chevy Suburban at the far end of a housing development about two thousand yards from the trailer. A child in the front yard stared at the men -- two carrying rifles, a third carrying an M-6O machine gun as they walked into the woods. Two police cars stayed there after the Suburban drove off, and officers knocked on doors to tell people not to discuss what they had -- or in most cases, hadn't -- seen.

One nice thing about pine trees, Paulson thought one hundred yards into the treeline, was that they dropped needles, not the noisy leaves that coated the western Virginia hills which he trudged every autumn looking for deer. He hadn't gotten one this year. He'd had two good opportunities, but the bucks he'd seen were smaller than what he preferred to bring home, and he'd decided to leave them for next year while waiting for another chance that had never presented itself.

Paulson was a woodsman, born in Tennessee, who was never happier than when in the back country, making his way quietly through ground decorated with trees and carpeted with the fallen vegetation that covered the untended ground. He led the other three, slowly and carefully, making as little noise as possible -- like the revenuers who'd finally convinced his grandfather to discontinue the production of mountain-brewed White Lightning, he thought without smiling. Paulson had never killed anyone in his fifteen years of service. The Hostage Rescue Team had the best-trained snipers in the world, but they'd never actually applied their craft. He himself had come close half a dozen times, but always before, he'd had a reason not to shoot. It would be different today. He was almost certain of that, and that made his mood different. It was one thing to go into a job knowing that a shooting was possible. In the Bureau-that chance was always there. You planned for it, always hoping that it would not be necessary -- he knew all too well what happened when a cop killed someone, the nightmares, the depression that rarely seemed to appear on TV cop shows. The doc was already flying out, he thought. The Bureau kept a psychiatrist on retainer to help agents through the time after a shooting, because even when you knew that there'd been no choice at all, the human psyche quails before the reality of unnecessary death and punishes the survivor for being alive when his victim is not. That was one price of progress, Paulson thought. It hadn't always been so, and with criminals in most cases it still wasn't. That was the difference between one community and the other. But what community did his target belong to? Criminal? No, they'd be trained professionals, patriots after the fashion of their society. People doing a job. Just like me.

He heard a sound. His left hand went up, and all four men dropped behind cover. Something was moving...over to the left. It kept going left, away from their path. Maybe a kid, he thought, a kid playing in the woods. He waited to be sure it was heading away, then started moving again. The shooter team wore standard military camouflage clothing over their protective gear, the woodland pattern's blend of greens and browns. After half an hour, Paulson checked his map.

"Checkpoint One," he said into his radio.

"Roger," Werner answered from three miles away. "Any problems?"

"Negative. Ready to move over the first ridge. Should have the objective in sight in fifteen minutes."

"Roger. Move in."

"Okay. Out." Paulson and his team formed line abreast to get to the first ridge. It was a small one, with the second two hundred yards beyond it. From there they'd be able to see the trailer, and now things went very slowly. Paulson handed his rifle to the fourth man. The agent moved forward alone, looking ahead to pick out the path that promised the quietest passage. It was mainly a question of looking where you walked rather than how, after all, something lost on city people who thought a forest floor was an invariably noisy place. Here there were plenty of rocky outcroppings, and he snaked his way among them and reached the second ridge in five minutes of nearly silent travel. Paulson snuggled up next to a tree and pulled out his binoculars -- even these were coated with green plastic.

"Afternoon, folks," he said to himself. He couldn't see anyone yet, but the trailer blocked his view of where he expected the outside man to be, and there were also plenty of trees in the way. Paulson searched his immediate surroundings for movement. He took several minutes to watch and listen before waving for his fellow agents to come forward. They took ten minutes. Paulson checked his watch. They'd been in the woods for ninety minutes, and were slightly ahead of schedule.

"Seen anyone?" the other rifleman asked when he came down at Paulson's side.

"Not yet."

"Christ, I hope they haven't moved," Marty said. "Now what?"

"We'll move over to the left, then down the gully over there. That's our spot." He pointed.

"Just like on the pictures."

"Everybody ready?" Paulson asked. He decided to wait a minute before setting off, allowing everyone a drink of water. The air was thin and dry here, and throats were getting raspy. They didn't want anyone to cough. Cough drops, the lead sniper thought. We ought to include those in the gear...

It took another half hour to get to their perches. Paulson selected a damp spot next to a granite boulder that had been deposited by the last glacier to visit the area. He was about twenty feet above the level of the trailer, about what he wanted for the job, and not quite at a ninety-degree angle to it. He had a direct view of the large window on its back end. If Gregory were there, this was where they expected him to be kept. It was time to find out. Paulson unfolded the bipod legs on his rifle, flipped off the scope covers, and went to work. He grabbed for his radio again, fitting the earpiece. He spoke in a whisper lower than that of the wind in the pine branches over his head.

"This is Paulson. We're in place, looking now. Will advise."

"Acknowledged," the radio replied.

"Jeez," Marty said first. "There he is. Right side."



Al Gregory was sitting in an armchair. He had little choice in the matter. His wrists were cuffed in his lap -- that concession had been made to his comfort -- but his upper arms and lower legs were roped in place. His glasses had been taken away, and every object in the room had a fuzzy edge. That included the one who called himself Bill. They were taking turns guarding him. Bill sat at the far end of the room, just: beyond the window. There was an automatic pistol tucked in his belt, but Gregory couldn't tell the type, merely the unmistakable angular shape.

"What -- "

" -- will we do with you?" Bill completed the question

"Damned if I know, Major. Some people are interested in what you do for a living, I suppose."

"I won't -- "

"I'm sure," Bill said with a smile. "Now, we told you to be quiet or I'll have to put the gag back. Just relax, kid."



"What did she say the crates were for?" the agent asked.

"She said that her company was shipping a couple of statues. Some local artist, she said -- a show in San Francisco, I think."

There's a Soviet consulate in San Francisco, the agent. thought at once. But they can't be doing that...could they?

"Man-sized crates, you said?"

"You could put two people in the big ones, easy, and a bunch of little ones."

"How long?"

"You don't need special tools. Half an hour, tops." Half an hour...? One of the agents left the room to make a phone call. The information was relayed by radio to Werner.



"Heads up," the radio earpiece announced. "We got a U-Haul truck -- make that a small van -- coming in off the main road."

"We can't see it from here," Paulson groused quietly to Marty at his left. One problem with their location was that they couldn't see all of the trailer, and could only catch glimpses of the road that led to it. The trees were too thick for that. To get a better view meant moving forward, but that meant a risk that they were unwilling to run. The laser range-finder placed them six hundred and eleven feet from the trailer. The rifles were optimized for two-hundred-yard range, and their camouflage clothing made them invisible, so long as they didn't move. Even with binoculars, the trees so cluttered the view that there were simply too many things for the human eye to focus on.

He heard the van. Bad muffler, he thought. Then he heard a metal door slam and the squeak of another opening. Voices came next, but though he could tell that people were talking, he couldn't make out a single word.



"This should be big enough," Captain Bisyarina told Leonid. "I have two of these and three of the smaller ones. We'll use these to stack on top."

"What are we shipping?"

"Statuary. There's an art show three days from now, and we're even going to make the crossing at the point nearest to it. If we leave in two hours, we'll hit the border at about the right time."

"You're sure -- "

"They search parcels coming north, not going south," Bisyarina assured him.

"Very well. We'll assemble the boxes inside. Tell Oleg to come out."

Bisyarina went inside. Lenny was stationed outside since he knew more about working in the wilderness than the other two officers. While Oleg and Leonid carried the crates inside, she went into the back of the trailer to check on Gregory.

"Hello, Major. Comfortable?"



"I got another one," Paulson said the moment she came into view. "Female, that's the one from the photos -- the Volvo one," he said into the radio. "She's talking to the hostage."

"Three men now visible," the radio said next. Another agent had a perch on the far side of the trailer. "They're carrying crates inside the trailer. Say again, three male subjects. Female subject inside and out of sight."



"That should be all of the subjects. Tell me about the crates." Werner stood by the helicopter in a field several miles away, holding a diagram of the trailer.

"They're broken down, not assembled. I guess they're going to put 'em together."

"Four's all we know about," Werner said to his men. "And the hostage is there..."

"That ought to tie up two of them, assembling the crates," one of the assault team said. "One outside, one with the hostage...sounds good to me, Gus."

"Attention, this is Werner. We're moving. Everybody stand by." He gestured to the helicopter pilot, who began the engine-start sequence. The HRT leader made his own mental check while his men boarded the helicopter. If the Russians tried to drive him away, his men could try to take them on the move, but that kind of van had windows only for the driver and passenger...that meant that two or three of them would be out of sight...and perhaps able to kill the hostage before his men could prevent it. His first instinct was right: They had to go now. The team's Chevy Suburban with four men pulled onto the main road leading to the site.



Paulson flipped the safety off his rifle, and Marty did the same. They agreed on what would happen next. Ten feet from them, the machine-gunner and his loader readied their weapon slowly, to mute the metallic sounds of the gun's action.

"Never goes according to plan," the number-two rifleman noted quietly.

"That's why they train us so much." Paulson had his cross-hairs on the target. It wasn't easy because the glass window reflected much light from the surrounding woods. He could barely make out her head, but it was a woman, and it was someone positively identified as a target. He estimated the wind to be about ten knots from his right. Applied over two hundred yards, that would move his bullet about two inches to the left, and he'd have to allow for that. Even with a ten-power scope, a human head is not a large target at two hundred yards, and Paulson swiveled the rifle slightly to keep her head transfixed on the crosshairs of his sight as she walked about. He wasn't so much watching his target as the crosshair reticle of the sight itself, keeping it aligned with the target rather than the other way around. The drill he followed was automatic. He controlled his breathing, positioned himself on his elbows, and snugged the rifle in tight.



"Who are you?" Gregory asked.

"Tania Bisyarina." She walked about to work the stiffness out of her legs.

"Are your orders to kill me?" Tania admired the way he'd asked that. Gregory wasn't exactly the image of a soldier, but the important part was always hidden from view.

"No, Major. You will be taking a little trip."



"There's tbe truck," Werner said. Sixty seconds from the road to the trailer. He lifted his radio. "Go go go!" The doors on the helicopter slid back and coiled ropes were readied. Werner crashed his fist down on the pilot's shoulder hard enough to hurt, but the flyer was too busy to notice. He pushed down on the collective and dove the helicopter toward the trailer, now less than a mile away.



They heard it before they saw it, the distinctive whop-whop-whop of the twin-bladed rotor. There was enough helicopter traffic over the area that the danger it brought was not immediately obvious. The one outside came to the edge of the trailer and looked through the treetops, then turned when he thought he heard the sound of an approaching vehicle. Inside, Leonid and Oleg looked up from their half-assembled crate in irritation rather than concern, but that changed in an instant when the sound of the helicopter became a roar as the chopper came into a hover directly overhead. In the back of the trailer, Bisyarina went to the window and saw it first. It was the last thing she would ever see.



"On target," Paulson said.

"On target," the other rifleman agreed.

"Shoot!"

They fired at nearly the same moment, but Paulson knew the other shot had gone first. That one broke the thick window, and the bullet went wild, deflected by the breaking glass. The second hollow-point match bullet was a split-second behind it, and struck the Soviet agent in the face. Paulson saw it, but it was the instant of firing that was locked in his mind, the crosshairs on the target. To their left, the machine-gunner was already firing when Paulson called his shot: "Center-head."

"Target is down," the second rifleman said into the radio. "Female target is down. Hostage in view." Both reloaded their rifles and searched for new targets.

Weighted ropes dropped from the helicopter, and four men rappelled down. Werner was in front, and swung his way through the broken window, his MP-5 submachine gun in hand. Gregory was there, shouting something. Werner was joined by another team member, who threw the chair on its side and knelt between it-and the rest of the structure. Then a third man came through, and all three trained their weapons the other way.

Outside, the Chevy Suburban arrived in time to see one of the KGB men firing a pistol at an agent who'd landed atop the trailer and was caught on something, unable to bring his weapon around. Two agents leaped from the vehicle and fired three rounds each, dropping the man in his tracks. The agent atop the trailer freed himself and waved.

Inside, Leonid and Oleg were reaching for their weapons. One looked back to see a constant stream of machine-gun bullets chewing through the metal sides of the trailer, clearly to keep them from approaching Gregory. But those were their orders.

"Hostage is safe, hostage is safe. Female target is down," Werner called over the radio.

"Outside target is down," another agent called. From the outside. He watched another team member put a small explosive charge on the door. The man backed up and nodded. "Ready!"

"Machine-gunner, cease fire, cease fire," Werner ordered. The two KGB officers inside heard it stop and went toward the back. The front door of the trailer was blown off its hinges as they did so. The blast was supposed to be sufficient to disorient, but both men were too alert for that. Oleg turned, bringing his weapon up in two hands to cover Leonid. He fired at the first figure through the door, hitting the man in the arm. That agent fell, trying to bring his weapon around. He fired and missed, but drew Oleg's attention to himself. The second man in the door had his MP-5 cradled in his arm. His gun fired two rounds. Oleg's last impression was one of surprise: he hadn't heard them shoot. He understood when he saw the canlike silencers.

"Agent wounded and bad guy down. Another bad guy heading back. Lost him turning the corner." The agent ran after him, but tripped on a packing case.

They let him come through the door. One agent, his torso protected with a bullet-resistant vest, was between the door and the hostage. They could take the chance now. It was the one who'd gotten the rent-a-car, Werner knew at once, and his weapon wasn't pointed at anybody yet. The man saw three HRT members dressed in black Nomex jump suits and obviously protected with body armor. His face showed the beginnings of hesitation.

"Drop the gun!" Werner screamed. "Don't -- "

Leonid saw where Gregory was and remembered his orders. The pistol started coming around.

Werner did what he'd always told his people not to do, but would never remember why. He loosed half a dozen rounds at the man's arm, going for the gun -- -and miraculously enough, it worked. The gun hand jerked like a puppet's and the pistol fell free in a cloud of spraying blood. Werner leaped forward, knocking the subject down and placing the muzzle of his silenced gun right on his forehead.

"Number three is down! Hostage safe! Team: check in!"

"Outside, number one down and dead."

"Trailer, number two down and dead! One agent hit in the arm, not serious."

"Female down and dead," Werner called. "One subject wounded and in custody. Secure the area! Ambulances, now!" From the time of the sniper shots, it had taken a total of twenty-nine seconds.

Three agents appeared at the window through which Werner and the other two had arrived. One of the agents inside pulled out his combat knife and cut through the ropes that held Gregory, then practically threw him out the window, where he was caught and carried off like a rag doll. Al was put in the back of the HRT truck and rushed off. On the highway, an Air Force helicopter landed. As soon as Gregory was tossed inside, it lifted off.

All HRT members have medical training, and two on the assault team had trained with firemen-paramedics. One of them was wounded in the arm, and directed the bandaging done by the man who'd shot Oleg. The other trained paramedic came back and started working on Leonid.

"He'll make it. The arm's gonna need some surgery, though. Radius, ulna, and humerus all fractured, boss."

"You should have dropped the gun," Werner told him. "You didn't have much of a chance."

"Jesus." It was Paulson. He stood at the window and looked to see what his single bullet had done. An agent was searching the body, looking for a weapon. He stood up, shaking his head. That told the rifleman something he would have preferred not to know. In that moment, he knew that he'd never hunt again. The bullet bad entered just below the left eye. Most of the rest of her head was on the wall opposite the window. Paulson told himself that he should never have looked. The rifleman turned away after five long seconds and unloaded his weapon.



The helicopter took Gregory directly to the project. Six armed security people were waiting when it landed, and hustled him inside. He was surprised when someone snapped some pictures. Someone else tossed Al a can of Coke, and he anointed himself with carbonated spray when be worked the pop-top. After taking a drink, he spoke: "What the hell was all that?"

"We're not even sure ourselves," the chief of project security replied. It took a few more seconds for Gregory's mind to catch up with what had happened. That's when he started shaking.



Werner and his people were outside the trailer while the evidence team took over. A dozen New Mexico State Police officers were there also. The wounded agent and the wounded KGB officer were loaded into the same ambulance, though the latter was handcuffed to his stretcher and doing his best not to scream with the pain of three shattered bones in his arm.

"Where you taking him?" a state police captain asked. "The base hospital at Kirtland -- both of them," Werner replied.

"Long ways."

"Orders are to keep this one under wraps. For what it's worth, the guy who popped your officer is that one over there -- from the description he gave us, it's him anyway."

"I'm surprised you took one alive." That earned the Captain a curious look. "I mean, they were all armed, right?"

"Yeah," Werner agreed. He smiled in an odd sort of way. "I'm surprised, too."





Chapter 24 -- The Rules of the Game



The amazing thing was that it didn't make the news. Only a handful of unmuffled shots had been fired, and gunfire is not all that unusual a thing in the American West. An inquiry to the New Mexico State Police had gotten the reply that the investigation into the shooting of Officer Mendez was still continuing, with a break expected at any time, but that the helicopter activity was merely part of a routine search-and-rescue exercise conducted jointly by the state police and Air Force personnel. It wasn't all that good a story, but good enough to keep reporters off everyone's back for a day or two.

The evidence team sifted through the trailer and not surprisingly found little of note. A police photographer took the requisite pictures of all the victims -- he called himself a professional ghoul -- and handed over the film to the senior FBI agent on the scene. The bodies were bagged and driven to Kirtland, from which they were flown to Dover Air Force Base, where there was a special receiving center staffed by forensic pathologists. The developed photos of the dead KGB officers were sent electronically to Washington. The local police and FBI began talking about how the case against the surviving KGB agent would be handled. It was determined that he'd broken at least a dozen statutes, evenly divided between federal and state jurisdiction, and various attorneys would have to sort that mess out, even though they knew that the real decision would be made in Washington. They were wrong in that assessment, however. Part of it would be decided elsewhere.



It was four in the morning when Ryan felt a hand on his shoulder. He rolled over and looked in time to see Candela flip on the bedstand light.

"What?" Ryan asked as coherently as he could manage.

"The Bureau pulled it off. They have Gregory and he's fine," Candela said. He handed over some photos. Ryan's eyes blinked a few times before going very wide.

"That's a hell of a thing to wake up to," Jack said, even before seeing what had happened to Tania Bisyarina. "Holy shit!" He dropped the photos on the bed and walked into the bathroom. Candela heard the sound of running water, then Ryan emerged and walked to the refrigerator. He pulled out a can of soda and popped it open.

"Excuse me. You want one?" Jack gestured at the refrigerator.

"It's a little early for me. You made the pass to Golovko yesterday?"

"Yeah. The session starts this afternoon. I want to see our friend about eight. I was planning to get up about five-thirty."

"I thought you'd want to see these right away," Candela said. That elicited a grunt.

"Sure. It beats the morning paper...We got his ass,"

Ryan noted, staring at the carpet. "Unless..."

"Unless he Wants to die real bad," the CIA officer agreed.

"What about his wife and daughter?" Jack asked. "If you got opinions, I sure as hell want to hear them."

"The meet's where I suggested?"

"Yep."

"Push him is hard as you can." Candela lifted the pictures off the bed and tucked them in an-envelope. "Make sure you show him these. I don't think it'll trouble his conscience much, but it'll damned well show him we're serious. If you want an opinion, I thought you were crazy before. Now" -- he grinned -- "I think you're just about crazy enough. I'll be back when you're all woke up."

Ryan nodded and watched him leave before heading into the shower. The water was hot, and Jack took his time, in the process filling the small room with steam that he had to wipe off the mirror. When he shaved, he made a conscious effort to stare at his beard rather than his eyes. It wasn't a time for self-doubt.

It was dark outside his windows. Moscow was not lit the same way as an American city. Perhaps it was the near-total absence of cars at this hour. Washington always had people moving about. There was always the unconscious certainty that somewhere people were up and about their business, whatever that might be. The concept didn't translate here. Just as the words of one language never exactly, never quite correspond to those of another, so Moscow was to Ryan just similar enough to other major cities he'd visited to seem all the more alien in its differences. People didn't go about their business here. For the most part they went about the business assigned to them by someone else. The irony was that he would soon be one of the people giving orders, to a person who'd forgotten how to take them.

Morning came slowly to Moscow. The traffic sounds of trolley cars and the deeper rumble of truck diesels were muted by the snow cover, and Ryan's window didn't face in the proper direction to catch the first light of dawn. What had been gray began to acquire color, as though a child were playing with the controls on a color television. Jack finished his third cup of coffee, and set down the book he'd been reading at seven-thirty. Timing was everything on occasions like this, Candela told him. He made a final trip to the bathroom before dressing for his morning walk.

The sidewalks had been swept clean of the Sunday-night snowstorm, though there were still piles at the curbs. Ryan nodded to the security guards, Australian, American, and Russian, before turning north on Chaykovskogo. The bitter northerly wind made his eyes water, and he adjusted the scarf around his neck slightly as be walked toward Vosstaniya Square. This was Moscow's embassy district. The previous morning he'd turned right at the far side of the square and seen half a dozen legations mixed together randomly, but this morning he turned left on Kudrinskiy Pereulok -- the Russians had at least nine ways of saying "street," but the nuances were lost on Jack -- then right, then left again on Barrikadnaya.

"Barricade" seemed an odd name for both a street and a movie theater. It looked odder still in Cyrillic lettering. The B was recognizable, though the Cyrillic "B" is actually a V, and the Rs in the word looked like Roman Ps. Jack altered his course somewhat, walking as close to the buildings as possible as he approached. Just as expected, a door opened and he turned into it. Again be was patted down. The security man found the sealed envelope in the coat pocket, but didn't open it, to Ryan's relief.

"Come." The same thing he'd said the first time, Jack noted. Perhaps he had a limited vocabulary.

Gerasimov was sitting on an aisle seat, his back confidently to Ryan as Jack walked down the slope to see the man.

"Good morning," he said to the back of the man's head.

"How do you like our weather?" Gerasimov asked, waving the security man away. He stood and led Jack down toward the screen.

"Wasn't this cold where I grew up."

"You should wear a hat. Most Americans prefer not to, but here it is a necessity."

"It's cold in New Mexico, too," Ryan said.

"So I'm told. Did you think I would do nothing?" the KGB Chairman asked. He did so without emotion, like a teacher to a slow student. Ryan decided to let him enjoy the feeling for a moment.

"Am I supposed to negotiate with you for Major Gregory's freedom?" Jack asked neutrally -- or tried to. The extra morning coffee had put an edge on his emotions.

"If you wish," Gerasimov replied.

"I think you will find this to be of interest." Jack handed over the envelope.

The KGB Chairman opened it and took out the photographs. He didn't display any reaction as he flipped through the three frames, but when he turned to look at Ryan his eyes made the morning's wind seem like the breath of spring.

"One's alive," Jack reported. "He's hurt, but he'll recover. I don't have his picture. Somebody screwed up on that end. We have Gregory back, unhurt."

"I see."

"You should also see that your options are now those which we intended. 1 need to know which choice you will-make."

"It is obvious, is it not?"

"One of the things I have learned in studying your country is that nothing is as obvious as we would like." That drew something that was almost a smile.

"How will I be treated?"

"Quite well." A hell of lot better than you deserve.

"My family?"

"Them also."

"And how do you propose to get the three of us out?"

"I believe your wife is Estonian by birth, and that she often travels to her home. Have them there Friday night," Ryan said, continuing with some details.

"Exactly what -- "

"You do not need that information, Mr. Gerasimov."

"Ryan, you cannot -- "

"Yes, sir, I can," Jack cut him off, wondering why he'd said "sir."

"And for me?" the Chairman asked. Ryan told him what he'd have to do. Gerasimov agreed. "I have one question."

"Yes?"

"How did you fool Platonov? He's a very clever man."

"There really was a minor flap with the SEC. but that wasn't the important part." Ryan got ready to leave. "We couldn't have done it without you. We had to stage a really good scene, something that you don't fake. Congressmen Trent was over here six months ago, and he met a fellow named Valeriy. They got to be very close friends. He found out later that you gave Valeriy five years for 'antisocial activity.' Anyway, be wanted to get even. We asked for his help and he jumped at it. So I suppose you could say that we used your own prejudices against you."

"What would have us do with such people, Ryan?" the Chairman demanded. "Do you -- "

"I don't make laws, Mr. Gerasimov." Ryan walked out. It was nice, he thought on the return to the embassy compound, to have the wind at his back for a change.



"Good morning, Comrade General Secretary."

"You need not be so formal, Ilya Arkadyevich. There are Politburo members more senior to you who do not have the vote, and we have been comrades too long. What is troubling you?" Narmonov asked cautiously. The pain in his colleague's eyes was evident. They were scheduled to talk about the winter wheat crop, but --

"Andrey Il'ych, I do not know how to begin." Vaneyev nearly choked on the words, and tears began to stream from his eyes. "It is my daughter..." He went on for ten fitful minutes.

"And?" Narmonov asked, when it seemed that he'd finally stopped -- but as was obvious, there had to be more. There was.

Alexandrov and Gerasimov, then." Narmonov leaned back in his chair and stared at the wall. "It took great courage indeed for you to come to me with this, my friend."

"I cannot let them -- even if it means my career, Andrey, I cannot let them stop you now. You have too many things to do, we -- you have too many things to change. I must leave. I know that. But you must stay, Andrey. The people need you here if we are to accomplish anything."

It was noteworthy that he'd said people rather than Party, Narmonov thought. The times really were changing. No. He shook his head. It wasn't that, not yet. All he had accomplished was to create the atmosphere within which the times might have the possibility of change. Vaneyev was one who understood that the problem was not so much goals as process. Every Politburo member knew -- had known for years -- the things that needed to be changed. It was the method of change that no one could agree on. It was like turning a ship to a new course, he thought, but knowing that the rudder might break if you did so. Continuing in the same path would allow the ship to plow on into...what? Where was the Soviet Union heading? They didn't even know that. But to change course meant risk, and if the rudder broke -- if the Party lost its ascendancy -- then there would be only chaos. That was a choice that no rational man would wish to face, but it was a choice whose necessity no rational man could deny.

We don't even know what our country is doing, Narmonov thought to himself. For at least the past eight years all figures on economic performance bad been false in one way or another, each compounding itself on the next until the economic forecasts generated by the GOSPLAN bureaucracy were as fictitious as the list of Stalin's virtues. The ship he commanded was running deeper and deeper into an enveloping fog of lies told by functionaries whose careers would be destroyed by the truth. That was how he spoke of it at the weekly Politburo meetings. Forty years of rosy goals and predictions had merely plotted a course on a meaningless chart. Even the Politburo itself didn't know the state of the- Soviet Union -- something the West hardly suspected.

The alternative? That was the rub, wasn't it? In his darker moments, Narmonov wondered if he or anyone else could really change things. The goal of his entire political life had been to achieve the power that he now held, and only now did he fully understand how circumscribed that power was. All the way up the ladder of his career he'd noted things that had to change, never fully appreciating how difficult that would be. The power he wielded wasn't the same as Stalin's had been. His more immediate predecessors had seen to that. Now the Soviet Union wasn't so much a ship to be guided, as a huge bureaucratic spring that absorbed and dissipated energy and vibrated only to its own inefficient frequency. Unless that changed...the West was racing into a new industrial age while the Soviet Union still could not feed itself. China was adopting the economic lessons of Japan, and in two generations might become the world's third economy: a billion people with a strong, driving economy, right on our border, hungry for land, and with a racial hatred of all Russians that could make Hitler's fascist legions seem like a flock of football hooligans. That was a strategic threat to his country that made the nuclear weapons of America and NATO shrivel to insignificance -- and still the Party bureaucracy didn't see that it had to change or risk being the agent of its own doom!

Someone has to try, and that someone is me.

But in order to try, he first had to survive himself, survive long enough to communicate his vision of national goals, first to the Party, then to the people -- or perhaps the other way around? Neither would be easy. The Party had its ways, resistant to change, and the people, the narod, no longer gave a moment's thought to what the Party and its leader said to them. That was the amusing part. The West -- the enemies of his nation -- held him in higher esteem than his own countrymen.

And what does that mean? he asked himself. If they are enemies, does their favor mean that I am proceeding on the right path -- right for whom? Narmonov wondered if the American President were as lonely as he. But before facing that impossible task, he still had the day-to-day tactical problem of personal survival. Even now, even at the hands of a trusted colleague. Narmonov sighed. It was a very Russian sound.

"So, Ilya, what will you do?" he asked a man who could not commit an act of treason more heinous than his daughter's.

"I will support you if it means my disgrace. My Svetlana will have to face the consequences of her action." Vaneyev sat uptight and wiped his eyes. He looked like a man about to face a firing squad, assembling his manhood for one last act of defiance.

"I may have to denounce you myself," Narmonov said.

"I will understand, Andrushka," Vaneyev replied, his voice laden with dignity.

"I would prefer not to do this. I need you, Ilya. I need your counsel. If I can save your place, I will."

"I can ask for no more than that."

It was time to build the man back up. Narmonov stood and walked around his desk to take his friend's hand. "Whatever they tell you, agree to it without reservation. When the time comes, you will show them what kind of man you are."

"As will you, Andrey."

Narmonov walked him to the door. He had another five minutes till his next scheduled appointment. His day was full of economic matters, decisions that came to him because of indecision in men with ministerial rank, seeking him for his blessing as though from the village priest...As though I don't have troubles enough, the General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union told himself. He spent his five minutes counting votes. It should have been easier for him than for his American counterpart -- in the Soviet Union only full Politburo members had the right to vote, and there were only thirteen of them -- but each man represented a collection of interests, and Narmonov was asking each of them to do things never before contemplated. In the final analysis, power still counted for more than anything else, he told himself, and he could still count on Defense Minister Yazov.



"I think you will like it here," General Pokryshkin said as they walked the perimeter fence. The KGB guards saluted as they passed, and both men returned the halfhearted gestures. The dogs were gone now, and Gennady thought that a mistake, food problems or no.

"My wife will not," Bondarenko replied. "She's followed me from one camp to another for almost twenty years, and finally to Moscow. She likes it there." He turned to look outside the fence and smiled. Could a man ever tire of this view? But what will my wife say when I tell her this? But it was not often that a Soviet soldier had the chance to make this sort of choice, and she would understand that, wouldn't she?

"Perhaps general's stars will change her mind -- and we are working to make the place more hospitable. Do you have any idea bow hard I had to fight for that? Finally I told them that my engineers were like dancers, and that they had to be happy to perform. I think that Central Committeeman is a devotee of the Bolshoy, and that finally made him understand. That's when the theater was authorized, and that's when we started getting decent food trucked in. By next summer the school will be finished, and all the children will be here. Of course" -- he laughed -- "we'll have to put up another block of apartments, and the next Bright Star commander will also have to be a schoolmaster."

"In five years we may not have room for the lasers. Well, you left the highest point for them, I see."

"Yes, that argument lasted nine months. Just to convince them that we might eventually want to build something more powerful than the one we already have." -

"The real Bright Star," Bondarenko noted.

"You will build it, Gennady Iosifovich."

"Yes, Comrade General, I will build it. I will accept the appointment if you still want me." He turned to survey the terrain again. Someday this will all be mine...



"Allah's will," the Major said with a shrug. He was getting tired of hearing that. The Archer's patience and even his faith were being tested by the forced change, in plans. The Soviets had been running troops along the valley road on and off for the last thirty-six hours. He'd gotten half his force across when it had begun, then suffered while his men bad been divided, each side watching the rolling trucks and personnel carriers and wondering if the Russians would halt and hop out, and climb the bills to find their visitors. There would be a bloody fight if they tried that, and many Russians would die -- but he wasn't here merely to kill Russians. He was here to hurt them in a way that the simple loss of soldiers could never do.

But there was a mountain to climb, and he was now grossly behind schedule, and all the consolation anyone could offer was Allah's will. Where was Allah when the bombs fell on my wife and daughter? Where was Allah when they took my son away? Where was Allah when the Russians bombed our refugee camp...? Why must life be so cruel?

"It is hard to wait, isn't it?" the Major observed. "Waiting is the hardest thing. The mind has nothing to occupy it, and the questions come."

"And your questions?"

"When will the war end? There is talk...but there has been talk for years. I am tired of this war."

"You spent much of it on the other -- "

The Major's head snapped around. "Do not say that. 1 have been giving your band information for years! Didn't your leader tell you this? "

"No. We knew that he was getting something, but -- "

"Yes, he was a good man, and he knew that he had to. protect me. Do you know how many times I sent my troops on useless patrols so that they'd miss you, how many times I was shot at by my own people -- knowing that they wanted to kill me, knowing bow they cursed my name?" The sudden flood of emotion amazed both men. "Finally I could bear it no more. Those of my troops who wanted to work for the Russians -- well, it was not bard to send them into your am bushes, but I couldn't merely send those, could I? Do you know, my friend, how many of my troops -- my good men -- I consigned to death at your hands? Those I had left were loyal to me, and loyal to Allah, and it was time to join the freedom fighters once and for all. May God forgive me for all those who did not live long enough for this." Each man; had his tale to tell, the Archer reflected, and the only consistent thread made but a single sentence:

"Life is hard."

"It will be harder still for those atop this mountain." The Major looked around. "The weather is changing. The wind blows from the south now. The clouds will bring moisture with them. Perhaps Allah has not deserted us after all. Perhaps He will let us continue this mission. Perhaps we are His instrument, and He will show them through us that they should leave our country lest we come to visit them."

The Archer grunted and looked up the mountain. He could no longer see the objective, but that didn't matter because, unlike the Major, he couldn't see the end to the war either.

"We'll bring the rest across tonight."

"Yes. They will all be well rested, my friend."



"Mr. Clark?" He'd been on the treadmill for nearly an hour. Mancuso could tell from the sweat when he flipped the off switch.

"Yes, Captain?" Clark took off the headphones.

"What sort of music?"

"That sonar kid, Jones, lent me his machine. All he has is Bach, but it does keep the brain occupied."

"Message for you." Mancuso handed it over. The slip of paper merely had six words. They were code words, had to be, since they didn't actually mean anything.

"It's a go."

"When?"

"It doesn't say that. That'll be the next message."

"I think it's time you tell me how this thing goes," the Captain observed.

"Not here," Clark said quietly.

"My stateroom is this way." Mancuso waved. They went forward past the submarine turbine engines, then through the reactor compartment with its annoyingly noisy door, and finally through the Attack Center and into Mancuso's cabin. It was about as far as anyone could walk on a submarine. The Captain tossed Clark a towel to wipe the sweat from his face.

"I hope you didn't wear yourself out," he said.

"It's the boredom. All your people have jobs to do. Me, I just sit around and wait. Waiting is a bitch. Where's Captain Ramius?"

"Asleep. He doesn't have to be in on the thing this soon, does he?"

"No," Clark agreed.

"What exactly is the job? Can you tell me now?"

"I'm bringing two people out," Clark replied simply.

###   "Two Russians? You're not picking up ### a thing? Two people?"

"That's right."

"And you're going to say that you do it all the time?" Mancuso asked.

"Not exactly all the time," Clark admitted. "I did one three years ago, another one a year before that. Two others never came off, and I never found out why. 'Need-to-know,' you know."

"I've heard the phrase before."

"It's funny," Clark mused. "I bet the people who make those decisions have never had their ass hanging out in the breeze...

"The people you're picking up- -- do they know?"

"Nope. They know to be at a certain place at a certain time. My worry is that they're going to be surrounded by the KGB version of a SWAT team." Clark lifted a radio. "Your end is real easy. I don't say the right thing in the right way, on the right schedule, you and your boat get the hell out of here."

"Leave you behind." It wasn't a question.

"Unless you'd prefer to join me at Lefortovo Prison. Along with the rest of the crew, of course. It might look bad in the papers, Captain."

"You struck me as a sensible man, too."

Clark laughed. "It's a real long story."



"Colonel Eich?"

"Von Eich," the pilot corrected Jack. "My ancestors were Prussians. You're Dr. Ryan, right? What can I do for you?" Jack took a seat. They were sitting in the Defense Attaché's office. The attaché, an Air Force general, was letting them use it.

"You know who I work for?"

"I seem to recall you're one of the intel guys, but I'm just your driver, remember? I leave the important stuff to the folks in soft clothes," the Colonel said.

"Not anymore. I have a job for you."

"What do you mean, a job?"

"You'll love it." Jack was wrong. He didn't.



It was hard to keep his mind on his official job. Part of that was the mind-numbing boredom of the negotiating process, but the largest part was the heady wine of his unofficial job, and his mind was locked on that while he fiddled with his earpiece to get all of the simultaneous translation of the Soviet negotiator's second rendition of his current speech. The hint of the previous day, that on-site inspections would be more limited than previously agreed, was gone now. Instead they were asking for broader authority to inspect American sites. That would make the Pentagon happy, Jack thought with a concealed smile. Russian intelligence officers climbing over factories and descending into silos to get looks at American missiles, all under the watchful eyes of American counterintel officers and Strategic Air Command guards -- who'd be fingering their new Beretta pistols all the while. And the submarine boys, who often regarded the rest of their own Navy as potential enemies, what would they think of having Russians aboard? It sounded as though they wouldn't get any further than standing on the deck while the technicians inside opened the tube doors under the watchful eyes of the boats' crews and the Marines who guarded the boomer bases. The same would happen on the Soviet side. Every officer sent to be on the inspection teams would be a spook, perhaps with the odd line-officer thrown in to take note of things that only an operator would notice. It was amazing. After thirty years of U.S. demands, the Soviets had finally accepted the idea that both sides should allow officially recognized spying. When that happened, during the previous round of talks on intermediate weapons, the American reaction bad been. stunned suspicion -- Why were the Russians agreeing to our terms? Why did they say yes? What are they really trying to do?

But it was progress, once you got used to the idea. Both sides would have a way of knowing-what the other did and what the other had. Neither side would trust the other. Both intelligence communities would see to that. Spies would still be prowling about, looking for indications that the other side was cheating, assembling missiles at a secret location, hiding them in odd places for a surprise attack. They'd find such indications, write interim warning reports, and try to run the information down. Institutional paranoia would last longer than the weapons themselves. Treaties wouldn't change that, despite all the euphoria in the papers. Jack shifted his eyes to the Soviet who was doing the talking.

Why? Why did you guys change your mind? Do you know what I said in my National Intelligence Estimate? It hasn't made the papers yet, but you might have seen it. I said that you finally realized (I) how much the goddamned things cost, (2) that ten thousand warheads was enough to fry all of America eight times over when three or four times was probably enough, and (3) that you'd save money by eliminating all your old missiles, the ones that you can't maintain very well anymore. It's just business, I told them, not a change in your outlook. Oh, yes: (4) it's very good public relations, and you still love to play PR games, even though you screw it up every time.

Not that we mind, of course.

Once the agreement went through -- and lack thought it would -- both sides would save about three percent of their defense outlays; maybe as much as five percent for the Russians because of their more diverse missile systems, but it was hard to be sure. A small fraction of total defense outlays, it would be enough for the Russians to finance a few new factories, or maybe build some roads, which was what they really needed. How would they reallocate their savings? For that matter, how would America? Jack was supposed to make an assessment of that, too, another Special National Intelligence Estimate. Rather a high-sounding title for what was, after all, nothing more than an official guess, and at the moment, Ryan didn't have-a clue.

The Russian speech concluded, and it was time for a coffee break. Ryan closed his leather-bound folder and trooped out of the room with everyone else. He selected a cup of tea, just to be different, and decorated his saucer with finger food.

"So, Ryan, what do you think?" It was Golovko.

"Is this business or socializing?" Jack asked.

"The latter, if you wish."

Jack walked to the nearest window and looked out. One of these days, he promised himself, I will see something of Moscow. They must have something here that's worth snapping A few pictures. Maybe peace will break out someday and I'll be able to bring the family over...- He turned. But not today, not this year, nor the year after that. Too bad.

"Sergey Nikolayevich, if the world made sense, people like you and me would sit down and hammer all this crap out in two or three days. Hell, you and I know that both sides want to cut inventories by half. The issue we've been fighting over all week is how many hours of notice there'll be before the surprise-inspection team arrives, but because neither side can get its act together on the answer, we're talking about stuff that we've already come to terms on instead of getting on with it. If it was just between you and me, I'd say one hour, and you'd say eight, and we'd eventually talk down to three or four -- "

"Four or five." Golovko laughed.

"Four, then." Jack did, too. "You see? We'd settle the son of a bitch, wouldn't we?"

"But we are not diplomats," Golovko pointed out. "We know how to strike bargains, but not in the accepted way. We are too direct, you and I, too practical. Ah, Ivan Emmetovich, we will make a Russian of you yet." He'd just Russianized Jack's name. Ivan Emmetovich. John, son of Emmet.

Business time again, Ryan thought. He changed gears and decided to yank the other man's chain in turn. "No, I don't think so. It gets a little too cool here. Tell you what, you go to your chief talker, and I'll go to Uncle Ernie, and-we'll tell them what we decided on inspection-warning time -- four hours. Right now. How 'bout it?"

That rattled him, Jack saw. For the briefest fraction of a second, Golovko thought that he was serious. The GRU/ KGB officer recovered his composure in a moment, and even Jack barely noticed the lapse. The smile was hardly interrupted, but while the expression remained fixed around the mouth, it faded momentarily about the man's eyes, then returned. Jack didn't know the gravity of the mistake he had just made.

You should be very nervous, Ivan Emmetovich, but you are not. Why? You were before. You were so tense at the reception the other night that 1 thought you would explode. And yesterday when you passed the note, I could feel the sweat on your palm. But today, you make jokes. You try to unnerve me with your banter. Why the difference, Ryan? You are not a field officer. Your earlier nervousness proved that, but now you are acting like one. Why? he asked himself as everyone filed back into the conference room. Everyone sat for the next round of monologues, and Golovko kept an eye on his American counterpart.

Ryan wasn't fidgeting now, he noted with some surprise. On Monday and Tuesday he had been. He merely looked bored, no more uncomfortable than that. You should be uncomfortable, Ryan, Golovko thought.

Why did you need to meet with Gerasimov? Why twice?

Why were you nervous before and after the first… and before but not after the second?

It didn't make much sense. Golovko listened to the droning words in his earpiece -- it was the American's turn to ramble on about things that had already been decided -- but his mind was elsewhere. His mind was in Ryan's KGB file. Ryan, John Patrick. Son of Emmet William Ryan and Catherine Burke Ryan, both deceased. Married, two children. Degrees in economics and history. Wealthy. Brief service in U.S. Marine Corps. Former stockbroker and history teacher. Joined CIA on a part-time basis four years before, after a consulting job the year before that. Soon thereafter became a full-time officer-analyst. Never trained at the CIA's field school at Camp Peary, Virginia. Ryan had been involved in two violent incidents, and in both cases deported himself well -- the Marine training, Golovko supposed, plus his innate qualities as a man, which the Russian respected. Very bright, brave when he had to be: a dangerous enemy. Ryan worked directly for the DDI, and was known to have prepared numerous special intelligence evaluations...but a special intelligence mission...? He had no training for that. He was probably the wrong sort of personality. Too open, Golovko thought; there was little guile in the man. When he was hiding something, you would never know what, but you would know that he was hiding something...

You were hiding something before, but not now, are you?

And what does that mean, Ivan Emmetovich? What the hell kind of name is Emmet? Golovko wondered irrelevantly.

Jack saw the man looking at him and saw the question in his eyes. The man was no dummy, Jack told himself, as Ernest Allen spoke on about some technical issue or other. We thought he was GRU, and be really turned out to be KGB -- or so it would seem, Jack corrected himself. Is there something else about him that we don't know?



At parking position number nine at Sheremetyevo Airport, Colonel von Eich was standing at the aft passenger door of his aircraft. In front of him, a sergeant was fiddling with the door seal, an impressive array of tools spread out before him. Like most airliner doors, it opened outward only after opening inward, allowing the airtight seal to unseat itself and slide out of the way so that it would not be damaged. Faulty door seals had killed aircraft before, the most spectacular being the DC-1O crash outside Paris a decade before. Below them, a uniformed KGB guard stood with loaded rifle outside the aircraft. His own flight crew had to pass security checks. All Russians took security very seriously indeed, and the KGB were outright fanatics on the subject.

"I don't know why you're getting the warning light, Colonel," the sergeant said after twenty minutes. "The seal's perfect, the switch that goes to the light seems to be in good shape-anyway, the door is fine, sir. I'll check the panel up front next."

You get that? Paul von Eich wanted to ask tbe KGB guard fifteen feet below, but couldn't.

His crew was already readying the plane for its return trip. They'd had a couple of days to see the sights. This time it had been an old monastery about forty miles outside the city -- the last ten miles of which had been over roads that were probably dirt in summertime but were a mixture of mud and snow now. They'd bad their guided, guarded tour of Moscow, and now the airmen were ready to go home. He hadn't briefed his men on what Ryan had told him yet. The time for that would come tomorrow evening. He wondered how they would react.



The session ended on schedule, with a hint from the Soviets that they'd be willing to talk over inspection times tomorrow. They'd have to talk fast, Ryan thought, because the delegation would be leaving tomorrow night, and they had to have something to take back home from this round of talks. After all, the summit meeting was already scheduled informally. This one would be in Moscow. Moscow in the spring, Jack thought. I wonder if they'll bring me along for the signing ceremony? I wonder if there'll be a treaty to sign? There had better be, Ryan concluded.

Golovko watched the Americans leave, then waved for his own car, which took him to KGB headquarters. He walked directly to the Chairman's office.

"So what did our diplomats give away today?" Gerasimov asked without preamble.

"I think tomorrow we'll make our amended proposal for inspection timing." He paused before going on. "I spoke with Ryan today. He seems to have changed somewhat and I thought I should report it."

"Go on," the Chairman said.

"Comrade Chairman, I do not know what the two of you discussed, but the change in his demeanor is such that I thought you should know-of it." Golovko went on to explain what he'd seen.

"Ah, yes. I cannot discuss our conversations because you are not cleared for that compartment) but I would not be concerned, Colonel. I am handling this matter personally. Your observation is noted. Ryan will have to learn to control his emotions better. Perhaps he is not Russian enough." Gerasimov was not a man who made jokes, but this was an exception. "Anything else on the negotiations?"

"My notes will be written up and on your desk tomorrow morning."

"Good. Dismissed." Gerasimov watched the man leave. His face didn't change until the door clicked shut. Bad enough to lose, he thought, and to lose to a nonprofessional...But he had lost, and, he reminded himself, he wasn't a professional either, merely the Party man who gave them orders. That decision was behind him. It was too bad about his officers in -- wherever the place was -- but they had failed, and earned their fates. He lifted his phone and ordered his private secretary to arrange for his wife and daughter to fly the following morning to Talinn, the capital of the Estonian Soviet Socialist Republic. Yes, they would need a car and a driver also. No, just one. The driver would double as their security guard. Not many people knew who his wife was, and the trip was unscheduled, just to see old friends. Very good. Gerasimov hung up his phone and looked around his office. He'd miss it. Not so much the office itself: the power. But he knew that he'd miss his life more.



"And this Colonel Bondarenko?" Vatutin asked.

"A fine young officer. Very bright. He'll make a good general when the time comes."

Vatutin wondered how his final report would handle that issue. There was no suspicion about that man, except for his association with Filitov. But there had been no suspicion about Filitov, despite his connection with Oleg Penkovskiy. Colonel Vatutin shook his head in amazement. That fact would be talked about in security classes for a generation. Why didn't they see? the young officer-trainees would demand. How could anyone be so stupid? Because only the most trusted people can be spies -- you don't give classified information to someone you cannot trust. The lesson was as it had always been: Trust no one. Coming back to Bondarenko, he wondered what would happen to him. If he were the loyal and exceptional officer he seemed to be, then he should not be' tainted by this affair. But -- there was always a but, wasn't there? -- there were also some additional questions to ask, and Vatutin went to the bottom of his list. His initial interrogation report was due on Gerasimov's desk the following day.



The climb took all night in total darkness. The clouds that had swept in from the south covered both moon and stars, and the only illumination was from the perimeter lights of their objective, reflected off the clouds. Now they were within easy sight of it. Still a sizable march, they were close enough that the individual units could be briefed on their tasks, and could see what they had to do. The Archer picked for himself a high spot and rested his binoculars on a rock to steady them as he surveyed the site. There seemed to be three encampments. Only two of them were fenced, though at the third he could make out piles of posts-and fencing material near an orange-white light atop the sort of pole used in cities to illuminate the streets. The extent of the construction surprised him. To do all this -- on the top of a mountain! How important could such a place be to deserve all the effort, all the expense? Something that sent a laser beam into the sky...to what end? The Americans had asked him if he'd seen what the light-beam had hit. They knew it had hit something, then? Something in the sky. Whatever it was, it had frightened the Americans, had frightened the same people who made the missiles with which he bad killed so many Russian pilots...What could frighten people so clever as that? The Archer could see the place, but did not see anything more frightening than the guard towers that held machine guns. One of those buildings held armed soldiers who would have heavy weapons. That was something to be frightened about. Which building? He had to know that, because that building had to be attacked first. His mortars would put their shells on that one first of all. But which one was it?

After that...? He'd deploy his men into two sections of almost a hundred each. The Major would take one and go left. He'd take the other and go right. The Archer had selected his objective as soon as he saw the mountaintop. That building, he told himself, was where the people were. That was where the Russians lived. Not the soldiers, but those the soldiers guarded. Some of the windows were lighted. An apartment building built atop a mountain, he thought. What sort of people would they be that the Russians would put up a building of the sort found only in cities? People who needed comfort. People who had to be guarded. People who worked on something tbe Americans were afraid of. People he would kill without mercy, the Archer told himself.

The Major came down to lie at his side.

"All the men are well hidden," the man said. He trained his own binoculars on the objective. It was so dark that the Archer barely saw the man's outline, only the contours of his face and the vague shadow of his bristling mustache. "We misjudged the ground from the other hilltop. It will take three hours to close in."

"Closer to four I think."

"I don't like those guard towers," the Major noted. Both men shivered with the cold. The wind had picked up, and they no longer were sheltered from it by the bulk of the mountain. It would be a difficult night for all of the men. "One or two machine guns in each of them. They can sweep us off the mountainside as we make the final assault."

"No searchlights," the Archer noted.

"Then they'll be using night-vision devices. I've used them myself."

"How good?"

"Their range is limited because of the way they work. They can see large things, like trucks, out to this distance. A man on a broken background like this one...perhaps three thousand meters. Far enough for their purposes, my friend. The towers must go first. Use the mortars on them."

"No." The Archer shook his head. "We have less than a hundred shells. They must go on the guard barracks. If we can kill all of the sleeping soldiers, so much the easier for us when we get inside."

"If the machine-gunners in those towers see us coming, half of our men will be dead before the guards wake up," the Major pointed out.

The Archer grunted. His comrade was right. Two of the towers were sited in a way that would allow the men in them to sweep the steep slope that they'd have to climb before getting to the mountain's flat summit. He could counter that with his own machine guns...but duels of that sort were usually won by the defender. The wind gusted at them, and both men knew that they'd have to find shelter soon or risk frostbite.

"Damn this cold!" the Major swore.

"Do you think the towers are cold also?" the Archer asked after a moment.

"Even worse. They are more exposed than we."

"How will the Russian soldiers be dressed?"

The Major chuckled. "The same as we -- after all, we're all wearing their clothing, are we not?"

The Archer nodded, searching for the thought that hovered at the edge of his consciousness. It came to him through his cold-numbed brain, and he left his perch, telling the Major to remain. He came back carrying a Stinger missile launcher. The metal tube was cold to the touch as he assembled it. The acquisition units were all carried inside his men's clothing, to protect the batteries from the cold. He expertly assembled and activated the weapon, then rested his cheek on the metal conductance bar and trained it on the nearest guard tower...

"Listen," he said, and handed the weapon over. The officer took it and did as he was directed...

"Ah." His teeth formed a Cheshire-cat grin in the black night.



Clark was busy, too. Obviously a careful man, Mancuso noted as he watched, he was laying out and checking all of his equipment. The man's clothing looked ordinary, though shabby and not well made.

"Bought in Kiev," Clark explained. "You can't exactly wear Hart, Schaffner, and Marx and expect to look like a local." He also had a coverall to put over it, with camouflage stripes. There was a complete set of identity papers -- in Russian, which Mancuso couldn't read -- and a pistol. It was a small one, barely larger than the silencer that sat next to it.

"Never seen one of these before," the Captain said.

"Well, that's a Qual-A-Tec baffle-type silencer with no wipes and a slide-lock internal to the can," Clark said.



Mr. Clark chuckled. "You guys have been hitting me with subspeak ever since I got aboard, skipper. Now it's my turn."

Mancuso lifted the pistol "This is only a twenty-two."

"It's damned near impossible to silence a big round unless you want a silencer as long as your forearm, like the FBI guys have on their toys. I have to have something that'll fit in a pocket. This is the best Mickey can do, and he's the best around."

"Who?"

"Mickey Finn. That's his real name. He does the design work for Qual-A-Tec, and I wouldn't use anybody else's silencer. It isn't like TV, Cap'n. For a silencer to work right, it has to be a small caliber, you have to use a subsonic round, and you have to have a sealed breech. And it helps if you're out in the open. In here, you'd hear it 'cause of the steel walls. Outside, you'd hear something out to thirty feet or so, but you wouldn't know what it was. The silencer goes on the pistol like this, and you twist it" -- he demonstrated -- "and now the gun's a single shot. The silencer locks the action. To get off another round, you have to twist it back and cycle the action manually."

"You mean you're going in there with a twenty-two singleshot?"

"That's how it's done, Captain."

"Have you ever -- "

"You really don't want to know. Besides, I can't talk about it." Clark grinned. "I'm not cleared for that myself. If it makes you feel any better, yeah, I'm scared, too, but this is what they pay me for."

"But if -- "

"You get the hell out of here. I have the authority to give you that order, Captain, remember? It hasn't happened yet. Don't worry about it. I do enough worrying for the both of us."





Chapter 25 -- Convergence



Maria and Katryn Gerasimov always got the sort of VIP treatment that they deserved as the immediate family of a Politburo member. A KGB car took them from their guarded eight-room apartment on Kutuzovskiy Prospekt to Vnukovo Airport, which was used mainly for domestic flights, where they waited in the lounge reserved for the vlasti. It was staffed by more people than ever seemed to use the facility at any one time, and this morning the only others present kept to themselves. An attendant took their hats and coats while another walked them to a couch, where a third asked if they wanted anything to eat or drink. Both ordered coffee and nothing more. The lounge staff eyed their clothing with envy. The cloak-room attendant ran her hands over the silky texture of their furs, and it struck her that her ancestors might have looked upon the czarist nobility with the same degree of envy that she felt toward these two. They sat in regal isolation, with only the distant company of their bodyguards as they sipped at their coffee and gazed out the plate-glass windows at the parked airliners.

Maria Ivanovna Gerasimova was not actually an Estonian, though she'd been born there fifty years before. Her family was composed entirely of ethnic Russians, since the small Baltic state bad been part of the Russian Empire under the czars, only to experience a brief "liberation" -- as the troublemakers called it -- between the world wars, during which the Estonian nationalists had not made life overly easy for ethnic Russians. Her earliest childhood memories of Talinn were not all that pleasant, but like all children she had made friends who would be friends forever. They'd even survived her marriage to a young Party man who had, to everyone's surprise -- most especially hers -- risen to command the most hated organ of the Soviet government. Worse, he'd made his career on repressing dissident elements. That her childhood friendships had withstood this fact was testimony to her intelligence. Half a dozen people had been spared sentences in labor camps, or been transferred from one of strict regime to a milder place due to her intercession. The children of her friends had attended universities because of her influence. Those who had taunted her Russian name as a child did less well, though she'd helped one of them a little, enough to appear merciful. Such behavior was enough to keep her part of the small Talinn suburb despite her long-past move to Moscow. It also helped that her husband had only once accompanied her to her childhood home. She was not an evil person, merely one who used her vicarious power as a princess of an earlier age might have done, arbitrarily but seldom maliciously. Her face had the sort of regal composure that fitted the image. A beautiful catch twenty-five years ago, she was still a handsome woman, if somewhat more serious now. As an ancillary part of her husband's official identity, she had to play her part in the game -- not as much as the wife of a Western politician, of course, but her behavior had to be proper. The practice stood her in good stead now. Those who watched her could never have guessed her thoughts.

She wondered what was wrong, knowing only that it was gravely serious. Her husband had told her to be at a specific place at a specific time, to ask no questions of him, only to promise that she would do exactly as she was told, regardless of consequences. The order, delivered in a quiet, emotionless monotone while the water was running in their kitchen, was the most frightening thing she had heard since the German tanks had rumbled into Talinn in 1941. But one legacy of the German occupation was that she knew just how important survival was.

Her daughter knew nothing of what they were doing. Her reactions could not be trusted. Katryn had never known danger in her life as her mother had, only the rare inconvenience. Their only child was in her first year at Moscow State University, where she majored in economics and traveled with a crowd of similarly important children of similarly important people, all of ministerial rank at least. Already a Party member -- eighteen is the earliest age permitted -- she played her role, too. The previous fall she'd traveled with some of her classmates and helped harvest wheat, mainly for a photograph that had been displayed on the second page of Komsomolckaya Pravda, the paper of the Young Communist League. Not that she'd liked it, but the new rules in Moscow "encouraged" the children of the powerful at least to appear to be doing their fair share. It could have been worse. She'd returned from the ordeal with a new boyfriend, and her mother wondered if they'd been intimate, or had the young man been frightened off by the bodyguards and the knowledge of who her father was? Or did he see her as a chance to enter the KGB? Or was he one of the new generation that simply didn't care? Her daughter was one of these. The Party was something you joined to secure your position, and her father's post put her on the inside track for a comfortable job. She sat beside her mother in silence, reading a West German fashion magazine that was now sold in the Soviet Union and deciding what new Western fashions she would like to wear to classes. She would have to learn, her mother thought, remembering that at eighteen the world is a place with horizons both near and far, depending on one's mood.

About the time they finished their coffee, the flight was called. They waited. The plane wouldn't leave without them. Finally, when the last call came, the attendant brought their coats and hats, and another led them and their guards down the stairs to their car. The other passengers had already ridden out to the aircraft on a bus -- the Russians haven't quite discovered jetways yet -- and when their car arrived, they were able to walk right up the stairs. The stewardess guided them solicitously to their first-class seats in the forward cabin. They weren't called first class, of course, but they were wider, they had greater leg room, and they were reserved. The airliner lifted off at ten o'clock, Moscow time, stopped first at Leningrad, then proceeded to Talinn, where it landed just after one.



"So, Colonel, you have your summary of the subject's activity?" Gerasimov asked casually. H~ seemed preoccupied, Vatutin noted at once. He should have been more interested, particularly with a Politburo meeting only an hour away.

"Books will be written about this one, Comrade Chairman. Filitov had access to virtually all of our defense secrets. He even helped make defense policy. I needed thirty pages merely to summarize what he's done. The full interrogation require several months."

Speed is less important than thoroughness," Gerasimov said offhandedly.

Vatutin did not react. "As you wish, Comrade Chairman."

"If you will excuse me, the Politburo is meeting this morning."

Colonel Vatutin came to attention, pivoted on his heels, and left. He found Golovko in the anteroom. The two knew each other casually. They'd been a year apart at the KGB Academy, and their careers had advanced at roughly the same rate.

"Colonel Golovko," the Chairman's secretary said. "The Chairman must leave now, and suggests that you return tomorrow morning at ten."

"But -- "

"He's leaving now," the secretary said.

"Very well," Golovko replied and stood. He and Vatutin left the room together.

"The Chairman is busy," Vatutin observed on the way out.

"Aren't we all?" the other man replied after the door closed. "I thought he wanted this. I arrived here at four to write this goddamned report. Well, I think I'll have some breakfast. How go things in 'Two,' Klementi Vladimirovich?"

"Also busy -- the people do not pay us to sit on our backsides." He'd also arrived early to complete his paperwork, and his stomach was growling audibly.

"You must be hungry, too. Care to join me?"

Vatutin nodded, and both men made for the canteen. Senior officers -- colonel and above -- had a separate dining room and were served by white-coated waiters. The room was never empty. The KGB worked round the clock, and odd schedules made for irregular meals. Besides, the food was good, especially for senior officers. The room was a quiet place. When people talked here, even if they were discussing sports, they did so almost in whispers.

"Aren't you attached to the arms negotiations now?" Vatutin asked as he sipped his tea.

"Yes -- nursemaiding diplomats. You know, the Americans think I'm GRU." Golovko arched his eyebrows, partly in amusement at the Americans, partly to show his slot-quite classmate how important his cover was.

"Really?" Vatutin was surprised. "I would have thought that they were better informed -- at least...well..." He shrugged to indicate that he couldn't go any further. I, too, have things that I cannot discuss, Sergey Nikolayevich.

"I suppose the Chairman is preoccupied by the Politburo meeting. The rumors -- "

"He's not ready yet," Vatutin said with the quiet confidence of an insider."

"You're sure?"

"Quite sure."

"Where do you stand?" Golovko asked.

"Where do you stand?" Vatutin replied. Both traded a look of amusement, but then Golovko turned serious.

"Narmonov needs a chance. The arms agreement -- if the diplomats ever get their thumbs out and execute it -- will be a good thing for us."

"You really think so?" Vatutin didn't know one way or the other.

"Yes, I do. I've had to become an expert on the arms of both camps. I know what we have, and I know what they have. Enough is enough. Once a man is dead, you do not need to shoot him again and again. There are better ways to spend the money. There are things that need changing."

"You should be careful saying that," Vatutin cautioned. Golovko had traveled too much. He had seen the West, and many KGB officers came back with tales of wonder -- if only the Soviet Union could do this, or that, or the other thing...Vatutin sensed the truth of that, but was inherently a more cautious man. He was a "Two" man, who looked for dangers, while Golovko, of the First Chief Directorate, looked for opportunities.

"Are we not the guardians? If we cannot speak, who can?" Golovko said, then backed off. "Carefully, of course, with the guidance of the Party at all times -- but even the Party sees the need for change." They had to agree on that. Every Soviet newspaper proclaimed the need for a new approach, and every such article had to be approved by someone important, and of political purity. The Party was- never wrong, both men knew, but it certainly did change its kollektiv mind a lot.

"A pity that the Party does not see the importance of rest for its guardians. Tired men make mistakes, Sergey Nikolayevich."

Golovko contemplated his eggs for a moment, then lowered his voice even further. "Klementi...let us assume for a moment I know that a senior KGB officer is meeting with a senior CIA officer."

"How senior?"

"Higher than directorate head," Golovko replied, telling Vatutin exactly who it was without using a name or a title. "Let us assume that I arrange the meetings, and that he tells me I do not need to know what the meetings are about. Finally, let us assume that this senior officer is acting...strangely. What am I to do?" he asked, and was rewarded with an answer right from the book:

"You should write up a report for the Second Directorate, of course."

Golovko nearly choked on his breakfast. "A fine idea. Immediately afterward I can slash my throat with a razor and save everyone the time and trouble of an interrogation. Some people are -above suspicion -- or have enough power that no one dares to suspect them."

"Sergey, if there is anything I have learned in the past few weeks, it is that there is no such thing as 'above suspicion.' We've been working a case so high in the Defense Ministry...you would not believe it. I scarcely do." Vatutin waved for a waiter to bring a fresh pot of tea. The pause gave the other man a chance to think. Golovko had intimate knowledge of that ministry because of his work on strategic arms. Who could it be? There were not many men whom the KGB was unable to suspect -- that was hardly a condition the agency encouraged -- and fewer still high in the Ministry of Defense, which the KGB is supposed to regard with the utmost suspicion. But...

"Filitov?"

Vatutin blanched, and made a mistake: "Who told you?"

"My God, he briefed me last year on intermediate arms. I heard he was sick. You're not joking, are you?"

"There is nothing the least bit amusing about this. I cannot say much, and it may not go beyond this table, but -- yes, Filitov was working for...for someone outside our borders. He's confessed, and the first phase of the interrogation is complete."

"But he knows everything! The arms-negotiation team should know of this. It alters the whole basis for the talks," Golovko said.

Vatutin hadn't considered that, but it wasn't his place to make policy decisions. He was, after all, nothing more than a policeman with a very special beat. Golovko might have been right in his assessment, but rules were rules.

"The information is being closely held for the moment, Sergey Nikolayevich. Remember that."

"Compartmentalization of information can work both for and against us, Klementi," Golovko warned, wondering if he should warn the negotiators.

"That's true enough," Vatutin agreed.

"When did you arrest your subject?" Golovko asked, and got his reply. The timing...He took a breath, and forgot about the negotiations. "The Chairman has met at least twice with a senior CIA officer -- "

"Who, and when?"

"Sunday night and yesterday morning. His name is Ryan. He's my counterpart on the American team, but he's an intelligence type, not a field officer as I once was. What do you make of that?"

"You're sure he's not an operations man?"

"Positive. I can even tell you the room be works in. This is not a matter of uncertainty. He's an analyst, a senior one, but only a desk man. Special assistant to their Deputy Director for Intelligence, before that he was part of a high-level liaison team in London. He's never been in the field." Vatutin finished his tea and poured another cup. Next he buttered a piece of bread. He took his time thinking about this. There was ample opportunity to delay a response, but --

"All we have here is unusual activity. Perhaps the Chairman has something going that is so sensitive -- "

"Yes -- or perhaps that is how it's supposed to Golovko observed.

"For a 'One' man, you seem to have our way of thinking, Sergey. Very well. What we would do ordinarily -- not that a case like this is ordinary, but you know what I mean -- is that we assemble information and take it to the Director of the Second Chief Directorate. The Chairman has bodyguards. They would be taken aside and questioned. But such a thing would have to be handled very, very carefully. My chief would have to go to -- who?" Vatutin asked rhetorically. "A Politburo member, I suppose, or perhaps the Secretary of the Central Committee, but...the Filitov matter is being handled very quietly. I believe the Chairman may wish to use it as political leverage against both the Defense Minister and Vaneyev...

"What?"

"Vaneyev's daughter was acting as a spy for the West -- well, a courier to be precise. We broke her, and -- "

"Why has this not become public knowledge?"

"The woman is back at her job, by order of the Chairman," Vatutin replied.

"Klementi, do you have any idea what the hell is going on here?"

"No, not now. I assumed that the Chairman was seeking to strengthen his political position, but the meetings with a CIA man...you're sure of this?"

"I arranged the meetings myself," Golovko repeated. "The first must have been agreed upon before the Americans arrived, and I merely handled the details. Ryan requested the second. He passed a note to me -- about as well as a trainee-officer on his first job. They met at the Barricade Theater yesterday, as I told you. Klementi, something very strange is happening."

"It would seem so. But we have nothing -- "

"What do you mean -- "

"Sergey, investigation is my job. We have nothing but disparate bits of information that might easily be explained. Nothing queers an investigation like moving too rapidly. Before we can act, we must assemble and analyze what we have. Then we can go to see my chief, and he can authorize further action. Do you think two colonels can act on this without clearing it with higher authority? You have to write up everything you know and bring it to me. How soon can you do that?"

"I have to be at the negotiating session in" -- he checked his watch -- "two hours. That will last until sixteen hours, followed by a reception. The Americans leave at twenty-two hours."

"Can you skip the reception?"

"It will be awkward, but yes."

"Be in my office at sixteen-thirty," Vatutin said formally. Golovko, who was the senior officer by a year, smiled for the first time.

"By your order, Comrade Colonel."



"Marshal Yazov, what is the position of the Ministry?" Narmonov asked.

"No less than six hours," the Defense Minister said. "In that time we should be able to conceal most of the highly sensitive items. As you know, we would prefer not to have our sites inspected at all, though examining American facilities does offer some intelligence advantages."

The Foreign Minister nodded. "The Americans will ask for less, but I think we can settle on that number."

"I disagree." Heads of the Politburo members turned to Alexandrov's chair. The ideologue's florid complexion was displaying itself again. "it is bad enough to reduce our arsenals at all, but to have Americans examine the factories, to get all our secrets, this is madness."

"Mikhail Petrovich, we have been through this," General Secretary Narmonov said patiently. "Further discussion?" He looked around the table. Heads nodded. The General Secretary checked off the item on his note pad. He waved to the Foreign Minister.

"Six hours, nothing less."

The Foreign Minister whispered instruction to an aide, who left the room at once to call the chief negotiator. Next he leaned forward. "That leaves only the question of which arms will be eliminated -- the hardest question of all, of course. That will require another session -- a long one."

"We are scheduled to have our summit in three months..." Narmonov observed.

"Yes. It should be decided by then. Preliminary excursions into this question have not met any serious obstacles."

"And the American defensive systems?" Alexandrov asked. "What of them?" Heads turned again, now to the KGB Chairman.

"Our efforts to penetrate the American Tea Clipper program continue. As you know, it corresponds very closely to our Project Bright Star, though it would seem that we are further along in the most important areas," Gerasimov said, without looking up from his scratch pad.

"We cut our missile force in half while the Americans learn to shoot our missiles down," Alexandrov groused.

"And they will cut their force in half while we work to the same end," Narmonov went on. "Mikhail Petrovich, we've been working along these lines for over thirty years, and much harder than they have."

"We are also further along in testing," Yazov pointed out. "And -- "

"They know of it," Gerasimov said. He referred to the test the Americans had observed from the Cobra Belle aircraft, but Yazov didn't know about that, and even the KGB hadn't discovered how the test had been observed, merely that the Americans knew of it. "They have intelligence services too, remember."

"But they haven't said anything about it," Narmonov observed.

"The Americans have occasionally been reticent to discuss such things. They complain about some technical aspects of our defense activity, but not all of them, for fear of compromising their intelligence-gathering methods," Gerasimov explained casually. "Possibly they have conducted similar tests, though we have not learned of it. The Americans, too, are able to maintain secrecy when they wish." Taussig had never gotten that information out either. Gerasimov leaned back to let others speak.

"In other words, both sides will continue as before," Narmonov concluded.

"Unless we are able to win a concession," the Foreign Minister said. "Which is unlikely to happen. Is there anyone at this table who thinks we should restrict our missile-defense programs?" There wasn't. "Then why should we realistically expect the Americans to feel any differently?"

"But what if they get ahead of us!" Alexandrov demanded.

"An excellent point, Mikhail Petrovich," Narmonov seized the opportunity. "Why do the Americans always seem to get ahead of us?" he asked the assembled chieftains of his country.

"They do so not because they are magicians, but because we allow them to -- because we cannot make our economy perform as it should. That denies Marshal Yazov the tools our men in uniform need, denies our people the good things of life that they are coming to expect, and denies us the ability to face the West as equals."

"Our weapons make us equals!" Alexandrov objected.

"But what advantage do they give us when the West has weapons, too? Is there anyone around this table who is content to be equal to the West? Our rockets do that for us," Narmonov said, "but there is more to national greatness than the ability to kill. If- we are to defeat the West, it cannot be with nuclear bombs -- unless you want the Chinese to inherit our world." Narmonov paused. "Comrades, if we are to prevail we have to get our economy moving!"

"It is moving," Alexandrov said.

"Where? Do any of us know that?" Vaneyev asked, igniting the room's atmosphere.

The discussion turned boisterous for several minutes before settling down to the collegial sort of discussion normal to the Politburo. Narmonov used it to measure the strength of his opposition. He deemed his faction more than equal to that of Alexandrov's. Vaneyev hadn't tipped his hand -- Alexandray expected him to pretend to be on the Secretary's side, didn't he? And the General Secretary still had Yazov. Narmonov had also used the session to defuse the political dimension of his country's economic problems by couching the need for reforms as a means of improving the country's military power -- which was true, of course, but was also an issue difficult for Alexandrov and his clique to deny. By taking the initiative, Narmonov judged, he'd been able to evaluate the other side's strength yet again, and by putting the argument in the open, he'd put them on the psychological defensive at least temporarily. It was all he could hope for at the moment. He'd lived to fight another day, Narmonov told himself. Once the arms-control treaty went through, his power at this table; would increase another notch. The people would like that -- and for the first time in Soviet history, the feelings of their people were beginning to. matter. Once it had been decided which arms would be eliminated, and over what sort of schedule, they'd know how much additional money there would be to spend. Narmonov could control that discussion from his seat, using the funds to barter for additional power in the Politburo as members vied for it in pursuit of their own pet projects. Alexandrov could not interfere with that, since his power base was ideological rather than economic. It occurred to Narmonov that he would probably win out. With Defense at his back, and with Vaneyev in his pocket, he would win the confrontation, break KGB to his will, and put Alexandrov out to pasture. It was only a matter of deciding when to force the issue. There had to be agreement on the treaty, and he would gladly trade away small advantages on that score, in order to secure his position at home. The West would be surprised by that, but someday it would be more surprised to see what a viable economy would do for its principal rival. Narmonov's immediate concern was his political survival. After that came the task of bringing life back into his country's economy. There was a further objective, one that hadn't changed in three generations, though the West was always discovering new ways to ignore it. Narmonov's eyes weren't fixed on it, but it was still there.



Last session, Ryan told himself. Thank God. The nervousness was back. There was no reason that everything shouldn't go well -- the odd part was that Ryan had no idea what would happen with Gerasimov's family. "Need-to-know" had again raised its wearisome head on that score, but the part about getting Gerasimov and CARDINAL out was so breathtakingly simple that he would never have come up with it. That part was Ritter's doing, and the crusty old bastard did have a flair.

The Russians spoke first this time, and five minutes into the speech, they proposed a warning time for surprise on-site inspections. Jack would have preferred zero-time, but that was unreasonable. It wasn't necessary to see what the insides of the birds looked like, desirable as that would be. It was enough to count the launchers and the warheads, and anything under ten hours was probably enough for that -- especially if the snap visits were coordinated with satellite passes to catch any attempt at sleight-of-hand. The Russians offered ten hours. Ernest Allen, in his reply, demanded three. Two hours later the respective figures were seven and five. Two hours after that, much to everyone's surprise, the Americans said six, and the chief Russian delegate nodded consent. Both men rose and leaned across the table to shake hands. Jack was glad it was all over, but would have held out for five. After all, he and Golovko had agreed on four, hadn't they?

Four and a half hours to settle on one damned number, Jack thought. And that may be an all-time record. There was even some applause when everyone stood, and Jack joined the line for the nearest men's room. A few minutes later he returned. Golovko was there.

"Your people let us off easy," the KGB officer said.

"I guess you're lucky it wasn't my job," Jack agreed. "This is a hell of a lot of work for two or three little things."

"You think them little?"

"In the Great Scheme of Things...well, they're significant, but not overly so. Mainly what this means is that we can fly borne," Jack observed, and some unease crept into his voice. It ain't over yet.

"You look forward to this?" Golovko asked.

"Not exactly, but there you are." it isn't the flight that makes me nervous this time, sport.



The flight crew had stayed at the Hotel Ukrania, just on the Moscow River, doubling up in the huge rooms, shopping in the "friendship store" for souvenirs, and generally seeing what they could while maintaining a guard team on the aircraft. Now they checked out together and boarded a fifty-passenger tourist bus that crossed over the river and headed east on Kalinina Prospekt on its way to the airport, a half-hour drive in the light traffic.

When Colonel von Eich arrived, the British Airways ground crew that provided maintenance support was finishing up the fueling under the watchful eyes of his crew chief -- the chief master sergeant who "owned" the aircraft -- and the Captain who'd serve as copilot in the VC-137's right seat. The members of the crew checked through the KGB control point, whose officers were assiduously thorough in verifying everyone's identity. Finished, the crew filed aboard, stowed its gear, and began getting the converted 707 ready for its flight back to Andrews Air Force Base. The pilot gathered five of his people together in the cockpit, and under the covering noise of somebody's boomer-box, informed them of what-they'd be doing tonight that was "a little different."

"Christ. sir," the crew chief noted, "that's different all right."

"What's life without a little excitement?" von Eich asked. "Everybody clear on your duties?" He got nods. "Then let's get to work, people." The pilot and copilot picked up their checklists and went outside with the crew chief to pre-flight the aircraft. It would be good to get back home, they all agreed -- assuming that they could unstick the tires from the pavement. It was, the crew chief observed, as cold as a witch's tit. Their hands gloved, and dressed now in Air Force -- issue parkas, they took their time as they walked around the aircraft. The 89th Military Airlift Wing had a spotless safety record ferrying "DVs" all over the world, and the way they maintained that was through uncompromising attention to every detail. Von Eich wondered if their 700,000 hours of accident-free flying would be undone tonight.



Ryan was already packed. They'd be leaving right from the reception to the airport. He decided to shave and brush his teeth again before putting his shaving kit in one of the pockets of his two-suiter. He was wearing one of his English suits. It was almost warm enough for the local climate, but Jack promised himself that if he ever again came to Moscow in the winter, he'd remember to bring long johns. It was almost time when a knock came at the door. It was Tony Candela.

"Enjoy the flight home," he said.

"Yeah." Ryan chuckled.

"Thought I'd give you a hand." He hefted the two-suiter, and Jack merely had to grab his briefcase. Together they walked to the elevator, which took them from the seventh floor up to the ninth, where they waited for another elevator to take them down to the lobby.

"Do you know who designed this -building?"

"Obviously someone with a sense of humor," Candela replied. "They hired the same fellow to handle construction of the new embassy." Both men laughed. That story was worthy of a Hollywood disaster epic. There were enough electronic devices in that building to cobble up a mainframe computer. their conversations. The Foreign Minister showed up, then Narmonov. All the other fixtures were there: the violins, the tables laden with snacks, the circulating waiters with silver trays of wine, vodka, and champagne. The State Department people were knotted in conversation with their Soviet colleagues. Ernie Allen was laughing with his Soviet counterpart. Only Jack was standing alone, and that wouldn't do. He walked over to the nearest group and hung on the periphery, scarcely noticed as lie 4ecked his watch from time to time and took tiny sips of the wine.



"Time," Clark said.

Getting to this point had been difficult enough. Clark's equipment was already set in the watertight trunk that ran from the Attack Center to the top of the sail. It had batches at both ends and was completely watertight, unlike the rest of the sail, which was free-flooding. One more sailor had volunteered to go in with him, and then the bottom batch was closed and dogged down tight. Mancuso lifted a phone.

"Communications check."

"Loud and clear, sir," Clark replied. "Ready whenever you are."

"Don't touch the hatch until I say so."

"Aye aye, Cap'n."

The Captain turned around. "I have the conn," he announced.

"Captain has the conn," the officer of the deck agreed.

"Diving Officer, pump out three thousand pounds. We're taking her off the bottom. Engine room, stand by to answer bells."

"Aye." The diving officer, who was also Chief of the Boat, gave the necessary orders. Electric trim pumps ejected a ton and a half of saltwater, and Dallas slowly righted herself. Mancuso looked around. The submarine was at battle stations. The fire-control tracking party stood ready. Ramius was with the navigator. The weapons-control panels were manned. Below in the torpedo room, all four tubes were loaded, and one was already flooded.

"Sonar, conn. Anything to report?" Mancuso asked next.

"Negative, conn. Nothing at all, sir."

"Very well. Diving Officer, make your depth nine-zero feet."

"Nine-zero feet, aye."

They had to get off the bottom before giving the submarine any forward movement. Mancuso watched the depth gauge change slowly as the Chief of the Boat, also known as the Cob, slowly and skillfully adjusted the submarine's trim.

"Depth nine-zero feet, sir. It'll be very hard to hold."

"Maneuvering, give me turns for five knots. Helm, right fifteen degrees rudder, come to new heading zero-three-eight."

"Right fifteen degrees rudder, aye, coming to new beading zero-three-eight," the helmsman acknowledged. "Sir, my rudder is right fifteen degrees."

"Very well." Mancuso watched the gyrocompass click around to the northeasterly course. It took five minutes to get out from under the ice. The Captain ordered periscope depth. Another minute.

"Up 'scope!" Mancuso said next. A quartermaster twisted the control wheel, and the Captain met the rising instrument as the eyepiece cleared the deck. "Hold!"

The periscope stopped a foot below the surface. Mancuso looked for shadows and possible ice, but saw nothing. "Up two feet." He was on his knees now. "Two more and hold."

He used the slender attack periscope, not the larger search one. The search periscope had better light-gathering capacity, but he didn't want to risk the larger radar cross-section, and the submarine for the past twelve hours had been using red internal lights only. It made the food look odd, but it also gave everyone better night vision. He made a slow sweep of the horizon. There was nothing to be seen but drifting ice on the surface.

"Clear," he announced. "All dear. Raise the ESM." There was the hiss of hydraulics as the electronic-sensor mast went up. The thin reed of fiberglass was only half an inch wide, and nearly invisible on radar. "Down 'scope."

"I got that one surface-surveillance radar, beating zero-three-eight," the ESM technician announced, giving frequency and pulse characteristics. "Signal is weak."

"Here we go, people." Mancuso lifted a phone to the bridge tube. "You ready?"

"Yes, sir," Clark replied.

"Stand by. Good luck." The Captain replaced the phone and turned. "Put her on the roof and stand by to take her down fast."

It took a total of four minutes. The top of Dallas' black sail broached the surface, pointing directly at the nearest Soviet radar to minimize its radar cross-section. It was more than tricky to bold depth.

"Clark, go!"

"Right."

With all the drifting ice on the water, the screen for that radar should be heavily cluttered, Mancuso thought. He watched the indicator light for the hatch change from a dash, meaning closed, to a circle, meaning open.

The bridge trunk ended on a platform a few feet below the bridge itself. Clark wrenched open the hatch and climbed up. Next he hauled out his raft with the help of the seaman below on the ladder. Alone now in the submarine's tiny bridge -- the control station atop the sail -- he set the thing athwart the top of the sail and pulled the rope that inflated it. The high-pitched rasp of the rushing air seemed to scream into the night, and Clark winced to hear it. As soon as the rubberized fabric became taut, he called to the sailor to close the trunk hatch, then grabbed the bridge phone.

"All ready here. The hatch is closed. See you in a couple of hours."

"Right. Good luck," Mancuso said again.

Aloft, Clark climbed smoothly into the raft as the submarine sank beneath him, and started the electric motor. Below, the bottom hatch of the bridge tube was opened only long enough for the sailor to leap down, then he and the Captain levered it shut.

"Straight board shut, we are rigged for dive," the Cob reported when the last indicator light changed back to a dash.

"That's it," Mancuso noted. "Mr. Goodman, you have the conn, and you know what to do."

"I have the conn," the OOD replied as the Captain went forward to the sonar room. Lieutenant Goodman immediately dived the boat, heading her for the bottom.

It was like old times, Mancuso thought, with Jones as lead sonarman. The submarine came right, pointing her bow-mounted sonar array at the path that Clark was taking. Ramius arrived a minute later to observe.

"How come you didn't want to use the 'scope?" Mancuso asked.

"A hard thing to see one's home and know that one cannot -- ".

"There he goes." Jones tapped his finger on the video display. "Doing turns for eighteen knots. Pretty quiet for an outboard. Electric, eh?"

"Right."

"I sure hope he's got good batteries, skipper."

"Rotating-anode lithium. I asked."

"Cute." Jones grunted. He tapped a cigarette out of his pack and offered one to the Captain, who forgot for the moment that he'd quit, again. Jones lit it and took on a contemplative expression.

"You know, sir, now I remember why I retired..." His voice trailed off as Jonesy watched the sonar trail stretch off in the distance. Aft, the fire-control party updated the range, just to have something to do. Jones craned his neck and listened. Dallas was about as quiet as she ever got, and the tension filled the air far more thickly than cigarette smoke ever could.



Clark lay nearly flat in the boat. Made of rubberized nylon, its color scheme was green and gray stripes, not very different from the sea. They'd thought of some white patches because of the ice to be found in the area in winter, but then it Was realized that the channel here was always tended by an icebreaker, and a rapidly moving white spot on a dark surface might not be a terribly good idea. Mainly Clark was concerned about radar. The submarine's sail might not have been picked up through all the clutter, but if the Russian radar sets had a moving-target-indicator setting, the simple computer that monitored the returning signals might well lock in on something traveling at twenty miles per hour. The boat itself was only a foot out of the water, the motor a foot higher than that and coated with radar-absorbing material. Clark kept his head level with the motor and wondered again if the half-dozen metal fragments that decorated his anatomy were large enough to be seen. He knew that this was irrational -- they didn't even set off an airport metal-detector -- but lonely men in dangerous places tended to develop unusually active minds. It was better, really, to be stupid, he told himself. Intelligence only allowed you to realize how dangerous things like this were. After such missions were over, after the shakes went away, after the hot shower, you could bask in the glow of how brave and clever you were, but not now. Now it just seemed dangerous, not to say crazy, to be doing something like this.

The coastline was clearly visible, a clean series of dots that covered the visible horizon. It seemed ordinary enough, but it was enemy territory. That knowledge was far more chilling than the clean night air.

At least the seas were calm, he told himself. Actually a few feet of chop would have made for more favorable radar conditions, but the smooth, oily surface made for speed, and speed always made him feel better. He looked aft. The boat didn't make much of a wake, and he'd reduce it further by slowing when he got close to the harbor.

Patience, he told himself uselessly. He hated the idea of patience. Who likes to wait for anything? Clark asked himself. If it has to happen, let it happen and be done with it. That wasn't the safe way, rushing into things, but at least when you were up and moving, you were doing something. But when he taught people how to do this sort of thing, which was his normal occupation, he always told them to be patient. You friggin' hypocrite! he observed silently.

The harbor buoys told him the distance from the coast. He cut his speed to ten knots, then to five, and finally to three. The electric motor made a barely audible hum. Clark turned the handle and steered the boat to a ramshackle pier. It had to have been an old one; its piles had been splintered and abraded by the harbor ice of many winters. Ever so slowly, he pulled out a low-light 'scope and examined the area. There was no movement he could see. He could hear things now, mainly traffic sounds that carried across the water to him, along with some music. It was Friday night, after all, and even in the Soviet Union there were parties going on at restaurants. People were dancing. In fact his plan depended on the presence of nightlife here -- Estonia is livelier than most of the country -- but the pier was derelict, as his briefers said it would be. He moved in, tying the boat off to a piling with considerable care -- if it drifted away, he'd have real problems. Next to the pile was a ladder. Clark slipped out of his coverall and climbed up, pistol in hand. For the first time he noted the harbor smell. It was little different from its American equivalent, heavy with bilge oil and decorated with rotting wood from the piers. To the north, a dozen or so fishing boats were tied to another pier. To the south was yet another, that one piled up with lumber. So the harbor was being rebuilt. That explained the condition of this one, Clark thought. He checked his watch -- it was a battered Russian "Pilot" -- and looked around for a place to wait. Forty minutes until he had to move. He'd allowed for choppier seas for his trip in, and all the calm had really done for him was to give him the additional time to meditate on how much a lunatic he was for taking on another of these extraction jobs.



Boris Filipovich Morozov walked outside the barracks where he still lived, staring upward. The lights at Bright Star made the sky into a feathery dome of descending flakes. He loved moments like this.

"Who's there?" a voice asked. It had authority in it.

"Morozov," the young engineer answered as the figure came into the light. He saw the wide-brimmed hat of a senior Army officer.

"Good evening, Comrade Engineer. You're on the mirror-control team, aren't you?" Bondarenko asked.

"Have we met?"

"No." The Colonel shook his head. "Do you know who I am?"

"Yes, Comrade Colonel."

Bondarenko gestured at the sky. "Beautiful, isn't it? I suppose that's one consolation for being at the far end of nothing.

"No, Comrade Colonel, we are at the leading edge of something very important," Morozov pointed out.

"That is good for me to hear! Do all of your team feel that way?"

"Yes, Comrade Colonel. I asked to come here."

"Oh? And how did you know of this place?" the Colonel wondered.

"I was here last fall with the Komsomol. We assisted the civil engineers in the blasting, and siting the mirror-pillars. I was a graduate student in lasers, and I guessed what Bright Star was. I did not tell anyone, of course," Morozov added. "But I knew this was the place for me."

Bondarenko regarded the youngster with visible approval. "How goes the work?"

"I had hoped to join the laser team, but my section chief press-ganged me into joining his group." Morozov laughed.

"You are unhappy with this?"

"No -- no, please excuse me. You misunderstand. I didn't know how important the mirror group was. I've learned. Now we're trying to adapt the mirror systems to more precise computer control -- I may soon be an assistant section leader," Morozov said proudly. "I am also familiar with computer systems, you see."

"Who's your section chief -- Govorov, isn't it?"

"Correct. A brilliant field engineer, if I may say so. May I ask a question?"

"Certainly."

"It is said that you -- you're the new Army colonel they've been talking about, correct? They say that you may be the new deputy project officer."

"There may be some substance to those rumors," Bondarenko allowed.

"Then may I make a suggestion, Comrade?" Morozov asked.

"Certainly."

"There are many single men here..."

"And not enough single women?"

"There is a need for laboratory assistants."

"Your observation is noted, Comrade Engineer," Bondarenko replied with a chuckle. "We also plan a new apartment block to relieve the crowding. How are the barracks?"

"The atmosphere is comradely. The astronomy and chess clubs are very active."

"Ah. It has been time since I played chess seriously. How tough is the competition?" the Colonel asked.

The younger man laughed. "Murderous -- even savage."



Five thousand meters away, the Archer blessed his God's name. Snow was falling, and the flakes gave the air the magical quality so beloved by poets...and soldiers. You could hear -- you could feel the hushed silence as the snow absorbed all sound. All around them, as far up and down as they could see, was the curtain of white that cut visibility to under two hundred meters. He assembled his subunit commanders and began organizing the assault. They moved out in a few minutes. They were in tactical formation. The Archer was with the lead section of the first company, while his second-in-command stayed with the other.

The footing was surprisingly good. The Russians had dumped the spoil from their blasting all over the area, and even though coated with snow, the rock chips were not slippery. This was well, since their path took them peri1ously close to a sheer wall at least a hundred meters high. Navigating was difficult. The Archer was going from memory, but he'd spent hours examining the objective and knew every curve of the mountain -- or so he'd thought. The doubts came now, as they always did, and it took all his concentration to keep his mind on the mission. He had mapped out a dozen checkpoints in his memory before setting out. A boulder here, a dip there, this the place where the path turned to the left, and that one where it went to the right. At first progress seemed maddeningly slow, but the closer they came to the objective, the more rapid became the pace. They were guided at all times by the glow of the lights. How confident the Russians were, to have lights here, he thought. There was even a moving vehicle, a bus, by the sound of it, with its headlights lit. The small, moving points of light shone through the enveloping white cloud. Within the larger bubble of light, those on guard duty would be at a disadvantage now. Ordinarily the outwardly aimed spotlights would serve to dazzle and blind an intruder, but now the reverse was true. Little of their glow penetrated the snow, and much was reflected back, ruining the night vision of the armed troops. Finally the lead party reached the last checkpoint. The Archer deployed his men and waited for the rest to catch up. It took half an hour. His men were grouped in knots of three or four, and the mudjaheddin took the time to drink some water and commit their souls to Allah, preparing both for the battle and for its possible aftermath. Theirs was the warrior's creed. Their enemy was also the enemy of their God. Whatever they did to the people who had offended Allah would be forgiven them, and every one of the Archer's men reminded himself of friends and family who had died at Russian hands.

"This is amazing," the Major whispered as he arrived.

"Allah is with us, my friend," the Archer replied.

"He must be." They were now only five hundred meters from the site, and still unseen. We might actually survive...

"How much closer can we -- "

"One hundred meters. The low-light equipment they have will penetrate snow to about four hundred. The nearest tower is six hundred meters that way." He pointed unnecessarily. The Archer knew exactly where it was, and the next one, two hundred meters farther down.

The Major checked his watch and thought for a moment.

"The guard will change in another hour if they follow the same pattern here as in Kabul. Those on duty will be tired and cold, and the relief troops aren't yet awake. This is the time."

"Good luck," the Archer said simply. Both men embraced.

"'"Why should we refuse to fight for the cause of Allah, when we and our children have been driven from our dwellings?"'"

"'When they met Goliath and his warriors they cried: "Lord fill our hearts with steadfastness. Make us firm of foot and help us against the unbelievers."'"

The quote was from the Koran, and neither man thought it strange that the passage actually referred to the Israelites' battle against the Philistines. David and Saul were known to the Muslims, too, as was their cause. The Major smiled one last time before running off to join his men.

The Archer turned and waved to his missile team. Two of them shouldered their Stingers and followed the leader as he continued his way across the mountain. One more knoll and they were looking down at the guard towers. He was surprised that he could actually see three of them from here, and a third missile was brought out. The Archer gave his instructions and left them to rejoin the main body. On the knoll, the target-acquisition units sang their deadly song to each missileer. The guard towers were heated -- and the Stinger searches only for heat.

Next the Archer ordered his mortar team in close -- closer than he would have preferred, but the miserable visibility was not entirely on the side of the mudjaheddin. He watched the Major's company slide down to the left, disappearing into the snow. They would assault the laser test facility itself, while he and his eighty men went for the place where most of the people lived. Now it was their turn. The Archer led them forward as far as he dared, just to the edge of where the floodlights penetrated the snow. He was rewarded with the sight of a sentry, bundled up for the cold, his breath left behind in a series of small white clouds that drifted in the wind. Ten more minutes. The Archer pulled out his radio. They had only four of them, and hadn't dared to use them until now for fear of being detected by the Russians.



We should never have gotten rid of the dogs, Bondarenko told himself. First thing I do when I get settled here, get the dogs back. He was walking around the camp, enjoying the cold and the snow and using the quiet atmosphere to order his thoughts. There were things that needed changing here. They needed a real soldier. General Pokryshkin was too confident in the security scheme, and the KGB troops were too lazy. For example, they did not have night patrols out. Too dangerous on this terrain, their commander said, our day patrols will detect anyone who tries to get close, the guard towers have low-light scanners, and the rest of the site is floodlit. But low-light devices had their effectiveness cut eighty percent by this sort of weather. What if there was a group of Afghans out there right now? he wondered. First thing, Bondarenko told himself, I'll call Colonel Nikolayev at Spetznaz headquarters, and I'll lead a practice assault on this place to show those KGB idiots how vulnerable they are. He looked up the hill. There was a KGB sentry, flapping his arms to keep warm, rifle slung over his shoulder -- it would take him four seconds to get it unslung, aimed, and taken off safety. Four seconds, for the last three of which he'd be dead if there were anyone competent out there right now...Well, he told himself, the assistant commander of any post is supposed to be a ruthless son of a bitch, and if those chekisti want to play at soldiers they'll damned well have to act like soldiers. The Colonel turned to walk back, to the apartment block.



Gerasimov's car pulled up to Lefortovo Prison's administrative entrance. His driver stayed with the car while the bodyguard followed him in. The KGB Chairman showed his ID card to the guard and walked by without breaking stride. The KGB was careful with security, but all its members knew the face of the Chairman and knew even better the power that it represented. Gerasimov turned left and headed for the administration offices. The prison superintendent wasn't there, of course, but one of his deputies was. Gerasimov found him filling out some forms.

"Good evening." The man's eyes were saved from bugging out by the glasses he wore.

"Comrade Chairman! I was not -- "

"You weren't supposed to be."

"How may I -- "

"The prisoner Filitov. I need him immediately," Gerasimov said gruffly. "Immediately," he repeated for effect.

"At once!" The second deputy prison superintendent leaped to his feet and ran to another room. He was back in under a minute. "It will take five minutes."

"He must be properly dressed," Gerasimov said.

"His uniform?" the man asked.

"Not that, you idiot!" the Chairman snarled. "Civilian clothes. He must be presentable. You have all his personal effects here, don't you?"

"Yes, Comrade Chairman, but -- "

"I do not have all night," he said quietly. There was nothing more dangerous than a quiet KGB Chairman. The second deputy superintendent fairly flew from the room. Gerasimov turned to his bodyguard, who smiled in amusement. Nobody liked jailers. "How long do you think?"

"Less than ten minutes, Comrade Chairman, even though they have to find his clothes. After all, that pipsqueak knows what a wonderful place this is to live in. I know him."

"Oh?"

"He was originally a 'One' man, but he performed poorly on his first assignment and has been a jailer ever since." The bodyguard checked his watch.

It took eight minutes. Filitov appeared with his suit most of the way on, though his shirt was not buttoned, and his tie merely draped around his neck. The second deputy superintendent was holding a threadbare topcoat. Filitov never had been one to buy a lot of civilian clothes. He was a Colonel of the Red Army, and was never comfortable out of his uniform. The old man's eyes were confused at first, then he saw Gerasimov.

"What is this?" he asked.

"You are coming with me, Filitov. Button your shirt. At least try to look like a man!"

Misha nearly said something, but bit it off. The look he gave the Chairman was enough to make the bodyguard move his hand a centimeter. He buttoned his shirt and tied his tie. It ended up crooked in his collar because he didn't have a mirror.

"Now, Comrade Chairman, if you will sign this -- "

"You give me custody of a criminal like this?"

"What -- "

"Handcuffs, man!" Gerasimov boomed.

Unsurprisingly, the second deputy superintendent had a pair in his desk. He got them, put them on Filitov, and nearly pocketed the key before he saw Gerasimov's outstretched hand.

"Very good. I'll have him back to you tomorrow night."

"But I need you to sign -- " The second deputy superintendent found that he was talking to a receding back.

"Well, with all the people under me," Gerasimov observed to his bodyguard, "there have to be a few..."

"Indeed, Comrade Chairman." The bodyguard was an immensely fit man of forty-two, a former field officer who was an expert in all forms of armed and unarmed combat. His firm grip on the prisoner told Misha all of these things. "Filitov," the Chairman observed over his shoulder, "we are taking a brief trip, a flight that is. You will not be harmed. If you behave yourself, we might even allow you a decent meal or two. If you do not behave, Vasiliy here will make you wish you did. Is that clear?"

"Clear, Comrade Chekist."

The guard snapped to attention, then pushed open the door. The outside guards saluted and were rewarded with nods. The driver held open the back door. Gerasimov stopped and turned.

"Put him in back with me, Vasiliy. You should be able to cover things from the front seat."

"As you wish, Comrade."

"Sheremetyevo," Gerasimov told the driver. "The cargo terminal on the south side."



There was the airport, Ryan thought. He stifled a belch that tasted of wine and sardines. The motorcade entered the airport grounds, then curved to the right, bypassing the regular entrance to the terminal and heading out onto the aircraft parking area. Security, he noted, was tight. You could always depend on the Russians for that. Everywhere he looked were rifle-toting soldiers in KGB uniforms. The car drove right past the main terminal, then past a recent addition. It was unused, but looked like the alien spaceship in Spielberg's Close Encounters. He'd meant to ask somebody why it had been built, but wasn't yet in use. Maybe next time, Ryan thought.

The formal goodbyes had been made at the Foreign Ministry. A few junior officials stood at the bottom of the stairs to shake hands, and nobody was in a hurry to leave the heated comfort of the limousines. Progress was correspondingly slow. His car lurched forward and stopped, and tbe man to Ryan's right opened the door as the driver popped the trunk open. He didn't want to go outside either. It had taken most of the drive to get the car warm. Jack got his bag and his briefcase and headed for the stairs.

"I hope you enjoyed your visit," the Soviet official said.

"I would like to come back and see the city sometime," Jack replied as be shook the man's band.

"We would be delighted."

Sure you would, Jack thought as he went up the stairs. Once in the aircraft, he looked forward. A Russian officer was in the cockpit jump seat to assist with traffic control. His eyes were on the curtained-off communications console. Ryan nodded at the pilot through the door and got a wink.



"The political dimension scares the hell out of me," Vatutin said. At 2 Dzerzhinskiy Square, he and Golovko were comparing their written notes.

"This isn't the old days. They can't shoot us for following our training and procedures."

"Really? What if Filitov was being run with the knowledge of the Chairman?"

"Ridiculous," Golovko observed.

"Oh? What if his early work on the dissidents put him in contact with the West? We know that he personally intervened in some cases -- mainly from the Baltic region, but some others, too."

"You're really thinking like a 'Two' man now!"

"Think for a minute. We arrest Filitov and immediately thereafter the Chairman meets personally with a CIA man. Has that ever happened before?"

"I've heard stories about Philby, but -- no, that was only after he came over."

"It's one hell of a coincidence," Vatutin said as he rubbed his eyes. "They do not train us to believe in coincidences, and -- "

"Tvoyu mat'!" Golovko said. Vatutin looked up in annoyance to see the other man roll his eyes. "The last time the Americans were over -- how could I forget this! Ryan spoke with Filitov -- they collided as though by accident, and -- "

Vatutin lifted his phone and dialed. "Give me the night superintendent...This is Colonel Vatutin. Wake up the prisoner Filitov. I want to see him within the hour...What was that? Who? Very well. Thank you." The Colonel of the Second Chief Directorate stood. "Chairman Gerasimov just took Filitov out of Lefortovo fifteen minutes ago. He said that they were taking a special trip."

"Where's your car?"

"I can order -- "

"No," Golovko said. "Your personal car."





Chapter 26 -- Black Operations



There was no hurry, yet. While the cabin crew got everybody settled in, Colonel von Eich ran down the pre-flight checklist. The VC-137 was taking electrical power from a generator truck that would also allow them to start their engines more easily than internal systems allowed. He checked his watch and hoped everything would go as planned.

Aft, Ryan walked past his normal place, just forward of Ernie Allen's midships cabin, and took a seat in the back row of the after part of the aircraft. It looked much like part of a real airliner, though the seating was five-across, and this space handled the overflow from the "distinguished visitor" areas forward. Jack picked one on the left side, where the seats were in pairs, while ten or so others entered the cabin and kept as far forward as possible for the smoother ride, as advised by another crew member. The aircraft's crew chief would be across the aisle to his right instead of in the crew quarters forward. Ryan wished for another man to help, but they couldn't be too obvious. They had a Soviet officer aboard. That was part of the regular routine, and diverging from it would attract attention. The whole point of this was that everyone would be comfortably secure in the knowledge that everything was exactly as it should be.

Forward, the pilot got to the end of the checklist page.

"Everybody aboard?"

"Yes, sir. Ready to close the doors."

"Keep an eye on the indicator light for the crew door. It's been acting funny," von Eich told the flight engineer.

"A problem?" the Soviet pilot asked from the jump seat. Sudden depressurization is something every flyer takes seriously.

"Every time we check the door it looks fine. Probably a bad relay in the panel, but we haven't found the sucker yet. I've checked the goddamned door-seal myself," he assured the Russian. "It. has to be an electrical fault."

"Ready to start," the flight engineer told him next.

"Okay." The pilot looked to make sure the stairs were away while the flight crew donned their headsets. "All clear left."

"All clear right," the copilot said.

"Turning one." Buttons were pushed, switches were toggled, and the left-outboard engine began to rotate its turbine blades. The needles on several indicator dials started moving and were soon in normal idling range. The generator truck withdrew now that the plane could supply its own electric power.

"Turning four," the pilot said next. He toggled his microphone to the cabin setting. "Ladies and gentlemen, this is Colonel von Eich. We're getting the engines started, and we should be moving in about five minutes. Please buckle your seat belts. Those of you who smoke, try to hang in there another few minutes."

At his seat in the back row, Ryan would have killed for a smoke. The crew chief glanced over to him and smiled. He certainly seemed tough enough to handle it, Jack thought. The chief master sergeant looked to be pushing fifty, but he also looked like a man who could teach manners to an NFL linebacker. He was wearing leather work gloves with the adjustment straps pulled in tight.

"All ready?" Jack asked. There was no danger of being heard. The engine noise was hideous back here.

"Whenever you say, sir."

"You'll know when."



"Hmph," Gerasimov noted. "Not here yet." The cargo terminal was closed, and dark except for the security floodlights.

"Should I make a call?" the driver asked.

"No hurry. What-" A uniformed guard waved for them to stop. They'd already come through one checkpoint. "Oh, that's right. The Americans are getting ready to leave. That must be screwing things up."

The guard came to the driver's window and asked for passes. The driver just waved to the back.

"Good evening, Corporal," Gerasimov said. He held up his identification card. The youngster snapped to attention.

"A plane will be here in a few minutes for me. The Americans must be holding things up. Is the security force out?"

"Yes, Comrade Chairman! A full company.

"While we're here, why don't we do a fast inspection? Who is your commander?"

"Major Zarudin, Com-"

"What the hell is-" A lieutenant came over. He got as far as the corporal before he saw who was in the car.

"Lieutenant, where is Major Zarudin?"

"In the control tower, Comrade Chairman. That is the best place to-"

"I'm sure. Get him on your radio and tell him that I am going to inspect the guard perimeter, then I will come to see him and tell him what I think. Drive on," he told the driver. "Go right."



"Sheremetyevo Tower, this is niner-seven-one requesting permission to taxi to runway two-five-right," von Eich said into his microphone.

"Nine-seven-one, permission granted. Turn left onto main taxiway one. Wind is two-eight-one at forty kilometers."

"Roger, out," the pilot said. "Okay, let's get this bird moving." The copilot advanced the throttles and the aircraft started to roll. On the ground in front of them, a man with two lighted wands gave them unneeded directions to the taxi-way-but the Russians always assumed that everyone needed to be told what to do. Von Eich left the parking pad and headed south on taxiway nine, then turned left. The small wheel that controlled the steerable nose-gear was stiff, as always, and the aircraft came around slowly, pushed by the outboard engine. He always took things easy here. The taxi-ways were so rough that there was always the worry of damaging something. He didn't want that to happen tonight. It was the best part of a mile to the end of the number-one main taxiway, and the bumps and rolls were enough to make one motion-sick. He finally turned right onto taxiway five.

"The men seem alert," Vasiliy observed as they crossed runway twenty-five-left. The driver had his lights off and kept to the edge. There was an airplane coming, and both driver and bodyguard were keeping their eyes on that hazard. They didn't see Gerasimov take the key from his pocket and unlock the handcuffs of an amazed prisoner Filitov. Next the Chairman pulled an automatic pistol from inside his coat.



"Shit-there's a car there," Colonel von Eich said. "What the hell is a car doing here?"

"We'll clear it easy," the copilot said. "He's way over on the edge."

"Great." The pilot turned right again to the end of the runway. "Fucking Sunday drivers."

"You're not going to like this either, Colonel," the flight engineer said. "I got a light on the rear door again."

"God damn it!" von Eich swore over the intercom. He flipped his mike to the cabin setting again, but had to adjust his voice before speaking. "Crew chief, check the rear door."

"Here we go," the sergeant said. Ryan flipped off his seat belt and' moved a few feet as he watched the sergeant work the door handle.

"We got a short in here someplace," the flight engineer said on the flight deck, forward. "Just lost the aft cabin lights. The breaker just popped and I can't get it to reset."

"Maybe it's a bad breaker?" Colonel von Eich asked.

"I can try a spare," the engineer said.

"Go ahead. I'll tell the folks in back why the lights just went out." It was a lie, but a good enough one, and with everyone buckled in, it wasn't all that easy to turn around and see the back of the cabin.



"Where's the Chairman?" Vatutin asked the Lieutenant.

"He's conducting an inspection-who are you?"

"Colonel Vatutin-this is Colonel Golovko. Where's the fucking Chairman, you young idiot!" The Lieutenant sputtered for a few seconds, then pointed.



"Vasiliy," the Chairman said. It was too bad really. His bodyguard turned to see the muzzle of a pistol. "Your gun, please."

"But-"

"No time for talking." He took the gun and pocketed it. Next he handed over the cuffs. "Both of you, and put your hands through the steering wheel."

The driver was aghast, but both men did as they were told. Vasiliy snapped one ring on his left wrist and reached through the steering wheel to attach the other to the driver. While they did so, Gerasimov detached the receiver from his car's radiophone and pocketed that.

"The keys?" Gerasimov asked. The driver handed them over with his free left hand. The nearest uniformed guard was a hundred meters away. The airplane was a mere twenty. The Chairman of the Committee for State Security opened the car door himself. He hadn't done that in months. "Colonel Filitov, will you come with me. please?"

Misha was as surprised as everyone else, but did as he was told. In full view of everyone at the airport-at least, those few who were bothering to watch the routine departure. Gerasimov and Filitov walked toward the VC-137's red, white, and blue tail. As though on command, the after door opened.

"Let's hustle, people." Ryan tossed out a rope ladder.

Filitov's legs betrayed him. The wind and blast from the jet engines made the ladder flutter like a flag in the breeze, and he couldn't get both feet on it despite help from Gerasimov.



"My God, look!" Golovko pointed. "Move!"

Vatutin didn't say anything. He floored his car and flipped on the high-beam lights.



"Trouble," the crew chief said when he saw the car. There. was a man with a rifle running this way, too. "Come on, pop!" he urged the Cardinal of the Kremlin.

"Shit!" Ryan pushed the sergeant aside and jumped down. It was too far, and he landed badly, twisting his right ankle. and ripping his pants at his left knee. Jack ignored the pain and leaped to his feet. He took one of Filitov's shoulders while Gerasimov took the other, and together they got him up the ladder far enough that the sergeant at the door was able to haul him aboard. Gerasimov went next, with Ryan's help. Then it was Jack's turn-but he had the same problem Filitov had. His left knee was already stiff, and when he tried to climb up on his sprained ankle, his right leg simply refused to work. He swore loudly enough to be heard over the sound of the engines and tried to do it hand over hand, but he lost his grip and fell to the pavement.

"Stoi, stoi!" somebody with a gun shouted from ten feet away. Jack looked up at the aircraft door.

"Go!" he screamed. "Close the fucking door and go!"

The crew chief did exactly that without a moment's hesitation. He reached around to pull the door shut, and Jack watched it seat itself in a matter of seconds. Inside, the sergeant lifted the interphone and told the pilot that the door was properly sealed.

"Tower, this is niner-seven-one, rolling now. Out." The pilot advanced the throttles to takeoff power.

The force of the engine blast hurled all four men-the rifleman had just arrived at the scene, right off the end of the icy runway. Jack watched from flat on his belly as the blinking red light atop the aircraft's tall rudder diminished in the distance, then rose. His last view of it was the glow of the infrared jammers that protected the VC-137 against surface-to-air missiles. He almost started laughing, when he was rolled over and saw a pistol against his face.

"Hello, Sergey," Ryan said to Colonel Golovko.



"Ready," the radio told the Archer. He raised a flare pistol and fired a single star-shell round that burst directly over one of the shops.

Everything happened at once. To his left, three Stinger missiles were launched after a long and boring wait. Each streaked toward a guard tower -- or more precisely, to the electric heaters inside them. The paired sentries in each had time enough only to see and be surprised by the signal round over the central region of the installation, and only one of the six saw an inbound streak of yellow, too fast to permit a reaction. All three of the missiles hit -- they could hardly miss a stationary target -- and in each case the six-pound warhead functioned as designed. Less than five seconds after the first round had been fired, the towers were eliminated, and with them also the machine guns that protected the laser facility.

The sentry to the Archer's front died next. He hadn't a chance. Forty rifles fired on him at once, with half of the bursts connecting. Next the mortars fired ranging rounds, and the Archer used his radio to adjust the fire onto what he thought was the guards' barracks.



The sound of automatic-weapons fire cannot be mistaken for anything else. Colonel Bondarenko had just decided that he'd spent enough time communing with a cold though beautiful nature and was walking back to his quarters when the sound stopped him in his tracks. His first thought was that one of the KGB guards had accidentally discharged his weapon, but that impression lasted less than a second. He heard a crack overhead and looked up to see the star shell, then heard the explosions from the laser site, and as though a switch had been thrown, he changed from a startled man to a professional soldier under attack. The KGB barracks were two hundred meters to his right, and he ran there as fast as he could.

Mortar rounds were falling, he saw. They were falling on the big new machine shop just beyond the barracks. Men were stumbling out the door of the latter when he arrived, and he had to stop and hold up his arms to avoid being shot.

"I am Colonel Bondarenko! Where is your officer?"

"Here!" A lieutenant came out. "What -- " Someone had just learned of his mistake. The next mortar round hit the back of the barracks.

"Follow me!" Bondarenko screamed, leading them away from the most obvious target in sight. All around them was the deadly chatter of rifles -- Soviet rifles; the Colonel noted at once that he couldn't use sound to identify who was who. Wonderful! "Form up!"

"What is -- "

"We're under attack, Lieutenant! How many men do you have?"

He turned and counted. Bondarenko did it faster still. There were forty-one, all with rifles, but there were no heavy weapons, and no radios. The machine guns he could do without, but radios were vital.

The dogs, he told himself stupidly, they should have kept the dogs...

The tactical situation was appallingly bad, and he knew that it would only get worse. A series of explosions sundered the night.

"The lasers, we must -- " the Lieutenant said, but the Colonel grabbed his shoulder.

"We can rebuild the machines," Bondarenko said urgently, "but we cannot rebuild the scientists. We're going to get to the apartment building and hold that until relieved. Send a good sergeant to the bachelor quarters and get them to the apartments."

"No, Comrade Colonel! My orders are to protect the lasers, and I must -- "

"I am ordering you to get your men -- "

"No!" the Lieutenant screamed back at him.

Bondarenko knocked him down, took his rifle, flipped off the safety, and fired two rounds into his chest. He turned. "Who's the best sergeant?"

"I am, Colonel," a young man said shakily.

"I am Colonel Bondarenko, and I am in command!" the officer announced as forcefully as a command from God. "You take four men, get to the bachelor barracks, and bring everyone up the hill to the apartment building. Fast as you can!" The sergeant pointed to four others and ran off. "The rest of you, follow me!" He led them into the falling snow. There wasn't time for him or them to wonder what awaited. Before they'd gone ten meters, every light in the camp went out.



At the gate of the laser site a GAZ jeep sat, with a heavy machine gun aboard. General Pokryshkin ran from the control building when he heard the explosions, and was stunned to see that only blazing stumps remained of his three guard towers. The commander of the KGB detachment raced down to him on his vehicle.

"We're under attack," the officer said unnecessarily.

"Get your men together -- right here." Pokryshkin looked up to see running men. They were dressed in Soviet uniforms, but somehow he knew that they were not Russians. The General climbed into the back of the jeep and brought the machine gun around over the head of the astonished KGB officer. The first time he pressed the trigger nothing happened, and he had to ratchet a round into the chamber. The second time, Pokryshkin had the satisfaction of watching three men fall. The guard force commander needed no further encouragement. He barked rapid orders into his radio. The battle under way degenerated at once into confusion, as it had to -- both sides were wearing identical uniforms and using identical weapons. But there were more Afghans than Russians.



Morozov and several of his unmarried friends had stepped outside when they heard the noise. Most of them had military experience, though he did not. It didn't matter -- nobody had the first idea what they should do. Five men came running out of the darkness. They were wearing uniforms and carrying rifles.

"Come! All of you come, follow us!" More weapons started firing close by, and two of the KGB troops went down, one dead, one wounded. He fired back, emptying his rifle in one long burst. There was a scream in the darkness, followed by shouts. Morozov ran inside and called for people to make for the door. The engineers needed little prompting.

"Up the hill," the sergeant said. "To the apartment block. Fast as you can!" The four KGB troops waved them along, looking for targets, but seeing only flashes. Bullets were flying everywhere now. Another of the troops went down screaming out his last breath, but the sergeant got the one who killed him. When the last engineer left the room, he and a private grabbed the spare rifles and helped their comrade back up the hill.



It was too big a mission for eighty men, the Archer realized too late. Too much ground to cover, too many buildings, but there were many unbelievers running around, and that was why he'd brought his men here. He watched one of them explode a bus with an RPG-7 antitank round. It burst into flames and slid off the road, rolling down the side of the mountain while those inside screamed. Teams of men with explosives went into the buildings. They found machine tools bathed in oil and set their charges quickly, running out before the explosions could begin the fires. The Archer had realized a minute too late which building was the guard barracks, and now that was ablaze as he led his section in to mop up the men who'd been kept there. He was too late, but didn't know it yet. A stray mortar round had cut the power line that handled all of the site's lighting, and all of his men were robbed of their night vision by the flashes of their own weapons.



"Well done, Sergeant!" Bondarenko told the boy. He'd already ordered the engineers upstairs. "We'll set our perimeter around the building. They may force us back. If so, we'll make our stand on the first floor. The walls are concrete. RPGs can hurt us, but the roof and walls will stop bullets. Pick one man to go inside and find men with military experience. Give them those two rifles. Whenever a man goes down, retrieve his weapon and get it to someone who knows how to use it. I'm going inside for a moment to see if I can get a telephone to work -- "

"There's a radiotelephone in the first-floor office," the sergeant said. "All the buildings have them."

"Good! Hold the perimeter, Sergeant. I'll be back to you in two minutes." Bondarenko ran inside. The radiotelephone was hanging on a wall hook, and he was relieved to see it was a military type, powered by its own battery. The Colonel shouldered it and ran back outside.

The attackers -- who were they? he wondered -- had planned their attack poorly. First they had failed to identify the KGB barracks before launching their assault; second, they hadn't hit the residential area as quickly as they should have. They were moving in now, but they found a line of Border Guards lying in the snow. They were only KGB troops, Bondarenko knew, but they did have basic training, and most of all they knew that there was no place to run. That young sergeant was a good one, he saw. He moved from point to point along the perimeter, not using his weapon but encouraging the men and telling them what to do. The Colonel activated the radio.

"This is Colonel G. I. Bondarenko at Project Bright Star. We are under attack. I repeat, Bright Star is under attack. Any unit on this net respond at once, over."

"Gennady, this is Pokryshkin at the laser site. We're in the control building. What is your situation?"

"I'm at the apartments. I have all the civilians we could find inside. I have forty men, and we're going to try to hold this place. What about help?"

"I'm trying. Gennady, we cannot get you any help from here. Can you hold?"

"Ask me in twenty minutes."

"Protect my people, Colonel. Protect my people!" Pokryshkin shouted into the microphone.

"To the death, Comrade General. Out." Bondarenko kept the radio on his back and hefted his rifle. "Sergeant!"

"Here, Colonel!" The young man appeared. "They're probing now, not really attacking yet -- "

"Looking for weaknesses." Bondarenko got back down to his knees. The air seemed alive with gunfire, but it was not yet concentrated. Above and behind the two, windows were shattering. Bullets pounded into the pre-cast concrete sections that formed the building wall, spraying everyone outside with chips. "Position yourself at the corner opposite this one. You'll command the north and east walls. I'll handle these two. Tell your men to fire only when they have targets -- "

"Already done, Comrade."

"Good!" Bondarenko punched the young man on the shoulder. "Don't fall back until you have to, but tell me if you do. The people in this building are priceless assets. They must survive. Go!" The Colonel watched the sergeant run off. Perhaps the KGB did train some of its people. He ran to this corner of the building.

He now had twenty -- no, he counted eighteen men. Their camouflage clothing made them hard to spot. He ran from man to man, his back bowed by the weight of the radio, spacing them out, telling them to husband their rounds. He was just finishing the line on the west side when there came a chorus of human voices from the darkness.

"Here they come!" a private screamed.

"Hold your fire!" the Colonel bellowed.

The running figures appeared as though by magic. One moment the scene was empty of anything but falling snow -- the next, there was a line of men firing Kalashnikov rifles from the hip. He let them get to within fifty meters.

"Fire!" He saw ten of them go down in an instant. The rest wavered and stopped, then fell back, leaving two more bodies behind. There was more firing from the opposite side of the building. Bondarenko wondered if the sergeant had held, but that was not in his hands. Some nearby screams told him that his men had taken casualties, too. On checking the line he found that one had made no noise at all. He was down to fifteen men.



The climb out was routine enough, Colonel von Eich thought. A few feet behind him, the Russian in the jump seat was giving the electrical panel an occasional look.

"How's the electricity doing?" the pilot asked in some irritation.

"No problem with engine and hydraulic power. Seems to be in the lighting system," the engineer replied, quietly turning off the tail and wingtip anticollision lights.

"Well..." The cockpit instrument lights were all on, of course, and there was no additional illumination for the flight crew. "We'll fix it when we get to Shannon."

"Colonel." It was the voice of the crew chief in the pilot's headset.

"Go ahead," the engineer said, making sure that the Russian's headset was not on that channel.

"Go ahead, Sarge."

"We have our two...our two new passengers, sir, but Mr. Ryan -- he got left behind, Colonel."

"Repeat that?" von Eich said.

"He said to move out, sir. Two guys with guns, sir, they -- he said to move out, sir," the crew chief said again.

Von Eich let out a breath. "Okay. How are things back there?"

"I got them in the back row, sir. I don't think anybody noticed, even, what with the engine noise and all."

"Keep it that way."

"Yes, sir. I have Freddie keeping the rest of the passengers forward. The aft can is broke, sir."

"Pity," the pilot observed. "Tell 'em to go forward if they gotta go."

"Right, Colonel."

"Seventy-five minutes," the navigator advised.

Christ, Ryan, the pilot thought. I hope you like a there...



"I should kill you here and now!" Golovko said.

They were in the Chairman's car. Ryan found himself facing four very irate KGB officers. The maddest seemed to be the guy in the right-front seat. Gerasimov's bodyguard, Jack thought, the one who worked close in. He looked like the physical type, and Ryan was glad that there was a seatback separating them. He had a more immediate problem. He looked at Golovko and thought it might be a good idea to calm him down.

"Sergey, that would set off an international incident like you would not believe," Jack said calmly. The next conversations he heard were in Russian. He couldn't understand what they were saying, but the emotional content was clear enough. They didn't know what to do. That suited Ryan just fine.



Clark was walking along a street three blocks from the waterfront when he saw them. It was eleven forty-five. They were right on time, thank God. This part of the city had restaurants and, though he scarcely believed it, some discos. They were walking out of one when he spotted them. Two women, dressed as he'd been told to expect, with a male companion. The bodyguard. Only one, also as per orders. It was an agreeable surprise that so far everything had gone according to plan. Clark counted another dozen or so other people on the sidewalk, some in loud groups, some in quiet couples, many of them weaving from too much drink. But it was a Friday night, and that's what people all over the world did on Friday night. He maintained visual contact with the three people who concerned him, and closed in.

The bodyguard was a pro. He stayed on their right, keeping his gun hand free. He was ahead of them, but that didn't keep his head from scanning in all directions. Clark adjusted the scarf on his neck, then reached in his pocket. The pistol was there as he increased his pace to catch up. It wasn't hard. The two women seemed to be in no hurry as they approached the corner. The older one seemed to be looking around at the city. The buildings looked old, but weren't. The Second World War had swept through Talinn in two explosive waves, leaving behind nothing but scorched stones. But whoever made such decisions had opted to rebuild the city much as it had been, and the town had a feel very different from the Russian cities Clark had visited before. It made him think of Germany somehow, though he couldn't imagine why. That was his last frivolous thought of the night. He was now thirty feet behind them, just another man walking home on a cold February night, his face lowered to avoid the wind and a fur hat pulled down over his head. He could hear their voices now, and they were speaking Russian. Time.

"Russkiy," Clark said with a Moscow accent. "You mean not everyone in this city is an arrogant Balt?"

"This is an old and lovely city, Comrade," the older woman answered. "Show some respect."

Here we go...Clark told himself. He walked forward with the curving steps of a man in his cups.

"Your pardon, lovely lady. Have a good evening," he said as he passed. He moved around the women and bumped into the bodyguard. "Excuse me, Comrade -- " The man found that there was a pistol aimed at his face. "Turn left and go into the alley. Hands out where I can see them, Comrade."

The shock on the poor bastard's face was amusing as bell, Clark thought, reminding himself that this was a skilled man with a gun in his pocket. He grabbed the back of the man's collar and kept him out at arm's length, with his gun held in tight.

"Mother..." Katryn said in quiet alarm.

"Hush and do as I say. Do as this man says."

"But -- "

"Against the wall," Clark told the man. He kept the gun aimed at the center of the bodyguard's head while he switched hands, then he chopped hard on the side of his neck with his right hand. The man fell stunned, and Clark put handcuffs on his wrists. Next he gagged him, tied up his ankles, and dragged him to the darkest spot he could find.

"Ladies, if you will come with me, please?"

"What is this?" Katryn asked.

"I don't know," her mother admitted. "Your father told me to -- "

"Miss, your father has decided that he wants to visit America, and he wants you and your mother to join him," Clark said in flawless Russian.

Katryn did not reply. The lighting in the alley was very poor, but he could see her face lose all of the color it had. Her mother looked little better.

"But," the young girl said finally. "But that's treason...I don't believe it."

"He told me...he told me to do whatever this man says," Maria said. "Katryn -- we must."

"But -- "

"Katryn," her mother said. "What will happen to your life if your father defects and you remain behind? What will happen to your friends? What will happen to you? They will use you to get him back, anything they have to do, Katusha...

"Time to leave, folks." Clark took both women by the arm.

"But -- " Katryn gestured at the bodyguard.

"He'll be fine. We don't kill people. It's bad for business." Clark led them back to the street, turning left toward the harbor.



The Major had divided his men into two groups. The smaller one was setting explosive charges on everything they could find. A light pole or a laser, it didn't matter to them. The large group had cut down most of the KGB troops who'd tried to come here, and was arrayed around the control bunker. It wasn't actually a bunker, but whoever had made the construction plans for the place had evidently thought that the control room should have the same sort of protection as those at the Leninsk Cosmodrome, or maybe he'd thought that the mountain might someday be subjected to a nuclear airburst attack. Most likely was that someone had decided the manual prescribed this sort of structure for this sort of place. What had resulted was a building with reinforced-concrete walls fully a meter thick. His men had killed the KGB commander and taken his vehicle, with the heavy machine gun, and were pouring fire into the vision slits cut in the structure. In fact, no one used them for looking, and their rounds had long since pounded through the thick glass and were chewing into the room's computers and control gear.

Inside, General Pokryshkin had taken command by default. He had thirty or so KGB troops, armed only with light weapons and what little ammunition they'd been carrying when the attack had begun. A lieutenant was handling the defense as best he could, while the General was trying to get help by radio.

"It will take an hour," a regimental commander was saying. "My men are moving out right now!"

"Fast as you can!" Pokryshkin said. "People are dying here." He'd already thought of helicopters, but in this weather they'd accomplish nothing at all. A helicopter assault would not even have been a gamble, just suicide. He set down the radio and picked up his service automatic. He could hear the noise from the outside. All the site's equipment was being blown up. He could live with that now. As great a catastrophe as that was, the people mattered more. Nearly a third of his engineers were in the bunker. They'd been finishing up a lengthy conference when the attack began. Had that not been the case, fewer would be here, but those would have been out working on the equipment. At least here they had a chance.

On the other side of the bunker's concrete walls, the Major was still trying to figure this one out. He'd hardly expected to find this sort of structure. His RPG antitank rounds merely chipped the wall, and aiming them at the narrow slits was difficult in the darkness. His machine-gun rounds could be guided to them with tracers, but that wasn't good enough.

Find the weak points, he told himself. Take your time and think it out. He ordered his men to maintain a steady rate of fire and started moving around the building. Whoever was inside had his weapons equally dispersed, but buildings like this one always had at least one blind spot...The Major merely had to find it.

"What is happening?" his radio squawked.

"We have killed perhaps fifty. The rest are in a bunker and we're trying to get them, too. What of your target?"

"The apartment building," the Archer replied. "They're all in there, and -- " The radio transmitted the sound of gunfire. "We will have them soon."

"Thirty minutes and we must leave, my friend," the Major said.

"Yes!" The radio went silent.

The Archer was a good man, and a brave one, the Major thought as he examined the bunker's north face, but with just a week's formal training he'd be so much more effective...just a week to codify the things that he was learning on his own...and to pass on the lessons that others had shed blood for.

There was the place. There was a blind spot.



The last mortar rounds were targeted on the roof of the apartment block. Bondarenko smiled as he watched. Finally the other side had done something really foolish. The 82-millimeter shells didn't have a chance of breaking through the concrete roof slabs, but if they'd spread them around the building's periphery he'd have lost many of his men. He was down to ten, two of them wounded. The rifles of the fallen were inside the building now, being fired from the second floor. He counted twenty bodies outside his perimeter, and the attackers -- they were Afghans, he was sure of that now -- were milling about beyond his vision, trying to decide what to do. For the first time Bondarenko felt that they just might survive after all. The General had radioed to say that a motorized regiment was on the way down the road from Nurek, and though he shuddered to think what it would be like driving BTR infantry carriers over snow-covered mountain roads, the loss of a few infantry squads was as nothing compared to the corporate expertise that he was trying to protect now.

The incoming rifle fire was sporadic now, just harassment fire while they decided what to do next. With more people he'd try a counterattack, just to throw them off balance, but the Colonel was tied to his post. He couldn't risk it, not with a mere squad left to cover two sides of the building.

Do I pull back now? The longer I can keep them away from the building, the better, but should I do my withdrawal now? His thoughts wavered at that decision. Inside the building his troops would have far better protection, but he'd lose the ability to control them when each man was separated from the next by the interior walls. If they pulled inside and withdrew to the upper floors, they'd allow the Afghan sappers to drop the building with explosive charges -- no, that was the counsel of despair. Bondarenko listened to the scattered rifle shots that punctuated the sounds of wounded and dying men and couldn't make up his mind.

Two hundred meters away, the Archer was about to do that for him. Mistaking the casualties he'd taken here to mean that this part of the building was the most heavily defended, he was leading what was left of his men to the other side. It required five minutes to do so, while those he left behind kept up a steady drumbeat of fire into the Russian perimeter. Out of mortar rounds, out of RPG projectiles, the only thing left to him besides rifles were a few grenades and six satchel charges. All around him fires blazed into the night, separate orange-red flames reaching upward to melt the falling snow. He heard the cries of his own wounded as he formed up the fifty men he had left. They'd attack as one mass, behind the leader who'd brought them here. The Archer flipped the safety off his AK-47, and remembered the first three men he'd killed with it.



Bondarenko's head snapped around when he heard the screams from the other side of the building. He turned back and saw that nothing was happening. It was time to do something, and he hoped that it was the right thing:

"Everyone back to the building. Move!" Two of his remaining ten were wounded, and each had to be helped. It took over a minute as the night shattered yet again with volleys of rifle fire. Bondarenko took five and ran down the building's main first-floor corridor and out the other side.

He couldn't tell if there'd been a breakthrough, or if the men here were also falling back -- again he had to hold fire because both sides were identically uniformed. Then one of those running toward the building fired, and the Colonel went to one knee and dropped him with a five-round burst. More appeared, and he nearly fired until he heard their shouts.

"Washi, nashi!" He counted eight. The last of them was the sergeant, wounded in both legs.

"Too many, we couldn't -- "

"Get inside," Bondarenko told him. "Can you still fight?"

"Fuck, yes!" Both men looked around. They couldn't fight from the individual rooms. They'd have to make their stand in the corridors and stairwells.

"Help is on the way. A regiment is coming down from Nurek if we can hold on!" Bondarenko told his men. He didn't tell them how long it was supposed to take. It was the first good news in over half an hour. Two civilians came downstairs. Both carried rifles.

"You need help?" Morozov asked. He'd avoided military service, but he had just learned that a rifle wasn't all that hard to use.

"How are things up there?" Bondarenko asked.

"My section chief is dead. I took this from him. Many people are hurt, and the rest are as terrified as I am."

"Stay with the sergeant," the Colonel told him. "Keep your head, Comrade Engineer, and we may yet live through this. Help's on the way."

"I hope the bastards hurry." Morozov helped the sergeant -- who was even younger than the engineer -- go to the far end of the corridor.

Bondarenko put half of his men at the stairwell and the other half by the elevators. It was quiet again. They could hear the jabbering of voices outside, but the shooting had died down for the moment.



"Down the ladder. Carefully," Clark said. "There's a crossmember at the bottom. You can stand on that."

Maria looked with disgust at the slimy wood, doing as she was told like a person in a dream. Her daughter followed. Clark went last, stepped around them, and got into the boat. He untied the ropes and moved the boat by hand underneath where the women were standing. It was a three-foot drop.

"One at a time. You first, Katryn. Step down slowly and I'll catch you." She did so, her knees wobbling with doubt and fear. Clark grabbed her ankle and pulled it toward him. She fell into the boat as elegantly as a sack of beans. Maria came next. He gave the same instructions, and she followed them, but Katryn tried to help, and in doing so moved the boat. Maria lost her grip and fell into the water with a scream.

"What is that?" someone called from the landside end of the pier.

Clark ignored it, grabbing the woman's splashing hands and pulling her aboard. She was gasping from the cold, but there wasn't much Clark could do about that. He heard the sound of running feet along the pier as he turned on the boat's electric motor and headed straight out.

"Stoi!" a voice called. It was a cop, Clark realized, it would have to be a damned cop. He turned to see the glimmer of a flashlight. It couldn't reach the boat, but it was fixed on the wake he'd left behind. Clark lifted his radio.

"Uncle Joe, this is Willy. On the way. The sun is out!"



"They may have been spotted," the communications officer told Mancuso.

"Great." The Captain went forward. "Goodman, come right to zero-eight-five. Move her in toward the coast at ten knots."

"Conn, sonar, contact bearing two-nine-six. Diesel engine," Jones's voice announced. "Twin screws."

"Will be KGB patrol frigate -- Grisha, probably," Ramius said. "Routine patrol."

Mancuso didn't say anything, but he pointed to the fire-control tracking party. They'd work up a position on the seaward target while Dallas moved into the coast at periscope depth, keeping her radio antenna up.



"Nine-seven-one, this is Velikiye Luki Center. Turn right to new course one-zero-four," the Russian voice told Colonel von Eich. The pilot squeezed the microphone trigger on his wheel.

"Say again, Luki. Over."

"Nine-seven-one, you are ordered to turn right to new heading one-zero-four and return to Moscow. Over."

"Ah, thank you, Luki, negative, we are proceeding on a heading of two-eight-six as per our flight plan. Over."

"Nine-seven-one, you are ordered to return to Moscow!" the controller insisted.

"Roger. Thank you. Out." Von Eich looked down to see that his autopilot was on the proper heading, then resumed his outside scanning for other aircraft.

"But you are not turning back," the Russian said over the intercom.

"No." Von Eich turned to look at the man. "We didn't leave anything behind that I know of." Well...

"But they ordered you -- "

"Son, I am in command of this aircraft, and my orders are to fly to Shannon," the pilot explained.

"But -- " The Russian unsnapped his straps and started to stand up.

"Sit down!" the pilot ordered. "Nobody leaves my flight deck without my permission, mister! You are a guest on my airplane, and you'll goddamned well do what I say!" Damn, it was supposed to be easier than this! He gestured to the engineer, who toggled off another switch. That shut off all the cabin lights in the aircraft. The VC-137 was now totally blacked out. Von Eich keyed his radio again. "Luki, this is niner-seven-one. We have some electrical problems aboard. I don't want to make any radical course changes until we have them figured out. Do you copy? Over."

"What is your problem?" the controller asked. The pilot wondered what he'd been told as he gave out the next set of lies.

"Luki, we don't know just yet. We're losing electrical power. All our lights have gone bad. The bird is blacked out at the moment, say again we are running without lights. I'm a little worried, and I don't need any distractions right now." That bought him two minutes of silence, and twenty miles of westward progress.

"Nine-seven-one, I have notified Moscow of your problems. They advise that you return at once. They will clear you for an emergency approach," the controller offered.

"Roger, thank you, Luki, but I don't want to risk a course change right now, if you know what I mean. We're working to fix the problem. Please stand by. Will advise. Out." Cobnet von Eich checked the clock in his instrument panel. Thirty more minutes to the coast.



"What?" Major Zarudin asked. "Who got on the airplane?"

"Chairman Gerasimov and an arrested enemy spy," Vatutin said.

"On an American airplane? You tell me that the Chairman is defecting on an American airplane!" The officer commanding the airport security detail had taken charge of the situation, as his orders allowed him to do. He found that he had two colonels, a lieutenant colonel, a driver, and an American in the office he used here -- along with the craziest damned story he'd ever heard. "I must call for instructions."

"I am senior to you!" Golovko said.

"You are not senior to my commander!" Zarudin pointed out as he reached for the phone. He'd been able to have the air traffic controllers try to recall the American plane, but it had not come as a surprise to his visitors that it had decided not to turn.

Ryan sat perfectly still, barely breathing, not even moving his head. He told himself that as long as they didn't get too excited he would be completely safe. Golovko was too smart to do anything crazy. He knew who Jack was, and he knew what would happen if an accredited member of a diplomatic mission to his country was so much as scratched. Ryan had been scratched, of course. His ankle hurt like hell, and his knee was oozing blood, but he'd done that to himself. Golovko glared at him from five feet away. Ryan didn't return the look. He swallowed his fear and tried to look exactly as harmless as he was right now.

"Where's his family?" Vatutin asked.

"They flew to Talinn yesterday," Vasiliy answered lamely. "She wanted to see some friends..."



Time was running out for everyone. Bondarenko's men were down to less than half a magazine each. Two more were dead from grenades that had been tossed in. The Colonel had watched a private leap on one, ripped to shreds to save his comrades. The boy's blood covered the tile floor like paint. Six Afghans were piled up at the door. It had been like this at Stalingrad, the Colonel told himself. No one excelled the Russian soldier at house-to-house fighting. How far away was that motorized regiment? An hour was such a short period of time. Half a movie, a television show, a pleasant night's stroll...such a short time, unless people were shooting at you. Then every second stretched before your eyes, and the hands of your watch seemed frozen, and the only thing that went fast was your heart. It was only his second experience with close combat. He'd been decorated after the first, and he wondered if he'd be buried after the second. But he couldn't let that happen. On the floors above him were several hundred people, engineers and scientists, their wives and their children, all of whose lives rested on his ability to hold the Afghan invaders off for less than an hour.

Go away, he wished at them. Do you think that we wanted to come and be shot at in that miserable rockpile you call a country? If you want to kill those who are responsible, why don't you go to Moscow? But that wasn't the way things were in war, was it? The politicians never seemed to come close enough to see what they had wrought. They never really knew what they did, and now the bastards had nuclear-tipped missiles. They had the power to kill millions, but they didn't even have the courage to see the horror on a simple, old-fashioned battlefield.

The nonsense you think at times like this! he raged at himself.



He'd failed. His men had trusted him with command, and he'd failed them, the Archer told himself. He looked around at the bodies in the snow and each seemed to accuse him. He could kill individuals, could pluck aircraft from the sky, but he'd never learned how to lead a large body of men. Was this Allah's curse on him for torturing the Russian flyers? No! There were still enemies to kill. He gestured to his men to enter the building through several broken, ground-floor windows.



The Major was leading from the front, as the mudjaheddin expected. He had gotten ten of them right up to the side of the bunker, then led them along the wall toward the main door, covered by fire from the rest of his company. It was going well, he thought. He'd lost five men, but that was not very many for a mission like this...Thank you for all the training you gave me, my Russian friends...

The main door was steel. He personally set a pair of satchel charges at both lower corners and set the fuses before crawling back around the corner. Russian rifles blazed over his head, but those inside the building didn't know where he was. That would change. He set the charges, pulled the fuse cords, and dashed back around the corner.



Pokryshkin cringed as he heard it happen. He turned to see the heavy steel door flying across the room and smashing into a control console. The KGB Lieutenant was killed instantly by the blast, and as Pokryshkin's men raced to cover the breach in the wall, three more explosive packs flew in. There was nowhere to run. The Border Guards kept firing, killing one of the attackers at the door, but then the charges went off.

It was a strangely hollow sound, the Major thought. The force of the explosions was contained by the stout concrete walls. He led his men in a second later. Electrical circuits were sparking, and fires would soon begin in earnest, but everyone he could see inside was down. His men moved swiftly from one to another, seizing weapons and killing those merely unconscious. The Major saw a Russian officer with general's stars. The man was bleeding from his nose and ears, trying to bring up his pistol when the Major cut him down. In another minute they were all dead. The building was rapidly filling with thick, acrid smoke. He ordered his men out.

"We're finished here," he said into his radio. There was no answer. "Are you there?"



The Archer was against a wall next to a half-open door. His radio was switched off. Just outside his room was a soldier, facing down the corridor. It was time. The freedom fighter threw the door aside with the barrel of his rifle and shot the Russian before the man had had a chance to turn. He screamed a command, and five other men emerged from their rooms, but two were killed before they got a chance to shoot. He looked up and down the corridor and saw nothing but gun flashes and half-hidden silhouettes.

Fifty meters away, Bondarenko reacted to the new threat. He shouted an order for his men to stay under cover, and then with murderous precision, the Colonel identified and engaged the targets moving in the open, identified by the emergency lighting in the corridor. The corridor was exactly like a shooting gallery, and he got two men with as many bursts. Another ran toward him, screaming something unintelligible and firing his weapon in a single extended burst. Bondarenko's shots missed, to his amazement, but someone else got him. There was more shooting, and the sound of it reverberating off the concrete walls completely deafened everyone. Then, he saw, there was only one man left. The Colonel watched two more of his men fall, and the last Afghan chipped concrete only centimeters from his face. Bondarenko's eyes stung from it, and the right side of his face recoiled at the sudden pain. The Colonel pulled back from the line of fire, flipped his weapon to full automatic, took a deep breath, and jumped into the corridor. The man was less than ten meters away.

The moment stretched into eternity as both men brought their weapons to bear. He saw the man's eyes. It was a young face there, immediately below the emergency light, but the eyes...the rage there, the hatred, nearly stopped the Colonel's heart. But Bondarenko was a soldier before all things. The Afghan's first shot missed. His did not.

The Archer felt shock, but not pain in his chest as he fell. His brain sent a message to his hands to bring the weapon to the left, but they ignored the command and dropped it. He fell in stages, first to his knees, then on his back, and at last he was staring up at a ceiling. It was finally over. Then the man stood by his side. It was not a cruel face, the Archer thought. It was the enemy, and it was an infidel, but he was a man, too, wasn't he? There was curiosity there. He wants to know who I am, the Archer told him with his last breath.

"Allahu akhbar!" God is great.

Yes, I suppose He is, Bondarenko told the corpse. He knew the phrase well enough. Is that why you came? He saw that the man had a radio. It started to make noise, and the Colonel bent down to grab it.

"Are you there?" the radio asked a moment later. The question was in Pashtu, but the answer was delivered in Russian.

"It is all finished here," Bondarenko said.

The Major looked at his radio for a moment, then blew his whistle to assemble what was left of his men. The Archer's company knew the way to the assembly point, but all that mattered now was getting home. He counted his men. He'd lost eleven and had six wounded. With luck he'd get to the border before the snow stopped. Five minutes later his men were heading off the mountain.



"Secure the area!" Bondarenko told his remaining six men. "Collect weapons and get them handed out." It was probably over, he thought, but "over" would not truly come until that motor-rifle regiment got here.

"Morozov!" he called next. The engineer appeared a moment later.

"Yes, Colonel?"

"Is there a physician upstairs?"

"Yes, several -- I'll get one."

The Colonel found that he was sweating. The building still held some warmth. He dropped the field radio off his back and was stunned to see that two bullets had hit it -- and even more surprised to see blood on one of the straps. He'd been hit and hadn't known it. The sergeant came over and looked at it.

"Just a scratch, Comrade, like those on my legs."

"Help me off with this coat, will you?" Bondarenko shrugged out of the knee-length greatcoat, exposing his uniform blouse. With his right hand he reached inside, while his left removed the ribbon that designated the Red Banner. This he pinned to the young man's collar. "You deserve better, Sergeant, but this is all I can do for the present."



"Up 'scope!" Mancuso used the search periscope now, with its light-amplifying equipment. "Still nothing..." He turned to look west. "Uh-oh, I got a masthead light at two-seven-zero -- "

"That's our sonar contact," Lieutenant Goodman noted unnecessarily.

"Sonar, conn, do you have an ident on the contact?" Mancuso asked.

"Negative," Jones replied. "We're getting reverbs from the ice, sir. Acoustic conditions are pretty bad. It's twin screw and diesel, but no ident."

Mancuso turned on the 'scope television camera. Ramius needed only one look at the picture. "Grisha."

Mancuso looked at the tracking party. "Solution?"

"Yes, but it's a little shaky," the weapons officer replied. "The ice isn't going to help," he added. What he meant was that the Mark 48 torpedo in surface-attack mode could be confused by floating ice. He paused for a moment. "Sir, if that's a Grisha, how come no radar?"

"New contact! Conn, sonar, new contact bearing zero-eight-six -- sounds like our friend, sir," Jones called. "Something else near that bearing, high-speed screw...definitely something new there, sir, call it zero-eight-three."

"Up two feet," Mancuso told the quartermaster. The periscope came up. "I see him, just on the horizon...call it three miles. There's a light behind them!" He slapped the handles up and the 'scope went down at once. "Let's get there fast. All ahead two-thirds."

"All ahead two-thirds, aye." The helmsman dialed up the engine order.

The navigator plotted the position of the inbound boat and ticked off the yards.

Clark was looking back toward the shore. There was a light sweeping left and right across the water. Who was it? He didn't know if the local cops had boats, but there had to be a detachment of KGB Border Guards: they had their own little navy, and their own little air force. But how alert were they on a Friday night? Probably better than they were when that German kid decided to fly into Moscow...right through this sector, Clark remembered. This area's probably pretty alert...where are you, Dallas? He lifted his radio.

"Uncle Joe, this is Willy. The sun is rising, and we're far from home."



"He says he's close, sir," communications reported.

"'Gator?" Mancuso asked.

The navigator looked up from his table. "I gave him fifteen knots. We should be within five hundred yards now."

"All ahead one-third," the Captain ordered. "Up 'scope!" The oiled steel tube hissed up again -- all the way up.

"Captain, I got a radar emitter astern, bearing two-six-eight. It's a Don-2," the ESM technician said.

"Conn, sonar, both the hostile contacts have increased speed. Blade count looks like twenty knots and coming up on the Grisha, sir," Jones said. "Confirm target ident is Grisha-class. Easterly contact still unknown, one screw, probably a gas engine, doing turns for twenty or so.

"Range about six thousand yards," the fire-control party said next.

"This is the fun part," Mancuso observed. "I have them. Bearing -- mark!"

"Zero-nine-One."

"Range." Mancuso squeezed the trigger for the 'scope's laser-rangefinder. "Mark!"

"Six hundred yards."

"Nice call, 'Gator. Solution on the Grisha?" he asked fire control.

"Set for tubes two and four. Outer doors are still closed, sir."

"Keep 'em that way." Mancuso went to the bridge trunk's lower hatch. "XO, you have the conn. I'm going to do the recovery myself. Let's get it done."

"All stop," the executive officer said. Mancuso opened the hatch and went up the ladder to the bridge. The lower hatch was closed behind him. He heard the water rushing around him in the sail, then the splashes of surface waves. The intercom told him he could open the bridge hatch. Mancuso spun the locking wheel and heaved against the heavy steel cover. He was rewarded with a faceful of cold, oily saltwater, but ignored it and got to the bridge.

He looked aft first. There was the Grisha, its masthead light low on the horizon. Next he looked forward and pulled the flashlight from his hip pocket. He aimed directly at the raft and tapped out the Morse letter D.



"A light, a light!" Maria said. Clark turned back forward, saw it, and steered for it. Then he saw something else.



The patrol boat behind Clark was a good two miles off, its searchlight looking in the wrong place. The Captain turned west to see the other contact. Mancuso knew in a distant sort of way that Grishas carried searchlights, but had allowed himself to disregard the fact. After all, why should search-lights concern a submarine? When she's on the surface, the Captain told himself. The ship was still too far away to see him, light or not, but that would change in a hurry. He watched it sweep the surface aft of his submarine, and realized too late that they probably had Dallas on radar now.

"Over here, Clark, move your ass!" he screamed across the water, swinging the light left and right. The next thirty seconds seemed to last into the following month. Then it was there.

"Help the ladies," the man said. He held the raft against the submarine's sail with his motor. Dallas was still moving, had to be to maintain this precarious depth, not quite surfaced, not quite dived. The first one felt and moved like a young girl, the skipper thought as he brought her aboard. The second one was wet and shivering. Clark waited a moment, setting a small box atop the motor. Mancuso wondered how it stayed balanced there until he realized that it was either magnetic or glued somehow.

"Down the ladder," Mancuso told the ladies.

Clark scrambled aboard and said something -- probably the same thing -- in Russian. To Mancuso he spoke in English. "Five minutes before it blows."

The women were already halfway down. Clark went behind them, and finally Mancuso, with a last look at the raft. The last thing he saw was the harbor patrol boat, now heading directly toward him. He dropped down and pulled the hatch behind himself. Then he punched the intercom button. "Take her down and move the boat!"

The bottom hatch opened underneath them all, and he heard the executive officer. "Make your depth ninety feet, all ahead two-thirds, left full rudder!"

A petty officer met the ladies at the bottom of the bridge tube. The astonishment on his face would have been funny at any other time. Clark took them by the arm and led them forward to his stateroom. Mancuso went aft.

"I have the conn," he announced.

"Captain has the conn," the XO agreed. "ESM says they got some VHF radio traffic, close in, probably the Grisha talking to the other one."

"Helm, come to new course three-five-zero. Let's get her under the ice. They probably know we're here -- well, they know something's here. 'Gator, how's the chart look?"

"We'll have to turn soon," the navigator warned. "Shoal water in eight thousand yards. Recommend come to new course two-nine-one." Mancuso ordered the change at once.

"Depth now eight-five feet, leveling out," the diving officer said. "Speed eighteen knots." A small bark of sound announced the destruction of the raft and its motor.

"Okay, people, now all we have to do is leave," Mancuso told his Attack Center crew. A high-pitched snap of sound told them that this would not be easy.

"Conn, sonar, we're being pinged. That's a Grisha deathray," Jones said, using the slang term for the Russian set. "Might have us."

"Under the ice now," the navigator said.

"Range to target?"

"Just under four thousand yards," the weapons officer replied. "Set for tubes two and four."

The problem was, they couldn't shoot. Dallas was inside Russian territorial waters, and even if the Grisha shot at them, shooting back wasn't self-defense, but an act of war. Mancuso looked at the chart. He had thirty feet of water under his keel, and a bare twenty over his sail -- minus the thickness of the ice...

"Marko?" the Captain asked.

"They will request instructions first," Ramius judged. "The more time they have, the better chance they will shoot."

"Okay. All ahead full," Mancuso ordered. At thirty knots he'd be in international waters in ten minutes.

"Grisha is passing abeam on the portside," Jones said. Mancuso went forward to the sonar room.

"What's happening?" the Captain asked.

"The high-frequency stuff works pretty good in the ice. He's searchlighting back and forth. He knows something's here, but not exactly where yet."

Mancuso lifted a phone. "Five-inch room, launch two noisemakers."

A pair of bubble-making decoys was ejected from the portside of the submarine.

"Good, Mancuso," Ramius observed. "His sonar will fix on those. He cannot maneuver well with the ice."

"We'll know for sure in the next minute." Just as he said it, the submarine was rocked by explosions aft. A very feminine scream echoed through the forward portion of the submarine.

"All ahead flank!" the Captain called aft.

"The decoys," Ramius said. "Surprising that he fired so quickly..."

"Losing sonar performance, skipper," Jones said as the screen went blank with flow noise. Mancuso and Ramius went aft. The navigator had their course track marked on the chart.

"Uh-oh, we have to transit this place right here where the ice stops. How much you want to bet he knows it?" Mancuso looked up. They were still being pinged, and he still couldn't shoot back. And that Grisha might get lucky.

"Radio -- Mancuso, let me speak on radio!" Ramius said. "We don't do things that way -- " Mancuso said. American doctrine was to evade, never to let them be sure there was a submarine there at all.

"I know that. But we are not American submarine, Captain Mancuso, we are Soviet submarine," Ramius suggested. Bart Mancuso nodded. He'd never played this card before.

"Take her to antenna depth!"

A radio technician dialed in the Soviet guard frequency, and the slender VHF antenna was raised as soon as the submarine cleared the ice. The periscope went up, too.

"There he is. Angle on the bow, zero. Down 'scope!"



"Radar contact bearing two-eight-one," the speaker proclaimed.

The Captain of the Grisha was coming off a week's patrolling on the Baltic Sea, six hours late, and had been looking forward to four days off. Then first came a radio transmission from the Talinn harbor police about a strange craft seen leaving the docks, followed by something from the KGB, then a small explosion near the harbor police boat, next several sonar contacts. The twenty-nine-year-old senior lieutenant with all of three months in command had made his estimate of the situation and fired at what his sonar operator called a positive submarine contact. Now he was wondering if he'd made a mistake, and how ghastly it might be. All he knew was that he had not the smallest idea what was happening, but if he were chasing a submarine, it would be heading west.

And now be had a radar contact forward. The speaker for the guard radio frequency started chattering.

"Cease fire, you idiot!" a metallic voice screamed at him three times.

"Identify!" the Grisha's commander replied.

"This is Novosibiirsk Komsomolets! What the hell do you think you're doing firing live ammunition in a practice exercise! You identify!"

The young officer stared at his microphone and swore. Novosibiirsk Komsomolets was a special-ops boat based at Kronshtadt, always playing Spetznaz games...

"This is Krepkiy."

"Thank you. We will discuss this episode the day after tomorrow. Out!"

The Captain looked around at the bridge crew. "What exercise..."



"Too bad," Marko said as he replaced the microphone. "He reacted well. Now he will take several minutes to call his base, and..."

"And that's all we need. And they still don't know what happened." Mancuso turned. "'Gator, shortest way out?"

"Recommend two-seven-five, distance is eleven thousand yards."

At thirty-four knots, the remaining distance was covered quickly. Ten minutes later the submarine was back in international waters. The anticlimax was remarkable for all those in the control room. Mancuso changed course for deeper water and ordered speed reduced to one-third, then went back to sonar.

"That should be that," he announced.

"Sir, what was this all about?" Jones asked.

"Well, I don't know that I can tell you."

"What's her name?" From his seat Jones could see into the passageway.

"I don't even know that myself. But I'll find out." Mancuso went across the passageway and knocked on the door of Clark's stateroom.

"Who is it?"

"Guess," Mancuso said. Clark opened the door. The Captain saw a young woman in presentable clothes, but wet feet. Then an older woman appeared from the head. She was dressed in the khaki shirt and pants of Dallas' chief engineer, though she carried her own things, which were wet. These she handed to Mancuso with a phrase of Russian.

"She wants you to have them cleaned, skipper," Clark translated, and started laughing. "These are our new guests. Mrs. Gerasimov, and her daughter, Katryn."

"What's so special about them?" Mancuso asked.

"My father is head of KGB!" Katryn said.

The Captain managed not to drop the clothes.



"We got company," the copilot said. They were coming in from the right side, the strobe lights of what had to be a pair of fighter planes. "Closing fast."

"Twenty minutes to the coast," the navigator reported. The pilot had long since spotted it.

"Shit!" the pilot snapped. The fighters missed his aircraft by less than two hundred yards of vertical separation, little more in horizontal. A moment later, the VC-137 bounced through their wake turbulence.

"Engure Control, this is U.S. Air Force flight niner-seven-one. We just had a near miss. What the hell is going on down there?"

"Let me speak to the Soviet officer!" the voice answered. It didn't sound like a controller.

"I speak for this aircraft," Colonel von Eich replied. "We are cruising on a heading of two-eight-six, flight level eleven thousand six hundred meters. We are on a correctly filed flight plan, in a designated air corridor, and we have electrical problems. We don't need to have some hardrock fighter jocks playing tag with us -- this is an American aircraft with a diplomatic mission aboard. You want to start World War Three or something? Over!"

"Nine-seven-one, you are ordered to turn back!"

"Negative! We have electrical problems and cannot repeat cannot comply. This airplane is flying without lights, and those crazy MiG drivers damned near rammed us! Are you trying to kill us, over!"

"You have kidnapped a Soviet citizen and you must return to Moscow!"

"Repeat that last," von Eich requested.



But the Captain couldn't. A fighter ground-intercept officer, he'd been rushed to Engure, the last air-traffic-control point within Soviet borders, quickly briefed by a local KGB officer, and told to force the American aircraft to turn back. He should not have said what he had just said in the clear.

"You must stop the aircraft!" the KGB General shouted:

"Simple, then. I order my MiGs to shoot it down!" the Captain replied in kind. "Do you give me the order, Comrade General?"

"I do not have the authority. You have to make it stop."

"It cannot be done. We can shoot it down, but we cannot make it stop."

"Do you wish to be shot?" the General asked.



"Where the hell is it now?" the Foxbat pilot asked his wingman. They'd only seen it once, and that for a single ghastly instant. They could track the intruder -- except that it was leaving, and wasn't really an intruder, they both knew -- on radar, and kill it with radar-guided missiles, but to close on the target in darkness...Even in the relatively clear night, the target was running without lights, and trying to find it meant running the risk of what American fighter pilots jokingly called a Fox-Four: midair collision, a quick and spectacular death for all involved.

"Hammer Lead, this is Toolbox. You are ordered to close on the target and force it to turn," the controller said. "Target is now at your twelve o'clock and level, range three thousand meters."

"I know that," the pilot said to himself. He had the airliner on radar, but he did not have it visually, and his radar could not track precisely enough to warn him of an imminent collision. He also had to worry about the other MiG on his wing.

"Stay back," he ordered his wingman. "I'll handle this alone." He advanced his throttles slightly and moved the stick a hair to the right. The MiG-25 was heavy and sluggish, not a very maneuverable fighter. He had a pair of air-to-air missiles hanging from each wing, and all he had to do to stop this aircraft was...But instead of ordering him to do something he was trained to do, some jackass of a KGB officer was --

There. He didn't so much see the aircraft, but saw something ahead disappear. Ah! He pulled back on the stick to gain a few hundred meters of altitude and...yes! He could pick the Boeing out against the sea. Slowly and carefully, he moved forward until he was abeam of the target and two hundred meters higher.



"I got lights on the right side," the copilot said. "Fighter, but I don't know what kind."

"If you were him, what would you do?" von Eich asked.

"Defect!" Or shoot us down...

Behind them in the jump seat, the Russian pilot, whose only job was to talk Russian in case of an emergency, was strapped down in his seat and had not the first idea what to do. He'd been cut out of the radio conversations and had only intercom now. Moscow wanted them to turn the aircraft back. He didn't know why, but -- but what? he asked himself.

"Here he comes, sliding over toward us."



As carefully as he could, the MiG pilot maneuvered his fighter to the left. He wanted to get over the Boeing's cockpit, from which position he could gently reduce altitude and force it downward. To do this required as much skill as he could muster, and the pilot could only pray that the American was equally adept. He positioned himself so that he could see...but --

The M1G-25 was designed as an interceptor, and the cockpit gave the pilot very restricted visibility. He could no longer see the airplane with which he was flying formation. He looked ahead. The shore was only a few kilometers away. Even if he were able to make the American reduce altitude, he'd be over the Baltic before it would matter to anyone. The pilot pulled back on his stick and climbed off to the right. Once clear, he reversed course.

"Toolbox, this is Hammer Lead," he reported. "The American will not change course. I tried, but I will not collide with his airplane without orders."



The controller had watched the two radar blips merge on his scope, and was now amazed that his heart hadn't stopped. What the hell was going on? This was an American plane. They couldn't force it to stop, and if there were an accident, who would be blamed for it? He made his decision.

"Return to base. Out."

"You will pay for this!" the KGB General promised the ground-intercept officer. He was wrong.



"Thank God," von Eich said as they passed over the coastline. He called up the chief cabin steward next. "How are the folks in back?"

"Mainly asleep. They must have had a big party tonight. When are we getting the electricity back?"

"Flight engineer," the pilot said, "they want to know about the electrical problems."

"Looks like it was a bad breaker, sir. I think...Yeah, I fixed it."

The pilot looked out his window. The wingtip lights were back on, as were the cabin lights, except in back. Passing Ventspils, they turned left to a new heading two-five-nine. He let out a long breath. Two and a half hours to Shannon. "Some coffee would be nice," he thought aloud.



Golovko hung up the phone and spat out a few words that Jack didn't understand exactly, though their message seemed rather clear.

"Sergey, could I clean my knee up?"

"What exactly have you done, Ryan?" the KGB officer asked.

"I fell out of the airplane and the bastards left without me. I want to be taken to my embassy, but first, my knee hurts."

Golovko and Vatutin stared at each other and both wondered several things. What had actually happened? What would happen to them? What to do with Ryan?

"Who do we even call?" Golovko asked.





Chapter 27 -- Under Wraps



Vatutin decided to call his directorate chief, who called the KGB's First Deputy Chairman, who called someone else, and then called back to the airport office where they were all waiting. Vatutin noted the instructions, took everyone to Gerasimov's car, and gave directions that Jack didn't understand. The car headed straight through Moscow's empty early-morning streets -- it was just after midnight, and those who had been out to the movies or the opera or the ballet were now at home. Jack was nestled between the two KGB colonels, and hoped that they'd be taking him to the embassy, but they kept going, crossing the city at a high rate of speed, then up into the Lenin Hills and beyond to the forests that surround the city. Now he was frightened. Diplomatic immunity seemed a surer thing at the airport than it did in the woods.

The car slowed after an hour, turning off the paved main road onto a gravel path that meandered through trees. There were uniforms about, he saw through the windows. Men with rifles. That sight made him forget the pain from his ankle and knee. Exactly where was he? Why was he being brought here? Why the people with guns...? The phrase that came to him was a simple, ominous one: Take him for a ride

No! They can't be doing that, reason told him. I have a diplomatic passport. I was seen alive by too many people. Probably the Ambassador is already -- But he wouldn't be. He wasn't cleared for what had happened, and unless they got word off the plane...Regardless, they couldn't possibly...But in the Soviet Union, the saying went, things happened that simply didn't happen. The car's door flew open. Golovko got out and pulled Ryan with him. The only thing Jack was sure of now was that there was no point in resistance.

It was a house, a quite ordinary frame house in the woods. The windows glowed yellow from lights behind the curtains. Ryan saw a dozen or so people standing around, all with uniforms, all with rifles, all staring at him with the same degree of interest given a paper target. One, an officer, came over and frisked Ryan with considerable thoroughness, eliciting a grunt of pain when he got to the bloody knee and torn trousers. He surprised Ryan with what might have been a perfunctory apology. The officer nodded to Golovko and Vatutin, who handed over their automatics and led Ryan into the house.

Inside the door, a man took their coats. Two more men in civilian clothes were obvious police or KGB types. They wore unzipped jackets, and they had to be packing pistols from the way they stood, Jack knew. He nodded politely to them, and got no response other than another frisking from one while the other watched from a safe shooting distance. Ryan was astonished when the two KGB officers were frisked as well. When this was complete, the other one motioned them through a doorway.

General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union Andrey Il'ych Narmonov was sitting in an overstuffed chair in front of a newly built fire. He rose when the four men entered the room, and gestured for them to sit on the sofa opposite his place. The bodyguard took position standing behind the head of the Soviet government. Narmonov spoke in Russian. Golovko translated.

"You are?"

"John Ryan, sir," Jack said. The General Secretary pointed him to a chair opposite his own, and noted that Ryan favored his leg.

"Anatoliy," he said to the bodyguard, who took Ryan's arm and walked him to a first-floor bathroom. The man dampened a washcloth with warm water and handed it over. Back in the sitting room, he could hear people talking, but Ryan's knowledge of Russian was too thin to catch any of it. It was good to wash off the leg, but it looked as though the pants were finished, and the nearest change of clothes -- he checked his watch -- was probably near Denmark by now. Anatoliy watched him the whole time. The bodyguard pulled a gauze bandage from the medicine cabinet and helped Jack tape it in place, then walked him back as gracefully as Ryan's aches and pains allowed.

Golovko was still there, though Vatutin had left, and the empty chair was still waiting. Anatoliy took his former place behind Narmonov.

"The fire feels good," Jack said. "Thank you for letting me wash the knee off."

"Golovko tells me that we did not do that to you. Is this correct?"

It seemed an odd question to Jack, since Golovko was handling the translating. So Andrey Il'ych speaks a little English, does he?

"No, sir, I did it to myself. I have not been mistreated in any way." Just had the piss scared out of me, Ryan thought to himself. But that's my own damned fault. Narmonov looked at him with silent interest for perhaps half a minute before speaking again.

"I did not need your help."

"I do not know what you mean, sir," Ryan lied.

"Did you really think that Gerasimov could remove me?"

"Sir, I don't know what you are talking about. My mission was to save the life of one of our agents. To do this meant compromising Chairman Gerasimov. It was just a matter of fishing with the proper bait."

"And fishing for the proper fish," Narmonov commented. The amusement in his voice did not show on his face. "And your agent was Colonel Filitov?"

"Yes, sir. You know that."

"I just learned it."

Then you know that Yazov was compromised also. Just how close might they have come, Comrade General Secretary? Ryan did not say. Probably Narmonov didn't know either.

"Do you know why he turned traitor?"

"No, I don't. I was briefed only on what I needed to know."

"And therefore you do not know about the attack on our Project Bright Star?"

"What?" Jack was very surprised, and showed it.

"Don't insult me, Ryan. You do know the name."

"It's southeast of Dushanbe. I know it. Attacked?" he asked.

"As I thought. You know that was an act of war," Narmonov observed.

"Sir, KGB officers kidnapped an American SDI scientist several days ago. That was ordered by Gerasimov himself. His name is Alan Gregory. He's a major in the U.S. Army, and he was rescued."

"I don't believe it," Golovko said before translating. Narmonov was annoyed by the interruption, but shocked by the substance of Ryan's statement.

"One of your officers was captured. He's alive. It is true, sir," Jack assured him.

Narmonov shook his head and rose to toss another log on the fire. He maneuvered it into place with a poker. "It's madness, you know," he said at the hearth. "We have a perfectly satisfactory situation now.

"Excuse me? I don't understand," Ryan asked.

"The world is stable, is it not? Yet your country wishes to change this, and forces us to pursue the same goal." That the ABM test site at Sary Shagan had been operating for over thirty years was, for the moment, beside the point.

"Mr. Secretary, if you think the ability to turn every city, every home in my country into a fire like the one you have right there -- "

"My country, too, Ryan," Narmonov said.

"Yes, sir, your country, too, and a bunch of others. You can kill most every civilian in my country, and we can murder almost every person in your country, in sixty minutes or less from the time you pick up the phone -- or my President does. And what do we call that? We call it 'stability.'"

"It is stability, Ryan," Narmonov said.

"No, sir, the technical name we use is MAD: Mutual Assured Destruction, which isn't even good grammar, but it's accurate enough. The situation we have now is mad, all right, and the fact that supposedly intelligent people have thought it up doesn't make it any more sensible."

"It works, doesn't it?"

"Sir, why is it stabilizing to have several hundred million people less than an hour away from death? Why do we view weapons that might protect those people to be dangerous? Isn't that backwards?"

"But if we never use them...Do you think that I could live with such a crime on my conscience?"

"No, I don't think that any man could, but someone might screw up. He'd probably blow his brains out a week after the fact, but that might be a little late for the rest of us. The damned things are just too easy to use. You push a button, and they go, and they'll work, probably, because there's nothing to stop them. Unless something stands in their way, there's no reason to think that they won't work. And as long as somebody thinks they might work, it's too easy to use them."

"Be realistic, Ryan. Do you think that we'll ever rid ourselves of atomic arms?" Narmonov asked.

"No, we'll never get rid of all the weapons. I know that. We'll both always have the ability to hurt each other badly, but we can make that process more complicated than it is now. We can give everybody one more reason not to push the button. That's not destabilizing, sir. That's just good sense. That's just something more to protect your conscience."

"You sound like your President." This was delivered with a smile.

"He's right." Ryan returned it.

"It is bad enough that I must argue with one American. I will not do so with another. What will you do with Gerasimov?" the General Secretary asked.

"It will be handled very quietly, for the obvious reason," Jack said, hoping that he was right.

"It would be very damaging to my government if his defection became public. I suggest that he died in a plane crash...

"I will convey that to my government if I am permitted to do so. We can also keep Filitov's name out of the news. We have nothing to gain by publicity. That would just complicate things for your country and mine. We both want the arms treaty to go forward -- all that money to save, for both of us."

"Not so much," Narmonov said. "A few percentage points of the defense budgets on both sides."

"There is a saying in our government, sir. A billion here and a billion there, pretty soon you're talking about some real money." That earned Jack a laugh. "May I ask a question, sir?"

"Go on."

"What will you do with the money on your side? I'm supposed to figure that one out."

"Then perhaps you can offer me suggestions. What makes you think that I know?" Narmonov asked. He rose, and Ryan did the same. "Back to your embassy. Tell your people that it is better for both sides if this never becomes public."

Half an hour later Ryan was dropped off at the front door of the embassy. The first one to see him was a Marine sergeant. The second was Candela.



The VC-137 landed at Shannon ten minutes late, due to headwinds over the North Sea. The crew chief and another sergeant herded the passengers out the front way, and when all had left the aircraft, came back to open the rear door. While cameras flashed in the main terminal, steps were rolled to the Boeing's tail and four men left wearing the uniform parkas of U.S. Air Force sergeants. They entered a car and were driven to a far end of the terminal, where they boarded another plane of the 89th Military Airlift Wing, a VC-20A, the military version of the Gulfstream-III executive jet.

"Hello, Misha." Mary Pat Foley met him at the door and took him forward. She hadn't kissed him before. She made up for it now. "We have food and drink, and another plane ride home. Come, Misha." She took his arm and led him to his seat.

A few feet away, Robert Ritter greeted Gerasimov.

"My family?" the latter asked.

"Safe. We'll have them in Washington in two days. At this moment they are aboard a U.S. Navy ship in international waters."

"I am supposed to thank you?"

"We expect you to cooperate."

"You were very lucky," Gerasimov observed.

"Yes," Ritter agreed. "We were."



The embassy car drove Ryan to Sheremetyevo the following day to catch the regular Pan Am 727 flight to Frankfurt; The ticket they provided him was tourist, but Ryan upgraded it to first class. Three hours later he connected with a 747 for Dulles, also Pan Am. He slept most of the way.



Bondarenko surveyed the carnage. The Afghans had left forty-seven bodies behind, with evidence of plenty more. Only two of the site's laser assemblies had survived. All of the machine shops were wrecked, along with the theater and bachelor quarters. The hospital was largely intact, and full of wounded people. The good news was that he'd saved three-quarters of the scientific and engineering personnel and nearly all of their dependents. Four general officers were there already to tell him what a hero he was, promising medals and promotion, but he'd already gotten the only reward that mattered. As soon as the relief force had arrived, he'd seen that the people were safe. Now, he just looked from the roof of the apartment block.

"There is much work to do," a voice noted. The Colonel, soon to be a General, turned.

"Morozov. We still have two of the lasers. We can rebuild the shops and laboratories. A year, perhaps eighteen months."

"That's about right," the young engineer said. "The new mirrors and their computer control equipment will take at least that long. Comrade Colonel, the people have asked me to-"

"That is my job, Comrade Engineer, and I had my own ass to save, remember? This will never happen again. We'll have a battalion of motorized infantry here from now on, from a guards regiment. I've already seen to that. By summer this installation will be as safe as any place in the Soviet Union."

"Safe? What does that mean, Colonel?"

"That is my new job. And yours," Bondarenko said. "Remember?"



Epilogue -- Common Ground

It didn't surprise Ortiz when the Major came in alone. The report of the battle took an hour, and again the CIA officer was given a few rucksacks of equipment. The Archer's band had fought its way out, and of the nearly two hundred who had left the refugee camp, fewer than fifty returned on this first day of spring. The Major went immediately to work making contact with other bands, and the prestige of the mission which his group had carried out enabled him to deal with older and more powerful chieftains as a near equal. Within a week he had made good his losses with eager new warriors, and the arrangement the Archer had made with Ortiz remained in force.

"You're going back already?" the CIA officer asked the new leader.

"Of course. We 're winning now," the Major said with a degree of confidence that even he did not understand.

Ortiz watched them leave at nightfall, a single file of small, ferocious warriors, led now by a trained soldier. He hoped it would make a difference.



Gerasimov and Filitov never saw each other again. The debriefings lasted for weeks, and were conducted at separate locations. Filitov was taken to Camp Peary, Virginia, where he met a spectacled U.S. Army major and told what he remembered of the Russian breakthrough in laser power. It seemed curious to the old man that this boy could be so excited about things that he'd memorized but never fully understood.

After that came the routine explanations of the second career that had joined and paralleled his first. A whole generation of field officers visited him for meals and walks, and drinking sessions that worried the doctors but which no one could deny the Cardinal. His living quarters were closely guarded, and even bugged. Those who listened to him were surprised that he occasionally spoke in his sleep.

One CIA officer who was six months from his retirement paused from reading the local paper when it happened again. He smiled at the noise in his headphones and set down the article he was reading about the President's visit to Moscow. That sad, lonely old man, he thought as he listened. Most of his friends dead, and he only sees them in his sleep. Was that why he went to work for us? The murmuring stopped, and in the quarters next door, the Cardinal's baby-sitter went back to his paper.



"Comrade Captain," Romanov said.

"Yes, Corporal?" It seemed more real than most of his dreams, Misha noted. A moment later he knew why.



They were spending their honeymoon under the protection of security officers, all four days of it -- which was as long as Al and Candi were willing to stay away from work. Major Gregory got the phone when it rang.

"Yeah -- I mean, yes, sir," Candi heard him say. A sigh. A shake of the head in the darkness. "Not even any place to send flowers, is there? Can Candi and I -- Oh...I understand. Thanks for calling, General." She heard him replace the phone and let out another breath.

"Candi, you awake?"

"Yeah."

"Our first kid, his name's going to be Mike."



Major General Gregoriy Dalmatov's post of Defense Attaché at the Soviet Embassy in Washington carried a number of ceremonial duties that conflicted with his primary mission, intelligence gathering. He was slightly annoyed when the telephone call from the Pentagon had come, asking him to drive over to the American military headquarters -- and to his great surprise, to do so in full uniform. His car dropped him off at the River entrance, and a young paratroop captain had escorted him inside, then to the office of General Ben Crofter, Chief of Staff, United States Army.

"May I ask what is going on?"

"Something that we thought you should see, Gregoriy," Crofter answered cryptically. They walked across the building to the Pentagon's own helicopter pad, where to Dalmatov's astonishment they boarded a Marine helicopter of the Presidential Fleet. The Sikorsky lifted off at once, heading northwest into the Maryland hills. Twenty minutes later they were descending. Dalmatov's mind registered yet another surprise. The helicopter was landing at Camp David. A member of the Marine guard force in dress blues saluted at the foot of the stairs as they left the aircraft and escorted them into the trees. Several minutes later they came to a clearing. Dalmatov hadn't known there were birch trees here, perhaps half an acre of them, and the clearing was near a hilltop that offered a fine view of the surrounding country.

And there was a rectangular hole in the ground, exactly six feet deep. It seemed strange that there was no headstone, and that the sod had been carefully cut and set aside for replacement.

Around the scene, Dalmatov could make out more Marines in the treeline. These wore camouflage fatigues and pistol belts. Well, it was no particular surprise that there was heavy security here, and the General found it rather comforting that in the past hour one unsurprising thing had taken place.

A jeep appeared first. Two Marines -- in dress blues again -- got out and erected a prefabricated stand around the hole. They must have practiced, the General thought, since it took them only three minutes by his watch. Then a three-quarter-ton truck came through the trees, followed by some more jeeps. Cradled in the back of the truck was a polished oak coffin. The truck pulled to within a few meters of the hole and stopped. An honor guard assembled.

"May I ask why I am here?" Dalmatov asked when he couldn't stand it any longer.

"You came up in tanks, right?"

"Yes, General Crofter, as did you."

"That's why."

The six men of the honor guard set the coffin on the stand. The gunnery sergeant in command of the detail removed the lid. Crofter walked toward it. Dalmatov gasped when he saw who was inside.

"Misha."

"I thought you knew him," a new voice said. Dalmatov spun around.

"You are Ryan." Others were there, Ritter of CIA, General Parks, and a young couple, in their thirties, Dalmatov thought. The wife seemed to be pregnant, though rather early along. She was weeping silently in the gentle spring breeze.

"Yes, sir."

The Russian gestured to the coffin. "Where -- how did you -- "

"I just flew back from Moscow. The General Secretary was kind enough to give me the Colonel's uniform and decorations. He said that -- he said that in the case of this man, he prefers to remember the reason he got those three gold stars. We hope that you will tell your people that Colonel Mikhail Semyonovich Filitov, three times Hero of the Soviet Union, died peacefully in his sleep."

Dalmatov went red. "He was a traitor to his country -- I will not stand here and -- "

"General," Ryan said harshly, "it should be clear that your General Secretary does not agree with that sentiment. That man may be a greater hero than you know, for your country and for mine. Tell me, General, how many battles have you fought? How many wounds have you received for your country? Can you really look at that man and call him traitor? In any case..." Ryan gestured to the sergeant, who closed the coffin. When he'd finished, another Marine draped a Soviet flag over it. A team of riflemen appeared and formed at the head of the grave. Ryan took a paper from his pocket and read off Misha's citations for bravery. The riflemen brought up their weapons and fired off their volleys. A trumpeter played Taps.

Dalmatov came to rigid attention and saluted. It seemed a pity to Ryan that the ceremony had to be secret, but its simplicity made for dignity, and that at least was fitting enough.

"Why here?" Dalmatov asked when it was finished.

"I would have preferred Arlington, but then someone might notice. Right over those hills is the Antietam battlefield. On the bloodiest day in our Civil War, the Union forces repelled Lee's first invasion of the North after a desperate battle. It just seemed like the right place," Ryan said. "if a hero must have an unmarked grave, it should at least be close to where his comrades fell."

"Comrades?"

"One way or another we all fight for the things we believe in. Doesn't that give us some common ground?" Jack asked. He walked off to his car, leaving Dalmatov with the thought.

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