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Retired agent Michael Vance is approached for help on the same day by
an old KGB adversary and a brilliant and beautiful NSA code breaker.
While their problems seem at first glance to be different, Vance soon
learns he's got a potentially lethal tiger by the tail - a Japanese
tiger. A secret agreement between a breakaway wing of the Russian
military and the Yakuza, the Japanese crime lords, bears the potential
to shift the balance or world power. The catalyst is a superplane that
skims the edge of space - the ultimate in death-dealing potential. In a
desperate union with an international force of intelligence mavericks,
with megabillions and global supremacy at stake, Vance has only a few
days to bring down a conspiracy that threatens to ignite nuclear

Publisher's Weekly

_"Hoover's adept handling of convincing detail enhances this
entertaining thriller as his characters deal and double-deal their way
through settings ranging from the Acropolis to the inside of a
spacecraft. Michael Vance, formerly of the CIA, is on his way to an
archeological dig when some old friends show up. First comes KGB agent
Alex Novosty, caught laundering money that the KGB claims was embezzled
- and he wants Michael to take charge of the hot funds. Then National
Security Agency cryptographer Eva Borodin (who is Michael's ex-lover)
appears with an undecipherable but dangerous computer file: the co-
worker who gave her the file has since vanished. Heavies from a
Japanese crime syndicate attack Michael and Eva, who are rescued by
Alex, but it looks like Alex and the syndicate aren't complete
strangers. Moreover, the mysterious Daedalus Corporation seems to be a
link between Alex's money and Eva's file. As Michael is drawn into this
deadly web, he realizes there is a secret agreement between the
Russians and the Japanese - and it has nothing to do with tea-brewing




Zen Culture

The Zen Experience


The Moghul


Wall Street _Samurai_

(The _Samurai_ Strategy)

Project Daedalus

Project Cyclops

Life Blood


All free as e-books at


Thomas Hoover


- PROJECT DAEDALUS A Bantam Falcon Book / August 1991

All rights reserved copyright © 1991 by Thomas Hoover

Cover art copyright © 1991 by Alan Ayres

ISBN 0-553-29108-4

Bantam Books are published by Bantam Books, a division of Bantam
Doubleday Dell Publishing Group, Inc. PRINTED IN THE UNITED STATES OF
AMERICA 0987654321

Key Words:

Author: Thomas Hoover

Title: Project Daedalus

Hypersonic, Superplane, Edge of Space, thermonuclear warhead,
Supersonic, Space Plane, Crete, Minos, Palace of Minos, Greece, Greek

Grateful acknowledgment is made to the following for permission to
reprint previously published material.

Ovid: The Metamorphoses, translated by Horace Gregory. New American
Library. Copyright © 1958 by The Viking Press, Inc. Reprinted by
permission of Viking Penguin, a division of Penguin Books USA, Inc.

_So Daedalus turned his mind to subtle craft,

An unknown art that seemed to outwit nature.

_Ovid_, The Metamorphoses



Thursday 8:40 A.M.

_G-load is now eight point five. Pilot must acknowledge for power-up
sequence to continue.

_The cockpit computer was speaking in a simulated female voice, Russian
with the Moscow accent heard on the evening TV newscast _Vremya_. The
Soviet technicians all called her Petra, after that program's famous

Yuri Andreevich Androv didn't need to be told the force weighing down
on him had reached eight and a half times the earth's gravity. The
oxygen mask beneath his massive flight helmet was crushed against his
nose and the skin seemed to be sliding off his skull, while sweat from
his forehead poured into his eyes and his lungs were plastered against
his diaphragm.

_Auto termination will commence in five seconds unless you
acknowledge_. Petra paused for a beat, then spoke again: _Four seconds
to shutdown . . .

_He could sense the blood draining from his cerebral vascular system,
his consciousness trying to drift away. He knew that against these
forces the human heart could no longer pump enough oxygen to the brain.
Already he was seeing the telltale black dots at the edge of his

It's begun, he thought. The "event." Don't, don't let it happen. Make
your brain work. _Make it._

_Three seconds . . .

_The liquid crystal video screens inside his flight helmet seemed to be
fading from color to black and white, even as his vision closed to a
narrow circle. The "tunnel" was shrinking to nothing. The first stage
of a G-induced blackout was approximately two and a half seconds away.

You've done this a hundred times before at the Ramenskoye Flight Test
Center, he told himself. You're Russia's best test pilot. Now just _do_

He leaned back in the seat to lower his head another few millimeters,
then grasped for the pressure control on his G-suit, the inflatable
corset that squeezed critical blood paths. He ignored the pain as its
internal pressure surged, gripping his torso and lower legs like a vise
and forcing blood upward to counter the accumulation at his feet.

_Two seconds . . .

_With his right hand he rotated a black knob on the heavy sidestick
grip and turned up the oxygen feed to his mask, an old trick from
fighter training school that sometimes postponed the "event" for a few

Most importantly, though, he strained as if constipated in the snow,
literally pushing his blood higher - the best maneuver of all. He liked
to brag that he had upped his tolerance three G's through years of
attempting to crap in his blue cotton undersuit.

It was working. The tunnel had begun to widen out again. He'd gained a
brief reprieve.

"Acknowledged." He spoke to Petra, then reached down with his left hand
and flicked forward the second blue switch behind the throttle
quadrant, initiating the simulated hydrogen feed to the outboard
scramjet tridents, portside and starboard. Acceleration was still in-
creasing as the flashing green number on the video screens in front of
his eyes scrolled past Mach 4.6, over four and a half times the speed
of sound, already faster than any air- breathing vehicle had ever

_Only a few seconds more.

_He had to stay conscious long enough to push his speed past Mach 4.8,
raising the fuel-injector strut temperature of the scramjets to the
3,000-degree-Fahrenheit regime and establishing full ignition. If the
scramjets failed to stabilize and initiated auto shutdown, he would
flame out - at almost twenty-five hundred miles per hour.

_You are now experiencing nine G's_, the female voice continued,
emotionless as ice. _Pilot will confirm vision periphery_.

The fucking computer doesn't believe I can still see, he thought.

Most men, of course, would have been functionally blind by then.
Prolong the experience of ten G's and you went unconscious: the event.

_Confirm_, Petra's voice insisted.

"Thirty-eight degrees." He read off the video screens inside his
helmet, temporarily quieting the computer. But now he had a demand of
his own. "Report scramjet profile."

_Inboard tridents at eighty-two percent power. Outboard tridents at
sixty-eight percent power_, the voice responded.

Get ready, Petra. Spread your legs. I'm coming home.

The velocity scrolling on the right side of his helmet screen was about
to pass through the barrier. Strut temperature was stabilizing. With
engines in the scramjet mode, the vehicle should be able to push right
on out to Mach 25, seventeen thousand miles per hour. From there it was
only a short hop to low orbit. If -

_Inboard tridents at eighty-eight percent power. _The voice came again.
_LAC compression nominal_. The liquid air cycle equipment would be
using the cryogenic hydrogen fuel to chill and liquefy the rush of
incoming air; oxygen would then be injected into the scramjets at
pressures impossible to achieve in conventional engines.

With a sigh he eased back lightly on the throttle grip in his left
hand. As he felt the weight on his chest recede, the pressure in his G-
suit automatically let up. He smiled to think that a less experienced
pilot would now be slumped in his seat, head lolling side to side, eyes
wide open and blank, his bloodless brain dreaming of a lunar landscape.
He knew; he'd been there often enough himself. In the old days.

_System monitors commencing full operation_.

Good. From here on, the fuel controls would be handled by the in-flight
computer, which would routinely monitor thrust and temperature by
sampling every two milliseconds, then adjusting. But that was the
machine stuff, the child's play. He'd just done what only a man could

_Power-up complete for inboard and outboard tridents, portside and
starboard, _Petra reported finally. _Hydrogen feed now in auto
maintenance mode_.

She'd taken full charge. He was out of the loop.

But I just rode this space bird up your ice-cold _peredka_, silicon

He felt a burst of exhilaration and gave a long, basso whoop. It was a
crow of triumph, a challenge to every male ape in the forest. Yuri
Andreevich Androv lived for this, and only felt alive when he'd just
pushed his body to the limit. He needed it, lusted for it. It was all
he'd ever really cared about.

It was, he knew, his primal need to dominate his world. He knew that,
but so what? Other men merely dreamed it, played at it - in games,
business, even politics. He did it. And he fully intended to go on
doing it.

"Roll down her audio, dammit," he yelled into his helmet mike. "She's
driving me crazy."

"She's supposed to," a radio voice sounded back in his ear. "Ramenskoye
says all test pilots - you included, my friend - pay more attention to a
female voice." A laugh. "Come to _matya_, darling."

"I'd like to see her and - _Nayarevayet!_ - just once." He smiled in spite
of himself as the tunnel widened more and the screens before his eyes
began to recolor, pale hues gradually darkening to primary shades. The
blood was returning to his brain. Acceleration was stabilizing now,
down to 4.7 G's.

"She'd be a cold-hearted piece, Yuri. Guaranteed."

"It's been so long, I probably wouldn't notice." That's what he really
needed now - a woman.

"You would, believe me," the radio continued. "By the way,
congratulations. Your alpha was right across the oscilloscope, as
always. Zero stress response. How do you do it, _tovarisch_? I think
Petra was more worried than you were."

"Shut off the tape, and cut the 'comrade' crap," he

barked back. "Sergei, I nearly lost it there at nine point five."

"No indication on the physio monitors." The flight technician sounded

"The hell with the wavy lines. I know what was happening," he snapped
again, still wired with tension. "Can we get another fifteen percent
tilt out of this damned seat, help lower my head. There're no windows
anyway, so who cares where I'm looking?"

"We can send a memo to Engineering," the radio voice replied. "Though
there may not be time."

"Tell them they'd better make fucking time. Say I want it done." Not
enough time? What in hell was going on?

He took one last look at the high-definition video screens - one for each
eye - inside the helmet that would be the vehicle's "windscreen," then
flipped the snap and began shoving it up. He hated the damned thing,
thought it made him look like a giant high-tech moth.

"Shall we power-down the centrifuge now?" the voice continued, unfazed.

"Take it down. I'm ready for lunch. And a bottle of juice. _'Peit budu

"I read you," the radio voice chuckled once more, knowing there wasn't
any vodka to be had for a hundred miles around the facility. Reports
were the project director had heard too many stories about Russian
drunkenness and somehow always forgot to include liquor in the supply
requisition. "I hear there's borscht again in the mess today. Petyr
just came in from the North Quadrant. Said it tastes like piss.
Bastards still haven't learned - "

"_Pomnyu, pomnyu_." He found himself longing for real food, seemingly
impossible to produce here. Just like a drink.

He waited a few seconds longer, till the huge white centrifuge had come
to a complete stop, then shoved down the metal hatch release and
stepped out. He looked up at the high-impact glass partition of the
instrument room, waved to the medical team, and began unzipping his
flight suit. It was only half open by the time the technicians marched
in, anxious to remove quickly the rubber

suction cups and wires he was wearing on his head and chest, the
instrumentation probes for their body monitor system. They wanted to
reclaim them before he ripped them off, something he frequently had
been known to do. Androv always said he was there to fly whatever plane
nobody else had the balls to, not take a physical, so he wanted the
goddam things off, and fast.

Air Force Major Yuri Andreevich Androv was thirty- seven, tall, with
the studied swagger all Soviet test pilots seemed to acquire after a
few years. His dark eyes and hair were set off by a high forehead and
long, lean cheeks, and behind those cynical eyes lurked a penetrating
intelligence. There was something else too, the most vital attribute a
test pilot can have: a perfect, natural integration of the two sides of
his brain.

Soviet medical studies had shown that the best pilots were artists,
because handling a plane at three times the speed of sound was
primarily a function of the intuitive right side of the brain, the side
that provides the instincts, the seat-of-the-pants judgment. The left
brain, in contrast, handled a pilot's rational functions - it was his
data management system, his computer.

Flight instructors for tactical aircraft at the Ramenskoye Flight Test
Center south of Moscow knew that a pilot lost his edge when his brain
started getting its signals mixed, when it was no longer sure which
side was in control. They called it the biology barrier. The result of
information overload in a stress situation, it could lead to a total
breakdown. The brain went haywire.

Yuri Androv was one of the few Soviet test pilots who never reached the
biology barrier. He was, in fact, the best.

He knew that his gift was one of the reasons he had been specially
selected for this project. Another was experience. Over the years, he'd
flown them all - the Tupolev Blackjack, the MiG 25 Foxbat, even the
ultra-secret new MiG 31 Foxhound. But this hydrogen-fueled, scramjet-
powered monster opened the door to another world. Above Mach 5, you
were no longer merely supersonic, you were hypersonic - where no air-
breathing vehicle had ever ventured.

Could it be done? He had to admit the technology was awesome - all the
aerodynamic design by supercomputer, the new ceramic composites for the
leading edges, the Mach 13 burst-tests in the hypersonic wind tunnel,
the scramjet static-test power-ups at the aeropropulsion facility. . .

This was supposedly just a space-research vehicle, for godsake. But it
had twelve engines. And whereas the MiG 25, the USSR's fastest fighter-
interceptor, topped out well under two thousand miles per hour, this
space-age creation was capable, theoretically, of speeds almost ten
times that.

The schedule agreed upon called for the certification of both the
prototypes in their lower-speed, turboramjet mode, and then the
commencement of hypersonic flight tests in the scramjet mode. That
second phase wasn't supposed to begin for three months.

But now the project director had ordered the test program accelerated,
demanding the hypersonic test flights begin immediately with the one
prototype now certified - in ten days.

Maybe, just maybe, it could be done. Of course, everybody else would be
sitting safely in Flight Control there in the East Quadrant when he
kicked in the scramjets at sixty thousand feet. His ass would be the
one in the cockpit.

This was the riskiest project of his life. Until the operational
shakedown, nobody actually knew whether or not those damned scramjets
would produce a standing shock wave in their combustion chamber,
creating a supersonic "compressor" the way the supercomputer promised
they would.

And what about somebody's brilliant idea of using the plane's liquid
hydrogen fuel as coolant for the leading edges, to dissipate the
intense heat of hypersonic flight? Had to do it, they claimed. Computer
says there's no other way. But that was about as "brilliant" as filling
your car radiator with frozen jet fuel! He'd be flying in a cocoon of
liquid hydrogen . . . and, even scarier, he'd be doing it blind, with
no windscreen. If he burned up he'd have to watch it on television.

He glanced back one last time at the white centrifuge, a fifty-foot
propeller with the simulated cockpit on one blade and a
counterbalancing weight on the other. The centrifuge itself was pure
white enamel, spotless, just like the room. A little honest Russian
dirt would actually have made him feel better. Riding in that "cockpit"
was like being strapped inside a video game, all lights and nothing

Frowning, he shrugged and passed on through the door, greeted the
milling technicians, and tossed his crumpled flight suit toward two
medics from the foreign team who caught it in midair, bowed, and
hurried it into the medical lab for . . . the devil take it, he didn't
know and he didn't care.

The fluorescent-lit hall was crowded with white-shirted technicians
returning from the morning's test in Number One, the big hypersonic
wind tunnel. Everybody was smiling, which told him the final run-up of
the model must have gone without a hitch.

That was the last segment of the revised schedule. The hypersonic test
flight was on, in eighteen days.

What in hell was the sudden rush? What was everybody's real agenda?
Nobody was talking.

That was what really bothered him, had bothered him from the start.
This top-secret vehicle wasn't destined to be some kind of civilian
space-research platform, regardless of what anybody claimed. Who were
they fooling? The ultimate weapons delivery system had just been built
here, a high-tech behemoth that married advanced Soviet thruster and
guidance technology with a hypersonic airframe and scramjets created by
the world's leading manufacturer of high-temperature alloys and
supercomputers. And it was all being done here, the one place on earth
with the technology.

Here. The trouble was, this wasn't Russia.

_So Daedalus devised his winding maze;

And as one entered it, only a wary mind

Could find an exit to the world again. . . .

_Ovid_, The Metamorphoses




Wednesday 7:33 A.M.


_"You're lucky I love this spot," Vance said, gazing out over the city.
"Nothing else on the planet could have got me up this early in the

"It's the one place I thought I could persuade you to meet me." The
bearded man sighed, his dark eyes grim. The accent was Russian, the
English flawless. "I have a problem, a very big problem."

"The Cold War's over, Alex, or maybe you hadn't heard." He strolled on,
tugging his trench coat tighter. "What have we got left to talk about?"

"Please. We both did what we had to."

"I still do. Life's too short for anything else." He turned back. "Now
how about telling me what's on your mind."

Vance was firm-muscled and lean, with the leathery skin of a man who
drank his tequila straight and preferred spending his days in the sun,
two habits that also had bestowed a network of threadlike smile lines
at the corners of his sea-blue eyes. Aleksei Ilyich Novosty had phoned
him at the Athenaeum Inter-Continental half an hour earlier, begging to
meet him, saying it was of the utmost importance. A cab was downstairs.
The driver had taken him to the old flea market at Monastiraki Square,
where Alex's own black limo waited. But now Novosty was playing games,
and the days for KGB games were supposed to be in the distant past.
What did the man want?

"My friend, give me a moment. . . ." Novosty wiped his brow, manicured
nails glistening, then looked up and pointed. "By the way, I've always
believed that one is the most exquisite female in the world. That one
there. What do you think?"

"Sexy, plenty of style." Vance swept his eyes over the figure, loving
how the cloth was shaped by her breast, the vague hint of thigh as one
leg brushed against the gauze of her tunic. "But the lady next to her's
a looker too. Always seemed a tough call."

Above them, the stone caryatids smiled down, their pale faces timeless
and ethereal. They were Greek statues that served as columns for the
south porch of the Erechtheum, the Ionic temple standing across from
the Doric Parthenon. Down below the steep north wall of the Acropolis,
the dark-glazed rooftops of Athens, city of Pericles, droused mutely in
the early haze.

"Yes, perhaps you're right." Novosty brushed awkwardly at his patchy
stubble, searching for an opening. He knew Vance never made the first
move, always waited for the other side to show its cards. "Michael, I
... is it true you occasionally still take an assignment? I mean,
outside the usual work for ARM. I made some inquiries in Geneva last
week. The word is - "

"Hang on. I think you're getting your team colors mixed. I work for the
other side, remember?" He stooped and picked up a handful of the grainy
red soil at their feet, massaging it in his fingers and wondering why
it had taken him so long to get back here, to Greece. This was where he
belonged. This was the place, the ancient people, he still dreamed
about. But could he fit in again after so many years away? Yes, he'd
make it work.

Michael Vance, Jr., had the sangfroid of one who moved easily among the
decision-makers of two continents. He was to the manner born - Yale - and
he'd long since concluded it was the way man was meant to live. In
years past he'd been a field archaeologist, and a good one; then he'd
had a brief consulting stint for the CIA. These days, he lived at the
Nassau Yacht Club marina, where he moored his restored forty-four-foot
Bristol racing yacht, the Ulysses, headquarters for his three-boat
charter operation. He was mortgaged to the hilt, but he didn't really
care. When things got tight, he could always take on a quick money job
for the Association of Retired Mercenaries, ARM.

"The situation is not necessarily what you're thinking," Novosty
pressed. "So perhaps you would consider - "

"Whatever it is, the answer's still no. The next three weeks are going
to be spent working on a tan."

Why tell Alex the facts? Today he was in Athens for only a few hours, a
stopover on the way to Crete. He glanced at his watch - an old Eterna
Chronomatic, the 1946 classic he loved - and calculated that the flight
for Iraklion left in less than four hours. This time tomorrow morning
he would be looking in on the crew from the University of Stuttgart's
dig for the German Historical Society, part of the restoration of a
Minoan palace near Crete's southern shore. Novosty and all he stood for
were the last thing he needed right now.

"Then at least let's have coffee," the Russian said finally, pointing.
"I brought some. There in the bag."

Vance needed it, to cut his hangover. Without a word he turned to the
marble steps, pried open the white paper, and reached in.

"Plastic." Dismay filled his voice as he lifted out one of the smooth
Styrofoam cups and examined it, like an insect. "This nails it. Game
over. Our side won all the chips. Now even Greek coffee comes American
style." He frowned as he pried the white lid from the cup. "What's

"It's everywhere. Perhaps they'll wrap these statues in cellophane
next, who knows."

"I fear the worst." He took a sip, relishing the first hit of the dawn.
It was dark and sweet, the real thing despite the container.

Online LibraryThomas HooverProject Daedalus → online text (page 1 of 30)