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towing him onto the darkened tarmac. The landing lights along the
runway were off; they would be switched on only for final approach,
when, guided by the radar installation, their focused beams would be
invisible outside a hundred-yard perimeter of the nose cameras.

The asphalt beneath him, swept by the freezing winds of Hokkaido, was a
special synthetic, carefully camouflaged. He knew it well. Two nights
earlier he'd come out here to have a talk with the project _kurirovat_,
Ivan Semenovich Lemontov, the lean and wily Soviet officer-in-charge.
Formerly that post had belonged to the CPSU's official spy, but now
party control was supposed to be a thing of the past. So what was he
doing here?

Whatever it was, the isolated landing strip had seemed the most secure
place for some straight answers. As they strolled in the moonlight, the
harsh gale off the straits cutting into their skin, he'd demanded
Lemontov tell him what was really going on.

By the time they were finished, he'd almost wished he hadn't asked.

"Yuri Andreevich, on this project you are merely the test pilot. Your
job is to follow orders." Lemontov had paused to light a Russian
cigarette, cupping his hands against the wind to reveal his thin,
foxlike face. He was a hardliner left over from the old days, and
occasionally it still showed. "Strategic matters should not concern

"I was brought in late, only four months ago, after the

prototypes were ready for initial flight testing. But if I'm flying the
_Daedalus_, then I want to know its ultimate purpose. The truth.
Nobody's told me anything. The only thing I'm sure of is that all the
talk about near-space research is bullshit. Which means I'm being
used." He had caught Lemontov's arm and drew him around. The officer's
eyes were half hidden in the dark. "Now, dammit, I want to know what in
hell is the real purpose of this vehicle."

Lemontov had grunted, then pulled away and drew on his cigarette.
Finally he spoke: "Yuri Andreevich, sometimes it's wiser to leave
strategy to the professionals. You do your job and I'll do mine."

Yuri remembered how he'd felt his anger boil. He'd begun to suspect
that certain CPSU hardliners like Lemontov, together with the military
or the KGB, had their own plans for the vehicle. But what were they up

"Look, I'm doing my job. So how about a little openness, a little
glasnost? This is not supposed to be like the old days."

Lemontov had drawn a few paces ahead on the tarmac, walking briskly,
with the quick energy that had brought him to his powerful party post.
Finally he'd slowed and waited for Yuri to catch up. He had made a
decision and he had made it quickly. That was characteristic.

"Yuri Andreevich, in a way you represent part of our 'technology
exchange' with Mino Industries. You have an indispensible role to play
here. This whole program depends on you."

"I'm well aware of that." However, it hadn't answered his questions.

"Then you should also be aware of something else. This undertaking is a
small, but highly crucial, part of something much larger. Nothing less
than the fate of the Soviet Union in the next century rests on whether
Project Daedalus succeeds."

"What do you mean?" Yuri had watched him walk on, feeling his own
impatience growing.

Lemontov had turned back again, brusquely. "This hypersonic spacecraft
is the symbol, the flagship, of a new Soviet alliance with the most
technologically advanced nation on earth. Even a 'flyboy' like you
should be able to grasp that. Through this alliance we eventually will
find a way to tap all of Japan's new technology. The world of the
future - advanced semiconductors, robots, biotechnology,
superconductivity, all of it - is going to be controlled by Japan, and we
must have access to it."

Yuri had listened in silence, once more feeling he was being fed half-
truths. Then Lemontov lowered his voice.

"Yuri Andreevich, by forming what amounts to a strategic alliance with
Mino Industries, we will achieve two objectives. We will gain access to
Japanese technology and capital, to rejuvenate Soviet industry and
placate our people. And we will strike a preemptive blow against the
peril of a new China on our borders in the next century."

"China?" Yuri had studied him, startled.

"My friend, don't be fooled by summits and talks of reconciliation.
Neither we nor China care a kopeck about the other. Think about it. In
the long run, China can only be our nightmare. If America had to look
across its Canadian border and see China, they too would be terrified.
China has the numbers and, soon, the technology to threaten us. It's
the worst nightmare you or I could ever have." Lemontov had paused to
crush out his cigarette, grinding it savagely into the asphalt. "We
must prepare for it now."

The hardliners have just found a new enemy, Yuri had realized. The Cold
War lives!

"Like it or not," Lemontov had continued, "and just between us I'm not
sure I do like it, we have no choice but to turn to Japan in order to
have an ally in Asia to counter the new, frightening specter of a
hostile China rising up on our flank."

"So how does _Daedalus _figure into all this?"

"As I said, it is the first step in our new alliance. From now on our
space programs will be united as one." He had sighed into the icy wind.
"It will be our mutual platform for near-earth space exploration."

"With only peaceful intent?" Yuri had tried to study his eyes, but the
dark obscured them.

"I've told you all you need to know." A match had flared again as he
lit another cigarette. In the tiny blaze of light he gave a small wink.
"Even though the _Daedalus _could easily be converted to a . . first-
strike platform, we naturally have no intention of outfitting these
prototypes, or later production models, for any such purpose. The Japa-
nese would never agree."

What had he been saying? That the hardliners were planning to seize the
vehicles and retrofit them as first- strike bombers? Maybe even make a
preemptive strike against China? Were they planning to double-cross the

What they didn't seem to realize was that these vehicles didn't need to
be retrofitted. _Daedalus _was already faster and more deadly than any
existing missile. It couldn't be shot down, not by America's yet-to-be-
built SDI, not by anything. And speed was only part of the story. What
about the vehicle's other capabilities?

He switched his helmet screens momentarily to the infrared cameras in
the nose and studied the runway. Infrared. Pure military. And that was
just the beginning. There also was phased-array radar and slit-scan
radar, both equipped for frequency hopping and "squirt" emissions to
evade detection. And how about the radar altimeter, which allowed
subsonic maneuvering at low altitudes, "on the deck"? Or the auxiliary
fuel capacity in the forward bay, which permitted long-distance
sustained operation?

No "space platform" needed all this radar-evasive, weapons-systems
management capability. Or a hyper-accurate inertial navigation system.
Kick in the scramjets and _Daedalus _could climb a hundred thousand
miles straight up in seven minutes, reenter the lower atmosphere at
will, loiter over an area, kick ass, then return to the untouchable
safety of space. There was enough cruise missile capacity to take out
fifty hardened sites. It could perform troop surveillance, deploy
commandos to any firefight on the globe in two hours . . . you name it.
He also suspected there was yet another feature, even more ominous,
which he planned to check out tonight.

While the Soviet military was secretly drooling to get its hands on
this new bomber, sending the cream of Soviet propulsion engineers here
to make sure it worked, they already had been outflanked. Typical
idiocy. What they'd overlooked was that these two planes still belonged
to Mino Industries, and only Mino Industries had access to the high-
temperature ceramics and titanium composites required to build more.
Tanzan Mino held all the cards. He surely knew the capabilities of this
plane. Everything was already in place. Mino Industries now owned the
ultimate weapon: they had built or subcontracted every component. Was
Lemontov such a dumb party hack he couldn't see that?

All the more reason to get the cards on the table. And soon.

So far the plan was on track. He had demanded that the schedule be
moved up, and Ikeda had reluctantly agreed. In four days Yuri Androv
would take _Daedalus _into the region of near space using liquid
hydrogen, the first full hypersonic test flight. And that's when he
intended to blow everybody's neat scenario wide open.

He felt the fuselage shudder as the trucks disengaged from the eyelets
on the landing gear. Then the radio crackled.

"This is control, _Daedalus I_. Do you read?"

"_Daedalus I_. Preflight nominal."

"Verified. Engine oil now heated to thirty degrees Celsius. Begin
ignition sequence."

"Check. _Daedalus I _starting engines." He scanned through the
instrument readings on his helmet screens, then slipped his hand down
the throttle quadrant and pushed the button on the left. He could
almost feel the special low-flashpoint JP-7 - originally developed for
the high-altitude American SR-71 Blackbird - begin to flow from the wing
tanks into the twelve turboramjets, priming them. Then the ground crew
engaged the engines with their huge trolley-mounted starters. As the
rpm began to surge, he reminded himself he was carrying only 2,100,000
pounds of fuel and it would burn fast.

He switched his helmet screens to the priority-one display and scanned
the master instrument panel: white bars showing engine rpm, fuel flow,
turbine inlet temperature, exhaust temperature, oil pressure,
hydraulics. Then he cut back to the infrared cameras and glanced over
the tarmac stretching out in front of him. Since the American KH-12
satellite had passed twenty minutes earlier, flight conditions should
now be totally secure.

For tonight's program he was scheduled to take the vehicle to Mach 4,
then terminate the JP-7 feeds in the portside outboard trident and let
those three engines "unstart," after which he would manually switch
them to scramjet geometry, all the while controlling pitch and yaw with
the stability augmentation equipment. That would be the easy part. The
next step required him to manually switch them back to turboramjet
geometry and initiate restart. At sixty-three thousand feet. Forty
minutes later he was scheduled to have her back safely in the hangar
chocks, skin cooling.

Nothing to it.

He flipped his helmet screens back and looked over the readouts one
final time. Fuel pressure was stable, engine nozzle control switches
locked in Auto Alpha configuration, flaps and slats set to fifteen
degrees for max performance takeoff. He ran through the checklist on
the screen: "Fuel panel, check. Radar altimeter index, set. Throttle
quadrant, auto lock."

The thrust required to take _Daedalus I _airborne was less than that
needed for a vertically launched space shuttle, since lift was gained
from the wings, but still he was always amazed by the G-forces the
vehicle developed on takeoff. The awesome power at his fingertips
inspired a very deceptive sense of security.

"Chase cars in place, Yuri. You're cleared for taxi. _Ne puzha, ne

He started to respond, thinking it was the computer. But this time
there was no computer. He'd deliberately shut it down. If he couldn't
get this damned samolyot off a runway manually, he had no hopes for the
next step. The voice was merely Sergei, in flight control.

"Power to military thrust." He paused, toes on the brakes, and relished
the splendid isolation, the pure energy at his command as _Daedalus_
began to quiver. Multibillions at his fingertips, the most advanced . .

Fuck it. This was the fun part.

"Brake release."

In full unstick, he rammed the heavy handles on the throttle quadrant
to lock, commanding engines to max afterburner, and grinned ear to ear
as the twelve turboramjets screamed instantly to a million pounds of
thrust, slamming him against the cockpit supports.

Sunday 7:29 P.M.

"We are now cruising at twenty-nine thousand feet. However, the captain
has requested all passengers to please remain seated, with their seat
belts fastened." The female voice faltered as the plane dropped through
another air pocket. "We may possibly be experiencing mild turbulence
for the next hour."

Michael Vance wanted a drink, for a lot of reasons. However, the
service in first class was temporarily suspended, since attendants on
the British Airways flight to London were themselves strapped into the
flip-down seats adjacent to the 757's galley. The turbulence was more
than "mild." What lay ahead, in the skies and on the sea below, was
nothing less than a major storm.

Why not, he sighed? Everything else in the last four days had gone
wrong. He'd been shot at, he'd killed a mobster, and Eva had been

Furthermore, the drive back to Athens, then down to the port of Piraeus
to put Zeno onto the overnight ferry to Crete, had been a rain-swept
nightmare. Yet another storm had blown up from the Aegean, engulfing
the coast and even the mountains. When they finally reached the docks
at Piraeus, the old Greek had just managed to slip onto the boat as it
was pulling out, his German rifle wrapped in a soggy bundle of

"Michael, I must hurry." He kissed Vance on both cheeks. "Be safe."

"You too." He took his hand, then passed him the Llama, half glad to be
rid of it and half wondering whether he might need it again. "Here,
take this. And lose it."

"It's final resting place will be in the depths of our wine dark sea,
my friend." Zeno pocketed it without a glance. "No one will ever know
what we had to do, not even Adriana. But we failed. She is still gone."

"Don't worry. I'll find her. And thank you again, for saving my life."

"You would have done the same for me. Now hurry. The airport. Perhaps
there's still time to catch her." With a final embrace he disappeared
into the milling throng of rain-soaked travelers.

The downpour was letting up, but the trip still took almost an hour.
When he finally pulled in at the aging Eastern terminal, he'd left the
car in the first space he could find and raced in. It was bedlam now,
with flights backed up by the storm, but he saw no sign of Eva. Where
was she? Had she even come here?

Planes had just started flying again. According to the huge schedule
board over the center of the floor, the first departure was a British
Air to Heathrow, leaving in five minutes.

There was no chance of getting through passport control without a
ticket, so he'd elbowed his way to the front of the British Airways

"That flight boarding. Three-seventy-one. I want a seat."

"I'm sorry, sir, but you'll have to wait - "

"Just sell me a ticket, dammit."

The harried agent barely looked up. "I'm afraid that's out of the
question. Now if you'll just take - "

"There's a woman who may be on it," he lifted up the empty leather
suitcase, "and she left this at the hotel."

"The equipment is already preparing to leave the gate." He glanced at
the screen, then turned to a pile of tickets he was methodically
sorting. "So if you'd please - "

"Let me check the manifest." He'd stepped over the baggage scale,
nudging the agent aside. "To make double sure she's aboard. Maybe I can
try and locate her in London."

"Sir!" The young Englishman paled. "You're not allowed to - "

"Just take a second." Vance ignored his protest and punched up the
flight on the computer.

It was a 757, completely full. And there she was, in seat 18A, second

Thank God she'd made it.

While the outraged British Airways agent was frantically calling for
airport security, he scanned more of the file.

Alex Novosty was aboard too. In the very last row. Christ! He'd even
used his own name. His mind must be totally blown.

Did she know? Did he know? What now?

With the ticket agent still yelling, he'd quickly disappeared into the
crowd, having no choice but to pace a departure lounge for an hour and
a half, then take the only remaining London flight of the evening. All
right, he'd thought after cooling down, Novosty wants to use you; maybe
you can use him.

But now he suspected things weren't going to be that simple.

He remembered the two KGB operatives Alex had shot and killed at
Knossos. They'd been there to find Eva, which meant they knew she had
something. Now he realized that wasn't all they knew.

Across the aisle in first class sat a tall, willowy woman who radiated
all the self-confidence of a seasoned European traveler. She was also
elegantly beautiful - with dark eyes, auburn hair, and pursed red lips -
and she carried a large brown leather purse, Florentine. She could have
been a French fashion model, a high-paid American cosmetics executive,
a Spanish diplomat's mistress.

The problem was, Vance knew, she was none of those things. The French
passport he'd seen her brandish at the Greek behind the glass windows
at emigration control was a forgery. She was neither French, nor
American, nor Spanish. She was an executive vice president with
Techmashimport, the importing cover for T-Directorate. KGB.

Vera Karanova was always a prominent presence at

Western trade shows. But there was no trade show in London now, no new
high-tech toys to be dangled before the wondering eyes of
Techmashimport, which routinely arranged to try and obtain restricted
computers, surveillance gear, weapons-systems blueprints.

So why's Comrade Karanova on this flight? Off to buy a designer dress
at a Sloane Street boutique? Catch the latest West End musical?

How about the simplest answer of all: She's going to help them track
Alex Novosty to earth. Or grab Eva. Or both. They're about to tighten
the noose.

So the nightmare was still on. The KGB must have had the airport under
surveillance, and somebody spotted Novosty - or was it Eva? - getting on
the British Air flight to London. Now they were closing in.

Does she know me? Vance wondered. My photo's in their files somewhere,

But she'd betrayed no hint of recognition. So maybe not. He'd always
worked away from the limelight as much as possible. Once more it had
paid off.

As the plane dipped and shuddered from the turbulence, he watched out
of the corner of his eye as she lifted the fake French passport out of
her open leather handbag, now nestled in the empty seat by the window,
and began copying the number onto her landing card.

Very unprofessional, he thought. You always memorize the numbers on a
forgery. First rule. T-Directorate's getting sloppy these days.

He waited till she'd finished, then leaned over and ran his hand
roughly down the arm of her blue silk blouse.

"_Etes-vous aller a Londres pour du commerce_?" He deliberately made
his French as American-accented as possible.

"_Comment_?" She glanced up, annoyed, and removed his hand. "_Excusez
moi, que dites-vous_?"

"_D'affaires_?" He grinned and craned to look at the front of her open
neckline. "Business?"

"_Oui_ . . . yes." She switched quickly to English, her relief almost
too obvious.

"Get over there often?" He pushed.

"From time to time."

No fooling, lady. You've been in London four times since '88, by actual
count, setting up phony third-party pass-through deals.

"Just business, huh?" He grinned again, then looked up at the liquor
service being unveiled in the galley. The turbulence had subsided
slightly and the attendants were trying to restore normality, at least
in first class. "What do you say to a drink?"

She beckoned the approaching steward, hoping to outflank this obnoxious
American across the aisle. "Vodka and tonic, please."

"Same as the lady's having, pal." He gave the young Englishman a wink
and a thumbs-up sign, then turned back. "By the way, I'm booked in at
the Holiday Inn over by Marble Arch. Great room service. Almost like
home. You staying around there?"

"No." She watched the steward pour her drink.

"Sorry to hear that. I was wondering, maybe we . . . Do these
'business' trips of yours include taking some time off? Let you in on a
secret, just between you and me. I know this little club in Soho where
they have live - " he winked, "I got a membership. Tell you one thing,
there's nothing like it in Chicago."

"I'm afraid I'll be busy."

"Too bad." He drew on his drink, then continued. "Long stay this trip?"

"If you'll excuse me, Mr. - "

"Warner. William J. Warner. Friends call me Bill."

"Mr. Warner, I've had a very trying day. So, if you don't mind, I'd
like to attempt to get some rest."

"Sure. You make yourself comfortable, now."

He watched as she shifted to the window seat, as far as possible from
him, and stationed her leather handbag onto the aisle side. Just then
the plane hit another air pocket, rattling the liquor bottles in the

"Maybe we'll catch up with each other in London," he yelled.

"Most unlikely." She glared as she gulped the last of her drink, then
carefully rotated to the window and adjusted her seat to full recline.
Her face disappeared.

Good riddance.

After that the flight went smoothly for a few minutes, and Michael
Vance began to worry. But then the turbulence resumed, shutting down
drink service as their puny airplane again became a toy rattle in the
hands of the gods, thirty thousand feet over the Mediterranean,
buffeted by the powerful, unseen gusts of a spring storm. For a moment
he found himself envying Zeno, who had only the churning sea to face.

Almost hesitantly he unbuckled his seat belt and pulled himself up,
balancing with one hand as he reached in the air to grapple drunkenly
with the overhead baggage compartment.

"Sir," the steward yelled down the aisle, "I'm sorry, but you really
must remain - "

"Take it easy, chum. I just need to - "

Another burst of turbulence slammed the wings, tossing the cabin in a
sickening lurch to the left.


He lunged backward, flinging his hand around to catch the leather purse
and sweep it, upended, onto the floor. With a clatter the contents
sprayed down the aisle. Comrade Karanova popped alert, reaching out too
late to try and grab it. Her eyes were shooting daggers.

"Ho, sorry about that. Damned thing just . . . Here, let me try and . .
." He bent over, blocking her view as he began sweeping up the contents
off the carpeted aisle - cosmetics, keys, and documents.

The name in the passport was Helena Alsace. Inside the boarding packet
was a hotel reservation slip issued by an Athens travel agent. The

Well, well, well. Looks like T-Directorate travels first class
everywhere these days. Learning the ways of the capitalist West.

"Here you go. Never understood why women carry so much junk in their
purse." He was settling the bag back onto the seat. "Sure am sorry
about that. Maybe I can buy you dinner to make amends. Or how about
trying out that room service I told you about?"

"That will not be necessary, Mr. Warner." She reached for the bag.

"Well, just in case I'm in the neighborhood, what hotel you staying

"The Connaught," she answered without a blink.

"Great. I'll try and make an excuse to catch you there."

"Please, just let me . . ." She leaned back again, arms wrapped around
her purse, and firmly closed her eyes.

The Savoy, he thought again. Just my luck. That's where / always stay.

Monday 9:43 A.M.

"Michael, I can't tell you how happy I am to hear from you, old man. We
must have lunch today." The voice emerged from the receiver in the
crisp diction of London's financial district, the City, even though the
speaker had been born on the opposite side of the globe. Vance noticed
it betrayed a hint of unease. "Are you by any chance free around noon?
We could do with a chat."

"I think I can make it." He took a sip of coffee from the Strand
Palace's cheap porcelain cup on the breakfast cart and leaned back.
He'd known the London financial scene long enough to understand what
the invitation meant. Lunch, in the private upstairs dining rooms of
the City's ruling merchant banks, was the deepest gesture of personal
confidence. It was a ritual believed to have the magical power to
engender trust and cooperation - cementing a deal, stroking an overly
inquisitive journalist, soothing a recalcitrant Labor politician. "We
had him to lunch" often substituted for a character reference in the
City, a confirmation that the individual in question had passed muster.

"Superb." Kenji Nogami was trying hard to sound British. "What say you

Online LibraryThomas HooverProject Daedalus → online text (page 13 of 30)