baseball teams, film companies, even banks. Eventually, when Japan
couldn't absorb any more investment, he'd expanded abroad, opening
luxurious offices in other Southeast Asian cities, including new digs
in Manila's Makati, the Wall Street of Asia, in Hong Kong, in Singapore
(a favorite Yakuza town for recruiting prostitutes), in
Taipei, and on and on. But still, there was the money. And more money .
Kenji Nogami's predecessor had finally suggested the perfect solution
to Tanzan Mino's cash dilemma. The safest, most welcome haven for Mino
Industries' excess money was just across the Pacific, on the island of
Hawaii, where his investments could be protected by the American fleet
at Pearl Harbor. In the early sixties he opened a branch of his shadow
investment company, Shoshu Kagai, in Honolulu, and today he was,
through dummy corporations, the largest landowner in the state.
Having long since solidified his ties with former militarists and
prominent rightists in the Japanese business community, Tanzan Mino
turned abroad in the early seventies, offering deals and support to
Pacific Rim strongmen such as Chiang Kai-shek, Syngman Rhee, Ferdinand
All of it, however, had merely been preparation for this, his final
objective. He was about to reclaim Japanese territory lost in the war,
open Soviet Asia for Japan, and pillage the world's leading space
program - all in one synergistic strike. Best of all, he was going to do
it using foreign, _gaijin _money.
Any Yakuza understood well the truth of that classic banking precept:
If a man owes you a hundred dollars, you have power over him; if he
owes you a million dollars, he has power over you. Tanzan Mino, his
subordinate knew, had no intention of handing over half a trillion
dollars of Yakuza capital to the Soviet Union, Japan's long-time mili-
tary adversary. Only a fool would risk that kind of financial exposure,
and Tanzan Mino was no fool.
Which was why he had arranged to tap into the most free-wheeling
capital pool of them all: Eurodollars. The money would be raised in
London from thousands of anonymous investors through a standard bait-
and-switch, then passed through Tokyo banks. No one, least of all the
stupid Soviets, would have the slightest idea what was going on. The
scenario was brilliant: Japanese financial, industrial, and
technological muscle used in concert to realize the ultimate strategic
global coup. His lieutenants were unanimous in their admiration.
"The man's name is Vance?" Tanzan Mino asked. "_Hai_, Mino-sama.
Michael Vance. We ran his name through the computer on the eleventh
floor, and the printout showed that he once was with the CIA. The open
file ended almost exactly eight years ago, however, and all information
subsequent to that - "
"Vance? CIA?" He felt a sharp pain in his chest, a wrench.
"_Hai_, Mino-sama. The file says he was involved in some difficulties
that arose over a clandestine funding arrangement, but the rest of our
data here are restricted, to be accessed only by your - "
"Opening his file will not be necessary." Tanzan Mino's voice boomed
from the shadows.
"As you wish." The _kobun _bowed to the silhouette of his back, still
puzzled. "In any case, we have reason to believe he is connected to the
NSA cryptographer," he continued nervously, disturbed by the _oyabun's_
change of mood,"the woman we have - "
"What?" He snapped back from his reverie, his voice still part of the
shadows from the window.
"We suspect that the terms he wants to discuss, in exchange for the
funds, may involve her in some way. When our people questioned her in
Greece, she claimed that a man named Vance had a duplicate copy of the
protocol. At the time we had no idea - "
"And now you think this is the same man?" His steely eyes narrowed
"_Hai, so deshoo_. It does lend credibility to his claim he has access
to the funds. If he is involved in both our problems - "
"He has been involved in my 'problems' before." At last, he thought.
This was going to be more poetic than he'd realized.
"If he knows where the protocol is, then - "
"Then he thinks he is dealing from a position of strength," Tanzan Mino
allowed himself a tiny smile. "I would like to contact him directly,
through the secure facilities at Westminster Union."
"_Hai_, Mino-sama," the man bowed again. "I can so inform Nogami-san in
Below, in the blazing streets of Ueno, the traffic continued to flow.
Time. Time was slipping away.
"Authorize it." He turned back, his silver hair backlighted from the
window. "Once we have him . . . perhaps both problems can be solved at
once." And, he told himself, I can finally settle an account that has
been outstanding far too long. "But I want this solved. Now. No more
delays and bungling."
The sharpness in his voice momentarily startled Neko, who growled her
readiness for another steak, then dropped into a defensive crouch.
"_Hai_, Mino-sama." A sharp, crisp bow. "I will transmit your wishes to
"What news do we have of the woman?"
"We know she is in London. Our people there have located the hotel
where she is staying."
"Then don't waste any more time. Already two attempts by my London
_oyabun _to recover the protocol have been mishandled. He sacrificed
three men; two of them were like sons to me. Now I'm beginning to think
Vance was responsible."
"We still do not know what happened in Greece." The dark-eyed _kobun_
watched with relief as Neko returned her attention to the window, tail
switching. "Authorities there advise that all our men were found shot,
one in Crete and two at Delphi. They have an investigation underway,
but they only will say that different weapons were used in each case."
"They will be avenged." Tanzan Mino flexed his knuckles together
thoughtfully, feeling his resolve strengthen. "I am sending four _kobun
_to London tonight. My personal Boeing is being fueled and readied as
we speak. Tell them I will radio initial instructions after they are in
flight. Further orders will be channeled through the Docklands office."
"But the man . . . Vance? If the woman is part of the 'deal' he wants
in order to forward the funds, then - "
"That is all." His dark eyes had grown strangely opaque.
"As soon as I've completed my 'arrangement' with him, they will kill
Tuesday 2:00 P.M.
The meeting was in the North Quadrant of the Hokkaido facility, in the
senior staff briefing room. The project _kurirovat_, Ivan Semenovich
Lemontov, was at the head of the table as co-moderator. Flanked on his
left was Petr Ivanovich Gladkov, the youthful director of aeronautics;
Felix Vasilevich Budnikov, robust director of flight control systems;
and Andrei Petrovich Androv, director of propulsion systems. On
Lemontov's right was the other comoderator, the Japanese project
director, Taro Ikeda.
Seated across the metal table, facing them all, was Yuri Andreevich
"We will begin today's agenda by reviewing Monday morning's test
flight," Ikeda began, speaking in Russian. He was chairing the meeting
as though by mutual consent. Soviet booster technology and aerodynamic
know-how might be what made the project go, but when all was said and
done, it was the money that talked. And the project financing was
Japanese. "The pilot's report will be our first item."
Yuri nodded and glanced at the notes on the table before him. Make this
quick, he told himself.
"I'm happy to report that, once again, the handling characteristics of
the vehicle correlated closely with our up-and-away simulation in the
Fujitsu SX-10. On takeoff the vehicle rotated very nicely into a lift-
off attitude of six point five degrees. My target attitude was seven
point five degrees, and once I'd captured that I accelerated out to
seven hundred knots, then climbed to forty-nine thousand feet for the
first series of maneuver blocks - the roll maneuvers, pitch maneuvers,
and yaw maneuvers - intended to verify handling characteristics and
control activity at high altitude. As on all other flights, the
directional stability was excellent, with a very large restoring
moment. In the yaw maneuvers, one rudder kick gave me an overshoot but
the vehicle immediately steadied. And the pitch maneuvers again showed
that her actuating system enhances stability very fast. In fact, all
maneuvers matched our simulations within acceptable limits. I also did
some banks up to fifty degrees to get the stick force as I pulled back.
The turn performance matched specifications, with very little control
activity required. I also carried out some bank-to- bank maneuvers, to
get the roll rates; the block included quarter stick, half stick, and
three-quarter stick. Very stable. The augmented controls did not move
out, that is, move around a lot."
He paused for breath, stealing a glance at the room. Just bury them in
data overload, he thought. Don't give them time to ask questions.
Before anyone could speak, he pressed on. "I also took the vehicle
through the prescribed block of throttle maneuvers. Remember that in
ramjet mode the engines are fan-controlled, with all controls in the
initial stage. As scheduled, I pulled all the throttles to idle and
then took them all the way up to rated thrust. And as always, they were
very responsive and didn't have to hunt for their setting."
"Good," Ikeda said, "but the main reason - "
"Exactly. As scheduled, at 0210 hours I terminated JP-7 feed to the
portside outboard trident, causing an unstart. With asymmetric thrust,
I expected adverse yaw, as in the roll maneuver, but the control system
stabilized it immediately. I also assumed there'd be some sideslip, so
I put rudder in, but then I realized handling was going to be feet on
the floor. This vehicle is a dream." He paused to smile. "Anyway, I
then initiated restart at 0219 hours." He shoved forward the documents
piled by his side. "These charts indicate that rpm achieved ninety
percent nominal within eleven seconds. All the - "
"I've already reviewed those," Ikeda interrupted, not looking down. "We
are pleased with the results of your maneuver blocks, Major Androv, and
also the vehicle's turboramjet restart characteristics." He cleared his
throat. "However, there was another maneuver last night that does not
Here it comes, Yuri thought. The fucker wants to know what happened.
Get your story ready.
"As you are undoubtedly aware," Ikeda continued, "the Japanese space
program has an advanced spacecraft tracking center at Tsukuba Science
City, with two Facom M-380-R primary computers. The center is linked to
a tracking antenna at Katsura, near Tokyo, as well as to one at the
Masuda station, near our spacecraft launch pads on Tanegeshima." He
glared at the younger Androv. "You are cognizant of that, are you not?"
"I am." He met Ikeda's gaze.
"We engage those tracking stations for your test flights because of the
altitudes involved. When _Daedalus _is airborne, all their other
assignments are temporarily shunted to our deep-space tracking facility
on Okinawa, in the south." He paused again, as though to control his
anger. "In other words, we have arranged it so that the stations at
Katsura and Masuda are dedicated to your flights whenever you take her
aloft. You are aware of that as well?"
"Of course." Yuri started to smile, but stopped himself.
"Then we are puzzled, Major Androv. How do you explain the following
events? At 0230 hours you shut down your air-traffic-control
transponder. That was proper, since you were scheduled to switch to
classified frequencies. But you did not report immediately on those
frequencies, as specified in the mission flight plan. For approximately
twelve minutes we had no navigational information from you whatsoever.
Also, radio and computer linkages were interrupted."
"An inadvertent mistake," Yuri said, shifting.
"We thought so at first. In fact, both our tracking stations
automatically performed a computerized frequency scan, thinking you'd
switched to the wrong channels by accident, but you had not. You
deliberately terminated all communications. We want to know why."
"I was pretty busy in the cockpit just then. I guess - "
"Yes, we assumed you would be, since you insisted on shutting down the
navigational computers," Ikeda continued, his voice like the icy wind
whistling across the island. "We find your next action particularly
troubling. At that time we still had you on tracking radar, and we
observed that as soon as the transponder was turned off, you altered
your heading one hundred forty degrees . . . south, over the Japan Sea.
Then you performed some unscheduled maneuver, perhaps a snap-roll, and
immediately began a rapid descent. At that moment we lost you on the
radar. With no radio contact, we feared it was a flame-out, that you'd
crashed the vehicle. But then, at exactly 0242 hours you reappeared on
the Katsura radar, ascending at thirty- eight thousand feet. At that
time radio contact also was resumed." Ikeda paused, trying to maintain
his composure. "What explanation do you have for this occurrence, and
for what appeared to be an explicit radar-evasion maneuver?"
"I don't know anything about the radar. I just wanted to check out
handling characteristics under different conditions. It was only a
minor add-on to the scheduled maneuvers, which is why I didn't - "
"Which is why you didn't include it in your flight report." Ikeda's
dark eyes bored into him. "Is that what you expect us to assume?"
The Soviet team was exchanging nervous glances. They all knew Yuri
Androv was sometimes what the Americans called a cowboy, but this
unauthorized hot-dogging sounded very irresponsible. None of them had
heard about it until now.
"An oversight. There was so much - "
"Major Androv," Ikeda interrupted him, "you are on official leave from
the Soviet Air Force. No one in this room has the military rank to
discipline you. But I would like you to know that we view this
infraction as a very grave circumstance."
"You're right. It was stupid." Time to knuckle under, he thought. "Let
me formally apologize to the project management, here and now. It was a
grave lapse of judgment on my part."
"Yuri Andreevich, I must say I'm astonished," the elder Androv finally
spoke up. "I had no idea you would ever take it into your head to do
something like this, to violate a formal test sequence."
He smiled weakly. "I just . . . well, I always like to try and expand
the envelope a little, see what a new bird's got in her."
And, he told himself, I did. Just now. I found out two things. First, I
can evade the bastards' tracking stations by switching off the
transponder, then going "on the deck." I can defeat their network and
disappear. I needed to find out if it could be done and now I have.
Great! Ikeda's other little slip merely confirms what I'd begun to
suspect. This fucking plane is designed to -
"Major Androv, this unacceptable behavior must not be repeated."
Ikeda's eyes were filled with anger and his tone carried an
unmistakable edge of threat. "Do you understand? Never. This project
has far too much at stake to jeopardize it by going outside stipulated
"I understand." Yuri bowed his head.
"Do you?" The project director's voice rose, uncharacteristically. "If
any such reckless action is ever repeated, I warn you now that there
will be consequences. Very grave consequences."
Bet your ass there'll be consequences, Yuri thought. Because the next
time I do it, I'm going to smoke out Mino Industries' whole game plan.
There'll be consequences like you never dreamed of, you smooth-talking,
scheming son of a bitch.
Tuesday 8:46 P.M.
"What does it tell you?" Yuri shaded his eyes from the glare of the
hangar fluorescents and pointed, directing his father's gaze toward the
dark gray of the fuselage above them. The old man squinted and looked
up. "Can you see it? The underside is darker, and it's honeycombed. The
air scoops, even the engine housings, everywhere. Very faint, but it's
Andrei Androv stared a moment before he spoke. "Interesting. Odd I
hadn't noticed it before. But I assume that's just part of the skin
"Wrong. Just beneath the titanium-composite exterior is some kind of
carbon-ferrite material, deliberately extruded into honeycombing. But
you almost can't see it in direct light." He placed his hand on his
father's shoulder. "Now come on and let me show you something else."
He led the elder Androv toward the truck-mounted stair, gleaming steel,
that led up into the open hatch just aft of the wide wings.
"Let's go up into the aft cargo bay. That's where it's exposed."
The Japanese technicians and mechanics were scurrying about, paying
them virtually no heed as they mounted the steel steps and then
disappeared into the cavernous underbelly of the Daedalus. The interior
of the bay was lighted along the perimeter with high-voltage sodium
"Have you ever been inside here?" Yuri's voice echoed slightly as he
asked the question, then waited. He already suspected the answer.
"Of course. The propulsion staff all had a quick tour, several months
ago. Back before - "
"Just what I suspected. A quick walk-through. Now I want you to see
something else. I'm going to perform an experiment on this 'aluminum'
strut." He extracted a pocket knife and quickly opened it.
"This frame looks like metal, right? But watch."
He rammed the blade into the supporting I-beam that ran along the side
of the cargo bay.
"Yuri, what - "
It had passed through almost as though the beam were made of Styrofoam.
"It's not metal. It's a layered carbon-carbon composite. Just like the
flaps. A damned expensive material, even for them. For the leading
edges, maybe even all the exterior, it makes sense, because of the skin
temperature in the hypersonic regime. But why in here? Inside? Why use
it for these interior structural components?"
"Perhaps it was to economize on weight, I don't know." The old man
wrinkled his already-wrinkled brow.
"Wrong again. Now look up there." He directed his father's gaze to the
ceiling of the bay. "Notice how the lining
is sawtooth-shaped. I've seen this kind of design before. Weight's not
"So what are you saying?" The old man's confusion was genuine.
"You're out of touch with the real world." He smiled grimly. "Maybe
you've been buried at Baikonur too long, with your head in string
quartets and classical Greek. This carbon-carbon composite is used for
all the structural elements. There's virtually no metal in this plane
at all. And the shape of the fuselage, all those sweeping curves and
streamlining. It's probably smart aerodynamic design, sure, but it
serves another purpose too. This vehicle has been well thought out."
"What do you mean?"
"Don't you get it? _Radar._ The shape of the fuselage is deliberately
designed to diffuse and deflect radar. And all that honeycombing on the
underside is radar-absorbing. Then this in here. The carbon-carbon
composites used for this airframe, and that saw-toothing up there, will
just absorb what radar energy does get through." He turned back. "This
vehicle is as radar-defeating as the U.S. Stealth bomber. Maybe more
so. Some of our experimental planes use the same techniques."
"But why? I don't understand. There's no reason."
"You're right about that. There's no need for all this radar-evasive
design, all these special materials. Unless . . ." He paused, then
checked below to make sure that no technicians were within earshot.
"Last night, when I took her down, I maintained the yaw at ninety
degrees, making sure their tracking antenna at Katsura could only see
the underside of the fuselage. And guess what. The real story slipped
out there at the meeting. This plane just vanished off their radar
screens. Disappeared. But now Ikeda knows I know."
The elder Androv stared at him. For years people had told him his son
was too smart to be a jet jockey. They were right. All these years he'd
never given him enough credit. "I think I'm beginning to understand
what you're saying. For a space platform to have - "
"Exactly. The underside of this vehicle has an almost
nonexistent radar signature. Probably about like a medium-sized bird.
All you'd have to do is darken it some more and it's gone. Now what the
hell's the purpose?"
The elder Androv didn't respond immediately. He was still puzzling over
the staff meeting. He'd never seen the project director so upset.
Admittedly Yuri had violated procedures and violated them egregiously,
but still . . . Ikeda's flare of anger was a side of the man not
previously witnessed by anybody on the Soviet team.
Also, he continued to wonder at their sudden rush to a hypersonic test
flight. Pushing it ahead by months had created a lot of fast-track
problems. Why was Mino Industries suddenly in such a hurry? And now,
this mystery. Yuri was right. An air-breathing orbital platform for
near-space research didn't need to evade radar. The world would be
cheering it, not shooting at it. Very puzzling. And troubling.
"Yuri, you've got a point. None of this makes any sense."
"Damned right it doesn't. And there's more. You should see the ECM
equipment on this thing, the electronic countermeasures for defeating
hostile surveillance and defense systems. It's all state of the art."
Andrei Androv's dark eyes clouded. "Why wasn't I informed of any of
"Your propulsion team, your aeronautics specialists, all your technical
people have been given green eyeshades and assigned neat little
compartments. Nobody's getting the whole picture. Besides, I don't know
anybody here who's really on top of the latest classified Stealth
"Well, the truth is none of us has had time to think about it." The old
man had never seemed older.
"Let me tell you a secret." Yuri lowered his voice to something
approaching a whisper. "Lemontov has thought about it. Our little
project _kurirovat_, that CPSU hack, thinks he's going to take this
plane back home and copy the design to build a fleet of hypersonic -
whatever you want to call these - invisible death machines, maybe. He
hinted as much to me about four nights ago."
"I absolutely won't hear of it." Andrei Androv's eyes were grim with
"My dear father," Yuri used the affectionate Russian diminutive, "you
may not have a damned thing to say about it. I'm convinced Lemontov or
whoever gives him his orders has every intention of trying to convert
this vehicle into a weapons delivery system, and Mino Industries, I
also now believe, has already built one. Right here. It's ready to go.
But whichever way, space research is way down everybody's list. So the
real question is, who's going to try and fuck who first?"
"I guess the last person able to answer that question is me." The old
man's eyes were despondent as he ran his fingers through his long mane
of white hair.
Yuri laughed and draped his arm around his father once again. "Well,
nobody else around here seems to know either. Or care."
"But what are we going to do?"
"I've got a little plan cooking. I don't want to talk about it now, but
let's just say I'm going to screw them all, count on it."
Tuesday 9:31 A.M.
When Michael Vance walked into the third-floor trading room of Kenji
Nogami's Westminster Union Bank, it had just opened for morning
business. Computer screens were scrolling green numbers; traders in
shirtsleeves were making their first calls to Paris and Zurich; the
pounds and dollars and deutsche marks and yen were starting to flow.
Nogami, in a conservative charcoal black suit, nervously led the way.
His glassed-in office was situated on the corner, close to the floor
action, with only a low partition to separate him from the yells of
traders and the clack of computers. It was his Japanese style of hands-
on management, a oneness with the troops. England, the land that
virtually invented class privilege, had never seen anything remotely
comparable with this.
But there was something ominous about his mood as he rang for morning
tea. Vance noticed it. The openness of the previous afternoon was gone,
replaced by a transparent unease.
A uniformed Japanese "office lady" brought their brew, dark and strong,
on a silver service with thin Wedgewood cups.
Vance needed it. His nightcap with Eva at the Savoy had lasted almost
two hours, but when it was finished, part of the play was in place.