above freezing to extend the life of the sensitive electronic gear in
the next three bays. The high-voltage sodium lamps along the sides of
the fuselage now switched on automatically as the door swung inward. He
fleetingly thought about turning them off, then realized they weren't
Through the clouds of his condensing breath he could see that the
interior of the entry bay was a pale, military green. The color
definitely seemed appropriate, given what he now knew about this
He quickly turned and, after making sure the outer door could be
reopened from the inside, closed it behind him. When it clicked secure,
the sodium lights automatically shut off with a faint hum.
Just like a damned refrigerator, he thought.
But the dark was what he wanted. He withdrew a small penlight from his
pocket and scanned the three bulkhead hatches leading to the forward
bays. The portside bay, on the left, contained electronics for the
multimode phased array radar scanner in the nose, radar processors,
radar power supply, radar transmitters and receivers, Doppler
processor, shrouded scanner tracking mechanism, and an RF oscillator.
He knew; he'd checked the engineering diagrams.
He also knew the starboard equipment bay, the one on the right,
contained signal processors for the inertial navigation system (INS),
the instrument landing system (ILS), the foreplane hydraulic actuator,
the structural mode control system (SMCS), station controller, and the
pilot's liquid-oxygen tanks and evaporator.
The third forward bay, located beneath the other two and down a set of
steel stairs, was the one he needed to penetrate. It contained all the
computer gear: flight control, navigation, and most importantly, the
artificial intelligence (AI) system for pilot interface and backup.
He suddenly found himself thinking a strange thought. Since no air-
breathing vehicle had ever flown hypersonic, every component in this
plane was, in a sense, untested. To his mind, though, that was merely
one more argument for shutting down the damned AI system's override
functions before he went hypersonic. If something did go wrong, he
wanted this baby on manual. He only needed the computer to alert him to
potential problems. The solutions he'd have to work out with his own
brain. And balls. After all, that's why he was there.
As he walked down the steel steps, he thumbed through the magnetic
cards, praying he had the one needed to open the lower bay and access
the computers. Then he began inserting them one by one into the green
metallic slot, trying to keep his hand steady in the freezing cold.
Finally one worked. The three encoded diodes blinked, and a hydraulic
arm automatically slid the port open. Next the interior lights came on,
an orange high-voltage sodium glow illuminating the gray walls.
This third bay, like the two above it, was big enough to stand in. As
he stepped in, he glanced back up the stairs, then quickly resealed the
door. Off went the lights again, so he withdrew his penlight and turned
to start searching for what he wanted.
Directly in front of him was a steel monolith with banks of toggle
switches: electrical power controls, communications controls,
propulsion system controls, reaction-control systems. Okay, that's the
command console, which was preset for each flight and then monitored
from the cockpit.
Now where's the damned on-board AI module?
He scanned the bay. The AI system was the key to his plan. He had to
make certain the computer's artificial intelligence functions could be
completely shut down, disengaged, when the crucial moment came. He
couldn't afford for the on-board system-override to abort his planned
revision in the hypersonic flight plan. His job tonight was to make
sure all the surprises were his, not somebody else's. There wouldn't be
any margin for screw-ups. Everything had to go like clockwork.
He edged his way on through the freezing bay, searching the banks of
equipment for a clue, and then he saw what he was looking for. There,
along the portside bulkhead. It was a white, rectangular console, and
everything about it told him immediately it was what he wanted.
He studied it a second, trying to decide where to begin.
At that moment he also caught himself wondering fleetingly how he'd
ever gotten into this crazy situation. Maybe he should have quit the
Air Force years ago and gone to engineering school like his father had
wanted. Right now, he had to admit, a little electrical engineering
would definitely come in handy.
He took out a pocket screwdriver and began carefully removing the AI
console's faceplate, a bronzed rectangle. Eight screws later, he lifted
it off and settled it on the floor.
The penlight revealed a line of chips connected by neat sections of
plastic-coated wires. Somewhere in this electronic ganglia there had to
be a crucial node where he could attach the device he'd brought.
It had taken some doing, but he'd managed to assemble an item that
should take care of his problem beautifully when the moment came. It
was a radio-controlled, electrically operated blade that, when clamped
onto a strand of wires, could sever them in an instant. The radio range
was fifty meters, which would be adequate; the transmitter, no larger
than a small tape recorder, was going to be with him in his flight
suit. The instant he switched the turboramjets over to the scramjet
mode, he was going to activate it and blow their fucking AI module out
of the system. Permanently.
He figured he had ten minutes before one of the security team came
looking to see what he was doing; he'd timed this moment to coincide
with their regular tea break. Even the Japanese didn't work around the
Now, holding the penlight and shivering from the cold, he began
carefully checking the wires. Carefully, so very carefully. He didn't
have a diagram of their computer linkages, and he had to make sure he
didn't accidentally interrupt the main power source, since the one
thing he didn't want to do was disconnect any of the other flight
control systems. He wanted to cut in somewhere between the AI module's
power supply and its central processor. The power source led in here .
. . and then up the side over to there, a high-voltage transformer . .
. and then out from . . .
There. Just after the step-up transformer and before the motherboard
with the dedicated CPU and I/O. That should avoid any shorting in the
main power system and keep the interruption nice and localized.
The line was almost half an inch thick, double-stranded, copper
grounded with a coaxial sheath. But there was a clear section that led
directly down to the CPU. That's where he'd place the blade, and hope
it'd at least short- circuit the power feed even if it didn't sever the
He tested the radio transmitter one last time, making sure it would
activate the blade, then reached down and clamped the mechanism onto
the wire, tightening it with thumb screws. When it was as secure as he
could make it, he stood back and examined his handiwork. If somebody
decided to remove the faceplate, they'd spot it in a second, but
otherwise . . .
Quickly, hands trembling from the cold, he fitted the cover back on the
module and began replacing the screws with the tiny screwdriver. It
wasn't magnetized, a deliberate choice, so the small screws kept
slipping between his bulky fingers, a problem made more acute by the
Three screws to go . . . then he heard the noise. Footsteps on the
aluminum catwalk in the pressure bay above. . . . _Shit_.
He kept working as fast as he could, grimly holding the screws secure
and fighting back the numbness and pain in his freezing fingers.
Only one more. Above, he could hear the sounds of someone checking each
of the equipment bays, methodically opening and then resecuring them.
First the starboard side bay was opened and closed, then the portside
bay. Now he heard footsteps advancing down the metal stairs leading to
the computer bay. They were five seconds away from discovering him.
The last screw was in.
He tried to stand, and realized his knees were numb. He staggered
backward, grabbing for something to steady himself . . . and the light
"Yuri Andreevich, so this is where you are. What are you doing here?"
It was the gravel voice of his father. He felt like a child again,
caught with his hand in his pants. What should he do? tell the truth?
"I'm - I'm checking over the consoles, passing the time. I couldn't
"Don't lie to me." Andrei Androv's ancient eyebrows gathered into the
skeptical furrow Yuri knew so well. "You're up to something, another of
Yuri stared at him a moment. How had he known? A sixth sense?
"_Moi otyets_, why are you here? You should be getting your sleep."
"I'm an old man. An old man worries. I had a feeling you might be in
here tonight, tinkering with the vehicle. You told me you were planning
something. I think the time has come to tell me what it is."
Yuri took a deep breath and looked him over.
No, it was too risky. For them both. His secret had to be ironclad.
"It's better if you don't know."
"As you wish," the old man sighed. "But if you do something foolish . .
"I damned sure intend to try." He met his father's steely gaze.
"So did you do it?" Andrei Androv examined him, his ancient face ashen
beneath his mane of white hair. "Did you manage to sabotage the AI
He caught himself laughing out loud. Whatever else, his father was no
fool. He'd been a Russian too long to believe anything he heard or half
of what he saw. Intrigue was a way of life for him.
"Let's go. They'll come looking for us soon. This is the wrong place to
"Go back to the West Quadrant. Listen to a string quartet." He opened
the port and waited for his father to step out. Then he followed,
closing it behind them. "There's no reason for you to be involved.
Heads are going to roll, but why should yours be one of them?"
Andrei Petrovich Androv moved lightly up the metal stair, the spring in
his step belying his age. At the top he paused and turned back.
"You're acting out of principle, aren't you, Yuri? For once in your
"I guess you could say that." He smiled, then moved on up the steps.
"Someday, the Russian people will thank you."
"Someday. Though I may not live to see it."
Andrei Androv stopped, his ancient eyes tearing as his voice dropped to
a whisper. "Of all the things you've ever done, my son, nothing could
make me more proud of you than what you just said. I've thought it
over, about the military uses for this vehicle, and I think the future
of the world is about to be rewritten here. You must stop them. You're
the only chance we have left."
Wednesday 10:05 A.M.
The limousine had already left the Savoy and was headed down the Strand
when Alex Novosty broke the silence. He leaned forward, pushed the
button on the two-way microphone linking the passenger compartment to
the driver, and spoke in Russian.
"Igor Borisovich, there's been an alteration in our plans. We will not
be going to Westminster Union. Take us to Moscow Narodny Bank. The
trading branch on Saint Swithins Lane."
"_Shto ve skazale_?" Igor, still nursing his head from the kidnapping,
glanced into his rearview mirror. "The bank's main office is on King
William Street. We always - "
"Just do as you're told." Novosty cut him off, then killed the mike.
Vera Karanova stared at him, her dark eyes flooding with concern. "But
you said the transaction was scheduled for Westminster Union Bank, this
morning at ten-thirty."
"That was merely a diversion." Novosty leaned back. "The actual
arrangement is turned around. For security reasons."
"I don't like this." Her displeasure was obvious, and mounting. "There
is no reason - "
"It's better, I assure you." He withdrew a white tin of Balkan Sobranie
cigarettes from his coat, snapped it open, and withdrew one. Made of
fine Turkish Yenidje tobacco, they were what he always smoked on
important days. This was an important day.
As he flicked his lighter and drew in the first lungful of rich smoke,
he thought about how much he hated the dark-haired woman seated beside
him, dressed in a gray Armani business suit, sable coat, Cartier
jewelry. The bad blood between them traced back over five years, begin-
ning with a T-Directorate reshuffle in which she'd moved up to the
number three slot, cutting him out of a well-deserved promotion. The
rumor going around Dzerzhinsky Square was that she'd done it by making
the right connections, so to speak. It was the kind of in-house screw-
job Alex Novosty didn't soon forget, of forgive.
Their black limo was now passing the Royal Courts of Justice, on the
left, headed onto Fleet Street. Ahead was Cannon Street, which
intersected the end of Saint Swithins Lane. Just a few blocks more.
After today, he fully intended never to see her again.
"We've arranged for the transaction to take place through MNB's bond
trading desk," Novosty continued, almost as though to nobody in
particular. "Michael and I have taken care of everything."
"Who approved this change?" She angrily gripped the handrest.
"I did," Novosty replied sharply. "We're in charge." He masked a smile,
pleased to see her upset. The morning traffic was now almost at a
standstill, but they would be on time. "After all, he still has the
"And for all you know he may be in Brazil by now. Perhaps that's the
reason he and the woman disappeared last night, with the help of an
accomplice who assaulted Igor Borisovich."
"Michael will be there," Novosty said. "Have no fear. He's not going
anywhere till this is finished."
"After this is completed," she said matter-of-factly, "he will be
finished. I hope you have planned for that."
Novosty glanced over, wondering what she meant. Had all the surprises
been covered? He hoped so, because this deal was his gateway to
freedom. The two million commission would mean a new beginning for him.
Wednesday 10:18 A.M.
Kenji Nogami sat upright at his wide oak desk, waiting for the phone to
ring. How would Michael play it? Admittedly it was smart to keep
everything close to the chest, but still. He would have felt better if
Michael Vance, Jr., had favored him with a little more trust.
On the other hand, keeping the details of the operation under wraps as
long as possible was probably wise. It minimized the chance for some
Yes, it was definitely best. Because he was staring across his desk at
four of Tanzan Mino's Tokyo _kobun_, all dressed in shiny black leather
jackets. They'd arrived at the Docklands office just after dawn,
announcing they were there to hand-deliver the money to Tokyo. Jiro
Sato had directed them to Westminster Union.
The four all carried black briefcases, which did not contain business
papers. They intended to accomplish their mission by whatever means
necessary. Jiro Sato, the London _oyabun_, had not been invited to send
his people along with them this morning. He was now humiliated and dis-
graced, officially removed from the operation, on Tokyo's orders. The
regional office had failed, so Tokyo had sent in a _Mino-gumi_ version
of the Delta Force. They clearly had orders concerning what to do with
He didn't like this new twist. For everything to go according to plan,
violence had to be kept out of it. There was no way he and Michael
could go head to head with street enforcers. If Michael was thinking of
doing that, the man was crazy.
He glanced at his gold Omega, noting that it read ten- nineteen. In
eleven more minutes he'd know how Michael intended to run the scenario.
But whatever happened, he wasn't going to be intimidated by these
_kobun_ hoods, dark sunglasses and automatics notwithstanding. Those
days were over. Michael had given him a perfect opportunity to start
building a new life. He didn't care if all hell was about to break
Wednesday 10:23 A.M.
"_Polovena decyat_?" She examined him with her dark eyes.
"_Da_." Novosty nodded. "They will be here at ten-thirty. That is the
He was feeling nervous, which was unusual and he didn't like it.
Whenever he got that way, things always started going off the track.
They were now in the paneled elevator, heading up to the sixth floor of
the Moscow Narodny Bank. The hundred million had been held overnight in
the vault of Victoria Courier Service Limited, which was scheduled to
deliver the satchels this morning at ten-thirty sharp. The location for
the delivery, however, was known only to him and to Michael Vance. He
wanted to be sure and arrive there ahead of the money. He also would
have much preferred being without the company of Vera Karanova.
One thing you had to say for Michael: He'd arranged the deal with great
finesse. He didn't trust anybody. Until he notified Victoria Courier
this morning, nobody knew where the money would be taken, not even the
Japanese banker Nogami. Still, the instruments were negotiable, leaving
the possibility of trouble if the timing went sour.
He intended to make sure it didn't. The planning had been split-second
up until now; this was no moment to relax his guard.
Yes, it was good he was here. As he studied Comrade Karanova, he
realized that something about her was still making him uneasy. So far
it was merely a hunch, but his hunches had been right more often than
he liked to think.
He tried to push the feeling aside. Probably just paranoia. She
obviously was here today for the same reason he was, to make sure the
Soviet money was returned safely. She probably was also still worried
about the protocol, but that problem was hers, not his. From today on,
the KGB would have to work out their in-fighting back home the best way
they could. The ground rules were changing fast in Moscow.
Besides, Dzerzhinsky Square was about to become part of a previous life
for him. If he could just clear this up, get his commission, he'd be
set. Forever. Enough was enough. Maybe he'd end up in the Caribbean
like Michael, drinking margaritas and counting string bikinis.
The elevator door opened. Facing them were Michael Vance and Eva
"Glad you could make it." Vance glanced coldly at Vera. "Right on time.
The money arrives in exactly seven minutes."
She nodded a silent greeting, pulling her sable coat tighter as she
strode past. The bank officials lined up along the corridor watched her
with nervous awe. Even in London, T-Directorate brass had clout.
They moved as a group down the long carpeted hallway leading to the
counting room. On this floor everything was high-security, with
uniformed guards at all the doorways. Negotiable instruments weren't
Wednesday 10:30 A.M.
An armoured van with V.C.S., Ltd. lettered on its side pulled up to the
black marble front of Moscow Narodny Bank's financial trading branch on
Saint Swithins Lane. Everything was on schedule.
"They're here." Eva was watching from the narrow window. Saint Swithins
Lane down below, virtually an alley, was so narrow it could accommodate
only one vehicle at a time. Across was Banque Worms, its unicorn
insignia staring out, its lobby chandeliers glowing. Nobody there even
bothered to notice. Just another armored truck interrupting the view.
Then three blue-uniformed guards emerged from the cab and approached
the rear doors from both sides, .38's in unsnapped holsters.
"Mr. Vance, they had better have the money, all of it." Vera stepped
over to the window and followed Eva's gaze down.
"It'll be there."
"For your sake I hope so," she replied as she turned back.
"Just hang around and watch," Vance said.
Just one more day, he told himself. One more lousy day. We'll have
enough of the protocol translated by tomorrow, the press package ready.
Then we drop it on the papers and blow town.
From the hallway outside a bell chimed faintly as the elevator opened,
a private lift that came directly up from the lobby. When he heard the
heavy footsteps of the couriers, accompanied by MNB guards, he stepped
over and quickly glanced out. The two blue-suits were each carrying a
large satchel handcuffed to the left wrist. Obviously the third had
stayed downstairs, guarding the van.
"This way." The heavy-jowled director of the MNB bond trading desk
stepped out and motioned them in. The play was on.
Kenji Nogami's issue of Mino Industries debentures had been registered
with the Issuing House Association the previous day. This morning they
would be acquired by Vance, using a wire transfer between the Moscow
Narodny Bank on Saint Swithins Lane and Westminster Union Bank's bond
desk. After that there would be a second transaction, whereby Sumitomo
Bank, Limited would accept the debentures as security for a loan of one
hundred million dollars, to be wire-transferred back to Westminster
Union and from there to Moscow Narodny Bank. Everything had been
prearranged. The whole transaction would require only minutes.
Unless there was a glitch.
Vance had fully expected that Tanzan Mino would send a welcoming
committee to Nogami's premises, which was why he'd arranged for the
money to be delivered here at Moscow Narodny's side-street branch. He
figured the Soviets, at least, would play it straight. KGB wanted its
Then too, Eva still had the protocol. Their back-up insurance policy.
"Mr. Vance." Vera Karanova watched as the two security men unlatched
their satchels and began withdrawing the bundles of open cashiers
checks and bearer bonds. "I want to recount these securities, now."
"There're double-counted tallys already prepared" - he pointed toward the
bundles - "yesterday by the main branch of Moscow Narodny. The printouts
"That was their count," she replied. "I intend to make my own, before
we go any further."
Which means time lost, he thought. Doesn't she realize we've got to get
this cash recycled, those bonds purchased and in place, before Tanzan
Mino's _kobun _have a chance to move on us? If the deal to acquire
Ken's new Mino Industries debentures doesn't go through, giving us
something to hold over the godfather's head . . .
She's literally playing into his hands.
"The instruments are all here, all negotiable, and all ready to go," he
said, stealing a quick glance toward Eva. One look at her eyes told him
she also sensed trouble brewing. "Now, we're damn well going to move
and move fast. We credit the funds here, then wire them to Westminster
Union. And by God we do it immediately."
"Mr. Vance, you are no longer giving the orders," she replied sharply.
"I'm in charge here now. As a matter of fact, I have no intention of
wiring the money anywhere. There will be no purchase of debentures. As
far as I'm concerned, it has now been returned." She paused for
emphasis. "But first we will count it."
"Vera, my love," Eva said, cutting her off, "if you try and double-
cross us, you're making a very big mistake. You seem to forget we've
got that protocol. What we didn't get around to telling you is that
we've deciphered it."
"You - ?"
"That's right. As it happens, I don't think you're going to like what
it's got to say, but you might at least want to know the story before
you read about it in The Times day after tomorrow."
Alex Novosty's face had turned ashen. "Michael, Tanzan Mino's people
are probably headed here by now. Unless they go to the main office on
King William Street first." He was nervously glancing out the window.
"We're running out of time."
The game's about to get rough, Vance thought. Better take charge.
But before he could move, Novosty was gripping a Ruger P-85, a
lightweight 9mm automatic, pulled from a holster under the back of his
jacket. He'd worn it where the MNB guards would miss it.
The two Victoria couriers were caught flat-footed. Bankers weren't
supposed to start drawing weapons. They stared in astonishment as he
gestured for them to turn and face the wall.
"Michael," he said as he glanced over, "would you kindly give me a hand
and take those two .38's? We really must get this party moving."
Vera Karanova was smiling a thin smile. "I don't know how far you think
you will get with this."
"We seem to be working toward different objectives," Novosty answered.
"Michael has a solution to everybody's problem. I regret very much
you've chosen not to help facilitate it."