seemed to blend with the sea beyond. "There is an obvious solution.
When he takes the vehicle hypersonic, he will not be alone."
"What are you suggesting? No one else - "
"Merely a simple security precaution. If he is not reliable, then steps
must be taken. Two of our people will be in the cockpit with him."
"You mean the scientists from Tsukuba? The cockpit was designed to
accommodate a three-man crew, but MITI hasn't yet designated the two
"No. I mean my personal pilot and copilot. From the Boeing. Then if
Androv deviates from the prescribed test program in any way, they will
be there, ready to take immediate action. The problem is solved." He
revolved back from the window. "That will be all."
Ikeda bowed, then turned and hurriedly made his way toward the door. He
didn't like last-minute improvisations, but the CEO was now fully in
command. Preparations for two additional life-support systems would
have to be started immediately.
After Tanzan Mino watched him depart, he reached down and activated a
line of personal video monitors beside his desk.
Thursday 2:34 P.M.
Vance recognized the sound immediately. It was the harp-like plucking
of a Japanese _koto_, punctuated by the tinkling of a wind chime.
Without opening his eyes, he reached out and touched a hard, textured
surface. It was, he realized, a straw mat, and from the firmness of the
weave he knew it was _tatami_. Then he felt the soft cotton of the
padded mat beneath him and guessed he was lying on a futon. The air in
the room was faintly spiced with Mahayana Buddhist temple incense.
I'm in Japan, he told himself. Or somebody wants me to think I am.
He opened his eyes and found himself looking at a rice-paper lamp on
the floor next to his futon. Directly behind it, on the left, was a
_tokonoma _art alcove, built next to a set of sliding doors. A small,
round _shoji_ window in the _tokonoma _shed a mysterious glow on its
hanging scroll, the painting an ink sketch of a Zen monk fording a
Then he noticed an insignia that had been painted on the sliding doors
with a giant brush. He struggled to focus, and finally grasped that it
was the Minoan double ax, logo of the Daedalus Corporation.
He lay a minute, nursing the ache in his head and trying to remember
what had happened. All he could recall was London, money, Eva . . .
Eva. Where was she?
He popped erect and surveyed the room. It was traditional Jap anese,
the standard four-and-a-half tatami in size, bare and Spartan. A
But the music. It seemed to be coming through the walls.
The walls. They all looked to be rice paper. He clambered up and headed
for the fusuma with the double-ax logo. He tested it and realized that
the paper was actually painted steel. And it was locked. The room was
secure as a vault.
But across, opposite the _tokonoma_, was another set of sliding doors.
As he turned to walk over, he noticed he was wearing _tabi_, light
cotton stockings split at the toe, and he was clad in a blue-patterned
_yukata_ robe, cinched at the waist. He'd been stripped and re-
This door was real, and he shoved it open. A suite of rooms lay beyond,
and there on a second futon, still in a drugged sleep, lay Eva. He
moved across, bent down, and shook her. She jerked away, her dreaming
disrupted, and turned over, but she didn't come out of it.
"Wake up." He shook her again. "The party just got moved. Wait'll you
get a load of the decor."
"What . . ." She rolled back and cracked open her bloodshot eyes. Then
she rose on one elbow and gazed around the room. It was appointed
identically to his, with only the hanging scroll in the _tokonoma_
different, hers being an angular, three-level landscape. "My God."
"Welcome to the wonderful world of Tanzan Mino. I don't know where the
hell we are, but it's definitely not Kansas, or London."
"My head feels like I was at ground zero when the bomb hit. My whole
body aches." She groaned and plopped back down on the futon. "What time
do you think it is?"
"Haven't a clue. How about starting with what day?" He felt for his
watch and realized it was gone. "What does it matter anyway? Nobody has
clocks in never-never land."
Satisfied she was okay, he stood up and surveyed the room. Then he saw
what he'd expected. There in the center of the ceiling, integrated into
the pattern of light-colored woods, was the glass eye of a video
And the music. Still the faint music.
He walked on down to the far end of her room and shoved aside another
set of sliding doors, also painted with the double-ax insignia. He
found himself looking at a third large space, this one paneled in raw
cypress. It was vast, and in the center was a cedar hot tub, sunk into
the floor. The water was fresh and steaming, and two tiny stools and
rinsing pails were located conveniently nearby on the redwood decking.
It was a traditional _o-furo_, one of the finest he'd ever seen.
"You're not going to believe this." He turned back and waved her
forward. In the soft rice-paper glow of the lamp she looked rakishly
disheveled. Japanese architecture always made him think of lovemaking.
"Our host probably figured we'd want to freshen up for the festivities.
Check it out."
"What?" She was shakily rising, pulling her yukata around her.
"All the comforts of home. Too bad they forgot the geisha."
She came over and stood beside him. "I don't believe this."
"Want to see if it's real, or just a mirage?"
She hesitantly stepped onto the decking, then walked out and bent down
to test the water. "Feels wet." She glanced back. "So what the heck. I
could use it."
"I'm ready." He kicked off his tabi and walked on out.
She pulled off his _yukata_, then picked up one of the pails and began
filling it from a spigot on the wall. "Okay, exalted male," she
laughed, "I'm going to scrub you. That's how they do it, right?" She
stood up and reached for a sponge and soap.
"They know how to live. Here, let me." He picked up a second sponge and
began scrubbing her back in turn. "How does it feel?"
"Maybe this is heaven."
"Hope we didn't have to die to get here. But hang on. I've got a
feeling the fun is just beginning."
He splashed her off with one of the pails, then watched as she gingerly
climbed down into the wooden tub.
"Michael, where do you think we are?" She sighed as the steam enveloped
her. "This has got to be Japan, but where?"
"Got a funny feeling I know." He was settling into the water beside
her. "But if I told you, you'd probably think I'm hallucinating." Above
the tub, he suddenly noticed yet another video camera.
As they lay soaking, the _koto _music around them abruptly stopped, its
poignant twangs disappearing with an electronic click.
"Are you finding the accommodations adequate?"
The voice was coming from a speaker carefully integrated into the raw
"All things considered, we'd sooner be in Philadelphia." Vance looked
"I'm sorry to hear that," the voice continued. "No expense has been
spared. My own personal quarters have been placed at your disposal."
"Mind telling me who's watching me bathe?" Eva splashed a handful of
water at the lens.
"You have no secrets from me, Dr. Borodin. However, in the interest of
propriety I have switched off the monitor for the bath. I'm afraid my
people were somewhat overly zealous, installing one there in the first
place." The voice chuckled. "But I should think you'd know. I am CEO of
the Daedalus Corporation, an organization not unfamiliar to you."
"All right," she said, "so where are we?"
"Why, you are in the corporation's Hokkaido facility. As my guests.
Since you two have taken such an interest in this project, I thought it
only fitting you should have an opportunity to see it first hand."
"Mind giving us a preview of the upcoming agenda?" Vance leaned back.
"We need to plan our day."
"Quite simply, I thought it was time you and I got reacquainted, Dr.
Vance. It's been a long time."
"Yes. Eight years . . ." There was a pause. "If you would excuse me a
moment, I must take a call."
The speaker clicked off.
"Michael, I've got a very bad feeling about all this." She was rising
from the bath, her back to the camera. "What do you think he's going to
He's going to kill us, Vance realized. After he's played with us a
while. It's really quite simple.
"I don't know," he lied.
Then the speaker clicked on again. "Please forgive me. There are so
many demands on my time. However, I was hoping you, Dr. Vance, would
consent to join me this afternoon for tea. We have some urgent matters
"I'll see if I can work it into my schedule."
"Given the hectic goings-on here at the moment, perhaps a quiet moment
would be useful for us both." He paused again, speaking to someone
else, then his voice came back. "Shall we say four o'clock."
"What time is it now?"
"Please forgive me. I forgot. Your world is not regimented by time,
whereas mine regrettably is measured down to seconds. It is now almost
three in the afternoon. I shall expect you in one hour. Your clothes
are in the closet in your room. Now, if you will allow me. Affairs . .
And the voice was gone.
"Michael, are you really going to talk with that criminal?"
"Wouldn't miss it for the world. There's a game going on here, and we
have to stay in. Everybody's got a score to settle. We're about to see
who settles up first."
Thursday 3:29 P.M.
"Zero minus eighteen hours." Yuri Andreevich Androv stared at the green
screen, its numbers scrolling the computerized countdown. "Eighteen
As he wheeled around, gazing over the beehive of activity in Flight
Control, he could already feel the adrenaline beginning to build.
Everything depended on him now. The vehicle was as ready as it was
going to be: all the wind tunnel tests, all the computer simulations,
even the supersonic test flights - everything said go. _Daedalus I_ was
going to make history tomorrow morning.
Except, he told himself, it's going to be a very different history from
the one everybody expects.
"Major Yuri Andreevich Androv, please report to Hangar Quadrant
The stridency of the facility's paging system always annoyed him. He
glanced at the long line of computer screens one last time, then
shrugged and checked his watch. Who wanted him?
Well, a new planeload of Soviet VIPs reportedly had flown in yesterday,
though he hadn't seen any of them yet. He figured now that everything
looked ready, the _nomenklatura _were flooding in to bask in triumph.
Maybe after a day of vodka drinking and back slapping with the
officials in Project Management, they'd sobered up and realized they
were expected to file reports. So they were finally getting around to
talking to the people who were doing the actual work. They'd summon in
a few staffers who had hands-on knowledge of the project and commission
a draft report, which they'd then file, unread, under their own names.
He reached for his leather flight jacket, deciding on a brisk walk to
work off the tension. The long corridor leading from the East Quadrant
to the Hangar Quadrant took him directly past Checkpoint Central and
the entry to West Quadrant, the Soviet sector, which also contained the
flight simulator and the main wind tunnel, or Number One, both now
As he walked, he thought again about the new rumor he'd heard in the
commissary at lunch. Gossip kept the Soviet staff going - an instinct
from the old days - but this one just might be true. Some lower-level
staffers even claimed they'd seen him. The Chief.
Word was Tanzan Mino himself - none other than the CEO of the Daedalus
Corporation - had flown in this morning, together with his personal
bodyguards and aides. The story was he wanted hands-on control of the
first hypersonic test flight, wanted to be calling the shots in Flight
Control when _Daedalus I _made history.
Finally. The Big Man has decided to show his face.
"Yuri Andreevich, just a minute. Slow down."
He recognized the voice immediately and glanced around to see Nikolai
Vasilevich Grishkov, the portly Soviet chief mechanic, just emerging
from the West Quadrant. His bushy eyebrows hung like a pair of Siberian
musk-ox horns above his gleaming dark eyes.
"Have you seen her?" Grishkov was shuffling toward him.
"Seen who?" He examined the mechanic's spotless white coveralls. Jesus!
Even the support crews on this project were all sanitized, high-tech.
"The new woman. _Kracevia, moi droog. Ochen kracevia_. Beautiful beyond
words. And she is important. You can tell just by looking."
"Nikolai, there's never been a woman in this facility." He laughed and
continued on toward Security. "It's worse than a goddam troop ship.
You've finally started hallucinating from lack of _pezdyonka_."
"Yuri Andreevich, she's here and she's Soviet." The chief mechanic
followed him. "Some believe she arrived this morning with the CEO, but
nobody knows who she is. One rumor is she's Vera Karanova."
"Who?" The name was vaguely familiar.
"T-Directorate. Like I said, no one knows for sure, but that's what
"Impossible." He halted and turned back, frowning.
"That's just it, Yuri Andreevich," he sighed. "Those KGB bastards are
not supposed to even know about this project.
That was everybody's strict understanding. We were to be free of them
here. But now . . ." He caught the sleeve of Androv's flight jacket and
pulled him aside, out of the flow of pedestrian traffic in the hallway.
"My men were wondering. Maybe you could find a way to check her out?
You have better access. Everybody wants to know what's going on."
"KGB? It doesn't make any sense."
"If she's really . . . I just talked to the project kurirovat, Ivan
Semenovich, and he told me Karanova's now number three in T-
"Well, there's nothing we can do now, so the hell with her." He waved
his hand and tried to move on. "We've both got better things to worry
"Just keep your antenna tuned, my friend, that's all. Let me know if
you can find out anything. Is she really Karanova? Because if she is,
we damned well need to know the inside story."
"Nikolai, if I see her, I'll be sure and ask." He winked. "And if she's
the hot number you say, maybe I'll find time to warm her up a little.
Get her to drop her . . . guard."
"If you succeed in that, _moi droog_," he said as his heavy eyebrows
lifted with a sly grin, "you'll be the envy of the facility. You've got
to see her."
"I can't wait." He shrugged and moved on toward the Hangar Security
station, at the end of the long corridor. When he flashed his A-level
priority ID for the two Japanese guards, he noticed they nervously made
a show of scrutinizing it, even though they both knew him perfectly
well, before saluting and authorizing entry.
That nails it, he told himself. Out of nowhere we suddenly have all
this rule-book crap. These guys are nervous as hell. No doubt about it,
the big _nachalnik_ is on the scene.
Great. Let all those assholes on the Soviet staff see the expression on
his face when the truth comes out. That's the real history we're about
to make here.
As he walked into the glare of neon, the cavernous space had never
seemed more vast, more imposing. He'd seen a lot of hangars, flown a
lot of experimental planes over the years, but nothing to match this.
Still, he always reminded himself, Daedalus was only hardware, just
more fancy iron. What really counted was the balls of the pilot holding
the flight stick.
That's when he saw them, clustered around the vehicle and gazing up. He
immediately recognized Colonel-General of Aviation Anatoly Savitsky,
whose humorless face appeared almost weekly in Soviet Military Review;
Major- General Igor Mikhailov, whose picture routinely graced the pages
of Air Defense Herald; and also Colonel-General Pavel Ogarkov, a
marshal of the Soviet air force before that rank was abolished by the
What are those Air Force neanderthals doing here? They're all notorious
hardliners, the "bomb first, ask questions later" boys. And _Daedalus_
is supposed to be for space research, right? Guess the bullshit is
about to be over. We're finally getting down to the real scenario.
And there in the middle, clearly the man in charge, was a tall, silver-
haired Japanese in a charcoal silk suit. He was showing off the
vehicles as though he owned them, and he carried himself with an
authority that made all the hovering Soviet generals look like bellboys
waiting for a tip.
Well, Yuri Andreevich thought, for the time being he does own them.
They're bought and paid for, just like us.
"_Tovarisch_, Major Androv, _kak pazhavatye_," came a voice behind him.
He turned and realized it belonged to General Valentin Sokolov,
commander of the MiG 31 wing at the Dolinsk air base on Sakhalin.
Sokolov was three star, top man in all the Soviet Far East. Flanking
him were half a dozen colonels and lieutenant colonels.
"Comrade General Sokolov." He whipped off a quick salute. Brass. Brass
everywhere. Shit. What in hell was this all about?
Now the project director, Taro Ikeda, had broken away from the Soviet
group and was approaching. "Yuri Andreevich, thank you for coming." He
bowed deferentially. "You are about to receive a great honor. The CEO
has asked for a private conference with you."
Yuri stared over Ikeda's shoulder at the Man-in-Charge. All this right-
wing brass standing around kissing his ass counted for nothing. He was
the one calling the shots. Who was everybody kidding?
Now the CEO looked his way, sizing him up with a quick glance. Yuri
Androv assessed him in turn. It was one look, but they both knew there
was trouble ahead.
Then Tanzan Mino patted a colonel-general on the shoulder and headed
over. "Yuri Andreevich Androv, I presume," he said in flawless Russian,
bowing lightly. "A genuine pleasure to meet you at last. There's a most
urgent matter we have to discuss."
Thursday 4:00 P.M.
At the precise hour, the _tokonoma _alcove off Vance's bedroom rotated
ninety degrees, as though moved by an unseen hand, and what awaited
beyond was a traditional Japanese sand-and-stone garden. It was, of
course, lit artificially, but the clusters of green shrubs seemed to be
thriving on the fluorescents. Through the garden's grassy center was a
curving pathway of flat stepping stones placed artfully in irregular
curves, and situated on either side of the walkway were towering rocks
nestled in glistening sand that had been raked to represent ocean
waves. The rocks were reminiscent of the soaring mountains in Chinese
Sung landscape paintings.
Vance's attention, however, was riveted on what awaited at the end of
the stony walkway. It was a traditional teahouse, set in a grove of
flowering azaleas. And standing in the doorway was a silver-haired
figure dressed in a formal black kimono. He was beckoning.
"Did I neglect to tell you I prefer Japanese _cha-no-yu _to the usual
British afternoon tea?" Tanzan Mino announced. "It is a ritual designed
to renew the spirit, to cleanse the mind. It goes back hundreds of
years. I always enjoy it in the afternoon, and I find it has
marvelously restorative powers. This seemed the ideal occasion for us
to meet and chat."
"Don't want to slight tradition." Vance slipped on the pair of wooden
clogs that awaited at the bottom of the path.
"My feelings entirely," the CEO continued, smiling as he watched him
approach. "You understand the Japanese way, Dr. Vance, which is one
reason we have so much to discuss."
He bowed a greeting as Vance deposited his clogs on the stepping stone
by the teahouse door. Together they stooped to enter.
A light murmur of boiling water came from a brazier set into the
_tatami_-matted floor, but otherwise the room was caught in an ethereal
silence. The decor was more modern than most teahouses, with fresh
cedar and pine for the ceiling and walls rather than the customary
reed, bark, and bamboo.
Tanzan Mino gestured for him to sit opposite as he immediately began
the formalities of ritually cleaning the bamboo scoop, then elevating
the rugged white tea bowl like an ancient chalance and ceremonially
wiping it. All the while his eyes were emotionless, betraying no hint
of what was in his mind.
After the utensils were ceremonially cleansed, he wordlessly scooped a
portion of pale-green powdered tea into the bowl, then lifted a
dipperful of boiling water from the kettle and poured it in. Finally he
picked up a bamboo whisk and began to whip the mixture, continuing
until it had acquired the consistency of green foam.
Authority, control, and - above all - discipline. Those things, Vance knew,
were what this was really about. As was traditional and proper, not a
word was spoken. This was the Zen equivalent of High Mass, and Tanzan
Mino was silently letting him know he was a true master - of himself, of
Then the _oyabun _reached over and formally presented the bowl, placing
it on the _tatami _in front of his guest.
Vance lifted it up, rotated it a half turn in his hand, and took a
reserved sip. As the bitter beverage assaulted his mouth, he found
himself thinking this was probably intended to be his Last Supper. He
hoped he remembered enough to get the moves right.
He sipped one more time, then wiped the rim, formally repositioned the
bowl on the _tatami_, and leaned back.
"Perfectly done," Tanzan Mino smiled as he broke the silence. "I'm
impressed." He nodded toward the white bowl. "Incidentally, you were
just handling one of the finest pieces in all Japan."
"Shino ware. Mino region, late sixteenth century. Remarkably fine
glaze, considering those kilns had just started firing _chawan_."
"You have a learned eye, Dr. Vance." He smiled again, glancing down to
admire the rough, cracked surface of the rim. "The experts disagree on
the age, some saying very early seventeenth century, but I think your
assessment is correct. In any case, just handling it always soothes my
spirit. The discipline of the samurai is in a _chawan_ like this. And
in the _cha-no-yu_ ceremony itself. It's a test I frequently give my
Western friends. To see if they can grasp its spirituality. I'm pleased
to say that you handled the bowl exactly as you should have. You
understand that Japanese culture is about shaping the randomness of
human actions to a refined perfection. That's what we really should be
discussing here this afternoon, not the world of affairs, but I'm
afraid time is short. I often think of life in terms of a famous Haiku
by the poet Shiki:
Kaze ni nigarete
"Sounds more like your new airplane," Vance observed, then translated:
A mortal butterfly
Fluttering and drifting
In the wind.
"A passable enough rendering, if I may say, though I don't necessarily
accept your analogy." He reached down and lifted a bottle of warmed
sake from beside the brazier. "By the way, I know you prefer tequila,
one of your odd quirks, but there was no time to acquire any. Perhaps
this will suffice."
He set down two black _raku_ saucers and began to pour. "Now, alas, we
Post time, Vance thought.
"Dr. Michael Vance." He lifted his saucer in a toast. "A scholar of the
lost Aegean civilizations, a former operative of the Central
Intelligence Agency, and finally a private consultant affiliated with a
group of mercenaries. I had your file updated when I first heard you
were involved. I see you have not been entirely idle since our last
"You haven't done too bad yourself." Vance toasted him back. "This new
project is a big step up from the old days. Has a lot of style."
"It does indeed," he nodded. "I'm quite proud of our achievement here."
"You always thought big." Vance sipped again at his sake, warm and
"It's kind of you to have remembered." Mino drank once more, then
settled his saucer on the _tatami _and looked up. "Of course, any
questions you have, I would be - "
"Okay, how's this. What do you expect to get out of me?"
He laughed. "Why nothing at all. Our reunion here is merely intended to
serve as a tutorial. To remind you and others how upsetting I find
intrusions into my affairs."
"Then how about starting off this 'tutorial' with a look at your new
plane?" Vance glanced around. "Guess I should call it _Daedalus_."
"_Daedalus I _and_ II. _There actually are two prototypes, although
only one is currently certified to operate in the hypersonic regime.