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formally, and with pride, pulling at his white lab coat. "I must talk
you. Please."

Vance stepped away from the wall and looked the old man over more
closely. Then it clicked. Andrei Petrovich Androv was a living legend.
Ten years ago the CIA already had a tech file on him that filled three
of those old-time reels of half-inch tape. These days, God knows what
they had. He'd been the USSR's great space pioneer, a hero who'd gone
virtually unrecognized by his own country. No Order of Lenin. Nothing.
Nada. But maybe he'd preferred it that way, liked being a recluse.
Nobody, least of all the CIA's Soviet specialists, could figure him.

And now he was here in the wilds of northern Hokkaido, building a
spaceplane. They'd sent over no less than the Grand Old Man to handle
the propulsion. This project was top priority.

A s it deserved to be. But the immediate question was, What was the
dean of Soviet rocket research doing here visiting him?

"Sorry I can't offer you a cup of tea. No samovar." He looked out the
open door one last time. Several Soviet staffers were glancing in as
they walked by, obviously puzzled why the famous Doktor Androv himself
had come around to talk with some unknown civilian.

"_Shto? Ya ne ponemayu._ . . . I not understand."

"Tea. _Chai_." He shrugged. "Just a bad joke." He reached over and
shoved the door closed, then gestured toward the cot. "In the wrong
language. Please. Sit."

"Thank you." The old man settled himself. "I did not come for _chai_."
His hands were trembling. "I want - " Abruptly he hesitated, as though
searching for words, and then his mind appeared to wander. "Your name
is Vance?"

"Mike Vance."

"And you are with American CIA?"

What's going on, he wondered? How did these Soviets find out?

"Uh, right." He glanced away. "That's correct."

"Mr. Vance, my son is test pilot for the _Daedalus_." He continued,
running his gnarled hands nervously through his long white hair. "His
name is Yuri Andreevich."

"_Pozdravleneye_." Vance nodded. "Congratulations. Yuri Andreevich is
about to make the cover of Newsweek. You should be proud."

"We have serious problem, Mr. Vance." He seemed not to hear. "That is
why I am come. I am very worried for my son."

Vance looked him over more closely. Yes, he did appear worried. His
severe, penetrating eyes were filled with anguish.

"Got a problem with the CEO? Guess the godfather can be a hard man to
warm up to, even for his new allies."

"Mr. Vance, I do not know you, but there is very small time." He
continued with a shrug, not understanding. "So please, I will tell you
many things in very few minutes."

Vance continued to study him. "Go ahead."

"You may not realize, but this project is to be giant leap for our
space program. Many of our best engineers are here. This vehicle, a
reusable near-earth space platform, would save billions of rubles over
many years. It is air-breathing vehicle that would lift research
payloads directly into space. But my son never believe that its real
purpose. Perhaps I was idealist, because I believe. I always think he
was wrong. But more and more of things I have learned about its
electronics - things we had nothing to do with - make me now believe he is
right. And yesterday, when certain . . . _chelovek_ of the Soviet Air
Force come, the worst . . ." He paused, his voice beginning to betray
barely concealed rage. "I have work all my life for peaceful exploring
of space. And now I have been betrayed. The engineers I bring with me
here have been betrayed. I also believe, Mr. Vance, that the Soviet
people have been betrayed. And along with them, Mikhail Sergeevich
himself. This is part of a plot to . . . I don't know what secretly is
plan, but I am now convinced this plane must be destroyed, before it is
too late. And the world must be warned. That is why - "

"Then why don't you warn somebody?" Vance interrupted him. "Matter of
fact, there's a lot more to this setup than an airplane."

"But why do you think I am here, talking to you? The facility now is
completely sealed. I would warn Mikhail Sergeevich what is happening,
but no communication is possible." He hesitated again, painfully. "They
want to put my son in the airplane tomorrow with guards. He has been
made prisoner, like you. He does not want to fly the vehicle for
tomorrow's test, but the CEO is forcing him to do it." He looked up,
his eyes bleary and bloodshot. "Mr. Vance, I think he will be killed as
soon as this plane is certified hypersonic. They no longer trust him."

"What about you? They probably won't think you're very trustworthy
either if they find out you came to see me."

"That is correct. But the time has come for risks."

"So what do you want from me?" He stood back and looked the white-
haired old man over one last time. Was he telling the truth? Were the
Soviet engineers actually planning a mutiny?

"We are going to stop it. Tomorrow morning, just before the test
flight. It must be done."

"Good luck."

"Mr. Vance, you are with American intelligence. We are only engineers.
We know nothing about the kind of things necessary to - "

"Do you have any weapons?"

"Nothing. The guards here are all from the corporation." He lowered his
voice. "Frankly, most of them look like criminals."

"They are." Vance laughed in spite of himself.

"I don't understand."

"I know you don't understand. If you did . . . but that's beside the
point."

"Then will you help us?" His wrinkled face was fixed in determination.
"Do you know anything about explosives?"

"Enough. But are you really sure that's the way you want to go?" He
paused. "There's a lot that can go wrong in a big facility like this
without anybody knowing what caused it."

"All the sensitive areas are under heavy security now. They are
impossible to penetrate."

Terrific, Vance thought. "By the way, how does your son, the test
pilot, figure into all this?"

"All along he was planning to . . . I don't know. He refused to tell
me. But it doesn't matter. Now that two Mino Industries guards are
being put in the cockpit with him, whatever he was planning is
impossible. So we have to do something here, on the ground."

"Well, where is he?"

"He is in the hangar now."

"I'll need to see him."

For one thing, Vance thought, he probably knows how to use a gun. All
Soviet pilots carry an automatic and two seven-round clips for
protection in case they have to ditch in the wilderness somewhere. Our
first order of business is to jump some of these _Mino-gumi _goons
who're posing as security men and get their weapons.

"By the way, do you know where they're keeping the American woman who
was brought here with me?"

The old man's eyes grew vague. "I believe she's somewhere here in the
West Quadrant. I think she was transferred here around eighteen hundred
hours, and then a little later her suitcase arrive from hangar."

"Her bag?" His pulse quickened.

"Delivered by the facility's robot carts. The plane that brought you
was being made ready for the CEO's trip back to Tokyo."

"Where was it left?"

"I don't know. I only - "

"Okay, later. Right now maybe you'd better start by getting me out of
here."

"That is why I brought this." He indicated the brown paper package he
was carrying. It was the first time Vance had noticed it. "I have in
here an air force uniform. It belongs to my son."

The parcel was carefully secured with white string - a methodical
precision that came from years of engineering.

"You will pose as one of us," the old man continued. "You do not speak
Russian?"

"Maybe enough to fool the _Mino-gumi_, but nobody else." He was
watching as Androv began unwrapping the package.

"Then just let me do all talk," he shrugged. "If anybody wonders who
you are, I will be giving you tour of the West Quadrant. You should
pretend to be drunk; it would surprise no one. You will frown a lot and
mumble incoherent questions to me. We will go directly to my office,
where I will tell you our plan."

Now Andrei Androv was unfolding a new, form-fitting uniform intended
for Yuri Andreevich. The shoulder boards had one wide gold chevron and
two small rectangles, signifying the rank of major in the Soviet air
force. Also included was a tall lamb's-wool cap, the kind officers
wore. Vance took the hat and turned it in his hand. He'd never actually
held one before. Nice.

Seems I just got made air force major, and I've never flown anything
bigger than a Lear jet.

He slipped off the shirt he'd been wearing in London, happy to be rid
of it, and put on the first half of the uniform. Not a bad fit. The
trousers also seemed tailor-made. Then he slipped on the wool topper,
completing the ensemble.

"You would make a good officer, I think." Andrei Androv stood back and
looked him over with a smile. "But you have to act like one too.
Remember to be insulting."

After the hours in solitary, freezing confinement, he wasn't sure he
looked like anything except a bum. But he'd have no difficulty leading
Doktor Andrei Androv along in the middle of the night and bombarding
him with a steady stream of slurred Russian: _Shto eto? Ve chom sostoet
vasha rabota?_

How did the Soviets find out he was here? he wondered. Must have been
Eva. She'd got through to them somehow. Which meant she probably was
still all right. That, at least, was a relief.

After Andrei Androv clanged the steel door closed and bolted it, they
headed together toward the old man's personal office, where he had
smuggled drawings of the vehicle's cockpit. The hallways were lit with
glaring fluorescents, bustling with technicians, and full of Soviets in
uniform. Vance returned a few of the crisp salutes and strutted
drunkenly along ahead.

They wanted him to help blow up the plane! He was a little rusty with
good old C-4, but he'd be happy to brush up fast. After that, it'd be a
whole new ballgame.



Friday 1:47 A.M.



"Will he help?" Yuri Androv surveyed the eleven men in the darkened
control room. The wall along the left side consisted entirely of heavy
plate glass looking out on Number One. That wind tunnel, the video
screens, the instrument panels, everything was dormant now. Aside from
a few panel lights, the space was illuminated only by the massive
eight-foot-by-twenty-foot liquid crystal screen at the far end now
scrolling the launch countdown, green numbers blinking off the seconds.
Except for Nikolai Vasilevich Grishkov, the Soviet chief mechanic, all
those gathered were young engineers from Andrei Androv's propulsion
design team. Grishkov, however, because of his familiarity with the
layout of the hangar, was the man in charge.

"I just spoke with Doktor Androv, and he believes the American will
cooperate," Grishkov nodded. "He will bring him here as soon as he has
been briefed."

"I still wonder if I shouldn't just handle it myself."

"It would be too dangerous for you, Yuri Andreevich. He knows about
explosives. Besides, you have to be ready to fly the other plane,_
Daedalus II_, right after the explosion. Nobody else can take it up."

He laughed. "Steal it, you mean."

"Yuri Andreevich, we have made sure it's fueled and we will get you
into the cockpit. After that, we will know nothing about - "

"One other thing," he interjected, "I want it fueled with liquid
hydrogen."

"Impossible." Grishkov's expression darkened, his bushy eyebrows
lifting. "I categorically refuse."

"I don't care. I want it."

"Absolutely out of the question. The engines on _Daedalus II _haven't
been certified in the scramjet mode. You can't attempt to take it
hypersonic. It would be too risky." He stopped, then smiled. "Don't
worry. You can still outrun any chase plane on earth with those twelve
engines in ramjet mode."

"I tell you I want to go to scramjet geometry," Yuri Andreevich
insisted, his eyes determined.

If I can't do what I planned, he told himself, nobody's going to
believe me. I've got to take one of those vehicles hypersonic tomorrow
morning, ready or not.

"Impossible. There's no way we can fuel _Daedalus II_ with liquid
hydrogen. The Mino Industries ground crews would suspect something
immediately. It's out of the question. I forged some orders and had it
fueled with JP-7 late last night, at 2300 hours. That's the best I can
do."

_Chort_, Yuri thought. Well, maybe I can fake it. Push it out to Mach 5
with JP-7 and still . . .

"And the two 'pilots' from Mino Industries," he turned back, "what
about them?"

"If the American plays his part, they will never suspect." Grishkov
flashed a grin.

"Unless somebody here screws up," he said, gazing around the room
again, studying the white technician's uniforms, the innocent faces.

"There'll be a lot of confusion. When we start pumping liquid hydrogen
into _Daedalus /, _the site will be pandemonium," Grishkov continued.
"All you have to do is get into the cockpit of the other plane."

It would be a horrible accident, but accidents happened. They'd all
heard whispered stories about the tragedy at Baikonur in October 1960,
when almost a hundred men were killed because Nikita Khrushchev wanted
a spectacular space shot while he was visiting the United Nations. When
a giant rocket, a Mars probe, failed to achieve ignition, instead of
taking the delay required to remove the fuel before checking the
malfunction, the technicians were ordered to troubleshoot it
immediately. Tech crews were swarming over it when it detonated.

"Then I guess we're ready." Yuri Andreevich sighed.

"We are." Grishkov nodded and reached for the phone beside the main
console, quickly punching in four numbers. He spoke quietly for a few
moments, then replaced the receiver.

"They'll be here in five minutes. Doktor Androv has just completed his
briefing on the cockpit configuration."

"All right. I'm going now. Just get the hangar doors open, the runway
cleared, and the truck-mounted starters ready. This is going to be
tricky, so make sure everybody thinks we're merely taking _Daedalus II_
onto the runway as a safety precaution after the explosion." Yuri gazed
over the group of engineers one last time. Would they do it? Whatever
happened, he had to get out of there and start checking the cockpit of
_Daedalus II _before the morning's preflight crews arrived. "Good luck.
By 0900 hours I want everything set."

He gave the room a final salute, out of habit, and headed for the
security doors. In moments he'd disappeared into the corridor and was
gone.

"Let me do the talking," Grishkov said, turning back to the others.
"And let Doktor Androv translate. Also remember, he has no idea Yuri
Andreevich is going to steal the other plane."

The men stirred, and nodded their assent. From here on, they all were
thinking, the less they had to do with this plot the better.

Then the door opened. Standing next to Dr. Andrei Petrovich Androv was
a tall man dressed as a Soviet air force major. As Grishkov looked him
over, he had the fleeting impression that Yuri Andreevich had
unexpectedly returned, so similar was the American poseur to Andrei
Androv's own son. In height and build, the resemblance was nothing
short of miraculous. This was going to be easier than he'd dared to
hope. Put the American in a pressure suit, complete with flight helmet,
and he could easily pass.

"He has agreed to set the explosives," Andrei said in Russian as he
gestured toward the man standing beside him in a tight-fitting uniform.
"Meet 'Major Yuri Andreevich Androv.'"





Friday 7:58 A.M.



The room appeared to be the quarters of a high-ranking member of the
Soviet staff, now returned to the USSR. It was comfortably if sparely
appointed and even had a computer terminal, a small NEC. She'd switched
it on, tried to call up some files, but everything required a password.
She could use it, however, as a clock. As she watched the time flashing
on the corner of the screen, she tried to remember what the Soviet
major had said about the schedule . . . the first hypersonic test of
the Daedalus was scheduled for 0930. That was only an hour and a half
away.

She was wearing her London clothes again, but where the hell was her
bag? She walked over and sat down on the side of the single bed,
thinking. If she could get her hands on the suitcase, the Uzi might
still be there.

That's when she heard the sound of muted but crisp Japanese outside - the
changing of the guard. The _Mino-gumi kobun _were keeping a strict
schedule, a precision that seemed perfectly in keeping with everything
else about the facility. Life here was measured out not in coffee
spoons but in scrolling numbers on computers.

The door opened and one of the new _kobun_ showed his head. At first
she thought it was merely a bed check, but he stared at her mutely for
a moment, then beckoned. She rose and walked over. This new goon, black
suit and all, was armed with a 9mm Walther P88 automatic in a shoulder
holster. Outside, the other _Mino-gumi _motioned for her to come with
them.

That's when she noticed her bag, sitting just outside the door.

There goes my chance, she sighed. They want to keep me moving, make
sure I'm not in one place long enough for anybody to get suspicious.
This way I'll seem to be just another guest.

Without a word they were directing her along the hallway toward
Checkpoint Central. All Tanzan Mino's _kobun_ seemed to have free run
of the facility, because the uniformed security staff didn't even
bother to ask for a pass. They may have been new and alien visitors
from outside this closed world, but they represented the CEO. Carte
blanche.

Now they were moving down the crowded corridor leading to the South
Quadrant. The walls were still gray, but this was a new area, one she
hadn't yet been in. No sign this time, however, of the Soviet major
named Androv.

Guess he wasn't kidding about an important test flight coming up.
Something was definitely in the wind. The pace of activity was
positively hectic. So why was she being moved, right in the middle of
all this chaos? It didn't make sense.

She looked up ahead and realized they were headed toward two massive,
heavily guarded doors. What could this sector be? Once again the
Japanese security guards merely bowed low and waved her Mino-gumi
escorts past.

The wide doors opened onto yet another hallway, and she was overwhelmed
by a blast of sound. Motors were blaring, voices were shouting,
escaping gasses were hissing. The din, the racket, engulfed her. And
then she realized the reason: There was no ceiling! Even the "offices"
along the side were merely high-walled cubicles that had been dropped
here in the entryway of some vast space.

It was the hangar.

The actual entry at the end was sealed and guarded, but instead of
passing through, they stopped at the last door on the right.

Whoever had summoned her, it wasn't Tanzan Mino. His array of personal
_kobun_ weren't lined up outside. In fact, there were no guards at all.

The leather-jacketed escorts pulled open the door, and one entered
ahead of her, one behind. Inside was a large metal desk, equipped with
banks of phones and rows of buttons.

Sitting behind the desk was Vera Karanova.

"Did you sleep well?" She glanced up, then immediately signaled for the
_kobun_ to absent themselves.

"Did you?" Eva looked her over - the severe designer suit, black, topped
off with a string of gray Mikimoto pearls. It was a striking contrast
to the short-haired engineers bustling outside.

What riveted her attention, however, was resting on the desk next to
the banks of phones and switches. A Zenith.

"We have some time this morning." Vera ignored the

response as she brushed at her carefully groomed dark hair. "I thought
we should use it productively."

"Lots of luck, Comrade."

"It is not in either of our interests to be at cross purposes," she
continued, still speaking in Russian. It was a startling change in tone
from the evening before. "You and I have much in common. We both have
worked at high levels in the security apparatus of our respective
countries. Consequently we both understand the importance of strategic
thinking. That sets us apart." She reached out and touched the laptop
computer. "Now, to begin, I would very much like for you to show me how
you managed to break the encryption for the protocol. The CEO was most
impressed."

"If he wants to know, he can ask me himself." She helped herself to a
metal chair.

"He is very busy at the moment," Vera continued, "occupied elsewhere."

This is a setup, Eva was thinking. She wanted to get me down here for
some other reason.

But it was hard to concentrate, given the din of activity filtering in
from the open ceiling. Above them banks of floodlights were creating
heavy shadows around the office, and out there somewhere, she realized,
was the prototype.

"Why don't you tell me what's really on your mind, Comrade? Or better
yet, why you decided to throw in your lot with all these Yakuza
criminals."

Vera Karanova laughed. "You are a director with the National Security
Agency. You obviously are very competent. And yet you and the rest of
American intelligence seem completely blind. Oblivious to the
significance of what is happening around you. In case you hadn't
noticed, the Soviet military is being stripped, practically dismantled
in the interest of economic restructuring."

"High time, if you ask me."

"That is a matter of opinion. The Cold War, whether we liked it or not,
maintained a predictable structure in the world. Both East and West
went out of their way to support and stabilize Third World countries in
order to keep them out of each other's camp. But with the Cold War
slackening, there's disintegration everywhere. Demilitarization is
leading to political and economic anarchy worldwide."

Right, Eva thought. But you left out one other interesting fact: Japan
got rich while the superpowers were out there "stabilizing" everybody,
squandering resources on matching sets of military toys instead of
investing in their own infrastructure. They'd love to keep it going.

"This plane," Vera went on, "can be used to serve the ultimate cause of
restoring world order." She paused, then continued. "But only if it is
in the hands of our air force, from today forward."

"Purge the new thinking?"

"The Soviet Union is on the verge of economic disaster. Perestroika has
plunged our country into chaos. The time has come to admit revisionism
has failed."

"Where's good old Uncle Joe when you need him?" she smiled. "Stalin
made the Gulag trains run on time."

"Our restructuring has gone too far," Vera continued. "There are limits
beyond which a society can no longer endure change."

Eva stared at her. "I take it KGB and your military right- wingers are
planning to try and stage a coup?"

"There still are responsible people in the Soviet Union, Dr. Borodin,
who believe our country is worth saving."

My God, Eva thought, their hard-liners are planning to take control of
this plane and use it to re-enflame the Cold War? Just like the race
for the H-bomb, it'll rejuvenate the Soviet military.

"This is our last chance," Vera continued as she reached down and
flicked on the computer. "However, if we are to succeed, the terms of
the protocol will require certain revisions."

"Do you really think you can get away with this?"

"That's where you come in," Vera went on. "But first perhaps I should
show you something."

She reached down and pushed a button on the desk, causing the set of
blinds along the side of the office facing the hangar to slowly rise.
"I'd like you to see the _Daedalus_." She pointed out the window.
"Perhaps then you will better appreciate its significance."

Through the glass was a massive hangar engulfed in white vapor, as
cryogenic liquid hydrogen created clouds of artificial condensate, cold
steam, that poured over the army of milling technicians. Above the
haze, however, she could just make out two giant aircraft. Their wings
started almost at the cockpit, then widened outward to the plane's full
length, terminating abruptly just before the high tail assembly.
Positioned side by side, they looked like huge gliders, except that
beneath the wings were clusters of massive engines larger than any
she'd ever seen before.

"So that's the prototype, the vehicle specified in the protocol."

They were stunningly beautiful. Maybe all high-performance aircraft
looked sexy, but these possessed a unique elegance. The child's vision
of the paper airplane reincarnated as the most powerful machine man had
ever created.

"I thought you would like to witness the final preparations for our



Online LibraryThomas HooverProject Daedalus → online text (page 25 of 30)