to drag you into it, and the other . . . well, there's more."
"Whatever's on here is part of something bigger. I know that because of
the preamble, the section I can read." She pushed ahead, nervousness in
her voice. "Anyway, that's when I decided I had to talk to you. About
some of the things you used to work on."
He inhaled. "What are you talking about?"
"There were some proper names."
"I don't get - "
"In the preamble. One was 'Daedalus.' And another was 'Mino.' So I
thought, why not talk to Michael? It sounded like something that you'd
. . . I don't know . . . maybe you could help me think. Anyway, I
finally decided to take a chance and ring you."
"Great. Nice to finally learn exactly where I fit in." He lay silent
for a moment, trying to suppress his annoyance. Finally he told
himself, Be constructive.
"All right, tell me what you think it's all about."
"Well." She paused again, as though unsure. Finally she spoke, her
voice faint above the rain. "Did you know the Soviet Union and Japan
never actually signed a peace treaty after World War Two?"
"It's because the Soviets kept some Japanese islands, right? Seem to
recall they were the Kuriles, and also the southern half of Sakhalin."
"Japan calls those the Northern Territories, and they've refused to
sign because of them." She reached over and adjusted the candle,
surveying the dark around them. The gloom was almost Stygian. "Well,
hang on to your diplomatic pouch, because I think they're about to
sign. Maybe as the first step toward . . . I'm still not sure what."
He caught his breath. "How did you find out about this?"
"Intelligence. I've been handling our intercepts. But we still haven't
put together a briefing package for the president, and State. It just
seems so implausible nobody wants to be the one to sign off on it.
Besides, nothing's settled. Among other things, the Japanese Diet would
eventually have to vote to approve it, and nothing's come through
diplomatic channels. It's being closely handled by somebody big and
anonymous over there. Anyway, my hunch is a vote in the Diet would be a
squeaker. Your average Japanese man on the street still isn't too
enthusiastic about the Soviets."
He leaned back to think. Given today's global realities, a deal like
that had to be the tip of some gigantic iceberg. In diplomacy, there
was always give and take.
"And you believe whatever's on this disk is somehow connected to the
"That's precisely what I believe," she sighed. "The treaty has a secret
protocol involved. It's hinted at in the intercepts, but never
described. And I've got a feeling, somehow, that this is it."
"Doesn't sound like something that would delight Washington." He
pondered. "On the other hand, what could the U.S. do anyway? The
American military is a hell of a lot more worried about losing its
bases in Japan, not to mention NSA's Soviet and Chinese listening
posts, than the Japanese are about giving up our so-called protection.
There's not a damned thing the U.S. could do about it."
"I'd guess whoever's behind this fully realizes that." She paused,
letting a roll of thunder from above die away. "But the protocol . . .
nobody has any idea what's in it, not even the KGB. I also know that
from our intercepts."
"This is getting more interesting by the minute."
"Well, stay tuned. There's more still. As it happens, I'm also on NSA's
oversight panel, the Coordinating Committee. We assemble briefing
packages that bring together reports from all the departments,
including PHOTOINT, photo intelligence from satellite surveillance."
"The 'spy in the sky' recon? Big Bird, KH-12, radar imaging?"
"Well, we review all of that, sure. But think about it. The Soviets
have surveillance satellites too. And p.s., their Cosmos series can now
relay down digital imagery in real time." She paused. "It's classified,
but put two and two together. If NSA intercepts Soviet voice and data
communications . . ."
"Stealing pictures from their spy satellites?" He knew about it. "Why
not? All's fair in love and war, I think the saying goes."
"Okay, just pretend you dreamed it up." She sighed. "Now, from here on
it gets a little off-the-wall. So off-the-wall everybody at NSA refuses
to take it seriously. The committee keeps wanting to study everything,
but I think time's running out. Something's going to happen any day
now, but - "
"Something bad?" He tried to make out her eyes in the dark, wondering
what she was still holding back.
"Michael, I shouldn't . . ." She reached over and took another
cigarette out of her purse. "Anyway, the reason I wanted you here was
to help me find some answers. Before somebody decides to try and make
me disappear too. Like Jerry." She flicked at her lighter three times
before it finally flared.
Maybe, he thought, she had good reason to be afraid. He remembered the
odd sense that afternoon that they were being watched. And then Zeno
mentioning a stranger carrying his book. It was beginning to seem less
and less like a coincidence.
"But, Jesus," she went on. "Now they've found me. And I've drawn you
into it. I'm really - "
"Just relax." Mainly now he wanted to calm her down. "Nobody's found - "
"Don't you see? Alex. Just happens to call you this morning as you were
on your way here to see me. Don't flatter yourself. That call was about
me. Which means he knows I've got . . ." Her hand quavered as she
dropped the lighter back into her purse. "There's already been one
murder - "
"Hey, slow down. Take it easy. Novosty's never scared me, even when
he's tried. Just - "
"It's not him I'm worried about. Michael, if even a TDirectorate sleaze
like Alex knows, then who else . . ." The darkened room fell silent.
"You'd better tell me all of it. Everything." Again he paused, thinking
he heard a sound from somewhere in the dark. But it was impossible.
Nobody could have followed them here.
"All right." She let the words tumble out, finally. "Yes, we intercept
all the Soviet satellite photos. Just the way you thought." She
exhaled, then rose and paced the room a moment, its walls now ghostly
in the candlelight. "Well, lately for some strange reason their Soyuz
series always seems to have a temporary malfunction whenever they pass
over one certain spot on the globe. Almost as though somebody were
turning off their KFA-1000 high-resolution cameras. I kept noticing it,
but nobody else in PHOTOINT thought it was anything but a coincidence.
Still, it got me wondering. What if somebody over there is pulling a
number on the KGB, or the GRU? Keeping them from seeing something. So I
had some of our own photos of that grid sent over, from the new KH-12."
"Where was it?"
"Well, it wasn't necessarily where you'd think. It was the Japanese
island of Hokkaido. And the high-resolution grid missing was just the
"I went back and checked a series of KH-12 recon photos, taken over the
last two years. There's something new there now, Michael. Just this
last year or so. It's been partly camouflaged, but I think it's a new
runway. Or launch facility. Or something. And the radar maps show some
funny surface irregularities. At least I think they do. Nobody else at
NSA . . ." She looked away. "But put it together. Maybe that's part of
the treaty somehow, their secret protocol. Some joint - "
"A launch facility? Eva, that's impossible. The Japanese space program
is all down on Tanegeshima Island, south of Tokyo. The island of
Hokkaido is way up north. There's nothing up there but Holsteins and
But, he thought suddenly, it's also just across from Sakhalin. The
Soviet Far East. The place the party secretary who embezzled . . .
"This isn't hay fields, darling, believe me." Her voice seemed to drift
out and blend with the rain. "Something you said this afternoon, that's
what made it click. About the first man to leave the earth and soar
into space . . ."
"You mean - "
"I didn't ask for this. Oh, Christ, how did I . . ." She paused again,
uncertain. "You know, I finally think I've figured out what's
happening, why it's so secret - the treaty, the protocol, cutting out
their own intelligence. It's partly about space, all right. Has to be.
Something's cooking, something they're eventually going to spring on
the world like the first Sputnik."
"You still haven't decoded the damned thing."
"Okay, I'm guessing. But how's this? Somebody at the top, in the USSR,
has decided to go for a giant gamble. To save their system, they've
been forced to turn to some nutcakes in Japan who can loan them
billions. And this project is part of it. The Soviets once cut a deal
with Nazi Germany to buy time, so why not? The leadership needs time
"And you think - ?"
"Project Daedalus. That's the code name in the preamble. Think about
it. You know what I believe? To get the money and technology they
desperately need, the Russians have had to cave in and do the
unthinkable. Form a new alliance. Michael, they're about to start
Thursday 7:28 A.M.
"_Hai, so deshoo_," Taro Ikeda, project director, bowed into the red
telephone receiver, using that breathy, clipped speech all Japanese
reserve for their superiors. _"Kore wa honto ni muzakashi desu._ It has
been difficult, but they have finally agreed on the revised schedule.
In nine days - "
He paused to listen, then continued. "_Hai, so_. There is no other way.
_Hai_. The Diet will never approve the treaty unless there is some
dramatic symbol of the advantages of the alliance."
He halted. "_Hai_, security has been maintained here. With deepest
respect, the problem would seem to be with your - " He paused again.
Now tiny beads of sweat were glistening on his brow. "_Hai_, we are
ready. The vehicle is . . . _hai_." He bowed again. "Of course, there
will be no delay. The revised schedule is firm. _Hai_, Mino-sama, we - "
He was bowing ever more rapidly into the phone. "_Hai_, we have pushed
them as hard as we can." He bowed even deeper. "_Hai_, by tomorrow's
report. Of course, Mino-sama. Thank you, _domo arigato gozaimashita_. .
The line, a high-security satellite link connecting the Hokkaido
facility to the Mino Industries Building in the Ueno section of Tokyo,
had gone dead. Tanzan Mino, CEO of Mino Industries Group, had other
matters to concern himself with.
Taro Ikeda repressed a tremble. The technical part, the project here on
Hokkaido, was going well; what was happening on the Tokyo end? First
the delay of the funds, and now a rumored breach of security. KGB had
intercepted the protocol. That was the word from his informant close to
the CEO in Tokyo.
_Shigata ga nai_, he thought; sometimes things can't be helped.
Taro Ikeda was proud he had been personally selected by the CEO to be
project director for the top secret Hokkaido operation. He was fifty-
four years of age, a graduate of Tokyo University Law School, a twenty-
five-year veteran, now retired, of MITI, the Ministry of International
Trade and Industry. He was, in short, a mover in the New Japan and he
looked it - elegantly graying temples, tailored silk suits, a small
mustache to set off his high cheeks. At one time he had been the inside
choice for MITI vice
minister, before the CEO offered him a chance to fulfill a vision no
official source in the ministry could ever admit existed.
Overall, he told himself, the CEO should be pleased. He had carried out
his own responsibilities flawlessly. And MITl was providing an
unofficial umbrella of technical support, covering any unexpected
requirements. Through this project the CEO had set into motion a plan
that would soon alter dramatically Japan's place in the equation of
Bushido, the Way of the Warrior. The element of surprise. No one
outside Mino Industries knew what was really planned, not even the
prime contractors for the project. Security every step of the way. And
now the drama was ready, the curtain poised. Only a few more days, and
a technological miracle would soar upward from the earth, symbolizing
the first step in the realization of Japan's age-old ambition. The
world would know the twenty-first century had arrived, the Japanese
century. Mino Industries had made it possible.
The CEO's sense of timing was impeccable. Only last week he had
approved Taro Ikeda's final briefing to Noburu Takahashi, executive
director of the National Space Development Agency. NASDA, through
contracts to the Space Systems Division of Mitsubishi Heavy Industries,
was in charge of the major hardware of the Japanese rocket program.
Takahashi was also an executive of the new Daedalus Corporation, an
Together they had traveled to the agency's space center on Tanegeshima,
the island six hundred miles south of Tokyo, to monitor the shakedown
launch of Japan's new H-2 rocket series. Although that vehicle was far
superior to both the American Titan 34D and the European Ariane 4, it
was a technological dinosaur compared to this project. This was unlike
anything the world had ever seen.
The project had begun over two years earlier, when he was still
director of MITI's Kokuki Buki-ka, the Aircraft and Ordnance Section.
An "anonymous" scenario - conceived by the CEO of Mino Industries Group,
Tanzan Mino - had arrived on his desk, detailing a revolutionary
proposal. Every director in MITI had received a copy.
The eventual "consensus"? It was too visionary, would aggravate Japan's
already delicate relationship with America. The Liberal Democratic
Party could never be seen to embrace such a project publicly.
Accordingly, MITI's parliamentary vice minister turned it down.
Officially. But that was merely _tatame_, his "public face." Afterward
the classified moves, the real moves, began. Perhaps, it was hinted, if
the idea were "explored" outside regular government channels. . . .
Top-secret feelers were sent to the Soviets.
With a green light, Tanzan Mino had immediately created the Daedalus
Corporation, hiring away Taro Ikeda and forty-seven of his MITI
aerospace engineers, the best and brightest, from Kokuki Buki-ka.
Start-up financing had been provided by the CEO personally, with some
matching contributions by the top executives of Japan's major
_zaibatsu_, industrial groups. The scenario was an easy sell, since
they all realized its payoff would be staggering. The only requirement
was that it remain top secret until the appropriate moment, when the
Diet would be formally notified. By that time, however, there would be
no turning back. Everything would have to go forward as a package.
Under the CEO's direction, Taro Ikeda and his forty- seven MITI
engineers had relocated here on Hokkaido to oversee a secret, fast-
track project. Forty-seven. Perhaps, he sometimes mused, that number
was no coincidence. Perhaps it was an unconscious act of historical
resonance. Forty-seven brilliant young technicians, just like the
forty-seven ronin, the samurai of the famous legend. Those ronin had
bided their time for many years, living in obscurity and ignominy until
the moment when they rose up in triumph.
_Bushido_. You must always make your opponent do battle on your own
terms. And today money and technology were Japan's most powerful
weapons. Why not use them strategically, the CEO had argued. The time
had come to engage other unsuspecting nations with concentrated
strength, in a forcible move to achieve Japan's long-term objectives.
The Way of the Warrior.
Taro Ikeda surveyed his office, his personal command center. The space
was appointed like the headquarters of a field marshall: a deep
metallic gray with video screens along one wall permitting him
continuously to monitor activities in every sector of the facility. And
across the top of his black slate desk was marshalled a line of gray
telephones with scramblers, each a secure direct line to the offices of
one of the project's prime contractors.
The first was to Nagoya, to the head office of Mitsubishi Heavy
Industries. Theirs was the initial contract let by the CEO after the
project financing was in place. Indeed, Mitsubishi's Nagoya Aircraft
Works was the ideal choice to manufacture the air-breathing
turboramjets-scramjets for the vehicle. That conglomerate had produced
over fifty thousand aircraft engines during the great Pacific war, and,
more recently, their new Komaki North plant was responsible for the
powerful oxygen-hydrogen engines that composed the first stage of the
giant H-2 booster. The phone on his desk connected him directly to the
office of Yoshio Matsunami, Mitsubishi's general manager for space
systems. The massive scramjets for this project had been manufactured
in Nagoya under a veil of total secrecy, then static-tested at their
aeropropulsion test facility and individually shipped here to Hokkaido
in unmarked railcars.
Another line connected him to the head office of Nissan's aeronautical
and space division in Tokyo, already in charge of all solid rocket
boosters for the Japan Institute of Space and Aeronautical Science. The
CEO had hired their senior propulsion engineers to resolve problems
connected with air-breathing combustion of liquid hydrogen.
The third connection was to Hitachi City, sixty miles from Tokyo.
Hitachi, Limited manufactured the booster cases for the new H-2
vehicle, and their extensive experience with composite alloys at high-
temperatures made them the obvious choice to create the hypersonic air-
There were other lines as well. The vehicle's inertial- guidance system
and flight controls - both based on advanced Soviet designs - had been
produced at Japan's National Aerospace Laboratory. Preliminary wind-
tunnel tests had been assigned to the Kakuda Propulsion Center, whose
rocket-engine development facilities were already being used to support
NASDA's program in oxygen-hydrogen thruster R&D.
The last high-security line connected him directly to Tsukuba Space
Center at Tsukuba Science City, forty miles from Tokyo, the nerve
center for all Japanese manned space-flight research. Their clean-rooms
and deep-space tracking facilities were comparable to any in the world,
and their Fujitsu SX-10 supercomputer - which, with 128 processors for
parallel processing, performed nine billion calculations per second -
could provide realtime simulation of a complete hypersonic flight
Feeling impatient now to begin the day, Taro Ikeda settled back and
reached for the phones. Each contractor would give him a quick morning
update, and then he would outline any further component tests or
retrofitting as required. In truth, these exchanges had long since be-
come scarcely more than rituals, since the project was all but
completed. The major components had already been designed, delivered,
and assembled. The contractors had been paid, the reports and evidence
of their participation declared top secret and locked away from any
possible prying eyes. All traces of the project had been safely
There was, he reminded himself, only one major problem remaining. As
part of the initial scenario, the Soviets had agreed to provide a
laundered payment of one hundred million American dollars, to be used
for Tanzan Mino's "incidental expenses" in the Liberal Democratic Party
hierarchy. To avoid another Recruit-bribe fiasco like the one that
brought down the prime minister in 1989, the money had to be
scrupulously clean and totally untraceable.
But the funds had not arrived.
How the Soviets had secured the hard currency required outside of
regular government channels, he could not imagine. There were even
reports the money had been secretly "embezzled" from certain slipshod
ministries. That it was, in fact, hot money.
But if those funds didn't come through within eight days, fully
laundered, the project would have to be put on hold, as a matter of
strategy, and precaution. The treaty could not be placed before the
Diet unless passage was assured. Promises had to be kept.
What had happened to the money? Whatever it was, he thought with a
worried sigh, the CEO had better solve it and soon. If he didn't, the
whole project might have to be put on hold until next year's session of
the Diet, and their secrecy would probably be impossible to maintain
for another whole year. A disaster.
He had just completed the last call when he noticed a flashing alert on
the main computer terminal, advising him that the morning's hypersonic
test in Number One was scheduled to begin at 0800 hours. He grunted and
typed in an acknowledgment. In his view it was a waste of time,
overkill. The SX-10's simulation had already taken them further than
they needed to go. But, all right, humor the Soviet team. It would only
require a morning.
His contractor briefings now out of the way, he transferred all
communication channels to the computer modems that lined the walls,
then rose and walked back to the small alcove at the rear of his
office. He paused a moment to calm his thoughts, then slid aside the
_shoji_ screens to reveal what was, for him, the most important room in
Here in the North Quadrant the CEO had constructed a traditional
teahouse, _tatami_-floored with walls and ceiling of soft, fresh cedar
and pine. In this refuge Taro Ikeda performed an essential morning
ritual, the brief meditation that quieted his spirit. He knew well the
famous adage of swordsmanship, that the true master lives with his mind
in a natural state.
The challenge ahead would require all the discipline of a samurai
warrior, the Way of Zen. And the first rule, the very first, was your
mind must be empty, natural, unattached, in order to succeed.
As he seated himself on the reed surface of the _tatami_,
_zazen_-style, he methodically began clearing his mind. The moment was
But then, drifting through unasked, came an admonition of the great
Chinese military strategist Sun Tzu. "Intelligence is everything. You
must know your opponent's plan even before he knows it himself."
It was true. The security for this project had been airtight, except
for one minor breach. Someone in the Tokyo office had stupidly
transmitted the final protocol over an unsecured satellite channel. It
had been intercepted by Soviet intelligence.
Fortunately, the Russian blunderers had been unable to decipher the
encryption. But someone - either in the KGB or the GRU - had been so
desperate he had secretly enlisted the assistance of the U.S. National
Security Agency's top cryptographer. It was a brilliant move, because
NSA's supercomputers might eventually be able to break the code.
When Tanzan Mino learned of the breach, he had given orders that the
NSA expert be neutralized, quickly, and the protocol retrieved. If it
became public knowledge prematurely, the entire scenario could be
destroyed. Now, happily, the NSA individual had been identified. The
rest would be easy. An unfortunate price to pay, but a simple solution.
With that thought to comfort him, he gazed at the polished natural
woods of the teahouse and let his mind drift into perfect repose.
Thursday 1:07 A.M.
The first round went wide, nicking the edge of the dolphin fresco.
Vance listened, startled, at the explosion, at first thinking it was a
sharp crack of thunder from outside. Then he heard the bullet sing into
the dark, a high-pitched hiss. For a moment he wondered if he was
dreaming, his mind adrift in the bloody myths of the palace. Then a
second explosion flared from the direction of the archway, grazing his
"_Eva!_" He threw his body across hers, slamming her against the
alabaster portico. His free hand slapped awkwardly at the candle,
crushing out the last sputter of flame. As he swung around, the empty
ouzo bottle clattered into the dark, spinning, its revolving sound a
beacon. Get it, he thought, and stretched across the stone to grope in
the dark. Finally he felt the smoothness of the glass gliding at the
edge of his reach. Slowly, carefully, his fingers circled the neck and
he pulled it toward him.
The room was black now, its silence deep as a tomb. Then the gun flamed
once more, and again, the two rounds ricocheting off the ancient walls
somewhere around them. After that, silence returned, no sound except
for the heave of breathing, whose he wasn't sure.
As he reached to quiet her, she whispered. "Michael, they want me." She
tried to struggle up. "You've got to let - '"