Copyright
Thomas Hoover.

Project Daedalus online

. (page 9 of 30)
Online LibraryThomas HooverProject Daedalus → online text (page 9 of 30)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


"One last thing. I'll be sending a memo to Engineering about a
modification of the cockpit, to permit more latitude in the seat.
Nothing major. I think we could still reduce vascular stress in the
high-G regime."

Andrei Androv noticed the look of concern on his son's face. "Yuri, you
seem troubled. This morning, did anything - ?"

"Of course, send Engineering your memo by all means,"

Ikeda interjected. "I'll personally see it's taken care of. We want
nothing to go wrong. Not even the smallest - "

"Good. That's all I want." Yuri turned and wrapped his arm around his
father's aging shoulders, gently urging him in the direction of the
trucks stationed beneath the silver nose of Daedalus I. He wanted to
get rid of Ikeda so he could talk. After they moved a few feet, he
yelled back over his shoulder. "But wait on the decision till you read
my memo."

"As you wish." Ikeda nodded farewell. "I'll be in my office until 1300
hours if we need contractor input."

Which meant, Yuri knew, that no further communication with him was
permissible after that time. Technical consultations were only held
during mornings. Afternoons he seemed to have other pressing matters to
attend to.

"Yuri, the run-up in Number One went well this morning. I think we've
finally eliminated the supersonic wave drag." The elder Androv was
heading over to check the hydraulic lifts supporting the landing gear
and its heavy 22-ply retractable tires. Then he glanced back and
smiled. "I'm beginning to believe in miracles. We might just succeed."

"If those damned scramjets up there," he pointed skyward, "actually
achieve ignition when they're supposed to."

"I've studied the static-test data carefully. At the propulsion
facility they routinely achieved ignition at Mach 4.8. The numbers were
there and they looked all right. Temperature regime, pounds thrust, all
the rest."

What's really happening, Yuri thought suddenly, is they've taken our
engineering design and built it. But what if we're just being used
somehow, having our brains picked, our expertise stolen? Then what?

He said nothing, though, just listened quietly as the older man
continued.

"Also, the new ceramic composite they've come up with for the fuel
injection struts was heated to thirty-five hundred degrees Fahrenheit
and repeatedly stress-tested. Those data were particularly impressive.
You know, the struts have always been the Achilles heel for a scramjet,
since the fuel has to be injected directly through them into the
combustion chamber. They have to withstand shock waves, and thermal
stresses, far beyond anything ever encountered in a conventional
engine. Nobody else has ever come up with a material that can do it.
Not us, not the Americans, not anybody. But now, their high-temperature
materials and liquid air cycle have finally made the scramjet concept a
reality. The last roadblock is gone." He looked up, still marveling.
"All we or the Americans can do is make engineering drawings of those
engines, just pictures."

"I hope you're right. But when we switch over from JP-7 to liquid
hydrogen, nobody knows what can happen. It's never been done before."

"Are you really worried?" The old man studied him.

"Damned right I am. Who wouldn't be?" He looked around at the milling
Japanese technicians, then lowered his voice. "And I'll tell you
something else. There're other things around here worrying me too,
maybe even more. Something about this project is starting to feel
wrong."

"What do you mean?" Andrei stared.

"I'm beginning to suspect ... I don't know. So far it's just a sense,
but - "

"Yuri, let me tell you a hard fact," the elder Androv interjected.
"Like it or not, this project is the only chance the Soviet Union has
to ever own a vehicle like this."

"That may be true, but if we - "

"Remember the sad fate of the TU-144," he went on, "the supersonic
passenger plane we built based on some engineering drawings for the
Concorde we managed to get hold of. We copied it, but we got it wrong,
and in 1973 we had that horrible tragedy at the Paris Air Show, when it
crashed in a ball of fire. That was the end of it. We failed, and it
was humiliating. The Soviet Union couldn't even build a supersonic
passenger jet. The real truth is, we didn't have the computers we
needed to design it." He looked up, smiling. "But now, all that
humiliation will be undone."

Yuri suddenly realized his father was being swept up in his dreams. The
same way he sometimes got lost in those damned string quartets, or
reading Euripides in the original Greek. He was going off in his
fantasy world again. He couldn't see that maybe he was being used.

"Have you ever wondered where this project is going to lead? Where it
has to lead?"

"It will lead the way to peace. It will be a symbol of cooperation
between two great nations, demonstrating that the human spirit can
triumph."

"_Moi otyets_, it could just as well 'lead the way' to something else
entirely. Don't you realize what's happening here? We're giving away
our thruster engineering, Russia's leading technology. It's the one
area where we still lead the world. We've just handed it over . . . for
the price of one fucking airplane. And even if we eventually get our
hands on these prototypes, we can't build more without begging the
materials from them. We can't fabricate these composite alloys in the
Soviet Union."

"But this is a joint venture. Everything will be shared." He smiled
again, his face gnome-like beneath his mane of white hair. "It will
also give us both a chance to overcome the lead of Europe and America
in commercial passenger transport in the next century. That's what this
is all about. The future of nonmilitary aviation, it's right here."

"Do you really believe that?" He stifled a snort of incredulity. "Don't
you see what this vehicle really is? Let me tell you. It's the most
deadly weapons delivery system the world has ever seen. And we're
showing them how to build it, even testing it for them to make sure
it'll perform."

"The Daedalus will never be a military plane. I would never have
participated if I thought - "

"Exactly. That's what they want us to believe. But it sure as hell
could be. And Mino Industries will be the only company on earth that
can actually build more of them." He sensed it was useless to argue
further. Nothing mattered to Andrei Petrovich Androv except what he
wanted to believe. At this point, nothing could be done to expose the
dangers, because nobody on the Soviet team would listen.

Or maybe there was something. Why not make a small revision in the test
flight? Once he was aloft, what was anybody going to do? He would be up
there, alone. If he could get around their flight computer, he might
just show the world a thing or two. He'd been thinking about it for
weeks now.

"All right." He turned back. "If this thing is supposedly ready to fly,
then I'll fly it. But get ready for some surprises."

"Yuri, what are you planning?"

"Just a small unscheduled maneuver." The hell with it, he thought.
"They've got seven days, and then I take it up . . . and power-in the
scramjets. I'm ready to go. Tell Ikeda to prepare to have liquid
hydrogen pumped into the tanks."

"But that's not how we've structured the test schedule." Andrei
examined him, startled. Yuri had always been fiery, but never
irrational. "We need ten - "

"Fuck the schedule. I'm going to take this vehicle hypersonic in a
week, or they can get themselves another test pilot." He turned away.
"Reschedule, or forget it. We don't have much time left. Once all the
agreements are signed - "

"Yuri, I don't like this." His eyes were grave. "It's not - "

"Just tell them to get _Daedalus I_ prepped. I think these bastards
that call themselves Mino Industries have a whole agenda they're not
telling us about. But I'm about to rearrange their timetable."



CHAPTER Six



Thursday 2:51 A.M.



A very wet, very annoyed Michael Vance rapped on the door of Zeno
Stantopoulos's darkened _kafeneion_. He'd walked the lonely back road
into Iraklion in the dark, guiding himself by the rain-battered groves
of plane trees, olive, and wild pear, trying to figure out what in hell
was happening.

To begin with, members of the intelligence services of major nations
didn't go around knocking each other off; that was an unwritten rule
among spooks. Very bad taste. Maybe you tried to get somebody to talk
with sodium pentathol or scopolamine, but guns were stupid and every-
body knew it. You could get killed with one of those things, for
godsake.

So this operation, whatever it was, was outside the system. Good. That
was the way he had long since learned to work.

There was a lot on his mind, and the walk, the isolation, gave him a
chance to think over some of the past. In particular, the austere
Cretan countryside brought to mind an evening five years ago when he'd
traveled this little-used route with his father, Michael Vance, Sr.
That occasion, autumn brisk with a first glimmering of starlight,
they'd laughed and joked for much of the way, the old man occasionally
tapping the packed earth sharply with his cane, almost as though he
wanted to establish final authority over the island and make it his,
once and for all. Finally, the conversation turned serious.

"Michael, don't tell me you never miss academic life," his father had
finally brought himself to say, masking the remark by casually brushing
aside yet another pale stone with his cane. "More and more, your theory
about the palace is gaining credence. You may find yourself famous all
over again. It's an enviable position."

"Maybe one turn in the snake pit was enough," he smiled. "Academia and
I form a sort of mutual disrespect society."

"Well," his father had gone on, "the choice is yours, but you know I'll
be retiring from Penn at the end of this term. Naturally there'll be
some vicious in-house jockeying to fill my shoes, but if you'd like, I
could probably arrange things with the search committee."

Vindicated at last, he'd realized. It seemed the only sin in academia
greater than being wrong was being right too soon. But the small-minded
universe of departmental politics was the last thing he wanted in his
life. These days he played in the big time.

"I'm afraid I'll have to pass."

"I suppose university life is too limiting for you now," the old man
had finally said, grudgingly but admiringly.

He'd said that, and nothing more. Two months later he'd had a second
stroke and retired permanently. These days he grew orchids in Darien,
Connecticut, and penned impassioned longhand letters to the Times every
day or so, just to keep his capacity for moral outrage honed.

Vance had definitely gone his own way. First he'd published a book that
rocked the scholarly world; then he'd compounded that offense by
walking out on the brouhaha that followed and going free-lance,
starting his own business. Next he'd become involved with the
Washington intelligence community, and finally he'd begun working with
the Association of Retired Mercenaries. It was a universe so alien to
his father it might as well have been on Mars. But if the old man was
disappointed that Michael Vance, Jr., hadn't turned out the way he'd
planned, he still took pride in his son.

Now, though, Stuttgart and the restoration of Phaistos would have to be
put on hold till the latest game with Novosty was sorted out. The
protocol. It was still running through his mind. Could there be some
sort of alliance cooking between the Soviets and the Japanese mob? What
in hell . . . ?

"Michael, she is here." A hoarse whisper emerged as the rickety wooden
door of the _kafeneion_ edged open. Zeno tugged down his nightshirt
and carefully edged it wider, squinting out at the street. "Come in.
Quickly. Before you are seen."

So his guess had been right: she was avoiding the hotel. Good move.
Smart and typical of Eva. She was handling this one exactly right.

He stepped through the door. "Where is she now?"

"She's in back. Adriana gave her something to make her sleep." Zeno was
pulling out a chair from one of the empty tables. The room was shrouded
in darkness, and the stale odor of the kitchen permeated the air. "She
was not herself, Michael. What happened? She claimed someone was trying
to murder her. At the palace. Did you two - ?"

"We tried throwing a party, but it started getting crowded." He looked
around. "I could use some of that _raki _of yours. I just had a close
encounter with a guy you wouldn't sit down next to on a bus. He refused
to leave politely so . . . I had to make him disappear. Bad scene."

"You killed him?"

"He was shooting, at Eva and me. Very unsociable." He glanced toward
the back of the darkened room. "Zeno, our party guest tonight was -
you're not going to believe this - a Japanese hood. Tell me something.
Is the Yakuza trying to get a foothold in Crete? You know, maybe buying
up property? That's their usual style. It's more or less how they first
moved in on Hawaii."

"Michael, this country is so poor, there's nothing here for gangsters
to steal." He laughed. "Let me tell you a secret. If a stranger came
around here and tried to muscle me, or any of my friends, he would not
live to see the sun tomorrow. Even the Sicilian Cosa Nostra is afraid
of us. Crete is still a small village in many ways, in spite of the
crazy tourists. We tolerate strangers, even open our homes to them if
they are well behaved, but we know each other's secrets like a family.
So, to answer your question, the idea of a Japanese syndicate coming
here is impossible to imagine. You know that as well as I do."

"That's what I thought. But I saw a _kobun _from the biggest Yakuza
organization in Japan tonight. I know because I had a little tango with
their godfather a few years back. Anyway, what's one of his street men
doing here, shooting at Eva and me?" He paused as the implications of
the night began to sink in. "This scene could start to get rough."

"You did nothing more than anybody here would have done." He looked
pensive in the dim light. "Years ago, when the colonels and their junta
seized Greece, I once had to - " He hesitated. "Sometimes we do things we
don't like to talk about afterwards. But you always remember the eyes
of a man you must kill. You dream about them."

"Our party lighting was pretty minimal. It was too dark to make out his
eyes."

"Then you are luckier than you know." He glanced away. "This was not
somebody you knew from another job, Michael? Perhaps the mercenary
group you sometimes - "

"Never saw the guy before in my life, swear to God. Anyway, I think it
was Eva he really wanted. But whatever's going on, I have to get her
out of Crete now, before whoever it is finds her again."

"I agree." He was turning toward the living quarters in the rear. "You
should stay here tonight, and then tomorrow we can get you both passage
on the car ferry to Athens, off the island. I will take care of
everything. Tickets, all of it." He returned carrying two tumblers of
_raki_. After setting them on the table, he continued. "I am very wor-
ried for her, Michael. And for you. We all make enemies, but - " He took
a sip from his glass. "By the way, do you have a pistol?"

"Not with me." He reached for the glass, wishing it was tequila -
straight, with a twist of lime - and he was back on the Ulysses, trimming
the genoa. "That's a mistake I may not make again soon."

"Then I will arrange for one. Like I said, everything. I have many
friends. Do not worry." He drank again. "By the way, she asked me go to
the hotel and get something for you. She seemed to think it was
important. One of your modern American inventions. She had it locked in
the safe at the desk. And she gave me money to pay for her room." He
sighed. "Why would she waste money on a hotel when she could have
stayed here with us?"

"What is it?"

"I think it's a computer, though it's barely the size of a briefcase.
Part of the new age that mercifully has passed us by. I have it in
back, with the rest of her things." His voice disappeared into the
darkened kitchen. Moments later he reappeared carrying Eva's laptop.
With a worried look he settled it gingerly on the table. "Do you have
any idea why she had this with her?"

"I think she may have something stored in here." He settled it on the
table and flipped up the top. Then he felt along the side for the
switch, and a second later the screen glowed blue. After the operating
system was in place, he punched up the files.

A long line of names filled the screen, arranged alphabetically. But
nothing seemed right. It was a stream of unclassified NSA memos, and
then a lot of personal letters. He resisted the temptation to call them
up and delve into her private life. How many men . . . ?

Stick to business. Save the fun for later. Where's the file?

Then he noticed the very first alphanumeric.

"Ackerman."

Hold on, he thought, wasn't that the name of the NSA guy she said gave
her the disk? He highlighted the file on the screen and hit Retrieve.
An instant later it appeared.

Yep, this one had to be it. Clearly an NSA document, very carefully
stored.



(NSCID No. 37896) Page 1 of 28

Dept: Rl/SIGINT

Classification: TOP SECRET

Authorization: Dept/H/O/D only

Analyst: Eva Borodin

Init: EKB

Encryption: PES/UNKNOWN Reference: Classified

DAEDALUS PROTOCOL

The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) and Mino Industries
Group, hereinafter referred to as the Parties;

MINDFUL of their obligation to strive for technological
progress in both nations,

CONVINCED that the technical and financial agreements specified
in this Protocol will serve the long-range strategic interests of both
Parties,

CONSCIOUS that the success of Project Daedalus will lead to increased
cooperation and mutual understanding between the peoples of the USSR
and Japan,

HAVE HEREBY AGREED AS FOLLOWS:

Article I

4659830481867394210786980498673261559798093
0291870980798578367251426478966596983748586
7030945896970980549381738405401290487571092
3836142543495019294766477810298378578576924
8598504821273850956070971070901613386089274 765608021834860 . . .



That was it. The stream of numbers filled three pages, and then came
Article II. Thus it went, for ten articles. As he scrolled up page
after page, he realized that the numbers continued for the rest of the
document.

She was right. Outside of occasional repetitions, there seemed to be no
real pattern. He'd seen a lot of encryptions in the old days, but this
one didn't look like anything standard.

He sat staring at the screen. Mino Industries Group. That explained the
_Mino-gumi _goon. The godfather was planning his biggest play yet,
global.

But what was it? What was in the deal? This was something he had to
see.

Eva had said she tried the Data Encryption Standard, the DES system,
and got nowhere. Which meant NSA had been foiled. How had he done it?

DES was a procedure whereby data were passed through a series of eight
S-boxes, actually mathematical operations, that when combined with a
unique user key converted it into what appeared to be alphanumeric gar-
bage. The receiver also had a copy of the key, which could be used in
combination with the same set of mathematical operations to convert it
back.

He knew that back when DES was being invented by IBM, the National
Security Agency had purposely sabotaged Big Blue's original plan to
make it uncrackable. NSA had insisted that the key, a string of zeroes
and ones, be limited to 56 bits, rather than the proposed 128 bits,
which would have made the system so complex it would have been safe
forever. The reason, of course, was that NSA didn't want an unbreakable
cipher loose on the planet; after all, their primary business was
reading other people's mail. IBM didn't know it at the time, but the
smaller key was already a pushover for NSA's Cray supercomputers, which
could try a trillion random keys per second and routinely crack any 56-
bit DES encryption in the world in half a day.

Anybody familiar with the intelligence business was well aware of that.
Which was, obviously, why somebody had turned to NSA.

But Eva said she'd tried the usual random-key procedure and got
nowhere. So what was the answer?

His head was buzzing from the raki now, but he kept turning over in his
mind the possibility that she'd been looking in the wrong place. Trying
to find the DES key when in fact this encryption used some entirely
different scheme.

He rubbed at his temples and tried to run the scenario backward.

_Project Daedalus_. The more he thought about it, the more . . .

"Zeno." He looked up from the screen. "Do you still have that copy of
Realm of the Spirit?" He'd sent the old Greek an autographed first
edition the week it came out.

"Your book, Michael? Of course I have it. I treasure it. It's in the
bedroom, in back."

"Mind getting it for me? I feel like a little light reading."

"At four in the morning? Michael, I think - "

"You know how it is when your mind gets filled up with garbage at
bedtime."

"You should be getting some sleep, like Eva. Tomorrow we have to - "

"I need to relax a little first. And I need that book. There's a chart
in the appendix guaranteed to put anybody to sleep."

"Very well." He sighed, drank off the last of his _raki_, and pulled
himself erect. "Sometimes you can be as headstrong as your father."

As quiet settled over the room, Vance continued to stare at the screen.
Why did he have a hunch he was right on this one? Could he really crack
a cypher with a 486 portable when NSA's Cray supercomputers had bombed?

Maybe. Stranger things had happened. The samurai swordsmen said you
needed to know your opponent's mind. Here, in the waning hours before
dawn in the middle of Crete, he was feeling a curious oneness with who-
ever had devised this random-looking string of numbers. He'd created
number strings just like this himself, back before the CIA had come
into his life.

"Here it is, Michael. Adriana said Eva is still asleep. I don't know
what she gave her, perhaps one of her old wives potions." He chuckled
quietly. "That's one of the reasons I love her so much. When you get
ancient like I am, it's good to be married to a nurse."

Vance took the book and, in spite of himself, weighed it in his hand.
What was it? maybe two pounds? The glistening dust jacket, unusual for
a university book back in those days, was still pristine. He smiled,
realizing it was unread.

"Thanks." He finally remembered Zeno. "This should do the trick. Now
why don't you go on to bed? I'll just stretch out here on a table when
I get sleepy."

"Michael, sometimes I think you are a madman." He shrugged, then turned
to hobble back toward the bedroom. "Just don't answer the door,
whatever you do."

"Get some sleep. I'll be doing the same."

"Then good night. May God give you rest." He was gone.

Vance barely nodded, since he was already turning to the appendix of
the book and switching on the dim overhead light. The volume brought
back a world long lost for him. Now he wanted it back, if only for a
moment.

He flipped to Appendix C. There he'd reproduced, as a dutiful scholar
should, the standard numerical correlates for the syllabary of Linear
B._

_

_Mycenaen Syllabary (after Ventris, 1953)



da qa sa je o ra

01 16 31 46 61 76



ro za qo pu pte ka

02 17 32 47 62 77



pa zo ti du ta qe

03 18 33 48 63 78

_

The numbers continued on to ninety. He checked the files and, sure
enough, she had a Lotus data management system on the hard disk. He
quickly structured a format for his matrix, then began coding in the
sounds. The setup was simple, but the next part would need some
programming. The numbers in the protocol had to be converted to sounds.
It looked easy, but what if they'd been deliberately garbled somehow?
He'd be no better off than before.

Think positive.

As he finished coding in the grid, he could hear the tentative
stirrings of early morning Iraklion outside. Trucks were starting up,
birds coming alive. He began noticing the lack of sleep, but he pushed
it aside and took another sip of _raki_. Just keep going, he told
himself. You're about to find out if great minds really do think alike.
. . .

"Darling, what in the world are you doing with my computer?" The voice
was like a whisper over his shoulder.



Online LibraryThomas HooverProject Daedalus → online text (page 9 of 30)