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猎杀“红十月”号(chapter 6)

2006-07-07 19:12



  CIA Headquarters

  Ryan had been to the office of the director of central intelligence several times before to deliver briefings and occasional personal messages from Sir Basil Charleston to his highness, the DCI. It was larger than Greer's, with a better view of the Potomac Valley, and appeared to have been decorated by a professional in a style compatible with the DCI's origins. Arthur Moore was a former judge of the Texas State Supreme Court, and the room reflected his southwestern heritage. He and Admiral Greer were sitting on a sofa near the picture window. Greer waved Ryan over and passed him a folder.

  The folder was made of red plastic and had a snap closure. Its edges were bordered with white tape and the cover had a simple white paper label bearing the legends EYES ONLY A and WILLOW. Neither notation was unusual. A computer in the basement of the Langley headquarters selected random names at the touch of a key; this prevented a foreign agent from inferring anything from the name of the operation. Ryan opened the folder and looked first at the index sheet. Evidently there were only three copies of the WILLOW document, each initialed by its owner. This one was initialed by the DCI himself. A CIA document with only three copies was unusual enough that Ryan, whose highest clearance was NEBULA, had never encountered one. From the grave looks of Moore and Greer, he guessed that these were two of the A-cleared officers; the other, he assumed, was the deputy director of operations (DDO), another Texan named Robert Ritter.

  Ryan turned the index sheet. The report was a xeroxed copy of something that had been typed on a manual machine, and it had too many strikeovers to have been done by a real secretary. If Nancy Cummings and the other elite executive secretaries had not been allowed to see this …… Ryan looked up.

  “It's all right, Jack,” Greer said. “You've just been cleared for WILLOW.”

  Ryan sat back, and despite his excitement began to read the document slowly and carefully.

  The agent's code name was actually CARDINAL. The highest ranking agent-in-place the CIA had ever had, he was the stuff that legends are made of. CARDINAL had been recruited more than twenty years earlier by Oleg Penkovskiy. Another legend - a dead one - Penkovskiy had at the time been a colonel in the GRU, the Soviet military intelligence agency, a larger and more active counterpart to America's Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA)。 His position had given him access to daily information on all facets of the Soviet military, from the Red Army's command structure to the operational status of intercontinental missiles. The information he smuggled out through his British contact, Greville Wynne, was supremely valuable, and Western countries had come to depend on it - too much. Penkovskiy was discovered during the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962. It was his data, ordered and delivered under great pressure and haste, that told President Kennedy that Soviet strategic systems were not ready for war. This information enabled the president to back Khrushchev into a corner from which there was no easy exit. The famous blink ascribed to Kennedy's steady nerves was, as in many such events throughout history, facilitated by his ability to see the other man's cards. This advantage was given him by a courageous agent whom he would never meet. Penkovskiy's response to the FLASH request from Washington was too rash. Already under suspicion, this finished him. He paid for his treason with his life. It was CARDINAL who first learned that he was being watched more closely than was the norm for a society where everyone is watched. He warned Penkovskiy - too late. When it became clear that the colonel could not be extracted from the Soviet Union, he himself urged CARDINAL to betray him. It was the final ironic joke of a brave man that his own death would advance the career of an agent whom he had recruited.

  CARDINAL'S job was necessarily as secret as his name. A senior adviser and confidant of a Politburo member, CARDINAL often acted as his representative within the Soviet military establishment. He thus had access to political and military intelligence of the highest order. This made his information extraordinarily valuable - and, paradoxically, highly suspect. Those few experienced CIA case officers who knew of him found it impossible to believe that he had not been “turned” somewhere along the line by one of the thousands of KGB counterintelligence officers whose sole duty it is to watch everyone and everything. For this reason CARDINAL-coded material was generally cross-checked against the reports of other spies and sources. But he had outlived many small-fry agents.

  The name CARDINAL was known in Washington only to the top three CIA executives. On the first day of each month a new code name was chosen for his data, a name made known only to the highest echelon of CIA officers and analysts. This month it was WILLOW. Before being passed on, grudgingly, to outsiders, CARDINAL data was laundered as carefully as Mafia income to disguise its source. There were also a number of security measures that protected the agent and were unique to him. For fear of cryptographic exposure of his identity, CARDINAL material was hand delivered, never transmitted by radio or landline. CARDINAL himself was a very careful man - Penkovskiy's fate had taught him that. His information was conveyed through a series of intermediaries to the chief of the CIA's Moscow station. He had outlived twelve station chiefs; one of these, a retired field officer, had a brother who was a Jesuit. Every morning the priest, an instructor in philosophy and theology at Fordham University in New York, said mass for the safety and the soul of a man whose name he would never know. It was as good an explanation as any for CARDINAL'S continued survival.

  Four separate times he had been offered extraction from the Soviet Union. Each time he had refused. To some this was proof that he'd been turned, but to others it was proof that like most successful agents CARDINAL was a man driven by something he alone knew - and therefore, like most successful agents, he was probably a little crazy.

  The document Ryan was reading had been in transit for twenty hours. It had taken five for the film to reach the American embassy in Moscow, where it was delivered at once to the station chief. An experienced field officer and former reporter for the New York Times, he worked under the cover of press attaché。 He developed the film himself in his private darkroom. Thirty minutes after its arrival, he inspected the five exposed frames through a magnifying glass and sent a FLASH-priority dispatch to Washington saying that a CARDINAL signal was en route. Next he transcribed the message from the film to flash paper on his own portable typewriter, translating from the Russian as he went. This security measure erased both the agent's handwriting and, by the paraphrasing automatic to translation, any personal peculiarities of his language. The film was then burned to ashes, the report folded into a metal container much like a cigarette case. This held a small pyrotechnic charge that would go off if the case were improperly opened or suddenly shaken; two CARDINAL signals had been lost when their cases were accidentally dropped. Next the station chief took the case to the embassy's courier-in-residence, who had already been booked on a three-hour Aeroflot flight to London. At Heathrow Airport the courier sprinted to make connections with a Pan Am 747 to New York's Kennedy International, where he connected with the Eastern shuttle to Washington's National Airport. By eight that morning the diplomatic bag was in the State Department. There a CIA officer removed the case, drove it immediately to Langley, and handed it to the DCI. It was opened by an instructor from the CIA's technical services branch. The DCI made three copies on his personal Xerox machine and burned the flash paper in his ashtray. These security measures had struck a few of the men who had succeeded to the office of the DCI as laughable. The laughs had never outlasted the first CARDINAL report.

  When Ryan finished the report he referred back to the second page and read it through again, shaking his head slowly. The WILLOW document was the strongest reinforcement yet of his desire not to know how intelligence information reached him. He closed the folder and handed it back to Admiral Greer.

  “Christ, sir.”

  “Jack, I know I don't have to say this - but what you have just read, nobody, not the president, not Sir Basil, not God if He asks, nobody learns of it without the authorization of the director. Is that understood?” Greer had not lost his command voice.

  “Yes, sir.” Ryan bobbed his head like a schoolboy.

  Judge Moore pulled a cigar from his jacket pocket and lit it, looking past the flame into Ryan's eyes. The judge, everyone said, had been a hell of a field officer in his day. He'd worked with Hans Tofte during the Korean War and had been instrumental in bringing off one of the CIA's legendary missions, the disappearance of a Norwegian ship that had been carrying a cargo of medical personnel and supplies for the Chinese. The loss had delayed a Chinese offensive for several months, saving thousands of American and allied lives. But it had been a bloody operation. All of the Chinese personnel and all of the Norwegian crewmen had vanished. It was a bargain in the simple mathematics of war, but the morality of the mission was another matter. For this reason, or perhaps another, Moore had soon thereafter left government service to become a trial lawyer in his native Texas. His career had been spectacularly successful, and he'd advanced from wealthy courtroom lawyer to distinguished appellate judge. He had been recalled to the CIA three years earlier because of his unique combination of absolute personal integrity and experience in black operations. Judge Moore hid a Harvard law degree and a highly ordered mind behind the facade of a West Texas cowboy, something he had never been but simulated with ease.

  “So, Dr. Ryan, what do you think of this?” Moore said as the deputy director of operations came in. “Hi, Bob, come on over here. We just showed Ryan here the WILLOW file.”

  “Oh?” Ritter slid a chair over, neatly trapping Ryan in the corner. “And what does the admiral's fair-haired boy think of that?”

  “Gentlemen, I assume that you all regard this information as genuine,” Ryan said cautiously, getting nods. “Sir, if this information was hand delivered by the Archangel Michael, I'd have trouble believing it - but since you gentlemen say it's reliable……” They wanted his opinion. The problem was, his conclusion was too incredible. Well, he decided, I've gotten this far by giving my honest opinions……

  Ryan took a deep breath and gave them his evaluation.

  “Very well, Dr. Ryan,” Judge Moore nodded sagaciously. “First I want to hear what else it might be, then I want you to defend your analysis.”

  “Sir, the most obvious alternative doesn't bear much thinking about. Besides, they've been able to do it since Friday and they haven't done it,” Ryan said, keeping his voice low and reasonable. Ryan had trained himself to be objective. He ran through the four alternatives he had considered, careful to examine each in detail. This was no time to allow personal views to intrude on his thinking. He spoke for ten minutes.

  “I suppose there's one more possibility, Judge,” he concluded. “This could be disinformation aimed at blowing this source. I cannot evaluate that possibility.”

  “The thought has occurred to us. All right, now that you've gone this far, you might as well give your operational recommendation.”

  “Sir, the admiral can tell you what the navy'll say.”

  “I sorta figured that one out, boy,” Moore laughed. “What do you think?”

  “Judge, setting up the decision tree on this will not be easy - there are too many variables, too many possible contingencies. But I'd say yes. If it's possible, if we can work out the details, we ought to try. The biggest question is the availability of our own assets. Do we have the pieces in place?”

  Greer answered. “Our assets are slim. One carrier, Kennedy. I checked. Saratoga's in Norfolk with an engineering casualty. On the other hand, HMS Invincible was just over here for the NATO exercise, sailed from Norfolk Monday night. Admiral White, I believe, commanding a small battle group.”

  “Lord White, sir?” Ryan asked. “The earl of Weston?”

  “You know him?” Moore asked.

  “Yes, sir. Our wives are friendly. I hunted with him last September, a grouse shoot in Scotland. He makes noises like a good operator, and I hear he has a good reputation.”

  “You're thinking we might want to borrow their ships, James?” Moore asked. “If so, we'll have to tell them about this. But we have to tell our side first. There's a meeting of the National Security Council at one this afternoon. Ryan, you will prepare the briefing papers and deliver the briefing yourself.”

  Ryan blinked. “That's not much time, sir.”

  “James here says you work well under pressure. Prove it.” He looked at Greer. “Get a copy of his briefing papers and be ready to fly to London. That's the president's decision. If we want their boats, we'll have to tell them why. That means briefing the prime minister, and that's your job. Bob, I want you to confirm this report. Do what you have to do, but do not get WILLOW involved.”

  “Right,” Ritter replied.

  Moore looked at his watch. “We'll meet back here at 3:30, depending on how the meeting goes. Ryan, you have ninety minutes. Get cracking.”

  What am I being measured for? Ryan wondered. There was talk in the CIA that Judge Moore would be leaving soon for a comfortable ambassadorship, perhaps to the Court of St. James's, a fitting reward for a man who had worked long and hard to reestablish a close relationship with the British. If the judge left, Admiral Greer would probably move into his office. He had the virtues of age - he wouldn't be around that long - and of friends on Capitol Hill. Ritter had neither. He had complained too long and too openly about congressmen who leaked information on his operations and his field agents, getting men killed in the process of demonstrating their importance on the local cocktail circuit. He also had an ongoing feud with the chairman of the Select Intelligence Committee.

  With that sort of reshuffling at the top and this sudden access to new and fantastic information…… What does it mean for me? Ryan asked himself. They couldn't want him to be the next DDL He knew he didn't have anything like the experience required for that job - though maybe in another five or six years……

  Reykjanes Ridge

  Ramius inspected his status board. The Red October was heading southwest on track eight, the westernmost surveyed route on what Northern Fleet submariners called Gorshkov's Railroad. His speed was thirteen knots. It never occurred to him that this was an unlucky number, an Anglo-Saxon superstition. They would hold this course and speed for another twenty hours. Immediately behind him, Kamarov was seated at the submarine's gravitometer board, a large rolled chart behind him. The young lieutenant was chain-smoking, and looked tense as he ticked off their position on the chart. Ramius did not disturb him. Kamarov knew this job, and Borodin would relieve him in another two hours.

  Installed in the Red October's keel was a highly sensitive device called a gradiometer, essentially two large lead weights separated by a space of one hundred yards. A laser-computer system measured the space between the weights down to a fraction of an angstrom. Distortions of that distance or lateral movement of the weights indicated variations in the local gravitational field. The navigator compared these highly precise local values to the values on his chart. With careful use of gravitometers in the ship's inertial navigation system, he could plot the vessel's location to within a hundred meters, half the length of the ship.

  The mass-sensing system was being added to all the submarines that could accommodate it. Younger attack boat commanders, Ramius knew, had used it to run the Railroad at high speed. Good for the commander's ego, Ramius judged, but a little hard on the navigator. He felt no need for recklessness. Perhaps the letter had been a mistake…… No, it prevented second thoughts. And the sensor suites on attack submarines simply were not good enough to detect the Red October so long as he maintained his silent routine. Ramius was certain of this; he had used them all. He would get where he wanted to go, do what he wanted to do, and nobody, not his own countrymen, not even the Americans, would be able to do a thing about it. That's why earlier he had listened to the passage of an Alfa thirty miles to his east and smiled.

  The White House

  Judge Moore's CIA car was a Cadillac limousine that came with a driver and a security man who kept an Uzi sub-machinegun under the dashboard. The driver turned right off Pennsylvania Avenue onto Executive Drive. More a parking lot than a street, this served the needs of senior officials and reporters who worked at the White House and the Executive Office Building. “Old State,” that shining example of Institutional Grotesque that towered over the executive mansion. The driver pulled smoothly into a vacant VIP slot and jumped out to open the doors after the security man had swept the area with his eyes. The judge got out first and went ahead, and as Ryan caught up he found himself walking on the man's left, half a step behind. It took a moment to remember that this instinctive action was exactly what the marine corps had taught him at Quantico was the proper way for a junior officer to accompany his betters. It forced Ryan to consider just how junior he was.

  “Ever been in here before, Jack?”

  “No, sir, I haven't.”

  Moore was amused. “That's right, you come from around here. Now, if you came from farther away, you'd have made the trip a few times.” A marine guard held the door open for them. Inside a Secret Service agent signed them in. Moore nodded and walked on.

  “Is this to be in the Cabinet Room, sir?”

  “Uh-uh. Situation Room, downstairs. It's more comfortable and better equipped for this sort of thing. The slides you need are already down there, all set up. Nervous?”

  “Yes, sir, I sure am.”

  Moore chuckled. “Settle down, boy. The president has wanted to meet you for some time now. He liked that report on terrorism you did a few years back, and I've shown him some more of your work, the one on Russian missile submarine operations, and the one you just did on management practices in their arms industries. All in all, I think you'll find he's a pretty regular guy. Just be ready when he asks questions. He'll hear every word you say, and he has a way of hitting you with good ones when he wants.” Moore turned to descend a staircase. Ryan followed him down three flights, then they came to a door which led to a corridor. The judge turned left and walked to yet another door, this one guarded by another Secret Service agent.

  “Afternoon, Judge. The president will be down shortly.”

  “Thank you. This is Dr. Ryan. I'll vouch for him.”

  “Right.” The agent waved them in.

  It was not nearly as spectacular as Ryan had expected. The Situation Room was probably no larger than the Oval Office upstairs. There was expensive-looking wood paneling over what were probably concrete walls. This part of the White House dated back to the complete rebuilding job done under Truman. Ryan's lectern was to his left as he went in. It stood in front and slightly to the right of a roughly diamond-shaped table, and behind it was the projection screen. A note on the lectern said the slide projector in the middle of the table was already loaded and focused, and gave the order of the slides, which had been delivered from the National Reconnaissance Office.

  Most of the people were already here, all of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the secretary of defense. The secretary of state, he remembered, was still shuttling back and forth between Athens and Ankara trying to settle the latest Cyprus situation. This perennial thorn in NATO's southern flank had flared up a few weeks earlier when a Greek student had run over a Turkish child with his car and been killed by a gang minutes later. By the end of the day fifty people had been injured, and the putatively allied countries were once more at each other's throats. Now two American aircraft carriers were cruising the Aegean as the secretary of state labored to calm both sides. It was bad enough that two young people had died, Ryan thought, but not something to get a country's army mobilized for.

  Also at the table were General Thomas Hilton, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Jeffrey Pelt, the president's national security adviser, a pompous man Ryan had met years before at Georgetown University's Center for Strategic and International Studies. Pelt was going through some papers and dispatches. The chiefs were chatting amicably among themselves when the commandant of the marine corps looked up and spotted Ryan. He got up and walked over.

  “You Jack Ryan?” General David Maxwell asked.

  “Yes, sir.” Maxwell was a short, tough fireplug of a man whose stubbly haircut seemed to spark with aggressive energy. He looked Ryan over before shaking hands.

  “Pleased to meet you, son. I liked what you did over in London. Good for the corps.” He referred to the terrorist incident in which Ryan had very nearly been killed. “That was good, quick action you took, Lieutenant.”

  “Thank you, sir. I was lucky.”

  “Good officer's supposed to be lucky. I hear you got some interesting news for us.”

  “Yes sir. I think you will find it worth your time.”

  “Nervous?” The general saw the answer and smiled thinly. “Relax, son. Everybody in this damned cellar puts his pants on the same way as you.” He backhanded Ryan to the stomach and went back to his seat. The general whispered something to Admiral Daniel Foster, chief of naval operations. The CNO looked Ryan over for a moment before going back to what he was doing.

  The president arrived a minute later. Everyone in the room stood as he walked to his chair, on Ryan's right. He said a few quick things to Dr. Pelt, then looked pointedly at the DCI.

  “Gentlemen, if we can bring this meeting to order, I think Judge Moore has some news for us.”

  “Thank you, Mr. President. Gentlemen, we've had an interesting development today with respect to the Soviet naval operation that started yesterday. I have asked Dr. Ryan here to deliver the briefing.”

  The president turned to Ryan. The younger man could feel himself being appraised. “You may proceed.”

  Ryan took a sip of ice water from a glass hidden in the lectern. He had a wireless control for the slide projector and a choice of pointers. A separate high-intensity light illuminated his notes. The pages were full of errors and scribbled corrections. There had not been time to edit the copy.

  “Thank you, Mr. President. Gentlemen, my name is Jack Ryan, and the subject of this briefing is recent Soviet naval activity in the North Atlantic. Before I get to that it will be necessary for me to lay a little groundwork. I trust you will bear with me for a few minutes, and please feel free to interrupt with questions at any time.” Ryan clicked on the slide projector. The overhead lights near the screen dimmed automatically.

  “These photographs come to us courtesy of the British,” Ryan said. He now had everyone's attention. “The ship you see here is the Soviet fleet ballistic missile submarine Red October, photographed by a British agent in her dock at their submarine base at Polyarnyy, near Murmansk in northern Russia. As you can see, she is a very large vessel, about 650 feet long, a beam of roughly 85 feet, and an estimated submerged displacement of 32,000 tons. These figures are roughly comparable to those of a World War I battleship.”

  Ryan lifted a pointer. “In addition to being considerably larger than our own Ohio-class Trident submarines, Red October has a number of technical differences. She carries twenty-six missiles instead of our twenty-four. The earlier Typhoon-class vessels, from which she was developed, only have twenty.

  October carries the new SS-N-20 sea-launched ballistic missile, the Seahawk. It's a solid-fuel missile with a range of about six thousand nautical miles, and it carries eight multiple independently targetable reentry vehicles, MIRVs, each with an estimated yield of five hundred kilotons. It's the same RV carried by their SS-18s, but there are less of them per launcher.

  “As you can see, the missile tubes are located forward of the sail instead of aft, as in our subs. The forward diving planes fold into slots in the hull here; ours go on the sail. She has twin screws; ours have one propeller. And finally, her hull is oblate. Instead of being cylindrical like ours, it is flattened out markedly top and bottom.”

  Ryan clicked to the next slide. It showed two views superimposed, bow over stern. “These frames were delivered to us undeveloped. They were processed by the National Reconnaissance Office. Please note the doors here at the bow and here at the stern. The British were a little puzzled by these, and that's why I was permitted to bring the shots over earlier this week. We weren't able to figure out this function at the CIA either, and it was decided to seek the opinion of an outside consultant.”

  “Who decided?” the secretary of defense demanded angrily. “Hell, I haven't even seen them yet!”

  “We only got them Monday, Bert,” Judge Moore replied soothingly. “These two on the screen are only four hours old. Ryan suggested an outside expert, and James Greer approved it. I concurred.”

  “His name is Oliver W. Tyler. Dr. Tyler is a former naval officer who is now associate professor of engineering at the Naval Academy and a paid consultant to Sea Systems Command. He's an expert in the analysis of Soviet naval technology. Skip - Dr. Tyler - concluded that these doors are the intake and exhaust vents for a new silent propulsion system. He is currently developing a computer model of the system, and we hope to have this information by the end of the week. The system itself is rather interesting.” Ryan explained Tyler's analysis briefly.

  “Okay, Dr. Ryan.” The president leaned forward. “You've just told us that the Soviets have built a missile submarine that's supposed to be hard for our men to locate. I don't suppose that's news. Go on.”

  “Red October's captain is a man named Marko Ramius. That is a Lithuanian name, although we believe his internal passport designates his nationality as Great Russian. He is the son of a high Party official, and as good a submarine commander as they have. He's taken out the lead ship of every Soviet submarine class for the past ten years.

  “Red October sailed last Friday. We do not know exactly what her orders were, but ordinarily their missile subs - that is, those with the newer long-range missiles - confine their activities to the Barents Sea and adjacent areas in which they can be protected from our attack boats by land-based ASW aircraft, their own surface ships, and attack submarines. About noon local time on Sunday, we noted increased search activity in the Barents Sea. At the time we took this to be a local ASW exercise, and by late Monday it looked to be a test of October's new drive system.

  “As you all know, early yesterday saw a vast increase in Soviet naval activity. Nearly all of the blue-water ships assigned to their Northern Fleet are now at sea, accompanied by all of their fast fleet-replenishment vessels. Additional fleet auxiliaries sailed from the Baltic Fleet bases and the western Mediterranean. Even more disquieting is the fact that nearly every nuclear submarine assigned to the Northern Fleet - their largest - appears to be heading into the North Atlantic. This includes three from the Med, since submarines there come from the Northern Fleet, not the Black Sea Fleet. Now we think we know why all this happened.” Ryan clicked to the next slide. This one showed the North Atlantic, from Florida to the Pole, with Soviet ships marked in red.

  “The day Red October sailed, Captain Ramius evidently posted a letter to Admiral Yuri Ilych Padorin. Padorin is chief of the Main Political Administration of their navy. We do not know what that letter said, but here we can see its results. This began to happen not four hours after that letter was opened. Fifty-eight nuclear-powered submarines and twenty-eight major surface combatants all headed our way. This is a remarkable reaction in four hours. This morning we learned what their orders are.

  “Gentlemen, these ships have been ordered to locate Red October, and if necessary, to sink her.” Ryan paused for effect. “As you can see, the Soviet surface force is here, about halfway between the European mainland and Iceland. Their submarines, these in particular, are all heading southwest towards the U.S. coast. Please note, there is no unusual activity on the Pacific side of either country - except we have information that Soviet fleet ballistic missile submarines in both oceans are being recalled to port.

  “Therefore, while we do not know exactly what Captain Ramius said, we can draw some conclusions from these patterns of activity. It would appear that they think he's heading in our direction. Given his estimated speed as something between ten and thirty knots, he could be anywhere from here, below Iceland, to here, just off our coast. You will note that in either case he has successfully avoided detection by all four of these SOSUS barriers - ”

  “Wait a minute. You say they have issued orders to their ships to sink one of their submarines?”

  “Yes, Mr. President.”

  The president looked at the DCI. “This is reliable information, Judge?”

  “Yes, Mr. President, we believe it to be solid.”

  “Okay, Dr. Ryan, we're all waiting. What's this Ramius fellow up to?”

  “Mr. President, our evaluation of this intelligence data is that Red October is attempting to defect to the United States.”

  The room went very quiet for a moment. Ryan could hear the whirring of the fan in the slide projector as the National Security Council pondered that. He held his hands on the lectern to keep them from shaking under the stare of the ten men in front of him.

  “That's a very interesting conclusion, Doctor.” The president smiled. “Defend it.”

  “Mr. President, no other conclusion fits the data. The really crucial thing, of course, is the recall of their other missile boats. They've never done that before. Add to that the fact that they have issued orders to sink their newest and most powerful missile sub, and that they are chasing in this direction, and one is left with the conclusion that they think she has left the reservation and is heading this way.”

  “Very well. What else could it be?”

  “Sir, he could have told them that he's going to fire his missiles. At us, at them, the Chinese, or just about anyone else.”

  “And you don't think so?”

  “No, Mr. President. The SS-N-20 has a range of six thousand miles. That means he could have hit any target in the Northern Hemisphere from the moment he left the dock. He's had six days to do that, but he has not fired. Moreover, if he had threatened to launch his birds, he would have to consider the possibility that the Soviets would enlist our assistance to locate and sink him. After all, if our surveillance systems detect the launch of nuclear-armed missiles in any direction, things could get very tense, very quickly.”

  “You know he could fire his birds in both directions and start World War III,” the secretary of defense observed.

  “Yes, Mr. Secretary. In that case we'd be dealing with a total madman - more than one, in fact. On our missile boats there are five officers, who must all agree and act in unison to fire their missiles. The Soviets have the same number. For political reasons their nuclear warhead security procedures are even more elaborate than ours. Five or more people, all of whom wish to end the world?” Ryan shook his head. “That seems most unlikely, sir, and again, the Soviets would be well advised to inform us and enlist our aid.”

  “Do you really think they would inform us?” Dr. Pelt asked. His tone indicated what he thought.

  “Sir, that's more a psychological question than a technical one, and I deal principally with technical intelligence. Some of the men in this room have met their Soviet counterparts and are better equipped to answer that than I am. My answer to your question, however, is yes. That would be the only rational thing for them to do, and while I do not regard the Soviets as entirely rational by our standards, they are rational by their own. They are not given to this sort of high-stakes gambling.”

  “Who is?” the president observed. “What else might it be?”

  “Several things, sir. It could simply be a major naval exercise aimed at testing their ability to close our sea lines of communication and our ability to respond, both on short notice. We reject this possibility for several reasons. It's too soon after their autumn naval exercise, CRIMSON STORM, and they are only using nuclear submarines; no diesel-powered boats seem to be involved. Clearly speed is at a premium in their operation. And as a practical matter, they do not run major exercises at this time of year.”

  “And why is that?” the president asked.

  Admiral Foster answered for Ryan. “Mr. President, the weather up there at this time of the year is extremely bad. Even we don't schedule exercises under these conditions.”

  “I seem to recall we just ran a NATO exercise, Admiral,” Pelt noted.

  “Yes, sir, south of Bermuda, where the weather's a lot nicer. Except for an antisub exercise off the British Isles, all of NIFTY DOLPHIN was held on our side of the lake.”

  “Okay, let's get back to what else their fleet might be up to,” the president ordered.

  “Well, sir, it might not be an exercise at all. It could be the real thing. This could be the beginning of a conventional war against NATO, its first step being interdiction of the sea lines of communication. If so, they've achieved complete strategic surprise and are now throwing it away by operating so overtly that we cannot fail to notice or react forcefully. Moreover, there is no corresponding activity whatever in their other armed services. Their army and air force - except for maritime surveillance aircraft - and their Pacific Fleet are engaged in routine training operations.

  “Finally, this could be an attempt to provoke or divert us, drawing our attention to this while they are preparing to spring a surprise somewhere else. If so, they're going about it in a strange way. If you try to provoke somebody, you don't do it in his front yard. The Atlantic, Mr. President, is still our ocean. As you can see from this chart, we have bases here in Iceland, the Azores, all up and down our coast. We have allies on both sides of the ocean, and we can establish air superiority over the entire Atlantic if we so choose. Their navy is numerically large, larger than ours in some critical areas, but they cannot project force as well as we can - not yet, anyway - and certainly not right off our coast.” Ryan took a sip of water.

  “So, gentlemen, we have a Soviet missile submarine at sea when all the others, in both oceans, are being recalled. We have their fleet at sea with orders to sink that sub, and evidently they are chasing it in our direction. As I said, this is the only conclusion that fits the data.”

  “How many men on the sub, Doctor?” the president asked.

  “We believe 110 or so, sir.”

  “So, 110 men all decide to defect to the United States at one time. Not an altogether bad idea,” the president observed wryly, “but hardly a likely one.”

  Ryan was ready for that. “There is precedent for this, sir. On November 8, 1975, the Storozhevoy, a Soviet Krivak-class missile frigate, attempted to run from Riga, Latvia, to the Swedish island of Gotland. The political officer aboard, Valery Sablin, led a mutiny of the enlisted personnel. They locked their officers in their cabins and raced away from the dock. They came close to making it. Air and fleet units attacked them and forced them to halt within fifty miles of Swedish territorial waters. Two more hours and they would have made it. Sablin and twenty-six others were court-martialed and shot. More recently we have had reports of mutinous episodes on several Soviet vessels - especially submarines. In 1980 an Echo-class Soviet attack submarine surfaced off Japan. The captain claimed to have had a fire aboard, but photographs taken by naval reconnaissance aircraft - ours and Japanese - did not show smoke or fire-damaged debris being jettisoned from the submarine. However, the crewmen on deck did show sufficient evidence of trauma to support the conclusion that a riot had taken place aboard. We have had similar, sketchier reports for some years now. While I admit this is an extreme example, our conclusion is decidedly not without precedent.”

  Admiral Foster reached inside his jacket and came out with a plastic-tipped cigar. His eyes sparkled behind the match. “You know, I could almost believe this.”

  “Then I wish you'd tell us all why, Admiral,” the president said, “because I still don't.”

  “Mr. President, most mutinies are led by officers, not enlisted men. The reason for this is simply that the enlisted men do not know how to navigate the ship. Moreover, officers have the advantages and educational background to know that successful rebellion is a possibility. Both of these factors would be even more true in the Soviet Navy. What if just the officers are doing this?”

  “And the rest of the crew is going along with them?” Pelt asked. “Knowing what would happen to them and their families?”

  Foster puffed a few times on his cigar. “Ever been to sea, Dr. Pelt? No? Let's imagine for the moment that you're taking a world cruise, on the Queen Elizabeth 2, say. One fine day you're in the middle of the Pacific Ocean - but how do you know exactly where you are? You don't know. You know what the officers tell you. Oh, sure, if you know a little astronomy, you might be able to estimate your latitude to within a few hundred miles. With a good watch and some knowledge of spherical trigonometry you might even guess your longitude to within a few hundred. Okay? That's on a ship that you can see from.

  “These guys are on a submarine. You can't see a whole lot. Now, what if the officers - not even all the officers - are doing this? How will the crew know what's going on?” Foster shook his head. “They won't. They can't. Even our guys might not, and our men are trained a lot better than theirs. Their seamen are nearly all conscripts, remember. On a nuclear submarine you are absolutely cut off from the outside world. No radios except for ELF and VLF - and that's all encrypted; messages have to come through the communications officer. So, he has to be in on it. Same thing with the boat's navigator. They use inertial navigation systems, same as us. We have one of theirs, from that Golf we lifted off Hawaii. In their machine the data is also encrypted. The quartermaster reads the numbers off the machine, and the navigator gets their position from a book. In the Red Army, on land, maps are classified documents. Same thing in their navy. The enlisted men don't get to see charts and are not encouraged to know where they are. This would be especially true on missile submarines, right?

  “On top of all that, these guys are working sailors, nucs. When you're at sea, you have a job to do, and you do it. On their ships, that means from fourteen to eighteen hours a day. These kids are all draftees with very simple training. They're taught to perform one or two tasks - and to follow their orders exactly. The Soviets train people to do their jobs by rote, with as little thinking as possible. That's why on major repair jobs you see officers holding tools. Their men will have neither the time nor the inclination to question their officers about what's going on. You do your job, and depend on everybody else to do his. That's what discipline at sea is all about.” Foster tapped his cigar ash into an ashtray. “Yes, sir, you get the officers together, maybe not even all of them, and this would work. Getting ten or twelve dissidents together is a whole lot easier than assembling a hundred.”

  “Easier, but hardly easy, Dan,” General Hilton objected. “For Christ's sake, they have at least one political officer aboard, plus moles from their intelligence outfits. You really think a Party hack would go along with this?”

  “Why not? You heard Ryan - that frigate's mutiny was led by the political officer.”

  “Yeah, and since then they have shaken up that whole directorate,” Hilton responded.

  “We have defecting KGB types all the time, all good Party members,” Foster said. Clearly he liked the idea of a defecting Russian sub.

  The president took all this in, then turned to Ryan. “Dr. Ryan, you have managed to persuade me that your scenario is a theoretical possibility. Now, what does the CIA think we ought to do about it?”

  “Mr. President, I'm an intelligence analyst, not - ”

  “I know very well what you are, Dr. Ryan. I've read enough of your work. I can see you have an opinion. I want to hear it.”

  Ryan didn't even look at Judge Moore. “We grab her, sir.”

  “Just like that?”

  “No, Mr. President, probably not. However, Ramius could surface off the Virginia Capes in a day or two and request political asylum. We ought to be prepared for that contingency, sir, and my opinion is that we should welcome him with open arms.” Ryan saw nods from all the chiefs. Finally somebody was on his side.

  “You've stuck your neck out on this one,” the president observed kindly.

  “Sir, you asked me for an opinion. It will probably not be that easy. These Alfas and Victors appear to be racing for our coast, almost certainly with the intention of establishing an interdiction force - effectively a blockade of our Atlantic coast.”

  “Blockade,” the president said, “an ugly word.”

  “Judge,” General Hilton said, “I suppose it's occurred to you that this is a piece of disinformation aimed at blowing whatever highly placed source generated this report?”

  Judge Moore affected a sleepy smile. “It has, Gener'l. If this is a sham, it's a damned elaborate one. Dr. Ryan was directed to prepare this briefing on the assumption that this data is genuine. If it is not, the responsibility is mine.” God bless you, Judge, Ryan said to himself, wondering just how gold-plated the WILLOW source was. The judge went on, “In any case, gentlemen, we will have to respond to this Soviet activity whether our analysis is accurate or not.”

  “Are you getting confirmation on this, Judge?” the president asked.

  “Yes, sir, we are working on that.”

  “Good.” The president was sitting straight, and Ryan noted his voice become crisper. “The judge is correct. We have to react to this, whatever they're really up to. Gentlemen, the Soviet Navy is heading for our coast. What are we doing about it?”

  Admiral Foster answered first. “Mr. President, our fleet is pulling to sea at this moment. Everything that'll steam is out already, or will be by tomorrow night. We've recalled our carriers from the South Atlantic, and we are redeploying our nuclear submarines to deal with this threat. We began this morning to saturate the air over their surface force with P-3C Orion patrol aircraft, assisted by British Nimrods operating out of Scotland. General?” Foster turned to Hilton.

  “At this moment we have E-3A Sentry AWACS-type aircraft circling them along with Dan's Orions, both accompanied by F-15 Eagle fighters out of Iceland. By this time Friday we'll have a squadron of B-52s operating from Loring Air Base in Maine. These will be armed with Harpoon air-to-surface missiles, and they'll be orbiting the Soviets in relays. Nothing aggressive, you understand,” Hilton smiled. “Just to let them know we're interested. If they continue to come this way, we will redeploy some tactical air assets to the East Coast, and, subject to your approval, we can activate some national guard and reserve squadrons quietly.”

  “Just how will you do that quietly?” Pelt asked.

  “Dr. Pelt, we have a number of guard outfits scheduled to run through our Red Flag facility at Nellis in Nevada starting this Sunday, a routine training rotation. They go to Maine instead of Nevada. The bases are pretty big, and they belong to SAC.” Hilton referred to the Strategic Air Command. “They have good security.”

  “How many carriers do we have handy?” the president asked.

  “Only one at the moment, sir, Kennedy. Saratoga stripped a main turbine last week, and it'll take a month to replace. Nimitz and America are both in the South Atlantic right now, America coming back from the Indian Ocean, Nimitz heading out to the Pacific. Bad luck. Can we recall a carrier from the eastern Med?”

  “No.” The president shook his head. “This Cyprus thing is still too sensitive. Do we really need to? If anything…… untoward happens, can we handle their surface force with what we have at hand?”

  “Yes, sir!” General Hilton said at once. “Dr. Ryan said it: the Atlantic is our ocean. The air force alone will have over five hundred aircraft designated for this operation, and another three or four hundred from the navy. If any sort of shooting match develops, that Soviet fleet will have an exciting and short life.”

  “We will try to avoid that, of course,” the president said quietly. “The first press reports surfaced this morning. We had a call from Bud Wilkins of the Times right before lunch. If the American people find out too soon what the scope of this is ……Jeff?”

  “Mr. President, let's assume for the moment that Dr. Ryan's analysis is correct. I don't see what we can do about it,” Pelt said.

  “What?” Ryan blurted. “I, ah, beg your pardon, sir.”

  “We can't exactly steal a Russian missile sub.”

  “Why not!” Foster demanded. “Hell, we have enough of their tanks and aircraft.” The other chiefs agreed.

  “An aircraft with a crew of one or two is one thing, Admiral. A nuclear-powered submarine with twenty-six rockets and a crew of over a hundred is something else. Naturally, we can give asylum to the defecting officers.”

  “So, you're saying that if the thing does come sailing into Norfolk,” Hilton joined in, “we give it back! Christ, man, it carries two hundred warheads! They just might use those goddamned things against us someday, you know. Are you sure you want to give them back?”

  “That's a billion-dollar asset, General,” Pelt said diffidently.

  Ryan saw the president smile. He was said to like lively discussions. “Judge, what are the legal ramifications?”

  “That's admiralty law, Mr. President.” Moore looked uneasy for once. “I've never had an admiralty practice, takes me all the way back to law school. Admiralty is jus gentium - the same legal codes theoretically apply to all countries. American and British admiralty courts routinely cite each other's rulings. But as for the rights that attach to a mutinous crew - I have no idea.”

  “Judge, we are not dealing with mutiny or piracy,” Foster noted. “The correct term is barratry, I believe. Mutiny is when the crew rebels against lawful authority. Gross misconduct of the officers is called barratry. Anyway, I hardly think we need to attach legal folderol to a situation involving nuclear weapons.”

  “We might, Admiral,” the president mused. “As Jeff said, this is a highly valuable asset, legally their property, and they will know we have her. I think we are agreed that not all the crew is likely to be in on this. If so, those not party to the mutiny - barratry, whatever - will want to return home after it's all over. And we'll have to let them go, won't we?”

  “Have to?” General Maxwell was doodling on a pad. “Have to?”

  “General,” the president said firmly, “we will not, repeat not, be party to the imprisonment or murder of men whose only desire is to return to home and family. Is that understood?” He looked around the table. “If they know we have her, they'll want her back. And they will know we have her from t

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