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猎杀“红十月”号(chapter 14)

2006-07-07 19:21

  THE THIRTEENTH DAY

  Washington, B.C.

  Donaldson kept Ritter waiting in his outer office for fifteen minutes while he read the paper. He wanted Ritter to know his place. Some of the DDO's remarks about leaks from the Hill had touched a sore spot with the senator from Connecticut, and it was important for appointed and civil service officials to understand the difference between themselves and the elected representatives of the people.

  “Sorry to keep you waiting, Mr. Ritter.” Donaldson did not rise, nor did he offer to shake hands.

  “Quite all right, sir. Took the chance to read a magazine. Don't get to do that much, what with the schedule I work.” They fenced with each other from the first moment.

  “So, what are the Soviets up to?”

  “Senator, before I address that subject, I must say this: I had to clear this meeting with the president. This information is for you alone, no one else may hear it, sir. No one. That comes from the White House.”

  “There are other men on my committee, Mr. Ritter.”

  “Sir, if I do not have your word, as a gentleman,” Ritter added with a smile, “I will not reveal this information. Those are my orders. I work for the executive branch, Senator. I take my orders from the president.” Ritter hoped his recording device was getting all of this.

  “Agreed,” Donaldson said reluctantly. He was angry because of the foolish restrictions, but pleased that he was getting to hear this. “Go on.”

  “Frankly, sir, we're not sure exactly what's going on,” Ritter said.

  “Oh, so you've sworn me to secrecy so that I can't tell anyone that, again, the CIA doesn't know what the hell is going on?”

  “I said we don't know exactly what's happening. We do know a few things. Our information comes mainly from the Israelis, and some from the French. From both channels we have learned that something has gone very wrong with the Soviet Navy.”

  “I gathered that. They've lost a sub.”

  “At least one, but that's not what's going on. Someone, we think, has played a trick on the operations directorate of the Soviet Northern Fleet. I can't say for sure, but I think it was the Poles.”

  “Why the Poles?”

  “I don't know for sure that it is, but both the French and Israelis are well connected with the Poles, and the Poles have a long-standing beef with the Soviets. I do know - at least I think I know - that whatever this is did not come from a Western intelligence agency.”

  “So, what's happening?” Donaldson demanded.

  “Our best guess is that someone has committed at least one forgery, possibly as many as three, all aimed at raising hell in the Soviet Navy - but whatever it was, it's gotten far out of hand. A lot of people are working hard to cover their asses, the Israelis say. As a guess, I think they managed to alter a submarine's operational orders, then forged a letter from her skipper threatening to fire his missiles. The amazing thing is that the Soviets went for it.” Ritter frowned. “We may have it all backwards, though. All we really know for sure is that somebody, probably the Poles, has played a fantastic dirty trick on the Russians.”

  “Not us?” Donaldson asked pointedly.

  “No, sir, absolutely not! If we tried something like that - even if we succeeded, which isn't likely - they might try the same thing with us. You could start a war that way, and you know the president would never authorize it.”

  “But someone at the CIA might not care what the president thinks.”

  “Not in my department! It would be my head. Do you really mink we could run an operation like this and then successfully conceal it? Hell, Senator, I wish we could.”

  “Why the Poles, and why are they able to do it?”

  “We've been hearing for some time about a dissident faction inside their intelligence community, one that does not especially love the Soviets. You can pick any number of reasons why. There's the fundamental historical enmity, and the Russians seem to forget that the Poles are Polish first, Communists second. My own guess is that it's this business with the pope, even more than the martial law thing. We know that our old friend Andropov initiated a replay of the Henry II/Becket business. The pope has given Poland a great deal of prestige, done things for the country that even Party members feel good about. Ivan went and spit on their whole country when he did that - you wonder that they're mad? As to their ability, people seem to overlook just what a class act their intelligence service always has been. They're the ones who made the Enigma breakthrough in 1939, not the Brits. They're damned effective, and for the same reason as the Israelis. They have enemies to the east and the west. That sort of thing breeds good agents. We know for certain that they have a lot of people inside Russia, guest workers paying Narmonov off for the economic supports given to their country. We also know that a lot of Polish engineers are working in Soviet shipyards. I admit it's funny, neither country has much of a maritime tradition, but the Poles build a lot of Soviet merchant hulls. Their yards are more efficient than the Russian ones, and lately they've been giving technical help, mainly in quality control, to the naval building yards.”

  “So, the Polish intelligence service has played a trick on the Soviets,” Donaldson summarized. “Gorshkov is one of the guys who took a hard line on intervention, wasn't he?”

  “True, but he's probably just a target of opportunity. The real aim of this has to be to embarrass Moscow. The fact that this operation attacks the Soviet Navy has no significance in itself. The objective is to raise hell in their senior military channels, and they all come together in Moscow. God, I wish I knew what was really happening! From the five percent we do know, this operation has to be a real masterpiece, the sort of thing legends are made of. We're working on it, trying to find out. So are the Brits, and the French, and the Israelis - Benny Herzog of the Mossad is supposed to be going ape. The Israelis do pull this kind of trick on their neighbors, regularly. They say officially that they don't know anything beyond what they've told us. Maybe so. Or maybe they gave the Poles some technical help - hard to say. It's certain that the Soviet Navy is a strategic threat to Israel. But we need more time on that. The Israeli connection looks a little too pat at this point.”

  “But you don't know what's happening, just the how and why.”

  “Senator, it's not that easy. Give us some time. At the moment we may not even want to know. To summarize, somebody has laid a colossal piece of disinformation on the Soviet Navy. It was probably aimed at merely shaking them up, but it has clearly gotten out of hand. How or why it happened, we do not know. You can bet, however, that whoever initiated this operation is working very hard to cover his tracks.” Ritter wanted the senator to get this right. “If the Soviets find out who did it, their reaction will be nasty - depend on it. In a few weeks we might know more. The Israelis owe us for a few things, and eventually they'll let us in on it.”

  “For a couple more F-15s and a company of tanks,” Donaldson observed.

  “Cheap at the price.”

  “But if we're not involved in this, why the secrecy?”

  “You gave me your word, Senator,” Ritter reminded him. “For one thing, if word leaked out, would the Soviets believe we're not involved? Not likely! We're trying to civilize the intelligence game. I mean, we're still enemies, but having the various intelligence services in conflict uses up too many assets, and it's dangerous to both sides. For another, well, if we ever do find out how all this happened, we just might want to make use of it ourselves.”

  “Those reasons are contraditory.”

  Ritter smiled. “The intelligence game is like that. If we find out who did this, we can use that information to our advantage. In any case, Senator, you gave me your word, and I will report that to the president on my return to Langley.”

  “Very well.” Donaldson rose. The interview was at an end. “I trust you will keep us informed of future developments.”

  “That's what we have to do, sir.” Ritter stood.

  “Indeed. Thank you for coming down.” They did not shake hands this time either.

  Ritter walked into the hall without passing through the anteroom. He stopped to look down into the atrium of the Hart building. It reminded him of the local Hyatt. Uncharacteristically, he took the stairs instead of the elevator down to the first floor. With luck he had just settled a major score. His car was waiting for him outside, and he told the driver to head for the FBI building.

  “Not a CIA operation?” Peter Henderson, the senator's chief aide, asked.

  “No, I believe him,” Donaldson said. “He's not smart enough to pull something like that.”

  “I don't know why the president doesn't get rid of him,” Henderson commented. “Of course, the kind of person he is, maybe it's better that he's incompetent.” The senator agreed.

  When he returned to his office, Henderson adjusted the Venetian blinds on his window, though the sun was on the other side of the building. An hour later the driver of a passing Black & White taxicab looked up at the window and made a mental note.

  Henderson worked late that night. The Hart building was nearly empty with most of the senators out of town. Donaldson was there only because of personal business and to keep an eye on things. As chairman of the Select Committee on Intelligence, he had more duties than he would have liked at this time of year. Henderson took the elevator down to the main lobby, looking every inch the senior congressional aide - a three-piece gray suit, an expensive leather attaché case, his hair just so, and his stride jaunty as he left the building. A Black & White cab came around the corner and stopped to let out a fare. Henderson got in.

  “Watergate,” he said. Not until the taxi had driven a few blocks did he speak again.

  Henderson had a modest one-bedroom condo in the Watergate complex, an irony that he himself had considered many times. When he got to his destination he did not tip the driver. A woman got in as he walked to the main entrance. Taxis in Washington are very busy in the early evening.

  “Georgetown University, please,” she said, a pretty young woman with auburn hair and an armload of books.

  “Night school?” the driver asked, checking the mirror.

  “Exams,” the girl said, her voice a trace uneasy. “Psych.”

  “Best thing to do with exams is relax,” the driver advised.

  Special Agent Hazel Loomis fumbled with her books. Her purse dropped to the floor. “Oh, damn.” She bent over to pick it up, and while doing so retrieved a miniature tape recorder that another agent had left under the driver's seat.

  It took fifteen minutes to get to the university. The fare was $3.85. Loomis gave the driver a five and told him to keep the change. She walked across the campus and entered a Ford which drove straight to the J. Edgar Hoover Building. A lot of work had gone into this - and it had been so easy!

  “Always is, when the bear walks into your sight.” The inspector who had been running the case turned left onto Pennsylvania Avenue. “The problem is finding the damned bear in the first place.”

  The Pentagon

  “Gentlemen, you have been asked here because each of you is a career intelligence officer with a working knowledge of submarines and Russian,” Davenport said to the four officers seated in his office. “I have need of officers with your qualifications. This is a volunteer assignment. It could involve a considerable element of danger - we cannot be sure at this point. The only other thing I can say is that this will be a dream job for an intelligence officer - but the sort of dream that you'll never be able to tell anyone about. We're all used to that, aren't we?”

  Davenport ventured a rare smile. “As they say in the movies, if you want in, fine; if not, you may leave at this point, and nothing will ever be said. It is asking a lot to expect men to walk into a potentially dangerous assignment blindfolded.”

  Of course nobody left; the men who had been called here were not quitters. Besides, something would be said, and Davenport had a good memory. These were professional officers. One of the compensations for wearing a uniform and earning less money than an equally talented man can make in the real world is the off chance of being killed.

  “Thank you, gentlemen. I think you will find this worth your while.” Davenport stood and handed each man a manila envelope. “You will soon have the chance to examine a Soviet missile submarine - from the inside.” Four pairs of eyes blinked in unison.

  33N 75W

  The USS Ethan Alien had been on station now for more than thirty hours. She was cruising in a five-mile circle at a depth of two hundred feet. There was no hurry. The submarine was making just enough speed to maintain steerage way, her reactor producing only ten percent of rated power. The chief quartermaster was assisting in the galley.

  “First time I've ever done this in a sub,” one of the Alien's officers who was acting as ship's cook noted, stirring an omelette.

  The quartermaster sighed imperceptibly. They ought to have sailed with a proper cook, but theirs had been a kid, and every enlisted man aboard now had over twenty years of service. The chiefs were all technicians, except the quartermaster, who could handle a toaster on a good day.

  “You cook much at home, sir?”

  “Some. My parents used to have a restaurant down at Pass Christian. This is my mama's special Cajun omelette. Shame we don't have any bass. I can do some nice things with bass and a little lemon. You fish much, Chief?”

  “No, sir.” The small complement of officers and senior chiefs was working in an informal atmosphere, and the quartermaster was a man accustomed to discipline and status boundaries. “Commander, can I ask what the hell we're doing?” “Wish I knew, Chief. Mostly we're waiting for something.” “But what, sir?” “Damned if I know. You want to hand me those ham cubes?

  And could you check the bread in the oven? Ought to be about done.“

  The New Jersey

  Commander Eaton was perplexed. His battle group was holding twenty miles south of the Russians. If it hadn't been dark he could have seen the Kirov's towering superstructure on the horizon from his perch on the flat bridge. Her escorts were in a single broad line ahead of the battle cruiser, pinging away in the search for a submarine.

  Since the air force had staged its mock attack the Soviets had been acting like sheep. This was out of character to say the least. The New Jersey and her escorts were keeping the Russian formation under constant observation, and a pair of Sentry aircraft were watching for good measure. The Russian redeployment had switched Eaton's responsibility to the Kirov group. This suited him. His main battery turrets were trained in, but the guns were loaded with eight-inch guided rounds and the fire control stations were fully manned. The Tarawa was thirty miles south, her armed strike force of Harriers sitting ready to move at five-minute notice. The Soviets had to know this, even though their ASW helicopters had not come within five miles of an American ship for two days. The Bear and Backfire bombers which were passing overhead in shuttle rounds to Cuba - only a few, and those returning to Russia as quickly as they could be turned around - could not fail to report what they saw. The American vessels were in extended attack formation, the missiles on the New Jersey and her escorts being fed continuous information from the ships' sensors. And the Russians were ignoring them. Their only electronic emissions were routine navigation radars. Strange.

  The Nimitz was now within air range after a five-thousand-mile dash from the South Atlantic; the carrier and her nuclear-powered escorts, the California, Bainbridge, and Truxton, were now only four hundred miles to the south, with the America battle group half a day behind them. The Kennedy was five hundred miles to the east. The Soviets would have to consider the danger of three carrier air wings at their backs and hundreds of land-based air force birds gradually shifting south from one base to another. Perhaps this explained their docility.

  The Backfire bombers were being escorted in relays all the way from Iceland, first by navy Tomcats from the Saratoga's air wing, then by air force Phantoms operating in Maine, which handed the Soviet aircraft off to Eagles and Fighting Falcons as they worked down the coast almost as far south as Cuba. There was not much doubt how seriously the United States was taking this, though American units were no longer actively harassing the Russians. Eaton was glad they weren't. There was nothing more to be gained from harassment, and anyway, if it had to, his battle group could switch from a peace to a war footing in about two minutes.

  The Watergate Apartments

  “Excuse me. I just moved in down the hall, and my phone isn't hooked up yet. Would you mind if I made a call?”

  Henderson arrived at that decision quickly enough. Five three or so, auburn hair, gray eyes, adequate figure, a dazzling smile, and fashionably dressed. “Sure, welcome to the Watergate. Come on in.”

  “Thank you. I'm Hazel Loomis. My friends call me Sissy.” She held out her hand.

  “Peter Henderson. The phone's in the kitchen. I'll show you.” Things were looking up. He'd just ended a lengthy relationship with one of the senator's secretaries. It had been hard on both of them.

  “I'm not disturbing anything, am I? You don't have anyone here, do you?”

  “No, just me and the TV. Are you new to D.C.? The night life isn't all it's cracked up to be. At least, not when you have to go to work the next day. Who do you work for - I take it you're single?”

  “That's right. I work for DARPA, as a computer programmer. I'm afraid I can't talk about it very much.”

  All sorts of good news, Henderson thought. “Here's the phone.”

  Loomis looked around quickly as though evaluating the job the decorator had done. She reached into her purse and took out a dime, handing it to Henderson. He laughed.

  “The first call is free, and believe me, you can use my phone whenever you want.”

  “I just knew,” she said, punching the buttons, “that this would be nicer than living in Laurel. Hello, Kathy? Sissy. I just got moved in, haven't even got my phone hooked up yet …… Oh, a guy down the hall was kind enough to let me use his phone …… Okay, see you tomorrow for lunch. Bye, Kathy.”

  Loomis looked around. “Who decorated for you?”

  “Did it myself. I minored in art at Harvard, and I know some nice shops in Georgetown. You can find some good bargains if you know where to look.”

  “Oh, I'd just love to have my place look like this! Could you show me around?”

  “Sure, the bedroom first?” Henderson laughed to show that he had no untoward intentions - which of course he did, though he was a patient man in such matters. The tour, which lasted several minutes, assured Loomis that the condo was indeed empty. A minute later there was a knock at the door. Henderson grumbled good-naturedly as he went to answer it.

  “Pete Henderson?” The man asking the question was dressed in a business suit. Henderson had on jeans and a sport shirt.

  “Yes?” Henderson backed up, knowing what this had to be. What came next, though, surprised him.

  “You're under arrest, Mr. Henderson,” Sissy Loomis said, holding up her ID card. “The charge is espionage. You have the right to remain silent, you have the right to speak with an attorney. If you give up the right to remain silent, everything you say will be recorded and may be used against you. If you do not have an attorney or cannot afford one, we will see to it that an attorney is appointed to represent you. Do you understand these rights, Mr. Henderson?” It was Sissy Loomis' first espionage case. For five years she had specialized in bank robbery stakeouts, often working as a teller with a .357 magnum revolver in her cash drawer. “Do you wish to waive these rights?”

  “No, I do not.” Henderson's voice was raspy.

  “Oh, you will,” the inspector observed. “You will.” He turned to the three agents who accompanied him. “Take this place apart. Neatly, gentlemen, and quietly. We don't want to wake anyone. You, Mr. Henderson, will come with us. You can change first. We can do this the easy way or the hard way. If you promise to cooperate, no cuffs. But if you try to run - you don't want to do that, believe me.” The inspector had been in the FBI for twenty years and had never even drawn his service revolver in anger, while Loomis had already shot and killed two men. He was old-time FBI, and couldn't help but wonder what Mr. Hoover would think of that, not to mention the new Jewish director.

  The Red October

  Ramius and Kamarov conferred over the chart for several minutes, tracing alternate course tracks before agreeing on one. The enlisted men ignored this. They had never been encouraged to know about charts. The captain walked to the aft bulkhead and lifted the phone.

  “Comrade Melekhin,” he ordered, waiting a few seconds. “Comrade, this is the captain. Any further difficulties with the reactor systems?”

  “No, Comrade Captain.”

  “Excellent. Hold things together another two days.” Ramius hung up. It was thirty minutes to the turn of the next watch.

  Melekhin and Kirill Surzpoi, the assistant engineer, had the duty in the engine room. Melekhin monitored the turbines and Surzpoi handled the reactor systems. Each had a michman and three enlisted men in attendance. The engineers had had a very busy cruise. Every gauge and monitor in the engine spaces, it seemed, had been inspected, and many had been entirely rebuilt by the two senior officers, who had been helped by Valintin Bugayev, the electronics officer and on-board genius who was also handling the political awareness classes for the crewmen. The engine room crewmen were the most rattled on the vessel. The supposed contamination was common knowledge - there are no long-lived secrets on a submarine. To ease their loads ordinary seamen were supplementing the engine watches. The captain called this a good chance for the cross-training he believed in. The crew thought it was a good way to get poisoned. Discipline was being maintained, of course. This was owing partly to the trust the men had in their commanding officer, partly to their training, but mostly to their knowledge of what would happen if they failed to carry out their orders immediately and enthusiastically.

  “Comrade Melekhin,” Surzpoi called, “I am showing pressure fluctuation on the main loop, number six gauge.”

  “Coming.” Melekhin hurried over and shoved the michman out of the way when he got to the master control panel. “More bad instruments! The others show normal. Nothing important,” the chief engineer said blandly, making sure everyone could hear. The whole compartment watch saw the chief engineer whisper something to his assistant. The younger one shook his head slowly, while two sets of hands worked the controls.

  A loud two-phase buzzer and a rotating red alarm light went off.

  “SCRAM the pile!” Melekhin ordered.

  “SCRAMing.” Surzpoi stabbed his finger on the master shutdown button.

  “You men, get forward!” Melekhin ordered next. There was no hesitation. “No, you, connect battery power to the caterpillar motors, quickly!”

  The warrant officer raced back to throw the proper switches, cursing his change of orders. It took forty seconds.

  “Done, Comrade!”

  “Go!”

  The warrant officer was the last man out of the compartment. He made certain that the hatches were dogged down tight before running to the control room.

  “What is the problem?” Ramius asked calmly.

  “Radiation alarm in the heat-exchange room!”

  “Very well, go forward and shower with the rest of your watch. Get control of yourself.” Ramius patted the michman on the arm. “We have had these problems before. You are a trained man. The crewmen look to you for leadership.”

  Ramius lifted the phone. It was a moment before the other end was picked up. “What has happened, Comrade?” The control room crew watched their captain listen to the answer. They could not help but admire his calm. Radiation alarms had sounded throughout the hull. “Very well. We do not have too many hours of battery power left, Comrade. We must go to snorkling depth. Stand by to activate the diesel. Yes.” He hung up.

  “Comrades, you will listen to me.” Ramius' voice was under total control. “There has been a minor failure in the reactor control systems. The alarm you heard was not a major radiation leak, but rather a failure of the reactor rod control systems. Comrades Melekhin and Surzpoi successfully executed an emergency reactor shutdown, but we cannot operate the reactor properly without the primary controls. We will, therefore, complete our cruise on diesel power. To ensure against any possible radiation contamination, the reactor spaces have been isolated, and all compartments, engineering spaces first, will be vented with surface air when we snorkle. Kamarov, you will go aft to work the environmental controls. I will take the conn.”

  “Aye, Comrade Captain!” Kamarov went aft.

  Ramius lifted the microphone to give this news to the crew. Everyone was waiting for something. Forward, some crewmen muttered among themselves that minor was a word suffering from overuse, that nuclear submarines did not run on diesel and ventilate with surface air for the hell of it.

  Finished with his terse announcement, Ramius ordered the submarine to approach the surface.

  The Dallas

  “Beats me, Skipper.” Jones shook his head. “Reactor noises have stopped, pumps are cut way back, but he's running at the same speed, just like before. On battery, I guess.”

  “Must be a hell of a battery system to drive something that big this fast,” Mancuso observed.

  “I did some computations on that a few hours ago.” Jones held up his pad. “This is based on the Typhoon hull, with a nice slick hull coefficient, so it's probably conservative.”

  “Where did you learn to do this, Jonesy?”

  “Mr. Thompson looked up the hydrodynamic stuff for me. The electrical end is fairly simple. He might have something exotic - fuel cells, maybe. If not, if he's running ordinary batteries, he has enough raw electrical power to crank every car in L.A.”

  Mancuso shook his head. “Can't last forever.”

  Jones held up his hand. “Hull creaking…… Sounds like he's going up some.”

  “Raise snorkle,” Ramius said. Looking through the periscope he verified that the snorkle was up. “Well, no other ships in view. That is good news. I think we have lost our imperialist hunters. Raise the ESM antenna. Let's be sure no enemy aircraft are lurking about with their radars.”

  “Clear, Comrade Captain.” Bugayev was manning the ESM board. “Nothing at all, not even airline sets.”

  “So, we have indeed lost our rat pack.” Ramius lifted the phone again. “Melekhin, you may open the main induction and vent the engine spaces, then start the diesel.” A minute later everyone aboard felt the vibration as the October's massive diesel engine cranked on battery power. This sucked up all the air from the reactor spaces, replacing it with air drawn through the snorkle and ejecting the “contaminated” air into the sea.

  The engine continued to crank two minutes, and throughout the hull men waited for the rumble that would mean the engine had caught and could generate power to run the electric motors. It didn't catch. After another thirty seconds the cranking stopped. The control room phone buzzed. Ramius lifted it.

  “What is wrong with the diesel, Comrade Chief Engineer?” the captain asked sharply. “I see. I'll send men back - oh. Stand by.” Ramius looked around, his mouth a thin, bloodless smile. The junior engineering officer, Svyadov, was standing at the back of the compartment. “I need a man who knows diesel engines to help Comrade Melekhin.”

  “I grew up on a State farm,” Bugayev said. “I started playing with tractor engines as a boy.”

  “There is an additional problem……”

  Bugayev nodded knowingly. “So I gather, Comrade Captain, but we need the diesel, do we not?”

  “I will not forget this, Comrade,” Ramius said quietly.

  “Then you can buy me some rum in Cuba, Comrade.” Bugayev smiled courageously. “I wish to meet a Cuban comrade, preferably one with long hair.”

  “May I accompany you, Comrade?” Svyadov asked anxiously. He had just been going on watch, approaching the reactor room hatch, when he'd been knocked aside by escaping crewmen.

  “Let us assess the nature of the problem first,” Bugayev said, looking at Ramius for confirmation.

  “Yes, there is plenty of time. Bugayev, report to me yourself in ten minutes.”

  “Aye aye, Comrade Captain.”

  “Svyadov, take charge of the lieutenant's station.” Ramius pointed to the ESM board. “Use the opportunity to learn some new skills.”

  The lieutenant did as he was ordered. The captain seemed very preoccupied. Svyadov had never seen him like this before.

  A Super Stallion

  They were traveling at one hundred fifty knots, two thousand feet over the darkened sea. The Super Stallion helicopter was old. Built towards the end of the Vietnam War, she had first seen service clearing mines off Haiphong harbor. That had been her primary duty, pulling a sea sled and acting as a flying minesweeper. Now, the big Sikorski was used for other purposes, mainly long-range heavy-lift missions. The three turbine engines perched atop the fuselage packed a considerable amount of power and could carry a platoon of armed combat troops a great distance.

  Tonight, in addition to her normal flight crew of three, she was carrying four passengers and a heavy load of fuel in the outrigger tanks. The passengers were clustered in the aft corner of the cargo area, chatting among themselves or trying to over the racket of the engines. Their conversation was animated. The intelligence officers had dismissed the danger implicit in their mission - no sense dwelling on that - and were speculating on what they might find aboard an honest-to-God Russian submarine. Each man considered the stories that would result, and decided it was a shame that they would never be able to tell them. None voiced this thought, however. At most a handful of people would ever know the entire story; the others would only see disjointed fragments that later might be thought parts of any number of other operations. Any Soviet agent trying to determine what this mission had been would find himself in a maze with dozens of blank walls.

  The mission profile was a tight one. The helicopter was flying on a specific track to HMS Invincible, from which they would fly to the USS Pigeon aboard a Royal Navy Sea King. The Stallion's disappearance from Oceana Naval Air Station for only a few hours would be viewed merely as a matter of routine.

  The helicopter's turboshaft engines, running at maximum cruising power, were gulping down fuel. The aircraft was now four hundred miles off the U.S. coast and had another eighty miles to go. Their flight to the Invincible was not direct; it was a dogleg course intended to fool whoever might have noticed their departure on radar. The pilots were tired. Four hours is a long time to sit in a cramped cockpit, and military aircraft are not known for their creature comforts. The flight instruments glowed a dull red. Both men were especially careful to watch their artificial horizon; a solid overcast denied them a fixed reference point aloft, and flying over water at night was mesmerizing. It was by no means an unusual mission, however. The pilots had done this many times, and their concern was not unlike that of an experienced driver on a slick road. The dangers were real, but routine.

  “Juliet 6, your target is bearing zero-eight-zero, range seventy-five miles,” the Sentry called in.

  “Thinks we're lost?” Commander John Marcks wondered over the intercom.

  “Air force,” his copilot replied. “They don't know much about flying over water. They think you get lost without roads to follow.”

  “Uh-huh,” Marcks chuckled. “Who do you like in the Eagles game tonight?”

  “Oilers by three and a half.”

  “Six and a half. Philly's fullback is still hurt.”

  “Five.”

  “Okay, five bucks. I'll go easy on you.” Marcks grinned. He loved to gamble. The day after Argentina had attacked the Falklands, he'd asked if anyone in the squadron wanted to take Argentina and seven points.

  A few feet above their heads and a few feet aft, the engines were racing at thousands of RPM, turning gears to drive the seven-bladed main rotor. They had no way of knowing that a fracture was developing in the transmission casing, near the fluid test port.

  “Juliet 6, your target has just launched a fighter to escort you in. Will rendezvous in eight minutes. Approaching you at eleven o'clock, angels three.”

  “Nice of them,” Marcks said.

  Harrier 2-0

  Lieutenant Parker was flying the Harrier that would escort the Super Stallion. A sublieutenant sat in the back seat of the Royal Navy aircraft. Its purpose was not actually to escort the chopper to the Invincible; it was to make a last check for any Soviet submarines that might notice the Super Stallion in flight and wonder what it was doing.

  “Any activity on the water?” Parker asked.

  “Not a glimmer.” The sublieutenant was working the FLIR package, which was sweeping left and right over their course track. Neither man knew what was going on, though both had speculated at length, incorrectly, on what it was that was chasing their carrier all over the bloody ocean.

  “Try looking for the helicopter,” Parker said.

  “One moment…… There. Just south of our track.” The sublieutenant pressed a button and the display came up on the pilot's screen. The thermal image was mainly of the engines clustered atop the aircraft inside the fainter, dull-green glow of the hot rotor tips.

  “Harrier 2-0, this is Sentry Echo. Your target is at your one o'clock, distance twenty miles, over.”

  “Roger, we have him on our IR box. Thank you, out,”

  Parker said. “Bloody useful things, those Sentries.”

  “The Sikorski's running for all she's worth. Look at that engine signature.”

  The Super Stallion

  At this moment the transmission casing fractured. Instantly the gallons of lubricating oil became a greasy cloud behind the rotor hub, and the delicate gears began to tear at one another. An alarm light flashed on the control panels. Marcks and the copilot instantly reached down to cut power to all three engines. There was not enough time. The transmission tried to freeze, but the power of the three engines tore it apart. What happened was the next thing to an explosion. Jagged pieces burst through the safety housing and ripped the forward part of the aircraft. The rotor's momentum twisted the Stallion savagely around, and it dropped rapidly. Two of the men in the back, who had loosened their seatbelts, jerked out of their seats and rolled forward.

  “MAYDAY MAYDAY MAYDAY, this is Juliet 6,” the copilot called. Commander Marcks' body slumped over the controls, a dark stain at the back of his neck. “We're goin' in, we're goin' in. MAYDAY MAYDAY MAYDAY.”

  The copilot was trying to do something. The main rotor was windmilling slowly - too slowly. The automatic decoupler that was supposed to allow it to autorotate and give him a vestige of control had failed. His controls were nearly useless, and he was riding the point of a blunt lance towards a black ocean. It was twenty seconds before they hit. He fought with his airfoil controls and tail rotor in order to jerk the aircraft around. He succeeded, but it was too late.

  Harrier 2-0

  It was not the first time Parker had seen men die. He had taken a life himself after sending a Sidewinder missile up the tailpipe of an Argentine Dagger fighter. That had not been pleasant. This was worse. As he watched, the Super Stallion's humpbacked engine cluster blew apart in a shower of sparks. There was no fire as such, for what good it did them. He watched and tried to will the nose to come up - and it did, but not enough. The Stallion hit the water hard. The fuselage snapped apart in the middle. The front end sank in an instant, but the after part wallowed for a few seconds like a bathtub before beginning to fill with water. According to the picture supplied by the FLER package, no one got clear before it sank.

  “Sentry, Sentry, did you see that, over?”

  “Roger that, Harrier. We're calling a SAR mission right now. Can you orbit?”

  “Roger, we can loiter here.” Parker checked his fuel. “Nine-zero minutes. I - stand by.” Parker nosed his fighter down and flicked on his landing lights. This lit up the low-light TV system. “Did you see that, Ian?” he asked his backseater.

  “I think it moved.”

  “Sentry, Sentry, we have a possible survivor in the water. Tell Invincible to get a Sea King down here straightaway. I'm going down to investigate. Will advise.”

  “Roger that, Harrier 2-0. Your captain reports a helo spooling up right now. Out.”

  The Royal Navy Sea King was there in twenty-five minutes. A rubber-suited paramedic jumped in the water to get a collar on the one survivor. There were no others, and no wreckage, only a slick of jet fuel evaporating slowly into the cold air. A second helicopter continued the search as the first raced back to the carrier.

  The Invincible

  Ryan watched from the bridge as the medics carried the stretcher into the island. Another crewman appeared a moment later with a briefcase.

  “He had this, sir. He's a lieutenant commander, name of Dwyer, one leg and several ribs broken. He's in a bad way, Admiral.”

  “Thank you.” White took the case. “Any possibility of other survivors?”

  The sailor shook his head. “Not a good one, sir. The Sikorski must have sunk like a stone.” He looked at Ryan. “Sorry, sir.”

  Ryan nodded. “Thanks.”

  “Norfolk on the radio, Admiral,” a communications officer said.

  “Let's go, Jack.” Admiral White handed him the briefcase and led him to the communications room.

  “The chopper went in. We have one survivor being worked on right now,” Ryan said over the radio. It was silent for a moment.

  “Who is it?”

  “Name's Dwyer. They took him right to sick bay, Admiral. He's out of action. Tell Washington. Whatever this operation is supposed to be, we have to rethink it.”

  “Roger. Out,” Admiral Blackburn said.

  “Whatever we decide to do,” Admiral White observed, “it will have to be fast. We must get our helo off to the Pigeon in two hours to have her back before dawn.”

  Ryan knew exactly what that would mean. There were only four men at sea who both knew what was going on and were close enough to do anything. He was the only American among them. The Kennedy was too far away. The Nimitz was close enough, but using her would mean getting the data to her by radio, and Washington was not enthusiastic about that. The only other alternative was to assemble and dispatch another intelligence team. There just wasn't enough time.

  “Let's get this case open, Admiral. I need to see what this plan is.” They picked up a machinist's mate on the way to White's cabin. He proved to be an excellent locksmith.

  “Dear God!” Ryan breathed, reading the contents of the case. “You better see this.”

  “Well,” White said a few minutes later, “that is clever.”

  “It's cute, all right,” Ryan said. “I wonder what genius thought it up. I know I'm going to be stuck with this. I'll ask Washington for permission to take a few officers along with me.”

  Ten minutes later they were back in communications. White had the compartment cleared. Then Jack spoke over the encrypted voice channel. Both hoped the scrambling device worked.

  “I hear you fine, Mr. President. You know what happened to the helicopter.”

  “Yes, Jack, most unfortunate. I need you to pinch-hit for us.”

  “Yes, sir, I anticipated that.”

  “I can't order you, but you know what the stakes are. Will you do it?”

  Ryan closed his eyes. “Affirmative.”

  “I appreciate it, Jack.”

  Sure you do. “Sir, I need your authorization to take some help with me, a few British officers.”

  “One,” the president said.

  “Sir, I need more than that.”

  “One.”

  “Understood, sir. We'll be moving in an hour.”

  “You know what's supposed to happen?”

  “Yes, sir. The survivor had the ops orders with him. I've already read them over.”

  “Good luck, Jack.”

  “Thank you, sir. Out.” Ryan flipped off the satellite channel and turned to Admiral White. “Volunteer once, just one time, and see what happens.”

  “Frightened?” White did not appear amused.

  “Damned right I am. Can I borrow an officer? A guy who speaks Russian if possible. You know what this may involve.”

  “We'll see. Come on.”

  Five minutes later they were back in White's cabin awaiting the arrival of four officers. All turned out to be lieutenants, all under thirty.

  “Gentlemen,” the admiral began, “this is Commander Ryan. He needs an officer to accompany him on a voluntary basis for a mission of some importance. Its nature is secret and most unusual, and there may be some danger involved. You four have been asked here because of your knowledge of Russian. That is all I can say.”

  “Going to talk to a Sov submarine?” the oldest of them chirped up. “I'm your man. I have a degree in the language, and my first posting was aboard HMS Dreadnought.”

  Ryan weighed the ethics of accepting the man before telling him what was involved. He nodded, and White dismissed the others.

  “I'm Jack Ryan.” He extended his hand.

  “Owen Williams. So, what are we up to?”

  “The submarine is named Red October - ”

  “Krazny Oktyabr.” Williams smiled.

  “And she's attempting to defect to the United States.”

  “Indeed? So that's what we've been mucking about for. Jolly decent of her CO. Just how certain are we of this?”

  Ryan took several minutes to detail the intelligence information. “We blinkered instructions to him, and he seems to have played along. But we won't know for sure until we get aboard. Defectors have been known to change their minds, it happens a lot more often than you might imagine. Still want to come along?”

  “Miss a chance like this? Exactly how do we get aboard, Commander?”

  “The name's Jack. I'm CIA, not navy.” He went on to explain the plan.

  “Excellent. Do I have time to pack some things?”

  “Be back here in ten minutes,” White said.

  “Aye aye, sir.” Williams drew to attention and left.

  White was on the phone. “Send Lieutenant Sinclair to see me.” The admiral explained that he was the commander of the Invincible's marine detachment. “Perhaps you might need another friend along.”

  The other friend was an FN nine-millimeter automatic pistol with a spare clip and a shoulder holster that disappeared nicely under his jacket. The mission orders were shredded and burned before they left.

  Admiral White accompanied Ryan and Williams to the flight deck. They stood at the hatch, looking at the Sea King as its engines screeched into life.

  “Good luck, Owen.” White shook hands with the youngster, who saluted and moved off.

  “My regards to your wife, Admiral.” Ryan took his hand.

  “Five and a half days to England. You'll probably see her before I do. Be careful, Jack.”

  Ryan smiled crookedly. “It's my intelligence estimate, isn't it? If I'm right, it'll just be a pleasure cruise - assuming the helicopter doesn't crash on me.”

  “The uniform looks good on you, Jack.”

  Ryan hadn't expected that. He drew himself to attention and saluted as he'd been taught at Quantico. 'Thank you, Admiral. Be seeing you.“

  White watched him enter the chopper. The crew chief slid the door shut, and a moment later the Sea King's engines increased power. The helicopter lifted unevenly for a few feet before its nose dipped to port and began a climbing turn to the south. Without flying lights the dark shape was lost to sight in less than a minute.

  33N 75W

  The Scamp rendezvoused with the Ethan Alien a few minutes after midnight. The attack sub took up station a thousand yards astern of the old missile boat, and bom cruised in an easy circle as their sonar operators listened to the approach of a diesel-powered vessel, the USS Pigeon. Three of the pieces were now in place. Three more were to come.

  The Red October

  “There is no choice,” Melekhin said. “I must continue to work on the diesel.”

  “Let us help you,” Svyadov said.

  “And what do you know of diesel fuel pumps?” Melekhin asked in a tired but kind voice. “No, Comrade. Surzpoi, Bugayev, and I can handle it alone. There is no reason to expose you also. I will report back in an hour.”

  “Thank you, Comrade.” Ramius clicked the speaker off. “This cruise has been a troublesome one. Sabotage. Never in my career has something like this happened! If we cannot fix the diesel…… We have only a few hours more of battery power, and the reactor requires a total overhaul and safety inspection. I swear to you, Comrades, if we find the bastard who did this to us……”

  “Shouldn't we call for help?” Ivanov asked.

  “This close to the American coast, and perhaps an imperialist submarine still on our tail? What sort of 'help' might we get, eh? Comrades, perhaps our problem is no accident, have you considered that? Perhaps we have become pawns in a murderous game.” He shook his head. “No, we cannot risk this. The Americans must not get their hands on this submarine!”

  CIA Headquarters

  “Thank you for coming on such short notice, Senator. I apologize for getting you up so early.” Judge Moore met Donaldson at the door and led him into his capacious office. “You know Director Jacobs, don't you?”

  “Of course, and what brings the heads of the FBI and CIA together at dawn?” Donaldson asked with a smile. This had to be good. Heading the Select Committee was more than a job, it was fun, real fun to be one of the few people who were really in the know.

  The third person in the room, Ritter, helped a fourth person out of a high-backed chair that had blocked him from view. It was Peter Henderson, Donaldson saw to his surprise. His aide's suit was rumpled as though he'd been up all night. Suddenly it wasn't fun anymore.

  Judge Moore waxed solicitous. “You know Mr. Henderson, of course.”

  “What is the meaning of this?” Donaldson asked, his voice more subdued than anyone expected.

  “You lied to me, Senator,” Ritter said. “You promised that you would not reveal what I told you yesterday, knowing all the time you'd tell this man - ”

  “I did no such thing.”

  “ - who then told a fellow KGB agent,” Ritter went on. “Emil?”

  Jacobs set his coffee down. “We've been onto Mr. Henderson for some time. It was his contact that had us stumped. Some things are just too obvious. A lot of people in D.C. have regular cab pickup. Henderson's contact was a cab driver. We finally got it right.”

  “The way we found out about Henderson was through you, Senator.” Moore explained: “We had a very good agent in Moscow a few years ago, a colonel in their Strategic Rocket Forces. He'd been giving us good information for five years, and we were about to get him and his family out. We try to do that, you know; you can't run agents forever, and we really owed this man. But I made the mistake of revealing his name to your committee. One week later, he was gone - vanished.

  He was eventually shot, of course. His wife and three daughters were sent to Siberia. Our information is that they live in a lumber settlement east of the Urals. Typical sort of place, no plumbing, lousy food, no medical facilities available, and since they're the family of a convicted traitor, you can probably imagine what sort of hell they must endure. A good man dead, and a family destroyed. Try t

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