Book: Debt of Honor

Debt of Honor


Tom Clancy

For Mom and Dad

A man's character is his fate.



Carter and Wox for the procedures,

Russ, again, for the physics,

Tom, Paul, and Bruce for the world's best cartography,

Keith for the airman's perspective on it,

Tony for the attitude,

Piola and her friends on Saipan for local color,

And Sandy for one hell of a ride in a snake.

Prologue Sunset, Sunrise.

In retrospect, it would seem an odd way to start a war. Only one of the participants knew what was really happening, and even that was a coincidence. The property settlement had been moved up on the calendar due to a death in the attorney's family, and so the attorney was scheduled for a red-eye flight, two hours from now, to Hawaii.

It was Mr. Yamata's first property closing on American soil. Though he owned many properties in the continental United States, the actual title transfer had always been handled by other attorneys, invariably American citizens, who had done precisely what they had been paid to do, generally with oversight by one of Mr. Yamata's employees. But not this time.

There were several reasons for it. One was that the purchase was personal and not corporate. Another was that it was close, only two hours by private jet from his home. Mr. Yamata had told the settlement attorney that the property would be used for a weekend getaway house. With the astronomical price of real estate in Tokyo, he could buy several hundred acres for the price of a modestly large penthouse apartment in his city of residence.

The view from the house he planned to build on the promontory would be breathtaking, a vista of the blue Pacific, other islands of the Marianas Archipelago in the distance, air as clean as any on the face of the earth. For all those reasons Mr. Yamata had offered a princely fee, and done so with a charming smile.

And for one reason more.

The various documents slid clockwise around the circular table, stopping at each chair so that signatures could be affixed at the proper place, marked with yellow Post-It notes, and then it was time for Mr. Yamala to reach into his coat pocket and withdraw an envelope. He took out the check and handed it to the attorney.

"Thank you, sir," the lawyer said in a respectful voice, as Americans always did when money was on the table. It was remarkable how money made them do anything. Until three years before, the purchase of land here by a Japanese citizen would have been illegal, but the right lawyer, and the right case, and the right amount of money had fixed that, too. "The title transfer will be recorded this afternoon."

Yamata looked at the seller with a polite smile and a nod, then he rose and left the building. A car was waiting outside. Yamata got in the front passenger seat and motioned peremptorily for the driver to head off. The settlement was complete, and with it the need for charm.

Like most Pacific islands, Saipan is of volcanic origin. Immediately to the east is the Marianas Trench, a chasm fully seven miles deep where one geological plate dives under another. The result is a collection of towering cone-shaped mountains, of which the islands themselves are merely the tips. The Toyota Land Cruiser followed a moderately smooth road north, winding around Mount Achugao and the Mariana Country Club toward Marpi Point. There it stopped.

Yamata alighted from the vehicle, his gaze resting on some farm structures that would soon be erased, but instead of walking to the building site for his new house, he headed toward the rocky edge of the cliff. Though a man in his early sixties, his stride was strong and purposeful as he moved across the uneven field. If it had been a farm, then it had been a poor one, he saw, inhospitable to life. As this place had been, more than once, and from more than one cause.

His face was impassive as he reached the edge of what the locals called Banzai Cliff. An onshore wind was blowing, and he could see and hear the waves marching in their endless ranks to smash against the rocks at the base of the cliff—the same rocks that had smashed the bodies of his parents and siblings after they, and so many others, had jumped off to evade capture by the advancing U.S. Marines. The sight had horrified the Marines, but Mr. Yamata would never appreciate or acknowledge that.

The businessman clapped his hands once and bowed his head, both to call the attention of the lingering spirits to his presence and to show proper obeisance to their influence over his destiny. It was fitting, he thought, that his purchase of this parcel of land now meant that 50.016% of the real estate on Saipan was again in Japanese hands, more than fifty years since his family's death at American hands.

He felt a sudden chill, and ascribed it to the emotion of the moment, or perhaps the nearness of his ancestors' spirits. Though their bodies had been swept away in the endless surf, surely their kami had never left this place, and awaited his return. He shuddered, and buttoned his coat. Yes, he'd build here, but only after he'd done what was necessary first.

First, he had to destroy.

It was one of those perfect moments, half a world away. The driver came smoothly back, away from the ball, in a perfect arc, stopped for the briefest of moments, then accelerated back along the same path, downward now, gaining speed as it fell. The man holding the club shifted his weight from one leg to the other. At the proper moment, his hands turned over as they should, which caused the club head to rotate around the vertical axis, so that when the head hit the ball it was exactly perpendicular to the intended flight path. The sound told the tale—a perfect tink (it was a metal-headed driver). That, and the tactile impulse transmitted through the graphite shaft told the golfer everything he needed to know. He didn't even have to look. The club finished its follow-through path before the man's head turned to track the night of the ball.

Unfortunately, Ryan wasn't the one holding the club.

Jack shook his head with a rueful grin as he bent to tee up his ball. "Nice hit. Robby."

Rear Admiral (lower half) Robert Jefferson Jackson, USN, held his pose, his aviator's eyes watching the ball start its descent, then bounce on the fairway about two hundred fifty yards away. The bounces carried it another thirty or so. He didn't speak until it stopped, dead center. "I meant to draw it a little."

"Life's a bitch, ain't it?" Ryan observed, as he went through his setup ritual. Knees bent, back fairly straight, head down but not too much, the grip, yes, that's about right. He did everything the club pro had told him the previous week, and the week before that, and the week…bringing the club back…and down…

…and it wasn't too bad, just off the fairway to the right, a hundred eighty yards, the best first-tee drive he'd hit in…forever. And approximately the same distance with his driver that Robby would have gotten with a firm seven-iron. About the only good news was that it was only 7:45 A.M., and there was nobody around to share his embarrassment.

At least you cleared the water.

"Been playing how long, Jack?"

"Two whole months."

Jackson grinned as he headed down to where the cart was parked. "I started in my second year at Annapolis. I have a head start, boy. Hell, enjoy the day."

There was that. The Greenbrier is set among the mountains of West Virginia. A retreat that dates back to the late eighteenth century, on this October morning the while mass of the main hotel building was trained with yellows and scarlets as the hardwood trees entered their yearly cycle of autumn fire.

"Well, I don't expect to beat you," Ryan allowed as he sat down in the cart.

A turn, a grin. "You won't. Just thank God you're not working today, Jack. I am."

Neither man was in the vacation business, as much as each needed it, nor was either man currently satisfied with success. For Robby it meant a flag desk in the Pentagon. For Ryan, much to his surprise even now, it had been a return to the business world instead of to the academic slot that he'd wanted—or at least thought he'd wanted—standing there in Saudi Arabia, two and a half years before. Perhaps it was the action, he thought—had he become addicted to it? Jack asked himself, selecting a three-iron. It wouldn't be enough club to make the green, but he hadn't learned fairway woods yet. Yeah, it was the action he craved even more than his occasional escape from it.

"Take your time, and don't try to kill it. The ball's already dead, okay?"

"Yes, sir, Admiral, sir," Jack replied.

"Keep your head down. I'll do the watching."

"All right, Robbie." The knowledge that Robbie would not laugh at him, no matter how bad the shot, was somehow worse than the suspicion that he might. On last reflection, he stood a little straighter before swinging. His reward was a welcome sound: Swat. The ball was thirty yards away before his head came up to see it, still heading left…but already showing a fade back to the right.


"Yeah," Ryan answered without turning his head.

"Your three-iron," Jackson said chuckling, his eyes computing the flight path. "Don't change anything. Do it just like that, every time."

Somehow Jack managed to put his iron back in the bag without trying to wrap the shaft around his friend's head. He started laughing when the cart moved again, up the right-side rough toward Robby's ball, the single white spot on the green, even carpet.

"Miss flying?" he asked gently.

Robby looked at him. "You play dirty, too," he observed. But that was just the way things went. He'd finished his last flying job, screened for flag, then been considered for the post of commander of the Naval Aviation Test Center at Naval Air Station, Patuxent River, Maryland, where his real title would have been Chief Test Pilot, U.S. Navy. But instead Jackson was working in J-3, the operations directorate for the Joint Chiefs of Staff. War Plans, an odd slot for a warrior in a world where war was becoming a thing of the past. It was more career-enhancing, but far less satisfying than the flying billet he'd really wanted. Jackson tried to shrug it off. He'd done his flying, after all. He'd started in Phantoms and graduated to Tomcats, commanded his squadron, and a carrier air wing, then screened early for flag rank on the basis of a solid and distinguished career during which he'd never put a foot wrong. His next job, if he got it, would be as commander of a carrier battle group, something that had once seemed to him a goal beyond the grasp of Fortune itself. Now that he was there, he wondered where all the time had gone, and what lay ahead. "What happens when we get old?"

"Some of us take up golf, Rob."

"Or go back to stocks and bonds," Jackson countered. An eight-iron, he thought, a soft one. Ryan followed him to his ball.

"Merchant banking," Jack proffered. "It's worked out for you, hasn't it?"

That made the aviator—active or not, Robby would always be a pilot to himself and his friends—look up and grin. "Well, you turned my hundred thou' into something special, Sir John." With that, he took his shot. It was one way to get even. The ball landed, bounced, and finally stopped about twenty feet from the pin.

"Enough to buy me lessons?"

"You sure as hell need 'em." Robby paused and allowed his face to change. "A lot of years, Jack. We changed the world." And that was a good thing, wasn't it?

"After a fashion," Jack conceded with a tight smile. Some people called it an end to history, but Ryan's doctorate was in that field, and he had trouble with the thought.

"You really like it, what you're doing now?"

"I'm home every night, usually before six. I get to see all the Little League games in the summer, and most of the soccer games in the fall. And when Sally's ready for her first date, I won't be in some goddamned VC-20B halfway to nowhere for a meeting that doesn't mean much of anything anyway." Jack smiled in a most comfortable way. "And I think I prefer that even to playing good golf."

"Well, that's a good thing, 'cuz I don't even think Arnold Palmer can fix your swing. But I'll try," Robby added, "just because Cathy asked me to."

Jack's pitch was too strong, forcing him to chip back onto the green—badly—where three putts carded him a seven to Robby's par four.

"A golfer who plays like you should swear more," Jackson said on the way to the second tee. Ryan didn't have a chance for a rejoinder. He had a beeper on his belt, of course. It was a satellite beeper, the kind that could get you almost anywhere. Tunnels under mountains or bodies of water offered some protection, but not much. Jack plucked it off his belt. It was probably the Silicon Alchemy deal, he thought, even though he'd left instructions. Maybe someone had run out of paper clips. He looked at the number on the LCD display.

"I thought your home office was New York," Robby noted. The area code on the display was 202, not the 212 Jack had expected to see.

"It is. I can teleconference most of my work out of Baltimore, but at least once a week I have to catch the Metroliner up there." Ryan frowned. 757-5000. The White House Signals Office. He checked his watch. It was 7:55 in the morning, and the time announced the urgency of the call more clearly than anything else could. It wasn't exactly a surprise, though, was it? he asked himself. Not with what he'd been reading in the papers every day. The only thing unexpected was the timing. He'd expected the call much sooner.

He walked to the cart and the golf bag, where he kept his cellular phone. It was the one thing in the bag, actually, that he knew how to use.

It took only three minutes, as an amused Robby waited in the cart. Yes, he was at The Greenbrier. Yes, he knew that there was an airport not too far from there. Four hours? Less than an hour out and back, no more than an hour at his destination. Back in time for dinner. He'd even have time to finish his round of golf, shower, and change before he left, Jack told himself, folding the phone back up and dropping it in the pocket of the golf bag. That was one advantage of the world's best chauffeur service. The problem was that once they had you, they never liked to let go. The convenience of it was designed only to make it a more comfortable mode of confinement. Jack shook his head as he stood at the tee, and his distraction had a strange effect. The drive up the second fairway landed on the short grass, two hundred ten yards downrange, and Ryan walked back to the cart without a single word, wondering what he'd tell Cathy.

The facility was brand-new and spotless, but there was something obscene about it, the engineer thought. His countrymen hated fire, but they positively loathed the class of object that this room was designed to fabricate. He couldn't shake it off. It was like the buzz of an insect in the room—unlikely, since every molecule of the air in this clean-room had gone through the best filtration system his country could devise. His colleagues' engineering excellence was a source of pride to this man, especially since he was among the best of them. It would be that pride that sustained him, he knew, dismissing the imaginary buzz as he inspected the fabrication machinery. After all, if the Americans could do it, and the Russians, and the English, and the French, and the Chinese, and even the Indians and Pakistanis, then why not them? There was a symmetry to it, after all.

In another part of the building, the special material was being roughly shaped even now. Purchasing agents had spent quite some time acquiring the unique components. There were precious few. Most had been made elsewhere, but some had been made in his country for use abroad. They had been invented for one purpose, then adapted for others, but the possibility had always existed—distant but real—that the original application beckoned. It had become an institutional joke for the production people in the various corporations, something not to take seriously.

Maybe they'd take it seriously now, the engineer thought. He switched off the lights and pulled the door shut behind him. He had a deadline to meet, and he would start today, after only a few hours of sleep.

Even as often as he'd been here, Ryan had never lost his mystical appreciation for the place, and today's manner of arrival hadn't been contrived to make him look for the ordinary. A discreet call to his hotel had arranged for the drive to the airport. The aircraft had been waiting, of course, a twin-prop harness bird sitting at the far end of the ramp, ordinary except for the USAF markings and the fact that the flight crew had been dressed in olive-green Nomex. Friendly smiles, again of course, deferential. A sergeant to make sure he knew how to use the seat belt, and the perfunctory discussion of safety and emergency procedures. The look-back from the pilot who had a schedule to meet, and off they went, with Ryan wondering where the briefing papers were, and sipping a U.S. Air Force Coca-Cola. Wishing he'd changed into his good suit, and remembering that he had deliberately decided not to do so. Stupid, beneath himself. Flight time of forty-seven minutes, and a direct approach into Andrews. The only thing they left out was the helicopter ride in from Andrews, but that would only have attracted attention.

Met by a deferential Air Force major who'd walked him over to a cheap official car and a quiet driver, Ryan settled back in his seat and closed his eyes while the major took the front seat. He tried to nap. He'd seen Suitland Parkway before, and knew the route by heart. Suitland Parkway to I-295, immediately off that and onto I-395, take the Maine Avenue Exit. The time of day, just after lunch, guaranteed rapid progress, and sure enough, the car stopped at the guard shack on West Executive Drive, where the guard, most unusually, just waved them through. The canopied entrance to the White House basement level beckoned, as did a familiar face.

"Hi, Arnie." Jack held his hand out to the President's chief of staff. Arnold van Damm was just too good, and Roger Durling had needed him to help with the transition. Soon enough President Durling had measured his senior staffer against Arnie, and found his own man wanting. He hadn't changed much, Ryan saw. The same L. L. Bean shirts, and the same rough honesty on his face, but Arnie was older and tireder than before. Well, who wasn't?

"The last time we talked here, you were kicking me loose," Jack said next, to get a quick read on the situation.

"We all make mistakes, Jack."

Uh-oh. Ryan went instantly on guard, but the handshake pulled him through the door anyway. The Secret Service agents on post had a pass all ready for him, and things went smoothly until he set off the metal detector.

Ryan handed over his hotel room key and tried again, hearing yet another ping. The only other metal on his body except for his watch turned out to be his divot tool.

"When did you take up golf.'" van Damm asked with a chuckle that matched the expression of the nearest agent.

"Nice to know you haven't been following me around. Two months, and I haven't broken one-ten yet."

The chief of staff waved Ryan to the hidden stairs to the left. "You know why they call it 'golf'?"

"Yeah, because 'shit' was already taken." Ryan stopped on the landing.

"What gives, Arnie?"

"I think you know," was all the answer he got.

"Hello, Dr. Ryan!" Special Agent Helen D'Agustino was as pretty as ever, and still part of the Presidential Detail. "Please come with me."

The presidency is not a job calculated to bring youth to a man. Roger Durling had once been a paratrooper who'd climbed hills in the Central Highlands of Vietnam, he was still a jogger, and reportedly liked to play squash to keep fit, but for all that he looked a weary man this afternoon. More to the point, Jack reflected quickly, he'd come straight in to see the President, no waiting in one of the many anterooms, and the smiles on the faces he'd seen on the way in carried a message of their own. Durling rose with a speed intended to show his pleasure at seeing his guest. Or maybe something else.

"How's the brokerage business, Jack?" The handshake that accompanied the question was dry and hard, but with an urgency to it.

"It keeps me busy, Mr. President."

"Not too busy. Golf in West Virginia?" Durling asked, waving Ryan to a seat by the fireplace. "That'll be all," he told the two Secret Service agents who'd followed Ryan in. "Thank you."

"My newest vice, sir," Ryan said, hearing the door close behind him. It was unusual to be so close to the Chief Executive without the protective presence of Secret Service guards, especially since he had been so long out of government service.

Durling took his seat, and leaned back into it. His body language showed vigor, the kind that emanated from the mind rather than the body. It was time to talk business. "I could say I'm sorry to interrupt your vacation, but I won't," the President of the United States told him. "You've had a two-year vacation, Dr. Ryan. It's over now."

Two years. For the first two months of it, he'd done exactly nothing, pondered a few teaching posts in the sanctity of his study, watched his wife leave early every morning for her medical practice at Johns Hopkins, fixed the kids' school lunches and told himself how wonderful it was to relax. It had taken those two months before he'd admitted to himself that the absence of activity was more stressful than anything he'd ever done. Only three interviews had landed him a job back in the investment business, enabled him to race his wife out of the house each morning, and bitch about the pace—and just maybe prevent himself from going insane. Along the way he'd made some money, but even that, he admitted to himself, had begun to pall. He still hadn't found his place, and wondered if he ever really would.

"Mr. President, the draft ended a lot of years ago," Jack offered with a smile. It was a flippant observation, and one he was ashamed of even as he spoke it.

"You've said 'no' to your country once." The rebuke put an end to the smiles. Was Durling that stressed-out? Well, he had every right to be, and with the stress had come impatience, which was surprising in a man whose main function for the public was being pleasant and reassuring. But Ryan was not part of the public, was he?

"Sir, I was burned out then. I don't think I would have been—"

"Fine. I've seen your file, all of it," Durling added. "I even know that I might not be here now except for what you did down in Colombia a few years ago. You've served your country well, Dr. Ryan, and now you've had your time off, and you've played the money game some more—rather well, it would seem—and now it's time to come back."

"What post, sir?" Jack asked.

"Down the hall and around the corner. The last few residents haven't distinguished themselves there," Durling noted. Cutter and Elliot had been bad enough. Durling's own National Security Advisor had simply not been up to the task. His name was Tom Loch, and he was on the way out, the morning paper had told Ryan. It would seem that the press had it right for once. "I'm not going to beat around the bush. We need you. I need you."

"Mr. President, that's a very flattering statement, but the truth of the matter is—"

"The truth of the matter is that I have too much of a domestic agenda, and the day only has twenty-four hours, and my administration has fumbled the hall too many times. In the process we have not served the country as well as we should have. I can't say that anywhere but inside this room, but I can and must say it here. State is weak. Defense is weak."

"Fiedler in Treasury is excellent," Ryan allowed. "And if you want advice about State, move Scott Adler up. He's young, but he's very good on process and pretty good on vision."

"Not without good oversight from this building, and I don't have the time for that. I will pass your approbation on to Buzz Fiedler," Durling added with a smile.

"He's a brilliant technician, and that's what you need across the street. If you're going to catch the inflation, for God's sake, do it now—"

"And take the political heat," Durling said. "That's exactly what his orders are. Protect the dollar and hammer inflation down to zero. I think he can do it. The initial signs are promising."

Ryan nodded. "I think you're right." Okay, get on with it.

Durling handed over the briefing book. "Read."

"Yes, sir." Jack flipped open the binder's cover, and kept flipping past the usual stiff pages that warned of all manner of legal sanctions for revealing what he was about to read. As usual, the information United States Code protected wasn't all that different from what any citizen could get in Time, but it wasn't as well written. His right hand reached out for a coffee cup, annoyingly not the handleless mug he preferred. The White House china was long on elegance but short on practicality. Coming here was always like visiting a particularly rich boss. So many of the appointments were just a little too—

"I know about some of this, but I didn't know it was this…interesting," Jack murmured.

"'Interesting'?" Durling replied with an unseen smile. "That's a nice choice of words."

"Mary Pat's the Deputy Director of Operations now?" Ryan looked up to see the curt nod.

"She was in here a month ago to plead her case for upgrading her side of the house. She was very persuasive. Al Trent just got the authorization through committee yesterday."

Jack chuckled. "Agriculture or Interior this time?" That part of CIA's budget was almost never in the open. The Directorate of Operations always got part of its funding through legerdemain.

"Health and Human Services, I think."

"But it'll still be two or three years before—"

"I know." Durling fidgeted in his seat. "Look, Jack, if it mattered to you that much, then why—"

"Sir, if you've read through my file, you know why." Dear God, Jack wanted to say, how much am I expected to— But he couldn't, not here, not to this man, and so he didn't. Instead he went back into the briefing book, flipping pages, and read as rapidly as comprehension permitted.

"I know, it was a mistake to downplay the human-intelligence side of the house. Trent and Fellows said so. Mrs. Foley said so. You can get overloaded in this office, Jack."

Ryan looked up and almost smiled until he saw the President's face. There was a tiredness around the eyes that Durling was unable to conceal. But then Durling saw the expression on Jack's own face.

"When can you start?" the President of the United States asked.

The engineer was back, flipping on the lights and looking at his machine tools. His supervisory office was almost all glass, and elevated slightly so that he could see all the activity in the shop with no more effort than a raised head. In a few minutes his staff would start arriving, and his presence in the office earlier than any of the team—in a country where showing up two hours early was the norm—would set the proper tone. The first man arrived only ten minutes later, hung up his coat, and headed to the far corner to start the coffee. Not tea, both men thought at the same time. Surprisingly Western. The others arrived in a bunch, both resentful and envious of their colleague, because they all noticed that the chief's office was lit and occupied.

A few exercised at their worktables, both to loosen themselves up and to show their devotion. At start-time minus two hours, the chief walked out of his office and called for his team to gather around for the first morning's talk about what they were doing. They all knew, of course, but they had to be told any way. It took ten minutes, and with that done, they all went to work. And this was not at all a strange way for a war to begin.

Dinner was elegant, served in the enormous high-ceilinged dining room to the sound of piano, violin, and the occasional ting of crystal. The table chater was ordinary, or so it seemed to Jack as he sipped his dinner wine and worked his way through the main course. Sally and little Jack were doing well at school, and Kathleen would turn two in another month, as she toddled around the house at Peregrine Cliff, the dominating and assertive apple of her father's eye, and the terror of her day-care center. Robby and Sissy, childless despite all their efforts, were surrogate aunt and uncle to the Ryan trio, and took as much pride in the brood as Jack and Cathy did. There was a sadness to it, Jack thought, but those were the breaks, and he wondered if Sissy still cried about it when alone in bed, Robby off on a job somewhere. Jack had never had a brother. Robby was closer than a brother could ever have been, and his friend deserved better luck. And Sissy, well, she was just an angel.

"I wonder how the office is doing."

"Probably conjuring up a plan for the invasion of Bangladesh," Jack said, looking up and reentering the conversation.

"That was last week," Jackson said with a grin.

"How do they manage without us?" Cathy wondered aloud, probably worrying about a patient.

"Well, concert season doesn't start for me until next month," Sissy observed.

"Mmmm," Ryan noted, looking back down at his plate, wondering how he was going to break the news.

"Jack, I know," Cathy finally said. "You're not good at hiding it."


"She asked where you were," Robby said from across the table. "A naval officer can't lie."

"Did you think I'd be mad?" Cathy asked her husband.


"You don't know what he's like," Cathy told the others. "Every morning, gets his paper and grumbles. Every night, catches the news and grumbles. Every Sunday, watches the interview shows and grumhles. Jack," she said quietly, "do you think I could ever stop doing surgery?"

"Probably not, but it's not the same—"

"No, it's not, but it's the same for you. When do you start?" Caroline Ryan asked.


There was a university somewhere in the Midwest, Jack had once heard on the radio, which had an instrument package designed to go inside a tornado.

Each spring, graduate students and a professor or two staked out a likely swath of land, and on spotting a tornado, tried to set the instrument package, called "Toto"—what else?—directly in the path of the onrushing storm. So far they had been unsuccessful. Perhaps they'd just picked the wrong place, Ryan thought, looking out the window to the leafless trees in Lafayette Park.

The office of the President's National Security Advisor was surely cyclonic enough for anyone's taste, and, unfortunately, much easier for people to enter.

"You know," Ryan said, leaning back in his chair, "it was supposed to be a lot simpler than this." And I thought it would be, he didn't add.

"The world had rules before," Scott Adler pointed out. "Now it doesn't."

"How's the President been doing, Scott?"

"You really want the truth?" Adler asked, meaning, We are in the White House, remember? and wondering if there really were tape machines covering this room. "We screwed up the Korean situation, but we lucked out. Thank God we didn't screw up Yugoslavia that badly, because there just isn't any luck to be had in that place. We haven't been handling Russia very well. The whole continent of Africa's a dog's breakfast. About the only thing we've done right lately was the trade treaty—"

"And that doesn't include Japan and China," Ryan finished for him.

"Hey, you and I fixed the Middle East, remember? That's working out fairly nicely."

"Hottest spot right now?" Ryan didn't want praise for that. The "success" had developed some very adverse consequences, and was the prime reason he had left government service.

"Take your pick," Adler suggested. Ryan grunted agreement.


"Hanson? Politician," replied the career foreign-service officer. And a proud one at that, Jack reminded himself. Adler had started off at State right after graduating number one in his Fletcher School class, then worked his way up the career ladder through all the drudgery and internal politics that had together claimed his first wife's love and a good deal of his hair. It had to be love of country that kept him going, Jack knew. The son of an Auschwitz survivor, Adler cared about America in a way that few could duplicate. Better still, his love was not blind, even now that his current position was political and not a career rank. Like Ryan, he served at the pleasure of the President, and still he'd had the character to answer Jack's questions honestly.

"Worse than that," Ryan went on for him. "He's a lawyer. They always get in the way."

"The usual prejudice," Adler observed with a smile, then applied some of his own analytical ability. "You have something running, don't you?"

Ryan nodded. "A score to settle. I have two good guys on it now."

The task combined oil-drilling and mining, to be followed by exquisitely line finishing work, and it had to be performed on time. The rough holes were almost complete. It had not been easy drilling straight down into the basaltic living rock on the valley even one time, much less ten, each one of the holes fully forty meters deep and ten across. A crew of nine hundred men working in three rotating shifts had actually beaten the official schedule by two weeks, despite the precautions. Six kilometers of rail had been laid from the nearest Shin-Kansen line, and for every inch of it the catenary towers normally erected to carry the overhead electrical lines instead were the supports for four linear miles of camouflage netting.

The geological history of this Japanese valley must have been interesting, the construction superintendent thought. You didn't see the sun until an hour or more after it rose, the slope was so steep to the east. No wonder that previous railway engineers had looked at the valley and decided to build elsewhere. The narrow gorge—in places not even ten meters across at its base—had been cut by a river, long since dammed, and what remained was essentially a rock trench, like something left over from a war. Or in preparation for one, he thought. It was pretty obvious, after all, despite the fact that he'd never been told anything but to keep his mouth shut about the whole project. The only way out of this place was straight up or sideways. A helicopter could do the former, and a train could do the latter, but to accomplish anything else required tampering with the laws of ballistics, which was a very difficult task indeed.

As he watched, a huge Kiowa scoop-loader dumped another bucketload of crushed rock into a hopper car. It was the last car in the train's "consist," and soon the diesel switch engine would haul its collection of cars out to the mainline, where a standard-gauge electric locomotive would take over.

"Finished," the man told him, pointing down into the hole. At the bottom, a man held the end of a long tape measure. Forty meters exactly. The hole had been measured by laser already, of course, but tradition required that such measurements be tested by the human hand of a skilled worker, and there at the bottom was a middle-aged hard-rock miner whose face beamed with pride. And who had no idea what this project was all about.

"Hai," the superintendent said with a pleased nod, and then a more formal, gracious bow to the man at the bottom, which was dutifully and proudly returned. The next train in would carry an oversized cement mixer. The pre-assembled sets of rebar were already stacked around this hole—and, indeed, all the others, ready to be lowered. In finishing the first hole, this team had beaten its nearest competitor by perhaps six hours, and its furthest by no more than two days—irregularities in the subsurface rock had been a problem for Hole Number 6, and in truth they'd done well to catch up as closely as they were now. He'd have to speak to them, congratulate them for their Herculean effort, so as to mitigate their shame at being last. Team 6 was his best crew, and it was a pity that they'd been unlucky.

"Three more months, we will make the deadline," the site foreman said confidently.

"When Six is also finished, we will have a party for the men. They have earned it."

"This isn't much fun," Chavez observed.

"Warm, too," Clark agreed. The air-conditioning system on their Range Rover was broken, or perhaps it had died of despair. Fortunately, they had lots of bottled water.

"But it's a dry heat," Ding replied, as though it mattered at a hundred fourteen degrees. One could think in Celsius, instead, but that offered relief only as long as it took to take in another breath. Then you were reminded of the abuse that the superheated air had to be doing to your lungs, no matter how you kept score. He unscrewed the top from a plastic bottle of spring water, which was probably a frigid ninety-five, he estimated. Amazing how cool it tasted under the circumstances.

"Chilldown tonight, all the way to eighty, maybe."

"Good thing I brought my sweater, Mr. C." Chavez paused to wipe off some sweat before looking through the binoculars again. They were good ones, but they didn't help much, except to give a better view of the shimmering air that roiled like the surface of a stormy, invisible sea. Nothing lived out here except for the occasional vulture, and surely by now they had cleaned off the carcasses of everything that had once made the mistake of being born out here. And he'd once thought the Mojave Desert was bleak, Chavez told himself. At least coyotes lived there.

It never changed, Clark thought. He'd been doing jobs like this one for…thirty years? Not quite but close. Jesus, thirty years. He still hadn't had the chance to do it in a place where he could really fit in, but that didn't seem terribly important right now. Their cover was wearing thin. The back of the Rover was jammed with surveying equipment and boxes of rock samples, enough to persuade the local illiterates that there might be an enormous molybdenum deposit out there in that solitary mountain. The locals knew what gold looked like—who didn't?—but the mineral known affectionately to miners as Molly-be-damned was a mystery to the uninitiated in all but its market value, which was considerable. Clark had used the ploy often enough. A geological discovery offered people just the perfect sort of luck to appeal to their invariable greed. They just loved the idea of having something valuable sitting under their feet, and John Clark looked the part of a mining engineer, with his rough and honest face to deliver the good and very confidential news.

He checked his watch. The appointment was in ninety minutes, around sunset, and he'd shown up early, the better to check out the area. It was hot and empty, neither of which came as much of a surprise, and was located twenty miles from the mountain they would be talking about, briefly. There was a crossroads here, two tracks of beaten dirt, one mainly north-south, the other mainly east-west, both of which somehow remained visible despite the blowing sand and grit that ought to have covered up all traces of human presence. Clark didn't understand it. The years-long drought couldn't have helped, but even with occasional rain he had to wonder how the hell anyone had lived here. Yet some people had, and for all he knew, still did, when there was grass for their goats to eat…and no men with guns to steal the goats and kill the herdsmen. Mainly the two CIA field officers sat in their car, with the windows open, drank their bottled water, and sweated after they ran out of words to exchange.

The trucks showed up close to dusk. They saw the dust plumes first, like, the roostertails of motorboats, yellow in the diminishing light. In such an empty, desperate country, how was it possible that they knew how to make trucks run? Somebody knew how to keep them running, and that seemed very remarkable. Perversely, it meant that all was not lost for this desolate place. If bad men could do it, then good men could do it as well. And that was the reason for Clark and Chavez to be there, wasn't it?

The first truck was well in advance of the others. It was old, probably a military truck originally, though with all the body damage, the country of origin and the name of the manufacturer were matters of speculation. It circled their Rover at a radius of about a hundred meters, while the eyes of the crew checked them out at a discreet, careful distance, including one man on what looked like a Russian 12.7mm machine gun mounted in the back. "Policemen," their boss called them—once it was "technicals." After a while, they stopped, got out and just stood there, watching the Rover, holding their old, dirty, but probably functional AK rifles. The men would soon be less important. It was evening, after all, and the caq was out. Chavez watched a man sitting in the shade of his truck a hundred meters away, chewing on the weed.

"Can't the dumb sunzabitches at least smoke it?" the exasperated field officer asked the burning air in the car.

"Bad for the lungs, Ding. You know that." Their appointment for the evening made quite a living for himself by flying it in. In fact, roughly two fifths of the country's gross domestic product went into that trade, supporting a small fleet of aircraft that flew it in from Somalia. The fact offended both Clark and Chavez, but their mission wasn't about personal offense. It was about a long-standing debt. General Mohammed Abdul Corp—his rank had largely been awarded by reporters who didn't know what else to call him—had, once upon a time, been responsible for the deaths of twenty American soldiers. Two years ago, to be exact, far beyond the memory horizon of the media, because after he'd killed the American soldiers, he'd gone back to his main business of killing his own countrymen. It was for the latter cause that Clark and Chavez were nominally in the field, but justice had many shapes and many colors, and it pleased Clark to pursue a parallel agenda. That Corp was also a dealer in narcotics seemed a special gift from a good-humored God.

"Wash up before he gets here?" Ding asked, tenser now, and showing it just a little bit. All four men by the truck just sat there, chewing their caq and staring, their rifles lying across their legs, the heavy machine gun on the back of their truck forgotten now. They were the forward security element, such as it was, for their General.

Clark shook his head. "Waste of time."

"Shit, we've been here six weeks." All for one appointment. Well, that was how it worked, wasn't it?

"I needed to sweat off the five pounds," Clark replied with a tense smile of his own. Probably more than five, he figured. "These things take time to do right."

"I wonder how Patsy is doing in college?" Ding murmured as the next collection of dust plumes grew closer.

Clark didn't respond. It was distantly unseemly that his daughter found his field partner exotic and interesting…and charming, Clark admitted to himself. Though Ding was actually shorter than his daughter—Patsy took after her tall and rangy mom—and possessed of a decidedly checkered background, John had to allow for the fact that Chavez had worked as hard as anyone he'd ever known to make himself into something that life had tried very hard to deny him. The lad was thirty-one now. Lad? Clark asked himself. Ten years older than his little girl, Patricia Doris Clark. He could have said something about how they lived a rather crummy life in the field, but Ding would have replied that it was not his decision to make, and it wasn't. Sandy hadn't thought so either.

What Clark couldn't shake was the idea that his Patricia, his baby, might be sexually active with—Ding? The father part of him found the idea disturbing, but the rest of him had to admit that he'd had his own youth once. Daughters, he told himself, were God's revenge on you for being a man: you lived in mortal fear that they might accidentally encounter somebody like yourself at that age. In Patsy's case, the similarity in question was just too striking to accept easily.

"Concentrate on the mission, Ding."

"Roger that, Mr. C." Clark didn't have to turn his head. He could see the smile that had to be poised on his partner's face. He could almost feel it evaporate, too, as more dust plumes appeared through the shimmering air.

"We're gonna get you, motherfucker," Ding breathed, back to business and wearing his mission face again. It wasn't just the dead American soldiers. People like Corp destroyed everything they touched, and this part of the world needed a chance at a future. That chance might have come two years earlier, if the President had listened to his field commanders instead of the U.N. Well, at least he seemed to be learning, which wasn't bad for a President.

The sun was lower, almost gone now, and the temperature was abating. More trucks. Not too many more, they both hoped. Chavez shifted his eyes to the four men a hundred yards away. They were talking back and forth with a little animation, mellow from the caq. Ordinarily it would be dangerous to be around drug-sotted men carrying military weapons, but tonight danger was inverting itself, as it sometimes did. The second truck was clearly visible now, and it came up close. Both CIA officers got out of their vehicle to stretch, then to greet the new visitors, cautiously, of course.

The General's personal guard force of elite "policemen" was no better than the ones who had arrived before, though some of this group did wear unbuttoned shirts. The first one to come up to them smelled of whiskey, probably pilfered from the General's private stock. That was an affront to Islam, but then so was trafficking in drugs. One of the things Clark admired about the Saudis was their direct and peremptory method for processing that category of criminal.

"Hi." Clark smiled at the man. "I'm John Clark. This is Mr. Chavez. We've been waiting for the General, like you told us."

"What you carry?" the "policeman" asked, surprising Clark with his knowledge of English. John held up his bag of rock samples, while Ding showed his pair of electronic instruments. Alter a cursory inspection of the vehicle, they were spared even a serious frisking—a pleasant surprise.

Corp arrived next, with his most reliable security force, if you could call it that. They rode in a Russian ZIL-type jeep. The "General" was actually in a Mercedes that had once belonged to a government bureaucrat, before the government of this country had disintegrated. It had seen better times, but was still the best automobile in the country, probably. Corp wore his Sunday best, a khaki shirt outside the whipcord trousers, with something supposed to be rank insignia on the epaulets, and boots that had been polished sometime in the last week. The sun was just under the horizon now. Darkness would fall quickly, and the thin atmosphere of the high desert made for lots of visible stars even now.

The General was a gracious man, at least by his own lights. He walked over briskly, extending his hand. As he took it, Clark wondered what had become of the owner of the Mercedes. Most likely murdered along with the other members of the government. They'd died partly of incompetence, but mostly of barbarism, probably at the hands of the man whose firm and friendly hand he was now shaking.

"Have you completed your survey?" Corp asked, surprising Clark again with his grammar.

"Yes, sir, we have. May I show you?"

"Certainly." Corp followed him to the back of the Rover. Chavez pulled out a survey map and some satellite photos obtained from commercial sources.

"This may be the biggest deposit since the one in Colorado, and the purity is surprising. Right here." Clark extended a steel pointer and tapped it on the map.

"Thirty kilometers from where we are sitting…"

Clark smiled. "You know, as long as I've been in this business, it still surprises me how this happens. A couple of billion years ago, a huge bubble of the stuff must have just perked up from the center of the earth." His lecture was lyrical. He'd had lots of practice, and it helped that Clark read books on geology for recreation, borrowing the nicer phrases for his "pitch."

"Anyway," Ding, said, taking his cue a few minutes later, "the overburden is no problem at all, and we have the location fixed perfectly."

"How can you do that?" Corp asked. His country's maps were products of another and far more casual age.

"With this, sir." Ding handed it over.

"What is it?" the General asked.

"A GPS locator," Chavez explained. "It's how we find our way around, sir. You just push that button there, the rubber one."

Corp did just that, then held the large, thin green-plastic box up and watched the readout. First it gave him the exact time, then started to make its fix, showing that it had lock with one, then three, and finally four orbiting Global Positioning System satellites. "Such an amazing device," he said, though that wasn't the half of it. By pushing the button he had also sent out a radio signal. It was so easy to forget that they were scarcely a hundred miles from the Indian Ocean, and that beyond the visible horizon might be a ship with a flat deck. A largely empty deck at the moment, because the helicopters that lived there had lifted off an hour earlier and were now sitting at a secure site thirty-five miles to the south.

Corp took one more look at the GPS locator before handing it back.

"What is the rattle?" he asked as Ding took it.

"Battery pack is loose, sir," Chavez explained with a smile. It was their only handgun, and not a large one. The General ignored the irrelevancy and turned back to Clark.

"How much?" he asked simply.

"Well, determining the exact size of the deposit will require—"

"Money, Mr. Clark."

"Anaconda is prepared to offer you fifty million dollars, sir. We'll pay that in four payments of twelve and a half million dollars, plus ten percent of the gross profit from the mining operations. The advance fee and the continuing income will be paid in U.S. dollars."

"More than that. I know what molybdenum is worth." He'd checked a copy of The Financial Times on the way in.

"But it will take two years, closer to three, probably, to commence operations. Then we have to determine the best way to get the ore to the coast. Probably truck, maybe a rail line if the deposit is as big as I think it is. Our up-front costs to develop the operation will be on the order of three hundred million." Even with the labor costs here, Clark didn't have to add.

"I need more money to keep my people happy. You must understand that," Corp said reasonably. Had he been an honorable man, Clark thought, this could have been an interesting negotiation. Corp wanted the additional up-front money to buy arms in order to reconquer the country that he had once almost owned. The U.N. had displaced him, but not quite thoroughly enough. Relegated to dangerous obscurity in the bush, he had survived the last year by running caq into the cities, such as they were, and he'd made enough from the trade that some thought him to be a danger to the state again, such as it was. With new arms, of course, and control over the country, he would then renegotiate the continuing royalty for the molybdenum. It was a clever ploy, Clark thought, but obvious, having dreamed it up himself to draw the bastard out of his hole.

"Well, yes, we are concerned with the political stability of the region," John allowed, with an insider's smile to show that he knew the score. Americans were known for doing business all over the world, after all, or so Corp and others believed.

Chavez was fiddling with the GPS device, watching the LCD display. At the upper-right corner, a block went from clear to black. Ding coughed from the dust in the air and scratched his nose.

"Okay," Clark said. "You're a serious man, and we understand that. The fifty million can be paid up-front. Swiss account?"

"That is somewhat better," Corp allowed, taking his time. He walked around to the back of the Rover and pointed into the open cargo area. "These are your rock samples?"

"Yes, sir," Clark replied with a nod. He handed over a three-pound piece of stone with very high-grade Molly-be-damned ore, though it was from Colorado, not Africa. "Want to show it to your people?"

"What is this?" Corp pointed at two objects in the Rover.

"Our lights, sir." Clark smiled as he took one out. Ding did the same.

"You have a gun in there," Corp saw with amusement, pointing to a bolt-action rifle. Two of his bodyguards drew closer.

"This is Africa, sir. I was worried about—"

"Lions?" Corp thought that one pretty good. He turned and spoke to his "policemen," who started laughing amiably at the stupidity of the Americans. "We kill the lions," Corp told them after the laughter settled down. "Nothing lives out here."

Clark, the General thought, took it like a man, standing there, holding his light. It seemed a big light. "What is that for?"

"Well, I don't like the dark very much, and when we camp out, I like to take pictures at night."

"Yeah," Ding confirmed. "These things are really great." He turned and scanned the positions of the General's security detail. There were two groups, one of four, the other of six, plus the two nearby and Corp himself.

"Want me to take pictures of your people for you?" Clark asked without reaching for his camera.

On cue, Chavez flipped his light on and played it toward the larger of the two distant groups. Clark handled the three men close to the Rover. The "lights" worked like a charm. It took only about three seconds before both CIA officers could turn them off and go to work securing the men's hands.

"Did you think we forgot?" the CIA field officer asked Corp as the roar of rotary-wing aircraft became audible fifteen minutes later. By this time all twelve of Corp's security people were facedown in the dust, their hands bound behind them with the sort of plastic ties policemen use when they run out of cuffs. All the General could do was moan and writhe on the ground in pain. Ding cracked a handful of chemical lights and tossed them around in a circle downwind of the Rover. The first UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter circled carefully, illuminating the ground with lights.

"BIRD-DOG ONE, this is BAG MAN."

"Good evening, BAG MAN, BIRD-DOG ONE has the situation under control. Come on down!" Clark chuckled into the radio.

The first chopper down was well outside the lighted area. The Rangers appeared out of the shadows like ghosts, spaced out five meters apart, weapons low and ready.

"Clark?" a loud, very tense voice called.

"Yo!" John called back with a wave. "We got 'im."

A captain of Rangers came in. A young Latino face, smeared with camouflage paint and dressed in desert cammies. He'd been a lieutenant the last time he'd been on the African mainland, and remembered the memorial service for those he'd lost from his platoon. Bringing the Rangers back had been Clark's idea, and it had been easy to arrange. Four more men came in behind Captain Diego Checa. The rest of the squad dispersed to check out the "policemen."

"What about these two?" one asked, pointing to Corp's two personal bodyguards.

"Leave 'em," Ding replied.

"You got it, sir," a spec-4 replied, taking out steel cuffs and securing both pairs of wrists in addition to the plastic ties. Captain Checa cuffed Corp himself. He and a sergeant lifted the man off the ground while Clark and Chavez retrieved their personal gear from the Rover and followed the soldiers to the Blackhawk. One of the Rangers handed Chavez a canteen.

"Oso sends his regards," the staff sergeant said. Ding's head came around.

"What's he doing now?"

"First Sergeants' school. He's pissed that he missed this one. I'm Gomez, Foxtrot, Second of the One-Seventy-Fifth. I was here back then, too."

"You made that look pretty easy," Checa was telling Clark, a few feet away.

"Six weeks," the senior field officer replied in a studiously casual voice. The rules required such a demeanor. "Four weeks to bum around in the boonies, two weeks to set the meet up, six hours waiting for it to happen, and about ten seconds to take him down."

"Just the way it's supposed to be," Checa observed. He handed over a canteen filled with Gatorade. The Captain's eyes locked on the senior man. Whoever he was, Checa thought at first, he was far too old to play games in the boonies with the gomers. Then he gave Clark's eyes a closer look.

"How the fuck you do this, man?" Gomez demanded of Chavez at the door to the chopper. The other Rangers leaned in close to get the reply.

Ding glanced over at his gear and laughed. " Magic!"

Gomez was annoyed that his question hadn't been answered. "Leaving all these guys out here?"

"Yeah, they're just gomers." Chavez turned to look one last time. Sooner or later one would get his hands free—probably—retrieve a knife, and cut his fellow "policemen" free; then they could worry about the two with steel bracelets. "It's the boss we were after."

Gomez turned to scan the horizon. "Any lions or hyenas out here?"

Ding shook his head. Too bad, the sergeant thought.

The Rangers were shaking their heads as they strapped into their seats on the helicopter. As soon as they were airborne, Clark donned a headset and waited for the crew chief to set up the radio patch.

"CAPSTONE, this is BIRD DOG," he began.

The eight-hour time difference made it early afternoon in Washington. The UHF radio from the helicopter went to USS Tripoli, and then it was uplinked to a satellite. The Signals Office routed the call right into Ryan's desk phone.

"Yes, BIRD DOG, this is CAPSTONE."

Ryan couldn't quite recognize Clark's voice, but the words were readable through the static: "In the bag, no friendlies hurt. Repeat, the duck is in the bag and there are zero friendly casualties."

"I understand, BIRD DOG. Make your delivery as planned."

It was an outrage, really, Jack told himself as he set the phone back. Such operations were better left in the field, but the President had insisted this time. He rose from his desk and headed toward the Oval Office.

"Get'm?" D'Agustino asked as Jack hustled down the corridor.

"You weren't supposed to know."

"The Boss was worried about it," Helen explained quietly.

"Well, he doesn't have to worry anymore."

"That's one score that needed settling. Welcome back, Dr. Ryan."

The past would haunt one other man that day.

"Go on," the psychologist said.

"It was awful," the woman said, staring down at the floor. "It was the only time in my life it ever happened, and…" Though her voice droned on in a level, emotionless monotone, it was her appearance that disturbed the elderly woman most of all. Her patient was thirty-five, and should have been slim, petite, and blonde, but instead her face showed the puffiness of compulsive eating and drinking, and her hair was barely presentable. What ought to have been fair skin was merely pale, and reflected light like chalk, in a flat grainy way that even makeup would not have helped very much. Only her diction indicated what the patient once had been, and her voice recounted the events of three years before as though her mind was operating on two levels, one the victim, and the other an observer, wondering in a distant intellectual way if she had participated at all.

"I mean, he's who he is, and I worked for him, and I liked him…" The voice broke again. The woman swallowed hard and paused a moment before going on. "I mean, I admire him, all the things he does, all the things he stands for." She looked up, and it seemed so odd that her eyes were as dry as cellophane, reflecting light from a flat surface devoid of tears. "He's so charming, and caring, and—"

"It's okay, Barbara." As she often did, the psychologist fought the urge to reach out to her patient, but she knew she had to stay aloof, had to hide her own rage at what had happened to this bright and capable woman. It had happened at the hands of a man who used his status and power to draw women toward him as a light drew moths, ever circling his brilliance, spiraling in closer and closer until they were destroyed by it. The pattern was so like life in this city. Since then, Barbara had broken off from two men, each of whom might have been fine partners for what should have been a fine life. This was an intelligent woman, a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, with a master's degree in political science and a doctorate in public administration. She was not a wide-eyed secretary or summer intern, and perhaps had been all the more vulnerable because of it, able to become part of the policy team, knowing that she was good enough, if only she would do the one more thing to get her over the top or across the line, or whatever the current euphemism was on the Hill. The problem was, that line could be crossed only in one direction, and what lay beyond it was not so easily seen from the other side.

"You know, I would have done it anyway," Barbara said in a moment of brutal honesty. "He didn't have to—"

"Do you feel guilty because of that?" Dr. Clarice Golden asked. Barbara

Linders nodded. Golden stifled a sigh and spoke gently. "And you think you gave him the—"

"Signals." A nod. "That's what he said, 'You gave me all the signals.' Maybe I did."

"No, you didn't, Barbara. You have to go on now," Clarice ordered gently.

"I just wasn't in the mood. It's not that I wouldn't have done it, another time, another day, maybe, but I wasn't feeling well. I came into the office feeling fine that day, but I was coming down with the flu or something, and after lunch my stomach was queasy, and I thought about going home early, but it was the day we were doing the amendment on the civil-rights legislation that he sponsored, so I took a couple Tylenol for the fever, and about nine we were the only ones left in the office. Civil rights was my area of specialty," Linders explained. "I was sitting on the couch in his office, and he was walking around like he always does when he's formulating his ideas, and he was behind me. I remember his voice got soft and friendly, like, and he said, 'You have the nicest hair, Barbara' out of the blue, like, and I said, 'Thank you.' He asked how I was feeling, and I told him I was coming down with something, and he said he'd give me something he used—brandy," she said, talking more quickly now, as though she was hoping to get through this part as rapidly as possible, like a person fast-forwarding a videotape through the commercials. "I didn't see him put anything in the drink. He kept a bottle of Rémy in the credenza behind his desk, and something else, too, I think. I drank it right down.

"He just stood there, watching me, not even talking, just watching me, like he knew it would happen fast. It was like…I don't know. I knew something wasn't right, like you get drunk right away, out of control." Then her voice stopped for fifteen seconds or so, and Dr. Golden watched her—like he had done, she thought. The irony shamed her, but this was business; it was clinical, and it was supposed to help, not hurt. Her patient was seeing it now. You could tell from the eyes, you always could. As though the mind really were a VCR, the scene paraded before her, and Barbara Linders was merely giving commentary on what she saw, not truly relating the dreadful personal experience she herself had undergone. For ten minutes, she described it, without leaving out a single clinical detail, her trained professional mind clicking in as it had to do. It was only at the end that her emotions came back.

"He didn't have to rape me. He could have…asked. I would have…I mean, another day, the weekend…I knew he was married, but I liked him, and…"

"But he did rape you, Barbara. He drugged you and raped you." This time Dr. Golden reached out and took her hand, because now it was all out in the open. Barbara Linders had articulated the whole awful story, probably for the first time since it had happened. In the intervening period she'd relived bits and pieces, especially the worst part, but this was the first time she'd gone through the event in chronological order, from beginning to end, and the impact of the telling was every bit as traumatic and cathartic as it had to be.

"There has to be more," Golden said after the sobbing stopped.

"There is," Barbara said immediately, hardly surprised that her psychologist could tell. "At least one other woman in the office, Lisa Beringer. She…killed herself the next year, drove her car into a bridge support-thing, looked like an accident, she'd been drinking, but in her desk she left a note. I cleaned her desk out…and I found it." Then, to Dr. Golden's stunned reaction, Barbara Linders reached into her purse and pulled it out.

The "note" was in a blue envelope, six pages of personalized letter paper covered with the tight, neat handwriting of a woman who had made the decision to end her life, but who wanted someone to know why.

Clarice Golden, Ph.D., had seen such notes before, and it was a source of melancholy amazement that people could do such a thing. They always spoke of pain too great to bear, but depressingly often they showed the despairing mind of someone who could have been saved and cured and sent back into a successful life if only she'd had the wit to make a single telephone call or speak to a single close friend. It took only two paragraphs for Golden to see that Lisa Beringer had been just one more needless victim, a woman who had felt alone, fatally so, in an office full of people who would have leaped to her aid.

Mental-health professionals are skilled at hiding their emotions, a talent necessary for obvious reasons. Clarice Golden had been doing this job for just under thirty years, and to her God-given talent had been added a lifetime of professional experience. Especially good at helping the victims of sexual abuse, she displayed compassion, understanding, and support in great quantity and outstanding quality, but while real, it was all a disguise for her true feelings. She loathed sexual predators as much as any police officer, maybe even more. A cop saw the victim's body, saw her bruises and her tears, heard her cries. The psychologist was there longer, probing into the mind for the malignant memories, trying to find a way to expunge them. Rape was a crime against the mind, not the body, and as dreadful as the things were that the policeman saw, worse still were the hidden injuries whose cure was Clarice Golden's life's work. A gentle, caring person who could never have avenged the crimes physically, she hated these creatures nonetheless.

But this one was a special problem. She maintained a regular working relationship with the sexual-crime units of every police department in a fifty-mile radius, but this crime had happened on federal property, and she'd have to check to see who had jurisdiction. For that she'd talk to her neighbor, Dan Murray of the FBI. And there was one other complication. The criminal in question had been a U.S. senator at the time, and indeed he still had an office in the Capitol Building. But this criminal had changed jobs. No longer a senator from New England, he was now Vice President of the United States.

ComSubPac had once been as grand a goal as any man might have, but that was one more thing of history. The first great commander had been Vice Admiral Charles Lockwood, and of all the men who'd defeated Japan, only Chester Nimitz and maybe Charles Layton had been more important. It was Lockwood, sitting in this very office on the heights overlooking Pearl Harbor, who had sent out Mush Morton and Dick O'Kane and Gene Fluckey, and the rest of the legends to do battle in their fleet boats. The same office, the same door, and even the same title on the door—Commander, Submarine Force, United States Pacific Fleet—but the rank required for it was lower now. Rear Admiral Bart Mancuso, USN, knew that he'd been lucky to make it this far. That was the good news.

The bad news was that he was essentially the receiver of a dying business. Lockwood had commanded a genuine fleet of submarines and tenders. More recently, Austin Smith had sent his forty or so around the world's largest ocean, but Mancuso was down to nineteen fast-attack boats and six boomers—and all of the latter were alongside, awaiting dismantlement at Bremerton. None would be kept, not even as a museum exhibit of a bygone age, which didn't trouble Mancuso as much as it might have. He'd never liked the missile submarines, never liked their ugly purpose, never liked their boring patrol pattern, never liked the mind-set of their commanders. Raised in fast-attack, Mancuso had always preferred to be where the action is—was, he corrected himself.

Was. It was all over now, or nearly so. The mission of the nuclear-powered fast-attack submarine had changed since Lockwood. Once the hunters of surface ships, whether merchants or men-of-war, they'd become specialists in the elimination of enemy subs, like fighter aircraft dedicated to the extermination of their foreign cousins. That specialization had narrowed their purpose, focusing their equipment and their training until they'd become supreme at it. Nothing could excel an SSN in the hunting of another. What nobody had ever expected was that the other side's SSNs would go away. Mancuso had spent his professional life practicing for something he'd hoped would never come, detecting, localizing, closing on, and killing Soviet subs, whether missile boats or other fast-attacks. In fact, he'd achieved something that no other sub skipper had ever dreamed of doing. He'd assisted in the capture of a Russian sub, a feat of arms still among his country's most secret accomplishments—and a capture was better than a kill, wasn't it?—but then the world had changed. He'd played his role in it, and was proud of that. The Soviet Union was no more.

Unfortunately—as he thought of it—so was the Soviet Navy, and without enemy submarines to worry about, his country, as it had done many times in the past, had rewarded its warriors by forgetting them. There was little mission for his boats to do now. The once large and formidable Soviet Navy was essentially a memory. Only the previous week he'd seen satellite photos of the bases at Petropavlovsk and Vladivostok. Every boat the Soviets—Russians!—were known to have had been tied alongside, and on some of the overheads he'd been able to see the orange streaks of rust on the hulls where the black paint had eroded off.

The other possible missions? Hunting merchant traffic was largely a joke—worse, the Orion drivers, with their own huge collection of P-3C aircraft, also designed for submarine hunting, had long since modified their aircraft to carry air-to-surface missiles, and had ten times the speed of any sub, and in the unlikely event that someone wanted to clobber a merchant ship, they could do it better and faster.

The same was true of surface warships—what there were of them. The sad truth, if you could call it that, was that the U.S. Navy, even gutted and downsized as it was, could handle any three other navies in the world in less time than it would take the enemies to assemble their forces and send out a press release of their malicious intent.

And so now what? Even if you won the Super Bowl, there were still teams to play against next season. But in this most serious of human games, victory meant exactly that. There were no enemies left at sea, and few enough on land, and in the way of the new world, the submarine force was the first of many uniformed groups to be without work. The only reason there was a ComSubPac at all was bureaucratic inertia. There was a Com-everything-else-Pac, and the submarine force had to have its senior officer as the social and military equal of the other communities, Air, Surface, and Service.

Of his nineteen fast-attack boats, only seven were currently at sea. Four were in overhaul status, and the yards were stretching out their work as much as possible to justify their own infrastructure. The rest were alongside their tenders or their piers while the ship-service people found new and interesting things to do, protecting their infrastructure and military/civilian identity. Of the seven boats at sea, one was tracking a Chinese nuclear fast-attack boat; those submarines were so noisy that Mancuso hoped the sonarmen's ears weren't being seriously hurt. Stalking them was about as demanding as watching a blind man on an empty parking lot in broad daylight. Two others were doing environmental research, actually tracking midocean whale populations—not for whalers, but for the environmental community. In so doing, his boats had achieved a real march on the tree-huggers. There were more whales out there than expected. Extinction wasn't nearly the threat everyone had once believed it to be, and the various environmental groups were having their own funding problems as a result. All of which was fine with Mancuso. He'd never wanted to kill a whale.

The other four boats were doing workups, mainly practicing against one another. But the environmentalists were taking their own revenge on Submarine Force, United States Pacific Fleet. Having protested the construction and operation of the boats for thirty years, they were now protesting their dismantlement, and more than half of Mancuso's working time was relegated to filing all manner of reports, answers to questions, and detailed explanations of his answers. "Ungrateful bastards," Mancuso grumbled. He was helping out with the whales, wasn't he? The Admiral growled into his coffee mug and flipped open a new folder.

"Good news, Skipper," a voice called without warning.

"Who the hell let you in?"

"I have an understanding with your chief," Ron Jones replied. "He says you're buried by paperwork."

"He ought to know." Mancuso stood to greet his guest. Dr. Jones had problems of his own. The end of the Cold War had hurt defense contractors, too, and Jones had specialized in sonar systems used by submarines. The difference was that Jones had made himself a pile of money first. "So what's the good news?"

"Our new processing software is optimized for listening to our warm-blooded oppressed fellow mammals. Chicago just phoned in. They have identified another twenty humpbacks in the Gulf of Alaska. I think I'll get the contract from NOAA. I can afford to buy you lunch now," Jones concluded, settling into a leather chair. He liked Hawaii, and was dressed for it, In casual shirt and no socks to clutter up his formal Reeboks.

"You ever miss the good old days?" Bart asked with a wry look.

"You mean chasing around the ocean, four hundred feet down, stuck inside a steel pipe two months at a time, smelling like the inside of an oilcan, with a touch of locker room for ambience, eating the same food every week, watching old movies and TV shows on tape, on a TV the size of a sheet of paper, working six on and twelve off, getting maybe five decent hours of sleep a night, and concentrating like a brain surgeon all the time? Yeah, Bart, those were the days." Jones paused and thought for a second. "I miss being young enough to think it was fun. We were pretty good, weren't we?"

"Better 'n average," Mancuso allowed. "What's the deal with the whales?"

"The new software my guys put together is good at picking out their breathing and heartbeats. It turns out to be a nice clear hertz line. When those guys are swimming—well, if you put a stethoscope up against them, your eardrums would probably meet in the middle of your head."

"What was the software really for?"

"Tracking Kilo-class boats, of course." Jones grinned as he looked out the windows at the largely empty naval base. "But I can't say that anymore. We changed a few hundred lines of code and ginned up a new wrapper for the box, and talked to NOAA about it."

Mancuso might have said something about taking that software into the Persian Gulf to track the Kilo-class boats the Iranians owned, but intelligence reported that one of them was missing. The submarine had probably gotten in the way of a supertanker and been squashed, simply crushed against the bottom of that shallow body of water by a tanker whose crew had never even noticed the rumble. In any case, the other Kilos were securely tied to their piers. Or maybe the Iranians had finally heard the old seaman's moniker for submarines and decided not to touch their new naval vessels again—they'd once been known as "pigboats," after all.

"Sure looks empty out there." Jones pointed to what had once been one of the greatest naval facilities ever made. Not a single carrier in view, only two cruisers, half a squadron of destroyers, roughly the same number of frigates, five fleet-support ships. "Who commands Pac Fleet now, a chief?"

"Christ, Ron, let's not give anybody ideas, okay?"


"You got him?" President Durling asked.

"Less than half an hour ago," Ryan confirmed, taking his seat.

"Nobody hurt?" That was important to the President. It was important to Ryan, too, but not morbidly so.

"Clark reports no friendly casualties."

"What about the other side?" This question came from Brett Hanson, the current Secretary of State. Choate School and Yale. The government was having a run on Yalies, Ryan thought, but Hanson wasn't as good as the last Eli he'd worked with. Short, thin, and hyper, Hanson was an in-and-out guy whose career had oscillated between government service, consulting, a sideline as a talking head on PBS-where you could exercise real influence and a lucrative practice in one of the city's pricier firms. He was a specialist in corporate and international law, an area of expertise he'd once used to negotiate multinational business deals. He'd been good at that, Jack knew.

Unfortunately he'd come into his cabinet post thinking that the same niceties ought to—worse, did—apply to the business of nation-states.

Ryan took a second or two before replying. "I didn't ask."


Jack could have said any one of several things, but he decided that it was time to establish his position. Therefore, a goad: "Because it wasn't important. The objective, Mr. Secretary, was to apprehend Corp. That was done. In about thirty minutes he will be handed over to the legal authorities, such as they are, in his country, for trial in accordance with their law, before a jury of his peers, or however they do it over there." Ryan hadn't troubled himself to find out.

"That's tantamount to murder."

"It's not my fault his peers don't like him, Mr. Secretary. He's also responsible for the deaths of American soldiers. Had we decided to eliminate him ourselves, even that would not be murder. It would have been a straight-forward national-security exercise. Well, in another age it would have been," Ryan allowed. Times had changed, and Ryan had to adapt himself to the new reality as well. "Instead, we are acting as good world-citizens by apprehending a dangerous international criminal and turning him over to the government of his country, which will put him on trial for drug-running, which is a felony in every legal jurisdiction of which I am aware. What happens next is up to the criminal-justice system of his country. That is a country with which we have diplomatic relations and other informal agreements of assistance, and whose laws, therefore, we must respect."

Hanson didn't like it. That was clear from the way he leaned back in his chair. But he would support it in public because he had no choice. The State Department had announced official American support for that government half a dozen times in the previous year. What stung worse for Hanson was being outmaneuvered by this young upstart in front of him.

"They might even have a chance to make it now, Brett," Durling observed gently, putting his own seal of approval on Operation WALKMAN.

"And it never happened."

"Yes, Mr. President."

"Jack, you were evidently right about this Clark fellow. What do we do about him?"

"I'll leave that to the DCI, sir. Maybe another Intelligence Star for him," Ryan suggested, hoping that Durling would forward it to Langley. If not, maybe a discreet call of his own to Mary Pat. Then it was time for fence-mending, a new skill for Ryan. "Mr. Secretary, in case you didn't know, our people were under orders to use non-lethal force if possible. Beyond that, my only concern is the lives of our people."

"I wish you'd cleared it through my people first," Hanson grumped.

Deep breath, Ryan commanded himself. The mess was of State's making, along with that of Ryan's predecessor. Having entered the country to restore order after it had been destroyed by local warlords—another term used by the media to give a label to common thugs—the powers-that-be had later decided, after the entire mission had gone to hell, that the "warlords" in question had to be part of the "political solution" to the problem. That the problem had been created by the warlords in the first place was conveniently forgotten. It was the circularity of the logic that offended Ryan most of all, who wondered if they taught a logic course at Yale. Probably an elective, he decided. At Boston College it had been mandatory.

"It's done, Brett," Durling said quietly, "and nobody will mourn the passing of Mr. Corp. What's next?" the President asked Ryan.

"The Indians are getting rather frisky. They've increased the operating tempo of their navy, and they're conducting operations around Sri Lanka—"

"They've done that before," SecState cut in.

"Not in this strength, and I don't like the way they've continued their talks with the 'Tamil Tigers,' or whatever the hell those maniacs call themselves now. Conducting extended negotiations with a guerrilla group operating on the soil of a neighbor is not an act of friendship."

This was a new concern for the U.S. government. The two former British colonies had lived as friendly neighbors for a long time, but for years the Tamil people on the island of Sri Lanka had maintained a nasty little insurgency. The Sri Lankans, with relatives on the Indian mainland, had asked for foreign troops to maintain a peace-keeping presence. India had obliged, but what had started in an honorable fashion was now changing. There were rumbles that the Sri Lankan government would soon ask for the Indian soldiers to leave. There were also rumbles that there would be some "technical difficulties" in effecting their removal. Concurrent with that had come word of a conversation between the Indian Foreign Minister and the U.S. Ambassador at a reception in Delhi.

"You know," the Minister had said after a few too many, but probably purposeful drinks, "that body of water to our south is called the Indian Ocean, and we have a navy to guard it. With the demise of the former Soviet threat, we wonder why the U.S. Navy seems so determined to maintain a force there."

The U.S. Ambassador was a political appointee—for some reason India had turned into a prestige post, despite the climate—but was also a striking exception to Scott Adler's professional snobbery. The former governor of Pennsylvania had smiled and mumbled something about freedom of the seas, then fired off an encrypted report to Foggy Bottom before going to bed that night. Adler needed to learn that they weren't all dumb.

"We see no indication of an aggressive act in that direction," Hanson said after a moment's reflection.

"The ethnic element is troubling. India can't go north, with the mountains in the way. West is out. The Pakis have nukes, too. East is Bangladesh—why buy trouble? Sri Lanka has real strategic possibilities for them, maybe as a stepping-stone."

"To where?" the President asked.

"Australia. Space and resources, not many people in the way, and not much of a military to stop them."

"I just don't see that happening," SecState announced.

"If the Tigers pull something off, I can see India increasing its peace-keeping presence. The next step could be annexation, given the right preconditions, and then all of a sudden we have an imperial power playing games a long way from here, and making life somewhat nervous for one of our historical allies." And helping the Tigers to get something going was both easy and a time-honored tactic. Surrogates could be so useful, couldn't they? "In historical terms such ambitions are most inexpensively stopped early."

"Thai's why the Navy's in the Indian Ocean," Hanson observed confidently.

"True," Ryan conceded.

"Are we strong enough to deter them from stepping over the line?"

"Yes, Mr. President, at the moment, but I don't like the way our Navy is being stretched. Every carrier we have right now, except for the two in overhaul status, is either deployed or conducting workups preparatory for deployment. We have no strategic reserve worthy of the name." Ryan paused before going on, knowing that he was about to go too far, but doing so anyway: "We've cut back too much, sir. Our people are strung out very thin."

"They are simply not as capable as we think they are. That is a thing of the past." Raizo Yamata said. He was dressed in an elegant silk kimono, and sat on the floor at a traditional low table.

The others around the table looked discreetly at their watches. It was approaching three in the morning, and though this was one of the nicest geisha houses in the city, the hour was late. Raizo Yamata was a captivating host, however. A man of great wealth and sagacity, the others thought. Or most of them.

"They've protected us for generations," one man suggested.

"From what? Ourselves?" Yamata demanded coarsely. That was permitted now. Though all around the table were men of the most exquisite good manners, they were all close acquaintances, if not all actually close friends, and all had consumed their personal limit of alcohol. Under these circumstances, the rules of social intercourse altered somewhat. They could all speak bluntly. Words that would ordinarily be deadly insults would now be accepted calmly, then rebutted harshly, and there would be no lingering rancor about it. That, too, was a rule, but as with most rules, it was largely theoretical. Though friendships and relationships would not end because of words here, neither would they be completely forgotten. "How many of you," Yamata went on, "have been victims of these people?"

Yamata hadn't said "barbarians," the other Japanese citizens at the table noted. The reason was the presence of the two other men. One of them, Vice Admiral V. K. Chandraskatta, was a fleet commander of the Indian Navy, currently on leave. The other, Zhang Han San—the name meant "Cold Mountain" and had not been given by his parents—was a senior Chinese diplomat, part of a trade mission to Tokyo. The latter individual was more easily accepted than the former. With his swarthy skin and sharp features, Chandraskatta was regarded by the others with polite contempt. Though an educated and very bright potential ally, he was even more gaijin than the Chinese guest, and the eight zaibatsu around the table each imagined that he could smell the man, despite their previous intake of sake, which usually deadened the senses. For this reason, Chandraskatta occupied the place of honor, at Yamata's right hand, and the zaibatsu wondered if the Indian grasped that this supposed honor was merely a sophisticated mark of contempt. Probably not. He was a barbarian, after all, though perhaps a useful one.

"They are not as formidable as they once were, I admit, Yamata-san, but I assure you," Chandraskatta said in his best Dartmouth English, "their navy remains quite formidable. Their two carriers in my ocean are enough to give my navy pause."

Yamata turned his head. "You could not defeat them, even with your submarines?"

"No," the Admiral answered honestly, largely unaffected by the evening's drink, and wondering where all this talk was leading. "You must understand that this question is largely a technical exercise—a science experiment, shall we say?" Chandraskatta adjusted the kimono Yamata had given him, to make him a real member of this group, he'd said. "To defeat an enemy fleet, you must get close enough for your weapons to reach his ships. With their surveillance assets, they can monitor our presence and our movements from long distance. Thus they can maintain a covering presence on us from a range of, oh, something like six hundred kilometers. Since we are unable to maintain a corresponding coverage of their location and course, we cannot maneuver them out of place very easily."

"And that's why you haven't moved on Sri Lanka yet?" Tanzan Itagake asked.

"It is one of the considerations." The Admiral nodded.

"How many carriers do they now have?" Itagake went on.

"In their Pacific Fleet? Four. Two in our ocean, two based in Hawaii."

"What of the other two?" Yamata inquired.

"Kitty Hawk and Ranger are in extended overhaul status, and will not be back at sea for one and three years, respectively. Seventh Fleet currently has all the carriers. First Fleet has none. The U.S. Navy has five other carriers in commission. These are assigned to the Second and Sixth fleets, with one entering overhaul status in six weeks." Chandraskatta smiled. His information was completely up to date, and he wanted his hosts to know that. "I must tell you that as depleted as the U.S. Navy may appear to be, compared to only—what? five years ago? Compared to five years ago, then, they are quite weak, but compared to any other navy in the world, they are still immensely strong. One of their carriers is the equal of every other aircraft carrier in the world."

"You agree, then, that their aircraft carriers are their most potent weapon?" Yamata asked.

"Of course." Chandraskatta rearranged the things on the table. In the center he put an empty sake bottle. "Imagine that this is the carrier. Draw a thousand-kilometer circle around it. Nothing exists in that circle without the permission of the carrier air group. In fact, by increasing their operating tempo, that radius extends to fifteen hundred kilometers. They can strike somewhat farther than that if they need to, but even at the minimum distance I demonstrated, they can control a vast area of ocean. Take those carriers away, and they are just another frigate navy. The difficult part of the exercise is taking them away," the Admiral concluded, using simple language for the industrialists.

Chandraskatta was correct in assuming that these merchants knew little about military affairs. However, he had underestimated their ability to learn. The Admiral came from a country with a warrior tradition little known outside its own borders. Indians had stopped Alexander the Great, blunted his army, wounded the Macedonian conqueror, perhaps fatally, and put an end to his expansion, an accomplishment the Persians and Egyptians had singularly failed to do. Indian troops had fought alongside Montgomery in the defeat of Rommel—and had crushed the Japanese Army at Imphal, a fact that he had no intention of bringing up, since one of the people at the table had been a private in that army. He wondered what they had in mind, but for the moment was content to enjoy their hospitality and answer their questions, elementary as they were. The tall, handsome flag officer leaned back, wishing for a proper chair and a proper drink. This sake these prissy little merchants served was closer to water than gin, his usual drink of choice.

"But if you can?" Itagake asked.

"As I said," the Admiral replied patiently, "then they are a frigate navy. I grant you, with superb surface ships, but the 'bubble' each ship controls is far smaller. You can protect with a frigate, you cannot project power with one." His choice of words, he saw, stopped the conversation for a moment.

One of the others handled the linguistic niceties, and Itagake leaned back with a long "Ahhhh," as though he'd just learned something profound.

Chandraskatta regarded the point as exceedingly simple—forgetting for a moment that the profound often was. However, he recognized that something important had just taken place. What are you thinking about? He would have shed blood, even his own, to know the answer to that question. Whatever it was, with proper warning, it might even be useful. He would have been surprised to learn that the others around the table were churning over exactly the same thought.

"Sure are burning a lot of oil," the group-operations officer noted as he began his morning brief.

USS Dwight D. Elsenhower was on a course of zero-nine-eight degrees, east by south, two hundred nautical miles southeast of Felidu Atoll. Fleet speed was eighteen knots, and would increase for the commencement of flight operations. The main tactical display in flag plot had been updated forty minutes earlier from the radar of an E-3C Hawkeyc surveillance aircraft, and, indeed, the Indian Navy was burning a good deal of Bunker-Charlie, or whatever they used now to drive their ships through the water.

The display before him could easily have been that of a U.S. Navy Carrier Battle Group. The two Indian carriers, Viraat and Vikrant, were in the center of a circular formation, the pattern for which had been invented by an American named Nimitz almost eighty years earlier. Close-in escorts were Delhi and Mysore, home-built missile destroyers armed with a SAM system about which information was thin—always a worry to aviators. The second ring was composed of the Indian version of the old Russian Kashin-class destroyers, also SAM-equipped. Most interesting, however, were two other factors.

"Replenishment ships Rajaba Gan Palan and Shakti have rejoined the battle group after a brief stay in Trivandrum—"

"How long were they in port?" Jackson asked.

"Less than twenty-four hours," Commander Ed Harrison, the group-operations officer, replied. "They cycled them pretty fast, sir."

"So they just went in for a quick fill-up. How much gas do they carry?"

"Bunker fuel, about thirteen thousand tons each, another fifteen hundred each of JP. Sister ship Deepak has detached from the battle group and is heading northwest, probably for Trivandrum as well, after conducting un-rep operations yesterday."

"So they're working extra hard to keep their bunkers topped off. Interesting. Go on," Jackson ordered.

"Four submarines are believed to be accompanying the group. We have rough positions on one, and we've lost two roughly here." Harrison's hand drew a rough circle on the display. "The location of number four is unknown, sir. We'll be working on that today."

"Our subs out there?" Jackson asked the group commander.

"Santa Fe in close and Greeneville holding between us and them. Cheyenne is in closer to the battle group as gatekeeper," Rear Admiral Mike Dubro replied, sipping his morning coffee.

"Plan for the day, sir," Harrison went on, "is to launch four F/A-18 Echoes with tankers to head east to this point, designated POINT BAUXITE, from which they will turn northwest, approach to within thirty miles of the Indian battle group, loiter for thirty minutes, then return to BAUXITE to tank again and recover after a flight time of four hours, forty-five minutes." For the four aircraft to do this, eight were needed to provide midair refueling support. One each on the way out and the return leg as well. That accounted for most of Ike's tanker assets.

"So we want them to think we're still over that way." Jackson nodded and smiled, without commenting on the wear-and-tear on the air crews that such a mission profile made necessary. "Still tricky, I see, Mike."

"They haven't gotten a line on us yet. We're going to keep it that way, too," Dubro added.

"How are the Bugs loaded?" Robby asked, using the service nickname for the F/A-18 Hornet, "Plastic Bug."

"Four Harpoons each. White ones," Dubro added. In the Navy, exercise missiles were color-coded blue. Warshots were generally painted white. The Harpoons were air-to-surface missiles. Jackson didn't have to ask about the Sidewinder and AMRAAM air-to-air missiles that were part of the Hornet's basic load. "What I want to know is, what the hell are they up to?" the battle-group commander observed quietly.

That was what everyone wanted to know. The Indian battle group—that was what they called it, because that's exactly what it was—had been at sea for eight days now, cruising off the south coast of Sri Lanka. The putative mission for the group was support for the Indian Army's peace-keeping team, whose job was to ameliorate the problem with the Tamil Tigers. Except for one thing: the Tamil Tigers were cosseted on the northern part of the island nation, and the Indian fleet was to the south. The Indian two-carrier force was maneuvering constantly to avoid merchant traffic, beyond sight of land, but within air range. Staying clear of the Sri Lankan Navy was an easy task. The largest vessel that country owned might have made a nice motor yacht for a nouveau-riche private citizen, but was no more formidable than that. In short, the Indian Navy was conducting a covert-presence operation far from where it was supposed to be. The presence of fleet-replenishment ships meant that they planned to be there for a while, and also that the Indians were gaining considerable at-sea time to conduct workups. The plain truth was that the Indian Navy was operating exactly as the U.S. Navy had done for generations. Except that the United States didn't have any ambitions with Sri Lanka.

"Exercising every day?" Robby asked.

"They're being right diligent, sir," Harrison confirmed. "You can expect a pair of Harriers to form up with our Hornets, real friendly, like."

"I don't like it," Dubro observed. "Tell him about last week."

"That was a fun one to watch." Harrison called up the computerized records, which ran at faster-than-normal speed. "Start time for the exercise is about now, sir."

On the playback, Robby watched a destroyer squadron break off the main formation and head southwest, which had happened to be directly toward the Lincoln group at the time, causing a lot of attention in the group-operations department. On cue, the Indian destroyers had started moving randomly, then commenced a high-speed run due north. Their radars and radios blacked out, the team had then headed east, moving quickly.

"The DesRon commander knows his stuff. The carrier group evidently expected him to head east and duck under this stationary front. As you can see, their air assets headed that way." That miscue had allowed the destroyers to dart within missile-launch range before the Indian Harriers had leaped from their decks to attack the closing surface group.

In the ten minutes required to watch the computerized playback, Robby knew that he'd just seen a simulated attack on an enemy carrier group, launched by a destroyer team whose willingness to sacrifice their ships and their lives for this hazardous mission had been demonstrated to perfection. More disturbingly, the attack had been successfully carried out. Though the tin cans would probably have been sunk, their missiles, some of them anyway, would have penetrated the carriers' point defenses and crippled their targets. Large, robust ships though aircraft carriers were, it didn't require all that much damage to prevent them from carrying out flight operations. And that was as good as a kill. The Indians had the only carriers in this ocean, except for the Americans, whose presence, Robby knew, was a source of annoyance for them. The purpose of the exercise wasn't to take out their own carriers.

"Get the feeling they don't want us here?" Dubro asked with a wry smile.

"I get the feeling we need better intelligence information on their intentions. We don't have dick at the moment, Mike."

"Why doesn't that surprise me," Dubro observed. "What about their intentions toward Ceylon?" The older name for the nation was more easily remembered.

"Nothing that I know about." As deputy J-3, the planning directorate for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Robby had access to literally everything generated by the U.S. intelligence community. "But what you just showed me says a lot."

All you had to do was look at the display, where the water was, where the land was, where the ships were. The Indian Navy was cruising in such a way as to position itself between Sri Lanka and anyone who might approach from the south to come to Sri Lanka. Like the U.S. Navy, for example. It had practiced an attack on such a force. To that end, it was clearly prepared to remain at sea for a long time. If it was an exercise, it was an expensive one. If not? Well, you just couldn't tell, could you?

"Where are their amphibs?"

"Not close," Dubro answered. "Aside from that, I don't know. I don't have the assets to check, and I don't have any intel on them. They have a total of sixteen LSTs, and I figure twelve of them can probably operate as a group. Figure they can move a heavy brigade with them, combat-loaded and ready to hit a beach somewhere. There's a few choice sites on the north coast of that island. We can't reach them from here, at least not very well. I need more assets, Robby."

"There aren't more assets to give, Mike."

"Two subs. I'm not being greedy. You can see that." The two SSNs would move to cover the Gulf of Mannar, and that was the most likely invasion area. "I need more intelligence support, too, Rob. You can see why."

"Yep." Jackson nodded. "I'll do what I can. When do I leave?"

"Two hours." He'd be flying off on an 8-3 Viking antisubmarine aircraft. The "Hoover," as it was known, had good range. That was important. He'd be flying to Singapore, the better to give the impression that Dubro's battle group was southeast of Sri Lanka, not southwest. Jackson reflected that he would have flown twenty-four thousand miles for what was essentially a half hour's worth of briefing and the look in the eyes of an experienced carrier aviator. Jackson slid his chair back on the tiled floor as Harrison keyed the display to a smaller scale. It now showed Abraham Lincoln heading northeast from Diego Garcia, adding an additional air wing to Dubro's command. He'd need it. The operational tempo required to cover the Indians—especially to do so deceptively—was putting an incredible strain on men and aircraft. There was just too much ocean in the world for eight working aircraft carriers to handle, and nobody back in Washington understood that.

Enterprise and Stennis were working up to relieve Ike and Abe in a few months, and even that meant there would be a time when U.S. presence in this area would be short. The Indians would know that, too. You just couldn't conceal the return time of the battle groups from the families. The word would get out, and the Indians would hear it, and what would they be doing then?

"Hi, Clarice." Murray stood up for his luncheon guest. He thought of her as his own Dr. Ruth. Short, a tiny bit overweight, Dr. Golden was in her middle fifties, with twinkling blue eyes and a face that always seemed on the edge of delivering the punch line of a particularly good joke. It was that similarity between them that had fostered their bond. Both were bright, serious professionals, and both had elegant intellectual disguises. Hearty-fellow and hearty-lady-well-met, the life of whatever party they might attend, but under the smiles and the chuckles were keen minds that missed little and collected much. Murray thought of Golden as one hell of a potential cop. Golden had much the same professional evaluation of Murray.

"To what do I owe this honor, ma'am?" Dan asked in his usual courtly voice. The waiter delivered the menus, and she waited pleasantly for him to depart. It was Murray's first clue, and though the smile remained fixed on his face, his eyes focused in a little more sharply on his diminutive lunch guest.

"I need some advice, Mr. Murray," Golden replied, giving another signal. "Who has jurisdiction over a crime committed on federal property?"

"The Bureau, always," Dan answered, leaning back in his seat and checking his service pistol. Business to Murray was enforcing the law, and feeling his handgun in its accustomed place acted as a sort of personal touchstone, a reminder that, elevated and important as the sign on his office door said he was today, he had started out doing bank robberies in the Philadelphia Field Division, and his badge and gun still made him a sworn member of his country's finest police agency.

"Even on Capitol Hill?" Clarice asked.

"Even on Capitol Hill," Murray repeated. Her subsequent silence surprised him. Golden was never reticent about much. You always knew what she was thinking—well, Murray amended, you knew what she wanted you to know. She played her little games, just as he did. "Talk to me, Dr. Golden."


Murray nodded, setting the menu down. "Okay, first of all, please tell me about your patient."

"Female, age thirty-five, single, never married. She was referred to me by her gynecologist, an old friend. She came to me clinically depressed. I've had three sessions with her."

Only three, Murray thought. Clarice was a witch at this stuff, so perceptive. Jesus, what an interrogator she would have made with her gentle smile and quiet motherly voice.

"When did it happen?" Names could wait for the moment. Murray would start with the barest facts of the case.

"Three years ago."

The FBI agent—he still preferred "Special Agent" to his official title of Deputy Assistant Director—frowned immediately. "Long time, Clarice. No forensics, I suppose."

"No, it's her word against his—except for one thing." Golden reached into her purse and pulled out photocopies of the Beringer letter, blown up in the copying process. Murray read through the pages slowly while Dr. Golden watched his face for reaction.

"Holy shit," Dan breathed while the waiter hovered twenty feet away, thinking his guests were a reporter and a source, as was hardly uncommon in Washington. "Where's the original?"

"In my office. I was very careful handling it," Golden told him.

That made Murray smile. The monogrammed paper was an immediate help. In addition, paper was especially good at holding fingerprints, especially if kept tucked away in a cool, dry place, as such letters usually were.

The Senate aide in question would have been fingerprinted as part of her security-clearance process, which meant the likely author of this document could be positively identified. The papers gave time, place, events, and also announced her desire to die. Sad as it was, it made this document something akin to a dying declaration, therefore, arguably, admissible in federal district court as evidentiary material in a criminal case. The defense attorney would object—they always did—and the objection would be overruled—it always was—and the jury members would hear every word, leaning forward as they always did to catch the voice from the grave. Except in this case it wouldn't be a jury, at least not at first.

Murray didn't like anything about rape cases. As a man and a cop, he viewed that class of criminal with special contempt. It was a smudge on his own manliness that someone could commit such a cowardly, foul act. More professionally disturbing was the troublesome fact that rape cases so often came down in one person's word against another's. Like most investigative cops, Murray dislrusted all manner of eyewitness testimony. People were poor observers—it was that simple—and rape victims, crushed by the experience, often made poor witnesses, their testimony further attacked by the defense counsel. Forensic evidence, on the other hand, was something you could prove, it was incontrovertible. Murray loved that sort of evidence.

"Is it enough to begin a criminal investigation?"

Murray looked up and spoke quietly: "Yes, ma'am."

"And who he is—"

"My current job—well, I'm sort of the street-version of the executive assistant to Bill Shaw. You don't know Bill, do you?"

"Only by reputation."

"It's all true," Murray assured her. "We were classmates at Quantico, and we broke in the same way, in the same place, doing the same thing. A crime is a crime, and we're cops, and that's the name of the song, Clarice."

But even us his mouth proclaimed the creed of his agency, his mind was saying. Holy shit. There was a great big political dimension to this one. The President didn't need the trouble. Well, who ever needed this sort of thing? For goddamned sure, Barbara Linders and Lisa Beringer didn't need to be raped by someone they'd trusted. But the real bottom line was simple: thirty years earlier, Daniel E. Murray had graduated from the FBI Academy at Quantico, Virginia, had raised his right hand to the sky and sworn an oath to God. There were gray areas. There always would be. A good agent had to use his judgment, know which laws could be bent, and how far. But not this far, and not this law. Bill Shaw was of the same cut. Blessed by fate to occupy a position as apolitical as an office in Washington, D.C., could be, Shaw had built his reputation on integrity, and was too old to change. A case like this would start in his seventh-floor office.

"I have to ask, is this for-real?"

"My best professional judgment is that my patient is telling the truth in every detail,"

"Will she testify?"


"Your evaluation of the letter?"

"Also quite genuine, psychologically speaking." Murray already knew that from his own experience, but someone—first he, then other agents, and ultimately a jury—needed to hear it from a pro.

"Now what?" the psychologist asked.

Murray stood, to the surprised disappointment of the hovering waiter.

"Now we drive down to headquarters and meet with Bill. We'll get case agents in to set up a file. Bill and I and the case agent will walk across the street to the Department and meet with the Attorney General. After that, I don't know exactly. We've never had one like this—not since the early seventies, anyway—and I'm not sure of procedure just yet. The usual stuff with your patient. Long, tough interviews. We'll talk to Ms. Beringer's family, friends, look for papers, diaries. But that's the technical side. The political side will be touchy." And for that reason, Dan knew, he'd be the man running the case. Another Holy shit! crossed his mind, as he remembered the part in the Constitution that would govern the whole procedure. Dr. Golden saw the wavering in his eyes and, rare for her, misread what it meant.

"My patient needs—"

Murray blinked. So what? he asked himself. It's still a crime.

"I know, Clarice. She needs justice. So does Lisa Beringer. You know what? So does the government of the United States of America."

He didn't look like a computer-software engineer. He wasn't at all scruffy. He wore a pinstriped suit, carried a briefcase. He might have said that it was a disguise required by his clientele and the professional atmosphere of the area, but the simple truth was that he preferred to look neat.

The procedure was just as straightforward as it could be. The client used Stratus mainframes, compact, powerful machines that were easily networked-in fact they were the platform of choice for many bulletin-board services because of their reasonable price and high electronic reliability. There were three of them in the room. "Alpha" and "Beta"—so labeled with white letters on blue plastic boards—were the primaries, and took on the front-line duties on alternate days, with one always backing up the other.

The third machine, "Zulu," was the emergency backup, and whenever Zulu was operating, you knew that a service team was either already there or on the way. Another facility, identical in every way except for the number of people around, was across the East River, with a different physical location, different power source, different phone lines, different satellite uplinks. Each building was a high-rise fire-resistant structure with an automatic sprinkler system around the computer room, and a DuPont 1301 system inside of it, the better to eliminate a fire in seconds. Each system-trio had battery backups sufficient to run the hardware for twelve hours. New York safety and environmental codes perversely did not allow the presence of emergency generators in the buildings, an annoyance to the systems engineers who were paid to worry about such things. And worry they did, despite the fact that the duplication, the exquisite redundancies that in a military context were called "defense in depth," would protect against anything and everything that could be imagined.

Well, nearly everything.

On the front service panel of each of the mainframes was an SCSI port. This was an innovation for the new models, an implicit bow to the fact that desktop computers were so powerful that they could upload important information far more easily than the old method of hanging a tape reel. In this case, the upload terminal was a permanent fixture of the system. Attached to the overall system control panel which controlled Alpha, Beta, and Zulu was a third-generation Power PC, and attached to it in turn was a Bernoulli removable-disk drive. Colloquially known as a "toaster" because its disk was about the size of a piece of bread, this machine had a gigabyte of storage, far more than was needed for this program.

"Okay?" the engineer asked.

The system controller moved his mouse and selected Zulu from his screen of options. A senior operator behind him confirmed that he'd made the right selection. Alpha and Beta were doing their normal work, and could not be disturbed.

"You're up on Zulu, Chuck."

"Roger that," Chuck replied with a smile. The pinstriped engineer slid the cartridge into the slot and waited for the proper icon to appear on the screen. He clicked on it, opening a new window to reveal the contents of PORTA-I, his name for the cartridge.

The new window had only two items in it: INSTALLER and ELECTRA-CLERK-2.4.0. An automatic antivirus program immediately swept through the new files, and after five seconds pronounced them clean.

"Looking good, Chuck," the sys-con told him. His supervisor nodded concurrence.

"Well, gee, Rick, can I deliver the baby now?"

"Hit it."

Chuck Searls selected the INSTALL icon and double-clicked it.

ARE YOU SURE YOU WANT TO REPLACE "ELECTRA-CLERK 2.3.1" WITH NEW PROGRAM "ELECTRA-CLERK 2.4.0"? a box asked him. Searls clicked the "YES" box.

ARE YOU REALLY SURE???? another box asked immediately.

"Who put that in?"

"I did," the sys-con answered with a grin.

"Funny." Searls clicked YES again.

The toaster drive started humming. Searls liked systems that you could hear as they ran, the whip-whip sounds of the moving heads added to the whir of the rotating disk. The program was only fifty megabytes. The transfer took fewer seconds than were needed for him to open his bottle of spring water and take a sip.

"Well," Searls asked as he slid his chair hack from the console, "you want to see if it works?"

He turned to look out. The computer room was walled in with glass panels, but beyond them he could see New York Harbor. A cruise liner was heading out; medium size, painted white. Heading where? he wondered. Someplace warm, with white sand and blue skies and a nice bright sun all the time. Someplace a hell of a lot different from New York City, he was sure of that. Nobody took a cruise to a place like the Big Apple. How nice to be on that ship, heading away from the blustery winds of fall. How much nicer still not to return on it, Searls thought with a wistful smile. Well, airplanes were faster, and you didn't have to ride them back either.

The sys-con, working on his control console, brought Zulu on-line. At 16:10:00 EST, the backup machine started duplicating the jobs being done by Alpha, and simultaneously backed up by Beta. With one difference. The throughput monitor showed that Zulu was running slightly faster. On a day like this, Zulu normally tended to fall behind, but now it was running so fast that the machine was actually "resting" for a few seconds each minute.

"Smokin', Chuck!" the sys-con observed. Searls drained his water bottle, dropped it in the nearest trash bucket, and walked over.

"Yeah, I cut out about ten thousand lines of code. It wasn't the machines, it was the program. It just took us a while to figure the right paths through the boards. I think we have it now."

"What's different?" the senior controller asked. He knew quite a bit about software design.

"I changed the hierarchy system, how it hands things off from one parallel board to another. Still needs a little work on synchronicity, tally isn't as fast as posting. I think I can beat that in another month or two, cut some fat out of the front end."

The sys-con punched a command for the first benchmark test. It came up at once. "Six percent faster than two-point-three-point-one. Not too shabby."

"We needed that six percent," the supervisor said, meaning that he needed more. Trades just ran too heavy sometimes, and like everyone in the Depository Trust Company, he lived in fear of falling behind.

"Send me some data at the end of the week and maybe I can deliver a few more points to you," Searls promised.

"Good job, Chuck."

"Thanks, Bud."

"Who else uses this?"

"This version? Nobody. A custom variation runs the machines over at CHIPS."

"Well, you're the man," the supervisor noted generously. He would have been less generous had he thought it through. The supervisor had helped design the entire system. All the redundancies, all the safety systems, the way that tapes were pulled off the machines every night and driven upstate. He'd worked with a committee to establish every safeguard that was necessary to the business he was in. But the quest for efficiency—and perversely, the quest for security—had created a vulnerability to which he was predictably blind. All the computers used the same software. They had to. Different software in the different computers, like different languages in an office, would have prevented, or at the very least impeded, cross-talk among the individual systems; and that would have been self-defeating. As a result, despite all the safeguards there was a single common point of vulnerability for all six of his machines. They all spoke the same language. They had to. They were the most important, if the least known, link in the American trading business.

Even here, DTC was not blind to the potential hazard. ELECTRA-CLERK 2.4.0 would not be uploaded to Alpha and Beta until it had run for a week on Zulu, and then another week would pass before they were loaded onto the backup site, whose machines were labeled "Charlie," "Delta," and "Tango." That was to ensure that 2.4.0 was both efficient and "crash-worthy," an engineering term that had come into the software field a year earlier. Soon, people would get used to the new software, marvel at its faster speed. All the Stratus machines would speak exactly the same programming language, trade information back and forth in an electronic conversation of ones and zeros, like friends around a card table talking business. Soon they would all know the same joke. Some would think it a good one, but not anyone at DTC.


"So, we're agreed?" the Chairman of the Federal Reserve Board asked.

Those around the table nodded. It wasn't that hard a call. For the second time in the past three months, President Durling had made it known, quietly, through the Secretary of the Treasury, that he would not object to another half-point rise in the Discount Rate. That was the interest rate which the Federal Reserve charged to banks that borrowed money—where else would they borrow such sums, except from the Fed? Any rise in that rate, of course, was passed immediately on to the consumer.

It was a constant balancing act, for the men and women around the polished oak table. They controlled the quantity of money in the American economy. As though by turning the valve that opened or closed the floodgate on an irrigation dam, they could regulate the amount of currency that existed, trying always not to provide too much or too little.

It was more complex than that, of course. Money had little physical reality. The Bureau of Engraving and Printing, located less than a mile away, had neither the paper nor the ink to make enough one-dollar bills for what the Fed parceled out every day. "Money" was mainly an electronic expression, a matter of sending a message: You, First National Bank of Podunk, now have an additional three million dollars which you may lend to Joe's Hardware, or Jeff Brown's Gas-and-Go, or for new homeowners to borrow as mortgage loans to pay back for the next twenty years. Few of these people were paid in cash—with credit cards there was less for a robber to steal, an employee to embezzle, or most inconveniently of all, a clerk to count, recount, and walk to the local branch of the bank. As a result, what appeared by the magic of computer E-mail or teleprinter message was lent out by written draft, to be repaid later by yet another theoretical expression, usually a check written on a small slip of special paper, often decorated with the pictures of a flying eagle or a fishing boat on some lake that didn't exist, because the banks competed for customers and people liked such things.

The power of the people in this room was so stunning that even they rarely thought about it. By a simple decision, the people around the table had just made everything in America cost more. Every adjustable-rate mortgage for every home, every auto loan, every credit card revolving line, would become more expensive every month. Because of that decision, every business and household in America would have less disposable income to spend on employee benefits or Christmas toys. What began as a press release would reach into every wallet in the nation. Prices would increase on every consumer item from home computers to bubble gum, thus reducing further still everyone's real buying power.

And this was good, the Fed thought. All the statistical indicators said the economy was running a little too hot. There was a real danger of increasing inflation. In fact, there was always inflation to one degree or another, but the interest raise would limit it to tolerable levels. Prices would still go up somewhat, and the increase in the discount rate would make them go up further still.

It was an example of fighting fire with fire. Raising interest rates meant that, at the margin, people would borrow less, which would actually reduce the amount of money in circulation, which would lessen the buying pressure, which would cause prices to stabilize, more or less, and prevent something that all knew to be more harmful than a momentary blip in interest rates. Like ripples expanding from a stone tossed into a lake, there would be other effects still. The interest on Treasury bills would increase. These were debt instruments of the government itself. People—actually institutions for the most part, like banks and pension funds and investment firms that had to park their clients' money somewhere while waiting for a good opportunity on the stock market—would give money, electronically, to the government for a term varying from three months to thirty years, and in return for the use of that money, the government itself had to pay interest (much of it recouped in taxes, of course). The marginal increase in the Federal-funds rate would raise the interest rate the government had to pay—determined at an auction. Thus the cost of the federal deficit would also increase, forcing the government to pull in more of the domestic money supply, reducing the pool of money available to personal and business loans and further increasing interest rates for the public through market forces over and above what the Fed enforced itself. Finally, the mere fact that bank and T-Bill rates would increase made the stock market less attractive to investors because the government-guaranteed return was "safer" than the more speculative rate of return anticipated by a company whose products and/or services had to compete in the marketplace.

On Wall Street, individual investors and professional managers who monitored economic indicators took the evening news (increases in the Fed rate were usually timed for release after the close of the markets) phlegmatically and made the proper notes to "go short on" (sell) their positions in some issues. This would reduce the posted values of numerous stocks, causing the Dow Jones Industrial Average to sink. Actually, it was not an average at all, but the sum of the current market value of thirty blue-chip stocks, with Allied Signal on one end of the alphabet, Woolworth's on the other, and Merck in the middle. It was an indicator whose utility today was mainly that of giving the news media something to report to the public, which for the most part didn't know what it represented anyway. The dip in "the Dow" would make some people nervous, causing more selling, and more decline in the market until others saw opportunity in stock issues that had been depressed farther than they deserved to be. Sensing that the true value of those issues was higher than the market price indicated, they would buy in measured quantities, allowing the Dow (and other market indicators) to increase again until a point of equilibrium was reached, and confidence restored. And all these multifaceted changes were imposed on everyone's individual lives by a handful of people in an ornate boardroom in Washington, D.C., whose names few investment professionals even knew, much less the general public.

The remarkable thing was that everyone accepted the entire process, seemingly as normal as physical laws of nature, despite the fact that it was really as ethereal as a rainbow. The money did not physically exist. Even "real" money was only specially made paper printed with black ink on the front and green on the back. What backed the money was not gold or something of intrinsic value, but rather the collective belief that money had value because it had to have such value. Thus it was that the monetary system of the United States and every other country in the world was entirely an exercise in psychology, a thing of the mind, and as a result, so was every other aspect of the American economy. If money was simply a matter of communal faith, then so was everything else. What the Federal Reserve had done that afternoon was a measured exercise in first shaking that faith and then allowing it to reestablish itself of its own accord through the minds of those who held it. Holders of that faith included the governors of the Fed, because they truly understood it all-or thought that they did. Individually they might joke that nobody really understood how it all worked, any more than any of them could explain the nature of God, but like theologians constantly trying to determine and communicate the nature of a deity, it was their job to keep things moving, to make the belief-structure real and tangible, never quite acknowledging that it all rested on nothing even as real as the paper currency they carried with them for the times when the use of a plastic credit card was inconvenient.

They were trusted, in the distant way that people trusted their clergy, to maintain the structure on which worldly faith always depended, proclaiming the reality of something that could not be seen, an edifice whose physical manifestations were found only in buildings of stone and the sober looks of those who worked there. And, they told themselves, it all worked. Didn't it? In many ways Wall Street was the one part of America in which Japanese citizens, especially those from Tokyo itself, felt most at home. The buildings were so tall as to deny one a look at the sky, the streets so packed that a visitor from another planet might think that yellow cabs and black limousines were the primary form of life here. People moved along the crowded, dirty sidewalks in bustling anonymity, eyes rigidly fixed forward both to show purpose and to avoid even visual contact with others who might be competitors or, more likely, were just in the way. The whole city of New York had taken its demeanor from this place, brusque, rapid, impersonal, tough in form, but not in substance. Its inhabitants told themselves that they were where the action was, and were so fixed on their individual and collective goals that they resented all the others who felt precisely the same way.

In that sense it was a perfect world. Everyone felt exactly the same. Nobody gave much of a damn about anyone else. At least, that's the way it appeared. In truth, the people who worked here had spouses and children, interests and hobbies, desires and dreams, just like anybody else, but between the hours of eight in the morning and six in the evening all that was subordinated to the rules of their business. The business, of course, was money, a class of product that knew no place or loyalty. And so it was that on the fifty-eighth floor of Six Columbus Lane, the new headquarters building of the Columbus Group, a changeover was taking place.

The room was breathtaking in every possible aspect. The walls were solid walnut, not veneer, and lovingly maintained by a well-paid team of craftsmen. Two of the walls were polished glass that ran from the carpet to the Celotex ceiling panels, and offered a view of New York Harbor and beyond. The carpet was thick enough to swallow up shoes—and to deliver a nasty static shock, which the people here had learned to tolerate. The conference table was forty feet of red granite, and the chairs around it priced out at nearly two thousand dollars each.

The Columbus Group, founded only eleven years before, had gone from being just one more upstart, to enfant terrible, to bright rising light, to serious player, to among the best in its field, to its current position as a cornerstone of the mutual-funds community. Founded by George Winston, the company now controlled a virtual fleet of fund-management teams. The three primary teams were fittingly called Nina, Pinta, and Santa Maria, because when Winston had founded the company, at the age of twenty-nine, he'd just read and been captivated by Samuel Eliot Morison's The European Discovery of the New World, and, marveling at the courage, vision, and sheer chutzpah of the restless navigators from Prince Henry's school, he'd decided to chart his own course by their example. Now forty, and rich beyond the dreams of avarice, it was time to leave, to smell the roses, to take his ninety-foot sailing yacht on some extended cruises. In fact, his precise plans were to spend the next few months learning how to sail Cristobol as expertly as he did everything else in his life, and then to duplicate the voyages of discovery, one every summer, until he ran out of examples to follow, and then maybe write his own book about it.

He was a man of modest size that his personality seemed to make larger. A fitness fanatic—stress was the prime killer on the Street—Winston positively glowed with the confidence imparted by his superb conditioning. He walked into the already-full conference room with the air of a President-elect entering his headquarters after the conclusion of a successful campaign, his stride fast and sure, his smile courtly and guileless. Pleased with this culmination of his professional life on this day, he even nodded his head to his principal guest.

"Yamata-san, so good to see you again," George Winston said with an extended hand. "You came a long way for this."

"For an event of this importance," the Japanese industrialist replied, "how could I not?"

Winston escorted the smaller man to his seat at the far end of the table before returning toward his own at the head. There were teams of lawyers and investment executives in between—rather like football squads at the line of scrimmage, Winston thought, as he walked the length of the table, guarding his own feelings as he did so.

It was the only way out, damn it, Winston told himself. Nothing else would have worked. The first six years running this place had been the greatest exhilaration of his life. Starting with less than twenty clients, building their money and his reputation at the same time. Working at home, he remembered, his brain racing to outstrip his paces across the room, one computer and one dedicated phone line, worried about feeding his family, blessed by the support of his loving wife despite the fact that she'd been pregnant the first time—with twins, no less, and still she'd never missed a chance to express her love and confidence-parlaying his skill and instinct into success. By thirty-five it had all been done, really. Two floors of a downtown office tower, his own plush office, a team of bright young "rocket scientists" to do the detail work. That was when he'd first thought about getting out.

In building up the funds of his clients, he'd bet his own money, too, of course, until his personal fortune, after taxes, was six hundred fifty-seven million dollars. Basic conservatism would not allow him to leave his money behind, and besides, he was concerned about where the market was heading, and so he was taking it all out, cashing in and switching over to a more conservative manager. It seemed a strange course of action even to himself, but he just didn't want to be bothered with this business anymore. Going "conservative" was dull, and would necessarily cast away enormous future opportunities, hut, he'd asked himself for years, what was the point? He owned six palatial homes, two personal automobiles at each, a helicopter, he leased a personal jet, Cristobol was his principal toy. He had everything he'd ever wanled, and even with conservative portfolio management, his personal wealth would continue to rise faster than the inflation rate because he didn't have the ego to spend even as much as the annualized return would generate.

And so he'd parcel it out in fifty-million-dollar blocks, covering every segment of the market through investment colleagues who had not achieved his personal success, but whose integrity and acumen he trusted. The switchover had been under way for three years, very quietly, as he'd searched for a worthy successor for the Columbus Group. Unfortunately, the only one who'd stepped forward was this little bastard.

"Ownership" was the wrong term, of course. The true owners of the group were the individual investors who gave their money to his custody, and that was a trust which Winston never forgot. Even with his decision made, his conscience clawed at him. Those people relied on him and his people, but him most of all, because his was the name on the most important door. The trust of so many people was a heavy burden which he'd borne with skill and pride, but enough was enough. It was time to attend to the needs of his own family, five kids and a faithful wife who were tired of "understanding" why Daddy had to be away so much. The needs of the many. The needs of the few. But the few were closer, weren't they?

Raizo Yamata was putting in much of his personal fortune and quite a bit of the corporate funds of his many industrial operations in order to make good the funds that Winston was taking out. Quiet though Winston might wish it to be, and understandable as his action surely was to anyone with a feel for the business, it would still become cause for comment. Therefore it was necessary that the man replacing him be willing to put his own money back in. That sort of move would restore any wavering confidence. It would also cement the marriage between the Japanese and American financial systems. While Winston watched, instruments were signed that "enabled" the funds transfer for which international-bank executives had stayed late at their offices in six countries. A man of great personal substance, Raizo Yamata.

Well, Winston corrected himself, great personal liquidity. Since leaving the Wharton School, he'd known a lot of bright, sharp operators, all of them cagey, intelligent people who'd tried to hide their predatory nature behind facades of humor and bonhomie. You soon developed an instinct for them. It was that simple. Perhaps Yamata thought that his heritage made him more unreadable, just as he doubtless thought himself to be smarter than the average bear—or bull in this case, Winston smiled to himself. Maybe, maybe not, he thought, looking down the forty-foot table. Why was there no excitement in the man? The Japanese had emotions, too. Those with whom he'd done business had been affable enough, pleased as any other man to make a big hit on the Street. Get a few drinks into them and they were no different from Americans, really. Oh, a little more reserved, a little shy, perhaps, but always polite, that's what he liked best about them, their fine manners, something that would have been welcome in New Yorkers. That was it, Winston thought. Yamata was polite, but it wasn't genuine. It was pro forma with him, and shyness had nothing to do with it. Like a little robot…

No, that wasn't true either, Winston thought, as the papers slid down the table toward him. Yamata's wall was just thicker than the average, the better to conceal what he felt. Why had he built such a wall? It wasn't necessary here, was it? In this room he was among equals; more than that, he was now among partners. He had just signed over his money, placed his personal well-being in the same boat as so many others. By transferring nearly two hundred million dollars, he now owned over one percent of the funds managed by Columbus, which made him the institution's largest single investor. With that status came control of every dollar, share, and option the fund had. It wasn't the largest fleet on the Street by any means, but the Columbus Group was one of the leaders. People looked to Columbus for ideas and trends. Yamata had bought more than a trading house. He now had a real position in the hierarchy of America's money-managers. His name, largely unknown in America until recently, would now be spoken with respect, which was something that ought to have put a smile on his face, Winston thought. But it didn't.

The final sheet of paper got to his chair, slid across by one of his principal subordinates, and, with his signature, about to become Yamata's. It was just so easy. One signature, a minute quantity of blue ink arranged in a certain way, and with it went eleven years of his life. One signature gave his business over to a man he didn't understand.

Well, I don't have to, do I? He'll try to make money for himself and others, just like I did. Winston took out his pen and signed without looking up. Why didn't you look first?

He heard a cork pop out of a champagne bottle and looked up to see the smiles on the faces of his former employees. In consummating the deal he'd become a symbol for them. Forty years old, rich, successful, retired, able to go after the fun dreams now, without having to stick around forever. That was the personal goal of everyone who worked in a place like this. Bright as these people were, few had the guts to give it a try. Even then, most of them failed, Winston reminded himself, but he was the living proof that it could happen. Tough-minded and cynical as these investment professionals were-or pretended to be-at heart they had the same dream, to make the pile and leave, get away from the incredible stress of finding opportunities in reams of paper reports and analyses, make a rep, draw people and their money in, do good things for them and yourself-and leave. The pot of gold was in the rainbow, and at the end was an exit. A sailboat, a house in Florida, another in the Virgins, another in Aspen…sleeping until eight sometimes; playing golf. It was a vision of the future which beckoned strongly. But why not now?

Dear God, what had he done? Tomorrow morning he'd wake up and not know what to do. Was it possible to turn it off just like that?

A little late for that, George, he told himself, reaching for the offered glass of Moet, taking the obligatory sip. He raised his glass to toast Yamata, for that, too, was obligatory. Then he saw the smile, expected but surprising. It was the smile of a victorious man. Why that? Winston asked himself. He'd paid top dollar. It wasn't the sort of deal in which anyone had "won" or "lost." Winston was taking his money out, Yamata was putting his money in. And yet that smile. It was a jarring note, all the more so because he didn't understand it. His mind raced even as the bubbly wine slid down his throat. If only the smile had been friendly and gracious, but it wasn't. Their eyes met, forty feet apart, in a look that no one else caught, and despite the fact that there had been no battle fought and no victors identified, it was as though a war was being fought.

Why? Instincts. Winston immediately turned his loose. There was just something—what? A nastiness in Yamata. Was he one of those who viewed everything as combat? Winston had been that way once, but grown out of it. Competition was always tough, but civilized. On the Street everyone competed with everyone else, too, for security, advice, consensus, and competition, which was tough but friendly so long as everyone obeyed the same rules.

You're not in that game, are you? he wanted to ask, too late.

Winston tried a new ploy, interested in the game that had started so unexpectedly. He lifted his glass, and silently toasted his successor while the other people in the room chattered across the table. Yamata reciprocated the gesture, and his mien actually became more arrogant, radiating contempt at the stupidity of the man who had just sold out to him.

You were so good at concealing your feelings before, why not now? You really thinkyou're the cat's ass, that you've done something…bigger than I know. What?

Winston looked away, out the windows to the mirror-calm water of the harbor. He was suddenly bored with the game, uninterested in whatever competition that little bastard thought himself to have won. Hell, he told himself, I'm out of here. I've lost nothing. I've gained my freedom. I've got my money. I've got everything. Okay, fine, you can run the house and make your money, and have a seat in any club or restaurant in town, whenever you're here, and tell yourself how important you are, and if you think that's a victory, then it is. But it's not a victory over anyone, Winston concluded.

It was too bad. Winston had caught everything, as he usually did, identified all the right elements. But for the first time in years, he'd failed to assemble them into the proper scenario. It wasn't his fault. He understood his own game completely, and had merely assumed, wrongly, that it was the only game in town.

Chet Nomuri worked very hard not to be an American citizen. His was the fourth generation of his family in the U.S.—the first of his ancestors had arrived right after the turn of the century and before the "Gentlemen's Agreement" between Japan and America restricting further immigration. It would have insulted him had he thought about it more. Of greater insult was what had happened to his grandparents and great-grandparents despite full U.S. citizenship. His grandfather had leaped at the chance to prove his loyalty to his country, and served in the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, returning home with two Purple Hearts and master-sergeant stripes only to find that the family business—office supplies—had been sold off for a song and his family sent to an intern camp. With stoic patience, he had started over, built it up with a new and unequivocal name, Veteran's Office Furniture, and made enough money to send his three sons through college and beyond. Chet's own father was a vascular surgeon, a small, jolly man who'd been born in government captivity, and whose parents, for that reason—and to please his grandfather—had maintained some of the traditions, such as language.

Done it pretty well, too, Nomuri thought. He'd overcome his accent problems in a matter of weeks, and now, sitting in the Tokyo bathhouse, everyone around him wondered which prefecture he had come from. Nomuri had identification papers for several. He was a field officer of the Central Intelligence Agency, perversely on assignment for the U.S. Department of Justice, and completely without the knowledge of the U.S. Department of State. One of the things he had learned from his surgeon father was to fix his eyes forward to the things he could do, not back at things he couldn't change. In this the Nomuri family had bought into America, quietly, undramatically, and successfully, Chet told himself, sitting up to his neck in hot water.

The rules of the bath were perfectly straightforward. You could talk about everything but business, and you could even talk about that, but only the gossip, not the substantive aspects of how you made your money and your deals. Within those loose constraints, seemingly everything was open for discussion in a surprisingly casual forum in this most structured of societies.

Nomuri got there at about the same time every day, and had been doing so long enough that the people he met were on a similar schedule, knew him, and were comfortable with him. He already knew everything there was to know about their wives and families, as they did about his—or rather, about the fictional "legend" that he'd built himself and which was now as real to him as the Los Angeles neighborhood in which he'd come to manhood.

"I need a mistress," Kazuo Taoka said, hardly for the first time. "My wife, all she wants to do is watch television since our son is born."

"All they ever do is complain," another salaryman agreed. There was a concurring series of grunts from the other men in the pool.

"A mistress is expensive," Nomuri noted from his corner of the bath, wondering what the wives complained about in their bathing pools. "In money and time."

Of the two, time was the more important. Each of the young executives—well, not really that, but the borderline between what in America would seem a clerkship and a real decision-making post was hazy in Japan—made a good living, but the price for it was to be bound as tightly to his corporation as one of Tennessee Ernie Ford's coal miners. Frequently up before dawn, commuting to work mainly by train from outlying suburbs, they worked in crowded offices, worked hard and late, and went home most often to find wives and children asleep. Despite what he'd learned from TV and research before coming over here, it still came as a shock to Nomuri that the pressures of business might actually be destroying the social fabric of the country, that the structure of the family itself was damaged. It was all the more surprising because the strength of the Japanese family unit was the only thing that had enabled his own ancestors to succeed in an America where racism had been a seemingly insurmountable obstacle.

"Expensive, yes," Taoka agreed morosely, "but where else can a man get what he needs?"

"That is true," another said on the other side of the pool. Well, not really a pool, but too big for a tub. "It costs too much, but what is it worth to be a man?"

"Easier for the bosses," Nomuri said next, wondering where this would lead. He was still early in his assignment, still building the foundation for embarking on his real mission, taking his time, as he'd been ordered to do by Ed and Mary Pat.

"You should see what Yamata-san has going for him," another salaryman observed with a dark chuckle.

"Oh?" Taoka asked.

"He is friendly with Goto," the man went on with a conspiratorial look.

"The politician—ah, yes, of course!"

Nomuri leaned back and closed his eyes, letting the hundred-plus-degree water of the bath envelop him, not wanting to appear interested as his brain turned on its internal tape-recorder. "Politician," he murmured sleepily.


"I had to run some papers to Yamata-san last month, a quiet place not far from here. Papers about the deal he just made today, in fact. Goto was entertaining him. They let me in, I suppose Yamata-san wanted me to have a look. The girl with them…" His voice became slightly awed. "Tall and blonde, such fine bosoms."

"Where does one buy an American mistress?" another interjected coarsely.

"And she knew her place," the storyteller went on. "She sat there while Yamata-san went over the papers, waiting patiently. No shame in her at all. Such lovely bosoms," the man concluded.

So the stories about Goto are true, Nomuri thought. How the hell do people like that make it so far in politics? the field officer asked himself. Only a second later he reproved himself for the stupidity of the question. Such behavior in politicians dated back to the Trojan War and beyond.

"You cannot stop there," Taoka insisted humorously. The man didn't, elaborating on the scene and earning the rapt attention of the others, who already knew all the relevant information on the wives of all present, and were excited to hear the description of a "new" girl in every clinical detail.

"Who cares about them?" Nomuri asked crossly, with closed eyes. "They're too tall, their feet are too big, their manners are poor, and—"

"Let him tell the story," an excited voice insisted. Nomuri shrugged his submission to the collegial will while his mind recorded every word. The salaryman had an eye for detail, and in less than a minute Nomuri had a full physical description. The report would go through the Station Chief to Langley, because the CIA kept a file on the personal habits of politicians all over the world. There was no such thing as a useless fact, though he was hoping to get information of more immediate use than Goto's sexual proclivities.

The debriefing was held at the Farm, officially known as Camp Peary, a CIA training facility located off of Interstate 64 between Williamsburg and Yorktown, Virginia. Cold drinks were gunned down as rapidly as the cans could be popped open, as both men went over maps and explained the six weeks in-country that had ended so well. Corp, CNN said, was going to begin his trial in the following week. There wasn't much doubt about the outcome. Somewhere back in that equatorial country, somebody had already purchased about fifteen feet of three-quarter-inch manila rope, though both officers wondered where the lumber for the gallows would come from. Probably have to ship it in, Clark thought. They hadn't seen much in the way of trees.

"Well," Mary Patricia Foley said after hearing the final version. "Sounds like a good clean one, guys."

"Thank you, ma'am," Ding replied gallantly. "John sure shovels out a nice line of BS for people."

"That's experience for you," Clark noted with a chuckle. "How's Ed doing?"

"Learning his place," the Deputy Director for Operations replied with an impish grin. Both she and her husband had gone through the Farm together, and Clark had been one of their instructors. Once the best husband-wife team the Agency had, the truth of the matter was that Mary Pat had better instincts for working the field, and Ed was better at planning things out. Under those circumstances, Ed really should have had the senior position, bul Mary Pat's appointment had just been too attractive, politically speaking, and in any case they still worked together, effectively co-Deputy Directors, though Ed's actual title was somewhat nebulous.

"You two are due some time off, and by the way, you have an official attaboy from the other side of the river." That was not a first for either officer. "John, you know, it's really time for you to come back inside." By which she meant a permanent return to a training slot here in the Virginia Tidewater. The Agency was increasing its human-intelligence assets—the bureaucratic term for increasing the number of case officers (known as spies to America's enemies) to be deployed into the field. Mrs. Foley wanted Clark to help train them. After all, he'd done a good job with her and her husband, twenty years before.

"Not unless you want to retire me. I like it out there."

"He's dumb that way, ma'am," Chavez said with a sly grin. "I guess it comes with old age."

Mrs. Foley didn't argue the point. These two were among her best field agents, and she wasn't in that much of a hurry to break up a successful operation. "Fair enough, guys. You're released from the debrief. Oklahoma and Nebraska are on this afternoon."

"How are the kids, MP?" That was her service nickname, though not everybody had the rank to use it.

"Just fine, John. Thanks for asking." Mrs. Foley stood and walked to the door. A helicopter would whisk her back to Langley. She wanted to catch the game, too.

Clark and Chavez traded the look that comes with the conclusion of a job. Operation WALKMAN was now in the books, officially blessed by the Agency, and, in this case, by the White House.

"Miller time, Mr. C."

"I guess you want a ride, eh?"

"If you would be so kind, sir," Ding replied.

John Clark looked his partner over. Yes, he had cleaned himself up. The black hair was cut short and neat, the dark, heavy beard that had blurred his face in Africa was gone. He was even wearing a tie and white shirt under his suit jacket. Clark thought of the outfit as courting clothes, though on further reflection he might have recalled that Ding had once been a soldier, and that soldiers returning from the field liked to scrape off the physical reminders of the rougher aspects of their profession. Well, he could hardly complain that the lad was trying to look presentable, could he? Whatever faults Ding might have, John told himself, he always showed proper respect.

"Come on." Clark's Ford station wagon was parked in its usual place, and alter fifteen minutes they pulled into the driveway of his house. Set outside the grounds of Camp Peary, it was an ordinary split-level rancher, emptier now than it had been. Margaret Pamela Clark, his elder daughter, was away at college, Marquette University in her case. Patricia Doris Clark had chosen a school closer to home, William and Mary in nearby Williamsburg, where she was majoring in pre-med. Patsy was at the door, already alerted for the arrival.

"Daddy!" A hug, a kiss, followed by something which had become somewhat more important. "Ding!" Just a hug in this case, Clark saw, not fooled for a moment.

"Hi, Pats." Ding didn't let go of her hand as he came into the house.


"Our requirements are different," the negotiator insisted.

"How is that?" his counterpart asked patiently

"The steel, the design of the tank, these are unique. I am not an engineer myself, but the people who do the design work tell me this is so, and that their product will be damaged by the substitution of other parts. Now," he went on patiently, "there is also the issue of commonality of the parts. As you know, many of the cars assembled in Kentucky are shipped back to Japan for sale, and in the event of damage or the need for replacement, then the local supply will immediately be available for use. If we were to substitute the American components which you suggest, this would not be the case."

"Seiji, we are talking about a gasoline tank. It is made of—what? Five pieces of galvanized steel, bent and welded together, with a total internal capacity of nineteen gallons. There are no moving parts," the official of the State Department pointed out, interjecting himself into the process and playing his part as he was paid to do. He'd even done a good job of feigning exasperation when he'd used his counterpart's given name.

"Ah, but the steel itself, the formula, the proportions of different materials in the finished alloy, these have been optimized to the precise specifications required by the manufacturer—"

"Which are standardized all over the world."

"Sadly, this is not the case. Our specifications are most exacting, far more so than those of others, and, I regret to say, more exacting than those of the Deerfield Auto Parts Company. For that reason, we must sadly decline your request." Which put an end to this phase of the negotiations. The Japanese negotiator leaned hack in his, chair, resplendent in his Brooks Brothers suit and Pierre Cardin tie, trying not to gloat too obviously. He had a lot of practice in doing so, and was good at it: it was his deck of cards. Besides, the game was just getting easier, not harder.

"That is most disappointing," the representative of the U.S. Department of Commerce said. He hadn't expected otherwise, of course, and flipped the page to go on to the next item on the agenda of the Domestic Content Negotiations. It was like a Greek play, he told himself, some cross between a Sophoclean tragedy and a comedy by Aristophanes. You knew exactly what was going to happen before you even started. In this he was right, but in a way he couldn't know.

The meat of the play had been determined months earlier, long before the negotiations had stumbled upon the issue, and in retrospect sober minds would certainly have called it an accident, just one more of the odd coincidences that shape the fate of nations and their leaders. As with most such events, it had begun with a simple error that had occurred despite the most careful of precautions. A bad electrical wire, of all things, had reduced the available current into a dip tank, thus reducing the charge in the hot liquid into which the steel sheets were dipped. That in turn had reduced the galvanizing process, and the steel sheets were in fact given merely a thin patina, while they appeared to be fully coated. The non-galvanized sheets were piled up on pallets, wrapped with steel bands for stability, and covered with plastic. The error would be further compounded in the finishing and assembly process.

The plant where it had happened was not part of the assembler. As with American firms, the big auto-assembly companies—which designed the cars and put their trademarks on them—bought most of the components from smaller parts-supply companies. In Japan the relationship between the bigger fish and the smaller ones was both stable and cutthroat: stable insofar as the business between the two sets of companies was generally one of long standing; cutthroat insofar as the demands of the assemblers were dictatorial, for there was always the threat that they would move their business to someone else, though this possibility was rarely raised openly. Only oblique references, usually a kindly comment on the state of affairs at another, smaller firm, a reference to the bright children of the owner of such a firm, or how the representative of the assembler had seen him at a ball game or bathhouse the previous week. The nature of the reference was less important than the content of the message, and that content always came through loud and clear. As a result, the little parts-companies were not the showcases of Japanese heavy industry that other nationalities had come to see and respect on worldwide television. The workers didn't wear company coveralls, didn't eat alongside management in plush cafeterias, didn't work in spotless, superbly organized assembly plants. The pay for these workers was also something other than the highly adequate wage structure of the assembly workers, and though the lifelong employment covenant was becoming fiction even for the elite workers, it had never existed at all for the others.

At one of the nondescript metal-working shops, the bundles of not-quite-galvanized steel were unwrapped, and the individual sheets fed by hand to culling machines. There the square sheets were mechanically sliced, and the edges trimmed—the surplus material was gathered and returned to the steel mill for recycling—so that each piece matched the size determined by the design, invariably to tolerances less than a millimeter, even for this fairly crude component which the owner's eyes would probably never behold. The larger cut pieces moved on to another machine for heating and bending, then were welded into an oval cylinder. Immediately thereafter the oval-cut end pieces were matched up and welded into place as well, by a machine process that required only one workman to supervise. Pre-cut holes in one side were matched up with the pipe that would terminate at the filler cap—there was another in the bottom for the line leading to the engine. Before leaving the jobber, the tanks were spray-coated with a wax-and-epoxy-based formula that would protect the steel against rust. The formula was supposed to bond with the steel, creating a firm union of disparate materials that would forever protect the gas tank against corrosion and resultant fuel leakage. An elegant and fairly typical piece of superb Japanese engineering, only in this case it didn't work because of the bad electrical cable at the steel plant. The coating never really attached itself to the steel, though it had sufficient internal stiffness to hold its shape long enough for visual inspection to be performed, and immediately afterwards the gas tanks proceeded by roller-conveyor to the boxing shop at the end of the small-parts plant. There the tanks were tucked into cardboard boxes fabricated by yet another jobber and sent by truck to a warehouse where half of the tanks were placed aboard other trucks for delivery to the assembly plant, and the other half went into identically sized cargo containers which were loaded aboard a ship for transport to the United States. There the tanks would be attached to a nearly identical automobile at a plant owned by the same international conglomerate, though this plant was located in the hills of Kentucky, not the Kwanto Plain outside of Tokyo.

All this had taken place months before the item had come onto the agenda of the Domestic Content Negotiations. Thousands of automobiles had been assembled and shipped with defective fuel tanks, and all had slipped through the usually excellent quality-assurance procedures at the assembly plants separated by six thousand miles of land and sea. In the case of those assembled in Japan, the cars had been loaded aboard some of the ugliest ships ever made, slab-sided auto-carriers which had the riding characteristics of barges as they plodded through the autumnal storms of the North Pacific Ocean. The sea-salt in the air reached through the ships' ventilation systems to the autos. That wasn't too bad until one of the ships drove through a front, and cold air changed rapidly to warm, and the instant change in relative humidity interacted with that of the air within various fuel tanks, causing salt-heavy moisture to form on the exterior of the steel, inside the defective coating. There the salt immediately started working on the unprotected mild steel of the tank, rusting and weakening the thin metal that contained 92-octane gasoline.

Whatever his other faults, Corp met his death with dignity, Ryan saw. He had just finished watching a tape segment that CNN had judged unsuitable for its regular news broadcast. After a speech whose translation Ryan had on two sheets of paper in his lap, the noose was placed over his head and the trap was sprung. The CNN camera crew focused in on the body as it jerked to a stop, closing an entry on his country's ledger. Mohammed Abdul Corp.

Bully, killer, drug-runner. Dead.

"I just hope we haven't created a martyr," Brett Hanson said, breaking the silence in Ryan's office.

"Mr. Secretary," Ryan said, turning his head to see his guest reading through a translation of Corp's last words. "Martyrs all share a single characteristic."

"What's that, Ryan?"

"They're all dead." Jack paused for effect. "This guy didn't die for God or his country. He died for committing crimes. They didn't hang him for killing Americans. They hanged him for killing his own people and for selling narcotics. That's not the stuff martyrs are made of. Case closed," Jack concluded, sticking the unread sheets of paper in his out basket. "Now, what have we learned about India?"

"Diplomatically speaking, nothing."

"Mary Pat?" Jack asked the CIA representative.

"There's a heavy mechanized brigade doing intensive training down south. We have overheads from two days ago. They seem to be exercising as a unit."


"No assets in place," Mrs. Foley admitted, delivering what had become a CIA mantra. "Sorry, Jack. It'll be years before we can field people everywhere we want."

Ryan grumbled silently. Satellite photos were fine for what they were, but they were merely photographs. Photos only gave you shapes, not thoughts. Ryan needed thoughts. Mary Pat was doing her best to fix that, he remembered.

"According to the Navy, their fleet is very busy, and their pattern of operations suggests a barrier mission," The satellites did show that the Indian Navy's collection of amphibious-warfare ships was assembled in two squadrons. One was at sea, roughly two hundred miles from its base, exercising together as a group. The other was alongside at the same naval base undergoing maintenance, also as a group. The base was distant from the brigade undergoing its own exercises, but there was a rail line from the army base to the naval one. Analysts were now checking the rail yards at both facilities on a daily basis. The satellites were good for that, at least.

"Nothing at all, Brett? We have a pretty good ambassador over there as I recall."

"I don't want him to press too hard. It could damage what influence and access we have," SecState announced. Mrs. Foley tried not to roll her eyes.

"Mr. Secretary," Ryan said patiently, "in view of the fact that we have neither information nor influence at the moment, anything he might develop will be useful. Do you want me to make the call or will you?"

"He works for me, Ryan."

Jack waited a few beats before responding to the prod. He hated territorial fights, though they were seemingly the favorite sport in the executive branch of the government.

"He works for the United States of America. Ultimately he works for the President. My job is to tell the President what's going on over there, and I need information. Please turn him loose. He's got a CIA chief working for him. He has three uniformed attaches. I want them all turned loose. The object of the exercise is to classify what looks to the Navy and to me like preparations for a possible invasion of a sovereign country. We want to prevent that."

"I can't believe that India would really do such a thing," Brett Hanson said somewhat archly. "I've had dinner with their Foreign Minister several times, and he never gave me the slightest indication—"

"Okay." Ryan interrupted quietly to ease the pain he was about to inflict. "Fine, Brett. But intentions change, and they did give us the indicator that they want our fleet to go away. I want the information. I am requesting that you turn Ambassador Williams loose to rattle a few bushes. He's smart and I trust his judgment. That's a request on my part. I can ask the President to make it an order. Your call, Mr. Secretary."

Hanson weighed his options, and nodded agreement with as much dignity as he could summon. Ryan had just cleared up a situation in Africa that had gnawed at Roger Durling for two years, and so was the prettiest kid on the block, for the moment. It wasn't every day that a government employee increased the chances for a President to get himself reelected. The suspicion that CIA had apprehended Corp had already made it way in the media, and was being only mildly denied in the White House pressroom. It was no way to conduct foreign policy, but that issue would be fought on another battlefield.

"Russia," Ryan said next, ending one discussion and beginning another.

The engineer at the Yoshinobu space-launch complex knew he was not the first man to remark on the beauty of evil. Certainly not in his country, where the national mania for craftsmanship had probably begun with the loving attention given to swords, the meter-long katana of the samurai. There, the steel was hammered, bent over, hammered again, and bent over again twenty times in a lamination process that resulted in over a million layers of steel made from a single original casting. Such a process required an immense amount of patience from the prospective owner, who would wait patiently even so, displaying a degree of downward-manners for which that period of his country was not famous. Yet so it had been, for the samurai needed his sword, and only a master craftsman could fabricate it.

But not today. Today's samurai—if you could call him that—used the telephone and demanded instant results. Well, he would still have to wait, the engineer thought, as he gazed at the object before him.

In fact, the thing before his eyes was an elaborate lie, but it was the cleverness of the lie, and its sheer engineering beauty that excited his self-admiration. The plug connections on the side of it were fake, but only six people here knew that, and the engineer was the last of them as he headed down the ladder from the top portion of the gantry tower to the next-lower level. From there, they would ride the elevator to the concrete pad, where a bus waited to carry them to the control bunker. Inside the bus, the engineer removed his white-plastic hard-hat and started to relax. Ten minutes later, he was in a comfortable swivel chair, sipping tea. His presence here and on the pad hadn't been necessary, but when you built something, you wanted to see it all the way through, and besides, Yamata-san would have insisted.

The H-11 booster was new. This was only the second test-firing. It was actually based on Soviet technology, one of the last major ICBM designs the Russians had built before their country had come apart, and Yamata-san had purchased the rights to the design for a song (albeit written in hard currency), then turned all the drawings and data over to his own people for modification and improvement. It hadn't been hard. Improved steel for the casing and better electronics for the guidance system had saved fully 1,200 kilograms of weight, and further improvements in the liquid fuels had taken the performance of the rocket forward by a theoretical 17 percent. It had been a bravura performance by the design team, enough to attract the interest of NASA engineers from America, three of whom were in the bunker to observe. And wasn't that a fine joke?

The countdown proceeded according to plan. The gantry came back on its rails. Floodlights bathed the rocket, which sat atop the pad like a monument—but not the kind of monument the Americans thought.

"Hell of a heavy instrument package," a NASA observer noted.

"We want to certify our ability to orbit a heavy pay load," one of the missile engineers replied simply.

"Well, here we go…"

The rocket-motor ignition caused the TV screens to flare briefly, until they compensated electronically for the brilliant power of the white flame.

The H-11 booster positively leaped upward atop a column of flame and a trail of smoke.

"What did you do with the fuel?" the NASA man asked quietly.

"Better chemistry," his Japanese counterpart replied, watching not the screen but a bank of instruments. "Better quality control, purity of the oxidizer, mainly."

"They never were very good at that," the American agreed.

He just doesn't see what he sees, both engineers told themselves. Yamata-san was correct. It was amazing.

Radar-guided cameras followed the rocket upward into the clear sky. The H-11 climbed vertically for the first thousand feet or so, then curved over in a slow, graceful way, its visual signature diminishing to a white-yellow disk. The flight path became more and more horizontal until the accelerating rocket body was heading almost directly away from the tracking cameras.

"BECO," the NASA man breathed, just at the proper moment. BECO meant booster-engine cutoff, because he was thinking in terms of a space launcher. "And separation…and second-stage ignition…" He got those terms right. One camera tracked the falling first stage, still glowing from residual fuel burnoff as it fell into the sea.

"Going to recover it?" the American asked.


All heads shifted to telemetric readouts when visual contact was lost. The rocket was still accelerating, exactly on its nominal performance curve, heading southeast. Various electronic displays showed the H-11's progress both numerically and graphically.

"Trajectory's a little high, isn't it?"

"We want a high-low orbit," the project manager explained. "Once we establish that we can orbit the weight, and we can certify the accuracy of the insertion, the payload will deorbit in a few weeks. We don't wish to add more junk up there."

"Good for you. All the stuff up there, it's becoming a concern for our manned missions." The NASA man paused, then decided to ask a sensitive question. "What's your max payload?"

"Five metric tons, ultimately."

He whistled. "You think you can get that much performance off this bird?" Ten thousand pounds was the magic number. If you could put that much into low-earth-orbit, you could then orbit geosynchronous communications satellites. Ten thousand pounds would allow for the satellite itself and the additional rocket motor required to attain the higher altitude. "Your trans-stage must be pretty hot."

The reply was, at first, a smile. "That is a trade secret."

"Well, I guess we'll see in about ninety seconds." The American turned in his chair to watch the digital telemetry. Was it possible they knew something he and his people didn't? He didn't think so, but just to make sure, NASA had an observation camera watching the H-11. The Japanese didn't know that, of course. NASA had tracking facilities all over the world to monitor U.S. space activity, and since they often had nothing to do, they kept track of all manner of things. The ones on Johnston Island and Kwajalein Atoll had originally been set up for SDI testing, and the tracking of Soviet missile launches.

The tracking camera on Johnston Island was called Amber Ball, and its crew of six picked up the H-11, having been cued on the launch by a Defense Support Program satellite, which had also been designed and orbited to give notice of Soviet launches. Something from another age, they all told themselves.

"Sure looks like a -19," the senior technician observed to general agreement.

"So does the trajectory," another said after a check of range and flight path.

"Second stage cutoff and separation, trans-stage and payload are loose now…getting a small adjustment burn—whoa!"

The screen went white.

"Signal lost, telemetry signal lost!" a voice called in launch control.

The senior Japanese engineer growled something that sounded like a curse to the NASA representative, whose eyes tracked down to the graphic-display screen. Signal lost just a few seconds after the trans-stage ignition. That could mean only one thing.

"That's happened to us more than once," the American said sympathetically. The problem was that rocket fuels, especially the liquid fuels always used for the final stage of a space launch, were essentially high explosives. What could go wrong? NASA and the U.S. military had spent over forty years discovering every possible mishap.

The weapons engineer didn't lose his temper as the flight-control officer had, and the American sitting close to him put it down to professionalism, which it was. And the American didn't know that he was a weapons engineer, anyway. In fact, to this point everything had gone exactly according to plan. The trans-stage fuel containers had been loaded with high explosives and had detonated immediately after the separation of the payload package.

The payload was a conical object, one hundred eighty centimeters wide at the base and two hundred six in length. It was made of uranium-238, which would have been surprising and unsettling to the NASA representative. A dense and very hard metal, it also had excellent refractory qualities, meaning that it resisted heat quite well. The same material was used in the payloads of many American space vehicles, but none of them was owned by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. Rather, objects of very similar shapes and sizes sat atop the few remaining nuclear-tipped strategic weapons which the United States was dismantling in accordance with a treaty with Russia. More than thirty years earlier, an engineer at AVCO had pointed out that since U-238 was both an excellent material for withstanding the heat of a ballistic reentry and made up the third stage of a thermonuclear device, why not make the body of the RV part of the bomb? That sort of thing had always appealed to an engineer, and the idea had been tested, certified, and since the 1960's become a standard part of the U.S. strategic arsenal.

The payload so recently part of the H-11 booster was an exact engineering mockup of a nuclear warhead, and while Amber Ball and other tracking devices were watching the remains of the trans-stage, this cone of uranium fell back to earth. It was not a matter of interest to American cameras, since it was, after all, just an orbit-test payload that had failed to achieve the velocity necessary to circle the earth.

Nor did the Americans know that MV Takuyo, sitting halfway between Easter Island and the coast of Peru, was not doing the fishery-research work it was supposed to be doing. Two kilometers to the east of Takuyo was a rubber raft, on which sat a GPS locator and a radio. The ship was not equipped with a radar capable of tracking an inbound ballistic target, but the descending RV gave its own announcement in the pre-dawn darkness; glowing white-hot from its reentry friction, it came down like a meteor, trailing a path of fire right on time and startling the extra lookouts on the flying bridge, who'd been told what to expect but were impressed nonetheless. Heads turned rapidly to follow it down, and the splash was a mere two hundred meters from the raft. Calculations would later determine that the impact point had been exactly two hundred sixty meters from the programmed impact point. It wasn't perfect, and, to the disappointment of some, was fully an order of magnitude worse than that of the Americans' newest missiles, but for the purposes of the test, it was quite sufficient. And better yet, the test had been carried out in front of the whole world and still not been seen.

Moments later, the warhead released an inflated balloon to keep it close to the surface. A boat launched from Takuyo was already on the way to snag the line so that the RV could be recovered and its instrumented data analyzed.

"It's going to be very hard, isn't it?" Barbara Linders asked.

"Yes, it will." Murray wouldn't lie to her. Over the past two weeks they'd become very close indeed, closer, in fact, than Ms. Linders was with her therapist. In that time, they had discussed every aspect of the assault more than ten times, with tape recordings made of every word, printed transcripts made of the recordings, and every fact cross-checked, even to the extent that photographs of the former senator's office had been checked for the color of the furniture and carpeting. Everything had checked out. Oh, there had been a few discrepancies, but only a few, and all of them minor. The substance of the case was unaffected. But all of that would not change the fact that, yes, it would be very hard.

Murray ran the case, acting as the personal representative of Director Bill Shaw. Under Murray were twenty-eight agents, two of them headquarters-division inspectors, and almost all the rest experienced men in their forties, chosen for their expertise (there were also a half dozen young agents to do legwork errands). The next step would be to meet with a United States Attorney. They'd already chosen the one they wanted, Anne Cooper, twenty-nine, a J.D. from the University of Indiana, who specialized in sexual-assault cases. An elegant woman, tall, black, and ferociously feminist, she had sufficient fervor for such cases that the name of the defendant wouldn't matter to her more than the time of day. That was the easy part.

Then came the hard part. The "defendant" in question was the Vice President of the United States, and the Constitution said that he could not be treated like a normal citizen. In his case, the "grand jury" would be the United States House of Representatives' Committee on the Judiciary. Anne Cooper would work technically in cooperation with the chairman and staffers of the committee, though as a practical matter she'd actually run the case herself, with the committee people "helping" by grandstanding and leaking things to the press.

The firestorm would start, Murray explained slowly and quietly, when the chairman of the committee was informed of what was coming. Then the accusations would become public; the political dimension made it unavoidable. Vice President Edward J. Kealty would indignantly deny all accusations, and his defense team would launch its own investigation of Barbara Linders. They would discover the things that Murray had already heard from her own lips, many of them damaging, and the public would not be told, at first, that rape victims, especially those who did not report their crimes, suffered crushing loss of self-esteem, often manifested by abnormal sexual behavior. (Having learned that sexual activity was the only thing that men wanted of them, they often sought more of it in a futile search for the self-worth ripped away from them by the first attacker.) Barbara Linders had done that, had taken antidepression medications, had skipped through half a dozen jobs and two abortions. That this was a result of her victimization, and not an indication of her unreliability, would have to be established before the committee, because once the matter became public information, she would be unable to defend herself, not allowed to speak openly, while lawyers and investigators on the other side would have every chance to attack her as thoroughly and viciously as, but far more publicly than, Ed Kealty ever had. The media would see to that.

"It's not fair," she said, finally.

"Barbara, it is fair. It's necessary," Murray said as gently as he could. "You know why? Because when we impeach that son of a bitch, there won't be any doubts. The trial in the U.S. Senate will be a formality. Then we can put him in front of a real federal district-court jury, and then he will be convicted like the criminal he is. It's going to be hard on you, but when he goes to prison, it'll be a lot harder on him. It's the way the system works. It isn't perfect, but it's the best we have. And when it's all over, Barbara, you will have your dignity back, and nobody, ever, will take it away from you again."

"I'm not going to run away anymore, Mr. Murray." She'd come a long way in two weeks. There was metal in her backbone now. Maybe not steel, but it grew stronger every day. He wondered if it would be strong enough. The odds, he figured, were 6-5 and pick 'em.

"Please call me Dan. My friends do."

"What is it you didn't want to say in front of Brett?"

"We have a guy in Japan…" Mrs. Foley began, without giving Chet Nomuri's name. She went on for several minutes.

Her account wasn't exactly a surprise. Ryan had made the suggestion himself several years earlier, right here in the White House to then-President Fowler. Too many American public officials left government service and immediately became lobbyists or consultants to Japanese business groups, or even to the Japanese government itself, invariably for much higher pay than what the American taxpayer provided. The fact was troubling to Ryan. Though not illegal per se, it was, at the least, unseemly. But there was more to it than that. One didn't just change office location for a tenfold increase in income. There had to be a recruitment process, and that process had to have some substance to it. As with every other form of espionage, an agent-recruit needed to provide up-front proof that he could deliver something of value. The only way for that to happen was for those officials who yearned for higher income to give over sensitive information while they were still in government employment. And that was espionage, a felony under Title 18 of U.S. Code. A joint CIA/FBI operation was working quietly to see what it could see. It was called Operation SANDALWOOD, and that's where Nomuri came in.

"So what have we got so far?"

"Nothing on point yet," Mary Pat replied. "But we have learned some interesting things about Hiroshi Goto. He has a few bad habits." She elaborated.

"He doesn't like us very much, does he?"

"He likes female Americans just fine, if you want to call it that."

"It's not something we can use very easily." Ryan leaned back in his chair. It was distasteful, especially for a man whose elder daughter would soon start dating, something that came hard to fathers under the best of circumstances. "There's a lot of lost souls out there, MP, and we can't save them all," Jack said without much conviction in his voice.

"Something smells about this, Jack."

"Why do you say that?"

"I don't know. Maybe it's the recklessness of it. This guy could be their Prime Minister in another couple of weeks. He's got a lot of support from the zaibatsu. The present government is shaky. He ought to be playing statesman, not cocksman, and putting a young girl on display like that…"

"Different culture, different rules." Ryan made the mistake of closing tired eyes for a moment, and as he did so his imagination conjured up an image to match Mrs. Foley's words. She's an American citizen, Jack. They're the people who pay your salary. The eyes opened back up. "How good's your officer?"

"He's very sharp. He's been in-country for six months."

"Has he recruited anybody yet?"

"No, he's under orders to go slow. You have to over there. Their society has different rules. He's identified a couple unhappy campers, and he's taking his time."

"Yamata and Goto…but that doesn't make sense, does it? Yamata just took a management interest on the Street, the Columbus Group. George Winston's outfit. I know George."

"The mutual-funds bunch?"

"That's right. He just hung 'em up, and Yamata stepped up to take his place. We're talking big bucks, MP. Hundred-million minimum for the price of admission. So you're telling me that a politician who professes not to like the United States hangs out with an industrialist who just married himself to our financial system. Hell, maybe Yamata is trying to explain the facts of life to the guy."

"What do you know about Mr. Yamata?" she asked.

The question caught Jack short. "Me? Not much, just a name. He runs a big conglomerate. Is he one of your targets?"

"That's right."

Ryan grinned somewhat crookedly. "MP, you sure this is complicated enough? Maybe toss in another element?"

In Nevada, people waited for the sun to set over the mountains before beginning what had been planned as a routine exercise, albeit with some last-minute modifications. The Army warrant officers were all experienced men, and they remained bemused by their first official visit to "Dreamland," as the Air Force people still called their secret facility at Groom Lake. This was the place where you tested stealthy aircraft, and the area was littered with radar and other systems to determine just how stealthy such things really were.

With the sun finally gone and the clear sky dark, they manned their aircraft and lifted off for a night's testing. The mission for tonight was to approach the Nellis flight line, to deliver some administrative ordnance, and to return to Groom Lake, all undetected. That would be hard enough. Jackson, wearing his J-3 hat, was observing the newest entry in the stealth business. The Comanche had some interesting implications in that arena, and more still in special operations, fast becoming the most fashionable part of the Pentagon. The Army said they had a real magic show worth watching, and he was here to watch…

"Guns, guns, guns!" the warrant officer said over the guard channel ninety minutes later. Then on intercom, "God, what a beautiful sight!"

The ramp at Nellis Air Force Base was home to the Air Force's largest fighter wing, today augmented further still with two visiting squadrons for the ongoing Red Flag operation. That gave his Comanche over a hundred targets for its 20-millimeter cannon, and he walked his fire among the even rows of aircraft before turning and exiting the area to the south. The casinos of Las Vegas were in sight as he looped around, making room for the other two Comanches, then it was back down to fifty feet over the uneven sand on a northeasterly heading.

"Getting hit again. Some Eagle jockey keeps sweeping us," the backseater reported.

"Locking up?"

"Sure as hell trying to, and—Jesus—"

An F-I5C screeched overhead close enough that the wake turbulence made the Comanche rock a little. Then a voice came up on guard.

"If this was an Echo, I'd have your ass."

"I just knew you Air Force guys were like that. See you at the barn."

"Roger. Out." In the distance at twelve o'clock, the fighter lit off its afterburners in salute.

"Good news, bad news, Sandy," the backseater observed.

Stealthy, but not quite stealthy enough. The low-observable technology built into the Comanche was good enough to defeat a missile-targeting radar, but those damned airborne early-warning birds with their big antennas and signal-processor chips kept getting hits, probably off the rotor disc, the pilot thought. They had to do a little more work on that. The good news was that the F-15C, with a superb missile-tracking radar, couldn't get lockup for his AMRAAMs, and a heat-seeker was a waste of time for all involved, even over a cold desert floor. But the F-15E, with its see-in-the-dark gear, could have blown him away with a 20mm cannon. Something to remember. So, the world was not yet perfect, but Comanche was still the baddest helicopter ever made.

CWO-4 Sandy Richter looked up. In the dry, cold desert air he could see the strobe lights of the orbiting E-3A AW ACS. Not all that far away. Thirty thousand feet or so, he estimated. Then he had an interesting thought. That Navy guy looked smart enough, and maybe if he presented his idea in the right way, he'd get a chance to try it out…

"I'm getting tired of this," President Durling was saying in his office, diagonally across the West Wing from Ryan's. There had been a couple of good years, but they'd come to a screeching halt in the past few months. "What was it today?"

"Gas tanks," Marty Caplan replied. "Deerfield Auto Parts up in Massachusetts just came up with a way to fabricate them into nearly any shape and capacity from standard steel sheets. It's a robotic process, efficient as hell. They refused to license it to the Japanese—"

"Al Trent's district?" the President cut in.

"That's right."

"Excuse me. Please go on." Durling reached for some tea. He was having trouble with afternoon coffee now. "Why won't they license it?"

"It's one of the companies that almost got destroyed by overseas competition. This one held on to the old management team. They smartened up, hired a few bright young design engineers, and pulled their socks up. They've come up with half a dozen important innovations. It just so happens that this is the one that delivers the greatest cost-efficiency. They claim they can make the tanks, box 'em, and ship them to Japan cheaper than the Japanese can make them at home, and that the tanks are also stronger. But we couldn't even make the other side budge on using them in the plants they have over here. It's computer chips all over again," Caplan concluded.

"How is it they can even ship the things over—"

"The ships, Mr. President." It was Caplan's turn to interrupt. "Their car carriers come over here full and mainly return completely empty. Loading the things on wouldn't cost anything at all, and they end up getting delivered right to the company docks. Deerfield even designed a load-unload system that eliminates any possible time penalty."

"Why didn't you push on it?"

"I'm surprised he didn't push," Christopher Cook observed.

They were in an upscale private home just off Kalorama Road. An expensive area of the District of Columbia, it housed quite a few members of the diplomatic community, along with the rank-and-file members of the Washington community, lobbyists, lawyers, and all the rest who wanted to be close, but not too close, to where the action was, downtown.

"Deerfield would only license their patent." Seiji sighed. "We offered them a very fair price."

"True," Cook agreed, pouring himself another glass of white wine. He could have said, But, Seiji, it's their invention and they want to cash in on it, but he didn't. "Why don't your people—"

It was Seiji Nagumo's turn to sigh. "Your people were clever. They hired particularly bright attorney in Japan and got their patent recognized in record time." He might have added that it offended him that a citizen of his country could be so mercenary, but that would have been unseemly under the circumstances. "Well, perhaps they will come to see the light of reason."

"It could be a good point to concede, Seiji. At the very least, sweeten your offer on the licensing agreement."

"Why, Chris?"

"The President is interested in this one." Cook paused, seeing that Nugumo didn't get it yet. He was still new at this. He knew the industrial side, but not the politics yet. "Deerfield is in Al Trent's congressional district. Trent has a lot of clout on the Hill. He's chairman of the Intelligence Committee."


"And Trent is a good guy to keep happy."

Nagumo considered that for a minute or so, sipping his wine and staring out the window. Had he known that fact earlier in the day, he might have sought permission to give in on the point, but he hadn't and he didn't. To change now would be an admission of error, and Nagumo didn't like to do that any more than anyone else in the world. He decided that he'd suggest an improved offer for licensing rights, instead—not knowing that by failing to accept a personal loss of face, he'd bring closer something that he would have tried anything to avoid.

5—Complexity Theory

Things rarely happen for a single reason. Even the cleverest and most skillful manipulators recognize that their real art lies in making use of that which they cannot predict. For Raizo Yamata the knowledge was usually a comfort. He usually knew what to do when the unexpected took place—but not always.

"It has been a troublesome time, that is true, but not the worst we have experienced," one of his guests pronounced. "And we are having our way again, are we not?"

"We've made them back off on computer chips," another pointed out.

Heads nodded around the low table.

They just didn't see, Yamata told himself. His country's needs coincided exactly with a new opportunity. There was a new world, and despite America's repeated pronouncements of a new order for that new world, only disorder had replaced what had been three generations of—if not stability, then at least predictability. The symmetry of East and West was now so far back in the history of contemporary minds that it seemed like a distant and unpleasant dream. The Russians were still reeling from their misguided experiment, and so were the Americans, though most of their pain was self-inflicted and had come after the event, the fools. Instead of merely maintaining their power, the Americans had cast it aside at the moment of its ascendancy, as they had so often in their history, and in the dimming of two formerly great powers lay the opportunity for a country that deserved to be great.

"These are small things, my friends," Yamata said, graciously leaning across the table to refill cups. "Our national weakness is structural and has not changed in real terms in our lifetime."

"Please explain, Raizo-chan," one of his friendlier peers suggested.

"So long as we lack direct access to resources, so long as we cannot control that access ourselves, so long as we exist as the shopkeeper of other nations, we are vulnerable."

"Ah!" Across the table a man waved a dismissive hand. "I disagree. We are strong in the things that matter."

"And what are those things?" Yamata inquired gently.

"First and most importantly, the diligence of our workers, the skill of our designers…" The litany went on while Yamata and his other guests listened politely.

"And how long will those things matter if we no longer have resources to use, oil to burn?" one of Yamata's allies inquired with a litany of his own.

"Nineteen forty-one all over again?"

"No, it will not be that way…exactly," Yamata said, rejoining the conversation. "Then it was possible for them to cut off our oil because we bought almost all of it from them. Today it is more subtle. Back then they had to freeze our assets to prevent us from spending them elsewhere, yes? Today they devalue the dollar relative to the yen, and our assets are trapped there, are they not? Today they trick us into investing our money there, they complain when we do, they cheat us at every turn, they keep what we give to them for their property, and then they steal back what we've bought!"

This tack caused heads first to turn and then to nod. Every man in the room had lived through that experience. That one, Yamata saw, had bought Rockefeller Center in New York, had paid double what it was really worth, even in that artificially inflated real-estate market, been tricked and cheated by the American owners. Then the yen had risen relative to the dollar, which meant that the dollar had lost value relative to the yen. If he tried to sell now, everyone knew, it would be a disaster. First, the real-estate market in New York City had dropped of its own accord; second, and as a result, the buildings were worth only half of the dollars that had already been paid; third, the dollars were worth only half the value in yen that they had been in the beginning. He'd be lucky to get back a quarter of what he'd put into the deal. In fact, the rent he was earning barely paid the interest payments on the outstanding debt.

That one there, Yamata thought, had bought a major motion-picture studio, and across the table a rival had done the same. It was all Raizo could do not to laugh at the fools. What had each bought? That was simple. In each case, for a price of billions of dollars, they had purchased three hundred or so hectares of real estate in Los Angeles and a piece of paper that said they now had the ability to make movies. In both cases the previous owners had taken the money and quite openly laughed, and in both cases the previous owners had recently made a quiet offer to buy the properly back for a quarter, or less, of what the Japanese businessman had paid-enough to retire the outstanding debt and not a single yen more.

It went on and on. Every time a Japanese company had taken its profits from America and tried to reinvest them back in America, the Americans screamed about how Japan was stealing their country. Then they overcharged for everything. Then their government policy made sure that the Japanese lost money on everything, so that Americans could then buy it all back at cut-rate prices, all the while complaining that those prices were too high. America would rejoice at recovering control of its culture, such as it was, when in reality what had happened was the largest and best concealed robbery in world history.

"Don't you see? They're trying to cripple us, and they are succeeding," Yamata told them in a quiet, reasonable voice. It was the classic business paradox which all know but all forget. There was even a simple aphorism for it: borrow one dollar and the bank owns you; borrow a million dollars and you own the bank. Japan had bought into the American auto market, for example, at a time when the U.S. auto industry, fat from its huge exclusive clientele, was driving up prices and allowing quality to stagnate while its unionized workers complained about the dehumanizing aspects of their work—the highest-paid jobs in blue-collar America. The Japanese had started in that market at an even lower status than Volkswagen, with small, ugly cars that were not all that well made and contained unimpressive safety features, but that were superior to American designs in one way: they were fuel-efficient.

Three historical accidents had then come to Japan's aid. The American Congress, upset with the "greed" of oil companies who wanted to charge world price for their products, had placed a cap on the wellhead price of domestic crude oil. That had frozen American gasoline prices at the lowest level in the industrial world, discouraged new oil exploration, and encouraged Detroit to make large, heavy, fuel-inefficient cars. Then the 1973 war between Israel and the Arab states had placed American drivers in gasoline lines for the first time in thirty years, and the trauma had stunned a country that had deemed itself above such things. Then they'd realized that Detroit only made automobiles that drank gasoline as though through the floodgates of a dam. The "compact" cars that the American manufacturers had started making in the previous decade had almost immediately grown to midsize, were no more fuel-efficient than their larger cousins, and weren't all that well made in any case. Worst of all, the American manufacturers, to a man, had all recently invested money in large-car plants, a fact that had almost been the undoing of Chrysler. This oil shock had not lasted long, but long enough for America to rethink its buying habits, and the domestic companies had not possessed the capital or the engineering flexibility to change rapidly to what unaccustomedly nervous American citizens wanted.

Those citizens had immediately increased purchases of Japanese automobiles, especially in the crucial, trend-setting West Coast markets, which had had the effect of funding research and development for the Japanese firms, which in turn had hired American styling engineers to make their products more attractive to their growing market and utilized its own engineers to improve such things as safety. Thus, by the second great oil shock of 1979, Toyota, Honda, Datsun (later Nissan), and Subaru were in the right place with the right product. Those were the salad days. The low yen and high dollar had meant that even relatively low prices guaranteed a handsome profit, that their local dealers could add a surcharge of a thousand dollars or more for allowing people to purchase these marvelous automobiles—and that had given them a large, eager sales force of American citizens.

What had never occurred to any of the men at the table, Yamata knew, was the same thing that had never occurred to the executives of General Motors and the United Auto Workers union. Both had assumed that a happy state of affairs would extend into blissful eternity. Both had forgotten that there was no Divine Right of Businessmen any more than there was a Divine Right of Kings. Japan had learned to exploit a weakness of the American auto industry. In due course, America had learned from its own mistakes, and just as Japanese companies had capitalized on American arrogance, in the same way they almost immediately built—or bought—monuments to their own. Meanwhile the American companies had ruthlessly downsized everything from their automobile designs to their payrolls because they had relearned the economic facts of life even as the Japanese had allowed themselves to forget them. The process went mainly unseen, especially by the players, who were not assisted by the media "analysts" who were too busy looking at trees to discern the shape of the cyclical forest.

To normalize things further, the exchange rate changed—as it had to change with so much money flowing in one direction—but the Japanese industrialists hadn't seen it coming any more clearly than Detroit had noted the approach of its own troubles. The relative value of the yen had gone up, and that of the dollar down, despite the best efforts of Japanese central bankers to keep their own currency weak. With that change went much of the profit margin of the Japanese firms—including the values of properties bought in America that had crashed enough in value to be seen as net losses. And you couldn't transport Rockefeller Center to Tokyo in any case.

It had to be this way. Yamata saw that even if these men did not. Business was a cycle, like riding a wave up and down, and no one had as yet found a way to make the cycle smooth out. Japan was all the more vulnerable to it, since, in serving America, Japanese industry was really part of the American economy and subject to all of its vagaries. The Americans would not remain more foolish than the Japanese indefinitely, and with their return to sanity, they would have their advantages of power and resources yet again, and his chance would be gone forever. His country's chance, too, Yamata told himself. That was also important, but it was not the thing that made his eyes burn.

His country could not be great so long as its leaders—not in the government, but here around this table—failed to understand what greatness was. Manufacturing capacity was nothing. The simple act of cutting the shipping lanes to the sources of raw materials could idle every factory in the country, and then the skill and diligence of the Japanese worker would have no greater meaning in the great scheme of things than a Buson haiku. A nation was great because of power, and his country's power was just as artificial as a poem. More to the point, national greatness was not something awarded, but something won; it had to be acknowledged by another great nation that had been taught humility…or more than one. Greatness came not from a single national asset. It came from many. It came from self-sufficiency in all things—well, in as many things as possible. His companions around the table had to see that before he could act on their behalf and his nation's. It was his mission to raise up his nation and to humble others. It was his destiny and his duty to make these things happen, to be the catalyst for all the energy of others.

But the time was not yet right. He could see that. His allies were many, but there were not enough of them, and those who opposed him were too fixed in their thinking to be persuaded. They saw his point, but not as clearly as he did, and until they changed their way of thinking, he could do no more than what he was doing now, offering counsel, setting the stage. A man of surpassing patience, Yamata-san smiled politely and ground his teeth, with the frustration of the moment.

"You know, I think I'm starting to get the hang of this place," Ryan said as he took his place in the leather chair to the President's left.

"I said that once," Durling announced. "It cost me three tenths of a point of unemployment, a fight with House Ways and Means, and ten real points of approval rating." Though his voice was grave, he smiled when he said it.

"So what's so hot that you're interrupting my lunch?"

Jack didn't make him wait, though his news was important enough to merit a dramatic reply: "We have our agreement with the Russians and Ukrainians on the last of the birds."

"Starting when?" Durling asked, leaning forward over his desk and ignoring his salad.

"How does next Monday grab you?" Ryan asked with a grin. "They went for what Scott said. There've been so many of these START procedures that they want just to kill the last ones quietly and announce that they're gone, once and for all. Our inspectors are already over there, and theirs are over here, and they'll just go and do it."

"I like it," Durling replied.

"Exactly forty years, boss," Ryan said with some passion, "practically my whole life since they deployed the SS-6 and we deployed Atlas, ugly damned things with an ugly damned purpose, and helping to make them go away—well, Mr. President, now I owe you one. It's going to be your mark, sir, but I can tell my grandchildren that I was around when it happened." That Adler's proposal to the Russians and Ukrainians had been Ryan's initiative might end up as a footnote, but probably not.

"Our grandchildren either won't care or they'll ask what the big deal was," Arnie van Damm observed, deadpan.

"True," Ryan conceded. Trust Arnie to put a neutral spin on things.

"Now tell me the bad news," Durling ordered.

"Five billion," Jack said, unsurprised by the hurt expression he got in return. "It's worth it, sir. It really is."

"Tell me why."

"Mr. President, since I was in grammar school our country has lived with the threat of nuclear weapons on ballistic launchers aimed at the United States. Inside of six weeks, the last of them could be gone."

"They're already aimed—"

"Yes, sir, we have ours aimed at the Sargasso Sea, and so do they, an error that you can fix by opening an inspection port and changing a printed-circuit card in the guidance system. To do that takes ten minutes from the moment you open the access door into the missile silo and requires a screwdriver and a flashlight." Actually, that was true only for the Soviet—Russian! Ryan corrected himself for the thousandth time—missiles. The remaining American birds took longer to retarget due to their greater sophistication. Such were the vagaries of engineering science.

"All gone, sir, gone forever," Ryan said. "I'm the hard-nosed hawk here, remember? We can sell this to the Hill. It's worth the price and more."

"You make a good case, as always," van Damm announced from his chair.

"Where will OMB find the money, Arnie?" President Durling asked.

Now it was Ryan's turn to cringe.

"Defense, where else?"

"Before we get too enthusiastic about that, we've gone too far already."

"What will we save by eliminating our last missiles?" van Damm asked.

"It'll cost us money," Jack replied. "We're already paying an arm and a leg to dismantle the missile subs, and the environmentalists—"

"Those wonderful people," Durling observed.

"—but it's a one-time expense."

Eyes turned to the chief of staff. His political judgment was impeccable. The weathered face weighed the factors and turned to Ryan. "It's worth the hassle. There will be a hassle on the Hill, boss," he told the President, "but a year from now you'll be telling the American people how you put an end to the sword of—"

"Damocles," Ryan said.

"Catholic schools." Arnie chuckled. "The sword that's hung over America for a generation. The papers'll like it, and you just know that CNN will make a big deal about it, one of their hour-long special-report gigs, with lots of good pictures and inaccurate commentary."

"Don't like that, Jack?" Durling asked, smiling broadly now.

"Mr. President, I'm not a politician, okay? Isn't it sufficient to the moment that we're dismantling the last two hundred ICBMs in the world?"

Well, that wasn't exactly true, was it? Let's not wax too poetic, Jack. There are still the Chinese, Brits, and French. But the latter two would fall into line, wouldn't they? And the Chinese could be made to see the light through trade negotiations, and besides, what enemies did they have left to worry about?

"Only if people see and understand, Jack." Durling turned to van Damm.

Both of them ignored Jack's not-quite-spoken additional concerns. "Get the media office working on this. We do the formal announcement in Moscow, Jack?"

Ryan nodded. "That was the deal, sir." There would be more to it, careful leaks, unconfirmed at first. Congressional briefings to generate more. Quiet calls to various TV networks and trusted reporters who would be in exactly the right places at exactly the right times—difficult because of the ten-hour difference between Moscow and the last American ICBM fields—to record for history the end of the nightmare. The actual elimination process was rather messy, which was why American tree-huggers had such a problem with it. In the case of the Russian birds, the warheads were removed for dismantlement, the missiles drained of their liquid fuels and stripped of valuable and/or classified electronic components, and then one hundred kilograms of high explosives were used to blast open the top of the silo, which in due course would be filled with dirt and leveled off. The American procedure was different because all the U.S. missiles used solid fuels. In their case, the missile bodies were transported to Utah, where they were opened at both ends; then the rocket motors were ignited and allowed to burn out like the world's largest highway flares, creating clouds of toxic exhaust that might snuff out the lives of some wild birds. In America the silos would also be blasted open—a United States Circuit Court of Appeals had ruled that the national-security implications of the international arms-control treaty superseded four environmental-protection statutes, despite many legal briefs and protests to the contrary. The final blast would be highly dramatic, all the more so because its force would be about one ten-millionth of what the silo had once represented. Some numbers, and some concepts, Jack reflected, were simply too vast to be appreciated—even by people like himself.

The legend of Damocles had to do with a courtier in the circle of King Dionysius of Sicily, who had waxed eloquent on the good fortune of his king. To make a point in the cruel and heavy-handed way of "great" men, Dionysius had invited his courtier, Damocles, to a sumptuous banquet and sat him in a comfortable place directly under a sword, which in turn was suspended from the ceiling by a thread. The purpose was to demonstrate that the King's own good fortune was as tenuous as the safety of his guest.

It was the same with America. Everything it had was still under the nuclear sword, a fact made graphically clear to Ryan in Denver not too long before, and for that reason his personal mission since returning to government service had been to put the end to the tale, once and for all.

"You want to handle the press briefings?"

"Yes, Mr. President," Jack replied, surprised and grateful for Durling's stunning generosity.

" 'Northern Resource Area'?" the Chinese Defense Minister asked. He added dryly, "Interesting way of putting it."

"So what do you think?" Zhang Han San asked from his side of the table. He was fresh from another meeting with Yamata.

"In the abstract, it's strategically possible. I leave the economic estimates to others," the Marshal replied, ever the cautious one despite the quantity of mao-tai he'd consumed this evening.

"The Russians have been employing three Japanese survey firms. Amazing, isn't it? Eastern Siberia has hardly even been explored. Oh, yes, the gold deposits at Kolyma, but the interior itself?" A dismissive wave of the hand. "Such fools, and now they must ask others to do the job for them…" The Minister's voice trailed off, and his gaze returned to Zhang Han San. "And so, what have they found?"

"Our Japanese friends? More oil for starters, they think as big a find as Prudhoe Bay." He slid a sheet of paper across the table. "Here are the minerals they've located in the last nine months."

"All this?"

"The area is almost as large as all of Western Europe, and all the Soviets ever cared about was a strip around their damned railroads. The fools."

Zhang snorted. "All their economic problems, the solution for them lay right under their feet from the moment they assumed power from the czar. In essence it's rather like South Africa, a treasure house, but including oil, which the South Africans lack. As you see, nearly all of the strategic minerals, and in such quantities…"

"Do the Russians know?"

"Some of it." Zhang Han San nodded. "Such a secret is too vast to conceal entirely, but only about half-the items on the list marked with stars are those Moscow knows about."

"But not these others?"

Zhang smiled. "No."

Even in a culture where men and women learn to control their feelings, the Minister could not conceal his amazement at the paper in his hands. They didn't shake, but he used them to place the page flat on the polished table, smoothing it out as though it were a piece of fine silk.

"This could double the wealth of our country."

"That is conservative," observed the senior field officer of his country's intelligence service. Zhang, covered as a diplomat, actually conducted more diplomacy than most of his country's senior foreign-service officers. It was more of an embarrassment to them than to him. "You need to remember that this is the estimate the Japanese have given us, Comrade Minister. They fully expect access to half of what they discover, and since they will perforce spend most of the development money…"

A smile. "Yes, while we take most of the strategic risks. Offensive little people," the Minister added. Like those with whom Zhang had negotiated in Tokyo, the Minister and the Marshal, who continued to keep his peace, were veterans of the 8th Route Army. They too had memories of war—but not of war with America. He shrugged. "Well, we need them, don't we?"

"Their weapons are formidable," the Marshal noted. "But not their numbers."

"They know that," Zhang Han San told his hosts. "It is, as my main contact says, a convenient marriage of needs and requirements, but he hopes that it will develop, in his words, into a true and cordial relationship between peoples with a true—"

"Who will be on top?" the Marshal asked, smiling coarsely.

"They will, of course. He thinks," Zhang Han San added.

"In that case, since they are courting us, it is they who need to make the first overt moves," the Minister said, defining his country's policy in a way that would not offend his own superior, a small man with elfin eyes and the sort of determination to make a lion pause. He looked over at the Marshal, who nodded soberly. The man's capacity for alcohol, both of the others thought, was remarkable.

"As I expected," Zhang announced with a smile. "Indeed, as they expect, since they anticipate the greatest profit."

"They are entitled to their illusions."

"I admire your confidence," the NASA engineer observed from the viewers' gallery over the shop floor. He also admired their funding. The government had fronted the money for this industrial conglomerate to acquire the Soviet design and build it. Private industry sure had a lot of muscle here, didn't it?

"We think we have the trans-stage problem figured out. A faulty valve," the Japanese designer explained. "We used a Soviet design."

"What do you mean?"

"I mean that we used their valve design for the trans-stage fuel tanks. It wasn't a good one. They tried to do everything there with extremely lightweight, but—"

The NASA representative blinked hard. "You mean to tell me that their whole production run of the missile was—"

A knowing look cut the American off. "Yes. At least a third of them would have failed. My people believe that the test missiles were specially engineered, but that the production models were, well, typically Russian."

"Hmph." The American's bags were already packed, and a car was waiting to take him to Narita International for the interminable flight to Chicago. He looked at the production floor of the plant. It was probably what General Dynamics had looked like back in the 19608, at the height of the Cold War. The boosters were lined up like sausages, fifteen of them in various stages of assembly, side by side, one after the other, while white-coated technicians performed their complicated tasks. "These ten look about done."

"They are," the factory manager assured him.

"When's your next test shot?"

"Next month. We've got our first three payloads ready," the designer replied.

"When you guys get into something, you don't fool around, do you?"

"It's simply more efficient to do it this way."

"So they're going to go out of here fully assembled?"

A nod. "That's right. We'll pressurize the fuel tanks with inert gas, of course, but one of the nice things about using this design is that they're designed to be moved as intact units. That way you save final-assembly time at the launch point."

"Move them out by truck?"

"No." The Japanese engineer shook his head. "By rail."

"What about the payloads?"

"They're being assembled elsewhere. That's proprietary, I'm afraid."

The other production line did not have foreign visitors. In fact it had few visitors at all despite the fact that it was located in the suburbs of Tokyo. The sign outside the building proclaimed it to be a research-and-development center for a major corporation, and those who lived nearby guessed that it was for computer chips or something similar. The power lines that went into it were not remarkable, since the most power-hungry units were the heating and air-conditioning units that sat in a small enclosure in the back. Traffic in and out was unremarkable as well. There was a modest parking lot with space for perhaps eighty automobiles, and the lot was almost always at least half full. There was a discreet security fence, pretty much like what would have been around any other light-industry facility anywhere in the world, and a security shack at both entrances. Cars and trucks came and went, and that was pretty much that for the casual observer.

Inside was something else. Although the two external security points were staffed by smiling men who politely gave directions to disoriented motorists, inside the building it was something else entirely. Each security desk featured hidden attachments which held German-made P-38 pistols, and the guards here didn't smile much. They didn't know what they were guarding, of course. Some things were just too unusual to be recognized. No one had ever produced a TV documentary on the fabrication of nuclear devices.

The shop floor was fifty meters long by fifteen wide, and there were two evenly spaced rows of machine tools, each of them enclosed with Plexiglas. Each enclosure was individually climate-controlled by a separate ventilation system, as was the room as a whole. The technicians and scientists wore white coveralls and gloves not unlike those required of workers in a computer-chip plant, and indeed when some of them stepped outside for a smoke, passersby took them for exactly that.

In the clean room, roughly shaped plutonium hemispheres came in at one end, were machined into their final shapes at several stages, and emerged from the other end so polished they looked like glass. Each was then placed in a plastic holder and hand-carried out of the machine shop to the storage room, where each was set on an individual shelf made of steel covered with plastic. Metal contact could not be allowed, because plutonium, in addition to being radioactive, and warm due to its alpha-radiation decay, was a reactive metal, quick to spark on contact with another metal, and actually flammable. Like magnesium and titanium, the metal would burn with gusto, and, once ignited, was the very devil to extinguish. For all that, handling the hemispheres—there were twenty of them—became just one more routine for the engineers. That task had long since been completed.

The harder part was the RV bodies. These were large, hollow, inverted cones, 120 centimeters in height and 50 across at the base, made of uranium-238, a darkly reddish and very hard metal. At just over four hundred kilograms each, the bulky cones had to be precisely machined for absolute dynamic symmetry. Intended to "fly" after a fashion, both through vacuum and, briefly, through air, they had to be perfectly balanced, lest they become unstable in flight. Ensuring that had to everyone's surprise turned out to be the most difficult production task of all. The casting process had been reordered twice, and even now the RV bodies were periodically rotated, similar to the procedure for balancing an automobile tire, but with far more stringent tolerances. The exterior of each of the ten was not as finely machined as the parts that went inside, though they were smooth to the ungloved touch. Inside was something else. Slight but symmetrical irregularities would allow the "physics package"—an American term—to fit in snugly, and, if the moment came—which everyone hoped it would not, of course—the enormous flux of high-energy "fast" neutrons would attack the RV bodies, causing a "fast-fission" reaction, and doubling the energy released by the plutonium, tritium, and lithium deuteride within.

That was the elegant part, the engineers thought, especially those unfamiliar with nuclear physics who had learned the process along the way. The U-238, so dense and hard and difficult to work, was a highly refractory metal. The Americans even used it to make armor for their tanks, it resisted external energy so well. Screeching through the atmosphere at 27,000 kilometers per hour, air friction would have destroyed most materials, but not this one, at least not in the few seconds it took, and at the end of the process, the material would form part of the bomb itself. Elegant, the engineers thought, using that most favored of words in their profession, and that made it worth the time and the trouble. When each body was complete, each was loaded onto a dolly and rolled off to the storage room. Only three remained to be worked on. This part of the project was two weeks behind schedule, much to everyone's chagrin.

RV Body #8 began the first machining process. If the bomb was detonated, the uranium-238 from which it was made would also create most of the fallout. Well, that was physics.

It was just another accident, perhaps occasioned by the early hour. Ryan arrived at the White House just after seven, about twenty minutes earlier than usual because traffic on U.S. Route 50 happened to be uncommonly smooth all the way in. As a result, he hadn't had time to read through all his early briefing documents, which he bundled under his arm at the west entrance. National Security Advisor or not, Jack still had to pass through the metal detector, and it was there that he bumped into somebody's back. The somebody in question was handing his service pistol to a uniformed Secret Service agent.

"You guys still don't trust the Bureau, eh?" a familiar voice asked the plainclothes supervisory agent.

"Especially the Bureau!" was the good-humored retort.

"And I don't blame them a bit," Ryan added. "Check his ankle, too, Mike."

Murray turned after passing through the magnetic portal. "I don't need the backup piece anymore." The Deputy Assistant Director pointed to the papers under Jack's arm. "Is that any way to treat classified documents?"

Murray's humor was automatic. It was just the man's nature to needle an old friend. Then Ryan saw that the Attorney General had just passed through as well, and was looking back in some annoyance. Why was a cabinet member here so early? If it were a national-security matter, Ryan would have known, and criminal affairs were rarely so important as to get the President into his office before the accustomed eight o'clock. And why was Murray accompanying him? Helen D'Agustino was waiting beyond to provide personal escort through the upstairs corridors. Everything about the accidental confrontation lit off Ryan's curiosity.

"The Boss is waiting," Murray said guardedly, reading the look in Jack's eyes.

"Could you stop by on the way out? I've been meaning to call you about something."

"Sure." And Murray walked off without even a friendly inquiry about Cathy and the kids.

Ryan passed through the detector, turned left, and headed up the stairs to his corner office for his morning briefs. They went quickly, and Ryan was settling into his morning routine when his secretary admitted Murray to his office. There was no point in beating around the bush.

"A little early for the A.G. to show up, Dan. Anything I need to know?"

Murray shook his head. "Not yet, sorry."

"Okay," Ryan replied, shifting gears smoothly. "Is it something I ought to know?"

"Probably, but the Boss wants it on close-hold, and it doesn't have national-security implications. What did you want to see me about?"

Ryan took a second or two before answering, his mind going at its accustomed speed in such a case. Then he set it aside. He knew that he could trust Murray's word. Most of the time.

"This is code-word stuff," Jack began, then elaborated on what he'd learned from Mary Pat the day before. The FBI agent nodded and listened with a neutral expression.

"It's not exactly new, Jack. Last few years we've been taking a quiet look at indications that young ladies have been—enticed? Hard to phrase this properly. Modeling contracts, that sort of thing. Whoever does the recruiting is very careful. Young women head over there to model, do commercials, that sort of thing, goes on all the time. Some got their American careers started over there. None of the checks we've run have turned up anything, but there are indications that some girls have disappeared. One in particular, as a matter of fact, she fits your man's description. Kimberly something, I don't recall the last name. Her father is a captain in the Seattle police department, and his next-door neighbor is SAC of our Seattle office. We've gone through our contacts in the Japanese police agencies, quietly. No luck."

"What does your gut tell you?" Ryan asked.

"Look, Jack, people disappear all the time. Lots of young girls just pack up and leave home to make their way in the world. Call it part feminism, part just wanting to become an independent human being. It happens all the time. This Kimberly-something is twenty, wasn't doing well at school, and just disappeared. There's no evidence to suggest kidnapping, and at twenty you're a free citizen, okay? We have no right to launch a criminal investigation. All right, so her dad's a cop, and his neighbor is Bureau, and so we've sniffed around a little. But we haven't turned up anything at all, and that's as far as we can take it without something to indicate that a statute may have been violated. There are no such indicators."

"You mean, a girl over eighteen disappears and you can't—"

"Without evidence of a crime, no, we can't. We don't have the manpower to track down every person who decides to make his or her own future without Idling Mom and Dad about it."

"You didn't answer my initial question, Dan," Jack observed to his guest's discomfort.

"There are people over there who like their women with fair hair and round eyes. There's a disproportionate number of missing girls who're blonde. We had trouble figuring that out at first until an agent started asking their friends if they maybe had their hair color changed recently. Sure enough, the answer was yes, and then she started asking the question regularly. A 'yes' happened in enough cases that it's just unusual. So, yes, I think something may be happening, but we don't have enough to move on," Murray concluded. After a moment he added, "If this case in question has national-security implications…well…"

"What?" Jack asked.

"Let the Agency check around?"

That was a first for Ryan, hearing from an FBI official that the CIA could Investigate something. The Bureau guarded its turf as ferociously as a momma grizzly bear defended her cubs. "Keep going, Dan," Ryan ordered.

"There's a lively sex industry over there. If you look at the porn they like to watch, it's largely American. The nude photos you see in their magazines are mainly of Caucasian females. The nearest country with a supply of such females happens to be us. Our suspicion is that some of these girls aren't just models, but, again, we haven't been able to turn anything solid enough to pursue it." And the other problem, Murray didn't add, was twofold. If something really were going on, he wasn't sure how much cooperation he'd receive from local authorities, meaning that the girls might disappear forever. If it were not, the nature of the investigation would be leaked and the entire episode would appear in the press as another racist piece of Japan-bashing.

"Anyway, it sounds to me like the Agency has an op running over there. My best advice: expand it some. If you want, I can brief some people in on what we know. It isn't much, but we do have some photographs."

"How come you know so much?"

"SAC Seattle is Chuck O'Keefe. I worked under him once. He had me talk to Bill Shaw about it, and Bill okayed a quiet look, but it didn't lead anywhere, and Chuck has enough to keep his division busy as it is."

"I'll talk to Mary Pat. And the other thing?"

"Sorry, pal, but you have to talk to the Boss about that."

Goddamn it! Ryan thought as Murray walked out. Are there always secrets?

6—Looking In, Looking Out

In many ways operating in Japan was highly difficult. There was the racial part of it, of course. Japan was not strictly speaking a homogeneous society; the Ainu people were the original inhabitants of the islands but they mainly lived on Hokkaido, the northernmost of the Home Islands. Still called an aboriginal people, they were also quite isolated from mainstream Japanese society in an explicitly racist way. Similarly Japan had an ethnic-Korean minority whose antecedents had been imported at the turn of the century as cheap labor, much as America had brought in immigrants on both the Atlantic and Pacific coasts. But unlike America, Japan denied citizenship rights to its immigrants unless they adopted a fully Japanese identity, a fact made all the more odd in that the Japanese people were themselves a mere offshoot of the Korean, a fact proven by DNA research but which was conveniently and somewhat indignantly denied by the better sections of Japanese society. All foreigners were gaijin, a word which like most words in the local language had many flavors. Usually translated benignly as meaning just "foreigners," the word had other connotations—like "barbarian," Chet Nomuri thought, with all of the implicit invective that the word had carried when first coined by the Greeks. The irony was that as an American citizen he was gaijin himself, despite 100 percent Japanese ethnicity, and while he had grown up quietly resenting the racist policies of the U.S. government that had once caused genuine harm to his family, it had required only a week in the land of his ancestors for him to yearn for a return to Southern California, where the living was smooth and easy.

It was for Chester Nomuri a strange experience, living and "working" here. He'd been carefully screened and interviewed before being assigned to Operation SANOALWOOD. Having joined the Agency soon after graduating UCLA, not quite remembering why he'd done so except for a vague desire for adventure mixed with a family tradition of government service, he'd found somewhat to his surprise that he enjoyed the life. It was remarkably like police work, and Nomuri was a fan of police TV and novels. More than that, it was so damned interesting. He learned new things every day. It was like being in a living history classroom. Perhaps the most important lesson he'd learned, however, was that his great-grandfather had been a wise and insightful man. Nomuri wasn't blind to America's faults, but he preferred life there to life in any of the countries he'd visited, and with that knowledge had come pride in what he was doing, even though he still wasn't quite sure what the hell he was really up to. Of course, neither did his Agency, but Nomuri had never quite understood that, even when they'd told him so at the Farm. How could it be possible, after all? It must have been an inside-the-institution joke.

At the same time, in a dualism he was too young and inexperienced to appreciate fully, Japan could be an easy place in which to operate. That was especially true on the commuter train.

The degree of crowding here was enough to make his skin crawl. He had not been prepared for a country in which population density compelled close contact with all manner of strangers, and, indeed, he'd soon realized that the cultural mania with fastidious personal hygiene and mannerly behavior was simply a by-product of it. People so often rubbed, bumped, or otherwise crushed into contact with others that the absence of politeness would have resulted in street killings to shame the most violent neighborhood in America. A combination of smiling embarrassment at the touches and icy personal isolation made it tolerable to the local citizens, though it was something that still gave Nomuri trouble. "Give the guy some space" had been a catch-phrase at UCLA. Clearly it wasn't here, because there simply wasn't the space to give.

Then there was the way they treated women. Here, on the crowded trains, the standing and sitting salarymen read comic books, called manga, the local versions of novels, which were genuinely disturbing. Recently, a favorite of the eighties had been revived, called Rin-Tin-Tin. Not the friendly dog from 1950's American television, but a dog with a female mistress, to whom he talked, and with whom he had…sexual relations. It was not an idea that appealed to him, but there, sitting on his bench seat, was a middle-aged executive, eyes locked on the pages with rapt attention, while a Japanese woman stood right next to him and stared out the train's windows, maybe noticing, maybe not. The war between the sexes in this country certainly had rules different from the ones with which he'd been raised, Nomuri thought. He set it aside. It was not part of his mission, after all—an idea he would soon find to be wrong.

He never saw the cutout. As he stood there in the third car of the train, close to the rear door, hanging on to an overhead bar and reading a paper, he didn't even notice the insertion of the envelope into the pocket of his overcoat. It was always that way—at the usual place the coat got just a touch heavier. He'd turned once to look and seen nothing. Damn, he'd joined the right outfit.

Eighteen minutes later the train entered the terminal, and the people emerged from it like a horizontal avalanche, exploding outward into the capacious station. The salaryman ten feet away tucked his "illustrated novel" into his briefcase and walked off to his job, wearing his customarily impassive mien, doubtless concealing thoughts of his own. Nomuri headed his own way, buttoning his coat and wondering what his new instructions were.

"Does the President know?"

Ryan shook his head. "Not yet."

"You think maybe he ought to?" Mary Pat Foley asked.

"At the proper time."

"I don't like putting officers at risk for—"

"At risk?" Jack asked. "I want him to develop information, not to make a contact, and not to expose himself. I gather from the case notes I've seen so far that all he has to do is make a follow-up question, and unless their locker rooms are different from ours, it shouldn't expose him at all."

"You know what I mean," the Deputy Director (Operations) observed, rubbing her eyes. It had been a long day, and she worried about her field officers. Every good DDO did, and she was a mother who'd once been picked up by the KGB's Second Chief Directorate herself.

Operation SANDALWOOD had started innocently enough, if an intelligence operation on foreign soil could ever be called innocent. The preceding operation had been a joint FBI/CIA show, and had gone very badly indeed: an American citizen had been apprehended by the Japanese police with burglar tools in his possession—along with a diplomatic passport, which in this particular case had been more of a hindrance than a help. It had made the papers in a small way. Fortunately the media hadn't quite grasped what the story was all about. People were buying information. People were selling information. It was often information with "secret" or higher classifications scrawled across the folders, and the net effect was to hurt American interests, such as they were.

"How good is he?" Jack asked.

Mary Pat's face relaxed at little. "Very. The kid's a natural. He's learning to fit in, developing a base of people he can hit for background information. We've set him up with his own office. He's even turning us a nice profit. His orders are to be very careful," Mrs. Foley pointed out yet again.

"I hear you, MP," Ryan said tiredly. "But if this is for-real—"

"I know, Jack. I didn't like what Murray sent over either."

"You believe it?" Ryan asked, wondering about the reaction he'd get.

"Yes, I do, and so does Murray." She paused. "If we develop information on this, then what?"

"Then I go to the President, and probably we extract anyone who wants to be extracted."

"I will not risk Nomuri that way!" the DDO insisted, a little too loudly.

"Jesus, Mary Pat, I never expected that you would. Hey, I'm tired, too, okay?"

"So you want me to send in another team, let him just bird-dog it for them?" she asked.

"It's your operation to run, okay? I'll tell you what to do, but not how. Lighten up, MP." That statement earned the National Security Advisor a crooked smile and a semi-apology.

"Sorry, Jack. I keep forgetting you're the new guy on this block."

"The chemicals have various industrial uses," the Russian colonel explained to the American colonel.

"Good for you. All we can do is burn ours, and the smoke'll kill you."

The rocket exhaust from the liquid propellants wasn't exactly the Breath of Spring either, of course, but when you got down to it, they were industrial chemicals with a variety of other uses.

As they watched, technicians snaked a hose from the standpipe next to the missile puskatel, the Russian word for "silo," to a truck that would transport the last of the nitrogen tetroxide to a chemical plant. Below, another fitting on the missile body took another hose that pumped pressurized gas into the top of the oxidizer tank, the better to drive the corrosive chemical out. The top of the missile was blunt. The Americans could see where the warhead "bus" had been attached, but it had already been removed, and was now on another truck, preceded by a pair of BTR-20 infantry fighting vehicles and trailed by three more, on its way to a place where the warheads could be disarmed preparatory to complete disassembly. America was buying the plutonium. The tritium in the warheads would stay in Russia, probably to be sold eventually on the open market to end up on watch and instrument faces. Tritium had a market value of about $50,000 per gram, and the sale of it would turn a tidy profit for the Russians. Perhaps, the American thought, that was the reason that his Russian colleagues were moving so expeditiously.

This was the first SS-19 silo to be deactivated for the 53rd Strategic Rocket Regiment. It was both like and unlike the American silos being deactivated under Russian inspection. The same mass of reinforced concrete for both, though this one was sited in woods, and the American silos were all on open ground, reflecting different ideas about site security. The climate wasn't all that different. Windier in North Dakota, because of the open spaces. The base temperature was marginally colder in Russia, which balanced out the wind-chill factor on the prairie. In due course the valve wheel on the pipe was turned, the hose removed, and the truck started up.

"Mind if I look?" the USAF colonel asked.

"Please." The Russian colonel of Strategic Rocket Forces waved to the open hole. He even handed over a large flashlight. Then it was his turn to laugh.

You son of a bitch, Colonel Andrew Malcolm wanted to exclaim. There was a pool of icy water at the bottom of the puskatel. The intelligence estimate had been wrong again. Who would have believed it?

"Backup?" Ding asked.

"You might end up just doing sightseeing," Mrs. Foley told them, almost believing it.

"Fill us in on the mission?" John Clark asked, getting down to business.

It was his own fault, after all, since he and Ding had turned into one of the Agency's best field teams. He looked over at Chavez. The kid had come a long way in five years. He had his college degree, and was close to his master's, in international relations no less. Ding's job would probably have put his instructors into cardiac arrest, since their idea of transnational intercourse didn't involve fucking other nations—a joke Domingo Chavez himself had coined on the dusty plains of Africa while reading a history book for one of his seminar groups. He still needed to learn about concealing his emotions. Chavez still retained some of the fiery nature of his background, though Clark wondered how much of it was for show around the Farm and elsewhere. In every organization the individual practitioners had to have a "service reputation." John had his. People spoke about him in whispers, thinking, stupidly, that the nicknames and rumors would never get back to him. And Ding wanted one, too. Well, that was normal.

"Photos?" Chavez asked calmly, then took them from Mrs. Foley's hand. There were six of them. Ding examined each, handing them over one by one to his senior. The junior officer kept his voice even but allowed his face to show his distaste.

"So if Nomuri turns up a face and a location, then what?" Ding asked.

"You two make contact with her and ask if she would like a free plane ticket home," the DDO replied without adding that there would be an extensive debriefing process. The CIA didn't give out free anythings, really.

"Cover?" John asked.

"We haven't decided yet. Before you head over, we need to work on your language skills."

"Monterey?" Chavez smiled. It was about the most pleasant piece of country in America, especially this time of year.

"Two weeks, total immersion. You fly out this evening. Your teacher will be a guy named Lyalin, Oleg Yurievich. KGB major who came over a while back. He actually ran a network over there, called THISTLE. He's the guy who turned the information that you and Ding used to bug the airliner—"

"Whoa!" Chavez observed. "Without him…"

Mrs. Foley nodded, pleased that Ding had made the complete connection that rapidly. "That's right. He's got a very nice house overlooking the water. It turns out he's one hell of a good language teacher, I guess because he had to learn it himself." It had turned into a fine bargain for CIA. After the debriefing process, he'd taken a productive job at the Armed Forces Language School, where his salary was paid by DOD. "Anyway, by the time you're able to order lunch and find the bathroom in the native tongue, we'll have your cover IDs figured out."

Clark smiled and rose, taking the signal that it was time to leave. "Back to work, then."

"Defending America," Ding observed with a smile, leaving the photos on Mrs. Foley's desk and sure that actually having to defend his country was a thing of the past. Clark heard the remark and thought it a joke too, until memories came back that erased the look from his face.

It wasn't their fault. It was just a matter of objective conditions. With four times the population of the United States, and only one third the living space, they had to do something, The people needed jobs, products, a chance to have what everyone else in the world wanted. They could see it on the television sets that seemed to exist even in places where there were no jobs, and, seeing it, demanded a chance to have it. It was that simple. You couldn't say "no" to nine hundred million people.

Certainly not if you were one of them. Vice Admiral V. K. Chandraskatta sat on his leather chair on the flag bridge of the carrier Viraat. His obligation, as expressed in his oath of office, was to carry out the orders of his government, but more than that, his duty was to his people. He had to look no further than his own flag bridge to see that: staff officers and ratings, especially the latter, the best his country could produce. They were mainly signalmen and yeomen who'd left whatever life they'd had on the subcontinent to take on this new one, and tried hard to be good at it, because as meager as the pay was, it was preferable to the economic chances they took in a country whose unemployment rate hovered between 20 and 25 percent. Just for his country to be self-sufficient in food had taken—how long? Twenty-five years. And that had come only as charity of sorts, the result of Western agroscience whose success still grated on many minds, as though his country, ancient and learned, couldn't make its own destiny. Even successful charity could be a burden on the national soul.

And now what? His country's economy was bouncing back, finally, but it was also hitting limits. India needed additional resources, but most of all needed space, of which there was little to he had. To his country's north was the world's most forbidding mountain range. East was Bangladesh, which had even more problems than India did. West was Pakistan, also overcrowded, and an ancient religious enemy, war with whom could well have the unwanted effect of cutting off his country's oil supply to the Muslim states of the Persian Gulf.

Such bad luck, the Admiral thought, picking up his glasses and surveying his fleet because he had nothing else to do at the moment. If they did nothing, the best his country might hope for was something little better than stagnation. If they turned outward, actively seeking room…But the "new world order" said that his country could not. India was denied entry into the race to greatness by those very nations that had run the race and then shut it down lest others catch up.

The proof was right here. His navy was one of the world's most powerful, built and manned and trained at ruinous expense, sailing on one of the world's seven oceans, the only one named for a country, and even here it was second-best, subordinate to a fraction of the United States Navy. That grated even more. America was the one telling his country what it could and could not do. America, with a history of—what?—scarcely two hundred years. Upstarts. Had they fought Alexaner of Macedon or the great Khan?

The European "discovery" voyages had been aimed at reaching his country, and that land mass discovered by accident was now denying greatness and power and justice to the Admiral's ancient land. It was, all in all, a lot to hide behind a face of professional detachment while the rest of his flag staff bustled about.

"Radar contact, bearing one-three-five, range two hundred kilometers," a talker announced. "Inbound course, speed five hundred knots."

The Admiral turned to his fleet-operations officer and nodded. Captain Mehta lifted a phone and spoke. His fleet was off the normal commercial sea and air routes, and the timing told him what the inbound track would be. Four American fighters, F-18E Hornet attack fighters off one of the American carriers to his southeast. Every day they came, morning and afternoon, and sometimes in the middle of the night to show that they could do that, too, to let him know that the Americans knew his location, and to remind him that he didn't, couldn't know theirs.

A moment later he heard the start-up noise from two of his Harriers. Good aircraft, expensive aircraft, but not a match for the inbound Americans. He'd put four up today, two from Viraat and two from Vikrant, to intercept the four, probably four, American Hornets, and the pilots would wave and nod in a show of good humor, but it would be a bilateral lie.

"We could light off our SAM systems, show them that we tire of this game," Captain Mehta suggested quietly. The Admiral shook his head.

"No. They know little about our SAM systems, and we will volunteer them nothing." The Indians' precise radar frequencies, pulse width, and repetition rates were not open information, and the American intelligence services had probably never troubled itself to find them out. That meant that the Americans might not be able to jam or spoof his systems—probably they could, but they wouldn't be certain of it, and it was the lack of certainty that would worry them. It wasn't much of a card, but it was the best in Chandraskatta's current hand. The Admiral sipped at his tea, making a show of his imperturbable nature."No, we will take notice of their approach, meet them in a friendly manner, and let them go on their way."

Mehta nodded and went off without a word to express his building rage. It was to be expected. He was the fleet-operations officer, and his was the task of divining a plan to defeat the American fleet, should that necessity present itself. That such a task was virtually impossible did not relieve Mehta of the duty to carry it out, and it was hardly surprising that the man was showing the strain of his position. Chandraskatta set his cup down, watching the Harriers leap off the ski-jump deck and into the air.

"How are the pilots bearing up?" the Admiral asked his air officer.

"They grow frustrated, but performance thus far is excellent." The answer was delivered with pride, as well it might be. His pilots were superb. The Admiral ate with them often, drawing courage from the proud faces in the ready rooms. They were fine young men, the equal, man for man, of any fighter pilots in all the world. More to the point, they were eager to show it. But the entire Indian Navy had only forty-three Harrier FRS 51 fighters. He had but thirty at sea on both Viraat and Vikrant, and that did not equal the numbers or capability aboard a single American carrier. All because they had entered the race first, won it, and then declared the games closed, Chandraskatta told himself, listening to the chatter of his airmen over an open-voice channel. It simply wasn't fair.

"So, what are you telling me?" Jack asked.

"It was a scam," Robby answered. "Those birds were maintenance-intensive. Guess what? The maintenance hasn't been done in the past couple of years. Andy Malcolm called in on his satellite brick this evening. There was water at the bottom of the hole he looked at today."


"I keep forgetting you're a city boy." Robby grinned sheepishly, or rather like the wolf under a fleece coat. "You make a hole in the ground, sooner or later it fills with water, okay? If you have something valuable in the hole, you better keep it pumped out. Water in the bottom of the silo means that they weren't always doing that. It means water vapor, humidity in the hole. And corrosion."

The light bulb went off. "You telling me the birds—"

"Probably wouldn't fly even if they wanted them to. Corrosion is like that. Probably dead birds, because fixing them once they're broke is a very iffy proposition. Anyway"—Jackson tossed the thin file folder at Ryan's desk—"that's the J-3 assessment."

"What about J-2?" Jack asked, referring to the intelligence directorate of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

"They never believed it, but I expect they will now if we open enough holes and see the same thing. Me?" Admiral Jackson shrugged. "I figure if Ivan let us see it in number one, we'll find pretty much the same thing everywhere else. They just don't give a good fuck anymore."

Intelligence information comes from many sources, and an "operator" like Jackson was often the best source of all. Unlike intelligence officers whose job it was to evaluate the capabilities of the other side, almost always in a theoretical sense, Jackson was a man whose interest in weapons was making them work, and he'd learned from hard experience that using them was far more demanding than looking at them.

"Remember when we thought they were ten feet tall?"

"I never did, but a little bastard with a gun can still ruin your whole day," Robby reminded his friend. "So how much money have they hustled out of us?"

"Five big ones."

"Good deal, our federal tax money at work. We just paid the Russkies five thousand million dollars to 'deactivate' missiles that couldn't leave the silos unless they set the nukes off first. Fabulous call, Dr. Ryan."

"They need the money, Rob."

"So do I, man. Hey, boy, I'm scratching the bottom to get enough JP to keep our planes in the air." It was not often understood that every ship in the fleet and every battalion of tanks in the Army had to live on a budget. Though the commanding officers didn't keep a checkbook per se, each drew on a fixed supply of consumable stores—fuel, weapons, spare parts, even food in the case of warships—that had to last a whole year. It was by no means unknown for a man-of-war to sit several weeks alongside her pier at the end of the fiscal year because there was nothing left to make her run. Such an event meant that somewhere a job was not getting done, a crew was not being trained. The Pentagon was fairly unique as a federal agency, in that it was expected to live on a fixed, often diminishing budget.

"How much thinner do you expect us to be spread?"

"I tell him, Rob, okay? The Chairman—"

"Just between you and me, the Chairman thinks operations are something that surgeons do in hospitals. And if you quote me on that, no more golf lessons."

"What is it worth to have the Russians out of the game?" Jack asked, wondering if Robby would calm down a little.

"Not as much as we've lost in cuts. In case you haven't noticed, my Navy is still stretched from hell to breakfast, and we're doing business with forty percent less ships. The ocean didn't get any smaller, okay? The Army's better off, I grant that, but the Air Force isn't, and the Marines are still sucking hind tit, and they're still our primary response team for the next time the boys and girls at Foggy Bottom fuck up."

"Preaching to the choir, Rob."

"More to it than just that, Jack. We're stretching the people, too. The fewer the ships, the longer they have to stay out. The longer they stay out, the worse the maintenance bills. It's like the bad old days in the late seventies. We're starting to lose people. Hard to make a man stay away from his wife and kids that long. In flying, we call it the coffin corner. When you lose experienced people, your training bills go up. You lose combat effectiveness no matter which way you go," Robby went on, talking like an admiral now.

"Look, Rob, I gave the same speech a while back on the other side of the building. I'm doing my best for you," Jack replied, talking like a senior government official. At that point both old friends shared a look.

"We're both old farts."

"It's a long time since we were on the faculty of Canoe U," Ryan allowed. His voice went on almost in a whisper. "Me teaching history, and you prostrating yourself to God every night to heal your leg."

"I should've done more of that. Arthritis in the knee," Robby said. "I have a flight physical in nine months. Guess what?"


"The big one." Jackson nodded matter-of-factly. Ryan knew what it really meant. To a man who'd flown fighter planes off carriers for over twenty years, it was the hard realization that age had come. He couldn't play with the boys anymore. You could explain away gray in the hair by citing adverse genes, but a down-check would mean taking off the flight suit, hanging up the helmet, and admitting that he was no longer good enough to do the one thing he'd yearned for since the age of ten, and at which he'd excelled for nearly all of his adult life. The bitterest part would be the memories of the things he'd said as a lieutenant, j.g., about the older pilots of his youth, the hidden smirks, the knowing looks shared with his fellow youngsters, none of whom had ever expected it would come to them.

"Rob, a lot of good guys never get the chance to screen for command of a squadron. They take the twenty-year out at commander's rank and end up flying the night shift for Federal Express."

"And make good money at it, too."

"Have you picked out the casket yet?" That broke the mood. Jackson looked up and grinned.

"Shit. If I can't dance, I can still watch. I'm telling you, pal, you want us to run all these pretty operations we plan in my cubicle, we need help from this side of the river. Mike Dubro is doing a great job hanging paper with one hand, but he and his troops have limits, y'dig?"

"Well, Admiral, I promise you this: when the time comes for you to get your battle group, there will be one for you to drive." It wasn't much of a pledge, but both men knew it was the best he could offer.

She was number five. The remarkable part was—hell, Murray thought in the office six blocks from the White House, it was all remarkable. It was the profile of the investigation that was the most disquieting. He and his team had interviewed several women who had admitted, some shamefacedly, some without overt emotional involvement, and some with pride and humor, at having bedded Ed Kealty, but there were five for whom the act had not been entirely voluntary. With this woman, the latest, drugs had been an additional factor, and she felt the lonely personal shame, the sense that she alone had fallen into the trap.

"So?" Bill Shaw asked after what had been a long day for him, too.

"So it's a solid case. We now have five known victims, four of whom are living. Two would stand up as rapes in any courtroom I've ever been in. That does not count Lisa Beringer. The other two demonstrate the use of drugs on federal property. Those two are virtually word-for-word, they identify the label on the brandy bottle, the effects, everything."

"Good witnesses?" the FBI Director asked.

"As good as can be expected in this sort of case. It's time to move with it," Murray added. Shaw nodded in understanding. Word would soon begin to leak out. You simply couldn't run a covert investigation for very long, even under the best of circumstances. Some of the people you interviewed would be loyal to the target of the inquiry, and no matter how carefully you phrased the opening questions, they would make the not overly great leap of imagination required to discern the nature of the probe, often because they suspected it themselves. Then those non-witnesses would worry about getting back to the target to warn him, whether from conviction in his innocence or hope of deriving a personal profit. Criminal or not, the Vice President was a man with considerable political power, still able to dole out large and powerful tokens to those who won his favor. In another age, the Bureau might not have gotten this far. The President himself, or even the Attorney General, would have conveyed a quiet warning, and senior staff members would themselves have sought out the victims and offered to make amends of one sort or another, and in many cases it would have worked. The only reason they'd gotten this far, after all, was that the FBI had the permission of the President, the cooperation of the AG, and a different legal and moral climate in which to work.

"As soon as you go to talk to the Chairman…"

Murray nodded. "Yeah, might as well have a press conference and lay out our evidence in an organized way." But they couldn't do that, of course. Once the substance of their evidence was given over to political figures—in his case the chairman and ranking minority member of the House Committee on the Judiciary—it would leak immediately. The only real control Murray and his team would possess would be in selecting the time of day. Late enough, and the news would miss the morning papers, incurring the wrath of the editors of The Washington Post and The New York Times. The Bureau had to play strictly by the rules. It couldn't leak anything because this was a criminal proceeding and the rights of the target had to be guarded as closely as—actually even closer than—those of the victims, lest the eventual trial be tainted.

"We'll do it here, Dan," Shaw said, reaching his decision. "I'll have the A.G. make the phone call and set the meet. Maybe that'll put the information on close-hold for a little while. What exactly did the President say the other day?"

"He's a standup guy," the Deputy Assistant Director reported, using a form of praise popular in the FBI. "He said, 'A crime's a crime.' " The President had also said to handle the affair in as "black" a way as possible, but that was to be expected.

"Fair enough. I'll let him know what we're doing personally."

Typically, Nomuri went right to work. It was his regular night at this bathhouse with this group of salarymen—he probably had the cleanest job in the Agency. It was also one of the slickest ways of getting information he'd ever stumbled across, and he made it slicker still by standing for a large bottle of sake that now sat, half empty, on the edge of the wooden tub.

"I wish you hadn't told me about that round-eye," Nomuri said with his own eyes closed, sitting in his usual corner and allowing his body to take in the enveloping heat of the water. At one hundred eight degrees, it was hot enough to lower blood pressure and induce euphoria. Added to it was the effect of the alcohol. Many Japanese have a genetic abnormality called "Oriental Flush" in the West, or with greater ethnic sensitivity,"pathological intoxication." It is actually an enzyme disorder, and means that for a relatively low quantity of alcoholic intake, there is a high degree of result. It was, fortunately, a trait which Nomuri's family did not share.

"Why is that?" Kazuo Taoka asked from the opposite corner.

"Because now I cannot get the gaijin witch out of my mind!" Nomuri replied good-naturedly. One of the other effects of the bathhouse was an intimate bonhomie. The man next to the CIA officer rubbed his head roughly and laughed, as did the rest of the group.

"Ah, and now you want to hear more, is it?" Nomuri didn't have to look. The man whose body rubbed on his leaned forward. Surely the rest would do it as well. "You were right, you know. Their feet are too big, and their bosoms also, but their manners…well, that they can learn after a fashion."

"You make us wait?" another member of the group asked, feigning a blustery anger.

"Do you not appreciate drama?" There was a merry chorus of laughs.

"Well, yes, it is true that her bosoms are too big for real beauty, but there are sacrifices we all must make in life, and truly I have seen worse deformities…"

Such a good raconteur, Nomuri thought. He did have a gift for it. In a moment he heard the sound of a cork being pulled, as another man refilled the little cups. Drink was actually prohibited in the bathhouse for health reasons, but, rarely for this country, it was a rule largely ignored. Nomuri reached for his cup, his eyes still closed, and made a great show of forming a mental picture masked by a blissful smile, as additional details slid across the steaming surface of the water. The description became more specific, fitting ever closer to the photograph and to other details he'd been passed on his early-morning train. It was hardly conclusive yet. Any of thousands of girls could fit the description, and Nomuri wasn't particularly outraged by the event. She'd taken her chances one way or another, but she was an American citizen, and if it were possible to help her, then he would. It seemed a trivial sidebar to his overall assignment, but if nothing else it had caused him to ask a question that would make him appear even more a member of this group of men. It made it more likely, therefore, to get important information out of them at a later date.

"We have no choice," a man said in another, similar bathhouse, not so far away. "We need your help."

It wasn't unexpected, the other five men thought. It was just a matter of who would hit the wall first. Fate had made it this man and his company. That did not lessen his personal disgrace at being forced to ask for help, and the other men felt his pain while outwardly displaying only dispassionate good manners. Indeed, those men who listened felt something else as well: fear. Now that it had happened once, it would be far easier for it to happen again. Who would be next?

Generally there could be no safer form of investment than real estate, real fixed property with physical reality, something you could touch and feel, build, and live on, that others could see and measure. Although there were continuing efforts in Japan to make new fill land, to build new airports, for example, the general rule was as true here as it was elsewhere: it made sense to buy land because the supply of real land was fixed, and because of that the price was not going to drop.

But in Japan that truth had been distorted by unique local conditions.

Land-use policy in the country was skewed by the inordinate power of the small holders of farmland, and it was not unusual to see a small patch of land in the midst of a suburban setting allocated to the growing of a quarter hectare of vegetables. Small already—the entire nation was about the size of California, and populated with roughly half the people of the United States—their country was further crowded by the fact that little of the land was arable, and since arable land also tended to be land on which people could more easily live, the major part of the population was further concentrated into a handful of large, dense cities, where real-estate prices became more precious still. The remarkable result of these seemingly ordinary facts was that the commercial real estate in the city of Tokyo alone had a higher "book" value than that of all the land in America's forty-eight contiguous states. More remarkably still, this absurd fiction was accepted by everyone as though it made sense, when in fact it was every bit as madly artificial as the Dutch Tulip Mania of the seventeenth century.

But as with America, what was a national economy, after all, but a collective belief? Or so everyone had thought for a generation. The frugal Japanese citizens saved a high proportion of their earnings. Those savings went into banks, in such vast quantities that the supply of capital for lending was similarly huge, as a result of which the interest rates for those loans were correspondingly low, which allowed businesses to purchase land and build on it despite prices that anywhere else in the world would have been somewhere between ruinous and impossible. As with any artificial boom, the process had dangerous corollaries. The inflated book value of owned real estate was used as collateral for other loans, and as security for stock portfolios bought on margin, and in the process supposedly intelligent and far-seeing businessmen had in fact constructed an elaborate house of cards whose foundation was the belief that metropolitan Tokyo had more intrinsic value than all of America between Bangor and San Diego. (An additional consequence of this was a view of real-estate value that more than any other factor had persuaded Japanese businessmen that American real-estate, which, after all, looked pretty much the same as that in their own country, had to be worth more than what the foolish Americans charged for it.) By the early 1990's had come disquieting thoughts. The precipitous decline of the Japanese stock market had threatened to put calls on the large margin accounts, and made some businessmen think about selling their land holdings to cover their exposures. With that had come the stunning but unsurprising realization that nobody wanted to pay book value for a parcel of land; that although everyone accepted book value in the abstract, actually paying the assumed price was, well, not terribly realistic. The result was that the single card supporting the rest of the house had been quietly removed from the bottom of the structure and awaited only a puff of breeze to cause the entire edifice to collapse—a possibility studiously ignored in the discourse between senior executives.

Until now.

The men sitting in the tub were friends and associates of many years' standing, and with Kozo Matsuda's quiet and dignified announcement of his company's current cash-flow difficulties, all of them saw collective disaster on a horizon that was suddenly far closer than they had expected only two hours earlier. The bankers present could offer loans, but interest rates were higher now. The industrialists could offer favors, but those would affect the bottom-line profits of their operations, with adverse effects on already-staggering stock prices. Yes, they could save their friend from ruin, along with which, in their society, came personal disgrace that would forever remove him from this intimate group. If they didn't, he would have to take his "best" chance, to put some of his office buildings, quietly, on the market, hoping, quietly, that someone would purchase them at something akin to the assumed value. But that was most unlikely—this they knew; they themselves would not be willing to do it—and if it became known that "book value" was as fictional as the writings of Jules Verne, then they would suffer, too. The bankers would have to admit that the security of their loans, and consequently the security of their depositors' money, was also a hollow fiction. A quantity of "real" money so massive as to be comprehended only as a number would be seen to have vanished as though by some sort of evil magic. For all these reasons, they would do what had to be done, they would help Matsuda and his company, receiving concessions in return, of course, but fronting the money he and his operations needed.

The problem was that although they could do it once, probably twice, and maybe even a third time, events would soon cascade, finding their own precipitous momentum, and there would soon come a time when they could not do what was necessary to support the house of cards. The consequences were not easily contemplated.

All six of the men looked down at the water, unable to meet the eyes of the others, because their society did not easily allow men to communicate fear, and fear is what they all felt. They were responsible, after all. Their corporations were in their own hands, ruled as autocratically as the holdings of a J. P. Morgan. With their control came a lavish lifestyle, immense personal power, and, ultimately, total personal accountability. All the decisions had been theirs, after all, and if those decisions had been faulty, then the responsibility was theirs in a society where public failure was as painful as death.

"Yamata-san is right," one of the bankers said quietly, without moving his body. "I was in error to dispute his view."

Marveling at his courage, and as though in one voice, the others nodded and whispered, "Hai."

Then another man spoke. "We need to seek his counsel on this matter."

The factory worked two hectic shifts, so popular was what it turned out. Set in the hills of Kentucky, the single building occupied over a hundred acres and was surrounded in turn by a parking lot for its workers and another for its products, with an area for loading trucks, and another for loading trains, run into the facility by CSX.

The premier new car on American and Japanese markets, the Cresta was named for the toboggan run at St. Moritz, in Switzerland, where a senior Japanese auto executive, somewhat in his cups, had taken up a challenge to try his luck on one of the deceptively simple sleds. He'd rocketed down the track, only to lose control at the treacherous Shuttlecock curve, turned himself into a ballistic object and dislocated his hip in the process. To honor the course that had given him a needed lesson in humility, he'd decided in the local casualty hospital to enshrine his experience in a new car, at that time merely a set of drawings and specifications.

As with nearly everything generated by the Japanese auto industry, the Cresta was a masterpiece of engineering. Popularly priced, its front-wheel drive attached to a sporty and fuel-efficient four-cylinder, sixteen-valve engine, it sat two adults in the front and two or three children quite comfortably in the back, and had become overnight both the Motor Trend Car of the Year and the savior of a Japanese manufacturer that had suffered three straight years of declining sales because of Detroit's rebounding efforts to take back the American market. The single most popular car for young adults with families, it came "loaded" with options and was manufactured on both sides of the Pacific to meet a global demand.

This plant, set thirty miles outside Lexington, Kentucky, was state-of-the-art in all respects. The employees earned union wages without having had to join the UAW, and on both attempts to create a union shop, supervised by the National Labor Relations Board, the powerful organization had failed to get even as much as 40 percent of the vote and gone away grumbling at the unaccustomed stupidity of the workers.

As with any such operation, there was an element of unreality to it. Auto parts entered the building at one end, and finished automobiles exited at the other. Some of the parts were even American made, though not as many as the U.S. government would have wished. Indeed, the factory manager would have preferred more domestic content as well, especially in the winter, when adverse weather on the Pacific could interfere with the delivery of parts—even a one-day delay in arrival time of a single ship could bring some inventories dangerously low, since the plant ran on minimal overhead—and the demand for his Crestas was greater than his ability to manufacture them. The parts arrived mostly by train-loaded containers from ports on both American coasts, were separated by type, and stored in stockrooms adjacent to the portion of the assembly line at which they would be joined with the automobiles. Much of the work was done by robots, but there was no substitute for the skilled hands of a worker with eyes and a brain, and in truth the automated functions were mainly things that people didn't enjoy anyway. The very efficiency of the plant made for the affordable cost of the Cresta, and the busy schedule, with plenty of overtime, made for workers who, with this region's first taste of really well-paying manufacturing jobs, applied themselves as diligently as their Japanese counterparts, and, their Japanese supervisors admitted quietly both to themselves and in internal company memoranda, rather more creatively. Fully a dozen major innovations suggested by workers on this line, just in this year, had been adopted at once in similar factories six thousand miles away. The supervisory personnel themselves greatly enjoyed living in Middle America. The price of their homes and the expanse of land that came with them both came as startling revelations, and after the initial discomfort of being in an alien land, they all began the process of succumbing to local hospitality, joining the local lawyers on the golf links, stopping off at McDonald's for a burger, watching their children play T-Ball with the local kids, often amazed at their welcome after what they'd expected. (The local TV cable system had even added NHK to its service, for the two hundred families who wanted the flavor of something from home.) In the process they also generated a tidy profit for their parent corporation, which, unfortunately, was now trapped into barely breaking even on the Crestas produced in Japan due to the unexpectedly high productivity of the Kentucky plant and the continuing decline of the dollar against the yen. For that reason, additional land was being bought this very week to increase the capacity of the plant by 60 percent. A third shift, while a possibility, would have reduced line maintenance, with a consequent adverse effect on quality control, which was a risk the company was unwilling to run, considering the renewed competition from Detroit.

Early in the line, two workers attached the gasoline tanks to the frames. One, off the line, removed the tank from its shipping carton and set it on a moving track that carried it to the second worker, whose job was to manhandle the light but bulky artifact into place. Plastic hangers held the tank briefly until the worker made the attachment permanent, and the plastic hangers were then removed before the chassis moved on to the next station.

The cardboard was soggy, the woman in the storage room noted. She held her hand to her nose and smelled sea salt. The container that had held this shipment of gas tanks had been improperly closed, and a stormy sea had invaded it. A good thing, she thought, that the tanks were all weather-sealed and galvanized. Perhaps fifteen or twenty of the tanks had been exposed to seawater. She considered mentioning it to the supervisor, but on looking around she couldn't see him. She had the authority on her own to stop the line—traditionally a very rare power for an auto-assembly worker—until the question of the gas tanks was cleared up. Every worker in the plant had that theoretical power, but she was new here, and really needed her supervisor to make the call. Looking around more, she almost stopped the line by her inaction, which caused an abrupt whistle from the line worker. Well, it couldn't be that big a deal, could it? She slid the tank on the track, and, opening the next box. forgot about it. She would never know that she was part of a chain of events that would soon kill one family and wound two others.

Two minutes later the tank was attached to a Cresta chassis, and the not-yet-a-car moved on down the seemingly endless line toward an open door that could not even be seen from this station. In due course the rest of the automobile would be assembled on the steel frame, finally rolling out of the plant as a candy-apple-red car already ordered by a family in Greeneville, Tennessee. The color had been chosen in honor of the wife, Candace Denton, who had just given her husband, Pierce, his first son after two twin daughters three years earlier. It would be the first new car the young couple had ever owned, and was his way of showing her how pleased he was with her love. They really couldn't afford it, but it was about love, not money, and he knew that somehow he'd find a way to make it work. The following day the car was driven onto a semi-trailer transporter for the short drive to the dealer in Knoxville. A telex from the assembly plant told the salesman that it was on the way, and he wasted no time calling Mr. Denton to let him know the good news.

They'd need a day for dealer prep, but the car would be delivered, a week late due to the demand for the Cresta, fully inspected, with temporary tags and insurance. And a full tank of gas, sealing a fate already decided by a multiplicity of factors.


It didn't help to do it at night. Even the glare of lights—dozens of them—didn't replicate what the sun gave for free. Artificial light made for odd shadows that always seemed to be in the wrong places, and if that weren't bad enough, the men moving around made shadows of their own, pulling the eyes away from their important work.

Each of the SS-19 "boosters" was encapsulated. The construction plans for the capsule—called a cocoon here—had accompanied the plans for the missiles themselves, more or less as an afterthought; after all, the Japanese corporation had paid for all the plans, and they were in the same drawer, and so they went along. That was fortunate, the supervising engineer thought, because it had not seemed to have occurred to anyone to ask for them.

The SS-19 had been designed as an intercontinental ballistic missile, a weapon of war, and since it had been designed by Russians, it had also been engineered for rough handling by poorly trained conscript soldiers. In this, the engineer admitted, the Russians had showed true genius worthy of emulation. His own countrymen had a tendency to over-engineer everything, which often made for a delicacy that had no place in such brutish applications as this. Forced to construct a weapon that could survive adverse human and environmental factors, the Russians had built a transport/loading container for their "birds" that protected them against everything. In this way the assembly workers could fit all the plugs and fittings at the factory, insert the missile body into its capsule, and ship it off to the field, where all the soldiers had to do was elevate it and then lower it into the silo. Once there, a better-trained crew of three men would attach the external power and telemetry plugs. Though not as simple as loading a cartridge into a rifle, it was by far the most efficient way of installing an ICBM that anyone had ever developed-efficient enough, indeed, that the Americans had copied it for their MX "Peacekeeper" missiles, all of which were now destroyed. The cocoon allowed the missile to be handled without fear, because all the stress points had hard contact with the inside of the structure. It was rather like the exoskeleton of an insect, and was necessary because, as forbidding as the missile might appear, it was in fact as delicate as the flimsiest tissue. Fittings within the silo accepted the base of the capsule, which allowed it to be rotated to the vertical and then lowered fully into place. The entire operation, bad lighting and all, required ninety minutes—exactly what the Soviet manual had demanded of its people, remarkably enough.

In this case, the silo crew consisted of five men. They attached three power cables along with four hoses that would maintain the gas pressure in the fuel and oxidizer tanks—the bird was not yet fueled, and the internal tanks needed pressure to maintain structural integrity. In the control bunker located six hundred meters away, within the valley's northeastern wall, the control crew of three men noted that the missile's internal systems "spun up" just as they were supposed to. It wasn't the least bit unexpected, but was gratifying even so. With that knowledge, they made a call to the phone located adjacent to the top of the silo, and the work crew waved the train off.

The diesel switch engine would deposit the flatcar back on a siding and retrieve the next missile. Two would be emplaced that night, and on each of the four succeeding nights, filling all ten of the silos. The senior personnel marveled at how smoothly it had all gone, though each wondered why it should be so surprising. It was perfectly straightforward work, after all. And strictly speaking, it was, but each also knew that the world would soon be a very different place because of what they had done, and somehow they'd expected the sky to change color or the earth to move at every moment of the project. Neither had happened, and now the question was whether to be disappointed or elated by that turn of events.

"It is our opinion that you should take a harder line with them," Goto said in the sanctity of his host's office.

"But why?" the Prime Minister asked, knowing the answer even so.

"They seek to crush us. They seek to punish us for being efficient, for doing better work, for achieving higher standards than what their own lazy workers are willing to attain." The Leader of the Opposition saved his assertive speaking voice for public utterances. In private with the leader of his country's government, he was unfailingly polite in manner even as he plotted to replace this weak, indecisive man.

"That is not necessarily the case, Goto-san. You know as well as I do that we have of late reasserted our position on rice and automobiles and computer chips. It is we who have won concessions from them, and not the reverse." The Prime Minister wondered what Goto was up to. Part of it he knew, naturally enough. Goto was maneuvering with his usual crude skill to realign the various factions in the Diet. The Prime Minister had a tenuous majority there, and the reason his government had taken a hard line on trade issues had been to assuage those on the margins of his voting bloc, ordinarily minor players and parties whose alliance of convenience with the government had magnified their power to the point where the tail really could wag the dog, because the tail knew that it held the balance of power. In this the

PM had played a dangerous game on the high-wire and without a net. On the one hand he'd have to keep his own diverse political allies happy, and on the other he couldn't offend his nation's most important trading partner. Worst of all, it was a tiring game, especially with people like Goto watching from below and howling at him, hoping that their noise would make him fall. As though you could do better, the Prime Minister thought, politely refilling Goto's cup with green tea, getting a gracious nod for the gesture. The more basic problem he understood better than the leader of his parliamentary opposition. Japan was not a democracy in any real sense. Rather like America in the late Nineteenth Century, the government was in fact, if not in law, a kind of official shield for the nation's business. The country was really run by a relative handful of businessmen—the number was under thirty, or even under twenty, depending on how you reckoned it—and despite the fact that those executives and their corporations appeared to be cut-throat competitors, in reality they were all associates, allied in every possible way, co-directorships, banking partnerships, all manner of inter-corporate cooperation agreements. Rare was the parliamentarian who would not listen with the greatest care to a representative of one of the zaibatsu. Rarer still was the Diet member who was graced with a personal audience with one of these men, and in every such case, the elected government official came away exhilarated at his good fortune, for those men were quite effective at providing what every politician needed: funds. Consequently, their word was law. The result was a parliament as thoroughly corrupted as any on earth. Or perhaps "corrupt" was the wrong term, the PM told himself. Subservient, perhaps. The ordinary citizens of the country were often enraged by what they saw, by what a few courageous journalists proclaimed, mostly in terms that, despite appearing to Westerners to be rather weak and fawning, in local context were as damning as anything Emile Zola had ever broad-sheeted across Paris. But the ordinary citizens didn't have the effective power that the zaibatsu did, and every attempt to reform the political system had fallen short. As a result, the government of one of the world's most powerful economies had become little more than the official arm of businessmen elected by no one, scarcely even beholden to their own stockholders. They had arranged his own accession to the Prime Ministership, he knew now…perhaps a bone thrown to the common people? he wondered. Had he been supposed to fail? Was that the destiny that had been constructed for him? To fail so that a return to normal could then be accepted by the citizens who'd placed their hopes in his hands? That fear had pushed him into taking positions with America that he knew to be dangerous. And now even that was not enough, was it?

"Many would say that," Goto allowed with the most perfect manners. "And I salute you for your courage. Alas, objective conditions have hurt our country. For example, the relative change of dollar and yen has had devastating effects on our investments abroad, and these could only have been the result of deliberate policy on the part of our esteemed trading partners."

There was something about his delivery, the Prime Minister thought. His words sounded scripted. Scripted by whom? Well, that was obvious enough. The PM wondered if Goto knew that he was in even a poorer position than the man he sought to replace. Probably not, but that was scant consolation. If Goto achieved his post, he would be even more in the pawn of his masters, pushed into implementing policies that might or might not be well considered. And unlike himself, Goto might be fool enough to believe that he was actually pursuing policies that were both wise and his own. How long would that illusion last?

It was dangerous to do this so often, Christopher Cook knew. Often? Well, every month or so. Was that often? Cook was a Deputy Assistant Secretary of State, not an intelligence officer, and hadn't read that manual, assuming there was one.

The hospitality was as impressive as ever, the good food and wine and the exquisite setting, the slow procession through topics of conversation, beginning with the polite and entirely pro forma inquiries as to the state of his family, and his golf game, and his opinion on this or that current social topic. Yes, the weather was unusually pleasant for this time of year—a perennial remark on Seiji's part; fairly enough, since fall and spring in Washington were tolerably pleasant, but the summers were hot and muggy and the winters wet and dank. It was tedious, even to the professional diplomat well versed in meaningless chitchat. Nagumo had been in Washington long enough to run out of original observations to make, and over the past few months had grown repetitive. Well, why should he be different from any other diplomat in the world? Cook asked himself, about to be surprised.

"I understand that you have reached an important agreement with the Russians," Seiji Nagumo observed as the dinner dishes were cleared away.

"What do you mean?" Cook asked, thinking it a continuation of the chitchat.

"We've heard that you are accelerating the elimination of ICBMs," the man went on, sipping his wine.

"You are well informed," Cook observed, impressed, so much so that he missed a signal he'd never received before. "Thai's a rather sensitive subject."

"Undoubtedly so, but also a wonderful development, is it not?" He raised his glass in a friendly toast. Cook, pleased, did the same.

"It most certainly is," the State Department official agreed. "As you know, it has been a goal of American foreign policy since the late 1940's back to Bernard Baruch, if memory serves—to eliminate weapons of mass destruction and their attendant danger to the human race. As you well know—"

Nagumo, surprisingly, cut him off. "I know better than you might imagine, Christopher. My grandfather lived in Nagasaki. He was a machinist for the naval base that was once there. He survived the bomb—his wife did not, I regret to tell you—but he was badly burned in the ensuing fire, and I can well remember his scars. The experience hastened his death, I am sorry to say." It was a card skillfully played, all the more so that it was a lie.

"I didn't know, Seiji. I'm sorry," Cook added, meaning it. The purpose of diplomacy, after all, was to prevent war whenever possible, or, failing that, to conclude them as bloodlessly as possible.

"So, as you might imagine, I am quite interested in the final elimination of those horrible things." Nagumo topped off Cook's glass. It was an excellent chardonnay that had gone well with the main course.

"Well, your information is pretty accurate. I'm not briefed in on that stuff, you understand, but I've caught a few things at the lunch room," Cook added, to let his friend know that he dined on the seventh floor of the State Department building, not in the more plebeian cafeteria.

"My interest, I admit, is personal. On the day the last one is destroyed, I plan to have a personal celebration, and to offer prayers to grandfather's spirit, to assure him that he didn't die in vain. Do you have any idea when that day will be, Christopher?"

"Not exactly, no. It's being kept quiet."

"Why is that?" Nagumo asked. "I don't understand."

"Well, I suppose the President wants to make a big deal about it. Every so often Roger likes to spring one on the media, especially with the election year on the horizon."

Seiji nodded. "Ah, yes, I can see that. So it is not really a matter of national security, is it?" he inquired offhandedly.

Cook thought about it for a second before replying. "Well, no, I don't suppose it is, really. True, it makes us more secure, but the manner in which that takes place is…well, pretty benign, I guess."

"In that case, could I ask a favor?"

"What's that?" Cook asked, lubricated by the wine and the company and the fact that he'd been feeding trade information to Nagumo for months.

"Just as a personal favor, could you find out for me the exact date on which the last missile will be destroyed? You see," he explained, "the ceremony I will undertake will be quite special, and it requires preparation."

Cook almost said, Sorry, Seiji, but that is technically speaking a national-security matter, and I never agreed to give anyone that sort of information. The hesitation on his face, and the surprise that caused it, overpowered his normal diplomat's poker face. His mind raced, or tried to in the presence of his friend. Okay, sure, for three and a half years he'd talked over trade issues wilh Nagumo, occasionally getting information that was useful, stuff he'd used, earning him a promotion to DASS rank, and occasionally, he'd given over information, because…because why? Because part of him was bored wilh the State Department grind and federal salary caps, and once upon a time a former colleague had remarked to him that with all the skills he'd acquired in fifteen years of government service, he really could escape into private industry, become a consultant or lobbyist, and hell, it wasn't as though he were spying on his country or anything, was it? Hell, no, it was just business, man.

Was this spying? Cook asked himself. Was it really? The missiles weren't aimed at Japan and never had been. In fact, if the papers were right, they weren't aimed at anything except the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, and the net effect of their destruction was exactly zero on everyone. Nobody hurt. Nobody really helped, except in budgetary terms, and that was pretty marginal for all concerned. So, no, there wasn't a national-security element to this, was there? No. So, he could pass that information along, couldn't he?

"Okay, Seiji. I guess this once, yeah, I can see what I can find out."

"Thank you, Christopher." Nagumo smiled. "My ancestors will thank you. It will be a great day for the entire world, my friend, and it deserves proper celebration." In many sports it was called follow-through. There was no term for it in espionage.

"You know, I think it does, too," Cook said after a further moment's contemplation. It never occurred to him to be amazed that the first step over the invisible line that he had himself constructed was as easy as this.

"I am honored," Yamata said with a great show of humility. "It is a fortunate man who has such wise and thoughtful friends."

"It is you who honor us," one of the bankers insisted politely.

"Are we not colleagues? Do we not all serve our country, our people, our culture, with equal devotion? You, Ichiki-san, the temples you've restored. Ah!" He waved his hand around the low polished table. "We've all done it, asking nothing in return but the chance to help our country, making it great again, and then actually doing it," Yamata added. "So how may I be of service to my friends this evening?" His face took on a quiet, passive mien, waiting to be told that which he already knew. His closest allies around the table, whose identity was not really known to the other nineteen, were studies of curious anticipation, skilled, as he was, in concealment. But for all that there was tension in the room, an atmosphere so real that you could smell it, like the odor of a foreigner.

Eyes turned almost imperceptibly to Matsuda-san, and many actually thought that his difficulties would come as a surprise to Yamata, even though the request for the meeting must have ignited his curiosity enough to turn loose his formidable investigative assets. The head of one of the world's largest conglomerates spoke with quiet, if sad, dignity, taking his time, as he had to, explaining that the conditions that had brought about his cash-flow problem had not, of course, been the fault of his management. It was a business that had begun with shipbuilding, branched out into construction, then delved into consumer electronics. Matsuda had ridden to its chairmanship in the mid-1980's and delivered for his stockholders such return as many only dreamed of. Matsuda-san gave the history himself, and Yamata did not show the least impatience. After all, it worked in his favor that all should hear in his words their own corporate success stories, because in seeing the similarity of success, they would also fear a similarity of personal catastrophe. That the cretin had decided to become a major player in Hollywood, pissing away an immense quantity of cash for eighty acres on Melrose Boulevard and a piece of paper that said he could make movies, well, that was his misfortune, was it not?

"The corruption and dishonor of those people is truly astounding," Matsuda went on in a voice that a Catholic priest might hear in a confessional, causing him to wonder if the sinner was recanting his sins or merely bemoaning his bad luck. In the case at hand, two billion dollars were as thoroughly gone as if burned to cook sausages.

Yamata could have said, "I warned you," except that he hadn't, even after his own investment counselors, Americans in this particular instance, had examined the very same deal and warned him off in the strongest terms. Instead he nodded thoughtfully. "Clearly you could not have anticipated that, especially after all the assurances you were given, and the wonderfully fair terms you gave in return. It would appear, my friends, that proper business ethics are lost on them." He looked around the table to collect the nods his observation had earned. "Matsuda-san, what reasonable man could say that you were in any way at fault?"

"Many would," he answered, rather courageously, all thought.

"Not I, my friend. Who among us is more honorable, more sagacious? Who among us has served his corporation more diligently?" Raizo Yamata shook his head sorrowfully.

"Of greater concern, my friends, is that a similar fate could await us all," a banker announced quietly, meaning that his bank held the paper on Matsuda's real-estate holdings both in Japan and America, and that the failure of this conglomerate would reduce his reserves to dangerous levels. The problem was that even though he could survive the corporate failure in both real uiul theoretical terms, it required only the perception that his reserves were weaker than they actually were to bring his institution down, and that idea could appear in a newspaper merely through the misunderstanding of a single reporter. The consequences of such a misguided report, or rumor, could begin a run on the bank, and make real what was not. Certainly the money withdrawn would then be deposited elsewhere—there was too much to go under mattresses, after all—in which case it would be lent back by a fellow corporate banker to safeguard his colleague's position, but a second-order crisis, which was quite possible, could bring everything crashing down.

What went unsaid, and for that matter largely unthought, was that the men in this room had brought the crisis upon themselves through ill-considered dealings. It was a crucial blindspot that all shared—or nearly all, Yamata

told himself.

"The basic problem is that our country's economic foundation rests not on rock, but on sand," Yamata began, speaking rather like a philosopher. "As weak and foolish as the Americans are, fortune has given them things which we lack. As a result, however clever our people are, we are always at a disadvantage." He had said all of this before, but now, for the first time, they were listening, and it required all of his self-control not to gloat. Rather he dialed back his level of rhetoric even more than he had in previous discourses. He looked over to one of them, who had always disagreed with him before.

"Remember what you said, that our real strengths are the diligence of our workers and the skill of our designers? That was true, my friend. These are strengths, and more than that, they are strengths that the Americans do not have in the abundance which we enjoy, but because fortune has for reasons of her own smiled on the gaijin, they can checkmate our advantages because they have converted their good fortune into real power, and power is something we lack." Yamata paused, reading his audience once more, watching their eyes and gauging the impassivity there. Even for one born of this culture and reared in its rules, he had to take his gamble now. This was the moment. He was sure of it. "But, really, that is not entirely the case either. They chose to take that path, while we have chosen not to. And so, now, we must pay the price for that misjudgment. Except for one thing."

"And what is that?" one asked for all the others.

"Now, my friends, fortune smiles on us, and the path to real national greatness is open to us. In our adversity we may, if we choose, find opportunities."

Yamata told himself that he had waited fifteen years for this moment. Then he considered the thought, watching and waiting for a response, and realized that he'd really waited a lifetime for it, since the age of ten, when in February 1944, he alone of his family had boarded the ship that would take him from Saipan to the Home Islands. He could still remember standing at the rail, seeing his mother and father and younger siblings standing there on the dock, Raizo being very brave and managing to hold back his tears, knowing as a child knows that he would see them again, but also knowing that he would not.

They'd killed them all, the Americans, erased his family from the face of the earth, encouraged them to cast their lives away, off the cliffs and into the greedy sea, because Japanese citizens, in uniform or out, were just animals to the Americans. Yamata could remember listening to the radio accounts of the battle, how the "Wild Eagles" of the Kido Butai had smashed the American fleet, how the Emperor's invincible soldiers had cast the hated American Marines back into the sea, how they had later slaughtered them in vast numbers in the mountains of the island claimed from the Germans after the first World War, and even then he'd known the futility of having to pretend to believe lies, for lies they had to be, despite the comforting words of his uncle. And soon the radio reports had gone on to other things, the victorious battles over the Americans that crept ever closer to home, the uncomprehending rage he'd known when his vast and powerful country had found herself unable to stop the barbarians, the terror of the bombing, first by day and then by night, burning his country to the ground one city at a time. The orange glow in the night sky, sometimes near, sometimes far, and the lies of his uncle, trying to explain it, and last of all the relief he'd seen on the man's face when all was over. Except that it had never been relief for Raizo Yamata, not with his family gone, vanished from the face of the earth, and even when he'd seen his first American, a hugely tall figure with red hair and freckles on his milky skin who'd clipped him on the head in the friendly way one might do for a dog, even then he'd known what the enemy looked like.

It wasn't Matsuda who spoke in reply. It couldn't be. It had to be another, one whose corporation was still immensely strong, or apparently so. It also had to be one who had never agreed with him. The rule was as important as it was unspoken, and though eyes didn't turn, thoughts did. The man looked down at his half-empty cup of tea—this was not a night for alcohol—and pondered his own fate. He spoke without looking up, because he was afraid to see the identical look in the eyes arrayed around the black lacquer table. "How, Yamata-san, would we achieve that which you propose?"

"No shit?" Chavez asked. He spoke in Russian, for you were not supposed to speak English here at Monterey, and he hadn't learned that colloquialism in Japanese yet.

"Fourteen agents," Major Oleg Yurievich Lyalin, KGB (retired), replied, as matter-of-factly as his ego allowed.

"And they never reactivated your net?" Clark asked, wanting to roll his eyes.

"They couldn't." Lyalin smiled and tapped the side of his head. "THISTLE was my creation. It turned out to be my life insurance."

No shit, Clark almost said. That Ryan had gotten him out alive was somewhere to the right of a miracle. Lyalin had been tried for treason with the normal KGB attention to a speedy trial, had been in a death cell, and known the routine as exactly as any man could. Told that his execution date was a week hence, he'd been marched to the prison commandant's office, informed of his right as a Soviet citizen to appeal directly to the President for executive clemency, and invited to draft a handwritten letter to that end. The less sophisticated might have thought the gesture to be genuine. Lyalin had known otherwise. Designed to make the execution easier, after the letter was sealed, he would be led back to his cell, and the executioner would leap from an open door to his right, place a pistol right next to his head and fire. As a result it was not overly surprising that his hand had shaken while holding the ballpoint pen, and that his legs were rubbery as he was led out. The entire ritual had been carried out, and Oleg Yurievich remembered his amazement on actually reaching his basement cell again, there to be told to gather up what belongings he had and to follow a guard, even more amazingly back to the commandant's office, there to meet someone who could only have been an American citizen, with his smile and his tailored clothes, unaware of KGB's wry valedictory to its traitorous officer.

"I would've pissed my pants," Ding observed, shuddering at the end of the story.

"I was lucky there," Lyalin admitted with a smile. "I'd urinated right before they took me up. My family was waiting for me at Sheremetyevo. It was one of the last PanAm flights."

"Hit the booze pretty hard on the way over?" Clark asked with a smile.

"Oh, yes," Oleg assured him, not adding how he'd shaken and then vomited on the lengthy flight to New York's JFK International Airport, and had insisted on a taxi ride through New York to be sure that the impossible vision of freedom was real.

Chavez refilled his mentor's glass. Lyalin was trying to work his way off hard liquor, and contented himself with Coors Light. "I've been in a few tight places, tovarich, but that one must have been really uncomfortable."

"I have retired, as you see. Domingo Estebanovich, where did you learn Russian so well?"

"The kid's got a gift for it, doesn't he?" Clark noted. "Especially the slang."

"Hey, I like to read, okay? And whenever I can I catch Russian TV at the home office and stuff. What's the big deal?" The last sentence slipped out in English. Russian didn't quite have that euphemism.

"The big deal is that you're truly gifted, my young friend," Major Lyalin said, saluting with his glass.

Chavez acknowledged the compliment. He hadn't even had a high-school diploma when he'd sneaked into the U.S. Army, mainly by promising to be a grunt, not a missile technician, but it pleased him that he had indeed raced through George Mason University for his subsequent undergraduate degree, and was now within a dissertation of his master's. He marveled at his luck and wondered how many others from his barrio could have done as well, given an equal smile from Chance.

"So does Mrs. Foley know that you left a network behind?"

"Yes, but all her Japanese speakers must be elsewhere. I don't think they would have tried to reactivate without letting me know. Besides, they will only activate if they are told the right thing."

"Jesus," Clark whispered, also in English, since one only swears in his native tongue. That was a natural consequence of the Agency's de-emphasis of human intelligence in favor of electronic bullshit, which was useful but not the be-all and end-all that the paper-pushers thought it to be. Of CIA's total of over fifteen thousand employees, somewhere around four hundred fifty of them were field officers, actually out on the street or in the weeds, talking to real people and trying to learn what their thoughts were instead of counting beans from overheads and reading newspaper articles for the rest.

"You know, sometimes I wonder how we ever won the fuckin' war."

"America tried very hard not to, but the Soviet Union tried harder." Lyalin paused. "THISTLE was mainly concerned with gathering commercial information. We stole many industrial designs and processes from Japan, and your country's policy is not to use intelligence services for that purpose." Another pause. "Except for one thing."

"What's that, Oleg?" Chavez asked, popping another Coors open.

"There's no real difference, Domingo. Your people—I tried for several months to explain that to them. Business is the government over there. Their parliament and ministries, they are the 'legend,' the maskirovka for the business empires."

"In that case there's one government in the world that knows how to make a decent car." Chavez chuckled. He'd given up on buying the Corvette of his dreams—the damned things just cost too much—and settled on a "Z" that was almost as sporty for half the price. And now he'd have to get rid of it, Ding told himself. He had to be more respectable and settled if he were going to marry, didn't he?

"Nyet. You should understand this: the opposition is not what your country thinks it is. Why do you suppose you have such problems negotiating with them? I discovered this fact early on, and KGB understood it readily."

As they had to, Clark told himself, nodding. Communist theory predicted that very "fact," didn't it? Damn, wasn't that a hoot! "How were the pickings?" he asked.

"Excellent," Lyalin assured him. "Their culture, it's so easy for them to take insults, but so hard for them to respond. They conceal much anger. Then, all you need do is show sympathy."

Clark nodded again, this time thinking. This guy is a real pro. Fourteen well-placed agents, he still had the names and addresses and phone numbers in his head, and, unsurprisingly, nobody at Langley had followed up on it because of those damned-fool ethics laws foisted on the Agency by lawyers—a breed of government servant that sprouted up like crabgrass everywhere you looked, as though anything the Agency did was, strictly speaking, ethical at all. Hell, he and Ding had kidnapped Corp, hadn't they? In the interests of justice, to be sure, but if they had brought him to America for trial, instead of leaving him with his own countrymen, some high-priced and highly ethical defense attorney, perhaps even acting pro bono—obstructing justice for free, Clark told himself—would have ranted and raved first before cameras and later before twelve good men (and women) about how this patriot had resisted an invasion of his country, et cetera, et cetera.

"An interesting weakness," Chavez noted judiciously. "People really are the same all over the world, aren't they?"

"Different masks, but the same flesh underneath," Lyalin pronounced, feeling ever more the teacher. The offhand remark was his best lesson of the day.

Of all human lamentations, without doubt the most common is, If only I had known. But we can't know, and so days of death and fire so often begin no differently from those of love and warmth. Pierce Denton packed the car for the trip to Nashville. It was not a trivial exercise. Both twin girls had safety seats installed in the back of the Cresta, and in between went the smaller seat for their brand-new brother, Matthew. The twin girls, Jessica and Jeanine, were three and a half years old, having survived the "terrible twos" (or rather, their parents had) and the parallel adventures of learning to walk and talk. Now, dressed in identical short purple dresses and white tights, they allowed Mom and Dad to load them into their seats. Matthew went in after them, restless and whining, but the girls knew that the vibration of the car would soon put him back to sleep, which is what he mostly did anyway, except when nursing from his mother's breasts. It was a big day, off for a weekend at Grandmother's house.

Pierce Denton, twenty-seven, was a police officer in Greeneville, Tennessee's, small municipal department, still attending night school to finish up his college degree, but with no further ambition other than to raise his family and live a comfortable life in the tree-covered mountains, where a man could hunt and fish with friends, attend a friendly community church, and generally live as good a life as any person might desire. His profession was far less stressful than that of colleagues in other places, and he didn't regret that a bit. Greeneville had its share of trouble, as did any American town, but far less than he saw on TV or read about in the professional journals that lay on tables in the station. At quarter after eight in the morning, he backed onto the quit street and headed off, first toward U.S. Route 331. He was rested and alert, with his usual two cups of morning coffee already at work, chasing away the cobwebs of a restful night, or as restful as one could be with an infant sleeping in the same bedroom with him and his wife, Candace. Within fifteen minutes he pulled onto Interstate Highway 81, heading south with the morning sun behind him.

Traffic was fairly light this Saturday morning, and unlike most police officers Denton didn't speed, at least not with his family in the car. Rather, he cruised evenly at just under seventy miles per hour, just enough over the posted limit of sixty-five for the slight thrill of breaking the law just a little. Interstate 81 was typical of the American interstates, wide and smooth even as it snaked southwest through the mountain range that had contained the first westward expansion of European settlers. At New Market, 81 merged with I-40, and Denton merged in with westbound traffic from North Carolina. Soon he would be in Knoxville. Checking his rearview mirror, he saw that both daughters were already lulled into a semiconscious state, and his ears told him that Matthew was the same. To his right, Candy Denton was dozing as well. Their infant son had not yet mastered the skill of sleeping through the night, and that fact took its toll on his wife, who hadn't had as much as six straight hours of sleep since…well, since before Matt's birth, actually, the driver told himself. His wife was petite, and her small frame had suffered from the latter stages of pregnancy. Candy's head rested on the right-side window, grabbing what sleep she could before Matthew woke up and announced his renewed hunger, though with a little luck, that might just last until they got to Nashville.

The only hard part of the drive, if you could call it that, was in Knoxville, a medium-sized city mostly on the north side of the Tennessee River. It was large enough to have an inner ring highway, I-640, which Denton avoided, preferring the direct path west.

The weather was warm for a change. The previous six weeks had been one damned snow-and-ice storm after another, and Greeneville had already exhausted its budget for road salt and overtime for the crews. He'd responded to at least fifty minor traffic accidents and two major ones, but mainly he regretted not having gotten the new Cresta to the car wash the previous night. The bright paint was streaked with salt, and he was glad the car came with underbody coating as a "standard option," because his venerable old pickup truck didn't have that, and it was corroding down to junk even as it sat still in their driveway. Beyond that, it seemed a competent little car. A few inches more leg room would have been nice, but it was her car, not his, and she didn't really need the room. The automobile was lighter than his police radio car, and had only half the engine power. That made for somewhat increased vibration, largely dampened out by the rubberized engine mounts but still there. Well, he told himself, that helped the kids to clonk out.

They must have had even more snow here, he saw. Rock salt had accumulated in the center of his lane like a path of sand or something. Shame they had to use so much. Really tore up the cars. But not his, Denton was sure, having read through all the specifications before deciding to surprise Candy with her red Cresta.

The mountains that cut diagonally across this part of America are called the Great Smokies, a name applied, according to local lore, by Daniel Boone himself. Actually part of a single range that ran from Georgia to Maine and beyond, changing local names almost as often as it changed states, in this area humidity from the numerous lakes and streams combined with atmospheric conditions to generate fog that occurred on a year-round basis.

Will Snyder of Pilot Lines was on overtime, a profitable situation for the union driver. The Fruehauf trailer attached to his Kenworth diesel tractor was filled with rolls of carpeting from a North Carolina mill en route to a distributorship in Memphis for a major sale. An experienced driver, Snyder was perfectly happy to be out on a Saturday, since the pay was better, and besides, football season was over and the grass wasn't growing yet. He fully expected to be home for dinner in any case. Best of all, the roads were fairly clear during this winter weekend, and he was making good time, the driver told himself, negotiating a sweeping turn to the right and down into a valley.

"Uh-oh," he murmured to himself. It was not unusual to see fog here, close to the State Route 95 North exit, the one that headed off to the bomb people at Oak Ridge. There were a couple of trouble spots on I-40, and this was one. "Damned fog."

There were two ways to deal with this. Some braked down slowly for fuel economy, or maybe just because they didn't like going slow. Not Snyder. A professional driver who saw major wrecks on the side of the highway every week, he slowed down immediately, even before visibility dropped below a hundred yards. His big rig took its time stopping, and he knew a driver who'd converted some little Japanese roller-skate into tinfoil, along with its elderly driver, and his time wasn't worth the risk, not at time-and-a-half it wasn't. Smoothly downshifting, he did what he knew to be the smartest thing, and just to be sure, flipped on his running lights.

Pierce Denton turned his head in annoyance. It was another Cresta, the sporty C99 version that they made only in Japan so far, this one black with a red stripe down the side that whizzed past, at eighty or a little over, his trained eye estimated. In Greeneville that would have been a hundred-dollar ticket and a stern lecture from Judge Tom Anders. Where had those two kids come from? He hadn't even noticed their approach in his mirror. Temporary tag. Two young girls, probably one had just got her license and her new car from Daddy to go with it and was taking her friend out to demonstrate what real freedom was in America, Officer Denton thought, freedom to be a damned fool and get a ticket your first day on the road. But this wasn't his jurisdiction, and that was a job for the state boys. Typical, he thought with a shake of the head. Chattering away, hardly watching the road, but it was better to have them in front than behind.

"Lord," Snyder breathed. Locals, he'd heard in a truck stop once, blamed it on the "crazy people" at Oak Ridge. Whatever the reason, visibility had dropped almost instantly to a mere thirty feet. Not good. He flipped his running lights to the emergency-blinker setting and slowed down more. He'd never done the calculation, but at this weight his tractor-trailer rig needed over sixty feet to stop from thirty miles per hour, and that was on a dry road, which this one was not. On the other hand…no, he decided, no chances. He lowered his speed to twenty. So it cost him half an hour. Pilots knew about this stretch of I-40, and they always said it was better to pay the time than to pay off the insurance deductible. With everything in hand, the driver keyed his CB radio to broadcast a warning to his fellow truckers. It was like being inside a Ping-Pong ball, he told them over Channel 19, and his senses were fully alert, staring ahead into a white mass of water vapor when the hazard was approaching from the rear.

The fog caught them entirely by surprise. Denton's guess had been a correct one. Nora Dunn was exactly eight days past her sixteenth birthday, three days past getting her temporary permit, and forty-nine miles into her sporty new C99 First of all she'd selected a wide, nice piece of road to see how fast it would go, because she was young and her friend Amy Rice had asked. With the compact-disc player going full blast, and trading observations on various male school chums, Nora was hardly watching the road at all, because, after all, it wasn't all that hard to keep a car between the solid line to the right and the dashy one to the left, was it, and besides, there wasn't anybody in the mirror to worry about, and having a car was far better than a date with a new boy, because they always had to drive anyway, for some reason or other, as though a grown woman couldn't handle a car herself.

The look on her face was somewhat startled when visibility went down to not very much—Nora couldn't estimate the exact distance—and she took her foot off the accelerator pedal, allowing the car to slow down from the previous cruising speed of eighty-four. The road behind was clear, and surely the road ahead would be, too. Her driving teachers had told her everything she needed to know, but as with the lessons of all her other teachers, some she'd heard and some she had not. The important ones would come with experience. Experience, however, was a teacher with whom she was not yet fully acquainted, and whose grading curve was far too steep for the moment al hand.

She did see the running lights on the Fruehauf trailer, but she was new to the road, and the amber spots might have been streetlights, except that most interstate highways didn't have them, a fact she hadn't been driving long enough to learn. It was scarcely a second's additional warning in any case.

By the time she saw the gray, square shadow, it was simply too late, and her speed was only down to sixty-five. With the tractor-trailer's speed at twenty, it was roughly the equivalent of hitting a thirty-ton stationary object at forty-five miles per hour.

It was always a sickening sound. Will Snyder had heard it before, and it reminded him of a truckload of aluminum beer cans being crunched in a compressor, the decidedly unmusical crump of a car body's being crushed by speed and mass and laws of physics that he'd learned not in high school but rather by experience.

The jolt to the left-rear corner of the trailer slewed the front end of the forty-foot van body to the right, but fortunately, his low speed allowed him to maintain control enough to get his rig stopped quickly. Looking back and to his left, he saw the remains of that cute new Jap car that his brother wanted to get, and Snyder's first ill-considered thought was that they were just too damned small to be safe, as though it would have mattered under the circumstances. The center- and right-front were shredded, and the frame was clearly bent. A blink and further inspection showed red where clear glass was supposed to be…

"Oh, my God."

Amy Rice was already dead, despite the flawless performance of her passenger-side air bag. The speed of the collision had driven her side of the car under the trailer, where the sturdy rear fender, designed to prevent damage to loading docks, had ripped through the coachwork like a chain saw. Nora Dunn was still alive but unconscious. Her new Cresta C99 was already a total loss, its aluminum engine block split, frame bent sixteen inches out of true, and worst of all, the fuel tank, already damaged by corrosion, was crushed between frame members and leaking.

Snyder saw the leaking gasoline. His engine still running, he quickly maneuvered his truck to the shoulder and jumped out, bringing his light red CO2 extinguisher. That he didn't quite get there in time saved his life.

"What's the matter, Jeanine?"

"Jessica!" the little girl insisted, wondering why people couldn't tell the difference, not even her father.

"What's the matter, Jessica," her father said with a patient smile.

"He's stinky!" She giggled.

"Okay," Pierce Denton sighed. He looked over to shake his wife's shoulder. That's when he saw the fog, and took his foot off the gas.

"What's the matter, honey?"

"Matt did a job."

"Okay…" Candace unclipped her seat belt and turned to look in the back.

"I wish you wouldn't do that, Candy." He turned too, just at the wrong time. As he did, the car drifted over to the right somewhat, and his eyes tried to observe the highway and the affairs within his wife's new car.

"Shit!" His instinct was to maneuver to the left, but he was too far over to the other side to do that, a fact he knew even before his left hand had turned the wheel all the way. Hitting the brakes didn't help either. The rear wheels locked on the slick road, causing the car to skid sideways into, he saw, another Cresta. His last coherent thought was, Is it the same one that…?

Despite the red color, Snyder didn't see it until the collision was inevitable. The trucker was still twenty feet away, jogging in, holding the extinguisher in his arms like a football.

Jesus! Denton didn't have time to say. The first thought was that the collision wasn't all that bad. He'd seen worse. His wife was rammed by inertia into the crumpling right side, and that wasn't good, but the kids in the back were in safety seats, thank God for that, and—

The final deciding factor in the end of five lives was chemical corrosion. The gas tank, like that in the C99, never properly galvanized, had been exposed to salt on its trans-Pacific voyage, then even more on the steep roads of eastern Tennessee. The weld points on the tank were particularly vulnerable and came loose on impact. Distortion of the frame made the tank drag on

the rough concrete surface; the underbody protection, never fully affixed, simply flaked off immediately, and another weak spot in the metal tank sprang open, and the body of the tank itself, made of steel, provided the spark, igniting the gasoline that spread forward, for the moment. The searing heat of the fireball actually cleared the fog somewhat, creating a flash so bright that oncoming traffic panic-stopped on both sides of the highway. That caused a three-car accident a hundred yards away in the eastbound lanes, but not a serious one, and people leaped from their vehicles to approach. It also caught the fuel leaking from Nora Dunn's car, enveloping her with flames, and killing the girl who, mercifully, would never regain consciousness despite the blazing death that took her to his bosom.

Will Snyder was close enough that he'd seen all five faces in the oncoming red Cresta. A mother and a baby were the two he'd remember for the rest of his life, the way she was perched between the front seats, holding the little one, her face suddenly turned to see oncoming death, staring right at the truck driver. The instant fire was a horrid surprise, but Snyder, though he stopped jogging, did not halt his approach. The left-rear door of the red Cresta had popped open, and that gave him a chance, for the flames were mostly, if temporarily, on the left side of the wrecked automobile. He darted in with the extinguisher held up like a weapon as the flames came back toward the gas tank under the red Cresta. The damning moment gave him but one brief instant to act, to pick the one child among three who alone might live in the inferno that was already igniting his clothes and burning his face while the driving gloves protected the hands that blasted fire-retarding gas into the rear-seat area. The cooling CO2 would save his life and one other.

He looked amid the yellow sheets and expanding white vapor for the infant, but it was nowhere to be found, and the little girl in the left seat was screaming with fear and pain, right there, right in front of him. His gloved hands found and released the chrome buckle, and he yanked her clear of the child-safety seat, breaking her arm in the process, then jerking his legs to fling himself clear of the enveloping fire. There was a lingering snowbank just by the guardrail, and he dove into it, putting out his own burning clothing, then he covered the child with the salt-heavy slush to do the same for her, his face stinging with pain that was the barest warning of what would soon follow.

He forced himself not to turn. He could hear the screaming behind his back, but to return to the burning car would be suicide, and looking might only force him into it. Instead he looked down at Jessica Denton, her face blackened, her breathing ragged, and prayed that a cop would appear quickly, and with him an ambulance. By the time that happened, fifteen minutes later, both he and the child were deep in shock.


The slow news day and the proximity to a city guaranteed media coverage of some kind, and the number and ages of the victims guaranteed more still. One of the local Knoxville TV stations had an arrangement with CNN, and by noon the story was the lead item on CNN News Hour. A satellite truck gave a young local reporter the opportunity for a global-coverage entry in his portfolio—he didn't want to stay in Knoxville forever—and the clearing fog gave the cameras a full view of the scene.

"Damn," Ryan breathed in his kitchen at home. Jack was taking a rare Saturday off, eating lunch with his family, looking forward to taking them to evening mass at St. Mary's so that he could also enjoy a Sunday morning at home. His eyes took in the scene, and his hands set the sandwich down on the plate.

Three fire trucks had responded, and four ambulances, two of which, ominously, were still there, their crews just standing around. The truck in the background was largely intact, though its bumper was clearly distorted. It was the foreground that told the story, however. Two piles of metal, blackened and distorted by fire. Open doors into a dark, empty interior. A dozen or so state police officers standing around, their posture stiff, their lips tight, not talking, not trading the jokes that ordinarily went with their perspective on auto accidents. Then Jack saw one of them trade a remark with another. Both heads shook and looked down at the pavement, thirty feet behind the reporter who was droning on the way that they always did, saying the same things for the hundredth time in his short career. Fog. High speed. Both gas tanks. Six people dead, four of them kids. This is Bob Wright, reporting from Interstate 40, outside Oak Ridge, Tennessee. Commercial.

Jack returned to his lunch, stifling another comment on the inequity of daily life. There was no reason yet why he should know or do more.

The cars were dripping water now, three hundred air miles away from the Chesapeake Bay, because the arriving volunteer firemen had felt the need to wet everything down, knowing even then that it was an exercise wasted on the occupants. The forensic photographer shot his three rolls of 200-speed color, catching the open mouths of the victims to prove that they'd died screaming. The senior police officer responding to the scene was Sergeant Thad Nicholson. An experienced highway cop with twenty years of auto accidents behind him, he arrived in time to see the bodies removed. Pierce Denton's service revolver had fallen to the pavement, and that more than anything had identified him as a fellow police officer even before the routine computer check of the tags had made the fact official. Four kids, two little ones and two teens, and two adults. You just never got used to that. It was a personal horror for Sergeant Nicholson. Death was bad enough, but a death such as this, how could God let it happen? Two little children…well…He did, and that was that. Then it was time to go to work.

Hollywood to the contrary, it was a highly unusual accident. Automobiles did not routinely turn into fireballs under any circumstances, and this one, his trained eyes saw at once, should not have been all that serious. Okay, there was one unavoidable fatality from the crash itself, the girl in the death seat of the first Cresta, who'd been nearly decapitated. But not the rest, there was no obvious reason for them. The first Cresta had rear-ended the truck at …forty or fifty miles of differential speed. Both air bags had deployed, and one of them ought to have saved the driver of the first car, he saw. The second car had hit at about a thirty-degree angle to the first. Damned fool of a cop to make a mistake like that, Nicholson thought. But the wife hadn't been belted in…maybe she'd been attending to the kids in the back and distracted her husband. Such things happened, and nobody could undo it now.

Of the six victims, one had been killed by collision, and the other five by fire. That wasn't supposed to happen. Cars were not supposed to burn, and so Nicholson had his people reactivate a crossover half a mile back on the Interstate so that the three accident vehicles could remain in place for a while. He got on his car radio to order up additional accident investigators from Nashville, and to recommend notifying the local office of the National Transportation Safety Board. As it happened, one of the local employees of that federal agency lived close to Oak Ridge. The engineer, Rebecca Upton, was on the scene thirty minutes after receiving her call. A mechanical engineer and graduate of the nearby University of Tennessee, who'd been studying this morning for her PE exam, she donned her brand-new official coveralls and started crawling around the wreckage while the tow-truck operators waited impatiently, even before the backup police team arrived from Nashville. Twenty-four, petite, and red-haired, she came out from under the once-red Cresta with her freckled skin smudged, and her green eyes teary from the lingering gasoline fumes. Sergeant Nicholson handed over a Styrofoam cup of coffee that he'd gotten from a fireman.

"What do you think, ma'am?" Nicholson asked, wondering if she knew anything. She looked like she did, he thought, and she wasn't afraid to get her clothes dirty, a hopeful sign.

"Both gas tanks." She pointed. "That one was sheared clean off. The other one was crumpled by the impact and failed. How fast was it?"

"The collision, you mean?" Nicholson shook his head. "Not that fast. Ballpark guess, forty to fifty."

"I think you're right. The gas tanks have structural-integrity standards, and this crash shouldn't have exceeded them." She took the proffered handkerchief and wiped her face. "Thanks, Sergeant." She sipped her coffee and looked back at the wrecks, wondering.

"What are you thinking?"

Ms. Upton turned back. "I'm thinking that six people—"

"Five," Nicholson corrected. "The trucker got one kid out."

"Oh—I didn't know. Shouldn't have happened. No good reason for it. It was an under-sixty impact, nothing really unusual about the physical factors. Smart money is there's something wrong with the car design. Where are you taking them?" she asked, feeling very professional now.

"The cars? Nashville. I can hold them at headquarters if you want, ma'am."

She nodded. "Okay, I'll call my boss. We're probably going to make this a federal investigation. Will your people have any problem with that?"

She'd never done that before, but knew from her manual that she had the authority to initiate a full NTSB inquiry. Most often known for handling the analysis of aircraft accidents, the National Transportation Safety Board also looked into unusual train and vehicle mishaps and had the authority to require cooperation of every federal agency in the pursuit of hard data.

Nicholson had participated in one similar investigation. He shook his head. "Ma'am, my captain will give you all the cooperation you can handle."

"Thank you." Rebecca Upton almost smiled, but this wasn't the place for it. "Where are the survivors? We'll have to interview them."

"Ambulance took them back to Knoxville. Just a guess, but they probably air-lifted them to Shriners'." That hospital, he knew, had a superb burn unit.

"You need anything else, ma'am? We have a highway to clear."

"Please be careful with the cars, we—"

"We'll treat it like criminal evidence, ma'am," Sergeant Nicholson assured the bright little girl, with a fatherly smile.

All in all, Ms. Upton thought, not a bad day. Tough luck for the occupants of the cars—that went without saying, and the reality and horror of their deaths were not lost on her—but this was her job, and her first really worthwhile assignment since joining the Department of Transportation. She walked back to her car, a Nissan hatchback, and stripped oil her coveralls, donning in their place her NTSB windbreaker. It wasn't especially warm, but for the first time in her government career, she felt as though she were really part of an important team, doing an important job, and she wanted the whole world to know who she was and what she was doing.

"Hi." Upton turned to see the smiling face of a TV reporter.

"What do you want?" she asked briskly, having decided to act very businesslike and official.

"Anything you can tell us?" He held the microphone low, and his cameraman, while nearby, wasn't turning tape at the moment.

"Only off the record," Becky Upton said after a second's reflection.

"Fair enough."

"Both gas tanks failed. That's what killed those people."

"Is that unusual?"

"Very." She paused. "There's going to be an NTSB investigation. There's no good reason for this to have happened. Okay?"

"You bet." Wright checked his watch. In another ten minutes he'd be live on satellite again, and this time he'd have something new to say, which was always good. The reporter walked away, head down, composing his new remarks for his global audience. What a great development: the National Transportation Safety Board was going to investigate the Motor Trend Car of the Year for a potentially lethal safety defect. No good reason for these people to have died. He wondered if his cameraman could get close enough now to see the charred, empty child seats in the back of the other car. Good stuff.

Ed and Mary Patricia Foley were in their top-floor office at CIA headquarters. Their unusual status had made for some architectural and organizational problems at the Agency. Mary Pat was the one with the title of Deputy Director (Operations), the first female to make that rank in America's lead spy agency. An experienced field officer who had worked her country's best and longest-lived agent-in-place, she was the cowboy half of the best husband-wife team CIA had ever fielded. Her husband, Ed, was less flashy but more careful as a planner. Their respective talents in tactics and strategy were highly complementary, and though Mary Pat had won the top job, she'd immediately done away with her need for an executive assistant, putting Ed in that office and making him her equal in real terms, if not bureaucratic ones. A new doorway had been cut in the wall so that he could stroll in without passing the executive secretary in the anteroom, and together they managed CIA's diminished collection of case officers. The working relationship was as close as their marriage, with all the compromises that attended the latter, and the result was the smoothest leadership of the Directorate of Operations in years.

"We need to pick a name, honey."

"How about FIREMAN?"


A smile. "They're both men."

"Well, Lyalin says they're doing fine on linguistics."

"Good enough to order lunch and find the bathroom." Mastering the Japanese language was not a trivial intellectual challenge. "How much you want to bet they're speaking it with a Russian accent?"

A light bulb went off in both their minds at about the same time. "Cover identities?"

"Yeah…" Mary Pat almost laughed. "Do you suppose anyone will mind?"

It was illegal for CIA officers to adopt the cover identity of journalists. American journalists, that is. The rule had recently been redrafted, at Ed's urging, to point out that quite a few of the agents his officers recruited were third-world journalists. Since both the officers assigned to the operation spoke excellent Russian, they could easily be covered as Russian journalists, couldn't they? It was a violation of the spirit of the rule, but not the letter; Ed Foley had his cowboy moments too.

"Oh, yeah," said Mary Pat. "Clark wants to know if we would like him to take a swing at reactivating THISTLE."

"We need to talk to Ryan or the President about that," Ed pointed out, turning conservative again.

But not his wife. "No, we don't. We need to get approval to make use of the network, not to see if it's still there." Her ice-blue eyes twinkled, as they usually did when she was being clever.

"Honey, that's calling it a little close," Ed warned. But that was one of the reasons he loved her. "But I like it. Okay, as long as we're just seeing that the network still exists."

"I was afraid I was going to have to pull rank on you, dear." For which transgressions her husband exacted a wonderful toll.

"Just so you have dinner ready on time, Mary. The orders'll go out Monday."

"Have to stop at the Giant on the way home. We're out of bread."

Congressman Alan Trent of Massachusetts was in Hartford, Connecticut, taking a Saturday off to catch a basketball game between U-Mass and U-Conn, both of whom looked like contenders for the regional championship this year. That didn't absolve him from the need to work, however, and so two staffers were with him, while a third was due in with work. It was more comfortable in the Sheraton hotel adjacent to the Hartford Civic Arena than in his office, and lie was lying on the bed with the papers spread around him—rather like Winston Churchill, he thought, but without the champagne nearby. The phone next to his bed rang. He didn't reach for it. He had a staffer for that, and Trent had taught himself to ignore the sound of a ringing phone.

"Al, it's George Wylie, from Deerfield Auto." Wylie was a major contributor to Trent's political campaigns, and the owner of a large business in his district. For both of those reasons, he was able to demand Trent's attention whenever he desired it.

"How the hell did he track me down here?" Trent asked the ceiling as he reached for the phone. "Hey, George, how are you today?"

Trent's two aides watched their boss set his soda down and reach for a pad. The congressman always had a pen in his hand, and a nearby pad of Post-It notes. Seeing him scribble a note to himself wasn't unusual, though the angry look on his face was. Their boss pointed to the TV and said, "CNN!"

The timing turned out to be almost perfect. After the top-of-the-hour commercial and a brief intro, Trent was the next player to see the face of Bob Wright. This time he was on tape, which had been edited. It now showed Rebecca Upton in her NTSB windbreaker and the two crumbled Crestas being hauled aboard the wreckers.

"Shit," Trent's senior staffer observed.

"The gas tanks, eh?" Trent asked over the phone, then listened for a minute or so. "Those motherfuckers," the congressman snarled next. "Thanks for the heads-up, George. I'm on it." He set the phone receiver back in the cradle and sat up straighter in the bed. His right hand pointed to his senior aide.

"Get in touch with the NTSB watch team in Washington. I want to talk to that girl right away. Name, phone, where she is, track her down fast! Next, get the Sec-Trans on the phone." His head went back down to his working correspondence while his staffers got on the phones. Like most members of Congress, Trent essentially time-shared his brain, and he'd long since learned to compartmentalize his time and his passion. He was soon grumbling about an amendment to the Department of the Interior's authorization for the National Forest Service, and making a few marginal notes with a green pen. That was his second-highest expression of outrage, though his staff saw his red pen poised near a fresh page on a legal pad. The combination of foolscap and a red pen meant that Trent was really exercised about something.

Rebecca Upton was in her Nissan, following the wreckers to Nashville, where she would first supervise the initial storage of the burned-out Crestas and then meet with the head of the local office to begin the procedures for a formal investigation—lots of paperwork, she was sure, and the engineer found it odd that she was not upset at her wrecked weekend. Along with her job came a cellular phone, which she assiduously used only for official business and only when absolutely necessary—she'd been in federal employ for just ten months—which meant in her case that she'd never even reached the basic monthly fee which the company charged the government. The phone had never rung in her car before, and she was startled by the sound when it started warbling next to her.

"Hello?" she said, picking it up, wondering if it were a wrong number.

"Rebecca Upton?"

"That's right. Who is this?"

"Please hold for Congressman Trent," a male voice told her.

"Huh? Who?"

"Hello?" a new voice said.

"Who's this?"

"Are you Rebecca Upton?"

"Yes, I am. Who are you?"

"I'm Alan Trent, Member of Congress from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. " Massachusetts, as any elected official from that state would announce at the drop of a hat, was not a mere "state."

"I tracked you down through the NTSB watch center. Your supervisor is Michael Zimmer, and his number in Nashville is—"

"Okay, I believe you, sir. What can I do for you?"

"You're investigating a crash on 1-40, correct?"

"Yes, sir."

"I want you to fill me in on what you know."

"Sir," Upton said, slowing her car down so that she could think, "we haven't even really started it yet, and I'm not really in a position to—"

"Young lady, I'm not asking you for conclusions, just for the reason why you are initiating an investigation. I am in a position to help. If you cooperate, I promise you that the Secretary of Transportation will know what a fine young engineer you are. She's a friend of mine, you see. We worked together in Congress for ten or twelve years."

Oh, Rebecca Upton thought. It was improper, unethical, probably against the rules, and maybe even fattening to reveal information from an ongoing NTSB accident investigation. On the other hand, the investigation hadn't started yet, had it? And Upton wanted to be noticed and promoted as much as the next person. She didn't know that her brief silence was as good as mind-reading to the other person on the cellular circuit, and couldn't see the smile in the Hartford hotel room in any case.

"Sir, it appears to me and to the police who responded to the accident that both gas tanks on both cars failed, causing a fatal fire. There appears on first inspection to be no obvious mechanical reason for the tanks to have done so. Therefore I am going to recommend to my supervisor that we initiate an investigation to determine the cause of the incident."

"Both gas tanks leaked?" the voice asked.

"Yes, sir, but it was worse than a leak. Both failed rather badly."

"Anything else you can tell me?"

"Not really at this time, no." Upton paused. Would this guy really mention her name to the Secretary? If so ... "Something is not right about this, Mr. Trent. Look, I have a degree in engineering, and I minored in materials science. The speed of the impact does not justify two catastrophic structural failures. There are federal safety standards for the structural integrity of automobiles and their components, and those parameters far exceed the conditions I saw at the accident scene. The police officers I spoke with agree. We need to do some tests to be sure, but that's my gut-call for the moment. I'm sorry, I can't tell you any more for a while."

This kid is going far, Trent told himself in his room at the Hartford Sheraton.

"Thank you, Miss Upton. I left my number with your office in Nashville. Please call me when you get in." Trent hung up the phone and thought for a minute or so. To his junior staffer: "Call Sec-Trans and tell her that this Upton kid is very good—no, get her for me, and I'll tell her. Paul, how good is the NTSB lab for doing scientific testing?" he asked, looking and feeling more and more like Churchill, planning the invasion of Europe. Well, Trent told himself, not quite that.

"Not bad at all, but the varsity—"

"Right." Trent selected a free button on his phone and made another call from memory.

"Good afternoon, Congressman," Bill Shaw said to his speakerphone, looking up at Dan Murray. "By the way, we need to see you next week and—"

"I need some help, Bill."

"What kind of help is that, sir?" Elected officials were always "sir" or "ma'am" on official business, even for the Director of the FBI. That was especially true if the congressman in question chaired the Intelligence Committee, along with holding a seat on the Judiciary Committee, and another on Ways and Means. Besides which, for all his personal…eccentricities…Trent had always been a good friend and fair critic of the Bureau. But the bottom line was simpler: all three of his committee jobs had impact on the FBI. Shaw listened and took some notes. "The Nashville S-A-C is Bruce Cleary, but we require a formal request for assistance from D-O-T before we can—okay, sure, I'll await her call. Glad to help. Yes, sir. 'Bye." Shaw looked up from his desk. "Why the hell is Al Trent worked up over a car wreck in Tennessee?"

"Why are we interested?" Murray asked, more to the point.

"He wants the Lab Division to back up NTSB on forensics. You want to call Brace and tell him to get his best tech guy on deck? The friggin' accident just happened this morning and Trent wants results yesterday."

"Has he ever jerked us around on something before?"

Shaw shook his head. "Never. I suppose we want to be on his good side. He'll have to sit in on the meeting with the chairman. We're going to have to discuss Kealty's security clearance, remember?"

Shaw's phone buzzed. "Secretary of Transportation on three, Director."

"That boy," Murray observed, "is really kicking some serious ass for a Saturday afternoon." He got out of his chair and headed for a phone on the other side of the room while Director Shaw took the call from the cabinet secretary. "Get me the Nashville office."

The police impound yard, where wrecked or stolen vehicles were stored, was part of the same facility that serviced State Police cars. Rebecca Upton had never been there before, but the wrecker drivers had, and following them was easy enough. The officer in the gatehouse shouted instructions to the first driver, and the second followed, trailed by the NTSB engineer. They ended up heading to an empty area—or almost empty. There were six cars there—two marked and four unmarked police radio cars—plus ten or so people, all of them senior by the look of them. One was Upton's boss, and for the first time she was really aware of how serious this affair was becoming.

The service building had three hydraulic lifts. Both Crestas were unloaded outside it, then manhandled inside and onto the steel tracks. Both were hoisted simultaneously, allowing the growing mob of people to walk underneath. Upton was by far the shortest person there, and had to jostle her way in. It was her case after all, or she thought it was. A photographer started shooting film, and she noticed that the man's camera case had "FBI" printed on it in yellow lettering. What the hell?

"Definite structural failure," noted a captain of the State Police, the department's chief of accident investigation. Other heads nodded sagely.

"Who has the best science lab around here?" someone in casual clothing asked.

"Vanderbilt University would be a good place to start," Rebecca announced. "Better yet, Oak Ridge National Laboratory."

"Are you Miss Upton?" the man asked. "I'm Brace Cleary, FBI."

"Why are you—"

"Ma'am, I just go where they send me." He smiled and went on. "D-O-T has requested our help on the investigation. We have a senior tech from our Laboratory Division flying down from Washington right now." On a D-O-T aircraft, no less, he didn't say. Neither he nor anyone else in his office had ever investigated an auto accident, but the orders came from the Director himself, and that was really all he needed to know.

Ms. Upton suddenly felt herself to be a sapling in a forest of giants, but she, too, had a job to do, and she was the only real expert on the scene.

Taking a flashlight from her pocket, she started a detailed examination of the gas tank. Rebecca was surprised when people gave her room. It had already been decided that her name would go on the cover of the report. The involvement of the FBI would be downplayed—an entirely routine case in interagency cooperation, backing up an inquiry initiated by a young, dedicated, bright, female NTSB engineer. She would take the lead on the case. Rebecca Upton would get all the credit for the work of the others, because it could not appear that this was a concerted effort toward a predetermined goal, even though that's precisely what it was. She'd also begun this thing, and for delivering political plums this large there had to be a few seeds tossed out for the little people. All the men standing around either knew or had begun to suspect it, though not all of them had begun to grasp what the real issues were. They merely knew that a congressman had gotten the immediate attention of a cabinet secretary and the director of the government's most powerful independent agency, and that he wanted fast action. It appeared that he'd get it, too. As they looked up at the underside of what only a few hours before had been a family car on the way to Grandma's house, the cause of the disaster seemed as straightforward as a punch in the nose. All that was really needed, the senior FBI representative thought, was scientific analysis of the crumpled gas tank. For that, they'd go to Oak Ridge, whose lab facilities often backed up the FBI. That would require the cooperation of the Department of Energy, but if Al Trent could shake two large trees in less than an hour, how hard would it be for him to shake another?

Goto was not a hard man to follow, though it could be tiring, Nomuri thought. At sixty, he was a man of commendable vigor and a desire to appear youthful. And he always kept coming here, at least three times per week. This was the tea house that Kazuo had identified—not by name, but closely enough that Nomuri been able to identify, then confirm it. He'd seen both Goto and Yamata enter here, never together, but never more than a few minutes apart, because it would be unseemly for the latter to make the former wait too much. Yamata always left first, and the other always lingered for at least an hour, but never more than two. Supposition, he told himself: a business meeting followed by R&R, and on the other nights, just the R&R part.

As though in some cinematic farce, Goto always came out with a blissful swagger to his stride as he made his way toward the waiting car. Certainly his driver knew-the open door, a bow, then the mischievous grin on his face as he came around to his own door. On every other occasion, Nomuri had followed Goto's car, discreetly and very carefully, twice losing him in the traffic, but on the last two occasions and three others he'd tracked the man all the way to his home, and felt certain that his destination after his trysts was always the same. Okay. Now he would think about the other part of the mission, as he sat in his car and sipped his tea. It took forty minutes.

It was Kimberly Norton. Nomuri had good eyes, and the streetlights were bright enough for him to manage a few quick frames from his camera before exiting the car. He tracked her from the other side of the street, careful not to look directly at her, instead allowing his peripheral vision to keep her in sight. Surveillance and countersurveillance were part of the syllabus at the Farm. It wasn't too hard, and this subject made it easy. Even though she wasn't overly tall by American standards, she did stand out here, as did her fair hair. In Los Angeles she would have been unremarkable, Nomuri thought, a pretty girl in a sea of pretty girls. There was nothing unusual about her walk—the girl was adapting to local norms, slightly demure, giving way to men, whereas in America the reverse was both true and expected. And though her Western clothing was somewhat distinctive, many people on the street dressed the same way—in fact, traditional garb was in the minority here, he realized with a slight surprise. She turned right, down another street, and Nomuri followed, sixty or seventy yards behind, like he was a god-damned private detective or something. What the hell was this assignment all about? the CIA officer wondered.

"Russians?" Ding asked.

"Free-lance journalists, no less. How's your shorthand?" Clark asked, reading over the telex. Mary Pat was having another attack of the clevers, but truth be told, she was very good at it. He'd long suspected that the Agency had a guy inside the Interfax News Agency in Moscow. Maybe CIA had played a role in setting the outfit up, as it was often the first and best source of political information from Moscow. But this was the first time, so far as he knew, that the Agency had used it for a cover legend. The second page of the op-order got even more interesting. Clark handed it over to Lyalin without comment.

"Bloody about time," the former Russian chuckled. "You will want names, addresses, and phone numbers, yes?"

"That would help, Oleg Yurievich."

"You mean we're going to be in the real spy business?" Chavez asked. It would be his first time ever. Most of the time he and Clark had been paramilitary operators, doing jobs either too dangerous or too unusual for regular field officers.

"It's been a while for me too, Ding. Oleg, I never asked what language you used working your people."

"Always English," Lyalin answered. "I never let on my abilities in Japanese. I often picked up information that way. They thought they could chat right past me."

Cute, Clark thought, you just stood there with the open-mouth-dog look on your face and people never seemed to catch on. Except that in his case, and Ding's, it would be quite real. Well, the real mission wasn't to play spymaster, was it, and they were prepared enough for what they were supposed to do, John told himself. They would leave on Tuesday for Korea.

In yet another case of interagency cooperation, a UH-1H helicopter of the Tennessee National Guard lifted Rebecca Upton, three other men, and the gasoline tanks to Oak Ridge National Laboratory. The tanks were wrapped in clear plastic and were strapped into place as though they were passengers themselves.

Oak Ridge's history went back to the early 1940's, when it had been part of the original Manhattan Engineering Project, the cover name for the first atomic-bomb effort. Huge buildings housed the still-operating uranium-separation machinery, though much else had changed including the addition of a helipad.

The Huey circled once to get a read on the wind, then settled in. An armed guard shepherded the party inside, where they found a senior scientist and two lab techs waiting—the Secretary of Energy himself had called them in this Saturday evening.

The scientific side of the case was decided in less than an hour. More time would be required for additional testing. The entire NTSB report would address such issues as the seat belts, the efficacy of the child-safety seats in the Denton car, how the air bags had performed, and so forth, but everyone knew that the important part, the cause of five American deaths, was that the Cresta gas tanks had been made of improperly treated steel that had corroded down to a third of its expected structural strength. The rough draft of that finding was typed up—badly—on a nearby word processor, printed, and faxed to DOT headquarters, adjacent to the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum in Washington. Though PRELIMINARY FINDING was the header on the two-page memo, the information would be treated as Holy Writ. Most remarkably of all, Rebecca Upton thought, it had all been accomplished in less than sixteen hours. She'd never seen the government move so fast on anything. What a shame that it didn't always do that, she thought as she dozed off in the back of the helicopter during the return flight to Nashville.

Later that night, the University of Massachusetts lost to the University of Connecticut 108-103 m overtime. Though a fanatic follower of basketball, and a graduate of U-Mass, Trent smiled serenely as he walked out into the shopping concourse outside the Hartford Civic Arena. He'd scored in a far bigger game today, he thought—though the game was not what he thought it was.

Arnie van Damm didn't like being awakened early on a Sunday morning, especially on one that he had designated as a day of rest—a day for sleeping till eight or so, reading his papers at the kitchen table like a normal citizen, napping in front of the TV in the afternoon, and generally pretending that he was back in Columbus, Ohio, where the pace of life was a lot easier. His first thought was that there had to be a major national emergency. President Durling wasn't one to abuse his chief of staff, and few had his private number. The voice on the other end caused his eyes to open wide and glare at the far wall of his bedroom.

"Al, this better be good," he growled at quarter of seven. Then he listened for a few minutes. "Okay, wait a minute, okay?" A minute later he was lighting up his computer—even he had to use one in these advanced times—which was linked to the White House. A phone was next to it.

"Okay, Al, I can squeeze you in tomorrow morning at eight-fifteen. Are you sure about all this?" He listened for another couple of minutes, annoyed that Trent had suborned three agencies of the Executive Branch, but he was a Member of Congress, and a powerful one at that, and the exercise of power came as easily to him as swimming did to a duck.

"My question is, will the President back me up?"

"If your information is solid, yes, I expect that he will, Al."

"This is the one, Arnie. I've talked and talked and talked, but this time the bastards have killed people."

"Can you fax me the report?"

"I'm running to catch a plane. I'll have it to you as soon as I get to my office."

So why did you have to call me now? van Damm didn't snarl. "I'll be waiting for it," was what he said. His next considered move was to retrieve the Sunday papers from his front porch. Remarkable, he thought, scanning the front pages. The biggest story of the day, maybe of the year, and nobody had picked up on it yet. Typical.

Remarkably, except for the normal activity on the fax machine, the remainder of the day went largely according to plan, which allowed the Presidential chief of staff to act like a normal citizen, and not even wonder what the following day might bring. It would keep, he told himself, dozing off on his living-room sofa and missing the Lakers and the Celts from Boston Garden.

9—Power Plays

There were more chits to be called in that Monday, but Trent had quite a few of them out there. The United States House of Representatives would open for business per usual at noon. The chaplain intoned his prayer, surprised to see that the Speaker of the House himself was in his seat instead of someone else, that there were over a hundred members to listen to him instead of the usual six or eight queued to make brief statements for the benefit of the C-SPAN cameras, and that the press gallery was almost half full instead of entirely empty. About the only normal factor was the public gallery, with the customary number of tourists and school kids. The chaplain, unexpectedly intimidated, stumbled through his prayer of the day and departed—or started to. He decided to linger at the door to see what was going on.

"Mr. Speaker!" a voice announced, to the surprise of no one on the floor of the chamber.

The Speaker of the House was already looking that way, having been prepped by a call from the White House. "The Chair recognizes the gentleman from Massachusetts."

Al Trent walked briskly down to the lectern. Once there, he took his time, setting his notes on the tilted wooden platform while three aides set up an easel, making his audience wait, and establishing the dramatic tone of his speech with eloquent silence. Looking down, he began with the required litany:

"Mr. Speaker, I request permission to revise and extend."

"Without objection," the Speaker of the House replied, but not as automatically as usual. The atmosphere was just different, a fact clear to everyone but the tourists, and their tour guides found themselves sitting down, which they never did. Fully eighty members of Trent's party were in their seats, along with twenty or so on the other side of the aisle, including every member of the minority leadership who happened to be in Washington that day. And though some of the latter were studies in disinterested posture, the fact that they were here at all was worthy of comment among the reporters, who had also been tipped that something big was happening.

"Mr. Speaker, on Saturday morning, on Interstate Highway 40 between Knoxville and Nashville, Tennessee, five American citizens were condemned to a fiery death by the Japanese auto industry." Trent read off the names and ages of the accident victims, and his aide on the floor uncovered the first graphic, a black-and-white photo of the scene. He took his time, allowing people to absorb the image, to imagine what it must have been like for the occupants of the two cars. In the press gallery, copies of his prepared remarks and the photos were now being passed out, and he didn't want to go too fast.

"Mr. Speaker, we must now ask, first, why did these people die, and second, why their deaths are a matter of concern to this house.

"A bright young federal-government engineer, Miss Rebecca Upton, was called to the scene by the local police authorities and immediately determined that the accident was caused by a major safety defect in both of these automobiles, that the lethal fire was in fact caused by the faulty design of the fuel tanks on both cars.

"Mr. Speaker, only a short time ago those very gasoline tanks were the subject of the domestic-content negotiations between the United States and Japan. A superior product, made coincidentally in my own district, was proposed to the Japanese trade representative. The American component is both superior in design and less expensive in manufacture, due to the diligence and intelligence of American workers, but that component was rejected by the Japanese trade mission because it failed to meet the supposed high and demanding standards of their auto industry!

"Mr. Speaker, those high and demanding standards burned five American citizens to death in an auto accident which, according to the Tennessee State Police and the National Transportation Safety Board, did not in any way exceed the safety parameters set in America by law for more than fifteen years. This should have been a survivable accident, but one family is nearly wiped out—but for the courage of a union trucker, would be entirely gone—and two other families today weep over the bodies of their young daughters because American workers were not allowed to supply a superior component even to the versions of this automobile made right here in America! One of those faulty tanks was transported six thousand miles so that it could be in one of those burned-out cars—so that it could kill a husband and a wife and a three-year-old child, and a newborn infant riding in that automobile!

"Enough is enough, Mr. Speaker! The preliminary finding of the NTSB, confirmed by the scientific staff at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, is that the auto gas tanks on both these cars, one manufactured in Japan and the other assembled right here in Kentucky, failed to meet long-standing D-O-T standards for automotive safety. As a result, first, the U.S. Department of Transportation has issued an immediate recall notice for all Cresta-type private passenger automobiles…" Trent paused, looking around. The players in the room knew that there would be more, and they knew it would be a big one.

"Second, I have advised the President of this tragic incident and its larger ramifications. It has been also determined by the Department of Transportation that the same fuel tank for this particular brand of automobile is used in nearly every Japanese private-passenger auto imported into the United States. Accordingly, I am today introducing a bill, HR-12313, which will authorize the President to direct the Departments of Commerce, Justice and of the Treasury to…"

"By executive order," the White House press spokesman was saying in the White House Press Room, "and in the interest of public safety, the President has directed the Bureau of Customs, Department of the Treasury, to inspect all imported Japanese cars at their respective ports of entry for a major safety defect which two days ago resulted in the deaths of five American citizens. Enabling legislation to formalize the President's statutory authority is being introduced today by the Honorable Alan Trent, Congressman from Massachusetts. The bill will have the full support of the President, and we hope for rapid action, again, in the interest of public safety.

"The technical term for this measure is 'sectoral reciprocity'," she went on. "That means that our legislation will mirror-image Japanese trade practices in every detail." She looked up for questions. Oddly, there were none at the moment.

"Moving on, the President's trip to Moscow has been scheduled for—"

"Wait a minute," a reporter asked, looking up, having had a few seconds to digest the opening statement. "What was that you said?"

"What gives, boss?" Ryan asked, going over the briefing documents.

"Second page, Jack."

"Okay." Jack flipped the page and scanned. "Damn, I saw that on TV the other day." He looked up. "This is not going to make them happy."

"Tough cookies," President Durling replied coldly. "We actually had a good year or two closing the trade gap, but this new guy over there is so beholden to the big shots that we just can't do business with his people. Enough's enough. They stop our cars right on the dock and practically take them apart to make sure they're 'safe', and then pass on the 'inspection' bill to their consumers."

"I know that, sir, but—"

"But enough's enough." And besides, it would soon be an election year, and the President needed help with his union voters, and with this single stroke he'd set that in granite. It wasn't Jack's bailiwick, and the National Security Advisor knew better than to make an issue of this. "Tell me about Russia and the missiles," Roger Durling said next.

He was saving the real bombshell for last. The FBI was having its meeting with the people from Judiciary the following afternoon. No, Durling thought after a moment's contemplation, he'd have to call Bill Shaw and tell him to hold off. He didn't want two big stories competing on the front pages. Kealty would have to wait for a while. He'd let Ryan know, but the sexual-harassment case would stay black for another week or so.

The timing guaranteed confusion. From a time zone fourteen hours ahead of the United States' EST, phones rang in the darkness of what in Washington was the early morning of the next day. The irregular nature of the American action, which had bypassed the normal channels within the American government, and therefore had also bypassed the people who gathered information for their country, caught everyone completely unaware. The Japanese ambassador in Washington was in a fashionable restaurant, having lunch with a close friend, and the hour guaranteed that the same was true of the senior staffers at the embassy on Massachusetts Avenue, NW. In the embassy cafeteria, and all over the city, beepers went off commanding an immediate call to their offices, but it was too late. The word was already out on various satellite TV channels, and those people in Japan who kept watch on such things had called their supervisors, and so on up the information chain until various zaibatsu were awakened at an hour certain to draw sharp comments. These men in turn called senior staff members, who were already awake in any case, and told them to call their lobbyists at once. Many of the lobbyists were already at work. For the most part, they had caught the C-SPAN coverage of Al Trent and gone to work on their own initiative, attempting damage control even before they received marching orders from their employers. The reception they got in every office was cool, even from members to whose campaign funds they made regular contributions. But not always.

"Look," said one senator, contemplating the commencement of his own reelection bid, and needing funds, as his visitor well knew, "I'm not going to the voters and saying that this action is unfair when eight people just burned to death. You have to give it time and let it play out. Be smart about it, okay?"

It was only five people who'd burned to death, the lobbyist thought, but the advice of his current mendicant was sound, or would have been under normal circumstances. The lobbyist was paid over three hundred thousand dollars per year for his expertise—he'd been a senior Senate staffer for ten years before seeing the light—and to be an honest broker of information. He was also paid to purvey campaign funds not-so-honestly on one hand, and to advise his employers what was possible on the other.

"Okay, Senator," he said in an understanding tone. "Please remember, though, that this legislation could cause a trade war, and that would be bad for everyone."

"Events like this have a natural life, and they don't last forever," the Senator replied. That was the general opinion reported back to the various offices by five that afternoon, which translated to seven the following morning in Japan. The error was in overlooking the fact that there had never been an event quite "like this."

Already the phones were ringing in the offices of nearly every member of both houses of Congress. Most expressed outrage at the event on 1-40, which was to be expected. There were a few hundred thousand people in America, spread through every state and all four hundred thirty-five congressional districts, who never missed the chance to call their representatives in Washington to express their opinions on everything. Junior staffers took the calls and made note of the time and date, the name and address of every caller—it was often unnecessary to ask, as some callers were identifiable by voice alone. The calls would be cataloged for topic and opinion, become part of every member's morning briefing information, and in most cases just as quickly forgotten.

Other calls went to more senior staff members, and in many cases to the members themselves. These came from local businessmen, mostly manufacturers whose products either competed directly in the marketplace with those from overseas, or, in a smaller number of cases, who had tried to do business in Japan and found the going difficult. These calls were not always heeded, but they were rarely ignored.

It was now a top story again on every news service, having briefly faded into the normal old-news obscurity. For today's newscasts family photographs were shown of the police officer, and his wife, and their three children, and also of Nora Dunn and Amy Rice, followed by a brief taped interview of the heroic truck driver, and distant views of Jessica Denton, orphan, writhing in pain from her burns inside a laminar room, being treated by nurses who wept as they debrided her charred face and arms. Now lawyers were sitting with all of the involved families, coaching them on what to tell the cameras and preparing dangerously modest statements of their own while visions of contingency fees danced in their heads. News crews asked for the reaction of family members, friends, and neighbors, and in the angry grief of people who had suffered a sudden and bitter loss, others saw either common anger or an opportunity to take advantage of the situation.

But most telling of all was the story of the fuel tank itself. The preliminary NTSB finding had been leaked moments after its existence had been announced on the floor of the House. It was just too good to pass up. The American auto companies supplied their own engineers to explain the scientific side of the matter, each of them noting with barely concealed glee that it was a simple example of poor quality-control on a very simple automobile component, that the Japanese weren't as sharp as everyone thought after all:

"Look, Tom, people have been galvanizing steel for over a century," a mid-level Ford engineer explained to NEC "Nightly News." "Garbage cans are made out of this stuff."

"Garbage cans?" the anchor inquired with a blank look, since his were made from plastic.

"They've hammered us on quality control for years, told us that we're not good enough, not safe enough, not careful enough to enter their auto market—and now we see that they're not so smart after all. That's the bottom line, Tom," the engineer went on, feeling his oats. "The gas tanks on those two Crestas had less structural integrity than a garbage can made with 1890's technology. And that's why those five people burned to death."

That incidental remark proved the label for the entire event. The next morning five galvanized steel trash cans were found stacked at the entrance to the Cresta Plant in Kentucky, along with a sign that read, WHY DON'T YOU TRY THESE? A CNN crew picked it up, having been tipped off beforehand, and by noon that was their headline story. It was all a matter of perception. It would take weeks to determine what had really gone wrong, but by that time perception and the reactions to it would have long since overtaken reality.

The Master of MV Nissan Courier hadn't received any notice at all. His was a surpassingly ugly ship that looked for all the world as though she had begun life as a solid rectangular block of steel, then had its bow scooped out with a large spoon for conversion into something that could move at sea. Top-heavy and cursed with a huge sail area that often made her the plaything of even the gentlest winds, she required four Moran tugboats to dock at the Dundalk Marine Terminal in the Port of Baltimore. Once the city's first airport, the large, flat expanse was a natural receiving point for automobiles. The ship's captain controlled the complex and tricky evolution of coming alongside, only then to notice that the enormous carpark was unusually full.

That was odd, he thought. The last Nissan ship had come in the previous Thursday, and ordinarily the lot should have been half empty by now, making room for his cargo. Looking farther, he saw only three car-trailers waiting to load their own cargo for transport to the nearest distributor; normally they were lined up like taxis at a train station.

"I guess they weren't kidding," the Chesapeake Bay pilot observed. He'd boarded the Courier at the Virginia Capes and had caught the TV news on the pilot ship that anchored there. He shook his head and made his way to the accommodation ladder. He'd let the shipping agent give the word to the Master.

The shipping agent did just that, climbing up the ladder, then to the bridge. The storage lot had room for about two hundred additional cars, certainly not more than that, and as yet he had no instructions from the line's management on what to tell the captain to do. Ordinarily the ship would be in port for no more than twenty-four hours, the time required to unload the cars, refuel and revictual the ship for her return journey most of the way across the world, where the same routine would be followed in reverse, this time loading cars into the empty ship for yet another voyage to America. The ships of this fleet were on a boring but remorseless schedule whose dates were as fixed as the stars of the night sky.

"What do you mean?" the Master asked.

"Every car has to be safety inspected." The shipping agent waved toward the terminal. "See for yourself."

The Master did just that, lifting his Nikon binoculars to see agents from the Bureau of Customs, six of them, using a hydraulic jack to lift up a new car so that one of their number could crawl under it for some reason or other while others made notations on various official forms on their clipboards. Certainly they didn't seem to be in much of a hurry. Through the glasses he could see their bodies rock back in forth in what had to be mirth, instead of working as diligently as government employees ought. That was the reason he didn't make the connection with the odd instances on which he'd seen Japanese customs inspectors doing similar but much more stringent inspections of American, German, or Swedish cars on the docks of his home port of Yokohama.

"But we could be here for days!" the Master blurted out.

"Maybe a week," the agent said optimistically.

"But there's only space for one ship here! Nissan Voyager is due here in seventy hours."

"I can't help that."

"But my schedule—" There was genuine horror in the Master's voice.

"I can't help that either," the shipping agent observed patiently to a man whose predictable world had just disintegrated.

"How can we help?" Seiji Nagumo asked.

"What do you mean?" the Commerce Department official replied.

"This terrible incident." And Nagumo was genuinely horrified. Japan's historical construction of wood-and-paper had long since been replaced by more substantial buildings, but its legacy was a deep cultural dread of fire. A citizen who allowed a fire to start on his property and then to spread to the property of another still faced criminal sanctions, not mere civil liability. He fell a very real sense of shame that a product manufactured in his country had caused such a horrid end. "I have not yet had an official communiqué from my government, but I tell you for myself, this is terrible beyond words. I assure you that we will launch our own investigation."

"It's a little late for that, Seiji. As you will recall, we discussed this very issue—"

"Yes, that is true, I admit it, but you must understand that even if we had reached an agreement, the materials in question would still have been in the pipeline—it would not have made a difference to these people."

It was an altogether pleasant moment for the American trade-negotiator. The deaths in Tennessee, well, that was too bad, but he'd been putting up with this bastard's arrogance for three years now, and the current situation, for all its tragedy, was a sweet one.

"Seiji-san, as I said, it's a little late for that. I suppose we will be happy to have some degree of cooperation from your people, but we have our own job to do. After all, I'm sure you'll understand that the duty to protect the lives and safety of American citizens is properly the job of the American government. Clearly we have been remiss in that duty, and we must make up for our own unfortunate failings."

"What we can do, Robert, is to subsidize the operation. I have been told that our auto manufacturers will themselves hire safety inspectors to clear the vehicles in your ports, and—"

"Seiji, you know that's unacceptable. We can't have government functions carried out by industry representatives." That wasn't true, and the bureaucrat knew it. It happened all the time.

"In the interest of maintaining our friendly trade relationship, we offer to undertake any unusual expense incurred by your government. We—"

Nagumo was stopped by a raised hand.

"Seiji, I have to tell you to stop there. Please—you must understand that what you propose could well be seen as an inducement to corruption under our government-ethics laws." The conversation stopped cold for several seconds.

"Look, Seiji, when the new statute is passed, this will settle out rapidly."

And that wouldn't take long. A flood of mail and telegrams from rapidly organized "grass-roots" groups—the United Auto Workers, for one, smelling blood in the water as sharply as any shark—had directed every one of its members to dial up Western Union for precisely that purpose. The Trent Bill was already first in line for hearings on the Hill, and insiders gave the new statute two weeks before it appeared on the President's desk for signature.

"But Trent's bill—"

The Commerce Department official leaned forward on his desk. "Seiji, what's the problem? The Trent Bill will allow the President, with the advice of lawyers here at Commerce, to duplicate your own trade laws. In other words, what we will do is to mirror-image your own laws over here. Now, how can it possibly be unfair for America to use your own fair trade laws on your products the same way that you use them on ours?"

Nagumo hadn't quite got it until that moment. "But you don't understand. Our laws are designed to fit our culture. Yours is different, and—"

"Yes, Seiji, I know. Your laws are designed to protect your industries against unfair competition. What we will soon be doing is the same thing. Now, that's the bad news. The good news is that whenever you open markets to us, we will automatically do the same for you. The bad news, Seiji, is that we will apply your own law to your own products, and then, my friend, we will see how fair your laws are, by your own standards. Why are you upset? You've been telling me for years how your laws are not a real boundary at all, that it's the fault of American industry that we can't trade with Japan as effectively as you trade with us." He leaned back and smiled. "Okay, now we'll see how accurate your observations were. You're not telling me now that you…misled me on things, are you?"

Nagumo would have thought My God, had he been a Christian, but his religion was animistic, and his internal reactions were different, though of exactly the same significance. He'd just been called a liar, and the worst part was that the accusation was…true.

The Trent Bill, now officially called the Trade Reform Act, was explained to America that very evening, now that the talking heads had used the time to analyze it. Its philosophical simplicity was elegant. Administration spokesmen, and Trent himself on "MacNeil/Lehrer," explained that the law established a small committee of lawyers and technical-trade experts from the Commerce Department, assisted by international-law authorities from the Department of Justice, who would be empowered to analyze foreign trade laws, to draft American trade regulations that matched their provisions as exactly as possible, and then to recommend them to the Secretary of Commerce, who would advise the President. The President in turn had the authority to activate those regulations by executive order. The order could be voided by a simple majority of both houses of Congress, whose authority on such matters was set in the Constitution—that provision would avoid legal challenge on the grounds of separation of powers. The Trade Reform Act further had a "sunset" provision. In four years from enactment, it would automatically cease to exist unless reenacted by Congress and reapproved by the sitting President—that provision made the TRA appear to be a temporary provision whose sole objective was to establish free international trade once and for all. It was manifestly a lie, but a plausible one, even for those who knew it.

"Now what could be more fair than that?" Trent asked rhetorically on PBS. "All we're doing is to duplicate the laws of other countries. If their laws are fair for American business, then those same laws must also be fair for the industries of other countries. Our Japanese friends"—he smiled—"have been telling us for years that their laws are not discriminatory. Fine. We will use their laws as fairly as they do."

The entertaining part for Trent was in watching the man on the other side of the table squirm. The former Assistant Secretary of State, now earning over a million dollars a year as senior lobbyist for Sony and Mitsubishi, just sat there, his mind racing for something to say that would make sense, and Trent could see it in his face. He didn't have a thing.

"This could be the start of a real trade war—" he began, only to be cut off at the ankles.

"Look, Sam, the Geneva Convention didn't cause any wars, did it? It simply applied the same rules of conduct to all sides in a conflict. If you're saying that the use of Japanese regulations in American ports will cause a war, then there already is a war and you've been working for the other side, haven't you?" His rapid-fire retort was met with five seconds of very awkward silence. There just wasn't an answer to that question.

"Whoa!" Ryan observed, sitting in the family room of his house, at a decent hour for once.

"He's got real killer instinct," Cathy observed, looking up from some medical notes.

"He does," her husband agreed. "Talk about fast. I just got briefed in on this the other day."

"Well, I think they're right. Don't you?" his wife asked.

"I think it's going a little fast." Jack paused. "How good are their docs?"

"Japanese doctors? Not very, by our standards."

"Really?" The Japanese public-health system had been held up for emulation. Everything over there was "free," after all. "How come?"

"They salute too much," Cathy replied, her head back down in her notes. "The professor's always right, that sort of thing. The young ones never learn to do it on their own, and by the time they're old enough to become professors themselves, for the most part they forget how."

"How often are you wrong, O Associate Professor of Ophthalmic Surgery, ma'am?" Jack chuckled.

"Practically never," Cathy replied, looking up, "but I never tell my residents to stop asking why, either. We have three Japanese fellows at Wilmer now. Good clinicians, good technical docs, but not very flexible. I guess it's a cultural thing. We're trying to train them out of it. It's not easy."

"The boss is always right…"

"Not always, he isn't." Cathy made a notation for a medication change.

Ryan's head turned, wondering if he'd just learned something important. "How good are they in developing new treatments?"

"Jack, why do you think they come here to train? Why do you suppose we have so many in the university up on Charles Street? Why do you suppose so many of them stay here?"

It was nine in the morning in Tokyo, and a satellite feed brought the American evening news shows into executive offices all over the city. Skilled translators were rendering the conversation into their native tongue. VCRs were making a permanent record for a more thorough analysis later, but what the executives heard was clear enough.

Kozo Matsuda trembled at his desk. He kept his hands in his lap and out of view so that the others in his office could not see them shake. What he heard in two languages—his English was excellent—was bad enough. What he saw was worse. His corporation was already losing money due to…irregularities in the world market. Fully a third of his company's products went to the United States, and if that segment of his business were in any way interrupted…

The interview was followed by a "focus segment" that showed Nissan Courier, still tied up in Baltimore, with her sister ship, Nissan Voyager, swinging at anchor in the Chesapeake Bay. Yet another car carrier had just cleared the Virginia Capes, and the first of the trio was not even halfway unloaded yet. The only reason they'd shown those particular ships was Baltimore's convenient proximity to Washington. The same was happening in the Port of Los Angeles, Seattle, and Jacksonville. As though the cars were being used to transport drugs, Matsuda thought. Part of his mind was outraged, but more of it was approaching panic. If the Americans were serious, then…

No, they couldn't be.

"But what about the possibility of a trade war?" Jim Lehrer asked that Trent person.

"Jim, I've been saying for years that we've been in a trade war with Japan for a generation. What we've just done is to level the playing field for everyone."

"But if this situation goes further, won't American interests be hurt?"

"Jim, what are those interests? Are American business interests worth burning up little children?" Trent shot back at once.

Matsuda cringed when he heard that. The image was just too striking for a man whose earliest childhood memory was of the early morning of March 10, 1945. Not even three years old, his mother carrying him from his house looking back and seeing the towering flames caused by Curtis LeMay's 21st Bomber Command. For years he'd awakened screaming in the night, and for all his adult life he'd been a committed pacifist. He'd studied history, learned how and why the war had begun, how America had pushed his antecedents into a corner from which there had been only a single escape—and that a false one. Perhaps Yamata was right, he thought, perhaps the entire affair had been of America's making. First, force Japan into a war, then crush them in an effort to forestall the natural ascendancy of a nation destined to challenge American power. For all that, he had never been able to understand how the zaibatsu of the time, members of the Black Dragon Society, had not been able to find a clever way out, for wasn't war just too dreadful an option? Wasn't peace, however humiliating, to be preferred to the awful destruction that came with war?

It was different now. Now he was one of them, and now he saw what lay in the abyss of not going to war. Were they so wrong then, he asked himself, no longer hearing the TV or his translator. They'd sought real economic stability for their country: the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere. The history books of his youth had called it all a lie, but was it?

For his country's economy to function, it needed resources, raw materials, but Japan had virtually none except coal, and that polluted the air. Japan needed iron, bauxite, petroleum, needed almost everything to be shipped in, in order to be transformed into finished goods that could be shipped out. They needed cash to pay for the raw materials, and that cash came from the buyers of the finished products. If America, his country's largest and most important trading partner, suddenly stopped trading, that cash flow would stop. Almost sixty billion dollars.

There would be various adjustments, of course. Today on the international money markets, the yen would plummet against the dollar and every other hard currency in the world. That would make Japanese products less expensive everywhere—

But Europe would follow suit. He was sure of that. Trade regulations already stiffer than the Americans' would become tougher still, and that trading surplus would also decline, and at the same time the value of the yen would fall all the more. It would take more cash to buy the resources without which his country would enter total collapse. Like falling from a precipice, the downward acceleration would merely grow faster and faster, and the only consolation of the moment was that he would not be there to see the end of it, for long before that happened, this office would no longer be his. He'd be disgraced, with all the rest of his colleagues. Some would choose death, perhaps, but not so many. That was something for TV now, the ancient traditions that had grown from a culture rich in pride but poor in everything else. Life was too comfortable to give it up so easily—or was it? What lay ten years in his country's future? A return to poverty…or…something else?

The decision would partly be his, Matsuda told himself, because the government of his country was really an extension of the collective will of himself and his peers. He looked down at the shaking hands in his lap. He thanked his two employees, and sent them on their way with a gracious nod before he was able to lift his hands to the surface of his desk and reach for a telephone.

Clark thought of it as a "forever flight," and even though KAL had upgraded them to first-class, it really hadn't helped much; not even the charming Korean flight attendants in lovely traditional dress could make the process much better than it was. He'd seen two of the three movies—on other flights—and the third wasn't all that interesting. The sky-news radio channel had held his interest for the forty minutes required to update him on the happenings of the world, but after that it became repetitive, and his memory was too finely trained to need that. The KAL magazine was only good for thirty minutes—even that was a stretch—and he was current on the American news journals. What remained was crushing boredom. At least Ding had his course material to divert him. He was currently reading through the Masseys' classic Dreadnought, about how international relations had broken down a century earlier because the various European nations—more properly their leaders—had failed to make the leap of imagination required to keep the peace. Clark remembered having read it soon after publication. "They just can't make it, can they?" he asked his partner after an hour of reading over his shoulder. Ding read slowly, taking in every word one at a time. Well, it was study material, wasn't it?

"Not real smart, John." Chavez looked up from his pages of notes and stretched, which was easier for his small frame than it was for Clark's." Professor Alpher wants me to identify three or four crucial fault-points for my thesis, bad decisions, that sort of thing. More to it than that, y'know? What they had to do was, well, like step outside themselves and look back and see what it was all about, but the dumb fucks didn't know how to do that. They couldn't be objective. The other part is, they didn't think anything all the way through. They had all those great tactical ideas, but they never really looked at where things were leading them. You know, I can identify the goofs for the doc, wrap it up real nice just like she wants, but it's gonna be bullshit, John. The problem wasn't the decisions. The problem was the people making them. They just weren't big enough for what they were doing. They just didn't see far enough, and that's what the peons were paying them to do, y'know?" Chavez rubbed his eyes, grateful for the distraction. He'd been reading and studying for eleven hours, with only brief breaks for meals and head calls. "I need to run a few miles," he grumped, also weary from the night.

John checked his watch. "Forty minutes out. We've already started our descent."

"You suppose the big shots are any different today?" Ding asked tiredly.

Clark laughed. "My boy, what's the one thing in life that never changes?"

The young officer smiled. "Yeah, and the other one is, people like us are always caught in the open when they blow it." He rose and walked to the head to wash his face. Looking in the mirror, he was glad that they'd spend a day at an Agency safe house. He'd need to wash up and shave and unwind before putting on his mission identity. And maybe make some start notes for his thesis.

Clark looked out the window and saw a Korean landscape lit up with the pink, feathery light of a breaking dawn. The lad was turning intellectual on him. That was enough for a weary, eyes-closed grin with his face turned to the plastic window. The kid was smart enough, but what would happen when Ding wrote the dumb fucks didn't know how into his master's thesis?

He was talking about Gladstone and Bismarck, after all. That got him laughing so hard that he started coughing in the airliner-dry air. He opened his eyes to see his partner emerge from the first-class head. Ding almost bumped into one of the flight attendants, and though he smiled politely at her and stepped aside to let her pass, he didn't track her with his eyes, Clark noticed, didn't do what men usually did with someone so young and attractive. Clearly his mind was set on another female form.

Damn, this is getting serious.

Murray nearly exploded: "We can't do that now! God damn it, Bill, we've got everything lined up, the information's going to leak sure as hell, and that's not even fair to Kealty, much less our witnesses."

"We do work for the President, Dan," Shaw pointed out. "And the order came directly from him, not even through the AG. Since when did you care about Kealty, anyway?" It was, in fact, the same line Shaw had used on

President Durling. Bastard or not, rapist or not, he was entitled to due process of law and a fair crack at defending himself. The FBI was somewhat maniacal on that, but the real reason for their veneration of judicial fair-play was that when you convicted a guy after following all the rules, you knew that you'd nailed the right bastard. It also made the appeals process a lot easier to swallow.

"This accident thing, right?"

"Yeah. He doesn't want two big stories jockeying on the front page. This trade flap is a pretty big deal, and he says Kealty can wait a week or two. Dan, our Ms. Linders has waited several years, will another couple of weeks—"

"Yes, and you know it," Murray snapped back. Then he paused. "Sorry, Bill. You know what I mean." What he meant was simple: he had a case ready to go, and it was time to run with it. On the other hand, you didn't say no to the President.

"He's already talked to the people on the Hill. They'll sit on it."

"But their staffers won't."


"I agree it's not good," Chris Cook said.

Nagumo was looking down at the rug in the sitting room. He was too stunned at the events of the previous few days even to be angry. It was like discovering that the world was about to end, and that there was nothing he could do about it. Supposedly, he was a middle-level foreign-ministry official who didn't "play" in the high-level negotiations. But that was window-dressing. His task was to set the framework for his country's negotiating positions and, moreover, to gather intelligence information on what America really thought, so that his titular seniors would know exactly what opening positions to take and how far they could press. Nagumo was an intelligence officer in fact if not in name. In that role, his interest in the process was personal and surprisingly emotional. Seiji saw himself as a defender and protector of his country and its people, and also as an honest bridge between his country and America. He wanted Americans to appreciate his people and his culture. He wanted them to partake of its products. He wanted America to see Japan as an equal, a good and wise friend from whom to learn. Americans were a passionate people, so often ignorant of their real needs—as the overly proud and pampered often are. The current American stance on trade, if that was what it seemed to be, was like being slapped by one's own child. Didn't they know they needed Japan and its products? Hadn't he personally trained American trade officials for years?

Cook squirmed in his seat. He, too, was an experienced foreign-service officer, and he could read faces as well as anyone. They were friends, after all, and, more than that, Seiji was his personal passport to a remunerative life after government service.

"If it makes you feel any better, it's the thirteenth."

"Hmph?" Nagumo looked up.

"That's the day they blow up the last missiles. The thing you asked about? Remember?"

Nagumo blinked, slow to recall the question he'd posed earlier. "Why then?"

"The President will be in Moscow. They're down to a handful of missiles now. I don't know the exact number, but it's less than twenty on each side. They're saving the last one for next Friday. Kind of an odd coincidence, but that's how the scheduling worked out. The TV boys have been prepped, but they're keeping it quiet. There'll be cameras at both places, and they're going to simulcast the last two—blowing them up, I mean." Cook paused.

"So that ceremony you talked about, the one for your grandfather, that's the day."

"Thank you, Chris." Nagumo stood and walked to the bar to pour himself another drink. He didn't know why the Ministry wanted that information, but it was an order, and he'd pass it along. "Now, my friend, what can we do about this?"

"Not much, Seiji, at least not right away. I told you about the damned gas tanks, remember? I told you Trent was not a guy to tangle with. He's been waiting for an opportunity like this for years. Look, I was on the Hill this afternoon, talking to people. You've never seen mail and telegrams like this one, and goddamned CNN won't let the story go."

"I know." Nagumo nodded. It was like some sort of horror movie. Today's lead story was Jessica Denton. The whole country—along with a lot of the world—was following her recovery. She'd just come off the "grave" list, with her medical condition upgraded to "critical." There were enough flowers outside her laminar room to give the impression of a lavish personal garden. But the second story of the day had been the burial of her parents and siblings, delayed by medical and legal necessities. Hundreds had attended, including every member of Congress from Tennessee. The chairman of the auto company had wanted to attend as well, to pay personal respects and apologize in person to the family, but been warned off for security reasons.

He'd offered a sincere apology on behalf of his corporation on TV instead and promised to cover all medical expenses and provide for Jessica's continuing education, pointing out that he also had daughters. Somehow it just hadn't worked. A sincere apology went a long way in Japan, a fact that Boeing had cashed in on when one of their 747's had killed several hundred Japanese citizens, but it wasn't the same in America, a fact Nagumo had vainly communicated to his government. The attorney for the Denton family, a famous and effective litigator, had thanked the chairman for his apology, and noted dryly that responsibility for the deaths was now on the public record, simplifying his case preparation. It was only a question of amount now. It was already whispered that he'd demand a billion dollars.

Deerfield Auto Parts was in negotiation with every Japanese auto assembler, and Nagumo knew that the terms to be offered the Massachusetts company would be generous in the extreme, but he'd also told the foreign Ministry the American adage about closing the barn door alter the horse had escaped. It would not be damage control at all, but merely a further admission of fault, which was the wrong thing to do in the American legal environment.

The news had taken a while to sink in at home. As horrid as the auto accident had been, it seemed a small thing, and TV commentators on NHK had used the 747 incident to illustrate that accidents did happen, and that America had once inflicted something similar in type but far more ghastly in magnitude on the citizens of that country. But to American eyes the Japanese story had appeared to be justification rather than comparison, and the American citizens who'd backed it up were people known to be on the Japanese payroll. It was all coming apart. Newspapers were printing lists of former government officials who had entered such employment, noting their job experience and former salaries and comparing them with what they were doing now, and for how much. "Mercenary" was the kindest term applied to them. "Traitor" was one more commonly used epithet, especially by organized labor and every member of Congress who faced election.

There was no reasoning with these people.

"What will happen, Chris?"

Cook set his drink down on the table, evaluating his own position and lamenting his remarkably bad timing. He had already begun cutting his strings. Waiting the extra few years for full retirement benefits-he'd done the calculations a few months earlier. Seiji had made it known to him the previous summer that his actual net income would quadruple to start with, and that his employers were great believers in pension planning, and that he wouldn't lose his federal retirement investments, would he? And so Cook had started the process. Speaking sharply to the next-higher career official to whom he reported, letting others know that he thought his country's trade policy was being formulated by idiots, in the knowledge that his views would work their way upward. A series of internal memoranda that said the same thing in measured bureaucratese. He had to set things up so that his departure would not be a surprise, and would seem to be based on principle rather than crass lucre. The problem was, in doing so he'd effectively ended his career. He would never be promoted again, and if he remained at State, at best he might find himself posted to an ambassadorship to…maybe Sierra Leone, unless they could find a bleaker spot. Equatorial Guinea, perhaps.

More bugs.

You're committed, Cook told himself, and so he took a deep breath, and, on reflection, another sip of his drink.

"Seiji, we're going to have to take the long view on this one. TRA"—he couldn't call it the Trade Reform Act, not here—"is going to pass in less than two weeks, and the President's going to sign it. The working groups at Commerce and Justice are already forming up. State will participate also, of course. Cables have gone out to several embassies to get copies of various trade laws around the world—"

"Not just ours?" Nagumo was surprised.

"They're going to compare yours with others from countries with whom our trade relationships are…less controversial right now." Cook had to watch his language, after all. He needed this man. "The idea is to give them something to, well, to contrast your country's laws with. Anyway, getting this thing fixed, it's going to take some time, Seiji." Which wasn't an altogether bad thing, Cook reasoned. After all, it made for job security—if and when he crossed over from one employer to another.

"Will you be part of the working group?"

"Probably, yes."

"Your help will be invaluable, Chris," Nagumo said quietly, thinking more rapidly now. "I can help you with interpreting our laws—quietly, of course," he added, seizing at that particular straw.

"I wasn't really planning to stay at Foggy Bottom much longer, Seiji," Cook observed. "We've got our hearts set on a new house, and—"

"Chris, we need you where you are. We need—need your help to mitigate this unfortunate set of circumstances. We have a genuine emergency on our hands, one with serious consequences for both our countries."

"I understand that, but—"

Money, Nagumo thought, with these people it's always money. "I can make the proper arrangements," he said, more on annoyed impulse than as a considered thought. Only after he'd spoken did he grasp what he'd done—but then he was interested to see how Cook would react to it.

The Deputy Assistant Secretary of State just sat there for a moment. He too was so caught up in the events that the real implications of the offer nearly slipped past him. Cook simply nodded without even looking up into Nagumo's eyes.

In retrospect, the first step—the turning over of national-security information—had been a harder one, and the second was so easy that Cook didn't even reflect on the fact that now he was in clear violation of a federal statute. He had just agreed to provide information to a foreign government for money. It seemed such a logical thing to do under the circumstances. They really wanted that house in Potomac, and it wouldn't be long before they'd have to start shopping for colleges.

That morning on the Nikkei Dow would long be remembered. It had taken that long for people to grasp what Seiji Nagumo now knew—that they weren't kidding this time. It wasn't rice all over again, it wasn't computer chips all over again, it wasn't automobiles or their parts, not telecommunications gear or construction contracts or cellular phones. It was, in fact, all of the above, twenty years of pent-up resentment and anger, some justified, some not, but all real and exploding to the surface at a single lime. At first the editors in Tokyo just hadn't believed what they'd been told by their people in Washington and New York, and had redrafted the stories to fit their own conclusions until they themselves had thought the information through and come to the stunning realization on their own. The Trade Reform Act, the papers had pontificated only two days earlier, was just one more blip, a joke, an expression of a few misguided people with a long history of antipathy to our country that will soon run its course. It was now something else. Today it was a most unfortunate development whose possibility of enactment into Federal Law cannot now be totally discounted.

The Japanese language conveys information every bit as well as any other, once you break the code. In America the headlines are far more explicit, but that is merely an indelicate directness of expression typical of the gaijin. In Japan one talked more elliptically, but the meaning was there even so, just as clear, just as plain. The millions of Japanese citizens who owned stock read the same papers, saw the same morning news, and reached the same conclusions. On reaching their workplaces, they lifted phones and made their calls.

The Nikkei Dow had once ridden beyond thirty thousand yen of benchmark value. By the early 1990's, it had fallen to half of that, and the aggregate cash cost of the "write-down" was a number larger than the entire U.S. government debt at the time, a fact which had gone virtually unnoticed in the United States—but not by those who had taken their money from banks and placed it in stocks in an attempt to get something more than a 2 percent compounded annualized return. Those people had lost sizable fractions of their life savings and not known whom to blame for it. Not this time, they all thought. It was time to cash in and put the money back into banks—big, safe, financial institutions that knew how to protect their depositors' funds. Even if they were niggardly in paying interest, you didn't lose anything, did you?

Western reporters would use terms like "avalanche" and "meltdown" to describe what began when the trading computers went on-line. The process appeared to be orderly. The large commercial banks, married as they were to the large corporations, sent the same depositors' money that came in the front door right out the back door to protect the value of corporate stocks. There was no choice, really. They had to buy up huge portfolios in what turned out to be a vain stand against a racing tide. The Nikkei Dow lost fully a sixth of its net value in one trading day, and though analysts proclaimed confidently that the market was now grossly undervalued and a huge technical adjustment upward was inevitable, people thought in their own homes that if the American legislation really became law, the market for the goods their country made would vanish like the morning fog. The process would not stop, and though none said it, everyone knew it. This was especially clear to the bankers.

On Wall Street, things were different. Various sages bemoaned the interference of government in the marketplace; then they thought about it a little bit. It was plain to see, after all, that if Japanese automobiles had trouble clearing customs, that if the popular Cresta was now cursed with a visual event that few would soon put behind them, then American cars would sell more, and that was good. It was good for Detroit, where the cars were assembled, and for Pittsburgh, where much of the steel was still forged; it was good for all the cities in America (and Canada, and Mexico), where the thousands of components were made. It was good, further, for all the workers who made the parts and assembled the cars, who would have more money to spend in their communities for other things. How good? Well, the majority of the trade imbalance with Japan was accounted for in automobiles. The sunny side of thirty billion dollars could well be dumped into the American economy in the next twelve months, and that, quite a few market technicians thought after perhaps as much as five seconds' reflection, was just good as hell, wasn't it? Conservatively, thirty billion dollars going into the coffers of various companies, and all of it, one way or another, would show up as profits for American corporations. Even the additional taxes paid would help in lowering the federal deficit, thus lowering demands on the money pool, and lowering the cost of government bonds. The American economy would be twice blessed. Toss in a little schadenfreude for their Japanese colleagues, and even before the Street opened for business, people were primed for a big trading day.

They would not be disappointed. The Columbus Group turned out to be especially well set, having a few days earlier purchased options for a huge quantity of auto-related issues, and thus able to take advantage of a hundred-twelve-point upward jolt in the Dow.

In Washington, at the Federal Reserve, there was concern. They were closer to the seat of government power, and had insider information from the Treasury Department on how the mechanics of the Trade Reform Act would run, and it was clear that there would be a temporary shortage of automobiles until Detroit geared up its lines somewhat. Until the American companies could take up the slack, there would be the classic situation of too much money chasing too few cars. That meant an inflationary blip, and so later in the day the Fed would announce a quarter-point increase in the discount rate—just a temporary one, they told people, off the record and not for attribution. The Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve, however, viewed the entire development as good in the long term. It would too myopic on their part, but then that condition was worldwide at the moment.

Even before that decision was made, other men were discussing the long term as well. It required the largest hot tub in the bathhouse, which was then closed for the evening to its other well-heeled customers. The regular staff was dismissed. The clients would be served by personal assistants who, it turned out, kept their distance as well. In fact, even the normal ablutions were dispensed with. After the most cursory of greetings, the men removed their jackets and ties and sat around on the floor, unwilling to waste time with the usual preliminaries.

"It will be even worse tomorrow," a banker noted. That was all he had to say.

Yamata looked around the room. It was all he could do not to laugh. The signs had been clear as much as five years before, when the first major auto company had quietly discontinued its lifetime-employment policy. The free ride of Japanese business had actually ended then, for those who had the wit to pay attention. The rest of them had thought all the reverses to be merely temporary "irregularities," their favorite term for it, but their myopia had worked entirely in Yamata's favor. The shock value of what was happening now was his best friend. Disappointingly, but not surprisingly, only a handful of those in the room had seen it for what it was. In the main, those were Yamata-san's closest allies.

Which was not to say that he or they had been immune to the adversity that had taken the national unemployment rate to almost 5 percent, merely that they had mitigated their damage by carefully considered measures. Those measures were enough, however, to make their originators appear to be models of perspicacity.

"There is an adage from the American Revolution," one of their number noted dryly. He had a reputation as something of an intellectual. "From their Benjamin Franklin, I believe. We can either hang together or we will surely hang separately. If we do not stand together now, my friends, we will all be destroyed. One at a time or all at once, it will not matter."

"And our country with us," the banker added, earning Yamata's gratitude.

"Remember when they needed us?" Yamata asked. "They needed our bases to checkmate the Russians, to support the Koreans, to service their ships. Well, my friends, what do they need us for now?"

"Yes, and we need them," Matsuda noted.

"Very good, Kozo," Yamata responded acidly. "We need them so much that we will ruin our national economy, destroy our people and our culture, and reduce our nation to being their vassal-again!"

"Yamata-san, there is no time for that," another corporate chairman chided gently. "What you proposed in our last meeting, it was very bold and very dangerous."

"It was I who requested this meeting," Matsuda pointed out with dignity.

"Your pardon, Kozo." Yamata inclined his head by way of apology.

"These are difficult times, Raizo," Matsuda replied, accepting it graciously. Then he added, "I find myself leaning toward your direction."

Yamata took a very deep breath, angry at himself for misreading the man's intent. Kozo is right. These are difficult times. "Please, my friend, share your thoughts with us."

"We need the Americans…or we need something else." Every head in the room except for one looked down. Yamata read their faces, and taking a moment to control his excitement, he realized that he saw what he wished to see. It wasn't a wish or an illusion. It was really there. "It is a grave thing which we must consider now, a great gamble. And yet it is a gamble which I fear we must undertake."

"Can we really do it?" a very desperate banker asked.

"Yes," Yamata said. "We can do it. There is an element of risk, of course. I do not discount that, but there is much in our favor." He outlined the facts briefly. Surprisingly, there was no opposition to his views this time. There were questions, numerous ones, endless ones, all of which he was prepared to answer, but no one really objected this time. Some had to be concerned, even terrified, but the simple fact, he realized, was that they were more terrified by what they knew would happen in the morning, and the next, and the next. They saw the end of their way of life, their perks, their personal prestige, and that frightened them worse than anything else. Their country owed them for all they had done, for the long climb up the corporate ladders, for all their work and diligence, for all the good decisions they had made. And so the decision was made—not with enthusiasm—but made even so.

Mancuso's first job of the morning was to look over the op-orders. Asheville and Charlotte would have to discontinue their wonderfully useful work, tracking whales in the Gulf of Alaska, to join up for Exercise DATELINE PARTNERS, along with John Stennis, Enterprise, and the usual cast of thousands. The exercise had been planned months in advance, of course. It was a fortunate accident that the script for the event was not entirely divorced from what this half of PacFleet was working up for. On the twenty-seventh, two weeks after the conclusion of PARTNERS, Stennis and Big-E would deploy southwest for the IO, with a single courtesy stop in Singapore, to relieve Ike and Abe.

"You know, they have us outnumbered now," Commander (Captain selectee) Wally Chambers observed. A few months earlier he'd relinquished command of USS Key West. and Mancuso had asked for him to be his operations officer. The transfer from Groton, where Chambers had expected another staff job, to Honolulu had not exactly been a crushing blow to the officer's ego. Ten years earlier, Wally would have been up for a boomer command, or maybe a tender, or maybe a squadron. But the boomers were all gone, there were only three tenders operating, and the squadron billets were filled. That put Chambers in a holding pattern until his "major command" ticket could be punched, and until then Mancuso wanted him back. It was not an uncommon failing of naval officers to dip into their own former wardrooms.

Admiral Mancuso looked up, not so much in surprise as in realization. Wally was right. The Japanese Navy had twenty-eight submarines, conventionally powered boats called SSKs, and he only had nineteen.

"How many are up and running?" Bart asked, wondering what their overhaul/availability cycle was like.

"Twenty-two, according to what I saw yesterday. Hell, Admiral, they're committing ten to the exercise, including all the Harushios. From what I gather from Fleet Intel, they're working up real hard for us, too." Chambers leaned back and stroked his mustache. It was new, because Chambers had a baby face and he thought a commanding officer should look older than twelve. The problem was, it itched.

"Everybody tells me they're pretty good," ComSubPac noted.

"You haven't had a ride yet?" Sub-Ops asked. The Admiral shook his head.

"Scheduled for next summer."

"Well, they better be pretty good," Chambers thought. Five of Mancuso's subs were tasked to the exercise. Three would be in close to the carrier battle group, with Asheville and Charlotte conducting independent operations, which weren't really independent at all. They'd be playing a game with four Japanese subs five hundred miles northwest of Kure Atoll, pretending to do hunter-killer operations against a submarine-barrier patrol. The exercise was fairly similar to what they expected to do in the Indian Ocean. The Japanese Navy, essentially a defensive collection of destroyers and frigates and diesel subs, would try to withstand an advance of a two-carrier battle group. Their job was to die gloriously—something the Japanese were historically good at, Mancuso told himself with a wispy smile—but also to try to make a good show of it. They'd be as clever as they could, trying to sneak their tin cans in close enough to launch their Harpoon surface-to-surface missiles, and surely their newer destroyers had a fair chance of surviving. The Kongos especially were fine platforms, the Japanese counterpart to the American Arleigh Burke class, with the Aegis radar/missile system. Expensive ships, they all had battleship names from World War II. The original Kongo had fallen prey to an American submarine, Sealion II, if Mancuso remembered properly. That was also the name of one of the few new American submarines assigned to Atlantic Fleet. Mancuso didn't have a Seawolf-class under his command yet. In any case, the aviators would have to find a way to deal with an Aegis ship, and that wasn't something they relished, was it?

All in all, it would be a good workup for Seventh Fleet. They'd need it. The Indians were indeed getting frisky. He now had seven of his boats operating with Mike Dubro, and between those and what he had assigned to DATELINE PARTNERS, that was the whole active collection. How the mighty had fallen, ComSubPac told himself. Well, that's what the mighty usually did.

The meet procedure was not unlike the courtship ritual between swans. You showed up at a precise place at a precise time, in this case carrying a newspaper-folded, not rolled-in your left hand, and looked in a shop window at a huge collection of cameras and consumer electronics, just as a Russian would automatically do on his first trip to Japan, to marvel at the plethora of products available to those who had hard currency to spend. If he were being trailed—possible but most unlikely—it would appear normal. In due course, exactly on time, a person bumped into him.

"Excuse me," the voice said in English, which was also normal, for the person he'd inadvertently nudged was clearly gaijin.

"Quite all right," Clark replied in an accented voice, without looking.

"First time in Japan?"

"No, but my first time in Tokyo."

"Okay, it's all clear." The person bumped him again on the way down the street. Clark waited the requisite four or five minutes before following. It was always so tedious, but necessary. Japan wasn't enemy soil. It wasn't like the jobs he'd done in Leningrad (in dark's mind that city's name would never change; besides, his Russian accent was from that region) or Moscow, but the safest course of action was to pretend that it was. Just as well that it wasn't, though. There were so many foreigners in this city that the Japanese security service, such as it was, would have gone crazy trying to track them all.

In fact it was Clark's first time here, aside from plane changes and stopovers, and that didn't count. The crowding on the street was like nothing he'd ever seen; not even New York was this tight. It also made him uneasy to stand out so much. There is nothing worse for an intelligence officer than not to be able to blend in, but his six-one height marked him as someone who didn't belong, visible from a block away to anyone who bothered to look.

And so many people looked at him, Clark noted. More surprisingly, people made way for him, especially women, and children positively shrank from his presence as though Godzilla had returned to crush their city. So it was true. He'd heard the stories but never quite believed them. Hairy barbarian. Gaijin. I never thought of myself that way, John told himself, walking into a McDonald's. It was crowded at lunch hour, and after turning his head he had to take a seat with another man. Mary Pat was right, he thought. Nomuri was pretty good.

"So what's the story?" Clark asked amid the din of the fast-food place.

"Well, I've ID'd her and I've got the building she lives in."

"That's fast work."

"Not very hard. Our friend's security detail doesn't know shit about counter-surveillance."

Besides, Clark didn't say, you look like you belong, right down to the harried and tense look of a salaryman bolting down his lunch so that he can race back to his desk. Well, that never came hard to a field spook, did it? It wasn't hard to be tense on a field assignment. The difficult part, which they emphasized at the Farm, was to appear at ease.

"Okay, then all I have to do is get permission for the pickup." Among other things. Nomuri wasn't authorized to know about his work with THISTLE. John wondered if that would change.

"Sayonara." And Nomuri made his exit while Clark attacked his rice ball. Not bad. The kid's all business, he thought. His next thought was, Rice ball at McDonald's?

The briefing documents on his desk had nothing at all to do with his being the President, but everything to do with his remaining in the office, and for that reason they were always at the top of the pile. The upward move in the approval ratings was…very edifying, Durling thought. Of likely voters—and they were the ones who really counted—fully 10 percent more approved of his policies than had done so last week, a numerical improvement that covered both his foreign and domestic performance. All in all, it was about what a fourth-grader might feel on bringing home a particularly good report card to doubtful parents. And that 10 percent was only the beginning, his chief pollster thought, since the implications of the policy changes were taking a little time to sink in. Already the Big Three were speculating publicly about hiring back some of the seven hundred thousand workers laid off in the previous decades, and that was just the assembly workers. Then you had to consider the people in independent parts companies, the tire companies, the glass companies, the battery companies…That could start to revitalize the Rust Belt, and the Rust Belt accounted for a lot of electoral votes. What was obvious, or should have been, was that it wouldn't stop with cars. It couldn't. The United Auto Workers (cars and related parts) looked forward to the restoration of thousands of paying members. The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (TVs, even VCRs?) could not be far behind, and there were additional unions that had just begun to consider how large a piece of the pie they might receive. Though simple in concept, the Trade Reform Act represented, like many simple concepts, a wide-ranging alteration in how the United States of America did business. President Durling had thought he'd understood that concept, but soon the phone on his desk would ring. Looking at it, he already knew the voices that he would hear, and it wasn't too great a stretch to imagine what words they would speak, what arguments they would put forth, and what promises they would make. And he would be amenable to accepting the promises.

He'd never really planned to be President of the United States, not as Bob Fowler had planned his entire life toward that goal, not even allowing the death of his first wife to turn him from that path. Durling's last goal had been the governorship of California, and when he'd been offered the chance for the second place on the Fowler ticket he'd taken it more out of patriotism than anything else. That was not something he'd say even to his closest advisers, because patriotism was passe in the modern political world, but Roger Durling had felt it even so, had remembered that the average citizen had a name and a face, remembered having some of them die under his command in Vietnam, and, in remembering, thought that he had to do his best for them.

But what was the best? he asked himself again, as he had done on uncounted occasions. The Oval Office was a lonely place. It was often filled with all manner of visitors, from a foreign chief of state to a schoolchild who'd won an essay contest, but in due course they all left, and the President was alone again with his duty. The oath he'd taken was so simple as to be devoid of meaning. "Faithfully execute the office of…to the best of my ability, preserve, protect, and defend…" Fine words, but what did they mean? Perhaps Madison and the others had figured that he'd know. Perhaps in 1789 everyone had—it was just understood—but that was more than two hundred years in the past, and somehow they'd neglected to write it down for the guidance of future generations.

Worse still, there were plenty of people ever ready to tell you what they thought the words meant, and when you added up all the advice, 2 plus 2 ended up as 7. Labor and management, consumer and producer, taxpayer and transfer recipient. They all had their needs. They all had their agendas. They all had arguments, and fine lobbyists to make them, and the scary part was that each one made sense in one way or another, enough that many believed that 2 plus 2 really did equal 7. Until you announced the sum, that is, and then everybody said it was too much, that the country couldn't afford the other groups' special interests.

On top of all of that, if you wanted to accomplish anything at all, you had to get here, and having gotten here, to stay here, and that meant making promises you had to keep. At least some of them. And somewhere in the process, the country just got lost, and the Constitution with it, and at the end of the day you were preserving, protecting, and defending—what?

No wonder I never really wanted this job, Durling told himself, sitting alone, looking down at yet another position paper. It was all an accident, really. Bob had needed to carry California, and Durling had been the key, a young, popular governor of the right party affiliation. But now he was the President of the United States, and the fear was that the job was simply beyond him. The sad truth was that no single man had the intellectual capacity even to understand all the affairs the President was expected to manage. Economics, for example, perhaps his most important contemporary duty now that the Soviet Union was gone, was a field where its own practitioners couldn't agree on a set of rules that a reasonably intelligent man could comprehend.

Well, at least he understood jobs. It was better for people to have them than not to have them. It was, generally speaking, better for a country to manufacture most of its own goods than to let its money go overseas to pay the workers in another country to make them. That was a principle that he could understand, and better yet, a principle that he could explain to others, and since the people to whom he spoke would be Americans themselves, they would probably agree. It would make organized labor happy. It would also make management happy—and wasn't a policy that made both of them happy necessarily a good policy? It had to be, didn't it? Wouldn't it make the economists happy? Moreover, he was convinced that the American worker was as good as any in the world, more than ready to enter into a fair contest with any other, and that was all his policy was really aimed at doing…wasn't it?

Durling turned in his expensive swivel chair and peered out the thick windows toward the Washington Monument. It must have been a lot easier for George. Okay, so, yeah, he was the first, and he did have to deal with the Whiskey Rebellion, which in the history books didn't look to have been all that grave, and he had to set the pattern for follow-on presidents. The only taxes collected back then were of the tariff and excise sort—nasty and regressive by current standards, but aimed only at discouraging imports and punishing people for drinking too much. Durling was not really trying to stop foreign trade, just to make it fair. All the way back to Nixon, the U.S. government had caved in to those people, first because we'd needed their bases (as though Japan would really have struck an alliance with their ancient enemies!), later because…why? Because it had become expedient? Did anyone really know? Well, it would change now, and everyone would know why.

Or rather, Durling corrected himself, they'd think that they knew. Perhaps the more cynical would guess the real reason, and everyone would be partially right.

The Prime Minister's office in Japan's Diet Building—a particularly ugly structure in a city not known for the beauty of its architecture—overlooked a green space, but the man sitting in his own expensive swivel chair didn't care to look out at the moment. Soon enough he would be out there, looking in.

Thirty years, he thought. It could easily have been different. In his late twenties he'd been offered, more than once, a comfortable place in the then-ruling Liberal Democratic Party, with guaranteed upward mobility because even then his intelligence had been manifest, especially to his political enemies. And so they had approached him in the friendliest possible way, appealing to his patriotism and his vision for the future of his country, using that vision, holding it out before his young and idealistic eyes. It would take time, they'd told him, but someday he'd have his chance for this very seat in this very room. Guaranteed. All he had to do was to play ball, become part of the team, join up…

He could still remember his reply, the same every time, delivered in the same tone, with the same words, until finally they'd understood that he wasn't holding out for more and left for the final time, shaking their heads and wondering why.

All he'd really wanted was for Japan to be a democracy in the true sense of the word, not a place run by a single party beholden in turn to a small number of powerful men. Even thirty years earlier the signs of corruption had been clear to anyone with open eyes, but the voters, the ordinary people, conditioned to two thousand years or more of acceptance, had just gone along with it because the roots of real democracy hadn't taken here any more than the roots of a rice plant in the pliable alluvium of a paddy. That was the grandest of all lies, so grand that it was believed by everyone within his country as well as without. The culture of his country hadn't really changed.

Oh, yes, there were the cosmetic changes. Women could vote now, but like women in every other country they voted their pocketbooks, just as their men did, and they, like their men, were part of a culture that demanded obeisance of everyone in one way or another. What came down from on high was to be accepted, and because of that his countrymen were easily manipulated.

The bitterest thing of all for the Prime Minister was that he had actually thought he'd be able to change that. His true vision, admitted to none but himself, was to change his country in a real and fundamental way. Somehow it hadn't seemed grandiose at all, back then. In exposing and crushing official corruption he'd wanted to make the people see that those on high were not worthy of what they demanded, that ordinary citizens had the honor and decency and intelligence to choose both their own path for life and a government that responded more directly to their needs.

You actually believed that, fool, he told himself, staring at the telephone. The dreams and idealism of youth died pretty hard after all, didn't they?

He'd seen it all then, and it hadn't changed. Only now he knew that it wasn't possible for one man and one generation. Now he knew that to make change happen he needed economic stability at home, and that stability depended on using the old order, and the old system was corrupt. The real irony was that he'd come into office because of the failings of the old system. And at the same time needed to restore it so that he could then sweep it away. That was what he hadn't quite understood. The old system had pressed the Americans too hard, reaping economic benefits for his country such as the Black Dragons hadn't dreamed of, and when the Americans had reacted, in some ways fairly and well and in others unfairly and mean-spirited, the conditions had been created for his own ascendancy. But the voters who'd made it possible for him to put his coalition together expected him to make things better for them, and quickly, and to do that he couldn't easily give more concessions to America that would worsen his own country's economic difficulties, and so he'd tried to stonewall on one hand while dealing on the other, and now he knew that it wasn't possible to do both at the same time. It required the sort of skill which no man had.

And his enemies knew that. They'd known it three years ago when he'd put his coalition together, waiting patiently for him to fail, and his ideals with him. The American actions merely affected the timing, not the ultimate outcome.

Could he fix it even now? By lifting the phone he could place a call through to Roger Durling and make a personal plea to head off the new American law, to undertake rapid negotiations. But that wouldn't work, would it? Durling would lose great face were he to do that, and though America deemed it a uniquely Japanese concept, it was as true for them as it was for him. Even worse, Durling would not believe his sincerity. The well was so poisoned by a generation of previous bad-faith negotiations that there was no reason for the Americans to suppose that things were different now—and, truth be known, he probably could not really deliver in any case. His parliamentary coalition would not survive the concessions he would have to make, because jobs were at stake, and with his national unemployment rate at an all-time high of over 5 percent, he did not have the political strength to risk increasing it further. And so, because he could not survive the political effects of such an offer, something even worse would happen, and he would not survive that either. It was only a question, really, of whether he would destroy his own political career or let someone else do it for him. Which was the greater disgrace? He didn't know.

He did know that he could not bring himself to make the telephone call to his American counterpart. It would have been an exercise in futility, just like his entire career, he now realized. The book was already written. Let someone else provide the final chapter.

11—Sea Change

The Trade Reform Act by now had two hundred bipartisan cosponsors. Committee hearings had been unusually brief, largely because few had the courage to testify against it. Remarkably, a major Washington public-relations firm terminated its contract with a Japanese conglomerate, and since it was a PR firm, put out a press release to that effect announcing the end of a fourteen-year relationship. The combination of the event at Oak Ridge and Al Trent's often-quoted barb at a senior lobbyist had made life most uncomfortable for those in foreign employ who stalked the halls of Congress. Lobbyists didn't impede the bill at all. As a man, they reported back to their employers that the bill simply could not fail passage, that any disabling changes in the bill were quite impossible, and the only possible reaction to it would be to take the long view and ride it out. In time, their friends in Congress would be able to support them again, just not now.

Just not now? The cynical definition of a good politician was the same in Japan as it was in America: a public servant who, once bought, stayed bought. The employers thought of all the money contributed to so many campaign funds, the thousand-dollar dinner-plates covered with mediocre food bought by (actually for) American employees of their multinational corporations, the trips to golf courses, the entertainment on fact-finding trips to Japan and elsewhere, the personal contact—and realized that all of it mattered not a bit the one time that it really mattered. America just wasn't like Japan at all. Its legislators didn't feel the obligation to pay back, and the lobbyists, also bought and paid for, told them that it had to be this way.

What, then, had they spent all that money for? Take the long view? The long view was all well and good, so long as the immediate prospect was pleasant and uncluttered. Circumstances had permitted Japan the long view for nearly forty years. But today it no longer applied. On Wednesday, the Fourth, the day the Trade Reform Act cleared committee, the Nikkei Dow fell to 12,841 yen, roughly a third of what it had been in recent memory, and the panic in the country was quite real now.

" 'Plum blossoms bloom,

and pleasure-women buy new scarves

in a brothel room.' "

The words might have been poetic in Japanese—it was a famous haiku—but it didn't make a hell of a lot of sense in English, Clark thought. At least not to him, but the effect on the man in front of him was noteworthy. "Oleg Yurievich sends his greetings."

"It has been a long time," the man stammered after perhaps five seconds of well-concealed panic.

"Things have been difficult at home," Clark explained, a slight accent in his voice.

Isamu Kimura was a senior official in the Ministry for International Trade and Industry, MITI, the centerpiece of an enterprise once called "Japan, Inc." As such he often met with foreigners, especially foreign reporters, and so he had accepted the invitation of Ivan Sergeyevich Klerk, newly arrived in Japan from Moscow, complete with a photographer who was elsewhere shooting pictures.

"It would seem to be a difficult time for your country as well," Klerk added, wondering what sort of reaction it would get. He had to be a little tough with the guy. It was possible that he'd resist the idea of being reactivated after more than two years of no contacts. If so, KGB policy was to make it clear that once they had their hooks into you, those hooks never went away. It was also CIA policy, of course.

"It's a nightmare," Kimura said after a few seconds' reflection and a deep draft of the sake on the table.

"If you think the Americans are difficult, you should be a Russian. The country in which I grew up, which nurtured and trained me—is no more. Do you realize that I must actually support myself with my Interfax work? I can't even perform my duties on a full-time basis." Clark shook his head ruefully and emptied his own cup.

"Your English is excellent."

The "Russian" nodded politely, taking the remark as surrender on the part of the man across the table. "Thank you. I worked for years in New York, covering the U.N. for Pravda. Among other things," he added.

"Really?" Kimura asked."What do you know of American business and politics?"

"I specialized in commercial work. The new world's circumstances allow me to pursue it with even more vigor, and your services are highly valued by my country. We will be able to reward you even more in the future, my friend."

Kimura shook his head. "I have no time for that now. My office is in a very confused state, for obvious reasons."

"I understand. This meeting is in the manner of a get-acquainted session. We have no immediate demands."

"And how is Oleg?" the MITI official asked.

"He has a good life now, a very comfortable position because of the fine work you did for him." Which wasn't a lie at all. Lyalin—was alive, and that beat the hell out of a bullet to the head in the basement of KGB Headquarters. This man was the agent who'd given Lyalin the information which had placed them in Mexico. It seemed a shame to Clark that he couldn't thank the man personally for his part in averting a nuclear war. "So tell me, in my reporter identity: how bad is the situation with America? I have a story to file, you see." The answer would surprise him almost as much as the vehemence of its tone.

Isamu Kimura looked down. "It could bring ruin to us."

"Is it really that bad?" "Klerk" asked in surprise, taking out his pad to make notes like a good reporter.

"It will mean a trade war." It was all the man could do to speak that one sentence.

"Well, such a war will do harm to both countries, yes?" Clark had heard that one often enough that he actually believed it.

"We've been saying that for years, but it's a lie. It's really very simple," Kimura went on, assuming that this Russian needed an education in the capitalist facts of life, not knowing that he was an American who did. "We need their market to sell our manufactured goods. Do you know what a trade war means? It means that they stop buying our manufactured goods, and that they keep their money. That money will go into their own industries, which we have trained, after a fashion, to be more efficient. Those industries will grow and prosper by following our example, and in doing so they will regain market share in areas which we have dominated for twenty years. If we lose our market position, we may never get it all back."

"And why is that?" Clark asked, scribbling furiously and finding himself actually quite interested.

"When we entered the American market, the yen had only about a third of the value it has today. That enabled us to be highly competitive in our pricing. Then as we established a place within the American market, achieved brand-name recognition, and so forth, we were able to increase our prices while retaining our market share, even expanding it in many areas despite the increasing value of the yen. To accomplish the same thing today would be far more difficult."

Fabulous news, Clark thought behind a studiously passive face. "But will they be able to replace all the things you make for them?"

"Through their own workers? All of them? Probably not. But they don't have to. Last year automobiles and related products accounted for sixty-one percent of our trade with America. The Americans know how to make cars—what they did not know we have taught them," Kimura said, leaning forward. "In other areas, cameras for example, they are now made elsewhere, Singapore, Korea, Malaysia. The same is true of consumer electronics. Klerk-san, nobody really understands what is happening yet."

"The Americans can really do this much damage to you? Is it possible?" Damn, Clark thought, maybe it was.

"It is very possible. My country has not faced such a possibility since 1941." The statement was accidental, but Kimura noted the accuracy of it the instant it escaped his lips.

"I can't put that in a news story. It's too alarmist."

Kimura looked up. "That was not meant for a news story. I know your agency has contacts with the Americans. It has to. They are not listening to us now. Perhaps they will listen to you. They push us too far. The zaibatsu are truly desperate. It's happened too fast and gone too far. How would your country respond to such an attack on your economy?"

Clark leaned back, tilting his head and narrowing his eyes as a Russian would. The initial contact with Kimura wasn't supposed to have been a substantive intelligence-gathering session, but it had suddenly turned into one. Unprepared for this eventuality, he decided to run with it anyway. The man before him seemed like a prime source, and made more so by his desperation. Moreover, he seemed like a good and dedicated public servant, and if that was somewhat sad, it was also the way the intelligence business worked.

"They did do it to us, in the 1980's. Their arms buildup, their insane plan to put defense systems in space, the reckless brinksmanship game their President Reagan played—did you know that when I was working in New York, I was part of Project RYAN? We thought he planned to strike us. I spent a year looking for such plans." Colonel I. S. Klerk of the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service was fully in his cover identity now, speaking as a Russian would, calmly, quietly, almost pedagogically. "But we looked in the wrong place—no, that wasn't it. It was right in front of us all the time and we failed to see it. They forced us to spend more, and they broke our economy in the process. Marshal Ogarkov gave his speech, demanding more of the economy in order to keep up with the Americans, but there was no more to give. To answer your question briefly, Isamu, we had the choice of surrender or war. War was too terrible to contemplate…and so, here I am in Japan, representing a new country."

Kimura's next statement was as startling as it was accurate: "But you had less to lose. The Americans don't seem to understand that." He stood, leaving sufficient money on the table to cover the bill. He knew that a Russian could scarcely afford to pay for a meal in Tokyo.

Holy shit, Clark thought, watching the man leave. The meeting had been an open one, and so did not require covert procedures. That meant he could just get up and leave. But he didn't. Isamu Kimura was a very senior gent, the CIA officer told himself, sipping the last of the sake. He had only one layer of career officials over him, and beyond that was a political appointee, who was really a mouthpiece for the career bureaucrats. Like an assistant secretary of state, Kimura had access to everything. He'd proved that once, by helping them in Mexico, where John and Ding had apprehended Ismael Qati and Ibrahim Ghosn. For that reason alone, America owed this man a considerable debt of honor. More to the point, it made him a primo source of high-grade intelligence. CIA could believe almost anything he said. There could have been no planned script for this meeting. His thoughts and fears had to be genuine, and Clark knew at once that they had to get to Langley in a hurry.

It came as no surprise to anyone who really knew him that Goto was a weak man. Though that was a curse of his country's political leadership, it worked now in Yamata's favor.

"I will not become Prime Minister of my country," Hiroshi Goto announced in a manner worthy of a stage actor, "in order to become executor of its economic ruin." His language was that of the Kabuki stage, stylized and poetic. He was a literate man, the industrialist knew. He had long studied history and the arts, and like many politicians he placed a great deal of value in show and rather less in substance. Like many weak men, he made a great ceremony of personal strength and power. That was why he often had this girl Kimberly Norton in the room with him. She was learning, after a fashion, to perform the duties of an important man's mistress. She sat quietly, refilling cups with sake or tea, and waiting patiently for Yamata-san to leave, after which, it was clear, Goto would bed the girl. He doubtless thought this made him more impressive to his guest. He was such a fool, thinking from his testicles rather than his brain. Well, that was all right. Yamata would become his brain.

"That is precisely what we face," Yamata replied bluntly. His eyes traced over the girl, partly in curiosity, partly to let Goto think that he was envious of the man's young mistress. Her eyes showed no comprehension at all. Was she as stupid as he'd been led to believe? She'd certainly been lured over here easily enough. It was a lucrative activity for the Yakuza, and one in which some of his colleagues partook. Setting Goto up with her—indirectly; Yamata didn't view himself as a pimp, and had merely seen to it that the right person had made the right suggestion to this senior political figure—had been a clever move, though Goto's personal weaknesses had been known to many and easily identified. What was that American euphemism? "Led around by the nose"? It had to mean the same thing that Yamata had done, and a rare case of delicacy of expression for the gaijin.

"What can we do about it?" the Leader of the Opposition—for the moment—asked.

"We have two choices." Yamata paused, looking again at the girl, wishing that Goto would dismiss her. This was a highly sensitive matter, after all. Instead, Goto stroked her fair hair, and she smiled. Well, at least Goto hadn't stripped the girl before he'd arrived, Yamata thought, as he had a few weeks ago. Yamata had seen breasts before, even large Caucasian breasts, and it wasn't as though the zaibatsu was in the dark about what Goto did with her.

"She doesn't understand a word," the politician said, laughing.

Kimba-chan smiled, and the expression caught Yamata's eye. There followed a disturbing thought: was she merely reacting politely to her master's laugh or was it something else? How old was this girl? Twenties, probably, but he was not skilled in estimating the age of foreigners. Then he remembered something else: his country occasionally provided female companionship to visiting foreign dignitaries, as Yamata did for businessmen. It was a practice that went far back in history, both to make potential deals more easily struck—a man sated by a skilled courtesan would not often be unpleasant to his companions—and because men frequently loosed their tongues along with their belts. What did Goto talk about with this girl? Whom might she be telling? Suddenly the fact that Yamata had set up the relationship didn't seem so clever at all.

"Please, Hiroshi, indulge me this one time," Yamata said reasonably.

"Oh, very well." He continued in English: "Kimba-chan, my friend and I need to speak in private for a few minutes."

She had the good manners not to object verbally, Yamata saw, but the disappointment in her face was not hidden. Did that mean she was trained not to react, or trained to react as a mindless girl would? And did her dismissal matter? Would Goto relate everything to her? Was he that much under her spell? Yamata didn't know, and not knowing, at this moment, struck him as dangerous.

"I love fucking Americans," Goto said coarsely after the door slid shut behind her. It was strange. For all his cultured language, in this one area he spoke like someone of the streets. It was clearly a great weakness, and for that reason, a worrisome one.

"I am glad to hear that, my friend, for soon you will have the chance to do it some more," Yamata replied, making a few mental notes.

An hour later, Chet Nomuri looked up from his pachinko machine to see Yamata emerge. As usual, he had both a driver and another man, this one far more serious-looking, doubtless a bodyguard or security guy of some sort. Nomuri didn't know his name, but the type was pretty obvious. The zaibatsu talked to him, a short remark, and there was no telling what it was. Then all three men got into the car and drove off. Goto emerged ninety minutes later, refreshed as always. At that point Nomuri stopped playing the vertical pinball game and changed location to a place down the block. Thirty minutes more and the Norton girl came out. This time Nomuri was ahead of her, walking, taking the turn, then waiting for her to catch up. Okay, he thought five minutes later. He was now certain he knew what building she lived in.

She'd purchased something to eat and carried it in. Good.

"Morning, MP." Ryan was just back from his daily briefing to the President. Every morning he sat through thirty or forty minutes of reports from the government's various security agencies, and then presented the data in the Oval Office. This morning he'd told his boss, again, that there was nothing all that troubling on the horizon.

"SANDALWOOD," she said for his opening.

"What about it?" Jack asked, leaning back in his chair.

"I had an idea and ran with it."

"What's that?" the National Security Advisor asked.

"I told Clark and Chavez to reactivate THISTLE, Lyalin's old net in Japan."

Ryan blinked. "You're telling me that nobody ever—"

"He was doing mainly commercial stuff, and we have that Executive Order, remember?"

Jack suppressed a grumble. THISTLE had served America once, and not through commercial espionage. "Okay, so what's happening?"

"This." Mrs. Foley handed over a single printed page, about five hundred single-spaced words once you got past the cover sheet.

Ryan looked up from the first paragraph. "Genuine panic in MITF?"

"That's what the man says. Keep going." Jack picked up a pen, chewing on it.

"Okay, what else?"

"Their government's going to fall, sure as hell. While Clark was talking to this guy, Chavez was talking to another. State ought to pick up on this in another day or so, but it looks like we got it first for a change."

Jack sat forward at that point. It wasn't that much of a surprise. Brett Hanson had warned about this possibility. The State Department was, in fact, the only government agency that was leery of the TRA, though its concerns had stayed within the family, as it were.

"There's more?"

"Well, yeah, there is. We've turned up the missing girl, all right. It appears to be Kimberly Norton, and sure enough, she's the one involved with Goto, and he's going to be the next PM," she concluded with a smile. It wasn't really very funny, of course, though that depended on your perspective, didn't it? America now had something to use on Goto, and Goto looked to be the next Prime Minister. It wasn't an entirely bad thing…

"Keep talking," Ryan ordered.

"We have the choice of offering her a freebie home, or we could—"

"MP, the answer to that is no." Ryan closed his eyes. He'd been thinking about this one. Before, he'd been the one to take the detached view, but he had seen a photograph of the girl, and though he'd tried briefly to retain his detachment, it had lasted only as long as it took to return home and look at his own children. Perhaps it was a weakness, his inability to contemplate the use of people's lives in the furtherance of his country's goals. If so, it was a weakness that his conscience would allow him. Besides: "Does anybody think she can act like a trained spook? Christ's sake, she's a messed-up girl who skipped away from home because she was getting crummy grades at her school."

"Jack, it's my job to float options, remember?" Every government in the world did it, of course, even America, even in these advanced feminist times. They were nice girls, everyone said, usually bright ones, government secretaries, many of them, who were managed through the Secret Service of all places, and made good money serving their government. Ryan had no official knowledge whatever of the operation, and wanted to keep it that way. Had he acquired official knowledge and not spoken out against it, then what sort of man would he be? So many people assumed that high government officials were just moral robots who did the things they had to do for their country without self-doubts, untroubled by conscience. Perhaps it had been true once—possibly it still was for many—but this was a different world, and Jack Ryan was the son of a police officer.

"You're the one who said it first, remember? That girl is an American citizen who probably needs a little help. Let's not turn into something we are not, okay? It's Clark and Chavez on this one?"


"I think we should be careful about it, but to offer the girl a ticket home. If she says no, then maybe we can consider something else, but no screwing around on this one. She gets a fair offer of a ride home." Ryan looked down at Clark's brief report and read it more carefully. Had it come from someone else, he would not have taken it so seriously, but he knew John Clark, had taken the time to learn everything about him. It would someday make for an enjoyable conversation.

"I'm going to keep this. I think maybe the President needs to read it, too."

"Concur," the DDO replied.

"Anything else like this comes in…"

"You'll know," Mary Pat promised.

"Good idea on THISTLE."

"I want Clark to—well, to press maybe a little harder, and see if we develop similar opinions."

"Approved," Ryan said at once. "Push as hard as you want."

Yamata's personal jet was an old Gulfstream G-IV. Though fitted with auxiliary fuel tanks, it could not ordinarily nonstop the 6,740-mile hop from Tokyo to New York. Today was different, his pilot told him. The jet stream over the North Pacific was fully one hundred ninety knots, and they'd have it for several hours. That boosted their ground speed to 782 miles per hour. It would knock two full hours off the normal flight time.

Yamata was glad. The time was important. None of what he had in his mind was written down, so there were no plans to go over. Though weary from long days that had of late stretched into longer weeks, he found that his body was unable to rest. A voracious reader, he could not get interested in any of the material that he kept on his aircraft. He was alone; there was no one with whom to speak. There was nothing at all to do, and it seemed strange to Yamata. His G-IV cruised at forty-one thousand feet, and it was a clear morning below him. He could see the surface of the North Pacific clearly, the endless ranks of waves, some of their crests decorated with white, driven by high surface winds. The immortal sea. For almost all of his life, it had been an American lake, dominated by their navy. Did the sea know that? Did the sea know that it would change? Change. Yamata grunted to himself. It would start within hours of his arrival in New York.

"This is Bud on final. I have the ball with eight thousand pounds of fuel," Captain Sanchez announced over his radio circuit. As commander of the air wing for USS John Stennis (CVN-74), his F/A-18F would be the first aboard. Strangely, though the most senior aviator aboard, he was new to the Hornet, having spent all of his career in the F-14 Tomcat. Lighter and more agile, and finally with enough fuel capacity to do more than take off, circle the deck once, and return (so it often seemed), he found himself liking the chance to fly alone for a change, after a whole career spent in two-seat aircraft. Maybe the Air Force pukes had a good idea after all…

Ahead of him, on the huge flight deck of the new carrier, enlisted men made the proper tension adjustments on the arrester wires, took the empty weight of his attack fighter, and added the fuel amount he'd called in. It had to be done every time. Huge flight deck, he thought, half a mile out. For those standing on the deck it looked huge enough, but for Sanchez it increasingly looked like a matchbook. He cleared his mind of the thought, concentrating on his task. The Hornet buffeted a little coming through the burble of disturbed air caused by the carrier's massive "island" structure, but the pilot's eyes were locked on the "meatball," a red light reflected off a mirror, keeping it nicely centered. Some called Sanchez "Mister Machine," for of his sixteen hundred-odd carrier landings—you logged every one—less than fifty had failed to catch the optimum number-three wire.

Gently, gently, he told himself, easing the stick back with his right hand while the left worked the throttles, watching his sink rate, and…yes. He could feel the fighter jerk from catching the wire—number three, he was sure—and slow itself, even though the rush to the edge of the angled deck seemed sure to dump him over the side. The aircraft stopped, seemingly inches from the line where black-topped steel fell off to blue water. Really, it was closer to a hundred feet. Sanchez disengaged his tail hook, and allowed the wire to snake back to its proper place. A deck crewman started waving at him, telling him how to get to where he was supposed to go, and the expensive jet aircraft turned into a particularly ungainly land vehicle on the world's most expensive parking lot. Five minutes later, the engines shut down and, tie-down chains in place, Sanchez popped the canopy and climbed down the steel ladder that his brown-jerseyed plane-captain had set in place.

"Welcome aboard, Skipper. Any problems?"

"Nary a one." Sanchez handed over his flight helmet and trotted off to the island. Three minutes after that he was observing the remainder of the landings.

Johnnie Reb was already her semiofficial nickname, since she was named for a long-term U.S. Senator from Mississippi, also a faithful friend of the Navy. The ship even smelled new, Sanchez thought, not so long out of the yards of Newport News Shipbuilding and Dry dock. She'd done her trials off the East Coast and sailed around the Horn to Pearl Harbor. Her newest sister, United States, would be ready for trials in another year, and yet another was beginning construction. It was good to know that at least one branch of the Navy was still in business—more or less.

The aircraft of his wing came in about ninety seconds apart. Two squadrons, each of twelve F-14 Tomcats, two more with an identical number of F/A-18 Hornets. One medium-attack squadron of ten A-6E Intruders, then the special birds, three E-3C Hawkeye early-warning aircraft, two C-2 CODs, four EA-6B Prowlers…and that was all, Sanchez thought, not as pleased as he ought to be.

Johnnie Rebcould easily accommodate another twenty aircraft, but a carrier air wing wasn't what it used to be, Sanchez thought, remembering how crowded a carrier had once been. The good news was that it was easier to move aircraft around the deck now. The bad news was that the actual striking power of his wing was barely two-thirds of what it had once been. Worse, naval aviation had fallen on hard times as an institution. The Tomcat design had begun in the 1960's—Sanchez had been contemplating high school then, and wondering when he'd be able to drive a car. The Hornet had first flown as the YF-I7 in the early 1970's. The Intruder had started life in the 1950's, about the time Bud had gotten his first two-wheeler. There was not a single new naval aircraft in the pipeline. The Navy had twice flubbed its chance to buy into Stealth technology, first by not buying into the Air Force's F-117 project, then by fielding the A-12 Avenger, which had turned out to be stealthy enough, just unable to fly worth a damn. And so now this fighter pilot, after twenty years of carrier operations, a "comer" being fast-tracked for an early flag—now with the last and best flying command of his career, Sanchez had less power to wield than anyone before him. The same was true of Enterprise, fifty miles to the east.

But the carrier was still queen of the sea. Even in her diminished capacity, Johnnie Reb had more striking power than both Indian carriers combined, and Sanchez judged that keeping India from getting too aggressive ought not to be overly taxing. A damned good thing that was the only problem on the horizon, too.

"That's it," the Air Boss observed as the last EA-6B caught the number-two wire. "Recovery complete. Your people look pretty good, Bud."

"We have been working at it, Todd." Sanchez rose from his seat and headed below toward his stateroom, where he'd freshen up before meeting first with his squadron commanders, and then with the ops staff to plan the operations for DATELINE PARTNERS. It ought to be a good workup, Sanchez thought. An Atlantic Fleet sailor for most of his career, it would be his first chance to look at the Japanese Navy, and he wondered what his grandfather would have thought of this. Henry Gabriel "Mike" Sanchez had been the CAG on USS Wasp in 1942, taking on the Japanese in the Guadalcanal campaign. He wondered what Big Mike would have thought of the upcoming exercise.

"Come on, you have to give me something," the lobbyist said. It was a mark of just how grim things were that his employers had told him it was possible they might have to cut back on their expenditures in D.C. That was very unwelcome news. It wasn't just me, the former Congressman from Ohio told himself. He had an office of twenty people to take care of, and they were Americans, too, weren't they? And so he had chosen his target with care.

This Senator had problems, a real contender in his primary, and another, equally real opponent in the general election. He needed a larger war chest. That made him amenable to reason, perhaps.

"Roy, I know we've worked together for ten years, but if I vote against TRA, I'm dead, okay? Dead. In the ground, with a wood stake through my heart, back in Chicago teaching bullshit seminars in government operations and selling influence to the highest bidder." Maybe even ending up like you, the Senator didn't say. He didn't have to. The message carried quite clearly.

It was not a pleasant thought. Almost twelve years on the Hill, and he liked it here. He liked the staff, and the life, and the parking privileges, and the free plane rides back to Illinois, and being treated like he was somebody everywhere he went. Already he was a member of the "Tuesday-Thursday Club," flying back home every Thursday evening for a very long weekend of speeches to the local Elks and Rotary clubs, to be seen at PTA meetings, cutting ribbons for every new post office building he'd managed to scrounge money for, campaigning already, just as hard as he'd done to get this god-damned job in the first place. It was not pleasant to have to go through that again. It would be less pleasant still to do it in the knowledge that it was all a waste of his time. He had to vote for TRA. Didn't Roy know that?

"I know that, Ernie. But I need something," the lobbyist persisted. It wasn't like working on the Hill. He had a staff of the same size, but this time it wasn't paid for by taxes. Now he actually had to work for it. "I've always been your friend, right?"

The question wasn't really a question. It was a statement, and it was both an implied threat and a promise. If Senator Greening didn't come over with something, then, maybe, Roy would, quietly at first, have a meeting with one of his opponents. More likely both. Roy, the Senator knew, was quite at ease working both sides of any street. He might well write off Ernest Greening as a lost cause and start currying favor with one or both possible replacements. Seed money, in a manner of speaking, something that would pay off in the long run because the Japs were good at thinking long-term. Everyone knew that. On the other hand, if he coughed up something now…

"Look, I can't possibly change my vote," Senator Greening said again.

"What about an amendment? I have an idea that might—"

"No chance, Roy. You've seen how the committees are working on this. Hell, the chairmen are sitting down right now at Bullfeathers, working out the last details. You have to make it clear to your friends that we've been well and truly rolled on this one."

"Anything else?" Roy Newton asked, his personal misery not quite showing. My God, to have to go back to Cincinnati, practice law again?

"Well, nothing on point," Greening said, "but there are a few interesting things going on, on the other side."

"What's that?" Newton asked. Just what I need, he thought. Some of the usual damned gossip. It had been fun while he'd served his six terms, but not—

"Possible impeachment hearings against Ed Kealty."

"You're kidding," the lobbyist breathed, his thoughts stopped dead in their tracks. "Don't tell me, he got caught with his zipper down again?"

"Rape," Greening replied. "No shit, rape. The FBI's been working the case for some time now. You know Dan Murray?"

"Shaw's lapdog?"

The Senator nodded. "That's the one. He briefed House Judiciary, but then this trade flap blew up and the President put it on hold. Kealty himself doesn't know yet, at least not as of last Friday-that's how tight this one is—but my senior legislative aide is engaged to Sam Fellows' chief of staff, and it really is too good to keep quiet, isn't it?"

The old Washington story, Newton thought with a smirk. If two people know it, it's not a secret.

"How serious?"

"From what I hear, Ed Kealty's in very deep shit. Murray made his position very clear. He wants to put Eddie-boy behind bars. There's a death involved."

"Lisa Beringer!" If there was anything a politician was good at, it was remembering names.

Greening nodded. "I see your memory hasn't failed you."

Newton almost whistled, but as a former Member, he was supposed to take such things phlegmatically. "No wonder he wants this one under wraps. The front page isn't big enough, is it?"

"That is the problem. It wouldn't affect passage of the bill—well, probably not—but who needs the complications? TRA, the Moscow trip, too. So-smart money, it's announced when he gets back from Russia."

"He's hanging Kealty out."

"Roger never has liked him. He brought Ed on board for his legislative savvy, remember? The President needed somebody who knew the system.

Well, what good will he be now, even if he's cleared? Also, a major liability for the campaign. It makes good political sense," Greening pointed out, "to toss him overboard right now, doesn't it? At least, as soon as the other stuff is taken care of."

That's interesting, Newton thought, quiet for a few seconds. We can't stop TRA. On the other hand, what if we can curse Durlings presidency? That could give us a new Administration in one big hurry, and with the right sort of guidance, a new Administration…

"Okay, Ernie, that's something."


There had to be speeches. Worse, there had to be a lot of speeches. For something of this magnitude, each of the 435 members from each of the 435 districts had to have his or her time in front of the cameras.

A representative from North Carolina had brought in Will Snyder, his hands still bandaged, and made sure he had a front-row seat in the gallery. That gave her the ability to point to her constituent, praise his courage to the heavens, laud organized labor for the nobility of its unionized members, and introduce a resolution to give Snyder official congressional recognition for his heroic act.

Next, a member from eastern Tennessee rendered a similar panegyric to his state's highway police and the scientific resources of Oak Ridge National Laboratory—there would be many favors handed out as a result of this legislation, and ORNL would get a few more million. The Congressional Budget Office was already estimating the tax revenue to be realized from increased American auto production, and members were salivating over that like Pavlov's dogs for their bell.

A member from Kentucky went to great pains to make it clear that the Cresta was largely an American-made automobile, would be even more so with the additional U.S. parts to be included in the design (that had already been settled in a desperate but necessarily unsuccessful accommodation effort by the corporate management), and that he hoped none would blame the workers of his district for the tragedy caused, after all, by non-American parts. The Kentucky Cresta plant, he reminded them, was the most efficient car factory in the world, and a model, he rhapsodized, of the way America and Japan could and should cooperate! And he would support this bill only because it was a way to make that cooperation more likely. That straddled the fence rather admirably, his fellow members thought.

And so it went. The people who edited Roll Call, the local journal that covered the Hill, were wondering if anyone would dare to vote against TRA.

"Look," Roy Newton told his main client. "You're going to take a beating, okay? Nobody can change that. Call it bad luck if you want, but shit happens."

It was his tone that surprised the other man. Newton was almost being insolent. He wasn't apologizing at all for his gross failure to change things, as he was paid to do, as he had promised that he could do when he'd first been hired to lobby for Japan, Inc. It was unseemly for a hireling to speak in this way to his benefactor, but there was no understanding Americans, you gave them money to do a job, and they—

"But there are other things going on, and if you have the patience to take a longer view"—long view had already been tried, and Newton was grateful for the fact that his client had good-enough language skills to catch the difference—"there are other options to be considered."

"And what might those be?" Binichi Murakami asked acidly. He was upset enough to allow his anger to show for once. It was just too much. He'd come to Washington in the hope that he could personally speak out against this disastrous bill, but instead had found himself besieged with reporters whose questions had only made clear the futility of his mission. And for that reason he'd been away from home for weeks, despite all sorts of entreaties to return to Japan for some urgent meetings with his friend Kozo Matsuda.

"Governments change," Newton replied, explaining on for a minute or so.

"Such a trivial thing as that?"

"You know, someday it's going to happen in your country. You're kidding yourself if you think otherwise." Newton didn't understand how they could fail to grasp something so obvious. Surely their marketing people told them how many cars were bought in America by women. Not to mention the best lady's shaver in the world. Hell, one of Murakami's subsidiaries made it. So much of their marketing effort was aimed at attracting women customers, and yet they pretended that the same factors would never come to be in their own country. It was, Newton thought, a particularly strange blind spot.

"It really could ruin Durling?" The President was clearly getting all sorts of political capital from TRA.

"Sure, if it's managed properly. He's holding up a major criminal investigation, isn't he?"

"No, from what you said, he's asked to delay it for—"

"For political reasons, Binichi." Newton did not often first-name his client. The guy didn't like it. Stuffed shirt. But he paid very well, didn't he?

"Binichi. you don't want to get caught playing with a criminal mailer, especially for political reasons. Expeciallv where the abuse of women is involved. It's an eccentricity of the American political system," he explained patiently.

"We can't meddle with that, can we?" It was an ill-considered question. He'd never quite meddled at this level before, that was all.

"What do you think you pay me for?"

Murakami leaned back and lit up a cigarette. He was the only person allowed to smoke in this office. "How would we go about it?"

"Give me a few days to work on that? For the moment, take the next flight home. You're just hurting yourself by being here, okay?" Newton paused. "You also need to understand, this is the most complicated project I've ever done for you. Dangerous, too," the lobbyist added.

Mercenary! Murakami raged behind eyes that were again impassive and thoughtful. Well, at least he was effective at it.

"One of my colleagues is in New York. I plan to see him and then fly home from New York."

"Fine. Just keep a real low profile, okay?"

Murakami stood and walked to the outer office, where an aide and a bodyguard waited. He was a physically imposing man, tall for a Japanese at five-ten, with jet-black hair and a youthful face that belied his fifty-seven years.

He also had a better-than-average track record for doing business in America, which made the current situation all the more offensive to him. He had never purchased less than a hundred million dollars' worth of American products in any year for the past decade, and he had occasionally spoken out, quietly, for allowing America greater access to his country's food market. The son and grandson of farmers, it appalled him that so many of his countrymen would want to do that sort of work. It was so damnably inefficient, after all, and the Americans, for all their laziness, were genuine artists at growing things. What a pity they didn't know how to plant a decent garden, which was Murakami's other passion in life.

The office building was on Sixteenth Street, only a few blocks from the White House, and, stepping out on the sidewalk he could look down and see the imposing building. Not Osaka Castle, but it radiated power.

"You Jap cocksucker!"

Murakami turned to see the face, angry and white, a working-class man by the look of him, and was so startled that he didn't have time to take offense. His bodyguard moved quickly to interpose himself between his boss and the American.

"You're gonna get yours, asshole!" the American said. He started to walk away.

"Wait. What have I done to harm you?" Murakami asked, still too surprised to be angry.

Had he known America better, the industrialist might have recognized that the man was one of Washington's homeless, and like most of them, a man with a problem. In this case, he was an alcoholic who had lost both his job and his family to drink, and his only contact with reality came from disjointed conversations with people similarly afflicted. Because of that, whatever outrages he held were artificially magnified. His plastic cup was full of an inexpensive beer, and because he remembered once working in the Chrysler assembly plant in Newark, Delaware, he decided that he didn't need the beer as much as he needed to be angry about losing his job, whenever that had been…And so, forgetting that his own difficulties had brought him to this low station in life, he turned and tossed the beer all over the three men in front of him, then moved on without a word, feeling so good about what he'd done that he didn't mind losing his drink.

The bodyguard started to move after him. In Japan he would have been able to hammer the bakayaro to the ground. A policeman would be summoned, and this fool would be detained, but the bodyguard knew he was on unfamiliar ground, and held back, then turned to see if perhaps this had been a setup to distract him from a more serious attack. He saw his employer standing erect, his face first frozen in shock, then outrage, as his expensive English-made coat dripped with half a liter of cheap, tasteless American beer. Without a word, Murakami got into the waiting car, which headed off to Washington National Airport. The bodyguard, similarly humiliated, took his seat in the front of the car.

A man who had won everything in his life on merit, who remembered life on a postage-stamp of a vegetable farm, who had studied harder than anyone else to get ahead, to win a place at Tokyo University, who had started at the bottom and worked his way to the top, Murakami had often had his doubts and criticisms of America, but he had deemed himself a fair and rational actor on trade issues. As so often happens in life, however, it was an irrelevancy that would change his mind.

They are barbarians, he told himself, boarding his chartered jet for the flight to New York.

"The Prime Minister is going to fall," Ryan told the President about the same time, a few blocks away.

"How sure are we of that?"

"Sure as we can be," Jack replied, taking his seat. "We have a couple of field officers working on something over there, and that's what they're hearing from people."

"State hasn't said that yet," Durling objected somewhat innocently.

"Mr. President, come on now," Ryan said, holding a folder in his lap.

"You know this is going to have some serious ramifications. You know Koga is sitting on a coalition made up of six different factions, and it won't take much to blow that apart on him." And us, Jack didn't add.

"Okay. So what?" Durling observed, having had his polling data updated again this very day.

"So the guy most likely to replace him is Hiroshi Goto. He doesn't like us very much. Never has."

"He talks big and tough," the President said, "but the one time I met him he looked like a typical blusterer. Weak, vain, not much substance to him."

"And something else." Ryan filled the President in on one of the spinoffs of Operation SANDAL WOOD.

Under other circumstances Roger Durling might have smiled, but he had

Ed Kealty sitting less than a hundred feet from him.

"Jack, how hard is it for a guy not to fuck around behind his wife's back?"

"Pretty easy in my case," Jack answered. "I'm married to a surgeon, remember?"

The President laughed, then turned serious.

"It's something we can use on the son of a bitch, isn't it?"

"Yes, sir." Ryan didn't have to add, but only with the greatest possible care, that on top of the Oak Ridge incident, it could well ignite a firestorm of public indignation. Niccolo Machiavelli himself had warned against this sort of thing.

"What are we planning to do about this Norton girl?" Durling asked.

"Clark and Chavez—"

"The guys who bagged Corp, right?"

"Yes, sir. They're over there right now. I want them to meet the girl and offer her a free ride home."

"Debrief once she gets back?"

Ryan nodded. "Yes, sir."

Durling smiled. "I like it. Good work."

"Mr. President, we're getting what we want, probably even a little more than what we really wanted," Jack cautioned. "The Chinese general Sun Tzu once wrote that you always leave your enemy a way out—you don't press a beaten enemy too hard."

"In the One-Oh-One, they told us to kill them all and count the bodies."

The President grinned. It actually pleased him that Ryan was now secure enough in his position to feel free to offer gratuitous advice. "This is out of your field, Jack. This isn't a national-security matter."

"Yes, sir. I know that. Look, I was in the money business a few months ago. I do have a little knowledge about international business."

Durling conceded the point with a nod. "Okay, go on. It's not like I've been getting any contrarian advice, and I suppose I ought to hear a little of it."

"We don't want Koga to go down, sir. He's a hell of a lot easier to deal with than Goto will be. Maybe a quiet statement from the Ambassador, something about how TRA gives you authority to act, but—"

The President cut him off. "But I'm not really going to do it?" He shook his head. "You know I can't do that. It would have the effect of cutting Al Trent off at the ankles, and I can't do that. It would look like I was double-dealing the unions, and I can't do that either."

"Do you really plan to implement TRA fully?"

"Yes, I do. Only for a few months. I have to shock the bastards, Jack. We will have a fair-trade deal, after twenty years of screwing around, but they have to understand that we're serious for once. It's going to be hard on them, but in a few months they're going to be believers, and then they can change their laws a little, and we'll do the same, and things will settle down to a trading system that's completely fair for all parties."

"You really want my opinion?"

Durling nodded again. "That's what I pay you for. You think we're pushing too hard."

"Yes, sir. We don't want Koga to go down, and we have to offer him something juicy if we want to save him. If you want to think long-term on this, you have to consider who you want to do business with."

Durling lifted a memo from his desk. "Brett Hanson told me the same thing, but he's not quite as worried about Koga as you are."

"By this time tomorrow," Ryan promised, "he will be."

"You can't even walk the streets here," Murakami snarled.

Yamata had a whole floor of the Plaza Athenee reserved for himself and his senior staff. The industrialists were alone in a sitting room, coats and ties off, a bottle of whiskey on the table.

"One never could, Binichi," Yamata replied. "Here we are the gaijin. You never seem to remember that."

"Do you know how much business I do here, how much I buy here?" the younger man demanded. He could still smell the beer. It had gotten on his shirt, but he was too angry to change clothes. He wanted the reminder of the lesson he'd learned only a few hours earlier.

"And what of myself?" Yamata asked. "Over the last few years I've put six billion yen into a trading company here. I finished that only a short time ago, as you will recall. Now I wonder if I'll ever get it back."

"They wouldn't do that."

"Your confidence in these people is touching, and does you credit," his host observed. "When the economy of our country falls into ruin, do you suppose they will let me move here to manage my American interests? In 1941 they froze our assets here."

"This is not 1941."

"No, it is not, Murakami-san. It is far worse today. We had not so far to fall then."

"Please," Chavez said, draining the last of his beer. "In 1941 my grandfather was fighting Fascists outside St. Petersburg—"

"Leningrad, you young pup!" Clark snarled, sitting next to him. "These young ones, they lose all their respect for the past," he explained to their two hosts.

One was a senior public-relations official from Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, the other a director of their aircraft division.

"Yes," Seigo Ishii agreed. "You know, members of my family helped design the fighters our Navy used. I once met Saburo Sakai and Minoru Genda."

Ding opened another round of bottles and poured like the good underling he was, dutifully serving his master, Ivan Sergeyevich Klerk. The beer was really pretty good here, especially since their hosts were picking up the tab, Chavez thought, keeping his peace and watching a master at work. "I know these names," Clark said. "Great warriors, but"—he held up a finger—"they fought against my countrymen. I remember that, too."

"Fifty years," the PR man pointed out. "And your country was also different then."

"That is true, my friends, that is true," Clark admitted, his head lolling to one side. Chavez thought he was overdoing the alcohol stuff.

"Your first time here, yes?"


"Your impressions?" Ishii asked.

"I love your poetry. It is very different from ours. I could write a book on Pushkin, you know. Perhaps someday I will, but a few years ago I started learning about yours. You see, our poetry is intended to convey a whole series of thoughts—often tell a complex story—but yours is far more subtle and delicate, like—how do I say this? Like a flash picture, yes? Perhaps there is one you could explain to me. I can see the picture, but not understand the significance. How does it go?" Clark asked himself drunkenly. "Ah, yes: 'Plum blossoms bloom, and pleasure-women buy new scarves in a brothel room.' Now," he asked the PR guy, "what is the meaning of that?"

Ding handled the eye contact with Ishii. It was amusing in a way. Confusion at first, then you could just about hear the eyeballs click when the code phrase sliced through his mind like the killing stroke of a rapier. Sasaki's eyes zeroed in on Clark, then noticed that it was Ding who was maintaining eye contact.

That's right. You're back on the payroll, buddy.

"Well, you see, it's the contrast," the PR official explained. "You have the pleasant image of attractive women doing something—oh, feminine, is that the word? Then the end, you see that they are prostitutes, trapped in a—"

"Prison," Ishii said, suddenly sober. "They are trapped into doing something. And suddenly the setting and the picture are not as pleasant as they seem at all."

"Ah, yes," Clark said with a smile. "That is entirely sensible. Thank you." A friendly nod to acknowledge the important lesson.

Goddamn, but Mr. C was smooth, Chavez thought. This spy stuff had its moments. Ding almost felt sorry for Ishii, but if the dumb son of a bitch had betrayed his country before, well, no sense in shedding any tears for him now. The axiom in CIA was simple, if somewhat cruel: once a traitor, always a traitor. The corresponding aphorism in the FBI was even crueler, which was odd. The FBI boys were usually so upright and clean-cut. Once a cocksucker, always a cocksucker.

"Is it possible?" Murakami asked.

"Possible? It's child's play."

"But the effects…" Yamata's idea had obvious panache, but…

"The effects are simple. The damage to their economy will prevent them from building up the industries they need to replace our products. Their consumers will recover from the initial shock and, needing products which their own corporations cannot manufacture, they will again buy them from us." If Binichi thought he was going to get the whole story, that was his problem.

"I think not. You underestimate the Americans' anger at this unfortunate incident. You must also factor in the political dimension—"

"Koga is finished. That is decided," Yamata interrupted coldly.

"Goto?" Murakami asked. It wasn't much of a question. He followed his country's political scene as much as any man.

"Of course."

An angry gesture. "Goto is a fool. Everywhere he walks he's following his penis. I wouldn't trust him to run my father's farm."

"You could say that of any of them. Who really manages our country's affairs? What more could we want in a prime minister, Binichi?" Raizo asked with a jolly laugh.

"They have one like that in their government, too," Murakami noted darkly, pouring himself another generous jolt of Chivas and wondering what Yamata was really talking about. "I've never met the man, but he sounds like a swine."

"Who is that?"

"Kealty, their Vice President. You know, this upstanding President of theirs is covering it up, too."

Yamata leaned back in his chair. "I don't understand."

Murakami filled him in. The whiskey didn't impede his memory a jot, his host noted. Well, though a cautious man, and often an overly generous one in his dealings with foreigners, he was one of Yamata's true peers, and though they often disagreed on things, there was genuine respect between them.

"That is interesting. What will your people do about it?"

"They are thinking about it," Binichi replied with an eloquent arch of the eyebrows.

"You trust Americans on something like this? The best of them are ronin, and you know what the worst are…" Then Yamata-san paused and took a few seconds to consider this information more fully. "My friend, if the Americans can take down Koga…"

Murakami lowered his head for a moment. The smell of the thrown beer was stronger than ever. The insolence of that street creature! For that matter, what of the insolence of the President? He could cripple an entire country with his vanity and his clearly feigned anger. Over what? An accident, that was all. Had the company not honorably assumed responsibility? Had it not promised to look after the survivors?

"It is a large and dangerous thing you propose, my friend."

"It is an even more dangerous thing not to do anything."

Murakami thought about it for a moment.

"What would you have me do?"

"The specifics about Kealty and Durling would be welcome."

That required only a few minutes. Murakami made a call, and the information was sent to the secure fax machine in Yamata's suite. Perhaps Raizo would be able to put it to good use, he thought. An hour later his car took him to Kennedy International, where he boarded a JAL flight to Tokyo.

Yamata's other corporate jet was another G-IV. It would be busy. The first flight was to New Delhi. It was only on the ground for two hours before taking off on an easterly heading.

"Looks like a course change," Fleet-Ops said. "At first we thought they were just doing some extended flight operations, but they've got all their birds up already and-"

Admiral Dubro nodded agreement as he looked down at the Link-11 display in the carrier's Combat Information Center. It was relayed in from an E-2C Hawkeye surveillance aircraft. The circular formation was heading due south at a speed of eighteen knots. The carriers were surrounded by their goalkeeper force of missile-armed destroyers and cruisers, and there was also a screen of picket destroyers well in advance. All their radars were on, which was something new. The Indian ships were both advertising their presence and creating a "bubble" through which no one could pass without their knowledge.

"Looking for us, you suppose?" the Admiral asked.

"If nothing else, they can make us commit to one ops-area or another. We can be southwest of them or southeast, but if they keep coming this way, they split the difference pretty clean, sir."

Maybe they were just tired of being shadowed, Dubro thought. Understandable. They had a respectable fleet, manned with people who had to be well drilled in their duties after the last few months. They'd just topped off their bunkers again, and would have all the fuel they needed to do…what?


"Nothing on their intentions," Commander Harrison replied. "Their amphibs are still tied up. We don't have anything on that brigade J-2 was worried about. Bad weather for overheads the last few days."

"Damn those Intel pukes," Dubro growled. CIA depended so much on satellite coverage that everyone pretended the cameras could see through clouds. All they had to do was put a few assets on the ground…was he the only one who realized that?

The computer-generated display was on a flat glass plate, a new model just installed on the ship the previous year. Far more detailed than the earlier systems, it gave superb map and chart data on which ship and aircraft locations were electronically overlaid. The beauty of the system was that it showed what you knew in exquisite detail. The problem was that it didn't show anything else, and Dubro needed better data to make his decision.

"They've had a minimum of four aircraft up for the past eight hours, sweeping south. By their operating radius I would estimate that they're carrying air-to-air missiles and aux fuel tanks for max endurance. So call it a strong effort at forward reconnaissance. Their Harriers have that new Black Fox look-down radar, and the Hummers caught some sniffs of it. They're looking as far as they can, sir. I want permission to pull the Hummer south another hundred miles or so right now, and to have them go a little covert."

By which he meant the surveillance aircraft would keep its radar on only some of the time, and would instead track the progress of the Indian fleet passively, from the Indians' own radar emissions.

"No." Admiral Dubro shook his head. "Let's play dumb and complacent for a while." He turned to check the status of his aircraft. He had ample combat power to deal with the threat, but that wasn't the issue. His mission was not to defeat the Indian Navy in battle. It was to intimidate them from doing something which America found displeasing. For that matter, his adversary's mission could not have been to fight the United States Navy—could it? No, that was too crazy. It was barely within the realm of possibility that a very good and very lucky Indian fleet commander could best a very unlucky and very dumb American counterpart, but Dubro had no intention of letting that happen. More likely, just as his mission was mainly bluff, so was theirs. If they could force the American fleet south, then…they weren't so dumb after all, were they? The question was how to play the cards he had.

"They're forcing us to commit, Ed. Trying to, anyway." Dubro leaned forward, resting one hand on the map display and tracing around with the other. "They probably think we're southeast. If so, by moving south they can block us better, and they know we'll probably maintain our distance just to keep out of their strike range. On the other hand, if they suspect we are where we really are right now, they can accomplish the same thing, or face us with the option of looping around to the northwest to cover the Gulf of Mannar. But that means coming within range of their land-based air, with their fleet to our south, and our only exit due west. Not bad for an operational concept," the battle-group commander acknowledged. "The group commander still Chandraskatta?"

Fleet-Ops nodded. "That's right, sir. He's back after a little time on the beach. The Brits have the book on the guy. They say he's no dummy."

"I think I'd go along with that for the moment. What sort of intel you suppose they have on us?"

Harrison shrugged. "They know how long we've been here. They have to know how tired we are." Fleet-Ops meant the ships as much as the men. Every ship in the Task Force had materiel problems now. They all carried spare parts, but ships could remain at sea only so long before refit was needed. Corrosion from salt air, the constant movement and pounding of wind and wave, and heavy equipment use meant that ships' systems couldn't last forever. Then there were the human factors. His men and women were tired now, too long at sea. Increased maintenance duties made them tireder still. The current catchphrase in the military for these combined problems was "leadership challenge," a polite expression meaning that the officers commanding both the ships and the men sometimes didn't know what the hell they were supposed to do.

"You know, Ed, at least the Russians were predictable." Dubro stood erect, looking down and wishing he still smoked his pipe. "Okay, let's call this one in. Tell Washington it looks like they might just be making a move."

"So we meet for the first time."

"It's my pleasure, sir." Chuck Searls, the computer engineer, knew that his three-piece suit and neat haircut had surprised the man. He held out his hand and bobbed his head in what he supposed was a proper greeting for his benefactor.

"My people tell me that you are very skilled."

"You're very kind. I've worked at it for some years, and I suppose I have a few small talents." Searls had read up on Japan.

And very greedy, Yamata thought, but well-mannered. He would settle for that. It was, all in all, a fortunate accident. He'd purchased the man's business four years earlier, left current management in place, as was his custom, then discovered that the real brains of the outfit were in this man. Searls was the nearest thing to a wizard that his executive had ever seen, the man had reported to Yamata-san, and though the American's title hadn't changed, his salary had. And then, a few years ago, Searls had remarked that he was tiring of his job…

"Everything is prepared?"

"Yes, sir. The initial software upgrade went in months ago. They love it."

"And the—"

"Easter egg, Mr. Yamata. That's what we call it."

Raizo had never encountered the expression. He asked for an explanation and got it—but it meant nothing to him.

"How difficult to implement it?"

"That's the clever part," Searls said. "It keys on two stocks. If General Motors and Merck go through the system at values which I built in, twice and in the same minute, the egg hatches, but only on a Friday, like you said, and only if the five-minute period falls in the proper time-range."

"You mean this thing could happen by accident?" Yamata asked in some surprise.

"Theoretically, yes, but the trigger values for the stocks are well outside the current trading range, and the odds of having that happen all together by accident are about thirty million to one. That's why I picked this method for hatching the egg. I ran a computer-search of trading patterns and…"

Another problem with mercenaries was that they could never stop themselves from telling you how brilliant they were. Even though it was probably true in this case, Yamata found it difficult to sit through the dissertation. He did it anyway. Good manners required it.

"And your personal arrangements?"

Searls merely nodded. The flight to Miami. The connecting flights to Antigua, via Dominica and Grenada, all with different names on the tickets, paid for by different credit cards. He had his new passport, his new identity. On the Caribbean island, there was a certain piece of property. It would take an entire day, but then he'd be there, and he had no plans to leave it, ever.

For his part, Yamata neither knew nor wanted to know what Searls would do. Had this been a screen drama, he would have arranged for the man's life to end, but it would have been dangerous. There was always the chance that there might be more than one egg in the nest, wasn't there? Yes, there had to be. Besides, there was honor to be considered. This entire venture was about honor.

"The second third of the funds will be transferred in the morning. When that happens, I would suggest that you execute your plans." Ronin. Yamata thought, but even some of them were faithful after a fashion.

"Members," the Speaker of the House said after Al Trent had concluded his final wrap-up speech, "will cast their votes by electronic device."

On C-SPAN the drone of repeated words was replaced by classical music. Bach's Italian Concerto in this case. Each member had a plastic card—it was like an automatic teller machine, really. The votes were tallied by a simple computer displayed on TV screens all over the world. Two hundred eighteen votes were needed for passage. That number was reached in just under ten minutes. Then came the final rush of additional "aye" votes as members rushed from committee hearings and constituent meetings to enter the chamber, record their votes, and return to whatever they'd been doing.

Through it all, Al Trent stayed on the floor, mainly chatting amiably with a member of the minority leadership, his friend Sam Fellows. It was remarkable how much they agreed on, both thought. They could scarcely have been more different, a gay New England liberal and a Mormon Arizonan conservative.

"This'll teach the little bastards a lesson," Al observed.

"You sure ramrodded the bill through," Sam agreed. Both men wondered what the long-term effects on employment would be in their districts.

Less pleased were the officials of the Japanese Embassy, who called the results in to their Foreign Ministry the moment the music stopped and the Speaker announced, "HR-12313, the Trade Reform Act, is approved."

The bill would go to the Senate next, which, they reported, was a formality. The only people likely to vote against it were those furthest away from reelection. The Foreign Minister got the news from his staff at about nine local time in Tokyo and informed Prime Minister Koga. The latter had already drafted his letter of resignation for the Emperor. Another man might have wept at the destruction of his dreams. The Prime Minister did not. In retrospect, he'd had more real influence as a member of the opposition than in this office. Looking at the morning sun on the well-kept grounds outside his window, he realized that it would be a more pleasant life, after all.

Let Goto deal with this.

"You know, the Japanese make some awfully good stuff that we use at Wilmer," Cathy Ryan observed over dinner. It was time for her to comment on the law, now that it was halfway passed.


"The diode laser system we use on cataracts, for one. They bought the American company that invented it. Their engineers really know how to support their stuff, too. They're in practically every month with a software upgrade."

"Where's the company located?" Jack asked.

"Someplace in California."

"Then it's an American product, Cathy."

"But not all the parts are," his wife pointed out.

"Look, the law allows for special exceptions to be made for uniquely valuable things that—"

"The government's going to make the rules, right?"

"True," Jack conceded. "Wait a minute. You told me their docs—"

"I never said they were dumb, just that they need to think more creatively. You know," she added, "just like the government does."

"I told the President this wasn't all that great an idea. He says the law will be in full force just a few months."

"I'll believe that when I see it."

13—Winds and Tides

"I've never seen anything like this."

"But your country made thousands of them," the PR director objected.

"That is true," Klerk agreed, "but the factories were not open to the public, and not even to Soviet journalists."

Chavez was doing the photography work, and was putting on quite a show, John Clark noted without a smile, dancing around the workers in their white coveralls and hard hats, turning, twisting, squatting, his Nikon pressed against his face, changing rolls every few minutes, and along the way getting a few hundred frames of the missile production line. They were SS-19 missile bodies, sure as hell. Clark knew the specifications, and had seen enough photos at Langley to know what they looked like—and enough to spot some local modifications. On the Russian models the exterior was usually green. Everything the Soviet Union had built for military use had to be camouflaged, even missiles inside of transport containers sitting in the bottom of concrete silos were the same pea-soup green that they liked to paint on tanks. But not these. The paint had weight, and there was no point in expending fuel to drive the few kilograms of paint to suborbital speed, and so these missile bodies were bright, shiny steel. The fittings and joints looked far more refined than he would have expected on a Russian production line.

"You've modified our original design, haven't you?"

"Correct." The PR guy smiled. "The basic design was excellent. Our engineers were very impressed, but we have different standards, and better materials. You have a good eye, Mr. Klerk. Not too long ago an American NASA engineer made the same observation." The man paused. "What sort of Russian name is Klerk?"

"It's not Russian," Clark said, continuing to scribble his notes. "My grandfather was English, a Communist. His name was Clark. In the 19208 he came to Russia to be part of the new experiment." An embarrassed grin. "I suppose he's disappointed, wherever he is."

"And your colleague?"

"Chekov? He's from the Crimea. The Tartar blood really shows, doesn't it? So how many of these will you build?"

Chavez was at the top end of the missile body at the end of the line. A few of the assembly workers were casting annoyed glances his way, and he took that to mean that he was doing his job of imitating an intrusive, pain-in-the-ass journalist right. Aside from that the job was pretty easy. The assembly bay of the factory was brightly lit to assist the workers in their tasks, and though he'd used his light meter for show, the camera's own monitoring chip told him that he had all the illumination he needed. This Nikon F-20 was one badass camera. Ding switched rolls. He was using ASA-64 color slide film—Fuji film, of course—because it had better color saturation, whatever that meant.

In due course, Mr. C shook hands with the factory representative and they all headed toward the door. Chavez—Chekov—twisted the lens off the camera body and stowed everything away in his bag. Friendly smiles and bows sent them on their way. Ding slid a CD into the player and turned the sound way up. It made conversation difficult, but John was always a stickler for the rules. And he was right. There was no knowing if someone might have bugged their rental car. Chavez leaned his head over to the right so that he wouldn't have to scream his question.

"John, is it always this easy?"

Clark wanted to smile, but didn't. He'd reactivated yet another member of THISTLE a few hours earlier, who had insisted that he and Ding look at the assembly floor.

"You know, I used to go into Russia, back when you needed more than a passport and American Express."

"Doing what?"

"Mainly getting people out. Sometimes recovering data packs. Couple of times I emplaced cute little gadgets. Talk about lonely, talk about scary." Clark shook his head. Only his wife knew that he colored his hair, just a little, because he didn't like gray there. "You have any idea what we would have paid to get into…Plesetsk, I think, is where they made those things, the Chelomei Design Bureau."

"They really wanted us to see that stuff."

"Sure as hell," Clark agreed.

"What do I do with the photos?"

John almost said to toss them, but it was data, and they were working on company time. He had to draft and send a story to Interfax to maintain his cover—he wondered if anyone would print it. Wouldn't that be a gas, he thought with a shake of the head. All they were doing, really, was circling in a holding pattern, waiting for the word and the opportunity to meet Kimberly Norton. The film and a copy of his story, he decided, would find their way into the diplomatic bag. If nothing else, it was good practice for Ding—and for himself, Clark admitted.

"Turn that damned noise down," he said, and they switched to Russian. Good language practice.

"I miss the winters at home," Chekov observed.

"I don't," Klerk answered. "Where did you ever acquire the taste for that awful American music?" he asked with a growl.

"Voice of America," came the reply. Then the voice laughed.

"Yevgeniy Pavlovich, you have no respect. My ears can't tolerate that damned noise. Don't you have something else to play?"

"Anything would be an improvement," the technician observed to himself, as he adjusted his headphones and shook his head to clear them of the damned gaijin noise. Worse still, his own son listened to the same trash.

Despite all the denials that had gone back and forth over the past few weeks, the reality of it was finally plain for all to see. The huge, ugly car-carriers swinging at anchor in several different harbors were silent witnesses on every TV news broadcast on NHK. The Japanese car companies owned a total of a hundred nineteen of them, not counting foreign-flag ships operating under charter that were now heading back to their own home ports. Ships that never stayed still any longer than it took to load another cargo of autos now sat like icebergs, clogging anchorages. There was no sense in loading and dispatching them. Those awaiting pier space in American ports would take weeks to unload. The crews took the opportunity to do programmed maintenance, but they knew that when those make-work tasks were done, they would truly be out of business.

The effect snowballed rapidly. There was little point in manufacturing automobiles that could not be shipped. There was literally no place to keep them. As soon as the huge holding lots at the ports were filled, and the traincars on their sidetracks, and the lots at the assembly plants, there was simply no choice. Fully a half-dozen TV crews were on hand when the line supervisor at the Nissan plant reached up and pressed a button. That button rang bells all up and down the line. Ordinarily used because of a problem in the assembly process, this time it meant that the line was stopped. From the beginning, where the frames were placed on the moving chain-belt, to the end, where a navy-blue car sat with its door open, awaiting a driver to take it out of the building, workers stood still, looking at one another. They'd told themselves that this could never happen. Reality to them was showing up for work, performing their functions, attaching parts, testing, checking off—very rarely finding a problem—and repeating the processes for endless numbing but well-compensated hours, and at this moment it was as if the world had ceased to rotate. They'd known, after a fashion. The newspapers and TV broadcasts, the rumors that had raced up and down the line far more quickly than the cars ever had, the bulletins from management. Despite all that, they now stood around as if stunned by a hard blow to the face.

On the floor of their national stock exchange, the traders were holding small portable televisions, a new kind from Sony that folded up and fit in the hip pocket. They saw the man ring the bell, saw the workers stop their activities. Worst of all, they saw the looks on their faces. And this was just the beginning, the traders knew. Parts suppliers would stop because the assemblers would cease buying their products. Primary-metals industries would slow down drastically because their main customers were shut down. Electronics companies would slow, with the loss of both domestic and foreign markets. Their country depended absolutely on foreign trade, and America was their primary trading partner, one hundred seventy billion dollars of exports to a single country, more than they sold to all of Asia, more than they sold to all of Europe. They imported ninety billion or so from America, but the surplus, the profit side of the ledger, was just over seventy billion American dollars, and that was money their economy needed to function; money that their national economy was designed to use; production capacity that it was designed to meet.

For the blue-collar workers on the television, the world had merely stopped. For the traders, the world had, perhaps, ended, and the look on their faces was not shock but black despair. The period of silence lasted no more than thirty seconds. The whole country had watched the same scene on TV with the same morbid fascination tempered by obstinate disbelief. Then the phone began ringing again. Some of the hands that reached for them shook. The Nikkei Dow would fall again that day, down to a closing value of 6,540 yen, about a fifth of what it had been only a few years before.

The same tape was played as the lead segment on every network news broadcast in the U.S., and in Detroit, even UAW workers who had themselves seen plants close down saw the looks, heard the noise, and remembered their own feelings. Though their sympathy was tempered with the promise of their own renewed employment, it wasn't all that hard to know what their Japanese counterparts felt right now. It was far easier to dislike them when they were working and taking American jobs. Now they too were victims of forces that few of them really understood.

The reaction on Wall Street was surprising to the unsophisticated. For all its theoretical benefits to the American economy, the Trade Reform Act was now a short-term problem. American corporations too numerous to list depended on Japanese products to some greater or lesser derive, and while American workers and companies could theoretically step in to take up the slack, everyone wondered how serious the TRA provisions wore. If they were permanent, that was one thing, and it would make very good sense for investors to put their money in those firms that were well placed to make up the shortfall of needed products. But what if the government was merely using it as a tool to open Japanese markets and the Japanese acted quickly to concede a few points to mitigate the overall damage? In that case, different companies, poised to place their products on Japanese shelves, were a better investment opportunity. The trick was to identify which corporations were in a position to do both, because one or the other could be a big loser, especially with the initial jump the stock market had taken. Certainly, the dollar would appreciate with respect to the yen, but the technicians on the bond market noted that overseas banks had jumped very fast indeed, buying up U.S. Government securities, paying for them with their yen accounts, and clearly betting on a major shift in values from which a short-term profit was certain to take place.

American stock values actually fell on the uncertainty, which surprised many of those who had their money on "the Street." Those holdings were mainly in mutual-funds accounts, because it was difficult, if not impossible, to keep track of things if you were a small-time holder. It was far safer to let "professionals" manage your money. The result was that there were now more mutual-funds companies than stock issues traded on the New York Stock Exchange, and they were all managed by technicians whose job it was to understand what went on in the most boisterous and least predictable economic marketplace in the world.

The initial slide was just under fifty points before stabilizing, stopped there by public statements from the Big Three auto companies that they were self-sufficient enough, thank you, in most categories of parts to maintain, and even boost, domestic auto production. Despite that, the technicians at the big trading houses scratched their heads and talked things over in their coffee rooms. Do you have any idea how to deal with this? The only reason only half the people asked the question was that it was the job of the other half to listen, shake its collective head, and reply, Hell, no.

At the Washington headquarters of the Fed, there were other questions, but just as few hard answers. The troublesome specter of inflation was not yet gone, and the current situation was unlikely to banish it further. The most immediate and obvious problem was that there would be—hell, one of the board noted, already was!—more purchasing power than there were products to buy. That meant yet another inflationary surge, and though the dollar would undoubtedly climb against the yen, what that really meant was that the yen would free-fall for a while and the dollar would actually fall as well with respect to other world currencies. And they couldn't have that. Another quarter point in the discount rate, they decided, effective immediately on the close of the Exchange. It would confuse the trading markets somewhat, but that was okay because the Fed knew what it was doing.

About the only good news on that score was the sudden surge in the purchase of Treasury notes. Probably Japanese banks, they knew without asking, hedging like hell to protect themselves. A smart move, they all noted. Their respect for their Japanese colleagues was genuine and not affected by the current irregularities which, they all hoped, would soon pass.

"Are we agreed?" Yamata asked.

"We can't stop now," a banker said. He could have gone on to say that they and their entire country were poised on the edge of an abyss so deep that the bottom could not be seen. He didn't have to. They all stood on the same edge, and looking down, they saw not the lacquered table around which they sat, but only an infinity with economic death at the bottom of it.

Heads nodded around the table. There was a long moment of silence, and then Matsuda spoke.

"How did this ever come to pass?"

"It has always been inevitable, my friends," Yamata-san said, a fine edge of sadness in his voice. "Our country is like…like a city with no surrounding countryside, like a strong arm without a heart to send it blood. We've told ourselves for years that this is a normal state of affairs—but it is not, and we must remedy the situation or perish."

"It is a great gamble we undertake."

"Hai." It was hard for him not to smile.

It was not yet dawn, and they would sail on the tide. The proceedings went on without much fanfare. A few families came down to the docks, mainly to drop the crewmen off at their ships from a last night spent ashore. The names were traditional, as they were with most navies of the world at least those who'd been around long enough to have tradition. The new Aegis destroyers, Kongo and her sisters, bore traditional battleship names, mainly ancient appellations for regions of the nation that built them. That was a recent departure. It would have struck Westerners as an odd nomenclature for ships-of-war, but in keeping with their country's poetic traditions, most names for the combat ships had lyrical meanings, and were largely grouped by class. Destroyers traditionally had names ending in -kaze, denoting a kind of wind; Hatukaze, for example, meant "Morning Breeze." Submarine names were somewhat more logical. All of those ended in -ushio, meaning "tide."

They were in the main handsome ships, spotlessly clean so as not to detract from their workmanlike profiles. One by one they lit off their jet-turbine engines and eased their way off the quays and into the channels. The captains and navigators looked at the shipping that was piling up in Tokyo Bay, but whatever they were thinking, for the moment the merchantmen were merely a hazard to navigation, swinging at their anchors as they were.

Below, those sailors not on sea-and-anchor detail mainly stowed gear and saw to their duty stations. Radars were lit up to assist in the departure—hardly necessary since visibility conditions this morning were excellent, but good practice for the crewmen in the various Combat Information Centers. At the direction of combat-systems officers, data links were tested to swap tactical information between ships. In engine-control rooms the "snipes"—an ancient term of disparagement for the traditionally filthy enginemen—sat in comfortable swivel chairs and monitored computer readouts while sipping tea.

The flagship was the new destroyer Mutsu. The fishing port of Tateyame was in sight, the last town they would pass before turning sharply to port and heading east.

The submarines were already out there, Rear Admiral Yusuo Sato knew, but the commanders had been briefed in. His was a family with a long tradition of service—better still, a tradition of the sea. His father had commanded a destroyer under Raizo Tanaka, one of the greatest destroyermen who'd ever lived, and his uncle had been one of Yamamoto's "wild eagles," a carrier pilot killed at the Battle of Santa Cruz. The succeeding generation had continued in those footsteps. Yusuo's brother, Torajiro Sato, had flown F-16 fighters for the Air Self-Defense Force, then quit in disgust at the demeaning status of the air arm, and now flew as a senior captain for Japan Air Lines. The man's son, Shiro, had followed in his father's footsteps and was now a very proud young major, flying fighters on a more permanent basis. Not too bad, Admiral Sato thought, for a family that had no samurai roots. Yusuo's other brother was a banker. Sato was fully briefed on what was to come.

The Admiral stood, opened the watertight door on Mutsu's bridge and passed out to the starboard wing. The sailors at work there took a second to acknowledge his presence with dutiful nods, then went back to taking shore-sights to update the ship's position. Sato looked aft and noted that the sixteen ships in the column were in a nearly perfect line, separated by a uniform five hundred meters, just becoming visible to the unaided eye in the pink-orange glow of the rising sun toward which they sailed. Surely that was a good omen, the Admiral thought. At the truck of every ship flew the same flag under which his father had served; it had been denied his country's warships for so many years but was restored now, the proud red-on-white sunburst.

"Secure the sea-and-anchor detail," the Captain's voice announced on the speaker system. Already their home port was under the visible horizon, and soon the same would be true of the headlands now on the port quarter. Sixteen ships, Sato thought. The largest force his country had put to sea as a coherent unit in—fifty years? He had to think about it. Certainly the most powerful, not one vessel more than ten years old, proud, expensive ships with proud, established names. But the one name he'd wanted with him this morning, Kurushio, "Black Tide," that of his father's destroyer, which had sunk an American cruiser at the Battle of Tassafaronga, unfortunately belonged to a new submarine, already at sea. The Admiral lowered his binoculars and grunted in mild displeasure. Black Tide. It was a poetically perfect name for a warship, too. A pity it had been wasted on a submarine.

Kurushio and her sisters had left thirty-six hours earlier. The lead ship of a new class, she was running at fifteen knots for her high-speed transit to the exercise area, powered by her large, efficient diesels which now drew air through the snorkel mast. Her crew of ten officers and sixty enlisted men was on a routine watch cycle. An officer of the deck and his junior kept the watch in the sub's control room. An engineering officer was at his post, along with twenty-four ratings. The entire torpedo department was at work in their midships station, doing electronic tests on the fourteen Type 89-Mod C torpedoes and six Harpoon missiles. Otherwise the watch bill was normal, and no one remarked on the single change. The captain, Commander Tamaki Ugaki, was known as a stickler for readiness, and though he drilled his men hard, his was a happy ship because she was always a smart ship. He was locked in his cabin, and the crew hardly knew he was aboard, the only signs of his presence the thin crack of light under the door and the cigarette smoke that came out the exhaust vent. An intense man, their skipper, the crewmen thought, doubtless working up plans and drills for the upcoming exercise against the American submarines. They'd done well the last time, scoring three first-kills in ten practice encounters. That was as good as anyone might expect. Except for Ugaki, the men joked at their lunch tables. He thought like a true samurai, and didn't want to know about being second best.

Ryan had established a routine in his first month back of spending one day per week at the Pentagon. He'd explained to journalists that his office wasn't supposed to be a cell, after all, and it was just a more efficient use of everyone's time. It hadn't even resulted in a story, as it might have done a few years earlier. The very title of National Security Advisor, everyone knew, was a thing of the past. Though the reporters deemed Ryan a worthy successor to the corner office in the White House, he was such a colorless guy. He was known to avoid the Washington "scene" as though he feared catching leprosy, he showed up for work every day at the same time, did his job in as few hours as circumstances allowed-to his good fortune, it was rarely more than a ten-hour day—and returned to his family as though he were a normal person or something. His background at CIA was still very sketchy, and though his public acts as a private citizen and a government functionary were well known, that was old news. As a result Ryan was able to drive around in the back of his official car and few took great note of it. Everything with the man was just so routine, and Jack worked hard to keep it that way. Reporters rarely took note of a dog that didn't bark. Perhaps they just didn't read enough to know better.

"They're up to something," Robby said as soon as Ryan took his seat in the flag briefing room in the National Military Command Center. The map display made that clear.

"Coming south?"

"Two hundred miles' worth. The fleet commander is V. K. Chandraskatta, graduated Dartmouth Royal Naval College, third in his class, worked his way up. Took the senior course at Newport a few years ago. He was number one in that class," Admiral Jackson went on. "Very nice political connections. He's spent a surprising amount of time away from his fleet lately, commuting back and forth—"

"Where to?" Ryan asked.

"We assume back and forth to New Delhi, but the truth of the matter is that we don't really know. It's the old story, Jack."

Ryan managed not to groan. It was partly an old story, and partly a very new one. No military officer ever thought himself possessed of enough intelligence information, and never fully trusted the quality of what he did have. In this case, the complaint was true enough: CIA still didn't have any assets on the ground in India. Ryan made a mental note to speak to Brett Hanson about the Ambassador. Again. Psychiatrists called his form of action "passive-aggressive," meaning that he didn't resist but didn't cooperate either. It was a source of constant surprise to Ryan that important grown-ups so often acted like five-year-olds.

"Correlation between his trips ashore and his movements?"

"Nothing obvious," Robby answered with a shake of the head.

"Sigint, comint?" Jack asked, wondering if the National Security Agency, yet another shadow of its former self, had attempted to listen in on the Indian fleet's radio traffic.

"We're getting some stuff via Alice Springs and Diego Garcia, but it's just routine. Ship-movement orders, mostly, nothing with real operational significance."

Jack was tempted to grumble that his country's intelligence services never had what he wanted at the moment, but the real reason for that was simple: the intelligence he did have usually enabled America to prepare, to obviate problems before they became problems. It was the things that got overlooked that developed into crises, and they were overlooked because other things were more important—until the little ones blew up.

"So all we have is what we can infer from their operational patterns."

"And here it is," Robby said, walking to the chart.

"Pushing us off…"

"Making Admiral Dubro commit. It's pretty clever, really. The ocean is mighty big, but it can get a lot smaller when there's two fleets moving around it. He hasn't asked for an ROE update yet but it's something we need to start thinking about."

"If they load that brigade onto their amphibs, then what?"

An Army colonel, one of Robby's staff, answered. "Sir, if I were running this, it's real easy. They have troops on the ground already, playing games with the Tamils. That secures the beachhead pretty slick, and the landing is just administrative. Getting ashore as a cohesive unit is the hard part of any invasion, but it looks to me like that's already knocked. Their Third Armored Brigade is a very robust formation. Short version is, the Sri Lankans don't have anything with a prayer of slowing it down, much less stopping it. Next item on the agenda, you gobble up a few airfields and just fly your infantry forces in. They have a lot of people under arms. Sparing fifty thousand infantrymen for this operation would not be much of a stretch for them.

"I suppose the country could degenerate into a long-term insurgency situation," the Colonel went on, "but the first few months would go to the Indians almost by default, and with their ability to isolate the island with their navy, well, whatever insurgents have a yen to fight things out wouldn't have a source of resupply. Smart money, India wins."

"The hard part's political," Ryan mused. "The U.N. will get pretty excited…"

"But projecting power into that area is a bitch," Robby pointed out. "Sri Lanka doesn't have any traditional allies, unless you count India. They have no religious or ethnic card to play. No resources for us to get hot and bothered about."

Ryan continued the thought: "Front-page news for a few days, but if the Indians are smart about it, they make Ceylon their fifty-first state—"

"More likely their twenty-sixth state, sir," the Colonel suggested, "or an adjunct to Tamil Nadu, for ethnic reasons. It might even help the Indians defuse their own difficulties with the Tamils. I'd guess there have been some contacts."

"Thank you." Ryan nodded to the Colonel, who had done his homework. "But the idea is, they integrate the place into their country politically, full civil rights and everything, and all of a sudden it's no story at all anymore. Slick," Ryan observed. "But they need a political excuse before they can move. That excuse has to be a resurgence of the Tamil rebels—which of course they are in a position to foment."

"That'll be our indicator," Jackson agreed. "Before that happens, we need to tell Mike Dubro what he's going to be able to do about it."

And that would not be an easy call, Ryan thought, looking at the chart. Task Group 77.1 was heading southwest, keeping its distance from the Indian fleet, but though there was an ocean in which to maneuver, not far to Dubro's west was a long collection of atolls. At the end of it was the American base at Diego Garcia: a matter of some comfort, but not much. The problem with a bluff was that the other guy might guess it for what it was, and this game was a lot less random than a poker hand. Combat power favored the Americans, but only if they had the will to use it. Geography favored India. America really had no vital interests in the area. The U.S. fleet in the Indian Ocean was basically there to keep an eye on the Persian Gulf, after all, but instability in any region was contagious, and when people got nervous about such things, a destructive synergy took place. The proverbial stitch-in-time was as useful in this arena as any other. That meant making a decision on how far the bluff could be pressed.

"Gets tricky, doesn't it, Rob?" Jack asked with a smile that showed more amusement than he felt.

"It would be helpful if we knew what they were thinking."

"Duly noted, Admiral. I will get people cracking on that."

"And the ROE?"

"The Roles of Engagement remain the same, Robby, until the President says otherwise. If Dubro thinks he's got an inbound attack, he can deal with it. I suppose he's got armed aircraft on the deck."

"On the deck, hell! In the air, Dr. Ryan, sir."

"I'll see if I can get him to let out another foot of lead on the leash," Jack promised.

A phone rang just then. A junior staff officer—a Marine newly promoted to major's rank—grabbed it, and called Ryan over.

"Yeah, what is it?"

"White House Signals, sir," a watch officer replied. "Prime Minister Koga just submitted his resignation. The Ambassador estimates that Goto will be asked to form the new government."

"That was fast. Have the State Department's Japan desk send me what I need. I'll be back in less than two hours." Ryan replaced the phone.

"Koga's gone?" Jackson asked.

"Somebody give you a smart pill this morning, Rob?"

"No, but I can listen in on phone conversations. I hear we're getting unpopular over there."

"It has gone a little fast."

The photos arrived by diplomatic courier. In the old days, the bag would have been opened at the port of entry, but in these kinder and gentler times the long-service government employee got in the official car at Dulles and rode all the way to Foggy Bottom. There the bag was opened in a secure room, and the various articles in the canvas sack were sorted by category and priority and hand-carried to their various destinations. The padded envelope with seven film cassettes was handed over to a CIA employee, who simply walked outside to his car and drove off toward the Fourteenth Street Bridge.

Forty minutes later, the cassettes were opened in a photolab designed for microfilm and various other sophisticated systems but readily adapted to items as pedestrian as this.

The technician rather liked "real" film—since it was commercial, it was far easier to work with, and fit standard and user-friendly processing equipment—and had long since stopped looking at the images except to make sure that he'd done his job right. In this case the color saturation told him everything. Fuji film, he thought. Who'd ever said it was better than Kodak?

The slide film was cut, and the individual segments fitted into cardboard holders whose only difference from those any set of parents got to commemorate a toddler's first meeting with Mickey Mouse was that they bore the legend Top Secret. These were numbered, bundled together, and put into a box. The box was slid into an envelope and set in the lab's out-bin. Thirty minutes later a secretary came down to collect it.

She walked to the elevator and rode to the fifth floor of the Old Headquarters Building, now almost forty years of age and showing it. The corridors were dingy, and the paint on the drywall panels faded to a neutral, offensive yellow. Here, too, the mighty had fallen, and that was especially true of the Office of Strategic Weapons Research. Once one of CIA's most important sub-agencies, OSWR was now scratching for a living.

It was staffed with rocket scientists whose job descriptions were actually genuine. Their job was to look at the specifications of foreign-made missiles and decide what their real capabilities were. That meant a lot of theoretical work, and also trips to various government contractors to compare what they had with what our own people knew. Unfortunately, if you could call it that, ICBMs and SLBMs, the bread-and-butter of OSWR, were almost extinct, and the photos on the walls of every office in the section were almost nostalgic in their lack of significance. Now people educated in various areas of physics were having to learn about chemical and biological agents, the mass-destruction weapons of poorer nations. But not today.

Chris Scott, thirty-four, had started in OSWR when it had really meant something. A graduate of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, he'd distinguished himself by deducing the performance of the Soviet SS-24 two weeks before a highly placed agent had spirited out a copy of the manual for the solid-fueled bird, which had earned for him a pat on the head from the then-Director, William Webster. But the -24's were all gone now, and, his morning briefing material had told him, they were down to one SS-19, matched by a single Minuteman-III outside of Minot, North Dakota, both of them awaiting destruction; and he didn't like studying chemistry. As a result, the slides from Japan were something of a blessing.

Scott took his time. He had lots of it. Opening the box, he set the slides in the tray of his viewer and cycled them through, making notes with every one. That look two hours, taking him to lunchtime. The slides were repackaged and locked away when he went to the cafeteria on the first floor. There the topic of discussion was the latest fall from grace of the Washington Redskins and the prospects of the new owner for changing things. People were lingering at lunch now, Scott noticed, and none of the supervisory personnel were making much of a big deal about it. The main cross-building corridor that opened to the building's courtyard was always fuller than it had been in the old days, and people never stopped looking at the big segment of Berlin Wall that had been on display for years. Especially the old hands, it seemed to Scott, who felt himself to be one of those. Well, at least he had work to do this day, and that was a welcome change.

Back in his office, Chris Scott closed his drapes and loaded the slides into a projector. He could have selected only those he'd made special notes on, but this was his work for the day—perhaps the whole week if he played his cards right—and he would conduct himself with the usual thoroughness, comparing what he saw with the report from that NASA guy.

"Mind if I join you?" Betsy Fleming stuck her head in the door. She was one of the old hands, soon to be a grandmother, who'd actually started as a secretary at DIA. Self-taught in the fields of photoanalysis and rocket engineering, her experience dated back to the Cuban Missile Crisis. Lacking a formal degree, her expertise in this field of work was formidable.

"Sure." Scott didn't mind the intrusion. Betsy was also the office's designated mom.

"Our old friend the SS-19," she observed, taking her seat. "Wow, I like what they did with it."

"Ain't it the truth?" Scott observed, stretching to shake off his post-lunch drowsiness.

What had once been quite ugly was now rather beautiful. The missile bodies were polished stainless steel, which allowed a better view of the structure. In the old Russian green, it had looked brutish. Now it looked more like the space launcher it was supposed to be, sleeker somehow, even more impressive in its purposeful bulk.

"NASA says they've saved a whole lot of weight on the body, better materials, that sort of thing," Scott observed. "I really believe it now."

"Shame they couldn't do that with their g'ddamn' gas tanks," Mrs. Fleming observed. Scott grunted agreement. He owned a Cresta, and now his wife refused to drive in it until the tank was replaced. Which would be a couple of weeks, his dealer had informed him. The company was actually renting a car for him in their vain effort to curry public goodwill. That had meant getting a new parking sticker, which he would have to scrape off before returning the rental to Avis.

"Do we know who got the shots?" Betsy asked.

"One of ours, all I know." Scott flipped to another slide. "A lot of changes. They almost look cosmetic," he observed.

"How much weight are they supposed to have saved?" He was right, Mrs. Fleming thought. The steel skin showed the circular patterns of the polishing rushes, almost like jeweling on a rifle bolt…

"According to NASA, over twelve hundred pounds on the missile body…" Another click of the remote.

"Hmph, but not there," Betsy noted.

"That's funny."

The top end of the missile was where the warheads went. The SS-19 was designed to carry a bunch of them. Relatively small and heavy, they were dense objects, and the missile's structure had to account for it. Any intercontinental missile accelerated from the moment its flight began to the moment the engines finally stopped, but the period of greatest acceleration came just before burnout. At that point, with most of the fuel burned off, the rate at which speed increased reached its maximum, in this case about ten gees. At the same time, the structural rigidity lent to the missile body by the quantity of fuel inside its tanks was minimal, and as a result, the structure holding the warheads had to be both sturdy and massive so as to evenly distribute the vastly increased inertial weight of the payloads.

"No, they didn't change that, did they?" Scott looked over at his colleague.

"I wonder why? This bird's supposed to orbit satellites now…"

"Heavy ones, they say, communications birds…"

"Yeah, but look at that part…"

The foundation for the warhead "bus" had to be strong across its entire area. The corresponding foundation for a communications satellite was essentially a thin steel annulus, a flat, sturdy donut that invariably looked too light for its job. This one was more like an unusually heavy wagon wheel.

Scott unlocked a file drawer and removed a recent photo of an SS-19 taken by an American officer on the verification team in Russia. He handed it over to Mrs. Fleming without comment.

"Look here. That's the standard structure, just what the Russians designed in, maybe with better steel, better finish. They changed almost everything else, didn't they?" Fleming asked. "Why not this?"

"Looked that way to me. Keeping that must have cost them—what? A hundred pounds, maybe more?"

"That doesn't make sense, Chris. This is the first place you want to save weight. Every kilo you save here is worth four or five on the first stage."

Both stood and walked to the screen. "Wait a minute…"

"Yeah, this fits the bus. They didn't change it. No mating collar for a satellite. They didn't change it at all." Scott shook his head.

"You suppose they just kept the bus design for their trans-stage?"

"Even if they did, they don't need all this mass at the top end, do they?"

"It's almost like they wanted it to stay the way it was."

"Yeah. I wonder why."


"Thirty seconds," the assistant director said as the final commercial rolled for the Sunday-morning audience. The entire show had centered on Russia and Europe, which suited Ryan just fine.

"The one question I can't ask." Bob Holtzman chuckled before the tape started rolling again. "What's it like to be the National Security Advisor in a country with no threat to its national security?"

"Relaxing," Ryan answered with a wary look at the three cameras. None had their telltale red lights burning.

"So why the long hours?" Kris Hunter asked in a voice less sharp than her look.

"If I don't show up for work," Jack lied, "people might notice how unimportant I am." Bad news. They still don't know about India, but they know something's up. Damn. He wanted to keep it quiet. It was one of those things that public pressure would hurt, not help.

"Four! Three! Two! One!" The assistant director jerked his finger at the moderator, a television journalist named Edward Johnson.

"Dr. Ryan, what does the Administration make of changes in the Japanese cabinet?"

"Well, of course, that's a result of the current difficulties in trade, which is not really in my purview. Basically what we see there is an internal political situation which the Japanese people can quite easily handle without our advice," Jack announced in his earnest-statesman's voice, the one that had taken a few elocution lessons to perfect. Mainly he'd had to learn to speak more slowly.

Kris Hunter leaned forward. "But the leading candidate to take the prime ministership is a long-standing enemy of the United States—"

"That's a little strong," Ryan interrupted with a good-natured smile.

"His speeches, his writings, his books are not exactly friendly."

"I suppose," Ryan said with a dismissive wave and a crooked smile.

"The difference between discourse among friendly nations and unfriendly ones, oddly enough, is that the former can often be more acrimonious than the latter." Not bad, Jack…

"You are not concerned?"

"No," Ryan said with a gentle shake of the head. Short answers on a show like this tended to intimidate reporters, he thought.

"Thank you for coming in this morning, Dr. Ryan."

"A pleasure as always."

Ryan continued to smile until the camera lights blinked off. Then he counted slowly to ten. Then he waited until the other reporters removed their microphones. Then he removed his microphone and stood up and moved away from the working part of the set. And then it was safe to speak. Bob Holtzman followed Jack into the makeup room. The cosmeticians were off drinking coffee, and Ryan took a fistful of HandiWipes and passed the container to Holtzman. Over the mirror was a large slab of wood engraved on which was, IN HERE EVERYTHING IS OFF THE RECORD.

"You know the real reason behind equal rights for women?" Holtzman asked. "It wasn't equal pay, or bras, or any of that crap."

"Right," Jack agreed. "It was forcing them to wear makeup. We deserved everything we got. God, I hate this shit!" he added, wiping the pancake off his forehead. "Makes me feel like a cheap whore."

"That isn't too unusual for a political figure, is it?" Kristyn Hunter asked, taking wipes to do the same.

Jack laughed. "No, but it's kind of impolite for you to say so, ma'am."

Am I a political figure now? Ryan asked himself. I suppose I am. How the hell did that happen?

"Why the fancy footwork on my last question, Jack?" Holtzman asked.

"Bob, if you know it was fancy footwork, then you know why." Ryan motioned to the sign over the mirror, then decided to tap it to make sure everyone caught the message.

"I know that when the last government fell, it was us who developed the information on the bribery scandal," Holtzman said.

Jack gave him a look but nothing else. Even no comment would have been a substantive comment under these circumstances.

"That killed Goto's first chance to become Prime Minister. He was next in line, remember?"

"Well, now he's got another. His patience is rewarded," Ryan observed.

"If he can get a coalition together."

"Don't give me that," Hunter leaned toward the mirror to finish cleaning her nose off. "You've read the stuff he's been telling their papers, same as I have, he will get a cabinet formed, and you know what arguments he's been using."

"Talk is cheap, especially for somebody in that business," Jack said. He still hadn't quite made the leap of imagination to include himself "in that business." "Probably just a blip, one more politician with a few too many drinks under his belt who had a bad day at the office or the track."

"Or the geisha house," Kris Hunter suggested. She finished removing the makeup, then sat on the edge of the counter and lit a cigarette. Kristyn Hunter was an old-fashioned reporter. Though still on the sunny side of fifty, she was a graduate of Columbia's School of Journalism and had just been appointed chief foreign correspondent for the Chicago Tribune. Her voice was as dry as dust. "Two years ago that bastard put a move on me. His language would shock a Marine, and his suggestions were…shall we say, eccentric. I presume you have information on his personal habits, Dr. Ryan?"

"Kris, never, ever, not even once will I discuss what personal stuff, if any, we have on foreign officials." Jack paused. "Wait. He doesn't speak English, does he?" Ryan closed his eyes, trying to remember what his briefing documents had said on that point.

"You didn't know? He can when it pleases him, but he doesn't when it doesn't. That day, it didn't. And his translator that day was a female, about twenty-seven. She didn't even blush." Hunter chuckled darkly. "I sure as hell did. What does that tell you, Dr. Ryan?"

Ryan had few doubts about the information that had come out of Operation SANDALWOOD. Despite that, it was very nice to hear this from a completely independent source. "I guess he likes blondes," Jack said lightly.

"So they say. They also say that he has a new one now."

"This is getting serious," Holtzman noted. "Lots of people like to fool around, Kris."

"Goto loves to show people how tough he is. Some of the rumors about Goto are downright ugly." Kris Hunter paused. "I believe them, too."

"Really?" Ryan asked with the utmost innocence. "Woman's intuition?"

"Don't be sexist," Hunter warned, too seriously for the mood of the moment.

Ryan's voice turned earnest. "I'm not. My wife has better instincts for judging people than I do. I guess it helps that she's a doc. Fair enough?"

"Dr. Ryan, I know you know. I know the FBI has been looking very discreetly at a few things out in the Seattle area."

"Is that so?"

Kris Hunter wasn't buying. "You don't keep secrets about this sort of thing, not if you have friends in the Bureau like I do, and not if one of the missing girls is the daughter of a police captain whose next-door neighbor is S-A-C of the FBI's Seattle Field Division. Do I need to go on?"

"Then why are you sitting on it?"

Kris Hunter's green eyes blazed at the National Security Advisor. "I'll tell you why, Dr. Ryan. I was raped in college. I thought the bastard was going to kill me. I looked at death. You don't forget that. If this story comes out the wrong way, that girl and maybe others like her could end up dead. You can recover from rape: I did. You can't recover from death."

"Thanks," Ryan said quietly. His eyes and his nod said even more. Yes, I understand. And you know that I understand.

"And he's the next head of that country's government." Kris Hunter's eyes were even more intense now. "He hates us, Dr. Ryan. I've interviewed him. He didn't want me because he found me attractive. He wanted me because he saw me as a blond-and-blue symbol. He's a rapist. He enjoys hurting people. You don't forget the look in the eyes once you've seen it. He's got that look. We need to watch out for this guy. You tell the President that."

"I will," Ryan said as he headed out the door.

The White House car was waiting just outside. Jack had something to think about as it headed for the Beltway.

"Softball," the Secret Service agent commented. "Except for after."

"How long you been doing this, Paul?"

"Fourteen fascinating years," Paul Robberton said, keeping an eye on things from the front seat. The driver was just a guy from the General Services Administration, but Jack rated a Secret Service bodyguard now.


"Counterfeiters. Never drew my weapon," Robberton added. "Had a few fair-sized cases."

"You can read people?"

Robberton laughed. "In this job, you'd better hope so, Dr. Ryan."

"Tell me about Kris Hunter."

"Smart and tough as nails. She's right: she was sexually assaulted in college, a serial rapist. She testified against the mutt. It was back when lawyers were a little…free with how they treated rape victims. You know—did you encourage the rat, stuff like that. It got ugly, but she rode it out and they convicted the bum. He bit the big one in prison, evidently said the wrong thing to an armed robber. Pity," Robberton concluded dryly.

"Pay attention to what she thinks, you're telling me."

"Yes, sir. She would have been a good cop. I know she's a pretty fair reporter."

"She's gathered in a lot of information," Ryan murmured. Not all of it good, not yet pulled together properly, and colored by her own life experiences, but sure as hell, she had sources. Jack looked at the passing scenery and tried to assemble the incomplete puzzle.

"Where to?" the driver asked.

"The house," Ryan said, drawing a surprised look from Robberton. In this case, "the house" didn't mean "home." "No, wait a minute." Ryan lifted his earphone. Fortunately he knew the number from memory.


"Ed? Jack Ryan. You guys busy?"

"We are allowed Sunday off, Jack. The Caps play the Bruins this afternoon."

"Ten minutes."

"Fair enough." Ed Foley set the phone back in its place on the wall.

"Ryan's coming over," he told his wife. Damn it.

Sunday was the one day they allowed themselves to sleep. Mary Pat was still in her housecoat, looking unusually frowzy. Without a word she left the morning paper and walked off toward the bathroom to fix her hair. There was a knock at the door fifteen minutes later.

"Overtime?" Ed asked at the door. Robberton came in with his guest.

"I had to do one of the morning shows." Jack checked his watch. I'll be on in another twenty minutes or so."

"What gives?" Mary Pat entered the room, looking about normal for an American female on a Sunday morning.

"Business, honey," Ed answered. He led everyone to the basement recreation room.

"SANDALWOOD," Jack said when they got there. He could speak freely here. The house was swept for bugs every week. "Do Clark and Chavez have orders to get the girl out yet?"

"Nobody gave us the execute order," Ed Foley reminded him. "It's just about setup, but—"

"The order is given. Get the girl out now."

"Anything we need to know?" Mary Pat asked.

"I haven't been comfortable with this from the beginning. I think maybe we deliver a little message to her sugar daddy—and we do it early enough to get his attention."

"Yeah," Mr. Foley said. "I read the paper this morning, too. He isn't saying friendly stuff, but we are laying it on them pretty hard, y'know?"

"Sit down, Jack," Mary Pat said. "Can I get you coffee or anything?'

"No, thanks, MP." He looked up after taking a place on a worn couch.

"A light just went off. Our friend Goto seems to be an odd duck."

"He does have his quirks," Ed agreed. "Not terribly bright, a lot of bombast once you get through the local brand of rhetoric, but not all that many ideas. I'm surprised he's getting the chance."

"Why?" Jack asked. The State Department material on Goto had been typically respectful of the foreign statesman.

"Like I said, he's no threat to win the Nobel in physics, okay? He's an apparatchik. Worked his way up the way politicos do. I'm sure he's kissed his share of asses along the way—"

"And to make up for that, he has some bad habits with women," MP added. "There's a lot of that over there. Our boy Nomuri sent in a lengthy dispatch on what he's seen." It was the youth and inexperience, the DDO knew. So many field officers on their first major assignment reported everything, as though writing a book or something. It was mainly the product of boredom.

"Over here he couldn't get elected dogcatcher," Ed noted with a chuckle.

Think so? Ryan thought, remembering Edward Kealty. On the other hand, it might just turn out to be something America could use in the right forum and under the right circumstances. Maybe the first time they met, if things went badly, President Durling could make a quiet reference to his former girlfriend, and the implications of his bad habits on Japanese-American relations…

"How's THISTLE doing?"

Mary Pat smiled as she rearranged the Sega games on the basement TV. This was where the kids told Mario and all the others what to do. "Two of the old members are gone, one retired and one on overseas assignment, in Malaysia, as I recall. The rest of them are contacted. If we ever want to—"

"Okay, let's think about what we want them to do for us."

"Why?" MP asked. "I don't mind, but why?"

"We're pushing them too hard. I've told the President that, but he's got political reasons for pushing, and he isn't going to stop. What we're doing is going to hurt their economy pretty bad, and now it turns out that their new PM has a real antipathy to us. If they decide to push back, I want to know before it happens."

"What can they do?" Ed Foley sat on his son's favorite Nintendo chair.

"I don't know that, either, but I want to find out. Give me a few days to figure out what our priorities are. Damn, I don't have a few days," Jack said next. "I have to prep for the Moscow trip."

"It takes time to set up anyway. We can get our boys the comm gear and stuff."

"Do it," Jack ordered. "Tell 'em they're in the spy business for-real."

"We need presidential authorization for that," Ed warned. Activating a spy network in a friendly country was not a trivial undertaking.

"I can deliver it for you." Ryan was sure that Durling wouldn't object. "And get the girl out, earliest opportunity."

"Debrief her where?" MP asked. "For that matter, what if she says no? You're not telling us to kidnap her, are you?"

Ouch, Jack thought. "No, I don't suppose that's a good idea. They know how to be careful, don't they?"

"Clark does." Mary Pat knew from what he'd taught her and her husband at the Farm, all those years ago: No matter where you are, it's enemy territory. It was a good axiom for field spooks, but she'd always wondered where he'd picked it up.

Most of these people should have been at work, Clark thought but so did they, and that was the problem, wasn't it? He'd seen his share of demonstrations, most of them expressing displeasure with his country. The ones in Iran had been especially unpleasant, knowing that there were Americans in the hands of people who thought "Death to America!" was a perfectly reason able expression of concern with the foreign policy of his country. He'd been in the field, part of the rescue mission that had failed—the lowest point, Clark told himself, in a lengthy career. Being there to see it all fail, having to scramble out of the country, they were not good memories. This scene brought some of it back.

The American Embassy wasn't taking it too seriously. Business as usual, after a fashion, the Ambassador had all his people inside the embassy building, another example of Frank-Lloyd-Wright-Meets-the-Siegfried-Line design, this one located across from the Ocura Hotel. After all, this was a civilized country, wasn't it? The local police had an adequate guard force outside the fence, and as vociferous as the demonstrators were, they didn't seem the sort to attack the severe-looking cops arrayed around the building.

But the people in the street were not kids, not students taking a day off from class—remarkably, the media never reported that so many of those student demonstrations coincided with semester finals, a worldwide phenomenon. In the main, these were people in their thirties and forties, and for that reason the chants weren't quite right. There was a remarkably soft edge on the expressions. Embarrassed to be here, somewhat confused by the event, more hurt than angry, he thought as Chavez snapped his pictures. But there were a lot of them. And there was a lot of hurt. They wanted to blame someone—the inevitable them, the someone else who always made the bad things happen. That perspective was not uniquely Japanese, was it?

As with everything in Japan, it was a highly organized affair. People, already formed into groups with leaders, had arrived mostly by crowded commuter trains, boarded buses at the stations, and been dropped off only a few blocks away. Who chartered the buses? Clark wondered. Who printed the signs? The wording on them was literate, which was odd, he was slow to realize. Though often well schooled in English, Japanese citizens messed up the foreign tongue as much as one might expect, especially on slogans. He'd seen one young man earlier in the day wearing a T-shirt with the legend " Inspire in Paradise," probably an exact representation of something in Japanese, and yet another example of the fact that no language translated precisely into another. But not these signs. The syntax was perfect in every case he saw, better, in fact, than he might have seen in an American demonstration. Wasn't that interesting?

Well, what the hell, he thought. I'm a journalist, right?

"Excuse me," John said, touching a middle-aged man on the arm.

"Yes?" The man turned in surprise. He was nicely turned out, wore a dark suit, and his tie was neatly knotted in the collar of his white shirt. There wasn't even much anger on his face, nor any emotion that might have built up from the spirit of the moment. "Who are you?"

"I am a Russian journalist, for the Interfax News Agency," Clark said, showing an ID card marked in Cyrillic.

"Ah." The man smiled and bowed politely. Clark returned the gesture correctly, drawing an approving look for his good manners.

"May I please ask you some questions?"

"Certainly." The man almost seemed relieved to be able to stop shouting. A few questions established that he was thirty-seven, married with one child, a salaryman for an auto company, currently laid off, and very upset with America at the moment—though not at all unhappy with Russia, he added quickly.

He's embarrassed by all this, John thought, thanking the man for his opinion.

"What was that all about?" Chavez asked quietly from behind his camera.

"Russkiy," "Klerk" replied sharply.

"Da, tovarisch."

"Follow me," "Ivan Sergeyevich" said next, entering the crowd. There was something else odd, he thought, something he wasn't quite getting. Ten meters into the crowd, it was clear. The people at the periphery of the mob were supervisory. The inside was composed of blue-collar workers, more casually dressed, people with less dignity to lose. Here the mood was different. The looks he got were angrier, and though they became more polite when he identified himself as a non-American, the suspicion was real, and the answers to his questions, when he got answers, were less circumspect than he'd received before. In due course the people moved off, guided by their senior leadership and shepherded by police to another place, one that had a stage prepared. That was where things changed.

Hiroshi Goto took his time, making them wait a long time even for an environment in which patience was a thoroughly inculcated virtue. He walked to the podium with dignity, noting the presence of his official entourage, arrayed in seats on the back of the stage. The TV cameras were already in place, and it was just a matter of waiting for the crowd to pack in tight. But he waited longer than that, standing there, staring at them, with his inaction forcing them to pack in tighter, and the additional time merely added to the tension.

Clark could feel it now. Perhaps the strangeness of the event was inevitable. These were highly civilized people, members of a society so ordered as to seem alien, whose gentle manners and generous hospitality contrasted starkly with their suspicion of foreigners. Clark's fear railed as a distant whisper, a warning that something was changing, though his trained powers of observation caught nothing at all beyond the usual bullshit of politicians all over the world. A man who'd faced combat in Vietnam and even more danger all over the world, he was again a stranger in a strange land, but his age and experience worked against him. Even the angry ones in the middle of the crowd hadn't been all that nasty—and, hell, did you expect a man to be happy when he's been laid off? So it wasn't all that big a deal—was it?

But the whispers grew louder as Goto took a sip of water, still making them wait, waving with his arms to draw his audience in closer, though this portion of the park was already jammed with people. How many? John wondered. Ten thousand? Fifteen? The crowd grew quiet of its own accord now, hardly making any noise at all. A few looks explained it. Those on the periphery were wearing armbands on their suit coats—damn, John swore at himself, that was their uniform of the day. The ordinary workers would automatically defer to those who dressed and acted like supervisors, and the armbands were herding them in closer. Perhaps there was some other sign that hushed them down, but if so Clark missed it.

Goto began talking quietly, which stilled the crowd completely. Heads automatically leaned forward a few inches in an instinctive effort to catch his words.

Damn, I wish we'd had more time to learn the language, both CIA officers thought. Ding was catching on, his superior saw, changing lenses and locking in on individual faces.

"They're getting tense," Chavez noted quietly in Russian as he read the expressions.

Clark could see it from their posture as Goto spoke on. He could catch only a few words, perhaps the odd phrase or two, basically the meaningless things that all languages had, the rhetorical devices a politician used to express humility and respect for his audience. The first roar of approval from the crowd came as a surprise, and the spectators were so tightly packed that they had to jostle one another to applaud. His gaze shifted to Goto. It was too far. Clark reached into Ding's tote bag, and selected a camera body to which he attached a long lens, the better to read the speaker's face as he accepted the approval of the people, waiting for their applause to subside before he moved on.

Really working the crowd, aren't we?

He tried to hide it, Clark saw, but he was a politician and though they had good acting skills, they fed off their audience even more hungrily than those who worked before cameras for a living. Goto's hand gestures picked up in intensity, and so did his voice.

Only ten or fifteen thousand people here. It's a test, isn't it? He's experimenting. Never had Clark felt more a foreigner than now. In so much of the world his features were ordinary, nondescript, seen and forgotten. In Iran, in the Soviet Union, in Berlin, he could fit in. Not here. Not now. Even worse, he wasn't getting it, not all of it, and that worried him.

Goto's voice grew louder. For the first time his fist slammed down on the podium, and the crowd responded with a roar. His diction became more rapid. The crowd was moving inward, and Clark watched the speaker's eyes notice it, welcome it. He wasn't smiling now, but his eyes swept the sea of faces, left and right, fixing occasionally in a single place, probably catching an individual, reading him for reactions, then passing to another to see if he was having the same effect on everyone. He had to be satisfied by what he saw. There was confidence in the voice now. He had them, had them all. By adjusting his speaking pace he could see their breathing change, see their eyes go wide. Clark lowered the camera to scan the crowd and saw the collective movement, the responses to the speaker's words.

Playing with them.

John brought the camera back up, using it like a gunsight. He focused in on the suit-clad bosses on the edges. Their faces were different now, not so much concerned with their duties as the speech. Again he cursed his inadequate language skills, not quite realizing that what he saw was even more important than what he might have understood. The next demonstration from the crowd was more than just loud. It was angry. Faces were…illuminated. Goto owned them now as he took them further and further down the path he had selected.

John touched Ding's arm. "Let's back off."


"Because it's getting dangerous here," Clark replied. He got a curious look.

"Nanja?" Chavez replied in Japanese, smiling behind his camera.

"Turn around and look at the cops," "Klerk" ordered.

Ding did, and caught on instantly. The local police were ordinarily impressive in their demeanor. Perhaps samurai warriors had once had the same confidence. Though polite and professional, there was usually an underlying swagger to the way they moved. They were the law here, and knew it. Their uniforms were as severely clean and pressed as any Embassy Marine's, and the handguns that hung on the Sam Browne belts were just a status symbol, never necessary to use. But now these tough cops looked nervous. They shifted on their feet, exchanged looks among themselves. Hands rubbed against blue trousers to wipe off sweat. They sensed it, too, so clearly that nothing needed to be spoken. Some were even listening intently to Goto, but even those men looked worried. Whatever was happening, if it troubled the people who customarily kept the peace on these streets, then it was serious enough.

"Follow me." Clark scanned the area and selected a storefront. It turned out to be a small tailor shop. The CIA officers took their place close to the entrance. The sidewalk was otherwise deserted. Casual strollers had joined the crowd, and the police were drawing in also, spacing themselves evenly in a blue line. The two officers were essentially alone with open space around them, a very unusual state of affairs.

"You reading this the same way I am?" John asked. That he said it in English surprised Chavez.

"He's really working them up, isn't he?" A thoughtful pause. "You're right, Mr. C. It is getting a little tense."

Goto's voice carried clearly over the speaker system. The pitch was high now, almost shrill, and the crowd answered back in the way that crowds do.

"Ever see anything like this before?" It wasn't like the job they'd done in Romania.

A curt nod. "Teheran, 1979."

"I was in fifth grade."

"I was scared shitless," Clark said, remembering. Goto's hands were flying around now. Clark re-aimed the camera, and through the lens the man seemed transformed. He wasn't the same person who'd begun the speech. Only thirty minutes before he'd been tentative. Not now. If this had begun as an experiment, then it was a successful one. The final flourishes seemed stylized, but that was to be expected. His hands went up together, like a football official announcing a touchdown, but the fists, Clark saw, were clenched tight. Twenty yards away, a cop turned and looked at the two gaijin. There was concern on his face.

"Let's look at some coats for a while."

"I'm a thirty-six regular," Chavez replied lightly as he stowed his camera gear.

It turned out to be a nice shop, and it did have coats in Ding's size. It gave them a good excuse to browse. The clerk was attentive and polite, and at John's insistence Chavez ended up purchasing a business suit that fit so well it might have been made for him, dark gray and ordinary, overpriced and identical to what so many salarymen wore. They emerged to see the small park empty. A work crew was dismantling the stage. The TV crews were packing up their lights. All was normal except for a small knot of police officers who surrounded three people sitting on a curb. They were an American TV news crew, one of whom held a handkerchief to his face. Clark decided not to approach. He noted instead that the streets were not terribly littered—then he saw why. A cleanup crew was at work. Everything had been exquisitely planned. The demonstration had been about as spontaneous as the Super Bowl—but the game had gone even better than planned.

"Tell me what you think," Clark ordered as they walked along streets that were turning back to normal.

"You know this stuff better than I do—"

"Look, master's candidate, when I ask a fucking question I expect a fucking answer." Chavez almost stopped at the rebuke, not from insult, but from surprise. He'd never seen his partner rattled before. As a result, his reply was measured and reasoned.

"I think we just saw something important. I think he was playing with them. Last year for one of my courses we saw a Nazi film, a classic study in how demagogues do their thing. A woman directed it, and it reminded me—"

"Triumph of the Will, Leni Riefenstahl," Clark said. "Yeah, it's a classic, all right. By the way, you need a haircut."


The training was really paying off, Major Sato knew without looking. On command, all four of the F-15 Eagles tripped their brakes and surged forward along the runway at Misawa. They'd flown more than three hundred hours in the past twelve months, a third of that in the past two alone, and now the pilots could risk a formation takeoff that would do an aerial-demonstration team proud. Except his flight of four was not the local version of the Blue Angels. They were members of the Third Air Wing. Sato had to concentrate, of course, to watch the airspeed indicator in his heads-up display before rotating the aircraft off the concrete. Gear came up on his command, and he knew without looking that his wingman was no more than four meters off his tip. It was dangerous to do it this way, but it was also good for morale. It thrilled the ground crew as much as it impressed the curious driving by on the highway. A thousand feet off the ground, wheels and flaps up, accelerating through four hundred knots, he allowed himself a turn of the head both ways. Sure enough. It was a clear day, the cold air devoid of humidity, still lit by the late-afternoon sun. Sato could see the southernmost Kuriles to his north, once part of his country, stolen by the Russians at the end of the Second World War, and ruggedly mountainous, like Hokkaido, the northernmost of the Home Islands…One thing at a time, the Major told himself.

"Come right," he ordered over the radio circuit, bringing the flight to a new course of zero-five-five. They were still climbing, gradually, to save fuel for the exercise.

It was hard to believe that this aircraft design was almost thirty years old. But that was just the shape and the concept. Since the American engineers at McDonnell-Douglas had dreamed it all up, the improvements had been such as to transform everything but the silhouette. Almost everything on Sato's personal bird was Japanese-made, even the engines. Especially the electronics.

There was a steady stream of aircraft in both directions, nearly all of them commercial wide-bodies carrying businessmen to or from Japan, from or to North America, on a well-defined commercial routing that traced down the Kurile chain, past the Kamchatka Peninsula, then on to the Aleutians. If anyone wondered how important his country was, Sato thought in the privacy of his cockpit, this was it. The low-angle sun reflected oil the aluminum tail fins of numerous aircraft, and from his current altitude of thirty -seven thousand feet he could see them lined up-like cars on a highway, it seemed, yellow dots preceding white trails of vapor that stretched off into infinity. Then it was time to go to work.

The flight of four split into separated pairs left and right of the airliner track. The training mission for the evening was not complex, but vital nonetheless. Behind them, over a hundred miles to the southwest, an airborne early-warning aircraft was assuming its station just off the northeastern tip of Honshu. That was an E-767. Based on the twin-engine Boeing airliner (as the American E-3A was based on the far older 707 airframe), a rotating dome sat atop the converted wide-body. Just as his F-15J was an improved local version of an American fighter plane, so the E-767 was a vastly improved Japanese interpretation of another American invention. They'd never learn, Sato thought, his eyes scanning the horizon every few seconds before returning to the forward visual display. They'd invented so much, then given the unfulfilled rights to his countrymen for further perfection. In fact the Americans had played the same game with the Russians, improving every military weapon the latter had ever made, but in their arrogance ignoring the possibility that someone could do the same with their own magical systems.

The radar on the E-767 was like nothing aloft. For that reason, the radar on the nose of his Eagle was switched off. Simple in concept, the overall system was murderously complex in execution. The fighters had to know their precise position in three dimensions, and so did the AEW bird supporting them. Beyond that, radar pulses from the E-767 were precisely timed. The result was mere mathematics. Knowing the position of the transmitter, and their own position, the Eagles could then receive the radar reflections and plot the blips as though the data were generated by their own onboard radar systems. A meld of Soviet-developed bi-static radars and American airborne-radar technology, this system took the idea one step further. The AEW radar was frequency-agile, able to switch instantly from a longwave search mode to a shortwave fire-control mode, and it could actually guide air-to-air missiles fired by the fighters. The radar was also of sufficient size and power that it could, everyone thought, defeat stealth technology.

In only a few minutes it was clear that the system worked. The four air-to-air missiles on his wings were dummies, with no rocket motors. The seeker-heads were real, however, and onboard instruments showed that the missiles were tracking inbound and outbound airliners even more clearly than they would have done from the Eagle's own radar. It was a first, a genuinely new piece of military technology. Only a few years earlier, Japan would probably have offered it for sale, almost certainly to America, because this sort of thing had value beyond gold. But the world had changed, and the Americans would probably have not seen the point in spending the money for it. Besides, Japan wasn't about to sell this to anyone. Not now, Sato thought. Especially not now.

Their hotel was not necessarily an especially good one. Though it catered to foreign visitors, the management recognized that not all gaijin were wealthy. The rooms were small, the corridors narrow, the ceilings low, and a breakfast of a glass of juice, a cup of coffee, and one croissant cost only fifty dollars instead of the hundred or so charged elsewhere. As the saying in the U.S. government went, Clark and Chavez were "living off the economy," frugally, as Russians would have to do. It wasn't all that great a hardship.

Crowded and intense as Japan was, it was still far more comfortable than Africa had been, and the food, while strange, was exotic and interesting enough that the novelty hadn't quite worn off yet. Ding might have grumped about the desire for a burger, but to say such a thing, even in Russian, would have broken cover. Returning after an eventful day, Clark inserted the key card in the slot on the door and twisted the knob. He didn't even stop when he felt and removed the small piece of tape on the inside surface of the knob. Inside, he merely held it up to show Ding, then headed to the bathroom to flush it away.

Chavez looked around the room, wondering if it was bugged, wondering if this spook stuff was all it was cracked up to be. It certainly seemed so mysterious. The tape on the doorknob. Somebody wanted a meet. Nomuri. It had to be him. The fieldcraft was clever, Chavez told himself. Whoever had left the marker had just walked down the corridor, and his hand had probably just tapped the knob, a gesture that even a careful observer might have missed. Well, that was the idea.

"I'm going to head out for a drink," "Klerk" announced in Russian. I'll see what's up.

"Vanya, you do too much of that." Fine. It was his regular routine in any case.

"Some Russian you are," Clark said for the microphones, if any, as he went out the door.

How the hell, Chavez wondered, am I supposed to get any studying done? He'd been forced to leave his books in Korea—they were all in English, of course. He couldn't take notes or go over things. If I have to lose time on my master's, Ding thought, I'm going to ask the Agency to reimburse me for the blown courses.

The bar, half a block away, was most agreeable. The room was dark. The booths were small and separated by solid partitions, and a mirror behind the ranks of liquor bottles made counter-surveillance easy. Better yet, the barstools were almost all taken, which forced him to look elsewhere after a show of disappointment. Clark strolled all the way to the back. Nomuri was waiting.

"Taking chances, aren't we?" John said over the music. A waitress came up. He ordered a vodka, neat, specifying a local one to save money.

"Orders from home," Nomuri told him. He stood without another word, clearly offended that a gaijin had taken the seat without asking permission first and left without even a polite bow.

Before the drink arrived, Clark reached under the table, finding a package taped in place there. In a moment it was in his lap, and would soon find its way inside his waistband behind his back. Clark always bought his working clothes in a full cut—the Russian disguise helped even more—and his shoulders provided ample overhang for hiding things. Yet another reason, he thought, to stay in shape.

The drink arrived, and he took his time knocking it back, looking at the bar mirror and searching the reflections for faces that might have appeared in his memory before. It was a never-ending drill, and, tiring as it was, one he'd learned the hard way not to ignore. He checked his watch twice, both times unobtrusively, then a third time immediately before standing, leaving behind just enough cash to pay for the drink. Russians weren't known as big tippers.

The street was busy, even in the late evening. Clark had established the routine nightcap over the past week, and on every other night he would roam the local shops. This evening he selected a bookstore first, one with long, irregular rows. The Japanese were a literate people. The shop always had people in it. He browsed around, selecting a copy of The Economist, then wandered more, aimlessly toward the back, where he saw a few men eyeing the manga racks. Taller than they, he stood right behind a few, close but not too close, keeping his hands in front of him, shielded by his back. After five or so minutes he made his way to the front and paid for the magazine, which the clerk politely bagged for him. The next stop was an electronics store, where he looked at some CD players. This time he bumped into two people, each time politely asking their pardon, a phrase which he'd troubled himself to learn before anything else at Monterey. After that he headed back out onto the street and back to the hotel, wondering how much of the preceding fifteen minutes had been a total waste of time. None of it, Clark told himself. Not a single second.

In the room he tossed Ding the magazine. It drew a look of its own before the younger man spoke. "Don't they have anything in Russian?"

"It's good coverage of the difficulties between this country and America. Read and learn. Improve your language skills."

Great, just fucking great, Chavez thought, reading the words for their real meaning. We've been activated, for-real. He'd never finish the master's now, Ding grumped. Maybe they just didn't want to jack his salary up, as CIA regulations specified for a graduate degree.

Clark had other things to do. The package Nomuri had transferred held a computer disk and a device that attached to a laptop. He switched it on, then inserted the disk into the slot. The file he opened contained only three sentences, and seconds after reading it, Clark had erased the disk. Next he started composing what to all intents and purposes was a news dispatch. The computer was a Russian-language version of a popular Japanese model, with all the additional Cyrillic letters, and the hard part for Clark was that although he read and spoke Russian like a native, he was used to typing (badly enough) in English. The Russian-style keyboard drove him crazy, and he sometimes wondered if someone would ever pick up on this small chink in his cover armor. It took over an hour to type up the news article, and another thirty to do the more important part. He saved both items to the hard drive, then turned the machine off. Flipping it over, he removed the modem from its modular port and replaced it with the new one Nomuri had brought.

"What time is it in Moscow?" he asked tiredly.

"Same as always, six hours behind us, remember?"

"I'm going to send it to Washington, too."

"Fine," "Chekov" grunted. "I'm sure they'll love it, Ivan Sergeyevich."

Clark attached the phone line to the back of his computer and used the latter to dial up the fiberoptic line to Moscow. Transferring the report took less than a minute. He repeated the operation for the Interfax office in the American capital. It was pretty slick, John thought. The moment before the modem at one end linked up with the modem at the other sounded just like static—which it was. The mating signal was just a rough hiss unless you had a special chip, and he never called anyone but Russian press-agency offices. That the office in Washington might be tapped by the FBI was something else again. Finished, he kept one file and erased the other. Another day done, serving his country. Clark brushed his teeth before collapsing into his single bed.

"That was a fine speech, Goto-san." Yamata poured a generous amount of sake into an exquisite porcelain cup. "You made things so clear."

"Did you see how they responded to me!" The little man was bubbling now, his enthusiasm making his body swell before his host's eyes.

"And tomorrow you will have your cabinet, and the day after you will have a new office, Hiroshi."

"You're certain?"

A nod and a smile that conveyed true respect. "Of course I am. My colleagues and I have spoken with our friends, and they have come to agree with us that you are the only man suited to save our country."

"When will it begin?" Goto asked, suddenly sobered by the words, remembering exactly what his ascension would mean.

"When the people are with us."

"Are you sure we can—"

"Yes, I am sure." Yamata paused. "There is one problem, however."

"What is that?"

"Your lady friend, Hiroshi. If the knowledge becomes public that you have an American mistress, it compromises you. We cannot afford that," Yamata explained patiently. "I hope you will understand."

"Kimba is a most pleasant diversion for me," Goto objected politely.

"I have no doubt of it, but the Prime Minister can have his choice of diversions, and in any case we will be busy in the next month." The amusing part was that he could build up the man on one hand and reduce him on the other, just as easily as he manipulated a child. And yet there was something disturbing about it all. More than one thing. How much had he told the girl?

And what to do with her now?

"Poor thing, to send her home now, she will never know happiness again."

"Undoubtedly true, but it must be done, my friend. Let me handle it for you? Better it should be done quietly, discreetly. You are on the television every day now. You cannot be seen to frequent that area as a private citizen would. There is too great a danger."

The man about to be Prime Minister looked down, sipping his drink, so transparently measuring his personal pleasure against his duties to his country, surprising Yamata yet again—but no, not really. Goto was Goto, and he'd been chosen for his elevation as much—more—for his weaknesses than his strengths.

"Hai," he said after reflection. "Please see to it."

"I know what to do," Yamata assured him.

15—A Damned, Foolish Thing

Behind Ryan's desk was a gadget called a STU-6. The acronym probably meant "secure telephone unit," but he had never troubled himself to find out. It was about two feet square, and contained in a nicely made oak cabinet handcrafted by the inmates of a federal prison. Inside were a half dozen green circuit-boards, populated with various chips whose function was to scramble and unscramble telephone signals. Having one of these in the office was one of the better government status symbols.

"Yeah," Jack said, reaching back for the receiver.

"MP here. Something interesting came in. SANDALWOOD," Mrs. Foley said, her voice distinct on the digital line. "Flip on your fax?"

"Go ahead and send it." The STU-6 did that, too, fulfilling the function with a simple phone line that headed to Ryan's facsimile printer. "Did you get the word to them—"

"Yes, we did."

"Okay, wait a minute…" Jack took the first page and started reading it.

"This is Clark?" he asked.

"Correct. That's why I'm fast-tracking it over to you. You know the guy as well as I do."

"I saw the TV coverage. CNN says their crew got a little roughed up…" Ryan worked his way down the first page.

"Somebody bounced a soda can off the producer's head. Nothing more serious than a headache, but it's the first time anything like that has happened over there—that Ed and I remember, anyway."

"Goddamn it!" Ryan said next.

"I thought you'd like that part."

"Thanks for the heads-up, Mary Pat."

"Glad to help." The line went dead.

Ryan took his time. His temper, he knew, was always his greatest enemy. He decided to give himself a moment to stand and head out of his office to the nearest water cooler, which was tucked in his secretary's office. Foggy Bottom, he'd heard, had once been a nice marsh before some fool had decided to drain it. What a pity the Sierra Club hadn't been around then to force an environmental-impact statement. They were so good at obstructing things, and didn't much care whether the things they halted were useful or not, and as a result they occasionally did some public good. But not this time, Ryan told himself, sitting back down. Then he lifted the STU-6 and punched the speed-dial button for State.

"Good morning, Mr. Secretary," the National Security Advisor said pleasantly. "What's the story about the demonstration outside the Tokyo Embassy yesterday?"

"You saw CNN the same as I did, I'm sure," Hanson replied, as though it were not the function of an American embassy mission to provide better information than any citizen could get with his oatmeal.

"Yes, I did, as a matter of fact, but I would really like to have the opinion of embassy personnel, like maybe the political officer, maybe even the DCM," Ryan said, allowing a little of his irritation to show. Ambassador Chuck Whiting was a recent political appointee, a former senator who had then become a Washington lawyer, and had actually represented some Japanese business interests, but the Deputy Chief of Mission was an experienced man and a Japan specialist who knew the culture.

"Walt decided to keep his people in. He didn't want to provoke anything. I'm not going to fault him for that."

"That may be, but I have in my hand an eyewitness report from an experienced field officer who—"

"I have it, too, Ryan. It looks alarmist to me. Who is this guy?"

"As I said, an experienced field officer."

"Umm-hmm, I see he knows Iran." Ryan could hear the crackle of paper over the phone. "That makes him a spook. I guess that colored his thinking a little. How much experience in Japan?"

"Not much, but—"

"There you are. Alarmist, as I said. You want me to follow up on it, though?"

"Yes, Mr. Secretary."

"Okay, I'll call Walt. Anything else? I'm prepping for Moscow, too."

"Please, let's light a fire under them?"

"Fine, Ryan. I'll make sure that gets through. Remember, it's already nighttime over there, okay?"

"Fine." Ryan replaced the phone in its cradle and swore. Mustn't wake up the Ambassador. He had several options. Typically, he took the most direct. He lifted his desk phone and punched the button for the President's personal secretary.

"I need to talk to the boss for a few."

"Thirty minutes?"

"That'll be fine, thank you."

The delay was explained by a ceremony in the East Room that Ryan had had on his daily schedule sheet, too, but had forgotten about. It was just too big for the Oval Office, which suited the secretarial staff. Ten TV cameras and a good hundred or so journalists watched as Roger Durling affixed his signature to the Trade Reform Act. The nature of the legislation demanded a number of pens, one for each letter of his name, which made the signing a lengthy and haphazard process. The first went, naturally enough, to Al Trent, who had authored the bill. The rest went to committee chairmen in the House and Senate, and also to selected minority members without whom the bill could not possibly have sailed through Congress as rapidly as it had. There was the usual applause, the usual handshakes, and a new entry was made in the United States Code, Annotated. The Trade Reform Act was now federal law.

One of the TV crews was from NHK. Their faces were glum. Next they would drive to the Commerce Department to interview the legal team that was analyzing Japanese laws and procedures for rapid duplication. It would be an unusually educational experience for the foreign journalists.

Like most senior government officials, Chris Cook had a TV in his office. He watched the signing on C-SPAN and, with it, saw the indefinite postponement of his entry into the "private" sector. It made him uneasy to accept outside payments while still a federal employee. They were going into a safe bank account, but it was illegal, wasn't it? He didn't really mean to break the law. Amity between America and Japan was important to him. It was now breaking down, and unless it could be rapidly restored, his career would stagnate and effectively end despite all the promise it had shown for so many years. And he needed the money. He had a dinner with Seiji scheduled for tonight. They had to discuss ways of making things right again, the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State told himself, returning to his work.

On Massachusetts Avenue, Seiji Nagumo was watching the same TV channel and was just as unhappy. Nothing would ever be the same again, he thought. Perhaps the new government…no, Goto was a demagogic fool. His posturing and blustering would only make things worse. The sort of action needed was…what?

For the first time in his career, Nagumo had no idea what that might be. Diplomacy had failed. Lobbying had failed. Even espionage, if one could call it that, had failed. Espionage? Was that the proper term? Well, technically, yes, he admitted. He was now paying money for information. Cook and others. At least they were well placed, at least he'd been able to warn his government. At least the Foreign Ministry knew that he'd done his best, as much as any man could do—more, really. And he'd keep trying, working through Cook to affect the way the Americans interpreted Japanese laws. But the Americans had a term for it: rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.

Reflection only made it worse, and soon the only word for what he felt was anguish. His countrymen would suffer, America, the world. All because of one traffic accident that had killed six inconsequential people. It was madness.

Madness or not, it was how the world worked. A messenger came into his office and handed over a sealed envelope for which Nagumo had to sign. He waited until his office door closed again before he opened it.

The cover sheet told him much. The dispatch was eyes-only. Even the Ambassador would never learn of what he was now reading. The instructions on the next two pages made his hand shake.

Nagumo remembered his history. Franz Ferdinand, June 28, 1914, in the cursed city of Sarajevo, a titled nonentity, a man of such little consequence that no one of importance had troubled himself to attend the funeral, but his murder had been the "damned, foolish thing" to start the first war to span the globe. In this case the inconsequential people had been a police officer and some females.

And on such trivialities, this would happen? Nagumo went very pale, but he had no choice in the matter, because his life was driven by the same forces that turned the world on its axis.

Exercise DATELINE PARTNERS began at the scheduled time. Like most such war games, it was a combination of free play and strict rules. The size of the Pacific Ocean made for ample room, and the game would be played between Marcus Island, a Japanese possession, and Midway. The idea was to simulate a conflict between the U.S. Navy and a smaller but modern frigate force, played by the Japanese Navy. The odds were heavily loaded against the latter, but not completely so. Marcus Island—called Minami Torishima on their charts—was, for the purposes of the exercise, deemed to be a continental land mass. In fact the atoll consisted of a mere 740 acres, scarcely large enough for a meteorological station, a small fishing colony, and a single runway, from which would fly a trio of P-3C patrol aircraft. These could be administratively "shot down" by American fighters, but would return to life the next day. The commercial fishermen who also maintained a station on the island to harvest squid, kelp, and the occasional swordfish for their home markets welcomed the increased activity. The airmen had brought a cargo of beer which they would exchange for the fresh catch in what had become a friendly tradition.

Two of the three Orions lifted off before dawn, angling north and south, to search for the American carrier fleet. Their crewmen, aware of the trade problems between the two countries, concentrated on their mission. It was not an unknown mission to the Japanese Navy, after all. Their forefathers had done the same thing two generations before, in Kawasaki H8K2 flying boats—the same contractor that had built these Orions—to search for the marauding carriers commanded in turns by Halsey and Spruance. Many of the tactics they would employ today were based on lessons learned from that earlier conflict. The P-3Cs themselves were Japanese models of an American design that had begun life as turboprop airliners, then matured into rugged, powerful, if somewhat slow maritime patrol aircraft. As with most Japanese military aircraft, the American products had stopped at the basic profile. The power plants had since been developed and improved, giving the Orions a cruising speed boosted to 350 knots. The internal electronics were particularly good, especially the sensors designed to detect emissions from ships and aircraft. That was their mission for the moment, to fly out in large pie-shaped segments, listening for radar and radio signals that would announce the presence of American ships and aircraft. Reconnaissance: Find the enemy. That was the mission, and from press accounts and conversations with family members who worked in their country's economy, thinking of Americans as the enemy didn't even come all that hard.

Aboard John Stennis, Captain Sanchez watched the dawn patrol—a term beloved of all fighter pilots—shoot off the cats to establish an outer Combat Air Patrol. With the Tomcats off, next in line to go were the S-3 Vikings, anti-submarine birds with long legs to sweep the area the fleet would transit this day. Last went the Prowlers, the electronic bird-dogs, designed to detect and jam enemy radar signals. It was always exciting to watch from his perch at Pri-Fly. Almost as good as shooting off himself, but he was the CAG, and was supposed to command rather than merely lead his men now. His Alpha Strike force of Hornets was spotted on the deck, loaded with blue practice missiles for the discovery of the enemy battle force, the pilots sitting in their squadron ready rooms, mainly reading magazines or trading jokes because they were already briefed in on the mission.

Admiral Sato watched his flagship disengage from the oiler Homana, one of four supporting his fleet. The captain of the fleet-support ship lofted his cap and waved encouragement. Sato returned the gesture as the oiler put her rudder over to depart the battle force. He now had enough fuel to drive his ships hard. The contest was an interesting one, essentially guile against brute force, not an unusual situation for his country's navy, and for this task he would employ traditional Japanese tactics. His sixteen surface warships were split into three groups, one of eight and two of four, widely separated. Similar to Yamamoto's plan for the Battle of Midway, his operational concept was far more practical now, because with GPS navigation their position was always known, and with satellite communications links they could exchange messages in relative security. The Americans probably expected that he would keep his ships close to his "homeland," but he would not. He would take the issue to the enemy as best he could, since passive defense was not the way of his people, a fact that the Americans had learned and then forgotten, hadn't they? That was an amusing thought.

"Yes, Jack?" The President was in another good mood, flush from signing a new law which, he hoped, would solve a major problem for his country, and by the by make his reelection chances look rosy indeed. It would be a shame to ruin his day, Ryan thought, but his job wasn't political, at least not that kind of political.

"You might want to look at this." He handed the fax sheet over without sitting down.

"Our friend Clark again?" Durling asked, leaning back in his chair and reaching for his reading glasses. He had to use them for normal correspondence, though his speeches and TelePrompTers had large-enough type to protect his presidential vanity.

"I presume State has seen this. What do they say?" the President asked when he finished it.

"Hanson calls it alarmist," Jack reported. "But the ambassador kept his troops inside for the event because he didn't want to cause an 'incident.' This is the only eyewitness report we have aside from the TV people."

"I haven't read the text of his speech yet. I have it here somewhere." Durling gestured at his desk.

"Might be a good idea to do so. I just did."

The President nodded. "And what else? I know there's more."

"And I told Mary Pat to activate THISTLE." He explained briefly what that was.

"You really should get my permission first."

"That's what I'm here for, sir. You know a little about Clark. He doesn't scare easily. THISTLE includes a couple of people in their Foreign Ministry and MITI. I think we want to know what they're thinking."

"They're not enemies," Durling observed.

"Probably not," Jack conceded, for the first time allowing for the fact that the proper response wasn't certainly not, a fact the President noted with a raised eyebrow. "We still need to know, sir. That's my recommendation."

"Okay. Approved. What else?"

"I also told her to get Kimberly Norton out, soonest. It ought to happen in the next twenty-four hours."

"Sending Goto a message, are we?"

"That's part of it. Simpler version is, we know she's there, and she's an American citizen and—"

"And I have kids, too. Also approved. Save the piety for church, Jack,"

Durling ordered with a smile. "How will it go?"

"If she agrees to come out, they drive her to the airport and fly her to Seoul. They have clothes for her, and a fresh passport, and first-class tickets for her and an escort she'll meet at the terminal. She changes planes to a KAL flight to New York. We check her into a hotel, settle her down, and debrief. We fly her parents in from Seattle, and explain to them that it's to be kept quiet. The girl will probably need psychological counseling—I mean, really need it. That will help with the low profile. The FBI will assist on that one. Her father's a cop. He should play along." And that was neat and tidy enough for anyone, wasn't it?

The President gave Ryan a nod. "So then, what do we tell Goto about it?"

"That's your decision, Mr. President. I would recommend nothing at the moment. Let's debrief the girl first. Say a week or so, and then the Ambassador will check in for the usual courtesy visit to present your greetings to a new head of government—"

"And ask him politely how his countrymen will react if Mr. Nationalist turned out to be dipping his wick in a round-eye. Then we extend a small olive branch, right?" Durling caught on quickly enough, Jack thought.

"That's my recommendation, sir."

"A very small one," the President noted dryly.

"Just one olive on it for the moment," Ryan conceded.

"Approved," Durling said again, adding more sharply, "Next are you going to suggest what olive branch to offer?"

"No, sir. Have I pushed too much?" Jack asked, realizing just how far he had gone.

Durling almost apologized for speaking crossly to his National Security Advisor. "You know, Bob was right about you."

"Excuse me?"

"Bob Fowler," Durling said, waving Ryan into a chair. "You ticked me off pretty bad when I brought you in the first time."

"Sir, I was a burn-out then, remember?" Jack did. The nightmares hadn't stopped yet. He saw himself, sitting there in the National Military Command Center, telling people what they had to do, but in the nightmare they couldn't see or hear him, as the Hot Line message kept coming in, taking his country closer and closer to the war he had in fact probably stopped. The full story on that had never been written in the open media. Just as well, everyone who had been there knew.

"I didn't understand that then. Anyway"—Durling raised his arms to stretch—"when we dropped the ball last summer. Bob and I talked some things over up at Camp David. He recommended you for the job. Surprised?" the President asked with a twisty grin.

"Very," Jack admitted quietly. Arnie van Damm had never told him that story. Ryan wondered why.

"He said you're one levelheaded son of a bitch when the crap hits the fan. He also said you were an opinionated, pushy son of a bitch the rest of the time. Good judge of character, Bob Fowler." Durling gave him a moment to absorb that. "You're a good man in a storm, Jack. Do us both a favor and remember that this is as far as you can act without my approval. You've already had another pissing contest with Brett, haven't you?"

"Yes, sir." Jack bobbed his head like a schoolboy. "Just a little one."

"Don't push so hard. He's my Secretary of State."

"I understand, sir."

"All ready for Moscow?"

"Cathy is really looking forward to it," Ryan answered, pleased with the change of subject and noting that Durling had handled him very well indeed. "It'll be good to see her again. Anne really likes her. Anything else?"

"Not right now."

"Jack, thanks for the heads-up," Durling said to conclude the meeting on a positive note.

Ryan left the office by the west door, walking past the (Teddy) Roosevelt Room and heading toward his office. Ed Kealty was in again, he saw, working in his office. He wondered when that one would break, realizing that the President, however pleased with the events of this day, still had that scandal hanging over him. That sword again, Jack thought. He had gone a little close to the edge this time, and it was his mission to make the President's job easier, not harder. There was more to it, after all, than foreign entanglements—and politics, something he had tried to keep at arm's length for years, was as real as anything else.

Fowler? Damn.

It would be a safe time to do it, they knew. Goto was giving a speech on TV tonight, his maiden broadcast as Prime Minister, and whatever he said, it guaranteed that he wouldn't be with his young mistress that evening. Perhaps the night's mission would be an interesting and useful counterpoint to what the politician had to say, a reply, of sorts, from America. They both liked that idea.

John Clark and Ding Chavez were walking along the block at the proper time, looking across the crowded street at the nondescript building. They always seemed that way, John thought. Maybe someone would tumble to the idea that a garish facade or an office tower was actually better camouflage, or maybe not. More likely it was boredom talking again. A man came out and removed his sunglasses with his left hand. He smoothed his hair, stroking the back of his head twice with his left hand, then moved off. Nomuri had never ascertained the location of Kim Norton's room. Moving in that close was a risk, but the orders had come to take that risk, and now, having given the signal, he walked off toward where he'd left his car. Ten seconds later Nomuri was lost in the crowded sidewalk, Clark saw. He could do that. He had the right height and looks. So did Ding. With his size, glossy black hair, and complexion, Chavez at a distance could almost blend in here. The haircut he'd imposed on his partner helped even more. From behind he was just another person on the sidewalk. That was useful, Clark told himself, feeling ever more conspicuous, especially at a moment like this.

"Showtime," Ding breathed. Both men crossed the street as unobtrusively as possible.

Clark was dressed as a businessman, but rarely had he felt more naked. Neither he nor Ding had so much as a folding pocket knife. Though both men were well skilled in unarmed combat, both had enough experience to prefer arms—the better to keep one's enemies at a distance.

Luck smiled on them. There was no one in the tiny lobby of the building to note their presence. The two men took the stairs up. Second floor, all the way back, left side.

Nomuri had done his job well. The corridor was empty. Clark had the lead, and headed quickly down the dimly lit passage. The lock was a simple one. With Ding standing guard, he took out his burglar tools and defeated it, then opened the door quickly. They were already inside before they realized that the mission was a bust.

Kimberly Norton was dead. She lay on a futon, wearing a medium-expensive silk kimono that was bunched just below the knees, exposing her lower legs. Postmortem lividity was beginning to color the underside of her body as gravity drew her blood downward. Soon the top of the body would be the color of ash, and the lower regions would be maroon. Death was so cruel, John thought. It wasn't enough that it stole life. It also stole whatever beauty the victim had once possessed. She'd been pretty—well, that was the point, wasn't it? John checked the body against the photograph, a passing resemblance to his younger daughter, Patsy. He handed the picture to Ding. He wondered if the lad would make the same connection.

"It's her."

"Concur, John," Chavez observed huskily. "It's her." Pause. "Shit," he concluded quietly, examining the face for a long moment that made his face twist with anger. So, Clark thought, he sees it too.

"Got a camera?"

"Yeah." Ding pulled a compact 35mm out of his pants pocket. "Play cop?"

"That's right."

Clark stooped down to examine the body. It was frustrating. He wasn't a pathologist, and though he had much knowledge of death, more knowledge still was needed to do this right. There…in the vein on the top of her foot, a single indentation. Not much more than that. So she'd been on drugs? If so, she'd been a careful user, John thought. She'd always cleaned the needle and…He looked around the room. There. A bottle of alcohol and a plastic bag of cotton swabs, and a bag of plastic syringes.

"I don't see any other needle marks."

"They don't always show, man," Chavez observed.

Clark sighed and untied the kimono, opening it. She'd been wearing nothing under it.

"Fuck!" Chavez rasped. There was fluid inside her thighs.

"That's a singularly unsuitable thing to say," Clark whispered back. It was as close as he'd come to losing his temper in many years. "Take your pictures."

Ding didn't answer. The camera flashed and whirred away. He recorded the scene as a forensic photographer might have done. Clark then started to rearrange the kimono, uselessly giving the girl back whatever dignity that death and men had failed to rob from her.

"Wait a minute…left hand."

Clark examined it. One nail was broken. All the others were medium-long, evenly coated with a neutral polish. He examined the others. There was something under them.

"Scratched somebody?" Clark asked.

"See anyplace she scratched herself, Mr. C?" Ding asked.


"Then she wasn't alone when it happened, man. Check her ankles again," Chavez said urgently.

On the left one, the foot with the puncture, the underside of the ankle revealed bruises almost concealed by the building lividity. Chavez shot his last frame.

"I thought so."

"Tell me why later. We're out of here," John said, standing. Within less than a minute they were out the back door, down the meandering alley, and back on a main thoroughfare to wait for their car.

"That was close," Chavez observed as the police car pulled up to Number 18. There was a TV crew fifteen seconds behind.

"Don't you just love it? They're going to tie up everything real nice and neat…What is it, Ding?"

"Ain't right, Mr. C. Supposed to look like an OD, right?"

"Yeah, why?"

"You OD on smack, man, it just stops. Boom, bye-bye. I seen a guy go out like that back in the old days, never got the sticker out of his arm, okay? Heart stops, lungs stop, gone. You don't get up and set the needle down and then lay back down, okay? Bruises on the leg. Somebody stuck her. She was murdered, John. And probably she was raped, too."

"I saw the paraphernalia. All U.S.—made. Nice setup. They close the case, blame the girl and her family, give their own people an object lesson." Clark looked over as the car pulled around the corner. "Good eye, Ding."

"Thanks, boss." Chavez fell silent again, his anger building now that he had nothing to do but think it over. "You know, I'd really like to meet that guy."

"We won't."

Time for a little perverse fantasy: "I know, but I used to be a Ninja, remember? It might be real fun, especially barehanded."

"That just breaks bones, pretty often your own bones."

"I'd like to see his eyes when it happens."

"So put a good scope on the rifle," Clark advised.

"True," Chavez conceded. "What kind of person gets off on that, Mr. C?"

"One sick motherfucker, Domingo. I met a few, once."

Just before they got into the car, Ding's black eyes locked on Clark.

"Maybe I will meet this one personally, John. El fado can play tricks. Funny ones."

"Where is she?" Nomuri asked from behind the wheel.

"Drive," Clark told him.

"You should have heard the speech," Chet said, moving up the street and wondering what had gone wrong.

"The girl's dead," Ryan told the President barely two hours later, 1:00 P.M., Washington time.

"Natural causes?" Durling asked.

"Drug overdose, probably not self-administered. They have photos. We ought to have them in thirty-six hours. Our guys just got clear in time. The Japanese police showed up pretty fast."

"Wait a minute. Back up. You're saying murder?"

"That's what our people think, yes, Mr. President."

"Do they know enough to make that evaluation?"

Ryan took his seat and decided that he had to explain a little bit. "Sir, our senior officer knows a few things about the subject, yes."

"That was nicely phrased," the President noted dryly. "I don't want to know any more about that subject, do I?"

"No reason for it right now, sir, no."


"Possibly one of his people. Actually the best indicator will be how their police report it. If anything they tell us is at variance with what we've learned from our own people, then we'll know that somebody played with the data, and not all that many people have the ability to order changes in police reports." Jack paused for a moment. "Sir, I've had another independent evaluation of the man's character." He went on to repeat Kris Hunter's story.

"You're telling me that you believe he had this young girl killed, and will use his police to cover it up? And you already knew he likes that sort of thing?" Durling flushed. "You wanted me to extend this bastard an olive branch? What the hell's the matter with you?"

Jack took a deep breath. "Okay, yes, Mr. President, I had that coming. The question is, now what do we do?"

Durling's face changed. "You didn't deserve that, sorry."

"Actually I do deserve it, Mr. President. I could have told Mary Pat to get her out some time ago—but I didn't," Ryan observed bleakly. "I didn't see this one coming."

"We never do, Jack. Now what?"

"We can't tell the legal attache at the embassy because we don't 'know' about this yet, but I think we prep the FBI to check things out after we're officially notified. I can call Dan Murray about that."

"Shaw's designated hitter?"

Ryan nodded. "Dan and I go back a ways. For the political side, I'm not sure. The transcript of his TV speech just came in. Before you read it, well, you need to know what sort of fellow we're dealing with."

"Tell me, how many common bastards like that run countries?"

"You know that better than I do, sir." Jack thought about that for a moment. "It's not entirely a bad thing. People like that are weak, Mr. President. Cowards, when you get down to it. If you have to have enemies, better that they have weaknesses."

He might make a state visit, Durling thought. We might have to put him up at Blair House, right across the street. Throw a state dinner: we'll walk out into the East Room and make pretty speeches, and toast each other, and shake hands as though we're bosom buddies. Be damned to that! He lifted the folder with Goto's speech and skimmed through it.

"That son of a bitch! 'America will have to understand', my ass!"

"Anger, Mr. President, isn't an effective way of dealing with problems."

"You're right," Durling admitted. He was silent for a moment, then he smiled in a crooked way. "You're the one with the hot temper, as I recall."

Ryan nodded. "I've been accused of that, yes, sir."

"Well, that's two big ones we have to deal with when we get back from Moscow."

"Three, Mr. President. We need to decide what to do about India and Sri Lanka." Jack could see from the look on Durling's face that the President had allowed himself to forget about that one.

Durling had allowed himself to semi-forget another problem as well.

"How much longer will I have to wait?" Ms. Linders demanded.

Murray could see her pain even more clearly than he heard it. How did you explain this to people? Already the victim of a vile crime, she'd gotten it out in the open, baring her soul for all manner of strangers. The process hadn't been fun for anyone, but least of all for her. Murray was a skilled and experienced investigator. He knew how to console, encourage, chivvy information out of people. He'd been the first FBI agent to listen to her story, in the process becoming as much a part of her mental-health team as Dr. Golden. After that had come another pair of agents, a man and a woman who specialized more closely in cases of this type. After them had come two separate psychiatrists, whose questioning had necessarily been somewhat adversarial, both to establish finally that her story was true in all details and to give her a taste of the hostility she would encounter.

Along the way, Murray realized, Barbara Linders had become even more of a victim than she'd been before. She'd built her self up, first, to reveal herself to Clarice, then again to do the same with Murray, then again, and yet once more still. Now she looked forward to the worst ordeal of all, for some of the members of the Judiciary Committee were allies of Ed Kealty, and some would take it upon themselves to hammer the witness hard either to curry favor with the cameras or to demonstrate their impartiality and professionalism as lawyers. Barbara knew that. Murray had himself walked her through the expected ordeal, even hitting her with the most awful of questions—always preceded with as gentle a preamble as possible, like, "One of the things you can expect to be asked is—"

It took its toll, and a heavy toll at that. Barbara—they were too close now for him to think of her as Ms. Linders—had shown all the courage one could expect of a crime victim and more besides. But courage was not something one picked out of the air. It was something like a bank account. You could withdraw only so much before it was necessary to stop, to take the time to make new deposits. Just the waiting, the not knowing when she would have to take her seat in the committee room and make her opening statement in front of bright TV lights, the certainty that she would have to bare her soul for the entire world…it was like a robber coming into the bank night after night to steal from her hard-won accumulation of inner resolve.

It was hard enough for Murray. He had built his case, had the prosecutor lined up, but he was the one close to her. It was his mission, Murray told himself, to show this lady that men were not like Ed Kealty, that a man was as repulsed by such acts as women were. He was her knight-errant. The disgrace and ultimate imprisonment of that criminal was now his mission in life even more than it was hers.

"Barb, you have to hang in there, kid. We're going to get this bastard, but we can't do it the right way unless…" He mouthed the words, putting conviction he didn't feel into them. Since when did politics enter into a criminal case? The law had been violated. They had their witnesses, the their physical evidence, but now they were stuck in a holding pattern that was as damaging to this victim as any defense lawyer might be.

"It's taking too long!"

"Two more weeks, maybe three, and we go to bat, Barb."

"Look, I know something is happening, okay? You think I'm dumb? He's not out making speeches and opening bridges and stuff now, is he? Somebody told him and he's building up his case, isn't he?"

"I think what's happening is that the President is deliberately holding him in close so that when this does break, he won't be able to fall back on a high public profile as a defense. The President is on our side, Barb. I've briefed him in on this case myself, and he said, 'A criminal is a criminal,' and that's exactly what he should have said."

Her eyes came up to meet his. They were moist and desperate. "I'm coming apart, Dan."

"No, Barb, you're not," Murray lied. "You're one tough, smart, brave lady. You're going to come through this. He's the one who's going to come apart." Daniel E. Murray, Deputy Assistant Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, reached his hand across the table. Barbara Linders took it, squeezing it as a child might with her father, forcing herself to believe and to trust, and it shamed him that she was paying such a price because the President of the United States had to subordinate a criminal case to a question of politics. Perhaps it made sense in the great scheme of things, but for a cop the great scheme of things usually came down to one crime and one victim.


The final step in arming the H-11/SS-19 missiles necessarily had to await official word from the nation's Prime Minister. In some ways the final payoff was something of a disappointment. They had originally hoped to affix a full complement of warheads, at least six each, to the nose of each bird, but to do that would have meant actually testing the trans-stage bus in flight, and that was just a little too dangerous. The covert nature of the project was far more important than the actual number of warheads, those in authority had decided. And they could always correct it at a later date. They'd deliberately left the top end of the Russian design intact for that very reason, and for the moment a total of 10 one-megaton warheads would have to do.

One by one, the individual silos were opened by the support crew, and one by one the oversized RVs were lifted off the flatcar, set in place, then covered with their aerodynamic shrouds. Again the Russian design served their purposes very well indeed. Each such operation took just over an hour, which allowed the entire procedure to be accomplished in a single night by the crew of twenty. The silos were resealed, and it was done; their country was now a nuclear power.

"Amazing," Goto observed.

"Actually very simple," Yamata replied. "The government funded the fabrication and testing of the 'boosters' as part of our space program. The plutonium came from the Monju reactor complex. Designing and building the warheads was child's play. If some Arabs can do a crude warhead in a cave in Lebanon, how hard can it be for our technicians?" In fact, everything but the warhead-fabrication process had been government funded in one way or another, and Yamata was sure that the informal consortium that had done the latter would be compensated as well. Had they not done it all for their country? "We will immediately commence training for the Self-Defense Force personnel to take over from our own people—once you assign them to us for that purpose, Goto-san."

"But the Americans and the Russians…?"

Yamata snorted. "They are down to one missile each, and those will be officially blown up this week, as we will all see on television. As you know, their missile submarines have been deactivated. Their Trident missiles are already all gone, and the submarines are lined up awaiting dismantlement. A mere ten working ICBMs give us a marked strategic advantage."

"But what if they try to build more?"

"They can't—not very easily," Yamata corrected himself. "The production lines have been closed down, and in accordance with the treaty, the tooling has all been destroyed under international inspection. To start over would take months, and we would find out very quickly. Our next important step is to launch a major naval-construction program"—for which Yamata's yards were ready—"so that our supremacy in the Western Pacific will be unassailable. For the moment, with luck and the help of our friends, we will have enough to see us through. Before they will be able to challenge us, our strategic position will have improved to the point where they will have to accept our position and then treat with us as equals."

"So I must now give the order?"

"Yes, Prime Minister," Yamata replied, again explaining to the man his job function.

Goto rubbed his hands together for a moment and looked down at the ornate desk so newly his. Ever the weak man, he temporized. "It is true, my Kimba was a drug addict?"

Yamata nodded soberly, inwardly enraged at the remark. "Very sad, is it not? My own chief of security, Kaneda, found her dead and called the police. It seems that she was very careful about it, but not careful enough."

Goto sighed quietly. "Foolish child. Her father is a policeman, you know. A very stern man, she said. He didn't understand her. I did," Goto said. "She was a kind, gentle spirit. She would have made a fine geisha."

It was amazing how people transformed in death, Yamata thought coldly. That foolish, shameless girl had defied her parents and tried to make her own way in the world, only to find that the world was not tolerant of the unprepared. But because she'd had the ability to give Goto the illusion that he was a man, now she was a kind and gentle spirit.

"Goto-san, can we allow the fate of our nation to be decided by people like that?"

"No." The new Prime Minister lifted his phone. He had to consult a sheet on his desk for the proper number. "Climb Mount Niitaka," he said when the connection was made, repeating an order that had been given more than fifty years earlier.

In many ways the plane was singular, but in others quite ordinary. The VC-25B was in fact the Air Force's version of the venerable Boeing 747 airliner. A craft with fully thirty years of history in its design, and still in serial production at the plant outside Seattle, it was painted in colors that had been chosen by a politically selected decorator to give the proper impression to foreign countries, whatever that was. Sitting alone on the concrete ramp, it was surrounded by uniformed security personnel "with authorization," in the dry Pentagonese, to use their M-16 rifles far more readily than uniformed guards at most other federal installations. It was a more polite way of saying, "Shoot first and ask questions later."

There was no jetway. People had to climb stairs into the aircraft, just as in the 1950's, but there was still a metal detector, and you still had to check your baggage—this time to Air Force and Secret Service personnel who X-rayed everything and opened much of it for visual inspection.

"I hope you left your Victoria's Secret stuff at home," Jack observed with a chuckle as he hoisted the last bag on the counter.

"You'll find out when we get to Moscow," Professor Ryan replied with an impish wink. It was her first state trip, and everything at Andrews Air Force Base was new for her.

"Hello, Dr. Ryan! We finally meet." Helen D'Agustino came over and extended her hand.

"Cathy, this is the world's prettiest bodyguard," Jack said, introducing the Secret Service agent to his wife.

"I couldn't make the last state dinner," Cathy explained. "There was a seminar up at Harvard."

"Well, this trip ought to be pretty exciting," the Secret Service agent said, taking her leave smoothly to continue her duties.

Not as exciting as my last one, Jack thought, remembering another story that he couldn't relate to anyone.

"Where's she keep her gun?" Cathy asked.

"I've never searched her for it, honey," Jack said with a wink of his own. "Do we go aboard now?"

"I can go aboard whenever I want," her husband replied. "Color me important." So much the better to board early and show her around, he decided, heading her toward the door. Designed to carry upwards of three hundred passengers in its civilian incarnation, the President's personal 747 (there was another backup aircraft, of course) was outfitted to hold a third of that number in stately comfort. Jack first showed his wife where they would be sitting, explaining that the pecking order was very clear. The closer you were to the front of the aircraft, the more important you were. The President's accommodations were in the nose, where two couches could convert into beds. The Ryans and the van Damms would be in the next area, twenty feet or so aft in a space that could seat eight, but only five in this case. Joining them would be the President's Director of Communications, a harried and usually frantic former TV executive named Tish Brown, recently divorced. Lesser staff members were sorted aft in diminishing importance until you got to the media, deemed less important still.

"This is the kitchen?" Cathy asked.

"Galley," Jack corrected. It was impressive, as were the meals prepared here, actually cooked from fresh ingredients and not reheated as was the way on airliners.

"It's bigger than ours!" she observed, to the amused pleasure of the chief cook, an Air Force master sergeant.

"Not quite, but the chef's better, aren't you, Sarge?"

"I'll turn my back now. You can slug him, ma'am. I won't tell."

Cathy merely laughed at the jibe. "Why isn't he upstairs in the lounge?"

"That's almost all communications gear. The President likes to wander up there to talk to the crew, but the guys who live there are mainly cryppies."


"Communications guys," Jack explained, leading his wife back to their seats. The seats were beige leather, extra wide and extra soft, with recently added swing-up TV screens, personal phones, and other features which Cathy started to catalog, down to the presidential seal on the belt-buckles. "Now I know what first-class really means."

"It's still an eleven-hour flight, babe," Jack observed, settling in while others boarded. With luck he'd be able to sleep most of the way.

The President's televised departure statement followed its own pattern. The microphone was always set up so that Air Force One loomed in the background, to remind everyone of who he was and to prove it by showing his personal plane. Roy Newton watched more for timing than anything else. Statements like this never amounted to much, and only C-SPAN carried them at all, though the network newsies were always there with cameras in case the airplane blew up on takeoff. Concluding his remarks, Durling took his wife, Anne, by the arm and walked to the stairs, where a sergeant saluted.

At the door of the aircraft, the President and the First Lady turned to give a final wave as though already on the campaign trail—in a very real way this trip was part of that almost-continuous process—then went inside. C-SPAN switched back to the floor of the House, where various junior members were giving brief speeches under special orders. The President would be in the air for eleven hours, Newton knew, more time than he needed. It was time to go to work.

The ancient adage was true enough, he thought, arranging his notes. If more than one person knew it, it wasn't a secret at all. Even less so if you both knew part of it and also knew who knew the rest, because then you could sit down over dinner and let on that you knew, and the other person would think that you knew it all, and would then tell you the parts you hadn't learned quite yet. The right smiles, nods, grunts, and a few carefully selected words would keep your source going until it was all there in plain sight.

Newton supposed it was not terribly different for spies. Perhaps he would have been a good one, but it didn't pay any better than his stint in Congress—not even as well, in fact—and he'd long since decided to apply his talent to something that could make him a decent living. The rest of the game was a lot easier. You had to select the right person to give the information to, and that choice was made merely by reading the local papers carefully. Every reporter had a hot-button item, something for which he or she had a genuinely passionate interest, and for that reason reporters were no different from anyone else. If you knew what buttons to push, you could manipulate anyone. What a pity it hadn't quite worked with the people in his district, Newton thought, lifting the phone and punching the buttons.

"Libby Holtzman."

"Hi, Libby, this is Roy. How are things?"

"A little slow," she allowed, wondering if her husband, Bob, would get anything good on the Moscow trip with the presidential party.

"How about dinner?" He knew that her husband was away.

"What about?" she asked. She knew it wasn't a tryst or something similarly foolish. Newton was a player, and usually had something interesting to tell.

"It'll be worth your time," he promised. "Jockey Club, seven-thirty?"

"I'll be there."

Newton smiled. It was all fair play, wasn't it? He'd lost his congressional seat on the strength of an accusation about influence-peddling. It hadn't been strong enough to have merited prosecution (someone else had influenced that), but it had been enough, barely, to persuade 50.7 percent of the voters in that off-year election that someone else should have the chance to represent them. In a presidential-election year, Newton thought, he would almost certainly have eked out a win, but congressional seats once lost are almost never regained.

It could have been much worse. This life wasn't so bad, was it? He'd kept the same house, kept his kids in the same school, then moved them on to good colleges, kept his membership in the same country club. He just had a different constituency now, no ethics laws to trouble his mind about—not that they ever had, really—and it sure as hell paid a lot better, didn't it?

DATELINE PARTNERS was being run out via computer—satellite relay three of them, in fact. The Japanese Navy was linking all of its data to its fleet-operations center in Yokohama. The U.S. Navy did the same into Fleet-Ops at Pearl Harbor. Both headquarters offices used a third link to swap their own pictures. The umpires who scored the exercise in both locations thus had access to everything, but the individual fleet commanders did not. The purpose of the game was to give both sides realistic battle training, for which reason cheating was not encouraged—"cheating" was a concept by turns foreign and integral with the fighting of wars, of course.

Pacific Fleet's type commanders, the admirals in charge of the surface, air, submarine, and service forces, respectively, watched from their chairs as the game unfolded, each wondering how his underlings would perform.

"Sato's no dummy, is he?" Commander Chambers noted.

"The boy's got some beautiful moves," Dr. Jones opined, A senior contractor with his own "special-access" clearance, he'd been allowed into the center on Mancuso's parole. "But it isn't going to help him up north."

"Oh?" SubPac turned and smiled. "You know something I don't?"

"The sonar departments on Charlotte and Asheville are damned good, Skipper. My people worked with them to set up the new tracking software, remember?"

"The CO's aren't bad either," Mancuso pointed out.

Jones nodded agreement. "You bet, sir. They know how to listen, just like you did."

"God," Chambers breathed, looking down at the new four-ring shoulder boards and imagining he could feel the added weight. "Admiral, you ever wonder how we would have made it without Jonesy here?"

"We had Chief Laval with us, remember?" Mancuso said.

"Frenchy's son is the lead sonarman on Asheville, Mr. Chambers." For Jones, Mancuso would always be "skipper" and Chambers would always be a lieutenant. Neither officer objected. It was one of the rules of the naval service that bonded officers and (in this case, former) enlisted personnel.

"I didn't know that," SubPac admitted.

"Just joined up with her. He was on Tennessee before. Very sharp kid, made first-class three years out of his A-school."

"That's faster than you did it," Chambers observed. "Is he that good?"

"Sure as hell. I'm trying to recruit him for my business. He got married last year, has a kid on the way. It shouldn't be too hard to bribe him out into civilian life."

"Thanks a lot, Jonesy," Mancuso growled. "I oughta kick your ass outa here."

"Oh, come on, Skipper. When's the last time we got together for some real fun?" In addition to which, Jones's new whale-hunting software had been incorporated in what was left of the Pacific SOSUS system. "About time for an update."

The fact that both sides had observers in the other's headquarters was something of a complication, largely because there were assets and capabilities in both cases that were not strictly speaking shared. In this case, SOSUS-generated traces that might or might not be the Japanese submarine force northwest of Kure were actually better than what appeared on the main plotting board. The real traces were given to Mancuso and Chambers. Each side had two submarines. Neither American boat showed up on the traces, but the Japanese boats were conventionally powered, and had to go periodically to snorkeling depth in order to run their diesels and recharge their batteries.

Though the Japanese submarines had their own version of the American Prairie-Masker systems, Jones's new software had gone a long way to defeat that countermeasure. Mancuso and the rest retired to the SubPac plotting room to examine the newest data.

"Okay, Jonesy, tell me what you see," Mancuso ordered, looking at the paper printouts from the underwater hydrophones that littered the bottom of the Pacific.

The data was displayed both electronically on TV-type displays and on fan-fold paper of the sort once used for computer printouts for more detailed analysis. For work like this, the latter was preferred, and there were two sets. One of them had already been marked up by the oceanographic technicians of the local SOSUS detachment. To make this a double-blind analysis, and to see if Jones still knew how, Mancuso kept separate the set already analyzed by his people.

Still short of forty, Jones had gray already in his thick dark hair, though he chewed gum now instead of smoking. The intensity was still there, Mancuso saw. Dr. Ron Jones flipped pages like an accountant on the trail of embezzlement, his finger tracing down the vertical lines on which frequencies were recorded.

"We assume that they'll snort every eight hours or so?" he asked.

"That's the smart thing, to keep their batteries fully charged," Chambers agreed with a nod.

"What time are they operating on?" Jones asked. Typically, American submarines at sea adjusted their clocks to Greenwich Mean Time—recently changed to "Universal Time" with the diminution of the Royal Navy, whose power had once allowed the prime meridian to be defined by the British.

"I presume Tokyo," Mancuso replied. "That's us minus five."

"So we start looking for patterns, midnight and even hours their time."

There were five of the wide-folded sheets. Jones flipped one complete set at a time, noting the time references in the margins. It took him ten minutes.

"Here's one, and here's another. These two are possible. This one's also possible, but I don't think so. I'll put money down on this one…and this one for starters." His fingers tapped on seemingly random lines of dots.


Chambers turned to the other table and flipped the marked up sets to the proper time settings. "Jonesy, you fuckin' witch!" he breathed. It had taken a team of skilled technicians—experts all—over two hours to do what Jones had accomplished in a few minutes before their again-incredulous eyes.

The civilian contractor pulled a can of Coke from the nearby cooler and popped it open. "Gentlemen," he asked, "who's the all-time champ?"

That was only part of it, of course. The printouts merely gave bearing to a suspected noise source, but there were several of the bottom-sited SOSUS arrays, and triangulation had already been accomplished, nailing the datum points down to radii of ten to fifteen nautical miles. Even with Jones's improvements in the system, that still left a lot of ocean to search.

The phone rang. It was Commander-in-Chief Pacific Fleet. Mancuso took the call and made his recommendations for vectoring Charlotte and Asheville onto the suspected contacts. Jones observed the exchange and nodded approval.

"See what I mean, Skipper? You always did know how to listen."

Murray had been out discussing a few budgetary matters with the Assistant-Director-in-Charge of the Washington Field Office, therefore missing the phone call. The top-secret dispatch from the White House was tucked away in secure files, and then his secretary had been called out to bring a sick child home from school. As a result, the handwritten message from Ryan had been unconscionably late in coming to his attention.

"The Norton girl," he said, walking into Director Shaw's office.


"Dead," Murray said, handing the paper over. Shaw scanned it quickly.

"Shit," the FBI Director whispered. "Did she have a prior history of drug use?"

"Not that I recall."

"Word from Tokyo?"

"I haven't checked in with the Leg-At yet. Bad timing for that, Bill."

Shaw nodded, and the thought in his mind was transparent. Ask any FBI agent for the case he bragged about, and it is always kidnapping. It was really how the Bureau had made its name back in the 1930's. The Lindbergh Law had empowered the FBI to assist any local police force as soon as the possibility existed that the victim could have been taken across a state line.

With the mere possibility—the victims were rarely actually transported so far—the whole weight and power of America's premier law-enforcement agency descended on the case like a pack of especially hungry wolves. The real mission was always the same: to get the victim back alive, and there the results were excellent. The secondary objective was to apprehend, charge, and try the subjects in question, and there the record, statistically speaking, was better still. They didn't know yet if Kimberly Norton had been a kidnap victim. They did know that she would he coming home dead. That single fact, for any FBI agent, was a professional failure.

"Her father's a cop."

"I remember, Dan."

"I want to go out there and talk it over with O'Keefe." Part of it was because Captain Norton deserved to hear it from other cops, not through the media. Part of it was because the cops on the case had to do it, to admit their failure to him. And part of it would be for Murray to take a look at the case file himself, to be sure for himself that all that might have been done, had been done.

"I can probably spare you for a day or two," Shaw replied. "The Linders case is going to wait until the President gets back anyway. Okay, get packed."

"This is better than the Concorde!" Cathy gushed at the Air Force corporal who served dinner. Her husband almost laughed. It wasn't often that Caroline Ryan's eyes went quite so wide, but then he was long accustomed to this sort of service, and the food was certainly better than she customarily ate in the Hopkins physicians' dining room. And there the plates didn't have gold trim, one of the reasons that Air Force One had so much pilferage.

"Wine for madam?" Ryan lifted the bottle of Russian River chardonnay and poured as his plate came down.

"We don't drink wine on the chicken farm, you see," she told the corporal with a small measure of embarrassment.

"Everybody's this way the first time, Dr. Ryan. If you need anything, please buzz me." She headed back to the galley.

"See, Cathy, I told you, stick with me."

"I wondered how you got used to flying," she noted, tasting the broccoli. "Fresh."

"The flight crew's pretty good, too." He gestured to the wineglasses. Not a ripple,

"The pay isn't all that great," Arnie Van Damm said from the other side of the compartment, "but the perks ain't too bad."

"The blackened redfish isn't bad at all."

"Our chef stole the recipe from the Jockey Club. Best Cajun redfish in town," van Damm explained. "I think he had to trade his potato soup for it. Fair deal," Arnie judged.

"He gets the crust just right, doesn't he?"

One of Washington's few really excellent restaurants, the Jockey Club was located in the basement of the Ritz Carlton Hotel on Massachusetts Avenue. A quiet, dimly lit establishment, it had for many years been a place for "power" meals of one sort or another.

All the food here is good, Libby Holtzman thought, especially when someone else paid for it. The previous hour had handled all manner of small talk, the usual exchange of information and gossip that was even more important in Washington than most American cities. That was over now. The wine was served, the salad plates gone, and the main course on the table.

"So, Roy, what's the big item?"

"Ed Kealty." Newton looked up to watch her eyes.

"Don't tell me, his wife is finally going to leave the rat?"

"He's probably going to be the one leaving, as a matter of fact."

"Who's the unlucky bimbo?" Mrs. Holtzman asked with a wry smile.

"Not what you think, Libby. Ed's going away." You always wanted to make them wait for it.

"Roy, it's eight-thirty, okay?" Libby observed, making her position clear.

"The FBI has a case running on Kealty. Rape. More than one, in fact. One of the victims killed herself."

"Lisa Beringer?" The reason for her suicide had never been adequately explained.

"She left a letter behind. The FBI has it now. They also have several other women who are willing to testify."

"Wow," Libby Holtzman allowed herself to say. She set her fork down. "How solid is this?"

"The man running the case is Dan Murray, Shaw's personal attack dog."

"I know Dan. I also know he won't talk about this." You rarely got an FBI agent to discuss evidentiary matters in a criminal case, certainly not before it was presented. That sort of leak almost always came from an attorney or court clerk. "He doesn't just do things by the book—he wrote the book." It was literally true. Murray had helped draft many of the Bureau's official procedures.

"He might, this one time."

"Why, Roy?"

"Because Durling is holding things up. He thinks he needs Kealty for his clout on the Hill. You notice that Eddie-boy has been in the White House a lot lately? Durling spilled it all to him so that he can firm up his defense. At least," Newton said to cover himself, "that's what people are telling me. It does seem a little out of character, doesn't it?"

"Obstruction of justice?"

"That's the legal term, Libby. Technically speaking, well, I'm not quite sure it meets the legal test." Now the hook was well in the water, and the bait worm was wiggling very nicely. "What if he was just holding it off to keep it from competing with the trade bill?" The fish was giving it a look, but wondering about the shiny, barbed thing behind the worm…

"This one goes back further than that, Libby. They've been sitting on it for quite a while, that's what I hear. It does make a great excuse, though, doesn't it?" It was a very enticing worm, though. "If you think politics takes precedence over a sexual-assault case. How solid is the case?"

"If it goes in front of a jury, Ed Kealty is going to spend time in a federal penitentiary."

"That solid?" My, what a juicy fat worm it was.

"Like you said, Murray's a good cop."

"Who's the U.S. Attorney on the case?"

"Anne Cooper. She's been full-time on this for weeks." One hell of a good worm, in fact. That barbed, shiny thing wasn't all that dangerous, was it?

Newton took an envelope from his pocket and set it on the tablecloth. "Names, numbers, details, but you didn't get them from me, okay?" The worm appeared to dance in the water, and it was no longer apparent that the hook was the thing really moving.

"What if I can't verify anything?"

"Then there's no story, and my sources are wrong, and I hope you enjoyed dinner." Of course, the worm might just go away.

"Why, Roy? Why you, why the story?" Circling, circling. But how did this worm ever get here?

"I've never liked the guy. You know that. We butted heads on two big irrigation bills, and he killed a defense project in my state. But you really want to know why? I have daughters, Libby. One's a senior at U-Penn. Another one's just starting University of Chicago Law School. They both want to follow in their dad's footsteps, and I don't want my little girls staffing on the Hill with bastards like Ed Kealty around." Who really cared how the worm got in the water, anyway?

With a knowing nod, Libby Holtzman took the envelope. It went into her purse without being opened. Amazing how they never noticed the hook until it was too late. Sometimes not even then. The waiter was disappointed when both diners passed on the dessert cart, settling for just a quick espresso before paying the bill.


"Barbara Linders?" a female voice asked.

"Yes. Who's this?"

"Libby Holtzman from the Post. I live a few blocks away from you. I'd like to know if I might come over and talk about a few things."

"What things?"

"Ed Kealty, and why they've decided not to prosecute this case."

"They what?"

"That's what we're hearing," the voice told her.

"Wait a minute. They warned me about this," Linders said suspiciously, already giving part of the game away.

"They always warn you about something, usually the wrong thing. Remember, I was the one who did the story last year about Congressman Grant and that nasty little thing he had going on in his district office? And I was also the one who nailed that bastard undersecretary in Interior. I keep a close eye on cases like this, Barbara," the voice said, sister-to-sister. It was true.

Libby Holtzman had nearly bagged a Pulitzer for her reporting on political sex-abuse cases.

"How do I know it's really you?"

"You've seen me on TV, right? Ask me over and you'll see. I can be there in five minutes."

"I'm going to call Mr. Murray."

"That's fine. Go ahead and call him, but promise me one thing?"

"What's that?"

"If he tells you the same thing about why they're not doing anything, then we can talk." The voice paused. "In fact, how about I come over right now anyway? If Dan tells you the right thing, we can just have a cup of coffee and do some background stuff for later. Fair enough?"

"Okay…I guess that's okay. I have to call Mr. Murray now." Barbara Linders hung up and dialed another number from memory.

"Hi, this is Dan—"

"Mr. Murray!" Barbara said urgently, her faith in the world so badly shaken already.

"—and this is Liz," another voice said, obviously now on tape. "We can't come to the phone right now…" both voices said together—

"Where are you when I need you?" Ms. Linders demanded of the recording machine, hanging up in a despairing fury before the humorous recording delivered her to the beep. Was it possible? Could it be true?

This is Washington, her experience told her. Anything could be true.

Barbara Linders looked around the room. She'd been in Washington for eleven years. What did she have to show for it? A one-bedroom apartment with prints on the wall. Nice furniture that she used alone. Memories that threatened her sanity. She was so alone, so damned alone with them, and she had to let them go, get them out, strike back at the man who had wrecked her life so thoroughly. And now that would be denied her, too? Was it possible?

The most frightening thing of all was that Lisa had felt this way. She knew that from the letter she'd kept, a photocopy of which was still in the jewelry box on her bureau. She'd kept it both as a keepsake of her best friend and to remind herself not to go as dangerously far into despair as Lisa had. Reading that letter a few months ago had persuaded her to open up to her gynecologist, who had in turn referred her to Clarice Golden, starting the process that had led her-where? The door buzzed then, and Barbara went to answer it.

"Hi! Recognize me?" The question was delivered with a warm and sympathetic smile. Libby Holtzman was a tall woman with thick ebony hair that framed a pale face and warm brown eyes.

"Please come in," Barbara said, backing away from the door.

"Did you call Dan?"

"He wasn't home…or maybe he just left the machine on," Barbara thought. "You know him?"

"Oh, yes. Dan's an acquaintance," Libby said, heading toward the couch.

"Can I trust him? I mean, really trust him."

"Honestly?" Holtzman paused. "Yes. If he were running the case all by himself, yes, you could. Dan's a good man. I mean that."

"But he's not running the case by himself, is he?"

Libby shook her head. "It's too big, too political. The other thing about Murray is, well, he's a very loyal man. He does what he's told. Can I sit down, Barbara?"

"Please." Both sat on the couch.

"You know what the press does? It's our job to keep an eye on things. I like Dan. I admire him. He really is a good cop, an honest cop, and I'll bet you that everything he's done with you, well, he's acted like your big tough brother, hasn't he?"

"Every step of the way," Barbara confirmed. "He's been my best friend in all the world."

"That wasn't a lie. He's one of the good guys. I know his wife, Liz, too. The problem is, not everyone is like Dan, and that's where we come in," Libby told her.

"How do you mean?"

"When somebody tells a guy like Dan what he has to do, mostly they do it. They do it because they have to, because that's what the rules are—and you know something? He hates it, almost as much as you do. My job, Barbara, is to help people like Dan, because I can get the bastards off their backs, too."

"I can't…I mean, I just can't—"

Libby reached out and stopped her with a gentle touch on the hand.

"I'm not going to ask you to give me anything on the record, Barbara. That could mess up the criminal case, and you know I want this one to be handled through the system just as much as you do. But can you talk to me off the record?"

"Yes!…I think so."

"Do you mind if I record this?" The reporter pulled a small recorder from her purse.

"Who will hear it?"

"The only other person will be my AME-assistant managing editor. We do that to make sure that we have good sources, except for that, it's like talking to your lawyer or doctor or minister. Those are the rules, and we never break them."

Intellectually speaking, Barbara knew that, but here and now in her apartment, the ethical rules of journalism seemed a thin reed. Libby Holtzman could see it in her eyes.

"If you want, I can just leave, or we can talk without the recorder, but"—a disarming smile—"I hate taking shorthand. You make mistakes that way. If you want to think about it a little while, that's okay, too. You've had enough pressure. I know that. I know what this can be like."

"That's what Dan says, but he doesn't! He doesn't really."

Libby Holtzman looked straight into her eyes. She wondered if Murray had seen the same pain and felt it as deeply as she did now. Probably so, she thought, quite honestly, probably in a slightly different way, because he was a man, but he was a good cop, and he was probably just as mad about the way the case was going as she now felt.

"Barbara, if you just want to talk about…things, that's okay, too. Sometimes we just need a friend to talk to. I don't have to be a reporter all the time."

"Do you know about Lisa?"

"Her death was never really explained, was it?"

"We were best friends, we shared everything…and then when he—"

"Are you sure Kealty was involved with that?"

"I'm the one who found the letter, Libby."

"What can you tell me about that?" Holtzman asked, unable to restrain her journalistic focus now.

"I can do better than tell you." Linders rose and disappeared for a moment. She returned with the photocopies and handed them over.

It only took two minutes to read the letter once and then once again. Date, place, method. A message from beyond the grave, Libby thought. What was more dangerous than ink on paper?

"For what's on here, and what you know, he could go to prison, Barbara."

"That's what Dan says. He smiles when he says it. He wants it to happen."

"Do you?" Holtzman asked.


"Then let me help."

17—Strike One

It's called the miracle of modern communications only because nothing modern is supposed to be a curse. In fact, those on the receiving end of such information were often appalled by what they got.

It had been a smooth flight, even by the standards of Air Force One, on which many passengers—mainly the younger and more foolish White House staffers—often refused to buckle their seat belts as a show of…something, Ryan thought. The Air Force flight crew was as good as any, he knew, but it hadn't prevented one incident on final at Andrews, where a thunderbolt had blown the nosecone off the aircraft carrying the Secretary of Defense and his wife, rather to everyone's discomfiture. And so he always kept his belt on, albeit loosely, just as the flight crew did.

"Dr. Ryan?" The whisper was accompanied by a shake of his shoulders.

"What is it, Sarge?" There was no sense in grumbling at an innocent NCO.

"Mr. van Damm needs you upstairs, sir."

Jack nodded and moved his seat to the upright position. The sergeant handed him a coffee mug on the way. A clock told him it was nine in the morning, but it didn't say where it was nine in the morning, and Ryan could not at the moment remember what zone the clock was set on. It was all theoretical anyway. How many time zones could dance inside an airliner?

The upper deck of the VC-25B contrasted sharply with the lower deck. Instead of plush appointments, the compartment here was lined with military-style electronics gear whose individual boxes had chromed bars for easy removal and replacement. A sizable team of communications specialists was always at work, tapped into every source of information one might imagine: digital radio, TV, and fax, every single channel encrypted. Arnie van Damm stood in the middle of the area, and handed something over. It turned out to be a facsimile copy of the Washington Post's late edition, about to hit the street, four thousand miles and six hours away.


"You woke me up for this?" Ryan asked. It was nowhere near his area of responsibility, was it?

"You're named in the story," Arnie told him.

"What?" Jack scanned the piece. " 'National Security Advisor Ryan is one of those briefed in on the affair.' Okay, I guess that's true, isn't it?"

"Keep going."

" 'The White House told the FBI four weeks ago not to present the case to the Judiciary Committee.' That's not true."

"This one's a beautiful combination of what is and what isn't." The Chief of Staff was in an even fouler mood than Ryan.

"Who leaked?"

"I don't know, but Libby Holtzman ran this piece, and her husband is sleeping aft. He likes you. Get him and talk to him."

"Wait a minute, this is something that a little time and truth will settle out, Arnie. The President hasn't done anything wrong that I know about."

"His political enemies can call the delay obstruction of justice."

"Come on." Jack shook his head in disbelief. "No way that would stand up to examination."

"It doesn't have to, damn it. We're talking politics, remember, not facts, and we have elections coming up. Talk to Bob Holtzman. Now," van Damm ordered. He didn't do it often with Ryan, but he did have the authority.

"Tell the Boss yet?" Jack asked, folding up his copy.

"We'll let him sleep for a while. Send Tish up on the way, will you?"

"Okay." Ryan headed back down and shook Tish Brown awake, pointed upstairs, then headed aft to a flight attendant—crew member, he corrected himself. "Get Bob Holtzman up here, will you?" Through an open port he could see that it was light outside. Maybe it was nine o'clock where they were going? Yeah, they were scheduled to arrive in Moscow at two in the afternoon, local time. The head cook was sitting in his galley, reading a copy of Time. Ryan went in and got his own coffee refill.

"Can't sleep, Dr. Ryan?"

"Not anymore. Duty calls."

"I have rolls baking, if you want."

"Great idea."

"What is it?" Bob Holtzman asked, sticking his head in. Like every man aboard at the moment, he needed a shave. Jack merely handed over the story.

"What gives?'

Holtzman was a fast reader. "Jesus, is this true?"

"How long has Libby been on this one?"

"It's news to me—oh, shit, sorry, Jack."

Ryan nodded with more smile than he felt. "Yeah, I just woke up, too."

"Is it true?"

"This is on background?"


"The FBI's been running the case for some time now. The dates in Libby's piece are close, and I'd have to check my office logs for the exact ones. I got briefed in right around the time the trade thing blew up because of Kealty's security clearance—what I can tell him, what I can't, you know how that goes, right?"

"Yes, I understand. So what's the status of the case?"

"The chairman and ranking member of Judiciary have been briefed in. So have Al Trent and Sam Fellows on Intelligence. Nobody's putting a stopper on this one, Bob. To the best of my knowledge, the President's played a straight game the whole way. Kealty's going down, and after the impeachment proceedings, if it goes that far—"

"It has to go that far," Holtzman pointed out.

"I doubt it." Ryan shook his head. "If he gets a good lawyer, they'll cut some sort of deal. They have to, like it was with Agnew. If he goes through impeachment and then a Senate trial, God help him in front of a jury."

"Makes sense," Holtzman conceded. "You're telling me the meat of the story's wrong."

"Correct. If there's any obstruction going on, I don't know about it, and I have been briefed in on this."

"Have you spoken with Kealty?"

"No, nothing substantive. On 'business' stuff I brief his national-security guy and he briefs his boss. I wouldn't be good at that, would I? Two daughters."

"So you know about the facts of the case?"

"Not the specifics, no. I don't need to know. I do know Murray pretty well. If Dan says the case is solid, well, then I figure it is." Ryan finished off the rest of his coffee and reached for a fresh roll. "The President is not obstructing this one. It's been delayed so it wouldn't conflict with other things. That's all."

"You're not supposed to do that either, you know," Holtzman pointed out, getting one for himself.

"Goddamn it, Bob! Prosecutors schedule cases, too, don't they? All this is, is scheduling." Holtzman read Jack's face and nodded.

"I'll pass that one along."

It was already too late for proper damage-control. Most of the political players in Washington are early risers. They have their coffee, read their papers in great detail, check their fax machines for additional material, and often take early phone calls, or in a recent development, log onto computer services to check electronic mail, all in an effort to leave their homes with a good feel for the shape the new day will take. In the case of many members, facsimile copies of the late-edition story by Liz Holtzman had brief cover pages indicating that this might be a matter of great personal interest. Different code phrases were used, depending on which PR firm had originated the transmission, but all were the same. The Members in question had been compelled to mute their opposition to TRA. This opportunity, on the other hand, was seen as something of a payback for the earlier transgression. In few cases would the opportunity be missed.

The comments were mainly delivered off the record. "This looks like a very serious matter" was the phrase most often used. "It's unfortunate that the President saw fit to interfere in a criminal matter" was another favorite. Early calls to Director William Shaw of the FBI were met with "no comment" comments, usually with the additional clarification that the policy of the FBI was to decline comment on any possible criminal case, lest the subsequent legal proceedings be tainted and the rights of the accused compromised. The clarification was rarely if ever conveyed to the public; in that way "no comment" acquired its own very special spin.

The accused in this case awoke in his house on the grounds of the Naval Observatory on Massachusetts Avenue, North West, to find his senior aides downstairs and waiting for him.

"Oh, shit," Ed Kealty observed. It was all he had to say. There was little point in denying the story. His people knew him too well for that. He was a man of an amorous nature, they all rationalized, a trait not uncommon in public life, though he was fairly discreet about it.

"Lisa Beringer," the Vice President breathed, reading. "Can't they let the poor girl rest in peace?" He remembered the shock of her death, the way she'd died, slipping off her seat belt and driving into a bridge abutment at ninety miles per hour, how the medical examiner had related the inefficiency of the method. She'd taken several minutes to die, still alive and whimpering when the paramedics had arrived. Such a sweet, nice kid. She just hadn't understood how things were. She'd wanted too much back from him. Maybe she'd thought that it was different with her. Well, Kealty thought, everybody thought they were different.

"He's hanging you out to dry," Kealty's senior aide observed. The important part of this, after all, was the political vulnerability of their principal.

"Sure as hell." That son of a bitch, the Vice President thought. After all the things I've done. "Okay—ideas?"

"Well, of course we deny everything, indignantly at that," his chief of staff began, handing over a sheet of paper. "I have a press release for starters, then we will have a press conference before noon." He'd already called half a dozen former and current female staffers who would stand beside their boss. In every case it was a woman whose bed he had graced with his presence, and who remembered the time with a smile. Great men had flaws, too. In Edward Kealty's case, the flaws were more than balanced by his commitment to the things that mattered.

Kealty read quickly down the page. The only defense against a completely false accusation is the truth…there is no basis in fact whatever to these accusations…my public record is well known, as is my support for women's and minority rights…I request ("demand" was the wrong word to use, his personal counsel thought) an immediate airing of the allegations and the opportunity to defend myself vigorously…clearly no coincidence with the upcoming election year…regret that such a groundless accusation will affect our great President, Roger Durling—

"Get that son of a bitch on the phone right now!"

"Bad time for a confrontation, Mr. Vice President. You 'fully expect his support,' remember?"

"Oh, yes, I do, don't I?" That part of the release wouldn't so much be a warning shot across the bow as one aimed right at the bridge, Kealty thought. Either Durling would support him or else risk political meltdown in the primaries.

What else would happen this year? Though too late to catch the morning papers in most of America-too late even for USA Today—the Kealty story had been caught by the broadcast media as part of their own pre-show media surveys. For many in the investment community, that meant National Public Radio's "Morning Edition" show, a good program to listen to during the drives from New Jersey and Connecticut because of its repeating two-hour length. "A copyrighted story in this morning's Washington Post…" The coverage on it began at the top of both hourly segments, with a preamble like a warning bell to get the listener's attention, and though political stories out of Washington were about as common as the local weather report, "rape" and "suicide" were words with unequivocal meaning.

"Shit," a thousand or so voices breathed simultaneously in the same number of expensive automobiles. What else is going to happen? The volatility of the market had not ended yet, and something like this was sure to exert the kind of downward pressure that never really made any economic sense but was so real that everyone knew it would happen, and because of that planned for it, and because of that made it even more real in what computer engineers called a feedback loop. The market would drop again today. It had trended down for eleven of the past fourteen days, and though the Dow was replete with bargains by any technical measure, the little guys would make their nervous sell orders, and the mutual funds, driven by calls from more little guys, would do the same, adding institutional momentum to a totally artificial situation. The entire system was called a true democracy, but if it was, then a herd of nervous cattle was a democracy, too.

"Okay, Arnie." President Durling didn't bother asking who had leaked it. He was a sufficiently sophisticated player in the game that he knew it didn't matter. "What do we do?"

"I talked to Bob Holtzman," Ryan told the Boss, prompted by a look from the chief of staff.


"And, I think he believed me. Hell, I was telling the truth, wasn't I?" It was a question rather than a rhetorical expression.

"Yes, you were, Jack. Ed's going to have to handle this one himself,"

The relief on Ryan's face was so obvious as to offend the Chief Executive. "Did you think I was really going to do this?"

"Of course not," Ryan answered at once.

"Who knows?

"On the airplane?" van Damn asked. "I'm sure Bob spread it around some."

"Well, let's clobber it right now. Tish," Durling said to his communications director, "let's get a release put together. The Judiciary Committee's been briefed in, and I have not put any pressure on them at all."

"What do we say about the delay?" Tish Brown asked.

"We decided jointly with the leadership that the matter deserved to have—what?" The President looked up at the ceiling. "It deserved to have a clear field…"

"Sufficiently serious—no, it is sufficiently important to deserve a Congress undistracted by other considerations?" Ryan offered. Not bad, he thought.

"I'll make a politician out of you yet," Durling said with a grudging smile.

"You're not going to say anything directly about the case," van Damm went on, giving the President advice in the form of an order.

"I know, I know. I can't say anything on the facts of the matter because I can't allow myself to interfere with the proceedings or Kealty's defense, except to say that any citizen is innocent until the facts demonstrate otherwise; America is founded on…and all that stuff. Tish, write it up. I'll deliver it on the airplane before we land, and then maybe we can do what we're supposed to be doing. Anything else?" Durling asked.

"Secretary Hanson reports that everything is set up. No surprises," Ryan said, finally getting to his own briefing. "Secretary Fiedler has the monetary-support agreement ready for initialing, too. On that end, sir, it's going to be a nice, smooth visit,"

"How reassuring that is," the President observed dryly. "Okay, let me get cleaned up." Air Force One or not, traveling in such close proximity to others was rarely comfortable. Presidential privacy was a tenuous commodity under the best of circumstances, but at least in the White House you had real walls between yourself and others. Not here. An Air Force sergeant strained at his leash to lay out Durling's clothing and shaving things. The man had already spent two hours turning the Presidential shoes from black leather into chrome, and it would have been ungracious to push the guy off. People were so damned eager to show their loyalty. Except for the ones you needed to, Durling thought as he entered the small washroom.

"We got more of 'em."

Sanchez emerged from the head adjacent to CIC to see people gathered around the central plotting table. There were now three groups of the diamond shapes that denoted enemy surface ships. Charlotte, moreover, had position on a "V" shape that meant an enemy submarine, and Asheville supposedly had a good sniff also. Best of all, the joint patrol line of 8-3 Viking ASW aircraft two hundred miles in advance of the battle group had identified what appeared to be a patrol line of other submarines. Two had been caught snorting, one on SOSUS and one by sonobuoys, and, using a line defined by those two positions, two others had been found. Now they even had a predictable interval between boats for the aircraft to concentrate on.

"Sunset tomorrow?" the CAG asked.

"They like the rising sun, don't they? Let's catch 'em at dinner, then."

"Fine with me." Sanchez lifted the phone at his place to alert his wing operations officer.

"Takes long enough," Jones murmured.

"I seem to remember when you were able to stand watches for a real long time," Wally Chambers told the civilian.

"I was young and dumb then." I smoked, too, he remembered. Such good things for concentration and alertness. But most submarines didn't allow people to smoke at all. Amazing that some crews hadn't mutinied. What was the Navy coming to. "See what I told you about my software?"

"You telling us that even you can be replaced by a computer?"

The contractor's head turned. "You know, Mr. Chambers, as you get older you have to watch the coffee intake."

"You two going at it again?" Admiral Mancuso rejoined them after shaving in the nearby head.

"I think Jonesy was planning to hit Banzai Beach this afternoon." Captain Chambers chuckled, sipping at his decaf. "He's getting bored with the exercise."

"They do take a while," SubPac confirmed.

"Hey, guys, we're validating my product, aren't we?"

"If you want some insider information, yeah, I'm going to recommend you get the contract." Not the least reason for which was that Jones had underbid IBM by a good 20 percent.

"Next step, I just hired two guys from Woods Hole. That never occurred to the suits at Big Blue."

"What do you mean?"

"We're going to decode whale talk, now that we can hear it so much better. Greenpeace is going to love us. The submarine mission for the next decade: making the seas safe for our fellow mammals. We can also track those Jap bastards who hunt them."

"What do you mean?" Chambers asked.

"You want funding? I have an idea that'll keep it for you."

"What's that, Jonesy?" Mancuso asked.

"The Woods Hole guys think they have the alarm calls for three species identified: for humpback, fins, and seis. They got them by listening in with hydrophones while they were hanging out with whalers. I can program that for active—it's in the freq range we transmit on. So what we can do is have subs trail along with the whalers and broadcast the call, and guess what? The whalers won't find shit. No whale in his right mind will get within twenty miles of another whale screaming that he's being mugged. Not much solidarity in the cetacean community."

"You turning tree-hugger on us?" Chambers wondered. But he thought about it and nodded slowly.

"All those people have to tell their friends in Congress is that we're doing good scientific work. Okay? Not that they love us, not that they approve of our power plants, just that we're doing good work. What I'm giving you guys is a mission for the next ten years." Jones was also giving his company work for at least that long, but that was beside the point. Mancuso and the submarine community needed the work. "Besides, I used to enjoy listening to them when we were on Dallas."

"Signal from Asheville," a communications specialist reported from the door. "They have acquired their target."

"Well, they're pretty good," Jones said, looking down at the plot. "But we're still the big kid on the block."

Air Force One floated into the usual soft landing at Sheremetyevo Airport one minute early. There was a collective sigh as the thrust-reversers cut in, slowing the heavy aircraft rapidly. Soon everyone started hearing the click of seat belts coming off.

"What woke you up so early?" Cathy asked her husband.

"Political stuff at home. I guess I can tell you now." Ryan explained on, then remembered he had the fax still folded in his pocket. He handed it over, cautioning his wife that it wasn't all true.

"I always thought he was slimy." She handed it back.

"Oh, don't you remember when he was the Conscience of Congress?"

Jack asked quietly.

"Maybe he was, but I never thought he had one of his own."

"Just remember—"

"If anybody asks, I'm a surgeon here to meet with my Russian colleagues and do a little sightseeing." Which was entirely true. The state trip would make considerable demands on Ryan's time in his capacity as a senior Presidential advisor. But it wasn't all that different from a normal family vacation either. Their tastes in sightseeing overlapped, but didn't entirely coincide, and Cathy knew that her husband loathed shopping in any form. It was something odd about men in general and her husband in particular. The aircraft turned onto the taxiway, and things started to happen. President and Mrs. Durling emerged from their compartment, all ready to present themselves as the embodiment of their country. People remained seated to let them pass, aided by the intimidating presence of both Secret Service and Air Force security people.

"Hell of a job," Ryan breathed, watching the President put on his happy face, and knowing that it was at least partially a lie. He had to do so many things, and make each appear as though it were the only thing he had to do. He had to compartmentalize everything, when on one task to pretend that the others didn't exist. Maybe like Cathy and her patients. Wasn't that an interesting thought? They heard band music when the door opened, the local version of "Ruffles and Flourishes."

"I guess we can get up now."

The protocol was already established. People hunched at the windows to watch the President reach the bottom of the steps, shake hands with the new Russian President and the U.S. Ambassador to the Russian Republic. The rest of the official party then went down the steps, while the press deplaned from the after door.

It was very different from Ryan's last trip to Moscow. The airport was the same, but the time of day, the weather, and the whole atmosphere could not have been more different. It only took one face to make that clear, that of Sergey Nikolayevich Golovko, chairman of the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service, who stood behind the front rank of dignitaries. In the old days he would not have shown his face at all, but now his blue eyes were aimed right at Ryan, and they twinkled with mirth as Jack led his wife down the stairs and to their place at the bottom.

The initial signs were a little scary, as was not unusual when political factors interfered with economic forces. Organized labor was flexing its muscles, and doing it cleverly for the first time in years. In cars and their associated components alone, it was possible that hundreds of thousands of jobs would be coming back to the fold. The arithmetic was straightforward: nearly ninety billion dollars of products had arrived from overseas in the last year and would now have to be produced domestically. Sitting down with their management counterparts, labor came to the collective decision that the only thing missing was the government's word that TRA would not be a paper tiger, soon to be cast away in the name of international amity. To get that assurance, however, they had to work Congress. So the lobbying was already under way, backed by the realization that the election cycle was coming up. Congress could not do one thing with one hand and something else with the other. Promises were made, and action taken, and for once both crossed party lines. The media were already commenting on how well it was working.

It wasn't just a matter of hiring employees. There would have to be a huge increase in capacity. Old plants and those operating under their capacity would need to be upgraded and so preliminary orders were put in for tooling and materials. The instant surge came as something of a surprise despite all the warnings, because despite their expertise even the most astute observers had not seen the bill for the revolution it really was.

But the blip on the statistical reports was unmistakable. The Federal Reserve kept all manner of measuring criteria on the American economy, and one of them was orders for such things as steel and machine tools. The period during which TRA had traveled through Congress and to the White House had seen a jump so large as to be off the graph paper. Then the governors saw a vast leap in short-term borrowing, largely from auto-related industries that had to finance their purchases from various specialty suppliers. The rise in orders was inflationary, and inflation was already a long-standing concern. The rise in borrowing would deplete the supply of money that could be borrowed. That had to be stopped, and quickly. The governors decided that instead of the quarter-point rise in the discount rate that they had already approved, and word of which had already leaked, the jump would be a full half-point, to be announced at close of business the following day.

Commander Ugaki was in the control room of his submarine, as usual chain-smoking and drinking copious amounts of tea that occasioned hourly trips to his cabin and its private head, not to mention hacking coughs that were exacerbated by the dehumidified air (kept unusually dry to protect onboard electronic systems). He knew they had to be out there, at least one, perhaps two American submarines—Charlotte and Asheville, his intelligence briefs had told him—but it wasn't the boats he feared. It was the crews. The American submarine force had been reduced drastically in size, but evidently not in quality. He'd expected to detect his adversary for DATELINE PARTNERS hours before. Perhaps, Ugaki told himself, they hadn't even had a sniff of him yet, but he wasn't sure of that, and over the past thirty-six hours he'd come fully to the realization that this was no longer a game, not since he'd received the code phrase "Climb Mount Niitaka." How confident he had been a week earlier, but now he was at sea and underwater. The transition from theory to reality was striking.

"Anything?" he asked his sonar officer, getting a headshake for an answer.

Ordinarily, an American sub on an exercise like this was "augmented," meaning that a sound source was switched on, which increased the amount of radiated noise she put in the water. Done to simulate the task of detecting a Russian submarine, it was in one way arrogant and in another way very clever of the Americans. They so rarely played against allies or even their own forces at the level of their true capabilities that they had learned to operate under a handicap—like a runner with weighted shoes. As a result, when they played a game without the handicap, they were formidable indeed.

Well, so am I! Ugaki told himself. Hadn't he grown up tracking Russian subs like the Americans? Hadn't he gotten in close of a Russian Akula? Patience. The true samurai is patient. This was not a task for a merchant, after all.

"It is like tracking whales, isn't it?" Commander Steve Kennedy observed.

"Pretty close," Sonarman 1/c Jacques Yves Laval, Jr., replied quietly, watching his display and rubbing his ears, sweaty from the headphones.

"You feel cheated?"

"My dad got to play the real game. All I ever heard growing up, sir, was what he could tell me about going up north and stalking the big boys on their own turf." Frenchy Laval was a name well known in the submarine community, a great sonarman who had trained other great sonarmen. Now retired as a master chief, his son carried on the tradition.

The hell of it was, tracking whales had turned out to be good training. They were stealthy creatures, not because they sought to avoid detection, but simply because they moved with great efficiency, and the submarines had found that moving in close enough to count and identify the members of individual pods or families was at least diverting if not exactly exciting. For the sonarmen anyway, Kennedy thought. Not much for weapons department…Laval's eyes focused on the waterfall display. He settled more squarely into his chair and reached for a grease pencil, tapping the third-class next to him.

"Two-seven-zero," he said quietly.


"What you got, Junior?" the CO asked.

"Just a sniff, sir, on the sixty-hertz line." Thirty seconds Liter: "firming up."

Kennedy stood behind the two watch-standers. There were now two dotted lines, one in the sixty-hertz frequency portion of the display, another on a higher-frequency band. The electric motors on the Japanese Harushio-class submarine used sixty-cycle A/C electrical current. An irregular series of dots, yellow on the dark screen, started cascading down in a column under the "60" frequency heading like droplets falling in slow motion from a leaky faucet, hence the appellation "waterfall display." Junior Laval let it grow for a few more seconds to see if it might be random and decided that it was probably not.

"Sir, I think we might want to start a track now. Designate this contact Sierra-One, possible submerged contact, bearing settling down on two-seven-four, strength is weak."

Kennedy relayed the information to the fire-control tracking party fifteen feet away. Another technician activated the ray-path analyzer, a high-end Hewlett-Packard minicomputer programmed to examine the possible paths through the water that the identified acoustical signal might have followed. Though widely known to exist, the high-speed software for this piece of kit was still one of the Navy's most closely held secrets, a product, Kennedy remembered, of Sonosystems, a Groton-based company run by one of Frenchy Laval's top proteges. The computer chewed on the input data for perhaps a thousand microseconds and displayed its reply.

"Sir, it's direct path. My initial range estimate is between eight and twelve thousand yards."

"Set it up," the approach officer told the petty officer on the fire-control director.

"This one ain't no humpback," Laval reported three minutes later. "I have three lines on the guy now, classify Sierra-One as a definite submarine contact, operating on his electric motors." Junior told himself that Laval here had made his rep stalking HEN-class Russian subs, which were about as hard to track as an earthquake. He adjusted his headphones. "Bearing steady at two-seven-four, getting hints of a blade rate on the guy."

"Solution light," the lead fire-controlman reported. "I have a valid solution for tube three on target Sierra-One."

"Left ten-degrees rudder, come to new course one-eight-zero," Kennedy ordered next to get a crossbearing, from which would come a better range-gate on the target, and also data on the sub's course and speed. "Let's slow her down, turns for five knots."

The stalk was always the fun part.

"If you do that, you're cutting your own throat with a dull knife," Anne Quinlan said in her customarily direct way.

Kealty was sitting in his office. Ordinarily the number-two man in any organization would be in charge when number-one was away, but the miracle of modern communications meant that Roger could do everything he needed to do at midnight over Antarctica if he had to. Including putting out a press statement from his aircraft in Moscow that he was hanging his Vice President out to dry. Kealty's first instinct was to proclaim to the entire world that he knew he had the confidence of his President. That would hint broadly that the news stories were true, and muddy the waters sufficiently to give him room to maneuver, the thing he needed most of all.

"What we need to know, Ed," his chief of staff pointed out, not for the first time, "is who the hell started this." That was the one thing the story had left out, clever people that reporters were. She couldn't ask him how many of the women in his office he'd visited with his charms. For one thing he probably didn't remember, and for another, the hard part would be identifying those he hadn't.

"Whoever it was, it was somebody close to Lisa," another staffer observed. That insight made light bulbs flash inside every head in the office.


"Good guess," the "Chief"—which was how Quinlan liked to be identified—thought. "We need to confirm that, and we need to settle her down some."

"Woman scorned," Kealty murmured.

"Ed, I don't want to hear any of that, okay?" the Chief warned. "When the hell are you going to learn that 'no' doesn't mean 'maybe later'? Okay, I'll go see Barbara myself, and maybe we can talk her out of this, but, god-dammit, this is the last time, okay?"


18—Easter Egg

"Is this where the dresser was?" Ryan asked.

"I keep forgetting how well informed you are," Golovko observed, just to flatter his guest, since the story was actually widely known.

Jack grinned, still feeling more than a little of Alice-through-the-Looking-Glass. There was a completely ordinary door in the wall now, but until the time of Yuri Andropov, a large wooden clothes cabinet had covered it, for in the time of Beriya and the rest, the entrance to the office of Chairman of the KGB had to be hidden. There was no door off the main corridor, and none visible even in the anteroom. The melodrama of it had to have been absurd, Ryan thought, even to Lavrentiy Beriya, whose morbid fear of assassination—though hardly unreasonable—had dreamed up this obtuse security measure. It hadn't helped him avoid death at the hands of men who'd hated him even more than they'd feared him. Still and all, wasn't it bizarre enough just for the President's National Security Advisor to enter the office of the Chairman of the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service? Beriya's ashes must have been stirring up somewhere, Ryan thought, in whatever sewer they'd dropped the urn. He turned to look at his host, his mind imagining the oak bureau still, and halfway wishing they'd kept the old name of KGB, Committee for State Security, just for tradition's sake.

"Sergey Nikolay'ch, has the world really changed so much in the past—God, only ten years?"

"Not even that, my friend." Golovko waved Jack to a comfortable leather chair that dated back to the building's previous incarnation as home office of the Rossiya Insurance Company. "And yet we have so far to go."

Business, Jack thought. Well, Sergey had never been bashful about that. Ryan remembered looking into the wrong end of a pistol in this man's hand. But that had all taken place before the so-called end of history.

"I'm doing everything I can, Sergey. We got you the five billion for the missiles. That was a nice scam you ran on us, by the way." Ryan checked his watch. The ceremony was scheduled for the evening. One Minuteman-III and one SS-19 left—if you didn't count the SS-19's in Japan that had been reconfigured to launch satellites.

"We have many problems, Jack."

"Fewer than a year ago," Ryan observed, wondering what the next request would be. "I know you advise President Grushavoy on more than just intelligence matters. Come on, Sergey, things are getting better. You know that."

"Nobody ever told us that democracy would be so hard."

"It's hard for us, too, pal. We rediscover it every day."

"The frustration is that we know we have everything we need to make our country prosperous. The problem is in making everything work. Yes, I advise my president on many things—"

"Sergey, if you're not one of the best-informed people in your country, I would be very surprised."

"Hmm, yes. Well, we are surveying eastern Siberia, so many things, so many resources. We have to hire Japanese to do it for us, but what they are finding…" His voice trailed off.

"You're building up to something, Sergey. What is it?"

"We think they do not tell us everything. We dug up some surveys done in the early thirties. They were in archives in the Ministry of the Interior. A deposit of gadolinium in an unlikely place. At the time there were few uses for that metal, and it was forgotten until some of my people did a detailed search of old data. Gadolinium now has many uses, and one of their survey teams camped within a few kilometers of the deposit. We know it's real. The thirties team brought back samples for assay. But it was not included in their last report."

"And?" Jack asked.

"And I find it curious that they lied to us on this," Golovko observed, taking his time. You didn't build up to a play like this all that quickly.

"How are you paying them for the work?"

"The agreement is that they will assist us in the exploitation of many of the things they find for us. The terms are generous."

"Why would they lie?" Ryan inquired.

Golovko shook his head. "I do not know. It might be important to find out. You are a student of history, are you not?"

It was one of the things that each respected about the other. Ryan might have written off Golovko's concerns as yet another example of Russian paranoia—sometimes he thought that the entire concept had been invented in this country—but that would have been unfair. Russia had fought Japan under the Czar in 1904-1905 and lost, along the way giving the Japanese Navy a landmark victory at the Battle of the Tsushima Strait. Thai war had gone a long way toward destroying the Romanovs and to elevating Japan to world-power status, which had led to their involvement in two world wars. It had also inflicted a bleeding sore on the Russian psyche that Stalin had remembered well enough to recover the lost territories. The Japanese had also been involved in post-World War I efforts to topple the Bolsheviks. They'd put a sizable army into Siberia, and hadn't been all that enthusiastic about withdrawing it. The same thing had happened again, in 1938 and 1939, with more serious consequences this time, first at the hands of Marshal Blyukher, and then a guy named Zhukov. Yes, there was much history between Russia and Japan.

"In this day and age, Sergey?" Ryan asked with a wry expression.

"You know, Jack, as bright a chap as you are, you are still an American, and your experience with invasions is far less serious than ours. Are we panicked about this? No, of course not. Is it something worthy of close attention? Yes, Ivan Emmetovich, it is."

He was clearly building up to something, and with all the time he'd taken, it had to be something big, Ryan thought. Time to find out what it was: "Well, Sergey Nikolay'ch, I suppose I can understand your concern, but there isn't very much I can—" Golovko cut him off with a single word.


"Lyalin's old network. What about it?"

"You have recently reactivated it." The Chairman of RVS saw that Ryan had the good grace to blink in surprise. A bright, serious man, Ryan, but still not really someone who would have made a good field officer. His emotions were just too open. Perhaps, Sergey thought, he should read a book on Ireland, the better to understand the player in the ancient leather chair. Ryan had strengths and weaknesses, neither of which he completely understood.

"What gives you that idea?" the American asked as innocently as he could, knowing that he'd reacted, again, baited by this clever old pro. He saw Golovko smile at his discomfort and wondered if the liberalization of this country had allowed people to develop a better sense of humor. Before Golovko would just have stared impassively.

"Jack, we are professionals, are we not? I know this. How I know it is my concern."

"I don't know what cards you're holding, my friend, but before you go any further, we need to decide if this is a friendly game or not."

"As you know, the real Japanese counterintelligence agency is the Public Safety Investigation Division of their Justice Ministry." The expositional statement was as clear as it had to be, and was probably truthful. It also defined the terms of the discourse. This was a friendly game. Golovko had just revealed a secret of his own, though not a surprising one.

You had to admire the Russians. Their expertise in the espionage business was world-class. No, Ryan corrected himself. They were the class of the world. What better way to run agents in any foreign country than first to establish a network within the country's counterintelligence services? There was still the lingering suspicion that they had in fact controlled MI-5, Britain's Security Service, for some years, and their deep and thorough penetration of CIA's own internal-security arm was still an embarrassment to America.

"Make your play," Ryan said. Check to the dealer…

"You have two field officers in Japan covered as Russian journalists. They are reactivating the network. They are very good, and very careful, but one of their contacts is compromised by PSID. That can happen to anyone," Golovko observed fairly. He didn't even gloat, Jack saw. Well, he was too professional for that, and it was a fairly friendly game by most standards. The other side of the statement was as clear as it could be: with a simple gesture Sergey was in a position to burn Clark and Chavez, creating yet another international incident between two countries that had enough problems to settle. That was why Golovko didn't gloat. He didn't have to.

Ryan nodded. "Okay, pal. I just folded. Tell me what you want."

"We would like to know why Japan is lying to us, and anything else that in Mrs. Foley's opinion might be of interest to us. In return we are in a position to protect the network for you." He didn't add, for the time being.

"How much do they know?" Jack asked, considering the spoken offer. Golovko was suggesting that Russia cover an American intelligence operation. It was something new, totally unprecedented. They put a very high value on the information that might be developed. High as hell, Jack thought. Why?

"Enough to expel them from the country, no more." Golovko opened a drawer and handed over a sheet of paper. "This is all Foleyeva needs to know."

Jack read and pocketed it. "My country has no desire to see any sort of conflict between Russia and Japan."

"Then we are agreed?"

"Yes, Sergey. I will recommend approval of your suggestion."

"As always, Ivan Emmetovich, a pleasure to do business with you."

"Why didn't you activate it yourself?" Ryan asked, wondering how badly rolled he'd been that day.

"Lyalin held out on the information. Clever of him. We didn't have enough time to—persuade? Yes, persuade him to give it over—before we gave him to your custody."

Such a nice turn of phrase, Jack thought. Persuade. Well, Golovko had come up under the old system. It was too much to expect that he would have been entirely divorced from it. Jack managed a grin.

"You know, you were great enemies." And with Golovko's single suggestion. Jack thought behind clinically impassive eyes, perhaps now there would be the beginning of something else. Damn, how much crazier would this world get?

It was six hours later in Tokyo, and eight hours earlier in New York. The fourteen-hour differential and the International Dateline created many opportunities for confusion. It was Saturday the fourteenth in some places and Friday in others.

At three in the morning, Chuck Searls left his home for the last time. He'd rented a car the previous day—like many New Yorkers, he had never troubled himself to purchase one—for the drive to La Guardia. The Delta terminal was surprisingly full for the first flight of the day to Atlanta. He'd booked a ticket through one of the city's many travel agencies, and paid cash for the assumed name he would hereafter be using from time to time, which was not the same as the one on the passport he had also acquired a few months ago. Sitting in 2-A, a first-class seat whose wide expanse allowed him to turn slightly and lean his head back, he slept most of the way to Atlanta, where his baggage was transferred to a flight to Miami. There wasn't much, really. Two lightweight suits, some shirts, and other immediate necessities, plus his laptop computer. In Miami he'd board another flight under another name and head southeast to paradise.

George Winston, former head of the Columbus Group, was not a happy man despite the plush surroundings of his home in Aspen. A wrenched knee saw to that. Though he now had the time to indulge his newly discovered passion for skiing, he was a little too inexperienced and perhaps a little too old to use the expert slopes. It hurt like a sonuvabitch. He rose from his bed at three in the morning and limped into the bathroom for another dose of the painkiller the doctor had prescribed. Once there he found that the combination of wakefulness and lingering pain offered little hope of returning to sleep. It was just after five in New York, he thought, about the time he usually got up, always early to get a jump on the late-risers, checking his computer and the Journal and other sources of information so that he could be fully prepared for his opening moves on the market.

He missed it, Winston admitted to himself. It was a hell of a thing to say to the face in the mirror. Okay, so he'd worked too hard, alienated himself from his own family, driven himself into a state little different from drug addiction, but getting out was a…mistake?

Well, no, not exactly that, he thought, hobbling into his den as quietly as he could manage. It was just that you couldn't empty something and then attempt to fill it with nothing, could you? He couldn't sail his Cristobol all the time, not with kids in school. In fact there was only one thing in his life that he'd been able to do all the time, and that had damned near killed him, hadn't it?

Even so…

Damn, you couldn't even get the Journal out here at a decent hour. And this was civilization? Fortunately, they did have phone lines. Just for old times' sake, he switched on his computer. Winston was wired into nearly every news and financial service there was, and he selected his personal favorite. It was good to do it early in the morning. His wife would yell again if she saw him up to his old tricks, which meant that he was nowhere near as current on the Street as he liked to be, player or not. Well, okay, he had a few hours, and it wasn't as though he'd be riding a helicopter to the top of the mountain at dawn, was it? No skiing at all, the doc had told him firmly. Not for at least a week, and then he'd confine himself to the bunny slopes. It wouldn't look that bad, would it? He'd pretend to be teaching his kids…damn!

He'd gotten out too soon. No way he could have known, of course, but in the last few weeks the market had begged aloud for a person with his talents to swoop down and make his moves. He would have moved on steel three weeks ago, made his killing, and then moved on to…Silicon Alchemy. Yeah, that was one he would have snapped up in one big hurry. They had invented a new sort of screen for laptop computers, and now with Japan's products under a cloud, the issue had exploded. Who was it who'd quarterbacked the IPO? That Ryan guy, good instincts for the business, pissing away his time in government service now. What a waste of talent, Winston told himself, feeling the ache in his leg and trying not to add that he was pissing away his time in the middle of the night at a ski resort he couldn't use for the next week at best.

Everything on the Street seemed so unnecessarily shaky, he thought, checking trend lines on stocks he considered good if stealthy bellwethers. That was one of the tricks, spotting trends and indicators before the others did. One of the tricks? Hell, the only trick. How he did it was surprisingly hard to teach. He supposed that it was the same in any field. Some people just did it, and he was one of them. Others tried to do the same by cheating, seeking out information in underhanded ways, or by falsely creating trends that they could then exploit. But that was…cheating, wasn't it? And what was the point of making money that way? Beating the others fairly and at their own game, that was the real art of trading, and at the end of the day what he liked to hear was the way others would come up and say, "You son of a bitch!" The tone of the comment made all the difference. There was no reason for the market to be so unsteady, he thought. People hadn't thought the things through, that was all.

The Hornets went off behind the first wave of Tomcats. Sanchez taxied his fighter to the starboard-side bow cat, feeling the towbar that formed part of his nosewheel gear slip into the proper slot on the shuttle. His heavily loaded fighter shuddered at full power as the deck crewmen gave the aircraft a last visual check. Satisfied, the catapult officer made the ready signal, and Sanchez fired off a salute and set his head back on the back of his ejection seat. A moment later, steam power flung him off the bow and into the air. The Hornet settled a bit, a feeling that was never entirely routine, and he climbed into the sky, retracting his landing gear and heading toward the rendezvous point, his wings heavy with fuel tanks and blue practice missiles.

They were trying to be clever, and almost succeeding, but "almost" didn't really count in this game. Satellite photos had revealed the presence of the three inbound surface groups. Sanchez would lead the Alpha Strike against the big one, eight ships, all tin cans. Two separated pairs of Tomcats would deal with the P-3S they had out; for the first time they'd hunt actively with their search radars instead of being under EMCOM. It would be a single rapier thrust—no, more the descending blow of a big and heavy club.

Intermittent sweeps of an E-2C Hawkeye radar aircraft determined that the Japanese had not deployed fighters to Marcus, which would have been clever if difficult for them, and in any case they would not have been able to surge enough of them to matter, not against two full carrier air wings. Marcus just wasn't a big enough island, as Saipan or Guam was. That was his last abstract thought for a while. On Bud's command via a low-power radio circuit, the formation began to disperse according to its carefully structured plan.

"Hai." Sato lifted the growler phone on Mutsu's bridge.

"We just detected low-power radio voice traffic. Two signals, bearing one-five-seven, and one-nine-five, respectively."

"It's about time," Sato told his group-operations officer. I thought they'd never get around to their attack. In a real-war situation he would do one thing. In this particular case, he'd do another. There was little point in letting the Americans know the sensitivity of his ELINT gear. "Continue as before."

"Very well. We still have the two airborne radars. They appear to be flying racetrack patterns, no change."

"Thank you." Sato replaced the phone and reached for his tea. His best technicians were working the electronic-intelligence listening gear, and they had tapes collecting the information taken down by every sensor for later study. That was really the important part of this phase of the exercise, to learn all they could about how the U.S. Navy made its deliberate attacks.

"Action stations?" Mutsu's captain asked quietly.

"No need," the Admiral replied, staring thoughtfully at the horizon, as he supposed a fighting sailor did.

Aboard Snoopy One, an EA-6B Prowler, the flight crew monitored all radar and radio frequencies. They found and identified six commercial-type search radars, none of them close to the known location of the Japanese formation. They weren't making it much of a contest, everyone thought. Normally these games were a lot more fun.

The captain of the port at Tanapag harbor looked out from his office to see a large car-carrier working her way around the southern tip of Managaha Island. That was a surprise. He ruffled through the papers on his desk to see where the telex was to warn him of her arrival. Oh, yes, there. It must have come in during the night. MV Orchid Ace out of Yokohama. Cargo of Toyota Land Cruisers diverted for sale to the local Japanese landowners. Probably a ship that had been scheduled for transit to America. So now the cars would come here and clog the local roads some more. He grumped and lifted his binoculars to give her a look and saw to his surprise another lump on the horizon, large and boxy. Another car carrier? That was odd.

Snoopy One held position and altitude, just under the visual horizon from the "enemy" formation, about one hundred miles away. The electronic warriors in the two backseats had their hands ready on the power switches for the onboard jammers, but the Japanese didn't have any of their radars up, and there was nothing to jam. The pilot allowed herself a look to the south-east and saw a few flashes, yellow glints off the gold-impregnated canopies of the inbound Alpha Strike, which was now angling down to the deck to stay out of radar coverage as long as possible before popping up to loose their first "salvo" of administrative missiles.

"Tango, tango, tango," Commander Steve Kennedy said into the gertrude, giving the code word for a theoretical or "administrative" torpedo launch. He'd held contact with the Harushio-class for nine hours, taking the time to get acquainted with the contact, and to get his crew used to something more demanding than getting heartbeats on a pregnant humpback. Finally bored with the game, it was time to light up the underwater telephone and, he was sure, scare the bejeebers out of Sierra-One after giving him ample time to counter-detect. He didn't want anyone to say later that he hadn't given the other guy a fair break. Not that this sort of thing was supposed to be fair, but Japan and America were friends, despite the news stuff they'd heard on the radio for the past few weeks.

"Took his time," Commander Ugaki said. They'd tracked the American 688 for almost forty minutes. So they were good, but not that good, it had been so hard for them to detect Kurushio that they'd made their attack as soon as they had a track, and, Ugaki thought, he'd let them have their first shot. So. The CO looked at his own fire-control director and the four red solution lights.

He lifted his own gertrude phone to reply in a voice full of good-natured surprise: "Where did you come from?"

Those crewmen who were in earshot—every man aboard spoke good English—were surprised at the captain's announcement. Ugaki saw the looks.

He would brief them in later.

"Didn't even 'tango' back. I guess he wasn't at GQ." Kennedy keyed the phone again. "As per exercise instructions, we will now pull off and turn on our augmenter." On his command, USS Asheville turned right and increased speed to twenty knots. She'd pull away to twenty thousand yards to restart the exercise, giving the "enemy" a better chance at useful training.

"Conn, sonar."

"Conn, aye."

"New contact, designate Sierra-Five, bearing two-eight-zero, twin-screw diesel surface ship, type unknown. Blade rate indicates about eighteen knots," SM/1c Junior Laval announced.

"No classification?"

"Sounds a little, well, little, Cap'n, not the big boomin' sounds of a large merchantman."

"Very well, we'll run a track. Keep me posted."

"Sonar, aye."

It was just too easy, Sanchez thought. The Enterprise group was probably having a tougher time with their Kongo-class DDGs up north. He was not pressing it, but holding his extended flight of four at three hundred feet above the calm surface, at a speed of just four hundred knots. Each of the four fighter-attack aircraft of Slugger Flight carried four exercise Harpoon missiles, as did the four trailing in Mauler. He checked his heads-up display for location. Data loaded into his computer only an hour before gave him a probable location for the formation, and his GPS navigation system had brought him right to the programmed place. It was time to check to see how accurate their operational intelligence was.

"Mauler, this is lead, popping up—now!" Sanchez pulled back easily on the stick. "Going active—now!" With the second command he flipped on his search radar. There they were, big as hell on the display. Sanchez selected the lead ship in the formation and spun up the seeker heads in the otherwise inert missiles hanging from his wings. He got four ready lights. "This is Slugger-Lead. Launch launch launch! Rippling four vampires."

"Two, launching four."

"Three, launch four."

"Four, launching three, one abort on the rail." About par for the course, Sanchez thought, framing a remark for his wing maintenance officer. In a real attack the aircraft would have angled back down to the surface after firing their missiles so as not to expose themselves. For the purposes of the exercise they descended to two hundred feet and kept heading in to simulate their own missiles. Onboard recorders would take down the radar and tracking data from the Japanese ships in order to evaluate their performance, which so far was not impressive.

Faced with the irksome necessity of allowing women to fly in real combat squadrons off real carriers, the initial compromise had been to put them in electronic-warfare aircraft, hence the Navy's first female squadron commander was Commander Roberta Peach of VAQ-137, "The Rooks." The most senior female carrier aviator, she deemed it her greatest good fortune that another naval aviator, female, already had the call sign "Peaches," which allowed her to settle on "Robber," a name she insisted on in the air.

"Getting signals now, Robber," the lead EWO in the back of her Prowler reported. "Lots of sets lighting off."

"Shut 'em back down," she ordered curtly.

"Sure are a lot of 'em…targeting a Harm on an SPG-51. Tracking and ready."

"Launching now," Robber said. Shooting was her prerogative as aircraft commander. As long as the SPG-51 missile-illumination radar was up and radiating, the Harm antiradar missile was virtually guaranteed to hit.

Sanchez could see the ships now, gray shapes on the visual horizon. An unpleasant screech in his headphones told him that he was being illuminated with both search and fire-control radar, never a happy bit of news even in an exercise, all the more so that the "enemy" in this case had American-designed SM-2 Standard surface-to-air missiles with whose performance he was quite familiar. It looked like a Hatakaze-class. Two SPG-51C missile radars. Only one single-rail launcher. She could guide only two at a time.

His aircraft represented two missiles. The Hornet was a larger target than the Harpoon was, and was not going as low or as fast as the missile did. On the other hand, he had a protective jammer aboard, which evened the equation somewhat. Bud eased his stick to the left. It was against safely rules to fly directly over a ship under circumstances like this, and a few seconds later he passed three hundred yards ahead of the destroyer's bow. At least one of his missiles would have hit, he judged, and that one was only a five-thousand-ton tin can. One Harpoon warhead would ruin her whole day, making his follow-up attack with cluster munitions even more deadly.

"Slugger, this is lead. Form up on me."



"Four," his flight acknowledged.

Another day in the life of a naval aviator, the CAG thought. Now he could look forward to landing, going into CIC, and spending the rest of the next twenty-four hours going over the scores. It just wasn't very exciting anymore. He'd splashed real airplanes, and anything else wasn't the same. But flying was still flying.

The roar of aircraft overhead was usually exhilarating. Sato watched the last of the gray American fighters climb away, and lifted his binoculars to see their direction. Then he rose and headed below to the CIC.

"Well?" he asked.

"Departure course is as we thought." Fleet-Ops tapped the satellite photo that showed both American battle groups, still heading west, into the prevailing winds, to conduct flight operations. The photo was only two hours old. The radar plot showed the American aircraft heading to the expected point.

"Excellent. My respects to the captain, make course one-five-five, maximum possible speed." In less than a minute, Mutsu shuddered with increased engine power and started riding harder through the gentle Pacific swells for her rendezvous with the American battle force. Timing was important.

On the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, a young trader's clerk made a posting error on Merck stock at exactly 11:43:02 Eastern Standard Time. It actually went onto the system and appeared on the board at 23 1/6, well off the current value. Thirty seconds later he typed it in again, inputting the same amount. This time he got yelled at. He explained that the damned keyboard was sticky, and unplugged it, switching it for a new one. It happened often enough. People spilled coffee and other things in this untidy place. The correction was inputted at once, and the world returned to normal. In the same minute something similar happened with General Motors stock, and someone made the same excuse. It was safe. The people at her particular kiosk didn't interact all that much with the people who did Merck. Neither had any idea what they were doing, just that they were being paid $50,000 to make an error that would have no effect on the system at all. Had they not done it—they did not know—another pair of individuals had been paid the same amount of money to do the same thing ten minutes later. In the Stratus mainframe computers at the Depository Trust Company—more properly in the software that resided in them—the entries were noted, and the Easter Egg started to hatch.

The cameras and lights were all set up in St. Vladimir Hall of the Great Kremlin Palace, the traditional room for finalizing treaties and a place that Jack had visited at another time and under very different circumstances. In two separate rooms, the President of the United States and the President of the Russian Republic were having their makeup put on, something that was probably more irksome to the Russian, Ryan was sure. Looking good for the cameras was not a traditional requirement for local political figures. Most of the guests were already seated, but the senior members of both official parties could be more relaxed. Final preparations were just about complete. The crystal glasses were on their trays, and the corks on the champagne bottles were unwrapped, awaiting only the word to be popped off.

"That reminds me. You never did send me any of that Georgian champagne," Jack told Sergey.

"Well, today it can be done, and I can get you a good price."

"You know, before, I would have had to turn it in because of ethics laws."

"Yes, I know that every American official is a potential crook," Golovko noted, checking around to see that everything was done properly.

"You should be a lawyer." Jack saw the lead Secret Service agent come through the door, and headed to his seat. "Some place, isn't it, honey?" he asked his wife.

"The czars knew how to live," she whispered back as the TV lights all came on. In America, all the networks interrupted their regular programming. The timing was a little awkward, with the eleven-hour differential between Moscow and the American West Coast. Then there was Russia, which had at least ten time zones of its own, a result of both sheer size and, in the case of Siberia, proximity to the Arctic Circle. But this was something everyone would want to see.

The two presidents came out, to the applause of the three hundred people present. Roger Durling and Eduard Grushavoy met at the mahogany table and shook hands warmly as only two former enemies could Durling, the former soldier and paratrooper with Vietnam experience; Grushavoy, also a former soldier, a combat engineer who had been among the first to enter Afghanistan. Trained to hate one another in their youth, now they would put a final end to it all. On this day, they would set aside all the domestic problems that both lived with on every day of the week. For today, the world would change by their hands.

Grushavoy, the host, gestured Durling to his chair, then moved to the microphone.

"Mister President," he said through an interpreter whom he didn't really need, "it is my pleasure to welcome you to Moscow for the first time…"

Ryan didn't listen to the speech. It was predictable in every phrase. His eyes fixed on a black plastic box that sat on the table exactly between the chairs of the two chiefs of state. It had two red buttons and a cable that led down to the floor. A pair of TV monitors sat against the near wall, and in the rear of the room, large projection TVs were available for everyone to watch. They showed similar sites.

"Hell of a way to run a railroad," an Army major noted, twenty miles from Minot, North Dakota. He'd just screwed in the last wire. "Okay, circuits are live. Wires are hot." Only one safety switch prevented the explosives from going, and he had his hand on it. He'd already done a personal check of everything, and there was a full company of military police patrolling the area because Friends of the Earth was threatening to protest the event by putting people where the explosives were, and as desirable as it might be just to blow the bastards up, the officer would have to disable the firing circuit if that happened. Why the hell, he wondered, would anybody protest this? He'd already wasted an hour trying to explain that to his Soviet counterpart.

"So like the steppes here," the man said, shivering in the wind. They both watched a small TV for their cue.

"It's a shame we don't have the politicians around here to give us some hot air." He took his hand off the safety switch. Why couldn't they just get on with it?

The Russian officer knew his American English well enough to laugh at the remark, feeling inside his oversized parka for a surprise he had in waiting for the American.

"Mr. President, the hospitality we have experienced in this great city is proof positive that there should be, can be, and will be a friendship between our two peoples—just as strong as our old feelings were, but far more productive. Today, we put an end to war," Durling concluded to warm applause, returning to shake Grushavoy's hand again. Both men sat down. Oddly, now they had to take their orders from an American TV director who held a headset to his face and talked very quickly.

"Now," men said in two languages, "if the audience will turn to the TVs…"

"When I was a lieutenant in the pioneers," the Russian President whispered, "I loved blowing things up."

Durling grinned, leaning his head in close. Some things were not for microphones. "You know the job I always wanted as a boy—do you have it over here?"

"What is that, Roger?"

"The guy who runs the crane with the big iron ball for knocking buildings down. It has to be the best job in the whole world."

"Especially if you can put your parliamentary opposition in the building first!" It was a point of view that both shared.

"Time," Durling saw from the director.

Both men put their thumbs on their buttons.

"On three, Ed?" Durling asked.

"Yes, Roger!"

"One," Durling said.

"Two," Grushavoy continued.

"Three!" both said, pressing them down.

The two buttons closed a simple electrical circuit that led to a satellite transmitter outside. It took roughly a third of a second for the signal to go up to the satellite and come back down, then another third for the result to retrace the same path, and for a long moment a lot of people thought that something had gone wrong. But it hadn't.

"Whoa!" the Major observed when a hundred pounds of Composition-Four went off. The noise was impressive, even from half a mile, and there followed the tower of flame from the ignition of the solid-fuel rocket motor.

That part of the ceremony had been tricky. They'd had to make sure that the thing would burn from the top only. Otherwise the missile might have tried to fly out of the silo, and that would just not have done at all. In fact the whole exercise was unnecessarily complicated and dangerous. The cold wind drove the toxic exhaust smoke to the east, and by the time it got to anything important, it would just be a bad smell, which was pretty much what you could say about the political conditions that had occasioned the existence of the burning rocket motor, wasn't it? There was a certain awe to it, though. The world's largest firework, burning backwards for about three minutes before there was nothing left but smoke. A sergeant activated the silo fire-suppression system, which actually worked, rather to the Major's surprise.

"You know, we had a drawing to see who'd get to do this. I won," the officer said, getting to his feet.

"I was just ordered to come. I am glad I did. Is it safe now?"

"I think so. Come on, Valentin. We have one more job to do, don't we?"

Both men got into an HMMWV, the current incarnation of the Army jeep, and the Major started it up, heading for the silo from upwind. Now it was just a hole in the ground, generating steam. A CNN crew followed, still giving a live feed as the vehicle bumped across the uneven prairie. Their vehicle stopped two hundred yards away, somewhat to their annoyance, while the two officers dismounted their vehicle, carrying gas masks against the possibility that there was still enough smoke to be a health concern. There wasn't. Just the nasty smell. The American officer waved the TV crew in and waited for them to get ready. That took two minutes.

"Ready!" the unit director said.

"Are we in agreement that the silo and missile are destroyed?"

"Yes, we are," the Russian replied with a salute. Then he reached behind his back and pulled two crystal glasses from his pockets. "Would you hold these please, Comrade Major?"

Next came a bottle of Georgian champagne. The Russian popped the cork with a wide grin and filled both glasses.

"I teach you Russian tradition now. First you drink," he said. The TV crew loved it.

"I think I know that part." The American downed the champagne. "And now?"

"The glasses may never be used for a lesser purpose. Now you must do as I do." With that the Russian turned and poised himself to hurl his glass into the empty hole. The American laughed and did the same.

"Now!" With that, both glasses disappeared into the last American Minuteman silo. They disappeared in the steam, but both could hear them shatter against the scorched concrete walls.

"Fortunately, I have two more glasses," Valentin said, producing them.

"Son of a bitch," Ryan breathed. It turned out that the American at the Russian silo had had a similar idea, and was now explaining what "Miller time!" meant. Unfortunately, aluminum cans didn't break when thrown.

"Overly theatrical," his wife thought.

"It isn't exactly Shakespeare, but if t'were done when t'were done, then at least it's done, honey." Then they heard the corks popping off amid the sounds of applause.

"Is the five-billion-dollars part true?"


"So, Ivan Emmetovich, we can be truly friends now?" Golovko asked, bringing glasses. "We finally meet, Caroline," he said graciously to Cathy.

"Sergey and I go way back," Jack explained, taking the glass and toasting his host.

"To the time I had a gun to your head," the Russian observed. Ryan wondered if it were an historical reference…or a toast to the event?

"What?" Cathy asked, almost choking on her drink.

"You never told her?"

"Jesus, Sergey!"

"What are you two talking about?"

"Dr. Ryan, once upon a time your husband and I had a…professional disagreement that ended up with myself holding a pistol in his face. I never told you, Jack, that the gun wasn't loaded."

"Well, I wasn't going anywhere anyway, was I?"

"What are you two talking about? Is this some inside joke?" Cathy demanded.

"Yeah, honey, that's about right. How is Andrey Il'ich doing?"

"He is well. In fact, if you would like to see him, it can be arranged."

Jack nodded. "I'd like that."

"Excuse me, but who exactly are you?"

"Honey," Jack said. "This is Sergey Nikolayevich Golovko, Chairman of the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service."

"KGB? You know each other?"

"Not KGB, madam. We are much smaller now. Your husband and I have been…competitors for years now."

"Okay, and who won?" she asked.

Both men had the same thought, but Golovko said it first: "Both of us, of course. Now, if you will permit, let me introduce you to my wife, Yelena. She is a pediatrician." That was something CIA had never bothered to find out, Jack realized.

He turned to look at the two presidents, enjoying the moment despite being surrounded by newsies. It was the first time he'd actually been to an event like this, but he was sure they weren't always this chummy. Perhaps it was the final release of all that tension, the realization that, yes, Virginia, it really was over. He saw people bringing in yet more champagne. It was pretty good stuff, and he fully intended to have his share of it. CNN would soon tire of the party, but these people would not. All the uniforms, and politicians, and spies, and diplomats. Hell, maybe they would all really be friends.

19—Strike Two

Though the overall timing was fortuitous, the plan for exploiting the chance was exquisite, the product of years of study and modeling and simulation. In fact the operation had already begun when six major commercial banks in Hong Kong started going short on U.S. Treasury bonds. These had been bought a few weeks earlier, part of a complex exchange for yen holdings done as a classic hedge against monetary fluctuations. The banks themselves were about to undergo a trauma—a change in ownership of the very ground upon which they stood—and the two factors made their massive purchases seem an entirely ordinary move to maximize their liquidity and flexibility at the same time. In liquidating the bonds, they were just cashing in, albeit in a large way, on the relative change in values of dollar and yen. They would realize a 17 percent profit from the move, in fact, then buy yen, which, currency experts all over the world were now saying, had reached a hard floor and would soon rebound. Still, two hundred ninety billion dollars of U.S. bonds were on the market briefly, and undervalued at that. They were soon snapped up by European banks. The Hong Kong bankers made the proper electronic entries, and the transaction was concluded. Next they wired the fact to Beijing, uneasily happy to show that they had followed orders and demonstrated obeisance to their soon-to-be political masters. So much the better, all thought, that they had taken a profit on the deal.

In Japan the transaction was noted. Fourteen hours off the local time of New York City, still the world's foremost trading center, it was not terribly unusual for Tokyo traders to work hours usually associated with night watchmen, and in any case the wire services that communicated financial information never ceased transmitting data. It would have surprised some people to learn that the people in the trading offices were very senior indeed, and that a special room had been established on the top floor of a major office building during the last week. Called the War Room by its current occupants, it had telephone lines leading to every city in the world with major trading activities and computer displays to show what was happening in all of them.

Other Asian banks went next, repeating the same procedure as in Hong Kong, and the people in the War Room watched their machines. Just after noon, New York time, Friday, which was 2:03 A.M. on Saturday in Tokyo, they saw another three hundred million dollars of U.S. bonds dumped into the market, these at a price even more attractive than that just offered in Hong Kong, and these, also, were rapidly bought by other European bankers for whom the working day and week were just coming to an end. As yet nothing grossly unusual had happened. Only then did the Japanese banks make their move, well covered by the activity of others. The Tokyo banks as well started selling off their U.S. Treasuries, clearly taking action to firm up the yen, it appeared. In the process, however, the entire world's ready surplus-dollar capacity had been used up in a period of minutes. It could be written off as a mere coincidence, but the currency traders—at least those not at lunch in New York—were now alerted to the fact that any further trading on those notes would be unsettling, however unlikely that might be, what with the known strength of the dollar.

The state dinner was reflective of traditional Russian hospitality, made all the more intense by the fact that it celebrated the end of two generations of nuclear terror. The Metropolitan of the Russian Orthodox Church intoned a long and dignified invocation. Himself twice the victim of political imprisonment, his invitation to rejoice was heartfelt, moving a few to tears, which were soon banished by the start of the feast. There was soup, and caviar, and fowl, and fine beef; and huge quantities of alcohol which, for just this once, everyone felt free to imbibe. The real work of the trip was done. There really were no secrets left to hide. Tomorrow was Saturday, and everyone would have the chance to sleep late.

"You, too, Cathy?" Jack asked. His wife was not normally a heavy drinker, but tonight she was knocking it back.

"This champagne is wonderful." It was her first state dinner overseas. She'd had a good day of her own with local ophthalmic surgeons, and had invited two of the best, full professors both, to come to the Wilmer Institute and acquaint themselves with her specialty area. Cathy was in the running for a Lasker Award for her work with laser surgery, the product of eleven years of clinical research, and the reason she had not accepted a department chairmanship twice offered by University of Virginia. Her big paper announcing the breakthrough would soon be published in NEJM, and for her as well, this night and this trip were the culmination of many things.

"You're going to pay for it tomorrow," her husband warned. Jack was going easier on all the drinks, though he had already exceeded his normal nightly limit, which was one. It was the toasts that would do everyone in, he knew, having been through Russian banquets before. It was just a cultural thing. The Russians could drink most Irishmen under any table, something he'd once learned the hard way, but most of the American party either hadn't learned that lesson or simply didn't care this night. The National Security Advisor shook his head. They'd sure as hell learn it tomorrow morning. The main course arrived just then, and deep red wine filled the glasses.

"Oh, God, my dress is going to split wide open!"

"That should add to the official entertainment," her husband observed, earning a glare from across the table.

"You are far too skinny," Golovko observed, sitting next to her and giving voice to another Russian prejudice.

"So how old are your children?" Yelena Golovko asked. Also thin by Russian standards, she was a professor of pediatrics, and a very pleasant dinner companion.

"An American custom," Jack replied, pulling out his wallet and showing the pictures. "Olivia—I call her Sally. This is little Jack, and this is our newest."

"Your son favors you, but the girls are the image of their mother."

Jack grinned. "A good thing, too."

The great trading firms are just that, but it's a mystery to the average stockholder just how they trade. Wall Street was a vast collection of misnomers, beginning with the street itself, which is the approximate width of a back alley in most American residential areas, and even the sidewalks seem overly narrow for the degree of traffic they serve. When purchase orders came in to a major house, like the largest of them, Merrill Lynch, the traders did not go looking, physically or electronically, for someone willing to sell that particular issue. Rather, every day the company itself bought measured holdings of issues deemed likely to trade, and then awaited consumer interest in them. Buying in fairly large blocks made for some degree of volume discounting, and the sales, generally, were at a somewhat higher price. In this way the trading houses made money on what bookies called a "middle" position, typically about one eighth of a point. A point was a dollar, and thus an eighth of a point was twelve and a half cents. Seemingly a tiny margin of profit for a stock whose share value could be anything up to hundreds of dollars in the case of some blue chips, it was a margin repeated on many issues on a daily basis, compounded over time to a huge potential profit if things went well. But they didn't always go well, and it was also possible for the houses to lose vast sums in a market that fell more rapidly than their estimates. There were many aphorisms warning of this. On the Hong Kong market, a large and active one, it was said that the market "went up like an escalator and down like an elevator," but the most basic saying was hammered into the mind of every new "rocket scientist" on the huge computertrading floor of Merrill Lynch headquarters on the Lower West Side: "Never assume that there is a buyer for what you want to sell." But everyone did assume that, of course, because there always was, at least as far back as the collective memory of the firm went, and that was pretty far.

Most of the trading was not to individual investors, however. Since the 1960's, mutual funds had gradually assumed control of the market. Called "institutions" and grouped under that title with banks, insurance companies, and pension-fund managers, there were actually far more such "institutions" than there were stock issues on the New York Stock Exchange, rather like having hunters outnumbering the game, and the institutions controlled pools of money so vast as to defy comprehension. They were so powerful that to a large extent their policies could actually have a large effect on individual issues and even, briefly, the entire market, and in many cases the "institutions" were controlled by a small number of people—in many cases, just one.

The third and largest wave of Treasury-note sales came as a surprise to everyone, but most of all to the Federal Reserve Bank headquarters in Washington, whose staff had noted the Hong Kong and Tokyo transactions, the first with interest, the second with a small degree of alarm. The Eurodollar market had made things right, but that market was now mainly closed. These were more Asian banks, institutions that set their benchmarks not in America, but in Japan, and whose technicians had also noted the dumping and done some phoning around the region. Those calls had ended up in a single room atop an office tower, where very senior banking officials said that they'd been called in from a night's sleep to see a situation that looked quite serious to them, occasioning the second wave of sales, and that they recommended a careful, orderly, but rapid movement of position away from the dollar.

U. S. Treasury notes were the debt instruments of the United States government and also the principal retaining wall for the value of American currency. Regarded for fifty years as the safest investment on the planet, T-Bills gave both American citizens and everyone else the ability to put their capital in a commodity that represented the world's most powerful economy, protected in turn by the world's most powerful military establishment and regulated by a political system that enshrined rights and opportunities through a Constitution that all admired even though they didn't always quite understand it. Whatever the faults and failings of America—none of them mysteries to sophisticated international investors—since 1945 the United States had been the one place in all the world where money was relatively safe. There was an inherent vitality to America from which all strong things grew. Imperfect as they were, Americans were also the world's most optimistic people, still a young country by the standards of the rest of the world, with all the attributes of vigorous youth. And so, when people had wealth to protect, mixed with uncertainty on how to protect it, most often they bought U.S. Treasury notes. The return wasn't always inviting, but the security was.

But not today. Bankers worldwide saw that Hong Kong and Tokyo had bailed out hard and fast, and the excuse over the trading wires that they were moving their positions from the dollar to the yen just didn't explain it all, especially after a few phone calls were made to inquire why the move had been made. Then the word arrived that more Japanese banks were moving out their bond holdings in a careful, orderly, and rapid movement. With that, bankers throughout Asia started doing the same. The third wave of selling was close to six hundred billion dollars, almost all short-term notes with which the current U.S. administration had chosen to finance its spending deficit.

The dollar was already falling, and with the start of the third wave of selling, all in a period of less than ninety minutes, the drop grew steeper still. In Europe, traders on their way home heard their cellular phones start beeping to call them back. Something unexpected was afoot. Analysts wondered if it had anything to do with the developing sex scandal within the American government. Europeans always wondered at the American fixation with the sexual dalliances of politicians. It was foolish, puritanical, and irrational, but it was also real to the American political scene, and that made it a relevant factor in how they handled American securities. The value of three-month U.S. Treasury notes was already down 19/32 of a point-bond values were expressed in such fractions—and as a result of that the dollar had fallen four cents against the British pound, even more against the Deutschmark, and more still again against the yen.

"What the hell is going on?" one of the Fed's board members asked. The whole board, technically known as the Open Market Committee, was grouped around a single computer screen, watching the trend in a collective mood of disbelief. There was no reason for this chaos that any of them could identify. Okay, sure, there was the flap over Vice President Kealty, but he was the Vice President. The stock market had been wavering up and down for some time due to the lingering confusion over the effects of the Trade Reform Act. But what kind of evil synergy was this? The problem, they knew without discussing, was that they might never really know what was happening. Sometimes there was no real explanation. Sometimes things just happened, like a herd of cattle deciding to stampede for no reason that the drovers ever understood. When the dollar was down a full hundred basis points-meaning one percent of value-they all walked into the sanctity of their boardroom and sat down. The discussion was rapid and decisive. There was a run on the dollar. They had to stop it. Instead of the half-point rise in the Discount Rate they had planned to announce at the end of the working day, they would go to a full point. A strong minority actually proposed more than that, but agreed to the compromise. The announcement would be made immediately. The head of the Fed's public-relations department drafted a statement for the Chairman to read for whatever news cameras would answer the summons, and the statement would go out simultaneously on every wire service.

When brokers returned to their desks from lunch, what had been a fairly calm Friday was something else entirely. Every office had a news board that gave shorthand announcements of national and international events, because such things had effects on the market. The notification that the Fed had jacked up its benchmark rate by a full point shocked most trading rooms to a full fifteen or thirty seconds of silence, punctuated by not a few Holy shits.

Technical traders modeling on their computer terminals saw that the market was already reacting. A rise in the discount rate was a sure harbinger of a brief dip in the Dow, like dark clouds were of rain. This storm would not be a pleasant one.

The big houses, Merrill Lynch, Lehman Brothers, Prudential-Bache, and all the rest, were highly automated, and all were organized along similar lines. In almost every case there was a single large room with banks of computer terminals. The size of the room was invariably dictated by the configuration of the building, and the highly paid technicians were crowded in almost as densely as a Japanese corporate office, except that in the American business centers people weren't allowed to smoke. Few of the men wore their suit jackets, and most of the women wore sneakers.

They were all very bright, though their educational backgrounds might have surprised the casual visitor. Once peopled with products of the Harvard or Wharton business schools, the new crop of "rocket scientists" were just that—largely holders of science degrees, especially mathematics and physics. MIT was the current school of choice, along with a handful of others. The reason was that the trading houses all used computers, and the computers used highly complex mathematical models both to analyze and predict what the market was doing. The models were based on painstaking historical research that covered the NYSE all the way back to when it was a place under the shade of a buttonwood tree. Teams of historians and mathematicians had plotted every move in the market. These records had been analyzed, compared with all identifiable outside factors, and given their own mathematically drawn measure of reality, and the result was a series of very precise and inhumanly intricate models for how the market had worked, did work, and would work. All of this data, however, was dedicated to the idea that dice did have a memory, a concept beloved of casino owners, but false.

You needed to be a mathematical genius, everyone said (especially the mathematical geniuses), to understand how this thing operated. The older hands kept out of the way for the most part. People who had learned business in business schools, or even people who had started as clerks and made their way up the ladder through sheer effort and savvy, had made way for the new generation—not really regretting it. The half-life of a computer jockey was eight years or so. The pace on the floor was killing, and you had to be young and stupid, in addition to being young and brilliant, to survive out there. The older hands who had worked their way up the hard way let the youngsters do the computer-driving, since they themselves had only a passing familiarization with the equipment, and took on the role of supervising, marking trends, setting corporate policy, and generally being the kindly uncle to the youngsters, who regarded the supervisory personnel as old farts to whom you ran in time of trouble.

The result was that nobody was really in charge of anything—except, perhaps, the computer models, and everyone used the same model. They came in slightly different flavors, since the consultants who had generated them had been directed by each trading house to come up with something special, and the result was prosperity for the consultants, who did essentially the same work for each customer but billed each for what they claimed was a unique product.

The result, in military terms, was an operational doctrine both identical and inflexible across the industry. Moreover, it was an operational philosophy that everyone knew and understood only in part.

The Columbus Group, one of the largest mutual-fund fleets, had its own computer models. Controlling billions of dollars, its three main funds, Nina, Pinta, and Santa Maria, were able to purchase large blocks of equities at rock-bottom prices, and by those very transactions to affect the price of individual issues. That vast market power was in turn commanded by no more than three individuals, and that trio reported to a fourth man who made all of the really important decisions. The rest of the firm's rocket scientists were paid, graded, and promoted on their ability to make recommendations to the seniors. They had no real power per se. The word of the boss was law, and everybody accepted that as a matter of course. The boss was invariably a man with his own fortune in the group. Each of his dollars had the same value as the dollar of the smallest investor, of whom there were thousands. It ran the same risks, reaped the same benefits, and occasionally took the same losses as everyone else's dollar. That, really, was the only security built into the entire trading system. The ultimate sin in the brokerage business was to place your own interests before those of your investors. Merely by putting your interests alongside theirs, there came the guarantee that everyone was in it together, and the little guys who had not the barest understanding of how the market worked rested secure in the idea that the big boys who did know were looking after things. It was not unlike the American West in the late nineteenth century, where small cattle ranchers entrusted their diminutive herds to those of the large ranchers for the drive to the railheads.

It was 1:50P.M. when Columbus made its first move. Calling his top people together, Raizo Yamata's principal lieutenant briefly discussed the sudden run on the dollar. Heads nodded. It was serious. Pinta, the medium-risk fund of the fleet, had a goodly supply of Treasury notes, always a good parking place in which to put cash in anticipation of a better opportunity for later on. The value of these notes was falling. He announced that he was ordering their immediate transfer for Deutschmarks, again the most stable currency in Europe. The Pinta manager nodded, lifted his phone, and gave the order, and another huge transaction was made, the first by an American trader.

"I don't like the way this afternoon is going," the vice-chairman said next. "I want everybody close." Heads nodded again. The storm clouds were coming closer, and the herd was getting restless with the first shafts of lightning. "What bank stocks are vulnerable to a weak dollar?" he asked. He already knew the answer, but it was good form to ask.

"Citibank," the Nina manager replied. He was responsible for the blue-chip fund's management. "We have a ton of their stock."

"Start bailing out," the vice-chairman ordered, using the American idiom. "I don't like the way the banks are exposed."

"All of it?" The manager was surprised. Citibank had just turned in a pretty good quarterly statement.

A serious nod. "All of it."


"All of it," the vice-chairman said quietly. "Immediately."

At the Depository Trust Company the accelerated trading activity was noted by the staffers whose job it was to note every transaction. Their purpose was to collate everything at the end of the trading day, to note which buyer had purchased which stock from which seller, and to post the money transfers from and to the appropriate accounts, in effect acting as the automated bookkeeper for the entire equities market. Their screens showed an accelerating pace of activity, but the computers were all running Chuck Searls' ElectraClerk 2.4.0 software, and the Stratus mainframes were keeping up. There were three outputs off each machine. One line went to the monitor screens.

Another went to tape backups. A third went to a paper printout, the ultimate but most inconvenient record-keeping modality. The nature of the interfaces demanded that each output come from a different internal board inside the computers, but they were all the same output, and as a result nobody bothered with the permanent records. After all, there were a total of six machines divided between two separate locations. This system was as secure as people could make it.

Things could have been done differently. Each sale/purchase order could have been sent out immediately, but that was untidy-the sheer administrative volume would have taxed the abilities of the entire industry. Instead, the purpose of DTC was to bring order out of chaos. At the end of each day, the transactions were organized by trading house, by stock issue, and by client, in a hierarchical way, so that each house would write a limited number of checks—funds transfers were mostly done electronically, but the principle held. This way the houses would both save on administrative expense and generate numerous means by which every player in the game could track and measure its own activity for the purposes of internal audit and further mathematical modeling of the market as a whole. Though seemingly an operation of incomprehensible complexity, the use of computers made it as routine and far more efficient than written entries in a passbook savings account.

"Wow, somebody's dumping on Citibank," the sys-con said.

The floor of the New York Stock Exchange was divided into three parts, the largest of which had once been a garage. Construction was under way on a fourth trading room, and local doomsayers were already noting that every time the Exchange had increased its space, something bad had happened. Some of the most rational and hard-nosed business types in all the world, this community of professionals had its own institutional superstitions. The floor was actually a collection of individual firms, each of which had a specialty area and responsibility for a discrete number of issues grouped by type. One firm might have eight to fifteen pharmaceutical issues, for example. Another managed a similar number of bank stocks. The real function of the NYSE was to provide both liquidity and a benchmark. People could buy and sell stocks anywhere from a lawyer's office to a country-club dining room. Most of the trading in major stocks happened in New York because …it happened in New York, and that was that. The New York Stock Exchange was the oldest. There were also the American Stock Exchange, Amex, and the newer National Association of Securities Dealers Automatic Quotation, whose awkward name was compensated for by a snappy acronym, NASDAQ. The NYSE was the most traditional in organization, and some would say that it had been dragged kicking and screaming into the world of automation. Somewhat haughty and stodgy—they regarded the other markets as the minor leagues and themselves as the majors—it was staffed by professionals who stood for most of the day at their kiosks, watching various displays, buying and selling and, like the trading houses, living off the "middle" or "spread" positions which they anticipated. If the stock market and its investors were the herd, they were the cowboys, and their job was to keep track of things, to set the benchmark prices to which everyone referred, to keep the herd organized and contained, in return for which the best of them made a very good living that compensated for a physical working environment which at best was chaotic and unpleasant, and at its worst really was remarkably close to standing in the way of a stampede. The first rumblings of that stampede had already started. The sell-off of Treasury notes was duly reported on the floor, and the people there traded nervous looks and headshakes at the unreasonable development. Then they learned that the Fed had responded sharply. The strong statement from the chairman didn't—couldn't—disguise his unease, and would not have mattered in any case. Few people listened to the statement beyond the announcement of a change in the Discount Rate. That was the news. The rest of it was spin control, and investors discounted all of that, preferring to rely on their own analysis.

The sell orders started coming. The floor trader who specialized in bank stocks was stunned by the phone call from Columbus, but that didn't matter.

He announced that he had "five hundred Citi at three," meaning five hundred thousand shares of the stock of First National City Bank of New York at eighty-three dollars, two full points under the posted price, clearly a move to get out in a hurry. It was a good, attractive price, but the market hesitated briefly before snapping them up, and then at "two and a half."

Computers also kept track of trading because the traders didn't entirely trust themselves to stay on top of everything. A person could be on the phone and miss something, after all, and therefore, to a remarkable degree, major institutions were actually managed by computers, or more properly the software that resided on them, which was in turn written by people who established discrete sets of monitoring criteria. The computers didn't understand the market any more than those who programmed them, of course, but they did have instructions: If "A" happens, then do "B." The new generation of programs, generically called "expert systems" (a more attractive term than "artificial intelligence") for their high degree of sophistication, were updated on a daily basis with the status of benchmark issues from which they electronically extrapolated the health of whole segments of the market. Quarterly reports, industry trends, changes in management, were all given numerical values and incorporated in the dynamic databases that the expert systems examined and acted upon, entirely without the judgmental input of human operators.

In this case the large and instant drop in the value of Citibank stock announced to the computers that they should initiate sell orders on other bank stocks. Chemical Bank, which had had a rough time of late, the computers remembered, had also dropped a few points in the last week, and at the three institutions that used the same program, sell orders were issued electronically, dropping that issue an instant point and a half. That move on Chemical Bank stock, linked with the fall of Citibank, attracted the immediate attention of other expert systems with the same operational protocols but different benchmark banks, a fact that guaranteed a rippling effect across the entire industry spectrum. Manufacturers Hanover was the next major bank stock to head down, and now the programs were starting to search their internal protocols for what a fall in bank-stock values indicated as the next defensive move in other key industries.

With the money realized by the Treasury sales, Columbus started buying gold, both in the form of stocks and in gold futures, starting a trend from currency and into precious metals. The sudden jump there went out on the wires as well, and was noted by traders, both human and electronic. In all cases the analysis was pretty much the same: a sell-off of government bonds, plus a sudden jump in the Discount Rate, plus a run on the dollar, plus a building crash in bank stocks, plus a jump in precious metals, all combined to announce a dangerous inflationary predictor. Inflation was always bad for the equities market. You didn't need to have artificial intelligence to grasp that. Neither computer programs nor human traders were panicking yet, but everyone was leaning forward and watching the wires for developing trends, and everyone wanted to be ahead of the trend, the better to protect their own and their clients' investments.

By this time the bond market was seriously rattled. Half a billion dollars, dumped at the right time, had shaken loose another ten. The Eurodollar managers who had been called back to their offices were not really in a fit state to make rational decisions. The days and weeks had been long of late with the international trade situation, and arriving singly back at their offices, each asked the others what the devil was going on, only to learn that a lot of U.S. Treasuries had been sold very short, and that the trend was continuing, now augmented by a large and very astute American institution. But why? they all wanted to know. That set them to looking at additional data on the wires, trying to catch up with the information streaming from America. Eyes squinted, heads shook, and these traders, lacking the time to review everything, turned to their own expert systems to make the analyses, because the reasons for the swift movements were simply not obvious enough to be real. But it didn't really matter why, did it? It had to be real. The Fed had just gone up a full point on the discount rate, and that hadn't happened by accident. For the moment, they decided, in the absence of guidance from their governments and central banks, they would defer buying U.S. Treasuries. They also began immediate examinations of their equity holdings, because stocks looked as though they were going to drop, and drop rapidly.

"…between the people of Russia and the people of America," President Grushavoy concluded his toast, the host answering President Durling, the guest, as the protocol for such things went. Glasses were raised and tipped. Ryan allowed a drop or two of the vodka to pass his lips. Even with these thimble glasses, you could get pretty wasted—waiters stood everywhere to replenish them—and the toasting had just begun. He'd never been to a state affair this…loose. The entire diplomatic community was here-or at least the ambassadors from all the important countries were present. The Japanese Ambassador in particular seemed jovial, darting from table to table for snippets of conversation.

Secretary of State Brett Hanson stood next, raising his glass and stumbling through a prepared ode to the far-seeing Russian Foreign Ministry, celebrating their cooperation not merely with the United States, but all of Europe. Jack checked his watch: 10:03 local time. He already had three and a half drinks down, and considered himself to be the most sober person in the room. Cathy was getting a little giggly on him. That hadn't happened in a very long time, and he knew he'd be razzing her about it for years to come.

"Jack, you have no taste for our vodka?" Golovko asked. He also was hitting it pretty hard, but Sergey appeared to be used to it.

"I don't want to make too much of a fool out of myself," Ryan replied.

"It would be difficult for you to do that, my friend," the Russian observed.

"That's because you're not married to him," Cathy noted with a twinkle in her eye.

"Now wait a minute," a bond specialist said to his computer in New York. His firm managed several large pension funds, which were responsible for the retirement security of over a million union workers. Just back from a normal lunch at his favorite deli, he was offering Treasuries at bargain prices on orders from upstairs, and for the moment they were just sitting out there awaiting a buyer. Why? A cautious order appeared from a French bank, apparently a hedge against inflationary pressure on the franc. That was a mere billion, bid at 1 7/32 off the opening value, the international equivalent of armed robbery. But Columbus, he saw, had bitten the bullet and taken the francs, converting them almost instantly into D-marks in a hedge move of its own. Still digesting his corned-beef sandwich, the man felt his lunch turn into a ball of chilled lead.

"Somebody making a run on the dollar?'' he asked the trader next to him.

"Sure looks that way," she answered. In an hour, future options on the dollar had dropped the maximum-allowed limit for a day after having climbed all morning.


"Whoever it is, Citibank just took one in the back. Chemical's sliding, too."

"Some kind of correction?" he wondered.

"Correction from what? To what?"

"So what do I do? Buy? Sell? Hide?" He had decisions to make. He had the life savings of real people to protect, but the market wasn't acting in a way he understood. Things were going in the shitter, and he didn't know why. In order to do his job properly, he had to know.

"Still heading west to meet us, Shoho," Fleet Operations told Admiral Sato. "We should have them on radar soon."

"Hai. Thank you, Issa," Sato replied, an edge on his good humor now. He wanted it that way, wanted his people to see him like that. The Americans had won the exercise, which was hardly a surprise. Nor was it surprising that the crewmen he saw were somewhat depressed as a result. After all the workups and drills, they'd been administratively annihilated, and the resentment they felt, while not terribly professional, was entirely human. Again, they thought, the Americans have done it to us again. That suited the fleet commander. Their morale was one of the most important considerations in the operation, which, the crewmen didn't know, was not over, but actually about to begin.

The event that had started with T-Bills was now affecting all publicly traded bank issues, enough so that the chairman of Citibank called a press conference to protest against the collapse of his institution's stock, pointing to the most recent earnings statement and demonstrable financial health of one of the country's largest banks. Nobody listened. He would have been better advised to make a few telephone calls to a handful of chosen individuals, but that might not have worked either.

The one banker who could have stopped things that day was giving a speech at a downtown club when his beeper went off. He was Walter Hildebrand, president of the New York branch of the Federal Reserve Bank, and second in importance only to the man who ran the headquarters in Washington. Himself a man of great inherited wealth who had nonetheless started at the bottom of the financial industry (albeit living in a comfortable twelve-room condo as he did so) and earned his way to the top, Hildebrand had also earned his current job, which he viewed as his best opportunity for real public service. A canny financial analyst, he had published a book examining the crash of October 19, 1987, and the role played by his predecessor at the New York Fed, Gerry Lornigan, in saving the market. Having just delivered a speech on the ramifications of the Trade Reform Act, he looked down at his beeper, which unsurprisingly told him to call the office. But the office was only a few blocks away, and he decided to walk back instead of calling, which would have told him to go to the NYSE. It would not have mattered.

Hildebrand walked out of the building by himself. It was a clear, crisp day, a good one to walk off some of his lunch. He hadn't troubled himself to use a bodyguard, as some of his antecedents had, though he did have a pistol-carry permit and sometimes used it.

The streets of lower Manhattan are narrow and busy, populated mostly by delivery trucks and yellow-painted taxicabs that darted from corner to corner like drag racers. The sidewalks were just as narrow and crowded. Just walking around meant taking a crooked path, with many sidesteps. The clearest path was most often that closest to the curb, and that is what Hildebrand took, moving as rapidly as the circumstances permitted, the faster to get to his office. He didn't note the presence of another man, just behind him, only three feet, in fact, a well-dressed man with dark hair and an ordinary face. It was just a matter of waiting for the right moment, and the nature of the traffic here made it inevitable that the moment would come. That was a relief to the dark-haired man, who didn't want to use his pistol for the contract. He didn't like noise. Noise attracted looks. Looks could be remembered, and though he planned to be on a plane to Europe in just over two hours, there was no such thing as being too careful. So, his head swiveled, watching the traffic ahead and behind, he chose the moment with care.

They were approaching the corner of Rector and Trinity. The traffic light ahead turned green, allowing a two-hundred-foot volume of automobiles to surge forward another two hundred feet. Then the light behind changed as well, releasing the pent-up energy of a corresponding number of vehicles. Some of them were cabs, which raced especially fast because cabs loved to change lanes. One yellow cab jumped off the light and darted to its right. A perfect situation. The dark-haired man increased his pace until he was right behind Hildebrand, and all he had to do was push. The president of the New York Fed tripped on the curb and fell into the street. The cabdriver saw it, and turned the wheel even before he had a chance to swear, but not far enough. For all that, the man in the camel-hair overcoat was lucky. The cab stopped as fast as its newly refurbished brakes allowed, and the impact speed was under twenty miles per hour, enough to catapult Walter Hildebrand about thirty feet into a steel lightpole and break his back. A police officer on the other side of the street responded at once, calling for an ambulance on his portable radio.

The dark-haired man blended back into the crowd and headed for the nearest subway station. He didn't know if the man was dead or not. It wasn't really necessary to kill him, he'd been told, which had seemed odd at the time. Hildebrand was the first banker he'd been told not to kill.

The cop hovering over the fallen businessman noted the beeper's repeated chirping. He'd call the displayed number as soon as the ambulance arrived. His main concern right now was in listening to the cabdriver protest that it wasn't his fault.

The expert systems "knew" that when bank stocks dropped rapidly, confidence in the banks themselves was invariably badly shaken, and that people would think about moving their money out of the banks that appeared to be threatened. That would force the banks in turn to pressure their lenders to pay back loans, or, more importantly to the expert systems and their ability to read the market a few minutes faster than everyone else, because banks were turning into investment institutions themselves, to liquidate their own financial holdings to meet the demands of depositors who wanted their deposits back. Banks were typically cautious investors on the equity market, sticking mainly to blue chips and other bank stocks, and so the next dip, the computers thought, would be in the major issues, especially the thirty benchmark stocks that made up the Dow Jones Industrial Average. As always, the imperative was to see the trend first and to move first, thus safeguarding the funds that the big institutions had to protect. Of course, since all the institutions used essentially the same expert systems, they all moved at virtually the same time. With the sight of a single thunderbolt just a little too close to the herd, all of the herd members started moving away from it, in the same direction, slowly at first, but moving.

The men on the floor of the exchange knew it was coming. Mostly people who received programmed-trade orders, they had learned from experience to predict what the computers would do. Here it comes was the murmur heard in all three trading rooms, and the very predictability of it should have been an indicator of what was really happening, but it was hard for the cowboys just to stay outside the herd try to find a way to direct it, turn it, pacify it and not be engulfed by it. If that happened, they stood to lose because a serious downward turn could obliterate the thin margins on which their firms depended.

The head of the NYSE was now on the balcony, looking down, wondering where the hell Walt Hildebrand was. That's all they needed, really. Everybody listened to Walt. He lifted his cellular phone and called his office again, only to hear from Walt's secretary that he hadn't returned to the office from his speech yet. Yes, she had beeped him. She really had.

He could see it start. People moved more rapidly on the floor. Everyone was there now, and the sheer volume of noise emanating from the floor was reaching deafening levels. Always a bad sign when people started shouting. The electronic ticker told its own tale. The blue chips, all three-letter acronyms as well known to him as the names of his children, were accounting for more than a third of the notations, and the numbers were trending sharply down. It took a mere twenty minutes for the Dow to drop fifty points, and as awful and precipitous as that was, it came as a relief. Automatically, the computers at the New York Stock Exchange stopped accepting computer-generated sell orders from their electronic brethren. The fifty-point mark was called a "speed bump." Set in place after the 1987 crash, its purpose was to slow things down to a human pace. The simple fact that everyone overlooked was that people could take the instructions—they didn't even bother calling them recommendations anymore—from their computers and forward the sell orders themselves by phone or telex or electronic mail, and all the speed bump accomplished was to add another thirty seconds to the transaction process. Thus, after a hiatus of no more than a minute, the trading pace picked up yet again and the direction was down.

By this time, the panic within the entire financial community was quite real, reflected in a tenseness and a low buzz of conversation in every trading room of every one of the large institutions. Now CNN issued a live special report from its own perch over the floor of the former NYSE garage. The stock ticker on their "Headline News" service told the tale to investors who also liked to keep track of more human events. For others, there was now a real human being to say that the Dow Jones Industrial Average had dropped fifty points in the blink of an eye, and was now down twenty more points, and the downward spiral was not reversing itself. There followed questions from the anchorperson in Atlanta, and resulting speculation on the cause of the event, and the reporter who hadn't had time to check her sources for information, winged it on her own, and said that there was a worldwide run on the dollar that the Fed had failed to stop. She couldn't have picked a worse thing to say. Now everyone knew what was happening, after a fashion, and the public got involved in the stampede.

Although investment professionals looked upon the public's lack of understanding for the investment process with contempt, they failed to recognize the crucial element of similarity they shared with them. The public merely accepted the fact that the Dow going up was good and its going down was bad. It was exactly the same for the traders, who thought they really understood the system. The investment professionals knew far more about the mechanics of the market but had lost track of the foundation of its value. For them, as for the public, reality had become trends, and they often expressed their bets by use of derivatives, which were moving numerical indicators that over the years had become increasingly disconnected from what the individual stock designations truly represented. Stock certificates were not, after all, theoretical expressions, but individual segments of ownership in corporations that had a physical reality. Over time the "rocket scientists" on the floor of this room had forgotten that, and even schooled as they were in mathematical models and trend analysis, the underlying value of that which they traded was foreign to them—the facts had become more theoretical than the theory that was now breaking down before their eyes.

Denied a foundation in what they were doing, lacking an anchor on which to hold fast in the storm sweeping across the room and the whole financial system, they simply did not know what to do, and the few supervisory personnel who did lacked the numbers and the time with which to settle their young traders down.

None of this really made sense at all. The dollar should have been strong and should grow stronger after a few minor rumbles. Citibank had just turned in a good if not spectacular earnings statement, and Chemical Bank was fundamentally healthy as well after some management restructuring, but the stocks on both issues had dropped hard and fast. The computer programs said that the combination of factors meant something very bad, and the expert systems were never wrong, were they? Their foundation was historically precise, and they saw into the future better than people could. The technical traders believed the models despite the fact that they did not sei it—reasoning that had led the models to make the recommendations displayed on their computer terminals; in exactly the same way, ordinary citizens now saw the news and knew that something bad was happening without understanding why it was bad, and wondered what the hell to do about it.

The "professionals" were as badly off as the ordinary citizens catching news flashes on TV or radio, or so it seemed. In fact, it was far worse for them. Understanding the mathematical models as well as they did became not an asset, but a liability. To the average citizen what he saw was incomprehensible at first, and as a result, few took any action at all. They watched and waited, or in many cases just shrugged since they had no stocks of their own. In fact they did, but didn't know it. The banks, insurance companies, and pension funds that managed the citizens' money had huge positions in all manner of public issues. Those institutions were all managed by "professionals"—whose education and experience told them that they had to panic. And panic they did, beginning a process that the man in the street soon recognized for what it was. That was when the telephone calls from individuals began, and the downslope became steeper for everyone.

What was already frightening became worse. The first calls came from the elderly, people who watched TV during the day and chatted back and forth on the phone, sharing their fears and their shock at what they saw. Many of them had invested their savings in mutual funds because they gave higher yields than bank accounts—which was why banks had gotten into the business as well, to protect their own profits. The mutual funds were taking huge hits now, and though the hits were limited mainly to the blue chips at the moment, when the calls came in from individual clients to cash in their money and get out, the institutions had to sell off as yet untroubled issues to make up for the losses in others that should have been safe but were not. Essentially, they were throwing away equities that had held their value to this point, for which procedure the timeless aphorism was "to throw good money after bad." It was almost an exact description for what they had to do.

The necessary result was a general run, the drop of every stock issue on every exchange. By three that afternoon, the Dow was down a hundred seventy points. The Standard and Poor's Five Hundred was actually showing worse results, but the NASDAQ Composite Index was the worst of all, as individual investors across America dialed their 1-800 numbers to their mutual funds.

The heads of all the exchanges staged a conference call with the assembled commissioners of the Securities and Exchange Commission in Washington, and for the first confused ten minutes all the voices demanded answers to the same questions that the others were simultaneously asking. Nothing at all was accomplished. The government officials requested information and updates, essentially asking how close the herd was to the edge of the canyon, and how fast it was approaching the abyss, but not contributing a dot to the effort to turn the cattle to safety. The head of the NYSE resisted his instinct to shut down or somehow slow down the trading. In the time they talked—a bare twenty minutes—the Dow dropped another ninety points, having blown through two hundred points of free-fall and now approaching three. After the SEC commissioners broke off to hold their own in-house conference, the exchange heads violated federal guidelines and talked together about taking remedial action, but for all their collective expertise, there was nothing to be done now.

Now individual investors were blinking on "hold" buttons across America. Those whose funds were managed through banks learned something especially disquieting. Yes, their funds were in banks. Yes, those banks were federally insured. But, no, the mutual funds the banks managed in order to serve the needs of their depositors were not protected by the FDIC. It wasn't merely the interest income that was at risk, but the principal as well. The response to that was generally ten or so seconds of silence, and, in not a few cases, people got into their cars and drove to banks to get cash for what other deposits they did have.

The NYSE ticker was now running fourteen minutes late despite the high-speed computers that recorded the changing values of issues. A handful of stocks actually managed to increase, but those were mainly precious metals. Everything else fell. Now all the major networks were running live feeds from the Street. Now everyone knew. Cummings, Cantor, and Carter, a firm that had been in business for one hundred twenty years, ran out of cash reserves, forcing its chairman to make a frantic call to Merrill Lynch. That placed the chairman of the largest house in a delicate position. The oldest and smartest pro around, he had nearly broken his hand half an hour earlier by pounding on his desk and demanding answers that no one had. Thousands of people bought stock not just through, but also in, his corporation because of its savvy and integrity. The chairman could make a strategic move to protect a fellow bulwark of the entire system against a panic with no foundation to it, or he could refuse, guarding the money of his stockholders. There was no right answer to this one. Failure to help CC&C would—could—take the panic to the next stage and so damage the market that the money he saved by not helping the rival firm would just as soon be lost anyway. Extending help to CC&C might turn into nothing more than a gesture, without stopping anything, and again losing money that belonged to others.

"Holy shit," the chairman breathed, turning to look out the windows.

One of the nicknames for the house was "the Thundering Herd." Well, the herd was sure as hell thundering now…He measured his responsibility to his stockholders against his responsibility to the whole system upon which they and everyone else depended. The former had to come first. Had to. There was no choice. Thus one of the system's most important players flung the entire financial network over a cliff and into the waiting abyss.

Trading on the floor of the exchange stopped at 3:23 P.M., when the Dow achieved its maximum allowable fall of five hundred points. That figure merely reflected the value of thirty stock issues, and the fall in others well exceeded the benchmark loss of the biggest of the blue chips. The ticker look another thirty minutes to catch up, offering the illusion of Further activity while the people on the floor looked at one another, mostly in silence, standing on a wood floor so covered with paper slips as to give the appearance of snow. It was a Friday, they all told themselves. Tomorrow was Saturday. Everyone would be at home. Everyone would have a chance to take a few deep breaths and think. That's all that had to happen, really, just a little thought. None of it made sense. A whole lot of people had been badly hurt, but the market would bounce back, and over time those with the wit and the courage to stand fast would get it all back. If, they told themselves, if everyone used the time intelligently, and if nothing else crazy happened.

They were almost right.

At the Depository Trust Company, people sat about with ties loose in their collars, and made frequent trips to the restrooms because of all the coffee and soda they'd drunk on this most frantic of afternoons, but there was some blessing to be had. The market had closed early, and so they could start their work early. With the inputs from the major trading centers concluded, the computers switched from one mode of operation to another. The taped recordings of the day's transactions were run through the machines for collation and transmission. It was close to six in the evening when a bell sounded on one of the workstations.

"Rick, I've got a problem here!"

Rick Bernard, the senior system controller, came over and looked at the screen to see the reason for the alert bell.

The last trade they could identify, at exactly noon of that day, was for Atlas Milacron, a machine-tool company flying high with orders from the auto companies, six thousand shares at 48 1/4. Since Atlas was listed on the New York Stock Exchange, its stock was identified by a three-letter acronym, AMN in this case. NASDAQ issues used four-letter groups.

The next notation, immediately after AMN 6000 48 1/4, was AAA 4000 67 3/8, and the one under that AAA 9000 51 1/4. In fact, by scrolling down, all entries made after 12:00:01 showed the same three-letter, meaningless identifier.

"Switch over to Beta," Bernard said. The storage tape on the first backup computer system was opened. "Scroll down."


In five minutes all six systems had been checked. In every case, every single trade had been recorded as gibberish. There was no readily accessible record for any of the trades made after twelve noon. No trading house, institution, or private investor could know what it had bought or sold, to or from whom, or for how much, and none could therefore know how much money was available for other trades, or for that matter, to purchase groceries over the weekend.

20—Strike Three

The party broke up after midnight. The official entertainment was a sort of ballet-in-the-round. The Bolshoy hadn't lost its magic, and the configuration of the room allowed the guests to see the dancers at much closer hand than had ever been possible, but finally the last hand had been clapped red and hurt from the encores, and it was time for security personnel to help their charges to the door. Nearly everyone had a roll to his or her walk, and sure enough, Ryan saw, he was the most sober person in the room, including his wife.

"What do you think, Daga?" Ryan asked Special Agent Helen D'Agustino. His own bodyguard was getting coats.

"I think, just once, I'd like to be able to party with the principals." Then she shook her head like a parent disappointed with her children.

"Oh, Jack, tomorrow I'm going to feel awful," Cathy reported. The vodka here was just too smooth.

"I told you, honey. Besides," her husband added nastily, "it's already tomorrow."

"Excuse me, I have to help with JUMPER." Which was the Secret Service code name for the President, a tribute to his paratrooper days.

Ryan was surprised to see an American in ordinary business attire—the formal dinner had been black-tie, another recent change in the Russian social scene—waiting outside the doors. He led his wife over that way.

"What is it?"

"Dr. Ryan, I need to see the President right away."

"Cathy, could you stay here for a second." To the embassy official: "Follow me."

"Oh, Jack…" his wife griped.

"You have it on paper?" Ryan asked, holding his hand out.

"Here, sir." Ryan took the fax sheets and read them while walking across the room.

"Holy shit. Come on." President Durling was still chatting with President Grushavoy when Ryan appeared with the junior man in his wake.

"Some party, Jack," Roger Durling observed pleasantly. Then his face changed. "Trouble?"

Ryan nodded, adopting his Advisor's face. "We need Brett and Buzz, Mr. President, right now."

"There they are." The SPY-1D radar on Mutsu painted the forward edge of the American formation on the raster screen. Rear Admiral—Shoho—Sato looked at his operations officer with an impassive expression that meant nothing to the rest of the bridge crew but quite a bit to the Captain—Issa—who knew what Exercise DATELINE PARTNERS was really all about. Now it was time to discuss the matter with the destroyer's commanding officer. The two formations were 140 nautical miles apart and would rendezvous in the late afternoon, the two officers thought, wondering how Mutsu's CO would react to the news. Not that he had much choice in the matter.

Ten minutes later, a Socho, or chief petty officer, went out on deck to check out the Mark 68 torpedo launcher on the port side. First opening the inspection hatch on the base of the mount, he ran an electronic diagnostic test on all three "fish" in the three-tube launcher. Satisfied, he secured the hatch, and one by one opened the aft hatches on each individual tube, removing the propeller locks from each Mark 50 torpedo. The Socho was a twenty-year veteran of the sea, and completed the task in under ten minutes. Then he lifted his tools and walked over to the starboard side to repeat it for the identical launcher on the other side of his destroyer. He had no idea why he had been ordered to perform the tasks, and hadn't asked.

Another ten minutes and Mutsu went to flight quarters. Modified from her original plans, the destroyer now sported a telescoping hangar that allowed her to embark a single SH-60J antisubmarine helicopter that was also useful for surveillance work. The crew had to be roused from sleep and their aircraft preflighted, which required almost forty minutes, but then it lifted off, first sweeping around the formation, then moving forward, its surface-scanning radar examining the American formation that was still heading west at eighteen knots. The radar picture was downlinked to flagship Mutsu.

"These will be the two carriers, three thousand meters apart," the CO said, tapping the display screen.

"You have your orders, Captain," Sato said.

"Hai," Mutsu's commander replied, keeping his feelings to himself.

"What the hell happened?" Durling asked. They had assembled in a corner, with Russian and American security personnel to keep others away.

"It looks like there was a major conniption on the Street," Ryan replied, having had the most time to consider the event. It wasn't exactly a penetrating analysis.

"Cause?" Fiedler asked.

"No reason for it that I know about," Jack said, looking around for the coffee he'd ordered. He needed some, and the other three men needed it even more.

"Jack, you have the most recent trading experience," Secretary of the Treasury Fiedler observed.

"Start-ups, IPOs, not really working the Street, Buzz." The National Security Advisor paused, gesturing to the fax sheets. "It's not as though we have a lot to go on. Somebody got nervous on T-Bills, most likely guess right now is that somebody was cashing in on relative changes between the dollar and the yen, and things got a little out of hand."

"A little?" Brett Hanson interjected, just to let people know he was here.

"Look, the Dow took a big fall, down to a hard floor, and there are two days for people to regroup. It's happened before. We're flying back tomorrow night, right?"

"We need to do something now," Fiedler said. "Some sort of statement."

"Something neutral and reassuring," Ryan suggested. "The market's like an airplane. It'll pretty much fly itself if you leave it alone. This has happened before, remember?"

Secretary Bosley Fiedler—"Buzz" went back to Little League baseball—was an academic. He'd written books on the American financial system without ever having actually played in it. The good news was that he knew how to take a broad, historical view on economics. His professional reputation was that of an expert on monetary policy. The bad news, Ryan saw now, was that Fiedler had never been a trader, or even thought that much about it, and consequently lacked the confidence that a real player would have had with this situation, which explained why he had immediately asked Ryan for an opinion. Well, that was a good sign, wasn't it? He knew what he didn't know. No wonder everybody said he was smart.

"We put in speed bumps and other safeguards as a result of the last time. This event blew right through them. In less than three hours," SecTreas added uneasily, wondering, as an academic would, why good theoretical measures had failed to work as expected.

"True. It'll be interesting to see why. Remember, Buzz, it has happened before."

"Statement," the President said, giving a one-word order.

Fiedler nodded, thinking for a moment before speaking. "Okay, we say that the system is fundamentally sound. We have all manner of automated safeguards. There is no underlying problem with the market or with the American economy. Hell, we're growing, aren't we? And TRA is going to generate at least half a million manufacturing jobs in the coming year. That's a hard number, Mr. President. That's what I'll say for now."

"Defer anything else until we get back?" Durling asked.

"That's my advice," Fiedler confirmed. Ryan nodded agreement.

"Okay, get hold of Tish and put it out right away."

There was an unusual number of charter flights, but Saipan International Airport wasn't all that busy an airport despite its long runways, and increased business made for increased fees. Besides, it was a weekend. Probably some sort of association, the tower chief thought as the first of the 747's out of Tokyo began its final approach. Of late Saipan had become a much more popular place for Japanese businessmen. A recent court decision had struck down the constitutional provision prohibiting foreign ownership of land and now allowed them to buy up parcels. In fact, the island was more than half foreign-owned now, a source of annoyance to many of the native Chamorros people, but not so great an annoyance as to prevent many of them from taking the money and moving off the land. It was bad enough already. On any given weekend, the number of Japanese on Saipan outnumbered the citizens, and typically treated the owners of the island like…natives.

"Must be a bunch going to Guam, too," the radar operator noted, examining the line of traffic heading farther south.

"Weekend. Golf and fishing," the senior tower controller observed, looking forward to the end of his shift. The Japs—he didn't like them very much—were not going to Thailand as much for their sex trips. Too many had come home with nasty gifts from that country. Well, they did spend money here—a lot of it—and for the privilege of doing it for this weekend they'd boarded their jumbo-jets at about two in the morning…

The first JAL 747 charter touched down at 0430 local time, slowing and turning at the end of the runway in time for the next one to complete its final approach. Captain Torajiro Sato turned right onto the taxiway and looked around for anything unusual. He didn't expect it, but on a mission like this—Mission? he asked himself. That was a word he hadn't used since his F-86 days in the Air Self-Defense Force. If he'd stayed, he would have been a Sho by now, perhaps even commanding his country's entire Air Force. Wouldn't that have been grand? Instead—instead he'd left that service and started with Japan Air Lines, at the time a place of far greater respect. He'd hated that fact then, and now hoped that it would change for all time. It would be an Air Force now, even if someone lesser than he was actually in command. He was still a fighter pilot at heart. You didn't have much chance to do anything exciting in a 747. He'd been through one serious inflight emergency eight years before, a partial hydraulic failure, and handled it so skillfully that he hadn't bothered telling the passengers. No one outside the flight deck had even noticed. His feat was now a routine part of the simulator training for 747 captains. Beyond that frantic but satisfying moment, he strove for precision. He was something of a legend in an airline known worldwide for its excellence. He could read weather charts like a fortune-teller, pick the precise tar-strip on a runway where his main gear would touch, and had never once been more that three minutes off an arrival time. Even taxiing on the ground, he drove the monstrous aircraft as though it were a sports car. So it was today, as he approached the jetway, adjusted his power settings, nosewheel steering, and finally the brakes, to come to a precise stop.

"Good luck, Nisa," he told Lieutenant Colonel Seigo Sasaki, who'd ridden the jump seat in the cockpit for the approach, scanning the ground for the unusual and seeing nothing. The commander of the special-operations group hustled aft. His men were from the First Airborne Brigade, ordinarily based at Narashino. There were two companies aboard the 747, three hundred eighty men. Their first mission was to assume control of the airport. It would not be difficult, he hoped.

The JAL personnel at the gate had not been briefed for the events of the day, and were surprised to see that all the people leaving the charter flight were men, all about the same age, all carrying identical barrel-bags, and that the first fifty or so had the tops unzipped and their hands inside. A few held clipboards on which were diagrams of the terminal, as it had not been possible to perform a proper rehearsal for the mission. While baggage handlers struggled with the cargo containers out of the bottom of the aircraft, other soldiers headed for the baggage area, and simply walked through EMPLOYEES ONLY signs to start unpacking the heavy weapons. At another jetway, a second airliner arrived.

Colonel Sasaki stood in the middle of the terminal now, looking left and right, watching his teams of ten or fifteen men fan out and, he saw, doing their job quietly and well.

"Excuse me," a sergeant said pleasantly to a bored and sleepy security guard. The man looked up to see a smile, and down to see that the barrel bag over the man's shoulder was open, and that the hand in it held a pistol. The guard's mouth gaped comically and the private disarmed him without a struggle. In less than two minutes, the other six guards on terminal duty were similarly taken into custody. A lieutenant led a squad to the security office, where three more men were disarmed and handcuffed. All the while continuous if terse radio messages were flowing in to their colonel. The tower chief turned when the door opened—a guard had handed over the pass card and punched in the entry code on the keypad without the need for much encouragement—to see three men with automatic rifles.

"What the hell—"

"You will continue your duties as before," a captain, or ichii, told him. "My English is quite good. Please do not do anything foolish." Then he lifted his radio microphone and spoke in Japanese. The first phase of Operation KABUL was completed thirty seconds early, and entirely without violence.

The second load of soldiers took over airport security. These men were in uniform to make sure that everyone knew what was going on, and they took their places at all entrances and control points, commandeering official vehicles to set additional security points on the access roads into the airport. This wasn't overly hard, as the airport was on the extreme southern part of the island, and all approaches were from the north. The commander of the second detachment relieved Colonel Sasaki. The former would control the arrival of the remaining First Airborne Brigade elements tasked to OperationKABUL. The latter had other tasks to perform.

Three airport buses pulled up to the terminal, and Colonel Sasaki boarded the last after moving around to make sure that all his men were present and properly organized. They drove immediately north, past the Dan Dan Golf Club, which adjoined the airport, then left on Cross Island Road, which took them in sight of Invasion Beach. Saipan is by no means a large island, and it was dark—there were very few streetlights—but that didn't lessen the cold feeling in Sasaki's stomach. He had to run this mission on time and on profile or risk catastrophe. The Colonel checked his watch. The first aircraft would now be landing on Guam, where the possibility of organized resistance was very real. Well, that was the job of First Division. He had his own, and it had to be done before dawn broke.

The word got out very quickly. Rick Bernard placed his first call to the chairman of the New York Stock Exchange to report his problem and to ask for guidance. On the assurance that this was no accident, he made the obvious recommendation and Bernard called the FBI, located close to Wall Street in the Javits Federal Office Building. The senior official here was a deputy director, and he dispatched a team of three agents to the primary DTC office located in midtown.

"What seems to be the problem?" the senior agent asked. The answer required ten minutes of detailed explanation, and was immediately followed by a call direct to the Deputy-Director-in-Charge.

MV Orchid Ace had been alongside long enough to off-load a hundred cars. All of them were Toyota Land Cruisers. Taking down the security shack and its single drowsy guard proved to be another bloodless exercise, which allowed the buses to enter the fenced storage lot. Colonel Sasaki had enough men in the three buses to give each a crew of three, and they all knew what to do. The police substations at Koblerville and on Capitol Hill would be the first places approached, now that his men had the proper transport. His own part of the mission was at the latter site, at the home of the Governor.

It was really a coincidence that Nomuri had spent the night in town. He'd actually given himself an evening off, which happened rarely enough, and he found that recovery from a night on the town was facilitated by a trip to the bathhouse, something his ancestors had gotten right about a thousand years earlier. After washing, he got his towel and headed to the hot tub, where the foggy atmosphere would clear his head better than aspirin could. He would emerge from this civilized institution refreshed, he thought.

"Kazuo," the CIA officer observed. "Why are you here?"

"Overtime," the man replied with a tired smile.

"Yamata-san must be a demanding boss," Nomuri observed, sliding himself slowly into the hot water, not really meaning anything by the remark. The reply made his head turn.

"I have never seen history happen before," Taoka said, rubbing his eyes and moving around a little, feeling the tension bleed from his muscles, but altogether too keyed up to be sleepy after ten hours in the War Room.

"Well, my history for last night was a very nice hostess," Nomuri said with a raised eyebrow. A nice lady of twenty-one years, too, he didn't add. A very bright young lady, who had many other people contesting for her attention, but Nomuri was far closer to her age, and she enjoyed talking to someone like him. It wasn't all about money, Chet thought, his eyes closed over a smiling face.

"Mine was somewhat more exciting than that."

"Really? I thought you said you were working." Nomuri's eyes opened reluctantly. Kazuo had found something more interesting than sexual fantasy?

"I was."

It was just something about the way he said it. "You know, Kazuo, when you start telling a story, you must finish it."

A laugh and a shake of the head. "I shouldn't, but it will be in the papers in a few hours."

"What's that?"

"The American financial system crashed last night."

"Really? What happened?"

The man's head turned and he spoke the reply very quietly indeed. "I helped do it to them."

It seemed very odd to Nomuri, sitting in a wooden tub filled with 107-degree water, that he felt a chill.

"Wakaremasen." I don't understand.

"It will be clear in a few days. For now, I must go back." The salaryman rose and walked out, very pleased with himself for sharing his role with one friend. What good was a secret, after all, if at least one person didn't know that you had it? A secret could be a grand thing, and one so closely held in a society like this was all the more precious.

What the hell? Nomuri wondered.

"There they are." The lookout pointed, and Admiral Sato raised his binoculars to look. Sure enough, the clear Pacific sky backlit the mast tops of the lead screen ships, FFG-7 frigates by the look at the crosstrees. The radar picture was clear now, a classic circular formation, frigates on the outer ring, destroyers inward of that, then two or three Aegis cruisers not very different from his own flagship. He checked the time. The Americans had just set the morning watch. Though warships always had people on duty, the real work details were synchronized with daylight, and people would now be rousing from their bunks, showering, and heading off for breakfast.

The visual horizon was about twelve nautical miles away. His squadron of four ships was heading east at thirty-two knots, their best possible continuous speed. The Americans were westbound at eighteen.

"Send by blinker light to the formation: Dress ships."

Saipan's main satellite uplink facility was off Beach Road, close to the Sun Inn Motel, and operated by MTC Micro Telecom. It was an entirely ordinary civilian facility whose main construction concern had been protection against autumnal typhoons that regularly battered the island. Ten soldiers, commanded by a major, walked up to the main door and were able to walk right in, then approach the security guard, who simply had no idea what was happening, and, again, didn't even attempt to reach for his sidearm. The junior officer with the detail was a captain trained in signals and communications. All he had to do was point at the various instruments in the central control room. Phone uplinks to the Pacific satellites that transferred telephone and other links from Saipan to America were shut down, leaving the Japan links up—they went to a different satellite, and were backed up with cable—without interfering with downlinked signals. At this hour it was not overly surprising that no single telephone circuit to America was active at the moment. It would stay that way for quite some time.

"Who are you?" the Governor's wife asked.

"I need to see your husband," Colonel Sasaki replied, "It's an emergency." The fact of that statement was made immediately clear by the first shot of the evening, caused when the security guard at the legislature building managed to get his pistol out. He didn't get a round off—an eager paratrooper sergeant saw to that—but it was enough to make Sasaki frown angrily and push past the woman. He saw Governor Comacho, walking to the door in his bathrobe.

"What is this?"

"You are my prisoner," Sasaki announced, with three other men in the room now to make it clear that he wasn't a robber. The Colonel found himself embarrassed. He'd never done anything like this before, and though he was a professional soldier, his culture as much as any other frowned upon the invasion of another man's house regardless of the reason. He found himself hoping that the shots he'd just heard hadn't been fatal. His men had such orders.

"What?" Comacho demanded. Sasaki just pointed to the couch. "You and your wife, please sit down. We have no intention of harming you."

"What is this?" the man asked, relieved that he and his wife weren't in any immediate danger, probably.

"This island now belongs to my country," Colonel Sasaki explained. It couldn't be so bad, could it? The Governor was over sixty, and could remember when that had been true before.

"A goddamned long way for her to come," Commander Kennedy observed after taking the message. It turned out that the surface contact was the Muroto, a cutter from the Japanese Coast Guard that occasionally supported fleet operations, usually as a practice target. A fairly handsome ship, but with the low freeboard typical of Japanese naval vessels, she had a crane installed aft for the recovery of practice torpedoes. It seemed that Kurushio had expected the opportunity to get off some practice shots in DATELINE PARTNERS. Hadn't Asheville been told about that?

"News to me, Cap'n," the navigator said, flipping through the lengthy op-order for the exercise.

"Wouldn't be the first time the clerks screwed up." Kennedy allowed himself a smile. "Okay, we've killed them enough." He keyed his microphone again. "Very well, Captain, we'll replay the last scenario. Start time twenty minutes from now."

"Thank you, Captain," the reply came on the VHP circuit. "Out."

Kennedy replaced the microphone. "Left ten-degrees rudder, all ahead one third. Make your depth three hundred feet."

The crew in the attack center acknowledged and executed the orders, taking Asheville east for five miles. Fifty miles to the west, USS Charlotte was doing much the same thing, at exactly the same time.

The hardest part of Operation KABUL was on Guam. Approaching its hundredth year as an American-flag possession, this was the largest island in the Marianas chain, and possessed a harbor and real U.S. military installations. Only ten years earlier, it would have been impossible. Not so long ago, the now-defunct Strategic Air Command had based nuclear bombers here. The U.S. Navy had maintained a base for missile submarines, and the security obtaining to both would have made anything like this mission a folly. But the nuclear weapons were all gone—the missiles were, anyway. Now Andersen Air Force base, two miles north of Yigo, was really little more than a commercial airport. It supported trans-Pacific flights by the American Air Force. No aircraft were actually based there any longer except for a single executive jet used by the base commander, itself a leftover from when 13th Air Force had been headquartered on the island. Tanker aircraft that had once been permanently based on Guam were now transient reserve formations that came and went as required. The base commander was a colonel who would soon retire, and he had under him only five hundred men and women, mostly technicians. There were only fifty armed USAF Security Police. It was much the same story at the Navy base whose airfield was now co-located with the Air Force. The Marines who had once maintained security there because of the nuclear weapons stockpile had been replaced by civilian guards, and the harbor was empty of gray hulls. Still, this was the most sensitive part of the overall mission. The airstrips at Andersen would be crucial to the entire operation.

"Pretty ships," Sanchez thought aloud, looking through his binoculars from his chair in Pri-Fly. "Nice tight interval on the formation, too." The four Kongos were on a precise reciprocal heading, about eight miles out, the CAG noted.

"They have the rails lined?" the Air Boss asked. There seemed to be a white line down the sides of all four of the inbound destroyers. "Rendering honors, yeah, that's nice of them." Sanchez lifted the phone and punched the button for the navigation bridge. "Skipper? CAG here. It seems that our friends are going formal on us."

"Thanks, Bud." The Commanding Officer of Johnnie Reb made a call to the battle-group commander on Enterprise.

"What?" Ryan said, answering the phone.

"Takeoff in two and a half hours," the President's secretary told him.

"Be ready to leave in ninety minutes."

"Wall Street?"

"That's right, Dr. Ryan. He thinks we need to be home a little early. We've informed the Russians. President Grushavoy understands."

"Okay, thanks," Ryan said, not really meaning it. He'd hoped to scoot out to see Narmonov for an hour or so. Then the real fun part came. He reached over and shook his wife awake.

A groan: "Don't even say it."

"You can sleep the rest of it off on the airplane. We have to be packed and ready in an hour and a half."

"What? Why?"

"Leaving early," Jack told her. "Trouble at home. Wall Street had another meltdown."

"Bad?" Cathy opened her eyes, rubbing her forehead and thankful it was still dark outside until she looked at the clock.

"Probably a bad case of indigestion."

"What time is it?"

"Time to get ready to leave."

"We need maneuvering room," Commander Harrison said.

"No dummy is he?" Admiral Dubro asked rhetorically. The opposition, Admiral Chandraskatta, had turned west the night before, probably catching on, finally, that the Eisenhower/Lincoln battle force was not where he'd suspected after all. That clearly left a single alternative, and therefore he'd headed west, forcing the Americans against the island chain that India mostly owned. Half of the U.S. Navy's Seventh Fleet was a powerful collection of ships, but their power would be halved again if their location became known. The whole point of Dubro's operations to this point had been to keep the other guy guessing. Well, he'd made his guess. Not a bad one, either.

"What's our fuel state?" Dubro asked, meaning that of his escort ships. The carriers could steam until the food ran out. Their nuclear fuel would not do so for years.

"Everybody's up to ninety percent. Weather's good for the next two days. We can do a speed run if we have to."

"You thinking the same thing I am?"

"He's not letting his aircraft get too close to the Sri Lankan coast. They might show on air-traffic-control radars and people might ask questions. If we head northeast, then east, we can race past Dondra Head at night and curl back around south. Even money nobody sees us."

The Admiral didn't like even-money odds. That meant it was just as likely somebody would see the formation, and the Indian Fleet could then turn northeast, forcing either a further move by the Americans away from the coast they might or might not be protecting—or a confrontation. You could play this sort of game only so long, Dubro thought, before somebody asked to see the cards.

"Get us through today without being spotted?"

That one was obvious, too. The formation would send aircraft at the Indians directly from the south, hopefully pulling them south. Harrison presented the scheme for the coming day's air operations.

"Make it so."

Eight bells rang over the ship's 1-MC intercom system. 1600 hours. The afternoon watch was relieved and replaced with the evening watch. Officers and men, and, now, women, moved about to and from their duty stations. Johnnie Reb's air wing was standing down, mainly resting and going over results of the now-concluded exercise. The Air Wing's aircraft were about half parked on the flight deck, with the other half struck down in the hangar bay. A few were being worked on, but the maintenance troops were mostly standing down, too, enjoying a pastime the Navy called Steel Beach. It sure was different now, Sanchez thought, looking down at the non-skid-covered steel plates. Now there were women sunning themselves, too, which occasioned the increased use of binoculars by the bridge crew, and had generated yet another administrative problem for his Navy. What varieties of bathing suits were proper for U.S. Navy sailors? Much to the chagrin of some, but the relief of many, the verdict was one-piece suits. But even those could be worth looking at, if properly filled, the CAG thought, returning his glasses to the approaching Japanese formation.

The four destroyers came in fast and sharp, knocking down a good thirty knots, the better to make a proper show for their hosts and erstwhile enemies. The proper signal flags were snapping in the breeze, and white-clad crewmen lined the rails.

"Now hear this," the 1-MC system blared for all to hear. "Attention to port. Man the rails. Stand by to render honors." Those crewmen in presentable uniforms headed to the portside galleries off the flight deck, organized by sections. It was an awkward evolution for a carrier, and required quite a bit of time to set up, especially on a Steel Beach day. Having it done at change of watch made it a little easier. There was a goodly supply of properly uniformed sailors to perform the duty before going to their berthing spaces to change into their tanning outfits.

Sato's last important act of the operation was to send out a satellite transmission with a time check. Downlinked to fleet headquarters, it was immediately rebroadcast on a different circuit. The last chance to stop the operation had passed by. The die was now cast, if not yet thrown. The Admiral left Mutsu's CIC and headed back to the bridge, leaving his operations officer in charge while he conned the squadron.

The destroyer came abeam of United States Ships Enterprise and John Stennis, exactly between the two carriers, less than two thousand meters to each. She was doing thirty knots, with all stations manned except for the vacancies caused by the people standing at the ships' rails. At the moment that his bridge crossed the invisible line between those of the two American carriers, the sailors on the rails saluted port and starboard in a very precise rendition of courtesy at sea.

A single whistle from the bosun's pipe over the speakers: "Hand salute…Two!" the orders came over the speakers, and the sailors on the galleries of Johnnie Reb brought their hands down. Immediately thereafter they were dismissed with three notes from the bosun's mate of the watch.

"Gee, can we go home now?" The Air Boss chuckled. Exercise DATELINE PARTNERS was now fully concluded, and the battle force could return to Pearl Harbor for one more week of upkeep and shore leave before deploying to the IO. Sanchez decided to stay in the comfortable leather chair and read over some documents while enjoying the breeze. The combined speed of the two intermingled formations made for a rapid passage.

"Whoa!" a lookout said.

The maneuver was German in origin, formally called a Gefechtskehrtwendung, "battle turn." On signal-flag hoist, all four destroyers turned sharply to the right, the aftermost ship first. As soon as her bow showed movement, the next ship put her rudder over, and the next, and then the flagship last. It was a move calculated to attract the admiration of the Americans, and something of a surprise in the close space between the two carriers. In a matter of seconds, the Japanese destroyers had smartly reversed course, now heading west at thirty knots, and overtaking the carriers they had only a moment before approached from the other direction. A few people on the bridge crew whistled approval at the ship-handling skills. Already the rails on all four of the Aegis destroyers were cleared.

"Well, that was pretty sharp," Sanchez commented, looking down at his documents again.

USS John Stennis was steaming normally, all four of her propellers turning at 70rpm, with Condition-Three set. That meant that all spaces were manned with the exception of the embarked air wing, which had stood down after several days on higher activity. There were lookouts arrayed around the island structure, for the most part looking in their assigned areas of responsibility, though all had sneaked at least one long look at the Japanese ships, because they were, after all, different from the U.S. ships. Some used hand-held 7 x 50 marine binoculars, many of Japanese manufacture. Others leaned on far more massive 20 x 120 "Big Eyes," spotting binoculars, which were mounted on pedestals all around the bridge.

Admiral Sato was not sitting down in his command chair, though he was holding his binoculars up. It was a pity, really. They were such proud, beautiful ships. Then he remembered that the one to port was Enterprise, an ancient name in the United States Navy, and that a ship that had borne the name before this one had tormented his country, escorting Jimmy Doolittle to the Japanese coast, fighting at Midway, Eastern Solomons, Santa Cruz, and every other major fleet engagement, many times hit, but never severely. The name of an honored enemy, but an enemy. That was the one he'd watch. He had no idea who John Stennis had been.

Mutsu had passed well beyond the carriers, almost reaching the trailing plane-guard destroyers before turning, and the overtake now seemed dreadfully slow. The Admiral wore his white gloves, and held his binoculars just below the rail, watching the angle to the carrier change.

"Bearing to Target One is three-five-zero. Target Two bearing now zero-one-zero. Solution light," the petty officer reported. The Isso wondered what was going on and why, most of all wondered how he might live to tell this tale someday, and thought that probably he would not.

"I'll take it now," the ops officer said, sliding into the seat. He'd taken the time to acquaint himself with the torpedo director. The order had already been given, and all he'd needed was the light. The officer turned the key in the enable-switch lock, flipped the cover off the button for the portside array, and pressed. Then he did the same for the starboard side. The three-tube mounts on both sides of the ship snapped violently out-board to an angle of about forty degrees off the centerline. The hemispherical weather covers on all six tubes popped off. Then the "fish" were launched by compressed air, diving into the water, left and right, about ten seconds apart. The propellers were already turning when they were ejected into the sea, and each trailed control wires that connected them to Mutsu's Combat Information Center. The tubes, now empty, rotated back to their standby position.

"Fuck me!" a lookout said on Johnnie Reb.

"What was that, Cindy?"

"They just launched a fuckin' fish!" she said. She was a young seaman (that term hadn't changed yet) apprentice, only eighteen years old, on her first ship, and was learning profanity to fit in with the saltier members of the crew. Her arm shot out straight. "I saw him launch—there!"

"You sure?" the other nearby lookout asked, swinging his Big Eyes around. Cindy had only hand-helds. The young woman hesitated. She'd never done anything like this before, and wondered what her chief might do if she were wrong. "Bridge, Lookout Six, the last ship in the Jap line just launched a torpedo!" The way things were set up on the carrier, her announcement was carried over the bridge speakers.

One level down, Bud Sanchez looked up. "What was that?"

"Say again, Look-Six!" the OOD ordered.

"I said I saw that Jap destroyer launch a torpedo off her starboard side!"

"This is Look-Five. I didn't see it, sir," a male voice said.

"I fucking saw it!" shouted a very excited young female voice, loudly enough that Sanchez heard this exclamation over the air, rather than on the bridge speakers. He dropped his papers, jumped to his feet, and sprinted out the door to the lookout gallery. The Captain tripped on the steel ladder, ripping his pants and bloodying one knee, and was swearing when he got to the lookouts.

"Talk to me, honey!"

"I saw it, sir, I really did!" She didn't even know who Sanchez was, and the silver eagles on his collar made him important enough to frighten her even worse than the idea of inbound weapons, but she had seen it and she was standing her ground.

"I didn't see it, sir," the senior seaman announced.

Sanchez trained his binoculars on the destroyer, now only about two thousand yards away. What…? He next shoved the older seaman off the Big Eyes and trained them in on the quarterdeck of the Japanese flagship. There was the triple-tube launcher, trained in as it should be…

…but the fronts of the tubes were black, not gray. The weather covers were off…Without looking, Captain Rafael Sanchez ripped the phones off the senior lookout.

"Bridge, this is CAG. Torpedoes in the water! Torpedoes inbound from port quarter!" He trained the glasses aft, looking for trails on the surface but seeing none. Not that it mattered. He swore violently and stood back up to look at Seaman-Apprentice Cynthia Smithers. "Right or wrong, sailor, you did just fine," he told her as alarms started sounding all over the ship. Only a second later, a blinker light started flashing at Johnnie Reb from the Japanese flagship.

"Warning, warning, we just had a malfunction, we have launched several torpedoes," Mutsu's CO said into the TBS microphone, shamed by the lie as he listened to the open talk-between-ships FM circuit.

"Enterprise, this is Fife, there are torpedoes in the water," another loud voice proclaimed even more loudly.


"They're ours. We have a flash fire in CIC," Mutsu announced next.

"They may be armed." Stennis, he saw, was turning already, the water boiling at her stern with increased power. It wouldn't matter, though with luck nobody would be killed.

"What do we do now, sir?" Smithers asked.

"A couple of Hail Marys, maybe," Sanchez replied darkly. They were ASW torpedoes, weren't they? Little warheads. They couldn't really hurt something as big as Johnnie Reb, could they? Looking down at the deck, people were up and running now, mainly carrying their sunbathing towels as they raced to their duty stations.

"Sir, I'm supposed to report to Damage Control Party Nine on the hangar deck."

"No, stay right here," Sanchez ordered. "You can leave," he told the other one.

John Stennis was heeling hard to port now. The radical turn to starboard was taking hold and the deck rumbled with the sudden increase of power to her engines. One nice thing about the nuclear-powered carriers. They had horses to burn, but the ship weighed over ninety thousand tons and took her time accelerating. Enterprise, less than two miles away, was slower on the trigger, just starting to show turn now. Oh, shit…

"Now hear this, now hear this, stream the Nixie!" the OOD's voice called over the speakers.

The three Mark 50 antisubmarine torpedoes heading toward Stennis were small, smart instruments of destruction designed to punch small, fatal holes

into submarine hulls. Their ability to harm a ship of ninety thousand tons was small indeed, but it was possible to choose which sort of damage they would inflict. They were spaced about a hundred meters apart, racing forward at sixty knots, each guided by a thin insulated wire. Their speed advantage over the target and the short range almost guaranteed a hit, and the turn-away maneuver undertaken by the American carrier merely offered the ideal overtake angle because they were all targeted on the screws. After traveling a thousand yards, the seeker head on the first "fish" went active. The sonar picture it generated was reported back to Mutsu's CIC as a violently bright target of yellow on black, and the officer on the director steered it

straight in, with the other two following automatically. The target area grew closer. Eight hundred meters, seven, six…

"I have you both," the officer said. A moment later the sonar picture showed the confused jamming from the American Nixie decoy, which mimicked the ultrasonic frequencies of the torpedo seeker-heads. Another feature built into the new ones had a powerful pulsing magnetic field to trick the under-the-keel influence-exploders the Russians had developed. But the Mark 50 was a contact weapon, and by controlling them with the wire, he could force them to ignore the acoustical interference. It wasn't fair, wasn't sporting at all, but then, who ever said war was supposed to be that way? he asked the director, who did not answer.

It was a strange disconnect of sight, sound, and feel. The ship hardly shuddered at all when the first column of water leaped skyward. The noise was unmistakably real, and, coming without warning, it made Sanchez jump on the port-after corner of the island. His initial impression was that it hadn't been all that bad a deal, that maybe the fish had exploded in Johnnie Reb's wake. He was wrong.

The Japanese version of the Mark 50 had a small warhead, only sixty kilograms, but it was a shaped charge, and the first of them exploded on the boss of number-two propeller, the inboard postside shaft. The shock immediately ripped three of the screw's five blades off, unbalancing a propeller now turning at a hundred-thirty RPM. The physical forces involved were immense, and tore open the shaft fittings and the skegs that held the entire propulsion system in place. In a moment the aftermost portion of the shaft alley was flooded, and water started entering the ship through her most vulnerable point. What happened forward was even worse.

Like most large warships, John Stennis was steam-powered. In her case two nuclear reactors generated power by boiling water directly. That steam went into a heat exchanger where other water was boiled (but not made radioactive as a result) and piped aft to a high-pressure turbine. The steam hit the turbine blades, causing them to turn much like the vanes of a windmill, which is all the turbine really was; the steam was then piped aft to a low-pressure turbine to make use of the residual energy. The turbines had efficient turning rates, far faster than the propeller could attain, however, and to lower the shaft speed to something the ship could really use, there was a set of reduction gears, essentially a shipboard version of an automobile transmission, located between them. The finely machined barrel-shaped wheels in that bit of marine hardware were the most delicate element of the ship's drivetrain, and the blast energy from the warhead had traveled straight up the shaft, jamming the wheels in a manner that they were not designed to absorb. The added asymmetrical writhing of the unbalanced shaft rapidly completed the destruction of the entire Number Two drivetrain. Sailors were leaping from their feet with the noise even before the second warhead struck, on Number Three.

That explosion was on the outer edge of the starboard-inboard propeller, and the collateral damage took half a blade off Number Four. Damage to Number Three was identical with Number Two. Number Four was luckier. This engine-room crew threw the steam controls to reverse with the first hint of vibration. Poppet valves opened at once, hitting the astern-drive blades and stopping the shaft before the damage got as far as the reduction gears, just in time for the third torpedo to complete the destruction of the starboard-outboard prop.

The All-Stop bell sounded next, and the crewmen in all four turbine rooms initiated the same procedure undertaken moments earlier by the crew on the starboard side. Other alarms were sounding. Damage-control parties raced aft and below to check the flooding, as their carrier glided to a lengthy and crooked halt. One of her rudders was damaged as well.

"What the hell was that all about?" one engineman asked another.

"My God," Sanchez breathed topside. Somehow the damage to Enterprise, now two miles away, seemed even worse than that to his ship. Various alarms were still sounding, and below on the navigation bridge, voices were screaming for information so loudly that the need for telephone circuits seemed superfluous. Every ship in the formation was maneuvering radically now. Fife, one of the plane-guard 'cans, had reversed course and was getting the hell out of Dodge, her skipper clearly worried about other possible fish in the water. Somehow Sanchez knew there weren't. He'd seen three explosions aft on Johnnie Reb and three under Enterprise's stern.

"Smithers, come with me."

"Sir, my battle-station—"

"They can handle it without you, and there's nothing much to look out for now. We're not going much of anywhere for a while. You're going to talk to the Captain."

"Jesus, sir!" The exclamation was not so much profanity as a prayer to be spared that ordeal.

The CAG turned. "Take a deep breath and listen to me: you might be the only person on this whole goddamned ship who did their job right over the last ten minutes. Follow me, Smithers."

"Shafts two and three are blown away, Skipper," they heard a minute later on the bridge. The ship's CO was standing in the middle of the compartment, looking like a man who'd been involved in a traffic accident.

"Shaft four is damaged also…shaft one appears okay at the moment."

"Very well," the skipper muttered, then added for himself, "What the hell…"

"We took three ASW torps, sir," Sanchez reported. "Seaman Smithers here saw the launch."

"Is that a fact?" The CO looked down at the young seaperson. "Miss, you want to sit over in my chair. When I'm finished keeping my ship afloat I want to talk to you." Then came the hard part. The Captain of USS John Stennis turned to his communications officer and started dialling a signal to CincPacFlt. It would bear the prefix NAVY BLUE.

"Conn, Sonar, torpedo in the water, bearing two-eight-zero, sounds like one of their Type 895," "Junior" Laval reported, not in an overly excited way. Submarines were regularly shot at by friends.

"All ahead flank!" Commander Kennedy ordered. Exercise or not, it was a torpedo, and it wasn't something to feel comfortable about. "Make your depth six hundred feet."

"Six hundred feet, aye," the chief of the boat replied from his station as diving officer. "Ten degrees down-angle on the planes." The helmsman pushed forward on the yoke, angling USS Asheville toward the bottom, taking her below the layer.

"Estimated range to the fish?" the Captain asked the tracking party.

"Three thousand yards."

"Conn, Sonar, lost him when we went under the layer. Still pinging in search mode, estimate the torpedo is doing forty or forty-five knots."

"Turn the augmenter off, sir?" the XO asked.

Kennedy was tempted to say yes, the better to get a feel for how good the Japanese torpedo really was. To the best of his knowledge no American sub had yet played against one. It was supposedly the Japanese version of the American Mark 48.

"There it is," Sonar called. "It just came under the layer. Torpedo bearing steady at two-eight-zero, signal strength is approaching acquisition values."

"Right twenty degrees rudder," Kennedy ordered. "Stand by the five-inch room."

"Speed going through thirty knots," a crewman reported as Asheville accelerated.

"Right twenty-degrees rudder, aye, no new course given."

"Very well," Kennedy acknowledged. "Five-inch room, launch decoy now-now-now! Cob, take her up to two hundred!"

"Aye," the chief of the boat replied. "Up ten on the planes!"

"Making it hard?" the executive officer asked.

"No freebies."

A canister was ejected from the decoy-launcher compartment, called the five-inch room for the diameter of the launcher. It immediately started giving off bubbles like an Alka-Seltzer tablet, creating a new, if immobile, sonar target for the torpedo's tracking sonar. The submarine's fast turn created a "knuckle" in the water, the better to confuse the Type 89 fish.

"Through the layer," the technician on the bathythermograph reported.

"Mark your head!" Kennedy said next.

"Coming right through one-nine-zero, my rudder is twenty-right."

"Rudder amidships, steady up on two-zero-zero."

"Rudder amidships, aye, steady up on two-zero-zero."

"All ahead one-third."

"All ahead one-third, aye." The enunciator changed positions, and the submarine slowed down, now back at two hundred feet, over the layer, having left a lovely if false target behind.

"Okay." Kennedy smiled. "Now let's see how smart that fish is."

"Conn, Sonar, the torpedo just went right through the knuckle." The tone of the report was just a little off, Kennedy thought.

"Oh?" the CO went forward a few steps, entering sonar. "Problem?"

"Sir, that fish just went right through the knuckle like it didn't see it."

"Supposed to be a pretty smart unit. You suppose it just ignores decoys like the ADCAP does?"

"Up-Doppler," another sonarman said. "Ping-rate just changed…frequency change, it might have us, sir."

"Through the layer? That is clever." It was going a little fast, Kennedy thought, like real combat, even. Was the new Japanese torpedo really that good, had it really just ignored the decoy and the knuckle? "We recording all this?"

"You bet, sir," Sonarman 1/c Laval said, reaching up to tap the tape machine. A new cassette was taking all this in, and another video system was recording the display on the waterfall screens. "There go the motors, just increased speed. Aspect change…it's got us, zero aspect on the fish, screw noises just faded." Meaning that the engine noise of the torpedo was now somewhat blocked by the body of the weapon. It was headed straight in. Kennedy turned his head to the tracking party. "Range to fish?"

"Under two thousand, sir, closing fast now, estimate torpedo speed sixty knots."

"Two minutes to overtake at this speed."

"Look at this, sir." Laval tapped the waterfall display. It showed the track of the torpedo, and also showed the lingering noise of the decoy, still generating bubbles. The Type 89 had drilled right through the center of it.

"What was that?" Laval asked the screen. A large low-frequency noise had just registered on the screen, bearing three-zero-five. "Sounded like an explosion, way off, that was a CZ signal, not direct path." A convergence-zone signal meant that it was a long way away, more than thirty miles. Kennedy's blood turned a little cold at that piece of news. He stuck his head back into the attack center. "Where are Charlotte and the other Japanese sub?"

"Northwest, sir, sixty or seventy miles."

"All ahead flank!" That order just happened automatically. Not even Kennedy knew why he'd given it.

"All ahead flank, aye," the helmsman acknowledged, turning the annunciator dial. These exercises sure were exciting stuff. Before the engine order was acknowledged, the skipper was on his command phone again: "Five-inch room, launch two, now-now-now!"

The ultrasonic targeting sonar on a homing torpedo is too high in frequency to be heard by the human ear. Kennedy knew that the energy was hitting his submarine, reflecting off the emptiness within, because the sonar waves stopped at the steel-air boundary, bouncing backward to the emitter that generated them.

It couldn't be happening. If it were, others would have noted it, wouldn't they? He looked around. The crew was at battle stations. All watertight doors were closed and dogged down as they would be in combat. Kurushio had launched an exercise torpedo, identical to a warshot in everything but the warhead, for which an instrument package was substituted. They were also designed not to hit their targets, but to turn away from them, because a metal-to-metal strike could break things, and fixing those things could be expensive.

"It's still got us, sir."

But the fish had run straight through the knuckle…"Take her down fast!" Kennedy ordered, knowing it was too late for that. USS Asheville dropped her nose, taking a twenty-degree down-angle, back over thirty knots with the renewed acceleration. The decoy room launched yet another bubble canister. The increased speed degraded sonar performance, but it was clear from the display that the Type 89 had again run straight through the false image of a target and just kept coming.

"Range under five hundred," the tracking part said. One of its members noticed that the Captain was pale and wondered why. Well, nobody likes losing, even in an exercise.

Kennedy thought about maneuvering more as Asheville ducked under the layer yet again. It was too close to outrun. It could outturn him, and every attempt to confuse it had failed. He was just out of ideas. He'd had no time to think it all through.

"Jesus!" Laval took his headphones off. The Type 89 was now alongside the submarine's towed-array sonar, and the noise was well off the scale. "Should turn away any second now…"

The Captain just stood there, looking around. Was he crazy? Was he the only one who thought-

At the last second, Sonarman 1/c Laval looked aft to his commanding officer. "Sir, it didn't turn!"

21—Navy Blue

Air Force One lifted off a few minutes sooner than expected, speeded on her way by the early hour. Reporters were already up and moving before the VC-25B reached her cruising altitude, coming forward to ask the President for a statement explaining the premature departure. Cutting short a state trip was something of a panic reaction, wasn't it? Tish Brown handled the journalists, explaining that the unfortunate developments on Wall Street commanded a quick return so that the President could reassure the American people…and so forth. For the moment, she went on, it might be a good idea for everyone to catch up on sleep. It was, after all, a fourteen-hour flight back to Washington, with the headwinds that blew across the Atlantic at this time of year, and Roger Durling needed his sleep, too. The ploy worked for several reasons, not the least of which was that the reporters were suffering from too much alcohol and not enough sleep, like everyone else aboard—except the flight crew, all hoped. Besides, there were Secret Service agents and armed Air Force personnel between them and the President's accommodations. Common sense broke out, and everyone returned back to the seating area. Soon things were quieted down, and nearly every passenger aboard was either asleep or feigning it. Those who weren't asleep wished they were.

Johnnie Reb's commanding officer was, by federal law, an aviator. The statute went back to the 19308, and had been drafted to prevent battleship sailors from taking over the new and bumptious branch of the Old Navy. As such, he had more experience flying airplanes than in driving ships, and since he'd never had a command afloat, his knowledge of shipboard systems consisted mainly of things he'd picked up along the way rather than from a mutter of systematic study and experience. Fortunately, his chief engineer was a black-shoe destroyer sailor with a command under his bell. The skipper did know, however, that water was supposed to be outside the hull, not inside.

"How bad, ChEng?"

"Bad, sir." The Commander gestured to the deck plates, still covered with an inch of water that the pumps was gradually sending over the side. At least the holes were sealed now. That had taken three hours. "Shafts two and three are well and truly trashed. Bearings shot, tail shafts twisted and split, reduction gears ground up to junk—no way anybody can fix them. The turbines are okay. The reduction gears took all the shock. Number One shaft's okay. Some shock damage to the aft bearings. That I can fix myself. Number four screw is damaged, not sure how bad, but we can't turn it without risking the shaft bearings. Starboard rudder is jammed over, but I can deal with that, another hour, maybe, and it'll be 'midships. May have to replace it, depending on how bad it looks. We're down to one shaft. We can make ten, eleven knots, and we can steer, badly."

"Time to fix?"

"Months—four or five is my best guess right now, sir." All of which, the Commander knew, would require him to be here, overseeing the yard crews, essentially rebuilding half the ship's power plant-maybe three quarters. He hadn't fully evaluated the damage to Number Four yet. That was when the Captain really lost his temper. It was about time, the ChEng thought.

"If I could launch an air strike, I'd sink those sunzabitches!" But launching anything on the speed generated by a single shaft was an iffy proposition. Besides, it had been an accident, and the skipper really didn't mean it.

"You have my vote on that one, sir," ChEng assured him, not really meaning it either, because he added: "Maybe they'll be nice enough to pay for the repairs." His reward was a nod.

"We can start moving again?"

"Number One shaft is a little out from shock damage, but I can live with it, yes, sir."

"Okay, get ready to answer bells. I'm taking this overpriced barge back to Pearl."

"Aye aye, sir."

Admiral Mancuso was back in his office, reviewing preliminary data on the exercise when his yeoman came in with a signal sheet.

"Sir, looks like two carriers are in trouble."

"What did they do, collide?" Jones asked, sitting in the corner and reviewing other data.

"Worse," the yeoman told the civilian.

ComSubPac read the dispatch. "Oh, that's just great." Then his phone rang; it was the secure line that came directly from PacFltOps. "This is Admiral Mancuso."

"Sir, this is Lieutenant Copps at Fleet Communications. I have a submarine emergency beacon, located approximately 31-North, 175-East. We're refining that position now. Code number is for Asheville, sir. There is no voice transmission, just the beacon. I am initiating a SuBMiss/SusSuNK. The nearest naval aircraft are on the two carriers—"

"Dear God." Not since Scorpion had the U.S. Navy lost a sub, and he'd been in high school then. Mancuso shook his head clear. There was work to be done. "Those two carriers are probably out of business, mister."

"Oh?" Oddly enough, Lieutenant Copps hadn't heard that yet.

"Call the P-3s. I have work to do."

"Aye aye, sir."

Mancuso didn't have to look at anything. The water in that part of the Pacific Ocean was three miles deep, and no fleet submarine ever made could survive at a third of that depth. If there were an emergency, and if there were any survivors, any rescue would have to happen within hours, else the cold surface water would kill them.

"Ron, we just got a signal. Asheville might be down."

"Down?" That word was not one any submariner wanted to hear, even if it was a gentler expression than sunk. "Frenchy's kid…"

"And a hundred twenty others."

"What can I do, Skipper?"

"Head over to SOSUS and look at the data."

"Aye aye, sir." Jones hustled out the door while SubPac lifted his phone and started punching buttons. He already knew that it was an exercise in futility. All PacFlt submarines now carried the AN/BST-3 emergency transmitters aboard, set to detach from their ships if they passed through crush depth or if the quartermaster of the watch neglected to wind the unit's clockwork mechanism. The latter possibility, however, was unlikely. Before the explosive bolts went, the BST made the most godawful noise to chide the neglectful enlisted man…Asheville was almost certainly dead, and yet he had to follow through in the hope of a miracle. Maybe a few crewmen had gotten off.

Despite Mancuso's advice, the carrier group did get the call. A frigate, USS Gary, went at once to maximum sustainable speed and sprinted north toward the area of the beacon, responding as required by the laws of man and the sea. In ninety minutes she'd be able to launch her own helicopter for a surface search and further serve as a base for other helos to continue the rescue operation if necessary. John Stennis turned slowly into the wind and managed to launch a single S-3 Viking ASW aircraft, whose onboard instruments were likely to be useful for a surface search. The Viking was overhead in less than an hour. There was nothing to be seen on radar except for a Japanese coast-guard cutter, heading in for the beacon, ahout ten miles out. Contact was established, and the white cutter verified its notice on the emergency radio and intentions to search for survivors. The Viking circled the transmitter. There was a slick of diesel oil to mark the ship's grave, and a few bits of floating debris, but repeated low passes and four sets of eyes failed to spot anything to be rescued.

The "Navy Blue" prefix on a signal denoted information that would be of interest to the entire fleet, perhaps sensitive in nature, less often highly classified; in this case it was something too big to be kept a secret. Two of Pacific Fleet's four aircraft carriers were out of business for a long time. The other two, Eisenhower and Lincoln, were in the IO, and were likely to remain there. Ships know few secrets, and even before Admiral Dubro got his copy of the dispatch, word was already filtering through his flagship. No chief swore more vilely than the battle-force commander, who already had enough to worry about. The same response greeted the signals personnel who informed the senior naval officers on Pentagon duty.

Like most intelligence officers in a foreign land in time of danger, Clark and Chavez didn't have a clue. If they had, they would probably have caught the first plane anywhere. Spies have never been popular with anyone, and the Geneva Protocols merely affirmed a rule for time of war, mandating their death as soon after apprehension as was convenient, usually by firing squad. Peacetime rules were a little more civilized, but generally with the same end result. It wasn't something CIA emphasized in its recruiting interviews.

The international rules of espionage allowed for this unhappy fact by giving as many field intelligence officers as possible diplomatic covers, along with which came immunity from harm. Those were called "legal" agents, protected by international treaty as though they really were the diplomats their passports said they were. Clark and Chavez were "illegals," and not so protected—in fact, John Clark had never once been given a "legal" cover. The importance of this became clear when they left their cheap hotel for a meeting with Isamu Kimura.

It was a pleasant afternoon made less so by the looks they got as gaijin; no longer a mixture of curiosity and distaste, now there was genuine hostility. The atmosphere had changed materially since their arrival here, though remarkably things immediately became more cordial when they identified themselves as Russians, which prompted Ding to speculate on how they might make their cover identity more obvious to passersby. Unfortunately civilian clothing did not offer that option, and so they had to live with the looks, generally feeling the way a wealthy American might in a high-crime neighborhood. Kimura was waiting at the agreed-upon place, an inexpensive drinking establishment. He already had a few drinks in him.

"Good afternoon," Clark said pleasantly in English. A beat. "Something wrong?"

"I don't know," Kimura said when the drinks came. There were many ways of speaking that phrase. This way indicated that he knew something. "There is a meeting of the ministers today. Goto called it. It's been going on for hours. A friend of mine in the Defense Agency hasn't left his office since Thursday night."


"You haven't seen it, have you? The way Goto has been speaking about America." The MITI official finished off the last of his drink and raised his hand to order another. Service, typically, was fast. They could have said that they'd seen the first speech, but instead "Klerk" asked for Kimura's read on the situation.

"I don't know," the man replied, saying the same thing again while his eyes and tone told a somewhat different story. "I've never seen anything like this. The—what is the word?—rhetoric. At my ministry we have been waiting for instructions all week. We need to restart the trade talks with America, to reach an understanding, but we have no instructions. Our people in Washington are doing nothing. Goto has spent most of his time with Defense, constant meetings, and with his zaibatsu friends. It's not the way things are here at all."

"My friend," Clark said with a smile, his drink now untouched after a single sip, "you speak as though there is something serious in the air."

"You don't understand. There is nothing in the air. Whatever is going on, MITI is not a part of it."


"MITI is part of everything here. My Minister is there now, finally, but he hasn't told us anything." Kimura paused. Didn't these two know anything? "Who do you think makes our foreign policy here? Those dolts in the Foreign Ministry? They report to us. And the Defense Agency, who cares what they think about anything? We are the ones who shape our country's policies. We work with the zaibatsu, we coordinate, we…represent business in our relations with other countries and their markets, we make the position papers for the Prime Minister to give out. That's why I entered the ministry in the first place."

"But not now?" Clark asked.

"Now? Goto is meeting with them himself, and spends the rest of his time with people who don't matter, and only now is my Minister called in—well, yesterday," Kimura corrected himself. "And he's still there."

The man seemed awfully rattled, Chavez. told himself, over what seemed to be little more than some bureaucratic turf-fighting. The Ministry of International Trade and Industry was being outmaneuvered by someone else. So?

"You are upset that the industry leaders meet directly with your Prime Minister," he asked.

"So much, and so long, yes. They're supposed to work through us, but Goto has always been Yamata's lapdog." Kimura shrugged. "Perhaps they want to make policy directly now, but how can they do that without us?"

Without me, the man means, Chavez thought with a smile. Dumb-ass bureaucrat. CIA was full of them, too.

It wasn't all the way thought through, but such things never were. Most of the tourists who came to Saipan were Japanese, but not quite all of them. The Pacific island was a good place for a lot of things. One of them was deep-sea fishing, and the waters here were not as crowded as those around Florida and the Gulf of California. Pete Burroughs was sunburned, exhausted, and thoroughly satisfied with an eleven-hour day at sea. It was just the perfect thing, the computer engineer told himself, sitting in the fighting chair and sipping a beer, to get a person over a divorce. He'd spent the first two hours getting offshore, then three hours trolling, then four hours fighting against the biggest goddamned albacore tuna he'd ever seen. The real problem would be convincing his fellow workers that it wasn't a lie. The monster was too big to mount over his mantel, and besides, his ex- had the house and the fireplace. He'd have to settle for a photo, and everyone knew the stories about that, damn it. Blue-screen technology had reached fishermen. For twenty bucks you could have your choice of monster fish hanging from its electronic tail behind you. Now, if he'd caught a shark, he could have taken home the jaw and teeth, but an albacore, magnificent as it was, was just tuna fish. Well, what the hell, his wife hadn't believed his stories about the late nights at work either. The bitch. Good news, bad news. She didn't like fishing either, but now he could fish all he wanted. Maybe even fish for a new girl. He popped open another beer.

The marina didn't look very busy for a weekend. The main port area was, though, three big commercial ships, ugly ones, he thought, though he didn't know exactly what they were on first sight. His company was in California, though not close to the water, and most of his fishing was of the freshwater sort. This trip had been a life's ambition. Tomorrow, maybe, he'd get something else. For the moment, he looked left at the albacore. Had to be at least seven hundred pounds. Nowhere close to the record, but one hell of a lot bigger than the monster salmon he'd gotten the year before with his trusty Ted Williams spinning rig. The air shook again, spoiling his moment with his fish. The overhead shadow announced another goddamned 747 coming out of the airport. It wouldn't be long before this place was spoiled, too.

Hell, it already was. About the only good news was that the Japanese who came here to kick loose and screw Filipina bar girls didn't like to fish much. The boat's skipper brought them in smartly. His name was Oreza, a retired Master Chief Quartermaster, U.S. Coast Guard. Burroughs left the fighting chair, headed topside, and sat down next to him.

"Get tired of talking to your fish?"

"Don't like drinking alone, either."

Oreza shook his head. "Not when I'm driving."

"Bad habit from the old days?"

The skipper nodded. "Yeah, I guess. I'll buy you one at the club, though. Nice job on the fish. First time, you said?"

"First time in blue water," Burroughs said proudly.

"Coulda fooled me, Mr. Burroughs."

"Pete," the engineer corrected.

"Pete," Oreza confirmed. "Call me Portagee."

"You're not from around here."

"New Bedford, Massachusetts, originally. Winters are too cold. I served here once, long time back. There used to be a Coast Guard station down at Punta Arenas, closed now. The wife and I liked the climate, liked the people, and, hell, the competition statewide for this sort of business is too stiff," Oreza explained. "What the hell, the kids are all grown. So anyway, we ended up coming out here."

"You know how to handle a boat pretty well."

Portagee nodded. "I ought to. I've been doing it thirty-five years, more if you count going out with my pop." He eased to port, coming around Managaha Island. "The fishing out of New Bedford's gone to hell, too."

"What are those guys?" Burroughs asked, pointing to the commercial port.

"Car carriers. When I came in this morning they were moving jeeps out of that one." The skipper shrugged. "More goddamned cars. You know, when I came here it was kinda like Cape Cod in the winter. Now it's more like the Cape in the summer. Wall-to-goddamned-wall." Portagee shrugged. More tourists made for more crowding, spoiling the island, but also bringing him more business.

"Expensive place to live?"

"Getting that way," Oreza confirmed. Another 747 flew off the island. "That's funny…"


"That one didn't come out of the airport."

"What do you mean?"

"That one came out of Kobler. It's an old SAC runway, BUFF field."


"Big Ugly Fat Fucker," Portagee explained. "B-52's. There's five or six runways in the islands that can take big birds, dispersal fields from the bad old days," he went on. "Kobler's right next to my old LORAN station. I'm surprised they still keep it up. Hell, I didn't know they did, even."

"I don't understand."

"There used to be a Strategic Air Command base on Guam. You know, nukes, all that big shit? In case the crap hit the fan, they were supposed to disperse off Andersen Air Force Base so one missile couldn't get them all. There's two big-bird runways on Saipan, the airport and Kobler, two more on Tinian, leftovers from World War Two, and two more on Guam."

"They're still good to use?"

"No reason why not." Oreza's head turned. "We don't get many hard freezes here to rip things up." The next 747 came off Saipan International, and in the clear evening sky they could see yet another coming in from the eastern side of the island.

"This place always this busy?"

"No, most I've ever seen. Goddamned hotels must be packed solid." Another shrug. "Well, that means the hotels'll be interested in buying that fish off ya."

"How much?"

"Enough to cover the charter, Pete. That's one big fish you brought in. But tomorrow you have to get lucky again."

"Hey, you find me another big boy like our friend down there, and I don't care what you charge."

"I love it when people say that." Oreza eased back on the throttles as he approached the marina. He aimed for the main dock. They needed the hoist to get the fish off. The albacore was the third-largest he'd ever brought in, and this Burroughs guy wasn't all that bad a charter.

"You make a living at this?"

Portagee nodded. "With my retirement pay, yeah, it's not a bad life. Thirty-some years I drove Uncle's boats, and now I get to drive me own—and she' s paid for."

Burroughs was looking at the commercial ships now. He lifted the skipper's binoculars. "You mind?"

"Strap around your neck if you don't mind." Amazing that people thought the strap was some sort of decoration.

"Sure." Burroughs did that, adjusting the focus for his eyes and examining Orchid Ace. "Ugly damned things…"

"Not made to be pretty. Made to carry cars." Oreza started the final turn in.

"That's no car. Looks like some kind of construction thing, bulldozer, like…"

"Oh?" Portagee called for his mate, a local kid, to come topside and work the lines. Good kid, fifteen, might try for the Coast Guard and spend a few years learning the trade properly. Oreza was working on that.

"The Army have a base here?"

"Give me a light and follow me on this," Jones ordered. He flipped another page, checking the 60Hz line. "Nothing…nothing. Those diesel boats are pretty good…but if they're quiet, they ain't snorting, and if they ain't snorting they ain't going very far…Asheville sprinted out this way, and probably then she came back in…" Another page.

"No rescue, sir?" It had taken fully thirty seconds for the question to be asked.

"How deep's the water?"

"I know that, but the escape trunks…I mean, I've seen it, there's three of them."

Jones didn't even look up, taking a puff off his first smoke in years.

"Yeah, the mom's hatch, that's what we called it on Dallas. 'See, mom, if anything goes wrong, we can get out right there.' Chief, you don't get off one of these things, okay? You don't. That ship is dead, and so's her crew. I want to see why."

"But we already have the crush sounds."

"I know. I also know that two of our carriers had a little accident today." Those sounds were on the SOSUS printouts, too.

"What are you saying?"

"I'm not saying anything." Another page. At the bottom of it was a large black blotch, the loud sound that marked the death of USS Asheville and all—"What the fuck is this?"

"We think it's a double-plot, sir. The bearing's almost the same as the Asheville sound, and we think the computer—"

"The time's off, goddamn it, a whole four minutes." He flipped back three pages. "See, that's somebody else."


It was then that Jones felt even colder. His head swam a little from the cigarette, and he remembered why he'd quit. The same signature on the paper, a diesel boat snorting, and, later, a 688-class sprinting. The sounds were so close, nearly identical, and the coincidence of the bearing from the new seafloor array could have made almost anyone think…

"Call Admiral Mancuso and find out if Charlotte has checked in."


"Right now, Senior Chief!"

Dr. Ron Jones stood up and looked around. It was the same as before, almost. The people were the same, doing the same work, displaying the same competence, but something was missing. The thing that wasn't the same was…what? The large room had a huge chart of the Pacific Ocean on its back wall. Once that chart had been marked with red silhouettes, the class shapes of Soviet submarines, boomers, and fast-attacks, often with black silhouettes in attendance, to show that Pacific SOSUS was tracking "enemy" subs, quarterbacking American fast-attacks onto them, vectoring P-3C Orion ASW birds in to follow them, and occasionally to pounce on and harry them, to let them know who owned the oceans of the world. Now the marks on the wall chart were of whales, some of them with names, just as with the Russian subs, but these names were things like "Moby and Mabel," to denote a particular pod with a well-known alpha-pair to track by name. There wasn't an enemy now, and the urgency had gone. They weren't thinking the way he'd once thought, heading "up north" on Dallas, tracking people they might one day have to kill. Jones had never really expected that, not really-really, but the possibility was something he'd never allowed himself to forget. These men and women, however, had. He could see it, and now he could hear it from the way the chief was talking to SubPac on the phone.

Jones walked across the room and just took the receiver away. "Bart, this is Ron. Has Charlotte checked in?"

"We're trying to raise her now."

"I don't think you're going to, Skipper," the civilian said darkly.

"What do you mean?" The reply caught the meaning. The two men had always communicated on a nonverbal level.

"Bart, you better come over here. I'm not kidding, Cap'n."

"Ten minutes," Mancuso promised.

Jones stubbed his smoke out in a metal waste can and returned to the printouts. It was not an easy thing for him now, but he flipped to the pages where he'd stopped. The printouts were made with pencils that were located on metal shuttle-bars, marking received noises in discrete frequency ranges, and the marks were arranged with the low frequencies on the left, and the higher ones on the right. Location within the range columns denoted bearing. The tracks meandered, looking to all the world like aerial photographs of sand dunes in some trackless desert, but if you knew what to look for, every spidery trace and twist had meaning. Jones slowed his analysis, taking in every minute's record of reception and sweeping from left to right, making marks and notes as he went. The chiefs who'd been assisting him stood back now, knowing that a master was at work, that he saw things they should have seen, but had not, and knowing why a man younger than they called an admiral by his first name.

"Attention on deck," some voice called presently, "Submarine Force, Pacific, arriving." Mancuso came in, accompanied by Captain Chambers, his operations officer, and an aide who kept out of the way. The Admiral just looked at Jones's face.

"You raise Charlotte yet, Bart?"


"Come here."

"What are you telling me, Jonesy?"

Jones took the red pen to the bottom of the page. "There's the crush, that's the hull letting go."

Mancuso nodded, letting out a breath. "I know, Ron."

"Look here. That's high-speed maneuvering—"

"Something goes wrong, you go max power and try to drive her up to the roof," Captain Chambers observed, not seeing it yet, or more probably not wanting to, Jones thought. Well, Mr. Chambers had always been a pretty nice officer to work for.

"But she wasn't heading straight for the roof, Mr. Chambers. Aspect changes, here and here," Jones said, moving the pen upward on the printout page, backwards in time, marking where the width of the traces varied, and the bearings changed subtly. "She was turning, too, at max power on a speed screw. This is probably a decoy signature. And this"—his hand went all the way to the right—"is a fish. Quiet one, but look at the bearing rates. It was turning, too, chasing Asheville, and that gives these traces here, all the way back to this time-point here." Ron circled both traces, and though separated on the paper by fourteen inches, the shallow twists and turns were almost identical. The pen moved again, upwards on the sheet, then shot across to another frequency column. "To a launch transient. Right there."

"Fuck," Chambers breathed.

Mancuso leaned over the paper sheet, next to Jones, and he saw it all now. "And this one?"

"That's probably Charlotte, also maneuvering briefly. See, here and here, look like aspect changes on these traces to me. No transients because it was probably too far away, same reason we don't have a track on the fish." Jones moved the pen back to the track of USS Asheville. "Here. That Japanese diesel boat launched on her. Here. Asheville tried to evade and failed. Here's the first explosion from the torpedo warhead. Engine sounds stop here—she took the hit from aft. Here's the internal bulkheads letting go. Sir, Asheville was sunk by a torpedo, probably a Type 89, right about the same time that our two carriers had their little accident."

"It's not possible," Chambers thought.

When Jones turned his head, his eyes looked like the buttons on a doll's face. "Okay, sir, then you tell me what these signals denote." Somebody had to goad him into reality.

"Christ, Ron!"

"Settle down, Wally," ComSubPac said quietly, looking at the data and searching for another plausible interpretation. He had to look, even in the knowledge that there was no other possible conclusion.

"Wasting your time, Skipper." Jones tapped the track of USS Gary. "Somebody better tell that frigate that it ain't a rescue she's on. She's sailing in harm's way. There's two SSKs out there with warshots, and they already used them twice." Jones walked to the wall chart. He had to search around for a red marker, lifted it, and drew two circles, both about thirty miles in diameter. "Somewhere here. We'll get a better cut on them when they snort next. Who's the surface track, by the way?"

"Reportedly a coast-guard cutter, one of theirs, heading in for the rescue," SubPac answered.

"We might want to think about killing it," Jones suggested, marking that contact in red also, then setting the pen down. He'd just taken the final step. The surface ship whose position he'd marked was not "she," but rather it. An enemy. A target.

"We have to see CINCPAC," Mancuso said.

Jones nodded. "Yes, sir, I think we do."

22—The Global Dimension

The bomb was impressive. It exploded outside the Trincomalee Tradewinds, a new luxury hotel mainly built with Indian money. A few people, none closer than half a block away, would remember the vehicle, a small white delivery truck that had been big enough to contain half a ton of AMFO, an explosive mixture composed of nitrogen-based fertilizer and diesel fuel. It was a concoction easily made up in a bathtub or laundry basin, and in this case sufficient to rip the facade off the ten-story hotel, killing twenty-seven people and injuring another hundred or so in the process. Scarcely had the noise died when a telephone call came in to the local Reuters office.

"The final phase of liberation has begun," the voice said, probably reading the words off a prepared statement, as terrorists often did. "The Tamil Tigers will have their homeland and their autonomy or there will be no peace in Sri Lanka. This is only the beginning of the end of our struggle. We will explode one bomb per day until we achieve our goal." Click.

For more than a hundred years, Reuters had been one of the world's most efficient news services, and the Colombo office was no exception, even on a weekend. In ten minutes the report went out on the wire—a satellite link today—to the agency's London headquarters, where it was instantly relayed across the global news network as a "flash" story.

Many U.S. agencies routinely monitor the news-wire services, including the intelligence services, the FBI, Secret Service, and the Pentagon. This was also true of the White House Signals Office, and so it was that twenty-five minutes after the bomb went off, an Air Force sergeant put his hand on Jack Ryan's shoulder. The National Security Advisor's eyes opened to see a finger pointed topside.

"Flash traffic, sir," the voice whispered.

Ryan nodded sleepily, slipped off his seat belt, and thanked God that he hadn't drunk too much in Moscow. In the dim lights of the cabin everyone else was conked out. To keep from waking his wife it was necessary to step over the table. He almost tripped, but the sergeant grabbed his arm.

"Thank you, ma'am."

"No problem, sir." Ryan followed her to the spiral stairs and headed up to the communications area on the upper deck.

"What gives?" He resisted the temptation to ask the time. It would have begged another question: the time in Washington, the time where the plane was now, or the time where the flash traffic had originated. Just another sign of progress, Ryan thought, heading to the thermal printer, you had to ask when "now" was. The communications watch officer was an Air Force first lieutenant, black, slim, and pretty.

"Good morning, Dr. Ryan. The National Security Office said to flag this one for you." She handed over the slippery paper Jack hated. The thermal printers were quiet, though, and this communications room, like all the others, was noisy enough already. Jack read the Reuters dispatch, too new as yet to have any analysis from CIA or elsewhere.

"That's the indicator we were looking for. Okay, let's get a secure phone."

"Some other stuff that's just come in," an airman said, handing over more papers. "The Navy had a bad day."

"Oh?" Ryan sat down in a padded chair and flipped on a reading light.

"Oh, shit," he said next. Then he looked up. "Coffee, please, Lieutenant?"

The officer sent an enlisted man for a cup.

"First call?"

"NMCC, the senior watch officer." The National Security Advisor checked his watch, did the arithmetic, and decided that he'd gotten about five hours of sleep total. It was not likely that he'd get much more between here, wherever that was, and Washington.

"Line three, Dr. Ryan. Admiral Jackson on the other end."

"This is SWORDSMAN," Ryan said, using his official Secret Service code name. They'd tried to hang GUNFIGHTER on him, a token of backhanded respect for his earlier life.

"This is SWITCHBOARD. Enjoying the flight, Jack?" It was a constant amazement to Ryan that the secure digital comm links had such high transmission quality. He could recognize his friend's voice, and even his humorous tone. He could also tell that it was somewhat forced.

"These Air Force drivers are pretty good. Maybe you should think about learning from them. Okay, what gives? What are you doing in the shop?"

"Pac Fleet had a little incident a few hours ago."

"So I see. Sri Lanka first," SWORDSMAN ordered. "Nothing much more than the wire dispatch. We have some still photos, too, and we expect video in a half-hour or so. The consulate in Trincomalec is reporting in now. They confirm the incident. One American citizen injured, they think, just one, and not real serious, but he's asking to be evac'd soonest. Mike is being painted into a corner. He's going to try and maneuver out of it when the sun goes down. Our estimate is that our friends are starting to get real frisky. Their amphibs are still alongside, but we've lost track of that brigade. The area they've been using to play games in appears empty. We have overheads three hours old, and the field is empty."

Ryan nodded. He slid the plastic blind off the window by his chair. It was dark outside. There were no lights to be seen below. Either they were over the ocean already or there were clouds down there. All he could see was the blinking strobe on the aircraft's wingtip.

"Any immediate dangers there?"

"Negative," Admiral Jackson thought. "We estimate a week to take positive action, minimum, but we also estimate that positive action is now likely. The folks up the river concur. Jack," Robby added, "Admiral Dubro needs instructions on what he can do about things, and he needs them soon.

"Understood." Ryan was making notes on an Air Force One scratchpad that the journalists hadn't managed to steal yet. "Stand by." He looked up at the Lieutenant. "ETA to Andrews?"

"Seven and a half hours, sir. Winds are pretty stiff. We're approaching the Icelandic coast now."

Jack nodded. "Thank you. Robby, we're seven and a half out. I'll be talking to the Boss before we get in. Start thinking about setting a briefing up two hours after we get in."

"Roger that."

"Okay. Now, what the hell happened to those carriers?"

"Supposedly one of the Jap 'cans had a little malfunction and rippled off her Mark 50's. They caught both CVNs in the ass. Enterprise has damage to all four shafts. Stennis has three down. They report no fatalities, some minor injuries."

"Robby, how the hell—"

"Hey, SWORDSMAN, I just work here, remember."

"How long?"

"Four to six months to effect repairs, that's what we have now. Wait, stand by, Jack." The voice stopped, but Ryan could hear murmurs and papers shuffling. "Wait a minute—something else just came in."

"Standing by." Ryan sipped his coffee and returned to the task of figuring out what time it was.

"Jack, something bad. We have a SuBMiss/SusSuNK in Pac Fleet."

"What's that?"

"USS Asheville, that's a new 688, her BST-3 just started howling. Stennis has launched a bird to check it out, and a 'can's heading up there, too. This ain't good."

"What's the crew? Like a hundred?"

"More, one-twenty, one-thirty. Oh, damn. Last time this happened, I was a mid."

"We had an exercise going with them, didn't we?"

"DATELINE PARTNERS, yes, just ended yesterday. Until a couple hours ago, looked like a good exercise. Things went in the shitter in a hurry Jackson's voice trailed off. "Another signal. First report, Stennis launched a Hoover—"


"S-3 Viking, ASW bird. Four-man crew. They report no survivors from the sub. Shit," Jackson added, even though it wasn't exactly a surprise.

"Jack, I need to do some work here, okay?"

"Understood. Keep me posted."

"Will do. Out." The line went dead.

Ryan finished off his coffee and dropped the plastic cup into a basket bolted to the floor of the aircraft. There was no point in waking the President just yet. Durling would need his sleep. He was coming home to a financial crisis, a political mess, maybe a brewing war, in the Indian Ocean, and now the situation with Japan would only get worse after this damned-fool accident in the Pacific. Durling was entitled to a little good luck, wasn't he?

By coincidence Oreza's personal car was a white Toyota Land Cruiser, a popular vehicle on the island. He and his charter were walking toward it when two more just like it pulled into the marina's parking lot. Six people got out and walked straight toward them. The former Command Master Chief stopped dead in his tracks. He'd left Saipan just before dawn, having picked Burroughs up at the hotel himself, the better to catch the tuna chasing their own food in the early morning. Though traffic on the way in to the dock had been…well, a little busier than usual, the world had held its normal shape.

But not now. Now there were Japanese fighters circling over the island, and now six men in fatigues and pistol belts were walking toward him and his charter. It was like something from a movie, he thought, one of those crazy TV mini-things from when the Russians were real.

"Hello, how was the fishing?" the man asked. He had O-3 rank, Oreza saw, and a parachutist's badge on the left breast pocket. Smiling, just as pleasant and friendly as he could be.

"I bagged one hell of an albacore tuna," Pete Burroughs said, his pride amplified by the four beers he'd drunk on the way in.

A wider smile. "Ah! Can I see it?"

"Sure!" Burroughs reversed his path and led them back to the dock, where the fish was still hanging head-down from the hoist.

"This is your boat, Captain Oreza?" the soldier asked. Only one other man had followed their captain down. The others stayed behind, watching closely, as though under orders not to be too…something, Portagee thought. He also took note of the fact that this officer had troubled himself to learn his name.

"That's right, sir. Interested in a little fishing?" he asked with an innocent smile.

"My grandfather was a fisherman," the ishii told them.

Portagee nodded and smiled. "So was mine. Family tradition."

"Long tradition?"

Oreza nodded as they got to Springer. "More than a hundred years."

"Ah, a fine boat you have. May I look at it?"

"Sure, jump aboard." Portagee went first and waved him over. The sergeant who'd walked down with his captain, he saw, stayed on the dock withMr. Burroughs, keeping about six feet away from him. There was a pistol in the man's holster, a SIG P22O, the standard sidearm of the Japanese military. By this time all kinds of alarm were lighting off in Oreza's brain.

"What does 'Springer' denote?"

"It's a kind of hunting dog."

"Ah, yes, very good." The officer looked around. "What sort of radios do you need for a boat like this. Expensive?"

"I'll show you." Oreza led him into the salon. "Your people make it, sir, NEC, a standard marine VHP and a backup. Here's my GPS nav system, depth finder, fish-finder, radar." He tapped each instrument. They were in fact all Japanese-made, high quality, reasonably priced, and reliable as hell.

"You have guns aboard?"

Click. "Guns? What for?"

"Don't many islanders own guns?"

"Not that I know of." Oreza shook his head. "Anyway, I've never been attacked by a fish. No, I don't have any, even at home."

Clearly the officer was pleased by that news. "Oreza, what sort of name is that?" It sounded native to the Ishii.

"Originally, you mean? Way back, my people come from Portugal."

"Your family here a long time?"

Oreza nodded. "You bet." Five years was a long time, wasn't it? A husband and wife constituted a family, didn't they?

"The radios, VHP you say, short-range?" The man looked around for other instruments, but clearly there were none.

"Mainly line-of-sight, yes, sir."

The captain nodded. "Very good. Thank you. Beautiful boat. You take great pride in it, yes?"

"Yes, sir, I do."

"Thank you for showing me around. You can go now," the man said finally, not quite knowing how discordant the final sentence was. Oreza escorted him to the dock and watched him leave, rejoining his men without another word.

"What was—"

"Pete, you want to button it for a minute?" The command was delivered in his Master Chief's voice, and had the desired effect. They walked over to Oreza's car, letting the others pull away, marching as soldiers did to a precise one hundred twenty paces per minute, the sergeant a step to his cap tain's left and half a pace behind, walking exactly in step. By the time the fisherman got to his car it was clear that yet another Toyota Land Cruiser was at the entrance to the marina parking lot, not really doing anything but sitting there, with three men inside, all in uniform.

"Some kind of exercise? War games? What gives?" Burroughs asked once they were in Oreza's car.

"Beats the shit out of me, Pete." He started up and headed out of the lot, turning right to go south on Beach Road. In a few minutes they passed by the commercial docks. Portagee took his time, obeying all rules and limits, and blessing his luck that he had the same model car and color the soldiers used.

Or almost. The vehicles off-loading from Orchid Ace now were mainly olive-green. A steady cab-rank of airport buses off-loaded people in uniforms of the same color. They appeared to be going to a central point, then dispersing either to the parked military vehicles or to the ship, perhaps to off-load their assigned units.

"What are those big boxy things?"

"It's called MLRS, Multiple-Launch Rocket System." There were six of them now, Oreza saw.

"What's it for?" Burroughs asked.

"Killing people," Portagee replied tersely. As they drove by the access road to the docks, a soldier waved them on vigorously. More trucks, deuce-and-a-halfs. More soldiers, maybe five or six hundred. Oreza continued south. Every major intersection had a Land Cruiser in place, and no less than three soldiers, some with pistol belts, occasionally one with a slung rifle. It took a few minutes to realize that there wasn't a single police car in evidence. He turned left onto Wallace Highway.

"My hotel?"

"How about dinner at my place tonight?" Oreza headed up the hill, past the hospital, finally turning left into his development. Though a man of the sea, he preferred a house in high ground. It also afforded a fine view of the southern part of the island. His was a home of modest size with lots of windows. His wife, Isabel, was an administrator at the hospital, and the home was close enough that she could walk to work if the mood suited her. The mood this evening was not a happy one. As soon as he pulled into the driveway, his wife was out the door.

"Manni, what's going on?" Her ancestry was like his. Short, round, and dark-complected, now her swarthy skin was pale.

"Let's go inside, okay? Honey, this is Pete Burroughs. We went fishing today." His voice was calm, but his eyes swept around. The landing lights of four aircraft were visible to the east, lined up a few miles apart, approaching the island's two large runways. When the three of them were inside, and the doors shut, the talking could start.

"The phones are out. I tried to call Rachel and I got a recording. The overseas lines are down. When I went to the mall—"

"Soldiers?" Portagee asked his wife.

"Lots of 'em, and they're all—"

"Japs." Master Chief Quartermaster Manuel Oreza, United States Coast Guard, retired, completed the thought.

"Hey, that's not the polite way to—"

"Neither's an invasion, Mr. Burroughs."


Oreza lifted the kitchen phone and hit the speed-dial button for his daughter's house in Massachusetts.

"We're sorry, but a cable problem has temporarily interrupted Trans-pacific service. Our people are working on the problem. Thank you for your patience—"

"My ass!" Oreza told the recording. "Cable, hell, what about the satellite dishes?"

"Can't call out?" Burroughs was slow to catch on, but at least this was something he knew about.

"No, doesn't seem that way."

"Try this." The computer engineer reached into his pocket and pulled out his cellular phone.

"I have one," Isabel said. "It doesn't work either. I mean it's fine for local calls, but—"

"What number?"

"Area code 617," Portagee said, giving the rest of the number.

"Wait, I need the USA prefix."

"It's not going to work," Mrs. Oreza insisted.

"You don't have satellite phones here yet, eh?" Burroughs smiled. "My company just got us all these things. I can download on my laptop, send faxes with it, all that stuff. Here." He handed the phone over. "It's ringing."

The entire system was new, and the first such phone had not yet been sold in the islands yet, a fact that the Japanese military had troubled itself to learn in the past week, but the service was global, even if the local marketing people hadn't started selling the things here. The signal from the small device went to one of thirty-five satellites in a low-orbit constellation to the nearest ground station. Manila was the closest, beating Tokyo by a mere thirty miles, though even one mile would have been enough for the executive programming that ran the system. The Luzon ground station had been in operation for only eight weeks, and immediately relayed the call to another satellite, this one a Hughes bird in geosynchronous orbit over the Pacific, back down to a ground station in California, and from there via fiberoptic to Cambridge, Massachusetts.

"Hello?" the voice said, somewhat crossly, since it was 5:00 A.M. in America's Eastern Time Zone.



"Yeah, honey."

"You okay out there?" his daughter asked urgently "What do you mean?"

"I tried to call Mom, but the recording said you had a big storm and the lines were down."

"There wasn't any storm, Rach," Oreza said without much thought on the matter.

"What's the matter, then?"

Jesus, where do I start? Portagee asked himself. What if nobody…was that possible?

"Uh, Portagee," Burroughs said.

"What is it?" Oreza asked.

"What's what, Daddy?" his daughter asked also, of course.

"Wait a minute, honey. What is it, Pete?" He put his hand over the receiver.

"You mean like, invasion, like war, taking over, all that stuff?"

Portagee nodded. "Yes, sir, that's what it looks like."

"Turn the phone off, now!" The urgency in his voice was unmistakable. Nobody had thought any of this through yet, and both were coming to terms with it from different directions and at different speeds.

"Honey, I'll be back, okay? We're fine. 'Bye." Oreza thumbed the CLEAR button. "What's the problem, Pete?"

"This isn't some joke, right? You're not doing a number to mess with my head, tourist games and all that stuff, are you?"

"Jesus, I need a beer." Oreza opened the refrigerator and took one out. That it was a Japanese brand did not for the moment matter. He tossed one to his guest. "Pete, this ain't no play-acting, okay? In case you didn't notice, we seen at least a battalion of troops, mechanized vehicles, fighters. And that asshole on the dock was real interested in the radio on my boat."

"Okay." Burroughs opened his beer and took a long pull. "Let's say this is a no-shitter. You can DF one of those things."

"Dee-eff? What do you mean?" A pause while he dusted off some long-unused memories. "Oh…yeah."

It was busy at the headquarters of Commander-in-Chief Pacific. CINCPAC was a Navy command, a tradition that dated back to Admiral Chester Nimitz. At the moment people were scurrying about. They were almost all in uniform. The civilian employees were rarely in on weekends, and with a few exceptions it was too late for them anyway. Mancuso saw the collective mood as he came through security, people looking down with harried frowns, moving quickly the better to avoid the heavy atmosphere of an office in considerable turmoil. Nobody wanted to be caught in the storm.

"Where's Admiral Seaton?" ComSubPac asked the nearest yeoman. The petty officer just pointed to the office suite. Mancuso led the other two in that direction.

"Where the hell have you been?" CINCPAC demanded as they came into his inner office.

"SOSUS, sir. Admiral, you know Captain Chambers, my operations officer. This is Dr. Ron Jones—"

"The sonarman you used to brag on?" Admiral David Seaton allowed himself a pleasant moment. It was brief enough.

"That's right, sir. We were just over at SOSUS checking the data on—"

"No survivors, Bart. Sorry, but the S-3 crew says—"

"Sir, they were killed," Jones interrupted, tired of the preliminaries. His statement stopped everything cold.

"What do you mean, Dr. Jones?" CINCPAC asked after perhaps as much as a second.

"I mean Asheville and Charlotte were torpedoed and sunk by Japanese submarines, sir."

"Now wait a minute, son. You mean Charlotte, too?" Seaton's head turned. "Bart, what is this?" SubPac didn't get a chance to answer.

"I can prove it, sir." Jones held up the sheaf of papers under his arm. "I need a table with a light over it."

Mancuso's face was pretty grim. "Sir, Jonesy appears to be right. These were not accidents."

"Gentlemen, I have fifteen Japanese officers in the operations room right now trying to explain how the fire control on their 'cans works and—"

"You have Marines, don't you?" Jones asked coldly. "They carry guns, don't they?"

"Show me what you have." Dave Seaton gestured at his desk.

Jones walked CINCPAC through the printouts, and if Seaton wasn't exactly a perfect audience, he surely was a quiet one. On further examination, the SOSUS traces even showed the surface ships and the Mark 50 antisub torpedoes that had crippled half of PacFlt's carriers. The new array off Kure was really something, Jones thought.

"Look at the time, sir. All of this happened over a period of what? Twenty minutes or so. You have two hundred fifty dead sailors down there, and it wasn't any accident."

Seaton shook his head like a horse shedding troublesome insects. "Wait a minute, I haven't had any word-I mean, the threat board is blank. There aren't any indications at all that—"

"There are now, sir." Jones wasn't letting up at all.


"Goddamn it, Admiral!" Jones swore. "Here it is, black and while, okay? There are other copies of this back at the SOSUS building, there's a tape record, and I can show it to you on a fucking TV screen. You want your own experts to go over there, well, shit, they're right here, ain't they?" The contractor pointed to Mancuso and Chambers. "We have been attacked, sir."

"What are the chances that this is some sort of mistake?" Seaton asked. His face was as ghostly pale as the cloth of his undress-white uniform shirt.

"Just about zero. I suppose you could wait for them to take an ad out in The New York Times if you want additional confirmation." Diplomacy had never been Jones's strongest suit, and he was too angry to consider it anyway.

"Listen, mister—" Seaton began, but then he bit off his words, and instead looked up at his type commander. "Bart?"

"I can't argue with the data, sir. If there were a way to dispute it, Wally or I would have found it. The people at SOSUS concur. It's hard for me to believe, too," Mancuso conceded. "Charlotte has failed to check in and—"

"Why didn't her beacon go off?" CINCPAC asked.

"The gadget is located on the sail, aft corner. Some of my skippers weld them down. The fast-attack guys resisted putting them aboard last year, remember? Anyway, the fish could have destroyed the BST or for some reason it didn't deploy properly. We have that noise indicator at Charlotte's approximate location, and she has failed to respond to an emergency order to communicate with us. There is no reason, sir, to assume that she's still alive." And now that Mancuso had said it, it was official. There was one more thing that needed to be said.

"You're telling me we're at war." The statement was delivered in an eerily quiet voice. ComSubPac nodded.

"Yes, sir, I am."

"I didn't have any warning at all," Seaton objected.

"Yeah, you have to admire their sense of tradition, don't you?" Jones observed, forgetting that the last time there had been ample warning, all of it unheeded.

Pete Burroughs didn't finish his fifth beer of the day. The night had not brought peace. Though the sky was clear and full of stars, brighter lights continued to approach Saipan from the east, taking advantage of the trade winds to ease their approach into the island's two American-built runways. Each jumbo jet had to be carrying at least two hundred soldiers, probably closer to three. They could see the two airfields. Oreza's binoculars were more than adequate to pick out the aircraft and the fuel trucks that scurried about to fill up the arriving jets so that they could rapidly go home to make another shuttle run. It didn't occur to anyone to keep a count until it was a few hours too late.

"Car coming in," Burroughs warned, alerted by the glow of turning lights. Oreza and he retreated to the side of the house, hoping to be invisible in the shadows. The car was another Toyota Land Cruiser, which drove down the lane, reversed direction at the end of the cul-de-sac, and headed back out after having done not very much of anything but look around and perhaps count the cars in the various driveways-more likely to see if people were gathered in an inopportune way. "You have any idea what to do?" he asked Oreza when it was gone.

"Hey, I was Coast Guard, remember? This is Navy shit. No, more like Marine shit."

"It sure is deep shit, man. You suppose anybody knows?"

"They gotta. Somebody's gotta," Portagee said, lowering the glasses and heading back into the house. "We can watch from inside our bedroom. We always leave the windows open anyway." The cool evenings here, always fresh and comfortable from the ocean breezes, were yet another reason for his decision to move to Saipan. "What exactly do you do, Pete?"

"Computer industry, several things really. I have a masters in EE. My real specialty area is communications, how computers talk to each other. I've done a little government work. My company does plenty, but mostly on another side of the house." Burroughs looked around the kitchen. Mrs. Oreza had prepared a light dinner, a good one, it appeared, though it was growing cold.

"You were worried about having people track in on your phone."

"Maybe just being paranoid, but my company makes the chips for scanners that the Army uses for just that purpose."

Oreza sat down and started shoveling some of the stir-fry onto his plate.

"I don't think anything's paranoid anymore, man."

"I hear ya, Skipper." Burroughs decided to do the same, and looked at the food with approval. "Y'all trying to lose weight?"

Oreza grunted. "We both need to, Izzy and me. She's been taking classes in low-fat stuff."

Burroughs looked around. Though the home had a dining room, like most retired couples (that's how he thought of them, even though they clearly were not), they ate at a small table in their kitchen. The sink and counter were neatly laid out, and the engineer saw the steel mixing and serving bowls. The stainless steel gleamed. Isabel Oreza, too, ran a tight ship, and it was plain enough who was the skipper at home.

"Do I go to work tomorrow?" she asked, her mind drilling, trying to come to terms with the change in local affairs.

"I don't know, honey," her husband replied, his own thoughts stopped cold by the question. What would he do? Go fishing again as though nothing at all had happened?

"Wait a minute," Pete said, still looking at the mixing bowls. He stood, took the two steps needed to reach the kitchen counter, and lifted the largest bowl. It was sixteen inches in diameter and a good five or six inches deep. The bottom was flat, perhaps a three-inch circle, but the rest of it was spherical, almost parabolic in shape. He pulled his sat-phone out of his shirt pocket. He'd never measured the antenna, but now, extending it, he saw it was less than four inches in length. Burroughs looked over at Oreza. "You have a drill?"

"Yeah, why?"

"DF, hell. I got it!"

"You lost me, Pete."

"We drill a hole in the bottom, put the antenna through it. The bowl's made out of steel. It reflects radio waves just like a microwave antenna. Everything goes up. Hell, it might even make the transmitter more efficient."

"You mean like, E.T. phone home?"

"Close enough, Cap'n. What if nobody's phoned home on this one?"

Burroughs was still trying to think it through, coming to terms slowly with a very frightening situation. "Invasion" meant "war." War, in this case, was between America and Japan, and however bizarre that possibility was, it was also the only explanation for the things he'd seen that day. If it was a war, then he was an enemy alien. So were his hosts. But he'd seen Oreza do some very fancy footwork at the marina.

"Let me get my drill. How big a hole you need?" Burroughs handed over the sat-phone. He'd been tempted to toss it through the air, but stopped himself on the realization that it was perhaps his most valuable possession. Oreza checked the diameter of the little button at the end of the slim metal whip and went for his tool kit.


"Rachel? It's Dad."

"You sure you're okay? Can I call you guys now?"

"Honey, we're fine, but there's a problem here." How the hell to explain this? he wondered. Rachel Oreza Chandler was a prosecuting attorney in Boston, actually looking forward to leaving government service and becoming a criminal lawyer in private practice, where the job satisfaction was rarer, but the pay and hours were far better. Approaching thirty, she was now at the stage where she worried about her parents in much the same way they'd once worried about her. There was no sense in worrying Rachel now, he decided. "Could you get a phone number for me?"

"Sure, what number?"

"Coast Guard Headquarters. It's in D.C., at Buzzard's Point. I want the watch center. I'll wait," he told her.

The attorney put one line on hold and dialed D.C. information. In a minute she relayed the number, hearing her father repeat it word for word back to her. "That's right. You sure things are okay? You sound a little tense."

"Mom and I are just fine, honest, baby." She hated it when he called her that, but it was probably too late to change him. Poppa would just never be PC.

"Okay, you say so. I hear that storm was really bad. You have electricity back yet?" she asked, forgetting that there hadn't been a storm at all.

"Not yet, honey, but soon, probably," he lied. "Later, baby."

"Coast Guard Watch Center, Chief Petty Officer Obrecki, this is a nonsecure line," the man said, just as rapidly as possible to prevent the person on the other end from understanding a single word.

"Are you telling me that that fuzzy-cheeked infant who sailed on Panache with me made chief?" It was good enough to startle the man at the other end, and the reply was comprehensible.

"This is Chief Obrecki. Who's this?"

"Master Chief Oreza," was the answer.

"Well, how the hell are you, Portagee? I heard you retired." The chief of the watch leaned back in his chair. Now that he was a chief himself, he could refer to the man at the other end by his nickname.

"I'm on Saipan. Okay, kid, listen up: put your watch officer on right now."

"What's the matter, Master Chief?"

"No time, okay? Let's do it."

"Fair enough." Obrecki put the call on hold. "Commander, could you pick up on one, ma'am?"

"NMCC, this is Rear Admiral Jackson," Robby said, tired and in a very foul mood. Only reluctantly did he lift the phone, on the recommendation of a youngish Air Force major.

"Admiral, this is Lieutenant Commander Powers, Coast Guard, over at Buzzard's Point. I have a call on the line from Saipan. The caller is a retired Command Master Chief. One of ours."

Damn it, I have a broke carrier division out there, his mind grumbled. "That's nice, Commander. You want to clue me in fast? It's busy here."

"Sir, he reports a whole lot of Japanese troops on the island at Saipan."

Jackson's eyes came up off the dispatches on his desk. "What?"

"I can patch him over now, sir."

"Okay," Robby said guardedly.

"Who's this?" another voice asked, old and gruff. He sounded like a chief, Robby thought.

"I'm Rear Admiral Jackson, in the National Military Command Center."

He didn't have to order a tape on the line. They were all taped.

"Sir, this is Master Chief Quartermaster Manuel Oreza, U.S. Coast Guard, retired, serial number three-two-eight-six-one-four-zero-three-zero. I retired five years ago and moved to Saipan. I operate a fishing boat here. Sir, there are a lot—and I mean a whole goddamned pisspot full—of Japanese troops, uniformed and carrying arms, on this-here rock, right now, sir."

Jackson adjusted his hand on the phone, gesturing for another officer to pick up. "Master Chief, I hope you understand that I find that a little bit hard to believe, okay?"

"Shit, sir, you oughta see it from my side. I am looking out my window right now. I can see down on the airport and Kobler Field. I count a total of six jumbo-jet aircraft, four at the airport and two at Kobler. I observed a pair of F-15 Eagle fighters with meatball markings circling over the island a few hours ago. Question, sir, is there any sort of joint exercise under way at this time?" the voice asked. It was stone sober, Jackson thought. It sure as hell sounded like a command master chief.

The Air Force major listening fifteen feet away was scribbling notes, though an invitation to Jurassic Park would have seemed somewhat more realistic.

"We just concluded a joint exercise, but Saipan didn't have anything to do with it."

"Sir, then this ain't no fuckin' exercise. There are three car-carrier-type merchant ships tied alongside the dock up the coast from me. One of 'em's named Orchid Ace. I have personally observed military-type vehicles, I think MLRS-Mike Lima Romeo Sierra-six of those sitting in the parking lot at the commercial dock area. Admiral, you check with the Coast Guard and pull my package. I did thirty years in CG blue. I ain't dickin' around, sir. Check for yourself, the phone lines to the rock are out. The story is supposedly that we had a big windstorm, took lines down and stuff. Ain't been no windstorm, Admiral. I was out fishing all day, okay? Check with your weather pukes to confirm that one, too. There are Japanese troops on this island, wearing fatigue uniforms and under arms."

"You got a count, Master Chief?"

The best confirmation of this insane tale, Robby thought, was the embarrassed tone of the answer to that question. "No, sir, sorry, I didn't think to count the airplanes. I'd guess three to six arrivals per hour, over the last six hours at least, probably more, but that's just a guess, sir. Wait…Kobler, one of the birds is moving, like to take off. It's a 747, but I can't make out the markings."

"Wait. If the phones are out, how are you talking to me?" Oreza explained, giving Jackson a conventional number to call back on. "Okay, Master Chief. I'm going to do some checking here. I'll be back to you in less than an hour. Fair enough?"

"Yes, sir, I figure we done our part." The line went dead.

"Major!" Jackson shouted without looking up. When he did that, he saw the man was there.

"Sir, I know he sounded normal and all, but—"

"But call Andersen Air Force Base right now."

"Roger." The young pilot went back to his desk and flipped open his Autovon directory. Thirty seconds later he looked up and shook his head, a curious look on his face.

"Is someone telling me," Jackson asked the ceiling, "that a U.S. Air Force base dropped off the net today and nobody noticed?"

"Admiral, CINCPAC on your STU, sir, it's coded as CRITIC traffic."

CRITIC was a classification of priority even higher than FLASH, and not a prefix often used, even by a Theater Commander in Chief. What the hell, Jackson thought. Why not ask?

"Admiral Seaton, this is Robby Jackson. Are we at war, sir?"

His part in the exercise seemed easy enough, Zhang Han San thought. Just one flight to one place, to talk first with one person, then another, and it had gone even more easily than he'd expected. Well, he shouldn't have been surprised, he thought, returning to the airport in the back of the embassy car. Korea would be cut off, certainly for a period of months, and perhaps indefinitely. To do anything else would have carried with it great dangers for a country whose military had been downsized and whose next-door neighbor was the nation with the world's largest standing army, and an historical enemy at that. Han hadn't even been forced to bring up that unseemly thought. He'd simply delivered an observation. There seemed to be difficulties between America and Japan. Those difficulties did not pertain directly to the Republic of Korea. Nor would it appear that the Republic had any immediate ability to ameliorate those differences, except perhaps as an honest broker of influence when diplomatic negotiations were undertaken, at which time the good offices of the Republic of Korea would be most welcome indeed by all sides in the dispute, certainly by Japan.

He'd taken no particular pleasure at the discomfort his mild words had given to his hosts. There was much to admire in the Koreans, a fact lost on Japan in their blind racism, Zhang thought. With luck, he might firm up the trading relationship between the PRC and the ROK, and they, too, would profit from the ultimate objective—and why not? The ROKs had no reason to love the Russians, and even less to love the Japanese. They simply had to get over their regrettable friendship with America and become part of a new reality. It was sufficient to the moment that they had indeed seen things his way, and that America's one remaining ally in this part of the world was off the playing field, their president and foreign minister having seen the light of reason. And with luck, the war, such as it was, might already be over for all intents and purposes.

"Ladies and gentlemen." The voice came from the living room, where Mrs. Oreza had left the TV on. "In ten minutes there will be a special announcement. Please stay tuned."


"I heard it, honey."

"You have a blank tape for your VCR?" Burroughs asked.

23—Catching Up

Robby Jackson's day had started off badly enough. He'd had bad ones before, including a day as a lieutenant commander at Naval Air Test Center, Patuxent River, Maryland, in which a jet trainer had decided without any prompting at all to send him and his ejection seat flying through the canopy, breaking his leg in the process and taking him off flight status for months.

He'd seen friends die in crashes of one sort or another, and even more often had participated in searches for men whom he'd rarely found alive, more often locating a slick of jet fuel and perhaps a little debris. As a squadron commander and later as a CAG, he'd been the one who'd written the letters to parents and wives, telling them that their man, and most recently, their little girl, had died in the service of their country, each time asking himself what he might have done differently to prevent the necessity of the exercise. The life of a naval aviator was filled with such days.

But this was worse, and the only consolation was that he was deputy J-3, responsible to develop operations and plans for his country's military. Had he been part of J-2, the intelligence boys, his sense of failure would have been complete indeed.

"That's it, sir, Yakota, Misawa, and Kadena are all off the net. Nobody's picking up."

"How many people?" Jackson asked.

"Total, about two thousand, mainly mechanics, radar controllers, loggies, that sort of thing. Maybe an airplane or two in transit, but not many of those. I have people checking now," the Major replied. "How about the Navy?"

"We have people at Andersen on Guam, co-located with your base. The port, too, maybe a thousand people total. It's a lot smaller than it used to be." Jackson lifted his secure phone and punched in the numbers for CINC-PAC.

"Admiral Seaton? This is Jackson again. Anything else?"

"We can't raise anybody west of Midway, Rob. It's starting to look real."

"How does this thing work?" Oreza asked.

"I hate to say this, but I'm not sure. I didn't bother reading the manual," Burroughs admitted. The sat-phone was sitting on the coffee table, its antenna extended through the drill hole in the bottom of the mixing bowl, which was in turn sitting atop two piles of books. "I'm not sure if it broadcasts its position to the satellites periodically or not." For which reason they felt it necessary to maintain the comical arrangement.

"You turn mine off by putting the antenna back down," Isabel Oreza observed, causing two male heads to turn. "Or you can just take the batteries out, right?"

"Damn." Burroughs managed to say it first, but not by much. He lifted the bowl off, put the little antenna back in its hole, then flipped off the battery cover and withdrew the two AAs. The phone was now completely off. "Ma'am, if you want to get into the master's program at Sanford, use me as a reference, okay?"

"Ladies and gentlemen." Heads turned in the living room to see a smiling man in green fatigues. His English was letter-perfect. "I am General Tokikichi Arima of the Japanese Ground Self-Defense Forces. Please allow me to explain what has happened today.

"First of all, let me assure you that there is no cause for alarm. There was an unfortunate shooting at the police substation adjacent to your parliament building, but the two police officers who were hurt in the exchange are both doing well in your local hospital. If you have heard rumors of violence or death, those rumors are not true," the General assured the twenty-nine thousand citizens of Saipan.

"You probably want to know what has happened," he went on. "Early today, forces under my command began arriving on Saipan and Guam. As you know from your history, and indeed as some of the older citizens on this island well remember, until 1944 the Mariana Islands were possessions of Japan. It may surprise some of you to know that since the court decision several years ago allowing Japanese citizens to purchase real estate in the islands, the majority of the land on Saipan and Guam is owned by my countrymen. You also know of our love and affection for these islands and the people who live here. We have invested billions of dollars here and created a renaissance in the local economy after years of shameful neglect by the American government. Therefore, we're not really strangers at all, are we?

"You probably also know that there have been great difficulties between Japan and America. Those difficulties have forced my country to rethink our defense priorities. We have, therefore, decided to reestablish our ownership of the Mariana Islands as a purely defensive measure to safeguard our own shores against possible American action. In other words, it is necessary for us to maintain defense forces here and therefore to bring the Marianas back into our country.

"Now." General Arima smiled. "What does this mean to you, the citizens of Saipan?

"Really, it means nothing at all. All businesses will remain open. We, too, believe in free enterprise. You will continue to manage your own affairs through your own elected officials, with the additional benefit that you will have status as Japan's forty-eighth prefecture, with full parliamentary representation in the Diet. That is something you have not had as an American commonwealth-which is just another word for colony, isn't it? You will have dual citizenship rights. We will respect your culture and your language. Your freedom to travel will not be impeded. Your freedoms of speech, press, religion, and assembly will be the same as those enjoyed by all Japanese citizens, and totally identical with the civil rights you now enjoy. In short, nothing is going to change in your daily life at all." Another charming smile.

"The truth of the matter is that you will greatly benefit from this change in government. As part of Japan, you will be part of the world's most vibrant and dynamic economy. Even more money will come to your island. You will see prosperity such as you have never dreamed of," Arima assured his audience. "The only changes you will experience will be positive ones. On that you have my word and the word of my government.

"Perhaps you say that such words are easy to speak, and you are correct. Tomorrow you will see people on the streets and roads of Saipan, surveying, taking measurements, and interviewing local citizens. Our first important task will be to improve the roads and highways of your island, something neglected by the Americans. We want your advice on the best way to do this. In fact, we will welcome your help and participation in everything we do.

"Now," Arima said, leaning forward somewhat, "I know that some among you will find these developments unwelcome, and I wish to apologize sincerely for that. We have no desire to harm anyone here, but you must understand that any attack upon one of my men or any Japanese citizen will be treated as a violation of the law. I am also responsible to take certain security measures to protect my troops and to bring this island into compliance with Japanese law.

"All firearms owned by private citizens on Saipan must be surrendered in the next few days. You may bring them into your local police stations. If you have a sales record for the guns, or if you can demonstrate their commercial value, we will pay you the fair cash value for them. Similarly, we must ask that any owners of 'ham' radios turn them over to us for a short period of time, and, please, not to use them until you do. Again, we will pay in cash the full value of your property, and in the case of the radios, when we return them to you, you may keep the money as a token of our thanks for your cooperation. Aside from that"—another smile—"you will hardly notice that we are here. My troops are under orders to treat everyone on this island as fellow citizens. If you experience or even see a single incident in which a Japanese soldier is impolite to a local citizen, I want you to come to my headquarters and report it. You see, our law applies to us, too.

"For the moment, please go about your normal lives." A number came up on the screen. "If you have any specific questions, please call this number or feel free to come to my headquarters at your parliament building. We will be glad to help you in any way we can. Thank you for listening. Good night."

"This message will be repeated every fifteen minutes on Channel Six, the public-access channel," another voice said.

"Son of a bitch," Oreza breathed.

"I wonder who their ad agency is," Burroughs noted, going to punch the rewind button on the VCR.

"Can we believe it?" Isabel asked.

"Who knows? You have any guns?"

Portagee shook his head. "Nope. I don't even know if this rock has a registration law. Have to be crazy to take on soldiers anyway, right?"

"It makes it a lot easier for them if they don't have to watch their backs." Burroughs started putting the batteries back in his sat-phone. "You have the number for that admiral?"


"Master Chief Oreza, sir. You got a tape machine running?"

"Yes, I do. What you got?"

"Well, sir, it's official," Oreza reported dryly. "They just made the announcement on TV. We taped it. I'm turning the tape on now. I'll hold the phone right next to the speaker."

General Tokikichi Arima, Jackson wrote down on a pad. He handed it to an Army sergeant. "Have the intel boys identify this name."

"Yessir." The sergeant vanished in an instant.

"Major!" Robby called next.

"Yes, Admiral?"

"The sound quality is pretty good. Have a copy of the tape run over to the spooks for voice-stress analysis. Next, I want a typed transcript ASAP ready to fax out to half a million places."


For the rest of the time, Jackson just listened, an island of calm in a sea of madness, or so it seemed.

"That's it," Oreza told him when it ended. "You want the call-in number, Admiral?"

"Not right now, no. Good job, Master Chief. Anything else to report?"

"The airplanes are still shuttling in. I counted fourteen since we talked last."

"Okay." Robby made the proper notes. "You feel like you're in any particular danger?"

"I don't see people running around with guns, Admiral. You notice they didn't say anything about American nationals on the island?"

"No, I didn't. Good point." Ouch.

"I ain't real comfortable about this, sir." Oreza gave him a quick reprise of the incident on his boat.

"I can't say that I blame you. Master Chief. Your country is working on the problem, okay?"

"You say so, Admiral. I'm shutting down for a while."

"Fair enough. Hang in there," Jackson ordered. It was a hollow directive, and both men knew it.

"Roger that. Out."

Robby sat the phone back in the cradle. "Opinions?"

"You mean aside from, 'It's all fuckin' crazy'?" a staff officer inquired.

"It may be crazy to us, but it's sure as hell logical to somebody." There was no sense in clobbering the officer for the statement, Jackson knew. It would take a bit more time before they really came to terms with the situation. "Does anybody not believe the information we have now?" He looked around. Seven officers were present, and people weren't selected for duty in the NMCC for their stupidity.

"It may be crazy, sir, but everything keeps coming down the same way. Every post we've tried to link with is off the air. They're all supposed to have duty officers, but nobody's answering the phone. Satellite links are down. We have four Air Force bases and an Army post off the air. It's real, sir." The staffer redeemed herself with the follow-up.

"Anything from State? Any of the spook shops?"

"Nothing," a colonel from J-2 replied. "I can give you a satellite pass over the Marianas in about an hour. I've already told NRO and I-TAC about the tasking and the priority."


"Yes, sir, and all the cameras are up. Weather is clear. We'll get good overheads," the intelligence officer assured him.

"No storm in the area yesterday?"

"Negative," another officer said. "Ain't no reason for phone service to be out. They have Trans-Pac cable and satellite uplinks. I called the contractor that operates the dishes. They had no warning at all. They've been sending their own signals to their people, requesting information, no reply."

Jackson nodded. He'd waited this long only to get the confirmation he needed to take the next step.

"Okay, let's get a warning signal drafted, distribution to all the CINCs. Alert SecDef and the Chiefs. I'm calling the President now."

"Dr. Ryan, NMCC on the STU with CRITIC traffic. Admiral Robert Jackson again." The use of "CRITIC" caused heads to turn as Ryan lifted the secure phone.

"Robby, this is Jack. What's happening?" Everyone in the communications room saw the National Security Advisor turn pale. "Robby, are you serious?" He looked at the communications watch officer. "Where are we now?"

"Approaching Goose Bay, Labrador, sir. About three hours out."

"Get Special Agent d'Agustino up here, would you, please?" Ryan took his hand off the phone. "Robby, I need hard copy…okay…he's still asleep, I think. Give me thirty minutes to get organized here. Call me if you need me."

Jack got out of his chair and made his way to the lav just aft of the flight deck. He managed to avoid looking in the mirror when he washed his hands. The Secret Service agent was waiting for him when he emerged.

"Not much sleep for you, eh?"

"Is the Boss up yet?"

"Sir, he left orders not to do that until we were an hour out. I just checked with the pilot and—"

"Kick him loose, Daga, right now. Then get Secretaries Hanson and Fiedler up. Arnie, too."

"What's the matter, sir?"

"You'll be in there to hear it." Ryan took the roll of fax paper off the secure machine and started reading. He looked up. "I'm not kidding, Daga. Right now."

"Any danger to the President?"

"Let's assume that there is," Jack replied. He thought for a second.

"Where's the nearest fighter base, Lieutenant?"

The what? on her face was quite obvious. "Sir, there are F-15's at Otis on Cape Cod, and F-16s at Burlington, Vermont. Both are Air National Guard groups tasked to continental air defense."

"You call them and tell them that the President would like to have some friends around ASAP." The nice thing about talking to lieutenants was that they weren't used to asking why an order was given, even when there was no obvious reason for it. The same thing didn't apply to the Secret Service.

"Doc, if you need to do that, then I need to know, too, right now."

"Yeah, Daga, I guess so." Ryan tore off the top section of the thermal fax paper when he got to the second page of the transmission.

"Holy shit," the agent thought aloud, handing it back. "I'll wake the President up. You need to tell the pilot. They do things a little differently at times like this."

"Fair enough. Fifteen minutes, Daga, okay?"

"Yes, sir." She headed down the circular stairs while Jack went forward to the flight deck.

"One-six-zero minutes to go, Dr. Ryan. Has been a long one, hasn't it?" the Colonel at the controls asked pleasantly. The smile faded instantly from his face.

It was mere chance that took them past the American Embassy. Maybe he'd just wanted to see the flag, Clark thought. It was always a pleasant sight in a foreign land, even if it did fly over a building designed by some bureaucrat with the artistic sense of—

"Somebody's worried about security," Chavez said.

"Yevgeniy Pavlovich, I know your English is good. You need not practice it on me."

"Excuse me. The Japanese are concerned with a riot, Vanya? Except for that one incident, there hasn't been much hooliganism…" His voice trailed off. There were two squads of fully armed infantrymen arrayed around the building. That seemed very odd indeed. Over here, Ding thought, one or two police officers seemed enough to—

"Yob'tvoyu mat."

Clark was proud of the lad just then. Foul as the imprecation was, it was also just what a Russian would have said. The reason for it was also clear. The guards around the embassy perimeter were looking in as much as they were looking out, and the Marines were nowhere to be seen.

"Ivan Sergeyevich, something seems very odd."

"Indeed it does, Yevgeniy Pavlovich," John Clark said evenly. He didn't let the car slow down, and hoped the troops on the sidewalk wouldn't notice the two gaijin driving by and take down their license number. It might be a good time to change rental cars.

"The name is Arima, first name Tokikichi, sir, Lieutenant General, age fifty-three." The Army sergeant was an intelligence specialist. "Graduated their National Defense Academy, worked his way up the line as an infantryman, good marks all the way. He's airborne qualified. Took the senior course at Carlisle Barracks eight years ago, did just fine. 'Politically astute,' the form sheet says. Well connected. He's Commanding General of their Eastern Army, a rough equivalent of a corps organization in the U.S. Army, but not as heavy in corps-level assets, especially artillery. That's two infantry divisions, First and Twelfth, their First Airborne Brigade, First Engineer Brigade, Second Anti-Air Group, and other administrative attachments."

The sergeant handed over the folder, complete with a pair of photos. The enemy has a face now, Jackson thought. At least one face. Jackson examined it for a few seconds and closed the folder back. It was about to go to Condition FRANTIC in the Pentagon. The first of the Joint Chiefs was in the parking lot, and he was the lucky son of a bitch to give them the news, such as it was. Jackson assembled his documents and headed off to the Tank, a pleasant room, actually, located on the outside of the building's E-Ring.

Chet Nomuri had spent the day meeting at irregular hours with three of his contacts, learning not very much except that something very strange was afoot, though nobody knew what. His best course of action, he decided, was to head back to the bathhouse and hope Kazuo Taoka would turn up. He finally did, by which time Nomuri had spent so much time soaking in the blisteringly hot water that his body felt like pasta that had been in the pot for about a month.

"You must have had a day like I did," he managed to say with a crooked smile.

"How was yours?" Kazuo asked, his smile tired but enthusiastic.

"There is a pretty girl at a certain bar. Three months I've worked on her. We had a vigorous afternoon." Nomuri reached below the surface of the water, feigning agony in an obvious way. "It may never work again."

"I wish that American girl was still around," Taoka said, settling in the tub with a prolonged Ahhhhh. "I am ready for someone like her now."

"She's gone?" Nomuri asked innocently.

"Dead," the salaryman said, easily controlling his sense of loss.

"What happened?"

"They were going to send her home. Yamata sent Kaneda, his security man, to tidy things up. But it seems she used narcotics, and she was found dead of an overdose. A great pity," Taoka observed, as if he were describing the demise of a neighbor's cat. "But there are more where she came from."

Nomuri just nodded with weary impassivity, remarking to himself that this was a side of the man he hadn't seen before. Kazuo was a fairly typical Japanese salaryman. He'd joined his company right out of college, starting off in a position little removed from clerkship. After serving five years, he'd been sent off to a business school, which in this country was the intellectual equivalent of Parris Island, with a touch of Buchenwald. There was just something outrageous about how this country operated. He expected that things would be different. It was a foreign land, after all, and every country was different, which was fundamentally a good thing. America was the proof of that. America essentially lived off the diversity that arrived at her shores, each ethnic community adding something to the national pot, creating an often boiling but always creative and lively national mix. But now he truly understood why people came to the U.S., especially people from this country.

Japan demanded much of its citizens—or more properly, its culture did. The boss was always right. A good employee was one who did as he was told. To advance you had to kiss a lot of ass, sing the company song, exercise like somebody in goddamned boot camp every morning, showing up an hour early to show how sincere you were. The amazing part was that anything creative happened here at all. Probably the best of them fought their way to the top despite all this, or perhaps were smart enough to disguise their inner feelings until they got to a position of real authority, but by the time they got there they must have accumulated enough inner rage to make Hitler look like a pansy. Along the way they bled those feelings off with drinking binges and sexual orgies of the sort he'd heard about in this very hot tub. The stories about jaunts to Thailand and Taiwan and most recently the Marianas were especially interesting, stuff that would have made his college chums at UCLA blush. Those things were all symptoms of a society that cultivated psychological repression, whose warm and gentle facade of good manners was like a dam holding back all manner of repressed rage and frustration.

That dam occasionally leaked, mostly in an orderly, controlled way, but the strain on the dam was unchanging, and one result of that strain was a way of looking at others, especially gaijin, in a manner that insulted Nomuri's American-cultivated egalitarian outlook. It would not be long, he realized, before he started hating this place. That would be unhealthy and unprofessional, the CIA officer thought, remembering the repeated lessons from the Farm: a good field spook identified closely with the culture he attacked. But he was sliding in the other direction, and the irony was that the deepest reason for his growing antipathy was that his roots sprang from this very country.

"You really want more like her?" Nomuri asked, eyes closed.

"Oh, yes. Fucking Americans will soon be our national sport." Taoka chuckled. "We had a fine time of it the past two days. And I was there to see it all happen," his voice concluded in awe. It had all paid off. Twenty years of toeing the line had brought its reward, to have been there in the War Room, listening to it all, following it all, seeing history written before his eyes. The salaryman had made his mark, and most importantly of all, he'd been noticed. By Yamata-san himself.

"So what great deeds have happened while I was performing my own, eh?" Nomuri asked, opening his eyes and giving off a leering smile.

"We just went to war with America, and we've won!" Taoka proclaimed.

"War? Nan ja? We accomplished a takeover of General Motors, did we?"

"A real war, my friend. We crippled their Pacific Fleet and the Marianas Islands are Japanese again."

"My friend, you cannot tolerate too much alcohol," Nomuri thought, really believing what he'd just said to the blowhard.

"I have not had a drink in four days!" Taoka protested. "What I told you is true!"

"Kazuo," Chet said patiently as though to a bright child, "You tell stories with a skill and style better than any man I have ever mot. Your descriptions of women make my loins swell as though I were there myself." Nomuri smiled. "But you exaggerate."

"Not this time, my friend, truly," Taoka said, really wanting his friend to believe him, and so he started giving details.

Nomuri had no real military training. Most of his knowledge of such affairs came from reading books and watching movies. His instructions for operating in Japan had nothing to do with gathering information on the Japanese Self-Defense Forces, but rather with trade and foreign-affairs matters. But Kazuo Taoka was a fine storyteller, with a keen eye for detail, and it took only three minutes before Nomuri had to close his eyes again, a smile fixed on his lips. Both actions were the result of his training in Yorktown, Virginia, as was that of his memory, which struggled now to record every single word while another part of his consciousness wondered how the hell he was going to get the information out. His other reaction was one that Taoka could neither see nor hear, a quintessential Americanism, spoken within the confines of the CIA officer's mind: You motherfuckers!

"Okay, JUMPER is up and pretty much put together," Helen d'Agustino said. "JASMINE"—the code name for Anne Durling—"will be in another cabin. SecState and SecTreas are up and having their coffee. Arnie van Damm is probably in better shape than anybody aboard. Showtime. How about the fighters?"

"They'll join up in about twenty minutes. We went with the F-15's out of Otis. Better range, they'll follow us all the way down. I'm really being paranoid on that, ain't I?"

Daga's eyes gave off a coldly professional smile. "You know what I've always liked about you, Dr. Ryan?"

"What's that?"

"I don't have to explain security to you like I do with everybody else. You think just like I do." It was a lot for a Secret Service agent to say. "The President is waiting, sir." She led him down the stairs.

Ryan bumped into his wife on the way forward. Pretty as ever, she was not suffering from the previous night despite her husband's warning, and on seeing Jack she almost made a joke that it was he who'd had the problem. "What's the matter?"

"Business, Cathy."


Her husband just nodded and went forward, past a Secret Service agent and an armed Air Force security policeman. The two convertible couches had been made up. President Durling was sitting down in suit pants and white shirt. His tie and jacket were not in evidence at this time. A silver pot of coffee was on the low table. Ryan could see out the windows on both sides of the nose cabin. They were flying a thousand feet or so above fleecy cumulus clouds.

"I hear you've been up all night, Jack," Durling said.

"Since before Iceland, whenever that was, Mr. President," Ryan told him. He hadn't washed, hadn't shaved, and his hair probably looked like Cathy's after a long procedure under a surgical cap. Worse still was the look in his eyes as he prepared to deliver grimmer news than he'd ever spoken.

"You look like hell. What's the problem?"

"Mr. President, based on information received over the last few hours, I believe that the United States of America is at war with Japan."

"What you need is a good chief to run this for you," Jones observed. "Ron, one more of those, and I'll toss you in the brig, okay? You've thrown enough weight around for one day," Mancuso replied in a weary voice. "Those people were under my command, remember?"

"Have I been that much of a jerk?"

"Yeah, Jonesy, you have." Chambers handled that answer. "Maybe Seaton needed to be brought up short once, but you overdid it big-time. And now we need solutions, not smartass bullshit."

Jones nodded but kept his own counsel. "Very well, sir. What assets do we have?"

"Best estimate, they have eighteen boats deployable. Two are in overhaul status and are probably unavailable for months at least," Chambers replied, doing the enemy first. "With Charlotte and Asheville out of the game, we have a total of seventeen. Four of those are in yard-overhaul and unavailable. Four more are in bobtail-refits alongside the pier here or in 'Dago. Another four are in the IO. Maybe we can shake those loose, maybe we can't. That leaves five. Three of those are with the carriers for the 'exercise,' one's right down below at the pier. The last one's at sea up in the Gulf of Alaska doing workups. That has a new CO-what, just three weeks since he relieved?"

"Correct." Mancuso nodded. "He's just learning the job."

"Jesus, the cupboard's that bare?" Jones was now regretting his comment on having a good chief around. The mighty United States Pacific Fleet, as recently as five years ago the most powerful naval force in the history of civilization, was now a frigate navy.

"Five of us, eighteen of them, and they're all spun-up to speed. They've been running ops for the last couple of months." Chambers looked at the wall chart and frowned. "That's one big fuckin' ocean, Jonesy." It was the way he added the last statement that worried the contractor.

"The four in refits?"

"That order's out. 'Expedite readiness for sea.' And that brings the number to nine, in a couple of weeks, if we're lucky."

"Mr. Chambers, sir?"

Chambers turned back. "Yeah, Petty Officer Jones?"

"Remember when we used to head up north, all alone, tracking four or five of the bad guys at once?"

The operations officer nodded soberly, almost nostalgically. His reply was quiet. "Long time ago, Jonesy. We're dealing with SSKs now, on their home turf and—"

"Did you trade your balls in to get that fourth stripe on your shoulder?'"

Chambers turned around in an instant rage. "You listen to me, boy, I—"

But Ron Jones just snarled back. " 'I,' hell, you, used to be a kickass officer! I trusted you to know what to do with the data I gave you, just like I trusted him—" Jones pointed to Admiral Mancuso. "When I sailed with you guys, we were the class of the whole fuckin' world. And if you did your job right as a CO, and if you've been doing your job right as a type-commander, Bart, then those kids out there still are. Goddamn it! When I tossed my bag down the hatch on Dallas the first time, I trusted you guys to know your damned job. Was I wrong, gentlemen? Remember the motto on Dallas? 'First in Harm's Way'! What the hell's the matter here?" The question hung in the air for several seconds.

Chambers was too angry to take it in. SubPac was not.

"We look that bad?" Mancuso asked.

"Sure as hell, sir. Okay, we took it in the ass from these bastards. Time to start thinking about catchup. We're the varsity, aren't we? Who's better suited to it than we are?"

"Jones, you always did have a big mouth," Chambers said. Then he looked back at the chart. "But I guess maybe it is time to go to work."

A chief petty officer stuck his head in the door. "Sir, Pasadena just checked in from down the hill. Ready in all respects to get under way, the CO requests orders."

"How's he loaded?" Mancuso replied, knowing that if he'd really done his job right over the past few days the question would have been unnecessary.

"Twenty-two ADCAPs, six Harpoons, and twelve TLAM-Cs. They're all warshots," the chief replied. "He's ready to rock, sir."

ComSubPac nodded. "Tell him to stand by for mission orders."

"Aye aye, sir."

"Good skipper?" Jones asked.

"He got the Battle-E last year," Chamber said. "Tim Parry. He was my XO on Key West. He'll do."

"So now all he needs is a job."

Mancuso lifted the secure phone for CINCPAC. "Yeah."

"Signal from State Department," the Air Force communications officer said, entering the room. "The Japanese Ambassador requests an urgent meeting with the President."


"We see what he has to say," SecState said. Ryan nodded agreement.

"Any chance at all that this is some kind of mistake?" Durling asked.

"We expect some hard intelligence anytime now from a satellite pass over the Marianas. It's dark there, but that won't matter much." Ryan had finished his briefing, and on completion the data he'd managed to deliver seemed very thin. The baseline truth here was that what had evidently taken place was so wildly beyond the limits of reason that he himself would not be fully satisfied until he saw the overheads himself.

"If it's real, then what?"

"That will take a little time," Ryan admitted. "We want to hear what their ambassador has to say."

"What are they really up to?" Treasury Secretary Fiedler asked.

"Unknown, sir. Just pissing us off, it isn't worth the trouble. We have nukes. They don't. It's all crazy…" Ryan said quietly. "It doesn't make any sense at all." Then he remembered that in 1939, Germany's biggest trading partner had been…France. History's most often repeated lesson was that logic was not a constant in the behavior of nations. The study of history was not always bilateral. And the lessons learned from history depended on the quality of the student. Worth remembering, Jack thought, because the other guy might forget.

"It's got to be some kind of mistake," Hanson announced. "A couple of accidents. Maybe our two subs collided under the water and maybe we have some excitable people on Saipan. I mean it doesn't make any sense at all."

"I agree, the data does not form any clear picture, but the individual pieces—damn it, I know Robby Jackson. I know Bart Mancuso."

"Who's that?"

"ComSubPac. He owns all our subs out there. I sailed with him once. Jackson is deputy J-3, and we've been friends since we were both teaching at Annapolis." Lo, these many years ago.

"Okay," Durling said. "You've told us everything you know?"

"Yes, Mr. President. Every word, without any analysis."

"Meaning you don't really have any?" The question stung some, but this was not a time for embroidering. Ryan nodded.

"Correct, Mr. President."

"So for now, we wait. How long to Andrews?"

Fiedler looked out a window. "That's the Chesapeake Bay below us now. We can't be too far out."

"Press at the airport?" he asked Arnie van Damm.

"Just the ones in the back of the plane, sir."


"We firm up our information as fast as we can. The services are all on alert."

"What are those fighters doing out there?" Fiedler asked. They were now flying abeam Air Force One, in a tight two-ship element about a mile away, their pilots wondering what this was all about. Ryan wondered it the press would take note of it. Well, how long could this affair remain a secret?

"My idea, Buzz," Ryan said. Might as well take responsibility for it.

"A little dramatic, don't you think?" SecState inquired.

"We didn't expect to have our fleet attacked either, sir."

"Ladies and gentlemen, this is Colonel Evans. We're now approaching Andrews Air Force Base. We all hope you've enjoyed the flight. Please bring your seats back to the upright position and…" In the back, the junior White House aides ostentatiously refused to fasten their seat belts. The cabin crew did what they were supposed to do, of course.

Ryan felt the main gear thump down on runway Zero-One Right. For the majority of the people aboard, the press, it was the end. For him it was just the beginning. The first sign was the larger than normal complement of security police waiting at the terminal building, and some especially nervous Secret Service agents. In a way it was a relief to the National Security Advisor. Not everyone thought it was some sort of mistake, but it would be so much better, Ryan thought, if he were wrong, just this once. Otherwise they faced the most complex crisis in his country's history.

24—Running in Place

If there was a worse feeling than this one, Clark didn't know what it might be. Their mission in Japan was supposed to have been easy: evacuate an American citizen who had gotten herself into a tight spot and ascertain the possibility of reactivating an old and somewhat dusty intelligence network. Well, that was the idea, the officer told himself, heading to his room.

Chavez was parking the car. They'd decided to rent a new one, and again the clerk at the counter had changed his expression on learning that their credit card was printed in both Roman and Cyrillic characters. It was an experience so new as to have no precedent at all. Even at the height (or depths) of the Cold War, Russians had treated American citizens with greater deference than their own countrymen, and whether that had resulted from curiosity or not, the privilege of being American had been an important touchstone for a lonely stranger in a foreign and hostile land. Never had Clark felt so frightened, and it was little consolation that Ding Chavez didn't have the experience to realize just how unusual and dangerous their position was.

It was therefore something of a relief to feel the piece of tape on the underside doorknob. Maybe Nomuri could give him some useful information. Clark went in the room only long enough to use the bathroom before heading right back out. He saw Chavez in the lobby and made the appropriate gesture: Stay put. Clark noticed with a smile that his junior partner had stopped at a bookstore and purchased a copy of a Russian-language newspaper, which he carried ostentatiously as a kind of defensive measure. Two minutes later, Clark was looking in the window of the camera shop again. There wasn't much street traffic, but enough that he wasn't the only one around. As he stood looking at the latest automated wonder from Nikon, he felt someone bump into him.

"Watch where you're going," a gruff voice said in English and moved on. Clark took a few seconds before heading in the other direction, leaving the corner and heading down an alley. A minute later he found a shadowy place and waited. Nomuri was there quickly.

"This is dangerous, kid."

"Why do you think I hit you with that signal?" Nomuri's voice was low and shaky. It was fieldcraft from a TV series, about as realistic and professional as two kids sneaking a smoke in the boys' room of their junior high. The odd part was that, important as it was, Nomuri's message occupied about one minute. The rest of the time was concerned with procedural matters.

"Okay, number one, no contact at all with your normal rat-line. Even if they're allowed out on the street, you don't know them. You don't go near them. Your contact points are gone, kid, you understand?" Clark's mind was going at light-speed toward nowhere at the moment, but the most immediate priority was survival. You had to be alive in order to accomplish something, and Nomuri, like Chavez and himself, were "illegals," unlikely to receive any sort of clemency after arrest and totally separated from any support from their parent agency.

Chet Nomuri nodded. "That leaves you, sir."

"That's right, and if you lose us, you return to your cover and you don't do anything. Got that? Nothing at all. You're a loyal Japanese citizen, and you stay in your hole."


"But nothing, kid. You are under my orders now, and if you violate them, you answer to me!" Clark softened his voice. "Your first priority is always survival. We don't issue suicide pills and we don't expect movie-type bullshit. A dead officer is a dumb officer." Damn, Clark thought, had the mission been different from the very beginning, they would have had a routine established—dead-drops, a whole collection of signals, a selection of cutouts—but there wasn't time to do that now, and every second they talked here in the shadows there was the chance that some Tokyoite would let his cat out, see a Japanese national talking to a gaijin, and make note of it. The paranoia curve had risen fast, and would only get steeper.

"Okay, you say so, man."

"And don't forget it. Stick to your regular routine. Don't change anything except maybe to back off some. Fit in. Act like everybody else does. A nail that sticks up gets hammered down. Hammers hurt, boy. Now, here's what I want you to do." Clark went on for a minute. "Got it?"

"Yes, sir."

"Get lost." Clark headed down the alley, and entered his hotel through the delivery entrance, thankfully unwatched at this time of night. Thank God, he thought, that Tokyo had so little crime. The American equivalent would be locked, or have an alarm, or be patrolled by an armed guard. Even at war, Tokyo was a safer place than Washington, D.C.

"Why don't you just buy a bottle instead of going out to drink?" "Chekov" asked, not for the first time, when he came back into the room.

"Maybe I should." Which reply made the younger officer's eyes jerk up from his paper and his Russian practice. Clark pointed to the TV, turned it on, and found CNN Headline News, in English. Now for my next trick. How the hell do I get the word in? he wondered. He didn't dare use the fax machine to America. Even the Washington Interfax office was far too grave a risk, the one in Moscow didn't have the encryption gear needed, and he couldn't go through the Embassy's CIA connection either. There was one set of rules for operating in a friendly country, and another for a hostile one, and nobody had expected the rules that made the rules to change without warning. That he and other CIA officers should have provided forewarning of the event was just one more thing to anger the experienced spy; the congressional hearings on that one were sure to be entertaining if he lived long enough to enjoy them.

The only good news was that he had the name of a probable suspect in the murder of Kimberly Norton. That, at least, gave him something to fantasize about, and his mind had little other useful activity to undertake at the moment. At the half-hour it was clear that even CNN didn't know what was going on, and if CNN didn't know, then nobody did. Wasn't that just great, Clark thought. It was like the legend of Cassandra, the daughter of King Priam of Troy who always knew what was happening, and who was always ignored. But Clark didn't even have a way of getting the word out…did he?

I wonder if…? No. He shook his head. That was too crazy.

"All ahead full," the Commanding Officer of Eisenhower said.

"All ahead full, aye," the quartermaster on the enunciator pushed the handles forward. A moment later the inner arrow rotated to the same position. "Sir, engine room answers all ahead full."

"Very well." The CO looked over at Admiral Dubro. "Care to lay any bets, sir?"

The best information, oddly enough, came from sonar. Two of the battle group's escorts had their towed-array sonars, called "tails," streamed, and their data, combined with that of two nuclear submarines to the formation's starboard, indicated that the Indian formation was a good way off to the south. It was one of those odd instances, more common than one might expect, where sonar far outperformed radar, whose electronic waves were limited by the curve of the earth, while sound waves found their own deep channels. The Indian fleet was over a hundred fifty miles away, and though that was spitting distance for jet attack aircraft, the Indians were looking to their south, not the north, and it further appeared that Admiral Chandraskatta didn't relish night-flight operations and the risks they entailed for his limited collection of Harriers. Well, both men thought, night landings on a carrier weren't exactly fun.

"Better than even," Admiral Dubro replied after a moment's analysis.

"I think you're right."

The formation was blacked out, not an unusual circumstance for warships, all its radars turned off, and the only radios in use were line-of-sight units with burst-transmission capability, which broadcast for hundredths of seconds only. Even satellite sets generated side-lobes that could betray their position, and their covert passage south of Sri Lanka was essential.

"World War Two was like this," the CO went on, giving voice to his nerves. They were depending on the most human of fundamentals. Extra lookouts had been posted, who used both regular binoculars and "night-eye" electronic devices to sweep the horizon for silhouettes and mast-tops, while others on lower decks looked closer in for the telltale "feather" of a submarine periscope. The Indians had two submarines out on which Dubro did not have even an approximate location. They were probably probing south, too, but if Chandraskatta was really as smart as he feared, he would have left one close in, just as insurance. Maybe. Dubro's deception operation had been a skillful one.

"Admiral?" Dubro's head turned. It was a signalman. "FLASH Traffic from CINCPAC." The petty officer handed over the clipboard and held a red-covered flashlight over the dispatch so that the battle-group commander could read it.

"Did you acknowledge receipt?" the Admiral asked before he started reading.

"No, sir, you left orders to chimp everything down."

"Very good, sailor." Dubro started reading. In a second he was holding both the clipboard and the flashlight. "Son of a bitch!"

Special Agent Robberton would drive Cathy home, and with that notification, Ryan again became a government functionary rather than a human being with a wife and family. It was a short walk to Marine One, its rotor already turning. President and Mrs. Durling, JUMPER and JASMINE, had done the requisite smiles for the cameras and had used the opportunity of the long flight to beg off answering any questions. Ryan trailed behind like some sort of equerry.

"Take an hour to get caught up," Durling said as the helicopter landed on the south lawn of the White House. "When is the Ambassador scheduled in?"

"Eleven-thirty," Brett Hanson replied.

"I want you, Arnie, and Jack there for the meeting."

"Yes, Mr. President," the Secretary of State acknowledged.

The usual photographers were there, but most of the White House reporters whose shouted questions so annoyed everyone were still back at Andrews collecting their bags. Inside the ground-floor entrance was a larger contingent of Secret Service agents than normal. Ryan headed west and was in his office two minutes later, shedding his coat and sitting down at a desk already decorated with call slips. Those he ignored for the moment, as he lifted the phone and dialed CIA.

"DDO, welcome back, Jack," Mary Pat Foley said. Ryan didn't bother asking how she knew it was him. Not that many had her direct line.

"How bad?"

"Our embassy personnel are safe. The embassy has not as yet been entered, and we're destroying everything." Station Tokyo, as all CIA stations had become in the last ten years, was completely electronic now. Destroying files was a question of seconds and left no telltale smoke. "Ought to be done by now." The procedure was straightforward. The various computer disks were erased, reformatted, erased again, then subjected to powerful hand-held magnets. The bad news was that some of the data was irreplaceable, though not so much so as the people who had generated it. There was now a total of three "illegals" in Tokyo, the net human-intelligence assets of the United States in what was—probably—an enemy country.

"What else?"

"They're letting people travel back and forth to their homes, with escort. Actually they're playing it pretty cool," Mrs. Foley said, her surprise not showing. "It's not like Teheran in '79, anyway. For communications they're letting us use satellite links so far, but those are being electronically monitored. The embassy has one STU-6 operating. The rest have been deactivated. We still have TAPDANCE capability, too," she finished, mentioning the random-pad cipher that all embassies now used through the National Security Agency's communications net.

"Other assets?" Ryan asked, hoping that his own secure line was not compromised, but using cover procedure even so.

"Without the legals they're pretty much cut off." The worry in her voice was clear with that answer, along with quite a bit of self-reproach. The Agency still had operations in quite a few countries that did not absolutely require embassy personnel as part of the loop. But Japan wasn't one of them, and even Mary Pat couldn't make hindsight retroactive.

"Do they even know what's going on?" It was an astute question, the Deputy Director (Operations) thought, and another needle in her flesh.

"Unknown," Mrs. Foley admitted. "They didn't get any word to us. They either do not know or have been compromised." Which was a nicer way of saying arrested.

"Other stations?"

"Jack, we got caught with our knickers clown, and that's a fact." For all the grief that it had to cause her, Ryan heard, she was reporting facts like a surgeon in the OR. What a shame that Congress would grill her unmercifully for the intelligence lapse. "I have people in Seoul and shaking the bushes, but I don't expect anything back from them for hours."

Ryan was rummaging through his pink call sheets. "I have one message, an hour old, from Golovko…"

"Hell, call the bastard," Mary Pat said at once. "Let me know what he says."

"Will do." Jack shook his head, remembering what the two men had talked about. "Get down here fast. Bring Ed. I need a gut call on something but not over the phone."

"Be there in thirty," Mrs. Foley said.

Jack spread out several faxes on his desk, and scanned them quickly. The Pentagon's operations people had been faster than the other agencies, but now DIA was checking in, quickly followed by State. The government was awake—nothing like gunfire to accomplish that, Jack thought wryly—but the data was mainly repetitive, different agencies learning the same thing at different times and reporting in as though it were new. He flipped through the call sheets again, and clearly the majority of them would say the same thing. His eyes came back to the one from the chairman of the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service. Jack lifted the phone and made the call, wondering which of the phones on Golovko's desk would ring. He took out a scratch pad, noting the time. The Signals Office would take note of the call, of course, and tape it, but he wanted to keep his own notes.

"Hello, Jack,"

"Your private line, Sergey Nikolay'ch?"

"For an old friend, why not?" The Russian paused, ending the joviality for the day. "I presume you know."

"Oh, yeah." Ryan thought for a moment before going on. "We were caught by surprise," he admitted. Jack heard a very Russian grunt of sympathy.

"So were we. Completely. Do you have any idea what the madmen are up to?" the RVS Chairman asked, his voice a mixture of anger and concern.

"No, I see nothing at the moment that makes any sense at all." And perhaps that was the most worrying part of all.

"What plans do you have?"

"Right now? None," Ryan said. "Their ambassador is due here in less than an hour."

"Splendid timing on his part," the Russian commented. "They've done this to you before, if memory serves."

"And to you," Ryan said, remembering how the Russo-Japanese War had begun. They do like their surprises.

"Yes, Ryan, and to us." And that, Jack knew, was why Sergey had made the call, and why his voice showed genuine concern. Fear of the unknown wasn't limited to children, after all, was it? "Can you tell me what sort of assets you have in place to deal with the crisis?"

"I'm not sure at the moment, Sergey," Ryan lied. "If your Washington rezidentura is up to speed, you know I just got in. I need time to get caught up. Mary Pat is on her way down to my office now."

"Ah," Jack heard over the line. Well, it was an obvious lie he'd told, and Sergey was a wise old pro, wise enough to know. "You were very foolish not to have activated THISTLE sooner, my friend."

"This is an open line, Sergey Nikolay'ch." Which was partially true. The phone call was routed through the American Embassy in Moscow on a secure circuit, but from there on it was a standard commercial line, probably, and therefore subject to possible bugging.

"You need not be overly concerned, Ivan Emmetovich. Do you recall our conversation in my office?"

Oh, yeah. Maybe the Russians really did have the Japanese counterintelligence chief under their control. If so, he was in a position to know if the phone call was secure or not. And if so, there were some other cards in his hand. Nice ones. Was he offering Ryan a peek?

Think fast, Jack, Ryan commanded himself. Okay, the Russians have another network up and running…

"Sergey, this is important: you did not have any warning?"

"Jack, on my honor as a spy"—Ryan could almost hear the twisted smile that must be framing the answer—"I just had to tell my President that I was caught with my fly unbuttoned, and the embarrassment to me is even greater than what—"

Jack didn't bother listening to the embroidery. Okay. The Russians did have another spy network operating in Japan, but they had probably not received any warning either, had they? No, the danger from that sort of double-dealing was just too great. Next fact: their second network was inside the Japanese government itself; had to be if they had PSID penetrated. But THISTLE was mainly a commercial spy net—always had been—and Sergey had just told him that the U.S. had been foolish not to have activated it sooner. The novelty of what he knew distracted Jack from a more subtle implication surrounding the admission of fault from Moscow.

"Sergey Nikolay'ch, I'm short of time here. You are building to something. What is it?"

"I propose cooperation between us. I have the approval of President Grushavoy to make the offer." He didn't say full cooperation, Jack noted, but the offer was startling even so.

Never, not ever, not once except in bad movies had KGB and CIA really cooperated on anything important. Sure, the world had changed plenty, but KGB, even in its new incarnation, still worked to penetrate American institutions and remained good at it. That was why you didn't let them. But he'd just made the offer anyway. Why?

The Russians are scared. Of what?

"I will present that to my President after consulting with Mary Pat."

Ryan wasn't yet sure how he would present it. Golovko, however, knew the value of what he'd just laid on the American's desk. It would not require much insight to speculate on the probable reply. Again, Ryan could hear the smile. "If Foleyeva does not agree, I will be most surprised. I will be in my office for a few more hours."

"So will I. Thanks, Sergey."

"Good day, Dr. Ryan."

"Well, that sounded interesting," Robby Jackson said in the doorway.

"Looks like you had a long night, too."

"In an airplane, yet. Coffee?" Jack asked.

The Admiral shook his head. "One more cup and I might shake apart."

He came in and sat down.


"And getting worse. We're still trying to tally how many uniformed people we have in Japan—there are some transients. An hour ago a C-141 landed at Yakota and promptly went off the air. The goddamned thing just headed right in," Robby said. "Maybe a radio problem, more likely they didn't have the gas to go anywhere else. Flight crew of four, maybe five—I forget. State is trying to run a tally for how many businessmen are there. It ought to generate an approximate number, but there are tourists to consider also."

"Hostages." Ryan frowned.

The Admiral nodded. "Figure the ten thousand as a floor figure."

"The two subs?"

Jackson shook his head. "Dead, no survivors. Stennis has recovered her airplane and is heading for Pearl at about twelve knots. Enterprise is trying to make turns on one shaft, and is under tow, she's making maybe six. Maybe none if the engine damage is as bad as the CO told us. They've sent a big salvage tug to help with that. We've sent some P-3's to Midway to do antisubmarine patrols. If I were the other side, I'd try to finish them off. Johnnie Reb ought to be okay, but Big-E is a hell of a ripe target. CINCPAC is worried about that. We're out of the power-projection business, Jack."


"All the Marianas are off the air, except for one thing." Jackson explained about Oreza. "All he tells us is how bad things are."


"I have people looking at some ideas, but for starters we need to know if the President wants us to try. Will he?" Robby asked.

"Their ambassador will be here soon."

"Good of him. You didn't answer my question. Dr. Ryan."

"I don't know the answer yet."

"There's a confidence-builder."

For Captain Bud Sanchez the experience was unique. It was not quite a miracle that he'd recovered the 8-3 Viking without incident. The "Hoover" was a docile aircraft floating in, and there had been a whole twenty knots of wind over the deck. Now his entire air wing was back aboard, and his aircraft carrier was running away.

Running away. Not heading into harm's way, the creed of the United States Navy, but limping back to Pearl. The five squadrons of fighters and attack aircraft on the deck of John Stennis just sat there, lined up in neat rows on the flight deck, all ready for combat operations but except in a really dire emergency unable to take off. It was a question of wind and weight. Carriers turned into the wind to launch and recover aircraft, and needed the most powerful engines placed aboard ships to give the greatest possible airflow over the bow. The moving air added to the takeoff impulse generated by the steam catapults to give lift to the aircraft flung into the air. Their ability to take off was directly governed by that airflow, and more significantly from a tactical point of view, the magnitude of the airflow governed the weight they could carry aloft—which meant fuel and weapons. As it was, he could get airplanes off, but without the gas needed to stay aloft long or to hunt across the ocean for targets, and without the weapons needed to engage those targets. He judged that he had the ability to use fighters to defend the fleet against an air threat out to a radius of perhaps a hundred miles. But there was no air threat, and though they knew the position of the retiring Japanese formations, he did not have the ability to reach them with his attack birds. But then, he didn't have orders to allow him to do it anyway.

Night at sea is supposed to be a beautiful thing, but it was not so this time. The stars and gibbous moon reflected off the calm surface of the ocean, making everyone nervous. There was easily enough light to spot the ships, blackout or not. The only really active aircraft of his wing were the antisubmarine helicopters whose blinking anti-collision lights sparkled mainly forward of the carriers, aided also by those of some of Johnnie Reb's escorts.

The only good news was that the slow fleet speed made for excellent performance by the sonar systems on the destroyers and frigates, whose large-aperture arrays were streamed out in their wakes. Not too many. The majority of the escorts had lingered behind with Enterprise, circling her in two layers like bodyguards for a chief of state, while one of their number, an Aegis cruiser, tried to help her along with a towing wire, increasing her speed of advance to a whole six and a half knots at the moment. Without a good storm over the bow, Big-E could not conduct flight operations at all. Submarines, historically the greatest threat to carriers, might be out there. Pearl Harbor said that they had no contacts at all in the vicinity of the now divided battle force, but that was an easy thing to say from a shore base. The sonar operators, urged by nervous officers to miss nothing, were instead finding things that weren't there: eddies in the water, echoes of conversing fish, whatever. The nervous state of the formation was manifested by the way a frigate five miles out increased speed and turned sharply left, her sonar undoubtedly pinging away now, probably at nothing more than the excited imagination of a sonarman third-class who might or might not have heard a whale fart. Maybe two farts, Captain Sanchez thought. One of his own Seahawks was hovering low over the surface, dipping her sonar dome to do her own sniffing. One thousand three hundred miles back to Pearl Harbor, Sanchez thought. Twelve knots. That came to four and a half days.

Every mile of it under the threat of submarine attack.

The other question was: what genius had thought that pulling back from the Western Pacific had been a good idea? Was the United States a global power or not? Projecting power around the world was important, wasn't it?

Certainly it had been, Sanchez thought, remembering his classes at the War College. Newport had been his last "tour" prior to undertaking the position of Commander, Air Wing. The U.S. Navy had been the balance of power over the entire world for two generations, able to intimidate merely by existing, merely by letting people see the pictures in their updated copies of Jane's Fighting Ships. You could never know where those ships were. You could only count the empty berths in the great naval bases and wonder. Well, there wouldn't be much wondering now. The two biggest graving docks at Pearl Harbor would be full for some time to come, and if the news of the Marianas was correct, America lacked the mobile firepower to take them back, even if Mike Dubro decided to act like Seventh Cavalry and race back home.

"Hello, Chris, thank you for coming."

The Ambassador would arrive at the White House in only a few minutes. The timing was impossible, but whoever in Tokyo was making decisions had not troubled himself with Nagumo's convenience, the embassy official knew. It was awkward for another reason as well. Ordinarily a city that took little note of foreigners, Washington would soon change, and now for the first time, Nagumo was gaijin.

"Seiji, what the hell happened out there?" Cook asked.

Both men belonged to the University Club, a plush establishment located next door to the Russian Embassy and, boasting one of the best gyms in town, a favored place for a good workout and a quick meal. A Japanese commercial business kept a suite of rooms there, and though they would not be able to use this rendezvous again, for the moment it did guarantee anonymity.

"What have they told you, Chris?"

"That one of your navy ships had a little accident. Jesus, Seiji, aren't things bad enough without that sort of mistake? Weren't the goddamned gas tanks bad enough?" Nagumo took a second before responding. In a way it was good news. The overall events were being kept somewhat secret, as he had predicted and the Ambassador had hoped. He was nervous now, though his demeanor didn't show it.

"Chris, it was not an accident."

"What do you mean?"

"I mean there was a battle of sorts. I mean that my country feels itself to be very threatened, and that we have taken certain defensive measures to protect ourselves."

Cook just didn't get it. Though he was part of the State Department's Japan specialists, he'd not yet been called in for a full briefing and knew only what he'd caught on his car radio, which was thin enough. It was beyond Chris's imagination, Nagumo saw, to consider that his country could be attacked. After all, the Soviets were gone, weren't they? It was gratifying to Seiji Nagumo. Though appalled at the risks that his country was running and ignorant of the reasons for them, he was a patriot. He loved his country as much as any man. He was also part of its culture. He had orders and instructions. Within the confines of his own mind he could rage at them, but he'd decided, simply, that he was a soldier of his country, and that was that.

And Cook was the real gaijin, not himself. He kept repeating it to himself.

"Chris, our countries are at war, after a fashion. You pushed us too far. Forgive me, I am not pleased by this, you must understand that."

"Wait a minute." Chris Cook shook his head as his face twisted into a very quizzical expression. "You mean war? Real war?"

Nagumo nodded slowly, and spoke in a reasonable, regretful tone. "We have occupied the Mariana Islands. Fortunately this was accomplished without loss of life. The brief encounter between our two navies may have been more serious, but not greatly so. Both sides are now withdrawing away from one another, which is a good thing."

"You've killed our people?"

"Yes, I regret to say, some people may have lost their lives on both sides." Nagumo paused and looked down as though unable to meet his friend's eyes. He'd already seen there the emotions he'd expected. "Please, don't blame me for this, Chris," he went on quietly in a voice clearly under very tight control. "But these things have happened. I had no part in it. Nobody asked me for an opinion. You know what I would have said. You know what I would have counseled." Every word was true and Cook knew it.

"Christ, Seiji, what can we do?" The question was a manifestation of his friendship and support, and as such, very predictable. Also predictably, it gave Nagumo the opening he'd expected and needed.

"We have to find a way to keep things under control. I do not want my country destroyed again. We have to stop this and stop it quickly." Which was his country's objective and therefore his own. "There is no room in the world for this…this abomination. There are cooler heads in my country. Goto is a fool. There"—Nagumo threw up his hands—"I have said it. He is a fool. Do we allow our countries to do permanent damage to one another because of fools? What of your Congress, what of that Trent maniac with his Trade Reform Act. Look what his reforms have brought us to!" He was really into it now. Able to veil his inner feelings, like most diplomats, he was now discovering acting talents made all the more effective by the fact that he really believed in what he was saying. He looked up with tears in his eyes. "Chris, if people like us don't get this thing under control—my God, then what? The work of generations, gone. Your country and mine, both badly hurt, people dead, progress thrown away, and for what? Because fools in my country and yours could not work out difficulties on trade? Christopher, you must help me stop this. You must!" Mercenary and traitor or not, Christopher Cook was a diplomat, and his professional creed was to eliminate war. He had to respond, and he did.

"But what can you really do?"

"Chris, you know that my position is really more senior than my post would indicate," Nagumo pointed out. "How else could I have done the things for you to make our friendship what it is?"

Cook nodded. He'd suspected as much.

"I have friends and influence in Tokyo. I need time. I need negotiating space. With those things I can soften our position, give Goto's political opponents something to work with. We have to put that man in the asylum he belongs in—or shoot him yourself. That maniac might destroy my country, Chris! For God's sake, you must help me stop him." The last statement was an entreaty from the heart.

"What the hell can I do, Seiji? I'm just a DASS, remember? A little Indian, and there's a bunch of chiefs."

"You are one of the few people in your State Department who really understand us. They will seek your counsel." A little flattery. Cook nodded.

"Probably. If they're smart," he added. "Scott Adler knows me. We talk."

"If you can tell me what your State Department wants, I can get that information to Tokyo. With luck I can have my people inside the Foreign Ministry propose it first. If we can accomplish that much, then your ideas will appear to be our ideas, and we can more easily accommodate your wishes."

It was called judo, "the gentle art," and consisted mainly of using an enemy's strength and movements against himself. Nagumo thought he was making a very skillful use of it now. It had to appeal to Cook's vanity that he might be able to manage foreign policy himself through cleverness. It appealed to Nagumo's that he'd thought up this gambit.

Cook's face twisted into disbelief again. "But if we're at war, how the hell will—"

"Goto is not completely mad. We will keep the embassies open as a line of communication. We will offer you a return of the Marianas. I doubt the offer will be completely genuine, but it will be placed on the table as a sign of good faith. There," Seiji said, "I have now betrayed my country." As planned.

"What will be acceptable to your government as an end-game scenario?"

"In my opinion? Full independence for the Northern Marianas; an end to their commonwealth status. For reasons of geography and economics they will fall into our sphere of influence in any case. I think it is a fair compromise. We do own most of the land there," Nagumo reminded his guest.

"That is a guess on my part, but a good one."

"What about Guam?"

"As long as it is demilitarized, it remains U.S. territory. Again a guess, but a good one. Time will be necessary for a full resolution of the various issues, but I think we can stop this war before it goes further."

"What if we do not agree?"

"Then many people will die. We are diplomats, Chris. It is our mission in life to prevent that." One more time: "If you can help me, just to let us know what you want us to do so that I can get our side moving in that direction, you and I can end a war, Chris. Please, can you help me?"

"I won't take money for this, Seiji," Cook said by way of a reply.

Amazing. The man had principles after all. So much the better that they were not accompanied by insight.

The Japanese Ambassador arrived, as instructed, at the East Wing entrance. A White House usher opened the door on the stretch Lexus, and the Marine at the door saluted, not having been told not to. He walked in alone, unaccompanied by a bodyguard, and he passed through the metal detectors without incident, then turned west, past a long corridor including, among other things, the entrance to the President's own movie theater. There were portraits of other presidents, sculptures by Frederic Remington, and other reminders of America's frontier history. The walk itself was intended to give the man a sense of the size of the country to which he represented his own. A trio of Secret Service agents escorted him up to the State Floor of the building, an area he knew well, then farther west to the wing from which the United States was administered. The looks, he saw, were not unfriendly, merely correct, but that was quite different from the cordiality he ordinarily received in this building. As a final touch, the meeting was held in the Roosevelt Room. It held the Nobel Prize won by Theodore for negotiating the end of the Russo-Japanese War.

If the mode of arrival was supposed to overawe him, the Ambassador thought, then the final act was counterproductive. The Americans, and others, were known for such foolish theatrics. The Indian Treaty Room in the adjacent Old Executive Office Building had been designed to overawe savages. This one reminded him of his country's first major conflict, which had raised Japan to the ranks of the great nations by the defeat of another member of that club, czarist Russia, a country far less great than she had appeared, internally corrupt, strewn with dissension, given to posturing and bluster. Much like America, in fact, the Ambassador thought. He needed such ideas right now to keep his knees from trembling. President Durling was standing, and took his hand.

"Mr. Ambassador, you know everyone here. Please be seated."

"Thank you, Mr. President, and thank you for receiving me on such short and urgent notice." He looked around the conference table as Durling went to his seat at the opposite end, nodding to each of them. Brett Hanson, Secretary of State; Arnold van Damm, the Chief of Staff; John Ryan, National Security Advisor. The Secretary of Defense was also in the building, he knew, but not here. How interesting. The Ambassador had served many years in Washington, and knew much of Americans. There was anger in the faces of the men seated; though the President controlled his emotions admirably, just like the security people who stood at the doors, his look was that of a soldier. Hanson's anger was outrage. He could not believe that anyone would be so foolish as to threaten his country in any way—he was like a spoiled child resenting a failing grade on an exam from a fair and scrupulous teacher. Van Damm was a politician, and regarded him as a gaijin—a curious little man. Ryan showed the least anger of all, though it was there, indicated more in the way he held his pen than in the fixed stare of his blue cat's eyes. The Ambassador had never dealt with Ryan beyond a few chance encounters at state functions. The same was true of most of the embassy staff, and though his background was well known to all Washington insiders, Ryan was known to be a European specialist and therefore ignorant of Japan.

That was good, the Ambassador thought. Were he more knowledgeable, he might be a dangerous enemy.

"Mr. Ambassador, you requested this meeting," Hanson said. "We will let you begin."

Ryan endured the opening statement. It was lengthy and prepared and predictable, what any country would say under these circumstances, added to which was a little national spice. It wasn't their fault; they'd been pushed, treated as lowly vassals despite years of faithful and productive friendship. They, too, regretted this situation. And so forth. It was just diplomatic embroidery, and Jack let his eyes do the work while his ears filtered out the noise.

More interesting was the demeanor of the speaker. Diplomats in friendly circumstances tended to the florid, and in hostile, they droned, as though embarrassed to speak their words. Not this time. The Japanese Ambassador showed overt strength that spoke of pride in his country and her actions. Not quite defiant, but not embarrassed either. Even the German ambassador who'd given word of Hitler's invasion to Molotov had shown grief, Jack remembered.

For his part, the President listened impassively, letting Arnie show the anger and Hanson show the shock, Jack saw. Good for him.

"Mr. Ambassador, war with the United States of America is not a trivial thing," the Secretary of State said when the opening statement was concluded.

The Ambassador didn't flinch. "It is only a war if you wish it to be. We do not have the desire to destroy your country, but we do have our own security interests." He went on to state his country's position on the Marianas. They'd been Japanese territory before, and now they were again. His country had a right to its own defensive perimeter. And that, he said, was that.

"You do know," Hanson said, "that we have the ability to destroy your country?"

A nod. "Yes, I do. We well remember your use of nuclear weapons on our country."

Jack's eyes opened a little wider at that answer. On his pad he wrote, nukes?

"You have something else to say," Durling observed, entering the conversation.

"Mr. President—my country also has nuclear arms."

"Delivered how?" Arnie asked with a snort. Ryan blessed him silently for the question. There were times when an ass had his place.

"My country has a number of nuclear-tipped intercontinental missiles. Your own people have seen the assembly plant. You can check with NASA if you wish." The Ambassador read off the name and the dates in a very matter-of-fact way, noting that Ryan took them down like a good functionary. The room became so quiet that he