"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."
"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.
"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."
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.