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"He really said that?" Ed Foley leaned forward. It was easier for Mary Pat to grasp it than for her husband.

"Sure enough, and it's all on his honor as a spy," Jack confirmed, quoting the Russian's words.

"I always did like his sense of humor," the DDO said, getting her first laugh of the day, and probably the last. "He's studied us so hard that he's more American than Russian."

Oh, Jack thought, that's it. That explained Ed. The opposite was true of him. A Soviet specialist for nearly all of his career, he was more Russian than American. The realization occasioned his own smile.

"Thoughts?" the National Security Advisor asked.

"Jack, it gives them the ID of the only three humint assets we have on the ground over there. Bad joss, man," Edward Foley said.

"That's a consideration," Mary Patricia Foley agreed. "But there's another consideration. Those three assets are cut off. Unless we can communicate with them, they might as well not be there. Jack, how serious is this situation?"

"We are for all practical purposes at war, MP." Jack had already relayed the gist of the meeting with the Ambassador, including his parting comment.

She nodded. "Okay, they're giving a war. Are we going to come?"

"I don't know," Ryan admitted. "We have dead people out there. We have U.S. territory with another flag flying over it right now. But our ability to respond effectively is severely compromisedand we have this little problem at home. Tomorrow the markets and the banking system are going to have to come to terms with some very unpleasant realities."

"Interesting coincidence," Ed noted. He was too old a hand in the intelligence business to believe in coincidences. "What's going to happen with that stuff, Jack? You know a lot about it."

"I don't have a clue, guys. It's going to be bad, but how bad, and how it's going to be badnobody's been here before. I suppose the good news is that things can't fall further. The bad news is the mentality that goes with the situation will be like a person trapped in a burning building. You may be safe where you are, but you can't get out, either."

"What agencies are looking into things?" Ed Foley asked.

"Just about all of them. The Bureau's the lead agency. It has the most available investigators. The SEC is better suited to it, but they don't have the troops for something this big."

"Jack, in a period of less than twenty-four hours, somebody leaked the news on the Vice President"he was in the Oval Office right now, they all knew"the market went in the crapper, and we had the attack on Pacific Fleet, and you just told us the most harmful thing to us is this economic thing. If I were you, sir"

"I see your point," Ryan said, cutting Ed off a moment too soon for a complete picture. He made a few notes, wondering how the hell he'd be able to prove anything, as complex as the market situation was. "Is anybody that smart?"

"Lots of smart people in the world, Jack. Not all of them like us." It was very much like talking with Sergey Nikolay'ch, Ryan thought, and like Golovko, Ed Foley was an experienced pro for whom paranoia was always a way of life and often a tangible reality. "But we have something immediate to consider here."

"These are three good officers," Mary Pat said, taking the ball from her husband. "Nomuri's been doing a fine job sliding himself into their society, taking his time, developing a good network of contacts. Clark and Chavez are as good a team of operators as we have. They have good cover identities and they ought to be pretty safe."

"Except for one thing," Jack added.

"What's that?" Ed Foley asked, cutting his wife off.

"The PSID knows they're working."

"Golovko?" Mary Pat asked. Jack nodded soberly. "That son of a bitch," she went on. "You know, they still are the best in the world." Which was not an altogether pleasant admission from the Deputy Director (Operations) of the Central Intelligence Agency.

"Don't tell me they have the head of Japanese counterintel under their control?" her husband inquired delicately.

"Why not, honey? They do it to everybody else." Which was true. "You know, sometimes I think we ought to hire some of their people just to give lessons." She paused for a second. "We don't have a choice."

"Sergey didn't actually come out and say that, but I don't know how else he could have known. No," Jack agreed with the DDO, "we don't really have any choice at all."

Even Ed saw that now, which was not the same as liking it. "What's the quid on this one?"

"They want everything we get out of THISTLE. They're a little concerned about this situation. They were caught by surprise, too, Sergey tells me."

"But they have another network operating there. He told you that, too," MP observed. "And it has to be a good one, too."

"Giving them the 'take' from THISTLE in return for not being hassled is one thingand a pretty big thing. This goes too far. Did you think this one all the way through, Jack? It means that they'll actually be running our people for us." Ed didn't like that one at all, but on a moment's additional consideration, it was plain that he didn't see an alternative either.

"Interesting circumstances, but Sergey says he was caught with his drawers down. Go figure." Ryan shrugged, wondering yet again how it was possible for three of the best-informed intelligence professionals in his country not to be able to understand what was going on.

"A lie on his part?" Ed wondered. "On the face of it, that doesn't make a whole lot of sense."

"Neither does lying," Mary Pat said. "Oh, I love these matryoshka puzzles. Okay, at least we know there are things we don't know yet. That means we have a lot of things to find out, the quicker the better. If we let RVS run our peopleit's risky, Jack, butdamn, I don't see that we have a choice."

"I tell him yes?" Jack asked. He had to get the President's approval, too, but that would be easier than getting theirs.

The Foleys traded a look and nodded.

An oceangoing commercial tug was located by a helicopter fifty miles from the Enterprise formation, and in a remarkable set of circumstances, the frigate Gary took custody of the barge and dispatched the tug to the carrier, where she could relieve the Aegis cruiser, and, by the way, increase Big-E's speed of advance to nine knots. The tug's skipper contemplated the magnitude of the fee he'd gained under the Lloyd's Open Form salvage contract, which the carrier's CO had signed and ferried back by helicopter. The typical court award was 10 to 15 percent of the value of the property salved. A carrier, an air wing, and six thousand people, the tugboat crew thought. What was 10 percent of three billion dollars? Maybe they'd be generous and settle for five.

It was a mixture of the simple and the complex, as always. There were now P-3C Orion patrol aircraft operating out of Midway to support the retreating battle force. It had taken a full day to reactivate the facilities at the midocean atoll, possible only because there was a team of ornithologists where studying the goonies. The Orions were in turn supported by planes of the Hawaiian Air National Guard. However it had happened, the admiral who still flew his flag on the crippled aircraft carrier could look at a radar picture with four antisubmarine aircraft arrayed around his fleet and start feel a little safer. His outer ring of escorts were hammering the ocean with their active sonars, and, after an initial period of near panic, finding nothing much to worry about. He'd make Pearl Harbor by Friday evening, and maybe with a little wind could get his aircraft off, further safeguarding them.

The crew was smiling now, Admiral Sato could see, as he headed down the passageway. Only two days before, they'd been embarrassed and shamed by the "mistake" their ship had made. But not now. He'd gone by ship's helicopter to all four of the Kongos personally to deliver the briefings. Two days away from the Marianas, they now knew what they had accomplished. Or at least part of it. The submarine incidents were still guarded information, and for the moment they knew that they had avenged a great wrong to their country, done so in a very clever way, allowing Japan to reclaim land that was historically hersand without, they thought, taking lives in the process. The initial reaction had been shock. Going to war with America? The Admiral had explained that, no, it was not really a war unless the Americans chose to make an issue of it, which he thought unlikely, but also something, he warned them, for which they had to be prepared. The formation was spread out now, three thousand meters between ships, racing west at maximum sustainable speed. That was using up fuel at a dangerous rate, but there would be a tanker at Guam to refuel them, and Sato wanted to be under his own ASW umbrella as soon as possible. Once at Guam he could consider future operations. The first one had been successful. With luck there would not have to be a second, but if there were, he had many things to consider.

"Contacts?" the Admiral asked, entering the Combat Information Center.

"Everything in the air is squawking commercial," the air-warfare officer replied.

"Military aircraft all carry transponders," Sato reminded him. "And they all work the same way."

"Nothing is approaching us." The formation was on a course deliberately offset from normal commercial air corridors, and on looking at the billboard display, the Admiral could see that traffic was in all those corridors. True, a military-surveillance aircraft could see them from some of the commercial tracks, but the Americans had satellites that were just as good. His intelligence estimates had so far proved accurate. The only threat that really concerned him was from submarines, and that one was manageable.

Submarine-launched Harpoon or Tomahawk missiles were a danger with which he was prepared to deal. Each of the destroyers had her SPY-1D radar up and operating, scanning the surface. Every fire-control director was manned. Any inbound cruise missile would be detected and engaged, first by his American-made (and Japanese-improved) SM-2MR missiles, and behind those weapons were CIWS gatling-gun point-defense systems. They would stop most of the inbound "vampires," the generic term for cruise missiles. A submarine could close and engage with torpedoes, and one of the larger warheads could kill any ship in his formation. But they would hear the torpedo coming in, and his ASW helicopters would do their very best to pounce on the attacking sub, deny her the chance to continue the engagement, and just maybe kill her. The Americans didn't have all that many submarines, and their commanders would be correspondingly cautious, especially if he managed to add a third kill to the two already accomplished.

What would the Americans do? Well, what could they do now? he asked himself. It was a question he'd asked himself again and again, and he always had the same answer. They'd drawn down too much. They depended on their ability to deter, forgetting that deterrence hinged on the perceived ability to take action if deterrence failed: the same old equation of don't-want-to but can. Unfortunately for them, the Americans had leaned too much on the former and neglected the latter, and by all the rules Sato knew, by the time they could again, their adversary would be able to stop them. The overall strategic plan he'd helped to execute was not new at alljust better-executed than it had been the first time, he thought, standing close to the triple billboard display and watching the radar symbols of commercial aircraft march along their defined pathways, their very action proclaiming that the world was resuming its normal shape without so much as a blip.

The hard part always seemed to come after the decisions were made, Ryan knew. It wasn't making them that wore on the soul so much as having to live with them. Had he done the right things? There was no measure except hindsight, and that always came too late. Worse, hindsight was always negative because you rarely looked back to reconsider things that had gone right. At a certain level, things stopped being clear-cut. You weighed options, and you weighed the factors, but very often you knew that no matter which way you jumped, somebody would be hurt. In those cases the idea was to hurt the least number of people or things, but even then real people were hurt who would otherwise not be hurt at all, and you were choosing, really, whose lives would be injuredor lostlike a disinterested god-figure from mythology. It was worse still if you knew some of the players, because they had faces your mind could see and voices it could hear. The ability to make such decisions was called moral courage by those who didn't have to do it, and stress by those who did.

And yet he had to do it. He'd undertaken this job in the knowledge that such moments would come. He'd placed Clark and Chavez at risk before in the West African desert, and he vaguely remembered worrying about them, but the mission had come off and after that it had seemed like trick or treat on Halloween, a wonderfully clever little game played by nation against nation. The fact that a real human being in the person of Mohammed Abdul Corp had lost his life as a result-well, it was easy to say, now, that he'd deserved his fate. Ryan had allowed himself to file that entire memory away in some locked drawer, to be dredged out years later should he ever succumb to the urge to write memoirs. But now the memory was back, removed from the files by the necessity to put the lives of real men at risk again. Jack locked his confidential papers away before heading toward the Oval Office.

"Off to see the boss," he told a Secret Service agent in the north-south corridor.

"SWORDSMAN heading to JUMPER," the agent said into his microphone, for to those who protected everyone in what to them was known as the House, they were as much symbols as men, designations, really, for what their functions were.

But I'm not a symbol, Jack wanted to tell him. I'm a man, with doubts. He passed four more agents on the way, and saw how they looked at him, the trust and respect, how they expected him to know what to do, what to tell the Boss, as though he were somehow greater than they, and only Ryan knew that he wasn't. He'd been foolish enough to accept a job with greater responsibilities than theirs, that's all, greater than he'd ever wanted.

"Not fun, is it?" Durling said when he entered the office.

"Not much." Jack took his seat.

The President read his advisor's face and mind at the same time, and smiled. "Let's see. I'm supposed to tell you to relax, and you're supposed to tell me the same thing, right?"

"Hard to make a correct decision if you're overstressed," Ryan agreed.

"Yeah, except for one thing. If you're not stressed, then it isn't much of a decision, and it's handled at a lower level. The hard ones come here. A lot of people have commented on that," the President said. It was a remarkably generous observation, Jack realized, for it voluntarily took some of the burden off his shoulders by reminding him that he did, after all, merely advise the President. There was greatness in the man at the ancient oak desk. Jack wondered how difficult a burden it was to bear, and if its discovery had come as a surpriseor merely, perhaps, as just one more necessity with which one had to deal.

"Okay, what is it?"

"I need your permission for something." Ryan explained the Golovko offersthe first made in Moscow, and the second only a few hours earlierand their implications.

"Does this give us a larger picture?" Durling asked.

"Possibly, but we don't have enough to go with."


"A decision of this type always goes up to your level," Ryan told him.

"Why do I have to"

"Sir, it reveals both the identity of intelligence officers and methods of operation. I suppose technically it doesn't have to be your decision, but it is something you should know about."

"You recommend approval." Durling didn't have to ask.

"Yes, sir."

"We can trust the Russians?"

"I didn't say trust, Mr. President. What we have here is a confluence of needs and abilities, with a little potential blackmail on the side."

"Run with it," the President said without much in the way of consideration. Perhaps it was a measure of his trust in Ryan, thus returning the burden of responsibility back to his visitor. Durling paused for a few seconds before posing his next question. "What are they up to, Jack?"

"The Japanese? On the face of it, this makes no objective sense at all. What I keep coming back to is, why kill the submarines? Why kill people? It just doesn't seem necessary to have crossed that threshold."

"Why do this to their most important trading partner?" Durling added, making the most obvious observation. "We haven't had a chance to think it through, have we?"

Ryan shook his head. "Things have certainly piled up on us. We don't even know the things we don't know yet."

The President cocked his head to the side. "What?"

Jack smiled a little. "That's something my wife likes to say about medicine. You have to know the things you don't know. You have to figure out what the questions are before you can start looking for answers."

"How do we do that?"

"Mary Pat has people out asking questions. We go over all the data we have. We try to infer things from what we know, look for connections. You can tell a lot from what the other guy is trying to do and how he's going about it. My biggest one now, why did they kill the two subs?" Ryan looked past the President, out the window to the Washington Monument, that fixed, firm obelisk of white marble. "They did it in a way that they think will allow us a way out. We can claim it was a collision or something"

"Do they really expect that we'll just accept the deaths and"

"They offered us the chance. Maybe they don't expect it, but it's a possibility." Ryan was quiet for perhaps thirty seconds. "No. No, they couldn't misread us that badly."

"Keep thinking out loud," Durling commanded.

"We've cut our fleet too far back"

"I don't need to hear that now," was the answer, an edge on it.

Ryan nodded and held a hand up. "Too late to worry why or how, I know that. But the important thing is, they know it, too. Everybody knows what we have and don't have, and with the right kind of knowledge and training, you can infer what we can do. Then you structure your operations on a formulation of what you can do, and what he can do about it."

"Makes sense. Okay, go on."

"With the demise of the Russian threat, the submarine force is essentially out of business. That's because a submarine is only good for two things, really. Tactically, submarines are good for killing other subs. But strategically, submarines are limited. They cannot control the sea in the same way as surface ships do. They can't project power. They can't ferry troops or goods from one place to another, and that's what sea control really means." Jack snapped his fingers. "But they can deny the sea to others, and Japan is an island-nation. So they're afraid of sea-denial." Or, Jack added in his own mind, maybe they just did what they could do. They crippled the carriers because they could not easily do more. Or could they? Damn, it was still too complicated.

"So we could strangle them with submarines?" Durling asked.

"Maybe. We did it once before. We're down to just a few, though, and that makes their countersub task a lot easier. But their ultimate trump against such a move on our part is their nuclear capacity. They counter a strategic threat to them with a strategic threat to us, a dimension they didn't have in 1941. There's something missing, sir." Ryan shook his head, still looking at the monument through the thick, bullet-resistant windows. "There's something big we don't know."

"The why?"

"The why may be it. First I want to know the what. What do they want? What is their end-game objective?"

"Not why they're doing it?"

Ryan turned his head back to meet the President's eyes. "Sir, the decision to start a war is almost never rational. World War One, kicked off by some fool killing some other fool, events were skillfully manipulated by Leopold something-or-other, 'Poldi,' they called him, the Austrian Foreign Minister. Skilled manipulator, but he didn't factor in the simple fact that his country lacked the power to achieve what he wanted. Germany and Austria-Hungary started the war. They both lost. World War Two, Japan and Germany took on the whole world, never occurred to them that the rest of the world might be stronger. Particularly true of Japan." Ryan went on. "They never really had a plan to defeat us. Hold on that for a moment. The Civil War, started by the South. The South lost. The Franco-Prussian War, started by France. France lost. Almost every war since the Industrial Revolution was initiated by the side which ultimately lost. Q.E.D., going to war is not a rational act. Therefore, the thinking behind it, the why isn't necessarily important, because it is probably erroneous to begin with."

"I never thought of that, Jack."

Ryan shrugged. "Some things are too obvious, like Buzz Fiedler said earlier today."

"But if the why is not important, then the what isn't either, is it?"

"Yes, it is, because if you can discern the objective, if you can figure out what they want, then you can deny it to them. That's how you start to defeat an enemy. And, you know, the other guy gets so interested in what he wants, so fixed on how important it is, that he starts forgetting that somebody else might try to keep him from getting it."

"Like a criminal thinking about hitting a liquor store?" Durling asked, both amused and impressed by Ryan's discourse.

"War is the ultimate criminal act, an armed robbery writ large. And it's always about greed. It's always a nation that wants something another nation has. And you defeat that nation by recognizing what it wants and denying it to them. The seeds of their defeat are usually found in the seeds of their desire."

"Japan, World War Two?"

"They wanted a real empire. Essentially they wanted exactly what the Brits had. They just started a century or two too late. They never planned to defeat us, merely to" He stopped suddenly, an idea forming. "Merely to achieve their goals and force us to acquiesce. Jesus," Ryan breathed. "That's it! It's the same thing all over again. The same methodology. The same objective?" he wondered aloud. It's there, the National Security Advisor told himself. It's all right there. If you can find it. If you can find it all.

"But we have a first objective of our own," the President pointed out.

"I know."

George Winston supposed that, like an old fire horse, he had to respond to the bells. His wife and children still in Colorado, he was over Ohio now, sitting in the back of his Gulfstream, looking down at the crab-shape of city lights. Probably Cincinnati, though he hadn't asked the drivers about their route into Newark.

His motivation was partially personal. His own fortune had suffered badly in the events of the previous Friday, drawn down by hundreds of millions. The nature of the event, and the way his money was spread around various institutions, had guaranteed a huge loss, since he'd been vulnerable to every variety of programmed trading system. But it wasn't about money. Okay, he told himself, so I lost two hundred mill'. I have lots more where that came from. It was the damage to the entire system, and above all the damage done to the Columbus Group. His baby had taken a huge hit, and like a father returning to the side of his married daughter in time of crisis, he knew that it would always be his. I should have been there, Winston told himself. I could have seen it and stopped it. At least I could have protected my investors. The full effects weren't in yet, but it was so bad as to be almost beyond comprehension. Winston had to do something, had to offer his expertise and counsel. Those investors were still his people.

It was an easy ride into Newark. The Gulfstream touched down smoothly and taxied off to the general-aviation terminal, where a car was waiting, and one of his senior former employees. He wasn't wearing a tie, which was unusual for the Wharton School graduate.

Mark Gant hadn't slept in fifty hours, and he leaned against the car for stability because the very earth seemed to move under him, to the accompaniment of a headache best measured on the Richter Scale. For all that, he was glad to be here. If anyone could figure this mess out, it was his former boss. As soon as the private jet stopped, he walked over to stand at the foot of the stairs.

"How bad?" was the first thing George Winston said. There was warmth between the two men, but business came first.

"We don't know yet," Gant replied, leading him to the car.

"Don't know?" The explanation had to wait until they got inside. Gant handed over the first section of the Times without comment.

"Is this for real?" A speed-reader, Winston scanned across the opening two columns, turning back to page 21 to finish a story framed by lingerie ads.

Gant's next revelation was that the manager Raizo Yamata had left behind was gone. "He flew back to Japan Friday night. He said to urge Yamata-san to come to New York to help stabilize the situation. Or maybe he wanted to gut himself open in front of his boss. Who the fuck knows?"

"So who the hell's in charge, Mark?"

"Nobody," Gant answered. "Just like everything else here."

"Goddamn it, Mark, somebody has to be giving the orders!"

"We don't have any instructions," the executive replied. "I've called the guy. He's not at the office-hey, I left messages, tried his house, Yamata's house, everybody's friggin' house, everybody's friggin' office. Zip-0, George. Everybody's running for cover. Hell, for all I know the dumb fuck took a header off the biggest building in town."

"Okay, I need an office and all the data you have," Winston said.

"What data?" Gant demanded. "We don't have shit. The whole system went down, remember?"

"You have the records of our trades, don't you?"

"Well, yeah, I have our tapesa copy, anyway," Gant corrected himself. "The FBI took the originals."

A brilliant technician, Gant's first love had always been mathematics. Give Mark Gant the right instructions and he could work the market like a skilled cardsharp with a new deck of Bicycles. But like most of the people on the Street, he needed someone else to tell him what the job was. Well, every man had some limitations, and on the plus side of the ledger, Gant was smart, honest, and he knew what his limitations were. He knew when to ask for help. That last quality put him in the top 3 or 4 percent. So he must have gone to Yamata and his man for guidance

"When all this was going down, what instructions did you have?"

"Instructions?" Gant rubbed his unshaven face and shook his head. "Hell, we busted our ass to stay ahead of it. If DTC gets its shit together, we'll come out with most of our ass intact. I laid a mega-put on GM and made a real killing on gold stocks, and"

"That's not what I mean."

"He said to run with it. He got us out of the bank stocks in one big hurry, thank God. Damn if he didn't see that one coming first. We were pretty well placed before it all went down. If it hadn't been for all the panic callsI mean, Jesus, George, it finally happened, y'know? One-eight-hundred-R-U-N. Jesus, if people had just kept their heads." A sigh. "But they didn't, and now, with the DTC fuckupGeorge, I don't know what's going to be opening up tomorrow, man. If this is true, if they can rebuild the house by tomorrow morning, hey, man, I don't know. I just don't," Gant said as they entered the Lincoln Tunnel.

The whole story of Wall Street in one exhausted paragraph, Winston told himself, looking at the glossy tile that made up the interior of the tunnel. Just like the tunnel, in fact. You could see forward and you could see behind, but you couldn't see crap to the sides. You couldn't see outside the limited perspective.

And you had to.

"Mark, I'm still a director of the firm."

"Yes, so?"

"And so are you," Winston pointed out.

"I know that, but"

"The two of us can call a board meeting. Start making calls," George Winston ordered. "As soon as we're out of this damned hole in the ground."

"For when?" Gant asked.

"For now, goddamn it!" Winston swore. "Those who're out of town, I'll send my jet for."

"Most of the guys are in the office." Which was the only good news he'd heard since Friday afternoon, George thought, nodding for his former employee to go on. "I suppose most everyone else is closed."

They cleared the tunnel about then. Winston pulled the cellular phone from its holder and handed it over.

"Start calling." Winston wondered if Gant knew what he was going to request at the meeting. Probably not. A good man in a tunnel, he had never outgrown his limitations. Why the hell did I ever leave? Winston demanded of himself. It just wasn't safe to leave the American economy in the hands of people who didn't know how it worked.

"Well, that worked," Admiral Dubro said. Fleet speed slowed to twenty knots. They were now two hundred miles due east of Dondra Head. They needed more sea room, but getting this far was success enough. The two carriers angled apart, their respective formations dividing and forming protective rings around the centerpieces, Abraham Lincoln and Dwight D. Eisenhower. In another hour the formations would be outside of visual contact, and that was good, but the speed run had depleted bunkers, and that was very bad. The nuclear-powered carriers perversely were also tankers of a sort. They carried tons of bunker fuel for their conventionally powered escorts, and were able to refuel them when the need arose. It soon would. The fleet oilers Yukon and Rappahannock were en route from Diego Garcia with eighty thousand tons of distillate fuel between them, but this game was getting old in a hurry. The possibility of a confrontation compelled Dubro to keep all his ships' bunkers topped off. Confrontation meant potential battle, and battle always necessitated speed, to go into harm's way, and to get the hell out of it, too.

"Anything from Washington yet?" he asked next.

Commander Harrison shook his head. "No, sir."

"Okay," the battle-force commander said with a dangerous calm. Then he headed off to communications. He'd solved a major operational problem, for the moment, and now it was time to scream at someone.

25 All the Kings Horses | Debt of Honor | 27 Piling On