31—The How and the What
Treasury Secretary Bosley Fiedler had not allowed himself three consecutive hours of sleep since the return from Moscow, and his stride through the tunnel connecting the Treasury Building with the White House meandered sufficiently to make his bodyguards wonder if he might need a wheelchair soon. The Chairman of the Federal Reserve was hardly in better shape. The two had been conferring, again, in the Secretary's office when the call arrived—Drop everything and come here—peremptory even for somebody like Ryan, who frequently short-circuited the workings of the government. Fiedler started talking even before he walked through the open door. "Jack, in twenty minutes we have a conference call with the central banks of five Euro—who's this?" SecTreas asked, stopping three paces into the room.
"Mr. Secretary, I'm George Winston. I'm president and managing director of—"
"Not anymore. You sold out," Fiedler objected.
"I'm back as of the last rump-board meeting. This is Mark Gant, another of my directors."
"I think we need to listen to what they have to say," Ryan told his two new arrivals. "Mr. Gant, please restart your rain dance."
"Damn it, Jack, I have twenty minutes. Less now," the Secretary of the Treasury said, looking at his watch.
Winston almost snarled, but instead spoke as he would have to another senior trader: "Fiedler, the short version is this: the markets were deliberately taken down by a systematic and highly skillful attack, and I think I can prove that to your satisfaction. Interested?"
The SecTreas blinked very hard. "Why. yes."
"But how…?" the Fed Chairman asked.
"Sit down and we'll show you," Gant said. Ryan made way and the two senior officials took their places on either side of him and his computer, "It started in Hong Kong…"
Ryan walked to his desk, dialed the Secretary's office, and told his secretary to route the conference call to his room in the West Wing. A typical executive secretary, she handled the irregularity better than her boss could ever have done. Gant, Jack saw, was a superb technician, and his second stint at explaining matters was even more efficient than his first. The Secretary and the Chairman were also good listeners who knew the jargon. Questions were not necessary.
"I didn't think something like this was possible," the Chairman said eight minutes into the exposition. Winston handled the response.
"All the safeguards built into the system are designed to prevent accidents and catch crooks. It never occurred to anybody that somebody would pull something like this. Who would deliberately lose so much money?"
"Somebody with bigger fish to fry," Ryan told him.
"What's bigger than—"
Jack cut him off. "Lots of things, Mr. Winston. We'll get to that later."
Ryan turned his head. "Buzz?"
"I'll want to confirm this with my own data, but it looks pretty solid."
SecTreas looked over at the Chairman.
"You know, I'm not even sure it's a criminal violation."
"Forget that," Winston announced. "The real problem is still here. Crunch time is today. If Europe keeps going down, then we have a global panic. The dollar's in free-fall, the American markets can't operate, most of the world's liquidity is paralyzed, and all the little guys out there are going to catch on as soon as the media figure out what the hell is going down. The only thing that's prevented that to this point is that financial reporters don't know crap about what they cover."
"Otherwise they'd be working for us," Gant said, rejoining the conversation. "Thank God their sources are keeping it zipped for the time being, but I'm surprised it hasn't broken out all the way yet." Just maybe, he thought, the media didn't want to start a panic either.
Ryan's phone rang and he went to answer it. "Buzz, it's your conference call." The Secretary's physical state was apparent when he rose. The man wavered and grabbed the back of a chair to steady himself. The Chairman was only a touch more agile, and if anything both men were yet more shaken by what they had just learned. Fixing something that had broken was a sufficiently difficult task. Fixing something deliberately and maliciously destroyed could hardly be easier. And it had to be fixed, and soon, lest every nation in Europe and North America join the plunge into a deep, dark canyon. The climb out of it would require both years and pain, and that was under the best of political circumstances—the long-term political ramifications of such a vast economic dislocation could not possibly be grasped at this stage, though Ryan was already recoiling from that particular horror.
Winston looked at the National Security Advisor's face, and it wasn't hard to read his thoughts. His own elation at the discovery was gone now that he'd given the information over to others. There ought to have been something else for him to say: how to fix matters. But all of his intellectual energy had been expended in building his case for the prosecution, as it were. He hadn't had the chance yet to take his analysis any further.
Ryan saw that and nodded with a grim smile of respect. "Good job."
"It's my fault," Winston said, quietly so as not to disturb the conference call proceeding a few feet away. "I should have stayed in."
"I've bailed out once myself, remember?" Ryan got back into a chair.
"Hey, we all need a change from time to time. You didn't see this coming. It happens all the time. Especially here."
Winston gestured angrily. "I suppose. Now we can identify the rapist, but how the hell do you get unraped? Once it's happened, it's happened. But those were my investors he fucked. Those people came to me. Those people trusted me." Ryan admired the summation. That was how people in the business were supposed to think.
"In other words, now what?"
Gant and Winston traded a look. "We haven't figured that one out."
"Well, so far you've outperformed the FBI and SEC. You know, I haven't even bothered checking how my portfolio did."
"Your ten percent of Silicon Alchemy won't hurt you. Long term," Winston said, "new communications gadgets always make out, and they have a couple of honeys."
"Okay, that's settled for now." Fiedler rejoined the group. "All the European markets are shut down, just like we are, until we can get things sorted out."
Winston looked up. "All that means is, there's a hell of a flood, and you're building the levee higher and higher. And if you. run out of sandbags before the river runs out of water, then the damage will only be worse when you lose control."
"We're all open to suggestions, Mr. Winston," Fiedler said gently.
George's reply matched it in kind. "Sir, for what it's worth, I think you've done everything right to this point. I just don't see a way out."
"Neither do we," the Chairman of the Federal Reserve Board observed.
Ryan stood. "For the moment, gentlemen, I think we need to brief the President."
"What an interesting idea," Yamata said. He knew he'd had too much to drink. He knew that he was basking in the sheer satisfaction of carrying out what had to be the most ambitious financial gambit in history. He know that his ego was expanding to its fullest size since—when? Even reaching the chairmanship of his conglomerate hadn't been this satisfactory. He'd crushed a whole nation and had altered the course of his own, and yet he had never even considered public office of any kind. And why not? he asked himself. Because that had always been a place for lesser men.
"For the moment, Yamata-san, Saipan will have a local governor. We will hold internationally supervised elections. We need a candidate," the Foreign Ministry official went on. "It must be someone of stature. It would be helpful if it were a man known and friendly to Goto-san, and a man with local interests. I merely ask that you consider it."
"I will do that." Yamata stood and headed for the door.
Well. He wondered what his father would have thought of that. It would mean stepping down from chairmanship of his corporation…but—but what? What corporate worlds had he failed to conquer? Was it not time to move on? To retire honorably, to enter the formal service of his nation. After the local government situation was cleared up…then? Then to enter the Diet with great prestige, because the insiders would know, wouldn't they? Hai, they would know who had truly served the interests of the nation, who more than the Emperor Meiji himself had brought Japan to the first rank of nations. When had Japan ever had a political leader worthy of her place and her people? Why should he not take the honor due him? It would all require a few years, but he had those years. More than that, he had vision and the courage to make it real. Only his peers in business knew of his greatness now, but that could change, and his family name would be remembered for more than building ships and televisions and all the other things. Not a trademark. A name. A heritage. Would that not make his father proud?
"Yamata?" Roger Durling asked. "Tycoon, right, runs a huge company? I may have bumped into him at some reception or other when I was Vice President."
"Well, that's the guy," Winston said.
"So what are you saying he did?" the President asked.
Mark Gant set up his computer on the President's desk, this time with a Secret Service agent immediately behind him and watching every move, and this time he took it slow because Roger Durling, unlike Ryan, Fiedler, and the Fed Chairman, didn't really understand all the ins and outs. He did prove to be an attentive audience, however, stopping the presentation to ask questions, making a few notes, and three times asking for a repeat of a segment of the presentation. Finally he looked over to the Secretary of the Treasury.
"I want our people to verify the information independently—"
"That won't be hard," Winston told them. "Any one of the big houses will have records almost identical to this. My people can help organize it for you."
"If it's true, Buzz?"
"Then, Mr. President, this situation comes more under Dr. Ryan's purview than mine," SecTreas replied evenly. His relief was tempered with anger at the magnitude of what had been done. The two outsiders in the Oval Office didn't yet understand that.
Ryan's mind was racing. He'd ignored Gant's repeated explanation of the "how" of the event. Though the presentation to the President was clearer and more detailed than the first two times—the man would have made a fine instructor at a business school—the important parts were already fixed in the National Security Advisor's mind. Now he had the how, and the how told him a lot. This plan had been exquisitely planned and executed. The timing of the Wall Street takedown and the carrier/submarine attack had not been an accident. It was therefore a fully integrated plan. Yet it was also a plan which the Russian spy network had not uncovered, and that was the fact that kept repeating itself to him.
Their existing net is inside the Japanese government. It is probably concentrated on their security apparatus. But that net failed to give them strategic warning for the military side of the operation, and Sergey Nikolay'ch hasn't connected Wall Street with the naval action yet.
Break the model, Jack, he told himself. Break the paradigm. That's when it became clearer.
"That's why they didn't get it," Ryan said almost to himself. It was like driving through patches of fog; you got into a clear spot followed by another clouded one. "It wasn't really their government at all. It really was Yamata and the others. That's why they want THISTLE back." Nobody else in the room knew what he was talking about.
"What's that?" the President asked. Jack turned his eyes to Winston and Gant, then shook his head. Durling nodded and went on. "So the whole event was one big plan?"
"Yes, sir, but we still don't know it all."
"What do you mean?" Winston asked. "They cripple us, start a world-wide panic, and you say there's more?"
"George, how often have you been over there?" Ryan asked, mainly to get information to the others.
"In the last five years? I guess it comes out to an average of about once a month. My grandchildren will be using up the last of my frequent-flyer miles."
"How often have you met with government people over there?"
Winston shrugged. "They're around a lot. But they don't matter very much."
"Why?" the President asked.
"Sir, it's like this: there're maybe twenty or thirty people over there who really run things, okay? Yamata is the biggest fish in that lake. The Ministry of International Trade and Industry is the interface between the big boys in the corporate arena and the government, plus the way they grease the skids themselves with elected officials, and they do a lot of that stuff. It's one of the things Yamata liked to show off when we negotiated his takeover of my Group. At one party there were two ministers and a bunch of parliamentary guys, and their noses got real brown, y'know?" Winston reflected that at the time he'd thought it a good demeanor for elected officials. Now he wasn't quite so sure.
"How freely can I speak?" Ryan asked. "We may need their insights."
Durling handled that: "Mr. Winston, how good are you at keeping secrets?"
The investor had himself a good chuckle. "Just so long as you don't call it insider stuff, okay? I've never been hassled by the SEC, and I don't want to start."
"This one'll come under the Espionage Act. We're at war with Japan. They've sunk two of our submarines and crippled two aircraft carriers," Ryan said, and the room changed a lot.
"Are you serious?" Winston asked.
"Two-hundred-and-fifty-dead-sailors serious, the crews of USS Asheville and USS Charlotte. They've also seized the Mariana Islands. We don't know yet if we can take those islands back. We have upwards of ten thousand American citizens in Japan as potential hostages, plus the population of the islands, plus military personnel in Japanese custody."
"But the media—"
"Haven't caught on yet, remarkably enough," Ryan explained. "Maybe it's just too crazy."
"Oh." Winston got it after another second. "They wreck our economy, and we don't have the political will to…has anybody ever tried anything like this before?"
The National Security Advisor shook his head. "Not that I know of."
"But the real danger to us—is this problem here. That son of a bitch," George Winston observed.
"How do we fix it, Mr. Winston?" President Durling asked.
"I don't know. The DTC move was brilliant. The takedown was pretty cute, but Secretary Fiedler here might have smarted his way out of that with our help," Winston added. "But with no records, everything's paralyzed. I have a brother who's a doctor, and once he told me…"
Ryan's eyeballs clicked at that remark, clicked hard enough that he didn't listen to the rest. Why was that important?
"The time estimate came in last night," the Fed Chairman was saying now. "They need a week. But we don't really have a week. This afternoon we're meeting with all the heads of the big houses. We're going to try and…"
The problem is that there are no records, Jack thought. Everything's frozen in place because there are no records to tell people what they own, how much money they…
"Europe is paralyzed, too…" Fiedler was talking now, while Ryan stared down at the carpet. Then he looked up:
"If you don't write it down, it never happened."
Conversation in the room stopped, and Jack saw that he might as well have said, The crayon is purple.
"What?" the Fed Chairman asked.
"My wife—that's what she says. 'If you don't write it down, then it never happened.' " He looked around. They still didn't understand. Which wasn't overly surprising, as he was still developing the thought himself. "She's a doc, too, George, at Hopkins, and she always has this damned little notebook with her, and she's always stopping dead in her tracks to take it out and make a note because she doesn't trust her memory."
"My brother's the same way. He uses one of those electronic things," Winston said. Then his eyeballs went out of focus. "Keep going."
"There are no records, no really official records of any of the transactions, are there?" Jack went on. Fiedler handled the answer.
"No. Depository Trust Company crashed for fair. And as I just said, it'll take—"
"Forget that. We don't have the time, do we?"
That depressed SecTreas again. "No, we can't stop it."
"Sure we can." Ryan looked at Winston. "Can't we?"
President Durling had been covering the snippets of conversation like a spectator at a tennis match, and the stress of the situation had placed a short fuse on his temper. "What the hell are you people talking about?"
Ryan almost had it now. He turned to his President. "Sir, it's simple. We say it never happened. We say that after noon on Friday, the exchanges simply stopped functioning. Now, can we get away with that?" Jack asked. He didn't give anyone a chance to answer, however. "Why not? Why can't we get away with it? There are no records to prove that we're wrong. Nobody can prove a single transaction from twelve noon on, can they?"
"With all the money that everyone lost," Winston said, his mind catching up rapidly, "it won't look all that unattractive. You're saying we restart …Friday, maybe, Friday at noon…just wipe out the intervening week, right?"
"But nobody will buy it," the Fed Chairman observed.
"Wrong." Winston shook his head. "Ryan's got something here. First of all, they have to buy it. You can't do a transaction—you can't execute one, I mean, without written records. So nobody can prove that they did anything without waiting for reconstruction of the DTC records. Second, most people went to the cleaners, institutions, banks, everybody, and they all will want a second chance. Oh, yeah, they'll buy into it, pal. Mark?"
"Step in a time machine and do Friday all over again?" Gant's laugh was grim at first. Then it changed. "Where do we sign up?"
"We can't do that to everything, not all the trades," the Fed Chairman objected.
"No, we can't," Winston agreed. "The international T-bill transactions were outside our control. But what we can do, sir, is conference with the European banks, show them what's happened, and then together with them—"
Now it was Fiedler: "Yes! They dump yen and buy dollars. Our currency regains its position and theirs falls. The other Asian banks will then think about reversing their positions. The European central banks will play ball, I think."
"You'll have to keep the Discount Rate up," Winston said. "That'll sting us some, but it's one hell of a lot better than the alternative. You keep the rate up so that people stop dumping T-Bills. We want to generate a move away from the yen, just like they did to us. The Europeans will like that because it will limit the Japs' ability to scoop up their equities like they started doing yesterday." Winston got off his chair and started pacing a little as he was wont to do. He didn't know that he was violating a White House protocol, and even the President didn't want to interrupt him, though the two Secret Service agents in the room kept a close eye on the trader. Clearly his mind was racing through the scenario, looking for holes, looking for flaws. It look perhaps two minutes, and everyone waited for his evaluation. Then his head came up. "Dr. Ryan, if you ever decide to become a private citizen again, we need to talk. Gentlemen: this will work. It's just so damned outrageous, but maybe that works in our favor."
"What happens Friday, then?" Jack asked.
Gant spoke up: "The market will drop like a rock."
"What's so damned great about that?" the President demanded.
"Because then, sir," Gant went on, "it'll bounce after about two hundred points, and close…? It'll close down, oh, maybe a hundred, maybe not even that much. The following Monday everybody catches his breath. Some people look for bargains. Most, probably, are still nervous. It drops again, probably ends up pretty stagnant, down another fifty at most. The rest of the week, things settle out. Figure by the following Friday, the market has re-stabilized down one, maybe one-fifty, from the Friday-noon position. The drop will have to happen because of what the Fed has to do with the Discount Rate, but we're used to that on the Street." Only Winston fully appreciated the irony in the fact that Gant had it almost exactly right. He himself could hardly have done it better. "Bottom line, it's a major hiccup, but no more than that."
"Europe?" Ryan asked.
"It'll be rougher over there because they're not as well organized, but their central banks have somewhat more power," Gant said. "Their governments can also interfere more in the marketplace. That's both a help and a hurt. But the end result is going to be the same. It has to be, unless everyone signs on to the same suicide pact. People in our business don't do that."
Fiedler's turn: "How do we sell it?"
"We get the heads of the major institutions together just as fast as we can," Winston replied. "I can help if you want. They listen to me, too."
"Jack?" the President asked with a turn of the head.
"Yes, sir. And we do it right away."
Roger Durling gave it a few more seconds of thought before turning to the Secret Service agent next to his desk. "Tell the Marines to get my chopper over here. Tell the Air Force to get something warmed up for New York."
Winston demurred. "Mr. President, I have my own."
Ryan took that one. "George, the Air Force guys are better. Trust me."
Durling rose and shook hands all around before the Secret Service agents conducted the others downstairs and out onto the South Lawn to await the helicopter flight to Andrews. Ryan stayed put.
"Will it really work? Can we really fix it that easily?" The politician in Roger Durling distrusted magic fixes to anything. Ryan saw the doubts and framed his answer appropriately.
"It ought to. They need something up there, and they will surely want it to work. The crucial element is that they have to know that the takedown was a deliberate act. That makes it artificial, and if they believe that it was artificial, then it's easier for everyone to accept an irregular fix to it."
"I guess we'll see." Durling paused. "Now what does that tell us about Japan?"
"It tells us that their government isn't the prime moving force behind this. That's good news and bad news. The good news is that the effort will be poorly organized at some levels, that the Japanese people are disconnected from the effort, and that there may be elements in their government very uncomfortable with the undertaking."
"The bad news?" the President asked.
"We still don't know what their overall objective is. The government is evidently doing what it's told. It has a solid strategic position in WestPac, and we still don't know what to do about it. Most important of all—"
"The nukes." Durling nodded. "That's their trump. We've never been at war against someone with nuclear arms, have we?"
"No, sir. That's a new one, too."
The next transmission from Clark and Chavez went out just after midnight Tokyo time. This time Ding had drafted the article. John had run out of interesting things to say about Japan. Chavez, being younger, did an article that was lighter, about young people and their attitudes. It was just the cover, but you have to work hard on those, and Ding, it turned out, had learned how to write coherently at George Mason University.
"Northern Resource Area?" John asked, typing the question on the computer screen. Then he turned the machine on the coffee table.
I should have seen it sooner. It's in one of the books back at Seoul, mano. Indonesia, belonged to the Dutch back then, was the Southern Resource Area when they kicked off Big Mistake No. 2. Can you imagine what the Northern one was?
Clark just took one look and pushed the computer back Yevgeniy Pavlovich, go ahead and send it." Ding erased the dialog on the screen and hooked up the modem to the phone. The dispatch went out seconds later. Then the two officers traded a look. It had been a productive day after all.
The timing for once could scarcely have been better: 00:08 in Tokyo was 18:08 in Moscow and 10:08 both at Langley and in the White House, and Jack was just reentering his office after his time at the opposite corner of the West Wing when his STU-6 started warbling.
"Ed here. We just got something important from our people in Japan. The fax is coming over now. A copy's on the way to Sergey, too.
"Okay, standing by." Ryan flipped the proper switch and heard the facsimile printer start to turn out its copy.
Winston wasn't all that easy a man to impress. The VC-20 version the Gulfstream-III business jet, he saw, was as nicely appointed as his personal aircraft—the seats and carpet were not as plush, but the communication gear was fabulous…even enough to make a real techno-weenie like Mark happy, he thought. The two older men took the chance to catch up on sleep while he observed the Air Force crewmen run through their pre-flight checklist. It really wasn't at all different from what his crewmen did, but Ryan had been right. It somehow made a difference to see military-type insignia on their shoulders. Three minutes later the executive jet was airborne and heading north for New York's La Guardia, with the added benefit that they already had a priority approach setup, which would save fifteen minutes at the top end of the trip. As he listened, the sergeant working the communications bay was arranging an FBI car to meet them at the general-aviation terminal, and evidently the Bureau was now calling everyone who mattered in the markets for a meeting at their own New York headquarters. How remarkable, he thought, to see the government acting in an efficient manner. What a pity they couldn't do that all the time.
Mark Gant was not paying attention to any of that. He was working on his computer, preparing what he called the case for the prosecution. He'd need about twenty minutes to get the exhibits printed up on acetate sheets for an overhead projector, something the FBI ought to be prepared for, they both hoped. From that point on…who would deliver the information? Probably me, Winston thought. He'd let Fiedler and the Fed Chairman propose the solution, and that was fair. After all, a government guy had come up with it. Brilliant, George Winston told himself with an admiring chuckle. Why didn't I think of that? What else…?
"Mark, make a note. We'll want to fly the European central-bank boys over here to see this. I don't think doing it over a teleconference line will really cut it."
Gant checked his watch. "We'll have to call right after we get in, George, but if we do the timing ought to work out okay. The evening flights into New York—yeah, they'll get in in the morning, and probably we can coordinate everything for a Friday restart."
Winston looked aft. "We'll tell them when we get in. I think they need to catch some Z's for right now."
Gant nodded agreement. "It's going to work, George. That Ryan guy is pretty smart, isn't he?"
Now was a time to take it slow, Jack told himself. He was almost surprised that his phone hadn't rung yet, but on reflection he realized that Golovko was reading the same report, was looking at the same map on his wall, and was also telling himself to think it through as slowly and carefully as circumstances allowed.
It was starting to make sense. Well, almost. "Northern Resource Area" had to mean Eastern Siberia. The term "Southern Resource Area," as Chavez had stated in his report, had once been the term used by the Japanese government in 1941 to identify the Dutch East Indies, back when their prime strategic objective had been oil, then the principal resource needed for a navy and now the most important resource for any industrialized nation needing power to run its economy. Japan was the world's largest importer of oil despite an earnest effort to switch over to nuclear power for electricity. And Japan had to import so much else; only coal was in natural abundance. Supertankers were largely a Japanese invention, the more efficiently to move oil from the Persian Gulf fields to Japanese terminals. But they needed other things, too, and since she was an island nation, those commodities all had to come by sea, and Japan's navy was small, far too small to secure the sea-lanes.
On the other hand, Eastern Siberia was the world's last unsurveyed territory, and Japan was now conducting the survey, and the sea-lanes from the Eurasian mainland to Japan—Hell, why not just build a railroad tunnel and do it the easy way? Ryan asked himself.
Except for one thing. Japan was stretching her abilities in doing what she had already done, even with a gravely diminished American military and a five-thousand-mile buffer of Pacific waters between the American mainland and her own home islands. Russia's military machine was even more drastically reduced than America's, but an invasion was more than a political act. It was an act against a people, and the Russians had not lost their pride. The Russians would fight, and they were still far larger than Japan. The Japanese had nuclear weapons on ballistic launchers, and the Russians, like the Americans, did not—but the Russians did have submarines, and fighter-bombers, and cruise missiles, all with nuclear capability, and bases close to Japan, and the political will to make use of them. There would have to be one more element. Jack leaned back, staring at his map. Then he lifted his phone and speed-dialed a direct line.
"Robby? Jack. I have a question."
"You said that one of our attaches in Seoul had a little talk with—"
"Yeah. They told him to sit tight and wait," Jackson reported.
"What exactly did the Koreans say?"
"They said…wait a minute. It's only half a page, but I have it here. Stand by." Jack heard a drawer open, probably a locked one. "Okay, paraphrasing, that sort of decision is political not military, many considerations to be looked at, concern that the Japanese could close their harbors to trade, concern about invasion, cut off from us, they're hedging. We haven't gone back to them yet," Robby concluded.
"OrBat for their military?" Jack asked. He meant "order of battle," essentially a roster of a nation's military assets.
"I have one around here."
"Short version," Ryan ordered.
"A little larger than Japan's. They've downsized since reunification, but what they retained is high-quality. Mainly U.S. weapons and doctrine. Their air force is pretty good. I've played with them and—"
"If you were an ROK general, how afraid would you be of Japan?"
"I'd be wary," Admiral Jackson replied. "Not afraid, but wary. They don't like Japan very much, remember."
"I know. Send me copies of that attache report and the ROK OrBat."
"Aye aye." The line clicked off. Ryan called CIA next. Mary Pat still wasn't available, and her husband picked up. Ryan didn't bother with preliminaries.
"Ed, have you had any feedback from Station Seoul?"
"The ROKs seem very nervous. Not much cooperation. We've got a lot of friends in the KCIA, but they're clamming up on us, no political direction as yet."
"Anything different going on over there?"
"Well, yes," Ed Foley answered. "Their air force is getting a little more active. You know they have established a big training area up in the northern part of the country, and sure enough they're running some unscheduled combined-arms exercises. We have some overheads of it."
"Next, Beijing," Ryan said.
"A whole lot of nothing. China is staying out of this one. They say that they want no part of this, they have no interest in this. It doesn't concern them."
"Think about that, Ed," Jack ordered.
"Well, sure, it does concern them…oh…"
It wasn't quite fair and Ryan knew it. He now had fuller information than anyone else, and a huge head start on the analysis. "We just developed some information. I'll have it sent over as soon as it's typed up. I want you down here at two-thirty for a skull session."
"We'll be there," the almost-DDO promised.
And there it was, right on the map. You just needed the right information, and a little time.
Korea was not a country to be intimidated by Japan. The latter country had ruled the former for almost fifty years earlier in the century, and the memories for Koreans were not happy ones. Treated as serfs by their conquerors, to this day there were few quicker ways to get dead than to refer to a Korean citizen as a Jap. The antipathy was real, and with the growing Korean economy and the competition to Japan that it made, the resentment was bilateral. Most fundamental of all was the racial element. Though Korea and Japan were in fact countries of the same genetic identity, the Japanese still regarded Koreans as Hitler had once regarded Poles. The Koreans, moreover, had their own warrior tradition. They'd sent two divisions of troops to Vietnam, had built a formidable military of their own to defend against the now—dead madmen to their north. Once a beaten-down colony of Japan, they were now tough, and very, very proud. So what, then, could have cowed them out of honoring treaty commitments to America?
Not Japan. Korea had little to fear from direct attack, and Japan could hardly use her nuclear weapons on Korea. Wind patterns would transport whatever fallout resulted right back to the country that had sent the weapons. But immediately to Korea's north was the world's most populous country, with the world's largest standing army, and that was enough to frighten the ROKs, as it would frighten anyone.
Japan needed and doubtless wanted direct access to natural resources. It had a superb and fully developed economic base, a highly skilled manpower pool, all manner of high-tech assets. But Japan had a relatively small population in proportion to her economic strength.
China had a vast pool of people, but not as yet highly trained, a rapidly developing economy still somewhat lacking in high technology. And like Japan, China needed better access to resources.
And to the immediate north of both China and Japan was the world's last unexploited treasure house.
Taking the Marianas would prevent or at least hinder the approach of America's principal strategic arm, the U.S. Navy, from approaching the area of interest. The only other way to protect Siberia was from the west, through all of Russia. Meaning that the area was in fact cut off from outside assistance. China had her own nuclear capacity to deter Russia, and a larger land army to defend the conquest. It was a considerable gamble, to be sure, but with the American and European economies in a shambles, unable to help Russia, yes, it did all make good strategic sense. Global war on the installment plan.
The operational art, moreover, was not new in the least. First cripple the strong enemy, then gobble up the weak one. Exactly the same thing had been attempted in 1941-1942. The Japanese strategic concept had never been to conquer America, but to cripple the larger country so severely that acquiescence to her southern conquests would become a political necessity. Pretty simple stuff, really, Ryan told himself. You just had to break the code.
That's when the phone rang. It was his number-four line. "Hello, Sergey," Ryan said.
"How did you know?" Golovko demanded.
Jack might have answered that the line was set aside for the Russian's direct access, but didn't. "Because you just read the same thing I did."
"Tell me what you think?"
"I think you are their objective, Sergey Nikolay'ch. Probably for next year." Ryan's voice was light, still in the flush of discovery, which was always pleasant despite the nature of the new knowledge.
"Earlier. Autumn, I should imagine. The weather will work more in their favor that way." Then came a lengthy pause. "Can you help us, Ivan Emmetovich? No, wrong question. Will you help us?"
"Alliances, like friendships, are always bilateral," Jack pointed out.
"You have a president to brief. So do I."