By Charles Wilson
The Russian military is trying to perfect a secret system that will make their submarines virtually immune to attack, and secure them control of the world's seas. An American working in Russia as a spy for Israel is trying to uncover the secret. In The U.S.A. an unsuspecting family has developed a product that is capable of solving the one problem preventing the Russians from achieving their goal. russian agents, led by the country's top female operative, Olga Andreyeva, are dispatched to steal the product's formula.
978-1-59431-859-7 Mystery, Thriller, Suspense, Espionage, Submarines
One hundred and sixty kilometers
Northwest of Moscow
All incoming flights had been ordered to stay clear of the base until the big Tupelov-154 passenger airliner left the ground. A pair of Mig-29 fighter escorts had already taken off.
Now, its jet engines whining, the 154 lunged forward. Passing between mounds of snow piled off to the sides of the long runway, it rapidly gained momentum.
Inside the craft, the pilot, a colonel with over thirty years experience in the Russian Air Force, watched the air speed indicator. While the Tupelov-154 series had originally been copied from the Boeing-747 design, he knew the 154's were able to take flight much sooner than the American version, if a shorter runway dictated a quicker takeoff. He had already passed the point where he could have taken off, but he continued to wait.
Still watching the air speed indicator, he allowed the airliner's momentum to increase until it had reached an absolutely safe level for lift off, then turned his eyes back toward the wide windshield in front of him. With fine particles of wind-driven snow whipping through the air ahead of the plane and the end of the runway now only a few hundred meters away and rapidly growing closer, he pulled back on the yoke, and the big, swept-wing craft lifted smoothly off the ground.
The co-pilot nodded his satisfaction at how even the takeoff had been in the face of the strong crosswinds sweeping the runway. The colonel felt pleased, too. The dignitaries in the passenger cabin were accustomed to being treated gently.
In seconds, the plane passed through the heavy cloud cover hanging over the base and emerged into bright sunshine.
On the ground, the security forces standing in front of the hanger where the airliner had been housed, began to relax. Russian soldiers dressed in long overcoats and helmets and carrying Kalashnikov rifles slung over their shoulders, mingled with Israelis clad in dark trench coats and carrying Uzis at their sides. Two of the British MI-5 agents struck up a conversation with the lone representative from the American Embassy. Only the Jordanian intelligence detail remained aloof. Dressed in heavy ankle length robes and headdresses, they stayed in a group off to themselves, quiet and hardly moving as fine flakes of falling snow drifted slowly down across them.
At a faint, echo-like boom coming from above, everyone's faces jerked toward the clouds.
In the air, the sound that had been heard on the ground had been magnified a thousand times within the confines of the Tupelov-154. The cloud of acrid smoke that had instantly filled the passenger cabin was as quickly gone, sucked out through a jagged, massive hole in a side of the airliner. The two Israeli embassy members sitting near the middle of the cabin had ducked at the sound of the explosion. Now they stared over the seats in front of them at the gaping opening, only a few feet away. In the forward cabin, the startled co-pilot looked back over his shoulder. The colonel sat unmoving, in shock, the controls in his hands suddenly useless. The first scream came from a Jordanian political aide sitting near the rear of the airliner.
The bomb had done its work in two ways. Expertly placed, it had taken out the flight control system. That alone doomed the airliner. But the explosion had also done enough structural damage to start a deadly domino effect on the fuselage.
The buckled panels surrounding the jagged hole having lost their aerodynamic configuration, they peeled back and were torn off by the intense velocity of the jet's slip stream. The next nearest panels, weakened by the explosion and having lost the support of adjacent panels, also ripped loose. An empty seat, torn free from the floor by the explosion, added its destructive force to that of the slip stream, smashing into the crumpling frame of the fuselage and careening out into empty space. Panel by panel, in a rapidly accelerating fashion, the plane was disintegrating in midair.
Inside the passenger section, the terrified Jordanian aide clung to his seat's armrests and stared in wide-eyed, open-mouthed horror as he watched the two Israelis slide sideways seats and all out through the side of the airliner into the bright sunlight beyond the opening.
Now, with the big craft rotating out of control toward its side, the aide felt his seat lurch, lean over and begin to accelerate toward the swiftly widening gap. Before he reached it, the plane buckled, the nose and the tail of the craft angling down at the same time as the center of the cabin rose. The floor fell away beneath him and, still strapped into his seat, he was sucked down below the plane.
On the ground below, a small, army vehicle, a UAZ 469, similar in appearance to a Chrysler Jeep Renegade, sat on the snow-covered shoulder of a road outside the airbase. A young woman dressed in the uniform of a Russian Army Captain, stood next to the vehicle. She had her head leaned back, looking into the sky. The clouds were dark and thick and nothing could be seen above them. But it was time.
A tiny object suddenly broke through the clouds. Appearing to grow larger as it fell, it rapidly turned into an airliner seat hurdling toward the ground. In seconds, other pieces of the plane rained down. Without waiting any longer, she turned back to the old vehicle and slipped inside it behind the steering wheel.
A few minutes later, driving at a moderate speed, she reached to the small suitcase lying on the seat beside her and pulled out a red wig.
After putting it on, and pushing her short, straight black hair up underneath the hairpiece, she gazed at her reflection in the vehicle's rearview mirror. She was no less attractive than she had been with her own hair. She knew she would still look good if it had been a purple carnival wig, or any other, or if she had no hair at all.
And she hated that thought.
It took only minutes for word of the airliner going down to reach the small group of military officers involved in a meeting on the outskirts of Moscow. The home in which they met had belonged to a highly-regarded member of the Politburo during the time before democracy came to the country. The floors were a mixture of shining hardwood and marble. The furniture was imported English antique. Big glass chandeliers hung from the ceilings in the dining room and living room.
Under the bright light of the chandelier in the dining room, six of the participants in the meeting sat around a long mahogany table, able to seat twelve. Their expressions were solemn.
One of them, a tall man in his mid-sixties with an angular, weathered face and dressed in the uniform of a Russian Admiral, voiced what all of them had been thinking.
"It's going to turn out to be a bomb," he said.
A graying colonel in army intelligence nodded his head. "But how could anyone have penetrated the security?" he wondered aloud. "Orbokovsky's protective unit is the most elite in the country. I would feel more secure with them than with the Prime Minister's guard."
The seventh man in the room, General Viktor Aleksev, wasn't seated with the rest. His tall frame clad in winter dress uniform with rows of medals across its tunic, he stood at a big picture window he had walked slowly to after they had received news of the airliner. He had pulled the heavy drapes in front of him open and stared outside across the snow-covered grounds for several seconds, obviously taking the news of Admiral Orbokovsky's death even harder than the rest.
Now he turned from the window toward the others and said, "We will mourn Admiral Orbokovsky further at his funeral. For the present, the Motherland's business must continue. We will resume the meeting." He walked toward the table.
"Yes," a short, overweight man in his late sixties acknowledged. He was partially bald and, unlike the others, was not wearing a uniform, but instead was dressed in a brown business suit with rumpled trousers and a coat that fit him too tightly. The expression on his face and the way he immediately came up from his chair to his feet at Aleksev's words told that he was eager to get on with the discussion. He waited though, until Alexsev made his way to the head of the table and settled into the tall, straight-back chair there.
And then Aleksev spoke first. "As I stated previously, Dr. Kotov has been the scientist in charge of research on the project since its inception. There is nothing about the new propulsion system that he can't discuss in detail. But that is not why you are here. You will be the ones whose duty it will be to head the teams that teach the new crews how to run the system and maintain it. To that end, the only knowledge you need to possess is what the crews will need to do. Not the reason they do it, nor how the propulsion system works. The specific information you need to assist you in your task is in the folders."
Two of the officers glanced down at the folders lying in front of them on the table. The rest kept their attention directed solely on General Aleksev as he continued speaking.
"Dr. Kotov will give you a general overview of the system, but he will take no questions. As explained to all of you when you were instructed to come here, this is to be considered the most highly guarded project that any of you have ever engaged in. In that regard, you will not only refrain from asking any questions, but will answer none from your eventual team leaders, other than in answering what is specifically needed for them to carry out their duties."
Aleksev paused for a moment, then nodded toward Dr. Kotov.
The doctor quickly rolled out on the table the blueprint he had been prepared to explain before they received the news of the explosion. Displayed was what appeared to be a drawing of a large, elongated turbine engine.
"It looks little different than what you would normally see propelling our fast-attack Alfa submarines," he said. "In part because the new system is a marriage between the pressurized water reactor cycles and steam turbines of the Alphas and our new superconductivity based system. A very important marriage in more ways than one," he added, running his gaze around the faces of the men at the table. "First, for morale of the crews. We are all aware of how many of the Alfas we have lost because of their engines having to be run at the critically high levels it took to make us possessors of the fastest submarines in the world. That was not acceptable. However, at the time the Alfa engines were first utilized we had no choice but to accept it as a price for the edge the speed gave us in undersea warfare."
He pointed at the drawing of the engine. "But not anymore" he exclaimed. "Not with this engine. As General Aleksev stated, I am not allowed to go any further at this time with the specific reasons why this system will be much safer to operate. In other words, the intricacies of how the system works. But I can assure you it will be safer. As for the overall concept behind the system, superconductivity is basically the virtual elimination of power loss through electrical resistance. The world has long been aware of the theoretical possibilities of superconductivity as a means of high-speed propulsion. The Western military has mostly concentrated on superconductivity with its high power densities and low noise as a means of producing motors that would be nearly silent, leaving their submarines and even surface vessels with almost no acoustical signature. But we never varied from our concentration on high speed propulsion."
As the doctor paused, a proud smile came to his face.
"And now we have achieved what others are still calling only a theoretical possibility. An engine able to generate many times the power a like sized conventional system is capable of. Under optimum conditions, the marriage of the two systems in combination with the new drive mechanisms my colleagues at the Academy Of Sciences first envisioned will afford the new Remora submarines a submerged speed the computers predict will reach sixty-seven knots."
The two Admirals in attendance looked at each other. They had heard the doctor refer to increased speed when he had started his earlier opening remarks. They hadn't even remotely imagined a speed of this magnitude.
Dr. Kotov continued with, "The new class of Remora submarines will be the ultimate weapon in the defense of the Motherland. Any invading army would wither and die because no aircraft carriers would be able to support it, no convoy would be able to deliver the kinds and numbers of heavy equipment that transport planes aren't capable of delivering. No sizable reinforcements or sufficient supplies, no vessel of any kind will be able to get pass the Remora. And it will be virtually impervious to attack. No surface-based submarine hunter in the world will be able to catch it, get close enough for even a torpedo with the speed of a Shkval to be within striking range."
The general across the table spoke now. "A weapon that could well be used for offense, too," he remarked. "With such submarines at our command, what country could come to the aid of any of the Republics if we decide they should have not separated from the Union?"
Dr. Kotov looked at the general. Aleksev looked at him, too. It was Aleksev who spoke: "The Republics are sovereign nations now-and they will remain that way. This weapon is solely intended for the defense of the Motherland."
While he had spoken, Aleksev's voice had been no louder than it had been when he had announced the resumption of the meeting. His tone, though, had a finality to it.
The general turned his eyes from Aleksev's stare.
There was an awkward moment of silence. Then Dr. Kotov leaned forward and rolled the blueprint to the side, revealing another one beneath it.
The second print detailed a longitudinal section of a submarine showing its aft third filled with a drawing of the same type of engine as on the first blueprint. Dark lines outlined the bulkheads surrounding much of the engine.
"There had been one problem," he said. "These series of lines represent the borders of heat containment chambers."
He pressed his index finger to one of the lines. "Here," he said. "And here, and here and here," he added as he moved his finger from dark line to dark line. "In the methods we had to use to combine the elements of superconductivity with our current system, the by-product is the immense heat given off. So much so there was no way it could be contained on board for long after the Remora went to flank speed. The heat would quickly reach the point that it would begin melting the very bulkheads containing it. We estimated thirty to thirty-five minutes when the danger point would be reached. The engine couldn't be cooled with on board water. The heat would rapidly turn it into such high-pressure steam it would blow a submarine apart.
"So our only choice until lately was to plan on a massive venting of the heat by high pressure pumps into the ocean. Yet in doing that, the Remora would leave a heat signature for any enemy. Though no ocean going vessel could follow this trail as rapidly as the sub could speed away, an antisubmarine aircraft could."
The general who had made the remark about an 'offensive weapon' spoke again: "You said until lately? That there had been a problem."
The scientist nodded, and looked toward Aleksev, giving him the floor.
Aleksev leaned forward, placing his thick forearms on the table as he spoke. "Dr. Kotov brings this to your attention only because I told him to mention it as an example of what the working together of all our forces has been able to achieve."
As he paused, he looked toward the admiral who had earlier speculated that a bomb had been what brought the airliner down. "It was from information collected by one of your intelligence gathering ships that we first got a hint of a possible solution to our problem," Aleksev said. "It brought to our attention a new heat retardant. The Remora has its former problem no longer. Or, more accurately," Aleksev added, "It won't have the problem much longer."