Chapter 4 - Where Time Stands Still.
The Major of the station received us personally with a warm greeting. She showed us to our hut and then invited us to join everyone at the community center where we would eat. She introduced us also to the two biologists who would be our guides for 'the expedition.'
"The expedition will start tomorrow, or the next day at the very latest, depending on the weather," the major explained.
To judge by her reaction, the mission appeared to be far more important to her than either of us had expected. She was obviously fully briefed. This, in turn, meant that she was a part of Nicolai's network of close friends and could be trusted.
There were a few speeches made before lunch. Lunch had been delayed for our arrival. Naturally, almost everyone was there for the occasion. Most of the people also stayed around for a chat after the lunch was over. Questions were asked about America, and about why we wanted to take such a long trek across the icebound wilderness of the far north, and why in the middle of the winter? We told the official story that Nicolai had already worked out, that Anton had drilled into me on the plane. The people of the station, in turn, told us about their work, their challenges, and about the weather. When the unofficial meeting was over, the major offered to familiarize us with the surrounding area by plane. She flew a twin-engine six-seater with a large cargo bay, the workhorse of the station, which evidently doubled as a short-run transport plane. "Sometimes I carry fodder for the reindeer," she explained.
Twenty minutes later she put the plane down on a groomed air strip that had apparently been created in the middle of nowhere. There was not a building to be seen, nor any vehicles. She asked us to button up our furs and come with her.
"Where to?" I asked.
"I want to show you something," she said, and reached for her field glasses then opened the plane's door with the engines still idling.
We walked to the end of the runway that looked like a packed down ski trail slightly blown over with drifting snow. We walked towards the orange glow on the horizon where the sun had set. The brightest stars were already visible in the darkening sky. When we came near to the end of the runway, she stopped. "I think it is save here for us to talk," she said.
She told us that she was completely briefed about the problem through an underground movement that Nicolai was connected with.
So, my hunch was correct. She was aware that Nicolai needs an on-site inspection to be done to determine if the phenomenon that was observed was caused by a space based biological weapon, as he suspected, and if so, to find out what type of warfare agent it carried.
"Nicolai is convinced that something big is involved," said Anton. "He had never been blocked before from investigating anything that had to do with national security."
The major said that she was aware of all that. She spoke in a hushed voice that was barely louder than the sound of the wind.
Suddenly I realized with absolute clarity why everything needed to be done in total secrecy. "But if it is something that big, what are we doing here?" I asked. "Surely there are more qualified people..."
The major interrupted me before I could finish. "Hush!" she said. "Nicolai couldn't tell you about the importance of this mission," she said, "because he would likely be monitored around the clock if something really big was going on. We can't even talk about it in my airplane," she added with a whisper. "The plane may also be bugged. Someone of my new personnel may be a mole. I think we are save here in the open, unless my clothing is wired." She handed the binoculars to me and pointed out three reindeer at the edge of a nearby stand of woods.
"The real reason goes back almost a year," said Anton to both of us while we observed the reindeer feeding at the edge of the woods. "There are few people that know this," she said. "A huge terrorist plot had been planned and foiled around this time. The plan was to destroy three buildings with an enormous loss of life to set the country on fire emotionally. The targets were buildings that Moscow is synonymous with: The new Moscow Tower, the Ostakino Tower, and the main University building. Fortunately one of the key operatives had second thoughts about the attrocity and betrayed the operation while it was already in progress. The operatives had hijacked four airliners with some daring trickery, three small planes ones from Gorky and a big one from Leningrad. The four pilots were told over a secure emergency channel that the country is under attack. They were ordered to turn their responders off and to proceed to a designated air base. In the mean time substitute aircraft were in the air behind them to continue their course. The plan was that the hijacking would be revealed at this time to get the hysteria started. At the air base all the passengers were to be ordered onto the big plane that would be instantly outfitted with a small mini-nuke. The plan was to blow the plane up at 45,000 feet in order to erase all traces of the passenger diversion. Three of the substitute aircraft had been outfitted with remote control fight systems in addition to the standard GPS systems. They would have been crashed into their designated target under remote guidance. Since everyone of the targets would likely have survived, as an aircraft is nothing more than glorified tin foil when impacting on heavy steel and concrete structures, remote controlled mini-nukes had been placed into the target structures that would have brought them down. The plan was foiled when one of controlling operatives 'accidentally' called the secret service instead of the media to announce the hijacking. Thus, the worst terrorist plot in Russia's history was prevented by one courageous person that dared to be a human being after all. That person, which was actually a woman, was given a new identity. Many of the others were secretly executed. Not surprisingly, some of the threads led to fairly high places, for which the entire operation was quickly covered up. By all accounts a large international organization stood behind the scheme. Nicolai found out that the mini-nukes were 'stolen' from America in the form of 'disassembled' units. The failed operation quickly became extremely hot for some people so that a heavy security blanket was cast over the entire affair. Even Nicolai didn't know anything about it until just a few months ago."
The major shook her head. "I had no idea that such a thing is even possible," she said.
"The trouble with imperial blots is, that they don't go away," I interjected. "I know how the imperials think in their high-minded madness. They laughed at me once and said arrogantly, 'if at first we don't succeed we try and try again.' The trend seems to be that every time they are foiled they increase the scope of the terror. The thing gets bigger. It's almost like using torture on people. When Hitler opened the floodgates of torture he ordered his SS apparatus, the police, and the commanders in the field, to spare no brutality and to show no mercy to the 'barbarians' as he called the Soviets. This order to spare no brutality had an effect on the entire theatre of war. It terrorized the German forces into compliance, and it terrorized the Russian Red Army into responding with unyielding resolve to win at all cost. It even shaped the response of the Allied Forces. The terror firebombing at the end of the war might not have been possible without this gradual takedown of the humanity of mankind that Hitler started with his demand for brutality. Some of that still lingers on behind the national security smokescreen. The terror that's hidden there often has the same crippling effect."
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