“Hey, Liz,” a special agent asked from a nearby desk, “what's Russian for beer belly?”
“Bpiukhop,” Liz Rezhnitsky said, not looking up from her paperwork. “Why do you want to know?
“No reason, really. I saw a picture last night of one of those big Russian weightlifters. He had a massive 'Bff-you-hop' or however you say it.”
Liz turned to her co-worker. “Bpiukhop,” she said again, slowly. “You thinking with a little work, you might match him?”
“If I lift enough doughnuts.” The agent laughed and leaned back in his chair. The squad room was quiet and nearly vacant. “How hard was it to pick up Russian at school, anyway? I've always wanted to give Spanish a shot sometime. It'd be nice to work down south.”
“I never took it in school,” Liz said, “except for refresher courses. I learned at home.”
“Your family spoke Russian?”
“At dinner we did,” she said. “My Dad grew up speaking it in
“That was back in the fifties, right?” her fellow agent said. “Kind of a tough time to be speaking Russian, wasn't it? You'd figure the neighbors would call the cops.”
“My Dad was the cops.” Pride crept into Liz’ voice. “Police chief,
It had been another routine day for the Counter-Intelligence Coordinator of the FBI's Regional Field Office in
The operator hung up the phone and reinserted his earplug. The control room of the Vorney,
Paul rolled over and hit the alarm, then slid out of bed. Mondays always sucked, but with the outage dragging on, today would be worse than usual. He showered, dressed, and with his brown hair still damp, leaned down and kissed Vicki on the cheek. His girlfriend barely stirred. Christmas break must be nice for a teacher. He gazed at her for a long time. From his vantage point as a child, he could remember how happy his parents had seemed together. Perhaps this was his own chance. Or was he getting ahead of himself? He slipped out the door.
“Talked to Mike yesterday,” Crutch said, as he and Paul entered their office area. “He’s feeling a lot better. They're gonna let him out soon.”
“An ulcer.” Paul shook his head. “Why am I not surprised?”
“Yeah, he was really getting’ stressed out,” Crutch said. “Ya had management, then the NRC -- jeez.”
“That boot thing must have been the last straw.” A temporary worker had contaminated a new pair and then had tried to sneak the radioactive shoes offsite by tossing them over the security fence.
“Yeah, the boots did it. If the guy’d just let the H.P.'s wash’em instead of stealin’ ‘em back, he'd probably have walked out fine. But noooo, Mike had that mess on top a everythin’ else. Too much.”
“So I imagine you're really looking forward to filling in for him.” Paul grinned.
“Hey, you bet,” Crutch said. “I got a month-old baby boy who only sleeps when Dad’s at work. An ulcer’s just what I need.”
1986: January - April
Sergei watched with only mild interest as the jetliner banked and the lights of
Overhead, the NO SMOKING light blinked out. Sergei pulled the pack of cigarettes from his shirt pocket, lit up, and thought ahead to his upcoming training at plants in
“They never knew what hit ‘em,” Karl Leeman said.
Steve nodded. “That's something at least.” His maintenance supervisor was referring to the space shuttle Challenger, which had exploded that morning.
“Tough break,” Tarelli added.
Ted Cervantes walked into the office and slid onto the table along the wall. “Challenger?”
“Yep,” Leeman said.
Cervantes looked down and made the sign of the cross.
“I think that puts our problem in perspective, anyway,” Steve said. Like
“No,” Cervantes said. Borden handed it over, and the operations supervisor scanned the contents. “So an N.E.B diesel failed in
“Yessir,” Leeman drawled. “Model n’ vintage.”
Cervantes continued to read. He pulled a pen from his pocket and slowly twirled it in his free hand. “Improper screws. Vibration kicks ‘em loose, huh?”
“Over a long period,” Steve said. “You just can't build a perfect machine.”
“The kicker's on the last page,” Tarelli said, pointing.
“We got ‘til end a May to replace them screws,” Leeman said, “and we'll be taring them machines down ta do it. Five days.”
Cervantes' hard gaze shifted to Steve. “Damn overkill. But we can run seven days with one diesel out.”
“Karl, how long before the new screws arrive on site?” Steve asked. He began squeezing his aching hand.
“Understood,” Steve said. “Let’s get the work scheduled.”
“Sticking around for the main event, huh?” the operator said to
“Yah. Gotta stay on site anyway, just in case.”
“Fifty, maybe sixty milli-rems an hour,” the HP responded. “Not much.”
The operator picked up a nearby phone and checked in with the control room. “Any time now,” he reported back.
At the base of the oil tank, a small black object no larger than a loaf of bread began whirring. Startup oil pump‘s going, Gary noted. STurDI-1‘s coming up. The small, battery-powered pump was providing a surge of high pressure fluid to force open the valve separating the turbine from the reactor vessel. A low, straining groan cut through the air, and after a hiss and puff of steam, the STurDI-1 turbine rumbled to life, filling the room with an ear-splitting roar. The operator read some gauges and then gave
Carol spotted the metal cabinet bolted to an electric pole alongside the country road, and she pulled over. Humming a Mozart concerto, she climbed out of the truck, and was greeted by a cold, February wind. Shoot. Checking the sample units within the ten mile emergency zone was usually a choice assignment for a health physics technician, but not this day. Dry leaves crunched as Carol stepped to the box. There were forty such stations, containing film badges and air samplers. The government required that Hoosier Electric monitor the environment around the plant. Fortunately, in comparison with industrial chemicals like dioxin, keeping an eye on radiation required little technology.
Carol replaced the film badges. Maybe I’ll be doing more of this next year. She and Gary had decided they would soon start a family – or she had, at least, and
Carol slid back into the truck. Perhaps, next winter, Natalie would be the one helping her, as she carried her first child. If that happened, she would be given temporary assignments away from rad areas, since the risk from radiation was greatest for an unborn child. Slow and boring jobs. But to Carol, it would be a wish come true.
Midnight was approaching when Vitaly heard the page from the control room. The shift supervisor reported that condenser vacuum was rapidly falling, which meant the huge metal box would soon be unable to suck steam through the main turbine. John Donner needed to check things out –- fast –- before the reactor was shut down to prevent any damage to the turbine and generator.
Vitaly raced through the plant, his key ring jingling, and at the condenser control panel he confirmed that pressure in the huge box was inching its way up towards the red line on the dial. A minute to go before reactor shutdown. Scanning the panel, Vitaly spotted the problem. Two small pumps in another room had to continuously remove air from the condenser to keep pressure low, but neither was now running. The breaker must have tripped. Vitaly quickly found the large circuit breaker bolted to a nearby wall and saw he’d been right. He grabbed the handle and twisted it to ON, but it snapped back to OFF when he let go. His mind raced through the possibilities: What’s causing the breaker to trip? Did one of the pumps burn up?
He considered his choices. If I force the breaker closed, one of the pumps might still work. That would be enough. But his plan was against the rules, and Vitaly wouldn't do it without permission. His training, in both
Procedures called for a great deal of paperwork before taking such an action. But there was no time, and the supervisor knew it. “Try it,” he said.
Slamming the breaker to ON, Vitaly braced himself for the recoil. The handle pushed back, but he kept it in place and twisted to look at the control panel. A pump was now running. The condenser pressure needle was perilously close to the red line, but it didn't seem to be moving up. After watching the gauge for what seemed an eternity, Vitaly saw the needle begin to creep back down.
“You're John Donner?” a younger man asked when Vitaly entered the control room a few hours later.
“That’s me.” The shift supervisor had already warned him he'd be interviewed.
“I'm Paul Hendricks,” the engineer said to the lean man with the strong jaw and intense expression, “and I’ll be writing the report on the condenser event. You got a minute?”
The beginning of the sunrise was evident as Vitaly headed east along Highway 30 towards Brixton. John Donner had stayed late to finish his interview and then accept the congratulations of the day shift personnel. But now, speeding past the snow-covered landscape, he realized he couldn't share his glory with his wife. Dmitri yes. Maybe Dr. Berdyayev. But not Yelena.
Yelena. His wonderful partner, and soon-to-be mother of his child. A few more weeks and he'd be home again, he reminded himself, as he turned and headed north to his small house on the outskirts of
Anton stepped across a rivulet of icy water and ducked into the cramped second-hand bookstore, where an edition of the works of General Secretary Gorbachev was prominently displayed in the window. Browsing the shop's musty interior, Anton selected a copy of SOVIET AGRICULTURAL PROGRESS: 1960 to 1970 as his purchase, then worked his way back into a narrow aisle that was out of sight of the store manager dozing at the register. From his coat pocket, Anton extracted a small, sticky package and secured it to the underside of a shelf.
The drop now complete, the KGB officer left for the subway. Just before heading underground, he passed a polished young man in a knee length coat, striding with purpose in the opposite direction. Briefly, Anton thought of another young Soviet who would soon be in
As with the illegal's last trip, Anton had set up a conference between the foreign-based agent and members of the KGB's technical branch. This time he had stumbled upon an interesting, though likely trivial, item: one of the meeting participants would be a Dr. Berdyayev. Anton had no idea who the doctor was, but perhaps the CIA would -- after one of their own had returned from a little book shopping.
End Post 16
TEASER FROM NEXT POST:
“Well Vitaly,” Doctor Berdyayev said as the meeting finished, “I think you have some excellent plans here.”