“Well, Vitaly,” Doctor Berdyayev said as the meeting finished, “I think you have some excellent plans here.”
“Thank you. Your advice was very helpful,” Vitaly replied, closing his copy. The instructions would be stored at the Center for safe-keeping.
“Yes, Comrade Doctor,” Dmitri chimed in, “you've given this project a great boost.”
The doctor stroked his dark goatee. “To be frank, as an academic exercise, I found it quite intriguing. Of course, it's unlikely it will ever be put to the test.”
“Of course,” Dmitri said.
Vitaly and Yelena were spending the day shopping in
As Yelena looked over some merchandise, her long blonde hair flowing to her waist, Vitaly gazed at his wife. She was seven months pregnant now. Her face had grown larger, and softer, as well. He watched as she examined some china, and then stepped up and hugged her from behind. Yelena smiled and arched her head back, one tender cheek brushing against Vitaly’s as his chin rested on her shoulder. “I love you,” Vitaly whispered. He was as happy as he could ever remember. The woman he loved was carrying his child, and through his service to the State they were able to afford some of the better things in Soviet life.
“I love you too,” Yelena sighed. “I feel so good when we're together.”
“All three of us.” Vitaly smiled. He patted his wife on the tummy and then released her from his embrace.
She turned to face him. “I'm so glad you feel that way. After all, it wasn't in our plans.”
“I think it's wonderful.” Vitaly stroked his wife’s shoulders. “It’s just like you said when you wrote to me. Maybe it’s better this way. When I’m home for good in a year or two, I’ll have a child to play with.”
“And more to look forward to,” Yelena said.
“Oh, yes, my love. More children, and more time with you.”
Crutch briskly entered the office area. “Got the O-ring report.” He held up a document. “Came in over the fax.”
“The one from the paper?” Paul said.
“Yep. Challenger blew up due to O-rings, and the anti-nukes say we've got ‘em too an’ they're a big problem.” Crutch rolled his eyes. “Hey, of course we got O-rings. Washing machines got O-rings. Car engines got O-rings. They ain’t that special.”
Tarelli and Langford looked up when Paul knocked on the open door.
“The O-ring report came in,” Paul said, as he and Crutch stepped inside. “In the back there's a list of events. We're in there twice.”
“I’d heard your liberal friends were at it again,” Tarelli said to Langford as he took the report.
“And I specifically told them to call me first,” Langford replied.
The two read the marked sections, Langford peering over his boss’ shoulder.
“Did our events occur because of O-rings?” Langford finally asked, looking up. “It isn’t clear.”
“Nope,” Crutch said. “We checked. One was an instrument outta cal made by O-Ring America Corporation. Nothin’ says O-rings were the problem –- and hell, it was hardly a problem to begin with. The other’s even more cock-eyed. A valve kept gettin’ stuck, an’ when it got worked on it, they went ahead n’ replaced the O-rings. Routine shit. But it made the list.”
“It looks like they went through all the reports sent to the NRC, and if 'O-ring' showed up, that was good enough,” Paul said. “That bugs me. I'd be tossed out the door for work like that.”
“They're just playing mind games with the public,” Tarelli said with a wave of his hand. “Don't let it bother you.”
“It's a fuckin’ cheap shot.” Crutch said.
“True, but there appears to be a little more to it than that,” Langford said. He had continued to read the report. “They have some good points about rubber not holding up under high rad conditions. The industry has just begun to deal with that issue.”
“There's usually some thought to these things,” Tarelli agreed. “Most of the folks who write them aren't idiots. A few even worked in the industry. But they're absolutely convinced nuclear power is unsafe, and that seems to justify a lot of distortion.”
“Of course, our own public relations staff can also turn information to their advantage,” Langford said.
Crutch took the report off the desk. “These guys are just playin’ on the fear of radiation.”
“It’s more than that,” Tarelli said. “It’s risks, and choice. People don't mind taking some risks, as long as they aren't forced into it.” He tapped the cigarette pack in his shirt pocket. “But basically, a lot of people feel nuclear got rammed down their throats. Some kind of evil conspiracy is putting them in jeopardy.”
“Just who are 'Hoosiers for a Safe Tomorrow'?” Paul asked. “Their director was quoted in the paper as saying
“Heh, heh.” Tarelli smiled. “That’s Evelyn Davis. Technically speaking, she’s on the fringe.” He tapped his skull.
“So how come the paper talks to her?”
“They need a local opinion,” Tarelli said. “The paper gets the pro-nuke side by quoting our press release.”
“As I recall, wasn’t there another group in this area?” Langford said.
“Some farmers,” Tarelli replied. “After T.M.I.. But they were willing to learn and took a long look at the stuff we put in the public document room.”
“Brixton library, right?” Paul said.
Tarelli nodded. “Most of the reports you guys write to the NRC are down there. In the end, the farmers decided we weren't all that bad. It’s a complex subject if you're an outsider.”
“But it's a black ‘n white world,” Crutch sighed.
“And we seem to be with the Forces of Darkness,” Langford said.
Liz entered the squad room. The April morning had been routine: two interviews with the former employers of a
“An illegal, huh?” the Special Agent in Charge remarked from behind his desk.
“Yes, sir,” Liz said. “We don't see many of those popping up.”
“You're right about that.” He nodded. The FBI veteran scratched his chin with a leathery hand. “
“It sure looks that way. They've got a source somewhere they really believe in.”
“Well, whoever that guy is, he’s not giving away the whole story.”
“He may not know everything,” Liz said. “The Soviets compartmentalize pretty well.”
“Of course,” the S.A.C. agreed, glancing again at the report. “This isn’t too bad really. It certainly narrows the field. We've gone from the whole population to a nuclear power plant worker.”
“And one who was out of the country last August, and again this March,” Liz said. “That shortens the list even more. Maybe just enough.”
“How many nuke plants we talking about, anyway?”
Liz was glad she’d done her homework. “About a hundred in the
“Whatever happened to Marble Hill?” The S.A.C. was referring to a unit that had been under construction beside the
“Over a year ago. I think I can forget about that one. So I'll just need to make a trip to
“Sounds reasonable. Have you met the S.R.A. up there?” the supervisor asked, referring to the city's Senior Resident Agent. “His name's Walt Kreveski.”
“No sir, I haven't. I think he's been in here a couple of times when I was on assignment.”
“Well, you'll like Walt.” A smile crossed the S.A.C.’s lined face. “Nice guy. Been around a long time. He was stationed in
“Interesting,” Liz said. “I'll ask him about it if I get the chance.” The occupation of
The S.A.C. handed back the dispatch. “At least H.Q. gave you a good cover story so you won't create too much of a stir.”
“Not until I find him.”
Paul pulled out of the
The FBI Field Office in
“We weren't sure, but we thought you might want some nuclear expertise handy,” the manager said, “so
“Would it be all right if I looked at those first?” Liz said.
“Sure, we can swing by my office. To tell you the truth,” the manager said, “I'm very curious about all this.”
“So you haven't been filled in?” Good. Liz had provided her cover story to a vice president at Hoosier Electric, but requested it be kept confidential.
“They just told me that you were coming, and to pull the files. The VP said he'd leave it for you to explain.”
The door opened in the conference room and Paul rose from his seat as a stocky woman with short, reddish-blond hair entered, followed by the personnel manager.
“Paul, I've already explained to Agent Rezhnitsky that you're here to answer any technical questions,” the manager said after the introductions.
“Sure. And if I don't know, I can probably find out pretty fast.”
“That’ll be fine,” Liz said. The engineer fit the description in his file: five-ten, rather thin, brown hair, brown eyes, mid-twenties. The three seated themselves. Time for the cover story. “As I've explained to your vice-president,” Liz began, “the Agency is looking for some fugitives from a major narcotics operation several years ago. There was an FBI agent killed. I'm afraid I can't give you any more details than that. But we have some indication that one or more of these individuals have recently been working in a nuclear power plant. So what I'd like to do is review your company's records for the present employees at your two plants.”
The personnel manager frowned. “We have over a thousand people in nuclear right now. That's a lot of records.”
“I understand. There’s one thing that should narrow down the search. All the suspects were out of the country in August of last year, and again this past March. Can you check for that sort of thing? Vacation records?”
“We can do it.” The manager jotted down a note. “But it’ll take some time.”
“I understand,” Liz replied, hiding her disappointment. Too bad.
The manager stood. “I'll go see what we can do. Be right back.”
“Thanks.” After a brief silence, Liz looked across the table at Paul. “So what do you do at
“I investigate problems,” Paul said. “Then write reports to the NRC.”
“I've seen films from nuclear plants where the workers were dressed up in special suits and gas masks,” Liz said. “You do a lot of that?”
“Not really. Most of the plant you can walk through in street clothes. I usually work in an office, so I don't even wear my hard hat that often.”
The door soon opened, and the personnel manager reappeared. “Well, Agent Rezhnitsky, I checked, and it'll take about a week for us to sort out what you need. I'm sorry for the inconvenience.”
“That will be fine,” Liz said. By now she had resigned herself to a wait. “I'll come back when you're done.”
“So, have you ever been to
“I was at
“I was thinking I might go by there when I head back.” Liz picked up the menu.
“It's not too far out of your way. When we go back to my car I'll show you a shortcut.” A waitress appeared and took their order, then Kreveski went on: “I still find it hard to believe there might be an illegal out there. They do background searches. How'd our man beat that?”
“Our friends are careful,” Liz said. “They make sure there's a good story in place. And, of course, he’s probably not at
“I heard you were at
“Yeah, I was working out of
“Were you in any of the fire-fights?”
“No.” Kreveski shook his head. “It depended on where you were. The only time I've ever fired my gun is on the pistol range. I'm a good shot there, aiming at paper. Of course, I also do some hunting, but that doesn't count.”
Liz continued to listen to Kreveski's tales for the next thirty minutes. The elder agent took a last sip of coffee. “So tell me about you,” he asked. “All I really know is that you've got a lot of patience to listen to my old war stories. How long have you been with the Bureau?”
“No.” Liz shrugged. “It's kind of tough when you're moving around.”
“That must mean you've got boyfriends all over the country, huh?” A grin crossed Kreveski's face.
“Well, one anyway, in
Guided by the misty plume, Liz followed the back roads northwest of Brixton until she reached Fairview Station. She cruised by the plant, gazing at the fenced-in collection of buildings. One of them featured a dome, and she also could see the source of the vapor cloud: two cooling towers a few hundred yards away. She stopped to get a better look. What if he’s really in there?
End Post 17
TEASER FROM NEXT POST:
It was from that village that the atomic plant drew its more commonly used name –