A Cold War Submarine Novel
The Soviets suffered many setbacks during the Cold War in their ability to deploy effective countermeasures to the formidable American Fleet Ballistic Missile submarines. The well publicized 1989 tragic end of the Soviet missile submarine Komsomolets in the Norwegian Sea, plus the not well known end of the rogue Red Star submarine in its alleged attempt to surreptitiously launch a nuclear missile toward Honolulu, are just two of the estimated nine submarine losses to the Soviet nuclear missile fleet. Another eight confirmed major disasters severely incapacitated other Soviet missile submarines. Over the same span of years, the Americans lost two boats, the Thresher and the Scorpion.
Rapid development and deployment of the Polaris Fleet Ballistic Missile boats followed by the Poseidon and Trident class boats provided the United States with an ultra reliable, secure second strike capability. One that ensured an ability to reduce the Soviet world to a nuclear wasteland even as the United States sustained a mortal blow from a massive Soviet first strike – an effective implementation of the Mutually Assured Destruction, (MAD) policy.
In 1989, Forty-five years into the Cold War, Soviet espionage at highest levels in top-secret U.S. government research leads to the possibility that the Soviets may overcome the Trident second strike advantage. Dramatic Soviet encounters with submerged Trident boats launch the American investigation, Operation Wildcard.
5:55 A.M. Friday, January 27, 1989
“Good morning, Admiral. You’re here early today.” The security guard at the laboratory entrance desk, said.
“Yes, I thought I’d take advantage of the early hour and look over things before everyone else arrives.”
“That’s fine, Sir. I’ll have Jimmy take you up to the lab. He’s new, just got out of the hospital after getting himself back in one piece after his tour in ‘Nam.”
“Well, I’m glad to see he made it.”
“Hey, Jimmy. Take this gentleman up to the lab, and don’t let the civies fool you. This is retired Admiral Berria. He’s seen a lot of action in his time, goes all the way back to the big one.”
Leading the way, they took the freight elevator to the second floor where Jimmy said, “It’s certainly been nice meeting you, Admiral. Perhaps we can share some war stories when you have time. Here we are. Just a moment, while I get the door open. Security is big here, some of the best I’m told.”
He opened the door and a gust of foul smelling gas pushed it’s way out into their faces.
“My God, it’s gas!” Admiral Berria yelled as he reached past Jimmy to close the door again.
Too late. A blinding burst of light flashed through the open door toward them. A kaleidoscopic blur might have registered before their eyes burned out. A massive amount of gas ignited as a fireball exploded out of the laboratory. Its powerful force picked up the two men and slammed them into a wall. They died on impact – skulls smashed and broken bodies burning.
An unstoppable series of disasters, spawned by exploding gas, devastated all in its path. Laboratory walls blew out, the roof caved in, crushed the main-frame computers beneath it, ruptured pipes gushed water everywhere, and the relentless, rapid spread of fire consumed all that could burn.
Emergency evacuation signals screeched from klaxon horns and commanded attention of everyone who heard them. A silent priority-one alarm went directly into the National Executive Security Organization (NEXSO) Headquarters. Emergency standby security forces responded and raced toward the laboratory.
Few people in the building other than normal security personnel limited the casualty toll to three others besides Bill Berria and the security guard. Smoldering circuit boards and wire insulation generated thick smoke and noxious fumes that impeded access to the dead and injured.
The old, gray-stone government building, typical of those along Constitution Avenue, housed a laboratory that had received a complete renovation in 1985. A powerful data processing and number crunching state-of-the-art Cray super-computer complex ,designed to simultaneously process many mathematically intensive problems, had been installed. Pentagon planners used it to conduct top-secret strategic studies. NEXSO used it to developed classified sonar systems.
Fire and police officials on the scene cooperated with the military forces and deferred to the four-star rank of Admiral Arnold Morrison, Chief of NEXSO, who arrived minutes after his security force.
The security guard who signed Admiral Berria in, hurried over and said, “Admiral Morrison, it was horrible! I watched it happen on closed circuit TV. The lab exploded. I saw Admiral Berria and Jimmy our new security guard thrown across the hall at the lab’s entrance just before the monitor stopped working. Oh, my God, it was so awful.”
“Admiral!” His aide said, “Sir, are you all right? You don’t look good. Here, please sit down.”
‘Oh . . . perhaps I’d better. Thanks, Lieutenant. This is terrible. I, I can’t believe it.”The admiral said as he settled his sagging body on a low wall. Somehow, he steadied himself and forced the feeling to pass – but not before droplets of sweat formed on his forehead as he thought, Bill Berria . . . my dearest friend, we were like family. An image from the past swept into his mind . . . Bill's fighter plane, strafed from engine cowling to tail section – crash-landing on the carrier deck – Bill, walking away smiling without so much as a scratch . . .
The image faded as the admiral looked around and saw the enormous devastation that now confronted him and blotted out the wartime phoenix image of Bill.
Four Marines, under the direction of a tough looking sergeant, carried two shrouded stretchers out of the ruins. The sergeant saluted the admiral and said, “Sir, we recovered these, Sir.”
The admiral reluctantly took a soot-covered set of dog-tags, wiped away the thick black covering from the scorched metal and read – William Victor Berria. He bowed his head, turned away to shield the grief that distorted his face and gasped for breath. He raised his hand to wipe cold perspiration from his forehead and smudged soot from the dog tags as he did so.
He struggled to maintain his composure and looked again at the marine-sergeant, who could see the admiral’s agony now plainly visible. The wizened old-sergeant saluted again and said, "Sir, I won't remove the covers, Sir. With your permission, Sir, we’ll send the remains to the forensic experts for positive identification, Sir.”
The admiral quietly said, “Thank you, Sergeant. Please arrange to have Forensics forward their report directly to me."
His adrenalin now flowing, overcame his grief. He turned to his aide and said, “Lieutenant, please see to all necessary details for securing this area and commence a full scale investigation. I want to know every thing about what happened here, and get a full report on Admiral Berria’s movements for the last twenty-four hours.”
He turned to leave but stopped and said, “One thing more, please arrange to have a special detail assigned to guard Mrs. Berria around the clock, starting immediately. I want it maintained until I personally order otherwise.”
“Aye, aye, yes, Sir.” The young lieutenant said as he too fumbled his words and nervously responded to the admiral’s order. The admiral, a gentleman in all respects, issued his orders politely and never with intimidating overtones. Admiral Morrison was an officer from the old school.
Lydia Morrison, following her normal morning routine working in her study, had been leafing through draft-pages of her just completed gourmet cookbook. Somewhere between Veal Bollanaise and Veal Parmigiana the phone rang loudly and interrupted her thoughts and she said, “Oh, must be Arnie, he’s early. I guess there’s a change of plans.” She picked it up, cradled it on her shoulder and continued sorting through the cookbook’s pages.
Lydia, married to Arnold Morrison for nearly forty-seven years ever since he graduated from The Naval Academy in 1942, said, “Hello,” and immediately sensed something unusual had happened. She lost all thoughts of her cookbook when she heard her husband’s uncharacteristic struggle to control his voice. She gripped the phone tightly, as if to squeeze the words out of her obviously bereft husband and said, “Arnie, what! What is it?”
Arnie, barely able to speak the unspeakable words, just managed to say, “Lydia . . . Bill . . . Bill Berria was killed this morning in an explosion.” Hearing his wife gasp into the phone, he paused a moment to regain his own composure and somehow managed to take control of the situation. “I’m on my way over to see Gabriella – I’d like to pick you up – have you with me.”
Lydia inhaled a deep breath, swallowed hard and responded softly. “I . . . I’ll be outside waiting.” She could say no more.
Gabriella, working in a kneeling position in the garden on the side of the brick, two-story Georgian home, looked up to see a car as it came to a stop not far from where she worked. The black staff car, with a flag showing four stars had pulled slowly into the driveway. She got to her feet and said, “Who could this be?” A feeling of foreboding that had enveloped her earlier returned as she then said, “Arnie, Lydia, it’s so early.” as she thought, they look upset. Then she said, “Oh my, something’s happened. What, what is it, Arnie?”
Gabriella listened in disbelief and stared wide-eyed at the admiral as Arnie said, “Gabriella, Bill, Bill was killed this morning . . . there was an explosion." Gabriella shuddered. Admiral Morrison caught her as she fainted. Lydia ran ahead, opened the door and the admiral carried Gabriella into the house as he ordered his driver to summon an ambulance.
Admiral Morrison cradled Gabriella in his arms as Lydia applied smelling salts to help her regain consciousness. As the realization of the words that Bill was dead took hold of her, Gabriella began to sob and cried out while she weakly beat her fist on the admiral's chest. “Why, why, Arnie! Please tell me it's not true. Arnie, I need to see Bill!” Her blows became weaker as she lost consciousness and started to shake in what appeared to be a prelude to convulsion.
The sound of an approaching siren droned down toward silence and served notice that the ambulance had arrived. A military police car’s ominous, emergency strobe-lights flashed in all directions as it too arrived right behind the ambulance.
A young navy doctor rushed into the house, wasted no time on formalities, did a quick evaluation of the unconscious, shuddering woman lying on the sofa, rubbed her right arm with an alcohol swab and injected a strong sedative. Lydia placed a hand-made afghan over the trembling woman while the doctor and the admiral held her hands until she stopped shaking and slipped into a merciful sleep.
The doctor looked directly at the admiral and said, “Sir, I think it’s advisable we take Mrs. Berria to the hospital.”
“I understand. I would like my wife to accompany her.”
“Yes, Sir. Please come with me, Mrs. Morrison.”
The medics placed the unconscious woman on a stretcher and carried Gabriella out to the waiting ambulance as Lydia and the doctor walked alongside.
The siren wailed a warning for all to clear the way, and the ambulance raced off to the hospital.
As the flashing lights sped away, another car pulled into the circular driveway and came to a stop behind the admiral's staff car. Frank, the older of the two Berria boys, arriving for a long weekend stay, had just stepped out of his car when Admiral Morrison met him in the driveway.
June 1988 (Six months earlier)
Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony played moderately loud in the background. State-of-the-art high-fidelity equipment provided a faithful reproduction of its beautiful melodic sounds. Dr. Gregory Peters, a classical-music afficionado, had a more prosaic use for these captivating sounds and the superb system generating them. They provided an acoustic screen to over-ride voice conversations and thereby made them difficult to intercept by any casual listener or even a more ominous interloper.
“Ah, Fyodor,” Doctor Peters said, ‘this music is captivating, its inimitable phrasing, orchestrated so long ago by the great musical maestro, puts me in a relaxed and contemplative mood. You too must feel calmed by Beethoven’s magic, yes? My study is excellent place to enjoy good music, good company, and good vodka, yes?”
The doctor and Professor Fyodor Baronofsky preferred their vodka ice-cold and neat in their accustomed manner.
Mixed emotions prevailed as each of these unique men contemplated the end of their shared American adventure that had lasted more than thirty years – two men, with diverse characters and physical attributes who possessed strong personal bonds and intense loyalties.
The professor studied his long time friend, perhaps for the last time. He looked hard at him as if to memorize the sight of this big man with steel grey eyes set deep under shaggy eyebrows that could take on an ominous look as circumstances might require. However, he would remember him always as a man who maintained a pleasant aura at all times when with his good friend and confidant.
The professor, also a big man but not as physically impressive as the doctor, ran a hand over his refined beard shaped from fine facial hair that enhanced his scholarly, professorial demeanor. He stoically reminisced over a few of the highlights of their complex travels together from their beloved Russian mother-land. He said, “Gregory, we had such a unique journey since we come here after the war. It has been good for us, and is now good for Mother Russia.” He thought for a moment about how they emigrated to the United States and commenced their studied ascent to the highest levels of American Academia. “You, a famous doctor,” he said, “an internationally famous authority in oncological studies, and me, perhaps not so famous, but I manage to do leading work in computer science and underwater acoustic propagation techniques.”
“You are modest, Fyodor. If not for your excellent talents, we would not be able to give our beloved country the gift you will bring to them.”
Dr. Peters mused a moment as he contemplated the music. Then he said, “And, Irenka? She will go with you, Yes?”
“No, Gregory, there is no way. She is too much American. She knows nothing of what I do. It’s best she remain here and not know what I have done. I will slip away, unnoticed by anyone. Everyone will think what we want them to.”
He hesitated a moment and then said, “That is, if the changes in the medical records . . . they have been completed?”
“Yes, Fyodor, you are now Professor Alexander Issacson, and he is now Professor Fyodor Baronofsky that is, as far as your medical records on file with the government are concerned.”
“Thank you, my friend. All is now in order – and how is your beautiful wife, Tania?”
“Very good, and Irenka?”
“She’s good too. This will be hard on her, but I know she will adjust. There’s no way it would have worked to bring her with me.”
“Yes, Fyodor. I understand, it’s best for all concerned. And you have completed the computer changes you planned?”
“Oh, yes. The diagnostics – they are altered also. It will be difficult for someone to understand that problems are in the hardware and not in the code.”
“Good, Fyodor. And the other matter – that is in place as well?”
“Yes, Gregory. I did that personally. Here is plan of back-up laboratory. I mark hidden button location like so.” Fyodor said as he pointed to an small x inside a circle on the plan. “It will open a slow gas-release solenoid control valve. Alongside that is timer connected to igniter. Set it for at least six hours to allow enough time for the gas concentration to build-up.”
“Splendid, I’ll ensure that a comrade is working at the laboratory. He will let us know when it becomes necessary to use it.”
“I estimate at least six months, possibly longer, before a replacement is selected and begins to figure it out. So you will have time to get your man in place.”
“I’ll make sure he’s there soon. We can’t be too careful. By the way, your protege from the university, Frank Berria, I believe that is his name – he’s been kept apart from your government work. Yes?”
“Absolutely, Gregory. He knows nothing about my government project. He would have been helpful to me in that work, but I’m glad now I didn’t bring him into it. He’s one man I know that wouldn’t be fooled by the changes I made in the backup system. Of all my professional associates, I will miss him most.”
“Well, Fyodor, my good friend, it’s been a long time since we came to America. Now you’re going back to our beloved motherland. Your work here is finished. Much yet remains for me to do. Someday in the not-to-distant future, I hope to see you again in Mother Russia. Farewell for now, dear comrade.”
“And farewell to you, my friend. I too, look forward to a time when we meet again. Until then, dasvidonya.”
After a final comradely embrace, Professor Fyodor Baronofsky left Dr. Gregory Peters’ home for the last time. He regretted not being able to see the doctor’s wife, Tania, once more, but that could not be. Only his stoical resolve kept him on the course he was taking that required he leave his beautiful young wife and the world he had known for the past thirty-seven years. He concentrated hard on things yet to be done. The last and most important was to meet Professor Issacson at the government laboratory at 5:30 P.M.
“Ah, Professor Issacson, thank you for coming. I know you’re busy getting ready for your much deserved sabbatical. I need your help. I need your genius with boolean algebra. Big problem. But you can solve . . . yes?”
“I will try my best, Fyodor. I’m happy to help. I’m only sorry I couldn’t break away earlier.”
“I’m glad you could come. Besides, it’s better this way. Everyone else has left and we can work with no interruption.”
“Yes, yes that’s good. Now let’s see to this epic mathematical challenge that we must do something about.”
“Look here, Alexander, my code – it is stymied by this matrix array. It represents six different complex variables I need to enter into the computation and solve simultaneously. I need an elegant representation to allow a direct solution without need do each variable separately. This will greatly simplify the code.”
“I see. You’re right, this will be a challenge.” Issacson fingered the pages with one hand while smoothing his beard with the other, and mused, “Hmm . . . Let me see now.”
“While you’re getting organized, I have urgent nature call and must go to the men’s room. I will come back soon.”
On his way out of the lab, Baronofsky passed through a small ante-room that led to a secure entry and exit for the lab. This area also contained lockers used by lab personnel to store their outer garments. Typically, suit or sport jackets were exchanged for smart looking laboratory coats. Baronofsky stopped at one of the lockers and found Issacson's rumpled jacket, with the tacky leather-padded elbows, on which he had carelessly left his security badge pinned to the jacket’s lapel. Baronofsky slipped on the jacket, took Issacson's natty hat, and left his own impeccable Harris tweed jacket in its place with his security badge in its pocket.
Unobserved by Issacson, he reached inside the locker, lifted a secret panel and flipped two hidden switches to their ‘on’ positions. One energized a solenoid that opened the main gas valve under the laboratory’s raised floor and the other turned on a timer set to ignite the gas in twenty minutes. Unlike in the back-up lab, a special dispersion network had been secretly installed here to rapidly spread gas through the entire area under the vast computer complex.
He closed the steel door to the locker and left the lab through the security entrance that automatically locked behind him.
The guard on duty, busy on the phone, spoke in a subdued way as if he were in a private discussion with his mistress. His manner appeared overly cautious, as if he did not want to let himself be overheard. As a result, the professor approached without the guard taking a good look at the bearded man wearing the rumpled, tacky jacket, and sloppy hat.
Noting the guard’s preoccupation, and without making eye-contact with him, Baronofsky signed out as Dr. Issacson.
When the guard got off the phone, he checked off the name against Issacson’s earlier entry registration. Several others from different parts of the large laboratory complex had signed out immediately after the professor.
About fifteen minutes later "Professor Baronofsky” was tragically killed in a freak ‘accidental’ explosion.
Several miles from the scene of the explosion and using an assumed identity, Baronofsky left Washington for the last time. He made his way to a prearranged hideout in New Jersey where he reshaped his handsome beard in the same manner that Issacson wore it and added heavy horn-rimmed glasses that completed his studious look.
An authentic passport and prearranged travel plans set the stage for extended scholastic travel. ‘Professor Issacson’, a stereotypical academic traveler, left on an evening flight for a long tour of Europe and the Soviet Union.
Professor Baronofsky’s coat and security badge were retrieved from inside the steel locker. Between that and the medical records, everyone involved became convinced that it indeed had been the Professor who perished in the fiery explosion. Dental records insured positive identification of the badly charred corpse as having been the mortal remains of Professor Fyodor Baronofsky.
Admiral Morrison reflected on the loss to the research program that Professor Baronofsky had been in charge of. The admiral and few others knew how serious a blow the disruption of the Acoustic Detection, Direction and Ranging System, known as ADDARS, could be to the American defense network. The professor had been regarded as the world’s foremost expert in that specialized field of acoustic research. The American scientific community, and everyone else who knew him, academically and socially, grieved his passing.
Baronofsky’s death dealt a major blow to the admiral’s top-secret government project that had just entered its final stage of pre-production testing. The admiral called for a detailed report of the status of the program and listened to the program assistant leader’s presentation.
“Sir, we have lost the complete primary system. Fortunately the secondary system is still in tact. We’re not sure if the latest program changes had been installed in it prior to the accident. The transfer data had been kept in the same building with the primary system and were also lost. It’s believed that only the professor knew what level the secondary system back-up program had reached with respect to its latest primary system development. Additionally, a third system somewhat behind the first two contains much of the professor's work and is located in a similar lab a few blocks away.”
What wasn’t known, and hence not reported to the admiral, had been that the plan orchestrated by the Professor had introduced many programming defects and certain hardware alterations in the back-up system. These were designed to keep the project in a state of confusion for many months.
The admiral shifted in his chair as he thought about what he just heard and said, “How long will it take to assess the program’s status on the back-up system?”
“We’re working to establish that as we speak. I think we can provide an answer within a month.”
“That’s not good enough. I want round-the-clock work to commence ASAP. I will provide all necessary authorizations to do that. Additionally, I want a new back-up system installed and brought up to date, also, ASAP. Further, you and your staff are to give Admiral Berria complete support as he conducts an investigation into the cause of the explosion that destroyed ADDARS.”
The entire episode, while lamented by those who had known the professor, caused much concern at high levels in the Pentagon. A select team of counter-intelligence people, headed by retired Admiral William Berria, working within NEXSO, had been assigned to perform a thorough investigation. He had been asked to take this assignment by the Secretary of Defense – with the President's personal endorsement.
Bill Berria gained insight into the professor's life through the commiserations of his son, following the loss of his deeply revered mentor. Bill listened carefully as Frank confided his innermost thoughts about the professor to him.
“Dad, it’s such a tragedy. Not only as far as I’m concerned personally, God only knows how much the professor meant to me, but it's such a loss to everyone. The professor’s brilliance was recognized by all who knew him. His life had known a lot of tragedy. In spite of it all, he had managed to pull himself up by his bootstraps and get through a rigorous education in Russia, before emigrating to this country. He really deserved to enjoy the life he had made for himself here in America. He’d lost his entire family in the battle for Leningrad with the Germans. He spoke often about his pre-war childhood – about how he had enjoyed a close-family relationship and how it had been a joyful period in his life. It's going to be difficult to be at the university without him there.”
Meanwhile, in his latest incarnation as a Russian citizen, Fyodor Baronofsky visited the area in Leningrad where he had spent the better part of his childhood. He reminisced about his earlier life while still a Soviet citizen. He thought about his father, Pietrovich Basilovich Baronofsky, who had been an important member of the socialist apparatus and about the many privileges and advantages his father had over his less fortunate contemporaries. He thought also about how he had been given the opportunity at the conclusion of the war, to attend undergraduate studies at the prestigious University of Moscow; wherein, he had been a promising academic scholar and had developed his great aptitude in science.
He recalled, how during those years he had become a loyal party member, how the death of his parents, sister and brother, had destroyed something inside him, how he hid his grief in an unnatural way, and how he had become an absolute stoic about interpersonal relations – a personality-trait that had ingrained itself permanently in his psyche.
A dispassionate nature, and an innate ability to be charming, allowed Fyodor to get inside other people’s emotions and gain advantages they could never achieve with him. He developed into a brilliant, formidable, deceptive and ruthless person destined for stardom in the communist world.
Thus, Fyodor emerged from his years of academic studies with two important attributes: first, and most visible, he had become a brilliant scientist; second, and more subtle, he had been identified as a promising political asset. The KGB took great interest in Fyodor Baronofsky.
The futile, and perhaps distracting, efforts of McCarthy-type investigations of communist infiltration into sensitive American government positions notwithstanding, the Soviets managed to stay abreast of secret American military programs. Hence, early in the American Polaris Fleet Ballistic Missile program the Soviets realized they would be up against a formidable weapon system, if and when it became operational. Plans were made to plant loyal Soviet spies into the American scientific community and attempt to work them into sensitive positions. Fyodor Baronofsky was just such a person. He had readily agreed to serve his country as a spy in America.
The ADDARS development program limped along without the professor. Bill Berria delved into the status of the program and noted, the people involved seem to be drifting with no clear sense of direction. It appears the professor had been the absolute mainstay of the effort.
A ship with out a rudder came to mind as he and his team of counter-intelligence experts sorted through the tangled maze of a world once dominated by the late professor.
Several months went by, during which Bill saw little of his son. The professor's death had taken a heavy toll on Frank. Bill thought it wise to let him bury himself at the university and work through his emotions in his own way. The senior Berria didn't want to overplay his interest in the professor in deference to his desire to keep any knowledge of his secret government work well away from his immediate family. Bill even kept these matters from his wife. The way the game of international espionage and counter intelligence is played, as Bill reasoned, made this the wisest way to operate.
Finding a suitable person to take over Baronofsky's work is not only an academic decision, he thought, but it’s compounded by the need to meet stringent security clearance requirements.
The Navy Department turned to a native-born American to become Professor Baronofsky's replacement. Bill was aware of this. He was also aware that Baronofsky had been a naturalized American, who emigrated from the Soviet Union about five years after the end of World War II. Bill pondered at great length the purely made-in-America anomaly that a former citizen of the Soviet Union could be cleared for top-secret government activities. However, the professor's situation isn't unique, bill mused, super talent certainly has a way of rising above all other considerations.
However, Bill had his own private, troubling thoughts regarding the inherent perfidy of the Soviet Politburo and its intelligence agencies. He had been one of the few government insiders briefed on top secret undersea recovery and data gathering programs. All of that, not to mention speculation surrounding the Soviet loss of one of their missile subs, followed by the loss of an American nuclear sub, reverberated through his memory banks. These, and other, cold war events added heavily to his fundamental distrust of an ‘accidental’ basis for the destruction of a major American sonar development program. Especially one headed by a former Soviet citizen, albeit he was a naturalized American whose background had withstood the most rigorous security investigations.
Bill regarded the ‘inner-space’ of clandestine submarine warfare, and the absolute deterrence capability of the Trident FBM program, to be the primary consideration for American security.
While it had been impossible to find an equivalent replacement for Professor Baronofsky, the program was indeed fortunate to have come up with the person it did. Well known for his acoustic research work involving underwater sound propagation effects, Professor Harold Hydecker approached the discipline from another direction – one in which sea creatures transmit and receive sound signals. Interested in ocean duct phenomena that had potential long-distance sound transmissions through naturally occurring ocean channels, Hydecker had intuitively liked the application of this idea to a high-powered, well-funded development program.
When Bill reviewed matters with the new program leader he said, “Professor Hydecker, it would be helpful to me to obtain some additional background in the operation of ADDARS. If you would be kind enough to give me an overview, in terms that my limited technical background could absorb, I would be grateful.”
This request put the Professor squarely in his element. He assumed his comfortable role as a teacher and hence being able to talk down to a man of Bill's stature.
“It’ll be my pleasure, Admiral. Please don’t hesitate to ask questions as we go along. I might get into matters too deeply. I’ve been known to lose my students at times.”
Bill nodded agreement as he sat across from the professor and gave him his undivided attention.
“Conceptually, the system approach employed here uses naturally formed, sound-carrying channels, we call ducts, sort of like giant tunnels in the oceans. These tunnels can exist over great ranges in the oceans, wandering along for say, several hundred miles. Then this condition, or tunnel that is, is referred to as a duct. Are you still with me, Admiral?”
Bill nodded, and the professor continued.
“Well, we have learned that sound can move great distances inside a duct as it’s continuously reflected at its boundaries. In this manner sound waves bouncing between its boundaries, propagate down the duct. Okay so far, Admiral?”
“I’m still with you, Professor.
“Good, we can make use of these ducts, when and where they occur, in two ways: first, send sound signals through the ducts over long ocean distances; second, listen to and identify sounds intercepted inside these ducts. By the way, it’s just this effect that I had been studying concerning the ability of sea creatures to communicate with one another over great distances. It’s a natural extension to apply this work to searching for submarine and/or ship traffic in the ocean. A passive listening device suspended in a duct could intercept acoustical energy that might have originated hundreds of miles away.”
The professor paused, “I hope that this is clear enough for you to follow, Admiral. Shall I continue?”
“Please do. Your presentation is really easy to understand. I rather doubt that you lose your students. You’re an able communicator.”
Obviously pleased by Bill’s praise, offered in a most sincere manner, and bolstered by an obviously appreciative student, the professor smiled and said, “For our purposes, once having detected the possible presence of a target of interest, we must then solve several engineering problems.”
“I assume that involves a triangulation solution of some sort.” Bill said.
“Precisely, I see you have good deductive capabilities. I think you can appreciate that implementing a system utilizing this detection capability, involves serious hardware deployment and a major data reduction problem.”
Bill heard enough. “Thanks very much, Professor Hydecker. You’ve made the matter clear. I really appreciate your time and indulgence.”
Professor Hydecker, a brilliant acoustical theoretician, perhaps even more so than the late Professor Baronofsky, possessed little of his predecessor’s computational skills and intrinsic understanding of the inner workings and possibilities of computers. Therefore, it was inevitable that the computer alterations previously made by Professor Baronofsky went undetected for some time. Eventually, it became apparent to Hydecker's staff there might be something wrong with the computer hardware.
This determination began to come into focus about six months into Bill’s investigation. Having listened to the reported results of the technical investigations thus far, Bill met once again with Hydecker.
“Of course, Professor, I’m not a computer expert, but I can't help wondering if the positive diagnostic runs in which the computer people have such explicit faith, could perhaps be misleading. I’ve reviewed the results of the computational exercises that have been run multiple times through this lab's computer, and I’ve begun to sense something is seriously wrong.”
Exposed to many strange activities in his counter-intelligence career, Bill thought about what he had learned for sure in all that time; namely, when something consistently proves baffling in an unnatural way and yet gives all the obvious indications of being normal, it most likely isn't normal. That ‘something’ has probably been cleverly tampered with.
With these thoughts in mind Bill said, “Would it have been possible to alter the computer hardware and the diagnostic code to give the appearance all is well – when it really isn't?”
“That’s a remote possibility, but I really think it’s highly unlikely. That idea has been discussed, but the laboratory staff and I dismissed it as unrealistic in the face of the diagnostic data. And, anyway, what could possibly be the justification for such a hypothesis?”
“I must admit I have no real rationale other than my own suspicious intuition in this matter. However, I’d like to exercise some prerogatives. Please make a controlled run of test data that we can rerun in another similar computer installation nearby. I’ll personally authorize its use on a priority basis.”
Scheduled reluctantly, even though the idea had merit, Professor Hydecker had not been thrilled having a person outside the academic community giving technical direction – no matter how much sense it might have made.
However, arrangements were made with the other government laboratory to receive the control data the following day.
Professor Baronofsky and his associates had foreseen such a possibility. To them it had been just a question of when, not if.
Some time after the professor's death, Freddy Michals had been employed at the ADDARS lab and was assigned to observe and report developments there every day. He had no knowledge that the professor, who had been married to his younger sister, was not really dead. For that matter, he was totally unaware that the professor had been a Soviet spy.
Freddy routinely reported the new scheduled tests of the ADDARS program to be run at another lab. This of course, could not be allowed to happen. If it were to become known that the computer had been sabotaged it would trigger a more intensive investigation. It was thought best to destroy the evidence. The means to do so had already been put in place under the direction of Professor Baronofsky.
The ADDARS computer installation stood on a raised floor, under which interconnecting computer cables lay alongside unused, although still active, gas lines.
In a manner similar to that used to destroy the previous laboratory, a remotely activated valve had been installed in a gas line. When energized, it would quietly open and saturate the area with gas fumes. Then after a pre-set time, the timer would trigger a short circuit igniting the gas. The resulting explosion would be destructive enough to obliterate all evidence of the computer hardware alterations that had been made.
Freddy waited until every one had left the lab that evening. He unscrewed a cover plate that concealed a push-button switch and a timer that he set to ignite at 5:55 A.M. He reviewed the set-up to ensure everything was in order and then pushed the button that opened the gas line and reinstalled the cover plate. He then carefully closed the self-locking door behind him.
Bill Berria returned to the ADDARS lab early the following morning. He wanted to spend some time inside with no one else to distract him. Often, just looking around all by himself, revealed minor details that otherwise might have been overlooked. The lab was locked and alarmed. Entry had to be arranged by the security guards who, after greeting Bill and doing the mandatory check to ensure Bill's credentials were in order, proceeded to let him in.
When the lab doors opened, Bill and the accompanying security guard were met with a strong smell of gas. They started to turn and flee from the area – just then, the gas ignited.