Read an Excerpt
By Brian Garfield
A MysteriousPress.comCopyright © 1971 Brian Garfield
All rights reserved.
The red scrambler operational telephone was always in the corner of his vision. Smith turned the page of the specifications manual and shifted his buttocks on the hard seat of his chair and checked his watch again to remind himself that boredom was finite: his shift in the subterranean doomsday room would end and presently he would return to sunshine above ground. Smith had an earnest young face and an AFBSD patch on his Air Force uniform. Smith, Arthur, NMI, First Lieutenant USAF, 036754991.
The windowless room was sealed like an orbital capsule and the sterile console panel glittered with screens, toggles, dials, buttons—all the self-conscious set-decoration of computer technology. Antiseptic air whispered from ducts in the thick walls and there was a subliminal rumble of life-support machinery; the recirculation systems were designed to keep Smith alive long enough to do his job after the atmosphere above ground had been rendered poisonous by CBW or nuclear attack.
There was a big pane of reinforced bulletproof glass to his right and beyond it was a mirror duplicate of his cell occupied by Lieutenant Haas, Martin G., who had a bald spot and a mild case of facial acne. Omnidirectional microphones fed into cross-circuited PA systems so the two men could talk with each other but couldn't reach each other physically. Around their necks on dogtag chains hung magnet-coded keys; to unleash the power of Silo Six, both lieutenants had to set their controls identically, insert their keys and simultaneously turn them. It was thought, or at least hoped, that this duplication would prevent Unauthorized Implementation, which was a euphemism for what happened when a man went off his nut and decided to set the world on fire by himself. No one man could launch the birds. The firing locks were separated by twenty feet and impregnable glass and the initial contact had to be made simultaneously (half-second leeway), so that even if one man somehow neutralized the other and obtained both sets of keys, he couldn't lock down one key and walk over and turn the other one. There was no way around it: it took at least two people to destroy the world.
If the order came down it would come by way of the scrambler telephone, melodramatically red, dialless. The phone would buzz and its light would flash and when it was picked up it would speak in a series of code letters which had to match the codes sealed inside the heavy envelopes that lay in the rectangular trays beside the phones. The codes were changed regularly and at the end of each shift the envelope was destroyed, unopened, in a security shredder which made confetti of it, incinerated the scraps and then fed the ashes into an acid bath. Except in training simulation Smith had never been authorized to open a code envelope and he believed he never wanted to, just as those who had designed the ultimate weapon believed they did not want to find out what would happen if it was used.
The system which ended with Silo Six began with the billion-dollar Ballistic Missile Early Warning System (BMEWS) and its ultrasensitive radar scopes designed to single out hostile missiles coming over the top of the world. Once an attack was detected, the warning would be fed into the sixteen-million-mile system of electronic circuits that led into the fourteen vast computers of the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD), buried in a five-acre command post 1,500 feet beneath the granite summit of Cheyenne Mountain, thirteen miles south of Colorado Springs near Pike's Peak.
Preliminary Yellow Alert signals would go out instantly to all operational stations—Polaris and Poseidon submarines, airborne SAC bombers, aircraft carriers, military bases on four continents, and the Missile Wing Commanders of each ICBM and Safeguard ABM base. Simultaneously, signals would go out by microwave scrambler to activate the cased radiotelephone that was carried by a Secret Service agent who was never more than ten paces from the President of the United States.
If an incoming attack was confirmed the Red Alert condition would be flashed to all stations. The identity of the attacker would be known by the trajectory of the incoming missiles: NORAD's computers could analyze paths of approach and decide within milliseconds where the missiles had been launched.
Intercontinental war moved at eighteen thousand miles per hour and under most foreseeable circumstances the President would have little more than eight minutes to order retaliation.
The President's order would be transmitted directly to NORAD and to Strategic Air Command's Looking Glass airborne headquarters—an aircraft orbiting in a random flight path and carrying sufficient high-ranking Air Force generals to guarantee temporary survival of the command structure, even if NORAD should be destroyed.
From NORAD or Looking Glass the order would be forwarded electronically through circuit relays to each operational commander on station. In Tucson the order would be received by the Missile Wing Commander, who was on twenty-four-hour call.
Tucson's missiles were kept in eighteen separate complexes, which were grouped in six Residency Operations Groups. Each ROG had a Launch Commander, whose command post was an underground blockhouse, its horseshoe wall crowded with radar and closed-circuit television screens in tiers above a curved desk where console operators with earphone headsets and chin microphones sat in tilt-back swivel chairs.
Almost everything was turned over to computers; the men in the blockhouse were there mainly to monitor procedures and make sure nothing went wrong. Target information would be coded automatically onto magnetic tapes and programmed into the Minuteman Integrated Command and Control System (MICCS). The Launch Commander and his officers would complete their final drill—verification procedures and double-lock systems—and issue the coded final command over the red buzzer phones of the two Launch Operators in each silo. At any point up to actual ignition the procedure could be halted immediately by a countermand from the President.
The ROG which serviced Silos Four, Five and Six occupied a massive network of space and machinery radiating out from the command blockhouse in low underground caverns connected by ringing concrete corridors and miles of pipes and cables. Ventilator blowers made a soft muted roar and massive machines stood ready to slide back the topside reinforced trapdoors to expose the ICBMs for launching. In Communications, reels of tape poured out of decoding machines. Hundreds of men monitored incoming data. And in Silo Six the two lieutenants hovered over their red telephones.
On Friday, March 29, Jaime Spode left the Rayburn Building and turned his topcoat collar up. A knot of filthy cars went by in the slush, snow tires humming, white exhausts spuming. Spode picked his way across the mess and tramped along the rim of Capitol Hill toward the new Senate Office Building. He could have taken the subway but he wanted to avoid the girl he had seen going down the Rayburn entrance.
The sky was a dense slab of lead and the cold air was viscous as syrup. Breckenyear's remark still hung vivid in his skull because there was no place to hide it away. "You ought to be able to figure that out for yourself, a smart redskin like you." Breckenyear had smiled and the crafty aged eyes had disappeared into the wrinkles to indicate he was just joshing but the old bastard had known Spode would take it as an insult.
Spode couldn't remember two dozen words of Navajo. He'd been only nine years old when his father had packed up the family and moved to Willow Run to help build B-24 Liberators. If he went back now they'd laugh him off the Reservation. But he was still and always an Indian, even if sometimes he almost felt like a white man. Almost.
The girl he had sighted going down to the subway was one of those complaisant blondes who had turned out afterward to be a Groupie and when she had shown him her score card—diplomats and flunkies of every known skin hue—he had politely shown her the door; it had been weeks ago but the bad taste was still in his mouth. It did not please Spode to be a number on a list of Costa Rican chauffeurs and Tanzanian Second Secretaries. In the right company he was prepared to joke about his Dignity as a Noble Savage but neither the blonde nor Breckenyear was right company by Spode's definition.
He went down the third-floor corridor to Senator Forrester's door and found Lester Suffield in the outer office eating a cheese sandwich. The secretary's desk was unoccupied and the door to the Senator's empty private office stood wide open. Spode said, "There's three sizes of nuclear bombs. Large, extra large, and where did everybody go. Did somebody set one off in here?"
Lester Suffield gave him a bleak glance of recognition. "That's a sensitive subject around here. We don't make jokes about it." He exposed his wrist watch and shot his cuff. "He's down on the floor. There's a flap on."
"The Court nominee?"
"They're taking the vote. He'll be back, I guess, if the Dixierats don't start a filibuster."
"I'll wait." Spode parked his briefcase and shrugged out of his coat. His brown suit needed pressing. He unbuckled the galoshes. "Les, you wouldn't have another half-sandwich you could spare?"
"Help 'self." Suffield proffered a waxed-paper wedge. "I'm supposed to be on a diet anyhow." He was a big florid man, shaggy with a soot-gray pelt, but his eyes were clever like a terrier's.
When Spode walked over to him the open buckles of his galoshes chinked like Mexican spurs. He unwrapped the sandwich and held the waxed paper under his wide blunt chin to catch crumbs while he ate. "Where's Gloria? Lunch hour?"
"Gone for good. Buying her trousseau."
"He still hasn't hired a replacement."
"Figures," Spode said. He always took sergeants for granted, too.
"I think I've got a girl lined up," Suffield said. "Remember Veronica Tebbel?"
"Ronnie Tebbel? Sure. Isn't she still running the home office? What makes you think she's willing to move back East and take a demotion to common secretary?"
"I asked her, son. That's the first rule of detective investigation. You spooks could save a lot of sweat if you remembered once in a while that the easiest way to get an answer to a question is to ask it."
"Us investigators don't look at it that way," Spode said. "Us investigators figure the less questions you ask, the less you get lied to."
"Which may explain why you never find out anything worth knowing."
"It could explain that, come to think of it."
Suffield settled a wistful glance on the empty chair behind the secretary's desk. "Sic transit Gloria," he said.
"Oh Christ." Spode crumpled the waxed paper in his fist, launched the wad toward the wastebasket, and missed by two feet.
Suffield said with mild interest, "For a spook with your second-story history, you're about the most spastic excuse for a human being I ever saw."
Spode leered at him. "White man, you want to go five rounds with me, I'll call the gym and tell the medics to stand by to haul your carcass away." His look traveled up and down Suffield. "God knows you could use the exercise. Look at the gut on you."
"Sure, Jaime. A nice fair fight. My high-school boxing and your karate."
Spode snorted and went over to put the wadded waxed paper in the basket. "Karate. Christ."
"Didn't they teach you that stuff in the spooks?"
"You've been looking at television."
"No, I'm serious."
"Maybe we learned a little hand-to-hand. It was a long time ago."
"Did the Senator get the same kind of training?"
"The Senator wasn't in the spooks with me."
"The hell he wasn't. He told me about it once."
"That was military counterintelligence. A thousand years ago—Korea. We were kids, it was one of those games they told you to play when they put the uniform on you."
"But you stayed in and he didn't."
"Because he's got brains and money and I'm dumb and poor and anyhow what else could I do? You're right, you do like to ask questions."
"Let's swap jobs, then. You be the Senator's aide and I'll be his investigator."
"Forget it, I know when I'm well off."
"Then you're not as dumb as you look." The corners of Suffield's wide mouth turned down. "Sometimes I feel as if I'm wet-nursing a mental retard. Will Rogers must have had our private Senator in mind when he said every now and then an innocent man gets sent to Congress. I hate to think of what's going to be left of us when Webb Breckenyear and Woody Guest get done dribbling the Senator's head on the table like a basketball."
The Senator came in grinning. "No way to talk about me behind my back, Les."
Suffield turned a dismal glance on him. "I'm glad you think it's funny."
"Nothing cheers me up like enthusiastic optimism." The Senator's tough gold-flecked eyes pivoted to Spode. "How're they hanging, Top?"
"Loose and shriveled," Spode replied. The Senator had called him Top for twenty years. It was a habit Spode had stopped trying to break him of.
Senator Alan Forrester walked into his private office and peeled off his topcoat. Went around behind the big desk and pawed through the litter of papers to see if anything had been added to it in his absence. Spode strolled into the office behind Suffield and sank into a chair. The Senator pulled his chair out and said, "God, what a grim day."
The Senator had a deep tan, made ruddy by the chill wind outside, and all his bones were big. His patrician good looks masked a hide as tough as a dollar steak. He had the Forrester grin that, on the face of his eminent father, had appeared eleven times on the covers of Newsweek and Time when the old man had owned this Senate seat. There was a lot of the old man in the young Senator—and of the grandfather who had come to Arizona in the 1880's with a Yorkshireman's canny acquisitiveness and in twenty years had built an empire of mines and ranches and railroads. But Alan Forrester was his own man and nobody had known that better than the late Senator Hayden Forrester.
The Senator sat with one arm hooked over the back of his chair. He had enormous hands—but Spode had seen how gently they held newborn calves and voters' babies. The creases that bracketed his mouth had grown deeper since Angie had died.
The Senator said, "Report, Top."
"I ain't got much." Spode admitted it apologetically, spreading his palms.
"Such as it is, let's have it."
"I spent two hours over at the Rayburn, standing in line in Webb Breckenyear's waiting room. The old bastard ought to sell tickets—he'd make a fortune. For a senile politician with a two-horse constituency he's got a fan club can't be beat."
"Lobbyists or down-home folks?"
"Lobbyists. Panting around for scraps from the pork barrel."
"Did you talk to him?"
"Let's say he talked to me."
"After he asked after you with plenty of affectionate chuckles, he made it clear the Honorable Webb Breckenyear is still Chairman of House Military Appropriations, and until the pit-viper liberals and the pinko-pacifist disarmamenters pass a Constitutional Amendment putting military affairs in the hands of Junior Senator Alan Forrester—and I emphasize 'Junior'—until that time, the Constitution provides that military appropriations are the bailiwick of the House in general, the Committee in particular, and Webb Breckenyear in person. I think I'm quoting him more or less verbatim."
"In other words, no dollar figures."
"For a wild-eyed revolutionary radical redskin like me it would've been easier to get General Custer to pin a patriotism medal on Sitting Bull."
The Senator's face hardened. "Is that the way he treated you, Top?" He sat up straight.
Spode waved his hands. "Forget it. I don't want to start a civil-rights sit-in on the old curmudgeon's doorstep. Forget I said it."
"I wish you would. Maybe I'm just using it as an excuse because I didn't get anything out of him."
The Senator settled back slowly in his chair. "I'm sorry you had to waste your time."
"You pay me by the week."
"At least he can't come back at us later and push his old ferret eyes wide with innocence and say, 'Why didn't y'all jist come rat out an' aisk me?'" A smile touched the Senator'smouth. "Sometimes I take pleasure in knowing Breckenyear would like to see me right where I'd like to see him. No satisfaction in hating a man if he won't hate you back."
Excerpted from Deep Cover by Brian Garfield. Copyright © 1971 Brian Garfield. Excerpted by permission of A MysteriousPress.com.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.