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First electronics. Then automobiles. Now the Japanese are ready to strike at our largest industrial export--airplanes. Intrigue and danger heighten as America faces its worst industrial challenge since the Great Depression. With the Cold War over, Japanese industrial espionage may succeed tomorrow where, fifty years ago, their military might failed. Expert saboteurs continue to strike at our vital industries, while hundreds of thousands of American jobs and countless billions of dollars hang in the balance. ...
First electronics. Then automobiles. Now the Japanese are ready to strike at our largest industrial export--airplanes. Intrigue and danger heighten as America faces its worst industrial challenge since the Great Depression. With the Cold War over, Japanese industrial espionage may succeed tomorrow where, fifty years ago, their military might failed. Expert saboteurs continue to strike at our vital industries, while hundreds of thousands of American jobs and countless billions of dollars hang in the balance. Ex-CIA field officer Kirk McGarvey is hired by Guerin Airline Company to investigate a recent rash of accidents and restore the company's, and America's, international reputation.
And, after sabotage causes 14 airplanes to crash in one day, it appears that Japanese industrial espionage may achieve what military might could not.
Kirk Collough McGarvey knew that someone was coming for him again. Wishful thinking or not, he'd had the feeling all through the fall semester where he taught eighteenth-century literature at Milford College on Delaware's east coast. At the odd moment he would stop in mid-sentence and glance at the door, half expecting to see someone there. Or he would pick up the telephone in his apartment, certain that it had rung, but there'd only be the dial tone.
It had been three and a half years since he'd last had any contact with the CIA, or with anyone from official Washington, and nearly that long since he'd spoken with his ex-wife, Kathleen, although their only daughter, Elizabeth, now twenty-one, came down from New York several times a year to see him.
"What's the matter, Daddy?" she asked at Thanksgiving. But he had no answer for her. Nervousness? Simple boredom? Once a field man always a field man, that was the drill, wasn't it?
Pushing fifty, he wasn't over the hill yet. He was a tall, muscularly built man, with a thick shock of brown hair starting to turn gray at the temples, and wide, honest eyes, sometimes green, at other times gray. He ran ten miles and swam five every day, rain or shine. He worked out with the college's fencing team to maintain his coordination. And once a month he spent an afternoon at a local gun club's firing range.
He'd not lost his edge, but as the CIA's general counsel, Howard Ryan, told him in Murphy's office three and a half years ago, he was an anachronism.
"You're a man who has outlived his usefulness," the lawyer said. "The Soviet Union is no more. The bad guys have packed up and quit. Time for the professional administrators and negotiators to take over and straighten out the mess. Thanks for a job well done, but we no longer need shooters."
Bad times, he thought, getting out of his car. He headed over the sand dunes to Slaughter Beach on the bay. It was a few minutes after three, the day cold and blustery. At the top of the last rise he stopped to watch the whitecaps march down the bay in regular rows. The wind was gusting to thirty-five knots. Spits of snow drove out of a leaden sky, and he could pick out the shape of a southbound container ship well out into the bay heading for warmer climes.
More years ago than he wanted to remember the Company had sent him to Santiago to kill a general who'd been responsible for hundreds of deaths in and around the capital. But his orders had been changed in midstream without his knowing about it. After the kill he'd returned to Washington a pariah.
He'd run then to Switzerland until he'd been called out of retirement for a brief but particularly nasty assignment. No one thanked him. There were no welcome-home parades, no presentations at the White House. He was paid and went to ground next in Paris until his call to arms had come again, as he knew it would. Ryan was just as wrong three and a half years ago as he was now. The world may have become a much safer place with the demise of the Soviet Union as a superpower, but there was still a need for a man willing to kill. A man, McGarvey sometimes thought of himself, without a past. Or, more accurately, a man driven by a past from which he was trying to escape.
Looking back toward the highway he watched until the blue Ford Taurus pulled onto the beach access road, then he headed the rest of the way down to the water's edge. The beach was deserted, as he knew it would be, and as soon as he was out of sight of the parking area, he transferred his Walther PPK automatic from the holster at the small of his back to his jacket pocket.
It was possible that someone had come from Langley to offer him another job. But it was just as likely that someone out of his past had finally come gunning for him. Lately he'd been having his old recurring nightmare in which Arkady Kurshin was climbing up out of a flooded tunnel. The Russian was impossible to kill, and he was coming for revenge.
The wind-driven spray raised a mist from the beach that smelled faintly fishy—seaweed, salt, and probably some pollution. But not an unpleasant odor. After his parents' ranch in western Kansas McGarvey preferred almost any smell other than the prairie.
He stopped a hundred yards down the beach and half turned so he could look out to sea while at the same time watch the dunes toward the parking area out of the corner of his eye. The wind was picking up, and he made mental note to take it into account if he had to make a crosswind shot. The slow-moving 7.65 mm bullet's path would be severely affected over anything but point-blank range.
A man wearing a dark, thick-collared jacket and a baseball cap topped the rise, stopped a moment, and then headed directly toward McGarvey. He was of medium height, perhaps six feet, and moved with the sure-footed grace of an athlete. But he wore gloves, so he was no immediate threat, whoever he was. You couldn't fire a gun while wearing gloves.
As he got closer, McGarvey made the judgment that the man was not from the Company. There was something about his bearing, about the way he came straight on without looking left or right, that made him seem like a soldier. The man was not a cop or field officer. But he'd asked about McGarvey on campus this afternoon. Administration had sent him over to Humanities, and Evelyn had called to warn that a visitor was on his way.
"Did he say what he wanted?" McGarvey asked.
"He said that a mutual friend sent him down to see you."
McGarvey thought he might know it, but he couldn't dredge up the connection. Maybe somebody from the Company, after all, maybe not. "I'll probably just miss him," he told the dean's secretary. "My constitutional."
"He'll show up back here."
"Don't catch a chill," Evelyn said. She and the dean and the chairman of the school's board were the only three on campus who knew anything about McGarvey's background. But good teachers were hard to find, and Milford wasn't Ivy League, so as long as his past didn't interfere he was accepted with open arms.
"Mr. McGarvey?" Kennedy had to shout over the wind.
McGarvey turned. "That's right."
"My name is David Kennedy," the man said. His eyes were blue, and the expression on his face was guileless, almost little boyish.
McGarvey made the connection. NASA. "You're an astronaut. A shuttle pilot."
"Until five years ago. Now I'm president of Guerin Airplane Company's Commercial Airplane Division. Portland, Oregon."
They shook hands. Guerin was the second-largest designer and manufacturer of commercial aircraft in the world behind Seattle's Boeing, with every bit as much prestige as the older company. Nearly every airline in the world flew Guerin equipment. And the United Nations Peacekeeping Armed Forces Unit was considering Guerin's F-124 Hellfire all-weather supersonic fighter/interceptor for its primary air weapon. Not even Europe's Airbus Industrie, which was heavily subsidized with government money, could outcompete the company.
"What brings you to see me, Mr. Kennedy?"
"I'd like to offer you a job."
"Teaching your engineers about Voltaire?"
"The chairman of our board and CEO Al Vasilanti is a personal friend of Roland Murphy. Your name was mentioned."
Murphy was Director of Central Intelligence. He was a tough but fair-minded man who did not care for McGarvey. But unlike the Agency's general counsel, he understood the need for McGarvey's skills. The fact that he'd given McGarvey's name to the CEO of a civilian company was extraordinary.
"You were told about my background?"
"Mr. Murphy said that you were a ... troubleshooter. And considering the trouble that we're having, the situation that we're facing, you might be the only man who can help us."
McGarvey looked away. The downbound container ship was nothing more than an indistinct blur on the horizon. Wherever it was headed, it had direction, a purpose. For that he envied the ship and those who sailed her.
"What else did the general tell you?"
"That your methods were not orthodox, that wherever you turned up someone would probably get hurt. And that you would be watched, and if you broke any law you would be arrested and we—the company—would find ourselves in big trouble."
McGarvey faced him. "Yet you came to offer me a job."
"Al Vasilanti is an unorthodox man. He built Guerin from the ground up, mostly on guts."
"Spare me the pep talk, Mr. Kennedy. If you know who and what I am and you want me to do something for you, then your company must be facing something your engineers or lawyers can't handle."
"Unless something has changed in the past few years, I think that cargo planes and airliners are our single largest dollar-value export."
"By a wide margin."
"But Washington refuses to help. No more Chrysler-style bailouts."
"Something like that," Kennedy said. "And it concerns the Japanese. No one wants to upset the apple cart so soon before the President's economic summit next month in Tokyo."
"Did the general mention my last assignment?"
"Not in any specific terms," Kennedy said. "But he said it involved the Japanese."
A multibillionaire Japanese industrialist who'd lost his family in the destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki had hired a group of former East German Secret Service thugs to steal the fissionable material and parts for two nuclear devices that were to be detonated in San Francisco and Los Angeles. Except for McGarvey's interference, the plan would have succeeded. There was no love for him in Japan.
"What do you want me to do for you?"
Kennedy glanced back the way he'd come. "Could we go some place warmer? Maybe a coffee shop or something?"
"No," McGarvey said. Here on this beach their conversation was as secure as it could be.
"Then I'll get to the point. We believe that a group of Japanese corporations have formed a zaibatsu, which is a type of conglomerate, to try an unfriendly takeover of Guerin. We don't think this group has a government sanction, but we're not sure about that part. What we are reasonably certain of, however, is that if they're successful they mean to dismantle our company and ship it to Tokyo."
"Why?" McGarvey said. "If they wanted an airplane manufacturing company they could build one. What has Guerin got that they want?"
Kennedy hesitated a moment. "Our company hinges on keeping what I'm about to tell you secret."
"From whom, Mr. Kennedy?"
"Anyone ... the public."
McGarvey said nothing, and after a second the point dawned on the former astronaut.
"The Japanese wouldn't be coming after us if they didn't already know or guess," he said.
"That's a reasonable assumption. But you have a business problem on your hands, Mr. Kennedy. What do you need me for?"
"In 1990 one of our airplanes went down out of Chicago. It was an American Airlines flight. Three hundred forty-eight people were killed. No survivors."
"We think it's a possibility. The National Transportation Safety Board disagrees. They said it was engine failure."
"That was seven years ago. What's the connection between then and the zaibatsu you think has been formed now? Have you come up with any evidence?"
"The flight manifest showed three hundred forty-seven passengers and crew. An extra body, parts actually—a heart, part of a skull, some tissue—were found in the vicinity of the cockpit. One of the pathologists the NTSB hired said the tissues probably came from an Oriental male. There was some question about DNA matching, and the Board shot it down. Said the body parts were from someone on the ground. A migrant farm worker probably. But the doctor disagreed, so his conjecture ended up as an addendum that was ignored."
"Have you talked to the doctor?"
"He was murdered three months later, and his office burned. The thieves were supposedly looking for drugs, but all of his paper records, as well as his computer memory, were destroyed."
"Still no connection between then and now. Maybe the doctor was wrong."
"In the past six months we've had a seven hundred percent increase in the number of job applicants of Japanese descent. In more than one-third of the cases our routine background investigations found that the applicants were lying about some very significant facts. Like where they were born, what schools they attended, their work background."
"What's your rate of faulty applications among the white population?"
"A little less."
"Among the Blacks or Hispanics?"
"A little more," Kennedy conceded the point. "But during that same time period our work-related accident rate has skyrocketed, parts and subassembly theft has become big business, and one week ago one of our structural engineers, a man who has been with the company for thirty years, was killed when a forty-pound tool box fell off a scaffold and hit him on the head. We had three guys who said they thought one of our Japanese-American employees was nearby when it happened, but now they're not so sure they saw anything."
"By itself, yes. But our position on the stock market has become shaky, and there've been a couple of probing runs against us. If another of our airplanes went down now, we'd take a beating on the market."
"The Japanese would try to buy you out. But you could buy back your own stock. It's been done before. And from what I read Guerin has had a couple of very good years. You've taken customers away from Boeing and Airbus."
"We don't have the money. In fact we're so heavily leveraged that we're having trouble meeting our payroll. Eighty thousand paychecks every two weeks eats up a sizable amount of cash."
"Where did it go?"
"Which is what the Japanese are really after."
"Research into what, Mr. Kennedy? What is Guerin working on that's nearly bankrupting the company and that, according to you, a group of Japanese corporations wants so badly it's willing to commit mass murder for it?"
"A new airplane."
McGarvey stared at the ex-astronaut.
"We've designated it the P/C2622. P for passenger, C for cargo, and the 2 for the twenty-first century. It's what's called 'next generation equipment.'"
"What's different about this one?"
"This one is hypersonic. Los Angeles to Tokyo in ninety minutes. But it's nothing like the Concorde, which has been a dismal failure for a lot of reasons. Our airplane creates almost no air pollution because at altitude the engines burn hydrogen, the byproduct of which is water vapor. And almost no sonic boom footprint would reach the ground because ninety-eight percent of the pressure energy is directed upward, not down. There'll be a lower passenger-per-mile cost than Boeing's 747 at current fuel prices, but with the same payloads and the same runway requirements."
"Impressive," McGarvey conceded. "But how many years will it be before your test flights begin?"
"Four weeks, maybe six weeks."
"Your prototype is already built?" McGarvey was surprised.
"All except for the hypersonic engines. Our first test flights will run to near Mach one with a cowling replacing the hydrogen engine. Rolls-Royce promises delivery within one year." Kennedy studied McGarvey. "The bottom line is that this Japanese zaibatsu plans to do to the commercial airplane business what has been done to the automobile business and to the consumer electronics market. And they'll stop at nothing to do it. Including the murders of a lot of innocent people. If they somehow bring down another of our airplanes, our stock will die, but so will several hundred men, women, and children. Just like 1990."
"What if you're wrong?"
"We sincerely hope we are, Mr. McGarvey. That's what we want to hire you to find out for us."
"And if you're right?"
"Then we'd like you to do whatever it takes to stop them."
"I see." McGarvey turned and started back across the beach toward the parking lot. Kennedy fell in behind him.
"Will you help us?"
McGarvey looked at him. "Why don't you sell the technology to Japan? Share it with them under license."
"We thought about it. Boeing works with the Japanese. There's precedent."
"But you can't forget 1990."
"That's right," Kennedy said.
McGarvey stopped. "In 1983 Hitachi Corporation offered to build a major engine research facility in Japan that would be shared equally by any American commercial airplane manufacturer who wanted to participate. Hitachi would put up all the money, the Americans would bring their head start in research. Guerin turned them down."
"Our prerogative," Kennedy said. "Chrysler was given the same offer before it built its billion-dollar design and research center. But laccoca said no: 'Chrysler is simply not for sale to the Japanese for any price.' Neither was Guerin."
Excerpted from High Flight by David Hagberg. Copyright © 1995 David Hagberg. Excerpted by permission of Tom Doherty Associates.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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A bright ginger kit darts out of the nursery her tail trailing out behind her, "Goldenkit get back in here!" Goldenkit sighs "Yes Silverwind." She pads back into the nursery then curls up in her nest and soon falls asleep. When she wakes up she finds herself in a starry clearing surrounded by three cats who had stars in their fur "Welcome young one." The first cat meows. The next cat steps forward towards Goldenkit "Be careful the future is dangerous and will lead you astray from what your mission is. Take this as a warning Goldenkit." Goldenkit jerks awake her blue eyes wide as she processes what jst just happened through her mind. Careful not to wake Silverwind or her sister Mistkit she sneaks out of the nursery and gazes at the stars which seemed to shimmer. <p> Thanks for reading. ♟ Jay ♟
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