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Authors: J. Craig Wheeler

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The Krone Experiment

BOOK: The Krone Experiment
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J. Craig Wheeler

Praise for The Krone Experiment


“A thriller, a detective
story and a brilliant piece of scientific speculation; this is a
uniquely intelligent novel.” —Tom Clancy, author of
The Hunt for Red October


“A world expert on
black-hole astrophysics, Craig Wheeler gives us here an off-hours
gripping adventure story.” —John Archibald Wheeler, theoretical
physicist, author of
Geons, Black Holes,
and Quantum Foam: A Life in Physics


“Exciting ... fast-paced ...
A whopping good story that leaves you on the edge of your seat!”

The Austin American-Statesman








J. Craig Wheeler


Copyright © 1986 by J. Craig Wheeler


International Standard Book Number

Harcover ISBN 0-939722-21-6



Cover design by J. Robinson




For my parents, Peggy and G.L.




I am grateful for the valuable editorial help
of Lucille Enix, Denise Brink, and David Hartwell. Special thanks
go to Peter Sutherland and Linda Mills for reading and commenting
on an early draft, to Hugo Bezdek for sharing insights into the
workings of government agencies, and especially to my wife for her
keen critical eye. Finally, I thank anonymous colleagues and their
institutions who played host to me over several years, thus
providing stolen moments in airplanes, motels, and restaurants, to
add a few more paragraphs.




All characters and incidents in this book are
purely fictitious and products of the imagination of the author and
are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to actual events
or persons, living or dead, is coincidental. Nothing in this book
should be interpreted as a representation of views of any
department or agency of any government body.


Table of Contents

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 19

Epilogue: Three Years

History of Publication

About the Film

About the Author

Other Books by the Author







Abd Ar-Rahman was the first. The old shepherd
leaned on his staff by the trunk of a gnarled thuja pine, trying to
find shade. He gazed down the foothills of the Atlas Mountains to
the snaking Oued Moulouya in the distance. The half— wild mouflon
sheep clustered near the tree, cropping at sparse spring shoots of
tough esparto grass. Ar-Rahman had the briefest impression of a
noise overhead. As he raised his eyes upward, an unseen hammer blow
sprawled him on his back in the dry North African dust. He was
conscious of his infirmities and used to stumbling now, but this
left him stunned and confused. As he gazed upward, a branch the
thickness of his wizened leg cracked and sagged under its own
weight like a broken arm. The bleating finally penetrated his
stunned senses. He crawled to where one sheep had staggered and
collapsed an arm’s span from him, directly beneath the break in the
branch. The animal was bleeding copiously from ragged wounds, one
along its spine and one in its belly, as if it had been shot
through. The old man watched in anguish as the sheep bled its life




Robert Isaacs tried to ignore the message
from headquarters. He was enjoying himself and did not relish
facing whatever calamity had produced the summons. He kicked his
fins and glided along the surface, peering through the sea-churned
murk at the occasional brightly colored fish. An old tire caught
his eye. He gulped air through the snorkel and plunged the six feet
to the bottom. Grasping the outer rim, he tugged upward. The small
nurse shark, startled from its resting place in the dark hollow of
the tire, dashed for the safety of deeper water.

Isaacs smiled to himself. That’s life, honey,
he thought, somebody just kicked my tire, too. Surfacing, he swam
to shore. After removing his mask and snorkel he balanced
awkwardly, first on one foot, then the other, peeling off his
flippers. He toweled himself dry, slipped into thongs, and crossed
the narrow strip of beach. A spurt of traffic came along US 1,
which separated the beach from Patrick Air Force Base, and he
paused to let the cars pass. Immediately across the road was the
blunt, brick sprawl of the Air Force Technical Assistance Center,
which had been his temporary base of operations. One last time his
eye scanned the long line of obsolete missiles that stood sentry
before the building. He crossed the road and turned left-towards
the clump of visitors’ bungalows, resigned to packing and catching
the next flight back to Washington.


A glorious spring morning greeted him the
next day as he headed out of town towards Virginia. March was
departing the nation’s capital in its finest style, docile, but
vibrant with new life. The break in his normal routine fresh in his
mind, Isaacs tried to capture the pagan urge to rejoice by
foregoing the usual morning radio news and by driving with the
window open to the smell of dew-dampened trees. His hands guided
the wheel of the compact Mercedes 380 SL semi-automatically as he
followed his habitual route. He made the light on Canal Road and
swung left onto Chain Bridge across the rocky narrows of the

The light at the far end of the bridge
stopped him. He glanced back over his shoulder at the distant
spires marking Georgetown University. Fragments of breakfast
conversation rushed back at him. Damned if I want to foot high
tuition to some experimental college to help Isabel find herself,
he thought. I can’t expect a high school junior to be completely
level-headed, but I don’t understand Muriel’s resistance to a high
quality university like Cornell. Hell, it was good enough for

The light changed and he turned up Chain
Bridge Road. The feel of the accelerating car regenerated his sense
of well-being for the moment. Then the tunnel of trees blocked the
free blue sky, and the physical ascent towards his destination drew
his mind on a parallel course. Unable to focus on the quality of
the morning and not wanting to dwell on domestic problems, his
thoughts shifted more frequently to the concerns of his job. By the
time he made the right turn onto the George Washington Parkway, he
was concentrating on his priorities for the day. Top on the list
was the emergency meeting at nine o’clock. Bad news, he mused.
Scheduled that leave months ago, and they’ve got to haul me back.
Whatever it is, the bastard’s going to be an ulcer-buster.

Consciously attempting to quell that
unpleasant turn of mind, he admired the fresh tan on the backs of
his hands as they gripped the steering wheel. As a Major in the Air
Force Reserve he served two weeks’ active duty a year, a welcome
relief from the tension in his position with the Central
Intelligence Agency, Deputy Director of Scientific Intelligence. He
thought back on the past ten days, chuckling to himself, recalling
his postman’s holiday. Intelligence officer at a beachfront Florida
base, he thought, not a bad perk. The experience resonated with
memories of his younger days of patient collection of raw
intelligence data. In this case, however, there had been the lure
of the beach and ocean and leisurely hours snorkeling to break the
tedium. Those pleasant memories buoyed his spirits as he turned off
the parkway towards headquarters. He steered up the off-ramp,
following it ninety degrees to the left as it crossed back over the
parkway. A small jam of cars feeding into the headquarters entryway
from the southbound ramp forced him to brake sharply to a halt. At
the pause, his glance strayed up the green embankments to blooming
stands of redbud and dogwood. The car ahead of him pulled right at
the drive leading to the highway department headquarters. As he
closed the resulting gap, he recognized the Fiat two-seater in
front of him. It belonged to Alice Lavey, who clerked in his
analysis section.

The Fiat accelerated through the gate in the
high chain link fence and past the guardhouse. Isaacs did the same,
receiving a curt nod from the guard on duty who sat scrutinizing
the windshield passes. Isaacs detected a small smile on the guard’s
face, which he presumed to be a remnant of the passage of the Fiat.
Alice had a penchant for low necklines. He steered the car on up
the winding drive and into his personal parking space. He grabbed
his briefcase, checked the doors, locked the driver’s side with his
key, and stepped across the lot as he extracted and attached his
photo ID.

“Good morning, Mr Isaacs, welcome back.”

“Good morning, Ralph. And it’s a nice one,
isn’t it?”

“Sure enough!”

Ralph had been there on duty for fifteen
years and knew virtually everyone in the Agency by sight. Isaacs
idly wondered whether rotating the guard to insure ID’s were more
carefully examined would be better or worse for security. He
crossed the lobby, skirting the great presidential seal embedded in
the floor and proceeded down the corridor. He climbed six flights
of stairs, eschewing the elevator, pleased with the spring in his
step that eluded many at forty-five, his reward for moderate
consumption and frequent handball, not to mention miles of swimming
recently. Continuing along the upper hall, Isaacs glanced at his
watch and noted with satisfaction that he was right on time.

Whatever the subject of the meeting, as in
any gathering of influential people, there was ground to be gained
or lost. Isaacs tried to put the welfare of the Agency first and to
avoid political infighting, but he had a talent for turning a
situation to his advantage and protecting his flank when on the
defensive. As he walked, he mentally sorted through the
personalities who would be involved and the various hotspots that
could be at issue. At 8:59 he stepped through the door of the top
floor meeting room.

“You’re late, Isaacs, take a seat!”

Brother! thought Isaacs, welcome back. He
moved to an empty chair. The icy greeting had come from Kevin
McMasters, the Deputy Director of Central Intelligence. McMasters,
Isaacs’s immediate boss, had been with the Agency over thirty
years. He bridled at Isaacs’s rapid rise in the organization and
even more so at suggestions that Isaacs was a candidate for his
position as DCI.

Isaacs sat and glared at his hands clenched
before him on the table, peripherally aware of the other
principals. Next to McMasters at the head of the table was Howard
Drefke, the Director of Central Intelligence. A recent political
appointee, Drefke leaned heavily on McMasters in questions of
internal affairs and spent most of his time on relations with the
President and the National Security Agency. Across from McMasters,
to Isaacs’s left, was Vincent Martinelli. Martinelli was Deputy
Director for Collection Tasking, responsible for making
intelligence gathering assignments throughout the intelligence
community. To Isaacs’ right was Art Boswank, whose hearty air
belied his clandestine role as Deputy Director for Operations.

A minute passed in silence, which
reverberated with McMasters”s reproach to Isaacs. Then Earle
Deloach, Deputy Director for Research and Development, hustled in
and took the last chair, across from Isaacs, next to McMasters, who
nodded to him in greeting. Isaacs felt Martinelli nudge him and
looked over to see him pull a quintessentially Italian face and
roll his eyes skyward. Isaacs cracked a small smile of camaraderie.
They both knew McMasters would overlook Deloach’s transgressions
even as he invented imaginary ones for Isaacs.

“Gentlemen,” began Drefke, “I must report to
the President. Let’s summarize our situation please.”

Martinelli and Isaacs exchanged another
glance, Martinelli giving an abbreviated nod. Drefke was liberal
with his references to the President, and Martinelli did a
devastating takeoff in which they all came out “mah buddy, the
President.” This time Drefke was referring to his

“Isaacs has been absent for some time,”
interjected McMasters dryly, “perhaps you should fill him in.”

You son-of-a-bitch, thought Isaacs, make it
sound as if I was out chasing floozies on company time.

Drefke looked blankly at McMasters for a
brief moment, his train of thought interrupted, and then turned to
Isaacs. “Of course. The Russians went on Yellow Alert yesterday
afternoon,” he said curtly. “They activated troops, moved fifteen
Backfire bombers to forward holding positions, and uncapped, uh,”
he checked the sheet in his hand, “seven missiles.”

“Lordy,” exclaimed Boswank, “they’ve hauled
us through these dog and pony shows before. I’ve got the same
question I had yesterday. How do we know they’re not just feeling
their oats?”

BOOK: The Krone Experiment
3.64Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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