The Whispering Gallery

by Luca

Chapter 1

Sarah Turin was no different from the majority of Cambridge graduates, a pretty enough girl with a homely southern counties image, an educated but in many ways naive young woman, brought up in a conservative and somewhat cloistered environment. The second daughter of a professional couple for whom there was never any real doubt she would follow in her older sibling's shoes. Cambridge was the first step to a career as a professional in her chosen speciality. The fact her speciality was nuclear physics was perhaps not quite what her parents had in mind, but nevertheless, they fully supported their daughter, were very proud of her first class honours degree.

The whole family were there amidst all those other proud family groups of parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, brothers and sisters, for the presentation. Sarah strolled, smiling back in the direction of her parents and sister, as she mounted the stage to receive her diploma. Black mortarboard on her head, the tassle swayed, her gown blown by the light breeze.

It was after the ceremony, when she was called out by a stranger, where this encounter would change her life and start an interweaving series of events leading to what became known as the quantum shift.

The sun was shinning across the campus quadrangle. Tiny white fluffy clouds moved gracefully across an otherwise blue sky. The slight breeze barely moved the leaves on the trees only occasional little gusts announcing its presence on an otherwise almost perfect summer's day. At the opposite end of the quadrangle, separated by the impeccably manicured lawn, stood a handsome figure in a naval uniform. Unusual in appearance, he immediately provoked Sarah's attention.

As she stepped closer, meaning to pass by and find he way into the building to retrieve her belongings, she glanced at the man and smiled.

"Miss Turin?"

The uniformed figure addressed her, stopping her progress. She turned to face him, a slightly puzzled and at the same time a curious look on her face.

"I would like to speak with you, if I may?"

The uniformed officer glanced around. They were alone, only the twittering of the birds and noise off in the distance disturbed their solitude.

"I'm about to pick up my things and leave," she told him. "My parents are waiting."

"Yes, I know."

His statement surprised her a little.

"We have something in common," he continued unperturbed. "Mixed parents. My father is American, my mother English."

"And?" She asked.

He smiled. "I am here to ask you to work for us."

"Us?" She studied him, the uniform, his features. The man was not unattractive, probably they were around the same age. He could only be a messenger, she told herself. Not old enough to be very important. Like her, he was just starting out in his career.

"The United States," he replied. "Actually, a combined initiative, Anglo-American, both our governments are working together on this." He smiled and tiny crows eyes appeared either side of his face, catching the sunlight. "Please don't say, perhaps," he laughed.

Which was contagious. She found herself grinning. Was this man flirting with her?

"Alright then," she said finally. "What project does the American, and British, government want to recruit me for?"

"If you will call me," he produced a card from his jacket pocket and proffered it.

She hesitated a moment, before reaching for it.

"During the summer break. We will explain everything and visit somewhere which I am sure you will find very interesting."

She took the card and glanced at the name, his name, Hamilton Gode.

It was odd that a nuclear physicist should have affliatiations with CND, but the connection was her parents and Sarah had been roped into their activities once, when on holiday from university whilst studying for her masters. In actual fact all that was years ago and something she had almost forgotten about.

Hamilton had said, shortly after they first met in the summer of '53, that it was rather ironic the way her father held almost opposing beliefs in equal measure. Indeed it was, in both senses. Her father was a paradoxical English professor who absolutely believed in scientific progress, but at the same time gave equal sway to the balance which he vehemently supported, nuclear disarmament. A mathematician himself, Edward Turin knew Bertrand Russell and it was through that connection he found himself at the first meeting of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, CND. That was held in Westmister Methodist Hall on the 17th of February 1958.

Three years earlier Edward Turin had proudly walked his youngest daughter down the isle of that same church when he gave her away to the very handsome American, Lieutenant Hamilton Gode. Of course, he knew nothing about how they met, or more importantly, the recruitment of his daughter into the service of the United States. He did know however, that his daughter was expecting and whilst not regarding himself as a prude, but rather a progressive person, still a child out of wedlock was not a situation he would have welcomed.

As things happened, it all worked out, they were married, and in 1955, Zachary was born. As idyllic as everything at first seemed, that wasn't to last very long.

The Whispering Gallery

The tiny apartment was hardly kept warm by the archaic communal heating system. The little hot or rather luke warm water that gurgled through the old iron pipework barely kept the frozen landscape outside at bay. That was life in the Soviet Union, a dream turned sour. Wrapped in a woolen jumper, scarf around her neck and thick overcoat over her shoulders, Sarah listened quietly to the radio. It was turned to the West, not something which any good communist should be occupied with, but the crisis had finally arrived.

From time to time her figures touched the knob trying to juggle with the reception so as to hear the broadcast.

"Good evening my fellow citizens:

This Government, as promised, has maintained the closest surveillance of the Soviet Military buildup on the island of Cuba. Within the past week, unmistakable evidence has established the fact that a series of offensive missile sites is now in preparation on that imprisoned island. The purpose of these bases can be none other than to provide a nuclear strike capability against the Western Hemisphere.

Upon receiving the first preliminary hard information of this nature last Tuesday morning at 9 a.m., I directed that our surveillance be stepped up. And having now confirmed and completed our evaluation of the evidence and our decision on a course of action, this Government feels obliged to report this new crisis to you in fullest detail.

The characteristics of these new missile sites indicate two distinct types of installations. Several of them include medium range ballistic missiles capable of carrying a nuclear warhead for a distance of more than 1,000 nautical miles. Each of these missiles, in short, is capable of striking Washington, D.C., the Panama Canal, Cape Canaveral, Mexico City, or any other city in the southeastern part of the United States, in Central America, or in the Caribbean area.

Additional sites not yet completed appear to be designed for intermediate range ballistic missiles--capable of traveling more than twice as far--and thus capable of striking most of the major cities in the Western Hemisphere, ranging as far north as Hudson Bay, Canada, and as far south as Lima, Peru. In addition, jet bombers, capable of carrying nuclear weapons, are now being uncrated and assembled in Cuba, while the necessary air bases are being prepared.

This urgent transformation of Cuba into an important strategic base--by the presence of these large, long range, and clearly offensive weapons of sudden mass destruction--constitutes an explicit threat to the peace and security of all the Americas, in flagrant and deliberate defiance of the Rio Pact of 1947, the traditions of this Nation and hemisphere, the joint resolution of the 87th Congress, the Charter of the United Nations, and my own public warnings to the Soviets on September 4 and 13. This action also contradicts the repeated assurances of Soviet spokesmen, both publicly and privately delivered, that the arms buildup in Cuba would retain its original defensive character, and that the Soviet Union had no need or desire to station strategic missiles on the territory of any other nation.

The size of this undertaking makes clear that it has been planned for some months. Yet only last month, after I had made clear the distinction between any introduction of ground-to-ground missiles and the existence of defensive antiaircraft missiles, the Soviet Government publicly stated on September 11, and I quote, "the armaments and military equipment sent to Cuba are designed exclusively for defensive purposes," that, and I quote the Soviet Government, "there is no need for the Soviet Government to shift its weapons . . . for a retaliatory blow to any other country, for instance Cuba," and that, and I quote their government, "the Soviet Union has so powerful rockets to carry these nuclear warheads that there is no need to search for sites for them beyond the boundaries of the Soviet Union." That statement was false.

Only last Thursday, as evidence of this rapid offensive buildup was already in my hand, Soviet Foreign Minister Gromyko told me in my office that he was instructed to make it clear once again, as he said his government had already done, that Soviet assistance to Cuba, and I quote, "pursued solely the purpose of contributing to the the defense capabilities of Cuba," that, and I quote him, "training by Soviet specialists of Cuban nationals in handling defensive armaments was by no means offensive, and if it were otherwise," Mr. Gromyko went on, "the Soviet Government would never become involved in rendering such assistance." That statement also was false.

Neither the United States of America nor the world community of nations can tolerate deliberate deception and offensive threats on the part of any nation, large or small. We no longer live in a world where only the actual firing of weapons represents a sufficient challenge to a nation's security to constitute maximum peril. Nuclear weapons are so destructive and ballistic missiles are so swift, that any substantially increased possibility of their use or any sudden change in their deployment may well be regarded as a definite threat to peace.

For many years both the Soviet Union and the United States, recognizing this fact, have deployed strategic nuclear weapons with great care, never upsetting the precarious status quo which ensured that these weapons would not be used in the absence of some vital challenge. Our own strategic missiles have never been transferred to the territory of any other nation under a cloak of secrecy and deception; and our history--unlike that of the Soviets since the end of World War II--demonstrates that we have no desire to dominate or conquer any other nation or impose our system upon its people. Nevertheless, American citizens have become adjusted to living daily on the Bull's-eye of Soviet missiles located inside the U.S.S.R. or in submarines.

In that sense, missiles in Cuba add to an already clear and present danger--although it should be noted the nations of Latin America have never previously been subjected to a potential nuclear threat.

But this secret, swift, and extraordinary buildup of Communist missiles--in an area well known to have a special and historical relationship to the United States and the nations of the Western Hemisphere, in violation of Soviet assurances, and in defiance of American and hemispheric policy--this sudden, clandestine decision to station strategic weapons for the first time outside of Soviet soil--is a deliberately provocative and unjustified change in the status quo which cannot be accepted by this country, if our courage and our commitments are ever to be trusted again by either friend or foe.

The 1930's taught us a clear lesson: aggressive conduct, if allowed to go unchecked and unchallenged ultimately leads to war. This nation is opposed to war. We are also true to our word. Our unswerving objective, therefore, must be to prevent the use of these missiles against this or any other country, and to secure their withdrawal or elimination from the Western Hemisphere.

Our policy has been one of patience and restraint, as befits a peaceful and powerful nation, which leads a worldwide alliance. We have been determined not to be diverted from our central concerns by mere irritants and fanatics. But now further action is required--and it is under way; and these actions may only be the beginning. We will not prematurely or unnecessarily risk the costs of worldwide nuclear war in which even the fruits of victory would be ashes in our mouth--but neither will we shrink from that risk at any time it must be faced.

Acting, therefore, in the defense of our own security and of the entire Western Hemisphere, and under the authority entrusted to me by the Constitution as endorsed by the resolution of the Congress, I have directed that the following initial steps be taken immediately:

First: To halt this offensive buildup, a strict quarantine on all offensive military equipment under shipment to Cuba is being initiated. All ships of any kind bound for Cuba from whatever nation or port will, if found to contain cargoes of offensive weapons, be turned back. This quarantine will be extended, if needed, to other types of cargo and carriers. We are not at this time, however, denying the necessities of life as the Soviets attempted to do in their Berlin blockade of 1948.

Second: I have directed the continued and increased close surveillance of Cuba and its military buildup. The foreign ministers of the OAS, in their communique of October 6, rejected secrecy in such matters in this hemisphere. Should these offensive military preparations continue, thus increasing the threat to the hemisphere, further action will be justified. I have directed the Armed Forces to prepare for any eventualities; and I trust that in the interest of both the Cuban people and the Soviet technicians at the sites, the hazards to all concerned in continuing this threat will be recognized.

Third: It shall be the policy of this Nation to regard any nuclear missile launched from Cuba against any nation in the Western Hemisphere as an attack by the Soviet Union on the United States, requiring a full retaliatory response upon the Soviet Union.

Fourth: As a necessary military precaution, I have reinforced our base at Guantanamo, evacuated today the dependents of our personnel there, and ordered additional military units to be on a standby alert basis.

Fifth: We are calling tonight for an immediate meeting of the Organ of Consultation under the Organization of American States, to consider this threat to hemispheric security and to invoke articles 6 and 8 of the Rio Treaty in support of all necessary action. The United Nations Charter allows for regional security arrangements--and the nations of this hemisphere decided long ago against the military presence of outside powers. Our other allies around the world have also been alerted.

Sixth: Under the Charter of the United Nations, we are asking tonight that an emergency meeting of the Security Council be convoked without delay to take action against this latest Soviet threat to world peace. Our resolution will call for the prompt dismantling and withdrawal of all offensive weapons in Cuba, under the supervision of U.N. observers, before the quarantine can be lifted.

Seventh and finally: I call upon Chairman Khrushchev to halt and eliminate this clandestine, reckless and provocative threat to world peace and to stable relations between our two nations. I call upon him further to abandon this course of world domination, and to join in an historic effort to end the perilous arms race and to transform the history of man. He has an opportunity now to move the world back from the abyss of destruction--by returning to his government's own words that it had no need to station missiles outside its own territory, and withdrawing these weapons from Cuba--by refraining from any action which will widen or deepen the present crisis--and then by participating in a search for peaceful and permanent solutions.

This Nation is prepared to present its case against the Soviet threat to peace, and our own proposals for a peaceful world, at any time and in any forum--in the OAS, in the United Nations, or in any other meeting that could be useful--without limiting our freedom of action. We have in the past made strenuous efforts to limit the spread of nuclear weapons. We have proposed the elimination of all arms and military bases in a fair and effective disarmament treaty. We are prepared to discuss new proposals for the removal of tensions on both sides--including the possibility of a genuinely independent Cuba, free to determine its own destiny. We have no wish to war with the Soviet Union--for we are a peaceful people who desire to live in peace with all other peoples.

But it is difficult to settle or even discuss these problems in an atmosphere of intimidation. That is why this latest Soviet threat--or any other threat which is made either independently or in response to our actions this week--must and will be met with determination. Any hostile move anywhere in the world against the safety and freedom of peoples to whom we are committed--including in particular the brave people of West Berlin--will be met by whatever action is needed.

Finally, I want to say a few words to the captive people of Cuba, to whom this speech is being directly carried by special radio facilities. I speak to you as a friend, as one who knows of your deep attachment to your fatherland, as one who shares your aspirations for liberty and justice for all. And I have watched and the American people have watched with deep sorrow how your nationalist revolution was betrayed-- and how your fatherland fell under foreign domination. Now your leaders are no longer Cuban leaders inspired by Cuban ideals. They are puppets and agents of an international conspiracy which has turned Cuba against your friends and neighbors in the Americas--and turned it into the first Latin American country to become a target for nuclear war--the first Latin American country to have these weapons on its soil.

These new weapons are not in your interest. They contribute nothing to your peace and well-being. They can only undermine it. But this country has no wish to cause you to suffer or to impose any system upon you. We know that your lives and land are being used as pawns by those who deny your freedom.

Many times in the past, the Cuban people have risen to throw out tyrants who destroyed their liberty. And I have no doubt that most Cubans today look forward to the time when they will be truly free--free from foreign domination, free to choose their own leaders, free to select their own system, free to own their own land, free to speak and write and worship without fear or degradation. And then shall Cuba be welcomed back to the society of free nations and to the associations of this hemisphere.

My fellow citizens: let no one doubt that this is a difficult and dangerous effort on which we have set out. No one can see precisely what course it will take or what costs or casualties will be incurred. Many months of sacrifice and self-discipline lie ahead--months in which our patience and our will will be tested--months in which many threats and denunciations will keep us aware of our dangers. But the greatest danger of all would be to do nothing.

The path we have chosen for the present is full of hazards, as all paths are--but it is the one most consistent with our character and courage as a nation and our commitments around the world. The cost of freedom is always high--and Americans have always paid it. And one path we shall never choose, and that is the path of surrender or submission.

Our goal is not the victory of might, but the vindication of right- -not peace at the expense of freedom, but both peace and freedom, here in this hemisphere, and, we hope, around the world. God willing, that goal will be achieved.

Thank you and good night."

Five months earlier.

Even the summers in this city were not warm, only on the rare days when the sky was clear and you could feel the sun's rays. Those days were a mixed blessing, because it forewarned the clear night would see the temperature shoot. Ozersk was codenamed City 40, the birthplace of the Soviet nuclear weapons programme.

"I knew your father," Kazimir told her. "A very literary man. He impressed me with his knowledge of Russian history."

She smiled.

"Indeed, but you do know we are rapidly approaching confrontation?"

Sarah frowned and nodded.

"We all have to make choices. You, for example, have you made your choice?"

"Isn't that self-evident?" She looked directly at the man standing in front of her.

Kazimir Stronsky was about the same age as her father. For a split second she wondered if he doubted her commitment. She thought of her father, at home, in England, he would never go so far as to sell out his country.

He didn't reply, the man gave nothing away. His reaction reflected that of the entire Soviet hierarchy where a kind of silence reigned and you could never be certain if you were believed or not. What was she doing here? She had posed the question before and it now frequently crossed her mind, but one small step and she would have her answer. If Kazimir Stronsky was convinced, she would have access.

"It's a desolute place here," she changed the subject.

"Those in paradise were given a choice," he looked at her. "Hapiness without freedom, or freedom without happiness. There was no third alternative," he replied.

"Yevgeny Zamyatin," she smiled again.

"You have the same fondness for Russian literature as your father." He took a step back, then produced a card from his pocket. "Your access card." He handed it to her, turned and walked away.

She watched him leave before moving in the opposite direction towards her tiny and cold apartment. We all have to make sacrifices, she thought to herself, but she was not thinking about the tiny apartment, rather about her son whom she had left behind in England with his father.

Deep in the vast forests of Russia's Ural mountains, Ozersk was guarded by gates and barbed wire fences, a hypnotic place which seemed to exist in a different dimension. One hundred thousand people lived and worked here, surrounded by beautiful lakes and tree-lined streets, it resembled some suburban American town of the fifties. Yet such a perfect appearance was superficial, like those too perfect places depicted in The Twilight Zone, this place appeared on no maps and its citizens identities were erased from the Soviet census.

Mothers pushed well covered babies in prams as children played in the streets in the summer sunshine. The dark secret which everyone who lived there knew, but no one talked about, was hidden in the silence. The water was contaminated, the vegetables and fruit grown on the allotments, poisoned. The whole place and surrounding area was one of the most contaminated places on earth. Still, this didn't matter, not to the Soviet authorities and not to Sarah. Both sides had a mission to fulfil.

The Whispering Gallery

The access card allowed entry through the main gate of Batiment 4, the vast hanger that gave nothing away by its dull grey exterior, and not much by the inside corridors and rooms which were for the most part deserted. But she knew where to go and she had the entry code. This was here mission. Sarah walked quickly through the building. Even if it was an empty space she did not want to risk a chance encounter which would lead to questions and scupper the whole plan.

Finding the door she was looking for, she reached towards the key pad and hit the buttons. The light blinked green and the door opened. Stepping inside she was in a small space, a space not much bigger than a cupboard, albeit a rectangular rather deep cupboard. Seconds later she had to catch her breath as the cupboard descended at speed into the depths, slowing near the end of its descent and finally stopping. Lights came on as she stepped out.

The large room was like nothing you would expect, at least nothing she expected to see. It was more laboratory than anything to do with nuclear processing or storage, although it could have been a research facility. Hamilton had briefed her, she knew what they needed, and she wasted no time in seeking it out.

In one corner, highlighted by a blue ultraviolet lamp was a square, one step up off the floor. She walked over to it. There seemed to be nothing other than a simple illuminated dias. On the desk at one side was something which appeared like it might be interesting. She sat down at the desk and flicked the switch beneath the screen that brought the thing to life. Quickly she read the menu. This seemed very odd, almost out of place, she thought.

The date, she reminded herself. Is there a date?

This had to be the accelerator Hamilton had described to her and they needed the date. They also needed the coordinates. After all, they couldn't search the entire planet even if they knew what year to go to. And if they knew what year and where, they also needed the temporal space. If this was not exactly a journey into the past or future, it was a sideways slip. Hamilton had said that everything depended on knowing the coordinates.

"Where, where!" She kept saying to herself as she skimmed quickly through the various menu screens. She had no time to study anything. She needed to find the information and get out. They, the military that ran this place, would soon know their systems were being accessed. She started feeling very nervous and oppressed, the clock was ticking.

"There it was!" she exclaimed. "It had to be that." Now she took a few minutes to decipher the Russian. Brief notes described Paris, but not any Paris she knew about from history, a Paris in the process of a massive destruction, like a war zone. At least that's what the notes seemed to indicate. Hamilton had said the key was Paris, and they needed to have the plan, to know how it happened, when it happened.

For a scientist like herself it was hard to credit what her husband was telling her was believable. But, he was a person she trusted. Otherwise she would never have been here. All her thoughts were interrupted when she realised how much time was pressing. Quickly she copied the code, 64 letters, symbols and digits. She checked it was correct, flicked off the screen and made her way out.

The car ride was probably the most tense journey of her life. She had memorised the code, it took some time, a lot of repetition, but now it was in her head. They'd left the city as planned. Her contact, the driver, was waiting with the car and exit documents. In a way it seemed too easy. They passed through the gates with nothing more than a superficial look at their documents.

Twenty minutes later they pulled up outside the station at Kyshtym. The ground was covered in a thick white blanket of snow. A path had been cleared, leading to the entrance, large arched doors. Her feet crunched the snow which had almost recovered the path. She looked up at the clock above the ticket office inside the large hall. The hands indicated almost 8AM.

The intercom announced: "The train arriving platform one is for Yekaterinburg, Yekaterinburg," the female voice repeated with a metallic sound.

She moved through onto the platform and waited. She almost expected to hear footsteps approaching and feel a hand on her shoulder, but there was only one other person on the platform. A sort of relief swept over her as she heard the whistle and felt the jolt as the train pulled away.

Yekaterinburg station was a large red bricked building, but the same style with a central tall arched entrance. She crossed the large empty forecourt and found a nearby cafe. The place was not busy with only a few tables occupied. She set her small suitcase down and pulled out a chair at a table by the window. From here she could see the street outside and the entrance.

It would be a long wait in Yekaterinburg, the train for Moscow was overnight. Sarah looked at her watch as the waiter served her coffee. It was eleven o' five, she had all day, her train was at 17:15. She would have preferred to be further away, not being able to irradicate the thought of being pursued. The further the distance between her and Ozersk, better the chance of escaping to freedom.

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