August 9th, 1985
0240 Local/1240 GMT
18,000 feet over the English Channel
USAF C-130 85-0042 Callsign LIBERTY 22
Daria awoke to an incessant droning that just would not go away, Jeez, what power tool is dad playing with now? She had a horrible dream she had been flying combat against the Russians, not home studying for 10th grade finals. But everything was murky, unclear, and her surroundings had a slight echo to them, like she was in a metallic cavern. Crap, what happened, where am I?
Awareness came swiftly at that point..Ok, it's coming back..I am Captain Daria Renee Morgendorffer, United States Air Force, and I fly F-111s out of Lakenheath with the 49th Tactical Fighter Wing. We are at war with the Warsaw Pact, and I was injured..a head injury to be exact, probably a concussion. At that moment, she felt a flash of fear, she realized she could not move her head, and that there was a wooden board directly below her. Oh crap, how badly was I hurt?
Daria began to do the only thing she could think of. She screamed. She screamed of fear, and pain and all the bottled up emotion that she had wrestled with in the late dark of night when she could not sleep, or when she dreamed about the demons that were sometimes given form over the skies of East Germany.
She heard the clatter of feet over the metaled deck, and muffled voices, as the drone of the engines of the C-130 and the gauze of the cervical collar interfered with her hearing. Her eyes were blurry with tears as a familiar shape resolved itself. Jane, oh thank god, it's you. Please, tell me straight, I'm paralyzed, aren't I?
"Hey Daria,-" Jane said with a cockeyed smile, the exhaustion plain on her face, her hair unkempt from many hours in a flight helmet, and her flightsuit stank of sweat, fear, and not a little bit of unburned jet fuel. "-had us all scared there! Listen, you got lucky, amiga. Could have been a lot worse. No spinal injury, just a good shot to the head. Maybe a moderate concussion, whatever the hell that means. You ought to see your flight helmet, though…damn thing looks like a pile driver hit it." Jane put her hand in Daria's. "I am not going anywhere, amiga. OK? We got lucky, we got real lucky."
Daria whispered "Yes, we did."
Jane smiled "Hey, we're going straight to Middenhall, then ambulance to Lakenheath. Doc at Contrexville said you should be OK with a day's rest once you came around. Hope he is right, but I am guessing Doc Cantrell will want a look at you."
"Jane, I gotta know, you sure about the paralysis, I am gonna be ok?" Daria croaked.
"I am sure Daria, was right there when the doctor checked your x-rays. You'll walk before you know it. Collar is just a precaution in case the spinal cord got bruised, now, is there anything I can get you?" Jane stated.
"Water?" Daria croaked again, this time, more plaintively.
Jane smiled and handed Daria a paper cup with a straw "Ok, short sips, don't take too much or you will choke and we cannot have that Daria. I don't know what I will tell your parents if that happened? M'kay?"
Daria nodded. "So, what's happened since I was out?"
Jane shrugged "Not too much, the C-130 came and got us before dawn. We are getting a flight back with a maintenance crew that got sent out to strip our bird of anything sensitive. Not much left of her by the way. French are going to scrap her, they said. Then, they bundled us aboard and off we went. Last I heard about the war? Russians still pushing forward against heavy resistance. All the newspapers they had were at best, three days old. Le Monde had a good article on an up and coming artist in Paris." Jane smiled.
Daria giggled, then it became a chorus of cries of pain as the laughter caused a headache. Her grimace told Jane all she needed to know.
"Hey, Senior Airman, I need you over here, you told me to let you know when she is in pain?"
Another clatter of feet came over that resolved itself as a painfully young black man in his twenties. His eyes were bigger than the rest of his face, but he had a caring visage, and his touch was strong, but gentle.
The flight medic surveyed his patient with a glance and reached into his medical kit "Hi mam, good to see you awake. That really is a good sign, but I don't think it is a good idea to push this. Um, I can't let you take any oral meds with the C-Spine on. But I am going to inject you with a low dose of Demerol. It should kill the pain, and will let you sleep. You need it, mam. Doc already x-rayed your head and said it was good to go, with the exception of a moderate concussion. We don't wanna push that too much, OK?"
Daria rasped "No swelling?"
The medic shook his head, a trace of Chicago in his voice. "No mam, that French doc was damn good, seems in civilian life, he was a neurosurgeon. You picked the right place to have your head meet the instrument panel, mam. Ok, mam, you are gonna feel a little pinch and you are going to be very drowsy in a minute or two. This stuff works fast."
Daria felt the pinch, and smiled a soporific smile "Amiga?"
"Be there when you wake up, Daria, I promise." Jane nodded.
A warm darkness soon claimed Daria.
August 9th, 1985
0530 Local/0930 GMT
Dover AFB, Delaware
USAF C-141B S/N 65-2281
We aren't even off the damn ground yet and already I am nauseous. Nobody had mentioned to her that since the aircraft was going to be packed to the gills with cargo, that the few passenger seats (mostly very tight lipped folks who looked like they could bench press Quinn with their pinky) were going to be facing backwards.
Who in the hell flies transatlantic backwards? Apparently, the Air Force does. Ok, look at the ceiling, no, wait, bay is spinning, and I am trussed up like a Thanksgiving turkey. God, I really do hope we don't crash.
Quinn decided it might then be best to break out her briefing book that the DoD had thoughtfully provided her on England in general, and Lakenheath in particular. The "Media Combat Survival Course" had been useful, especially the NBC part..Quinn shuddered at the idea of being exposed to nerve gas, the footage from Germany had been horrific. But it had been shown to make a point: Don't forget your mask.
Most of her classmates in the course were going straight to Germany, and more than a few had been in places like Lebanon, Cyprus, and the Falklands. Quinn was worried she might just freeze when the shooting started. Some new Quinn I would be then, huh? Worse yet, Daria would see it, and still think of me as the bimbo who never grew up.
So far, Quinn's trip had been a lot of "hurry up and wait". She had gotten to the base to travel what they called "space available". That had been five hours ago, and she had been bumped from two previous flights. I am beginning to miss the bench in the waiting area, however. This backwards crap is for the birds.
It was then that Quinn felt the aircraft begin to move, as it slowly began to taxi, with the aircraft making a series of turns. Suddenly, the whine of the engines increased in pitch, and the aircraft began to hurtle down the runway. Before too long, the C-141 struggled into the air, and the pitch continued to remain the same, loud and annoying. Now I understand why they handed us the earplugs. Quinn quickly got the earplugs out of their paper case, and popped them into her ears, firmly seating them as she had been instructed by the loadmaster before the flight. His pre-flight safety brief filled me with confidence…oh yeah, as it had been conducted with the usual gallows humor one finds in the military. Most of it basically stated the obvious: If the plane had to put down over water, they were more than likely dead.
Quinn decided to take in the atmosphere of the rapidly climbing aircraft, the smell was something between metallic, and an old sweat sock, and every metal surface was worn and scuffed, but clean. There were no windows, except for two small ones that were part of the emergency doors. The loadmaster had come by earlier, to let them know the flight would be six hours, with a layover in Iceland for refuel, crew rest and a box lunch consisting of an AAFES hot dog, a bag of potato chips, and a can of Coke. They had been most pointedly told NOT to wander around the cabin, as the aircraft might have to make "sudden control movements". Quinn shook her head. Well, it's getting me to the war zone, isn't it?
Well, maybe the loadmaster might doze off, if he does, and eventually, we are going to stop climbing. I can get some pictures and get enough to file a story out of this? Six hours? Ugh.
2 hours later
Sure enough, the C-141 had stopped climbing and the loadmaster had dozed off after checking the cargo a few times. Quinn looked over her restraint system, and it all seemed to link into a metal plate just above her chest, a good sharp press of the button here…and..voila! The button in question released the four belts that fed into the central metal piece and fell away like puppets with no strings.
Quinn gingerly made her way out of her seat. First thing is first, nausea bag. Then, a bathroom, I have been needing to pee for the last two hours. Then I want to take a look out that window.
She gingerly made her way around the aircraft, trying not to wake the now-snoring loadmaster. He'll be out for hours. She spied the sign that said "Lavatory" across the crowded cargo bay, but noticed a path had been left down the middle of the bay to allow people to get to either end of the filled aircraft. Pretty smart of the guys who loaded this thing. Or was that for our benefit?
Quinn quickly entered the lavatory and shut the door behind her, it was Spartan, with a metal sink barely 2 feet square and a chemical toilet that did little to mask the smell of urea. I gotta go so damn bad, does it really matter how nasty this bathroom is, Look at it this way, CBGB on a Friday night was worse, by far.
After Quinn had done her business (and had used an epic amount of toilet paper to cover the seat), she made her way towards the window on the left hand side of the aircraft. The view was spectacular, and also a bit ominous. There were transport aircraft as far as she could see. And they were flying really, really close together. Her own aircraft had a wingtip within 500 feet of a 747 painted in Pan Am colors.
Why the hell is everyone flying so damn close together?
It was then that Quinn felt the thump of a hand on her shoulder. Shit
She was turned around and grabbed by the shoulders. Sure enough, it was one of her fellow passengers, he was an AF Major in a flight suit, or so Quinn had been told. Why he wasn't flying a plane of his own over, Quinn had no idea. Would make a good question to ask.
The Major was trim, but muscular, with ebon skin and slightly receding hair. He was dressed in a worn, but well-maintained green AF flightsuit. But the most interesting thing on his flightsuit was the Strategic Air Command patch on the left breast. His leather name tag on his right breast had a pair of wings, with the following legend below, "MAJ RICE". His voice was deep baritone, but he had to should just to make himself heard over the din of the aircraft "So, you must be the reporter? Didn't you listen to the damn safety brief? Seriously, if we have to make a break turn in this thing, you'd be strawberry jam all over the opposite cabin wall? What the hell is wrong with you?"
"I was getting sick, and I had to take a powder, and I am a reporter, thought I would take a look. Why the hell are we so close together?"
Rice's face softened, "Ok, Ms. Baltimore Sun, I will tell you, but this is off the record. It's so the Russians can't get an accurate count of just how many given planes we are sending over at any one time. They've been having MiGs make dashes into the airbridge over England and France to try to shoot planes down, and they do get lucky from time to time."
"Yeah, we may die within sight of England, to think, an AFEES box lunch might be our last meal?" the Major Rice shrugged.
"So, why no plane? You are in the Air Force, why aren't you in your own plane?" Quinn asked.
Rice grimaced, "I'm SAC, navigator on a B-52, or I was. I had to punch out of a B-52 that lost power on takeoff four months ago, screwed up my back. So, now I am on the planning staff at Omaha. Right now, well, all I can say is I am delivering some messages to some people that are too important to let the Russians hear."
Who am I on this plane with? "Sheesh, who are those other four guys? CIA?"
Rice broke into a winning smile "I could tell you, but then, Ms. Baltimore Sun, I would have to kill you, and you are much too pretty for me to have to do that, unless, of course, you're a Russian spy?"
Quinn giggled "Nope, not a Russian spy. Don't even know the language."
"I do, helps to know your enemy." Rice mused.
"Why the hell did this start? I mean, it can't have been just over Yugoslavia?" Quinn queried.
Rice hesitated, a lifetime of reticence around members of the press was hard to overcome, but he was too polite not to try to answer the lady's question. "Simple reason? Two big dogs finally decided the neighborhood wasn't big enough for the both of them. Guess it was bound to happen."
"Seriously, that simple? We were doomed to do this?" Quinn stated, incredulous.
Rice simply nodded.
"Shit..well, listen, hate to change the subject, what with the fabulous conversation we are already having, but where can a girl get a barf bag on this plane?"
Rice had a good chuckle "New to flying backwards? Yeah, one of the joys of flying on Uncle Sam's dime. I will have a word with the loadmaster and have him hunt one down for you, but let's get you back to your seat. Ok?"
Quinn nodded, what else could she do?
August 9th, 1985
1135 Local/0935 GMT
Office of the CIA Station Chief
US Embassy to West Germany
Bonn, West Germany
Amy Barksdale was bored out of her mind. Since she had been, along with most of the USBER staff, evacuated from West Berlin on the 3rd, she had had little to do but help out some of the more black propaganda efforts over at Radio Free Europe. Who knew I had a voice that was similar to a prominent East German State Radio news anchor?
But it was not what Amy had joined the "Company" to do. Her country was at war, and she was sidelined! Even Harrison had been sent on to another assignment, last she had heard, he was playing games with the KGB in Geneva. Am I finally to old to go into the field? Is that what everyone is afraid to tell me?
Amy paced the borrowed office, which had been converted from one of the larger closets at the Embassy, and pored over the latest reports coming out of Eastern Europe. The SAD and Special Forces folks were trying to whip up a resistance movement in the East, to varying success, with the best results occurring in Poland and Czechoslovakia, but the Stasi had rolled up most of the networks that the CIA had spent 40 some odd years establishing. Most of it had been wiped out within the first 72 hours of the war. God can only imagine what the Stasi will do to the folks they take alive. Amy let out an involuntary shudder at that last thought.
A cry however, pierced the din of the overcrowded Agency section of the Embassy, "Barksdale, you're needed in the Tank."
Amy's head perked up, the "Tank" was a room that had been built to be a secure as possible from any form of eavesdropping. It had special sound-absorbing foam in the walls, there was white noise generators built in, it had no windows…and the door was lined with RF defeating metal. In short, short of getting someone in to the "Tank", it would be difficult to tell what was going on in there. And only the most sensitive business went on in the "Tank". Every US Embassy had a version of this room.
Amy grabbed her coat, as the Tank was kept cold to keep the electronics running, and she always found it unpleasant to sit there for long periods of time without something to keep her warm. She bounded down the stairs, took the second right and flashed her badge to the Marine guard in front of the outside door to the Tank, she then was stopped again at the interior door, where another Marine searched her, politely, but thoroughly, finding nothing forbidden, he gave the thumbs up and held the door open for her. Even with the gravity of the situation, she found herself unable to stop smiling. Dammit, I am going back out! I get to cross swords with the KGB again!
She noticed there was only three people in the room, First, an unfamiliar gentleman, who was thin, and might have been muscular, but age was withering his carriage. He exuded a very strict bearing, probably ex military. Amy's mind reported. He was wearing a Saville Row suit, navy blue, with an ascot instead of a tie. British, has to be MI-6. Has that public school thing all over him. Lovely…now I get to hear how we suck at being spies from the damn Limeys. The other person in the room was also unfamiliar, he was wearing a Marine Service Uniform, with both USMC Combat Diver and Navy Jump Wings very prominent on the wearer's chest. Oh dear god, Marine Force Recon. Well, they are at least subtle compared to the Rangers. The final person in the room was Greg Hanson, her station chief, he was a portly man who was in Amy's opinion, way too genial for this business. But he's been crossing swords with the KGB for 20 plus years, so he must be doing something right.
Greg motioned Amy to sit in the empty chair that had been set up before a hastily setup folding screen that was in front of a overhead projector.
The suited gentleman walked over to Amy, stopping just steps away from her. "Ms. Barksdale, you come highly recommended from your superiors at Langley. I do hope you don't work out like the last two highly recommended individuals your Agency sent. It would be a tragedy." His accent was British, very public school, clipped, severe, with every word perfectly pronounced and annunciated. And said in a tone as cold as a blade to the heart.
After a short pause where the gentleman took a short sip from a glass of water. "So, let's get on with it. You are wondering what this is all about-" he then walked over with a deft motion to the projector and turned it on. "There is a friend of ours, he is stuck in Poland, and we need him to get out of Poland. We are a little busy, so we figured, why not ask our cousins?"
"Who is he?" Amy asked.
The gentleman smiled, "You might know him." as he slid the manila folder covering the overheads off of the plate on the projector. The picture was not the best, but the image was unmistakable. Amy's jaw dropped.
It was Lech Walesa.