11.35 G.M.T.

Moscow: 2.35 p.m., Washington: 6.35 a.m.

THE GRIM roll call was over. The bodies of Goldsmith, Minter, and Mellows, had been laid on the floor of the cabin near the rear bulkhead. Each of the surviving crew members had thought for a few brief seconds about the dead men, then got back to work and the difficult job of getting the bomber to the position where it could avenge their deaths and the deaths of millions more back home.

Maybe the dead were lucky, Brown thought. At least they did not have to carry the shapeless weight of pain whose torturing fingers were pressing ever heavier on his back. They did not have to carry the responsibility of taking a crippled bomber in to its bomb point, and muster the determination to get there, which alone would enable the heavy odds against success to be beaten.

Determination. That was what counted now. If he could concentrate hard enough, long enough, he would get Alabama Angel to the target. Maybe, if he concentrated sufficiently hard, his mind would conquer the rolling waves of pain which urged him ceaselessly to seek the easy refuge of a morphia ampoule from the first aid pack. He gazed ahead at the white blur of snow a few hundred feet below, following the slight rises and falls of the ground, knowing his radio altimeter would flash a brilliant red if he went below the four hundred feet altitude he had set on it.

Survival depended on staying low now. At this height the bomber could not be tracked by radar, or so the intelligence reports insisted. Well, they'd been right about most things. They couldn't be blamed for the missile ship marooned out
there in the ice of the Barents Sea. If radar couldn't track the bomber, it couldn't control fighters in to intercept and
attack. And missiles fired from the ground would be completely ineffective with the bomber at this height.

There were three things might stop the bomber penetrating to the target, he thought. A fighter which picked them up haphazardly, without benefit of radar control. Fast firing light weapons sited to defend targets against low level attack. And, ever present, the danger he might not see an obstacle in time, or that the radio altimeter would suddenly fail to function.

Weapons sited to defend against low level attack he dismissed easily. Kotlass was out of range of the fighter bombers on the N.A.T.O. airfields. A long range bomber like the 52 would never come in at low level. Alabama Angel was coming in low level, but that was one of those things. It was quite unintentional and you couldn't plan for the unintentional as well as the intentional tactics in war.

Fighters operating independently of radar control were a slightly bigger threat. They would have scrambled every available all weather fighter on freelance patrols. It was quite possible one or more of those fighters would pick the bomber up. But Brown remembered how a friend of his, who was the pilot of an all-weather F.104, had described the task of intercepting a fast moving bomber only a few hundred feet above the ground at night. "Ape sweat," the friend said flatly. There were too many factors against the fighter. Bad visibility, poor radar response, danger from the bomber's jet wash, were just a few of them. Brown's friend had put the chances of successful interception under those conditions at about one in twenty.

The glaring red light of his radio altimeter blazed in the darkness of the cabin. Brown pulled back on the stick, instantly realising he had been deceived by a gentle upward slope of the ground. The red light disappeared, and he eased forward again before the green winked on. He had set the altimeter so it showed red below four hundred, green above five. In the hundred feet between those heights lay safety for Alabama Angel. But the danger of flying into the ground, or an obstacle in the path of the bomber, remained the greatest of the threats. His concentration had to be absolute. He said, "How many miles to the target, Stan? And how many minutes?"

"I'll let you know shortly," Andersen said. "Engelbach, keep looking for a big river ahead of us. We should cross it around three minutes from now. Ninety degrees to our track."

"Would that be the Peza?

"Yeah," Andersen aid. "It would. You stupid bastard, he thought, what the hell else would it be? The Dnieper? He checked himself, pulling back the momentary anger that had blazed in him. Engelbach was like that. But he was thorough, and he didn't make mistakes. "Try and give me an accurate pinpoint when we cross," he went on. His voice was quiet and friendly.

"Sure, Stan," Engelbach said. "I'll get you a pinpoint."

"Captain?" It was Garcia's voice.

Brown wriggled in his seat, trying to ease the sticky wetness he could feel between himself and the fabric. The movement sent a fresh spasm of pain through him. He shuddered, said tightly, "Garcia?"

"Captain, I have to know about the bombs. What height you going to bomb?"

"Twenty thousand."

"O.K., so I'll have to alter the fusing. Otherwise, we drop it and the safety plugs come out, it'll go off right away."

"Yes." Brown worked on the problem for a moment. What Garcia said made sense. As the bombs dropped away from the plane the last safety devices were made inoperative. If a bomb was fused to blast at twenty thousand feet it would do so, regardless of the bomber a few feet above it. Maybe a delay would do the trick. He said: "If you fuse for ground level, what's the maximum delay?"

"Forty seconds."

Brown calculated quickly. It should be enough. If he turned away right after the bomb was released he should be at least ten miles away when it exploded. The blast wouldn't destroy as great a ground area as a fused air burst, but it would do the job, He said, "All right; Garcia. Fuse number one for ground level. Put in full delay. I don't figure we'll be able to make the secondary. Remove the trigger primer from number two and check it's safe. We'll jettison it when we cross out again."

"Will do," Garcia said. "I'll report when I've finished, Captain."

"O.K., Garcia. How's the leg?"

"I'll live," Garcia said lightly. He moved over to begin the delicate process of re-fusing one bomb, unarming the other. His leg wasn't hurting too badly. He had shot it full of novocain from a first aid pack. Maybe it was against the rules, but the rules had never bothered him. Not like Minter's sightless gaze did now. He leaned over and gently pulled the eyelids down over the dead eyes. Then he went to work.

Brown said, "Bill, take a look at Mellows' set. Maybe it's still working. I'd like to get an attack message off when the time comes."

"O.K., Captain." Lieutenant Owens pushed his way past Federov to Meadows' position.

"River coming up," Engelbach said sharply. "Crossing, crossing, now."

Andersen glanced at the chronometer, quickly noted the time on his log. Now, if Engelbach had got an accurate pin point, he could navigate.

Engelbach said, "Stan, I'm near enough sure we cross at square H, one five four, two zero five. On the target approach chart."

"Fine," Andersen slid an approach transparency over his chart, plotted in Engelbach's figures. "It looks about right, he said slowly. "Not far off track. Next thing to look for is a town just to starboard, in about six minutes. Ivanovsk. That's the name, no kidding. Small town, about the size of" Andersen hesitated. He had been about to say Dothan, Alabama. He went on quickly, "Well, a small town. Then a minute after that you should see where the Vashka river joins the Mezen. I'd like another pinpoint as we cross the Mezen."

"I'll get it," Engelbach said confidently. His radar wasn't much use at this height. But he hadn't forgotten the map reading principles he'd learned. Even at this speed, when he knew what to look for and at what time, he could usually pick it out. He marked the time he should expect the pinpoint on his map, and stared out ahead at the white countryside.

Brown had heard the exchanges between Andersen and Engelbach only faintly. He was aware that more and more, when he was not himself receiving information or giving orders, he was concentrating on the flying of the bomber to the exclusion of all else. Maybe, he thought, it was an automatic process. His body knew it had not the strength to participate in everything. It saved itself for the important times. Someone was calling him through the intercom. He forced himself to listen, and to accept the message. It was Garcia, telling him number one bomb had been re-fused, number two made safe.

Then there was Andersen's voice but the navigator's message missed him. He said weakly, "Again, Stan."

Andersen' detected the weakness and pain in Brown's voice. He said, "Clint, listen to me. Clint, you hear me?"

"Sure." Brown summoned up reserves of strength, fighting desperately against the blackness which was slowly engulfing him. Suddenly it receded. He felt new strength flood into his tired agonised body. The pain eased a little.

"Clint you O.K.?" Andersen's voice was high pitched, anxious.

"I'm O.K. What's the word?"

"Alter course three degrees port. Estimate twelve zero nine at target. We've got a high tail wind down here. You got that, Clint? Set it on your count-down. Twenty-six minutes to run to target."

"Roger. Altering course now." Brown went through the motions mechanically. He altered course, set the count-down time, found a few seconds to ponder just what performance they'd built into this plane. Admittedly the six remaining engines were full out. Sure, they were burning fuel at a fantastic rate. But what the hell. The bomber was going in at a speed not far off sound. They knew how to build them at Seattle.

He knew there was something about Seattle. It worried him. Seattle. Why should it worry him now? There was something, but it didn't matter. The target did. They'd want to know back home when he'd taken it out. He said, "Owens, how's the radio?"

"Well, I'm not a radio expert. It got hit, but the CRM 114 took most of the impact. The transmitter seems O.K., but the receiver's out. There's no current coming through to it."

"All right, you stay there. You know enough morse to get off the attack signal." Brown peered ahead of him, looking past the redness that was trying to push itself in front of his eyes. "The receiver doesn't matter now. There's nothing anyone would want to tell us we don't already know."

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