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Endgame Enigma
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From its position two hundred thousand miles away from Earth and some distance above Earth’s equatorial plane, Valentina Tereshkova had permanent lines for its communications lasers to at least two of the Soviet synchronous satellites, which redistributed message traffic among surface locations and other satellites, depending on the signals’ final destinations. The West’s military establishment also maintained a system of "Auriga" surveillance satellites, which between them were able to keep a constant watch on both the Soviet satellites and Tereshkova. The Aurigas were equipped with telescopes designed for operation in the infrared range, which could pick up the stray reflections from both ends of the Soviet communications beams; thus they were able to eavesdrop on the message-flow to and from Tereshkova as it took place. From space, the intercepted stream of Soviet communications code was routed down through a complicated chain of links and relays, eventually becoming grist for the computer batteries of the National Security Agency’s code-cracking mill at Fort Meade, Maryland.

For as long as Tereshkova had been operational, a portion of its signal traffic had used virtually impregnable top-security coding algorithms—which had done little to alleviate the West’s suspicions over what was supposed to be an innocuous social experiment in space-living. By summer of 2017, however, the hungry NSA cryptoanalysts in the section that handled "Teepee," as the intercept traffic to and from Tereshkova was code-named, had received a windfall of a different kind.

The standard procedure followed by both sides for sending encrypted messages over communications links was to transmit the code as a stream of five-digit number groups. That way, anyone intercepting the transmission with the intention of decoding its content would receive none of the clues that a structure reflecting the varying word-lengths would have supplied. To complicate the task further, the transmitting computers then obscured where the different messages in a stream began and ended, by filling the gaps between them with random five-digit number groups so that the channel simply transmitted continuously twenty-four hours a day. A message buried in the stream carried a special number sequence that the computers at the receiving end were programmed to watch for.

For some time the pattern-searching routines that the NSA computers subjected incoming material to as a first pass had been detecting irregularities in the filler groups used to pack the gaps in Teepee transmissions from Tereshkova to Earth: the random numbers weren’t as random as they should have been. Further analysis revealed a concealed coding system. It suggested that the West had unwittingly tapped into illicit traffic between personnel at two of the Soviet Union’s own establishments—an intriguing notion. The "Blueprint" code, as this traffic buried inside Earthbound Teepee was designated, turned out to be comparatively unsophisticated, and clearly not a creation of professional Soviet cryptographers; furthermore, its sender was too chatty, providing the Fort Meade veterans with sufficient material to break it fairly quickly. In late June the names "Earnshaw" and "Shelmer" appeared in the plaintext translation of one of these signals, which, from the lists that the NSA kept of who was likely to be interested in what, caused copies to be routed, via Litherland at CIA, Langley, to Bernard Foleda.

Three weeks previously, the CIA had arranged for a message to be beamed into the Soviet communications net in accordance with the protocols that Dyashkin had passed to Dr. Bowers in Japan, indicating interest and a willingness to "talk" further. Dyashkin had acknowledged, and in the ensuing unusual dialogue—phrased very obliquely to keep the Soviet counterpart of NSA off the scent of who was talking to whom—the Americans had requested Dyashkin, implicitly as a test of good faith, to try to find out if the two visitors who had disappeared on Tereshkova at the beginning of May were still being held there. A week later, a response from Dyashkin had stated that they were.

What was interesting about the Blueprint intercept that contained the references to Earnshaw and Shelmer was that it occurred a day before Dyashkin’s reply. In other words, a message from the mysterious correspondent up in Tereshkova was known to have contained the answer a day before Dyashkin sent it to the CIA. Here, then, was evidence that Dyashkin was the hitherto-unknown recipient at the Earth end of the Blueprint line; also, it corroborated that his information was in fact coming from where he said it was coming from.

 

Bernard Foleda looked at the report that Barbara had brought in and studied the figures on the appended sheet. It was an estimate of the amount of political indoctrination included in the Soviet school curriculum for various grades. "They always go for the children," he murmured as he read.

"Who do?" Barbara asked.

"Fanatics, extremists, every kind of nut with a cause. The way to their utopia is by getting at the minds of the children, so they try to control the schools. Instead of getting educated, the kids end up as political putty. Maybe the Chinese are right: governments should stay out of the whole business."

"Is that what they’re saying?"

"It was something that Myra and I talked about a while back." Foleda sat back and tossed the report down on his desk. "Did I ever tell you?—that might have had something to do with how I got into this kind of work."

Barbara sat down on one of the chairs at the meeting table and looked at him curiously. "I don’t think so."

Foleda stared at the window. "There was something that happened when I was a teenager—not really so sensational, but it’s always stuck in my mind, so I suppose it must have made some kind of impression. Two people came to have dinner with us one night—a Jewish couple that my parents had been friends with for a long time. They talked about the past year that they’d spent traveling around overseas. All their lives they’d been busy with their own affairs, until one day they looked at each other and realized they hadn’t seen anything of the world, and if they didn’t do something about it soon, they never would."

"Too wrapped up with family and business, you mean?" Barbara said.

"Yes, exactly. Anyhow, I can remember Ben—that was his name—saying to my father, ‘You’ve known us for a long time, Chuck. I’ve never had any time for politics. But, do you know, after what we saw in other places, I never want to set foot outside this country again. I don’t want to see our grandchildren growing up the way we saw others made to. And I’ll tell you something else: I would give thousands of dollars, no, tens of thousands, to any political party—Republicans, Democrats, I don’t care; they’re all the same to me—just so long as they’re committed to defending this country.’ "

"That was how you got into intelligence?"

"Oh, I wouldn’t exactly say that. But I think it played a part. I’d been looking for a way to express what I felt about the world, and that just about summed it up."

Barbara was used to Foleda’s inclination to ramble off like this for no obvious reason. It usually happened when he was preoccupied with something that he hadn’t said much about. Some people claimed that they did their hardest thinking while asleep. She had come to see this as his way of distracting his consciousness while a deeper part of his mind tussled with something else. "Do you think everyone in this business needs an ideology like that?" she asked.

Foleda shook his head. "I don’t know of any rule that says they have to. Take Lew McCain for instance. Totally pragmatic. He’s not interested in keeping the world free for democracy. He just likes challenges with some risk thrown in, and believes in being free to be himself. In fact, the way he operates, an ideology would probably be more of a hindrance. Maybe that’s why he’s a good field man and I fit in better behind a desk. And yet in another way . . ." Foleda looked away from the window. "How do you feel about this whole Dyashkin business?" he asked Barbara suddenly.

She had worked with him long enough not to have to ask pointless questions. "What bothers you about it?"

Foleda stared down at the papers strewn across his desk. "It’s coming together too easily. . . . Look at it. First, two of our people get stuck up on Mermaid. A month later this professor shows up in Japan with a story that he wants to defect, and he just happens to run the primary groundstation that Mermaid talks to. And while all that’s going on, the hackers at Meade find a code that turns out to be easier to break than it ought to be, and they discover that somebody up there has their own private line down to him." He tilted his chin questioningly.

"Even if NSA hasn’t found it yet, he has to have some way of talking back," Barbara said.

"Right. What does that make you think?"

Barbara shrugged. "Maybe we can get the use of his line to make contact with our two people up there somehow."

"Why would you need to do that?"

"Because the Soviets are coming up with any excuse not to let us talk to them officially . . ." Barbara’s eyes narrowed as she began to see what Foleda was driving at.

"Nine out of ten. And what else does it make you think?"

She frowned for a few seconds, then said, "Is that what somebody somewhere wants me to think?"

Foleda nodded. "Ten out of ten." He got up and moved over to the window, where he stood staring out silently for a while. "Anything that involves Mermaid is serious. There are questions we need answers to before we can let this go farther. Who is this line to Dyashkin from? What was it set up for? Why does he want to defect? And most important, is he genuine? We can’t go walking blind into something like this."

Barbara waited. She understood the situation, but at the same time could see no immediate pointer to a way of getting the answers that were needed. It would be another exercise in the long, uphill grind that was ninety percent of intelligence work: sifting through uninteresting-looking scraps, looking for patterns and connections, and hoping something useful might emerge. Where, then, would they begin accumulating more background information on somebody like Dyashkin?—personal things, glimpses of his character and loyalties, things that might help fill in the blanks. Barbara looked over the desk for possible clues to the way that Foleda’s mind had been working. One of the reference screens was displaying a summary of notes he had extracted from various databank records. At the top was the heading, Dorkas, Anita Leonidovich. Codename "Cellist."

Foleda had turned away from the window and was watching her. "The Aeroflot administrator," he commented. "Dyashkin’s former wife."

"Yes, I know," Barbara said.

"Except she’s not with Aeroflot anymore." Foleda moved to where he could see the screen. "In 2014, three years after she and Dyashkin went separate ways, she remarried, this time to a character by the name of Enriko Dorkas, who’s listed as a foreign correspondent with Novoye Vremya."

Barbara pursed her lips silently. New Times was a magazine of news and current affairs that had been founded in 1943 for the specific purpose of providing cover for Soviet intelligence officers abroad. "Which presumably means he’s KGB," she said. "Where are they posted?"

"He’s a colonel," Foleda confirmed. "They’re both in London, with the Soviet Residency in Kensington. Officially she’s a clerk at the embassy. But it gets more interesting. You see, according to a report that we have on file from SIS, Anita Dorkas—Penkev before she married Enriko—is connected with an underground Soviet intellectual dissident organization known as the Friday Club. As is often the case with senior officers, she and her husband don’t live in the embassy quarters, but have an apartment in Bayswater. A double advantage for somebody mixed up in dissident activities: one, opportunities to travel abroad; and two, a lot of freedom to meet with outside groups and sources of foreign aid. The SIS desk that’s been dealing with her says she’s being extremely cooperative."

"You mean the British have recruited her?"

"So they claim."

Barbara nodded and was about to reply, but then she checked herself and sat back to stare at the screen again thoughtfully. "Unless, of course . . . she’s really with the KGB too. The dissident story could be a cover for tracking down the dissidents’ overseas connections."

Foleda gave a satisfied nod. "And that’s the key question: Did she maneuver her way into marrying an upward-bound KGB man to gain a unique base for her dissident activities? Or is she a loyal Party agent-wife posing as a dissident? Which way round is it?"

"How confident do the British sound about her?" Barbara asked.

Foleda shrugged. "She’s provided personnel lists of embassy staff that they requested, organization charts, the names of some contacts over there who are passing information to the Soviets. It was material that we already had from other sources, so we could tell if what she was producing was authentic. But on the other hand, if the Soviets already figured we had it, they wouldn’t be losing anything by letting her give it to us again. So it doesn’t really prove anything."

"Hmm . . ." Barbara sat back in her chair. "How long ago did you say she married this Enriko?"

"Three years—since 2014," Foleda replied.

"If she’s a genuine dissident, she must have set herself up with him that far back. What do our people in Moscow have on her?"

"A lot that corroborates her claim. But then, the Soviets have been known to plant agents with covers long before they’re activated. However, there is evidence that she’s been mixed up with the Friday Club for at least eight years." Foleda looked at Barbara curiously as he said this, as if inviting her to read the implication.

"Eight years," she repeated. "That would take us back to 2009 . . . while she was still married to Dyashkin."

"Ye-es."

Now Barbara saw the point. "If Anita is genuinely a dissident, and was that long ago, then possibly Dyashkin is too."

"Right." Foleda moved around the desk and sat down in his chair again. "Wouldn’t that be a worthwhile thing to find out about him?" And finding out shouldn’t prove too difficult, for Anita was not only accessible outside the Eastern bloc, but was already talking to British intelligence.

"Okay, I get it," Barbara said. "So what now? Do you want me to start getting questions together for the London people to work on?"

Foleda shook his head. "No, not them."

"Who, then?"

"When was the last time you had a trip to England?"

Barbara’s eyes snapped wide in surprise. "Me? I haven’t done anything like that for years."

"Then, let’s get rid of some cobwebs. Don’t you have a pet ideology to save the world or bring in the millennium?"

"Me? No. Didn’t Thoreau say that as soon as something starts ailing people, even constipation, they’re off trying to change the world? I’m happy minding my own business."

Foleda’s craggy, dark-chinned face split into a grin. "Then, that makes you a natural for the field, like Lew. Maybe we should have left you there in the first place. Let’s just say that I’d like to keep this business in the family for the time being."

 
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