Chapter 41 of Silent Vector

Chapter 41, in which the Professor contemplates the demise of his Russian tormentor

CHAPTER 41

THE WRONG SIDE OF THE LIMB

Hartmut Schnelling can’t stop sweating. He removes his wire-frame glasses and wipes them clean with his handkerchief. He folds his handkerchief neatly and returns it to his pants pocket. He puts his glasses back on before he resumes pacing in his small living room. Another day with no word from Moscow. He is certain he followed protocol in his last transmission. He is just as certain that a response should have come yesterday via wire. The fact that another 24 hours has passed and he has still heard nothing is a cause of deep concern for the professor. In all of his dealings with Kasparanov he has never experienced a lapse in communications. The notion of communication inflexibility was drilled into his head during his indoctrination. He can still hear the political officer’s stern admonition repeated over and over again: “Never deviate from the established transmission matrix. Never!” 

Has the mission been scrubbed? Has operational responsibility been transferred? Are his sponsors in Moscow headed for prison? Or, God forbid, is Kropotkin his only link?  He can’t make any sense of the turn of events. The formula works, as the tests so brutally demonstrate; effective dispersal is ridiculously and brilliantly simple; formula production targets are on pace to be exceeded; all cells are on alert; and existing funds have been disbursed. Everything required for a successful, silent, and devastating strike against the United States is either in place or ahead of schedule.

And where is Kropotkin? The specter of Kropotkin, even when he isn’t brooding about Schnelling’s house, grinds away at Schnelling’s personal sense of security.

What was sure to be a triumphant strike against the Americans a few weeks ago is spiraling out of control. He curses himself for not anticipating Russian ineptitude, for fooling himself into believing that somehow the Russians had magically transformed themselves into dedicated, disciplined technicians capable of adhering to a detailed, specific plan. He knew that asking them to do anything beyond sacrificing tens of thousands of men in hopeless battle after hopeless battle would be a gamble, but he convinced himself that by retaining control of key aspects of the operation he would be able to make up for what he considers predictable Russian bungling. And now it appears he was wrong, that the entire operation is falling apart on the threshold of its implementation. In the mind of Professor Hartmut Schnelling, the only way for the operation to be salvaged is for it to be turned over to him personally in its entirety. That means, to begin with, the elimination of Kropotkin.