Chapter 34, in which the sleepers awake
The message is vague but direct enough to tell him that he’ll finally be going into action. His quiet life as the manager of a hardware store in Moline, Illinois will soon come to an end. His chest swells with pride as he once again decodes the message delivered as a simple piece of junk mail soliciting subscriptions to a new 20-volume history of the Second World War.
The lack of contact for more than five years made him wonder if the program had been abandoned. For five years he got up and went to work every day wondering when he’d be called to serve, wondering what the risks would be, wondering if he’d be exposed. He’d survived the worst of the McCarthy era by cutting himself off from all contact with anyone who shared his views. When Sputnik circled the globe he celebrated in private, certain that any day the call would come, a mission would materialize, and his shot at glory, his chance to strike a blow in the American heartland would find its way to his doorstep. Five long years of waiting are about to pay off.
His instructions are to gather, analyze, and summarize the weather patterns in Moline for the month of October for the last ten years. He is also to provide as much detailed information about fluctuations in population clusters by day of the week and time of day for the modest downtown area. Finally, he has been instructed to prepare a personal evacuation plan that will take him as quickly and discreetly as possible to Biloxi, Mississippi, on the Gulf of Mexico.
He decodes the message again. He does so unaware that a high school principal in Fresno, California is doing the same, as is a hairdresser in Chicago, Illinois, and a waiter in St. Louis, Missouri, an auto mechanic in Portland, Maine, and an accountant in Atlanta, Georgia. Each city is now a target, destined to suffer a fate designed as much by cruel ambition as systematic paranoia. Each city’s fate will be decided by a global struggle which, in a strange paradox, will go unnoticed by all but a handful of dedicated men and women on both sides of the Iron Curtain.