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«Disloyal Opposition», Warren Murphy и др.

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The other men were shot in the chest and face. Those who tried to run were shot in the back. Flowers of crimson bloomed on white lab coats.

The metallic stink of blood flooded the underground bunker.

A stray bullet crackled into the face of a monitor, sending blue sparks and glass shards into the room. "Watch the equipment!" Feyodov growled as the last body sank to the floor.

Leaving the soldiers near the door, the general strode into the room.

Viktor Churlinski was sprawled back on a console, his glassy eyes staring ceilingward. Feyodov dragged the dead man by the collar, dumping him to the cold floor. Stepping over the corpse, the general inspected the shattered monitor.

The damage was superficial. It would not have affected the primary systems. Seeing that everything else had survived intact, he ordered the soldiers from the room.

As the men marched back through the door, Feyodov crossed the room. He would shut off the power from outside.

Before closing the door on the grisly scene, Feyodov cast one last look around the bunker.

The bodies of Viktor and the others were a minor distraction. His dark eyes were drawn to the computer consoles. The image of the explosion he had helped cause was being replayed by the American news services on several of the monitors.

The world would forever after call the explosion of the space shuttle Challenger an accident. General Boris Vanovich Feyodov knew otherwise.

With a hard tug, Feyodov closed the heavy iron door.

He would not open it again for another decade.

Chapter 1

The socialism that governed Barkley, California, was the cute Western variety where the windows of all the organic bakeries and herbal garden shops were always full and everyone kept their lawns trimmed to a city-council-mandated one and onequarter inches year-round. If it was true that every ridiculous fad to sweep America first began in California, those same fads had first been born on the politically correct streets of the college town of Barkley.

Barkley was the undisputed Mecca for the counterculture, both old and new. On the carefully swept sidewalks of its tidy tree-lined streets, hippies could still be found in all their tie-dyed, potbellied splendor. Aging beatniks prowled the byways in black turtlenecks, bongos tucked under arms. Youths pierced and tattooed represented the new avantgarde.

Couples in bell-bottoms berated neighbors for destroying the planet with Huggies while earnestly washing the cloth diapers of their lone "experience" child under the spray of the front-lawn sprinklers. Men who thought the internal-combustion engine represented the single greatest threat to the world pedaled rusting ten-speed Schwinns to work. Women with filthy bare feet and furry legs lashed themselves to trees that had a date with the chain saw.

The main streets of Barkley were potholed obstacle courses. Someone had noticed a few round rocks at the bottom of one of the holes and instantly declared that they were cobblestones from the days Spain ruled California. In an act of misguided historical preservation, the holes were left to widen. After scented candles and hemp underwear, shock absorbers were one of the best-selling items in town.

The Barkley Historical Society wasn't quite sure what it would do once all the cobblestones reemerged. After all, they were a sign of Spanish imperialism, as well as the subjugation of indigenous peoples. The head of the society thought the townspeople could pry them up and throw them at Antonio Banderas's car if he ever came to town.

A reed-thin woman in her early forties, she was picturing herself hurling a rock as a stunned Melanie Griffith looked on. The woman wore a glimmer of a smirk and a muumuu that looked as if it had been dragged through every historically significant ditch in town.

No one noticed the pleased smile on her face. The rest of those gathered in the small auditorium in Barkley's city hall were too busy discussing the two most significant things to descend on their hamlet since Fritz Mondale and Geraldine Ferraro made a campaign stop there back in 1984.

"How are things going with Buffoon Aid?" asked an overweight man who sat on the dais at the front of the hall. As he spoke, he continued to eat from the container of ice cream on the table before him. The man's own image was plastered across the side of the carton.

Before a hostile takeover that had cost him his business, Gary Jenfeld had been half owner of the famous Vermont-based ice cream company Zen and Gary's. His partner, Zen Bower, sat in the chair next to Gary.

After losing the company that still bore their names and likenesses, the two men had slinked bitterly across the country, settling in the socially conscious town of Barkley.

"Everything's cool, you know," drawled a black woman who sat down the main table from Zen and Gary. She pushed a string of dirty cornrows from in front of her dark glasses.


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