Office of Prime Minister Oleg Shorets
14:00 (11:00 GMT)
Vasily Litwin, Minister of Energy, was shown into Prime Minister Shorets’ office by one of his assistants. Minister Litwin had never been in the prime minister’s office before. They had always met with other officials in conference rooms or other venues.
Its walls, easily twelve feet tall, were covered with dark walnut paneling and the windows had thick red velvet curtains held back by gold braided cords. The floors were light maple with dark mahogany patterns inset into the wood. Prime Minister Shorets’ desk was a dark mahogany with gilded accents. Minister Litwin noticed a gold pen set with a clock in the middle of it that sat on Prime Minister Shorets’ desk. It reminded him of one similar that he had, though his desk was much messier.
Oleg watched as the languid little man came into his office. He observed as the minister looked around in what could only be described as adolescent amazement. He looked like a child going to an amusement park or large toy store for the first time.
“Thank you for coming. Please…” Oleg directed Vasily to one of the leather chairs in front of his desk. “Sit down. Make yourself comfortable. Can I get you a vodka?”
“No thank you. I never drink during the day.”
“Then perhaps some tea or water?”
“Water would be great. Thank you.”
Oleg rolled his eyes as he turned and went to the bar. He got the minister a bottle of water and poured himself a shot of vodka. When he returned, he handed the minister the bottled water and said, “First and foremost, I want to congratulate you on your progress with bringing Belarus into the nuclear age.”
The minister smiled; the wrinkles in his face almost objecting to it. “Thank you.”
“Tell me. How did you become the lucky man to head up such a highly visible and important project?” Oleg long suspected that Vasily got his position only because his father had served in the Soviet Army with President Solonovich and had called in a favor.”
“Under unfortunate circumstances, I’m sorry to say. I was supposed to be the second in charge. When the project was first announced and the team was formed, I was to work under Gregory Davydov, but then he was involved in that horrific hit and run accident.”
Oleg took a sip of his vodka and nodded his head. “Yes. Yes, I remember.”
“They never did find out who hit him.”
“So it was unfortunate for him. Not you,” Oleg said.
“I suppose you could say that.”
You are such a fool. No wonder people take advantage of you. “Do you not find it interesting that they never found out who hit him?” Oleg asked.
Oleg stared at Vasily for a few seconds. Or…perhaps you were part of it and are more sly than I thought. Hmmm. “Never mind. I understand that you are very close to bringing the reactors on-line. Is this true?”
“Yes, it was in my last report. We should be ready to bring it on-line by July third. In fact, that is the day that we are planning.”
Oleg was going to tell the minister that he didn’t read his stupid little reports and that he had much greater things to attend to, but when he heard the word ‘planning’, that thought slipped from his mind. “Planning? Is it not certain?”
“Well, there are a series of tests that need to be done. Prior to the tests, there are many things that need to be checked and rechecked. All of those tasks will take days. These are things that we can’t short step. It is quite extensive, actually. Any miscalculations or shortcuts of any kind could end up catastrophic. But so far, everything is on schedule.”
Dziarbo! I can not have any delays. Oleg pointed at Vasily and raised his voice. “You make sure that it stays on schedule, Minister. I am planning a grand celebration to coincide with our Independence Day. You would look like a hero to the people of Belarus if the reactors were to be put on-line that day. You’d be famous. That is something that you would like, is it not, Vasily?”
Oleg watched Vasily as he sat and pondered the moment. He knew the man was single, so he stoked the fire.
“The fame alone would be grandiose. Women would flock to you. And, it would secure your place in Belarusian history.”
Oleg could almost read his mind. He looked up at Oleg and said, “Mr. Prime Minister, I give you my personal guarantee that the plant will be ready to be brought on-line by the third.”
“Excellent!” Oleg said as he drew out the word. He stepped to the side and motioned with his arm as an indication that the meeting was adjourned. “Now, I will have my people get in touch with you regarding the plans for the grand celebration. It will be a very big day for you Minister Litwin.” Oleg walked Vasily to the door. He thanked the prime minister and left the office.
After the minister left, Oleg stepped over and withdrew the encrypted phone from his desk drawer and called Aleksandr. “Come down to my office.” He ended the call and poured himself another vodka. He swept his office for bugs again while he waited on Aleksandr.
Aleksandr entered Oleg’s office and meandered to the chair in front of Oleg’s desk. The flame cast an orange glow on his face as lit a cigarette. Exhaling he said, “So, what did you need?”
“I have set in motion the beginning of our plan.”
“I just had a meeting with Minister Litwin. He has assured me that the power plant will be operational on August twenty-fifth. We will be there commemorating the opening of the plant.”
“Right. But, you still haven’t explained to me how we can get out of being on the stage with Solonovich when he gives his speech. He always likes us standing behind him.”
Oleg waved him off. “That arrogant Fuck. He is telling you lies. Do you know how many times he has complained to me about having to share the stage on that day? He wants all of the attention to himself. This will be perfect.”
Oleg walked over to the window and said as he looked out, “My plan is to have a video simulcast. There will be giant screens set-up in Victory Square showing us with Minister Litwin as we turn on the reactors. Solonovich can carry on about how great he was to initiate nuclear energy for Belarus and then we can bring the plant on-line. We’ll be nice and safe; far away from the mayhem that we will bring to him.”
Oleg turned to his friend and noticed his scrunched brow and blank stare. “What is the matter?”
“This weapon that you told me about: the one we are bringing into the country. Is that what you are planning on using to do the job?”
“Yes, of course. What else would it be for?”
“Are you planning on zeroing in specifically at him, or are you going to make it wide spread? If you do that, thousands of people will be killed.”
Oleg scoffed and dismissed the comment with a wave his hand. “Collateral damage. Besides, you yourself said it needed to look like a terrorist attack. If we do it any other way, it will look like a political assassination. There can be no doubt, no questions. There is no other way.”
“But besides the attacks on America, most terrorist attacks kill fifty, maybe a hundred people: two hundred at the most. Not thousands.”
Oleg walked over to Aleksandr and said, “Look. This is the best and only way to do this where we can get away with it. Yes—it will be bloody. Yes—lots of people will die. The more that die, the more sympathy we’ll get. We will have the sympathy of the world!
The first step is to capture and hold al Hamwi when he delivers the weapon. After we take power, people will be demanding justice. They’ll be looking to us. In a weeks’ time after the attack, we will have miraculously captured and killed the terrorists that brought this inhumanity on the people of Belarus. We will be heroes.”
Aleksandr continued to sit in his chair. He pulled out another cigarette and lit it, but said nothing.
“What are you thinking?” Oleg asked.
“I’m thinking about the deaths of thousands of our countrymen that we have sworn to protect.”
“That’s not all you’re thinking.” Don’t turn on my now, Comrade.
Aleksandr tapped his fingers on the slick leather. His eyes darted back and forth in thought. When they looked up to meet Aleksandr’s, he said. “You’re right. I’m thinking that you are correct.” He nodded his approval. “This is the only way.”
He stood up and extinguished his cigarette in the ash tray on the conference table.
“Yes!” Oleg said with a clinched fist and a smile. “I will notify Solonovich of this in our next meeting. He will be most pleased not to have to share the stage with us. His arrogance will be his undoing.”