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Chapter 34

Smolensk Oblast, R.F.

“Ideally, we’d come in fast, with really overwhelming force,” Jan said as the five of them studied the map spread out over the dining room table. “An air assault brigade which can get on top of them before they know it, seal up the whole base and then pick it apart to make absolutely sure that if it’s there, we get it. But that option’s not on the table.

“We could kidnap Stepanenkov, make him talk?”

“There’s no guarantee he hasn’t taken precautions to insure the deal goes off if he becomes unavailable,” Bill said. “Plus, it’d be even tougher to get into the base afterward, because we’ll have tipped our hand.

“Instead of that it may be best to wait for them to make their move, to be there at the meeting when they hand it over. We do know when his visitors are coming, after all.”

“You’re right,” Emma said. “But while that would save some problems, it would create others. We’d have to work on their timetable, for one.”

“We can set up to move in quickly,” Jan offered. “Stage the attack from a helicopter.”

“It’d be awfully vulnerable, flying over a base full of high-performance MiGs,” Nick said. “Or even that alert helicopter they have on hand,” he added, looking at the pad on which a machine gun-armed Mi-8 was sitting.

“It’d also mean a relatively slow trip out of the country, assuming we even get a bird with the necessary range. And that’s all without the problem of getting it in the exact right place at the exact right time to stage the raid. We’d still need someone inside to call it in, and if we position the helicopter far enough away to be unseen, it won’t arrive in time.

“No, I don’t like the logistics of it, and that also applies for our using the helicopter just for the evacuation after we get the ellipton.”

“Then how about we just grab the damn plane,” Bill suggested.

“What plane?” Jan asked.

“The one the customers are using to collect the ellipton. Not only can we get off the base in a hurry if we use it – a lot quicker than in the helicopter – we’ll probably be able to fly out of the country on it in one hop, without having to land to refuel. The plane itself would be worth something, too, helping us figure out who owns it and where it’s been. And we’d have a crack at securing some prisoners, the air crew, any other people who came in on the plane also.”

The suggestion gave everyone pause. “Sounds good on paper, but very hard to bring off in reality,” Jan said.

“Maybe not much harder than any of our other options though,” Emma said, and they started to discuss what it would take to actually bring off the plan.

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