Chapter 1 - The Kaleidoscope
Chapter 1 - The Kaleidoscope
My thoughts had been focused on Nicolai when the submarine appeared in front of our bay. I sensed that something had gone wrong in Murmansk. I could feel it. I had tried to phone earlier. The lines were blocked. When the Typhoon suddenly came into sight in front of our bay, I felt a mixture of fear, excitement, and apprehension. It seemed illogical that Nicolai should come to us at this time and in this manner. On the other hand, few things were logical that Nicolai had been involved in.
It was Tony who first noticed the sub. He said it was one of Nicolai's, to judge by the bulge at the base of the sub's tower, one of the characteristic features of Russia's late model Typhoon class nuclear missile submarines. The sub had surfaced while he strolled on the beach. He came running up to the 'nest', punched me into the side, and still out of breath, pointed out to the water.
There it lay, the Typhoon, like a black monster of some ancient mythology, a short distance from shore. The sub lay motionless, as though it was grounded. No one could be seen on deck. It had all the appearance of a ghost ship.
We watched the sub closely, magnified through Ross' video telescope system that had stood idle for a year and a half. We all watched the screen. We could see every rivet, every major weld seam that held the thing together as if it were some great iron patchwork. But no life surrounded it, except for the seagulls. Every seagull in the vicinity had come to test its gangways. The ghostly scene created a tenseness among us that instantly turned into a great relief when Nicolai opened the tower hatch. He was in the uniform of a high-ranking officer. He climbed quickly out of the hatch and disappeared behind the tower. He re-emerged on the sub's deck. Then, another officer climbed out of the hatch and lowered an inflated raft to him that he readied and proceeded to row to shore.
"Why doesn't he use the motorized raft?" Tony asked in amazement. "And why is he coming alone?"
All I could think of at this moment was, "Nicolai, Nicolai, that's not your way of doing things." Moments later I came to my senses. This wasn't Nicolai. This was someone else, someone who looked like him in the dark light of the evening. Ross rewound the tape for me to the point where the man had first appeared on top of the tower, to study his face. No, that wasn't Nicolai. Something was missing, a familiar expression, a faint smile?
Tony and I looked at each other. We both knew we had no option now, but to go out and stop that man, whoever he was, before he set foot on our beach. No one was allowed to set foot on our land unescorted. Tony and I agreed on this without consultation. As if driven by the same instinct, we rushed to the beach towards the shed that housed the Zodiac. That's when Ross called on the radio. He suggested that we use the fishing boat instead that was less threatening and more equal to the approaching craft.
Since the boat was already on the beach, as it always was, we were on our way in seconds. We rowed harder that day than we had ever rowed. We both knew, that if Nicolai was not there himself, he was behind this visit, and things being as they were, our worst fears might have come true. There was no time to waste.
The Russian officer hadn't reached the midway point when we came within shouting distance. He saluted us in a gesture of friendship that we immediately returned. He introduced himself as the captain of the sub, shouting in a mixture of broken English and a heavy Russian dialect. I didn't understand much, but I did understand the name, Nicolai. After we had drawn closer, he showed us a radiogram sent to us by Nicolai. "For Peter VanDerMere" he said and pointed to the envelope.
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