Chapter 4 -- The Lodge Meeting


Moscow -- June, 1975.

Four years since the Soyuz 11 tragedy.


Premier Brezhnev is still the leader of the USSR, and I have not had another major assignment since the Soyuz 11 tragedy. Boss is in better spirits due to his successful redesign of the Doubles monitoring computer software. He came in several times and discovered no one was even monitoring our activities. That's how lax security had become under Brezhnev. Also, funding for re-engineering our transmitters to allow each to transmit a unique identification, thus allowing the system to identify each agent by his transmitter was not approved. Therefore, Boss requested and received permission to store each fifteen-minute interval message on disk. He then wrote programs which could track the Doubles over a period of time very quickly. This eliminated the need to have operators on duty at all times.

In addition, he added intelligence into the system to identify each agent through software. For example, he always knew my current address. Therefore, the software would tag the blip on the map which stayed at my address as D88, and would continue to attach this label to me until I came into contact with some other Double for any reason. Then it lost the identity of those two blips until we returned to our last known addresses. He also keyed in certain "alarm" coordinates and would display any blip on the screen in red if it was over one of these locations. Reports could be printed which listed the number and locations of any alarms. The coordinates of CIA offices throughout the world, all American embassies, and KGB headquarters were a few of the alarm coordinates.

I was preparing for a weekend trip to a private ski lodge in the Ural Mountains. A round trip Aeroflot Airline ticket and instructions had been placed in my latest message exchange facility. The last line of instructions was "GO HAVE A GOOD TIME -- AS USUAL TELL NO ONE." Also, the address of the next communication drop and necessary keys were included. We never exchanged more than one communication at any one location.

Well, one thing was certainly true. We never just went to places to "have a good time." I was excited, knowing this had something to do with a new assignment. There were no further instructions so I expected to be contacted by Boss or someone else at the lodge. I always read several newspapers and kept informed on international events, and while in flight to the lodge my mind speculated on what this new assignment could be.

Upon arriving at the town of Sverdlovsk an all terrain vehicle chauffeured me and my luggage to the lodge, which was simply beautiful. It was a three story A-frame construction with two wings of hotel rooms joined to the "A." At each level in the A-frame was a balcony with glass doors leading into the lodge. It sat on a low rolling hill which overlooked a now frozen lake where visitors could ice skate. A ski lift transported skiers up to one of two much larger hills from where there descended numerous ski trails of varying difficulty. In short, it looked like a Bavarian ski lodge photo from the month of December on a calendar.

While checking in under the same false name as was on my airline ticket, another apparent guest walked by and I felt we had met before. As the bellhop led me to my room it appeared that the lodge was nearly empty. Tipping the bellhop I made the passing comment that, "You must be having a slow season."

"No sir, not at all. The entire lodge has been leased for a private party, sir. Thank you."

Very interesting. What was going on? A folded card on the nightstand read, "MEETING IN FIRST FLOOR CONFERENCE ROOM AT 9AM TOMORROW." I'll find out in the morning, I thought, as I retrieved my 9mm from my suitcase, placed it under my pillow, prepared for bed, and went to sleep.

The front desk rang me at 7:00 a.m. exactly as instructed. This would give me time to dress, eat a leisurely breakfast, and make the nine o'clock meeting.

Following breakfast, I returned to my room and prepared for the meeting. I wanted to be fifteen to twenty minutes early and be able to sit toward the back and observe the people if any in front of me.

Locating the conference room, I found a seat approximately three-fourths back from the front of the room. Only two other people were present. They were sitting widely apart and neither spoke to me as I entered the room. By nine o'clock fourteen other people had entered the room for a total of seventeen, including the person I recognized while registering at the front desk. There were fourteen men and three rather attractive women, and no one seemed to know anyone else as no two people sat together.

The conference room was perhaps 10x20 meters and it was certainly large enough for this small group. A podium with a microphone, blackboards, and other paraphernalia was positioned at the front of the room. Now there were two faces present which were familiar to me, but I could not remember the circumstances.

At precisely 9:00 a.m., to my surprise, Boss entered the room and made his way to the podium. A subdued gasp came from the audience.

"Good morning comrades," he began. No response came forth from the other seventeen people present. He then continued, "Twenty-two years ago, in 1953, the roots of a very unique and successful organization were planted. In those early years my youthful desire was to leave my mark on the world. Conquer the world if you please," as his voice roared and his fist banged down on the podium. "I sensed the same desires in all of you initially. Now our wonderful organization has become stale and inefficient. This is not due to internal problems but because of external complacency and under utilization. Today, I hope to put us on a new path to a great world shaking adventure and accomplishment."

It suddenly struck me like a bolt of lightning as I placed the event with the two faces in the room that I recognized. They were two of the three Doubles present with Boss at the Cuban missile crisis meeting at the Kremlin in 1962. Were all seventeen of us Doubles?

"Individually over the past twenty-two years I made each of you a proposal which each of you accepted. Now I will propose a joint effort of heroic magnitude, but allow me to digress for a minute," and he paused.

"On May the eighteenth I was fifty-five years old. I have been stagnating, wasting my life, and accomplishing nothing over the past ten years since the new administration took power. Now a new opportunity has fallen into my hands. Manna from heaven, if you will pardon the pun. A new rush of enthusiasm fills my body today. I feel young again and back on track. We will share this euphoria, conquer our enemies, and be immortalized in Russian history! I will not go into detail until getting a commitment from each of you individually."

"Look around you," as he paused again. "These are your fellow Doubles, never before assembled under one roof."

Now there was real consternation amongst the gathering. After all, one of our premises was that the Doubles were never to know each other's identity. This had certainly gone by the wayside and our security had been compromised. In addition, we were never to meet as a group because the Premier might believe a plot was being contemplated.

"I will only give you enough information for you to make your decisions. This will be a world shaking project and will be carried out by all Doubles working as a team for the first time. When successful, we will have eliminated our number one nemesis through apparently natural causes. I would think that prospect would seem inviting to all of you. We will all meet here for an afternoon meeting at 2:00 p.m. at which time anyone not wishing to continue may leave. You will not be ordered to accept this assignment, it will be on a voluntary basis. If there are any questions which I can answer at this time, I will do so. Anyone?"

A man who appeared to be the oldest agent in the room raised his hand. Boss pointed to him and he asked, "Sir, we are all meeting together at the same time. All kinds of alarms must be appearing at the monitoring system."

Boss interrupted him, "Do not be concerned with the monitoring system today. There will not be a problem now, nor at any future gatherings, I assure you. However, I'm glad you asked that question because it is very important that upon departing the lodge tomorrow each of you returns to your present home or apartment and sleeps there. Any other questions?" After waiting a few seconds he concluded by saying, "If there are no further questions, we will meet here at two PM."

Back in my room, my mind was awhirl trying to imagine what was going on. "Manna from heaven." Could he be referring to the gray matter from the Soyuz 11 disaster? He was confident that no monitoring alarms were occurring, and why is it critical for all of us to return straight back to our homes? He had reprogrammed the system! Of course, how stupid could I be? It would be a simple matter to find a few normal days with no alarms stored on disk, and read that set of data into memory every fifteen minutes as the real time data. Simple! The only catch would be that there would have to be a good starting and stopping point. In other words, a blip representing a Double could not physically appear 100 kilometers away from its last fifteen-minute reading.

The best starting and stopping points are the Doubles present home addresses. If he provided airline tickets all departing on the same day from airports close to each Double's residence, we would probably sleep in our homes the night before. Therefore, it was important for everyone to return home so he could restart the normal monitoring from their homes in the early morning hours. This weekend, the monitoring system would use data from the two historical days which he had selected from the disk. No one would know we were all together.

Does Premier Brezhnev know? I wondered.


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