Leningrad, Union of Soviet Socialist Republics
"Why the sad face?" the twenty-something student asked, sitting down on a tattered dorm couch. She was wearing a warm pink fuzzy sweater large enough that it skimmed her thighs like a miniskirt would, white tights and matching calf-high boots. Addressing her petite, dark-haired friend Natalia, she smiled brightly and continued: "Finals are finished, you don't have to worry about New Years, and this year isn't so cold as past ones." Even so, a Russian winter was no laughing matter. Sipping from a steaming cup of spiced wine, she avoided looking out the window at the living postcard of a white-drifted snowy scene.
"Oh, Velika, it's just my grand-father. He called me on the telephone today, out of the blue. Asked if I had received his holiday gift, talked about my examinations, just normal things." Shrugging, Natalia stood up from the couch and walked back and forth. She was dressed casually in her new sweatshirt with the 'Yale' crest emblazoned on it and a faded pair of torn Levis she had eaten beet soup for a month to afford. Her feet were protected from the cold of the bare wood floor by deerskin slippers that made scuffing sounds as she paced. After a minute or so, she admitted "However, there was something more; a tone of melancholy in his voice. Only when we were saying goodbye, he choked up for a few seconds it seemed like. After a pause he whispered, 'I am sorry, daughter', then ended the connection. I'm worried..."
"You think he's unwell?"
"Opa would have said something; he doesn't keep secrets from me. . ."
Suddenly, without warning, the door shattered inward with a tremendous crash scattering fragments into the room. Velika jumped up and screamed in surprise as six black-clad men armed with submachine guns ran in and sighted on the two young women. Two others swept the small apartment, checking there was no one else there. These were not robbers; they moved with the smooth silent precision of military or the secret police.
"What is the meaning of this intrusion?" Natalia demanded as the men converged on the pair. After all, she was the grand-daughter of a high-ranking academician, someone used to being respected. Velika cowered next to her, terrified.
One of the men stepped forward to face them. "Natalia Zorynich, you have been designated an enemy of the state you will come with us!" he commanded. Her eyes widened; this seemed like a bad dream. The kind that people disappeared in.
"NOOoooo!" pleaded Velika, realizing she too was in danger by being in the wrong room at the wrong time. "Helll..ph.." she yelled until one of the men clamped a gloved hand over her mouth and wrapped his free arm around her torso to prevent her from breaking free. By unseen command or prior plan, two others flanked her and pinned her arms while a third moved towards her, holding what looked like a necklace. "Mrpph... mmrr...grww" the young woman tried to yell, but her pleas were being muffled. Within moments, the man latched the metallic band around her neck, activating it. Velika's eyes grew even wider as her slim body tensed "Urrmieei?" she managed to grunt, then something very strange happened. She seemed to...stop. In an instant, her movements froze in mid-protest as her voice cut off abruptly. Her eyes remained saucer-wide but as the seconds passed the glazed over into a vacant unblinking stare. The man holding her face took his hand away, revealing her rigid expression of fear and gasping surprise. Velika's entire body had stiffened, she struggled no longer; when the men released their grip the girl fell backward woodenly until steadied by the one standing behind her. Whatever they had done, the pretty blonde no longer seemed alive.
Natalia watched the whole arresting scene quietly, held tightly by her surrounding captors, she knew when she was outnumbered. When the soldier approached her holding out another of those metallic straps, she only had time to state "I have committed no crime and demand..." before the soldier placed it around her next and she felt the click of a catch securing the sinister ribbon from removal.
With the tingling jolt of an electric shock a very strange feeling passed throughout her body. Not painful; it was almost sexual, as if she were being caressed all over by invisible hands, touched in the most intimate of places. She wanted to quiver with joy, but paradoxically her muscles seemed to be turning stiff, leaden, and inflexible. It was soon impossible for her to move her feet or arms. Even though she could see her own hand held out in front of her face, it no longer seemed a part of her. Neither did her lips, as her words caught in her throat. She knew whatever they had done to Velika was happening to her as well. She coudn't move and was becoming as stiff as a statue!
"You are in no position to demand anything at all, zaichik," the man grunted in reply, watching her immobilization proceed. "It is for General Gogol who will decide what he demands of you instead, ha!"
The feeling of solidity was becoming total; she could not feel her extremities at all as numbness started to cocoon her mind. Her blank gaze was like a fixed camera lens, watching events happen without being part of them. Two men passed across her vision, carrying a totally rigid Velika between them as if she were some kind of display dummy. Her friend's frozen expression of surprise hadn't changed at all. Behind her, there were crashing sounds as the men tossed her apartment, taking anything identifying or personal. Abruptly, her view tilted to the left and Natalia realized she was going to be taken away as well. She saw the outline of her doorway pass by, then her consciousness blurred. The scene faded, changing into the shadowy poorly-lit confines of what must have been an alleyway. White windblown flakes swirled around her, though she didn't feel the cold at all. An odd shape in front of her vision resolved itself into the back and shoulder of her friend, who had been leaned up against one of the rough brick walls. Snow was starting to accumulate in the folds of Velika's sweater and her earlobe, soon she would be completely covered over. Slipping into unconsciousness, the last thing Natalia remembered was the sound of a truck's booming engine. Then, a fuzzy cloud surrounded her and there was nothing more.
The White House Situation Room, Washington DC
A strange thing, indeed, the president said to everybody present in the Oval Office, glancing up from the brief. He had just finished perusing the spy photos of electronic parts and skimmed research papers describing how the Suspensor worked. There were also other photos in the folder, pictures of several strikingly beautiful women who had been immobilized by the Soviets. The whole concept sounded to him like science fiction, but the devices did exist. They had proof. Hard evidence, one might say. I can see how it works for the KGB, and what uses they've put it to, but what do we do about this thing? Shouldn't we be developing our own?
I dont see what we need it for, General Willis said. The air force officer headed the research and new developments for that branch of the military. The Russians came up with this device for a moon shot they never got off. We beat them to the punch in '69 and did the landing without anything remotely like this; even our project for a moonbase wont need suspended animation. The Communists dont use it either, for space travel anyway. He looked at his copy of the photos. They use it now for making these sick artworks, but thats not our business. And they use it for spying, or at least they've tried to, but now we know about it, that doesnt work very well for them either.
I disagree, General. It is more effective than you think. They can use it, are using it, even now to spy on us, The Secretary of State retorted. He nodded to the Director of CIA. And they have, so far, protected it very highly. Only one agent of ours has gotten close to the Russian base of operation and she was silenced last year. The Soviets think this Suspensor is important, and it can be, given the right deployment and strategy. Used effectively, it could possibly affect our operations in Vietnam.
We can't have that, no. Enough trouble there as it stands. The President shook one finger at the military brass. I've got too many things riding on this conflict; what if somebody leaks a story to the media about this device, this Suspensor? We can't end the war just because the Soviets have these suspended animation gadgets for their KGB spies and maybe who knows what else. And I cant have word of this new capability getting out, The president hated leaks, Not now.
Yes, sir. But their agents dont have to stop us; they could help us instead. We can use the spies we've already captured from the Russians. They have remained suspended since we grabbed them; they're frozen, totally unaware of what's happened. We can revive the charm school idea and wake them up, then allow them to think they are back from their mission; they'll reveal everything they know about the KGB directorate. All the agents, information, places, codes. The things we can harvest could be incredible, even if it is slightly... dated. And there's more; we can feed some false information to those agents we decide to let go back, the CIA director argued. The bold plan he had just described came from a fellow in the research division named Allen; it was a good one, if unconventional, and should work. Given luck.
But we need to find more of these 'sleeper' or suspended agents first. The Soviets have gotten far better at inserting them -- we cant be everywhere at once. They can sneak into places we cant go to and place their agents there. We can't rely upon finding them all. No, we need a way of stopping these agents once and for all. Now! General Willis replied. He waved the photos in the air. We can stop them right now. We've learned enough of how these things are made and what makes them tick. We can wake the agents up the same way the Russkies freeze them, then put them back in suspended animation but that's not all. We can also use simple radio transmitters to broadcast a signal across large areas to wake up any frozen spies and keep them from getting into places they shouldnt be; that will also allow us to find any that are there quickly. Its a simple thing to do; we can prepare that plan and have the detection gear all our bases in a few weeks. We can even put de-suspendors on planes and trucks and run them in other places and they will work fine there too. There is no need for all this spookery. With our new counter-technology, we can stop them before they get placed anywhere. And, thats precisely what we should do.
On the other hand, we have other ways of using the captured agents, The Secretary said. After we get information from all the captured and revived spies we have, we should be able to stop any more spies from the Russians. But we can use those we have to get the Soviets to do what we want, by threatening to tell the world what they are doing with those poor women and girls.
To what end ?
By causing a public outrage in the West, we can force them to stop using the device against us and require them to pull back all spies they have positioned right now. And we can demand our spies they have captured be returned back immediately. Also, the Russians are doing things with the Chinese in Vietnam, so we can end that endless war all the more quickly as well.
And what do we have to give? The president liked what he heard. The generals too.
The CIA director was not sure, but listened to SecState as he said. They have to want something; I am not so certain blackmail is a strong enough incentive. They have flaunted their tactics on the world stage before.
We can return all their spies we have back to them.
Back to them? We can get so much from these subjects! DCI broke in. "Operational plans, secrets, names..."
Of course, not until we have gotten what we need to know. But after that, we can give them back. No need to give those Bolsheviks an excuse for raising a fuss about their agents being forced to defect to America."
A dark-suited man sitting in the back chairs spoke up. "And we can tell others how to wake the people the Russians freeze permanently. We will also promise not to tell the world about their living art scheme. The scientists in Groom Lake had recently discovered how to break the Soviet permanent stasis field. It was a tricky technique, not without risk, even for American technology this was a challenge. But it could now be done.
wanted to get Agent Santiago back, quickly, to try the technique out on her.
She had already been permanently frozen for over a year according to the latest
humint he had received.
Sounds good, Ted. But, what about these 'artworks' theyve been making? The President asked once more.
SecState stood up and interrupted the Director's answer. I feel sorry for them, but American lives are what we care about first. Americans and nationals are dying every day in Vietnam. If we can get the Soviets to help apply pressure to stop the dying, then I say let the Soviets do what they want with their citizens inside Russia, as long as they dont do it to our people. The Secretary was a very practical man.
And the President agreed with a nod, concluding, We have got more important things to do than have to deal with a bunch of petrified women. Let the Russians do what they want. We have to get our priorities accomplished first. The president pointed to General Willis. General, I want us to be ready with the radio transmitters to detect and revive these hidden people as fast as you can. Director, you can try your charm school idea, but be quick about it. We have an upcoming summit with the Russians in Geneva in a couple of months -- I want to surprise them there by what know about their big secret. Who knows, we may all get what we want.
CIA Operations Center, Langley Virginia
Whoever had dubbed the underground workroom "The Hermitage" had a wry sense of humor, reflected Allen as he badged in and submitted to the biometric identification steps before entering through the double doors. This deep within the inner sanctum, there were no guards save for the electronic ones. Inside, the lighting was concentrated in pools of brightness that highlighted the still figures lined up along one wall. Collected here, "exhibited" as that wag might put it, were all the immobilized Soviet female agents that had been discovered so far; their number had recently increased by the four from Athens. Each had been locked inside a transparent lexan box as a precaution, a containment mandated by Security Section in case any of the statue-still women unexpectedly revived. Most were upright, though a few of them held sitting or reclining positions in the crystal cells.
By and large, they appeared as they were when they had been discovered, though in a few cases their 'costumes' of paint or coatings of plaster had been removed, leaving the unmoving figures naked, which only accentuated their physical beauty. No wonder some of the high-up Russians were taking them as art objects, thought Allen as his eyes swept the room. A few of the young women were fully clothed when captured, since they had been impersonating display mannequins or waxworks. These were especially eerie; there seemed to be no reason why they wouldn't simply unpause and go about their business but as the moments passed these agents remained stiff and rigid, like three-dimensional freeze-frames. Some of these girls are stone babes; real lookers! Allen observed to himself as he approached the work area.
A cluster of equipment racks and worktables occupied the center of the large room, highlighted by more overhead illumination. Two gurneys were placed alongside a spaghetti-looking electronic breadboard of components and wires. Cables led over to electrodes that had been placed on the arm and torso of one of the immobilized agents, a willowy black-haired beauty with almond eyes that were a legacy of her remote homeland in Kazakhstan. Technicians monitored the apparatus, watched the cryptic oscilloscope display, and made subtle adjustments. Their unmoving subject seemed unaffected, she continued to stare glassily at the ceiling while remaining in her stiff standing pose awkwardly uneven on the horizontal surface.
"Any luck with 'Natasha' here?" Allen queried, watching them work and pretending to understand the lines on the video screen. His area of expertise lay in fieldwork, not electronic wizardry.
The technician shook his head 'no' without taking his eyes off the signal generator and 'scope. "This one looks to be a Type One suspension, but for some reason the harmonic frequency is all screwy. There's this odd resonance here, see, that we can't cancel out."
"Um yeah, right," mumbled Allen as he pretended to understand. "So, that means you aren't going to be able to revive her?" Pity...
"Not anytime soon; that's what I just said!" the tech grumbled. "It's almost as if they chose to permanently freeze her after she'd been originally immobilized, but her wire is still intact," he said, pointing absently at the connection to the device that had been inserted into the motionless young woman's sex. These contained a trigger mechanism that would activate if tampered with, immobilizing the subjects eternally.
At least that's what they think, mused Allen, fully aware of the recent success of the black-ops team at Groom Lake, information that was kept on a need-to-know basis. Obviously this technician didn't have that need. "Was this intentional?" he asked after a moment's pause.
"Probably not, though we're never going to know. More likely an accident; look at her pose and expression. She wasn't under any kind of duress; my guess is she fully expected to wake up. Someone may have been covering up a mistake or decided to 'burn' the agent later on."
Allen nodded. "Well, don't spend too much more time on this one. She can wait; concentrate on finding more of the Type Twos. We can now revive that kind of suspension. Those are the ones I want for the next phase in the program."
"Right," the tech acknowledged. Allen turned and walked towards the row of enclosures. The tech leaned close to the frozen Soviet agent's ear and whispered, "Looks like you're going to have to stay as sculpture for a while longer, baby. Sorry!"
The acquisitions from the Athens operation stood in their enclosures, stripped of the plaster and paint that had been used to disguise the frozen agents as marble statues. His team had broken up the Russian plan to insert the spies into a high-level NATO working conference and had, in turn, replaced the faux stone figures with imitation replicas. Sometimes it was difficult to figure out what was 'real', anymore. Which one of you is going to spill the beans? he wondered, gazing at the row of motionless, statue-still Soviet agents. He looked them over carefully, one by one, reading what limited dossier had been assembled for each and the description of their assignments when intercepted. All were amazingly beautiful in different aspects, some being more voluptuous, some smoothly muscled while others were dancer-sleek; the colors of their hairstyles ranging too from nordic blondes to glowing brunettes, with the occasional coppery redhead or gyspy raven-black standing out from the rest. Out of a population of a hundred million, they sure picked the cream of the crop. A few glass cubicles down the line, Allen found one that looked promising, an cute-looking agent who until recently had been concealed as the display figure of a WAC in a diorama at the Pentagon that depicted the various roles of military personnel.
Some days later, Office of the Director of Central Intelligence
Throwing the red-covered folder on his desk, the Director glared at the two field agents. "Results Inconclusive doesn't cut the shit in this business, boys; tell me what really happened," he grumbled around the cigar gripped in his teeth.
"Sir, the scenario was as proposed; a subject was selected from among the group of captured agents, she was revived in a setting that would be unsettling to her while giving the agent someone to identify with and, our hope, confide in," Allen began. "Then..."
"Don't tell me how to run a 'charm school' young man - I was using the technique on Nazi spies before you were a glimmer in your father's eye, Agent.."
"Ah, we just wanted to make sure you were fully aware of our exhaustive preparations, sir, nothing more," Pete interrupted. Allen breathed a momentary sigh of relief at being out of the crosshairs.
"So, Agent Sommers, WHAT WENT WRONG?"
Pete gulped before saying, "She didn't know anything... That is, anything that we didn't have already from other sources."
"Nothing that she gave up under your little scenario, you mean?" the Director dug deeper. "Did you try other methods as well?"
"Yes, Sir!" Allen piped up, tag-teaming with Pete. The subject was given established chemical inducements, along with hypnosis and age regression. All we discovered is that the Soviets are celling off these 'Suspensor Groups' as they're called very effectively and these field agents are placed after an extremely cursory coaching program. Our first subject, Irina Voslov, was selected from the Kiev clerical corps of the Army, taken to a the facility outside Moscow, and received only what amounted to posture training and makeup tips before she was given her assignment. As it was, she had only been immobilized once before, to act as a mannequin in some department store. Her instructions were simply to 'remember what you see and hear'; we did find a post-hypnotic command that effectively turned her into a living video recorder. Beyond that, she's a blank slate."
"Was there any extended interrogation?" their superior prodded, using the euphemism common in the Agency these days for more unpleasant means.
"There seemed to be no purpose, sir," Pete picked up. "Later subjects confirmed the superficial pattern of indoctrination these agents received."
"Understood," the Director concluded. "Yet, you never write 'Inconclusive' in a report when the results aren't what you expected. There is information to be gleaned here. Never throw anything away; first rule of the spy biz."
The two agents said nothing, but Allen felt a growing flush of embarassment. The had just been told by the highest ranking official in their agency that they didn't know what they were doing. Pete Sommers opened and closed his mouth a couple of times as if starting to say something. He looked like a fish out of water, drowning in the air.
The Director let them stew for a while before suggesting "Let's try something different." Reaching across his desk, he keyed the intercom. "Marcie, could you please have Miss Voslov brought in?" To the two surprised agents, he added "I took the liberty of arranging for her to be here today."
A few minutes later a burly unsmiling CIA agent dressed in a dark suit appeared, looking like a linebacker trying to pass as a Swiss diplomat. He seemed especially displeased that his duty consisted of shepherding around an innocent-looking Russian girl who currently posed all the threat potential of a teenager at the mall. Handcuffed and dressed in an international orange smock, she would have stood out even if managing to escape from inside the secured building. The agent escorted the young woman to the center of the room, pointed down, motioning 'stay', and then stepped back.
The Director keyed a control on his desk. "Good day, Irina," he said to her in unaccented Russian.
"Go fuck yourself on the grave of your mother!" the girl snarled, though her choice of words carried none of the delicacy of their English equivalents.
Allen and Pete could barely keep from cracking up; nobody talked to their boss like that. The guarding agent looked puzzled since he hadn't understood the invective or the tongue.
After a moment's raised eyebrow, their superior focused on the brash young agent and proceeded to tell her, without a single cuss word, what a profoundly stupid thing she had just done, culminating with: "Not only are you a 'guest' in our hostile foreign country, young lady, you are being held under charges of espionage, as well as being in the custody of the most sinister branch of the United States government, one even the KGB dares not cross. What's more, I hold the key to your continued existence in the palm of my hand," he said as he picked up a Beretta pistol. "One press of the trigger is all it would take - you'd just be gone. People disappear routinely in your country, so why should you be treated differently here? After all, America is a decadent place; you've seen it in the news. You could also be put back in Suspension, permanently; our scientists have figured out your little gizmo's tricks. The United States certainly has a growing need for more window dummies, which seems to be your foremost demonstrated ability, but there is of course the possibility of turning you into a love doll - a powerless sexual plaything!"
At last, a crack appeared in her brave armor, just a glimmer of fear and a whispered "Nyet...No..."
"On the other side," the Director continued, making a show of putting the gun down, "if you co-operate with us, tell us the information we seek, then our country isn't such a bad place to live. I am sure you could even become part of a protected witness plan, in case your superiors decide that you have become too much of a risk."
"I know very little of operation..." she admitted after more seconds of quiet desperation.
"Help as as much as you can; tell us what you know, and we'll help you in return," he concluded, making the transition from evil inquisitor to dutch uncle in almost the blink of an eye. He turned to his desk, pressing an intercom button to signal his secretary. A few seconds later, a late-middle-aged man with a thinning grey scalp, neat vanDyke beard and a burgeoning belly entered, looking slightly ill at ease in government issue fatigues.
Irina Voslov was totally unprepared; she blurted "Comrade Zorynich, what are you..." before her training took over and she tried to suppress further reaction. By then it was far too late.
"Doing what is right; after far too long doing what was wanted," he replied, resignedly. Only now could she see he was trailed by two more agents with telltale bulges under their coats.
The Director smiled; his little maneuver had worked. "Thank you, Miss Voslov, for your first piece of information; by recognizing the person in charge of your government's Suspensor program you've saved us all a great deal of inconvenience." Switching to English, he turned towards the older man. "Sergei, I think you should train your agents more thoroughly in the future; this one rolled in about five minutes!"
This time it was Irina's turn to be left out of the conversation.
The old Russian also spoke in English, but with a thick slavic accent. "Not full operative is her kind, only... sponge. We should be careful what is said."
"No problem; her implanted command was nullified already. By the way, an honor to meet you, Professor Zorynich," Allen chimed in. "I'm..."
"We all should be careful what is said," repeated the older man dourfully. "I am recently -- guest -- in your country. Customary to bring gifts, no?" He reached into a pocket, triggering a rustle of attention from Breen, and brought out a black plastic box about the size of a paperback book or a small tape recorder with two wires leading from it. Without asking, he strode over to where the young female agent was standing, attached one of the wires to each of her ears via a clip. When he flipped the switch, Irina Voslov had but an instant's gasp before her muscles locked solid and her beautiful face froze into a motionless mask of surprise. She became fully Suspended in a matter of seconds and fell unconscious within the minute. "Her presence is no longer worry," the visitor said shortly afterward, tucking the box into the waistband of the motionless girl's tunic. "However..." his eyes glanced in the direction of the several guards; a gesture the Director picked up on, while the other agents were busy gawking at the still young woman.
"Cool!" Pete exclaimed. "A pocket immobilizer - you're just a bag full of tricks, aren't you?"
"Agents Breen, Yanoz, Spode; please leave us now, but remain outside," the CIA chief commanded the ones guarding the two Russians. Allen and Pete Sommers stayed put; the living statue that was Irina had no say in the matter. He turned back to the grey man. "Now, Sergei..."
"Wait a minute!" Allen interrupted, earning himself a scowl from the Director. "How do we know she's really immobilized, or maybe in a state where she can't move but can hear everything?" He strode over to the stiffened Soviet agent, snapping his fingers in front of her glassy eyes, poking her in her stomach. She really does seem to be out of it, he thought, but continued "All you have is the word of this gray man, here. He brought the device in with him; we aren't sure that box isn't a Moscow walkman or just an empty shell."
The Director started to speak, visibly irritated, only to be interrupted yet again by a chuckling laugh from Sergei Vorynich.
"Ah ha! Someone around here is using head, Comrade Director, not only eyes and ears. Young agent here is correct for suspicion; is valuable trait to staying alive," he smiled. "I want him on team."
This time it was Allen's turn to be confused, trying to figure out what all the pieces were. There was surely some game afoot.
"Very well, Sergei," the Director agreed, reaching over to his intercom once more and giving curt instructions. Shortly afterward, two agents, including Breen, returned only to pick up the stiffened figure of the immobilized female agent and carry her off horizontally like a shop-window dummy. If the girl had been faking, she was doing a amazing job of it. More seconds passed before DCI turned to face the now-smaller group. "Now, I trust, we can focus on matters of mutual benefit, including the extraction of Agent Santiago."
To Be Continued in 5b