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Home > The Doomsday Conspiracy(3)

The Doomsday Conspiracy(3)
Author: Sidney Sheldon

“Please wear this at all times while you’re in the building, Commander.”

“Right.”

They started walking down a long, white corridor. Robert Bellamy noticed security cameras mounted at twenty-foot intervals on both sides of the hall.

“How big is this building?”

“Just over two million square feet, Commander.”

“What?”

“Yes. This corridor is the longest corridor in the world, nine hundred and eighty feet. We’re completely self-contained here. We have a shopping centre, cafeteria, post exchange, eight snack bars, a hospital complete with operating room, a dentist’s office, a branch of the State Bank of Laurel, a dry-cleaning shop, a shoe shop, a barber shop, and a few other odds and ends.”

It’s a home away from home, Robert thought. He found it oddly depressing.

They passed an enormous open area filled with a vast sea of computers. Robert stopped in amazement.

“Impressive, isn’t it? That’s just one of our computer rooms. The complex contains three billion dollars’ worth of decoding machines and computers.”

“How many people work in this place?”

“About sixteen thousand.”

So what the hell do they need me for? Robert Bellamy wondered.

He was led into a private elevator that Keller operated with a key. They went up one floor and started on another trek down a long corridor until they reached a suite of offices at the end of the hall.

“Right in here, Commander.” They entered a large reception office with four secretaries’ desks. Two of the secretaries had already arrived for work. Harrison Keller nodded to one of them. She pressed a button and a door to the inner office clicked open.

“Go right in, please, gentlemen. The General is expecting you.”

Harrison Keller said, “This way.”

Robert Bellamy followed him into the inner sanctum. He found himself in a spacious office, the ceilings and walls heavily soundproofed. The room was comfortably furnished, filled with photographs and personal artifacts. It was obvious that the man behind the desk spent a lot of time there.

General Mark Hilliard, Deputy Director of NSA, appeared to be in his middle fifties, very tall, with a face carved in flint, icy, steely eyes, and a ramrod-straight posture. The General was dressed in a grey suit, white shirt and grey tie. I guessed right, Robert thought.

Harrison Keller said, “General Hilliard, this is Commander Bellamy.”

“Thank you for dropping by, Commander.”

As though it had been an invitation to some tea party.

The two men shook hands.

“Sit down. I’ll bet you could do with a cup of coffee.”

The man was a mind-reader. “Yes, sir.”

“Harrison?”

“No, thank you.” He took a chair in the corner.

A buzzer was pressed, the door opened and an oriental in a mess jacket entered with a tray of coffee and Danish pastry. Robert noted that he was not wearing an identification badge. Shame. The coffee was poured. It smelled wonderful.

“How do you take yours?” General Milliard asked.

“Black, please.” The coffee tasted great.

The two men were seated in soft leather chairs facing each other.

“The Director asked that I meet with you.”

The Director. Edward Sanderson. A legend in espionage circles. A brilliant, ruthless puppet-master, credited with masterminding dozens of daring coups all over the world. A man seldom seen in public and whispered about in private.

“How long have you been with the 17th District Naval Intelligence Group, Commander?” General Milliard asked.

Robert played it straight. “Fifteen years.” He would have bet a month’s pay that the General could have told him the time of day when he had joined ONI.

“Before that, I believe you commanded a naval air squadron in Vietnam.”

“Yes, sir.”

“You were shot down. They didn’t expect you to pull through.”

The doctor was saying, “Forget about him. He won’t make it.” He had wanted to die. The pain was unbearable. And then Susan was leaning over him. Open your eyes, sailor, you don’t want to die. He had forced his eyes open and through the haze of pain was staring at the most beautiful woman he had ever seen. She had a soft oval face and thick black hair, sparkling brown eyes and a smile like a blessing. He had tried to speak, but it was too much of an effort.

General Hilliard was saying something.

Robert Bellamy brought his mind back to the present. “I beg your pardon, General?”

“We have a problem, Commander. We need your help.”

“Yes, sir?”

The General stood up and began to pace. “What I’m about to tell you is extremely sensitive. It’s above Top Secret.”

“Yes, sir.”

“Yesterday, in the Swiss Alps, a NATO weather balloon crashed. There were some experimental military objects aboard the balloon that are highly secret.”

Robert found himself wondering where all this was leading.

“The Swiss government has removed those objects from the balloon, but, unfortunately, it seems that there were some witnesses to the crash. It is of vital importance that none of them talk to anyone about what they saw. It could provide valuable information to certain other countries. Do you follow me?”

“I think so, sir. You want me to speak to the witnesses and warn them not to discuss what they saw.”

“Not exactly, Commander.”

Then I don’t under

“What I want you to do is simply track down those witnesses. Others will talk to them about the necessity for silence.”

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