Captain Irina Vostov stood in the shade of the hangar door and watched as a large crate was loaded into the belly of the giant Antonov AN-124 cargo plane. The three American SADMs were well packed inside, the wooden slats that made up the sides of the crate marked with severe warnings in Cyrillic against opening or tampering with the contents. The lid was held in place with a dozen large screws and tagged with a bright red GRU seal. If the warnings on the sides didn’t discourage attempts at petty theft, the GRU tag certainly would. Perhaps the SVR, descendent of the KGB, might not fear the repercussions, but Irina wasn’t worried. GRU cargo was nearly sacrosanct in Russia.
Along with her crate were dozens of other shipping containers that held looted American technology, as well as a couple secured with Kremlin seals. She had no doubt these contained luxury goods that had been taken for President Barinov and his cronies. All of the crates and shipping containers loaded and secured, one of the American’s Stealth Hawk helicopters was slowly wheeled up the ramp by a large tractor. Its rotor blades had been put into shipping position, with all of them turned in the same direction to extend along the length of the aircraft then securely strapped to the tail.
She didn’t understand the reason for taking the helicopter back to Russia to be disassembled, studied and duplicated. There were no adversaries left on the face of the Earth that could ever hope to stand against the Russian military. China and all of Asia was dead. India was dead. Western Europe still had some pockets of life, but they were few and far between.
Despite the best efforts of the Mexicans, Central and South Americans, the virus had jumped the quarantine zone and spread like wild fire, stopping only when it reached the southern tip of Argentina. Other than Russia, where the vaccine had been widely distributed to the population, only a few select islands remained untouched. The largest of these was the island continent of Australia.
Early on, almost as soon as the attacks on the United States had happened, Australia had sealed its borders. All inbound air and ship traffic had been turned away. And so far, it was working. The land down under had not had a single case of infection. What at first had been sharp criticism of the government for turning away refugees, in one case sinking a boat loaded with people that refused to reverse course, was now praise. But Irina knew that without the vaccine Australia was on borrowed time. The virus was loose in the world, and there was no stopping it.
She hoped the American soldier to whom she’d given the vaccine had made it safely to whatever his destination was, and that the Americans were even now feverishly producing and distributing the inoculations. Time was running out for them. She’d just seen a report that the Air Force personnel being held in the local jail were starting to turn. Only eight of them so far, but she knew this was just the beginning. The start of an unstoppable avalanche.
The helicopter made it fully inside the cavernous interior of the Antonov and the crew, under the sharp tongued instructions of the loadmaster, set about securing it for the 6,000 mile journey to Kubinka Air Base just outside of Moscow. A flight of 12 Mig fighter jets sat at the end of the closest runway, waiting for the giant plane to be ready to go. They would escort it all the way to Moscow, ensuring that the remnants of the American military or any of its NATO allies weren’t able to interfere.
When the plane landed at Kubinka, at 0300 local Moscow time, a GRU Colonel would be there to meet it and take possession of the crate containing the nukes. Colonel Alexander Grishin was a childhood friend of her uncle, and was risking everything to assassinate President Barinov and help seize control of Russia. He had already disabled the air base’s radiation detectors with the help of one of Russia’s most notorious hacker groups. Once the bombs were clear of the base, they would re-enable the detectors, and were prepared to shut down the net that constantly monitored all approaches to, and the interior of, the Kremlin.
She had spoken with Colonel Grishin via encrypted satellite phone less than an hour before, and the man had sounded as calm as if he were talking to her about the weather. Her nerves were getting to her, and she was sweating, even though it wasn’t that warm of a day in the high, New Mexico desert. Watching the flight crew complete preparations for take off, she thought about her Uncle’s plan.
One of the nukes would be armed and placed in the trunk of an official military sedan that would deliver him to a meeting with the president. This meeting would be attended by all of the highest ranking military officers and all members of the Duma, the equivalent of the American’s Congress. Due to his rank and status, the vehicle would not be searched, and with the radiation detectors offline, the bomb would be driven right into the heart of the Kremlin. Early in the meeting he would fall ill and excuse himself, returning to the car where his driver would have disabled the vehicle in a manner that would appear to be a normal breakdown of the notoriously unreliable Zil automobiles.
Another car would be called for, his driver telling security that a maintenance crew would be along presently to retrieve it. Her uncle and his driver would depart in the second vehicle, and an hour later a nuclear detonation equivalent to 1,000 tons of TNT would destroy the Kremlin, President Barinov and the entire military and political leadership of the country. So many things could go wrong with the plan, including Barinov refusing to excuse her uncle. If that happened, his driver, a trusted aide, would shut down the nuke’s timer and they would have to look for another opportunity.
The flight crew was done and the cargo doors now closed. The pilot and co-pilot were performing a walk around of the aircraft prior to takeoff. They were dwarfed by everything about the plane, even the tires on the landing gear taller than they were. Despite their imminent departure with the crate safely aboard, Irina didn’t budge from where she stood. The sharp burning pain from the bullet wound in her leg gnawed at her, but she stoically endured it. She was a Russian and could proudly handle pain. Once the plane was in the air and she could no longer see it, she would alert Colonel Grishin that it was on the way. Only then would she leave the hangar and get some much needed rest.