If you thought the Cold War was over, think again.

In West Berlin, Amy Brecker, an American intelligence officer, takes a chance on a walk-in informant who says that the Soviets are going to simulate an "accident" that will cripple America's space-based defense program.

From a Soviet silo on the Sea of Japan, a single missile rises. A hotline communique from Moscow insists that a mistake has been made; the Soviets are doing everything in their power to abort the "test" flight.

Deep inside Cheyenne Mountain at the Aerospace Defense Command Center, all eyes watch its trajectory: a collision course with America's manned space lab.

If the U.S. chooses to intercept and destroy the Russian missile, the attempt must not end in failure . . . the future of America's entire space-based defense hangs in the balance. Only one U.S. anti-satellite weapon can foil the opening gambit of what might be a Soviet First Strike -- and only Amy Brecker and her "hot stick" pilot have enough of the Right Stuff to use it.

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About the Book

[excerpt from M.E.D.U.S.A.]

From her office in the new American Embassy building in West Berlin, Amy Brecker could see the top of the Wall, its electrified barbed wire glinting against the squirrel-gray winter sky, tiny black shapes in a guard tower moving restlessly back and forth before their window as she did before hers.

It was Christmas Eve, and Brecker was working late. The embassy corridors were almost deserted, a skeleton staff of the disgruntled and the depressed holding the fort upstairs while below, in the ground-floor reception room, the last of the senior diplomats buttoned up their coats and dashed for their Mercedes; only the lonely were working tonight.

Brecker had volunteered. Better a desk full of paperwork than a cocktail party full of Brits, Berliners, and Frenchmen with eyes only for each other and fake hail-fellow-well-met for everyone else. The international situation was tense; NATO was shaky; everyone in the diplomatic community was walking on eggs because America wasn’t: In both hemispheres, American troops were “paving the way for democracy” with blood and bullets, matching the Soviets intervention for intervention, preemptive strike for preemptive strike.

This particular Christmas, there were fifty-three wars in progress around the globe. But that wasn’t why Amy Brecker had chosen to work rather than party. Five years in the West Berlin embassy as a second secretary had inured her to crises; as CIA’s deputy station chief in West Berlin, she faced potential world devastation every morning with her cornflakes.

So if this particular quick and dirty twilight made the Berlin Wall seem like a memorial to her own fragmented life, it had more to do with personal problems than with professional ones: Amy Brecker had broken up with her live-in lover the night before.

They’d had other fights, and nothing had come of them. But during this one, while Jeremy Pratt, the embassy’s cultural attaché, was busy calling her a “horny bitch” and letting her know in no uncertain terms that no wife of a career diplomat of Jeremy’s potential could have a second career as “some damn spook,” she’d realized he was right.

So Jeremy was at her place, clearing out five years’ worth of accumulated “mutuality of interest,” and Amy was working the graveyard shift, burying what she could of her emotions.

They’d found out they were in each other’s way; it wasn’t anybody’s fault. It probably would have happened sooner, if sane heterosexual males hadn’t been at such a premium in Amy’s age group and if she weren’t so unwilling to let the relationship fail that she’d made endless compromises and told countless lies.

She pressed her nose to the chill windowpane, fogging the glass, then stood back, her image reflected there like a ghost. Jeremy didn’t really want to marry a longhair, anyway. Amy had to be able to connect with the rebels and the peace groups—the Granolas, the Greens, the Soviet­molded marchers and moaners who camped outside Ramstein and smoked dope in dingy cafés, so she came to work in the fatigues and Nagasaki sweatshirts of radical chic.

At thirty-seven, she was getting a little old for it, but she still got results. And she liked herself the way she was. She tried to imagine the small, athletic figure before her in the window transformed: in a chiffon blouse and a Dior suit, teetering on toothpick heels, her shapely legs encased in silk, her wicked grin brightening a pale, freckled face.

“Hell with it,” she told her reflection, and settled down behind her gray desk, where she punched viciously at her computer keyboard. She’d cried last night, the first time she’d cried in years. She was still feeling drained, vulnerable, and rebellious. She needed to prove to herself that a man, or lack of one, couldn’t really turn her life upside down.

Maybe that was why, when the night desk buzzed and told her there was an “Ivan here who wants to see somebody who can grant him asylum,” she said, “Great. Send him up.”

The Russian, when he arrived with a marine in full dress who said, “Ms. Secretary, Mr. Azimov,” and let Amy know he’d be right outside if she needed him, was a walking cliché.

Azimov—obviously not his real name—was Slavic, overweight, sweating into his dirty, gray-white collar. His overcoat was heavy leather, badly cut, and speckled with melting snow. He held his hat in one hand, a stained manila envelope in the other, and watched her out of round, dark eyes glittering with apprehension.

“Won’t you sit down, Mr.—uh—Azimov?” Amy indicated the chair before her desk.

The burly Russian sat, sighing like a punctured tire. Even with the desk between them, Amy could smell an acrid body odor, like copper filings and an old cigar, that let her know the Russian was very nervous about being here.

But then, defections were never routine for the defector.

“What can I do for you, Mr. Azimov?”

The Russian chewed his lip, then said in perfect, unaccented English, “I’d like to go to America, please.”

He sounded like a Russian “commentator,” the sort who did satellite interviews with the Western press, but she’d never seen him before. She’d expected some low-level mission worker, or at best a poet or a nerve-gas project worker—someone who was fleeing ComBloc for the standard reasons. But Russians who spoke English this well were highly paid and not lacking in creature comforts. She couldn’t hook him with offers of his own apartment and freedom of speech.

She stared at him for half a minute, realizing that he’d won the first round, that she was non­plussed, and that she’d better get the ball back into her court. She said, “The next nonstop flight leaves in . . .”—she looked at her watch, her knee pressing the RECORD button on the underside of her desktop—“three hours and fourteen minutes, Mr. Azimov, so we’d better get started. I’ll need a good reason to put you on that plane. Tell me who you are, why you want asylum, and what you’ve got that would interest the U.S. Defectors are a dime a dozen this year, and expensive to support.”

The Russian wriggled one scant eyebrow. “Very good, Ms. Brecker.” He sat forward, shrugged off his coat, pulled a Cuban cigar from a chalk-striped suit pocket, and lit it when she nodded her permission. Then he sat back, puffed ruminatively like a man at a poker game, all signs of his former trepidation gone, and cleared his throat. “Do you know, Ms. Brecker, what the PKO is?”

“No,” she lied. “Tell me.” Her pulse was beating hard now; from a simple defection, this was turning into a major acquisition—if the Soviet was from the PKO.

Azimov frowned with his whole body: His forehead crinkled; his nose drew down; his mouth, around its cigar, formed a slobbery arc; his shoulders hunched and his arms and legs crossed. “I’d hoped to find someone among you better informed. PKO is a division of the Soviet defense forces, which we call PVO-Strany. PKO stands for Provito­Kozmicheskay Oberona—anticosmic defense. PKO is dedicated to literally ‘destroying the enemy’s cosmic means of fighting.’”

Amy took a deep breath, visions of promotion and awards ceremonies dancing in her head. “I know,” she admitted.

Anger flashed across the Slav’s face, then subsided.

In that moment, Amy had realized that this man was unaccustomed to being polite. He was an order giver, not taker. PKO was run by the military; intimately connected with GRU, the Soviet military intelligence agency. For all she knew, she could be sitting across from a master spy. She said, “Go on, Mr. Azimov. Time is of the essence.” She tapped her Cross pen on her notepad.

Azimov leaned forward and tossed the manila envelope onto her desk. “Read this, then.”

Smart—he didn’t want to go on record; couldn’t afford to be taped giving specifics, in case no accommodation could be made. She countered: “Tell me what it says—my Cyrillic’s nearly nonexistent.”

She could almost hear him wishing she were a man. But playing the dizzy broad might be advantageous—if it didn’t scare him away altogether.

When he didn’t respond, she added: “Someone might have seen you come in here; we’ve got to expedite this and get you on that plane.” She took a form from her drawer—not the right one for a defection request: a CIA blue-bordered priority request for transport.

“If you insist, Ms. Brecker. In that envelope is my dossier—I am a project control officer for the SS-thirty intermediate-range missile system. With it is a copy of an operations plan to ‘accidentally’ cripple your Strategic Defense Initiative program.” He stood up. “As for my person, it is not in danger presently—unless it is in danger from you, No one saw me come in here; no one will notice my leaving. And I know Americans—you will have to consult with some man who is your superior before you make a decision on my case. So . . .”—he smiled nastily, a baring of teeth that showed steel fillings and brown enamel—“I’ll leave now, and come back another time.”

The big Slav, standing, shrugged into his overcoat and headed for the door.

“Wait a minute—Mr. Azimov?” She’d blown it; the man wouldn’t put his fate in her hands. She didn’t really blame him—she hadn’t taken this thing seriously enough. Now it was too late . . .

Da?” He turned, a glint of triumph in his eyes.

“How do I know you’ll be back? How do I know this report is genuine? Or that you are?”

“You don’t,” he rumbled. “But someone better informed will be able to make those determinations.”

“What is it you’d like? How can I persuade you not to leave?”

“Put a geranium in your window when you have permission to spirit me from this country to yours and your superior is ready to talk the turkey with me—money, freedoms, this sort of thing. Until then, my dear . . .”—he reached out, took her hand, lifted it to his lips and kissed it—“have a Merry Christmas.”

Dropping her hand, he opened the door and strode out. The marine waiting outside looked in at her quizzically. Amy shook her head. “See him out, if you would, soldier.”

She was staring out her window again, the Azimov report still spread out on her desk and her fingernails between her teeth, when ten minutes later someone knocked on her door. It was the marine again, this time with his white hat in one hand and his young face equally white. “Ma’am? Sorry to bust in like this, I really am but . . .”

“Go ahead, soldier.” In the distance she could hear the burping wail of an ambulance; out the rear window of the embassy building, the Wall glittered, coldly lit and defiant in its intransigence, a symbol of all that was wrong with the modern world, her job, life in general, and Soviets in particular.

“Well, ma’am . . . that guy, the one who was just here? He got as far as the front gate and then . . .”

“Yes? Then what?”

“We were wondering if he was one of our guys—you know, an agent or something . . . if we screwed up.”

“How’s that? You didn’t detain him?”

“No, ma’am. He cleared the checkpoint, started across the street to his car, and some fool who thought this was the autobahn creamed him. That’s who the ambulance is for.”

“He’s alive?”

“Heck, no, ma’am. This gray Mercedes hit him so hard he went right up in the air and landed behind it—broke his back, we think. Whatever it broke, he was dead when he hit the ground.”


The marine flushed up into his crew cut. “Yes ma’am. So . . . did we screw up?”

“No, soldier, you didn’t. But you can bet I did.”

Authors: ,
Genre: Techno-Thriller
Publisher: Perseid Press
Publication Year: 2023
ISBN: 9781948602549
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About the Author
Janet Morris

Best selling author Janet Morris began writing in 1976 and has since published more than 30 novels, many co-authored with her husband Chris Morris or others. She has contributed short fiction to the shared universe fantasy series Thieves World, in which she created the Sacred Band of Stepsons, a mythical unit of ancient fighters modeled on the Sacred Band of Thebes. She created, orchestrated, and edited the Bangsian fantasy series Heroes in Hell, writing stories for the series as well as co-writing the related novel, The Little Helliad, with Chris Morris. She wrote the bestselling Silistra Quartet in the 1970s, including High Couch of Silistra, The Golden Sword, Wind from the Abyss, and The Carnelian Throne. This quartet had more than four million copies in Bantam print alone, and was translated into German, French, Italian, Russian and other languages. In the 1980s, Baen Books released a second edition of this landmark series. The third edition is the Author's Cut edition, newly revised by the author for Perseid Press. Most of her fiction work has been in the fantasy and science fiction genres, although she has also written historical and other novels. Morris has written, contributed to, or edited several book-length works of non-fiction, as well as papers and articles on nonlethal weapons, developmental military technology and other defense and national security topics.

Janet says: 'People often ask what book to read first. I recommend "I, the Sun" if you like ancient history; "The Sacred Band," a novel, if you like heroic fantasy; "Lawyers in Hell" if you like historical fantasy set in hell; "Outpassage" if you like hard science fiction; "High Couch of Silistra" if you like far-future dystopian or philosophical novels. I am most enthusiastic about the definitive Perseid Press Author's Cut editions, which I revised and expanded.'

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the page above are "affiliate links." This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."