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Excerpts from Novels:
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Excerpt: Mrs. C: A Holiday Fantasy. (2017)



I couldn’t remember ever seeing so much white or feeling so very cold.

Everything had happened quickly. At one moment, we had been seated in a booth at The Vista on Monterey Bay; the next moment, we were suspended mid-air above a sprawling, quaint village below a midnight-blue sky. Ancient street lamps and pinpoints of yellow light escaping through tiny frosted window panes flickered over waves of whiteness stretching to a starlit horizon. I gasped and shivered simultaneously; and the next instant I was garbed in a fur-trimmed scarlet coat.

As the shadowy, snow-covered landscape came up to meet us, I looked at my companion … and gasped again. Now, Nick was garbed in a similar scarlet jacket with matching pants and shiny black boots. On his head was a fur-trimmed scarlet stocking cap. “Oh my God!” I cried. “You are Santa!”

He laughed—a boisterous, long guffaw—just as we landed in a snow bank outside a huge red barn. “So I’ve been trying to tell you, my dear.”

Trying out the tall leather boots that appeared on my feet, I took a couple steps in the deep snow, turning to face a suddenly-new character. “Are we really—”

“At the North Pole? Not exactly, but close enough. This is home for me and my helpers … and, I hope, for you some day.”

I caught his eye. “Nick … I mean … what in the world do I call you?”

Another hearty laugh. “Everybody up here calls me ‘Santa.’ But don’t let that influence you.”

“Alright, Santa … or Nick … or whatever … I’m beginning to get a little scared. This just can’t be real. You don’t really want me to marry you and live here … do you?”

He nodded and grinned.

“Alright,” I protested, “this has gone far enough. I have no intention of moving to this frigid iceberg to become the latest consort for some goddam immortal who’s going to watch me grow old and wither and die.”

His white, thick eyebrows arched as if they might push through his cap. “Whoa! Language, Margo! I am a saint, you know.” He winked, but his eyes had turned dark, silently scolding me.

“I’m sorry,” I said, instantly regretting the harshness of my words. “I don’t mean any disrespect, Nick. But, seriously, you need to take me back to California.”

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Excerpt: Shoot the Moon (2016)


The shooting had happened three days earlier in Springtown, Kansas—an unarmed young black man shot dead by local police. For three days and nights now protests had spread throughout the country, beginning with that small, mostly black community with the mostly white police force.

In Berkeley, California, on this hot August night, blacks and whites joined arms for the march down Telegraph Avenue. Like previous nights, they carried lighted candles. And like previous nights, they sang hymns. The destination, as before, was the heart of the UC-Berkeley campus that had witnessed similar protests for many decades. The anti-war and free-speech movements of the sixties and seventies hadn’t been as peaceful as these, but these were no less passionate.

Inside the Upper Grounds Coffee Shop on Telegraph Avenue, two male graduate students, raptly engaged with the lighted screens of their laptops, sat at a small table at the front window. Periodically, one of the two—the tall, lanky one with the scruffy reddish beard and long, stringy dark-blond hair—would look up and utter a few words excitedly to the other. His more stoic partner—shorter, darker, with neatly trimmed black hair and beard—would nod and utter a word or two in response.

But the blondish young man, Dexter Carp, was deep in thought, thoughts far from the computer code he was developing.

One more step, my friend, and I’m taking you down, he thought, with a glance at the preoccupied dark face across from him.

It had taken months of preparation, followed by weeks of undercover activity. But now the special agent, known to his fellow UC-Berkeley students as “Dexter Carp,” had found the hacker that had been trolling through secret FBI files.

As anticipated, Jamal had been cool to him. Hell, all hackers are basically anti-social, introverted assholes, Carp reminded himself. Jamal’s not the first that I’ve taken down. He allowed a tiny smile. I’ve figured out how to get inside their heads. Let ’em know you’re a bigger, badder, hacker!

Carp could do that—with help from the FBI techies back in Quantico. Carp let his thoughts return to the coding problem on his laptop. One more step! he repeated. Neither of these men at the front window paid attention to the now familiar parade of protesters outside. That is, not until the shouting began.

“What the hell?” Carp jerked his head toward the street. His dark-haired companion looked up. “Looks like the counter-protestors have arrived.” His words coincided with the sight of a number of bystanders abruptly rushing the front line of marchers. Startled marchers refused to engage the insurgents—a dozen burly, white toughs. Bodies flew to all sides, with candles strewn far and wide. A few of the jostled marchers were tossed onto the sidewalk in front of the coffee shop.

Carp slapped his laptop shut. “This is getting ugly, Jamal,” he said, pushing his chair back and starting to rise. “Relax, Dexter,” said Jamal, motioning him to sit back down. “Soon as those rednecks realize no one’s fighting back, they’ll back off.”

Just then a shot rang out, followed instantly by the sound of shattering glass. One of the two men ducked instinctively. Dexter Carp sat motionless for a few moments, staring ahead blankly. Then, ever so slowly, his chin dropped and his head toppled forward, crashing into the laptop. His partner looked up without moving his head. A few inches from his face, spread across the laptop, was Carp’s stringy, blood-matted hair. Also spreading across the laptop was a pool of blood oozing from Carp’s mouth and the gaping hole in the side of his head. Dexter Carp would never write another line of code.

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Excerpt: Turned On! (2014)

By Monday afternoon thousands of normally conservative Purdue students had converged angrily on the administration building in West Lafayette, Indiana. Fanning the flames of protest was that small core of campus activists opposed to the Vietnam War.

That was when I got the call.

The youthful male voice was raspy. “Dr. Perone, you need to cancel the exam in the Hall of Music tomorrow night.”

“What? Who is this?” I asked.

He ignored the question. “We’re shutting down the campus.”

“It’s the last mid-term exam,” I protested. “People have—”

“We don’t care,” the angry voice interrupted. “Everything gets shut down.”

“I can’t do that.”

The voice remained silent for a few moments. Then it hissed. “Dr. Perone, you really don’t want to be responsible. People are going to get hurt.”

There was a click. And the voice was gone.

A million thoughts swirled in my head. Who were these protestors? What would they do? Could they be stopped?

The chilling vision of sixteen hundred students—trapped in the debris of the cavernous Hall of Music—flashed before my eyes. I caught my breath.

Surely the campus police could maintain order. Couldn’t they?

I recalled the televised spectacle of Chicago police mauling anti-war demonstrators at the 1968 Democratic convention. Student protests had only gotten bolder and more violent since then.

Then the irony hit me.

A few years earlier I might have been right in the thick of it—occupying the administration building along with the students.

But here I was now, thirty years old, on track to become the youngest ever to make full professor in Purdue’s chemistry department. Against all odds, I had become part of the “establishment.”

Don’t trust anyone over thirty was the catch phrase of the day. And I was now on the wrong side.

But it hadn’t always been that way.

Seven years earlier I had been a neophyte professor, painfully naïve, more comfortable running with students than faculty.

Those youthful adventures had taken me into uncharted territory. It had been the 60s, after all. Everything was getting a fresh look.

My thoughts wandered back to the very beginning….

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Excerpt: Star of the Future (2010)


Star saw it. The opening was quite large. They could pass through easily. She looked at Logan. “Should we try it?"

Logan nodded. “We’ll have to be careful. Those air intakes—”

Before finishing his thought, a bright greenish-white object flew out of the opening! It was moving so fast that it appeared only as a momentary blur in the light beam.

The startled trio lurched backwards, clinging to the handrails. Logan recovered quickly and tried to shine his light on the flying object…with little success.

“Wha…what was that?” cried Crystal.

Before anyone could answer, a blood-curdling shriek filled the chamber. The shrill sound refused to fade, even as the object sped further away. Then, abruptly, the object turned and sped back toward them!

Then, with a blood-curdling shriek and a loud swooosh, it streaked overhead and through the portal where it had first emerged.

“That’s the ghost!” screamed Crystal. “Let’s get out of here!” she leaped away, soaring down the middle of the chamber.

Logan followed her and took the lead. “Follow me!” he cried, stretching out like a swimmer gliding through the water.

Star was too terrified to speak. She shoved off, joining Logan and Crystal in a mad flight away from the ghostly appearance.

Whatever it was…this thing was not friendly!

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Excerpt: Youthanasia (2009)


The Senator…pushed himself to a standing position and strode slowly to the side window with the stunning view of fall foliage and, in the distance, the Washington Monument. With hands folded behind him, he looked out the window and said, “These millions of brave men and women—casualties of war—sacrificed willingly so that our country would survive. Do you know why?”

Ford had no idea how to answer the man.

The Senator turned his head to Ford. “Of course you know why. Because we knew the enemy: the British, the Prussians, the Japanese, the Nazis…whatever. In each conflict we fought for our very survival.”

He turned back to the window. “Today we have a very different enemy. An enemy that we can’t see…that we refuse to see.”

He paused, looking off into the distance for several seconds. Then he turned and locked in on Ford’s eyes. “The enemy, Dr. Ford, is us!”

Ford caught his breath.

“That’s right,” he continued, his eyes boring into Ford. “We’re the enemy—our self-consumed nation. Especially the youngsters. They’re too selfish to propagate. They despise the military. They don’t vote. And they resent an older generation that lives off their taxes.”

“They resent your generation,” Ford retorted, “because you’ve created the mess—unnecessary wars, pandering to big business, representing yourselves, not the people. Young people don’t vote because they’re smart enough to know it won’t matter.”

“Blame whatever you want, but my generation no longer recognizes America. We see a young generation that shirks responsibility and treats us as a burden. We had to take action…drastic action.”

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Excerpt: Judgment Day (2006)


Being left behind did not bother Roxanne so much as the fact that she did not know the purpose of Glenn’s trip. It was a “secret” he had said with his boyish grin, suggesting he might be picking up a surprise for her in the City.

But Roxanne remained unconvinced. She had overheard her husband’s conversation with Dawson. They would take the Gulfstream 7, the larger of two Markley jets hangared at the Ukiah airport. It had a cross-country range and could carry over a dozen passengers. Why not use the smaller Learjet? Why use the Gulfstream on a quick trip for only two people?

Does Glenn know? she fretted silently. Did he find out?

She winced at a fleeting pang of guilt.

But Roxanne shook the tortured emotions from her head. She returned her attention to the pounding surf below. The early morning darkness was being chased away by the slowly rising sun. She glanced at the green digits of the bedside clock. It was half-past seven. Glenn would be home soon.

A wave of relief washed over her body.

She jumped from the bed, shedding the flannel pajamas as she strode to the dressing room adjacent to the bath. Rummaging through a number of choices, she selected a full-length satin nightgown with a slit cut to the thigh. She slipped it on over her head and examined herself in the full-length mirror.

The pale-green gown complemented Roxanne’s ivory complexion and long dark-red hair. From her jewelry chest she pulled out the diamond choker from Paris. It never failed to turn Glenn on…especially when it remained the only item of apparel.

She struck a provocative pose, exposing one long leg while peering seductively into the mirror. With a wicked grin, Roxanne turned to run back toward the bed.

But something caused her to stop short. Inside the dressing room, on the wall, was one of the control panels for the home’s security system. The bright red display indicated the alarm was armed. Roxanne frowned. Glenn could never remember the entry code. She would have to run down to let him in…spoiling the mood. No. She wanted him to find her propped up in bed, with one shapely leg exposed, and a flimsy satin fabric barely concealing her breasts.

That will teach him to leave me behind!

She punched in the disarm code. After all, it was almost daylight.

She turned once again and ran to the bed. She propped up the pillows and threw back the covers. Placing her back against the pillows and extending her legs, she lifted one knee brazenly through the long slit of the nightgown. Then she picked up a novel from her bed stand and attached the tiny battery-powered reading lamp.

The pounding surf subsided temporarily, and Roxanne was certain she heard the muffled click of the front door. She smiled and buried her nose in the novel, pretending to read. Instead she pictured in her mind her tall, handsome, sandy-haired husband walking through the bedroom door. He would be wearing his black leather flight jacket.

She could smell the leather and feel the hard body underneath, as he rushed to the bed and crushed her beneath him. She could feel his lips on hers and his sensitive hands caressing every inch of her body.

Roxanne’s pulse quickened. She lifted her exposed knee another inch, revealing a little more of the creamy thigh. She waited, barely breathing, purposely avoiding any glances in the direction of the bedroom doorway.

* * * * * *

The dark figure inserted a key into the door lock then turned to the keypad on the right. Hesitantly, a gloved index finger extended toward the numbered keys. Abruptly, the finger poised a few inches from the keypad.

The red light above the pad had gone out. The green light next to it was lit.

A thin smile. The timing was perfect.

The dark figure unlocked the door and walked in. There was no hesitation. Closing the door behind, the figure turned to the left and eyed the stairway.

On an automatic timer, the Christmas tree in the great room sprang to life behind the intruder. Flickering spots of light and shadow reflected from the walls around. The distraction was ignored.

The dark figure walked softly on rubber-soled shoes toward the short staircase that led to the upper level…and the master bedroom suite. After two steps the figure hesitated, regarding the home’s main circuit breaker panel on the left wall. A moment later the lights went out.

Then…fingers flexing inside tight black leather gloves…the dark figure resumed its path, slowly ascending the steps to the upper level. A black ski mask was pulled from a jacket pocket and stretched over the head. Hiding the face did not matter. But the unseen would cause terror…and fuel the heat that was already building with each step.

At the top of the stairs there was a pause to listen. Then the shadowy figure slipped silently down the darkened hall to the master bedroom door.

It would be a quick Christmas morning surprise…but not at all what the beautiful redheaded creature in the bedroom was expecting.

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Excerpt: Murder Almighty (2005)


Mi benedi, Padre—Bless me, Father…” the shadowy figure recited in Italian, “for I have sinned.” The Roman collar of the penitent could be seen through the separating screen by the aged Italian cleric seated in the dimly lit center chamber of the confessional. The ancient church of Santa Anna d’Illuminata in Rome was deserted…except for the third man, kneeling in the near total darkness of the other penitent chamber.

As the elderly confessor listened carefully to the words of the young priest who had come to him tortured with guilt that evening, the man in the third chamber pressed his ear against the thin partition that separated him from the other two.

Bruno Cascio had not come to the church of Santa Anna to have his confession heard. As Cascio listened to the conversation, he heard the words he had expected—Santo Padre, the Holy Father. To be certain of his next move, he repeated in his mind what the penitent priest in the opposite chamber had said—I have killed the Holy Father!

Cascio did not listen to the rest of the confession. He already knew about the sophisticated undetectable poison that had been used, and the way it had been delivered. Cascio was too busy attaching the chunk of plastique explosive to the bottom of the partition before him. With a penlight he adjusted the fuse and quietly departed the confessional.

Quickly looking around to be sure there were no witnesses, Bruno Cascio walked briskly to the front vestibule and through the large wooden doors out into the darkened streets of the rundown neighborhood near Rome’s main railroad station. The only noises at this hour came from the clattering of his leather-soled shoes across the stone pavement.

By the time he had crossed the street and turned the corner, the electronic fuse had nearly expired in the confessional chamber he had vacated.

Cascio could envision the penitent priest lowering his tear-soaked face to accept the absolution of the elderly confessor, while he recited in Italian the words of his Act of Contrition, “O Dio mio…Oh my God, I am heartily sorry for having offended thee—”

Bruno Cascio saw the flash of light that instantly illuminated the dark side street. A split-second later he heard the thunderous blast.

He did not look back.

Bruno Cascio was already thinking about his next target.

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Excerpt: Einstein's Tunnel (2004)


The surroundings were surprisingly dark. Only the solitary incandescent light of a gooseneck lamp illuminated the small office. Seated behind the desk, across from her, was the instantly recognizable figure of Albert Einstein. His long gray hair was tousled, and he puffed slowly on a large briarwood pipe. As Andrea blinked with surprise at the abrupt change in her surroundings, she felt her hand rise instinctively to her face in an expression of astonishment. Then she realized that it was not her hand. And then she became aware that this body was not her body. The clothing was unfamiliar as was the feel of her extremities; the curve of her spine; the padding of her buttocks on the hard chair; the ample bosom.

It was then that she realized she was no longer Andrea Martin. At that moment Andrea was experiencing the body and mind of her grandmother, Diana Sutton. This was Diana at twenty-three years. And this was the meeting with Professor Einstein at the University of Wisconsin that Andrea had hoped to link with. A sudden surge of excitement filled her, and she blurted in a strange voice, "Professor Einstein!"

Removing the pipe for a moment, Einstein smiled beneath his heavy gray moustache, and his eyes crinkled as he said, "Diana, I think we have a visitor."

Diana's face remained expressionless as Andrea's mind sought its bearings. For several seconds Andrea searched through Diana's memories, recalling quickly the conversation with Einstein that had just transpired. He had been telling Diana that she would someday learn of his intervention plan -- the intervention in 1939 that would de-rail the Nazi's atomic bomb program.

"Professor Einstein, you're right," the young lady announced. "It's Diana's granddaughter -- Andrea Martin. It appears we've been successful."

"This is indeed curious," the great man said, as he took a few moments to regard more closely the pretty young lady before him.

"I've wondered how we would meet," he continued after a while, "but I was certain that we would. Please, tell me about yourself...Andrea. Should I call you 'Andrea'?"

"Please do, Professor Einstein," she replied. "I'm Diana's granddaughter. I live in the year 2001. We've achieved telepathic time travel, just as you envisioned back in 1939."

Einstein puffed on his pipe for a few moments, continuing to regard Diana with obvious glee. "And why did you join me today, Andrea?" he asked as he slipped the pipe from his mouth. The sparkle in his eye erased any hint of intimidation.

"My grandmother -- Diana -- told us the story of her meeting with you on this date -- October 13, 1942. She said you had a strategy for intervening in the 1939 time line. She said you wanted to do something that couldn't be undone by some other time traveler."

"And you are here to learn that strategy?" Einstein asked.

"Yes. You were just discussing this topic with Diana. Isn't that right?"

The large head of tousled gray hair wagged for a few moments, as Einstein chuckled. He removed his pipe and set it down in a pipe stand and swiveled in his chair to face Diana and cross his legs. "You're absolutely right young lady. I am so impressed. This can't be your first telepathic time excursion?"

"No, it's my second. The first was a test of the equipment -- a short jump into the future. Would you like to know how we've done this?"

Shaking his head vigorously, Einstein replied, "No. No. I am so very curious, I admit. But I don't think it would be good for me to know too much about the future. It is enough that I learned about the previous interference of time travelers in 1939. I know that we are following a time line that was not supposed to be -- and that we hope to change. I don't want to know much more -- with one exception. Is it true that the Nazis will win the war with the atomic bomb? And will the world suffer horribly with Nazi domination?"

"Yes, Professor Einstein. I'm sorry to say that is true. And it's not just the Nazis--"

"Please. No more," Einstein commanded as he put up a hand, palm forward. "That is all I want to know."

"I have so many questions for you, Professor Einstein, but I don't know how long I can sustain telepathic control. Can you...please...tell me about your plan?"

Indicating no apparent feeling of urgency, Einstein reached for his pipe, removed it from the holder and returned it to his mouth. He shifted his gaze back to the young lady while puffing for several seconds. Finally he said, without removing the pipe, "I'm afraid I'm going to disappoint you, my dear." Then he removed the pipe from his mouth and said, "I can't tell you the plan."

"What?" Andrea exclaimed. "You promised us!"

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Excerpt: Crisis on Flight 101 (2003)


It was just as he rolled his chair backward to seat himself in front of the computer that he heard a rustling sound behind him. Whirling around, instantly alert, Shane was just quick enough to see a tall, slender figure clothed in a black shirt and slacks with a black knit cap emerge from behind the open door and streak through the doorway. Without hesitation, Shane lunged after the shadowy figure and managed to catch up just as it attempted to open the door to the main hallway.

Recognizing instantly that he was considerably bigger and stronger than the figure that he now grasped by the shoulders from behind, Shane shoved the intruder against the wall and used his body to pin the figure there while reaching down to immobilize his hands. It was then that Shane realized with a shock that the intruder was not a "him" but a "her." The faint aroma of perfume, along with the slender wrists and hands and slight figure, told him that he was dealing with a female intruder. More confident now that the intruder would not escape his grasp, Shane whirled her around to look at her face.

"Andrea?" he gasped, as the familiar face of his postdoctoral research associate peered back at him from under the black knit cap that hid her golden blonde tresses.

"What the hell are you doing?" he asked angrily. "What's going on here?"

Her blue eyes stared back at him like two cubes of ice. Her taut face, tightly pressed lips, and firmly clenched jaw told Shane that she was not about to say anything.

After holding her securely for a few moments, with their faces only inches apart, and Shane's dark stare attempting to burn through her stone façade, he stepped back and wrenched her roughly away from the wall. Holding her arms behind her, he began marching her back to his office. His mind was a confused jumble. Here he had taken prisoner the woman who had very recently provided the warm and tender loving that had been such a welcome solace from his breakup with Sarah and the tragic loss of his close friend. Yet, now, he didn't know who she was or what this was all about.

When he had closed the door behind them, and sat Andrea down in the wooden chair at the far end of his desk, Tony reclined in his chair, strategically placed between Andrea and the doorway. Feeling securely in control, Shane began his interrogation.

"Andrea...talk to me! Whatever it is, I'll try to understand," he began, not knowing where he was heading.

With her permed blonde hair now wet from perspiration, Andrea was able to conceal her expression by looking down and letting the curly wet strands obscure her face. Frustrated by her silence and lack of reaction, Shane reached over, grabbed her by the chin, and jerked her face upright so that he could look into her eyes. Still as cold as ice, Andrea stared back with a grim determination that Shane could not believe. Was this the same person who had shared his bed and soothed his soul barely twenty-four hours earlier? Surely, he couldn't be that bad a judge of character. Surely, the real Andrea was buried there. If only he could reach her.

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Excerpt: The StarSight Project (2002)


November...the near future.

Like a monstrous sea-serpent...smooth, black, and sleek...the Russian nuclear submarine, Skibirsk, knifed silently through the dark mist blanketing the inky Barents Sea...steadfastly pursuing a course which would soon leave Murmansk far behind. With binoculars raised, Captain Yuri Kirschnikov stood tall in the tower next to his first officer, Captain Second Rank Anatoly Vladimirov...gazing silently into the void. With just a sliver of moonlight disturbing the darkness, only the fleeting reflections of the wavelets stirred up by the stiff November night breezes provided some detail of the monotonous seascape ahead. Proceeding at a modest fifteen knots, the Skibirsk was like a slinking black panther, strolling purposefully and confidently through the tall grass...with rippling muscles signaling the potential for high-speed deadly pursuit at any moment.

Despite the cool sea spray and the frigid air dancing through the precisely groomed salt and pepper beard gracing his rugged face, tiny beads of perspiration could be seen on Captain Kirschnikov's forehead. At fifty-four years, a career naval officer, he had not imagined that he would be embarking on this kind of mission. A suicide mission, his colleagues would call it...if they knew. But, they did not. Only Kirschnikov could anticipate the horrible events that he would set in motion.

Staring blankly through the binoculars, his mind could picture only the long, thick, deadly projectile installed in the pre-launch chamber below deck. Prominently dispersed over its entire body were the bold markings reserved for dummy missiles...those with harmless lead and sawdust mock warheads. Only Kirschnikov knew that, despite the innocuous appearance, this device was destined to throw a great nation into chaos. It would not come as a cataclysmic explosion that might level huge structures and vaporize living creatures. But the nuclear event would produce unexpected and unparalleled horror. The goal of the fanatical, depraved minds, which had devised this insane plot, was not to inflict material damage, but to strike terror into the hearts and minds of the American people. And surely that effect would be accomplished by this demonic plan.

Shivering involuntarily as his mind's eye envisioned the horrific events his actions would cause, Captain Kirschnikov reminded himself that there was no turning back. His was the crucial role that would put into play the final piece of this carefully orchestrated attack. The reward for this action would be too great...and the penalty for failure so unthinkable...that Kirschnikov could not, would not, consider avoiding this responsibility. They chose well...those bastards, he thought...when they recruited me for this horrible deed. Lowering the binoculars, finally, he turned around and followed his first officer down from the tower...taking one last breath of the cool, salty air he would not taste again until this horrible deed was done.

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