As the construction of the plant began to take shape, Stanley and Feodor were granted more latitude in their personal lives. In a turn of events, Stanley found himself accompanied everywhere by Svetlana, ostensibly as an interpreter, but in reality as a confidante and a paramour. He was being seduced by her accessibility and beauty. He was also aware of his wife and family. Since he was unable to contact her by phone (the Russians had taken away their cell phones), he relied on short text messages to communicate, but only after the Russian censor had approved.
His wife, Cynthia, was growing more insistent on seeing him again in person. Could they meet somewhere in Russia that would be easy to access and not so secret? Even for a few days?
Oleg was taken aback by this request. It would be almost impossible to protect him outside the confines of Moscow. The only reasonable alternative was to arrange a meeting in St. Petersburg where they could stay at a hotel under military command and be accompanied if they toured the city. His wife could easily fly into the international airport from New York. There would be a very low risk factor in her traveling to a major tourist center. Something could be worked out to satisfy their wishes.
Feodor was given more freedom to be with Davrita in Moscow under supervised military protection. They were gradually renewing their passion for each other. The feeling of impending doom he experienced was lessening with each encounter. Feodor was also given permission to communicate with his American hi-tech colleagues via Zoom, but, of course, under close Russian supervision. He was walking on a tightrope and had to be very careful at each step along the way.
The construction of the plant was now reaching its end; however, he Russian engineers and military overseers—before committing to a full scale production schedule—needed proof that the paralytic laser beams would be effective in combat conditions.
After consulting with Russian Air Force representatives, the plant engineers had proposed a mock battle scene in which drones and fighter pilots would launch an assault on enemy troops, dressed in Ukrainian uniforms and positioned behind various barriers that mimicked typical battlefield combat obstacles.
To obtain the human subjects needed for the trial run, penitentiary and military prisoners would be chosen to act as guinea pigs. If the experiment were successful, each prisoner would receive a slight reduction in his sentence. There would be some five hundred people involved as targets.
Feodor and Stanley were initially concerned about the large scope and risks of the test run. Nonetheless, from a scientific point of view, it was only reasonable to simulate actual battlefield conditions and judge the outcomes. If the “paralytic” effect of the laser emissions worked as predicted, a full scale production of reworked drones could proceed.
On trial day, a large crowd of spectators, both military and civil, were amassed on the edge of the battlefield area. Armed guards were getting the uniformed prisoners into position behind redoubts and other field obstacles. At a given signal, fully equipped drones and aircraft would fly over the zone and release timed burst of laser rays over the field. The drones would spray sector A and the fighter jets would irradiate sector B for the prescribed ten seconds.
All action and human response would be filmed for later review by military and medical experts. If adjustments had to be made, another cohort of prisoners would be used as needed.
At ten o’clock, the signal was given and the experiment began with a deafening roar of aircraft and drones. A short while thereafter, hundreds of prisoners fell to the ground, their bodies contorted with violent spasms. After a few minutes, medical teams rushed to the combat zone and began to examine the prisoners.
After the spasms had subsided, vital signs were taken. With few exceptions, the subjects had entered a quasi-paralytic state. Some were nauseated, others were bleeding from the mouth and nose. However, these reactions were not judged to be outside the limits of possible side effects. A convoy of trucks hauled away the paralyzed subjects for thorough medical exams at a local field hospital.
Feodor and Stanley walked down hospital aisles as the medics were administering to the irradiated prisoners. Only a small minority seemed resistant to the laser emissions. They were able to stagger around and utter incoherent phrases. The prisoners in question could respond to basic commands but were not in full control of their limbs. For all intents and purposes, they would be ineffectual on the battlefield, completely out of action.
Hours later, the Russian medical teams gather to assess the situation. A series of tests had been run on all participants, from blood work to muscle reflex evaluation. So far, reactions had been debilitating but not lethal. A handful of prisoners, however, seemed to be dramatically affected by the attack and would most likely require extended hospitalization.
After the six and one-half hour period, another series of tests were done to determine if the paralysis had abated. Before the day had ended, the results were tabulated. The vast majority of subjects had recovered adequately, although they were unable to function in a normal fashion as predicted.
It would take a week or more to measure the true recovery rate of those who had been irradiated. Could these be “redeemed or recycled” to provide a labor force for the rebirth of the Russian empire? In general, all tests were pointing to a successful use of neural irradiation as an effective way of neutralizing enemy soldiers during actual combat, with no meaningful loss of life.
Back at the hotel, after the tests had been completed, Feodor and Stanley were met by Oleg. He was dressed in full uniform. He directed them to the dining room where several high-ranking officers were seated. Svetlana was not among them. Oleg introduced Stanley and Feodor to the officers. They had been advised that Stanley did not speak Russian.
Oleg began by stating that the technical experts had all concurred that the potential of the so-called laser rays and their paralysis effects were real. The Minister of Defense had given the order to begin enhanced production of the “modified drones” and laser attachments that could be retrofitted onto fighter jets. The anticipated first weapons to be available for use in combat would be two to three weeks at the latest.
A brigadier general stood up and shook the scientists’ hands in congratulations. With Oleg as the interpreter, he explained that President Putin would like to convey on them the Medal of the Soviet Republic that was reserved for individuals who had rendered a great service to the Russian nation.
There would be two ceremonies: one in Russian for a limited audience of political and scientific dignitaries to be held at an undisclosed location for safety purposes, and the second one at the Kremlin in one of the diplomatic reception rooms for a select number of the Russian and foreign press. Afterwards an exclusive dinner would be given to celebrate those responsible for this enormous breakthrough in modern weaponry which would advance the cause of peace throughout the world.
Oleg explained that formal dress clothes would be delivered to their room this evening; they should try on the clothing to make sure everything fit.
There were not be any official meetings tomorrow concerning the laser beam production schedule; that was now being handled by the military armament staff. However, to protect their anonymity, both Stanley and Feodor would be required to wear, during the press conference tomorrow afternoon, a special cagoule or hood (cleverly featured as wigs) as well as a voice modifier when appearing before the press.
Even so, it would be more and more difficult to keep their identities secret. The CIA had their operatives in Moscow and there was always the possibility of a leak as often happened in the United States, although that was very unusual in Russian politics. This disguise would not be necessary during the diplomatic press conference and the evening meal, given the very careful vetting of all attendees.
Stanley would be pleased to learn that Svetlana would be his interpreter during the various events scheduled for tomorrow. She would also be wearing a mild disguise to protect her from being recognized on the street. The press conference, after being edited, would be broadcast on the nightly news with considerable fanfare. It would be labeled “The Anti-War Weapon of Tomorrow” or “The Weapon to end Wars and Promote Peace.” Oleg would provide more details at breakfast in the morning.
“My God,” Stanley exclaimed in the elevator. “What have we done?” “Brought peace to Ukraine,” Feodor rejoindered with a look of satisfaction and amazement.
Continued next week.