In the park, children were still playing and young adults were jogging after work. Feodor and Stanley were carrying briefcases filled with relevant files and documents. They had been pacing around for nearly fifteen minutes when a black, diplomatic car pulled up nearby and a tall, well-dressed individual got out and came toward them. “Feodor and Stanley,” he asked in a heavy Russian accent. They nodded and he directed them towards the car with tinted windows.
Inside, the military attaché in civilian dress was accompanied by the local physicist, Leon Stranovitch, who was a middle-aged academic type with unruly hair and a beard. He seemed to have a pleasant demeanor whereas the other passengers were quiet and unsmiling. The military attaché was relatively young, with close-cropped blond hair, and a very official appearance. The driver was a Russian military aide-de-camp who had greeted them in the park. No one was wearing a uniform to avoid drawing attention to their presence.
Feodor began to speak Russian but the military attaché, seeing Stanley’s perplexed expression, suggested they speak English. There would be an interpreter at the house where they were meeting.
“Do you have all the material you need for your presentation?” the attaché asked. Feodor nodded and tapped his briefcase. After a circuitous drive of some twenty minutes, they approached a large, suburban house with no official identification. It was embedded among other upper class homes with large trees and a spacious lawn.
The aide-de-camp opened the car door for them, and the attaché led them to the front door of the house as though everyone were attending a friendly, neighborhood party. Inside, Feodor was surprised at how luxurious everything looked. There were several people waiting, seemingly officials from the embassy and a very pretty young woman who was most likely the interpreter for Stanley.
The dining room contained a row of plates, glasses, and food with various bottles of alcohol. Some of the people had drinks and were even holding a plate of food. The attaché approached the group and began to introduce Feodor and Stanley, explaining that Stanley did not speak Russian. Svetlana, the young interpreter, introduced herself to Stanley and said that she would serve as his interpreter during the official discussions. Two members of the group were high-ranking officers who would be assessing the military usefulness of the laser irradiation weapon.
After several minutes of chatting and snacking, everyone adjourned to a side room where a large table was prepared, surrounded by chairs. There was even a screen and projection apparatus in case of need. Feodor and Stanley were duly impressed by their surroundings. They felt intimidated but eager to make their case to the Russians.
Feodor was the chosen presenter for the Americans. Since three of the attendees had only a casual knowledge of English, he began his talk in Russian. Svetlana sat very close to Stanley and softly translated what was being said. One of the invitees, Feodor learned, was a general who had close ties with the Russian high command. Even in Russian, two of the military officials had to ask for clarification when it came to the engineering facets of the laser emission device. After about thirty minutes, General Diagelev, the head of the Russian military delegation, asked for a pause in the presentation. He settled back in his chair and, in a flat, almost accusatory voice, he questioned Feodor about his background and why he was willing, as an American, to help the Russian war effort.
Feodor explained that his family came from diverse national origins. Politically, he was very conservative and supportive of white advocacy organizations. Although he was an American citizen, he did not agree with the current administration’s policies, especially its involvement in the Ukraine crisis. He was distressed by the devastation he had witnessed on television. He was confident that his weapon and tactics would alleviate the carnage and suffering of the Ukrainian and Russian combatants, who were brothers in arms, coming from a common Slavic heritage. The unwarranted death of so many civilians also preyed on his mind.
“You do realize that what you are doing is treasonous and the penalty for your actions could be death at the hands of the Americans?” The General continued. Both Feodor and Stanley said they understood the consequences of what they were doing. The military contingent stared for a long while at the two Americans, trying to size up their true intentions.
Stanley was then interrogated about his motives in a similar manner. They were pleased to hear about his communist parents and their commitment to anti-capitalism and the working class proletariat.
“Do you have any detailed specifications that we can examine?” the General asked. Feodor spread out the blue prints and other technical material that he had prepared. He apologized for the Russian translations and technical language. “I hope Svetlana can help out if there are any questions about the meaning of these terms.”
“I sincerely hope so,” Svetlana answered. “However, I was primarily trained as a biologist during my university studies!” Everyone chuckled and Feodor began to go over the conception of the laser apparatus and its attachment to the Russian drone. Stanley also participated, explaining that the modification of existing drones would be minimal.
The design of the laser was not radically different from the American military counterpart. In essence, the creation of the weapon would be financially reasonable but not, in Stanley’s opinion, excessively expensive. Building prototypes would require a new facility that should not cost billions of dollars. Nonetheless, because of the war and its fluctuations, the “paralyzing” laser fabrication had to begin right away to exert an influence on the war’s outcome. The Russian contingent nodded in agreement.
After two hours or so of questioning and some hesitation, the Russian general huddled with his colleagues in a corner of the room discussing their options. The general was asking Dr. Stranovitch his assessment of the project which seemed to be positive. He indicated certain features where he had reservations, but overall he was impressed with the proposal.
When both Feodor and Stanley were getting concerned about their decision, the attaché approached them and asked if they had shared this information with any other colleagues. “None,” Stanley replied. “It’s too risky. We’ve kept it to ourselves.” Feodor interrupted and mentioned Vladimir, but he seemed trustworthy. “Yes,” the attaché replied, “We know about him.”
“Are any members of your family aware of the nature of this project?” the attaché pursued.
Stanley indicated that his wife also knew about his activities; however, she knew nothing about what they were actually doing as it related to the Ukraine war. She would do what he asked her to do.
The attaché returned to his group and there was some very heated discussion about the next steps to take. General Diagelev walked forward and stated that their proposal seemed very interesting, but the engineering experts who dealt in wartime armaments would have to assess its practicality and potential cost. If acceptable, they would keep the documents in their files, under tight security. Otherwise, they would be destroyed.
Feodor answered that they had back-up copies on thumb drives for their personal use. He had every confidence that what they were proposing was adaptable to Russian drones and aircraft and would be effective.
The attaché then asked if Feodor and Stanley could meet once again with some high-level military and technical experts to discuss the possible implementation of their weapon and its fabrication from a practical viewpoint. He would get in touch with Feodor as soon as possible.
He then warned Feodor and Stanley about security measures. As he had said, the embassy had already been in contact with Vladimir and deemed him to be an acceptable and loyal colleague. Stanley’s wife would be his responsibility. Under no circumstances could she discuss his research and Russian contacts with anyone else. It would be very unfortunate for both of them if the American authorities were informed of their activities.
Stanley and Feodor said they understood the gravity of the situation and would comply with the embassy’s wishes. Stanley thanked Svetlana for her assistance and asked if she could attend the next sequence of meetings, if possible. The General smiled and said, of course. In Russian, he emphasized that Svetlana was an employee of the embassy and would be available. He expounded on how Stanley had great taste in women. Luckily Svetlana wasn’t in a relationship with anyone at the time. Svetlana blushed and gave a very vague translation to Stanley of what the General had said.
Feodor was quiet but would let Stanley know what was said once they were together. The evening came to a pleasant end with drinks and light conversation. The future seemed promising, at least for the time being.
Continued next week.