Ian Slater: World in Flames

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Ian Slater World in Flames
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    World in Flames
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    Ballantine Books
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    Триллер / на английском языке
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World in Flames: краткое содержание, описание и аннотация

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NATO armored divisions have broken out from near-certain defeat in the Soviet-ringed Dortmund/Bielefeld Pocket on the North German Plain. Despite being faster than the American planes, Russian MiG-25s and Sukhoi-15s are unable to maintain air superiority over the western Aleutians… On every front, the war that once seemed impossible blazes its now inevitable path of worldwide destruction. There is no way to know how it will end…

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Ian Slater


In the assessment of every member — not only of the United States, but of all NATO allies — of all the intelligence agencies, the strategic capability of the Soviet Union today is much, much greater than it was before Mr. Gorbachev came on the scene.

— Senator Daniel Inouye, United States Congress. July 1990


The Commandant for Kremlin or “Citadel” security is always a general, and he uses falconers to send their goshawks to attack and frighten away the hundreds of crows. If the crows were left alone, they would defecate on and otherwise disturb the peace and dignity of the seat of Soviet government.

The falcons in the Kremlin date back at least fifty years, the use of gunfire to rid pests from the Kremlin’s sixty-three acres is strictly forbidden, for in times of political unrest, as in the Gorbachev days when the Yeltsin-ites and other “anti-Soviet elements” were allowed to mass in Red Square, it was feared that even a single shot from within the Citadel might be interpreted by the masses outside as the signal of a new revolution. In wartime it becomes imperative that no shots be heard coming from within the seat of government and that therefore only falcons be used to kill pests.


As easily as he had shed his naval uniform for his civilian clothes, Robert Brentwood slipped a pillow beneath his new bride and immediately felt the difference — their bodies closer now, her fragrance rising, engulfing him as in a dream. But he knew anything could break the spell.

Outside, the winter darkness howled along Scotland’s rugged west coast, and from the upstairs bedroom of the bed-and-breakfast, they could hear the proprietor’s dog challenging late arrivals, the spaniel’s barking rising above the crashing of the waves. Moments later they heard the slam of a car door, saw the glow of the front porch light immediately beneath their upstairs room, heard voices, then felt the tremor as the door banged shut, the old stairs groaning as the owner — his hushed voice as off-putting to Rosemary as the dog’s barking — led his guests, two of them, as far as Robert could tell, up to the other oceanfront room across the hall from Robert and Rosemary’s. It was well past midnight, unusually late for checking into a B and B, but Rosemary thought nothing of it at the time. Instead she was wondering how it was that her husband of only a few days knew to do that with the pillows. For her there had been no one else before their marriage, and when they were first engaged in Surrey, while he was on leave from his command of his sub, the USS Roosevelt, and they’d first made love, he had told her that it had been the same for him — that despite the myths about sailors, especially American ones, there’d been no one else but her.

But now her mounting pleasure was stemmed. By itself her moment of doubt mightn’t have bothered her, but she was carrying his child, and any passing suspicion was in danger of becoming an idée fixe. “Where did you learn to do that?” she asked, trying not to sound concerned. “With the pillows. In one of your submarine manuals?”

Everything slowed and Robert sensed there’d be “time out” before she could relax enough for them to start again, but he knew better than to show any annoyance. “Matter of fact,” he replied, “I did get it from a manual. ‘Missile Launch.’ “

“Don’t be vulgar,” she said, smiling, but he could tell the tone was conditional. He loved her very much, but the war and his part in it as captain of the most powerful ship in history, a Sea Wolf II — dual-purpose Hunter/Killer and ballistic missile nuclear submarine — had already taken its toll on Rosemary since they had become engaged. He couldn’t deny that her worry was justified — the Sea Wolf IIs with their six 8-warhead Trident “C” missiles were the most sought-after targets of the Russian navy. But in just the few days since they had been married, on their way up to the honeymoon in Scotland, he had noticed how her worry had become tinged with obsession. She was like a student before formal exams or a job applicant before an all-important interview — a case of free-floating anxiety — in her case, about the war she could do nothing about, the anxiety searching, albeit unconsciously, for something tangible, like a dog with a bone, over which it might worry and have some measure of control.

The only problem was that her anxiety was nondiscriminating, as likely to alight on a minor inconvenience of food rationing as it was to shift abruptly to the difficulties of teaching Shakespeare to her St. Anselm’s sixth form in Surrey, or the terror of the increasing Russian rocket attacks across the Channel. At other times she would be seized by the kind of debilitating depression that still assailed her mother following the loss of young William Spence, Rosemary’s brother, killed on one of the Atlantic convoys which Robert Brentwood and other sub skippers had been assigned to protect. Tonight her anxiety about the future manifested itself in the suspicion that she had not been Robert’s only love.

When they’d first met, Robert had found her more confident, even fatalistic, about the war, but now it was as if their marriage, the very thing that should fill them with hope and optimism in hard times, had suddenly inundated her with concerns she’d never had before. Would the child be all right, or would the severe wartime rationing deform him or her? And what kind of a world would it be after the war — if there would be any world at all if it should suddenly go nuclear?

She pulled the bedclothes up protectively about her against the mournful moaning of the wind. Perhaps, like the change in the weather, everything had happened too fast, she mused. Perhaps they should have waited longer — got to know one another better.

“You told me,” Robert said quietly, “that knowing someone isn’t a matter of time — and you were right. Besides, there’s nothing—”

“And you told me,” she said, lowering her voice, suddenly aware of how sound carried in the old house, “that I was your first and only—”

“You were the first,” he said, his finger cupping her chin, turning her head toward his on the pillow, his right arm cradling her so close, he could feel her heart thumping. “There wasn’t anyone before you.”

She sighed. “I wouldn’t really care if there had—”

“Yes you would,” he told her softly.

“I’m glad.” She snuggled into him. “Oh — I know it’s terribly old-fashioned — that it’s not supposed to matter anymore how many people you’ve slept with — or whom. But it does to me.”

He said nothing, watching her breasts rising and falling. “I did read about the pillows in a magazine,” he said, kissing her cheek.

“Hmm—” she teased. He pulled her closer, her breasts warm and full, her nipples hardening against him.

“You must think me an awful old prude,” she said.

“In the first place, thirty isn’t exactly old—I’m the one that’s old. When I hit forty-four next year, they’ll retire me from Roosevelt. That’s old. In the second place, you’re not a prude.”

“What magazine did you get it from?” she asked. “Playboy, I expect?”

“Actually, I think it was Cosmopolitan. Article on ‘Navy Wives’—how to home in your torpedo!”

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