A file folder dropped on the table. “Are you familiar with Rivet Amber?”

Sonya made no move to open the file; her hands remained folded demurely in her lap. “Her real name is Lisa Ann, daughter of Howard Hughes. Big family, 32 sisters, but she was unique. Heavy girl, 35,000 pounds, and she cost her daddy a thousand dollars a pound. Disappeared, along with nineteen suitors, while between engagements.”

“You trying to be cute?” Reynolds said.

“It amuses me to assign a somewhat literary, fantastical character to these things,” Sonya said. “Aids in memory. But if you insist on being prosaic, I am well aware that the six-engine RC-135E Rivet Amber aircraft contained a 7 megawatt phased-array radar system from Hughes Aircraft. They say it could track a basketball at 500 kilometers, and the Air Force used it to monitor Soviet ballistic missile tests.”

“It had four engines,” Reynolds groused. “The other two pods were a turboshaft to run the radar and a heat exchanger to cool it.”

“How silly of me.” Sonya reclined back in her seat, letting the cigarette smoke momentarily obscure her features. “The Rivet Amber aircraft was lost at sea between Shemya to Eielson, with no trace of the aircraft or crew despite intensive searches.”


“You can probably tell, Major, that I am intensely interested in aircraft and technology, as a hobby, but I doubt that you brought me in to trade airplane cards,” Sonya continued. “So what does this magnificent lost lady have to do with the sort of wet work I can do for you?”

Reynolds opened the file folder to an interior tab. Grainy photos spilled out of it, depicting a gangly aircraft photographed from a satellite at a resolution that showed all but its individual bolts, and a second, much grainier one of an aircraft in flight with the unmistakable red star of the Soviet Air Force emblazoned on its side.

“These were taken last month and last week, respectively,” Reynolds said. “Some attempts to disguise the aircraft as a Tupolev Tu-95 Bear have been made, such as fake propellers. But it is unmistakably our aircraft. We need to know what happened to the aircrew, and we need to know the condition of the phased-array radar system. If the Soviets are able to reverse-engineer it-”

“Yes, yes, it will mean the end of life on Earth as we know it, I’m sure,” Sonya said, sounding bored. “Very well. I will surveil this aircraft for you, and destroy it if possible. But what of Lisa Ann’s suitors, if they yet live?”

A moment of icy silence. “Those men knew the risks when they volunteered,” Reynolds said. “If the unit is damaged, they can be made to repair it. It would be…preferable…if the loss was total. With all hands.”

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