The old ten-wheel Zeel truck stopped at the gate cut in the high wall surrounding the nuclear complex. The sleepy guard in a glass booth put down his cup of hot tea and leaned forward, wiping the condensation off the glass to get a better view of the truck and its driver. He recognized the new deliveryman, two weeks on the job. His predecessor had a close encounter with a military truck in Omsk, they said. Poor man, the guard thought, but then that’s life: one moment you’re here, the next you’re under a truck.

According to regulations, he was required to check the truck before letting it in, but as Peter had predicted, he didn’t want to leave the warmth of his booth. Instead, he glanced back into the yard to make sure the duty officer wasn’t on rounds. Then he pressed the green button and waved the truck in as the loud screeching gate slowly moved along its track.

The gate log would read: "6.50 – delivery truck arrived, checked and found clean. Entry permitted."

The old diesel engine revved and the truck slowly gained speed, making its way into the calm of the inner courtyard, moving down a narrow winding path wedged between the wall and a row of concrete silos that extended into the murky sky. Once out of the guard’s sight, the truck made a brief stop.

"Now!" the driver shouted through the window separating the cabin from the back. Three men, two in guards’ uniforms and one in a black diver’s wet suit, jumped out the back as the truck continued on its way to the kitchen.

Within seconds, the three men had cut the lock on a metal hatch at the bottom of the third silo. For months, they had practiced this on a mock-up. Moving quickly, they entered what was probably the most dangerous and unstable environment in the world. A reinforced steel tank, forty feet wide and thirty feet high, occupied the interior of the concrete silo, leaving a narrow corridor around it. The tank was filled to the brim with water. An electric grid along its inner wall kept the contents at 34 degrees F.

The two uniformed men carried a large black duffel bag. Their mission had to be completed before the truck returned. They had come to release Lucifer from his steel bottle.

The diver climbed a rusting ladder bolted to the tank wall. Once at the top he opened a round hatch and slipped into the water. Descending, he turned on a powerful flashlight strapped to the side of his head. A series of shiny cylinders made of a titanium alloy were neatly stacked on the tank floor, each with a red valve at its end. They contained radioactive acid, a lethal and volatile byproduct of the bomb factory. The water kept their temperature steady, as a fluctuation of more than three degrees could prove lethal.  




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Black Ghosts

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