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.The experienced crew went casually about their duties, falling into a relaxed routine during the slow journey toward the launch site as the beige coast of California gradually disappeared from view.Hennessey gently increased power until the platform was chugging along at 9 knots, then laid in a course to the southwest toward the designated launch site fifteen hundred miles south of Hawaii at the equator.No one suspected it was to be a destination they would never see.Fifteen hundred miles to the west, the Koguryo raced across the Pacific like a greyhound chasing a rabbit.Only a diversionary stop in the Ogasawara Islands to retrieve Tongju had slowed her pace since departing Inchon.After skirting a storm front west of Midway, the vessel had encountered calm seas and a strong tailwind, allowing her to churn east at top speed.Stripped of her bulky cable-laying equipment and the miles of heavy cable normally stored belowdecks, the Koguryo rode nine feet higher in the water than usual.Her four diesel engines pushed the lightened ship along at a rapid 21 knots, propelling her across the ocean at nearly six hundred miles a day.On board, the large team of engineers and technicians readied themselves for the coming Zenit rocket launch.A launch control center, nearly an exact duplicate of the control room on the Sea Launch Commander, had been constructed on a lower deck of the Koguryo and was the site of continuous activity.The final batch of launch software had been received from the Inchon lab and the software support team loaded up a series of mock launch scenarios for the operations team.Each day, the launch team worked their way through a series of sample test launches until, after a week at sea, the simulations were performed flawlessly.Told only that they would be controlling the launch of a Kang satellite from a floating platform, the team had no idea of the illicit mission they were actually supporting and looked forward to firing off the actual rocket.Tongju utilized the time at sea to hone his tactics for the assault on the Odyssey.He and his commando team pored over blueprints of the launch platform, calculating strike positions and coordinating force movements, until he had a minute-by-minute plan of attack.The commandos memorized their moves, cleaned their weapons, and generally stayed out of sight of the other crewmen as the ship moved closer and closer to its target.After an evening meal with his assault team, Tongju invited his second-in-command Kim back to his cabin.In the privacy of his room, he explained Kang's order to scuttle the Koguryo.“I have provided Captain Lee with the rendezvous position where we are to meet the waiting freighter.I did not inform him, however, of the plan to sink his ship, only that we would be transferring the launch crew to the other vessel for safety.”“You do not trust his obedience to Kang?” Kim asked, unaffected by the prospect of murdering two hundred of his fellow shipmates.“No, it is not wise.No sea captain desires to sink his own ship and abandon his crew.We shall make our escape without him.”“How is the ship to be destroyed?”Tongju reached under his cot and pulled out a small satchel, which he handed to Kim.“Semtex plastic explosives with wireless detonators.I intend to activate the charges while the ship is in motion.”He walked to a bulkhead and pointed at a small cutaway diagram of the Koguryo pinned to the wall.“By blasting a series of holes in the forward hull and bow sections beneath the waterline, the momentum of the ship will force a rapid flooding of the lower decks.The vessel will plunge to the bottom like a submarine before the crew has a chance to react.”“There may still be the chance for some to escape on the lifeboats,” Kim countered.Tongju shook his head with a malignant smile.“I have applied a liquid weld compound to all of the lifeboat davits.None of those boats will be leaving this vessel without a considerable effort.”“And what about us?” Kim asked, a slight uncertainty creeping into his voice.“You and two others will leave with me on the assault boat.I will convince Lee to let us depart the ship for an advanced surveillance check once the freighter is detected within radar range.When he has brought the Koguryo back up to speed, we will detonate the charges.”Kim let out a quiet sigh and nodded deeply.“It will not be easy to abandon my assault team,” he said quietly.“They are all good men but expendable.I will leave it to you to pick the two men to join us.But first we must get the explosives planted.Take your demolitions man, Hyun, and set the charges in the forward bow compartments E, F, and G.Don't let any of the ship's crew observe you.”Kim grasped the satchel tightly and nodded again.“It will be done,” he said, then left the cabin.After he left, Tongju stared at the diagram of the ship for several minutes.The whole operation was a hazardous mission fraught with risks and hidden dangers.But that was exactly the way he liked it.On a collision course with evil, the Odyssey plodded along from Long Beach at its meager pace,-the ungainly assembly churning up ten miles of foam over the course of an hour.Cutting past the California channel island of San Clemente, the Odyssey cruised due west of San Diego shortly before midnight and soon after departed the territorial waters of the United States.Fishing boats and pleasure craft gradually vanished from the horizons as the platform pushed farther into a desolate section of the Pacific Ocean west of Baja California.By the end of the third day at sea, cruising some seven hundred miles from the nearest landfall, the Odyssey shared the ocean with only a small dot on the northeast horizon.Captain Hennessey watched with mild interest as the distant speck slowly grew larger, bearing down on a southerly heading.When it approached within five miles, he aimed his binoculars at the vessel, eye-tog a stout blue ship with a yellow funnel.In the fading evening dusk,Hennessey made it out to be a research vessel or special-purpose ship rather than a commercial freighter.He noted with annoyed curiosity that the ship was on a perfect collision course with the Odyssey's current heading.Hennessey stuck close to the helm for the next hour, watching the other vessel as it inched to within a mile of his starboard flank before appearing to slow and nose toward the southwest behind him.“He's slowing to cross our wake,” Hennessey said to the helmsman, dropping his binoculars from the mysterious blue ship.“The whole empty Pacific Ocean and he's got to run right down our path,” he muttered, shaking his head.The thought never occurred to him that it was anything more than a coincidental encounter.Nor would he ever suspect that a trusted crewman, one of a handful of Kang's men working on board as launch technicians, was feeding their exact position to the ship using a simple GPS receiver and portable radio transmitter.After crossing the length of the Pacific, the Koguryo had picked up the radio transmission twenty-four hours earlier and vectored in on the Odyssey's path like a homing pigeon to roost [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]