The brandy glowed a rich amber by the firelight, the aroma alone a heady
draught at the close of the day. Blackwood swirled the liquid thoughtfully
while he listened to Ironhorse's report; the jeans clad soldier took a
moment to sip from his own glass before continuing. "Dr. Belinda Lindstrom
from Princeton was also approved as team leader at the Thompson BioLab. The
rest of your recommendations went through, too; all except for Dr. ..." He
consulted a clipboard balanced on one knee. "...Emil Burnstein. He's
suspected of having Communist affiliations."
Blackwood carefully marked the page of the book in his lap before closing
it. "He probably does." He counted off the number of biologists approved by
Army Intelligence for the new facility. "Belinda with Marshall and Lipman
bring the count to seven at Thompson and another four working independently
through the liaison."
"Right." Ironhorse tapped the clipboard with one finger. "I'm assigning
Lieutenant Rivera to implement security measures at the new site. He'll
follow the same guidelines that we use here and at Omega base."
Blackwood drew off his glasses and began to polish them absently on his
flannel sleeve. "Did you ... hear back on my request to have Katya brought
in on this?"
Ironhorse dropped his eyes to his own drink, then raised his head, facing
Blackwood's oblique inquiry directly. "Communique came in this morning.
Your request was refused." He shifted uncomfortably. "I didn't impede the
request," he asserted, answering the unasked question. "Dr. Rodchenko's
people feel she could better serve as head of their domestic research
program. All requests for her assistance were forwarded through the GRU."
In the act of peering through his now smeared glasses, Harrison paused, his
brow furrowed. "That's military intelligence, isn't it?"
Ironhorse tossed over a box of tissues from the table. "It's been
classified a military project, Harrison -- by both sides. That's why the
clearance is so high."
Pulling out a wad of kleenex from a box on the end table, Blackwood resumed
his polishing, attention focused on the task. "Looks like Dr. Dickenson and
I are going to have to muddle along alone."
"Look, I tried...."
That earned an apologetic smile. "I know you tried. I'm not blaming you for
the stupidity of the military."
Ironhorse paused, mouth open, then closed it again, unsure how to take
that. "Where is Dr. Dickenson?" he asked, snatching at a safe subject.
Blackwood gestured at the staircase with his glasses. "Went to bed. It's
been a long day -- the old guy said he wanted to be up early to compare
what we found out on that last mission to some of the questions we have on
Q'Tara's physiognomy. He thinks he might see a correlation between the two
technologies we can use."
"I'd like to talk to him about that tomorrow." Ironhorse sipped his brandy
again. "Tastes good."
"It's not moonshine," Blackwood grinned, eliciting a shudder from the other
"Don't even say the word, Doctor. I haven't recovered from the last of your
hairbrained schemes yet."
The tall physicist laughed out loud at that, the first time he'd done so in
weeks. "Neither have I." He paused. "Paul? I was thinking about spending a
few days at Clayton's cabin next week. Maybe do a little hiking before the
"Do you want me to do a security check on the area?"
"I'd rather you came with me." The scientist's invitation was quiet, still
unsure. "We've both been working non-stop for the last couple of months
now. Besides, I'd ... like some company."
Both men jumped at a loud crackle from the open hearth, Ironhorse actually
leaping to his feet. He studied the dancing flames for a moment, then
drained his glass and set it carefully beside the box of tissues. "I'd be
happy to join you, doctor," he replied formally. "You may need someone to
watch your back while you're up there." So saying he turned and climbed the
"Any excuse, Colonel," Blackwood murmured, warming the brandy between his
palms. "Until we don't need them anymore." With that, he redonned his
glasses and returned to his book.