Warrior Class
An Excerpt From
Warrior Class

Chapter One

Zhukovsky Flight Research Center,
near Bykovo, Russian Federation
The next evening

Even with many high-intensity lights ringing the area, it was almost impossible to see the big transport plane through the darkness and driving snowstorm as it taxied over to its parking spot. Its port-side turboprop engines, the ones facing the terminal building, the honor guard, a small band, and a group of waiting people, had already been shut down, and as soon as the plane was stopped by ground crews with lighted wands, the other two engines were also shut down. The ramp suddenly became eerily quiet, the only sound that of a long line of hearses' wheels crunching on snow. On one side of the transport plane's tail, seventeen hearses waited; on the other side were seventeen limousines for the family members, plus several official-looking government vehicles. From the official vehicles, two men surrounded by security guards alighted and took places beside the honor guard.

The transport's cargo ramp under the tall tail motored down, and the receiving detail marched over and stepped up the ramp, as the first limousine pulled out of line and maneuvered over to receive its passenger. The band began to play a solemn funeral march. A few moments later, the receiving detail slowly wheeled out the first casket, draped with the flag of the Russian Federation. As the honor guard and officials saluted and lowered flags in respect, a woman clothed all in black, wearing a black veil under her black beaver pelt hat, stepped forward from the line of limousines and reached out with both hands to gently touch the casket in silent greeting, as if wishing to not to disturb its occupant but to welcome him home.

Then, suddenly, her grief turned to anger. She cried aloud in anguish, piercing the frigid, snowy evening like a gunshot. She pushed the attendants aside, then grasped the Russian Federation flag in her gloved hands, pulled it off the casket, flung it to the ground, and rested her right cheek on the smooth gray surface of the casket's lid, sobbing loudly. A young man, tall and clothed in black as well, held her shaking shoulders, eventually pulling her away from the casket as it was escorted to the waiting hearse. The young man tried to comfort and support the woman as he led her to her own waiting limousine, where other family members were waiting, but she pushed him away. The limousine drove off, leaving the young man behind. The commander of the escort detail picked the flag up off the snow-covered ramp, quickly folded it, and gave it to one of the limousine attendants, as if unsure of what to do with it now.

The young man remained behind. He watched silently as the remaining sixteen caskets were escorted out of the big transport plane and placed into their hearses, and he remained, ignoring the snow falling heavier and heavier, after all the limousines, the escort detail, and the color guard had departed. None of the other family members spoke to the officials, and they did not attempt to speak with the family members. The officials returned to their limousines as soon as the last hearse drove away.

The young man saw he was not alone. A tall, distinguished-looking older gentleman, also in a black fur beaver-pelt hat and rich-looking sealskin coat, stood nearby, tears running unabashedly down his cheeks. They looked at each other across the snow-obscured ramp. The older man approached the younger and nodded politely. "Spakoyniy nochyee, bratam," he said in greeting. "K sazhalyeneeyoo. Kak deela?"

"I've been better," the younger man replied. He did not offer his hand in greeting.

"I'm sorry for your loss," the older man said. "I am Dr. Pyotr Viktorievich Fursenko. I lost my son, Gennadi Piotrievich, in Kosovo."

"I am sorry," the young man murmured. There was a glimmer of recognition in his eyes.

"Thank you. He was a lieutenant, one of the security officers. He had been in the army only eight months, and in Kosovo only two weeks." No other comment from the young man, so Fursenko went on: "I assume the unit commander, Colonel Kazakov, was your father?" The young man nodded. Dr. Fursenko paused, looked at the younger man, waiting for an introduction, but none was forthcoming. "And that was your mother, I assume?" Again, nothing. "I am sorry for her as well. I must tell you, I can't help but agree with her sentiments."

"Her sentiments?"

"Her anger at Russia, at the Central Military Committee, at the general state of our country in general," Fursenko said. "We can't seem to do anything right, even help our comrades hold on to a tiny republic in the backwaters of the Balkans."

The younger man glanced over at Fursenko. "How do you know I'm not an internal security officer or MVD, Doctor?" he asked. The MVD, or Ministry of Internal Affairs, conducted most government intelligence, counterintelligence, and national police activities inside the Russian Federation. "You could be investigated for what you just said."

"I don't care-let them investigate me, imprison me, kill me," Fursenko said, his voice filled with despair. "They are undoubtedly better at killing their own people than protecting their soldiers in Kosovo or Chechnya." The young man smiled at that comment. "My research center was torn down, my industry that I have worked in for twenty-five years has all but closed down, my parents are gone, my wife died a few years ago, and my two daughters are somewhere in North America. My son was all I had left." He paused, looking the younger man up and down. "I would say that you could be MVD or SVR as well." The SVR was the new name for the KGB, which conducted most foreign intelligence activities for Russia but was free to act inside the country as well. "Except I think you are dressed a little too well."

"You are a very observant man," the young man said. He regarded Fursenko for a moment, then extended a hand, and Fursenko accepted it. "Pavel Gregorievich Kazakov."

"Pleased to meet-" Fursenko stopped suddenly, then squinted his eyes. "Pavel Kazakov? The Pavel Kazakov?"

"I am very impressed by what you are doing at Metyor, Doctor Fursenko," Kazakov remarked, his voice deep and insistent, as if silently urging Fursenko not to dwell on what he had just figured out.

"I ... I ..." Fursenko took a moment to regain his composure, then went on "Thank you, sir. It is all due to you, of course."

"Not at all, Doctor," Kazakov said. "Metyor is a fine group." Most large privatized companies in the Commonwealth of Independent States belonged to organizations called IIGs, or Industrial Investment Groups, similar to corporations in the United States. IIG members were usually banks, other IIGs, some foreign investors, and a few wealthy individuals, but the primary member of any IIG was the Russian government, which controlled at least twenty percent but sometimes as much as ninety percent of any venture, and therefore had ultimate control. Metyor was one of the lucky ones: only thirty percent of the IIG was owned by the government. "And I am familiar with your old venture, the Soviet aircraft design bureau in Lithuania called Fisikous."

It was Fursenko's turn to look uncomfortable, which pleased and intrigued Kazakov. In conducting his due-diligence before investing in any new company, especially a troubled but high-tech concern like Metyor, Kazakov always put his extensive private intelligence operatives, most of them former KGB, to work learning all there was to learn about the previous holdings of the IIG, which in this case was a research and development institute called Fisikous. What he had found out was nothing short of astounding.

The Fisikous Institute of Technology had been an advanced aircraft and technology research facility in Vilnius, in what was then the Lithuanian Soviet Socialist Republic, now the independent Republic of Lithuania on the eastern end of the Baltic Sea. Fisikous had been on the cutting edge of Soviet aircraft design, attracting the brightest engineers from all over the Soviet Union and the non-aligned nations. The big name at Fisikous had been a young scientist named Ivan Ozerov, who'd been the resident low observable technology-stealth-expert. No one knew anything about Ozerov, except that in a short time at Fisikous, under the direct supervision of the chief of the facility, Pyotr Fursenko, and another man who most suspected was KGB, he'd become the number-one design expert in all of the Soviet Union. Ozerov was brilliant, but weird and unpredictable, occasionally launching into wild tirades in English at the slightest provocation or agitation. Scientists there had long suspected Ozerov of being either on LSD or simply psychotic-he was far more than just eccentric. But there was no question that his work, especially on the incredible Fi-170 stealth bomber, had been nothing short of genius.

But there had been problems at Fisikous. The Baltic republic of Lithuania was driving toward independence from the Soviet Union, and Fisikous represented all that was bad about life under Soviet rule. Ivan Ozerov had disappeared during some kind of military action. Some said the American CIA or Special Forces had kidnapped Ozerov. Others said Ozerov had not been Russian but a captured American scientist, codenamed "Redtail Hawk," brainwashed right there at Fisikous by the KGB, and that the military action had really been a rescue mission. Even the Fisikous-170 stealth bomber, a one-hundred-and-twenty-thousand kilo warplane, had been stolen.

"When the Union collapsed, I went back to Russia to head up some other aerospace design bureaus," Fursenko went on. "I was going to retire or emigrate to the West, because the industry had all but disappeared in the Commonwealth. But when my wife died, I ... I stayed on ... well, mostly just to have something to do."

"I understand," Kazakov said sincerely. "I think that's important." "They had better kofye and romavaya babas in the labs than could afford as a pensioner anyway," Fursenko admitted with a faint smile. "There's not much money in Metyor, but we're doing important work, incredible things. I didn't mind not getting paid as long as I could keep on working and get real coffee. No offense, sir. It is rewarding work, but the pay is terrible."

"No offense taken. My mother made the best romavaya babas when I was a kid," Kazakov said. He sighed. "Now I think she would use a handful of them to choke me if she had the chance."

Fursenko didn't know what to say or do-he was afraid to smile, nod, or even move. He was very surprised and a bit wary after hearing the apparent warmth in Kazakov's voice-not something he had ever expected to hear at all. "I couldn't help but notice, your mother ... seemed rather upset at ... well ..."

"At me, yes," Kazakov admitted. "She does not approve of what I do."

"And at Russia also."

"She blames the Russian government for the sloppy way it supports our troops overseas," Kazakov said. "She blames me for everything else."

Fursenko definitely did not feel comfortable discussing this man's personal life-that was an area he had no desire whatsoever to explore. He extended his hand, and Kazakov took it warmly. "It was a pleasure to meet you, Gaspadeen-" Fursenko had used the more modern post-Union breakup, more "politically correct" term for "mister," but he automatically stopped himself, then said, "Tovarisch Kazakov." That was what most Russians had called each other back when there was a strong, fearsome, proud empire: Comrade.

Kazakov smiled and nodded approvingly. "My condolences for your loss, Tovarisch Fursenko."

"And to you, sir." Fursenko turned and quickly strode away, feeling very uncomfortable with that man knowing his name or even standing behind him.

Kazakov stood by himself on the ramp, reflecting on this very strange evening. First the death and return of his father in shame, without any honors; his mother's outburst and her rejection; and then this chance meeting with one of the Cold War's most famous and brilliant weapons designers. Pavel Gregorievich Kazakov didn't believe in fate-he wielded too much power to believe that anyone else decided your future-but there had to be a reason, some definite path, that this chain of events signaled.

At one time, Doctor Pyotr Viktorievich Fursenko had been considered the finest and most imaginative aerospace and electromagnetodynamics engineer in all of Europe. Since the age of thirty, he had been the director of several Soviet aircraft and weapon design bureaus, building the most advanced military aircraft, missiles, bombs, avionics, and components imaginable ...

At least, they had thought it was the best. Fursenko's word had been considered physics law until Ivan Ozerov had shown up at Fisikous. When Ozerov had started working at Fisikous, completely shattering the old beliefs and understandings, the Soviet scientists had realized exactly how far behind the United States they were on advanced warplane technology, especially low observable airframe, devices, systems, and counter-stealth technology.

This had only spurred Fursenko to even greater heights of genius. Even though the collapse of the Soviet Union meant the collapse of big, super-secret, well-funded agencies like Fisikous, it had also meant that Fursenko could travel and attend classes and seminars all over the world to learn more about modern warplane technology. When Ozerov had disappeared, probably back to whatever planetoid or genetic-engineering incubation tank had spawned him, Fursenko had again taken the lead in Russian aircraft and weapons design.

And now Kazakov knew where he was, had met him, and could even be called his boss-because Kazakov owned over sixty percent of Metyor Industrial Investment Group. The genius Fursenko had been at his disposal all this time, and he hadn't even know it! But how to take advantage of this development? His mind began racing....

Only when the cargo ramp was finally raised and the transport plane made ready to be towed back to its hangar did Kazakov finally turn toward the three government vehicles behind him, which had also remained.

The middle and left side cars suddenly started up and drove off, leaving one car behind. A guard in a dark suit, wearing a machine pistol on a strap, emerged from the remaining vehicle, a stretch limousine, and opened a door for the young man. Kazakov brushed snow off his shoulders, then removed and brushed snow off his hat, revealing a shaved head, and stepped inside. The door closed behind the young man with a heavy CHUNK! that revealed its heavily armored doors and windows. The limousine drove off.

Inside was one man, a military officer in his early sixties, seated on a side-facing seat. Before him was a communications console, complete with satellite transceivers and television and computer monitors. A very pretty uniformed female aide sat in the forward aft-facing seat, with a similar console before her. She glanced at the young man, gave him an approving half-smile, and returned to her work.

"You did not even try to pay your respects to my mother, General," the young man said acidly, without any sort of formal greeting.

"I did not think it would have been wise to try to console her in her obvious hysterical grief."

"So, who were in the other cars?" the young man asked. "The president? The defense minister?"

"The national security advisor, representing President Sen'kov, and the assistant minister of defense for European affairs, representing the government. I represent the military."

"I had hoped the president would be courageous enough to attend," the young man said bitterly. "Not only does the commander-in-chief not attend, but he schedules the return flight for the dead of night in the middle of a snowstorm! What happened to your compassion, your responsibility to thank the families for their sacrifice?"

"We may have extended that courtesy, if your mother did not desecrate the flag so," the old officer said. "That was a most disappointing display. Most regrettable."

"She is the widow of a man who died in the line of duty, doing a job few officers wanted," the younger man said. "She has given her life for the army. She is entitled to her grief-however she wishes to express it." The young man looked over, but the officer did not respond. He took a breath, then reached behind the seat, lifted a crystal glass, and sniffed it, while at the same time checking out the aide over the rim of the glass. "I see you still prefer American whiskey and attractive aides, Colonel-General," the young man said.

"Observant as always, Pavel Gregorevich," Colonel-General Valeriy Zhurbenko replied, with a smile. He reached into a compartment under the desk and withdrew a bottle of Jim Beam and two shot glasses. He poured, gave a glass to the young man, raised his own glass, then said, "To Gregor Mikhailevich, the bravest and finest officer-no, the finest man-I have ever known. My best friend, my confidant, a soldier's soldier, and a hero to mother Russia."

"To my father," Pavel Gregorevich Kazakov said, raising his glass. As the general raised his glass, he quickly added, "Who was killed because of the gutless, cowardly, inept members of the Army of the Russian Federation and the Central Military Committee."

Colonel-General Zhurbenko, deputy minister of defense and chief of staff of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation, paused with his glass a centimeter from his lips. He considered Kazakov's words, shrugged, and downed his whiskey.

"At least you have the guts not to argue with me," Kazakov said bitterly.

"Your words hurt and offend me, Pavel," Zhurbenko said resignedly, as his aide refilled their glasses. "If they were said by anyone else, regardless of their rank or title, I would have him imprisoned, or executed."

"My mother as well, General?" Kazakov asked.

Zhurbenko gave no response. He was accustomed to threatening political and military rivals-but Kazakov wasn't a rival, he was a superior. Even if he didn't carry the name of Russia's most famous and beloved soldier, he would quite possibly be the most powerful man in Russia.

Pavel Gregorievich Kazakov had started out wanting nothing more than to be the privileged son of a dedicated, fast-rising officer of the Red Army. Thanks to his parents, he had enrolled in the Russian Military Academy in St. Petersburg, known then as Leningrad, but found he had no love of the military-only for partying, smoking, drinking, and hell-raising, the wilder the better. To avoid embarrassment, his father had had him quietly transferred to Odessa Polytechnic University in the Ukraine Soviet Socialist Republic, near their winter home. In a place where he was just another one of many spoiled sons of high-ranking Communist Party members attending school in the "Russian Riviera," he had had to transform himself in order to stand out and start to build a future for himself.

Pavel couldn't do it. Being comfortable and taking it easy was his style, not doing what others thought he should be doing. Free from the confines of Leningrad and his father's watchful eye, he'd partied harder than ever. He'd experimented with every imaginable adventure: ice sailing on the Black Sea, parachuting, rock climbing, extreme sports like road luge and boulder biking, and pursuing the most beautiful women, single or married, on the Crimean Peninsula.

Drugs were everywhere, and Pavel tried them all. It was whispered that Pavel had burned all of the hair off his head and face while freebasing cocaine, which was why he kept his head shaved now, to remind him of how low he had once sunk. But before that time, nothing had been out of bounds. He'd quickly gained a reputation as a man's man, and his fame and notoriety had grown in inverse exponential proportion to his grade point average. One day, Pavel had disappeared from the nightclub scene in Odessa. Most everyone had assumed he was dead, from either an accident during one of his daredevil extreme sports, an overdose, or a shootout with rival drug dealers.

When Pavel Kazakov had returned to Odessa years later, he had been a changed man. The head was still bald-he no longer needed to shave it-but everything else was different. He was off drugs, wealthy, and sophisticated. He'd bought one of the nicest homes on the Black Sea, began contributing to many cultural events, and become a respected financier, internationally known market-maker, and venture capitalist long before industrial investment groups and conglomerates were common in Russia. Of course, the rumors surfaced-he had KGB agents in his pocket, he transported thousands of kilos of drugs in diplomatic pouches, and he killed his competitors and adversaries with cold, ruthless detachment.

His biggest and most dramatic acquisition had been a nearly bankrupt oil and gas company in Odessa. The company had gone into a steep tailspin after the breakup of the Soviet Union and the drop in world oil prices, as had many oil companies, and Kazakov had acquired the company weeks before it folded completely. Many had speculated that Pavel Kazakov's drug connections had led him to develop a legitimate, Soviet-sponsored and Soviet-secured company; some said that it was an attempt by Pavel's father to use his status and influence to try to get his son cleaned up and into a legitimate line of work, but far enough in the hinterlands of the Soviet empire so that even if he did screw up, he wouldn't be an embarrassment. In any case, Pavel had dropped out of school in Odessa and become the president and largest individual shareholder, owning just slightly less stock than the company's largest shareholder, the Russian government itself.

Pavel's strategy to make the company, which he called Metyorgaz, profitable, despite the downturn in the oil industry had been simple: find oil where no one else would even think or dare to go, and pump and transport it as cheaply as possible. His first choice had been to go to Kazakhstan, the second-largest of the former Soviet republics but one of the most sparsely populated and capitalized. The reason: the former Kazakh Soviet Socialist Republic had been and still was the dumping ground of the Soviet Union.

The Communists had begun denuding the republic with the forced collectivization and relocation of millions of Kazakhs in the 1930s. They'd wasted billions of dollars and many years trying to grow wheat, cotton, and rice in one of the harshest climates in the world. Nuclear waste dumped throughout the republic, along with thousands of aboveground nuclear tests and accidents, had killed millions of persons over thirty years. Leaking radiation, pesticides, herbicides, raw sewage, and livestock waste had contaminated well water, livestock, and food, killing or injuring millions more. Spent ballistic missile and orbital rocket stages crashing downrange from the Baikonur Cosmodrome, Russia's main space launch facility, had poisoned and killed thousands more. Local communist authorities, without consulting one expert, had built or enlarged several irrigation canals to plant cotton, completely draining the already heavily polluted Aral Sea, and creating one of the worst ecological disasters of the 1980s. The forty thousand square mile inland sea, the fourth largest in the world, had shrunk to more than sixty percent of its size, scattering contaminated and polluted salt across the once-fertile Kazakh plains.

Pavel Kazakov had continued with the Russian tradition of raping Kazakhstan. He'd chosen the easiest, cheapest, and highest-producing ways to pump oil, no matter how it hurt the land or how badly it polluted the Caspian Sea. Even after the required bribes to Kazak and Russian government officials to bypass what few environmental regulations were enforced, Kazakov had made immense profits. The gamble had paid off big, and Metyorgaz soon became the third-largest oil and gas producer in the Soviet Union, behind government-run Gazprom and the richest semi-independent Russian oil producer, LUKoil. Metyorgaz became the largest Russian Caspian Sea oil producer by far.

He increased his wealth and prestige by taking another gamble. The Russian government had mandated that Caspian Sea oil flowing into Russia be transported to the huge oil distribution terminal in Samara, about seven hundred miles north along the Ural River near Kujbysev, through which all of the oil flowing from western Siberia passed. The existing pipeline had a capacity of only three hundred thousand barrels per day, and Kazakov envisioned pumping six to seven times that volume in just a few short years. He had to find a better way.

The answer was clear: build his own pipeline. Neither the Russian Federation nor the newly independent Republic of Kazakhstan had money for this, so Kazakov took it upon himself to beg, borrow, and enlist the help of dozens of financiers around the world. He raised more than two and a half billion dollars and started the largest oil and gas pipeline project in the world, a nine-hundred-and-thirty-mile behemoth line from Tengiz, Kazakhstan, to Novorossiysk, Russia, on the Black Sea. Capable of transporting almost a million and a half barrels of oil a day, with expansion possibilities to almost two million barrels per day, the pipeline had opened up previously abandoned terminals and pipelines on the Black Sea in Ukraine, Moldova, Bulgaria, and Turkey. Although Kazakov had to pay huge sums in fees, taxes, leases, and bribes to the Russian and Kazakh governments, he still became one of the wealthiest individuals in Europe.

He used his newfound wealth and started investing in supertankers and refineries, shifting from the oil-producing and -pumping business to the shipment and refining business. The refineries in Ukraine, Bulgaria, and Turkey were happy to have him oversee operations, and they made Kazakov even wealthier. He modernized a half-dozen facilities in those three countries, making them far more efficient and cleaner than any yet developed in Eastern Europe.

But his core problem still remained: his main customer was still Russia or Russian client-states of the Commonwealth of Independent States, and their oil refining industry was one of the worst in the world, hopelessly outdated and inefficient. Kazakov could pump it profitably, but he lost money every time he sold product to the CIS, because they could not afford to pay very much for it and payments sometimes took a long time. The real money lay in shipping oil to Western European refineries, and that meant shipping oil through the Bosporus Straits into the Mediterranean. The problem was, the number of tankers transiting the Straits was already huge-an average often supertankers a day, added to all the other traffic in the Strait, meant wasted time and money, not to mention the tariffs Turkey extracted for each barrel of oil passing through its country. Despite his enormous wealth, Kazakov was a runt among giants when it came to competing with multinational Western oil producers.

Naturally, as Pavel Gregorievich Kazakov's wealth and prestige grew, so did the rumors. Most claimed he was a Russian Mafia boss, with an organization more influential and powerful than the Russian government; others said he was a drug dealer, tapping into Kazakhstan's other major export-heroin-and using his contacts in both the East and West to transport thousands of pounds of heroin per month throughout Europe; others said he was a spy for the Americans, or the Chinese, or the Japanese, or whoever happened to be the scapegoat of the month.

The bottom line for Colonel-General Zhurbenko was this: no one, not even he, with all his access to military and civilian intelligence resources, knew for sure. That made Pavel Kazakov a very, very dangerous man, and an even more dangerous adversary. Zhurbenko had too many children, grandchildren, dachas, mistresses, and foreign bank accounts to risk stirring up the mud trying to find out-he was sure Kazakov could take all of them for himself if he chose.

Which is why when Kazakov asked that question about his mother, Zhurbenko replied nervously, "Of course not, Pavel," taking a deep sip of whiskey to calm his nerves. When he looked over at Kazakov again, he saw the young entrepreneur's eyes shaded in the interior lights of the back of the limo, hooded-like a snake's, he thought. "You know as well as I, Pavel: the Army hasn't been the same since our humiliation in Afghanistan. We could not even bring a bunch of ragtag goat herders to heel there. Afterward, we couldn't defeat one rebel army in our own backyard, even if they were just some unemployed factory workers with a few black market guns. Vilnius, Tbilisi, Baku, Dushanbe, Tiraspol, Kiev, Lvov, Grozny twice-the once feared Red Army has become little more than a bump in the road for any two-bit revolutionary."

"You let those Albanian peasants chop up my father like a suckling pig!" Kazakov said hotly. "What are you going to do about it? Nothing! What did I read in Interfax this morning? The Russian government is considering removing its peacekeeping forces from Kosovo? Seventeen soldiers are slaughtered by KLA marauders, and now the government wants to turn tail and run? I thought surely we would send a battalion of shock troops or a helicopter assault brigade into Albania and mow down every last one of the rebel bases!"

"We have only four thousand troops in Kosovo now, Pavel," Zhurbenko argued. "We barely have enough operating funds to keep them minimally operational-"

"`Minimally operational'? For God's sake, General, our troops are having to foraged for food! If I were in charge, I'd take one evening, send in an entire brigade to the last man, and blow every known or suspected KLA base to hell, capture their supplies, interrogate the prisoners, burn their homes, and to hell with world opinion! At the very least, it would give our soldiers something to do. At best, it would allow them to avenge the deaths of their brothers in arms."

"I agree fully with your passion and your anger, young Pavel, but how little you know of politics or how to prosecute a war," Zhurbenko said, trying to keep the tone of his voice lighthearted. Kazakov took an angry gulp of whiskey. Zhurbenko certainly did not want to get on this man's evil side, he thought as he tried to appear as understanding and sympathetic as he could. "It takes time, planning, and most important, money, to execute an operation such as that."

"My father invaded Pristina with less than twelve hours' notice, with troops that were barely qualified to do the job."

"Yes, he did," Zhurbenko had to admit, although it was not the city of Pristina, just the little regional airport. "Your father was a true leader of men, a risk taker, a born warrior in the tradition of the Slavic kings." That seemed to placate Kazakov.

But in the intervening silence, Zhurbenko turned over the question in his mind. Go into Kosovo with a brigade? It would take months, perhaps half a year, to mobilize twenty thousand troops to do anything, and the entire world would know about it long before the first regiment was loaded up. No. It was silly. Kosovo was a lose-lose situation. The murder of Colonel Kazakov and sixteen other soldiers in Kosovo only reinforced what Zhurbenko already knew-Russia needed to get out of Kosovo. Kazakov was certainly a brilliant businessman and engineer, but he knew nothing of the simplest mechanisms of modern warfare.

But perhaps a smaller force, one or two light armored battalions, even a Spetsnaz airborne regiment. Pavel Kazakov's father had parachuted in an infantry company right onto Pristina Airport, right under NATO's nose, and caught the world off guard. It hadn't been a shock force, just a regular infantry unit-Zhurbenko was sure all its members hadn't even been jump-qualified at the time. A well-trained Spetsnaz unit of similar size, perhaps reinforced by air, would be ten times more effective. Why couldn't they do it again? NATO's presence in Kosovo was only a bit smaller than it was in 1999, but now they were deeply entrenched in their own little sectors, in secure little compounds, not daring to roam around too much. The Kosovo Liberation Army had free rein. But they weren't regulars-they were guerilla fighters. Dangerous, even deadly in the right situation, but no match for a Russian special forces team on a search-and -destroy mission.

--from Warrior Class by Dale Brown, Copyright © May 2002, The Berkley Publishing Group, a member of Penguin Putnam, Inc., used by permission."

Warrior Class

Warrior Class