The Merkaba (6)
Taking matters at ease, Tyler dressed in a brown coat, wearing a shtreimel and payot, paused at the train station like an Orthodox Haredi. He carried a suitcase and his typewriter in a box case. If he could climb this train he would simply enter Georgia.
When the train came in view, he stepped forward to the platform. A black-painted GAZ-67 military vehicle turned on to the platform and sped towards him. He saw soldiers in dark coats and light blue berets holding guns. He knew there was no chance to escape and no chance to pretend. The train pulled to a halt. A soldier ordered him to climb the jeep. They hauled his luggage and drove out of the station with Tyler.
He was handcuffed. There were four soldiers in the jeep. They drove at fast speed over the rocky terrain, passed a couple of towns, doing 100 km/h dangerously. He could not open his eyes. Sometimes he felt they would stop, shoot and toss him over the cliff. In forty minutes, they arrived at a lakeside…the Sevan Lake. He could only see a blaze of blue beyond and dry mountains behind. He was taken to an isolated cottage built of rocks standing naked to the breezes and close to a very old monastery. Low shrubs scarcely scattered. They served him food and water.
Giorgi waited at Veli Railway Station as arranged for Tyler to climb down. “Nabijvari!” he threw his hat and cursed, “He missed…he’s gone to Samgori. Bozis Shvilo!” Giorgi drove to Samgori and failed to find Tyler dressed like a Jew. “If he’d taken the truck it could have been so easy!” Giorgi called Salazar and informed that he wasn’t able to pick him. Tyler didn’t make it.
Tyler heard roaring noise of an aircraft engine mooring by the bank just before daylight faded. An hour later he was served another plate of food. At nine, he was blindfolded and taken to the vehicle. Not too far they put him into a floating aircraft. Blindfold removed and as an aviator, Tyler figured it was a Type-34 Russian Beriev Be-6 float plane of the late 50s.
That was 20th of May and the moon just climbed over the horizon. Flight took off water in the dark. Tyler couldn’t see anything even though the Be-6 got a sunroof and windows to give a panoramic view. Aircraft travelled north…he could tell from the position of the moon.
It flew high for the first hour over the Caucasus Mountains and lowered altitude. Into the second hour of the flight, he noticed a glow in the horizon. It continued to light the sky as a bolt of lightning stroke somewhere in the distance. Often he thought gunfire taking place. It wasn’t flashing but glowing brighter and recessed. As the flight neared it occurred to him there were two beams of lights placed in great distance.
There were a dozen military troopers and none Blue Beret. They were Russian. He couldn’t make figures or ranks. Then a guy handed him a stout beer.
Tyler caught a spot of beam. The light extremely powerful to hurt his eyes. He felt a shockwave following seconds after the beam. Its glow did not totally fade from the sky. And now he anticipated the distance between the two beacons – 60 kilometres. The light grew stronger and turbulence sustained in a vibration. The flight was losing altitude heading between the twin beacons mounted on tall towers. He could feel the impact of shockwaves in a soundless boom beating the aircraft corresponding with the explosive lights; some invisible hands grasp your face when the light goes on and realise only with a relief when the light turns off.
Meanwhile in the cockpit, flight instruments and indicators behaved in an unstable manner. Flight cruised at a 1000 feet altitude and flying blind.
In the dark he witnessed a phenomenal scene as the flight entered a narrow corridor lit in twilight setting. To his left, a town detailed in daylight in the beam of light 60 kilometres away – Budennovsk in Stavropol Krai. To his right, Neftekumsk brilliantly displayed the trees and roads, roofs and walls in the newly urbanised settlement. Other tiny villages lay miles away. It was a breath-taking sight.
Tyler Friesen wasn’t able to explain the reason behind those powerful searchlights and the purpose they were tested, whether military or civil. Scientific obviously however, not an experiment for electrical discharge but light and one of its kind.
In 1970, Istra High Voltage Research Centre built a giant ‘Lightning Machine’ operated by Moscow Power Engineering Institute, 40 km west of Moscow in Istrinsky District. This facility contained Tesla Coil generators and some towering 20 storeys high. This facility was built for the military to test lightning insulation in aircrafts. The giant research apparatus claimed to have the capability to discharge the equivalent of all Russia’s nuclear, hydro, thermal, solar, wind, gas and coal generated output but for a tiny instant of time.
Into the fifth hour of flight time, Tyler was once again blindfolded and handcuffed. The flight landed at a military facility – destination unknown. He was taken to a cellar with a single bunk and locked behind bars.
Two days later, Tyler Friesen was summoned to an officer’s desk for questioning at South Saratov base by the Volga River.
“Why do you want to go to Georgia?” asked the officer. Tyler carried some duplicated photos of the TAM file and contacts without which he would be handicapped to hunt for anything in Georgia.
“I’m a writer…” he began.
“This gun? Why do you carry a weapon?”
“I carry as a souvenir from my grandfather. His name is engraved on it.” Specially made by the Hartford Colt factory to Patrick E Friesen.
“And this listening device? This is military grade and not a toy. Who are you working for? CIA? A spy?”
“I want to write…”
“What have you written?”
Tyler shook his head.
“If you don’t want to tell us we can share nothing with you. Spies have been tested in USSR. Remember Gary Powers’ U-2 espionage plane shot down in Soviet airspace on 1st May 1960. Whatever you want to do with this rutile ore in the Nevada Desert at a deadly secret facility called Area 51, you are weaponizing it against the Soviet Union.”
Tyler wasn’t impressed.
“Now you will share with us all the technicalities of SR-71…”
Tyler was shocked, “I’m lost here…I am a retired pilot…captain of US Air Force but I’ve never heard anyone mention…”
“Exactly,” cried the officer, “he too was a retired captain still pilot…”
“Francis Gary Powers…but unlike him you won’t be tried here because you don’t exist. CIA will not come up with a weather story because you don’t exit for them either. If you’ll cooperate, I can send you home. Your visa expires in a month. I can kick you out without a trial. Be of help in some way…I will allow you to make a call then. Or else nobody knows where you are…”
“You can’t hold me like this…”
“If you came across any other officer, they will not be easy on you. I come again next week.”
He never returned. Tyler Friesen was transferred to a camp in Siberia.
Samvel Salazar sent a telex to a contact in New York. General Howe received it at his desk in Arizona. He was very unhappy. He dropped the text into the tray and walked away.
Salazar suspected Russians kidnapped Tyler on his way to Georgia. He knew Blue Berets were not behind the plot. Witnesses claimed they were Russians dressed like Blue Berets.
James Adams read on The Washington Post of a missing writer by the name of Tyler Friesen. His family in Hartford got his last call from Hotel Grub in Budapest. It rang a bell…that was where Robert Maxwell was staying. He called an FBI branch in Hartford. An investigation was on-going for a week. Foreign Mission contacted Budapest, Sofia and Moscow. Swiss channels were open and looking for the missing man.
Samvel Salazar arrived at Moscow by train. In the days that followed he met with a highly decorated Soviet general and delivered a plea. This general patted and told him, “Samvel, burden yourself with something personal?” Salazar could smell his coat.