His diplomatic immunity was no longer valid, Sergei Prokofiev reminded himself. The British government had declared a large number of Soviet diplomats in the United Kingdom persona non grata. In effect, they were no longer welcomed here and the Brits officially kicked them out of the country. The move had been announced three days ago and a list of the affected personnel was given to the Soviet ambassador in London. They would leave the country in twenty four hours. Most of the names on the list were possible, or known KGB officers suspected to be working undercover in the UK. They operated under the guises of midlevel diplomats at the Soviet embassy or consulates around the country. Prokofiev had been one of the names on the list, though he was confident the Brits were not entirely sure that he was KGB.
Officially, the thirty-two year old was a cultural attache. He had the proper papers and diplomatic background for the role. In reality, Prokofiev was a KGB captain who ran a handful of operatives in the UK. All were relatively low level civilian employees in the MoD, as well as one RAF non-commissioned officer. Moscow Center had ordered him to remain behind. So, two hours after receiving the news about his being PNGed, Prokofiev slipped past the British surveillance teams monitoring the embassy and immediately went to ground. Following the departure of his comrades, where his absence was immediately noticed, he had played a cat and mouse game with MI-5 and -6 officers. Prokofiev was successful in evading them so far, thanks to preparations he made long beforehand. He had a British ID, spoke the language fluently with a slight cockney accent, could call upon any of three safehouses, and had one hundred thousand pounds at his disposal.
The rising tensions made his job almost impossible. Contact with his operatives was limited, and in some cases entirely cut off. Dead drop boxes remained empty and untouched. Prokofiev had depressingly little information to pass along to his superiors. To his surprise, he’d found them to be sympathetic to his plight. He was ordered to make contact with his RAF man and try to find out about the arrival of warplanes from the US at RAF Alconbury. Specifically, Moscow wanted information on a new type of aircraft that might already be in the UK. Prokofiev had gotten in touch with his operative and relayed the instructions.
Now, he was awaiting the man’s arrival at a pub in Huntingdon, a stone’s throw away from the US airbase at Alconbury. Following this meeting, Prokofiev was to make his way west across Britain to Wales where he would be met and escorted to Ireland. Looking around from the booth he sat in, the Russian was surprised to see the pub so crowded. A wide variety of young, middle-aged, and older patrons sat and drank. Conversations were low, there was no music playing, and the atmosphere was less than lively to say the least. Prokofiev was not surprised by the number of people here. In times of crisis people went where they were comfortable to escape. Brits and their pubs shared a storied history. Even at the height of the Nazi blitz, many pubs around England still did a smash up business. The Russian quietly hoped it would be the same in this conflict.
The man Prokofiev was here to meet was a thirty-three year old RAF NCO who conveniently was stationed at Alconbury. His name was Richard Lawson and he had been coopted two years ago. Lawson’s motivation for selling information to the Soviets was purely financial. He was divorced and had two children to support. Ideologically, he was neither pro-Communism, or anti-liberal democracy. Lawson had been reliable and some of his information proved to be quite good according to Moscow, so Prokofiev thought it would be useful to have one final meeting and see if the Brit could answer some of Center’s questions.
Meeting at this pub in the late afternoon was not as chancy as it might seem. It was known to some of the locals as place frequented by homosexuals from time to time. Two men sitting near each other in a cramped booth would not seem out of the ordinary. Had that not been the case, Prokofiev would still have pushed for the meeting here. Lawson had few opportunities to get off base and the Russian was growing eager to leave this country once and for all.
As he sat there sipping his bitter and waiting, Prokofiev wondered idly about the new type of aircraft that Center was looking for information on. Apparently, from what he was told, the Americans had a jet that could not be seen on radar. It was supposed to be only an experimental model, but some people in Moscow believed it was either on its way to Europe or here already. Moving it from the US to base in the UK instead of West Germany made sense. For one reason or another, Moscow suspected RAF Alconbury to be the base that the aircraft was likely at.
He was not a pilot, and knew very little about aerodynamics. For these reasons the concept of an aircraft that couldn’t be seen was very difficult for Prokofiev to visualize or accept. It did not take much imagination to understand why such an aircraft filled his superiors with concern. One invisible jet armed with a nuclear weapon could turn Moscow to dust in the blink of an eye, essentially decapitating the Soviet Union in one swift act.
If that aircraft was here, Prokofiev hoped Lawson could confirm it so the KGB officer could get on with leaving the UK before the fighting began. He had no inside information about when the war would start, however, Prokofiev did not think it would be much longer.