From the introduction:
Lieutenant Vladislav Mikhailovitj Zhukov watched the runway disappear beneath him and saw, beyond Kabul, the reddish dust of the mountains stretching off to the horizon. They were on their way home, the war for his platoon was over, but a new and important battle was about to begin.
He looked at his people as they sat in their parade uniforms and most of all they seemed like a bunch of schoolboys - if it had not been for the blue beret and blue and white striped telniaska whose collar he just could discern.
In his mind, he recited, again, the Brotherhood's Statute:
- Wherever there are mountains of waste,
- slavery demands that we light our death torch;
- the purifying fire must wash over the land.
- Whether we live or die, we are brothers;
- our genius will save the world!
At the same time somewhere in the Soviet Union a nuclear reactor exploded - the first little flame of purifying fire.
There was no turning back...