The Golden Age Of Science Fiction Vol X Part 106
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As you know, this is but the latest of a series of such disappearances, beginning about five years ago, when the Khak.u.m River question first arose.
Your utmost activity in this matter is required.
Dzhoubinsky Amba.s.sador Krylenkoff to Foreign Minister Dzhoubinsky: 9 March, 1984 Comrade Foreign Minister: Since receipt of yours of 3/3/'84, I have been utilizing all resources at my disposal in the matter of the noted scientist D. O. Voronoff, and availing myself of all sources of information, e.g., spies, secret agents, disaffected elements of the local population, and including two UPREA Cabinet Ministers on my payroll. I regret to report that results of this investigation have been entirely negative. No one here appears to know anything of the whereabouts of Dr. Voronoff.
At the same time, there is considerable concern in UPREA Government circles over the disappearances of certain prominent East Asian scientists, e.g.. Dr. Hong Foo, the nuclear physicist; Dr. Hin Yang-Woo, the great theoretical mathematician; Dr. Mong s.h.i.+ng, the electronics expert. I am informed that UPREA Government sources are attributing these disappearances to us.
I can only say that I am sincerely sorry that this is not the case.
Krylenkoff Wu Fung Tung to Vladmir N. Dzhoubinsky: 21 April, 1984 Estimable Sir: In accordance with our established policy of free exchange with friendly Powers of scientific information, permit me to inform your Government that a new mutated disease-virus has been developed in our biological laboratories, causing a highly contagious disease similar in symptoms to bubonic plague, but responding to none of the treatments for this latter disease. This new virus strain was accidentally produced in the course of some experiments with radioactivity.
In spite of the greatest care, it is feared that this virus has spread beyond the laboratory in which it was developed. We warn you most urgently of the danger that it may have spread to the UEESR; enclosed are a list of symptoms, etc.
My Government instructs me to advise your Government that the att.i.tude of your Government in the Khak.u.m River question is utterly unacceptable, and will require considerable revision before my Government can even consider negotiation with your Government on the subject. Your obedient and respectful servant, Wu Fung Tung From N. Y. Times, May 12, 1984: AFGHAN RULER FETED AT.
Ameer sees Red Square Troop Review; Confers with Premier-President Mouzorgin Sing Yat, UPREA Amba.s.sador at Moscow, to Wu Fung Tung: 26 June, 1984 Venerable and Honored Sir: I regret humbly that I can learn nothing whatever about the fate of the learned scholars of science of whom you inquire, namely: Hong Foo, Hin Yang-Woo, Mong s.h.i.+ng, Yee Ho Li, Wong Fat, and Bao Hu-s.h.i.+n. This inability may be in part due to incompetence of my unworthy self, but none of my many sources of information, including Soviet Minister of Police MorG.o.doff, who is on my payroll, can furnish any useful data whatever. I am informed, however, that the UEESR Government is deeply concerned about similar disappearances of some of the foremost of their own scientists, including Voronoff, Jirnikov, Kagorinoff, Bakhorin, Himmelfarber and Pavlovinsky, all of whose dossiers are on file with our Bureau of Foreign Intelligence. I am further informed that the Government of the UEESR ascribes these disappearances to our own activities.
Ah, Venerable and Honored Sir, if this were only true!
Kindly condescend to accept compliments of, Sing Yat Dzhoubinsky to Wu Fung Tung: 6 October, 1984 Honored Sir: Pursuant to our well known policy of exchanging scientific information with the Governments of friendly Powers, my Government takes the greatest pleasure in announcing a scientific discovery of inestimable value to the entire world. I refer to nothing less than a positive technique for liquidating rats as a species.
This technique involves treatment of male rats with certain types of hard radiations, which not only renders them reproductively sterile but leaves the rodents so treated in full possession of all other s.e.xual functions and impulses. Furthermore, this condition of sterility is venereally contagious, so that one male rat so treated will sterilize all female rats with which it comes in contact, and these, in turn, will sterilize all male rats coming in contact with them. Our mathematicians estimate that under even moderately favorable circ.u.mstances, the entire rat population of the world could be sterilized from one male rat in approximately two hundred years.
Rats so treated have already been liberated in the granaries at Odessa; in three months, rat-trappings there have fallen by 26.4 percent, and grain-losses to rats by 32.09 percent.
We are s.h.i.+pping you six dozen sterilized male rats, which you can use for sterilization stock, and, by so augmenting their numbers, may duplicate our own successes.
Curiously enough, this effect of venereally contagious sterility was discovered quite accidentally, in connection with the use of hard radiations for human sterilization (criminals, mental defectives, etc.). Knowing the disastrous possible effects of an epidemic of contagious human sterility, all persons so sterilized were liquidated as soon as the contagious nature of their sterility had been discovered, with the exception of a dozen or so convicts, who had been released before this discovery was made. It is believed that at least some of them have made their way over the border and into the territory of the United Peoples' Republics of East Asia. I must caution your Government to be on the lookout of them. Among a people still practicing ancestor-wors.h.i.+p, an epidemic of sterility would be a disaster indeed.
My Government must insist that your Government take some definite step toward the solution of the Khak.u.m River question; the present position of the Government of the United Peoples' Republics of East Asia on this subject is utterly unacceptable to the Government of the Union of East European Soviet Republics, and must be revised very considerably.
I have the honor, etc., etc., Vladmir N. Dzhoubinsky Coded radiogram, Dzhoubinsky to Krylenkoff: 25 OCTOBER, 1984.
ASCERTAIN IMMEDIATELY CAUSE OF RELEASE OF NUCLEAR ENERGY VICINITY OF NOVA ZEMBLA THIS AM.
Coded radiogram, Wu Fung Tung to Sing Yat: 25 OCTOBER, 1984.
ASCERTAIN IMMEDIATELY CAUSE OF RELEASE OF NUCLEAR ENERGY VICINITY OF NOVA ZEMBLA THIS AM.
Letter from the Ameer of Afghanistan to UEESR Premier-President Mouzorgin and UPREA President Sung Li-Yin: 26 October, 1984 SHERE ALI ABDALLAH, Ameer of Afghanistan, Master of Kabul, Lord of Herat and Kandahar, Keeper of Khyber Pa.s.s, Defender of the True Faith, Servant of the Most High and Sword-Hand of the Prophet; Ph.D. (Princeton); Sc.B. (Ma.s.sachusetts Inst.i.tute of Technology); M.A. (Oxford): to their Excellencies A.A. Mouzorgin, Premier-President of the Union of East European Soviet Republics, and Sung Li-Yin, President of the United Peoples' Republics of East Asia, Greetings, in the name of Allah!
For the past five years, I have watched, with growing concern, the increasing tensions between your Excellencies' respective Governments, allegedly arising out of the so-called Khak.u.m River question. It is my conviction that this Khak.u.m River dispute is the utterly fraudulent device by which both Governments hope to create a pretext for the invasion of India, each ostensibly to rescue that unhappy country from the rapacity of the other. Your Excellencies must surely realize that this is a contingency which the Government of the Kingdom of Afghanistan cannot and will not permit; it would mean nothing short of the national extinction of the Kingdom of Afghanistan, and the enslavement of the Afghan people.
Your Excellencies will recall that I discussed this matter most urgently on the occasions of my visits to your respective capitals of Moscow and Nanking, and your respective att.i.tudes, on those occasions, has firmly convinced me that neither of your Excellencies is by nature capable of adopting a rational or civilized att.i.tude toward this question. It appears that neither of your Excellencies has any intention of abandoning your present war of mutual threats and blackmail until forced to do so by some overt act on the part of one or the other of your Excellencies' Governments, which would result in physical war of pan-Asiatic scope and magnitude. I am further convinced that this deplorable situation arises out of the megalomaniac ambitions of the Federal Governments of the UEESR and the UPREA, respectively, and that the different peoples of what you unblus.h.i.+ngly call your "autonomous" republics have no ambitions except, on a rapidly diminis.h.i.+ng order of probability, to live out their natural span of years in peace. Therefore: In the name of ALLAH, the Merciful, the Compa.s.sionate: We, Shere Ali Abdallah, Ameer of Afghanistan, etc., do decree and command that the political ent.i.ties known as the Union of East European Soviet Republics and the United Peoples' Republics of East Asia respectively are herewith abolished and dissolved into their const.i.tuent autonomous republics, each one of which shall hereafter enjoy complete sovereignty within its own borders as is right and proper.
Now, in case either of you gentlemen feel inclined to laugh this off, let me remind you of the series of mysterious disappearances of some of the most noted scientists of both the UEESR and the UPREA, and let me advise your Excellencies that these scientists are now residents and subjects of the Kingdom of Afghanistan, and are here engaged in research and development work for my Government. These gentlemen were not abducted, as you gentlemen seem to believe; they came here of their own free will, and ask nothing better than to remain here, where they are treated with dignity and honor, given material rewards--riches, palaces, harems, retinues of servants, etc.--and are also free from the intellectual and ideological restraints which make life so intolerable in your respective countries to any man above the order of intelligence of a cretin. In return for these benefactions, these eminent scientists have developed, for my Government, certain weapons. For example: 1.) A nuclear-rocket guided missile, officially designated as the Sword of Islam, vastly superior to your Excellencies' respective guided missiles Marxist Victory and Celestial Destroyer. It should be; it was the product of the joint efforts of Dr. Voronoff and Dr. Bao Hu-s.h.i.+n, whom your Excellencies know.
2.) A new type of radar-radio-electronic defense screen, which can not only detect the approach of a guided missile, at any velocity whatever, but will automatically capture and redirect same. In case either of your Excellencies doubt this statement, you are invited to aim a rocket at some target in Afghanistan and see what happens.
3.) Both the UPREA mutated virus and the UEESR contagious sterility, with positive vaccines against the former and means of instrumental detection of the latter.
4.) A technique for initiating and controlling the Bethe carbon-hydrogen cycle. We are now using this as a source of heat for industrial and even domestic purposes, and we also have a carbon-hydrogen cycle bomb. Such a bomb, delivered by one of our Sword of Islam Mark IV's, was activated yesterday over the Northern tip of Nova Zembla, at an alt.i.tude of four miles. I am enclosing photographic reproductions of views of this test, televised to Kabul by an accompanying Sword of Islam Mark V observation rocket. I am informed that expeditions have been sent by both the UEESR and the UPREA to investigate; they should find some very interesting conditions. For one thing, they won't need their climbing equipment to get over the Nova Zembla Glacier; the Nova Zembla Glacier isn't there, any more.
5.) A lithium bomb. This has not been tested, yet. A lithium bomb is nothing for a country the size of Afghanistan to let off inside its own borders. We intend making a test with it within the next ten days, however If your Excellencies will designate a target, which must be at the center of an uninhabited area at least five hundred miles square, the test can be made in perfect safety. If not, I cannot answer the results; that will be in the hands of Allah, Who has ordained all things. No doubt Allah has ordained the destruction of either Moscow or Nanking; whichever city Allah has elected to erase, I will make it my personal responsibility to see to it that the other isn't slighted, either.
However, if your Excellencies decide to accede to my modest and reasonable demands, not later than one week from today, this test-launching will be cancelled as unnecessary. Of course, that would leave unsettled a bet I have made with Dr. Hong Foo--a star sapphire against his favorite Persian concubine--that the explosion of a lithium bomb will not initiate a chain reaction in the Earth's crust and so disintegrate this planet. This, of course, is a minor consideration, unworthy of Your notice.
Of course, I am aware that both your Excellencies have, in the past, fomented mutual jealousies and suspicions among the several "autonomous" republics under your respective jurisdictions, as an instrument of policy. If these peoples were, at this time, to receive full independence, the present inevitability of a pan-Asiatic war on a grand scale would be replaced only by the inevitability of a pan-Asiatic war by detail. Obviously, some single supra-national sovereignty is needed to maintain peace, and such a sovereignty should be established under some leaders.h.i.+p not hitherto a.s.sociated with either the former UEESR or the former UPREA. I humbly offer myself as President of such a supra-national organization, counting as a matter of course upon the whole-hearted support and co-operation of both your Excellencies. It might be well if both your Excellencies were to come here to Kabul to confer with me on this subject at your very earliest convenience.
The Peace of Allah be upon both your Excellencies!
Shere Ali Abdallah, Ph.D., Sc.B., M.A.
From N. Y. Times, Oct. 30, 1984: MOUZORGIN, SUN LI-YIN,.
FETED AT KABUL.
Confer With Ameer; Discuss Peace Plans Surprise Developments Seen....
THE TUNNEL UNDER THE WORLD.
By Frederik Pohl
Pinching yourself is no way to see if you are dreaming. Surgical instruments? Well, yes--but a mechanic's kit is best of all!
On the morning of June 15th, Guy Burckhardt woke up screaming out of a dream.
It was more real than any dream he had ever had in his life. He could still hear and feel the sharp, ripping-metal explosion, the violent heave that had tossed him furiously out of bed, the searing wave of heat.
He sat up convulsively and stared, not believing what he saw, at the quiet room and the bright sunlight coming in the window.
He croaked, "Mary?"
His wife was not in the bed next to him. The covers were tumbled and awry, as though she had just left it, and the memory of the dream was so strong that instinctively he found himself searching the floor to see if the dream explosion had thrown her down.
But she wasn't there. Of course she wasn't, he told himself, looking at the familiar vanity and slipper chair, the uncracked window, the unbuckled wall. It had only been a dream.
"Guy?" His wife was calling him querulously from the foot of the stairs. "Guy, dear, are you all right?"
He called weakly, "Sure."
There was a pause. Then Mary said doubtfully, "Breakfast is ready. Are you sure you're all right? I thought I heard you yelling--"
Burckhardt said more confidently, "I had a bad dream, honey. Be right down."
In the shower, punching the lukewarm-and-cologne he favored, he told himself that it had been a beaut of a dream. Still, bad dreams weren't unusual, especially bad dreams about explosions. In the past thirty years of H-bomb jitters, who had not dreamed of explosions?
Even Mary had dreamed of them, it turned out, for he started to tell her about the dream, but she cut him off. "You did?" Her voice was astonished. "Why, dear, I dreamed the same thing! Well, almost the same thing. I didn't actually hear anything. I dreamed that something woke me up, and then there was a sort of quick bang, and then something hit me on the head. And that was all. Was yours like that?"
Burckhardt coughed. "Well, no," he said. Mary was not one of these strong-as-a-man, brave-as-a-tiger women. It was not necessary, he thought, to tell her all the little details of the dream that made it seem so real. No need to mention the splintered ribs, and the salt bubble in his throat, and the agonized knowledge that this was death. He said, "Maybe there really was some kind of explosion downtown. Maybe we heard it and it started us dreaming."
Mary reached over and patted his hand absently. "Maybe," she agreed. "It's almost half-past eight, dear. Shouldn't you hurry? You don't want to be late to the office."
He gulped his food, kissed her and rushed out--not so much to be on time as to see if his guess had been right.
But downtown Tylerton looked as it always had. Coming in on the bus, Burckhardt watched critically out the window, seeking evidence of an explosion. There wasn't any. If anything, Tylerton looked better than it ever had before: It was a beautiful crisp day, the sky was cloudless, the buildings were clean and inviting. They had, he observed, steam-blasted the Power & Light Building, the town's only skysc.r.a.per--that was the penalty of having Contro Chemical's main plant on the outskirts of town; the fumes from the cascade stills left their mark on stone buildings.
None of the usual crowd were on the bus, so there wasn't anyone Burckhardt could ask about the explosion. And by the time he got out at the corner of Fifth and Lehigh and the bus rolled away with a muted diesel moan, he had pretty well convinced himself that it was all imagination.
He stopped at the cigar stand in the lobby of his office building, but Ralph wasn't behind the counter. The man who sold him his pack of cigarettes was a stranger.
"Where's Mr. Stebbins?" Burckhardt asked.
The man said politely, "Sick, sir. He'll be in tomorrow. A pack of Marlins today?"
"Chesterfields," Burckhardt corrected.
"Certainly, sir," the man said. But what he took from the rack and slid across the counter was an unfamiliar green-and-yellow pack.
"Do try these, sir," he suggested. "They contain an anti-cough factor. Ever notice how ordinary cigarettes make you choke every once in a while?"
Burckhardt said suspiciously, "I never heard of this brand."
"Of course not. They're something new." Burckhardt hesitated, and the man said persuasively, "Look, try them out at my risk. If you don't like them, bring back the empty pack and I'll refund your money. Fair enough?"
Burckhardt shrugged. "How can I lose? But give me a pack of Chesterfields, too, will you?"
He opened the pack and lit one while he waited for the elevator. They weren't bad, he decided, though he was suspicious of cigarettes that had the tobacco chemically treated in any way. But he didn't think much of Ralph's stand-in; it would raise h.e.l.l with the trade at the cigar stand if the man tried to give every customer the same high-pressure sales talk.
The elevator door opened with a low-pitched sound of music. Burckhardt and two or three others got in and he nodded to them as the door closed. The thread of music switched off and the speaker in the ceiling of the cab began its usual commercials.
No, not the usual commercials, Burckhardt realized. He had been exposed to the captive-audience commercials so long that they hardly registered on the outer ear any more, but what was coming from the recorded program in the bas.e.m.e.nt of the building caught his attention. It wasn't merely that the brands were mostly unfamiliar; it was a difference in pattern.
There were jingles with an insistent, bouncy rhythm, about soft drinks he had never tasted. There was a rapid patter dialogue between what sounded like two ten-year-old boys about a candy bar, followed by an authoritative ba.s.s rumble: "Go right out and get a DELICIOUS Choco-Bite and eat your TANGY Choco-Bite all up. That's Choco-Bite!" There was a sobbing female whine: "I wish I had a f.e.c.kle Freezer! I'd do anything for a f.e.c.kle Freezer!" Burckhardt reached his floor and left the elevator in the middle of the last one. It left him a little uneasy. The commercials were not for familiar brands; there was no feeling of use and custom to them.
But the office was happily normal--except that Mr. Barth wasn't in. Miss Mitkin, yawning at the reception desk, didn't know exactly why. "His home phoned, that's all. He'll be in tomorrow."
"Maybe he went to the plant. It's right near his house."
She looked indifferent. "Yeah."
A thought struck Burckhardt. "But today is June 15th! It's quarterly tax return day--he has to sign the return!"
Miss Mitkin shrugged to indicate that that was Burckhardt's problem, not hers. She returned to her nails.
Thoroughly exasperated, Burckhardt went to his desk. It wasn't that he couldn't sign the tax returns as well as Barth, he thought resentfully. It simply wasn't his job, that was all; it was a responsibility that Barth, as office manager for Contro Chemicals' downtown office, should have taken.
He thought briefly of calling Barth at his home or trying to reach him at the factory, but he gave up the idea quickly enough. He didn't really care much for the people at the factory and the less contact he had with them, the better. He had been to the factory once, with Barth; it had been a confusing and, in a way, a frightening experience. Barring a handful of executives and engineers, there wasn't a soul in the factory--that is, Burckhardt corrected himself, remembering what Barth had told him, not a living soul--just the machines.
According to Barth, each machine was controlled by a sort of computer which reproduced, in its electronic snarl, the actual memory and mind of a human being. It was an unpleasant thought. Barth, laughing, had a.s.sured him that there was no Frankenstein business of robbing graveyards and implanting brains in machines. It was only a matter, he said, of transferring a man's habit patterns from brain cells to vacuum-tube cells. It didn't hurt the man and it didn't make the machine into a monster.
But they made Burckhardt uncomfortable all the same.
He put Barth and the factory and all his other little irritations out of his mind and tackled the tax returns. It took him until noon to verify the figures--which Barth could have done out of his memory and his private ledger in ten minutes, Burckhardt resentfully reminded himself.
He sealed them in an envelope and walked out to Miss Mitkin. "Since Mr. Barth isn't here, we'd better go to lunch in s.h.i.+fts," he said. "You can go first."
"Thanks." Miss Mitkin languidly took her bag out of the desk drawer and began to apply makeup.
Burckhardt offered her the envelope. "Drop this in the mail for me, will you? Uh--wait a minute. I wonder if I ought to phone Mr. Barth to make sure. Did his wife say whether he was able to take phone calls?"
"Didn't say." Miss Mitkin blotted her lips carefully with a Kleenex. "Wasn't his wife, anyway. It was his daughter who called and left the message."
"The kid?" Burckhardt frowned. "I thought she was away at school."
"She called, that's all I know."
Burckhardt went back to his own office and stared distastefully at the unopened mail on his desk. He didn't like nightmares; they spoiled his whole day. He should have stayed in bed, like Barth.
A funny thing happened on his way home. There was a disturbance at the corner where he usually caught his bus--someone was screaming something about a new kind of deep-freeze--so he walked an extra block. He saw the bus coming and started to trot. But behind him, someone was calling his name. He looked over his shoulder; a small harried-looking man was hurrying toward him.
The Golden Age Of Science Fiction Vol X Part 106
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