The Golden Age Of Science Fiction Vol Iii Part 60

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When d.i.c.kens was gone the Chief scowled at his trouble-shooter. "Paul, you're bad for discipline around here. Can't you even knock before you enter? How is Nicaragua?"

Paul Koslov slumped into a leather easy-chair and scowled. "I did knock. Most of it's in my report. Nicaragua is ... tranquil. It'll stay tranquil for a while, too. There isn't so much as a parlor pink--"

"And Lopez--?"

Paul said slowly, "Last time I saw Raul was in a swamp near Lake Managua. The very last time."

The Chief said hurriedly, "Don't give me the details. I leave details up to you."



"I know," Paul said flatly.

His superior drew a pound can of Sir Walter Raleigh across the desk, selected a briar from a pipe rack and while he was packing in tobacco said, "Paul, do you know what day it is--and what year?"

"It's Tuesday. And 1965."

The bureau chief looked at his disk calendar. "Um-m-m. Today the Seven Year Plan is completed."

Paul snorted.

The Chief said mildly, "Successfully. For all practical purposes, the U.S.S.R. has surpa.s.sed us in gross national product."

"That's not the way I understand it."

"Then you make the mistake of believing our propaganda. That's always a mistake, believing your own propaganda. Worse than believing the other man's."

"Our steel capacity is a third again as much as theirs."

"Yes, and currently, what with our readjustment--remember when they used to call them recessions, or even earlier, depressions--our steel industry is operating at less than sixty per cent of capacity. The Soviets always operate at one hundred per cent of capacity. They don't have to worry about whether or not they can sell it. If they produce more steel than they immediately need, they use it to build another steel mill."

The Chief shook his head. "As long ago as 1958 they began pa.s.sing us, product by product. Grain, b.u.t.ter, and timber production, jet aircraft, s.p.a.ce flight, and coal--"

Paul leaned forward impatiently. "We put out more than three times as many cars, refrigerators, kitchen stoves, was.h.i.+ng machines."

His superior said, "That's the point. While we were putting the product of our steel mills into automobiles and automatic kitchen equipment, they did without these things and put their steel into more steel mills, more railroads, more factories. We leaned back and took it easy, sneered at their progress, talked a lot about our freedom and liberty to our allies and the neutrals and enjoyed our refrigerators and was.h.i.+ng machines until they finally pa.s.sed us."

"You sound like a Ta.s.s broadcast from Moscow."

"Um-m-m, I've been trying to," the Chief said. "However, that's still roughly the situation. The fact that you and I personally, and a couple of hundred million Americans, prefer our cars and such to more steel mills, and prefer our personal freedoms and liberties is beside the point. We should have done less laughing seven years ago and more thinking about today. As things stand, give them a few more years at this pace and every neutral nation in the world is going to fall into their laps."

"That's putting it strong, isn't it?"

"Strong?" the Chief growled disgustedly. "That's putting it mildly. Even some of our allies are beginning to waver. Eight years ago, India and China both set out to industrialize themselves. Today, China is the third industrial power of the world. Where's India, about twentieth? Ten years from now China will probably be first. I don't even allow myself to think where she'll be twenty-five years from now."

"The Indians were a bunch of idealistic screwb.a.l.l.s."

"That's one of the favorite alibis, isn't it? Actually we, the West, let them down. They couldn't get underway. The Soviets backed China with everything they could toss in."

Paul crossed his legs and leaned back. "It seems to me I've run into this discussion a few hundred times at c.o.c.ktail parties."

The Chief pulled out a drawer and brought forth a king-size box of kitchen matches. He struck one with a thumbnail and peered through tobacco smoke at Paul Koslov as he lit up.

"The point is that the system the Russkies used when they started their first five-year plan back in 1928, and the system used in China, works. If we, with our traditions of freedom and liberty, like it or not, it works. Every citizen of the country is thrown into the grinding mill to increase production. Everybody," the Chief grinned sourly, "that is, except the party elite, who are running the whole thing. Everybody sacrifices for the sake of the progress of the whole country."

"I know," Paul said. "Give me enough time and I'll find out what this lecture is all about."

The Chief grunted at him. "The Commies are still in power. If they remain in power and continue to develop the way they're going, we'll be through, completely through, in another few years. We'll be so far behind we'll be the world's laughing-stock--and everybody else will be on the Soviet bandwagon."

He seemed to switch subjects. "Ever hear of Somerset Maugham?"

"Sure. I've read several of his novels."

"I was thinking of Maugham the British Agent, rather than Maugham the novelist, but it's the same man."

"British agent?"

"Um-m-m. He was sent to Petrograd in 1917 to prevent the Bolshevik revolution. The Germans had sent Lenin and Zinoviev up from Switzerland, where they'd been in exile, by a sealed train in hopes of starting a revolution in Czarist Russia. The point I'm leading to is that in one of his books, 'The Summing Up,' I believe, Maugham mentions in pa.s.sing that had he got to Petrograd possibly six weeks earlier he thinks he could have done his job successfully."

Paul looked at him blankly. "What could he have done?"

The Chief shrugged. "It was all out war. The British wanted to keep Russia in the allied ranks so as to divert as many German troops as possible from the Western front. The Germans wanted to eliminate the Russians. Maugham had carte blanche. Anything would have gone. Elements of the British fleet to fight the Bolsheviks, unlimited amounts of money for anything he saw fit from bribery to hiring a.s.sa.s.sins. What would have happened, for instance, if he could have had Lenin and Trotsky killed?"

Paul said suddenly, "What has all this got to do with me?"

"We're giving you the job this time."

"Maugham's job?" Paul didn't get it.

"No, the other one. I don't know who the German was who engineered sending Lenin up to Petrograd, but that's the equivalent of your job." He seemed to go off on another bent. "Did you read Djilas' 'The New Cla.s.s' about a decade ago?"

"Most of it, as I recall. One of t.i.to's top men who turned against the Commies and did quite a job of exposing the so-called cla.s.sless society."

"That's right. I've always been surprised that so few people bothered to wonder how Djilas was able to smuggle his book out of one of t.i.to's strongest prisons and get it to publishers in the West."

"Never thought of it," Paul agreed. "How could he?"

"Because," the Chief said, knocking the ash from his pipe and replacing it in the rack, "there was and is a very strong underground in all the Communist countries. Not only Yugoslavia, but the Soviet Union as well."

Paul stirred impatiently. "Once again, what's all this got to do with me?"

"They're the ones you're going to work with. The anti-Soviet underground. You've got unlimited leeway. Unlimited support to the extent we can get it to you. Unlimited funds for whatever you find you need them for. Your job is to help the underground start a new Russian Revolution."

Paul Koslov, his face still bandaged following plastic surgery, spent a couple of hours in the Rube Goldberg department inspecting the latest gadgets of his trade.

Derek Stevens said, "The Chief sent down a memo to introduce you to this new item. We call it a Tracy."

Paul frowned at the wrist.w.a.tch, fingered it a moment, held it to his ear. It ticked and the second hand moved. "Tracy?" he said.

Stevens said, "After d.i.c.k Tracy. Remember, a few years ago? His wrist two-way radio."

"But this is really a watch," Paul said.

"Sure. Keeps fairly good time, too. However, that's camouflage. It's also a two-way radio. Tight beam from wherever you are to the Chief."

Paul pursed his lips. "The transistor boys are really doing it up brown." He handed the watch back to Derek Stevens. "Show me how it works, Derek."

They spent fifteen minutes on the communications device, then Derek Stevens said, "Here's another item the Chief thought you might want to see:"

It was a compact, short-muzzled hand gun. Paul handled it with the ease of long practice. "The grip's clumsy. What's its advantage? I don't particularly like an automatic."

Derek Stevens motioned with his head. "Come into the firing range, Koslov, and we'll give you a demonstration."

Paul shot him a glance from the side of his eyes, then nodded. "Lead on."

In the range, Stevens had a man-size silhouette put up. He stood to one side and said, "O.K., let her go."

Paul stood easily, left hand in pants pocket, brought the gun up and tightened on the trigger. He frowned and pressed again.

He scowled at Derek Stevens. "It's not loaded."

Stevens grunted amus.e.m.e.nt. "Look at the target. First time you got it right over the heart."

"I'll be ...," Paul began. He looked down at the weapon in surprise. "Noiseless and recoilless. What caliber is it, Derek, and what's the muzzle velocity?"

"We call it the .38 Noiseless," Stevens said. "It has the punch of that .44 Magnum you're presently carrying."

With a fluid motion Paul Koslov produced the .44 Magnum from the holster under his left shoulder and tossed it to one side. "That's the last time I tote that cannon," he said. He balanced the new gun in his hand in admiration. "Have the front sight taken off for me, Derek, and the fore part of the trigger guard. I need a quick draw gun." He added absently, "How did you know I carried a .44?"

Stevens said, "You're rather famous, Koslov. The Colonel Lawrence of the Cold War. The journalists are kept from getting very much about you, but what they do learn they spread around."

Paul Koslov said flatly, "Why don't you like me, Stevens? In this game I don't appreciate people on our team who don't like me. It's dangerous."

Derek Stevens flushed. "I didn't say I didn't like you."

"You didn't have to."

"It's nothing personal," Stevens said.

Paul Koslov looked at him.

Stevens said, "I don't approve of Americans committing political a.s.sa.s.sinations."

Paul Koslov grinned wolfishly and without humor. "You'll have a hard time proving that even our cloak and dagger department has ever authorized a.s.sa.s.sination, Stevens. By the way, I'm not an American."

Derek Stevens was not the type of man whose jaw dropped, but he blinked. "Then what are you?"

"A Russian," Paul snapped. "And look, Stevens, we're busy now, but when you've got some time to do a little thinking, consider the ethics of warfare."

Stevens was flushed again at the tone. "Ethics of warfare?"

"There aren't any," Paul Koslov snapped. "There hasn't been chivalry in war for a long time, and there probably never will be again. Neither side can afford it. And I'm talking about cold war as well as hot." He scowled at the other. "Or did you labor under the illusion that only the Commies had tough operators on their side?"

Paul Koslov crossed the Atlantic in a supersonic TU-180 operated by Europa Airways. That in itself galled him. It was bad enough that the Commies had stolen a march on the West with the first jet liner to go into ma.s.s production, the TU-104 back in 1957. By the time the United States brought out its first really practical trans-Atlantic jets in 1959 the Russians had come up with the TU-114 which its designer, old Andrei Tupolev named the largest, most efficient and economical aircraft flying.

In civil aircraft they had got ahead and stayed ahead. Subsidized beyond anything the West could or at least would manage, the air lines of the world couldn't afford to operate the slower, smaller and more expensive Western models. One by one, first the neutrals such as India, and then even members of the Western bloc began equipping their air lines with Russian craft.

Paul grunted his disgust at the memory of the strong measures that had to be taken by the government to prevent even some of the American lines from buying Soviet craft at the unbelievably low prices they offered them.

In London he presented a card on which he had added a numbered code in pencil. Handed it over a desk to the British intelligence major.

"I believe I'm expected," Paul said.

The major looked at him, then down at the card. "Just a moment, Mr. Smith. I'll see if his lords.h.i.+p is available. Won't you take a chair?" He left the room.

Paul Koslov strolled over to the window and looked out on the moving lines of pedestrians below. He had first been in London some thirty years ago. So far as he could remember, there were no noticeable changes with the exception of automobile design. He wondered vaguely how long it took to make a noticeable change in the London street scene.

The major re-entered the room with a new expression of respect on his face. "His lords.h.i.+p will see you immediately, Mr. Smith."

"Thanks," Paul said. He entered the inner office.

Lord Carrol was attired in civilian clothes which somehow failed to disguise a military quality in his appearance. He indicated a chair next to his desk. "We've been instructed to give you every a.s.sistance Mr. ... Smith. Frankly, I can't imagine of just what this could consist."

Paul said, as he adjusted himself in the chair, "I'm going into the Soviet Union on an important a.s.signment. I'll need as large a team at my disposal as we can manage. You have agents in Russia, of course?" He lifted his eyebrows.

His lords.h.i.+p cleared his throat and his voice went even stiffer. "All major military nations have a certain number of espionage operatives in each other's countries. No matter how peaceful the times, this is standard procedure."

"And these are hardly peaceful times," Paul said dryly. "I'll want a complete list of your Soviet based agents and the necessary information on how to contact them."

Lord Carrol stared at him. Finally sputtered, "Man, why? You're not even a British national. This is--"

Paul, held up a hand. "We're co-operating with the Russian underground. Co-operating isn't quite strong enough a word. We're going to push them into activity if we can."

The British intelligence head looked down at the card before him. "Mr. Smith," he read. He looked up. "John Smith, I a.s.sume."

Paul said, still dryly, "Is there any other?"

Lord Carrol said, "See here, you're really Paul Koslov, aren't you?"

Paul looked at him, said nothing.

Lord Carrol said impatiently, "What you ask is impossible. Our operatives all have their own a.s.signments, their own work. Why do you need them?"

"This is the biggest job ever, overthrowing the Soviet State. We need as many men as we can get on our team. Possibly I won't have to use them but, if I do, I want them available."

The Golden Age Of Science Fiction Vol Iii Part 60

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