The Golden Age Of Science Fiction Vol Iii Part 63

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Paul said finally, "This is no time to make detailed plans. We love each other, that should be enough. When it's all over, we'll have the chance to look over each other's way of life. You can visit the States with me."

"And I'll take you on a visit to Armenia. I know a little town in the mountains there which is the most beautiful in the world. We'll spend a week there. A month! Perhaps one day we can build a summer dacha there." She laughed happily. "Why practically everyone lives to be a hundred years old in Armenia."

"Yeah, we'll have to go there sometime," Paul said quietly.

He'd been scheduled to see Leonid that night but at the last moment the other sent Ana to report that an important meeting was to take place. A meeting of underground delegates from all over the country. They were making basic decisions on when to move--but Paul's presence wasn't needed.

He had no feeling of being excluded from something that concerned him. Long ago it had been decided that the less details known by the average man in the movement about Paul's activities, the better it would be. There is always betrayal and there are always counter-revolutionary agents within the ranks of an organization such as this. What was the old Russian proverb? When four men sit down to discuss revolution, three are police spies and the third a fool.



Actually, this had been astonis.h.i.+ngly well handled. He had operated for over a year with no signs that the KGB was aware of his activities. Leonid and his fellows were efficient. They had to be. The Commies had been slaughtering anyone who opposed them for forty years now. To survive as a Russian underground you had to be good.

No, it wasn't a feeling of exclusion. Paul Koslov was stretched out on the bed of his king-size Astoria Hotel room, his hands behind his head and staring up at the ceiling. He recapitulated the events of the past months from the time he'd entered the Chief's office in Was.h.i.+ngton until last night at the dacha with Leonid and Ana.

The whole thing.

And over and over again.

There was a line of worry on his forehead.

He swung his feet to the floor and approached the closet. He selected his most poorly pressed pair of pants, and a coat that mismatched it. He checked the charge in his .38 Noiseless, and replaced the weapon under his left arm. He removed his partial bridge, remembering as he did so how he had lost the teeth in a street fight with some Commie union organizers in Panama, and replaced the porcelain bridge with a typically Russian gleaming steel one. He stuffed a cap into his back pocket, a pair of steel rimmed gla.s.ses into an inner pocket, and left the room.

He hurried through the lobby, past the Intourist desk, thankful that it was a slow time of day for tourist activity.

Outside, he walked several blocks to 25th of October Avenue and made a point of losing himself in the crowd. When he was sure that there could be no one behind him, he entered a pivnaya, had a gla.s.s of beer, and then disappeared into the toilet. There he took off the coat, wrinkled it a bit more, put it back on and also donned the cap and gla.s.ses. He removed his tie and thrust it into a side pocket.

He left, in appearance a more or less average workingman of Leningrad, walked to the bus station on Nas.h.i.+mson Volodarski and waited for the next bus to Petrodvorets. He would have preferred the subway, but the line didn't run that far as yet.

The bus took him to within a mile and a half of the dacha, and he walked from there.

By this time Paul was familiar with the security measures taken by Leonid Shvernik and the others. None at all when the dacha wasn't in use for a conference or to hide someone on the lam from the KGB. But at a time like this, there would be three sentries, carefully spotted.

This was Paul's field now. Since the age of nineteen, he told himself wryly. He wondered if there was anyone in the world who could go through a line of sentries as efficiently as he could.

He approached the dacha at the point where the line of pine trees came nearest to it. On his belly he watched for ten minutes before making the final move to the side of the house. He lay up against it, under a bush.

From an inner pocket he brought the spy device he had acquired from Derek Steven's Rube Goldberg department. It looked and was supposed to look considerably like a doctor's stethoscope. He placed it to his ears, pressed the other end to the wall of the house.

Leonid Shvernik was saying, "Becoming killers isn't a pleasant prospect but it was the Soviet who taught us that the end justifies the means. And so ruthless a dictators.h.i.+p have they established that there is literally no alternative. The only way to remove them is by violence. Happily, so we believe, the violence need extend to only a small number of the very highest of the hierarchy. Once they are eliminated and our transmitters proclaim the new revolution, there should be little further opposition."

Someone sighed deeply--Paul was able to pick up even that.

"Why discuss it further?" somebody whose voice Paul didn't recognize, asked. "Let's get onto other things. These broadcasts of ours have to be the ultimate in the presentation of our program. The a.s.sa.s.sination of Number One and his immediate supporters is going to react unfavorably at first. We're going to have to present unanswerable arguments if our movement is to sweep the nation as we plan."

A new voice injected, "We've put the best writers in the Soviet Union to work on the scripts. For all practical purposes they are completed."

"We haven't yet decided what to say about the H-Bomb, the missiles, all the endless equipment of war that has acc.u.mulated under the Soviets, not to speak of the armies, the s.h.i.+ps, the aircraft and all the personnel who man them."

Someone else, it sounded like Nikolai Kirichenko, from Moscow, said. "I'm chairman of the committee on that. It's our opinion that we're going to have to cover that matter in our broadcasts to the people and the only answer is that until the West has agreed to nuclear disarmament, we're going to have to keep our own."

Leonid said, and there was shock in his voice, "But that's one of the most basic reasons for the new revolution, to eliminate this mad arms race, this devoting half the resources of the world to armament."

"Yes, but what can we do? How do we know that the Western powers won't attack? And please remember that it is no longer just the United States that has nuclear weapons. If we lay down our defenses, we are capable of being destroyed by England, France, West Germany, even Turkey or j.a.pan! And consider, too, that the economies of some of the Western powers are based on the production of arms to the point that if such production ended, overnight, depressions would sweep their nations. In short, they can't afford a world without tensions."

"It's a problem for the future to solve," someone else said. "But meanwhile I believe the committee is right. Until it is absolutely proven that we need have no fears about the other nations, we must keep our own strength."

Under his hedge, Paul grimaced, but he was getting what he came for, a discussion of policy, without the restrictions his presence would have put on the conversation.

"Let's deal with a more pleasant subject," a feminine voice said. "Our broadcasts should stress to the people that for the first time in the history of Russia we will be truly in the position to lead the world! For fifty years the Communists attempted to convert nations into adopting their system, and largely they were turned down. Those countries that did become Communist either did so at the point of the Red Army's bayonet or under the stress of complete collapse such as in China. But tomorrow, and the New Russia? Freed from the inadequacy and inefficiency of the bureaucrats who have misruled us, we'll develop a productive machine that will be the envy of the world!" Her voice had all but a fanatical ring.

Someone else chuckled, "If the West thought they had compet.i.tion from us before, wait until they see the New Russia!"

Paul thought he saw someone, a shadow, at the side of the clearing. His lips thinned and the .38 Noiseless was in his hand magically.

False alarm.

He turned back to the "conversation" inside.

Kirichenko's voice was saying, "It is hard for me not to believe that within a period of a year or so half the countries of the world will follow our example."

"Half!" someone laughed exuberantly. "The world, Comrades! The new system will sweep the world. For the first time in history the world will see what Marx and Engels were really driving at!"

Back at the hotel, toward morning, Paul was again stretched out on the bed, hands under his head, his eyes unseeingly staring at the ceiling as he went through his agonizing reappraisal.

There was Ana.

And there was even Leonid Shvernik and some of the others of the underground. As close friends as he had ever made in a life that admittedly hadn't been p.r.o.ne to friends.h.i.+p.

And there was Russia, the country of his birth. Beyond the underground movement, beyond the Soviet regime, beyond the Romanoff Czars. Mother Russia. The land of his parents, his grandparents, the land of his roots.

And, of course, there was the United States and the West. The West which had received him in his hour of stress in his flight from Mother Russia. Mother Russia, ha! What kind of a mother had she been to the Koslovs? To his grandfather, his father, his mother and brother? Where would he, Paul, be today had he as a child not been sent fleeing to the West?

And his life work. What of that? Since the age of nineteen, when a normal teenager would have been in school, preparing himself for life. Since nineteen he had been a member of the anti-Soviet team.

A star, too! Paul Koslov, the trouble-shooter, the always reliable, cold, ruthless. Paul Koslov on whom you could always depend to carry the ball.

Anti-Soviet, or anti-Russian?

Why kid himself about his background. It meant nothing. He was an American. He had only the faintest of memories of his family or of the country. Only because people told him so did he know he was a Russian. He was as American as it is possible to get.

What had he told such Westerners, born and bred, as Lord Carrol and Derek Stevens? If he wasn't a member of the team, there just wasn't a team.

But then, of course, there was Ana.

Yes, Ana. But what, actually, was there in the future for them? Now that he considered it, could he really picture her sitting in the drug store on Montez Street, Gra.s.s Valley, having a banana split?

Ana was Russian. As patriotic a Russian as it was possible to be. As much a dedicated member of the Russian team as it was possible to be. And as a team member, she, like Paul, knew the chances that were involved. You didn't get to be a star by sitting on the bench. She hadn't hesitated, in the clutch, to sacrifice her favorite brother.

Paul Koslov propped the Tracy, the wrist.w.a.tch-like radio before him, placing its back to a book. He made it operative, began to repeat, "Paul calling. Paul calling."

A thin, far away voice said finally, "O.K. Paul. I'm receiving."

Paul Koslov took a deep breath and said, "All right, this is it. In just a few days we're all set to kick off. Understand?"

"I understand, Paul."

"Is it possible that anybody else can be receiving this?"

"Absolutely impossible."

"All right, then this is it. The boys here are going to start their revolution going by knocking off not only Number One, but also Two, Three, Four, Six and Seven of the hierarchy. Number Five is one of theirs."

The thin voice said, "You know I don't want details. They're up to you."

Paul grimaced. "This is why I called. You've got to make--or someone's got to make--one h.e.l.l of an important decision in the next couple of days. It's not up to me. For once I'm not to be brushed off with that 'don't bother me with details,' routine."

"Decision? What decision? You said everything was all ready to go, didn't you?"

"Look," Paul Koslov said, "remember when you gave me this a.s.signment. When you told me about the Germans sending Lenin up to Petrograd in hopes he'd start a revolution and the British sending Somerset Maugham to try and prevent it?"

"Yes, yes, man. What's that got to do with it?" Even over the long distance, the Chief's voice sounded puzzled.

"Supposedly the Germans were successful, and Maugham failed. But looking back at it a generation later, did the Germans win out by helping bring off the Bolshevik revolution? The Soviets destroyed them for all time as a first-rate power at Stalingrad, twenty-five years afterwards."

The voice from Was.h.i.+ngton was impatient. "What's your point, Paul?"

"My point is this. When you gave me this a.s.signment, you told me I was in the position of the German who engineered bringing Lenin up to Petrograd to start the Bolsheviks rolling. Are you sure that the opposite isn't true? Are you sure it isn't Maugham's job I should have? Let me tell you, Chief, these boys I'm working with now are sharp, they've got more on the ball than these Commie bureaucrats running the country have a dozen times over.

"Chief, this is the decision that has to be made in the next couple of days. Just who do we want eliminated? Are you sure you don't want me to tip off the KGB to this whole conspiracy?"

THE END.

Contents

Sp.a.w.n OF THE COMET.

By H. Thompson Rich

Tokyo, June 10 (AP).--A number of the meteors that pelted j.a.pan last night, as the earth pa.s.sed through the tail of the Mystery Comet have been found and are puzzling astronomers everywhere.

About the size of baseb.a.l.l.s, orange in color, they appear to be of some unknown metal. So far, due to their extreme hardness, all attempts to a.n.a.lyze them have failed.

Their uniformity of size and marking gives rise to the popular belief that they are seeds, and, fantastic though this conception is, it finds support in certain scientific quarters here.

Jim Carter read the news dispatch thoughtfully and handed it back to his chief without comment.

"Well, what do you make of it?"

Miles Overton, city editor of The New York Press, shoved his green eye-shade far back on his bald head and glanced up irritably from his littered desk.

"I don't know," said Jim.

"You don't know!" Overton snorted, biting his dead cigar impatiently. "And I suppose you don't know they're finding the d.a.m.n things right here in New York, not to mention Chicago, London, Rio and a few other places," he added.

"Yes, I know about New York. It's a regular egg hunt."

"Egg hunt is right! But why tell me all this now? I didn't see any mention of 'em in your report of last night's proceedings. Did you see any?"

"No, but I saw a lot of shooting stars!" said Jim, recalling that weird experience he and the rest of humanity had pa.s.sed through so recently.

"Yeah, I'll say!" Overton lit his wrecked cigar and dragged on it soothingly. "Now then, getting back to cases--what are these d.a.m.n things, anyway? That's what I'd like to know."

"So would I," said Jim. "Maybe they are seeds?"

Overton frowned. He was a solid man, not given to fancies. He had a paper to get out every day and that taxed his imagination to the limit. There was no gray matter left for any such idle musings as Jim suggested. What he wanted was facts, and he wanted them right away.

"Eggs will do!" he said. "Go out and get one--and find out what's inside it."

"Okay, Chief," said Jim, but he knew it was a large order. "I'll have one on your desk for breakfast!"

Then, with a grave face that denied his light words, he stepped from the city room on that fantastic a.s.signment.

It was the television broadcast hour and crowds thronged the upper level of Radio Plaza, gazing, intently at the bulletin screen, as Jim Carter emerged from the Press tower.

News from the ends of the earth, in audio-picture form, flashed before their view; but only the reports on the strange meteors from the tail of 1947, IV--so designated by astronomers because it was the fourth comet discovered that year--held their interest. Nothing since the great Antarctic gold rush of '33 had so gripped the public as the dramatic arrival and startling behavior of this mysterious visitant from outer s.p.a.ce.

Jim paused a moment, halfway across the Plaza, to take a look at the screen himself.

The substance of the Tokyo dispatch, supplemented by pictures of j.a.panese scientists working over the baffling orange spheres, had just gone off. Now came a flash from Berlin, in which a celebrated German chemist was seen directing an effort to cut into one of them with an acid drill. It failed and the scientist turned to declare to the world that the substance seemed more like crystal than metal and was harder than diamond.

The Golden Age Of Science Fiction Vol Iii Part 63

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