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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesSupermind - Chapter 7
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Supermind - Chapter 7 Post by :magss Category :Long Stories Author :Randall Garrett Date :May 2012 Read :3422

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Supermind - Chapter 7

Red Square was, somehow, disappointing. It was crowded with men and women, all looking very Russian in an undefined sort of way, and the big glass windows sparkled from every side. "I know it's silly," Luba said in a baffled voice, "but, somehow, I always expected Red Square to be red."

"And why should that be?" the MVD man next to her said. He was a burly man with a sour expression, as if he had eaten too many onions the day before.

"Well," Malone said, "it is Red Square, after all."

"But red is symbolic only," the MVD man said surlily. "Is not color. Only symbol of glorious Russia."

"I suppose so," Luba said. "But it's still disappointing."

"You expect, perhaps, that we recruit our glorious Red Army from American Indian tribes?" the MVD man said sourly. "You are literal-minded bourgeois intellectual. This is not good thing to be."

"Somehow," Malone mused, "I didn't think it was."

"But this is different," Luba said. "The Red Army is made up of Russians. But this is just a square. You could paint it."

"After all," Malone offered, "the White House is white, isn't it?"

"White is cowardly color," the MVD man pointed out with satisfaction.

"Never mind that," Malone said. "We call it a white house, and it is a white house. You call this a red square, and it isn't even pink. Not even a little bit pink. It's just--just--"

"Just building-colored," Luba put in. Malone turned to her and executed a small bow.

"Thank you," he said.

"Think nothing of it," Luba said.

"Oh, don't worry," Malone said. "I will."

The MVD man hissed like a teakettle and both heads swung round to look at him again. Her Majesty, who had been admiring some dresses in a shop window, also turned. "My goodness," she said. "That's a terrible wheeze. Do you take something for it?"

"Is not wheeze," the MVD man said. "Is noise representing impatience with arrogance and stupidity of capitalist warmonger conversation."

"Arrogance?" Luba said.

"Stupidity?" Malone said.

Her Majesty drew herself to her full height. "We do not monger war," she said. "Not in the least. We are not mongers."

The MVD man looked at her, blinked, sighed and looked away. "This color discussion," he said, "it is very silly. Look at the Blue Ridge Mountains, in your country. Are they blue?"

"Well--" Malone said.

"What color, for example, is the Golden Gate Bridge?" the MVD man continued, with heavy sarcasm. "Is not even a gate. Is a bridge. Is not golden. But you say we disappoint. No. You disappoint."

There seemed to be no immediate answer to that, so Malone didn't try for one. Instead, he went back to looking at the Square, and beyond it to where the inverted turnips of the Kremlin gleamed in the moonlight. The turnips were very pretty, if a little odd for building-tops. But Red Square, in spite of all its historic associations, seemed to be a little dull. The buildings were just buildings, and the streets were filled with Russians. They were not bomb-throwing Russians, bearded Russians or even "Volga Boatman"-singing Russians. They were just ordinary, dull Russians of every sort, shade, race, color and previous condition of servitude.

It was just about what he'd expected after the trip. That hadn't been exciting either, he told himself. There had been no incident of any kind. None of the three spies seemed to be exactly overjoyed about being sent back to good old Mother Russia, but none seemed inclined to make much fuss about the matter, either. Malone had blandly told them that they were being deported, instead of tried, because there was no evidence that was worth the expense of a trial. And, besides that, he had particularly emphasized that the FBI did not believe any of the stories the three men had told.

"They just don't match up," he said. "You all told different stories, and there's too much disagreement between them. Frankly, we don't believe any of them--not yet, we don't. But mark my words. We'll find out the truth some day."

He'd thought it was a good speech, and Her Majesty had agreed with him. It had its desired effect, since the plane was the first place the three had had a chance to meet since their arrest. "Each one knows that he told the truth," Her Majesty said, "but nobody knows what the other two said."

"That's what I figured," Malone said. "They didn't have a chance to talk to each other."

"And so each one is lying his head off to the others," Her Majesty said, "and telling them all about how he, too, lied gloriously and bravely in defense of the Motherland. It's really very funny."

"Well," Malone said, "it makes them happy. And why not?"

Luba, too, had chatted with her father quite a lot of the time. Her Majesty reported that none of this conversation could possibly be understood as dangerous or harmful. It was just simple conversation.

Of course, Luba and her father hadn't talked all the time, and Malone did have a chance to get a few words in edgewise. Her Majesty made no report on those conversations, but Malone was comfortably aware that they did not belong in the harmless class. His relationship with the girl seemed, he told himself happily, to be improving slightly. Now and again, he even won a round from her.

As the American plane crossed the border, it was picked up by an escort of Russian fighter craft, which stuck with them all the way into Moscow. The fighters didn't do anything; they were just there, Malone figured, for insurance. But they made him nervous when he looked out the window. The trip from the border to Moscow seemed to take a long time.

Then, at the airfield, a group of MVD men had almost elbowed the American Embassy delegation out of the way in greeting the disembarking little band. There was a lot of palaver, in Russian, English and various scrambled mixtures which nobody understood. The American delegation greeted Malone, Luba and Her Majesty formally, and the MVD concentrated on Brubitsch, Borbitsch and Garbitsch. The three spies were hustled away, apparently to MVD Headquarters, without much fuss. Luba said goodbye to her father calmly enough, and Vasili Garbitsch seemed almost entirely unaffected by his surroundings. As the plane touched ground, he had said: "Ah, the soil of Mother Russia," but, outside of a goodbye or two, those were his last words before leaving.

One MVD man stayed behind, even after the American delegation had left. His name, he explained, was Vladimir Josefovitch Petkoff. "It will be my pleasure to show your group the many historic and interesting sights of Moskva," he announced to Malone.

"Pleasure?" Malone said. Petkoff was tall and heavy, and wore a row of medals that strung out across his chest like a newspaper headline.

"My duty," Petkoff said flatly, "is my pleasure. That is how we arrange matters in Russia."

And so the tour had started, with Red Square. Malone told himself he didn't really mind if it weren't red, but he did think it could at least look sinister. Unfortunately, the Square did not seem particularly willing to oblige.

"So this is Red Square," Malone said, after a long silence.

"You do not sound interested," Petkoff said in what sounded like a vaguely ominous voice. "Because it is not painted in capitalistic and obvious colors, it bores you?"

"Not exactly," Malone said. "But when you've seen one Square, you've seen them all, is how I feel about it. There must be somewhere else to sight-see."

"Somewhere?" Petkoff said. "There is everywhere. This is Moskva, the capital and the greatest city in Mother Russia. That is what we are told to say." He lowered his voice. "Personally," he added, "I come from Leningrad. I prefer it. But in Moskva one talks only of Moskva."

"I know just how you feel," Malone assured him. "I've been to San Francisco."

"Well, then," Petkoff said, almost smiling at him. "What is there you would like to see?"

Malone fished in his pocket for an American cigarette. He'd brought a carton with him, having once tried Russian makes. They seemed to be mostly cardboard, both the long filter and the tobacco. He lit the cigarette and thought for a second. "I don't suppose," he said cautiously, "that we could take a look around inside the Kremlin, could we?"

"Aha," Petkoff said. "I see what is in your mind."

"You do?" Malone said, startled.

"Naturally," Petkoff said. "You wish to see the tomb of Lenin. It is famous throughout the world."

Malone considered that for a minute. "Somehow," he said cautiously, "the coffin of Lenin doesn't exactly sound like a gay start for sight-seeing."

Petkoff looked pleased instantly. "I understand," he said. "Truly I understand. You, too, feel sad over the death of the great Lenin. How beautiful! How cultured!"

Malone wondered whether or not to disillusion the man, and decided against it. "Well, something like that," he said vaguely.

"I'll tell you what: is there a restaurant around here where we could get something to eat?"

"To eat?" Petkoff said, still looking pleased. "You wish to eat?"

"Well," Malone said, "I'm rather hungry, and I guess the ladies must be, too."

"What?" Luba said, returning to the group. She had joined Her Majesty in viewing the display of dresses. The Queen came scurrying over, too, through the silent and jostling Russian crowds.

"I was suggesting a restaurant," Malone said.

"Best idea anybody's had all day," Lou said. Her Majesty graciously consented to agree, and Petkoff beamed like the rising sun.

"My friends," he said. "My very fine friends--although you are capitalistic bourgeois intellectuals, thrown aside by the path of progress--in Moskva we have the finest restaurants in all the world."

"How about ... oh, Leningrad?" Malone said in a low voice.

"In Leningrad," Petkoff admitted, "the restaurants are better. But in Moskva, the restaurants are very good indeed. Much better than one might expect, if one knows Leningrad."

"Well," Malone said, "I suppose we've just got to put up with Moscow."

They went back to the corner, and hailed the long, black, sleek-looking limousine that had brought them in from the airport. The two silent men in the front seat of the gleaming Volga sedan were waiting patiently. Malone, Her Majesty and Lou got into the back, Petkoff in front. The two men were as still as statues--and rather unpleasant-looking statues, Malone thought--until Petkoff snapped something in Russian. Then one of them, at the wheel, said: _"Da, Tovarishch."

The car started down the Moscow streets.

Her Majesty was silent and somewhat abstracted during the ride, just as she had been during the entire trip so far. She was, Malone knew, prying into every mind she could touch. He smiled inwardly when he thought about that.

The MVD, all unbeknownst to itself, was busily carrying around and protecting the single most dangerous spy in Moscow.

Nobody else spoke, either, until the car was moving along at a good clip. Petkoff began some small talk then, but it wasn't very interesting until he finally managed to edge it around to the subject he really wanted to talk about.

"By the way, Mr. Malone," he said, in a voice that sounded as if Petkoff were trying to establish an offhand manner, and not succeeding in the least. "It was thoughtful, very thoughtful, of American government, to return to us those men. Very kind."

Malone's expression conveyed nothing but the sheerest good will. "Well, you know how it is," he said. "Anything we can do to preserve peace and amity between our countries--we'll do it. You know that. Getting along, coexistence, that sort of thing. Oh, we're glad to oblige."

"I am sure," Petkoff said darkly. "You realize, of course, that they are criminals? Deserters from Red Army, embezzlers. Embezzlers of money."

Wondering vaguely what else you could be an embezzler of, Malone nodded. "That's what your ambassador in Washington said, when we told him about the deportation order."

"But Dad's not an embezzler," Luba broke in. "Or a deserter, either. He--"

"We have the records," Petkoff said.

"But--"

"Ordinarily, Mr. Malone," Petkoff said pointedly, "we do not find it the policy of the American government to send back political refugees."

"Now, listen," Lou said. "If you think you can shut me up--"

"That is exactly what I think," Petkoff said. "Let me assure you that no offense has been intended."

Lou opened her mouth and started to say something. Then she shut it again. "Well," she said, "I guess this isn't the time to argue about it. I'm sorry, Mr. Petkoff."

The MVD man beamed back at her. "Call me Vladimir," he said.

Malone broke in hastily. "You see, Major," he said, "these men are all embezzlers, as you've said yourself. We have the word of your government on that."

Petkoff took his eyes off Lou with what seemed real reluctance. "Oh," he said. "Yes. Of course you do."

"Therefore," Malone said smoothly, "the three are criminals and not political refugees."

"Indeed," Petkoff said blandly. "Very interesting. Your government has done a good deal of thinking in this matter."

"Sure we have," Malone said. "After all, we don't want to cause any trouble."

"No," Petkoff said, and frowned. "Of course not."

"Naturally," Malone said.

After that, there was silence for almost a full minute. Then Major Petkoff turned to Malone again with a frown. "Wait," he said.

"Wait?" Malone said.

"The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics," Petkoff said, "has no extradition treaty with your capitalist warmongering country."

"We're not warmongers," Her Majesty put in. Both men ignored her.

"True," Malone admitted.

"Then there was no reason to send these men back to us," Petkoff said.

"Oh, no," Malone said. "There was a very good reason. You see, we didn't want them in our country, either."

"But--"

"And when we found that they'd lied on their naturalization papers, why, naturally, we took immediate steps. The only steps we could take, as a matter of fact."

"The only steps?" Petkoff said. "You could have preferred charges. This was not done. Why was it not done?"

"That," Malone said, sidestepping neatly, "is a matter of governmental policy, Major Petkoff. And I can't provide any final answer."

"Ah?" Petkoff said.

"But, after all, a trial would not make sense," Malone said, now busily attacking from the side. "You see, at first we thought they were espionage agents."

"A foolish conclusion," Petkoff said uneasily.

Malone nodded. "That's what we finally realized," he said. "We questioned them, but their stories were nonsense, absolute nonsense. Of course, we had no idea of what foreign government might have employed them."

"Of course not," Petkoff said, shifting slightly in his seat. The car took a wide curve and swayed slightly, and Malone found himself nearly in Lou's lap. The sensation was so pleasant that all conversation was delayed for a couple of seconds, until the car had righted itself.

"So," Malone went on when he had straightened out, "we decided to save ourselves the expense of a trial."

"Very natural," Petkoff said. The slight delay had apparently allowed him to recover his own mental balance. "The capitalist countries think only of money."

"Sure," Malone said agreeably. "Well, anyhow, that's the way it was. There was no point, really, in putting them in prison--what for? What good could it do us?"

"Who knows?" Petkoff said.

"Exactly," Malone said. "So, since all we wanted to do was get rid of them, and since we had an easy way to do that, why, we took it, that's all, and shipped them here."

"I see," Petkoff said. "And the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics is properly grateful."

"My goodness," Her Majesty put in, apparently out of an irrepressible sense of fun. "Maybe we'll get medals."

"Medals," Petkoff said sternly, "are not given to capitalist agitators."

"We are not agitated," Her Majesty said, and folded her hands in her lap, looking quite satisfied with herself.

Petkoff thought for a second. "And why," he said, "did you feel that such elaborate precautions were necessary in returning these men to us?"

Malone shrugged. "Well, we couldn't have them just running around all over the world, could we?" he said. "We felt that here they'd be properly housed and fed, in their own homeland, even if they didn't get a job."

"They will be properly taken care of," Petkoff prophesied darkly.

"Now, wait a minute--" Lou began, and then stopped. "Sorry," she said.

Malone felt sorry for her, but there was nothing he could say to make things any better. "Exactly," he told Petkoff with what he hoped was a smile.

"Ah, well," Petkoff said. "My friend and colleague, we should cease this shoptalk. Shoptalk?"

"Quite correct," Malone said.

"I have studied English a long time," Petkoff said. "It is not a logical language."

"You're doing very well," Malone said. Petkoff gave him a military duck of the head.

"I appreciate your compliments," he said. "But I fear we are boring the ladies."

The major had timed his speech well. At that moment, the ornate Volga pulled up to a smooth stop before a large, richly decorated building that glowed brightly under the electric lights of a large sign. The sign said something incomprehensible in Cyrillic script. Under it, the building entrance was gilded and carved into fantastic rococo shapes. Malone stared at the sign, and was about to ask a question about it when Petkoff spoke.

"Trotkin's," he said. "The finest restaurant in all the world--in Moskva, this is what they say of it."

"I understand," Malone said.

"Come," Petkoff said grandly, and got out of the car. One of the two silent men leaped out and opened the back door, and Her Majesty, Lou and Malone climbed out and stood blinking on the sidewalk under the sign.

Petkoff leaned over and said something to the driver. The second silent man got back into the car, and it drove away down the street, turned a corner and disappeared. The party of four started toward the entrance of the restaurant.

The door swung open before Major Petkoff reached it. A doorman was holding it, and bowing to each of the four as they passed. He was dressed in Victorian livery, complete to knee-breeches and lace, and Malone thought this was rather odd for the classless Russian society. But the doorman was only the opening note of a great symphony.

Inside, there were tables and chairs--or at least, Malone told himself, that's what he thought they were. They were massive wood affairs, carved into tortuous shapes and gilded or painted in all sorts of colors that glittered madly under the barrage of several electric chandeliers.

The chandeliers hung from a frescoed ceiling, and looked much too heavy. They swayed and tinkled in time to the music that filled the room, but for a second Malone looked past them at the ceiling. It appeared to represent some sort of Russian heaven, at the end of the Five-Year Plan. There were officers and ladies eating grapes, waltzing, strolling on white puffy clouds, singing, drinking, making love. There was an awful lot of activity going on up on the ceiling, and it wasn't until Malone lowered his gaze that he realized that none of this activity had been exaggerated.

True, there were no white puffy clouds, and he couldn't immediately locate a bunch of grapes anywhere. But there were the musicians, in the same Victorian outfits as the doorman: three fiddlers, a cellist, and a man who played piano. "Just like in night-clubs in bourgeois Paris," Petkoff said, following Malone's gaze with every evidence of pride.

Between the musicians and Malone were a lot of tables and chairs and ancient, proud-looking waiters who appeared to have been hired when Trotkin's had opened--and that, Malone thought, had been a long, long time ago. He felt like those two ladies, whose names he couldn't remember, who said they'd slipped back in time. Officers and their ladies, the men in glittering uniforms, the ladies in ball dresses of every imaginable shade, cut, material and degree of exposure, were waltzing around the room looking very polite and old-world. Others were sitting at the tables, where candles fluttered, completely useless in the electric glare. The noise was something terrific, but, somehow, it was all very well-bred.

The headwaiter was suddenly next to them. He hadn't walked there, at least not noticeably; he appeared to have perfected the old-world manner of the silent servant. Or, of course, Malone thought, the man might be a teleport.

"Ah, Major Petkoff," he said, in a silken voice. "It is so good to see you again. And your friends?"

"Americans," Petkoff said. "They have come to see the glorious Soviet Union."

"Ah," the headwaiter said. "Your usual table, Major?"

Petkoff nodded. The headwaiter led the party through the dancers, snaking slowly along until they reached a large table near the musicians and at the edge of the dance floor. Her Majesty automatically took the seat nearest the musicians, which she imagined to be the head of the table. Lou sat at her left hand, and Malone at her right, his back against a wall. Petkoff took the foot of the table, called a waiter over, and ordered for the party. He did a massive job of it, with two waiters, at last, taking down what seemed to be his entire memoirs, plus the list of all soldiers in the Red Army below the rank of Grand Exalted Elk, or whatever it might have been. Malone had no idea what the major was ordering, except that it sounded extensive and very, very Russian.

Finally the waiter went on his way. Major Petkoff turned to Malone and smiled. "Naturally," he said, "we will begin with vodka, _nyet_?"

Malone considered saying _nyet, but he didn't feel that this was the time or the place. Besides, he told himself grimly, it would be a sad day when a Petkoff could drink a Malone under the table. His proudest heritage from his father was an immense capacity, he told himself. Now was his chance to test it.

"And, naturally, a little caviar to go with it," Petkoff added.

"Certainly," Malone said, as if caviar were the most common thing in the world in his usual Washington saloons.

It wasn't long before the waiter reappeared, bringing four glasses and three bottles of vodka chilled in an ice-bucket, like a bouquet of champagne. Petkoff bowed him out after one bottle had been opened, set the glasses up and began to pour.

"Oh, goodness," Her Majesty started to say.

"None for me, thanks," Lou chimed in.

"Oh, yes," Her Majesty said. "I don't think I'll have any either. An old lady has to be very careful of her system, you know."

"You do not look like an old lady," Petkoff said gallantly. "Middle-aged, perhaps, to be cruel. But certainly not old. Not over ... oh, perhaps forty."

Her Majesty smiled politely at him. Malone began to wonder if it had been gallantry, after all. From what he'd seen of the Russian women, it was likely, after all, that Petkoff really thought Her Majesty wasn't much over forty at that.

"You're very flattering, Major," Her Majesty said. "But I assure you that I'm a good deal older than I look."

Malone tried to tell himself that no one else had noticed the stifled gulp that had followed that remark. It had been his own stifled gulp. And his face, he felt sure, had aged one hundred and twelve years within a second or so. He waited for Her Majesty to tell Major Petkoff just how old she really was...

But she said nothing else. After a second she turned and smiled at Malone.

"Thanks," he said.

"Oh, you're quite welcome," she said.

Petkoff frowned at both of them, shrugged, and readied the bottle. "Well, then," he said. "It seems as if the drinking will be done by men--and that is right. Vodka is the drink for men."

He had filled his own glass full of the cold, clear liquid. Now he filled Malone's. He stood, glass in hand. Malone also climbed to his feet.

"To the continued friendship of our two countries!" Petkoff said. He raised his glass for a second, then downed the contents. Malone followed suit. The vodka burned its merry way into his stomach. They sat.

A waiter arrived with a large platter. "Ah," Petkoff said, turning. "Try some of this caviar, Mr. Malone. You will find it the finest in the world."

Malone, somehow, had never managed to develop a taste for caviar. He was willing to admit, if pressed, that this made him an uncultured slob, but caviar always made him think of the joke about the country bumpkin who thought it was marvelous that you could soften up buckshot just by soaking it in fish oil.

Now, though, he felt he had to be polite, and he tried some of the stuff. All things considered, it wasn't quite as bad as he'd thought it was going to be. And it did make a pretty good chaser for the vodka.

Her Majesty also helped herself to some caviar. "My goodness," she said. "This reminds me of the old days."

Malone waited, once again, with bated breath. But, though Her Majesty may have been crazy, she wasn't stupid. She said nothing more.

Petkoff, meanwhile, refilled the glasses and looked expectantly at Malone. This time it was his turn to propose the toast. He thought for a second, then stood up and raised his glass.

"To the most beautiful woman in all the world," he said, feeling just a little like a character in _War and Peace_. "Luba Vasilovna Garbitsch."

"Ah," Petkoff said, smiling approvingly. Malone executed a little bow in Lou's direction and followed Petkoff in downing the drink. Two more glasses of vodka wended their tortuous ways into the interior.

"Tell me, colleague," Petkoff said as be spooned up some more caviar, "how are things in the United States?"

Malone shot a glance at Her Majesty, but she was concentrating on something else, and her eyes seemed far away. "Oh, all right," he said at last.

"Of course, you must say so," Petkoff murmured. "But, as one colleague to another, tell me: how much longer do you think it will be before the proletarian uprising in your country?"

There were a lot of answers to that, Malone told himself. But he chose one without too much difficulty. "Well, that's hard to judge," he said. "I'd hate to make any prediction. I don't have enough information."

"Not enough information?" Petkoff said. "I don't understand."

Malone shrugged. "Since our proletariat," he said, "have shown no sign of wanting any rebellion at all, how can I predict when they're going to rebel?"

Petkoff gave him an unbelieving smile. "Well," he said. "We must have patience, eh, colleague?"

"I guess so," Malone said, watching Petkoff pour more vodka.

By the time the meal came, Malone was feeling a warm glow in his interior, but no real fogginess. The dance floor had been cleared by this time, and a group of six costumed professionals glided out and took places. The musicians broke out into a thunderous and bumpy piece, and the dancers began some sort of Slavic folk dance that looked like a combination of a _kazotska and a shivaree. Malone watched them with interest. They looked like good dancers, but they seemed to be plagued with clumsiness; they were always crashing into one another. On the other hand, Malone thought, maybe it was part of the dance. It was hard to tell.

The dinner was as extensive as anything Malone had ever dreamed of: _borshcht_, beef Stroganoff, smoked fish, vegetables in gigantic tureens, ices and cheeses and fruits. And always, between the courses, during the courses and at every available moment, there was vodka.

The drinking didn't bother him too much. But the food was too much. Unbelieving, he watched Petkoff polish off a large red apple, a pear and a small wedge of white, creamy-looking cheese at the end of the towering meal. Her Majesty was staring, too, in a very polite manner. Lou simply looked glassy-eyed and overstuffed. Malone felt a good deal of sympathy for her.

Petkoff finished the wedge of cheese and ripped off a belch of incredible magnitude and splendor. Malone felt he should applaud, but managed to restrain himself. Her Majesty looked startled for a second, and then regained her composure. Only Lou seemed to take the event as a matter of course, which set Malone to wondering about her home-life. Somehow he couldn't picture her wistful little father ever producing a sound of such awesome magnitude.

"My dear colleague," Petkoff was saying. Malone turned to him and tried to look interested. "There is one thing I have wondered for many years."

"Really?" Malone said politely.

"That is right," Petkoff said. "For years, there has never been a change of name in your organization of secret police."

"We're not secret police," Malone said.

Petkoff gave a massive shrug. "Naturally," he said, "one must say this. But surely, one tires of being called FBI all the time."

"One does?" Malone said. "I don't know. It gives a person a sort of sense of security."

"Ah," Petkoff said. "But take us, for instance. We pride ourselves on our ability to camouflage ourselves. GPU, and then OGPU--which were, I understand, subject for many capitalist jokes."

Malone tried to look as if he couldn't imagine such a thing. "I suppose they might have been," he said.

"Then we were NKVD," Petkoff said, "and now MVD. And I understand, quite between us, Mr. Malone, that there is talk of further change."

There was a sudden burst of applause. Malone wondered what for, looked at the dance floor and realized that the six Slavic dancers were taking bows. As he watched, one of them slipped and nearly fell. The musicians obliged with a final series of chords and the dancers trotted away. A waltz began, and couples from the tables began crowding the floor.

"How can you manage the proletariat," Petkoff asked, "if you do not keep them confused?"

"We don't, exactly," Malone said. "They more or less manage us."

"Ha," Petkoff said, dismissing this with a wave of his hand. "Propaganda." And then he, too, turned to watch the dancers. The waltz was finishing, and a fox-trot had begun. "With your permission, Mr. Malone," he said, rising, "I should like to ask so-lovely Miss Garbitsch to dance with me."

Malone glanced at the girl. She gave him a quick smile, with just a hint of nervousness or strain in it, and turned to Petkoff. "I'd be delighted, Major," she said. Malone shut his own mouth. As the girl rose, he got to his feet and gave the couple a small, Victorian bow. Petkoff and Lou walked to the floor, and Malone, sitting down again, watched enviously as he took her in his arms and began to guide her expertly across the floor in time to the music.

Malone sighed. Some men, he told himself, had all the luck. But, of course, Lou had to be polite, too. She didn't really like Petkoff, he told himself; she was just being diplomatic. And he had made some progress with her on the plane, he thought.

He looked over at Her Majesty, but the Queen was staring abstractedly at a crystal chandelier. Malone sighed again, took a little caviar and washed it down with vodka. The vodka felt nice and warm, he thought vaguely. Vodka was good. It was too bad that the people who made such good vodka had to be enemies. But that was the way things were, he told himself philosophically.

Terrible. That's how things were.

The fox-trot went to its conclusion. Malone saw Petkoff, chatting animatedly with Lou, lead her off to a small bar at the opposite side of the room. "Some people," he muttered, "have too much luck. Or too much diplomacy."

Her Majesty was tugging at his arm. That, Malone thought, was going to be more bad news.

It was.

"Sir Kenneth," she said softly, "do you realize that this place is full of MVD men? Of course you don't; I haven't told you yet."

Malone opened his mouth, shut it again, and thought in a hurry. If the place were full of MVD men, that meant they probably had it bugged. And that meant several things, all of them unpleasant. Her Majesty shouldn't have said anything--she shouldn't have shown any nervousness or anxiety in the first place, she shouldn't have known there were so many MVD men in the second place--because there was no way for her to know, except through her telepathy, a little secret Malone did not want the Russians to find out about. And she should definitely, most definitely, not have called him "Sir Kenneth."

"Oh," Her Majesty said. "I am sorry, Sir--er--Mr. Malone. You're quite right, you know."

"Sure," Malone said. "Well. My goodness." He thought of something to say, and said it at once. "Of course there are MVD men here. This is just the place for good old MVD men to come when they go off duty. A nice, relaxing place full of fun and dancing and food and vodka..." And he was thinking, at the same time: _Are they doing anything odd?

"Russian, you know," Her Majesty said, almost conversationally, "is an extremely difficult language. It takes a great deal of practice to learn to think in it really fluently."

"Yes, I should think it would," Malone said absently. _You mean you haven't been able to pick up what these people are thinking?

"Oh, one can get the main outlines," Her Majesty went on, "but a really full knowledge is nearly impossible. Though, of course, it isn't quite as bad as all that. A man who speaks both languages, like our dear Major Petkoff, for instance--so charming, so full of _joie de vivre_--could be an invaluable assistant to anyone interested in learning exactly how Russians really think." She smiled nervously. Her face was suddenly set and strained. "I find that--"

She stopped then, very suddenly. Her eyes widened, and her right hand reached out to grasp Malone's arm more strongly than he had thought she ever could. "Sir Kenneth!" Her voice, all restraint gone, was a hissing whisper. Malone started to say something, but Her Majesty went on, her eyes wide. "Do something quickly!" she said.

"What?" Malone said.

"They've put something in Lou's drink!" Her Majesty hissed.

Malone was on his feet before she'd finished, and he took a step across the room.

"She's already swallowed it!" the Queen said. "Do something! Quickly!"

The dancers on the floor were no concern of his, Malone told himself grimly. He didn't decide to move; he was on his way before any thought filtered through into his mind. Officers and their ladies looked after him with shocked stupor as he plowed his way across the dance floor, using legs, elbows, shoulders and anything else that allowed him free passage. Sometimes the dancers managed to get out of his way. Sometimes they didn't. It was all the same to Kenneth J. Malone.

Her Majesty followed in his wake, silent and stricken, scurrying after him like a small destroyer following a battleship, or like a ball-carrying grandmother following up her interference.

Malone caught sight of Lou, standing at the bar. In that second, she seemed to realize for the first time that something was wrong. She pushed herself violently away from the bar, and looked frantically around, her mouth opening to call. Petkoff was a blur next to her; Malone didn't look at him clearly. Lou took a step...

And two men with broken, lumpy faces came through a door somewhere in the rear of the restaurant, closer to her than Malone. Petkoff suddenly swam into sight; he was standing very still and looking entirely baffled.

Malone pushed through a pair of dancers, ignored their glares and the man's hissed insult, which he didn't understand anyhow, and found his view suddenly blocked by a large expanse of dark grey.

It was somebody's chest, in a uniform. Malone shifted his gaze half an inch and saw a row of gold buttons. He looked upward.

There, towering above him, was a face. It stared down, looking heavy and cruel and stupid. Malone, his legs still carrying him forward, bounced off the chest and staggered back a step or two. He heard a hissed curse behind him, and realized without thinking about it that he had managed to collide with the same pair of dancers again. He didn't look around to see them. Instead, he looked ahead, at the giant who blocked his path.

The man was about six feet six inches tall, a great Mongol who weighed about a sixth of a ton. But he didn't look fat; he looked strong instead, and enormously massive. Malone sidestepped, and the Mongol moved slightly to block him. To one side, Malone saw Her Majesty scurrying by. The Mongol was apparently more interested in Malone than in trying to stop sweet little old ladies. Malone saw Her Majesty heading for the bar, and forgot about her for the second.

The Mongol shifted again to block Malone's forward progress.

"What seems to be such great hurry, _Tovarishch_?" he said in a voice that sounded like an earthquake warning. "Have you no culture? Why you run across floor in such impolite manner?"

The man might have been blocking his way because of Lou, or might simply want to teach an uncultured _Amerikanski a lesson. Malone couldn't tell which, and it didn't seem to matter. He whirled and reached for a glass of vodka standing momentarily unattended on a nearby table.

He tossed the vodka at the giant's eyes, and scooted around the mountain of flesh before it erupted with a volcanic succession of Russian curses that shook the room with their volume and sincerity.

But Lou and Her Majesty were nowhere in sight. Major Petkoff was staring, and Malone followed his line of sight.

A door in the rear of the restaurant was just closing. Behind it Malone saw Her Majesty and Lou, disappearing from sight.

Malone knocked over a waiter and headed for Petkoff. "What's going on here?" he bellowed over the crash of dishes and the rising wave of Russian profanity.

Petkoff shrugged magnificently. "I have no ideas, colleague," he said. "I have no ideas."

"But she--"

"Miss Garbitsch was taken suddenly ill," Petkoff said.

"Damn sudden," Malone growled.

"Her friend, Miss Thompson, has taken her to the ladies' room," Petkoff said. He gestured, narrowly missing a broken, lumpy face Malone had seen before.

"You are under arrest," the face said. Its partner peered over Petkoff's shoulder.

"I?" Petkoff said.

"Not you," the face said. "Him." He started for Malone and Petkoff threw out both arms.

"Hold!" he said. "My orders are to see that this man is not molested."

The guests had suddenly and silently melted away. Malone backed off a step, looking for something to stage a fight with.

"On the other hand, Comrade," one of the lumpy-faced men said, "we have orders also."

"My orders--" Petkoff began.

"Your orders do not exist," the other lumpy man said. "We are to arrest this man. Our orders say so."

"You are fools," Petkoff said. He spread his arms wider, blocking both of them. Malone edged back against the bar, feeling behind him for a bottle or maybe a bungstarter. Instead, his hand touched a sleeve.

A voice behind him bellowed: "Cease!"

The two lumpy-faced men goggled. Petkoff did not move.

Malone turned, and saw a tall, thin civilian with dark glasses. "Cease," the civilian repeated. "It is the girl we are to arrest! The girl!"

"This is not a girl," one of the lumpy men said. "Sir. We are to arrest this man. Our orders say distinctly--"

"Never mind your orders!" Petkoff said. "Go and reduce your orders to shreds and stuff them up your nostrils and die of suffocation! My orders say--"

"The girl!" the civilian said. "Where is the girl?"

Malone darted forward. Petkoff caught him neatly with one arm as he went by. "Until we decide what to do," the MVD man said, "you stay here." Malone bucked against him, but could get nowhere. "Meanwhile," Petkoff said, "I am for letting you go."

"I appreciate it," Malone said through his teeth. "How about proving it?"

"If you let him go," a lumpy man said, "you will answer to our group head."

Petkoff tightened his hold protectively. Meanwhile, the civilian was climbing up into a stratospheric rage.

"You are dolts, imbeciles, worms without brains and walking bellies filled with carrion!" he said magnificently. "I have orders which I am sworn to carry out!"

"You are not alone," Petkoff said.

Malone took another try at a getaway, and failed.

"We take precedence," a lumpy man said. "We can talk later. Arrest comes first."

"But who?" the civilian snapped. "I insist--"

"There shall be no arrest!" Petkoff screamed. "No one is to be arrested at all!"

"I swear by the bones of Stalin that my orders state--" the tall man began.

"The bones of Stalin are with us!" a lumpy man said. "Go and die in a kennel filled with fleas and old newspaper! Go and freeze to the likeness of an obscene statue of a bourgeois deity! Go and hang by the ears from a monument four thousand feet high in the center of the great desert!"

Inspired, the other lumpy man screamed "Charge!" and came for Petkoff and the civilian. Petkoff whirled, letting go of Malone in order to beat back this wave of maddened attackers, and Malone took the advantage. He ducked free under Petkoff's left arm and started around the gesticulating, screaming, fighting group for the door at the back of the restaurant. He took exactly four steps.

Then he stopped. The Mongol, his eyes red with a combination of vodka and bull-roaring rage, was charging toward him, his hands outflung and his fingers grasping at the air. "Warmonger!" he was shouting. "Capitalist slave-owner! Leprous and ancient cannibal without culture! You have begun a war you can not finish!"

"Ha!" Malone said, feeling inadequate to the occasion. As the Mongol charged, he felt a wave of intense pragmatism come over him. He reached back toward the bar, grabbed a bottle of vodka and tossed several glassfuls into the giant's face. The Mongol, deluged and screaming, clawed wildly at his eyes and spun round several times, cursing Malone and all his kin for the next twenty-seven generations, and grabbing thin air in his attempt to reach the _Amerikanski_.

All of the customers appeared to have discovered urgent engagements elsewhere. There was little for the Mongol to collide with except empty tables and chairs. But he did manage to swipe one of the lumpy-faced men on the side of the head with one flail of his arms. The lumpy-faced man said "Yoop!" and went staggering away into Petkoff, who spun him around and threw him away in the general direction of the bandstand. The diversion provided Malone with just enough time to start moving again.

Four uniformed men were making their way toward the ladies' room from the opposite side of the restaurant. They were carrying a stretcher, which seemed pitifully inadequate for the carnage Malone had just left.

He blocked their path. "Where are you going?" he said.

"You are American?" one of them said. "I speak English good, no?"

Behind him, Malone heard a yowl and a crunch, as of a body striking wood. It sounded as if somebody had fetched up against the bar. "You speak English fine," he said, feeling wildly out of place. "Have you been taking lessons?"

"Me?" the man said. "It is no time for talk. We got to get lady for hospital."

"Lady?" Malone said. "For hospital?"

"Miss Garbitsch her name is," the stretcher-man said, trying to get past Malone. The FBI agent shifted slightly, blocking the path. "We wait outside one revolution--"

"One what?"

"When hands revolve once," the man said. "One hour. Now we get call so we take her to hospital."

It sounded suspicious to Malone. He heard more yells behind him, and they sounded a little closer. The sound of running men came to his ears. "Well," he said happily, "goodbye all."

The stretcher-bearer said, "Vot?" Malone shoved him backward into the approaching mob, grabbed the stretcher away from the other three men, who were acting a little dazed, and swung it in a wide arc. He caught an MVD man in the stomach, and the man doubled up with a weird whistling groan, turned slightly in agony, and hit another MVD man with his bowed head. The second man fell; Malone heard more crashes and screaming, but he didn't find out any details. Instead, he threw the stretcher at the milling mob and turned, already in motion, racing for the ladies' room.

He had no notion of what he was going to do when he got there, or what he was going to find. Her Majesty and Lou were in there, all right, but how were they going to get out without being arrested, clubbed, disemboweled or taken to a Russian hospital for God alone knew what novel purposes?

His mind was still a little foggy from the vast amounts of vodka he had poured down, and he wasn't in the least sure that teleportation would even work. He tried to figure out whether Her Majesty had already carried Lou off that way--but he doubted it. Lou was quite a burden for the old woman. And besides, he wasn't at all sure whether it was possible to teleport a human being. A lump of inanimate matter is one thing; an intelligent woman with a mind of her own is definitely something else.

It seemed to take forever for him to reach the door, and he was panting heavily when he reached for it. Suddenly, another hand shot in front of his, turning the doorknob. Malone looked up.

It was impossible to figure out where she had come from, or what she thought she was doing, but a bulging, slightly intoxicated Russian matron with bluish hair piled high on her head, a rusty orange dress and altogether too many jewels scattered here and there about her ample person, stood regarding him with a mixture of scorn, surprise and shock.

Malone crowded her aside without a thought and jerked the door open. Behind her he could see the melee still continuing, though it looked by now as if the Russians weren't very sure who they were supposed to be fighting. The Mongol's great head rose for a second above the storm, shouting something unintelligible, and dropped again into the crowd.

Malone focused on the matron, who was standing with her mouth open staring at him.

"Madam," he said with stern dignity, "wait your turn!"

He ducked inside and slammed the door behind him. There was a small knob to bolt the door with, and he used it. But it wasn't going to hold long, he knew. If the mob outside ever got straightened out, the door would go down like a piece of cardboard, bolt or no bolt. Undoubtedly the gigantic Mongol could do the job with one hand tied behind his back.

Malone turned around and put his own back to the door. Women were looking up and making up their minds whether or not to scream. Time stood absolutely still, and nobody seemed to be moving--not even the two directly before him: a frightened-looking little old lady, who was trying to hold up a semiconscious redhead.

And, somewhere behind him, he knew, was a howling mob of thoroughly maddened Russians.

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The door rattled against Malone's back as a hand twisted the knob and shook it. He braced himself for the next assault, and it came: the shudder of a heavy body slamming up against it. Miraculously, the door held, at least for the moment. But the roars outside were growing louder and louder as the second team came up. Where was the Mongol? he wondered. But there was no time for idle contemplation. The scene inside the room demanded his immediate attention. He was in the anteroom, a gilded and decorated parlor filled with overstuffed chairs and couches. There was a
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He walked over to the wall control and shut off the air-conditioning in a hurry. He threw open a window and breathed great gulps of the hot, humid air from the streets. In a small corner at the back of his mind, he wondered why he was grateful for the air he had suffered under only a few minutes before. But that, he reflected, was life. And a very silly kind of life, too, he told himself without rancor. In a few minutes he left the window, somewhat restored, and headed for the shower. When it was running nicely and he
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