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Title: Security Risk
Author: Clinton, Ed M., 1926-2006
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Security Risk" ***

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                             SECURITY RISK

                         BY ED M. CLINTON, JR.

                        _Illustrated by Ed Emsh_



At moments like this, General David Walker always thought fleetingly of
the good old days when he had hated the army. As usual, he smashed the
thought out of his mind with a distinct sense of remorse.

He looked up again at the seamed face of the Chief of Staff, General
Marcus Meriwether. "This could be serious," he said slowly, with a sick
sense of the statement’s inadequacy. An old tic suddenly returned,
tugging at the left corner of his mouth.

The deadly, unsmiling expression on Meriwether’s face did not change as
he slid more tightly into his chair. "You know as well as I that it
means the Interplanetary Confederation is ready to go to war with us."

Walker stared at the typed statement on his desk. It was a decoded
intelligence message from United Terra’s prime agent in the
Interplanetary Confederation, and it was very brief: the Confederation
had developed a long-range neural weapon effectively cancelling out
every armament development achieved by United Terra in fifteen years of
a cold war that of late had become bitter cold. The all-but-autonomous
colonies of Mars and Venus, united now for twenty years in an economic
league, had been itching for independence for a quarter of a century.
The itch had developed into a mighty burning.

"You are fully aware," Meriwether continued, his face still set, "of our
feeling that the Confederation has been eager to take on Terra. They’ve
clearly been waiting for some positive advantage to offset our pure
strength-in-numbers."


[Illustration: __It was a touchable touching an untouchable. Both
scientist and general were doing their own version of right....__]


Walker forced his eyes upward and stared at his superior. "Your tone
says that such a war might be—"

"Unwelcome at this time. Unwelcome at this time." Meriwether shifted
around in his chair, and scratched at its leather arms with the
manicured tips of his gnarled fingers. "Walker, I don’t have to tell you
that this weapon, if it is what our agent infers—and there is no reason
to believe otherwise—that this weapon makes it impossible for us to go
to war with the Confederation—unless, as Chief of Weapons Development,
you can tell me that we have something in our arsenal to combat it."

Walker rubbed at the tic. "Nothing," he said quietly.

Meriwether leaned forward, his hands crooked backward against the chair
arms like catapult springs. "That answer is unacceptable. There are
other questions you must answer, Walker, questions in some ways even
more important than that basic one. Why haven’t we developed this weapon
ourselves? Why haven’t we been aware of its potential existence? Where
are the defensive devices which would naturally develop from such
cognizance? These things are all your department, Walker." His voice
pitched upward an hysterical fraction. "It just doesn’t make sense, you
know. We’ve a hundred times the personnel, ten times the facilities,
unlimited funds—but they’ve beaten us to it." He stood up and pushed his
chair back, eyes squinting out of a reddening face that seemed on the
point of bursting. "Why, Walker?"

Once again Walker thought about how he had hated the army when he was a
bright young physics student. That was a long time ago—So much had
happened. The doors had closed around him, one at a time, doors closing
on the scientific mind. And so now, instead of a research scientist in
white smock with textbook, he was a military administrator in smart
greys with glittering stars of military rank.

"I’ll say this, Walker," Meriwether shouted, his voice breaking again.
"We’d better catch up quick. Mighty quick. Let’s put it this way. It
might mean your rank and your job, Walker. But you won’t give a damn.
Because we’ll have lost the war. We’ll have lost the colonies. And you
know what that would mean, Walker?" He bent forward across the desk, his
face exploding into Walker’s eyes. "Only a fool believes that United
Terra can survive in an economy without tri-planetary hegemony.

"Walker, you’ve all the authority within my power to grant. You’ll have
no trouble getting money. But—get the answer. _Quick._"

Walker blinked after him as he strode to the door. "I’ll try to hold off
a federal investigation as long as I can," Meriwether added, turning
from the half-opened door. "But I can’t guarantee a thing."

                                  ————

Walker sat alone in a cubicle of light in the darkened city and gulped
down his twentieth cup of coffee. It had grown cold in the cup and with
a grimace he pushed it aside.

There was no doubt about it. He thumbed through the sheaf of scribbled
notes he had transcribed from stacks of documents and racks of spools
from Security files. Clearly, he had the answer to Meriwether’s
questions. But, having it, he did not quite know what to do with it.

There was, however, no doubt at all: United Terra had been on the track
of the neural weapon—ten years earlier. Could have had it—and had lost
the chance.

He rubbed his thumbs hard against his tired eyes and tried to remember
back that ten years: at that time he had been Chief of Weapons
Development for perhaps three years. His own name, though, had appeared
in none of the files he had examined, so apparently he had not been
directly involved in the security hearings. But he _should_ remember.

Dr. Otto Millet. _Otto Millet._ He let the name roll around his brain,
until shortly an image began to form—an image of a smiling man, greying
at the temples, wearing a flamboyant sports shirt and affecting a very
close haircut. A man perhaps forty. In the image, he was a laughing man.

He remembered now. Dr. Otto Millet: into government service on the
inertia of a fantastic reputation as a research physicist specializing
in magnetic field studies. A man he had instantly disliked.

He bent forward and reread what he had scrawled in his last notes, a
verbatim extract from the report of the security committee.

"It is clear that Dr. Millet’s conversations and letters with Professor
Greyman, together with his unrepentant attitude, render him a security
risk. His various security clearances are therefore revoked, and he is
hereafter prohibited access to all classified files and to any
government research and development laboratory."

Since virtually all laboratories were government supported, that was to
all intents and purposes the end of Millet’s career as an experimental
physicist.

Where had Millet gone? What had he done since? Walker scraped a
cigarette out of the half-empty pack in his pocket. More important: what
was he doing now?

He inhaled deeply and sent clouds of smoke skewing across the room. Had
the man really been a traitor? Walker tried to place himself in the time
of Millet’s hearing. He’d been not too many years out of school then,
with the bitterness of his frustrated ambition to be a research
physicist still rankling him; perhaps this had colored his view of
Millet. He stared at his desk, almost shocked that this thought should
have occurred to him. It shook him, for it told him something about
himself which he did not particularly care to know.

Nowhere had he been able to find any evidence as to what had happened to
Millet since. Banished, the government seemed to forget him. But one
thing was clear to Walker, and he pondered it deeply as he sucked on the
last quarter-inch of his cigarette and poured himself another cup of
cold black coffee. One big thing: Millet had been directing development
along lines that would have led to the neural weapon; he had even signed
a report, early in his project effort, which had referred to the
possibility of "a neural device."

Had he gone over to the Confederation? It would account for their
possession of the weapon now. But surely—_surely_, this fact would have
been observed and reported by Terran intelligence agents.

Walker, infinitely tired, forgot his coffee and began to tidy up the
desk, filing everything he wanted to keep in an electronically locked
cabinet, shoving everything else into the destruction of the vibrator.
He pondered for a moment the powdered secrets that were heaped like
black dust in the bottom of the canister: a symbol of safety to a
terrified world.

Step one: find Millet. _Find Millet._

                                  ————

It took the Secret Service exactly twenty-nine hours to locate Dr. Otto
Millet. Thirty minutes later, Walker was climbing out of a government
helicopter and staring at Millet’s small house through squinted eyes
which he shielded with both hands against the blazing desert sun. The
house was fronted by a neat lawn and a white fence entwined with red
roses; there appeared to be a rather large garden in the rear. The style
of the house bothered him a little: it had passed out of popularity
thirty years before. Its lack of a conventional roofport had forced them
to land the ’copter on the desert itself.

He straightened and pushed through the creaking gate. Flagstone steps
curved toward the porch, and he minced along them, uncertain, now that
he had arrived, of what he would say to Millet. The damned house, he
thought—so different from what he had expected; it had thrown his whole
thinking out of order.

He hated himself for feeling uneasy.

There was neither vodor nor contact system of any kind at the door, and
he brushed his hand against his forehead in a gesture of frustration. He
stared at his palm—it had come away wet with sweat, and he wondered if
it were all because of the desert sun.

Tentatively, he banged on the door with his fist. There was no answer.

_Damn Millet_, he thought, wiping his forehead again. Why couldn’t the
man have a videophone like any normal person so you could find out if he
were home without taking a trip halfway across the country?

He turned, stamping angrily as he did so, and was startled to see a man,
wearing work clothes and holding a pair of heavy soiled gloves in his
left hand, standing on the ground by the end of the porch. He was nearly
bald, intensely bronzed, and he was smiling.

"Wondered when you’d see me." He nodded toward the gate. "I was standing
right there when you came up. You just breezed right past." His smile
broadened. "You were so interested in being surprised that you couldn’t
see what you came for."

"It must have been that damned glare," muttered Walker, shaking his
head. Then, impolitely, "Are you Millet?"

"Otto Millet," the other replied, inclining his head slightly. "You’re
from the government. I can tell because of the uniform, you see." Walker
flushed. "The government hasn’t thought about me in a number of years,"
the scientist added. He came up onto the porch and peered at the symbol
on the left lapel of Walker’s jacket. "Ah! Alma mater. Weapons
Development." He squinted at Walker. "David Walker, I presume?" He
chuckled loudly but Walker failed to see the humor. "I remember you, you
see; what a shame you can’t return the compliment."

"It’s hot out here," complained Walker, in growing discomfort.

Millet opened the door. "Won’t you come in? It’s better inside."

There it was again, thought Walker; the insolence, the imperturbable
smile. He grunted and went in; it was, mercifully, considerably cooler.

He looked around. It was a very cluttered living room, not messy but
tossed about with the artifacts that the man obviously liked to have
around him. There was an ancient painting by Bonestell hanging on one
wall, a startlingly accurate twentieth-century concept of the appearance
of Mars; several long pipe racks, filled to overflowing, in various
spots around the room; a typewriter on a table in a corner, and piles of
paper; books lining the walls, and stacked on the floor in heaps and on
the table beside the typewriter; a map of the earth on the wall above
the typewriter, a three-dimensional Waterson projection. The furniture
was clean but—not old; _lived with_.

Walker went over to the wall map and peered closely.

"One of Waterson’s first," remarked Millet, closing the door. "Sit down,
Walker, and tell me all about Weapons Development. How is the mass
murder department doing these days?"

Walker felt his ears redden and he was arrested in the very act of
sitting down. "Really," he said, "it’s not something we _like_ to think
about, you know."

"Suppose not." Millet fiddled with several pipes in a rack beside his
chair, selected one, and began filling it with rough-cut tobacco from a
battered canister. "To business, then. Why the visit?"

Walker cleared his throat and tried to remember the little prefatory
weasel words he had painfully assembled during the flight from Omaha.
"First of all, Dr. Millet, I find myself a little embarrassed. After
all, your parting from government service was not of the happiest nature
for you—"

"Don’t be foolish. Happiest day of my life, Walker."

Walker had a sudden sense of being impaled, and the rest of the little
speech was dissipated in the wave of shock which swept over him. He
forced his mouth shut, and gasped, "You’re not serious!"

Millet shook out his second match and puffed until the pipe bowl glowed
warmly, edge to edge. "Of course I’m serious." He jabbed his pipe at
Walker. "You like your job?"

"It’s a job that has to be done."

Millet smiled and shrugged. "You haven’t really answered my question."

Walker, sensing that he had already lost control of the conversation,
waved his hands in dismissal. "Well, that is not really important. The
fact remains, you did leave Weapons Development at the ... ah ...
request of the government."

"Talk on, talk on—you’ll get to the point eventually. When you’re
through, I’d like to show you around the place. I’m very proud of my
gardens. You’re sort of responsible for them, you know."

Walker set his jaw and bored ahead. "However, at the time you left
government service, you were pursuing certain lines of research—"

Millet leaned back and began laughing, his eyes squinted shut. "Walker,
don’t tell me they want me _back_!"

It seemed his chance to dominate the discussion again. "I don’t think
you’d be allowed back."

"Good," said Millet, looking up, his laughter fading into a smile. "I
was a bit concerned for a moment."

There was silence in the room. Walker began to wish that he were
somewhere else: Millet simply baffled him. He obviously did not care
about his disgrace. Walker felt a resurgence of the old resentment.

Millet’s face suddenly became very kindly. "Perhaps, as a fellow
scientist"—Walker almost winced, and knew, furiously, that his response
had shown—"you would be interested in knowing what I’ve been doing since
my unhappy marriage with bureaucracy ended."

It was a welcome gambit, and Walker accepted it eagerly. "I certainly
would. One of the reasons I came here, as a matter of fact."

Millet waved his pipe. "Good. Afterwards, you can stop beating around
the bush, eh?"

"Yes, of course," mumbled Walker.

"You know," said Millet as he got up and went to a bookcase, "a man’s
got to earn a living. Do much reading?"

"Not these days. Used to." He scratched a cigarette on the sole of his
shoe and inhaled hugely. "Not enough time these days for reading."

Millet reached into the bookcase and came out with a stack of magazines.
"Well, that’s how I make my living." He handed the stack to Walker.
"Writing. Use a pen name of course." He chuckled. "Write
everything—always happiest doing science fiction, though."

Walker flipped through the magazines; he looked up. "Obviously, you’re
doing rather well at it."

"Have been for the last seven or eight years. Lot of fun."

"And this has been your life since you left us?" Walker set the stack of
magazines aside. "Seems a waste of genius, somehow."

"As a matter of fact, this is not my life’s work. As I said, a man’s got
to earn a living. This is just a lucrative hobby that pays the way. You
see, I’ve been involved in an expensive research program."

"Ah." Walker sat forward and smashed out his cigarette. "This may be
important."

"Oh, it is, it is. But not, I am afraid, in the way you mean."

"You can never tell. What have you been doing?"

"Completing a unified theory of life. Why a crystal grows but isn’t
alive, why an organism that dies isn’t like a crystal. What is the
process we call life? What is its relationship to the space-time
continuum—"

He said it so casually that Walker was caught off his guard completely.
"Are you serious, Millet?" he said.

"Certainly. I expect to publish in about two years."

"Is this an independent effort?"

"Not entirely. Others have contributed. Some pioneers long dead, some
among the living." His eyes twinkled. "You see, important things beside
the development of weapons of destruction do continue in the scientific
world. Did you think that was the end of everything for me, ten years
ago?" He shook his head in mock gravity. "It was just the beginning. I
_wanted_ out, you see."

"You wanted out?" Walker leaned forward, unwilling to believe what he
had heard. "Are you trying to tell me that you _arranged_ your
discharge?"

Millet shrugged. "Why, of course. Nobody ever has bothered to ask me
about that up to now, but I certainly did arrange it. It wasn’t hard,
you know. All I had to do was set up some sort of relationship with a
so-called security risk, and I was on my way out."

"Why ... that’s damned near treason."

"Don’t be silly. I had other important things to do. In order to do
them—to continue work on the unified life theory—it was necessary for me
to contact scientists with whom professional relationships were made
illegal by security regulations. The choice was simple; besides, I
didn’t enjoy the idea of spending my life developing ways of destroying
the very thing I wanted most to understand."

"This is fantastic, Millet, utterly fantastic."

"But true nonetheless. Walker, you look like you could use a drink."

"By all means." He stared emptily into the air, thinking about the good
old days.

"Walker, a toast," said Millet, holding a tall glass out to him. "To
scientific freedom."

Walker blinked. "By all means," he repeated hoarsely, and there was a
blurriness to his vision. "To scientific freedom."

They drank, and Walker said: "I feel a bit freer to say what I have come
for."

"Shoot," nodded Millet, sipping his drink.

"For security reasons, I’ll talk in generalities. But the basic fact is,
United Terra is faced with a serious situation. It is most desirable
that the research you were conducting when you left us, be continued."

"There are a lot of other capable physicists, both eager to be a part of
such activity and blessed with security clearances."

"You know very well, Millet, that this was an unique, almost independent
line of development that comes to a stop in your brain. Besides," and
suddenly he felt silly, "the lines of communication for research which
might enable us to pick up where you left off, in time—too much time—are
somewhat entangled in security." He glared. "Don’t laugh, Millet; it’s a
fact of life which must be faced."

Millet finished his drink and set the glass on an end table. "What
you’re doing is asking me to come back if you can arrange it."

Walker spread his hands. "Dr. Millet, you have put it in a nutshell."

Millet shook his head, and for the first time since their conversation
had started he frowned. "Walker, you know how I feel about developing
weapons. I’m just plain opposed to it."

"The soldier is opposed to losing his life, but many have to do just
that in the interests of civilization."

"That serious, eh?"

Walker crumpled under the weight of his fear. "That serious," he said
wearily.

Millet thoughtfully relit his pipe. "Of course, I’m not at all sure that
United Terra is very right in this thing."

"In times like these, that kind of thought is out of bounds," snapped
Walker. "Whether you like it or not, you are a part of this culture. You
might disapprove of many things in it, but you don’t want to see it
fall."

Millet puffed gently. "No, I suppose not." Again the frown flickered
across his face. "I’ve been very happy. I don’t want my work
interrupted. It’s too important, Walker."

"Undoubtedly this would more than interrupt your work. It would replace
it."

Millet’s eyes drifted affectionately about the room. "Most unpleasant."
A smile curled his lips. "Frankly, though, I don’t think you can clear
me again."

"My problem."

"Indeed." A weary resignation seemed to settle over Millet, and Walker
suddenly felt very miserable. "I suppose I’ll have to accept," Millet
said, pulling his pipe out of his mouth and staring unhappily at its
trail of smoke.

                                  ————

Walker put his hands flat on his desk and sighed deeply. Some of the
pressure, at least, was off; he had managed to cancel part of the
Confederation’s advantage. Terran industrial strength and technological
supremacy, coupled with Millet’s genius, might yet equate, or at least
circumvent, the frightful weapon the Confederation held.

However, he still had to get Millet back into the government. Though, on
the basis of the information he had gained regarding the scientist’s
motivations, and considering the critical nature of the situation, it
shouldn’t be too difficult.

He clicked on his video and dialed a secret line into Security Data.
Gyrating colors danced across the screen before it went black. He
scowled, depressed the cancel button, and dialed again; this time, the
black was finally replaced by a recorded image, which said, sweetly out
of pouting red lips,

"This line is not cleared for the Security Information you seek. The
problem you are handling should be routed through an individual
permitted access to this information." The image faded into blackness,
the sound track into static.

Walker stared, stupefied. No line, no contact, no source of information
had been denied to him in over twelve years.

His door swung open; he came to his feet abruptly, furious that someone
should enter unannounced.

He felt sickness strike him like a fist in the stomach: Meriwether,
flanked by two security guards, pushed through the door. His voice
slashed across the office like a broadsword.

"Walker, I’m shocked. Shocked. And at a time like this...."

Walker pounded his desk. "What the hell is going on? I can’t get
Security Data, you come marching in here with security men ... what
gives?"

Meriwether gestured to the guards, and they came forward and each took
one of Walker’s arms. "You’re out of a job, Walker," snarled General
Marcus Meriwether.

"In the name of God, _why_?"

"You know very well. Take him to security detention, Sergeant."

And suddenly he knew. Meriwether stared indignantly when he started
laughing. It was a hell of a thing to laugh at, but it was also the most
hilarious tragedy he ever hoped to encounter.

Millet. _Security risk._ Untouchable.

Millet would finish his great unified theory, and go down in history as
neither Walker nor Meriwether nor the genius who invented the
Confederation’s neural weapon would. Millet was as safe as he could
possibly want to be.

And so was the Interplanetary Confederation.


                                 *END*


Transcribers note: This etext was produced from If Worlds of Science
Fiction February 1958. Extensive research did not uncover any evidence
that the U.S. copyright on this publication was renewed.





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