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´╗┐Title: Bear Trap
Author: Nourse, Alan Edward, 1928-1992
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 "Bear Trap" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.



    _Dr. Alan E. Nourse, who when last heard of was vacationing in
    Alaska--and probably gathering material for SF or Mystery stories
    set against this background--is the author of many mystery and
    science fiction stories including MARTYR, the lead novel in our
    January 1957 issue._


 bear
 trap

 _by ALAN E. NOURSE_


 The man's meteoric rise as a peacemaker in a nation tired
 by the long years of war made the truth even more shocking.


The huge troop transport plane eased down through the rainy drizzle
enshrouding New York International Airport at about five o'clock in the
evening. Tom Shandor glanced sourly through the port at the wet landing
strip, saw the dim landing lights reflected in the steaming puddles. On
an adjacent field he could see the rows and rows of jet fighters, wings
up in the foggy rain, poised like ridiculous birds in the darkness. With
a sigh he ripped the sheet of paper from the small, battered portable
typewriter on his lap, and zipped the machine up in its slicker case.

Across the troop hold the soldiers were beginning to stir, yawning,
shifting their packs, collecting their gear. Occasionally they stared at
Shandor as if he were totally alien to their midst, and he shivered a
little as he collected the sheets of paper scattered on the deck around
him, checked the date, 27 September, 1982, and rolled them up to fit in
the slim round mailing container. Ten minutes later he was shouldering
his way through the crowd of khaki-clad men, scowling up at the sky,
his nondescript fedora jammed down over his eyes to keep out the rain,
slicker collar pulled up about his ears. At the gangway he stopped
before a tired-looking lieutenant and flashed the small fluorescent card
in his palm. "Public Information Board."

The officer nodded wearily and gave his coat and typewriter a cursory
check, then motioned him on. He strode across the wet field, scowling at
the fog, toward the dimmed-out waiting rooms.

He found a mailing chute, and popped the mailing tube down the slot as
if he were glad to be rid of it. Into the speaker he said: "Special
Delivery. PIB business. It goes to press tonight."

The female voice from the speaker said something, and the red "clear"
signal blinked. Shandor slipped off his hat and shook it, then stopped
at a coffee machine and extracted a cup of steaming stuff from the
bottom after trying the coin three times. Finally he walked across the
room to an empty video booth, and sank down into the chair with an
exhausted sigh. Flipping a switch, he waited several minutes for an
operator to appear. He gave her a number, and then said, "Let's scramble
it, please."

"Official?"

He showed her the card, and settled back, his whole body tired. He was a
tall man, rather slender, with flat, bland features punctuated only by
blond caret-shaped eyebrows. His grey eyes were heavy-lidded now, his
mouth an expressionless line as he waited, sunk back into his coat with
a long-cultivated air of lifeless boredom. He watched the screen without
interest as it bleeped a time or two, then shifted into the familiar
scrambled-image pattern. After a moment he muttered the Public
Information Board audio-code words, and saw the screen even out into the
clear image of a large, heavyset man at a desk.

"Hart," said Shandor. "Story's on its way. I just dropped it from the
Airport a minute ago, with a rush tag on it. You should have it for the
morning editions."

The big man in the screen blinked, and his heavy face lit up. "The story
on the Rocket Project?"

Shandor nodded. "The whole scoop. I'm going home now." He started his
hand for the cutoff switch.

"Wait a minute--" Hart picked up a pencil and fiddled with it for a
moment. He glanced over his shoulder, and his voice dropped a little.
"Is the line scrambled?"

Shandor nodded.

"What's the scoop, boy? How's the Rocket Project coming?"

Shandor grinned wryly. "Read the report, daddy. Everything's just ducky,
of course--it's all ready for press. You've got the story, why should I
repeat it?"

Hart scowled impatiently. "No, no-- I mean the _scoop_. The real stuff.
How's the Project going?"

"Not so hot." Shandor's face was weary. "Material cutoff is holding them
up something awful. Among other things. The sabotage has really fouled
up the west coast trains, and shipments haven't been coming through on
schedule. You know--they ask for one thing, and get the wrong weight, or
their supplier is out of material, or something goes wrong. And there's
personnel trouble, too--too much direction and too little work. It's
beginning to look as if they'll never get going. And now it looks like
there's going to be another administration shakeup, and you know what
that means--"

Hart nodded thoughtfully. "They'd better get hopping," he muttered. "The
conference in Berlin is on the skids--it could be hours now." He looked
up. "But you got the story rigged all right?"

Shandor's face flattened in distaste. "Sure, sure. You know me, Hart.
Anything to keep the people happy. Everything's running as smooth as
satin, work going fine, expect a test run in a month, and we should be
on the moon in half a year, more or less, maybe, we hope--the usual
swill. I'll be in to work out the war stories in the morning. Right now
I'm for bed."

He snapped off the video before Hart could interrupt, and started for
the door. The rain hit him, as he stepped out, with a wave of cold wet
depression, but a cab slid up to the curb before him and he stepped in.
Sinking back he tried to relax, to get his stomach to stop complaining,
but he couldn't fight the feeling of almost physical illness sweeping
over him. He closed his eyes and sank back, trying to drive the
ever-plaguing thoughts from his mind, trying to focus on something
pleasant, almost hoping that his long-starved conscience might give a
final gasp or two and die altogether. But deep in his mind he knew that
his screaming conscience was almost the only thing that held him
together.

Lies, he thought to himself bitterly. White lies, black lies,
whoppers--you could take your choice. There should be a flaming neon
sign flashing across the sky, telling all people: "Public Information
Board, Fabrication Corporation, fabricating of all lies neatly and
expeditiously done." He squirmed, feeling the rebellion grow in his
mind. Propaganda, they called it. A nice word, such a very handy word,
covering a multitude of seething pots. PIB was the grand clearing house,
the last censor of censors, and he, Tom Shandor, was the Chief
Fabricator and Purveyor of Lies.

He shook his head, trying to get a breath of clean air in the damp cab.
Sometimes he wondered where it was leading, where it would finally end
up, what would happen if the people ever really learned, or ever
listened to the clever ones who tried to sneak the truth into print
somewhere. But people couldn't be told the truth, they had to be
coddled, urged, pushed along. They had to be kept somehow happy, somehow
hopeful, they had to be kept whipped up to fever pitch, because the
long, long years of war and near war had exhausted them, wearied them
beyond natural resiliency. No, they had to be spiked, urged and
goaded--what would happen if they learned?

He sighed. No one, it seemed, could do it as well as he. No one could
take a story of bitter diplomatic fighting in Berlin and simmer it down
to a public-palatable "peaceful and progressive meeting;" no one could
quite so skillfully reduce the bloody fighting in India to a mild "enemy
losses topping American losses twenty to one, and our boys are fighting
staunchly, bravely,"-- No one could write out the lies quite so neatly,
so smoothly as Tom Shandor--

The cab swung in to his house, and he stepped out, tipped the driver,
and walked up the walk, eager for the warm dry room. Coffee helped
sometimes when he felt this way, but other things helped even more. He
didn't even take his coat off before mixing and downing a stiff
rye-and-ginger, and he was almost forgetting his unhappy conscience by
the time the video began blinking.

He flipped the receiver switch and sat down groggily, blinked at John
Hart's heavy face as it materialized on the screen. Hart's eyes were
wide, his voice tight and nervous as he leaned forward. "You'd better
get into the office pronto," he said, his eyes bright. "You've _really_
got a story to work on now--"

Shandor blinked. "The War--"

Hart took a deep breath. "Worse," he said. "David Ingersoll is dead."

       *       *       *       *       *

Tom Shandor shouldered his way through the crowd of men in the anteroom,
and went into the inner office. Closing the door behind him coolly, he
faced the man at the desk, and threw a thumb over his shoulder. "Who're
the goons?" he growled. "You haven't released a story yet--?"

John Hart sighed, his pinkish face drawn. "The press. I don't know how
they got the word--there hasn't been a word released, but--" He shrugged
and motioned Shandor to a seat. "You know how it goes."

Shandor sat down, his face blank, eyeing the Information chief
woodenly. The room was silent for a moment, a tense, anticipatory
silence. Then Hart said: "The Rocket story was great, Tommy. A real
writing job. You've got the touch, when it comes to a ticklish news
release--"

Shandor allowed an expression of distaste to cross his face. He looked
at the chubby man across the desk and felt the distaste deepen and
crystallize. John Hart's face was round, with little lines going up from
the eyes, an almost grotesque, burlesque-comic face that belied the icy
practical nature of the man behind it. A thoroughly distasteful face,
Shandor thought. Finally he said, "The story, John. On Ingersoll. Let's
have it, straight out."

Hart shrugged his stocky shoulders, spreading his hands. "Ingersoll's
dead," he said. "That's all there is to it. He's stone-cold dead."

"But he can't be dead!" roared Shandor, his face flushed. "We just can't
_afford_ to have him dead--"

Hart looked up wearily. "Look, I didn't kill him. He went home from the
White House this evening, apparently sound enough, after a long, stiff,
nasty conference with the President. Ingersoll wanted to go to Berlin
and call a showdown at the International conference there, and he had a
policy brawl with the President, and the President wouldn't let him go,
sent an undersecretary instead, and threatened to kick Ingersoll out of
the cabinet unless he quieted down. Ingersoll got home at 4:30,
collapsed at 5:00, and he was dead before the doctor arrived. Cerebral
hemorrhage, pretty straightforward. Ingersoll's been killing himself for
years--he knew it, and everyone else in Washington knew it. It was bound
to happen sooner or later."

"He was trying to prevent a war," said Shandor dully, "and he was all by
himself. Nobody else wanted to stop it, nobody that mattered, at any
rate. Only the people didn't want war, and who ever listens to them?
Ingersoll got the people behind him, so they gave him a couple of Nobel
Peace Prizes, and made him Secretary of State, and then cut his throat
every time he tried to do anything. No wonder he's dead--"

Hart shrugged again, eloquently indifferent. "So he was a nice guy, he
wanted to prevent a war. As far as I'm concerned, he was a pain in the
neck, the way he was forever jumping down Information's throat, but he's
dead now, he isn't around any more--" His eyes narrowed sharply. "The
important thing, Tommy, is that the people won't like it that he's dead.
They trusted him. He's been the people's Golden Boy, their last-ditch
hope for peace. If they think their last chance is gone with his death,
they're going to be mad. They won't like it, and there'll be hell to
pay--"

Shandor lit a smoke with trembling fingers, his eyes smouldering. "So
the people have to be eased out of the picture," he said flatly.
"They've got to get the story so they won't be so angry--"

Hart nodded, grinning. "They've got to have a real story, Tommy. Big,
blown up, what a great guy he was, defender of the peace, greatest, most
influential man America has turned out since the half-century--you know
what they lap up, the usual garbage, only on a slightly higher plane.
They've got to think that he's really saved them, that he's turned over
the reins to other hands just as trustworthy as his--you can give the
president a big hand there--they've got to think his work is the basis
of our present foreign policy--can't you see the implications? It's got
to be spread on with a trowel, laid on skillfully--"

Shandor's face flushed deep red, and he ground the stub of his smoke out
viciously. "I'm sick of this stuff, Hart," he exploded. "I'm sick of
you, and I'm sick of this whole rotten setup, this business of writing
reams and reams of lies just to keep things under control. Ingersoll was
a great man, a _really_ great man, and he was _wasted_, thrown away. He
worked to make peace, and he got laughed at. He hasn't done a
thing--because he couldn't. Everything he has tried has been useless,
wasted. _That's_ the truth--why not tell that to the people?"

Hart stared. "Get hold of yourself," he snapped. "You know your job.
There's a story to write. The life of David Ingersoll. It has to go down
smooth." His dark eyes shifted to his hands, and back sharply to
Shandor. "A propagandist has to write it, Tommy--an ace propagandist.
You're the only one I know that could do the job."

"Not me," said Shandor flatly, standing up. "Count me out. I'm through
with this, as of now. Get yourself some other whipping boy. Ingersoll
was one man the people could trust. And he was one man I could never
face. I'm not good enough for him to spit on, and I'm not going to sell
him down the river now that he's dead."

With a little sigh John Hart reached into the desk. "That's very odd,"
he said softly. "Because Ingersoll left a message for you--"

Shandor snapped about, eyes wide. "Message--?"

The chubby man handed him a small envelope. "Apparently he wrote that a
long time ago. Told his daughter to send it to Public Information Board
immediately in event of his death. Read it."

Shandor unfolded the thin paper, and blinked unbelieving:

    _In event of my death during the next few months, a certain amount
    of biographical writing will be inevitable. It is my express wish
    that this writing, in whatever form it may take, be done by Mr.
    Thomas L. Shandor, staff writer of the Federal Public Information
    Board._

    _I believe that man alone is qualified to handle this assignment._

                                        _(Signed) David P. Ingersoll
                                          Secretary of State,
                                            United States of America._

    _4 June, 1981_

Shandor read the message a second time, then folded it carefully and
placed it in his pocket, his forehead creased. "I suppose you want the
story to be big," he said dully.

Hart's eyes gleamed a moment of triumph. "As big as you can make it," he
said eagerly. "Don't spare time or effort, Tommy. You'll be relieved of
all assignments until you have it done--if you'll take it."

"Oh, yes," said Shandor softly. "I'll take it."

       *       *       *       *       *

He landed the small PIB 'copter on an airstrip in the outskirts of
Georgetown, haggled with Security officials for a few moments, and
grabbed an old weatherbeaten cab, giving the address of the Ingersoll
estate as he settled back in the cushions. A small radio was set inside
the door; he snapped it on, fiddled with the dial until he found a PIB
news report. And as he listened he felt his heart sink lower and lower,
and the old familiar feeling of dirtiness swept over him, the feeling of
being a part in an enormous, overpowering scheme of corruption and
degradation. The Berlin conference was reaching a common meeting ground,
the report said, with Russian, Chinese, and American officials making
the first real progress in the week of talks. Hope rising for an early
armistice on the Indian front. Suddenly he hunched forward, blinking in
surprise as the announcer continued the broadcast: "The Secretary of
State, David Ingersoll, was stricken with a slight head cold this
evening on the eve of his departure for the Berlin Conference, and was
advised to postpone the trip temporarily. John Harris Darby, first
undersecretary, was dispatched in his place. Mr. Ingersoll expressed
confidence that Mr. Darby would be able to handle the talks as well as
himself, in view of the optimistic trend in Berlin last night--"

Shandor snapped the radio off viciously, a roar of disgust rising in his
throat, cut off just in time. Lies, lies, lies. Some people _knew_ they
were lies--what could they really think? People like David Ingersoll's
wife--

Carefully he reined in his thoughts, channelled them. He had called the
Ingersoll home the night before, announcing his arrival this morning--

The taxi ground up a gravelled driveway, stopped before an Army jeep at
the iron-grilled gateway. A Security Officer flipped a cigarette onto
the ground, shaking his head. "Can't go in, Secretary's orders."

Shandor stepped from the cab, briefcase under his arm. He showed his
card, scowled when the officer continued shaking his head. "Orders say
_nobody_--"

"Look, blockhead," Shandor grated. "If you want to hang by your toes, I
can put through a special check-line to Washington to confirm my
appointment here. I'll also recommend you for the salt mines."

The officer growled, "Wise guy," and shuffled into the guard shack.
Minutes later he appeared again, jerked his thumb toward the estate.
"Take off," he said. "See that you check here at the gate before you
leave."

He was admitted to the huge house by a stone-faced butler, who led him
through a maze of corridors into a huge dining room. Morning sunlight
gleamed through a glassed-in wall, and Shandor stopped at the door,
almost speechless.

He knew he'd seen the girl somewhere. At one of the Washington parties,
or in the newspapers. Her face was unmistakable; it was the sort of face
that a man never forgets once he glimpses it--thin, puckish, with
wide-set grey eyes that seemed both somber and secretly amused, a full,
sensitive mouth, and blonde hair, exceedingly fine, cropped close about
her ears. She was eating her breakfast, a rolled up newspaper by her
plate, and as she looked up, her eyes were not warm. She just stared at
Shandor angrily for a moment, then set down her coffee cup and threw the
paper to the floor with a slam. "You're Shandor, I suppose."

Shandor looked at the paper, then back at her. "Yes, I'm Tom Shandor.
But you're not Mrs. Ingersoll--"

"A profound observation. Mother isn't interested in seeing anyone this
morning, particularly you." She motioned to a chair. "You can talk to me
if you want to."

Shandor sank down in the proffered seat, struggling to readjust his
thinking. "Well," he said finally. "I--I wasn't expecting you--" he
broke into a grin--"but I should think you could help. You know what I'm
trying to do--I mean, about your father. I want to write a story, and
the logical place to start would be with his family--"

The girl blinked wide eyes innocently. "Why don't you start with the
newspaper files?" she asked, her voice silky. "You'd find all sorts of
information about daddy there. Pages and pages--"

"No, no-- I don't want that kind of information. You're his daughter,
Miss Ingersoll, you could tell me about him as a man. Something about
his personal life, what sort of man he was--"

She shrugged indifferently, buttered a piece of toast, as Shandor felt
most acutely the pangs of his own missed breakfast. "He got up at seven
every morning," she said. "He brushed his teeth and ate breakfast. At
nine o'clock the State Department called for him--"

Shandor shook his head unhappily. "No, no, that's not what I mean."

"Then perhaps you'd tell me precisely what you _do_ mean?" Her voice was
clipped and hard.

Shandor sighed in exasperation. "The personal angle. His likes and
dislikes, how he came to formulate his views, his relationship with his
wife, with you--"

"He was a kind and loving father," she said, her voice mocking. "He
loved to read, he loved music--oh, yes, put that down, he was a _great_
lover of music. His wife was the apple of his eye, and he tried, for all
the duties of his position, to provide us with a happy home life--"

"Miss Ingersoll."

She stopped in mid-sentence, her grey eyes veiled, and shook her head
slightly. "That's not what you want, either?"

Shandor stood up and walked to a window, looking out over the wide
veranda. Carefully he snubbed his cigarette in an ashtray, then turned
sharply to the girl. "Look. If you want to play games, I can play games
too. Either you're going to help me, or you're not--it's up to you. But
you forget one thing. I'm a propagandist. I might say I'm a very expert
propagandist. I can tell a true story from a false one. You won't get
anywhere lying to me, or evading me, and if you choose to try, we can
call it off right now. You know exactly the type of information I need
from you. Your father was a great man, and he rates a fair shake in the
write-ups. I'm asking you to help me."

Her lips formed a sneer. "And _you're_ going to give him a fair shake,
I'm supposed to believe." She pointed to the newspaper. "With garbage
like that? Head cold!" Her face flushed, and she turned her back
angrily. "I know your writing, Mr. Shandor. I've been exposed to it for
years. You've never written an honest, true story in your life, but you
always want the truth to start with, don't you? I'm to give you the
truth, and let you do what you want with it, is that the idea? No dice,
Mr. Shandor. And you even have the gall to brag about it!"

Shandor flushed angrily. "You're not being fair. This story is going to
press straight and true, every word of it. This is one story that won't
be altered."

And then she was laughing, choking, holding her sides, as the tears
streamed down her cheeks. Shandor watched her, reddening, anger growing
up to choke him. "I'm not joking," he snapped. "I'm breaking with the
routine, do you understand? I'm through with the lies now, I'm writing
this one straight."

She wiped her eyes and looked at him, bitter lines under her smile. "You
couldn't do it," she said, still laughing. "You're a fool to think so.
You could write it, and you'd be out of a job so fast you wouldn't know
what hit you. But you'd never get it into print. And you know it. You'd
never even get the story to the inside offices."

Shandor stared at her. "That's what you think," he said slowly. "This
story will get to the press if it kills me."

The girl looked up at him, eyes wide, incredulous. "You _mean_ that,
don't you?"

"I never meant anything more in my life."

She looked at him, wonderingly, motioned him to the table, a faraway
look in her eyes. "Have some coffee," she said, and then turned to him,
her eyes wide with excitement. The sneer was gone from her face, the
coldness and hostility, and her eyes were pleading. "If there were some
way to do it, if you really meant what you said, if you'd really _do_
it--give people a true story--"

Shandor's voice was low. "I told you, I'm sick of this mill. There's
something wrong with this country, something wrong with the world.
There's a rottenness in it, and your father was fighting to cut out the
rottenness. This story is going to be straight, and it's going to be
printed if I get shot for treason. And it could split things wide open
at the seams."

She sat down at the table. Her lower lip trembled, and her voice was
tense with excitement. "Let's get out of here," she said. "Let's go
someplace where we can talk--"

       *       *       *       *       *

They found a quiet place off the business section in Washington, one of
the newer places with the small closed booths, catering to people weary
of eavesdropping and overheard conversations. Shandor ordered beers,
then lit a smoke and leaned back facing Ann Ingersoll. It occurred to
him that she was exceptionally lovely, but he was almost frightened by
the look on her face, the suppressed excitement, the cold, bitter lines
about her mouth. Incongruously, the thought crossed his mind that he'd
hate to have this woman against him. She looked as though she would be
capable of more than he'd care to tangle with. For all her lovely face
there was an edge of thin ice to her smile, a razor-sharp, dangerous
quality that made him curiously uncomfortable. But now she was nervous,
withdrawing a cigarette from his pack with trembling fingers, fumbling
with his lighter until he struck a match for her. "Now," he said. "Why
the secrecy?"

She glanced at the closed door to the booth. "Mother would kill me if
she knew I was helping you. She hates you, and she hates the Public
Information Board. I think dad hated you, too."

Shandor took the folded letter from his pocket. "Then what do you think
of this?" he asked softly. "Doesn't this strike you a little odd?"

She read Ingersoll's letter carefully, then looked up at Tom, her eyes
wide with surprise. "So this is what that note was. This doesn't wash,
Tom."

"You're telling me it doesn't wash. Notice the wording. 'I believe that
man alone is qualified to handle this assignment.' Why me? And of all
things, why me _alone_? He knew my job, and he fought me and the PIB
every step of his career. Why a note like this?"

She looked up at him. "Do you have any idea?"

"Sure, I've got an idea. A crazy one, but an idea. I don't think he
wanted me because of the writing. I think he wanted me because I'm a
propagandist."

She scowled. "It still doesn't wash. There are lots of
propagandists--and why would he want a propagandist?"

Shandor's eyes narrowed. "Let's let it ride for a moment. How about his
files?"

"In his office in the State Department."

"He didn't keep anything personal at home?"

Her eyes grew wide. "Oh, no, he wouldn't have dared. Not the sort of
work he was doing. With his files under lock and key in the State
Department nothing could be touched without his knowledge, but at home
anybody might have walked in."

"Of course. How about enemies? Did he have any particular enemies?"

She laughed humorlessly. "Name anybody in the current administration. I
think he had more enemies than anybody else in the cabinet." Her mouth
turned down bitterly. "He was a stumbling block. He got in people's way,
and they hated him for it. They killed him for it."

Shandor's eyes widened. "You mean you think he was murdered?"

"Oh, no, nothing so crude. They didn't have to be crude. They just let
him butt his head against a stone wall. Everything he tried was
blocked, or else it didn't lead anywhere. Like this Berlin Conference.
It's a powder keg. Dad gambled everything on going there, forcing the
delegates to face facts, to really put their cards on the table. Ever
since the United Nations fell apart in '72 dad had been trying to get
America and Russia to sit at the same table. But the President cut him
out at the last minute. It was planned that way, to let him get up to
the very brink of it, and then slap him down hard. They did it all
along. This was just the last he could take."

Shandor was silent for a moment. "Any particular thorns in his side?"

Ann shrugged. "Munitions people, mostly. Dartmouth Bearing had a
pressure lobby that was trying to throw him out of the cabinet. The
President sided with them, but he didn't dare do it for fear the people
would squawk. He was planning to blame the failure of the Berlin
Conference on dad and get him ousted that way."

Shandor stared. "But if that conference fails, _we're in full-scale
war_!"

"Of course. That's the whole point." She scowled at her glass, blinking
back tears. "Dad could have stopped it, but they wouldn't let him. _It
killed him_, Tom!"

Shandor watched the smoke curling up from his cigarette. "Look," he
said. "I've got an idea, and it's going to take some fast work. That
conference could blow up any minute, and then I think we're going to be
in real trouble. I want you to go to your father's office and get the
contents of his personal file. Not the business files, his personal
files. Put them in a briefcase and subway-express them to your home. If
you have any trouble, have them check with PIB--we have full authority,
and I'm it right now. I'll call them and give them the word. Then meet
me here again, with the files, at 7:30 this evening."

She looked up, her eyes wide. "What--what are you going to do?"

Shandor snubbed out his smoke, his eyes bright. "I've got an idea that
we may be onto something--just something I want to check. But I think if
we work it right, we can lay these boys that fought your father out by
the toes--"

       *       *       *       *       *

The Library of Congress had been moved when the threat of bombing in
Washington had become acute. Shandor took a cab to the Georgetown
airstrip, checked the fuel in the 'copter. Ten minutes later he started
the motor, and headed upwind into the haze over the hills. In less than
half an hour he settled to the Library landing field in western
Maryland, and strode across to the rear entrance.

The electronic cross-index had been the last improvement in the Library
since the war with China had started in 1958. Shandor found a reading
booth in one of the alcoves on the second floor, and plugged in the
index. The cold, metallic voice of the automatic chirped twice and said,
"Your reference, pleeyuz."

Shandor thought a moment. "Give me your newspaper files on David
Ingersoll, Secretary of State."

"Through which dates, pleeyuz."

"Start with the earliest reference, and carry through to current." The
speaker burped, and he sat back, waiting. A small grate in the panel
before him popped open, and a small spool plopped out onto a spindle.
Another followed, and another. He turned to the reader, and reeled the
first spool into the intake slot. The light snapped on, and he began
reading.

Spools continued to plop down. He read for several hours, taking a dozen
pages of notes. The references commenced in June, 1961, with a small
notice that David Ingersoll, Republican from New Jersey, had been
nominated to run for state senator. Before that date, nothing. Shandor
scowled, searching for some item predating that one. He found nothing.

Scratching his head, he continued reading, outlining chronologically.
Ingersoll's election to state senate, then to United States Senate. His
rise to national prominence as economist for the post-war Administrator
of President Drayton in 1966. His meteoric rise as a peacemaker in a
nation tired from endless dreary years of fighting in China and India.
His tremendous popularity as he tried to stall the re-intensifying
cold-war with Russia. The first Nobel Peace Prize, in 1969, for the
ill-fated Ingersoll Plan for World Sovereignty. Pages and pages and
pages of newsprint. Shandor growled angrily, surveying the pile of notes
with a sinking feeling of incredulity. The articles, the writing, the
tone--it was all too familiar. Carefully he checked the newspaper
sources. Some of the dispatches were Associated Press; many came direct
desk from Public Information Board in New York; two other networks
sponsored some of the wordage. But the tone was all the same.

Finally, disgusted, Tom stuffed the notes into his briefcase, and
flipped down the librarian lever. "Sources, please."

A light blinked, and in a moment a buzzer sounded at his elbow. A female
voice, quite human, spoke as he lifted the receiver. "Can I help you on
sources?"

"Yes. I've been reading the newspaper files on David Ingersoll. I'd like
the by-lines on this copy."

There was a moment of silence. "Which dates, please?"

Shandor read off his list, giving dates. The silence continued for
several minutes as he waited impatiently. He was about to hang up and
leave when the voice spoke up again. "I'm sorry, sir. Most of that
material has no by-line. Except for one or two items it's all
staff-written."

"By whom?"

"I'm sorry, no source is available. Perhaps the PIB offices could help
you--"

"All right, ring them for me, please." He waited another five minutes,
saw the PIB cross-index clerk appear on the video screen. "Hello, Mr.
Shandor. Can I help you?"

"I'm trying to trace down the names of the Associated Press and PIB
writers who covered stories on David Ingersoll over a period from June
1961 to the present date--"

The girl disappeared for several moments. When she reappeared, her face
was puzzled. "Why, Mr. Shandor, you've been doing the work on Ingersoll
from August, 1978 to Sept. 1982. We haven't closed the files on this
last month yet--"

He scowled in annoyance. "Yes, yes, I know that. I want the writers
before I came."

The clerk paused. "Until you started your work there was no definite
assignment. The information just isn't here. But the man you replaced in
PIB was named Frank Mariel."

Shandor turned the name over in his mind, decided that it was familiar,
but that he couldn't quite place it. "What's this man doing now?"

The girl shrugged. "I don't know, just now, and have no sources. But
according to our files he left Public Information Board to go to work in
some capacity for Dartmouth Bearing Corporation."

Shandor flipped the switch, and settled back in the reading chair. Once
again he fingered through his notes, frowning, a doubt gnawing through
his mind into certainty. He took up a dozen of the stories, analyzed
them carefully, word for word, sentence by sentence. Then he sat back,
his body tired, eyes closed in concentration, an incredible idea
twisting and writhing and solidifying in his mind.

It takes one to catch one. That was his job--telling lies. Writing
stories that weren't true, and making them believable. Making people
think one thing when the truth was something else. It wasn't so strange
that he could detect exactly the same sort of thing when he ran into it.
He thought it through again and again, and every time he came up with
the same answer. There was no doubt.

Reading the newspaper files had accomplished only one thing. He had
spent the afternoon reading a voluminous, neat, smoothly written,
extremely convincing batch of bold-faced lies. Lies about David
Ingersoll. Somewhere, at the bottom of those lies was a shred or two of
truth, a shred hard to analyze, impossible to segregate from the garbage
surrounding it. But somebody had written the lies. That meant that
somebody knew the truths behind them.

Suddenly he galvanized into action. The video blinked protestingly at
his urgent summons, and the Washington visiphone operator answered.
"Somewhere in those listings of yours," Shandor said, "you've got a man
named Frank Mariel. I want his number."

       *       *       *       *       *

He reached the downtown restaurant half an hour early, and ducked into a
nearby visiphone station to ring Hart. The PIB director's chubby face
materialized on the screen after a moment's confusion, and Shandor said:
"John--what are your plans for releasing the Ingersoll story? The
morning papers left him with a slight head cold, if I remember right--"
Try as he would, he couldn't conceal the edge of sarcasm in his voice.

Hart scowled. "How's the biography coming?"

"The biography's coming along fine. I want to know what kind of
quicksand I'm wading through, that's all."

Hart shrugged and spread his hands. "We can't break the story proper
until you're ready with your buffer story. Current plans say that he
gets pneumonia tomorrow, and goes to Walter Reed tomorrow night. We're
giving it as little emphasis as possible, running the Berlin Conference
stories for right-hand column stuff. That'll give you all day tomorrow
and half the next day for the preliminary stories on his death. Okay?"

"That's not enough time." Shandor's voice was tight.

"It's enough for a buffer-release." Hart scowled at him, his round face
red and annoyed. "Look, Tom, you get that story in, and never mind what
you like or don't like. This is dynamite you're playing with--the
Conference is going to be on the rocks in a matter of hours--that's
straight from the Undersecretary--and on top of it all, there's trouble
down in Arizona--"

Shandor's eyes widened. "The Rocket Project--?"

Hart's mouth twisted. "Sabotage. They picked up a whole ring that's been
operating for over a year. Caught them red-handed, but not before they
burnt out half a calculator wing. They'll have to move in new machines
now before they can go on--set the Project back another week, and that
could lose the war for us right there. Now _get that story in_." He
snapped the switch down, leaving Shandor blinking at the darkened
screen.

Ten minutes later Ann Ingersoll joined him in the restaurant booth. She
was wearing a chic white linen outfit, with her hair fresh, like a
blonde halo around her head in the fading evening light. Her freshness
contrasted painfully with Tom's curling collar and dirty tie, and he
suddenly wished he'd picked up a shave. He looked up and grunted when he
saw the fat briefcase under the girl's arm, and she dropped it on the
table between them and sank down opposite him, studying his face. "The
reading didn't go so well," she said.

"The reading went lousy," he admitted sheepishly. "This the personal
file?"

She nodded shortly and lit a cigarette. "The works. They didn't even
bother me. But I can't see why all the precaution-- I mean, the express
and all that--"

Shandor looked at her sharply. "If what you said this morning was true,
that file is a gold mine, for us, but more particularly, for your
father's enemies. I'll go over it closely when I get out of here.
Meantime, there are one or two other things I want to talk over with
you."

She settled herself, and grinned. "Okay, boss. Fire away."

He took a deep breath, and tiredness lined his face. "First off: what
did your father do before he went into politics?"

Her eyes widened, and she arrested the cigarette halfway to her mouth,
put it back on the ashtray, with a puzzled frown on her face. "That's
funny," she said softly. "I thought I knew, but I guess I don't. He was
an industrialist--way, far back, years and years ago, when I was just a
little brat--and then we got into the war with China, and I don't know
what he did. He was always making business trips; I can remember going
to the airport with mother to meet him, but I don't know what he did.
Mother always avoided talking about him, and I never got to see him
enough to talk--"

Shandor sat forward, his eyes bright. "Did he ever entertain any
business friends during that time--any that you can remember?"

She shook her head. "I can't remember. Seems to me a man or two came
home with him on a couple of occasions, but I don't know who. I don't
remember much before the night he came home and said he was going to run
for Congress. Then there were people galore--have been ever since."

"And what about his work at the end of the China war? After he was
elected, while he was doing all that work to try to smooth things out
with Russia--can you remember him saying anything, to you, or to your
mother, about _what_ he was doing, and how?"

She shook her head again. "Oh, yes, he'd talk--he and mother would
talk--sometimes argue. I had the feeling that things weren't too well
with mother and dad many times. But I can't remember anything specific,
except that he used to say over and over how he hated the thought of
another war. He was afraid it was going to come--"

Shandor looked up sharply. "But he hated it--"

"Yes." Her eyes widened. "Oh, yes, he hated it. Dad was a good man, Tom.
He believed with all his heart that the people of the world wanted
peace, and that they were being dragged to war because they couldn't
find any purpose to keep them from it. He believed that if the people of
the world had a cause, a purpose, a driving force, that there wouldn't
be any more wars. Some men fought him for preaching peace, but he
wouldn't be swayed. Especially he hated the pure-profit lobbies, the
patriotic drum-beaters who stood to get rich in a war. But dad had to
die, and there aren't many men like him left now, I guess."

"I know." Shandor fell silent, stirring his coffee glumly. "Tell me," he
said, "did your father have anything to do with a man named Mariel?"

Ann's eyes narrowed. "Frank Mariel? He was the newspaper man. Yes, dad
had plenty to do with him. He hated dad's guts, because dad fought his
writing so much. Mariel was one of the 'fight now and get rich' school
that were continually plaguing dad."

"Would you say that they were enemies?"

She bit her lip, wrinkling her brow in thought. "Not at first. More like
a big dog with a little flea, at first. Mariel pestered dad, and dad
tried to scratch him away. But Mariel got into PIB, and then I suppose
you could call them enemies--"

Shandor sat back, frowning, his face dark with fatigue. He stared at the
table top for a long moment, and when he looked up at the girl his eyes
were troubled. "There's something wrong with this," he said softly. "I
can't quite make it out, but it just doesn't look right. Those newspaper
stories I read--pure bushwa, from beginning to end. I'm dead certain of
it. And yet--" he paused, searching for words. "Look. It's like I'm
looking at a jigsaw puzzle that _looks_ like it's all completed and
lying out on the table. But there's something that tells me I'm being
foxed, that it isn't a complete puzzle at all, just an illusion, yet
somehow I can't even tell for sure where pieces are missing--"

The girl leaned over the table, her grey eyes deep with concern. "Tom,"
she said, almost in a whisper. "Suppose there _is_ something, Tom.
Something big, what's it going to do to _you_, Tom? You can't fight
anything as powerful as PIB, and these men that hated dad could break
you."

Tom grinned tiredly, his eyes far away. "I know," he said softly. "But a
man can only swallow so much. Somewhere, I guess, I've still got a
conscience--it's a nuisance, but it's still there." He looked closely at
the lovely girl across from him. "Maybe it's just that I'm tired of
being sick of myself. I'd like to _like_ myself for a change. I haven't
liked myself for years." He looked straight at her, his voice very small
in the still booth. "I'd like some other people to like me, too. So I've
got to keep going--"

Her hand was in his, then, grasping his fingers tightly, and her voice
was trembling. "I didn't think there was anybody left like that," she
said. "Tom, you aren't by yourself--remember that. No matter what
happens, I'm with you all the way. I'm--I'm afraid, but I'm with you."

He looked up at her then, and his voice was tight. "Listen, Ann. Your
father planned to go to Berlin before he died. What was he going to _do_
if he went to the Berlin Conference?"

She shrugged helplessly. "The usual diplomatic fol-de-rol, I suppose. He
always--"

"No, no--that's not right. He wanted to go so badly that he died when he
wasn't allowed to, Ann. He must have had something in mind, something
concrete, something tremendous. Something that would have changed the
picture a great deal."

And then she was staring at Shandor, her face white, grey eyes wide. "Of
course he had something," she exclaimed. "He _must_ have--oh, I don't
know what, he wouldn't say what was in his mind, but when he came home
after that meeting with the President he was furious-- I've never seen
him so furious, Tom, he was almost out of his mind with anger, and he
paced the floor, and, swore and nearly tore the room apart. He wouldn't
speak to anyone, just stamped around and threw things. And then we heard
him cry out, and when we got to him he was unconscious on the floor, and
he was dead when the doctor came--" She set her glass down with
trembling fingers. "He had something big, Tom, I'm sure of it. He had
some information that he planned to drop on the conference table with
such a bang it would stop the whole world cold. _He knew something_
that the conference doesn't know--"

Tom Shandor stood up, trembling, and took the briefcase. "It should be
here," he said. "If not the whole story, at least the missing pieces."
He started for the booth door. "Go home," he said. "I'm going where I
can examine these files without any interference. Then I'll call you."
And then he was out the door, shouldering his way through the crowded
restaurant, frantically weaving his way to the street. He didn't hear
Ann's voice as she called after him to stop, didn't see her stop at the
booth door, watch in a confusion of fear and tenderness, and collapse
into the booth, sobbing as if her heart would break. Because a crazy,
twisted, impossible idea was in his mind, an idea that had plagued him
since he had started reading that morning, an idea with an answer, an
acid test, folded in the briefcase under his arm. He bumped into a fat
man at the bar, grunted angrily, and finally reached the street,
whistled at the cab that lingered nearby.

The car swung up before him, the door springing open automatically. He
had one foot on the running board before he saw the trap, saw the tight
yellowish face and the glittering eyes inside the cab. Suddenly there
was an explosion of bright purple brilliance, and he was screaming,
twisting and screaming and reeling backward onto the sidewalk, doubled
over with the agonizing fire that burned through his side and down one
leg, forcing scream after scream from his throat as he blindly staggered
to the wall of the building, pounded it with his fists for relief from
the searing pain. And then he was on his side on the sidewalk, sobbing,
blubbering incoherently to the uniformed policeman who was dragging him
gently to his feet, seeing through burning eyes the group of curious
people gathering around. Suddenly realization dawned through the pain,
and he let out a cry of anger and bolted for the curb, knocking the
policeman aside, his eyes wild, searching the receding stream of traffic
for the cab, a picture of the occupant burned indelibly into his mind, a
face he had seen, recognized. The cab was gone, he knew, gone like a
breath of wind. The briefcase was also gone--

       *       *       *       *       *

He gave the address of the Essex University Hospital to the cabby, and
settled back in the seat, gripping the hand-guard tightly to fight down
the returning pain in his side and leg. His mind was whirling, fighting
in a welter of confusion, trying to find some avenue of approach, some
way to make sense of the mess. The face in the cab recurred again and
again before his eyes, the gaunt, putty-colored cheeks, the sharp
glittering eyes. His acquaintance with Frank Mariel had been brief and
unpleasant, in the past, but that was a face he would never forget. But
how could Mariel have known where he would be, and when? There was
precision in that attack, far too smooth precision ever to have been
left to chance, or even to independent planning. His mind skirted the
obvious a dozen times, and each time rejected it angrily. Finally he
knew he could no longer reject the thought, the only possible answer.
Mariel had known where he would be, and at what time. Therefore, someone
must have told him.

He stiffened in the seat, the pain momentarily forgotten. Only one
person could have told Mariel. Only one person knew where the file was,
and where it would be after he left the restaurant--he felt cold
bitterness creep down his spine. She had known, and sat there making
eyes at him, and telling him how wonderful he was, how she was with him
no matter what happened--and she'd already sold him down the river. He
shook his head angrily, trying to keep his thoughts on a rational plane.
_Why?_ Why had she strung him along, why had she even started to help
him? And why, above all, turn against her own father?

The Hospital driveway crunched under the cab, and he hopped out, wincing
with every step, and walked into a phone booth off the lobby. He gave a
name, and in a moment heard the P.A. system echoing it: "Dr. Prex;
calling Dr. Prex." In a moment he heard a receiver click off, and a
familiar voice said, "Prex speaking."

"Prex, this is Shandor. Got a minute?"

The voice was cordial. "Dozens of them. Where are you?"

"I'll be up in your quarters." Shandor slammed down the receiver and
started for the elevator to the Resident Physicians' wing.

He let himself in by a key, and settled down in the darkened room to
wait an eternity before a tall, gaunt man walked in, snapped on a light,
and loosened the white jacket at his neck. He was a young man, no more
than thirty, with a tired, sober face and jet black hair falling over
his forehead. His eyes lighted as he saw Shandor, and he grinned. "You
look like you've been through the mill. What happened?"

Shandor stripped off his clothes, exposing the angry red of the seared
skin. The tall man whistled softly, the smile fading. Carefully he
examined the burned area, his fingers gentle on the tender surface, then
he turned troubled eyes to Shandor. "You've been messing around with
dirty guys, Tom. Nobody but a real dog would turn a scalder on a man."
He went to a cupboard, returned with a jar of salve and bandages.

"Is it serious?" Shandor's face was deathly white. "I've been fighting
shock with thiamin for the last hour, but I don't think I can hold out
much longer."

Prex shrugged. "You didn't get enough to do any permanent damage, if
that's what you mean. Just fried the pain-receptors in your skin to a
crisp, is all. A little dose is so painful you can't do anything but
holler for a while, but it won't hurt you permanently unless you get it
all over you. Enough can kill you." He dressed the burned areas
carefully, then bared Shandor's arm and used a pressure syringe for a
moment. "Who's using one of those things?"

Shandor was silent for a moment. Then he said, "Look, Prex. I need some
help, badly." His eyes looked up in dull anger. "I'm going to see a man
tonight, and I want him to talk, hard and fast. I don't care right now
if he nearly dies from pain, but I want him to talk. I need somebody
along who knows how to make things painful."

Prex scowled, and pointed to the burn. "This the man?"

"That's the man."

Prex put away the salve. "I suppose I'll help you, then. Is this
official, or grudge?"

"A little of both. Look, Prex, I know this is a big favor to ask, but
it's on the level. Believe me, it's square, nothing shady about it. The
method may not be legal, but the means are justified. I can't tell you
what's up, but I'm asking you to trust me."

Prex grinned. "You say it's all right, it's all right. When?"

Shandor glanced at his watch. "About 3:00 this morning, I think. We can
take your car."

They talked for a while, and a call took the doctor away. Shandor slept
a little, then made some black coffee. Shortly before three the two men
left the Hospital by the Physicians' entrance, and Prex's little beat-up
Dartmouth slid smoothly into the desultory traffic for the suburbs.

       *       *       *       *       *

The apartment was small and neatly furnished. Shandor and the Doctor had
been admitted by a sleepy doorman who had been jolted to sudden
attention by Tom's PIB card, and after five minutes pounding on the
apartment door, a sleepy-eyed man opened the door a crack. "Say, what's
the idea pounding on a man's door at this time of night? Haven't you--"

Shandor gave the door a shove with his shoulder, driving it open into
the room. "Shut up," he said bluntly. He turned so the light struck his
face, and the little man's jaw dropped in astonishment. "Shandor!" he
whispered.

Frank Mariel looked like a weasel--sallow, sunken-cheeked, with a
yellowish cast to his skin that contrasted unpleasantly with the coal
black hair. "That's right," said Shandor. "We've come for a little talk.
Meet the doctor."

Mariel's eyes shifted momentarily to Prex's stoney face, then back to
Shandor, ghosts of fear creeping across his face. "What do you want?"

"I've come for the files."

The little man scowled. "You've come to the wrong man. I don't have any
files."

Prex carefully took a small black case from his pocket, unsnapped a
hinge, and a small, shiny instrument fell out in his hand. "The files,"
said Shandor. "Who has them?"

"I--I don't know--"

Shandor smashed a fist into the man's face, viciously, knocking him
reeling to the floor. "You tried to kill me tonight," he snarled. "You
should have done it up right. You should stick to magazine editing and
keep your nose out of dirty games, Mariel. Who has the files?"

Mariel picked himself up, trembling, met Shandor's fist, and sprawled
again, a trickle of blood appearing at his mouth. "Harry Dartmouth has
the files," he groaned. "They're probably in Chicago now."

"What do you know about Harry Dartmouth?"

Mariel gained a chair this time before Shandor hit him. "I've only met
him a couple of times. He's the president of Dartmouth Bearing
Corporation and he's my boss--Dartmouth Bearing publishes '_Fighting
World_.' I do what he tells me."

Shandor's eyes flared. "Including murder, is that right?" Mariel's eyes
were sullen. "Come on, talk! Why did Dartmouth want Ingersoll's personal
files?"

The man just stared sullenly at the floor. Prex pressed a stud on the
side of the shiny instrument, and a purple flash caught Mariel's little
finger. Mariel jerked and squealed with pain. "Speak up," said Shandor.
"I didn't hear you."

"Probably about the bonds," Mariel whimpered. His face was ashen, and he
eyed Prex with undisguised pleading. "Look, tell him to put that thing
away--"

Shandor grinned without humor. "You don't like scalders, eh? Get a big
enough dose, and you're dead, Mariel--but I guess you know that, don't
you? Think about it. But don't think too long. What about the bonds?"

"Ingersoll has been trying to get Dartmouth Bearing Corporation on legal
grounds for years. Something about the government bonds they held,
bought during the China wars. You know, surplus profits--Dartmouth
Bearing could beat the taxes by buying bonds. Harry Dartmouth thought
Ingersoll's files had some legal dope against them--he was afraid you'd
try to make trouble for the company--"

"So he hired his little pixie, eh? Seems to me you'd have enough on your
hands editing that rag--"

Mariel shot him an injured look. "'_Fighting World_' has the second
largest magazine circulation in the country. It's a good magazine."

"It's a warmonger propaganda rag," snapped Shandor. He glared at the
little man. "What's your relation to Ingersoll?"

"I hated his guts. He was carrying his lily-livered pacifism right to
the White House, and I couldn't see it. So I fought him every inch of
the way. I'll fight what he stands for now he's dead--"

Shandor's eyes narrowed. "That was a mistake, Mariel. You weren't
supposed to know he is dead." He walked over to the little man, whose
face was a shade whiter yet. "Funny," said Shandor quietly. "You say you
hated him, but I didn't get that impression at all."

Mariel's eyes opened wide. "What do you mean?"

"Everything you wrote for PIB seems to have treated him kindly."

A shadow of deep concern crossed Mariel's face, as though for the first
time he found himself in deep water. "PIB told me what to write, and I
wrote it. You know how they work."

"Yes, I know how they work. I also know that most of your writing, while
you were doing Public Information Board work, was never ordered by PIB.
Ever hear of Ben Chamberlain, Mariel? Or Frank Eberhardt? Or Jon
Harding? Ever hear of them, Mariel?" Shandor's voice cut sharply through
the room. "Ben Chamberlain wrote for every large circulation magazine in
the country, after the Chinese war. Frank Eberhardt was the man behind
Associated Press during those years. Jon Harding was the silent
publisher of three newspapers in Washington, two in New York, and one in
Chicago. Ever hear of those men, Mariel?"

"No, no--"

"You know damned well you've heard of them. Because _those men were all
you_. Every single one of them--" Shandor was standing close to him,
now, and Mariel sat like he had seen a ghost, his lower lip quivering,
forehead wet. "No, no, you're wrong--"

"No, no, I'm right," mocked Shandor. "I've been in the newspaper racket
for a long time, Mariel. I've got friends in PIB--real friends, not the
shamus crowd you're acquainted with that'll take you for your last
nickel and then leave you to starve. Never mind how I found out. You
hated Ingersoll so much you handed him bouquets all the time. How about
it, Mariel? All that writing--you couldn't praise him enough. Boosting
him, beating the drum for him and his policies--every trick and gimmick
known in the propaganda game to give him a boost, make him the people's
darling--how about it?"

Mariel was shaking his head, his little eyes nearly popping with fright.
"It wasn't him," he choked. "Ingersoll had nothing to do with it. It was
Dartmouth Bearing. They bought me into the spots. Got me the newspapers,
supported me. Dartmouth Bearing ran the whole works, and they told me
what to write--"

"Garbage! Dartmouth Bearing--the biggest munitions people in America,
and I'm supposed to believe that they told you to go to bat for the
country's strongest pacifist! What kind of sap do you take me for?"

"It's true! Ingersoll had nothing to do with it, nothing at all."
Mariel's voice was almost pleading. "Look, I don't know what Dartmouth
Bearing had in mind. Who was I to ask questions? You don't realize their
power, Shandor. Those bonds I spoke of--they hold millions of dollars
worth of bonds! They hold enough bonds to topple the economy of the
nation, they've got bonds in the names of ten thousand subsidiary
companies. They've been telling Federal Economics Commission what to do
for the past ten years! And they're getting us into this war,
Shandor--lock, stock and barrel. They pushed for everything they could
get, and they had the money, the power, the men to do whatever they
wanted. You couldn't fight them, because they had everything sewed up so
tight nobody could approach them--"

Shandor's mind was racing, the missing pieces beginning, suddenly, to
come out of the haze. The incredible, twisted idea broke through again,
staggering him, driving through his mind like icy steel. "Listen,
Mariel. I swear I'll kill you if you lie to me, so you'd better tell the
truth. Who put you on my trail? Who told you Ingersoll was dead, and
that I was scraping up Ingersoll's past?"

The little man twisted his hands, almost in tears. "Harry Dartmouth told
me--"

"And who told Harry Dartmouth?"

Mariel's voice was so weak it could hardly be heard. "The girl," he
said.

Shandor felt the chill deepen. "And where are the files now?"

"Dartmouth has them. Probably in Chicago--I expressed them. The girl
didn't dare send them direct, for fear you would check, or that she was
being watched. I was supposed to pick them up from you, and see to it
that you didn't remember--"

Shandor clenched his fist. "Where are Dartmouth's plants located?"

"The main plants are in Chicago and Newark. They've got a smaller one in
Nevada."

"And what do they make?"

"In peacetime--cars. In wartime they make tanks and shells."

"And their records? Inventories? Shipping orders, and files? Where do
they keep them?"

"I--I don't know. You aren't thinking of--"

"Never mind what I'm thinking of, just answer up. Where are they?"

"All the administration offices are in Chicago. But they'd kill you,
Shandor--you wouldn't stand a chance. They can't be fought, I tell you."

Shandor nodded to Prex, and started for the door. "Keep him here until
dawn, then go on home, and forget what you heard. If anything happens,
give me a ring at my home." He glared at Mariel. "Don't worry about me,
bud--they won't be doing anything to me when I get through with them.
They just won't be doing anything at all."

       *       *       *       *       *

The idea had crystallized as he talked to Mariel. Shandor's mind was
whirling as he walked down toward the thoroughfare. Incredulously, he
tried to piece the picture together. He had known Dartmouth Bearing was
big--but that big? Mariel might have been talking nonsense, or he might
have been reading the Gospel. Shandor hailed a cab, sat back in the seat
scratching his head. How big could Dartmouth Bearing be? Could _any_
corporation be that big? He thought back, remembering the rash of
post-war scandals and profit-gouging trials, the anti-trust trials. In
wartime, bars are let down, _no one_ can look with disfavor on the
factories making the weapons. And if one corporation could buy, and
expand, and buy some more--it might be too powerful to be prosecuted
after the war--

Shandor shook his head, realizing that he was skirting the big issue.
Dartmouth Bearing connected up, in some absurd fashion, but there was a
missing link. Mariel fit into one side of the puzzle, interlocking with
Dartmouth. The stolen files might even fit, for that matter. But the
idea grew stronger. A great, jagged piece in the middle of the puzzle
was missing--the key piece which would tie everything together. He felt
his skin prickle as he thought. An impossible idea--and yet, he
realized, if it were true, everything else would fall clearly into
place--

He sat bolt upright. It _had_ to be true--

He leaned forward and gave the cabby the landing field address, then sat
back, feeling his pulse pounding through his arms and legs. Nervously he
switched on the radio. The dial fell to some jazz music, which he
tolerated for a moment or two, then flipped to a news broadcast. Not
that news broadcasts really meant much, but he wanted to hear the
Ingersoll story release for the day. He listened impatiently to a
roundup of local news: David Ingersoll stricken with pneumonia, three
Senators protesting the current tax bill--he brought his attention
around sharply at the sound of a familiar name--

"--disappeared from his Chicago home early this morning. Mr. Dartmouth
is president of Dartmouth Bearing Corporation, currently engaged in the
manufacture of munitions for Defense, and producing much of the
machinery being used in the Moon-rocket in Arizona. Police are following
all possible leads, and are confident that there has been no foul play.

"On the international scene, the Kremlin is still blocking--" Shandor
snapped off the radio abruptly, his forehead damp. Dartmouth
disappeared, and with him the files--why? And where to go now to find
them? If the idea that was plaguing him was true, sound, valid--he'd
_have_ to have the files. His whole body was wet with perspiration as he
reached the landing field.

The trip to the Library of Congress seemed endless, yet he knew that the
Library wouldn't be open until 8:00 anyway. Suddenly he felt a wave of
extreme weariness sweep over him--when had he last slept? Bored, he
snapped the telephone switch and rang PIB offices for his mail. To his
surprise, John Hart took the wire, and exploded in his ear, "Where in
hell have you been? I've been trying to get you all night. Listen, Tom,
drop the Ingersoll story cold, and get in here. The faster the better."

Shandor blinked. "Drop the story? You're crazy!"

"_Get in here!_" roared Hart. "From now on you've _really_ got a job.
The Berlin Conference blew up tonight, Tom--high as a kite. _We're at
war with Russia--_"

Carefully, Shandor plopped the receiver down on its hook, his hands like
ice. Just one item first, he thought, just one thing I've got to know.
_Then_ back to PIB, maybe.

He found a booth in the Library, and began hunting, time pressing him
into frantic speed. The idea was incredible, but it _had_ to be true.
He searched the micro-film files for three hours before he found it, in
a "Who's Who" dating back to 1958, three years before the war with
China. A simple, innocuous listing, which froze him to his seat. He read
it, unbelievingly, yet knowing that it was the only possible link.
Finally he read it again.

David P. Ingersoll. Born 1922, married 1947. Educated at Rutgers
University and MIT. Worked as administrator for International Harvester
until 1955. Taught Harvard University from 1955 to 1957.

David P. Ingersoll, becoming, in 1958, the executive president of
Dartmouth Bearing Corporation....

       *       *       *       *       *

He found a small, wooded glade not far from the Library, and set the
'copter down skillfully, his mind numbed, fighting to see through the
haze to the core of incredible truth he had uncovered. The great, jagged
piece, so long missing, was suddenly plopped right down into the middle
of the puzzle, and now it didn't fit. There were still holes, holes that
obscured the picture and twisted it into a nightmarish impossibility. He
snapped the telephone switch, tried three numbers without any success,
and finally reached the fourth. He heard Dr. Prex's sharp voice on the
wire.

"Anything happen since I left, Prex?"

"Nothing remarkable." The doctor's voice sounded tired. "Somebody tried
to call Mariel on the visiphone about an hour after you had gone, and
then signed off in a hurry when he saw somebody else around. Don't know
who it was, but he sounded mighty agitated." The doctor's voice paused.
"Anything new, Tom?"

"Plenty," growled Shandor bitterly. "But you'll have to read it in the
newspapers." He flipped off the connection before Prex could reply.

Then Shandor sank back and slept, the sleep of total exhaustion, hoping
that a rest would make the shimmering, indefinite picture hold still
long enough for him to study it. And as he drifted into troubled sleep a
greater and more pressing question wormed upward into his mind.

He woke with a jolt, just as the sun was going down, and he knew then
with perfect clarity what he had to do. He checked quickly to see that
he had been undisturbed, and then manipulated the controls of the
'copter. Easing the ship into the sky toward Washington, he searched out
a news report on the radio, listened with a dull feeling in the pit of
his stomach as the story came through about the breakdown of the Berlin
Conference, the declaration of war, the President's meeting with
Congress that morning, his formal request for full wartime power, the
granting of permission by a wide-eyed, frightened legislature. Shandor
settled back, staring dully at the ground moving below him, the whisps
of evening haze rising over the darkening land. There was only one thing
to do. He had to have Ingersoll's files. He knew only one way to get
them.

Half an hour later he was settling the ship down, under cover of
darkness, on the vast grounds behind the Ingersoll estate, cutting the
motors to effect a quiet landing. Tramping down the ravine toward the
huge house, he saw it was dark; down by the gate he could see the
Security Guard, standing in a haze of blue cigarette smoke under the
dim-out lights. Cautiously he slipped across the back terrace, crossing
behind the house, and jangled a bell on a side porch.

Ann Ingersoll opened the door, and gasped as Shandor forced his way in.
"Keep quiet," he hissed, slipping the door shut behind him. Then he
sighed, and walked through the entrance into the large front room.

"Tom! Oh, Tom, I was afraid-- Oh, _Tom_!" Suddenly she was in his arms
sobbing, pressing her face against his shirt front. "Oh, I'm so glad to
see you, Tom--"

He disengaged her, turning from her and walking across the room. "Let's
turn it off, Ann," he said disgustedly. "It's not very impressive."

"Tom--I--I _wanted_ to tell you. I just didn't know what to do. I didn't
believe them when they said you wouldn't be harmed, I was afraid. Oh,
Tom, I wanted to tell you, believe me--"

"You didn't tell me," he snapped. "They were nervous, they slipped up.
That's the only reason I'm alive. They planned to kill me."

She stared at him tearfully, shaking her head from side to side,
searching for words. "I--I didn't want that--"

He whirled, his eyes blazing. "You silly fool, what do you think you're
doing when you play games with a mob like this? Do you think they're
going to play fair? You're no clod, you know better than that--" He
leaned over her, trembling with anger. "You set me up for a sucker, but
the plan fell through. And now I'm running around loose, and if you
thought I was dangerous before, you haven't seen anything like how
dangerous I am now. You're going to tell me some things, now, and you're
going to tell them straight. You're going to tell me where Harry
Dartmouth went with those files, where they are right now. Understand
that? _I want those files._ Because when I have them I'm going to do
exactly what I started out to do. I'm going to write a story, the whole
rotten story about your precious father and his two-faced life. I'm
going to write about Dartmouth Bearing Corporation and all its flunky
outfits, and tell what they've done to this country and the people of
this country." He paused, breathing heavily, and sank down on a chair,
staring at her. "I've learned things in the past twenty-four hours I
never dreamed could be true. I should be able to believe anything, I
suppose, but these things knocked my stilts out from under me. This
country has been had--right straight down the line, for a dozen years.
We've been sold down the river like a pack of slaves, and now we're
going to get a look at the cold ugly truth, for once."

She stared at him. "What do you mean--about my precious father--?"

"Your precious father was at the bottom of the whole slimy mess."

"No, no--not dad." She shook her head, her face chalky. "Harry
Dartmouth, maybe, but not dad. Listen a minute. I didn't set you up for
anything. I didn't know what Dartmouth and Mariel were up to. Dad left
instructions for me to contact Harry Dartmouth immediately, in case he
died. He told me that--oh, a year ago. Told me that before I did
anything else, I should contact Dartmouth, and do as he said. So when he
died, I contacted Harry, and kept in contact with him. He told me you
were out to burn my father, to heap garbage on him after he was dead
before the people who loved him, and he said the first thing you would
want would be his personal files. Tom, I didn't know you, then--I knew
Harry, and knew that dad trusted him, for some reason, so I believed
him. But I began to realize that what he said wasn't true. I got the
files, and he said to give them to you, to string you along, and he'd
pick them up from you before you had a chance to do any harm with them.
He said he wouldn't hurt you, but I--I didn't believe him, Tom. I
believed you, that you wanted to give dad a fair shake--"

Shandor was on his feet, his eyes blazing. "So you turned them over to
Dartmouth anyway? And what do you think he's done with them? Can you
tell me that? Where has he gone? Has he burnt them? If not, what's he
going to do with them?"

Her voice was weak, and she looked as if she were about to faint.
"That's what I'm trying to tell you," she said, shakily. "He doesn't
have them. I have them."

Shandor's jaw dropped. "Now, wait a minute," he said softly. "You gave
me the briefcase, Mariel snatched it and nearly killed me--"

"A dummy, Tom. I didn't know who to trust, but I knew I believed you
more than I believed Harry. Things happened so fast, and I was so
confused--" She looked straight at him. "I gave you a dummy, Tom."

His knees walked out from under him, then, and he sank into a chair.
"You've got them here, then," he said weakly.

"Yes. I have them here."

       *       *       *       *       *

The room was in the back of the house, a small, crowded study, with a
green-shaded desk lamp. Shandor dumped the contents of the briefcase
onto the desk, and settled down, his heart pounding in his throat. He
started at the top of the pile, sifting, ripping out huge sheafs of
papers, receipts, notes, journals, clippings. He hardly noticed when the
girl slipped out of the room, and he was deep in study when she returned
half an hour later with steaming black coffee. With a grunt of thanks he
drank it, never shifting his attention from the scatter of papers,
papers from the personal file of a dead man. And slowly, the picture
unfolded.

An ugly picture. A picture of deceit, a picture full of lies, full of
secret promises, a picture of scheming, of plotting, planning,
influencing, coercing, cheating, propagandizing--all with one
single-minded aim, with a single terrible goal.

Shandor read, numbly, his mind twisting in protest as the picture
unfolded. David Ingersoll's control of Dartmouth Bearing Corporation and
its growing horde of subsidiaries under the figurehead of his protege,
Harry Dartmouth. The huge profits from the Chinese war, the relaxation
of control laws, the millions of war-won dollars ploughed back into
government bonds, in a thousand different names, all controlled by
Dartmouth Bearing Corporation--

And Ingersoll's own work in the diplomatic field--an incredibly
skillful, incredibly evil channeling of power and pressure toward the
inevitable goal, hidden under the cloak of peaceful respectability and
popular support. The careful treaties, quietly disorganizing a dozen
national economics, antagonizing the great nation to the East under the
all too acceptable guise of "peace through strength." Reciprocal trade
agreements bitterly antagonistic to Russian economic development. The
continual bickering, the skillful manipulation hidden under the powerful
propaganda cloak of a hundred publications, all coursing to one
ultimate, terrible goal, all with one purpose, one aim--

War. War with anybody, war in the field and war on the diplomatic front.
Traces even remained of the work done within the enemy nations, bitter
anti-Ingersoll propaganda from within the ranks of Russia herself,
manipulated to strengthen Ingersoll in America, to build him up, to
drive the nations farther apart, while presenting Ingersoll as the
pathetic prince of world peace, fighting desperately to stop the
ponderous wheels of the irresistible juggernaut--

And in America, the constant, unremitting literary and editorial
drumbeating, pressuring greater war preparation, distilling hatreds in a
thousand circles, focussing them into a single channel. Tremendous
propaganda pressure to build armies, to build weapons, to get the
Moon-rocket project underway--

Shandor sat back, eyes drooping, fighting to keep his eyes open. His
mind was numb, his body trembling. A sheaf of papers in a separate
folder caught his eye, production records of the Dartmouth Bearing
Corporation, almost up to the date of Ingersoll's death. Shandor
frowned, a snag in the chain drawing his attention. He peered at the
papers, vaguely puzzled. Invoices from the Chicago plant, materials for
tanks, and guns, and shells. Steel, chemicals. The same for the New
Jersey plant, the same with a dozen subsidiary plants. Shipments of
magnesium and silver wire to the Rocket Project in Arizona, carried
through several subsidiary offices. The construction of a huge
calculator for the Project in Arizona. Motors and materials, all for
Arizona--something caught his mind, brought a frown to his large bland
face, some off-key note in the monstrous symphony of production and
intrigue that threw up a red flag in his mind, screamed for attention--

And then he sipped the fresh coffee at his elbow and sighed, and looked
up at the girl standing there, saw her hand tremble as she steadied
herself against the desk, and sat down beside him. He felt a great
confusion, suddenly, a vast sympathy for this girl, and he wanted to
take her in his arms, hold her close, _protect_ her, somehow. She didn't
know, she _couldn't_ know about this horrible thing. She couldn't have
been a party to it, a part of it. He knew the evidence said yes, she
knows the whole story, she _helped_ them, but he also knew that the
evidence, somehow, was wrong, that somehow, he still didn't have the
whole picture--

She looked at him, her voice trembling. "You're wrong, Tom," she said.

He shook his head, helplessly. "I'm sorry. It's horrible, I know. But
I'm not wrong. This war was planned. We've been puppets on strings, and
one man engineered it, from the very start. Your father."

Her eyes were filled with tears, and she shook her head, running a tired
hand across her forehead. "You didn't know him, Tom. If you did, you'd
know how wrong you are. He was a great man, fine man, but above all he
was a _good_ man. Only a monster could have done what you're thinking.
Dad hated war, he fought it all his life. He couldn't be the monster you
think."

Tom's voice was soft in the darkened room, his eyes catching the
downcast face of the trembling girl, fighting to believe in a phantom,
and his hatred for the power that could trample a faith like that
suddenly swelled up in bitter hopeless rage. "It's here, on paper, it
can't be denied. It's hateful, but it's here, it's what I set out to
learn. It's not a lie this time, Ann, it's the truth, and this time it's
_got to be told_. I've written my last false story. This one is going to
the people the way it is. This one is going to be the truth."

He stopped, staring at her. The puzzling, twisted hole in the puzzle was
suddenly there, staring him in the face, falling down into place in his
mind with blazing clarity. Staring, he dived into the pile of papers
again, searching, frantically searching for the missing piece, something
he had seen, and passed over, the one single piece in the story that
didn't make sense. And he found it, on the lists of materials shipped to
the Nevada plant. Pig Iron. Raw magnesium. Raw copper. Steel, electron
tubes, plastics, from all parts of the country, all being shipped to the
Dartmouth Plant in Nevada--

_Where they made only_ shells--

At first he thought it was only a rumble in his mind, the shocking
realization storming through. Then he saw Ann jump up suddenly,
white-faced and race to the window, and he heard the small scream in her
throat. And then the rumbling grew louder, stronger, and the house
trembled. He heard the whine of jet planes scream over the house as he
joined her at the window, heard the screaming whines mingled with the
rumbling thunder. And far away, on the horizon, the red glare was
glowing, rising, burning up to a roaring conflagration in the black
night sky--

"Washington!" Her voice was small, infinitely frightened.

"Yes. That's Washington."

"Then it really _has_ started." She turned to him with eyes wide with
horror, and snuggled up to his chest like a frightened child. "Oh,
Tom--"

"It's here. What we've been waiting for. What your father started could
never be stopped any other way than this--"

The roar was louder now, rising to a whining scream as another squad of
dark ships roared overhead, moving East and South, jets whistling in the
night. "This is what your father wanted."

She was crying, great sobs shaking her shoulders. "You're wrong, you're
wrong--oh, Tom, you must be wrong--"

His voice was low, almost inaudible in the thundering roar of the
bombardment. "Ann, I've got to go ahead. I've got to go tonight. To
Nevada, to the Dartmouth plant there. I know I'm right, but I have to
go, to check something--to make sure of something." He paused, looking
down at her. "I'll be back, Ann. But I'm afraid of what I'll find out
there. I need you behind me. Especially with what I have to do, I need
you. You've got to decide. Are you for me? Or against me?"

She shook her head sadly, and sank into a chair, gently removing his
hands from her waist. "I loved my father, Tom," she said in a beaten
voice. "I can't help what he's done--I loved him. I--I can't be with
you, Tom."

       *       *       *       *       *

Far below him he could see the cars jamming the roads leaving
Washington. He could almost hear the noise, the screeching of brakes,
the fistfights, the shouts, the blatting of horns. He moved south over
open country, hoping to avoid the places where the 'copter might be
spotted and stopped for questioning. He knew that Hart would have an
alarm out for him by now, and he didn't dare risk being stopped until he
reached his destination, the place where the last piece to the puzzle
could be found, the answer to the question that was burning through his
mind. Shells were made of steel and chemicals. The tools that made them
were also made of steel. Not manganese. Not copper. Not electron relays,
nor plastic, nor liquid oxygen. Just steel.

The 'copter relayed south and then turned west over Kentucky. Shandor
checked the auxiliary tanks which he had filled at the Library landing
field that morning; then he turned the ship to robot controls and sank
back in the seat to rest. His whole body clamored for sleep, but he knew
he dare not sleep. Any slip, any contact with Army aircraft or Security
patrol could throw everything into the fire-- For hours he sat, gazing
hypnotically at the black expanse of land below, flying high over the
pitch-black countryside. Not a light showed, not a sign of life.

Bored, he flipped the radio button, located a news broadcast. "--the
bombed area did not extend west of the Appalachians. Washington DC was
badly hit, as were New York and Philadelphia, and further raids are
expected to originate from Siberia, coming across the great circle to
the West coast or the Middle west. So far the Enemy appears to have
lived up to its agreement in the Ingersoll pact to outlaw use of atomic
bombs, for no atomic weapons have been used so far, but the damage with
block-busters has been heavy. All citizens are urged to maintain
strictest blackout regulations, and to report as called upon in local
work and civil defense pools as they are set up. The attack began--"

Shandor sighed, checked his instrument readings. Far in the East the
horizon was beginning to lighten, a healthy, white-grey light. His
calculations placed him over Eastern Nebraska, and a few moments later
he nosed down cautiously and verified his location. Lincoln Airbase was
in a flurry of activity; the field was alive with men, like little black
ants, preparing the reserve fighters and pursuits for use in a fever of
urgent speed. Suddenly the 'copter radio bleeped, and Tom threw the
switch. "Over."

An angry voice snarled, "You up there, whoever you are, where'd you
leave your brains? No civilian craft are allowed in the air, and that's
orders straight from Washington. Don't you know there's a war on? Now
get down here, before you're shot down--"

Shandor thought quickly. "This is a Federal Security ship," he snapped.
"I'm just on a reconnaissance--"

The voice was cautious. "Security? What's your corroboration number?"

Shandor cursed. "JF223R-864. Name is Jerry Chandler. Give it a check if
you want to." He flipped the switch, and accelerated for the ridge of
hills that marked the Colorado border as the radio signal continued to
bleep angrily, and a trio of pursuit planes on the ground began warming
up. Shandor sighed, hoping they would check before they sent ships after
him. It might at least delay them until he reached his destination.

Another hour carried him to the heart of the Rockies, and across the
great salt fields of Utah. His fuel tanks were low, being emptied one by
one as the tiny ship sped through the bright morning sky, and Tom was
growing uneasy, until suddenly, far to the west and slightly to the
north he spotted the plant, nestling in the mountain foothills. It lay
far below, sprawling like some sort of giant spider across the rugged
terrain. Several hundred cars spread out to the south of the plant, and
he could see others speeding in from the temporary village across the
ridge. Everything was quiet, orderly. He could see the shipments,
crated, sitting in freight cars to the north. And then he saw the drill
line running over to the right of the plant. He followed it, quickly
checking a topographical map in the cockpit, and his heart started
pounding. The railroad branch ran between two low peaks and curved out
toward the desert. Moving over it, he saw the curve, saw it as it cut
off to the left--and seemed to stop dead in the middle of the desert
sand--

Shandor circled even lower, keeping one ear cocked on the radio, and
settled the ship on the railroad line. And just as he cut the motors, he
heard the shrill whine of three pursuit ships screaming in from the
Eastern horizon--

He was out of the 'copter almost as soon as it had touched, throwing a
jacket over his arm, and racing for the place where the drill line
ended. Because he had seen as he slid in for a landing, just what he had
suspected from the topographical map. The drill didn't end in the middle
of a desert at all. It went right on into the mountainside.

The excavation was quite large, the entrance covered and camouflaged
neatly to give the very impression that he had gotten from the air.
Under the camouflage the space was crowded, stacked with crates, boxes,
materials, stacked all along the walls of the tunnel. He followed the
rails in, lighting his way with a small pocket flashlight when the
tunnel turned a corner, cutting off the daylight. Suddenly the tunnel
widened, opening out into a much wider room. He sensed, rather than saw,
the immense size of the vault, smelt the odd, bitter odor in the air.
With the flashlight he probed the darkness, spotting the high, vaulted
ceiling above him. And below him--

At first he couldn't see, probing the vast excavation before him, and
then, strangely, he saw but couldn't realize what he saw. He stared for
a solid minute, uncomprehending, then, stifling a gasp, he _knew what he
was looking at_--

Lights. He had to have lights, to see clearly what he couldn't believe.
Frantically, he spun the flashlight, seeking a light panel, and then,
fascinated, he turned the little oval of light back to the pit. And then
he heard the barest whisper of sound, the faintest intake of breath, and
he ducked, frozen, as a blow whistled past his ear. A second blow from
the side caught him solidly in the blackness, grunting, flailing out
into a tangle of legs and arms, cursing, catching a foot in his face,
striking up into soft, yielding flesh--

And his head suddenly exploded into a million dazzling lights as he sank
unconscious to the ground--

       *       *       *       *       *

It was a tiny room, completely without windows, the artificial light
filtering through from ventilation slits near the top. Shandor sat up,
shaking as the chill in the room became painfully evident. A small
electric heater sat in the corner beaming valiantly, but the heat hardly
reached his numbed toes. He stood up, shaking himself, slapping his arms
against his sides to drive off the coldness--and he heard a noise
through the door as soon as he had made a sound.

Muted footsteps stopped outside the door, and a huge man stepped inside.
He looked at Shandor carefully, then closed the door behind him, without
locking it. "I'm Baker," he rasped cheerfully. "How are you feeling?"

Shandor rubbed his head, suddenly and acutely aware of a very sore nose
and a bruised rib cage. "Not so hot," he muttered. "How long have I been
out?"

"Long enough." The man pulled out a plug of tobacco, ripped off a chunk
with his teeth. "Chew?"

"I smoke." Shandor fished for cigarettes in an empty pocket.

"Not in here you don't," said Baker. He shrugged his huge shoulders and
settled affably down on a bench near the wall. "You feel like talking?"

Shandor eyed the unlocked door, and turned his eyes to the huge man.
"Sure," he said. "What do you want to talk about?"

"I don't want to talk about nothin'," the big man replied,
indifferently. "Thought you might, though."

"Are you the one that roughed me up?"

"Yuh." Baker grinned. "Hope I didn't hurt you much. Boss said to keep
you in one piece, but we had to hurry up, and take care of those Army
guys you brought in on your tail. That was dumb. You almost upset
everything."

Memory flooded back, and Shandor's eyes widened. "Yes--they followed me
all the way from Lincoln--what happened to them?"

Baker grinned and chomped his tobacco. "They're a long way away now.
Don't worry about them."

Shandor eyed the door uneasily. The latch hadn't caught, and the door
had swung open an inch or two. "Where am I?" he asked, inching toward
the door. "What--what are you planning to do to me?"

Baker watched him edging away. "You're safe," he said. "The boss'll talk
to you pretty soon if you feel like it--" He squinted at Tom in
surprise, pointing an indolent thumb toward the door. "You planning to
go out or something?"

Tom stopped short, his face red. The big man shrugged. "Go ahead. I
ain't going to stop you." He grinned. "Go as far as you can."

Without a word Shandor threw open the door, looked out into the concrete
corridor. At the end was a large, bright room. Cautiously he started
down, then suddenly let out a cry and broke into a run, his eyes wide--

He reached the room, a large room, with heavy plastic windows. He ran to
one of the windows, pulse pounding, and stared, a cry choking in his
throat. The blackness of the crags contrasted dimly with the inky
blackness of the sky beyond. Mile upon mile of jagged, rocky crags,
black rock, ageless, unaged rock. And it struck him with a jolt how
easily he had been able to run, how lightning-swift his movements. He
stared again, and then he saw what he had seen in the pit, standing high
outside the building on a rocky flat, standing bright and silvery, like
a phantom finger pointing to the inky heavens, sleek, smooth, resting on
polished tailfins, like an other-worldly bird poised for flight--

A voice behind him said, "You aren't really going anyplace, you know.
Why run?" It was a soft voice, a kindly voice, cultured, not rough and
biting like Baker's voice. It came from directly behind Shandor, and he
felt his skin crawl. He had heard that voice before--many times before.
Even in his dreams he had heard that voice. "You see, it's pretty cold
out there. And there isn't any air. You're on the Moon, Mr. Shandor--"

He whirled, his face twisted and white. And he stared at the small
figure standing at the door, a stoop-shouldered man, white hair slightly
untidy, crow's-feet about his tired eyes. An old man, with eyes that
carried a sparkle of youth and kindliness. The eyes of David P.
Ingersoll.

       *       *       *       *       *

Shandor stared for a long moment, shaking his head like a man seeing a
phantom. When he found words, his voice was choked, the words wrenched
out as if by force. "You're--you're alive."

"Yes. I'm alive."

"Then--" Shandor shook his head violently, turning to the window, and
back to the small, white-haired man. "Then your death was just a fake."

The old man nodded tiredly. "That's right. Just a fake."

Shandor stumbled to a chair, sat down woodenly. "I don't get it," he
said dully. "I just don't get it. The war--that--that I can see. I can
see how you worked it, how you engineered it, but this--" he gestured
feebly at the window, at the black, impossible landscape outside.
"This I can't see. They're bombing us to pieces, they're bombing out
Washington, probably your own home, your own family--last night--"
he stopped, frowning in confusion--"no, it couldn't have been last
night--two days ago?--well, whatever day it was, they were bombing us to
pieces, and you're up here--_why_? What's it going to get you? This
war, this whole rotten intrigue mess, and then _this_?"

The old man walked across the room and stared for a moment at the silent
ship outside. "I hope I can make you understand. We had to come here. We
had no choice. We couldn't do what we wanted any other way than to come
here--_first_. Before anybody else."

"But why _here_? They're building a rocket there in Arizona. They'll be
up here in a few days, maybe a few weeks--"

"Approximately forty-eight hours," corrected Ingersoll quietly. "Within
forty-eight hours the Arizona rocket will be here. If the Russian rocket
doesn't get here first."

"It doesn't make sense. It won't do you any good to be here if the Earth
is blasted to bits. Why come here? And why bring _me_ here, of all
people? What do you want with me?"

Ingersoll smiled and sat down opposite Shandor. "Take it easy," he said
gently. "You're here, you're safe, and you're going to get the whole
story. I realize that this is a bit of a jolt--but you had to be jolted.
With you I think the jolt will be very beneficial, since we want you
with us. That's why we brought you here. We need your help, and we need
it very badly. It's as simple as that."

Shandor was on his feet, his eyes blazing. "No dice. This is your game,
not mine. I don't want anything to do with it--"

"But you don't know the game--"

"I know plenty of the game. I followed the trail, right from the start.
I know the whole rotten mess. The trail led me all the way around Robin
Hood's barn, but it told me things--oh, it told me plenty! It told me
about you, and this war. And now you want me to help you! What do you
want me to do? Go down and tell the people it isn't really so bad being
pounded to shreds? Should I tell them they aren't really being bombed,
it's all in their minds? Shall I tell them this is a war to defend their
freedoms, that it's a great crusade against the evil forces of the
world? What kind of a sap do you think I am?" He walked to the window,
his whole body trembling with anger. "I followed this trail down to the
end, I scraped my way down into the dirtiest, slimiest depths of the
barrel, and I've found you down there, and your rotten corporations, and
your crowd of heelers. And on the other side are three hundred million
people taking the lash end of the whip on Earth, helping to feed you.
And you ask me to help you!"

"Once upon a time," Ingersoll interrupted quietly, "there was a fox."

Shandor stopped and stared at him.

"--and the fox got caught in a trap. A big bear trap, with steel jaws,
that clamped down on him and held him fast by the leg. He wrenched and
he pulled, but he couldn't break that trap open, no matter what he did.
And the fox knew that the farmer would come along almost any time to
open that bear trap, and the fox knew the farmer would kill him. He knew
that if he didn't get out of that trap, he'd be finished, sure as sin.
But he was a clever fox, and he found a way to get out of the bear
trap." Ingersoll's voice was low, tense in the still room. "Do you know
what he did?"

Shandor shook his head silently.

"It was a very simple solution," said Ingersoll. "Drastic, but simple.
_He gnawed off his leg._"

Another man had entered the room, a small, weasel-faced man with sallow
cheeks and slick black hair. Ingersoll looked up with a smile, but
Mariel waved him on, and took a seat nearby.

"So he chewed off his leg," Shandor repeated dully. "I don't get it."

"The world is in a trap," said Ingersoll, watching Shandor with quiet
eyes. "A great big bear trap. It's been in that trap for decades--ever
since the first World War. The world has come to a wall it can't climb,
a trap it can't get out of, a vicious, painful, torturous trap, and the
world has been struggling for seven decades to get out. It hasn't
succeeded. And the time is drawing rapidly nigh for the farmer to come.
Something had to be done, and done fast, before it was too late. The fox
had to chew off its leg. And I had to bring the world to the brink of a
major war."

Shandor shook his head, his mind buzzing. "I don't see what you mean. We
never had a chance for peace, we never had a chance to get our feet on
the ground from one round to the next. No time to do anything worthwhile
in the past seventy years--I don't see what you mean about a trap."

Ingersoll settled back in his chair, the light catching his face in
sharp profile. "It's been a century of almost continuous war," he said.
"You've pointed out the whole trouble. We haven't had time to catch our
breath, to make a real peace. The first World War was a sorry affair, by
our standards--almost a relic of earlier European wars. Trench fighting,
poor rifles, soap-box aircraft--nothing to distinguish it from earlier
wars but its scope. But twenty uneasy years went by, and another war
began, a very different sort of war. This one had fast aircraft, fast
mechanized forces, heavy bombing, and finally, to cap the climax,
atomics. That second World War could hold up its head as a real,
strapping, fighting war in any society of wars. It was a stiff war, and
a terrible one. Quite a bit of progress, for twenty years. But
essentially, it was a war of ideologies, just as the previous one had
been. A war of intolerance, of unmixable ideas--"

The old man paused, and drew a sip of water from the canister in the
corner. "Somewhere, somehow, the world had missed the boat. Those wars
didn't solve anything, they didn't even make a very strong pretense.
They just made things worse. Somewhere, human society had gotten into a
trap, a vicious circle. It had reached the end of its progressive
tether, it had no place to go, no place to expand, to great common goal.
So ideologies arose to try to solve the dilemma of a basically static
society, and they fought wars. And they reached a point, finally, where
they could destroy themselves unless they broke the vicious circle,
somehow."

Shandor looked up, a deep frown on his face. "You're trying to say that
they needed a new frontier."

"Exactly! They desperately needed it. There was only one more frontier
they could reach for. A frontier which, once attained, has no real end."
He gestured toward the black landscape outside. "There's the frontier.
Space. The one thing that could bring human wars to an end. A vast,
limitless frontier which could drive men's spirits upward and outward
for the rest of time. And that frontier seemed unattainable. It was
blocked off by a wall, by the jaws of a trap. Oh, they tried. After the
first war the work began. The second war contributed unimaginably to the
technical knowledge. But after the second war, they could go no further.
Because it cost money, it required a tremendous effort on the part of
the people of a great nation to do it, and they couldn't see why they
should spend the money to get to space. After all, they had to work up
the atomics and new weapons for the next war--it was a trap, as strong
and treacherous as any the people of the world had ever encountered.

"The answer, of course, was obvious. Each war brought a great surge of
technological development, to build better weapons, to fight bigger
wars. Some developments led to extremely beneficial ends, too--if it
hadn't been for the second war, a certain British biologist might still
be piddling around his understaffed, underpaid laboratory, wishing he
had more money, and wondering why it was that that dirty patch of mold
on his petri dish seemed to keep bacteria from growing--but the second
war created a sudden, frantic, urgent demand for something, anything,
that would _stop infection--fast_. And in no time, penicillin was in
mass production, saving untold thousands of lives. There was no question
of money. Look at the Manhattan project. How many millions went into
that? It gave us atomic power, for war, and for peace. For peaceful
purposes, the money would never have been spent. But if it was for the
sake of war--"

Ingersoll smiled tiredly. "Sounds insane, doesn't it? But look at the
record. I looked at the record, way back at the end of the war with
China. Other men looked at the record, too. We got together, and talked.
We knew that the military advantage of a rocket base on the moon could
be a deciding factor in another major war. Military experts had
recognized that fact back in the 1950's. Another war could give men the
technological kick they needed to get them to space--possibly _in time_.
If men got to space before they destroyed themselves, the trap would be
broken, the frontier would be opened, and men could turn their energies
away from destruction toward something infinitely greater and more
important. With space on his hands men could get along without wars. But
if we waited for peacetime to go to space, we might never make it. It
might be too late.

"It was a dreadful undertaking. I saw the wealth in the company I
directed and controlled at the end of the Chinese war, and the idea grew
strong. I saw that a huge industrial amalgamation could be undertaken,
and succeed. We had a weapon in our favor, the most dangerous weapon
ever devised, a thousand times more potent than atomics. Hitler used it,
with terrible success. Stalin used it. Haro-Tsing used it. Why couldn't
Ingersoll use it? Propaganda--a terrible weapon. It could make people
think the right way--it could make them think almost _any_ way. It made
them think war. From the end of the last war we started, with
propaganda, with politics, with money. The group grew stronger as our
power became more clearly understood. Mariel handled propaganda through
the newspapers, and PIB, and magazines--a clever man--and Harry
Dartmouth handled production. I handled the politics and diplomacy. We
had but one aim in mind--to bring about a threat of major war that would
drive men to space. To the moon, to a man-made satellite, _somewhere or
anywhere_ to break through the Earth's gravity and get to space. And we
aimed at a controlled war. We had the power to do it, we had the money
and the plants. We just had to be certain it wasn't the _ultimate_ war.
It wasn't easy to make sure that atomic weapons wouldn't be used this
time--but they will not. Both nations are too much afraid, thanks to our
propaganda program. They both leaped at a chance to make a face-saving
agreement. And we hoped that the war could be held off until we got to
the moon, and until the Arizona rocket project could get a ship launched
for the moon. The wheels we had started just moved too fast. I saw at
the beginning of the Berlin Conference that it would explode into war,
so I decided the time for my 'death' had arrived. I had to come here, to
make sure the war doesn't go on any longer than necessary."

Shandor looked up at the old man, his eyes tired. "I still don't see
where I'm supposed to fit in. I don't see why you came here at all. Was
that a wild-goose chase I ran down there, learning about this?"

"Not a wild goose chase. The important work can't start, you see, until
the rocket gets here. It wouldn't do much good if the Arizona rocket got
here, to fight the war. It may come for war, but it must go back for
peace. We built this rocket to get us here first--built it from
government specifications, though they didn't know it. We had the plant
to build it in, and we were able to hire technologists _not_ to find the
right answers in Arizona until we were finished. Because the whole value
of the war-threat depended solely and completely upon our getting here
_first_. When the Arizona rocket gets to the moon, the war must be
stopped. Only then can we start the real 'operation Bear Trap.' That
ship, whether American or Russian, will meet with a great surprise when
it reaches the Moon. We haven't been spotted here. We left in darkness
and solitude, and if we were seen, it was chalked off as a guided
missile. We're well camouflaged, and although we don't have any sort of
elaborate base--just a couple of sealed rooms--we have a ship and we
have weapons. When the first ship comes up here, the control of the
situation will be in our hands. Because when it comes, it will be sent
back with an ultimatum to _all_ nations--to cease warfare, or suffer the
most terrible, nonpartisan bombardment the world has ever seen. A
pinpoint bombardment, from our ship, here on the Moon. There won't be
too much bickering I think. The war will stop. All eyes will turn to us.
And then the big work begins."

He smiled, his thin face showing tired lines in the bright light. "I
may die before the work is done. I don't know, nor care. I have no
successor, nor have we any plans to perpetuate our power once the work
is done. As soon as the people themselves will take over the work, the
job is theirs, because no group can hope to ultimately control space.
But first people must be sold on space, from the bottom up. They must be
forced to realize the implications of a ship on the moon. They must
realize that the first ship was the hardest, that the trap is sprung.
The amputation is a painful one, there wasn't any known anaesthetic, but
it will heal, and from here there is no further need for war. But the
people must see that, understand its importance. They've got to have the
whole story, in terms that they can't mistake. And that means a
propagandist--"

"You have Mariel," said Shandor. "He's had the work, the experience--"

"He's getting tired. He'll tell you himself his ideas are slow, he isn't
on his toes any longer. He needs a new man, a helper, to take his place.
When the first ship comes, his job is done." The old man smiled. "I've
watched you, of course, for years. Mariel saw that you were given his
job when he left PIB to edit '_Fighting World_.' He didn't think you
were the man, he didn't trust you--thought you had been raised too
strongly on the sort of gibberish you were writing. I thought you were
the only man we could use. So we let you follow the trail, and watched
to see how you'd handle it. And when you came to the Nevada plant, we
_knew_ you were the man we had to have--"

Shandor scowled, looking first at Ingersoll, then at Mariel's impassive
face. "What about Ann?" he asked, and his voice was unsteady. "She knew
about it all the time?"

"No. She didn't know anything about it. We were afraid she had upset
things when she didn't turn my files over to Dartmouth as he'd told her.
We were afraid you'd go ahead and write the story as you saw it then,
which would have wrecked our plan completely. As it was, she helped us
sidestep the danger in the long run, but she didn't know what she was
really doing." He grinned. "The error was ours, of course. We simply
underestimated our man. We didn't know you were that tenacious."

Shandor's face was haggard. "Look. I--I don't know what to think. This
ship in Arizona--how long? When will it come? How do you know it'll ever
come?"

"We waited until our agents there gave us a final report. The ship may
be leaving at any time. But there's no doubt that it'll come. If it
doesn't, one from Russia will. It won't be long." He looked at Shandor
closely. "You'll have to decide by then, Tom."

"And if I don't go along with you?"

"We could lose. It's as simple as that. Without a spokesman, the plan
could fall through completely. There's only one thing you need to make
your decision, Tom--faith in men, and a sure conviction that man was
made for the stars, and not for an endless circle of useless wars. Think
of it, Tom. That's what your decision means."

Shandor walked to the window, stared out at the bleak landscape, watched
the great bluish globe of earth, hanging like a huge balloon in the
black sky. He saw the myriad pinpoints of light in the blackness on all
sides of it, and shook his head, trying to think. So many things to
think of, so very many things--

"I don't know," he muttered. "I just don't know--"

       *       *       *       *       *

It was a long night. Ideas are cruel, they become a part of a man's
brain, an inner part of his chemistry, they carve grooves deep in his
mind which aren't easily wiped away. He knew he'd been living a lie, a
bitter, hopeless, endless lie, all his life, but a liar grows to believe
his own lies. Even to the point of destruction, he believes them. It was
so hard to see the picture, now that he had the last piece in place.

A fox, and a bear trap. Such a simple analogy. War was a hellish
proposition, it was cruel, it was evil. It could be lost, so very
easily. And it seemed so completely, utterly senseless to cut off one's
own leg--

And then he thought, somewhere, sometime, he'd see her again. Perhaps
they'd be old by then, but perhaps not--perhaps they'd still be young,
and perhaps she wouldn't know the true story yet. Perhaps he could be
the first to tell her, to let her know that he had been wrong-- Maybe
there could be a chance to be happy, on Earth, sometime. They might
marry, even, there might be children. To be raised for what? Wars and
wars and more wars? Or was there another alternative? Perhaps the stars
were winking brighter--

       *       *       *       *       *

A hoarse shout rang through the quiet rooms. Ingersoll sat bolt upright,
turned his bright eyes to Mariel, and looked down the passageway. And
then they were crowding to the window as one of the men snapped off the
lights in the room, and they were staring up at the pale bluish globe
that hung in the sky, squinting, breathless--

And they saw the tiny, tiny burst of brightness on one side of that
globe, saw a tiny whisp of yellow, cutting an arc from the edge, moving
farther and farther into the black circle of space around the Earth,
slicing like a thin scimitar, moving higher and higher, and then,
magically, winking out, leaving a tiny, evaporating trail behind it.

"You saw it?" whispered Mariel in the darkness. "You saw it, David?"

"Yes. I saw it." Ingersoll breathed deeply, staring into the blackness,
searching for a glimmer, a glint, some faint reassurance that it had not
been a mirage they had seen. And then Ingersoll felt a hand in his, Tom
Shandor's hand, gripping his tightly, wringing it, and when the lights
snapped on again, he was staring at Shandor, tears of happiness
streaming from his pale, tired eyes. "You saw it?" he whispered.

Shandor nodded, his heart suddenly too large for his chest, a peace
settling down on him greater than any he had ever known in his life.

"They're coming," he said.



Transcriber's Note:

    This etext was produced from _Fantastic Universe_ December 1957.
    Extensive research did not uncover any evidence that the U.S.
    copyright on this publication was renewed. Minor spelling and
    typographical errors have been corrected without note.





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