Mack Reynolds: Planetary Agent X

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Mack Reynolds Planetary Agent X
  • Название:
    Planetary Agent X
  • Автор:
  • Издательство:
    Ace Books
  • Жанр:
    Фантастика и фэнтези / на английском языке
  • Год:
    1965
  • Язык:
    Английский
  • Рейтинг книги:
    4 / 5
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Planetary Agent X: краткое содержание, описание и аннотация

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This novel originally appeared in in two parts under the titles and .

Mack Reynolds: другие книги автора


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Ronny went through that door and to the left. There was another door, inconspicuously lettered ROSS METAXA, COMMISSIONER, SECTION G. Ronny knocked and the door opened.

Ross Metaxa was a man in the middle years, with a sour expression and moist eyes, as though he either drank too much or slept too little. He had been going through a wad of papers, but he looked up as Ronny entered.

“Sit down,” he said. “You’re Ronald Bronston, eh? What do they call you—Ronny? It says here you’ve got a sense of humor. That’s one of the first requirements in this lunatic department.”

Ronny sat down and tried to form some opinions of the other by his appearance. He was reminded of nothing so much as the stereotype city editor you saw in the historical romance Tri-Ds. All that was needed was for Metaxa to start banging on buttons and yelling something about tearing down the front page, whatever that meant.

Metaxa said, “It also says you have some queer hobbies. Judo, small weapons target shooting, mountain climbing—” He looked up from the reports, “Why does anybody climb mountains?”

Ronny said, “Nobody’s ever figured it out.” That didn’t seem to be enough, especially since Ross Metaxa was staring at him, so he added, “Possibly we keep doing it in hopes that someday somebody’ll find out.”

Ross Metaxa said sourly, “Not too much humor, please. You don’t act as though getting this position means much to you.”

Ronny said slowly, “I figured out some time ago that every young man on Earth yearns for a job that will send him shuttling from one planet to another. To achieve it they study, they sweat, they make all-out efforts to meet and suck up to anybody they think might help. Finally, when and if they get an interview for one of the few openings, they spruce up in their best clothes, put on their best party manners, present themselves as the sincere, high I.Q., ambitious young men that they are—and then flunk their chance. I decided I might as well be what I am.”

Ross Metaxa looked at him. “O.K.,” he said finally. “We’ll give you a try.”

Ronny said blankly, “You mean I’ve got the job?”

“That’s right.”

“I’ll be damned.”

“Probably,” Metaxa said. He yawned. “Do you know what Section G handles?”

“Well, no, but as for me, just so I get off Earth and see some of the galaxy.”

Metaxa had been sitting with his heels on his desk. Now he put them down and reached a hand into a drawer, to emerge with a brown bottle and two glasses. “Do you drink?” he said.

“Of course.”

“Even during working hours?” Metaxa scowled.

“When occasion calls.”

“Good,” Metaxa said. He poured two drinks. “You’ll get your fill of seeing the galaxy,” he said. “Not that there’s much to see. Men can settle only Earth-type planets, and after you’ve seen a couple of hundred you’ve seen them all.”

Ronny sipped at his drink, then blinked reproachfully down into the glass.

Metaxa said, “Good, eh? A kind of tequila they make on Deneb Eight. Bunch of Mexicans settled there.”

“What,” said Ronny hoarsely, “do they make it out of?”

“Lord only knows,” Metaxa said. “To get back to Section G: We’re Interplanetary Security. In short, Department Cloak and Dagger. Would you be willing to die for the United Planets, Bronston?”

That curve had come too fast. Ronny blinked again. “Only in emergency,” he said. “Who’d want to kill me?”

Metaxa poured another drink. “Many of the people you’ll be working with,” he said.

“Well, why? What will I be doing?”

“You’ll be representing United Planets,” Metaxa explained. “Representing United Planets in cases where the local situation is such that the folks you’re working among will be teed off at the organization.”

“Well, why are they members if they don’t like the UP?”

“That’s a good question,” Metaxa said. He yawned. “I guess I’ll have to go into my speech.” He finished his drink. “Now, shut up till I give you some background. You’re probably full of a lot of nonsense you picked up in school.”

Ronny shut up. He’d expected more of an air of dedication in the Octagon, particularly in such ethereal departments as that of Interplanetary Justice; however, he was a member now and not adverse to picking up some sophistication beyond the ken of the Earth-bound employees of UP.

The other’s voice took on a faraway, slightly bored tone. “It seems that most of the times man gets a really big idea, he goes off half cocked. Just one example. Remember when the ancient Hellenes exploded into the Mediterranean? A score of different city-states began sending out colonies, which in turn sprouted colonies of their own. Take Syracuse, on Sicily. Hardly was she established than, bingo, she sent off colonies to Southern Italy, and they in turn to Southern France, Corsica, the Balearics. Greeks were exploding all over the place, largely without adequate plans, without rhyme or reason. Take Alexander. Roamed off all the way to India, founding cities and colonies of Greeks all along the way.”

The older man shifted in his chair. “You wonder what I’m getting at, eh? Well, much the same thing is happening in man’s explosion into space, now that he has the ability to leave the solar system behind. Dashing off half cocked, in all directions. He’s flowing out over this section of the galaxy without plan, without rhyme or reason.” He paused, frowning. “I take that last back. He has reasons, all right—some of the screwiest. Religious reasons, racial reasons, idealistic reasons, political reasons, altruistic reasons and mercenary reasons.

“Inadequate ships, manned by small numbers of inadequate people, setting out to find their own planets, to establish themselves on one of the numberless uninhabited worlds that offer themselves to colonization and exploitation.”

Ronny cleared his throat. “Well, isn’t that a good thing, sir?”

Ross Metaxa looked at him and grunted. “What difference does it make if it’s good or not? It’s happening. We’re spreading our race out over tens of hundreds of new worlds in the most haphazard fashion. As a result, we of United Planets now have a chaotic mishmash on our hands. How we manage to keep as many planets in the organization as we do sometimes baffles me. I suppose most of them are afraid to drop out, conscious of the protection UP gives against each other.”

He picked up a report. “Here’s Monet, originally colonized by a bunch of painters, writers, musicians and such. They had dreams of starting a new race”—Metaxa snorted—“with everybody artists. They were all so impractical that they even managed to crash their ship on landing. For three hundred years they were uncontacted. What did they have in the way of government by that time? A military theocracy, something like the Aztecs of Pre-Conquest Mexico. A matriarchy, at that. And what’s their religion based on? That of ancient Phoenicia, including plenty of human sacrifice to good old Moloch. What can United Planets do about it, now that they’ve become a member? Work away very delicately, trying to get them to at least eliminate the child sacrifice phase of their culture. Will they do it? Hell, no, not if they can help it. The Head Priestess and her clique are afraid that if they don’t have the threat of sacrifice to hold over the people, they’ll be overthrown.”

Ronny was surprised. “I’d never heard of a member planet like that. Monet?”

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