Mack Reynolds: Planetary Agent X

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Mack Reynolds Planetary Agent X
  • Название:
    Planetary Agent X
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    Ace Books
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    Фантастика и фэнтези / на английском языке
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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 said, “I beg your pardon?”

She said impatiently, “Are you going to be with the Section? If you are, I’ve got to clear you with your old job. You were in statistics over in New Copenhagen, weren’t you?”

Somehow it seemed far away now, the job he’d held for more than five years. “Oh, yes,” he said. “Yes, Commissioner Metaxa has given me an appointment.”

She looked up at him. “Probably to look for Tommy Paine.”

He was taken aback. “That’s right. How did you know?”

“There was talk. This Section is pretty well integrated.” She grimaced, but on her it looked good. “One big happy family. High interdepartmental morale. That sort of nonsense.” She flicked some switches. “You’ll find Supervisor Jakes through that door, one to your left, two to your right.”

He could have asked one what to his left and two what to his right, but evidently Irene Kasansky thought he had enough information to get him to his destination. She’d gone back to her work.

It was one turn to his left and two turns to his right. The door was lettered simply SIDNEY JAKES. He knocked and a voice shouted happily, “It’s open. It’s always open.”

Supervisor Jakes was as informal as his superior. His attire was on the happy-go-lucky side, more suited for sports wear than a fairly high ranking job in the ultra-staid Octagon.

He couldn’t have been much older than Ronny Bronston, but he had a nervous vitality about him that would have worn out the other in a few hours. He jumped up and shook hands. “You must be Bronston. Call me Sid.” He waved a hand at a typed report he’d been reading. “Now I’ve seen them all. They’ve just applied for entry to United Planets. Republic. What a name, eh?”

“What?” Ronny said.

“Sit down, sit down.” He rushed Ronny to a chair, saw him seated, returned to the desk and flicked an order box switch. “Irene,” he said, “do up a badge for Ronny, will you? You’ve got his code, haven’t you? Good. Send it over. Bronze, of course.”

Sid Jakes turned back to Ronny and grinned at him. He motioned to the report again. “What a name for a planet. Republic. Bunch of screwballs, again. Out in the vicinity of Sirius. Based their system on Plato’s Republic. Have to go the whole way. Don’t even speak Basic. Certainly not. They speak Ancient Greek. That’s going to be a neat trick, finding interpreters. How’d you like the Old Man?”

Ronny said, dazed at the conversational barrage, “Old Man? Oh, you mean Commissioner Metaxa.”

“Sure, sure,” Sid grinned, perching himself on the edge of the desk. “Did he give you that drink of tequila during working hours routine? He’d like to poison every new agent we get. What a character.”

The grin was infectious. Ronny said carefully, “Well, I did think his method of hiring a new man was a little—cavalier.”

“Cavalier, yet,” Sid Jakes chortled. “Look, don’t get the Old Man wrong. He knows what he’s doing.”

“But he took me on after only two or three minutes conversation.”

Jakes cocked his head to one side. “Oh? You think so? When did you first apply for interplanetary assignment, Ronny?”

“I don’t know, about three years ago.”

Jakes nodded. “Well, depend on it, you’ve been under observation for that length of time. At any one period, Section G is investigating possibly a thousand potential agents. We need men but qualifications are high.”

He hopped down from his position, sped around to the other side of the desk and lowered himself into his chair. “Don’t get the wrong idea, though. You’re not in. You’re on probation. Whatever the assignment the Old Man gave you, you’ve got to carry it out successfully before you’re full fledged.” He flicked the order-box switch and said, “Irene, where the devil’s Ronny’s badge?”

Ronny Bronston heard the office girl’s voice answer snappishly.

“All right, all right,” Jakes said. “I love you, too. Send it in when it comes.” He turned to Ronny. “What is your assignment?”

“He wants me to go looking for some firebrand nicknamed Tommy Paine. I’m supposed to arrest him. The commissioner said you’d give me details.”

Sid Jakes’ face went serious. He puckered up his lips. “Wow, that’ll be a neat trick to pull off,” he said. He flicked the order-box switch again. Irene’s voice snapped something before he could say anything and Sid Jakes grinned and said, “O.K., O.K., darling, but if this is the way you’re going to be I won’t marry you. Then what will the children say? Besides, that’s not what I called about. Have ballistics do up a model H gun for Ronny, will you? Be sure it’s adjusted to his code.”

He flicked off the order-box and turned back to Ronny. “I understand you’re familiar with hand guns. It’s in this report on you.”

Ronny nodded. He was just beginning to adjust to this free-wheeling character. “What will I need a gun for?”

Jakes laughed. “Ye Gods, you babe in the woods. Do you realize this Tommy Paine character has supposedly stirred up a couple of score wars, revolutions and revolts? Not to speak of having laid in his lap two or three dozen assassinations. He’s a quick lad with a gun. A regular Nihilist.”


Jakes chuckled. “When you’ve been in this Section for a while, you’ll be familiar with every screwball outfit man has ever dreamed up. The Nihilists were a European group, mostly Russian, back in the Nineteenth Century. They believed that by bumping off a few Grand Dukes and a Czar or so they could force the ruling class to grant reforms. Sometimes they were pretty ingenious. Blew up trains, that sort of thing.”

“Look here,” Ronny said, “what motivates this Paine fellow? What’s he get out of all this trouble he stirs up?”

“Search me. Nobody seems to know. Some think he’s a mental case. For one thing, he’s not consistent.”

“How do you mean?”

“Well, he’ll go to one planet and break his back trying to overthrow, say, feudalism. Then, possibly after being successful, he goes to another planet and devotes his energies to establishing the same socio-economic system.”

Ronny assimilated that. “You’re one of those who believes he exists?”

“Oh, he exists, all right, all right,” Sid Jakes said happily. “Matter of fact, I almost ran into him a few years ago.”

Ronny leaned forward. “I guess I ought to know about it. The more information I have, the better.”

“Sure, sure,” Jakes said. “This deal of mine was on one of the Aldebaran planets. A bunch of nature boys had settled there.”

“Nature boys?”

“Yeah. Back to nature. The trouble with the human race is that it’s got too far away from nature. So a whole flock of them landed on this planet. They call it Mother, of all things. They landed and set up a primitive society. Absolute stone age. No metals. Lived by the chase and by picking berries, wild fruit, that sort of thing. Not even any agriculture. Wore skins. Bows and arrows were the nearest thing they allowed themselves in the way of mechanical devices.”

“Good grief,” Ronny said.

“It was a laugh,” Jakes told him. “I was assigned there as Section G representative with the UP organization. Picture it. We had to wear skins for clothes. We had to confine ourselves to two or three long houses. Something like the American Iroquois lived in before Columbus. Their society on Mother was based on primitive communism. The clan, the phratry, the tribe. Their religion was mostly a matter of knocking into everybody’s head that any progress was taboo. Oh, it was great.”

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