Mack Reynolds: Planetary Agent X

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Mack Reynolds Planetary Agent X
  • Название:
    Planetary Agent X
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    Ace Books
  • Жанр:
    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 Bronston retraced the route of his first visit here. How long ago? It already seemed ages since his probationary appointment. Your life changed fast when you were in Section G.

Ross Metaxa’s brown bottle, or its twin, was sitting on his desk and he was staring at it glumly. He looked up and scowled.

“Ronald Bronston,” Ronny said. “Irene Kasansky told me to say I could have five minutes with you, and then you have an appointment with the Commissioner of Interplanetary Culture.”

“I remember you,” Metaxa said. “Have a drink. Interplanetary Culture, ha! The Xanadu Folk Dance Troupe. They dance nude. They’ve been touring the whole UP. Roaring success everywhere, obviously. Now they’re assigned to Virtue, a planet settled by a bunch of Fundamentalists. They want the troupe to wear Mother Hubbards. The Xanadu outfit is in a tizzy. They’ve been insulted. They claim they’re the most modest members of UP, that nudity has nothing to do with modesty. The government of Virtue says that’s fine but they wear Mother Hubbards or they don’t dance. Xanadu says it’ll withdraw from United Planets.”

Ronny Bronston said painfully, “Why not let them?”

Ross Metaxa poured himself a Denebian tequila, offered his subordinate a drink again with a motion of the bottle. Ronny shook his head.

Metaxa said, “If we didn’t take steps to soothe these things over, there wouldn’t be any United Planets. In any given century every member in the organization threatens to resign at least once. Even Earth. And then what’d happen? You’d have interplanetary war before you knew it. What’d you want, Ronny?”

“I’m about set to take up my search for this Tommy Paine.”

“Ah, yes, Tommy Paine. If you catch him, there are a dozen planets where he’d be eligible for the death sentence.”

Ronny cleared his throat. “There must be. What I wanted was the file on him, sir.”


“Yes, sir. I’ve got to the point where I want to cram up on everything we have on him. So far, all I’ve got is verbal information from individual agents and from Supervisor Jakes.”

“Don’t be silly, Ronny. There isn’t any file on Tommy Paine.”

Ronny stared at him.

Ross Metaxa said impatiently, “The very knowledge of the existence of the man is top secret. Isn’t that obvious? Suppose some reporter got the story and printed it. If our member planets knew there was such a man and that we haven’t been able to scotch him, why, they’d drop out of UP so fast the computers couldn’t keep up with it. There’s not one planet in ten that feels secure enough to lay itself open to subversion. Why, some of our planets are so far down the ladder of social evolution they live under primitive tribal society; their leaders, their wise men and witch-doctors, whatever you call them, are scared someone will come along and establish chattel slavery. Those planets that have a system based on slavery are scared to death of developing feudalism, and those that have feudalism are afraid of creeping capitalism. Those with an anarchistic basis—and we have several—are afraid of being subverted to statism, and those who have a highly developed government are afraid of anarchism. The socio-economic systems based on private ownership of property hate the very idea of socialism or communism, and vice versa, and those planets with state capitalism hate them both.”

He glared at Ronny. “What do you think the purpose of this Section is, Bronston? Our job is to keep our member planets from being afraid of each other. If they found that Tommy Paine and his group, if he’s got a group, were buzzing through the system subverting everything they could foul up, they’d drop out of UP and set up quarantines that a space mite couldn’t get through. No sir, there is no file on Tommy Paine and there never will be. And if any news of him spreads to the outside, this Section will emphatically deny he exists. I hope that’s clear.”

“Well, yes, sir,” Ronny said. The commissioner had been all but roaring toward the end.

The order box clicked on Ross Metaxa’s desk and he said loudly, “What?”

“Don’t yell at me,” Irene snapped back. “Ronny’s five minutes are up. You’ve got an appointment. I’m getting tired of this job. It’s a madhouse. I’m going to quit and get a job with Interplanetary Finance.”

“Oh, yeah,” Ross snarled. “That’s what you think. I’ve taken measures. Top security. I’ve warned off every Commissioner in UP. You can’t get away from me until you reach retirement age. Although I don’t know why I care. I hate nasty tempered women.”

“Huh!” she snorted and clicked off.

“There’s a woman for you,” Ross Metaxa growled at Ronny. “It’s too bad she’s indispensable. I’d love to fire her. Look, you go in and see Sid Jakes. Seems to me he said something about Tommy Paine this morning. Maybe it’s a lead.” He came to his feet. “So long and good luck, Ronny. I feel optimistic about you. I think you’ll get this Paine troublemaker.”

Which was more than Ronny Bronston thought.

Sid Jakes already had a visitor in his office, which didn’t prevent him from yelling, “It’s open,” when Ronny Bronston knocked.

He bounced from his chair, came around the desk and shook hands enthusiastically. “Ronny!” he said, his tone implying they were favorite brothers for long years parted. “You’re just in time.”

Ronny took in the office’s other occupant appreciatively. She was a small girl, almost tiny. He estimated her to be at least half Chinese, or maybe Indo-Chinese, the rest probably European or North American. She evidently favored her Asiatic blood—her dress was traditional Chinese, slit almost to the thigh Shanghai style.

Sid Jakes said, “Tog Lee Chang Chu… Ronny Bronston. You’ll be working together. Bloodhounding old Tommy Paine. A neat trick if you can pull it off. Well, are you all set to go?”

Ronny mumbled something to the girl in the way of amenity, then looked back at the supervisor. “Working together?” he said.

“That’s right. Lucky you, eh?”

Tog Lee Chang Chu said demurely, “Possibly Mr. Bronston objects to having a female assistant.”

Sid Jakes snorted, and hurried around his desk to resume his seat. “Does he look crazy? Who’d object to having you around day in and day out? Call him Ronny. Might as well get used to it. The two of you’ll be closer than man and wife.”

“Assistant?” Ronny said, bewildered. “What do I need an assistant for?” He turned his eyes to the girl. “No reflection on you, Miss… ah, Tog.”

Sid Jakes laughed easily. “Section G operatives always work in pairs, Ronny. Especially new agents. The advantages will come home to you as you go along. Look on Tog Lee Chang Chu as a secretary, a gal Friday. This isn’t her first assignment, of course. You’ll find her invaluable.”

The supervisor plucked a card from an order box. “Now, here’s the dope. Can you leave within four hours? There’s a UP Space Force cruiser going to Merlini; they can drop you off at New Delos. Fastest way you could possibly get there. The cruiser takes off from Neuve Alburquerque in, let’s see, three hours and forty-five minutes.”

“New Delos?” Ronny said, taking his eyes from the girl and trying to catch up with the grasshopper-like conversation of his superior.

“New Delos it is,” Jakes said happily. “With luck, you might catch him before he can get off the planet.” He chuckled at the other’s expression. “Look alive, Ronny! The quarry is flushed and on the run. Tommy Paine’s just assassinated the Immortal God-King of New Delos. A neat trick, eh?”

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