Mack Reynolds: Dawnman Planet

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Mack Reynolds Dawnman Planet
  • Название:
    Dawnman Planet
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    Condé Nast Publications, Inc.
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    Фантастика и фэнтези / на английском языке
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Dawnman Planet: краткое содержание, описание и аннотация

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Dawnman Planet

by Mack Reynolds



Supervisor Sid Jakes was in fine fettle. As his men inspected the papers of the VIPs at the door and finally ushered them into the highly guarded room, he took over and pleasured himself in presenting the exhibit.

The exhibit was in a square box which resembled a combination coffin and deep freeze, which is exactly what it was. The exhibit itself was a small charred creature about the size of a monkey or rabbit. However, signs of clothing or harness could be made out, and what would seem to be side arms.

The routine went almost identically with each visitor. At the door, Ronny Bronston, or one of the other Section G operatives, would finish the identification and call out such as, “Sidi Hassen, Hereditary Democratic-Dictator of the Free-wealth of the Planet Medina.”

The ruler of Medina would come forward, invariably blank of face; and with a gesture, as though presenting his most valued possession, Sid Jakes would indicate the exhibit.

The Section G agents had come to expect the same initial reaction each time.

It was: “What is it?”

Sid Jakes would grin happily, but hold his peace.

The VIP, his eyes probably bugging by now, would say, in absolute astonishment: “Why, it’s an alien life form!”

The sharper ones would sometimes say, that first time: “It’s an intelligent alien life form!”

Supervisor Jakes let them remain long enough to realize the full significance of the badly burned, deep-frozen carcass; then, invariably stemming a flow of questions, he would usher the VIP to an opposite door, where other Section G operatives took over.

The secret room cleared, they would begin all over again.

“His All Holiness, Innocency the Sixteenth, Presidor of the Holy Theocracy of the Planet Byzantium.”

His All Holiness would step forward and gape in turn at the charred body of the tiny creature. “It’s an intelligent alien life form! But there is no intelligent life in the galaxy, save Created man!”

There was only one break in the routine.

Ronny Bronston had been standing to one side for the nonce, while his two companions guarding the door processed the latest arrival.

One of them began to say, “The Supreme Matriarch Harriet Dos Passos of the Planet…”

Ronny snapped “She’s a fake!”

The newcomer darted in the direction of the freezer box which contained the alien carcass, yelling. “I’ve got a right…”

Ronny put out a foot, cold-bloodedly, and she went down, arms and legs going every which way.

“Sorry, lady,” he said. “Admission is by invitation only.”

“Get her, boys” Sid Jakes snapped, coming forward quickly himself. Ronny and the other two grabbed for the intruder.

But she was made of sterner stuff than they had assumed.

She rolled, bounced to her feet and scrambled toward the freezer.

She stared into its interior, eyes bugging as all eyes had bugged that morning. Finally, she turned and faced them, her expression unbelieving, as all expressions had been unbelieving. She turned to face four cold faces, four leveled Model H hand weapons.

Sid Jakes said, “If she makes one move, any move at all, muffle her.” He grinned at the intruder. “That was bad luck for you, the fact that you managed to see it, you silly flat. Do you think we’d go to this much security if it wasn’t ultra-important? Now, let’s have it. You’re obviously not Harriet Dos Passos. Who are you, how’d you get here, and who sent you?”

The other snapped, her voice not as yet shaky, “I’m Rita Daniels, from Interplanetary News. That’s the corpse of an intelligent alien life form in there. I’m not stupid. There isn’t supposed to be other intelligent life in the galaxy. Our viewers have a right to know what’s going on here in the Commissariat of Interplanetary Affairs. United Planets is a democratic…”

Sid Jakes interrupted, still grinning “You’d be surprised, my stute friend. Now, once again, who sent you?”

“My editor, of course. I demand…”

Sid Jakes made a gesture with his head at one of the Section G operatives. “Terry, take her over to Interrogation. Use Scop…”

The news-hen bleated protest, which was completely ignored.

“… to find out the names of every person who might remotely know about this romp of hers. The editor, possibly her husband, if she has one, the editor’s wife, secretaries, fellow reporters, absolutely everybody. Then send out men to round up every one of these. In turn, put them on Scop and get the names of everyone they might have mentioned this to.”

“How far do we follow it, Sid?” the agent, named Terry asked.

Sid Jakes laughed wryly, as though the question were foolish. “To the ultimate. Even though you wind up with everybody in Interplanetary News in Interrogation. We’ve got to have everybody who even suspects, or might possibly suspect, the existence of our little friend, here.” He made a gesture with a thumb at the alien in its box.

The agent nodded, then asked one last question: “After interrogation, what?”

Sid Jakes said flatly, “Then well have to memorywash her. Completely wash out this involved period, no matter how far back you have to go.”

The newswoman shrilled. “You can’t do that! Under United Planets law, I’ve got…”

Ronny Bronston shook his head at her. “You’re not in the hands of United Planets, in the ordinary sense of the word, girl friend. You’re in the hands of Section G.”

“But you’re a section of the Bureau of Investigation, Department of Justice of the Commissariat of Interplanetary Affairs! I have my rights!”

Sid Jakes didn’t bother to argue. He said to his other operative, “Get about it, Terry. This is bad. On your way over to Interrogation, if she makes any attempt to break away, muffle her, but tune your gun low. We don’t want her out for too long. She probably had no idea of what she was looking for, when she broke in here. Somewhere there was a leak, we’ve got to find the source of her knowledge that something was coming off. But, above all, we’ve got to prevent her from spreading what she saw.”

Terry said, “Right, Sid. Come along! You heard the Supervisor. One wrong move and you’re muffled; and, believe me, it hurts.”

Rita Daniel’s last protest, as she was marched out the door, was shrilled back over her shoulder. “You… can’t…do…”

“Famous last words.” Sid Jakes grinned at his two remaining men. “Come on boys, let’s finish. There’s only a few more to go.” He looked at Ronny approvingly. “That was a neat trick. How did you spot her?”

Ronny snorted deprecation. “She was too romantic. She was wearing makeup disguise, trying to resemble the real Matriarch. She’d have been better off altering the Tri-Di identification portrait in the credentials. We have no record of what the real Dos Passos looks like. She just recently came to office.”

They processed the remaining VIPs, then sealed the secret room and put it under armed guard.

Sid Jakes and Ronny Bronston, one of his favorite field men, went on to the conference hall, where they had been sending the viewers of the exhibition.

“Where’s the Chief?” Ronny asked. He was what could only be described as a very average man. It was one of his prime attributes as a Section G operative. He was of average height and weight. His face was pleasant enough, though hardly handsome—a somewhat colorless young man of about thirty. He was less than natty in dress and his hair had a slightly undisciplined trend. He had dark hair and brown eyes, and he absolutely never stood out in a crowd.

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