Warren Murphy: Dying Space

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    Dying Space
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When a garbageman in California is found skinned alive, Remo and Chiun figure it's a dirty business. When the same man starts showing up in the company of a tipsy lady scientist, they know something's really rotten. But finding out the new face belongs to an old foe - a deadly enemy they killed themselves - they know trouble's heading right for their laps, and they've got to move fast to keep from landing down in the dumps . . . for good. Hot on a trail littered with peril, Remo and Chiun head for Moscow where the KGB, the scientist, and the once-dead enemy of Sinanju teach them just who's going to bury whom? As they waste away in a Soviet prison, America's future is coming to a head - a warhead. And with Remo and Chiun incarcerated, the U.S. is going to be incinerated . . . unless, somehow, the odds shift to give the good guys a fighting chance . . .

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Warren Murphy

For Susan D.,

who masterminded


SCAM, and for the

House of Sinanju,

P.O. Box 1454

Secaucus, N. J. 07094


It was, welllll, awful, just awful, to have to work for Dr. Frances Payton-Holmes.

"I mean, welllll, I don't have to tell you, but the woman is a bitch, an absolute bitch. An octopus. She's always grabbing at me, and if she's not drunk—absolutely smashed—she's trying to get absolutely drunk. And if I try to stop her, she calls me a 'faggot fascist.' I don't care if she does have two Nobel prizes. If they gave out Nobels for drinking or being a disgusting sex maniac, the woman would have a closet full of them, an absolute closet full."

Ralph Dickey confided this to the man with the pleasant blue eyes, the open-throated shirt, and the two gold balls hanging from a chain around his neck.

The man understood. Really understood. "It must be awful," he said. "Still, you're a wonderful

symbol for all of us. A gay astrophysicist. How wonderful."

Dickey nodded. "If only I didn't have to work with that moray eel. I mean, truly, if she grabs me just one more time, I'm going to bite her breasts off."

"It must be terrible," the blue-eyed man said.

"The pits. The absolute pits. Yes, I know they hired me to be a nursemaid for this vampire because, God, they know she isn't my type. But really, I didn't think it would be like this. And who can I tell about it? Do you think anybody here knows astrophysics from anal sex?"

The man with the blue eyes understood. Really understood. Ralph Dickey could see that by the compassion in his absolutely wonderful, smashing blue eyes. It had been so long since Ralph had found someone to talk to—really talk to—somebody who understood.

And so Ralph Dickey talked, he really talked. About the special computer software lab on the UCLA campus that was so ugly. "I mean, it is really tacky. It looks like a roadside restroom, but you know how they are, worried about spies and everything. But it is deeeepressing. And then trying to get in in the morning, and you need a special magnetic card—I mean, it's right out of a James Bond movie, and all because of that stupid computer she's invented. But who cares about it?" And did the man with the smashing blue eyes want to dance?

No. Unfortunately, the man with the blue eyes had pulled a muscle in his leg at his modern dance class, but Ralph should go ahead; it would

give him pleasure to see Ralph dancing, and Ralph found a nice young man in a leather vest without a shirt and walked to the dance floor with him.

And when Ralph Dickey's back was turned, the man with the smashing blue eyes, Mikhail Andreyev Istoropovich, rifled Ralph's wallet, which was in his shoulder bag under the table, took out the magnetic pass for the computer lab, and left.

He waited in the parking lot outside the UCLA software center until he saw Dr. Frances Payton-Holmes reel out of the building. She seemed to identify cars by feel because she bumped into four of them before she found what she was looking for, a brown Edsel whose tailpipe and muffler were dragging on the ground under the car. After three minutes, she found her car key, and four minutes later she had the door open. The Edsel started with a roar like a B-52, and then there was the screech of burning rubber as the professor peeled away. Her window was down and as her car roared by Istoropovich's, he heard her singing in a lusty baritone:

Gotta get me some

Gotta get me some

Gotta get me some

And I don't care what.

Five minutes of silence later, Istoropovich let himself into the lab using Ralph Dickey's pass card. He moved quickly. In the center of the room, resting atop a long steel table, sat four metal cubes the size of orange crates. The supercomputer, the LC 111—so-called because there had been 110 primitive models before Payton-

Holmes perfected it—would be one of them. He scanned the serial numbers of the metal cubes, looking for the LC-111, the only instrument that could destroy the most important Soviet invention of the decade: The Volga. The Volga was 200,000 pounds of victory that would assure Soviet domination of space, and only the LC-111 could render it harmless.

He saw it. The computer was the second cube from the right, and it had no serial number stamped on it. It bore the legend: personal


Very clever, Istoropovich thought, to identify the LC-111 as her personal property. Clever and inaccurate. It's not yours anymore, he thought.

Because of the constant police patrols, he could not take a chance on trying to get the computer off the center's grounds. Instead, using a handtruck, Istoropovich carefully wheeled the computer to a tall Dempsey Dumpster that stood next to the cement block building. It was Tuesday, and he had learned that garbage pickups were scheduled for Wednesday evenings. It would be safe, next to the overflowing garbage bin, until he came back for it at 5:30 a.m., when the campus police were changing shifts and he could get through them without difficulty.

He relocked the laboratory and went back to his car, fingering the gold balls around his neck. The gold balls had a purpose, one he had been prepared for since his earliest days as a deep-cover agent. But he would not need them, not yet, not this time. He was.going to get out of this one

alive, and in Moscow Center, the headquarters of the Soviet spy network, where men were waiting for word from him on this mission, he would be an instant hero. Nothing could go wrong now.

The moon was full but the sky was cloudy, so that the moonlight fell only occasionally on a few objects dotting the landscape. While most of the vehicles on the highway were shrouded in darkness, a garbage truck bearing the legend "Hollywood Disposal Service . . . Garbage of the Stars" lit up, shimmering in the moonglow like the Holy Grail.

Before it disappeared back into the clouds, the moon also illuminated the figure of a ripe-looking teenage hooker on the side of the highway. She waved to the two men in the truck. Marco Gonzalez, the driver, honked his horn and leered in appreciation, displaying two missing front teeth.

"Enow her?" asked Lew Verbanic from the passenger side of the cabin. Lew was tall, nearly six and a half feet, and very thin. As a result, he stooped whenever he spoke, even when he was sitting down. He was stooping now. "She looks kind of like that Mexie girl you go with. That Rosa."

"That a slur on the Chicano race?" sniffed Gonzalez, peering out of eyes formed into tight slits.

Verbanic laughed softly. "Chícanos aren't a race," he said.

"Oh, yeah? What you call us, then? Huh?"

Verbanic patted him on the shoulder. "Short," he said.

Gonzalez snorted, and they drove^down a quiet

stretch of highway in silence. "So you like her or what?" Gonzalez said finally.


"The chippie on the road."

"Why do you want to know if I like the way she looked?" He rolled down the window and spat outside.

" 'Cause Rosa's got a friend looks kind of like her. Only she ain't no chippie. A good Mexican girl, come over last week from Tijuana with her family." He shook his head sadly. "They come over the barbwire. Had to leave everything behind. Her mother's casserole dish, everything. Big house, too. Almost three rooms." He brightened as his mind veered back onto the subject. "You wanna meet her? Rosa says she's real hot."

"What's wrong with her?"

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