Warren Murphy: Dangerous Games

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    Dangerous Games
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The Olympics promise to be a rare relaxation in the tensions between the States and Russia, until a racial purist decides to punish America's multi-racial track-and-field team. The Americans, Russians, and Germans are confident that they can stop this racial terrorism until a bomb explodes in the super-secure Olympic village, killing two Russian security guards just before the torch is lit. As the threats come racing in, CURE's agents Remo and Chiun put on their running shoes.and join the U.S.'s Olympic team. Enlisting the aid of a beautiful and flexible Indian gymnast, Remo and Chiun race to track down the terrorists who vow to permanently disqualify America's track-and-field squad. But when the terrorists turn on Remo and Chiun, it's a sprint to the finish for CURE's agents to keep the Olympic torch aflame.

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DESTROYER #40: DANGEROUS GAMES

Copyright (c) 1980 by Richard Sapir and Warren Murphy

CHAPTER ONE

He was known throughout Greece as The-Tree-That-Would-Not-Fall, but his real name was Miros. His arms were as big around as most men's legs, and his thighs were as thick as a horse's throat. He was forty-four years old, but he had tasted neither wine nor woman and the lumpy muscles of his stomach jutted through his skin like half-submerged stones rippling the surface of a slow-moving stream.

He was a hero, not only in his own village of Ares-tines but throughout all Greece. Still, as a child, his life had been dedicated to the glorification of the great god Zeus who, legend said, had begun the Olympic games in a battle against a lesser god for possession of the planet Earth; so, instead of living the life of an honored wastrel with a marketable skill, Miros lived a life normal to Arestines. Every day he went down into the caverns and brought up giant buckets of coal for the people of his village, to help warm them against the chill Aegean winters. The only break from this routine, day in, day out, summer and winter, was his visit to a fertile Greek plain every four years, to defend his Olympic wrestling title.

Now he was attempting to win his sixth title. He knew that that was as many as Milo of Croton had won a century before . . . and Miros of Arestines allowed himself the satisfaction of hoping that four years hence, he would be back to win his seventh

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Olympic crown. No man had ever done that. It would be a record that would live for many years, long after Miros himself had turned to dust and his immortal spirit had been swept up to live with Zeus forever on Mount Olympus.

Miros sat on the earth inside his tent and shook his head to clear it of such thoughts. Before he could celebrate winning seven championships, he had better make sure he won the sixth. And there were his knees to worry about.

He had just begun to wrap the thin linen straps around his right knee when a man entered the tent. The man was tall and thin and his face pale and pink, an unusual look in this village, which had been peopled for the last week by athletes from all over Greece, sturdy men, nut-brown from working in the sun.

"Worried about your knees, Miros?" the thin man said. He was in his sixties, and he showed his years, and as Miros looked up at him, he realized sadly that Plinates was old. Plinates had been the head of the Council of Elders ever since Miros had been a boy, and now the thin man had grown old in the service of the village. Miros was glad he did not have to work with his head, but labored instead with his arms and legs and back. Plinates looked as if he were going to die soon.

Miros grunted no reply at all.

Then he realized that was rude and he said, "I am dedicated to the service of Zeus, but when he created men, he could have given a little more thought to their knees."

Miros spoke slowly and continued wrapping his right knee with the linen bandage. "No matter how big a man may grow, he has exactly the same knees as a little man. It does not seem to me to make much sense." He added quickly, "But of course, Zeus does not confide his plans to me."

Plinates grunted and sat on a cushion across from Miros as the dark-haired giant continued to wrap. First seven strips of linen from left to right. Then four strips of linen, vertically, along the length of the leg. Then four more strips from right to left. Finally, thin linen laces to hold the bandage in place. Then the left knee.

"I have seen your opponent," Plinates said. "He looks very strong."

"He is very strong," Miros said. "Ottonius is very strong. But he is a boy and I am a man."

"You were not much more than a boy when first you were victorious here," Plinates said. "One must beware of boys. They call this one The Knife."

"In these games, I am wary of everyone," Miros said without looking up. "That is why I wrap my knees."

"Perhaps it is the year that The Knife will chop down The-Tree-That-Would-Not-Fall," Plinates said.

Miros looked up quickly. If Plinates had not been the head of the Council of Elders and the best friend of Ms late father, he would have told the older man to leave the tent. But that would be disrespectful. He looked back down and resumed wrapping his left knee.

"Perhaps you are not ready," Plinates said.

"Not ready?" Miros said. It almost seemed as if Plinates was taunting him. "Not ready? Today, Plinates, I could wrestle the world and win. Not ready?" He laughed, a heavy, deep laugh that filled his barrel chest with air.

"That is too bad," Plinates said.

Miros looked up in surprise, dropping his linen wrappings to the dirt of the tent floor,

"Because today you are going to lose," the older man said. His pale blue eyes stared calmly at Miros, and the wrestler searched them for the sign of the

4

jest he was sure must come. But there was no jest. Plinates was serious.

"What are you talking about?" Miros said.

"You are going to lose today. The Council of Elders has decreed it."

"Fortunately," Miros said, "the council's ways are not my ways and council edicts have very little to do with wrestling."

"That is true," Plinates said. "This edict has nothing to do with wrestling. It has to do with government and with war. You will lose."

"But why?" Miros asked. He still did not understand. "So Ottonius of Kuristes is strong. And he is young. But he is also arrogant and foolish and he spends his life loosely on women and wine. He will never beat me."

"True enough," Plinates said. "But nevertheless he will win."

"How?" Miros asked.

"Because you will let him," Plinates said.

Miros rose to his feet angrily, the sound in his throat nothing so much as a growl. A lesser man would have fled the tent at the sight of the expression on his face. But Plinates neither moved nor showed emotion.

"You may thank Zeus that you were my father's friend," Miros said softly. His dark eyes flashed anger, and the cords in his neck stretched at their covering of skin. His big fists clenched and unclenched.

"Yes. I was your father's friend and I am your friend. But I am also the Chief Elder of the village of Arestines and that is my responsibility, even more than friendship."

"Yes," Miros said. "And our village has been fighting the village of Kuristes for five years and now we have a truce for these games and then today I will beat Ottonius of Kuristes and tomorrow we will be at

5

war again with Kuristes. Just as we always have. I fight for our village and our honor."

"How many have died in these five years of fighting?" Plinates asked.

"I don't know. I leave counting to politicians."

"Two hundred and six," Plinates said. "And now, if I tell you that you have it in your power to save perhaps another two hundred? Or four hundred? That you have it in your power to end this war? That you alone can make your village the victor? Then what do you say?"

"I say I am a wrestler," Miros said.

"And I say you are the son of a father who gave his life for the village of Arestines. Do you deny the value of what he did?"

And slowly Miros sat down on the dirt of the tent floor. He kicked away the linens with which he had been wrapping his left knee. He would not need them this day. He knew that and the truth lay in his stomach, as black and as hard as a giant lump of the Arestines coal he had mined for the past thirty years.

That afternoon, Miros of Arestines met Ottonius of Kuristes in the final championship match of Olympic wrestling. The hot Greek sun had coated both their bodies with sweat as they faced each other across the twenty-foot rectangle that had been scored in the earth of the plain, formed where the Qadeus and the Alpheus flowed together.

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