A Dance and a Reconciliation
Sid saw Elizaveta the minute she entered and waved to her. Elizaveta came darting through the crowded restaurant, and, when Sid rose to meet her, they embraced. Elizaveta then asked,
"Does Tom know?"
"I didn't tell him. He would've wanted to come along."
They were both pleased. They had traded telephone numbers the night they met, and it seemed natural to both to have lunch without anyone else present. Elizaveta had finished the summer term at her school, and was on vacation. Sid had left DRI early for lunch, and, not being assigned to operate the computer that afternoon, she didn't have to be back. The first thing Sid said as they sat down was,
"You didn't hitch-hike in again, did you?"
"I did. I took a taxi into Fairmile so as not to scandalize the people at the school, and I got a ride in the first minute."
"Was he nice?"
"I think so, but very shy. He's an agricultural expert, only a young man. We talked all the way, but he never got his nerve up to ask to see me again. I wasn't sorry. I can tell immediately if a man will be good for me."
"I can't. I didn't like Cliff when I first met him."
"He seemed rough and tough. He'd been working on a fishing boat, and I was trying to be smooth."
"I liked it when he drove me back to school that day. He's so much a gentleman, but I could sense other feelings."
"I wasn't sure he'd be able to restrain himself. But it would've been all right if he hadn't. We don't have the feelings most people do about that sort of thing."
"But that's very generous of you! When my husband had affairs, I didn't take them lightly. Not in the least."
"Hardly anyone does but us. We're free in principle, but, in practice, we never seem to go outside our marriage."
"You're the opposite of me. I have all sorts of inhibitions and restrictions, both for myself and anyone I might be married to. But, as a matter of fact, I suppose I must have voluntarily slept with at least a dozen different men."
"Did you felt badly the next day?"
"Not even that. I just resolved each time not to do it again."
"I needed an abortion recently, and I think I would've slept with a doctor in order to get one. I finally thought to go to Mexico, where I have a friend who arranged it."
"You should have asked me. An old woman in Siberia taught me that, and many other things."
"Really? Did she sterilize things?"
"Reasonably well. Of course, I was already a chemist when I met her, and I would have done some things differently. But she had a pot of boiling water, and she dipped everything she used into it."
"It's awfully hard to get a safe abortion in this country. I wouldn't trade sex for most things, but a baby just now would've destroyed practically everything we've worked for. I almost felt as if my survival were at stake."
"I recently slept with a man for mainly non-romantic reasons. My safety may depend on this young man at the Soviet embassy, and it's important to keep him happy."
"Did he take it in the right spirit?"
"I think so. Unfortunately, it's a man Tom knows and plays soccer with."
"He doesn't know though, does he?"
"You could certainly cheer Tom up by going to bed with him. One of us should. That woman, Ellie, gave him some sort of weird and awful introduction to sex."
It turned out that Tom had given partial accounts to both Sid and Elizaveta, and they soon put together a composite picture. Sid then said,
"As much as Tom may need some good normal sex, I'd feel odd about providing it."
"I could do it without any problems, but I'm not really attracted to the athletic type of man."
"I can imagine Tom in bed being like one of those mechanical toys that you wind up. It bounces up and down violently for a while, and then gradually runs down."
Elizaveta agreed and added,
"Tom's so much of an Englishman with his sports and games. I like the sort of European man who's a little decadent, never exercises, and likes to out-smart people. The father of one of my students is a little like that, a red-haired Irish devil of a lawyer."
"Tom's smart enough to out-smart lots of people, but it'd be purely intellectual. I don't think he even worries about winning little daily confrontations."
"Tom thinks he wants a woman, but I don't think he really understands what would be involved. He'll be lucky if no woman latches on to him."
"Ellie's married, at least. We just need to keep him away from eligible young ladies on husband hunts."
After a while, the conversation turned to Sid's children. She explained what they were doing, and then added,
"Next week, they're going on a trip to Mexico City."
It came out only by slow degree that they weren't going on an ordinary vacation. Sid finally said,
"I don't like the way things are looking, and I want to get them out of the country for a while. If they go to school in Mexico, they'll at least learn Spanish."
"I'm also worried about the way things are going. Of course, I'm supposed to provide information, not receive it. But I'm being put under pressure. They want me to get Tom to defect."
They both laughed at that, and Sid asked,
"Do you still have to go through the motions?"
"I mentioned it as a joke, and he looked at me as if I were a cockroach. If they want a defector, they'll have to find someone with low self esteem who's been beaten down by life."
"Well, there's no reason that you can't go to Mexico on your vacation. There's also nothing to prevent Tom from taking a couple of weeks off and going with you. If you timed it right, you might both save yourselves. Then you could help look after my kids."
"But just two weeks out of the year! No one could predict war that accurately, could they?"
"I certainly couldn't. Could you pick up anything from your side?"
Elizaveta shook her head and replied,
"I no longer know which side is mine, and neither is likely to provide me with any secrets. All I can do is use my intuitions to assess Boris and Tom."
As they drank and ate, they became less concerned with war and survival, and more inclined to make fun of the people in the restaurant. Then, afterwards, they decided on a shopping expedition.
When Tom and Mac arrived, Ellie and Bruce, just having met, were engrossed in conversation. Since Ellie, with no clearance, couldn't go into most parts of DRI, they took over part of the largely unused library and spread their materials over one of the tables.
In a very short time, Ellie had scoured the libraries and institutes of Washington, talked to the trade and economic people at the Soviet Embassy, and collected two large shopping bags full of various kinds of economic data. She had even engaged a Russian-speaking secretary to translate the headings for the tables which were in Russian. She was now seated with everything at her fingertips, and she said to Mac,
"There's no way of doing it but to go through both economies, industry by industry, weight them by importance, and then factor in the macro-economic constraints which effect all the industries. And, in the Soviet case, we have to allow for exaggeration."
Bruce asked a few questions, and he and Ellie were soon looking at tables and jotting formulas on scraps of paper. Hollins looked at Tom and said,
"Let's go get some coffee and let them work."
They looked in on Bruce and Ellie later, and found them still engrossed in statistics. Just then, Maurice Munson loudly kicked over the wastebasket into which he ordinarily spat. He had never done that before, but Tom guessed that he resented their invasion of his library. Ellie was distracted and startled, and whispered to Hollins,
"Does he always pace and spit like that?"
She hadn't been warned about Munson's carryings on, and Hollins reassured her before going over to speak to Munson himself. Tom couldn't hear what Hollins said, but Munson suddenly went purple in the face. Then, while Tom remained transfixed, Munson actually threw Hollins part-way across the room, where he hit the wall and ended up in a heap on the floor.
It was when Munson moved after Hollins with a chair in his hand, apparently intent on bashing him, that Tom finally got moving. Grabbing the chair and attempting to wrestle Munson to the ground, he found that the man was amazingly strong. On the other hand, he didn't know anything about wrestling, and Tom did manage to topple him over on his side as Bruce and Elllie came up.
Tom had Munson in a variation of a half Nelson, but it was hard to hold, and he felt as if he had an animal in his arms - not a vicious animal but a wild one that only wanted to be let go. He actually felt some sympathy with Munson as he held on desperately while the other rocked and arched and twisted. Bruce tried to help by grabbing Munson's legs, but got kicked hard in the face. Ellie had gone for help, and a security man came just as Tom lost his hold and Munson spun away.
When the dust settled, two security men, one on each arm, led Maurice Munson away. He was talking loudly, swearing, and making accusations, but in language so muddled and garbled that the content could be guessed only by the associated gestures. Hollins, having gotten up by himself, refused attention and claimed to be all right. Bruce was also up, but his glasses had been broken, and he was fingering a tooth to see if it had been knocked loose.
Bruce fortunately had a spare pair of glasses in his car back at Complab, and they were sent for. He also pronounced himself satisfied with his tooth. Holding papers inches from his eyes so that he could read them, he and Ellie got back to work.
As they returned to the coffee lounge, Hollins said,
"Poor old Munson. We knew he was crazy, but we thought he was harmless."
"I suspected some violence, but I figured that you all must know what you were doing in keeping him."
"Ah, Tom. The assumption that everyone else knows what they're doing is one of the most dangerous ones that there are. This, of course, is a trivial business. But be careful to avoid it in more important matters."
When they had finished their third cup of coffee, Hollins said,
"It looks as if we've brought together two people who can solve the economic problems all by themselves, and we can't do much until they've finished. I've got some letters to write and you might as well go back to Complab."
Tom devoted the rest of the morning and the early afternoon to a systematic study of the programming manual to see what techniques he might have missed. When he finally went out to the water cooler, he ran into Pete Helton. Pete seemed to have something to say. It hardly made an impression on Tom at first, but he had Pete repeat it. Pete then said that Red had successfully tested an inter-continental ballistic missile. He didn't have to say anything else. There wasn't any defense against nuclear tipped ICBMs. Blue didn't have anything comparable, and wouldn't for some years.
Tom looked for Bruce, and found that he had returned from the main building. Indeed, most of Complab was crowded into his office. If people gravitated to Bruce for comfort, which they did, they didn't get any very reassuring words. He was saying,
"It's always been characteristic of the Russian aircraft industry to order full production of a prototype if it passes its initial tests. Other countries try to perfect a model before they commit themselves to it, but the Russians go ahead, and then make changes on the production lines when possible."
The implication was that Red might quite soon have large numbers of operational ICBMs, each with a nuclear warhead. Someone asked Bruce how long it would be, and he replied,
"They'll probably have a dozen within a few months, and sharply increasing quantities after that."
The thing about Bruce was that, even when he said the most alarming things, he spoke in such a calm reassuring voice. It sounded as if he thought it was more or less all right if they were all wiped out.
After the group had left Bruce's office, Bruce said to Tom
"This solves half our problem."
"We've long been trying to predict when the military balance would swing to Red. It now has. We need worry only about the economic balance."
"How are you and Ellie coming on that?"
"I think she was already convinced that Blue would win hands down, and her data may reflect that. But she certainly makes a strong case. The computer problem is mainly just a key- punch one. There's a tremendous mass of data to be entered, but once it's in, it'll take only a few minutes to produce all kinds of relative GNP projections, with a probability value attached to each."
"Sid and I can help with the key punching."
"We'll also get Anna, and maybe ....."
Tom quickly pointed out that there were only three key-punch machines. Since Bruce had been naming all the low-ranked people in Complab, Pete Helton would surely have been next.
As Tom got going on some of the lesser mechanisms of the emerging model, he was aware of people going back and forth in the corridor and conversing with one another. After an hour, he took a break and joined a conversation between Janet and Eileen. Eileen was somewhat optimistic and said,
"Anyhow, there's no immediate threat. Even the Russians won't have built hundreds of missiles without testing any."
"The fact that they havn't made any attempt to keep their test secret is encouraging. They may be less interested in making a surprise attack than in using their capability to bully us."
Tom was sceptical, but didn't argue with them.
It wasn't until almost quitting time that Tom discovered that he was enjoying myself. He was far from that half-sick feeling he had experienced in his first days on the job. On the contrary, he was conscious of a supremely dramatic occasion, rather like Pearl Harbor day. While it seemed that there would be no Russian attack on August 26, 1957, the events of the day were far more threatening than those of December 7, 1941.
The Japanese couldn't have ultimately defeated the United States, but the Russians could do so. The Japanese constituted a threat to thousands of Americans, but the Russians threatened the lives of millions. The root similarity was that, on both occasions, everyone knew that a great and passionate effort would be required. There was a kind of exaltation in that knowledge. Tom had been too young to understand or contribute in 1941, but, even if he were only key-punching, he could hardly have been better placed to contribute to the very different sort of effort that was required in 1957.
Goldstein came by at quitting time. His black eyes were glowing brightly. He, too, was excited and happy. He asked,
"Have you heard the news?"
"Sure. Hasn't everybody?"
"I don't mean just that. LeMay wants to attack immediately."
It had been, and remained, LeMay's policy to always keep bombers in the air so that there was no possibility of their being destroyed on the ground by a surprise attack. Even most of the ones on the ground could get off within five minutes, and it had been generally acknowledged that Red couldn't strike Blue without massive and certain retaliation.
But that retaliation was conditioned on the amount of warning there would be with an attack by enemy bombers. Would an air-bursting nuclear missile destroy even planes in the air before they could disperse? Did anyone know?
It wasn't hard to guess what LeMay was thinking, and Tom said to Goldstein,
"I guess he wants to wipe them out before they can get their ICBMs into production."
"Sure. We have a big advantage right now. We'll lose it in the space of a few months."
"And, I suppose, if we're going to attack, the sooner the better. Tomorrow morning, in fact."
Tom wasn't speaking in all seriousness. He had been excited by the high drama of the situation, but he was far from recommending the elimination of a major portion of the human race before breakfast the next morning. Goldstein didn't really reply. He was going off at sixes and sevens, making all kinds of observations, and he calmed only when they met Ellie, who had gone back to the Icelandic embassy in the afternoon. She wasn't enjoying the situation at all, and seemed to think that both Tom and Goldstein were reacting in infantile and dangerous ways.
It was when Goldstein went to the men's room that Ellie said,
"What's wrong with you, Tom? I remember that we once had a long conversation about our fears of being destroyed. You and Goldstein now sound as if you're playing a hideously magnified game of cowboys and Indians."
Before Tom could answer, he remembered something he had once heard a woman say about men in general,
"When you're alone with a man, you can often get him to be genuine and sincere. But, then, if another man comes up, his voice'll change radically as he says, 'Why, hullo, Dick.' It's then that he'll start all the male bullshit."
He repeated this to Ellie and remarked,
"It might be the presence of Goldstein that's made me change my manner and attitude. But some of it happened before he came along. I guess it's partly the idea that we can't avoid facing this, and we'll do better if we have a combative attitude."
She didn't answer directly, but said,
"The people at the embassy are appalled. Thor thinks that we and the Russians are likely to utterly destroy Iceland and all of Scandinavia in our attempts to get at one another. He doesn't think either we or the Russians are in the least worried about killing innocent people."
"Oh, well, everyone's innocent. I doubt that the average Icelander is any more innocent than the average resident of Dubuque."
That didn't seem to be what Ellie wanted to hear, but, just then, Goldstein came back. Tom said to him,
"I bet those SAC officers we met are in the air now."
Goldstein agreed, but Ellie said, rather testily,
"I wish there were no such thing as SAC."
It was almost as if Ellie had forgotten that her work, which would presumably predict a Blue economic victory, might make a beat-to-the-draw attack by SAC all the more likely. Tom didn't remind her.
Tom had arranged to have dinner with Charles downtown, but, being English, he hadn't wanted to eat before seven thirty. When they did meet, Charles looked more imperious than ever, very much the Queen's representative prepared to tell the fuzzy-wuzzies that they would, in the future, be expected to curtail their barbaric practices and submit their plans to a British District Officer. He did smile when he greeted Tom, but, when they sat down, it was clear that he wanted to be told what was going on. Tom said,
"It's been discovered that Boris isn't really a part of the embassy, and that he reports separately to someone back home."
"I dare say. He couldn't live the way he has for years if the local people had any control over him."
"You haven't any idea what he's reporting, have you?"
Tom had decided on a direct approach, knowing that an indirect one wouldn't succeed. Charles replied casually,
"We're all trying to tell our governments whether America is likely to launch a nuclear strike before the Soviets can get their missiles deployed."
"So it's that obvious?"
"We did wonder what Boris might be telling his principal."
"Boris conceals less than any diplomat I've ever seen. How would you say he's been lately?"
"Angry, irritable at soccer, and often truculent. I suppose he must think we're going to strike."
"Just so. I hope I can effect a reconciliation with my wife before you do. It might be difficult afterwards."