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 Chapter 29

Boris and his Master

Boris Razumov saw Tom Williams coming at him with the ball and retreated slowly, letting Tom whip by. Tom still played soccer almost as if it were American football, and Boris had discovered that any contact with his sharp elbows and knees was extremely painful. The best thing was simply to let him go unimpeded.

Perhaps it was Tom's presence that was partly responsible for Boris' inability to lose himself in the game, as he usually did. As he jogged back up the field, he had the sensation of getting into ever deeper trouble. He was in basic agreement on most things with the rest of the embassy staff and the ambassador. They were all civilized men like himself. None of them had any desire to start the third world war. But it was Boris' peculiar fate that Comrade Mikulin had selected him, by means he could scarcely guess at, and had thus caused Boris to be hated by his own kind.

Most recently, Mikulin had begun to demand reports on various and diverse subjects. As he rushed to complete them, Boris would very much have liked to know how those reports would be used and what effect they might have on policy. But, of course, he could hardly ask. One consequence of those reports, perhaps the ones dealing with Elaine Kittredge and Mamie Eisenhower, was quite a surprise for Boris. Mikulin, in the guise of a diplomat, was coming to America for a three day visit to look over the ground for himself!

Just then, the ball was passed to Boris by Charles. It took him a little by surprise, but he collared it and got rid of it just as Tom came rushing over. Well, anyway, when Mikulin did show up, he, Razumov, would have a tangible accomplishment to display. That was his list of some hundred private telephone numbers.

No ordinary agent could have gotten that list. Miss Kittredge guarded it much more carefully than anything else, but, that last time, he had eventually exhausted her. Then, when she was asleep, he had taken the book from the table on his way to the bathroom, and had sat on the toilet copying down numbers. He might not tell Mikulin exactly how he had managed it, but there was no questioning the accomplishment, one whose importance could hardly be exaggerated. But, then, it occurred to Boris, what thanks would he get? Mikulin would go back to the Soviet Union after a few days while Boris remained. For Mikulin, winning the war wouldn't entail getting blown to atoms in the process.

Tom Williams went home directly from soccer, took a shower, and then went to DRI. It wasn't unusual for people to work Saturdays when a project was ending up, and, in this case, they would be working all night and all the next day if necessary.

The economic simulation had moved along so quickly that it was ready to be run on the machine for the first time. It was obvious that any sort of crisis simulation would still take weeks, if not months, but the economic element was sufficiently interesting for its own sake to draw Mac Hollins in on a Saturday.

He was talking with Bruce and Tom while Sid readied the machine when Ellie and Goldstein came in. A pass had been arranged for Ellie, which required that she be escorted at all times, even when she went to the ladies' room. Sid, who would be given that detail, turned from the console and gave Ellie a smile and a greeting which, Tom knew, totally misrepresented her true feelings.

The Goldsteins stood behind with Hollins as Sid pushed the START button. Tom had a minor role throwing switches, and he concentrated on not making any mistakes. The day before, he had gone over the program with Bruce. While, in theory, Tom was supposed to spot mistakes, he had, in fact, attempted only to understand what was going on. There were lots of algorithms which took in data concerning particular industries in an economy, related those industries to one another in complex ways, and then gave out a characterization of a sector of the economy. Other algorithms took that output as input, together with data concerning the rest of the economy and other national economies, and put out still broader results. Finally, there would be detailed economic predictions concerning both Red and Blue, and the calculation of the balance.

They got an amazingly long way into the program, something like fiteen minutes, before it hung up. Tom felt like applauding, and he could see by Goldstein's face that he felt the same way. Sid was busy putting in the corrections that Bruce was scribbling on a piece of paper, and, after a short time, they were off again. Tom had the distinct feeling that there would be no need to work that night or the next day.

After a half hour, results began appearing on the flexowriter. Everyone crowded around, but Hollins was allowed to stand right in front, where he could read the sheets even before they were torn off.

Since Tom already knew that Ellie expected an eventual Soviet economic collapse, he would have been surprised if the results had been different. People's simulations tended to give them what they wanted. On the other hand, this went way beyond that. It predicted, industry by industry, what would happen, where the bottlenecks and shortages would occur, the extent to which the economies of the satellites could be raided, and, finally, a collapse so complete that the political and societal structures could hardly survive it.

The time frame depended on certain assumptions, the most important being the extent to which economic failures could be hidden and the people convinced to go on working as before. As long as the sham could be kept up, the final collapse wouldn't occur. But, as Ellie said,

"The longer they manage to put it off, the worse it'll be when it comes."

Hollins asked,

"Will the leadership know what's happening even if they hide it from the public? Or do they already know?"

"They may not do the kind of study we've just done. Or they may build in optimistic assumptions. I don't think Khruschev would talk the way he does if he really knew."

In order to save time, Tom had already prepared two copies of the economic report with Ellie's help. It described the work that had been done, and lacked only the figures that the machine put out. Since the background for these had been explained in the text, he stapled the pages that came out of the flexowriter to the reports and handed both copies to Hollins. He also gave him a copy of the paper he had written the night before. Mac put them all into his briefcase, and seemed to have everything he wanted. He thanked and congratulated everyone, and then left.

Since it was all done long before everyone expected, there were a few minutes of milling around. The Goldsteins then left. Sid had expected to call her husband to get picked up much later, and Tom offered to give her a ride. She had some things to get ready first, and Tom drifted along with Bruce to his office. The latter, looking far from triumphant over what had really been a major programming triumph, said to Tom,

"I can see that we've accomplished something, but I wish I knew what the hell it was."

"This report will re-inforce Goldstein's. His said, in effect, that the military balance was swinging away from us, and it was pretty well confirmed a little later when they got their ICBM up. This report says that the Soviet economy will start falling apart. By the time that they realize it, they'll have their ICBMs deployed."

"That sounds just great, Tom."

It was unusual for Bruce to speak with such bitterness. His tone changed as he continued,

"Ellie seems different from Goldstein. She doesn't want to launch an attack, does she?"

"No, she wants us to lose economically because she thinks it enhances chances for peace. But I don't think she realizes the consequences a report like this can have. She apparently got involved and ended up, not only predicting what she doesn't want to happen, but providing fodder for the hawks."

"If I'd been thinking more clearly, I wouldn't have had anything to do with it."

"I can't imagine you faking results, whatever the consequences."

"I think I probably should have resigned and left this place forever. But it's too late now."

Bruce didn't look unduly depressed. When Tom said nothing, he added,

"From now on, I'm going to work on programming languages and other things that'll increase the usefulness of computers. Nothing military and nothing that has to be kept secret."

"That's what you've been doing isn't it?"

"For the most part. I shouldn't have let Hollins persuade me."

Tom then remembered something else,

"There is a silver lining. Both these reports go to the army, and I don't think General Maxwell Taylor will like either. He'll probably keep them well hidden."

Bruce looked a little cheerier, and then Sid came by, ready to go. Bruce asked her,

"Is he taking you home in my old car?"

"I guess he is."

"It's a much better car than most people realize."

That appeared to be Bruce's final statement of faith, and they left him in his office.

When they were outside, Sid said,

"You and Bruce seemed to be having a pretty serious conversation. I hope I didn't interrupt."

Tom told her that they were finished anyway. As they drove along, he told her what it was about. Sid said,

"The thing Hollins seemed most interested in was whether the Soviet leadership knows that the economic jig is up."

"Yes. They become much more likely to strike first when they know they're losing."

"I got the impression that they might not find out for a number of years."

"That was Ellie's prediction. When Mac leaks the report to the air force, he may change it."

"Will he really do that?"

"It's quite possible. He's thought that war is inevitable all along. And, of course, he wants to strike first in order to win. He once told me that no leader on either side has the balls to strike right out of the blue, but he might not have been counting himself."

"Wow. You'd just never ever guess it from looking at him."

Sid then told Tom about her plans to get her children off to Mexico. She added,

"You could go with them. They're nice children, and my friend there would help you get settled in Mexico."

"I couldn't do that."

"You might as well. Why not save yourself?"

"I remember once having this conversation with Ellie. The thought then was to go to New Zealand, and we couldn't really decide why we didn't."

"Incidentally, she wasn't as bad as I had expected. I'd only met her once, and thought she was a total intellectual and nothing else. But she does have some human touches."

"Sure. She just has trouble deciding what she wants in the area of sex."

"I still think you should keep away from sex with her. She's probably too conflicted and confused to enjoy it herself, much less make it nice for a man. You need something more normal."

"Great idea! I could place an ad, 'Young man tired of bizarre sex seeks something more normal. Call evenings.'"

"It'll turn up in due course if you just have a little more patience."

"I'm sticking to sports. I don't have to depend on other people to get satisfaction."

That wasn't what Sid wanted to hear, and she gave Tom a short talk about the importance of relations between people and the foolhardiness of attempting to be an emotional island. Tom finally agreed, and, when he let her off, she said,

"It'll be a beautiful evening. Go out to see Elizaveta and have a nice time."

That last suggestion seemed to Tom to be a good one, and he stopped to call at a pay phone. Elizaveta turned out to be free that evening.

To Tom's surprise, Elizaveta had put up a picnic lunch for them. She said,

"None of the restaurants are any good out here, so I went into the school kitchen and made us chicken sandwiches. And other things. I know how much you eat."

She was wearing a peasant-looking costume consisting of a white blouse and a full multi-colored skirt. Tom asked if it had come from Russia, and she replied,

"No, when I defected in Paris, I had only the dress I was wearing. I got these things from the Sears Roebuck catalogue."

Instead of going to the battlefield, they set off directly from the school. it was now almost deserted, and they crossed a meadow on which cows had been pastured. The grass was still fairly short, and Elizaveta took off her shoes and ran gaily, twisting and turning and waving her arms. She also went surprisingly fast, and Tom, with the picnic basket, kept up only with some difficulty. When she slowed to a walk and he fell in beside her, Elizaveta said,

"I wish I had a horse to ride over the fields, a small Russian horse."

"My mother loves to ride, but I turned out to be allergic to horses."

"How terrible! There's no joy like galloping freely over the fields, jumping fences when you feel like it, and even pretending to be a Mongol warrior chasing a Russian knight."

Tom suddenly got down on his hands and knees and said,

"I'll be the horse and you can be the rider. See if you can stay on."

"But we'll look ridiculous!"

"There's no one around to see."

Elizaveta lifted her skirts, jumped on his back, and wrapped her legs around him. She was so much smaller that she could actually keep her feet from touching the ground as he moved forward. It felt good to have her bare legs around him, and he began to bounce up and down and buck in various ways. She seemed to stay on easily, gently resting her hands on his shoulders at times, and was still in position when he got tired. Then, when she bounced off and sat beside him, Tom put his arm around her waist, drew her gently to him, and kissed her. She kissed back and lay in his arms for a few moments. The sandwiches were very good, but the minute they finished, Elizaveta was up again, running and bouncing over the hillocks. When Tom was near her, she would take his hand, leading him in the wide swoops of an improvised dance at high speed. They eventually came to a marshy brook bordering a railway embankment, and, lifting her skirts above her knees, she ran into it without hesitation or caution. Tom stopped by the side until, at her urging, he took off his shoes, socks, and trousers. He then waded in. The bottom was muddy, but fairly firm, and, feeling quite bare, he splashed after Elizaveta. When they got near a bridge which carried the railway line over a bend in the stream, the water deepened. Elizaveta paused and said,

"I shouldn't lift my skirt any higher. Will you carry me?"

Tom did so, and said,

"Since, I've taken off my pants, why can't you take off your skirt?"

"It might inflame you too much."

"But you've gone to bed with other men. How about me?"

They were both speaking in a joking tone of voice as he carried her into the water which was now half way up his thighs. She replied,

"With most men, including my husband most of the time, I did what I learned to do in the war with all the soldiers. It satisfies the man, keeps me from being hurt, or even penetrated, and means nothing. You wouldn't want that."

Tom wasn't at all sure that he didn't want that, but, just then, he lost his balance when he stepped into a hole. They ended up sitting on the bottom with just their heads above water. The water was surprisingly cold, and they were up quickly, wading for the shore. Elizaveta was laughing, but, when they emerged, she made him turn away while she removed her clothes and tried to wring as much water out of them as possible. Then, when they were both dressed, they ran back to the picnic basket and ate the remainder of the food as they walked back to the school.

Tom had hardly awoken the next morning when Mama T was banging on his door. She shouted,

"There's a woman calling for you, she's a got a foreign accent, and a Sunday morning too."

All of this was let go in one breath, in the manner of an accusation. Tom got into some clothes and followed her downstairs to the telephone. She remained nearby and looked balefully at him, evidently to keep him from making an assignation. Tom knew only one woman with a foreign accent, and he knew that she wouldn't have called but for some sort of emergency. Even so, he was surprised how much her voice and mood had changed. She said,

"Boris called. Igor's arriving here in two days, disguised as a diplomat. He wants to see me."

Tom realized that Igor would be the fearsome Comrade Kublaikov. He replied,

"You're an American citizen now. You don't have to see him if you don't want to. Or you can insist that I be there, too."

That seemed to calm Elizaveta. She replied,

"Would you really do that, Tom?"

"Certainly. I'd like to meet him myself."

Elizaveta then sounded euphoric, the way she had the day before. He was tempted to suggest seeing her that day, but then reflected that it might be better to wait until after the meeting with the distinguished visitor.

As soon as Tom finished talking with Elizaveta, he got dressed and went out to a pay phone to call Mr. Desmond at home. A woman answered, presumably Mrs. Desmond. She, too, seemed to dislike Sunday interruptions. She said, somewhat irritably,

"I can't understand why he gave you his home number."

Tom, feeling somewhat flippant, answered,

"But I haven't told you who I am. I might be Admiral Radford or General Taylor."

"You don't sound like either of them, but I'll see if I can rouse old D. O. A."

Desmond did sound as if he had just woken up, but he wasn't at all irritated when Tom said,

"I've got something to tell you. Can I let it rip over this line?"

"You'd better join us for breakfast. We're only in Chevy Chase."

Tom had guessed, after their dinner meeting, that Desmond lived somewhere near by. Besides, as he was gradually discovering, a good half of the people who counted lived in Chevy Chase.

Mrs. Desmond greeted Tom at the door. She was a tall well-preserved woman, and she was somewhat more enthusiastic in person than she had been on the phone. Leading the way through the house to the terrace, she said,

"You're very young. Are you also highly sexed?"

Before he could answer, a pretty teen-aged girl appeared suddenly and shouted,

"There you go again, mother! That kind of thing embarrasses people."

Mrs. Desmond stopped, looked at Tom, and replied to her daughter,

"He doesn't look embarrassed. But now that he's seen you, he's probably even more sexed than before."

Miss Desmond blushed, but looked pleased. As the discussion between mother and daughter increased in tempo and volume, Desmond himself appeared and rescued Tom.

The breakfast, served by a maid, was good. The conversation, led again by mother and daughter, was spirited. After a bit, Mrs. Desmond said to her daughter,

"We'd better leave them so they can plan their assassinations. It'll probably be a female double agent this time. Do you have a civilized way of killing women, dear?"

"Oh yes. The mafia often gets men with their faces lathered at the barber shop. We wait until a woman is at the beauty salon, having her nails manicured and getting a massage at the same time. The attendant slips a mint in her mouth, and then there's a brief convulsion. Afterwards, she's wrapped discreetly in brown paper and put in the dumpster. It's called terminating an agent with extreme predjudice."

As the ladies left, Desmond murmured quietly to Tom,

"It really is called that. I do hope your lady friend in Fairmile isn't getting on your nerves."

When Tom told Desmond about the proposed visit of Comrade Kublaikov, he seemed quite interested, replying,

"He's used that alias of Mikulin for years. I don't know why he bothers. Everyone knows about it."

"Isn't it unusual for someone like that to come here under an alias? He could come as himself, couldn't he?"

"Well, if he did, he'd have to be treated more or less as the governor of, say, Texas would be in Moscow. Lots of ceremonial dinners, and so on. He doubtless wants to avoid that. Peter the Great used to go to England under an alias. Since he was six foot seven, everyone knew who he was, but they didn't have to take official note of him. Kublaikov has his nerve, though, doesn't he?"

"Why is that?"

"We could hit him. His former girl friend could stab him in the course of a quarrel. She wouldn't actually have to do it, of course. We'd fake that part. And we'd also have to get her off on self-defense afterwards. It wouldn't fool anyone, but we'd have eliminated their most dangerous man in such a way that it probably wouldn't get us nuked. Khruschev would probably be pleased. Kublaikov would know all that."

"But we aren't going to do that, are we?"

"Probably not. It'd be a good idea because his successor, whoever he might be, wouldn't be as powerful and dynamic. The Dulles brothers might conceivably go for it, but they'd think that they'd have to put it to the president. This wouldn't be like a political hit somewhere in the third world."

"And the president wouln't approve?"

"He doesn't like that kind of thing. Foster doesn't like to be over-ruled, so he'll probably scratch it himself. Comrade Kublaikov knows or guesses this, so he visits with impunity. When you meet him, see if you can bring him around to see me, probably here at the house. Your little friend could act as interpreter."

"If I really do meet him, I'll invite him. Boris will probably be there too."

"The more the merrier."

On that note, Tom took his leave. Mrs. Desmond and her daughter were nowhere in sight, so he asked Desmond to thank them for him.

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