IN MEMORIAM Isaac Asimov

(Petrovich, Russia: 1920 Ė New-York: April 1992)

 

 

Malenkigrad (2)

 

-          The interest of the Soviets in Morrison graduated from curiosity to desperation:

 

-          Ah? And how do you know that, Frank?

 

-          Partly from contacts inside the Soviet Union.

 

-          Ashby?

 

-          Partly.

 

-          Good agent.

 

-          At it too long. Needs replacement.

 

-          I donít know. Letís not retire a winner.

 

-          In any case - said Rodano, unwilling to fight the point - there was a sudden multiplication of interest in Morrison, on whom Iíd been keeping tabs for a couple of years.

 

-          This Shapirov, I suppose, had another brainstorm about Morrison and persuaded the Russ -Soviets they needed him.

 

-          Perhaps, but the funny thing is that Shapirov seems to have dropped out of the news recently.

 

-          Out of a favour?

 

-          No sign of that.

 

-          Could be, Frank. If heís been feeding the Soviets a line of garbage about miniaturization and theyíve caught on to it, I wouldnít want to be in his shoes. These may be the good

 

new days, but the Soviets have never learned to have a sense of humour about being made to look or feel foolish.

 

-          It could be that heís gone underground because the miniaturization project is hotting up.And that could also explain why the sudden desperation about Morrison.

 

-          What does he know about miniaturization?

 

-          Only that heís sure itís impossible.

 

-          It makes no sense, does it?

 

-          Thatís why we let him be taken. Ė Rodano said, carefully Ė Thereís always the hope it will shake up the pieces and that they may then come together in a new way that will begin to make sense.

 

Winthrop looked at his watch:

 

-          He should be there by now. Malenkigrad. What a name! No news of any plane crash last night anywhere in the world, so I guess heís there

 

-          Yes, and just the wrong person to send, too, except that it was him the Soviets wanted.

 

-          Why is he wrong? Is he shaky ideologically?

 

-          I doubt that he has an ideology. Heís a zero. All last night Iíve been thinking that itís all a mistake. He lacks guts and heís not very bright except in an academic sense. I donít think he can possibly think on his feet, if he ever had to. Heís not going to be smart enough to find out anything. I suspect heíll be in one long panic from beginning to end and Iíve been thinking for hours now that weíll never see him again. Theyíll imprison him Ö or kill him Ö and Iíve sent him there.

 

-          Thatís just middle of the night blues, Frank. No matter how dumb he is heíll be able to tell us whether he watched a demonstration of miniaturization, for instance, or what it was they did to him. He doesnít have to be a shrewd observer. He need only tell us what happened and we will do the necessary thinking.

 

-          But, Jon, we may never see him again.

 

Winthrop placed his hand on Rodanoís shoulder:

 

-          Donít begin by assuming disaster. Iíll see that Ashby gets the word. If something can be done, it will be done, and Iím sure the Russ-Soviets will hit a sane moment and let him go if we put on enough quiet pressure when the time comes. Donít make yourself sick over it. Itís a move in a complex game and if it doesnít work, it doesnít work. There are a thousand other moves on the board.

 

* * *

 

Morrison felt haggard. He had slept through much of Monday, hoping it would rid him of the worst of jet lag. He had eaten gratefully of the food that had been brought in towards evening, had partaken even more gratefully of a shower. Fresh clothing was given him that fitted rather indifferently Ė but what of that? And he had spent Monday night alternately sleeping and reading Ö and brooding. Ö

 

The more he thought of it, the more convinced he was that Natalya Boranova was correct in her estimate that he was here only because the United States were satisfied to have him here. Rodano had urged him to go, had vaguely threatened him with further career troubles (how much deeper in trouble could he possibly get?) if he did not go. Why, then, should they object to his having been taken? They might object on principle or feel there was the danger of setting an undesirable precedent, but apparently their own eagerness to have him go had overruled that.

 

What, then, would be the point in demanding to be taken to the nearest American consul, or in making wild threats of American retaliation?

As a matter of fact, now that it looks quite sure that the deed had been done with American connivance, it would be impossible for the United States to take open action on his behalf or express any indignation whatever. Questions would inevitably arise as to how the Soviets had managed to spirit him off, and there would be no answer other than American stupidity or American connivance. And the United States would not want to have the world come to either conclusion.

 

Of course, he could see why this had been done. It was as Rodano had explained. The American government wanted information and he was in an ideal position to get it for them.

 

Ideal? In what way? The Soviets would not be fools enough to let him get any information they didnít want him to have, and if they thought that the information he managed to get (or couldnít avoid getting) was too much, they would not let him go.

 

The more he thought of that, the more he felt that, dead or alive, he would never see the United States again, and that the American intelligence community would shrug its collective shoulders and write it all off as an unavoidable miss Ė nothing gained but, then, nothing much lost.

 

Morrison assessed himself:

 

Albert Jonas Morrison, PhD, Assistant Professor of Neurophysics, originator of a theory of thought that remained unaccepted and all but ignored; failed husband, failed father, failed scientist, and now failed pawn. Nothing much lost.

 

In the depth of the night, in a hotel room in a town he didnít even know the location of, in a nation that for over a century, had seemed the natural enemy of his own, however much a spirit of a reluctant and suspicious cooperation might rule in the last few decades, Morrison found himself weeping out of self-pity and out of sheer childish helplessness Ė out of a feeling of utter humiliation that no one should think him worth struggling for, or even wasting regret over.

 

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