Man From U.N.C.L.E. 02 - The Doomsday Affair, page 12
The voices were loud now, and he removed the earplug, carefully placing the sound-detector behind him for fear the sound of metal against brick might betray his presence only feet away from these men in what must be, except for the chimney shaft, a soundproofed room.
When he had crawled to the grating, he saw that he was not going to be able to see the men in the room because a heavy mesh grating had been placed in front of the fireplace. He lay still, listening. He could hear what was going on in the room outside—the clash of voices, a glass set down on a tray, a fist slapping a palm—but he could see only dim shadows through the metallic grate.
One man was doing most of the talking.
Solo pressed forward, listening intently. It was a voice familiar to him. He wracked his brain trying to pin down that identity, but it eluded him.
Sam Su Yan’s voice was easily identifiable: “I don’t agree that the plans to bomb Washington should be changed at this hour.”
“I’m sorry you don’t agree, Sam. But you’re going to have to do it my way. The decision is mine. I take every responsibility—”
“I am not interested in responsibility,” Su Yan said. “All that interests me is success. I cannot conceive a greater success than dropping an atomic device on Washington, D.C.—and having the United States blame Russia for it. All diplomatic relations will be broken, and at least limited atomic war will break out, and both Russia and the United States will be seriously weakened. Which will leave the balance of world power solely in the hands of Thrush. This was our plan from the first. We have built toward that moment, and you haven t yet given us a practical reason for altering our plans at this hour.”
“I’ve given you one unalterable reason. U.N.C.L.E. is not only suspicious: they have proof that a U.S. city is to be bombed so that the Russians will be blamed.”
“So, the agency is suspicious of this. What has this to do with our plans? You don’t suggest delay—only a change of target.”
“Yes! I do! Waverly will alert Washington unless he hears from both the agents assigned to this matter. And you have already stated that you have those men detained—until after the delivery of our device—”
“Then we cannot deliver it to Washington. The area is too sensitive, and as I say Waverly will alert the command there—he may already have done so.”
“Then what do you suggest?” Su Yan demanded, no suggestion of compromise hinted in his tone.
“The city that is struck is not important! Certainly, Washington, D.C. would be a coup—nothing would please me better. But any important city will do—San Francisco, for instance; and think how easy this could be accomplished from here, and what perfect placement for settling the blame squarely upon the Russians. The U.S. government would see the strike as having somehow been accomplished over the Bering Strait, and no Russian denial would be tolerated!
“Besides, I have another objection to following through with the strike upon Washington. We have aimed toward that for two years—two years involving a great deal of planning, strategy, meetings, and all the work of collecting and smuggling in the components of our device. How many people have been entangled in all this? Whom can we trust? Am I to trust you though I’ve known you from childhood? Do you think I am deceived that you trust me—don’t you know I’m aware that I am shadowed by operatives reporting to you, Su Yan?
“We have used the minds and skills of many engineers and scientists in assembling our device, preparing it for today’s strike. All the more reason why we choose a different city—Chicago, New York, or why not Omaha itself, where the Strategic Air Command headquarters are?”
Su Yan’s voice lowered. “Agreed. I still believe that you’re fretting yourself unnecessarily. You are forgetting our original premise. Civilian Defense warning systems have been blown in so many United States cities on the same day at the same hour for so many years that the people no longer react to them, or even consciously hear them any more. As long as our strike is made during the Civilian Defense warning time—in whatever city—it cannot fail.”
The other man—obviously Su Yan’s superior in this setup and more than faintly contemptuous of the Chinese-American—laughed. “I know that. Even if those warning sirens were for real at that regular practice hour, no one would pay any attention until it was too late. The louder they wailed, the less heard by those sheep and goats. Those stupid creatures of habit would go about their normal lives—maybe complaining a little about the noise!”
“The city can be Washington!” Su Yan said, growing excited in contemplating the triumph, the same deceptive simplicity that had worked in the exploding lei used to kill one person. The same simplicity would be used to kill millions—on a gigantic scale, and using an atomic device.
Solo sweated, knowing that the scheme was so simple that it was foolproof. There was only one hope to counteract the awesome perfection of the simple scheme to use U.S. habit and its own defense warning system against itself. That hope was to alert the Command in time.
He tilted his head, thinking he could follow the chimney shaft to a ground level opening somewhere, and somehow fight his way to freedom. It was all he could do, and there was no time to waste.
The voice of the leader in the room outside stopped him: “I think you could insure the success of this operation, Su Yan, simply by forcing the two agents to make calls to Waverly, assuring him there is no immediate danger and that they have joined forces and are working together.”
“Excellent,” Su Yan said. “The one agent, Kuryakin, will require an injection to restore him to normalcy, but the other man can be handled easily—in fact, we are this moment working on him.”
Solo almost laughed, and then did not. There was a chill in Su Yan’s tone, and he seemed to speak louder, as if he hoped to be overheard: “It never occurred to Solo that we had his room and his suite on closed-circuit television. It seems to me he would have realized that in a place like this, all rooms are kept under surveillance.”
Solo began to inch away from the grate, stunned by the impact of Su Yan’s boast. It had occurred to him that rooms of the inmates might be scanned through the big-brother device of closed-circuit television, but the very fact that the barred suite was far underground, and had apparently never been used as a patient’s room, had faked him off.
As he tried to move away, he remembered the almost incredibly easy way he had been permitted to escape to the field—like a mouse being tormented. What pleasure it must have given the watchers to see him build this sound-detector, to sort the parts dismantled by them.
They were laughing, but suddenly Solo was not. His arms refused to function; his legs no longer responded. He tried to move and he could not. He breathed deeply, conscious of the sweet scent of a gas, undoubtedly a nerve gas.
He lay there, conscious but paralyzed.
Incident the Morning after Doomsday
IT WAS STILL early morning in the incredible ranges of the mountains where Broadmoor Rest crouched like an aerie of evil high upon its own promontory.
The hum of the fan-jet was picked up first. The battery of field lights flared to life, washing out the last gray wisps of night within the confines of the fieldstone walls.
The plane glided in with a grace and ease that communicated its perfection to the guards and the workers permitted in the area at this hour, and on this unusual day. A work of art always is a labor of love, and the most hardened armed man on the field could not deny the slight prickling of excitement he felt in seeing the way that plane was touched down without a bump, jerk, or indecision.
The huge silver plane taxied up to the driveway nearest the main building of the sanitarium, was turned smoothly and headed into the wind. The engines died, the hatch was swung open, a ladder mechanically unfolded itself, and three men padded down the steps to the guards waiting to receive them on the runway.
The navigator was first, a slender man in his t
The pilot was the last man off the plane, and once he stepped out into the light, no one looked at anyone except him.
He paused on the top step a moment, glancing around, not as if he owned this plane—which he did not—or the sanitarium, but the world itself.
The man was well over six feet tall. He wore a flying jacket, freshly pressed slacks and highly polished black shoes. His shirt was a blue-tinted imported linen. He was no longer young—he was somewhere in his forties, probably nine years older than he admitted even to himself. He had a record of flying on both sides in several wars on the African continent, of delivering arms to opposing camps on the same day, sometimes even the same flight. If one had money, one could buy him—until someone came along with more money.
“Let’s get this show on the road,” he said to the head security officer. “Where are the big wheels?” He grinned. “The men with my orders—and my money.”
The security officer smiled with him because his smiling was infectious. It even made one overlook the padded bags under his dark, intense eyes, the only sign that he had been drinking heedlessly until an hour before flight time this morning. His breath was still liquor-tart, but he was completely cold and in command of himself.
“I was told to inform you, Mr. Baker,” the security officer said. “There may be a slight delay.”
Baker stopped smiling. “The hell with that, Charley. Take me to your leader. There’s no delay on this boat. We get off on the minute or we don’t go.”
“I’m just telling what I was ordered to tell you—”
“And I’m just countermanding your orders, Ace,” Baker said. “Let’s go give the words to the wheels.”
“They may not like being interrupted—”
Baker lost his temper instantly. His voice rasped, and the security guard, larger and heavier, paled slightly and retreated. He didn’t like looking at what he saw in those dark eyes, so full of laughter an instant before.
“To hell with what they like, Ace,” Baker said. “They can’t delay this. It’s on, it’s on schedule. Or it’s off. It takes a fan-jet a certain number of hours to go X number of miles. They know as well as I do, the timing has to be perfect. Come on. Take me to them, and I’ll lay the word on them.”
SOLO’S MIND remained entirely clear, but his body was numbed, incapable of movement.
He lay there exploring the simplicity of this plan: death from the most unexpected source. From lovely ginger flowers formed into a brilliant, scented lei. And from the clear noon sky during a civilian defense test alert. The more one heard the scream of those accustomed sirens, the less one was impressed—hadn’t they wailed last week at the same hour, and every week for the past ten years?
In his fevered mind, Solo saw that atomic device, painstakingly assembled by the finest minds Thrush’s money and threats and blackmail could buy, waiting down there to be hoisted on that open lift to the plane at ground-level.
He twisted frantically, but all the writhing was inside his skin, in his mind.
All this whirled through Solo’s thoughts as he heard Su Yan order the grating removed from the fireplace of the command room.
When the grate was removed, Solo stared for a moment at the faces of the guards bending down to drag him out. Then, beyond them, he saw the cabinets along the walls, the filing cases, realizing that this room was the heart of the Thrush operations at this base.
“One never knows what sort of animal one will find in one’s walls, eh?” Su Yan said. His voice mocked at Solo. “Pull it out, and we’ll exterminate it.”
The guards caught Solo by the shirt collar and by the hair, pulling him into the room.
They dropped him less than carefully upon the tiled flooring. Solo lay sprawled where he struck, helpless even to straighten his twisted ann. For all intents and purposes, his body was dead; only his mind persisted alive.
He heard Su Yan chuckle. “Dirty beast, isn’t he? Covered with soot and grime. I’m afraid he’s not exactly the sort of Santa Claus from a chimney I’ve always imagined.”
From where he had been dropped Solo could see only a small portion of the room. His mind was tormented with the seeds of madness: he knew of the awesome plan to destroy civilization, and he could not even move a muscle of his hands or feet. And time ticked away.
Time stood still then for a moment when there was a sharp rapping on the door.
Su Yan strode across the room and opened it. Solo heard anger and outrage in his voice as he demanded, “What are you doing in here?”
A hesitant voice said, “It’s Colonel Baker, sir. He says he either talks to you people, or he flies out—I thought you’d want to know.”
“What’s the hush-hush?” Baker strode into the room, pushing the door out of Su Yan’s grasp. “You people don’t intimidate me. Put a bullet in me, pay me off, or keep to schedule. It’s all the same to me.”
“What’s eating you, Baker?” The head of the operations spoke now, and Solo fought to lift his head enough to see him.
Baker laughed. “I’ll tell you what’s eating me, Wheel. You people hired me on a trick that sounded good because it offered a challenge to me. You know? Pinpointed. Precisely timed. Well, I’m here and there’s talk of delay. My plane can travel only so fast—there’s so much distance to cover, and precise timing won’t wait. Either follow through with the plans—and that means keeping to an exact schedule—or pay me off. Real simple. No sweat. Nothing to get excited about.”
THE EXCITEMENT WAS quickly quelled, the room cleared for the moment except for Su Yan and the man U.N.C.L.E. had known for so long only as Tixe Ylno. There was no doubt now. This was the biggest wheel of all in Operation Doomsday.
“The pilot was absolutely right, Su Yan” Tixe Ylno was saying. “The difference of a few minutes would spoil the arrival of the device as the test sirens started in our target area. One cannot help admiring Colonel Baker. He has stayed alive to this moment by being sure of everything he does connected with flying.”
Su Yan was not impressed. “He’s not the kind of man I’d care to have in the sort of world I envision after today.”
Tixe Ylno laughed. “It’s highly unlikely that Colonel Baker will survive the holocaust, old friend. Those of us here underground may be the only ones to see the end of this conflict.”
Tixe Ylno paced across the room, stood staring down at Solo sprawled like a rag doll on the chilled flooring.
Solo’s eyes widened. He felt the nausea and sickness spread inside his numbed body. He no longer needed the code name for Tixe Ylno.
The man standing over him was Osgood DeVry, the president’s adviser and confidant.
DeVry stared down at him a moment, his face without any expression. Then he spoke across his shoulder. “Get Kuryakin and the girl in here. There’s no more time for delay.”
“I’ll bring them myself,” Sam Su Yan said from across the room. “We’ll want Dr. Calyort to give him an injection before we get him in here.”
DeVry waved his hand impatiently.
The corridor door whispered open, sighed closed, and Solo was alone with DeVry.
DeVry’s face twisted into a contemptuous smile, staring down at Solo. “You can stop looking at me with such astonishment and revulsion, Solo. It won’t help you to know my true identity. Believe me, you’d never have been permitted to see me, or even hear my voice, except that you’re slated for immediate oblivion.”
He prowled away, then returned. He said, “I cannot tell you how much I’ve enjoyed all these months reading the classified and confidential reports your agency has been making on me under my code name of Tixe Ylno. The very name itself amused every time I saw it—because I do plan exit only for the two great powers of this earth.”
DeVry glanced at his watch, shooting his
“The president trusted you—almost more than any other man on earth,” Solo said, somewhat astonished that he could speak coherently, though his body remained in a state of paralysis.
“I’m not interested in sentimentality, or the mistakes other men make simply because they see in you some quality they possess in themselves.”
“You’re one of the most influential men in this country. What is it going to buy you to destroy it?”
DeVry smiled at him coldly. “Its going to buy me what I need.”
“Do you need a world destroyed by an atomic war?”
“At the moment, I do. For many reasons. Most of them you wouldn’t even understand. You say I’m influential as a presidential flunkey? I shall be a great deal more influential in the world that remains—I shall dictate all its terms.”
“You may be talking to yourself.”
DeVry appeared unmoved by this possibility.
“If I am,” he replied, “I shall tell myself that I have what a man of pride must have. Vindication. Revenge for the wrongs compounded upon me, and which I’ve had to take until I simply cannot take them any more.” Solo stared at the man, wondering what had happened to him to cause his mind to break like this—because he saw that DeVry was insane, no longer able to conceive the horror of a world blasted by atomic radiation. What had happened to this man so long trusted and respected by his close friend, the president?
DeVry answered this for him, too. “I tried to warn him. The president—I tried to warn him. He just laughed, and slapped me on the back and wouldn’t listen. Well, he’ll listen now. I told them I wanted a position worthy of my talents, the sort of post I had earned all these years in military and political life. They pick my brains. Then let them put me in a position where I’d be respected for the decisions I either make or influence. Years ago, I was promised the job that I would have taken, would have executed better than it has ever been handled, and would have been contented with. They promised me that I would head Central Intelligence. I even spoke about it to my close friends, relatives. I was filled with pride and satisfaction. It was what I wanted.”
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