Igms issue 24, p.1

IGMS Issue 24, page 1

 

IGMS Issue 24
 


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IGMS Issue 24


  Issue 24 - August 2011

  http://www.InterGalacticMedicineShow.com

  Copyright © 2011 Hatrack River Enterprises

  Table of Contents - Issue 24 - August 2011

  * * *

  Under the Shield

  by Stephen Kotowych

  What Happened at Blessing Creek

  by Naomi Kritzer

  Second Chances Made of Glass and Wood

  by Michael T. Banker

  Old Flat Foot

  by Ross Willard

  Whiteface - Part I

  by Jared Oliver Adams

  The Floating Statue

  by David Lubar

  Shadows in Flight

  by Orson Scott Card

  InterGalactic Interview With Ben Bova

  by Darrell Schweitzer

  Letter From The Editor

  by Edmund R. Schubert

  Under the Shield

  by Stephen Kotowych

  Artwork by M. Wayne Miller

  * * *

  The claustrophobic sound of breathing filled Peter Trevelyan's gas mask as he surveyed the subway platform. Bodies lay everywhere, even on the stairs and hanging over the platform's edge, shrouded in a yellow-green fog of chlorine gas.

  What a horrible way to die, thought Trevelyan as he stepped carefully so as to not disturb the corpses. He'd investigated more anarchist attacks in the four years since Tunguska than he cared to remember, including gassings. These people had died in agony, their lungs bleeding and destroyed.

  Tsar Nicolas's agents in New York were growing bold in attacking a subway station. The creeping mist had been delivered through the ventilation system, descending on a platform packed with rush-hour commuters.

  Fulton Street Station was in the Financial District, so most of the dead were businessmen, but there was also an old woman who lay in a bloody heap by the stairs, trampled to death in the pandemonium. And a mother who'd thrown herself over her two sons, vainly trying to shelter them from the gas. The younger boy still clutched one of those new stuffed bears; the ones named for President Roosevelt.

  Something odd caught Trevelyan's eye: at the far end of the station a single body, a woman, sat upright on a bench. He made his way to her.

  She was dark-haired, no more than twenty. He tugged at the long hose and canister of his gas hood, pulling the canvas taut to get a better view through the hood's round, glass eyes.

  Wearing a flower-print dress under a beige overcoat, she'd been pretty. Her body sat facing the downtown tracks, her head tilted down and to the side, looking peaceful. Trevelyan might have thought she were asleep if he didn't know better.

  All the other bodies were on the ground. Why hadn't she joined the stampede? Who sits calmly on a bench through an agonizing death?

  Trevelyan waved his arms to get the attention of the photographer and motioned for a picture of the dead girl. As the flash bulb fired, Trevelyan wondered who the freelancer was this time. City cops usually contracted crime-scene photography to whoever slipped them a twenty first. It was even-money whether the photo would be in the morning papers before it was on his desk at the Bureau.

  He checked the dead girl's pockets for identification, finding none. One did yield a small, crumpled paper bag with a smeared purple stamp. Peering inside by flashlight, Trevelyan made out a few pinches of grit. Birdseed? No purse

  accompanied the body -- her ID may have been in there, wherever it had ended up.

  Pulling at the long gold chain around her neck revealed a golden crucifix hidden within her dress. He fingered the three crossbeams of the Orthodox cross for a moment and then placed it carefully back within the woman's dress.

  Once he was at street level, Trevelyan tore off the gas mask, glad to be free of its close, damp heat. The pepper-and-pineapple tang of the gas hung vaguely in the air. Only two years earlier the anarchists had still been throwing homemade bombs at police wagons and trying to gun down politicians from the backs of speeding Model Ts.

  But an unknown number of tsarist secret police, the Okhrana, had been smuggled into the United States since then to agitate amongst Russian immigrants, as well as those opposed to the war and Tesla's peace-beam. The Okhrana trained agents to fight the only kind of war Tesla shields couldn't defend against: sabotage and terror.

  Flash-bulbs popped amongst the crowd at the barricades as stretcher-bearers carried the shrouded bodies up from the subway and laid them on the cobble. Newsmen were never far behind one of the Russian attacks.

  Vultures, thought Trevelyan.

  The Okhrana had been effective. Trevelyan had never seen a more lethal attack: twenty-six dead from gas, by his count, and probably the same again in the hospital who would succumb to the effects of the chlorine after several agonizing days. Ten or twelve more had been trampled to death.

  One of the stretcher men approached and removed his gas mask. "That's the last, sir. Shall I have them start the hoses?"

  "Yes, constable," said Trevelyan. "And thank you," he added, not used to such deference from the NYPD. City cops usually resented Bureau agents assuming command.

  At the constable's signal the assembled firemen started their pumps and trained hoses down the station stairs. Water would neutralize the vapors, washing them harmlessly into the sewers.

  A distant siren sounded, followed momentarily by a chorus of others. The all-clear.

  Reflexively, everyone in the street -- from Trevelyan, to the cordon of police riflemen, to the crowd of onlookers behind the barricades -- craned their heads skyward.

  Above the building tops, the Tesla shield dome of electromagnetic energy flickered out in spasms of forked lightning and crashes of thunder as the generating stations on Roosevelt Island powered down. Trevelyan felt again the drizzle of rain that the shield had temporarily blocked.

  Every tsarist bomb was treated as a possible prelude to invasion, so up went the shield. Impervious to external attack, New York had only to worry about the rot within.

  Trevelyan found the stretcher with the girl in the flower-print dress and motioned to one of the coroner's assistants. "No ID," he said. "Tell the coroner I want her examined first. Let me know what the autopsy says."

  At 3 a.m., after hours of interviewing witnesses and survivors, Trevelyan finally reached home. He locked his apartment door and pulled down the blinds, then unlocked a small cabinet that stood in the eastern corner of his bedroom. Its plain exterior belied the glints of gold and silver revealed within as Peter struck a match. The wooden doors were divided into ornate arches painted with images of saints, martyrs, the Madonna and Child -- a private iconostasis for Peter. The contents were all manner of icons, holy medals, and crucifixes, some passed down for generations.

  Peter lit a candle before icons of the Theotokos of Kazan and of Saint Mark of the Caves that had belonged to his grandmother -- his paternal grandmother -- and stood quietly for a moment watching the flame dance off deeply-burnished gold-leaf halos and ornate silver frames.

  He prayed for the dead girl, who wore a Byzantine cross even though signs of her Orthodox faith risked recrimination.

  And though he lived alone and the door was locked, because Peter prayed all this in Russian, he whispered.

  Trevelyan arrived at the Bureau of Investigation's New York field office on three hours of sleep. The bright, clear day stood not only as an unwelcome reminder of how little sleep he'd managed, but also in stark contrast to the headlines he passedat the newsstands.

  The Times ran subway terror -- anarchists gas commuters -- dozens dead while the reliably sensational New York Herald trumpeted underground death! above a photo of the subway platform littered with bodies.

  A thick yellow envelope waited on Peter's desk. As the BOI Russian Affairs Liaison with the NYPD, he was provided with cr
ime scene photos and notes of the interviews made with all survivors of anarchist attacks.

  The shuffling sound of heavy feet let Trevelyan know Assistant Director Swan approached. He turned as Swan struck a match, lighting a cigar and puffing until a veil of thick smoke hung around his head. He always looked to Trevelyan like a man who had wallowed all day, fully dressed, on an unmade bed.

  Swan tossed a missing persons report on Trevelyan's desk. The small glossy photo paperclipped to the pages -- some kind of official ID photo -- showed the dark-haired girl from the night before.

  "She's one of yours."

  "Sir?" Trevelyan managed, though his heart was momentarily in his throat. Swan would know about the name change if he'd read Trevelyan's permanent file, but he'd never brought up Peter's Russian heritage.

  "The girl. She was killed last night in the attack," said Swan. "The coroner matched the photo with the body this morning. He needs to see you -- there's been a development."

  Trevelyan scanned the missing persons report. His victim had a name, at last. Alice Bester. It wasn't Russian. An alias?

  "This report was filed today," Trevelyan said, flipping through the pages. "She's been missing . . . less than eighteen hours? How did this get acted on so quickly?"

  "She's one of Tesla's." Swan puffed his cigar.

  "Wardenclyffe?"

  The assistant director nodded and Trevelyan's jaw tensed. Wardenclyffe was the last thing he wanted to get involved with. Tesla, too. Not again.

  "What the hell was one of Tesla's people doing in Manhattan?" Trevelyan asked aloud. Wardenclyffe was in Shoreham, on Long Island. "I'll need an automobile."

  "A car and driver are waiting downstairs," said Swan, and he picked a bit of tobacco off his tongue. Trevelyan grabbed his coat and followed Swan into the elevator.

  Ever since Wardenclyffe had been militarized, Trevelyan's understanding was that staff lived on the base, and, given the secrecy of their work, their movements were closely monitored. The missing persons report said Alice Bester had been ordered to the city on official business -- she was one of Tesla's secretaries -- and failed to return to base.

  "Peter," Swan said as they stepped out on to street, "this is going to be a very sensitive case." They stopped at the curb where a grey-haired constable in need of a shave leaned against a Model T. "Makes me uneasy, having one of Tesla's people involved. Very powerful people will want to know why she was on that platform last night. Solve this -- fast."

  Trevelyan thought a moment before he spoke. "Am I working the subway gassing or Alice Bester?" He'd been involved in politically-sensitive cases before and this was starting to feel uncomfortably like another one.

  Swan merely smiled. "The automobile is yours for the duration of the case. Hargrave here will be your driver. Good hunting," he said, and disappeared back inside the BOI offices in a cloud of cigar smoke.

  Hargrave appraised Trevelyan coolly. He didn't offer his hand.

  "The Bureau's taken jurisdiction in this case, constable," said Trevelyan, sensing a city cop's territoriality in the man.

  "Yes, sir," said Hargrave, in a tone just short of insubordination. "Always happy to drive around you fellas from the Bureau."

  Trevelyan climbed in the passenger side as the auto rocked side-to-side several times, Hargrave giving the starter crank two or three quarter turns at full choke. The engine turned over and sputtered to a start as Hargrave gave one final good spin of the crank. He rushed to the driver's side, hopped in, and advanced the spark coil. The auto lurched forward into the street.

  "Must be a big case if the Department's letting us take out the flivver, eh?" Hargrave said. When Trevelyan said nothing Hargrave added: "I mean this is a lot of fuss for one dead girl, ain't it?"

  "It's Hargrave, right?" Trevelyan said without looking up from the report he was reading. "Truth be told, Hargrave, I've only been in one of these damned 'flivver' things once before. I'm not looking forward to another trip."

  Hargrave scoffed under his breath but said nothing else. Trevelyan often found a little well-placed rudeness had wonderful results. He had too much on his mind to make chitchat with some flatfoot.

  Very powerful people would want answers, Swan had said. Hoover was probably watching this case himself.

  They came to a stop at the corner, where a patrolman directed traffic as a work crew replaced the traffic signal with one using the new Tesla glow globes. Caricature portraits of the Entente heads of state were painted on the side of a nearby building: Tsar Nicolas (looking fey and gaunt); George V (his moustache exaggerated to make him look like a walrus); and Poincaré, President of France (fat-cheeked, with a nose red from too much wine).

  "know your enemy!" read the painted banner above the three portraits.

  "To the morgue, Hargrave." Tongues of lightning arced across the clear sky and a sharp staccato of thunderclaps echoed through the canyon of buildings around them as the sirens began their piercing whine. The Tesla shield flickered to life.

  "Strangulation?" said Trevelyan, reading aloud from the coroner's report. He exhaled a lungful of cigarette smoke into the dimness. Trevelyan didn't smoke often, but it masked the smell of antiseptic and death that permeated the morgue. Hargrave, who'd produced a sandwich from somewhere, stood by the swinging doors chewing wetly.

  "You can see the bruising here, and here," said the coroner -- a Dr. Northey -- lifting the sheet covering the girl and indicating the bruising on both sides of her neck.

  "This girl was dead before the gas started," Northey continued, lighting himself a cigarette. He was a short, bespectacled man who might have been mistaken for a barber but for the grim stains on his apron.

  "Small mercy, if you ask me," he said. "Chlorine gas . . ." He shook his head.

  If Miss Bester was dead before the gas attack, Trevelyan realized, it explained her positioning on the bench -- she'd been staged by whoever killed her. Passersby would have thought the young woman had simply dozed off waiting for a train.

  Northey tipped his glasses to the end of his nose and began filling out paperwork. "What I can't figure is why the killer would leave a body on a subway platform where it could be discovered."

  Trevelyan thought a moment. "Unless the killer knew of the attack in advance." Who would notice one more body when it was all over?

  How different Wardenclyffe is, Trevelyan thought, as the Model T trundled to a halt at a guard booth. There had been no guards on his last visit, and they were still several miles from where he remembered the old main gates being. A decorative gate with no lock had been replaced by a high fence topped with razor wire, guard towers, riflemen, and cavalry patrolling the perimeter . . . Land in every direction had been annexed by the military and the whole area was designated the Wardenclyffe National Research Laboratory.

  Hargrave presented their badges and explained their investigation. The MP on duty looked them over and picked up a telephone.

  "Straight ahead. Park on the left," he said after receiving instructions. "You'll be met by Colonel Hilroy's adjutant."

  The giant Tesla tower -- the first, Trevelyan realized, of hundreds that now protected cities all over the United States -- was visible above the trees for more than a mile before they reached the main base. And where once there had been only the main laboratory and the great transmission tower, the Wardenclyffe grounds were now covered in all manner of low buildings, and stretches of apartment blocks.

  The great mushroom-domed Tesla tower -- transmitter for both shield and death ray -- rushed heavenward like a steel geyser. Stepping from the Model T, Hargrave gawked upward and Trevelyan found himself doing the same, sunlight reflecting blindingly off the tower's metal sheathing. The clouds rushing past made the tower appear to be falling toward them, and Trevelyan looked away, dizzy.

  It was the Tunguska Event that changed everything.

  Though it happened in June of 1908, the world didn't learn of the explosion in the Tunguska river valley of Siberia until November of that year, wh
en the Russians produced the first photographic evidence.

  It looked like the vengeful fist of God Himself had smashed into the Russian frontier.

  The blast, equivalent to millions of tons of TNT, had a radius of nearly 900 miles. Estimates counted 80 million trees destroyed, splintered and tossed over the hillsides like matchsticks.

  Eyewitnesses spoke of a flash and explosion like an artillery barrage. The shockwave threw people to the ground and shattered windows seven hundred miles away. Seismic stations in Great Britain registered the blast as an earthquake.

  Then came Mr. Tesla's remarkable announcement.

  He had, claimed the inventor himself, been working on a weapon to end war for all time: a focused energy beam, an application of teleforce which he called his "peace beam," but which all the papers heralded as Tesla's "death ray," a terror weapon sprung to life seemingly from the pages of an H.G. Wells tale.

  His beam had rendered war obsolete for all time, he said, and ushered in an age of eternal peace. He urged the military powers of Europe and the Orient to abandon their arms races and entangling alliances.

  And then he took questions from the press.

  Waiting at the motor pool was a tall lieutenant who identified himself as Carlson, the colonel's adjutant. They followed him to a smartly-appointed office on the second floor of the main building, where a bristle-haired Army colonel waited.

  "The Bureau telephoned this morning to let me know we should expect you," said Colonel Hilroy as he and Trevelyan shook hands. "We were very sorry to hear about Miss Bester. My people will do anything they can to assist you in your investigation."

  "Thank you, Colonel," Trevelyan said, sitting and pulling out a notepad. "I understand Miss Bester was a secretary?"

  "Doctor Tesla's social secretary, that's right," said Hilroy. "I was told Miss Bester died in the subway gas attack last night. Can I ask what the Bureau's interest is in this case?"

 
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