“That suit isn’t quite conservative enough for him,” Caron Torver said as the speaker approached the lectern, referring to the tan jacket and bright blue tie that came up just short of matching well.
“I suppose his announcement has put him in a bit of a liberal mood,” Johann Altemarre responded with a bit of a chuckle. “If you remember, though, his office resembled a picture straight out of Right-Wing America.”
They were sitting in the back of an auditorium in Wheeling, West Virginia, of all places, and during a meeting of the Republican Women’s Club, of all times. None of the women seemed to care as long as they stayed in the back and didn’t attempt to participate. “Yeah, I remember.” How could he not? It had only been about a month (even that long?) since they had been in the Senator’s office. How Altemarre had managed to get an appointment he had no clue. It would be one more thing he would pick up later, presumably.
The speaker began with the usual dignities, the celebration of a certain historical figure’s birthday, etcetera, etcetera. Then Torver heard from the loudspeakers, “The great difference between our western Christian world and the atheistic Communistic world is not political, gentlemen, it is moral… [“did he just say gentlemen?”] …the real, basic difference, however, lies in the religion of immoralism…” That’s more like it, Torver thought.
He wasn’t so confident a month ago. Torver could see the man, behind his desk, shuffling through stacks of papers worriedly as the two visitors made their way in. Reelection was in the near future and this particular Senator hadn’t had a very interesting (and consequently, successful, in the public’s eyes) first three years in office, and he needed something to propel him into the spotlight. His visitors were about to give him exactly what he needed.
“I wonder which figure he uses,” Altemarre said, interrupting Torver’s thoughts. All he got was a blank expression, forcing an explanation: “We didn’t exactly give him an exact number. I expect he’ll give some kind of figure just to prove he has a list; I’m not sure what amount he will throw out.”
“I honestly have no idea,” Torver replied. Drifting back into the past, he realized it could be just about any number.
“We have reason to believe that there could be anywhere between 57 and 205 Communists currently employed in the State Department,” Altemarre began when they were safely inside the Senatorial office. It was important to remain professional, almost exaggeratedly so. It wasn’t hard compared to the Senator himself. Torver would have to remember to ask where the 57 came from: Two hundred-five was the number of names on the list they handed over, but 57 seemingly had no meaning whatsoever. Altemarre did most of the talking, and Torver only contributed when asked about something he would presumably be more qualified to explain. In reality, he was there merely because two people would be more likely to be believed than one. It was the usual protocol in this type of assignment.
The response, once the Senator gave the statement precedence over his paperwork, was not one of utmost surprise. It did, however, bring a newfound glow to his face which reflected a mind deep in thought. “This has been suspected by a few of my colleagues for a few years now. Do you have anything resembling some sort of evidence, or am I going to have to take your word for it as two complete strangers?”
“We have proof. Oh, we have proof.” Altemarre had responded haughtily, as if stunned the prospect should even arise. “We, as members of the State Department, have access to records that prove that these particular employees of the State Department have ties to, or are even card-carrying members of, various Communist organizations.”
“Really? Can I see your identification confirming you are members of the State Department, first of all?” Altemarre and Torver showed the proper identification, only truly proper because it appeared to be.
“Ok, Mr. Stallings and Mr. Marck, what can you tell me about these alleged Communists?”
The speaker had just gotten to his assertion: “The State Department is infested with Communists…”
“Wow, that’s pretty strong,” Torver said.
“Yeah, but it’ll get stronger.”
“I have in my hand a list of 57 names that were known to the State Department as being members of the Communist Party…”
“By the way, where did the 57 come from? I’ve never heard you use that number in this case before.”
“I got it from the bottle of ketchup I used at lunch today. I needed a low number so that it wouldn’t seem too precise, and therefore possibly fake. I had to give him some doubt; he’s not a complete idiot,” Altemarre said with a sly smile. Torver would have to remember that.
As the two strange men left his office, Joseph McCarthy looked down hesitantly at the list they had left. He really did dislike Communists and all that they stood for, but these were Americans, nonetheless. The men didn’t actually put forth any evidence for the 205, but left him to trust them. He suddenly re-realized how near his bid for reelection was approaching and how little he would be able to talk about having done.
No, no, this could destroy these people’s lives. He didn’t want to have that on his conscience, nor did he want everyone else putting it on him, as some assuredly would. He didn’t want to be that guy.
He leaned back in his chair and though for a moment. A small plaque on the wall caught his eye, and he got up and walked over to read it:
“When a great democracy is destroyed, it will not be from enemies from without, but rather because of enemies from within.”
And at that moment Joseph McCarthy knew what he had to do. He ripped up his current draft of the Wheeling speech and told his secretary to cancel the rest of his appointments for the day.
Torver had not been present when Altemarre had gotten the assignment from the Institute, but he hadn’t really needed to be. Now, he was riding shotgun as Altemarre recounted the events of the past month to the Director of the Institute.
“What was your observation of the Senator, Torver?” It was really only a formality, but the Director stuck to it. As a new member of the Institute, Torver was naturally ranked at Level 1, while Director Gilchrest was a fully ranked 3. Altemarre was of the middle rank, presumably soon to be promoted.
“He seemed very interested in the list, and did with it exactly what we wanted him to,” Altemarre responded.
“We had expected this. I will have to consult with the Assembly on how to further handle the situation. You have done well for now. Thank you.”
When the Director said he would consult with “the assembly,” he actually meant merely one person. And Gilchrest was expected, despite no prior notice. Altheus Dare was just that good.
“How are you, Barry?” Altheus said (without even turning around in his seat) as Berion Gilchrest opened the door to walk in.
“I truly believe you’re the only person left alive who can call me that without repercussions,” Gilchrest responded. “And you knew it was me without turning around, as usual. Sometimes I think you do things like that just to astound, or worse, to scare people.”
Finally, Altheus turned around to face his Director of the Institute For the Human Race. Dare was a strange-looking man (by his own admission), a fact that did not keep many beautiful women from pouring out their souls to him. He was quite bald (had been for years), with a slightly caricatured head, a consequence of an otherwise beneficial condition. But it wasn’t the face that got him where he was, both men thought nearly simultaneously.
However, neither was it anything he did consciously. He was born into it, and it was born into him.
“Is it the McCarthy situation?” Altheus asked immediately. He didn’t really have time for niceties, even with an old friend like Berion. No matter- he would understand.
“Yes, sir. We were successful in our third attempt.”
“That is good news. Why is your tone not indicative of this, Director?” He knew the answer (as he nearly always did), but felt it beneficial to hear it from others.
“There may be a problem, with Fuchs.”
“He is awaiting trial for being a Soviet spy.” He had a some idea of what was coming, despite his matter-of-fact response.
“He may have gotten to something before he was interred.”
“What are you getting at?”
“We really don’t know. I have already told you everything we have as of ten minutes ago.”
“A German-turned-British theoretical physicist who worked on the Manhattan Project gives military secrets to the Soviets, including the basis for building the atomic bomb. We break out the big guns to track him down in Russia and hand him over to the British for passing military secrets to a friendly nation, even though we all knew the friendly part would not last long. What else are you trying to tell me?”
“That he may have made some kind of advancement in his research before we got him. We’re not sure how much of his work was sent to the Soviets, but it is sure that the Soviets may have something that could affect the outcome of this new Cold War.”
“What do you have to suggest this?”
“In his personal effects, there are coded diagrams, of various explosives, many of which our scientists aren’t able to decipher. However, some diagrams indicate that Fuchs was experimenting with hydrogen fusion, strangely, since nuclear weapons…”
“…are fueled by fission, yes, I know, Berion. Is there anything else of value?”
“Well, there are also some drawings that our scientists tell me seem to resemble Goddard’s original liquid-fueled rocket designs as well as some of Wernher von Braun’s long-range artillery designs, but not much more can be made sense of.”
“Okay, thank you. I will decide on a suitable course of action as soon as possible.”
When Altheus said ‘I,’ he really meant he would consult with a very important but very unknown group of people, much like Berion was not entirely truthful who his own confidants were. Actually, as he thought about it, they were all known at one time but only he knew they still existed in any form, just like no one except he and those involved knew that at this very moment a third massive space station was nearing completion in geosynchronous orbit. Now he was making his way to the bookshelf to the right of the door, the one that opened and let him into the most important decision-making place in the history of the world.
Sometimes Altheus felt like the ancient Chinese he read about as a child who not only worshipped their ancestors, but talked to them as if they were sitting right there in front of them and could respond with the answer to all their problems. The difference? The Dare ancestors actually responded, and most of them kept up with current events enough to provide helpful answers.
The room was a darkly lit sanctuary that housed a huge machine for each deceased member of the Dare clan since Bertrand Dare, 11th descendant of Virginia Dare. It was originally Stephania Dare (8thdescendant)’s idea that if there ever came a time when it would be efficient enough to store all the information (since even with her vastly superior intellect computers were beyond comprehension), it would be invaluable to the descendants to store all the information each member possessed. It was only later thought of, by Bertrand, to also include personality traits so that each member’s entire mind would essentially be stored. Only for these superhumans could this work, since no normal homo sapiens could even begin to put his entire life, second by second, down to words the way someone with a photographic memory could. By the current era, Altheus could talk to each member as if it were a conference call, and they could all talk to each other, debating on the issue at hand. However, some of the member’s personality simulations, since they had essentially been soaking in more and more knowledge (and not to mention taking up much more memory) over the years, had exhibited some senility, based on each personality’s predisposition as such. Altheus just though of it as irony, that these great minds could escape death but not perpetual decrepity.
He addressed each by name with reverence as he passed their portrait above their speaker before pausing to stop in front of his father’s.
“Father, it is good to talk to you again. I miss seeing your real face, however.”
“It is a credit to our success, however, that you can talk to me, despite the fact that my body has long turned to dust.”
“True. However, I have not come here to visit, as much as I would love to. There is another crisis which I feel I should confide in the family on.”
“You shouldn’t even hesitate to confide in us, sonny,” came a loud, intruding voice from a few rows away. “We’re not doin’ anything else, we’re not goin’ nowhere, and we aren’t tellin’ nobody. What else are we gonna do?”
“Yeah, well, you haven’t been here so long, Beatrice. If you’d been here as long as I you would not be so cheerful,” replied a much more depressed voice from a little bit farther down. “What is the purpose of life if not to die? I cannot die, so why am I living, if this is truly life?”
“You always were so philosophical, Darnell. Technically, you are already dead,” Beatrice retorted. “Actually, if there’s one thing we really don’t know too much about, it’s dying. Which is really ironic, since our bodies are dead.”
“That is enough,” Altheus said, ending the discussion. “I need to figure out what Fuchs found out and if he got it to somebody. That’s what you are for, right?”
His exclamation was met with silence from the dead.
“That’s more like it. Can anybody figure out about Fuchs?”
“It is not very likely that he came up with anything, considering that one of the other scientists working with him on the Manhattan Project would have noticed, or at least suspected something,” Augustus put in. “We haven’t gotten anything from them at all.”
“Well, I must say, they probably had other things on their minds,” Darnell chuckled, referring to Oppenheimer’s recent depressive revelation. “They probably would not have even noticed if he were defying gravity in the cafeteria on his breaks.”
“That is a good point, but leaves us with nothing to go on… I hope there is another solution other than just going to talk to him,” Altheus said.
“It may be, if we cannot figure out what the end-game is with his research,” Stephania said. “What could he be doing with hydrogen fusion?”
“Fusion alone is not possible to build a bomb out of,” Darnell said. “There is no way to get enough energy inside a bomb case, even one as big as the Fat Man, to compress the matter enough to create fusion.”
“And on top of that, you would have to have matter more dense than is possible, stable enough to put on a bomb,” Augustus added. “The large-scale fusion has to have matter at extremely high densities. I have not done any experimenting, but I am writing fusion off as impossible to harness or use in a bomb.”
“That is the logic, but we should not discount anything yet. We cannot really dismiss it as impossible until we know for sure.”
“If this fusion bomb would work, it would be ten, twenty times larger than anything we’ve done now,” Edward pointed out over drinks late that night in Los Alamos.
“We could have destroyed all of Japan and not even had to deal with a surrender,” Enrico chuckled hesitantly, as if still feeling the emotional effects of what they did do.
“The fuel just isn’t dense enough to ignite and create fusion.”
“If we had a collider to make a denser element, we could use that.”
“And get it in a bomb case? The A-bomb was already big enough.”
“Yes, true,” Enrico agreed. “Maybe we should just build one large enough to house a laboratory.”
“And will you volunteer to man that laboratory?” retorted Edward, laughingly. “Will you be able to collide the material as you are falling at 9.8 meters per second? Apply that to a trigger, or would you just set it off yourself, since you’d be committing suicide anyway?”
“There is also the energy loss involved with the fuel you have planned on using, as well,” Stan said as he came in and poured himself a drink. “You are going to need much more tritium or the bomb will lose too much energy. The reaction won’t propagate.”
“Now that is where I think you are mistaken, my friend,” Edward said.
“I have seen Enrico’s calculations, Edward,” Stan responded. “He used a much larger sample size in the Monte Carlo simulation and the results were much weaker.”
“You’ll have to show me later, then,” Edward said, doubtfully.
“What if we used stages to slowly increase the pressure in the bomb casing?” Enrico shifted back to the previous problem.
“But if you stack too many stages, the bomb will be too large, and more complicated.”
“How about just two stages? One that pressurizes the second.”
“What has enough energy to pressurize the fuel enough to create fusion?”
“How about an atomic bomb?”
“That might work.”
© Copyright 2016 kdhodges. All rights reserved.
Book / Science Fiction
Short Story / Science Fiction
Short Story / Historical Fiction
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