From Freedom's Sons, Volume Two
[Okay, okay, enough already! Here's another freebie. - HAC]
XXVII. – The Little Man Who Wasn’t There
(32 years and eight months after Longview)
Politically Correct history is a marvelous thing. You never know what’s going to happen yesterday. – Anonymous American University Professor
Regardless of whatever other agendas the Eminent Persons Delegation might be following, there was no question about their burning desire to see Lost Creek. They spent one night in the Big Sky Lodge in Missoula, tossed their luggage onto a van at five in the morning for transport to whatever accommodation their hosts might choose to provide for them in Anaconda, then piled into their government loaner cars to follow Dr. Wingard southward in the dawn.
Wingard called Chancellor Jason Stockdale from his car phone on the drive up and caught him at breakfast. Jason listened to his report and then called Robert Campbell to fill him in. “We were planning on spending the first day here at UM, giving them a full formal presentation, slide show, artifacts, the works,” Jason reported. “Nope, they weren’t having any. They seem to know as much about the site’s background as we do. I think most of them broke the law in their own countries to look over our web material and NAR news reports. I would have thought they would at least have wanted a tour of the lab, to hear from Doctor Shardlake and his colleagues about how the carbon dating tests were done, nit-pick and challenge the results, so forth and so on. But not a bit of it. They wanted on that site. Ally’s right about one thing. I think it’s going to be hard to keep picks and trowels out of these folks’ hands.”
“Hmm,” said Campbell. “Well, that would be a propaganda plus for the Republic if we can show these scientific celebrity types digging in and getting their hands dirty, literally, but it may turn out to be problematic in other ways. Things may fall out of their pockets while they’re digging, or things they find may disappear into the same pockets. We can’t very well promise these people transparency and full access, and then once they get up there tell them they can look but not touch, but we need to keep an eye on them. Make sure that any digging they do, they do it with our own people nearby and looking over their shoulders, as discreetly as possible. We have to assume that at least one of these characters is in touch with Scorpius, and we don’t want any seeding of the ground with phony evidence or any other kind of contamination.”
“We already have videocams in place all over the site,” said Jason. “The cameras record all the actual excavation, for that very reason, to verify that we’re not doing the same thing. Not that the outside world would believe our videos any more than they would believe our scientists, but every little bit helps.”
“You say they seem very knowledgeable about the dig,” said Campbell. “You looked over the Scorpius file. Is there anything in there that they would not have been able to get from our own published commentaries on the site, something that you guys would know and Scorpius would know, but which hasn’t been made publicly available? Something our ringer could only know about if he or she had seen the Scorpius files?”
“Mmm, maybe,” said Jason. “The list of artifacts is pretty long, and not all of it has been published, but the foreigners are going to be seeing everything we’ve got over the coming weeks as part of the project. The Ministry said full transparency, so full transparency it is. Let me cogitate on that, see if I can figure out something that might be a tell if any of them has seen the Scorpius material.”
“Any of them seem a little too enthusiastic?” asked Campbell.
“Bob, these guys are all for-real career scientists who are being presented with the chance of a lifetime to get in on the ground floor of a discovery that will re-write history,” Jason told him. “I could tell just by casual listening last night, they all have the monkey on their backs. Believe me, after ramrodding an institution of higher learning for thirty years, I know the type. One or two of them may be moonlighting for a foreign intelligence service, but I can tell you their primary interest is in Lost Creek, and what’s under it.”
“Mmmm. Okay, tell you what, I’ll meet you up there this afternoon,” said Campbell. “I want to observe these eggheads in their natural habitat. I’ll wear civilian clothes and I won’t bring Tom. BOSS makes outsiders twitchy, as well it should, and I don’t want them to feel that we have them under a microscope. Even if we do.”
Campbell was able to clear his desk of his normal work load by lunchtime—the minuscule amount of crime requiring investigation even in a huge Northwest Republic department would have made any American cop laugh in derision and weep with envy—and he was up at Lost Creek in civvies by 3 p.m. Everyone except a small lab crew in the main shack was down at the site of the longhouse, watching Doctor Wingard and a crew of student excavators meticulously laying out grids with small metal stakes and labels and colored nylon twine, then carefully lifting earth from around the long gray stone rectangle in the ground with spades and trowels. They dumped the dirt into large wooden-framed sieves which were taken over to a canopy-covered area to be sifted and strained through screens into plastic tubs for any artifacts, before the dirt was removed to the truck and hauled away. Ally was there with her husband, Robert’s Guardsman son Bob Three, who waved to his father. They had decided to de-emphasize Bob Three’s relationship with Colonel Campbell as much as possible and not get too chummy in the presence of the visitors. It might turn out to be a good idea to let them think Ally’s husband was just another grad student and not an actual cop himself. Ally herself climbed out of the slowly sinking depression in the ground as he approached. “Found anything yet?” Robert asked her.
“A bone sewing needle,” she told him. “Standard issue for cave gals. We’re still at Level One, though. We’re not going to hit Level Two for another day and Level Three until the day after that.”
“Our friends from Out There aren’t demanding that you go charging madly downward to get to the good stuff?”
“Oh, heavens, no!” she exclaimed. “They’re all true professionals. Some of them spend ten years on the same dig, off and on according to the season.” She sighed. “God, I envy them! To be able to excavate in Europe and the Middle East! Greek temples, Roman villas, medieval castles, whole villages wiped out by the Black Death that were never re-settled, battle sites like Cannae and Agincourt, seventeenth-century sewers, Georgian Dublin and Viking Limerick, Crusader fortresses in Palestine, Papal Avignon, monasteries, London pubs where Shakespeare got plastered and scribbled bawdy verses in iambic pentameter, Pictish burial tumuli, Saxon farmsteads. Aaaaargh! I’m green with envy!”
“Surely you must have some kind of excavation work here, in order to have an archaeology department at your university,” said Dr. Fred Haskins, who had come up beside them, along with his colleague Dr. Renfrew.
“We have a whole lot less history than you do,” replied Ally morosely. “Biggest project we’ve ever undertaken is to try to locate and excavate every camp Lewis and Clark ever made on our side of the line. We think we have done, all the way down to Astoria and back.”
“You dinna do anything wiv’ Native Americans at all?” asked Renfrew. His Scots accent was light but noticeable.
“We call them Indians here,” said Ally. “Old ways, remember? Besides, Native Americans is not only insulting to the millions of white people who were born here, it’s inaccurate, if you consider a native American to be someone born in North America. Or South America, for that matter. I’m a native American, and so is Colonel Campbell. Doctor Wingard, as it happens, is not, although he lives here. It’s too imprecise a term, and science should always be precise.”
“Touché, Andy,” said Haskins with a chuckle.
“But to answer your question, Doctor Renfrew, sure we excavate Indian sites, and we have several museums devoted to the Indians who inhabited the Northwest, including the tribes down along the coast who made the totem poles such as the Tlingits. Some of whom were cannibals, by the way.”
“We don’t deny history, Doctor Renfrew,” said Campbell. “All we ask is that it be told truthfully.”
“We also do a lot of excavation of old pioneer sites and homesteads and nineteenth-century areas in our cities,” Ally went on. “We especially love to find old landfills. Many of them were dug up willy-nilly for their steel and plastic in the early days of the Republic, but last year we found one in north Seattle that had been filled in when a suburb was built over it in 1959. Do you know what a hula hoop is? A 45 rpm record? A Mouseketeer hat?”
“A what?” asked Renfrew in puzzlement.
“I know, that sounds a bit too recent to be really interesting,” said Ally. “But it’s all we’ve got. A lot of us take the attitude that we’re practicing for the day when things change and the rest of the world accepts us, and we can go to Europe and the east coast and work there.”
“I hope that happens, Mrs. Campbell,” said Haskins. He leaned over to her. “How are you on underwater excavation? I’m going to let you in on a little secret so far known only to a few in the archaeological community: some oil drillers in the harbor at Barfleur think they may have found the remains of the White Ship!”
“Fantastic!” exclaimed Ally.
“The what ship?” asked Campbell.
“A ship that sank off the coast of Normandy in the year 1120 A.D., drowning William Adelin, the only legitimate son of King Henry the First and heir to the throne,” explained Ally. “The captain and the crew were drunk and they never made it out of the harbor, steered right into a rock. Through a long series of events I won’t get into, the sinking eventually caused a twenty-year civil war in England and put the first Plantagenet on the throne, Henry the Second. Okay, I know, all this sounds completely obscure and irrelevant to anything in the modern world, but it isn’t. That shipwreck nine hundred years ago was one of those identifiable single events with political and economic and social ramifications that made and changed a lot of history, and helped make our world what it is today, in a hundred different ways. If that ship hadn’t hit that rock we would be different people in a different time and place.”
“The Butterfly Effect?” asked Campbell.
“Yes, the wreck of the White Ship was a butterfly, and no one except a few obscure eggheads like us have ever even heard of it. Who’s doing the underwater excavation?” she asked Haskins.
“No one,” replied Haskins sadly. “Nor is anyone likely to. The wreck is under about ten feet of silt and mud, excavation would be quite expensive, and major universities in Europe have long since re-directed most archaeological funding to Asia, sub-Saharan Africa, and South America, since to my never-ending astonishment, civilization apparently began there. All that can be found in places like Europe and Egypt and Mesopotamia are the unimportant, crude and violent ancestors of people whose descendants became cruel and violent conquerors and exploiters that were very beastly to the poor little Jewish people.”
“Ahh,” said Campbell. “Comes the dawn!”
“Ignore Freddy,” said the Scotsman. “He’s doin’ that deliberately tae see if I’ll grass on him when we get back home, which isn’t verra bright, because if ever I did he’d be buried in the King’s College quad wi’ a stake through his heart.”
“And will you grass on him?” asked Campbell politely.
“No,” said Renfrew with a tired smile. “I’m no’ yer man, Colonel. We’re no’ idiots, ye know. You and the other bloke are probably right, one o’ us is working for the spooks, but it isnae me, and I’ve no idea who.”
“Not that you’d admit it if you were,” said Campbell.
“No,” replied the Scot with a laugh. “Anyway, Freddy, I came to tell ye they just found a fish hook over there in one of the sieves.”
“That’s to be expected in this kind of Neolithic strata,” said Haskins.
“A hook made o’ copper?” asked Renfrew.
“Bollocks!” snapped Haskins. “That’s impossible! Not from that period! Oh, sorry, I must apologize, Mrs. Campbell. We were warned about our language before we came …”
“Not to worry,” said Ally. “I actually don’t know what that word means. But American Plains Indians didn’t work metal. Neither did Cro-Magnon or Neanderthal man.” But Haskins was already sprinting for the canopied sieving area as were several other visiting scholars. Renfrew followed him.
“Well, so much for our keeping a low profile,” said Robert Campbell with a sigh. “He’s right. They’re not stupid and they’ve picked up on why Tom and I are nosing around. I suppose they all know now that we suspect one of them is a spy.”
“I didn’t know!” said Ally in surprise. “Oh, holy—are you sure, Bob?”
“Absolutely totally one hundred percent sure? No,” admitted Campbell. “But there’s been a security problem with the site, Ally. That’s all I can tell you.”
Ally looked away. “This filthy politics, this vile spying, this insane hatred for white people who won’t bow down and kiss their noses! It killed my mother and now it’s coming here to mess up my work and my life again!”
“I’m sorry, honey,” said Campbell sadly. “One of the reasons Tom and I do what we do is to try and keep the poison away from your generation. As much of it as we can, anyway. But sometimes we fail. As you know.”
Allura look up at him. “You know I never blamed you,” she said softly.
“I’m glad to hear it, honey,” he said with a nod. There was nothing more to be said on that subject. “So let’s go see this fish hook everybody is all hot and bothered about.”
A tiny corroded green twist, about one and a half inches long, lay on a white sheet of paper on a table under the canopy while a dozen muttering scholars leaned over it, examined it under magnifying glasses, and watched while Dr. Arne Wingard picked it up and turned it with tweezers. Jason was talking to the two students, a young man and woman, who had sieved out the hook. “The cameras recorded the discovery, again for what it’s worth,” he told Bob. “This is big.”
“How big?” asked Robert.
“Big big! The only worked metal artifacts ever found in the Americas are items of crude jewelry, gold and silver, copper and jade from the Aztec and Maya and Inca cultures. Not even any bronze. There are signs that native copper was worked in Michigan and Wisconsin, in the western Great Lakes area, and some archaeologists think this copper was being mined as early as 6,000 years ago, but no one knows who the hell was mining the copper or what they did with it.”
“Why, it was the noble red man, of course!” suggested Campbell with a chuckle. “After all, they were the only ones here back then. Right?”
“Horse dung!” said Jason succinctly.
“Seriously? You mean to tell me that somebody was mining copper in the Great Lakes region six millennia ago, and nobody has ever even wondered who they were and what they were doing with the copper?” asked Campbell.
“Pretty much,” affirmed Jason. “By the time archaeological science was sufficiently advanced to understand what they were looking at, it had already become too politically dangerous in academic circles to show overmuch curiosity regarding anything that might punch holes in the official liberal, multicultural orthodoxy. For a century now, historians and scientists throughout the Western world have had to make like the noble lord in Macbeth, and say the less while they think the more. The consequences of scientific heresy in anything racially or politically sensitive can be devastating, sometimes even a matter of life and death.
“Look, there are all kinds of strange anomalies like that all across North America, not just those Solutrean spear points littering the landscape that clearly demonstrate contact with Europe thousands of years before Columbus first looked westward and wondered what was out there. Circles of standing stones in New England that near as dammit resemble mini-Stonehenges; funny writing on rock faces that looks like runes but isn’t like any runic script ever seen before; light-skinned tribes in various places around the continent who speak what appear to be broken dialects of Welsh and Gaelic; mounds throughout the Mississippi valley that pretty obviously were never built by Indians and are filled with hollow chambers, all empty; pictures on cave walls and drawn in petrified wood that are far too old to fit into any accepted prehistoric narrative, that show things nobody back then should have been seeing, like men in space suits and things in the sky.
“Not just in North America, but South America too,” Jason went on. “Those long-eared stone heads on Easter Island with red top-knots, that Polynesian legend says were built by white-skinned, blue-eyed people from the rising sun. No one has yet figured out who built the ruined city at Tihuanaco, in Bolivia. In the 1940s a scientist who dated the ruins as being fifteen thousand years old was shouted down and silenced with the full force of the entire academic establishment. Since then anyone who has dared to point out that these huge stone walls and monoliths are completely different from Inca mud bricks just bought himself a ticket to teaching high school for the rest of his career. No one has yet explained the Nazca lines in Peru, complex and geometrically perfect geoglyphs of animals laid down like a modern highway on a great plateau that can only been seen and recognized from the air. They weren’t even discovered for what they were until an American archaeologist looking for Inca sites flew over them in 1940. To this day, no one has the slightest clue as to who made them, or how, or why, or who the hell was supposed to see them. All over the world there are tantalizing hints of unknown civilizations pre-dating recorded history.”
“Atlantis?” asked Bob, arching his eyebrows.
“Who knows? And don’t even get me started on the Aztec Quetzalcoatl legend. But the one thing every legend and myth and fragment of evidence agrees on is that these ancient people, whatever else they were, were also white. White skin, red or golden hair, and blue or green eyes have always been associated with divine origin in the mythology of every culture. The far past is a gigantic Christmas package that Political Correctness has nailed shut and sealed in shrink-wrap to make sure nobody ever opens it. Here today, we just punched a tiny hole in the shrink-wrap around our past.” Jason pointed to the tiny twisted green object on the paper.
“Those damned Jews and those damned self-hating white bastards who shill for them!” muttered Campbell. “God, the arrogance! If they can’t have mankind’s past for themselves, nobody can. The very idea of truth for its own sake seems to have vanished from their consciousness. I wonder what they’re so afraid we’ll find if we ever do open the package?”
“Way too many blue eyes for their taste, I suspect,” chuckled Jason.
“Kind of like that old nursery rhyme or whatever it is,” said Bob.
“There was a man upon the stair,
A little man who wasn’t there.
He wasn’t there again today.
I wish that man would go away!”
“Yeah, well, looks like the little man who wasn’t there was a fisherman,” said Ally, coming up to them.
“It’s really a fishing hook?” Jason asked her.
“No question,” she said with a nod “There’s no eyelet, probably too complex to make with whatever tools they had that could work the copper, but there’s a T-bar at the top of the shank to allow for a line of sinew or gut to be attached, and a triangular barb on the point.”
“I know it has to be carbon-dated, but any preliminary guess as to age?” asked Jason.
“Late Level Two, so let’s say between five and six thousand years, give or take,” she speculated.
“And the oldest Official Version metalworking civilizations?” queried Jason.
“Ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia seem to be tied,” Ally replied. “Metalworking supposedly began about five and a half thousand years ago, halfway around the world. The oldest recovered examples of primitive metal tools and weapons are about five thousand years old, copper and bronde and tin. The oldest non-petro human artifacts we have are pottery shards from the Ubaid period in ancient Sumeria, which was over seven thousand years ago, and the Sumerians were definitely a Semitic people, so the noseys may have us beat on that one, but no metal shows up until many thousands of years later. That dinky little hook may well turn out to be the oldest metal artifact worked by human hands ever discovered, and it most definitely should not have been discovered in Montana. Fortis and Wyrick are almost gibbering over it.”
“They’re coming to gibber at us now, in fact,” observed Campbell.
Alvin Fortis was pale and his khaki work shirt soaked through with sweat. Amanda Wyrick’s normally handsome face was pale, her lips compressed, almost hysterical-looking. “Chancellor Stockdale, do you understand the significance of this find?” Fortis asked in a tremulous voice.
“Yes, sir, I do,” said Jason. “I’m not an archaeologist or a historian myself, but since I’ve become involved in this project I’ve learned a lot.”
“Please, don’t take offense, but I have to ask—this is such an earth-shattering development—can you give me some kind of assurance that no one here in your country could possibly have any, uh, political motivations to, how can I put this, enhance this site?”
Jason shook his head. “No offense taken, Doctor Fortis. We understand that you don’t trust us or anything we do. That is how you have been conditioned to think from birth, where you come from. No, no one in the Northwest Republic is in any way seeding the site or tampering with any of the archaeological record here. I know you won’t believe this, Doctor Fortis, but we don’t lie to people. We don’t have to, because we’re right. Our nation and our way of life is based on truth, not deception. That is why we left your own empire, so that we could live like that.”
“Then you won’t have any objection if we monitor the carbon-dating process from the beginning?” asked Amana Wyrick.
“Not at all, ma’am,” replied Jason. “In fact, I wish you would. It’s why you’re here. Ma’am, please don’t think we don’t understand what we’re asking you to do. We are asking you to go back to where you came from and speak the truth about what you’ve seen here, and we understand that in your society that can be a deadly dangerous thing to do. It will require immense moral and personal courage, in some ways just as much courage as it took for a small handful of people from my generation to take up arms against the most powerful and overwhelming tyranny in human history. Can you do it?” he asked her bluntly.
“I have to be honest with you, Chancellor,” the woman said, looking him in the eye. “I don’t know. I always wondered if something like this happened, if I had the strength to commit professional hara-kiri for the sake of the truth. Up until now the question has always been academic, since Bella and I have stuck to nice politically safe Maya ruins and Khmer temples and West African slave trading forts where there really are European male villains who can be blamed and vilified without fudging history too much.”
“I thought the slaves were sold into bondage by their own chiefs?” said Campbell mildly. “Not to mention the slave trade being mostly financed by Jews, and the slaves transported mainly on Jewish-owned ships.”
“Shhh!” said Dr. Wyrick, holding her finger to her lips. “Chancellor Stockdale, if you can convince me that this find alone is real and you guys aren’t pulling some kind of racist hoax here, it will be hard for me to plunge the metaphorical sword into my vitals and disembowel myself. I don’t know if I can lose everything I’ve got for the sake of a little twisted piece of copper that may turn out to be nothing. But if we find other evidence in the coming weeks, especially once we crack that mound over there, and I am convinced it’s all on the up and up, then yes, I will be forced to speak the truth out loud. And I will admit to you, Mr. Stockdale, that prospect scares me shitless.”
* * *
The copper hook was deposited and sealed in a sample box, the paper seal signed and dated by Dr. Wingard, and a team of Eminent Persons accompanied it back up to Missoula in convoy for testing. Dr. Haskins, Dr. Renfrew, Dr. Fortis, his assistant Ralph Tarricone, Dr. Wyrick, and both Martineaus would follow the carbon-14 dating procedure with eagle eyes the next day in Dr. Ian Shardlake’s lab at UM. Bob gave Captain Tom Horakova a call from the site office up on the rise above the longhouse and let him know the artifact was on its way. “I made sure Bobby’s driving the University’s van with the package in it,” he told Horakova, referring to his son. “He’s got one of the grad students with him and none of the foreigners, so they won’t have any way to get at it during the trip. They’re following behind in their own cars.”
“Did any of them object, want to ride with the box?” asked Tom.
“No,” Campbell told him. “Shardlake knows it’s on its way. Tell Leigh Anne it goes right into the safe until Shardlake formally unseals it tomorrow morning to begin the testing, and every alarm and monitoring camera in the lab needs to be up and running. This is a big discovery, one that our arthropod friend and anybody working with him will want to discredit like hell. We want to make sure it’s still there in the morning.” Campbell was referred to Leigh Anne Starinsky, one of his new detectives, who had been assigned to security duty in the lab, although for the purposes of this assignment her name on her ID tag was Leigh Anne Summers. Guardswoman Starinsky had been selected because of her unique combination of linguistic talents. The daughter of Russian migrants, she had been born in Moscow, and she still spoke Russian with her family at home. She had also taken top grades in French in high school, which in an educational system like that of the Northwest Republic meant she could actually speak the language. She could therefore eavesdrop on both the Martineaus, and Drs. Dubov and Donskaya.
The remainder of the group out at Lost Creek continued with the excavation of the longhouse site under Arne Wingard’s supervision, grid square by grid square, slowly troweling up the dirt and dropping it into the sieves for sifting. The depressed rectangle slowly deepened. Ally excused herself and went back to work. Bob and Jason joined a group of the foreign scholars who were watching from behind the yellow nylon that roped off the dig area. So far none of them had yielded to the temptation to get into the pit and start sifting themselves. “How can carbon dating work on metal?” Bob asked Letitia Haines. “I thought something had to be organic, like wood or bone, so as to have carbon atoms whose half-life could be determined.”
“Oh? Do they teach organic chemistry at your police academies?” asked the Haines woman with a smile.
“No, just something I picked up with a budding young archaeologist around the house a lot,” said Bob, nodding toward Allura.
“Copper is an element, and so radiocarbon dating won’t work on pure copper, of course, but completely pure metal of any kind very rarely occurs in nature or even artificially,” she told him. “Carbon is the basic building block of life, Colonel, and carbon atoms or isotopes can be found everywhere. Carbon atoms tend to bond with almost anything through exposure to the air, which contains carbon dioxide and other molecules plus all kinds of microscopic floating plant and animal particulates. Most metal implements contain a measurable carbon content from the smelting or manufacturing process. If that hook was worked from a raw copper nugget using a wooden tool there will be carbon from the wood. If it was cut or worked from a smelted lump or ingot, there will be carbon from the wood in the fire. Even the most expert craftsman can’t keep carbon out. It gets into everything. Carbon content of steel is one way of dating weapons and armor and whatnot. That green corrosion on the hook will contain carbon dioxide and minute traces of everything from pollen to pine needles to human perspiration and skin molecules from handling. We won’t be able to date the copper in the hook itself, per se, but we will be able to date the microscopic film of various particulates that adhere to the artifact’s surface. That is, presuming your laboratory is as good as ours at Cambridge.”
“Is it? I’ve no idea.”
“Apparently,” she said, nodding. “You have subatomic spectroscopic analysis equipment and procedures which actually seem a bit better than ours, if I may be so indiscreet as to mention it, and Doctor Shardlake’s qualifications from MIT would seem to be sterling.”
“I’m not the one you have to worry about being indiscreet around, Doctor Haines,” said Campbell.
“Yes, Andrew Renfrew was telling us about your little spy hunt,” said the Englishwoman with a smile.
Damnation! thought Campbell to himself. Aloud he said, “That was very gregarious of him. But you have to admit that we have reason to be concerned.”
“Do you?” Letitia asked archly.
“Yes, ma’am,” put in Jason Stockdale. “You mentioned just now that in order to determine the precise age of that bit of copper we found, you have to analyze and look at microscopic layers of gunk and goo that have been deposited down through the centuries?”
“Yes, that’s correct,” she agreed.
“I know enough to understand that even the slightest touch from an ungloved human hand might be enough to contaminate and corrupt the results, and make accurate or at least certifiably reliable dating impossible. So you can see why we’re a bit concerned about the possible motives of some of you, just as you may think we’re seeding the site and trying to put a hoax over on the world to prove our people were here first. In fact, I’m sure your own authorities back home made it clear to all of you that was what you’re supposed to think.”
“So we don’t trust you, and you don’t trust us? Is that it, Chancellor?”
Haines asked him.
“Unfortunately, ma’am, the real world we live in is one of mutual mistrust,” said Jason with a somber nod. “I hope that will change someday. Whether you accept the fact or not, we really are brother and sister, racially speaking. One day I believe that bond will transcend all this other petty cr—rubbish,” he concluded.
“I’m English, Colonel. You can say crap around me, although where I come from it’s shite. So, any suspects as to which of us is the Scarlet Pimpernel?”
“Honestly, Doctor Haines?” replied Robert Campbell. “We have no idea, and of course it’s possible that none of you has any hidden agenda at all and we are simply being paranoid. I hope so. Unfortunately, paranoia is part of a detective’s job description.”
“Of course,” she said. “Politics really is a bore sometimes, don’t you think?”
Campbell and Jason Stockdale strolled away. “It seems that Scottie has queered our pitch, as the Brits say,” Campbell muttered.
“Think it might have been deliberate, him tipping them off like that?” asked Jason. “Putting them all on their guard?”
“Maybe,” said Campbell. “Or maybe it’s just as Renfrew said a while ago, and these are intelligent people who pay attention to what’s going on around them, and who are capable of sussing out the political implications of what they’re doing. But now that he has put them all on their guard, that’s going to make things more difficult. It’s especially going to make any of them who are wearing multiple hats twitchy about contacting Scorpius.”
“Isn’t that the Sutcliffe woman over there?” asked Jason, pointing over to the site’s generator and main receiver shack. A Northwest Power and Light truck was parked in front of it. Bella Sutcliffe was talking to a man in overalls standing by the truck. “Wonder why she’s interested in the site’s electric supply instead of the digging?”
“Let’s see if we can find out.” They walked over to the power truck. Bella Sutcliffe was looking over an NP&L maintenance manual the engineer had given her. She was dressed in jeans and a denim work shirt, her black hair in a pony tail. The technician was a stocky man in his mid-fifties, gray-headed, with horn-rimmed spectacles, which were unusual in the Republic since eye defects were usually routinely corrected through laser surgery in childhood. The name tag sewed onto on his coveralls read Dave.
“Aha, you caught me spying, Colonel!” she said, looking up and giggling. “Congratulations! Take me, I’m yours!”
“Thanks a lot, Renfrew!” muttered Campbell to Jason sotto voce. Aloud he said, “There’s nothing confidential about the Tesla power transmission system, ma’am. Your country has access to all the right technology, indeed they had it before the Northwest Republic even came into existence, and they can read that manual you’ve got there on NP&L’s website, so there’s no need to smuggle it back to Harvard in your underwear.”
“I have better things to put in my underwear than technical manuals, Colonel, believe me,” said Bella sunnily. “Yes, we know how Tesla power transmission works in America, broadcasting electricity through the air. The problem is we still have to rely on fossil fuel to generate the power before we broadcast it. It’s so much neater and cleaner than all those tangled-up power lines. We even have a few small Tesla-powered communities. I live in one in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and it’s really nice not to have all those unsightly poles and pylons and cables and transformers cluttering up the horizon and ruining the view.”
“I’ve heard,” said Jason. “The United States is now dotted with fortified compounds for your super-wealthy liberal and Jewish élites, each with its own Tesla grid, while the bulk of your population of all colors has to make do with a crumbling copper-wire electrical grid of underground and aboveground cables both, powered by diesel and coal-fired generating stations, the whole of which is anywhere from sixty to a hundred and twenty years old, and just barely works. The Canadians are a little better off, but not much. Is there any major city in the U.S. that doesn’t have rolling blackouts in high summer and deep winter because your system can’t function at peak demand any more?”
“Probably not,” admitted Bella. “Of course, if you guys would be so kind as to share the secret of cold fusion with us, it would certainly make life a lot more comfortable in the States.”
“Why would we want to make it comfortable for you, ma’am?” inquired Campbell with a wintry smile. “We’ve told the governments of the so-called democracies repeatedly that we are willing to let the rest of the world in on everything we’ve got—cold fusion, levitational transportation, cancer cures, Tesla power, even certain parts of our space technology—in exchange for a simple recognition of the fact that we exist, and we are going to continue to exist as a nation. But no, that’s too much to ask. Over thirty years after the Longview Treaty, one nation, Russia, now has a full embassy in the Republic. Four others have consular delegations—Ireland, Argentina, Chile, and Serbia. Everybody else still has their noses in the air pretending we’re just dog doo they will someday scrape off their shoe.”
“Since you will only allow predominantly white nations to recognize you, of which there are almost none remaining in the world, I can see why the list is a little limited,” said Bella. “What about China, India, the Southern African Union, Korea and Japan? The problem with that is you’d have to let them send you ambassadors and allow at least a few privileged people with different skin colors live here in your precious lily-white paradise. What would you do? Build separate bathrooms and water fountains for a handful of diplomats?”
“Actually, it is rather a paradise, and we mean to keep it that way,” replied Jason, grinning. “Southern Africa is a Chinese puppet régime that actively persecutes its few remaining white people, so they can keep their gold and their diamonds and their chromium. We’ll get it elsewhere, or do without. The Russians speak here for the Chinese, in anything that requires any interaction with them, which isn’t much. We still haven’t forgotten the way they loaded up that beaner zoo to the south of us with a thousand combat helicopters in the months before the Seven Weeks. The Irish broker any necessary deals with the Japanese, and the Indian government is so riddled with corruption and intrigue that neither the Russkis or the Chinks will have anything to do with them, never mind us. Believe me, it takes a lot to convince the Chinese, of all people, that a nation is too fundamentally dishonest to do business with, but India has managed it.
“The Americans, the Canadians, the Brits and other Europeans, the Aussies and Kiwis, even the damned Icelanders, we’ve laid it all out for you. We want only one thing. Full recognition. Accept the verdict of history, send us diplomatic missions with personnel who comply with our Constitution and our laws, and you’ve got everything from Northwest cancer medicine to Northwest wheat, Northwest engineers and money to rebuild infrastructure like highways and power and clean water filtration, stuff that will benefit niggers and Mexicans and keep them quiet, and we won’t even care so long as it benefits a few white people as well. Yeah, we’re prepared to compromise that far. We’ll feed and cure a hundred picaninnies and bambinos just to feed and cure a single white child, even if it’s the child of raving liberals who hate us, because that’s what the Republic is about, securing the existence of our people and a future for white children. But nope, you guys ain’t having any.”
“According to our orientation back in Washington, D.C., when you people go off on wild tirades like that we’re supposed to smile and change the subject,” said Bella Sutcliffe.
“How?” asked Campbell in amusement.
“Very carefully, because you’re dangerous psychopaths who live in a culture of violence where weapons-carrying is actually encouraged, and you respond to difference of opinion by acting out with potentially lethal consequences.”
“That sounds like a direct quote from an ONR lecture,” remarked Bob.
“It is,” replied Bella. “Seriously, I suppose I’d better climb down. For all I know the ONR is right and you may really shoot me. I just love pushing the envelope. They find any more interesting and anomalous artifacts over there?” she asked, pointing to the dig site.
“Not yet, I don’t think,” said Jason. “Your boss Doctor Wyrick went back to the university so she can watch the carbon dating process on the fish hook tomorrow. I’m surprised you didn’t go with her.”
“She left me behind here to spy on you!” whispered Bella conspiratorially. “Thanks for the chat, Dave.” She slid past them and headed back toward the crowd around the dig site.
“You can tell she’s still got those Jewish chromosomes in there somewhere,” remarked Jason thoughtfully. “It’s like she has an irresistible urge to get in our faces, as if she can’t help it. Like it’s instinctual.”
“Pushing the envelope, she called it,” said Campbell. “Let’s hope she doesn’t push too far and really piss somebody off to the point where he kneecaps her. That’s all we need. The Political Bureau would have conniption fits.” He pulled his CID shield from his pocket and flashed it at the Northwest Power and Light technician. “You’re from the Anaconda transmitter?” he asked.
“Uh, yeah, Colonel,” said the engineer, surprised. “Name’s Dave Speidel, senior field engineer.”
“What was the lady with the mouth on her talking to you about?”
“The Tesla generator,” replied Speidel. “She was curious about how it worked, and so I ran it down for her. Like you said, it’s not as if it’s a state secret any more. I’m here on my weekly inspection to check out the calibration on the receptor cells and make sure they’re still spot on. The plates on these new T-Twelve mobile units have a tendency to slip out of synch sometimes, and it cuts into the pulse conversion ratio. These are okay, they’re converting at about eighty percent, which is about as good as you’re going to get this far away from the pulse source. I’ll fine-tune the antenna a bit as well.” He pointed to the twelve-foot tall reception dish assembly on top of the shed. “When they get that next series of relay towers up between Anaconda and Butte you’ll be able to pull down ninety-six or ninety-seven percent, if you’re still out here then.”
“NP&L says we’ll have the whole country covered within four years, right?” asked Jason curiously.
“More like three,” said Speidel proudly.
“That was all she was talking about? The Tesla?” asked Campbell.
“Yeah, pretty much. Oh, she dropped a few off-putting remarks that made it clear she thinks we’re all a bunch of dumb rubes, but I know she’s from Out There, so I didn’t bite. That all you want to know, Colonel? I also need to check on your alcohol back-up generator while I’m out here, so in case anything goes wrong at the transmitter or with this unit here, you won’t be without power.”
“Sounds good,” said Jason with a nod. “Thank you, Comrade.”
“Uh, I’m not a Party member,” said Speidel, eyeing Jason Stockdale’s Old NVA ribbon and Bob’s Party pin with embarrassment. “Just never was all that into politics. Never could find the time.”
“Citizen?” asked Bob.
“That I am,” he returned with some pride. “Second class. I was a tech sergeant in the Luftwaffe during the second war. Worked on Bluelight and V-3 launch systems.”
“Well, then, you did your bit, citizen,” said Bob. “Most people in the Republic aren’t Party members. Nothing to be ashamed of.”
As they were walking back to the main dig, Jason asked, “Now why would La Sutcliffe be interested in the site’s electric power source?”
“It may be nothing, but I think her raven locks just rose a bit higher on the radar than the rest of them,” replied Campbell.
“Ironic if you of all people were to be the man who caught a female spy,” remarked Jason. “Then you’ll have seen the same game from both sides.”
“Not really a spectator sport,” replied Bob. “Nor one I like playing, either, on any side.”
There were no more major finds that day, just a collection of animal bones and a nondescript flint blade. About 7 p.m. the dig shut down for the night. The students got back into their vans for the drive into Anaconda or all the way back to Missoula, as the case might be, while the remaining Eminent Persons piled into their cars to follow Ally back to the government guest house about eight miles from the dig site. Their luggage had already been deposited there that morning and they had all been assigned rooms. This particular establishment was the former Fairmont Hot Springs resort hotel, a pleasant hostelry set in a wide valley with both an indoor and an outdoor swimming pool. It was rumored that the last American owners, a Hindu couple, hadn’t gotten the NVA’s message in time and were buried somewhere on the property.
Jason Stockdale and Bob Campbell drove back into Missoula together. It was almost a hundred miles, but although Old Interstate 90, now National Highway 12, had not yet been refitted with levitational magneto strips, after the Seven Weeks’ war the highway had been re-built, re-graded, and re-finished as well as expanded to eight lanes, leaving plenty of room. Lack of speed limits combined with Northwest hi-tech engine performance meant that they were back home in a little over an hour.
Bob got up early the next morning. His wife Millie and youngest daughter Maggie, aged fourteen, came into the breakfast room as he was on his second cup of coffee. Maggie Campbell and Melanie Stockdale were friends and would be starting at Samuel Johnson High together in September. “Are you going back up to Anaconda today, Dad?” asked Maggie. “If you are, can you bring me and Mel along? We want to see the dig. It’s on TV and in the papers, but Mel’s father won’t take us.”
“Mel’s father and I were up there together yesterday, but he’s right, honey, we’ve got business to take care of, and we wouldn’t be able to show you the site properly. Not that I would be all that sure what’s worth seeing and what isn’t. But we’d rather you girls not be running around loose up there and getting into things. It’s actually a pretty sensitive site in the national sense. Tell you what, I’ll speak to Ally. She and Bobby are working on the dig together, and I’ll make sure they can make the time to give you two a tour in a few days, okay?”
“Are you going to see Tom today?” asked Millie.
“Probably,” her husband told her.
“Don't let him forget the shoot-out Friday night,” she reminded him. “Eli insists he can win the Little Willie and Marie thinks he can too, and it would be a shame for his father to miss it.”
Tom’s fifteen-year-old son Eli, named after his grandfather, was competing in the Young Pioneers’ Southern Montana District riflery competition. His specialty was Little Willie, a target game fired at 50 yards on a regulation competition range. It featured three steel plates in the design of an old-style American judge in a black robe with a gavel, a large-nosed Jewish attorney with a briefcase, and a sinister-looking FBI agent in sunglasses. The Little Willie was a smaller, mobile target in the shape of a sniveling, cretinous little man, sometimes enhanced with sound effects such as cackling insane laughter or farts, along with a satisfying, pig-like squeal when it was hit. Little Willie moved on an electric or sometimes hand-hauled rail between the three shields, legs and arms pumping, at varying speeds. The object was to hit the creepy thing as it flashed briefly in the open, running back and forth to hide behind the judge and his gavel, or the attorney and his briefcase, or the federal agent. This was harder than it sounds, even at a mere 50 yards, because the target flitted back and forth very quickly between shields in a random pattern chosen by the range operator. The Pioneers demanded each marksman use a bolt-action .22-caliber rifle with a 20-round magazine. This meant the marksman had to fire, chamber another round, and re-sight on the speeding little eedjit. It was a hard shoot, and perfect scores of 20 hits were rare enough to make the sports pages of the local paper. Eli had managed it twice since he was twelve years old.
“I’ll make sure Tom doesn’t forget,” said Bob. His phone bleeped; he pulled it out of his belt clip and saw it was Tom Horakova. “Well, speak of the devil!” He flipped the phone open. “Top of the morning to you, Thomas!”
“Top of my ass!” swore Tom into the phone, which was unusual for anyone of his generation.
“I beg your pardon?” said Jason.
“We both need to get down to the Fairmont Lodge, now!” said Horakova. “Meet me at the cop shop. Never mind the Heep, I’ve already laid on a Guard helicopter for us.”
“What’s happened?” demanded Jason.
“Bella Sutcliffe,” said Tom tersely. “She was found floating in the pool this morning, dead.”
“She drowned?” asked Jason, stunned.
“No. Strangled first. I’ll bet my shirt this is Scorpius! Instead of using one of the Eminent Persons as an accomplice to fool around with the bits and pieces of old bones and whatnot on the site, stuff only eggheads would understand, he’s splattered the whole project with murder!”