Numero Uno—“France possesses a colonial empire of ten million square kilometres, inhabited by 56 million people of yellow and black races. To turn all this to advantage, M. Albert Sarraut, Minister of Colonies, wants to find three or four thousand million francs. To this end, he has ‘organized’ a big press campaign and made countless speeches. The worthy Minister has also written a book of 656 pages (price 20 francs per volume). Pending the arrival of these thousands of millions, we beg His Excellency to allow us to fill out his arguments a little.The budget for Cochin-China, for example, which amounted to 5,561,680 piastres (or 12,791,000 francs) for 1911, rose to 7,321,817 piastres (or 16,840,000 francs) for 1912. In 1922, it went up to 12,821,325 piastres (or 96,169,000 francs). A simple subtraction shows us that between 1911 and 1922 there was a difference of 83,369,000 francs (the rates for the piastre being 2.25 and 7.50 francs) in the budget of this colony. Where did that money go? Simply on expenses for personnel which in effect swallowed 100 per cent of total receipts.
Other examples of mad extravagance combine to throw away money that the poor Annamese have sweated for. We do not yet know the exact figure in piastres spent for the Emperor of Annam’s trip to France, but we do know that to await the day of good augury, the only one on which the Bamboo Dragon could embark, the vessel Porthos was paid compensation for four days at the rate of 100,000 francs per day (400,000 francs). So: Travelling expenses 400,000 francs. Reception expenses 240,000 francs (not including the pay of policemen charged with the extraordinary supervision of the Annamese in France); cost of lodging in Marseilles the Annamese militiamen for ‘presenting arms’ to His Excellency and His Majesty: 77,600 francs.
As we are in Marseilles, let us avail ourselves of the opportunity to see what its Colonial Exhibition has cost us. First of all, in addition to catering for highly-placed metropolitan personnel, they sent for about thirty high functionaries from the colonies who, while taking their aperitifs somewhere along the Cannebiere, were paid expenses both at the Exhibition and in the colonies. Indo-China alone had to pay 12 million for this Exhibition. And do you know how this money was spent? Here is an example: the famous reproduction of the Angkor Wat palaces required 8,000 cubic metres of timber at 400 or 500 francs a metre. Total: 1,200,000 to 1,500,000 francs!
Other examples of waste. To carry M. le Gouverneur Geniralf luxury automobiles and cars were not enough, there had to be a special railway carriage for him. The fitting- up of this carriage cost the Treasury 145,250 francs.
In eleven months of activity, the Economic Agency burdened the economy of Indo-China with a sum of 464,000 francs.
At the Colonial School, where future civllizers are turned out, 41 professors of all types are maintained to teach 30 or 35 students. Again several thousand francs.
The permanent survey of defence works for the colonies costs the budget 758,168 francs annually.
Now, Messrs the Inspectors have never left Paris and do not know the colonies any better than they know the age-old moon.
If we go to other colonies, we everywhere find the same corruption. For the reception of a semi-official ‘economic’ mission, the budget of Martinique was relieved of 40,000 francs. Within a period of ten years the budget of Morocco has gone up from 17 to 200 million francs, although they have cut down by 33 per cent expenditures of local interest, that is to say, expenses likely to benefit the natives.
There are millions and even thousands of millions that could be found easily if they knew how to look for them. But the Minister prefers to try to get them out of the natives!
Is it true that, through excess of the humanitarian feelings so many times proclaimed by M. Albert Sarraut, in the jail at Nha Trang (central Viet Nam) detainees have been put on dry rations, that is to say that they are deprived of water at their meals? Is it true that the detainees have had their noses coated with tincture of iodine to be more easily recognized in case of escape? …
Since the French Party has accepted Moscow’s ‘twenty-one conditions’ and joined the Third International, among the problems which it has set itself is a particularly ticklish one – colonial policy. Unlike the First and Second Internationals, it cannot be satisfied with purely sentimental expressions of position leading to nothing at all, but must have a well defined working programme, an effective and practical policy.
On this point, more than on others, the Party faces many difficulties, the greatest of which are the following :
1. The great size of the colonies
Not counting the new ‘trusteeships’ acquired after the war, France possesses:
In Asia, 450,000 square kilometres, in Africa 3,541,000 square kilometres, in America, 108,000 square kilometres and in Oceania 21,600 square kilometres, or a total area of 4,120,000 square kilometres (eight times its own territory), with a population of 48,000,000 souls. These people speak over twenty different languages. This diversity of tongues does not make propaganda easy, for, except in a few old colonies, a French propagandist can make himself understood only through an interpreter. However, translations are of limited value, and in these countries of administrative despotism, it is rather difficult to find an interpreter to translate revolutionary speeches.
There are other drawbacks: though the natives of all the colonies are equally oppressed and exploited, their intellectual, economic and political development differs greatly from one region to another. Between Annam and the Congo, Martinique and New Caledonia, there is absolutely nothing in common, except poverty.
2. The indifference of the proletariat of the mother country towards the colonies
In his theses on the colonial question, Lenin clearly stated that ‘the workers of colonizing countries are bound to give the most active assistance to the liberation movements in subject countries’. To this end, the workers of the mother country must know what a colony really is, they must be acquainted with what is going on there, and with the suffering – a thousand times more acute than theirs – endured by their brothers, the proletarians in the colonies. In a word, they must take an interest in this question.
Unfortunately, there are many militants who still think that a colony is nothing but a country with plenty of sand underfoot and of sun overhead; a few green coconut palms and coloured folk, that is all. And they take not the slightest interest in the matter.
3. The ignorance of the natives
In colonized countries – in old Indo-China as well as in new Dahomey – the class struggle, and proletarian strength, are unknown factors for the simple reason that there are neither big commercial and industrial enterprises, nor workers’ organizations. In the eyes of the natives, Bolshevism – a word which is the more vivid and expressive because frequently used by the bourgeoisie – means either the destruction of everything or emancipation from the foreign yoke. The first sense given to the word drives the ignorant and timorous masses away from us; the second leads them to nationalism. Both senses are equally dangerous. Only a tiny section of the intelligentsia knows what is meant by communism. But these gentry, belonging to the native bourgeoisie and supporting the bourgeois colonialists, have no interest in the communist doctrine being understood and propagated. On the contrary, like the dog in the fable, they prefer to bear the mark of the collar and to have their piece of bone. Generally speaking, the masses are thoroughly rebellious, but completely ignorant. They want to free themselves, but do not know how to go about doing so.
The mutual ignorance of the two proletariats gives rise to prejudices. The French workers look upon the native as an inferior and negligible human being, incapable of understanding and still less of taking action. The natives regard all the French as wicked exploiters. Imperialism and capitalism do not fail to take advantage of this mutual suspicion and this artificial racial hierarchy to frustrate propaganda and divide forces which ought to unite.
5. Fierceness of repression
If the French colonialists are unskillful in developing colonial resources, they are masters in the art of savage repression and the manufacture of loyalty made to measure. The Gandhis and the de Valeras would have long since entered heaven had they been born in one of the French colonies. Surrounded by all the refinements of courts martial and special courts, a native militant cannot educate his oppressed and ignorant brothers without the risk of falling into the clutches of his civilizers.
Faced with these difficulties, what must the Party do?
Intensify propaganda to overcome them. …
After World War I, I made my living in Paris, now as a retoucher at a photographer’s, now as painter of ‘Chinese antiquities’ (made in France!). I would distribute leaflets denouncing the crimes committed by the French colonialists in Viet Nam.
At that time, I supported the October Revolution only instinctively, not yet grasping all its historic importance. I loved and admired Lenin because he was a great patriot who liberated his compatriots; until then, I had read none of his books.
The reason for my joining the French Socialist Party was that these “ladies and gentlemen” – as I called my comrades at that moment – has shown their sympathy towards me, towards the struggle of the oppressed peoples. But I understood neither what was a party, a trade-union, nor what was socialism nor communism.
Heated discussions were then taking place in the branches of the Socialist Party, about the question whether the Socialist Party should remain in the Second International, should a Second and a half International be founded or should the Socialist Party join Lenin’s Third International? I attended the meetings regularly, twice or thrice a week and attentively listened to the discussion. First, I could not understand thoroughly. Why were the discussions so heated? Either with the Second, Second and a half or Third International, the revolution could be waged. What was the use of arguing then? As for the First International, what had become of it?
What I wanted most to know – and this precisely was not debated in the meetings – was: which International sides with the peoples of colonial countries?
I raised this question – the most important in my opinion – in a meeting. Some comrades answered: It is the Third, not the Second International. And a comrade gave me Lenin’s “Thesis on the national and colonial questions” published by l’Humanite to read.
There were political terms difficult to understand in this thesis. But by dint of reading it again and again, finally I could grasp the main part of it. What emotion, enthusiasm, clear-sightedness and confidence it instilled into me! I was overjoyed to tears. Though sitting alone in my room, I shouted out aloud as if addressing large crowds: “Dear martyrs compatriots! This is what we need, this is the path to our liberation!”
After then, I had entire confidence in Lenin, in the Third International.
Formerly, during the meetings of the Party branch, I only listened to the discussion; I had a vague belief that all were logical, and could not differentiate as to who were right and who were wrong. But from then on, I also plunged into the debates and discussed with fervour. Though I was still lacking French words to express all my thoughts, I smashed the allegations attacking Lenin and the Third International with no less vigour. My only argument was: “If you do not condemn colonialism, if you do not side with the colonial people, what kind of revolution are you waging?”
Not only did I take part in the meetings of my own Party branch, but I also went to other Party branches to lay down ‘my position.’ Now I must tell again that Comrades Marcel Cachin, Vaillant Couturier, Monmousseau and many others helped me to broaden my knowledge. Finally, at the Tours Congress, I voted with them for our joining the Third International.
At first, patriotism, not yet communism, led me to have confidence in Lenin, in the Third International. Step by step, along the struggle, by studying Marxism-Leninism parallel with participation in practical activities, I gradually came upon the fact that only socialism and communism can liberate the oppressed nations and the working people throughout the world from slavery.
Numero Dos—“The Russian soldier made his way nervously up the ragged side of the hill, holding his gun ready. He glanced around him, licking his dry lips, his face set. From time to time he reached up a gloved hand and wiped perspiration from his neck, pushing down his coat collar.Eric turned to Corporal Leone. ‘Want him? Or can I have him?’ He adjusted the view sight so the Russian’s features squarely filled the glass, the lines cutting across his hard, somber features.
Leone considered. The Russian was close, moving rapidly, almost running. ‘Don’t fire. Wait.’ Leone tensed. ‘I don’t think we’re needed.’
The Russian increased his pace, kicking ash and piles of debris out of his way. He reached the top of the hill and stopped, panting, staring around him. The sky was overcast, drifting clouds of gray particles. Bare trunks of trees jutted up occasionally; the ground was level and bare, rubble-strewn, with the ruins of buildings standing out here and there like yellowing skulls.
The Russian was uneasy. He knew something was wrong. He started down the hill. Now he was only a few paces from the bunker. Eric was getting fidgety. He played with his pistol, glancing at Leone.
“Don’t worry,” Leone said. “He won’t get here. They’ll take care of him.”
“Are you sure? He’s got damn far.”
“They hang around close to the bunker. He’s getting into the bad part. Get set!”
The Russian began to hurry, sliding down the hill, his boots sinking into the heaps of gray ash, trying to keep his gun up. He stopped for a moment, lifting his fieldglasses to his face.
“He’s looking right at us,” Eric said.
The Russian came on. They could see his eyes, like two blue stones. His mouth was open a little. He needed a shave; his chin was stubbled. On one bony cheek was a square of tape, showing blue at the edge. A fungoid spot. His coat was muddy and torn. One glove was missing. As he ran his belt counter bounced up and down against him.
Leone touched Eric’s arm. “Here one comes.”
Across the ground something small and metallic came, flashing in the dull sunlight of mid-day. A metal sphere. It raced up the hill after the Russian, its treads flying. It was small, one of the baby ones. Its claws were out, two razor projections spinning in a blur of white steel. The Russian heard it. He turned instantly, firing. The sphere dissolved into particles. But already a second had emerged and was following the first. The Russian fired again.
A third sphere leaped up the Russian’s leg, clicking and whirring. It jumped to the shoulder. The spinning blades disappeared into the Russian’s throat.
Eric relaxed. “Well, that’s that. God, those damn things give me the creeps. Sometimes I think we were better off before.”
“If we hadn’t invented them, they would have.” Leone lit a cigarette shakily. “I wonder why a Russian would come all this way alone. I didn’t see anyone covering him.”
Lt. Scott came slipping up the tunnel, into the bunker. “What happened? Something entered the screen.”
Eric brought the view screen around. Scott peered into it. Now there were numerous metal spheres crawling over the prostrate body, dull metal globes clicking and whirring, sawing up the Russian into small parts to be carried away.
“What a lot of claws,” Scott murmured.
“They come like flies. Not much game for them any more.”
Scott pushed the sight away, disgusted. “Like flies. I wonder why he was out there. They know we have claws all around.”
A larger robot had joined the smaller spheres. It was directing operations, a long blunt tube with projecting eyepieces. There was not much left of the soldier. What remained was being brought down the hillside by the host of claws.
“Sir,” Leone said. “If it’s all right, I’d like to go out there and take a look at him.”
“Maybe he came with something.”
Scott considered. He shrugged. “All right. But be careful.”
“I have my tab.” Leone patted the metal band at his wrist. “I’ll be out of bounds.”
He picked up his rifle and stepped carefully up to the mouth of the bunker, making his way between blocks of concrete and steel prongs, twisted and bent. The air was cold at the top. He crossed over the ground toward the remains of the soldier, striding across the soft ash. A wind blew around him, swirling gray particles up in his face. He squinted and pushed on.
The claws retreated as he came close, some of them stiffening into immobility. He touched his tab. The Ivan would have given something for that! Short hard radiation emitted from the tab neutralized the claws, put them out of commission. Even the big robot with its two waving eyestalks retreated respectfully as he approached.
He bent down over the remains of the soldier. The gloved hand was closed tightly. There was something in it. Leone pried the fingers apart. A sealed container, aluminum. Still shiny.
He put it in his pocket and made his way back to the bunker. Behind him the claws came back to life, moving into operation again. The procession resumed, metal spheres moving through the gray ash with their loads. He could hear their treads scrabbling against the ground. He shuddered.
Scott watched intently as he brought the shiny tube out of his pocket. “He had that?”
“In his hand.” Leone unscrewed the top. “Maybe you should look at it, sir.”
Scott took it. He emptied the contents out in the palm of his hand. A small piece of silk paper, carefully folded. He sat down by the light and unfolded it.
“What’s it say, sir?” Eric said. Several officers came up the tunnel. Major Hendricks appeared.
“Major,” Scott said. “Look at this.”
Hendricks read the slip. “This just come?”
“A single runner. Just now.”
“Where is he?” Hendricks asked sharply.
“The claws got him.”
Major Hendricks grunted. “Here.” He passed it to his companions. “I think this is what we’ve been waiting for. They certainly took their time about it.”
“So they want to talk terms,” Scott said. “Are we going along with them?”
“That’s not for us to decide.” Hendricks sat down. “Where’s the communications officer? I want the Moon Base.”
Leone pondered as the communications officer raised the outside antenna cautiously, scanning the sky above the bunker for any sign of a watching Russian ship.
“Sir,” Scott said to Hendricks. “It’s sure strange they suddenly came around. We’ve been using the claws for almost a year. Now all of a sudden they start to fold.”
“Maybe claws have been getting down in their bunkers.”
“One of the big ones, the kind with stalks, got into an Ivan bunker last week,” Eric said. “It got a whole platoon of them before they got their lid shut.”
“How do you know?”
“A buddy told me. The thing came back with—with remains.”
“Moon Base, sir,” the communications officer said.
On the screen the face of the lunar monitor appeared. His crisp uniform contrasted to the uniforms in the bunker. And he was clean shaven. “Moon Base.”
“This is forward command L-Whistle. On Terra. Let me have General Thompson.”
The monitor faded. Presently General Thompson’s heavy features came into focus. “What is it, Major?”
“Our claws got a single Russian runner with a message. We don’t know whether to act on it—there have been tricks like this in the past.”
“What’s the message?”
“The Russians want us to send a single officer on policy level over to their lines. For a conference. They don’t state the nature of the conference. They say that matters of—” He consulted the slip. “—Matters of grave urgency make it advisable that discussion be opened between a representative of the UN forces and themselves.”
He held the message up to the screen for the general to scan. Thompson’s eyes moved.
“What should we do?” Hendricks said.
“Send a man out.”
“You don’t think it’s a trap?”
“It might be. But the location they give for their forward command is correct. It’s worth a try, at any rate.”
“I’ll send an officer out. And report the results to you as soon as he returns.”
“All right, Major.” Thompson broke the connection. The screen died. Up above, the antenna came slowly down.
Hendricks rolled up the paper, deep in thought.
“I’ll go,” Leone said.
“They want somebody at policy level.” Hendricks rubbed his jaw. “Policy level. I haven’t been outside in months. Maybe I could use a little air.”
“Don’t you think it’s risky?”
Hendricks lifted the view sight and gazed into it. The remains of the Russian were gone. Only a single claw was in sight. It was folding itself back, disappearing into the ash, like a crab. Like some hideous metal crab….
“That’s the only thing that bothers me.” Hendricks rubbed his wrist. “I know I’m safe as long as I have this on me. But there’s something about them. I hate the damn things. I wish we’d never invented them. There’s something wrong with them. Relentless little—”
“If we hadn’t invented them, the Ivans would have.”
Hendricks pushed the sight back. “Anyhow, it seems to be winning the war. I guess that’s good.”
“Sounds like you’re getting the same jitters as the Ivans.” Hendricks examined his wrist watch. “I guess I had better get started, if I want to be there before dark.”
He took a deep breath and then stepped out onto the gray, rubbled ground. After a minute he lit a cigarette and stood gazing around him. The landscape was dead. Nothing stirred. He could see for miles, endless ash and slag, ruins of buildings. A few trees without leaves or branches, only the trunks. Above him the eternal rolling clouds of gray, drifting between Terra and the sun.
Major Hendricks went on. Off to the right something scuttled, something round and metallic. A claw, going lickety-split after something. Probably after a small animal, a rat. They got rats, too. As a sort of sideline.
He came to the top of the little hill and lifted his fieldglasses. The Russian lines were a few miles ahead of him. They had a forward command post there. The runner had come from it.
A squat robot with undulating arms passed by him, its arms weaving inquiringly. The robot went on its way, disappearing under some debris. Hendricks watched it go. He had never seen that type before. There were getting to be more and more types he had never seen, new varieties and sizes coming up from the underground factories.
Hendricks put out his cigarette and hurried on. It was interesting, the use of artificial forms in warfare. How had they got started? Necessity. The Soviet Union had gained great initial success, usual with the side that got the war going. Most of North America had been blasted off the map. Retaliation was quick in coming, of course. The sky was full of circling disc-bombers long before the war began; they had been up there for years. The discs began sailing down all over Russia within hours after Washington got it.
But that hadn’t helped Washington.
The American bloc governments moved to the Moon Base the first year. There was not much else to do. Europe was gone; a slag heap with dark weeds growing from the ashes and bones. Most of North America was useless; nothing could be planted, no one could live. A few million people kept going up in Canada and down in South America. But during the second year Soviet parachutists began to drop, a few at first, then more and more. They wore the first really effective anti-radiation equipment; what was left of American production moved to the moon along with the governments.
All but the troops. The remaining troops stayed behind as best they could, a few thousand here, a platoon there. No one knew exactly where they were; they stayed where they could, moving around at night, hiding in ruins, in sewers, cellars, with the rats and snakes. It looked as if the Soviet Union had the war almost won. Except for a handful of projectiles fired off from the moon daily, there was almost no weapon in use against them. They came and went as they pleased. The war, for all practical purposes, was over. Nothing effective opposed them.
And then the first claws appeared. And overnight the complexion of the war changed.
The claws were awkward, at first. Slow. The Ivans knocked them off almost as fast as they crawled out of their underground tunnels. But then they got better, faster and more cunning. Factories, all on Terra, turned them out. Factories a long way under ground, behind the Soviet lines, factories that had once made atomic projectiles, now almost forgotten.
The claws got faster, and they got bigger. New types appeared, some with feelers, some that flew. There were a few jumping kinds.
The best technicians on the moon were working on designs, making them more and more intricate, more flexible. They became uncanny; the Ivans were having a lot of trouble with them. Some of the little claws were learning to hide themselves, burrowing down into the ash, lying in wait.
And then they started getting into the Russian bunkers, slipping down when the lids were raised for air and a look around. One claw inside a bunker, a churning sphere of blades and metal—that was enough. And when one got in others followed. With a weapon like that the war couldn’t go on much longer.
Maybe it was already over.
Maybe he was going to hear the news. Maybe the Politburo had decided to throw in the sponge. Too bad it had taken so long. Six years. A long time for war like that, the way they had waged it. The automatic retaliation discs, spinning down all over Russia, hundreds of thousands of them. Bacteria crystals. The Soviet guided missiles, whistling through the air. The chain bombs. And now this, the robots, the claws—
The claws weren’t like other weapons. They were alive, from any practical standpoint, whether the Governments wanted to admit it or not. They were not machines. They were living things, spinning, creeping, shaking themselves up suddenly from the gray ash and darting toward a man, climbing up him, rushing for his throat. And that was what they had been designed to do. Their job.
They did their job well. Especially lately, with the new designs coming up. Now they repaired themselves. They were on their own. Radiation tabs protected the UN troops, but if a man lost his tab he was fair game for the claws, no matter what his uniform. Down below the surface automatic machinery stamped them out. Human beings stayed a long way off. It was too risky; nobody wanted to be around them. They were left to themselves. And they seemed to be doing all right. The new designs were faster, more complex. More efficient.
Apparently they had won the war.
Major Hendricks lit a second cigarette. The landscape depressed him. Nothing but ash and ruins. He seemed to be alone, the only living thing in the whole world. To the right the ruins of a town rose up, a few walls and heaps of debris. He tossed the dead match away, increasing his pace. Suddenly he stopped, jerking up his gun, his body tense. For a minute it looked like—
From behind the shell of a ruined building a figure came, walking slowly toward him, walking hesitantly.
Hendricks blinked. “Stop!”
The boy stopped. Hendricks lowered his gun. The boy stood silently, looking at him. He was small, not very old. Perhaps eight. But it was hard to tell. Most of the kids who remained were stunted. He wore a faded blue sweater, ragged with dirt, and short pants. His hair was long and matted. Brown hair. It hung over his face and around his ears. He held something in his arms.
“What’s that you have?” Hendricks said sharply.
The boy held it out. It was a toy, a bear. A teddy bear. The boy’s eyes were large, but without expression.
Hendricks relaxed. “I don’t want it. Keep it.”
The boy hugged the bear again.
“Where do you live?” Hendricks said.
“How many are there?”
“How many of you. How big’s your settlement?”
The boy did not answer.
Hendricks frowned. “You’re not all by yourself, are you?”
The boy nodded.
“How do you stay alive?”
“What kind of food?”
Hendricks studied him. “How old are you?”
It wasn’t possible. Or was it? The boy was thin, stunted. And probably sterile. Radiation exposure, years straight. No wonder he was so small. His arms and legs were like pipecleaners, knobby, and thin. Hendricks touched the boy’s arm. His skin was dry and rough; radiation skin. He bent down, looking into the boy’s face. There was no expression. Big eyes, big and dark.
“Are you blind?” Hendricks said.
“No. I can see some.”
“How do you get away from the claws?”
“The round things. That run and burrow.”
“I don’t understand.”
Maybe there weren’t any claws around. A lot of areas were free. They collected mostly around bunkers, where there were people. The claws had been designed to sense warmth, warmth of living things.
“You’re lucky.” Hendricks straightened up. “Well? Which way are you going? Back—back there?”
“Can I come with you?”
“With me?” Hendricks folded his arms. “I’m going a long way. Miles. I have to hurry.” He looked at his watch. “I have to get there by nightfall.”
“I want to come.”
Hendricks fumbled in his pack. “It isn’t worth it. Here.” He tossed down the food cans he had with him. “You take these and go back. Okay?”
The boy said nothing.
“I’ll be coming back this way. In a day or so. If you’re around here when I come back you can come along with me. All right?”
“I want to go with you now.”
“It’s a long walk.”
“I can walk.”
Hendricks shifted uneasily. It made too good a target, two people walking along. And the boy would slow him down. But he might not come back this way. And if the boy were really all alone—
“Okay. Come along.”
The boy fell in beside him. Hendricks strode along. The boy walked silently, clutching his teddy bear.
“What’s your name?” Hendricks said, after a time.
“David Edward Derring.”
“David? What—what happened to your mother and father?”
“In the blast.”
“How long ago?”
Hendricks slowed down. “You’ve been alone six years?”
“No. There were other people for awhile. They went away.”
“And you’ve been alone since?”
Hendricks glanced down. The boy was strange, saying very little. Withdrawn. But that was the way they were, the children who had survived. Quiet. Stoic. A strange kind of fatalism gripped them. Nothing came as a surprise. They accepted anything that came along. There was no longer any normal, any natural course of things, moral or physical, for them to expect. Custom, habit, all the determining forces of learning were gone; only brute experience remained.
“Am I walking too fast?” Hendricks said.
“How did you happen to see me?”
“I was waiting.”
“Waiting?” Hendricks was puzzled. “What were you waiting for?”
“To catch things.”
“What kind of things?”
“Things to eat.”
“Oh.” Hendricks set his lips grimly. A thirteen year old boy, living on rats and gophers and half-rotten canned food. Down in a hole under the ruins of a town. With radiation pools and claws, and Russian dive-mines up above, coasting around in the sky.
“Where are we going?” David asked.
“To the Russian lines.”
“The enemy. The people who started the war. They dropped the first radiation bombs. They began all this.”
The boy nodded. His face showed no expression.
“I’m an American,” Hendricks said.
There was no comment. On they went, the two of them, Hendricks walking a little ahead, David trailing behind him, hugging his dirty teddy bear against his chest.
About four in the afternoon they stopped to eat. Hendricks built a fire in a hollow between some slabs of concrete. He cleared the weeds away and heaped up bits of wood. The Russians’ lines were not very far ahead. Around him was what had once been a long valley, acres of fruit trees and grapes. Nothing remained now but a few bleak stumps and the mountains that stretched across the horizon at the far end. And the clouds of rolling ash that blew and drifted with the wind, settling over the weeds and remains of buildings, walls here and there, once in awhile what had been a road.
Hendricks made coffee and heated up some boiled mutton and bread. “Here.” He handed bread and mutton to David. David squatted by the edge of the fire, his knees knobby and white. He examined the food and then passed it back, shaking his head.
“No? Don’t you want any?”
Hendricks shrugged. Maybe the boy was a mutant, used to special food. It didn’t matter. When he was hungry he would find something to eat. The boy was strange. But there were many strange changes coming over the world. Life was not the same, anymore. It would never be the same again. The human race was going to have to realize that.
“Suit yourself,” Hendricks said. He ate the bread and mutton by himself, washing it down with coffee. He ate slowly, finding the food hard to digest. When he was done he got to his feet and stamped the fire out.
David rose slowly, watching him with his young-old eyes.
“We’re going,” Hendricks said.
Hendricks walked along, his gun in his arms. They were close; he was tense, ready for anything. The Russians should be expecting a runner, an answer to their own runner, but they were tricky. There was always the possibility of a slipup. He scanned the landscape around him. Nothing but slag and ash, a few hills, charred trees. Concrete walls. But someplace ahead was the first bunker of the Russian lines, the forward command. Underground, buried deep, with only a periscope showing, a few gun muzzles. Maybe an antenna.
“Will we be there soon?” David asked.
“Yes. Getting tired?”
David did not answer. He plodded carefully along behind, picking his way over the ash. His legs and shoes were gray with dust. His pinched face was streaked, lines of gray ash in riverlets down the pale white of his skin. There was no color to his face. Typical of the new children, growing up in cellars and sewers and underground shelters.
Hendricks slowed down. He lifted his fieldglasses and studied the ground ahead of him. Were they there, someplace, waiting for him? Watching him, the way his men had watched the Russian runner? A chill went up his back. Maybe they were getting their guns ready, preparing to fire, the way his men had prepared, made ready to kill.
Hendricks stopped, wiping perspiration from his face. “Damn.” It made him uneasy. But he should be expected. The situation was different.
He strode over the ash, holding his gun tightly with both hands. Behind him came David. Hendricks peered around, tight-lipped. Any second it might happen. A burst of white light, a blast, carefully aimed from inside a deep concrete bunker.
He raised his arm and waved it around in a circle.
Nothing moved. To the right a long ridge ran, topped with dead tree trunks. A few wild vines had grown up around the trees, remains of arbors. And the eternal dark weeds. Hendricks studied the ridge. Was anything up there? Perfect place for a lookout. He approached the ridge warily, David coming silently behind. If it were his command he’d have a sentry up there, watching for troops trying to infiltrate into the command area. Of course, if it were his command there would be the claws around the area for full protection.
He stopped, feet apart, hands on his hips.
“Are we there?” David said.
“Why have we stopped?”
“I don’t want to take any chances.” Hendricks advanced slowly. Now the ridge lay directly beside him, along his right. Overlooking him. His uneasy feeling increased. If an Ivan were up there he wouldn’t have a chance. He waved his arm again. They should be expecting someone in the UN uniform, in response to the note capsule. Unless the whole thing was a trap.
“Keep up with me.” He turned toward David. “Don’t drop behind.”
“Up beside me! We’re close. We can’t take any chances. Come on.”
“I’ll be all right.” David remained behind him, in the rear, a few paces away, still clutching his teddy bear.
“Have it your way.” Hendricks raised his glasses again, suddenly tense. For a moment—had something moved? He scanned the ridge carefully. Everything was silent. Dead. No life up there, only tree trunks and ash. Maybe a few rats. The big black rats that had survived the claws. Mutants—built their own shelters out of saliva and ash. Some kind of plaster. Adaptation. He started forward again.
A tall figure came out on the ridge above him, cloak flapping. Gray-green. A Russian. Behind him a second soldier appeared, another Russian. Both lifted their guns, aiming.
Hendricks froze. He opened his mouth. The soldiers were kneeling, sighting down the side of the slope. A third figure had joined them on the ridge top, a smaller figure in gray-green. A woman. She stood behind the other two.
Hendricks found his voice. “Stop!” He waved up at them frantically. “I’m—”
The two Russians fired. Behind Hendricks there was a faint pop. Waves of heat lapped against him, throwing him to the ground. Ash tore at his face, grinding into his eyes and nose. Choking, he pulled himself to his knees. It was all a trap. He was finished. He had come to be killed, like a steer. The soldiers and the woman were coming down the side of the ridge toward him, sliding down through the soft ash. Hendricks was numb. His head throbbed. Awkwardly, he got his rifle up and took aim. It weighed a thousand tons; he could hardly hold it. His nose and cheeks stung. The air was full of the blast smell, a bitter acrid stench.
“Don’t fire,” the first Russian said, in heavily accented English.
The three of them came up to him, surrounding him. “Put down your rifle, Yank,” the other said.
Hendricks was dazed. Everything had happened so fast. He had been caught. And they had blasted the boy. He turned his head. David was gone. What remained of him was strewn across the ground.
The three Russians studied him curiously. Hendricks sat, wiping blood from his nose, picking out bits of ash. He shook his head, trying to clear it. “Why did you do it?” he murmured thickly. “The boy.”
“Why?” One of the soldiers helped him roughly to his feet. He turned Hendricks around. “Look.”
Hendricks closed his eyes.
“Look!” The two Russians pulled him forward. “See. Hurry up. There isn’t much time to spare, Yank!”
Hendricks looked. And gasped.
“See now? Now do you understand?”
From the remains of David a metal wheel rolled. Relays, glinting metal. Parts, wiring. One of the Russians kicked at the heap of remains. Parts popped out, rolling away, wheels and springs and rods. A plastic section fell in, half charred. Hendricks bent shakily down. The front of the head had come off. He could make out the intricate brain, wires and relays, tiny tubes and switches, thousands of minute studs—
“A robot,” the soldier holding his arm said. “We watched it tagging you.”
“That’s their way. They tag along with you. Into the bunker. That’s how they get in.”
Hendricks blinked, dazed. “But—”
“Come on.” They led him toward the ridge. “We can’t stay here. It isn’t safe. There must be hundreds of them all around here.”
The three of them pulled him up the side of the ridge, sliding and slipping on the ash. The woman reached the top and stood waiting for them.
“The forward command,” Hendricks muttered. “I came to negotiate with the Soviet—”
“There is no more forward command. They got in. We’ll explain.” They reached the top of the ridge. “We’re all that’s left. The three of us. The rest were down in the bunker.”
“This way. Down this way.” The woman unscrewed a lid, a gray manhole cover set in the ground. “Get in.”
Hendricks lowered himself. The two soldiers and the woman came behind him, following him down the ladder. The woman closed the lid after them, bolting it tightly into place.
“Good thing we saw you,” one of the two soldiers grunted. “It had tagged you about as far as it was going to.”
“Give me one of your cigarettes,” the woman said. “I haven’t had an American cigarette for weeks.”
Hendricks pushed the pack to her. She took a cigarette and passed the pack to the two soldiers. In the corner of the small room the lamp gleamed fitfully. The room was low-ceilinged, cramped. The four of them sat around a small wood table. A few dirty dishes were stacked to one side. Behind a ragged curtain a second room was partly visible. Hendricks saw the corner of a cot, some blankets, clothes hung on a hook.
“We were here,” the soldier beside him said. He took off his helmet, pushing his blond hair back. “I’m Corporal Rudi Maxer. Polish. Impressed in the Soviet Army two years ago.” He held out his hand.
Hendricks hesitated and then shook. “Major Joseph Hendricks.”
“Klaus Epstein.” The other soldier shook with him, a small dark man with thinning hair. Epstein plucked nervously at his ear. “Austrian. Impressed God knows when. I don’t remember. The three of us were here, Rudi and I, with Tasso.” He indicated the woman. “That’s how we escaped. All the rest were down in the bunker.”
“And—and they got in?”
Epstein lit a cigarette. “First just one of them. The kind that tagged you. Then it let others in.”
Hendricks became alert. “The kind? Are there more than one kind?”
“The little boy. David. David holding his teddy bear. That’s Variety Three. The most effective.”
“What are the other types?”
Epstein reached into his coat. “Here.” He tossed a packet of photographs onto the table, tied with a string. “Look for yourself.”
Hendricks untied the string.
“You see,” Rudi Maxer said, “that was why we wanted to talk terms. The Russians, I mean. We found out about a week ago. Found out that your claws were beginning to make up new designs on their own. New types of their own. Better types. Down in your underground factories behind our lines. You let them stamp themselves, repair themselves. Made them more and more intricate. It’s your fault this happened.”
Hendricks examined the photos. They had been snapped hurriedly; they were blurred and indistinct. The first few showed—David. David walking along a road, by himself. David and another David. Three Davids. All exactly alike. Each with a ragged teddy bear.
“Look at the others,” Tasso said.
The next pictures, taken at a great distance, showed a towering wounded soldier sitting by the side of a path, his arm in a sling, the stump of one leg extended, a crude crutch on his lap. Then two wounded soldiers, both the same, standing side by side.
“That’s Variety One. The Wounded Soldier.” Klaus reached out and took the pictures. “You see, the claws were designed to get to human beings. To find them. Each kind was better than the last. They got farther, closer, past most of our defenses, into our lines. But as long as they were merely machines, metal spheres with claws and horns, feelers, they could be picked off like any other object. They could be detected as lethal robots as soon as they were seen. Once we caught sight of them—”
“Variety One subverted our whole north wing,” Rudi said. “It was a long time before anyone caught on. Then it was too late. They came in, wounded soldiers, knocking and begging to be let in. So we let them in. And as soon as they were in they took over. We were watching out for machines….”
“At that time it was thought there was only the one type,” Klaus Epstein said. “No one suspected there were other types. The pictures were flashed to us. When the runner was sent to you, we knew of just one type. Variety One. The big Wounded Soldier. We thought that was all.”
“Your line fell to—”
“To Variety Three. David and his bear. That worked even better.” Klaus smiled bitterly. “Soldiers are suckers for children. We brought them in and tried to feed them. We found out the hard way what they were after. At least, those who were in the bunker.”
“The three of us were lucky,” Rudi said. “Klaus and I were—were visiting Tasso when it happened. This is her place.” He waved a big hand around. “This little cellar. We finished and climbed the ladder to start back. From the ridge we saw. There they were, all around the bunker. Fighting was still going on. David and his bear. Hundreds of them. Klaus took the pictures.”
Klaus tied up the photographs again.
“And it’s going on all along your line?” Hendricks said.
“How about our lines?” Without thinking, he touched the tab on his arm. “Can they—”
“They’re not bothered by your radiation tabs. It makes no difference to them, Russian, American, Pole, German. It’s all the same. They’re doing what they were designed to do. Carrying out the original idea. They track down life, wherever they find it.”
“They go by warmth,” Klaus said. “That was the way you constructed them from the very start. Of course, those you designed were kept back by the radiation tabs you wear. Now they’ve got around that. These new varieties are lead-lined.”
“What’s the other variety?” Hendricks asked. “The David type, the Wounded Soldier—what’s the other?”
“We don’t know.” Klaus pointed up at the wall. On the wall were two metal plates, ragged at the edges. Hendricks got up and studied them. They were bent and dented.
“The one on the left came off a Wounded Soldier,” Rudi said. “We got one of them. It was going along toward our old bunker. We got it from the ridge, the same way we got the David tagging you.”
The plate was stamped: I-V. Hendricks touched the other plate. “And this came from the David type?”
“Yes.” The plate was stamped: III-V.
Klaus took a look at them, leaning over Hendricks’ broad shoulder. “You can see what we’re up against. There’s another type. Maybe it was abandoned. Maybe it didn’t work. But there must be a Second Variety. There’s One and Three.”
“You were lucky,” Rudi said. “The David tagged you all the way here and never touched you. Probably thought you’d get it into a bunker, somewhere.”
“One gets in and it’s all over,” Klaus said. “They move fast. One lets all the rest inside. They’re inflexible. Machines with one purpose. They were built for only one thing.” He rubbed sweat from his lip. “We saw.”
They were silent.
“Let me have another cigarette, Yank,” Tasso said. “They are good. I almost forgot how they were.”
It was night. The sky was black. No stars were visible through the rolling clouds of ash. Klaus lifted the lid cautiously so that Hendricks could look out.
Rudi pointed into the darkness. “Over that way are the bunkers. Where we used to be. Not over half a mile from us. It was just chance Klaus and I were not there when it happened. Weakness. Saved by our lusts.”
“All the rest must be dead,” Klaus said in a low voice. “It came quickly. This morning the Politburo reached their decision. They notified us—forward command. Our runner was sent out at once. We saw him start toward the direction of your lines. We covered him until he was out of sight.”
“Alex Radrivsky. We both knew him. He disappeared about six o’clock. The sun had just come up. About noon Klaus and I had an hour relief. We crept off, away from the bunkers. No one was watching. We came here. There used to be a town here, a few houses, a street. This cellar was part of a big farmhouse. We knew Tasso would be here, hiding down in her little place. We had come here before. Others from the bunkers came here. Today happened to be our turn.”
“So we were saved,” Klaus said. “Chance. It might have been others. We—we finished, and then we came up to the surface and started back along the ridge. That was when we saw them, the Davids. We understood right away. We had seen the photos of the First Variety, the Wounded Soldier. Our Commissar distributed them to us with an explanation. If we had gone another step they would have seen us. As it was we had to blast two Davids before we got back. There were hundreds of them, all around. Like ants. We took pictures and slipped back here, bolting the lid tight.”
“They’re not so much when you catch them alone. We moved faster than they did. But they’re inexorable. Not like living things. They came right at us. And we blasted them.”
Major Hendricks rested against the edge of the lid, adjusting his eyes to the darkness. “Is it safe to have the lid up at all?”
“If we’re careful. How else can you operate your transmitter?”
Hendricks lifted the small belt transmitter slowly. He pressed it against his ear. The metal was cold and damp. He blew against the mike, raising up the short antenna. A faint hum sounded in his ear. “That’s true, I suppose.”
But he still hesitated.
“We’ll pull you under if anything happens,” Klaus said.
“Thanks.” Hendricks waited a moment, resting the transmitter against his shoulder. “Interesting, isn’t it?”
“This, the new types. The new varieties of claws. We’re completely at their mercy, aren’t we? By now they’ve probably gotten into the UN lines, too. It makes me wonder if we’re not seeing the beginning of a now species. The new species. Evolution. The race to come after man.”
Rudi grunted. “There is no race after man.”
“No? Why not? Maybe we’re seeing it now, the end of human beings, the beginning of the new society.”
“They’re not a race. They’re mechanical killers. You made them to destroy. That’s all they can do. They’re machines with a job.”
“So it seems now. But how about later on? After the war is over. Maybe, when there aren’t any humans to destroy, their real potentialities will begin to show.”
“You talk as if they were alive!”
There was silence. “They’re machines,” Rudi said. “They look like people, but they’re machines.”
“Use your transmitter, Major,” Klaus said. “We can’t stay up here forever.”
Holding the transmitter tightly Hendricks called the code of the command bunker. He waited, listening. No response. Only silence. He checked the leads carefully. Everything was in place.
“Scott!” he said into the mike. “Can you hear me?”
Silence. He raised the gain up full and tried again. Only static.
“I don’t get anything. They may hear me but they may not want to answer.”
“Tell them it’s an emergency.”
“They’ll think I’m being forced to call. Under your direction.” He tried again, outlining briefly what he had learned. But still the phone was silent, except for the faint static.
“Radiation pools kill most transmission,” Klaus said, after awhile. “Maybe that’s it.”
Hendricks shut the transmitter up. “No use. No answer. Radiation pools? Maybe. Or they hear me, but won’t answer. Frankly, that’s what I would do, if a runner tried to call from the Soviet lines. They have no reason to believe such a story. They may hear everything I say—”
“Or maybe it’s too late.”
“We better get the lid down,” Rudi said nervously. “We don’t want to take unnecessary chances.”
They climbed slowly back down the tunnel. Klaus bolted the lid carefully into place. They descended into the kitchen. The air was heavy and close around them.
“Could they work that fast?” Hendricks said. “I left the bunker this noon. Ten hours ago. How could they move so quickly?”
“It doesn’t take them long. Not after the first one gets in. It goes wild. You know what the little claws can do. Even one of these is beyond belief. Razors, each finger. Maniacal.”
“All right.” Hendricks moved away impatiently. He stood with his back to them.
“What’s the matter?” Rudi said.
“The Moon Base. God, if they’ve gotten there—”
“The Moon Base?”
Hendricks turned around. “They couldn’t have got to the Moon Base. How would they get there? It isn’t possible. I can’t believe it.”
“What is this Moon Base? We’ve heard rumors, but nothing definite. What is the actual situation? You seem concerned.”
“We’re supplied from the moon. The governments are there, under the lunar surface. All our people and industries. That’s what keeps us going. If they should find some way of getting off Terra, onto the moon—”
“It only takes one of them. Once the first one gets in it admits the others. Hundreds of them, all alike. You should have seen them. Identical. Like ants.”
“Perfect socialism,” Tasso said. “The ideal of the communist state. All citizens interchangeable.”
Klaus grunted angrily. “That’s enough. Well? What next?”
Hendricks paced back and forth, around the small room. The air was full of smells of food and perspiration. The others watched him. Presently Tasso pushed through the curtain, into the other room. “I’m going to take a nap.”
The curtain closed behind her. Rudi and Klaus sat down at the table, still watching Hendricks.
“It’s up to you,” Klaus said. “We don’t know your situation.”
“It’s a problem.” Rudi drank some coffee, filling his cup from a rusty pot. “We’re safe here for awhile, but we can’t stay here forever. Not enough food or supplies.”
“But if we go outside—”
“If we go outside they’ll get us. Or probably they’ll get us. We couldn’t go very far. How far is your command bunker, Major?”
“Three or four miles.”
“We might make it. The four of us. Four of us could watch all sides. They couldn’t slip up behind us and start tagging us. We have three rifles, three blast rifles. Tasso can have my pistol.” Rudi tapped his belt. “In the Soviet army we didn’t have shoes always, but we had guns. With all four of us armed one of us might get to your command bunker. Preferably you, Major.”
“What if they’re already there?” Klaus said.
Rudi shrugged. “Well, then we come back here.”
Hendricks stopped pacing. “What do you think the chances are they’re already in the American lines?”
“Hard to say. Fairly good. They’re organized. They know exactly what they’re doing. Once they start they go like a horde of locusts. They have to keep moving, and fast. It’s secrecy and speed they depend on. Surprise. They push their way in before anyone has any idea.”
“I see,” Hendricks murmured.
From the other room Tasso stirred. “Major?”
Hendricks pushed the curtain back. “What?”
Tasso looked up at him lazily from the cot. “Have you any more American cigarettes left?”
Hendricks went into the room and sat down across from her, on a wood stool. He felt in his pockets. “No. All gone.”
“What nationality are you?” Hendricks asked after awhile.
“How did you get here?”
“This used to be France. This was part of Normandy. Did you come with the Soviet army?”
“Just curious.” He studied her. She had taken off her coat, tossing it over the end of the cot. She was young, about twenty. Slim. Her long hair stretched out over the pillow. She was staring at him silently, her eyes dark and large.
“What’s on your mind?” Tasso said.
“Nothing. How old are you?”
“Eighteen.” She continued to watch him, unblinking, her arms behind her head. She had on Russian army pants and shirt. Gray-green. Thick leather belt with counter and cartridges. Medicine kit.
“You’re in the Soviet army?”
“Where did you get the uniform?”
She shrugged. “It was given to me,” she told him.
“How—how old were you when you came here?”
Her eyes narrowed. “What do you mean?”
Hendricks rubbed his jaw. “Your life would have been a lot different if there had been no war. Sixteen. You came here at sixteen. To live this way.”
“I had to survive.”
“I’m not moralizing.”
“Your life would have been different, too,” Tasso murmured. She reached down and unfastened one of her boots. She kicked the boot off, onto the floor. “Major, do you want to go in the other room? I’m sleepy.”
“It’s going to be a problem, the four of us here. It’s going to be hard to live in these quarters. Are there just the two rooms?”
“How big was the cellar originally? Was it larger than this? Are there other rooms filled up with debris? We might be able to open one of them.”
“Perhaps. I really don’t know.” Tasso loosened her belt. She made herself comfortable on the cot, unbuttoning her shirt. “You’re sure you have no more cigarettes?”
“I had only the one pack.”
“Too bad. Maybe if we get back to your bunker we can find some.” The other boot fell. Tasso reached up for the light cord. “Good night.”
“You’re going to sleep?”
The room plunged into darkness. Hendricks got up and made his way past the curtain, into the kitchen.
And stopped, rigid.
Rudi stood against the wall, his face white and gleaming. His mouth opened and closed but no sounds came. Klaus stood in front of him, the muzzle of his pistol in Rudi’s stomach. Neither of them moved. Klaus, his hand tight around his gun, his features set. Rudi, pale and silent, spread-eagled against the wall.
“What—” Hendricks muttered, but Klaus cut him off.
“Be quiet, Major. Come over here. Your gun. Get out your gun.”
Hendricks drew his pistol. “What is it?”
“Cover him.” Klaus motioned him forward. “Beside me. Hurry!”
Rudi moved a little, lowering his arms. He turned to Hendricks, licking his lips. The whites of his eyes shone wildly. Sweat dripped from his forehead, down his cheeks. He fixed his gaze on Hendricks. “Major, he’s gone insane. Stop him.” Rudi’s voice was thin and hoarse, almost inaudible.
“What’s going on?” Hendricks demanded.
Without lowering his pistol Klaus answered. “Major, remember our discussion? The Three Varieties? We knew about One and Three. But we didn’t know about Two. At least, we didn’t know before.” Klaus’ fingers tightened around the gun butt. “We didn’t know before, but we know now.”
He pressed the trigger. A burst of white heat rolled out of the gun, licking around Rudi.
“Major, this is the Second Variety.”
Tasso swept the curtain aside. “Klaus! What did you do?”
Klaus turned from the charred form, gradually sinking down the wall onto the floor. “The Second Variety, Tasso. Now we know. We have all three types identified. The danger is less. I—”
Tasso stared past him at the remains of Rudi, at the blackened, smouldering fragments and bits of cloth. “You killed him.”
“Him? It, you mean. I was watching. I had a feeling, but I wasn’t sure. At least, I wasn’t sure before. But this evening I was certain.” Klaus rubbed his pistol butt nervously. “We’re lucky. Don’t you understand? Another hour and it might—”
“You were certain?” Tasso pushed past him and bent down, over the steaming remains on the floor. Her face became hard. “Major, see for yourself. Bones. Flesh.”
Hendricks bent down beside her. The remains were human remains. Seared flesh, charred bone fragments, part of a skull. Ligaments, viscera, blood. Blood forming a pool against the wall.
“No wheels,” Tasso said calmly. She straightened up. “No wheels, no parts, no relays. Not a claw. Not the Second Variety.” She folded her arms. “You’re going to have to be able to explain this.”
Klaus sat down at the table, all the color drained suddenly from his face. He put his head in his hands and rocked back and forth.
“Snap out of it.” Tasso’s fingers closed over his shoulder. “Why did you do it? Why did you kill him?”
“He was frightened,” Hendricks said. “All this, the whole thing, building up around us.”
“What, then? What do you think?”
“I think he may have had a reason for killing Rudi. A good reason.”
“Maybe Rudi learned something.”
Hendricks studied her bleak face. “About what?” he asked.
“About him. About Klaus.”
Klaus looked up quickly. “You can see what she’s trying to say. She thinks I’m the Second Variety. Don’t you see, Major? Now she wants you to believe I killed him on purpose. That I’m—”
“Why did you kill him, then?” Tasso said.
“I told you.” Klaus shook his head wearily. “I thought he was a claw. I thought I knew.”
“I had been watching him. I was suspicious.”
“I thought I had seen something. Heard something. I thought I—” He stopped.
“We were sitting at the table. Playing cards. You two were in the other room. It was silent. I thought I heard him—whirr.”
There was silence.
“Do you believe that?” Tasso said to Hendricks.
“Yes. I believe what he says.”
“I don’t. I think he killed Rudi for a good purpose.” Tasso touched the rifle, resting in the corner of the room. “Major—”
“No.” Hendricks shook his head. “Let’s stop it right now. One is enough. We’re afraid, the way he was. If we kill him we’ll be doing what he did to Rudi.”
Klaus looked gratefully up at him. “Thanks. I was afraid. You understand, don’t you? Now she’s afraid, the way I was. She wants to kill me.”
“No more killing.” Hendricks moved toward the end of the ladder. “I’m going above and try the transmitter once more. If I can’t get them we’re moving back toward my lines tomorrow morning.”
Klaus rose quickly. “I’ll come up with you and give you a hand.”
The night air was cold. The earth was cooling off. Klaus took a deep breath, filling his lungs. He and Hendricks stepped onto the ground, out of the tunnel. Klaus planted his feet wide apart, the rifle up, watching and listening. Hendricks crouched by the tunnel mouth, tuning the small transmitter.
“Any luck?” Klaus asked presently.
“Keep trying. Tell them what happened.”
Hendricks kept trying. Without success. Finally he lowered the antenna. “It’s useless. They can’t hear me. Or they hear me and won’t answer. Or—”
“Or they don’t exist.”
“I’ll try once more.” Hendricks raised the antenna. “Scott, can you hear me? Come in!”
He listened. There was only static. Then, still very faintly—
“This is Scott.”
His fingers tightened. “Scott! Is it you?”
“This is Scott.”
Klaus squatted down. “Is it your command?”
“Scott, listen. Do you understand? About them, the claws. Did you get my message? Did you hear me?”
“Yes.” Faintly. Almost inaudible. He could hardly make out the word.
“You got my message? Is everything all right at the bunker? None of them have got in?”
“Everything is all right.”
“Have they tried to get in?”
The voice was weaker.
Hendricks turned to Klaus. “They’re all right.”
“Have they been attacked?”
“No.” Hendricks pressed the phone tighter to his ear. “Scott, I can hardly hear you. Have you notified the Moon Base? Do they know? Are they alerted?”
“Scott! Can you hear me?”
Hendricks relaxed, sagging. “Faded out. Must be radiation pools.”
Hendricks and Klaus looked at each other. Neither of them said anything. After a time Klaus said, “Did it sound like any of your men? Could you identify the voice?”
“It was too faint.”
“You couldn’t be certain?”
“Then it could have been—”
“I don’t know. Now I’m not sure. Let’s go back down and get the lid closed.”
They climbed back down the ladder slowly, into the warm cellar. Klaus bolted the lid behind them. Tasso waited for them, her face expressionless.
“Any luck?” she asked.
Neither of them answered. “Well?” Klaus said at last. “What do you think, Major? Was it your officer, or was it one of them?”
“I don’t know.”
“Then we’re just where we were before.”
Hendricks stared down at the floor, his jaw set. “We’ll have to go. To be sure.”
“Anyhow, we have food here for only a few weeks. We’d have to go up after that, in any case.”
“What’s wrong?” Tasso demanded. “Did you get across to your bunker? What’s the matter?”
“It may have been one of my men,” Hendricks said slowly. “Or it may have been one of them. But we’ll never know standing here.” He examined his watch. “Let’s turn in and get some sleep. We want to be up early tomorrow.”
“Our best chance to get through the claws should be early in the morning,” Hendricks said.
The morning was crisp and clear. Major Hendricks studied the countryside through his fieldglasses.
“See anything?” Klaus said.
“Can you make out our bunkers?”
“Here.” Klaus took the glasses and adjusted them. “I know where to look.” He looked a long time, silently.
Tasso came to the top of the tunnel and stepped up onto the ground. “Anything?”
“No.” Klaus passed the glasses back to Hendricks. “They’re out of sight. Come on. Let’s not stay here.”
The three of them made their way down the side of the ridge, sliding in the soft ash. Across a flat rock a lizard scuttled. They stopped instantly, rigid.
“What was it?” Klaus muttered.
The lizard ran on, hurrying through the ash. It was exactly the same color as the ash.
“Perfect adaptation,” Klaus said. “Proves we were right. Lysenko, I mean.”
They reached the bottom of the ridge and stopped, standing close together, looking around them.
“Let’s go.” Hendricks started off. “It’s a good long trip, on foot.”
Klaus fell in beside him. Tasso walked behind, her pistol held alertly. “Major, I’ve been meaning to ask you something,” Klaus said. “How did you run across the David? The one that was tagging you.”
“I met it along the way. In some ruins.”
“What did it say?”
“Not much. It said it was alone. By itself.”
“You couldn’t tell it was a machine? It talked like a living person? You never suspected?”
“It didn’t say much. I noticed nothing unusual.
“It’s strange, machines so much like people that you can be fooled. Almost alive. I wonder where it’ll end.”
“They’re doing what you Yanks designed them to do,” Tasso said. “You designed them to hunt out life and destroy. Human life. Wherever they find it.”
Hendricks was watching Klaus intently. “Why did you ask me? What’s on your mind?”
“Nothing,” Klaus answered.
“Klaus thinks you’re the Second Variety,” Tasso said calmly, from behind them. “Now he’s got his eye on you.”
Klaus flushed. “Why not? We sent a runner to the Yank lines and he comes back. Maybe he thought he’d find some good game here.”
Hendricks laughed harshly. “I came from the UN bunkers. There were human beings all around me.”
“Maybe you saw an opportunity to get into the Soviet lines. Maybe you saw your chance. Maybe you—”
“The Soviet lines had already been taken over. Your lines had been invaded before I left my command bunker. Don’t forget that.”
Tasso came up beside him. “That proves nothing at all, Major.”
“There appears to be little communication between the varieties. Each is made in a different factory. They don’t seem to work together. You might have started for the Soviet lines without knowing anything about the work of the other varieties. Or even what the other varieties were like.”
“How do you know so much about the claws?” Hendricks said.
“I’ve seen them. I’ve observed them. I observed them take over the Soviet bunkers.”
“You know quite a lot,” Klaus said. “Actually, you saw very little. Strange that you should have been such an acute observer.”
Tasso laughed. “Do you suspect me, now?”
“Forget it,” Hendricks said. They walked on in silence.
“Are we going the whole way on foot?” Tasso said, after awhile. “I’m not used to walking.” She gazed around at the plain of ash, stretching out on all sides of them, as far as they could see. “How dreary.”
“It’s like this all the way,” Klaus said.
“In a way I wish you had been in your bunker when the attack came.”
“Somebody else would have been with you, if not me,” Klaus muttered.
Tasso laughed, putting her hands in her pockets. “I suppose so.”
They walked on, keeping their eyes on the vast plain of silent ash around them.
The sun was setting. Hendricks made his way forward slowly, waving Tasso and Klaus back. Klaus squatted down, resting his gun butt against the ground.
Tasso found a concrete slab and sat down with a sigh. “It’s good to rest.”
“Be quiet,” Klaus said sharply.
Hendricks pushed up to the top of the rise ahead of them. The same rise the Russian runner had come up, the day before. Hendricks dropped down, stretching himself out, peering through his glasses at what lay beyond.
Nothing was visible. Only ash and occasional trees. But there, not more than fifty yards ahead, was the entrance of the forward command bunker. The bunker from which he had come. Hendricks watched silently. No motion. No sign of life. Nothing stirred.
Klaus slithered up beside him. “Where is it?”
“Down there.” Hendricks passed him the glasses. Clouds of ash rolled across the evening sky. The world was darkening. They had a couple of hours of light left, at the most. Probably not that much.
“I don’t see anything,” Klaus said.
“That tree there. The stump. By the pile of bricks. The entrance is to the right of the bricks.”
“I’ll have to take your word for it.”
“You and Tasso cover me from here. You’ll be able to sight all the way to the bunker entrance.”
“You’re going down alone?”
“With my wrist tab I’ll be safe. The ground around the bunker is a living field of claws. They collect down in the ash. Like crabs. Without tabs you wouldn’t have a chance.”
“Maybe you’re right.”
“I’ll walk slowly all the way. As soon as I know for certain—”
“If they’re down inside the bunker you won’t be able to get back up here. They go fast. You don’t realize.”
“What do you suggest?”
Klaus considered. “I don’t know. Get them to come up to the surface. So you can see.”
Hendricks brought his transmitter from his belt, raising the antenna. “Let’s get started.”
Klaus signalled to Tasso. She crawled expertly up the side of the rise to where they were sitting.
“He’s going down alone,” Klaus said. “We’ll cover him from here. As soon as you see him start back, fire past him at once. They come quick.”
“You’re not very optimistic,” Tasso said.
“No, I’m not.”
Hendricks opened the breech of his gun, checking it carefully. “Maybe things are all right.”
“You didn’t see them. Hundreds of them. All the same. Pouring out like ants.”
“I should be able to find out without going down all the way.” Hendricks locked his gun, gripping it in one hand, the transmitter in the other. “Well, wish me luck.”
Klaus put out his hand. “Don’t go down until you’re sure. Talk to them from up here. Make them show themselves.”
Hendricks stood up. He stepped down the side of the rise.
A moment later he was walking slowly toward the pile of bricks and debris beside the dead tree stump. Toward the entrance of the forward command bunker.
Nothing stirred. He raised the transmitter, clicking it on. “Scott? Can you hear me?”
“Scott! This is Hendricks. Can you hear me? I’m standing outside the bunker. You should be able to see me in the view sight.”
He listened, the transmitter gripped tightly. No sound. Only static. He walked forward. A claw burrowed out of the ash and raced toward him. It halted a few feet away and then slunk off. A second claw appeared, one of the big ones with feelers. It moved toward him, studied him intently, and then fell in behind him, dogging respectfully after him, a few paces away. A moment later a second big claw joined it. Silently, the claws trailed him, as he walked slowly toward the bunker.
Hendricks stopped, and behind him, the claws came to a halt. He was close, now. Almost to the bunker steps.
“Scott! Can you hear me? I’m standing right above you. Outside. On the surface. Are you picking me up?”
He waited, holding his gun against his side, the transmitter tightly to his ear. Time passed. He strained to hear, but there was only silence. Silence, and faint static.
Then, distantly, metallically—
“This is Scott.”
The voice was neutral. Cold. He could not identify it. But the earphone was minute.
“Scott! Listen. I’m standing right above you. I’m on the surface, looking down into the bunker entrance.”
“Can you see me?”
“Through the view sight? You have the sight trained on me?”
Hendricks pondered. A circle of claws waited quietly around him, gray-metal bodies on all sides of him. “Is everything all right in the bunker? Nothing unusual has happened?”
“Everything is all right.”
“Will you come up to the surface? I want to see you for a moment.” Hendricks took a deep breath. “Come up here with me. I want to talk to you.”
“I’m giving you an order.”
“Are you coming?” Hendricks listened. There was no response. “I order you to come to the surface.”
Hendricks set his jaw. “Let me talk to Leone.”
There was a long pause. He listened to the static. Then a voice came, hard, thin, metallic. The same as the other. “This is Leone.”
“Hendricks. I’m on the surface. At the bunker entrance. I want one of you to come up here.”
“Why come down? I’m giving you an order!”
Silence. Hendricks lowered the transmitter. He looked carefully around him. The entrance was just ahead. Almost at his feet. He lowered the antenna and fastened the transmitter to his belt. Carefully, he gripped his gun with both hands. He moved forward, a step at a time. If they could see him they knew he was starting toward the entrance. He closed his eyes a moment.
Then he put his foot on the first step that led downward.
Two Davids came up at him, their faces identical and expressionless. He blasted them into particles. More came rushing silently up, a whole pack of them. All exactly the same.
Hendricks turned and raced back, away from the bunker, back toward the rise.
At the top of the rise Tasso and Klaus were firing down. The small claws were already streaking up toward them, shining metal spheres going fast, racing frantically through the ash. But he had no time to think about that. He knelt down, aiming at the bunker entrance, gun against his cheek. The Davids were coming out in groups, clutching their teddy bears, their thin knobby legs pumping as they ran up the steps to the surface. Hendricks fired into the main body of them. They burst apart, wheels and springs flying in all directions. He fired again through the mist of particles.
A giant lumbering figure rose up in the bunker entrance, tall and swaying. Hendricks paused, amazed. A man, a soldier. With one leg, supporting himself with a crutch.
“Major!” Tasso’s voice came. More firing. The huge figure moved forward, Davids swarming around it. Hendricks broke out of his freeze. The First Variety. The Wounded Soldier.
He aimed and fired. The soldier burst into bits, parts and relays flying. Now many Davids were out on the flat ground, away from the bunker. He fired again and again, moving slowly back, half-crouching and aiming.
From the rise, Klaus fired down. The side of the rise was alive with claws making their way up. Hendricks retreated toward the rise, running and crouching. Tasso had left Klaus and was circling slowly to the right, moving away from the rise.
A David slipped up toward him, its small white face expressionless, brown hair hanging down in its eyes. It bent over suddenly, opening its arms. Its teddy bear hurtled down and leaped across the ground, bounding toward him. Hendricks fired. The bear and the David both dissolved. He grinned, blinking. It was like a dream.
“Up here!” Tasso’s voice. Hendricks made his way toward her. She was over by some columns of concrete, walls of a ruined building. She was firing past him, with the hand pistol Klaus had given her.
“Thanks.” He joined her, grasping for breath. She pulled him back, behind the concrete, fumbling at her belt.
“Close your eyes!” She unfastened a globe from her waist. Rapidly, she unscrewed the cap, locking it into place. “Close your eyes and get down.”
She threw the bomb. It sailed in an arc, an expert, rolling and bouncing to the entrance of the bunker. Two Wounded Soldiers stood uncertainly by the brick pile. More Davids poured from behind them, out onto the plain. One of the Wounded Soldiers moved toward the bomb, stooping awkwardly down to pick it up.
The bomb went off. The concussion whirled Hendricks around, throwing him on his face. A hot wind rolled over him. Dimly he saw Tasso standing behind the columns, firing slowly and methodically at the Davids coming out of the raging clouds of white fire.
Back along the rise Klaus struggled with a ring of claws circling around him. He retreated, blasting at them and moving back, trying to break through the ring.
Hendricks struggled to his feet. His head ached. He could hardly see. Everything was licking at him, raging and whirling. His right arm would not move.
Tasso pulled back toward him. “Come on. Let’s go.”
“Klaus—He’s still up there.”
“Come on!” Tasso dragged Hendricks back, away from the columns. Hendricks shook his head, trying to clear it. Tasso led him rapidly away, her eyes intense and bright, watching for claws that had escaped the blast.
One David came out of the rolling clouds of flame. Tasso blasted it. No more appeared.
“But Klaus. What about him?” Hendricks stopped, standing unsteadily. “He—”
They retreated, moving farther and farther away from the bunker. A few small claws followed them for a little while and then gave up, turning back and going off.
At last Tasso stopped. “We can stop here and get our breaths.”
Hendricks sat down on some heaps of debris. He wiped his neck, gasping. “We left Klaus back there.”
Tasso said nothing. She opened her gun, sliding a fresh round of blast cartridges into place.
Hendricks stared at her, dazed. “You left him back there on purpose.”
Tasso snapped the gun together. She studied the heaps of rubble around them, her face expressionless. As if she were watching for something.
“What is it?” Hendricks demanded. “What are you looking for? Is something coming?” He shook his head, trying to understand. What was she doing? What was she waiting for? He could see nothing. Ash lay all around them, ash and ruins. Occasional stark tree trunks, without leaves or branches. “What—”
Tasso cut him off. “Be still.” Her eyes narrowed. Suddenly her gun came up. Hendricks turned, following her gaze.
Back the way they had come a figure appeared. The figure walked unsteadily toward them. Its clothes were torn. It limped as it made its way along, going very slowly and carefully. Stopping now and then, resting and getting its strength. Once it almost fell. It stood for a moment, trying to steady itself. Then it came on.
Hendricks stood up. “Klaus!” He started toward him. “How the hell did you—”
Tasso fired. Hendricks swung back. She fired again, the blast passing him, a searing line of heat. The beam caught Klaus in the chest. He exploded, gears and wheels flying. For a moment he continued to walk. Then he swayed back and forth. He crashed to the ground, his arms flung out. A few more wheels rolled away.
Tasso turned to Hendricks. “Now you understand why he killed Rudi.”
Hendricks sat down again slowly. He shook his head. He was numb. He could not think.
“Do you see?” Tasso said. “Do you understand?”
Hendricks said nothing. Everything was slipping away from him, faster and faster. Darkness, rolling and plucking at him.
He closed his eyes.
Hendricks opened his eyes slowly. His body ached all over. He tried to sit up but needles of pain shot through his arm and shoulder. He gasped.
“Don’t try to get up,” Tasso said. She bent down, putting her cold hand against his forehead.
It was night. A few stars glinted above, shining through the drifting clouds of ash. Hendricks lay back, his teeth locked. Tasso watched him impassively. She had built a fire with some wood and weeds. The fire licked feebly, hissing at a metal cup suspended over it. Everything was silent. Unmoving darkness, beyond the fire.
“So he was the Second Variety,” Hendricks murmured.
“I had always thought so.”
“Why didn’t you destroy him sooner?” he wanted to know.
“You held me back.” Tasso crossed to the fire to look into the metal cup. “Coffee. It’ll be ready to drink in awhile.”
She came back and sat down beside him. Presently she opened her pistol and began to disassemble the firing mechanism, studying it intently.
“This is a beautiful gun,” Tasso said, half-aloud. “The construction is superb.”
“What about them? The claws.”
“The concussion from the bomb put most of them out of action. They’re delicate. Highly organized, I suppose.”
“The Davids, too?”
“How did you happen to have a bomb like that?”
Tasso shrugged. “We designed it. You shouldn’t underestimate our technology, Major. Without such a bomb you and I would no longer exist.”
Tasso stretched out her legs, warming her feet in the heat of the fire. “It surprised me that you did not seem to understand, after he killed Rudi. Why did you think he—”
“I told you. I thought he was afraid.”
“Really? You know, Major, for a little while I suspected you. Because you wouldn’t let me kill him. I thought you might be protecting him.” She laughed.
“Are we safe here?” Hendricks asked presently.
“For awhile. Until they get reinforcements from some other area.” Tasso began to clean the interior of the gun with a bit of rag. She finished and pushed the mechanism back into place. She closed the gun, running her finger along the barrel.
“We were lucky,” Hendricks murmured.
“Yes. Very lucky.”
“Thanks for pulling me away.”
Tasso did not answer. She glanced up at him, her eyes bright in the fire light. Hendricks examined his arm. He could not move his fingers. His whole side seemed numb. Down inside him was a dull steady ache.
“How do you feel?” Tasso asked.
“My arm is damaged.”
“You didn’t get down when the bomb went off.”
Hendricks said nothing. He watched Tasso pour the coffee from the cup into a flat metal pan. She brought it over to him.
“Thanks.” He struggled up enough to drink. It was hard to swallow. His insides turned over and he pushed the pan away. “That’s all I can drink now.”
Tasso drank the rest. Time passed. The clouds of ash moved across the dark sky above them. Hendricks rested, his mind blank. After awhile he became aware that Tasso was standing over him, gazing down at him.
“What is it?” he murmured.
“Do you feel any better?”
“You know, Major, if I hadn’t dragged you away they would have got you. You would be dead. Like Rudi.”
“Do you want to know why I brought you out? I could have left you. I could have left you there.”
“Why did you bring me out?”
“Because we have to get away from here.” Tasso stirred the fire with a stick, peering calmly down into it. “No human being can live here. When their reinforcements come we won’t have a chance. I’ve pondered about it while you were unconscious. We have perhaps three hours before they come.”
“And you expect me to get us away?”
“That’s right. I expect you to get us out of here.”
“Because I don’t know any way.” Her eyes shone at him in the half-light, bright and steady. “If you can’t get us out of here they’ll kill us within three hours. I see nothing else ahead. Well, Major? What are you going to do? I’ve been waiting all night. While you were unconscious I sat here, waiting and listening. It’s almost dawn. The night is almost over.”
Hendricks considered. “It’s curious,” he said at last.
“That you should think I can get us out of here. I wonder what you think I can do.”
“Can you get us to the Moon Base?”
“The Moon Base? How?”
“There must be some way.”
Hendricks shook his head. “No. There’s no way that I know of.”
Tasso said nothing. For a moment her steady gaze wavered. She ducked her head, turning abruptly away. She scrambled to her feet. “More coffee?”
“Suit yourself.” Tasso drank silently. He could not see her face. He lay back against the ground, deep in thought, trying to concentrate. It was hard to think. His head still hurt. And the numbing daze still hung over him.
“There might be one way,” he said suddenly.
“How soon is dawn?”
“Two hours. The sun will be coming up shortly.”
“There’s supposed to be a ship near here. I’ve never seen it. But I know it exists.”
“What kind of a ship?” Her voice was sharp.
“A rocket cruiser.”
“Will it take us off? To the Moon Base?”
“It’s supposed to. In case of emergency.” He rubbed his forehead.
“My head. It’s hard to think. I can hardly—hardly concentrate. The bomb.”
“Is the ship near here?” Tasso slid over beside him, settling down on her haunches. “How far is it? Where is it?”
“I’m trying to think.”
Her fingers dug into his arm. “Nearby?” Her voice was like iron. “Where would it be? Would they store it underground? Hidden underground?”
“Yes. In a storage locker.”
“How do we find it? Is it marked? Is there a code marker to identify it?”
Hendricks concentrated. “No. No markings. No code symbol.”
“What sort of sign?”
Hendricks did not answer. In the flickering light his eyes were glazed, two sightless orbs. Tasso’s fingers dug into his arm.
“What sort of sign? What is it?”
“I—I can’t think. Let me rest.”
“All right.” She let go and stood up. Hendricks lay back against the ground, his eyes closed. Tasso walked away from him, her hands in her pockets. She kicked a rock out of her way and stood staring up at the sky. The night blackness was already beginning to fade into gray. Morning was coming.
Tasso gripped her pistol and walked around the fire in a circle, back and forth. On the ground Major Hendricks lay, his eyes closed, unmoving. The grayness rose in the sky, higher and higher. The landscape became visible, fields of ash stretching out in all directions. Ash and ruins of buildings, a wall here and there, heaps of concrete, the naked trunk of a tree.
The air was cold and sharp. Somewhere a long way off a bird made a few bleak sounds.
Hendricks stirred. He opened his eyes. “Is it dawn? Already?”
Hendricks sat up a little. “You wanted to know something. You were asking me.”
“Do you remember now?”
“What is it?” She tensed. “What?” she repeated sharply.
“A well. A ruined well. It’s in a storage locker under a well.”
“A well.” Tasso relaxed. “Then we’ll find a well.” She looked at her watch. “We have about an hour, Major. Do you think we can find it in an hour?”
“Give me a hand up,” Hendricks said.
Tasso put her pistol away and helped him to his feet. “This is going to be difficult.”
“Yes it is.” Hendricks set his lips tightly. “I don’t think we’re going to go very far.”
They began to walk. The early sun cast a little warmth down on them. The land was flat and barren, stretching out gray and lifeless as far as they could see. A few birds sailed silently, far above them, circling slowly.
“See anything?” Hendricks said. “Any claws?”
“No. Not yet.”
They passed through some ruins, upright concrete and bricks. A cement foundation. Rats scuttled away. Tasso jumped back warily.
“This used to be a town,” Hendricks said. “A village. Provincial village. This was all grape country, once. Where we are now.”
They came onto a ruined street, weeds and cracks criss-crossing it. Over to the right a stone chimney stuck up.
“Be careful,” he warned her.
A pit yawned, an open basement. Ragged ends of pipes jutted up, twisted and bent. They passed part of a house, a bathtub turned on its side. A broken chair. A few spoons and bits of china dishes. In the center of the street the ground had sunk away. The depression was filled with weeds and debris and bones.
“Over here,” Hendricks murmured.
“To the right.”
They passed the remains of a heavy duty tank. Hendricks’ belt counter clicked ominously. The tank had been radiation blasted. A few feet from the tank a mummified body lay sprawled out, mouth open. Beyond the road was a flat field. Stones and weeds, and bits of broken glass.
“There,” Hendricks said.
A stone well jutted up, sagging and broken. A few boards lay across it. Most of the well had sunk into rubble. Hendricks walked unsteadily toward it, Tasso beside him.
“Are you certain about this?” Tasso said. “This doesn’t look like anything.”
“I’m sure.” Hendricks sat down at the edge of the well, his teeth locked. His breath came quickly. He wiped perspiration from his face. “This was arranged so the senior command officer could get away. If anything happened. If the bunker fell.”
“That was you?”
“Where is the ship? Is it here?”
“We’re standing on it.” Hendricks ran his hands over the surface of the well stones. “The eye-lock responds to me, not to anybody else. It’s my ship. Or it was supposed to be.”
There was a sharp click. Presently they heard a low grating sound from below them.
“Step back,” Hendricks said. He and Tasso moved away from the well.
A section of the ground slid back. A metal frame pushed slowly up through the ash, shoving bricks and weeds out of the way. The action ceased, as the ship nosed into view.
“There it is,” Hendricks said.
The ship was small. It rested quietly, suspended in its mesh frame, like a blunt needle. A rain of ash sifted down into the dark cavity from which the ship had been raised. Hendricks made his way over to it. He mounted the mesh and unscrewed the hatch, pulling it back. Inside the ship the control banks and the pressure seat were visible.
Tasso came and stood beside him, gazing into the ship. “I’m not accustomed to rocket piloting,” she said, after awhile.
Hendricks glanced at her. “I’ll do the piloting.”
“Will you? There’s only one seat, Major. I can see it’s built to carry only a single person.”
Hendricks’ breathing changed. He studied the interior of the ship intently. Tasso was right. There was only one seat. The ship was built to carry only one person. “I see,” he said slowly. “And the one person is you.”
“You can’t go. You might not live through the trip. You’re injured. You probably wouldn’t get there.”
“An interesting point. But you see, I know where the Moon Base is. And you don’t. You might fly around for months and not find it. It’s well hidden. Without knowing what to look for—”
“I’ll have to take my chances. Maybe I won’t find it. Not by myself. But I think you’ll give me all the information I need. Your life depends on it.”
“If I find the Moon Base in time, perhaps I can get them to send a ship back to pick you up. If I find the Base in time. If not, then you haven’t a chance. I imagine there are supplies on the ship. They will last me long enough—”
Hendricks moved quickly. But his injured arm betrayed him. Tasso ducked, sliding lithely aside. Her hand came up, lightning fast. Hendricks saw the gun butt coming. He tried to ward off the blow, but she was too fast. The metal butt struck against the side of his head, just above his ear. Numbing pain rushed through him. Pain and rolling clouds of blackness. He sank down, sliding to the ground.
Dimly, he was aware that Tasso was standing over him, kicking him with her toe.
“Major! Wake up.”
He opened his eyes, groaning.
“Listen to me.” She bent down, the gun pointed at his face. “I have to hurry. There isn’t much time left. The ship is ready to go, but you must tell me the information I need before I leave.”
Hendricks shook his head, trying to clear it.
“Hurry up! Where is the Moon Base? How do I find it? What do I look for?”
Hendricks said nothing.
“Major, the ship is loaded with provisions. I can coast for weeks. I’ll find the Base eventually. And in a half hour you’ll be dead. Your only chance of survival—” She broke off.
Along the slope, by some crumbling ruins, something moved. Something in the ash. Tasso turned quickly, aiming. She fired. A puff of flame leaped. Something scuttled away, rolling across the ash. She fired again. The claw burst apart, wheels flying.
“See?” Tasso said. “A scout. It won’t be long.”
“You’ll bring them back here to get me?”
“Yes. As soon as possible.”
Hendricks looked up at her. He studied her intently. “You’re telling the truth?” A strange expression had come over his face, an avid hunger. “You will come back for me? You’ll get me to the Moon Base?”
“I’ll get you to the Moon Base. But tell me where it is! There’s only a little time left.”
“All right.” Hendricks picked up a piece of rock, pulling himself to a sitting position. “Watch.”
Hendricks began to scratch in the ash. Tasso stood by him, watching the motion of the rock. Hendricks was sketching a crude lunar map.
“This is the Appenine range. Here is the Crater of Archimedes. The Moon Base is beyond the end of the Appenine, about two hundred miles. I don’t know exactly where. No one on Terra knows. But when you’re over the Appenine, signal with one red flare and a green flare, followed by two red flares in quick succession. The Base monitor will record your signal. The Base is under the surface, of course. They’ll guide you down with magnetic grapples.”
“And the controls? Can I operate them?”
“The controls are virtually automatic. All you have to do is give the right signal at the right time.”
“The seat absorbs most of the take-off shock. Air and temperature are automatically controlled. The ship will leave Terra and pass out into free space. It’ll line itself up with the moon, falling into an orbit around it, about a hundred miles above the surface. The orbit will carry you over the Base. When you’re in the region of the Appenine, release the signal rockets.”
Tasso slid into the ship and lowered herself into the pressure seat. The arm locks folded automatically around her. She fingered the controls. “Too bad you’re not going, Major. All this put here for you, and you can’t make the trip.”
“Leave me the pistol.”
Tasso pulled the pistol from her belt. She held it in her hand, weighing it thoughtfully. “Don’t go too far from this location. It’ll be hard to find you, as it is.”
“No. I’ll stay here by the well.”
Tasso gripped the take-off switch, running her fingers over the smooth metal. “A beautiful ship, Major. Well built. I admire your workmanship. You people have always done good work. You build fine things. Your work, your creations, are your greatest achievement.”
“Give me the pistol,” Hendricks said impatiently, holding out his hand. He struggled to his feet.
“Good-bye, Major.” Tasso tossed the pistol past Hendricks. The pistol clattered against the ground, bouncing and rolling away. Hendricks hurried after it. He bent down, snatching it up.
The hatch of the ship clanged shut. The bolts fell into place. Hendricks made his way back. The inner door was being sealed. He raised the pistol unsteadily.
There was a shattering roar. The ship burst up from its metal cage, fusing the mesh behind it. Hendricks cringed, pulling back. The ship shot up into the rolling clouds of ash, disappearing into the sky.
Hendricks stood watching a long time, until even the streamer had dissipated. Nothing stirred. The morning air was chill and silent. He began to walk aimlessly back the way they had come. Better to keep moving around. It would be a long time before help came—if it came at all.
He searched his pockets until he found a package of cigarettes. He lit one grimly. They had all wanted cigarettes from him. But cigarettes were scarce.
A lizard slithered by him, through the ash. He halted, rigid. The lizard disappeared. Above, the sun rose higher in the sky. Some flies landed on a flat rock to one side of him. Hendricks kicked at them with his foot.
It was getting hot. Sweat trickled down his face, into his collar. His mouth was dry.
Presently he stopped walking and sat down on some debris. He unfastened his medicine kit and swallowed a few narcotic capsules. He looked around him. Where was he?
Something lay ahead. Stretched out on the ground. Silent and unmoving.
Hendricks drew his gun quickly. It looked like a man. Then he remembered. It was the remains of Klaus. The Second Variety. Where Tasso had blasted him. He could see wheels and relays and metal parts, strewn around on the ash. Glittering and sparkling in the sunlight.
Hendricks got to his feet and walked over. He nudged the inert form with his foot, turning it over a little. He could see the metal hull, the aluminum ribs and struts. More wiring fell out. Like viscera. Heaps of wiring, switches and relays. Endless motors and rods.
He bent down. The brain cage had been smashed by the fall. The artificial brain was visible. He gazed at it. A maze of circuits. Miniature tubes. Wires as fine as hair. He touched the brain cage. It swung aside. The type plate was visible. Hendricks studied the plate.
For a long time he stared at the plate. Fourth Variety. Not the Second. They had been wrong. There were more types. Not just three. Many more, perhaps. At least four. And Klaus wasn’t the Second Variety.
But if Klaus wasn’t the Second Variety—
Suddenly he tensed. Something was coming, walking through the ash beyond the hill. What was it? He strained to see. Figures. Figures coming slowly along, making their way through the ash.
Coming toward him.
Hendricks crouched quickly, raising his gun. Sweat dripped down into his eyes. He fought down rising panic, as the figures neared.
The first was a David. The David saw him and increased its pace. The others hurried behind it. A second David. A third. Three Davids, all alike, coming toward him silently, without expression, their thin legs rising and falling. Clutching their teddy bears.
He aimed and fired. The first two Davids dissolved into particles. The third came on. And the figure behind it. Climbing silently toward him across the gray ash. A Wounded Soldier, towering over the David. And—
And behind the Wounded Soldier came two Tassos, walking side by side. Heavy belt, Russian army pants, shirt, long hair. The familiar figure, as he had seen her only a little while before. Sitting in the pressure seat of the ship. Two slim, silent figures, both identical.
They were very near. The David bent down suddenly, dropping its teddy bear. The bear raced across the ground. Automatically, Hendricks’ fingers tightened around the trigger. The bear was gone, dissolved into mist. The two Tasso Types moved on, expressionless, walking side by side, through the gray ash.
When they were almost to him, Hendricks raised the pistol waist high and fired.
The two Tassos dissolved. But already a new group was starting up the rise, five or six Tassos, all identical, a line of them coming rapidly toward him.
And he had given her the ship and the signal code. Because of him she was on her way to the moon, to the Moon Base. He had made it possible.
He had been right about the bomb, after all. It had been designed with knowledge of the other types, the David Type and the Wounded Soldier Type. And the Klaus Type. Not designed by human beings. It had been designed by one of the underground factories, apart from all human contact.
The line of Tassos came up to him. Hendricks braced himself, watching them calmly. The familiar face, the belt, the heavy shirt, the bomb carefully in place.
As the Tassos reached for him, a last ironic thought drifted through Hendricks’ mind. He felt a little better, thinking about it. The bomb. Made by the Second Variety to destroy the other varieties. Made for that end alone.
Numero Tres—“This moment is no less emotional for me than the one when I first learned about the decision of the Nobel Committee. For on similar occasions great men addressed humankind – men famous for their courage in working to bring together morality and politics. Among them were my compatriots.The award of the Nobel Peace Prize makes one think once again about a seemingly simple and clear question: What is peace?
Preparing for my address I found in an old Russian encyclopedia a definition of ‘peace’ as a ‘commune’ – the traditional cell of Russian peasant life. I saw in that definition the people’s profound understanding of peace as harmony, concord, mutual help, and cooperation.
This understanding is embodied in the canons of world religions and in the works of philosophers from antiquity to our time. The names of many of them have been mentioned here before . Let me add another one to them. Peace ‘propagates wealth and justice, which constitute the prosperity of nations;’ a peace which is ‘just a respite from wars … is not worthy of the name;’ peace implies ‘general counsel.’ This was written almost 200 years ago by Vasiliy Fyodorovich Malinovskiy – the dean of the Tsarskoye Selo Lyceum at which the great Pushkin was educated.
Since then, of course, history has added a great deal to the specific content of the concept of peace. In this nuclear age it also means a condition for the survival of the human race. But the essence, as understood both by the popular wisdom and by intellectual leaders, is the same.
Today, peace means the ascent from simple coexistence to cooperation and common creativity among countries and nations.
Peace is movement towards globality and universality of civilization. Never before has the idea that peace is indivisible been so true as it is now.
Peace is not unity in similarity but unity in diversity, in the comparison and conciliation of differences.
And, ideally, peace means the absence of violence. It is an ethical value. And here we have to recall Rajiv Gandhi, who died so tragically a few days ago.
I consider the decision of your Committee as a recognition of the great international importance of the changes now under way in the Soviet Union, and as an expression of confidence in our policy of new thinking, which is based on the conviction that at the end of the twentieth century force and arms will have to give way as a major instrument in world politics.
I see the decision to award me the Nobel Peace Prize also as an act of solidarity with the monumental undertaking which has already placed enormous demands on the Soviet people in terms of efforts, costs, hardships, willpower, and character. And solidarity is a universal value which is becoming indispensable for progress and for the survival of humankind.
But a modern state has to be worthy of solidarity, in other words, it should pursue, in both domestic and international affairs, policies that bring together the interests of its people and those of the world community. This task, however obvious, is not a simple one. Life is much richer and more complex than even the most perfect plans to make it better. It ultimately takes vengeance for attempts to impose abstract schemes, even with the best of intentions. Perestroika has made us understand this about our past, and the actual experience of recent years has taught us to reckon with the most general laws of civilization.
This, however, came later. But back in March-April 1985 we found ourselves facing a crucial, and I confess, agonizing choice. When I agreed to assume the office of the General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union Central Committee, in effect the highest State office at that time, I realized that we could no longer live as before and that I would not want to remain in that office unless I got support in undertaking major reforms. It was clear to me that we had a long way to go. But of course, I could not imagine how immense were our problems and difficulties. I believe no one at that time could foresee or predict them.
Those who were then governing the country knew what was really happening to it and what we later called “zastoi”, roughly translated as “stagnation”. They saw that our society was marking time, that it was running the risk of falling hopelessly behind the technologically advanced part of the world. Total domination of centrally-managed state property, the pervasive authoritarian-bureaucratic system, ideology’s grip on politics, monopoly in social thought and sciences, militarized industries that siphoned off our best, including the best intellectual resources, the unbearable burden of military expenditures that suffocated civilian industries and undermined the social achievements of the period since the Revolution which were real and of which we used to be proud – such was the actual situation in the country.
As a result, one of the richest countries in the world, endowed with immense overall potential, was already sliding downwards. Our society was declining, both economically and intellectually.
And yet, to a casual observer the country seemed to present a picture of relative well-being, stability and order. The misinformed society under the spell of propaganda was hardly aware of what was going on and what the immediate future had in store for it. The slightest manifestations of protest were suppressed. Most people considered them heretical, slanderous and counter-revolutionary.
Such was the situation in the spring of 1985, and there was a great temptation to leave things as they were, to make only cosmetic changes. This, however, meant continuing to deceive ourselves and the people.
This was the domestic aspect of the dilemma then before us. As for the foreign policy aspect, there was the East-West confrontation, a rigid division into friends and foes, the two hostile camps with a corresponding set of Cold War attributes. Both the East and the West were constrained by the logic of military confrontation, wearing themselves down more and more by the arms race.
The mere thought of dismantling the existing structures did not come easily. However, the realization that we faced inevitable disaster, both domestically and internationally, gave us the strength to make a historic choice, which I have never since regretted.
Perestroika, which once again is returning our people to commonsense, has enabled us to open up to the world, and has restored a normal relationship between the country’s internal development and its foreign policy. But all this takes a lot of hard work. To a people which believed that its government’s policies had always been true to the cause of peace, we proposed what was in many ways a different policy, which would genuinely serve the cause of peace, while differing from the prevailing view of what it meant and particularly from the established stereotypes as to how one should protect it. We proposed new thinking in foreign policy.
Thus, we embarked on a path of major changes which may turn out to be the most significant in the twentieth century, for our country and for its peoples. But we also did this for the entire world.
I began my book about perestroika and the new thinking with the following words: “We want to be understood”. After a while I felt that it was already happening. But now I would like once again to repeat those words here, from this world rostrum. Because to understand us really – to understand so as to believe us – proved to be not at all easy, owing to the immensity of the changes under way in our country. Their magnitude and character are such as to require in-depth analysis. Applying conventional wisdom to perestroika is unproductive. It is also futile and dangerous to set conditions, to say: We’ll understand and believe you, as soon as you, the Soviet Union, come completely to resemble “us”, the West.
No one is in a position to describe in detail what perestroika will finally produce. But it would certainly be a self-delusion to expect that perestroika will produce “a copy” of anything.
Of course, learning from the experience of others is something we have been doing and will continue to do. But this does not mean that we will come to be exactly like others. Our State will preserve its own identity within the international community. A country like ours, with its uniquely close-knit ethnic composition, cultural diversity and tragic past, the greatness of its historic endeavors and the exploits of its peoples – such a country will find its own path to the civilization of the twenty-first century and its own place in it. Perestroika has to be conceived solely in this context, otherwise it will fail and will be rejected. After all, it is impossible to “shed” the country’s thousand-year history – a history, which, we still have to subject to serious analysis in order to find the truth that we shall take into the future.
We want to be an integral part of modern civilization, to live in harmony with mankind’s universal values, abide by the norms of international law, follow the “rules of the game” in our economic relations with the outside world. We want to share with all other peoples the burden of responsibility for the future of our common house.
A period of transition to a new quality in all spheres of society’s life is accompanied by painful phenomena. When we were initiating perestroika we failed to properly assess and foresee everything. Our society turned out to be hard to move off the ground, not ready for major changes which affect people’s vital interests and make them leave behind everything to which they had become accustomed over many years. In the beginning we imprudently generated great expectations, without taking into account the fact that it takes time for people to realize that all have to live and work differently, to stop expecting that new life would be given from above.
Perestroika has now entered its most dramatic phase. Following the transformation of the philosophy of perestroika into real policy, which began literally to explode the old way of life, difficulties began to mount. Many took fright and wanted to return to the past. It was not only those who used to hold the levers of power in the administration, the army and various government agencies and who had to make room, but also many people whose interests and way of life was put to a severe test and who, during the preceding decades, had forgotten how to take the initiative and to be independent, enterprising and self-reliant.
Hence the discontent, the outbursts of protest and the exorbitant, though understandable, demands which, if satisfied right away, would lead to complete chaos. Hence, the rising political passions and, instead of a constructive opposition which is only normal in a democratic system, one that is often destructive and unreasonable, not to mention the extremist forces which are especially cruel and inhuman in areas of inter-ethnic conflict.
During the last six years we have discarded and destroyed much that stood in the way of a renewal and transformation of our society. But when society was given freedom it could not recognize itself, for it had lived too long, as it were, “beyond the looking glass”. Contradictions and vices rose to the surface, and even blood has been shed, although we have been able to avoid a bloodbath. The logic of reform has clashed with the logic of rejection, and with the logic of impatience which breeds intolerance.
In this situation, which is one of great opportunity and of major risks, at a high point of perestroika’s crisis, our task is to stay the course while also addressing current everyday problems – which are literally tearing this policy apart – and to do it in such a way as to prevent a social and political explosion.
Now about my position. As to the fundamental choice, I have long ago made a final and irrevocable decision. Nothing and no one, no pressure, cither from the right or from the left, will make me abandon the positions of perestroika and new thinking. I do not intend to change my views or convictions. My choice is a final one.
It is my profound conviction that the problems arising in the course of our transformations can be solved solely by constitutional means. That is why I make every effort to keep this process within the confines of democracy and reforms.
This applies also to the problem of self-determination of nations, which is a challenging one for us. We are looking for mechanisms to solve that problem within the framework of a constitutional process; we recognize the peoples’ legitimate choice, with the understanding that if a people really decides, through a fair referendum, to withdraw from the Soviet Union, a certain agreed transition period will then be needed.
Steering a peaceful course is not easy in a country where generation after generation of people were led to believe that those who have power or force could throw those who dissent or disagree out of politics or even in jail. For centuries all the country’s problems used to be finally resolved by violent means. All this has left an almost indelible mark on our entire “political culture”, if the term is at all appropriate in this case.
Our democracy is being born in pain. A political culture is emerging – one that presupposes debate and pluralism, but also legal order and, if democracy is to work, strong government authority based on one law for all. This process is gaining strength. Being resolute in the pursuit of perestroika, a subject of much debate these days, must be measured by the commitment to democratic change. Being resolute does not mean a return to repression, diktat or the suppression of rights and freedoms. I will never agree to having our society split once again into Reds and Whites, into those who claim to speak and act “on behalf of the people” and those who are “enemies of the people”. Being resolute today means to act within the framework of political and social pluralism and the rule of law to provide conditions for continued reform and prevent a breakdown of the state and economic collapse, prevent the elements of chaos from becoming catastrophic.
All this requires taking certain tactical steps, to search for various ways of addressing both short- and long-term tasks. Such efforts and political and economic steps, agreements based on reasonable compromise, are there for everyone to see. I am convinced that the One-Plus-Nine Statement will go down in history as one such step, as a great opportunity1. Not all parts of our decisions are readily accepted or correctly understood. For the most part, our decisions are unpopular; they arouse waves of criticism. But life has many more surprises in store for us, just as we will sometimes surprise it. Jumping to conclusions after every step taken by the Soviet leadership, after every decree by the President, trying to figure out whether he is moving left or right, backward or forward, would be an exercise in futility and would not lead to understanding.
We will seek answers to the questions we face only by moving forward, only by continuing and even radicalizing reforms, by consistently democratizing our society. But we will proceed prudently, carefully weighing each step we take.
There is already a consensus in our society that we have to move towards a mixed market economy. There are still differences as to how to do it and how fast we should move. Some are in favor of rushing through a transitional period as fast as possible, no matter what. Although this may smack of adventurism we should not overlook the fact that such views enjoy support. People are tired and are easily swayed by populism. So it would be just as dangerous to move too slowly, to keep people waiting in suspense. For them, life today is difficult, a life of considerable hardship.
Work on a new Union Treaty has entered its final stage. Its adoption will open a new chapter in the history of our multinational state.
After a time of rampant separatism and euphoria, when almost every village proclaimed sovereignty, a centripetal force is beginning to gather momentum, based on a more sensible view of existing realities and the risks involved. And this is what counts most now. There is a growing will to achieve consensus, and a growing understanding that we have a State, a country, a common life. This is what must be preserved first of all. Only then can we afford to start figuring out which party or club to join and what God to worship.
The stormy and contradictory process of perestroika, particularly in the past two years, has made us face squarely the problem of criteria to measure the effectiveness of State leadership. In the new environment of a multiparty system, freedom of thought, rediscovered ethnic identity and sovereignty of the republics, the interests of society must absolutely be put above those of various parties or groups, or any other sectoral, parochial or private interests, even though they also have the right to exist and to be represented in the political process and in public life, and, of course, they must be taken into account in the policies of the State.
Ladies and gentlemen, international politics is another area where a great deal depends on the correct interpretation of what is now happening in the Soviet Union. This is true today, and it will remain so in the future.
We are now approaching what might be the crucial point when the world community and, above all, the States with the greatest potential to influence world developments will have to decide on their stance with regard to the Soviet Union, and to act on that basis.
The more I reflect on the current world developments, the more I become convinced that the world needs perestroika no less than the Soviet Union needs it. Fortunately, the present generation of policy-makers, for the most part, are becoming increasingly aware of this interrelationship, and also of the fact that now that perestroika has entered its critical phase the Soviet Union is entitled to expect large-scale support to assure its success.
Recently, we have been seriously rethinking the substance and the role of our economic cooperation with other countries, above all major Western nations. We realize, of course, that we have to carry out measures that would enable us really to open up to the world economy and become its organic part. But at the same time we come to the conclusion that there is a need for a kind of synchronization of our actions towards that end with those of the Group of Seven and of the European Community2. In other words, we are thinking of a fundamentally new phase in our international cooperation.
In these months much is being decided and will be decided in our country to create the prerequisites for overcoming the systemic crisis and gradually recovering to a normal life.
The multitude of specific tasks to be addressed in this context may be summarized within three main areas:
Stabilizing the democratic process on the basis of a broad social consensus and a new constitutional structure of our Union as a genuine, free, and voluntary federation.
Intensifying economic reform to establish a mixed market economy based on a new system of property relations.
Taking vigorous steps to open the country up to the world economy through ruble convertibility and acceptance of civilized “rules of the game” adopted in the world market, and through membership in the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.
These three areas are closely interrelated.
Therefore, there is a need for discussion in the Group of Seven and in the European Community. We need a joint program of action to be implemented over a number of years.
If we fail to reach an understanding regarding a new phase of cooperation, we will have to look for other ways, for time is of the essence. But if we are to move to that new phase, those who participate in and even shape world politics also must continue to change, to review their philosophic perception of the changing realities of the world and of its imperatives. Otherwise, there is no point in drawing up a joint program of practical action.
The Soviet leadership, both in the center and in the republics, as well as a large part of the Soviet public, understand this need, although in some parts of our society not everyone is receptive to such ideas. There are some flag-wavers who claim a monopoly of patriotism and think that it means “not getting entangled” with the outside world. Next to them are those who would like to reserve the course altogether. That kind of patriotism is nothing but a self-serving pursuit of one’s own interests.
Clearly, as the Soviet Union proceeds with perestroika, its contribution to building a new world will become more constructive and significant. What we have done on the basis of new thinking has made it possible to channel international cooperation along new, peaceful lines. Over these years we have come a long way in the general political cooperation with the West. It stood a difficult test at a time of momentous change in Eastern Europe and of the search for a solution to the German problem. It has withstood the crushing stress of the crisis in the Persian Gulf. There is no doubt that this cooperation, which all of us need, will become more effective and indispensable if our economies become more integrated and start working more or less in synchronized rhythm.
To me, it is self-evident that if Soviet perestroika succeeds, there will be a real chance of building a new world order. And if perestroika fails, the prospect of entering a new peaceful period in history will vanish, at least for the foreseeable future.
I believe that the movement that we have launched towards that goal has fairly good prospects of success. After all, mankind has already benefited greatly in recent years, and this has created a certain positive momentum.
The Cold War is over. The risk of a global nuclear war has practically disappeared. The Iron Curtain is gone. Germany has united, which is a momentous milestone in the history of Europe. There is not a single country on our continent which would not regard itself as fully sovereign and independent.
The USSR and the USA, the two nuclear superpowers, have moved from confrontation to interaction and, in some important cases, partnership. This has had a decisive effect on the entire international climate. This should be preserved and filled with new substance. The climate of Soviet-US trust should be protected, for it is a common asset of the world community. Any revision of the direction and potential of the Soviet-US relationship would have grave consequences for the entire global process.
The ideas of the Helsinki Final Act have begun to acquire real significance, they are being transformed into real policies and have found a more specific and topical expression in the Charter of Paris for a New Europe3. Institutional forms of European security are beginning to take shape.
Real disarmament has begun. Its first phase is nearing completion, and following the signing, I hope shortly, of the START Treaty4, the time will come to give practical consideration to the ideas which have already been put forward for the future. There seems, however, to be a need to develop a general concept for this new phase, which would embrace all negotiations concerning the principal components of the problem of disarmament and new ideas reflecting the changes in Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Asia, a concept that would incorporate recent major initiatives of President Bush and President Mitterand5. We are now thinking about it.
Armed forces and military budgets are being reduced. Foreign troops are leaving the territories of other countries. Their strength is diminishing and their composition is becoming more defense-oriented. First steps have been taken in the conversion of military industries, and what seemed inconceivable is happening: recent Cold War adversaries are establishing cooperation in this area. Their military officials exchange visits, show each other military facilities that only recently used to be top secret and together consider ways to achieve demilitarization.
The information environment has changed beyond recognition throughout Europe and in most of the world, and with it, the scale and intensity and the psychological atmosphere of communication among people of various countries.
De-ideologizing relations among States, which we proclaimed as one of the principles of the new thinking, has brought down many prejudices, biased attitudes and suspicions and has cleared and improved the international atmosphere. I have to note, however, that this process has been more intensive and frank on our part than on the part of the West.
I dare say that the European process has already acquired elements of irreversibility, or at least that conflicts of a scale and nature that were typical of Europe for many centuries and particularly in the twentieth century have been ruled out.
Should it gain the necessary momentum, every nation and every country will have at their disposal in the foreseeable future the potential of a community of unprecedented strength, encompassing the entire upper tier of the globe, provided they make their own contribution.
In such a context, in the process of creating a new Europe, in which erstwhile “curtains” and “walls” will be forever relegated to the past and borders between States will lose their “divisive” purpose, self-determination of sovereign nations will be realized in a completely different way.
However, our vision of the European space from the Atlantic to the Urals is not that of a closed system. Since it includes the Soviet Union, which reaches to the shores of the Pacific, and the transatlantic USA and Canada with inseparable links to the Old World, it goes beyond its nominal geographical boundaries.
The idea is not at all to consolidate a part of our civilization on, so to say, a European platform versus the rest of the world. Suspicions of that kind do exist. But, on the contrary, the idea is to develop and build upon the momentum of integration in Europe, embodied politically in the Charter of Paris for the whole of Europe. This should be done in the context of common movement towards a new and peaceful period in world history, towards new interrelationship and integrity of mankind. As my friend Giulio Andreotti6 so aptly remarked recently in Moscow, “East-West rapprochement alone is not enough for progress of the entire world towards peace. However, agreement between them is a great contribution to the common cause”. Asia, Africa, Latin America, the Near and Middle East, all of them, are to play a great role in this common cause whose prospects are difficult to forecast today.
The new integrity of the world, in our view, can be built only on the principles of the freedom of choice and balance of interests. Every State, and now also a number of existing or emerging regional interstate groups, have their own interests. They are all equal and deserve respect.
We consider it dangerously outdated when suspicions are aroused by, for instance, improved Soviet-Chinese or Soviet-German, German-French, Soviet- US or US-Indian relations, etc. In our times, good relations benefit all. Any worsening of relations anywhere is a common loss.
Progress towards the civilization of the 21st century will certainly not be simple or easy. One cannot get rid overnight of the heavy legacy of the past or the dangers created in the post-war years. We are experiencing a turning point in international affairs and are only at the beginning of a new, and I hope mostly peaceful, lengthy period in the history of civilization.
With less East-West confrontation, or even none at all, old contradictions resurface, which seemed of secondary importance compared to the threat of nuclear war. The melting ice of the Cold War reveals old conflicts and claims, and entirely new problems accumulate rapidly.
We can already see many obstacles and dangers on the road to a lasting peace, including:
Increased nationalism, separatism, and disintegrational processes in a number of countries and regions;
The growing gap in the level and quality of socio-economic development between “rich” and “poor” countries; dire consequences of the poverty of hundreds of millions of people, to whom informational transparency makes it possible to see how people live in developed countries. Hence, the unprecedented passions and brutality and even fanaticism of mass protests. Poverty is also the breeding ground for the spread of terrorism and the emergence and persistence of dictatorial regimes with their unpredictable behavior in relations among States;
The dangerously rapid accumulation of the “costs” of previous forms of progress, such as the threat of environmental catastrophe and of the depletion of energy and primary resources, uncontrollable overpopulation, pandemics, drug abuse, and so on;
The gap between basically peaceful policies and selfish economies bent on achieving a kind of “technological hegemony”. Unless those two vectors are brought together, civilization will tend to break down into incompatible sectors;
Further improvements in modern weaponry, even if under the pretext of strengthening security. This may result not only in a new spiral of the arms race and a perilous overabundance of arms in many States, but also in a final divorce between the process of disarmament and development, and, what is more, in an erosion of the foundations and criteria of the emerging new world politics.
How can the world community cope with all this? All these tasks are enormously complex. They cannot be postponed. Tomorrow may be too late.
I am convinced that in order to solve these problems there is no other way but to seek and implement entirely new forms of interaction. We are simply doomed to such interaction, or we shall be unable to consolidate positive trends which have emerged and are gaining strength, and which we simply must not sacrifice.
However, to accomplish this all members of the world community should resolutely discard old stereotypes and motivations nurtured by the Cold War, and give up the habit of seeking each other’s weak spots and exploiting them in their own interests. We have to respect the peculiarities and differences which will always exist, even when human rights and freedoms are observed throughout the world. I keep repeating that with the end of confrontation differences can be made a source of healthy competition, an important factor for progress. This is an incentive to study each other, to engage in exchanges, a prerequisite for the growth of mutual trust.
For knowledge and trust are the foundations of a new world order. Hence the necessity, in my view, to learn to forecast the course of events in various regions of the globe, by pooling the efforts of scientists, philosophers and humanitarian thinkers within the UN framework. Policies, even the most prudent and precise, are made by man. We need maximum insurance to guarantee that decisions taken by members of the world community should not affect the security, sovereignty and vital interests of its other members or damage the natural environment and the moral climate of the world.
I am an optimist and I believe that together we shall be able now to make the right historical choice so as not to miss the great chance at the turn of centuries and millenia and make the current extremely difficult transition to a peaceful world order. A balance of interests rather than a balance of power, a search for compromise and concord rather than a search for advantages at other people’s expense, and respect for equality rather than claims to leadership – such are the elements which can provide the groundwork for world progress and which should be readily acceptable for reasonable people informed by the experience of the twentieth century.
The future prospect of truly peaceful global politics lies in the creation through joint efforts of a single international democratic space in which States shall be guided by the priority of human rights and welfare for their own citizens and the promotion of the same rights and similar welfare elsewhere. This is an imperative of the growing integrity of the modern world and of the interdependence of its components.
I have been suspected of utopian thinking more than once, and particularly when five years ago I proposed the elimination of nuclear weapons by the year 2000 and joint efforts to create a system of international security. It may well be that by that date it will not have happened. But look, merely five years have passed and have we not actually and noticeably moved in that direction? Have we not been able to cross the threshold of mistrust, though mistrust has not completely disappeared? Has not the political thinking in the world changed substantially? Does not most of the world community already regard weapons of mass destruction as unacceptable for achieving political objectives?
Ladies and gentlemen, two weeks from today it will be exactly fifty years since the beginning of the Nazi invasion of my country. And in another six months we shall mark fifty years since Pearl Harbor, after which the war turned into a global tragedy. Memories of it still hurt. But they also urge us to value the chance given to the present generations.
In conclusion, let me say again that I view the award of the Nobel Prize to me as an expression of understanding of my intentions, my aspirations, the objectives of the profound transformation we have begun in our country, and the ideas of new thinking. I see it as your acknowledgment of my commitment to peaceful means of implementing the objectives of perestroika.