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Combat   By: (1917-1983)

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Transcriber's Note:

This etext was produced from Analog Science Fact & Fiction October 1960. Extensive research did not uncover any evidence that the U.S. copyright on this publication was renewed.



Illustrated by Schoenherr

An Alien landing on Earth might be readily misled, victimized by a one sided viewpoint. And then again ... it might be the Earthmen who were misled....

Henry Kuran answered a nod here and there, a called out greeting from a desk an aisle removed from the one along which he was progressing, finally made the far end of the room. He knocked at the door and pushed his way through before waiting a response.

There were three desks here. He didn't recognize two of the girls who looked up at his entry. One of them began to say something, but then Betty, whose desk dominated the entry to the inner sanctum, grinned a welcome at him and said, "Hank! How was Peru? We've been expecting you."

"Full of Incas," he grinned back. "Incas, Russkies and Chinks. A poor capitalist conquistador doesn't have a chance. Is the boss inside?"

"He's waiting for you, Hank. See you later."

Hank said, "Um m m," and when the door clicked in response to the button Betty touched, pushed his way into the inner office.

Morton Twombly, chief of the department, came to his feet, shook hands abruptly and motioned the other to a chair.

"How're things in Peru, Henry?" His voice didn't express too much real interest.

Hank said, "We were on the phone just a week ago, Mr. Twombly. It's about the same. No, the devil it is. The Chinese have just run in their new People's Car. They look something like our jeep station wagons did fifteen years ago."

Twombly stirred in irritation. "I've heard about them."

Hank took his handkerchief from his breast pocket and polished his rimless glasses. He said evenly, "They sell for just under two hundred dollars."

"Two hundred dollars?" Twombly twisted his face. "They can't transport them from China for that."

"Here we go again," Hank sighed. "They also can't sell pressure cookers for a dollar apiece, nor cameras with f.2 lenses for five bucks. Not to speak of the fact that the Czechs can't sell shoes for fifty cents a pair and, of course, the Russkies can't sell premium gasoline for five cents a gallon."

Twombly muttered, "They undercut our prices faster than we can vote through new subsidies. Where's it going to end Henry?"

"I don't know. Perhaps we should have thought a lot more about it ten or fifteen years ago when the best men our universities could turn out went into advertising, show business and sales while the best men the Russkies and Chinese could turn out were going into science and industry." As a man who worked in the field Hank Kuran occasionally got bitter about these things, and didn't mind this opportunity of sounding off at the chief.

Hank added, "The height of achievement over there is to be elected to the Academy of Sciences. Our young people call scientists egg heads, and their height of achievement is to become a TV singer or a movie star."

Morton Twombly shot his best field man a quick glance. "You sound as though you need a vacation, Henry."

Henry Kuran laughed. "Don't mind me, chief. I got into a hassle with the Hungarians last week and I'm in a bad frame of mind."

Twombly said, "Well, we didn't bring you back to Washington for a trade conference."

"I gathered that from your wire. What am I here for?"

Twombly pushed his chair back and came to his feet. It occurred to Hank Kuran that his chief had aged considerably since the forming of this department nearly ten years ago. The thought went through his mind, a general in the cold war. A general who's been in action for a decade, has never won more than a skirmish and is currently in full retreat... Continue reading book >>

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