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Security Risk   By: (1926-2006)

Security Risk by Ed M. Clinton

First Page:



Illustrated by Ed Emsh

At moments like this, General David Walker always thought fleetingly of the good old days when he had hated the army. As usual, he smashed the thought out of his mind with a distinct sense of remorse.

He looked up again at the seamed face of the Chief of Staff, General Marcus Meriwether. "This could be serious," he said slowly, with a sick sense of the statement's inadequacy. An old tic suddenly returned, tugging at the left corner of his mouth.

The deadly, unsmiling expression on Meriwether's face did not change as he slid more tightly into his chair. "You know as well as I that it means the Interplanetary Confederation is ready to go to war with us."

Walker stared at the typed statement on his desk. It was a decoded intelligence message from United Terra's prime agent in the Interplanetary Confederation, and it was very brief: the Confederation had developed a long range neural weapon effectively cancelling out every armament development achieved by United Terra in fifteen years of a cold war that of late had become bitter cold. The all but autonomous colonies of Mars and Venus, united now for twenty years in an economic league, had been itching for independence for a quarter of a century. The itch had developed into a mighty burning.

"You are fully aware," Meriwether continued, his face still set, "of our feeling that the Confederation has been eager to take on Terra. They've clearly been waiting for some positive advantage to offset our pure strength in numbers."

[Illustration: It was a touchable touching an untouchable. Both scientist and general were doing their own version of right.... ]

Walker forced his eyes upward and stared at his superior. "Your tone says that such a war might be "

"Unwelcome at this time. Unwelcome at this time." Meriwether shifted around in his chair, and scratched at its leather arms with the manicured tips of his gnarled fingers. "Walker, I don't have to tell you that this weapon, if it is what our agent infers and there is no reason to believe otherwise that this weapon makes it impossible for us to go to war with the Confederation unless, as Chief of Weapons Development, you can tell me that we have something in our arsenal to combat it."

Walker rubbed at the tic. "Nothing," he said quietly.

Meriwether leaned forward, his hands crooked backward against the chair arms like catapult springs. "That answer is unacceptable. There are other questions you must answer, Walker, questions in some ways even more important than that basic one. Why haven't we developed this weapon ourselves? Why haven't we been aware of its potential existence? Where are the defensive devices which would naturally develop from such cognizance? These things are all your department, Walker." His voice pitched upward an hysterical fraction. "It just doesn't make sense, you know. We've a hundred times the personnel, ten times the facilities, unlimited funds but they've beaten us to it." He stood up and pushed his chair back, eyes squinting out of a reddening face that seemed on the point of bursting. "Why, Walker?"

Once again Walker thought about how he had hated the army when he was a bright young physics student. That was a long time ago So much had happened. The doors had closed around him, one at a time, doors closing on the scientific mind. And so now, instead of a research scientist in white smock with textbook, he was a military administrator in smart greys with glittering stars of military rank.

"I'll say this, Walker," Meriwether shouted, his voice breaking again. "We'd better catch up quick. Mighty quick. Let's put it this way. It might mean your rank and your job, Walker. But you won't give a damn. Because we'll have lost the war. We'll have lost the colonies. And you know what that would mean, Walker?" He bent forward across the desk, his face exploding into Walker's eyes... Continue reading book >>

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