Brain World Mack Reynolds (1978-1979) Original Scan: Highroller E-Book Design: MNQ Cover Blurb: "They were the most advanced people in the galaxy…they just weren't very smart!!"
Supervisor Ronald Bronston and Probationary Agent Willy de Rudder of Section G, of the Bureauof Investigation, of the Department of Justice, of the Commissariat of Interplanetary Affairs,snaked over the top of the mountain crest and slid and slipped through gravel a dozen meters towhere a rock overhang protected them from being spotted from above. They both wore insulatedcoveralls, and hoods of the same material, so that facial and physical characteristics couldn'tbe made out. Under the ledge, they both slid the straps from over their shoulders and workedthe cloth containers to their laps. The containers looked like the sheaths in which fishermencarry their rods.
Ronny Bronston drew forth a plastic telescope. He said, "Winded?"
"Yeah," Willy de Rudder said, and panted. "You know, I never thought we'd make it. Where'd youlearn to climb mountains?"
"Back on Earth. Hobby. Mostly in the Swiss Alps, but some in northern India, and some in theSierra Nevadas, in what they used to call California."
"Why would anybody pick mountain climbing for a hobby?" the other panted.
"Nobody seems to know," Ronny muttered, adjusting the spyglass and leveling it.
"The saying goes that you climb a mountain because it is there. Catch your breath, Willy. Theway this's been figured, we have twenty minutes to go. By that time, your breathing is going tohave to be down to normal if we're going to make the hit." It didn't take him long to find whathe was looking for. "There it is," Ronny said.
"Almost exactly a kilometer." He handed the glass over. "Down there on the edge of that littlelake."
Willy found the chalet without difficulty. "Holy Ultimate," he breathed in admiration. "Thatmust be the most beautiful setting on Neu Reich." Ronny Bronston nodded and reached for hiscontainer and began to draw objects from it. "They've got a regular fetish about this planet.The planetary engineers they used went all out to attempt to duplicate southern Bavaria. Evenimported Earthside flora and fauna."
Willy put down the telescope and pointed. "Look," he said, excitement suppressed.
"It's okay," Ronny told him, attaching a firing chamber to a plastic gun stock. "We figured onthem. There's at least two of them in the sky at all times when Number One is in residence athis retreat. But they can't spot us because we're under this ledge, and they can't detect ourbody heat because of these special outfits, and they can't detect any metal because we haven'tgot any metal on us, nothing but plastic, pseudo-rubber and cloth. Give me the first section ofthe barrel."
Willy de Rudder fished into his container and came out with a section of gun barrel about ameter in length. It, too, was of plastic, a very hard plastic. He handed it over and Bronstonscrewed it into the firing chamber.
"The other one," he said.
Willy handed over another section, then he picked up the telescope and directed it at thechalet again. He said, "He's not out on the terrace yet, but there's a couple of men setting upa table. A table for one. I thought he was supposed to have guests."
"According to our dope, he always eats breakfast alone. And our dope on Number One is accurate.We lost two agents, good men, friends of mine, getting it." Ronny Bronston screwed the secondsection of the rifle barrel into the first. He reached into his container and brought forth atelescopic sight and slipped it into its groove atop the rifle. "How's your breath coming?"
"Still a little hard. It's partly the altitude."
"We have time. Give me the bipod."
The other brought forth a small two-legged rest from the container beside him and handed itover. Ronny attached it to the end of the two-meter-long barrel and studied out a spot toemplace the weapon.
Willy, at the telescope, said, with an edge of excitement in his voice, "I think this is him."
"No hurry," Ronny said, setting up the odd, ultra-long-barreled gun. He stretched out behind itand peered through the scope. "That's him, all right. Even at this distance you can see howarrogant the funker is. Okay, Willy, it's all yours. How long did you say they checked you outon this product of the Department of Dirty Tricks?"
"About three weeks. I could hit a fly at this range." Ronny rolled out of the way and took thetelescope from the other. "Zero in on him." He directed the plastic viewer on the chalet.
Willy lay down on his belly and got into comfortable position. He got the cross-hairs of hissights onto the body of the man who was just sitting down to the table, far below on the chaletterrace. Three others hovered in the background, obviously flunkies. He brought a very smallscrewdriver from a pocket of the coveralls and began very delicately to adjust a screw on thescope's side.
Ronny said quickly, "That's not metal, is it? Once we go on the run, they could pick up anyamount of metal at all and especially be suspicious of any that was in movement."
"No. It's a plastic gismo they gave me back at the Octagon." Ronny grunted, peering through hisspyglass. "He's seated facing us. Try to hit him in the chest. It doesn't make too muchdifference. One hit, anywhere, and we've accomplished what we want. How's your breath?"
"Hold out your hand."
Willy held out his right hand. It didn't tremble.
"Wizard," Ronny said. "But we'll wait another ten minutes to be absolutely sure that you'resteady."
For a time there was silence, then Willy said, his voice low, "When I was recruited intoSection G I didn't know that my activities would include political assassinations."
"Neither did I, when I was recruited," Ronny Bronston said wryly. "By the way, you weren'trecruited, you were suckered in."
The other looked over at him. "How do you mean? I've had the dream of going into space,participating in the expansion of mankind into the stars, since I was a kid. Everything I did,studied, worked at, was with that in mind. I applied for a position that would take me into
"Ummm," Ronny said, still eyeing the scene on the chalet terrace below. "But Commissioner RossMetaxa has a few hundred men going around at all times, seeking out potential Section G agents.When they get a cross on one they move in on him and he soon finds out that the only chance
that he'll get an appointment to get into space is by joining Section G. It usually takes aboutthree years to check you out satisfactorily." Willy de Rudder was staring at him.
He said, "Why do you tell me that, especially at this time? What you're saying is that I'm notmy own man, that I've been maneuvered. And maneuvered into a position I never expected to findmyself in. I don't approve of political assassinations."
"Neither do I," Ronny said wearily. "Neither does Section G…ordinarily. This is an exception.Usually, crisping a dictator doesn't do any good. You just get another dictator to take hisplace and the second one might be worse. I don't know how well you're acquainted with Earthhistory, but some time ago a radical named Lenin overthrew the government of Russia and becamea dictator…of sorts. A member of an opposition party, the Social Democrats, got near enough toshoot him. It took him several semi-invalid years to die from the wound. When he did, another
dictator named Stalin took over. The thing is, no matter how mistaken he might have been, Leninwas an idealist. Stalin was a monster. How many millions of deaths can be laid to his hands,we'll never know. Ghengis Khan was a piker."
"Then why is our mission to shoot Number One?"
Ronny looked over at him. "I wasn't in on the decision making. I'm a supervisor in Section G.Policy is made by upper echelons in the Bureau of Investigation. I'm a field man." That didn'tsound like sufficient answer to a valid question on the part of a tyro agent, so he added, "Ihave the dream, the United Planets dream. I take the orders of those who are working it out indetail."
Willy de Rudder said, "But why is Number One, of this planet Neu Reich, any different than theone you mentioned, Lenin? How do we know but that a worse one won't come to power?"
Ronny said, still wearily, "It would seem that he's an exception. You see, Willy, mostdictatorships aren't really one man affairs. They're a team. Alexander the Great didn't destroythe Persian Empire and take everything all the way to India; his team did. A team recruited
real military genius. Caesar too had alargely, by the way, by his father, Philip, who was a
devoted team, a competent one. Certainly, Napoleon did. He rallied around him some of theoutstanding military, political and even scientific capabilities of his time."
"But Number One?'
"Is unique. It would seem that he alone carries the whole Neu Reich program on his shoulders.Finish him and their dreams of expanding into this section of the galaxy and absorbing otherplanets—planets now in the loose confederation we call United Planets—would probably gounder."
"But not certainly?"
"Few things are certain, Willy. How's your breathing?"
"Almost normal. As an agent of Section G will I often find myself in a position such asthis—waiting to murder a man who is in no position to defend himself?"
"I wouldn't know." Ronny Bronston put down the telescope he'd had trained on the dictatorbelow, and turned to his somewhat younger companion. He said definitely,
"Willy, all the chips are down now. There's a very good chance that we won't get out of here.Once we hit Number One, the manure will be in the fan. So I might as well check you out now, inall decency, on the full story. If we do get out, you'll no longer be a probationary agent,you'll be a first grade agent—may the Holy Ultimate have mercy on your soul, assuming thatthere is any such thing as a Holy Ultimate, and I doubt it."
"Go on," Willy said, his voice a little tight. He had taken his eye away from the scope sight,with its victim beyond.
Ronny said, "Let's make it very basic. When underspace was discovered and it became practicalfor intergalactic expansion on the part of mankind, things became chaotic beyond belief. Manexploded into the stars like, well, Commissioner Metaxa once called it lemmings. They took offfrom the mother planet, Earth, in all directions and for every reason known to man nor beast.Political reasons—they wanted a true Utopian society, a true Socialist, Communist or perhapsAnarchist society. Or like the Pilgrims of American history, a planet where they could practicetheir religion without outside interference. In short, go to hell in their own way. Some wentfor crackpot reasons such as getting back to nature and giving up all technological progress.All right, so who cared? If a couple of thousand cloddies got together and went looking for anEarth-type world where they could revive ancient paganism, including witchcraft, what businesswas it of anybody else? A loose confederation, based on Mother Earth, was formed forinterplanetary cooperation. United Planets, in short. Willy, what are Articles One and Two ofthe United Planets Charter?"
The other looked at him, his hood masking his frown. "Why, anybody knows that. Article One: The United Planets organization shall take no steps to interfere with the internal
political, socio-economic, or religious institutions of its member planets . Article Two: No
planet of United Planets shall interfere with the internal political socio-economic ormember
institutions of any other member planets." religious
Ronny nodded. "Right. And those two articles are the very basis of United Planets. However,there came a new development. Over a century ago one of our Space Forces scouts picked up aderelict, drifting, blasted and burnt out alien spacecraft. It was obviously military innature, had been destroyed in some interplanetary conflict and it contained the charred remainsof a life form—obviously intelligent. It was about the size of a monkey but with a largerhead, and it had the equivalent of hands capable of handling delicate tools.
"All of a sudden, the highest echelons of United Planets realized that mankind was in theclutch. No longer could we be philosophical about those segments of our race that were notadvancing scientifically, technologically. Sooner or later, man in his expansion into thegalaxy, would come up against this intelligent life form, or possibly the other life form withwhich it had waged interplanetary conflict.
"When our engineers examined that burnt out one-man spacescout, they were scared silly. It wastoo far gone for them to be able to figure out any of the devices aboard, but they could learnenough to know that the little monkey-like creature was backed by a technology as far ahead ofus as we are of Neanderthal man." Willy said unhappily, "Well, maybe this intelligent alienlife form would prove friendly."
"Wizard," Ronny said wryly. "And maybe not. Remember it was a military craft the critter was inand it had been destroyed in a fight. It was obvious that mankind could no longer refrain fromprogressing in science and technology as rapidly as possible. We could no longer tolerate, inUnited Planets, worlds with crackpot political, socioeconomic, or even religious systems thatprevented all-out development.
"So Section G was secretly organized to subvert Articles One and Two of the Charter. By anymethod found necessary, we pushed the member worlds ahead, even in spite of themselves. Ifthere was a planet with a feudalistic social system, we undermined it and made efforts toestablish a capitalistic one, under which progress would be the faster. If there was adictatorship, where a self-proclaimed elite held up progress the better to milk the man in thestreet, we subverted it. It there was some religion that held up progress, we undermined it."
Willy de Rudder said unhappily, "Why keep it all secret? Why not just come right out and informthe whole United Planets confederation about these aliens, and urge them to cooperate in all-out advance? The danger is a common one." Ronny peered through the telescope again, checkingthe terrace of the chalet. Number One was beginning to eat.
"How's your breathing?" he said.
"Just about normal."
"We'll wait a few more minutes," Ronny decided. "To go on with it, we can't just come out andmake a plea for unity in the face of a common potential foe, because there is nothing that manhangs onto more fanatically than his religious, political and socio-economic beliefs. TheChristians died in the Roman arenas rather than give up their God. When the advent of theatomic bomb came along, did the United States and Soviet Russia, of those days, unite in theface of mutual destruction? Hell, no. They went into an arms race. Better dead than Red , the
Americans said, and the Russians had similar slogans. Socioeconomics? You get an advocate ofcapitalism and one of socialism together and they'll argue till hell freezes over before onewill give in. No, Willy, we had to do it behind their backs. And that was, and still is, thebasic reason for the existence of Section G, though complications have come up recently." Hetook a deep breath. "At any rate, that's why we're here on the planet Neu Reich. Number Onestands in the way. This world isn't even a member of United Planets and he's rattling hisscabbard, threatening to take over some of the other humanity-settled worlds in this sector."
He reached into a pocket of his coveralls and brought forth an odd looking cartridge. It wasquite long and even the case was of plastic. Ronny handed it over. "All right, Willy, this is
it," he told the other. Willy de Rudder took the bullet. He said, "Only one? Suppose I miss?"
"In the first place, you'd never get a chance to get another shot at him. That gobblydygook gun