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the Salyut where her husband slept.
There were five docking spheres in Kosmograd,
each with its three linked Salyuts. At opposite ends of
the complex were the military installation ~nd the
satellite launchers. Popping, humming, and wheezing,
the station had the feel of a subway and the dank
metallic reek of a tramp steamer.
Korolev had another pull at the bottle. Now it was
half-empty. He hid it in one of the museum's exhibits, a
NASA Hasselblad recovered from the site of the Apollo
landing. He hadn't had a drink since his last furlough,
before the blowout. His head swam in a pleasant, pain-
ful current of drunken nostalgia.
Drifting back to his console, he accessed a section
of memory where the collected speeches of Alexci Kosy-
gin had been covertly erased and replaced with his per-
sonal collection of samisdata, digitized pop music, his
boyhood favorites from the Eighties. He had British
groups taped from West German radio, Warsaw Pact
heavy metal, American imports from the black market.
Putting on his headphones, he punched for the
Czestochowa reggae of Brygada Cryzis.
After all the years, he no longer really heard the
music, but images came rushing back with an aching
poignancy. In the Eighties he'd been a long-haired child
of the Soviet elite, his father's Position placing him ef-
fectively beyond the reach of the Moscow police. He
remembered feedback howling through the speakers in
the hot darkness of a cellar club, th'e crowd a shadowy
checkerboard of denim and bleached hair. He'd smoked
Marlboros laced with powdered Afghani hash. He re-
membered the mouth of an American diplomat's
daughter in the back seat of her father's black Lincoln.
Names and faces came flooding in on a warm haze of
cognac. Nina, the East German who'd shown him her
mimeographed translations of dissident Polish news-
Until the night she didn't turn up at the coffee bar.
Whispers of parasitism, of anti-Soviet activity, of the
waiting chemical horrors of the psikuska
Korolev started to tremble. He wiped his face and
found it bathed in sweat. He took off the headphones.
It had been fifty years, yet he was suddenly and
very intensely afraid. He couldn't remember ever having
been this frightened, not even during the blowout that
had crushed his hip. He shook violently. The lights. The
lights in the Salyut were too bright, but he didn't want
to go to the switches. A simple action, one he performed
regularly, yet. . . The switches and their insulated cables
were somehow threatening. He stared, confused. The
little clockwork model of a Lunokhod moon rover, its
Velcro wheels gripping the curved wall, seemed to
crouch there like something sentient, poised, waiting.
The eyes of the Soviet space pioneers in the official por-
traits were fixed on him with contempt.
The cognac. His years in free fall had warped his
metabolism. He wasn't the man he'd once been. But he
would remain calm and try to ride it out. If he threw up,
everyone would laugh.
Someone knocked at the entrance to the museum,
and Nikita the Plumber, Kosmograd's premier han-
dyman, executed a perfect slow-motion dive through the
open hatch. The young civilian engineer looked angry.
Korolev felt cowed. "You're up early, Plumber," he
said, anxious for some facade of normality.
"Pinhead leakage in Delta Three." He frowned.
"Do you understand Japanese?" The Plumber tugged a
cassette from one of the dozen pockets that bulged on
his stained work vest and waved it in Korolev's face. He
wore carefully laundered Levi's and dilapidated Adidas
running shoes. "We accessed this last night."
Korolev cowered as though the cassette were a
weapon. "No, no Japanese." The meekness of his own
voice startled him. "Only English and Polish." He felt
himself blush. The Plumber was his friend; he knew and
trusted the Plumber, but
"Are you well, Colonel?" The Plumber loaded the
tape and punched up a lexicon program with deft,
callused fingers. "You look as though you just ate a
bug. I want you to hear this."
Korolev watched uneasily as the tape flickered into
an ad for baseball gloves. The lexicon's Cyrillic subtitles
raced across the monitor as a Japanese voice-over rat-
"The newscast's coming up," said the Plumber,
gnawing at a cuticle.
Korolev squinted anxiously as the translation slid
across the face of the Japanese announcer:
AMERICAN DISARMAMENT GROUP CLAIMS
PREPARATIONS AT BAIKONUR COSMODROME... PROVE
RUSSIANS AT LAST READY. . . TO SCRAP ARMED SPACE
STATION COMIC CITY...
"Cosmic," the Plumber muttered. "Glitch in the
BUILT AT TURN OF CENTURY AS BRIDGEHEAD TO
SPACE... AMBITIOUS PROJECT CRIPPLED BY FAILURE OF
LUNAR MINING . . . EXPENSIVE STATION OUTPERFORMED
BY OUR UNMANNED ORBITAL FA~ORIES... CRYSTALS,
SEMICONDUCTORS AND PURE DRUGS...
"Smug bastards." The Plumber snorted. "I tell
you, it's that goddamned KGB man Yefremov. He's
had a hand in this!"
STAGGERING SOVIET TRADE DEFICITS. . . POPULAR
DISCONTENT WITH SPACE EFFORT... R~CENT DECISIONS
BY POLITBURO AND CENTRAL COMMITTEE SECRETAR-
"They're shutting us down!" The Plumber's face
contorted with rage.
Korolev twisted away from the screen, shaking un-
controllably. Sudden tears peeled from his lashes in
free-fall droplets. "Leave me alone! I can do nothing!"
"What's wrong, Colonel?" The Plumber grabbed
his shoulders. "Look me in the face. Someone's dosed
you with the Fear!"
"Go away~" Korolev begged.
"That little spook bastard! What has he given you?
Pills? An injection?"
Korolev shuddered. "I had a drink "
"He gave you the Fear! You~ a sick old man! I'll
break his face!" The Plumber jerked his knees up,
somersaulted backward, kicked off from a handhold
overhead, and catapulted out of the room.
"Wait! Plumber!" But the Plumber had zipped
through the docking sphere like a squirrel, vanishing
down the corridor, and now Korolev felt that he
couldn't bear to be alone. In the distance he could hear
metallic echoes of distorted, angry shouts.
Trembling, he closed his eyes and waited for some-
one to help him.
He'd asked Psychiatric Officer Bychkov to help him
dress in his old uniform, the one with the Star of the
Tsiolkovsky Order sewn above the left breast pocket.
The black dress boots of heavy quilted nylon, with their
Velcro soles, would no longer fit his twisted feet; so his
feet remained bare.
Bychkov's injection had straightened him out
within an hour, leaving him alternately depressed and
furiously angry. Now he waited in the museum for
Yefremov to answer his summons.
They called his home the Museum of the Soviet
Triumph in Space, and as his rage subsided, to be
replaced with an ancient bleakness, he felt very much as
if he were simply another one of the exhibits. He stared
gloomily at the gold-framed portraits of the great vi-
sionaries of space, at the faces of Tsiolkovsky, Rynin,
Tupolev. Below these, in slightly smaller frames, were
portraits of Verne, Goddard, and O'Neill.
In moments of extreme depression he had some-
times imagined that he could detect a common strange-
ness in their eyes, particularly in the eyes of the two
Americans. Was it simply craziness, as he sometimes
thought in his most cynical moods? Or was he able to
glimpse a subtle manifestation of some weird, unbal-
anced force that he had often suspected of being human
evolution in action?
Once, and only once, Korolev had seen that look in
his own eyes on the day he'd stepped onto the soil of
the Coprates Basin. The Martian sunlight, glinting
within his helmet visor, had shown him the reflection of
two steady, alien eyes fearless, yet driven and the
quiet, secret shock of it, he now realized, had been his
life's most memorable, most transcendental moment.
Above the portraits, oily and inert, was a painting
that depicted the landing in colors that reminded him of
borscht and gravy, the Martian landscape reduced to the
idealistic kitsch of Soviet Socialist realism. The artist
had posed the suited figure beside the lander with all of
the official style's deeply sincere vulgarity.
Feeling tainted, he awaited the arrival of Yefre-
mov, the KGB man, Kosmograd's political officer.
When Yefremov finally entered the Salyut, Korolev
noted the split lip and the fresh bruises on the man's
throat. He wore a blue Kansai jump suit of Japanese
silk and stylish Italian deck shoes. He coughed politely.
"Good morning, Comrade Colonel."
Korolev stared. He allowed the silence to lengthen.
"Yefremov," he said heavily, "I am not happy with
Yefremov reddened, but he held .his gaze. "Let us
speak frankly to each other, Colonel, as Russian to Rus-
sian. It was not, of course, intended for you."
"The Fear, Yefremov?"
"The beta-carboline, yes. If you hadn't pandered
to their antisocial actions, if you hadn't accepted their
bribe, it would not have happened."
"So I am a pimp, Yefremov? A pimp and a drunk-
ard? You are a cuckold, a smuggler, and an informer. I
say this," he added, "as one Russian to another."
Now the KGB man's face assumed the official
mask of bland and untroubled righteousness.
"But tell me, Yefremov, what it is that you are really
about. What have you been doing since you came to
Kosmograd? We know that the complex will be
stripped. What is in store for the civilian crew when they
return to Baikonur? Corruption hearings?"
`There will be interrogation, certainly. In certain
cases there may be hospitalization. Would you care to
suggest, Colonel Korolev, that the Soviet Union is
somehow at fault for Kosmograd's failures?"