- Black Rose
- The Great Train Robbery
- Blue Dahlia
- Carnal Innocence
- Dance Upon the Air
- High Noon
- Sacred Sins
- Face the Fire
- Holding the Dream
- A Man for Amanda
- All the Possibilities
- Black Rose
- The Great Train Robbery
- Blue Dahlia
- Carnal Innocence
- Dance Upon the Air
- High Noon
- Sacred Sins
- Face the Fire
- Holding the Dream
- A Man for Amanda
'What? You dare -!!'
'Listen, you damned scientist!' Khuv had then snarled at him. 'In my capacity as the Projekt's security supervisor I dare almost anything! Now I'll tell you one more time: the creature from the Gate is dead, destroyed by some unknown person or thing; the Kirescu girl, formerly my prisoner, is missing; her father is ... dead: an unfortunate accident. I shall ensure that you get a copy of the report. And finally, the Projekt has had an intruder. Our security has been breached in the worst possible way. I repeat: our security. My sphere of work, Direktor, not yours. So go back to bed. Go back to your mathematics and your physics and what all. Go study your magmass and your grey holes and your particle beam acceleration - only leave me alonef
And Luchov, shouted down, had returned to his rooms and commenced to write a furious, comprehensive report on Khuv's suspected activities and his rank insubordination.
For the last five minutes Harry Keogh had been making a nuisance of himself. First he'd appeared outside the Projekt, on the patrolled ramp cut into the Perchorsk ravine's wall, where he'd taken a half-hearted pot shot at a guard. He hadn't attempted to hit the man, for he'd need serious reasons before sending yet another human being to join the Great Majority. Before the soldier could fire back at him, Harry had ducked into the cover of darkly swirling snow - and through a Mobius door.
From there he'd returned to the room of the thing. Emerging there, he'd been ready on the instant to return into the Mobius Continuum. But the room was empty and so he'd simply gone to the locked door and banged on it, shouting to be let out. The guard outside the room had responded to this, of course, and moments later so had the alarm system.
Tassi Kirescu's cell had been next; Harry emerged amidst a handful of baffled espers, struck two of them rapid, stunning blows, retreated to the Mobius Continuum. Behind him he left Leo Grenzel and Nik Slepak groaning on the floor, and others white-faced and wide-eyed, astonished by what they'd seen and felt. Grenzel was still feeling it, and not just the two front teeth Harry had loosened.
That's him!' he gurgled, sitting up and spitting blood. That's him!'
Khuv was heading for KGB accommodation when the klaxons began to sound again. He cursed, put on speed. Coming through a door between sections of the corridor, he ran into Harry Keogh. He knew him at once - or thought he did. Khuv had a good memory; he'd seen photographs of this man: a one-time head of British E-Branch - Alec Kyle!
Harry pressed his Browning up under Khuv's chin, said: 'I can see by the look on your face that you know me. Which puts me at a disadvantage - but let me guess anyway. Major Chingiz Khuv?'
Khuv gulped, nodded, shoved his hands high in the air.
'Major, you're in the wrong business,' Harry pressed harder with his gun. Take some good advice and get out while the going's good. And pray you never see me again.' He stepped back away from Khuv, looked for a door.
In the moment of Harry's distraction, Khuv snatched his own gun from its holster, triggered off a shot. Harry felt the bullet buzz past his face like an angry wasp to speed forever through the Mobius Continuum. Then Khuv and the corridor blinked out of existence and he headed for somewhere else.
He emerged in a military Duty Room situated just inside the Projekt's service bays, put the muzzle of his pistol in the Orderly Sergeant's ear where he sat at his desk and ordered him to tell him the way to Direktor Luchov's quarters. The terrified Sergeant showed him what he wanted to know on a wall chart, a diagram of the Perchorsk complex, and Harry rewarded him with a chop to the neck that would keep him out of things for at least half an hour. Then he was on the move again.
Harry's 'smoke screen' was now established. It was 5:22 a.m. precisely, local time, when he materialized in Viktor Luchov's claustrophobic suite of rooms. Luchov was on the phone, demanding to know what this fresh spate of clamouring alarms was all about, when Harry arrived. His back was to Harry, who let him finish his conversation and slam the telephone down before he spoke:
'Direktor Luchov? I'm what those alarms are all about.' He pointed his automatic at Luchov's heart, said: 'Better sit down.'
Luchov, whirling from the telephone, saw Harry, his gun and where it was pointed, in that order. He staggered as if he'd been struck in the temple. 'What - ? Who - ?'
'Who doesn't matter,' Harry told him. 'And what is what I'm here to find out.'
'Khuv's intruder!' Luchov finally gasped. 'I thought it was all part of some elaborate scheme of his.'
'Sit,' Harry said again, waving his gun toward a chair.
Luchov did as Harry ordered, the yellow veins pulsing rapidly under the scar-tissue skin of his seared skull. Harry looked at Luchov's disfigurement, saw that the damage was fairly recent. 'An accident?'
Tight-lipped, breathing just a fraction too quickly, Luchov said nothing. Both he and Harry jumped as the telephone came janglingly alive, ringing repeatedly. Then Harry scowled. They must have some clever people working here; it seemed they'd already located him; he wouldn't have time to interrogate Luchov - not here, anyway. 'Get up,' he said, reaching out and jerking Luchov to his feet.
And still holding him, he conjured a door and dragged the other through it.
In a moment, for the moment, they were out on the ramp in the ravine, snow stinging their eyes and a cold wind rushing down the length of the canyon. Harry looked up at the bleak mountains showing their fangs through the snow. Luchov, seeing where he was - where according to all the laws of science he had no right to be - had barely sufficient time to voice some inarticulate query before -
- Harry dragged him squalling through another door, passed through the Mobius Continuum and exited-on a ledge high over the Perchorsk ravine. Luchov saw the sheer drop under his feet and almost fainted. He let out a wild shriek and pressed himself back into the face of the cliff behind him. And again Harry commanded: 'Sit -before you fall.'
Luchov carefully sat down, hugged his dressing-gown to him, shivered partly from the cold and partly from the terror of this totally unbelievable and yet entirely inescapable experience. Harry went down on one knee before him and put his gun away. 'Now,' he said. 'I should think that dressed as we are, we've about ten to fifteen minutes before we freeze to death. So you'd better talk fast. There are things I want to know - about the Perchorsk Projekt. And I have it on good authority that you'd be the one to tell me. So I'll ask the questions and you'll answer them.'
Luchov collected his whirling senses as best he could, recovered something of his dignity. 'If ... if I have only fifteen minutes left, then so do you. We both freeze.'
Harry grinned wolfishly. 'You don't catch on too quickly, do you? I don't have to stay here. I can leave you right now. Like this -' And he was no longer there. Snow swirled in the space where he had kneeled. He returned, said: 'So what's it going to be? Do you talk to me or do I simply leave you here?'
'You're an enemy of my country!' Luchov blurted, feeling the cold start to bite.
'That place of yours,' Harry nodded toward the grey sheen of lead far below, 'appears to be an enemy of the world - potentially, anyway.'
'If I tell you anything - anything - about the Projekt, then I'm a traitor!' Luchov protested.
This wasn't getting Harry anywhere, and now he was cold, too. 'Listen,' he said. 'You've seen what I can do -but you haven't seen everything. I'm also a Necroscope: I can talk to the dead. So I can talk to you alive, or I can talk to you dead. If you were dead you'd be only too glad to talk to me, Viktor, for then I'd be your only real contact with the world.'
'Talk to the dead?' Luchov shrank even further down into himself. 'You're a madman!'
Harry shrugged. 'Obviously you don't know much about espers. I take it you and Khuv don't get on too well?'
Luchov's teeth had started to chatter. 'ESP? Is this something to do with ESP?'
Harry had run out of time and patience. 'OK,' he said, straightening up, 'I can see you need convincing. So I'm going to leave you now. I'm going somewhere else, somewhere warm. I'll come back in about five minutes, or maybe ten. Meanwhile you can make up your mind: to talk to me or to attempt to climb down from here. Personally I don't think you'd make it. I think you'd fall, and then that we would talk again when I found your body at the bottom of the ravine.'
Luchov grasped his ankle. It was all a nightmare - had to be a nightmare, surely - but it felt horribly real, as real as the flesh-and-blood ankle he was grasping. 'Wait! Wait! What... what is it you want to know?'
'That's better,' said Harry. He drew Luchov to his feet, took him somewhere more comfortable: an evening beach in Australia. Luchov felt the hot sand under his feet, saw a shimmering ocean with its endless lines of whitecaps, sat down abruptly as his legs gave way. He sat there in the sand, wide-eyed, shivering and very nearly exhausted. The beach was deserted. Harry looked down at Luchov and nodded. Then he stripped down to his underpants, went for a swim. When he came out of the sea, Luchov was ready to talk ...
When Luchov was finished (which is to say when Harry had run out of questions) it was getting dark. A handful of cars had come roaring down to the beach a quarter of a mile away, spilled young people with blankets and barbecue gear. Laughter and rock music came wafting on a crosswind.
'Back at Perchorsk it'll be morning, daylight,' said Harry. 'But they'll still be running around in circles looking for you. If Khuv has a locator, they'll know approximately where you are. To be absolutely sure, though, they'll go over the Projekt with a fine-toothed comb. And by now everyone involved will be very tired. One thing is certain: Khuv now knows something of what he's up against.
'Now listen: you've co-operated with me and so I'll give you fair warning. It may be that I have to destroy Perchorsk. Not for my sake or in the interest of any nation or specific group of people, but for the sake of the world. But in any case, even if anything should happen to me, eventually Perchorsk will be destroyed. The USA won't sit still for any more monsters coming out of that place.'
'Of course,' Luchov answered. 'I had foreseen that eventuality. Some months ago I passed on my warning to people in authority, made my recommendations. The warning was heeded and the recommendations accepted. Within the week, possibly as soon as tomorrow - today - trucks will start to arrive at Perchorsk from Sverdlovsk. They will deliver a new failsafe. So you see, on this one point if on no other, we are in agreement. Nothing - alien - must ever again get out of Perchorsk...'
Harry nodded. 'Before I take you back there,' he said, 'I'd like to ask you one more thing. With that space-time Gate down there in Perchorsk's guts, how come you found me so incredible? I mean, surely the two principles come pretty close? In Perchorsk you have ... a grey hole? And I make use of a dimension or space-time plane other than my own.'
Luchov stood up, stiffly brushed sand from his clothes. 'The difference is this,' he said. 'I know how the Perchorsk Gate came into being. I've worked out most of the mathematics. The Gate is a physical reality, with nothing transient or insubstantial about it. It is physical, not metaphysical. The result of an accident, yes, but at least I know how that accident happened. You, on the other hand - you're just a man! I can't understand how you could ever possibly have happened.'
Harry thought about his answer, eventually nodded. 'Actually, I believe I was an accident, too,' he said. 'The product of a one-in-a-million combination of events. Anyway, I've warned you about Perchorsk. You risk your life staying there.'
'Do you think I don't know that?' Luchov shrugged. 'Still, it's my job. I'll see it through. And you. What will you do now?'
'After I've taken you back? I have to know what's on the other side of that Gate. There has to be more there than the nightmares you've described.' There had to be, for how else could little Harry and his mother exist there? If they exist there. But what if there are other dimensions beyond that one? What if Harry Jnr has taken his mother even further afield?
Harry dropped Luchov off outside the great sliding doors of the service bays, left him in the grey morning light and the sullen snow, hammering at the wicket-gate and bellowing to be let in. Then Harry went to Luchov's quarters (which he found empty and locked from the outside), where he donned a white smock which on his last visit he'd seen hanging there. The smock was the insignia of a Projekt scientist or technician. In the garment's pocket he found tinted spectacles and put them on.
And without more ado he went straight to the magmass heart of the place, materializing on the Saturn's-rings circumference midway between two sets of manned Katushev cannons. He stayed perfectly still, held a Mobius door fixed in his mind, ready to take cover - but all seemed well. A soldier lounging against the smooth magmass wall saw him, looked a little startled, straightened up and gave a half-hearted salute. Harry stared hard at him, much to the man's discomfort, then turned and scanned the great unnatural cavern in which he found himself. Especially he stared at the blinding white sphere which was the Gate...
There were other technicians about. Everyone looked tired following their night-shift, even the gunners in their padded bucket-seats where they sighted their weapons on the Gate. Two scientists walked past Harry, talking, moving in the direction of the walkway to the sphere. One of them glanced his way as they passed, smiled and nodded in a familiar manner. Harry wondered who the man thought he was. He nodded back, began to follow the pair, and as he drew level with the walkway turned off and moved toward the centre, heading directly for the sphere of light.
Behind him a soldier shouted: 'Hey! - not in our line of fire, sir! Regulations!'
Harry glanced back casually over his shoulder and kept going. He left the outer platform behind and moved onto the walkway. Even as the gate in the electrified fence began to close, he passed through it, reached the spot where the boards were scorched. Behind him the gates opened again; footsteps came hurrying; Harry was aware of a low, angry muttering. But he was more aware of the Katushevs aimed directly at him; or rather not trained on him but on the Gate, which amounted to the same thing. 'Sir!' a voice shouted in his ear, from directly behind him.
Harry conjured a Mobius door - and with a tremor of unaccustomed panic saw that it was all wrong!
The outline of the door wasn't clear-cut in Harry's mind. Its edges shimmered like a heat-haze mirage. It floated up alongside him, drifted toward the sphere as if attracted by it, and was held there, gradually fading where it trembled above the wooden walkway. Harry had seen nothing like this before. He conjured a second door with the same result: the sphere both attracted and repelled the doors; it made them less substantial, pinned them down and broke them up. It cancelled them!
A hand fell on Harry's shoulder, and at the same time he heard shouts from the wide wooden staircase where it emerged from the magmass shaft. Someone with a high-pitched voice was screaming: 'He's here! He's here!' As the Sergeant who'd grabbed Harry's shoulder turned him about-face, he glanced toward the stairs, saw Chingiz Khuv and a second man coming down from the shaft. Harry thought: God! Doesn't that bastard ever sleep?
Khuv seemed to be holding his companion up, keeping him from toppling headlong. The man he helped was one of the espers Harry had struck while he was laying his smoke screen. And he was the one who was doing all the shouting. Then he pointed directly at Harry 锟? screamed one last time, "That's him!' - and Khuv's dark gaze followed his shaking hand.
Khuv's eyes blazed in a moment. 'Open fire!' he shouted at once. He too pointed at Harry, shouting, 'Shoot him! Kill him! He's an intruder!'
The Sergeant who had taken hold of Harry let go of him, stepped back, went to draw the pistol at his hip. Harry moved quickly after him, drop-kicked him and sent him flying off the walkway. Falling to the boards, Harry stayed low, out of the line of fire of the Katushevs. He conjured a Mobius door level with the walkway, hanging over empty space. It was his notion to dive headlong through it - but the door shimmered and warped, was drawn up and toward the sphere of light!
Harry could hear the Katushev commander yelling: Target to the front - take aim - ' and knew that the next command would be 'fire!' He mustn't be here when that order was given. Before the shimmering, disintegrating door could disappear entirely, he sprang for it. Even though it appeared printed on the very face of the sphere itself, still it was his one chance.
He passed through the door - into a hell of physical and mental agony!
When Harry regained consciousness he was adrift in the Mobius Continuum, apparently in motion through a region of the continuum which was new to him. His body and his psyche both felt badly battered, and that sixth sense of Harry's which was usually sharp as a razor felt tarnished and dull. Not without a deal of effort, he formed the mental equations and conjured a door; it opened on deep voids of space shot with stars in alien constellations. He closed the door at once and groped for others.
He found a door on future-time and peered through it. No blue life-threads raced into the future here, only his own, which bent violently aside beyond the door to disappear at right-angles to Harry's viewpoint. The past was equally hostile: indeed there seemed to be no past in this place, just an ocean of interminable, impersonal stars. The lack of human activity, of even traces of activity, reinforced Harry's opinion that he had been blown off-track and had left the mundane world of men far behind.
Beginning to panic, he tried one last door - and gazed out on the surface of a roaring furnace star! He closed that door, too, then forced himself into a state of calm, a condition in which he might at least apply a little reason to the problem. He was lost, yes, but what is lost can be found again. He didn't know where he was or how he had got here, true, but since he had come here there must be a way back. Except... space is a big place and Harry Keogh felt like an exceedingly tiny mote in the eye of the infinite.
Harry? whispered a familiar, distant voice in his mind. I thought I recognized you! The voice sped closer, rapidly grew stronger. But what's this? Are you trespassing?
'Mobius! Thank God!' said Harry.
God? That's outside my line of research, Harry, Mobius told him. I prefer to thank my equations, if it's all the same to you. Though I suppose it could be argued that they are one and the same!
'How come you're out here?' Harry was calmer now. 'Wherever "here" is.'
Here is in the constellation of Orion, Mobius answered. And the point is, what are you doing out here?
Hmm! Mobius mused. Well, first let's get you home again, and then we'll see if we can find an explanation for what's happened. If you'll just follow me...
Harry stayed with Mobius, sped with him homeward, materialized in the Leipzig graveyard. It was evening, which told him he'd spent an entire day (or possibly two?) in the Mobius Continuum. In the grey, wintry light of the graveyard, Harry blinked, staggered; his legs wouldn't hold him up, so he sat down on the gravel beside Mobius's marker.
You could do with a good long rest, my boy! Mobius told him.
'You're right,' Harry agreed. 'But first I'd like to know if you can explain what happened to me.'
I think 1 can, yes, said the mathematician. You yourself have likened my strip dimension to a parallel plane, and this gate at Perchorsk leads to another; they are both gates between planes of existence. Both are negative conditions, blemishes on the perfect surface of normal space-time. Now: take two magnets and push their negative poles together, and what happens?
'They repel one another,' Harry shrugged.
Exactly. And so does the gate and the doors which you create in your mind. But the Perchorsk Gate is stronger, and so the repulsion is that much more fierce. When you used that door close to this sphere gateway, you were hurled across the Mobius Continuum like a shot from a gun! Your equations were warped out of focus; your body underwent stresses it could never hope to survive in the physical world; in three-dimensioned space you would have died instantly! The continuum itself saved you, because it is infinitely resilient. Lesson: you may not impose your metaphysical self upon the Gate. Go through it as a man, by all means, if you must; but never again attempt entry using the Mobius Continuum.
Harry frowned, then slowly nodded. 'You're right,' he said. 'And I've been foolish - but that wasn't entirely my fault. I hadn't intended to use the continuum in conjunction with the Gate, it just worked out that way. But my curiosity has worked against me. I had to see what this Gate looked like - see it with my own eyes. And by now there won't be a man in the entire Perchorsk Projekt who doesn't know what I look like! The next time I stick my nose in there, be sure someone will blow it right off my face.'
What will you do?
Harry leaned back against the headstone and sighed. 'I don't know. But I know I'm tired.'
Go home, said Mobius. Sleep, rest. Things will be that much clearer in your mind when you wake up.
Harry said his thanks, his farewells, did as Mobius advised. He emerged back in Jazz Simmons's flat in a prone position two inches over his bed, gently fell onto it. Almost before his head hit the pillows he was asleep...
- The Loners
- The Saints
- Tome of the Undergates
- Black Halo
- The Skybound Sea
- If You Stay
- If You Leave
- Until We Burn
- Before We Fall
- Every Last Kiss
- Suspiciously Obedient
- Random Acts of Crazy
- Random Acts of Trust
- Her First Billionaire
- Her Second Billionaire
- Her Two Billionaires
- Her Two Billionaires and a Baby
- His Majesty's Dragon
- Throne of Jade
- Black Powder War
- Victory of Eagles
- Tongues of Serpents
- Empire of Ivory
- Crucible of Gold