2 1 5 5

1 “First Citizen”

One by one, fatal accidents befell the World Court judges in rather quick succession and Nilsson stepped up into the position of senior magistrate.

Immediately, the Court reversed its former stance and became anti-World Union insofar as the august body was able to take a political stance.

As Senior Judge, however, Dr. Nilsson’s presence was required at Dr. Chillingsworth’s inauguration as “President-Premier” of the World Democratic Union (WDU). Strangely enough, Nilsson gave every indication he relished the thought of attending. The president-premier-elect objected to holding the event in the old United Nations Assembly Building in New York. To Chillingsworth its historic connection with nations and nationalism was distasteful.

The venue was changed to the Palace of Versailles outside Paris--a move that pleased most everyone despite its old, very undemocratic association with royalty and the divine right of kings.

An hour before the ceremony, Nilsson was holed up in the cave portion of “Slade’s Bat & Shark,” a trendy American Mafioso-style night spot in the Paris suburbs. Patrons wouldn’t be coming for quite some time, so Nilsson had the place to himself except for a bat-winged waitress or two who took turns bringing old-fashioned “L.G.’s”--imaginative French approximations, that is, with chasers that seemed to avoid beer.

“Bad day, right?” said the younger of the team, a girl with red hair to her waist. “But you really should stop drinking so much, you’re too old and it’ll kill you!”

Nilsson, head down, nodded, hair over his eyes. Then he said something, which the batwoman had to bend over to hear.

She straightened up sharply, took a slow look around, then bent back to hear what else he had to say.

When he left forty minutes late for the inauguration, his driver had been replaced by the batwoman, though she appeared someone else entirely in his uniform and with all her body paint and glitter scrubbed off.

“Your sister, the Red Bladed, said you wanted to join. Do you really want to risk what happened to her? What’s in it for you besides maybe revenge?” Nilsson’s voice was as cold and cutting as he could make it, and the young woman paused for some moments before she answered.

The hovercar moved rapidly off the single track of the fully automated expressway and coasted down a ramp to underground parking garages before she relied. “It’s not just for her. Secret servicemen chased me out of Norway because I made a chance remark about world government. I lost my university grant money, everything! And here I am--this work is disgusting! Disgusting! My life is destroyed anyway. What have we got to lose?”

Nilsson could not agree more, but he said nothing more--too dangerous for her sake to be recorded by any surveillance devices certain to be installed in the garage.

Five minutes later, waiting security personnel hustled the badly limping, Scotch-drenched World Court judge to his chair on the flag-decked platform. It was done as discreetly as they could manage before the select gathering of dignitaries in the gilt and crystal splendor of the Hall of Mirrors and, by comsats, billions of the world audience watching at every available video. Nilsson made no attempt to stand when applause broke out with a standing ovation as Dr. Chillingsworth received the symbolic robe of world premier and signed documents by all the assembled heads of state.

Over a dark business suit went a red and white silk cape that reached a little above the knees. Three red bars radiated from the upper neck to each side, and white covered the shoulders. Deep scalloped, batlike sleeves were red, and below the neck were two crescents, one white holding the globe of the Earth denoting the ascendant day of the World Union, the other beneath solid black denoting the “Night of Nationality.”

Last of all a very tall white miter was placed on his head. No one would call it a crown, of course. All white and unadorned except for a gold elephant with raised trunk and flared ears, the official logo of the World Union embellished the front above the forehead.

“Despicable despot!” Nilsson muttered as his now glorified adversary smiled and let the last United Nations’ secretary-general place a gold chain around his neck, which held a medallion of the world globe and the letters “W.D.U.” for the World Democratic Union, along with i pluribus unum--”out of many, one.”

Double, tripled, quadrupled in the great hall’s mirrors, Chillingsworth seemed to be everywhere--a colossus astride France, the world, the Solar System. He seemed to realize the effect he was creating and no Roman emperor stood prouder. After all, everyone knew that he had averted World War III--an all-out East-West conflict that would have destroyed world civilization. The applause continued for long minutes, preventing the first world premier from giving his acceptance speech. Finally, he was able to begin.

More applause erupted and cut him off once more. Chillingsworth smiled and looked around helplessly at the dignitaries seated on the platform, who all, except for Nilsson, were madly clapping. The roar eventually died down enough for Chillingsworth to say a few words.

“As your First Citizen, on your behalf I humbly accept these insignia of my new office and other tokens of your grati--” The applauding broke out, a tremendous wave of it that swept away his prepared remarks. Then a moment of confusion changed the scene somewhat. Security men rushed up on to the platform. One spoke hurriedly to Dr. Chillingsworth, who glanced around him and then allowed them to hastily arrange themselves around him as a body shield. When nothing happened in the next few moments, they all looked surprised.

Dr. Chillingsworth looked pointedly at Dr. Nilsson and their eyes met. Then he turned back to his speech and started over, only to suffer another disturbance in the proceedings when the security men had to escort The Honorable Dr. Nilsson from the hall. He had created quite a scene, one the security chief in charge could not ignore. From inside his dinner jacket he had pulled out a bat mask. Then he tried to put it on and would have succeeded except that the French chasers finally collided with all the Scotch.

2 Red-Bladed II, Retrenchment, and the Mole

Since Chillingsworth was too occupied by the installation ceremonies and reception afterwards to be reached, the security chief at the Versailles event--very angry that he could not get through-- had to let Nilsson go. A small van with two security-secret servicemen delivered him to his car. They threw him out on the cement.

Red Bladed’s sister heard his groaning and then came out and found him, bleeding from face cuts where he had landed. But World Security wasn’t going to let the judge go easily--an invisible net was strung around him on all sides, and security personnel sat waiting at their monitors in New York and London for someone to come and trip the alarms. To reach him, she had to first confuse and stall the tracking system for at least one minute. This she accomplished with deployment of holographic decoys. They faked a group of common muggers, whom Chillingsworth’s security people might over-look for bigger fry. Under that cover, Red Bladed II darted in wearing stealth, light-absorbent clothing and reached Nilsson.

On the I.R.A. side of the question, every operation had backup systems. If an operation was fairly simple, in this case the removal of the head Ibsenite to safe ground, the operative started, as Red Bladed II had done, by muddling the detection relay system. Here Wicklow’s compound backup approach was vital. If a passing dog--as was so often the case--blundered across the “set” and straight through a holographic figure, then security would be instantly alerted and they would pounce. Whenever a cover was blown, by whatever cause, the backup was a device that, when thrown, blew out all electromagnetic systems within fifty yards, creating a blind window through which an agent could slip in and out to freedom. Use of it was not recommended, for the blind spot showed on the screens and aroused suspicion.

A third backup was perhaps the most desperate--SR, or Strategic Retreat. Agents carried a tiny quark-propulsion unit. It was large enough, however, to thrust a person all the way to the galleries of a Geo-Dome, for example, and then it would quit. Once in the galleries, an agent could strip down to street clothing, and blend instantly into the crowds. The SR was a last resort. Human bodies are not aerodynamically designed, and the aim of a quark-propelled agent was usually less than to be desired. Being blasted out of a cannon at the moon was roughly equivalent.

As it happened, Red Bladed II never had to use SR. The holographic decoy worked just fine, as the security supervisor for that sector happened to be on coffee break at the time and the people at the monitors didn’t catch the hoax until it was a minute too late to do anything. Unmindful of the success of the operation, the I.R.A. chief was inconsolable. “Couldn’t stop him!” Nilsson moaned over and over on way to the aerobridge terminal that shuttled hovercraft to major cities at near sonic speeds. “It’s impossible!”

Five minutes later, he was still moaning in the seat beside his new driver when the car was rocketing through the enclosed tube to the exit at s’ Gravenhauge. They pulled off the aerobridge into the garage and had only just parked when some young people, partying in adjacent intrarurban vans, got out and crowded round them.

“We’re taking him,” one whispered to Red-Bladed’s sister. “We know who you are, Bat Girl, so be careful on your way back.” “I’m not returning, I’m staying with him!” she whispered right back. “He’s given up!”

The partying still going on around the comatose and wounded Nilsson, someone else wanted to know why they should include her. But the decision was soon made and she was soon on her way, with a young man from the group going with her, his arm conspicuously across her shoulder as he continued to party with an empty bottle.

In the following weeks Nilsson slowly revived from the worst setback he had ever experienced in life. It helped that he had work to do beyond his legal duties. He tried to trace the leak that had cost him Chillingsworth’s coronation. He finally narrowed it down, but it cost him much pain to act on it.

Mrs. van de Geroot looked at him with mild surprise when he brought up the subject.

“Wolfreda! You were such an inspiration to me. I cannot count the times you helped me to go on with this work. I still can hardly believe it is you!”

She simply stared at him, so he went on.

“We can force an explanation, but I’d prefer it was voluntary. “

She remained silent.

Nilsson got up from his desk and went to the drawn curtains. He turned back around. His look was sorrowful. “You aided an enemy of your own people! For that you deserve to fall into their hands. I have Friesians, loyal Friesians, in my organization, and they will be very upset to learn you are the cause of the execution of so many of us lately. And because of you the Hall of Mirrors was not blown up as we had planned. You are the main reason why Chillingsworth is now world emperor! Only you could have sent them word on the date and how we planned to do it. I was naive! Fatally naive! I should never, never believe people’s words, only their acts!”

Nilsson went to his desk and pressed a button. A cockaded court page marched in, conferred with him in whispers, clicked his heels, then left. A short time later several middle-aged women came, looking like Dutch matrons dressed to go shopping, to escort Geroot from Nilssons’ chambers to a suitable canal for her “accident”--a plunge through the ice in her car. “I’m extremely sorry for you, Wolfreda, but you brought this upon yourself,” said Nilsson, the ghost of his former charming smile softening his grim-lipped features.

The fatal moment converging on her, the woman’s face went a ghastly green. “No, Honorable Doctor! It’s a filthy, stinking lie what they told you! I am not your betrayer! I’m innocent of any wrong-doing. Look closer than this office! I wasn’t the only one near to you who knew your plans.”

“Take her,” muttered Nilsson, looking away.

“You’re bedding with a traitoress!” hissed the woman as she was removed. “She accused me to save her own filthy skin! That’s the kind of snake you’ve chosen as your wife!”

They did as directed, and he was left alone. A damp chill, despite the heavy window curtains, seemed to have got in. After sneezing and a good blow of his nose, he paced up and down. Finally, he sighed as he looked at a gold-framed picture on his desk. He examined the good-looking woman, and it was clear even in her best clothes, with her hair done by a fine couterier, that she was not particularly beautiful, not overly bright. “Ditti a fifth columnist, a quisling? “ It didn’t seem at all plausible. She just wasn’t the type to take up causes. That was the problem with her.

He slowly shook his head. He knew Wolfreda was just trying to shift blame. The guilty always did that--maliciously wishing to spread their own, well-deserved punishment to the innocent. He had seen that kind--in his line of work--often enough. What else could a trapped rat do? Yet, later, he had to acknowledge to himself he was chiefly responsible. He had trusted Mrs. van Geroot, when there was no base of his trust other than simple human sentiment. His own feelings had betrayed h im and a thousand valuable co-workers into Chillingsworth’s hands. No, he decided, it wasn’t really her fault. He bore the blame--and it was terrible. Terrible!

He felt a little better, however, when information came him that a final, forced confession had produced a few items of interest. Wolfreda was Sudeten German in extraction, not Friesian, though she and her husband had lived and farmed for years in Tershelling. And she had betrayed him not for philosophical considerations. Chillingsworth paid big money in advance to all informers. In fact, if Nilsson informed on himself he could make himself, temporarily, a very rich man.

That much money was nothing to sneeze at. Nilsson’s organization could always use more money. Government research grants--until security monitoring cut them off--were a prime source. Even Wolfreda’s tainted assets were fingered. Transferred to a Swiss bank account, they vanished into yet another account for eventual electronic laundering. The moment the money was clean, it shot directly into the organization’s secret coffers, earning interest from the world government bank but eluding its monitors.

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