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Показать все книги автора/авторов: Lord Jeffrey

«The Jade Warrior», Jeffrey Lord

Chapter One

J thought, privately, that if war was too serious a business to be entrusted to the generals, then the future of world civilization - and especially England's part in it - was much too important to be entrusted to scientists. J kept his thoughts to himself.

He was an important man in his own right. As head man of M16A he was in charge of a very special branch of the Special Branch. But at the moment he was very much a third wheel at the party. He walked about the rose garden of the magnificent old mansion in Sussex and smoked his fine cigar - which he did not really care for - and sipped at the very expensive scotch - which he did like.

J was a pragmatic man, and he did not much like it when people talked above his head. Not that it was the fault of the other two men. It was his, J's, fault. He simply did not know anything about quarks and molecular reassembly. And he was worried about Richard Blade. They were getting ready to put his boy through the computer again. To send his best agent, and his good young friend, through the dimensional rift.

J did not like it. He had not liked it the first time, either, when Lord Leighton's giant computer had erred and sent Blade spinning into the X-Dimension of Alb. That had been an accident, a mistake, and they had very nearly lost Blade forever.

The three men reached the end of the rose garden and stood smoking and gazing over a box hedge at the river glinting in the moonlight. A swan slept nearby, its head tucked under its wing, and J thought of a glass swan he had had as a boy and had kept on a round mirror in his room in Dorset.

Dorset! J wished he had not thought of it. Dick Blade was in Dorset at this moment. Probably lying in the sweet smelling thyme near the Channel and making love to his Zoe.

And soon, very soon now, J would have to set the phone to shrilling in the little cottage nearby. He hated to make that phone call.

"J," said Lord Leighton, "are you moonstruck, man? I've spoken to you three times. Come, we're going back to the house for a brandy or two. Then I'll make that phone call to Downing Street for final confirmation and you can get on to Blade. Get him up to London first thing in the morning. No use wasting time now that everything is set up."

J nodded and dumped cigar ash on his dress shirt. "Yes, Lord L. Of course. We may as well get on with it." Ordinarily he would have been a bit more tart with His Lordship and would have called him simply Leighton, not Lord L. But the presence of the third man was inhibiting. Mr. Newton Anthony was not only almost as big a boffin as Leighton himself - and Leighton was the greatest scientific brain in England - but Mr. Newton Anthony had some mysterious connection with one of the Treasury Commissions. He had procured the money that was going to propel Blade from the computer.

Mr. Newton Anthony had a very fat backside. As they went up the graveled path, J restrained an impulse to kick it. He sighed. After all it was for England. But why must it always be Blade, a boy who was so nearly like a son to him. Blade was actually thirty, but J always thought of him as a boy. J was himself sixty.

He knew very well why it must always be Blade. Because Richard Blade was the best, the most nearly perfect physical and mental specimen that they had been able to find. Out of a million files the personnel computers kicked Blade's card out every time. There were times, J thought gloomily, when perfection was a curse. Not that Dick was perfect, of course. He was stubborn as hell and he had a murderous temper. And he liked the ladies just a little too well.

Ahead of him Mr. Newton Anthony was waxing philosophical.

"Solipsism," to me, "has never seemed a tenable position."

"Tempting, yes. Oh, indeed yes. Very tempting. But the theory that the self is the only existent thing is not tenable. Why, it's very near to blasphemy. Rather like saying that the whole world, and God, dies when a single man dies."

J, following along, saw one of the security guards near a hedge. The man watched them, recognized them, then retreated into the shadows. J smiled to himself. Someone had to take care of the practical things. He had a hundred men around the place.

Leighton's unction, as he answered, made J a little ill. The old man was actually clinging to the fat fool's arm, as much as hanging on every word. J, who knew the old scientist well and liked him in spite of all their differences, knew what the effort must have cost him. Lord L had more brains in his poor wracked hump than Mr. Newton Anthony had in his whole fat head. Not that the man was really a fool, of course. He was one of the big boffins. But need he be such a pompous bastard?

But as they entered the house and made their way into a great high-ceilinged study where a discreet servant waited, Mr. Newton Anthony made rather a good point. J, who was a fair man, had to acknowledge it.

"And yet this Richard Blade, when you have altered the molecular structure of his brain with the computer, and sent him into the new dimension, will be a viable example of solipsism. He will contain an entire new world, or even a cosmos, in himself. In relation to ourselves back in this dimension, of course. It will be most interesting to see, Lord Leighton, just how your experiments with the chronos computer and the memory-expanding drug have worked out. And I will admit that I have not yet quite grasped the theory. You people are so damned secretive, you know."

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