Not This August

Not This August by C.M. Kornbluth Read Free Book Online

Book: Not This August by C.M. Kornbluth Read Free Book Online
Authors: C.M. Kornbluth
Tags: Science-Fiction
‘No’ is sufficient. Sign here, please.” He held out one of the papers, his finger indicating the space. Justin read; it was simply a repeat of the statement that he did not have any fissionable materials in his possession. He signed with the lieutenant’s pen.
    “Thank you. Do you know of any fissionable material that is held by any private parties? Sign here. Thank you. Would you recognize fissionable material if you saw it?”
    “I don’t think so, Lieutenant.”
    “Very well then. Please pay attention. Refined uranium, thorium, and plutonium look like lead, but are heavier. A spherical piece of uranium weighing fifty pounds, for instance, would be no larger than a soft ball. Please sign here—it is a simple statement that I have described the appearance of fissionable materials to you. Thank you. Now, would you recognize the components of an atomic bomb if you saw them?”
    “No!”
    “Very well then. Please pay attention. An atomic bomb is simply a fifty-pound mass of plutonium or uranium-235. Before exploding it consists of two or more pieces. These pieces are slammed together fast and the bomb then explodes. The slamming can be done by placing two pieces at opposite ends of a gun barrel and then blowing them together so they meet in the middle. Or it can be done by placing several chunks of plutonium on the inside of a sphere and then exploding what are called ‘shaped charges’ so the chunks are driven together into one mass and the atomic bomb proper explodes. Do you understand? Then sign here.
    “Now, our Military Intelligence people would like you to swear or affirm that you will immediately report any evidence of fissionable material or atomic-bomb parts in private hands which you may encounter. Do you so swear?”
    “I do,” Justin said automatically. Zoloty had for a moment grinned wryly—and there had been a sardonic inflection on “Military Intelligence .” Hell, no doubt about it—all armies were pretty much alike. Here these two serious people were going about the serious business of stabilizing the country’s food supply and some brass hat got a bright idea; saddle them with another job, even if it’s a crackpot search for A-bombs in Chiunga County.
    He signed. Zoloty handed over a poster, a hastily printed job with hastily drawn line cuts. “Please put this up somewhere in your house, Mr. Justin, and that will be that. Good afternoon.”
    He spoke to the captain in Russian, the captain spoke to the chauffeur, and away they drove.
    Justin studied the poster; it conveyed the same information Zoloty had given him. Atomic bombs! He snorted and went back to his fence mending.
    Yes, it seemed the Reds were determined to be firm but fair. Betsy told him there had been a near rape in Chiunga Center one night last week. By the next morning the attacker had been tried, found guilty, and shot against the handball court of the junior high school—a beetle-browed corporal from some eastern province of the U.S.S.R. It hadn’t healed the girl, but at least it showed that the Reds were being mighty touchy about their honor.
    He chuckled suddenly. Without recording the fact he had noticed that all four of the soldiers in the jeep had wrist watches, good, big chronometer jobs, identical government issue. So the Russians were still sore about their reputation as snatchers of watches, and had taken the one measure that would keep their troops from living up to it: giving them all the watches they could use.
    Betsy said she and most of the people in the Center were pleasantly surprised. She, in fact, wished that her father hadn’t run away. Nobody had even been around asking about him, National Committeeman though he was, yet he was hiding out now in some Canadian muskeg living on canned soup and possibly moose meat—though Betsy doubted that old T. C. was capable of bringing down a moose. She hoped he would drift back when the word got to him that the red-star boys’ ferocity had been greatly

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