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3 In the Zone

Toto, I have a feeling we're not in Kansas any more. . . .

!dorothy, arriving in Oz

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we are safely past the days of the Eis-Heiligen!St. Pancratius, St. Servatius, St. Bonifacius, die kalte Sophie . . . they hover in clouds above the vineyards, holy beings of ice, ready with a breath, an intention, to ruin the year with frost and cold. In certain years, especially War years, they are short on charity, peevish, smug in their power: not quite saintly or even Christian. The prayers of growers, pickers and wine enthusiasts must reach them, but there's no telling how the ice-saints feel!coarse laughter, pagan annoyance, who understands this rear-guard who preserve winter against the revolutionaries of May?

They found the countryside, this year, at peace by a scant few days. Already vines are beginning to grow back over dragon's teeth, fallen Stukas, burned tanks. The sun warms the hillsides, the rivers fall bright as wine. The saints have refrained. Nights have been mild. The frost didn't come. It is the spring of peace. The vintage, God granting at least a hundred days of sun, will be fine.

Nordhausen puts less credence in the ice-saints than do wine regions farther south, but even here the season looks promising. Rain blows scattering out over the town as Slothrop comes in in the early morning, bare feet, blistering and reblistering, cooled here in the wet grass. There's sunlight up on the mountains. His shoes got lifted by some DP with fingers lighter than dreams, on one of the many trains since the Swiss border, someplace rolling across Bavaria fast asleep. Whoever it was left a red tulip between Slothrop's toes. He has taken it for a sign. A reminder of Katje.

Signs will find him here in the Zone, and ancestors will reassert themselves. It's like going to that Darkest Africa to study the natives there, and finding their quaint superstitions taking you over. In fact, funny thing, Slothrop just the other night ran into an African, the first one he ever met in his life. Their discussion on top of the freight car in the moonlight lasted only a minute or two. Small talk for the sudden background departure of Major Duane Marvy over the side bounce-clatter down the cobbled fill into the valley!well, certainly nothing was said then of any Herero beliefs about ancestors. Yet he feels his own, stronger now as borders fall away and the Zone envelops him, his own WASPs in buckled black, who heard God clamoring to them in every turn of a leaf or cow loose among apple orchards in autumn. . . .

Signs of Katje, and doubles too. One night he sat in a children's play house on an abandoned estate, feeding a fire from the hair of a blonde doll with lapis lazuli eyes. He kept those eyes. A few days later he traded them for a ride and half a boiled potato. Dogs barked far away, summerwind blew in the birches. He was on one of the main ar-terials of the spring's last dissolution and retreat. Somewhere nearby, one of Major-General Kammler's rocket units had together found corporate death, leaving in their crippled military rage pieces, modules, airframe sections, batteries rotting, paper secrets rained back into slurry. Slothrop follows. Any clue's good enough to hop a train for. . . .

The doll's hair was human. The smell of it burning is horrible. Slothrop hears movement from the other side of the fire. A ratcheting noise!he grabs his blanket, ready to vault away out the empty window frame, expecting a grenade. Instead one of these little brightly painted German toys, an orangutan on wheels comes ki-ki-ki-ing into the firelight, spastic, head lolling, face in an idiot's grin, steel knuckles scraping the floor. It rolls nearly into the fire before the clockwork runs down, the wagging head coming to dead center to stare at Slothrop.

He feeds the fire another tuft of golden hair. "Evening."

Laughter, somewhere. A child. But old laughter.

"Come on out, I'm harmless."

The ape is followed by a tiny black crow with a red beak, also on wheels, hopping, cawing, flapping metal wings.

"Why are you burning my doll's hair?"

"Well, it's not her own hair, you know."

"Father said it belonged to a Russian Jewess."

"Why don't you come in to the fire?"

"Hurts my eyes." Winding again. Nothing moves. But a music box begins to play. The tune is minor and precise. "Dance with me."

"I can't see you."

"Here." Out of the fire's pale, a tiny frost-flower. He reaches and just manages to find her hand, to grasp her little waist. They begin their stately dance. He can't even tell if he's leading.

He never saw her face. She felt like voile and organdy.

"Nice dress."

"I wore it for my first communion." The fire died presently, leaving starlight and a faint glow over some town to the east, through windows whose panes were all gone. The music box still played, beyond the running time, it seemed, of an ordinary spring. Their feet moved over clouded, crumbled old glass, torn silks, bones of dead rabbits and kittens. The geometrical path took them among ballooning, ripped arrases, smelling of dust and an older bestiary than the one by the fire . . . unicorns, chimaeras . . . and what had he seen festooning the child-sized entranceway? Garlic bulbs? Wait!weren't they to keep away vampires? A faint garlic smell reached him exactly then, an inbreaking of Balkan blood on the air of his north, as he turned back to her to ask if she really was Katje, the lovely little Queen of Transylvania. But the music had run down. She had vaporized from his arms.

Well here he is skidded out onto the Zone like a planchette on a Ouija board, and what shows up inside the empty circle in his brain might string together into a message, might not, he'll just have to see. But he can feel a sensitive's fingers, resting lightly but sure on his days, and he thinks of them as Katje's.

He's still Ian Scuffling, war (peace?) correspondent, though back in British uniform these days, with plenty of time on these trains to hash over in his mind the information Mario Schweitar bootlegged for him back there in Zurich. There is a fat file on Imipolex G, and it seems to point to Nordhausen. The engineer on the customer end of the Imipolex contract was one Franz Polder. He came to Nordhausen in early '44, as the rocket was going into mass production. He was billeted in the Mittelwerke, an underground factory complex run largely by the SS. No word on where he went when the plant was evacuated in February and March. But Ian Scuffling, ace reporter, will be sure to find a clue down in the Mittelwerke.

Slothrop sat in the swaying car with thirty other cold and tattered souls, eyes all pupil, lips cratered with sores. They were singing, some of them. A lot of them kids. It is a Displaced Person's song, and

Slothrop will hear it often around the Zone, in the encampments, out on the road, in a dozen variations:

If you see a train this evening, Far away against the sky, Lie down in your wooden blanket, Sleep, and let the train go by.

Trains have called us, every midnight, From a thousand miles away, Trains that pass through empty cities, Trains that have no place to stay.

No one drives the locomotive, No one tends the staring light, Trains have never needed riders, Trains belong to bitter night.

Railway stations stand deserted, Rights-of-way lie clear and cold: What we left them, trains inherit, Trains go on, and we grow old.

Let them cry like cheated lovers, Let their cries find only wind. Trains are meant for night and ruin. We are meant for song, and sin.

Pipes are passing around. Smoke hangs from the damp wood slats, is whipped out cracks into the night slipstream. Children wheeze in their sleep, the rachitic babies cry . . . now and then the mothers exchange a word. Slothrop huddles inside his paper misfortune.

The Swiss firm's dossier on L. (for Laszlo) Jamf listed all his assets at the time he came to work in Zurich. Apparently he had sat!as token scientist!on the board of directors of the Grössli Chemical Corporation as late as 1924. Among stock options and pieces of this firm and that back in Germany!pieces to be gathered in over the next year or two by the octopus IG!was the record of a transaction between Jamf and Mr. Lyle Bland, of Boston, Massachusetts.

On the beam, Jackson. Lyle Bland is a name he knows, all right. And a name that also shows up often in the private records Jamf kept of his own Business deals. Seems that Bland, during the early twenties, was heavily involved with the Hugo Stinnes operation in Germany. Stinnes, while he lasted, was the Wunderkind of European finance.

Based out of the Ruhr, where his family had been coal barons for generations, young Stinnes built up a good-sized empire of steel, gas, electric and water power, streetcars and barge lines before he was 30. During the World War he worked closely with Walter Rathenau, who was ramrodding the whole economy then. After the war Stinnes managed to put the horizontal electrical trust of Siemens-Schuchert together with the coal and iron supplies of the Rheinelbe Union into a super-cartel that was both horizontal and vertical, and to buy into just about everything else!shipyards, steamship lines, hotels, restaurants, forests, pulp mills, newspapers!meantime also speculating in currency, buying foreign money with marks borrowed from the Reichs-bank, driving the mark down and then paying off the loans at a fraction of the original figure. More than any one financier he was blamed for the Inflation. Those were the days when you carried marks around in wheelbarrows to your daily shopping and used them for toilet paper, assuming you had anything to shit. Stinnes's foreign connections went all over the world!Brazil, the East Indies, the United States!Businessmen like Lyle Bland found his growth rate irresistible. The theory going around at the time was that Stinnes was conspiring with Krupp, Thyssen, and others to ruin the mark and so get Germany out of paying her war debts.

Eland's connection was vague. Jamf's records mention that he had negotiated contracts for supplying tons of private currency known as Notgeld to Stinnes and colleagues, as well as "Mefo bills" to the Weimar Republic!another of Hjalmar Schacht's many bookkeeping dodges to keep official records clear of any hint of weapons procurement banned under the terms of Versailles. Some of these banknote contracts were let to a certain Massachusetts paper mill, on whose board Lyle Bland happened to sit.

The name of this contractor was the Slothrop Paper Company.

He reads his name without that much surprise. It belongs here, as do the most minor details during d└j┐ vu. Instead of any sudden incidence of light (even in the shape of a human being: golden and monitory light), as he stares at these eight ink marks, there passes a disagreeable stomach episode, a dread tangible as vomit beginning to assert itself!the same vertigo that overtook him one day long ago in the Himmler-Spielsaal. A gasbag surrounds his head, rubbery, vast, pushing in from all sides, that feeling we know, yes, but. . . He is also getting a hardon, for no immediate reason. And there's that smell again, a smell from before his conscious memory begins, a soft and chemical smell, threatening, haunting, not a smell to be found out in

the world!it is the breath of the Forbidden Wing . . . essence of all the still figures waiting for him inside, daring him to enter and find a secret he cannot survive.

Once something was done to him, in a room, while he lay helpless. . . .

His erection hums from a certain distance, like an instrument installed, wired by Them into his body as a colonial outpost here in our raw and clamorous world, another office representing Their white Metropolis far away. . . .

A sad story, all right. Slothrop, very nervous by now, reads on. Lyle Bland, eh? Well, sure, that fits. He can recall dimly once or twice having seen Uncle Lyle. The man used to come to visit his father, affable, fair-haired, a hustler in the regional Jim Fisk style. Bland was always picking young Tyrone up and swinging him around by his feet. That was O.K.!Slothrop had no special commitment at the time to right side up.

From what it sez here, Bland either saw the Stinnes crash coming before most of its other victims, or was just naturally nervous. Early in '23 he began to sell off his interests in the Stinnes operations. One of these sales was made through Laszlo Jamf to the Grössli Chemical Corporation (later Psychochemie AG). One of the assets transferred in this sale was "all interest in Schwarzknabe enterprise. Seller agrees to continue surveillance duties until such time as Schwindel operative can be relieved by purchaser equivalent, acceptability to be determined by seller."

Jamf's codebook happens to be in the dossier. Part of the man's personality structure, after all. "Schwindel" was his code name for Hugo Stinnes. Clever sense of humor, the old fart. Across from "Schwarzknabe," now, are the initials "T.S."

Well, holy cow, Slothrop reckons, that must be me, huh. Barring the outside possibility of Tough Shit.

Listed as a "Schwarzknabe" liability is the unpaid remainder of a bill to Harvard University, about $5000 worth including the interest, "as per agreement (oral) with Schwarzvater."

"Schwarzvater" is the code word for "B.S." Which, barring the outside possibility of Bull Shit, seems to be Slothrop's own father, Broderick. Blackfather Slothrop.

Nice way to find out your father made a deal 20 years ago with

somebody to spring for your education. Come to think of it, Slothrop

never could quite put the announcements, all through the Depression, of imminent family ruin, together with the comfort he enjoyed at

Harvard. Well, now, what was the deal between his father and Bland? I've been sold, Jesus Christ I've been sold to IG Farben like a side of beef. Surveillance? Stinnes, like every industrial emperor, had his own company spy system. So did the IG. Does this mean Slothrop has been under their observation!m-maybe since he was born? Yaahhh ...

The fear balloons again inside his brain. It will not be kept down with a simple Fuck You. ... A smell, a forbidden room, at the bottom edge of his memory. He can't see it, can't make it out. Doesn't want to. It is allied with the Worst Thing.

He knows what the smell has to be: though according to these papers it would have been too early for it, though he has never come across any of the stuff among the daytime coordinates of his life, still, down here, back here in the warm dark, among early shapes where the clocks and calendars don't mean too much, he knows that what's haunting him now will prove to be the smell of Imipolex G.

Then there's this recent dream he is afraid of having again. He was in his old room, back Home. A summer afternoon of lilacs and bees, and warm air through an open window. Slothrop had found a very old dictionary of technical German. It fell open to a certain page prickling with black-face type. Reading down the page, he would come to JAMF. The definition would read: I. He woke begging It no!but even after waking, he was sure, he would remain sure, that It could visit him again, any time It wanted. Perhaps you know that dream too. Perhaps It has warned you never to speak Its name. If so, you know about how Slothrop'll be feeling now.

What he does is lurch to his feet, over to the door of the freight car, which is going up a grade. He drags open the door, slips out!action, action!and mounts a ladder to the roof. A foot from his face, this double row of shiny bright teeth hangs in the air. Just what he needs. It is Major Marvy of U.S. Army Ordnance, leader of Marvy's Mothers, the meanest-ass technical intelligence team in this whole fuckin' Zone, mister. Slothrop can call him Duane, if he wants. "Boogie, boogie, boogie! Catch all 'em jungle bunnies back 'ere in 'at next car! Sheee-oo!"

"Wait a minute," sez Slothrop, "I think I've been asleep or something." His feet are cold. This Marvy is really fat. Pants bloused into shiny combat boots, roll of fat hanging over a web belt where he keeps his sunglasses and .45, hornrims, hair slicked back, eyes like safety valves that pop out at you whenever!as now!the pressure in his head gets too high.

Marvy hitched a lift on a P-47 from Paris far as Kassel, got coupled

onto this train here west of Heiligenstadt. He's headed for the Mittel-werke, like Ian Scuffling. Needs to coordinate with some Project Hermes people from General Electric. Sure makes him nervous, those niggers next door. "Hey, ought to be a good story for you people. Warn the folks back Home."

"Are they GIs?"

"Shit no. Kraut. South-West African. Something. You mean you don't know about that? Come on. Aw. Limey intelligence sure ain't too intelligent, hahah, no offense understand. I thought the whole world knew." Follows a lurid tale!which sounds like something SHAEF made up, Goebbels's less than giddy imagination reaching no further than Alpine Redoubts and such!of Hitler's scheme for setting up a Nazi empire in black Africa, which fell through after Old Blood 'n' Guts handed Rommel's ass to him in the desert. " 'Here's yer ass, General.' 'Ach du lieber! Mein Arsch! YAH!hahaha . . .' " clutching comically at the seat of his own large trousers. Well, the black cadres had no more future in Africa, stayed on in Germany as governments-in-exile without even official recognition, drifted somehow into the ordnance branch of the German Army, and pretty soon learned how to be rocket technicians. Now they were just running loose. Wild. Haven't been interned as P/Ws, far as Many knows they haven't even been disarmed. "Not enough we have to worry about Russkys, frogs, limeys!hey, beg pardon, buddy. Now we got not just niggers you see, but kraut niggers. Well, Jesus. V-E Day just about everyplace you had a rocket, you had you a nigger. Never any all-boogie batteries, understand. Even the krauts couldn't be that daffy! One battery, that's 81 men, plus all your support, your launch-control, power, propellants, your surveying!champ, that'd sure be one heap o' niggers all in one place. But are they still all scattered out, like they were? You find out, you got you a scoop, friend. Cause if they're gettin' together now, oh dat's bi-i-i-g trouble! There's at least two dozen in that car!right down there, look. A-and they're headin' for Nordhausen, pal!" a fat finger-poke in the chest with each word, "hah? Whatcha think they have in mind? You know what I think? They have a plan. Yeah. I think it's rockets. Don't ask me how, it's just something I feel here, in m'heart. A-and you know, that's awful dangerous. You can't trust them! With rockets? They're a childlike race. Brains are smaller."

"But our patience," suggests a calm voice now out of the darkness, "our patience is enormous, though perhaps not unlimited." So saying, a tall African with a full imperial beard steps up grabs the fat American, who has time to utter one short yell before being flung bodily over the side. Slothrop and the African watch the Major bounce down the embankment behind them, arms and legs flying, out of sight. Firs crowd the hills. A crescent moon has risen over one ragged crest.

The man introduces himself in English, as Oberst Enzian, of the Schwarzkommando. He apologizes for his show of temper, notes Slothrop's armband, declines an interview before Slothrop can get in a word. "There's no story. We're DPs, like everybody else."

"The Major seemed worried that you're headed for Nordhausen."

"Many is going to be an annoyance, I can tell. Still, he doesn't pose as much of a problem as!" He peers at Slothrop. "Hmm. Are you really a war correspondent?"

"No."

"A free agent, I'd guess."

"Don't know about that'free,'Oberst."

"But you are free. We all are. You'll see. Before long." He steps away down the spine of the freighttop, waving a beckoning German good-by. "Before long. ..."

Slothrop sits on the rooftop, rubbing his bare feet. A friend? A good omen? Black rocket troops? What bizarre shit?

Well good mornin' gang, let's start it

Off with a bang, so long to

Double-u Double-u Two-o-o-o!

Now the fightin's over and we're all in clover

And I'm here ta bring sunshine to you!

Hey there Herman the German, stop yer fussin'

and squirmin',

Don'tcha know you're goin' Home ta stay! No, there's never a frown, here in Rocket,

Sock-it Town,

Where ev'ry day's a beautiful day! (Quit kvetchin', Gretchen!) Go on and have a beautiful daa-aay!

Nordhausen in the morning: the lea is a green salad, crisp with raindrops. Everything is fresh, washed. The Harz hump up all around, dark slopes bearded to the tops with spruce, fir and larch. High-gabled houses, sheets of water reflecting the sky, muddy streets, American and Russian GIs pouring in and out the doors of the taverns and makeshift PXs, everybody packing a sidearm. Meadows and logged-off wedges up on the mountainsides flow with mottled light as rainclouds blow away over Thuringia. Castles perch high over the town, sailing in and out of torn clouds. Old horses with smudged knobby knees, short-legged and big-chested, pull wagonloads of barrels, necks straining at twin collars chained together, heavy horseshoes sending mudflowers at each wet clop, down from the vineyards to the taverns.

Slothrop wanders into a roofless part of town. Old people in black are bat-flittering among the walls. Shops and dwellings here are all long-looted by the slave laborers liberated from the Dora camp. Lotta those fags still around, with baskets and 175 badges out on display, staring moistly from doorways. From the glassless bay window of a dress shop, in the dimness behind a plaster dummy lying bald and sprawled, arms raised to sky, hands curved for bouquets or cocktail glasses they'll never hold again, Slothrop hears a girl singing. Accompanying herself on a balalaika. One of those sad little Parisian-sounding tunes in 3/4:

Love never goes away, Never completely dies, Always some souvenir

Takes us by sad surprise.

You went away from me, One rose was left behind! Pressed in my Book of Hours, That is the rose I find. . . .

Though it's another year, Though it's another me, Under the rose is a drying tear, Under my linden tree. . . .

Love never goes away, Not if it's really true, It can return, by night, by day, Tender and green and new As the leaves from a linden tree, love, that I left with you.

Her name turns out to be Geli Tripping, and the balalaika belongs to a Soviet intelligence officer named Tchitcherine. In a way, Geli does too!part-time, anyhow. Seems this Tchitcherine maintains a harem, a girl in every rocket-town in the Zone. Yup, another rocket maniac. Slothrop feels like a tourist.

Geli talks about her young man. They sit in her roofless room

drinking a pale wine known hereabouts as Nordhäuser Schattensaft. Overhead, black birds with yellow beaks lace the sky, looping in the sunlight from their nests up in the mountain castles and down in the city ruins. Far away, perhaps in the marketplace, a truck convoy is idling all its engines, the smell of exhaust washing over the maze of walls, where moss creeps, water oozes, roaches seek purchase, walls that baffle the motor sound so that it seems to come in from all directions.

She's thin, a bit awkward, very young. Nowhere in her eyes is there any sign of corrosion!she might have spent all her War roofed and secure, tranquil, playing with small forest animals in a rear area someplace. Her song, she admits, sighing, is mostly wishful thinking. "When he's away, he's away. When you came in I almost thought you were Tchitcherine."

"Nope. Just a hard-working newshound, is all. No rockets, no harems."

"It's an arrangement," she tells him. "It's so unorganized out here. There have to be arrangements. You'll find out." Indeed he will!he'll find thousands of arrangements, for warmth, love, food, simple movement along roads, tracks and canals. Even G-5, living its fantasy of being the only government in Germany now, is just the arrangement for being victorious, is all. No more or less real than all these others so private, silent, and lost to History. Slothrop, though he doesn't know it yet, is as properly constituted a state as any other in the Zone these days. Not paranoia. Just how it is. Temporary alliances, knit and undone. He and Geli reach their arrangement hidden from the occupied streets by remnants of walls, in an old fourposter bed facing a dark pier glass. Out the roof that isn't there he can see a long tree-covered mountain ascending. Wine on her breath, nests of down in the hollows of her arms, thighs with the spring of saplings in wind. He's barely inside her before she comes, a fantasy about Tchitcherine in progress, clear and touchingly, across her face. This irritates Slothrop, but doesn't keep him from coming himself.

The foolishness begins immediately on detumescence, amusing questions like, what kind of word has gone out to keep everybody away from Geli but me? Or, is it that something about me reminds her of Tchitcherine, and if so, what? And, say, where's that Tchitcherine right now? He dozes off, is roused by her lips, fingers, dewy legs sliding along his. The sun jumps across their section of sky, gets eclipsed by a breast, is reflected out of her child's eyes . . . then clouds, rain for which she puts up a green tarp with tassels she's sewn on, canopy style

. . . rain sluices down off the tassels, cold and loud. Night. She feeds him boiled cabbage with an old heirloom of a spoon with a crest on it. They drink more of that wine. Shadows are soft verdigris. The rain has stopped. Somewhere kids go booting an empty gas can over the cobblestones.

Something comes flapping in out of the sky: talons scrabble along the top of the canopy. "What's that?" half awake and she's got the covers again, c'mon Geli. . . .

"My owl," sez Geli. "Wernher. There's a candy bar in the top drawer of the chiffonier, Liebchen, would you mind feeding him?"

Liebchen indeed. Staggering off the bed, vertical for the first time all day, Slothrop removes a Baby Ruth from its wrapper, clears his throat, decides not to ask her how she came by it because he knows, and lobs the thing up on the canopy for that Wernher. Soon, lying together again, they hear peanuts crunching, and a clacking beak.

"Candy bars," Slothrop grouches. "What's the matter with him? Don't you know he's supposed to be out foraging, for live mice or some shit? You've turned him into a house owl."

"You're pretty lazy yourself." Baby fingers creeping down along his ribs.

"Well!I bet!cut it out!I bet that Tchitcherine doesn't have to get up and feed that owl."

She cools, the hand stopping where it is. "He loves Tchitcherine. He never comes to be fed, unless Tchitcherine's here."

Slothrop's turn to cool. More correctly, freeze. "Uh, but, you don't mean that Tchitcherine is actually, uh . . ."

"He was supposed to be," sighing.

"Oh. When?"

"This morning. He's late. It happens."

Slothrop's off the bed halfway across the room with a softoff, one sock on and the other in his teeth, head through one armhole of his undershirt, fly zipper jammed, yelling shit.

"My brave Englishman," she drawls.

"Why didn't you bring this up earlier, Geli, huh?"

"Oh, come back. It's nighttime, he's with a woman someplace. He can't sleep alone."

"I hope you can."

"Hush. Come here. You can't go out with nothing on your feet. I'll give you a pair of his old boots and tell you all his secrets."

"Secrets?" Look out, Slothrop. "Why should I want to know!"

"You're not a war correspondent."

"Why does everybody keep saying that? Nobody believes me. Of course I'm a war correspondent." Shaking the brassard at her. "Can't you read? Sez 'War Correspondent.' I even have a mustache, here, don't I? Just like that Ernest Hemingway."

"Oh. Then I imagine you wouldn't be looking for Rocket Number 00000 after all. It was just a silly idea I had. I'm sorry."

Oh boy, am I gonna get out of here, sez Slothrop to himself, this is a badger game if I ever saw one, man. Who else would be interested in the one rocket out of 6000 that carried the Imipolex G device?

"And you couldn't care less about the Schwarzgerät, either," she keeps on. She keeps on.

"The what?"

"They also called it S-Gerät."

Next higher assembly, Slothrop, remember? Wernher, up on the canopy, is hooting. A signal to that Tchitcherine, no doubt.

Paranoids are not paranoids (Proverb 5) because they're paranoid, but because they keep putting themselves, fucking idiots, deliberately into paranoid situations.

"Now how on earth," elaborately uncorking a fresh bottle of Nordhäuser Schattensaft, thoppp, best Gary Grant imitation he can summon up with bowels so echoing tight, suavely refilling glasses, handing one to her, "would a sweet, young, thing, like you, know anything, about rocket, hahd-weah?"

"I read Vaslav's mail," as if it's a dumb question, which it is.

"You shouldn't be blabbing to random strangers like this. If he finds out, he'll murder you."

"I like you. I like intrigue. I like playing."

"Maybe you like to get people in trouble."

"All right." Out with the lower lip.

"O.K., O.K., tell me about it. But I don't know if the Guardian will even be interested. My editors are a rather stuffy lot, you know."

Goose bumps crowd her bare little breasts. "I posed once for a rocket insignia. Perhaps you've seen it. A pretty young witch straddling an A4. Carrying her obsolete broom over her shoulder. I was voted the Sweetheart of 3/Art. Abt. (mot) 485."

"Are you a real witch?"

"I think I have tendencies. Have you been up to the Brocken yet?"

"Just hit town, actually."

"I've been up there every Walpurgisnacht since I had my first period. I'll take you, if you like."

"Tell me about this, this 'Schwarzgerät.' "

"I thought you weren't interested."

"How can I know if I'm interested or not if I don't even know what I'm supposed or not supposed to be interested in?"

"You must be a correspondent. You have a way with words."

Tchitcherine comes roaring through the window, a Nagant blazing in his fist. Tchitcherine lands in a parachute and fells Slothrop with one judo chop. Tchitcherine drives a Stalin tank right into the room, and blasts Slothrop with a 76 mm shell. Thanks for stalling him, Liebchen, he was a spy, well, cheerio, I'm off to Peenem┨nde and a nubile Polish wench with tits like vanilla ice cream, check you out later.

"I have to go, I think," Slothrop sez, "typewriter needs a new ribbon, gotta sharpen pencils, you know how it is!"

"I told you, he won't be here tonight."

"Why? Is he out after that Schwarzgerät, eh?"

"No. He hasn't heard the latest. The message came in from Stettin yesterday."

"In clear, of course."

"Why not?"

"Couldn't be very important."

"It's for sale."

"The message?"

"The S-Gerät, you pill. A man in Swinem┨nde can get it. Half a million Swiss francs, if you're in the market. He waits on the Strand-Promenade, every day till noon. He'll be wearing a white suit."

Oh yeah? "Blodgett Waxwing."

"It didn't give the name. But I don't think it's Waxwing. He sticks close to the Mediterranean."

"You get around."

"Waxwing is already a legend around the Zone. So is Tchitcherine. For all I know, so are you. What was your name?"

"Gary Grant. Ge-li, Ge-li, Ge-li. . . . Listen, Swinem┨nde, that's in that Soviet zone, ain't it."

"You sound like a German. Forget frontiers now. Forget subdivisions. There aren't any."

"There are soldiers."

"That's right." Staring at him. "But that's different."

"Oh."

"You'll learn. It's all been suspended. Vaslav calls it an 'interregnum.' You only have to flow along with it."

"Gonna flow outa here now, kid. Thanx for the info, and a tip of the Scuffling hat to ya!"

"Please stay." Curled on the bed, her eyes about to spill over with tears. Aw, shit, Slothrop you sucker . . . but she's just a little kid. . . . "Come here. . . ."

The minute he puts it in, though, she goes wicked and a little crazy, slashing at his legs, shoulders, and ass with chewed-down fingernails sharp as a saw. Considerate Slothrop is trying to hold off coming till she's ready when all of a sudden something heavy, feathered, and many-pointed comes crashing down onto the small of his back, bounces off triggering him and as it turns out Geli too ZONNGGG! eeeeee . . . oh, gee whiz. Wings flap and Wernher!for it is he!ascends into the darkness.

"Fucking bird," Slothrop screams, "he tries that again I'll give him a Baby Ruth right up his ass, boy!" it's a plot it's a plot it's Pavlovian conditioning! or something, "Tchitcherine trained him to do that, right?"

"Wrong! / trained him to do that." She's smiling at him so four-year-old happy and not holding a thing back, that Slothrop decides to believe everything she's been telling him.

"You are a witch." Paranoid that he is, he snuggles down under the counterpane with the long-legged sorceress, lights a cigarette, and despite endless Tchitcherines vaulting in over the roofless walls with arsenals of disaster all for him, even falls asleep, presently, in her bare and open arms.

########

It's a Sunday-funnies dawn, very blue sky with gaudy pink clouds in it. Mud across the cobblestones is so slick it reflects light, so that you walk not streets but these long streaky cuts of raw meat, hock of werewolf, gammon of Beast. Tchitcherine has big feet. Geli had to stuff pieces of an old chemise in the toes of his boots so they'd fit Slothrop. Dodging constantly for jeeps, ten-ton lorries, Russians on horseback, he finally hitches a ride from an 18-year-old American first lieutenant in a gray Mercedes staff car with dents all over it. Slothrop frisks mustaches, flashes his armband, feeling defensive. The sun's already warm. There's a smell of evergreens on the mountains. This rail driving, who's attached to the tank company guarding the Mittelwerke, doesn't

think Slothrop should have any trouble getting inside. English SPOG have come and gone. Right now American Army Ordnance people are busy crating and shipping out parts and tools for a hundred A4s. A big hassle. "Trying to get it all out before the Russians come to take over." Interregnum. Civilians and bureaucrats show up every day, high-level tourists, to stare and go wow. "Guess nobody's seen 'em this big before. I don't know what it is. Like a burlesque crowd. Not gonna do anything, just here to look. Most of them bring cameras. Notice you didn't. We have them for rent at the main gate, if you're interested."

One of many hustles. Yellow James the cook has got him a swell little sandwich wagon, you can hear him in the tunnels calling, "Come an' get 'em! Hot 'n' cold and drippin' with greens!" And there'll be grease on the glasses of half these gobbling fools in another five minutes. Nick De Profundis, the company lounge lizard, has surprised everybody by changing, inside the phone booth of factory spaces here, to an energetic Businessman, selling A4 souvenirs: small items that can be worked into keychains, money clips or a scatter-pin for that special gal back Home, burner cups of brass off the combustion chambers, ball bearings from the servos, and this week the hep item seems to be SA 100 acorn diodes, cute little mixing valves looted out of the Tele-funken units, and the even rarer SA 102s, which of course fetch a higher price. And there's "Micro" Graham, who's let his sideburns grow and lurks in the Stollen where the gullible visitors stray: "Pssst."

"Pssst?"

"Forget it."

"Well now you've got me curious."

"Thought you looked like a sport. You taking the tour?"

"IT only stepped away for a second. Really, I'm going right
back       "

"Finding it a little dull?" Oily Micro moves in on his mark. "Ever wonder to yourself: 'What really went on in here?'?"

The visitor who is willing to spend extravagant sums is rarely disappointed. Micro knows the secret doors to rock passages that lead through to Dora, the prison camp next to the Mittelwerke. Each member of the party is given his own electric lantern. There is hurried, basic instruction on what to do in case of any encounter with the dead. "Remember they were always on the defensive here. When the Americans liberated Dora, the prisoners who were still alive went on a rampage after the material!they looted, they ate and drank themselves sick. For others, Death came like the American Army, and liberated them spiritually. So they're apt to be on a spiritual rampage now.

Guard your thoughts. Use the natural balance of your mind against them. They'll be coming at you off-balance, remember."

A popular attraction is the elegant Raumwaffe spacesuit wardrobe, designed by famous military couturier Heini of Berlin. Not only are there turnouts dazzling enough to thrill even the juvenile leads of a space-operetta, down to the oddly-colored television images flickering across their toenails, but Heini has even thought of silks for the amusing little Space-Jockeys (Raum-Jockeier) with their electric whips, who will someday zoom about just outside the barrier-glow of the Raketen-Stadt, astride "horses" of polished meteorite all with the same stylized face (a high-contrast imago of the horse that follows you, emphasis on its demented eyes, its teeth, the darkness under its hindquarters . . .), with the propulsive gases blowing like farts out their tail ends!the juvenile leads giggle together at this naughty bathroom moment, and slowly, in what's hardly more than a sigh of gravity here, go bobbing, each radiant in a display of fluorescent plastics, back in to the Waltz, the strangely communal Waltz of the Future, a slightly, dis-quietingly grainy-dissonant chorale implied here in the whirling silence of faces, the bare shoulderblades slung so space-Viennese, so jaded with Tomorrow. ...

Then come!the Space Helmets! At first you may be alarmed, on noticing that they appear to be fashioned from skulls. At least the upper dome of this unpleasant headgear is certainly the skull of some manlike creature built to a larger scale. . . . Perhaps Titans lived under this mountain, and their skulls got harvested like giant mushrooms. . . . The eye-sockets are fitted with quartz lenses. Filters may be slipped in. Nasal bone and upper teeth have been replaced by a metal breathing apparatus, full of slots and grating. Corresponding to the jaw is a built-up section, almost a facial codpiece, of iron and ebonite, perhaps housing a radio unit, thrusting forward in black fatality. For an extra few marks you are allowed to slip one of these helmets on. Once inside these yellow caverns, looking out now through neutral-density orbits, the sound of your breath hissing up and around the bone spaces, what you thought was a balanced mind is little help. The compartment the Schwarzkommando were quartered in is no longer an amusing travelogue of native savages taking on ways of the 21st century. The milk calabashes appear only to be made from some plastic. On the spot where tradition sez Enzian had his Illumination, in the course of a wet dream where he coupled with a slender white rocket, there is the dark stain, miraculously still wet, and a smell you understand is meant to be that of semen!but it is really closer to

soap, or bleach. The wall-paintings lose their intended primitive crudeness and take on primitive spatiality, depth and brilliance!transform, indeed, to dioramas on the theme "The Promise of Space Travel." Lit sharply by carbide light which hisses and smells like the bad breath of someone quite familiar to you, the view commands your stare. After a few minutes it becomes possible to make out actual movement down there, even at the immense distances implied by the scale: yes, we're hanging now down the last limb of our trajectory in to the Raketen-Stadt, a difficult night of magnetic storm behind us, eddy currents still shimmering through all our steel like raindrops that cling to vehicle windows . . . yes, it is a City: vegetable "Ho-ly!"s and "Isn't that something! "s go away echoing as we crowd about the bloom of window in this salt underground. . . . Strangely, these are not the symmetries we were programmed to expect, not the fins, the streamlined corners, pylons, or simple solid geometries of the official vision at all!that's for the ribbon clerks back on the Tour, in the numbered Stollen. No, this Rocket-City, so whitely lit against the calm dimness of space, is set up deliberately To Avoid Symmetry, Allow Complexity, Introduce Terror (from the Preamble to the Articles of Immachina-tion)!but tourists have to connect the look of it back to things they remember from their times and planet!back to the wine bottle smashed in the basin, the bristlecone pines outracing Death for millennia, concrete roads abandoned years ago, hairdos of the late 1930s, indole molecules, especially polymerized indoles, as in Imipolex G!

Wait!which one of them was thinking that? Monitors, get a fix on it, hurry up!

But the target slips away. "They handle their own security down inside," the young rail is telling Slothrop, "we're here for Surface Guard only. Our responsibility ends at Stollen Number Zero, Power and Light. It's really a pretty soft racket for us." life is good, and nobody's looking forward much to redeployment. There are fräuleins for screwing, cooking, and doing your laundry. He can put Slothrop on to champagne, furs, cameras, cigarettes. . . . Can't just be interested in rockets, can he, that's crazy. He's right.

One of the sweetest fruits of victory, after sleep and looting, must be the chance to ignore no-parking signs. There are struck Ps in circles up all over the place, nailed on trees, wired on girderwork, but the main tunnel entrances are pretty well blocked with vehicles by the time the dimpled Mercedes arrives. "Shit," hollers the young tanker, turns off his engine and leaves the German short at no particular angle

on the broad muddy apron. Leaving keys in the car too, Slothrop's learning to notice items like this. . . .

The entrance to the tunnel is shaped like a parabola. The Albert Speer Touch. Somebody during the thirties was big on parabolas anyhow, and Albert Speer was in charge of the New German Architecture then, and later he went on to become Minister of Munitions, and nominal chief customer for the A4. This parabola here happens to be the inspiration of a Speer disciple named Etzel Ölsch. He had noted this parabola shape around on Autobahn overpasses, sports stadiums u.s.w., and thought it was the most contemporary thing he'd ever seen. Imagine his astonishment on finding that the parabola was also the shape of the path intended for the rocket through space. (What he actually said was, "Oh, that's nice.") It was his mother who'd named him after Attila the Hun, and nobody ever found out why. His parabola has a high loft to it, and the railroad tracks run in underneath, steel into shadows. Battened cloth camouflage furls back at the edges. The mountain goes sloping away above, rock cropping out here and there among the bushes and the trees.

Slothrop presents his sooper dooper SHAEF pass, signed off by Ike and even more authentic, by the colonel heading up the American "Special Mission V-2" out of Paris. A Waxwing specialty of the house. B Company, 47th Armored Infantry, 5th Armored Division appears to be up to something besides security for this place. Slothrop is shrugged on through. There is a lot of moseying, drawling, and country humor around here. Somebody must've been picking his nose. A couple days later Slothrop will find a dried piece of snot on the card, a crystal brown visa for Nordhausen.

In past the white-topped guard towers. Transformers buzz through the spring morning. Someplace chains rattle and a tailgate drops. Between ruts, high places, ridges of mud are beginning to dry out in the sun, to lighten and crumble. Nearby the loud wake-up yawn and stretch of a train whistle cuts loose. In past a heap of bright metal spheres in daylight, with a comical sign PLEEZ NO SQUEEZ-A DA OXYGEN-A UNIT, EH? how long, how long you sfacim-a dis country. . . . In under parabola and parable, straight into the mountain, sunlight gone, into the cold, the dark, the long echoes of the Mittelwerke.

There is that not-so-rare personality disorder known as Tannhäuserism. Some of us love to be taken under mountains, and not always with horny expectations!Venus, Frau Holda, her sexual delights!no, many come, actually, for the gnomes, the critters smaller

than you, for the sepulchral way time stretches along your hooded strolls down here, quietly through courtyards that go for miles, with no anxiety about getting lost ... no one stares, no one is waiting to judge you . . . out of the public eye . . . even a Minnesinger needs to be alone . . . long cloudy-day indoor walks . . . the comfort of a closed place, where everyone is in complete agreement about Death.

Slothrop knows this place. Not so much from maps he had to study at the Casino as knowing it in the way you know someone is there. . . .

Plant generators are still supplying power. Rarely a bare bulb will hollow out a region of light. As darkness is mined and transported from place to place like marble, so the light bulb is the chisel that delivers it from its inertia, and has become one of the great secret ikons of the Humility, the multitudes who are passed over by God and History. When the Dora prisoners went on their rampage, the light bulbs in the rocket works were the first to go: before food, before the delights to be looted out of the medical lockers and the hospital pharmacy in Stollen Number 1, these breakable, socketless (in Germany the word for electric socket is also the word for Mother!so, motherless too) images were what the "liberated" had to take. . . .

The basic layout of the plant was another inspiration of Etzel Ölsch, a Nazi inspiration like the parabola, but again also a symbol belonging to the Rocket. Picture the letters SS each stretched lengthwise a bit. These are the two main tunnels, driven well over a mile into the mountain. Or picture a ladder with a slight S-shaped ripple in it, lying flat: 44 runglike Stollen or cross-tunnels, linking the two main ones. A couple hundred feet of rock mountain, at the deepest, press down overhead.

But the shape is more than an elongated SS. Apprentice Hupla comes running in one day to tell the architect. "Master!" he's yelling, "Master!" Olsch has taken up quarters in the Mittelwerke, insulated from the factory down a few private drifts that don't appear on any map of the place. He's getting into a grandiose idea of what an architect's life should be down here, insisting now on the title "Master" from all his helpers. That isn't his only eccentricity, either. Last three designs he proposed to the F┨hrer all were visually in the groove, beautifully New German, except that none of the buildings will stay up. They look normal enough, but they are designed to fall down, like fat men at the opera falling asleep into someone's lap, shortly after the last rivet is driven, the last forms removed from the newly set allegorical statue. This is Olsch's "deathwish" problem here, as the little

helpers call it: it rates a lot of gossip in the commissary at meals, and beside the Coffee urns out on the gloomy stone loading docks. . . . It's well after sunset now, each desk in this vaulted, almost outdoor bay has its own incandescent light on. The gnomes sit out here, at night, with only their bulbs shining conditionally, precariously ... it all might go dark so easily, in the next second. . . . Each gnome works in front of his drawing board. They're working late. There's a deadline! it's not clear if they're working overtime to meet it, or if they have already failed and are here as punishment. Back in his office, Etzel Ölsch can be heard singing. Tasteless, low beer-hall songs. Now he is lighting a cigar. Both he and the gnome Apprentice Hupla who's just run in know that this is an exploding cigar, put in his humidor as a revolutionary gesture by persons unknown but so without power that it doesn't matter!"Wait, Master, don't light it!Master, put it out, please, it's an exploding cigar!"

"Proceed, Hupla, with the intelligence that prompted your rather rude entrance."

"But!"

"Hupla . . ." Puffing masterful clouds of cigar smoke.

"It-it's about the shape of the tunnels here, Master."

"Don't flinch like that. I based that design on the double lightning-stroke, Hupla!the SS emblem."

"But it's also a double integral sign! Did you know that?"

"Ah. Yes: Summe, Summe, as Leibniz said. Well, isn't that!"

BLAM.

All right. But Etzel Ölsch's genius was to be fatally receptive to imagery associated with the Rocket. In the static space of the architect, he might've used a double integral now and then, early in his career, to find volumes under surfaces whose equations were known!masses, moments, centers of gravity. But it's been years since he's had to do with anything that basic. Most of his calculating these days is with marks and pfennigs, not functions of idealistic r and 6, naïve x and y. . . . But in the dynamic space of the living Rocket, the double integral has a different meaning. To integrate here is to operate on a rate of change so that time falls away: change is stilled. . . . "Meters per second" will integrate to "meters." The moving vehicle is frozen, in space, to become architecture, and timeless. It was never launched. It will never fall.

In the guidance, this is what happened: a little pendulum was kept centered by a magnetic field. During launch, pulling gs, the pendulum would swing aft, off center. It had a coil attached to it. When the coil

moved through the magnetic field, electric current flowed in the coil. As the pendulum was pushed off center by the acceleration of launch, current would flow!the more acceleration, the more flow. So the Rocket, on its own side of the flight, sensed acceleration first. Men, tracking it, sensed position or distance first. To get to distance from acceleration, the Rocket had to integrate twice!needed a moving coil, transformers, electrolytic cell, bridge of diodes, one tetrode (an extra grid to screen away capacitive coupling inside the tube), an elaborate dance of design precautions to get to what human eyes saw first of all!the distance along the flight path.

There was that backward symmetry again, one that Pointsman missed, but Katje didn't. "A life of its own," she said. Slothrop remembers her reluctant smile, the Mediterranean afternoon, the peeling twist of a eucalyptus trunk, the same pink, in that weakening light, as the American officer's trousers Slothrop wore once upon a time, and the acid, the pungent smell of the leaves. . . . The current, flowing in the coil, passed a Wheatstone bridge and charged up a capacitor. The charge was the time integral of the current flowing in the coil and bridge. Advanced versions of this so-called "IG" guidance integrated twice, so that the charge gathering on one side of the capacitor grew directly as the distance the Rocket had traveled. Before launch, the other side of the cell had been charged up to a level representing the distance to a particular point out in space. Brennschluss exactly here would make the Rocket go on to hit 1000 yards east of Waterloo Station. At the instant the charge ( accumulating in flight equaled the preset charge ( ) on the other side, the capacitor discharged. A switch closed, fuel cut off, burning ended. The Rocket was on its own.

That is one meaning of the shape of the tunnels down here in the Mittelwerke. Another may be the ancient rune that stands for the yew tree, or Death. The double integral stood in Etzel Ölsch's subconscious for the method of finding hidden centers, inertias unknown, as if monoliths had been left for him in the twilight, left behind by some corrupted idea of "Civilization," in which eagles cast in concrete stand ten meters high at the corners of the stadiums where the people, a corrupted idea of "the People" are gathering, in which birds do not fly, in which imaginary centers far down inside the solid fatality of stone are thought of not as "heart," "plexus," "consciousness," (the voice speaking here grows more ironic, closer to tears which are not all theatre, as the list goes on . . .) "Sanctuary," "dream of motion," "cyst of the eternal present," or "Gravity's gray eminence among the councils of the living stone." No, as none of these, but instead a point in space, a

point hung precise as the point where burning must end, never launched, never to fall. And what is the specific shape whose center of gravity is the Brennschluss Point? Don't jump at an infinite number of possible shapes. There's only one. It is most likely an interface between one order of things and another. There's a Brennschluss point for every firing site. They still hang up there, all of them, a constellation waiting to have a 13th sign of the Zodiac named for it... but they lie so close to Earth that from many places they can't be seen at all, and from different places inside the zone where they can be seen, they fall into completely different patterns. . . .

Double integral is also the shape of lovers curled asleep, which is where Slothrop wishes he were now!all the way back with Katje, even lost as he might feel again, even more vulnerable than now! even (because he still honestly misses her), preserved by accident, in ways he can't help seeing, accident whose own much colder honesty each lover has only the other to protect him from. . . . Could he live like that? Would They ever agree to let him and Katje live like that? He's had nothing to say to anyone about her. It's not the gentlemanly reflex that made him edit, switch names, insert fantasies into the yarns he spun for Tantivy back in the ACHTUNG office, so much as the primitive fear of having a soul captured by a likeness of image or by a name. . . . He wants to preserve what he can of her from Their several entropies, from Their softsoaping and Their money: maybe he thinks that if he can do it for her he can also do it for himself . . . although that's awful close to nobility for Slothrop and The Penis He Thought Was His Own.

In the sheet-metal ducting that snakes like a spine along the overhead, plant ventilation moans. Now and then it sounds like voices. Traffic from somewhere remote. It's not as if they were discussing Slothrop directly, understand. But he wishes he could hear it better. . . .

Lakes of light, portages of darkness. The concrete facing of the tunnel has given way to whitewash over chunky fault-surfaces, phony-looking as the inside of an amusement-park cave. Entrances to cross-tunnels slip by like tuned pipes with an airflow at their mouths . . . once upon a time lathes did screech, playful machinists had shootouts with little brass squirt cans of cutting oil ... knuckles were bloodied against grinding wheels, pores, creases and quicks were stabbed by the fine splinters of steel . . . tubeworks of alloy and glass contracted tinkling in air that felt like the dead of winter, and amber light raced in phalanx among the small neon bulbs. Once, all this did happen. It is hard down here in the Mittelwerke to live in the present for very long. The nostalgia you feel is not your own, but it's potent. All the objects have grown still, drowned, enfeebled with evening, terminal evening. Tough skins of oxides, some only a molecule thick, shroud the metal surfaces, fade out human reflection. Straw-colored drive belts of polyvinyl alcohol sag and release their last traces of industrial odor. Though found adrift and haunted, full of signs of recent human tenancy, this is not the legendary ship Marie-Celeste!it isn't bounded so neatly, these tracks underfoot run away fore and aft into all stilled Europe, and our flesh doesn't sweat and pimple here for the domestic mysteries, the attic horror of What Might Have Happened so much as for our knowledge of what likely did happen ... it was always easy, in open and lonely places, to be visited by Panic wilderness fear, but these are the urban fantods here, that come to get you when you are lost or isolate inside the way time is passing, when there is no more History, no time-traveling capsule to find your way back to, only the lateness and the absence that fill a great railway shed after the capital has been evacuated, and the goat-god's city cousins wait for you at the edges of the light, playing the tunes they always played, but more audible now, because everything else has gone away or fallen silent . . . barn-swallow souls, fashioned of brown twilight, rise toward the white ceilings . . . they are unique to the Zone, they answer to the new Uncertainty. Ghosts used to be either likenesses of the dead or wraiths of the living. But here in the Zone categories have been blurred badly. The status of the name you miss, love, and search for now has grown ambiguous and remote, but this is even more than the bureaucracy of mass absence!some still live, some have died, but many, many have forgotten which they are. Their likenesses will not serve. Down here are only wrappings left in the light, in the dark: images of the Uncertainty. . . .

Post-A4 humanity is moving, hammering, and shouting among the tunnels. Slothrop will catch sight of badged civilians in khaki, helmet liners with GE stenciled on, sometimes getting a nod, eyeglasses flashing under a distant light bulb, most often ignored. Military working parties go at route-step bitching in and out, carrying crates. Slothrop is hungry and Yellow James is nowhere in sight. But there is nobody down here even going to say howdy to, much less feed, the free lance Ian Scuffling. No, wait, by golly here comes a delegation of girls in tight pink lab coats reaching just to the tops of bare thighs, tripping up the tunnel on stylish gold wedgies "Ah, so re┴zend ist!" too many to hug at once, "H┨bsch, was?" now now ladies one at a time, they are

giggling and reaching to drape around his neck lush garlands of silvery B nuts and flange fittings, scarlet resistors and bright-yellow capacitors strung like little sausages, scraps of gasketry, miles of aluminum shavings as curly-bouncy 'n' bright as Shirley Temple's head!hey Hogan ya can keep yer hula girls!and where are they taking him here? into an empty Stollen, where they all commence a fabulous orgy, which goes on for days and days, full of poppies, play, singing, and carrying on.

Moving into Stollen 20 and up, traffic grows heavier. This was the A4 part of the factory, which the Rocket shared with V-l and turboprop assemblies. Out of these Stollen, the 20s, 30s, and 40s, Rocket components were fed out crosswise into the two main assembly lines. As you walk deeper, you retrace the Rocket's becoming: superchargers, center sections, nose assemblies, power units, controls, tail sections . . . lotta these tail sections still around here, stacked alternately fins up/fins down, row on row identical, dimpled ripply metal surfaces. Slothrop moseys along looking at his face in them, watching it warp and slide by, just a big underground fun house here folks. . . . Empty dollies with small metal wheels chain away back down the tunnel: they carry four-bladed arrowhead shapes that point at the ceiling!oh. Right!the pointed holders must've fit inside the expansion nozzles of the thrust chambers, sure enough here cornes a bunch of them, big fucking things tall as Slothrop, capital As painted in white near the burner cups. . . . Overhead the fat and sinuous white-lagged pipes are lurking, and the steel lamps give no light out of their scorched skullcap reflectors . . . down the tunnel's centerline run Lally columns, slender, gray, the exposed threads locked in rust of long standing . . . blue shadows wash through the spare-parts cages, set on planking and I beams hung from damp and chimney-sized columns of brick . . . glass-wool insulation lies beside the tracks, heaped like snow. . . .

Final assembly went on in Stollen 41. The cross-tunnel is 50 feet deep, to accommodate the finished Rocket. Sounds of carousing, of voices distinctly unbalanced, come welling up, reverberating off of the concrete. Personnel are weaving back up the main tunnel with a glassy and rubicund look to their faces. Slothrop squints down into this long pit, and makes out a crowd of Americans and Russians gathered around a huge oak beer barrel. A gnome-size German civilian with a red von Hindenburg mustache is dispensing steins of what looks to be mostly head. Ordnance smoke-puffs flicker on nearly every sleeve. The Americans are singing

rocket limericks

There once was a thing called a V-2,

To pilot which you did not need to!

You just pushed a button,

And it would leave nuttin'

But stiffs and big holes and debris, too.

The tune is known universally among American fraternity boys. But for some reason it is being sung here in German Storm Trooper style: notes clipping off sharp at the end of each line, then a pulse of silence before the attack on the next line.

[Refrain:] Ja, ja, ja, ja!

In Prussia they never eat pussy! There ain't hardly cats enough, There's garbage and that's enough, So waltz me around again, Russky!

Drunks are hanging from steel ladders and draped over catwalks. Beer fumes crawl in the long cavern, among pieces of olive-drab rocket, some upright, some lying on their sides.

There was a young fellow named Crockett,

Who had an affair with a rocket.

If you saw them out there

You'd be tempted to stare,

But if you ain't tried it, don't knock it!

Slothrop is hungry and thirsty. Despite the clear and present miasma of evil in Stollen 41, he starts looking for some way to go down there and maybe score some of that lunch. Turns out the only way down is by a cable, hooked to an overhead hoist. A fat cracker Pfc. lounges at the controls, sucking on a bottle of wine. "Go ahead, Jackson, I'll give you a good ride. They taught me how to run these in the WPA." Bracing his mustache in what he figures to be a stiff upper lip, Ian Scuffling climbs on, one foot through an eye-splice, the other hanging free. An electric motor whines, Slothrop lets go the last steel railing and clutches on to the cable as 50 feet of twilit space appears underneath him. Uh . . .

Rolling out over Stollen 41, heads milling far below, beer foam bobbing like torches in the shadows!suddenly the motor cuts off and he's falling like a rock. Oh fuck, "Too young!" he screams, voice pitched way too high so it comes out like a teenager on the radio,

which ordinarily would be embarrassing, but here's the concrete floor rushing up at him, he can see every shuttering mark, every dark crystal of Thuringian sand he's going to be splashed over!not even a body nearby to get him off with only multiple fractures. . . . With about ten feet to go the Pfc. puts on the brakes. Maniacal laughter from above and behind. The cable, brought up taut, sings under Slothrop's hand till he loses his grip on it, falls, and is carried gently upside down and hanging by the foot, in among funseekers around the beer keg who, used to this form of arrival by now, only continue their singing:

There was a young fellow named Hector,

Who was fond of a launcher-erector.

But the squishes and pops

Of acute pressure drops

Wrecked Hector's hydraulic connector.

Each young American in turn getting to his feet (optional), raising his tankard, and singing about different ways of Doing It with the A4 or its related hardware. Slothrop does not know that they are singing to him, and neither do they. He eyes the inverted scene with a certain unease: with his brain approaching the frontiers of red-out, there comes to him the peculiar notion that it's Lyle Bland who has hold of his ankle here. So he is borne stately into the fringes of the party. "Hey!" observes a crewcut youth, "i-it's Tarzan or something! Ha! Ha!" Haifa dozen Ordnance people, juiced and roaring happily, grab for Slothrop. After a lot of twisting and shoving, the foot is freed from its wire loop. The hoist whines back the way it came, to its prankish operator and the next fool he can talk into riding it.

There once was a fellow named Moorehead,

Who had an affair with a warhead.

His wife moved away

The very next day!

She was always kind of a sorehead.

The Russians are drinking relentlessly and in silence, shuffling boots, frowning, maybe trying to translate these limericks. It isn't clear whether the Americans are here on Russian sufferance or vice versa. Somebody presses on Slothrop a shell-case, ice cold, foaming down the sides. "Gee, we weren't expecting the English too. Some party, huh? Stick around!he'll be along in a minute."

"Who's that." Thousands of these luminous worms are wriggling all over Slothrop's field of vision, and his foot is beginning to prickle

awake again. Oh, this beer here is cold, cold and hop-bitter, no point coming up for air, gulp, till it's all!hahhhh. His nose comes up drowned in foam, his mustache white and bubbly too. All at once comes shouting from the edges of the company. "Here he is, here he is!" "Give him a beer!" "Hi there, Major, babes, sir!"

There was a technician named Urban,

Who had an affair with a turbine.

"It's much nicer," he said,

"Than a woman in bed,

And it's sure as hell cheaper than bourbon!"

"What's happening," inquires Slothrop through the head of another beer just materialized in his hand.

"It's Major Marvy. This is his going-away party." Marvy's Mothers are all singing "For He's a Jolly Good Fellow," now. Which nobody can deny if they know what's good for them, is the impression one cannot help receiving. ...

"Uh, where's he going?"

"Away."

"Thought he was here to see that GE."

"Sure, who do ya think's pickin' up the tab f'r this?"

Marvy here by subterranean light is even less engaging than he was in the moonlight on top of that boxcar. The rolls of fat, bulging eyes and glistening teeth are grayer here, screened more coarsely. A strip of adhesive tape plastered athletically over the bridge of his nose, and a purple, yellow, and green decoration around one eye testify to his rapid journey down the railroad embankment the other night. He is shaking hands with his well-wishers, booming male endearments, paying special attention to the Russians!"Well, bet you've spiked that with a little vodka! Hah?" moving on "Vlad, fella, how's yer ass!" The Russians do not appear to understand, which leaves them only the fanged smile, the Easter-egg eyes, to make sense of. Slothrop is just snorting foam out of his nose when Marvy spots him, and those eyes bug out in earnest.

"There he is," in a great roar, indicating Slothrop with a trembling finger, "by God the limey sonofabitch go git him, boys!" Go git him, boys? Slothrop continuing to gaze a moment here at this finger, illuminated in cute flourishes and curlicues of cherubic fat.

"There, there, my man," begins Ian Scuffling, by which point hostile faces have begun to close in. Hmm. . . . Oh, that's right, escape!

he sloshes beer at the head nearest, heaves the empty shell case at another, finds a gap in the crowd, slithers through and flees, across florid faces of drunks asleep, vaulting khaki paunches festooned with splashes of vomit, away down the deep cross-tunnel, among the pieces of Rocket.

"Reveille you hammerheads," Marvy's screaming, "don't let that 'sucker git away!" A sergeant with a boy's face and gray hair, dozing with a grease gun cradled against him, wakes up crying, "Krauts!" lets loose a deafening burst from his weapon straight into the beer barrel, which destroys the bottom half and sends a great gush of wet amber and foam surging among the pursuing Americans, half of whom promptly slip and go down on their ass. Slothrop reaches the other end of the Stollen with a good lead, and goes sprinting up a ladder there, taking rungs two at a time. Shots! Terrific blasts in this soundbox. Either Marvy's Mothers are too drunk, or the darkness is saving him. He hits the top out of breath.

In the other main tunnel now, Slothrop falls into a jog down the long mile to the outside, trying not to wonder if he has the wind to make it. He hasn't gone 200 feet when the vanguard comes clambering up on7 of that ladder behind him. He dodges into what must be a paint shop, skids on a patch of wet Wehrmacht green, and goes down, proceeding through big splashes of black, white, and red before coming to rest against the combat boots of an elderly man in a tweed suit, with white, water-buffalo mustaches. "Grass Gott."

"Say, I think they're trying to kill me back there. Is there someplace!"

The old man winks, motions Slothrop through the Stollen and on into the other main tunnel. Slothrop notices a pair of coveralls streaked with paint, and thinks to grab them. Past four more Stollen, then a sharp right. It's a metal storage area. "Watch this." The old man goes chuckling down the long shop among blue racks of cold-rolled sheets, heaps of aluminum ingots, sheafs of 3712 bar stock, 1624, 723. . . . "This is going to be good."

"Not that way, man, that's the one they're coming down." But this oversize elf already has set about hitching cable from a hoist overhead to a tall bundle of Monel bars. Slothrop climbs into those coveralls, combs his pompadour down over his forehead, takes out a pocketknife and saws off pieces of mustache on both sides.

"You look like Hitler now. Now they will really want to kill you!" German humor. He introduces himself as Glimpf, Professor of Math-

ematics of the Technische Hochschule, Darmstadt, Scientific Advisor to the Allied Military Government, which takes a while. "Now!we bring them this way."

I am in the hands of a raving maniac!"Why not just hide out in here, till they forget it?" But here comes dim shouts up-tunnel now: "All clear in 37 and 38, Chuckie babes!" "O.K., old hoss, you guys take odds we'll take evens." They are not going to forget it, they are making a tunnel-by-tunnel search instead. It's peacetime, they can't shoot you in peacetime . . . but they're drunk ... oh boy. Slothrop is scared shitless.

"What do we do?"

"You will be the expert in idiomatic English. Say something provocative."

Slothrop sticks his head out in the long tunnel and hollers, in his most English accent, "Major Marvy sucks!"

"Up this way!" Sounds of galloping GI boots, nailheads smacking the concrete and a lot of other ominous metal too going snick . . . snick . . .

"Now," beams mischievous Glimpf, setting the hoist in motion.

A fresh thought occurs to Slothrop. He puts his head back out and hollers "Major Marvy sucks NIGGERS!"

"I think we should hurry," sez Glimpf.

"Aw, I just thought of a good one about his mother." Slack has been disappearing inch by inch from the bight of cable between the hoist and the bar stock, which Glimpf has rigged to topple across the doorway, hopefully about the time the Americans show up.

Slothrop and Glimpf light out through the opposite exit. About the time they reach the first curve in the tunnel, all the lights go out. The ventilation whines on. The phantom voices inside it gain confidence from the dark.

The bundle of Monel falls with a great crash. Slothrop touches rock wall, and uses the wall then for guidance through this absolute blackness. Glimpf is still someplace in the middle of the tunnel, on the tracks. He is not breathing hard, but he is chuckling to himself. Behind are the hollow staggerings of the pursuit, but no light yet. There is a soft clang and sharp "Himmel" from the old professor. Sounds of yelling have grown louder and now here are the first flashlights, and it's time to get out of the bathtub!

"What's happening? For Christ's sake ..."

"Come here." Glimpf has collided with some kind of miniature train, just visible now in outline!it was used once to show visitors

from Berlin around the factory. They climb aboard the tractor in front, and Glimpf fiddles with switches.

Well here we go, all aboard, lights must've been all that Marvy cut, sparks are crackling out behind and there's even a little wind now. Good to be rolling.

Ev'ry little Nazi's shootin' pool or playin' potsy

On the Mittel-werk Ex-press!

All the funny Fascists just a-twirlin' their mustaches

Where we goin'? Can't you guess?

Headin' for the country just down the tracks,

Never heard o' shortages or in-come-tax,

Gonna be good-times, for Minnie and-Max,

On the Mittel-werk Ex-press!

Glimpf has switched on a headlamp. From side-tunnels booming by, figures in khaki stare. Whites of eyes give back the light for an instant before flicking past. A few people wave. Shouts go dopplering Hey-eyyy-y-y-y like car horns at the crossings going Home at night on the Boston and Maine. . . . The Express is rolling at a fair clip. Damp wind rushes by in a whistle. In the lamp's backscatter, silhouettes of warhead sections can be made out, stacked on the two little flatcars the engine's towing. Local midgetry scuttle and cringe alongside the tracks, nearly out of the light. They think of the little train as their own, and feel hurt whenever the big people come to commandeer it. Some sit on stacks of crates, dangling their legs. Some practice handstands in the dark. Their eyes glow green and red. Some even swing from ropes secured to the overhead, in mock Kamikaze attacks on Glimpf and Slothrop, screaming, "Banzai, banzai," before vanishing with a giggle. It's all in play. They're really quite an amiable!

Right behind, loud as megaphones, in massed chorale:

There once was a fellow named Slattery "Oh, shit," sez Slothrop.

Who was fond of the course-gyro battery.

With that 50-volt shock,

What was left of his cock

Was all slimy and sloppy and spattery.

Ja, ja, ja, ja, In Prussia they never eat pussy, u.s.w.

"Can you get back and uncouple those cars?" Glimpf wants to know. "Reckon so. ..." But he seems to fumble at it for hours. Meantime:

There was a young fellow named Pope,

Who plugged into an oscilloscope.

The cyclical trace

Of their carnal embrace

Had a damn nearly infinite slope.

"Engineers," Glimpf mutters. Slothrop gets the cars uncoupled and the engine speeds up. Wind is tearing at all Irish pennants, collar-points, cuffs, buckles, and belts. Back behind them there's a tremendous crash and clank, and a few shouts in the dark.

"Think that stopped 'em?"

Right up their ass, in four-part harmony:

There was a young fellow named Yuri,

Fucked the nozzle right up its venturi.

He had woes without cease

From his local police,

And a hell of a time with the jury.

"O.!K., Jocko babes! Got that old phosphorus flare?"

"Stand by, good buddy!"

With only that warning, in blinding concussion the Icy Noctiluca breaks, floods through the white tunnel. For a minute or two nobody in here can see. There is only the hurtling on, through amazing perfect whiteness. Whiteness without heat, and blind inertia: Slothrop feels a terrible familiarity here, a center he has been skirting, avoiding as long as he can remember!never has he been as close as now to the true momentum of his time: faces and facts that have crowded his indenture to the Rocket, camouflage and distraction fall away for the white moment, the vain and blind tugging at his sleeves it's important . . . please . . . look at us . . . but it's already too late, it's only wind, only g-loads, and the blood of his eyes has begun to touch the whiteness back to ivory, to brushings of gold and a network of edges to the broken rock . . . and the hand that lifted him away sets him back in the Mittelwerke!

"Whoo-wee! There's 'at 'sucker now!"

Out of the flare, inside easy pistol range, emerges a lumbering diesel engine, pushing ahead of it the two cars Slothrop uncoupled, itself stuffed with bloodshot, disheveled, bloated Americans, and at an

apex, perched lopsided on their shoulders, Major Marvy himself, wearing a giant white Stetson, and clutching two .45 automatics.

Slothrop ducks down behind a cylindrical object at the rear of the tractor. Marvy starts shooting, wildly, inspired by hideous laughter from the others. Slothrop happens to notice now that what he's chosen to hide behind, actually, seems to be another warhead. If the Amatol charges are still in!say, Professor, could the shock wave from a .45 bullet at this range succeed in detonating this warhead here if it struck the casing? e-even if there was no fuze installed? Well, Tyrone, now that would depend on many things: muzzle velocity, wall thickness and composition!

Counting at least on a pulled arm muscle and hernia, Slothrop manages to tip and heave the warhead off onto the track while Marvy's bullets go whanging and crashing all over the tunnel. It bounces and comes to rest tilted against one of the rails. Good.

The flare has begun to die. Shadows are reoccupying the mouths of the Stollen. The cars ahead of Marvy hit the obstacle a solid WHONK! doubling up in an inverted V!diesel brakes screech in panic yi-i-i-i-ke as the big engine derails, slews, begins to tip, Americans grabbing frantically for handholds, each other, empty air. Then Slothrop and Glimpf are around the last curve of the integral sign, and there is another huge crash behind them, screaming that prolongs, echoing, as they see now the entrance ahead, growing parabola of green mountainslopes, and sunlight. . . .

"Did you have a car when you came?" inquires the twinkling Glimpf.

"What?" Slothrop recalls the keys still in that Mercedes. "Oh      "

Glimpf eases on the brakes as they coast out under the parabola into daylight, and roll to a smooth and respectable stop. They flip salutes at the B Company sentries and proceed to hijack the Mercedes, which is right where that rail left it.

Out on the road, Glimpf gestures them north, watching Slothrop's driving with a leery eye. They wind snarling up into the Harz, in and out of mountain shadows, pine and fir odors enveloping them, screeching around curves and sometimes nearly off of the road. Slothrop has the inborn gift of selecting the wrong gear for all occasions, and anyhow he's jittery, eye in the mirror and out the back of his head aswarm with souped-up personnel carriers and squadrons of howling Thunderbolts. Coming around a blind corner, using the whole width of the pavement to make it!a sharp road-racing trick he happens to know!they nearly buy it from a descending American

Army deuce-and-a-half, the words fucking idiot clearly visible on the mouth of the driver as they barely scoot past, heartbeats slamming low in their throats, mud from the truck's rear tires slapping over them in a great wing that shakes the rig and blots out half the windshield.

The sun is well past its zenith when they pull up, finally, below a forested dome with a small dilapidated castle on top, hundreds of doves, white teardrops, dripping from its battlements. The green breath of the woods has sharpened, grown colder.

They climb a switchbacking path strewn with rocks, among dark firs toward the castle in the sunlight, jagged and brown above as a chunk of bread left out for all its generations of birds.

"This is where you're staying?"

"I used to work here. I think Zwitter might still be around." There wasn't enough room in the Mittelwerke for many of the smaller assembly jobs. Control systems mainly. So they were put together in beerhalls, shops, schools, castles, farmhouses all around Nordhausen here, any indoor lab space the guidance people could find. Glimpf's colleague Zwitter is from the T.H. in Munich. "The usual Bavarian approach to electronics." Glimpf begins to frown. "He's bearable, I suppose." Whatever mysterious injustices spring from a Bavarian approach to electronics now remove Glimpf's twinkle, and keep him occupied in surly introspection the rest of the way up.

Mass liquid cooing, damped in white fluff, greets them as they slip in a side entrance to the castle. Floors are dirty and littered with bottles and scraps of papers. Some of the papers are stamped with the magenta GEHEIME KOMMANDOSACHE. Birds fly in and out of broken windows. Thin beams of light come in from chinks and erosions. Dust motes, fanned by the doves' wings, never stop billowing here. Walls are hung with dim portraits of nobles in big white Frederick the Great hairdos, ladies with smooth faces and oval eyes in low-necked dresses whose yards of silk spill out into the dust and wingbeats of the dark rooms. There is dove shit all over the place.

By contrast, Zwitter's laboratory upstairs is brightly lit, well-ordered, crammed with blown glass, work tables, lights of many colors, speckled boxes, green folders!a mad Nazi scientist lab! Plas-ticman, where are you?

There's only Zwitter: stocky, dark hair parted down the middle, eyeglass lenses thick as the windows of a bathysphere, the fluorescent hydras, eels, and rays of control equations swimming seas behind them. . . .

But when they see Slothrop, there is immediate clearing there, and glazed barriers come down. Hmm, T.S., what's this? Who are these people? What's happened to the apples in old Glimpf's cheeks? What's a Nazi guidance expert doing this side of the fence at Garmisch, with his lab intact?

OH . . . thur's . . .

Nazis in the woodwork,

Fascists in the walls,

Little Japs with bucktooth grins

A-gonna grab yew bah th' balls.

Whin this war is over,

How happy Ah will be,

Gearin' up fer thim Rooskies

And Go-round Number Three. ...

########

In the days when the white engineers were disputing the attributes of the feeder system that was to be, one of them came to Enzian of Bleicheröde and said, "We cannot agree on the chamber pressure. Our calculations show that a working pressure of 40 at┨ would be the most desirable. But all the data we know of are grouped around a value of only some 10 at┨."

"Then clearly," replied the Nguarorerue, "you must listen to the data."

"But that would not be the most perfect or efficient value," protested the German.

"Proud man," said the Nguarorerue. "What are these data, if not direct revelation? Where have they come from, if not from the Rocket which is to be? How do you presume to compare a number you have only derived on paper with a number that is the Rocket's own? Avoid pride, and design to some compromise value."

!from Tales of the Schwarzkommando, collected by Steve Edelman

In the mountains around Nordhausen and Bleicheröde, down in abandoned mine shafts, live the Schwarzkommando. These days it's no longer a military tide: they are a people now, Zone-Hereros, in exile for two generations from South-West Africa. Early Rhenish missionaries began to bring them back to the Metropolis, that great dull zoo, as specimens of a possibly doomed race. They were gently experi-

merited with: exposed to cathedrals, Wagnerian soirees, Jaeger underwear, trying to get them interested in their souls. Others were taken back to Germany as servants, by soldiers who went to put down the great Herero rising of 1904-1906. But only after 1933 did most of the present-day leadership arrive, as part of a scheme!never openly admitted by the Nazi party!for setting up black juntas, shadow-states for the eventual takeover of British and French colonies in black Africa, on the model of Germany's plan for the Maghreb. S┨dwest by then was a protectorate administered by the Union of South Africa, but the real power was still with the old German colonial families, and they cooperated.

There are several underground communities now near Nord-hausen/Bleicheröde. Around here they are known collectively as the Erdschweinhöhle. This is a Herero joke, a bitter one. Among the Ovatjimba, the poorest of the Hereros, with no cattle or villages of their own, the totem animal was the Erdschwein or aardvark. They took their name from him, never ate his flesh, dug their food from the earth, just as he does. Considered outcasts, they lived on the veld, in the open. You were likely to come across them at night, their fires flaring bravely against the wind, out of rifle range from the iron tracks: there seemed no other force than that to give them locus out in that emptiness. You knew what they feared!not what they wanted, or what moved them. And you had Business upcountry, at the mines: so, presently, as the sputtering lights slipped behind, so did all further need to think of them. . . .

But as you swung away, who was the woman alone in the earth, planted up to her shoulders in the aardvark hole, a gazing head rooted to the desert plane, with an upsweep of mountains far behind her, darkly folded, far away in the evening? She can feel the incredible pressure, miles of horizontal sand and clay, against her belly. Down the trail wait the luminous ghosts of her four stillborn children, fat worms lying with no chances of comfort among the wild onions, one by one, crying for milk more sacred than what is tasted and blessed in the village calabashes. In preterite line they have pointed her here, to be in touch with Earth's gift for genesis. The woman feels power flood in through every gate: a river between her thighs, light leaping at the ends of fingers and toes. It is sure and nourishing as sleep. It is a warmth. The more the daylight fades, the further she submits!to the dark, to the descent of water from the air. She is a seed in the Earth. The holy aardvark has dug her bed.

Back in S┨dwest, the Erdschweinhöhle was a powerful symbol

of fertility and life. But here in the Zone, its real status is not so clear.

Inside the Schwarzkommando there are forces, at present, who have opted for sterility and death. The struggle is mostly in silence, in the night, in the nauseas and crampings of pregnancies or miscarriages. But it is political struggle. No one is more troubled with it than Enzian. He is Nguarorerue here. The word doesn't mean "leader" exactly, but "one who has been proven."

Enzian is also known, though not to his face, as Otyikondo, the Halfbreed. His father was a European. Not that it makes him unique among the Erdschweinhöhlers here: there's German, Slavic and Gypsy blood mixed in by now too. Over the couple of generations, moved by accelerations unknown in the days before the Empire, they have been growing an identity that few can see as ever taking final shape. The Rocket will have a final shape, but not its people. Eanda and oruzo have lost their force out here!the bloodlines of mother and father were left behind, in S┨dwest. Many of the early emigrants had even gone over to the faith of the Rhenish Missionary Society long before they left. In each village, as noon flared the shadows in tightly to their owners, in that moment of terror and refuge, the omuhona took from his sacred bag, soul after converted soul, the leather cord kept there since the individual's birth, and untied the birth-knot. Untied, it was another soul dead to the tribe. So today, in the Erdschweinhöhle, the Empty Ones each carry one knotless strip of leather: it is a bit of the old symbolism they have found useful.

They call themselves Otukungurua. Yes, old Africa hands, it ought to be "Omakungurua," but they are always careful!perhaps it's less healthy than care!to point out that oma- applies only to the living and human. Otu- is for the inanimate and the rising, and this is how they imagine themselves. Revolutionaries of the Zero, they mean to carry on what began among the old Hereros after the 1904 rebellion failed. They want a negative birth rate. The program is racial suicide. They would finish the extermination the Germans began in 1904.

A generation earlier, the declining number of live Herero births was a topic of medical interest throughout southern Africa. The whites looked on as anxiously as they would have at an outbreak of rinderpest among the cattle. How provoking, to watch one's subject population dwindling like this, year after year. What's a colony without its dusky natives? Where's the fun if they're all going to die off?

Just a big hunk of desert, no more maids, no field-hands, no laborers

for the construction or the mining!wait, wait a minute there, yes it's Karl Marx, that sly old racist skipping away with his teeth together

and his eyebrows up trying to make believe it's nothing but Cheap Labor and Overseas Markets. . . . Oh, no. Colonies are much, much more. Colonies are the outhouses of the European soul, where a fellow can let his pants down and relax, enjoy the smell of his own shit. Where he can fall on his slender prey roaring as loud as he feels like, and guzzle her blood with open joy. Eh? Where he can just wallow and rut and let himself go in a softness, a receptive darkness of limbs, of hair as woolly as the hair on his own forbidden genitals. Where the poppy, and cannabis and coca grow full and green, and not to the colors and style of death, as do ergot and agaric, the blight and fungus native to Europe. Christian Europe was always death, Karl, death and repression. Out and down in the colonies, life can be indulged, life and sensuality in all its forms, with no harm done to the Metropolis, nothing to soil those cathedrals, white marble statues, noble thoughts. . . . No word ever gets back. The silences down here are vast enough to absorb all behavior, no matter how dirty, how animal it gets. . . .

Some of the more rational men of Medicine attributed the Herero birth decline to a deficiency of Vitamin E in the diet!others to poor chances of fertilization given the peculiarly long and narrow uterus of the Herero female. But underneath all this reasonable talk, this scientific speculating, no white Afrikaner could quite put down the way it felt. . . . Something sinister was moving out in the veld: he was beginning to look at their faces, especially those of the women, lined beyond the thorn fences, and he knew beyond logical proof: there was a tribal mind at work out here, and it had chosen to commit suicide. . . . Puzzling. Perhaps we weren't as fair as we might have been, perhaps we did take their cattle and their lands away . . . and then the work-camps of course, the barbed wire and the stockades. . . . Perhaps they feel it is a world they no longer want to live in. Typical of them, though, giving up, crawling away to die . . . why won't they even negotiate? We could work out a solution, some solution. . . .

It was a simple choice for the Hereros, between two kinds of death: tribal death, or Christian death. Tribal death made sense. Christian death made none at all. It seemed an exercise they did not need. But to the Europeans, conned by their own Baby Jesus Con game, what they were witnessing among these Hereros was a mystery potent as that of the elephant graveyard, or the lemmings rushing into the sea.

Though they don't admit it, the Empty Ones now exiled in the Zone, Europeanized in language and thought, split off from the old tribal unity, have found the why of it just as mysterious. But they've

seized it, as a sick woman will seize a charm. They calculate no cycles, no returns, they are in love with the glamour of a whole people's suicide!the pose, the stoicism, and the bravery. These Otukungurua are prophets of masturbating, specialists in abortion and sterilization, pitchmen for acts oral and anal, pedal and digital, sodomistical and zoophiliac!their approach and their game is pleasure: they are spieling earnestly and well, and Erdschweinhöhlers are listening.

The Empty Ones can guarantee a day when the last Zone-Herero will die, a final zero to a collective history fully lived. It has appeal.

There is no outright struggle for power. It is all seduction and counterseduct┴on, advertising and pornography, and the history of the Zone-Hereros is being decided in bed.

Vectors in the night underground, all trying to flee a center, a force, which appears to be the Rocket: some immachination, whether of journey or of destiny, which is able to gather violent political oppo-sites together in the Erdschweinhöhle as it gathers fuel and oxidizer in its thrust chamber: metered, helmsmanlike, for the sake of its scheduled parabola.

Enzian sits this evening under his mountain, behind him another day of schemes, expediting, newly invented paperwork!forms he manages to destroy or fold, Japanese style, before the day's end, into gazelles, orchids, hunter-hawks. As the Rocket grows toward its working shape and fullness, so does he evolve, himself, into a new configuration. He feels it. It's something else to worry about. Late last night, among the blueprints, Christian and Mieczislav looked up, abruptly smiled, and fell silent. A transparent reverence. They study the drawings as if they were his own, and revelations. This is not flattering to him.

What Enzian wants to create will have no history. It will never need a design change. Time, as time is known to the other nations, will wither away inside this new one. The Erdschweinhöhle will not be bound, like the Rocket, to time. The people will find the Center again, the Center without time, the journey without hysteresis, where every departure is a return to the same place, the only place. . . .

He has thus himself found a strange rapprochement with the Empty Ones: in particular with Josef Ombindi of Hannover. The Eternal Center can easily be seen as the Final Zero. Names and methods vary, but the movement toward stillness is the same. It has led to

strange passages between the two men. "You know," Ombindi's eyes

rolled the other way, looking up at a mirror-image of Enzian that only

he can see, "there's . . . well, something you ordinarily wouldn't think of as erotic!but it's really the most erode thing there is."

"Really," grins Enzian, flirting. "I can't think of what that would be. Give me a clue."

"It's a non-repeatable act."

"Firing a rocket?"

"No, because there's always another rocket. But there's nothing! well, never mind."

"Ha! Nothing to follow it with, that's what you were going to say."

"Suppose I give you another clue."

"All right." But Enzian has already guessed: it's there in the way he holds his jaw and is just about to laugh. . . .

"It embraces all the Deviations in one single act." Enzian sighs, irritated, but does not call him on this use of "Deviations." Bringing up the past is part of Ombindi's game. "HomoSexuality, for example." No rise. "Sadism and masochism. Onanism? Necrophilia. . . ."

"All those in the same act?"

All those, and more. Both know by now that what's under discussion is the act of suicide, which also includes bestiality ("Think how sweet," runs the pitch, "to show mercy, sexual mercy to that hurt and crying animal"), pedophilia ("It is widely reported that just at the edge you grow glaringly younger"), lesbianism ("Yes, for as the wind blows through all the emptying compartments the two shadow-women at last can creep out of their chambers in the dying shell, at the last ashen shoreline, to meet and embrace . . ."), coprophilia and urolagnia ("The final convulsions . . ."), fetishism ("A wide choice of death-fetishes, naturally . . ."). Naturally. The two of them sit there, passing a cigarette back and forth, till it's smoked down to a very small stub. Is it idle talk, or is Ombindi really trying to hustle Enzian here? Enzian's got to be sure before he moves. If he comes out sez, "This is a hustle, right?" and turns out it isn't, well! But the alternative is so strange, that Enzian is, in some way, being

sold on suicide

Well I don't care-for, th' things I eat, Can't stand that boogie-woogie beat! But I'm sold, on, suicide!

You can keep Der Bingle too, a-And that darn "bu-bu-bu-boo," Cause I'm sold on suicide!

Oh! I'm not too keen on ration stamps,

Or Mothers who used to be baby vamps,

But I'm sold, on, suicide!

Don't like either, the Cards or Browns, Piss on the country and piss on the town, But I'm S.O.S., yes well actually this goes on, verse after verse, for quite some time. In its complete version it represents a pretty fair renunciation of the things of the world. The trouble with it is that by Gödel's Theorem there is bound to be some item around that one has omitted from the list, and such an item is not easy to think of off the top of one's head, so that what one does most likely is go back over the whole thing, meantime correcting mistakes and inevitable repetitions, and putting in new items that will surely have occurred to one, and!well, it's easy to see that the "suicide" of the title might have to be postponed indefinitely!

Conversations between Ombindi and Enzian these days are thus a series of commercial messages, with Enzian not so much mark as unwilling shill, standing in for the rest of the tip, who may be listening and maybe not.

"Ahh, do I see your cock growing, Nguarorerue? . . . no, no, perhaps you are only thinking of someone you loved, somewhere, long ago . . . back in S┨dwest, eh?" To allow the tribal past to disperse, all memories ought to be public record, there's no point in preserving history with that Final Zero to look forward to. ... Cynically, though, Ombindi has preached this in the name of the old Tribal Unity, and it's a weakness in his pitch all right!it looks bad, looks like Ombindi's trying to make believe the Christian sickness never touched us, when everyone knows it has infected us all, some to death. Yes it is a little bit jive of Ombindi here to look back toward an innocence he's really only heard about, can't himself believe in!the gathered purity of oppo-sites, the village built like a mandala. . . . Still he will profess and proclaim it, as an image of a grail slipping through the room, radiant, though the jokers around the table be sneaking Whoopee Cushions into the Siege Perilous, under the very descending arse of the grailseeker, and though the grails themselves come in plastic these years, a dime a dozen, penny a gross, still Ombindi, at times self-conned as any Christian, praises and prophesies that era of innocence he just missed living in, one of the last pockets of Pre-Christian Oneness left on the planet: "Tibet is a special case. Tibet was deliberately set aside by the Empire as free and neutral territory, a Switzerland for

the spirit where there is no extradition, and Alp-Himalayas to draw the soul upward, and danger rare enough to tolerate. . . . Switzerland and Tibet are linked along one of the true meridians of Earth, true as the Chinese have drawn meridians of the body. . . . We will have to learn such new maps of Earth: and as travel in the Interior becomes more common, as the maps grow another dimension, so must we. ..." And he tells too of Gondwanaland, before the continents drifted apart, when Argentina lay snuggled up to S┨dwest. . . the people listen, and filter back to cave and bed and family calabash from which the milk, unconsecrated, is swallowed in cold whiteness, cold as the north. . . .

So, between these two, even routine greeting does not pass without some payload of meaningfulness and the hope of Blitzing the other's mind. Enzian knows that he is being used for his name. The name has some magic. But he has been so unable to touch, so neutral for so long . . . everything has flowed away but the name, Enzian, a sound for chanting. He hopes it will be magic enough for one thing, one good thing when the time comes, however short of the Center. . . . What are these persistences among a people, these traditions and offices, but traps? the sexual fetishes Christianity knows how to flash, to lure us in, meant to remind us of earliest infant love. . . . Can his name, can "Enzian" break their power? Can his name prevail?

The Erdschweinhöhle is in one of the worst traps of all, a dialectic of word made flesh, flesh moving toward something else. . . . Enzian sees the trap clearly, but not the way out. . . . Sitting now between a pair of candles just lit, his gray field-jacket open at the neck, beard feathering down his dark throat to shorter, sparser glossy black hairs that go running in a whirl, iron filings about the south pole of his Adam's apple . . . pole . . . axis . . . axle-tree. . . . Tree . . . Omum-borombanga . . . Mukuru . . . first ancestor . .. Adam . . . still sweating, hands from the working day gone graceless and numb, he has a minute to drift and remember this time of day back in S┨dwest, above ground, participating in the sunset, out watching the mist gather, part fog, part dust from the cattle returning to the kraals to milking and sleep ... his tribe believed long ago that each sunset is a battle. In the north, where the sun sets, live the one-armed warriors, the one-legged and one-eyed, who fight the sun each evening, who spear it to death until its blood runs out over the horizon and sky. But under the earth, in the night, the sun is born again, to come back each dawn, new and the same. But we, Zone-Hereros, under the earth, how long will we wait in this north, this locus of death? Is it to be reborn? or have we really been buried for the last time, buried facing north like all the rest of

our dead, and like all the holy cattle ever sacrificed to the ancestors? North is death's region. There may be no gods, but there is a pattern: names by themselves may have no magic, but the act of naming, the physical utterance, obeys the pattern. Nordhausen means dwellings in the north. The Rocket had to be produced out of a place called Nordhausen. The town adjoining was named Bleicheröde as a validation, a bit of redundancy so that the message would not be lost. The history of the old Hereros is one of lost messages. It began in mythical times, when the sly hare who nests in the Moon brought death among men, instead of the Moon's true message. The true message has never come. Perhaps the Rocket is meant to take us there someday, and then Moon will tell us its truth at last. There are those down in the Erdschwein-höhle, younger ones who've only known white autumn-prone Europe, who believe Moon is their destiny. But older ones can remember that Moon, like Ndjambi Karunga, is both the bringer of evil and its avenger. . . .

And Enzian's found the name Bleicheröde close enough to "Blicker," the nickname the early Germans gave to Death. They saw him white: bleaching and blankness. The name was later Latinized to "Dominus Blicero." Weissmann, enchanted, took it as his SS code name. Enzian was in Germany by then. Weissmann brought the new name Home to his pet, not showing it off so much as indicating to Enzian yet another step to be taken toward the Rocket, toward a destiny he still cannot see past this sinister cryptography of naming, a sparse pattern but one that harshly will not be denied, that cries and nags him on stumbling as badly as 20 years ago. . . .

Once he could not imagine a life without return. Before his conscious memories began, something took him, in and out of his mother's circular village far out in the Kakau Veld, at the borders of the land of death, a departure and a return. . . . He was told about it years later. Shortly after he was born, his mother brought him back to her village, back from Swakopmund. In ordinary times she would have been banished. She'd had the child out of wedlock, by a Russian sailor whose name she couldn't pronounce. But under the German invasion, protocol was less important than helping one another. Though the murderers in blue came down again and again, each time, somehow, Enzian was passed over. It is a Herod myth his admirers still like to bring up, to his annoyance. He had been walking only for a few months when his mother took him with her to join Samuel Maherero's great trek across the Kalahari.

Of the stories told about these years, this is the most tragic. The

refugees had been on the desert for days. Khama, king of the Bechua-nas, sent guides, oxen, wagons and water to help them. Those who arrived first were warned to take water only little by little. But by the time the stragglers arrived, everyone else was asleep. No one to warn them. Another lost message. They drank till they died, hundreds of souls. Enzian's mother was among them. He had fallen asleep under a cowhide, exhausted from hunger and thirst. He woke among the dead. It is said that he was found there by a band of Ovatjimba, taken and cared for. They left him back at the edge of his mother's village, to walk in alone. They were nomads, they could have taken any other direction in that waste country, but they brought him back to the place he'd left. He found hardly anyone remaining there. Many had gone on the trek, some had been taken away to the coast and herded into kraals, or to work on the railroad the Germans were building through the desert. Many others had died eating cattle dead of rinderpest.

No return. Sixty per cent of the Herero people had been exterminated. The rest were being used like animals. Enzian grew up into a white-occupied world. Captivity, sudden death, one-way departures were the ordinary things of every day. By the time the question occurred to him, he could find no way to account for his own survival. He could not believe in any process of selection. Ndjambi Karunga and the Christian God were too far away. There was no difference between the behavior of a god and the operations of pure chance. Weiss-mann, the European whose protege he became, always believed he'd seduced Enzian away from religion. But the gods had gone away themselves: the gods had left the people. . . . He let Weissmann think what he wanted to. The man's thirst for guilt was insatiable as the desert's for water.

It's been a long time now since the two men have seen each other. Last time they spoke was during the move from Peenem┨nde down here to the Mittelwerke. Weissmann is probably dead by now. Even in S┨dwest, 20 years ago, before Enzian could even speak his language, he'd seen that: a love for the last explosion!the lifting and the scream that peaks past fear. . . . Why should Weissmann want to survive the war? Surely he'd have found something splendid enough to match his thirst. It could not have ended for him rationalized and meek as his hundred glass bureaus about the SS circuit!located in time and space always just to miss grandeur, only to be in its vacuum, to be tugged slightly along by its slipstream but finally left to lie still again in a few tarnished sequins of wake. B┨rgerlichkeit played to Wagner, the

brasses faint and mocking, the voices of the strings drifting in and out of phase. . . .

At night down here, very often lately, Enzian will wake for no reason. Was it really Him, pierced Jesus, who came to lean over you? The white faggot's-dream body, the slender legs and soft gold European eyes . . . did you catch a glimpse of olive cock under the ragged loincloth, did you want to reach to lick at the sweat of his rough, his wooden bondage? Where is he, what part of our Zone tonight, damn him to the knob of that nervous imperial staff. . . .

There are few such islands of down and velvet for him to lie and dream on, not in these marble passages of power. Enzian has grown cold: not so much a fire dying away as a positive coming on of cold, a bitter taste growing across the palate of love's first hopes. ... It began when Weissmann brought him to Europe: a discovery that love, among these men, once past the simple feel and orgasming of it, had to do with masculine technologies, with contracts, with winning and losing. Demanded, in his own case, that he enter the service of the Rocket. . . . Beyond simple steel erection, the Rocket was an entire system won, away from the feminine darkness, held against the entropies of lovable but scatterbrained Mother Nature: that was the first thing he was obliged by Weissmann to learn, his first step toward citizenship in the Zone. He was led to believe that by understanding the Rocket, he would come to understand truly his manhood. . . .

"I used to imagine, in some naive way I have lost now, that all the excitement of those days was being put on for me, somehow, as a gift from Weissmann. He had carried me over his threshold and into his house, and this was the life he meant to bring me to, these manly pursuits, devotion to the Leader, political intrigue, secret re-arming in naughty defiance of the aging plutocracies all around us ... they were growing impotent, but we were young and strong ... to be that young and strong, at such a time in the life of a nation! I could not believe so many fair young men, the way the sweat and dust lay on their bodies as they lengthened the Autobahns day into ringing day: we drove among trumpeters, silk banners impeccably tailored as suits of clothes . . . the women seemed to move all docile, without color ... I thought of them in ranks, down on all fours, having their breasts milked into pails of shining steel. ..."

"Was he ever jealous of the other young men!the way you felt about them?"

"Oh. It was still very physical for me then. But he had already

moved past that part of it. No. No, I don't think he minded. ... I loved him then. I could not see into him, or the things he believed in, but I wanted to. If the Rocket was his life, then I would belong to the Rocket."

"And you never doubted him? He certainly hadn't the most ordered personality!"

"Listen!I don't know how to say this . . . have you ever been a Christian?"

"Well... at one time."

"Did you ever, in the street, see a man that you knew, in the instant, must be Jesus Christ!not hoped he was, or caught some resemblance!but knew. The Deliverer, returned and walking among the people, just the way the old stories promised ... as you approached you grew more and more certain!you could see nothing at all to contradict that first amazement . . . you drew near and passed, terrified that he would speak to you . . . your eyes grappled ... it was confirmed. And most terrible of all, he knew. He saw into your soul: all your make-believe ceased to matter. ..."

"Then . . . what's happened, since your first days in Europe, could be described, in Max Weber's phrase, almost as a 'routinization of charisma.' "

"Outase," sez Enzian, which is one of many Herero words for shit, in this case a large, newly laid cow turd.

Andreas Orukambe sits in front of an army-green, wrinkle-finished transmitter/receiver rig, off in a rock alcove of the room. A pair of rubber headphones covers his ears. The Schwarzkommando use the 50 cm band!the one the Rocket's Hawaii II guidance operated on. Who but rocket-maniacs would listen in at 53 cm? Schwarzkommando can be sure, at least, that they're being monitored by every competitor in the Zone. Transmissions from the Erdschweinhöhle begin around 0300 and run till dawn. Other Schwarzkommando stations broadcast on their own schedules. Traffic is in Herero, with a German loan-word now and then (which is too bad, since these are usually technical words, and valuable clues for whoever's listening).

Andreas is on the second dog watch, now, copying mostly, answering when he has to. Keying any transmitter is an invitation to instant paranoia. There springs into being an antenna pattern, thousands of square kilometers full of enemies out in their own night encampments in the Zone, faceless, monitoring. Though they are in contact with one another!the Schwarzkommando try to listen in to as much as they can!though there can be no illusion about their plans for the

Schwarzkommando, still they are holding off, waiting for the optimum time to move in and destroy without a trace. . . . Enzian believes they will wait for the first African rocket to be fully assembled and ready for firing: it will look better if they move against a real threat, real hardware. Meantime Enzian tries to keep security tight. Here at the Home base it's no problem: penetration by less than a regiment would be impossible. But farther out in the Zone, rocket-towns like Celle, En-schede, Hachenburg!they can pick us off out there one by one, first a campaign of attrition, then a coordinated raid . . . leaving then only this metropolis, under siege, to strangle. . . .

Perhaps it's theater, but they seem no longer to be Allies . . . though the history they have invented for themselves conditions us to expect "postwar rivalries," when in fact it may all be a giant cartel including winners and losers both, in an amiable agreement to share what is there to be shared. . . . Still, Enzian has played them off, the quarreling scavengers, one against the other ... it looks genuine enough. . . . Marvy must be together with the Russians by now, and with General Electric too!throwing him off the train the other night bought us! what? a day or two, and how well have we used the time?

It comes down to this day-to-day knitting and unraveling, minor successes, minor defeats. Thousands of details, any one of which carries the chance of a fatal mistake. Enzian would like to be more out of the process than he is!to be able to see where it's going, to know, in real time, at each splitting of the pathway of decision, which would have been right and which wrong. But it is their time, their space, and he still expects, naively, outcomes the white continuum grew past hoping for centuries ago. The details!valves, special tools that may or may not exist, Erdschweinhöhle jealousies and plots, lost operating manuals, technicians on the run from both East and West, food shortages, sick children!swirl like fog, each particle with its own array of forces and directions ... he can't handle them all at the same time, if he stays too much with any he's in danger of losing others. . . . But it's not only the details. He has the odd feeling, in moments of reverie or honest despair, that he is speaking lines prepared somewhere far away (not far away in space, but in levels of power), and that his decisions are not his own at all, but the flummeries of an actor impersonating a leader. He has dreamed of being held in the pitiless emprise of something from which he cannot wake ... he is often aboard a ship on a broad river, leading a rebellion which must fail. For reasons of policy, the rebellion is being allowed to go on for a bit. He is being hunted, his days are full of narrow escapes which he finds exciting, physically

graceful . . . and the Plot itself! it has a stern, an intense beauty, it is music, a symphony of the North, of an Arctic voyage, past headlands of very green ice, to the feet of icebergs, kneeling in the grip of this incredible music, washed in seas blue as blue dye, an endless North, vast country settled by people whose old culture and history are walled off by a great silence from the rest of the world . . . the names of their peninsulas and seas, their long and powerful rivers are unknown down in the temperate world ... it is a return, this voyage: he has grown old inside his name, the sweeping music of the voyage is music he wrote himself, so long ago that he has forgotten it completely . . . but now it is finding him again. . . .

"Trouble in Hamburg!" Andreas is scribbling away, lifting one earpiece back smock damp with sweat so that he can be on both ends of the link at once. "Sounds like it might be the DPs again. Got a bad signal. Keeps fading!"

Since the surrender there have been these constant skirmishes between the German civilians and foreign prisoners freed from the camps. Towns in the north have been taken over by displaced Poles, Czechs, Russians who've looted the arsenals and granaries and mean to hold what they've taken. But nobody knows how to feel about the local Schwarzkommando. Some see only the ragged pieces of SS uniform, and respond to that one way or another!others take them for Moroccans or Indians drifted somehow over the mountains from Italy. Germans still remember the occupation of the Rhineland 20 years ago by French colonial units, and the posters screaming SCHWARZE BESATZUNG AM RHEIN! Another stress in the pattern. Last week in Hamburg, two Schwarzkommando were shot. Others were badly beaten. The British military government sent in some troops, but only after the killing was over. Their main interest seemed to be in enforcing a curfew.

"It's Onguruve." Andreas hands over the earphones and swivels to roll out of Enzian's way.

". . . can't tell if it's us they want, or the oil refinery . . ." the voice goes crackling in and out, ". . . hundred, maybe two hundred ... so many . . . !fles, clubs, handguns!"

Bl-bleep and a burst of hissing, then in laps a familiar voice. "I can bring a dozen men."

"Hannover's answering," Enzian murmurs, trying to sound amused.

"You mean Josef Ombindi." Andreas is not amused.    :

Now Onguruve, calling for help, is neutral on the Empty Ones Question, or tries to be. But if Ombindi can bring a relief force to Hamburg, he may decide to stay. Hannover, even with the Volkswagen plant there, is only a stepping-stone for him. Hamburg would give the Empty Ones a stronger power base, and this could be the opportunity. The north ought to be their native element, anyway . . .

"I'll have to go," handing the phones back to Andreas. "What's wrong?"

"Could be the Russians, trying to draw you out."

"It's all right. Stop worrying about Tchitcherine. I don't think he's up there."

"But your European said!"

"Him? I don't know how far to trust him. Remember, I did hear him talking with Marvy on the train. Now he's with Tchitcherine's girl in Nordhausen. I mean, would you trust him?"

"But if Marvy's chasing him now, it might mean he's worth something."

"If he is, we're sure to see him again."

Enzian grabs his kit, swallows two Pervitins for the road, reminds Andreas of a Business detail or two for tomorrow, and climbs the long salt and stone ramps to the surface.

Outside, he breathes the evergreen air of the Harz. In the old villages, it would be the time of evening for the milking. The first star is out, okanumaihi, the little drinker of sweet milk. . . .

But this must be a different star, a northern star. There is no comfort. What has happened to us? If choices have never been our own, if the Zone-Hereros are meant to live in the bosom of the Angel who tried to destroy us in S┨dwest . . . then: have we been passed over, or have we been chosen for something even more terrible?

Enzian has to be in Hamburg before another spearing of the sun. Security on the trains is troublesome, but the sentries know him. The long freights are rolling out from the Mittelwerke day and night, carrying A4 hardware west to the Americans, north to the English . . . and soon, when the new map of the occupation goes into effect, east to the Russians too. . . . Nordhausen will be under Russian administration and we should have some action then . . . will it give him a chance at Tchitcherine? Enzian has never seen the man, but they are meant to come together. Enzian is his half-brother. They are the same flesh.

His sciatic nerve is throbbing now. Too much sitting. He goes limping, alone, head still down for the low clearances back down in

the Erdschweinhöhle!who knows what waits out here for the head held too high? Down the road to the railway overpass, tall and gray in the growing starlight, Enzian is heading into the North. . . .

########

Just before dawn. A hundred feet below flows a pallid sheet of cloud, stretching west as far as they can see. Here are Slothrop and the apprentice witch Geli Tripping, standing up on top of the Brocken, the very plexus of German evil, twenty miles north by northwest of the Mittelwerke, waiting for the sun to rise. Though May Day Eve's come and gone and this frolicking twosome are nearly a month late, relics of the latest Black Sabbath still remain: Kriegsbier empties, lace undergarments, spent rifle cartridges, Swastika-banners of ripped red satin, tattooing-needles and splashes of blue ink!"What the heck was that for?" Slothrop wondered.

"For the devil's kiss, of course," Geli snuggling oh-you-old-silly up to his armpit there, and Slothrop feeling a little icky and square for not knowing. But then he knows next to nothing about witches, even though there was, in his ancestry, one genuine Salem Witch, one of the last to join the sus. per coll. crowd dangling, several of them back through the centuries' couplings, off of the Slothrop family tree. Her name was Amy Sprue, a family renegade turned Antinomian at age 23 and running mad over the Berkshire countryside, ahead of Crazy Sue Dunham by 200 years, stealing babies, riding cows in the twilight, sacrificing chickens up on Snodd's Mountain. Lot of ill will about those chickens, as you can imagine. The cows and babies always, somehow, came back all right. Amy Sprue was not, like young skipping Dorothy's antagonist, a mean witch.

She headed for Rhode Island, seeking some of that asylum, And she thought she'd stop by Salem on her way, But they didn't like her style, and they didn't like her smile, So she never saw that Narragansett Bay. ...

They busted her for witchery and she got death. Another of Slothrop's crazy kinfolks. When she was mentioned aloud at all it was with a shrug, too far away really to be a Family Disgrace!more of a curiosity. Slothrop grew up not quite knowing what to think about her. Witches were certainly not getting a fair shake in the thirties. They were depicted as hags who called you dearie, not exactly a

wholesome lot. The movies had not prepared him for this Teutonic version here. Your kraut witch, for example, has six toes on each foot and no hair at all on her cunt. That is how the witches look, anyhow, in the stairway murals inside the one-time Nazi transmitter tower up on the Brocken here, and government murals are hardly places to go looking for irresponsible fantasy, right? But Geli thinks the hairless cunt derives from the women von Bayros drew. "Aw, you just don't wanna shave yours" crows Slothrop. "Ha! Ha! Some witch!"

"I'll show you something," she sez, which is why they are now awake at this ungodly hour, side by side, holding hands, very still as the sun begins to clear the horizon. "Now watch," Geli whispers: "out there."

As the sunlight strikes their backs, coming in nearly flat on, it begins developing on the pearl cloudbank: two gigantic shadows, thrown miles overland, past Clausthal-Zelterfeld, past Seesen and Goslar, across where the river Leine would be, and reaching toward Weser. . . . "By golly," Slothrop a little bit nervous, "it's the Specter." You got it up around Greylock in the Berkshires too. Around these parts it is known as the Brockengespenst.

God-shadows. Slothrop raises an arm. His fingers are cities, his biceps is a province!of course he raises an arm. Isn't it expected of him? The arm-shadow trails rainbows behind as it moves reaching eastward for a grab at Göttingen. Not ordinary shadows, either! three-dimensional ones, cast out on the German dawn, yes and Titans had to live in these mountains, or under them. . . . Impossibly out of scale. Never to be carried by a river. Never to look to a horizon and think that it might go on forever. No trees to climb, no long journeys to take . . . only their deep images are left, haloed shells lying prone above the fogs men move in. ...

Geli kicks a leg out straight as a dancer, and tilts her head to the side. Slothrop raises his middle finger to the west, the headlong finger darkening three miles of cloud per second. Geli grabs for Slothrop's cock. Slothrop leans to bite Geli's tit. They are enormous, dancing the floor of the whole visible sky. He reaches underneath her dress. She twines a leg around one of his. The spectra wash red to indigo, tidal, immense, at all their edges. Under the clouds out there it's as still, and lost, as Atlantis.

But the Brockengespenstphänomen is confined to dawn's slender interface, and soon the shadows have come shrinking back to their owners.

"Say, did that Tchitcherine ever!"

"Tchitcherine's too busy for this."

"Oh, and I'm some kind of a drone or something."

"You're different."

"We-e-e-11 ... he ought to see it."

She looks at him curiously, but doesn't ask why!her teeth halt on her lower lip, and the ivarum (varoom, a Plasticman sound) hovers trapped in her mouth. Just as well. Slothrop doesn't know why. He's no help to anybody who's fixing to interrogate. Last night he and Geli blundered onto a Schwarzkommando picket outside one of the old mine entrances. The Hereros threw questions at him for an hour. Oh, just wandering about you know, looking for a bit of the odd, what we call "human interest," fascinating of course, we're always interested in what you chaps are up to. ... Geli snickering in the darkness. They must have known her. They didn't ask her anything.

When he brought it up later, she wasn't sure just what this is between Tchitcherine and the Africans, but whatever it is it's being carried on with high passion.

"It's hate, all right," she said. "Stupid, stupid. The war's over. It isn't politics or fuck-your-buddy, it's old-time, pure, personal hate."

"Enzian?"

"I think so."

They found the Brocken occupied both by American and by Russian troops. The mountain lay on what was to be the border of the Soviet zone of occupation. The brick and stucco ruins of the radio transmitter and a tourist hotel loomed up just outside the firelight. Only a couple of platoons here. Nobody higher than noncoms. The officers were all down in Bad Harzburg, Halberstadt, someplace comfortable, getting drunk or laid. There is a certain air of resentment up on the Brocken all right, but the boys like Geli and tolerate Slothrop, and luckiest of all, nobody seems to be connected with that Ordnance.

It's only a moment's safety, though. Major Marvy is gnashing about the Harz, sending thousands of canaries into cardiac episodes, dropping in yellow droves belly-up out of the trees as he marauds on by hollering Git that limey 'sucker I don't care how many men it takes I want a fucking division you hear me boy? Only a matter of time before he picks up the trail again. He's out of his mind. Slothrop's a little daffy, but not like this!this is really unhealthy, this Marvy persecution. Is it possible . . . yup, the thought has certainly occurred to him!that Marvy's in tight with those Rolls Roycers who were after him in Zurich? There may be no limit to their connections. Marvy is buddies with GE, that's Morgan money, there's Morgan money in

Harvard, and surely an interlock someplace with Lyle Bland . . . who are they, hey? why do they want Slothrop? He knows now for sure that Zwitter the mad Nazi scientist is one of them. And that kindly old Professor Glimpf was only waiting down in the Mittelwerke to pick up Slothrop if he showed. Jesus. If Slothrop hadn't snuck out after dark back down into Nordhausen to Geli's place, they'd have him locked up by now for sure, maybe beaten up, maybe dead.

Before they head back down the mountain, they manage to chisel six cigarettes and some K-rations off of the sentries. Geli knows a friend of a friend who stays out on a farm in the Goldene Aue, a ballooning enthusiast named Schnorp, who is heading toward Berlin.

"But I don't want to go to Berlin."

"You want to go where Marvy isn't, Liebchen."

Schnorp is beaming, eager enough for company, just back from a local PX with an armload of flat white boxes: merchandise he plans to move in Berlin. "No trouble," he tells Slothrop, "don't worry. I've done this trip hundreds of times. Nobody bothers a balloon."

He takes Slothrop out in back of the house, and here in the middle of a sloping green field is a wicker gondola beside a great heap of bright yellow and scarlet silk.

"Real unobtrusive getaway," Slothrop mutters. A gang of kids have appeared running out of an apple orchard to help them carry tin jerricans of grain alcohol out to the gondola. All shadows are being thrown uphill by the afternoon sun. Wind blows from the west. Slothrop gives Schnorp a light from his Zippo to get the burner going while kids straighten out the folds in the gasbag. Schnorp turns up the flame till it's shooting sideways and with a steady roar into the opening of the great silk bag. Children visible through the gap break up into wiggly heat waves. Slowly the balloon begins to expand. "Remember me," Geli calls above the rumbling of the burner. "Till I see you again ..." Slothrop climbs in the gondola with Schnorp. The balloon rises a little off the ground and is caught by the wind. They start to move. Geli and the kids have taken hold of the gondola all around its gunwales, the bag still not all the way up but gathering speed, dragging them all as fast as their feet can move, giggling and cheering, uphill. Slothrop keeps as much out of the way as he can, letting Schnorp see that the flame's pointed into the bag and that lines to the basket are clear. At last the bag swings vertical, across the sun, the inside of it going a ri-

otous wreathing of yellow and scarlet heat. One by one the ground

crew fall away, waving good-by. The last to go is Geli in her white dress, hair brushed back over her ears into pigtails, her soft chin and

mouth and big serious eyes looking into Slothrop's for as long as she can before she has to let go. She kneels in the grass, blows a kiss. Slothrop feels his heart, out of control, inflate with love and rise quick as a balloon. It is taking him longer, the longer he's in the Zone, to remember to say env quit being a sap. What is this place doing to his brain?

They soar up over a stand of firs. Geli and the children go dwindling to shadow-strokes on the green lawn. The hills fall away, flatten out. Soon, looking back, Slothrop can see Nordhausen: Cathedral, Rathaus, Church of St. Blasius . . . the roofless quarter where he found Geli. . . .

Schnorp nudges and points. After a while Slothrop makes out a convoy of four olive-drab vehicles dusting along toward the farm in a hurry. Marvy's Mothers, by the looks of things. And Slothrop hanging from this gaudy beach ball. Well, all right!

"I'm bad luck," Slothrop hollers over a little later. They've found a steady course now northeastward, and are huddling close to the alcohol flame, collars turned up, with a gradient of must be 50< between the wind at their backs and the warmth in front. "I should've mentioned that. You don't even know me, and here we're flying into that Russian zone."

Schnorp, his hair blown like holidays of hay, does a wistful German thing with his upper lip: "There are no zones," he sez, which is also a line of Geli's. "No zones but the Zone."

Before too long Slothrop has begun checking out these boxes here that Schnorp brought along. There are a dozen of them, and each contains a deep, golden custard pie, which will fetch a fantastic price in Berlin. "Wow," cries Slothrop, "holy shit. Surely I hallucinate," and other such eager junior sidekick talk.

"You ought to have a PX card." A sales pitch.

"Right now I can't afford a ration stamp for an ant's jockstrap," replies Slothrop, forthrightly.

"Well, I'll split this one pie here with you," Schnorp reckons after a time, "because I'm getting kind of hungry."

"Oboy, oboy."

Well, Slothrop is just chowing on that pie! enjoying himself, licking custard off of his hands, when he happens to notice off in the sky, back toward Nordhausen, this funny dark object, the size of a dot. "Uh!"

Schnorp looks around, "Kot!" comes up with a brass telescope and braces it blazing on the gunwale. "Kot, Kot!no markings."

"I wonder.

Out of air so blue you can take it between your fingers, rub, and bring them back blue, they watch the dot slowly grow into a rusty old reconnaissance plane. Presently they can hear its engine, snarling and sputtering. Then, as they watch, it banks and starts a pass.

Along the wind between them, faintly, comes the singing of Furies:

There was a young man named McGuire, Who was fond of the pitch amplifier. But a number of shorts Left him covered with warts, And set half the bedroom on fire.

Ja, ja, ja, ja! In Prussia they never eat pussy!

The plane buzzes by a yard or two away, showing its underbelly. It is a monster, about to give birth. Out of a little access opening peers a red face in leather helmet and goggles. "You limey 'sucker," going past, "we fixin' to hand your ass to you."

Without planning to, Slothrop has picked up a pie. "Fuck you." He flings it, perfect shot, the plane peeling slowly past and blop gets Marvy right in the face. Yeah. Gloved hands paw at the mess. The Major's pink tongue appears. Custard drips into the wind, yellow droplets fall in long arcs toward earth. The hatch closes as the recon plane slides away, slow-rolls, circles and heads back. Schnorp and Slothrop heft pies and wait.

"There's no cowling around that engine," Schnorp has noticed, "so we'll aim for that." Now they can see the dorsal side of the plane, its cockpit jammed to capacity with beer-sodden Americans, singing:

There once was a fellow named Ritter,

Who slept with a guidance transmitter.

It shriveled his cock,

Which fell off in his sock,

And made him exceedingly bitter.

A hundred yards and closing fast. Schnorp grabs Slothrop's arm and points off to starboard. Providence has contrived to put in their way a big white slope of cloud, and the wind is bringing them swiftly into it; the seething critter puts out white tentacles, beckoning hurry . . . hurry . . . and they are inside then, inside its wet and icy reprieve. . . .

"Now they'll wait."

"No," Schnorp cupping an ear, "they've cut the motor. They're in here with us." The swaddled silence goes on for a minute or two, but sure enough:

There once was a fellow named Schroeder, Who buggered the vane servomotor. He soon grew a prong On the end of his schlong,

And hired himself a promoter.

Schnorp is fiddling with the flame, a rose-gray nimbus, trying for less visibility, but not too much loss of altitude. They float in their own wan sphere of light, without coordinates. Outcrops of granite smash blindly upward like fists into the cloud, trying to find the balloon. The plane is somewhere, with its own course and speed. There is no action the balloon can take. Binary decisions have lost meaning in here. The cloud presses in, suffocating. It condenses in fat drops on top of the pies. Suddenly, raucous and hungover:

There was a young man from Decatur,

Who slept with a LOX generator.

His balls and his prick

Froze solid real quick,

And his asshole a little bit later.

Curtains of vapor drift back to reveal the Americans, volplaning along well inside ten meters and only a little faster than the balloon.

"Now!" Schnorp yells, heaving a pie at the exposed engine. Slothrop's misses and splatters all over the windscreen in front of the pilot. By which time Schnorp has commenced flinging ballast bags at the engine, leaving one stuck between two of the cylinders. The Americans, taken by surprise, reach in confusion for sidearms, grenades, machine guns, whatever it is your Ordnance types carry around in the way of light armament. But they have glided on past, and now the fog closes in again. There are a few shots.

"Shit, man, if they hit that bag!"

"Shh. I think we got the wire from the booster magneto." Off in the middle of the cloud can be heard the nagging whicker of an engine refusing to start. Linkage squeaks desperately.

"Oh, fuck!" A muffled scream, far away. The intermittent whining grows fainter until there is silence. Schnorp is lying on his back, slurp-

ing pie, laughing bitterly. Half of his inventory's been thrown away, and Slothrop feels a little guilty.

"No, no. Stop worrying. This is like the very earliest days of the mercantile system. We're back to that again. A second chance. Passages are long and hazardous. Loss in transit is a part of life. You have had a glimpse of the Ur-Markt."

When the clouds fall away a few minutes later, they find themselves floating quietly under the sun, shrouds dripping, gasbag still shiny with the moist cloud. No sign at all of Marvy's plane. Schnorp adjusts the flame. They begin to rise.

Toward sundown, Schnorp gets thoughtful. "Look. You can see the edge of it. At this latitude the earth's shadow races across Germany at 650 miles an hour, the speed of a jet aircraft." The cloud-sheet has broken up into little fog-banklets the color of boiled shrimp. The balloon goes drifting, over countryside whose green patchwork the twilight is now urging toward black: the thread of a little river flaming in the late sun, the intricate-angled pattern of another roofless town.

The sunset is red and yellow, like the balloon. On the horizon the mild sphere goes warping down, a peach on a china plate. "The farther south you go," Schnorp continues, "the faster the shadow sweeps, till you reach the equator: a thousand miles an hour. Fantastic. It breaks through the speed of sound somewhere over southern France! around the latitude of Carcassonne."

The wind is bundling them on, north by east. "Southern France," Slothrop remembers then. "Yeah. That's where / broke through the speed of sound. ..."

########

The Zone is in full summer: souls are found quiescent behind the pieces of wall, fast asleep down curled in shell-craters, out screwing under the culverts with gray shirttails hoisted, adrift dreaming in the middles of fields. Dreaming of food, oblivion, alternate histories. . . .

The silences here are retreats of sound, like the retreat of the surf before a tidal wave: sound draining away, down slopes of acoustic passage, to gather, someplace else, to a great surge of noise. Cows!big lummoxes splotched black and white, harnessed now for the plowing because German horses in the Zone are all but extinct!will drudge with straight faces right on into minefields, sown back in the winter.

The godawful blasts go drumming over the farmland, horns, hide and hamburger come showering down all over the place, and the dented bells lie quiet in the clover. Horses might have known to keep clear! but the Germans wasted their horses, squandered the race, herding them into the worst of it, the swarms of steel, the rheumatic marshes, the unblanketed winter chills of our late Fronts. A few might have found safety with the Russians, who still care for horses. You hear them often in the evenings. Their campfires send up rays for miles from behind the stands of beech, through northern-summer haze that's almost dry, only enough of it to give a knife's edge to the firelight, a dozen accordions and concertinas all going at once in shaggy chords with a reed-ringing to it, and the songs full of plaintive stvyehs and znyis with voices of the girl auxiliaries clearest of all. The horses whicker and move in the rustling grass. The men and women are kind, resourceful, fanatical!they are the most joyous of the Zone's survivors.

In and out of all the vibrant flesh moves the mad scavenger Tchitcherine, who is more metal than anything else. Steel teeth wink as he talks. Under his pompadour is a silver plate. Gold wirework threads in three-dimensional tattoo among the fine wreckage of cartilage and bone inside his right knee joint, the shape of it always felt, pain's hand-fashioned seal, and his proudest battle decoration, because it is invisible, and only he can feel it. A four-hour operation, and in the dark. It was the Eastern Front: there were no sulfa drugs, no anaesthesia. Of course he's proud.

He has marched here, with his limp as permanent as gold, out of coldness, meadows, mystery. Officially he reports to TsAGI, which is the Central Aero and Hydrodynamics Institute in Moscow. His orders mention technical intelligence. But his real mission in the Zone is private, obsessive, and not!so his superiors have let him know, in a number of delicate ways!in the people's interest. Tchitcherine guesses that this, taken literally, may be true enough. But he is not sure about the interests of those who warned him. They could have their own reasons for wanting Enzian liquidated in spite of what they say. Their differences with Tchitcherine may be over the timing, or the motives. Tchitcherine's motives are not political. The little State he is building in the German vacuum is founded on a compulsive need he has given up trying to understand, a need to annihilate the Schwarzkommando and his mythical half-brother, Enzian. He comes from Nihilist Stock; there are in his ancestry any number of bomb throwers and jubilant assassins. He is no relation at all to the Tchitcherine who dealt the Ra-

pallo Treaty with Walter Rathenau. There was a long-term operator, a Menshevik turned Bolshevik, in his exile and his return believing in a State that would outlive them all, where someone would come to sit in his seat at the table just as he had slipped into Trotsky's!sitters would come and go but the seats would remain . . . well, fine. There is that kind of State. But then again, there is this other Tchitcherine's kind, a mortal State that will persist no longer than the individuals in it. He is bound, in love and in bodily fear, to students who have died under the wheels of carriages, to eyes betrayed by nights without sleep and arms that have opened maniacally to death by absolute power. He envies their loneliness, their willingness to go it alone, outside even a military structure, often without support or love from anyone. His own faithful network of fräuleins around the Zone is a compromise: he knows there's too much comfort in it, even when the intelligence inputs are good. But the perceptible hazards of love, of attachment, are still light enough for him to accept, when balanced against what he has to do.

During the early Stalin days, Tchitcherine was stationed in a remote "bear's corner" (medvezhy ugolok), out in Seven Rivers country. In the summer, irrigation canals sweated a blurry fretwork across the green oasis. In the winter, sticky teaglasses ranked the windowsills, soldiers played preference and stepped outside only to piss, or to shoot down the street at surprised wolves with a lately retooled version of the Moisin. It was a land of drunken nostalgia for the cities, silent Kirghiz riding, endless tremors in the earth . . . because of the earthquakes, nobody built higher than one story and so the town looked like a Wild West movie: a brown dirt street, lined with grandiose two-and three-story false fronts.

He had come to give the tribesmen out here, this far out, an alphabet: it was purely speech, gesture, touch among them, not even an Arabic script to replace. Tchitcherine coordinated with the local Lik-bez center, one of a string known back in Moscow as the "red dzurts." Young and old Kirghiz came in from the plain, smelling of horses, sour milk and weed-smoke, inside to stare at slates filled with chalk marks. The stiff Latin symbols were almost as strange to the Russian cadre!tall Galina in her cast-off Army trousers and gray Cossack shirts . . . marcelled and soft-faced Luba, her dear friend . . . Vaslav Tchitcherine, the political eye ... all agents!though none thought of it this way!representing the NTA (New Turkic Alphabet) in uncommonly alien country.

In the mornings after mess, Tchitcherine will usually mosey down

to the red džurts there, fixing to look in on that Galina the school-marm!who appeals to what must be a feminine linkage or two in his personality . . . well . . . often he'll come outside to find his morning skies full of sheet-lightning: gusting, glaring. Awful. The ground shudders just below his hearing. It might be the end of the world, except that it is a fairly average day, for Central Asia. Pulse after heaven-wide pulse. Clouds, some in very clear profile, black and jagged, sail in armadas toward the Asian arctic, above the sweeping dessiatinas of grasses, of mullein stalks, rippling out of sight, green and gray in the wind. An amazing wind. But he stands in the street, out in it, hitching his pants, lapel-points whipped raiding against his chest, cursing Army, Party, History!whatever has put him here. He will not come to love this sky or plain, these people, their animals. Nor look back, no not even in the worst marsh-bivouacs of his soul, in naked Leningrad encounters with the certainty of his death, of the deaths of comrades, never keep any memory of Seven Rivers to shelter with. No music heard, no summer journey taken ... no horse seen against the steppe in the last daylight. . . .

Certainly not Galina. Galina won't even be a proper "memory." Already she is more like the shape of an alphabet, the procedure for field-stripping a Moisin!yes, like remembering to hold back trigger with forefinger of left hand as you remove bolt with right, a set of interlocking precautions, part of a process among the three exiles Galina/Luba/Tchitcherine which is working out its changes, its little dialectic, until it ends, with nothing past the structure to remember. . . .

Her eyes hide in iron shadows, the orbits darkened as if by very precise blows. Her jaw is small, square, levered forward, the lower teeth more apt to show when she speaks. . . . Hardly ever a smile. Bones in her face strongly curved and welded. Her aura is chalkdust, laundry soap, sweat. With desperate Luba about the edges, always, of her room, at her window, a pretty hawk. Galina has trained her!but it's only Luba who flies, who knows the verst-long dive, the talon-shock and the blood, while her lean owner must stay below in the schoolroom, shut in by words, drifts and frost-patterns of white words.

Light pulses behind the clouds. Tchitcherine tracks mud off the street into the Center, gets a blush from Luba, a kind of kowtow and mopflourish from the comical Chinese swamper Chu Piang, unreadable stares from an early pupil or two. The traveling "native" schoolteacher Džaqyp Qulan looks up from a clutter of pastel survey maps, black theodolites, bootlaces, tractor gaskets, plugs, greasy tierod ends,

steel map-cases, 7.62 mm rounds, crumbs and chunks of lepeshka, about to ask for a cigarette which is already out of Tchitcherine's pocket and on route.

He smiles thank you. He'd better. He's not sure of Tchitcherine's intentions, much less the Russian's friendship. Dzaqyp Qulan's father was killed during the 1916 rising, trying to get away from Kuropatkin's troops and over the border into China!one of about 100 fleeing Kirghiz massacred one evening beside a drying trickle of river that might be traceable somehow north to the zero at the top of the world. Russian settlers, in full vigilante panic, surrounded and killed the darker refugees with shovels, pitchforks, old rifles, any weapon to hand. A common occurrence in Semirechie then, even that far from the railroad. They hunted Sarts, Kazakhs, Kirghiz, and Dun-gans that terrible summer like wild game. Daily scores were kept. It was a competition, good-natured but more than play. Thousands of restless natives bit the dust. Their names, even their numbers, lost forever. Colors of skin, ways of dressing became reasonable cause to jail, or beat and kill. Even speaking-voices!because rumors of German and Turkish agents swept along these plains, not without help from Petrograd. This native uprising was supposed to be the doing of foreigners, an international conspiracy to open a new front in the war. More Western paranoia, based solidly on the European balance of power. How could there be Kazakh, Kirghiz!Eastern!reasons? Hadn't the nationalities been happy? Hadn't fifty years of Russian rule brought progress? enrichment?

Well, for now, under the current dispensation in Moscow, Dzaqyp Qulan is the son of a national martyr. The Georgian has come to power, power in Russia, ancient and absolute, proclaiming Be Kind To The Nationalities. But though the lovable old tyrant does what he can, Dzaqyp Qulan remains somehow as much a "native" as before, gauged day-to-day by these Russians as to his degree of restlessness. His sorrel face, his long narrow eyes and dusty boots, where he goes on his travels and what really transpires inside the lonely hide tents Out There, among the auls, out in that wind, these are mysteries they don't care to enter or touch. They throw amiable cigarettes, construct him paper existences, use him as an Educated Native Speaker. He's allowed his function and that's as far as it goes . . . except, now and then, a look from Luba suggesting falconhood!jesses, sky and earth, voyages. ... Or from Galina a silence where there might have been words. ...

Here she has become a connoisseuse of silences. The great silences

of Seven Rivers have not yet been alphabetized, and perhaps never will be. They are apt at any time to come into a room, into a heart, returning to chalk and paper the sensible Soviet alternatives brought out here by the Likbez agents. They are silences NTA cannot fill, cannot liquidate, immense and frightening as the elements in this bear's corner!scaled to a larger Earth, a planet wilder and more distant from the sun. . . . The winds, the city snows and heat waves of Galina's childhood were never so vast, so pitiless. She had to come out here to learn what an earthquake felt like, and how to wait out a sandstorm. What would it be like to go back now, back to a city? Often she will dream some dainty pasteboard model, a city-planner's city, perfectly detailed, so tiny her bootsoles could wipe out neighborhoods at a step!at the same time, she is also a dweller, down inside the little city, coming awake in the very late night, blinking up into painful daylight, waiting for the annihilation, the blows from the sky, drawn terribly tense with the waiting, unable to name whatever it is approaching, knowing!too awful to say!it is herself, her Central Asian giantess self, that is the Nameless Thing she fears. . . .

These tall, these star-blotting Moslem angels ... O, wie spurlos zerträte ein Engel den Trostmarkt. . . . He is constant back there, westward, the African half-brother and his poetry books furrowed and sown with Teutonic lettering burntwood-black!he waits, smudging the pages one by one, out across the unnumbered versts of lowland and of zonal light that slants as their autumns come around again each year, that leans along the planet's withers like an old circus rider, tries to catch their attention with nothing more than its public face, and continues to fail at each slick, perfect pass around the ring.

But didn't Dzaqyp Qulan, now and then!not often!across the paper schoolroom, or by surprise in front of windows into the green deep open, give Tchitcherine a certain look? Didn't the look say, "Nothing you do, nothing he does, will help you in your mortality"? And, "You are brothers. Together, apart, why let it matter this much? Live. Die someday, honorably, meanly!but not by the other's hand. ..." The light of each common autumn keeps bringing the same free advice, each time a little less hopefully. But neither brother can listen. The black must have found, somewhere in Germany, his own version of Dzaqyp Qulan, some childish native to stare him out of German dreams of the Tenth-Elegy angel coming, wingbeats already at the edges of waking, coming to trample spoorless the white marketplace of his own exile. . . . Facing east, the black face keeping watch from some winter embankment or earth-colored wall of a fine-grained

stone into low wastes of Prussia, of Poland, the leagues of meadow waiting, just as Tchitcherine grows each month now more taut and windsmooth at his westward flank, seeing History and Geopolitics move them surely into confrontation as the radios go screaming higher, new penstocks in the night shudder to the touch with hydroelectric rage, mounting, across the empty canyons and passes, skies in the day go thick with miles of falling canopies, white as visions of rich men's heavenly dzurts, gaming now and still awkward, but growing, each strewn pattern, less and less at play. . . .

Out into the bones of the backlands ride Tchitcherine and his faithful Kirghiz companion Dzaqyp Qulan. Tchitcherine's horse is a version of himself!an Appaloosa from the United States named Snake. Snake used to be some kind of remittance horse. Year before last he was in Saudi Arabia, being sent a check each month by a zany (or, if you enjoy paranoid systems, a horribly rational) Midland, Texas oil man to stay off of the U.S. rodeo circuits, where in those days the famous bucking bronco Midnight was flinging young men right and left into the sun-beat fences. But Snake here is not so much Midnight-wild as methodically homicidal. Worse, he's unpredictable. When you go to ride him he may be indifferent, or docile as a maiden. But then again, with no warning, seized out of the last ruffling of a great sigh, he could manage to kill you simply as the gesture of a hoof, the serpent tuck of a head toward the exact moment and spot on the ground that you'll cease to live. No way to tell: for months he can be no trouble at all. So far he's ignored Tchitcherine. But he's tried for Dzaqyp Qulan three times. Twice dumb luck preserved the Kirghiz, and the third time he actually hung on and rode the colt a long time down to a fair kind of obedience. But each time Tchitcherine goes up to Snake's jingling picket on the hillside, he carries, with his leather gear and his bit of scarred tapestry for the horse's back, the doubt, the inconsolable chance that the Kirghiz didn't really break him last time. That Snake is only waiting his moment. . . .

They're riding away from the railroad: farther away from the kinder zones of Earth. Black and white stars explode down the Appaloosa's croup and haunch. At the center of each of these novae is a stark circle of vacuum, of no color, into which midday Kirghiz at the roadsides have taken looks, and grinned away with a turn of the head to the horizon behind.

Strange, strange are the dynamics of oil and the ways of oilmen. Snake has seen a lot of changes since Arabia, on route to Tchitcherine,

who may be his other half!lot of horse thieves, hard riding, confiscation by this government and that, escapes into ever more remote country. This time, the Kirghiz pheasants scattering now at the sound of hooves, birds big as turkeys, black and white with splashes of blood-red all around the eyes, lumbering for the uplands, Snake is going out into what could be the last adventure of all, hardly remembering now the water-pipes at the oases crawling with smoke, the bearded men, the carved, nacred and lacquered saddles, the neck-reins of twisted goathide, the women pillioned and wailing with delight up into Caucasian foothills in the dark, carried by lust, by storm along streaks of faintest trail . . . only traces spread back in a wake now over these terminal grasslands: shadows damping and passing to rest among the rout of pheasants. Momentum builds as the two riders plunge ahead. The smell of forests on the night slowly disappears. Waiting, out in sunlight which is not theirs yet, is the . . . The . . . Waiting for them, the unimagined creature of height, and burning . . .

. . . even now in her grownup dreams, to anxious Galina comes the winged rider, red Sagittarius off the childhood placards of the Revolution. Far from rag, snow, lacerated streets she huddles here in the Asian dust with her buttocks arched skyward, awaiting the first touch of him!of it. . . . Steel hooves, teeth, some whistling sweep of quills across her spine . . . the ringing bronze of an equestrian statue in a square, and her face, pressed into the seismic earth. . . .

"He's a soldier," Luba simply meaning Tchitcherine, "and far away from Home." Posted out to the wild East, and carrying on quiet, expressionless, and clearly under some official curse. The rumors are as extravagant as this country is listless. In the dayroom the corporals talk about a woman: an amazing Soviet courtesan who wore camisoles of white kid and shaved her perfect legs every morning all the way to the groin. Horse-fucking Catherine, ermined and brilliant, brought up to date. Her lovers ran from ministers down to the likes of Captain Tchitcherine, naturally her truest. While neo-Potemkins ranged the deep Arctic for her, skilled and technocratic wolves erecting settlements out of tundra, entire urban abstractions out of the ice and snow, bold Tchitcherine was back at the capital, snuggled away in her dacha, where they played at fisherman and fish, terrorist and State, explorer and edge of the wavegreen world. When official attention was finally directed their way, it did not mean death for Tchitcherine, not even exile!but a thinning out of career possibilities: that happened to be how the vectors ran, in those days. Central Asia for a good part of his

prime years, or attache someplace like Costa Rica (well!he wishes it could be Costa Rica, someday!a release from this purgatory, into shuffling surf, green nights!how he misses the sea, how he dreams of eyes dark and liquid as his own, colonial eyes, gazing down from balconies of rotting stone . . .).

Meanwhile, another rumor tells of his connection with the legendary Wimpe, the head salesman for Ostarzneikunde GmbH, a subsidiary of the IG. Because it is common knowledge that IG representatives abroad are actually German spies, reporting back to an office in Berlin known as "NW7," this story about Tchitcherine is not so easy to believe. If it were literally true, Tchitcherine wouldn't be here!there's no possible way his life could have been spared in favor of this somnambulism among the eastern garrison towns.

Certainly he could have known W━mpe. Their lives, for a while, ran close enough in space and time. Wimpe was a Verbindungsmann in the classic style, with a streak of unhealthy enthusiasm: charming, handsome in a way that came at you in shelves or terraces of strength: amiable gray eyes, vertical granite nose, mouth that never quivered, chin incapable of fantasies . . . dark suits, immaculate leather belts and silver studs, horsehide shoes that gleamed under the skylights in the Czarist entrance-halls and across the Soviet concrete, always dapper, usually correct, informed and passionate about organic chemistry, his specialty and, it's been suggested, his faith.

"Think of chess," in his early days around the capital, looking for a comparison that Russians might take to, "an extravagant game of chess." Going on to show, if his audience was receptive (he had salesman reflexes, knew to steer automatically along lines of least indifference) how each molecule had so many possibilities open to it, possibilities for bonding, bonds of different strengths, from carbon the most versatile, the queen, "the Great Catherine of the periodic table," down to the little hydrogens numerous and single-moving as pawns . . . and the brute opposition of the chessboard yielding, in this chemical game, to dance-figures in three dimensions, "four, if you like," and a radically different idea of what winning and losing meant. . . . Schwärmerei, his colleagues back Home had muttered, finding excuses to drift away into other conversations. But Tchitcherine would have stayed. Foolish and romantic, he would have kept listening, even egged the German on.

How could they have failed to be observed? By and by, as the affair in its repressed and bloodless way proceeded, the Soviet chain of command, solicitous as any 19th-century family, would begin to take sim-

pie steps to keep the two apart. Conservative therapy. Central Asia. But in the weeks of vague and soft intelligence, before the watchers quite caught the drift of things . . . what heads and tails went jingling inside the dark pockets of that indeterminacy? Since his earliest days as a detail man, Wimpe's expertise had been focused in cyclized ben-zylisoquinolines. Those of major interest being the opium alkaloids and their many variations. Right. The inner rooms of Wimpe's office!a suite at an older hotel!were full of samples, German dope in amazing profusion, Wimpe the jinni of the West holding them up, vial after vial, for little Tchitcherine's face to wonder at: "Eumecon, a 2% solution of morphine . . . Dionine (we add on an ethyl group, here, to the morphine, as you see) . . . Holopon and Nealpon, Pantopon and Omnopon, all mixtures of opium alkaloids as the soluble hydrochlo-rides . . . and Glycopon, as glycero-phosphates. . . . Here is Eucodal! a codeine with two hydrogens, a hydroxyl, a hydrochloride"!gesturing in the air around his basic fist!"hanging off different parts of the molecule." Among these patent Medicines, trappings and detailing were half the game!"As the French do with their dresses, nicht wahr? a ribbon here, a pretty buckle there, to help sell a sparer design. . . . Ah, this? Trivalin!" One of the jewels of his line. "Morphine, and caffeine, and cocaine, all in solution, as the valerates. Valerian, ja!root and rhizome: you may have older relatives who took it years ago as a nerve tonic ... a bit of passementerie, you might say!some trimming over these bare molecules."

What did Tchitcherine have to say? Was Tchitcherine there at all? sitting back in the dingy room while the lift cables slapped and creaked through the walls, and down in the street, rarely enough to matter, a droshky rattled whip-snapping over these black old cobbles? Or while snow beat at the grimy windows? How far, in the eyes of those who would send him to Central Asia, was too far: would his simple presence in these rooms have gotten him death automatically ... or was there still, even at this stage of things, enough slack to let him reply?

"But once the pain has been taken care of... the simple pain . . . beyond . . . below that zero level of feeling ... I have heard ..." He has heard. Not the subtlest way to get into it, and W━mpe must have known every standard opener there is. Some military men are only blunt, while others are of such reckless blood there is never a question of "holding back"!it's a positive insanity, they not only will commit horse against cannon, they will lead the charge themselves. It's magnificent, but it's not war. Wait until the Eastern Front. By his first action, Tchitcherine will have gained his reputation as a suicidal maniac.

German field commanders from Finland to the Black Sea will develop for him a gentlemanly distaste. It will be seriously wondered if the man has any sense of military decency at all. They will capture him and lose him, wound him, take him for killed in action, and he will go on, headlong, a raving snowman over the winter marshes!there'll be no wind adjustment, no field-change to the bottleneck fairing or deadly ogive of their Parabellum rounds that can ever bring him down. He is fond, as was Lenin, of Napoleon's on s'engage, etpuis, on voit, and as for plunging ahead, well, that IG man's hotel room may have been one of his earlier rehearsals. Tchitcherine has a way of getting together with undesirables, sub rosa enemies of order, counterrevolutionary odds and ends of humanity: he doesn't plan it, it just happens, he is a giant supermolecule with so many open bonds available at any given time, and in the drift of things ... in the dance of things . . . howsoever . . . others latch on, and the pharmacology of the Tchitcherine thus modified, its onwardly revealed side-effects, can't necessarily be calculated ahead of time. Chu Piang, the Chinese factotum in the red dzurt, knows something of this. The first day Tchitcherine came to report in to the place, Chu Piang knew!and tripped over his mop, not so much to divert attention as to celebrate the meeting. Chu Piang has a bond or two available himself. He is a living monument to the success of British trade policy back during the last century. This classic hustle is still famous, even today, for the cold purity of its execution: bring opium from India, introduce it into China!howdy Fong, this here's opium, opium, this is Fong!ah, so, me eatee!!no-ho-ho, Fong, you smokee, smokee, see? pretty soon Pong's coming back for more and more, so you create an inelastic demand for the shit, get China to make it illegal, then sucker China into a couple-three disastrous wars over the right of your merchants to sell opium, which by now you are describing as sacred. You win, China loses. Fantastic. Chu Piang being a monument to all this, nowadays whole tourist caravans come through to look at him, usually while he's Under The Influence . . . "Here ladies and gentlemen, as you may have observed, the characteristic sooty-gray complexion. . . ." They all stand peering into his dreamstruck facies, attentive men with mutton-chop sideburns, holding pearl-gray morning hats in their hands, the women lifting their skirts away from where horrid Asian critters are seething microscopically across the old floorboards, while their tour leader indicates items of interest with his metal pointer, an instrument remarkably thin, thinner than a rapier in fact, often flashing along much faster than eyes can really follow!"His Need, you will notice, retains its shape under all

manner of stresses. No bodily illness, no scarcity of supply seems to affect it a whit ..." all their mild, their shallow eyes following gently as piano chords from a suburban parlor . . . the inelastic Need turns luminous this stagnant air: it is an ingot beyond price, from which sovereigns yet may be struck, and faces of great administrators engraved and run off to signify. It was worth the trip, just to see this shining, worth the long passage by sleigh, over the frozen steppe in an enormous closed sleigh, big as a ferryboat, bedizened all over with Victorian gingerbread!inside are decks and levels for each class of passenger, velvet saloons, well-stocked galleys, a young Dr. Maledetto whom the ladies love, an elegant menu including everything from Mille-Feuilles a la Fondue de la Cervelle to La Surprise du V└suve, lounges amply fitted out with stereopticons and a library of slides, oak toilets rubbed to a deep red and hand-carved into mermaid faces, acanthus leaves, afternoon and garden shapes to remind the sitter of Home when he needs it most, hot insides poised here so terribly above the breakneck passage of crystalline ice and snow, which may be seen also from the observation deck, the passing vistas of horizontal pallor, the wheeling snowfields of Asia, beneath skies of metal baser by far than this we have come to watch. . . .

Chu Piang is also watching them, as they come, and stare, and go. They are figures in dreams. They amuse him. They belong to the opium: they never come if it's anything else. He tries not to smoke the hashish out here, actually, any more than courtesy demands. That chunky, resinous Turkestan phantasmagoric is fine for Russian, Kirghiz, and other barbaric tastes, but give Chu the tears of the poppy any time. The dreams are better, not so geometrical, so apt to turn everything!the air, the sky!to Persian rugs. Chu prefers situations, journeys, comedy. Finding the same appetite in Tchitcher┴ne, this stocky, Latin-eyed emissary from Moscow, this Soviet remittance man, is enough to make anybody trip over his mop, suds hissing along the floor and the bucket gong-crashing in astonishment. In delight!

Before long these two wretched delinquents are skulking out to the edges of town to meet. It is a local scandal. Chu, from some recess within the filthy rags and shreds that hang from his unwholesome yellow body, produces a repulsive black gob of the foul-smelling substance, wrapped in a scrap torn from an old Enbeksi Qazaq for 17 August of last year. Tchitcherine brings the pipe!being from the West he's in charge of the technology of the thing!a charred, nasty little implement in red and yellow repetitions over Britannia metal, bought used for a handful of kopecks in the Lepers' Quarter of

Bukhara, and yes, nicely broken in too by that time. Reckless Captain Tchitcherine. The two opiomaniacs crouch behind a bit of wall wrecked and tilted from the last earthquake. Occasional riders pass by, some noting them and some not, but all in silence. Stars overhead crowd the sky. Far into the country, grasses blow, and the waves move on through, slow as sheep. It's a mild wind, carrying the last smoke of the day, the odors of herds and jasmine, of standing water, settling dust ... a wind Tchitcherine will never remember. Any more than he can now connect this raw jumble of forty alkaloids with the cut, faceted, polished, and foiled molecules that salesman Wimpe showed him once upon a time, one by one, and told the histories of. ...

"Oneirine, and Methoneirine. Variations reported by Laszlo Jamf in the ACS Journal, year before last. Jamf was on loan again, this time as a chemist, to the Americans, whose National Research Council had begun a massive program to explore the morphine molecule and its possibilities!a Ten-Year Plan, coinciding, most oddly, with the classic study of large molecules being carried on by Carothers of du Pont, the Great Synthesist. Connection? Of course there's one. But we don't talk about it. NRC is synthesizing new molecules every day, most of them from pieces of the morphine molecule. Du Pont is stringing together groups such as amides into long chains. The two programs seem to be complementary, don't they? The American vice of modular repetition, combined with what is perhaps our basic search: to find something that can kill intense pain without causing addiction.

"Results have not been encouraging. We seem up against a dilemma built into Nature, much like the Heisenberg situation. There is nearly complete parallelism between analgesia and addiction. The more pain it takes away, the more we desire it. It appears we can't have one property without the other, any more than a particle physicist can specify position without suffering an uncertainty as to the particle's velocity!"

"I could have told you that. But why!"

"Why. My dear captain. Why?"

"The money, Wimpe. To pour funds down the latrine on such a hopeless search!"

A man-to-man touch then on his buttoned epaulet. A middle-aged smile full of Weltschmerz. "Trade-off, Tchitcherine," whispers the salesman. "A question of balancing priorities. Research people come

cheap enough, and even an IG may be allowed to dream, to hope

against hope. . . . Think of what it would mean to find such a drug!to abolish pain rationally, without the extra cost of addiction. A surplus

cost!surely there is something in Marx and Engels," soothe the customer, "to cover this. A demand like 'addiction,' having nothing to do with real pain, real economic needs, unrelated to production or labor . . . we need fewer of these unknowns, not more. We know how to produce real pain. Wars, obviously . . . machines in the factories, industrial accidents, automobiles built to be unsafe, poisons in food, water, and even air!these are quantities tied directly to the economy. We know them, and we can control them. But 'addiction'? What do we know of that? Fog and phantoms. No two experts will even agree on how to define the word. 'Compulsion'? Who is not compelled? 'Tolerance'? 'Dependence'? What do they mean? All we have are the thousand dim, academic theories. A rational economy cannot depend on psychological quirks. We could not plan. ..."

What premonition has begun to throb in Tchitcherine's right knee? What direct conversion between pain and gold?

"Are you really this evil, or is it just an act? Are you really trafficking in pain?"

"Doctors traffick in pain and no one would dream of criticizing their noble calling. Yet let the Verbindungsmann but reach for the latch on his case, and you all start to scream and run. Well!you won't find many addicts among us. The medical profession is full of them, but we salesmen believe in real pain, real deliverance!we are knights in the service of that Ideal. It must all be real, for the purposes of our market. Otherwise my employer!and our little chemical cartel is the model for the very structure of nations!becomes lost in illusion and dream, and one day vanishes into chaos. Your own employer as well."

"My 'employer' is the Soviet State."

"Yes?" Wimpe did say "is the model," not "will be." Surprising they could have got this far, if indeed they did!being of such different persuasions and all. Wimpe, however, being far more cynical, would have been able to admit more of the truth before starting to feel uncomfortable. His patience with Tchitcherine's Red Army version of economics may have been wide enough. They did part amiably. Wimpe was reassigned to the United States (Chemnyco of New York) shortly after Hitler became Chancellor. Tchitcherine's connection, according to the garrison gossip, ceased then, forever.

But these are rumors. Their chronology can't be trusted. Contradictions creep in. Perfect for passing a winter in Central Asia, if you happen not to be Tchitcherine. If you are Tchitcherine, though, well, that puts you in more of a peculiar position. Doesn't it. You have to

get through the winter on nothing but paranoid suspicions about why you're here. . . .

It's because of Enzian, it's got to be damned Enzian. Tchitcherine has been to the Krasnyy Arkhiv, has seen the records, the diaries and logs from the epical, doomed voyage of Admiral Rozhdestvenski, some still classified even after 20 years. And now he knows. And if it's all in the archives, then They know, too. Nubile young ladies and German dope salesmen are reason enough to send a man east in any period of history. But They would not be who or where They are without a touch of Dante to Their notions of reprisal. Simple talion may be fine for wartime, but politics between wars demands symmetry and a more elegant idea of justice, even to the point of masquerading, a bit deca-dently, as mercy. It is more complicated than mass execution, more difficult and less satisfying, but there are arrangements Tchitcherine can't see, wide as Europe, perhaps as the world, that can't be disturbed very much, between wars. . . .

It seems that in December, 1904, Admiral Rozhdestvenski, commanding a fleet of 42 Russian men-o'-war, steamed into the South-West African port of L┨deritzbucht. This was at the height of the Russo-Japanese War. Rozhdestvenski was on route to the Pacific, to relieve the other Russian fleet, which had been bottled up for months in Port Arthur by the Japanese. Out of the Baltic, around Europe and Africa, bound across the whole Indian Ocean and then north along the final coast of Asia, it was to be among the most spectacular sea voyages of history: seven months and 18,000 miles to an early summer day in the waters between Japan and Korea, where one Admiral Togo, who'd been lying in wait, would come sailing out from behind the island of Tsushima and before nightfall hand Rozhdestvenski's ass to him. Only four Russian ships would make it in to Vladivostok!nearly all the rest would be sunk by the wily Jap.

Tchitcherine's father was a gunner on the Admiral's flagship, the Suvorov. The fleet paused in L┨deritzbucht for a week, trying to take on coal. Storms lashed through the crowded little harbor. The Suvorov kept smashing up against her colliers, tearing holes in the sides, wrecking many of her own 12-pound guns. Squalls blew in, clammy coal dust swirled and stuck to everything, human and steel. Sailors worked around the clock, with searchlights set up on deck at night, hauling coal sacks, half blind in the glare, shoveling, sweating, coughing, bitching. Some went crazy, a few tried suicide. Old Tchitcherine,

after two days of it, went AWOL, and stayed away till it was over. He

found a Herero girl who'd lost her husband in the uprising against the Germans. It was nothing he had planned or even dreamed about before going ashore. What did he know of Africa? He had a wife back in Saint Petersburg, and a child hardly able to roll over. Up till then Kron-stadt was the farthest he'd been from Home. He only wanted a rest from the working parties, and from the way it looked . . . from what the black and white of coal and arc-light were about to say ... no color, and the unreality to go with it!but a familiar unreality, that warns This Is All Being Staged To See What I'll Do So I Mustn't Make One Wrong Move ... on the last day of his life, with Japanese iron whistling down on him from ships that are too far off in the haze for him even to see, he will think of the slowly carbonizing faces of men he thought he knew, men turning to coal, ancient coal that glistened, each crystal, in the hoarse sputter of the Jablochkov candles, each flake struck perfect... a conspiracy of carbon, though he never phrased it as "carbon," it was power he walked away from, the feeling of too much meaningless power, flowing wrong ... he could smell Death in it. So he waited till the master-at-arms turned to light a cigarette, and then just walked away!they were all too black, artificially black, for it to be easily noticed!and found ashore the honest blackness of the solemn Herero girl, which seemed to him a breath of life after long confinement, and stayed with her at the edge of the flat sorrowful little town, near the railroad, in a one-room house built of saplings, packing-cases, reeds, mud. The rain blew. The trains cried and puffed. The man and woman stayed in bed and drank kari, which is brewed from potatoes, peas, and sugar, and in Herero means "the drink of death." It was nearly Christmas, and he gave her a medal he had won in some gunnery exercise long ago on the Baltic. By the time he left, they had learned each other's names and a few words in the respective languages!afraid, happy, sleep, love . . . the beginnings of a new tongue, a pidgin which they were perhaps the only two speakers of in the world.

But he went back. His future was with the Baltic fleet, it was something neither he nor the girl questioned. The storm blew out, fog covered the sea. Tchitcherine steamed away, shut back down in a dark and stinking compartment below the Suvorov's waterline, drinking his Christmas vodka and yarning about his good times in a space that didn't rock, back at the edge of the dry veld with something warm and kind around his penis besides his lonely fist. He was already describing her as a sultry native wench. It is the oldest sea story. As he told it he was no longer Tchitcherine, but a single-faced crowd before and after,

all lost but not all unlucky. The girl may have stood on some promontory watching the gray ironclads dissolve one by one in the South Atlantic mist, but even if you'd like a few bars of Madame Butterfly about here, she was more probably out hustling, or asleep. She was not going to have an easy time. Tchitcherine had left her with a child, born a few months after the gunner went down in sight of the steep cliffs and green forests of Tsushima, early in the evening of 27 May.

The Germans recorded the birth and the father's name (he had written it down for her, as sailors do!he had given her his name) in their central files at Windhoek. A travel pass was issued for mother and child to return to her tribal village, shortly after. A census by the colonial government to see how many natives they'd killed, taken just after Enzian was returned by Bushmen to the same village, lists the mother as deceased, but her name is in the records. A visa dated December 1926 for Enzian to enter Germany, and later an application for German citizenship, are both on file in Berlin.

It took no small amount of legwork to assemble all these pieces of paper. Tchitcherine had nothing to start with but a brief word or two in the Admiralty papers. But this was in the era of Feodora Alexan-drevna, she of the kidskin underwear, and the access situation was a little better for Tchitcherine than it is now. The Rapallo Treaty was also in force, so there were any number of lines open to Berlin. That weird piece of paper ... in his moments of sickest personal grandeur it is quite clear to him how his own namesake and the murdered Jew put together an elaborate piece of theatre at Rapallo, and that the real and only purpose was to reveal to Vaslav Tchitcherine the existence of Enzian . . . the garrison life out east, like certain drugs, makes these things amazingly clear. . . .

But alas, seems like the obsessive is his own undoing. The dossier that Tchitcherine put together on Enzian (he'd even got to see what Soviet intelligence had on then Lieutenant Weissmann and his political adventures in S┨dwest) was reproduced by some eager apparatchik and stashed in Tchitcherine's own dossier. And so it transpired, no more than a month or two later, that somebody equally anonymous had cut Tchitcherine's orders for Baku, and he was grimly off to attend the first plenary session of the VTsK NTA (Vsesoynznyy Tsentral'nyy Komitet Novogo Tyurkskogo Alfavita), where he was promptly assigned to the Committee.

 seems to be a kind of G, a voiced uvular plosive. The distinction

between it and your ordinary G is one Tchitcherine will never learn to appreciate. Come to find out, all the Weird Letter Assignments have

been reserved for ne'er-do-wells like himself. Shatsk, the notorious Leningrad nose-fetishist, who carries a black satin handkerchief to Party congresses and yes, more than once has been unable to refrain from reaching out and actually stroking the noses of powerful officials, is here!banished to the Committee, where he keeps forgetting that  in the NTA, is not Russian F, thus retarding progress and sowing confusion at every working session. Most of his time is taken up with trying to hustle himself a transfer to the Committee, "Or actually," sidling closer, breathing heavily, "just a plain, N, or even an M, will, do. ..." The impetuous and unstable practical joker Radnichny has pulled the Committee, being a schwa or neutral uh, where he has set out on a megalomaniac project to replace every spoken vowel in Central Asia!and why stop there, why not even a consonant or two? with these schwas here . . . not unusual considering his record of impersonations and dummy resolutions, and a brilliant but doomed conspiracy to hit Stalin in the face with a grape chiffon pie, in which he was implicated only enough to get him Baku instead of worse.

Naturally Tchitcherine gravitates into this crew of irredeemables. Before long, if it isn't some scheme of Radnichny's to infiltrate an oilfield and disguise a derrick as a giant penis, it's lurking down in Arab quarters of the city, waiting with the infamous Ukrainian doper Bugnogorkov of the glottal K Committee (ordinary K being represented by Q, whereas C is pronounced with a sort of tch sound) for a hashish connection, or fending off the nasal advances of Shatsk. It occurs to him that he is, in reality, locked up in some military nut ward back in Moscow, and only hallucinating this plenary session. No one here seems quite right in the head.

Most distressing of all is the power struggle he has somehow been suckered into with one Igor Blobadjian, a party representative on the prestigious G Committee. Blobadjian is fanatically attempting to steal  s from Tchitcherine's Committee, and change them to Gs, using loan-words as an entering wedge. In the sunlit, sweltering commissary the two men sneer at each other across trays of zapekanka and Georgian fruit soup.

There is a crisis over which kind of g to use in the word "stenography." There is a lot of emotional attachment to the word around here. Tchitcherine one morning finds all the pencils in his conference room have mysteriously vanished. In revenge, he and Radnichny sneak in Blobadjian's conference room next night with hacksaws, files and torches, and reform the alphabet on his typewriter. It is some fun in the morning. Blobadjian runs around in a prolonged screaming fit.

Tchitcherine's in conference, meeting's called to order, CRASH! two dozen linguists and bureaucrats go toppling over on their ass. Noise echoes for a full two minutes. Tchitcherine, on his ass, notes that pieces of chair leg all around the table have been sawed off, reattached with wax and varnished over again. A professional job, all right. Could Radnichny be a double agent? The time for lighthearted practical jokes is past. Tchitcherine must go it alone. Painstakingly, by mid-watch lantern light, when the manipulations of letters are most apt to produce other kinds of illumination, Tchitcherine transliterates the opening sura of the holy Koran into the proposed NTA, and causes it to be circulated among the Arabists at the session, over the name of Igor Blobadjian.

This is asking for trouble, all right. These Arabists are truly a frenzied bunch. They have been lobbying passionately for a New Turkic Alphabet made up of Arabic letters. There are fistfights in the hallways with unreconstructed Cyrillicists, and whispers of a campaign to boycott, throughout the Islamic world, any Latin alphabet. (Actually nobody is really too keen on a Cyrillic NTA. Old Czarist albatrosses still hang around the Soviet neck. There is strong native resistance in Central Asia these days to anything suggesting Russification, and that goes even for the look of a printed language. The objections to an Arabic alphabet have to do with the absence of vowel symbols, and no strict one-to-one relation between sounds and characters. So this has left Latin, by default. But the Arabists aren't giving up. They keep proposing reformed Arabic scripts!mostly on the model of one ratified at Bukhara in 1923 and used successfully among the Uzbeks. Palatal and velar vocalics of spoken Kazakh can be got round by using diacritical marks.) And there is a strong religious angle in all this. Using a non-Arabic alphabet is felt to be a sin against God!most of the Turkic peoples are, after all, Islamic, and Arabic script is the script of Islam, it is the script in which the word of Allah came down on the Night of Power, the script of the Koran!

Of the what? Does Tchitcherine know what he's doing with this forgery of his? It is more than blasphemy, it is an invitation to holy war. Blobadjian, accordingly, is pursued through the black end of Baku by a passel of screaming Arabists waving scimitars and grinning horribly. The oil towers stand sentinel, bone-empty, in the dark. Hunchbacks, lepers, hebephrenics and amputees of all descriptions have come popping out of their secret spaces to watch the fun. They loll back against the rusting metal flanks of refinery hardware, their whole common sky in a tessellation of primary colors. They occupy the

chambers and bins and pockets of administrative emptiness left after the Revolution, when the emissaries from Dutch Shell were asked to leave, and the English and Swedish engineers all went Home. It is a period now in Baku of lull, of retrenchment. All the oil money taken out of these fields by the Nobels has gone into Nobel Prizes. New wells are going down elsewhere, between the Volga and the Urals. Time for retrospection here, for refining the recent history that's being pumped up fetid and black from other strata of Earth's mind. . . .

"In here, Blobadjian!quickly." Close behind, Arabists are ululating, shrill, merciless, among the red-orange stars over the crowds of derricks.

Slam. The last hatch is dogged. "Wait!what is this?"

"Come. Time for your journey now."

"But I don't want!"

"You don't want to be another slaughtered infidel. Too late, Blobadjian. Here we go. . . ."

The first thing he learns is how to vary his index of refraction. He can choose anything between transparent and opaque. After the thrill of experimenting has worn off, he settles on a pale, banded onyx effect.

"It suits you," murmur his guides. "Now hurry."

"No. I want to pay Tchitcherine what he's got coming."

"Too late. You're no part of what he's got coming. Not any more."

"But he!"

"He's a blasphemer. Islam has its own machineries for that. Angels and sanctions, and careful interrogating. Leave him. He has a different way to go."

How alphabetic is the nature of molecules. One grows aware of it down here: one finds Committees on molecular structure which are very similar to those back at the NTA plenary session. "See: how they are taken out from the coarse flow!shaped, cleaned, rectified, just as you once redeemed your letters from the lawless, the mortal streaming of human speech. . . . These are our letters, our words: they too can be modulated, broken, recoupled, redefined, co-polymerized one to the other in worldwide chains that will surface now and then over long molecular silences, like the seen parts of a tapestry."

Blobadjian comes to see that the New Turkic Alphabet is only one version of a process really much older!and less unaware of itself! than he has ever had cause to dream. By and by, the frantic competition between I and G has faded away to trivial childhood memories.

Dim anecdotes. He has gone beyond!once a sour bureaucrat with an upper lip as clearly demarcated as a chimpanzee's, now he is an adventurer, well off on a passage of his own, by underground current, without any anxiety over where it may be taking him. He has even lost, an indefinite distance upstream, his pride in feeling once a little sorry for Vaslav Tchitcherine, destined never to see the things Blobadjian is seeing. . . .

And print just goes marching on without him. Copy boys go running down the rows of desks trailing smeared galleys in the air. Native printers get crash courses from experts airlifted in from Tiflis on how to set up that NTA. Printed posters go up in the cities, in Samarkand and Pishpek, Verney and Tashkent. On sidewalks and walls the very first printed slogans start to show up, the first Central Asian fuck you signs, the first kill-the-police-commissioner signs (and somebody does! this alphabet is really something!) and so the magic that the shamans, out in the wind, have always known, begins to operate now in a political way, and Dzaqyp Qulan hears the ghost of his own lynched father with a scratchy pen in the night, practicing As and Bs. . . .

But right about now, here come Tchitcherine and Dzaqyp Qulan riding up over some low hills and down into the village they've been looking for. The people are gathered in a circle: there's been a feast all day. Fires are smoldering. In the middle of the crowd a small space has been cleared, and two young voices can be heard even at this distance.

It is an ajtys!a singing-duel. The boy and girl stand in the eye of the village carrying on a mocking well-I-sort-of-like-you-even-if-there's-one-or-two-weird-things-about-you-for-instance!kind of game while the tune darts in and out of qobyz and dombra strummed and plucked. The people laugh at the good lines. You have to be on your toes for this: you trade four-line stanzas, first, second, and last lines all have to rhyme though the lines don't have to be any special length, just breathable. Still, it's tricky. It gets insulting too. There are villages where some partners haven't spoken to each other for years after an ajtys. As Tchitcherine and Dzaqyp Qulan ride in, the girl is making fun of her opponent's horse, who is just a little!nothing serious, but kind of heavy-set . . . well, fat, really. Really fat. And it's getting to the kid. He's annoyed. He zips back a fast one about bringing all his friends around and demolishing her and her

family too. Everybody sort of goes hmm. No laughs. She smiles, tightly, and sings:

You've been drinking a lot of qumys, I must be hearing the words of qumys! For where were you the night my brother Came looking for his stolen qumys?

Oh-oh. The brother she mentioned is laughing fit to bust. The kid singing is not so happy.

"This could go on for a while." Dzaqyp Qulan dismounts, and sets about straightening his knee joints. "That's him, over there."

A very old aqyn!a wandering Kazakh singer!sits with a cup of qumys, dozing near the fire.

"Are you sure he'll!"

"He'll sing about it. He's ridden right through that country. He'd betray his profession if he didn't."

They sit down and are passed cups of the fermented mare's milk, with a bit of lamb, lepeshka, a few strawberries. . . . The boy and girl go on battling with their voices!and Tchitcherine understands, abruptly, that soon someone will come out and begin to write some of these down in the New Turkic Alphabet he helped frame . . . and this is how they will be lost.

Now and then he glances over at the old aqyn, who only appears to be sleeping. In fact he radiates for the singers a sort of guidance. It is kindness. It can be felt as unmistakably as the heat from the embers.

Slowly, turn by turn, the couple's insults get gentler, funnier. What might have been a village apocalypse has gone on now into comic cooperation, as between a pair of vaudeville comedians. They are out of themselves, playing it all for the listeners to enjoy. The girl has the last word.

Did I hear you mention a marriage? Here there has been a marriage! This warm circle of song, Boisterous, loud as any marriage. ...

And I like you, even if there are one or two things! For a little while the feast gathers momentum. Drunks holler and women talk, and the little kids totter in and out of the huts, and the wind has

picked up some speed. Then the wandering singer begins to tune his dombra, and the Asian silence comes back.

"Are you going to get it all?" asks Dzaqyp Qulan.

"In stenography," replies Tchitcherine, his g a little glottal.

the aqyn's song

I have come from the edge of the world. I have come from the lungs of the wind, With a thing I have seen so awesome Even Dzambul could not sing it. With a fear in my heart so sharp It will cut the strongest of metals.

In the ancient tales it is told In a time that is older than Qorqyt, Who took from the wood of Syrghaj The first qobyz, and the first song! It is told that a land far distant Is the place of the Kirghiz Light.

In a place where words are unknown, And eyes shine like candles at night, And the face of God is a presence Behind the mask of the sky! At the tall black rock in the desert, In the time of the final days.

If the place were not so distant, If words were known, and spoken, Then the God might be a gold ikon, Or a page in a paper book. But It comes as the Kirghiz Light! There is no other way to know It.

The roar of Its voice is deafness, The flash of Its light is blindness. The floor of the desert rumbles, And Its face cannot be borne. And a man cannot be the same, After seeing the Kirghiz Light.

For I tell you that I have seen It

In a place which is older than darkness,

Where even Allah cannot reach.

As you see, my beard is an ice-field,

I walk with a stick to support me,

But this light must change us to children.

And now I cannot walk far, For a baby must learn to walk. And my words are reaching your ears As the meaningless sounds of a baby. For the Kirghiz Light took my eyes, Now I sense all Earth like a baby.

It is north, for a six-day ride,

Through the steep and death-gray canyons,

Then across the stony desert

To the mountain whose peak is a white džurt.

And if you have passed without danger,

The place of the black rock will find you.

But if you would not be born, Then stay with your warm red fire, And stay with your wife, in your tent, And the Light will never find you, And your heart will grow heavy with age, And your eyes will shut only to sleep.

"Got it," sez Tchitcherine. "Let's ride, comrade." Off again, the fires dying at their backs, the sounds of string music, of village carousing, presently swallowed behind the wind.

And on into the canyons. Far away to the north, a white mountain-top winks in the last sunlight. Down here, it is already shadowed evening.

Tchitcherine will reach the Kirghiz Light, but not his birth. He is no aqyn, and his heart was never ready. He will see It just before dawn. He will spend 12 hours then, face-up on the desert, a prehistoric city greater than Babylon lying in stifled mineral sleep a kilometer below his back, as the shadow of the tall rock, rising to a point, dances west to east and Džaqyp Qulan tends him, anxious as child and doll, and drying foam laces the necks of the two horses. But someday, like the mountains, like the young exiled women in their certain love, in their

innocence of him, like the morning earthquakes and the cloud-driving wind, a purge, a war, and millions after millions of souls gone behind him, he will hardly be able to remember It.

But in the Zone, hidden inside the summer Zone, the Rocket is waiting. He will be drawn the same way again. ...

########

Last week, in the British sector someplace, Slothrop, having been asshole enough to drink out of an ornamental pond in the Tiergarten, took sick. Any Berliner these days knows enough to boil water before drinking, though some then proceed to brew it with various things for tea, such as tulip bulbs, which is not good. Word is out that the center of the bulb is deadly poison. But they keep doing it. Once Slothrop! or Rocketman, as he is soon to be known!thought he might warn them about things like tulip bulbs. Bring in a little American enlightenment. But he gets so desperate with them, moving behind their scrims of European pain: he keeps pushing aside gauze after wavy gauze but there's always still the one, the impenetrable. . . .

So there he is, under the trees in summer leaf, in flower, many of them blasted horizontal or into chips and splinters!fine dust from the bridle paths rising in the sunrays by itself, ghosts of horses still taking their early-morning turns through the peacetime park. Up all night and thirsty, Slothrop lies on his stomach and slurps up water, just an old saddle tramp at the water hole here. . . . Fool. Vomiting, cramps, diarrhea, and who's he to lecture about tulip bulbs? He manages to crawl as far as an empty cellar, across the street from a wrecked church, curls up and spends the next days feverish, shivering, oozing shit that burns like acid!lost, alone with that sovereign Nazi movie-villain fist clamping in his bowels ja!you vill shit now, ja? Wondering if he'll ever see Berkshire again. Mommy, Mommy! The War's over, why can't I go Home now? Nalline, the reflection from her Gold Star brightening her chins like a buttercup, smirks by the window and won't answer. . . .

A terrible time. Hallucinating Rolls Royces and bootheels in the night, coming to get him. Out in the street women in babushkas are lackadaisically digging trenches for the black iron water pipe that's stacked along the curbside. All day long they talk, shift after shift, into evening. Slothrop lies in the space where sunlight visits his cellar

for half an hour before going on to others with mean puddles of warmth!sorry, got to go now, schedule to keep, see you tomorrow if it doesn't rain, heh heh. . . .

Once Slothrop wakes to the sound of an American work detail marching down the street, cadence being counted by a Negro voice! yo lep, yo lep, yo lep O right O lep . . . kind of little German folk tune with some sliding up-scale on the word "right"!Slothrop can imagine his mannered jog of arm and head to the left as he comes down hard on that heel, the way they teach it in Basic . . . can see the man's smile. For a minute he has the truly unbalanced idea of running out in the street and asking them to take him back, requesting political asylum in America. But he's too weak. In his stomach, in his heart. He lies, listening the tramping and the voice out of earshot, the sound of his country fading away. . . . Fading like the WASP ghosts, the old-time DPs trailing rootless now down the roads out of his memory, crowding the rooftops of the freights of forgetfulness, knapsacks and poor refugee pockets stuffed with tracts nobody'd read, looking for another host: given up for good on Rocketman here. Somewhere between the burning in his head and the burning in his asshole, if the two can be conveniently separated, and paced to that dying cadence, he elaborates a fantasy in which Enzian, the African, finds him again!conies to offer him a way out.

Because it seems a while back that they did meet again, by the reedy edge of a marsh south of the capital. Unshaven, sweating, stinking Rocketman restlessly tripping out to the suburbs, among his people: there is haze over the sun, and a rotting swamp odor worse than Slothrop's own. Only two or three hours' sleep in the last couple of days. He stumbles on the Schwarzkommando, busy dredging for pieces of rocket. Formations of dark birds are cruising in the sky. The Africans have a partisan look: pieces here and there of old Wehrmacht and SS uniform, tattered civilian clothes, only one insigne in common, worn wherever it will show, a painted steel device in red, white and blue, thus:

Adapted from insignia the German troopers wore in South-West Africa when they came in 1904 to crush the Herero Rebellion!it was used to pin up half the brim of a wide-awake hat. For the Zone-Hereros it has become something deep, Slothrop gathers, maybe a little mystical. Though he recognizes the letters!

Klar, Entl┨ftung, Z┨ndung, Vorstufe, Hauptstufe, the five positions of the launching switch in the A4 control car!he doesn't let on to Enzian.

They sit on a hillside eating bread and sausages. Children from the town move by in every direction. Someone has set up an army tent, someone has brought beer in kegs. A scratch band, a dozen brasses in tasseled, frayed gold and red uniforms play selections from Der Mei-stersmger. Fat-smoke drifts in the air. Choruses of drinkers in the distance break from time to time into laughter or a song. It's a Rocket-raising: a festival new to this country. Soon it will come to the folk-attention how close Wernher von Braun's birthday is to the Spring Equinox, and the same German impulse that once rolled flower-boats through the towns and staged mock battles between young Spring and deathwhite old Winter will be erecting strange floral towers out in the clearings and meadows, and the young scientist-surrogate will be going round and round with old Gravity or some such buffoon, and the children will be tickled, and laugh. . . .

Schwarzkommando struggle knee-deep in mud, engaged entirely with the salvage, with the moment. The A4 they're about to uncover was used in the last desperate battle for Berlin!an abortive firing, a warhead that didn't explode. Around its grave they're driving in planks for shoring, sending back mud in buckets and wood casks along a human chain to be dumped on shore, near where their rifles and kits are stacked.

"So Marvy was right. They didn't disarm you guys."

"They didn't know where to find us. We were a surprise. There are even now powerful factions in Paris who don't believe we exist. And most of the time I'm not so sure myself."

"How's that?"

"Well, I think we're here, but only in a statistical way. Something like that rock over there is just about 100% certain!it knows it's there, so does everybody else. But our own chances of being right here right now are only a little better than even!the slightest shift in the probabilities and we're gone!schnapp! like that."

"Peculiar talk, Oberst."

"Not if you've been where we have. Forty years ago, in S┨dwest, we were nearly exterminated. There was no reason. Can you understand that? No reason. We couldn't even find comfort in the Will of God Theory. These were Germans with names and service records, men in blue uniforms who killed clumsily and not without guilt. Search-and-destroy missions, every day. It went on for two years. The

orders came down from a human being, a scrupulous butcher named von Trotha. The thumb of mercy never touched his scales.

"We have a word that we whisper, a mantra for times that threaten to be bad. Mba-kayere. You may find that it will work for you. Mba-kayere. It means 'I am passed over.' To those of us who survived von Trotha, it also means that we have learned to stand outside our history and watch it, without feeling too much. A little schizoid. A sense for the statistics of our being. One reason we grew so close to the Rocket, I think, was this sharp awareness of how contingent, like ourselves, the Aggregat 4 could be!how at the mercy of small things . . . dust that gets in a timer and breaks electrical contact ... a film of grease you can't even see, oil from a touch of human fingers, left inside a liquid-oxygen valve, flaring up soon as the stuff hits and setting the whole thing off!I've seen that happen . . . rain that swells the bushings in the servos or leaks into a switch: corrosion, a short, a signal grounded out, Brennschluss too soon, and what was alive is only an Aggregat again, an Aggregat of pieces of dead matter, no longer anything that can move, or that has a Destiny with a shape!stop doing that with your eyebrows, Scuffling. I may have gone a bit native out here, that's all. Stay in the Zone long enough and you'll start getting ideas about Destiny yourself."

A cry from down in the marsh. Birds swirl upward, round and black, grains of coarse-cut pepper on this bouillabaisse sky. Little kids come skidding to a halt, and the brass band fall silent in mid-bar. En-zian is on his feet and loping down to where the others are gathering.

"Was ist los, meinen Sumpfmenschen?" The others, laughing, scoop up fistfuls of mud and start throwing them at their Nguarore-rue, who ducks, dodges, grabs him some of that mud and starts flinging it back. The Germans on shore stand blinking, politely aghast at this lack of discipline.

Down in the plank enclosure, a couple of muddy trim-tabs poke up now out of the marsh, with twelve feet of mud between them. Enzian, spattered and dripping, his white grin preceding him by several meters, vaults over the shoring and into the hole, and grabs a shovel. The moment has become roughly ceremonial: Andreas and Christian have moved up to either side to help him scrape and dig till about a foot of one fin-surface is exposed. The Determination of the Number. The Nguarorerue crouches and brushes away mud, revealing part of a slashmark, a white 2, and a 7.

"Outase." And glum faces on the others.

Slothrop's got a hunch. "You expected der F┨nffachnullpunkt," he proposes to Enzian a little later, "the quintuple zero, right? Haa-aaah!" Gotcha, gotcha!

Throwing up his hands, "It's insane. I don't believe there is one."

"Zero probability?"

"I think it will depend on the number of searchers. Are your people after it?"

"I don't know. I only heard by accident. I don't have any people."

"Schwarzgerät, Schwarzkommando. Scuffling: suppose somewhere there were an alphabetical list, someone's list, an input to some intelligence arm, say. Some country, doesn't matter. But suppose that on this list, the two names, Blackinstrument, Blackcommand, just happened to be there, juxtaposed. That's all, an alphabetical coincidence. We wouldn't have to be real, and neither would it, correct?"

The marshes streak away, patched with light under the milk overcast. Negative shadows flicker white behind the edges of everything. "Well, this is all creepy enough here, Oberst," sez Slothrop. "You're not helping."

Enzian is staring into Slothrop's face, with something like a smile under his beard.

"O.K. Who is after it, then?" Being enigmatic, won't answer!is this bird looking to be needled? "That Major Marvy," opines Slothrop, "a-and that Tchitcherine, too!"

Ha! That did it. Like a salute, a boot-click, Enzian's face snaps into perfect neutrality. "You would oblige me," he begins, then settles for changing the subject. "You were down in the Mittelwerke. How did Marvy's people seem to be getting along with the Russians?"

"Ace buddies, seemed like."

"I have the feeling that the occupying Powers have just about reached agreement on a popular front against the Schwarzkommando. I don't know who you are, or how your lines are drawn. But they're trying to shut us down. I'm just back from Hamburg. We had trouble. It was made to look like a DP raid, but the British military government was behind it, and they had Russian cooperation."

"I'm sorry. Can I help?"

"Don't be reckless. Let's all wait and see. All anyone knows about you is that you keep showing up."

Toward dusk, the black birds descend, millions of them, to sit in the branches of trees nearby. The trees grow heavy with black birds, branches like dendrites of the Nervous System fattening,

deep in twittering nerve-dusk, in preparation for some important message. ...

Later in Berlin, down in the cellar among fever-dreams with shit leaking out of him at gallons per hour, too weak to aim more than token kicks at the rats running by with eyes fixed earnestly noplace, trying to make believe they don't have a newer and dearer status among the Berliners, at minimum points on his mental health chart, when the sun is gone so totally it might as well be for good, Slothrop's dumb idling heart sez: The Schwarzgerät is no Grail, Ace, that's not what the G in Imipolex G stands for. And you are no knightly hero. The best you can compare with is Tannhäuser, the Singing Nincompoop! you've been under one mountain at Nordhausen, been known to sing a song or two with uke accompaniment, and don'tcha feel you're in a sucking marshland of sin out here, Slothrop? maybe not the same thing William Slothrop, vomiting a good part of 1630 away over the side of that Arbella, meant when he said "sin." . . . But what you've done is put yourself on somebody else's voyage!some Frau Holda, some Venus in some mountain!playing her, its, game . . . you know that in some irreducible way it's an evil game. You play because you have nothing better to do, but that doesn't make it right. And where is the Pope whose staff's gonna bloom for you?

As a matter of fact, he is also just about to run into his Lisaura: someone he will be with for a while and then leave again. The Minnesinger abandoned his poor woman to suicide. What Slothrop will be leaving Greta Erdmann to is not so clear. Along the Havel in Neuba-belsberg she waits, less than the images of herself that survive in an indeterminate number of release prints here and there about the Zone, and even across the sea. . . . Every kind technician who ever threw a magenta gel across her key light for her has gone to war or death, and she is left nothing but God's indifferent sunlight in all its bleaching and terror. . . . Eyebrows plucked to pen-strokes, long hair streaked with gray, hands heavy with rings of all colors, opacities and uglinesses, wearing her dark prewar Chanel suits, no hat, scarves, always a flower, she is haunted by Central European night-whispers that blow, like the skin curtains of Berlin, more ghostly around her fattening, wrecked beauty the closer she and Slothrop draw. . . .

This is how they meet. One night Slothrop is out raiding a vegetable garden in the park. Thousands of people living in the open. He skirts their fires, stealthy! All he wants is a handful of greens here, a carrot or mangel-wurzel there, just to keep him going. When they see

him they throw rocks, lumber, once not long ago an old hand-grenade that didn't go off but made him shit where he stood.

This evening he is orbiting someplace near the Grosser Stern. It is long after curfew. Odors of woodsmoke and decay hang over the city. Among pulverized heads of stone margraves and electors, reconnoiter-ing a likely-looking cabbage patch, all of a sudden Slothrop picks up the scent of an unmistakable no it can't be yes it is it's a REEFER! A-and it's burning someplace close by. Goldshot green of the Rif's slant fields here, vapor-blossoms resinous and summery, charm his snoot on through bushes and matted grass, under the blasted trees and whatever sits in their branches.

Sure enough, in the hollow of an upended trunk, long roots fringing the scene like a leprechaun outpost, Slothrop finds one Emil ("Säure") Bummer, once the Weimar Republic's most notorious cat burglar and doper, flanked by two beautiful girls, handing around a cheerful little orange star. The depraved old man. Slothrop's on top of them before they notice. Bummer smiles, reaches up an arm, offering the remainder of what they've been smoking to Slothrop, who receives it in long dirty fingernails. Oboy. He hunkers down.

"Was ist los?" sez Säure. "We've had a windfall of kif. Allah has smiled on us, well actually he was smiling at everybody, we just happened to be in his direct line of sight. ..." His nickname, which means "acid" in German, developed back in the twenties, when he was carrying around a little bottle of schnapps which, if he got in a tight spot, he would bluff people into thinking was fuming nitric acid. He comes out now with another fat Moroccan reefer. They light up off of Slothrop's faithful Zippo.

Trudi, the blonde, and Magda, the sultry Bavarian, have spent the day looting a stash of Wagnerian opera costumes. There is a pointed helmet with horns, a full cape of green velvet, a pair of buckskin trousers.

"Saaaay," sez Slothrop, "that rig looks pretty sharp!"

"They're for you," Magda smiles.

"Aw . . . no. You'd get a better deal at the Tauschzentrale. . . ."

But Säure insists. "Haven't you ever noticed, when you're this Blitzed and you want somebody to show up, they always do?"

The girls are moving the coal of the reefer about, watching its reflection in the shiny helmet changing shapes, depths, grades of color

. . . hmm. It occurs to Slothrop here that without those horns on it,

why this helmet would look just like the nose assembly of the Rocket. And if he could find a few triangular scraps of leather, figure a way to sew them on to Tchitcherine's boots . . . yeah, a-and on the back of the cape put a big, scarlet, capital R! It is as pregnant a moment as when Ton to, after the legendary ambush, attempts to!

"Raketemensch!" screams Säure, grabbing the helmet and unscrewing the horns o┴f of it. Names by themselves may be empty, but the act of naming. . . .

"You had the same idea?" Oh, strange. Säure carefully reaches up and places the helmet on Slothrop's head. Ceremonially the girls drape the cape around his shoulders. Troll scouting parties have already sent runners back to inform their people.

"Good. Now listen, Rocketman, I'm in a bit of trouble."

"Hah?" Slothrop has been imagining a mil-scale Rocketman Hype, in which the people bring him food, wine and maidens in a four-color dispensation in which there is a lot of skipping and singing "La, la, la, la," and beefsteaks blossoming from these strafed lindens, and roast turkeys thudding down like soft hail on Berlin, sweet potatoes a-and melted marshmallows, bubbling up out of the ground. . . .

"Do you have any armies?" Trudi wants to know. Slothrop, or Rocketman, hands over half a withered pack.

The reefer keeps coming around: darts and stabs through this root shelter. Everybody forgets what it is they've been talking about. There's the smell of earth. Bugs rush through, aerating. Magda has lit one of Slothrop's cigarettes for him and he tastes raspberry lipstick. Lipstick? Who's got lipstick these days? What are all these people here into, anyway?

Berlin is dark enough for stars, the accustomed stars but never so clearly arranged. It is possible also to make up your own constellations. "Oh," Säure recalls, "I had this problem ..."

"I'm really hungry," it occurs to Slothrop.

Trudi is telling Magda about her boy friend Gustav, who wants to live inside the piano. "All you could see was his feet sticking out, he kept saying, 'You all hate me, you hate this piano!' " They're giggling now.

"Plucking on the strings," sez Magda, "right? He's so paranoid.'"

Trudi has these big, blonde Prussian legs. Tiny blonde hairs dance up and down in the starlight, up under her skirt and back, all through the shadows of her knees, around under the hollows behind them, this starry jittering. . . . The stump towers above and cups them all, a giant nerve cell, dendrites extended into the city, the night. Signals coming

in from all directions, and from back in time too, probably, if not indeed forward. . . .

Säure, who is never able entirely to lay off Business, rolls, flows to his feet, clutching on to a root till his head decides where it is going to come to rest. Magda, her ear at its entrance, is banging on Rocket-man's helmet with a stick. It gongs in chords. The separate notes aren't right on pitch, either: they sound very odd together. . . .

"I don't know what time it is," Säure Bummer gazing around. "Weren't we supposed to be at the Chicago Bar? Or was that last night?"

"I forget," Trudi giggles.

"Listen, Kerl, I really have to talk to that American."

"Dear Emil," Trudi whispers, "don't worry. He'll be at the Chicago."

They decide on an intricate system of disguise. Säure gives Slothrop his jacket. Trudi wears the green cape. Magda puts on Slothrop's boots, and he goes in his socks, carrying her own tiny shoes in his pockets. They spend some time gathering plausible items, kindling and greens, to fill the helmet with, and Säure carries that. Magda and Trudi help stuff Slothrop into the buckskin pants, both girls down on pretty knees, hands caressing his legs and ass. Like the ballroom in St. Patrick's Cathedral, there is none in these trousers here, and Slothrop's hardon, enlarging, aches like thunder.

"Fine for you folks." The girls are laughing. Grandiose Slothrop limps along after everybody, a network of clear interweaving ripples now like rain all through his vision, hands turning to stone, out of the Tiergarten, past shellstruck lime and chestnut trees, into the streets, or what is serving for them. Patrols of all nations keep coming by, and this mindless quartet have to hit the dirt often, trying not to laugh too much. Slothrop's sox are sodden with dew. Tanks manoeuvre in the street, chewing parallel ridges of asphalt and stonedust. Trolls and dryads play in the open spaces. They were blasted back in May out of bridges, out of trees into liberation, and are now long citified. "Oh, that drip," say the subdeb trolls about those who are not as hep, "he just isn't out-of-the-tree about anything.'" Mutilated statues lie under mineral sedation: frock-coated marble torsos of bureaucrats fallen pale in the gutters. Yes, hmm, here we are in the heart of downtown Berlin, really, uh, a little, Jesus Christ what's that!

"Better watch it," advises Säure, "it's kind of rubbery through here."

"What is that?"

Well, what it is!is? what's "is"?!is that King Kong, or some creature closely allied, squatting down, evidently just, taking a shit, right in the street! and everything! a-and being ignored, by truckload after truckload of Russian enlisted men in pisscutter caps and dazed smiles, grinding right on by!"Hey!" Slothrop wants to shout, "hey lookit that giant ape! or whatever it is. You guys? Hey . . ." But he doesn't, luckily. On closer inspection, the crouching monster turns out to be the Reichstag building, shelled out, airbrushed, fire-brushed powdery black on all blastward curves and projections, chalked over its hard-echoing carbon insides with Cyrillic initials, and many names of comrades killed in May.

Berlin proves to be full of these tricks. There's a big chromo of Stalin that Slothrop could swear is a girl he used to date at Harvard, the mustache and hair only incidental as makeup, damn if that isn't what's her name . . . but before he can quite hear the gibbering score of little voices!hurry, hurry, get it in place, he's almost around the corner!here, laid side by side on the pavement, are these enormous loaves of bread dough left to rise under clean white cloths!boy, is everybody hungry: the same thought hits them all at once, wow! Raw dough! loaves of bread for that monster back there . . . oh, no that's right, that was a building, the Reichstag, so these aren't bread ... by now it's clear that they're human bodies, dug from beneath today's rubble, each inside its carefully tagged GI fartsack. But it was more than an optical mistake. They are rising, they are transubstantiated, and who knows, with summer over and hungry winter coming down, what we'll be feeding on by Xmas?

What the notorious Femina is to cigarette-jobbing circles in Berlin, the Chicago is to dopers. But while dealing at the Femina usually gets under way around noon, the Chicago here only starts jiving after the 10:00 curfew. Slothrop, Säure, Trudi and Magda come in a back entrance, out of a great massif of ruins and darkness lit only here and there, like the open country. Inside, M.O.s and corpsmen run hither and thither clutching bottles of fluffy white crystalline substances, small pink pills, clear ampoules the size of pureys. Occupation and Reichsmarks ruffle and flap across the room. Some dealers are all chemical enthusiasm, others all Business. Oversize photos of John Dillinger, alone or posed with his mother, his pals, his tommygun, decorate the walls. Lights and arguing are kept low, should the military police happen by.

On a wire-backed chair, blunt hair hands picking quietly at a gui-

tar, sits an American sailor with an orangutan look to him. In 3/4 time and shit-kicking style, he is singing:

the doper's dream

Last night I dreamed I was plugged right in

To a bubblin' hookah so high,

When all of a sudden some Arab jinni

Jump up just a-winkin' his eye.

"I'm here to obey all your wishes," he told me,

As for words I was trying to grope.

"Good buddy," I cried, "you could surely oblige me

By turnin' me on to some dope!"

With a bigfat smile he took ahold of my hand,

And we flew down the sky in a flash,

And the first thing I saw in the land where he took me

Was a whole solid mountain of hash!

All the trees was a-bloomin' with pink 'n' purple pills,

Whur the Romilar River flowed by,

To the magic mushrooms as wild as a rainbow,

So pretty that I wanted to cry.

All the girls come to greet us, so sweet in slow motion,

Morning glories woven into their hair,

Bringin'great big handfuls of snowy cocaine,

All their dope they were eager to share.

Well we dallied for days, just a-ballin' and smokin',

In the flowering Panama Red,

Just piggin' on peyote and nutmeg tea,

And those brownies so kind to your head.

Now I could've passed that good time forever,

And I really was fixing to stay,

But you know that

jinni turned out, t'be a narco man, And he busted me right whur I lay. And he took me back, to this cold, cold world, 'N' now m' prison's whurever I be ... And I dream of the days back in Doperland And I wonder, will I ever go free?

The singer is Seaman Bodine, of the U.S. destroyer John E. Badass, and he's the contact Säure is here to see. The Badass is docked in Cux-haven and Bodine is semi-AWOL, having hit Berlin night before last

for the first time since the early weeks of American occupation. "Things are so tight, man," he's groaning, "Potsdam, I couldn't believe it over there. Remember how the Wilhelmplatz used to be? Watches, wine, jewels, cameras, heroin, ┴iir coats, everything in the world. Nobody gave a shit, right? You ought to see it now. Russian security all over the place. Big mean customers. You couldn't get near it."

"Isn't there supposed to be something going on over there?" sez Slothrop. He's heard scuttlebutt. "A conference or some shit?"

"They're deciding how to cut up Germany," sez Säure. "All the Powers. They should call in the Germans, Kerl, we've been doing that for centuries."

"You couldn't get a gnat in there now, man," Seaman Bodine shaking his head, dexterously rolling a reefer one-handed on a cigarette paper he has first torn, with straightfaced bravura, in half.

"Ah," smiles Säure, flinging an arm over Slothrop, "but what if Rocketman can?"

Bodine looks over, skeptical. "That's Rocketman?"

"More or less," sez Slothrop, "but I'm not sure I want to go into that Potsdam, right now. ..."

"If you only knew!" cries Bodine. "Listen, Ace, right this minute, hardly 15 miles away, there is six kilos! of pure, top-grade Nepalese hashish! Scored it from my buddy in the CBI, government seals 'n' everything, buried it myself back in May, so safe nobody'll ever find it without a map. All you got to do is fly over there or whatever it is you do, just go in and get it."

"That's all."

"A kilo for you," offers Säure.

"They can cremate it with me. All those Russians can stand around the furnace and get loaded."

"Perhaps," the most decadent young woman Slothrop has ever seen in his life, wearing fluorescent indigo eye-shadow and a black leather snood, comes slithering past, "the pretty American is not a devotee of the Green Hershey Bar, mm? ha-ha-ha. ..."

"A million marks," Säure sighs.

"Where are you going to get!"

Holding up an elfin finger, leaning close, "I print it."

Sure enough, he does. They all troop out of the Chicago, half a mile down through rubble piles, over pathways twisting invisible in the dark to all but Säure, down at last into a houseless cellar with filing cabinets, a bed, an oil-lamp, a printing-press. Magda cuddles close to

Slothrop, her hands dancing over his erection. Trudi has formed an inexplicable attachment to Bodine. Säure begins to crank his clattering wheel, and sheets of Reichsmarks do indeed come fluttering off into the holder, thousands on thousands. "All authentic plates and paper, too. The only detail missing is a slight ripple along the margins. There was a special stamp-press nobody managed to loot."

"Uh," Slothrop sez.

"Aw, come on," sez Bodine. "Rocketman, jeepers. You don't want to do nothing no more."

They help jog and square the sheets while Säure chops them up with a long glittering cutter blade. Holding out a fat roll of 100s, "You could be back tomorrow. No job is too tough for Rocketman."

A day or two later, it will occur to Slothrop that what he should have said at that point was, "But I wasn't Rocketman, until just a couple hours ago." But right now he is beguiled at the prospect of 2.2 pounds of hashish and a million nearly-real marks. Nothing to walk away from, or fly or whatever it is, right? So he takes a couple thousand in front and spends the rest of the night with round and moaning Magda on Säure's bed, while Trudi and Bodine lark in the bathtub, and Säure slips back on some other mission, out into the three-o'clock waste that presses, oceanic, against their buoyed inner space. . . .

#######

Säure to and fro, bloodshot and nagging, with a wreathing pot of tea. Slothrop's alone in bed. The Rocketman costume waits on a table, along with Seaman Bodine's treasure map!oh. Oh, boy. Is Slothrop really going to have to go through with this?

Outside, birds whistle arpeggios up the steps, along the morning. Trucks and jeeps sputter in the distances. Slothrop sits drinking tea and trying to scrape dried sperm off of his trousers while Säure explains the layout. The package is stashed under an ornamental bush outside a villa at 2 Kaiserstrasse, in Neubabelsberg, the old movie capital of Germany. That's across the Havel from Potsdam. It seems prudent to stay off the Avus Autobahn. "Try to get past the checkpoint just after Zehlendorf instead. Come up on Neubabelsberg by canal."

"How come?"

"No civilians allowed on VIP Road!here, this one, that runs on across the river to Potsdam."

"Come on. I'll need a boat, then."  :•.

"Ha! You expect improvisation from a German? No, no, that's! that's Rocketman's problem!ha-ha!"

"Unnhh." Seems the villa fronts on the Griebnitz See. "Why don't I hit it from that side?"

"You'll have to go under a couple of bridges first, if you do. Heavily guarded. Plunging fire. Maybe!maybe even mortars. It gets very narrow opposite Potsdam. You won't have a chance." Oh, German humor's a fine way to start the morning. Säure hands Slothrop an AGO card, a trip ticket, and a pass printed in English and Russian. "The man who forged these has been in and out of Potsdam on them a dozen times since the Conference began. That's how much faith he has in them. The bilingual pass is special, just for the Conference. But you mustn't spend time gawking like a tourist, asking celebrities for autographs!"

"Well say look Emil, if you've got one of these and they're so good, why don't you go?"

"It's not my specialty. I stick to dealing. Just an old bottle of acid! and even that's make-believe. Buccaneering is for Rocketmen."

"Bodine, then."

"He's already on his way back to Cuxhaven. Won't he be upset, when he comes back next week, only to find that Rocketman, of all people, has shown the white feather."

"Oh." Shit. Slothrop stares awhile at that map, then tries to memorize it. He puts on his boots, groaning. He bundles his helmet in that cape, and the two, Conner and connee, set out through the American sector.

Mare's-tails are out seething across the blue sky, but down here the Berliner Luft hangs still, with the odor of death inescapable. Thousands of corpses fallen back in the spring still lie underneath these mountains of debris, yellow mountains, red and yellow and pale.

Where's the city Slothrop used to see back in those newsreels and that National Geographic? Parabolas weren't all that New German Architecture went in for!there were the spaces!the necropolism of blank alabaster in the staring sun, meant to be filled with human harvests rippling out of sight, making no sense without them. If there is such a thing as the City Sacramental, the city as outward and visible sign of inward and spiritual illness or health, then there may have been, even here, some continuity of sacrament, through the terrible surface of May. The emptiness of Berlin this morning is an inverse mapping of the white and geometric capital before the destruction!

the fallow and long-strewn fields of rubble, the same weight of too much featureless concrete . . . except that here everything's been turned inside out. The straight-ruled boulevards built to be marched along are now winding pathways through the waste-piles, their shapes organic now, responding, like goat trails, to laws of least discomfort. The civilians are outside now, the uniforms inside. Smooth facets of buildings have given way to cobbly insides of concrete blasted apart, all the endless-pebbled rococo just behind the shuttering. Inside is outside. Ceilingless rooms open to the sky, wall-less rooms pitched out over the sea of ruins in prows, in crow's-nests. . . . Old men with their tins searching the ground for cigarette butts wear their lungs on their breasts. Advertisements for shelter, clothing, the lost, the taken, once classified, folded b┨rgerlich inside newspapers to be read at one's ease in the lacquered and graceful parlors are now stuck with Hitler-head stamps of blue, orange, and yellow, out in the wind, when the wind comes, stuck to trees, door-frames, planking, pieces of wall!white and fading scraps, writing spidery, trembling, smudged, thousands unseen, thousands unread or blown away. At the W━nterhilfe one-course Sundays you sat outside at long tables under the swastika-draped winter trees, but outside has been brought inside and that kind of Sunday lasts all week long. Winter is coming again. All Berlin spends the daylight trying to make believe it isn't. Scarred trees are back in leaf, baby birds hatched and learning to fly, but winter's here behind the look of summer!Earth has turned over in its sleep, and the tropics are reversed. . . .

Like the walls of the Chicago Bar brought outside, giant photographs are posted out in the Friedrichstrasse!faces higher than a man. Slothrop recognizes Churchill and Stalin all right, but isn't sure about the other one. "Emil, who's that guy in the glasses?"

"The American president. Mister Truman."

"Quit fooling. Truman is vice-president. Roosevelt is president."

Säure raises an eyebrow. "Roosevelt died back in the spring. Just before the surrender."

They get tangled in a bread queue. Women in worn plush coats, little kids holding on to frayed hems, men in caps and dark double-breasted suits, unshaven old faces, foreheads white as a nurse's leg. . . . Somebody tries to grab Slothrop's cape, and there's brief tugging match.

"I'm sorry," Säure offers, when they're clear again.

"Why didn't anybody tell me?" Slothrop was going into high school when FDR was starting out in the White House. Broderick

Slothrop professed to hate the man, but young Tyrone thought he was brave, with that polio and all. Liked his voice on the radio. Almost saw him once too, in Pittsfield, but Lloyd Nipple, the fattest kid in Minge-borough, was standing in the way, and all Slothrop got to see was a couple wheels and the feet of some guys in suits on a running-board. Hoover he'd heard of, dimly!something to do with shack towns or vacuum cleaners!but Roosevelt was his president, the only one he'd known. It seemed he'd just keep getting elected, term after term, forever. But somebody had decided to change that. So he was put to sleep, Slothrop's president, quiet and neat, while the kid who once imaged his face on Lloyd's t-shirted shoulderblades was jiving on the Riviera, or in Switzerland someplace, only half aware of being extinguished himself. . . .

"They said it was a stroke," Säure sez. His voice is arriving from some quite peculiar direction, let us say from directly underneath, as the wide necropolis begins now to draw inward, to neck down and stretch out into a Corridor, one known to Slothrop though not by name, a deformation of space that lurks inside his life, latent as a hereditary disease. A band of doctors in white masks that cover everything but eyes, bleak and grown-up eyes, move in step down the passage toward where Roosevelt is lying. They carry shiny black kits. Metal rings inside the black leather, rings as if to speak, as if a ventriloquist were playing a trick, help-let-me-out-of-here. . . . Whoever it was, posing in the black cape at Yalta with the other leaders, conveyed beautifully the sense of Death's wings, rich, soft and black as the winter cape, prepared a nation of starers for the passing of Roosevelt, a being They assembled, a being They would dismantle. . . .

Someone here is cleverly allowing for parallax, scaling, shadows all going the right way and lengthening with the day!but no, Säure can't be real, no more than these dark-clothed extras waiting in queues for some hypothetical tram, some two slices of sausage (sure, sure), the dozen half-naked kids racing in and out of this burned tenement so amazingly detailed!They sure must have the budget, all right. Look at this desolation, all built then hammered back into pieces, ranging body-size down to powder (please order by Gauge Number), as that well-remembered fragrance Noon in Berlin, essence of human decay, is puffed on the set by a hand, lying big as a flabby horse up some alley, pumping its giant atomizer. . . .

(By Säure's black-market watch, it's nearly noon. From 11 to 12 in the morning is the Evil Hour, when the white woman with the ring of keys comes out of her mountain and may appear to you. Be careful,

then. If you can't free her from a spell she never specifies, you'll be punished. She is the beautiful maiden offering the Wonderflower, and the ugly old woman with long teeth who found you in that dream and said nothing. The Hour is hers.)

Black P-38s fly racketing in formation, in moving openwork against the pale sky. Slothrop and Säure find a cafe on the sidewalk, drink watered pink wine, eat bread and some cheese. That crafty old doper breaks out a "stick" of "tea" and they sit in the sun handing it back and forth, offering the waiter a hit, who can tell? that's how you have to smoke armies too, these days. Jeeps, personnel carriers, and bicycles go streaming by. Girls in fresh summer frocks, orange and green as fruit ices, drift in to sit at tables, smiling, smiling, checking the area continuously for early Business.

Somehow Säure has got Slothrop to talking about the Rocket. Not at all Säure's specialty, of course, though he's been keeping an ear tuned. If it's wanted, then it has a price. "I could never see the fascination. We kept hearing so much about it on the radio. It was our Captain Midnight Show. But we grew disillusioned. Wanting to believe, but nothing we saw giving us that much faith. Less and less toward the end. All I know is it brought disaster down on the cocaine market, Kerl."

"How's that?"

"Something in that rocket needed potassium permanganate, right?"

"Turbopump."

"Well, without that Purpurstoff you can't deal cocaine honestly. Forget honesty, there just wasn't any reality. Last winter you couldn't find a cc of permanganate in the whole fucking Reich, Kerl. Oh you should've seen the burning that was going on. Friends, understand. But what friend hasn't wanted to!in terms you can recognize!push a pie in your face? eh?"

"Thank you." Wait a minute. Is he talking about us? Is he getting ready to!

"So," having continued, "there crept over Berlin a gigantic Laurel and Hardy film, silent, silent . . . because of the permanganate shortage. I don't know what other economies may have been affected by the A4. This was not just pie-throwing, not just anarchy on a market, this was chemical irresponsibility! Clay, talcum, cement, even, it got this perverse, flour! Powdered milk, diverted from the stomachs of little sucklings! Look-alikes that were worth even more than cocaine!but the idea was that someone should get a sudden noseful of milk, haha-

hahah!" breaking up here for a minute, "and that was worth the loss! Without the permanganate there was no way to tell anything for sure. A little novocain to numb the tongue, something bitter for the taste, and you could be making enormous profits off of sodium bicarbonate. Permanganate is the touchstone. Under a microscope, you drop some on the substance in question, which dissolves!then you watch how it comes out of solution, how it recrystallizes: the cocaine will appear first, at the edges, then the vegetable cut, the procaine, the lactose at other well-known positions!a purple target, with the outer ring worth the most, and the bull's-eye worth nothing. An anti-target. Certainly not the A4's idea of one, eh, Rocketman. That machinery of yours was not exactly the doper's friend. What do you want it for? Will your country use it against Russia?"

"I don't want it. What do you mean, 'my country'?"

"I'm sorry. I only meant that it looks like the Russians want it badly enough. I've had connections all over the city taken away. Interrogated. None of them know any more about rockets than I do. But Tchitcherine thinks we do."

"Oboy. Him again?"

"Yes he's in Potsdam right now. Supposed to be. Set up a headquarters in one of the old film studios."

"Swell news, Emil. With my luck ..."

"You don't look too good, Rocketman."

"Think that's horrible? Try this!" and Slothrop proceeds to ask if Säure has heard anything about the Schwarzgerät.

Säure does not exactly scream Aiyee! and run off down the street or

anything, but squeeeak goes a certain valve all right, and something is routed another way. "I'll tell you what," nodding and shifting in his seat, "you talk to der Springer. Ja, you two would get on fine. I am only a retired cat burglar, looking to spend my last several decades as the Sublime Rossini did his: comfortable. Just don't mention me at all, O.K., Joe?"

"Well, who is that der Springer, and where do I find him, Emil?"

"He is the knight who leaps perpetually!"

"Wow."

"!across the chessboard of the Zone, is who he is. Just as Rocketman flies over obstacles today." He laughs nastily. "A fine pair. How do I know where he is? He could be anyplace. He is everywhere."

"Zorro? The Green Hornet?"

"Last I heard, a week or two ago, he was up north on the Hanseatic run. You will meet. Don't worry." Abruptly Säure stands up to go,

shaking hands, slipping Rocketman another reefer for later, or for luck. "I have medical officers to see. The Happiness of a thousand customers is on your shoulders, young man. Meet me at my place. Cluck."

So the Evil Hour has worked its sorcery. The wrong word was Schwarzgerät. Now the mountain has closed again thundering behind Slothrop, damn near like to crush his heel, and it might just be centuries before that White Woman appears again. Shit.

The name on the special pass is "Max Schlepzig." Slothrop, feeling full of pep, decides to pose as a vaudeville entertainer. An illusionist. He has had a good apprenticeship with Katje, her damask tablecloth and magical body, a bed for her salon, a hundred soirees fantastiques. . . .

He's through Zehlendorf by midafternoon, inside his Rocketman rig and ready to cross. The Russian sentries wait under a wood archway painted red, toting Suomis or Degtyarovs, oversize submachine guns with drum magazines. Here comes also a Stalin tank now, lumbering in low, soldier in earflapped helmet standing up in the 76 mm mount yelling into walkie-talkie . . . uh, well. . . . On the other side of the arch is a Russian jeep with a couple officers, one talking earnestly into the mike of his radio set, and the air between quickens with spoken Russian at the speed of light weaving a net to catch Slothrop. Who else? He sweeps his cape back with a wink, tips his helmet and smiles. In a conjuror's flourish he's out with card, ticket 'n' bilingual pass, giving them some line about a command performance in that Potsdam.

One of the sentries takes the pass and nips into his kiosk to make a phone call. The others stand staring at Tchitcherine's boots. No one speaks. The call is taking a while. Scarred leather, day-old beards, cheekbones in the sun. Slothrop's trying to think of a few card tricks he can do, sort of break the ice, when the sentry sticks his head out. "Stiefeln, bitte."

Boots? What would they want with!yaaahhh! Boots, indeed, yes. We know beyond peradventure who has to be on the other end, don't we. Slothrop can hear all the man's metal parts jingling with glee. In the smoky Berlin sky, somewhere to the left of the Funkturm in its steelwool distance, appears a full-page photo in life magazine: it is of Slothrop, he is in full Rocketman attire, with what appears to be a long, stiff sausage of very large diameter being stuffed into his mouth, so forcibly that his eyes are slightly crossed, though the hand or agency actually holding the stupendous wiener is not visible in the

photo. A SNAFU FOR ROCKETMAN, reads the caption!"Barely off the ground, the Zone's newest celebrity 'rucks up.' "

We-e-e-11, Slothrop slides off the boots, the sentry takes them inside to the telephone!the others lean Slothrop up against the arch and shake him down, rinding nothing but the reefer Säure gave him, which they expropriate. Slothrop waits in his socks, trying not to think ahead. Glancing around for cover, maybe. Nothing. Clear field of fire for 360 degrees. Smells of fresh asphalt patch and gun oil. The jeep, crystal verdigris, waiting: the road back to Berlin, for the moment, deserted. . . . Providence, hey Providence, what'd you do, step out for a beer or something?

Not at all. The boots reappear, smiling sentry right behind them. "Stimmt, Herr Schlepzig." What does irony sound like in Russian? These birds are too inscrutable for Slothrop. Tchitcherine would've known enough not to arouse any suspicion by asking to see those boots. Nah, it couldn't've been him on the phone. This was probably some routine search for that contraband, was all. Slothrop is being seized right now by what the Book of Changes calls Youthful Folly. He swirls his green cape a few more times, chisels a stubby Balkan army off of one of the tommyguns, and moseys away, southward. The officers' jeep stays where it is. The tank has vanished.

Jubilee Jim, just a-peddlin' through the country, Wïnkin' at the ladies from Stockbridge up to Lee! Buy your gal a brooch for a fancy gown, Buggy-whip rigs for just a dollar down, Hey come along ev'rybody, headin' for the Jubi-lee!

Two miles down the road, Slothrop hits that canal Säure mentioned: takes a footpath down under the bridge where it's wet and cool for a minute. He sets off along the bank, looking for a boat to hijack. Girls in halters and shorts lie sunning, brown and gold, all along this dreaming grass slope. The clouded afternoon is mellowed to windsoft-ened edges, children kneeling beside the water with Fishing lines, two birds in a chase across the canal soaring down and up in a loop into the suspended storm of a green treetop, where they sit and begin to sing. With distance the light gathers a slow ecru haze, girls' flesh no longer bleached by the zenith sun now in gender light reawakening to warmer colors, faint shadows of thigh-muscles, stretched filaments of skin cells saying touch ... stay.... Slothrop walks on!past eyes opening, smiles breaking like kind dawns. What's wrong with him? Stay, sure. But what keeps him passing by?

There are a few boats, moored to railings, but always somebody with an eye out. He finally comes on a narrow flat-bottomed little rig, oars in the locks and ready to go, nothing but a blanket upslope, a pair of high heels, man's jacket, stand of trees nearby. So Slothrop climbs right in, and casts off. Have ran!a little nasty here!I can't, but I can steal your boat! Ha!

He hauls till sundown, resting for long stretches, really out of condition, cape smothering him in a cone of sweat so bad he has to take it off finally. Ducks drift at a wary distance, water dripping off of bright orange beaks. Surface of the canal ripples with evening wind, sunset in his eyes streaking the water red and gold: royal colors. Wrecks poke up out of the water, red lead and rust ripening in this light, bashed gray hullplates, flaking rivets, unlaid cable pointing hysterical strands to all points of the compass, vibrating below any hearing in the breeze. Empty barges drift by, loose and forlorn. A stork flies over, going Home, below him suddenly the pallid arch of the Avus overpass ahead. Any farther and Slothrop's back in the American sector. He angles across the canal, debarking on the opposite bank, and heads south, trying to skirt the Soviet control point the map puts someplace to his right. Massive movement in the dusk: Russian guardsmen, green-capped elite, marching and riding, pokerfaced, in trucks, on horseback. You can feel the impedance in the fading day, the crowding, jittering wire loops, Potsdam warning stay away . . . stay away. . . . .The closer it comes, the denser the field around that cloaked international gathering across the Havel. Bodine's right: a gnat can't get in. Slothrop knows it, but just keeps on skulking along, seeking less sensitive axes of suspicion, running zigzags, aimed innocuously south.

Invisible. It becomes easier to believe in the longer he can keep going. Sometime back on Midsummer Eve, between midnight and one, fern seed fell in his shoes. He is the invisible youth, the armored changeling. Providence's little pal. Their preoccupation is with forms of danger the War has taught them!phantoms they may be doomed now, some of them, to carry for the rest of their lives. Fine for Slothrop, though!it's a set of threats he doesn't belong to. They are still back in geographical space, drawing deadlines and authorizing personnel, and the only beings who can violate their space are safely caught and paralyzed in comic books. They think. They don't know about Rocketman here. They keep passing him and he remains alone, blotted to evening by velvet and buckskin!if they do see him his image is shunted immediately out to the boondocks of the brain where it remains in exile with other critters of the night. ...

Presently he cuts right again, toward the sunset. There's still that big superhighway to get across. Some Germans haven't been able to get Home for 10, 20 years because they were caught on the wrong side of some Autobahn when it went through. Nervous and leadfooted now, Slothrop comes creeping up to the Avus embankment, listening to traffic vacuuming by above. Each driver thinks he's in control of his vehicle, each thinks he has a separate destination, but Slothrop knows better. The drivers are out tonight because They need them where they are, forming a deadly barrier. Amateur Fritz von Opels all over the place here, promising a lively sprint for Slothrop!snarling inward toward that famous S-curve where maniacs in white helmets and dark goggles once witched their wind-faired machinery around the banked brick in shrieking drifts (admiring eyes of colonels in dress uniforms, colonel's ladies in Garbo fedoras, all safe up in their white towers yet belonging to the day's adventure, each waiting for his own surfacing of the same mother-violence underneath . . .).

Slothrop frees his arms from the cape, lets a lean gray Porsche whir by, then charges out, the red of its taillights flashing along his downstream leg, headlights of a fast-coming Army truck now hitting the upstream one and touching the grotto of one eyeball to blue jigsaw. He swings sideways as he runs, screaming, "Hauptstufe!" which is the Rocketman war-cry, raises both arms and the sea-green fan of the cape's silk lining, hears brakes go on, keeps running, hits the center mall in a roll, scampering into the bushes as the truck skids past and stops. Voices for a while. Gives Slothrop a chance to catch his breath and get the cape unwound from around his neck. The truck finally starts off again. The southbound half of the Avus is slower tonight, and he can jog across easy, down the bank and uphill again into trees. Hey! Leaps broad highways in a single bound!

Well, Bodine, your map is perfect here, except for one trivial detail you sort of, uh, forgot to mention, wonder why that was. ... It turns out something like 150 houses in Neubabelsberg have been commandeered and sealed off as a compound for the Allied delegates to the Potsdam Conference, and Jolly Jack Tar has stashed that dope right in the middle of it. Barbed wire, searchlights, sirens, security who've forgotten how to smile. Thank goodness, which is to say Säure Bummer, for this special pass here. Stenciled signs with arrows read ADMIRALTY, F.O., STATE DEPARTMENT, CHIEFS OF STAFF. . . . The whole joint is lit up

like a Hollywood premiere. Great coming and going of civilians in suits, gowns, tuxedos, getting in and out of BMW limousines with flags of all nations next to the windscreens. Mimeographed handouts

clog the stones and gutters. Inside the sentry boxes are piles of confiscated cameras.

They must deal here with a strange collection of those showbiz types. Nobody seems too upset at the helmet, cape, or mask. There are ambiguous shrugging phone calls and the odd feeble question, but they do let Max Schlepzig pass. A gang of American newspapermen comes through in a charabanc, clutching on to bottles of liberated Moselle, and they offer him a lift part way. Soon they have fallen to arguing about which celebrity he is. Some think he is Don Ameche, others Oliver Hardy. Celebrity? what is this? "Come on," sez Slothrop, "you just don't know me in this getup. I'm that Errol Flynn." Not everybody believes him, but he manages to hand out a few autographs anyhow. When they part company, the newshounds are discussing the candidates for Miss Rheingold 1946. Dorothy Hart's advocates are the loudest, but Jill Darnley has a majority on her side. It's all gibberish to Slothrop!it will be months yet before he runs into a beer advertisement featuring the six beauties, and find himself rooting for a girl named Helen Riickert: a blonde with a Dutch surname who will remind him dimly of someone. . . .

The house at 2 Kaiserstrasse is styled in High Prussian Boorish and painted a kind of barf brown, a color the ice-cold lighting doesn't improve. It is more heavily guarded than any other in the compound. Gee, Slothrop wonders why. Then he sees the sign with the place's stenciled alias on it.

"Oh, no. No. Quit fooling." For a while he stands in the street shivering and cursing that Seaman Bodine for a bungler, villain, and agent of death. Sign sez THE white HOUSE. Bodine has brought him straight to the dapper, bespectacled stranger who gazed down the morning Friedrichstrasse!to the face that has silently dissolved in to replace the one Slothrop never saw and now never will.

The sentries with slung rifles are still as himself. The folds of his cape are gone to corroded bronze under the arc-lighting. Behind the villa water rushes. music strikes up inside and obliterates the sound. An entertainment. No wonder he got in so easy. Are they expecting this magician, this late guest? Glamour, fame. He could run in and throw himself at somebody's feet, beg for amnesty. End up getting a contract for the rest of his life with a radio network, o-or even a movie studio! That's what mercy is, isn't it? He turns, trying to be casual

about it, and goes moseying out of the light, looking for a way down

to that water.

The  shore  of the  Griebnitz See is  dark,  starlit,  strung with

wire, alive with roving sentries. Potsdam's lights, piled and scattered, twinkle across the black water. Slothrop has to go in up to his ass a few times to get past that wire, and wait for the sentries to gather around a cigarette at one end of their beat before he can make a dash, cape-flapping and soggy, up to the villa. Bodine's hashish is buried along one side of the house, under a certain juniper bush. Slothrop squats down and starts scooping up dirt with his hands.

Inside it is some do. Girls are singing "Don't Sit Under the Apple Tree," and if it ain't the Andrews Sisters it may as well be. They are accompanied by a dance band with a mammoth reed section. Laughing, sounds of glassware, multilingual chitchat, your average weekday night here at the great Conference. The hash is wrapped in tinfoil inside a moldering ditty bag. It smells really good. Aw, jeepers!why'd he forget to bring a pipe?

Actually, it's just as well. Above Slothrop, at eye level, is a terrace, and espaliered peach trees in milky blossom. As he crouches, hefting the bag, French windows open and someone steps out on this terrace for some air. Slothrop freezes, thinking invisible, invisible. . .. Footsteps approach, and over the railing leans!well, this may sound odd, but it's Mickey Rooney. Slothrop recognizes him on sight, Judge Hardy's freckled madcap son, three-dimensional, flesh, in a tux and am-I-losing-my-mind face. Mickey Rooney stares at Rocketman holding a bag of hashish, a wet apparition in helmet and cape. Nose level with Mickey Rooney's shiny black shoes, Slothrop looks up into the lit room behind!sees somebody looks a bit like Churchill, lotta dames in evening gowns cut so low that even from this angle you can see more tits than they got at Minsky's . . . and maybe, maybe he even gets a glimpse of that President Truman. He knows he is seeing Mickey Rooney, though Mickey Rooney, wherever he may go, will repress the fact that he ever saw Slothrop. It is an extraordinary moment. Slothrop feels he ought to say something, but his speech centers have failed him in a drastic way. Somehow, "Hey, you're Mickey Rooney," seems inadequate. So they stay absolutely still, victory's night blowing by around them, and the great in the yellow electric room scheming on oblivious.

Slothrop breaks it first: puts a finger to his mouth and scuttles away, back around the villa and down to the shore, leaving Mickey Rooney with his elbows on that railing, still watching.

Back around the wire, avoiding sentries, close to the water's edge, swinging the ditty bag by its drawstring, some vague idea in his head now of finding another boat and just rowing back up that Havel!

sure! Why not? It isn't till he hears distant conversation from another villa that it occurs to him he might be straying into the Russian part of the compound.

"Hmm," opines Slothrop, "well in that case I had better!" Here conies that wiener again. Shapes only a foot away!they might have risen up out of the water. He spins around, catches sight of a broad, clean-shaven face, hair combed lionlike straight back, glimmering steel teeth, eyes black and soft as that Carmen Miranda's!

"Yes," no least accent to his English whispering, "you were followed all the way." Others have grabbed Slothrop's arms. High in the left one he feels something sharp, almost painless, very familiar. Before his throat can stir, he's away, on the Wheel, clutching in terror to the dwindling white point of himself, in the first windrush of anaesthesia, hovering coyly over the pit of Death. . . .

########

A soft night, smeared full of golden stars, the kind of night back on the pampas that Leopoldo Lugones liked to write about. The U-boat rocks quietly on the surface. The only sounds are the chug of the "billy-goat," cutting in now and then below decks, pumping out the bilges, and El Ñato back on the fantail with his guitar, playing Buenos Aires tristes and milongas. Bel│ustegui is down working on the generator. Luz and Felipe are asleep.

By the 20 mm mounts, Graciela Imago Portales lounges wistfully. In her day she was the urban idiot of B.A., threatening nobody, friends with everybody across the spectrum, from Cipriano Reyes, who intervened for her once, to Acci┏n Argentina, which she worked for before it got busted. She was a particular favorite of the literati. Borges is said to have dedicated a poem to her ("El laberinto de tu incertidumbre/ Me trama con la disquietante luna . . .").

The crew that hijacked this U-boat are here out of all kinds of Argentine manias. El Ñato goes around talking in 19th-century gaucho slang!cigarettes are "pitos," butts are "puchos," it isn't caña he drinks but "la tacuara," and when he's drunk he's "mamao." Sometimes Felipe has to translate for him. Felipe is a difficult young poet with any number of unpleasant enthusiasms, among them romantic and unreal notions about the gauchos. He is always sucking up to El Ñato. Bel│ustegui, acting ship's engineer, is from Entre R┴os, and a positivist in the regional tradition. A pretty good knife-hand for a prophet of

science too, which is one reason El Nato hasn't made a try yet for the godless Mesopotamian Bolshevik. It is a strain on their solidarity, but then it's only one of several. Luz is currently with Felipe, though she's supposed to be Squalidozzi's girl!after Squalidozzi disappeared on his trip to Zurich she took up with the poet on the basis of a poignant recitation of Lugones's "Pavos Reales," one balmy night lying to off Matosinhos. For this crew, nostalgia is like seasickness: only the hope of dying from it is keeping them alive.

Squalidozzi did show up again though, in Bremerhaven. He had just been chased across what was left of Germany by British Military Intelligence, with no idea why.

"Why didn't you go to Geneva, and try to get through to us?"

"I didn't want to lead them to Ibarg┨engoitia. I sent someone else."

"Who?" Bel│ustegui wanted to know.

"I never got his name." Squalidozzi scratched his shaggy head. "Maybe it was a stupid thing to do."

"No further contact with him?"

"None at all."

"They'll be watching us, then," Bel│ustegui sullen. "Whoever he is, he's hot. You're a fine judge of character."

"What did you want me to do: take him to a psychiatrist first? Weigh options? Sit around for a few weeks and think about it?"

"He's right," El Nato raising a large fist. "Let women do their thinking, their analyzing. A man must always go forward, looking life directly in the face."

"You're disgusting," said Graciela Imago Portales. "You're not a man, you're a sweaty horse."

"Thank you," El Nato bowing, in all gaucho dignity.

Nobody was yelling. The conversation in the steel space that night was full of quiet damped ss and palatal ys, the peculiar, reluctant poignancy of Argentine Spanish, brought along through years of frustrations, self-censorship, long roundabout evasions of political truth!of bringing the State to live in the muscles of your tongue, in the humid intimacy just inside your lips . . . pero ch└, no s┏s argentine. . . .

In Bavaria, Squalidozzi was stumbling through the outskirts of a town, only minutes ahead of a Rolls Royce with a sinister dome in the roof, green Perspex you couldn't see through. It was just after sunset. All at once he heard gunshots, hoofbeats, nasal and metallic voices in English. But the quaint little town seemed deserted. How could this be? He entered a brick labyrinth that had been a harmonica factory. Splashes of bell-metal lay forever unrung in the foundry dirt. Against a high wall that had recently been painted white, the shadows of horses and their riders drummed. Sitting watching, from workbenches and crates, were a dozen individuals Squalidozzi recognized right away as gangsters. Cigar-ends glowed, and molls whispered back and forth in German. The men ate sausages, ripping away the casings with white teeth, well cared for, that flashed in the light from the movie. They were sporting the Caligari gloves which now enjoy a summer vogue in the Zone: bone white, except for the four lines in deep violet fanning up each gloveback from wrist to knuckles. All wore suits nearly as light-colored as the teeth. It seemed extravagant to Squalidozzi, after Buenos Aires and Zurich. The women crossed their legs often: they were tense as vipers. In the air was a grassy smell, a smell of leaves burning, that was strange to the Argentine who, terminally Homesick, had only the smell of freshly brewed mate after a bitter day at the racetrack to connect it with. Crowned window frames gave out on the brick factory courtyard where summer air moved softly. The filmlight flickered blue across empty windows as if it were breath trying to produce a note. The images grew blunt with vengeance. "Yay!" screamed all the zootsters, white gloves bouncing up and down. Their mouths and eyes were as wide as children's.

The reel ended, but the space stayed dark. An enormous figure in a white zoot suit stood, stretched, and ambled right over to where Squalidozzi was crouching, terrified.

"They after you, amigo?"

"Please!"

"No, no. Come on. Watch with us. It's a Bob Steele. He's a good old boy. You're safe in here." For days, as it turned out, the gangsters had known Squalidozzi was in the neighborhood: they could infer to his path, though he himself was invisible to them, by the movements of the police, which were not. Blodgett Waxwing!for it was he!used the analogy of a cloud chamber, and the vapor trail a high-speed particle leaves. ...

"I don't understand."

"Not sure I do either, pal. But we have to keep an eye on everything, and right now all the hepcats are going goofy over something called 'nuclear physics.' "

After the movie, Squalidozzi was introduced to Gerhardt von Göll, also known by his nom de p┬gre, "Der Springer." Seems von Göll's people and Waxwing's were in the course of a traveling Business confer-

ence, rumbling the roads of the Zone in convoy, changing trucks and busses so often there was no time for real sleep, only cat-naps!in the middle of the night, the middle of a field, no telling when, you'd have to pile out, switch vehicles and take off again along another road. No destinations, no fixed itinerary. Most of the transportation was furnished through the expertise of veteran automotive jobber Edouard Sanktwolke, who could hot-wire anything on wheels or caterpillar tracks!even packed around a custom-built ebony case full of the rotor arms, each in its velvet recess, to every known make, model, and year, in case the target's owner had removed that vital part.

Squalidozzi and von Göll hit it off right away. This film director turned marketeer had decided to finance all his future movies out of his own exorbitant profits. "Only way to be sure of having final cuts, ^verdad? Tell me, Squalidozzi, are you too pure for this? Or could your anarchist project use a little help?"

"It would depend what you wanted from us."

"A film, of course. What would you like to do? How about Martin Fierro?"

Keep the customer happy. Martin Fierro is not just the gaucho hero of a great Argentine epic poem. On the U-boat he is considered an anarchist saint. Hernandez's poem has figured in Argentine political thinking for years now!everybody's had his own interpretation, quoting from it often as vehemently as politicians in 19th-century Italy used to from I Promessi Sposi. It goes back to the old basic polarity in Argentina: Buenos Aires vs. the provinces, or, as Felipe sees it, central government vs. gaucho anarchism, of which he has become the leading theoretician. He has one of these round-brim hats with balls hanging from it, he has taken to lounging in the hatchways, waiting for Graciela!"Good evening, my dove. Haven't you got a kiss for the Gaucho Bakunin?"

"You look more like a Gaucho Marx," Graciela drawls, and leaves Felipe to go back to the treatment he's working on for von Göll, using El Nato's copy of Martin Fierro, which has long been thumbed into separate loose pages, and smells of horses, each of whose names El Ñato, tearfully mamao, can tell you. . . .

A shadowed plain at sundown. An enormous flatness. Camera angle is kept low. People coming in, slowly, singly or in small groups, working their way across the plain, in to a settlement at the edge of a little river. Horses, cattle, fires against the growing darkness. Far away, at the horizon, a solitary figure on horseback appears, and rides in, all the way in, as the credits come on. At some point we see the guitar

slung on his back: he is a payador, a wandering singer. At last he dismounts and goes to sit with the people at the fire. After the meal and a round of caña he reaches for his guitar and begins to strum his three lowest strings, the bordona, and sing:

Aqu┴ me pongo a cantar al comp│s de la vig┨ela, que el hombre que lo desvela una pena estrordinaria, como la ave solitaria con el cantar se consuela.

So, as the Gaucho sings, his story unfolds!a montage of his early life on the estancia. Then the army comes and conscripts him. Takes him out to the frontier to kill Indians. It is the period of General Roca's campaign to open the pampas by exterminating the people who live there: turning the villages into labor camps, bringing more of the country under the control of Buenos Aires. Martin Fierro is soon sick of it. It's against everything he knows is right. He deserts. They send out a posse, and he talks the sergeant in command over to his side. Together they flee across the frontier, to live in the wilderness, to live with the Indians.

That's Part I. Seven years later, Hernandez wrote a Return of Martin Fierro, in which the Gaucho sells out: assimilates back into Christian society, gives up his freedom for the kind of constitutional Gesellschaft being pushed in those days by Buenos Aires. A very moral ending, but completely opposite to the first.

"What should I do?" von Göll seems to want to know. "Both parts, or just Parti?"

"Well," begins Squalidozzi.

"I know what you want. But I might get better mileage out of two movies, if the first does well at the box office. But will it?"

"Of course it will."

"Something that anti-social?"

"But it's everything we believe in," Squalidozzi protests.

"But even the freest of Gauchos end up selling out, you know. That's how things are."

That's how Gerhardt von Göll is, anyway. Graciela knows the man: there are lines of liaison, sinister connections of blood and of wintering at Punta del Este, through Anilinas Alemanas, the IG branch in

Buenos Aires, on through Spottbilligfilm AG in Berlin (another IG outlet) from whom von Göll used to get cut rates on most of his film

stock, especially on the peculiar and slow-moving "Emulsion J," invented by Laszlo Jamf, which somehow was able, even under ordinary daylight, to render the human skin transparent to a depth of half a millimeter, revealing the face just beneath the surface. This emulsion was used extensively in von Coil's immortal Alpdr┨cken, and may even come to figure in Martin Fierro. The only part of the epic that really has von Göll fascinated is a singing-duel between the white gaucho and the dark El Moreno. It seems like an interesting framing device. With Emulsion J he could dig beneath the skin colors of the contestants, dissolve back and forth between J and ordinary stock, like sliding in and out of focus, or wipe!how he loved wipes! from one to the other in any number of clever ways. Since discovering that Schwarzkommando are really in the Zone, leading real, paracinemat┴c lives that have nothing to do with him or the phony Schwarzkommando footage he shot last winter in England for Operation Black Wing, Springer has been zooming around in a controlled ecstasy of megalomania. He is convinced that his film has somehow brought them into being. "It is my mission," he announces to Squalidozzi, with the profound humility that only a German movie director can summon, "to sow in the Zone seeds of reality. The historical moment demands this, and I can only be its servant. My images, somehow, have been chosen for incarnation. What I can do for the Schwarzkommando I can do for your dream of pampas and sky. ... I can take down your fences and your labyrinth walls, I can lead you back to the garden you hardly remember. ..."

His madness clearly infected Squalidozzi, who then eventually returned to the U-boat and infected the others. It seemed what they had been waiting for. "Africans!" daydreamed the usually all-Business Bel│ustegui at a staff meeting. "What if it's true? What if we've really come back, back to the way it was before the continents drifted apart?"

"Back to Gondwanaland," whispered Felipe. "When Rio de la Plata was just opposite South-West Africa . . . and the mesozoic refugees took the ferry not to Montevideo, but to L┨deritzbucht. ..."

The plan is to get somehow to the L┨neburg Heath and set up a small estancia. Von Göll is to meet them there. By the gun-mounts tonight, Graciela Imago Portales dreams. Is von Göll a compromise they can tolerate? There are worse foundations than a film. Did Prince Potemkin's fake villages survive Catherine's royal progress? Will the soul of the Gaucho survive the mechanics of putting him into light and sound? Or will someone ultimately come by, von Göll or another, to make a Part II, and dismantle the dream?

Above and beyond her the Zodiac glides, a north-hemisphere array she never saw in Argentina, smooth as an hour-hand. . . . Suddenly there's a long smash of static out of the P.A., and Bel│ustegui is screaming, "Der Aal! Der Aal!" The eel, wonders Graciela, the eel? Oh, yes, the torpedo. Ah, Bel│ustegui is as bad as El Ñato, he feels his own weird obligation to carry on in German submariner slang, it is just precisamente a seagoing Tower of Babel here!the torpedo? why is he screaming about the torpedo?

For the good reason that the U-boat has just appeared on the radar screen of the U.S.S. John E. Badass (smile, U-boat!), as a "skunk" or unidentified pip, and the Badass, in muscular postwar reflex, is now lunging in at flank speed. Reception tonight is perfect, the green return "fine-grained as a baby's skin," confirms Spyros ("Spider") Telangiecstasis, Radarman 2nd Class. You can see clear out to the Azores. It is a mild, fluorescent summer evening on the sea. But what's this on the screen now, moving fast, sweep by sweep, broken as a drop of light from the original pip, tiny but unmistakable, in toward the un-moving center of the sweep, closer now!

"Bakerbakerbaker!" hollers somebody down in Sonar, loud and scared, over the phones. It means hostile torpedo on the way. Coffee messes go crashing, parallel rulers and dividers sliding across the glass top of the dead-reckoning tracer as the old tin can goes heeling over around onto an evasion pattern that was already obsolete during the Coolidge administration.

Der Aal's pale tunnel of wake is set to intersect the Badass's desperate sea-squirm about midships. What intervenes is the drug Oneirine, as the hydrochloride. The machine from which it has emerged is the Coffee urn in the mess hall of the John E. Badass. Playful Seaman Bo-dine!none other!has seeded tonight's grounds with a massive dose of Laszlo Jamf's celebrated intoxicant, scored on Bodine's most recent trip to Berlin.

The property of time-modulation peculiar to Oneirine was one of the first to be discovered by investigators. "It is experienced," writes Shetzline in his classic study, "in a subjective sense ... uh ... well. Put it this way. It's like stuffing wedges of silver sponge, right, into, your brain!" So, out in the mellow sea-return tonight, the two fatal courses do intersect in space, but not in time. Not nearly in time, heh heh. What Bel│ustegui fired his torpedo at was a darkrust old derelict, carried passively by currents and wind, but bringing to the night something of the skull: an announcement of metal emptiness, of shadow, that has spooked even stronger positivists than Bel│ustegui. And what

passed into visual recognition from the small speeding pip on the Badass's radar screen proved to be a corpse, dark in color, perhaps a North African, which the crew on the destroyer's aft 3-inch gun mount spent half an hour blowing to pieces as the gray warship slid by at a safe distance, fearful of plague.

Now what sea is this you have crossed, exactly, and what sea is it you have plunged more than once to the bottom of, alerted, full of adrenalin, but caught really, buffaloed under the epistemologies of these threats that paranoid you so down and out, caught in this steel pot, softening to devitaminized mush inside the soup-stock of your own words, your waste submarine breath? It took the Dreyfus Affair to get the Zionists out and doing, finally: what will drive you out of your soup-kettle? Has it already happened? Was it tonight's attack and deliverance? Will you go to the Heath, and begin your settlement, and wait there for your Director to come?

########

Under a tall willow tree beside a canal, in a jeep, in the shade, sit Tchitcherine and his driver Dzabajev a teenage Kazakh dope fiend with pimples and a permanently surly look, who combs his hair like the American crooner Frank Sinatra, and who is, at the moment, frowning at a slice of hashish and telling Tchitcherine, "Well, you should have taken more than this, you know."

"I only took what his freedom is worth to him," explains Tchitcherine. "Where's that pipe, now?"

"How do you know what his freedom is worth to him? You know what I think? I think you're going a little Zone-happy out here." This Dzabajev is more of a sidekick, really, than a driver, so he enjoys immunity, up to a point, in questioning Tchitcherine's wisdom.

"Look, peasant, you read the transcript in there. That man is one unhappy loner. He's got problems. He's more useful running around the Zone thinking he's free, but he'd be better off locked up somewhere. He doesn't even know what his freedom is, much less what it's worth. So / get to fix the price, which doesn't matter to begin with."

"Pretty authoritarian," sneers young Dzabajev. "Where's the matches?"

It's sad, though. Tchitcherine likes Slothrop. He feels that, in any normal period of history, they could easily be friends. People who dress up in bizarre costumes have a savoir-vivre!not to mention the sort of personality disorder!that he admires. When he was a little boy, back in Leningrad, Tchitcherine's mother sewed by hand a costume for him to wear in a school entertainment. Tchitcherine was the wolf. The minute he put on the head, in front of the mirror by the ikon, he knew himself. He was the wolf.

The Sodium Amytal session nags at the linings of Tchitcherine's brain as if the hangover were his own. Deep, deep!further than politics, than sex or infantile terrors ... a plunge into the nuclear blackness. . . . Black runs all through the transcript: the recurring color black. Slothrop never mentioned Enzian by name, nor the Schwarzkommando. But he did talk about the Schwarzgerät. And he also coupled "schwarz-" with some strange nouns, in the German fragments that came through. Blackwoman, Blackrocket, Blackdream. .. . The new coinages seem to be made unconsciously. Is there a single root, deeper than anyone has probed, from which Slothrop's Black-words only appear to flower separately? Or has he by way of the language caught the German mania for name-giving, dividing the Creation finer and finer, analyzing, setting namer more hopelessly apart from named, even to bringing in the mathematics of combination, tacking together established nouns to get new ones, the insanely, endlessly diddling play of a chemist whose molecules are words. . . .

Well, the man is a puzzle. When Geli Tripping first sent word of his presence in the Zone, Tchitcherine was only interested enough to keep a routine eye on him, along with the scores of others. The only strange item, which grew stranger as surveillance developed, was that he seemed to be alone. To date Slothrop has still not recorded, tagged, discovered, or liberated a single scrap of A4 hardware or intelligence. He reports neither to SPOG, CIOS, BAFO, TI, nor any American counterpart!indeed, to no known Allied office. Yet he is one of the Faithful: the scavengers now following industriously the fallback routes of A4 batteries from the Hook of Holland all across Lower Saxony. Pilgrims along the roads of miracle, every bit and piece a sacred relic, every scrap of manual a verse of Scripture.

But the ordinary hardware doesn't interest Slothrop. He is holding out, saving himself for something absolutely unique. Is it the Black-rocket? Is it the 00000? Enzian is looking for it, and for the mysterious Schwarzgerät. There is a very good chance that Slothrop, driven by his Blackphenomenon, responding to its needs though they be hidden from him, will keep returning, cycle after cycle, to Enzian, until the mission is resolved, the parties secured, the hardware found. It's a strong hunch: nothing Tchitcherine will ever put into writing. Opera-

tionally he's alone as Slothrop is out here!reporting, if and when, direct to Malenkov's special committee under the Council of People's Commissars (the TsAGI assignment being more or less a cover). But Slothrop is his boy. He'll be followed, all right. If they lose him why they'll find him again. Too bad he can't be motivated personally to go get Enzian. But Tchitcherine is hardly fool enough to think that all Americans are as easy to exploit as Major Marvy, with his reflexes about blackness. . . .

It's a shame. Tchitcherine and Slothrop could have smoked hashish together, compared notes on Geli and other girls of the ruins. He could have sung to the American songs his mother taught him, Kiev lullabies, starlight, lovers, white blossoms, nightingales. . . .

"Next time we run across that Englishman," Dzabajev looking curiously at his hands on the steering-wheel, "or American, or whatever he is, find out, will you, where he got this shit?"

"Make a note of that," orders Tchitcherine. They both start cackling insanely there, under the tree.

#######

Slothrop comes to in episodes that fade in and out of sleep, measured and serene exchanges in Russian, hands at his pulse, the broad green back of someone just leaving the room. . . . It's a white room, a perfect cube, though for a while he can't recognize cubes, walls, lying horizontal, anything too spatial. Only the certainty that he's been shot up yet again with that Sodium Amytal. That feeling he knows.

He's on a cot, still in Rocketman garb, helmet on the floor down next to the ditty bag of hash!oh-oh. Though it requires superhuman courage in the face of doubts about whether or not he can really even move, he manages to flop over and check out that dope. One of the tinfoil packages looks smaller. He spends an anxious hour or two undoing the top to reveal, sure enough, a fresh cut, raw green against the muddy brown of the great chunk. Footsteps ring down metal stairs outside, and a heavy door slides to below. Shit. He lies in the white cube, feeling groggy, feet crossed hands behind head, doesn't care especially to go anyplace. . . . He dozes off and dreams about birds, a close flock of snow buntings, blown in a falling-leaf of birds, among the thickly falling snow. It's back in Berkshire. Slothrop is little, and holding his father's hand. The raft of birds swings, buffeted, up, sideways through the storm, down again, looking for food. "Poor little

guys," sez Slothrop, and feels his father squeeze his hand through its wool mitten. Broderick smiles. "They're all right. Their hearts beat very, very fast. Their blood and their feathers keep them warm. Don't worry, son. Don't worry. ..." Slothrop wakes again to the white room. The quiet. Raises his ass and does a few feeble bicycle exercises, then lies slapping on new flab that must've collected on his stomach while he was out. There is an invisible kingdom of flab, a million cells-at-large, and they all know who he is!soon as he's unconscious, they start up, every one, piping in high horrible little Mickey Mouse voices, hey fellas! hey c'mon, let's all go over to Slothrop's, the big sap ain't doing anything but laying on his ass, c'mon, oboy! "Take that." Slothrop mutters, "a-and that!"

Arms and legs apparently working, he gets up groaning, puts his helmet on his head, grabs the ditty bag and leaves by the door, which shudders all over, along with the walls, when he opens it. Aha! Canvas flats. It's a movie set. Slothrop finds himself in a dilapidated old studio, dark except where yellow sunlight comes through small holes in the overhead. Rusted catwalks, creaking under his weight, black burned-out klieg lights, the fine netting of spider webs struck to graphwork by the thin beams of sun. . . . Dust has drifted into corners, and over the remains of other sets: phony-gem┨tlich love nests, slant-walled and palm-crowded nightclubs, papier-mâch└ Wagnerian battlements, tenement courtyards in stark Expressionist white/black, built to no human scale, all tapered away in perspective for the rigid lenses that stared here once. Highlights are painted on to the sets, which is disturbing to Slothrop, who keeps finding these feeble yellow streaks, looking up sharply, then all around, for sources of light that were never there, getting more agitated as he prowls the old shell, the girders 50 feet overhead almost lost in shadows, tripping over his own echoes, sneezing from the dust he stirs. The Russians have pulled out all right, but Slothrop isn't alone in here. He comes down a metal staircase through shredded webs, angry spiders and their dried prey, rust crunching under his soles, and at the bottom feels a sudden tug at his cape. Being still a little foggy from that injection, he only flinches violently. He is held by a gloved hand, the shiny kid stretched over precise little knuckles. A woman in a black Parisian frock, with a purple-and-yellow iris at her breast. Even damped by the velvet, Slothrop can feel the shaking of her hand. He stares into eyes rimmed soft as black ash, separate grains of powder on her face clear as pores the powder missed or was taken from by tears. This is how he comes to meet Margherita Erdmann, his lightless summer hearth, his safe-

passage into memories of the Inflat┴onszeit stained with dread!his child and his helpless Lisaura.

She's passing through: another of the million rootless. Looking for her daughter, Bianca, bound east for Swinem┨nde, if the Russians and Poles will let her. She's in Neubabelsberg on a sentimental side-trip! hasn't seen the old studios in years. Through the twenties and thirties she worked as a movie actress, at Templehof and Staaken too, but this place was always her favorite. Here she was directed by the great Gerhardt von Göll through dozens of vaguely pornographic horror movies. "I knew he was a genius from the beginning. I was only his creature." Never star material, she admits freely, no Dietrich, nor vamp a la Brigitte Helm. A touch of whatever it was they wanted, though!they (Slothrop: "They?" Erdmann: "I don't know. .. .") nicknamed her the Anti-Dietrich: not destroyer of men but doll!languid, exhausted. ... "I watched all our films," she recalls, "some of them six or seven times. I never seemed to move. Not even my face. Ach, those long, long gauze close-ups ... it could have been the same frame, over and over. Even running away!I always had to be chased, by monsters, madmen, criminals!still I was so!" bracelets flashing!"stolid, so . . . monumental. When I wasn't running I was usually strapped or chained to something. Come. I'll show you." Leading Slothrop now to what's left of a torture chamber, wooden teeth snapped from its rack wheel, plaster masonry peeling and chipped, dust rising, dead torches cold and lopsided in their sconces. She lets wood chains, most of the silver paint worn away now, slither clattering through her kid fingers. "This was a set for Alpdr┨cken. Gerhardt in those days was still all for exaggerated lighting." Silver-gray collects in the fine wrinkles of her gloves as she dusts off the rack, and lies down on it. "Like this," raising her arms, insisting he fasten the tin manacles to her wrists and ankles. "The light came from above and below at the same time, so that everyone had two shadows: Cain's and Abel's, Gerhardt told us. It was at the height of his symbolist period. Later on he began to use more natural light, to shoot more on location." They went to Paris, Vienna. To Herrenchiemsee, in the Bavarian Alps. Von Göll had dreamed of making a film about Ludwig II. It nearly got him blacklisted. The rage then was all for Frederick. It was considered unpatriotic to say that a German ruler could also be a madman. But the gold, the mirrors, the miles of Baroque ornament drove von Göll himself a little daft. Especially those long corridors. . . . "Corridor metaphysics," is what the French call this condition. Oldtime corridor hepcats will chuckle fondly at descriptions of von Göll, long after running out of film, still

dollying with a boobish smile on his face down the golden vistas. Even on orthochromatic stock, the warmth of it survived in black and white, though the film was never released, of course. Das W┨tend Reich, how could they sit still for that? Endless negotiating, natty little men with Nazi lapel pins trooping through, interrupting the shooting, walking facefirst into the glass walls. They would have accepted anything for "Reich," even "Königreich," but von Göll stood fast. He walked a tightrope. To compensate he started immediately on Good Society, which it's said delighted Goebbels so much he saw it three times, giggling and punching in the arm the fellow sitting next to him, who may have been Adolf Hitler. Margherita played the lesbian in the cafe, "the one with the monocle, who's whipped to death at the end by the trans-vestite, remember?" Heavy legs in silk stockings shining now with a hard, machined look, slick knees sliding against each other as the memory moves in, exciting her. Slothrop too. She smiles up at his tautening deerskin crotch. "He was beautiful. Both ways, it didn't matter. You remind me of him a little. Especially . . . those boots. . . . Good Society was our second film, but this one," this one? "Alpdr┨cken, was our first. I think Bianca is his child. She was conceived while we were filming this. He played the Grand Inquisitor who tortured me. Ah, we were the Reich's Sweethearts!Greta Erdmann and Max Schlepzig, Wonderfully Together!"

"Max Schlepzig," repeats Slothrop, goggling, "quit fooling. Max Schlepzig?"

"It wasn't his real name. Erdmann wasn't mine. But anything with Earth in it was politically safe!Earth, Soil, Folk ... a code. Which they, staring, knew how to decipher. . . . Max had a very Jewish name, Something-sky, and Gerhardt thought it more prudent to give him a new one."

"Greta, somebody also thought it prudent to name me Max Schlepzig." He shows her the pass he got from Säure Bummer.

She gazes at it, then at Slothrop briefly. She's begun to tremble again. Some mixture of desire and fear. "I knew it."

"Knew what?"

Looking away, submissive. "Knew he was dead. He disappeared in '38. They've been busy, haven't They?"

Slothrop has picked up, in the Zone, enough about European passport-psychoses to want to comfort her. "This is forged. The

name's just a random alias. The guy who made it probably remembered Schlepzig from one of his movies."

"Random." A tragic, actressy smile, beginnings of a double chin,

one knee drawn up as far as these leg irons will let her. "Another fairytale word. The signature on your card is Max's. Somewhere in Stefa-nia's house on the Vistula I have a steel box full of his letters. Don't you think I know that Latin z, crossed engineer-style, the flower he made out of the g at the end? You could hunt all the Zone for your 'forger.' They wouldn't let you find him. They want you right here, right now."

Well. What happens when paranoid meets paranoid? A crossing of solipsisms. Clearly. The two patterns create a third: a moire, a new world of flowing shadows, interferences. ..." 'Want me here'? What for?"

"For me." Whispering out of scarlet lips, open, wet. . . . Hmm. Well, there's this hardon, here. He sits on the rack, leans, kisses her, presently unlacing his trousers and peeling them down far enough to release his cock bounding up with a slight wobble into the cool studio. "Put your helmet on."

"O.K."

"Are you very cruel?"

"Don't know."

"Could you be? Please. Find something to whip me with. Just a little. Just for the warmth." Nostalgia. The pain of a return Home. He rummages around through inquisitional props, gyves, thumbscrews, leather harness, before coming up with a miniature cat-o'-nine-tails, a Black Forest elves' whip, its lacquered black handle carved in a bas-relief orgy, the lashes padded with velvet to hurt but not to draw blood. "Yes, that's perfect. Now on the insides of my thighs. ..."

But somebody has already educated him. Something . . . that dreams Prussian and wintering among their meadows, in whatever cursive lashmarks wait across the flesh of their sky so bleak, so incapable of any sheltering, wait to be summoned. . . . No. No!he still says "their," but he knows better. His meadows now, his sky ... his own cruelty.

All Margherita's chains and fetters are chiming, black skirt furled back to her waist, stockings pulled up tight in classic cusps by the suspenders of the boned black rig she's wearing underneath. How the penises of Western men have leapt, for a century, to the sight of this singular point at the top of a lady's stocking, this transition from silk to bare skin and suspender! It's easy for non-fetishists to sneer about Pavlovian conditioning and let it go at that, but any underwear enthusiast worth his unwholesome giggle can tell you there is much more here!there is a cosmology: of nodes and cusps and points of oscula-

tion, mathematical kisses . . . singularities! Consider cathedral spires, holy minarets, the crunch of trainwheels over the points as you watch peeling away the track you didn't take . . . mountain peaks rising sharply to heaven, such as those to be noted at scenic Berchtesgaden . . . the edges of steel razors, always holding potent mystery . . . rose thorns that prick us by surprise . . . even, according to the Russian mathematician Friedmann, the infinitely dense point from which the present Universe expanded. ... In each case, the change from point to no-point carries a luminosity and enigma at which something in us must leap and sing, or withdraw in fright. Watching the A4 pointed at the sky!just before the last firing-switch closes!watching that singular point at the very top of the Rocket, where the fuze is. ... Do all these points imply, like the Rocket's, an annihilation? What is that, detonating in the sky above the cathedral? beneath the edge of the razor, under the rose?

And what's waiting for Slothrop, what unpleasant surprise, past the tops of Greta's stockings here? laddering suddenly, the pallid streak flowing downthigh, over intricacies of knee and out of sight. . . . What waits past this whine and crack of velvet lashes against her skin, long red stripes on the white ground, her moans, the bruise-colored flower that cries at her breast, the jingling of the hardware holding her down? He tries not to tear his victim's stockings, or whip too close to her stretched vulva, which shivers, unprotected, between thighs agape and straining, amid movements of muscle erotic, subdued, "monumental" as any silver memory of her body on film. She comes once, then perhaps again before Slothrop puts the whip down and climbs on top, covering her with the wings of his cape, her Schlepzig-surrogate, his latest reminder of Katje . . . and they commence fucking, the old phony rack groaning beneath them, Margherita whispering God how you hurt me and Ah, Max . . . and just as Slothrop's about to come, the name of her child: strained through her perfect teeth, a clear extrusion of pain that is not in play, she cries, Bianca. . . .

########

. . . yes, bitch!yes, little bitch!poor helpless bitch you're coming can't stop yourself now I'll whip you again whip till you bleed. . .. Thus Pökler's whole front surface, eyes to knees: flooded with tonight's image of the delicious victim bound on her dungeon rack, filling the movie screen!close-ups of her twisting face, nipples under the silk

gown amazingly erect, making lies of her announcements of pain! bitch! she loves it ... and Leni no longer solemn wife, embittered source of strength, but Margherita Erdmann underneath him, on the bottom for a change, as Pokier drives in again, into her again, yes, bitch, yes. . . .

Only later did he try to pin down the time. Perverse curiosity. Two weeks since her last period. He had come out of the Ufa theatre on the Friedrichstrasse that night with an erection, thinking like everybody else only about getting Home, fucking somebody, fucking her into some submission. . . . God, Erdmann was beautiful. How many other men, shuffling out again into Depression Berlin, carried the same image back from Alpdr┨cken to some drab fat excuse for a bride? How many shadow-children would be fathered on Erdmann that night?

It was never a real possibility for Pokier that Leni might get pregnant. But looking back, he knew that had to be the night, Alpdr┨cken night, that Ilsewas conceived. They fucked so seldom any more. It was not hard to pinpoint. That's how it happened. A film. How else? Isn't that what they made of my child, a film'?

He sits tonight by his driftwood fire in the cellar of the onion-topped Nikolaikirche, listening to the sea. Stars hang among the spaces of the great Wheel, precarious to him as candles and goodnight cigarettes. Cold gathers along the strand. Child phantoms! white whistling, tears never to come, range the wind behind the wall. Twists of faded crepe paper blow along the ground, scuttling over his old shoes. Dust, under a moon newly calved, twinkles like snow, and the Baltic crawls like its mother-glacier. His heart shrugs in its scarlet net, elastic, full of expectation. He's waiting for Use, for his movie-child, to return to Zwölfkinder, as she has every summer at this time.

Storks are asleep among two- and three-legged horses, rusted gearwork and splintered roof of the carousel, their heads jittering with aircurrents and yellow Africa, dainty black snakes a hundred feet below meandering in the sunlight across the rocks and dry pans. Oversize crystals of salt lie graying, drifted in the cracks of the pavement, in the wrinkles of the dog with saucer eyes in front of the town hall, the beard of the goat on the bridge, the mouth of the troll below. Frieda the pig hunts a new place to nestle and snooze out of the wind. The plaster witch, wire mesh visible at her breasts and haunches, leans near the oven, her poke at corroded Hansel in perpetual arrest. Gretel's eyes lock wide open, never a blink, crystal-heavy lashes batting at the landings of guerrilla winds from the sea.

If there is music for this it's windy strings and reed sections stand-

ing in bright shirt fronts and black ties all along the beach, a robed organist by the breakwater!itself broken, crusted with tides!whose languets and flues gather and shape the resonant spooks here, the can-dleflame memories, all trace, particle and wave, of the sixty thousand who passed, already listed for taking, once or twice this way. Did you ever go on holiday to Zwölfkinder? Did you hold your father's hand as you rode the train up from L┨beck, gaze at your knees or at the other children like you braided, ironed, smelling of bleach, boot-wax, caramel? Did small-change jingle in your purse as you swung around the Wheel, did you hide your face in his wool lapels or did you kneel up in the seat, looking over the water, trying to see Denmark? Were you frightened when the dwarf tried to hug you, was your frock scratchy in the warming afternoon, what did you say, what did you feel when boys ran by snatching each other's caps and too busy for you?

She must have always been a child on somebody's list. He only avoided thinking about it. But all the time she was carrying her disappearance in her drawn face, her reluctant walk, and if he hadn't needed her protection so much he might have seen in time how little she could protect anything, even their mean nest. He couldn't talk to her!it was arguing with his own ghost from ten years ago, the same idealism, the adolescent fury!items that had charmed him once!a woman with spirit!!but which he came to see as evidence of her single-mindedness, even, he could swear, some desire to be actually destroyed. . . .

She went out to her street-theatre each time expecting not to come back, but he never really knew that. Leftists and Jews in the streets, all right, noisy, unpleasant to look at, but the police will keep them channeled, she's in no danger unless she wants to be. . . . Later, after she left, he got a little drunk one forenoon, a little sentimental, and went out at last, his first and last time, hoping that somehow the pressures of Fate or crowd hydrodynamics might bring them together again. He found a street full of tan and green uniforms, truncheons, leather, placards fluttering unstable in all modes but longitudinal, scores of panicked civilians. A policeman aimed a blow at him, but Pokier dodged, and it hit an old man instead, some bearded old unreconstructed geezer of a Trotskyite ... he saw the strands of steel cable under black rubber skin, a finicky smile on the policeman's face as he swung, his free hand grasping his opposite lapel in some feminine way, the leather glove of the hand with the truncheon unbuttoned at the wrist, and his eyes flinching at the last possible moment, as if the truncheon shared his nerves and might get hurt against the old man's skull.

Pokier made it to a doorway, sick with fear. Other police came running as some dancers run, elbows close to sides, forearms thrusting out at an angle. They used firehoses to break up the crowd, finally. Women slid like dolls along the slick cobbles and on tram rails, the thick gush catching them by belly and head, its brute white vector dominating them. Any of them might have been Leni. Pokier shivered in his doorway and watched it. He couldn't go out in the street. Later he thought about its texture, the network of grooves between the paving stones. The only safety there was ant-scaled, down and running the streets of Ant City, bootsoles crashing overhead like black thunder, you and your crawling neighbors in traffic all silent, jostling, heading down the gray darkening streets. . . . Pokier knew how to find safety among the indoor abscissas and ordinates of graphs: finding the points he needed not by running the curve itself, not up on high stone and vulnerability, but instead tracing patiently the xs andjys, P (at┨), W (m/sec), Ti (< K), moving always by safe right angles along the faint lines. . . .

When he began to dream about the Rocket with some frequency, it would sometimes not be a literal rocket at all, but a street he knew was in a certain district of the city, a street in a certain small area of the grid that held something he thought he needed. The coordinates were clear in his mind, but the street eluded him. Over the years, as the Rocket neared its fullness, about to go operational, the coordinates switched from the Cartesian x and y of the laboratory to the polar azimuth and range of the weapon as deployed: once he knelt on the lavatory floor of his old rooming house in Munich, understanding that if he faced exactly along a certain compass-bearing his prayer would be heard: he'd be safe. He wore a robe of gold and orange brocade. It was the only light in the room. Afterward he ventured out into the house, knowing people slept in all the rooms, but feeling a sense of desertion. He went to switch on a light!but in the act of throwing the switch he knew the room had really been lit to begin with, and he had just turned everything out, everything. . . .

The A4 operational-at-last hadn't crept up on him. Its coming true was no climax. That hadn't ever been the point.

"They're using you to kill people," Leni told him, as clearly as she could. "That's their only job, and you're helping them."

"We'll all use it, someday, to leave the earth. To transcend."

She laughed. "Transcend," from Polder?

"Someday," honestly trying, "they won't have to kill. Borders won't mean anything. We'll have all outer space. . . ."

"Oh you're blind," spitting it as she spat his blindness at him every day, that and "Kadavergehorsamkeit," a beautiful word he can no longer imagine in any voice but hers. . . .

But really he did not obey like a corpse. He was political, up to a point!there was politics enough out at the rocket field. The Army Weapons Department was showing an ever-quickening interest in the amateur rocketeers of the Verein f┨r Raumschiffahrt, and the VfR had recently begun making available to the Army records of their experiments. The corporations and the universities!the Army said!didn't want to risk capital or manpower on developing anything as fantastic as a rocket. The Army had nowhere to turn but to private inventors and clubs like the VfR.

"Shit," said Leni. "They're all in on it together. You really can't see that, can you."

Within the Society, the lines were drawn clear enough. Without money the VfR was suffocating!the Army had the money, and was already financing them in roundabout ways. The choice was between building what the Army wanted!practical hardware!or pushing on in chronic poverty, dreaming of expeditions to Venus.

"Where do you think the Army's getting the money?" Leni asked.

"What does it matter? Money is money."

"Nor

Major Weissmann was one of several gray eminences around the rocket field, able to talk, with every appearance of sympathy and reason, to organized thinker and maniac idealist alike. All things to all men, a brand-new military type, part salesman, part scientist. Pokier, the all-seeing, the unmoving, must have known that what went on in the VfR committee meetings was the same game being played in Leni's violent and shelterless street. All his training had encouraged an eye for analogies!in equations, in theoretical models!yet he persisted in thinking the VfR was special, preserved against the time. And he also knew at first hand what happens to dreams with no money to support them. So, presently, Pokier found that by refusing to take sides, he'd become Weissmann's best ally. The major's eyes always changed when he looked at Pokier: his slightly prissy face to relax into what Pokier had noticed, in random mirrors and display windows, on his own face when he was with Leni. The blank look of one who is taking another for granted. Weissmann was as sure of Pökler's role as Polder was of Leni's. But Leni left at last. Pokier might not have had the will.

He thought of himself as a practical man. At the rocket field they talked continents, encirclements!seeing years before the General

Staff the need for a weapon to break ententes, to leap like a chess knight over Panzers, infantry, even the Luftwaffe. Plutocratic nations to the west, communists to the east. Spaces, models, game-strategies. Not much passion or ideology. Practical men. While the military wallowed in victories not yet won, the rocket engineers had to think non-fanatically, about German reverses, German defeat!the attrition of the Luftwaffe and its decline in power, the withdrawals of fronts, the need for weapons with longer ranges. . . . But others had the money, others gave the orders!trying to superimpose their lusts and bickerings on something that had its own vitality, on a technologique they'd never begin to understand. As long as the Rocket was in research and development, there was no need for them to believe in it. Later, as the A4 was going operational, as they found themselves with a real rocket-in-being, the struggles for power would begin in earnest. Pokier could see that. They were athletic, brainless men without vision, without imagination. But they had power, and it was hard for him not to think of them as superior, even while holding them in a certain contempt.

But Leni was wrong: no one was using him. Pokier was an extension of the Rocket, long before it was ever built. She'd seen to that. When she left him, he fell apart. Pieces spilled into the Hinterhof, down the drains, away in the wind. He couldn't even go to the movies. Only rarely did he go out after work and try to fish lumps of coal from the Spree. He drank beer and sat in the cold room, autumn light reaching him after impoverishments and fadings, from gray clouds, off courtyard walls and drainpipes, through grease-darkened curtains, bled of all hope by the time it reached where he sat shivering and crying. He cried every day, some hour of the day, for a month, till a sinus got infected. He went to bed and sweated the fever out. Then he moved to Kummersdorf, outside Berlin, to help his friend Mondaugen at the rocket field.

Temperatures, velocities, pressures, fin and body configurations, stabilities and turbulences began to slip in, to replace what Leni had run away from. There were pine and fir forests out the windows in the morning, instead of a sorrowful city courtyard. Was he giving up the world, entering a monastic order?

One night he set fire to twenty pages of calculations. Integral signs weaved like charmed cobras, comical curly ds marched along like hunchbacks through the fire-edge into billows of lace ash. But that was his only relapse.

At first he helped out in the propulsion group. No one was specializing yet. That came later, when the bureaus and paranoias moved in, and the organization charts became plan-views of prison cells. Kurt Mondaugen, whose field was radio electronics, could come up with solutions to cooling problems. Polder found himself redesigning instrumentation for measuring local pressures. That came in handy later at Peenem┨nde, when they often had to lead over a hundred measuring tubes from a model no more than 4 or 5 centimeters' diameter. Pokier helped in working out the Halbmodelle solution: bisecting the model lengthwise and mounting it flat-side to the wall of the test chamber, bringing the tubes through that way to all the manometers outside. A Berlin slum-dweller, he thought, knew how to think in half-rations . . . but it was a rare moment of pride. No one could really claim credit 100% for any idea, it was a corporate intelligence at work, specialization hardly mattered, class lines even less. The social spectrum ran from von Braun, the Prussian aristocrat, down to the likes of Pokier, who would eat an apple in the street!yet they were all equally at the Rocket's mercy: not only danger from explosions or falling hardware, but also its dumbness, its dead weight, its obstinate and palpable mystery. . . .

In those days, most of the funding and attention went to the propulsion group. Problem was just to get something o┴f the ground without having it blow up. There were minor disasters!aluminum motor casings would burn through, some injector designs would set up resonant combustion, in which the burning motor would try to shriek itself to pieces!and then, in '34, a major one. Dr. Wahmke decided to mix peroxide and alcohol together before injection into the thrust chamber, to see what would happen. The ignition flame backed up through the conduit into the tank. The blast demolished the test stand, killing Dr. Wahmke and two others. First blood, first sacrifice.

Kurt Mondaugen took it as a sign. One of these German mystics who grew up reading Hesse, Stefan George, and Richard Wilhelm, ready to accept Hitler on the basis of Demian-metaphysics, he seemed to look at fuel and oxidizer as paired opposites, male and female principles uniting in the mystical egg of the combustion chamber: creation and destruction, fire and water, chemical plus and chemical minus!

"Valency," Pokier protested, "a condition of the outer shells, that's all."

"Think about it," said Mondaugen.

There was also Fahringer, an aerodynamics man, who went out in the pine woods at Peenem┨nde with his Zen bow and roll of pressed straw to practice breathing, draw and loosing, over and over. It seemed rather rude at a time when his colleagues were being driven insane by

what they called "Folgsamkeitfaktor," a problem with getting the Rocket's long axis to follow the tangent, at all points, to its trajectory. The Rocket for this Fahringer was a fat Japanese arrow. It was necessary in some way to become one with Rocket, trajectory, and target! "not to -will it, but to surrender, to step out of the role of firer. The act is undivided. You are both aggressor and victim, rocket and parabolic path and ..." Pokier never knew what the man was talking about. But Mondaugen understood. Mondaugen was the bodhisattva here, returned from exile in the Kalahari and whatever light had found him there, returned to the world of men and nations to carry on in a role he'd chosen deliberately, but without ever explaining why. In S┨dwest he had kept no journals, written no letters Home. There had been an uprising by the Bondelswaartz in 1922, and general turmoil in the country. His radio experiments interrupted, he sought refuge, along with a few score other whites, in the villa of a local landowner named Foppl. The place was a stronghold, cut off on all sides by deep ravines. After a few months of siege and debauchery, "haunted by a profound disgust for everything European," Mondaugen went out alone into the bush, ended up living with the Ovatjimba, the aardvark people, who are the poorest of the Hereros. They accepted him with no questions. He thought of himself, there and here, as a radio transmitter of some kind, and believed that whatever he was broadcasting at the time was at least no threat to them. In his electro-mysticism, the triode was as basic as the cross in Christianity. Think of the ego, the self that suffers a personal history bound to time, as the grid. The deeper and true Self is the flow between cathode and plate. The constant, pure flow. Signals!sense-data, feelings, memories relocating!are put onto the grid, and modulate the flow. We live lives that are waveforms constantly changing with time, now positive, now negative. Only at moments of great serenity is it possible to find the pure, the informa-tionless state of signal zero.

"In the name of the cathode, the anode, and the holy grid?" said Pokier.

"Yes, that's good," Mondaugen smiled.

Closest to the zero among them all, perhaps, was the African En-zian, the protege of Major Weissmann. At the Versuchsanstalt, behind his back, he was known as Weissmann's Monster, probably less out of racism than at the picture the two of them made, Enzian towering a foot over Weissmann, who was balding, scholarly, peering up at the African through eyeglass lenses thick as bottles, skipping now and

then to keep up as they stalked over the asphalt and through the labs and offices, Enzian dominating every room and landscape of those early Rocket days. . . . Pökler's clearest memory of him is his first, in the testing room at Kummersdorf, surrounded by electric colors! green nitrogen bottles, a thick tangle of red, yellow and blue plumbing, Enzian's own copper face with the same kind of serenity that now and then drifted into Mondaugen's!watching in one of the mirrors the image of a rocket engine beyond the safety partition: in the stale air of that room snapping with last-minute anxieties, nicotine craving, unreasonable prayer, Enzian was at peace. . . .

Pokier moved to Peenem┨nde in 1937, along with some 90 others. They were invading Gravity itself, and a beachhead had to be laid down. Never in his life, not even as a laborer in Berlin, did Pokier work so hard. The vanguard spent the spring and summer converting a little island, the Greifswalder Oie, into a testing station: resurfacing road, stringing cable and telephone line, putting up living quarters, latrines and storage sheds, excavating bunkers, mixing concrete, endlessly stevedoring in crates of tools, bags of cement, drums of fuel. They used an ancient ferryboat for cargo runs between the mainland and the Oie. Pokier remembers the worn red plush and scratched lacquer inside the dim cabins, the neglected brightwork, the asthmatic cry of her steam-whistle, odors of sweat, cigarette smoke and Diesel fuel, the trembling of arm and leg muscles, the tired joking, the exhaustion toward the end of each day, his own new calluses struck to gold by the late sun. . . .

The sea was mostly calm and blue that summer, but in the autumn the weather turned. Rain swept in from the north, the temperature plunged, wind tore into storage tents, giant waves boomed all night long. The water was white for fifty meters out from shore. Spray feathered landward off the curls of the big breakers. Pokier, billeted at a fisherman's cottage, came in from his evening walks behind a fine mask of salt. Lot's wife. What disaster had he dared to look back on? He knew.

He reverted that season to childhood, to the wounded dog. During those wet and solitary walks he brooded about Leni: he concocted scenarios in which they would meet again, in some elegant or dramatic setting!ministry, theatre lobby!two or three jeweled and beautiful women hanging to him, generals and industrialists springing to light his American cigarettes and listening to his offhand solutions to problems Leni would only vaguely understand. The most satisfying of

these fantasies would come while Pokier was on the toilet!he'd tap his feet, fanfares would whisper through his lips as he felt that pleasant anticipation. . . .

But the burden of his poor Berlin self lingered. He had spoken to it, listened, probed, and yet it would not dissolve or flee, it persisted, beggar in all the doorways of his life, beseeching silently with eyes, with hands quite sure of their guiltmaking craft. Busywork at Peene-m┨nde and good company at Herr Halliger's inn on the Oie!all marking time till good firing weather!and Pokier more vulnerable than he'd ever been. His cold and wornanless nights, the card and chess games, the all-male beer-drinking sessions, the nightmares he had to find his own way up out of because there was no other hand now to shake him awake, nobody to hold him when the shadows came on the window shade!all caught up with him that November, and maybe he allowed it to. A protective reflex. Because something scary was happening. Because once or twice, deep in the ephedrine pre-dawns nodding ja, ja, stimmt, ja, for some design you were carrying not in but on your head and could feel bobbing, out past your side-vision, bobbing and balanced almost!he would become aware of a drifting-away . . . some assumption of Pokier into the calculations, drawings, graphs, and even what raw hardware there was . . . each rime, soon as it happened, he would panic, and draw back into the redoubt of waking Pokier, heart pounding, hands and feet aching, his breath catching in a small voiced hunh! Something was out to get him, something here, among the paper. The fear of extinction named Pokier knew it was the Rocket, beckoning him in. If he also knew that in something like this extinction he could be free of his loneliness and his failure, still he wasn't quite convinced. ... So he hunted, as a servo valve with a noisy input will, across the Zero, between the two desires, personal identity and impersonal salvation. Mondaugen saw it all. He could see into Pökler's heart. In his compassion, not surprisingly, he had no free advice for his friend. Pokier would have to find his own way to his zero signal, his true course.

By '38 the Peenem┨nde facility was taking shape, and Pokier moved over to the mainland. With hardly more to go on than Stod-da's treatise on steam turbines, and helpful data now and then from universities at Hannover, Darmstadt, Leipzig and Dresden, the propulsion group were testing a rocket engine of l'/2 tons' thrust, 10 atmospheres' combustion pressure, and 60 seconds' duration. They were getting exhaust velocities of 1800 meters per second, but the value they were aiming for was 2000. They called it the magic number,

and they meant it literally. As some gamblers on the stock market know when to place stop orders, feeling by instinct not the printed numbers but the rates of change, knowing from first and second derivatives in their skin when to come in, stay or go, so there are engineering reflexes tuned always to know, at any moment, what, given the resources, can be embodied in working hardware!what is "feasible." On the day that a 2000 m/sec exhaust became feasible, the A4 itself suddenly came in reach. The danger then lay in being seduced by approaches that were too sophisticated. No one was immune. Hardly a designer there, including Pokier, didn't come up with at least one monster rig, some Gorgon's head writhing with pipes, tubes, complicated folderol for controlling pressures, solenoids on top of pilot valves on auxiliary valves on backup valves!hundreds of pages on valve nomenclature were printed as appendices to these weird proposals, all promising huge pressure differences between the inside of the chamber and the nozzle exit!beautiful, as long as you didn't care much about those millions of moving parts behaving together too reliably. But to get a dependable working motor, one the military could use in the field to kill people, the real engineering problem now was to keep things as simple as possible.

The model currently being fired was the A3, christened not with champagne, but with flasks of liquid oxygen by the playful technicians. Emphasis had begun to shift from propulsion to guidance. Telemetry on the flight tests was still primitive. Thermometers and barometers were sealed in a watertight compartment with a movie camera. During flights the camera photographed the needles swinging on the gauges. After the flight the film was recovered, and the data played back. Engineers sat around looking at movies of dials. Meantime Heinkels were also dropping iron models of the Rocket from 20,000 feet. The fall was photographed by Askania cinetheodolite rigs on the ground. In the daily rushes you would watch the frames at around 3000 feet, where the model broke through the speed of sound. There has been this strange connection between the German mind and the rapid flashing of successive stills to counterfeit movement, for at least two centuries!since Leibniz, in the process of inventing calculus, used the same approach to break up the trajectories of cannonballs through the air. And now Pokier was about to be given proof that these techniques had been extended past images on film, to human lives.

He had returned to his quarters about sundown, too tired OF preoccupied to be much affected by the furnace of colors in the flower gardens, the daily changes to the skyline of the Station, even the ab-

sence of noise today from the testing stands. He smelled the ocean, and could almost imagine himself as someone who lives year-round at a seaside resort, but seldom gets to the beach. Now and then, over in Peenem┨nde-West, a fighter plane took off or landed, the motors softened by distance to tranquil purring. A late sea-breeze flickered. He had no warning other than a smile from a colleague who lived a few cubicles away and was coming down the barracks stairs as Pokier was going up. He entered his own cubicle and saw her sitting on the bed, her toes pointed in next to a flowered carpetbag, skirt pulled over her knees and eyes anxiously, fatally, looking into his.

"Herr Pokier? I am your!"

"Use. Use. . . ."

He must have picked her up, kissed her, drawn the curtain. Some reflex. She was wearing in her hair a ribbon of brown velvet. He remembered her hair as lighter, shorter!but then it does grow, and darken. He looked slantwise into her face, all his emptiness echoing. The vacuum of his life threatened to be broken in one strong inrush of love. He tried to maintain it with seals of suspicion, looking for resemblances to the face he'd last seen years ago over her mother's shoulder, eyes still puffy from sleep angled down across Leni's rain-coated back, going out a door he'd thought closed for good!pretending not to find resemblances. Perhaps pretending. Was it really the same face? he'd lost so much of it over the years, that fat, featureless child's face. . . . He was afraid now even to hold her, afraid his heart would burst. He said, "How long have you been waiting?"

"Since lunchtime." She'd eaten in the canteen. Major Weissmann had brought her up on the train from Stettin, and they had played chess. Major Weissmann was a slow player, and they hadn't finished the game. Major Weissman had bought her sweets, and had asked her to say hello and sorry he couldn't stay long enough to see Pokier!

Weissmann? What was this? A blinking, tentative fury grew in Polder. They must have known everything!all this time. His life was secretless as this mean cubicle, with its bed, commode and reading-light.

So, to stand between him and this impossible return, he had his anger!to preserve him from love he couldn't really risk. He could settle for interrogating his daughter. The shame he felt was acceptable, the shame and coldness. But she must have picked it up, for she sat now very still, except for nervous feet, her voice so subdued he missed parts of her answers.

They had sent her here from a place in the mountains, where it

was chilly even in summer!surrounded by barbed wire and bright hooded lights that burned all night long. There were no boys!only girls, mothers, old ladies living in barracks, stacked up in bunks, often two to a pallet. Leni was well. Sometimes a man in a black uniform came into the barracks and Mutti would go away with him, and stay away for several days. When she came back she didn't want to talk, or even to hug Ilsethe way she usually did. Sometimes she cried, and asked Ilse to leave her alone. Ilse would go off and play with Johanna and Lilli underneath the barracks next door. They had scooped a hideout there in the dirt, furnished with dolls, hats, dresses, shoes, old bottles, magazines with pictures, all found out near the barbed wire, the treasure pile, they called it, a huge refuse dump that always smoldered, day and night: you could see its red glow out the window from the top bunk where she slept with Lilli, nights when Leni was away. . . .

But Pokier was hardly listening, he had the only datum with any value: that she was somewhere definite, with a location on the map and authorities who might be contacted. Could he find her again? Fool. Could he somehow negotiate her release? Some man, some Red, must have got her into this. . . .

Kurt Mondaugen was the only one he could trust, though Pokier knew before they spoke that the role Mondaugen had chosen would keep him from helping. "They call them re-education camps. They're run by the SS. I could talk to Weissmann, but it might not work."

He had known Weissmann in S┨dwest. They had shared the months of siege inside Foppl's villa: Weissman was one of the people who had driven Mondaugen, finally, away to live in the bush. But they had found a rapprochement here, among the rockets, either for sun-blasted hob/man reasons it was not for Pokier to understand or because of some deeper connection which had always been there. . . .

They stood on the roof of one of the assembly buildings, the Oie across the water six miles away clearly visible, which meant a change in the weather tomorrow. Steel was being hammered somewhere out in the sunlight, hammered in cadences, purified as the song of some bird. Blue Peenem┨nde shivered around them in all directions, a dream of concrete and steel masses reflecting the noon heat. The air rippled like camouflage. Behind it something else seemed to carry on in secret. At any moment the illusion they stood on would dissolve and they would fall to earth. Pokier stared across the marshes, feeling helpless. "I have to do something. Don't I?"

"No. You have to wait."

"It's not right, Mondaugen."

"No."

"What about Use? Will she have to go back?"

"I don't know. But she's here now."

So, as usual, Pokier chose silence. Had he chosen something else, back while there was time, they all might have saved themselves. Even left the country. Now, too late, when at last he wanted to act, there was nothing to act on.

Well, to be honest, he didn't spend much time brooding about past neutralities. He wasn't that sure he'd outgrown them, anyway.

They took walks, he and Use, by the stormy shore!fed ducks, explored the pine forests. They even allowed her to watch a launching. It was a message to him, but he didn't understand till later what it meant. It meant that there was no violation of security: there was no one she could tell who mattered. The noise of the Rocket ripped at them. For the first time then she moved close, and held him. He felt that he was holding on to her. The motor cut off too soon, and the Rocket crashed somewhere over in Peenem┨nde-West, in Luftwaffe territory The dirty pillar of smoke drew the screaming fire engines and truckloads of workers by in a wild parade. She took in a deep breath, and squeezed his hand. "Did you make it do that, Papi?"

"No, it wasn't supposed to. It's supposed to fly in a big curve," motioning with his hand, the parabola trailing behind encompassing testing stands, assembly buildings, drawing them together as the crosses priests make in the air quarter and divide the staring congregations behind them. . . .

"Where does it go?"

"Wherever we tell it to."

"May I fly in it someday? I'd fit inside, wouldn't I?"

She asked impossible questions. "Someday," Pokier told her. "Perhaps someday to the Moon."

"The Moon ..." as if he were going to tell her a story. When none followed she made up her own. The engineer in the next cubicle had a map of the Moon tacked to his fiberboard wall, and she spent hours studying it, deciding where she wanted to live. Passing over the bright rays of Kepler, the rugged solitude of the Southern Highlands, the spectacular views at Copernicus and Eratosthenes, she chose a small pretty crater in the Sea of Tranquillity called Maskelyne B. They would build a house right on the rim, Mutti and she and Pokier, gold mountains out one window and the wide sea out the other. And Earth green and blue in the sky....

Should he have told her what the "seas" of the Moon really were?

Told her there was nothing to breathe? His ignorance frightened him, his ineptitude as a father. . . . Nights in the cubicle, with Ilse curled a few feet away in a canvas army cot, a little gray squirrel under her blanket, he'd wonder if she wasn't really better off as ward of the Reich. He'd heard there were camps, but saw nothing sinister in it: he took the Government at their word, "re-education." I've made such a mess of everything . . . they have qualified people there . . . trained personnel . . . they know what a child needs . . . staring up at the electric scatter from this part of Peenem┨nde mapping across his piece of ceiling priorities, abandoned dreams, favor in the eyes of the master fantasists in Berlin, while sometimes Ilse whispered to him bedtime stories about the moon she would live on, till he had transferred silently to a world that wasn't this one after all: a map without any national borders, insecure and exhilarating, in which flight was as natural as breathing!but I'll fall. . . no, rising, look down, nothing to be afraid of, this time it's good . . . yes, firmly in flight, it's working . . . yes. . . .

Pokier may be only witnessing tonight!or he may really be part of it. He hasn't been shown which it is. Look at this. There is about to be expedited, for Friedrich August Kekul└ von Stradonitz, his dream of 1865, the great Dream that revolutionized chemistry and made the IG possible. So that the right material may find its way to the right dreamer, everyone, everything involved must be exactly in place in the pattern. It was nice of Jung to give us the idea of an ancestral pool in which everybody shares the same dream material. But how is it we are each visited as individuals, each by exactly and only what he needs? Doesn't that imply a switching-path of some kind? a bureaucracy? Why shouldn't the IG go to seances? They ought to be quite at Home with the bureaucracies of the other side. Kekul└'s dream here's being routed now past points which may arc through the silence, in bright reluctance to live inside the moving moment, an imperfect, a human light, over here interfering with the solemn binary decisions of these agents, who are now allowing the cosmic Serpent, in the violet splendor of its scales, shining that is definitely not human, to pass!without feeling, without wonder (after you get a little time in!whatever that means over here!one of these archetypes gets to look pretty much like any other, oh you hear some of these new hires, the seersucker crowd come in the first day, "Wow! Hey!that's th-th' Tree o' Creation! Huh? Ain't it! Je-eepers!" but they calm down fast enough, pick up the

reflexes for Intent to Gawk, you know self-criticism's an amazing technique, it shouldn't work but it does. . . . Here, here's the rundown on Kekul└'s problem. Started out to become an architect, turned out in-

stead to be one of the Atlantes of chemistry, most of the organic wing of that useful edifice bearing down on top of his head forever!not just under the aspect of IG, but of World, assuming that's a distinction you observe, heh, heh. . . . Once again it was the influence of Liebig, the great professor of chemistry on whose name-street in Munich Pokier lived while he attended the T.H. Liebig was at the University of Giessen when Kekul└ entered as a student. He inspired the young man to change his field. So Kekul└ brought the mind's eye of an architect over into chemistry It was a critical switch. Liebig himself seems to have occupied the role of a gate, or sorting-demon such as his younger contemporary Clerk Maxwell once proposed, helping to concentrate energy into one favored room of the Creation at the expense of everything else (later witnesses have suggested that Clerk Maxwell intended his Demon not so much as a convenience in discussing a thermodynamic idea as a parable about the actual existence of personnel like Liebig . . . we may gain an indication of how far the repression had grown by that time, in the degree to which Clerk Maxwell felt obliged to code his warnings . . . indeed some theorists, usually the ones who find sinister meaning behind even Mrs. Clerk Maxwell's notorious "It is time to go Home, James, you are beginning to enjoy yourself," have made the extreme suggestion that the Field Equations themselves contain an ominous forewarning!they cite as evidence the disturbing intimacy of the Equations with the behavior of the double-integrating circuit in the guidance system of the A4 rocket, the same double-summing of current densities that led architect Etzel Olsch to design for architect Albert Speer an underground factory at Nord-hausen with just that symbolic shape . . .). Young ex-architect Kekul└ went looking among the molecules of the time for the hidden shapes he knew were there, shapes he did not like to think of as real physical structures, but as "rational formulas," showing the relationships that went on in "metamorphoses," his quaint 19th-century way of saying "chemical reactions." But he could visualize. He saw the four bonds of carbon, lying in a tetrahedron!he showed how carbon atoms could link up, one to another, into long chains. . . . But he was stumped when he got to benzene. He knew there were six carbon atoms with a hydrogen attached to each one!but he could not see the shape. Not until the dream: until he was made to see it, so that others might be seduced by its physical beauty, and begin to think of it as a blueprint, a basis for new compounds, new arrangements, so that there would be a field of aromatic chemistry to ally itself with secular power, and find

new methods of synthesis, so there would be a German dye industry to become the IG. . . .

Kekul└ dreams the Great Serpent holding its own tail in its mouth, the dreaming Serpent which surrounds the World. But the meanness, the cynicism with which this dream is to be used. The Serpent that announces, "The World is a closed thing, cyclical, resonant, eternally-returning," is to be delivered into a system whose only aim is to violate the Cycle. Taking and not giving back, demanding that "productivity" and "earnings" keep on increasing with time, the System removing from the rest of the World these vast quantities of energy to keep its own tiny desperate fraction showing a profit: and not only most of humanity!most of the World, animal, vegetable and mineral, is laid waste in the process. The System may or may not understand that it's only buying time. And that time is an artificial resource to begin with, of no value to anyone or anything but the System, which sooner or later must crash to its death, when its addiction to energy has become more than the rest of the World can supply, dragging with it innocent souls all along the chain of life. Living inside the System is like riding across the country in a bus driven by a maniac bent on suicide . . . though he's amiable enough, keeps cracking jokes back through the loudspeaker, "Good morning folks, this is Heidelberg here we're coming into now, you know the old refrain, 'I lost my heart in Heidelberg,' well I have a friend who lost both his ears here! Don't get me wrong, it's really a nice town, the people are warm and wonderful!when they're not dueling. Seriously though, they treat you just fine, they don't just give you the key to the city, they give you the bung-starter!" u.s.w. On you roll, across a countryside whose light is forever changing!castles, heaps of rock, moons of different shapes and colors come and go. There are stops at odd hours of the mornings, for reasons that are not announced: you get out to stretch in lime-lit courtyards where the old men sit around the table under enormous eucalyptus trees you can smell in the night, shuffling the ancient decks oily and worn, throwing down swords and cups and trumps major in the tremor of light while behind them the bus is idling, waiting!passengers will now reclaim their seats and much as you'd like to stay, right here, learn the game, find your old age around this quiet table, it's no use: he is waiting beside the door of the bus in his pressed uniform, Lord of the Night he is checking your tickets, your ID and travel papers, and it's the wands of enterprise that dominate tonight... as he nods you by, you catch a glimpse of his face, his insane, committed eyes, and you remember then, for a terrible few heartbeats, that of course it will end for you all in blood, in shock, without dignity!but there is meanwhile this trip to be on ... over your own seat, where there ought to be an advertising plaque, is instead a quote from Rilke: "Once, only once ..." One of Their favorite slogans. No return, no salvation, no Cycle! that's not what They, nor Their brilliant employee Kekul└, have taken the Serpent to mean. No: what the Serpent means is!how's this! that the six carbon atoms of benzene are in fact curled around into a closed ring, just like that snake •with its tail in its mouth, GET IT? "The aromatic Ring we know today," Pokier's old prof, Laszlo Jamf, at this point in the spiel removing from his fob a gold hexagon with the German form└e cross in the center, a medal of honor from IG Farben, joking, in his lovable-old-fart manner, that he likes to think of the cross not as German so much as standing for the tetravalency of carbon! "but ivho," lifting his open hands on each beat, like a bandleader, "who, sent, the Dream?" It is never clear how rhetorical any of Jamf's questions are. "Who sent this new serpent to our ruinous garden, already too fouled, too crowded to qualify as any locus of innocence!unless innocence be our age's neutral, our silent passing into the machineries of indifference!something that Kekul└'s Serpent had come to!not to destroy, but to define to us the loss of... we had been given certain molecules, certain combinations and not others . . . we used what we found in Nature, unquestioning, shamefully perhaps!but the Serpent whispered, 'They can be changed, and new molecules assembled from the debris of the given. . . .' Can anyone tell me what else he whispered to us? Come!who knows? You. Tell me, Pokier!"

His name fell on him like a thunderclap, and of course it wasn't Prof.-Dr. Jamf after all, but a colleague from down the hall who had pulled reveille duty that morning. Ilse was brushing her hair, and smiling at him.

His daytime work had started to go better. Others were not so distant, and more apt to look in his eyes. They'd met Use, and been charmed. If he saw anything else in their faces, he ignored it.

Then one evening he returned from the Oie, a little drunk, a little anxious-elated over a firing the next day, and found his cubicle empty. Use, her flowered bag, the clothing she usually left strewn on the cot, had all vanished. Nothing left but a wretched sheet of log paper (which Pokier found so useful for taming the terror of exponential curves into the linear, the safe), the same kind she'd drawn pictures of her Moonhouse on. "Papi, they want me back. Maybe they'll let me see you again. I hope so. I love you. Use."

Kurt Mondaugen found Pokier lying on her cot breathing what he imagined were odors of her hair on the pillow. For a while then he went a little insane, talked of killing Weissmann, sabotaging the rocket program, quitting his job and seeking asylum in England. . . . Mondaugen sat, and listened to all of it, touched Pokier once or twice, smoked his pipe, till at last, at two or three in the morning, Pokier had talked through a number of unreal options, cried, cursed, punched a hole into his neighbor's cubicle, through which he heard the man snoring on oblivious. Cooled by then to a vexed engineer-elitism! "They are fools, they don't even know what sine and cosine are and they're trying to tell me"!he agreed that yes, he must wait, and let them do what they would do. . . .

"If I set up a meeting with Weissmann," Mondaugen did suggest, "could you be graceful? calm?"

"No. Not with him. . . . Not yet."

"When you think you are ready, let me know. When you're ready, you'll know how to handle it." Had he allowed himself a tone of command? He must have seen how much Pokier needed to be at someone's command. Leni had learned to subdue her husband with her face, knew what cruel lines he expected of her mouth, what tones of voice he needed . . . when she left him she left an unemployed servant who'd go with the first master that called, just a

victim in a vacuum!

Nur . . . ein . . . Op-fer!

Sehr ins Vakuuni, ("Won't somebody take advantage of me?")

Wird niemand ausnut-zen mich, auch? ("Just a slave with nobody to slave for,")

Nur ein Sklave, ohne Her-rin, (ya-ta ta-fez) ("A-and who th' heck wants ta be, free?")

Wer zum Teufel die Freiheit, braucht?

(All together now, all you masochists out there, specially those of you don't have a partner tonight, alone with those fantasies that don't look like they'll ever come true!want you just to join in here with your brothers and sisters, let each other know you're alive and sincere, try to break through the silences, try to reach through and connect. . . .)

Aw, the sodium lights-aren't, so bright in Berlin,

I go to the bars dear, but nobody's in!

Oh, I'd much rather bee

In a Greek trage-dee,

Than be a VICTIM IN A VACUUM to-nite!

Days passed, much like one another to Polder. Identical morning plunges into a routine dreary as winter now. He learned to keep an outward calm, at least. Learned to feel the gathering, the moving toward war that is unique to weapons programs. At first it simulates Depression or non-specific anxiety. There may be esophagal spasms and unrecoverable dreams. You find you are writing notes to yourself, first thing in the morning: calm, reasoned assurances to the screaming mental case inside!1. It is a combination. 1.1 It is a scalar quantity. 1.2. Its negative aspects are distributed isotropically. 2. It is not a conspiracy. 2.1 It is not a vector. 2.11 It is not aimed at anybody. 2.12 It is not aimed at me . . . u.s.w. The Coffee begins to taste more and more metallic. Each deadline is now a crisis, each is more intense than the last. Behind this job-like-any-other-job seems to lie something void, something terminal, something growing closer, each day, to manifestation. . . . ("The new planet Pluto," she had whispered long ago, lying in the smelly dark, her long Asta Nielsen upper lip gibbous that night as the moon that ruled her, "Pluto is in my sign now, held tight in its claws. It moves slowly, so slowly and so far away . . . but it will burst out. It is the grim phoenix which creates its own holocaust. . . deliberate resurrection. Staged. Under control. No grace, no interventions by God. Some are calling it the planet of National Socialism, Brunh┨b-ner and that crowd, all trying to suck up to Hitler now. They don't know they are telling the literal truth. . . . Are you awake? Franz. . . .")

As war drew closer, the game of priorities and politicking grew more earnest, Army vs. Luftwaffe, the Weapons Department vs. the Ministry of Munitions, the SS, given their aspirations, vs. everybody else, and even a simmering discontent that was to grow over the next few years into a palace revolt against von Braun, because of his youth and a number of test failures!though heaven knew, there were always enough of those, they were the raw material of all testing-station politics. ... In general, though, the test results grew more and more hopeful. It was impossible not to think of the Rocket without thinking of Schicksal, of growing toward a shape predestined and perhaps a little otherworldly. The crews launched an uncontrolled series of A5s, bringing some of them down by parachute, reaching a height of five

miles and nearly to the speed of sound. Though the guidance people had still a long way to go, they had by this point switched over to vanes made of graphite, brought the yaw oscillations down to five degrees or so, and grown measurably happier about the Rocket's stability.

At some point during the winter, Pokier came to feel that he could handle a meeting with Weissmann. He found the SS man on guard behind eyeglasses like Wagnerian shields, ready for unacceptable maxima!anger, accusation, a moment of office-violence. It was like meeting a stranger. They had not spoken since the days at Kummers-dorf, at the old Raketenflugplatz. In this quarter-hour at Peenem┨nde, Pokier smiled more than he had in the year previous: spoke of his admiration for Poehlmann's work in devising a cooling system for the propulsion.

"What about the hot spots?" Weissmann asked. It was a reasonable question, but also an intimacy.

It came to Pokier that the man didn't give a damn about heating problems. This was a game, as Mondaugen had warned!ritualized as jiu-jitsu. "We've got heat-flow densities," Pokier feeling as he usually did when he sang, "on the order of three million kcal/m2h <C. Regenerative cooling is the best interim solution right now, but Poehlmann has a new approach"!showing him with chalk and slate, trying for the professional manner!"he feels that if we use a film of alcohol on the inside of the chamber, we can reduce the heat transfer by a considerable amount."

"You'll be injecting it."

"Correct."

"How much fuel is that going to reroute? How's it going to affect the engine efficiency?"

Pokier had the figures. "Right now injection is a plumber's nightmare, but with the delivery schedules as they are!"

"What about the two-stage combustion process?"

"Gives us more volume, better turbulence, but there's also a non-isotropic pressure drop, which cuts into our efficiency. . . . We're trying any number of approaches. If we could depend on better funding!"

"Ah. Not my department. We could do with a more generous budget ourselves." They both laughed then, gentleman scientists under a stingy bureaucracy, suffering together.

Pokier understood that he had been negotiating for his child and for Leni: that the questions and answers were not exactly code for something else, but in the way of an evaluation of Pokier personally. He was expected to behave a certain way!not just to play a role, but to live it. Any deviations into jealousy, metaphysics, vagueness would be picked up immediately: he would either be corrected back on course, or allowed to fall. Through winter and spring the sessions with Weissmann became routine. Polder grew into his new disguise!Prematurely Aged Adolescent Whiz!often finding that it could indeed take him over, keeping him longer at reference books and firing data, speaking lines for him he could never have planned in advance: gentle, scholarly, rocket-obsessed language that surprised him.

In late August he had his second visit. It should have been "Ilse returned," but Pokier wasn't sure. As before, she showed up alone, unannounced!ran to him, kissed him, called him Papi. But. . .

But her hair, for one thing, was definitely dark brown, and cut differently. Her eyes were longer, set differently, her complexion less fair. It seemed she'd grown a foot taller. But at that age, they shoot up overnight, don't they? If it was "that age. ..." Even as Pokier embraced her, the perverse whispering began. Is it the same one? Have they sent you a different child? Why didn't you look closer last time, Pokier?

This time he asked how long they were going to let her stay.

"They'll tell me. And I'll try to let you know." And would there be time for him to recalibrate from his little squirrel who dreamed of living on the Moon to this dark, long-legged, Southern creature, whose awkwardness and need of a father were so touching, so clear even to Pokier, at this their second (or was it first, or third?) meeting?

Hardly any news of Leni. They had been separated, Ilse said, during the winter. She'd heard a rumor that her mother had been moved to a different camp. So, so. Present a pawn, withdraw the queen: Weissmann, waiting to see how Pokier would react. This time he had gone too far: Pokier laced up his shoes and calmly enough went out looking for the SS man, cornered him in his office, denounced him before a panel of kindly, dim governmental figures, the speech eloquently climaxing as he threw chessboard and pieces all into Weissmann's arrogantly blinking face. . . . Polder's impetuous, yes, a rebel! but Generaldirektor it's his kind of fire and honesty we need!

The child had suddenly come into his arms, to kiss him again. For free. Pokier forgot his troubles and held her to his heart for a long time, without speaking. . . .

But that night in the cubicle, only breathing!no moon-wishes this

year!from her cot, he was awake wondering, one daughter one impostor? same daughter twice? two impostors? Beginning to work out the combinations for a third visit, a fourth. . . . Weissmann, those behind him, had thousands of these children available. As the years passed, as they grew more nubile, would Polder even come to fall in love with one!would she reach the king's row that way and become a queen-substitute for lost, for forgotten Leni? The Opponent knew that Pökler's suspicion would always be stronger than any fears about real incest. . . . They could make up new rules, to complicate the game indefinitely. How could any man as empty as Polder felt that night ever be flexible enough for that?

Kot!it was ridiculous!hadn't he seen her go by from every angle in their old city rooms? Carried, asleep, crying, crawling, laughing, hungry. Often he had come Home too tired to make it to the bed, and had lain on the floor with his head under the one wood table, curled, beaten, wondering if he could even sleep. The first time Ilse noticed, she crawled over and sat staring at him for a long time. She had never seen him still, horizontal, with his eyes shut. . . . He drifted toward sleep. Ilse leaned over and bit him in the leg, as she bit crusts of bread, cigarettes, shoes, anything that might be food.!I'm your father.! You're inert and edible. Pokier screamed and rolled out of the way. Ilse began to cry. He was too tired to want to think about discipline. It was Leni finally who calmed her down.

He knew all Ilse¨s cryings, her first attempts at words, the colors of her shit, the sounds and shapes that brought her tranquillity. He ought to know if this child was his own or not. But he didn't. Too much had happened between. Too much history and dream. . . .

Next morning his group leader handed Pokier a furlough chit, and a paycheck with a vacation bonus. No travel restrictions, but a time limit of two weeks. Translation: Will you come back? He packed some things, and they got on the train for Stettin. The sheds and assembly buildings, the concrete monoliths and steel gantries that were the map of his life flared backward, shadowing into great purplish chunks, isolated across the marshland one from another, in parallax away. Would he dare not to come back? Could he think so far ahead?

He'd left their destination up to Use. She chose Zwölfkinder. It was the end of summer, nearly the end of peacetime. The children knew what was coming. Playing refugee, they crowded the railway carriages, quieter, more solemn than Pokier had expected. He had to keep fighting an urge to start babbling each time Ilse¨s eyes turned from the win-

dow toward his own. He saw the same thing in all their eyes: he was strange to them, to her, and growing stranger, and he knew of no way to reverse it. ...

In a corporate State, a place must be made for innocence, and its many uses. In developing an official version of innocence, the culture of childhood has proven invaluable. games, fairy-tales, legends from history, all the paraphernalia of make-believe can be adapted and even embodied in a physical place, such as at Zwölfkinder. Over the years it had become a children's resort, almost a spa. If you were an adult, you couldn't get inside the city limits without a child escort. There was a child mayor, a child city council of twelve. Children picked up the papers, fruit peelings and bottles you left in the street, children gave you guided tours through the Tierpark, the Hoard of the Nibelungen, cautioning you to silence during the impressive re-enactment of Bismarck's elevation, at the spring equinox of 1871, to prince and imperial chancellor . . . child police reprimanded you if you were caught alone, without your child accompanying. Whoever carried on the real Business of the town!it could not have been children!they were well hidden.

A late summer, a late, retrospective blooming. . . . Birds flew everywhere, the sea warmed, the sun shone on into the evenings. Random children took your shirt cuff by mistake, and trudged along for minutes before discovering you were not their adult, and then wandered off with backward smiles. The Glass Mountain twinkled rose and white in the hot sun, the elf king and his queen made a royal progress every noon with a splendid retinue of dwarves and sprites, handing out cakes, ices and candies. At each intersection or square, bands played! marches, folk-dances, hot jazz, Hugo Wolf. Children went streaming like confetti. At the drinking fountains, where soda water sparkled deep inside the fanged mouths of dragons, of wild lions and tigers, the queues of children waited, each for his moment of danger, leaning halfway into the shadow, into the smell of wet cement and old water, into the mouth of the beast, to drink. In the sky, the tall ferris wheel spun. From Peenem┨nde they had come 280 kilometers, which was to be, coincidentally, the operational range of the A4.

Among all there was to choose from, Wheel, myths, jungle animals, clowns, Ilse found her way to the Antarctic Panorama. Two or three boys hardly older than she wandered through the imitation wilderness, bundled up in sealskins, constructing cairns and planting flags in the August humidity. Watching them made Pokier sweat. A few "sled dogs" lay suffering in the shade of the dirty papier-mâch└

sastrugi, on plaster snow that had begun to crack. A hidden projector threw images of the aurora on a white scrim. Half a dozen stuffed penguins also dotted the landscape.

"So!you want to live at the South Pole. Have you given up so easily on"!Kot!idiot, that was a slip!"on the Moon?" He'd been good up till then about cross-examining. He couldn't afford to know who she was. In the false Antarctic, in ignorance of what had attracted her there, uneasy and dripping sweat, he waited for her answer.

She, or They, let him off. "Oh," with a shrug, "who wants to live on the Moon?" They never brought it up again.

Back at their hotel, they were handed the key by an eight-year-old desk clerk, rose in a whining elevator run by a uniformed child, to a room still warm from the day's heat. She closed the door, took off her hat and scaled it over to her bed. Pokier collapsed on his own bed. She came over to take off his shoes.

"Papi," gravely unlacing, "may I sleep next to you tonight?" One of her hands had come lightly to rest on the beginning of his bare calf. Their eyes met for half a second. A number of uncertainties shifted then for Pokier and locked into sense. To his shame, his first feeling was pride. He hadn't known he was so vital to the program. Even in this initial moment, he was seeing it from Their side!every quirk goes in the dossier, gambler, foot-fetishist or soccer fan, it's all important, it can all be used. Right now we have to keep them happy, or at least neutralize the foci of their unHappiness. You may not understand what their work really is, not at the level of the data, but you're an administrator after all, a leader, your job is to get results . . . Polder, now, has mentioned a "daughter." Yes, yes we know it's disgusting, one never can tell what they have locked up in there with those equations, but we must all put off our judgments for now, there'll be time after the war to get back to the Pöklers and their dirty little secrets. . . .

He hit her upside the head with his open hand, a loud and terrible blow. That took care of his anger. Then, before she could cry or speak, he had dragged her up on the bed next to him, her dazed little hands already at the buttons of his trousers, her white frock already pulled above her waist. She had been wearing nothing at all underneath, nothing all day . . . how I've wanted you, she whispered as paternal plow found its way into filial furrow . . . and after hours of amazing incest they dressed in silence, and crept out into the leading edge of faintest flesh dawn, everything they would ever need packed inside her flowered bag, past sleeping children doomed to the end of summer, past monitors and railway guards, down at last to the water and the Fishing

boats, to a fatherly old sea-dog in a braided captain's hat, who welcomed them aboard and stashed them below decks, where she snuggled down in the bunk as they got under way and sucked him for hours while the engine pounded, till the Captain called, "Come on up, and take a look at your new Home!" Gray and green, through the mist, it was Denmark. "Yes, they're a free people here. Good luck to both of you!" The three of them, there on deck, stood hugging. . . .

No. What Polder did was choose to believe she wanted comfort that night, wanted not to be alone. Despite Their game, Their palpable evil, though he had no more reason to trust "Use" than he trusted Them, by an act not of faith, not of courage but of conservation, he chose to believe that. Even in peacetime, with unlimited resources, he couldn't have proven her identity, not beyond the knife-edge of zero tolerance his precision eye needed. The years Ilse would have spent between Berlin and Peenem┨nde were so hopelessly tangled, for all of Germany, that no real chain of events could have been established for sure, not even Pökler's hunch that somewhere in the State's oversize paper brain a specific perversity had been assigned him and dutifully stored. For every government agency, the Nazi Party set up a duplicate. Committees fissioned, merged, generated spontaneously, disappeared. No one would show a man his dossier!

It was not, in fact, even clear to him that he had made a choice. But it was in those humming moments in the room smelling of a summer day, whose light no one had lit yet, with her round straw hat a frail moon on the bedspread, lights of the Wheel slowly pouring red and green over and over outside in the dark, and a group of schoolboys singing in the street a refrain from before their time, their sold-out and cruelly handled time!Juch-heierasas-sa! o tempo-tempo-ra!! that board and pieces and patterns at least all did come clear for him, and Pokier knew that while he played, this would have to be Use! truly his child, truly as he could make her. It was the real moment of conception, in which, years too late, he became her father.

Through the rest of the furlough, they strolled about Zwölfkinder, always hand in hand. Lanterns swaying from the trunks of elephants' heads on top of tall pillars lit their way . . . over spidery bridges looking down at snow-leopards, apes, hyenas . . . along the miniature railway, between the corrugated pipe legs of steel-mesh dinosaurs, down to the patch of African desert where every two hours exactly the treacherous natives attacked an encampment of General von Trotha's brave men in blue, all the parts played by exuberant boys, and a great patriotic favorite with children of all ages ... up on the giant Wheel so

naked, so void of grace, there for only the clear mission: to lift and to frighten. . . .

On their last night!though he didn't know it, for they would take her as abruptly and invisibly as before!they stood looking in again at stuffed penguins and false snow, and around them the artificial aurora flickered.

"Next year," squeezing her hand, "we'll come back here, if you like."

"Oh yes. Every year, Papi."

Next day she was gone, taken back into the coming war, leaving Pokier alone in a country of children, to go back to Peenem┨nde after all, alone. . . .

So it has gone for the six years since. A daughter a year, each one about a year older, each time taking up nearly from scratch. The only continuity has been her name, and Zwölfkinder, and Pökler's love! love something like the persistence of vision, for They have used it to create for him the moving image of a daughter, flashing him only these summertime frames of her, leaving it to him to build the illusion of a single child . . . what would the time scale matter, a 24th of a second or a year (no more, the engineer thought, than in a wind-tunnel, or an oscillograph whose turning drum you could speed or slow at will. . .)?

Outside the Peenem┨nde wind-tunnel, Pokier has come to stand at night, next to the great sphere, 40 feet high, listening to the laboring pumps as they evacuate the air from the white sphere, five minutes of growing void!then one terrific gasp: 20 seconds of supersonic flow . . . then the fall of the shutter, and the pumps starting up again ... he has listened, and taken it to imply his own cycle of shuttered love, growing empty over the year for two weeks in August, engineered with the same care. He has smiled, and drunk toasts, and traded barracks humor with Major Weissmann, while all the time, behind the music and the giggling, he could hear the flesh of pieces moved in darkness and winter across the marshes and mountain chains of the board . . . watched run after run the Halbmodelle results out of the wind tunnel, showing how the net normal force would be distributed over the Rocket's length, for hundreds of different Mach numbers! seen the true profile of the Rocket warped and travestied, a rocket of wax, humped like a dolphin at around caliber 2, necking down toward the tail which was then stretched up, impossibly, in a high point with a lower shoulder aft of it!and seen how his own face might be plotted, not in light but in net forces acting upon it from the flow of Reich and

coercion and love it moved through . . . and known that it must suffer the same degradation, as death will warp face to skull. . . .

In '43, because he was away at Zwölfkinder, Pokier missed the British air raid on Peenem┨nde. Returning to the station, as soon as he came in sight of the "foreign workers' " quarters at Trassenheide razed and smashed, bodies still being dug from the wreckage, a terrible suspicion began, and would not be put down. Weissmann was saving him for something: some unique destiny. Somehow the man had known the British would bomb that night, known even in '39, and so arranged the tradition of an August furlough, year after year but all toward protecting Pokier from the one bad night. Not quite balanced ... a bit paranoid, yes, yes . . . but the thought purred on in his brain, and he felt himself turning to stone.

Smoke seeped from the earth, charred trees fell, as he watched, at no more than a breath from the direction of the sea. Powdered dust rose up at every footfall, turning clothes white, faces to masks of dust. The farther up the peninsula, the less damage. A strange gradient of death and wreckage, south to north, in which the poorest and most helpless got it worst!as, indeed, the gradient was to run east to west, in London a year later when the rockets began to fall. Most of the casualties had been among "foreign workers," a euphemism for civilian prisoners brought in from countries under German occupation. The wind tunnel and the measuring house were untouched, the pre-production works only slightly damaged. Pokier's colleagues were outside Scientist Housing, which had been hit!phantoms moving in morning fog still not burned off, washing up in buckets of beer because the water was still out. They stared at Pokier, failing, enough of them, to keep accusation out of their faces.

"I wish I could have missed this."

"Dr. Thiel is dead."

"How was fairyland, Pokier?"

"I'm sorry," he said. It wasn't his fault. The others were silent: some watching, some still in shock from the night.

Mondaugen showed up then. "We're exhausted. Could you come with me to Pre-production? A lot has to be sorted out, we need a hand." They shuffled along, each in his own dust-cloud. "It was terrible," Mondaugen said. "All of us have been under some strain."

"They sounded like I'd done it."

"You feeling guilty because you weren't here?"

"I'm wondering why I wasn't here. That's all."

"Because you were in Zwölfkinder," replied the enlightened one. "Don't invent complications."

He tried not to. That was Weissmann's job, wasn't it, Weissmann was the sadist, he had responsibility for coming up with new game-variations, building toward a maximum cruelty in which Polder would be unlaid to nerves vessels and tendons, every last convolution of brain flattened out in the radiance of the black candles, nowhere to shelter, entirely his master's possession . . . the moment in which he is defined to himself at last. . . . This is what Pokier could feel waiting now, a room he'd never seen, a ceremony he couldn't memorize in advance. ...

There were false alarms. Polder was almost sure once during the winter, during the test series at Blizna. They had moved east into Poland, to fire over land. The shots from Peenem┨nde were all out to sea, and there'd been no way to observe the re-entry of the A4. Blizna was almost exclusively an SS project: part of Maj.-Gen. Kammler's empire-building. The Rocket at that point was plagued by an airburst problem in its terminal phase!the vehicle blew apart before reaching the target. Everyone had an idea. It might be an overpressure in the liquid-oxygen tank. Perhaps, because the Rocket coming down was lighter by 10 tons of fuel and oxidizer, the shift in the center of gravity was making it unstable. Or perhaps the insulation on the alcohol tank was at fault, somehow allowing residual fuel to be burned on re-entry. This was Polder's reason for being there. By then he was no longer in the propulsion group, or even working as a designer!he was in the Materials office, expediting the procurement of various plastics for insulation, shock absorption, gasketry!exciting stuff. The orders to Blizna were strange enough to be Weissmann's work: the day Pokier went out to sit in the Polish meadows at the exact spot where the Rocket was supposed to come down, he was certain.

Green rye and low hills for miles all around: Pokier was by a small trench, in the Sarnaki target area, pointing his binoculars south toward Blizna like everybody else: waiting. Erwartung in the crosshairs, with the just-sprung rye blowing, its gentler nap being brushed up by the wind . . . look down at this countryside, down through Rocket-miles of morning space: the many shades of forest green, Polish farmhouses white and brown, dark eels of rivers catching the sun at their curves . . . and at the very center down there, in the holy X, Pokier, crucified, invisible at first look, but in a moment. . . now beginning to resolve as the fall gathers momentum!

But how can he believe in its reality up there? Insects whine, the sun is almost warm, he can gaze off at the red earth and millions of blowing stalks, and fall nearly into a light trance: in shirtsleeves, with his bony knees pointing up, the gray suit jacket wrinkled years beyond last pressing bundled under his ass to soak up the dew. The others he came out with are dotted here about Ground Zero, blithe Nazi buttercups!binoculars sway from slate-colored horsehide straps around their necks, the Askania crew fuss with their equipment, and one of the SS liaison men (Weissmann isn't here) keeps looking at his watch, then at the sky, then the watch, the crystal becoming, in brief flashes on/off, a nacreous circle binding together the hour and the fleecy sky.

Pokier scratches at a graying 48-hour beard, bites at lips very chapped, as if he has spent most of the late winter outside: he has a winter look. Around his eyes, over the years, has grown a ruinous system of burst capillaries, shadows, folds, crowsfeet, a ground that by now has gathered in the simple, direct eyes of his younger and poorer days . . . no. Something was in them, even then, something others saw and knew they could use, and found how to. Something Pokier missed. He's spent enough of his life looking into mirrors. He really ought to remember. . . .

The airburst, if it happens, will be in visual range. Abstractions, math, models are fine, but when you're down to it and everybody's hollering for a fix, this is what you do: you go and sit exactly on the target with indifferent shallow trenches for shelter, and you watch it in the silent fire-bloom of its last few seconds, and see what you will see. Chances are astronomically against a perfect hit, of course, that is why one is safest at the center of the target area. Rockets are supposed to be like artillery shells, they disperse about the aiming point in a giant ellipse!the Ellipse of Uncertainty. But Pokier, though trusting as much as any scientist in uncertainty, is not feeling too secure here. It is after all his own personal ass whose quivering sphincter is centered right on Ground Zero. And there is more to this than ballistics. There is Weissmann. Any number of chemists and materials people know as much about insulation as Polder . . . why should he have been picked, unless . . . somewhere in his brain now two foci sweep together and become one . . . zero ellipse ... a single point ... a live warhead, secretly loaded, special bunkers for everyone else . . . yes that's what he wants ... all tolerances in the guidance cooperating toward a perfect shot, right on top of Pokier ... ah, Weissmann, your end game lacks finesse!but there were never spectators and judges not in all this time, and who ever said the end could not be this brutal? Paranoia has

rushed Pokier, drowned him to the temples and scalp. He may have shit, he can't tell. His pulse thuds in his neck. His hands and feet ache. The black-suited blond enforcers look on. Their metal insignia twinkle. Low hillsides lie under early sun. All the field glasses stare south. The Aggregat is on route, nothing can be changed. No one else here cares for the penetralia of the moment, or last mysteries: there have been too many rational years. The paper has piled too thick and far. Pokier cannot reconcile, not really, his dream of the perfectly victimized with the need bred into him to take care of Business!nor see how these may be one and the same. The A4 must, after all, go out in the field very soon, this failure rate must be brought down, and so those who've come are here, and if there is a massive failure of vision this morning in the Polish meadow, if no one, not even the most paranoid, can see anything at all beyond the stated Requirements, certainly it's not unique to this time, this place, where the eyes cupped against the black binoculars are looking only for the day's "reluctant virgin"!as the witty rocketeers have dubbed their problem rockets!to announce herself... to note where, forward to aft, the trouble may be, the shape of a vapor trail, the sound of the burst, anything that might help. . . .

At Sarnaki, as the records tell it, the rocket came down that day with the usual double-blast, a streak of white condensation in the blue sky: another premature airburst. Steel fragments fell, a hundred feet away from the Zero point, slashing into the rye like hail. Polder saw the explosion, no more than anyone else. He was never sent out again. The SS people watched him get to his feet, and stretch, and slowly move off with the others. Weissmann would get his report. New varieties of torture would be coming.

But inside Pökler's life, on no record but his soul, his poor harassed German soul, the time base has lengthened, and slowed: the Perfect Rocket is still up there, still descending. He still waits!even now, alone at Zwölfkinder waiting for "Use," for this summer's return, and with it an explosion that will take him by surprise. . . .

In the spring, when the winds at Peenem┨nde had shifted around to the southwest, and the first birds were back, Polder was transferred to the underground factory at Nordhausen, in the Harz. Work at Peenem┨nde, after the British raid, had begun to fall off. The plan! again Kammler's!was now to disperse testing and production around Germany, to prevent another and possibly fatal Allied attack. Pökler's duties at the Mittelwerke were routine: materials, procurement. He slept in a bunk next to a wall of dynamited stone painted white, with a bulb over his head burning all night long. He dreamed that the bulb

was a representative of Weissmann, a creature whose bright filament was its soul. They held long dream-dialogues whose substance Pokier could never remember. The bulb was explaining the plot to him in detail!it was more grand and sweeping than Pokier could ever have imagined, it seemed many nights to be purely music, his consciousness moving through the soundscape at bay, observing, compliant, still precariously safe, but not for long.

At the time there were rumors of an estrangement growing between Weissmann and his "monster," Enzian. The Schwarzkom-mando by then had grown away from the SS structure, much as the SS itself had from the German Army. Their power now lay not in absolute weaponry but in information and expertise. Pokier was happy to hear that Weissmann was having his troubles, but at a loss how to use it to any advantage. When his orders to Nordhausen had come through, he'd had a flash of despair. Was the game adjourned then? He might never see Ilse again. But a memo had come, telling him to report to Weissmann in his office.

The hair at Weissmann's temples was graying and disarranged. Pokier saw that one earpiece of his glasses was held on with a paper clip. His desk was a litter of documents, reports, reference books. It was a surprise to see him looking less diabolical than harassed as any civil servant under pressure. His eyes were aimed in Pökler's direction, but the lenses distorted them.

"You understand that this transfer to Nordhausen is voluntary."

Pokier understood, with relief and two seconds of actual love for his protector, that the game was still on. "It will be something new."

"Yes?" Partly a challenge, but partly interested too.

"Production. We've been so involved here with the research-and-development end. It's not a weapon for us so much as a 'flying laboratory,' as Dr. Thiel said once!"

"Do you miss Dr. Thiel?"

"Yes. He wasn't in my section. I didn't know him well."

"A shame he got caught in the raid. We all move in an Ellipse of Uncertainty, don't we?"

Pokier allowed himself a look at the cluttered desk, quick enough to be taken either for nervousness or as a comeback!Weissmann, looks like you have your own Ellipse all right!"Oh, I don't have the time usually to worry. At least the Mittelwerke is underground."

"The tactical sites won't be."

"Do you think I might be sent!"

Weissmann shrugged and favored Pokier with a big fake smile. "My dear Pokier, how can anyone predict where you'll go? We'll see how it all develops."

Later, in the Zone, with his guilt become a sensual thing, prickling at his eyes and membranes like an allergy, it would seem to Polder that he could not, even by that day in Weissmann's office, have been ignorant of the truth. That he had known the truth with his senses, but allowed all the evidence to be misfiled where it wouldn't upset him. Known everything, but refrained from the only act that could have redeemed him. He should have throttled Weissmann where he sat, corrugations of skinny throat and Adam's apple sliding under Pökler's palms, thick eyeglasses sliding off as the weak little eyes go blearing helplessly after their final darkener. . . .

Pokier helped with his own blindness. He knew about Nord-hausen, and the Dora camp: he could see!the starved bodies, the eyes of the foreign prisoners being marched to work at four in the morning in the freezing cold and darkness, the shuffling thousands in their striped uniforms. He had known too, all along, that Ilse was living in a re-education camp. But it wasn't till August, when the furlough arrived as usual in its blank kraft envelope, and Polder rode northward through the gray kilometers of a Germany he no longer recognized, bombed and burned, the wartime villages and rainy purple heath, and found her at last waiting in the hotel lobby at Zwölfkinder with the same darkness in her eyes (how had he missed it till now? such swimming orbits of pain) that he could finally put the two data together. For months, while her father across the wire or walls did his dutiful hackwork, she had been prisoner only a few meters away from him, beaten, perhaps violated. ... If he must curse Weissmann, then he must also curse himself. Weissmann's cruelty was no less resourceful than Pökler's own engineering skill, the gift of Daedalus that allowed him to put as much labyrinth as required between himself and the inconveniences of caring. They had sold him convenience, so much of it, all on credit, and now They were collecting.

Trying, a bit late for it, to open himself to the pain he should have been feeling, he questioned her now. Did she know the name of her camp? Yes, Ilse confirmed!or was told to answer!that it was Dora. The night before she left to come here she'd seen a hanging. Evening was the hour for the hangings. Did he want to hear about it? Did he want to hear about it....

She was very hungry. They spent the first few days eating, what-

ever Zwölfkinder had to sell. There was less than the year before, and it was much more expensive. But the enclave of innocence still enjoyed a high priority, so there was something.

Not so many children this year, though. The engineer and girl had the place practically to themselves. The Wheel and most of the other rides stood motionless. Petrol shortage, a child guard informed them. Luftwaffe flights roared overhead. Nearly every night the sirens cried out, and they watched the searchlights come on in Wismar and in L┨beck, and sometimes heard the bombs. What was Pokier doing in this dream world, this lie? His country waited to be crushed between invaders from east and west: back at Nordhausen the hysteria had risen to epic scale, as the first rockets were about to go out into the field, about to fulfill engineering prophecies old as peacetime. Why, at this critical moment, had they let Pokier off? Who else these days was getting furloughs? And what was "Use" doing here, wasn't she supposed to be too old by now for fairy tales? her new breasts so visible now beneath her frock, her eyes so nearly empty drifting without real interest toward random boys destined for the Volkssturm, older boys, no more interested in her. They dreamed of their orders, of colossal explosions and death!if they even saw her it was sidewise, sly ... her Father -will tame her. . . her teeth will bite the pole . . . someday I will have a herd of them for myself . . . but first I must find my Captain . . . somewhere out in the War . . . first they must deliver me from this little place. . . .

Who was that, going by just then!who was the slender boy who flickered across her path, so blond, so white he was nearly invisible in the hot haze that had come to settle over Zwölfkinder? Did she see him, and did she know him for her own second shadow? She was conceived because her father saw a movie called Alpdr┨cken one night and got a hardon. Pokier in his horny staring had missed the Director's clever Gnostic symbolism in the lighting scheme of the two shadows, Cain's and Abel's. But Use, some Use, has persisted beyond her cinema mother, beyond film's end, and so have the shadows of shadows. In the Zone, all will be moving under the Old Dispensation, inside the Cain-ists' light and space: not out of any precious Göllerei, but because the Double Light was always there, outside all film, and that shucking and jiving moviemaker was the only one around at the time who happened to notice it and use it, although in deep ignorance, then and now, of what he was showing the nation of starers. ... So that summer Ilse passed herself by, too fixed at some shadowless interior noon to mark the intersection, or to care.

She and Pokier hardly talked this time: it was their mutest holiday together. She walked broodful, her head down, her hair hooding her face, brown legs kicking at refuse the undermanned garbage detail hadn't picked up. Was it her time of life, or did she resent being under orders to spend time with a dull and aging engineer at a place she'd outgrown years ago?

"You don't really want to be here, do you?" They sat by a polluted stream, throwing bread to ducks. Pokier's stomach was upset from ersatz Coffee and tainted meat. His head ached.

"It's here or the camp," her face stubbornly aside. "I don't really want to be anywhere. I don't care."

"Use."

"Do you like it here? Do you want to be back under your mountain? Do you talk to the elves, Franz?"

"No, I don't enjoy it where I am"!Franz?!"but I have, I have my job. . . ."

"Yes. So do I. My job is being a prisoner. I'm a professional inmate. I know how to get favors, who to steal from, how to inform, how to!"

Any minute she'd say it... "Please!stop it Use!" this time Pokier got hysterical and did slap her. Ducks surprised at the sharp report about-faced and waddled away. Ilse gazed back at him, no tears, eyes room after room strung into the shadows of an old prewar house he could wander for years, hearing voices and finding doors, hunting himself, his life as it might have been. . . . He could not bear indifference from her. Close to losing control, Pokier committed then his act of courage. He quit the game.

"If you don't want to come back next year," even though "next year" meant so little by that point in Germany, "you don't have to. It would be better if you didn't."

She knew immediately what he'd done. She pulled one knee up, and rested her forehead there, and thought. "I'll come back," she said very quietly.

"You?"

"Yes. Really."

He did, then, let everything go, every control. He veered into the wind of his long isolation, shuddering terribly. He cried. She took his hands. The floating ducks watched. The sea cooled under the hazy sun. An accordion played somewhere back in the town. From behind the decaying mythical statues, sentenced children shouted to each other. Summer ended.

Back at the Mittelwerke he tried, and kept trying, to get into the Dora camp and find Use. It didn't matter any more about Weissmann. The SS guards each time were courteous, understanding, impossible to get past.

The work load now was incredible. Pokier was getting less than two hours' sleep a day. News of the war reached under the mountain only as rumors and shortages. Procurement philosophy had been "triangular"!three possible sources for the same part, in case one was destroyed. Depending what didn't come from where, or how late it was, you knew which factories had been bombed, which rail connections taken out. Toward the end you had to try and fabricate many of the components locally.

When Pokier had time to think, he was met by the growing enigma of Weissmann's silence. To provoke him, or the memory of him, Polder went out of his way to talk to officers in Major Förschner's security detail, looking for news. None of them responded to Pokier as anything more than a nuisance. They'd heard rumors that Weissmann was no longer here but in Holland, in command of his own rocket battery. Enzian had dropped out of sight, along with many key Schwarzkommando. Polder grew more and more certain that this time the game was really over, that the war had caught them all, given new life-death priorities and no more leisure for torturing a minor engineer. He was able to relax some, move through the day's routine, wait for the end, even allow himself to hope that the thousands in Dora would soon be free, among them Use, some acceptable Use. . . .

But in the spring, he did see Weissmann again. He woke from a dream of a gentle Zwölfkinder that was also Nordhausen, a city of elves producing toy moon-rockets, and there was Weissmann's face at the edge of his bunk, watching him. He seemed to have aged ten years, and Pokier hardly recognized him.

"There isn't much time," Weissmann whispered. "Come with me."

They moved through the white, sleepless bustle of the tunnels, Weissmann walking slowly and stiffly, both men silent. In one of the office spaces, half a dozen others were waiting, along with some SS and SD. "We've already obtained permission from your groups," Weissmann said, "to release you for work on a special project. This will be the highest possible security. You'll be billeted separately, eat separately, and speak to no one who is not present in this room." They all looked around to see who that might be. No one they knew. They looked back at Weissmann.

He wanted a modification worked into one rocket, only one. Its serial number had been removed, and five zeros painted in. Pokier knew immediately that this was what Weissmann had been saving him for: this was to be his "special destiny." It made no sense to him: he had to develop a plastic fairing, of a certain size, with certain insulating properties, for the propulsion section of the rocket. The propulsion engineer was the busiest on the project, rerouting steam and fuel lines, relocating hardware. Whatever the new device was, nobody saw it. According to the rumor, it was being produced elsewhere, and was nicknamed the Schwarzgerät, because of the high secrecy surrounding it. Even the weight was classified. They were through inside of two weeks, and the "Vorrichtung f┨r die Isolierung" was on its way to the field. Pokier reported back to his regular supervisor, and the routine went on as before. He never saw Weissmann again.

The first week in April, with American units supposed to be arriving at any moment, most of the engineers were packing, collecting addresses of co-workers, drinking farewell toasts, drifting through the emptying bays. There was a graduation feeling in the air. It was hard not to whistle "Gaudeamus igitur." Suddenly the cloistered life was about to come to an end.

A young SS guard, one of the last to leave, found Polder in the dusty cafeteria, handed him an envelope, and left without a word. It was the usual furlough form, superseded now by the imminent death of the Government!and a travel permit to Zwölfkinder. Where the dates should have been, someone had written, almost illegibly, "after hostilities end." On the back, in the same hand (Weissmann's?) a note to Pokier. She has been released. She will meet you there. He understood that this was payment for the retrofit work he'd done on the 00000. How long had Weissmann been keeping him deliberately on ice, all so he'd have a plastics man he could depend on, when the time came?

On the last day, Pokier walked out the south end of the main tunnels. Lorries were everywhere, all engines idling, farewell in the spring air, tall trees sunlit green on the mountainsides. The Obersturmbann-f┨hrer was not at his post when Pokier went into Dora. He was not looking for Use, or not exactly. He may have felt that he ought to look, finally. He was not prepared. He did not know. Had the data, yes, but did not know, with senses or heart. . . .

The odors of shit, death, sweat, sickness, mildew, piss, the breathing of Dora, wrapped him as he crept in staring at the naked corpses being carried out now that America was so close, to be stacked in front of the crematoriums, the men's penises hanging, their toes clustering white and round as pearls . . . each face so perfect, so individual, the

lips stretched back into death-grins, a whole silent audience caught at the punch line of the joke . . . and the living, stacked ten to a straw mattress, the weakly crying, coughing, losers. . . . All his vacuums, his labyrinths, had been the other side of this. While he lived, and drew marks on paper, this invisible kingdom had kept on, in the darkness outside ... all this time.. . . Pokier vomited. He cried some. The walls did not dissolve!no prison wall ever did, not from tears, not at this finding, on every pallet, in every cell, that the faces are ones he knows after all, and holds dear as himself, and cannot, then, let them return to that silence. . . . But what can he ever do about it? How can he ever keep them? Impotence, mirror-rotation of sorrow, works him terribly as runaway heartbeating, and with hardly any chances left him for good rage, or for turning. . . .

Where it was darkest and smelled the worst, Pokier found a woman lying, a random woman. He sat for half an hour holding her bone hand. She was breathing. Before he left, he took off his gold wedding ring and put it on the woman's thin finger, curling her hand to keep it from sliding off. If she lived, the ring would be good for a few meals, or a blanket, or a night indoors, or a ride Home. . . .

########

Back to Berlin, with a terrific thunderstorm blowing over the city. Margherita has brought Slothrop to a rickety wood house near the Spree, in the Russian sector. A burned-out Königstiger tank guards the entrance, its paint scorched, treads mangled and blasted off of the drive sprocket, its dead monster 88 angled down to point at the gray river, hissing and spiculed with the rain.

Inside are bats nesting in the rafters, remains of beds with a moldy smell, broken glass and bat shit on the bare wood floor, windows boarded up except where the stove is vented through because the chimney's down. On a rocking chair lies a moleskin coat, a taupe cloud. Paint from some long-ago artist is still visible over the floor in wrinkled splashes of aged magenta, saffron, steel blue, reverse deformations of paintings whose whereabouts are unknown. Back in a corner hangs a tarnished mirror, birds and flowers painted in white all around its frame, reflecting Margherita and Slothrop and the rain out the open door. Part of the ceiling, blown away when the King Tiger died, is covered now with soggy and stained cardboard posters all of

the same cloaked figure in the broad-brimmed hat, with its legend DER FEIND HÖRT ZU. Water drips through in half a dozen places.

Greta lights a kerosene lamp. It warms the rainlight with a handful of yellow. Slothrop builds a fire in the stove while Margherita ducks down under the house, where it turns out there's a great stash of potatoes. Jeepers, Slothrop hasn't seen a potato for months. There's onions in a sack too, and even wine. She cooks, and they both sit there just pigging on those spuds. Later, without paraphernalia or talk, they fuck each other to sleep. But a few hours later Slothrop wakes up, and lies there wondering where he's going.

Well, to find that Säure Bummer, soon as this rain lets up, give the man his hashish. But what then? Slothrop and the S-Gerät and the Jamf/Imipolex mystery have grown to be strangers. He hasn't really thought about them for a while. Hmm, when was that? The day he sat with Säure in the cafe, smoking that reefer . . . oh, that was day before yesterday, wasn't it? Rain drips, soaking into the floor, and Slothrop perceives that he is losing his mind. If there is something comforting!religious, if you want!about paranoia, there is still also anti-paranoia, where nothing is connected to anything, a condition not many of us can bear for long. Well right now Slothrop feels himself sliding onto the anti-paranoid part of his cycle, feels the whole city around him going back roofless, vulnerable, uncentered as he is, and only pasteboard images now of the Listening Enemy left between him and the wet sky.

Either They have put him here for a reason, or he's just here. He isn't sure that he wouldn't, actually, rather have that reason. . . .

The rain lets up at midnight. He leaves Margherita to creep out in the cold city with his five kilos, having kept for himself the one Tchitcherine plundered from. Russian troops are singing in their billets. The salt ache of accordion music cries on in back of them. Drunks materialize, merry and pissing in the center grooves of cobbled alleys. Mud occupies some streets like flesh. Shell craters brim with rainwater, gleaming in the lights of midwatch work crews clearing debris. Shattered Biedermeier chair, mateless boot, steel eyeglass frame, dog collar (eyes at the edges of the twisting trail watching for sign, for blazing), wine cork, splintered broom, bicycle with one wheel missing, discarded copies of Tägliche Rundschau, chalcedony doorknob dyed blue long ago with ferrous ferrocyanide, scattered piano keys (all white, an octave on B to be exact!or H, in the German nomenclature!the notes of the rejected Locrian mode), the black and amber

eye from some stuffed animal. . . . The strewn night. Dogs, spooked and shivering, run behind walls whose tops are broken like fever charts. Somewhere a gas leak warps for a minute into the death and after-rain smells. Ranks of blackened window-sockets run high up the sides of gutted apartment buildings. Chunks of concrete are held aloft by iron reinforcing rod that curls like black spaghetti, whole enormous heaps wiggling ominously overhead at your least passing brush by. . . . The smooth-faced Custodian of the Night hovers behind neutral eyes and smile, coiled and pale over the city, humming its hoarse lullabies. Young men spent the Inflation like this, alone in the street, no place to go into out of the black winters. Girls stayed up late on stoops or sitting on benches in lamplight by the rivers, waiting for Business, but the young men had to walk by, ignored, hunching overpadded shoulders, money with no relation to anything it could buy, swelling, paper cancer in their billfolds. . . .

The Chicago Bar is being guarded outside by two of their descendants, kids in George Raft suits, many sizes too big, too many ever to grow into. One keeps coughing, in uncontrolled dying spasms. The other licks his lips and stares at Slothrop. Gunsels. When he mentions Säure Bummer's name, they move together in front of the door, shaking their heads. "Look, I'm supposed to deliver him a package."

"Don't know him."

"Can I leave a message?"

"He's not here." The cougher makes a lunge. Slothrop sweeps aside, gives him a quick veronica with his cape, sticks his foot out and trips the kid, who lies on the ground cursing, all tangled up in his long keychain, while his pardner goes pawing inside of his flapping suitcoat for what Slothrop surmises to be a sidearm, so him Slothrop kicks in the balls, and screaming "Fickt nicht mit dem Raketemensch!" so they'll remember, kind of a hiyo Silver here, he flees into shadows, among the heaps of lumber, stone and earth.

He takes a trail he thinks Säure led them along the other night! keeps losing it, wandering into windowless mazes, tangles of barbed wire holidayed by the deathstorms of last May, then into a strafed and pitted lorry-park he can't find his way out of for half an hour, a rolling acre of rubber, grease, steel, and spilled petrol, pieces of vehicles pointing at sky or earth no differently than in a peacetime American junkyard, fused into odd, brown Saturday Evening Post faces, except that they are not folksy so much as downright sinister . . . yes it's really the Saturday Evening Post, all right: they are the faces of the tricorned messengers coming in from out of the long pikes, down past the elms,

Berkshire legends, travelers lost at the edge of the Evening. Come with a message. They unwrinkle, though, if you keep looking. They smooth out into timeless masks that speak their entire meaning, all of it right out on the surface.

It takes an hour to find Säure's cellar. But it's dark, and it's empty. Slothrop goes in, lights the light. Looks like either a bust or a gang war: printing press vanished, clothes tossed all around, and some very strange clothes at that, there is, for example, a wickerware suit, a yellow wickerware suit actually, articulating along armpit, elbow, knee and groinlines . . . oh, hmm, well, Slothrop runs a quick search of his own here, looking inside shoes, not really shoes, some of them, but foot-gloves with individual toes, not, however, sewn but cast from some unpleasant variegated resin such as bowling balls are made of... behind the peeling scraps of wallpaper, up in the rolled-up windowshade, among the hatchings of one or two phony Reichsmarks let spill by the looters!fifteen minutes of this, finding nothing . . . and the white object on the table watching him out of its staring shadows the whole time. He feels its stare before he spots it finally: a chesspiece two inches high. A white knight, molded out of plastic!a-and wait'll Slothrop finds out what kind of plastic, boy!

It's a horse's skull: the eye-sockets are hollow far down into the base. Inside one of them is a tightly rolled cigarette paper with a message from Säure. "Raketemensch! Der Springer asks me to give you this, his symbol. Keep it!by it shall he know you. I am at Jacobi-strasse 12, 3er Hof, number 7. As B/4, Me. I?" Now "As B/4" was John Dillinger's old signoff. Everybody in the Zone this summer is using it. It indicates to people how you feel about certain things. . . .

Säure has included a map showing how to get to where he is. It's clear back in the British sector. Groaning, Slothrop pushes on back out in the mud and early morning. Around the Brandenburg Gate, a slight drizzle starts up again. Chunks of the Gate still lie around in the street!leaning shell-spalled up in the rainy sky, its silence is colossal, haggard as he pads by flanking it, the Chariot gleaming like coal, driven and still, it is the 30th century and swashbuckling Rocketman has just landed here to tour the ruins, the high-desert traces of an ancient European order. . . .

The Jacobistrasse and most of its quarter, slums, survived the street-fighting intact, along with its interior darkness, a masonry of shadows that will persist whether the sun is up or down. Number 12 is an entire block of tenements dating from before the Inflation, five or six stories and a mansarde, five or six Hinterhöfe nested one inside the

other!boxes of a practical joker's gift, nothing in the center but a last hollow courtyard smelling of the same cooking and garbage and piss decades old. Ha, ha!

Slothrop moseys toward the first archway. Streetlight throws his caped shadow forward into a succession of these arches, each labeled with a faded paint name, Erster-Hof, Zweiter-Hof, Dritter-Hof u.s.w., shaped like the entrance to the Mittelwerke, parabolic, but more like an open mouth and gullet, joints of cartilage receding waiting, waiting to swallow . . . above the mouth two squared eyes, organdy whites, irises pitch black, stare him down ... it laughs as it has for years without stopping, a blubbery and percussive laugh, like heavy china rolling or bumping under the water in the sink. A brainless giggle, just big old geometric me, nothin' t' be nervous about, c'mon in. ... But the pain, the twenty, twentyfive years of pain paralyzed back in that long throat ... old outcast, passive, addicted to survival now, waiting the years out, waiting for vulnerable saps like Slothrop here to expose itself to, laughing and crying and all in silence . . . paint peels from the Face, burned, diseased, long time dying and how can Slothrop just walk down into such a schizoid throat? Why, because it is what the guardian and potent Studio wants from him, nat┨rlich: Slothrop is the character juvenile tonight: what's kept him moving the whole night, him and the others, the solitary Berliners who come out only in these evacuated hours, belonging and going noplace, is Their unexplained need to keep some marginal population in these wan and preterite places, certainly for economic though, who knows, maybe emotional reasons too. . . .

Säure's on the move too, though inside, prowling his dreams. It looks like one big room, dark, full of tobacco and kif smoke, crumbled ridges of plaster where walls have been knocked out, straw pallets all over the floor, a couple on one sharing a late, quiet cigarette, somebody snoring on another . . . glossy Bosendorfer Imperial concert grand piano over which Trudi, wearing only an army shirt, leans, a desperate muse, bare legs long and stretching, "Please come to bed Gustav, it'll be light soon." The only answer is a peevish strumming among the lower strings. Säure is on his side, quite still, a shrunken child, face long worked at by leaps from second-story windows, "first rubdowns" under gloved and womanish sergeants' fists in the precinct stations, golden light in the afternoons over the racetrack at Karls-horst, black light from the pavements of boulevards at night finely wrinkled like leather stretched over stone, white light from satin dresses, glasses stacked shining in front of bar mirrors, sans-serif Us at

the entrances to underground stations pointing in smooth magnetism at the sky to bring down steel angels of exaltation, of languid surrender!a face that in sleep is awesomely old, abandoned to its city's history. . . .

His eyes open!for an instant Slothrop is only shadowed green folds, highlighted helmet, light-values still to be put together. Then comes the sweet nodding smile, everything's O.K., ja, howdy Rocket-man, was ist los? Though the unregenerate old doper is not quite kindly enough to keep from opening the ditty bag right away and peering in, eyes like two pissholes in a snowbank, to see what he has.

"I thought you'd be in the slam or something."

Out with a little Moroccan pipe and Säure sets to flattening a fat crumb of that hashish, humming the popular rumba

A little something from Moroc-co, With just a lit-tle bit of sock-o,

"Oh. Well, Springer blew the whistle on our counterfeiting operation. Kind of a little temporary hitch, you understand."

"I don't. You're supposed to be ace buddies."

"Not nearly. And he moves in higher orbits." It is something very complicated having to do with American yellow-seal scrip being discontinued in the Mediterranean theatre, with the reluctance of Allied forces here to accept Reichsmarks. Springer has a balance-of-payments problem too, and he's been speculating heavily in Sterling, and . . .

"But," sez Slothrop, "but, uh, where's my million marks, then, Emu?"

Säure sucks yellow flame flowing over the edge of the bowl. "It is gone where the woodbine twineth." Exactly what Jubilee Jim Fisk told the Congressional committee investigating his and Jay Gould's scheme to corner gold in 1869. The words are a reminder of Berkshire. With nothing more than that to go on, it occurs to Slothrop that Säure can't possibly be on the Bad Guys' side. Whoever They are, Their game has been to extinguish, not remind.

"Well, I can sell by the ounce from what I have," Slothrop reckons. "For occupation scrip. That's stable, isn't it?"

"You aren't angry. You really aren't."

"Rocketman is above all that shit, Emil."

"I have a surprise for you. I can get you the Schwarzgerät you asked about."

"You?"

"Springer. I asked him for you."

"Quit fooling. Really? Jeepers, that's so swell of you! How can I!"

"Ten thousand pounds sterling."

Slothrop loses a whole lungful of smoke. "Thanks Emil. . . ." He tells Säure about the run-in with Tchitcherine, and also about how he saw that Mickey Rooney.

"Rocketman! Spaceman! Welcome to our virgin planet. We only want to be left in some kind of peace here, O.K.? If you kill us, don't eat us. If you eat, don't digest. Let us come out the other end again, like diamonds in the shit of smugglers. ..."

"Look"!remembering now the tip that that Geli gave him long ago in Nordhausen!"did your pal Springer mention he was hanging out in Swinem┨nde these days, anyplace like that?"

"Only the price of your instrument, Rak. Half the money in front. He said it would cost him at least that much to track it down."

"So he doesn't know where it is. Shit, he could have us all on the hook, bidding us up, hoping somebody's fool enough to front him some dough."

"Usually he delivers. You didn't have any trouble, did you, with that pass he forged?"

"Yaaahhh!" Oh. Oh, wow, aha, yes been meaning to ask you about this little Max Schlepzig item here! "Now then." But meantime Trudi has abandoned Gustav in the piano and comes over now to sit and rub her cheeks against the nap of Slothrop's trousers, dear naked legs whispering together, hair spilling, shirt half unbuttoned, and Säure has at some point rolled over and gone groaning back into sleep. Trudi and Slothrop retire to a mattress well away from the Bosendorfer. Slothrop settles back sighing, takes his helmet off and lets big sweet and saftig Trudi have her way with him. His joints are aching with rain and city wandering, he's half blitzed, Trudi is kissing him into an amazing comfort, it's an open house here, no favored senses or organs, all are equally at play ... for possibly the first time in his life Slothrop does not feel obliged to have a hardon, which is just as well, because it does not seem to be happening with his penis so much as with ... oh mercy, this is embarrassing but. . . well his nose actually seems to be erecting, the mucus beginning to flow yes a nasal hardon here and Trudi has certainly noticed all right, how could she help but... as she slides her lips over the throbbing snoot and sends a yard of torrid tongue up one of his nostrils ... he can feel each pink taste-bud as she penetrates even farther, pulling aside the vestibule walls and nose-hair now to accommodate her head, then shoulders and

... well she's halfway in, might as well!pulling up her knees, crawling using the hair for hand and footholds she is able to stand at last inside the great red hall which is quite pleasantly lit, no walls or ceiling she can really discern but rather a fading to seashell and springtime grades of pink in all directions. . . .

They fall asleep in the roomful of snoring, with low-pitched twangs out of the piano, and the rain's million-legged scuttle in the courtyards outside. When Slothrop wakes up it's at the height of the Evil Hour, Trudi is in some other room with Gustav rattling coffee cups, a tortoiseshell cat chases flies by the dirty window. Back beside the Spree, the White Woman is waiting for Slothrop. He isn't especially disposed to leave. Trudi and Gustav come in with Coffee and half a reefer, and everybody sits around gabbing.

Gustav is a composer. For months he has been carrying on a raging debate with Säure over who is better, Beethoven or Rossini. Säure is for Rossini. "I'm not so much for Beethoven qua Beethoven," Gustav argues, "but as he represents the German dialectic, the incorporation of more and more notes into the scale, culminating with dodecaphonic democracy, where all notes get an equal hearing. Beethoven was one of the architects of musical freedom!he submitted to the demands of history, despite his deafness. While Rossini was retiring at the age of 36, womanizing and getting fat, Beethoven was living a life filled with tragedy and grandeur."

"So?" is Säure's customary answer to that one. "Which would you rather do? The point is," cutting off Gustav's usually indignant scream, "a person feels good listening to Rossini. All you feel like listening to Beethoven is going out and invading Poland. Ode to Joy indeed. The man didn't even have a sense of humor. I tell you," shaking his skinny old fist, "there is more of the Sublime in the snare-drum part to La Gazza Ladra than in the whole Ninth Symphony. With Rossini, the whole point is that lovers always get together, isolation is overcome, and like it or not that is the one great centripetal movement of the World. Through the machineries of greed, pettiness, and the abuse of power, love occurs. All the shit is transmuted to gold. The walls are breached, the balconies are scaled!listen!" It was a night in early May, and the final bombardment of Berlin was in progress. Säure had to shout his head off. "The Italian girl is in Algiers, the Barber's in the crockery, the magpie's stealing everything in sight! The World is rushing together. ..."

This rainy morning, in the quiet, it seems that Gustav's German Dialectic has come to its end. He has just had the word, all the way

from Vienna along some musicians' grapevine, that Anton Webern is dead. "Shot in May, by the Americans. Senseless, accidental if you believe in accidents!some mess cook from North Carolina, some late draftee with a .45 he hardly knew how to use, too late for WWII, but not for Webern. The excuse for raiding the house was that Webern's brother was in the black market. Who isn't? Do you know what kind of myth that's going to make in a thousand years? The young barbarians coming in to murder the Last European, standing at the far end of what'd been going on since Bach, an expansion of music's polymorphous perversity till all notes were truly equal at last. . . . Where was there to go after Webern? It was the moment of maximum freedom. It all had to come down. Another Götterdämmerung!"

"Young fool," Säure now comes cackling in from out in Berlin, trailing a pillowcase full of flowering tops just in from that North Africa. He's a mess!red-drenched eyes, fatbaby arms completely hairless, fly open and half the buttons gone, white hair and blue shirt both streaked with some green horrible scum. "Fell in a shell-hole. Here, quick, roll up some of this."

"What do you mean, 'young fool,' " inquires Gustav.

"I mean you and your musical mainstreams," cries Säure. "Is it finally over? Or do we have to start da capo with Carl Orff ?"

"I never thought of that," sez Gustav, and for a moment it is clear that Säure has heard about Webern too, and trying in his underhanded way to cheer Gustav up.

"What's wrong with Rossini?" hollers Säure, lighting up. "Eh?"

"Ugh," screams Gustav, "ugh, ugh, Rossini," and they're at it again, "you wretched antique. Why doesn't anybody go to concerts any more? You think it's because of the war? Oh no, /'// tell you why, old man!because the halls are full of people like you! Stuffed full! Half asleep, nodding and smiling, farting through their dentures, hawking and spitting into paper bags, dreaming up ever more ingenious plots against their children!not just their own, but other people's children too! just sitting around, at the concert with all these other snow-topped old rascals, just a nice background murmur of wheezing, belching, intestinal gurgles, scratching, sucking, croaking, an entire opera house crammed full of them right up to standing room, they're doddering in the aisles, hanging off the tops of the highest balconies, and you know what they're all listening to, Säure? eh? They're all listening to Rossini! Sitting there drooling away to some medley of predictable little tunes, leaning forward elbows on knees muttering, 'C'mon, c'mon then Rossini, let's get all this pretentious fanfare stuff

out of the way, let's get on to the real good tunes!' Behavior as shameless as eating a whole jar of peanut butter at one sitting. On comes the sprightly Tancredi tarantella, and they stamp their feet in delight, they pop their teeth and pound their canes!'Ah, ah! that's more like it!"

"It's a great tune," yells Säure back. "Smoke another one of these and I'll just play it for you here on the Bosendorfer."

To the accompaniment of this tarantella, which really is a good tune, Magda has come in out of the morning rain, and is now rolling reefers for everybody. She hands Säure one to light. He stops playing and peers at it for a long time. Nodding now and then, smiling or frowning.

Gustav tends to sneer, but Säure really turns out to be an adept at the difficult art of papyromancy, the ability to prophesy through contemplating the way people roll reefers!the shape, the licking pattern, the wrinkles and folds or absence thereof in the paper. "You will soon be in love," sez Säure, "see, this line here."

"It's long, isn't it? Does that mean!"

"Length is usually intensity. Not time."

"Short but sweet," Magda sighs. "Fabelhaft, was?" Trudi comes over to hug her. They are a Mutt and Je┴f routine, Trudi in heels is a foot or so taller. They know how it looks, and travel around in the city together whenever they can, by way of intervening, if only for a minute, in people's minds.

"How do you like this shit?" sez Säure.

"H┨bsch," allows Gustav. "A trifle stahlig, and perhaps the infinitesimal hint of a Bodengeschmack behind its Körper, which is admittedly s┨ffig."

"I would rather have said spritztg," Säure disagrees, if that indeed is what it is. "Generally more bukettreich than last year's harvests, wouldn't you say?"

"Oh, for an Haut Atlas herbage it does have its Art. Certainly it can be described as kernig, even!as can often be said of that sauber quality prevailing in the Oued Nfis region!authentically pikant."

"Actually I would tend to suspect an origin somewhere along the southern slope of Jebel Sarho," Säure sez!"note the Spiel, rather glatt and blumig, even the suggestion of a F┨lle in its w┨rzig audacity!"

"No no no, F┨lle is overstating it, the El Abid Emerald we had last month had F┨lle. But this is obviously more zart than that."

The truth is they are both so blitzed that neither one knows what he's talking about, which is just as well, for at this point comes a godawful hammering at the door and a lot of achtungs from the other

side. Slothrop screams and heads for the window, out onto the roof and over, scrambling down a galvanized pipe to the next streetward courtyard. Back in Säure's room the heat come busting in. Berlin police supported by American MPs in an adviser status.

"You will show me your papers!" hollers the leader of the raid.

Säure smiles and holds up a pack of Zig-Zags, just in from Paris.

Twenty minutes later, somewhere in the American sector, Slothrop is ambling past a cabaret where blank-faced snowdrops are lounging in front and inside, and a radio or phonograph somewhere is playing an Irving Berlin medley. Slothrop goes hunching paranoiacally along the street, here's "God Bless America," a-and "This Is the Army, Mister Jones," and they are his country's versions of the Horst Wessel Song, although it is Gustav back at the Jacobistrasse who raves (nobody gonna pull an Anton Webern on him) to a blinking American lieutenant-colonel, "A parabola! A trap! You were never immune over there from the simple-minded German symphonic arc, tonic to dominant, back again to tonic. Grandeur! Gesellschaft!"

"Teutonic?" sez the colonel. "Dominant? The war's over, fella. What kind of talk is that?"

In from the soggy fields of the Mark comes a cold drizzle blowing. Russian cavalry are crossing the Kurf┨rstendamm, driving a herd of cows to slaughter lowing and muddy, eyelashes beaded with the fine rain. In the Soviet sector, girls with rifles slung across bouncing wool-covered breasts are waving the traffic around with bright orange pennants. Bulldozers growling, trucks straining push over teetering walls, and little kids cheer at each wet crash. Silver tea-services ring on fronded terraces where water drips, waiters in lean black coats wheel and tilt their heads. An open victoria splashes by, two Russian officers covered with medals sitting with their ladies in silk frocks and great floppy-brimmed hats trailing ribbons in the breeze. On the river, ducks with green heads glittering drift among shock-waves of one another's passage. Woodsmoke scatters out the dented pipe of Mar-gherita's house. Inside the door, the first thing Slothrop sees is a high-heeled shoe come flying straight at his head. He twitches out of the way in time. Margherita is kneeling on the bed, breathing rapidly, staring. "You left me."

"Had some chores." He rummages in covered cans on a shelf over the stove, finds dried clover tops for tea.

"But you left me alone." Her hair blows in a gray-black cloud around her face. She is prey to interior winds he never felt.

"Only for a little while. Do you want tea?" Starting outside with an empty can.

"What's a little while? For God's sake, haven't you been alone?"

"Sure." Dipping up water from a rain barrel outside the door. She lies, shaking, her face working, helpless.

Slothrop puts the can on to boil. "You were sleeping pretty soundly. Isn't it safe here? Is that what you mean?"

"Safe." A terrible laughter. He wishes she wouldn't. The water has begun to creak. "Do you know what they were doing to me? What they were piling on my breasts? The names they were calling me?"

"Who, Greta?"

"When you left I woke up. I called to you but you didn't come back. When they were sure you'd left, they came in. . . ."

"Why didn't you try to stay awake?"

"/ was awake!" Sunlight, switched on, breaks through. At the harsh lighting she turns her face away.

While he makes tea, she sits on the bed, cursing him in German and Italian, in a voice always just at the edge of falling apart. He hands her a cup. She knocks it out of his hand.

"Look, take it easy, all right?" He sits down next to her and blows on his tea. The cup she refused stays on its side where it is. The dark stain steams into the wood planks. Faraway clover rises, disperses: a ghost. . . . After a while she takes his hand.

"I'm sorry I left you alone."

She starts to cry.

And cries all day. Slothrop falls asleep, keeps drifting up to her sobs, and to feel her, always in touch, some part of her, some part of him. ... In a dream from this time, his father has come to find him. Slothrop has been wandering at sundown by the Mungahannock, near a rotting old paper mill, abandoned back in the nineties. A heron rises in silhouette against luminous and dying orange. "Son," a falling tower of words tumbling over and over themselves, "the president died three months ago." Slothrop stands and curses him. "Why didn't you tell me? Pop, I loved him. You only wanted to sell me to the IG. You sold me out." The old man's eyes fill with tears. "Oh son ..." trying to take his hand. But the sky is dark, the heron gone, the empty skeleton of the mill and the dark increase of the river saying it is time to go . . . then his father is gone too, no time to say good-by, though his face stays, Broderick who sold him out, long after waking, and the sadness Slothrop brought into it, fool loudmouth kid. Margherita is lean-

ing over him, brushing tears from his face with the tips of her nails. The nails are very sharp, and pause often when they approach his eyes.

"I'm afraid," she whispers. "Everything. My face in the mirror! when I was a child, they said not to look in the mirror too often or I'd see the Devil behind the glass . . . and ..." glancing back at the white-flowered mirror behind them, "we have to cover it, please, can't we cover it... that's where they . . . especially at night!"

"Easy." He moves to put as much of their bodies in touch as he can. He holds her. The tremor is strong, and maybe uncalmable: after a while Slothrop has started to tremble too, in phase. "Please, take it easy." Whatever possesses her needs touch, to drink touch insatiably.

The depth of this frightens him. He feels responsible for her safety, and often trapped. At first they stay together days at a clip, till he has to go out dealing, or foraging. He doesn't sleep much. He finds himself by reflex telling lies!"It's all right," "There's nothing to worry about." Sometimes he manages to be alone out by the river, Fishing with a piece of string and one of her hairpins. They manage a fish a day, on lucky days two. They are goofy fish, anything swimming in Berlin waters these days has to be everybody's last choice. When Greta cries in her sleep for longer than he can listen to, he has to wake her. They will try to talk, or to screw, though he's less and less often in the mood, and that makes her worse because she feels he's rejecting her, which indeed he is. Whippings seem to comfort her, and they let him off the hook. Sometimes he's too tired even for that. She keeps provoking him. One night he puts in front of her a broiled fish, an unwholesome yellow loach with brain damage. She can't eat it, she'll get sick.

"You have to eat."

She moves her head aside, first one side, then the other.

"Oh boy, what a sad story, listen cunt, you ain't the only one's ever suffered!you been out there lately?"

"Of course. I keep forgetting how you must have suffered."

"Shit you Germans are crazy, you all think the world's against you."

"I'm not German," just remembering, "I'm a Lombard."

"Close enough, sweetheart."

With a hiss, nostrils wide, she grabs the little table and wrenches it away, plates, silverware, fish flying splot against the wall where it commences to drip down toward the woodwork, still, even in death, getting all the lousy breaks. They sit in their two straight chairs, a meter and a half of perilously empty space between. It is the warm, romantic summer of'45, and surrender or not, the culture of death still prevails: what Grandmother called "a crime of passion" has become, in the absence of much passion over anything today, the technique of preference in resolving interpersonal disputes.

"Clean it up."

She flicks a pale bitten thumbnail from one of her top teeth and laughs, that delightful Erdmann laugh. Slothrop, shaking, is about to say, "You don't know how close you are!" Then, by chance, he happens to get a look at her face. Of course she knows how close she is. "O.K., O.K." He throws her underwear around the room till he finds the black girdle he's looking for. The metal clips of the suspenders raise dark little curved welts over fading earlier bruises on her buttocks and thighs. He has to draw blood before she cleans up the fish. When she's finished she kneels and kisses his boots. Not exactly the scenario she wanted but close enough, sweetheart.

Getting closer every day, and he's afraid. He's never seen anything like it. When he goes out to the city she begs to be tied with her stockings, star-fashion, to the bedposts. Sometimes she'll leave the house, and stay away for days, coming Home with stories about Negro MPs beating her with nightsticks, screwing her in the asshole, how much she loved it, hoping to trigger some race/sex reaction, something a little bizarre, a little different. . . .

Whatever it is with her, he's catching it. Out in the ruins he sees darkness now at the edges of all the broken shapes, showing from behind them. Light nests in Margherita's hair like black doves. He will look at his chalk hands, and along the borders of each finger, darkness will gutter and leap. In the sky over the Alexanderplatz he has seen Oberst Enzian's KEZVH mandala, and the face of Tchitcherine on more than one random snowdrop. Across the facade of the Titania-palast, in red neon through a mist one night he saw DIE, SLOTHROP. One Sunday out at Wannsee, an armada of sails all bent the same way, patiently, dreamlike into the wind, passing forever against the other shore, a crowd of little kids in soldier hats folded from old army maps plotted to drown and sacrifice him. He escaped only by murmuring Hauptstufe three times.

The house by the river is an enclosure that acts as a spring-suspension for the day and the weather, allowing only mild cycling of light and heat, down into evening, up again into morning to the midday peak but all damped to a gentle sway from the earthquake of the day outside.

When Greta hears shots out in the increasingly distant streets, she will think of the sound stages of her early career, and will take the ex-

plosions as cue calls for the titanic sets of her dreams to be smoothly clogged with a thousand extras: meek, herded by rifle shots, ascending and descending, arranged into patterns that will suit the Director's ideas of the picturesque!a river of faces, made up yellow and white-lipped for the limitations of the film stock of the time, sweating yellow migrations taken over and over again, fleeing nothing, escaping nowhere. . . .

It's early morning now. Slothrop's breath is white on the air. He is just up from a dream. Part I of a poem, with woodcuts accompanying the text!a woman is attending a dog show which is also, in some way, a stud service. She has brought her Pekingese, a female with a sicken-ingly cute name, Mimsy or Goo-Goo or something, here to be serviced. She is passing the time in a garden setting, with some other middle-class ladies like herself, when from some enclosure nearby she hears the sound of her bitch, coming. The sound goes on and on for much longer than seems appropriate, and she suddenly realizes that the sound is her own voice, this interminable cry of dog-pleasure. The others, politely, are pretending not to notice. She feels shame, but is helpless, driven now by a need to go out and find other animal species to fuck. She sucks the penis of a multicolored mongrel who has tried to mount her in the street. Out in a barren field near a barbed-wire fence, winter fires across the clouds, a tall horse compels her to kneel, passively, and kiss his hooves. Cats and minks, hyenas and rabbits, fuck her inside automobiles, lost at night in the forests, out beside a water-hole in the desert.

As Part II begins, she has discovered she's pregnant. Her husband, a dumb, easygoing screen door salesman, makes an agreement with her: her own promise is never stated, but in return, nine months from now, he will take her where she wants to go. So it is that close to the end of her term he is out on the river, an American river, in a rowboat, hauling on the oars, carrying her on a journey. The key color in this section is violet.

Part III finds her at the bottom of the river. She has drowned. But all forms of life fill her womb. "Using her as mermaid" (line 7), they transport her down through these green river-depths. "It was down, and out again./ Old Squalidozzi, ploughman of the deep,/ At the end of his day's sowing/ Sees her verdigris belly among the weeds" (lines 10-13), and brings her back up. He is a classically-bearded Neptune figure with an old serene face. From out of her body streams a flood now of different creatures, octopuses, reindeer, kangaroos, "Who can say all the life/ That left her womb that day?" Squalidozzi can only

catch a glimpse of the amazing spill as he bears her back toward the surface. Above, it is a mild and sunlit green lake or pond, grassy at the banks, shaded by willows. Insects whine and hover. The key color now is green. "And there as it broke to sun/ Her corpse found sleep in the water/ And in the summer depths/ The creatures took their way/ Each to its proper love/ In the height of afternoon/ As the peaceful river went. ..."

This dream will not leave him. He baits his hook, hunkers by the bank, drops his line into the Spree. Presently he lights up an army cigarette, and stays still then for a long while, as the fog moves white through the riverbank houses, and up above the warplanes go droning somewhere invisible, and the dogs run barking in the back-streets.

########

When emptied of people, the interior is steel gray. When crowded, it's green, a comfortable acid green. Sunlight comes in through portholes in the higher of the bulkheads (the R┨cksichtslos here lists at a permanent angle of 23< 27'), and steel washbowls line the lower bulkheads. At the end of each sub-latrine are Coffee messes and hand-cranked peep shows. You'll find all the older, less glamorous, un-Teutonic-looking women in the enlisted men's machines. The real stacked and more racially golden tomatoes go to the officers, nat┨rlich. This is some of that Nazi fanaticism.

The R┨cksichtslos itself is the issue of another kind of fanaticism: that of the specialist. This vessel here is a Toiletship, a triumph of the German mania for subdividing. "If the house is organic," argued the crafty early Toiletship advocates, "family lives in the house, family's organic, house is outward-and-visible sign, you see," behind their smoked glasses and under their gray crewcuts not believing a word of it, Machiavellian and youthful, not quite ripe yet for paranoia, "and if the bathroom's part of the house!house-is-organic! ha-hah," singing, chiding, pointing out the broad blond-faced engineer, hair parted in the middle and slicked back, actually blushing and looking at his knees among the good-natured smiling teeth of his fellow technologists because he'd been about to forget that point (Albert Speer, himself, in a gray suit with a smudge of chalk on the sleeve, all the way in the back leaning akimbo the wall and looking remarkably like American cowboy actor Henry Fonda, has already forgotten about the house being

organic, and nobody points at him, RHIP). "Then the Toiletship is to the Kriegsmarine as the bathroom is to the house. Because the Navy is organic, we all know that, ha-hah!" [General, or maybe Admiral, laughter.] The R┨cksichtslos was intended to be the flagship of a whole Geschwader of Toiletships. But the steel quotas were diverted clear out of the Navy over to the A4 rocket program. Yes, that does seem unusual, but Degenkolb was heading up the Rocket Committee by then, remember, and had both power and will to cut across all branches of the service. So the R┨cksichtslos is one-of-a-kind, old warship collectors, and if you're in the market you better hurry 'cause GE's already been by to have a look. Lucky the Bolshies didn't get it, huh, Charles? Charles, meantime, is making on his clipboard what look like studious notes, but are really observations of the passing scene such as They are all looking at me, or Lieutenant Rinso is plotting to murder me, and of course the ever-reliable He's one of them too and I'm going to get him some night, well by now Charles's colleague here, Steve, has forgotten about the Russians, and discontinued his inspection of a flushing valve to take a really close look at that Charles, you can't pick your search team, not if you're just out of school and here I am, in the asshole of nowhere, not much more than a gofer to this!what-is he, a fag? What am I? What does GE want me to be? Is this some obscure form of company punishment, even, good God, permanent exile? I'm a career man, they can keep me out here 20 years if they want, 'n' no-body'll ever know, they'll just keep writing it off to overhead. Sheila! How'm I gonna tell Sheila? We're engaged. This is her picture (hair waved like choppy seas falling down Rita Hayworth style, eyes that if it were a color snap would have yellow lids with pink rims, and a mouth like a hot dog bun on a billboard). Took her out to Buf-falo Bayou,

Lookin' for a little fun! Big old bayou mosquito, oh my you Shoulda seen what he done! Poked his head up, under her dress, Give a little grin and, well I guess, Things got rough on Buf-falo Bayou, Skeeter turn yer meter, down, All!right!now!

Ya ta, ta-ta, ya-ta-ta, ta-ta Lookin'for a little fun, Ev-rybody!

Oh ya know, when you're young and wholesome ["Ev'ry-body," in this case a Toiletshipload of bright hornrimmed shoe-pac'd young fellas from Schenectady, are singin' along behind this recitative here] and a good church-goin' kid, it's sure a mournful thing to get suddenly ganged by a pack of those Texas mosquitoes, it can set you back 20 years. Why, there's boys just like you wanderin' around, you may've seen one in the street today and never known it, with the mind of a infant, just because those mosquitoes got to him and did their unspeakable thing. And we've laid down insecticides, a-and bombed the bayous with citronella, and it's no good, folks. They breed faster'n we can kill 'em, and are we just gonna tuck tail and let them be there out in Buffalo Bayou where my gal Sheila had to look at the loathsome behavior of those!things, we gonna allow them even to exist?

!And,

Things got rough on, Buf-falo Bayou,

Skeeter turn yer meter, down,

Hubba hubba! Skeeter turn yer meter, down!

Well, you can't help but wonder who's really the more paranoid of the two here. Steve's sure got a lot of gall badmouthing Charles that way. Among the hilarious graffiti of visiting mathematicians,

that sort of thing, they go poking away down the narrow sausage-shaped latrine now, two young/old men, their feet fade and cease to ring on the sloping steel deck, their forms grow more transparent with distance until it's impossible to see them any more. Only the empty compartment here, the S-curved spokes on the peep-show machines, the rows of mirrors directly facing, reflecting each other, frame after frame, back in a curve of very great radius. Out to the end of this segment of curve is considered part of the space of the R┨cksichtslos. Making it a rather fat ship. Carrying its right-of-way along with it. "Crew morale," whispered the foxes at the Ministry meetings, "sailors' superstitions. Mirrors at high midnight. We know, don't we?"

The officers' latrines, by contrast, are done in red velvet. The

decor is 1930s Safety Manual. That is, all over the walls, photograffiti, are pictures of Horrible Disasters in German Naval History. Collisions, magazine explosions, U-boat sinkings, just the thing if you're an officer trying to take a shit. The Foxes have been busy. Commanding officers get whole suites, private shower or sunken bathtub, manicurist (BDM volunteers, mostly), steam room, massage table. To compensate though, all the bulkheads, and the overhead, are occupied by enormous photographs of Hitler at various forms of play. The toilet paper! The toilet paper is covered square after square with caricatures of Churchill, Eisenhower, Roosevelt, Chiang Kai-shek, there was even a Staff Caricaturist always on duty to custom-illustrate blank paper for those connoisseurs who are ever in search of the unusual. Wagner and Hugo Wolf were patched into speakers from up in the radio shack. Cigarettes were free. It was a good life on board the Toiletship R┨ck-sichtslos, as it plied its way from Swinem┨nde to Helgoland, anyplace it was needed, camouflaged in shades of gray, turn-of-the-century style with sharp-shadowed prows coming at you from midships so you couldn't tell which way she was headed. Ship's company actually lived each man inside his stall, each with his own key and locker, pin-ups and library shelves decorating the partitions . . . and there were even one-way mirrors so you could sit at your ease, penis dangling toward the ice-cold seawater in your bowl, listen to your VE-301 People's Receiver, and watch the afternoon rush, the busy ringing of feet and talk, card games inside the group toilets, dealers enthroned on real porcelain receiving visitors, some of them lined up back outside the compartment (quiet queues, all Business, something like the queues in banks), toilet-lawyers dispensing advice, all kinds of visitor coming and going, the U-boat crews hunching in, twitching eyes nervously every second or two at the overhead, destroyer sailors larking at the troughs (gigantic troughs! running the whole beam of the ship, even, legend has it, off into mirror-space, big enough to seat 40 or 50 aching assholes side by side, while a constant river of salt flushing water roared by underneath), lighting wads of toilet paper, is what they especially liked to do, setting them flaming yellow in the water upstream and cackling with glee as one by one down the line the sitters leaped off the holes screaming and clutching their blistered asses and inhaling the smell of singed pubic hair. Not that the crew of the Toiletship itself were above a practical joke now and then. Who can ever forget the time shipfitters Höpmann and Kreuss, at the height of the Ptomaine Epidemic of 1943, routed those waste lines into the ventilation system of the executive officer's stateroom? The exec, being an old Toiletship hand, laughed good-naturedly at the clever prank and transferred Höpmann and Kreuss to icebreaker duty, where the two Scatotechnic Snipes went on to erect vaguely turd-shaped monoliths of ice and snow all across the Arctic. Now and then one shows up on an ice floe drifting south in ghostly grandeur, exciting the admiration of all.

A good ship, a good crew, Merry Xmas and turn to. Horst Acht-faden, late of the Elektromechanische Werke, Karlshagen (another cover name for the testing station at Peenem┨nde), has really no time for naval nostalgia. With the technical spies of three or four nations after him, he has had the disastrous luck to've been picked up by the Schwarzkommando, who for all he knows now constitute a nation of their own. They have interned him in the Chiefs' Head. He has watched voluptuous Gerda and her Fur Boa go through the same number 178 times (he has jimmied the coin box and figured a way to override it) since they put him in here, and the thrill is gone. What do they want? Why are they occupying a derelict in the middle of the Kiel Canal? Why don't the British do something about this?

Look at it this way, Achtfaden. This Toiletship here's a wind tunnel's all it is. If tensor analysis is good enough for turbulence, it ought to be good enough for history. There ought to be nodes, critical points . . . there ought to be super-derivatives of the crowded and insatiate flow that can be set equal to zero and these critical points found. . . . 1904 was one of them!1904 was when Admiral Rozhdestvenski sailed his fleet halfway around the world to relieve Port Arthur, which put your present captor Enzian on the planet, it was the year the Germans all but wiped out the Hereros, which gave Enzian some peculiar ideas about survival, it was the year the American Food and Drug people took the cocaine out of Coca-Cola, which gave us an alcoholic and death-oriented generation of Yanks ideally equipped to fight WWII, and it was the year Ludwig Prandtl proposed the boundary layer, which really got aerodynamics into Business and put you right here, right now. 1904, Achtfaden. Ha, ha! That's a better joke on you than any singed asshole, all right. Lotta good it does you. You can't swim upstream, not under the present dispensation anyhow, all you can do is attach the number to it and suffer, Horst, fella. Or, if you can tear yourself away from Gerda and her Fur Boa, here's a thought!find a non-dimensional coefficient for yourself. This is a wind-tunnel you're in, remember? You're an aerodynamics man. So!

Coefficients, ja, ja. . . . Achtfaden flings himself disconsolately on the scarlet VD toilet way down at the very end of the row. He knows about coefficients. In Aachen once, for a while, he and his colleagues

could stand in the forward watchtower: look out into the country of the barbarians through Hermann and W━eselsberger's tiny window. Terrific compressions, diamond shadows writhing like snakes. Often the sting was bigger than the model itself!the very need to measure interfered with the observations. That should have been a clue right there. No one wrote then about supersonic flow. It was surrounded by myth, and by a pure, primitive terror. Professor Wagner of Darmstadt predicted that at speeds above Mach 5, air would liquefy. Should pitch and roll frequencies happen to be equal, the resonance would throw the projectile into violent oscillations. It would corkscrew to destruction. "Lunar motion," we called it. "Bingen pencils" we would call the helical contrails in the sky. Terrified. The Schlieren shadows danced. At Peenem┨nde the test section measured 40 x 40 cm, about the size of a tabloid page. "They pray not only for their daily bread," Strese-mann had said, "but also for their daily illusion." We, staring through the thick glass, had our Daily Shock!the only paper many of us read.

You come in!just hit town, here in the heart of downtown Peenem┨nde, hey, whatcha do for fun around here? hauling your provincial valise with a few shirts, a copy of the Handbuch, perhaps Cranz's Lehrbuch der Ballistik. You have memorized Ackeret, Busemann, von K│rm│n and Moore, some Volta Congress papers. But the terror will not go away. This is faster than sound, than the words she spoke across the room so full of sunlight, the jazz band on the radio when you could not sleep, the hoarse Heils among the pale generators and from the executive-crammed galleries overhead . . . the Gomerians whistling from the high ravines (terrific falls, steepness, whistling straight down the precipice to a toy village lying centuries, miles below . . .) as you sat out on the counter of the KdF ship alone, apart from the maypole dancing on the white deck, the tanned bodies full of beer and song, paunches in sunsuits, and you listened to Ur-Spanish, whistled not voiced, from the mountains around Chipuda . . . Gomera was the last piece of land Columbus touched before America. Did he hear them too, that last night? Did they have a message for him? A warning? Could he understand the prescient goatherds in the dark, up in the Canarian holly and the faya, gone dead green in the last sunset of Europe?

In aerodynamics, because you've only got the thing on paper at first, you use dimensionless coefficients: ratios of this to that!centimeters, grams, seconds neatly all canceling out above and below. This allows you to use models, arrange an airflow to measure what you're interested in, and scale the wind-tunnel results all the way up to

reality, without running into too many unknowns, because these coefficients are good for all dimensions. Traditionally they are named after people!Reynolds, Prandtl, P└clet, Nusselt, Mach!and the question here is, how about an Achtfaden number? How's chances for that?

Not good. The parameters breed like mosquitoes in the bayou, faster than he can knock them off. Hunger, compromise, money, paranoia, memory, comfort, guilt. Guilt gets a minus sign around Achtfaden though, even if it is becoming quite a commodity in the Zone. Remittance men from all over the world will come to Heidelberg before long, to major in guilt. There will be bars and nightclubs catering especially to guilt enthusiasts. Extermination camps will be turned into tourist attractions, foreigners with cameras will come piling through in droves, tickled and shivering with guilt. Sorry!not for Achtfaden here, shrugging at all his mirror-to-mirror replications chaining out to port and starboard!he only worked with it up to the point where the air was too thin to make a difference. What it did after that was none of his responsibility. Ask Weichensteller, ask Flaum, and Fibel!they were the reentry people. Ask the guidance section, they pointed it where it was going. . . .

"Do you find it a little schizoid," aloud now to all the Achtfaden fronts and backs, "breaking a flight profile up into segments of responsibility? It was half bullet, half arrow. It demanded this, we didn't. So. Perhaps you used a rifle, a radio, a typewriter. Some typewriters in Whitehall, in the Pentagon, killed more civilians than our little A4 could have ever hoped to. You are either alone absolutely, alone with your own death, or you take part in the larger enterprise, and you share in the deaths of others. Are we not all one? Which is your choice," Fahringer now, buzzing and flat through the filters of memory, "the little cart, or the great one?" mad Fahringer, the only one of the Peenem┨nde club who refused to wear the exclusive pheasant-feather badge in his hatband because he couldn't bring himself to kill, who could be seen evenings on the beach sitting in full lotos position staring into the setting sun, and who was first at Peenem┨nde to fall to the SS, taken away one noon into the fog, his lab coat a flag of surrender, presently obscured by the black uniforms, leather and metal of his escort. Leaving behind a few joss sticks, a copy of the Chinesische Blatter f━ir Wissenschaft und Kunst, pictures of a wife and children no one had known about. . . was Peenem┨nde his mountain, his cell and fasting? Had he found his way free of guilt, fashionable guilt?

"Atmen . . . atmen . . . not only to breathe, but also the soul, the breath of God ..." one of the few times Achtfaden can remember

talking with him alone, directly, "atmen is a genuinely Aryan verb. Now tell me about the speed of the exhaust jet."

"What do you want to know? 6500 feet per second."

"Tell me how it changes."

"It remains nearly constant, through the burning."

"And yet the relative airspeed changes drastically, doesn't it? Zero up to Mach 6. Can't you see what's happening?"

"No, Fahringer."

"The Rocket creating its own great wind ... no wind without both, Rocket and atmosphere . . . but inside the venturi, breath!furious and blazing breath!always flows at the same unchanging speed . . . can't you really see?"

Gibberish. Or else a koan that Achtfaden isn't equipped to master, a transcendent puzzle that could lead him to some moment of light . . . almost as good as:

!What is it that flies?

!Los!

Rising from the Wasserkuppe, rivers Ullster and Haune tilting around into map-shapes, green valleys and mountains, the four he has left below gathering up the white shock cords, only one looking up, shading his eyes!Bert Fibel? but what does the name matter, from this vantage? Achtfaden goes looking for the thunderstorm!under, through the thunder playing to a martial tune inside his head!crowding soon in gray cliffs to the right, the strokes of lightning banging all the mountains blue, the cockpit briefly filled with the light. . . right at the edge. Right here, at the interface, the air will be rising. You follow the edge of the storm, with another sense!the flight-sense, located nowhere, filling all your nerves ... as long as you stay always right at the edge between fair lowlands and the madness of Donar it does not fail you, whatever it is that flies, this carrying drive toward!is it freedom? Does no one recognize what enslavement gravity is till he reaches the interface of the thunder?

No time to work out puzzles. Here come the Schwarzkommando. Achtfaden has wasted too much time with luscious Gerda, with memories. Here they come clattering down the ladders, fast oogabooga talk he can't even guess at, it's a linguistic wilderness here, and he's afraid. What do they want? Why won't they leave him in peace!they have their victory, what do they want with poor Achtfaden?

They want the Schwarzgerät. When Enzian actually pronounces the word aloud, it's already redundant. It was there in his bearing, the line of his mouth. The others back him, rifles slung, half a dozen African faces, mobbing the mirrors with their darkness, their vein-heavy red-white-and-blue eyes.

"I only was assigned to part of it. It was trivial. Really."

"Aerodynamics isn't trivial," Enzian calm, unsmiling.

"There were others from Gessner's section. Mechanical design. I always worked out of Prof.-Dr. Kurzweg's shop."

"Who were the others?"

"I don't remember."

"So."

"Don't hit me. Why should I hide anything? It's the truth. They kept us cut off. I didn't know anybody at Nordhausen. Just a few in my own work section. I swear it. The S-Gerät people were all strangers to me. Until that first day we all met with Major Weissmann, I'd never seen any of them. No one used real names. We were given code-names. Characters from a movie, somebody said. The other aerodynamics people were 'Spörri' and 'Hawasch.' I was called 'Wenk.' "

"What was your job?"

"Weight control. All they wanted from me was the shift in CG for a device of a given weight. The weight was classified top secret. Forty-something kilos. 45? 46?"

"Station numbers," raps Andreas from over Enzian's shoulder.

"I can't remember. It was in the tail section. I do remember the load was asymmetrical about the longitudinal axis. Toward Vane III. That was the vane used for yaw control!"

"We know that."

"You'd have to talk to 'Spörri' or 'Hawasch.' They'd be the ones who worked that problem out. Talk to Guidance." Why did I say!

"Why did you say that?"

"No, no, it wasn't my job, that's all, guidance, warhead, propulsion . . . ask them. Ask the others."

"You meant something else. Who worked on guidance?"

"I told you, I didn't know any of their names." The dust-covered cafeteria in the last days. The machinery in the adjoining halls, that once battered eardrums pitiless as a cold-chisel day and night, is silenced. The Roman numerals on the time clocks stare from the walls of the bays, among the glass windowpanes. Telephone jacks on black rubber cords dangle from brackets overhead, each connection hanging over its own desk, all the desks perfectly empty, covered with salt-dust sifted from the ceiling, no phones to plug in, no more words to be said. . . . The face of his friend across the table, the drawn and sleepless face now too pointed, too lipless, that once vomited beer on Acht-

faden's hiking boots, whispering now, "I couldn't go with von Braun . . . not to the Americans, it would only just keep on the same way . . . I want it really to be over, that's all... good-by, 'Wenk.' "

"Stuff him down the waste lines," Andreas suggests. They are all so black, so sure. . . .

I must be the last one . . . somebody's sure to have him by now . . . what can these Africans do with a name ... they could have got it from anybody. . . .

"He was a friend. We knew each other before the war, at Darmstadt."

"We're not going to hurt him. We're not going to hurt you. We want the S-Gerät."

"Närrisch. Klaus Närrisch." A new parameter for his self-coefficient now: betrayal.

As he leaves the R┨cksichtslos, Achtfaden can hear behind him, metallic, broadcasting from another world, ripped by static, a radio voice. "Oberst Enzian. M'okamanga. M'okamanga. M'okamanga." There is urgency and gravity in the word. He stands by the canalside, among steel wreckage and old men in the dusk, waiting for a direction to go. But where is the electric voice now that will ever call for him?

########

They have set out by barge along the Spree-Oder Canal, headed at last for Swinem┨nde, Slothrop to see what Geli Tripping's clew will lead him to in the way of a Schwarzgerät, Margherita to rendezvous with a yachtful of refugees from the Lublin regime, among whom ought to be her daughter Bianca. Stretches of the canal are still blocked!in the night Russian demolition crews can be heard blasting away the wrecks with TNT!but Slothrop and Greta can summon, like dreamers, draft shallow enough to clear whatever the War has left in their way. Off and on it rains. The sky will begin to cloud up about noon, turning the color of wet cement!then wind, sharpening, colder, then rain that must be often at the edge of sleet, blowing at them head-on up the canal. They shelter under tarps, among bales and barrels, tar, wood and straw smells. When the nights are clear, peepers-and-frogs nights, star-streaks and shadows at canalside will set travelers' eyes to jittering. Willows line the banks. At midnight coils of fog rise to dim out even the glow of the bargee's pipe, far away up, or down, the dreaming convoy. These nights, fragrant and grained as

pipesmoke, are tranquil and good for sleep. The Berlin madness is behind, Greta'seems less afraid, perhaps all they needed was to be on the move. . . .

But one afternoon, sliding down the long mild slope of the Oder toward the Baltic Sea, they catch sight of a little red and white resort town, wiped through in broad smudges by the War, and she clutches to Slothrop's arm.

"I've been here . . ."

"Yeah?"

"Just before the Polish invasion ... I was here with Sigmund ... at the spa. . . ."

On shore, behind cranes and steel railings, rise fronts of what were restaurants, small factories, hotels, burned now, windowless, powdered with their own substance. The name of the town is Bad Karma. Rain from earlier in the day has streaked the walls, the pinnacles of waste and the coarse-cobbled lanes. Children and old men stand on shore waiting to take lines and warp the barges in. Black dumplings of smoke are floating up out of the stack of a white river steamer. Shipfitters are slamming inside its hull. Greta stares at it. A pulse is visible in her throat. She shakes her head. "I thought it was Bianca's ship, but it isn't."

In close to the quay, they swing ashore, grabbing on to an iron ladder held in the old stone by rusted bolts, each one staining the wall downward in a wet sienna fan. On Margherita's jacket a pink gardenia has begun to shake. It isn't the wind. She keeps saying, "I have to see. ..."

Old men are leaning on railings, smoking pipes, watching Greta or looking out at the river. They wear gray clothes, wide-bottom trousers, wide-brim hats with rounded crowns. The market square is busy and neat: tram tracks gleam, there's a smell of fresh hosing down. In the ruins lilacs bleed their color, their surplus life out over the broken stone and brick.

Except for a few figures in black, sitting out in the sun, the Spa itself is deserted. Margherita by now is spooked as badly as she ever was in Berlin. Slothrop tags along, in his Rocketman turnout, feeling burdened. The Sprudelhof is bounded on one side by a sand-colored arcade: sand columns and brown shadows. A strip just in front is planted to cypresses. Fountains in massive stone bowls are leaping: jets 20 feet high, whose shadows across the smooth paving of the courtyard are thick and nervous.

But who's that, standing so rigid by the central spring? And why

has Margherita turned to stone? The sun is out, there are others watching, but even Slothrop now is bristling along his back and flanks, chills flung one on the fading cluster of another, up under each side of his jaw . . . the woman is wearing a black coat, a crepe scarf covering her hair, the flesh of thick calves showing through her black stockings as nearly purple, she is only leaning over the waters in a very fixed way and watching them as they try to approach . . . but the smile . . . across ten meters of swept courtyard, the smile growing confident in the very white face, all the malaise of a Europe dead and gone gathered here in the eyes black as her clothing, black and lighdess. She knows them. Greta has turned, and tries to hide her face in Slothrop's shoulder. "By the well," is she whispering this? "at sundown, that woman in black. ..."

"Come on. It's all right." Back to Berlin talk. "She's just a patient here." Idiot, idiot!before he can stop her she's pulled away, some quiet, awful cry in the back of her throat, and turned and begun to run, a desperate tattoo of high heels across the stone, into the shadowed arches of the Kurhaus.

"Hey," Slothrop, feeling queasy, accosts the woman in black. "What's the big idea, lady?"

But her face has changed by now, it is only the face of another woman of the ruins, one he would have ignored, passed over. She smiles, all right, but in the forced and Business way he knows. "Zi-garetten, bitte?" He gives her a long stub he's been saving, and goes looking for Margherita.

He finds the arcade empty. All the doors of the Kurhaus are locked. Overhead passes a skylight of yellow panes, many of them fallen out. Down the corridor, fuzzy patches of afternoon sun stagger along, full of mortar dust. He climbs a broken flight of steps that end in the sky. Odd chunks of stone clutter the way. From the landing at the top, the Spa stretches to country distances: handsome trees, graveyard clouds, the blue river. Greta is nowhere in sight. Later he will figure out where it was she went. By then they will be well on board the Anubis, and it will only make him feel more helpless.

He keeps looking for her till the darkness is down and he's come back by the river again. He sits at an open-air cafe strung with yellow lights, drinking beer, eating spaetzle and soup, waiting. When she materializes it is a shy fade-in, as Gerhardt von Göll must have brought her on a time or two, not moving so much as Slothrop's own vantage swooping to her silent closeup stabilized presently across from him, finishing his beer, bumming a cigarette. Not only does she avoid the

subject of the woman by the spring, she may have lost the memory already.

"I went up in the observatory," is what she has to say finally, "to look down the river. She's coming. I saw the boat she's on. It's only a kilometer away."

"The what now?"

"Bianca, my child, and my friends. I thought they'd have been in Swinem┨nde long ago. But then nobody's on timetables any more. . . ."

Sure enough, after two more bitter cups of acorn Coffee and another cigarette, here comes a cheerful array of lights, red, green, and white, down the river, with the faint wheeze of an accordion, the thump of a string bass, and the sound of women laughing. Slothrop and Greta walk down to the quay, and through mist now beginning to seep up off the river they can make out an ocean-going yacht, nearly the color of the mist, a gilded winged jackal under the bowsprit, the weather-decks crowded with chattering affluent in evening dress. Several people have spotted Margherita. She waves, and they point or wave back, and call her name. It is a moving village: all summer it has been sailing these lowlands just as Viking ships did a thousand years ago, though passively, not marauding: seeking an escape it has not yet defined clearly.

The boat comes in to the quay, the crew lower an access ladder. Smiling passengers halfway down are already stretching out gloved and ringed hands to Margherita.

"Are you coming?"

"Uh . . . Well, should I?"

She shrugs and turns her back, steps gingerly off the landing and on board, skirt straining and glossy a moment in the yellow light from the cafe. Slothrop dithers, goes to follow her!at the last moment some joker pulls the ladder up and the boat moves away, Slothrop screams, loses his balance and falls in the river. Head first: the Rocket-man helmet is pulling him straight down. He tugs it off and comes up, sinuses burning and vision blurred, the white vessel sliding away, though the churning screws are moving his direction, beginning to suck at the cape, so he has to get rid of that, too. He backstrokes away and then cautiously around the counter, lettered in black: ANUBIS Swinoujście, trying to keep away from those screws. Down the other side he spots a piece of line hanging, and manages to get over there and grab hold. The band up on deck is playing polkas. Three drunken ladies in tiaras and pearl chokers are lounging at the lifelines, watching

Slothrop struggle up the rope. "Let's cut it," yells one of them, "and see him fall in again!" "Yes, let's!" agree her companions. Jesus Christ. One of them has produced a huge meat cleaver, and is winding up all right, amid much vivacious laughing, at about which point somebody grabs hold of Slothrop's ankle. He looks down, observes sticking out a porthole two slender wrists in silver and sapphires, lighted from inside like ice, and the oily river rushing by underneath.

"In here." A girl's voice. He slides back down while she tugs on his feet, till he's sitting in the porthole. From above comes a heavy thump, the rope goes falling and the ladies into hysterics. Slothrop squirms on inside, water squeegeeing off, falls into an upper bunk next to a girl maybe 18 in a long sequined gown, with hair blonde to the point of pure whiteness, and the first cheekbones Slothrop can recall getting a hardon looking at. Something has definitely been happening to his brain out here, all right. ...

"Uh!"

"Mmm." They look at each other while he continues to drip water all over. Her name, it turns out, is Stefania Procalowska. Her husband Antoni is owner of the Anubis here.

Well, husband, all right. "Look at this," sez Slothrop, "I'm soaking wet."

"I noticed. Somebody's evening clothes ought to fit you. Dry off, I'll go see what I can promote. You can use the head if you want, everything's there."

He strips off the rest of the Rocketman rig, takes a shower, using lemon verbena soap in which he finds a couple of Stefania's white pubic hairs, and is shaving when she gets back with dry clothes for him.

"So you're with Margherita."

"Not sure about that 'with.' She find that kid of hers?"

"Oh indeed!they're already deep into it with Karel. This month he's posing as a film producer. You know Karel. And of course she wants to get Bianca into the films worse than anything."

"Uh ..."

Stefania shrugs a lot, and every sequin dances. "Margherita wants her to have a legitimate career. It's guilt. She never felt her own career was anything more than a string of dirty movies. I suppose you heard about how she got pregnant with Bianca."

"Max Schlepzig, or something."

"Or something, right. You never saw Alfdr┨ckern? In that one scene, after the Grand Inquisitor gets through, the jackal men come in to ravish and dismember the captive baroness. Von Göll let the cameras run right on. The footage got cut out for the release prints of course, but found its way into Goebbels's private collection. I've seen it!it's frightening. Every man in the scene wears a black hood, or an animal mask . . . back at Bydgoszcz it became an amusing party game to speculate on who the child's father was. One has to pass the time. They'd run the film and ask Bianca questions, and she had to answer yes or no."

"Yup." Slothrop goes on dousing his face with bay rum.

"Oh, Margherita had her corrupted long before she came to stay with us. I wouldn't be surprised if little Bianca sleeps with Karel tonight. Part of breaking into the business, isn't it? Of course it will have to be all Business!that's the least a mother can do. Margherita's problem was that she always enjoyed it too much, chained up in those torture rooms. She couldn't enjoy it any other way. You'll see. She and Thanatz. And whatever Thanatz brought in his valise."

"Thanatz."

"Ah, she didn't tell you." Laughing. "Miklos Thanatz, her husband. They get together off and on. Toward the end of the war they had a little touring show for the boys at the front!a lesbian couple, a dog, a trunk of leather costumes and implements, a small band. They entertained the SS troops. Concentration camps . . . the barbed-wire circuit, you know. And then later, in Holland, out at the rocket sites. This is the first time since the surrender they've been together, so I wouldn't actually expect to see too much of her. ..."

"Oh, yeah, well, I didn't know that." Rocket sites? The hand of Providence creeps among the stars, giving Slothrop the finger.

"While they were away, they left Bianca with us, at Bydgoszcz. She has her bitchy moments but she's really a charming child. I never played the father game with her. I doubt she had a father. It was parthenogenesis, she's pure Margherita, if pure is the word I want."

The evening clothes fit perfectly. Stefania leads Slothrop up a companionway and out on deck. The Anubis moves now through starlit countryside, the horizon broken now and then by silhouettes of a windmill, haycocks, a row of pig arks, some line of trees set on a low hill for the wind. . . . There are ships we can dream across terrible rapids, against currents . . . our desire is wind and motor. . . .

"Antoni." She has brought Slothrop to an enormous figure in Polish cavalry fatigues and with a lot of maniacal teeth.

"American?" pumping Slothrop's hand. "Bravo. You nearly complete the set. We are the ship of all nations now. We've even got a Japanese on board. An ex-liaison man from Berlin who didn't quite get

out by way of Russia. You'll find a bar on the next deck. Anything wandering around"!hugging Stefania to him!"except this one, is fair game."

Slothrop salutes, gathers they would like to be alone, and finds the ladder to the bar. The bar is hung with festive garlands of flowers and light bulbs, and crowded with dozens of elegantly-decked guests, who have just now, with the band accompanying, broken into this uptempo song:

welcome aboard!

Welcome aboard, gee, it's a fabulous or-gy

That you just dropped in on, my friend!

We can't recall just how it star-ted,

But there's only one way it can end!

The behavior is bestial, hardly Marie-Celestial,

But you'll fit right in with the crowd,

If you jettison all of those prob-lems,

And keep it hysterically loud!

There are mo-thers, with their lo-vers,

Stealing rot-ters, from their daught-ers,

Big erec-tions, predilec-tions

That you wouldn't believe,

So put your brain on your sleeve,

And come a-

board the Titanic, things'll really be manic, Folks'll panic the second that sunken iceberg is knocked, Naughty 'n' noisy, and very Walpurgisnacht, That's how the party will end, So!welcome aboard, welcome aboard, my friend!

Well here's couples moaning together in the lifeboats, a drunk's gone to sleep in the awning over Slothrop's head, fat fellows in white gloves with pink magnolias in their hair are dancing tummy-to-tummy and murmuring together in Wendish. Hands grope down inside satin gowns. Waiters with brown skins and doe eyes circulate with trays on which you are likely to find any number of substances and paraphernalia. The band is playing a medley of American fox-trots. The Baron de Mallakastra sifts a sinister white powder into the highball of Mme. Sztup. It is the same old shit that was going on back at Raoul de la Perlimpinpin's place, and for all Slothrop knows it's the same party.

He gets a glimpse of Margherita and her daughter, but there is a

density of orgy-goers around them that keeps him at a distance. He knows he's vulnerable, more than he should be, to pretty little girls, so he reckons it's just as well, because that Bianca's a knockout, all right: 11 or 12, dark and lovely, wearing a red chiffon gown, silk stockings and high-heeled slippers, her hair swept up elaborate and flawless and interwoven with a string of pearls to show pendant earrings of crystal twinkling from her tiny lobes . . . help, help. Why do these things have to keep coming down on him? He can see the obit now in Time magazine!Died, Rocketman, pushing 30, in the Zone, of lust.

The woman who tried to chop Slothrop down with the cleaver is now seated on a bitt, holding a half-liter of some liquid which has already seeped into and begun to darken the orchid garnishing it. She is telling everybody a story about Margherita. Her hair has been combed or styled in a way that makes it look like a certain cut of meat. Slothrop's drink, nominally Irish whisky and water, arrives and he moves in to listen.

". . . her Neptune is afflicted. Whose isn't? some will ask. Ah. But as residents on this planet, usually. Greta lived, most of the time, on Neptune!her affliction was more direct, purer, clearer than we know it here.

"She found Oneirine on a day when her outpost in England, the usual connection for Chlordyne, failed. Beside the Thames, as geraniums of light floated in the sky too slow to tell!brass light, tanned-skin and mellow peach light, stylized blooms being drafted on and on among the clouds, to fade here, to regenerate there!as this happened to the day's light, he fell. A fall of hours, less extravagant than Lucifer's, but in the same way part of a deliberate pattern. Greta was meant to find Oneirine. Each plot carries its signature. Some are God's, some masquerade as God's. This is a very advanced kind of forgery. But still there's the same meanness and mortality to it as a falsely made check. It is only more complex. The members have names, like the Archangels. More or less common, humanly-given names whose security can be broken, and the names learned. But those names are not magic. That's the key, that's the difference. Spoken aloud, even with the purest magical intention, they do not work.

"So he fell from their grace. So there was no Chlordyne. So she happened to meet V-Mann W━mpe in the street, in Berlin, under a theatre marquee whose sentient bulbs may have looked on, a picturesque array of extras, witnesses to grave and historic encounters. So she had come to Oneirine, and the face of her afflicted Home planet was rearranged in the instant."

Oneirine Jamf Imipolex A4. ...

"That silly bitch," observes a voice at Slothrop's elbow, "tells it worse every time."

"Beg pardon?" Slothrop looks around and finds Miklos Thanatz, full beard, eyebrows feathering out like trailing edges of hawks' wings, drinking absinthe out of a souvenir stein on which, in colors made ghastly by the carnival lights on deck, bony and giggling Death is about to surprise two lovers in bed.

There is no problem steering him onto the subject of the Rocket! "I think of the A4," sez he, "as a baby Jesus, with endless committees of Herods out to destroy it in infancy!Prussians, some of whom in their innermost hearts still felt artillery to be a dangerous innovation. If you'd been out there . . . inside the first minute, you saw, you grew docile under its ... it really did possess a Max Weber charisma . . . some joyful!and deeply irrational!force the State bureaucracy could never routinize, against which it could not prevail. . . they did resist it, but they also allowed it to happen. We can't imagine anyone choosing a role like that. But every year, somehow, their numbers grow."

But the tour with General Kamrnler's rocketeers is what Slothrop, perversely, wants!wants?!to know about, "Well I've been to that Nordhausen, sure, seen the bits and pieces. But never a fully-assembled A4. That must really be something, huh?"

Thanatz is holding out his stein for a refill. The waiter, deadpan, dribbles water down a spoon to turn the absinthe milky green while Thanatz caresses his buttocks, then moves away. It is not clear if Thanatz has been thinking about his answer. "Yes, fueled, alive, ready for firing . . . fifty feet high, trembling . . . and then the fantastic, virile roar. Your ears nearly burst. Cruel, hard, thrusting into the virgin-blue robes of the sky, my friend. Oh, so phallic. Wouldn't you say?"

"Uh ..."

"Hmm, ja, you would have got on with them out at the batteries, they were sedate, like you. More studious than your infantry or Panzer types, attentive to the point of fanaticism. Oh, with notable exceptions of course. One lives for notable exceptions. . . . There was a boy." Drunk reminiscence? Is he faking this? "His name was Gottfried. God's peace, which I trust he's found. For us I hold no such hope. We are weighed in the balance and found wanting, and the Butcher has had His thumb in the scales . . . you think I'm jaded. So did I, until that terrible week. It was a time of dissolution, falling back across the Niedersächsisch oil fields. Then I understood I was but a dewy child. The battery commander had become a screaming maniac. He called himself 'Blicero.' He'd begun to talk the way the captain in Wozzeck sings, his voice breaking suddenly up into the higher registers of hysteria. Things were falling apart, and he reverted to some ancestral version of himself, screamed at the sky, sat hours in a rigid trance, with his eyes rolled clear up into his head. Breaking without warning into that ungodly coloratura. White blank ovals, the eyes of a statue, with the gray rain behind them. He had left 1945, wired his nerves back into the pre-Christian earth we fled across, into the Urstoff of the primitive German, God's poorest and most panicked creature. You and I perhaps have become over the generations so Christianized, so enfeebled by Gesellschaft and our obligation to its celebrated 'Contract,' which never did exist, that we, even we, are appalled by reversions like that. But deep, out of its silence, the Urstoff wakes, and sings . . . and on the last day ... it is shameful. . . through that whole terrible day, I had an erection . . . don't judge me ... it was out of my control . . . everything was out of control!"

About here they are interrupted by Margherita and Bianca, playing stage mother and reluctant child. Whispers to the bandleader, fun-seekers crowding eagerly around a cleared space where Bianca now stands pouting, her little red frock halfway up her slender thighs, with black lace petticoats peeping from beneath the hem, surely it's going to be something sophisticated, bigcity, and wicked, but what's she doing with her finger posed aside of one dimpled cheek like this!at which point comes the band's intro, and pre-vomit saliva begins to gush into Slothrop's mouth, along with a horrible doubt into his brain about how he is going to make it through the next few minutes.

Not only is her song "On the Good Ship Lollipop," but she is also now commencing, without a trace of shame, to grunt her way through it, in perfect mimickry of young Shirley Temple!each straining baby-pig inflection, each curl-toss, unmotivated smile, and stumbling toe-tap . . . her delicate bare arms have begun to grow fatter, her frock shorter!is somebody fooling with the lights? But the billowings of asexual child-fat have not changed her eyes: they remain as they were, mocking, dark, her own. . . .

Much applause and alcoholic bravo-ing when it's finally over. Thanatz abstains, fatherly head wagging, great eyebrows in a frown. "She's never going to be a woman if this goes on. . . ."

"And now, liebling," Margherita with a rare, and somewhat phony, smile, "let's hear 'Animal Crackers in My Soup'!"

" 'Super Animals in My Crack,' " hollers a humorist from the crowd.

"No," groans the child.

"Bianca!"

"You bitch," spike heel ringing on the steel deck. It's an act. "Haven't you humiliated me enough?"

"Not nearly enough," pouncing on her daughter, grabbing her by the hair and shaking her. The little girl has fallen to her knees, struggling, trying to get away.

"Oh, delightful," cries the meat-cleaver lady, "Greta's going to punish her."

"How I'd like to," murmurs a striking mulatto girl in a strapless gown, pushing forward to watch, tapping Slothrop's cheek with her jeweled cigarette holder as satin haunches whisper across his thigh. Someone has provided Margherita with a steel ruler and an ebony Empire chair. She drags Bianca across her lap, pushing up frock and petticoats, yanking down white lace knickers. Beautiful little-girl buttocks rise like moons. The tender crevice tightens and relaxes, suspender straps shift and stretch as Bianca kicks her legs, silk stockings squeak together, erotic and audible now that the group have fallen silent and found the medium of touch, hands reaching out to breasts and crotches, Adam's apples bobbing, tongues licking lips . . . where's the old masochist and monument Slothrop knew back in Berlin? It's as if Greta is now releasing all the pain she's stored up over the past weeks onto her child's naked bottom, the skin so finely grained that white centimeter markings and numerals are being left in mirror-image against the red stripes with each blow, crisscrossing, building up a skew matrix of pain on Bianca's flesh. Tears go streaming down her inverted and reddening face, mixing with mascara, dripping onto the pale lizard surfaces of her mother's shoes . . . her hair has loosened and spills to the deck, dark, salted with the string of little seed pearls. The mulatto girl has backed up against Slothrop, reaching behind to fondle his erection, which has nothing between it and the outside but somebody's loosely-pleated tuxedo trousers. Everyone is kind of aroused, Thanatz is sitting up on the bar having his own as yet unsheathed penis mouthed by one of the white-gloved Wends. Two of the waiters kneel on deck lapping at the juicy genitals of a blonde in a wine velvet frock, who meantime is licking ardently the tall and shiny French heels of an elderly lady in lemon organza busy fastening felt-lined silver manacles to the wrists of her escort, a major of the Yugoslav artillery in dress uniform, who kneels with nose and tongue well between the bruised buttocks of a long-legged ballerina from Paris, holding up her silk skirt for him with docile fingertips while her com-

panion, a tall Swiss divorcee in tight-laced leather corselette and black Russian boots, undoes the top of her friend's gown and skillfully begins to lash at her bared breasts with the stems of half a dozen roses, red as the beads of blood which spring up and soon are shaking off the ends of her stiff nipples to splash into the eager mouth of another Wend who's being jerked off by a retired Dutch banker sitting on the deck, shoes and socks just removed by two adorable schoolgirls, twin sisters in fact, in identical dresses of flowered voile, with each of the banker's big toes inserted now into a downy little furrow as they lie forward along his legs kissing his shaggy stomach, pretty twin bottoms arched to receive in their anal openings the cocks of the two waiters who have but lately been, if you recall, eating that juicy blonde in that velvet dress back down the Oder River a ways. . . .

As for Slothrop, he ends up coming between the round shuddering tits of a Viennese girl with hair the color of a lioness's pelt and emerald eyes with lashes thick as fur, his sperm surging out into the hollow of her arched throat and among all the diamonds of her necklace, burning agelessly through the haze of his seed!and it feels, at least, like everybody came together, though how could that be? He does notice that the only person not connected, aside from Antoni and Stefa-nia, seems to be the Jap liaison man, who's been sitting alone, one deck up, watching. Not masturbating or anything, just watching, watching the river, the night . . . well, they're pretty inscrutable, you know, those Japs.

There is a general withdrawing from orifices after a while, drinking, doping and gabbing resume, and many begin to drift away to catch some sleep. Here and there a couple or threesome linger. A C-melody saxophone player has the bell of his instrument snuggled between the widespread thighs of a pretty matron in sunglasses, yes sunglasses at night, this is some degenerate company Slothrop has fallen in with all right!the saxman is playing "Chattanooga Choo Choo," and those vibrations are just driving her wild. A girl with an enormous glass dildo inside which baby piranhas are swimming in some kind of decadent lavender medium amuses herself between the buttocks of a stout transvestite in lace stockings and a dyed sable coat. A Montenegran countess is being fucked simultaneously in her chignon and her navel by a pair of octogenarians who wear only jackboots and are carrying on some sort of technical discussion in what seems to be ecclesiatical Latin.

The sun is still hours away, down the vast unreadable underslope of Russia. Fog closes in, and the engines slow. Wrecks slide away un-

der the keel of the white ship. Springtime corpses caught in the wreckage twist and flow as the Anubis moves by overhead. Under the bowsprit, the golden jackal, the only being aboard that can see through the fog, stares ahead, down the river, toward Swinem┨nde.

########

Slothrop here's been dreaming about Llandudno, where he spent a rainy furlough once drinking bitter in bed with a tug skipper's daughter. Also where Lewis Carroll wrote that Alice in Wonderland. So, they put up a statue of the White Rabbit in Llandudno. White Rabbit's been talking to Slothrop, serious and crucial talk, but on the way up to waking he loses it all, as usual. He lies staring at ducts and raceways overhead, asbestos-covered elbows, pipes, gages, tanks, switchboards, flanges, unions, valve-wheels and all their thickets of shadow. It's noisy as hell. Sunlight filters down the hatches, so that must mean it's morning. In a corner of his vision now, he catches a flutter of red.

"You mustn't tell Margherita. Please." That Bianca. Hair down to her hips, cheeks smudged, eyes hot. "She'll kill me."

"What time is it?"

"The sun's been up for hours. Why do you want to know?"

Why does he want to know. Hmm. Maybe he'll go back to sleep, here. "Your mother upset with you, or something?"

"Oh, she's gone out of her mind, she just accused me of having an affair with Thanatz. Madness, of course we're good friends, but that's all... if she paid any attention to me she'd know that."

"She sure was paying attention to your ass there, kid."

"Oh, dear," lifting her dress, turning so she can also watch Slothrop back over a shoulder. "I can still feel that. Did she leave marks?"

"Well, you'll have to come closer."

She moves toward him, smiling, pointing toes each step. "I watched you sleep. You're very pretty, you know. Mother also said you're cruel."

"Watch this." He leans to bite her gently on one cheek of her ass. She squirms, but doesn't move away.

"Mm. There's a zipper there, could you . . ." She shrugs, twists as he unzips her, red taffeta slides down and off and sure enough there's one or two lavender bruises starting to show up on her bottom, which is perfectly shaped, smooth as cream. Small as she is, she's been further laced into a tiny black corset, which compresses her waist now to the diameter of a brandy bottle and pushes pre-subdeb breasts up into little white crescents. Satin straps, adorned with intricately pornographic needlework, run down each thigh to hold up stockings with tops of dark Alençon lace. The bare backs of her legs come brushing softly across Slothrop's face. He starts taking giant, ass-enthusiast bites now, meantime reaching around to play with cuntlips and clit, Bianca's little feet shifting in a nervous dance and scarlet nails digging sharp as needles underneath her stocking tops and into her legs as he goes planting hickeys, red nebulae across her sensitive spaces. She smells like soap, flowers, sweat, cunt. Her long hair falls to the level of Slothrop's eyes, fine and black, the split ends whispering across the small of her white back in and out of invisibility, like rain . . . she has turned, and sinks to her knees to undo his pleated trousers. Leaning, brushing hair back behind her ears, the little girl takes the head of Slothrop's cock into her rouged mouth. Her eyes glitter through fern lashes, baby rodent hands race his body unbuttoning, caressing. Such a slender child: her throat swallowing, strummed to a moan as he grabs her hair, twists it . .. she has him all figured out. Knows exactly when to take her mouth away and stand up, high-heeled Parisian slippers planted to either side of him, swaying, hair softly waving forward to frame her face, repeated by the corset darkly framing her pubic mound and belly. Raising bare arms, little Bianca lifts her long hair, tosses her little head to let the mane shiver down her back, needle-tipped fingers drifting then down slowly, making him wait, down over the satin, all the shiny hooks and laces, to her thighs. Then her face, round with baby-fat, enormous night-shadowed eyes comes swooping in as she kneels, guides his penis into her and settles slow, excruciating till he fills her, stuffs her full. . . .

Now something, oh, kind of funny happens here. Not that Slothrop is really aware of it now, while it's going on!but later on, it will occur to him that he was!this may sound odd, but he was somehow, actually, well, inside his own cock. If you can imagine such a thing. Yes, inside the metropolitan organ entirely, all other colonial tissue forgotten and left to fend for itself, his arms and legs it seems woven among vessels and ducts, his sperm roaring louder and louder, getting ready to erupt, somewhere below his feet . . . maroon and evening cuntlight reaches him in a single ray through the opening at the top, refracted through the clear juices flowing up around him. He is en-

closed. Everything is about to come, come incredibly, and he's helpless here in this exploding emprise . . . red flesh echoing ... an extraordinary sense of waiting to rise. . . .

She posts, his pretty horsewoman, face to the overhead, quivering up and down, thightop muscles strung hard as cable, baby breasts working out the top of her garment. . . Slothrop pulls Bianca to him by her nipples and bites each one very hard. Sliding her arms around his neck, hugging him, she starts to come, and so does he, their own flood taking him up then out of his expectancy, out the eye at tower's summit and into her with a singular detonation of touch. Announcing the void, what could it be but the kingly voice of the Aggregat itself?

Somewhere in their lying-still are her heart, buffeting, a chickadee in the snow, her hair, draping and sheltering both their faces, little tongue at his temples and eyes on and on, silk legs rubbing his flanks, cool leather of her shoes against his legs and ankles, shoulderblades rising like wings whenever she hugs him. What happened back there? Slothrop thinks he might cry.

They have been holding each other. She's been talking about hiding out.

"Sure. But we'll have to get off sometime, Swinem┨nde, someplace."

"No. We can get away. I'm a child, I know how to hide. I can hide you too."

He knows she can. He knows. Right here, right now, under the makeup and the fancy underwear, she exists, love, invisibility. . . . For Slothrop this is some discovery.

But her arms about his neck are shifting now, apprehensive. For good reason. Sure he'll stay for a while, but eventually he'll go, and for this he is to be counted, after all, among the Zone's lost. The Pope's staff is always going to remain barren, like Slothrop's own unflowering cock.

So when he disentangles himself, it is extravagantly. He creates a bureaucracy of departure, inoculations against forgetting, exit visas stamped with love-bites . . . but coming back is something he's already forgotten about. Straightening his bow tie, brushing off the satin lapels of his jacket, buttoning up his pants, back in uniform of the day, he turns his back on her, and up the ladder he goes. The last instant their eyes were in touch is already behind him. . . .

Alone, kneeling on the painted steel, like her mother she knows how horror will come when the afternoon is brightest. And like Margherita, she has her worst visions in black and white. Each day she feels closer to the edge of something. She dreams often of the same

journey: a passage by train, between two well-known cities, lit by that same nacreous wrinkling the films use to suggest rain out a window. In a Pullman, dictating her story. She feels able at last to tell of a personal horror, tell it clearly in a way others can share. That may keep it from taking her past the edge, into the silver-salt dark closing ponderably slow at her mind's flank . . . when she was growing out her fringes, in dark rooms her own unaccustomed hair, beside her eyes, would loom like a presence. ... In her ruined towers now the bells gong back and forth in the wind. Frayed ropes dangle or slap where her brown hoods no longer glide above the stone. Her wind keeps even dust away. It is old daylight: late, and cold. Horror in the brightest hour of afternoon . . . sails on the sea too small and distant to matter . . . water too steel and cold. . . .

Her look now!this deepening arrest!has already broken Slothrop's seeing heart: has broken and broken, that same look swung as he drove by, thrust away into twilights of moss and crumbling colony, of skinny clouded-cylinder gas pumps, of tin Moxie signs gentian and bittersweet as the taste they were there to hustle on the weathered sides of barns, looked for how many Last Times up in the rearview mirror, all of them too far inside metal and combustion, allowing the days' targets more reality than anything that might come up by surprise, by Murphy's Law, where the salvation could be. . . . Lost, again and again, past poor dambusted and drowned Becket, up and down the rut-brown slopes, the hayrakes rusting in the afternoon, the sky purple-gray, dark as chewed gum, the mist starting to make white dashes in the air, aimed earthward a quarter, a half inch . . . she looked at him once, of course he still remembers, from down at the end of a lunchwagon counter, grill smoke working onto the windows patient as shoe grease against the rain for the plaid, hunched-up leaky handful inside, off the jukebox a quick twinkle in the bleat of a trombone, a reed section, planting swing notes precisely into the groove between silent midpoint and next beat, jumping it pah (hm) pah (hm) pah so exactly in the groove that you knew it was ahead but felt it was behind, both of you, at both ends of the counter, could feel it, feel your age delivered into a new kind of time that may have allowed you to miss the rest, the graceless expectations of old men who watched, in bifocal and mucus indifference, watched you lindy-hop into the pit by millions, as many millions as necessary. ... Of course Slothrop lost her, and kept losing her!it was an American requirement!out the windows of the Greyhound, passing into beveled stonery, green and elm-folded on into a failure of perception, or, in a more sinister sense,

of will (you used to know what these words mean), she has moved on, untroubled, too much Theirs, no chance of a beige summer spook at her roadside. . . .

Leaving Slothrop in his city-reflexes and Harvard crew sox!both happening to be red-ring manacles, comicbook irons (though the comic book was virtually uncirculated, found by chance near nightfall by a hopper at a Berkshire sandbank. The name of the hero!or being!was Sundial. The frames never enclosed him!or it!for long enough to tell. Sundial, flashing in, flashing out again, came from "across the wind," by which readers understood "across some flow, more or less sheet and vertical: a wall in constant motion"!over there was a different world, where Sundial took care of Business they would never understand).

Distant, yes these are pretty distant. Sure they are. Too much closer and it begins to hurt to bring her back. But there is this Eurydice-obsession, this bringing back out of. . . though how much easier just to leave her there, in fetid carbide and dead-canary soups of breath and come out and have comfort enough to try only for a reasonable fascimile!"Why bring her back? Why try? It's only the difference between the real boxtop and the one you draw for Them." No. How can he believe that? It's what They want him to believe, but how can he? No difference between a boxtop and its image, all right, their whole economy's based on that. . . but she must be more than an image, a product, a promise to pay. . . .

Of all her putative fathers!Max Schlepzig and masked extras on one side of the moving film, Franz Pokier and certainly other pairs of hands busy through trouser cloth, that Alpdr┨cken Night, on the other!Bianca is closest, this last possible moment below decks here behind the ravening jackal, closest to you who came in blinding color, slouched alone in your own seat, never threatened along any rookwise row or diagonal all night, you whose interdiction from her mother's water-white love is absolute, you, alone, saying sure I know them, omitted, chuckling count me in, unable, thinking probably some hooker . . . She favors you, most of all. You'll never get to see her. So somebody has to tell you.

########

Halfway up the ladder, Slothrop is startled by a bright set of teeth, beaming out of a dark hatchway. "I was watching. I hope you don't mind." Seems to be that Nip again, who introduces himself now as Ensign Morituri, of the Imperial Japanese Navy.

"Yeah, I..." why is Slothrop drawling this way? "saw ya watching . . . last night too, mister. . . ."

"You think I am a voyeur. Yes you do. But it isn't that. There is no thrill, I mean. But when I watch people, I feel less alone."

"W'l hell, Ensign . . . why don'tcha just. . . join in? They're always lookin' fer . . . company."

"Oh, my goodness," grinning one of them big polyhedral Jap grins, like they do, "then I would feel more alone."

Tables and chairs have been set out under orange-and-red-stripe awnings on the fantail. Slothrop and Morituri have got the place almost to themselves, except for some girls in two-piece swimsuits out to catch some sun before it goes away. Cumulonimbus are building up dead ahead. You can hear thunder in the distance. The air is coming awake.

A steward brings Coffee, cream, porridge and fresh oranges. Slothrop looks at the porridge, doubtful. "I'll take it," Ensign Morituri grabbing the bowl.

"Oh, sure." Slothrop notices now how this Nip also has this wide handle-bar mustache. "Aha, aha. I'm hep to you. A porridge fan! Shameful. A latent Anglophile!yeah, you're blushing." Pointing and hollering ha, ha, ha.

"You've found me out. Yes, yes. I've been on the wrong side for six years."

"Ever try to get away?"

"And find out what you people are really like? Oh, my golly. What if phile changes then to phobe? Where would I be?" He giggles, spits an orange pit over the side. Seems he put in a few weeks' training on that Formosa, in Kamikaze school, but they washed him out. No one ever told him why, exactly. Something to do with his attitude. "I just didn't have a good attitude," he sighs. "So they sent me back here again, by way of Russia and Switzerland. This time with the Propaganda Ministry." He would sit most of the day watching Allied footage for what could be pulled and worked into newsreels to make the Axis look good and the other side look bad. "All I know about Great Britain comes from that raw material."

"Looks like German movies have warped other outlooks around here too."

"You mean Margherita's. Did you know, that's how we met! A mutual friend at Ufa. I was on holiday at Bad Karma!just before the Pol-

ish invasion. The little town where you joined us. It was a spa. I watched you fall in the water. Then you climbed aboard. I also watched Margherita watching you. Please don't be offended, Slothrop, but it might be better to stay away from her right now."

"Not at all. I know something creepy is going on." He tells Mori-turi about the incident in the Sprudelhof, and Margherita's flight from the apparition in black.

The Ensign nods, grim, twisting half his mustache up so it points in a saber at one eye. "She didn't tell you what happened there? Golly, Jack, you had better know. ..."

ensign morituri's story

Wars have a way of overriding the days just before them. In the looking back, there is such noise and gravity. But we are conditioned to forget. So that the war may have more importance, yes, but still. . . isn't the hidden machinery easier to see in the days leading up to the event? There are arrangements, things to be expedited . . . and often the edges are apt to lift, briefly, and we see things we were not meant to. ...

They'd tried to talk Margherita out of going to Hollywood. She went, and she failed. Rollo was there when she returned, to keep the worst from happening. For a month he impounded sharp objects, kept her at ground level and away from chemicals, which meant she didn't sleep much. She would drop off and wake up hysterical. Afraid to go to sleep. Afraid she wouldn't know how to get back.

Rollo did not have a keen mind. He meant well, but after a month of her he found he couldn't take any more. Actually it surprised everyone that he'd lasted so long. Greta was handed over to Sigmund, hardly improved, but perhaps no worse.

The trouble with Sigmund was the place he happened to be living in, a drafty, crenelated deformity overlooking a cold little lake in the Bavarian Alps. Parts of it must have dated back to the fall of Rome. That was where Sigmund brought her.

She had got the idea somewhere that she was part Jewish. Things in Germany by then, as everyone knows, were very bad. Margherita was terrified of being "found out." She heard Gestapo in every puff of air that slipped in, among any of a thousand windways of dilapidation. Sigmund spent whole nights trying to talk it away. He was no better at it than Rollo. It was around this time that her symptoms began.

However psychogenic these pains, tics, hives and nauseas, her suffering was real. Acupuncturists came down by Zeppelin from Berlin,

showing up in the middle of the night with little velvet cases full of gold needles. Viennese analysts, Indian holy men, Baptists from America trooped in and out of Sigmund's castle, stage-hypnotists and Colombian curanderos slept on the rug in front of the fireplace. Nothing worked. Sigmund grew alarmed, and before long as ready as Margherita to hallucinate. Probably it was she who suggested Bad Karma. It had a reputation that summer for its mud, hot and greasy mud with traces of radium, jet black, softly bubbling. Ah. Anyone who's been sick in that way can imagine her hope. That mud would cure anything.

Where was anybody that summer before the War? Dreaming. The spas that summer, the summer Ensign Morituri came to Bad Karma, were crowded with sleepwalkers. Nothing for him to do at the Embassy. They suggested a holiday till September. He should have known something was up, but he only went on holiday to Bad Karma!spent the days drinking Pilsener Urquelle in the cafe by the lake in the Pavilion Park. He was a stranger, half the time drunk, silly beer-drunk, and he hardly spoke their language. But what he saw must have been going on all over Germany. A premeditated frenzy.

Margherita and Sigmund moved along the same magnolia-shaded paths, sat out in rolling-chairs to hear concerts of patriotic music . . . when it rained they fidgeted over card games in one of the public rooms of their Kurhaus. At night they watched the fireworks!fountains, spark-foaming rockets, yellow starbursts high over Poland. That oneiric season. . . . There was no one in all the spas to read anything in the patterns the fires made. They were only gay lights, nervous as the fantasies that flickered from eye to eye, trailing the skin like the ostrich fans of 50 years ago.

When did Sigmund first notice her absences, or when did they become for him more than routine? Always she gave him plausible stories: a medical appointment, a chance meeting with an old friend, drowsiness in the mud-baths, while time raced by. It may have been this unaccustomed sleep that got him suspicious at last, because of what her wakefulness had put him through in the South. The stories about the children in the local newspapers could have made no impression, not then. Sigmund only read headlines, and rarely at that, to fill up a dead moment.

Morituri saw them often. They would meet and bow, exchange Heil Hitlers, and the Ensign would be permitted a few minutes to practice his German. Except for waiters and barmen, they were the only people he spoke with. Out at the tennis courts, waiting in line at

the pump room under the cool colonnade, at an aquatic corso, a battle of flowers, a Venetian fete, Sigmund and Margherita hardly changed, he with his!Morituri thought of it as his American Smile, around the amber stern of his dead pipe ... his head like a flesh Christmas ornament . . . how long ago it was . . . she with her yellow sunglasses and Garbo hats. The flowers were all that changed about her day to day: morning glory, almond blossom, foxglove. Morituri grew to look forward so to these daily meetings. His wife and daughters clear on the other side of the world, himself exiled in a country that bewildered and oppressed him. He needed the passing zoogoers' civility, the guidebook words. He knows he stared back, every bit as curious. In their European slickness, they all fascinated him: the white-plumed old ladies in the lying-out chairs, the veterans of the Great War like serene hippopotamuses soaking in the steel baths, their effeminate secretaries chattering shrill as monkeys across the Sprudelstrasse, while far down the arches of lindens and chestnuts you could hear the endless roar of carbon dioxide at the bubbling spring, coming out of solution in great shuddering spheres . . . but Sigmund and Margherita fascinated him most of all. "They seemed as alien here as I was. We each have antennas, don't we, tuned to recognize our own. ..."

One forenoon, by accident, he met Sigmund, alone, a tweed statue on his walking stick in front of the Inhalatorium, looking as if he'd lost his way, no real place to go, no desire. Without premeditation, then, they began to talk. The time was right. They moved off presently, strolling through the crowds of sick foreigners, while Sigmund told of his troubles with Greta, her Jewish fantasy, her absences. The day before, he had caught her out in a lie. She'd come in very late. Her hands had taken a fine tremor that wouldn't stop. He'd begun to notice things. Her shoes, beaded with drying black mud. A seam in her dress widened, nearly ripped, though she'd been losing weight. But he hadn't the courage to have it out with her.

Morituri, who had been reading the papers, for whom the connection had sprung up like a monster from the tamed effervescences of the Trinkhalle, but who did not have the words, German or otherwise, to tell Sigmund, Morituri, the Beer Ensign, began to follow her then. She never looked back, but she knew he was there. At the weekly ball in the Kursaal he felt, for the first time, a reticence among them all. Margherita, eyes he was accustomed to seeing covered with sunglasses naked now, burning terribly, never took her gaze from him. The Kur-Orchestra played selections from The Merry Widow and Secrets of

Suzanne, out-of-date music, and yet, when bits of it found Morituri years later in the street, over the radio, they never failed to bring back the unwritten taste of that night, the three of them at the edge of a deepness none could sound . . . some last reprise of the European thirties he had never known . . . which are also for him a particular room, a salon in the afternoon: lean girls in gowns, mascara all around their eyes, the men with faces shaven very smooth, film-star polished . . . not operetta but dance music here, sophisticated, soothing, a bit "modern," dipping elegantly in the up-to-date melodic lines ... an upstairs room, with late sunlight coming in, deep carpets, voices saying nothing heavy or complex, smiles informed and condescending. He has awakened that morning in a soft bed, he looks forward to an evening at a cabaret dancing to popular love songs played in just such a mannered and polished style. His afternoon salon with its held tears, its smoke, its careful passion has been a way-station between the comfortable morning and the comfortable night: it was Europe, it was the smoky, citied fear of death, and most perilous it was Margherita's scrutable eyes, that lost encounter in the Kursaal, black eyes among those huddled jewels and nodding old generals, in the roar from the Brodelbrunnen outside, filling the quiet spaces in the music as machinery was soon to fill the sky.

Next evening, Morituri followed her out for the last time. Down the worn paths, under the accustomed trees, past the German goldfish pool that reminded him of Home, across the golf links, the day's last white-mustached men struggling up out of traps and hazards, their caddies standing at allegorical attention in the glow of the sunset, the bundled clubs in Fascist silhouette. . . . Twilight came down on Bad Karma that night pallid and violent: the horizon was a Biblical disaster. Greta had dressed all in black, a hat with a veil covering most of her hair, purse slung by a long strap over one shoulder. As choices of a destination narrowed to one, as Morituri ran into snares the night began to lay out for him, prophecy filled him like the river wind: where she had been on her absences, how the children in those headlines had!

They had arrived at the edge of the black mud pool: that underground presence, old as Earth, partly enclosed back at the Spa and a name given to. ... The offering was to be a boy, lingering after all the others had gone. His hair was cold snow. Morituri could only hear fragments of what they said. The boy wasn't afraid of her at first. He might not have recognized her from his dreams. It would have been

his only hope. But they had made that impossible, his German overseers. Morituri stood by in his uniform, waiting, unbuttoning the jacket so that he could move, though he didn't want to. Certainly they were all repeating this broken act from an earlier time. . . .

Her voice began its rise, and the boy his trembling. "You have been in exile too long." It was a loud clap in the dusk. "Come Home, with me," she cried, "back to your people." Now he was trying to break away, but her hand, her gloved hand, her claw had flown out and seized his arm. "Little piece of Jewish shit. Don't try to run away from me."

"No . . ." but at the very end rising, in a provocative question.

"You know who I am, too. My Home is the form of Light," burlesquing it now, in heavy Yiddish dialect, actressy and false, "I wander all the Diaspora looking for strayed children. I am Israel. I am the Shekhinah, queen, daughter, bride, and mother of God. And I will take you back, you fragment of smashed vessel, even if I must pull you by your nasty little circumcised penis!"

"No ..."

So Ensign Morituri committed then the only known act of heroism in his career. It's not even in his folder. She had gathered the boy struggling, one glove busy between his legs. Morituri rushed forward. For a moment the three of them swayed, locked together. Gray Nazi statuary: its name may have been "The Family." None of the Greek stillness: no, they moved. Immortality was not the issue. That's what made them different. No survival, beyond the senses' taking of it!no handing-down. Doomed as d'Annunzio's adventure at Fiume, as the Reich itself, as the poor creatures from whom the boy now tore loose and ran off into the evening.

Margherita collapsed by the edge of the great lightless pool. Morituri knelt beside her while she cried. It was terrible. What had brought him there, what had understood and moved in so automatically, fell back now to sleep. His conditioning, his verbal, ranked and uniformed self took over again. He knelt shivering, more afraid than he'd ever been in his life. It was she who led their way back to the Spa.

She and Sigmund left Bad Karma that night. The boy may have been too frightened, the light too faint, Morituri himself may have had strong protectors, for God knows he was visible enough there!but no police came. "It never occurred to me to go to them. In my heart, I knew she had murdered. You may condemn me for it. But I saw what I'd be handing her over to, and it came to the same

thing, in official custody or not, you see." The next day was 1 September. There was no longer any way for children to vanish mysteriously.

The forenoon has gone dark. Rain spits in under the awning. The bowl of porridge has stayed after all untouched in front of Morituri. Slothrop is sweating, staring at the bright remains of an orange. "Listen," it has occurred to his agile brain, "what about Bianca, then? Is she going to be safe with that Greta, do you think?"

Frisking his great mustache, "What do you mean? Are you asking, 'Can she be saved?' "

"Oh, pip, pip, old Jap, come off it!"

"Look, what canj/ow save her from?" His eyes are prying Slothrop away from his comfort. Rain is drumming now on the awnings, spilling in clear lacework from the edges.

"But wait a minute. Oh, shit, that woman yesterday, in that Sprudelhof!"

"Yes. Remember Greta also saw you coming up out of the river. Now think of all the folklore among these people about radioactivity!these travelers from spa to spa, season after season. It's grace. It's the holy waters of Lourdes. This mysterious radiation that can cure so much!might it be the ultimate cure?"

"Uh ..."

"I watched her face as you came aboard. I was with her at the edge of one radioactive night. I know what she saw this time. One of those children!preserved, nourished by the mud, the radium, growing taller and stronger while slowly, viscous and slow, the currents bore him along underground, year by year, until at last, grown to manhood, he came to the river, came up out of the black radiance of herself to find her again, Shekhinah, bride, queen, daughter. And mother. Motherly as sheltering mud and glowing pitchblende!"

Almost directly overhead, thunder suddenly breaks in a blinding egg of sound. Somewhere inside the blast, Slothrop has murmured, "Quit fooling."

"Are you going to risk finding out?"

Who is this, oh sure it's a Jap ensign, looking at me like this. But where are Bianca's arms, her defenseless mouth. . . . "Well in a day or two we'll be in Swinem┨nde, right?" talking to keep from!get up from the table then, you asshole!

"We'll all just keep moving, that's all. In the end it doesn't matter."

"Look, you've got kids, how can you say that? Is that all you want, just to 'keep moving'?"

"I want to see the war over in the Pacific so that I can go home. Since you ask. It's the season of the plum rains now, the Bai-u, when all the plums are ripening. I want only to be with Michiko and our girls, and once I'm there, never to leave Hiroshima again. I think you'd like it there. It's a city on Honshu, on the Inland Sea, very pretty, a perfect size, big enough for city excitement, small enough for the serenity a man needs. But these people are not returning, they are leaving their Homes you see!"

But one of the knots securing the rain-heavy awning to its frame has given way, white small-stuff unlacing rapidly, whipping around in the rain. The awning sags, tunneling rainwater at Slothrop and Mori-turi, and they flee below decks.

They get separated in a crowd of newly-risen roisterers. There is hardly a thing now in Slothrop's head but getting to Bianca. At the end of the passageway, across a score of empty faces, he spots Stefania in white cardigan and slacks, beckoning. It takes him five minutes to thread his way to her, by which time he's picked up a brandy Alexander, a party hat, a sign taped to his back urging whoever reads it, in Low Pomeranian, to kick Slothrop, lipstick smudges in three shades of magenta, and a black Italian maduro someone has thoughtfully already lit.

"You may look like the soul of conviviality," Stefania greets him, "but it doesn't fool me. Under that cheerful mask is the face of a Jonah."

"You mean, uh, the, uh!"

"I mean Margherita. She's locked herself in the head. Hysterical. Nobody can bring her out."

"So you're looking at me. How about Thanatz?"

"Thanatz has disappeared, and so has Bianca."

"Oh, shit."

"Margherita thinks you've done away with her."

"Not me." He gives her a quick rundown of Ensign Morituri's tale. Some of her elan, her resilience, go away. She bites a fingernail.

"Yes, there were rumors. Sigmund, before he vanished, leaked just enough to titillate people, but never got specific. That was his style. Listen, Slothrop. Do you think Bianca's in any danger?"

"I'll try to find out." He is interrupted here by a swift kick in the ass.

"Unlucky you," crows a voice behind them. "I'm the only one on board who reads Low Pomeranian."

"Unlucky you," Stefania nods.

"All I wanted was a free ride to Swinem┨nde."

But like Stefania sez, "There's only one free ride. Meantime, start working off the fare for this one. Go see Margherita."

"You want me to!come on."

"We don't want anything to happen."

One of the General Orders aboard this vessel. Nothing shall happen. Well, Slothrop politely sticks the rest of his cigar between Mme. Procalowska's teeth and leaves her puffing on it, fists jammed in her sweater pockets.

Bianca isn't in the engine room. He moves around in pulsing bulb-light, among asbestos-packed masses, burning himself once or twice where insulation's missing, looking into pale recesses, shadows, wondering about his own insulation here. Nothing but machinery, noise. He heads for the ladder. A scrap of red is waiting for him . . . no, only her frock, with a damp trace of his own semen still at the hem . . . this loud humidity has kept it there. He crouches, holding the garment, smelling her smell. I'm a child, I know how to hide, and I can hide you. "Bianca," he calls, "Bianca, come out."

Gathered about the door to the head, he finds an assortment of upper-class layabouts and drunks blocking the passageway along with a litter of bottles and glassware, and a seated circle of cocaine habitues, crystal birds flying up into forests of nose hair off the point of a gold and ruby dagger. Slothrop pushes through, leans on the door and calls Margherita's name.

"Go away."

"You don't have to come out. Just let me in."

"I know who you are."

"Please."

"They were very clever, sending you as poor Max. But it won't work now."

"I'm through with Them. I swear it. I need you, Greta." Bullshit. For what?

"They'll kill you, then. Go away."

"I know where Bianca is."

"What have you done with her?"

"Just!will you let me in?" After a full minute's silence, she does. A funseeker or two tries to push in, but he slams the door and locks it

again. Greta is wearing nothing but a black chemise. Strokes of black hair curl high on her thighs. Her face is white, old, strained.

"Where is she?"

"Hiding."

"From me?"

"From Them."

A quick look at him. Too many mirrors, razors, scissors, lights. Too white. "But you're one of Them."

"Quit it, you know I'm not."

"You are. You came up out of the river."

"Well, that's cause I fell in, Greta."

"Then They made you."

He watches her playing, nervous, with strands of her hair. The Anubis has begun to rock some, but the sickness rising in him is for his head, not his stomach. As she begins to talk, nausea begins to fill him: a glowing black mudslide of nausea. ...

########

It was always easy for men to come and tell her who to be. Other girls of her generation grew up asking, "Who am I?" For them it was a question full of pain and struggle. For Gretel it was hardly even a question. She had more identities than she knew what to do with. Some of these Gretels have been only the sketchiest of surfaces!others are deeper. Many have incredible gifts, antigravity, dreams of prophecy . . . comatic images surround their faces, glowing in the air: the light itself is actually crying tears, weeping in this stylized way, as she is borne along through the mechanical cities, the meteorite walls draped in midair, every hollow and socket empty as a bone, and the failing shadow that shines black all around it ... or is held in staring postures, long gowns, fringe and alchemical symbol, veils flowing from leather skullcaps padded concentric as a bike-racer's helmet, with crackling-tower and obsidian helix, with drive belts and rollers, with strange airship passages that thread underneath arches, solemnly, past louvers and giant fins in the city mist. . . .

In Weisse Sandw┨ste von Neumexiko she played a cowgirl. First thing, they'd asked, "Can you ride?" "Of course," she'd answered. Never been closer than roadside ditches in time of war to any horse in her life, but she needed the work. When the moment came to saddle

up, it never occurred to her to be afraid of the beast pressing up between her thighs. It was an American horse named Snake. Trained or not, it could have run away with her, even killed her. But they pranced the screen full of the Sagittarian fire, Gretel and that colt, and her smile never drew back.

Here is one of the veils she has shed, a thin white scum, a caustic residue from one recent night in Berlin. "While you were asleep, I left the house. I went out in the street, without my shoes. I found a corpse. A man. A week's gray beard and old gray suit. . . ." It was lying still and very white behind a wall. She lay down beside it and put her arms around it. There was frost. The body rolled toward her and the wrinkles stayed frozen in the cloth. She felt its bristled face rub her own cheek. The smell was no worse than cold meat from the icebox. She lay, holding it, till morning.

"Tell me how it is in your land." What woke her? Boots in the street, an early steamshovel. She can hardly hear her tired whispering.

Corpse answers: "We live very far beneath the black mud. Days of traveling." Though she couldn't move its limbs easily as a doll's, she could make it say and think exactly what she wished.

For an instant too she did wonder!not quite in words!if that's how her own soft mind might feel, under the fingers of Those who . . .

"Mm, it's snug down here. Now and then you can pick up something from Them!a distant rumbling, the implied silhouette of some explosion, conducted here through the earth overhead . . . but nothing, ever, too close. It's so dark that things glow. We have flight. There's no sex. But there are fantasies, even many of those we used to attach to sex!that we once modulated its energy with. . . ."

As the dizzy debutante Lotte L┨stig, she found herself during a flood, disguised as a scrubwoman, proceeding downriver in a bathtub with rich playboy Max Schlepzig. Every girl's dream. Name of the movie was Jugend Herauf! (a lighthearted pun, of course, on the then popular phrase "Juden heraus!"). Actually, all the bathtub scenes were process shots!she never did get to go out on the river in the bathtub with Max, all that was done with doubles, and in the final print it survives only as a very murky long shot. The figures are darkened and deformed, resembling apes, and the quality of the light is peculiar, as if the whole scene were engraved on a dark metal such as lead. Greta's double was actually an Italian stunt man named Blazzo in a long blonde wig. They carried on a romance

for a while. But Greta wouldn't go to bed with him, unless he wore that wig!

Out on the river the rain lashes: the rapids can now be heard approaching, still impossible to see, but real, and inevitable. And the doubles both experience an odd, ticklish fear now that perhaps they are really lost, and that there is really no camera on shore behind the fine gray scribbling of willows ... all the crew, sound-men, grips, gaffers have left ... or never even arrived . . . and what was that the currents just brought to knock against our snow-white cockle shell? and what was that thud, so stiffened and so mute?

Bianca is usually silver, or of no color at all: thousands of times taken, strained through glass, warped in and out the violet-bleeding interfaces of Double and Triple Protars, Schneider Angulons, Voigtländer Coll┴nears, Steinheil Orthostigmats, the Gundlach Turner-Reichs of 1895. For Greta it is her daughter's soul each time, an inexhaustible soul. . . . This scarf of an only child, tucked in waist-high, always out vulnerable to the wind. To call her an extension of her mother's ego is of course to invite the bitterest sarcasm. But it's possible, now and then, for Greta to see Bianca in other children, ghostly as a double exposure . . . clearly yes very clearly in Gottfried, the young pet and protege of Captain Blicero.

"Pull down my straps for a moment. Is it dark enough? Look. Thanatz said they were luminous. That he knew each one by heart. They're very white today, aren't they? Hmm. Long and white, like cobwebs. They're on my ass too. Around the ┴nsides of my thighs. . . ." Many times, afterward, after the blood had stopped and he had put on the alcohol, Thanatz would sit with her lying across his knees, and read the scars down her back, as a gypsy reads a palm. life-scar, heart-scar. Croix mystique. What fortunes and fantasies! He was so exalted, after the whippings. So taken away by the idea that they would win out, escape. He'd fall asleep before the wildness and hope had quite left him. She loved him most at those moments, just before sleep, her own dorsal side aflame, his little head heavy on her breast, while scar-tissue formed silently on her, cell by cell, in the night. She felt almost safe. . . .

Each time the lash struck, each attack, in her helplessness to escape, there would come to her a single vision, on]y one, for each peak of pain. The Eye at the top of the pyramid. The sacrificial city, with figures in rust-colored robes. The dark woman waiting at the end of

the street. The hooded face of sorrowing Denmark, leaning out over Germany. The cherry-red coals falling through the night. Bianca in a Spanish dancer's costume, stroking the barrel of a gun. . . .

Out by one rocket site, in the pine woods, Thanatz and Gretel found an old road that no one used any more. Pieces of pavement were visible here and there among the green underbrush. It seemed that if they followed the road they would come to a town, a station or outpost ... it wasn't at all clear what they would find. But the place would be long deserted.

They held hands. Thanatz wore an old jacket of green suede, with patches on the sleeves. Gretel wore her camel's-hair coat and a white kerchief. In places, pine needles were drifted across the old roadway, so deep as to silence their footsteps.

They came to a slide where years ago the road had been washed away. Gravel spilled salt-and-pepper downhill toward a river they heard but couldn't see. An old automobile, a Hannomag Storm, hung there, nose-down, one door smashed open. The lavender-gray metal shell had been picked clean as the skeleton of a deer. Somewhere in these woods was the presence that had done this. They skirted the wreck, afraid to come too near the spidered glass, the hard mortality in the shadows of the front seat.

Remains of houses could be glimpsed, back in the trees. There was now a retreat of the light, though it was still before noon, and the forest grew no thicker here. In the middle of the road, giant turds showed up, fresh, laid in twists like strands of rope!dark and knotted. What could have left them?

At the same instant, she and Thanatz both realized that for hours now they must have been walking through the ruin of a great city, not an ancient ruin, but brought down inside their lifetime. Ahead of them, the path curved on, into trees. But something stood now between them and whatever lay around the curve: invisible, impalpable . . . some monitor. Saying, "Not one step farther. That's all. Not one. Go back now."

It was impossible to move any farther into it. They were both terrified. They turned, feeling it at their backs, and moved away quickly.

Back at the Schußstelle they found Blicero in his final madness. The trunks in the cold little clearing were stripped of bark, bleeding with beads of gum from the rocket blasts.

"He could have banished us. Blicero was a local deity. He wouldn't even have needed a piece of paper. But he wanted us all to stay. He gave us the best there was, beds, food, liquor, drugs. Something was being planned, it involved the boy Gottfried, that was as unmistakable as the smell of resin, first thing those blue hazy mornings. But Blicero would tell us nothing.

"We moved into the Heath. There were oilfields, and blackened earth. Jabos flew over in diamond shapes, hunting us. Blicero had grown on, into another animal... a werewolf. . . but with no humanity left in its eyes: that had faded out, day after day, and been replaced by gray furrows, red veins in patterns that weren't human. Islands: clotted islands in the sea. Sometimes even the topographic lines, nested on a common point. 'It is the map of my Ur-Heimat,' imagine a shriek so quiet it's almost a whisper, 'the Kingdom of Lord Blicero. A white land.' I had a sudden understanding: he was seeing the world now in mythical regions: they had their maps, real mountains, rivers, and colors. It was not Germany he moved through. It was his own space. But he was taking us along with him! My cunt swelled with blood at the danger, the chances for our annihilation, delicious never knowing when it would come down because the space and time were Blicero's own. . . . He did not fall back along roads, he did not cross bridges or lowlands. We sailed Lower Saxony, island to island. Each firing-site was another island, in a white sea. Each island had its peak in the center ... was it the position of the Rocket itself? the moment of liftoff? A German Odyssey. Which one would be the last, the Home island?

"I keep forgetting to ask Thanatz whatever became of Gottfried. Thanatz was allowed to stay with the battery. But I was taken away: driven in a Hispano-Suiza with Blicero himself, out through the gray weather to a petrochemical plant that for days had stalked us in a wheel at our horizon, black and broken towers in the distance, clustered together, a flame that always burned at the top of one stack. It was the Castle: Blicero looked over, about to speak, and I said, 'The Castle.' The mouth smiled quickly, but absent: the wrinkled wolf-eyes had gone even beyond these domestic moments of telepathy, on into its animal north, to a persistence on the hard edge of death I can't imagine, tough cells with the smallest possible flicker inside, running on nothing but ice, or less. He called me Katje. 'You'll see that your little trick won't work again. Not now, Katje.' I wasn't frightened. It was madness I could understand, or else the hallucinating of the very old. The silver stork flew wings-down into our wind, brow low and legs back, Prussian occipital knot behind: on its shiny surfaces now appeared black swirls of limousines and staff cars in the driveway of the main office. I saw a light plane, a two-seater, at the edge of the parking

lot. The faces of the men inside seemed familiar. I knew them from films, the power and the gravity were there!they were important men, but I only recognized one: Generaldirektor Smaragd, from Le-verkusen. An elderly man who used a cane, a notorious spiritualist before the War, and, it seemed, even now. 'Greta,' he smiled, groping for my hand. 'Ah, we're all here.' But his charm was shared by none of the others. They'd all been waiting for Blicero. A meeting of nobles in the Castle. They went into the board room. I was left with an assistant named Drohne, high forehead, graying hair, always fussing with his necktie. He'd seen every one of my films. We moved off into the machinery. Through the windows of the board room I saw them at a round conference table, with something in the center. It was gray, plastic, shining, light moving on its surfaces. 'What is it?' I asked, vamping Drohne. He took me out of earshot of the others. 'I think it's for the F-Gerät,'he whispered."

"F?" sez Slothrop, "F-Gerät, you sure of that?"

"Some letter."

"S?"

"All right, S. They are children at the threshold of language with these words they make up. It looked to me like an ectoplasm!something they had forced, by their joint will, to materialize on the table. No one's lips were moving. It was a seance. I understood then that Blicero had brought me across a frontier. Had injected me at last into his native space without a tremor of pain. I was free. Men crowded behind me in the corridor, blocking the way back. Drohne's hand was sweating on my sleeve. He was a plastics connoisseur. Flipping his fingernail against a large clear African mask, cocking his ear!'Can you hear it? The true ring of Polystyrene . . .' and going into raptures for me over a heavy chalice of methyl methacrylate, a replica of the San-graal. . . . We were by a tower reactor. A strong paint-thinner smell was in the air. Clear rods of some plastic came hissing out through an extruder at the bottom of the tower, into cooling channels, or into a chopper. The heat was heavy in the room. I thought of something very deep, black and viscous, feeding this factory. From outside I heard motors. Were they all leaving? Why was I here? Plastic serpents crawled endlessly to left and right. The erections of my escort tried to crawl out the openings in their clothes. I could do whatever I wanted. Black radiant and deep. I knelt and began unbuttoning Drohne's trousers. But two others took me by the arms and dragged me off into a warehouse area. Others followed, or entered from other doors. Great curtains of styrene or vinyl, in all colors, opaque and transparent, hung

row after row from overhead. They flared like the northern lights. I felt that somewhere beyond them was an audience, waiting for something to begin. Drohne and the men stretched me out on an inflatable plastic mattress. All around, I watched a clear crumbling of the air, or of the light. Someone said 'butadiene,' and I heard beauty dying.... Plastic rustled and snapped around us, closing us in, in ghost white. They took away my clothes and dressed me in an exotic costume of some black polymer, very tight at the waist, open at the crotch. It felt alive on me. 'Forget leather, forget satin,' shivered Drohne. 'This is Imipolex, the material of the future.' I can't describe its perfume, or how it felt! the luxury. The moment it touched them it brought my nipples up swollen and begging to be bitten. I wanted to feel it against my cunt. Nothing I ever wore, before or since, aroused me quite as much as Imipolex. They promised me brassieres, chemises, stockings, gowns of the same material. Drohne had strapped on a gigantic Imipolex penis over his own. I rubbed my face against it, it was so delicious. . . . There was an abyss between my feet. Things, memories, no way to distinguish them any more, went tumbling downward through my head. A torrent. I was evacuating all these, out into some void . . . from my vertex, curling, bright-colored hallucinations went streaming . . . baubles, amusing lines of dialogue, objets d'art ... I was letting them all go. Holding none. Was this 'submission,' then!letting all these go?

"I don't know how long they kept me there. I slept, I woke. Men appeared and vanished. Time had lost meaning. One morning I was outside the factory, naked, in the rain. Nothing grew there. Something had been deposited in a great fan that went on for miles. Some tarry kind of waste. I had to walk all the way back to the firing site. They were all gone. Thanatz had left a note, asking me to try to get to Swinem┨nde. Something must have happened at the site. There was a silence in that clearing I'd felt only once before. Once, in Mexico. The year I was in America. We were very deep in the jungle. We came on a flight of stone steps, covered with vines, fungus, centuries of decay. The others climbed to the top, but I couldn't. It was the same as the day with Thanatz, in the pine forest. I felt a silence waiting for me up there. Not for them, but for me alone . . . my own personal silence. ..."

########

Up on the bridge of the Anub━s, the storm paws loudly on the glass, great wet flippers falling at random in out of the night whap! the living

shape visible just for the rainbow edge of the sound!it takes a certain kind of maniac, at least a Polish cavalry officer, to stand in this pose behind such brittle thin separation, and stare each blow full in its muscularity. Behind Procalowski the clinometer bob goes to and fro with his ship's rolling: a pendulum in a dream. Stormlight has turned the lines of his face black, black as his eyes, black as the watchcap cocked so tough and salty aslant the furrows of his forehead. Light clusters, clear, deep, on the face of the radio gear . . . fans up softly off the dial of the pelorus . . . spills out portholes onto the white river. Inexplicably, the afternoon has been going on for longer than it should. Daylight has been declining for too many hours. Corposants have begun to flicker now in the rigging. The storm yanks at rope and cable, the cloudy night goes white and loud, in huge spasms. Procalowski smokes a cigar and studies charts of the Oder Haff.

All this light. Are the Russian lookouts watching from shore, waiting in the rain? Is this arm of the passage being kept in grease-pencil, X by dutiful X, across some field of Russian plastic, inside where cobwebs whiten the German windows nobody needs to stand at, where phosphor grass ripples across the A-scopes and the play you feel through the hand-crank in the invisible teeth is the difference between hit and miss. . . . Vaslav!is the pip you see there even a ship? In the Zone, in these days, there is endless simulation!standing waves in the water, large drone-birds, so well-known as to have nicknames among the operators, wayward balloons, flotsam from other theatres of war (Brazilian oildrums, whisky cases stenciled for Fort-Lamy), observers from other galaxies, episodes of smoke, moments of high albedo! your real targets are hard to come by. Too much confusion out here . for most replacements and late draftees. Only the older scope hands can still maintain a sense of the appropriate: over the watches of their Durations, jittering electric green for what must have seemed, at first, forever, they have come to understand distribution . . . they have learned a visual mercy.

How probable is the Anubis in this estuary tonight? Its schedule has lapsed, fashionably, unavoidably: it should have been through Swinem┨nde weeks ago, but the Vistula was under Soviet interdiction to the white ship. The Russians even had a guard posted on board for a while, till the Anubian ladies vamped them off long enough to single up all lines!and so the last long reprise of Polish Homeland was on, across these water-meadows of the north, radio messages following them in clear one day and code the next, an early and shapeless situation, dithering between executioner's silence and the Big Time. There

are international reasons for an Anubis Affair right now, and also reasons against, and the arguments go on, too remote to gather, and orders are changed hour to hour.

Pitching and rolling furiously, the Anubis drives northward. Lightning flickers all around the horizon, and thunder that reminds the military men on board of drumfire announcing battles they're not sure now if they survived or still dream, still can wake up into and die. . . . Weather decks shine slick and bare. Party litter clogs the drains. Stale fat-smoke goes oozing out the galley porthole into the rain. The saloon's been set up for baccarat, and filthy movies are showing in the boiler room. The second dog watch is about to come on. The white ship settles, like the soul of a kerosene lamp just lit, into its evening routine.

Partygoers stagger fore and aft, evening clothes decorated with sunbursts of vomit. Ladies lie out in the rain, nipples erect and heaving under drenched silk. Stewards skid along the decks with salvers of Dramamine and bicarbonate. Barfing aristocracy sag all down the lifelines. Here comes Slothrop now, down a ladder to the main deck, bounced by the rolling off of alternate manropes, feeling none too keen. He's lost Bianca. Gone fussing through the ship doubling back again and again, can't find her any more than his reason for leaving her this morning.

It matters, but how much? Now that Margherita has wept to him, across the stringless lyre and bitter chasm of a ship's toilet, of her last days with Blicero, he knows as well as he has to that it's the S-Gerät after all that's following him, it and the pale plastic ubiquity of Laszlo Jamf. That if he's been seeker and sought, well, he's also baited, and bait. The Imipolex question was planted for him by somebody, back at the Casino Hermann Goering, with hopes it would flower into a full Imipolectique with its own potency in the Zone!but They knew Slothrop would jump for it. Looks like there are sub-Slothrop needs They know about, and he doesn't: this is humiliating on the face of it, but now there's also the even more annoying question, What do I need that badly?

Even a month ago, given a day or two of peace, he might have found his way back to the September afternoon, to the stiff cock in his pants sprung fine as a dowser's wand trying to point up at what was hanging there in the sky for everybody. Dowsing Rockets is a gift, and he had it, suffered from it, trying to fill his body to the pores and follicles with ringing prurience ... to enter, to be filled ... to go hunting

after ... to be shown ... to begin to scream ... to open arms legs mouth asshole eyes nostrils without a hope of mercy to its intention waiting in the sky paler than dim commercial Jesus. . . .

But nowadays, some kind of space he cannot go against has opened behind Slothrop, bridges that might have led back are down now for good. He is growing less anxious about betraying those who trust him. He feels obligations less immediately. There is, in fact, a general loss of emotion, a numbness he ought to be alarmed at, but can't quite . . .

Can't. . .

Russian transmissions come crackling out of ship's radio, and the static blows like sheets of rain. Lights have begun to appear on shore. Procalowski throws a master switch and cuts off all the lights of the Anubis. St. Elmo's fire will be seen spurting at moments from cross-ends, from sharp points, fluttering white as telltales about the antennas and stays.

The white ship, camouflaged in the storm, will slip by Stettin's great ruin in silence. Rain will slacken for a moment to port and reveal a few last broken derricks and charred warehouses so wet and gleaming you can almost smell them, and a beginning of marshland you can smell, where no one lives. And then the shore again will be invisible as the open sea's. The Oder Haff will grow wider around the Anubis. No patrol boats will be out tonight. Whitecaps will come slamming in out of the darkness, and break high over the bow, and brine stream from the golden jackal mouth . . . Count Wafna lurch aft in nothing but his white bow tie, hands full of red, white, and blue chips that spill and clatter on deck, and he'll never cash them in ... the Countess Bibes-cue dreaming by the fo'c'sle of Bucharest four years ago, the January terror, the Iron Guard on the radio screaming Long Live Death, and the bodies of Jews and Leftists hung on the hooks of the city slaughter-houses, dripping on the boards smelling of meat and hide, having her breasts sucked by a boy of 6 or 7 in a velvet Fauntleroy suit, their wet hair flowing together indistinguishable as their moans now, will vanish inside sudden whiteness exploding over the bow . . . and stockings ladder, and silk frocks over rayon slips make swarming moires . . . hardons go limp without warning, bone buttons shake in terror . . . lights be thrown on again and the deck become a blinding mirror . . . and not too long after this, Slothrop will think he sees her, think he has found Bianca again!dark eyelashes plastered shut and face running with rain, he will see her lose her footing on the slimy deck, just as the Anubis starts a hard roll to port, and even at this

stage of things!even in his distance!he will lunge after her without thinking much, slip himself as she vanishes under the chalky lifelines and gone, stagger trying to get back but be hit too soon in the kidneys and be flipped that easy over the side and it's adios to the Anubis and all its screaming Fascist cargo, already no more ship, not even black sky as the rain drives down his falling eyes now in quick needlestrokes, and he hits, without a call for help, just a meek tearful oh fuck, tears that will add nothing to the whipped white desolation that passes for the Oder Haff tonight. ...

########

The voices are German. Looks like a Fishing smack here, stripped for some reason of nets and booms. Cargo piled on deck. A pink-faced youth is peering down at Slothrop from midships, rocking in, rearing back. "He's wearing evening clothes," calling in to the pilot house. "Is that good or bad? You're not with the military government, are you?"

"Jesus, kid, I'm drowning. I'll sign a form if you want." Well, that's Howdy Podner in German. The youth reaches out a pink hand whose palm is crusted with barnacles, and hauls him on up, ears freezing, salty snot pouring out his nose, flopping onto a wood deck that reeks with generations of fish and is scarred bright from more solid car go. The boat gets under way again with this tremendous surge of acceleration. Slothrop is sent rolling wetly aft. Behind them a great roostertail foams erect against the rain. Maniacal laughter blows aft from the pilot house. "Hey who, or what, is in command of this vessel, here?"

"My mother," the pink boy crouching beside him with an apologetic and helpless look. "The terror of the high seas."

This apple-cheeked lady is Frau Gnahb, and her kid's name is Otto. When she's feeling affectionate she calls him "the Silent Otto," which she thinks is very funny, but it dates her. While Slothrop gets out of the tuxedo and hangs it up inside to dry, wrapping himself in an old army blanket, mother and son tell him how they run black market items all along the Baltic coast. Who else would be out tonight, during a storm? He has a trustworthy face, Slothrop does, people will tell him anything. Right now seems they're headed for Swinem┨nde to take on cargo for a run tomorrow up the coast of Usedom.

"Do you know a man in a white suit," quoting Geli Tripping from

a few eras back, "who's supposed to be on the Strand-Promenade in that Swinem┨nde every day around noon?"

Frau Gnahb takes a pinch of snuff, and beams. "Everybody does. He's the white knight of the black market, as I am queen of the coastal trade."

"Der Springer, right?"

"Nobody else."

Nobody else. Up in his pants pocket Slothrop is still packing around that chesspiece old Säure Bummer gave him. By it shall Springer know him. Slothrop falls asleep in the pilot house, gets in two or three hours, during which Bianca comes to snuggle in under his blanket with him. "You're really in that Europe now," she grins, hugging him. "Oh my goo'ness," Slothrop keeps saying, his voice exactly like Shirley Temple's, out of his control. It sure is embarrassing. He wakes to sunlight, gulls squealing, smell of number 2 fuel oil, the booming of wine barrels down racketing planks to shore. They are docked in Swinem┨nde, by the sagging long ash remains of warehouses. Frau Gnahb is supervising some offloading. Otto has a tin can of honest-to-God Bohnenkaffee simmering. "First I've had in a while," Slothrop scorching his mouth.

"Black market," purrs the Silent Otto. "Good Business to be in."

"I was in it for a while. . . ." Oh, yes, and he's left the last of that Bodine hashish, hasn't he, several fucking ounces in fact, back on the Anubis, wasn't that clever. See the sugar bowl do the Tootsie Roll with the big, bad, Devil's food cake!

"Nice morning," Otto remarks.

Slothrop puts his tux back on, wrinkled and shrunken and almost dry, and debarks with Otto to find Der Springer. It seems to be Springer who's chartered today's trip up the coast. Slothrop keeps looking around for the Anubis, but she's nowhere in sight. In the distances, gantries huddle together, skeletal, presiding over the waste that came upon this port so sudden. The Russian assault in the spring has complicated the layout here. The white ship could be hiding behind any of these heaps of dockyard wreckage. Come out, come out. . . .

The storm has blown away, the breeze is mild today and the sky lies overhead in a perfect interference-pattern, mackerel gray and blue. Someplace military machines are rooting and clanking. Men and women are hollering near and far in Russian. Otto and Slothrop dodge them down alleys flanked by the remains of half-timbered houses, stepped out story by story, about to meet overhead after centuries of imperceptible toppling. Men in black-billed caps sit on stoops, watching hands for cigarettes. In a little square, market stalls are set up, wood frames and old, stained canvas shimmering when the breeze passes through. Russian soldiers lean against posts or benches talking to girls in dirndls and white knee-socks, all nearly still as statues. Market wagons stand unhitched with tongues tilted to the ground and floors covered with burlap and straw and traces of produce. Dogs sniff among the mud negatives of tank treads. Two men in dark old blue uniforms work their way along with hose and broom, cleaning away garbage and stone-dust with salt water pumped up from the harbor. Two little girls chase round and round a gaudy red kiosk plastered with chromos of Stalin. Workers in leather caps, blinking, morning-faced, pedal down to the docks with lunchboxes slung on handle bars. Pigeons and seagulls feint for scraps in the gutters. Women with empty string bags hurry by light as ghosts. A lone sapling in the street sings with a blockful of birds you can't see.

Just as Geli said, out on the steel-littered promenade, kicking stones, watching the water, eyes idly combing the beach for the odd watch or gold eyeglass frame, waiting for whoever will show up, is The Man. About 50, bleak and neutral-colored eyes, hair thick at the sides of his head and brushed back.

Slothrop flashes the plastic knight. Der Springer smiles and bows.

"Gerhardt von Göll, at your service." They shake hands, though Slothrop's is prickling in an unpleasant way.

Gulls cry, waves flatten on the strand. "Uh," Slothrop sez, "I have this kind of trick ear, you'll have to!you say Gerhardt von what now?" This mackerel sky has begun to look less like a moire, and more like a chessboard. "I guess we have a friend in common. Well, that Margherita Erdmann. Saw her last night. Yup. ..."

"She's supposed to be dead." He takes Slothrop's arm, and they all begin to stroll along the promenade.

"W-well you're supposed to be a movie director."

"Same thing," lighting American cigarettes for everybody. "Same problems of control. But more intense. As to some musical ears, dissonance is really a higher form of consonance. You've heard about Anton Webern? Very sad."

"It was a mistake. He was innocent."

"Ha. Of course he was. But mistakes are part of it too!everything fits. One sees how it fits, ja? learns patterns, adjusts to rhythms, one day you are no longer an actor, but free now, over on the other side of the camera. No dramatic call to the front office!just waking up one day, and knowing that Queen, Bishop, and King are only splendid cripples, and pawns, even those that reach the final row, are condemned to creep in two dimensions, and no lower will ever rise or descend!no: flight has been given only to the Springer!"

"Right, Springer," sez Otto.

Four Russian privates come wandering out of a bank of ruined hotel-fronts, laughing across the promenade, over the wall down to the water where they stand throwing smooth stones, kicking waves, singing to each other. Not much of a liberty town, Swinem┨nde. Slothrop fills von Göll in on Margherita, trying not to get personal. But some of his anxiety over Bianca must be coming through. Von Göll shakes his arm, a kindly uncle. "There now. I wouldn't worry. Bianca's a clever child, and her mother is hardly a destroying goddess."

"You're a comfort, Springer."

The Baltic, restless Wehrmacht gray, whispers along the beach. Von Göll tips an invisible Tyrolean to old ladies in black who've come out in pairs to get some sun. Otto goes chasing seagulls, hands out in front of him silent-movie style looking to strangle, but always missing his bird. Presently they are joined by a party with a lumpy nose, stoop, week's growth of orange and gray whiskers, and oversize leather trenchcoat with no trousers on underneath. His name is Närrisch! the same Klaus Närrisch that aerodynamics man Horst Achtfaden fingered for the Schwarzkommando, the very same. He is carrying by the neck an unplucked dead turkey. As they thread their way among chunks big and little of Swinem┨nde and the battle for it last spring, townspeople begin to appear out of the ruins, and to straggle close on von Coil's landward flank, all eying this dead bird. Springer reaches inside his white suit jacket, comes out with a U.S. Army .45, and makes a casual show of checking its action. His following promptly dwindles by a half.

"They're hungrier today," observes Närrisch.

"True," replies the Springer, "but today there are fewer of them."

"Wow," it occurs to Slothrop, "that's a shitty thing to say."

Springer shrugs. "Be compassionate. But don't make up fantasies about them. Despise me, exalt them, but remember, we define each other. Elite and preterite, we move through a cosmic design of darkness and light, and in all humility, I am one of the very few who can comprehend it in toto. Consider honestly therefore, young man, which

side you would rather be on. While they suffer in perpetual shadows, it's . . . always!"

bright days (fox-trot)

!bright days for the black mar-ket,

That silver 'n' gold makes-it shine!

From the Cor-al Sea to, the sky, blue, Baltic,

Money's the mainspring, that makes it all tick!like a

Blinkin' beacon, there's a pricetag peekin'

From each d└colletage dee-vine!

Be she green or scar-let, even Mom's a har-lot, it's the

Good Lord's grand design ...

A-and it's sunny days-for, the black, black ma(a)rket,

Cause silver and gold makes it shii-iine!

Närrisch and Otto joining in here on three-part harmony, while the idle and hungry of Swinem┨nde look on, whitefaced as patient livestock. But their bodies are only implied: wire racks for prewar suits and frocks, too ancient, too glossy with dirt, with passage.

Leaving the promenade, they pause at a street corner while a detachment of Russian infantry and horsemen marches by. "Gee, they're pouring in," notes Otto. "Where's the circus?"

"Up the coast, kid," sez Närrisch.

"What's up the coast," inquires Slothrop.

"Look out," warns Närrisch, "he's a spy."

"Don't call me 'kid,' " Otto snarls.

"Spy's ass," sez Slothrop.

"He's all right," Springer pats them all on the shoulders, Herr Gem┨tlich here, "the word's been out on him for a while. He isn't even armed." To Slothrop: "You're welcome to come along with us, up the coast. It might be interesting for you." But Slothrop is no dummy. He notices how he is getting funny looks from everybody now, including that Springer.

Among the cargo headed up the coast are six chorus girls, wearing feathers and spangles under old cloth coats to save trunk space, a small pit band at different levels of alcoholic slumber, manymany cases of vodka, and a troupe of performing chimpanzees. Otto's nautical-piratical mother has one of these chimps cornered inside the pilot house, where they are going at it, the Frau with her insults, the chimp reaching now and then trying to slap her with this floppy banana peel. Ulcerous impresario G. M. B. Haftung is trying to get Otto's atten-

tion. He has a record of always making his appeals to the wrong personnel. "That's Wolfgang in there! He'll murder her!" Wolfgang's his prize chimp, somewhat unstable, does a fair Hitler imitation but has this short attention span.

"Well," vaguely, "he'd better watch out for my Mom."

Framed here in her lozenge of hatchway, it's much clearer just how extensively this old woman has been around: she is leaning, lilting, big sweet smile just as toothy as can be, right into that Wolfgang, cooing at him: "Deine Matter . . ."

"Say, she's never seen one of those critters before," Slothrop turning to Otto, surprising the youth with a faceful of, call it amiable homicide, "has she!"

"Ach, she's fantastic. She knows by instinct!exactly how to insult anybody. Doesn't matter, animal, vegetable!I even saw her insult a rock once."

"Aw, now!"

"Really! Ja. A gigantic clummmp of felsitic debris, last year, off the coast of Denmark, she criticized its," just about to fall into one of those mirthless laughs we edge away from, "its crystalline structure, for twenty minutes. Incredible."

Chorus girls have already pried open a case of vodka. Haftung, brushing hair that grows only in memory across the top of his head, rushes over to scream at them. Boys and girls, all ages, tattered and thin, trail across the brow, stevedoring. Against the fair sky, chimps swing from spars and antenna, above them seagulls glide by and stare. Wind rises, soon a whitecap here and there will start to flicker out in the harbor. Each child carries a bale or box of a different shape, color, and size. Springer stands by, pince-nez clipped in front of agate eyes, checking off his inventory in a green morocco book, snails in garlic sauce, one gross . . . three cases cognac . . . tennis balls, two dozen . . . one V━ctrola . . . film, Lucky Pierre Runs Amok, three reels . . . binoculars, sixty . . . wrist-watches . . . u.s.w., a check-mark for each child.

Presently all has been stowed below decks, chimps fall asleep, musicians wake up, girls surround Haftung and call him names, and pinch his cheeks. Otto makes his way along the side, hauling in lines as the children cast them off. As the last one is flung away, its eye-splice still in midair framing a teardrop vista of gutted Swinem┨nde, Frau Gnahb, sensing the release from land through her feet, gets under way in the usual manner, nearly losing a chimp over the fantail and sending Haftung's half-dozen lovelies sprawling in a winsome tangle of legs, bottoms and breasts.

Crosscurrents tug at the boat as it moves out the widening funnel of the Swine, toward the sea. Just inside the breakwaters, where it foams through breaches bombed underwater in the spring look out, Frau Gnahb, with no change of expression, swings her wheel full over, goes barreling straight at the Sassnitz ferry whoosh veers away just in time, cackling at passengers staggering back from the rail, gaping after her. "Please, Mother," silent Otto plaintive in the window of the pilot house. In reply the good woman commences bellowing a bloodthirsty

sea chanty

I'm the Pirate Queen of the Baltic Run, and nobody fucks

with me! And those who've tried are bones and skulls, and lie beneath

the sea.

And the little fish like messengers swim in and out their eyes, Singing, "Fuck ye not with Gory Gnahb and her desperate

enterprise!"

I'll tangle with a battleship, I'll massacre a sloop, I've sent a hundred souls to hell in one relentless swoop! I've seen the Flying Dutchman, and each time we pass, he cries, "Oh, steer me clear of Gory Gnahb, and her desperate enterprise!"

Whereupon she grips her wheel and accelerates. They find themselves now leaping toward the side of a half-sunken merchantman: black concave iron splashed with red-lead, each crusted rivet and pitted plate closing in, looming over! The woman is clearly unbalanced. Slothrop shuts his eyes and hangs on to a chorus girl. With a whoop from the pilot house, the little boat is put over hard to port, missing collision by maybe a few coats of paint. Otto, caught daydreaming of death, staggers wildly by heading over the side. "It's her sense of humor," he points out, on the way past. Slothrop reaches out grabs him by the sweater, and the girl grabs Slothrop by the tail of his tuxedo.

"She gets into something a little illegal," Otto a moment later catching his breath, "you see what happens. I don't know what to do with her."

"Poor kid," the girl smiles.

"Aw," sez Otto.

Slothrop leaves them, always happy to see young people get together, and joins von Göll and Närrisch on the fantail. Frau Gnahb

has angled, wallowing, around to the northwest. Presently they are heading up the coast, through white-streaked, salt-smelling Baltic.

"Well. Where we going, fellas?" jovial Slothrop wants to know.

Närrisch stares. "That is the isle of Usedom," von Göll explains, gently. "It is bounded on one side by the Baltic Sea. It is also bounded by two rivers. Their names are the Swine, and the Peene. We were just on the Swine River. We were in Swinem┨nde. Swinem┨nde means 'mouth of the Swine River.' "

"All right, all right."

"We are headed around the island of Usedom, to a place that is at the mouth of the Peene River."

"Let's see, so that would be called . . . wait . . . Peenem┨nde, right?"

"Very good."

"So?" There is a pause. "Oh. Oh, that Peenem┨nde."

Närrisch, as it turns out, used to work up there. He's apt to brood some at the idea of Russians occupying the place.

"There was a liquid-oxygen plant I had my eye on, too," Springer a little down with it himself, "I wanted to start a chain!we're still angling for the one in Volkenrode, at the old Goering Institute."

"There's a bunch of those LOX generators under Nordhausen," Slothrop trying to be helpful.

"Thanks. The Russians have that too, you'll recall. That's a problem: if it weren't so against Nature I'd say they don't know what they want. The roads heading east are jammed day and night with Russian lorries, full of material. All kinds of loot. But no clear pattern to it yet, beyond strip-it-and-pack-it-Home."

"Jeepers," clever Slothrop here, "do you reckon they've found that S-Gerätyet, huh, Mr. von Göll?"

"Ah, cute," beams the Springer.

"He's an OSS man," groans Närrisch, "tell you, we ought to rub him out."

"S-Gerät's going for £10,000 these days, half of that in front. You interested?"

"Nope. But I did hear at Nordhausen that you already have it."

"Wrong."

"Gerhardt!"

"He's all right, Klaus." The look is one Slothrop's had before, from auto salesmen signaling their partners got a real idiot here, Leonard, now don't spook him please? "We planted the story deliberately in Stettin. Wanted to see how a Colonel Tchitcherine will respond."

"Fuck. Him again? He'll respond, all right."

"Well, that's what we're going up to Peenem┨nde today to find out."

"Oh, boy." Slothrop goes on to tell about the run-in at Potsdam, and how Geli thought Tchitcherine didn't care about Rocket hardware nearly so much as working out some plot against that Oberst Enzian. If the two marketeers are interested, they don't show it.

The talk has drifted on into that kind of slack, nameful recapitulating that Slothrop's mother Nalline loved to float away on in the afternoons!Helen Trent, Stella Dallas, Mary Noble Backstage Wife. . . .

"Tchitcherine is a complex man. It's almost as if ... he thinks of Enzian as ... another part of him!a black version of something inside himself. A something he needs to ... liquidate."

NÄRRISCH: Do you think there might be some . . . some political reason?

VON göll (shaking his head): I just don't know, Klaus. Ever since what happened in Central Asia!

NÄRRISCH: You mean!

VON GÖLL: Yes . . . the Kirghiz Light. You know, it's funny!he's never wanted to be thought of as an imperialist!

NÄRRISCH: None of them do. But there's the girl. . . .

VON GÖLL: Little Geli Tripping. The one who thinks she's a witch.

NÄRRISCH: But do you really think she means to go through with this!this plan of hers, to find Tchitcherine?

VON GÖLL: I think . . . They ... do. ...

NÄRRISCH: But Gerhardt, she is in love with him!

VON GÖLL: He hasn't been dating her, has he?

NÄRRISCH: You can't be implying!

"Say," splutters Slothrop, "what th' heck're you guys talkin' about, anyway?"

"Paranoia," Springer snaps reproachfully (as folks will snap when interrupted at a game they enjoy). "You wouldn't understand that."

"Well excuse me, got to go vomit now," a klassic komeback among charm-school washouts like our Tactful Tyrone here, and pretty advanced stuff on dry land, but not out here, where the Baltic is making it impossible not to be seasick. Chimps are all doing their vomiting huddled under a tarp. Slothrop joins at the rail a miserable lot of musicians and girls. They instruct him in fine points such as not vomiting into the wind, and timing it for when the ship rolls toward the sea, Frau Gnahb having expressed the hope that no one would get any

vomit on her ship with the kind of glacial smile Dr. Mabuse used to get, especially on a good day. She can be heard in the pilot house now, bellowing her sea chanty. "Oööööö," goes Slothrop over the side.

And this is how their desperate enterprise goes a-rollicking up the coast of Usedom, under a hazy summer sky. On shore, the green downs roll up in two gentle steps: above them is a chain of hills thick with pines and oaks. Little resort towns with white beaches and forlorn jetties wheel abeam rheumatically slow. Military-looking craft, probably Russian PT boats, will be seen now and then lying dead in the water. None challenge the Frau's passage. The sun is in and out, turning the decks a stark moment's yellow around everyone's shadow. There's a late time of day when all shadows are thrown along the same east-northeast bearing as the test rockets were always fired out to sea from Peenem┨nde. The exact clock time, which varies through the year, is known as Rocket Noon . . . and the sound that must at that moment fill the air for its devout can only be compared with a noontime siren the whole town believes in ... and guts resonate, hard as stone. . . .

Before you sight it, you can feel the place. Even draped over a gunwale, cheek against a fender smelling of tar, eyes tearing and insides sloshing as the sea. Even barren and scorched as Rossokovsky and the White Russian Army left it in the spring. It's a face. On the maps, it's a skull or a corroded face in profile, facing southwest: a small marshy lake for the eye-socket, nose-and-mouth cavity cutting in at the entrance to the Peene, just below the power station . . . the draftsmanship is a little like a Wilhelm Busch cartoon face, some old fool for mischievous boys to play tricks on. Tapping his tanks for grain alcohol, scratching great naughty words across fields of his fresh cement, or even sneaking in to set off a rocket in the middle of the night. . . .

Low, burned-out buildings now, ash images of camouflage nets burned onto the concrete (they had only a minute to glow, like a burger's silk mantle!to light this coastal indoors, this engineers' parlor full of stodgy shapes and neutral tones . . . didn't it only flare? no need to put right, nothing monitory, no new levels to be reached . . . but who would that be, watching so civil and mild over the modeltop? face all in these chromo sunset colors, eyes inside blackrim lenses which, like the flaring nets, now are seen to have served as camouflage for who but the Bicycle Rider in the Sky, the black and fatal Edwardian silhouette on the luminous breast of sky, of today's Rocket Noon, two circular explosions inside the rush hour, in the death-scene of the

sky's light. How the rider twirls up there, terminal and serene. In the Tarot he is known as The Fool, but around the Zone here they call him Slick. It's 1945. Still early, still innocent. Some of it is).

Charred helpless latticework: what was wooden now only settles, without strength. Green human shapes flash in the ruins. The scale is very confusing, along here. The troops look larger than they should. A zoo? a shooting gallery? Why, some of both. Frau Gnahb wallows in closer to land, proceeds up the marshy shoreline at half speed. Signs of occupation increase: lorry-parks, tents, a corral teeming with horses pied, sorrel, snow-white, red as blood. Wild summer ducks up exploding, wet and showery, out of green reeds!they swing aft over the boat and descend in its wake, where they bob quacking in two-foot excursions. High in the sunlight, a white-tailed eagle is soaring. Smooth-lipped bomb and shell craters hold blue sea water. Barracks have had their roofs blown away: spinal and ribwise and sunwhite the bones of these creatures that must have held in their time half the Jonahs of falling Europe. But trees, beech and pine, have begun to grow in again where spaces were cleared and leveled for housing or offices!up through cracks in the pavement, everywhere life may gain purchase, up rushes green summer '45, and the forests are still growing dense on the upland.

Passing now the great blackened remains of the Development Works, most of it strewn at ground level. In series, some ripped and broken, others largely hidden by the dunes, Närrisch reverently telling them one by one, come the concrete masses of the test stands, stations of the cross, VI, V, III, IV, II, IX, VIII, I, finally the Rocket's own, from which it stood and flew at last, VII and X. Trees that once screened these from the sea now are only stalks of charcoal.

Pulling around the northern curve of the peninsula, test-stand wall and earthworks receding!moving now past Peenem┨nde-West, the Luftwaffe's old territory. Far away to starboard, the cliffs of the Greifs-walder Oie shimmer through the blue haze. Concrete launching-ramps used to test the V-l or buzzbomb point at the sea. Runways pocked with craters, heaped with rubble and wrecked Messerschmitts swing by, down the peninsula: over the skull's arc, south again toward the Peene, there!above the rolling hills, miles off the port bow, the red brick tower of the cathedral in Wolgast, and closer in the half-dozen stacks of the power station, smokeless over Peenem┨nde, have survived the lethal compression-loads of March. . . . White swans drift in the reeds, and pheasants fly over the tall pines inland. A truck motor snarls somewhere into life.

Frau Gnahb brings her boat around in a tight turn, through an inlet, to the dock. The summer calm lies over everything: rolling-stock inert on its tracks, one soldier sitting against an orange-topped oil drum trying to play an accordion. Maybe only fooling around. Otto lets go of his chorus girl's hand. His mother cuts the engines, and he steps broadly to the dock and jogs along, making fast. Then there's a brief pause: Diesel fumes, marsh birds, quiet idleness. . . .

Somebody's staff car, racketing around the corner of a cargo shed, slides to a stop, bouncing forth out of its rear door a major even fatter than Duane Marvy, but with a kindlier and dimly Oriental face. Gray hair like sheep's wool comes twisting down all around his head. "Ah! von Göll!" arms outstretched, wrinkled eyes shiny with!is it real tears? "von Göll, my dear friend!"

"Major Zhdaev," Springer nods ambling over the brow, as behind the major now this truckload of troops in fatigues seems to be pulling up here, kind of odd they should be toting those submachine guns and carbines just for some stevedoring. . . .

Right. Before anyone can move, they've leaped out and made a cordon around Zhdaev and the Springer, pieces at the ready. "Do not be alarmed," Zhdaev waving and beaming, strolling backward to the car with his arm around the Springer, "we are detaining your friend for a bit. You may proceed with your work and go. We'll see that he gets safely back to Swinem┨nde."

"What the devil," Frau Gnahb comes growling out of the pilot house. Haftung shows up, twitching, putting hands in various pockets and taking them out again: "Who are they arresting? What about my contract? Will anything happen to us?" The staff car pulls away. Enlisted men begin filing on board.

"Shit," ponders Närrisch.

"You think it's a bust?"

"I think Tchitcherine is responding with interest. Just as you said."

"Aw, now!"

"No, no," hand on sleeve, "he's right. You're harmless."

"Thanks."

"I warned him, but he laughed. 'Another leap, Närrisch. I have to keep leaping, don't I?' "

"Well what do you want to do now, cut him loose?"

There is some excitement amidships. The Russians have thrown back a tarp to reveal the chimps, who are covered with vomit, and have also broken into the vodka. Haftung blinks and shudders. Wolfgang is

on his back, sucking at a gurgling bottle he is clutching with his feet. Some of the chimps are docile, others are looking for a fight.

"Somehow . . ." Slothrop does wish the man would quit talking this way, "I owe him!that much."

"Well I don't," Slothrop dodging a sudden plume of yellow chimpanzee vomit. "He ought to be able to take care of himself."

"His talk's grandiose enough. But he's not paranoid in his heart!in this line of work, that's a disaster."

One of the chimps now bites a Soviet corporal in the leg. The corporal screams, unslinging his Tokarev and firing from the hip, by which time the chimp has leaped for a halyard. A dozen more of the critters, many carrying vodka bottles, head en masse for the gangplank. "Don't let them get away," Haftung hollers. The trombone player sticks his head sleepily out a hatch to ask what's happening and has his face walked over by three sets of pink-soled feet before grasping the situation. Girls, spangles aflame in the afternoon sun, feathers all quivering, are being chased forward and aft by drooling Red Army personnel. Frau Gnahb pulls on her steam whistle, thereby spooking the rest of the chimps, who join the stampede to shore. "Catch them," Haftung pleads, "somebody." Slothrop finds himself between Otto and Närrisch, being pushed ashore over the brow by soldiers chasing after chimps or girls, or trying to wrangle the cargo ashore. Among splashes, cursing, and girlish shrieks from the other side of the boat, chorus girls and musicians keep appearing and wandering back and forth. It is difficult to perceive just what the fuck is happening here.

"Listen." Frau Gnahb leaning over the side.

Slothrop notices a canny squint. "You have a plan."

"You want to pull a diversionary feint."

"What? What?"

"Chimps, musicians, dancing girls. Decoys all over. While the three of you sneak in and grab Der Springer."

"We can hide," Närrisch looking around gangster-eyed. "No-body'll notice. Ja, ja! The boat can take off, as if we were on board!"

"Not me," sez Slothrop.

"Ha! Ha!" sez Frau Gnahb.

"Ha! Ha!" sez Närrisch.

"I'll lie to at the northeast corner," this madmother continues, "in the channel between the little island and that triangular part that's built up on the foreshore."

"Test Stand X."

"Catchy name. I think there'll be enough of a tide by then. Light a fire. Otto! Cast me off now."

"Zu Befehl, Mutti!"

Slothrop and Närrisch go dash behind a cargo shed, find a boxcar, and hide inside. Nobody notices. Chimps are running by in several directions. The soldiers chasing them seem by now to be really pissed off. Someplace the clarinet player is blowing scales on his instrument. The boat's motor sputters up into a growl, and screws go churning away. A while later, Otto and his girl come climb in the boxcar, out of breath.

"Well, Närrisch," Slothrop might as well ask, "where'd they take him, do you think? eh?"

"From what I could see, Block Four and that whole complex to the south were deserted. My guess is the assembly building near Test Stand VII. Under that big ellipse. There are underground tunnels and rooms!ideal for a headquarters. Looks like most of it survived pretty well, even though Rossokovsky had orders to level the place."

"You got a piece?" Närrisch shakes his head no. "Me neither. What kind of a black-market operator are you, anyway? no piece."

"I used to be in inertial guidance. You expect me to revert?"

"W-well what are we supposed to use, then? Our wits?"

Out the slats of the car, the sky is darkening, the clouds turning orange, tangerine, tropical. Otto and his girl are murmuring in one corner. "Scrub that one," Närrisch with sour mouth. "Five minutes away from his mother, he's a Casanova."

Otto is earnestly explaining his views on the Mother Conspiracy. It's not often a sympathetic girl will listen. The Mothers get together once a year, in secret, at these giant conventions, and exchange information. recipes, games, key phrases to use on their children. "What did yours use to say when she wanted to make you feel guilty?"

" 'I've worked my fingers to the bone!' " sez the girl.

"Right! And she used to cook those horrible casseroles, w-with the potatoes, and onions!"

"And ham! Little pieces of ham!"

"You see, you see? That can't be accidental! They have a contest, for Mother of the Year, breast-feeding, diaper-changing, they time them, casserole competitions, ja!then, toward the end, they actually begin to use the children. The State Prosecutor comes out on stage. 'In a moment, Albrecht, we are going to bring your mother on. Here is a Luger, fully loaded. The State will guarantee you absolute immunity from prosecution. Do whatever you wish to do!anything at all. Good luck, my boy.' The pistols are loaded with blanks, nat┨rlich, but the unfortunate child does not know this. Only the mothers who get shot at qualify for the finals. Here they bring in psychiatrists, and judges sit with stopwatches to see how quickly the children will crack. 'Now then, Olga, wasn't it nice of Mutti to break up your affair with that long-haired poet?' 'We understand your mother and you are, ah, quite close, Hermann. Remember the time she caught you masturbating into her glove? Eh?' Hospital attendants stand by to drag the children off, drooling, screaming, having clonic convulsions. Finally there is only one Mother left on stage. They put the traditional flowered hat on her head, and hand her the orb and scepter, which in this case are a gilded pot roast and a whip, and the orchestra plays Tristan und Isolde."

########

They come out into the last of the twilight. Just a sleepy summer evening in Peenem┨nde. A flight of ducks passes overhead, going west. No Russians around. A single bulb burns over the entrance to the cargo shed. Otto and his girl wander hand in hand along the dock. An ape comes scampering up to take Otto's free hand. To north and south the Baltic keeps unrolling low white waves. "What's happening," asks the clarinet player. "Have a banana," tuba player with his mouth full has a good-sized bunch stowed in the bell of his ax.

Night is down by the time they get started. They head inland, Springer's crashout party, along the railroad tracks. Pine trees tower to either side of the cinder embankment. Ahead fat pinto rabbits scurry, only their white patches visible, no reason to suppose rabbits is what they are. Otto's friend Hilde comes gracefully down out of the woods with his cap that she's filled to the brim with round berries, dusty blue, sweet. The musicians are packing vodka bottles in every available pocket. That's tonight's meal, and Hilde kneeling alone at the berry bushes has whispered grace for them all. In the marshes now you can hear the first peepers start up, and the high-frequency squeals of a bat out hunting, and some wind in the upper trees. Also, from farther away, a shot or two.

"Are they firing at my apes?" Haftung chatters. "That's 2000 marks apiece. How am I ever going to get that back?"

A family of mice go dashing across the tracks, and right over Slothrop's feet. "I was expecting just a big cemetery. I guess not."

"When we came we only cleared out what we needed to," Närrisch recalls. "Most of it stayed!the forest, the life . . . there are probably still deer up in there, someplace. Big fellows with dark antlers. And the birds!snipes, coots, wild geese!the noise from the testing drove them out to sea, but they'd always come back in when it was quiet again."

Before they reach even the airfield they have to scatter twice into the woods, first for a security patrol, then for a steam-engine come puffing up from Peenem┨nde-East, its headlight cutting through a fine nighthaze, some troops with automatics hanging on to steps and ladders. Steel grinding and creaking by in the night, the men shooting the breeze as they pass, no feeling of tension to it. "They might be after us anyway," Närrisch whispers. "Come on."

Through a patch of woods, and then cautiously out onto the open airfield. A sharp sickle of moon has risen. Apes scuttle along in the bonelight, arms dangling. It's a nervous passage. Everybody's a perfect target, there's no cover except for airplanes strafed where they stood into relics!rusted stringers, burned paint, gullwings driven back into the earth. Lights from the old Luftwaffe complex glow to the south. Trucks purr now and then along the road at the far edge of the airfield. There's singing from the barracks, and someplace a radio. The evening news from somewhere. Too far to hear the words or even the language, only the studious monotone: the news, Slothrop, going on without you. ...

They make it across the tarmac to the road, and crouch in a drainage ditch, listening for traffic. Suddenly, to their left, yellow runway lights come on, a double row of them chaining to the sea, brightness bouncing up and down a couple-three times before it settles in. "Somebody coming in," Slothrop guesses.

"More likely going out," snaps Närrisch. "We'd better hurry."

Back in the pine woods now, heading up a road of packed dirt toward Test Stand VII, they start to pick up stray girls and chimpanzees. Pine smells wrap them: old needles lie at the margins of the road. Downhill, lights appear as the trees begin thinning out, then the test-stand area comes in view. The assembly building is something like a hundred feet high!it blocks out the stars. There's a tall bright band where sliding doors are open, and light scatters outside. Närrisch grabs Slothrop's arm. "It looks like the major's car. And the motor's running." Lotta searchlights, too, set up on fences topped with barbed wire!also what look like a division of security roaming around.

"Guess this is it," Slothrop a little nervous.

"Ssh." Sound of a plane, a single-engine fighter, circling to make its approach low over the pines. "Not much time." Närrisch gathers the others around and issues his orders. Girls are to go in from the front, singing, dancing, vamping the woman-hungry barbarians. Otto will try to knock out the car, Haftung will get everybody rounded up and ready to rendezvous with the boat.

"Tits 'n' ass," mutter the girls, "tits 'n' ass. That's all we are around here."

"Ah, shaddap," snarls G. M. B. Haftung, which is his usual way of dealing with the help.

"Meanwhile," continues Närrisch, "Slothrop and I will go in after Springer. When we have him, we'll try to get them to shoot. That will be your signal to run like hell."

"Oh, definitely some shooting," sez Slothrop, "a-and how about this?" He has just had a brilliant idea: fake Molotov cocktails, a switch on Säure Bummer's old routine. He holds up a vodka bottle, pointing and grinning.

"But that stuff won't even hardly burn."

"But they'll think it's gasoline," beginning to pluck ostrich feathers from the costume of the nearest girl. "And just imagine how secure it will make us feel."

"Felix," the clarinet player asks the tuba player, "what have we fallen among?" Felix is eating a banana, and living for the moment. Presently he has wandered off in the woods with the rest of the band, where they can be heard moving around in circles, tootling and blat-ting at each other. Hilde and Slothrop are making Phony Phirebombs, the other girls have taken off, Zitz und Arsch, downslope.

"So we'll present a plausible threat," Närrisch whispers, "we'll need matches. Who's got matches?"

"Not me."

"Me either."

"Gee, my lighter's out of flints."

"Kot," Närrisch throwing up his hands, "Kot," walking off into the trees, where he collides with Felix and his tuba. "You don't have any matches either."

"I have a Zippo," replies Felix, "and two Corona Coronas, from the American officer's club in!"

A minute later, Närrisch and Slothrop, hands each cupped around the coal of one of Havana's finest, are sneaky-Peteing like two cats in a cartoon off toward Test Stand VII, with vodka-bottle bombs stuck in their belts and ostrich-feather wicks trailing behind in the sea breeze.

The plan is to climb the pine-topped sand-and-scrub embankment around the test stand, and come in on the Assembly Building from behind.

Now Närrisch here's a guidance man, a guidance man is he. And ev'ry day at Rocket Noon, there's death, and revelry. . . . But Närrisch has managed, in his time, to avoid nearly all of it.

In fact, no two people have been so ill-equipped to approach a holy Center since the days of Tchitcherine and Džaqyp Qulan, hauling ass over the steppe, into the North, to find their Kirghiz Light. That's about ten years' gap. Giving this pastime about the same vulnerability to record-breakers as baseball, a sport also well-spidered with white suggestions of the sinister.

Holy-Center-Approaching is soon to be the number one Zonal pastime. Its balmy heyday is nearly on it. Soon more champions, adepts, magicians of all ranks and orders will be in the field than ever before in the history of the game. The sun will rule all enterprise, if it be honest and sporting. The Gauss curve will herniate toward the excellent. And tankers the likes of Närrisch and Slothrop here will have already been weeded out.

Slothrop, as noted, at least as early as the Anubis era, has begun to thin, to scatter. "Personal density," Kurt Mondaugen in his Peene-m┨nde office not too many steps away from here, enunciating the Law which will one day bear his name, "is directly proportional to temporal bandwidth."

"Temporal bandwidth" is the width of your present, your now. It is the familiar "At" considered as a dependent variable. The more you dwell in the past and in the future, the thicker your bandwidth, the more solid your persona. But the narrower your sense of Now, the more tenuous you are. It may get to where you're having trouble remembering what you were doing five minutes ago, or even!as Slothrop now!what you're doing here, at the base of this colossal curved embankment. . . .

"Uh," he turns slackmouth to Närrisch, "what are we ..."

"What are we what?"

"What?"

"You said, 'What are we . . . ,' then you stopped."

"Oh. Gee, that was a funny thing to say."

As for Närrisch, he's too locked in to Business. He has never seen this great Ellipse any other way but the way he was meant to. Greta Erdmann, on the contrary, saw the rust-colored eminences here bow, exactly as they did once, in expectancy, faces hooded, smooth cowlings

of Nothing . . . each time Thanatz brought the whip down on her skin, she was taken, off on another penetration toward the Center: each lash, a little farther in ... till someday, she knows, she will have that first glimpse of it, and from then on it will be an absolute need, a ruling target . . . wh-wh-wh-whack the boneblack trestling of water towers above, bent to the great rim, visible above the trees in light that's bleak and bruise-purple as Peenem┨nde sunsets in the chill slow firing-weather ... a long look from the top of some known Low Country dike into a sky flowing so even and yellowed a brown that the sun could be anywhere behind it, and the crosses of the turning windmills could be spoke-blurs of the terrible Rider himself, Slothrop's Rider, his two explosions up there, his celestial cyclist!

No, but even That only flickers now briefly across a bit of Slo-thropian lobe-terrain, and melts into its surface, vanishing. So here passes for him one more negligence . . . and likewise groweth his Preterition sure.... There is no good reason to hope for any turn, any surprise I-see-it, not from Slothrop. Here he is, scaling the walls of an honest ceremonial plexus, set down on a good enough vision of what's shadowless noon and what isn't. But oh, Egg the flying Rocket hatched from, navel of the 50-meter radio sky, all proper ghosts of place!forgive him his numbness, his glozing neutrality. Forgive the fist that doesn't tighten in his chest, the heart that can't stiffen in any greeting. . . . Forgive him as you forgave Tchitcherine at the Kirghiz Light. . . . Better days are coming.

Slothrop is listening to faraway peripatetic tuba and clarinet being joined in on now by trombone and tenor sax, trying to pick up a tune . . . and to the bursts of laughter from soldiers and girls .. . sounds like a party down there . . . maybe even some stag dames . . . "Say, why don't we, uh . . . what was your!" Närrisch, leather scarecrow, trying to ignore Slothrop's behavior, has decided to dismantle his firebomb: he uncorks the vodka and waves it under his nose before taking a belt. He beams, cynical, salesmanwise, up at Slothrop. "Here." A silence under the white wall.

"Oh, yes I was thinking it was gasoline, but then it's fake, so it's really vodka, right?"

But just over the embankment, down in the arena, what might that have been just now, waiting in this broken moonlight, camouflage paint from fins to point crazed into jigsaw ... is it, then, really never to find you again? Not even in your worst times of night, with pencil words on your page only At from the things they stand for? And inside the victim is twitching, fingering beads, touching wood, avoiding any Operational Word. Will it really never come to take you, now?

Near the water towers, they have started to climb, up toward the rim. Sand leaks into their shoes and hisses away down the slope. At the top, back through the trees, they get a quick look at the lighted runway, the fighter now landed, surrounded by groundcrew shadows fueling, servicing, turning her around. Down the peninsula lights glow in patches, curves, zigzags, but over on this side, from the old Development Works south, it's pitch black.

They push through pine branches and down again, into the Egg, sacked of its German hardware, long converted to a Russian motor pool. The corner of the huge Assembly Building, as they come down, rises to face them across a hundred yards of jeeps and lorries. Down to the right is a three- or four-level test frame with a round, kind of quonset top, and underneath the frame is a long pit shaped like a shallow V. "Cooling duct," according to Närrisch. "They're probably under there. We have to go in through here."

They have come halfway down the slope to a pump house, built into the earthworks, for the cold water that used to carry off the tremendous heat from the test firings. It is stripped now, hollow and dark inside. Slothrop isn't two steps over the doorsill when he walks into somebody.

"Beg your pardon," though it comes out less than calmly.

"Oh, that's all right." Russian accent. "I don't mind at all." He backs Slothrop outside again, oh, a mean looking junior sergeant here about 8 or 9 feet high.

"Well, now!" at which point Närrisch comes walking into them.

"Oh." Närrisch blinks at the sentry. "Sergeant, don't you hear that music? Why aren't you back at the Assembly Building, with your comrades? There are, I understand, a number of eager fräuleins entertaining them," nudge nudge, "in a most enchanting state of deshabille, too."

"I suppose that's all perfectly divine," replies the sentry, "for some people."

"Kot. . ." So much for tactics.

"And besides, this is out of bounds, you big sillies."

Sighing, Närrisch raises his bottle aloft, brings it down, or up, thunk on the sentry's nape, dislodging the man's helmet liner, is what happens. "Naughty," the Russian, somewhat nettled, stoops to retrieve his headgear. "Really I ought to put you both under apprehension."

"Enough chit-chat," snarls Slothrop, brandishing his glowing cigar and "Molotov cocktail." "Hand over that gun there, Ivan, or I turn you into a human flare!"

"You're mean," sulks the sentry, unslinging his Degtyarov a little too quickly!Slothrop dodges aside, aims his usual swift kick to the groin, which misses, but does knock loose the weapon, which Närrisch is thoughtful enough to dive for. "Beasts," whimpers the Russian, "oh, nasty, awful..." scampering off in to the night.

"Two minutes," Närrisch already inside the pump house. Slothrop grabs the automatic from him and follows at a run, accelerating down a sloping corridor. Their feet ring faster, sharper, on the concrete, down to a metal door: behind it they can hear Springer singing and babbling like a drunk. Slothrop pushes off his safety and Närrisch goes busting in. A pretty blonde auxiliary in black boots and steel-rimmed glasses is sitting here taking down shorthand notes of everything she hears from Springer, who leans happily grandiose against a cold-water pipe four feet high that runs the length of the room.

"Drop that pencil," orders Slothrop. "All right, where's that Major Zhdaev?"

"He's in conference. If you'd care to leave your name!"

"Dope," Närrisch screams, "they have given him some kind of dope! Gerhardt, Gerhardt, speak to me!"

Slothrop recognizes the symptoms. "It's that Sodium Amytal. It's O.K. Let's go."

"I expect the Major to be back any moment. They're upstairs in the guardroom, smoking. Is there a number where he can reach you?"

Slothrop has slid under one of Springer's arms, Närrisch under the other, when there's this loud hammering on the door.

"Smoking? Smoking what?"

"Thisway, Slothrop."

"Oh." They hustle Springer out another door, which Slothrop bolts and wrassles a heavy filing cabinet up against, then they drag Springer up a flight of steps into a long, straight corridor, lit by six or seven bulbs, the spaces between which are very dark. Along either side, floor to ceiling, run thick bundles of measurement cabling.

"We're done for," Närrisch wheezes. It's 150 yards to the measurement bunker, and no cover but the shadows between the bulbs. All these birds gotta do is spray a pattern.

"She baffs at nothing, the heterospeed," cries Gerhardt von Göll.

"Try to walk," Slothrop scared shit, "come on, man, it's our ass!"

Smashing echoes after them down the tunnel. A muffled burst of automatic fire. And another. All at once, two faint pools of light ahead, Zhdaev materializes, on the way back to his office. He has a friend with him, who smiles when he sees Slothrop 40 yards away, a big steel smile. Slothrop lets go of Springer and runs up into the next light, piece at the ready. The Russians are blinking at him in a puzzled way. "Tchitcherine! Hey."

They stand facing, each at his lit circle. Slothrop recalls that he has the drop on them. He smiles in half-apology, tips the muzzle at them, moves closer. Zhdaev and Tchitcherine, after a discussion which seems unnecessarily long, decide they will raise their hands.

"Rocketman!"

"Howdy."

"What are you doing in a Fascist uniform like that?"

"You're right. Think I'll join that Red Army, instead." Närrisch leaves Springer sagging against a row of sleek rubber and silver-mesh cables, and comes up to help disarm the two Russians. Troops back down the tunnel are still busy busting the door down.

"You guys want to undress, here? Say Tchitcherine, how'd you like that hashish, by the way?"

"Well," taking off his trousers, "we were all up there in the budka just now smoking some . . . Rocketman, your timing is fantastic. Zhdaev, isn't he something?"

Slothrop slides out of his tux. "Just see you don't get a hardon here now, fella."

"I'm serious. It's your Schwarzphänomen."

"Quit fooling."

"You don't even know about it. It choreographs you. Mine's always trying to destroy me. We should be exchanging those, instead of uniforms."

The disguise Business grows complicated. Zhdaev's jacket with the gold-starred pogoni on the shoulders gets draped around the Springer, who is now humming everyone a Kurt Weill medley. Zhdaev puts on Springer's white suit, and then him and Tchitcherine get tied up with their own belts, a-and neckties. "Now!the idea," Slothrop explains, "being that you, Tchitcherine, will be posing as me, and the major there!" At which point the door back down the tunnel comes blasting open, two figures with wicked Suomi subs, drums on them as big as that Gene Krupa's, come flying through. Slothrop stands in the light in Tchitcherine's uniform, and waves dramatically, pointing at the two hogtied officers. "Make it good," he mutters to Tchitcherine, "I'm

trusting you now, but look out I have a great passive vocabulary, I'll know what you're saying."

It's O.K. with Tchitcherine, but confusing. "I'm supposed to be who, now?"

"Oh, shit. . . look, just tell them to go check out the pump house up there, it's urgent." Slothrop gestures and lip-synchs while Tchitcherine talks. It seems to work. The two actually salute, and go back through the door they just shot down.

"Those apes," Tchitcherine shakes his head. "Those black apes! How did you know, Rocketman? Of course you didn't, but the Schwarzphänomen did. A great touch. Two of them, looking at me through the window. And I thought!well, you know: I thought just about what you thought I'd think. ..."

But by this time Slothrop is way out of earshot. Springer by now is able to stumble at a fast walk. They get as far as the measurement bunker without running into anybody. Out a door of bulletproof glass, behind their own reflections, is the old test frame, windows broken out, camouflage in German Expressionist ripples streaming gray and black all over it. The two soldiers are sure enough up there poking around that pump house, finding nothing. Presently they disappear inside again, and Närrisch opens the door. "Hurry." They edge outside, into the arena.

It takes a while to get back up the slope and into the woods. Otto and Hilde show up. They've finessed Zhdaev's car and driver out of a rotor arm. So there are four of them now to try and lift warbling pay-load Gerhardt von Göll up these few crummy feet of sand embankment here, gotta be the most ill-designed propulsion system this test stand has seen in a while. Otto and Hilde tug at Springer's arms, Närrisch and Slothrop push from the ass end. About halfway up Springer blows a tremendous fart that echoes for minutes across the historic ellipse, like now to do for you folks my anal impression of the A4. . . .

"Oh, fuck you," Slothrop snarls.

"An erect green steed of planetoid and bone," nods the Springer in reply

music and chatter back by the Assembly Building have all died away now, and an unpleasant calm has replaced them. Up over the top at last and into the woods, where Springer rests his forehead against a tree trunk and commences vomiting violently.

"Närrisch, we're risking our ass for this slob?"

But Närrisch is busy helping squeeze his friend's stomach. "Gerhardt, are you all right? What can I do?"

"Beautiful," chokes Springer, vomit trickling down his chin. "Ahh. Feels great!"

Along come chimps, musicians, dancing girls. Drifting in to rendezvous. Over the last dune and down to the packed cinder triangle of Test Stand X, and the sea. The musicians for a while play a kind of march tune. Past the foreshore, the tide has left them a strip of sand. But Frau Gnahb is nowhere in sight. Haftung is holding hands with an ape. Felix shakes spit out of his tuba. A honey-haired chorus girl, whose name he never does get, puts her arms around Slothrop. "I'm scared."

"Me too." He hugs her.

All hell breaks loose!sirens whoop-whooping, searchlights starting to probe the woods up above, truck motors and shouted commands. The crashout party move off the cinders, and crouch in marsh grass.

"We've collected one automatic and two sidearms," Närrisch whispers. "They'll be coming at us from the south. It'll only take one of us to go back up and hold them." He nods and begins checking his hardware.

"You're crazy," hisses Slothrop, "they'll kill you." Commotion now from over by Test Stand VII. Headlights are appearing, one after another, along the road up there.

Närrisch taps Springer on the chin. It isn't clear if Springer knows who he is. "Lebe wohl," anyway, Springer. . . . Nagants stuck in overcoat pockets, automatic cradled in his arms, Närrisch takes off at a crouching run along the beach, and doesn't look back.

"Where's the boat?" Haftung in a white panic. Ducks, alarmed, are quacking at each other down here. Wind moves in the grass. When searchlights move by, pine trunks uphill flare, deeply shining, terrible . . . and at everyone's back, the Baltic shakes and streams.

Shots from uphill!then, maybe from Närrisch in reply, a burst of automatic fire. Otto is holding his Hilde close. "Anybody read Morse Code?" the girl next to Slothrop wants to know, "because there's been a light going over there, see, at the tip of that little island? for a few minutes now." It's three dots, dot, dot, three more dots. Over and over.

"Hmm, SEES," ponders Felix.

"Maybe they're not dots," sez the tenor-sax player, "maybe they're dashes."

"That's funny," sez Otto, "that would spell OTTO."

"That's your name," sez Hilde.

"Mother!" screams Otto, running out in the water and waving at the blinking light. Felix commences booming tuba notes across the water, and the rest of the band joins in. Reed shadows come stabbing across the sand, as the spotlights swoop down. A boat engine roars into hearing. "Here she comes," Otto jumping up and down in the marsh.

"Hey, Närrisch," Slothrop squinting, trying to find him back there in light that was always too weak, "come on. Fall back." No answer. But more shooting.

Running-lights off, the boat comes barreling in at flank speed, Frau Gnahb has decided to ram Peenem┨nde? no, now she puts everything full astern!bearings shriek, screw-foam geysers, the boat slews around to a stop.

"Get on board," she bellows.

Slothrop's been hollering for Närrisch. Frau Gnahb leans on her steam-whistle. But no answer. "Shit, I've got to get him!" Felix and Otto grab Slothrop from behind, drag him back to the boat kicking and cursing. "They'll kill him, you assholes, lemme go!" Dark shapes come spilling over the dune between here and Test Stand VII, orange flickers at their midsections, the sound of rifle fire following a second later.

"They will kill us." Otto heaves Slothrop up over the side, and tumbles in after. Spotlights find and skewer them now. The firing is louder!nipples and spatters in the water, slugs hammering into the boat.

"Everybody here?" the Frau's fangs bared in a grin. "Fine, fine!" A last ape reaches up, Haftung catches his hand, and he dangles, feet in the water, for several yards as they light out, all ahead full, till he can finally clamber up and over. Gunfire follows out to sea, out of range, at last out of earshot.

"Hey Felix," sez the tenor sax player, "you think there's any gigs in Swinem┨nde?"

John Dillinger, at the end, found a few seconds' strange mercy in the movie images that hadn't quite yet faded from his eyeballs!Clark Gable going off unregenerate to fry in the chair, voices gentle out of the deathrow steel so long, Blackie . . . turning down a reprieve from his longtime friend now Governor of New York William Powell, skinny chinless condescending jerk, Gable just wanting to get it over with, "Die like ya live!all of a sudden, don't drag it out!" even as bitchy little Melvin Purvis, staked outside the Biograph Theatre, lit up the fatal cigar and felt already between his lips the penis of official commendation!and federal cowards at the signal took Dillinger with their faggots' precision . . . there was still for the doomed man some shift of personality in effect!the way you've felt for a little while afterward in the real muscles of your face and voice, that you were Gable, the ironic eyebrows, the proud, shining, snakelike head!to help Dillinger through the bushwhacking, and a little easier into death.

Närrisch now, huddled inside a broken few meters of concrete drainage pipe, after doubling back under the wall of Test Stand VII, bracing curled now in the smell of old storm water, trying not to breathe loud enough to smack echoes into any betrayal!Närrisch hasn't been to a movie since Der M┨de Tod. That's so long ago he's forgotten its ending, the last Rilke-elegiac shot of weary Death leading the two lovers away hand in hand through the forget-me-nots. No help at all from that quarter. Tonight Närrisch is down to the last tommygun of his career, foreign and overheated . . . and blisters on his hands he won't have to worry about tomorrow. No sources of mercy available beyond the hard weapon, the burning fingers!a cruel way to go out for a good guidance man who always put in fair time for fair wages. . . . He had other offers . . . could've gone east with the Institute Rabe, or west to America and $6 a day!but Gerhardt von Göll promised him glamour, jackpots, a flashy dame on his arm, say, why not on both arms?!after poor linear Peenem┨nde, who could blame him?

It wasn't ever necessary to see around the entire Plan . . . really that's asking too much of anyone . . . not true? This S-Gerät strategy he's going out of his way to die for tonight, what does he know of the Springer's full intentions in the affair? It is reasonable to Närrisch that he, being smaller, he should be the sacrifice, if it helps Springer survive, even survive another day . . . wartime thinking, ja, ja . . . but too late to change. . . .

Did the S-Gerät program at Nordhausen in its time ever hint that so many individuals, nations, firms, communities of interest would come after the fact? Of course he was flattered then at being chosen to work on the modification to the guidance, minor as it was . . . hardly worth the special treatment. . . still, it was his first high historical moment and he sourly figured it to be his last, up until meeting with Springer's recruiting team, back during the rainier part of June. . . . Conferences in cafes and entrances to churchyards around Braun-

schweig (stucco arches, vines dripping onto thin collars) without an umbrella but with that light, belled hope inside!a field, crowded with lines of force, to expand, to fill, to keep him in good health and spirits . . . Berlin! The Chicago Cabaret! "Cocaine!or cards?" (an old movie line the gunsels loved to use that summer) . . . the Big Time!

But the ringing bright thing inside brought him here, instead: here, down in a pipe, to only a handful more of minutes. . . .

The idea was always to carry along a fixed quantity, A. Sometimes you'd use a W━en bridge, tuned to a certain frequency A{, whistling, heavy with omen, inside the electric corridors . . . while outside, according to the tradition in these matters, somewhere a quantity B would be gathering, building, as the Rocket gathered speed. So, up till assigned Brennschluss velocity, "v ," electric-shocked as any rat into following this very narrow mazeway of clear space!yes, radio signals from the ground would enter the Rocket body, and by reflex!literally by electric signal traveling a reflex arc!the control surfaces twitch, to steer you back on course the instant you'd begin to wander off (how could you've kept from lapsing, up here, into that radiant inattention, so caught up in the wind, the sheer altitude . . . the unimaginable fires at your feet?)... so, for that tightly steered passage, all was carried on in the sharpest, most painful anticipation, with B always growing, as palpably cresting as the assault of a tidal wave that stills every small creature and hones the air down to a cold stir. . . . Your quantity A! shining, constant A, carried as they must have once packed far overland at night the Grail, in their oldtime and military bleakness of humor . . . and one morning a wide upper lip steelwool gray with the one day's growth, the fatal, the terrible sign, he shaved smooth every day, it meant that this was the Last Day!and, too, with only the grim sixth sense, as much faith as clear reception, that the B of Many Subscripts just over the electric horizon was really growing closer, perhaps this time as "Biw," the precession angle of the gyro, moving invisibly but felt, terrifically arousing, over the metal frame toward angle Aiw (which is how they have set you the contacts: to close, you must see, at that exact angle). Or as "BiL," another integrating, not of gyro rate but of the raw current flow itself, bled from the moving coil inside the poles, the "fettered" pendulum . . . they thought this way, Design Group, in terms of captivity, prohibition . . . there was an attitude toward one's hardware more brutal and soldierly than most engineers' got the chance to be. ... They felt quite the roughshod elite, Driwelling, and Schme┴l, with the fluorescent lights shining on his

bared forehead night after night. . . . Inside their brains they shared an old, old electro-decor!variable capacitors of glass, kerosene for a dielectric, brass plates and ebonite covers, Zeiss galvanometers with thousands of fine-threaded adjusting screws, Siemens milliammeters set on slate surfaces, terminals designated by Roman numerals, Standard Ohms of manganese wire in oil, the old G┨lcher Thermosäule that operated on heating gas, put out 4 volts, nickel and antimony, asbestos funnels on top, mica tubing. . . .

Wasn't that life more decent than gangstering? A cleaner sort of friendship . . . less devious, anyway. . . . There we saw how we had to fit in ... the machinery itself determined that . . . everything was so clear then, paranoia was all for the enemy, and never for one's own. . . .

!What about the SS?

!Oh, they were the enemy, I'd say. . . . [Laughter.]

No, Klaus, don't drift away, please, not onto dreams of kindly Soviet interrogation that will end in some ermine bed, some vodka-perfumed stupor, you know that's foolish. . . .

B, B-sub-N-for-Närrisch, is nearly here!nearly about to burn through the last whispering veil to equal "A"!to equal the only fragment of himself left by them to go through the moment, the irreducible doll of German styrene, shabbier, less authentic than any earlier self ... a negligible quantity in this last light . . . this tattoo of hunters' boots, and rifle bolts in oiled keyways. . . .

########

Here come Enzian, Andreas, and Christian, coming on like Smith, Klein, 'n' French, crashing into the basement room!field-gray kit, newspaper shoes, rolled trouser-cuffs, hands and bare forearms shining with motor oil and gear grease, toting carbines in a show of force. But no Empty Ones here to see them. It's too late. Just the mute bed, and the brown ellipse her blood made on the torn ticking. And washing-blue in grainy splashes in the corners, under the bed . . . their signature, their challenge.

"Where is she!" Christian is just this side of berserk. One word astray and he'll be off to kill the first Empty One he finds. Maria, his sister, is, was, may be!

"We'd better," Enzian already back out the door, "where's, uh . . . her husband, you know. ..."

"Pavel." Christian wants to see his eyes, but Enzian won't turn.

Pavel and Maria meant to have the child. Then Josef Ombindi and his people started their visiting. They have learned their vulturehood from the Christian missionaries. They keep lists of all the women of childbearing age. Any Pregnancy is an invitation to hover, to tune in, to swoop. They will use threats, casuistry, physical seduction!there's an arsenal of techniques. Washing-blue is the abortifacient of choice.

"The refinery," suggests Andreas Orukambe.

"Really? I thought he'd sworn off that."

"Maybe not now." The girl's brother stares him hard as fists. Enzian, old bastard, you really are out of touch. . . .

They remount their motorcycles and head off again. Blasted dry-docks, charcoal ribs of warehouses, cylindrical chunks of submarine that never got assembled, go ripping by in the darkness. British security are about, but that's another, encapsulated world. The British G-5 occupy their own space and Zone congruent but not identical to what these serious Schwarzkommando astride bikes unmuffled go blasting on through tonight.

Separations are proceeding. Each alternative Zone speeds away from all the others, in fated acceleration, red-shifting, fleeing the Center. Each day the mythical return Enzian dreamed of seems less possible. Once it was necessary to know uniforms, insignia, airplane markings, to observe boundaries. But by now too many choices have been made. The single root lost, way back there in the May desolation. Each bird has his branch now, and each one is the Zone.

A crowd of DPs is milling by the ruin of an ornamental fountain, a score of them, eyes of ash, smudged into faces white as salt. The Hereros go swerving by them, halfway up a shallow flight of long steps dovetailing into the grade of the street, teeth slamming together upper and lower, cycle frames squeaking shrill, up and down the steps past wordless plosions of Slavic breath. Ashes and salt. A sound-truck appears around a wall a hundred meters away: the voice, University-bred and long tired of the message, recites, "Clear the streets. Go to your Homes." Clear the!go to your what? There must be a mistake, it must be for some other town. . . .

Whir underneath an oil pipeline up on trestles running down leftward to the water now, huge bolted flanges overhead softened by rust and oily dirt. Far out in the harbor rides an oil tanker, rocking serene as a web of stars. . . . Zoom uphill slantwise toward a rampart of wasted, knotted, fused, and scorched girderwork, stacks, pipes, ducting, windings, fairings, insulators reconfigured by all the bombing, grease-stained pebblery on the ground rushing by a mile a minute and wait, wait, say what, say "reconfigured" now?

There doesn't exactly dawn, no but there breaks, as that light you're afraid will break some night at too deep an hour to explain away!there floods on Enzian what seems to him an extraordinary understanding. This serpentine slag-heap he is just about to ride into now, this ex-refinery, Jamf Ölfabriken Werke AG, is not a ruin at all. It is in perfect working order. Only waiting for the right connections to be set up, to be switched on ... modified, precisely, deliberately by bombing that was never hostile, but part of a plan both sides!"sides?"!had always agreed on ... yes and now what if we!all right, say we are supposed to be the Kabbalists out here, say that's our real Destiny, to be the scholar-magicians of the Zone, with somewhere in it a Text, to be picked to pieces, annotated, explicated, and masturbated till it's all squeezed limp of its last drop . . . well we assumed!nat┨rlich!!that this holy Text had to be the Rocket, orururumo orunene the high, rising, dead, the blazing, the great one ("orunene" is already being modified by the Zone-Herero children to "omunene," the eldest brother) . . . our Torah. What else? Its symmetries, its latencies, the cuteness of it enchanted and seduced us while the real Text persisted, somewhere else, in its darkness, our darkness . . . even this far from S┨dwest we are not to be spared the ancient tragedy of lost messages, a curse that will never leave us. ...

But, if I'm riding through it, the Real Text, right now, if this is it ... or if I passed it today somewhere in the devastation of Hamburg, breathing the ash-dust, missing it completely ... if what the IG built on this site were not at all the final shape of it, but only an arrangement of fetishes, come-ons to call down special tools in the form of 8th AF bombers yes the "Allied" planes all would have been, ultimately, IG-built, by way of Director Krupp, through his English interlocks!the bombing was the exact industrial process of conversion, each release of energy placed exactly in space and time, each shock-wave plotted in advance to bring precisely tonight's wreck into being thus decoding the Text, thus coding, recoding, redecoding the holy Text... If it is in working order, what is it meant to do? The engineers who built it as a refinery never knew there were any further steps to be taken. Their design was "finalized," and they could forget it.

It means this War was never political at all, the politics was all theatre, all just to keep the people distracted . . . secretly, it was being die-

tated instead by the needs of technology ... by a conspiracy between human beings and techniques, by something that needed the energy-burst of war, crying, "Money be damned, the very life of [insert name of Nation] is at stake," but meaning, most likely, dawn is nearly here, I need my night's blood, my funding, funding, ahh more, more. . . . The real crises were crises of allocation and priority, not among firms!it was only staged to look that way!but among the different Technologies, Plastics, Electronics, Aircraft, and their needs which are understood only by the ruling elite . . .

Yes but Technology only responds (how often this argument has been iterated, dogged and humorless as a Gaussian reduction, among the younger Schwarzkommando especially), "All very well to talk about having a monster by the tail, but do you think we'd've had the Rocket if someone, some specific somebody with a name and a penis hadn't wanted to chuck a ton of Amatol 300 miles and blow up a block full of civilians? Go ahead, capitalize the T on technology, deify it if it'll make you feel less responsible!but it puts you in with the neutered, brother, in with the eunuchs keeping the harem of our stolen Earth for the numb and joyless hardens of human sultans, human elite with no right at all to be where they are!"

We have to look for power sources here, and distribution networks we were never taught, routes of power our teachers never imagined, or were encouraged to avoid . . . we have to find meters whose scales are unknown in the world, draw our own schematics, getting feedback, making connections, reducing the error, trying to learn the real function . . . zeroing in on what incalculable plot? Up here, on the surface, coaltars, hydrogenation, synthesis were always phony, dummy functions to hide the real, the planetary mission yes perhaps centuries in the unrolling . . . this ruinous plant, waiting for its Kab-balists and new alchemists to discover the Key, teach the mysteries to others . . .

And if it isn't exactly Jamf Ölfabriken Werke? what if it's the Krupp works in Essen, what if it's Blohm & Voss right here in Hamburg or another make-believe "ruin," in another city? Another country? YAAAGGGGHHHHH!

Well, this is stimulant talk here, yes Enzian's been stuffing down Nazi surplus Pervitins these days like popcorn at the movies, and by now the bulk of the refinery!named, incidentally, for the famous discoverer of Oneirine!is behind them, and Enzian is on into some other paranoid terror, talking, talking, though each man's wind and motor cuts him off from conversation.

 

 [Sort of a

Hoagy Carmichael piano can be heard in behind this, here]


Just a daredevil Desox-yephedrine Daddy

With m'pockets full o' happee daze,

Zoomin' through the Zone, where the wild dogs roam,

Givin' all m'dreams away ...

Took the tubes outa my radi-yo,

Don't mean a thing to me!

Wouldn't spend a nickel on the Stars 'n' Stripes, cause

I'm doin' my own fer free. ...

Mouth keeps goin', nobody listenin', Gabbin' at a terrible pace! Aw, you're so sly, but I wave good-by, With a shit-eatin' grin on m'face!

Don'tcha ephedrine of me, my honey,

Swoon just to hear my name!

In the curfew cells when all the lights are gone, oh,

Ev'ry thing'll be the same

(Just light the candles)

Ev-rything'll be the same. ...

Last night in his journal, Enzian wrote: "The Mouth lately has been too much in service. Too little coming out of use to anybody. A defense. Oh God, oh God. Then they really are getting to me. Please I don't 'want to pontificate this way ... I know what my voice sounds like!heard it at Peenem┨nde years ago on Weissmann's Dictaphone . . . chrome and Bakelite . . . too high, obnoxious, Berliner Schnauze . . . how they must wince inside whenever I begin to speak. ..."

"I could go tomorrow. I know how to be alone. It doesn't frighten me as much as they do. They take endlessly!but they never use what they take. What do they think they can take from me? They don't want my patriarchy, they don't want my love, they don't want my information, or my work, or my energy, or what I own ... I don't own anything. There's no money any more!nobody's seen any out here for months, no it can't be money . . . cigarettes? I never have enough cigarettes. . . .

"If I left them, where could I go?"

Back among the reservoir tanks now, into the evening wind, skidding on this synthetic wastefield, all of it ungraded blackness . . . Christian's motor seems to be missing now and then, dithering toward a stall. Spot decision: if he breaks down let him walk. That way less trouble if Pavel's there, if he's not there pick up Christian on the way

back and see about getting a truck out to repair it... keep it simple, that's the mark of a great leader, Enzian.

Christian doesn't break down, though, and Pavel turns out to be there, sort of. Well, not "there" the way Enzian in his current state of mind would consider for very long. But present, all right, along with an amazing collection of friends who always seem to show up whenever he comes to sniff Leunagasolin, such as, oh, the Moss Creature here, brightest green you can imagine, more burning than fluorescent, lurking over in a corner of the field tonight, shy, stirring like an infant now and then ... or how about the Water Giant, a mile-high visitor made all of flowing water who likes to dance, twisting from the waist, arms blowing loosely along the sky. When the Ombindi people took Maria off to find their doctor in Hamburg, voices began calling! voices of the Fungus Pygmies who breed in the tanks at the interface between fuel and water-bottom began to call to him. "Pavel! Omunene! Why don't you come back, to see us? We miss you. Why have you stayed away?" Not much fun for them down here at the Interface, competing with the bacteria who cruise by in their country of light, these cellular aristocracy, approaching the wall of hydrocarbons each for his share of God's abundance!leaving their wastes, a green murmur, a divergently unstable gabbling, a slime that grows with the days thicker, more poisonous. It is a depressing thing indeed to be a pygmy clustered together with thousands of others, hundreds of thousands, and have to live on the other side of all this. You say other side? What do you mean? What other side? You mean in the gasoline? (Clustered Pygmies, playfully and to some well-known swing riff:) No-no, no, no! !You mean in the water, then? (C.P.:) No-no, no, no! !Well you gotta tell me please, 'fore I drop my BVDs! We mean, explain the Pygmies, gathering their little heads into a symmetrical cauliflower pattern, and settling into a soft, wistful a cappella like kids around the campfire with Bing Crosby in a baseball cap (yes these Le-unahalluziationen have been known to get weird all right, weirder than cultural shock, even, this here is metashock's what it is, 3-sigma white faces in a ritual whose mystery is deeper than north light over the Kalahari . . .) we mean on the other side of the whole thing, the whole bacteria-hydrocarbon-waste cycle. We can see the Interface from here. It's a long rainbow, mostly indigo, if that's any help!indigo and Kelly green (Bing, directing, raises up all these brainwashed little Irish faces in a moving firelit crescendo) green . . . gasoline . . . between . . . submarine . . . fading, because by then Pavel was on his way out to the refinery, forget this 2 1/2 weeks of self-imposed torture, Ombindi's men after him down by the glasswool boiler pipes, men and women both trying to caress him, pressure from both sides of the Tribal Suicide Question, Enzian complaining, too entangled with the Rocket, too encrimsoned in his feud with the Russian, to care much about anyone outside himself . . . and here Pavel was trying to stay away from this, from the breath of Mukuru, only trying to be a good man!

The Moss Creature stirs. It has crept an alarming distance closer since Pavel last looked. A sudden overflow of smooth cherry-red down the mountainside to his right (were there mountains? Where did the mountains come from?) and at once he knows, beyond deception or hope, that he has slipped into the North, that inhaling the breath of the first ancestor has taken him over into the terrible land, as he must have known it would, step by step over these last years, impossible to turn (what is turn? don't know which way to begin to move . . . don't know how to move . . .) too late, miles and changes too late.

And now his head in Christian's steel notch at 300 yards. Suddenly, this awful branching: the two possibilities already beginning to fly apart at the speed of thought!a new Zone in any case, now, whether Christian fires or refrains!jump, choose!

Enzian tries his best!knocks the barrel aside, has a few unpleasant words for the young revenger. But both men saw the new branches. The Zone, again, has just changed, and they are already on, into the new one. . . .

They ride on up to where Pavel's sniffing synthetic gasoline on the side of the lampless beige hill, under the tanks snailing whitely to heaven, here he is, one of the IG's happiest customers. . . .

Does Pavel know something the rest of us don't? If the IG wanted this to be a cover-up for something else, why not the breath of Mukuru?

Enzian can project himself back in the Erdschweinhöhle starting a new file on the IG!see it getting fatter and fatter as the interlocks develop, the books are audited, the witnesses come!not forward but sideways at least, always in shadows. . . . And if it should prove not to be the Rocket, not the IG? Why then he'll have to go on won't he, on to something else!the Volkswagen factory, the pharmaceutical companies . . . and if it isn't even in Germany then he'll have to start in America, or in Russia, and if he dies before they find the True Text to study, then there'll have to be machinery for others to carry it on. . . . Say, that's a swell idea!call the whole Erdschweinhöhle together, get up there say, My people, I have had a vision ... no no but there will need

to be more staff, if it's to be that big a search, quiet shirting of resources away from the Rocket, diversifying while making it look like an organic growth . . . and who to bring in on it? Christian!can he use the boy now, Christian's anger, will It use Christian regardless to help suppress Ombindi . . . because if the Schwarzkommando mission in the Zone has been truly revealed just now, then there'll have to be something done about Ombindi, Empty Ones, doctrine of the Final Zero. More staff will mean more Zone-Hereros, not fewer!more information coming in about the enemy, more connections made will mean a greater threat to the people, will mean the tribal numbers will have to increase. Is there an alternative? no ... he would rather ignore Ombindi but the needs of this new Search will not allow him that comfort now . . . the search will rule. . . .

Somewhere, among the wastes of the World, is the key that will bring us back, restore us to our Earth and to our freedom.

Andreas has been talking with Pavel, who is still out with his strangely lighted companions, playing at this and that. Presently, with love and subterfuge, he gets the address of Ombindi's medical connection.

Enzian knows who he is. "Saint Pauli. Let's go. Your machine running a little rough, Christian?"

"Don't sweet-talk me," Christian explodes, "you don't care about me, you don't care about my sister, she's dying out there and you just keep plugging her into your equations!you!play this holy-father routine and inside that ego you don't even hate us, you don't care, you're not even connected any more!" He swings his fist at Enzian's face. He's crying.

Enzian stands there and lets him. It hurts. He lets it. His meekness isn't all politics, either. He can feel enough of the bone truth in what Christian said!maybe not all of it, not all at once, but enough.

"You just connected. Can we go after her, now?"

########

Here is the good Frau, leaning over Slothrop from way down at the foot of the bed: her eye bright and cocky as a parrot's, a big white boss of eye cantilevered on old prickly arms and legs, a black kerchief above the roll of her pompadour in mourning for all her Hanseatic dead, underneath heaving iron fleets, under waves of the Baltic keel-edged and gray, dead under the fleets of waves, the prairies of the sea. . . .

Next thing is Gerhardt von Göll's foot nudging Slothrop in a less than tender way. The sun is up, and all the girls have gone. Otto grouches around deck with a broom and swab, removing yesterday's chimpanzee shit. Swinem┨nde.

The Springer is his old chipper self: "Fresh eggs and Coffee in the pilot house!fall to. We're due out of here in 15 minutes."

"Well just belay that 'we,' Ace."

"But I need your help." Springer's wearing a suit of fine tweed this morning, very Savile Row, fits perfectly!

"Närrisch needed your help."

"You don't know what you're talking about." His eyes are steelies that never lose. His laugh, subtitled humoring the Fools, is Mittel-europäisch and mirthless. "All right, all right. How much do you want?"

"Everything's got a price, right?" But he's not being noble here, no, what it is is that his own price has just occurred to him, and he needs to shim the talk here, give it a second to breathe and develop.

"Everything."

"What's the deal?"

"A minor piracy. Pick up one package for me while I cover you." He looks at his watch, hamming it up.

"O.K., get me a discharge, I'll come with you."

"A what? A discharge? For you? Ha! Ha! Ha!"

"You ought to laugh more, Springer. It makes you look really cute."

"What kind of a discharge, Slothrop? Honorable, perhaps? Ah, ah-ha! Ha! Ha!" Like Adolf Hitler, Springer is easily tickled by what the Germans call Schadenfreude, the feeling of joy at another's misfortune.

"Quit fooling, I'm serious."

"Of course you are, Slothrop!" More giggling.

Slothrop waits, watches, sucking on an egg though he feels anything but sly this morning.

"Närrisch, you see, was supposed to go with me today. Now I'm stuck with you. Ha! Ha! Where do you want it delivered, this!ha! this discharge?"

"Cuxhaven." Slothrop has been having lately this dim fantasy about trying to contact the Operation Backfire people in Cuxhaven, to see if they'll help get him out. They seem to be the only English connection to the Rocket any more. He knows already it won't work. He and Springer arrange a date anyhow.

"Be at a place called Putzi's. It's down the Dorum road. Local dealers will be able to tell you where."

So it's out once again!out past the moles' wet embrace, into the Baltic, crest to crest, and into nimbus piling sheet on sheet bounces the jolly pirate bark, into a day already squally and bitter, and getting worse. Springer stands outside the pilot house hollering in above the sound of heavy seas that splash back over the bow and down the decks. "Where do you make her?"

"If it's Copenhagen she's bound for," Frau Gnahb's windburned face, permanent smile-creases all around her eyes and mouth, beaming like the sun, "can't have more than an hour on us. . . ."

Visibility this morning is too low to see the coast of Usedom. Springer joins Slothrop at the rail looking at nothing, breathing the closing smell of gray weather.

"He's all right, Slothrop. He's seen worse. Two months ago in Berlin we got ambushed, right outside the Chicago. He walked through crossfire from three Schmeissers to offer our competitors a deal. Not a scratch."

"Springer, he was going round and round with half the Russian Army up there."

"They won't kill him. They know who he is. He worked in guidance, he was Schilling's best man, he knows more about integrating circuits than anybody they'll find outside of Garmisch now. The Russians are offering fantastic salaries!better than the Americans!and they'll let him stay in Germany, work at Peenem┨nde or the Mittel-werke, just like he used to. He can even escape, if that's what he wants, we have very good connections for that!"

"But what if they did shoot him?"

"No. They weren't supposed to."

"Springer, this ain't the fuckin' movies now, come on."

"Not yet. Maybe not quite yet. You'd better enjoy it while you can. Someday, when the film is fast enough, the equipment pocket-size and burdenless and selling at people's prices, the lights and booms no longer necessary, then . . . then ..." We now come in sight of mythical R┨-gen off our starboard bow. Its chalk cliffs are brighter than the sky. There is mist in the firths, and among the green oaks. Along the beaches drift pearl patches of fog.

Our captain, Frau Gnahb, heads into the Greifswalder Bodden, to comb the long firths for her quarry. After an hour (comical bassoon solos over close-ups of the old recreant guzzling some horrible fermented potato-mash lobotomy out of a jerrican, wiping her mouth on her sleeve, belching) of fruitless search, our modern-day pirates head out to sea again, and up the eastern coast of the island.

Light rain has been falling. Otto breaks out slickers, and a Thermos of hot soup. Clouds, a dozen shades of gray, go scudding along the sky. Great misty heaps of rock, steep cliffs, streams in deep gorges, gray and green and spires of white chalk in the rain, go passing!the Stubbenkammer, the King's Seat, and presently, off to port, Cape Arkona where waves crash at the base of the cliffs and on top the groves of white-trunked trees are blowing. . . . The ancient Slavs put up a temple here, to Svetovid, their god of fertility and war. Old Svetovid did Business under quite a number of aliases! Three-headed Triglav, five-headed Porevit, SEVEN-faced Rugevit! Tell that to your boss next time he talks about "wearing two hats!" Now, as Arkona slides away off our port quarter!

"There she is," Otto calls from the top of the pilot house. Far far away, hauling out to sea from behind the Wissow Klinken (the pale limestone latchkey with which Providence today is probing the wards of Slothrop's heart), barely visible in the rain, dips a tiny white ghost of a ship. . . .

"Get a bearing," Frau Gnahb grabbing the wheel and bracing her feet. "We want a collision course!" Otto crouches by the pelorus, shivering.

"Here, Slothrop."

Luger? Box of rounds? "What..."

"Came this morning with the egg delivery."

"You didn't mention!"

"He may be a little exercised. But he's a realist. Your friend Greta and I knew him in Warsaw, in the old days."

"Springer!tell me Springer, now, what ship is that?" Springer hands him some binoculars. In fine gold lettering, behind the golden jackal on the wraith-white bow, is the name he already knows. "O. . . . K.," trying to see through the rain into Springer's eyes, "you knew I was aboard. You're setting me up, now, right?"

"When were you on board?"

"Come on!"

"Look!Närrisch was going after the package today. Not you. We didn't even know you. Do you have to see conspiracies in everything? I don't control the Russians, and I didn't deliver him!"

"You're really pushing that innocence today, ain't you?"

"Quit bickering, idiots," hollers Frau Gnahb, "and clear!for action!"

Lazy and spectral pitches the Anubis, growing no clearer as they close with her. Springer reaches a megaphone out of the pilot house, and bawls, "Good day, Procalowski!permission to come aboard."

The answer is a gunshot. Springer hits the deck, slicker in rattling yellow flow, lies on his back with the megaphone pointing up funnel-ing rain in his mouth: "We'll have to without permission, then!" Motioning Slothrop over, "Get ready to board." To Frau Gnahb, "We'll want to lash on."

"Fine but," one look at the evil leer now lighting up Otto's mother's face and it's clear that she didn't come out today for money, "when do I get to, to ram her?"

Alone on the sea with the Anubis. Slothrop has begun to sweat, unpleasantly. The green rocky coast of R┨gen backdrops them, rising and falling through the squall. Zonggg another shot rattlesnaking off of a bulkhead. "Ram," orders the Springer. The storm comes down in earnest. Gleeful Frau Gnahb, humming through her teeth, spins the wheel, spokes blurring, prow swinging over aiming for midships. The blank side of the Anubis rushes in!is the Frau gonna bust on through it like a paper hoop? Faces behind portholes, cook peeling potatoes outside the galley, drunk in a frock coat sleeping on the rainy deck and sliding as the ship rolls . . . ah!ja, ja, a huge blue-flowered bowl of shredded potatoes at her elbow, a window, cast-iron flowers on spiral vine all painted white, a mild smell of cabbage and dishrags from under the sink, an apron bow snug and tight above her kidneys and lambs about her legs and ja little, oh, ja, here comes little!ah!here conies here-comes LITTLE!AHH!

OTTO! slams her boat into the Anubis, a most godawful earsplit-ting Otto. . . .

"Stand by." Springer's on his feet. Procalowski is turning away and increasing engine speed. Frau Gnahb moves up again on the yacht's starboard quarter, wallowing in her wake. Otto passes out grappling hooks, long in Hanseatic service, iron, pitted, functional-looking, as Mutti puts it all ahead full. Couples have wandered out under awnings on the Anubis to watch the fun, pointing, laughing, gaily waving. Girls, their nude breasts beaded with rain, blow kisses while the band plays a Guy Lombardo arrangement of "Running Between the Raindrops."

Up the slippery ladder goes salty and buccaneering Slothrop, hefting his grappling hook, letting out line, keeping an eye on that Otto! wind up, spin like a lasso, wheeee!clank. Springer and Otto at bow and stern are grappling on at the same time, hauling in as the vessels hit, bounce, hit... but the Anubis, softwhite, has slowed, sprawled, allowed . . . Otto gets line around chocks forward and up around the scrimshawed railing of the yacht!then dashes aft, sneakers splashing, ribbed footprints left behind then rained out, to repeat the lashing there. A newly-arranged river roars, white and violent, backward between the two ships. Springer is already up on the yacht's main deck. Slothrop tucks Luger in belt and follows.

Springer with the classic gangster head-move gestures him up to the bridge. Slothrop moves through groping hands, greetings in broken Russian, puffs of alcoholic breath, around to the ladder on the port side!climbing, edging quietly onto the bridge. But Procalowski is only sitting in the captain's chair smoking one of Springer's amis with his cap tilted back, and Springer's just at the punch line to one of his giant repertoire of German toilet jokes.

"What the devil, Gerhardt," Procalowski waving a thumb. "The Red Army's working for you too?"

"Hello again, Antoni." The three silver stars on each of his epaulets twinkle howdy, but it's no good.

"I don't know you." To the Springer: "All right. It's in the engine room. Starboard side, down behind the generator," which is Slothrop's cue to leave.

At the bottom of the ladder he meets Stefania coming along the passageway. "Hi. Sorry we have to meet again this way."

"Hello, I'm Stefania," shuttering a fast smile as she passes, "there's liquor next deck up, enjoy yourself," already gone, out in the rain. What?

Slothrop steps down through a hatchway, starts to climb down toward the engineering spaces. Somewhere above him three bells strike, slowly, a little hollow, with a slight echo. It's late . . . late. He remembers where he is.

Just as he touches the deck, all the lights go out. Air blowers whine down to stillness. The engine room is down one more deck. Will he have to do this in the dark?

"I can't," out loud.

"You can," replies a voice close to his ear. He can feel its breath. He is smashed expertly at the base of the neck. Light loops through the pitch dark. His left arm has gone numb. "I'll leave you the other one," the voice whispers, "for climbing down to the engine room."

"Wait!" It feels like the pointed toe of a dancing-pump, in out of nowhere to hover a second and stroke the soft underside of his chin! then it flicks up, slamming his teeth shut on his tongue.

The pain is awful. He tastes blood. Sweat gathers next to his eyes.

"Move, now." When he hesitates he is pinched on the back of the neck. Oh, it hurts ... he holds to the ladder, night-blind, starting to cry . . . then he thinks of the Luger, but before he can get to it he's been kicked viciously between hip and groin. The gun falls to the steel deck. Slothrop is down on one knee, groping, when the shoe descends lightly on his fingers. "You will need this hand for holding on to the ladder, remember? Remember?" Then the shoe is lifted, but only to kick him under the armpit. "Up, up."

Slothrop gropes to the next ladder, makes his stiff one-armed way down onto it. He feels the steel hatch-opening rise around him. "Don't try to come back up till you've done what you have to do."

"Thanatz?" Slothrop's tongue hurts. The name comes out clumsily. Silence. "Morituri?" No answer. Slothrop moves one foot up one rung.

"No, no. I'm still here."

As he edges downward, shaking, rung by rung, feeling prickles back into his arm. How can he go down? How can he go up? He tries to concentrate on the pain. His feet strike steel plate finally. Blindness. He moves to starboard, colliding at every step with shin-high edges, sharp projections . . . I don't want to . . . how can I. . . reach down behind . . . bare hands. . . what if. . .

A sudden whine to his right!something mechanical!he jumps, breath sucking very cold between teeth, nerves in back and arms off and on, skittering ... he reaches a cylindrical barrier . . . might be the generator . . . stoops and begins to! His hand closes on stiff taffeta. He jerks it away, tries to get up, slams his head against something sharp ... he wants to crawl back toward the ladder, but has lost all sense of direction now ... he squats, turning in a circle, slowly . . . let it end letitend. . . . But his hands, pawing the deck, return to slippery satin.

"No." Yes: hooks and eyes. He breaks a fingernail, trying to lose them but they follow . . . lacing that moves, snake-sure, entangling, binding each finger. . . .

"No. ..." He rises to a crouch, moves forward into something hanging from the overhead. Icy little thighs in wet silk swing against his face. They smell of the sea. He turns away, only to be lashed across the cheek by long wet hair. No matter which way he tries to move now . . . cold nipples . . . the deep cleft of her buttocks, perfume and shit and the smell of brine . . . and the smell of. . . of. . .

When the lights come back on, Slothrop is on his knees, breathing

carefully. He knows he will have to open his eyes. The compartment reeks now with suppressed light!with mortal possibilities for light! as the body, in times of great sadness, will feel its real chances for pain: real and terrible and only just under the threshold. . . . The brown paper bundle is two inches from his knee, wedged behind the generator. But it's what's dancing dead-white and scarlet at the edges of his sight . . . and are the ladders back up and out really as empty as they look?

Back on the Frau's boat, Springer is out with a bottle of champagne courtesy of the Anubis, untwisting the bright wires and firing the cork in a farewell salvo. Slothrop's hands are shaking and he spills most of his. Antoni and Stefania watch from the bridge as the two vessels pull apart, Baltic sky visible through the backs of their eyes. Her white hair in filaments of foam, her cheeks sculptured fog . . . cloud-man, fogwife, they dwindle, aloof, silent, back into the heart of the storm.

The Frau heads south, along the other coast of R┨gen, into the straits by way of the Bug. The storm keeps pace, as night comes down. "We'll put in at Stralsund," her scrawled face streaming with lube-green shadow, yellow light, as the oil-lantern sways in the pilot house.

Slothrop reckons he'll get off there. Head for that Cuxhaven. "Springer, you think you'll have those papers for me on time?"

"I can't guarantee anything," sez Gerhardt von Göll.

At Stralsund, on the quai, in the lamplight and the rain, they say good-by. Frau Gnahb kisses Slothrop, and Otto gives him a pack of Lucky Strikes. The Springer looks up from his green notebook and nods auf Wiedersehen over his pince-nez. Slothrop walks away, over the brow, into the wet Hafenplatz, sea-legs trying to balance rolling he's left behind, past booms and masts and strung tackle of derricks, past a crew on the night shift offloading the creaking lighters into wood wagons, bowed gray horses kissing the grassless stones ... good-bys in his pockets warming his empty hands. . . .

########

Where is the Pope whose staff will bloom for me? Her mountain vamps me back, with silks and scents, Her oiled, athletic slaves, her languid hints Of tortures transubstantiate to sky,

To purity of light!of bonds that sing, And whips that trail their spectra as they fall. At weather's mercy now, I find her call At every turn, at night's foregathering.

I've left no sick Lisaura's fate behind.

I made my last confession as I knelt,

Agnostic, in the radiance of his jewel. . .

Here, underneath my last and splintering wind,

No song, no lust, no memory, no guilt:

No pentacles, no cups, no holy Fool. ...

Brigadier Pudding died back in the middle of June of a massive E. coli infection, whining, at the end, "Me little Mary hurts ..." over and over. It was just before dawn, as he had wished. Katje stayed on at "The White Visitation" for a while, roaming the demobbed corridors, smoky and still at the ends of all the emptied lattices of cages in the laboratory, herself part of the ash-colored web, the thickening dust and fly-pocked windows.

One day she found the cans of film, stacked carelessly by Webley Silvernail in what had been a music room, occupied now only by a disintegrating Wittmaier harpsichord no one played, quills and stops broken shamefully, strings left to sharp, flat, or corrode in the busy knives of weather pushing relentlessly into all the rooms. Pointsman happened that day to be up in London, working out of Twelfth House, lingering at alcoholic luncheons with his various industrialists. Was he forgetting her? Would she be free? Was she, already?

Out of apparently nothing more than the emptiness of "The White Visitation," she finds a projector, threads a reel and focuses the image on a water-stained wall, next to a landscape of some northern coomb, with daft aristocrats larking about. She sees a white-haired girl in Pirate Prentice's Chelsea maisonette, a face so strange that she has recognized the mediaeval rooms before she does herself.

When did they!ah, the day Osbie Feel was processing the Amanita mushrooms. . . . Fascinated, she stares at twenty minutes of herself in pre-Piscean fugue. What on earth did they use it for? The answer to that one's in the can too, and it isn't long before she finds it!Octopus Grigori in his tank, watching the Katje footage. Clip after clip: flickering screen and cutaways to Octopus G., staring!each with its typewritten date, showing the improvement in the creature's conditioned reflex.

Spliced on at the end of all this, inexplicably, is what seems to be a screen test of Osbie Feel, of all people. There is a sound track. Osbie is improvising a scenario for a movie he's written, entitled:

doper's greed "We open with Nelson Eddy in the background, singing:

Doper's greed,

Oh, doper's greed!

It's the most disgustin' thing I ever seed!

When you're out there feelin' fine,

It'll turn you into swine,

If you ever get a taste of DOPER'S GREED!

"Now into town ride two trail-weary cowboys, Basil Rathbone and S. Z. ('Cuddles') Sakall. At the entrance to town, barring their way, stands the Midget who played the lead in Freaks. The one with the German accent. He is the town sheriff. He is wearing an enormous gold star that nearly covers his chest. Rathbone and Sakall rein up, with uneasy smiles on their faces.

"RATHBONE: That can't possibly be real, can it?

"SAKALL: Hoo, hoo! Of course that's real, you wretched eddict, you vent 'n' chewed too much o' that veird cectus, beck down the trail. You should hev smucked that nice veed I had, I tula you!

"RATHBONE (with his nervous Sickly Smile): Please!I don't need a Jewish mother. I know what's real, and what isn't real.

"(The Midget, meanwhile, is posturing in different tough-hombre attitudes, and waving a brace of gigantic Colts about.)

"SAKALL: Vhen you been out on the trail!and you know vhich trail too, don't you you sniveling punk!for as long as I have, you know ah real midget sheriff from ah hallucinated vun.

"RATHBONE: I hadn't known either class existed. You must obviously have seen midget sheriffs all over this Territory, else you would hardly have invented the category. O-or would you? You know, you're just dodgy enough to try anything.

"SAKALL: You forgot 'You old rescal.'

"RATHBONE: You old rascal.

"They laugh, draw their guns, and exchange a few playful shots. The Midget is rushing back and forth, furious, emitting high-pitched German-accented Westernisms like 'This town ain't big enough for both of us!'

"SAKALL: Veil, ve're both seeing him. That means he's real.

"RATHBONE: Joint hallucination is not unknown in our world, podner.

"SAKALL: Who sez it's joint hallucination? Hoo, hoo! If it vas any kind of hallucination!I'm not saying it is, now!it vould be peyote. Or jimson veed, mebbe. . . .

"This interesting conversation goes on for an hour and a half. There are no cuts. The Midget is active the whole time, reacting to the many subtle and now and then dazzling points presented. Occasionally the horses will shit in the dust. It is not clear if the Midget knows that his reality is being discussed. Another of this film's artful ambiguities. Finally, Rathbone and Sakall agree that the only way to settle the argument is to kill the Midget, who gathers their intention and runs off screaming down the street. Sakall laughs so hard he falls off his horse into the horse trough, and we get a final closeup of Rath-bone smiling, in his uncertain way. Fade up song:

When you're out there feelin' fine,

It'll turn you into swine,

If you ever get a taste of Doper's Greed!"

There is a brief epilogue to this, with Osbie trying to point out that of course the element of Greed must be worked somehow into the plot line, in order to justify the title, but the film runs out in the middle of an "uh.. .".

Katie by now is in a bewildered state, but she knows a message when she sees it. Someone, a hidden friend at "The White Visitation"!perhaps Silvernail himself, who's been less than fanatically loyal to Pointsman and his lot!has planted Osbie Feel's screen test deliberately here, where they knew she'd find it. She rewinds and runs the film again. Osbie is looking straight into the camera: straight at her, none of your idle doper's foolery here, he's acting. There's no mistake. It is a message, in code, which after not too long she busts as follows. Say that Basil Rathbone stands for young Osbie himself. S. Z. Sakall may be Mr. Pointsman, and the Midget sheriff the whole dark grandiose Scheme, wrapped in one small package, diminished, a clear target. Pointsman argues that it's real, but Osbie knows better. Pointsman ends up in the stagnant trough, and the plot/Midget vanishes, frightened, into the dust. A prophecy. A kindness. She returns to her open cell, gathers a few belongings in a bag, and walks out of "The White Visitation," past the undipped topiary hedges, growing back into reality, past peacetime's returned madmen sitting gently in the

sun. Once, outside Scheveningen, she walked the dunes, past the waterworks, past the blocks of new flats replacing the torn-down slums, concrete still wet inside its shuttering, with the same hope of escape in her heart!moved, a vulnerable shadow, so long ago, toward her rendezvous with Pirate by the windmill called "The Angel." Where is he now? Is he still living in Chelsea? Is he even alive?

Osbie is at Home, anyway, chewing spices, smoking reefers, and shooting cocaine. The last of his wartime stash. One grand eruption. He's been up for three days. He beams at Katje, a sunburst in primary colors spiking out from his head, waves the needle he's just taken out of his vein, clamps between his teeth a pipe as big as a saxophone and puts on a deerstalker cap, which does not affect the sunburst a bit.

"Sherlock Holmes. Basil Rathborne. I was right," out of breath, letting her bag fall with a thump.

The aura pulses, bows modestly. He is also steel, he is rawhide and sweat. "Good, good. There's the son of Frankenstein in it, too. I wish we could have been more direct, but!"

"Where's Prentice?"

"Out scouting up some transportation." He leads her to a back room fitted out with telephones, a cork board with notes pinned all over, desks littered with maps, schedules, An Introduction to Modern Herero, corporate histories, spools of recording wire. "Not very organized around here yet. But it's coming along, love, it's coming."

Is this what she thinks it is? Wakened from how many times and pushed away because it won't do to hope, not this much? Dialectically, sooner or later, some counterforce would have had to arise . . . she must not have been political enough: never enough to keep faith that it would . . . even with all the power on the other side, that it really would. . . .

Osbie has pulled up folding chairs: hands her now a mimeographed sheaf, rather fat it is, "One or two things, here, you should know. We hate to rush you. But the horse trough is waiting."

And presently, his modulations having flowed through the rooms in splendid (and for a while distracting) displays of bougainvillea red and peach, it seems he has stabilized for the moment into the not-quite-worldly hero of a lost Victorian children's book, for he answers, after her hundredth version of the same question, "In the Parliament of life, the time comes, simply, for a division. We are now in the corridors we have chosen, moving toward the Floor. ..."

########

Dear Mom, I put a couple of people in Hell today. ...

!Fragment, thought to be from

the Gospel of Thomas

(Oxyrhynchus papyrus number classified)

Who would have thought so many would be here? They keep appearing, all through this disquieting structure, gathered in groups, pacing alone in meditation, or studying the paintings, the books, the exhibits. It seems to be some very extensive museum, a place of many levels, and new wings that generate like living tissue!though if it all does grow toward some end shape, those who are here inside can't see it. Some of the halls are to be entered at one's peril, and monitors are standing at all the approaches to make this clear. Movement among these passages is without friction, skimming and rapid, often headlong, as on perfect roller skates. Parts of the long galleries are open to the sea. There are cafes to sit in and watch the sunsets!or sunrises, depending on the hours of shifts and symposia. Fantastic pastry carts come by, big as pantechnicons: one has to go inside, search the numberless shelves, each revealing treats gooier and sweeter than the last . . . chefs stand by with ice-cream scoops at the ready, awaiting only a word from the saccharomaniac client to swiftly mold and rush baked Alaskas of any size and flavor to the ovens . . . there are boats of baklava stuffed with Bavarian cream, topped with curls of bittersweet chocolate, broken almonds, cherries as big as ping-pong balls, and popcorn in melted marshmallows and butter, and thousands of kinds of fudge, from liquorice to divinity, being slapped out on the flat stone tables, and taffy-pulling, all by hand, that sometimes extends around corners, out windows, back in another corridor!er, excuse me, sir, could you hold this for a moment? thank you!the joker is gone, leaving Pirate Prentice here, newly arrived and still a bit puzzled with it all, holding one end of a candy clew whose other end could be anywhere at all ... well, he might as well follow it ... prowling along looking quite wry, reeling in taffy by the yard, occasionally stuffing a bit in his mouth!mm, peanut butter and molasses!well, its labyrinthine path turns out, like Route One where it passes through the heart of Providence, to've been set up deliberately to give the stranger a tour of the city. This taffy trick is a standard orientation de-

vice here it seems, for Pirate now and then will cross the path of some other novice . . . often they'll have a time getting their strands of taffy disentangled, which has also been planned as a good, spontaneous way for the newcomers to meet. The tour now takes Pirate out into an open courtyard, where a small crowd has formed around one of the Erdschweinhöhle delegates in a rip-roaring argument with some advertising executive over what else but the Heresy Question, already a pebble in the shoe of this Convention, and perhaps to be the rock on which it will founder. Street-entertainers go by: self-taught tumblers doing amazing handsprings on pavement that seems dangerously hard and slippery, choirs of kazoos playing Gilbert & Sullivan medleys, a boy and girl who dance not along the level street but up and down, usually at the major flights of steps, whenever there's a queue to be waited through. . . .

Gathering up his ball of taffy, which by now is growing quite cumbersome, Pirate passes Beaverboard Row, as it is known: comprising the offices of all the Committees, with the name of each stenciled above the doorway!A4 ... IG ... OIL FIRMS . . . LOBOTOMY . . . SELF-DEFENSE . . . HERESY . . .

"Naturally you're seeing this all through a soldier's eyes," she's very young, insouciant, wearing a silly small young-woman's hat of the period, her face clean and steady enough for the broad-shouldered, high-waisted, no-neck profile they're all affecting these days. She moves along beside him taking long and graceful steps, swings her arms, tosses her head!reaches over to grab some of his taffy, and touching his hand as she does so.

"For you it's all a garden," he suggests.

"Yes. Perhaps you're not such a stick after all."

Ah, they do bother him, these free women in their teens, their spirits are so contagious,

 

 [Where did the swing band come from? She's bouncing up and down, she wants to be jitterbugged, he sees she wants to lose her gravity!]

I'll tell you it's just !out, !ray, !juss, Spirit is so !con, !tay, !juss, Nobody knows their a-ges ...

Walkin' through bees of hon !ney, Throwin' away !that !mon, !ney, Laughin' at things so !fun !ny, Spirit's comin' through !to, !you!

Nev !ver, !mind, whatcha hear from your car, Take a lookit just !how !keen !they are,

Nev !ver, !mind, !what, your calendar say, Ev'rybody's nine months old today! Hey,

Pages are turnin' pages, Nobody's in !their, ! ca, !ges, Spirit's just so ! con, !ta, !gious! Just let the Spirit !move, !for, !you!

The only office not physically touching the others on Beaverboard Row, intentionally set apart, is a little corrugated shack, stovepipe coming out the top, pieces of automobile lying around rusted solid in the yard, piles of wood under rain-colored and failing canvas, a house trailer with its tires and one wheel tilted forlorn in the spanging of the cold rain at its weathered outsides . . . devil's advocate's what the shingle sez, yes inside is a Jesuit here to act in that capacity, here to preach, like his colleague Teilhard de Chardin, against return. Here to say that critical mass cannot be ignored. Once the technical means of control have reached a certain size, a certain degree of being connected one to another, the chances for freedom are over for good. The word has ceased to have meaning. It's a potent case Father Rapier makes here, not without great moments of eloquence, moments when he himself is clearly moved ... no need even to be there, at the office, for visitors may tune in from anywhere in the Convention to his passionate demonstrations, which often come in the midst of celebrating what hep humorists here are already calling "Critical Mass" (get it? not too many did in 1945, the Cosmic Bomb was still trembling in its earli-ness, not yet revealed to the People, so you heard the term only in the very superhepcat-to-hepcat exchanges). "I think that there is a terrible possibility now, in the World. We may not brush it away, we must look at it. It is possible that They will not die. That it is now within the state of Their art to go on forever!though we, of course, will keep dying as we always have. Death has been the source of Their power. It was easy enough for us to see that. If we are here once, only once, then clearly we are here to take what we can while we may. If They have taken much more, and taken not only from Earth but also from us! well, why begrudge Them, when they're just as doomed to die as we are? All in the same boat, all under the same shadow . . . yes . . . yes. But is that really true? Or is it the best, and the most carefully propagated, of all Their lies, known and unknown?

"We have to carry on under the possibility that we die only because They want us to: because They need our terror for Their survival. We are their harvests. ...

"It must change radically the nature of our faith. To ask that we keep faith in Their mortality, faith that They also cry, and have fear, and feel pain, faith They are only pretending Death is Their servant! faith in Death as the master of us all!is to ask for an order of courage that I know is beyond my own humanity, though I cannot speak for others. . . . But rather than make that leap of faith, perhaps we will choose instead to turn, to fight: to demand, from those for whom we die, our own immortality. They may not be dying in bed any more, but maybe They can still die from violence. If not, at least we can learn to withhold from Them our fear of Death. For every kind of vampire, there is a kind of cross. And at least the physical things They have taken, from Earth and from us, can be dismantled, demolished! returned to where it all came from.

"To believe that each of Them will personally die is also to believe that Their system will die!that some chance of renewal, some dialectic, is still operating in History. To affirm Their mortality is to affirm Return. I have been pointing out certain obstacles in the way of affirming Return. . . ." It sounds like a disclaimer, and the priest sounds afraid. Pirate and the girl have been listening to him as they linger outside a hall Pirate would enter. It isn't clear if she will come in with him. No, he rather thinks not. It is exactly the sort of room he was afraid it would be. Jagged holes in the walls, evidently where fixtures have been removed, are roughly plastered over. The others, waiting for him it seems, have been passing the time with games in which pain is the overt commodity, such as Charley-Charley, Hits 'n' Cuts, and Rock-Scissors-and-Paper. From next door comes a sound of splashing water and all-male giggling that echoes a bit off of the tiles. "And now," a fluent wireless announcer can be heard, "it's time for? Drop ! The Soap!" Applause and shrieks of laughter, which go on for a disagreeably long time.

"Drop the Soap?" Sammy Hilbert-Spaess ambles over to the thin dividing wall, puts his nose around the end of it to have a look.

"Noisy neighbors," remarks German film director Gerhardt von Göll. "Doesn't this sort of thing ever stop?"

"Hullo, Prentice," nods a black man Pirate doesn't recognize, "we seem to be old school tie." What is this, who are all these! His name is St.-Just Grossout. "For most of the Duration, the Firm had me trying to infiltrate the Schwarzkommando. I never saw anyone else trying to. It sounds a bit paranoiac, but I think I was the only one. ..." This forthright breach of security, if that's what it is, takes Pirate a little aback.

"Do you think you could!well, give me a sort of sitrep on all this?"

"Oh, Geoffrey. Oh, my." Here comes Sammy Hilbert-Spaess back from watching the shower-room frolic, shaking his head, pouched and Levantine eyes continuing to stare straight down his nose, "Geoffrey, by the time you get any summary, the whole thing will have changed. We could shorten them for you as much as you like, but you'd be losing so much resolution it wouldn't be worth it, really it wouldn't. Just look around you, Geoffrey. Have a nice look, and see who's here."

Pirate is surprised to find Sir Stephen Dodson-Truck more fit than he ever looked in his life. The man is actively at peace, in the way of a good samurai!each time he engages Them fully expecting to die, without apprehension or remorse. It is an amazing change. Pirate begins to feel hope for himself. "When did you turn?" He knows Sir Stephen won't be offended at his asking. "How did it happen?"

"Oh, no, don't let this one fool you?" who in the world is this, with this greasy pompadour combed nearly as high again as his face, through which shows the peened, the tenderized soul of a fighter who's not only taken dives, but also thought heavily about them all the way down. It is Jeremiah ("Merciful") Evans, the well-known political informer from Pembroke. "No, our little Stevie's not ready for sainthood quite yet, are we my fine chap?" Slapping him, playful, clubbing slaps on the cheek: "Eh? eh? eh?"

"Not if they've thrown me in wiv v' likes o' you," replies the knight, churlishly. But it's hard to say really who's provoking whom, for Merciful Evans now bursts into song, and a terrible singer he is, a discredit to his people, in fact!

Say a prayer for the common informer,

He came out of a quim, just like yoooou!

Yes be kind what you chortle,

For narks are as mortal

As any, Kilkenny to Kew ...

And the next time you sigh in your comfort,

Ask yourself how he's doing, today!

Is it worse being sold,

For those handfuls of gold,

Than to sigh all your real-life, away?

"I don't know that I'm going to like it in here," Pirate, an unpleasant suspicion growing on him, looking about nervously.

"The worst part's the shame," Sir Stephen tells him. "Getting

through that. Then your next step!well, I talk like an old hand, but that's really only as far as I've come, up through the shame. At the moment I'm involved with the 'Nature of Freedom' drill you know, wondering if any action of mine is truly my own, or if I always do only what They want me to do ... regardless of what I believe, you see . . . I've been given the old Radio-Control-ImplantedTn-The-Head-At-Birth problem to mull over!as a kind of koan, I suppose. It's driving me really, clinically insane. I rather imagine that's the whole point of it. And who knows what comes next? Good God. I don't find out, of course, till I break through this one. ... I don't mean to discourage you so soon!"

"No, no, I've been wondering something else!are all you lot my Group or something? Have I been assigned here?"

"Yes. Are you beginning to see why?"

"I'm afraid I am." With everything else, these are, after all, people who kill each other: and Pirate has always been one of them. "I'd been hoping for!oh, it's foolish, a bit of mercy . . . but I was at the all-night cinema, around the corner from Gallaho Mews, the intersection with the extra street, the one you can't always see because it comes in at such a strange angle ... I had a bad stretch of time to get through, poison, metallic time ... it smelled as sour as a burned pot ... all I wanted was a place to sit for a while, and they don't care who you are really, what you eat or how long you sleep or who!whom you get together with. ..."

"Prentice, really it's all right," it's St.-Just Grossout, whom the others call "Sam Juiced" when they want to shout him down, during the passages in here when there is nothing for it but a spot of rowdyism.

"I... just can't... I mean if it is true, then," a laugh it hurts him, deep in his windpipe, to make, "then I defected for nothing, didn't I? I mean, if I haven't really defected at all. ..."

The word reached him during a government newsreel. FROM CLOAK-AND-DAGGER TO CROAK-AND-STAGGER, the sequin title twinkled to all the convalescent souls gathered for another long night of cinema without schedule!shot of a little street-crowd staring in a dusty show-window, someplace so far into the East End that no one except those who lived there had ever heard of it ... bomb-tilted ballroom floor of the ruin slipping uphill behind like a mountain meadow, but dodgy as a trampoline to walk upon, conch-twisting stucco columns tilted inward, brass elevator cage drooping from the overhead. Right out in front was a half-naked, verminous and hairy creature, approximately human, terribly pale, writhing behind

the crumbled remains of plate glass, tearing at sores on his face and abdomen, drawing blood, scratching and picking with dirt-black fingernails. "Every day in Smithfield Market, Lucifer Amp makes a spectacle of himself. That's not so surprising. Many a demobilized soldier and sailor has turned to public service as a means of keeping at least body and soul together, if nothing else. What is unusual is that Mr. Amp used to work for the Special Operations Executive. ..."

"It's quite good fun, actually," as the camera moves in for a close-up of this individual, "only took me a week to pick up the knack of it. . . ."

"Do you feel a sense of belonging now, that you hadn't when you came, or!have they still not accepted you out here?"

"They!oh the people, the people have been just wonderful. Just grand. No, no problems there at all."

At which point, from the bishopwise seat behind Pirate, came an alcohol smell, and warm breath, and a pat on the shoulder. "You hear? 'Used to work.' That's rich, that is. No one has ever left the Firm alive, no one in history!and no one ever will." It was an upper-class accent, one Pirate might have aspired to once in his rambling youth. By the time he decided to look back, though, his visitor was gone.

"Think of it as a handicap, Prentice, like any other, like missing a limb or having malaria . .. one can still live . .. one learns to get round it, it becomes part of the day!"

"Being ad!"

"It's all right. 'Being a!'?"

"Being a double agent? 'Got round'?" He looks at the others, computing. Everyone here seems to be at least a double agent.

"Yes . . . you're down here now, down here with us," whispers Sammy. "Get your shame and your sniffles all out of the way, young fellow, because we don't make a practice of indulging that for too long."

"It's a shadow," cries Pirate, "it's working under a shadow, forever."

"But think of the free-dom?" sez Merciful Evans. "I can't even trust myself? can I. How much freer than that can a man be? If he's to be sold out by anyone? even by himself you see?"

"I don't want that!"

"You don't have a choice," Dodson-Truck replies. "The Firm know perfectly well that you've come here. They'll expect a full report from you now. Either voluntary or some other way."

"But I wouldn't . . . I'd never tell them!" The smiles they are putting on for him now are deliberately cruel, to help him through it a bit. "You don't, you really don't trust me?"

"Of course not," Sammy sez. "Would you!really!trust any of us?"

"Oh, no," Pirate whispers. This is one of his own in progress. Nobody else's. But it's still a passage They can touch quite as easily as that of any client. Without expecting to, it seems Pirate has begun to cry. Odd. He has never cried in public like this before. But he understands where he is, now. It will be possible, after all, to die in obscurity, without having helped a soul: without love, despised, never trusted, never vindicated!to stay down among the Preterite, his poor honor lost, impossible to locate or to redeem.

He is crying for persons, places, and things left behind: for Scorpia Mossmoon, living in St. John's Wood among sheet-music, new recipes, a small kennel of Weimaraners whose racial purity she will go to extravagant lengths to preserve, and husband Clive who shows up now and then, Scorpia living only a few minutes away by Underground but lost to Pirate now for good, no chance for either of them to turn again . . . for people he had to betray in the course of Business for the Firm, Englishmen and foreigners, for Ion so naïve, for Gongy-lakis, for the Monkey Girl and the pimps in Rome, for Bruce who got burned . . . for nights up in partisan mountains when he was one with the smell of living trees, in full love with the at last undeniable beauty of the night... for a girl back in the Midlands named Virginia, and for their child who never came to pass . . . for his dead mother, and his dying father, for the innocent and the fools who are going to trust him, poor faces doomed as dogs who have watched us so amiably from behind the wire fences at the city pounds . . . cries for the future he can see, because it makes him feel so desperate and cold. He is to be taken from high moment to high moment, standing by at meetings of the Elect, witnessing a test of the new Cosmic Bomb !"Well," a wise old face, handing him the black-lensed glasses, "there's your Bomb . . ." turning then to see its thick yellow exploding down the beach, across the leagues of Pacific waves . . . touching famous assassins, yes actually touching their human hands and faces . . . finding out one day how long ago, how early in the game the contract on his own life was let. No one knows exactly when the hit will come!every morning, before the markets open, out before the milkmen, They make Their new update, and decide on what's going to be sufficient unto the day. Every morning Pirate's name will be on a list, and one morning it will be

close enough to the top. He tries to face it, though it fills him with a terror so pure, so cold, he thinks for a minute he'll pass out. Later, having drawn back a bit, gathering heart for the next sortie, it seems to him he's done with the shame, just as Sir Stephen said, yes past the old shame and scared now, full of worry for nothing but his own ass, his precious, condemned, personal ass. . . .

"Is there room here for the dead?" He hears the question before he can see her asking it. He isn't sure how she came into this room. From all the others now flow impressions of male jealousy, a gruff sort of women-on-ships-is-bad-luck chill and withdrawal. And here's Pirate left alone with her and her question. He holds out to her the ball of taffy he's been carrying, boobish as young Porky Pig holding out the anarchist's ticking bomb to him. But there's to be no sweetness. They are here instead to trade some pain and a few truths, but all in the distracted style of the period:

"Come now," what sort of idiotic trouble does she think she's in now? "you're not dead. I'll wager not even figuratively so."

"I meant, would I be allowed to bring my dead in with me," Katje explains. "They are my credentials, after all."

"I rather liked Frans van der Groov. Your ancestor. The dodo chap."

It's not quite what she meant by her dead. "I mean the ones who owe their deadness directly to me. Besides, if Frans were ever to walk in here you'd only stand around, all of you, making sure he understood just how guilty he was. The poor man's world held an inexhaustible supply of dodoes!why teach him about genocide?"

"'You could tell him a thing or two about that, couldn't you, girly?" sneers Evans, the tone-deaf Welsh stoolie.

Pirate is moving against Evans, forearms out from his sides saloon-fighter-style, when Sir Stephen intervenes: "There'll be talk like this all the time, Prentice, we're a case-hardened lot. You'd better start learning to make it work for you here. No telling how long we're in for, is there? The young woman has grown herself all the protection she needs, it seems to me. She doesn't want you to fight for her."

Well, he's right. She's put her warm hand on Pirate's arm, shaking her head twice with embarrassed small laughs, "I'm glad to see you anyway, Captain Prentice."

"No one else is. Think about it."

She only raises her eyebrows. It was a shitty thing to say. Remorse, or some late desire to be pure, rush into his blood like dope.

"But!" astonished to feel himself beginning to collapse, like a stack of rifles, around her feet, caught in her gravitation, distances abolished, waveforms unmeasurable, "Katje . . . if I could never betray you!"

He has fallen: she has lost her surface. She is staring at him amazed.

"Even if the price for that were . . . betraying others, hurting ... or killing others!then it wouldn't matter who, or how many, no, not if I could be your safety, Katje, your perfect!"

"But those, those are the sins that might never happen." Here they are bargaining like a couple of pimps. Do they have any idea what they sound like? "That's easy enough to pledge, doesn't cost you a thing."

"Then even the sins I did commit," he protests, "yes I'd do them over!"

"But you can't do that, either!so you get off just as cheap. Hm?"

"I can repeat patterns," more grim than she really wants him to be.

"Oh, think . . ." her fingers are lightly in his hair, "think of the things you've done. Think of all your 'credentials,' and all of mine!"

"But that's the only medium we've got now," he cries, "our gift for bad faith. We'll have to build everything with it... deal it, as the prosecutors deal you your freedom."

"Philosopher." She is smiling. "You were never like that."

"It must have come from always being in motion. I've never felt this stillness. ..." They are touching now, without urgency, still, neither of them, quite over the surprise. . . . "My little brother" (Pirate understands the connection she has made) "left Home at 18.1 liked to watch him sleeping at night. His long eyelashes ... so innocent... I watched for hours. . . . He got as far as Antwerp. Before long he was loitering around parish churches with the rest of them. Do you know what I mean? Young, Catholic males. Camp followers. They got to depend on alcohol, many of them, at an early age. They would choose a particular priest, and become his faithful dog!literally wait all night at his doorstep in order to talk to him fresh from his bed, his linen, the intimate smells that had not yet escaped the folds of his garment . . . insane jealousies, daily jostling for position, for the favors of this Father or that. Louis began to attend Rexist meetings. He went out to a soccer field and heard Degrelle tell the crowd that they must let themselves be swept away by the flood, they must act, act, and let the rest take care of itself. Soon my brother was out in the street with his `broom, along with the other guilty sarcastic young men with their

brooms in their hands . . . and then he had joined Rex, the 'realm of total souls,' and the last I heard he was in Antwerp living with an older man named Philippe. I lost track of him. We were very close at one time. People took us for twins. When the heavy rocket attacks began against Antwerp I knew it could not be an accident. . . ."

Yes well Pirate's Chapel himself. "But I've wondered about the solidarity of your Church . . . you kneel, and she takes care of you . . . when you are acting politically, to have all that common momentum, taking you upward!"

"You never had that either, did you." She's been looking really at him!"none of the marvelous excuses. We did everything ourselves."

No, there's no leaving shame after all!not down here!it has to be swallowed sharp-edged and ugly, and lived with in pain, every day.

Without considering, he is in her arms. It isn't for comfort. But if he is to keep dragging himself up the ratchet's teeth one by one he does need to pause in human touch for a bit. "What did it look like out there, Katje? I saw an organized convention. Someone else saw it as a garden. . . ." But he knows what she'll say.

"There was nothing out there. It was a barren place. I'd been most of the day looking for a sign of life. Then at last I heard you all in here." So they have wandered to a balcony, a graceful railing, no one can see them from inside or out: and below them in the streets, streets they have both lost now, are the People. There passes for Pirate and Katje a brief segment of a much longer chronicle, the anonymous How I Came to Love the People. "Her name was Brenda, her face was the bird under the protecting grin of the car in the rain that morning, she knelt and performed fellatio on me, and I ejaculated on her breasts. Her name was Lily, she was 67 last August, she reads off the labels of beer bottles to herself out loud, we coupled in the standard English position, and she patted me on the back and whispered, 'Good friend.' His name was Frank, his hair curled away from his face, his eyes were rather sharp but pleasant, he stole from American Army depots, he bum-fucked me and when he came inside me, so did I. Her name was Frangibella, she was black, her face was broken out, she wanted money for dope, her openness was a viper writhing in my heart, I performed cunnilingus upon her. His name was Allan, his buttocks were tanned, I said, where did you find the sun, he answered, the sun is just around the corner, I held him over the pillow and buggered him and he cried with love till I, my piston pungently greased, exploded at last. Her name was Nancy, she was six, we went behind a wall near a crater full of ruins, she rubbed and rubbed against me, her milky little thighs reaching in and out of my own, her eyes were closed, her fair little nostrils moved upward, backward forever, the slope of debris rushed down, steeply, just beside us, we teetered at the edge, on and on, exquisitely. Her name was!" well, all these and many more pass for our young couple here, enough to make them understand that horny Anonymous's intentions are nothing less than a megalomaniac master plan of sexual love with every individual one of the People in the World!and that when every one, somewhat miraculously, is accounted for at last, that will be a rough definition of "loving the People."

"Take that, you frauds out there in the Branches," Pirate wants to strike a humorous note, but doesn't. He is holding Katje now as if, in a moment, music will start, and they would dance.

"But the People will never love you," she whispers, "or me. However bad and good are arranged for them, we will always be bad. Do you know where that puts us?"

He does smile, crookedly as a man being theatrical about something for the very first time. Knowing it for a move there's to be no going back from, in the same terminal class as reaching for a gun, he turns his face upward, and looks up through all the faintly superimposed levels above, the milieux of every sort of criminal soul, every unpleasant commercial color from aquamarine to beige, desolate as sunlight on a day when you'd rather have rain, all the clanging enterprise and bustle of all those levels, extending further than Pirate or Katje can see for the moment, he lifts his long, his guilty, his permanently enslaved face to the illusion of sky, to the reality of pressure and weight from overhead, the hardness and absolute cruelty of it, while she presses her own face into the easy lowland between his shoulder and pectoral, a look on her face of truce, of horror come to a detente with, and as a sunset proceeds, the kind that changes the faces of buildings to light gray for a while, to an ashy soft chaff of light bleating over their outward curves, in the strangely forgelike glow in the west, the anxiety of pedestrians staring in the tiny storefront window at the dim goldsmith behind his fire at his work and paying them no attention, afraid because the light looks like it's going to go away forever this time, and more afraid because the failure of light is not a private thing, everyone else in the street has seen it too . . . as it grows darker, the orchestra inside this room does, as a matter of fact, strike up a tune, dry and astringent. . . and candelabra have been lighted after all . . . there is Veal Florentine ripening in the ovens tonight, there are drinks on the House, and drunks in the hammocks,

And all the world's busy, this twi-light!

Who knows what morning-streets, our shoes have known?

Who knows, how many friends, we've left, to cry alone?

We have a moment together,

We'll hum this tune for a day ...

Ev'ryone's dancing, in twi-light,

Dancing the bad dream a-way. . . .

And they do dance: though Pirate never could before, very well. . . they feel quite in touch with all the others as they move, and if they are never to be at full ease, still it's not parade rest any longer ... so they dissolve now, into the race and swarm of this dancing Preterition, and their faces, the dear, comical faces they have put on for this ball, fade, as innocence fades, grimly flirtatious, and striving to be kind. . . .

########

Fog thickens down the throats of the narrow gassen. In the air is a smell of salt water. The cobbled streets are wet with last night's rain. Slothrop wakes up in a burned-out locksmith's shop, under racks of sooty keys whose locks have all been lost. He stumbles out, finds a pump in a courtyard between brick walls and casement windows nobody stares out of, puts his head under the spout and pumps the pump, soaking his head for as long as he thinks he needs to. A ginger cat, meowing for breakfast, comes stalking him, doorway to doorway. "Sorry, Ace." Doesn't look like breakfast for either of them.

He hitches up Tchitcherine's pants and heads out of town, leaving the blunt towers, the domes of copper corroded green swimming up in the mist, the high gables and red tiles, gets a ride with a woman driving an empty farm wagon. The horse's sandy forelock bobs and blows, and the fog settles in behind.

This morning it looks like what Vikings must have seen, sailing this great water-meadow south, clear to Byzantium, all eastern Europe their open sea: the farmland rolls gray and green as waves . . . ponds and lakes seem to have no clear boundaries . . . the sight of other people against this ocean sky, even the military, comes welcome as sails after long days of passage. . . .

The Nationalities are on the move. It is a great frontierless streaming out here. Volksdeutsch from across the Oder, moved out by the Poles and headed for the camp at Rostock, Poles fleeing the Lublin

regime, others going back Home, the eyes of both parties, when they do meet, hooded behind cheekbones, eyes much older than what's forced them into moving, Estonians, Letts, and Lithuanians trekking north again, all their wintry wool in dark bundles, shoes in tatters, songs too hard to sing, talk pointless, Sudetens and East Prussians shuttling between Berlin and the DP camps in Mecklenburg, Czechs and Slovaks, Croats and Serbs, Tosks and Ghegs, Macedonians, Magyars, Vlachs, Circassians, Spaniols, Bulgars stirred and streaming over the surface of the Imperial cauldron, colliding, shearing alongside for miles, sliding away, numb, indifferent to all momenta but the deepest, the instability too far below their itchy feet to give a shape to, white wrists and ankles incredibly wasted poking from their striped prison-camp pajamas, footsteps light as waterfowl's in this inland dust, caravans of Gypsies, axles or linchpins failing, horses dying, families leaving the vehicles beside the roads for others to come live in a night, a day, over the white hot Autobahns, trains full of their own hanging off the cars that lumber overhead, squeezing aside for army convoys when they come through, White Russians sour with pain on the way west, Kazakh ex-P/Ws marching east, Wehrmacht veterans from other parts of old Germany, foreigners to Prussia as any Gypsies, carrying their old packs, wrapped in the army blankets they kept, pale green farmworker triangles sewn chest-high on each blouse bobbing, drifting, at a certain hour of the dusk, like candleflames in religious procession!supposed to be heading today for Hannover, supposed to pick potatoes along the way, they've been chasing these nonexistent potato fields now for a month!"Plundered," a one-time bugler limps along with a long splinter of railroad tie for a cane, his instrument, implausibly undented and shiny, swinging from one shoulder, "stripped by the SS, Bruder, ja, every fucking potato field, and what for? Alcohol. Not to drink, no, alcohol for the rockets. Potatoes we could have been eating, alcohol we could have been drinking. It's unbelievable." "What, the rockets?" "No! The SS, picking potatoes!" looking around for his laugh. But there are none here to follow the brass and flourish of his less solemn heart. They were infantrymen, and know how to snooze between footfalls!at some hour of the morning they will fall out by the side of the road, a moment's precipitate out of the road chemurgy of these busy nights, while the invisible boiling goes on by, the long strewn vortices!pinstripe suits with crosses painted on the back, ragged navy and army uniforms, white turbans, mismatched socks or none, Tattersall dresses, thick-knitted shawls with babies inside, women in army trousers split at the knees, flea-bitten and bark-

ing dogs that run in packs, prams piled high with light furnishings in scarred veneer, hand-mortised drawers that will never fit into anything again, looted chickens alive and dead, horns and violins in weathered black cases, bedspreads, harmoniums, grandfather clocks, kits full of tools for carpentry, watchmaking, leatherwork, surgery, paintings of pink daughters in white frocks, of saints bleeding, of salmon and purple sunsets over the sea, packs stuffed with beady-eyed boas, dolls smiling out of violently red lips, Allgeyer soldiers an inch and a quarter to the man painted cream, gold and blue, handfuls of hundred-year-old agates soaked in honey that sweetened greatgrandfather tongues long gone to dust, then into sulfuric acid to char the sugar in bands, brown to black, across the stone, deathless piano performances punched on Vorsetzer rolls, ribboned black lingerie, flowered and grape-crested silverware, faceted lead-glass decanters, tulip-shaped Jugendstil cups, strings of amber beads ... so the populations move, across the open meadow, limping, marching, shuffling, carried, hauling along the detritus of an order, a European and bourgeois order they don't yet know is destroyed forever.

When Slothrop has cigarettes he's an easy mark, when somebody has food they share it!sometimes a batch of vodka if there's an army concentration nearby, the GI cans can be looted for all kinds of useful produce, potato peels, melon rinds, pieces of candy bars for sugar, no telling what's going to go into these DP stills, what you end up drinking is the throwaway fraction of some occupying power. Slothrop drifts in and out of dozens of these quiet, hungry, scuffling migrations, each time getting hard Benzedrine jitters off of the faces!there aren't any he can really ignore, is the. problem, they're all too strong, like faces of a racetrack crowd, each one urging No, me!look at me, be touched, reach for your camera, your weapon, your cock. . . . He's stripped all the insignia off Tchitcherine's uniform, trying for less visibility, but very few people seem to care much about insignia. . . .

Much of the time he's alone. He'll come on farmhouses, deserted in the night, and will sleep in the hay, or if there's a mattress (not often) in a bed. Wake to sun glittering off some small lake surrounded by green salted with blossoms of thyme or mustard, a salad hillside, sweeping up to pines in the mist. Sapling tomato-frames and purple foxgloves in the yards, huge birds' nests built up under the eaves of the thatched roofs, bird-choruses in the morning, and soon, one day, as the summer turns ponderously in the sky, the clang of cranes, on the move.

At a farmhouse in a river valley far south of Rostock, he comes in

to shelter out of the midday rain, falls asleep in a rocking-chair on the porch, and dreams about Tantivy Mucker-Maffick, his friend from long ago. He has come back, after all and against the odds. It's somewhere out in the country, English country, quilted in darkened green and amazingly bright straw-yellow, of very old standing rocks on high places, of early indenture to death and taxes, of country girls who walk out at night to stand naked on the tor and sing. Members of Tantivy's family and many friends have come, all in a mood of quiet celebrating, because of Tantivy's return. Everybody understands it's only a visit: that he will be "here" only in a conditional way. At some point it will fall apart, from thinking about it too much. There is a space of lawn cleared for dancing, with a village band and many of the women dressed in white. After a spell of confusion about the day's schedule of events, the meeting takes place!it seems to be underground, not exactly a grave or crypt, nothing sinister, crowded with relatives and friends around Tantivy who looks so real, so untouched by time, very clear and full of color . . . "Why, Slothrop." "Oh!where've you been, gate?"

"'Here.'"

"'"Here"'?"

"Yes, like that, you've got it!once or twice removed like that, but I walked in the same streets as you, read the same news, was narrowed to the same spectrum of colors. ..." "Then didn't you!"

"I didn't do anything. There was a change."

The colors in here!stone facing, flowers worn by guests, the strange chalices on the tables! carry an underbreath of blood spilled and turned black, of gentle carbonizing in the blank parts of the cities at four o'clock on Sunday afternoon ... it makes crisper the outlines of Tantivy's suit, rather a gigolo suit of unspeakably foreign cut, certainly nothing he ever would have thought of wearing. . . .

"I guess we don't have much time ... I know this is shitty, and really selfish but I'm so alone now, and ... I heard that just after it happens, sometimes, you'll sort of hang around for a while, sort of look after a friend who's 'here.' . . ."

"Sometimes." He is smiling: but his serenity and distance are the stretch of an impotent cry past Slothrop's reach. "Are you looking after me?"

"No, Slothrop. Not you...."

Slothrop sits in the old weathered rocker looking out at a rolling

line of hills and the sun just come down out of the last of the rain-clouds, turning the wet fi