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To Boldly Go Where No Ferret Has Gone Before!
By Paul E. Jamison
There were many things that Cosmonaut Vasily Popovitch enjoyed about working for the International Space Station program. There was, of course, flying to the Station, but that didn’t happen very often. Besides that, however, he liked socializing with the American astronauts, because that helped him with his English. Vasily had excelled in Engineering at Moscow University, but he hadn’t been bad at English Language Studies, either.
As good as he’d been with English at University, however, Vasily had wanted to be better. His professor had told him that the best way to do that was to learn from the native speakers. So, when he was informed that his engineering background qualified him for working with ISS, he’d readily accepted. The Americans were, on the whole, a friendly bunch and were happy to teach him various bits of American slang and unique words that one never found in University textbooks. Vasily had found Station Communicator duty especially fruitful for learning the finer points of English.
However, he was on Communicator duty now and was learning some new English words that he didn’t think that he liked.
Garrett Breedlove’s face filled the control room screen now, and he was doing the teaching from all the way up on the ISS. Loudly. Breedlove was one of the exceptions to the friendly-American rule. He was redhaired and florid-faced and he pushed the upper limits of astronaut weight requirements; if he hadn’t been so good a botanist, he would never have made the astronaut corps. If there were limits on astronaut temperament, he would have exceeded them long ago. Right at the moment it looked like being good with plants wouldn’t cut it anymore.
Colonel Edward McCauley of the US Air Force leaned over Popovich’s shoulder and said to him, “Try not to take it personally, Vasily. He’s like that with everyone.”
Vasily looked up, “Yes, but does he say that about everybody’s mother?”
“Pretty much, actually. Here, let me talk to him.” Vasily handed his headphone over to the colonel. “Garrett, this is McCauley. Remember – head of NASA’s astronaut corps? Your boss? I’ll be honest. I’m not happy when one of my people acts like this. Throwing a… tantrum in front of everybody is not something a mature person should do, much less an astronaut.”
Breedlove scowled into the camera. “Oh, yeah? You clowns just called me up to tell me that you’ve got a bunch of bench warrants that you want to slap me with when I’m back on Terra Firma – how am I supposed to act? All hunky-dory, Right-Stuff, no-problem boy-scout smiles?!” He then proceeded to express his opinion on bench warrants, law enforcement agencies, interfering colonels and the astronaut corps in general.
Vasily gasped. McCauley said, “Never mind. He’s said much worse before. – Now, look, Garrett. The Law is the Law, and it will do neither you nor the ISS team any good to ignore it. What you are going to do is come back down on the next Orion flight and face the consequences.”
Then Breedlove said five simple words – repeatable, even – that would prove quite fateful.
“Come up and get me.”
The ISS camera went blank.
By now, two members of ISS management had joined Colonel McCauley at Vasily’s console. One of them said, “Well, now what do we do?”
McCauley replied, “As I understand it, the Station Commander has the authority to place a station crewmember in custody if necessary. However, I don’t know if we can do that with this crew.”
“How come? Remind me who’s Station Commander this go-around.”
“Oh. Him. I see what you mean.”
“Roy’s a nice guy, but he’s got the command authority of a shy gerbil.”
“Anybody else on the Station crew that can handle this?”
“Not really. I think Breedlove has them all… intimidated. He’s that kind of person.”
“So, what do we do?”
“H’m. I don’t think Breedlove will want to come down to get arrested – he’s made that clear. So maybe we will have to go get him.”
“What, send someone up on the Orion in a couple of months with the warrants and serve them up there? Can we do that?”
McCauley shrugged. “Maybe. Maybe we’ll have to deputize one of the astronauts and have him serve the warrants on Breedlove. It sounds simple.”
The second manager spoke up. “Um – it might not be as easy as that, Colonel. We’ve already been contacted by the FBI about this. They figure that since Breedlove’s up there in space, it’s their jurisdiction. Somehow.”
“What do they want to do, then? Send one of their agents up there to arrest him?”
McCauley shook his head. “Great. Now we get the Feds involved. How can it get worse?”
“Uh, sir?” Vasily held his hand up like a schoolboy. “I’ve just thought of something else. Mr. Breedlove is originally from Canada, but he moved to the United States. If I remember, he has dual citizenship.”
The second manager said, “Oh, Lord, that’s right! We were told that some of those warrants were from Canada. Do you think the Canadians will get involved?”
McCauley pinched his nose. “Fine. A jurisdiction issue.” He shook his head. “Gentlemen, I’m going to talk to General Totsy about this.”
Before he’d become involved in the ISS program, General Charles L. “Hotsy” Totsy, USAF (Ret.), had risen far and fast in the military. By the early 80’s, he’d been appointed Director of the Pentagon’s Remote Surveillance Office.
General Totsy soon learned that there was just as much intrigue and excitement in the shadow world of spy satellites as anything that Ian Fleming had dreamed up for James Bond. There were moves and countermoves, coups and countercoups, narrow escapes, last-minute saves and the like. It was just that the gamepieces and the players could be thousands of miles apart.
And, just like in the spy novels, General Totsy had had his Nemesis. It was not long after he became Director that he realized that there was a guiding force behind the Soviet Union’s spy-satellite program, and it took him almost two years to discover a name – General Aleksandr Zhukov.
They played the Game for years. Sometimes Totsy’s team would trump Zhukov’s. Sometimes Zhukov’s team would triumph – until the next time, perhaps. General Totsy would do his best to get into Zhukov’s mind, to figure out his next move, to figure out how he would react to something Totsy’s people did. No doubt Zhukov would reciprocate. And in all that time, the closest that the two men ever came to personal contact was once, at a diplomatic function in Norway. Totsy and Zhukov happened to notice each other across a crowded room. Zhukov nodded to Totsy, and Totsy nodded back. That had been that.
After the Soviet Union collapsed, General Totsy had retired from active duty and joined the International Space Station project as Liaison for the United States military. And in one of those remarkable examples of the irony of life, the Russian Military Liaison turned out to be retired Russian General Aleksandr Zhukov.
Now, Totsy sat at a conference table in ISS Headquarters, and Zhukov was sitting directly across from him. Totsy did not want to be there in that room; the tension was so thick that you could cut it with a knife.
Totsy looked at Zhukov. After attempting for years to get into the Russian’s head, now he knew exactly what Zhukov was thinking. Zhukov didn’t want to be there, either.
Totsy quietly picked up a pencil and wrote on a memo pad in front of him. Rather than making a noise by tearing it off, he pushed the whole pad over to Zhukov. Zhukov leaned over and read the note; Totsy had written I COULD USE A DRINK.
Zhukov looked up and nodded. His eyes then flicked over to the four men at the other end of the table.
They were all dressed in dark suits and wore neckties that were so out of date that they could have qualified as a fashion statement, except that Totsy figured that they’d each worked for several minutes that morning getting the knot just right.
As McCauley had figured, there had developed a jurisdiction issue regarding the arrest of Garrett Breedlove. The FBI had come in and said that they’d send an agent up to arrest him, and had apparently assumed that the matter had been settled. Then the Canadian Bureau of Investigation had showed up and said that they ought to have a say in what went on. The FBI had countered by pointing out that Breedlove was no longer a Canadian citizen, so it was their jurisdiction. The CBI had countered by pointing out that, no, Breedlove was still a citizen of Canada, that’s what dual citizenship meant, and that several of his bench warrants were for offenses in Canadian territory, so, yes, they had jurisdiction, too.
What had followed was a turf war between the two law enforcement agencies that rivaled anything Totsy had seen in Pentagon bureaucracy, and that was saying a lot. So, the ISS had arranged this face-to-face meeting to determine the question of jurisdiction. The conference was less than half an hour old at this point, and Totsy had quickly realized that the turf war was much worse than Pentagon-bureaucracy level; it was now at the grade-school playground level. Totsy and Zhukov didn’t want to say anything that called attention to themselves.
The four suits sat in two groups of two on either side of the table. The two FBI agents were named Moldy and Scolder. Totsy only knew the two CBI agents as Bob and Doug; he thought that they might be brothers.
The tension in the area between the four of them must have been thick enough that you couldn’t cut it with an industrial laser. In a way, the Canadian agents were the more unnerving, because they were so polite.
FBI agent Moldy cleared his throat and leaned forward. He smiled at the Canadians and spoke to them politely. He wasn’t too good at smile and polite, it seemed.
“Now, fellas, we need to come to some sort of understanding here. This situation is far too important to let petty differences interfere. But, at the same time, there’s the question of expertise. Whoever arrests Mr. Breedlove, they ought to be very good at what they do. And the best way to do that is to go with the agency that has the most experience and the best record of success. That is why we think that the FBI is the natural choice.” He smiled. More or less.
CBI agent Bob nodded. “Well, your logic is sound, I will agree, sir. Expertise is important. However, I question your conclusion.”
“Oh?” Moldy more-or-less chuckled. “I don’t see what’s wrong. The FBI has a stellar reputation among law enforcement agencies that world over – except for maybe a few. I can only attribute this to professional jealousy. Oh, I’ll admit that we’ve made a few errors in judgment over the years, but – Why the Hell are you making that noise?!”
Doug replied, very politely, “Oh, I’m sorry. I was just humming a jazz tune I like. You may have heard of it – ‘Take the “A” Train’.”
“I don’t see why –“
“Duke Ellington made it famous.”
“I don’t –“ Moldy stopped and his jaw dropped open. Totsy barely managed to suppress a groan.
Zhukov leaned over and silently mouthed, “Duke Ellington?”
Totsy mouthed back, “Later.” At this point agent Moldy eyes were bulging out and his face had turned red. He’d just started puffing his cheeks in and out, like he was playing an air tuba, when Totsy did something very brave. He cleared his throat and spoke up. The four agents turned their heads and scowled at the two other people who happened to be in the room.
“Gentlemen, I am afraid we are wasting our time with all this… discussion. We have to move on and make some sort of decision. Not only that –“
Totsy stopped. Something else had just occurred to him.
“- Not only that, but we’ve got a weight problem.”
The four suits automatically looked down at their waists.
“A weight problem with the spacecraft. The upcoming Orion-7 mission is going to carry a lot of cargo up to the ISS. It’s almost up to the upper weight limit as it is. We’ve not got enough weight margin for an extra passenger.”
Moldy seemed to ponder this for a moment before he replied, “Can’t you bump one of the Orion crew to make room?”
“No, we can’t. Besides the flight crew, all the Mission Specialists are needed to perform the assigned experiments for this mission.”
“Change the mission profile, then.”
“We can’t do that without delaying the flight. If we do that, Breedlove might figure something’s up. And so would the public. You said you wanted this done in secret, didn’t you?”
Moldy nodded. Bob spoke up then. “How much of a weight margin do you have?”
“We could carry, at most, seventy-five extra pounds.”
The four agents were quiet for a few moments. Then Moldy abruptly said, “We’ll discuss this tomorrow.” They then began to leave.
As they stood up, Zhukov muttered to Totsy, “First round is on me.”
The bar they chose was a little place called “The Sidetrack Tap”. There were no pole dancers, no jukebox, no patrons clad in black leather. It was an ideal place for talk over a cold one with no distractions. Totsy and Zhukov commandeered a corner booth, and soon the waitress brought their orders over.
Zhukov twisted the top off a bottle of Michelob Light and said, “Russians and vodka – such a tired cliché.” He took a long pull, set the bottle back down and leaned forward on his elbows. “Very well, please satisfy my curiosity, my friend. Why would the mention of a famous jazz musician so upset an agent of the FBI?”
Totsy leaned back and swigged his Old Milwaukee. “Oh, Lord. That one. It was quite awhile ago – 1990, in fact. Your guys may not have heard of it.”
“1990 – my country had other things on its mind at that time. We let some things slip by.”
“Understood. Anyway – in 1990, a reporter with the Washington “Post” wrote an interesting column that stirred up a lot of trouble. He revealed that the FBI had started a file on Duke Ellington in 1984 and had filled it with copies of reports, memos, photos and transcripts – you know the kind of stuff – dealing with possibly subversive activities and statements that allegedly involved Mr. Ellington. The reporter gave no specifics, but there was apparently some incident in ’82 that caused the Bureau to start looking at Mr. Ellington. The file had gotten pretty thick over six years, particularly for the ’85 and ’86 time period.
“Once the column was published, there was an awful lot of uproar from quite a few groups – civil liberties organizations, jazz lovers, a few congressfolk, the editorial pages of newspapers all over the country. The gist of the protests was that Ellington was a fine individual and respected musician who loved his country and would never do anything wrong, and that he didn’t deserve to be treated as a lowly foreign spy – no offense intended.”
“I’m glad. For several weeks the FBI didn’t say a thing. Finally they issued a statement that the file did not exist. Someone brought up Watergate, which meant that nobody believed the Bureau. Later they stated that the existence of such a file was not official Bureau policy, and obviously nobody believed that. The third official statement essentially said that the FBI could do what it wanted and would people please stop poking around in the Bureau’s business. You can guess how well that went over.
“Finally, the outcry got so bad that the President of the United States got involved. One fine day, he called a press conference, and the room was packed. He got up in front of the news cameras, smiled and formally apologized to Mr. Ellington for the consequences of being singled out for this sort of scrutiny. The President then tempered this by stating that the Federal Bureau of Investigation has a job to do, a job which the Bureau does well, and he was certain that they would not have started a file without some justification. He said that there was no question about Mr. Ellington’s loyalty to America, but that one must realize the potential consequences of one’s words and deeds. If the FBI takes an interest in an individual because of what he says and does, well, that’s their job.
“The President then smiled, assured everyone that the file in question would be disposed of and that Mr. Ellington’s good name would be restored. He concluded his statement by inviting Mr. Ellington’s representatives to contact the White House to arrange for a state dinner in his honor some time in the near future.
“Then the President called for questions from the press.” Totsy took a drink of Old Milwaukee and shook his head.
“I don’t know who asked it, but the first question was whether or not the President was aware that Duke Ellington had died in 1974.”
If Zhukov had been drinking his Michelob at this point, he would have either inhaled it or sprayed it or both. As it was, he just stared at Totsy for a brief moment before saying, “You are putting me on.”
Totsy shook his head. “I’m afraid not. The President just looked confused – he was good at that – and the press conference was cut short. After that, the White House and the FBI wouldn’t make any further comments.”
“I see. And the newspaper reporter who first wrote about this – were there any, um, consequences for him?”
“Well, I can’t say for sure. Nothing official, of course, but that’s not what you asked. All I know is that soon after the President’s press conference, the reporter was contacted by the Internal Revenue Service, and they conducted a very thorough audit of his income tax returns for the previous eight years. I’m not saying that this was a coincidence, mind you, or an act of petty revenge; it depends on how paranoid one is.
“In any case, assuming it was an act of revenge, it backfired. The audit revealed a discrepancy, all right – the IRS owed the reporter over $3,500.
“To sum up, the FBI has a long memory. They do not like to hear the name Duke Ellington.”
Zhukov chuckled. “Typical. Someday you and I should get together and swap tales like this. I have a large number of KGB stories that would make you sick with laughing.” He took a swig of Michelob. “But we have other things to worry about now. The FBI and CBI are bound and determined to send someone up to the Space Station to arrest Mr. Breedlove, no matter what.”
Totsy sighed and nodded. “I wasn’t just telling them a story about the weight limit of 75 pounds, either. I’m afraid that they’ll take this up to a higher authority.”
“Your current President? Please do not take this the wrong way, but I question his ability to grasp the technical difficulties.”
“Hey, I didn’t vote for him. I think you’re right. So – what do we do?”
“If we’re lucky, the FBI and CBI agree to work with what we have, they deputize a couple of the Orion-7 crew members, give them the warrants – by the way, have they actually said what the warrants are for?”
“I have no idea. I know Breedlove well enough that I can easily believe that he’s done something worthy of arrest, but they won’t tell us what it is. They made noises about the importance of confidentiality, and I didn’t pursue it.”
“I see. Where was I? – Give the deputized astronauts the warrants and launch the Orion on schedule. If we’re not lucky, the launch is postponed for an indefinite length of time to rearrange the cargo or crew to accommodate a federal agent. And there is no way that we can keep that confidential.”
“That’s about the size of it. One thing’s for sure – there can’t be a law enforcement officer in the entire United States or Canada who weighs less than 75 pounds!”
Zhukov was in the process of raising his Michelob to his lips, but the bottle stopped halfway and his eyes narrowed. After a few seconds, he said, softly, “Actually, that’s not true.”
“What do you mean?”
“Try closer to three and one-half pounds.”
Totsy stared at him. “Are you sure that’s not vodka in that bottle?”
Zhukov smiled, ever so slightly. “What you should have said was that there is no human law enforcement officer in the United States or Canada who weighs less than 75 pounds.”
“What are you – ohhh.”
Zhukov nodded. “Indeed, as I understand it, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police’s Interspecies Constable Program is doing quite well. There are several overseas police forces that are considering similar programs. I’m sure that it won’t be long before the United States will follow Canada’s lead.”
Totsy was thinking. “Yes… They’d easily meet the weight limitations.” He sat up and snapped his fingers. “And I know just the Mountie for this! He’s a Canadian citizen, of course, but he’s a long-term resident of the US right now. He’s in Kansas, I think.”
“I know who you’re talking about. He’s considered a hero in Canada. He’d be ideal, and the CBI will certainly agree. The FBI will be harder to convince, though.”
“They’ll come around. They’ve got no choice. We’ll propose this to the Federal boys tomorrow.”
Zhukov smiled. “It amazing what you can accomplish over a drink in a quiet environment.”
The two men clicked their beer bottles in salute and ordered a second round.