Super-spy Gertrude Eisenstein in...

The City of Ul Chalan

A 10-Chapter Adventure in exotic Tibet!

by Richard K. Lyon
About the author

Previously: Many have gone to Ul Chalan, but none have returned -- until now! Having successfully navigated perils, encountered demons, and discovered the dying last survivor of Mars, Gertrude's biggest challenge is yet to come: explaining it to her superiors!



Chapter Ten - H ome Victorious!

KARL WINDER HAD READ the first two thirds of Gertrude's report on her trip to Ul Chalan, then angrily summoned her to his office. While he waited for her to come, he paced the floor. Right now heads were rolling and unless every member of his section was faultless, Karl, as the administrator responsible, might find his head rolling. He knew Gertrude was annoyed about that incident with the computer, but he was dumbfounded when she submitted a completely absurd fantasy as a report. She knew that unless she withdrew the report both their careers would be ruined. Karl knew he would have to beg. Probably Gertrude would use her idiot smile on him. Then he'd have to beg just to get her to admit she even recognized the problem.

Gertrude entered and her smile was large and more simple minded than ever before. "Hi Karl. What's the problem?"

"Look Gertrude, I realize you have a right to be angry. The department sent you off on a dangerous wild goose chase, then the instrument boys solved the problem," Karl thought it might be good psychology to distract Gertrude's anger away from the computer incident.

"I'm not mad about anything, Karl. What did the instrument boys learn?"

"It was Kinan. You met him at the Chief's office, he was the meteorologist. He got a NASA satellite to scan Ul Chalan with an IR spectroscope. It showed an extremely high concentration of carbon dioxide. Ul Chalan is a large bowl filled with CO2. Such pockets of CO2 occur when there are natural sources to release the gas and no wind to blow it away. Kinan then checked the satellite data on air circulation around Ul Chalan. It's an exceptionally stagnant region.

"We reconstruct the events as follows: Some Chinese thought they were chasing Tibetan rebels and blundered into Ul Chalan where they smothered. The Chinese assumed the men had met a superior rebel force and been wiped out. Naturally they counteracted with a larger force. They continued to escalate this war on inanimate nature until they finally sent in a full division of tanks. That many tanks put out a lot of carbon monoxide. The air in the trail to Ul Chalan is stagnant and there's not much of it. The Chinese were in the same position as an idiot who runs his car in a closed garage.

"Chan Si Ree ordered the nuclear missile fired at Ul Chalan in order to destroy the evidence of one of the greatest military blunders in history. His political enemies aborted the missile by sending it the autodestruct code. In view of his blunders they believed they had adequate grounds for arranging his heart failure, but that started the Chinese civil war."

"Is there any hope of a negotiated settlement in that war?"

"Almost a certainty. Neither side really wants the war and we and the Russians are trying to mediate."

"Jar will be very happy to hear that. Now, Karl, what did you want?"

Warning bells began to go off in Karl's brain. "Gertrude, that monk you mentioned in the report, you didn't bring home, did you?"

"Yes, and I am having a lot of trouble getting him his back pay."

The warning bells were getting louder. "How did you get back so soon? You couldn't have used the escape route we planned."

"But that's in the last part of my report. We flew back in the flying saucer."

The warning bells went silent as the danger took clear shape. Was there any remote possibility that Gertrude's report was true? The door burst open and the Chief pushed Jar Quinan through.

"Just what is the idea of telling this Martian he could park his flying saucer in my parking space?"

Karl Winder could rise to an occasion. A lessor man, having never met Jar Quinan or told him anything, would have denied the accusation. Instead Karl said, "Sir, this man is not a Martian, but is one of my best agents. He and Gertrude captured that saucer at great peril to their lives. It can fly to the stars and will be of immense value to the national defense. May I remind you, sir, that they have plenty of parking spaces -- in Moscow and that this man has not been paid in the last five years. If you'll check the files you will find I have sent you numerous memos complaining about this unjust situation."

Karl thought the reference to the nonexistent memos in the file would help the Chief see the big picture and he was right. The old man mumbled, "Very good, carry on, keep me informed. I'll see this man is paid," and walked off.

Gertrude grinned at Karl. "That was wonderful the way you got Jar his pay. Now what's the problem, is there something wrong with my report?"

"Yes, it reads like a fantasy."

"But it's true."

"That's not the point. The report as it now stands will provoke angry disbelief. Many will be so angered that they will refuse to examine your evidence. I propose that we rewrite the report so that it will be both true and plausible."

Gertrude responded, "Alright, fine. What do you want to change?"

Karl was puzzled. If Gertrude wasn't trying to con him, why the idiot smile? Could she be on something? "Well ordinarily any report concerning ancient Martians would be difficult to make acceptable, but last week several key Senators were briefed as to the existence of a long dead Martian civilization. You see NASA took some photos of one of the Martian moons which proved it to be an artificial satellite."

"But I thought it was the other way around?" protested Gertrude, "that there was speculation that it might be a satellite but the Mars probe sent back photos showing a large chunk of rock."

"That's what the photos released to the public showed, but the photos which came back from Mars showed a very advanced satellite. So far the Russians appear to be unaware of the situation and we have a good chance of looting the satellite first."

"Then what's the problem?"

"To start with you claim a flying saucer."

"But we have the saucer to show people."

"Yes, but Senator Sloan just made a speech saying there were no such things as flying saucers. It would be much better politics if we call the thing an unusual heavier than air flying machine."

"Why surely Karl, if you think that's best."

"The next problem is the flying machine's propulsion mechanism. You say you just pull a lever and it accelerates in any direction without an equal and opposite reaction. That's a direct violation of Newton's laws of motion."

"But that's what it does, handles like a dream too."

"Gertrude, saying things like that will anger every scientist in the department and we need good relations with them. Instead let's say that preliminary scientific analysis indicates that the flying machine uses a neutrino drive, i.e. it acquires momentum in one direction by emitting neutrinos preferentially in the other direction."

"Your pardon, Sir," interrupted Jar Quinan, "there are some things which a classical Tibetan education does not include. A neutrino?"

"It is an undetectable particle."

"If it is undetectable, how does anyone know it exists?"

"Logical deduction. Apparent violations of Newton's laws are often observed and since we know such violations are impossible the only explanation is the existence of the neutrino."

"This Newton, he deduced his laws from first principals?"

"No, they are empirical. We know they are true because we have never seen an exception to them."

"Ah thank you. If I am to live in the West, I must learn your curious superstitions."

Karl ignored that and went on. "Gertrude, you say those demons passed right through solid metal walls to reach the Martians in their tombs, but you never actually saw that happen."

"No, but we saw a demon move through a granite block and we found a can of meat a demon had eaten without opening."

"Yes, but since you didn't see it happen, the report should say that the Martians were sealed in their tombs and the mechanism of subsequent biodegradation of the bodies is not established."

When Gertrude agreed to this, Karl turned what he thought would be the most difficult part of the report to make plausible. "As to reincarnation, that's a religious issue and no official report of this agency of the United States Government should take a position on any religious issue. Moreover Sothatalos may have been an impressive individual, but there is no evidence he was authorized to speak for the entire Martian race."

"But he was the entire Martian race -- the last."

"That's beside the point. The report should say that the Martians built Ul Chalan for complex religious reasons, now being investigated."

Jar shrugged. "As you wish. The real proof of what we say will come in nine months when a great man is born."

Karl permitted himself a half smile. "Do you expect him to be born in Tibet or China?"

Gertrude replied sharply, "He will be born in Bronx Community Hospital."

Karl started. "You mean --"

Jar Quinan smiled proudly. "Yes, Gertrude and I are married and she is pregnant. I realize you Westerners look only at the exterior and would fail to see what a wonderful and beautiful woman Gertrude is. Your blindness is my good fortune."

"Congratulations," Karl mumbled rather numbly. No doubt in the part of the report he had not read Gertrude claimed that she had gotten pregnant in the line of duty to procure for the United States the soul of an ancient Martian in order to assist the national defense. Making that plausible would be a very difficult rewrite job. Gertrude interrupted his unhappy thoughts.

"Can you take care of the report? Jar and I want to leave on our honeymoon."

Karl groaned but took the path of least resistance. "Alright, when will you be back?"

"In a month, but I'll be taking a leave of absence shortly thereafter.'

"Why? You can still do desk work for some time."

"She," explained the monk, "is going to help me set up my clinic. I find that here in this benighted country doctors know nothing of exorcizing demons and as a result your people suffer all manner of diseases unknown in Tibet. I plan to open a clinic and heal all these people."

"After all," added Gertrude, "my mother always wanted me to marry a doctor."



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The City of Ul Chalan was originally published in Analog Magazine, July 1973, copyright Richard K. Lyon.  It is reprinted here with the author's permission.