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New York
Copyright © 1990 by Stan Lee All rights reserved.
No part of this book may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system,
or transmitted in any form, by any means, including mechanical, electronic,
photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without prior written permission of
the publisher.
Published by Grove Weidenfeld
A division of Wheatland Corporation
841 Broadway
New York, NY 10003-4793
Published in Canada by General Publishing Company, Ltd.
Excerpt from The Complete Poems of Carl Sandburg by Carl Sandburg, copyright 1918 by Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Inc. and
renewed 1946 by Carl Sandburg, reprinted
by permission of the publisher.
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Lee, Stan.
The GOD Project / Stan Lee.—1st ed. p. cm.
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ISBN 0-8021-1128-9 (alk. paper) I. Title.
PS3562.E3648G6 1990 813'.54_dc20 89-38362
Manufactured in the United States of America
Printed on acid-free paper
Designed by Irving Perkins Associates
First Edition 1990
123456789 10
To Sandra Lucas
The Trouble
T here was a burned-out quality to summertime Washington that Elmer Jessup reveled in; it was the only
time he actually felt at home in the place. For one thing, it was empty. Congress wasn't in session, which
was always a plus for the commonweal. For another, the Democrats were all down in New Orleans at their
presidential convention busily knocking each other off. The Republicans were on the way to the coronation
of President McKay in San Diego. The President himself was still on his ranch in Arizona, pulling strings
and twisting arms and patting backs to be sure he was renominated by popular acclamation. Best of all, it
was even too hot and muggy for the tourists. In August, Washington was for connoisseurs of the bleak and
the blasted. Which was why Elmer Jessup, Director of Central Intelligence, did something entirely out of
character for him. He had his driver stop at the Mayflower Hotel so he and his aide, Nye, could watch the
roll call of the states in the cocktail lounge.
They didn't go in through the main hotel entrance; it was subtler to enter by the cocktail lounge's own door,
which was the kind of calculation that Jessup did on automatic pilot. They entered the darkened room of
brown wood and dark red leather chairs and couches and headed straight for inconspicuousness, a
darkened nook with a good sight line to the television set.
Washington, D.C., capital of the world, blocks away from the White House, and they had the baseball game
on. Jessup waited while Nye bribed the manager. After the roll call, they could switch it back to that opiate
of the people, Boston vs. the New York Yankees.
There was a nice muted feel to the place. There were fluorescents, but they were blunted; they were
installed behind thick stained-glass panels. The only other light was from dim spots recessed in the ceiling
which seemed to disperse before it reached the dark rug. Best of all, the air was good; almost as good as
the limousine's.
The room was two-thirds empty, and no one seemed to notice the difference between baseball and politics.
He took out his tally sheets. It was almost as though everything would go wrong if he personally didn't
watch it, supervise it, stay with it every step of the way; this thing was too important to leave to chance.
Nye came back and took his own tallies out, and they sat there contentedly sipping white wine spritzers as
the roll call of the states got under way.
Jessup didn't like conventions, but then he didn't like elections. What? You went around asking Joe Doakes
what to do about NATO? The Philippines? The bomb? But he was managing to enjoy this one anyway; it
was the quadrennial meeting of the Democrat Suicide Club.
He looked at the names supered on the screen—Halliday, Lindstrom, Rottenburg, and Stonewell—and
watched California go ecstatically for the governor of New York, Richard Halliday. He winked at Nye;
they'd been worried about California.
Stonewell could conceivably make trouble in November. He had survived twelve years of the
shoot-on-sight politics of North Carolina and, unlike most of the Democrats, had a following throughout the
South and Southwest. He also had the best campaign organization of any of them. The last candidate
Jessup wanted to see running against President McKay was Stonewell.
Rottenburg, a Texan, a solid budget-balancing conservative governor who was willing to spend like a
drunken sailor on farm programs, might be a threat. Rottenburg had the second-best political organization
among the Democrats as well as eight children, which took care of abortion and prayer in the schoolroom; it
was entirely possible that he could pick up the fundamentalists, which McKay would badly need.
The problem was that McKay had too many problems. An even worse corruption record than Reagan, and
he had managed to do it in only four years; a noticeable fraction of McKay's political cohort was sitting out
the election year in various federal correctional facilities around the country. Plus his former Secretary of
State had turned out to be gay. Plus the worst unemployment since the thirties depression. Plus an inflation
rate that was running at 9.5 percent annually. Going up against a morally impeccable Rottenburg would be
Then there was Lindstrom. An imponderable. Lindstrom was a pussycat from Ohio who in eighteen years
in the Senate hadn't made a single enemy; in a low-turnout election, he conceivably could squeak past
McKay and win it. Only Halliday would be a sure loser in November, and according to Jessup's intelligence,
it was going to go all the way to Wyoming before Halliday won the nomination by an eyelash. He sat there
happily checking off states, his numbers, so far, correct to the last half-delegate. Jessup's sixty-five-year-old
pulse was beginning to make itself felt. Twenty years of mayhem in the CIA had not blunted his ability to
get excited, to be on tippy-toes when great affairs were hanging in the balance. In fact, getting excited was
his genius. He thought of it as his ability to be revirgined, to be able to go into anything as though it had
never happened before, quivering with anticipation spiced with a little dread.
"He'll be the biggest beauty since Adlai Stevenson," Jessup said to Nye. "He'll talk over everyone's head
and he'll win three states."
Illinois went for Halliday.
"If I were religious," Nye replied, "I'd say, 'Thank the Lord.' Maybe I should anyway, it couldn't hurt."
"The Lord had nothing to do with it," Jessup said, having managed to bribe the key members of the Illinois
delegation into supporting Halliday. At least they'd come cheap; he had gotten nine of them for under a
hundred thousand dollars. It always astonished Jessup how cheaply the typical politician sold himself.
"I hate to admit it, but it's looking good," Jessup said, showing a narrow slit of teeth that wasn't so much a
smile as a simulation of a smile, or maybe a rough draft of a smile, a tentative, exploratory stab at some kind
of nonhostile muscular alignment in the general area of the mouth. Everything was going as predicted. He
ordered a rare second drink, but as he looked toward the waiter he spotted Anatoly Malenki half a dozen
tables away. Malenki was officially the Second Secretary at the Soviet Embassy but was undoubtedly
KGB. Jessup considered him to be the slimiest man in America. Malenki and another Russian had tally
sheets out too. Malenki looked over and smiled weakly. Jessup nodded a tenth of an inch.
Malenki had only just finished bribing the manager to switch the TV to the Democratic Convention when
he'd spotted the most evil man in Washington strolling into the lounge. One of his eyebrows had gone up, an
uncharacteristic display of emotion for him. The one time in months when he'd decided to go out—because
there was no one left in either Moscow or Washington who could make trouble for him—and the Director
of Central Intelligence strolls in. Out on the town? Drinking? Elmer Jessup?
Malenki was an unusual Russian. He had been born in Kiev, but his parents had immigrated to Brooklyn
when he was six months old. He was eighteen years old when they had emigrated back to the Soviet
Union. It meant that Malenki could not only talk like an American, he could think like one.
Malenki tore his eyes away from the Director of Central Intelligence and went back to his tallies. There
hadn't been any surprises, except maybe Illinois which, some thought, might have gone to Lindstrom but
had, unexpectedly, voted solidly for Halliday. Halliday was behind at the moment, but New York had
passed, and he was going to get all 212 of their votes. It was depressing. If Halliday got the Democratic
nomination, he would assuredly lose in November and they'd have four more years of the conservative
fanatic McKay.
The problem traced all the way back to Harry Truman. Truman and Eisenhower, actually. Their idea was
to make arms offers that seemed the height of sweet reasonableness to the American public but which
invariably contained a joker clause so disadvantageous to the Russians that a "Nyet" was guaranteed. The
U.S. establishment had become infatuated with nuclear weapons from the moment of the trinity explosion
and didn't want to give them up.
Gorbachev foiled this strategy. Gorbachev simply grabbed at just about anything that was offered—no
matter how unfair to Russia—in order to dispel the Cold War mood. Gorbachev had possessed what
previous Soviet leaders lacked: a sense of humor.
But George Bush had defeated him. The old Busher, the wimp himself, had done Gorbachev in. It had been
easy. He had used the interchangeability of weapons systems to do it. The American public thought in
terms of types of weapons, which was actually an irrelevant category. If both sides gave up, say, mobile
land-based missiles in Europe, that would seem fair and peaceful and equitable to the public. Bush
cheerfully went along with such deals while at the same time pushing alternative weapons systems that
accomplished the same mission, such as land- and sea-based cruise missiles and attack planes, categories in
which the Russians were way behind.
Eventually the Soviet military had clamped down on Gorbachev because he was endangering Soviet military
security with his penchant for giving away the store in order to play to Western public opinion. President
McKay had continued the Bush game plan. And now there was yet another new American weapons
system coming on line.
Malenki's biggest failure in America so far was that he had not yet discovered the nature of the newest
Pentagon project. A satellite had picked it up first: a large compound in Colorado. The dominant structure
was peculiar. There was a circular installation, mostly underground, that had a diameter of three hundred
feet. A second structure was a diameter of that circle, three hundred feet long, seventy feet high, eighty-six
feet wide. There was no structure like it in the Soviet Union or anywhere else on earth. You couldn't get
near it on the ground. And, for once, American security had held, had been absolutely airtight. There was
so much in the American arsenal already that was hellish— Malenki couldn't even imagine what it might
be. He'd requested that a seminar be held in Moscow, where leading Soviet experts in all disciplines could
cross-pollinate in an attempt to divine—the word came from his American background—what the next
ultimate weapon might be. The seminar had produced twenty-five technically ingenious crackpot ideas
which Malenki—and everyone else at KGB and the Kremlin—had refused to take seriously. If it should
turn out to be a breakthrough system—and in the hands of President William C. McKay, a fanatic and a
risk-taker—it could mean mortal trouble for the Soviet Union, where there still wasn't enough money to
keep up with the Joneses. Now, Malenki was sitting there appalled
Wyoming had yielded to New York.
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