The arendt files, p.14
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       The Arendt Files, p.14

           Ivan Rosemblatt
 
It was 1942 and the outcome of the war was uncertain. Before being moved to this isolated spot he had been in contact with former friends from his college days back home in Serbia who had also made their way to the American Midwest.. When he first heard the stories he wasn't sure whether to believe them or not. He first learned what had happened back home from a fellow expat at a small party he had attended while visiting friends in Chicago. The man's name was Andrej and he had family in Perusic. He knew the names of classmates he used play soccer with at the Gymnasium. For some reason his legs went weak when he heard that the boy who had made fun of him all through school had been shot in the town square. The reality of it all hit him directly and all at once, his face had gone white and they had to bring a chair over.

  Andrej kept explaining to the others who had left their plates of Pljskavica and glasses of brandy Slivovitz to huddle around them in concern. “He told me his name was Leskov. I had no idea he was a Jew.” The others patted the man on the shoulder as the hostess of the party kneeled next to Leskov cooling him off with her fan, it had been a hot muggy summer day and she called for water. They had all been drinking a bit too much. “I think his father had immigrated from around Minsk but his mother was Serb, both Jewish of course. The father's family took a Russian name, I think for business reason. Liscowitz originally I think.”

  From that day forward his only was concerned was to help his adoptive country win the war as quickly as possible and it was because of that he had set up a meeting with the colonel. When he entered the office he was greeted the usual attitude forbearance and complete lack of respect.

  The colonel “Have a seat doc.”

  “Thank you.”

  “What can I do you for.” The colonel was in his fifties, tall, thin, angular, steel blue eyes, skin leathery , hair completely grey. From the way he handled himself Leskov knew that he came from a family of position. Despite a certain naivete, this was one area where his sensitivities were head and shoulders above his American colleagues. They seemed to be blind, oblivious to class differences that to him were as clear as his hand in front of his face.“Is there anything you need for your work.”

  “No, you have all been remarkably obliging.”

  “Well then doctor, please get to it. I am very busy.” He was shuffling through papers, giving Leskov only a sliver of his attention. “I know what is going on here.”

  That grabbed the colonel's attention. He set his papers down, leaned back in his chair and interlaced his his fingers. “We have asked you here to continue your research on behalf of the United States military. That is what is going on here.”

  “Come now colonel. You can treat me like a civilian to be humored but please don't treat me as a child.”

  “What exactly do you think is going on?”

  “You are evaluating me. For what purpose I don't know. But for some purpose.”

  “I have no idea what you are referring to.”

  “Of course. Colonel, all of my family, cousins, childhood friends, everyone is most likely dead.”

  “Is this about your family? You should hold out hope. We will win this war.”

  “Colonel, my people are being slaughtered as we speak. Please, make your decision. Whatever use the military may have for me as a scientist let me begin it in earnest or release me. I would prefer to join as an enlisted man than spend my time here in useless comfort.”

  The colonel just stared at him, examining Leskov's face.

  “Yes there it is. The probing stare. I am a scientist, I know when I am the subject of the experiment. I am aware that you cannot acknowledge whatever it is that you cannot acknowledge. I'm afraid I must respectfully insist. Let us get on with it, one way or another.

  “Good day doc.”

  Leskov rose up, paused and gave a slight bow. He was satisfied that he had made his point.

  Two days later, the colonel arrived in a Jeep at his barracks. Leskov had walked out of the front door to see who had arrived. He put on his glasses and lifted his suspenders over his shoulders, his hair disheveled and his shirt unbuttoned. “What is it with you scientist's? Your mother's never teach you how to dress?”

  “How can I help you colonel?”

  “Gather your things. All of them, we are leaving. You have ten minutes. Whatever you haven't shoved in your rucksack isn't coming with you.” He nodded and turned back to his room. There was no time even to write a note saying goodbye. Thirteen minutes later they left through the front gate and turned in the direction of Hwy 50.

  The colonel said nothing during the hours that followed. After spending most of the day on the highway they left the main road and started a bumpy ride on dirt roads till past nightfall. He had no idea where he was and at one point it occurred to him that perhaps he had pushed too far, that he was going to be executed for it. Eventually they passed a gate with a lonely guard. They rounded a corner and continue into the deep black of the road.

  The night sky was crystal clear, low and cold overhead. Leskov was shivering, clutching his bag fiercely against him struggling for a bit of warmth. The colonel had only the uniform he had left the base with yet showed no signs of discomfort. “What is it with these military types? Is he actually not cold. It's impossible. Is it a lie that is believed over time?” They took a sharp right off the road advancing a few meters up a rise. The colonel pointed. Perhaps forty meters ahead up a moderate embankment was the entrance to an old mine shaft. He looked over to the colonel who looked straight ahead and maintained the silence he had been keeping for almost ten hours. Leskov had chosen not to be cowed so after his first attempt at conversation had been rebuffed had kept his own company throughout the trip.

  He stepped out of the vehicle and started up the incline. He had stopped wanting to show any form of weakness to the colonel and was angry at himself when he slipped twice on his way up. He was sick of the sense of superiority and condescension he felt from the man. He had always felt that honesty was the road to knowledge and to hide ones foibles was a lack of character but he had suddenly and all at once realized that in this world it was only seen as weakness and he was no longer willing to be treated that way. Once he had made it to the mouth of the mine shaft with it's wide timbers marking the entrance he saw the jeep immediately back up and leave in the direction it had come.

  He thought that he would be thrown into almost complete darkness. It was a new moon and there was only the light of the stars in the sky, but once his eyes had a brief minute to adjust he saw that there was a small glow light emanating from the shaft. As he started to make his way in he found that it was in fact lighted. He did not like enclosed spaces and realized that he was starting to breath hard and fast. He heard footsteps coming towards him and two MP's appeared walking in unison.

  “Come with us sir.”

  The further in they went the more open and finished the cave became. They passed a number of side shafts and he realized that he would probably not be able to find his way out on his own. After almost 15 minutes of walking they brought him to a small room. Inside he found a table with two chairs and a single light bulb. He was finally able to put his bag down, no one had offered to help him with it and he had been struggling under it's weight as he had packed far too many books. “Please take a seat and wait here.” The guards left.

  He was in there for almost five hours before the door opened. The man who walked in was old, perhaps in his mid eighties, hunched over and using a cane, something he had yet to see an officer do. He had learned very little of military ways but he had been instructed in protocol by rank, what different stripes meant and the minimum level of decorum required. As a scientist he was given a little extra leeway but there was a limit. This was the highest ranking person he had met, by far, and he snapped to attention

  “At ease.” The unknown Admiral spoke with calm,authority.

  Leskov walked to the other side of the table ceding the closer chair to the general. They both sat down.

  “Well I'm sure you have many questi
ons but I am not going to be able to answer them all now. Colonel Stone tells me you saw through our ruse de guerre are wanted to get on with it.”

  “Yes sir.”

  “Well, your timing was excellent. We are up against it. I don't know how much longer we have and we need to get you up to speed. If you hadn't have made a move we might have gone with somebody else.”

  “Somebody else for what sir?”

  “First take a shower and get a little shut eye. We want you sharp.”

  The general rose from his chair and turned to the door but paused and turned around before leaving.

  As he made his way out of the door the two soldiers came in with a folding cot and couple of blankets. They set it up quickly and efficiently and were gone. He realized his days with amenities were over for a while as he lay down exhausted. The wall behind him was rock face and the bare light bulb hanging from a wire could not be turned off but he was too tired to really care. “What a depressing room.” He thought as he fell into the oblivion of sleep like the remains of a body weighed down and committed to the deep.

  He woke up being shaken. “Get him up now.”

  A pair of hands were lifting him up out of bed. “Hurry it up now.” The voice belonged to the Admiral. At first he couldn't even remember where he was, sleep had temporarily erased the contents of the last day but opening his eyes he saw the old man standing a few feet in front of him feet spread wide hands clasped behind his back. His uniform was ill fitting but it was as if the air of authority surrounding him had been amplified, filled up the whole room, and pressed up against him. “Get him all the way up.”

  “Yes I am up, I am up. Please hand me my glasses, I left them on the table.” The general made slight gesture of assent to one of the soldiers who let go of the elbow he had been using to prop him up. As he put his glasses on Leskov took his other elbow from the second soldier hand and stood up tall. Everything was coming into focus. He had never been an early riser and he was a bit embarrassed by how deeply he had been lost in sleep. He could see there was a general state of chaos. Through the open door men were running back and forth and heard anxious shouting in the distance.

  “Well doctor. The shit has hit the fan. We had hoped to take some time to introduce you to the task at hand but there is no time now, really for any of us.”

  “What has happened?”

  “Follow me please.”

  The Admiral turned and moved much more quickly than he had thought possible down the halls as men hurried past them in both directions in a state of total panic and frantic activity. Leskov was getting more concerned with each moment that passed. The two military police continued to flank him one on each side which he found quite strange. He had no idea what threat he could possibly pose and their size and attention made even more nervous.

  Eventually they came to a passage blocked by a large metal wall and door similar to what he imagined in a submarine. One of the MP's went over and with a good deal of effort turned the round handle on the hatch. He realized it actually was a modified submarine door as he made his way through quickly examining the mechanism as he passed. It seemed to him to function as tooth gear attached to metal bars, simple and elegant.

  On the other side of the was the largest space he had been in yet. They had walked through some very large tunnels that had clearly been designed to transport large vehicles but this space looked as though it were a natural formation as large and as tall as the cathedral in Belgrade. Perhaps a hundred yards ahead was an old man sat on a chair, hands intertwined in his lap rocking slightly back and forth. Next to him was a disordered stack of wooden crates and filing cabinets, as tall and wide as a car. The general moved in a straight line towards him.The man seemed familiar. As they approached he did not shift in his chair or change the rhythm of his rocking; did not seem to react to their presence at all. He wore a gray suit in the style Leskov was familiar with from his youth.

  “Professor, I present you Nikola Tesla.”

  Leskov looked over at the general, mouth agape, in disbelief. “You jest?”

  “Not at all.”

  Leskov turned to the old man. “Gospoda Tesla. It is an honor.” Tesla looked up at him blankly.

  “He doesn't respond. We don't think he is completely gone because when we give him pen and a notebook he immediately starts to jot down equations and ideas but he either refuses or is unable to to communicate with people.”

  “I see.”

  “He does occasionally mumble about pigeons.”

  “Many old men like to feed pigeons. It is a kind of companionship I suppose.”

  They were silent for a moment. “These are his papers. We were hoping that with time, your being Serbian, a scientist and an engineer, you might be able to review these papers and get him to speak and ultimately, bring his research to completion. In particular his ideas on weaponry.”

  “This is an excellent idea.” Leskov's heart was pounding. He could only imagine what it might be like to have access to the greatest mind in the world, what he might be able to learn. That alone would be a worthwhile legacy, to study and organize his papers, let alone continue his research.

  “That is not longer possible.”

  “Oh general, why not? I can see no better use of our resources.”

  “Well professor, a few hours ago the Washington D.C. was attacked by a nuclear weapon.”

  “What?”

  “Yes. The capitol no longer exists. We expect a major invasion force to land soon, how long exactly we have no idea.”

  “What will the military do? Who is in charge?”

  “That is exactly what we are trying to figure out. It depends in large part on how many bombs they might have. We won't sacrifice the entire country.”

  “Surrender?”

  “I don't know. What I do know is that this is the start of a long fight. I won't be around to help the way I would like. But I will be going to join the ruckus. In the meantime these gentleman” The general nodded to the two guards, “will be your escorts.”

  “Escorts to where?”

  “For now let's just say that some contingency plans have been made. Today I wish that we had done more, much more. On the other hand, militarily it is rarely in you interest to put any planning into defeat.”

  That word echoed in his mind.

  “They will be accompanying you to the airstrip and ensure that you and these papers you have been entrusted with make it your destination.”

  “Please general, can you tell me where I am going?”

  “I suppose that secret doesn't matter much now. You are headed to Argentina.”

  “Argentina?”

  “Yes outside Buenos Aires. I hear the beef there is outstanding. Of course you will be very busy. No rest for you from here forward. You may not hold a rifle but you are a soldier now on a long long march. Give it your all. We are depending on you. We probably won't see each other again. It will be up to you to make something of all this. It's a long shot but it's worth a try.”

  Leskov had never been around a man like this, a true leader. He knew that he would spend the rest of his life trying to fulfill those orders.

  “I have to leave now.” General turned and towards the door walking by himself ,incredibly alone and proud as the soldiers immediately began grabbing boxes and crates and moving them towards the door.

  Chapter 15

 
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