ince I’m still deep in another book, I met this week’s deadline by peeking into the next story in my Sam Gunn Omnibus, a collection by the recently-late Ben Bova. This time, it was Diamond Sam.
So the collection continues with Jade, a young girl attempting to make a historical drama out of the late, great Sam Gunn, spaceman and adventurer. In this, she interviews Grigory Protov, an aging cosmonaut living out his last days in a Russian old-spaceman-home on the moon. And Grigory has nothing good to say about Sam, calling him a spy and a thief.
Turns out (as the story relates) that back int the day, Grigory commanded Mir-5, a Russian “research” station that was actually building a missile-killing laser, a counter-threat to Star Wars. Things are glum on the station, they haven’t been relieved in a year and a half (they all have hopes of getting included in an upcoming Mars mission). Everyone either works or sleeps. There is no privacy. There is no hope. And then Sam (in a disabled orbiter) shows up, seeking safe shelter.
Of course, Sam is everything the Russians aren’t – undisciplined, rule-breaking, loud, boisterous. Frankly, Grigory doesn’t want to make the crew even more miserable. So he let’s Sam dock. Even before he’s left, Sam’s given out trinkets and toys and patches, overjoying the glum Russians and making Grigory even more leery.
And like an alley cat, Sam keeps returning, plying the Russians with drinks and gifts, and carrying away a sample of their renowned ice cream. This continues until Sam even gives them bootleg DVDs with a special track containing raunchy pornography. Morale soars on the station.
So now Grigory can hardly say no to his visits. And that’s when the trap is sprung. Sam asks that, in his next carton of ice cream, a couple of those military-grade diamonds they are manufacturing on the base get slipped in. Only two or three. And of course, what would the political officer think if he learned about the pornography, right?
Grigory realizes that he’s been trapped and turns over a couple of stones. This goes on, stone following stone, with Sam telling him that the stones are getting sold and Grigory will get a cut. But down on Earth, international talks are breaking down because of “space lasers”, everything is turning to shit, and here comes Sam, putt-putting along in his orbiter, to grab up another bucket of ice-cream. And on the station, Grigory goes down to the laser firing room…
A great little story about trickery and intrigue. I really enjoyed this one and am looking forward to the rest of the stories. And I’d better – the Omnibus is as thick as a brick!