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Saps and Swishes

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Burt Gurney expertly flexed the muscles of his well-toned body to maintain his pose in the longboat despite the rolling waves and the writers' chaotic rowing. Mere minutes from midnight, with the full moon glistening off the sea. He narrowed his eyes to peer through the darkness, picking out the silhouette of two jagged columns of rock jutting out from the sea. Slowly but surely, his beach house came into view behind them.


Even as Burt gave the command to his fellow Communists, he couldn't help thinking it was he who needed the reminder most. His heart flung itself against his ribcage with excitement. Outwardly, he kept calm--chin up, chest out, a figure worthy of a Soviet workers' poster encouraging the populace in their fight against the decadent West.

The image of the beach house slipped past the first rock.


Engels wriggled in the crook of his arm. Burt gave him an idle scratch behind the ears, but kept his eyes on the shore.

The house centered between the two rocks.

"Here!" Burt declared, his leather-gloved fist clenched in victory.

The writers flailed their oars in every direction. Out of the chaos came order, the boat settling onto the sea in the position dictated by Burt's Soviet contact. All they had to do now was wait.

Burt checked his watch. Thirty seconds. He smiled to himself and cast his gaze out to sea. Soon the Soviet submarine would rise from the waves to carry him to his heart's home.

He waited.

Engels yapped, once. Burt quieted him with a pat on the head. He would miss his little pup dearly. But there was no place for a dog aboard a submarine. The Future had promised to care for him. Herschel in particular seemed fond of him, despite his protestations.

Burt continued waiting.

Someone else in the boat coughed. Dutch, perhaps. Apart from that, there was only the lap of the waves against the longboat's hull.

Burt checked his watch.

One minute and fourteen seconds past midnight.

Burt frowned. He'd synchronized his watch with the studio clock before he'd left the lot, and checked it against those in his beach house when he'd arrived. But perhaps they were all fast. He knew the Soviet chronometers wouldn't be running slow.

Another cough. Definitely Dutch this time.

Burt kept his gaze focused on the empty patch of seawater ahead. Behind him, he could feel the silent tension rising in the boat, just like the tension rising in the audience back on Broadway when, watching from the wings, he'd stared in horror as the lead flubbed line after line. Only now, it was Burt standing center-stage with no idea of what came next.

One more minute. He'd give them one more minute, then they'd row back to shore, regroup, plan anew.

Okay, maybe two more minutes.

Two minutes became twenty. The sea rolled on. Burt considered leaping face-first into it and letting the sharks have him.

This time, the cough came from Professor Marcuse. "Comrade?"

Burt sighed. "Stern all."

The writers flailed their oars and turned the boat towards the shore.

As they pulled its hull up onto the sands, the night's silence was broken by sirens. Shortly after, flashing red lights zipped around the corner and six cop cars screeched to a halt in front of Burt's beach house.

Around him, the writers argued in panicked whispers. Burt remained calm. He'd pull through this. He always did. And once he had, he would find Ivan and kill the Soviet traitor himself.