Robert Ludlum's The Utopia Experiment

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Prologue

Erfurt

East Germany

December 1972

WE’RE RUNNING BEHIND SCHEDULE. I can’t be responsible for the weather.”

Christian Dresner nodded and continued to gaze through the Trabant’s dirty windshield. Outside, everything was hung with ice. Decayed houses glistened on either side of the narrow road, tangled power lines sagged with the weight, and the cobblestones glared blindingly in their headlights.

“We should go directly to the rendezvous,” the driver continued nervously. “It’s almost midnight.”

“You took our money,” Dresner said. “Now you’ll do the job according to our agreement.”

The man leaned over the greasy steering wheel, scowling as he tried to coax a little more speed from the car without losing traction.

A quiet rustle came from the backseat, followed by a voice barely audible over the sickly, communist-made engine. “Christian?”

Dresner twisted around and looked at the thin man clutching a briefcase to his chest. At twenty-six, Gerhard Eichmann was two years his senior, but his physique and manner made him seem perpetually trapped between adolescence and adulthood. Despite that impression, though, he was a brilliant psychologist—something highly valued by Soviet politicians obsessed with controlling every aspect of their people’s lives. More important, though, Eichmann was a true friend—a rare treasure in a world full of zealous apparatchiks, secret police, and desperate informants. Perhaps the frail man would be the only friend he would ever have. But it didn’t matter. One like him was enough. More than most people could hope for.

“Don’t worry, Gerd. Soon, we’ll wake up in a warm bed in the West. We’ll be free to do what we wish. To become what we wish. I promise you.”

Eichmann gave him a weak smile and held the briefcase tighter. It was the only thing they were taking with them, the only thing they possessed of value. It contained records of the research done at a remote facility they’d been all but imprisoned in for the past four years. The currency they would use to start their new lives.

The vehicle slowed and Dresner faced forward again as they started up a winding road, the moderate slope of which quickly proved too steep for the car’s bald tires.

He stepped out before they fully stopped, finding his footing on the ice and starting forward as the falling snow swallowed up Eichmann’s panicked entreaties.

The building began to reveal itself as the slope leveled—the cracked and faded arches clinging precariously to the facade, the peeling tower that sagged like everything and everyone around it.

A dim light coming from the upper window looked exactly as it had the day he’d been taken away but he averted his gaze, afraid that it would pull him into the past. That the frightened, desperate child he’d been would return and overwhelm him.

The gate he remembered was gone now and he felt his breathing turn shallow as he passed through the empty space where it had been. The swing set still stood, trapped in the frozen mud of the yard along with a teeter-totter snapped in the middle and a set of climbing bars. In his childhood, they’d still had paint clinging to them—patches of bright red and yellow that recalled the days before the war. Before the Soviets. On rare