Nicholas Hansard, a professor of history, is introduced playing a war game called Kingmaker with some friends and a teenager named Paul Ogden who wishes to have Nicholas as his faculty adviser. Nicholas receives a message from Raphael, his employer at the White Group, a super-secret intelligence agency, asking him to authenticate some documents found with the body of a drowned American major. These documents suggest that Allan Berenson, a fellow professor who had recruited Nicholas for intelligence work through an ongoing Diplomacy game, is working with the Russians. Shortly after this, Allan is killed by other spies.
Believing that his work had led to Allan’s murder, Nicholas goes to Raphael to resign from the White Group. Raphael offers him a chance to study and perhaps authenticate the Skene Manuscript, supposedly a hitherto unknown Christopher Marlowe play called The Assassin’s Tragedy. Nicholas agrees to remain with the White Group and leaves for England to look at the manuscript.
Allan’s lover, an English woman named Ellen Maxwell, decides to carry out a plan devised by Allan. Under the code name of WAGNER, she contacts a Russian spy named Palatine and gets the code names of the four other agents involved in the plan. She deduces that the first of these is Lewis Yates, who has stolen a prototype of a secret computer system used by the British navy. Ellen contacts Lewis, and he turns over the prototype. He had planned to kill her, but she kills him first.
Upon learning that Ellen has the prototype, Palatine believes that he can now safely kill Ellen, and he assigns a...
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