Security by Poul Anderson
Available for free download:
Gutenberg text: http://www.gutenberg.org/files/22239/22239.zip
I take this to be Anderson's response to the McCarthy era during the early 1950's.† The story takes place in a future US in which personal liberties have been limited "for security needs", news is propagandistic, secrecy in scientific work is routine and highly structured...† Basically a police state with lip service to democracy.
A loyal scientist, Lancaster, is approached by a security officer and told he will be sent on a secret assignment during what was supposed to be his summer vacation.† At his vacation spot, the scientist is replaced by a look-alike.† While the duplicate carries out the vacation, Lancaster is secretly transported away - eventually ending up in a secret space station far from Earth.† There he is informed he will be replacing another scientist on a project of great importance.† They are working on a substance that will absorb and retain large amounts of electricity until a device releases it.† It is explained this is the next frontier in military technology, so it is essential that they develop it before anti-government elements do.† This is a super-secret project that only a small part of the security establishment is allowed to know about.
The laboratory on the space station turns out to be an exhilarating experience for Lancaster.† The atmosphere is much more friendly and scientific - not the fearful, competitive and security-burdened conditions he is used to.† When they succeed in making the new substance, and it is time to go back to his regular job, Lancaster is saddened.† He even asks if it would be possible to get transferred there.
On the trip back to Earth, the security officer emphasizes how important it is that Lancaster tells nobody whatsoever.† Lancaster maintains his secrecy.† However, his work conditions compared to those at the space lab get to him.† He starts to read anti-government pamphlets he finds left around and tries to feel out people he knows that he thinks might have anti-government sentiments.† Somehow, security officers come to arrest and interrogate him.† They ask about his summer vacation.† Lancaster knows he is not supposed to tell anyone, even these police.† When he doesn't talk, they start a process of beatings and worse.† Through the haze of this period he comes to take a different view of the authorities...
The story wraps up in a not too surprising way.† It is likely to appeal more to readers with similar concerns as Andersonís.† Otherwise, it might be a short bit of escapism.† Itís not an extraordinary story and has the flavor of 1950ís SF..†