Clans of the Alphane Moon, by Philip K. Dick

Clans of the Alphane Moon, by Philip K. Dick

Postby admin » Thu Jul 16, 2015 4:07 am

CLANS OF THE ALPHANE MOON
by Philip K. Dick
© 1964 by Philip K. Dick

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Table of Contents:

• Chapter 1
• Chapter 2
• Chapter 3
• Chapter 4
• Chapter 5
• Chapter 6
• Chapter 7
• Chapter 8
• Chapter 9
• Chapter 10
• Chapter 11
• Chapter 12
• Chapter 13
• Afterword
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Re: Clans of the Alphane Moon, by Philip K. Dick

Postby admin » Thu Jul 16, 2015 4:08 am

ONE

Before entering the supreme council room, Gabriel Baines sent his Mans-made simulacrum clacking ahead to see if by chance it might be attacked. The simulacrum -- artfully constructed to resemble Baines in every detail -- did many things, since it had been made by the inventive clan of Manses, but Baines only cared to employ it in its maneuvering for defense; defending himself was his sole orientation in life, his claim to membership in the Pare enclave of Adolfville at the north end of the moon.

Baines had of course been outside Adolfville many times, but he felt safe -- or rather relatively safe -- only here, within the stout walls of this, the Pare city. Which proved that his claim to membership in the Pare clan was not contrived, a mere simulated technique by which he could gain entry into the most solidly-built, sturdy and enduring urban area anywhere. Baines beyond doubt was sincere ... as if here could be any doubt of him.

For example, there was his visit to the incredibly degrading hovels of the Heebs. Recently he had been in search of escaped members of a work brigade; being Heebs they had perhaps straggled back to Gandhitown. The difficulty, however, was that all Heebs, to him at least, looked alike: dirty, stooped creatures in soiled clothing who giggled and could not concentrate on any complicated procedure. They were useful for mere manual labor, nothing more. But with the constant need for tinkering improvement of Adolfville's fortifications against the predations of the Manses, manual labor was currently at a premium. And no Pare would dirty his hands. Anyhow, among the dilapidated shacks of the Heebs he had felt pure terror, a sense of almost infinitely vast exposure among the most flimsy of human constructs; it was an inhabited garbage dump of cardboard dwellings. The Heebs however did not object. They dwelt among their own refuse in tranquil equilibrium.

Here today, at the twice yearly council meeting representing all the clans, the Heebs would of course have a spokesman; speaking for the Pares he would find himself seated in the same room with an odious -- literally so -- Heeb. And this scarcely dignified his task. Probably it would be straggle-haired, fat Sarah Apostoles again this year.

But more ominous would be the Mans representative. Because, like every Pare, Baines was terrified of each and every Mans. Their reckless violence shocked him; he could not comprehend it, so purposeless was it. For years he had put Manses down as simply hostile. But that did not explain them. They enjoyed violence; it was a perverse delight in breaking things and intimidating others, especially Pares such as himself.

But knowing this did not fully help him; he still quailed at the anticipated confrontation with Howard Straw, the Mans delegate.

Wheezing asthmatically his simulacrum returned, a fixed smile on its Baines-like artificial countenance. "All in order, sir. No deadly gas, no electrical discharge of a dangerous degree, no poison in the water pitcher, no peepholes for laser rifles, no concealed infernal machines. I would offer the suggestion that you can safely enter." It clacked to a halt, became silent.

"No one approached you?" Baines asked cautiously.

The simulacrum said, "No one is there yet. Except, of course, for the Heeb sweeping the floor."

Baines, out of a lifetime of protective cunning, opened the door a crack for that which was essential: a momentary glimpse of the Heeb.

The Heeb, a male, swept in his slow, monotonous way, the usual silly Heeb expression on his face, as if his work amused him. He could probably keep it up for months without becoming bored; Heebs could not tire of a task because they could not comprehend even the concept of diversity. Of course, Baines reflected, there was some virtue in simplicity. He had for instance been impressed by the famous Heeb saint, Ignatz Ledebur, who radiated spirituality as he wandered from town to town, spreading the warmth of his harmless Heeb personality. This one certainly looked devoid of dangerousness ...

And the Heebs, at least, even their saints, did not try to convert people, as did the Skitz mystics. All the Heebs asked was to be let alone; they simply did not want to be bothered by life, and each year they shed more and more of the complexities of living, Returned, Baines reflected, to the mere vegetable, which, to a Heeb, was ideal.

Checking his laser pistol -- it was in order -- Baines decided that he could enter. So step by step he walked into the council room, took a chair, then abruptly changed to another; that one had been too close to the window: he presented too good a target to anyone outdoors.

To amuse himself while he waited for the others to arrive, he decided to bait the Heeb. "What's your name?" be demanded.

"J-jacob Simion," the Heeb said, sweeping with his standard silly grin unchanged; a Heeb never knew when he was being baited. Or if he did he did not care. Apathy toward everything: that was the Heeb way.

"You like your work, Jacob?" Baines asked, lighting a cigarette.

"Sure," the Heeb said, and then giggled.

"You've always spent your time sweeping floors?"

"Huh?" The Heeb did not appear able to comprehend the question.

The door opened and plump, pretty Annette Golding, the Poly delegate, appeared, purse under her arm, her round face flushed, her green eyes shining as she panted for breath. "I thought it was late."

"No," Baines said, rising to offer her a chair. He glanced professionally over her; no sign that she had brought her weapon. But she could be carrying feral spores in capsules secreted in a gum-pocket within her mouth; he made it a point, when he reseated himself, to select a chair at the far end of the big table. Distance ... a highly valuable factor.

"It's warm in here," Annette said, still perspiring. "I ran all the way up the stairs." She smiled at him in the artless way that some Polys had. She did seem attractive to him ... if only she could lose a little weight. Nonetheless he liked Annette and he took this opportunity to engage in light banter with her, tinged with overtones of the erotic.

"Annette," he said, "you're such a pleasant, comfortable person. A shame you don't marry. If you married me --"

"Yes, Gabe," Annette said, smiling. "I'd be protected. Litmus paper in every corner of the room, atmosphere analyzers throbbing away, grounding equipment in case influence machines radiating --"

"Be serious," Baines said, crossly. He wondered how old she was; certainly no more than twenty. And, like all Polys, she was childlike. The Polys hadn't grown up; they remained unfixed, and what was Polyism if not the lingering of plastic childhood? After all, their children, from every clan on the moon, were born Polys, went to their common, central school as Polys, did not become differentiated until perhaps their tenth or eleventh year. And some, like Annette, never became differentiated.

Opening her purse Annette got out a package of candy; she began to eat rapidly. "1 feel nervous," she explained. "So I have to eat." She offered the bag to Baines, but he declined -- after all, one never knew. Baines had preserved his life for thirty-five years now, and he did not intend to lose it due to a trivial impulse; everything had to be calculated, thought out in advance if he expected to live another thirty-five.

Annette said, "I suppose Louis Manfreti will represent the Skitz clan again this year. I always enjoy him; he has such interesting things to tell, the visions he sees of primordial things. Beasts from the earth and the sky, monsters that battle under the ground." She sucked on a piece of hard candy thoughtfully. "Do you think the visions that Skitzes see are real, Gabe?"

"No," Baines said, truthfully.

"Why do they ponder and talk about them all the time, then? They're real to them, anyhow."

"Mysticism," Baines said scornfully. He sniffed, now; some unnatural odor had come to him, something sweet. It was, he realized, the scent of Annette's hair and he relaxed. Or was it supposed to make him think that? he thought suddenly, again alert. "Nice perfume you have on," he said disingenuously. "What's it called?"

"Night of Wildness," Annette said. "I bought it from a peddler here from Alpha II; it cost me ninety skins but it does smell wonderful, don't you think? A whole month's salary." Her dark eyes looked sad.

"Marry me," Baines began again, and then broke off.

The Dep representative had appeared; he stood in the doorway and his fear-haunted, concave face with its staring eyes seemed to pierce Baines to the heart. Good lord, he groaned, not knowing whether to feel compassion for the poor Dep or just outright contempt. After all, the man could buck up; all the Deps could buck up, if they had any courage. But courage was totally lacking in the Dep settlement to the south. This one palpably showed this lack; he hesitated at the door, afraid to come in, and yet so resigned to his fate that in a moment he would do so anyhow, would do the very thing he feared ... whereas an Ob-Com of course would simply count to twenty by twos, turn his back and flee.

"Please enter," Annette coaxed pleasantly, indicating a chair.

"What's the use of this conversation?" the Dep said, and entered slowly, sagging with despair. "We'll just tear each other apart; I see no point in convening for these fracases." However, resignedly, he seated himself, sat with bowed head, hands clenched futilely together.

"I'm Annette Golding," Annette said, "and this is Gabriel Baines, the Pare. I'm the Poly. You're Dep, aren't you? I can tell by the way you stare at the floor." She laughed, but with sympathy.

The Dep said nothing; he did not even give his name. Talking for a Dep, Baines knew, was difficult; it was hard for them to summon the energy. This Dep had probably come early out of a fear of being late; over-compensation, typical of them. Baines did not like them. They were useless to themselves and the other clans; why didn't they die? And, unlike the Heebs, they could not even function as laborers; they lay down on the ground and stared sightlessly up at the sky, devoid of hope.

Leaning toward Baines, Annette said softly, "Cheer him up."

"The hell I will," Baines said. "What do I care? It's his own fault he's the way he is; he could change if he wanted. He could believe good things if he made the effort. His lot's no worse than the rest of ours, maybe even better; after all, they work at a snail's pace... I wish I could get away with doing as little work in a year as the average Dep."

Now, through the open door, walked a tall, middle-aged woman in a long gray coat. This was Ingred Hibbler, the Ob-Com; counting silently to herself she passed around and around the table, tapping each chair in turn. Baines and Annette waited; the Heeb sweeping the floor glanced up and giggled. The Dep continued to stare sightlessly down. At last Miss HibbIer found a chair whose numerology satisfied her; she drew it back, seated herself rigidly, her hands pressed tightly together, fingers working at great speed, as if knitting an invisible garment of protectiveness.

"I ran into Straw on the parking lot," she said, and counted silently to herself. "Our Mans. Ugh, he's an awful person; he almost ran over me with his wheel. I had to --"

She broke off. "Never mind. But it's hard to rid yourself of his aura, once it infects you." She shivered. Annette said, to no one in particular, "This year if Manfreti is the Skitz again he'll probably come in through the window instead of by the door." She laughed merrily. The Heeb, sweeping, joined her. " And of course we're waiting for the Heeb," Annette said.

"I'm the d-delegate from Gandhitown," the Heeb, Jacob Simion, said, pushing his broom in his monotonous way. "I j-just thought I'd do this while I w-waited." He smiled guilelessly around at all of them.

Baines sighed. The Heeb representative, a janitor. But of course; they all were, potentially if not actually. Then that left only the Skitz and the Mans, Howard Straw, who would be in as soon as he finished darting about the parking lot, scaring the other delegates as they arrived. Baines thought, He better not try to intimidate me. Because the laser pistol at Baines' waist was not simulated. And there was always his sim, waiting outside in the hall, to call on.

'What's this meeting about?" Miss Hibbler the Ob-Com asked, and counted rapidly, her eyes shut, fingers dangling. "One, two. One, two."

Annette said, "There's a rumor. A strange ship has been sighted and it's not traders from Alpha II; we're reasonably sure of that." She went on eating candy; Baines saw, with grim amusement, that she had devoured almost the entire bagful by now. Annette, as he well knew, had a diencephalic disturbance, an overvalent idea in the gluttony-syndrome area. And whenever she became tense or worried it became worse.

"A ship," the Dep said, stirring into life. "Maybe it can get us out of our mess."

"What mess?" Miss Hibbler asked.

Stirring, the Dep said, "You know." That was all he could summon up; he became inarticulate once more, lapsed into his coma of gloom. To a Dep things were always a mess. And yet, of course, the Deps feared change, too. Baines' contempt grew as he pondered this. But -- a ship. His contempt for the Dep turned to alarm. Was this true?

Straw, the Mans, would know. At Da Vinci Heights the Manses had elaborate technical devices for sighting in-coming traffic; probably the original word had come from Da Vinci Heights ... unless of course a Skitz mystic had foreseen it in a vision.

"It's probably a trick," Baines said aloud.

Everyone in the room, including the gloomy Dep, gazed at him; the Heeb momentarily even ceased sweeping.

"Those Manses," Baines explained, "they'll try anything. This is their way of getting an advantage over the rest of us, paying us back."

"For what?" Miss Hibbler said.

"You know the Manses hate all of us," Baines said. "Because they're crude, barbaric roughnecks, unwashed storm troopers who reach for their gun when they hear the word 'culture.' It's in their metabolism; it's the old Gothic." And yet that did not really state it; to be perfectly honest he did not know why the Manses were so intent on hurting everyone else, unless, as his theory went, it was out of sheer delight in inflicting pain. No, he thought, there must be more than that. Malice and envy; they must envy us, know we're culturally superior. As diverse as Da Vinci Heights is, there's no order, no esthetic unity to it; it's a hodgepodge of incomplete so-called "creative" projects, started out but never finished.

Annette said slowly, "Straw is a little unpolished, I admit. Even typically the reckless sort. But why would he report a foreign ship if one hadn't been sighted? You haven't given any clear reason."

"But I know," Baines said stubbornly, "that the Manses and especially Howard Straw are against us; we should act to protect ourselves from --" He ceased, because the door had opened and Straw strode brusquely into the room.

Red-haired, big and brawny, he was grinning. The appearance of an alien ship on their minute moon did not bother him.

It remained now only for the Skitz to arrive and, as usual, he might be an hour late; he would be wandering in a trance somewhere, lost in his clouded visions of an archetypal reality, of cosmic proto-forces underlying the temporal universe, his perpetual view of the so-called Urwelt.

We might as well make ourselves comfortable, Baines decided. As much so as possible, given Straw's presence among us. And Miss Hibbler's. he did not much care for her either. In fact, he did not care for any of them with perhaps the exception of Annette: she of the inordinate, conspicuous bosom. And he was getting nowhere with her. As usual.

But that was not his fault; all the Polys were like that -- no one ever knew which way they'd jump. They were contrary on purpose, opposed to the dictates of logic. And yet they were not moths, as were the Skitzes, nor debrained machines like the Heebs. They were abundantly alive; that was what he enjoyed so about Annette -- her quality of animation, freshness.

In fact she made him feel rigid and metallic, encased in thick steel like some archaic weapon of a useless, ancient war. She was twenty, he was thirty-five, perhaps that explained it. But he did not believe so. And then he thought, I'll bet she wants me to feel this way; she's deliberately trying to make me feel bad.

And, in response, all at once he felt icy, carefully reasoned Pare hatred for her.

Annette, simulating obliviousness, continued to devour the remnants of her bag of candy.

***

The Skitz delegate to the biannual get-together at Adolfville, Omar Diamond, gazed over the landscape of the world and saw, beneath it and upon it, the twin dragons, red and white, of death and life; the dragons, locked in battle, made the plain tremble, and, overhead, the sky split and a wizened decaying gray sun cast little if any comfort in a world fast losing its meager store of the vital.

"Halt," Omar said, raising his hand and addressing the dragons.

A man and wavy-haired girl, walking along the sidewalk of Adolfville's downtown district toward him, halted. The girl said, "What's the matter with him? He's doing something." Repugnance.

"Just a Skitz," the man said, amused. "Lost in vislons."

Omar said, "The eternal war has broken out afresh. The powers of life are on the wane. Can no man make the fatal decision, renounce his own life in an act of sacrifice to restore them?

The man, with a wink at his wife, said, "You know, sometimes you can ask these fellows a question and get an interesting answer. Go ahead. ask him something -- make it big and general, like, 'What is the meaning of existence?' Not, 'Where's the scissors I lost yesterday?'" He urged her forward.

With caution the woman addressed Omar. "Excuse me, but I've always wondered -- is there life after death?"

Omar said, "There is no death." He was amazed at the question; it was based on enormous ignorance. "What you see that you call 'death' is only the stage of germination in which the new life form lies dormant, awaiting the call to assume its next incarnation." He lifted his arms, pointing. "See? The dragon of life cannot be slain; even as his blood runs red in the meadow, new versions of him spring up at all sides. The seed buried in the earth rises again." He passed on, then, leaving the man and woman behind.

I must go to the six-story stone building, Omar said to himself. They wait there, the council. Howard Straw the barbarian. Miss Hibbler the crabbed one, beset by numbers. Annette Golding, the embodiment of life itself, plunging into everything that lets her become. Gabriel Baines, the one who is compelled to think up ways of defending himself against that which does not attack. The simple one with the broom who is nearer to God than any of us. And the sad one who never looks up, the man even without a name. What shall I call him? Perhaps Otto. No, I think I'll make it Dino. Dino Watters. He awaits death, not knowing that he lives in anticipation of an empty phantom; even death cannot protect him from his own self.

Standing at the base of the great six-story building, the largest in the Pare settlement Adolfville, he levitated; he bobbed against the proper window, scratched at the glass with his fingernail until at last a person within came to open it for him.

"Mr. Manfreti isn't coming?" Annette asked.

"He cannot be reached this year," Omar explained. "He has passed into another realm and simply sits; he must be force-fed through the nose."

"Ugh," Annette said, and shuddered. "Catatonia."

"Kill him," Straw said harshly, "and be done with it. Those cat-Skitzes are worse than useless; they're a drain on Joan d' Arc's resources. No wonder your settlement's so poor."

"Poor materially," Omar agreed, "but rich in eternal values."

He kept far away from Straw; he did not care for him at all. Straw, despite his name, was a breaker. He enjoyed smashing and grinding; he was cruel for the love of it, not the need of it. Evil was gratuitous with Straw.

On the other hand, there sat Gabe Baines. Baines, like all Pares, could be cruel, too, but he was compelled to, in his own defense; he was so committed to protecting himself from harm that he naturally did wrong. One could not castigate him, as one could Straw.

Taking his seat Omar said, "Bless this assembly. And let's hear news of life-giving properties, rather than of the activities of the dragon of harm." He turned to Straw. "What is the information, Howard?"

"An armed ship," Straw said, with a wide, leering grim smile; he was enjoying their collective anxiety. "Not a trader from Alpha II but from another system entirely; we used a teep to pick up their thoughts. Not on any sort of trading mission but here to --" He broke off, deliberately not finishing his sentence. He wanted to see them squirm.

"We'll have to defend ourselves," Baines said. Miss Hibbler nodded and so, with reluctance, did Annette. Even the Heeb had ceased to giggle and now looked uneasy. "We at Adolfville," Baines said, "will of course organize the defense. We'll look to your people, Straw, for the technological devices; we expect a lot from you. This is one time we expect you to throw in your lot for the common good."

"The 'common good,'" Straw mimicked. "You mean for our good."

"My god," Annette said, "do you always have to be so irresponsible, Straw? Can't you take note of the consequences for once? At least think of our children. We must protect them, if not ourselves."

To himself, Omar Diamond prayed. "Let the forces of life rise up and triumph on the plain of battle. Let the white dragon escape the red stain of seeming death; let the womb of protection descend on this small land and guard it from those who stand in the camp of the unholy." And, all at once, he remembered a sight he had seen on his trip here, by foot, a harbinger of the arrival of the enemy. A stream of water had turned to blood as he stepped over it. Now he knew what the sign meant. War and death, and perhaps the destruction of the Seven Clans and their seven cities -- six, if you did not count the garbage dump which was the living space of the Heebs.

Dino Watters, the Dep, muttered hoarsely, "We're doomed."

Everyone glared at him, even Jacob Simian the Heeb. How like a Dep.

"Forgive him," Omar whispered. And somewhere, in the invisible empery , the spirit of life heard, responded, forgave the half-dying creature who was Dino Watters of the Dep settlement, Cotton Mather Estates.
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Re: Clans of the Alphane Moon, by Philip K. Dick

Postby admin » Thu Jul 16, 2015 4:08 am

TWO

With scarcely a glance around the old conapt with its cracked sheet-rock walls, recessed lighting that probably no longer worked, archaic picture window and shabby, out-of-date pre-Korean War tile floors, Chuck Rittersdorf said, "It'll do." He got out his checkbook, wincing at the sight of the central wrought-iron fireplace; he had not seen one of these since 1970, since his childhood.

The owner of this deteriorating building, however, frowned in suspicion as she received Chuck's identification papers. "According to this you're married, Mr. Rittersdorf, and you have children. You're not going to bring in a wife and children to this conapt; this was listed in the homeopape ad as 'for bachelor, employed, nondrinker,' and --"

Wearily Chuck said, "That's the point." The fat, middle-aged landlady in her Venusian whistle-cricket hide dress and wubfur slippers repelled him; already this had become a grim experience. "I've separated from my wife. She's keeping the children. That's why I need this conapt."

"But they'll be visiting." Her purple tinted eyebrows rose.

Chuck said, "You don't know my wife."

"Oh they will; I know these new Federal divorce laws. Not like the old days of state divorces. Been to court, yet? Got your first papers?

"No," he admitted. It was just beginning for him. Late last night he had gone to a hotel and the night before that -- it had been his final night of struggling to achieve the impossible, to keep on living with Mary.

He gave the landlady the check; she returned his ID form and departed; at once he shut the door, walked to the window of the conapt and gazed out at the street below, the wheels, jet-hoppers, ramps and runnels of footers. Soon he would have to call his attorney, Nat Wilder. Very soon.

The irony of their marital breakup was too much. For his wife's profession -- and she was good at it -- was marriage counseling. In fact she had a reputation here in Marin County, California, where she maintained her office, as being the best. God knew how many fracturing human relationships she had healed. And yet, by a masterstroke of injustice, this very talent and skill on her part had helped drive him to this dismal conapt. Because, by being so successful in her own career, Mary could not resist feeling contempt, which had grown over the years, for him.

The fact was -- and he had to face it -- that in his career he had not been nearly as successful as Mary.

His job, and he personally enjoyed it very much, was the programming of simulacra from the Cheyenne government's intelligence agency for its unending propaganda programs, its agitation against the ring of Communist states which surrounded the USA. He personally believed deeply in his work, but by no rationalization could it be called either a high-paying calling or a noble one; the programming which he concocted -- to say the least -- was infantile, spurious and biased. The main appeal was to school children both in the USA and in the neighboring Communist states, and to the great masses of adults of low educational background. He was, in fact, a hack. And Mary had pointed this out many, many times.

Hack or not, he continued in this job, although others had been offered him during the six-year course of his marriage. Perhaps it was because he enjoyed hearing his words uttered by the human-like simulacra; perhaps it was because he felt the overall cause was vital: the US was on the defensive, politically and economically, and had to protect itself. It needed persons o work for the government at admittedly low salaries: and at jobs lacking heroic or splendid qualities. Someone had to program the propaganda simulacra, who were deposited all over the world to do their job as reps of the Counter Intelligence Authority, to agitate, convince, influence. But --

Three years ago the crisis had come. One of Mary's clients -- who had been involved in incredibly complex marital difficulties including three mistresses at once -- was a TV producer; Gerald Feld had produced the famous, the one and only Bunny Hentman TV show, and owned a major piece of the popular TV comic. In a little side-dealing Mary had passed onto Feld several of the programming scripts which Chuck had written for the CIA's local branch in San Francisco. Feld had read them with interest because these -- and this explained Mary's selection -- contained a good deal of humor. That was Chuck's talent; he programmed something other than the usual pompous, solemn stuff ... it was said to be alive with wit; it sparkled. And -- Feld agreed. And had asked Mary to arrange a meeting between him and Chuck.

Now, standing at the window of the small, drab, old conapt, into which he had not moved so much as one article of clothing, gazing down at the street below, Chuck recalled the conversation with Mary which had erupted. It had been an especially vicious one, certainly classic; it had epitomized the breach between the two of them.

To Mary the issue had been clear: here was a job possibility; it had to be poked thoroughly into. Feld would pay well and the job would carry enormous prestige; each week, at the end of the Bunny Hentman show, Chuck's name, as one of the script writers, would appear on the screen for all the nonCom world to see. Mary would -- and here was the key phrase -- take pride in his work; it was conspicuously creative. And to Mary creativity was the open sesame to life; working for the CIA, programming propaganda simulacra who gabbled a message for uneducated Africans and Latin Americans and Asians, was not creative; the messages tended always to be the same and anyhow the CIA was in bad repute in the liberal, monied, sophisticated circles which Mary inhabited.

"You're like a-leaf-raker in a satellite park," Mary had said, infuriated, "on some kind of civil service deal. It's easy security; it's the way out of having to struggle. Here you are thirty-three years old and already you've given up trying. Given up wanting to make something of yourself."

"Listen," he said futilely. "Are you my mother or just my wife? I mean, is it your job to keep goading me on? Do I have to keep rising? Is it becoming TERPLAN President, is that what you want?" Outside of the prestige and money there was something more involved. Evidently Mary wanted him to be another person. She, the one who knew him best in all the world, was ashamed of him. If he took the job writing for Bunny Hentman he would become different -- or so her logic went.

He could not deny the logic. And yet he persisted; he did not quit his job, did not change. Something in him was just too inertial. For better or worse. There was a hysteresis to one's essence; he did not put by that essence easily.

Outside, on the street, a white Chevrolet deluxe wheel, a shiny new six-door model, dropped to the curb and landed. He watched idly and then he realized with a start of incredulity that -- impossible but true -- it was his ex-own; here was Mary. She had already found him.

His wife, Dr. Mary Rittersdorf, was about to pay him a visit.

***

He felt fright, and a sense of increased failure; he had not even been able to pull off this -- find a conapt in which to live where Mary couldn't locate him. In a few more days, Nat Wilder could arrange legal protection, but now, at this point, he was helpless; he had to admit her.

It was easy to see how she had traced him; moderate detection devices were available and cheap. Mary had probably gone to a pry-vye, a robot detection agency, obtained use of a sniffer, presented it his cephalic pattern; it had gone to work, followed him to every place he had been since leaving her. Nowadays, finding someone was an exact science.

So a woman determined to locate you, he reflected, can. There probably was a law governing it; perhaps he could call it Rittersdorf's Law. In proportion to one's desire to escape, to hide, detection devices --

A rap sounded on the hollow-core door of the conapt.

As he walked stiff-legged, unwillingly, to the door he thought, She will make a speech which will embody every known reasonable appeal. I, of course, will have no argument, just my feeling that we can't go on, that her contempt for me indicates a failure between us too profound to admit any future intimacy.

He opened the door. There she stood, dark-haired, wispy, in her expensive (her best) natural-wool coat, without makeup; a calm, competent, educated woman who was his superior in a flock of ways. "Listen, Chuck," she said, "I won't stand for this. I've arranged for a moving company to pick up all your things and put them in storage. What I'm here for is a check; I want all the money in your checking account. I need it for bills."

So he had been wrong; there was no speech of sweet reasonability. On the contrary; his wife was making this final. He was absolutely stunned and all he could do was gape at her.

"I've talked to Bob Alfson, my attorney," Mary said. "I've had him file for a quitclaim deed on the house."

"What?" he said. "Why?"

"So you can sign over your share of the house to me."

"Why?"

"So I can put it on the market. I've decided I don't need such a large house and I can use the money. I'm putting Debby in that boarding school back East we were discussing." Deborah was their oldest, but still only six, years too young to be sent away from home. Good grief.

"Let me talk to Nat Wilder first," he said feebly.

"I want the check now." Mary made no move to come in; she simply stood there. And he felt desperate, despairing panic, the panic of defeat and suffering; he had lost already: she could make him do anything.

As he went to get his checkbook, Mary walked a few steps into the conapt. Her aversion for it was beyond words; she said nothing. He shrank from it, could not face it; he busied himself scratching out the check.

"By the way," Mary said in a conversational tone of voice, "now that you've left for good I'm free to accept that government offer."

"What government offer?"

"They want consulting psychologists for an interplan project; I told you about it." She did not intend to burden herself with enlightening him.

"Oh yes." He had a dim memory. "Charity work." An outgrowth of the Terran-Alphane clash of ten years ago. An isolated moon in the Alphane system settled by Terrans which had been cut off two generations ago because of the war; a rookery of such meager enclaves existed in the Alph' system, which had dozens of moons as well as twenty-two planets.

She accepted the check, put it folded into her coat pocket.

"Would you get paid?" he asked.

"No," Mary said, remotely.

Then she would live -- support the children as well -- on his salary alone. It came to him: she expected a court settlement which would force him to do the very thing his refusal of which had pulled down their six-year marriage. She would, through her vast influence in Marin County courts, obtain such a judgment that he would have to give up his job with the San Francisco branch of the CIA and seek other work entirely.

"How -- long will you be gone?" he asked. It was obvious that she intended to make good use of this interval of reorganization of their lives; she would do all the things denied her -- allegedly, anyhow -- by his presence.

"About six months. It depends. Don't expect me to keep in touch. I'll be represented in court by Alison; I won't appear." She added, "I've started the suit for separate maintenance so you won't have to do that."

The initiative, even there, was gone from his hands. He had as always been too slow.

"You can have everything," he told Mary, all at once.

Her look said, But what you can give isn't enough. "Everything" was merely nothing, as far as his achievements were concerned.

"I can't give you what I don't have," he said quietly.

"Yes you can," Mary said, without a smile. "Because the judge is going to recognize what I've always recognized about you. If you have to, if someone makes you, you can meet the customary standards applied to grown men with the responsibility of a wife and children."

He said, "But -- I have to retain some kind of life of my own."

"Your first obligation is to us," Mary said.

For that he had no answer; he could only nod.

***

Later, after Mary had left with the check, he looked for and found a stack of old homeopapes in the closet of the apt; he sat on the ancient, Danish-style sofa in the living room, rooting through them for the articles on the interplan project which Mary intended to become involved in. Her new life, he said to himself, to replace that of being married.

In a 'pape one week old he found a more or less complete article; he lit a cigarette and read carefully.

Psychologists were needed, it was anticipated by the US Interplan Health & Welfare Service, because the moon had originally been a hospital area, a psychiatric care-center for Terran immigrants to the Alphane system who had cracked under the abnormal, excessive pressures of inter-system colonization. The Alphanes had left it alone, except for their traders.

What was known of the moon's current status came from these Alphane traders. According to them a civilization of sorts had arisen during the decades in which the hospital had been severed from Terra's authority. However, they could not evaluate it because their knowledge of Terran mores was inadequate. In any case local commodities were produced, traded; domestic industry existed, too, and he wondered why the Terran government felt the necessity of meddling. He could imagine Mary there so well; she was precisely the sort which TERPLAN, the international agency, would select. People of Mary's type would always succeed.

Going to the ancient picture window he stood for a time once more, gazing down. And then, stealthily, he felt rise up within him the familiar urge. The sense that it was pointless to go on; suicide, whatever the law and the church said, was for him the only real answer at this instant.

He found a smaller side window that opened; raising it, he listened to the buzz of a jet-hopper as it landed on a rooftop on the far side of the street. Its sound died. He waited, and then he climbed part way over the edge of the window, dangling above the traffic which moved below ...

From inside him a voice, but not his own, said, "Please tell me your name. Regardless of whether you intend or do not intend to jump."

Turning, Chuck saw a yellow Ganymedean slime mold that had silently flowed under the door of the conapt and was gathering itself into the heap of small globes which comprised its physical being.

"I rent the conapt across the hall," the slime mold declared.

Chuck said, " Among Terrans it's customary to knock."

"I possess nothing to knock with. In any case I wished to enter before you -- departed."

"It's my personal business whether I jump or not." "'No Terran is an island,'" the slime mold more or less quoted. "Welcome to the building which we who rent apts here have humorously dubbed 'Discarded Arms Conapts.' There are others here whom you should meet. Several Terrans -- like yourself -- plus a number of non-Ts of assorted physiognomy, some which will repel you, some which no doubt will attract. I had planned to borrow a cup of yogurt culture from you, but in view of your preoccupation it seems an insulting request."

"I haven't moved in anything. As yet." He swung his leg back over the sill, stepped back into the room, away from the window. He was not surprised to see the Ganymedean slime mold; a ghetto situation existed with non-Ts: no matter how influential and highly-placed in their own societies on Terra they were forced to inhabit substandard housing such as this.

"Could I carry a business card," the slime mold said, "I would now present it to you. I am an importer of uncut gems, a dealer in secondhand gold, and, under the right circumstances, a fanatic buyer of philatelic collections. As a matter of fact I have in my apt at the moment a choice collection of early US, with special emphasis on mint blocks of four of the Columbus set; would you --" It broke off. "I see you would not. In any case the desire to destroy yourself has at least temporarily abated from your mind. That is good. In addition to my announced commercial --"

"Aren't you required by law to curb your telepathic ability while on Terra?" Chuck said.

"Yes, but your situation seemed to be exceptional. Mr. Rittersdorf, I cannot personally employ you, since I require no propagandistic services. But I have a number of contacts among the nine moons; given time --"

"No thanks," Chuck said roughly. "I just want to be left alone." He had already endured enough assistance in job acquisition to last him a lifetime.

"But, on my part, quite unlike your wife, I have no ulterior motive." The slime mold ebbed closer. "Like most Terran males your sense of self-respect is bound up in your wage-earning capabilities, an area in which you have grave doubts as well as extreme guilts. I can do something for you ... but it will take time. Presently I leave Terra and start back to my own moon. Suppose I pay you five hundred skins -- US, of course -- to come with me. Consider it a loan, if you want."

"What would I do on Ganymede?" Irritably, Chuck said, "Don't you believe me either? I have a job; one I consider adequate -- I don't want to leave it."

"Subconsciously --"

"Don't read my subconscious back to me. And get out of here and leave me alone." He turned his back on the slime mold.

"I am afraid your suicidal drive will return -- perhaps even before tonight."

"Let it."

The slime mold said, "There is only one thing that can help you, and my miserable job-offer is not it."

"What is it, then?"

"A woman to replace your wife."

"Now you're acting as a --"

"Not at all. This is neither physically base nor ethereal; it is simply practical. You must find a woman who can accept you, love you, as you are; otherwise you'll perish. Let me ponder this. And in the meantime, control yourself. Give me five hours. And remain here." The slime mold flowed slowly under the door, through the crack and outside into the hall. Its thoughts dimmed. "As an importer, buyer and dealer I have many contacts with Terrans of all walks of life ..." Then it was gone.

Shakily, Chuck lit a cigarette. And walked away -- a long distance away -- from the window, to seat himself on the ancient Danish-style sofa. And wait.

It was hard to know how to react to the slime mold's charitable offer; he was both angered and touched -- and, in addition, puzzled. Could the slime mold actually help him? It seemed impossible.

He waited one hour.

A knock sounded on the door of the conapt. It could not be the Ganymedean returning because a slime mold did not -- could not -- knock. Rising, Chuck went to the door and opened it.

A Terran girl stood there.
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Re: Clans of the Alphane Moon, by Philip K. Dick

Postby admin » Thu Jul 16, 2015 4:08 am

THREE

Although she had a thousand matters to attend to, all pertaining to her new non-paying job with the US Interplan Health & Welfare Department, Dr. Mary Rittersdorf took time off for a personal item. Once more she rode by jet cab to New York and the Fifth Avenue office of Jerry Feld, the producer of the Bunny Hent-man show. A week ago she had given him a batch of he very latest -- and best -- CIA scripts which Chuck had written; it was now time to find out if her husband, or ex-husband, had a chance at the job.

If Chuck wouldn't seek better employment on his own she would. It was her duty, if for no other reason than that she and the children, for the next year at least, would be totally dependent on Chuck's earnings.

Let off on the roof field Mary descended by in- ramp to floor ninety, came to the glass door, hesitated, then allowed it to open and entered the outer office in which Mr. Feld's receptionist -- very pretty, with much make-up and a rather tight spider-silk sweater -- sat. Mary felt annoyed at the girl; just because bras had become passe, did a girl with so pronounced a bosom have to cater to fashion? In this case practicality dictated a bra, and Mary stood at the desk feeling herself flushing with disapproval. And artificial nipple-dilation; it was just too much.

"Yes?" the receptionist said, glancing up through an ornate, stylish monocle. As she met Mary's coldness her nipples deburgeoned slightly, as if scared into submission, frightened away.

"I'd like to see Mr. Feld. I'm Dr. Mary Rittersdorf and I don't have much time; I have to leave for the TERPLAN lunar base at three P.M. New York time." She made her voice as efficient -- and demanding -- as she knew how.

After a series of bureaucratic actions on the receptionist's part Mary was sent on in.

At his imitation oak desk -- no genuine oak had existed for a decade -- Jerry Feld sat with a video tape projector, deep in his business tasks. "Just a moment, Dr. Rittersdorf." He pointed to a chair; she seated herself, crossed her legs and lit a cigarette.

On the miniature TV screen Bunny Hentman was doing an act in which he played a German industrialist; wearing a blue, double-breasted suit, he was explaining to his board of directors how the new autonomic plows which their cartel was producing could be used for war. Four plows would guide themselves, at news of hostilities, into a single unit; the unit was not a larger plow but a missile- launcher. In his heavy accent Bunny explained this, putting it as if it were a great achievement, and Feld chuckled.

"I don't have much time, Mr. Feld," Mary said crisply.

Reluctantly, Feld stopped the video tape and turned toward her. "I showed Bunny the scripts. He's interested. Your husband's wit is dry, moribund, but it's authentic. It's what once was --"

"I know all this," Mary said. "I've had to hear his programming scripts for years; he always tried them out on me." She smoked rapidly, feeling tense. "Well, do you think Bunny could use them?"

"We're nowhere," Feld said, "until your husband sees Bunny; there's no use your --"

The office door opened and Bunny Hentman entered.

This was the first time Mary had seen the famous TV comic in person and she felt curious; how did he differ from his public image? He was, she decided, a little shorter, quite a bit older than on TV; he had a large bald area and he looked tired. In fact, in real life Bunny looked like a worried Central European junk dealer, in a rumpled suit, not quite well-shaved, thinning hair disarrayed, and -- to cap the impression -- smoking the shortened remains of a cigar. But his eyes. He had an alert and yet warm quality; she rose and stood facing him. Over TV the strength of his gaze did not register. This was not mere intelligence on Bunny's part; this was more, a perception of -- she did not know what. And --

All about Bunny an aura hung, an aura of suffering. His face, his body, seemed sopped with it. Yes, she thought, that's what shows in his eyes. Memory of pain. Pain that took place long ago, but which he has never forgotten -- nor will he. He was made, put on this planet, to suffer; no wonder he's a great comic. For Bunny comedy was a struggle, a fighting back against the reality of literal physical pain; it was a reaction formation of gigantic -- and effective -- stature.

"Bun," Jerry Feld said, "This is Dr. Mary Rittersdorf; her husband wrote those CIA robot programs I showed you last Thursday."

The comic held out his hand; Mary shook hands with him and said, "Mr. Hentman --"

"Please," the comic said. "That's just my professional name. My real name, the one I was born with, is Lionsblood Regal. Naturally I had to change it; who goes into show biz calling himself Lionsblood Regal? You call me Lionsblood or just Blood; Jer here calls me Li-Reg -- it's a mark of intimacy." He added, still holding onto her hand, " And if there is anything I like about a woman it's intimacy."

"Li-Reg," Feld said, "is your cable address; you've got it mixed up again."

"That's so." Hentman released Mary's hand. "Well, Frau Doktor Rattenfanger --"

"Rittersdorf," Mary corrected.

"Rattenfanger," Feld said, "is German for rat-catcher. Look, Bun, don't make a mistake like that again."

"Sorry," the comic said. "Listen, Frau Doktor Rittelsdof. Please call me something nice; I can use it. I crave affection from pretty women; it's the small boy in me." He smiled, and yet his face -- and especially his eyes -- still contained the world-weary pain, the weight of an ancient burden. "I'll hire your husband if I get to see you now and then. If he understands the real reason for the deal, what diplomats call the 'secret protocols.'" To Jerry Feld he said, "And you know how my protocols have been bothering me, lately."

"Chuck is in a run-down conapt on the West Coast," Mary said. "I'll write the address down." Quickly she took pen and paper and jotted. "Tell him you.need him; tell him --"

"But I don't need him," Bunny Hentman said quietly.

Mary said, with caution, "Couldn't you see him, Mr. Hentman? Chuck has a unique talent. I'm afraid if no one pushes him --"

Plucking at his lower lip Hentman said, "You're afraid he won't make use of it, that it'll go abegging."

"Yes." She nodded.

"But it's his talent. It's for him to decide."

"My husband," Mary said, "needs help." And I ought to know, she thought. It's my job to understand people. Chuck is a dependent infantile type; he must be pushed and led if he's to move at all. Otherwise, he'll rot in that awful little old conapt he's rented. Or -- throw himself out the window. This, she decided, is the only thing that will save him. Although he would be the last to admit it.

Eyeing her intently Hentman said, "Can I make a side-deal with you, Mrs. Rittersdorf?"

'W-what kind of side-deal?" She glanced at Feld; his face was impassive as if he had withdrawn, turtle-like, from the situation.

"Just to see you now and then," Hentman said. "Not on business."

"I won't be here. I'm going to work for TERPLAN; I'll be in the Alph' system for months if not years." She felt panic.

"Then no job for your hubby," Hentman said.

Feld spoke up. "When are you leaving, Dr. Rittersdorf?"

"Right away," Mary said. "In four days. I have to pack my things, arrange for the children to --"

"Four days," Hentman said meditatively. He continued to eye her, up and down. "You and your husband are separated? Jerry said --"

"Yes," Mary said. "Chuck's already moved out."

"Have dinner with me tonight," Hentman said. "And meanwhile I'll either drop by your husband's conapt, or send someone from my staff. We'll give him a six weeks' try ... get him started doing scripts. Is it a deal?"

"I don't mind having dinner with you, " Mary said. "But --"

"That's all," Hentman said. "just dinner. Any restaurant you want, anywhere in the United States. But, if more develops ..." He smiled.

***

After flying back to the West Coast by jet cab, she traveled on the urban monorail into downtown San Francisco and TERPLAN's branch office, the agency with whom she had dealt regarding her highly desirable new job.

Shortly she found herself ascending by elevator; beside her stood a trim-cut young man, well-dressed, a P.R. official of TERPLAN whose name, as she had gotten it, was Lawrence McRae.

McRae said, "There's a gang of homeopape reporters waiting, and here's what they'll throw at you. They'll imply, and try to get you to confirm, that this therapeutic project is a coverup for Terra's acquisition of the moon Alpha III M2. That fundamentally we're there to reestablish a colony, claim it, develop it, then end settlers to it."

"But it was ours before the war," Mary said. "Otherwise how could it have been used as a hospital base?"

"True," McRae said. They left the elevator, walked down a hall. "But no Terran ship has visited it for twenty-five years and legally speaking that terminates our land-claim. The moon reverted five years ago to political and legal autonomy. However, if we land and reestablish a hospital base, with technicians, doctors, therapists, whatever else is needed, we can assert a fresh claim -- if the Alphanes haven't, and evidently hey haven't. They're still recovering from the war, of course; that may be it. Or they may have scouted the moon and decided it's not what they want, that the ecology is too foreign to their biology. Here." He held a door open and she entered, finding herself facing seated homeopape reporters, fifteen or sixteen of them, some with pic-cameras.

Taking a deep breath she walked to the lectern which McRae pointed out; it was equipped with a microphone.

McRae, speaking into the mike, said, "Ladies and gentlemen, this is Dr. Mary Rittersdorf, the renowned marriage counselor from Marin County who as you know has volunteered her services for this project."

A reporter at once said, lazily, "Dr. Rittersdorf, what is this project called? Project Psychotic?" The other reporters laughed.

It was McRae who answered. "Operation Fifty minutes is the working name we've applied to it."

"Where do the sickies on the moon go when you catch them?" another reporter asked. "So maybe you sweep them under the rug, is that it?"

Mary, speaking into the mike, said, "At first we will be involved in research, in order to fathom the situation. We know already that the original patients -- at least some of them -- and their progeny are alive. How viable the society they've formed is we don't pretend to know. I would guess it's not viable at all, except in the bare, literal sense that they do live. We will attempt corrective therapy with those we can. It's the children, of course, that we're most concerned with."

"When do you expect to be on Alpha III M2, Doctor?" a reporter asked. The pic-cameras ground away, whirring like distant flights of birds.

"I'd say within two weeks," Mary said.

"You're not being paid for this, are you, Doctor?" a reporter asked.

"No."

"You're convinced, then, that this is in the public good? It's a Cause?"

"Well," Mary said, hesitantly. "It --"

"Terra, then, will benefit by our meddling with this culture of ex-mental hospital patients?" The reporter's voice was sleek.

Turning to McRae, Mary said, "What should I say?"

McRae, into the mike, said, "This is not Dr. Rittersdorf's area; she's a trained psychologist, not a politician. She declines to answer."

A reporter, tall, lean, experienced, rose to his feet and said drawlingly, "Has it occurred to TERPLAN just to leave this moon alone? To treat its culture as you would any other culture, respecting its values and customs?"

Haltingly, Mary said, "We don't know enough yet. Perhaps when we know more --" She broke off, floundering. "But it's not a subculture," she said. "It has no tradition. It's a society of mentally ill individuals and their offspring that came into existence only twenty-five years ago ... you can't dignify that by comparing it with, say, the Ganymedean or Ionian cultures. What values could mentally ill people develop? And in such a short time."

"But you said yourself," the reporter purred, "that at this point you know nothing about them. For all you know --"

McRae, speaking into the microphone, said sharply, "If they've developed any kind of a stable, viable cul-ure, we'll leave them alone. But that determination is up to experts such as Dr. Rittersdorf, not to you or to me or the American public. Frankly, we feel there's nothing more potentially explosive than a society in which psychotics dominate, define the values, control the means of communication. Almost anything you want to name can come out of it -- a new, fanatical religious cult, a paranoiac nationalistic state-concept, barbaric destructiveness of a manic sort -- these possibilities alone justify our investigation of Alpha III M2. This project is in defense of our own lives and values."

The homeopape reporters were silent, evidently convinced by what McRae had said. And certainly Mary agreed.

Later, as she and McRae left the room, Mary said, "Was that actually the reason?"

Glancing at her McRae said, "You mean, are we going into Alpha III M2 because we fear the consequences to us of a mentally deranged social enclave, because a deranged society, as such, makes us uneasy? I think either reason is sufficient; certainly for you it ought to be."

"I'm not supposed to ask?" She stared at the young cleancut TERPLAN official. "I'm just supposed to --"

"You're supposed to do your therapeutic task and that's it. I don't tell you how to cure sick people; why should you tell me how to handle a political situation?" He faced her coolly. "However I'll give you one further purpose for Operation Fifty-minutes that you might not have thought of. It's entirely possible that in twenty-five years a society of mentally ill people may have come up with technological ideas we can use, especially the manics -- that most active class." He pressed the elevator button. "I understand they're inventive. As are the paranoids."

Mary said, "Does this explain why Terra hasn't sent anyone in there sooner? You wanted to see how their ideas developed?"

Smiling, McRae waited for the elevator; he did not answer. He looked, she decided, absolutely sure of himself. And that as far as the knowledge of psychotics went, was a mistake. Possibly a grave one.

It was almost an hour later, as she was returning to her house in Marin County to resume packing her things, that she realized the basic contradiction in the government's position. First, they were probing into the culture of Alpha III M2 because they feared it might be lethal, and then they were probing to see if it had developed something of use. Almost a century ago Freud had showed how spurious such double logic was; in actual fact each proposition canceled the other. The government simply could not have it both ways.

Psychoanalysis had shown that generally, when two mutually contradicting reasons for an act were given, the genuine underlying motive was neither, was a third drive which the person -- or in this case a body of governing officials -- was unaware of.

She wondered what, in this case, the real motive was.

In any event the project for which she had volunteered her services no longer seemed so idealistic, so free of ulterior purpose.

Whatever the government's actual motive, she had one clear intuition about it: the motive was a good, hard, selfish one.

And, in addition, she had one more intuition.

She would probably never know what that motive was.

***

She was absorbed in the task of packing her drawerful of sweaters when all at once she realized that she was no longer alone. Two men stood in the doorway; swiftly she turned, hopped to her feet.

"Where is Mr. Rittersdorf?" the older man said. He held out a flat black ID packet; the two men, she saw, were from her husband's office, from the San Francisco branch of the CIA.

"He moved out," she said. "I'll give you his address."

"We got a tip," the older man said, "from an unidentified informant, that your husband might be planning suicide."

"He always is," she said as she wrote down the address of the miserable hovel in which Chuck now lived. "I wouldn't worry about him; he's chronically ill but never quite dead."

The older CIA man regarded her with bleak hostility."I understand you and Mr. Rittersdorf are separating."

"That's right. If it's any of your business." She gave him a brief, professional smile. "Now, may I continue packing?"

"Our office," the CIA man said, "tends to extend a certain protection to its employees. If your husband turns up a suicide there'll be an investigation -- to determine to what extent you're involved." He added, "And in view of your status as marital counselor, it might prove embarrassing, don't you agree?"

After a pause Mary said, "Yes, I suppose so."

The younger crew-cut CIA man said, "Just consider this an informal warning. Go slow, Mrs. Rittersdorf; don't put the pressure on your husband. You understand?" His eyes were lifeless, frigid.

She nodded. And shivered.

"Meanwhile," the older man said, "if he should show up here, have him call in. He's on a three-day leave of absence but we'd like to talk to him." Both men moved from the room, to the front door of the house.

She returned to her packing, gasping in relief, now that the two CIA men had gone.

The CIA isn't going to tell me what to do, she said to herself. I'll say anything I want to my husband, do anything I want. They're not going to protect you, Chuck, she said to herself as she packed sweater after sweater, pressing them down savagely into the suitcase. In fact, she said to herself, it's going to be worse on you because you involved them; so be prepared.

Laughing, she thought, You poor frightened snink. Thinking you had a good idea in intimidating me by sending your co-workers around. You may be frightened of them, but I'm not. They're just stupid, fat headed cops.

As she packed she toyed with the idea of calling her attorney to tell him of the CIA's pressure-tactics. No, she decided, I won't do that now; I'll wait until the divorce action comes up before Judge Brizzolara. And then I'll give that as evidence; it'll show the sort of life I've been forced to lead, married to such a man. Exposed to police harassment, constantly. And, in helping find him a job, propositioned.

Gleefully she placed the last sweater in the suitcase, closed it, and with a rapid turn of her fingers, locked it tight.

Poor Chuck, she said to herself, you don't stand a chance, once I get you into court. You'll never know what hit you; you'll be paying out for the rest of your life. As long as you live, darling, you'll never really be free of me; it'll always cost you something.

She began, with care, to fold her many dresses, packing them into the large trunk with the special hangers.

It will cost you, she said to herself, more than you can afford to pay.
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Re: Clans of the Alphane Moon, by Philip K. Dick

Postby admin » Thu Jul 16, 2015 4:09 am

FOUR

The girl in the doorway said in a soft, hesitant voice, "Um, I'm Joan Trieste. Lord Running Clam said you just moved in here." Her eyes roved; she was looking past Chuck Rittersdorf at the apt. "You don't have any of your things moved in yet, do you? Can I help? I can put up curtains and clean the shelves in the kitchen, if you want."

Chuck said, "Thanks. But I'm okay." It touched him that the slime mold had done this, rounded up this girl.

She was, he decided, not even twenty; she wore her hair in one large massive braid down her back, and it was brown hair, without particular color, really just ordinary hair. And quite white, much too pale. And, it seemed to him, her neck was a trifle too long. She had no figure at all to speak of, although she was at least slender. Joan Trieste wore skin-tight dark pants and slippers and a cotton man's-style shirt; as far as he could tell, she had on no bra, as fashion dictated, but her nipples were merely flat dark circles beneath the white cotton fabric of her shirt: she could not afford or did not care to have the currently-popular dilation operation. It came to him then that she was poor. Possibly a student.

"Lord Running Clam," she explained, "is from Ganymede; he lives across the hall." She smiled slightly; she had, he saw, very fine small even white teeth, quite regular, well-formed. Almost perfect, in fact.

"Yes," Chuck said. "He flowed in here under the door an hour or so ago." He added, "He said he was sending someone. Apparently he thought --"

"Did you really try to kill yourself?"

After a pause he shrugged. "The slime mold thought so."

"You did. I can tell even now; I can see it about you." She walked past him and into the apt. "I'm a -- you know. A Psi."

'What kind of Psi?" He left the hall door open, went to get his pack of Pall Malls to light up. "There're all kinds. From those who can move mountains to those who can only --"

Joan broke in, "I have a very meager power, but look." Turning, she raised the lapel of her shirt. "See my button? Bona fide member of Psi-men, Incorporated, of America." She explained, "What I can do is, I can make time flow backward. In a limited area, say twelve by nine, about the size of your living room. Up to a period of five minutes." She smiled, and once again he marveled at her teeth; they transformed her face, made it beautiful; as long as she smiled she was delightful to behold, and it seemed to Chuck that this told something about her. The quality of beauty arose from within; inside, she was lovely, and he realized that over the years, as she aged, it would gradually work its way outward, influence the surface. By the time she was thirty or thirty-five she would be radiant. Right now she was still a child.

"Is that a useful talent?" he asked.

"It has a limited use." Perching on the arm of his archaic Danish-style sofa she stuck her fingers in the pockets of her tight pants and explained, "I work for the Ross Police Department; they rush me to ba traffic accidents and -- you'll laugh, but it really works -- I turn time back to before the accident, or if I'm too late, if more than five minutes has gone by, sometimes instead I can bring back a person who's just died. See?"

"I see," he said.

"It doesn't pay much. And worse than that, I have to be on call twenty-four hours of the day. They notify me at my conapt and I go by high-speed jet hopper to the spot. See?" She turned her head, pointed to her right ear; he saw a small stubby cylinder embedded in her ear and realized that it was a police receiver. "I'm always tuned in. That means I can't be more than a few seconds run from transportation, of course; I can go to restaurants and theaters and other people's houses, but --"

'Well," he said, "maybe you can save my life sometime." He thought, If I had jumped you could have forced me back into existence again. What a great service ...

"I've saved many lives." Joan held out her hand. "May I have a cigarette, too?"

He gave her one, lit it, feeling -- as usual -- guilty of his lapse.

'What do you do?" Joan asked.

With reluctance -- not because it was classified but because it held so low a status in the ladder of public esteem -- he described his job with the CIA. Joan Trieste listened intently.

"Then you help keep our government from falling," she said, with a smile of delight. "How wonderful!"

Charmed, he said, "Thanks."

"But you do! Just think -- right this moment hundreds of simulacra all over the Communist world are saying your words, halting people at street corners and in jungles ..." Her eyes shone. "And all I do is help the Ross Police Department."

"There's a law," Chuck said, "which I call Rittersdorf's Third Law of Diminished Returns, which states that proportional to how long you hold a job you imagine that it has progressively less and less importance in the scheme of things." He smiled back at her; the glow in her eyes, the sparkle of white teeth, made smiling easy. He was beginning to forget his burdening, despairing mood of a short while ago.

Joan roamed about the conapt. "Are you going to move a lot of personal things in? Or are you going to live just like this? I'll help decorate it for you, and Lord Running Clam will, too, to the extent he can. And down the hall there's a molten metal life form from Jupiter called Edgar; he's hibernating these days, but when he comes back to life he'll want to pitch in. And in the apt to your left there's a wiz-bird from Mars; you know, with the multicolored headdress ... it has no hands but it can move objects by psychokinesis; it'll want to help, except that for today it's hatching; it's on an egg."

"God," Chuck said. "What a polygenetic building." He was a little stunned to hear all this.

"And," Joan said, "on the floor below you is a greebsloth from Callisto; it's all wound around a three-way floor lamp that's standard equipment in these conapts ... circa 1960. It'll wake up as soon as the sun sets; then it goes out and shops for food. And you already met the slime mold." She puffed vigorously -- and a trifle inexpertly -- on her cigarette. "I like this place; you meet all sorts of life forms. Before you a Venusian moss inhabited this apt. I saved its life once; it had dried out ... they've got to keep moist, you know. In the end this climate here in Marin County was too dry for it; finally it moved north to Oregon where it rains all the time." Turning, she halted and surveyed him. "You look like you've had a lot of trouble."

"No real trouble. Just the imaginary kind. The avoidable kind." He thought, Trouble that if I had used my head I never would have become involved with; I never would have married her.

"What's your wife's name?"

Startled, he said, "Mary."

"Don't kill yourself because you've left her," Joan said. "In a few months or even weeks you'll feel whole again. Now you feel like one half of an organism that's split apart. Binary fission always hurts; I know because of a protoplasm that used to live here ... it suffered every time it split, but it had to split, it had to grow."

"I guess growth hurts." Going to the picture window he once more looked down at the footer runnels and the wheels and jet hoppers below. He had come so close ...

"This isn't a bad place to live," Joan said. "I know; I've lived a lot of places. Of course everybody in the Ross Police Department knows The Discarded Arms," she added candidly. "There's been a lot of trouble here, petty thefts, fights, even one homicide. It's not a clean place ... you can see that."

"And yet --"

"And yet I believe you ought to stay. You'll have company. Especially at night the non-T life forms that live here begin to circulate, as you'll find out. And Lord Running Clam is a very good friend to have made; he's helped a lot of people. Ganymedeans possess what St. Paul called caritas ... and remember, Paul said caritas was the greatest of all the virtues." She added, "The modern word for it would be empathy, I guess."

The conapt door opened; Chuck turned instantly. And saw two men whom he knew quite well. His boss, Jack Elwood and his co-worker in script-writing, Pete Petri. At the sight of him both men looked relieved.

"Darn it," Elwood said, "we thought we were too late. We stopped by your house, thinking you might be there."

Joan Trieste said, speaking to Elwood, "I'm from the Ross Police Department. May I see your ID papers, please?" Her voice was cool.

Elwood and Petri showed her their CIA identification, briefly, then strolled over to Chuck. "What's the city police doing here?" Elwood asked.

"A friend," Chuck said.

Elwood shrugged; obviously he did not intend to press for details. "Couldn't you've found a better apt for yourself?" He surveyed the room. "This place literally smells."

"It's only temporary," Chuck said, uncomfortably.

"Don't deteriorate," Pete Petri said. "And your leave; they canceled it. They think you ought to be at work. For your own good. You shouldn't be alone where you can brood." He eyed Joan Trieste, clearly wondering if she had interfered with a suicide attempt. No one, however, enlightened him. "So will you come back to the office with us? There's a hell of a lot to do; you'll be there all night, the way it looks."

"Thanks," Chuck said. "But I've got to start moving my things. I need to decorate this apt, to some extent anyhow." He still wanted to be alone, as much as he appreciated their intentions. It was an instinct, to crawl away, to hide himself; it came from the blood.

To the two CIA men Joan Trieste said, "I can stay with him for a while, at least. Unless I get an emergency call. There's usually one at around five o'clock, when the heavy commuter traffic starts. But until --"

"Listen," Chuck said brusquely.

The three of them turned questioningly toward him.

"If someone wants to kill himself," Chuck said, "you can't stop him. Maybe you can delay it. Maybe a Psi like Joan here can drag him back. But even if he's delayed he'll do it, and even if he's brought back he'll find a way to do it again. So leave me alone." He felt tired. "I've got a four o'clock appointment with my attorney -- I've got many things to do. I can't stand around talking."

Looking at his watch Elwood said, "I'll drive you to your lawyer's. We can just make it." He curtly motioned to Petri.

To Joan, Chuck said, "Maybe I'll see you again. Sometime." He felt too weary to care one way or another. "Thanks," he said, vaguely; he did not know precisely what he was thanking her for.

With careful emphasis Joan said, "Lord Running Clam is in his room and he can pick up your thoughts; if you try to kill yourself again he'll hear and interfere. So if you intend to do it --"

"Okay," Chuck said. "I won't try it here." He went to the door with Elwood and Petri, one of them on each side of him; Joan followed.

As they passed out into the corridor he saw that the slime mold's door was open; the huge yellow mound undulated slightly in greeting.

"Thank you, too," Chuck said, half-ironically, and then passed on with his two co-workers from the CIA.

***

As they drove by wheel to Nat Wilder's office in San Francisco, Jack Elwood said, "This Operation Fifty-minutes -- we've asked to be allowed to include a man in the initial landing party; a routine request which of course has been honored." He glanced thoughtfully at Chuck. "I think we'll use a simulacrum in this case."

Chuck Rittersdorf nodded vacantly. It was standard procedure to use a simulacrum in projects involving potentially hostile factions; the CIA had a low operating budget and did not like to lose its men.

"In fact," Elwood said, "the simulacrum -- it was made for us by G. D. down in Palo Alto -- is finished and at our office. If you'd care to view it." He examined a small note pad which he brought from his coat pocket. "Name is Daniel Mageboom. Twenty-six years old. Anglo-Saxon. Graduated from Stanford with a master's in poly sci. Taught for one year at San Jose State, then joined the CIA. That's what we'll tell the others in the project; only ourselves will know it's a sim gathering data for us." He concluded, " As yet we have not decided who to put in as determining guide for Dan Mageboom. Maybe Johnstone."

"That fool," Chuck said. A sim could operate autonomously to some extent, but in an operation of this type too many decisions were required; left to itself Dan Mageboom would quickly reveal itself as a construct. It would walk and talk, but when time arrived for it to decide policy -- then a good operator, seated in complete safety in Level One of the CIA building in San Francisco, took control.

As they parked the wheel on the roof-field of Nat Wilder's office building Elwood said reflectively, "I was thinking, Chuck, that you might like to handle Danny. Johnstone, as you say, isn't the best."

Chuck glanced at him, taken by surprise. "Why? It's not my job." The CIA had a corps of men trained for simulacra animation.

"As a favor to you," Elwood said slowly, gazing off into the heavy afternoon airborne traffic that hung like a layer of smoke over the city. "So you could be with your wife, so to speak."

After a time Chuck said, "Absolutely no."

"Watch her, then."

"What for?" He felt baffled anger. And outrage.

"Let's be realistic," Elwood said. "It's obvious to CIA's psych-men that you're still in love with her. And we need a full-time operator for Dan Mageboom. Petri can do your scripts for a few weeks; take this on, see how you like it, if you don't, then drop it and go back to your scripts. Lord, you've programmed simulacra for years; you ought to be a natural at remote -- I'd make book on it. And you'd be going on the same ship with Mary, landing on Alpha III M2 at the same time -- "

"No," Chuck repeated. He opened the door of the wheel, stepped out on the surface of the field. "I'll see you later; thanks for the ride."

"You know," Elwood said, "I could order you to take this remote. I would, if I thought it would be in your interest. Which it might well be. Here's what I think I'll do; I'll get out your wife's folder -- from the FBI -- and go over it. Depending on the kind of person she is --" He gestured. "I'll decide on that basis."

"What kind of person should she be," Chuck said, "for me to spy on her out of a CIA simulacrum?"

Elwood said, "A woman worth your going back to." He shut the door of the wheel; Petri started up the motor and the wheel shot up into the late-afternoon sky. Chuck stood watching it go.

CIA thinking, he said to himself caustically. Well, I ought to be used to it by now.

But Elwood was right about one thing. He had indeed programmed many simulacra -- and with calculatedly persuasive rhetoric. If he took over the remote, he could not only successfully manage Dan Mageboom or whatever it was called; he could -- and this did make him pause -- he could transform the simulacrum into a delicately-tuned instrument, a machine that guided, beguiled, and, yes, even corrupted, those around him. He, himself, could not be that articulate; only in his craft was he masterful.

Dan Mageboom, in Chuck's hands, could accomplish a great deal vis-a-vis Mary Rittersdorf. And no one knew that better than his boss Jack Elwood. No wonder Elwood had suggested it.

But it had a potentially sinister quality. It repelled him; he shrank back from it, intuiting its odiousness.

And yet he could not simply turn it down out of hand; things -- life itself, existence on Earth -- were not that candid.

The solution, perhaps, lay in having someone he could rely on do the remote. Petri, for instance. Someone who could watch out for his interests.

And then he thought, Just what are my interests?

Reflexively, he descended by in-ramp, deep in thought. Because a new idea, not one suggested by his boss Jack Elwood, had slipped without notice into his mind.

He thought, There is one thing that might be accomplished under such circumstances. A CIA simulacrum with Mary on a distant moon in another star-system entirely ... among the psychotic members of a deranged society. Something which might pass, given such exceptional circumstances.

It was not an idea which he could discuss with anyone; in fact, he found it difficult to express it even to himself. However, it had its advantages over suicide, and he had almost achieved that.

Under such circumstances I could actually manage to kill her, he said to himself. Through the CIA construct, or rather General Dynamic's construct. Legally I'd stand a reasonable chance of acquittal, since a simulacrum operated at that distance often functions on its own; it's autonomic circuits often take precedence over the long-range instructions from the remote. Anyhow it's worth a try. In court I'll plead that the simulacrum acted on its own; and I can sequester countless technical papers proving that simulacra often do such things ... the history of CIA's operations is full of such bunglings at crucial points.

And it will be the burden of the prosecution to prove that I gave the instructions to the simulacrum.

He came to Nat Wilder's door; it opened and he passed on in, still deep in thought.

It might or might not be a good idea; certainly its merits were open to debate -- on moral grounds alone, if not on merely practical grounds. But in any case it was the sort of idea that once entertained did not tend to go away; like an idee fixe it had entered his mind and once there it stayed, could not be reversed.

It was not by any means even theoretically a "perfect crime." Great suspicion would at once fall on him; t he county or state prosecutor -- whoever it was who handled such matters as this -- would accurately guess ery quickly what had transpired. So would the homeopape reporters, among whom were some of the shrewdest minds in the US. But suspecting it and proving it were totally different matters.

And to some extent he could conceal himself behind the top-secret curtain which continually obscured the activities of the CIA.

Between Terra and the Alphane system it was over three light years, an immense distance. Certainly far too great a distance, under ordinary circumstances, over which to commit a capital crime. Many a slip of the electromagnetic signal, as it passed into and out of hyperspace, could in any case reasonably be assumed to exist as a constant factor. A defense attorney, if he were any good, could make a damn good case on that point alone.

And Nat Wilder was such an attorney.
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Re: Clans of the Alphane Moon, by Philip K. Dick

Postby admin » Thu Jul 16, 2015 4:09 am

FIVE

That evening, after he had eaten dinner at the Blue Fox restaurant, he called his boss Jack Elwood at his home.

"I'd like to see the creature you call Dan Mageboom," he stated cautiously.

On the small vidscreen his boss's face writhed into a smile. "Okay. Easy enough -- go home to that rundown conapt you're stuck in, and I'll have Dan hop on over. He's here at my house. Doing dishes in the kitchen. What made you decide?"

"No particular reason," Chuck said, and rang off.

He returned to his conapt -- at night, with the faulty old recessed lighting turned on, the room was even more depressing than ever -- and seated himself to wait for Dan.

He heard, almost at once, a voice in the hall, a man's voice asking for him. And then the Ganymedean slime mold's thoughts formed in his brain. "Mr. Rittersdorf, there's a gentleman in the corridor searching for you; please open your door and greet him." Going to the door Chuck opened it.

In the hall stood a middle-aged man, short, with protruding belly, wearing an old-fashioned suit. "Are you Rittersdorf?" the man demanded sullenly. "Jeez, what a dump. And it's filled with weird non-Ts -- what's a Terran doing living here?" He wiped his red, perspiring face with a pocket handkerchief. "I'm Bunny Hentman. You're the script writer, aren't you? Or is this a complete foul-up?"

"I'm a simulacrum script writer," Chuck said. This was, of course, Mary's doing; she wanted to be sure he had a good income to support her in the post-marital situation.

"How come you didn't recognize me?" Hentman said crossly. "Aren't I world-famous? Or maybe you don't watch TV." He puffed on his cigar in irritation. "So I'm here, I'm here. You want to work for me or not? Listen, Rittersdorf -- I'm not used to coming around begging. But your stuff is good; I got to admit it. Where's your room? Or do we have to stand out here in the hall?" He saw the half-open door of Chuck's conapt; at once he strode toward it, passed through and disappeared.

Thinking rapidly, Chuck followed after him. Obviously there was no easy way to get rid of Hentman. But, as a matter of fact, he had nothing to lose by Hentman's presence; it would be a good test of the effectiveness of the Dan Mageboom simulacrum.

"You understand," he said to Hentman as he shut the apt door, "that I'm not actively seeking this job."

"Sure, sure," Hentman said, nodding. "I know; you're a patriot -- you like working for the I-spy outfit. Listen." He waved a finger at Chuck. "I can pay you three times what they pay. And you'll have a lot more latitude to write in. Although naturally I have a final say-so as to what's used and exactly how it's phrased." He gazed around the living room of the conapt with horror. "Cripes. Reminds me of my childhood in the Bronx. I mean, this is real poverty. What happened, did your wife wipe you out in the divorce settlement?" His eyes, wise and full of compassion, flickered. "Yeah, it can be bad; I know. I been divorced three times, and each time it's cost like hell. The law's with the woman. That wife of yours; she's attractive, but --" He gestured. "I don't know. She's sort of cold; you know what I mean? Sort of -- deliberate. I don't envy you. A woman like that, you want to be sure there's no legal entanglement with them when you get involved. Make sure it's extralegal; you know, limited to an affair." He studied Chuck. "But you're the marrying kind; I can see that. You play fair. A woman like that can run over you with both treads. And leave you flatter than a worm's ass."

A knock sounded on the door. And at the same time the thoughts of the Ganymedean slime mold, Lord Running Clam, formed in Chuck's mind. "A second visitor, Mr. Rittersdorf. A younger man this time."

"Excuse me," Chuck said to Bunny Hentman; he walked to the door and opened it.

'Who's doing the mind-talking act?" Hentman mumbled behind him.

An eager-faced young man, good-looking and extremely well-dressed in the most fashionable Harding Brothers clothes, said as he faced Chuck, "Mr. Rittersdorf? I'm Daniel Mageboom. Mr. Elwood asked me to drop by."

It was a good job; he would never have guessed. And realizing this Chuck felt elation. "Sure," he said, "come on in," and led the simulacrum into the shabby conapt. "Mr. Mageboom," he said, "this is the famous TV comic Bunny Hentman. You know -- ya-ya, boom-boom Hentman who runs out in a big rabbit suit with crossed eyes and flapping ears."

"What an honor," Mageboom said, extending his hand; the two of them shook, measuring one another. "I've watched your show many times. It's a fun-filled riot of laughs."

"Yeah," Bunny Hentman murmured, glancing dourly at Chuck.

Chuck said, "Dan is a new employee in my office; I'm meeting him for the first time." He added, "I'll be working with him from now on."

"Naw," Hentman said vigorously. "You'll be working for me -- don't you get it? I got the contract with me; I had my lawyers draw it up." He groped in his coat pocket, scowling.

"Did I interrupt?" Mageboom said, drawing back circumspectly. "I can come back later, Mr. Rittersdorf. Chuck, if I may call you that."

Hentman eyed him. Then, shrugging, began to unfold the contract. "See here. Look at what you're getting paid," he jabbed at it with his cigar. "Can this I-spy outfit pay you anything like that? I mean, making America laugh is patriotic; it helps the morale and defeats the Commies. In fact it's more patriotic than what you're doing; these simulacra, they all are cold fladballs -- they give me the creeps."

"I agree," Dan Mageboom said. "But, Mr. Hentman, there's another side to the argument, if I can take a moment of your time to explain. Mr. Rittersdorf, Chuck, here, does a job that no one else can do. Programming simulacra is an art; without expert programming they're nothing but hulks and anyone, even a child, can distinguish them from actual persons. But, properly programmed --" He smiled. "You've never seen one of Chuck's simulacra in action. It's incredible." He added, "Mr. Petri does a good job, too. In fact in some ways better."

Obviously it was Petri who had programmed this simulacrum. And was getting in a plug for himself. Chuck could not suppress a grin.

"Maybe I ought to hire this guy Petri," Bunny Hentman said gloomily. "If he's that good."

"For your purposes," Mageboom said, "Petri might be better. I know the element in Chuck's scripts that appeals to you, but the problem is this: it's erratic. I doubt if he could sustain it as a full-time commodity, as he would have to, for your purposes. However as one ingredient among many it --"

"Butt out," Hentman said crossly to Mageboom. To Chuck he said, "I don't like three-way conversations; can't we go somewhere else? He was visibly annoyed by Dan Mageboom ... he appeared to sense something amiss.

In Chuck's mind the slime mold's thoughts again formed. "That splendid lovely girl, although as you noted lacking a nipple-dilation job, is entering the building, Mr. Rittersdorf, looking for you; I have already told her to come on up."

Bunny Hentman, obviously also receiving the thoughts of the slime mold, groaned in despair. "Isn't there any way we can talk? Now who the hell is this?" He turned to face the door, glaring at it.

"Miss Trieste won't interfere with your conversation, Mr. Hentman," Dan Mageboom said, and Chuck glanced at the simulacrum, surprised that it had an opinion about Joan. But it was on remote; he realized that all at once. Obviously this was not a programming; Petri was operating it from the CIA building in San Francisco.

The door opened and, hesitantly, Joan Trieste, wearing a gray sweater and dirndl, no stockings but thin high heels, stood there. "Am I bothering you, Chuck?" she asked. "Mr. Hentman," she said, and flushed scarlet. "I've watched you hundreds of times -- I think you're the greatest comedian alive. You're as great as Sid Caesar and all the great old-timers." Her eyes bright, she came up to Bunny Hentman, stood close to him but carefully avoided touching him. "Are you a friend of Bunny Hentman?" she asked Chuck. "1 wish you had told me."

"We're trying," Hentman groaned, "to conduct a business deal. So I mean, how do we do it?" Perspiring freely he began to pace about the small living room. "I give up," he announced. "I can't sign you; it's out of the question. You know too many people. Writers are supposed to be recluse types, living lonely type lives."

Joan Trieste had not shut the conapt door and now, through the entrance, the slime mold slowly undulated. "Mr. Rittersdorf," its thoughts came to Chuck, "I have an urgent matter to take up with you alone, in private. Could you cross the hall to my apt for a moment, please?"

Hentman turned his back, squealed in frustration, walked to the window and stood looking out.

Puzzled, Chuck accompanied the slime mold across the hall to its own conapt.

"Shut the door and come closer to me," the slime mold said. "I don't want the others to pick up my thoughts."

Chuck did so.

"That person, Mr. Dan Mageboom," the slime mold thought at low volume. "He is not a human being; he is a construct. There is no personality within him; an individual at some distance operates him. I thought I should warn you, since after all you are a neighbor of mine."

"Thanks," Chuck said, "but I already knew that." But now he felt uneasy; it would not do to have the slime mold prying into his thoughts, in view of the direction they had taken recently. "Listen," he began, but the slime mold anticipated him.

"I have already scanned that material in your mind," it informed him. "Your hostility toward your wife, your murderous impulses. Everyone at some time or another has such impulses, and in any case it would be improper for me to discuss them with anyone else. Like a priest or a doctor, a telepath must --"

"Let's not discuss it," Chuck said. The slime mold's knowledge of his intentions put a new light on them; perhaps he would be unwise to continue. If the prosecutor could bring Lord Running Clam into court --

"On Ganymede," the slime mold declared, "vengeance is sanctified. If you do not believe me, have your attorney Mr. Nat Wilder look it up. In no way do I deplore the direction of your preoccupations; they're infinitely preferable to the previous suicidal impulse, which is contrary to nature."

Chuck started back out of the slime mold's apt.

"Wait," the slime mold said. "One item more; in exchange for my silence ... I would like a favor."

So there had been a catch to it. He was not surprised; after all, Lord Running Clam was a business-creature.

The slime mold said, "I insist, Mr. Rittersdorf, that you take the job which Mr. Hentman is offering at this very moment."

"What about my job with the CIA? Chuck demanded.

"You need not give that up; you can hold both jobs." The slime mold's thoughts were confident. "By um, moonlighting it."

"'Moonlighting.' Where did you get hold of that term?"

"I am an expert on Terran society," the slime mold informed him. "As I envision it, you will hold the job with CIA by day, the job with Bunny Hentman by night. To accomplish this you will need drugs, thalamic stimulants of the hexo-amphetamine class, which are illegal on Terra. However I will provide them; I have contacts off this planet and can procure the drugs easily. You will need no sleep at all, once your brain metabolism has been stimulated by --"

"A sixteen-hour workday! I'd be better off letting you go to the police."

"No," the slime mold disagreed. "Because here is the upshot; you will refrain from the murder, knowing that your intentions are clear to the authorities in advance. So you will not eradicate this evil woman; you will abandon your scheme and permit her to live."

Chuck said, "How do you know Mary's an 'evil woman'?" In fact, he thought, what do you know about Terran women at all?

"From your thoughts I have learned the host of minor sadisms which Mrs. Rittersdorf has practiced on you over the years; it is no doubt diabolical, by any culture's standard. Because of it you are ill and can't perceive reality correctly; for example, observe how you resist the exceedingly desirable job which Mr. Hentman is offering you."

There was a knock on the conapt door; the door opened and Bunny Hentman looked in, glowering. "I have to go. What's your answer, Rittersdorf? Yes or no? And if you join me you're not to bring any of hese gelatinous non Terran organisms with you; you come alone."

The slime mold thought-radiated, "Mr. Rittersdorf will accept your kind job-offer, Mr. Hentman."

"What are you, " Bunny Hentman demanded, "his agent?"

"I am Mr. Rittersdorf's colleague," the slime mold declared.

"Okay," Hentman said, handing the contract to Chuck. "This calls for an eight-week assignment on your part, one full-hour script a week, and a once-a- week participation in conference with the other writers. Your salary is two thousand TERPLAN skins a week; okay?"

It was more than okay; it was twice what he had expected. Accepting the contract copies he signed, as he slime mold looked on.

"I'll witness your signature," Joan Trieste said; she too had come into the apt and was standing nearby. She signed as witness on the three copies, which were then returned to Bunny Hentman; he stuffed them back into his coat pocket, then remembered that one went to Chuck -- bringing it out he handed it back.

"Cheers," the slime mold said. "This calls for a celebration."

"None for me," Bunny Hentman said. "I got to go. So long, Rittersdorf. I'll be in touch with you; get a vidphone installed in this rotten, nothing type pad you're living in. Or move to a better apt." The door of Lord Running Clam's conapt closed after him.

"The three of us," the slime mold said, "can celebrate. I know of a bar willing to serve non-Ts. It is on me; the check, I mean."

"Fine," Chuck said. He did not want to be alone anyhow, and if he stayed in his conapt it was simply one further opportunity for Mary to find him.

When they opened the door they found, to their collective surprise, a familiar chubby-faced young man waiting in the hall. It was Dan Mageboom.

"Sorry," Chuck apologized. "I forgot about you.

'"We go to celebrate," the slime mold explained to Mageboom as it oozed from its conapt. "'You are invited, despite the fact that you have no mind and are simply an empty husk."

Joan Trieste glanced with curiosity at first Mageboom, then Chuck.

By way of explanation Chuck said to her, "Mageboom here is a CIA robot, being operated from our S.F. office." To Mageboom he said, "Who is it? Petri?" Smiling, Mageboom said, "I'm on autonomous self- circuit right now, Mr. Rittersdorf; Mr. Petri cut himself off when you left the conapt. Don't you agree I'm doing a good job? See, you thought I was on remote and I'm not." The simulacrum seemed marvelously pleased with itself. "In fact, " it stated, "I can pull off this entire evening on self-circuit; I can go out to a bar with you, drink and celebrate, comport myself exactly as a non-simulacrum would, perhaps in some ways better."

So this, Chuck thought to himself as they walked to the down-ramp, is the instrument through which I'm to obtain redress against my wife.

Picking up his thoughts the slime mold cautioned, "Remember, Mr. Rittersdorf, Miss Trieste is a member of the Ross Police Department."

Joan Trieste said, "So I am." She had obtained the slime mold's thoughts but not Chuck's. "Why did you think that to Mr. Rittersdorf?" she asked the slime mold.

"I felt," the slime mold said to her, "that because of that fact you would not countenance amorous activity on his part."

The explanation seemed to satisfy her. "I think," she said to the slime mold, "that you ought to mind your own business more. Being a telepath has made you Ganymedeans terrible busybodies." She sounded cross.

"I am sorry," the slime mold said, "if I misjudged your desires, Miss Trieste; forgive me." To Chuck it thought, "Apparently Miss Trieste will entertain amorous activity on your part toward her."

"Chrissake," Joan Trieste complained. "Mind your own business, please! Leave the whole topic alone, okay?" She had turned pale.

"It is difficult," the slime mold thought morosely, to no one in particular, "to please Terran girls." For the rest of the trip to the bar it carefully did not think anything at all.

Later, as they sat in a booth -- the slime mold in a great yellow heap on the imitation-leather-covered seat -- Joan Trieste said, "I think it's wonderful, Chuck, that you're going to work for Bunny Hentman; what a thrill it must be."

The slime mold thought, "Mr. Rittersdorf, it occurs to me that you should refrain, if at all possible, from acquainting your wife with the fact that you now have two jobs. If she knew she would ask for a much larger settlement and alimony."

"True," Chuck agreed. It was sound advice.

"Since she will learn that you are working for Mr. Hentman," the slime mold continued, "you had betterconcede that fact, while concealing the retention of your job at CIA. Ask your co-workers at CIA, in particular your immediate superior, Mr. Elwood, to cover for you."

Chuck nodded.

"The results of this," the slime mold pointed out, "this singular situation of your holding two jobs simultaneously, will mean that despite the settlement and alimony payments you will have enough to live comfortably on. Had you thought of that?"

To be honest he had not looked that far ahead. The slime mold was much more provident than he, and it made him feel chagrined.

"You can see," the slime mold said, "'how clearly I am looking out for your interests. My insistence that you accept Mr. Hentman's job- offer --"

Joan Trieste broke in, "I think it's terrible the way you Ganymedeans play god with Terran lives. She glared at the slime mold.

"But consider," the slime mold said urbanely, "that I brought you and Mr. Rittersdorf together. And I foresee -- although admittedly I am not a precog -- great and successful activity on your parts in the sphere of sexuality."

"Shut up," Joan said fiercely.

***

After their celebration at the bar Chuck left the slime mold off, got rid of Dan Mageboom, hailed a jet cab and accompanied Joan Trieste back to her own conapt.

As the two of them rode together in the rear of the cab Joan said, "I'm glad to get out of Lord Running Clam's vicinity; it's a pain in the neck, having him read your mind all the time. But it is true that he brought us --" She broke off, cocking her head and listening intently. "There's been an accident." At once she gave new instructions to the cab. "I'm needed. There's been a fatality."

When they reached the scene they found a jet hopper upended; during its landing, its rotor had somehow failed and it had crashed against the side of a building, spilling out its passengers. Under a hastily-improvised blanket composed of coats and sweaters, an elderly man lay pale and silent; the police in charge waved everyone away and Chuck realized that this was the fatality.

At once Joan hurried over to him; Chuck accompanied her, finding himself permitted past by the police. Already an ambulance was on the scene; it whirred impatiently, eager to begin the trip to Ross Hospital.

Bending, Joan studied the dead man. "Three minutes ago," she said, half to herself, half to Chuck. "All right," she said. "Just wait a minute; I'll put him back to five minutes ago." She examined the billfold of the dead man; one of the police had handed it to her. "Mr. Earl B. Ackers," she murmured, and then she shut her eyes. "This will only affect Mr. Ackers," she said to Chuck. "At least it's only supposed to. But you can never be sure with this ..." Her face became squeezed, puffed out as she concentrated. "You' d better move away," she said to Chuck. "So you're not affected."

Rising, he walked off, strolled about in the cold night air, smoking a cigarette and listening to the din from the police cars' radios; a crowd had gathered and traffic moved sluggishly, waved on by the police.

What a strange girl to get mixed up with, he thought. A member of a police department and a Psi as well ... I wonder what she'd do if she knew what I have in mind for the Daniel Mageboom simulacrum. Probably Lord Running Clam is right; it would be catastrophic to let her know.

Waving to him Joan said, "Come here."

He walked hurriedly over.

Under the improvised blankets the elderly man was breathing; his chest rose and fell slightly and at his lips faint bubbles of saliva had formed.

"He's back in time four minutes," Joan said. "Alive again, but after the accident. It was the best I could do." She nodded to the hospital simulacra; at once they approached, bent over the again-living injured man. Using what appeared to be an X-ray scanning device the senior simulacrum studied the anatomy of the injured man, seeking the source of the worst damage. Then it turned to its companion; the simulacra exchanged thoughts and all at once the junior member of the team opened its metal side, brought out a cardboard carton which it quickly tore open.

The carton contained an artificial spleen; Chuck saw, in the headlights of the police cars, the stamped information on the discarded pasteboard box. And now the simulacra, here on the spot, were beginning to operate; one administered a local anesthetic while the other, utilizing a complex surgical hand, began to cut into the dermal wall of the injured man's abdominal cavity.

"We can go," Joan said to Chuck, rousing him from his fixed scrutiny of the simulacra at work. "My job's done." Hands in the pockets of her coat, small and slender, she walked back to their jet cab, entered and seated herself to wait for him. She looked tired.

As they drove away from the accident Chuck said, "That's the first time I've seen medical simulacra in action." It had been impressive; it made him even more aware of the enormous capabilities built into the artificial pseudo-men that General Dynamics had developed and constructed. Of course he had seen the CIA's simulacra countless times, but there had been nothing like this; in a vital, basic sense this was different. Here, the enemy was not merely another group of human beings with a differing political persuasion; the enemy here was death.

And, with the simulacrum Daniel Mageboom, it would be the diametric opposite; death, instead of being fought, would be encouraged.

Obviously, after what he had just witnessed, he could never tell Joan Trieste what he planned. And in that case didn't practicality dictate his not seeing her any further? It seemed almost self-destructive to engineer a murder while at the same time keeping company with an employee of a police agency -- did he want to be caught? Was this a vitiated suicidal impulse?

"One half skin for your thoughts," Joan said.

"Pardon?" He blinked.

"I'm not like Lord Running Clam; I can't read your mind. You seem so serious; I guess it's your marital problems. I wish there was some way I could cheer you up." She pondered. "When we get to my conapt you come on in and --" All at once she flushed, obviously remembering what the slime mold had said. "Just a drink," she said firmly.

"I'd like that " he said, also remembering what Lord Running Clam had predicted.

"Listen," Joan said. "Just because that Ganymedean busybody stuck his pseudopodium or whatever they have into our lives that doesn't mean --" She broke off in exasperation, her eyes shining with animation. "Damn him. You know, he potentially could be very dangerous. Ganymedeans are so ambitious ... remember the terms under which they entered the Terra-Alpha War? And they're all like him -- a million irons in the fire, always scenting out possibilities." Her forehead wrinkled. "Maybe you should move out of that building, Chuck. Get away from him."

It's a little late for that, he realized soberly.

They reached Joan's building; it was, he saw, a modern pleasing structure, extremely simple in design and, like all new buildings, for the most part subsurface. Instead of rising it penetrated down.

"I'm on floor sixteen," Joan said, as they descended. "It's a bit like living in a mine ... too bad if you have claustrophobia." A moment later, at her door, as she got out her key and inserted it in the lock she added philosophically, "However this is affluent safety-wise in case the Alphanes attack again; we've got fifteen levels between us and an H-bomb." She opened the door. The apt's lights came on, a soft, hazy illumination.

A bright streak of light seared into being, vanished; Chuck, blinded, peered and then saw, standing in the center of the room with a camera in his hands, a man he recognized. Recognized and disliked.

"Hello, Chuck," Bob Alfson said.

"Who is this?" Joan demanded. "And why'd he take a picture of us?"

Alfson said, "Keep calm, Miss Trieste. I'm your paramour's wife's attorney; we need evidence for the litigation which, by the way --" He glanced at Chuck. "Is on the court calendar for next Monday at ten A.M. in Judge Brizzolara's courtroom." He smiled. "We had it moved up; your wife wants it accomplished as soon as possible."

"Get out of this apt," Chuck said.

Moving toward the door Alfson said, "Glad to. This film I'm using -- I'm sure you've run across it at CIA; it's expensive but helpful." He explained to both Chuck and Joan, "I've just taken an Agfom potent-shot. Does that strike a chord? What I have in this camera is not a record of what you did just now but what will go on here during the next half hour. I think Judge Brizzolara will be more interested in that."

"Nothing is going to go on here during the next half hour," Chuck said, "because I'm leaving." He pushed past the attorney and out into the corridor; he had to get away as soon as possible.

"I think you're wrong," Alfson said. "I think there'll be something of value on the film. Anyhow, what do you care? It's merely a technical device by which Mary can obtain the decree; there has to be the formal presentation of evidence. And I fail to see how you'll be hurt."

Baffled, Chuck turned. "This invasion of privacy --"

"You know there hasn't been any privacy for anybody for the last fifty years," Alfson said. "You work for an intelligence agency; don't kid me, Rittersdorf." He strolled out into the hall, passed by Chuck and made his way unhurriedly to the elevator. "If you want a print of the film --"

"No," Chuck said. He stood watching the attorney until he was gone from sight.

Joan said, "You might as well come on in. He's got it on the film anyhow." She held the conapt door open for him and at last, reluctantly, he entered. "What he did is illegal, of course. But I guess it goes on all the time in court cases." Going into the kitchen she began fixing drinks; he heard the clink of glasses. "How about Mercury Slumps? I've got a full bottle of --"

"Anything," Chuck said, roughly.

Joan brought him his drink; he accepted it reflexively.

I'll get back at her for this, he said to himself. Now it's decided; I'm fighting for my life.

"You look so grim," Joan said. "That really upset you, didn't it, that man here waiting for us with a potent-camera. Prying into our lives. First Lord Running Clam and now just when --"

"It's still possible," Chuck said, "to perform an act in secret. That no one else knows about."

"Like what?"

He said nothing; he sipped his drink.
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Re: Clans of the Alphane Moon, by Philip K. Dick

Postby admin » Thu Jul 16, 2015 4:09 am

SIX

From head-high shelves, cats hopped down, three old orange toms and a mottled Manx, then several part-Siamese kittens with fuzzy, whiskery faces, a supple black young tom, and, with great difficulty, a heavy-with-young calico female; the cats, joined by a small dog, clustered around Ignatz Ledebur's feet, impeding his progress as he attempted to leave the shack.

Ahead lay parts of a dead rat; the dog, a ratting terrier, had caught it and the cats had eaten what they wished. Ignatz had heard them, at dawn, growling. He felt sorry for the rat, which had probably been after the garbage heaped on both sides of the shack's single door. After all, the rat had a right to life, too, as much so as any human. But, of course, the dog did not grasp that; to kill was an instinct implanted in the dog's weak flesh. So no moral blame was involved, and anyhow the rats frightened him; unlike their counterparts back on Terra these had agile hands, could-and did-fashion crude weapons. They were smart.

Ahead of Ignatz stood the rusting remains of an autonomic tractor, long out of service; it had been deposited here several years ago with the vague idea that it might be repaired. In the meantime Ignatz's fifteen (or was it sixteen?) children played on it, inducing what remained of its commune-circuit to converse with them.

He did not see what he was searching for: an empty plastic milk carton by which to start his morning fire. So instead he would have to break up a board. Among the great mound of discarded lumber next to his shack, he began to pick about, seeking a board frail enough for him to break by jumping on it, as it lay propped against the shack's porch.

The morning air was cold and he shivered, wishing that he had not lost his wool jacket; on one of his long walks he had lain down to rest, placing the jacket under his head as a pillow ... when he had awakened he had forgotten it and left it there. So much for the jacket. He could not, of course, remember where that had been; he knew only vaguely that it lay toward Adolfville, perhaps ten days' walk.

A woman from a nearby shack -- she had been his, briefly, but he had gotten tired of her after fathering two children by her -- appeared and yelled in a frenzy at a big white goat who had gotten into the vegetable garden. The goat continued to eat, almost until the woman had reached him, and then he bucked, kicked with his hind legs, and leaped away, out of reach, beet leaves still dangling from his maw. A flock of ducks, startled by his activity, honked in various stages of panic as they all scattered, and Ignatz laughed. Ducks took things so seriously.

After he had broken the board for his fire, he returned to the shack, the cats still trailing; he shut the door in their faces -- not before one kitten managed to squeeze past and inside -- and then he squatted by the cast iron trash burner and began building the fire.

On the kitchen table his current wife, Elsie, lay sleeping under a pile of blankets; she would not get up until he had started the fire and fixed coffee. He did not blame her. On these cold mornings no one liked to get up; it was late in the morning before Gandhitown stirred, except of course for those Heebs who had wandered all night.

From the sole bedroom of the shack a small child appeared, naked, stood with thumb in mouth, watching him silently as he lit the fire.

Behind the child blared the noise of the TV set; the sound worked but not the picture. The children could not watch, could only listen. I ought to fix that, Ignatz said to himself, but he felt no urgency; before the moon's TV transmitter at Da Vinci Heights had gone into operation, life had been simpler.

When he started to make coffee he found that part of the pot was missing. So, rather than spend time searching, he made boiled coffee; he heated a pan of water over the propane burner, then, just as it boiled, dropped in a large, unmeasured handful of ground beans. The warm, rich smell filled the shack; he inhaled with gratitude.

He was standing there at the stove, God knew how long, smelling the coffee, hearing the crackling of the fire as it warmed the shack, when by degrees he discovered that he was having a vision.

Transfixed, he remained there; meanwhile the kitten which had squeezed in managed to climb to the sink, where it found a mass of discarded food left over from last night -- it ate greedily, and the sound and sight of it mixed with the other sounds and sights, and the vision grew stronger.

"I want cornmeal mush for breakfast," the naked child at the bedroom door announced.

Ignatz Ledebur did not answer; the vision held him, now, in another land. Or rather in a land so real that it had no place; it obliterated the spacial dimension, was neither there nor here. And in terms of time --

It seemed always to have been, but as to this aspect he possessed no certitude. Perhaps what he saw did not exist in time at all, had no start and, no matter what he did, would never terminate, because it was too large. It had burst loose from time entirely perhaps.

"Hey," Elsie murmured sleepily. "Where's my coffee?"

"Wait," he said.

"Wait? I can smell it, goddam it; where is it?" She struggled to a sitting position, throwing the covers aside, her body bare, breasts hanging. "I feel awful. I feel like throwing up. I suppose those kids of yours are in the bathroom." She slid from the table, walked unsteadily from the room. "Why are you standing there like that?" she demanded, pausing at the entrance of the bathroom, suspiciously.

Ignatz said, "Leave me alone."

"'Leave me alone' my ass -- it was your idea I live here. I never wanted to leave Frank." Entering the bathroom she slammed the door; it swung back open and she pushed it, held it shut, with her foot.

The vision, now, had ended; Ignatz, disappointed, turned away, went with the pan of coffee to the table, shoved the blankets to the floor, laid out two mugs -- left over from last night's meal -- and filled them with hot coffee from the pan; swollen grounds floated at the surface of each mug.

From the bathroom Elsie said, "What was that, another of your so-called trances? You saw something, like God?" Her disgust was enormous. "I not only have to live with a Heeb -- I have to live with one who has visions, like a Skitz. Are you a Heeb or a Skitz? You smell like a Heeb. Make up your mind." She flushed the toilet, came out of the bathroom. "And you're as irritable as a Mans. That's what I hate about you the most, your perpetual irritability." She found her coffee, drank. "It's got grounds in it!" she yelled at him in fury. "You lost the pot again!"

Now that the vision had departed he found it difficult to remember what it had been like. That was one trouble with visions. How did they relate to the everyday world? He always asked that of them.

"I saw a monster," he said. "It stepped on Gandhitown and crushed it underfoot. Gandhitown was gone; only a hole remained." He felt sad; he liked Gandhitown, much more than any other spot on the moon. And then he felt afraid, much more than he ever had before in his life. And yet there was nothing he could do. No way to stop the monster; it would come and get them all, even the powerful Manses with all their clever ideas, their ceaseless activity. Even the Pares who tried to defend themselves against everything real and unreal alike.

But there had been more to the vision than that.

Behind the monster had been a wicked soul.

He had beheld it as it crept out onto the world like a shiny jello of rot; it had decayed everything it touched, even the bare soil, the skinny plants and trees. A cupful of it would corrupt an entire universe, and it belonged to a person of deeds. A creature who wanted.

So there were two evil things coming, the monster who crushed Gandhitown, and, beyond that, the wicked soul; they were separable, and each would ultimately go its separate way. The monster was female, the wicked soulmate. And -- he shut his eyes. This was the portion of the vision that terrified him. The two would fight a dreadful battle. And it was not a battle between good and evil; it was a sightless, vacant struggle in the mire between two thoroughly contaminated entities, each as vicious as the other.

The battle, fought perhaps even to the death of one of the entities, would take place on this world. They were coming here now, to use this as a battleground deliberately, to fight out their timeless war.

"Fix some eggs," Elsie said.

Reluctantly, Ignatz looked about in the litter by the sink for a carton of eggs.

"You'll have to wash the frying pan from last night," Elsie said. "I left it in the sink."

"Okay." He began to run cold water; with a rolled-up mass of newspaper he scrubbed at the encrusted surface of the frying pan.

I wonder, he thought. Can I influence the outcome of this struggle? Would the presence of good in the midst of this have any effect?

He could summon all his spiritual faculties and try. Not only for the benefit of the moon, for the clans, but for the two dismal entities themselves. Perhaps to ease their burden.

It was a thought-provoking idea, and as he scoured the frying pan he continued to entertain it, silently. No use telling Elsie; she would merely tell him to go to hell. She did not know his powers inasmuch as he had never revealed them to her. When in the right mood, he could walk through walls, read people's minds, cure illness, cause evil people to become ill, affect the weather, blight crops -- he could do almost anything, given the right mood. It derived from his saintliness.

Even the suspicious Pares recognized him as a saint. Everyone on the moon did, including the busy, insulting Manses -- when they took time out from their activity to glance up and notice him.

If anyone can save this moon from the two dingy organisms approaching, Ignatz realized, it is I. This is my destiny.

"It's not a world; it's just a moon," Elsie said, with bleak contempt; she stood before the trash burner, dressing herself in the clothes she had taken off the night before. She had worn them for a week now, and Ignatz observed -- not without a trace of relish -- that she was well on her way to becoming a Heeb; it would not require much more.

And it was a good thing to be a Heeb, because the Heeb had found the Pure Way, had dispensed with the unnecessary.

Opening the door of the shack he stepped out once more into the morning cold.

'Where are you going?" Elsie shrieked after him.

Ignatz said, "To confer." He shut the door behind him and then, with the cats trailing, set off on foot to find Omar Diamond, his colleague among the Skitzes.

***

By means of his Psionic, unnatural powers he teleported here and there about the moon until at last, sure enough, there was Omar, seated in council at Adolfville with a representative of each clan. Ignatz levitated to the sixth floor of the great stone building, bobbed against the window and rapped until those within noticed him and came to open the window for him.

"God, Ledebur," Howard Straw, the Mans rep, declared. "You smell like a goat. Two Heebs in the room at once -- foul." He turned his back on everyone, walked off and stood staring into space, fighting to hold back his Mans anger.

The Pare rep, Gabriel Baines, said to Ignatz, "What's the purpose of this intrusion? We're in conference."

Ignatz Ledebur communed silently with Omar Diamond, telling him the urgency of their need. Diamond heard him, agreed, and at once, by combining their skills, the two of them left the council chamber; he and Diamond walked together across a grassy field in which mushrooms grew. Neither spoke for a time. They amused themselves by kicking over mushrooms.

At last Diamond said, "We were already discussing the invasion."

"It's going to land in Gandhitown," Ignatz said. "I experienced a vision; those who are coming will --"

"Yes, yes," Diamond said irritably. "We know they're chthonic powers; I acquainted the delegates with that fact. No good can come from chthonic powers because they're heavy; like the corporeal animae they are they will sink down into the earth, become mired in the body of the planet."

"Moon," Ignatz said, and giggled.

"Moon, then." Diamond shut his eyes, walked without missing a step even though he could no longer see where he journeyed; he had retreated, Ignatz realized, into a momentary, voluntary catatonia. All the Skitzes were prone to this, and he said nothing; he waited. Halting, Omar Diamond mumbled something which Ignatz could not catch.

Ignatz sighed, seated himself on the ground; beside him Omar Diamond stood in his trance and there was no sound except the faint rustling of far-distant trees beyond the limits of the meadow.

All at once Diamond said, "Pool your powers with mine and we will envision the invasion so clearly that --" Again his words became arcane mumbling. Ignatz -- even a saint could be annoyed -- sighed again. "Get hold of Sarah Apostoles," Diamond said. "The three of us will evoke a view of our enemy so real that it will actualize; we will control our enemy and his arrival here."

Sending out a thought-wave, Ignatz contacted Sarah Apostoles, asleep in her shack in Gandhitown. He felt her awaken, stir, mumble and groan as she rose from her cot to stagger to her feet.

He and Omar Diamond waited and presently Sarah appeared; she wore a man's coat and man's trousers, tennis shoes. "Last night," she said, "I had a dream. Certain creatures are hovering near here, preparing to manifest themselves." Her round face was twisted with worry and a nagging, corroding fear. This gave her an ugly contracted look, and Ignatz felt sorry for her. Sarah had never been able, in times of stress, to purge the destructive emotions from her being; she was bonded to the soma and its ails.

"Sit down," Ignatz requested.

'We shall make them appear now," Diamond said. "And here at this spot. Begin." He ducked his head; the two Heebs also ducked their heads, and together the three of them applied their mutually-reinforcing visionary powers. They struggled in unison, and time passed -- none of them knew how much -- while that which they contemplated bloomed in the vicinity like an evil bud.

"Here it is," Ignatz said, and opened his eyes. Sarah and Diamond did also; they looked up into the sky -- and saw, lowering itself tail first, a foreign ship. They had been successful.

Blowing vapors from its rear the ship settled to the ground a hundred yards to their right. It was a large ship, Ignatz perceived. The largest he had ever seen. He, too, felt fright, but as always he managed to control it; many years had passed since phobia had been a factor for him to deal with. Sarah, however, looked palpably terror-stricken as she watched the ship tremble to a halt, saw the hatch slide open as the occupants prepared to excrete themselves from the great tubular organism of metal and base plastic.

"Have them approach us," Omar Diamond said, his eyes once again squeezed shut. "Have them recognize our existence. We will force them to take note of us and honor us." Ignatz joined him instantly, and after a pause so did frightened Sarah Apostoles, to the extent possible for her.

A ramp descended from the hatch of the ship. Two figures appeared, then lowered themselves step by step to the ground.

Ignatz said hopefully to Diamond, "Shall we produce miracles?"

Eyeing him, Diamond said with doubt, "Such as? I do not customarily work magic."

Sarah said, "Together Ignatz and I can accomplish this." To Ignatz she said, "Why don't we transfigure them with the specter of the world-spider as it spins its web of determination for all life?"

"Agreed," Ignatz said, and turned his attention to the chore of summoning the world-spider ... or, as Elsie would say, the moon-spider.

Before the two figures from the ship, blocking their way, appeared a glistening manifold of web-strands, a hastily erected structure by the never-ceasing toils of the spider. The figures froze.

One of them said something unutterable.

Sarah laughed.

"If you let them amuse you," Omar Diamond said severely, "we will lose the power which we hold over them."

"I'm sorry," Sarah said, still laughing. But it was already too late; the heap of shimmering web-fragments dissolved. And, Ignatz saw to his dismay, so did Omar Diamond and Sarah; he found himself seated alone. Their triumvirate had been extinguished by one instant of weakness. Nor did he still sit on the field of grass; he sat instead on a heap of junk in his own front yard in the center of Gandhitown.

The invading macro-organisms had regained control of their actions. Had managed to revert to their own plans.

Rising, Ignatz walked toward the two figures from the ship, who now stood uncertainly looking around them. Beneath Ignatz's feet his cats romped and raced; he tripped, almost sprawled; cursing to himself he pushed the cats aside, trying to retain a measure of gravity, of dignified countenance before these invaders. However this was impossible. Because behind him the door of the shack had opened and Elsie had come out; she had spoiled even this last-ditch stand on his part.

"Who are they?" she yelled.

Irritably Ignatz said, "I don't know. I'm going to find out."

"Tell them to get the hell out of here," Elsie said, her hands on her hips. She had been a Mans for several years and she still retained the arrogant hostility learned at Da Vinci Heights. Without knowing what she was up against she was prepared to do battle ... perhaps, he thought, with a can opener and a skillet. That amused him and he began to laugh; once he started he could not stop, and it was in this condition that he came up face to face with the two invaders.

"What's so funny?" one of them, a female, inquired.

Ignatz, wiping his eyes, said, "Do you remember landing twice? Do you remember the world-spiders? You don't." It was too funny; the invaders did not even recall the efforts of the triadic unnaturally-gifted saints. For them it had not even happened; it had not even been a delusion, and yet into it had gone all the efforts possible on the part of Ignatz Ledebur, Sarah Apostoles and the Skitz, Omar Diamond. He laughed on and on, and meanwhile the two invaders were joined by a third and then a fourth.

One of them, a male, sighed as he looked around. "Lord, what a rundown dump this place is. You think it's all this way?"

"But you can help us," Ignatz said. He managed to gain control of himself; pointing to the rusting hulk of the autonomic tractor on which the children played, he said, "Could you put yourself out to the extent of lending a hand to repair my farming equipment? If I had a little help --"

"Sure, sure," one of the men said. 'We'll help clean up this place." He wrinkled his nose in disgust; evidently he had smelled or seen something that offended him.

"Come inside," Ignatz said. "And have coffee." He turned toward the shack; after a pause the three men and the woman reluctantly followed. "I have to apologize for the smallness of the place," Ignatz said, "and the condition it's in --" He pushed open the door and his time most of the cats managed to squirm into the shack; bending, he picked up one after another, tossed them back outdoors. The four invaders uncertainly entered, stood about looking acutely unhappy.

"Sit down," Elsie said, summoning a modicum of politeness; she put the teakettle on the stove, lit the burner. "Just clear off that bench," she directed. "Push the stuff anywhere; on the floor if you want."

The four invaders reluctantly -- with tangible aversion -- pushed the mass of children's soiled clothing onto the floor, seated themselves. Each had a vague, stunned expression and Ignatz wondered why.

The woman, haltingly, said, "Couldn't you -- clean up your home here? I mean, how do you live in such --" She gestured, unable to continue.

Ignatz felt apologetic. But after all ... there were so many more important matters and so little time. Neither he nor Elsie could seem to find the opportunity to straighten things up; it was wrong, of course, to let the shack get like this, but -- he shrugged. Sometime soon, perhaps. And the invaders could possibly help here, too; they might have a work-sim that could pitch in. The Manses had them, but they charged too much. Possibly the invaders would loan him a work- sim free.

A rat, from its hole behind the icebox, scuttled across the floor. The woman invader, seeing the clumsy little weapon which it carried, shut her eyes and moaned.

Ignatz, as he fixed the coffee, giggled. Well, no one had asked them to come here; if they didn't like Gandhitown they could leave.

From the bedroom several of the children appeared, gaped in silence at the four invaders. The invaders sat rigidly, saying nothing, waiting in pain for their coffee, ignoring the blank, staring eyes of the children.

***

In the large council room at Adolfville the Heeb rep, Jacob Simion, spoke up suddenly. "They've landed. At Gandhitown. They're with Ignatz Ledebur."

Furious, Howard Straw said, "While we sit here talking. Enough of this time-wasting gabble; let's wipe them out. They have no business on our world -- don't you agree?" He poked Gabriel Baines.

"I agree," Baines said, and moved a trifle further away from the Mans delegate. "How did you know?" he asked Jacob Simion.

The Heeb snickered. "Didn't you see them here in the room? The asteral bodies? It was Ignatz who came here -- you don't remember that; he came and took Omar Diamond with him, but you've forgotten that because it never happened; the invaders made it unhappen by dividing the three into one and two."

Staring hopelessly at the floor the Dep said, "So already it's too late; they've landed."

Howard Straw barked a sharp, cold laugh. "But only in Gandhitown. Who cares about that? It ought to be mopped up; personally I'd be glad if they pulverized it out of existence -- it's a cesspool and everybody living in it stinks."

Shrinking back as if struck, Jacob Simion murmured, "At least we Heebs, we're not cruel." He blinked back helpless tears; at that, Howard Straw grinned with relish and nudged Gabriel Baines.

"Don't you have spectacular weapons at Da Vinci Heights?" Gabriel Baines asked him. He had a deep intuition, then, that the Mans' write-off of Gandhitown was indicative; the Manses probably intended to make no stand until their own settlement was endangered. They would not lend the inventiveness of their hyperactive minds for the general defense.

Gabriel Baines' long-time suspicions of Straw were now being justified.

Frowning with worry Annette Golding said, "We can't let Gandhitown go down the drain."

"'Down the drain,'" Straw echoed. "Appropriate! Yes we certainly can. Listen; we have the weapons. They've never been put to use -- they can wipe out any invading armada. We'll trot them out -- when we feel like it." He glanced around the table at the other delegates, enjoying the power of his position, his mastery; they were all dependent on him.

"I knew you'd behave like this as soon as a crisis arose," Gabriel Baines said bitterly. God, how he hated the Manses. How unreliable morally they were, so egocentric and superior; they simply could not work for the common good. Thinking this he made himself a promise right on the spot. If his opportunity to get back at Straw ever came he would take it. Fully. In fact, he realized, if the opportunity came to pay back the whole bunch of them, the entire Mans settlement -- it was a hope worth living for. The Manses held the advantage now, but it wouldn't last.

In fact, Gabriel Baines thought, it would almost be worth going to the invaders and making a pact with them on behalf of Adolfville; the invaders and ourselves against Da Vinci Heights.

The more he thought of it the more the idea appealed to him.

Annette Golding, eyeing him, said, "Do you have something to offer us, Gabe? You look as if you've thought of something valuable." Like all Polys she had acute perceptions; she had correctly read the changing expressions on his face.

Gabe chose to lie. Obviously he had to. "I think," he said aloud, "we can sacrifice Gandhitown. We're going to have to give it to them, let them colonize in that area, set up a base or whatever they want to do; we may not like it but --" He shrugged. What else could they do?

Miserably, Jacob Simion stammered, "Y-you people don't care about us just because we're -- not so cleanly as you all. I'm going back to Gandhitown and join my clan; if they're going to perish I'll perish with them." He rose to his feet, pushing his chair over with a discordant crash. "Betrayers," he added as he shambled, Heebwise, toward the door. The other delegates watched him go, displaying various shades of indifference; even Annette Golding, who generally cared about everything and everyone, did not seem perturbed.

And yet -- fleetingly -- Gabriel Baines felt grief. Because for the whole lot of them, here went their potential fate; every now and then a full Pare or Poly or Skitz or even Mans drifted by insidious, imperceptible degrees into Heebhood. So it could still come about. Any time.

And now, Baines realized, if that happens to any of us there will be no place to go. What became of a Heeb without Gandhitown? A good question; it frightened him.

Aloud he said, "Wait."

At the door the shambling, unshaven, sloppy figure of Jacob Simion paused; in the sunken Heeb eyes a flicker of hope manifested itself.

Gabriel Baines said, "Come back." Addressing himself to the others, especially arrogant Howard Straw, he said, 'We have to act in concert. Today it's Gandhitown; tomorrow it'll be Hamlet Hamlet or ourselves or the Skitzes -- the invaders will nab us bit by bit. Until only Da Vinci Heights remains." His antagonism toward Straw made his voice grate with envenomed harshness; in his own ears it was scarcely recognizable. "I vote formally that we employ all our resources in an effort to reconquer Gandhitown. We should make our stand there." Right in the middle of the heaps of garbage, animal manure and rusting machinery, he said to himself, and winced.

After a pause Annette said, "I -- second the motion."

The vote was taken. Only Howard Straw voted against it. So the motion carried.

"Straw," Annette said briskly, "you're instructed to produce these miracle weapons you've been bragging about. Since you Manses are so militant we'll let you lead the attack to retake Gandhitown." To Gabriel Baines she said, " And you Pares can organize it." She seemed quite calm, now that it had all been decided.

Softly, Ingred Hibbler said to Straw, "I might point out that if the war is fought near and in Gandhitown, damage will not occur to the other settlements. Had you thought of that?"

"Imagine fighting in Gandhitown," Straw muttered. "Wading around waist-deep in --" He broke off. To Jacob Simion and Omar Diamond he said, "We'll need all the Skitz and Heeb saints, visionaries, miracle-workers and just plain Psis we can get; will your settlements produce them and let us employ them?"

"I think so," Diamond said. Simion nodded.

"Between the miracle weapons from Da Vinci Heights and the talents of the Heeb and Skitz saints," Annette said, "we should be able to offer more than token resistance."

Miss Hibbler said, "If we could get the full names of the invaders we could cast numerological charts of them, discover their weak points. Or if we had their exact birthdates --"

"I think," Annette interrupted, "that the weapons of the Manses, plus the organizing powers of the Pares, in conjunction with the Heeb and Skitz unnaturals, will be somewhat more useful."

"Thank you," Jacob Simion said, "for not sacrificing Gandhitown." He gazed in mute appreciation at Gabriel Baines.

For the first time in months, perhaps even years, Baines felt his defenses melt; he enjoyed -- briefly -- a sense of relaxation, of near- euphoria. Someone liked him. And even if it was only a Heeb it meant a lot.

It reminded him of his childhood. Before he had found the Pare solution.
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Re: Clans of the Alphane Moon, by Philip K. Dick

Postby admin » Thu Jul 16, 2015 4:10 am

SEVEN

Walking along the muddy, rubbish-heaped central street of Gandhitown, Dr. Mary Rittersdorf said, "I've never seen anything like this in my life. Clinically it's mad. These people must all be hebephrenics. Terribly, terribly deteriorated." Inside her something cried at her to get out, to leave this place and never return. To get back to Terra and her profession as marriage counselor and forget she had ever seen this.

And the idea of attempting psychotherapy with these people --

She shuddered. Even drug-therapy and electroshock would be of little use, here. This was the tail-end of mental illness, the point of no return.

Beside her the young CIA agent, Dan Magehoom, said, "Your diagnosis, then, is hebephrenia? I can report that back officially?" Taking her by the arm he assisted her over the remains of some major animal carcass; in the mid-day sun the ribs stuck up like tines of a great curved fork.

Mary said, "Yes, it's obvious. Did you see the pieces of dead rat lying strewn around the door of that shack? I'm sick; I'm actually sick to my stomach. No one lives that way now. Not even in India and China. It's like going back four thousand years; that's the way Sinanthropus and Neanderthal must have lived. Only without the rusted machinery."

"At the ship," Mageboom said, "we can have a drink."

"No drink is going to help me," Mary said. "You know what this awful place reminds me of? The horrible shoddy old conapt my husband moved into when we separated."

Beside her Mageboom started, blinked.

"You knew I was married," Mary said. "I told you." She wondered why her remark had surprised him, so; on the trip she had freely discussed her marital problems with him, finding him a good listener.

"I can't believe your comparison is accurate," Mageboom said. "The conditions here are symptoms of a group psychosis; your husband never lived like that -- he had no mental disorder." He glared at her.

Mary halting, said, "How do you know? You never met him. Chuck was -- still is -- sick. What I said is so; he has a latent streak of hebephrenia in him ... he always shrank from socio-sexual responsibility; I told you about all my attempts to get him to seek employment that guaranteed a reasonable return." But of course Mageboom himself was an employee of the CIA; she could hardly expect to obtain sympathy from him on that issue. Better, perhaps, to drop the whole topic. Things were depressing enough without having to rehash her life with Chuck.

On both sides of her Heebs -- that was what they called themselves, a corruption of the obviously accurate diagnostic category hebephrenic -- gazed with vacuous silliness, grinning without comprehension, even without real curiosity. A white goat wandered by ahead of her; she and Dan Mageboom stopped warily. Neither of them familiar with goats. It passed on.

At least, she thought, these people are harmless. Hebephrenics, at all their stages of deterioration, lacked the capacity to act out aggression; there were other far more ominous derangement-syndromes to be on the lookout for. It was inevitable that, very shortly, they would begin to turn up. She was thinking in particular of the manic-depressives, who, in their manic phase, could be highly destructive.

But there was an even more sinister category which she was steeling herself against. The destructiveness of the manics would be limited to impulse; at the worst it would have a tantrum-like aspect, temporary orgies of breaking and hitting which ultimately would subside. However, with the acute paranoid a systemized and permanent hostility could be anticipated; it would not abate in time but on the contrary would become more elaborate. The paranoid possessed an analytical, calculating quality; he had a good reason for his actions, and each move fitted in as part of the scheme. His hostility might be less conspicuously violent ... but in the long run its durability posed deeper implications as far as therapy went. Because with these people, the advanced paranoids, cure or even temporary insight was virtually impossible. Like the hebephrenic, the paranoid had found a stable and permanent maladaptation.

And, unlike the manic-depressive and the hebephrenic, or the simple catatonic schizophrenic, the paranoid seemed rational. The formal pattern of logical reasoning appeared undisturbed. Underneath, however, the paranoid suffered from the greatest mental disfigurement possible for a human being. He was incapable of empathy, unable to imagine himself in another person's role. Hence for him others did not actually exist -- except as objects in motion that did or did not affect his well-being. For decades it had been fashionable to say that paranoids were incapable of loving. This was not so. The paranoid experienced love fully, both as something given to him by others and as a feeling on his part toward them. But there was a slight catch to this.

The paranoid experienced it as a variety of hate.

To Dan Mageboom she said, "According to my theory the several sub-types of mental illness should be functioning on this world as classes somewhat like those of ancient India. These people here, the hebephrenics, would be equivalent to the untouchables. The manics would he the warrior class, without fear; one of the highest."

"Samurai," Mageboom said. "As in Japan."

"Yes." She nodded. "The paranoids -- actually paranoiac schizophrenics -- would function as the statesman class; they'd be in charge of developing political ideology and social programs -- they'd have the overall world view. The simple schizophrenics ..." She pondered. "They'd correspond to the poet class, although some of them would be religious visionaries -- as would be some of the Heebs. The Heebs, however, would be inclined to produce ascetic saints, whereas the schizophrenics would produce dogmatists. Those with polymorphic schizophrenia simplex would be the creative members of the society, producing the new ideas." She tried to remember what other categories might exist. "There could be some with over-valent ideas, psychotic disorders that were advanced forms of milder obsessive-compulsive neurosis, the so-called diencephalic disturbances. Those people would be the clerks and office holders of the society, the ritualistic functionaries, with no original ideas. Their conservatism would balance the radical quality of the polymorphic schizophrenics and give the society stability."

Mageboom said. "So one would think the whole affair would work." He gestured. "How would it differ from our own society on Terra?"

For a time she considered the question; it was a good one.

"No answer?" Mageboom said.

"I have an answer. Leadership in this society here would naturally fall to the paranoids. They'd be superior individuals in terms of initiative, intelligence and just plain innate ability. Of course they'd have trouble keeping the manics from staging a coup ... there'd always be tension between the two classes. But you see, with paranoids establishing the ideology, the dominant emotional theme would be hate. Actually hate going in two directions; the leadership would hate everyone outside its enclave and also would take for granted that everyone hated it in return. Therefore their entire so-called foreign policy would be to establish mechanisms by which this supposed hatred directed at them could be fought. And this would involve the entire society in an illusion struggle, a battle against foes that didn't exist for a victory over nothing."

"Why is that so bad?"

"Because," she said, "no matter how it came out. the results would be the same. Total isolation for these people. That would be the ultimate effect of their entire group activity: to progressively cut themselves off from all other living entities."

"Is that so bad? To be self-sufficient --"

"No," Mary said. "It wouldn't be self-sufficiency; it would be something entirely different, something you and I really can't imagine. Remember the old experiments made with people in absolute isolation? Back in the mid-twentieth century, when they anticipated space travel, the possibility of a man being entirely alone for days, weeks on end, with fewer and fewer stimuli ... remember the results they obtained when they placed a man in a chamber from which no stimuli at all reached him?"

"Of course," Mageboom said. "It's what now is called the buggies. The result of stimulus-deprivation is acute hallucinosis."

She nodded. "Auditory, visual, tactile and olfactory hallucinosis, replacing the missing stimuli. And, in intensity, hallucinosis can exceed the force of reality; in its vividness, its impact, the effect aroused by it ... for example, states of terror. Drug-induced hallucinations can bring on states of terror which no experience with the real world can produce."

"Why?"

"Because they have an absolute quality. They're generated within the sense-receptor system and constitute a feedback emanating not from a distant point but from within a person's own nervous system. He can't obtain detachment from it. And he knows it. There's no retreat possible."

Mageboom said, "And how's that going to act here? You don't seem able to say."

"I can say, but it's not simple. First, I don't know yet how far this society is advanced along the lines of isolating itself and the individuals who make it up. We'll know soon by their attitude toward us. The Heebs we're seeing here --" She indicated the hovels on both sides of the muddy road. "Their attitude is no index. However, when we run into our first paranoids or manics -- let's say this: undoubtedly some measure of hallucination, of psychological projection, exists as a component of their world view. In other words, we have to assume they're already partly hallucinating. But they still retain some sense of objective reality as such. Our presence here will accelerate the hallucinating tendency; we have to face that and be prepared. And the hallucination will take the form of seeing us as elements of dire menace; we, our ship, will literally be viewed -- I don't mean interpreted, I mean actually perceived -- as threatening. What they undoubtedly will see in us is an invading spearhead that intends to overthrow their society, make it a satellite of our own."

"But that's true. We intend to take the leadership out of their hands, place them back where they were twenty-five years ago. Patients in enforced hospitalization circumstances -- in other words, captivity."

It was a good point. But not quite good enough. She said, "There is a distinction you're not making; it's a slender one, but vital. We will be attempting therapy of these people, trying to put them actually in the position which, by accident, they now improperly hold. If our program is successful they will govern themselves, as legitimate settlers on this moon, eventually. First a few, then more and more of them. This is not a form of captivity -- even if they imagine it is. The moment any person on this moon is free of psychosis, is capable of viewing reality without the distortion of projection --"

"Do you think it'll be possible to persuade these people voluntarily to resume their hospitalized status?"

"No," Mary said. 'We'll have to bring force to bear on them; with the possible exception of a few Heebs we're going to have to take out commitment papers for an entire planet." She corrected herself, "Or rather moon."

"Just think," Mageboom said. "If you hadn't changed that to 'moon' I'd have grounds for committing you."

Startled, she glanced at him. He did not appear to be joking; his youthful face was grim.

"It was just a slip," she said.

"A slip," he agreed, "but a revealing one. A symptom." He smiled, and it was a cold smile. It made her shiver in bewilderment and unease; what did Mageboom have against her? Or was she becoming just a little bit paranoid? Perhaps so ... but she felt enormous hostility directed her way from the man, and she barely knew him.

And she had felt this hostility throughout the trip. And strangely, from the very beginning; it had started the moment they met.

***

Putting the Daniel Mageboom simulacrum on homeostasis, Chuck Rittersdorf switched himself out of the circuit, rose stiffly from the seat before the control panel and lit a cigarette. It was nine P.M. local time.

On Alpha III M2 the sim would go about its business, functioning in an adequate manner; if any crisis came up Petri could take over. In the meantime he himself had other problems. It was time for him to produce his first script for the TV comic Bunny Hentman, his other employer.

He had, now, a supply of stimulants; the slime mold from Ganymede had presented them to him as he had started from his conapt that morning. So evidently he could count on working all night.

But first there was a little matter of dinner.

For what it was worth he paused at the public vid phone booth in the lobby of the CIA building and put in a call to Joan Trieste's conapt.

"Hi," she said when she saw who it was. "Listen. Mr. Hentman called here, trying to get hold of you. So you better get in touch with him. He said he tried to reach you at the CIA building in S.F. but they said they never heard of you."

"Policy," Chuck said. "Okay. I'll call him." He asked her, then, about dinner.

"I don't believe you'll be able to have dinner, with or without me," Joan answered. "From what Mr. Hentman told me. He's got some idea he wants you to listen to; he says when he springs it on you you'll drop."

Chuck said, "That wouldn't come as a surprise." He felt resigned; obviously this was how the entire relationship with Hentman would function.

Temporarily forgetting any further efforts in Joan's direction he called the vidphone number which the Hentman organization had provided him.

"Rittersdorf!" Hentman exclaimed, as soon as the contact was established. "Where are you? Get right over here; I'm in my Florida apt -- take an express rocket; I'll pay the fare. Listen, Rittersdorf; your test is showing up right now -- this'll tell if you're any good or not."

It was a long leap from the vacuous dump-like settlement of the Heebs on Alpha III M2 to Bunny Hentman's energetic schemes. The transition was going to be hard; perhaps it could be accomplished on the flight back East. He could eat, too, on the ship, but that left out Joan Trieste; already his job was undermining his personal life.

"Tell me the idea now. So I can mull it over on the flight."

Hentman's eyes glowed with cunning. "Are you kid- ding? Suppose someone overhears? Listen, Rittersdorf. I'll give you a hint. I had this in the back of my mind when I hired you but --" His grin increased. "I didn't want to scare you off, you know what I mean? Now I got you hooked." He laughed loudly. "So now -- wow! Anything goes, right?"

"Just tell me the idea," Chuck said, patiently.

Lowering his voice to a whisper Hentman leaned close to the vidscanner. His nose, magnified, filled the screen, a nose and one winking, delighted eye. "It's a new characterization I'm going to add to my repertoire. George Flibe; that's his name. As soon as I tell you what he is, you'll see why I hired you. Listen: Flibe is a CIA agent. And he's posing as a female marriage counselor, in order to get information on suspects." Hentman waited, expectantly. "Well? What you say?"

After a long time Chuck said, "It's the worst thing I've heard in twenty years." It completely depressed him.

"You're out of your mind. I know and you don't. This could be the biggest character in TV comedy since Red Skelton's Freddy the Freeloader. And you're the one to write the script because you've had the experience. So get here to my apt as soon as possible and we'll get started on the first George Flibe episode. All right! If that's not such a hot idea what have you got to offer?"

Chuck said, "What about a female marriage counselor who poses as a CIA agent in order to get information that'll cure her patients?"

"Are you pulling my leg?"

"In fact," Chuck said, "how about this? A CIA simulacrum --"

"You're putting me on." Hentman's face became red; at least, on the vidscreen it darkened appreciably.

"I was never more serious in my life."

"All right, what about the simulacrum?"

"This CIA simulacrum, see," Chuck said, "poses as a female marriage counselor, see, but every now and then the simulacrum breaks down."

"Do the CIA sims really do that? Break down?"

"All the time."

"Go on," Hentman said, scowling.

Chuck said, "See, the whole point is, what the hell does a simulacrum know about human marital problems? And see, here it is advising people. It keeps giving out this advice; once it gets started it can't stop. It's even giving marital advice to the General Dynamics repairmen who're always fixing it. See?"

Rubbing his chin Hentman nodded slowly. "Hmm."

"There'd have to be a particular reason why this one sim acts this way. So we'd go into its origin. The episode, see, would start with the General Dynamics engineers who --"

"I've got it!" Hentman interrupted. "This one engineer, call him Frank Fupp, is having trouble in his marriage; he's seeing a marriage counselor. And she's given him this document, it's an analysis of his problem, and he's brought it to work, to G.D.'s labs, with him. And there's this new sim standing there, waiting to be programmed."

"Sure!" Chuck said.

"And -- and Fupp reads the document aloud to this other engineer. Call him Phil Grook, The simulacrum gets accidentally programmed; it thinks it's a marriage counselor. But actually it's been contracted for by the CIA; it's shipped to the CIA and it shows up --" Hentman paused, pondering. "Where would it show up, Rittersdorf?"

"Behind the Iron Curtain. Say in Red Canada."

"Right! In Red Canada, in Ontario. It's supposed to pose as a -- synthetic, wabble-hide salesman; isn't that right? Isn't that what they do?"

"More or less; right."

"But instead," Hentman went on excitedly, "it sets itself up in a little office, hangs out a sh-shingle. George Flibe, Psychologist, Ph.D. Marital Counseling. And these high Commie party officials with marital problems keep coming to it --" Hentman puffed with agitation. "Rittersdorf, you've got the hest frigging idea I've heard in as long as I can remember. And -- and always these two General Dynamics engineers, they're showing up trying to tinker with it and get it working right. Listen; get on the express rocket for Florida right now; and sketch this out during the trip, maybe have some dialogue when you get here. I think we're really onto something; you know, your brain and mine really synchronize -- right?"

"I think so," Chuck said. "I'll be right there." He obtained the address and then rang off. Wearily, he left the vidphone booth; he felt drained. And he could not for the life of him tell if he had come up with a good idea or not. Anyhow Hentman believed he had, and evidently that was what counted.

By jet cab he reached the San Francisco space port; there he boarded an express rocket which would carry him to Florida.

The conapt building of Bunny Hentman was luxury incarnate; all its levels were below the surface and it had its own uniformed police force patrolling the entrances and halls. Chuck gave his name to the first cop who approached him and a moment later he was descending to Bunny's floor.

Within the huge apt Bunny Hentman lounged in a hand-dyed Martian spider-silk dressing gown, smoking a green, enormous, Tampa, Florida cigar; he jerked his bead in impatient greeting to Chuck and then indicated the other men in the living room.

"Rittersdorf, there are two of your colleagues, my writers. This tall one --" He pointed with his cigar. "That's Calv Dark." Dark approached Chuck slowly and shook hands. "And the short fat one with no hair on his bead; that's my senior writer, Thursday Jones." Also coming forward Jones, an alert, sharp-featured Negro, shook hands with Chuck. Both the writers seemed friendly; he had no sense of hostility on their parts. Evidently they did not resent him.

Dark said, "Sit down, Rittersdorf. It's been a long trip for you. A drink?"

"No," Chuck said. He wanted his mind clear for the session ahead.

"You had dinner on the rocket?" Hentman asked.

"Yes."

"I've been telling my boys about your idea," Hentman said. "Both of them like it. "

"Fine," Chuck said.

"However," Hentman continued, "they've batted it back and forth and a little while ago they came up with an evolution of their own ... you know what I mean?"

Chuck said, "I'd be only too happy to hear their idea based on my idea."

Clearing his throat Thursday Jones said, "Mr. Rittersdorf, could a simulacrum commit a murder?"

After staring at him a moment Chuck said, "I don't know." He felt cold. "You mean on its own, working by autonomic --"

"I mean could the person operating it from remote use it as an instrument for murder?"

To Bunny Hentman, Chuck said, "I don't see any humor in an idea like that. And my wit's supposed to be moribund."

"Wait," Bunny cautioned. "You forget the famous old funny thrillers, combinations of terror and humor. Like the Cat and the Canary, that movie with Paulette Goddard and Bob Hope. And the famous Arsenic and Old Lace -- not to mention classic British comedies in which someone was murdered ... there were dozens of them in the past."

"Like the marvelous Kind Hearts and Coronets," Thursday Jones said.

"I see," Chuck said, and that was all he said; he kept his mouth shut, while inside he seethed with disbelief and shock. Was this just some malign coincidence, this idea running parallel to his own life? Or -- and this seemed more probable -- the slime mold had said something to Bunny. But if so, why was the Hentman organization doing this? What interest did they have in the life and death of Mary Rittersdorf?

Hentman said, "I think the boys have a good idea here. The scary with the ... well, you see, Chuck, you work for CIA so you don't realize this, but the average person is scared of the CIA; you got it? He regards it as a secret interplanetary police and spy organization which --"

"I know," Chuck said.

"Well, you don't have to bite my head off," Bunny Hentman said, with a glance at Dark and Jones.

Speaking up, Dark said, "Chuck -- if I can call you that already -- we know our business. When the average Joe thinks of a CIA sim he's scared right off the bat. When you gave Bunny your idea you weren't thinking of that. Now here's this CIA operator; let's call him --" He turned to Jones. "What's our working-name?"

"Siegfried Trots."

"Here's Ziggy Trots, a secret agent ... trenchcoat made of Uranian molecricket fur, hat of Venusian wubfuzz pulled down over his forehead -- all that. Standing in the rain on some dismal moon, maybe one of Jupiter's. A familiar sight."

"And then, Chuck," Jones said, picking up the narrative, "once the pic is established in the viewer's mind, the stereotype -- you see? Then the viewer discovers something about Ziggy Trots he didn't know, that the stereotype of the sinister CIA agent doesn't ordinarily contain."

Dark said, "See, Ziggy Trots is an idiot. A nurt who can never pull off anything right. And here's what he's trying to pull off." He walked over, seated himself on the couch beside Chuck. "He's going to try to commit a murder. Got it?"

"Yes," Chuck said tightly, saying as little as possible, becoming merely a listening entity. He shrank within himself, more and more bewildered by -- and suspicious of -- what was going on around him.

Dark continued, "Now, who's he trying to kill?" He glanced at Jones and Bunny Hentman. "We've been arguing about this part."

Bunny said, "A blackmailer. An international jewel magnate who operates from another planet entirely. Maybe a non-T."

Shutting his eyes, Chuck rocked back and forth.

'What's wrong, Chuck?" Dark asked.

"He's thinking," Bunny said. "Trying the idea on. Right, Chuck?'

"That's -- right," Chuck managed to say. He was sure, now, that Lord Running Clam had gone to Hentman And something vast and dismal was unfolding around him, catching him up; he was a midge in the midst of this, whatever it was. And there was no way for him to get out.

"I disagree," Dark said. "International jewel magnate who's maybe a Martian or a Venusian -- that's not bad ... but --" He gestured. "It's been done to death; we started with one stereotype; let's not revert to another. I think he should be trying to do away with -- well, his wife." Dark looked around at each of them. "Tell me; what's wrong with that? He's got a nagging, shrew of a wife -- get the picture? This hard, tough, CIA secret police spy type agent, who the average person is scared to death of ... we see how tough he is, pushing people around -- and then he goes home and he's got his wife who pushes him around!" He laughed.

"It's not bad," Bunny admitted. "Bu it's not enough. And I wonder how many times I could do the characterization; I want something I can add permanently to the show. Not just a skit for one week."

"I think the henpecked CIA man could go on forever," Dark said. "Anyhow --" He turned back to Chuck. "So this Ziggy Trots is next seen on the job, at CIA headquarters, and there's all these police gadgets and electronic devices. And all of a sudden it comes to him." Dark jumped to his feet and began striding about the room. "He can use them against his wife! And then to top it off -- in steps this new sim." Dark's voice became metallic and crabbed as he mimicked a simulacrum. "Yes, master, what may I do for you? I am waiting."

Bunny, grinning. said, "What you say, Chuck?"

With difficulty Chuck said, "Is -- his only motive for murdering his wife the fact that she's a shrew? That she browbeats him?"

"No!" Jones shouted, leaping up. "You're right; we need a stronger motivation and I think I've got it. There's this girl. Ziggy's got a mistress on the side. An interplan female spy, beautiful and sexy -- you get it? And his wife won't give him a divorce."

Dark said, "Or maybe his wife has discovered this girlfriend and has --"

'Wait. " Bunny said. "What are we getting here, a psychological drama or a comedy skit? It's getting too messy."

"Right," Jones said, nodding. 'We stick to just showing what a monster the wife is. Anyhow Ziggy sees this simulacrum --" He broke off. Because someone had entered the room.

It was an Alphane. One of the race of chitinous creatures who, a few years ago, had been locked in combat with Terra. Its multi-pointed arms and legs clicking it scuttled toward Bunny, feeling with its antennae -- the Alphanes were blind -- and then, touching him, delicately stroking Bunny's face, the Alphane turned and moved back, satisfied that it was where it wished to be ... its eyeless head swiveled and now it sniffed, picked up the presence of other humans . "Am I interrupting?" it asked in its twangy, harp-like voice, its Alphane sing-song. "I heard your discussion and it interested me."

Bunny said to Chuck, "Rittersdorf, this is one of my oldest and dearest friends. I never trusted nobody the way I trust my buddy here, RBX 303." He explained, "Maybe you don't know it but Alphanes have license-plate type names, sort of mechanical codes. That's all there is, just RBX 303. Sounds sort of impersonal, but Alphs are real warm-hearted. RBX 303 here has a heart of gold." He sniggered "Two of them, in fact; one on each side."

"I'm glad to meet you," Chuck said, reflexively.

The Alphane scrabbled up to him, stroked at his features with its twin antennae; it was, Chuck decided, like having two houseflies run here and there across his face -- a distinctly unpleasant impression. "Mr. Rittersdorf ... the AIphane twanged. "Delighted." It withdrew, then. "And who else is in this room, Bunny? I smell others."

"Just Dark and Jones," Bunny said, "my writers." Again turning to Chuck he explained, "RBX 303's a tycoon, a big wheeler and dealer in interplan commercial enterprises of every sort. See, Chuck, here's the situation. RBX 303 here owns controlling stock in Pubtrans Incorporated. Does that mean anything to you?"

For a moment it meant nothing and then it came to Chuck. Pubtrans Incorporated was the company which sponsored Bunny Hentman's TV Show. "You mean," Chuck said, "it's owned by --" He broke off. He had started to say, "Owned by one of our former enemies?" However, he did not say it; for one thing it obviously was so, and for another -- they were, after all, the former, not the present, enemy. Terra and the Alphanes were at peace and the enmity was supposed to be over.

"You never met an Alph' close up before?" Bunny said acutely. "You should; they're a great people. Sensitive, with a terrific sense of humor ... Pubtrans sponsors me partly because RBX 303 here personally believes in me and my talent -- he did a lot to get me from being nothing but a comic doing the nightclub circuit with occasional guests on TV shows to having my own show, a show that's gone over partly because Pubtrans has done a hell of a good job publicizing it."

"I see," Chuck said. He felt ill. But he did not know quite why. Perhaps it was the whole situation; he could not understand it. "Are Alphanes telepathic?" he asked, knowing they weren't and yet -- there seemed to be an uncanny awareness about this Alphane. Chuck had the intuition that it knew everything; there were no secrets which the Alphane could not seek out.

"They're not telepaths," Bunny said, "but they depend on hearing a lot; that makes them different from us, because we have eyes," He glanced at Chuck. "What's with you and telepaths? I mean, you must have known the answer; during the war we were briefed up to our eyeballs about the enemy. And you're not too young to remember that; you must have grown up with it."

Dark spoke up suddenly. "I'll tell you what's bothering Rittersdorf; I used to feel the same way. Rittersdorf was hired for his ideas. And he doesn't want to see his brain picked clean. His ideas belong to him up until the moment he chooses to reveal them. If you brought in, say, a Ganymedean slime mold, hell, that would be an unfair invasion of all of our personal rights; it would turn us into machines that you mechanically pumped for ideas." To Chuck he said, "Don't worry about RBX 303; he can't read your thoughts; all he can do is very carefully listen to subtle, tiny nuances in what you say ... but it's surprising how much he can detect that way. Alphanes make good psychologists."

Seated in the next room, the Alphane said, "reading Life magazine, I listened to your conversation, about your new humorous character Siegfried Trots. Interested, I decided to come in; I put the audio tape down and arose. Is this satisfactory with all of you?"

"Nobody minds your presence," Bunny assured the Alphane.

"Nothing." the Alphane said. "amuses and entertains -- and fascinates -- me as does a creative session by you gifted writers. Mr. Rittersdorf, I have never seen you in operation before, but already I can tell that you have a great deal to add. However, I sense your aversion -- a very deeply-held aversion -- to the line which the conversation has taken. May I ask what precisely you find so objectionable to Siegfried Trots and his desire to do away with his unpleasant wife? Are you married, Mr. Rittersdorf?"

"Yes," Chuck said.

"Perhaps this plot-idea rouses guilt-feelings within you," the Alphane said thoughtfully. "Perhaps you have unacknowledged hostile impulses toward your wife."

Bunny said, "You're way off, RBX; Chuck and his wife are splitting up -- she's already gone into court. Anyway Chuck's private life is his own business; we're not here to dissect his psyche. Let's get back to the material."

"I still say," the Alphane declared, "that there is something very unusual and atypical in Mr. Rittersdorf's reaction; I would like to find out why." It turned its knob-like blind head toward Chuck. "Perhaps, if you and I see more of each other, I will find out why. And I have the feeling that knowing this would be of benefit to you, too."

Scratching his nose thoughtfully Bunny Hentman said, "Maybe he does know, RBX. Maybe he just doesn't want to say." He eyed Chuck and said, "I still say it's his own business, in either case."

Chuck said, "It simply doesn't sound like a comedy idea to me. That's the extent of my --" He had almost said aversion. "Of my doubts."

"Well, I don't have any doubts," Bunny decided. "I'll have our prop department put together a hollow simulacrum-type figure that somebody can get into; that'll be a lot cheaper and more reliable than buying a genuine one. And we'll need some girl to play the role of Ziggy's wife. My wife, because I'll be Ziggy."

"How about the girlfriend?" Jones said. "Is that in or not?"

Dark said, "It would have one advantage; we could have her breast-heavy. You know, fracked. That would please a lot of viewers; otherwise we're stuck with one shrewish type woman who decidedly would not be breast-heavy. That kind never gets that operation performed."

"You got someone particular in mind who could play that part?" Bunny asked him, pad of paper and pen in hand.

"You know that new fray your agent's handling," Dark said. "That fresh little one ... Patty something. Patty Weaver. She's really breast-heavy. The medics must have grafted in fifty pounds if it's an ounce."

"I'll sign up Patty tonight," Bunny Hentman said, nodding. "I know her and she's good; she's exactly right for it. And then we need some bellicose old hag to play the shrewish wife. Maybe I'll let Chuck do the casting-select for that." He laughed owlishly.
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Re: Clans of the Alphane Moon, by Philip K. Dick

Postby admin » Thu Jul 16, 2015 4:10 am

EIGHT

'When, late that night, Chuck Rittersdorf wearily returned to his rundown conapt in Marin County, California, he was stopped in the hall by the yellow Ganymedean slime mold. This, at three A.M. It was too much.

"'There are a pair of individuals in your apt," Lord Running Clam informed him. "It seemed to me you should be tipped off in advance."

"Thanks," Chuck said, and wondered what he had to cope with now.

"One of them is your superior at CIA," the slime mold said. "Jack Elwood. The second is Mr. Elwood's superior, a Mr. Roger London. They are here to interrogate you as to your other job."

"I never concealed it from them," Chuck said. "In fact Mageboom operated by Pete Petri was right here on the spot when Hentman hired me." Uneasily he wondered why they considered it their affair.

"'True," the slime mold agreed, "but you see they had a tap on the vidline over which you talked this evening first to Joan Trieste and then to Mr. Hentman in Florida. So not only do they know that you're working for Mr. Hentman but they also know the script-idea which you --"

That explained it. He passed on by the slime mold, to the door of his apt. It was unlocked; he opened it, faced the two CIA men. "This late in the night?" he said. "It's that important?" Going to the closet -- it was the ancient-style manual variety -- he hung up his coat. The apt was comfortably warm; the CIA officials had turned on the nonthermostatically controlled radiant heat.

"Is this the man?" London said. He was a tall, stooped, graying man in his late fifties; Chuck had run into him a few times and had found him difficult. "This is Rittersdorf?"

"Yes," Elwood said. "Chuck, listen carefully. There are facts about Bunny Hentman you don't know. Security facts. Now, we're aware of the reason why you accepted this job; we know you didn't want to but were forced to."

"Oh?" Chuck said warily. They couldn't possibly know what pressure the telepathic slime mold across the hall had put on him.

Elwood said, "We fully recognize your difficult situation regarding your ex-wife Mary, the enormous settlement and alimony payments which she was able to obtain; we know you need the money in order to meet those payments. However --" He glanced at London. London nodded, and Elwood bent to unzip his briefcase. "I have Hentman's dossier here. His real name is Sam Little. During the war he was convicted on a charge of violating the trade-rules governing commerce with neutral states; in other words Hentman supplied needed commodities to the enemy by way of an intermediate source. He spent only one year in prison, however; he had a very good choir of attorneys. You want to hear more?"

"Yes," Chuck said. "Because I can hardly quit my job on the grounds that fifteen years ago --"

"All right," Elwood said, after a further exchange of glances with his superior, London. "After the war Sam Little -- or Bunny Hentman, as he now is known -- lived in the Alpha system. What he did there no one knows; our data-gathering sources were of no use to us in Alpha-held territory. Anyhow about six years ago he returned to Terra and with plenty of interplan skins. He began doing a comedy routine in nightclubs and then Pubtrans Incorporated sponsored him --"

"I know," Chuck interrupted, "that an Alphane owns Pubtrans. I met him. RBX 303."

"You MET him?" Both Elwood and London stared at him. "Do you know anything about RBX 303?" Elwood demanded. "His family, during the war, controlled the largest wargoods combine in the Alpha system. His brother is in the Alphane cabinet right now, directly responsible to the Alphane Doge. In other words when you're dealing with RBX 303 you're dealing with the Alphane government." He tossed the dossier to Chuck. "Read the rest."

Chuck glanced through the neatly-typed pages. It was easy to make out the summary at the end; the CIA agents who had compiled the dossier believed that RBX 303 was acting as an untitled rep of a foreign power and that Hentman was aware of this. Therefore their activities were being watched by the CIA.

"His reason for giving you the job," Elwood said, "is not what you think. Hentman doesn't need another writer; he's got five already. I'll tell you our opinion. We think it has to do with your wife."

Chuck said nothing; he continued, vacantly, to pore over the sheets which made up the dossier.

"The Alphanes," Elwood said, "would like to reacquire Alpha III M2. And the only way they can do it legally is to induce the Terrans inhabiting it to leave. Otherwise according to interplan law the Protocols of 2040 come into effect; the moon becomes the property of its settlers and since those settlers are Terran it's indirectly the property of Terra. The Alphanes can't make the settlers leave, but they've kept an eye on them; they're perfectly aware that it's a society made up of former mental patients of the Harry Stack Sullivan Neuropsychiatric Hospital which we established there before the war. The only agency that could get those settlers off Alpha III M2 would be Terran, either TERPLAN or the U.S. Interplan Health and Welfare Service; we could conceivably evacuate the moon, and that would leave it up for grabs."

"But no one," Chuck said, "is going to recommend that the settlers be evacuated." It seemed to him entirely out of the question. One of two things would occur: either Terra would leave the settlers strictly alone or a new hospital would be built and the settlers would be coerced into entering it.

Elwood said, "You may be right. But do the Alphanes know that?"

"And remember," London said in his hoarse, low voice, "the Alphanes are great gamblers; the entire war was one great longshot for them -- and they lost. They don't know any other way to operate."

That was true; Chuck nodded. And yet it still made no sense. What influence did he have over Mary's decisions? Hentman knew that he and Mary were legally separated; Mary was on Alpha III M2 and he was here on Terra. And even if they were both on the Alphane moon Mary would never listen to him. Her decision would be her own.

Yet, if the Alphanes knew that he had control of the Daniel Mageboom simulacrum --

He simply couldn't believe that they knew this; it was impossible.

"We have a theory," Elwood said, retrieving the dossier and returning it to his briefcase. "We believe that the Alphanes know --"

"Don't tell me," Chuck said, "that they know about Mageboom; that would mean they'd penetrated the CIA."

"I -- wasn't going to say quite that," Elwood said uncomfortably. "I was going to say that they know, just as we do, that your separation from Mary is purely legal, that you're still as emotionally involved with her as ever. As reconstructed by us, their view comes out like this; contact between you and Mary will shortly be resumed. Whether either of you anticipates it or not."

"And what good will that do them?" Chuck said.

"Here their concept of the situation becomes positively lurid," Elwood said. "Now, this we've picked up strictly from peripheral indications, from snatches gathered here and there; we may be wrong, but it appears that the Alphanes are going to try to induce you to make an attempt to kill your wife."

Chuck said nothing; he kept his features immobile. Time passed; no one spoke. Elwood and Roger London regarded him curiously, tangibly wondering why he did not respond.

"To be honest with you," London growled finally, "we have an informant on Hentman's immediate staff; never mind who. This informant tells us that the script-idea which Hentman and his writers presented you on your arrival in Florida had to do with a CIA simulacrum killing a woman. A man's wife. The man is a CIA agent. Is that correct?"

Chuck nodded slowly, his eyes fixed on a spot on the wall to the right of Elwood and London.

"This plot situation," London continued, "is supposed to give you the idea of trying to kill Mrs. Rittersdorf with a CIA sim. What Hentman and his Al-phane buddies don't know, of course, is that a CIA sim is already on Alpha III M2 and that you're operating it; if they did know this they would --" He broke off, then said slowly, half to himself, "Then they'd see there's no need to build an elaborate script up to give you the idea." He studied Chuck. "Because very possibly you already have thought of it."

After a pause Elwood said, "That's an interesting speculation. I hadn't come onto it, myself, but eventually I would." To Chuck he said, "Would you like to give up your operation of the Mageboom simulacrum? To prove beyond a doubt that you had no such action in mind?"

Chuck said, picking his words with care, "Of course I won't give it up." It was obvious that if he did he would be admitting that they were right, that they had uncovered something about him and his intentions. And, in addition, he did not care to relinquish the Mageboom task -- for a very good reason. He wanted to continue his plan for killing Mary.

"If anything should happen to Mrs. Rittersdorf," London said, "in view of this, great suspicion would fall on you."

"I realize that," Chuck said woodenly.

"So while you're operating that Mageboom sim," London said, "you better see to it that it protects Mrs. Rittersdorf."

Chuck said, "You want my frank opinion?"

"Certainly," London said, and Elwood nodded.

"This whole thing is an absurdity, a concoction based on isolated data by some imaginative agent in the field, someone who evidently has hung around TV personalities too long. How is my killing Mary going to alter her decision regarding Alpha III M2 and its psychotic settlers? If she's dead she'd simply be replaced and someone else would make the determination."

"I think," Elwood said, speaking to his superior, "that what we're going to find ourselves dealing with here is not a murder but an attempted murder. Murder as a threat, held over Dr. Rittersdorf's head, to make her comply." He added, speaking to Chuck, "That of course is assuming that Hentman's campaign bears fruit. That you're influenced by the logic put forth by the TV script."

"But you seem to think I would be," Chuck said.

"I think," Elwood said, "that it's an interesting coincidence that you are operating a CIA simulacrum in Mary's vicinity, exactly as Hentman's script proposes. What are the chances --"

Chuck said, "A more plausible explanation is that somehow Hentman has found out I'm operating the Mageboorn simulacrum, that he developed his idea from the situation. And you know what that means." The implication was obvious. Despite their denials the CIA had been penetrated. Or --

There existed one other possibility. Lord Running Clam had picked up the facts from Chuck's mind and had conveyed them to Bunny Hentman. First the slime mold had blackmailed him into taking the job with Hentman and now all of them were acting together to blackmail him into fulfilling their plan for Alpha III M2. The TV script was not designed to put the idea of killing Mary into his mind; by means of the slime mold the Hentman organization knew the idea was already there.

The TV script was to tell him, indirectly but clearly, that they knew. And unless he did as they directed it would be telecast, manifestly, to the entire Sol system. Seven billion people would know about his plans for killing his wife.

It was, he had to admit, a compelling reason for his stringing along with the Hentman organization, to do what they wanted; they rather had him. Look what they had accomplished already: they had made high officials in the West Coast branch of the CIA suspicious. And, as London had said, if anything happened to Mary --

And yet he still intended to go through with it. Or rather to try to go through with it. And not just as a threat, as the Hentman organization wanted, to coerce Mary into advocating a certain policy regarding the psychotic settlers. It was his intention to go all the way, as he had originally planned. Why, he did not know; after all, he did not have to see her any more, live with her ... why did her death seem so vital to him?

Oddly, Mary might be the only person who could poke into his mind, if she were given the chance, and discover his motives; it was her job.

The irony pleased him. And, despite the proximity of the two astute CIA officials -- not to mention the everpresent yellow slime mold eavesdropping on the far side of the hall -- he did not feel badly at all. He was, wit-wise, confronting two distinct factions, both of them experienced; the CIA and the Hentman organization consisted of old-time pros and yet he felt, intuitively, that ultimately he would obtain what he wanted, not what they wanted.

The slime mold of course would be overhearing his thought. He hoped that it would carry it back to Hentman; he wanted Hentman to know.

***

As soon as the two CIA officials had left, the slime mold flowed under the locked door to his apt, materialized in the center of the old-fashioned wall-to-wall carpeting. It spoke accusingly, with a ring of righteous indignation. "Mr. Rittersdorf, I assure you; I had no contact with Mr. Hentman; I never saw him before that night recently when he came here to obtain your signature on a job contract."

"You rascals," Chuck said as he fixed himself coffee in the kitchen. The time was now past four o'clock; however thanks to the illegal stimulants which Lord Running Clam had provided him he felt no fatigue. "Always listening in," he said. "Don't you have a life of your own?"

The slime mold said, "I agree with you on one point; Mr. Hentman, in preparing that script, must have known your intentions toward your wife -- otherwise the coincidence is just too great to be acceptable. Perhaps someone, Mr. Rittersdorf, is a telepath, someone in addition to me."

Chuck glanced at him.

"'It could be a fellow employee at CIA," the slime mold said. "Or it could be taking place while you are in the Mageboom simulacrum on Alpha III M2; one of the psychotic settlers there might be a telepath. I conceive it to be my job from now on to assist you to every extent possible, in order to palpably demonstrate my good faith; I am desperately anxious to clear my good name in your eyes. I'll do all I can to find this telepath who has gone to Hentman, thus --"

"Could it be Joan Trieste?" Chuck interrupted suddenly.

"No. I'm familiar with her mind; it has no such powers. She is a Psi, as you know, but her talent deals with time." The slime mold pondered. "Unless -- you know, Mr. Rittersdorf, there is another way by which your intentions could be known. That would be the Psionic power of precognition ... assuming that one day, eventually, your scheme becomes public. A precog, looking ahead, might see this, possess this knowledge now. That is an idea we must not overlook. At least it proves that the telepathic factor is not the sole item which would account for Hentman's knowledge of what you intend to do vis-a-vis your wife."

He had to admit that there was merit in the slime mold's logic.

"In fact," the slime mold said, pulsing visibly with agitation, "it could be the involuntary functioning of a precog talent -- by someone close to you who does not even know he possesses it. Someone, for example, in he Hentman organization. Even Mr. Hentman himself."

"Hmm," Chuck said absently, as he filled his cup with hot coffee.

"Your future life-track," the slime mold said, "is filled with the spectacular violence of your murder of the woman you fear and hate. This enormous spectacle may have activated the latent precog talent of Mr. Hentman and without knowing what he was drawing from he had the 'inspiration' for this script idea ... often, Psionic talents function in this very way. The more I think of it the more I am convinced that this is precisely what occurred. Hence, I would say that your CIA people's theory is valueless; Hentman and his Alphane colleague do not mean to confront you with any so-called 'evidence' of your intentions ... they are simply doing as they say: attempting to concoct a workable TV script."

"What about the CIA's contention that the Alphanes are interested in acquiring Alpha III M2?" Chuck said.

"Possibly that portion is so," the slime mold conceded "It would be typical of the Alphanes not to give up, to keep hoping ... after all, the moon is in their system. But frankly -- may I so speak? -- your CIA people's theory strikes me as a miserable bundle of random suspicions, a few separate facts strung together by an intricate structure of ad hoc theorizing, in which everyone is credited with enormous powers for intrigue. A much simpler view can be entertained, with more common sense, and as a CIA employee you, must be aware that, like all intelligence agencies, it lacks the faculty of common sense."

Chuck shrugged.

"In fact," the slime mold said, "if I may say so, your colorful desire for vengeance on your wife is in part derived from your years of hanging around intelligence apparatus personnel."

"You will admit one thing, though," Chuck said. "It's colossal bad luck for me that Hentman and his writers have hit upon that particular idea for their TV script."

"Bad luck, but rather amusing in that you personally will soon be sitting down to do the dialogue for this script." The slime mold chuckled. "Perhaps you can infuse it with authenticity. Hentman will be delighted with your insight into Ziggy Trots' motivations."

"How did you know the character is to be named Ziggy Trots?" At once he was again suspicious.

"It's in your mind."

"Then it must also be in my mind that I'd like you to leave so I can be alone." He did not feel sleepy, however; he felt like sitting down and starting on the TV script.

"By all means." The slime mold flowed off and presently Chuck was alone in the apt. The only sound arose from the meager traffic in the street below. He stood at the window drinking his cup of coffee for a little while and then he seated himself at his typewriter and pressed the button which raised a sheet of blank paper into position.

Ziggy Trots, he thought with aversion. Christ, what a name. What kind of person does it suggest? An idiot, like one of the Three Stooges. Someone defective enough, he thought acidly, to dwell on the concept of murdering his wife ...

He began, with professional canniness, to conjure up the initial scene. It, of course, would be Ziggy at home, trying peacefully to do some harmless task. Perhaps Ziggy was reading the evening homeopape. And, like some Harpy, his wife would be there, giving him the business. Yes, Chuck thought, I can supply verisimilitude to this scene; I can draw on years of experience. He began to type.

For several hours he wrote, marveling at the efficiency of the illegal hexo-amphetamine stimulants; he felt no fatigue -- in fact, he worked more swiftly than had been his custom in times past. At seven-thirty, with the street outside touched by the long, golden rays of the morning sun, he rose stiffly, walked into the kitchen and began to prepare himself breakfast. Now for my other job, he said to himself. At eight-thirty, off to the CIA building in San Francisco. And Daniel Mageboom.

Piece of toast in hand he stood by the typewriter, glancing over the pages which he had written. They looked good -- and dialogue to be spoken had been his trade for years. Now to air-express them to Hentman in New York; they would be in the comic's hands within an hour.

At twenty minutes after eight, as he was shaving in the bathroom, he heard the vidphone ring. His first call since having it installed.

Going to it he switched it on. "Hello."

On the tiny screen a girl's face formed, stunningly beautiful Irish features; he blinked. "Mr. Rittersdorf? I'm Patricia Weaver; I just learned that Bunny Hentman wants me for a script you're doing. I wondered if I could see a copy; I'm dying to look it over. For simply years I've prayed for a chance to be on Bunny's program; I just admire it to hell and back."

Naturally he had a Thermofax copying machine; he could run off any number of duplicates of the script. "I'll send you what I have. But it's not done and Bunny hasn't seen it to okay it; I don't know how much he'll want to keep. Maybe none."

"From the way Bunny talked about you," Patricia Weaver said, "I'm sure he'll use all of it. Could you do that? I'll give you my address. Actually I'm not far from you at all; you're up in Northern California and I'm down in L.A., in Santa Monica. We could get together; would you like that? And you could listen to me read my part of the script."

Her part. Good grief, he realized; he hadn't written any dialogue that included her, the slinky, breast-heavy, nipple-dilated female intelligence agent -- he had only done scenes between Ziggy Trots and his shrewish wife.

There was only one solution. To take a half-day leave of absence from his CIA job, sit here in the conapt and write more dialogue.

"I'll tell you what," he said. "I'll bring a copy down to you. Give me until this evening." He found a pen and paper. "Let's have your address." The hell with he Mageboom simulacrum, in view of this; he had never witnessed such an attractive girl in his life. All at once everything else had become mediocre, hurled back into proper perspective.

He got the girl's address, shakily hung up the vid- phone, then at once packaged up the pages of the script for Bunny Hentman. On his way to San Francisco he put the envelope in the rocket express mail and that was that. While he worked at his CIA job he probably could dream up dialogue for Miss Weaver; by dinner time he would be ready to get it down on paper and by eight o'clock he would have the actual pages to show her. Things, he decided, are not going so badly after all. Certainly this is a vast improvement over my nightmarish life with Mary.

He reached the CIA building on Sansome Street in San Francisco and started to enter by the wide, familiar gate.

"Rittersdorf," a voice said. "Please come into my office." It was Roger London, large and grimly sullen, eyeing him with displeasure.

More talk? Chuck asked himself as he followed London to his office.

"Mr. Rittersdorf," London said, as soon as the door had shut, "we bugged your conapt last night; we know what you did after we left."

"What did I do?" For the life of him he could not remember having done anything that would arouse the CIA ... unless in his conversation with the slime mold he had said too much. The Ganymedean's thoughts, of course, would be imperceptible to the monitoring device. All that he could remember having uttered himself was some remark that it was a colossal piece of bad luck that the TV script idea which Rentman wanted written had to do with a man murdering his wife by means of a CIA sim. And surely that --

London said, "You were up the balance of the night. Working. That would be impossible unless you had access to drugs currently banned on Terra. Therefore you have non-T contacts which are supplying you with the drugs, and in view of this --" He studied Chuck. "You're temporarily suspended from your job. As a security risk."

Stunned, Chuck said, "But to hold both my jobs --"

"Any CIA employee foolish enough to make use of illegal non-T stimulant drugs can't possibly be capable of fulfilling his task here," London said, " As of today the Mageboom simulacrum will be operated by a team consisting of Pete Petri and a man you don't know, Tom Schneider." London's coarse features twisted into a mocking smile. "You still have your other job ... or do you?"

"What do you mean, or do I?" Of course he still had his job with Hentman; they had signed a contract.

London said, "If CIA's theory is correct, Hentman will have no use for you the moment he learns that you've been denied access to the Mageboom simulacrum. So I would say that in roughly twelve hours --" London examined his wristwatch. "That, say, by nine tonight you'll discover the unpleasant fact that you have no employment at all. And then, I think, you'll be a trifle more cooperative with us; you'll be glad to revert to your former status of holding one job here, period." London opened his office door, ushering Chuck out. "By the way," he continued, "would you care to name your source of supply of your drugs?"

"I deny taking any illegal drugs," Chuck said, but even in his own ears it did not sound convincing. London had him and they both knew it.

"Why not simply cooperate with us?" London inquired. "Give up your job with Hentman, name your supplier -- you could have access to the Mageboom simulacrum in fifteen minutes; I can personally arrange it. What reason do you have for --"

"The money," Chuck said. "I need the money from both jobs." And I'm being blackmailed, he said to himself. By Lord Running Clam. But he couldn't say that, not to London.

"Okay," London said. "You may go. Get in touch with us when you've seen your way clear to drop your job with Hentman; perhaps we can settle on just that one stipulation." He held the office door open for Chuck.

Dazed, Chuck found himself on the wide front stairs of the CIA building. It seemed incredible and yet it had happened; he had lost his job of many years, and on what seemed to him a pretext. Now he had no way to reach Mary. The hell with the loss of salary; his income from the Hentman organization more than made that up. But without the use of the Mageboom simulacrum he could not expect to carry out his plan -- which he had obviously delayed too long anyhow -- and in the vacuum left by the disappearance of this anticipation he felt a powerful sinking emptiness inside him; his entire raison d'etre had, all at once, evaporated.

He started numbly back up the stairs once more, toward the main gate of the CIA building. A uniformed guard at once materialized out of nowhere and blocked his way. "Mr. Rittersdorf, I'm sorry; I regret. But I've been given orders, you see, not to admit you."

Chuck said, "1 want to see Mr. London again. For a minute."

Using his portable intercom the guard put through a call. "All right, Mr. Rittersdorf; you may proceed to Mr. London's office." He then stepped aside and the turnstile flew automatically open for Chuck.

A moment later he once more faced London in the man's large wood-paneled office. "You've reached a decision, have you?" London asked.

"I have a point to make. If Hentman doesn't fire me, wouldn't that be de facto proof that your suspicions of him were incorrect?" He waited while London scowled ... scowled but did not answer. "If Hentman does not fire me," Chuck said, "I'm going to appeal your decision to bar me from my job; I'm going before the Civil Service Commission and show that --"

"You're barred from your job," London said smoothly, "because of your use of illegal drugs. To be blunt, we've already searched your conapt and found them. It's GB-40 that you're on, isn't it? You can maintain a twenty-four hour a day work schedule indefinitely on GB-40; congratulations. However, now that you no longer have your position here with us, being able to work around the clock hardly seems a benefit. So lots of luck." He walked off, seated himself at his desk and picked up a document; the interview was at an end.

"But you'll know you were wrong," Chuck said, "when Hentman doesn't fire me. All I ask is that you rethink the situation, once that's occurred. Good-by." He left the office, closing the door noisily behind him. Good-by for lord knows how long, he said to himself.

Once more outdoors on the early-morning sidewalk, he stood uncertainly, buffeted by the hordes of people pushing by. Now what? he asked himself. His life, for the second time in a month, had been inverted: first the shock of the separation from Mary, now this. Too much, he said to himself, and wondered if there was anything left.

The Hentman job was left. And only the Hentman job.

By autonomic cab he returned to his conapt and quickly -- in fact, desperately -- seated himself at his typewriter. Now, he said to himself, to do dialogue for Miss Weaver; he forgot everything else, narrowing his world to the dimensions of the typewriter with its sheet of paper. I'll give you a damn good part, he reflected. And -- maybe I'll get something back in exchange.

He began to work. And, by three that afternoon, he had finished; he rose creakily, stretched and felt the weariness of his body. But his mind was lucid. So they bugged my apt, he said to himself. With both audio and video aids. Aloud, for the benefit of the tap, he said, '"Those bastards at the office -- spying on me. Pathological. Frankly it's a relief to be out of that atmosphere of suspicion and --" He ceased; what was the use? He went into the kitchen and fixed lunch.

At four, dressed in his best Titanian rouzleweave blue and black suit, powdered, shaved and dabbed with such masculine scents as only the modern chemistry lab could produce, he set off on foot, seeking a jet cab, the manuscript under his arm; he was on his way to Santa Monica and Patty Weaver's conapt, to -- heaven only knew. But he had great hopes.

If this fell through, then what?

A good question. and one he hoped he would not have to answer. He had lost too much already; the structure of his world had undergone an insidious process of truncation, by the loss of his wife and his raditional job, both in such a short period; he felt bewilderment within his percept-system. It expected to see Mary at night and the San Francisco CIA office by day; now it encountered neither. Something would have to occupy his void. His senses craved it.

He flagged down a jet cab and gave it the Santa Monica address of Patty Weaver; then, sitting back against the seat, he got out the pages of dialogue and began going over them for last-minute small alterations.

An hour later, slightly after five o'clock, the cab began to descend to the roof field of Patty Weaver's remarkably handsome, large and stylish new conapt building. This is the big time, Chuck said to himself. Hobnobbing with a breast-heavy TV starlet ... what more could he ask?

The cab landed. A little unsteadily, Chuck got out the fare.
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Re: Clans of the Alphane Moon, by Philip K. Dick

Postby admin » Thu Jul 16, 2015 4:10 am

NINE

As if a benign harbinger, Patricia Weaver was at home; she opened the door of her conapt and said, "Oh goodness, so you're the man with the my script. How early you are; you said on the vidphone --"

"I got finished earlier than I had expected." Chuck entered her apt, glancing at the excessively modern furniture; it was neo-pre-Columbian in style, based on recent archeological discoveries of the Incan culture in South America. All the furniture of course was hand wrought. And on the walls hung the new animated action-paintings that never ceased moving; they consisted of two-dimensional machines that clattered away softly, like the rush of a distant ocean. Or, he thought more practically, like a subsurface autofac. He was not certain he liked them.

"You've got it with you," Miss Weaver said delightedly. She wore -- and this seemed odd for so early in the evening -- a high-fashion Paris dress, the like of which he had witnessed in magazines but never before in actual life. This was a long way from his desk at CIA. The dress was lavish and complex, like the petals of a non-T flower; it must have cost a thousand skins, Chuck decided. This was a dress in which to get a job; her right breast, firm and uptilted, was totally exposed; it was a very fashionable dress indeed. Had she been expecting someone else? Bunny Hentman, for example?

"I was going out, " Patty explained. "For a cocktail. But I'll call and cancel it." She walked to the vidphone, her sharp, high heels clacking against the synthetic-Inca-style-dirt floor.

"I hope you like the script," he said, wandering about and feeling small-time. This was a bit over his head, the elaborate, expensive dress, the handwrought furnishings ... he stood facing a painting, watched as its nonobjective surfaces slid and altered, forming entirely new --and never to be repeated -- combinations.

Patty returned from the vidphone. "I was able to catch him before he left MGB Studios." She did not specify who and Chuck decided not to ask; it would probably deflate him even further. "A drink?" She went to the sideboard, opened a pre-Columbian wood and gold cabinet, revealing bottle after bottle. "What about an Ionian Wuzzball? It's the snig; you must try it. I bet it hasn't gotten up into Northern California -- you're so --" She gestured. "So gas-headed up there." She began to mix drinks.

"Can I help?" He came over beside her, feeling serious and protective ... or at least wanting to be.

"No thanks." Patty expertly handed him his glass. "Let me ask you something," she said, "even before I look at the script. Is my part large?"

"Um," he said. He had made it as large as he could, but the fact of the matter was this: her role was minor. The head of the fish got thrown to her, but the fillets had -- of necessity -- gone to Bunny.

"You mean it's small," Patty said, walking to the bench-like couch and seating herself; the petals of her dress spread out on each side of her. "Let me see it, please." She had now an astute and entirely professional air about her; she was absolutely calm.

Seating himself across from her Chuck handed her the pages of the script. It included what he had sent to Bunny -- and the more recent portion, her part in particular, which Bunny had not yet seen. Perhaps this was improper, showing Patty her script before Bunny saw it ... but he had decided to do it, mistake or not.

"This other woman," Patty said, shortly; it did not take her long to leaf through the pages. "The wife. The shrew that Ziggy decides to kill. She's got a much bigger part; she goes all the way through it and I'm really only in this one scene. At his office, where she comes in ... at the CIA headquarters. She pointed to the part.

What Patty said was true. He had done his best, but that was it; a fact was a fact, and Patty was too wise professionally to be deceived.

"I made it as big as I could," he said honestly.

Patty said, "It's almost one of those awful parts where a girl is just brought in to stand and look sexy, and not really do anything. I don't just want to come in wearing a tight open-bodice dress and be an ornament. I'm an actress; I want lines." She handed him the script back. "Please," she said. "Mr. Rittersdorf, for chrissakes, build up my part. Bunny hasn't seen this, has he? This is still just between you and me. So maybe between us we can think up something. How about a restaurant scene? Ziggy is meeting the girl -- Sharon -- at this fancy little out-of-the-way restaurant, and the wife shows up ... Ziggy has it out with her there, not at home in their conapt, and then Sharon, my part, she can be involved in that scene, too."

"Hmm," he said. He sipped his drink; it was an odd, sweet concoction, much like mead. It occurred to him to wonder what it had in it. Across from him Patty had already drunk hers; she now returned to the sideboard to fix herself another.

He also rose, walked over to stand beside her; against him her small shoulder brushed and he could smell the peculiar strange scent of the drink which she was making. One ingredient, he noticed, came from a distinctly non-T bottle; the printing on it seemed Alphane.

"It's from Alpha I," Patty said. "Bunny gave it to me; he got it from some Alphs he knows; Bunny knows every kind of creature in the inhabited universe. Did you know he lived for a while in the Alpha system?" She raised her glass, turned to face him and stood sipping meditatively. "I wish I could visit another star system. It must make you feel almost -- you know -- superhuman."

Setting his glass down Chuck put his hands on Patty Weaver's slight, rather hard shoulders; the dress crinkled. "I can make your part somewhat larger," he said.

"Okay," Patty said. She leaned against him, sighed as she rested her head on his shoulder. "It does mean a lot to me," she said. Her hair, long and auburn, brushed his face, tickling his nose. Taking her glass from her he sipped, then set it down on the sideboard.

The next he knew, they were in the bedroom.

The drinks, he thought. Mixing with the illegal GB- 40 thalamic stimulant that Lord whatever-his-name-is gave me. The bedroom was nearly dark but he could see, outlined beyond his right arm, Patty Weaver sitting on the edge of the bed, unhooking some intricate part of her dress. The dress came off at last and Patty carried it carefully to the closet to hang it up; she returned, doing something strange with her breasts. He watched her for a moment and then he realized that she was massaging her ribcage; she had been bound up in the dress and now she could relax, move about unhindered. Both breasts, he saw, were of an ideal size, albeit for the most part synthetic. As she walked they did not wobble in the slightest; the left, as well as the previously-exposed right, was strikingly firm.

As Patty dropped like a well-oiled stone into the bed next to the spot where he himself lay the vidphone rang.

"--," Patty said, startling him. She slid from the bed, stood, groped for her robe; finding it she started barefoot from the room, tying its sash. "I'll be right back, dear," she said matter-of-factly. "You just stay there. "

He lay staring at the ceiling, feeling the softness, smelling the fragrance, of the bed. A long, long time seemed to pass. He felt very happy. This kind of waiting was a great peaceful pleasure.

And then, suddenly, there stood Patty Weaver in the bedroom doorway, in her robe, her hair down over her shoulders in a loose cloud. He waited but she did not approach the bed. All at once he realized that she was not going to; she was coming no farther in. Instantly he sat up; his mood of supine relaxation dwindled, vanished.

"Who was it?" he said.

"Bunny."

"So?"

"The deal is off." She came in now, but to the closet; from it she took a simple skirt and blouse. Picking up her underclothing she departed, obviously to dress somewhere else.

"Why is it off?" He hopped from the bed, began feverishly to dress. Patty had disappeared; somewhere in the apt a door closed. She did not answer. Evidently she had not heard him.

As he sat on the bed fully dressed, tying his shoelaces, Patty reappeared; she, too, was fully dressed. She stood brushing her hair, her face expressionless; she watched him fumble with his laces, making no comment. It was, he thought, as if she were a light year away; the bedroom was pervaded by her neutral coolness.

"Tell me," he repeated, "why the deal is off. Tell me exactly what Bunny Hentman said."

"Oh, he said he's not going to use your script, and if I called you or if you called me --" Now, for the first time since the vidcall, her eyes focused on him, as if she were seeing him at last. "I didn't say you were here. But he said if I talked to you I was to tell you that he's thought your idea over and it isn't any good."

"My idea?"

"The whole script. He got the pages you expressed to him and he thought they were terrible."

Chuck felt his ears burn and freeze at once; the pain spread to his face, like frost, numbing his lips and nose.

"So," Patty said, "he's having Dark and Jones, his regular writers, do something entirely different."

After a long time Chuck said huskily, "Am I supposed to get in touch with him?"

"He didn't say." She had finished brushing her hair; now she left the bedroom, again disappearing. Rising, he followed after her, finding her in the living room; she was at the vidphone, dialing.

"Who are you calling?" he demanded.

Patty said remotely, "Someone I know. To take me out to dinner."

In a voice that cracked with chagrin Chuck said, "Let me take you out to dinner. I'd love to."

The girl did not even bother to answer; she continued to dial.

Going over to the pre-Columbian bench he began to gather up the pages of his script; he returned them to the envelope. Meanwhile Patty had gotten her party; he heard, in the background, her low, muted voice.

"I'll see you," Chuck said. He put on his coat, strode to the door of the apt.

She did not look up from the vidphone screen; she was absorbed.

With anguished wrath he slammed the door after him and hurried down the carpeted hall to the elevator. Twice he stumbled, and he thought, God, the drink is still afflicting me. Maybe the whole thing's a hallucination, brought on by the mixture of GV-40 and the -- whatever she called it. The Ganymedean Wuzzfur or whatever. His brain felt dead, cold and dry of animation; his spirit had completely frozen over and all he could think of was getting out of the building, getting out of Santa Monica and back up to Northern California and his own conapt.

Had London been right? He couldn't tell; perhaps it was just what the girl had said: the pages he had sent to Bunny had been terrible and that was all there was to it. But on the other hand --

I've got to get in touch with Bunny, he realized. Right now. In fact, I should have called him back there from the apt.

On the ground-level floor of the conapt building he found a pay vidphone booth; inside it he began dialing the number of the Hentman organization. And then, all at once, he put the receiver back on its hook. Do I want to know? he asked himself, Can I stand knowing?

He left the vidphone booth, stood momentarily, and then passed out through the main doors of the building, onto the early-evening street. At least I should wait until my wits are clear, he thought. Until that drink has worn off, that non-T intoxicant she gave me.

Hands in his pockets he began to walk aimlessly down the sidewalk runnel. And, each minute, feeling more and more scared and desperate. Everything was falling apart around him. And he seemed helpless to halt the collapse; he could only witness it, completely impotent, snatched up and gripped by processes too powerful for him to understand.

***

A voice in his ear, female and recorded, was repeating, "That will be one quarter skin, sir. Please deposit in coins, no bills."

Blinking, he looked around him, discovered that he was once again in a vidphone booth. But whom was he calling? Bunny Hentman? Rummaging in his pockets he found the quarter skin, dropped it in the slot of the pay vidphone. At once the image cleared.

It was not Bunny Hentman that he was calling. On the screen facing him was the miniature image of Joan Trieste.

'What's the matter?" Joan said; perceptively. "You look awful, Chuck. Are you sick? Where are you phoning from?"

"I'm in Santa Monica," he said. At least he assumed he still was; he had no memory of a ride back up to the Bay Area. And it did not feel much later ... or did it? He examined his wristwatch. Two hours had passed; it was now after eight o'clock. "I can't believe it," he said, "but this morning I was suspended by the CIA as a security risk and now --"

"Good grief," Joan said, listening intently.

He grated, "Evidently I've been fired by Bunny Hentman but I can't be sure. Because frankly I'm afraid to get in touch with him."

There was silence. And then Joan said calmly, "You must call him, Chuck. Or I can do it for you; I'll tell him I'm your secretary or something -- I can handle it, don't worry. Give me the number of the phone booth you're in. And don't give way to depression; I know you well enough already to know that you're going back to considering suicide, and if you try it in Santa Monica I can't help you; I couldn't get to you in time."

"Thanks," he said. "It's nice to hear someone cares."

"You've just had too much disruption in your life lately," Joan said in her intelligent, commonsense way. "The breakup of your marriage, now --"

"Call him," Chuck interrupted. "Here's the number." He held the slip of paper to the vidscreen and Joan wrote it down.

After he had hung up he stood in the phone booth smoking and meditating. His brain was beginning to clear now, and he wondered what he had done between the hours of six and eight. His legs felt stiff, aching with fatigue; perhaps he had been walking. Up and down the streets of Santa Monica, with no destination, no plans.

Reaching into his coat pocket he got out the tin of GB-40 capsules which he had brought along; without benefit of water he managed to swallow one. That would -- he presumed -- take away the fatigue effects. But nothing short of a frontal-lobe retirement would take away the realization of the disaster which his situation had become.

The slime mold, he thought. Maybe it can help me.

From Marin County info he obtained Lord Running Clam's vidphone number; at once he placed the call, deposited the coins, waited as the phone rang and the screen remained blank.

"Hello." Words, not auditory but visual, greeted him, manifesting themselves on the screen; the slime mold, unable to talk, could not make use of the audio circuit.

"This is Chuck Rittersdorf," he said.

More words. "You are in trouble. I can't read your mind over such a distance, of course, but I catch the nuance m your voice."

"Do you have influence with Hentman?" Chuck asked.

"As I informed you earlier --" The words, a narrow band, passed in sequence by the video scanner. "I do - not even know the man."

Chuck said, "Evidently he's fired me. I'd like you to try to talk him into taking me back." God, he thought, I have to have some kind of a job. "It was you," he said, "who induced me to sign the contract with him; there's a lot of responsibility that can be laid to your door."

"Your job with the CIA --"

"Suspended. Because of my association with Hentman." Brutally Chuck said, "Hentman knows too many non Terrans."

"I see," the words formed. "Your highly-neurotic security agency. I should have expected it, but I did not. You should have, since you are an employee of several years."

"Look," Chuck said. "I didn't call to engage in a dispute as to who's to blame; I just want a job, any job." I've got to have it tonight, he said to himself; I can't wait.

"I must ponder this," the slime mold informed him, via the moving strip of words. "Give me --"

Chuck savagely hung up the phone.

Again he stood closed up within the booth, smoking and waiting, wondering what Joan would say when she called back. Maybe, he thought, she won't call back. Especially if the news is bad. What a mess. What a state I've single-handedly --

The phone rang.

Lifting the receiver he said, "Joan?"

On the screen her small image formed. "I called the number you gave me, Chuck. I got someone on his staff, a Mr. Feld. Everything was in a state of agitation. All Feld would say was for me to look at the evening homeopape."

"Okay," Chuck said, and felt even colder than before. "Thanks. I'll get a L.A. 'pape down here and maybe I'll see you later." He broke the connection, hurriedly left the booth, walked outdoors to the sidewalk and began searching for a peripatetic 'pape vendor.

It took him only moments to get his hands on the evening 'pape; in the light of a store window he stood reading. There it was on page one. Of course it would be; Hentman was the top TV clown.

BUNNY HENTMAN ARRESTED BY CIA AS AGENT OF NON-TERRAN POWER. FLEES CAPTORS IN RUNNING LASER-BATTLE

He had to read the article twice before he could believe it. What had happened was this. The CIA had, through its network of data-collecting mechanisms, learned during the course of the day that the Hentman organization was dropping Chuck Rittersdorf. This, to the CIA minds, had proved their thesis; Hentman was only interested in Chuck because of Operation Fifty-minutes on Alpha III M2. Hence, they reasoned, Hentrnan was, as they had long suspected, an agent of the Alphanes, and the CIA had acted at once -- because Hentman's own informant in CIA would, if they had dallied, have tipped him off and permitted him to escape. It was all very simple and very terrible; his hands shook as he held the 'pape up to the light.

And Hentman had gotten away. Despite the CIA's swift action. Perhaps Hentman's own machinery had been efficient enough to warn him; he had been expecting the flying action-squad of CIA men that had tried to close in on him at, as the article said, the TV network studios in New York.

So now where was Bunny Hentman? Probably on his way to the Alpha system. And where was Chuck Rittersdorf? On his way to nothing; ahead of him lay only a bog-like emptiness, filled with no persons, no tasks, no reason for existence. Hentman might call Patty Weaver, the TV starlet, and tell her that the script was out, but he hadn't bothered to --

The vidphone call from Hentman had come in the evening. After the aborted arrest. Therefore Patty Weaver knew where Hentman was. Or at least might know. But that was something to go on.

By cab he quickly made his way back to Patty Weaver's magnificent conapt building; he paid the cab and hurried to the entrance, pressed the buzzer for her apt.

"Who is it?" Her voice still was cool, impersonal, even more so.

Chuck said, "This is Rittersdorf. I left part of my script in your apt."

"I don't see any pages." She did not sound convinced.

"If you'll let me in I think I can lay my hands right on them. It shouldn't take more than a couple of minutes."

"Okay." The tall metal door clicked, swung open; upstairs in her apt Patty had released it.

He ascended by elevator. The door to her apt was open and he walked on in. In the living room Patty greeted him with chilly indifference; she stood with her arms folded, gazing stonily out the window at the view of nighttime Los Angeles. "There are no pages of your goddam script here," she informed him. "I don't know what --"

"That call from Bunny," Chuck said. 'Where was he calling from?"

She eyed him, one eyebrow raised. "I don't remember."

"Have you seen tonight's homeopape?"

After a long pause she shrugged. "Maybe."

"Bunny called you after the CIA made their arrest attempt. You know it and I know it."

"So?" She did not even bother to look at him; in all his life he had never been so glacially ignored. And yet, it seemed to him that underneath the hardness of her manner she was frightened. After all she was very young, hardly twenty. He decided to take the chance on that.

"Miss Weaver, I'm an agent of the CIA." He still had his CIA identification; reaching into his coat he now got it out, held it toward her. "You're under arrest."

Her eyes flew wide-open in a startled reaction; she spun, stifling an exclamation of dismay. And he could see how radically her breathing had altered; the heavy red pullover sweater rose and fell rapidly. "You really are a CIA agent?" she asked in a strangled whisper. "I thought you were a TV script writer; that's what Bunny said."

"We've penetrated the Hentman organization. I posed as a TV script writer. Come on." He took hold of Patricia Weaver by the arm.

"Where are we going?" She tugged away, horrified.

"To the L.A. CIA office. Where you'll be booked."

"For what?"

"You know where Bunny Hentman is," he said.

There was silence.

"I don't," she said, and sagged. "I really don't. When he called I didn't know he'd been arrested or whatever it was -- he didn't say anything about that. It was only when I went out to dinner, after you left, that I saw the 'pape headlines." She moved morosely toward the bedroom. "I'll get my coat and purse. And I'd like to put on a little lipstick. But I'm telling you the truth; honest I am."

He followed after her; in the bedroom she got her coat down from a hanger in the closet, then opened a dresser drawer for her purse.

"How long do you think they'll keep me?" she asked as she rooted in her purse.

"Oh," he answered, "not more than --" He broke off. Because Patty held a laser pistol pointed toward him. She had found it in her purse.

"I don't believe you're a CIA agent," she said.

"But I am," Chuck said.

"Get out of here. I don't understand what you're trying to do, but Bunny gave me this and told me to use it when and if I had to." Her hand shook, but the laser pistol remained pointed at him. "Please go on," she said. "Get out of my apt -- if you don't go I'll kill you; honestly I will -- I mean it. " She looked terribly, terribly frightened.

Turning, he walked out of the apt, into the hall, down the hall to the elevator. It was still there and he stepped inside it.

A moment later he was back downstairs, stepping out onto the dark sidewalk. Well, that was that. It had scarcely worked out as he intended. On the other hand, he reflected stoically, he had lost nothing ... except perhaps his dignity And that, given time, would return.

There was nothing to do now but return to Northern California.

Fifteen minutes later he was in the air, beading home to his dreary conapt in Marin County. All in all, his experience in L.A. had failed to be sanguine.

***

When he arrived he found the apt's lights on and the heater on; seated in a chair, listening to an early Haydn symphony on the FM, was Joan Trieste. As soon as she saw him she hopped to her feet. "Thank god," she said. "I was so worried about you." Bending, she picked up the San Francisco Chronicle. "You saw the 'pape by now. Where does this put you, Chuck? Does it mean the CIA is after you, too? As a Hentrnan employee?"

"I dunno," be said, shutting the door of the apt. As far as he could make out the CIA was not after him, but it was something to ponder; Joan was right. Going into the kitchen he put on the teakettle for coffee, missing, at a time like this, the autonomic coffee-making circuit of the stove he had gotten Mary -- gotten her, left with her, along with almost everything else.

At the doorway Joan appeared. "Chuck, I think you ought to call into CIA; talk with someone you know there. Your former boss. Okay?"

He said, with bitterness, "You're so law-abiding. Always comply with the authorities -- correct?" He did not tell her that in the hour of crisis, when everything was falling apart around him right and left, his impulse had been to seek out Bunny Hentman, not the CIA.

"Please," Joan said. "And I've been conversing with Lord R.C. and he feels the same way. I was listening to news on the radio and they said something about other employees of the Hentman machine being arrested --"

"Just leave me alone." He got down the jar of instant coffee; his hands shaking, he put a large teaspoonful in a mug.

"If you don't contact them," Joan stated, "then I can't do anything for you. So I think it would be best if I left."

Chuck said, "What could you do for me anyhow? What have you done for me in the past? I'll bet I'm the first person you ever met who lost two jobs in one day."

"Then what are you going to do?"

"I think," Chuck said, "I'll emigrate to Alpha." Specifically, he thought, to Alpha III M2. Had he been able to find Hentman --

"The CIA's right, then," Joan said; her eyes smoldered. "The Hentman machine is in the pay of a non-Terran power."

"Lord," Chuck said, with disgust. "The war's been over for years! I'm sick of this cloak-mit-dagger rubbish; I've had enough to last me forever. If I want to emigrate then let me emigrate."

"What I should do," Joan said, without enthusiasm, "is arrest you. I'm armed." She displayed for his benefit, then, the incredibly tiny but undoubtedly genuine side arm which she carried. "But I can't do it, I feel so sorry for you. How could you make such a mess of your life? And Lord R.C. tried so hard to --"

"Blame him," Chuck said.

"He only wanted to help; he could see you weren't taking responsibility." Her eyes flashed. "No wonder Mary divorced you."

He groaned.

"You just won't try," Joan said. "You've given up; you --" She ceased. And stared at him. He had heard it, too. The thoughts of the Ganymedean slime mold, from across the hall.

"Mr. Rittersdorf, a gentleman is passing along the hall in the direction of your apt; he is armed and he intends to force you to accompany him. I can't tell who he is or what he wants because he's got a grid of some sort installed as a brain-box lining to shield him from telepaths; therefore he's either a military person or a member of the security or intelligence police or part of a criminal or traitorous organization. In any case prepare yourself."

To Joan, Chuck said, "Give me that little laser pistol."

"No." She lifted it from its holster, turned it toward the door of the apt; her face was clear and fresh. Evidently she had herself completely under control.

"My god," Chuck said, "you're going to get killed." He knew it, foresaw it as fully as if he were a precog; reaching out with lashing speed he grasped the laser tube and yanked it from her hand. The tube got away from him; both he and Joan surged toward it, groping -- they collided and with a gasp Joan tumbled gainst the wall of the kitchen. Chuck's clutching fingers found the tube; he straightened up, holding it ...

Something struck his hand and he experienced heat; he dropped the laser tube and it clattered away. At the same time a man's voice -- unfamiliar to him -- rang in his ears. "Rittersdorf, I'll kill her if you try to pick hat tube up again." The man, now in the living room, shut the apt door after him and came a few steps toward the kitchen, his own laser beam held in Joan's direction. He 'was middle-aged, wearing a cheap gray overcoat of domestic material and odd, archaic boots; the impression that flashed over Chuck was that the man hailed from some totally alien ecology, perhaps from another planet entirely.

"I think he's from Hentman," Joan said as she slowly rose to her feet. "So he probably would do it. But if you think you could get hold of the tube before --"

"No," Chuck said at once. "We'd both be dead." He faced the man, then. "I tried to reach Hentman earlier."

"Okay," the man said, and gestured toward the door. "The lady may stay here; I only want you, Mr. Rittersdorf. Come along and let's not fnop any time; we have a long trip."

"You can check with Patty Weaver," Chuck said as he walked ahead of the middle-aged man out into the hall.

Behind him the man grunted. "No more talking, Mr. Rittersdorf. There's been too much glucking talk already."

"Such as what?" He halted, feeling ominous gradations of fear.

"Such as your entering the organization as a CIA spy. We realize now why you wanted that job as TV scriptwriter; it was to get evidence on Bun. So what evidence did you get? You saw an Alphane; is that a crime?"

"No," Chuck said.

"They're going to pelt him to death for that," the man with the gun said. "Hell, they've known for years that Bun lived in the Alpha system. The war's over. Sure he's got economic connections with Alpha; who that's in business hasn't? But he's a big figure nationally; the public knows him. I'll tell you what got the CIA where they decided to crack down on him. It was Bun's idea for a script about a CIA sim killing someone; the CIA figured he was beginning to use his TV show to --"

Ahead in the hall the Ganymedean slime mold, in a huge yellow heap, manifested itself, blocking the way; it had flowed out of its conapt.

"Let us by," the man with the gun said.

"I am sorry," Lord Running Clam's thoughts came to Chuck, "but I am a colleague of Mr. Rittersdorf's and it is impractical for me to allow him to be carted off."

The laser beam clacked on; red and thin it traveled by Chuck and disappeared into the center of the slime mold. With a crackling, tearing noise the slime mold shriveled-up, dried into a black encrusted blob which smoked and sputtered, charring the wooden floor of the hallway.

"Move," the man with the gun said to Chuck.

"He's dead," Chuck said. He couldn't believe it.

"There's some more of them," the man with the gun said. "On Ganymede." His fleshy face showed no emotion, only alertness. "When we get into the elevator press the up button; my ship's on the roof, and what a louzled up little field it is."

Numbly, Chuck entered the elevator. The man with the gun followed and an instant later they had reached the roof; they stepped out into the cold of a foggy night. "Tell me your name," Chuck said. "Just your name."

"Why?"

"So I can find you again. For killing Lord Running Clam." Sometime sooner or later he would be set down in the same vector with this person.

"I'll be glad to tell you my name," the man said as he herded Chuck into the parked hopper; its landing lights glowed and its turbine buzzed faintly. "Alf Cherigan," he said as he stationed himself at the controls.

Chuck nodded.

"You like my name? You find it pleasant?"

Saying nothing Chuck stared ahead.

"You've stopped talking," Cherigan observed. "Too bad, because you and I'll be cooped up together until we reach Luna and Brahe City." He reached to snap on the auto course-finding pilot.

Beneath them the hopper bucked and leaped but did not ascend.

"Wait here," Cherigan said, with a wave of his laser pistol in Chuck's direction. "Don't touch any of the controls." Opening the hatch of the hopper he irritably put his head out, peering to see in the darkness, what had stalled the lift-action. "Holy critter," he said, "the outside conduit to the rear rubes --" His speech stopped; he rapidly yanked himself back into the hopper once again, then fired with his laser beam.

From the darkness of the roof an answering beam paralleled his own, found its way through the open hatch and to him; Cherigan dropped his weapon and flopped convulsively against the hull of the cabin, then twisted and sagged like a gored animal, his mouth hanging, his eyes corrupted and vague.

Bending, Chuck picked up the discarded laser beam, looked out to see who it was, there in the darkness. It was Joan; she had followed him and Cherigan up the hall, had taken the manual emergency lift to the roof field and arrived behind them. He got hesitantly from the hopper and greeted her. Cherigan had made a mistake; he had not been informed that Joan was an armed policewoman and accustomed to emergencies. It was even hard for Chuck to realize what she had done so quickly, first with one shot at the guidance-system of the hopper, then the second shot which had killed Alf Cherigan.

"Are you getting out?" Joan asked. "I didn't hit you, did I?"

"I'm untouched," Chuck said.

"Listen." She approached the hatch of the hopper, regarded the slumped, discarded shape that had just now been Alf Cherigan. "I can bring him back. Remember? Do you want me to, Chuck?"

He considered a moment; he remembered Lord Running Clam. And because of that he shook his head no.

"It's up to you," Joan said. "I'll let him stay dead. I don't like to but I understand."

"How about Lord --"

"Chuck, I can't do anything for him; it's too late. More than five minutes has passed. I had the choice of staying there with him or following you and trying to assist you."

"I think it would have been better if you --"

"No," Joan said firmly ... I did the right thing; you'll see why. Do you have a magnifying glass?"

Startled, he said, "No, of course not."

"Look in the repair case of the hopper, in the storage region under the control panel. There're micro-tools for fixing the miniaturized portions of the ship's circuits ...you'll find a loupe there."

He opened the cabinet, rummaged about, mindlessly obeying her. A moment later his hands found the jeweler's loupe; he stepped from the hopper, holding it.

"We'll go back below," Joan said. "To where he is."

Presently the two of them bent over the reduced cinder which had previously been their compatriot, the Ganymedean slime mold. "Stick the loupe in your eye," Joan instructed, "and search around. Very closely, especially down in the pile of the carpet."

"What for?

"Jan said, "His spores."

Taken aback he said, "Did he have a chance to --"

"Sporification for them is automatic, the moment they're attacked; it would have functioned instantaneously, I hope. They'll be microscopic, brown and round; you should be able to find them with the loupe. It's of course impossible to with the naked eye. While you're doing that I'll prepare a culture." She disappeared into Chuck's apt; he hesitated and then got down on his hands and knees to search the hall carpet for the spores of Lord Running Clam.

When Joan returned he had, in the palm of his hand, seven tiny spheres; under the lens they were smooth and brown and shiny, definitely spores. And he had located them near the spot where the waste-remains of the slime mold lay.

"They need soil," Joan said as she watched him sprinkle the spores into the measuring cup which she had found in his kitchen. "And moisture. And time. Find at least twenty, because of course not all of them will survive."

At last he managed to acquire, from the dirty, much-used carpet, twenty-five spores in all. These were transferred to the measuring cup and then he and Joan descended to the lowest floor of the building, made their way out into the backyard. In the darkness they clutched handfuls of dirt, deposited the loose, black soil into the measuring cup. Joan located a hose; she sprinkled drops of water onto the soil and then sealed the cup off from the air with a polyfilm wrapper.

"On Ganymede," she explained, "the atmosphere is warm and dense; this is the best I can do to simulate proper conditions for the spores but I think it'll work. Lord R.C. told me once that in an emergency Ganymedeans have managed to sporify successfully in open-air conditions on Terra. So let's hope." With Chuck she returned to the building, carrying the cup with great care.

"How long will it take?" he asked. "Before we know."

"I'm not sure. As soon as two days or -- and this has happened in some cases -- depending on the phase of the moon as long as a month." She explained, "It may sound like superstition but the moon will affect the activation of these spores. So resign yourself to that. The fuller the better; we can look it up in tonight's homeopape." They ascended to the floor of his apt.

"How much memory will there be in the new --" He hesitated. "In the next generation of slime mold? Will it or they remember us and what took place here?"

As she sat examining the homeopape Joan said, "It depends entirely on how quickly he managed to act; if he got off spores from his --" She shut the 'pape. "The spores should react in a matter of days."

"What would happen," Chuck asked, "if I took them off Terra? Away from Luna's influence?"

"They'd still grow. But it might take longer. What's on your mind?"

"If the Hentman organization would send someone to find me," Chuck said, "and something happened to him --"

"Oh yes of course," Joan agreed, "They'll be sending another. Probably in a few hours, as soon as they realize we got the first one. And he may have had a deadman's-signal installed on him somewhere, so they had the information as soon as his heart stopped. I think you're right; you should get off Terra as soon as possible. But how, Chuck? To really disappear you'd have to have resources, some money and support, and you don't; you have no source of income at all now. Do ou have anything at all saved up?"

"Mary got the joint account," he said, pondering; he seated himself, lit a cigarette. "I have an idea," he said at last, "of what I'm going to try. I'd prefer you didn't hear. Do you understand? Or do I just sound neurotic and fearful?"

"You just sound anxious. And you ought to be." She rose. "I'll go out into the hall; I know you want to place a call. While you're doing that I'll contact the Ross Police Department and have them come here to dispose of that man in the hopper up above us." At the door of the apt she lingered, however. "Chuck, I'm glad I was able to keep them from taking you. I barely made it. Where was the hopper going?"

"I'd rather not tell you. For your own protection."

She nodded. And the door shut after her. Now he was alone.

At once he placed a call to the San Francisco CIA office. It took some time, but at last he was able to trace down his former boss, Jack Elwood. At home with his family, Elwood answered the vidphone with irritation. Nor was he pleased to see who it was.

"I'll make a deal with you," Chuck said.

"A deal! We believe you directly or indirectly tipped off Hentman so that he had the opportunity to escape. Isn't that what happened? We even know whom you worked through: that starlet in Santa Monica that's Hentman's current mistress." Elwood scowled.

This was news to Chuck; he hadn't realized this about Patty Weaver. However, it hardly mattered now. "The deal," Chuck said, "that I intend to make with you -- with the CIA, officially -- is this. I know where Hentman is."

"That doesn't surprise me. What does surprise me is that you're willing to tell us. Why is that, Chuck? A falling-out within the Hentman happy family, with you on the outside?"

"The Hentman organization has already sent one nurt out," Chuck said. "We were able to stop him, but there'll be another and then another until finally Hentman gets me." He did not bother to try to explain his difficult situation to Elwood; his former boss wouldn't believe him and anyhow his wants would remain the same. "I'll tell you where Hentman is hiding out in exchange for a CIA C-plus ship. An intersystem ship, one of those small military-style pursuit-class vessels. I know you've got a few of them; you canspare one, and you're getting back something of enormous value." He added, "And I'll return the ship -- eventually. It's just the use of it that I want."

"You actually do sound as if you're trying to get away," Elwood said with acuity.

"I am."

"Okay." Elwood shrugged. "I'll believe you; why not? And so what? Tell me where Hentman is; I'll have the ship for you within five hours."

In other words, Chuck realized, they'll hold up delivery until they have had a chance to check my information. If Hentman isn't found, there will be no ship; I'll be waiting in vain. But it was hopeless to expect the pros of the CIA to operate in any other fashion; this was their business -- life for them was one great card game.

Resignedly he said, "Hentman is on Luna, at Brahe City."

'Wait at your apt," Elwood said instantly. "The ship will be there by two this morning. If." He eyed Chuck.

Breaking the connection Chuck went to pick up his burned down cigarette from the edge of the living room coffee table. Well, if the ship did not show up then this was the end; he had no other plans, no alternative solution. Joan Trieste might save him again, might even bring him back after a nurt of Hentman's had actually killed him ... but if he stayed on Terra eventually they would find and destroy him or at the very least capture him: detection devices were simply too good, now. Given sufficient time they always found the target if it were still somewhere on the planet. But Luna, unlike Terra, had uncharted areas; detection there posed a problem. And there existed remote moons and planets where detection, by anyone, was a near impossibility.

One of those areas was the Alpha system. For example Alpha III and its several moons, including M2; most especially M2. And with a CIA faster-than-light ship he could reach it in a matter of days. As had Mary and the gang with her.

Opening the door to the hall he said to Joan, "Okay. I made my one puny call. That's that,"

"Are you leaving Terra?" Her eyes were enormous and dark.

"We'll see," He seated himself, prepared to wait it out.

With great care Joan set the measuring cup of Lord Running Clam's spores on the arm of the couch by Chuck. "I'll give these to you. I know you want them; it was you he gave his life for and you feel responsible. Better let me tell you what to do as soon as the spores become active."

He got pen and paper in order to write down her instructions.

It was actually several hours later -- the Ross Police Department had shown up and lugged off the dead man on the roof, and Joan Trieste had departed -- that he realized what he had done. Now Bunny Hentman was right; he had betrayed Hentman to the CIA. But he had done it to save his life. That, however, would hardly justify it in Hentman's eyes; he, too, was trying to save his life.

In any case it was done. He continued to wait, alone in his apt, for the C-plus ship from CIA. A ship which very likely was never going to arrive. And what then? Then, he decided, I'll be sitting here and waiting for something else, for the next nurt from the Hentman organization. And my life can be measured out in teaspoonfuls.

It was one hell of a long wait.
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