Clans of the Alphane Moon, by Philip K. Dick

Re: Clans of the Alphane Moon, by Philip K. Dick

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

TEN

Bowing slightly, Gabriel Baines said, 'We constitute the sine qua non council possessing overall authority on this world, an ultimate form of authority which can't be overruled by anyone." He, with stark, cold politeness, drew back a chair for the Terran psychologist, Dr. Mary Rittersdorf; she accepted it with a brief smile. It seemed to him that she looked tired. The smile showed genuine gratitude.

The other members of the council introduced themselves to Dr. Rittersdorf in their several idiosyncratic fashions.

"Howard Straw. Mans."

"J-jacob Simion." Simion could not suppress his moronic grin. "From the Heebs, where your ship set down."

"Annette Golding. Poly." Her eyes were alert and she sat erectly, watchful of the female psychologist who had barged into their lives.

"Ingred Hibbler. One, two, three. Ob-Com."

Dr. Rittersdorf said, "And that would be --" She nodded. "Oh yes, of course. Obsessive-compulsive."

"Omar Diamond. I will let you guess what clan I am from." Diamond glanced about remotely; he seemed withdrawn into his private world, much to Gabriel Baines' annoyance. This was scarcely a time for individual activity, even of a mystical order; this was the moment in which they had to function as a whole or not at all.

In a hollow, despairing voice the Dep spoke up. "Dino Watters." He struggled to say more, then gave up; the weight of pessimism, of sheer hopelessness, was too great for him. Once more he sat staring down, rubbing his forehead in a miserable tic-like motion.

"And you know who I am, Dr. Rittersdorf," Baines said, and rattled the document which lay before him; it represented the joint efforts of the council members, their manifesto. "Thank you for coming here"' he began, and cleared his throat; his voice had become husky with tension.

"Thank you for allowing me to," Dr. Rittersdorf said in a formal but-to him-distinctly menacing tone. Her eyes were opaque.

Baines said, "You have asked to be permitted to visit settlements other than Gandhitown. In particular you requested permission to examine Da Vinci Heights. We have discussed this. We decided to decline."

Nodding, Dr. Rittersdorf said, "I see."

"Tell her why," Howard Straw spoke up. His face was ugly; he had not for an instant taken his eyes from the lady psychologist from Terra: his hatred for her filled the room and tainted the atmosphere. Gabriel Baines felt as if he were choking in it.

Raising her hand Dr. Rittersdorf said, "Wait. Before you read me your statement." She looked at each of them in turn, a slow, steady and totally professional scrutiny. Howard Straw returned it with malignance. Jacob Simion ducked his head, smiled emptily, letting her attention simply pass. Annette Golding nervously scratched at the cuticle of her thumbnail, her face pale. The Dep never noticed that he was under observation; he never once raised his head. The Skitz, Omar Diamond, returned Mrs. Rittersdorf's stare with sweet sublimity, yet underneath it, Baines guessed, there was anxiety; Diamond looked as if at any moment he might bolt.

As for himself he found Dr. Mary Rittersdorf physically attractive. And he wondered -- idly -- if the fact that she had arrived without her husband signified anything. She was, in fact, sexy. As an inexplicable incongruity, considering the purpose of this meeting, Dr. Rittersdorf wore a distinctly feminine outfit: black sweater and skirt, no stockings, gilded slippers with turned-up elfish toes. The sweater, Baines observed, was just a fraction too tight. Did Mrs. Rittersdorf realize this? He could not tell, but in any case he found his attention drawn away from what she was saying to her well-articulated breasts. They were admittedly small but quite distinct as regard to angle. He liked them.

I wonder, he wondered, if this woman -- she was, he surmised, in her early thirties, certainly in her physical, nubile prime -- if she is looking for something more than professional success, here. He had a powerful affective insight that Dr. Rittersdorf was animated by a personal spirit as well as a task-oriented one; again, she perhaps was not conscious of this. The body, he reflected, possesses ways of its own, sometimes in contradistinction to the purposes of the mind. This morning, on arising, Dr. Rittersdorf might merely have thought that she would like to wear this black sweater, without thinking any more about it. But the body, the well-formed gynecologic apparatus within, knew better.

And to this an analogous portion of himself responded. However in his case it was a conscious reaction. And, he thought, perhaps this can be turned to our group's advantage. This dimension of involvement might not be the liability for us that it surely is for our antagonists. Thinking this he felt himself slide into a posture of contrived defense; he had schemes, automatic and plentiful, by which to protect not only himself but also his colleagues.

"Dr. Rittersdorf," he said smoothly, "'before we could permit you to enter our several settlements, a delegation representing our clans would have to inspect your ship to see what armaments -- if any -- you have along with you. Anything else is unworthy of even cursory consideration."

"We're not armed," Dr. Rittersdorf said.

"Nevertheless," Gabriel Baines said, "I propose to you that you allow me and perhaps one other individual here to accompany you to your base. I have a proclamation here" -- he rattled the manifesto -- "which calls for your ship to vacate Gandhitown within forty-eight Terran hours. If you don't comply --" He glanced at Straw, who nodded. "We will initiate military operations against you on the grounds that you are hostile, uninvited invaders."

In a low, modulated voice Dr. Rittersdorf said, "I understand your comprehension. You've lived here in isolation for quite a time. But --" She was speaking directly to him; her fine, intelligent eyes confronted him purposefully. "I am afraid I have to call attention to a fact which you all may find distasteful. You are, individually and collectively, mentally ill."

There was a taut, prolonged silence.

"Hell," Straw said to no one in particular, "we blew that place sky high years ago. That so-called 'hospital.' Which was really a concentration camp." His lips twisted. "For purposes of slave labor."

"I am sorry to say it," Dr. Rittersdorf said, "but you are wrong; it was a legitimate hospital, and you must include the realization of this as a factor in any plans you might make regarding us. I'm not lying to you; I'm speaking the plain, simple truth."

"'Quid est veritas?'" Baines murmured.

"Pardon?" Dr. Rittersdorf said.

Baines said, "'What is truth?' Hasn't it occurred to you, Doctor, that in the last decade we here might have risen above our initial problems of group adaptation and become --" He gestured. "Adjusted? Or whatever term you prefer ... in any case capable of possessing adequate interpersonal relationships, such as you're witnessing here in this chamber. Surely if we can work together we are not sick. There's no other test you can apply except that of group-workability." He sat back, pleased with himself.

With care Dr. Rittersdorf said, "You are, admittedly, unified against a common enemy ... against us. But -- I'd be wining to place a bet that before we arrived, and again after we depart, you will fragment into isolated individuals, mistrustful and frightened of one another, unable to collaborate." She smiled disarmingly, but it was far too wise a smile for him to accept; it too much underscored her very clever statement.

Because of course she was right; she had put her finger on it. They did not function together regularly. But -- she was also wrong.

This was her error. She supposed, probably as a matter of self-justifying protection, that the origin of the fear and hostility lay with the council. But in fact it was Terra who displayed menacing tactics; the landing of their ship was de facto a hostile act ... were it not, an attempt would have been made to secure permission. These Terrans themselves had manifested initial distrust; they alone were responsible for the present pattern of mutual suspicion. Had they wanted to they could readily have avoided it.

"Dr. Rittersdorf," he said bluntly, "the Alphane traders contact us when they want permission to land. We notice that you did not. And we have no problems in our dealings with them; we trade back and forth on a regular, constant basis."

Obviously his gauntlet had been thrown down to good effect; the woman hesitated, did not have an answer. While she pondered, everyone in the room rustled with amusement, contempt, and, as in the case of Howard Straw, pitiless animosity.

"We assumed," Dr. Rittersdorf said at last, "that had we formally requested permission to land you would have refused us."

Smiling. feeling calm, Baines said, "But you didn't try. You 'assumed.' And now, of course, you'll never know, because --"

'Would you have granted us permission?" Her voice snapped at him, firm and authoritative, penetrating and shattering the continuity of his utterance; he blinked, involuntarily paused. "No, you wouldn't have," she continued. "And all of you know it. Please try to be realistic."

"If you show up at Da Vinci Heights," Howard Straw said, we'll kill you. In fact if you don't leave we'll kill you. And the next ship that tries to land will never touch ground. This is our world and we plan to retain it as long as we survive. Mr. Baines here can recite the details of your original imprisonment of us; It's all contained in the manifesto which he and I -- with the help of the others in this room -- prepared. Read the manifesto, Mr. Baines."

"'Twenty-five years ago,'" Gabriel Baines began, "'a colony was established on this planet --'"

Dr. Rittersdorf sighed. "Our knowledge of the assorted patterns of your mental illnesses --"

"'Sordid'?" Howard Straw burst in. "Did you say 'sordid'?" His face was mottled with dire rage; he half-rose from his chair.

"I said assorted," Dr. Rittersdorf said patiently. "Our knowledge informs us that the focus of your militant activity will be found in the Mans settlement -- in other words, the manic group's settlement. Four hours from now we will break camp and leave the hebephrenic settlement of Gandhitown; we will set down in Da Vinci Heights and if you engage us in combat we'll bring in line-class Terran military forces." She added, "Which are standing by approximately half an hour from here."

Again there was a taut and prolonged silence in the room.

Annette Golding at last spoke up, but barely audibly. "Read our manifesto anyhow, Gabriel."

Nodding, he resumed. But his voice shook.

Annette Golding began to cry, miserably, interrupting his reading. "You can see what's in store for us; they're going to turn us back into hospital patients again. It's the end."

Uncomfortably, Dr. Rittersdorf said, "We're going to provide therapy for you. It'll cause you to feel more -- well, relaxed with one another. More yourselves. Life will take on a more pleasant, natural significance; as it is you're all oppressed with such strain and fears ..."

"Yes, Jacob Simion muttered. "Fears that Terra will break in here and round us up like a lot of animals again."

Four hours, Gabriel Baines thought. Not long. His voice trembling, he resumed the reading of their joint manifesto. It seemed to him an empty gesture. Because there is just exactly nothing, he realized, that is going to save us.

***

After the meeting had ended -- and Dr. Rittersdorf had departed -- Gabriel Baines laid his plan before his colleagues.

"You're what?" Howard Straw demanded with contemptuous derision, his face made into a parody of itself by his grimace. "You say you're going to seduce her? My god, maybe she's right; maybe we ought to be in a neuro-psychiatric hospital!" He sat back and wheezed bleakly to himself. His disgust was too great; he could make no further motions of abuse -- he left that to the others in the room.

"You must think a lot of yourself," Annette Golding said, finally.

"What I need, " Gabriel said, "is someone with enough telepathic ability to tell me if I'm right." He turned to Jacob Simion. "Doesn't that Heeb saint, that Ignatz Ledebur, have at least a little capacity for telepathy? He's sort of a jack-of-all trades, Psi talent wise."

"None that I know of," Simion said. "But you might, you just might try Sarah Apostoles." He winked at Gabriel, shaking his head in mirth.

"I'll phone Gandhitown, " Gabriel Baines said, picking up the phone.

Simion said, "The phone-lines in Gandhitown are out again. For six days now. You'll have to go there."

"You'd have to go there anyhow," Dino Watters said, rousing himself at last from the slumber of his endless depression. He, alone, seemed somewhat taken by Baines' scheme. "After all that's where he is, in Gandhitown, where anything goes, everyone has children by everyone. By now she may be in the spirit of the thing."

With a grunt of agreement Howard Straw said, "It's luck for you, Gabe, that she's among the Heebs; she ought to be more receptive to you because of that."

"If this is the only way we can comport ourselves," Miss Hibbler said stiffly, "I think we deserve to perish; I truly do."

"The universe," Omar Diamond pointed out, "possesses an infinitude of ways by which it fulfills itself. Even this must not out-of-hand be despised." He nodded gravely.

Without another word, without even saying good-by to Annette, Gabriel Baines strode from the council chamber, down the wide stone stairs and out of the building, to the parking lot. There he boarded his turbine-driven auto and presently, at a meager seventy-five miles an hour, was on his way to Gandhitown. He would arrive before the four-hour deadline, he calculated, assuming that nothing had fallen onto the road, blocking it. Dr. Rittersdorf had returned to Gandhitown by rocket-driven launch; she was already there. He cursed at the archaic mode of transportation which he had to rely on, but there it was; this was their world and the reality for which they were fighting. As a satellite of the Terran culture once more they would regain modern means of transportation ... but this in no way would make up for what they stood to lose. Better to travel at seventy-five miles an hour and be free. Ah, he thought. A slogan.

And yet it was a trifle annoying. Considering the vitalness of his mission ... council-sanctioned or not.

Four hours and twenty minutes later, physically wearied by his travel but mentally alert, even keyed- up, he reached the rubbish-strewn outskirts of Gandhitown; he smelled the odor of the settlement, the sweet smell of rot mixed with the acrid stench of countless small fires.

During the trip he had evolved a new idea. So at this last moment he turned -- not toward Sarah Apostoles' shack -- but toward that of the Heeb saint Ignatz Ledebur.

He found Ledebur tinkering with an ancient, rusty gasoline generator in his yard, surrounded by his children and cats.

"I have seen your plan," Ledebur said, raising a hand to stop Gabriel Baines from breaking into an explanation. "It was traced in blood on the horizon just a short while ago."

"Then you know specifically what I want from you."

"Yes." Ledebur nodded. "And in the past, with a number of women, I have made successful use of it." He put down the hammer which he held, strolled toward the shack; the cats but not the children followed. So did Gabriel Baines. "However it is a microscopic idea that you possess," Ledebur said reprovingly, and chuckled.

"Can you read the future? Can you tell me if I'll succeed?"

"I am no seer. Others may fortell but I remain silent. Wait a minute." Within the one main room of the shack he paused, while the cats trotted and hopped and mewed on all sides. Then he reached above the sink, lifted down a quart jar with a dark substance inside; he unscrewed the lid of the jar, sniffed, shook his head, put the lid back on the jar and restored it to its place. "Not that." He wandered off, then finally opened the ice box, rummaged within, came out with a plastic carton which he inspected with a critical frown.

His present common-law wife -- Gabriel Baines did not know her name -- appeared from the bedroom, glanced dully at the two of them, then started on. She wore a sack-like dress, tennis shoes and no socks, her hair a mass of uncombed dirty material coating the top and back of her head. Gabriel Baines looked away in gloomy disgust.

"Say," Ledebur said to the woman. "Where's that jar of you-know-what? That mixture we use before we --" he gestured.

"In the bathroom." The woman padded on by, going outdoors.

Disappearing into the bathroom Ledebur could be heard moving objects about, glasses and bottles; at last he returned carrying a tumbler filled with a liquid that slopped against the sides as he walked. "This is it, " Ledebur said, with a grin that showed two missing teeth. "But you have to induce her to take it. How are you going to manage that?"

At the moment Gabriel Baines did not know. "We'll see," he said, and held out his hand for the aphrodisiac.

***

After leaving Ledebur he drove to the single shopping center in Gandhitowri, parked before the dome-shaped wooden structure with its peeling paint, its stacks of dented cans, heaps of discarded cardboard cartons littering the entrance and parking area. Here the Alphane traders rid themselves -- dumped, actually -- great masses of seconds.

Within he bought a bottle of Alph' brandy; seated in his auto he opened it, poured out a portion of the contents, added the dingy, heavily-sedimented aphrodisiac which the Heeb saint had given him. The two liquids managed somehow to mix; satisfied, he re-capped the bottle, started up the car and drove on.

This was, he reflected, no time for him to depend on his natural talents; as the council had pointed out he did not particularly excel in this direction. And excellence, if they wished to survive, was mandatory.

Visually, he managed without difficulty to locate the Terran ship; it loomed high and shiny and metallically-clean above the litter of Gandhitown, and as soon as he sighted it he turned his auto in that direction.

An armed Terran guard, wearing a gray-green uniform familiar from the late war, halted him a few hundred yards from the ship, and from a nearby doorway Baines saw the muzzle of a heavy weapon trained on him. "Your ident papers, please," the guard said, warily scrutinizing him.

Gabriel Baines said, "Tell Dr. Rittersdorf that a plenipotentiary from the supreme council is here to make a final offer by which bloodshed on both sides can be avoided." He sat tautly bolt-upright behind the tiller of his car, gazing straight ahead.

By intercom the arrangements were made. "You may go ahead, sir."

Another Terran, also in full military dress with side arms and decorations, conducted him on foot to the ramp that led up to the open hatch of the ship. They ascended and presently he was bumping his way morosely down a corridor, searching for Room 32-H. The confining walls made him uneasy; he longed to be back outdoors where he could breathe. But -- too late now. He found the proper door, hesitated, then knocked. Under his arm the bottle gurgled slightly.

The door swung open and there stood Dr. Rittersdorf, still wearing the slightly-too-tight black sweater, the black skirt and elfish shoes. She regarded him uncertainly. "Let's see, you're Mr. --"

"Baines."

"Ah. The Pare." Half to herself she added, "Schizophrenic paranoia. Oh, I beg your pardon." She flushed. "No offense meant."

"I'm here," Gabriel Baines said, "to drink a toast. Will you join me?" He walked past her, into her diminutive quarters.

"A toast to what?"

He shrugged. "That ought to be obvious." He allowed just the right shade of irritation to enter his voice.

"Are you giving in?" Her tone was sharp, penetrating; closing the door she came a step toward him.

"Two glasses," he said, in a deliberately resigned, muted voice. "Okay, Doctor?" He got the bottle of Alphane brandy -- and its alien additive -- from its paper bag, began to unscrew the cap.

"I think you're definitely doing the wise thing," Dr. Rittersdorf said. She looked distinctly pretty as she scurried about searching for glasses; her eyes shone. "This is a good sign, Mr. Baines. Really."

Somberly, still the incarnation of defeat, Gabriel Baines poured from the bottle until both glasses were full.

"We can land, then, at Da Vinci Heights?" Dr. Rittersdorf asked, as she lifted her glass and sipped.

"Oh sure," he agreed listlessly; he, too, sipped. It tasted awful.

"I'll inform the security member of our mission," she said. "Mr. Mageboom. So no accidental --" She all at once became silent.

'What's wrong?"

"I just had the strangest --" Dr. Rittersdorf frowned "A sort of flutter. Deep inside me. If I didn't know better --" She looked embarrassed. "Never mind, Mr. -- is it Baines?" Rapidly she drank from her glass. "I feel so tense all of a sudden. I guess I was worried; we didn't want to see ..." Her voice trailed away. Walking to the corner of the compartment she seated herself on the chair, there. "You put something in that drink." Rising, she let the glass drop; she crossed as swiftly as possible toward a red button on the far wall.

As she passed him he caught her around the waist. The plenipotentiary from the inter-clan council of Alpha III M2 had made his move. For better or worse the plan was being enacted, their struggle to survive.

Dr. Rittersdorf bit him on the ear. Nearly severing the lobe.

"Hey," he said feebly.

Then he said, "What are you doing?"

After that he said, "Ledebur's concoction really works."

He added, "But I mean, there's a limit to everything."

Time passed and he said gaspingly, "At least there should be."

A knock sounded on the door.

Raising herself up slightly, Dr. Rittersdorf called, "Go away."

"It's Mageboom," a muffled male voice sounded from the corridor.

Springing to her feet, disengaging herself from him, Dr. Rittersdorf ran to the door and locked it. At once she spun and, with a ferocious expression, dived -- it looked to him as if she were diving -- directly at him. He shut his eyes and prepared for the impact.

But was this going to get them what they wanted? Politically.

Holding her down, keeping her to one spot on the floor, a little to the right of the heap of her tossed-away clothing, Baines grunted, "Listen, Dr. Rittersdorf --"

"Mary," and this time she bit him on the mouth; her teeth clinked against him with stunning force and he winced with pain, shut his eyes involuntarily. That turned out to be his cardinal mistake. Because in that moment he was tilted; the next he knew he was somehow on the bottom, pinned in place -- her sharp knees dug into his loins and she grasped him just above the ears, gathering his hair between her fingers and tugging upward as if to pull his head from his shoulders. And at the same time --

He managed to call out weakly, "Help!"

The person on the other side of the door, however, had evidently already departed; there was no response.

Baines made out the sight of the red button on the wall which Mary Rittersdorf had been about to press -- had intended to but now, beyond any doubt whatsoever, would never in a million years press -- and began to squirm inch by inch in its direction.

He never made it.

And the thing that gets me, he thought later on in despair, is that in addition this is getting the council nowhere politically.

"Dr. Rittersdorf," he grated, wheezing for breath, "let's be reasonable. For god's sake let's talk, okay? "Please."

This time she bit the tip of his nose; he felt her sharp teeth meet. She laughed; it was a long, echoing laugh that chilled him.

I think that what's going to kill me, he decided finally after the passage of what seemed an unending amount of time in which neither of them managed to say any more, is the biting; I'm being bitten to death and there is nothing I can do. He felt as if he had stirred up and encountered the libido of the universe; it was a mere elemental but enormous power that had him pinned to the rug, here, with no possibility of escape. If only someone would break in, one of the armed guards for instance --

"Did you know," Mary Rittersdorf whispered wetly against his cheek, "that you're the prettiest man alive?" At that she backed off slightly, sitting on her haunches, adjusting herself -- he saw his opportunity and rolled away; scrambling, he broke for the button, groped frantically to press it, to summon someone, anyone -- Terran or not.

Panting, she seized him by the ankle, brought him crashing down; his head hit the side of a metal cabinet and he moaned as the darkness of defeat and annihilation -- of a sort he had never been prepared for by anything previous in his life -- seeped over him.

With a laugh Mary Rittersdorf rolled him about and once more pounced on him; her bare knees again dug into him, her breasts dangled above his face as she clamped her hands over his wrists and bore him flat. It obviously did not matter to her whether he was conscious really, he discovered, as the darkness became complete. One last thought entered his mind, a final determination.

Somehow, some way, he would get the Heeb saint Ignatz Ledebur for this. If it was his last act in life.

"Oh, you're so lovely," Mary Rittersdorf's voice, uttered within a quarter-inch of his left ear, rang, deafening him. "I could just eat you up." She quivered from head to foot, an undulation that was like a storm of mobility, a tossing of the surface of the earth itself.

He had, as he passed out, a terrible feeling that Dr. Rittersdorf had just begun. And Ledebur's concoction did not account for this because it had not affected him this way. Gabriel Baines and the Heeb saint's concoction had provided an opportunity for something already in Dr. Mary Rittersdorf to emerge. And he would be lucky if the combination did not turn out to be -- as it seemingly was turning out to be -- not a so-called love potion but a clear-cut potion of death.

At no time did he truly lose consciousness. Therefore he was aware that, much later, the activity in which he was caught began by degrees to abate. The artificially-induced whirlwind diminished and then at last there was a fitful peace. And then -- by an agency which remained obscure to him -- he was physically moved from his place on the floor, from Dr. Mary Rittersdorf's compartment, to some other place entirely.

I wish I was dead, he said to himself. Obviously the last of the grace-period had trickled away; the Terran ultimatum had expired and he had failed to halt events. And where was he? Cautiously Baines opened his eyes.

It was dark. He lay outdoors, under stars, and around him rose the junk-heap which was the Heeb settlement of Gandhitown. In no direction -- he peered frantically -- could he make out the shape of the Terran ship. So obviously it had taken off. To land at Da Vinci Heights.

Shivering, he sat weakly up. Where, in the name of all that was sacred to the species, were his clothes? Hadn't she cared enough to give them back? It seemed a gratuitous coda; he lay back and shut his eyes and cursed to himself in a sing-song voice ... and he, the Pare delegate to the supreme council. Too much, he thought bitterly.

A noise to his right attracted him; again he opened his eyes, this time peering shrewdly. An antique vehicle of some obsolete sort put-putted toward him. He made out, now, bushes; yes, he realized, he had been tossed in the bushes, too, fulfilling the ancient saw: Mary Rittersdorf had reduced him to the status of a participant in a folk-saying. He hated her for that -- but his fear of her, much greater, did not budge. What was coming was nothing more than a typical Heeb internal combustion engine car; he could distinguish its yellow headlights.

Climbing to his feet he waved the car to a halt, standing in the center of the nebulous Heeb-built cowpath, here on the outskirts of Gandhitown.

"What's the matter?" the Heeb driver in his drawly, jejune voice inquired; he was so deteriorated as to be devoid of caution.

Baines walked up to the door of the car and said, "I was -- attacked."

"Oh? Too bad. Took your clothes, too? Get in." The Heeb banged on the door behind him until it swung creakily open. "I'll drive you to my place. Get you something to wear."

Baines said grimly, "I'd prefer it if you took me to Ignatz Ledebur's shack. I want to talk to him." But, if it had all been there, buried inside the woman in the first place, how could he blame the Heeb saint? No one could have predicted it, and surely if it generally affected women this way Ledebur would have ceased to employ it.

'What's that?" the Heeb driver inquired as he started up the car.

There was that little intercommunication in Gandhitown; it was a symptom, Baines realized, that rather bore out Mary Rittersdorf's statements about them all. However, he drew himself together and described as best he could the location of the Heeb saint's shack.

"Oh yeah," the driver said, "the guy who has all those cats. I ran over one the other day." He chuckled. Baines shut his eyes, groaned.

Presently they had halted before the dimly-lit shack of the Heeb saint. The driver banged open the car door; Baines climbed stiffly out, aching in every joint and still suffering unbearably from the million and one bites which Mary Rittersdorf, in her passion, had inflicted. He made his way step by step across the littered yard, in the uneven yellow light of the car's headlights, found the shack's door, nudged an undetermined collection of cats from his way, and rapped on the door.

Seeing him, Ignatz Ledebur rocked with laughter. "What a time it must have been -- you're bleeding all over. I'll get you something to wear and Elsie'll probably have something for those bites or whatever they are ... it looks as if she worked you over with a pair of cuticle scissors." Chuckling, he shuffled off somewhere in the rear of the shack. A horde of grimy children regarded Baines as he stood by the oil heater warming himself; he ignored them.

Later, as Ledebur's common-law wife dabbed ointment on the bites -- which constellated around his nose, mouth and ears -- and Ledebur laid out tattered but reasonably clean clothes, Gabriel Baines said, "I've got her figured out. Obviously she's the oral sadistic type. That's where things went wrong." Mary Rittersdorf, he realized soberly, was as sick as, or even more than, anyone on Alpha III M2. But it had been latent.

Ledebur said, "The Terran ship took off."

"I know." He began now to dress.

"There has been a vision," Ledebur said, "That has eached me in the last hour. About the arrival of another Terran ship."

"A warship," Baines guessed. "To take Da Vinci Heights." He wondered if they'd go so far as to H- bomb the Manses' settlement -- in the name of psychotherapy.

"This is a tiny, fast pursuit ship," Ledebur said. "According to my psychic presentation related by the primordial forces. Like a bee. It hurtled down, landed near the Poly settlement, Hamlet Hamlet."

At once Baines thought of Annette Golding. He hoped to heaven that she was all right. "Do you have any kind of vehicle? Anything 1 can ride back to Adolfville in? There was his own car, presumably parked at the spot the Terran ship had occupied. Hell, he could walk to it from here. And he would not drive to his own settlement, he decided; he would go to Hamlet Hamlet, make certain that Annette had not been raped, beaten up or lasered. If she were harmed in any way --

"I let them down." he said to Ledebur. '"I claimed I had a plan -- they depended on me, naturally, because I'm a Pare." But he had not given up yet; his Pare mind was filled with schemes, active and alive. He would go to his grave this way, still planning how to defeat the enemy.

"You should eat something," Ledebur's woman suggested. "Before you go anywhere. There's some kidney stew left; I intended to give it to the cats but you're welcome to it."

"Thanks," he said, managing not to gag; Heeb cooking left something to be desired. But she was right. He needed to regain a certain amount of energy, otherwise he'd fall dead in his tracks. It was amazing he had not already, considering what had befallen him.

After he had eaten he borrowed a flashlight from Ledebur, thanked him for the clothes, ointment and meal, then set off on foot through the narrow, twisted, junk filled streets of Gandhitown. Fortunately his car was still where he had left it; neither Heebs nor Terrans had seen fit to cart it off, saw it up or pulverize it.

Getting in he drove from Gandhitown, took the road east toward Hamlet Hamlet. Once more at a pitiful seventy-five miles an hour he was on his way across the open, exposed landscape between settlements.

With him rode a dreadful sense of urgency, of a sort he had never before experienced. Da Vinci Heights had been invaded, perhaps already had fallen; what was left? How, without the fantastic energy of the Mans clan, could they survive? If perhaps this single small Terran ship meant something ... might that not be a hope? At least it was unexpected. And, within the realm of the expected, they had no chance, were doomed.

He was not a Skitz, or a Heeb. And yet in his own dim way he had his vision, too. It was a vision of the off-chance, the one possibility plucked from the many. His first plan had fallen through but there was still this; he believed in this. And he did not even know why.
admin
Site Admin
 
Posts: 24666
Joined: Thu Aug 01, 2013 5:21 am

Re: Clans of the Alphane Moon, by Philip K. Dick

Postby admin » Thu Jul 16, 2015 4:11 am

ELEVEN

On her trip home from the council meeting at Adolfville, a meeting which had seen the Terran ultimatum expire and the enemy go into action against Da Vinci Heights, Annette Golding considered the possibility of suicide. What had happened to them, even to the Manses, was overpowering; how did one combat the arguments put forth by a planet which had recently defeated the whole Alphane empire?

Obviously it was hopeless. And, on a biological level, she recognized it ... and was willing to succumb to it. I'm like Dino Watters, she said to herself as she scrutinized the murky road ahead, the glow of her headlights against the plastic ribbon which connected Adolfville with Hamlet Hamlet. When the chips are down, I prefer not to fight; I prefer to give up. And no one's making me give up: I just want to.

Tears filled her eyes as she realized this about herself. I guess I must basically admire the Manses, she decided. I venerate what I'm not; I'm not harsh, aloof, unyielding. But theoretically, being a Poly, I could become that. In fact I could become anything. But instead --

She saw, then, to her right, a streak of retro-rocket exhausts tailed out along the night sky. A ship was descending, and very close to Hamlet Hamlet. In fact if she kept on this road she would encounter it. She experienced at once -- typical of a Poly -- two equal, opposite emotions. Fear made her cringe, and yet curiosity, a blend of eagerness and anticipation and excitement, caused her to speed her car up.

However, before she reached the ship her fear won out; she slowed, drove the car onto the soft dirt shoulder and cut the switch. The car glided in silence to a stop; she sat with headlights off, listening to the night sounds and wondering what to do.

From where she sat she could dimly perceive the ship, and occasionally from near it a light flashed; someone was doing something. Terran soldiers, perhaps, preparing to invest Hamlet Hamlet. And yet -- she heard no voices. And the ship did not appear large.

She was of course armed. Every delegate to the council had to be, although the Heeb rep traditionally forgot his. Reaching into the glove compartment she fished out the old-fashioned lead-slug pistol; she had never used it and it seemed incredible to her that she might soon find herself using it now. But it seemed that she had no choice.

On foot, quietly, she sneaked past scrubby bushes, until all at once she had reached the ship; startled, she backed away, and then saw a flash of light, the activity near the base of the ship continuing.

One man, utterly absorbed, was busy with a shovel, digging a pit; he labored away, perspiring, his face wrinkled with concentration. And then suddenly he hurried back to the ship.

When he reappeared he carried a carton which he set down beside the pit. His light flashed into the carton and Annette Golding saw five grapefruit-like spheres, faintly moist and pulsing; they were alive and she recognized them. Newly-born initial constituents of Ganymedean slime molds -- she had viewed pics of them in edutext tapes. The man of course was burying them; in the soil they would grow at great speed. This portion of their life-cycle fulfilled itself immediately. And so the man hurried. The spheres might die.

She said, surprising even herself, "You'll never get them all in the ground in time." One sphere, in fact, had already darkened and become sunken; it was withering before their eyes. "Listen." She approached the man, who continued working, digging with the small shovel. "I'll keep them moist; do you have any water?" She bent down beside him, waiting. "They really are going to perish." Obviously he knew this, too.

Roughly the man said, "In the ship. Get a big container. You'll see the water tap; it's marked." He snatched the withering sphere from its fellows, set it gently into the pit, began to cover it with loose soil which be broke with his fingers.

Annette entered the ship, found the water tap and then a bowl.

Back outside with the bowl of water she doused the swiftly-deteriorating spheres, reflecting philosophically that this was the way with fungi: everything happened fast with them, birth, growth, even death. Perhaps they were lucky. They had their tiny time to strut about.

"'Thanks," the man said as he took a second -- now wet -- sphere and began to bury it, too. "I don't hope to ave them all. The spores germinated on my trip -- I had no place to put the plants, I just had a pot for the microscopic-size spores." He glanced up at her briefly as he dug to enlarge the pit. "Miss Golding," he said.

Crouched by the carton of spheres Annette said. "Why is it that you know me but I've never seen you before?"

"This is my second trip here, the man said cryptically.

Already the first-buried sphere had begun to grow; in the light of the handtorch Annette saw the ground quiver and bulge, tremble as the diameter of the sphere radically increased. It was an odd, funny sight and she laughed. "I'm sorry," she apologized. "But you scuttled about, popped it into the ground, and now look at it. In a while it'll be as big as we are. And then it can move on." Slime molds, she knew, were the sole mobile fungus; they fascinated her for that reason.

"How come you know so much about them?" the man asked her.

"For years I had nothing to do but educate myself. From the -- I guess you would call it hospital ... anyhow from it, before it was razed, I got tapes on biology and zoology. It's true, is it, that when they're fully ripe a Ganymedean slime mold is intelligent enough so you can converse with it?"

"More than that intelligent." The man swiftly planted another sphere; in his hands it quivered, jelly-like, soft.

"How wonderful," she said. "I find that terribly exciting." It would be worth staying here, to see this. "Don't you love this?" she said, kneeling down on the far side of the carton to watch his work. "The night smells, the air, the sounds of creatures -- little ones, like hipfrogs and bellcrickets -- stirring about, and then this, making these fungi grow instead of just letting them die? You're very humane; I can see that. Tell me your name."

He glanced at her sideways. "Why?"

"Because. So I can remember you."

"I have someone's name," the man said, "so I could remember him."

Now only one sphere remained to plant. And the first had burgeoned out, exposing itself; it bad become, she discovered, a multitude of spheres, now, gummed together into a mass. "But," the man said, "I wanted his name so that I could --" He did not finish, but she got the idea. "My name is Chuck Rittersdorf," be said.

"Are you related to Dr. Rittersdorf, the psychologist in that Terran ship? Yes, you must be her husband." She was positive of it; the fact was totally obvious. Remembering Gabriel Baines' plan she put her hand over her mouth, giggling with mischievous excitement. "Oh," she said, "if you only knew. But I can't tell you." Another name you should remember, she thought, is Gabriel Baines. She wondered how Gabe's plan to reduce Dr. Rittersdorf by love-making had gone; she had a feeling that it had failed. But for Gabe it might well have been -- even still be at this moment -- a good deal of fun.

Of course all that was over, now, because Mr. Rittersdorf had arrived.

"What was your name," she asked, "when you were here before?"

Chuck Rittersdorf glanced at her. "You think I change my --"

"You were someone else." It had to be that; otherwise she would remember him. Have recognized him.

After a pause Rittersdorf said, "Let's just say I came here and met you and returned to Terra and now I'm back." He glared at her as if it were her fault. The last sphere having been planted he reflexively gathered up the empty carton and the small shovel, started toward the ship.

Following, Annette said, 'Will slime molds take over our moon, now?" It occurred to her that perhaps this was part of Terra's plan for conquest. But the idea did not ring right; this man had all the appearances of someone working in stealth alone. It was too much a Pare-like idea for her.

"You could do a lot worse," Rittersdorf said laconically. He disappeared into the ship; after hesitating she went in after him, blinking in the bright overhead light.

There on a counter lay her lead-slug pistol; she had put it down when she was involved in filling the container with water.

Picking up the pistol Rittersdorf inspected it, then turned to her with a peculiar expression, almost a grin, on his face. "Yours?"

"Yep," she said, humiliated. She held out her hand, hoping he would give it back. However he did not. "Oh please," she said. "It's mine and I laid it down because I was trying to help; you know that."

He studied her a long, long time. And then handed her the pistol.

"Thank you." She felt gratitude. "I'll remember you did that. "

"Were you going to save this moon by means of that?" Now Rittersdorf smiled. He was not bad-looking, she decided, except that he had a hectic, care-worn expression and too many wrinkles. But his eyes were a clean nice blue. Perhaps, she guessed, he was in his mid-thirties. Not really old, but somewhat older than herself. His smile had a pained quality, not as if it were contrived but -- she pondered. As if it were unnatural, as if for him being happy, even briefly, was difficult. He was, perhaps like Dino Watters, addicted to gloom. She felt sorry for him if that were so. It was a terrible malady to have. Far worse than the several others.

She said, "I don't think we can save this moon. I just wanted to protect myself personally. You know our situation here, don't you? We --"

A voice inside her mind croaked into abrupt, rudimentary life. "Mr. Rittersdorf," it creaked, faded out, then returned, like the feeble sputter of a crystal set radio. "... wise thing. I see that Joan. The voice was gone now.

'What in god's name was that?" Annette said, appalled.

"The slime mold. One of them. I don't know which ... Chuck Rittersdorf seemed transfixed with relief. Loudly he said, "It carries the continuity!" He shouted at her as if she were a mile away, "He's back again! What do you say, Miss Golding? Say something!" He grabbed her all at once by the hands, whirled her in a dance-like circle of joyous, child-like celebration. "Say something, Miss Golding!"

"I'm glad," Annette said dutifully, "to see you so happy. You ought to be as joyous as often as possible. Of course I don't know what happened. Anyhow --" She disengaged her fingers from his. "I know you deserve this, whatever it is."

Behind her something stirred. She looked back and saw at the doorway of the ship a yellow lump which progressed sluggishly forward, undulating over the doorstep, entering. So this is how they look, she realized. In their final stage. It was breath-aking. She retreated, not in fear but in awe; it was certainly a miracle the way it had developed so rapidly. And now -- as she recalled -- it would stay this way indefinitely, until killed at last by too cold or too warm a climate, or by too much dryness. And, in its last extremity, it would sporify; the cycle would repeat.

As the slime mold entered the ship a second slime mold crept into sight behind it, following. And behind it a third.

Startled, Chuck Rittersdorf said, "Which is you, Lord Running Clam?"

In Annette's mind a series of thoughts progressed. "It is a custom for the first-born to take the formal identity of the parent. But there is no actual distinction. In a sense we are all Lord Running Clams; in another sense none of us is. I -- the first -- will assume the name, the others are instead inventing new names that gratify them. To me comes the feeling that we will function and thrive on this moon; the atmosphere, the humidity and the pull of gravity seem quite in order to us. You have helped diversify our location; you've carried us more than -- allow me to compute -- three lights years from our source. Thank you." It -- or rather they -- added, "Your ship and you yourself are about to be attacked, I'm afraid. Perhaps you should take off as soon as possible. That is why we came inside, those of us who had developed in time."

"Attacked by whom?" Chuck Rittersdorf demanded, pressing a button at the control panel which slid the batch of the ship shut. Seating himself he prepared the ship for departure.

"As we ferret it out," the thoughts came to Annette from the three slime molds, "a group of natives is involved, those who refer to themselves in their own minds as Manses. Evidently they have succeeded in blowing up some other ship --"

"Good grief," Chuck Rittersdorf grated. "That would be Mary's."

"Yes," the slime mold agreed. "The approaching Manses are quite consciously congratulating themselves in their typically prideful fashion on successfully fighting off Dr. Rittersdorf. However she is not dead. Those in the first ship were able to escape; they are at unknown loci on the moon at present, and theManses are hunting them."

"What about the nearby Terran warships?" Rittersdorf asked.

"What warships? The Manses have thrown some novel variety of protective screen about their settlement. So for the moment they are safe." The slime mold, then, amplified with a conjecture of its own. "But it will not last long and this they know. They are on the offensive only temporarily. But still they love t. They are extremely happy, while all the while the baffled Terran line-ships buzz about uselessly."

The poor Manses, Annette thought to herself. Unable to look ahead, dwelling on the now, sallying forth to do battle as if they had a reasonable chance. And yet, was her own view much better? Was her willingness to accept failure an improvement?

No wonder all the clans of the moon depended on the Manses; it remained the only clan with courage. And the vitality which that courage gave.

The rest of us, Annette realized, lost long ago. Before the first Terran, Dr. Mary Rittersdorf, showed up.

***

Gabriel Baines, driving at a paltry seventy-five miles an hour toward Hamlet Hamlet, saw the small, brisk ship race up into the night sky and knew that he was too late, knew it without having any understanding directly of the situation. Annette, his near-Psionic talent informed him, was in the ship or else the ship -- those aboard it -- had destroyed her. In any case she was gone and so he slowed the car, feeling bitterness and despair.

There was virtually nothing he could do, now. Hence he might as well turn back toward Adolfville, to his own settlement and people. Be with them in these last, tragic days of their existence.

As he started to turn his car around, something rumbled and clanked past him, heading toward Hamlet Hamlet; it was a crawling monster if not a super-monster. Cast of high-process iron as only the Manses knew how to bring off, sweeping the landscape ahead with its powerful lights, it advanced flying a red and black flag, the battle symbol of the Manses.

Evidently he was seeing the initial stages of a surface counterattack. But against precisely what? The Manses were certainly in action, but surely not against Hamlet Hamlet. Perhaps they had been attempting to reach the small, swift ship before it took off. But for them, as for himself, it was too late.

He honked his horn. The turret of the Mans tank flopped open; the tank circled back toward him and a Mans, unfamiliar to him, stood up and waved in greeting to him. The Mans's face was inflamed with enthusiasm; obviously he was hotly enjoying this experience, his military duties in defense of the moon, for which they had prepared so long. The situation, depressing as it was to Baines, had an opposite effect on the Mans: for him it permitted a flowery, bellicose puffing and posturing. Gabriel Baines was not surprised.

"Hi," the Mans in the tank yelled, grinning broadly.

Baines called back with as little sourness as he could manage, "I see the ship got away from you people."

'We'll get it." The Mans did not lose his cheerfulness; he pointed instead toward the sky. "Watch, buddy. For the missile."

A second later something flashed overhead; luminous fragments rained down and Gabriel Baines realized that the Terran ship had been hit. The Mans was correct. As usual ... it was a clan characteristic.

Horrified, because of his intuition that Annette Golding had been within the ship, he said, "You barbaric, monstrous Manses " The main debris was descending to his right; slamming his car door be started up the engine, left the road and bumped across the open countryside. The Mans tank, meanwhile, shut its turret and began to follow, filling the night with its screeching clankings.

Baines reached the remains of the ship first. Some kind of emergency parachute device, a huge globe of gas, had sprung from the rear of the ship, letting it down more or less gently; it now lay half-buried in the soil, its tail up, smoking as if -- and this horrified Baines still further -- it were about to disintegrate; the atomic furnace within had reached, he thought, near-critical mass, and once it went that would be that.

Getting out of his car he sprinted toward the hatch of the ship. As he reached it the hatch swung open; a Terran emerged unsteadily, and after him came Annette Golding and then, with immense technical difficulty, a homogenous yellow blob that flowed to the lip of the hatch and dropped with a plop to the ground below.

Annette said, "Gabe, don't let the Manses shoot this man; he's a good person. He's even kind to slime molds."

Now the Mans tank had clattered up; once again the turret of the tank popped aside and again the Mans within raised himself up. This time, however, he held a laser beam, which he aimed at the Terran and Annette. Grinning, the Mans said, "We got you." It was clear that as soon as he had fully savored his enjoyment he would kill them; the ferocity of the Mans mind was unfathomable.

"Listen," Baines said, waving to the Mans. "Leave these people alone; this woman is from Hamlet Hamlet -- she's one of us."

"One of us?" the Mans echoed. "If she's from Hamlet Hamlet she's not one of us."

"Oh, come on," Baines said. "Are you Manses so hopped up that you don't recognize or remember the common brotherhood of the clans at a time of crisis? Put your gun down." He walked slowly back to his parked car, not taking his eyes from the Mans. In the car, under the seat, he had his own weapon. If he could get his hands on it he would use it on the Mans to save Annette's life. "I'll report you to Howard Straw," he said, and opening the car door groped within. "I'm a colleague of his -- I'm the Pare rep to the council." His fingers closed over the butt of the gun; he lifted it out, aimed it and at the same time clicked off the safety.

The click, audible in the still night air, caused the Mans in the tank instantly to swivel; the laser beam was now pointed at Gabriel Baines. Neither Baines nor the Mans said anything; they faced each other, not moving, not firing -- the light was not adequate and neither could make out the other fully.

A thought, emanating from heaven knew where, entered Gabriel Baines' mind. "Mr. Rittersdorf, your wife is in the vicinity; I'm picking up her cephalic activity. Therefore I advise you to drop to the ground." The Terran, and also Annette Golding, both fell at once on their faces; the Mans in the tank, startled, moved his gun away from Gabriel Baines, peered into the night uncertainly.

An almost perfectly-directed bolt from a laser weapon passed over the prone figure of the Terran, entering the hull of the ruined ship and vanishing in a sizzle of liquefied metal. The Mans in the tank leaped, sought to pinpoint the origin of the shot; he clutched his own weapon in a spasm of instinctive response but did not fire. Neither he nor Gabriel Baines could make out what was happening. Who was shooting at whom?

To Annette, Gabriel Baines shouted, "Get in the car!" He held the door open; Annette lifted her head, gazed at him, then turned to the Terran beside her. The two of them exchanged a glance and then both stumbled up and snaked their way swiftly to the car. In the turret of the tank the Mans opened fire, but not at Annette and the Terran; he was firing into the darkness, in the direction from which the laser bolt had come. Then all at once he popped back down inside his tank; the turret slammed shut and the tank, with a shudder, started up and rumbled forward, in the direction toward which the Mans had fired. At the same time a missile departed from the forward tube of the tank; it went straight, parallel to the ground and then, all at once, detonated. Gabriel Baines, trying to turn his car around, the Terran and Annette in the front seat beside him, felt the ground leap and devour him; he shut his eyes but what was happening could not be closed out.

Beside him the Terran cursed. Annette Golding gave a moan.

Those -- Manses, Barnes thought savagely as be felt the car lift, picked up by the shock-waves of the exploding missile.

"You can't use a missile like that," the Terran's voice came very faintly, over the uproar, "at such close range."

Whipped, carried by the concussion of the blast, the car spun over and over; Gabriel Baines bounced against the safety-padding of the roof, then against the safety-padding of the dashboard; all the security devices that an intelligent Pare would install in his vehicle to protect himself against attack came on automatically, but they were not enough. On and on the car rolled, and in it Gabriel Baines said to himself, I hate the Manses, I'll never advocate cooperation with hem again.

Someone, thrown against him, said, "Oh god!" It was Annette Golding; he caught her, hung onto her. All the windows of the car had burst; bits of plastic rained, showering on him and he smelled the acrid stench of something burning, perhaps his own clothing -- it would not have surprised him. Now the protective anti-thermal foam spouted in gobs from the nozzles on all sides of him, activated by the temperature; in a moment be was floundering in a gray sea, unable to catch hold of anything ... he had lost Annette again. Goddamn, he thought, these protective devices that cost me so much time and skins are almost worse than the blast itself. Is there a moral there? he asked himself as he tumbled in the slimy foam. It was like being lathered up for some great orgy of body-hair cutting; he cringed and gagged, struggled to get free of the sticky stuff.

"Help," he said.

No one and nothing answered.

I'm going to blow up that tank, Gabriel Baines thought to himself as he floundered. I swear it; I'll get back at them, at our enemy, the arrogant Manses ... I always knew they were against us.

"You are mistaken, Mr. Baines," a thought appeared in his mind, calm and sensible. "The soldier who fired the missile did not intend to hurt you. Before he fired he made a careful calculation -- or so he believed. You must beware of seeing malice behind accidental injury. At this moment, he is attempting to reach you and drag you from your flaming car. And those with you as well."

"If you can hear me," Baines thought back, "help me."

"I can do nothing. I am a slime mold; I can't under any circumstance approach the flames, being too heat-sensitive, as recent events demonstrate clearly. Two of my brethren have in fact already perished trying. And I am not ready at this time to sporify again." It added, gratuitously, "Anyhow, if I were to try to save anyone it would be Mr. Rittersdorf. There with you in the car ... the man from Terra."

A hand grabbed Gabriel Baines by the collar; he was lifted, dragged from the car, tossed off to one side. The Mans, with typical abnormal physical strength, now reached into the burning car and tugged Annette Golding to safety.

"Next Mr. Rittersdorf," the slime mold's anxious thoughts came, reaching Gabriel Baines where he lay.

Once more, with complete disregard for his own safety -- also typical of the hyperactive temperament -- the Mans disappeared into the car. This time when he returned he was pulling the Terran out.

"Thank you," the slime mold thought, with relief and gratitude. "In exchange for your deed allow me to give you information; your missile did not reach Dr. Rittersdorf, and she and the CIA simulacrum, Mr. Mageboom, are still nearby out of sight in the darkness, seeking an opportunity to fire at you again. So you had better return as soon as possible to your tank."

"Why me?" the Mans said angrily.

"Because your clan destroyed their ship," the slime mold thought back. "Hostilities between you and them are overt. Hurry!"

The Mans soldier sprinted for his tank.

But he did not reach it. Two-thirds of the way there he pitched forward on his face as a laser beam appeared from the darkness, touched him briefly and then winked out.

And now we're going to get it, Gabriel Baines realized wretchedly as he sat wiping the foam from himself. I wonder if she recognizes me, remembers me from our encounter earlier today ... and if so, would that cause her to want to spare me -- or to kill me sooner?

Beside him the Terran, also named Rittersdorf by some peculiar freak of coincidence, struggled to a sitting position, said, "You had a gun. What became of it?"

"Still in the car. I suppose."

"Why would she kill us?" Annette Golding gasped.

Rittersdorf said, "Because she knows why I'm here. I came to this moon to kill her." He seemed calm. "By the time tonight's over one of us will be dead. Either she or I." Obviously he had made up his mind.

Overhead the roar of a retro-rocket sounded. It was another ship, a huge one, Gabriel Baines realized, and he felt hope; possibly they had a chance of escaping from Dr. Rittersdorf -- who certainly, as he had suspected, was deranged -- after all. Even if the ship contained Terrans. Because it was so clear that Dr. Rittersdorf was acting out a feral impulse of her own, without official sanction. At least he hoped so.

A flare burst above them; the night became white and everything, each small object down to the stones on the ground, stood out with august clarity. The wrecked ship of Mr. Rittersdorf, the abandoned tank of the dead Mans, the corpse of the Mans himself, sprawled not far off, Gabriel Baines's car, burning itself into a clinker, and there, a hundred yards away, a vast molten, seething pocket where the missile had exploded. And -- among trees to the far right, two human figures. Mary Rittersdorf and whoever else the slime mold had said. Now, too, he saw the slime mold; it had taken refuge near the wrecked ship. In the light of the flare it was a macabre sight; he suppressed an impulse to heehaw.

"A Terran warship?" Annette Golding said.

"No," Rittersdorf said. "Look at the rabbit on its side."

"A rabbit!" Her eyes widened. is it a race of sentient rabbits? Is there such a thing?"

"No," the slime mold's thoughts came to Gabriel Baines. With seeming regret the slime mold said, "This apparition is Bunny Hentman, searching for you, Mr. Rittersdorf. It was, as you anticipated pessimistically, a relatively easy guess on his part that you came here to Alpha III M2; he left Brahe City shortly after you departed from Terra." It explained, "I am just now obtaining these thoughts from his mind; of course up to now I have been ignorant of this, being in the spore stage only."

I don't understand this, Gabriel Baines said to himself. Who in god's name is Bunny Hentman? A rabbit deity? And why is he looking for Rittersdorf? As a matter of fact he was not even certain who Rittersdorf was. Mary Rittersdorf's husband? Her brother? The whole situation was confused in his mind and he wished he were back at Adolfville, in the prepared security positions which his clan had elaborated over the years for just such abominations as this.

Evidently, he decided, we are doomed. They are all ganged up against us -- the Manses, Dr. Rittersdorf, the fat ship overhead with its bunny totem painted on its side, and, somewhere nearby, the Terran military authorities waiting to move in ... what chance do we have? A massive clot of defeatism rose up within him -- and well it might, he thought grimly.

Leaning toward Annette Golding, who sat weakly trying to shake the anti-thermal foam from her arms, he said, "Good-by."

She looked at him with large, dark eyes. "Where are you going, Gabe?"

"What the heck," he said bitterly, "does it matter?" They had no chance here, caught by the flare, in sight of Dr. Rittersdorf and her laser beam -- the weapon which had already killed the Mans soldier. He rose unsteadily to his feet, slopping off foam, shaking himself like a wet dog. "I'm leaving," he informed Annette, and then he felt sad because of her: not his own death but hers -- that was what distressed him. "I wish I could do something for you," he said, on impulse. "But that woman is insane; I know firsthand."

"Oh," Annette said, and nodded. "It didn't go well, then. Your plan regarding her." She glanced at Rittersdorf, then, covertly.

"'Well, did you say?" He laughed; it was really amusing. "Remind me to describe it to you sometime." Bending, he kissed her; Annette's face, slippery and damp from the foam, pressed against his muzzle and then he straightened up and walked away, seeing clearly by the light of the still-functioning flare.

As he walked he waited for the laser beam to touch him. So brilliant was the glare that, involuntarily, he half-shut his eyes; squinting, he made his way along step by step, in no particular direction ... why hadn't she shot? It would come, he knew; he wished it would hurry. Death at the hands of this woman -- it was a good fate for a Pare; ironic and deserved.

A shape blocked his way. He opened his eyes. Three shapes, and all of them familiar to him; he faced Sarah Apostoles, Omar Diamond and Ignatz Ledebur, the three ultimate visionaries on the moon, or, put another way, he thought to himself, the three greatest nuts from among all the clans. What are they doing here? Levitated or teleported or whatever they do; anyhow got here by their neo-magic. He felt only irritation at seeing them. The situation was enough of a mess as it was.

"Evil confronts evil," Ignatz Ledebur intoned sententiously. "But out of this our friends must be preserved. Have faith in us, Gabriel. We will see that you are conducted very soon, psychopomp-wise, to safety." He extended his hand, then, to Baines, his face transfigured.

"Not me," Baines said. "Annette Golding; help her." It seemed to him, then, that all at once the weight of being a Pare, of defending himself against all harm, had been lifted from him. For the first time in his life he had acted, not to save himself, but to save someone else.

"She will be saved, too," Sarah Apostoles assured him. "By the same agency."

Above their heads the retro-rockets of the big bunny-inscribed ship continued to roar; the ship was descending slowly. Coming down to land.
admin
Site Admin
 
Posts: 24666
Joined: Thu Aug 01, 2013 5:21 am

Re: Clans of the Alphane Moon, by Philip K. Dick

Postby admin » Thu Jul 16, 2015 4:11 am

TWELVE

Beside Mary, the CIA man Dan Mageboom said, "You heard that slime mold's statement; that ship contains the TV comic Bunny Hentman, who's on our top-want list." Agitated, Mageboom plucked at his throat, obviously groping for the intercom transmitter which linked him with the powerful CIA relay aboard the nearby Terran ships of the line.

"I also heard the slime mold declare," Mary said, "that you're not a person but a simulacrum."

"Person, shmerson," Mageboom said. "Does it matter?" Now he had found the microphone of the 'com; he spoke into it, ignoring her, telling his superiors that Bunny Hentman had turned up at last. And this, Mary thought, on the basis of a verbal utterance by a Ganymedean fungus. The credulity of the CIA passed all understanding. However, it was probably true. No doubt Hentman was aboard the ship; it did have as its ident marking the rabbit symbol familiar to viewers of the TV show.

She recalled, then, the ugly episode when she had approached the Hentman organization in her efforts to obtain a job for Chuck as script writer. They had neatly, adroitly propositioned her and she had never forgotten this; nor would she ever. A "side-deal," they had euphemistically called it. The lewd skunks, she thought as she watched the ship settle down like some enormous over-ripe football.

"My instructions," Mageboom spoke up suddenly, "are to approach the Hentman ship and attempt to arrest Mr. Hentman." He scrambled to his feet; amazed,she watched him trot toward the parked ship. Should I let him go? she asked herself. Why not? she decided, and lowered her laser beam. She had nothing against Mageboom, human or simulacrum, whatever he was. In any case he was decidedly ineffectual, like all CIA personnel she had met, during her years with Chuck. Chuck! At once she turned her attention back to him, where he huddled with Annette Golding. You've come a long way, dear, she thought. Just to pay me back. Is it worth it? But, she thought, you've also found a new woman; I wonder how you're going to enjoy having a polymorphic schizophrenic for a mistress. Pointing the laser tube she fired.

The harsh white light of the flare abruptly winked out; darkness returned. For a moment she could not understand what had happened and then she realized that now, since the ship had landed, it had no further use for illumination; hence it had shot the flare down. It preferred darkness to light, like some photophobic insect scuttling behind a bookcase.

She could not tell if her shot had touched Chuck.

Damn it, she thought in angered dismay. And then she felt fear. After all, it was she who was in danger; Chuck had become an assassin, here to murder her she was perfectly, rationally, wholly conscious of that: his presence on the moon verified what with professional acumen she had long suspected. It occurred to her now that during the trip and initial days on Alpha III M2 Chuck might easily have been the inhabitant of the Mageboom simulacrum. Why hadn't he done it then, instead of waiting? In any case that was not true now, since the simulacrum would be operated from Terra; that was CIA policy, as she well knew from remarks Chuck had made over the years.

I should get away, she said to herself. Before he does do it. Where can I go? The big warships can't come in because those lunatics and maniacs have that shield up; they're still trying to trace a path through it, I suppose -- whatever the reason she had lost contact with the Terran military. And now Mageboom had gone; she no longer could reach the line-ships through him. I wish I was back on Earth, she said miserably to herself. This whole project has turned out terribly. It's insane, Chuck and I trying to slay each other; how did something ghastly and psychotic like this develop? I thought we had managed to separate ... didn't the divorce accomplish that?

She thought, I never should have had my attorney Bob Alfson get those potent-pics of Chuck and that girl. That's probably what made him do this. However, it was too late; she had not only gotten the pics but had in addition used them in court. They were now a matter of public record; anyone with a little morbid curiosity who wanted to could search up the court record, animate the pics and enjoy the sequences of Chuck and the Trieste fray making love. In hoc signo vinces, my dear ...

Chuck, she thought, I'd like to surrender; I'd like to get back out of this, if not for your sake then for mine. Can't we be -- friends?

It was a squandered hope.

Now something peculiar squirmed at the horizon; she started at it, wondering at its magnitude. Surely it was too immense to be a human construct. The atmosphere was alive with something real; the stars had become dull, partially extinguished in that region and the thing, whatever it was, now began to assume a nearly-luminous shape.

The shape was that of a master lizard and she realized at once what she was witnessing; this was a schizophrenic projection, part of the primordial world experienced by the advanced psychotic, and evidently a familiar entity here on Alpha III M2 -- except why was she seeing it?

Could a schizophrenic -- or possibly several of them acting in concert -- have coordinated their psychotic perceptions with a Psionic talent? Weird idea, she thought nervously, and hoped that this was not the explanation. Because such a combination would be lethal, if these people had stumbled onto it during their quarter-century of freedom.

She remembered the hebephrenic whom she had met at Gandhitown ... he whom perhaps rightly they had called a saint, Ignatz Ledebur. At the time she had felt, despite the squalor, something of that about him, the invigorating and yet terrifying scent of unnatural abilities directed lord only knew where. In any case she had been fascinated at last by him.

The lizard -- seemingly quite real -- stretched itself, writhed its elongated neck and opened its jaws. And from it a fireball-like apparition vomited out, igniting that portion of the sky; the fireball drifted upward as if carried by the atmosphere, and she breathed a sigh of relief: at least it was departing, rather than descending. Frankly she was apprehensive about it. She did not relish this sight one bit; it was too much like covert dream-sequences which she had experienced in her own sleep -- experienced and not discussed or contemplated, not wanting even to scrutinize them in secrecy, much less discuss them with anyone else, any professional psychiatrist. God forbid.

The fireball ceased ascending. And began to break up into streamers of luminosity. The streamers drifted down, and, to her numbed surprise, quivered, as if shaped by hand, into enormous words.

The words comprised a sign. In the most literal sense. And -- a sign, she realized with embarrassment and horror, directed at her. The words blazed out:

DR. RITTERSDORF, AVOID BLOODSHED
AND
YOU WILL BE PERMITTED TO LEAVE US.

And then in smaller blazing letters, as if by afterthought, this:

THE HOLY TRIUMVIRATE.

They're out of their minds, Mary Rittersdorf said to herself, and felt a hysterical laugh rise up in her throat. It's not I who am seeking bloodshed; it's Chuck! Why in god's name pick on me? If you're so holy you ought to be able to perceive something as obvious as that. But, she realized, perhaps it was not so obvious. She had fired at Chuck, and before that, she had killed the Mans soldier as he fled back to his tank. So perhaps after all her conscience -- her intentions -- were not so unstained.

More words formed.

PLEASE REPLY.

"Good grief," she protested. "How?" She could hardly be expected to write her own answering letters of fire in the sky; she was scarcely a triumvirate of holy hebephrenic saint-psychotics. This is just terrible, she said to herself. Just grotesque to have to endure. And if I'm to listen to them, to believe them, I'm somehow to blame -- somehow responsible for the malignance that exists between me and Chuck. And I'm not.

There an at once was a red glow of laser-beam activity from the vicinity of the Bunny Hentman ship. Dan Mageboom, CIA simulacrum and agent in the field, was evidently fighting it out; she wondered what success he or it was having. Probably very little, if you knew the CIA. Anyhow she wished him luck.

She wondered whether the Holy Triumvirate had any instructions for him, too. Mageboom could use help; alone, he busily engaged in his frontal attack on the Hentman ship, firing away with what she now perceived to be an unhuman dedication. He may be a simulacrum, obviously is in fact a simulacrum, she said to herself, but no one can say he's a coward. And the rest of us, she reflected, she herself, Chuck and the girl with him, the slime mold, even the Mans soldier who had loped futilely for the protection of his tank -- every one of us are now pinned down by fright, motivated by nothing more than the animal instinct to save our individual hides. Out of all of them only Dan Mageboom, the simulacrum, had gone onto the offensive. And, or at least so it appeared to her, Mageboom's assault on the Hentman ship was destined for ludicrous failure.

New glowing, enormous words now appeared in the sky, And, thank heaven, these were not specifically directed at her; she was spared the humilation, this time, of being singled out.

CEASE YOUR WARFARE AND LOVE ONE ANOTHER.

All right, Mary Rittersdorf thought agreeably. I'll begin; I'll love my ex-husband Chuck, who came here to kill me; how's that for a new start in the midst of all this?

The red glow of laser beams near and around the parked Hentman ship picked up in intensity; the simulacrum had failed to respond to the great warning words: it continued its futile -- but highly gallant struggle.

For the first time in her life; she fully admired someone.

***

From the instant that Bunny Hentman's ship appeared the slime mold had become apprehensive; its thoughts, reaching Chuck Rittersdorf, were saturated with concern, now.

"I am receiving ghastly malappraisals of the recent events," the slime mold thought to Chuck. " All emanating from the Hentman ship; he and his staff, and in particular the several Alphanes around him, have dreamed up a philosophy which places you, Mr. Rittersdorf, dead center in the fictitious conspiracy against them." The slime mold was silent for an interval and then it thought, "They have dispatched a launch."

"Why?" Chuck said, and felt his heart-rate change.

"Pics taken during the exposure of the flare revealed your presence here on the surface. The launch will land; you will be nabbed; it is inevitable."

Scrambling to his feet Chuck said to Annette Golding, "I'm going to try to get away. You stay here." He started to run, away from the scene, in no direction in particular; he simply hobbled across the uneven ground as best he could. Meanwhile, the Hentman ship had landed. And, as he ran, he now made out an odd phenomenon; red trails of laser beams lit up in the form of dull streaks near the parked ship. Someone -- or some group -- had initiated an overt conflict with the Hentman ship as soon as it had opened its hatch.

Who? he wondered. Not Mary, surely. One of the clans here on the moon? Perhaps a spearhead of the Manses ... but didn't they already have their hands full, fighting off Terra, maintaining the dubious protective shield over Da Vinci Heights? And the Manses employed some other form of weapon rather than the old-fashioned laser beam; therefore this sounded more like the CIA.

Mageboom, he decided. The simulacrum had received instructions to engage the Hentman ship in battle. And being a machine it had accordingly done so.

The Manses, he thought, are fighting Terra; Mageboom, representing the CIA, is busy shooting it out with Hentman. My ex-wife Mary is fighting me. And Hentman is my enemy. Logically, what does this add up to? It must be possible to draw up a rational equation, extracted from this baroque interchange; it surely can be simplified. If the Manses are fighting Terra, and Hentman is fighting Terra, then the Manses and Hentman are allies. Hentman is fighting me, so I am his enemy and hence the ally of Terra. Mary is fighting me and I am fighting Hentman, so Mary is the ally of Hentman, hence the enemy of Terra. However, Mary leads the Terran task-force of do-gooding psychologists who landed here; she came as a rep of Terra. So, logically, Mary is both the enemy and the ally of Terra.

The equation simply could not be worked out ... there were just too many participants in the struggle, doing too many illogical things, some, as in Mary's case, entirely on their own.

But wait; his efforts to make a rational sensible equation out of the situation had borne fruit after all; as he trotted through the darkness he had an insight into his own dilemma. He was fighting to save himself from Hentman, the compatriot of the Alphanes and the enemy of Terra; this meant that by rigorous, unassailable logic, he himself was an ally of Terra whether he recognized it or not. Forgetting Mary for a moment -- her actions undoubtedly were not sanctioned by the Terran establishment -- the situation could be viewed clearly for a moment: his personal hope lay in reaching a Terran warship, seeking sanctuary there. Aboard a Terran ship of the line he would be safe -- safe there and only there.

But the clans of Alpha III M2 were fighting Terra, he remembered all at once; the equation was even more complex than he had first seen. If he were -- logically -- an ally of Terra, then he was an enemy of the clans, an enemy of Annette Golding, of everyone on the moon.

Ahead of him his shadow, feebly, was cast. Some light, originating from the sky, had materialized. Another flare? Turning, he briefly came to a halt.

And saw, in the sky, huge letters of fire, a message directed at of all people -- his wife. Avoid bloodshed, the sign admonished. And you will he permitted to leave us. Evidently this was a manifestation of the demented, silly tactics of the psychotics living here, probably of the deteriorated ones, the hebephrenics of Gandhitown. Mary, of course, would pay no attention. However, the glowing sign made him realize one further factor: the clans of this moon recognized Mary as their enemy. Mary was his enemy, too; he had tried to kill her and she him. Hence, by logic, this made him an ally of the clans, but his relationship to Terra made him an enemy of the clans. So there was no way of ignoring the conclusion of the entire line of his logical reasoning, melancholy as it was. He was both an ally and an enemy of the clans of Alpha III M2; he was for and against them.

At that point he gave up. Forewent the use of logic. Turning, he once more began to run.

The old adage, derived from the meditations of the sophisticated warrior-kings of ancient India, that "my enemy's enemy is my friend" had just not worked out in this situation. And that was that.

Something buzzed low over his head. And a voice, artificially magnified, howled at him, "Rittersdorf! Stop, stand still! Or we'll kill you on the spot." The voice boomed and echoed, bouncing back from the ground; it had been beamed at him, directed full-force from what he knew to be the Hentman launch verhead. They had, as predicted by the slime mold, located him.

Panting, he stopped.

The launch hovered in the air at the ten-foot level. A metal ladder flopped noisily down and once more the artificially-reinforced voice instructed him. "Climb the ladder, Rittersdorf. Without messing around or any delay!" In the night gloom, illuminated only by the glowing sign in the sky, the magnesium ladder quivered insubstantially like some link with the supernatural.

Taking hold, Chuck Rittersdorf, with leaden, heart-clutched reluctance, began to climb. A moment later he stepped from the ladder and found himself in the control cab of the launch. Two wild-eyed Terrans with laser pistols, faced him. Paid enemies of Bunny Hentman, he realized. One was Gerald Feld.

The ladder was drawn back up; the launch scooted for the parent ship at the greatest velocity possible.

'We saved your life," Feld said. "That woman, your ex-wife, would have ripped you apart if you had stayed out there."

"So?" Chuck said.

"So we're returning good for evil. What more can you ask? You won't find Bunny upset or sore; he's too big a man not to take all this in his stride. After all, no matter how bad things go he can always migrate to the Alphane empire." Feld managed to smile, as if the thought struck him as a happy one. From Hentman's point of view it meant things were not intolerable after all; a way out existed.

The launch reached its parent ship; an aperture tube opened, the launch fitted itself in place and then slid without use of power down the tube and to its berth, deep within the big ship.

When the launch had opened its hatch Chuck Rittersdorf found himself confronted by Bunny Hentman, who mopped his florid forehead worriedly and said, "Some lunatic's attacking us. One of the psychotics, here, evidently, from the way he's acting." The ship vibrated. "See?" Hentman said, with anger. "He's charging us with a hand weapon." Waving Chuck toward him he said, "Come along with me, Rittersdorf; I want to have a conference with you. There's been a hell of a misunderstanding between you and I but I think we can still work it out. Right?"

"Between you and me," Chuck said, in automatic correction.

Hentman led the way down a narrow corridor; Chuck followed. No one appeared at this point to have a laser beam trained on him, but he obeyed anyhow; one probably existed potentially -- he was still patently a prisoner of the organization.

A girl, naked to the waist, wearing only shorts, strolled across-corridor ahead of them, smoking a cigarette meditatively. There was some aspect about her that Chuck found familiar. And then, as she disappeared through a doorway, he realized who she was. Patty Weaver. In his flight from the Sol system Hentman had been provident enough to bring at least one of his mistresses with him.

"In here," Hentman said, unlocking a door.

Within the small, barren cabin Hentman shut the two of them up, then began immediately to pace with a restless, frantic intensity. For the time being he said nothing; he remained preoccupied. Every now and then the ship again vibrated under the attack directed at it. Once the overhead light went so far as to dim, but soon returned. Hentman glared up, then resumed his pacing.

"Rittersdorf," Hentman said, "I've got no choice; I've had to go --" A knock sounded at the door. "Jeez," Hentman said, and went to open the door a crack. "Oh, it's you."

Outside, now with a cotton shirt on, the tails not tucked in, the buttons not buttoned, Patty Weaver said, "I just wanted to apologize to Mr. Rittersdorf for --"

"Go away," Hentman said, shutting the door. He turned back to face Chuck. "I've had to go over to the Alphanes." More perspiration, in huge wax-like drops, emerged on his forehead; he did not bother to wipe them away. "Do you blame me? My TV career's ruined by that goddam CIA; I've got nothing left on Terra. If I can --"

"She has big breasts," Chuck said.

"Who? Patty? Oh yes." Hentman nodded. "Well, it's that operation they give in Hollywood and New York. It's more the rage now than the dilation, and she's had that done, too. She would have looked great on the show. Like a lot of things, too bad it didn't work out. You know, I darn near didn't get out of Brahe City. They thought they had me, but of course I was tipped off. Just in time." He glared at Chuck with nervous accusation. "If I can deliver Alpha III M2 to the Alphanes then I'm in; I can live the rest of my life in peace. If I can't, if Terra manages to take over this moon, then I'm not in." He looked tired and depressed, now; he seemed to have shrunk. Telling Chuck this had been too much for him. "What's your comment?" Hentman murmured. "Speak up?"

"Hmm," Chuck said.

"That's a comment?"

Chuck said, "If you imagine I still have any influence with my ex-wife and her report to TERPLAN on this --"

"No," Hentman agreed, nodding curtly. "I know you can't influence her decision as to this operation; we saw you all down there, taking potshots at each other. Like animals." He glowered, his energy returning. "You kill my brother-in-law, Cherigan; you're ready to -- in fact eager to -- kill your wife ... what kind of lives do you people lead? I never saw such a thing. And leaking my location to the CIA, on top of everything else."

"The Paraclete has deserted us," Chuck offered.

"The parakeet? What parakeet?" Hentman wrinkled up his nose.

"There's a war on, here. Let's say that. Maybe that explains some of it. If it doesn't --" He shrugged. It was the best he could do.

"That somewhat hefty girl you were lying with," Hentman said. "Out there where your ex was shooting at you. She's a local nut, isn't she? From one of the settlements here?" He eyed Chuck keenly.

"You could say that," Chuck said, with reluctance; the choice of wording did not especially appeal to him.

"Can you reach their governing inter-settlement supreme type council through her?"

"I suppose."

Hentman said, "Here's the only workable solution. With or without your damn parakeet or whatever it is. Have their council meet and listen to you, to your proposal." Drawing himself up, Hentman said with firmness, "Tell them to ask for Alphane protection from Terra. Tell them they've got to ask the Alphanes to come in here and occupy this moon. So it'll legally become Alphane territory under those damn protocols, whatever they are; I don't quite understand them but the Alphs do and so does Terra. And in exchange --" He did not take his eyes from Chuck's face; tiny, unwinking, his eyes challenged everyone, all things. "The Alphanes will guarantee the civil liberties of the clans. No hospitalization. No therapy. You won't be treated as nuts; you'll be treated as bona fide colonists, owning land and engaging in manufacture and commerce, whatever it is you all do."

"Don't say 'you,'" Chuck said. "I'm not a clan member, here."

"You think they'd go for that, Rittersdorf?"

"I -- don't honestly know.

"Sure you do. You were here before, in that CIA simulacrum. Our agent, our informant at CIA, told us every move you made."

So there was a Hentman person at CIA. He had been right; the CIA had been infiltrated. That was just about par for it, too.

"Don't look at me like that," Hentman said. "They've got some nurt of theirs in here; don't forget that. Unfortunately I could never make out who he is. Sometimes I think it's Jerry Feld; other days I think it's Dark. Anyhow it was through our man at CIA that we learned you had been suspended, and so naturally we let you go -- what good were you to us if you couldn't reach your wife here on Alpha III M2? I mean, let's be reasonable."

Chuck said, "And through their agent in your organization --"

"Yeah, the CIA knew within minutes that I'd canceled the script idea and dropped you so off they went, slamming -- they thought -- the door on me ... as you read in the 'papes. But of course through my agent with them I knew the blade was about to fall, so I got away. And their agent in my organization let them know I had left Terra, only he didn't know where exactly I had gone. Only Cherigan and Feld knew that." Philosophically Hentman said, "Maybe I'll never find out who the CIA has in here. It's not important, now. I kept most of my dealings with the Alphs top secret, even from members of my staff, because of course I knew we'd been infiltrated right from the start." He shook his head. "What a mess."

Chuck said, "Who's your agent at CIA?"

"Jack Elwood." Hentman grinned lopsidedly, gleeful at Chuck's reaction. "How come do you suppose Elwood was willing to release that expensive pursuit ship to you? I told him to. I wanted you to get here. Why do you imagine Elwood urged you so strongly originally to take control of the Mageboom simulacrum? That was my strategy. From the start. Now, let's hear your info about these clans here and which way they'll jump."

No wonder Hentman and his writers had been able to whip together the so-called "TV script" which they had dropped in his lap; through Elwood they had maneuvered at dead-center, just as Hentman was now admitting.

But that was not entirely true. Elwood could inform the Hentman organization of the existence of the Mageboom simulacrum, who operated it and where it was bound. But that was all. Elwood did not know the rest

"Admittedly I was here before," Chuck said. "And spent some time here, but at the Heeb settlement, which isn't representative; the Heebs are at the bottom of the scale. I have no knowledge of either the Pares or the Manses and they're the ones who run the affair, here." He recalled Mary's brilliant analysis of the situation, her account of the intricate caste system in operation on Alpha III M2. It had proved correct.

Hentman, his eyes intense, said, "Will you try it? I personally believe the whole bunch of them have something to gain; if I was them I'd take it. Their alternative is to go back into enforced hospitalization -- and that's it. Take it or leave it ... put it that way to them. And I'll tell you what you'll get out of it."

"By all means," Chuck said. "Dilate on that aspect."

"If you do this we'll instruct Elwood to take you back into the CIA."

Chuck remained silent.

"Kriminy," Hentman said plaintively. "'You don't even bother to answer. Okay, you saw Patty here in the ship. We'll instruct her to be nice to you. Know what I mean?" He winked a hasty, nervous twitch.

"No," Chuck said emphatically. That had turned out too unpleasantly.

"All right, Rittersdorf." Hentman sighed. "We'll really up it. If you'll do this for us we'll toss you a big bone, something out of the class of what I've named." He took a deep raucous breath. "We'll guarantee to do the job of killing your wife for you. As painlessly and quickly as possible. And that's very painless ... and very quick."

***

After what seemed like an endless time to both men Chuck said, "I can't make out why you think I'd like Mary dead." He was able to meet Hentman's shrewd gaze, but the effort required was great.

Hentman said, "Like I said -- I watched you two scrunched down taking potshots at each other like a couple of wild animals."

"I was defending myself."

"Sure," Hentman said, nodding in a parody of compliance.

"Nothing you saw here on this moon involving me and Mary would have told you that. You must have come to Alpha III M2 with that knowledge. And you didn't get it from Elwood because he couldn't have known it either, so spare yourself the nuisance of telling me that Elwood --"

"Okay," Hentman said brusquely. "Elwood retailed to us the part about the simulacrum, you and Mageboom; that's how that got into the script. But I'm not telling you where I got the rest. And that's it."

Chuck said. "I won't go before the council. That's it, too."

Glaring, Hentman said, "What does it matter how I found out? I know; let it rest at that. I didn't ask for the info; we wrote it in as an afterthought because when she told me --" He stopped himself at once.

"Joan Trieste," Chuck said. Working with the slime mold; it had to be that. So now it had emerged. However, it hardly mattered at this point.

"Let's not get sidetracked. Do you want your wife killed or not? Make up your mind." Hentman waited impatiently.

"No," Chuck said. He shook his head. There was no doubt in his mind. The solution lay at hand and he rejected it. And with finality.

Wincing, Hentman said, "YOU want to do it yourself."

"No" he said. That was not the case. "Your offer made me remember the slime mold and Cherigan's killing it there in the hall of my conapt. I could see that happening again, only with Mary instead of Lord Running Clam." And, he thought, that's not what I want at all. Evidently I've been wrong. That terrible event told me something -- and I can't forget it. But what, then, do I want in regard to Mary? He did not know; it was obscure to him, and perhaps it would remain so forever.

Once more Hentman had gotten out his handkerchief to mop his forehead. "What a foul-up. You and your domestic life; it's wrecking the plans of two inter-system empires, Terra's and Alpha's -- did you ever think of it that way? I give up. Frankly I'm glad you said no, but we couldn't seem to find any other inducement we could offer you; we thought that was what you wanted out of all this."

"I thought so, too," Chuck said. It must be that I'm still in love with her, he realized. A woman who murdered that Mans soldier as he tried to get back to his tank. But -- at least in her own eyes -- she had been trying to protect herself, and who could blame her for that?

Again there was a knock at the door. "Mr. Hentman?"

Bunny Hentman opened the door. Gerald Feld stepped rapidly inside.

"Mr. Hentman, we've picked up the telepathic thought-emanations of a Ganymedean slime mold. It's somewhere nearby outside the ship. It wants to be allowed in so --" He glanced at Chuck. "So it can be with Rittersdorf, here; it says it wants to 'share his fate.'" Feld grimaced. "It's very concerned about him, obviously." He looked disgusted.

"Let the damn thing in," Hentman instructed. As Feld departed Hentman said to Chuck, "To be honest I don't know what's going to become of you, Rittersdorf; you seem to have managed to create a complete mess of your life in every direction. Your marriage, your job, taking your long trip here and then changing your mind ... what do you have?"

"I think perhaps the Paraclete is back," Chuck said. It would seem so, in view of the fact that he had declined, at the final moment, to take Hentman up on his offer regarding Mary.

"What's this thing you're talking about?"

"The Holy Spirit," Chuck said. "It's in every man. But hard to find."

Hentman said, "Why don't you fill the vacuum with something noble, like saving these nuts here on Alpha III M2 from mandatory hospitalization? At least you'd be getting back at the CIA. There are a couple of highly-priced Alphane military characters on the ship ... in a matter of hours they can bring in official craft to take formal, legal possession of this moon. Of course Terran warships are hanging around here, too, but this just shows how carefully it has to be handled. You're an ex-CIA man; you ought to be able to work something tricky like this out."

"I wonder how it would feel," Chuck said, "to spend the rest of my life on a moon populated solely by psychotics.

"How the hell do you think you've been living? I'd call your inter-personal relationship with your wife psychotic. You'll make out; you'll find some fray to bed down with to replace Mary. As a matter of fact when our flare went off we got a reasonably good look -- via the pics -- of the one you were huddled with. She's not so bad, is she?"

"Annette Golding," Chuck said. "Polymorphous schizophrenia."

"Yeah, but even so, won't she do?"

After a pause Chuck said, "Possibly." He was not a clinician, but Annette had not seemed very ill to him. Much less so, in fact, than Mary. But of course he knew Mary better. Still --

Once more there came a rap at the door; it opened and Gerald Feld said, "Mr. Hentman, we've discovered the identity of the individual attacking us. It's the CIA simulacrum, Daniel Mageboom." He explained, "The Ganymedean slime mold in gratitude for our letting it into the ship gave us that information. I have an idea."

"The same idea," Hentman said, "occurs to me. Or if it isn't I don't want to hear it." He turned to Chuck. "We'll contact Jack Elwood at the San Francisco office of the CIA; we'll have him pull the operator off the simulacrum, whoever it is that's operating it, probably Petri." Obviously Hentman was completely familiar with the working of the CIA 's San Francisco office. "Then, Rittersdorf, we'll have you take over operation of the simulacrum from here. As long as his radio contact is maintained you can do it, and we basically need only a handful of instructions for it; simply program it out of action and off the sidelines. Will you do that much?"

Chuck said, "Why should I?"

Blinking, Hentman said, "B-because it's going to get our power supply and blow us up, using that damn laser beam as it is; that's why."

"You'll be killed, too," Feld pointed out to Chuck, "in that event. Both you and your Ganymedean slime mold."

"If I go before the supreme council of this moon," Chuck said to Hentman, "and ask them to seek Alphane protection, and they do -- it may set off another major war between Alpha and Terra."

"Oh hell no," Hentman said emphatically. "Terra doesn't care that much about this moon; Operation Fifty-minutes, that's just a minor, minor afterthought, nothing of importance. Believe me, I've got lots of contacts; I know this. If Terra really cared that much they would have gone in here years ago. Right?"

"What he says is true," Feld said. "Our man at TERPLAN verified this some time ago."

Chuck said, "I think the idea is a good one."

Both Hentman and Feld visibly sighed with relief.

"I'll take it to Adolfville," Chuck said, "and if I can get the clans to reconvene their supreme council I'll put the idea before them. But I intend to do it in my own way. "

"What does that mean?" Hentman inquired nervously.

"I'm not a public speaker or a politician," Chuck said "My job has been programming material for simulacra. If I can get control of Mageboom I'll have him appear before the council -- I can feed him better lines to speak, better arguments, than I could possibly give my own self." And also -- but he did not say this aloud -- he would be a great deal safer here in Hentman's ship than in Adolfville. Because the Terran military could at any moment break the Manses' shield, and one of their first acts would be to round up the inter-plan council. Someone before the council right then, proposing a switch of loyalties to the Alphane empire, would be unlikely to emerge. The proposal, coming from a Terran citizen -- as he himself was -- would be identified, and correctly, as an act of treason.

What I'm doing, Chuck realized with shock, is nothing less than throwing my lot in with Hentman's.

The thoughts of the slime mold came to him, reassuringly. "You have made a wise choice, Mr. Rittersdorf. First your decision to permit your wife to live, and now this. If worst comes to worst we will all wind up subjects of the Alphanes. But under their rule I'm certain we can survive."

Hentman, also hearing the thoughts, grinned. "Shall we shake on it?" he asked Chuck, holding out his hand.

They shook. The treasonable deal, for better or worse, had been made.
admin
Site Admin
 
Posts: 24666
Joined: Thu Aug 01, 2013 5:21 am

Re: Clans of the Alphane Moon, by Philip K. Dick

Postby admin » Thu Jul 16, 2015 4:11 am

THIRTEEN

The bulky Mans tank, clanking and rattling, its headlights blazing, coasted up beside Gabriel Baines and Annette Golding and hiccoughed to a halt. The turret flew open and the Mans within stood up cautiously.

From the surrounding darkness there emerged no laser beam attack by Dr. Mary Rittersdorf. Perhaps, Gabriel Baines thought hopefully, Mrs. Rittersdorf had acceded to the request posted by the Holy Triumvirate, to the letters of fire in the sky. In any case this appeared to be his and Annette's opportunity, as promised by Ignatz Ledebur.

In one swift motion he leaped up, tugged Annette to her feet, and with her scrambled up the side of the Mans tank. The driver helped them inside, banged the hatch shut after them; together the three of them sprawled within the cramped cab of the tank, panting sweatily.

We got away, Gabriel Baines informed himself. But he felt no joy. It did not seem important; in the great scheme it was a very little matter which they had accomplished. Still, it was something. Reaching out he put his arm around Annette.

The Man said, "You're Golding and Baines? The council members?"

"Yes," Annette said.

"Howard Straw ordered me to round you both up," the Mans explained; he got behind the controls of his tank and started it into motion once more. "I'm supposed to take you to Adolfville; there's a further meeting of the interclan council about to take place and Straw insists you have to be there."

And so, Gabriel Baines reflected, because Howard Straw needs us for a vote, we survive; Mary Rittersdorf doesn't get to pick us off in the first light of dawn. Ironic. But it demonstrated the importance of the bond linking the clans. The bonds were life-giving, and to all of them. Even to the lowly Heebs.

When they reached Adolfville the tank let them off at the large central stone building; Gabriel Baines and Annette made their way up the familiar stairs, neither of them speaking; weary and soiled from lying hour after hour out in the open at night they were in no mood to exchange trivialities.

What we need, Baines decided, is not a meeting but six hours' sleep. He wondered what the purpose of this meeting was; hadn't the moon already taken its course of action by fighting the Terran invaders the best it knew how? What more could be done?

At the antechamber of the council room Gabriel Baines paused. "I believe I'll send my simulacrum in first," he said to Annette. With his special key he unlocked the supply closet in which -- by legal right -- he kept his Mans-made simulacrum. "You never know." And it would be a shame to lose one's life at this point, after just now escaping from Mrs. Rittersdorf.

"You Pares," Annette said with a trace of forlorn amusement.

The Gabriel Baines simulacrum wheezed into life as he activated its mechanism. "Good day, sir." It then nodded to Annette. "Miss Golding. I shall go in now, sir." Politely, it bowed its way past the two of them, started somewhat jerkily but briskly into the council room.

"Hasn't all this taught you anything?" Annette asked Gabriel Baines as they waited for the simulacrum's return and report.

"Like what?"

"That there is no perfect defense. There is no protection. Being alive means being exposed; it's the nature of life to be hazardous -- it's the stuff of living."

"Well," Baines said astutely, "you can do the best you can by way of shielding yourself." It never hurt to try. That was part of life, too, and every living creature engaged itself perpetually in attempting it.

The Baines simulacrum now returned and made its formal report. "No deadly gas, no electrical discharge of a dangerous degree, no poison in the water pitcher, no sign of peep-holes for laser rifles, no concealed infernal machines. I would offer the suggestion that you can safely enter." It ceased, then, having completed its task ... but then, to Baines' surprise, it all at once clacked back on again. "However," it stated, "I would call your attention to the unusual fact that there is an-other simulacrum within the council room, other than myself. And I don't like that one bit, not one bit."

'Who?" Baines demanded, astounded. Only a Pare would be so concerned with his self-defense as to employ an expensive sim. And he was of course the sole pare delegate.

"The person to address the council," his Baines-simulacrum replied. "On whom the delegates wait; it is a simulacrum."

Opening the door Gabriel Baines peeped in, saw the other delegates already assembled, and, standing before them, the companion of Mary Rittersdorf, the CIA man Daniel Mageboom, who, according to the slime mold, had been with her in the laser-beam attack on her husband, on the Mans tankman, himself and Annette Golding. What was Mageboom doing here? A lot of good his Baines-simulacrum had been after all.

Against his better judgment, flying in the face of every instinct, Gabriel Baines slowly entered the council room, took his seat.

The next thing, he thought, is for Dr. Rittersdorf to gun us all down collectively from some concealed spot.

"Let me explain," the Mageboom sirrlulacrum said at once, as soon as Baines and Annette Golding were seated. "I am Chuck Rittersdorf, now operating this simulacrum from a nearby spot on Alpha III M2, from the inter-system ship of Bunny Hentman. You may have noticed it; it has a rabbit painted on its side."

Howard Straw said keenly, "So the fact is you're no longer an extension of the Terran intelligence service, the CIA."

"Correct," the Mageboom simulacrum agreed. "We have pre-empted, at least temporarily, the CIA control of this artifact. Here, as quickly as possible, is the proposal which we feel advances the best hope for Alpha III M2, for all the clans. You must formally, as the supreme governing body on the moon, at once request the Alphanes to come in and annex. They guarantee not to treat you as hospital patients but as legitimate settlers. This annexation can be accomplished through the agency of the Hentman ship, since two high-ranking Alphane officials at this moment are --"

The simulacrum bucked, convulsed, ceased speaking.

"Something's wrong with it, " Howard Straw said, standing up.

Abruptly the Mageboom simulacrum said, "Wrzzzzzzzzzimus. Kadrax an vigdum niddddd." Its arms flapped, its head lolled and it declared, "Ib srwn dngmmmmmm kunk!"

Howard Straw stared at it, pale and tense, then turned to Gabriel Baines and said, "The CIA on Terra has cut into the hyper-space transmission from the Hentman ship here." He slapped his thigh, found his side arm, lifted it up and closed one eye to aim precisely.

"What I have just said," the Mageboom simulacrum stated, in a now somewhat altered, more agitated and higher-pitched voice, "must be disregarded as a treasonable snare and an absurd delusion. It would be a suicidal act for Alpha III M2 to seek so-called protection from the Alphane empire because for one reason --

With a single shot Howard Straw disabled the simulacrum; pierced through its vital cephalic unit the simulacrum dropped with a crash spread-eagle to the floor. Now there was silence. The simulacrum did not stir.

After a time Howard Straw put his side arm away and shakily reseated himself at his place. "The CIA in San Francisco succeeded in pre-empting Rittersdorf," he said, unnecessarily in that every delegate, even the Heeb Jacob Simion, had followed the sequence of events firsthand. "However, we have heard Rittersdorf's proposal, and that's what matters." He glanced up and down the table. "We'd better act swiftly. Let's have the vote."

"I vote to accept the Rittersdorf Proposal," Gabriel Baines said, thinking to himself that this had been a close call; without Straw's quick action the simulacrum, again under Terran control, might have blown itself up and gotten them all.

"I agree," Annette Golding said, with great tension.

When the total vote had been verified everyone but Dino Watters, the miserable Dep, turned out to have declared in the affirmative.

"What was wrong with you?" Gabriel Baines asked the Dep curiously.

In his hollow, despairing voice the Dep answered, "I think it's hopeless. The Terran warships are too close. The Manses' shield just can't last that long. Or else we won't be able to contact Hentman's ship. Something will go wrong, and then the Terrans will decimate us." He added, "And in addition I've been having stomach pains ever since we originally convened; I think I've got cancer."

Howard Straw signaled by pressing a buzzer and a council servant entered, carrying a portable radio-transmitter. "I will now make contact with the Hentman ship," Straw stated, and clicked on the transmitter.

***

In contact with the remnants of his organization on Terra, Bunny Hentman lifted his head and with a haggard expression on his face said to Chuck Rittersdorf, "What happened is this. That guy London, chief of the San Francisco branch of the CIA and Elwood's superior, caught on to what was happening; he was monitoring the sim's activities -- must have already been suspicious, no doubt because I got away."

"Is Elwood dead?" Chuck asked.

"No, just in the grang at the S.F. Presidio. And Petri took over once more." Hentman rose to his feet, shut off the line to Terra temporarily. "But they didn't regain control of Mageboom in time."

"You're an optimist," Chuck said.

"Listen," Hentman said vigorously. "Those people in Adolfville may be legally, and clinically insane, but they're not stupid, especially in matters pertaining to their security. They heard the proposal and I bet right now they're voting in favor of it. We should get a call from them by radio any time." He examined his watch. "I say within fifteen minutes." He turned to Feld. "Get those two Alphanes in here, so they can relay the request immediately to their ships of the line."

Feld hurried off. After a pause Hentman, sighing, reseated himself.

Lighting a fat, green, Terran cigar Bunny Hentman leaned back, hands behind his head, regarding Chuck.

Moments passed.

"Does the Alphane empire need TV comics?" Chuck asked.

Hentman grinned. "As much as they need simulacrum programmers."

Ten minutes later the call came through from Adolfville.

"Okay," Hentman said, nodding as he listened to Howard Straw. He glanced at Chuck. "Where are those two Alphanes? Now's the time; now or just plain never."

"I'm here, representing the Empire. It was the Alphane RBX 303; it had hurried flappingly into the room with Feld and its companion Alphane. "Assure them once again that they will not be treated as invalids but as settlers. We are absolutely anxious to make that point clear. Alphane policy has always been --"

"Don't make a speech," Hentman said incisively. "Ring up your warships and get them down to the surface. He handed the transmitter's microphone to the Alphane, rose wearily and walked over to stand beside Chuck. "Jeez," he murmured. "At a time like this it wants to recap on its foreign policy over the last sixty years." He shook his head. His cigar had gone out; now with great deliberateness he relit it 'Well, I guess we're going to learn the answers to our ultimate queries."

"What queries?" Chuck said.

Hentman said briefly, 'Whether the Alphane empire can use TV comics and sim-programmers." He walked away, stood listening to RBX 303 trying by means of the ship's transmitter to raise the Alphane battle fleet. Puffing cigar smoke, hands in his pockets, he silently waited. One would never know from his expression, Chuck reflected, that literally our lives depend on the successful establishment of this conduit of communication.

Twitching with nervous agitation, Gerald Feld came up to Chuck and said, "Where's the Frau Doktor right now?"

"Probably wandering around somewhere below," Chuck said. The Hentman ship, now in an orbit three hundred miles at apogee, no longer had contact, except by radio, with events occurring on the moon's surface.

"She can't do anything, can she?" Feld said. "To fnug this up, I mean. Of course she'd like to."

Chuck said, "My wife, or ex-wife, is a scared woman. She's alone on a hostile moon, waiting for a Terran fleet which probably will never come, although of course she doesn't know that." He did not hate Mary now; that was gone, like so many other things.

"You feel sorry for her?" Feld asked.

"I -- just wish that destiny hadn't crossed her and me up quite so completely as it has. Her in relationship to me, I mean. I have the feeling that in some obscure way which I can't fathom, Mary and I could somehow still have made it together. Maybe years from now --"

Hentman announced, "He's got the line ships. We're in." He beamed. "Now we can get so goddamn completely absolutely bagged that -- well, you name it. I've got the booze here on the ship. Nothing, you understand, nothing at all more is required from any of us; we've done it. We're now citizens of the Alphane empire; we'll pretty soon have license-plate numbers instead of names, but that's okay with me."

Finishing his statement to Feld, Chuck said, "Maybe someday when it doesn't matter I can look back and see what I should have done that would have avoided this, Mary and me lying in the dirt shooting back and forth at each other." Across the darkened landscape of an unfamiliar world, he thought to himself. Where neither of us is at home, and yet where I -- at least -- will probably have to live out the remainder of my life. Maybe Mary too, he hought somberly.

To Hentman he said, "Congratulations."

"Thanks," Hentman said. To Feld he said, "Congratulations, Jerry."

"Thank you," Feld said. "Congratulations and a long life," he said to Chuck. "Fellow Alphane."

"I wonder," Chuck said to Hentman, "if you could do me a favor."

"Like what? Anything."

Chuck said, "Lend me a launch. Let me drop down to the surface."

"What for? You're a hell of a lot safer up here."

"I want to look for my wife," Chuck said.

Raising an eyebrow Hentman said, "You're sure you want that? Yeah, I can see by the expression on your face. You poor damn guy. Well, maybe you can talk her into staying with you on A]pha III M2. If the clans don't mind. And if the Alphane authorities --"

"Just give him the launch," Feld interrupted. "At this moment he's a terribly unhappy man; be doesn' have time to hear what you want to say."

"Okay," Hentman said to Chuck, nodding. "I'll give you the launch; you can drop down there and do anything foolish that appeals to you -- I wash my hands of it. Of course I hope you come back, but if not --" He shrugged. "That's the way these things go."

"And take your slime mold with you when you leave," Feld said to Chuck.

Half an hour later he had parked the launch in a thicket of skinny poplar-like trees and stood in the open air, smelling the wind and listening. He heard nothing. It was only a little world, and nothing much was happening on it; a council had voted, a clan maintained a defensive screen, a few people waited in fear and trembling but probably, as for example the Heebs of Gandhitown, most of the inhabitants shuffled through their psychotic daily routine without interruption.

"Am I insane?" he asked Lord Running Clam, who had slithered off a few dozen yards to a damper spot; the slime mold was aquatropic. "Is this the all-embracing worst thing, of all the possible worst things, that I could do?"

"'Insane,'" the slime mold responded, "is, strictly speaking, a legal term. I consider you very foolish; I think Mary Rittersdorf will probably commit an act of ferocity and hostility toward you as soon as she sets eyes on you. But maybe you want that. You're tired. It's been a long struggle. Those illegal stimulant drugs which I supplied you; they didn't help. I think they only made you more despairing and weary." It added, "Maybe you ought to go to Cotton Mather Estates."

"What's that?" Even the name made him draw back with aversion.

"The settlement of the Deps. Live with them there -- in endless dark gloom." The slime mold's tone was mildly chiding.

"Thanks," Chuck said ironically.

"Your wife is not near," the slime mold decided. "At least I don't pick up her thoughts. Let us move on."

"Okay." He plodded back toward the launch.

As the slime mold followed after him, in through the open hatch, it thought, "There is always the possibility, which you must consider, that Mary is dead."

"Dead!" He stared at the slime mold, halting. "How?"

"As you told Mr. Hentman; there is a war being conducted here on this moon. There have been deaths, although fortunately very few as yet. But the potential here for violent death is enormous. The last we saw of Mary Rittersdorf involved the three mystics, the so-called Holy Triumvirate, and their nauseous psychotic projections in the sky. I suggest therefore that we take the launch to Gandhitown, where the prime mover of the triumvirate, Ignatz Ledebur, exists -- and that is the proper word -- amidst his customary squalor, among his cats, wives and children.

"But Ledebur would never --"

"Psychosis is psychosis," the slime mold pointed out." And a fanatic can never really be trusted."

"True," Chuck said gratingly.

Shortly, they were on their way to Gandhitown.

"I really wonder," the slime mold pondered, "what I hope for your sake; in some respects you would be so much better off if she were --"

"It's my business," Chuck interrupted.

"Sorry," the slime mold thought contritely, but with somber overtones; it could not eradicate them from its musings.

The launch buzzed on with no further interchange between the two of them.

***

Ignatz Ledebur, depositing a heap of cooked, aging spaghetti before his two black-face pet sheep, glanced up to see the launch descend to a landing in the road adjacent to his shack. He finished feeding the sheep, then walked leisurely back to his shack with the pan. Cats of all sorts followed hopefully.

Indoors, he dropped the pan among the encrusted dishes heaped in the sink, paused a moment to glance toward the woman asleep on the wooden planks which made up the dining table. He then picked up a cat, carried it with him outdoors once more. The arrival of the ship did not, of course, come as a surprise; he had already experienced a vision of it. He was not alarmed, but on the other hand he was scarcely complacent.

Two figures, one of them human, the other amorphous and yellow, emerged from the launch. They made their way with difficulty across the discarded trash toward Ledebur.

"You will be gratified to hear," Ledebur said to them, by way of greeting, "that almost at this very moment Alphane warships are preparing to land here on our world." He smiled, but the man facing him did not smile back. The yellow blob, of course, had nothing to smile with. "So your mission," Ledebur said, with a shade of perturbation, "has yielded successful results." He did not enjoy the hostility which emanated from the man; he saw, with his mystical Psionic insight, the man's anger glow in a red, ominous nimbus about his head.

"Where's Mary Rittersdorf?" the man, Chuck Rittersdorf, said. "My wife. Do you know?" He turned to the Ganymedean slime mold beside him. "Does he know?"

The slime mold thought, "Yes, Mr. Rittersdorf."

"Your wife," Ignatz Ledebur said, nodding. "She was doing injurious things out there. Already she had killed one Mans and was --"

"If you don't show me my wife," Chuck Rittersdorf said to Ledebur, "I'm going to hack you to bits." He took one step toward the saint.

Petting the cat which he held with agitation, Ledebur said. "I wish you'd come in and have a cup of tea."

The next he knew he was lying supine on the ground; his ears rang and his head throbbed dully. With difficulty he managed to sit groggily up, wondering what had happened.

"Mr. Rittersdorf hit you," the slime mold explained. "A glancing blow slightly above the cheekbone."

"No more," Ledebur said thickly. He tasted blood; spitting, he sat massaging his head. No vision had forewarned him of this, unfortunately. "She's inside the house," he said, then.

Passing by him Chuck Rittersdorf strode to the door, yanked it open, disappeared inside. Ledebur managed at last to drag himself upright; he stood unsteadily and then, dragging a little, followed.

Indoors, in the front room, he halted by the door, while cats, free to come and go, hopped and scampered and quarreled on all sides of him.

At the bed Chuck Rittersdorf bent over the sleeping woman. "Mary," he said, "wake up." He reached out, took hold of her bare, dangling arm, joggled her. "Get your clothes and get out of here. Come on!"

The woman in Ignatz Ledebur's bed, who had replaced Elsie, gradually opened her eyes; she focused on Chuck's face, then all at once blinked, became fully conscious. She sat reflexively up, then caught hold of the tumble of blankets, wound them about her, covering her small, high breasts.

The slime mold, circumspectly, had remained out doors.

"Chuck," Mary Rittersdorf said, in a low, steady voice, "I came to this house voluntarily. So I --"

He grabbed her by the wrist, yanked her from the bed; blankets fell and a coffee mug bounced and rolled, spilling its cold contents. Two cats who had gone under the bed rushed out in fright, bypassed Ignatz Ledebur in their haste to get away.

Smooth and slender and naked, Mary Rittersdorf faced her husband. "You don't have a thing to say about what I do anymore," she said. She reached for her clothes, picked up her blouse, then rummaged further, as self-possessed as could under the circumstances be expected. She began methodically, garment by garment, to dress; from the expression on her face she might have been entirely alone.

Chuck said, "Alphane ships control this area, now. The Manses are ready to lift their shield to let them in; it's all been accomplished. While you were asleep in this --" He jerked his head toward Ignatz Ledebur. "This individual's bed."

"And you're with them?" Mary asked frigidly as she buttoned her blouse. "Why, of course you are. The Alphanes have seized the moon and you're going to live here under them." She finished dressing, began then to comb her hair at a reasonable, slow rate.

"If you'll stay here," Chuck said, "on Alpha III M2 and not return to Terra --"

"I am staying here," Mary said. "I've already worked it out." She indicated Ignatz Ledebur. "Not with him; this was only for a little while and he knew it. I wouldn't live in Gandhitown -- it's not the place for me, not by any stretch of the imagination."

"Where, then?"

Mary said, "I think Da Vinci Heights."

"Why?" Incredulous, he stared at her.

"I'm not sure, I haven't even seen it. But I admire the Manses; I even admire the one I killed. He never was afraid, even when he was running for his tank and knowing he wouldn't make it. Never in my life have I seen anything resembling that, not ever."

"The Manses," Chuck said, "will never let you in."

"Oh yes." She nodded calmly. "They certainly will."

Chuck turned questioningly to Ignatz Ledebur.

"They will," Ledebur agreed. "Your wife is right " Both of us, he realized, you and I; we've lost her. Nobody can claim this woman for long. It's just not in her nature, in her biology. Turning, he mournfully left the shack, stepped outside, walked over to the spot at which the slime mold waited.

"I think you have showed Mr. Rittersdorf," the slime mold thought to him. "the impossibility of what he is trying to do."

"I suppose so," Ledebur said, without an iota of enthusiasm.

Chuck appeared, pale and grim; he strode past Ledebur toward the launch. "Let's go," he said roughly to the slime mold over his shoulder.

The slime mold, as hastily as was physically possible, followed after him. The two of them entered the launch; the hatch shut and the launch zooped up into the mid-morning sky.

For an interval Ignatz Ledebur watched it go, and then he re-entered the shack. He found Mary at the ice box searching for something out of which to fashion breakfast.

Together he and she prepared their morning meal.

"The Manses," Ledebur pointed out, "are very brutal, in some ways."

Mary laughed. "So what?" she said mockingly.

He had no answer to that. His saintliness and his visions did not help him there, not one bit.

***

After a long time Chuck said, "Will this launch take us back to the Sol system and Terra?"

"Absolutely not," Lord Running Clam said.

"Okay," Chuck said, "I'll locate a Terran warship parked in this region. I'm going back to Terra, accept whatever punitive litigation the authorities have in mind, and then work out an arrangement with Joan Trieste."

The slime mold stated, "In view of the fact that the punitive litigation will consist of a request for the death penalty, any arrangement with Joan Trieste is unlikely."

"What do you suggest, then?"

"Something you will balk at."

Chuck said, "Tell me anyhow." In view of his situation he could not turn anything down.

"You -- ahem. This is awkward; I must put it properly. You must entice your wife into giving you a thorough battery of psychological tests."

After a while he managed to say, "To find out which settlement I would fit best in?"

"Yes," the slime mold said, but reluctantly. "That was the idea. This is not to say you're psychotic; this is merely to determine the drift of your personality in the most general --"

"Suppose the tests show no drift, no neurosis, no latent psychosis, no character deformation, no psychopathic tendencies, in other words nothing? What do I do then?" Without unduly complimenting himself -- at this point he was well beyond that -- he had an inkling that was precisely what the tests would show. He did not belong in any of the settlements here on Alpha III M2; here he was a loner, an outcast, accompanied by no one even remotely resembling him.

"Your long-held urge to murder your wife," the slime mold said, "may well be a symptom of an underlying emotional illness." It tried to sound hopeful, but nonetheless it failed. "I still believe it's worth a try," it persisted.

Chuck said, "Suppose I founded one more settlement here."

"A settlement composed of one person?"

"There must be occasional normals showing up here. People who work their way out of their derangements and possibly children who never developed them. As it stands here you're classified as polymorphous schizophrenic until proved otherwise; that's not right." He had been giving this considerable thought, ever since it had first appeared that he might be required to remain on the moon. "They'll come trickling in. Given time."

"The gingerbread house in the woods of this moon," the slime mold mused. "And you inside, waiting stealthily to trap whoever passes by. Especially the children." It tittered. "Pardon me. I shouldn't take this lightly; forgive me."

Chuck said nothing; he merely piloted the launch upward.

"Will you try the tests?" the slime mold asked. "Before going off and founding your own settlement?"

"Okay," Chuck said. That did not seem unreasonable to ask.

"Do you imagine, in view of your mutual hostility toward each other, that your wife can properly administer the tests?"

"I suppose so." Scoring was routine, not interpretive.

The slime mold decided, "I will act as the intermediary between you and her; you will not have to confront each other again until the results are obtained."

"Thanks," Chuck said, with gratitude.

The slime mold said reflectively, "There is one other possibility which although admittedly far-fetched might well be considered. It might yield a great harvest, although of course considerable time would be involved for that to come about." It plunged through to the summation of its thought. "Perhaps you can induce Mary to take the tests, too."

***

The idea came to Chuck as a complete, shocking surprise. For one thing -- his mind moved swiftly, analyzing and introspecting -- he could not see the advantage in it whatever showed up. Because the inhabitants of the moon would not be receiving therapy; that had already been decided, and by his own actions. If Mary revealed herself in the tests -- as well she might -- seriously disturbed, she would simply remain so, continue as she was; no psychiatrist was about enter and begin tinkering with her. So what did the slime mold mean by a "great harvest"?

The slime mold, receiving his rapid thoughts, explained, "Suppose your wife did disclose by means of the testing process that she includes a severe streak of the manic in her makeup. This would be my lay analysis of her, and it evidently is her own as well. For her to recognize this, that she is, like Howard Straw or those wild tank drivers, a Mans, would be for her to face the fact that --"

"You seriously believe it would make her humble? Less sure of herself?" The slime mold patently was no authority on human nature -- and in particular Mary Rittersdorf's nature. Not to mention the fact that for a manic, as well as a Pare, self-doubt was beyond conception; their entire emotional structure was predicated on a sense of certitude.

How simple it would be if the slime mold's naive view were correct, if a severely disturbed person had only to see his test results to comprehend and accept his psychological deformation. Lord, Chuck thought dismally. If there's one thing that contemporary psychiatry has shown, it's that. Merely knowing that you are mentally sick won't make you well, any more than knowing you have a heart condition provides a suddenly sound heart.

In fact, the opposite would more than likely be the case. Mary, fortified by the companionship of a settlement of those resembling her, would be stabilized forever: her manic tendency would have received social sanction. She would probably wind up as the mistress of Howard Straw, perhaps even eventually replace him as the Mans delegate to the supreme inter-clan council. At Da Vinci Heights she would rise to power -- by treading on those around her.

"Nevertheless," the slime mold persisted, "when I ask her to give you the tests I will beg her to do the same for herself. I still believe that some good can arise out of this. Know thyself; that was an ancient Terran slogan. is it not? Dating from your highly-praised Greek antiquity. I can't help thinking that to know yourself is to provide yourself with a weapon by which you non-telepathic species may reshape your psyche until --"

"Until just what?"

The slime mold was silent; clearly when it came right down to it the slime mold did not actually know.

"Give her the tests," Chuck said. "And we'll see." We'll see who is right, he thought. He hoped that it would be the slime mold.

***

That night in Da Vinci Heights, very late, Lord Running Clam after much delicate negotiation managed to persuade Dr. Mary Rittersdorf to take a full spectrum of psychological profile tests and then to administer, in her professional capacity, the same group of tests to her husband.

In the intricately-decorated, convoluted home of the Mans council delegate, Howard Straw, the three of them faced one another; Straw himself lurked in the background, amused by what was taking place, aloof and constitutionally contemptuous. He sat and sketched with pastel crayons, rapidly, a series of portraits of Mary; this was only one of his many artistic and creative pursuits and even at this time of upheaval, with the Alphane warships landing on the moon one behind another, he did not abandon it. Typically Mans, he had countless irons in the fire simultaneously; he was multi-sided.

Mary, with the test results spread out before her on Howard Straw's handwrought handsome wood and black-iron table, said, "This is a dreadful thing for me to have to admit, but it was a good idea. The two of us subjecting ourselves to these standard psych-profile testing procedures. Frankly I'm surprised at the results. Obviously -- it goes without saying -- I should have been exposing myself at regular intervals to such tests ... in view of the results." She sat back, willowy and supple in her white turtleneck sweater and Titanian og-metal slacks; getting out a cigarette with trembling fingers she lit up. "You're without a trace of mental disturbance, dear," she said to Chuck, who sat across from her. "Merry Christmas," she added, and smiled frozenly.

"What about you?" Chuck said, constricted in his throat and heart with tension.

"I'm not Mans at all. In fact I'm just the opposite; I reveal a marked agitated depression. I'm a Dep." She continued to smile; it was a worthy effort on her part and he took note of it, of her courage. "My continual pressing of you regarding your income -- that was certainly due to my depression, my delusional sense that everything had gone wrong, that something had to be done or we were doomed." She stubbed her cigarette out, all at once, and lit another. To Howard Straw she said, "What's your reaction to that?"

"Tough," Straw said with his customary lack of empathy, "you won't be living here after all; you'll be situated over at Cotton Mather Estates. With happy-boy Dino Watters and the rest like him," He chuckled. "And some of them are even worse, as you're going to discover. We'll let you hang around here a few days but then you've absolutely got to go. You're just not one of us." He added, in a little less brutal tone, "If you could have foreseen this moment when you volunteered to TERPLAN for this job, this Operation Fifty- minutes -- I'll bet you would have thought twice. Am I right?" He gazed at her penetratingly.

She shrugged without answering. And then all at once, to the surprise of all of them, she began to cry. "Jesus, I don't want to live with those damn Deps," she whispered. "I'm going back to Terra." To Chuck she said, "I can, but you can't. I don't have to stay here and find a niche. Like you do."

The slime mold's thoughts reached Chuck. "Now that you've received your tests results what do you intend to do, Mr. Rittersdorf?"

"Go ahead and found my own settlement," Chuck said. "I'm calling it Thomas Jeffersonburg. Mather was a Dep, Da Vinci was a Mans, Adolf Hitler was a Pare, Gandhi was a Heeb. Jefferson was a --" He hunted for the correct word. "A Norm. That will be Thomas Jeffersonburg: the Norm settlement. So far containing only one person, but with great anticipations for the future." At least the problem of picking the delegate to the supreme inter-clan council is automatically solved, he thought to himself.

"You're an absolute fool," Howard Straw said disparagingly. "Nobody'll ever show up and live with you in your settlement. You'll spend the rest of your life in isolation -- six weeks from now you'll be out of your mind; you'll be ready for every other settlement on the moon, except of course this one."

"Maybe so." Chuck nodded. But he was not so positive as Straw. He was thinking once more of Annette Golding, for one. Surely in her case it would not require much; she was so close to rationality, to a balanced outlook. There was virtually nothing separating himself from her. And if there existed one such as this, there had to be more. He had a feeling that he would not be the sole inhabitant of Thomas Jeffersonburg for long. But even if he were --

He would wait it out. For however much time it took. And he would get help in building his settlement; already he had established what appeared to be a solid working relationship with the Pare rep, Gabriel Baines, and that portended something. If he could get along with Baines he probably could get along with the several clans as such, with perhaps the possible exception of Manses such as Straw and of course the noxious, deteriorated Heebs like Ignatz Ledebur, who had no sense of inter-personal responsibility.

"I feel sick," Mary said, her lips trembling. "Will you come and visit me in Cotton Mather Estates, Chuck? I'm not going to be stuck with just Deps around me the rest of my life, am I?"

"You said --" he began.

"I just can't go back to Terra, not if I'm sick; not with what those tests showed."

"Of course," he said. "I'll be glad to visit you." As a matter of fact he expected to spend a good deal of his time at the other settlements. By this he would forestall Howard Straw's prophecy from coming true. By this -- and a great deal else.

'When I next sporify," the slime mold thought to him, "there will be a reasonably large number of myselves; some of us will be glad to settle in Thomas Jeffersonburg. And we will stay away from burning autos, this time."

"Thanks," Chuck said. "I'll be grateful to have you. All of you."

Howard Straw's jeering, manic laugh filled the room; the idea seemed to awaken his cynical amusement. However, no one paid attention to him. Straw shrugged, returned to his pastel sketching.

Outside the house the retro-rockets of a warship roared as the ship expertly settled to a landing. The Alphane occupation of Da Vinci Heights, long delayed, was about to begin.

Rising to his feet and opening the front door Chuck Rittersdorf stepped out into the night darkness to watch and listen. For a time he stood alone, smoking, hearing the sounds that gradually settled lower and lower to the surface of the moon, came to rest in a silence that seemed permanent. It would be a long time, perhaps after he himself had disappeared from the scene, before they would be taking off again; he felt that keenly as he lounged in the darkness, close by Howard Straw's front door.

All at once the door behind him opened. His wife, or more specifically his former wife, stepped out, shut the door after her and stood beside him, not speaking; together the two of them listened to the racket of the descending Alphane warships and admired the fiery trails in the sky, each enclosed in his own thoughts.

"Chuck," Mary said abruptly, "you know we have to do one vital thing ... you probably haven't thought about it but if we're going to settle here we've got to find some way to get our children from Terra."

"That's right." Actually he had thought of it; he nodded. "But would you want to bring the kids up here?" Especially Debby, he thought. She was extremely sensitive; undoubtedly she would, living here, pick up the deranged patterns of belief and conduct from the psychotic majority. It was going to be a difficult problem.

Mary said, "If I'm sick --" She did not finish; it was unnecessary. Because if she were sick, Debby would already have been exposed to the subtle play of mental illness operating within the close quarters of family life. The harm, if it were to be done, had already been accomplished.

Tossing his cigarette away into the darkness Chuck put his arm around his wife's small waist and drew her against him; he kissed the top of her head, smelling the warm, sweet odor of her hair. "We'll take the chance, exposing the children to this environment. Maybe they'll supply a model to the other children here ... we can put them into the common school which is maintained here on Alpha III M2; I'd be willing to risk it, if you would. What do you say?"

"Okay," Mary said remotely. And then more vigorously she said, "Chuck, do you really think we have a chance, you and I? Of working out a new basis of living ... by which we can be around one another for a prolonged time? Or are we just --" She gestured, "Just going to drift back into the old ways of hatred and suspicion and all the rest."

"I don't know," he said, and that was the truth.

"Lie to me. Tell me we can do it."

"We can do it."

"You really think so? Or are you lying?'"

"I'm --"

"Say you're not lying." Her voice was urgent.

"I'm not lying," he said. "1 know we can do it. We're both young and viable and we're not rigid like the Pares and the Manses. Right?"

"Right" Mary was silent a moment and then she said, "You're sure you don't prefer that Poly girl, that Annette Golding, to me? Be honest."

"I prefer you." And this time he was not lying.

"What about that girl Alfson took the potent-pics of? You and that Joan whatever-her-name-is ...1 mean, you actually went to bed with her."

"I still prefer you."

"Tell me why you prefer me," she said. "Sick and mean as I am."

"I can't exactly say." In fact he could not explain it at all; it was in the nature of a mystery. Still, it was the truth; he felt its validity within him.

"I wish you luck in your one-man settlement," Mary said. "One man and a dozen slime molds." She laughed. "What a crazy enclave. Yes, I'm sure we should bring our children here. I used to think that I was so -- you know. So completely different from my patients. They were sick and I wasn't. Now --" She became silent.

"There's not that much difference," he finished for her.

"You don't feel that about yourself, do you? That you're basically different from me ... after all, you do test out as being well and I don't."

"It's just degree," he said, and meant it. Suicidal impulses had motivated him, and after that hostile, murderous impulses toward her -- and yet he tested out satisfactorily on the formal graphs derived from long-accepted testing procedures, while Mary did not. What a slight degree it was. She, as well as he, as well as everyone on Alpha III M2 including the arrogant Mans rep Howard Straw, struggled for balance, for insight; it was a natural tendency for living creatures. Hope always existed, even perhaps -- God forbid -- for the Heebs. Although unfortunately the hope for those of Gandhitown was slender indeed.

He thought: And the hope is slender enough for us of Terra. We who have just now emigrated to Alpha III M2. Yet -- it is there.

"I've decided, " Mary announced huskily, "that I love you."

"Okay," he agreed, pleased.

Abruptly, obliterating his tranquil state, a sharp, highly-articulated rumination by the slime mold reached him. "As long as it is confession-of-feeling-and-deeds time, I suggest that your wife lay on the table the full account of her brief affair with Bunny Hentman." It corrected itself, "I retract the expression, 'lay on the table,' as unbelievably unfortunate. However my basic point remains: so anxious was she that you obtain employment with high financial return --"

"'Let me say it, " Mary said.

"Please do," the slime mold agreed. "And I will speak up again only if you are remiss as regards completeness of account."

Mary said, "I had a very short affair with Bunny Hentman, Chuck. Just prior to my leaving Terra. That's all there is."

'There is more," the slime mold contradicted.

"Details?" she said hotly. "Do I have to tell exactly when and where we --"

"Not that. Another aspect of your relationship with Hentman."

"All right." Resignedly Mary nodded. "During those four days," she said to Chuck, "I told Bunny that as I saw it, using all my experience with marital break-ups, I foresaw -- based on my knowledge of your personality -- that you'd try to kill me. If you failed in your suicide attempt." She was silent, then. "I don't know why I told him. Maybe I was scared. Evidently I had to tell someone and I was with him quite a bit, then."

So it had not been Joan. He felt a little better about the whole thing, knowing this. And he could hardly blame Mary for what she had done. It was a wonder she hadn't gone to the police; evidently she was telling the truth when she said she loved him. This shed new light on her; she had forfeited a chance to injure him, and at a time of great crisis.

"Maybe we'll have more children while we're here on this moon," Mary said. "Like the slime molds ... we arrived and we'll increase in numbers until we become legion. The majority." She laughed in an odd, soft way, and, in the darkness, relaxed against him, as she had not done in ages.

In the sky the Alphane ships continued to appear and both he and Mary remained silent, planning out schemes by which to obtain the children. It would be difficult, he realized soberly, perhaps even more tricky than anything they had done so far. But possibly the remains of the Hentman organization could assist them. Or some of the slime mold's countless business contacts among Terrans and non-Terrans. Both were distinct possibilities. And Hentman's agent who had infiltrated the CIA, his former boss Jack Elwood ... but Elwood was now in jail. Anyhow if unhappily enough their efforts failed, as Mary said they would be having more children; this did not make up for the ones lost, but it would be a good omen, one that could not be overlooked.

"Do you love me, too?" Mary asked, her lips close to his ear.

"Yes," he said truthfully. And then he said, "Ouch." Because without warning she had bitten him, nearly severing the lobe of his ear.

That, too, seemed to him an omen.

But of what he could not quite yet tell.
admin
Site Admin
 
Posts: 24666
Joined: Thu Aug 01, 2013 5:21 am

Previous

Return to Science Fiction

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest