The Marching Morons, by C. M. Kornbluth

The Marching Morons, by C. M. Kornbluth

Postby admin » Sat Mar 11, 2017 3:04 am

Part 1 of 2

The Marching Morons
C. M. Kornbluth
Originally published in Galaxy Science Fiction
April 1951

Included in The Science Fiction Hall of Fame, Vol. Two
for one of the best novellas up to 1965 and as selected
by the Science Fiction Writers of America

Some things had not changed. A potter's wheel was still a potter's wheel and
clay was still clay. Efim Hawkins had built his shop near Goose Lake, which had
a narrow band of good fat clay and a narrow beach of white sand. He fired
three bottle-nosed kilns with willow charcoal from the wood lot. The wood lot
was also useful for long walks while the kilns were cooling; if he let himself
stay within sight of them, he would open them prematurely, impatient to see
how some new shape or glaze had come through the fire, and — ping! — the
new shape or glaze would be good for nothing but the shard pile back of his slip

A business conference was in full swing in his shop, a modest cube of
brick, tile-roofed, as the Chicago–Los Angeles "rocket" thundered overhead —
very noisy, very swept-back, very fiery jets, shaped as sleekly swift-looking as
an airborne barracuda.

The buyer from Marshall Field's was turning over a black-glazed one-liter
carafe, nodding approval with his massive, handsome head. "This is real
pretty," he told Hawkins and his own secretary, Gomez-Laplace. "This has got
lots of what ya call real est'etic principles. Yeah, it's real pretty."

"How much?" the secretary asked the potter.

"Seven-fifty each in dozen lots," said Hawkins. "I ran up fifteen dozen
last month."

"They are real est'etic," repeated the buyer from Field's. "I will take
them all."

"I don't think we can do that, doctor," said the secretary. "They'd cost us
$1,350. That would leave only $532 in our quarter's budget. And we still have
to run down to East Liverpool to pick up some cheap dinner sets."

"Dinner sets?" asked the buyer, his big face full of wonder.

"Dinner sets. The department's been out of them for two months now.
Mr. Garvy-Seabright got pretty nasty about it yesterday. Remember?"

"Garvy-Seabright, that meat-headed bluenose," the buyer said
contemptuously. "He don't know nothin' about est'etics. Why for don't he lemme
run my own department?" His eye fell on a stray copy of Whambozambo
Comix and he sat down with it. An occasional deep chuckle or grunt of surprise
escaped him as he turned the pages.

Uninterrupted, the potter and the buyer's secretary quickly closed a deal
for two dozen of the liter carafes. "I wish we could take more," said the
secretary, "but you heard what I told him. We've had to turn away customers
for ordinary dinnerware because he shot the last quarter's budget on some
Mexican piggy banks some equally enthusiastic importer stuck him with. The
fifth floor is packed solid with them."

"I'll bet they look mighty est'etic."

"They're painted with purple cacti."

The potter shuddered and caressed the glaze of the sample carafe.
The buyer looked up and rumbled, "Ain't you dummies through yakkin'
yet? What good's a seckertary for if'n he don't take the burden of de-tail off'n
my back, harh?"

"We're all through, doctor. Are you ready to go?"

The buyer grunted peevishly, dropped Whambozambo Comix on the floor
and led the way out of the building and down the log corduroy road to the
highway. His car was waiting on the concrete. It was, like all contemporary
cars, too low-slung to get over the logs. He climbed down into the car and
started the motor with a tremendous sparkle and roar.

"Gomez-Laplace," called out the potter under cover of the noise, "did
anything come of the radiation program they were working on the last time I
was on duty at the Pole?"

"The same old fallacy," said the secretary gloomily. "It stopped us on
mutation, it stopped us on culling, it stopped us on segregation, and now it's
stopped us on hypnosis."

"Well, I'm scheduled back to the grind in nine days. Time for another
firing right now. I've got a new luster to try ..."

"I'll miss you. I shall be 'vacationing' — running the drafting-room of the
New Century Engineering Corporation in Denver. They're going to put up a twohundred-
story office building, and naturally somebody's got to be on hand."

"Naturally," said Hawkins with a sour smile.

There was an ear-piercingly sweet blast as the buyer leaned on the horn
button. Also, a yard-tall jet of what looked like flame spurted up from the car's
radiator cap; the car's power plant was a gas turbine, and had no radiator.
"I'm coming, doctor," said the secretary dispiritedly. He climbed down
into the car and it whooshed off with much flame and noise.

The potter, depressed, wandered back up the corduroy road and
contemplated his cooling kilns. The rustling wind in the boughs was obscuring
the creak and mutter of the shrinking refractory brick. Hawkins wondered
about the number two kiln — a reduction fire on a load of lusterware mugs.
Had the clay chinking excluded the air? Had it been a properly smoky blaze?
Would it do any harm if he just took one close —?

Common sense took Hawkins by the scruff of the neck and yanked him
over to the tool shed. He got out his pick and resolutely set off on a
prospecting jaunt to a hummocky field that might yield some oxides. He was
especially low on coppers.

The long walk left him sweating hard, with his lust for a peek into the
kiln quiet in his breast. He swung his pick almost at random into one of the
hummocks; it clanged on a stone which he excavated. A largely obliterated
inscription said:


The potter swore mildly. He had hoped the field would turn out to be a
cemetery, preferably a once-fashionable cemetery full of once-massive bronze
caskets moldered into oxides of tin and copper.

Well, hell, maybe there was some around anyway.

He headed lackadaisically for the second largest hillock and sliced into it
with his pick. There was a stone to undercut and topple into a trench, and then
the potter was very glad he'd stuck at it. His nostrils were filled with the bitter
smell and the dirt was tinged with the exciting blue of copper salts. The pick
went clang!

Hawkins, puffing, pried up a stainless steel plate that was quite badly
stained and was also marked with incised letters. It seemed to have pulled
loose from rotting bronze; there were rivets on the back that brought up flakes
of green patina. The potter wiped off the surface dirt with his sleeve, turned it
to catch the sunlight obliquely and read:


"Honest John," famed in university annals, represents a challenge which
medical science has not yet answered: revival of a human being accidentally
thrown into a state of suspended animation.

In 1988 Mr. Barlow, a leading Evanston real estate dealer, visited his
dentist for treatment of an impacted wisdom tooth. His dentist requested and
received permission to use the experimental anæsthetic Cycloparadimethanol-
B-7, developed at the University.

After administration of the anæsthetic, the dentist resorted to his drill. By
freakish mischance, a short-circuit in his machine delivered 220 volts of 60-
cycle current into the patient. (In a damage suit instituted by Mrs. Barlow
against the dentist, the University and the makers of the drill, a jury found
for the defendants.) Mr. Barlow never got up from the dentist's chair and ass
assumed to have died of poisoning, electrocution or both.

Morticians preparing him for embalming discovered, however, that their
subject was — though certainly not living — just as certainly not dead. The
University was notified and a series of exhaustive tests was begun, including
attempts to duplicate the trance state on volunteers. After a bad run of seven
cases which ended fatally, the attempts were abandoned.

Honest John was long an exhibit at the University museum, and livened many
a football game as mascot of the University's Blue Crushers. The bounds of
taste were overstepped, however, when a pledge to Sigma Delta Chi was
ordered in '03 to "kidnap" Honest John from his loosely-guarded glass museum
case and introduce him into the Rachel Swanson Memorial Girl's Gymnasium
shower room.

On May 22nd, 2003, the University Board of Regents issued the following
order: "By unanimous vote, it is directed that the remains of Honest John
Barlow be removed from the University museum and conveyed to the
University's Lieutenant James Scott III Memorial Biological Laboratories and
there be securely locked in a specially-prepared vault. It is further directed
that all possible measures for the preservation of these remains be taken by
the Laboratory administration and that access to these remains be denied to
all persons except qualified scholars authorized in writing by the Board. The
Board reluctantly takes this action in view of recent notices and photographs
in the nation's press which, to say the least, reflect but small credit upon the

It was far from his field, but Hawkins understood what had happened —
an early and accidental blundering onto the bare bones of the Levantman shock
anæsthesia, which had since been replaced by other methods. To bring
subjects out of Levantman shock, you let them have a squirt of simple saline in
the trigeminal nerve. Interesting! And now about that bronze —
He heaved the pick into the rotting green salts, expecting no resistance,
and almost fractured his wrist. Something down there was solid. He began to
flake off the oxides.

A half hour of work brought him down to phosphor bronze, a huge
casting of the almost incorruptible metal. It had weakened structurally over
the centuries; he could fit the point of his pick under a corroded boss and pry
off great creaking and grumbling striæ of the stuff.

Hawkins wished that he had an archaeologist with him, but didn't dream
of returning to his hops and calling one to take over the find. He was an allaround
man: by choice and in his free time, an artist in clay and glaze; by
necessity, an automotive, electronics and atomic engineer who could also
swing a project in traffic control, individual and group psychology, architecture
or tool design. He didn't yell for a specialist every time something out of his
line came up; there were so few with so much to do ...

He trenched around his find, discovering that it was a great brick-shaped
bronze mass with an excitingly hollow sound. A long strip of moldering metal
from one of the long vertical faces pulled away, exposing red rust that
went whoosh and was sucked into the interior of the mass.

It had been de-aired, thought Hawkins, and there must have been an
inner jacket of glass which had crystallized through the centuries and quietly
crumbled at the first clang of his pick. He didn't know what a vacuum would do
to a subject of Levantman shock, but he had hopes, nor did he quite
understand what a real estate dealer was, but it might have something to do
with pottery. And anything might have a bearing on Topic Number One.
He flung his pick out of the trench, climbed out and set off at a dog-trot
for his shop. A little rummaging turned up a hypo, and there was a
plasticontainer of salt in the kitchen.

Back at his dig, he chipped for another half hour to expose the juncture
of lid and body. The hinges were hopeless; he smashed them off.
Hawkins extended the telescopic handle of the pick for the best
leverage, fitted its point into a deep pit, set its built-in fulcrum and heaved.
Five more heaves and he could see, inside the vault, what looked like a dusty
marble statue. Ten more and he could see that it was the naked body of Honest
John Barlow, Evanston real estate dealer, uncorrupted by time.

The potter found the apex of the trigeminal nerve with his needle's point
and gave him 60 cc.

In an hour Barlow's chest began to pump.

In another hour, he rasped, "Did it work?"

"Did it!" muttered Hawkins.

Barlow opened his eyes and stirred, looked down, turned his hands
before his eyes —

"I'll sue," he screamed. "My clothes! My fingernails!" A horrid suspicion
came over his face and he clapped his hands to his hairless scalp. "My hair!" he
wailed. "I'll sue you for every penny you've got. That release won't mean a
damned thing in court — I didn't sign away my hair and clothes and

"They'll grow back," said Hawkins casually. "Also your epidermis. Those
parts of you weren't alive, you know, so they weren't preserved like the rest of
you. I'm afraid the clothes are gone, though."

"What is this — the University hospital?" demanded Barlow. "I want a
phone. No, you phone. Tell my wife I'm all right and tell Sam Immerman — he's
my lawyer — to get over here right away. GReenleaf 7-4022. Ow!" He had tried
to sit up, and a portion of his pink skin rubbed against the inner surface of the
casket, which was powdered by the ancient crystallized glass. "What the hell
did you guys do, boil me alive? Oh, you're going to pay for this!"

"You're all right," said Hawkins, wishing now he had a reference book to
clear up several obscure terms. "Your epidermis will start growing immediately.
You're not in the hospital. Look here!"

He handed Barlow the stainless steel plate that had labeled the casket.
After a suspicious glance, the man started to read. Finishing, he laid the plate
carefully on the edge of the vault and was silent for a spell.

"Poor Verna," he said at last. "It doesn't say whether she was stuck with
the court costs. Do you happen to know —?"

"No," said the potter. "All I know is what was on the plate, and how to
revive you. The dentist accidentally gave you a dose of what we call
Levantman shock anæsthesia. We haven't used it for centuries; it was powerful,
but too dangerous."

"Centuries ..." brooded the man. "Centuries ... I'll bet Sam swindled her
out of her eyeteeth. Poor Verna. How long ago was it? What year is this?"
Hawkins shrugged. "We call it 7-B-936. That's no help to you. It takes a
long time for these metals to oxidize."

"Like that movie," Barlow muttered. "Who would have thought it? Poor
Verna!" He blubbered and sniffled, reminding Hawkins powerfully of the fact
that he had been found under a flat rock.

Almost angrily, the potter demanded, "How many children did you

"None yet," sniffed Barlow. "My first wife didn't want them. But Verna
wants one — wanted one — but we're going to wait until — we were going to
wait until —"

"Of course," said the potter, feeling a savage desire to tell him off, blast
him to hell and gone for his work. But he choked it down. There was The
Problem to think of; there was always The Problem to think of, and this poor
blubberer might unexpectedly supply a clue. Hawkins would have to pass him

"Come along!" Hawkins said. "My time is short."

Barlow looked up, outraged. "How can you be so unfeeling? I'm a human
being like —"

The Los Angeles–Chicago "rocket" thundered overhead and Barlow broke
off in mid-complaint. "Beautiful!" he breathed, following it with his eyes.


He climbed out of the vault, too interested to be pained by its roughness
against his infantile skin. "After all," he said briskly, "this should have its sunny
side. I never was much for reading, but this is just like one of those stories.
And I ought to make some money out of it, shouldn't I?" He gave Hawkins a
shrewd glance.

"You want money?" asked the potter. "Here!" He handed over a fistful of
change and bills. "You'd better put my shoes on. It'll be about a quarter-mile.
Oh, and you're — uh, modest? — yes, that was the word. Here!" Hawkins gave
him his pants, but Barlow was excitedly counting the money.

"Eighty-five, eighty-six — and it's dollars, too. I thought it'd be credits or
whatever they call them. 'E Pluribus Unum' and 'Liberty' — just different faces.
Say, is there a catch to this? Are these real, genuine, honest twenty-two-cent
dollars like we had or just wallpaper?"

"They're quite all right, I assure you," said the potter. "I wish you'd come
along. I'm in a hurry."

The man babbled as they stumped towards the shop. "Where are we
going — The Council of Scientists, the World Co-ordinator or something like

"Who? Oh, no. We call them 'President' and 'Congress.' No, that wouldn't
do any good at all. I'm just taking you to see some people."

"I ought to make plenty out of this. Plenty! I could write books. Get
some smart young fellow to put it into words for me and I'll bet I could turn out
a best-seller. What's the setup on things like that?"

"It's about like that. Smart young fellows. But there aren't any bestsellers
any more. People don't read much nowadays. We'll find something
equally profitable for you to do."

Back in the shop, Hawkins gave Barlow a suit of clothes, deposited him
in the waiting-room and called Central in Chicago. "Take him away," he
pleaded. "I have time for one more firing and he blathers and blathers. I
haven't told him anything. Perhaps we should just turn him loose and let him
find his own level, but there's a chance —"

"The Problem," agreed Central. "Yes, there's a chance."

The potter delighted Barlow by making him a cup of coffee with a cube
that not only dissolved in cold water but heated the water to boiling-point.
Killing time, Hawkins chatted about the 'rocket' Barlow had admired, and had
to haul himself up short; he had almost told the real estate man what its top
speed really was — almost, indeed, revealed that it was not a rocket.
He regretted, too, that he had so casually handed Barlow a couple of
hundred dollars. The man seemed obsessed with fear that they were worthless,
since Hawkins refused to take a note or I.O.U. or even a definite promise of
repayment. But Hawkins couldn't go into details, and was very glad when a
stranger arrived from Central.

"Tinny-Peete, from Algeciras," the stranger told him swiftly as the two of
them met at the door. "Psychist for Poprob. Polasigned special overtake

"Thank Heaven," said Hawkins. "Barlow," he told the man from the past,
"this is Tinny-Peete. He's going to take care of you and help you make lots of

The psychist stayed for a cup of the coffee whose preparation had
delighted Barlow, and then conducted the real estate man down the corduroy
road to his car, leaving the potter to speculate on whether he could at last
crack his kilns.

Hawkins, abruptly dismissing Barlow and The Problem, happily picked
the chinking from around the door of the number two kiln, prying it open a
trifle. A blast of heat and the heady, smoky scent of the reduction fire
delighted him. He peered and saw a corner of a shelf glowing cherry-red,
becoming obscured by wavering black areas as it lost heat through the opened
door. He slipped a charred wood paddle under a mug on the shelf and pulled it
out as a sample, the hairs on the back of his hand curling and scorching. The
mug crackled and pinged and Hawkins sighed happily.

The bismuth resinate luster had fired to perfection, a haunting film of
silvery-black metal with strange bluish lights in it as it turned before the eyes,
and the Problem of Population seemed very far away to Hawkins then.
Barlow and Tinny-Peete arrived at the concrete highway where the
psychist's car was parked in a safety bay.

"What-a-boat!" gasped the man from the past.

"Boat? No, that's my car."

Barlow surveyed it with awe. Swept-back lines, deep-drawn compound
curves, kilograms of chrome. He ran his hands over the door- or was it
the door?-in a futile search for a handle, and asked respectfully, "How fast does
it go?"

The psychist gave him a keen look and said slowly, "Two hundred and
fifty. You can tell by the speedometer."

"Wow! My old Chevy could hit a hundred on a straightaway, but you're
out of my class, mister!"

Tinny-Peete somehow got a huge, low door open and Barlow descended
three steps into immense cushions, floundering over to the right. He was too
fascinated to pay serious attention to his flayed dermis. The dashboard was a
lovely wilderness of dials, plugs, indicators, lights, scales and switches.

The psychist climbed down into the driver's seat and did something with
his feet. The motor started like lighting a blowtorch as big as a silo. Wallowing
around in the cushions, Barlow saw through a rear-view mirror a tremendous
exhaust filled with brilliant white sparkles.

"Do you like it?" yelled the psychist.

"It's terrific!" Barlow yelled back. "It's-" He was shut up as the car pulled
out from the bay into the road with a great voo-ooo-ooom! A gale roared past
Barlow's head, though the windows seemed to be closed; the impression of
speed was terrific. He located the speedometer on the dashboard and saw it
climb past 90, 100, 150, 200.

"Fast enough for me," yelled the psychist, noting that Barlow's face fell
in response. "Radio?" He passed over a surprisingly light object like a football
helmet, with no traffing wires, and pointed to a row of buttons. Barlow put on
the helmet, glad to have the roar of air stilled, and pushed a pushbutton. It lit
up satisfyingly, and Barlow settled back even farther for a sample of the brave
new world's supermodern taste in ingenious entertainment.

"TAKE IT AND STICK IT!" a voice roared in his ears.

He snatched off the helmet and gave the psychist an injured look. Tinny-
Peete grinned and turned a dial associated with the pushbutton layout. The
man from the past donned the helmet again and found the voice had lowered
to normal.

"The show of shows! The supershow! The super-duper show! The quiz of
quizzes! Take It and Stick It!"

There were shrieks of laughter in the background.

"Here we got the contes-tants all ready to go. You know how we work it.
I hand a contes-tant atriangle-shaped cutout and like that down the line. Now
we got these here boards, they got cutout places the same shape as the
triangles and things, only they're all different shapes, and the first contestant
that sticks the cutouts into the boards, he wins.

"Now I'm gonna innaview the first contes-tant. Right here, honey. What's
your name?"

"Name? Uh-"

"Hoddaya like that, folks? She don't remember her name! Hah? Would you
buy that for a quarter?" The question was spoken with arch significance, and
the audience shrieked, howled and whistled its appreciation.

It was dull listening when you didn't know the punch lines and catch
lines. Barlow pushed another button, with his free hand ready at the volume

"-latest from Washington. It's about Senator Hull-Mendoza. He is still
attacking the Bureau of Fisheries. The North California Syndicalist says he got
affydavits that John Kingsley-Schultz is a bluenose from way back. He didn't
publistat the affydavits, but he says they say that Kingsley- Schultz was saw at
bluenose meetings in Oregon State College and later at Florida
University. Kingsley-Schultz says he gotta confess he did major in fly casting at
Oregon and got his Ph.D. in game-fish at Florida.

"And here is a quote from Kingsley-Schultz: 'Hull-Mendoza don't know
what he's talking about. He should drop dead.' Unquote. HullMendoza says he
won't publistat the affydavits to pertect his sources. He says they was sworn by
three former employes of the Bureau which was fired for in- competence
and in-com-pat-ibility by Kingsley-Schultz.

"Elsewhere they was the usual run of traffic accidents. A threeway
pileup of cars on Route 66 going outta Chicago took twelve lives.

The Chicago-Los Angeles morning rocket crashed and exploded in the Mo-have-
Mo-javvy-whatever-you-call-it Desert. All the 94 people aboard got killed. A
Civil Aeronautics Authority investigator on the scene says that the pilot was
buzzing herds of sheep and didn't pull out in time.

"Hey! Here's a hot one from New York! A diesel tug run wild in the harbor
while the crew was below and shoved in the port bow of the luck-shury liner S.
S. Placentia. It says the ship filled and sank taking the lives of an es-timated
180 passengers and 50 crew members. Six divers was sent down to study
the wreckage, but they died, too, when their suits turned out to be fulla little

"And here is a bulletin I just got from Denver. It seems-"

Barlow took off the headset uncomprehendingly. "He seemed so callous,"
he yelled at the driver. "I was listening to a newscast-"

Tinny-Peete shook his head and pointed at his ears. The roar of air was
deafening. Barlow frowned baffledly and stared out of the window.
A glowing sign said:


He didn't know what Moogs was or were; the illustration showed an
incredibly proportioned girl, 99.9 percent naked, writhing passionately in
animated full color.

The roadside jingle was still with him, but with a new feature. Radar or
something spotted the car and alerted the lines of the jingle. Each in turn sped
along a roadside track, even with the car, so it could be read before the next
line was alerted.


Another animated job, in two panels, the familiar "Before and After."
The first said, "Just Any Cigar?" and was illustrated with a two-person domestic
tragedy of a wife holding her nose while her coarse and red-faced husband
puffed a slimy-looking rope. The second panel glowed, "Or a VUELTA ABAJO?"
and was illustrated with- Barlow blushed and looked at his feet until they had
passed the sign.

"Coming into Chicago!" bawled Tinny-Peete.

Other cars were showing up, all of them dreamboats.

Watching them, Barlow began to wonder if he knew what a kilometer
was, exactly. They seemed to be traveling so slowly, if you ignored the roaring
air past your ears and didn't let the speedy lines of the dreamboats fool you.
He would have sworn they were really crawling along at twenty-five, with
occasional spurts up to thirty. How much was a kilometer, anyway?
The city loomed ahead, and it was just what it ought to be: towering
skyscrapers, overhead ramps, landing platforms for helicopters-
He clutched at the cushions. Those two copters. They were going to—
they were going to—they—

He didn't see what happened because their apparent collision
courses took them behind a giant building.

Screamingly sweet blasts of sound surrounded them as they stopped for
a red light. "What the hell is going on here?" said Barlow in a shrill, frightened
voice, because the braking time was just about zero, and he wasn't hurled
against the dashboard. "Who's kidding who?"

"Why what's the matter?" demanded the driver.

The light changed to green and he started the pickup. Barlow stiffened
as he realized that the rush of air past his ears began just a brief, unreal split
second before the car was actually moving. He grabbed for the door handle on
his side.

The city grew on them slowly: scattered buildings, denser buildings,
taller buildings, and a red light ahead. The car rolled to a stop in zero braking
time, the rush of air cut off an instant after it stopped, and Barlow was out of
the car and running frenziedly down a sidewalk one instant after that.
They'll track me down, he thought, panting. It's a secret police thing.
They'll get you — mind-reading machines, television eyes everywhere, afraid
you'll tell their slaves about freedom and stuff. They don't let anybody cross
them, like that story I once read.

Winded, he slowed to a walk and congratulated himself that he had guts
enough not to turn around. That was what they always watched for. Walking,
he was just another business-suited back among hundreds. He would be safe,
he would be safe ...

A hand tumbled from a large, coarse, handsome face thrust close to his:
"Wassamatta bumpinninna people likeya owna sidewalk gotta miner slamya
inna mushya bassar." It was neither the mad potter nor the mad driver.
"Excuse me," said Barlow. "What did you say?"

"Oh, yeah?" yelled the stranger dangerously, and waited for an answer.
Barlow, with the feeling that he had somehow been suckered into the
short end of an intricate land-title deal, heard himself reply belligerently,

The stranger let go of his shoulder and snarled, "Oh, yeah?"

"Yeah!" said Barlow, yanking his jacket back into shape.

"Aaah!" snarled the stranger, with more contempt and disgust than
ferocity. He added an obscenity current in Barlow's time, a standard but
physiologically impossible directive, and strutted off hulking his shoulders and
balling his fists.

Barlow walked on, trembling. Evidently he had handled it well enough.
He stopped at a red light while the long, low dreamboats roared before him
and pedestrians in the sidewalk flow with him threaded their ways through the
stream of cars. Brakes screamed, fenders clanged and dented, hoarse cries
flew back and forth between drivers and walkers. He leaped backward
frantically as one car swerved over an arc of sidewalk to miss another.
The signal changed to green, the cars kept on coming for about thirty
seconds and then dwindled to an occasional light-runner. Barlow crossed warily
and leaned against a vending machine, blowing big breaths.

Look natural, he told himself. Do something normal! Buy something
from the machine!

He fumbled out some change, got a newspaper for a dime, a
handkerchief for a quarter and a candy bar for another quarter.
The faint chocolate smell made him ravenous suddenly. He clawed at
the glassy wrapper printed "CRIGGLIES" quite futilely for a few seconds, and
then it divided neatly by itself. The bar made three good bites, and he bought
two more and gobbled them down.

Thirsty, he drew a carbonated orange drink in another one of the glassy
wrappers from the machine for another dime. When he fumbled with it, it
divided neatly and spilled all over his knees. Barlow decided he had been there
long enough, and walked on.

The shop windows were — shop windows. People still wore and bought
clothes, still smoked and bought tobacco, still ate and bought food. And they
still went to the movies, he saw with pleased surprise as he passed and then
returned to a glittering place whose sign said it was THE BIJOU.

The place seemed to be showing a triple feature, Babies Are Terrible,
Don't Have Children, and The Canali Kid.

It was irresistible; he paid a dollar and went in.

He caught the tail-end of The Canali Kid in three-dimensional, full-color,
full-scent production. It appeared to be an interplanetary saga winding up with
a chase scene and a reconciliation between estranged hero and heroine. Babies
Are Terrible and Don't Have Children were fantastic arguments against
parenthood — the grotesquely exaggerated dangers of painfully graphic
childbirth, vicious children, old parents beaten and starved by their sadistic
offspring. The audience, Barlow astoundedly noted, was placidly champing
sweets and showing no particular signs of revulsion.

The Coming Attractions drove him into the lobby. The fanfares were
shattering, the blazing colors blinding, and the added scents stomach-heaving.
When his eyes again became accustomed to the moderate lighting of the
lobby, he groped his way to a bench and opened the newspaper he had bought.
It turned out to be The Racing Sheet, which afflicted him with a crushing sense
of loss. The familiar boxed index in the lower left-hand corner of the front
page showed almost unbearably that Churchill Downs and Empire City were still
in business ...

Blinking back tears, he turned to the Past Performances at Churchill.
They weren't using abbreviations any more, and the pages because of that were
single-column instead of double. But it was all the same — or was it?
He squinted at the first race, a three-quarter-mile maiden claimer for
thirteen hundred dollars. Incredibly, the track record was two minutes ten and
three-fifths seconds. Any beetle in his time could have knocked off the three-quarter
in one-fifteen. It was the same for the other distances, much worse for
route events.

What the hell had happened to everything?

He studied the form of a five-year-old brown mare in the second and
couldn't make head or tail of it. She'd won and lost and placed and showed and
lost and placed without rhyme or reason. She looked like a front-runner for a
couple of races and then she looked like a no-good pig and then she looked like
a mudder but the next time it rained she wasn't and then she was a stayer and
then she was a pig again. In a good five-thousand-dollar allowances event, too!
Barlow looked at the other entries and it slowly dawned on him that
they were all like the five-year-old brown mare. Not a single damned horse
running had the slightest trace of class.

Somebody sat down beside him and said, "That's the story."

Barlow whirled to his feet and saw it was Tinny-Peete, his driver.

"I was in doubts about telling you," said the psychist, "but I see you have
some growing suspicions of the truth. Please don't get excited. It's all right, I
tell you."

"So you've got me," said Barlow.

"Got you?"

"Don't pretend! I can put two and two together. You're the secret police.
You and the rest of the aristocrats live in luxury on the sweat of these
oppressed slaves. You're afraid of me because you have to keep them ignorant."
There was a bellow of bright laughter from the psychist that got them
blank looks from other patrons of the lobby. The laughter didn't sound at all
Site Admin
Posts: 33891
Joined: Thu Aug 01, 2013 5:21 am

Re: The Marching Morons, by C. M. Kornbluth

Postby admin » Sat Mar 11, 2017 3:07 am

Part 2 of 2

"Let's get out of here," said Tinny-Peete, still chuckling. "You couldn't
possibly have it more wrong." He engaged Barlow's arm and led him to the
street. "The actual truth is that the millions of workers live in luxury on the
sweat of the handful of aristocrats. I shall probably die before my time of
overwork unless —" He gave Barlow a speculative look. "You may be able to
help us."

"I know that gag," sneered Barlow. "I made money in my time and to
make money you have to get people on your side. Go ahead and shoot me if
you want, but you're not going to make a fool out of me!"

"You nasty little ingrate!" snapped the psychist, with a kaleidoscopic
change of mood. "This damned mess is all your fault and the fault of people
like you. Now come along and no more of your nonsense!"

He yanked Barlow into an office building lobby and an elevator that,
disconcertingly, went whoosh loudly as it rose. The real estate man's knees
were wobbly as the psychist pushed him from the elevator, down a corridor and
into an office.

A hawk-faced man rose from a plain chair as the door closed behind
them. After an angry look at Barlow, he asked the psychist, "Was I called from
the Pole to inspect this — this —?"

"Unger updandered. I've deeprobed etfind quasichance exhim
Poprobattackline," said the psychist soothingly.

"Doubt," grunted the hawk-faced man.

"Try!" suggested Tinny-Peete.

"Very well. Mr. Barlow, I understand that you and your lamented had no

"What of it?"

"This of it. You were a blind, selfish stupid ass to tolerate economic and
social conditions which penalized childbearing by the prudent and foresighted.
You made us what we are today, and I want you to know that we are far from
satisfied. Damn-fool rockets! Damn-fool automobiles! Damn-fool cities with
overhead ramps!"

"As far as I can see," said Barlow, "you're running down the best features
of your time. Are you crazy?"

"The rockets aren't rockets. They're turbojets — good turbojets, but the
fancy shell around them makes for a bad drag. The automobiles have a top
speed of one hundred kilometers per hour — a kilometer is, if I recall my
paleolinguistics, three-fifths of a mile — and the speedometers are all rigged
accordingly so the drivers will think they're going two hundred and fifty. The
cities are ridiculous, expensive, unsanitary, wasteful conglomerations of people
who'd be better off and more productive if they were spread over the

"We need the rockets and trick speedometers and cities because, while
you and your kind were being prudent and foresighted and not having children,
the migrant workers, slum dwellers and tenant farmers were shiftlessly and
shortsightedly having children — breeding, breeding. My God, how they bred!"
"Wait a minute!" objected Barlow. "There were lots of people in our
crowd who had two or three children."

"The attrition of accidents, illness, wars and such took care of that. Your
intelligence was bred out. It is gone. Children that should have been born never
were. The just-average, they'll-get-along majority took over the population.
The average IQ now is 45."

"But that's far in the future —"

"So are you," grunted the hawk-faced man sourly.

"But who are you people?"

"Just people — real people. Some generations ago, the geneticists
realized at last that nobody was going to pay any attention to what they said,
so they abandoned words for deeds. Specifically, they formed and recruited for
a closed corporation intended to maintain and improve the breed. We are their
descendants, about three million of us. There are five billion of the others, so
we are their slaves.

"During the past couple of years I've designed a skyscraper, kept Billings
Memorial Hospital here in Chicago running, headed off war with Mexico and
directed traffic at La Guardia Field in New York."

"I don't understand. Why don't you let them go to hell in their own way?"

The man grimaced. "We tried it once for three months. We holed up at
the South Pole and waited. They didn't notice it. Some drafting-room people
were missing, some chief nurses didn't show up, minor government people on
the non-policy level couldn't be located. It didn't seem to matter.

"In a week there was hunger. In two weeks there were famine and
plague, in three weeks war and anarchy. We called off the experiment; it took
us most of the next generation to get things squared away again."

"But why didn't you let them kill each other off?"

"Five billion corpses mean about five hundred million tons of rotting

Barlow had another idea. "Why don't you sterilize them?"

"Two and one-half billion operations is a lot of operations. Because they
breed continuously, the job would never be done."

"I see. Like the marching Chinese."

"Who the devil are they?"

"It was a — uh — paradox of my time. Somebody figured out that if all
the Chinese in the world were to line up four abreast, I think it was, and start
marching past a given point, they'd never stop because of the babies that
would be born and grow up before they passed the point."

"That's right. Only instead of 'a given point,' make it 'the largest
conceivable number of operating rooms that we could build and staff.' There
could never be enough."

"Say!" said Barlow. "Those movies about babies — was that your

"It was. It doesn't seem to mean a thing to them. We have abandoned
the idea of attempting propaganda contrary to a biological drive."
"So if you work with a biological drive —?"

"I know of none which is consistent with inhibition of fertility."
Barlow's face went poker-blank, the result of years of careful discipline.

"You don't, huh? You're the great brains and you can't think of any?"

"Why, no," said the psychist innocently. "Can you?"

"That depends. I sold ten thousand acres of Siberian tundra — through a
dummy firm, of course — after the partition of Russia. The buyers thought they
were getting improved building lots on the outskirts of Kiev. I'd say that was a
lot tougher than this job."

"How so?" asked the hawk-faced man.

"Those were normal, suspicious customers and these are morons, born
suckers. You just figure out a con they'll fall for; they won't know enough to do
any smart checking."

The psychist and the hawk-faced man had also had training; they kept
themselves from looking with sudden hope at each other.

"You seem to have something in mind," said the psychist.

Barlow's poker face went blanker still. "Maybe I have. I haven't heard any
offer yet."

"There's the satisfaction of knowing that you've prevented Earth's
resources from being so plundered," the hawk-faced man pointed out, "that the
race will soon become extinct."

"I don't know that," Barlow said bluntly. "All I have is your word."

"If you really have a method, I don't think any price would be too great,"
the psychist offered.

"Money," said Barlow.

"All you want."

"More than you want," the hawk-faced man corrected.

"Prestige," added Barlow. "Plenty of publicity. My picture and my name
in the papers and over TV every day, statues to me, parks and cities and
streets and other things named after me. A whole chapter in the history

The psychist made a facial sign to the hawk-faced man that meant, "Oh,

The hawk-faced man signaled back, "Steady, boy?"

"It's not too much to ask," the psychist agreed.

Barlow, sensing a seller's market, said, "Power!"

"Power?" the hawk-faced man repeated puzzledly. "Your own hydro
station or nuclear pile?"

"I mean a world dictatorship with me as dictator."

"Well, now —" said the psychist, but the hawk-faced man interrupted, "It
would take a special emergency act of Congress but the situation warrants it. I
think that can be guaranteed."

"Could you give us some indication of your plan?" the psychist asked.

"Ever hear of lemmings?"


"They are — were, I guess, since you haven't heard of them — little
animals in Norway, and every few years they'd swarm to the coast and swim
out to sea until they drowned. I figure on putting some lemming urge into the


"I'll save that till I get the right signatures on the deal."

The hawk-faced man said, "I'd like to work with you on it, Barlow. My
name's Ryan-Ngana." He put out his hand.

Barlow looked closely at the hand, then at the man's face. "Ryan what?"


"That sounds like an African name."

"It is. My mother's father was a Watusi."

Barlow didn't take the hand. "I thought you looked pretty dark. I don't
want to hurt your feelings, but I don't think I'd be at my best working with you.
There must be somebody else just as well qualified, I'm sure."

The psychist made a facial sign to Ryan-Ngana that meant,
"Steady yourself, boy!"

"Very well, Ryan-Ngana told Barlow. "We'll see what arrangement can be

"It's not that I'm prejudiced, you understand. Some of my best friends —"
"Mr. Barlow, don't give it another thought! Anybody who could pick on
the lemming analogy is going to be useful to us."

And so he would, thought Ryan-Ngana, alone in the office after Tinny-
Peete had taken Barlow up to the helicopter stage. So he would. Poprob had
exhausted every rational attempt and the new Poprobattacklines would have to
be irrational or sub-rational. This creature from the past with his lemming
legends and his improved building lots would be a fountain of precious vicious

Ryan-Ngana sighed and stretched. He had to go and run the San
Francisco subway. Summoned early from the Pole to study Barlow, he'd left
unfinished a nice little theorem. Between interruptions, he was slowly
constructing an n-dimensional geometry whose foundations and superstructure
owed no debt whatsoever to intuition.

Upstairs, waiting for a helicopter, Barlow was explaining to Tinny-Peete
that he had nothing against Negroes, and Tinny-Peete wished he had some of
Ryan-Ngana's imperturbability and humor for the ordeal.

The helicopter took them to International Airport where, Tinny-Peete
explained, Barlow would leave for the Pole.

The man from the past wasn't sure he'd like a dreary waste of ice and

"It's all right," said the psychist. "A civilized layout. Warm, pleasant.
You'll be able to work more efficiently there. All the facts at your fingertips, a
good secretary —"

"I'll need a pretty big staff," said Barlow, who had learned from
thousands of deals never to take the first offer.

"I meant a private, confidential one," said Tinny-Peete readily, "but you
can have as many as you want. You'll naturally have top-primary-top priority if
you really have a workable plan."

"Let's not forget this dictatorship angle," said Barlow.

He didn't know that the psychist would just as readily have promised him
deification to get him happily on the "rocket" for the Pole. Tinny-Peete had no
wish to be torn limb from limb; he knew very well that it would end that way if
the population learned from this anachronism that there was a
small élite which considered itself head, shoulders, trunk and groin above the
rest. The fact that this assumption was perfectly true and the fact that
the élite was condemned by its superiority to a life of the most grinding toil
would not be considered; the difference would.

The psychist finally put Barlow aboard the "rocket" with some thirty
people — real people — headed for the Pole.

Barlow was air-sick all the way because of a post-hypnotic suggestion
Tinny-Peete had planted in him. One idea was to make him as averse as
possible to a return trip, and another idea was to spare the other passengers
from his aggressive, talkative company.

Barlow during the first day at the pole was reminded of his first day in
the Army. It was the same now-where-the-hell-are-we-going-to-putyou?
business until he took a firm line with them. Then instead of acting like
supply sergeants they acted like hotel clerks.

It was a wonderful, wonderfully calculated build-up, and one that he
failed to suspect. After all, in his time a visitor from the past would have been

At day's end he reclined in a snug underground billet with the sixty-mile
gales roaring yards overhead, and tried to put two and two together.
It was like old times, he thought — like a coup in real estate where you
had the competition by the throat, like a fifty percent rent boost when you
knew damned well there was no place for the tenants to move, like smiling
when you read over the breakfast orange juice that the city council had
decided to build a school on the ground you had acquired by a deal with the
city council. And it was simple. He would just sell tundra building lots to
eagerly suicidal lemmings, and that was absolutely all there was to solving The
Problem that had these double-domes spinning.

They'd have to work out most of the details, naturally, but what the
hell, that was what subordinates were for. He'd need specialists in advertising,
engineering, communications — did they know anything about hypnotism? That
might be helpful. If not, there'd have to be a lot of bribery done, but he'd make
sure — damned sure — there were unlimited funds.

Just selling building lots to lemmings ...

He wished, as he fell asleep, that poor Verna could have been in on this.
It was his biggest, most stupendous deal. Verna — that sharp shyster Sam
Immerman must have swindled her ...

It began the next day with people coming to visit him. He knew the
approach. They merely wanted to be helpful to their illustrious visitor from the
past, and would he help fill them in about his era, which unfortunately was
somewhat obscure historically, and what did he think could be done about The
Problem? He told them he was too old to be roped any more, and they wouldn't
get any information out of him until he got a letter of intent from at least the
Polar President, and a session of the Polar Congress empowered to make him

He got the letter and the session. He presented his program, was asked
whether his conscience didn't revolt at its callousness, explained succinctly
that a deal was a deal and anybody who wasn't smart enough to protect himself
didn't deserve protection — "Caveat emptor," he threw in for scholarship, and
had to translate it to "Let the buyer beware." He didn't, he stated, give a damn
about either the morons or their intelligent slaves; he'd told them his price and
that was all he was interested in.

Would they meet it or wouldn't they?

The Polar President offered to resign in his favor, with certain temporary
emergency powers that the Polar Congress would vote him if he thought them
necessary. Barlow demanded the title of World Dictator, complete control of
world finances, salary to be decided by himself, and the publicity campaign
and historical write-up to begin at once.

"As for the emergency powers," he added, "they are neither to be
temporary nor limited."

Somebody wanted the floor to discuss the matter, with the declared
hope that perhaps Barlow would modify his demands.

"You've got the proposition," Barlow said. "I'm not knocking off even ten

"But what if the Congress refuses, sir?" the President asked.

"Then you can stay up here at the Pole and try to work it out for
yourselves. I'll get what I want from the morons. A shrewd operator like me
doesn't have to compromise; I haven't got a single competitor in this whole
cockeyed moronic era."

Congress waived debate and voted by show of hands. Barlow won

"You don't know how close you came to losing me," he said in his first
official address to the joint Houses. "I'm not the boy to haggle; either I get
what I ask or I go elsewhere. The first thing I want is to see designs for a new
palace for me — nothing unostentatious, either — and your best painters and
sculptors to start working on my portraits and statues. Meanwhile, I'll get my
staff together."

He dismissed the Polar President and the Polar Congress, telling them
that he'd let them know when the next meeting would be.

A week later, the program started, with North America the first target.
Mrs. Garvy was resting after dinner before the ordeal of turning on the
dishwasher. The TV, of course, was on and it said: "Oooh!" — long, shuddery
and ecstatic, the cue for the Parfum Assault Criminale spot commercial.
"Girls," said the announcer hoarsely, "do you want your man? It's easy to get
him — easy as a trip to Venus."

"Huh?" said Mrs. Garvy.

"Wassamatter?" snorted her husband, starting out of a doze.

"Ja hear that?"


"He said 'easy like a trip to Venus.'"


"Well, I thought ya couldn't get to Venus. I thought they just had that
one rocket thing that crashed on the Moon."

"Aah, women don't keep up with the news," said Garvy righteously,
subsiding again.

"Oh," said his wife uncertainly.

And the next day, on Henry's Other Mistress, there was a new character
who had just breezed in: Buzz Rentshaw, Master Rocket Pilot of the Venus run.
On Henry's Other Mistress, "the broadcast drama about you and your
neighbors, folksy people,ordinary people, real people." Mrs. Garvy listened
with amazement over a cooling cup of coffee as Buzz made hay of her hazy

MONA: "Darling, it's so good to see you again!"

BUZZ: "You don't know how I've missed you on that dreary Venus run."

SOUND: Venetian blind run down, key turned in door lock.

MONA: "Was it very dull, dearest?"

BUZZ: "Let's not talk about my humdrum job, darling! Let's talk about

SOUND: Creaking bed.

Well, the program was back to normal at last. That evening Mrs. Garvy
tried to ask again whether her husband was sure about those rockets, but he
was dozing right through Take It and Stick It, so she watched the screen and
forgot the puzzle.

She was still rocking with laughter at the gag line, "Would you buy it for
a quarter?" when the commercial went on for the detergent powder she always
faithfully loaded her dishwasher with on the first of every month.

The announcer displayed mountains of suds from a tiny piece of the stuff
and coyly added: "Of course, Cleano don't lay around for you to pick up like the
soap-root on Venus, but it's pretty cheap and it's almost pretty near just as
good. So for us plain folks who ain't lucky enough to live up there on Venus,
Cleano is the real cleaning stuff."

Then the chorus went into their "Cleano-is-the-stuff" jingle, but Mrs.
Garvy didn't hear it. She was a stubborn woman, but it occurred to her that she
was very sick indeed. She didn't want to worry her husband. The next day she
quietly made an appointment with the family freud.

In the waiting-room she picked up a fresh new copy of Readers
Pablum and put it down with a faint palpitation. The lead article, according to
the table of contents on the cover, was titled "The Most Memorable Venusian I
Ever Met."

"The Freud will see you now," said the nurse, and Mrs. Garvy tottered
into his office.

His traditional glasses and whiskers were reassuring. She choked out the
ritual: "Freud, forgive me, for I have neuroses!"

He chanted the antiphonal "Tut, my dear girl, what seems to be the

"I got like a hole in the head," she quavered. "I seem to forget all kinds
of things. Things like everybody seems to know and I don't."

"Well, that happens to everybody occasionally, my dear! I suggest a
vacation on Venus."

The Freud stared, open-mouthed, at the empty chair. His nurse came in
and demanded, "Hey, you see how she scrammed? What was the matter
with her?"

He took off his glasses and whiskers meditatively. "You can search me. I
told her she should maybe try a vacation on Venus." A momentary bafflement
came into his face and he dug through his desk drawers until he found a copy of
the four-color, profusely illustrated journal of his profession. It had come that
morning and he had lip-read it, though looking mostly at the pictures. He
leafed through to the article "Advantages of the Planet Venus in Rest Cures."
"It's right there," he said.

The nurse looked. "It sure is," she agreed. "Why shouldn't it be?"

"The trouble with these here neurotics," decided the Freud, "is that they
all the time got to fight reality. Show in the next twitch."

He put on his glasses and whiskers again and forgot Mrs. Garvy and her
strange behavior.

"Freud, forgive me, for I have neuroses!"

Like many cures of mental disorders, Mrs. Garvy's was achieved largely
by self-treatment. She disciplined herself sternly out of the crazy notion that
there had been only one rocket ship and that one a failure. She could join
without wincing, eventually, in any conversation on the desirability of Venus as
a place to retire, on its fabulous floral profusion. Finally she went to Venus.
All her friends were trying to book passage with the Evening Star Travel
and Real Estate Corporation, but naturally the demand was crushing. She
considered herself lucky to get a seat at last for the two-week summer cruise.
The spaceship took off from a place called Los Alamos, New Mexico. It looked
just like all the spaceships on television and in the picture magazines, but was
more comfortable than you would expect.

Mrs. Garvy was delighted with the fifty or so fellow-passengers
assembled before take-off. They were from all over the country and she had a
distinct impression that they were on the brainy side. The captain, a tall,
hawk-faced, impressive fellow named Ryan-Something or other, welcomed
them aboard and trusted that their trip would be a memorable one. He
regretted that there would be nothing to see because "due to the meteorite
season," the ports would be dogged down. It was disappointing, yet reassuring
that the line was taking no chances.

There was the expected momentary discomfort at takeoff and then two
monotonous days of droning travel through space to be whiled away in the
lounge at cards or craps. The landing was a routine bump and the voyagers
were issued tablets to swallow to immunize them against any minor ailments
When the tablets took effect, the lock was opened and Venus was theirs.
It looked much like a tropical island on Earth, except for a blanket of
cloud overhead. But it had a heady, otherworldly quality that was intoxicating
and glamorous.

The ten days of the vacation were suffused with a hazy magic. The soaproot,
as advertised, was free and sudsy. The fruits, mostly tropical varieties
transplanted from Earth, were delightful. The simple shelters provided by the
travel company were more than adequate for the balmy days and nights.
It was with sincere regret that the voyagers filed again into the ship, and
swallowed more tablets doled out to counteract and sterilize any Venus
illnesses they might unwittingly communicate to Earth.

Vacationing was one thing. Power politics was another.

At the Pole, a small man was in a sound-proof room, his face deathly pale and
his body limp in a straight chair.

In the American Senate Chamber, Senator Hull-Mendoza (Synd., N. Cal.)
was saying: "Mr. President and gentlemen, I would be remiss in my duty as a
legislature if'n I didn't bring to the attention of the au-gust body I see here a
perilous situation which is fraught with peril. As is well known to members of
this au-gust body, the perfection of space flight has brought with it a situation I
can only describe as fraught with peril. Mr. President and gentlemen, now that
swift American rockets now traverse the trackless void of space between this
planet and our nearest planetarial neighbor in space — and, gentlemen, I refer
to Venus, the star of dawn, the brightest jewel in fair Vulcan's diadome — now,
I say, I want to inquire what steps are being taken to colonize Venus with a
vanguard of patriotic citizens like those minutemen of yore.

"Mr. President and gentlemen! There are in this world nations, envious
nations — I do not name Mexico — who by fair means or foul may seek to wrest
from Columbia's grasp the torch of freedom of space; nations whose low living
standards and innate depravity give them an unfair advantage over the citizens
of our fair republic.

"This is my program: I suggest that a city of more than 100,000
population be selected by lot. The citizens of the fortunate city are to be
awarded choice lands on Venus free and clear, to have and to hold and convey
to their descendants. And the national government shall provide free
transportation to Venus for these citizens. And this program shall continue, city
by city, until there has been deposited on Venus a sufficient vanguard of
citizens to protect our manifest rights in that planet.

"Objections will be raised, for carping critics we have always with us.
They will say there isn't enough steel. They will call it a cheap giveaway. I say
there is enough steel for one city's population to be transferred to Venus, and
that is all that is needed. For when the time comes for the second city to be
transferred, the first, emptied city can be wrecked for the needed steel! And is
it a giveaway? Yes! It is the most glorious giveaway in the history of mankind.
Mr. President and gentlemen, there is no time to waste — Venus must be

Black-Kupperman, at the Pole, opened his eyes and said feebly, "The
style was a little uneven. Do you think anybody'll notice?"

"You did fine, boy; just fine," Barlow reassured him.

Hull-Mendoza's bill became law.

Drafting machines at the South Pole were busy around the clock and the
Pittsburgh steel mills spewed millions of plates into the Los Angeles spaceport
of the Evening Star Travel and Real Estate Corporation. It was going to be Los
Angeles, for logistic reasons, and the three most accomplished
psychokineticists went to Washington and mingled in the crowd at the drawing
to make certain that the Los Angeles capsule slithered into the fingers of the
blindfolded Senator.

Los Angeles loved the idea and a forest of spaceships began to blossom
in the desert. They weren't very good spaceships, but they didn't have to be.
A team at the Pole worked at Barlow's direction on a mail set-up. There
would have to be letters to and from Venus to keep the slightest taint of
suspicion from arising. Luckily Barlow remembered that the problem had been
solved once before — by Hitler. Relatives of persons incinerated in the furnaces
of Lublin or Majdanek continued to get cheery postcards.

The Los Angeles flight went off on schedule, under tremendous press,
newsreel and television coverage. The world cheered the gallant Angelenos
who were setting off on their patriotic voyage to the land of milk and honey.
The forest of spaceships thundered up, and up, and out of sight without
untoward incident. Billions envied the Angelenos, cramped and on short rations
though they were.

Wreckers from San Francisco, whose capsule came up second, moved
immediately into the City of the Angels for the scrap steel their own flight
would require. Senator Hull-Mendoza's constituents could do no less.
The president of Mexico, hypnotically alarmed at this extension
of yanqui imperialismo beyond the stratosphere, launched his own Venuscolony

Across the water it was England versus Ireland, France versus Germany,
China versus Russia, India versus Indonesia. Ancient hatreds grew into the
flames that were rocket ships assailing the air by hundreds daily.

Dear Ed, how are you? Sam and I are fine and hope you are fine. Is it
nice up there like they say with food and close grone on trees? I drove
by Springfield yesterday and it sure looked funny all the buildings down
but of coarse it is worth it we have to keep the greasers in their place.
Do you have any trouble with them on Venus? Drop me a line some time.
Your loving sister, Alma.

Dear Alma, I am fine and hope you are fine. It is a fine place here fine
climate and easy living. The doctor told me today that I seem to be ten
years younger. He thinks there is something in the air here keeps people
young. We do not have much trouble with the greasers here they keep
to theirselves it is just a question of us outnumbering them and staking
out the best places for the Americans. In South Bay I know a nice little
island that I have been saving for you and Sam with lots of blanket trees
and ham bushes. Hoping to see you and Sam soon, your loving brother,

Sam and Alma were on their way shortly.

Poprob got a dividend in every nation after the emigration had passed
the halfway mark. The lonesome stay-at-homes were unable to bear the
melancholy of a low population density; their conditioning had been to swarms
of their kin. After that point it was possible to foist off the crudest stripped-down
accommodations on world-be emigrants; they didn't care.

Black-Kupperman did a final job on President Hull-Mendoza, the last job
that genius of hypnotics would ever do on any moron, important or otherwise.
Hull-Mendoza, panic-stricken by his presidency over an emptying nation,
joined his constituents. The Independence, aboard which traveled the national
government of America, was the most elaborate of all the spaceships — bigger,
more comfortable, with a lounge that was handsome, though cramped, and
cloakrooms for Senators and Representatives. It went, however, to the same
place as the others and Black-Kupperman killed himself, leaving a note that
stated he "couldn't live with my conscience."

The day after the American President departed, Barlow flew into a rage.
Across his specially-built desk were supposed to flow all Poprob high-level
documents, and this thing — this outrageous thing — called
Poprobterm apparently had got into the executive stage before he had even
had a glimpse of it.

He buzzed for Rogge-Smith, his statistician. Rogge-Smith seemed to be
at the bottom of it. Poprobterm seemed to be about first and second and third
derivatives, whatever they were. Barlow had a deep distrust of anything more
complex than what he called an "average."

While Rogge-Smith was still at the door, Barlow snapped, "What's the
meaning of this? Why haven't I been consulted? How far have you people got
and why have you been working on something I haven't authorized?"

"Didn't want to bother you, Chief," said Rogge-Smith. "It was really a
technical matter, kind of a final clean-up. Want to come and see the work?"

Mollified, Barlow followed his statistician down the corridor.

"You still shouldn't have gone ahead without my okay," he grumbled.

"Where the hell would you people have been without me?"

"That's right, Chief! We couldn't have swung it ourselves; our minds just
don't work that way. And all that stuff you knew from Hitler — it wouldn't have
occurred to us. Like poor Black-Kupperman."

They were in a fair-sized machine shop at the end of a slight upward
incline. It was cold. Rogge-Smith pushed a button that started a motor, and a
flood of arctic light poured in as the roof parted slowly. It showed a small
spaceship with the door open.

Barlow gaped as Rogge-Smith took him by the elbow and his other boys
appeared: Swenson-Swenson, the engineer; Tsutsugimushi-Duncan, his
propellants man; Kalb-French, advertising.

"In you go, Chief!" said Tsutsugimushi-Duncan. "This is Poprobterm."

"But I'm the World Dictator."

"You bet, Chief! You'll be in history, all right — but this is necessary, I'm

The door was closed. Acceleration slammed Barlow cruelly to the metal
floor. Something broke and warm, wet stuff, salty-tasting, ran from his mouth
to his chin. Arctic sunlight through a port suddenly became a fierce lancet
stabbing at his eyes; he was out of the atmosphere.

Lying twisted and broken under the acceleration, Barlow realized that
some things had not changed, that Jack Ketch was never asked to dinner
however many shillings you paid him to do your dirty work, that murder will
out, that crime pays only temporarily.

The last thing he learned was that death is the end of pain.
Site Admin
Posts: 33891
Joined: Thu Aug 01, 2013 5:21 am

Return to Short Stories

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest