Лекция: Марк Леви 2 страница
«That's a long way off,» Allen said. «Either place.»
They had come to the door leading out, and Mrs. Frost halted. «You've been in a position to watch T-M. What do you think of it? Be honest with me. Would you call it efficient?»
«The part I see is efficient.»
«What about the output? It buys your packets and it frames them for a medium. What's your reaction to the end
result? Is the Morec garbled along the line? Do you feel your ideas survive projection?»
Allen tried to recall when he had last sat through a T-M concoction. His Agency monitored as a matter of routine, collecting its own duplicates of the items based on its packets. «Last week,» he said, «I watched a television show.» The woman's gray eyebrows lifted mockingly. «Half hour? Or entire hour?»
«The program was an hour but we saw only a portion of it. At a friend's apartment. Janet and I were over playing Juggle, and we were taking a break.»
«You don't mean you don't own a television set.» «The people downstairs are domino for my block. They tumble the rest of us. Apparently the packets are getting over.»
They walked outside and got into the parked Getabout. Allen calculated that this zone, in terms of leasing, was in the lowest possible range: between 1 and 14. It was not crowded.
«Do you approve of the domino method?» Mrs. Frost asked as they waited for Mavis. «It's certainly economical.» «But you have reservations.»
«The domino method operates on the assumption that people believe what their group believes, no more and no less. One unique individual would foul it up. One man who originated his own idea, instead of getting it from his block domino.»
Mrs. Frost said: «How interesting. An idea out of nothing.»
«Out of the individual human mind,» Allen said, aware that he wasn't being politic, but feeling, at the same time, that Mrs. Frost respected him and really wanted to hear what he had to offer. «A rare situation,» he admitted. «But it could occur.»
There was a stir outside the car. Myron Mavis, a bulging
briefcase under his arm, and the Cohort of Major Streiter, his young face stern and his messenger parcel chained to his belt, had arrived.
«I forgot about you,» Mrs. Frost said to her cousin, as the two men got in. The Getabout was small, and there was barely room for all of them. Hadler was to drive. He started up the motor—powered by pile-driven steam—and the car moved cautiously along the lane. Along the route to the Committee building, they passed only three other Getabouts.
«Mr. Purcell has a criticism of the domino method,» Mrs. Frost said to Myron Mavis.
Mavis grunted unintelligibly, then blinked bloodshot eyes and roused himself. «Uhuh,» he muttered. «Fine.» He began pawing through a pocketful of papers. «Let's go back to five-minute spots. Hit 'em, hit 'em.»
Behind the tiller, young Hadler sat very straight and rigid, his chin out-jutting. He gripped the tiller as a person walked across the lane ahead. The Getabout had reached a speed of twenty miles an hour, and all four of them were uneasy.
«We should either fly,» Mavis grated, «or walk. Not this halfway business. All we need now is a couple of bottles of beer, and we're back in the old days.»
«Mr. Purcell believes in the unique individual,» Mrs Frost said.
Mavis favored Allen with a glance. «The Resort has that on its mind, too. An obsession, day and night.»
«I always assumed that was window dressing,» Mrs. Frost said. «To lure people into going over.»
«People go over because they're noose,» Mavis declared. Noose was a derisive term contracted from neuro-psychiatric. Allen disliked it. It had a blind, savage quality that made him think of the old hate terms, nigger and kike. «They're weak, they're misfits, they can't take it. They haven't got the moral fiber to stick it out here; like babies, they want
pleasure. They want candy and bottled pop. Comic books from mama Health Resort.»
On his face was an expression of great bitterness. The bitterness was like a solvent that had eaten through the wasted folds of flesh, exposing the bone. Allen had never seen Marvis so weary and discouraged.
«Well,» Mrs. Frost said, also noticing, «we don't want them anyway. It's better they should go over.»
«I sometimes wonder what they do with all those people,» Allen said. Nobody had accurate figures on the number of renegades who had fled to the Resort; because of the onus, the relatives preferred to state that the missing individual had gone to the colonies. Colonists were, after all, only failures; a noose was a voluntary expatriate who had declared himself an enemy of moral civilization.
«I've heard,» Mrs. Frost said conversationally, «that incoming supplicants are set to work in vast slave-labor camps. Or was that the Communists who did that?»
«Both,» Allen said. «And with the revenue, the Resort is building a vast empire in outer space to dominate the universe. Huge robot armies, too. Women supplicants are—» He concluded briefly: «Ill-used.»
At the tiller of the Getabout, Ralf Hadler said suddenly: «Mrs. Frost, there's a car behind us trying to pass. What'll I do?»
«Let it pass.» They all looked around. A Getabout, like their own, but with the sticker of the Pure Food and Drug League, was nosing its way to their left side. Hadler had gone white at this unforseen dilemma, and their Getabout was veering witlessly.
«Pull over and stop,» Allen told him.
«Speed up,» Mavis said, turning in his seat and peering defiantly through the rear window. «They don't own this lane.»
The Pure Food and Drug League Getabout continued to advance on them, equally uncertain of itself. As Hadler
dribbled toward the right, it abruptly seized what seemed to be its chance and shot forward. Hadler then let his tiller slide between his hands, and two fenders scraped shatteringly.
Mavis, trembling, crept from their stopped Getabout. Mrs. Frost followed him, and Allen and young Hadler got out on the other side. The Pure Food and Drug League car idled its motor, and the driver—alone inside—gaped out at them. He was a middle-aged gentleman, obviously at the end of a long day at the office.
«Maybe we could back,» Mrs. Frost said, holding her manila folder aimlessly. Mavis, reduced to impotence, wandered around the two Getabouts and poked here and there with his toe. Hadler stood like iron, betraying no feeling.
The fenders had combined, and one car would have to be jacked up. Allen inspected the damage, noted the angle at which the two metals had met, and then gave up. «They have tow trucks,» he said to Mrs. Frost. «Have Ralf call the Transportation Pool.» He looked around him; they were not far from the Committee building. «We can walk from here.»
Without protest, Mrs. Frost started off, and he followed.
«What about me?» Mavis demanded, hurrying a few steps.
«You can stay with the car,» Mrs. Frost said. Hadler had already strode toward a building and phone booth; Mavis was alone with the gentleman from the Pure Food and Drug League. «Tell the police what happened.»
A cop, on foot, was walking over. Not far behind him came a juvenile, attracted by the convocation of people.
«This embarrassing is,» Mrs. Frost said presently, as the two of them walked toward the Committee building.
«I suppose Ralf will go up before his block warden.» The picture of Mrs. Birmingham entered his mind, the coyly sweet malevolence of the creature situated behind her table, dealing out trouble.
Mrs. Frost said: «The Cohorts have their own inquiry
setup.» As they reached the front entrance of the building, she said thoughtfully: «Mavis is completely burned out. He can't cope with any situation. He makes no decisions. Hasn't for months.»
Allen didn't comment. It wasn't his place.
«Maybe it's just as well,» Mrs. Frost said. «Leaving him back there. I'd rather see Mrs. Hoyt without him trailing along.»
This was the first he had heard that they were meeting with Ida Pease Hoyt. Halting, he said: «Maybe you should explain what you're going to do.»
«I believe you know what I'm going to do,» she said, continuing on.
And he did.
allen purcell returned home to his one-room apartment at the hour of nine-thirty p.m. Janet met him at the door.
«Did you eat?» she asked. «You didn't.»
«No,» he admitted, entering the room.
«I'll fix you something.» She set back the wall tape and restored the kitchen, which had departed at eight. In a few minutes, «Alaskan salmon» was baking in the oven, and the near-authentic odor drifted through the room. Janet put on an apron and began setting the table.
Throwing himself down on a chair, Allen opened the evening paper. But he was too tired to read; he changed his mind and pushed the paper away. The meeting with Ida Pease Hoyt and Sue Frost had lasted three hours. It had been gruelling.
«Do you want to tell me what happened?» Janet asked.
«Later.» He fooled with a sugar cube at the table. «How was the Book Club? Sir Walter Scott written anything good lately?»
«Not a thing,» she said shortly, responding to the tone of his voice.
«You believe Charles Dickens is here to stay?»
She turned from the stove. «Something happened and I want to know what it is.»
Her concern made him relent. «The Agency was not exposed as a vice den.»
«You said on the phone you went to T-M. And you said something terrible happened at the Agency.»
«I fired Fred Luddy, if you call that terrible. When'll the 'salmon' be ready?»
«Soon. Five minutes.»
Allen said: «Ida Pease Hoyt offered me Mavis' job. Director of Telemedia. Sue Frost did all the talking.»
For a moment Janet stood at the stove and then she began to cry.
«Why the heck are you crying?» Allen demanded.
Between sobs she choked: «I don't know. I'm scared.»
He went on fooling with the sugar cube. Now it had broken in half, so he flattened the halves to grains. «It wasn't much of a surprise. The post is always filled from the Agencies, and Mavis has been washed up for months. Eight years is a long time to be responsible for everybody's morality.»
«Yes, you—said—he should retire.» She blew her nose and rubbed her eyes. «Last year you told me that.»
«Trouble is, he really wants to do the job.»
«Does he know?»
«Sue Frost told him. He finished up the meeting. The four of us sat around drinking coffee and settling it.»
«Then it is settled?»
Thinking of the look on Mavis' face when he left the
meeting, Allen said: «No. Not completely. Mavis resigned; his paper is in, and Sue's statement has gone out. The routine protocol. Years of devoted service, faithful adherence to the Principles of Moral Reclamation. I talked to him briefly in the hall afterward.» Actually, he had walked a quarter mile with Mavis, from the Committee building to Mavis' apartment. «He's got a piece of planet in the Sirius System. They're great on cattle. According to Mavis, you can't distinguish the taste and texture from the domestic herds.»
Janet said: «What's undecided?»
«Maybe I won't take it.»
«I want to be alive eight years from now. I don't want to be retiring to some God-forsaken rustic backwater ten light years away.»
Pushing her handkerchief into her breast pocket, Janet bent to turn off the oven. «Once, when we were setting up the Agency, we talked about this. We were very frank.»
«What did we decide?» He remembered what they had decided. They decided to decide when the time came, because it might very well never come. And anyhow Janet was too busy worrying about the imminent collapse of the Agency. «This is all so useless. We're acting as if the job is some sort of plum. It's not a plum and it never was. Nobody ever pretended it was. Why did Mavis take it? Because it seemed like the moral thing to do.»
«Public service,» Janet said faintly.
«The moral responsibility to serve. To take on the burden on civic life. The highest form of self-sacrifice, the omphalos of this whole—» He broke off.
«Rat race,» Janet said. «Well, there'll be a little more money. Or does it pay less? I guess that isn't important.»
Allen said: «My family has climbed a long way. I've done some climbing, too. This is what it's for; this is the goal. I'd like a buck for every packet I've done on the subject.»
The packet Sue Frost had returned, in fact. The parable about the tree that died.
The tree had died in isolation, and perhaps the Morec of the packet was confused and obscure. But to him it came over clearly enough: a man was primarily responsible to his fellows, and it was with his fellows that he made his life.
«There're two men,» he said. «Squatting in the ruins, off in Hokkaido. That place is contaminated. Everything's dead, there. They have one future; they're waiting for it. Gates and Sugermann would rather be dead than come back here. If they came back here they'd have to become social beings; they'd have to sacrifice some part of their ineffable selves. And that is certainly an awful thing.»
«That's not the only reason why they're out there,» Janet said, in a voice so low that he could barely hear her. «I guess you've forgotten. I've been there, too. You took me with you, one time. When we were first married. I wanted to see.»
He remembered. But it didn't seem important. «Probably it's a protest of some sort. They have some point they want to make, camping there in the ruins.»
«They're giving up their lives.»
«That doesn't take any effort. And somebody can always save them with quick-freeze.»
«But in dying they make an important point. Don't you think so? Maybe not.» She reflected. «Myron Mavis made a point, too. Not a very different point. And you must see something in what Gates and Sugermann are doing; you keep going out there again and again. You were there last night.»
He nodded. «I was.»
«What did Mrs. Birmingham say?»
Without particular emotion he answered: «A juvenile saw me, and I'm down for Wednesday's block meeting.»
«Because you went there? They never reported it before.»
«Maybe they never saw me before.»
«Do you know about afterward? Did the juvenile see that?» «Let's hope not,» he said. «It's in the paper.»
He snatched up the paper. It was in the paper, and it was on page one. The headlines were large.
STREITER STATUE DESECRATED
VANDALS IN PARK
INVESTIGATION UNDER WAY
«That was you,» Janet said tonelessly.
«It was,» he agreed. He read the headlines again. «It really was me. And it took an hour to do. I left the paint can on a bench. They probably found it.»
«That's mentioned in the article. They noticed the statue this morning around six a.m., and they found the paint can at six-thirty.»
«What else did they find?»
«Read it,» Janet said.
Spreading the paper out flat on the table, he read it.
STREITER STATUE DESECRATED
VANDALS IN PARK
INVESTIGATION UNDER WAY
Newer York, Oct. 8 (T-M). Police are investigating
the deliberate mutilation of the official statue of
Major Jules Streiter, the founder of Moral Reclama-
tion and the guiding leader of the revolution of
1985. Located in the Park of the Spire, the monu-
ment, a life-size statue of bronzed plastic, was
struck from the original mold created by the foun-
der's friend and life-long companion, Pietro Buetello
in March of the year 1990. The mutilation, des-
cribed by police as deliberate and systematic, ap-
parently took place during the night. The Park of
the Spire is never closed to the public, since it
represents the moral and spiritual center of Newer
«The paper was downstairs when I got home,» Janet said. «As always. With the mail. I read it while I was eating dinner.»
«It's easy to see why you're upset.»
«Because of that? I'm not upset because of that. All they can do is unlease us, fine us, send you to prison for a year.»
«And bar our families from Earth.»
Janet shrugged. «We'd live. They'd live. I've been thinking about it; I've had three hours and a half here alone in the apartment. At first I was—» She pondered. «Well, it was hard to believe. But this morning we both knew something had happened; there was the mud and grass on your shoes, and the red paint. And nobody saw you.»
«A juvenile saw something.»
«Not that. They'd have picked you up. It must have seen something else.»
Allen said: «I wonder how long it'll be.»
«Why should they find out? They'll think it's some person who lost his lease, somebody who's been forced back to the colonies. Or a noose.»
«I hate that word.»
«A supplicant, then. But why you? Not a man going to the top, a man who spent this afternoon with Sue Frost and Ida Pease Hoyt. It wouldn't make sense.»
«No,» he admitted. «It doesn't.» Truthfully he added: «Even to me.»
Janet walked over to the table. «I wondered about that. You're not sure why you did it, are you?»
«I haven't an idea in the world.»
«What was in your mind?»
«A very clear desire,» he said. «A fixed, overwhelming, and
totally clear desire to get that statue once and for all. It took half a gallon of red paint, and some skillful use of a power-driven saw. The saw's back in the Agency shop, minus a blade. I busted the blade. I haven't sawed in years.»
«Do you remember precisely what you did?»
«No,» he answered.
«It isn't in the paper. They're vague about it. So whatever it was—» She smiled listlessly down at him. «You did a good job.»
Later, when the baked «Alaskan salmon» was nothing but a few bones on an empty dinner platter, Allen leaned back and lit a cigarette. At the stove Janet carefully washed pots and pans in the sink attachment. The apartment was peaceful.
«You'd think,» Allen said, «this was like any other evening.»
«We might as well go on with what we were doing,» Janet said.
On the table by the couch was a pile of metal wheels and gears. Janet had been assembling an electric clock. Diagrams and instructions from an Edufacture kit were heaped with the parts. Instructional pastimes: Edufacture for the individual, Juggle for social gatherings. To keep idle hands occupied.
«How's the clock coming?» he asked.
«Almost done. After that comes a shaving wand for you. Mrs. Duffy across the hall made one for her husband. I watched her. It isn't hard.»
Pointing to the stove Allen said: «My family built that. Back in 2096, when I was eleven. I remember how silly it seemed; stoves were on sale, built by autofac at a third of the cost. Then my father and brother explained the Morec. I never forgot it.»
Janet said: «I enjoy building things; it's fun.»
He went on smoking his cigarette, thinking how bizarre it was that he could be here when, less than twenty-four
hours ago, he had japed the statue. «I japed it,» he said aloud. «You—»
«A term we use in packet assembly. When a theme is harped on too much you get parody. When we make fun of a stale theme we say we've japed it.»
«Yes,» she agreed. «I know. I've heard you parody some of Blake-Moffet's stuff.»
«The part that bothers me,» Allen said, «is this. On Sunday night I japed the statue of Major Streiter. And on Monday morning Mrs. Sue Frost came to the Agency. By six o'clock I was listening to Ida Pease Hoyt offer me the directorship of Telemedia.»
«How could there be a relationship?» «It would have to be complex.» He finished his cigarette. «So roundabout that everybody and everything in the universe would have to be brought in. But I feel it's there. Some deep, underlying causal connection, not chance. Not coincidence.»
«Tell me how you—japed it.»
«Can't. Don't remember.» He got to his feet. «Don't you wait up. I'm going downtown and look at it; they probably haven't had time to start repairs.»
Janet said instantly: «Please don't go out.» «Very necessary,» he said, looking around for his coat. The closet had absorbed it, and he pulled the closet back into the room. «There's a dim picture in my mind, nothing firm. All things considered, I really should have it clear. Maybe then I can decide about T-M.»
Without a word Janet passed by him and out into the hall. She was on her way to the bathroom, and he knew why. With her went a collection of bottles: she was going to swallow enough sedatives to last her the balance of the night. «Take it easy,» he warned.
There was no answer from the closed bathroom door. Allen hung around a moment, and then left.
the park was in shadows, and icy-dark. Here and there small groups of people had collected like pools of nocturnal rain water. Nobody spoke. They seemed to be waiting, hoping in some vague way for something to happen.
The statue had been erected immediately before the spire, on its own platform, in the center of a gravel ring. Benches surrounded the statue so that persons could feed the pigeons and doze and talk while contemplating its grandeur. The rest of the Park was sloping fields of wet grass, a few opaque humps of shrubs and trees, and, at one end, a gardener's shed.
Allen reached the center of the Park and halted. At first he was confused; nothing familiar was visible. Then he realized what had happened. The police had boarded the statue up. Here was a square wooden frame, a gigantic box. So he wasn't going to see it after all. He wasn't going to find out what he had done.
Presently, as he stood dully staring, he became aware that somebody was beside him. A seedy, spindly-armed citizen in a long, soiled overcoat, was also staring at the box.
For a time neither man spoke. Finally the citizen hawked and spat into the grass. «Sure can't see worth a d--n [sic].»
«They put that up on purpose,» the thin citizen said. «So you can't see. You know why?»
«Why,» Allen said.
The thin citizen leaned at him. «Anarchists got to it.
Multilated [sic] it terribly. The police caught some of them; some they didn't catch. The ringleader, they didn't catch him. But they will. And you know what they'll find?»
«What,» Allen said.
«They'll find he's paid by the Resort. And this is just the first.»
«Within the next week,» the thin citizen revealed, «public buildings are going to be bombed. The Committee building, T-M. And then they put the radioactive particles in the drinking water. You'll see. It already tastes wrong. The police know, but their hands are tied.»
Next to the thin citizen a short, fat, red-haired man smoking a cigar spoke irritably up. «It was kids, that's all. A bunch of crazy kids with nothing else to do.»
The thin citizen laughed harshly. «That's what they want you to think. Sure, a harmless prank. I'll tell you something: the people that did this mean to overthrow Morec. They won't rest until every scrap, of morality and decency has been trampled into the ground. They want to see fornication and neon signs and dope come back. They want to see waste and rapacity rule sovereign, and vainglorious man writhe in the sinkpit of his own greed.»
«It was kids,» the short fat man repeated. «Doesn't mean anything.»
«The wrath of Almighty God will roll up the heavens like a scroll,» the thin citizen was telling him, as Allen walked off. «The atheists and fornicators will lie bloody in the streets, and the evil will be burned from men's hearts by the sacred fire.»
By herself, hands in the pockets of her coat, a girl watched Allen as he walked aimlessly along the path. He approached her, hesitated, and then said: «What happened?»
The girl was dark-haired, deep-chested, with smooth, tanned skin that glowed faintly in the half-light of the Park. When she spoke her voice was controlled and without uncertainty.
«This morning they found the statue to be quite different. Didn't you read about it? There was an account in the newspaper.»
«I read about it,» he said. The girl was up on a rise of grass, and he joined her.
There, in the shadows below them, were the remnants of the statue, damaged in a cunning way. The image of bronzed plastic had been caught unguarded; in the night it had been asleep. Standing here now he could take an objective view; he could detach himself from the event and see it as an outsider, as a person—like these persons—coming by accident, and wondering.
Across the gravel were large ugly drops of red. It was the enamel from the art department of his Agency. But he could suppose the apocalyptic quality of it; he could imagine what these people imagined.
The trail of red was blood, the statue's blood. Up from the wet, loose-packed soil of the Park had crept its enemy; the enemy had taken told and bitten through its carotid artery. The statue had bled all over its own legs and feet; it had gushed red slimy blood and died.
He, standing with the girl, knew it was dead. He could feel the emptiness behind the wooden box; the blood had run out leaving a hollow container. It seemed now as if the statue had tried to defend itself. But it had lost, and no quick-freeze would save it. The statue was dead forever.
«How long have you been here?» the girl asked.
«Just a couple of minutes,» he said.
«I was here this morning. I saw it on my way to work.»
Then he realized, she had seen it before the box was erected. «What did they do to it?» he asked, earnestly eager to find out. «Could you tell?»
The girl said: «Don't be scared.»
«I'm not scared.» He was puzzled.
«You are. But it's all right.» She laughed. «Now they'll have to take it down. They can't repair it.»
«You're glad,» he said, awed.
The girl's eyes filled with light, a rocking amusement. «We should celebrate. Have ourselves a ball.» Then her eyes faded. «If he can get away with it, whoever he was, whoever did it. Let's get out of here—okay? Come on.»
She led him across the grass to the sidewalk and the lane beyond. Hands in her pockets, she walked rapidly along, and he followed. The night air was chilly and sharp, and, gradually, it cleared from his mind the mystical dream-like presence of the Park.
«I'm glad to get out of there,» he murmured finally.
With an uneasy toss of her head the girl said: «It's easy to go in there, hard to get out.»
«You felt it?»
«Of course. It wasn't so bad this morning, when I walked by. The sun was shining; it was daylight. But tonight—» She shivered. «I was there an hour before you came and woke me up. Just standing, looking at it. In a trance.»
«What got me,» he said, «were those drops. They looked like blood.»
«Just paint,» she answered matter-of-factly. Reaching into her coat she brought out a folded newspaper. «Want to read? A common fast-drying enamel, used by a lot of offices. Nothing mysterious about it.»