Лекция: Марк Леви 10 страница

«Well, Mr. Purcell,» Professor Sugermann began, coughing importantly and fingering his chin, «the Major had many opportunities to see first-hand the ravages of war on principally agricultural and food-producing areas, such as the livestock regions of the West, the wheat fields of Kansas, the dairy industry of New England. These were all but wiped out, and naturally, as we all know, there was intensive deprivation if not actual starvation. This contributed to a decline of over-all productivity affecting industrial reconstruction. And during this period, of course, com-

munications broke down; areas were cut off; anarchy was common.»

«In that connection,» Doctor Gleeby put in, «many of the problems of decline of moral standards inherent in the Age of Waste were vastly intensified by this collapse of what little government there was.»

«Yes indeed,» Professor Sugermann agreed. «So in following this historic pattern, Major Streiter saw the need of finding new sources of food... and the soil, as we know, was excessively impregnated with toxic metals, poisons, ash. Most domestic herds had died off.» He gazed upward. «I believe by 1975 there were less than three hundred head of cattle in North America.»

«That sounds right,» Mr. Purcell said agreeably.

«So,» Professor Sugermann continued, «Moral Reclaimers as they operated in the field in the form of teams—» He gestured. «More or less autonomous units; we're familiar with the technique.... Encountered a virtually insoluble problem, that of feeding and caring for the numbers of persons coming across from hostile groups operating in the same area. In that connection I might add that Major Streiter seems to have foreseen long in advance the continual decline of animal husbandry that was to occur during the next decade. He took steps to anticipate the decline, and of course historians have made a big point of the aptness of those steps.»

Professor Sugermann sighed, contemplated his clasped hands, then went on.

«To fully grasp their situation, we must picture ourselves as living essentially without government, in a world of brute force. What concepts of morality existed were found only within the Reclaimers' units; outside of that it was dog-eat-dog, animal against animal. A kind of jungle struggle for survival, with no holds barred.»

The table and five men dissolved; in their place appeared familiar scenes of the first postwar years. Ruins, squalor,

barbarians snarling over scraps of meat. Dried pelts hanging from slatternly hovels. Flies. Filth.

«Large numbers of opposition groups,» Professor Sugermann continued, «were falling into our hands daily, thus complicating an already catastrophic problem of creating a stable diet in the devastated areas. Morec was on the ascendancy, but nobody was so idealistic as to believe the problem of creating a unified cultural milieu could be solved overnight. And the really sobering factor, evidently recognized early by the Major, was the so-called 'impossible' faction: those groups who could never be won over, and who were doing the most harm. Since Reclaimers were principally operating against those 'impossibles,' it was only natural that in the plan worked out by Major Streiter these 'impossibles' would be the most natural sources for assimilation. Further—»

«I must disagree,» Mr. Gates interrupted, «if I may, Professor Sugermann. Isn't it true that active assimilation had already occurred, prior to the Morec Plan? The Major was fundamentally an empiricist; he saw assimilation occurring spontaneously and he was quick to take advantage of it.»

«I'm afraid that doesn't do justice to the Major's planning ability,» Mr. Priar spoke up. «That is, you're making it sound as if active assimilation just—happened. But we know active assimilation was basic, preceding the autofac system which eventually supplanted it.»

«I think we have two points of view here,» Mr. Purcell, the moderator, said. «But in any case we agree that Major Streiter did utilize active assimilation early in the postwar years to solve the problem of feeding rural populations and of reducing the numbers of hostile and 'impossible' elements.»

«Yes,» Doctor Gleeby said. «By 1997 at least ten thousand 'impossibles' had been assimilated. And numerous byproducts of economic value were being obtained: glue, gelatins, hides, hair.»

«Can we fix a date for the first official assimilation?» Mr. Purcell asked.

«Yes,» Professor Sugermann said. «It was May of 1987 that one hundred Russian 'impossibles' were captured, killed, and then processed by Reclaimers operating in the Ukrainian area. I believe Major Streiter himself divided an 'impossible' with his family, on the Fourth of July.»

«I suppose boiling was the usual processing method,» Mr. Priar commented.

«Boiling, and of course, frying. In this case Mrs. Streiter's recipe was used, calling for broiling.»

«So the term 'active assimilation,' » Mr. Purcell said, «can historically be used to encompass any form of killing, cooking, and eating of hostile groups, whether it be by boiling, or frying, or broiling, or baking; in short, any culinary method apropos, with or without the preserving of by-products such as skin, bones, fingernails, for commercial use.»

«Exactly,» Doctor Gleeby said, nodding. «Although it should be pointed out that the indiscriminate eating of hostile elements without an official—»

Whamp! went the television set, and Mrs. Birmingham sat up with dismay. The image had gone dead; the screen was dark.

The discussion of «active assimilation» had been plunged abruptly off the air.



allen said: «They cut off our power.»

«The lines,» Gleeby answered, fumbling around in the darkness of the office. All the lights of the Telemedia building

had vanished; the TV transmitter above them was silent, and projection had ceased. «There's emergency generating equipment, independent of city power.»

«Takes a lot to run a transmitter,» Sugermann said, pulling aside the window blinds and peering out at the evening lanes below. «Getabouts everywhere. Cohorts, I think.»

Allen and Gleeby made their way down the stairs to the emergency generators, guided by Allen's cigarette lighter. Gates followed; with him was a technician from the transmitter.

«We can have it back on in ten or fifteen minutes,» the TV technician said, inspecting the generator capacities. «But it won't hold. The drain's too great for these; it'll be on for awhile and then—like now.»

«Do the best you can,» Allen said. He wondered how much of the projection had been understood. «You think we made our Morec?» he asked Sugermann.

«Our un-Morec,» Sugermann said. He smiled crookedly. «They were standing by for the point-of-no-return. So we must have made it clear.»

«Here goes,» Gates said. The generators were on, and now the overhead lights flickered. «Back in business.»

«For awhile,» Allen said.


The screen of Janet Purcell's television set was small; it was the portable unit that Allen had brought. She lay propped up on the couch in their one-room apartment, waiting for the image to return. Presently it did.

".... d," Professor Sugermann was saying. The image faded and darkened, then ebbed into distortion. «But broiling was favored, I believe.»

«Not according to my information,» Doctor Gleeby corrected.

«Our discussion,» the moderator, her husband, said, «really concerns the use of active assimilation in the present-day world. Now it has been suggested that active assimilation

as a punitive policy be revived to deal with the current wave of anarchy. Would you care to comment on that, Doctor Gleeby?»

«Certainly.» Doctor Gleeby knocked dottle from his pipe into the ash tray in the center of the table. «We must remember that active assimilation was primarily a solution to problems of nutrition, not, as is often supposed, a weapon to convert hostile elements. Naturally I'm gravely concerned with the outbreak of violence and vandalism today, as epitomized by this really dreadful japery of the Park statue, but we can scarcely be said to suffer from a nutritional problem. After all, the autofac system—»

«Historically,» Professor Sugermann interrupted, «you may have a point, Doctor. But from the standpoint of efficacy: what would be the effects on these present-day 'impossibles'? Wouldn't the threat of being boiled and eaten act as a deterrent to their hostile impulses? There would be a strong subconscious inhibitory effect, I'm sure.»

«To me,» Mr. Gates agreed, «it seems that allowing these anti-social individuals merely to run away, hide, take refuge at the Health Resort, has made it far too easy. We've permitted our dissident elements to do their mischief and then escape scot-free. That's certainly encouraged them to expand their activities. Now, if they knew they'd be eaten—»

«It's well known,» Mr. Priar said, «that the severity of punitive action doesn't decrease the frequency of a given crime. They once hanged pickpockets, you realize. It had no effect. That's quite an outmoded theory, Mr. Gates.»

«But, to get back to the main discussion,» the moderator said, «are we certain that no nutritional effects would accrue from the eating, rather than the expulsion, of our criminals? Professor Sugermann, as an historian, can you tell us what the general public attitude was toward the use, in everyday cookery, of boiled enemy?»

On the TV screen appeared a collection of historical relics: six-foot broiling racks, huge human-sized platters, various

cutlery. Jars of spices. Immense-pronged forks. Knives. Recipe books.

«It was clearly an art,» Professor Sugermann said. «Properly prepared, boiled enemy was a gourmet's delight. We have the Major's own words on this subject.» Professor Sugermann, again visible, unfolded his notes. «Toward the end of his life the Major ate only, or nearly only, boiled enemy. It was a great favorite of his wife's, and, as we've said, her recipes are regarded as among the finest extant. E. B. Erickson once estimated that Major Streiter and his immediate family must have personally assimilated at least six hundred fully-grown 'impossibles.' So there you have the more or less official opinion.»

Whamp! the TV screen went, and again the image died. A kaleidoscopic procession of colors, patterns, dots passed rapidly; from the speaker emerged squawks of protest, whines, squeals.

"... a tradition in the Streiter family. The Major's grandson is said to have expressed great preference for.. ."

Again silence. Then sputters, garbled visual images.

"... so I cannot over-emphasize my support of this program. The effects—" More confusion, sounds and flickers. A sudden roar of static. "... would be an object lesson as well as the contemporary restoration of boiled enemy to its proper place on—"

The TV screen gurgled, died, returned briefly to life.

"... may be the test one way or another. Were there others?"

Allen's voice was heard: «Several, supposedly now being rounded up.»

«But they caught the ringleader! And Mrs. Hoyt herself has expressed—»

More interference. The screen showed a news announcer standing at the table with the four participants. Mr. Allen Purcell, the moderator, was examining a news dispatch.

"... assimilation in the actual historic vessels employed

by her family. After tasting a carefully-prepared sample of boiled conspirator, Mrs. Ida Pease Hoyt has pronounced the dish 'highly savory,' and 'fit to grace the tables of—' "

Again the image died, and this time for good. Within a few moments a mysterious voice, not part of the discussion, became suddenly audible, declaring:

«Because of technical difficulties it is suggested that viewers turn off their sets for the balance of the evening. There will be no further transmission tonight.»

The statement was repeated every few minutes. It had the harsh overtones of the Cohorts of Major Streiter. Janet, propped up on the couch, understood that the powers had regained control. She wondered if her husband was all right.

«Technical difficulties,» the official voice said. «Turn off your sets.»

She left hers on, and waited.


«That's it,» Allen said.

From the darkness Sugermann said: «We got it over, though. They cut us off, but not in time.»

Cigarette lighters and matches came on, and the office re-emerged. Allen felt buoyed up with triumph. «We might as well go home. We did our job; we put the japery through.»

«May be sort of hard to get home,» Coates said. «The Cohorts are hanging around out there, waiting for you. The finger's on you, Allen.»

Allen thought of Janet alone in the apartment. If they wanted him they'd certainly try there. «I should go after my wife,» he said to Sugermann;

«Downstairs,» Sugermann said, «is a Getabout you dan use. Gates, get down there with him; show him where it is.»

«No,» Allen said. «I can't walk out on you people.» Especially on Harry Priar and Joe Gleeby; they had no Hokkaido to lose themselves in. «I can't leave you to be picked off.»

«The biggest favor you can do us,» Gleeby said, «is to

get out of here. They don't care about us; they know who thought this japery up.» He shook his head. «Cannibalism. Gourmet's delight. Mrs. Streiter's own recipes. You better get moving.»

Priar added: «That's the price you pay for talent. It shows a mile off.»

Getting a firm grip on Allen's shoulder, Sugermann propelled him to the office door. «Show him the Getabout,» he ordered Gates. «But keep him down while you're out there; the Cohorts are the wrath of God.»

As Allen and Gates descended the long flight of stairs to the ground floor, Gates said: «You happy?»

«Yes, except for Janet.» And he would miss the people he had assembled. It had been satisfactory and wonderful to concoct the japery with Gates and Sugermann, Gleeby and Priar.

«Maybe they caught her and boiled her.» Gates giggled, and the match he held swayed. «That isn't probable. Don't worry about it.»

He wasn't worried about that, but he wished he had planned for the Committee's prompt reaction. «They weren't exactly asleep,» he murmured.

A herd of technicians raced past them, shining flashlights ahead along the stairs. «Get out,» they chanted. «Get out, get out.» The racket of their descent echoed and faded.

«All finished,» Gates snickered. «Here we go.»

They had reached the lobby. T-M employees milled in the darkness; some were stepping through the barricade out into the evening lane. The headlights of Getabouts flashed, and voices called back and forth, a confusion of catcalls and fun. The indistinct activity was party-like; but now it was time to leave.

«Here,» Gates said, pushing through a gap in the barricade. Allen followed, and they were on the lane. Behind them the Telemedia building was huge and somber, deprived of its power: extinguished. The parked Getabout was moist

with night mist as Gates and Allen climbed into it and slammed the doors.

«I'll drive,» Allen said. He snapped on the motor, and the Getabout glided steamily out onto the lane. After a block he switched on the headlights.

As he turned at an intersection another Getabout rolled out after him. Gates saw it and began whooping with glee.

«Here they come—let's go!»

Allen pushed the Getabout to its top speed, perhaps thirty-five miles an hour. Pedestrians ran wildly. In the rear-view mirror he could make out faces within the pursuing Get-about. Ralf Hadler was driving. Beside him was Fred Luddy. And in the back seat was Tony Blake of Blake-Moffet.

Leaning out, Gates shouted back: «Boil, bake, fry! Boil, bake, fry! Try and catch,us!»

His face expressionless, Hadler lifted a pistol and fired. The shot whistled past Gates, who ducked instantly in.

«We're going to jump,» Allen said. The Getabout was nearing a sharp curve. «Grab hold.» He forced the tiller as far as it would go. «We have to stop first.»

Gates pulled his knees up and wrapped himself head-down in a fetal posture. As the Getabout completed the curve, Allen slammed down on the brake; the little car screamed and shuddered, bucked from side to side, and then wandered tottering into a rail. Gates half-rolled, half-fell from the swinging and open door, struck the pavement and bounded to his feet. Dizzy, his head ringing, Allen stumbled after him.

The second Getabout hurtled around the curve and without slowing—Hadler was still the bum driver—struck its stalled quarry. Parts of Getabout flew in all directions; the three occupants disappeared in the rubbish. Hadler's gun skidded across the lane and bounced noisily from a lamppost.

«See you,» Gates panted to Allen, already loping off. He grinned back over his shoulder. «Boil, bake, fry. They won't get us. Say hello to Janet.»

Allen hurried through the semi-gloom of the lane, among the pedestrians who seemed to be everywhere. Behind him Hadler had emerged from the wreckage of the two Getabouts; he picked up his gun, inspected it, lifted it uncertainly in Allen's direction, and then shoved it away inside his coat. Allen continued on, and the figure of Hadler fell away.

When he reached the apartment, he found Janet fully dressed, her face white with animation. The door was locked, and he had to wait while she untangled the chain. «Are you hurt?» she asked, seeing blood on his cheek.

«Jarred a little.» He took hold of her arm and led her out into the hall. «They'll be here any minute. Thank God it's night.»

«What was that?» Janet asked, as they hurried downstairs. «Major Streiter didn't really eat people, did he?»

«Not literally,» he said. But in a sense, a very real sense, it was true. Morec had gobbled greedily at the human soul.

«How far are we going?» Janet asked.

«To the field,» he grunted, holding on tightly to her. Fortunately it wasn't far. She seemed in good spirits, nervous and excited, and not depressed. Perhaps much of her depression had come from sheer boredom... from the ultimate emptiness of a drab world.

Holding hands they trotted onto the field, gasping for breath.

There, outlined with lights, was the great inter-S ship preparing for its flight from the Sol System to the Sirius System. Passengers were clustered at the foot of the lift, saying goodbye.

Running across the gravel field, Allen shouted: «Mavis! Wait for us!»

Among the passengers stood a dour, slumped-over man in a heavy overcoat. Myron Mavis glanced up, peered sourly.

«Stop!» Allen shouted, as Mavis turned away. Clutching his

wife's fingers Allen reached the edge of the passenger platform and halted, wheezing. «We're going along.»

Mavis scrutinized the two of them with bloodshot eyes. «Are you?»

«You've got room,» Allen said. «You own a whole planet. Come on, Myron. We've got to leave.»

«Half a planet,» Mavis corrected.

«What's it like?» Janet gasped. «Is it nice, there?»

«Cattle, mostly,» Mavis said. «Orchards, plenty of cachinery [sic] crying to be used. Lots of work. You can tear down mountains and drain swamps. You'll both sweat; you won't be sitting around sun-bathing.»

«Fine,» Allen said. «Exactly what we want.»

In the darkness above them a mechanical voice intoned: «All passengers step onto lift. All visitors leave the field.»

«Take this,» Mavis instructed, pushing a suitcase into Allen's hands. «You, too.» He handed Janet a box tied with twine. «And keep your mouths shut. If anybody asks you anything, let me do the talking.»

«Son and daughter,» Janet said, pressing against him and holding onto her husband's hand. «You'll take care of us, won't you? We'll be as quiet as mice.» Breathless, laughing, she hugged Allen and then Mavis. «Here we go—we're leaving!»

At the edge of the field, at the railing, was a clump of shapes. Clutching Mavis' suitcase, Allen looked back and saw the teen-agers. There they were, clustered in the usual small, dark knot. Silent, as always, and following the progress of the ship. Weighing, speculating, imagining where it was going... picturing the colony. Was it crops? Was it a planet of oranges? Was it a world of growing plants, hills and pastures and herds of sheep, goats, cattle, pigs? Cattle, in this case. The kids would know. They would be saying it now, speaking it back and forth to one another. Or not speaking it. Not having to, because they had watched so long.

«We can't leave,» Allen said.

«What's the matter?» Janet tugged at him urgently. «We have to stay on the lift; it's going up.»

«Ye gods!» Mavis groaned. «Changed your mind?»

«We're going back,» Allen said. He set down Mavis' suitcase and took the package from Janet's hands. «Later, maybe. When we're finished here. We still have something to do.»

«Lunacy,» Mavis said. «Lunacy on top of lunacy.»

«No,» Allen said. «And you know it isn't.»

«Please,» Janet whispered. «What is it? What's wrong?»

«You can't do anything for those kids,» Mavis said to him.

«I can stay with them,» Allen said. «And I can make my feelings clear.» That much, at least.

«It's your decision.» Mavis threw up his arms in disgust and dismissal. «The hell with you. I don't even know what you're talking about.» But the expression on his face showed that he did. «I wash my hands of the whole business. Do what you think is best.»

«All right,» Janet said. «Let's go back. Let's get it over with. As long as we have to.»

«You'll keep a place for us?» Allen asked Mavis.

Sighing, Mavis nodded. «Yes, I'll be expecting you.»

«It may not be for awhile.»

Mavis thumped him on the shoulder. «But I'll see both of you.» He kissed Janet on the cheek, and then very formally, and with emphasis, he shook hands with both of them. «When the time comes.»

«Thanks,» Allen said.

Surrounded by his luggage and fellow passengers, Mavis watched them go. «Good luck.» His voice followed after them, and then was lost in the murmur of machinery.

With his wife, Allen walked slowly back across the field. He was winded from the running, and Janet's steps dragged. Behind them, with a growing roar, the ship was rising. Ahead of them was Newer York, and, sticking up from the expanse of housing units and office buildings, was the spire.

He felt sobered, and a little ashamed. But now he was finishing what he had begun that Sunday night, in the darkness of the Park. So it was good. And he could stop feeling ashamed.

«What'll they do to us?» Janet asked after a while.

«We'll survive.» In him was an absolute conviction. «Whatever it is. We'll show up on the other side, and that's what matters.»

«And then we'll go to Myron's planet?»

«We will,» he promised. «Then it'll be all right.»

Standing at the edge of the field were the teen-agers, and a varied assortment of people: relatives of passengers, minor field officials, passers-by, an off-duty policeman. Allen and his wife approached them and stopped by the rail.

«I'm Allen Purcell,» he said, and he spoke with pride. «I'm the person who japed the statue of Major Streiter. I'd like everybody to know it.»

The people gaped, murmured together, and then melted off to safety. The teen-agers remained, aloof and silent. The off-duty policeman blinked and started in the direction of a telephone.

Allen, his arm around his wife, waited composedly for the Getabouts of the Cohorts.

Марк Леви

еще рефераты
Еще работы по истории