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Title: Null-ABC
Author: McGuire, John Joseph, 1917-1981, Piper, H. Beam, 1904-1964
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Null-ABC" ***

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                         Transcriber's note:
This etext was produced from Astounding Science Fiction, February and
March, 1953. Extensive research did not uncover any evidence that the
copyright on this publication was renewed.



                               NULL-ABC


                 BY H. BEAM PIPER AND JOHN J. McGUIRE



          _There's some reaction these days that
           holds scientists responsible for war. Take it one step further:
           What happens if "book-learnin'" is held responsible ...?_


                      Illustrated by van Dongen



Chester Pelton retracted his paunch as far as the breakfast seat would
permit; the table, its advent preceded by a collection of
mouth-watering aromas, slid noiselessly out of the pantry and clicked
into place in front of him.

"Everything all right, Miss Claire?" a voice floated out after it from
beyond. "Anything else you want?"

"Everything's just fine, Mrs. Harris," Claire replied. "I suppose Mr.
Pelton'll want seconds, and Ray'll probably want thirds and fourths of
everything." She waved a hand over the photocell that closed the
pantry door, and slid into place across from her brother, who already
had a glass of fruit juice in one hand and was lifting platter covers
with the other.

"Real eggs!" the boy was announcing. "Bacon. Wheat-bread toast." He
looked again. "Hey, Sis, is this real cow-made butter?"

"Yes. Now go ahead and eat."

As though Ray needed encouragement, Chester Pelton thought, watching
his son use a spoon--the biggest one available--to dump gobs of honey
on his toast. While he was helping himself to bacon and eggs, he could
hear Ray's full-mouthed exclamation: "This is real bee-comb honey,
too!" That pleased him. The boy was a true Pelton; only needed one
bite to distinguish between real and synthetic food.

"Bet this breakfast didn't cost a dollar under five C," Ray continued,
a little more audibly, between bites.

[Illustration:]

That was another Pelton trait; even at fifteen, the boy was learning
the value of money. Claire seemed to disapprove, however.

"Oh, Ray; try not to always think of what things cost," she reproved.

"If I had all she spends on natural food, I could have a this-season's
model 'copter-bike, like Jimmy Hartnett," Ray continued.

Pelton frowned. "I don't want you running around with that boy, Ray,"
he said, his mouth full of bacon and eggs. Under his daughter's look
of disapproval, he swallowed hastily, then continued: "He's not the
sort of company I want my son keeping."

"But, Senator," Ray protested. "He lives next door to us. Why, we can
see Hartnett's aerial from the top of our landing stage!"

"That doesn't matter," he said, in a tone meant to indicate that the
subject was not to be debated. "He's a Literate!"

"More eggs, Senator?" Claire asked, extending the platter and
gesturing with the serving knife.

He chuckled inwardly. Claire always knew what to do when his temper
started climbing to critical mass. He allowed her to load his plate
again.

"And speaking of our landing stage, have you been up there, this
morning, Ray?" he asked.

They both looked at him inquiringly.

"Delivered last evening, while you two were out," he explained. "New
winter model Rolls-Cadipac." He felt a glow of paternal pleasure as
Claire gave a yelp of delight and aimed a glancing kiss at the top of
his bald head. Ray dropped his fork, slid from his seat, and bolted
for the lift, even bacon, eggs, and real bee-comb honey forgotten.

With elaborate absent-mindedness, Chester Pelton reached for the
switch to turn on the video screen over the pantry door.

"Oh-oh! Oh-oh!" Claire's slender hand went out to stop his own. "Not
till coffee and cigarettes, Senator."

"It's almost oh-eight-fifteen; I want the newscast."

"Can't you just relax for a while? Honestly, Senator, you're killing
yourself."

"Oh, rubbish! I've been working a little hard, but--"

"You've been working too hard. And today, with the sale at the store,
and the last day of the campaign--"

"Why the devil did that idiot of a Latterman have the sale advertised
for today, anyhow?" he fumed. "Doesn't he know I'm running for the
Senate?"

"I doubt it," Claire said. "He may have heard of it, the way you've
heard about an election in Pakistan or Abyssinia, or he just may not
know there is such a thing as politics. I think he does know there's a
world outside the store, but he doesn't care much what goes on in it."
She pushed her plate aside, poured a cup of coffee, and levered a
cigarette from the Readilit, puffing at it with the relish of the
morning's first smoke. "All he knows is that we're holding our sale
three days ahead of Macy & Gimbel's."

"Russ is a good businessman," Pelton said seriously. "I wish you'd
take a little more interest in him, Claire."

"If you mean what I think you do, no thanks," Claire replied. "I
suppose I'll get married, some day--most girls do--but it'll be to
somebody who can hang his business up at the office before he comes
home. Russ Latterman is so married to the store that if he married me
too, it'd be bigamy. Ready for your coffee?" Without waiting for an
answer, she filled his cup and ejected a lighted cigarette from the
box for him, then snapped on the video screen.

It lit at once, and a nondescriptly handsome young man was grinning
toothily out of it. He wore a white smock, halfway to his knees, and,
over it, an old-fashioned Sam Browne belt which supported a bulky
leather-covered tablet and a large stylus. On the strap which crossed
his breast five or six little metal badges twinkled.

"... Why no other beer can compare with delicious, tangy, Cardon's
Black Bottle. Won't you try it?" he pleaded. "Then you will see for
yourself why millions of happy drinkers always Call For Cardon's. And
now, that other favorite of millions, Literate First Class Elliot C.
Mongery."

Pelton muttered: "Why Frank sponsors that blabbermouth of a Mongery--"

Ray, sliding back onto the bench, returned to his food.

"Jimmy's book had pictures," he complained, forking up another mixture
of eggs, bacon, toast and honey.

"Book?" Claire echoed. "Oh, the instructions for the 'copter?"

"Pipe down, both of you!" Pelton commanded. "The newscast--"

Literate First Class Elliot C. Mongery, revealed by a quick left
quarter-turn of the pickup camera, wore the same starchy white smock,
the same Sam Browne belt glittering with the badges of the
organizations and corporations for whom he was authorized to practice
Literacy. The tablet on his belt, Pelton knew, was really a
camouflaged holster for a small automatic, and the gold stylus was a
gas-projector. The black-leather-jacketed bodyguards, of course, were
discreetly out of range of the camera. Members of the Associated
Fraternities of Literates weren't exactly loved by the non-reading
public they claimed to serve. The sight of one of those starchy,
perpetually-spotless, white smocks always affected Pelton like a red
cape to a bull. He snorted in disdain. The raised eyebrow toward the
announcer on the left, the quick, perennially boyish smile, followed
by the levelly serious gaze into the camera--the whole act might have
been a film-transcription of Mongery's first appearance on the video,
fifteen years ago. At least, it was off the same ear of corn.

"That big hunk of cheese," Ray commented. For once, Pelton didn't
shush him; that was too close to his own attitude, at least in
family-breakfast-table terminology.

"... First of all; for the country, and especially the Newer New York
area, and by the way, it looks as though somebody thought somebody
needed a little cooling off, but we'll come to that later. Here's the
forecast: Today and tomorrow, the weather will continue fine; warm in
the sun, chilly in the shadows. There won't be anything to keep you
from the polls, tomorrow, except bird-hunting, or a last chance at a
game of golf. This is the first time within this commentator's memory
that the weather has definitely been in favor of the party out of
power.

"On the world scene: You'll be glad to hear that the survivors of the
wrecked strato-rocket have all been rescued from the top of Mount
Everest, after a difficult and heroic effort by the Royal Nepalese Air
Force.... The results of last week's election in Russia are being
challenged by twelve of the fourteen parties represented on the
ballot; the only parties not hurling accusations of fraud are the
Democrats, who won, and the Christian Communists, who are about as
influential in Russian politics as the Vegetarian-Anti-Vaccination
Party is here.... The Central Diplomatic Council of the Reunited
Nations has just announced, for the hundred and seventy-eighth time,
that the Arab-Israel dispute has been finally, definitely and
satisfactorily settled. This morning's reports from Baghdad and Tel
Aviv only list four Arabs and six Israelis killed in border clashes in
the past twenty-four hours, so maybe they're really getting things
patched up, after all. During the same period, there were more
fatalities in Newer New York as a result of clashes between the
private troops of rival racket gangs, political parties and business
houses.

"Which brings us to the local scene. On my way to the studio this
morning, I stopped at City Hall, and found our genial Chief of Police
Delaney, 'Irish' Delaney to most of us, hard at work with a portable
disintegrator, getting rid of record disks and recording tapes of old
and long-settled cases. He had a couple of amusing stories. For
instance, a lone Independent-Conservative partisan broke up a
Radical-Socialist mass meeting preparatory to a march to demonstrate
in Double Times Square, by applying his pocket lighter to one of the
heat-sensitive boxes in the building and activating the sprinkler
system. By the time the Radicals had gotten into dry clothing, there
was a, well, sort of, impromptu Conservative demonstration going on in
Double Times Square, and one of the few things the local gendarmes
won't stand for is an attempt to hold two rival political meetings in
the same area.

"Curiously, while it was the Radicals who got soaked, it was the
Conservatives who sneezed," Mongery went on, his face glowing with
mischievous amusement. "It seems that while they were holding a
monster rally at Hague Hall, in North Jersey Borough, some person or
persons unknown got at the air-conditioning system with a tank of
sneeze gas, which didn't exactly improve either the speaking style of
Senator Grant Hamilton or the attentiveness of his audience. Needless
to say, there is no police investigation of either incident. Election
shenanigans, like college pranks, are fair play as long as they don't
cause an outright holocaust. And that, I think, is as it should be,"
Mongery went on, more seriously. "Most of the horrors of the Twentieth
and Twenty-first Centuries were the result of taking politics too
seriously."

Pelton snorted again. That was the Literate line, all right; treat
politics as a joke and an election as a sporting event, let the
Independent-Conservative grafters stay in power, and let the Literates
run the country through them. Not, of course, that he disapproved of
those boys in the Young Radical League who'd thought up that
sneeze-gas trick.

"And now, what you've been waiting for," Mongery continued. "The final
Trotter Poll's pre-election analysis." A novice Literate advanced,
handing him a big loose-leaf book, which he opened with the reverence
a Literate always displayed toward the written word. "This," he said,
"is going to surprise you. For the whole state of Penn-Jersey-York,
the poll shows a probable Radical-Socialist vote of approximately
thirty million, an Independent-Conservative vote of approximately ten
and a half million, and a vote of about a million for what we call the
Who-Gives-A-Damn Party, which, frankly, is the party of your
commentator's choice. Very few sections differ widely from this
average--there will be a much heavier Radical vote in the Pittsburgh
area, and traditionally Conservative Philadelphia and the upper Hudson
Valley will give the Radicals a much smaller majority."

They all looked at one another, thunderstruck.

"If Mongery's admitting that, I'm in!" Pelton exclaimed.

"Yeah, we can start calling him Senator, now, and really mean it," Ray
said. "Maybe old Mongie isn't such a bad sort of twerp, after all."

"Considering that the Conservatives carried this state by a
substantial majority in the presidential election of two years ago,
and by a huge majority in the previous presidential election of 2136,"
Mongery, in the screen, continued, "this verdict of the almost
infallible Trotter Poll needs some explaining. For the most part, it
is the result of the untiring efforts of one man, the dynamic new
leader of the Radical-Socialists and their present candidate for the
Consolidated States of North America Senate, Chester Pelton, who has
transformed that once-moribund party into the vital force it is today.
And this achievement has been due, very largely, to a single slogan
which he had hammered into your ears: _Put the Literates in their
place; our servants, not our masters!_" He brushed a hand
deprecatingly over his white smock and fingered the badges on his
belt.

"There has always been, on the part of the Illiterate public, some
resentment against organized Literacy. In part, it has been due to the
high fees charged for Literate services, and to what seems, to many,
to be monopolistic practices. But behind that is a general attitude of
anti-intellectualism which is our heritage from the disastrous wars of
the Twentieth and Twenty-first Centuries. Chester Pelton has made
himself the spokesman of this attitude. In his view, it was men who
could read and write who hatched the diabolical political ideologies
and designed the frightful nuclear weapons of that period. In his
mind, Literacy is equated with '_Mein Kampf_' and '_Das Kapital_',
with the A-bomb and the H-bomb, with concentration camps and blasted
cities. From this position, of course, I beg politely to differ.
Literate men also gave us the Magna Charta and the Declaration of
Independence.

"Now, in spite of a lunatic fringe in the Consolidated Illiterates'
Organization who want just that, Chester Pelton knows that we cannot
abolish Literacy entirely. Even with modern audio-visual recording,
need exists for some modicum of written recording, which can be
rapidly scanned and selected from--indexing, cataloguing, tabulating
data, et cetera--and for at least a few men and women who can form and
interpret the written word. Mr. Pelton, himself, is the owner of a
huge department store, employing over a thousand Illiterates; he must
at all times have the services of at least fifty Literates."

"And pays through the nose for them, too!" Pelton growled. It was more
than fifty; and Russ Latterman had been forced to get twenty extras
sent in for the sale.

"Now, since we cannot renounce Literacy entirely, without sinking to
_fellahin_ barbarism, and here I definitely part company with Mr.
Pelton, he fears the potential power of organized Literacy. In a word,
he fears a future Literate Dictatorship."

"Future? What do you think we have now?" Pelton demanded.

"Nobody," Mongery said, as though replying to him, "is stupid enough,
today, to want to be a dictator. That ended by the middle of the
Twenty-first Century. Everybody knows what happened to Mussolini, and
Hitler, and Stalin, and all their imitators. Why, it is as much the
public fear of Big Government as the breakdown of civil power because
of the administrative handicap of a shortage of Literate
administrators that is responsible for the disgraceful lawlessness of
the past hundred years. Thus, it speaks well for the public trust in
Chester Pelton's known integrity and sincerity that so many of our
people are willing to agree to his program for socialized Literacy.
They feel that he can be trusted, and, violently as I disagree with
him, I can only say that that trust is not misplaced.

"Of course, there is also the question, so often raised by Mr. Pelton,
that under the Hamilton machine, the politics, and particularly the
enforcement of the laws, in this state, are unbelievably corrupt, but
I wonder--"

Mongery paused. "Just a moment; I see a flash bulletin being brought
in." The novice Literate came to his side and gave him a slip of
paper, at which he glanced. Then he laughed heartily.

"It seems that shortly after I began speaking, the local blue-ribbon
grand jury issued a summons for Chief Delaney to appear before them,
with all his records. Unfortunately, the summons could not be served;
Chief Delaney had just boarded a strato-rocket from Tom Dewey Field
for Buenos Aires." He cocked an eye at the audience. "I know Irish is
going to have a nice time, down there in the springtime of the
Southern Hemisphere. And, incidentally, the Argentine is one of the
few major powers which never signed the World Extradition Convention
of 2087." He raised his hand to his audience. "And now, until tomorrow
at breakfast, sincerely yours for Cardon's Black Bottle, Elliot C.
Mongery."

"Well, whattaya know; that guy was plugging for you!" Ray said. "And
see how he managed to slide in that bit about corruption, right before
his stooge handed him that bulletin?"

"I guess every Literate has his price," Chester Pelton said. "I wonder
how much of my money that cost. I always wondered why Frank Cardon
sponsored Mongery. Now I know. Mongery can be had."

"Uh, beg your pardon, Mr. Pelton," a voice from the hall broke in.

He turned. Olaf Olafsson, the 'copter driver, was standing at the
entrance to the breakfast nook, a smudge of oil on his cheek and his
straw-colored hair in disorder. "How do I go about startin' this new
'copter?"

"What?" Olaf had been his driver for ten years. He would have been
less surprised had the ceiling fallen in. "You don't know how to start
it?"

"No, sir. The controls is all different from on the summer model.
Every time I try to raise it, it backs up; if I try to raise it much
more, we won't have no wall left on the landing stage."

"Well, isn't there a book?"

"There ain't no pictures in it; nothing but print. It's a Literate
book," Olaf said in disgust, as though at something obscene. "An'
there ain't nothin' on the instrument board but letters."

"That's right," Ray agreed. "I saw the book; no pictures in it at
all."

"Well, of all the quarter-witted stupidity! The confounded imbeciles
at that agency--"

Pelton started to his feet. Claire unlocked the table and slid it out
of his way. Ray, on a run, started for the lift and vanished.

"I think some confounded Literate at the Rolls-Cadipac agency did
that," he fumed. "Thought it would be a joke to send me a Literate
instruction book along with a 'copter with a Literate instrument
board. Ah, I get it! So I'd have to call in a Literate to show me how
to start my own 'copter, and by noon they'd be laughing about it in
every bar from Pittsburgh to Plattsburg. Sneaky Literate trick!" They
went to the lift, and found the door closed in their faces. "Oh,
confound that boy!"

Claire pressed the button. Ray must have left the lift, for the
operating light went on, and in a moment the door opened. He crowded
into the lift, along with his daughter and Olaf.

On the landing stage, Ray was already in the 'copter, poking at
buttons on the board.

"Look, Olaf!" he called. "They just shifted them around a little from
the summer model. This one, where the prop-control used to be on the
old model, is the one that backs it up on the ground. Here's the one
that erects and extends the prop,"--he pushed it, and the prop snapped
obediently into place--"and here's the one that controls the lift."

An ugly suspicion stabbed at Chester Pelton, bringing with it a
feeling of frightened horror.

"How do you know?" he demanded.

Ray's eyes remained on the instrument board. He pushed another button,
and the propeller began swinging in a lazy circle; he pressed down
with his right foot, and the 'copter lifted a foot or so.

"What?" he asked. "Oh, Jimmy showed me how theirs works. Mr. Hartnett
got one like it a week ago." He motioned to Olaf, setting the 'copter
down again. "Come here; I'll show you."

The suspicion, and the horror passed in a wave of relief.

"You think you and Olaf, between you, can get that thing to school?"
he asked.

"Sure! Easy!"

"All right. You show Olaf how to run it. Olaf, as soon as you've
dropped Ray at school, take that thing to the Rolls-Cadipac agency,
and get a new one, with a proper instrument board, and a proper
picture book of operating instructions. I'm going to call Sam Huschack
up personally and give him royal hell about this. Sure you can handle
it, now?"

He watched the 'copter rise to the two thousand foot local traffic
level and turn in the direction of Mineola High School, fifty miles
away. He was still looking anxiously after it as it dwindled to a tiny
dot and vanished.

"They'll make it all right," Claire told him. "Olaf has a strong back,
and Ray has a good head."

"It wasn't that that I was worried about." He turned and looked, half
ashamed, at his daughter. "You know, for a minute, there, I thought ... I
thought Ray could read!"

"Father!" She was so shocked that she forgot the nickname they had
given him when he had announced his candidacy for Senate, in the
spring. "You didn't!"

"I know; it's an awful thing to think, but--Well, the kids today do
the craziest things. There's that Hartnett boy he runs around with;
Tom Hartnett bought Literate training for him. And that fellow
Prestonby; I don't trust him--"

"Prestonby?" Claire asked, puzzled.

"Oh, you know. The principal at school. You've met him."

Claire wrinkled her brow--just like her mother, when she was trying to
remember something.

"Oh, yes. I met him at that P.T.A. meeting. He didn't impress me as
being much like a teacher, but I suppose they think anything's good
enough for us Illiterates."

       *       *       *       *       *

Literate First Class Ralph N. Prestonby remained standing by the
lectern, looking out over the crowded auditorium, still pleasantly
surprised to estimate the day's attendance at something like
ninety-seven per cent of enrollment. That was really good; why, it was
only three per cent short of perfect! Maybe it was the new rule
requiring a sound-recorded excuse for absence. Or it could have been
his propaganda campaign about the benefits of education. Or, very
easily, it could have been the result of sending Doug Yetsko and some
of his boys around to talk to recalcitrant parents. It was good to see
that that was having some effect beside an increase in the number of
attempts on his life, or the flood of complaints to the Board of
Education. Well, Lancedale had gotten Education merged with his
Office of Communications, and Lancedale was back of him to the limit,
so the complaints had died out on the empty air. And Doug Yetsko was
his bodyguard, so most of the would-be assassins had died, also.

The "North American Anthem," which had replaced the "Star-Spangled
Banner" after the United States-Canadian-Mexican merger, came to an
end. The students and their white-smocked teachers, below, relaxed
from attention; most of them sat down, while monitors and teachers in
the rear were getting the students into the aisles and marching them
off to study halls and classrooms and workshops. The orchestra struck
up a lively march tune. He leaned his left elbow--Literates learned
early, or did not live to learn, not to immobilize the right hand--on
the lectern and watched the interminable business of getting the
students marched out, yearning, as he always did at this time, for the
privacy of his office, where he could smoke his pipe. Finally, they
were all gone, and the orchestra had gathered up its instruments and
filed out into the wings of the stage, and he looked up to the left
and said, softly:

"All right, Doug; show's over."

With a soft thud, the big man dropped down from the guard's cubicle
overhead, grinning cheerfully. He needed a shave--Yetsko always did,
in the mornings--and in his leather Literates' guard uniform, he
looked like some ogreish giant out of the mythology of the past.

[Illustration:]

"I was glad to have you up there with the Big Noise, this morning,"
Prestonby said. "What a mob! I'm still trying to figure out why we
have such an attendance."

"Don't you get it, captain?" Yetsko was reaching up to lock the door
of his cubicle; he seemed surprised at Prestonby's obtuseness. "Day
before election; the little darlings' moms and pops don't want them
out running around. We can look for another big crowd tomorrow, too."

Prestonby gave a snort of disgust. "Of course; how imbecilic can I
really get? I didn't notice any of them falling down, so I suppose you
didn't see anything out of line."

"Well, the hall monitors make them turn in their little playthings at
the doors," Yetsko said, "but hall monitors can be gotten at, and some
of the stuff they make in Manual Training, when nobody's watching
them--"

Prestonby nodded. Just a week before, a crude but perfectly operative
17-mm shotgun had been discovered in the last stages of manufacture in
the machine shop, and five out of six of the worn-out files would
vanish, to be ground down into dirks. He often thought of the stories
of his grandfather, who had been a major during the Occupation of
Russia, after the Fourth World War. Those old-timers didn't know how
easy they'd had it; they should have tried to run an Illiterate high
school.

Yetsko was still grumbling slanders on the legitimacy of the student
body. "One of those little angels shoots me, it's just a cute little
prank, and we oughtn't to frown on the little darling when it's just
trying to express its dear little personality, or we might give it
complexes, or something," he falsettoed incongruously. "And if the
little darling's mistake doesn't kill me outright and I shoot back,
people talk about King Herod!" He used language about the Board of
Education and the tax-paying public that was probably subversive
within the meaning of the Loyalty Oath. "I wish I had a pair of 40-mm
auto-cannons up there, instead of that sono gun."

"Each class is a little worse than the one before; in about five
years, they'll be making H-bombs in the lab," Prestonby said. In the
last week, a dozen pupils had been seriously cut or blackjacked in
hall and locker-room fights. "Nice citizens of the future; nice future
to look forward to growing old in."

"We won't," Yetsko comforted him. "We can't be lucky all the time; in
about a year, they'll find both of us stuffed into a broom closet,
when they start looking around to see what's making all the stink."

       *       *       *       *       *

Prestonby took the thick-barreled gas pistol from the shelf under the
lectern and shoved it into his hip pocket; Yetsko picked up a
two-and-a-half foot length of rubber hose and tucked it under his left
arm. Together, they went back through the wings and out into the
hallway that led to the office. So a Twenty-second Century high school
was a place where a teacher carried a pistol and a tear-gas projector
and a sleep-gas gun, and had a bodyguard, and still walked in danger
of his life from armed 'teen-age hooligans. It was meaningless to ask
whose fault it was. There had been the World Wars, and the cold-war
interbellum periods--rising birth rates, huge demands on the public
treasury for armaments, with the public taxed to the saturation point,
and no money left for the schools. There had been fantastic
"Progressive" education experiments--even in the 'Fifties of the
Twentieth Century, in the big cities, children were being pushed
through grade school without having learned to read. And when there
had been money available for education, school boards had insisted on
spending it for audio-visual equipment, recordings, films, anything
but textbooks. And there had been that lunatic theory that children
should be taught to read by recognizing whole words instead of
learning the alphabet. And more and more illiterates had been shoved
out of the schools, into a world where radio and television and moving
pictures were supplanting books and newspapers, and more and more
children of illiterates had gone to school without any desire or
incentive to learn to read. And finally, the illiterates had become
Illiterates, and literacy had become Literacy.

And now, the Associated Fraternities of Literates had come to
monopolize the ability to read and write, and a few men like William
R. Lancedale, with a handful of followers like Ralph N. Prestonby,
were trying--

The gleaming cleanliness of the corridor, as always, heartened
Prestonby a little; it was a trophy of victory from his first two days
at Mineola High School, three years ago. He remembered what they had
looked like when he had first seen them.

"This school is a pig pen!" he had barked at the janitorial force.
"And even if they are Illiterates, these children aren't pigs; they
deserve decent surroundings. This school will be cleaned, immediately,
from top to bottom, and it'll be kept that way."

The janitors, all political appointees, Independent-Conservative
party-hacks, secure in their jobs, had laughed derisively. The
building superintendent, without troubling to rise, had answered him:

"Young man, you don't want to get off on the wrong foot, here," he had
said. "This here's the way this school's always been run, an' it's
gonna take a lot more than you to change it."

The fellow's name, he recalled, was Kettner; Lancedale had given him
a briefing which had included some particulars about him. He was an
Independent-Conservative ward-committeeman. He had gotten his present
job after being fired from his former position as mailman for
listening to other peoples' mail with his pocket recorder-reproducer.

"Yetsko," he had said. "Kick this bum out on his face."

"You can't get away with--" Kettner had begun. Yetsko had yanked him
out of his chair with one hand and started for the door with him.

"Just a moment, Yetsko," he had said.

Thinking that he was backing down, they had all begun grinning at him.

"Don't bother opening the door," he had said. "Just kick him out."

After the third kick, Kettner had gotten the door open, himself; the
fourth kick sent him across the hall to the opposite wall. He pulled
himself to his feet and limped away, never to return. The next
morning, the school was spotless. It had stayed that way.

Beside him, Yetsko must also have returned mentally to the past.

"Looks better now than it did when we first saw it, captain," he said.

"Yes. It didn't take us as long to clean up this mess as it did to
clean up that mutinous guards company in Pittsburgh. But when we
cleaned that up, it stayed cleaned. This is like trying to bail out a
boat with a pitchfork."

"Yeah. I wish we'dda stayed in Pittsburgh, captain. I wish we'd never
seen this place!"

"So do I!" Prestonby agreed, heartily.

No, he didn't, either. If he'd never have come to Mineola High School,
he'd never have found Claire Pelton.

       *       *       *       *       *

Sitting down again at the breakfast table with her father, Claire
levered another cigarette out of the Readilit and puffed at it with
exaggeratedly bored slowness. She was still frightened. Ray shouldn't
have done what he did, even if he had furnished a plausible
explanation. The trouble with plausible explanations was having to
make them. Sooner or later, you made too many, and then you made one
that wasn't so plausible, and then all the others were remembered, and
they all looked phony. And why had the Senator had to mention Ralph?
Was he beginning to suspect the truth about that, too?

I hope not! she thought desperately. If he ever found out about that,
it'd kill him. Just kill him, period!

Mrs. Harris must have turned off the video, after they had gone up to
the landing stage. To cover her nervousness, she reached up and
snapped it on again. The screen lit, and from it a young man with dark
eyes under bushy black brows was shouting angrily:

"... Most obvious sort of conspiracy! If the Radical-Socialist Party
leaders, or the Consolidated Illiterates' Organization Political
Action Committee, need any further evidence of the character of their
candidate and idolized leader, Chester Pelton, the treatment given to
Pelton's candidacy by Literate First Class Elliot C. Mongery, this
morning, ought to be sufficient to remove the scales from the eyes of
the blindest of them. I won't state, in so many words, that Chester
Pelton's sold out the Radical-Socialists and the Consolidated
Illiterates' Organization to the Associated Fraternities of Literates,
because, since no witness to any actual transfer of money can be
found, such a statement would be libelous--provided Pelton had nerve
enough to sue me."

"Why, you dirty misbegotten illegitimate--!" Pelton was on his feet.
His hand went to his hip, and then, realizing that he was unarmed and,
in any case, confronted only by an electronic image, he sat down
again.

"Pelton's been yapping for socialized Literacy," the man on the screen
continued. "I'm not going back to the old argument that any kind of
socialization is only the thin edge of the wedge which will pry open
the pit of horrors from which the world has climbed since the Fourth
World War. If you don't realize that now, it's no use for me to
repeat it again. But I will ask you, do you realize, for a moment,
what a program of socialized Literacy would mean, apart from the
implications of any kind of socialization? It would mean that inside
of five years, the Literates would control the whole government. They
control the courts, now--only a Literate can become a lawyer, and only
a lawyer can become a judge. They control the armed forces--only a
Literate can enter West Point or Fort MacKenzie or Chapultepec or
White Sands or Annapolis. And, if Chester Pelton's socialization
scheme goes into effect, there will be no branch of the government
which will not be completely under the control of the Associated
Fraternities of Literates!"

The screen went suddenly dark. Her father turned, to catch her with
her hand still on the switch.

"Put it back on; I want to hear what that lying pimp of a Slade
Gardner's saying about me!"

"Phooy; you'd have shot it out, yourself, if you'd had your gun on. I
saw you reaching for it. Now be quiet, and take it easy," she ordered.

He reached toward the Readilit for a cigarette, then his hand stopped.
His face was contorted with pain; he gave a gasp of suffocation.

Claire cried in dismay: "You're not going to have another of those
attacks? Where are the nitrocaine bulbs?"

"Don't ... have any ... here. Some at the office, but--"

"I told you to get more," she accused.

"Oh, I don't need them, really." His voice was steadier, now; the
spasm of pain had passed. He filled his coffee cup and sipped from it.
"Turn on the video again, Claire. I want to hear what that Gardner's
saying."

"I will not! Don't you have people at party headquarters monitoring
this stuff? Well, then. Somebody'll prepare an answer, if he needs
answering."

"I think he does. A lot of these dumbos'll hear that and believe it.
I'll talk to Frank. He'll know what to do."

Frank again. She frowned.

"Look, Senator; you think Frank Cardon's your friend, but I don't
trust him. I never could," she said. "I think he's utterly and
entirely unscrupulous. Amoral, I believe, is the word. Like a savage,
or a pirate, or one of the old-time Nazis or Communists."

"Oh, Claire!" her father protested. "Frank's in a tough business--you
have no idea the lengths competition goes to in the beer business--and
he's been in politics, and dealing with racketeers and labor unions,
all his life. But he's a good sound Illiterate--family Illiterate for
four generations, like ours--and I'd trust him with anything. You
heard this fellow Mongery--I always have to pause to keep from
calling him Mongrel--saying that I deserved the credit for pulling the
Radicals out of the mud and getting the party back on the tracks.
Well, I couldn't have begun to do it without Frank Cardon."

       *       *       *       *       *

Frank Cardon stood on the sidewalk, looking approvingly into the window
of O'Reilly's Tavern, in which his display crew had already set up the
spread for the current week. On either side was a giant six-foot
replica, in black glass, of the Cardon bottle, in the conventional shape
accepted by an Illiterate public as containing beer, bearing the red
Cardon label with its pictured bottle in a central white disk. Because
of the heroic size of the bottles, the pictured bottle on the label bore
a bottle bearing a label bearing a bottle bearing a bottle on a
label.... He counted eight pictured bottles, down to the tiniest dot of
black. There were four-foot bottles next to the six-foot bottles, and
three-foot bottles next to them, and, in the middle background, a
life-size tri-dimensional picture of an almost nude and incredibly
pulchritudinous young lady smiling in invitation at the passing throng
and extending a foaming bottle of Cardon's in her hand. Aside from the
printed trademark-registry statements on the labels, there was not a
printed word visible in the window.

He pushed through the swinging doors and looked down the long room,
with the chairs still roosting sleepily on the tables, and made a
quick count of the early drinkers, two thirds of them in white smocks
and Sam Browne belts, obviously from Literates' Hall, across the
street. Late drinkers, he corrected himself mentally; they'd be the
night shift, having their drinks before going home.

"Good morning, Mr. Cardon," the bartender greeted him. "Still drinking
your own?"

"Hasn't poisoned me yet," Cardon told him. "Or anybody else." He
folded a C-bill accordion-wise and set it on edge on the bar. "Give
everybody what they want."

"Drink up, gentlemen, and have one on Mr. Cardon," the bartender
announced, then lowered his voice. "O'Reilly wants to see you.
About--" He gave a barely perceptible nod in the direction of the
building across the street.

"Yes; I want to see him, too." Cardon poured from the bottle in front
of him, accepted the thanks of the house, and, when the bartender
brought the fifteen-dollars-odd change from the dozen drinks, he
pushed it back.

He drank slowly, looking around the room, then set down his empty
glass and went back, past two doors which bore pictured half-doors
revealing, respectively, masculine-trousered and feminine-stockinged
ankles, and opened the unmarked office door beyond. The bartender, he
knew, had pushed the signal button; the door was unlocked, and,
inside, O'Reilly--baptismal name Luigi Orelli--was waiting.

"Chief wants to see you, right away," the saloon keeper said.

The brewer nodded. "All right. Keep me covered; don't know how long
I'll be." He crossed the room and opened a corner-cupboard, stepping
inside.

The corner cupboard, which was an elevator, took him to a tunnel below
the street. Across the street, he entered another elevator, set the
indicator for the tenth floor, and ascended. As the car rose, he could
feel the personality of Frank Cardon, Illiterate brewer, drop from
him, as though he were an actor returning from the stage to his
dressing room.

The room into which he emerged was almost that. There was a long
table, at which two white-smocked Literates drank coffee and went over
some papers; a third Literate sprawled in a deep chair, resting; at a
small table, four men in black shirts and leather breeches and field
boots played poker, while a fifth, who had just entered and had not
yet removed his leather helmet and jacket or his weapons belt, stood
watching them.

Cardon went to a row of lockers along the wall, opened one, and took
out a white smock, pulling it over his head and zipping it up to the
throat. Then he buckled on a Sam Browne with its tablet holster and
stylus gas projector. The Literate sprawling in the chair opened one
eye.

"Hi, Frank. Feels good to have them on again, doesn't it?"

"Yes. Clean," Cardon replied. "It'll be just for half an hour, but--"

He passed through the door across from the elevator, went down a short
hall, and spoke in greeting to the leather-jacketed storm trooper on
guard outside the door at the other end.

"Mr. Cardon," the guard nodded. "Mr. Lancedale's expecting you."

"So I understand, Bert."

He opened the door and went through. William R. Lancedale rose from
behind his desk and advanced to greet him with a quick handshake,
guiding him to a chair beside the desk. As he did, he sniffed and
raised an eyebrow.

"Beer this early, Frank?" he asked.

"Morning, noon, and night, chief," Cardon replied. "When you said this
job was going to be dangerous, I didn't know you meant that it would
lead straight to an alcoholic's grave."

"Let me get you a cup of coffee, and a cigar, then." The white-haired
Literate executive resumed his seat, passing a hand back and forth
slowly across the face of the commo, the diamond on his finger
twinkling, and gave brief instructions. "And just relax, for a minute.
You have a tough job, this time, Frank."

They were both silent as a novice Literate bustled in with coffee and
individually-sealed cigars.

"At least, you're not one of these plain-living-and-right-thinking
fanatics, like Wilton Joyner and Harvey Graves," Cardon said. "On top
of everything else, that I could not take."

Lancedale's thin face broke into a smile, little wrinkles putting his
mouth in parentheses. Cardon sampled the coffee, and then used a
Sixteenth Century Italian stiletto from Lancedale's desk to perforate
the end of his cigar.

"Much as I hate it, I'll have to get out of here as soon as I can," he
said. "I don't know how long O'Reilly can keep me covered, down at the
tavern--"

Lancedale nodded. "Well, how are things going, then?"

"First of all, the brewery," Cardon began.

Lancedale consigned the brewery to perdition. "That's just your cover;
any money it makes is purely irrelevant. How about the election?"

"Pelton's in," Cardon said. "As nearly in as any candidate ever was
before the polls opened. Three months ago, the Independents were as
solid as Gibraltar used to be. Today, they look like Gibraltar after
that H-bomb hit it. The only difference is, they don't know what hit
them, yet."

"Hamilton's campaign manager does," Lancedale said. "Did you hear his
telecast, this morning?"

Cardon shook his head. Lancedale handed over a little half-inch,
thirty-minute, record disk.

"All you need is the first three or four minutes," he said. "The rest
of it is repetition."

Cardon put the disk in his pocket recorder and set it for play-back,
putting the plug in his ear. After a while, he shut it off and took
out the ear plug.

"That's bad! What are we going to do about it?"

Lancedale shrugged. "What are you going to do?" he countered. "You're
Pelton's campaign manager--Heaven pity him."

Cardon thought for a moment. "We'll play it for laughs," he decided. "Some
of our semantics experts could make the joke of the year out of it by the
time the polls open tomorrow. The Fraternities bribing their worst enemy to
attack them, so that he can ruin their business; who's been listening to a
tape of 'Alice in Wonderland' at Independent-Conservative headquarters?"

"That would work," Lancedale agreed. "And we can count on our friends
Joyner and Graves to give you every possible assistance with their
customary bull-in-a-china-shop tactics. I suppose you've seen these
posters they've been plastering around: _If you can read this,
Chester Pelton is your sworn enemy! A vote for Pelton is a vote for
your own enslavement!_"

"Naturally. And have you seen the telecast we've been using--a view of
it, with a semantically correct spoken paraphrase?"

Lancedale nodded. "And I've also noticed that those posters have been
acquiring different obscene crayon-drawings, too. That's just typical
of the short-range Joyner-Graves mentality. Why, they've made more
votes for Pelton than he's made for himself. Is it any wonder we're
convinced that people like that aren't to be trusted to formulate the
future policy of the Fraternities?"

"Well ... they've proved themselves wrong. I wonder, though, if we can
prove ourselves right, in the long run. There are times when this
thing scares me, chief. If anything went wrong--"

"What, for instance?"

"Somebody could get to Pelton." Cardon made a stabbing gesture with
the stiletto, which he still held. "Maybe you don't really know how
hot this thing's gotten. What we had to cut out of Mongery's report,
this morning--"

"Oh, I've been keeping in touch," Lancedale understated gently.

"Well then. If anything happened to Pelton, there wouldn't be a
Literate left alive in this city twelve hours later. And I question
whether or not Graves and Joyner know that."

"I think they do. If they don't, it's not because I've failed to point
it out to them. Of course, there are the Independent-Conservative
grafters; a lot of them are beginning to hear jail doors opening for
them, and they're scared. But I think routine body-guarding ought to
protect Pelton from them, or from any isolated fanatics."

"And there is also the matter of Pelton's daughter, and his son,"
Cardon said. "We know, and Graves and Joyner know, and I assume that
Slade Gardner knows, that they can both read and write as well as any
Literate in the Fraternities. Suppose that got out between now and the
election?"

"And that could not only hurt Pelton, but it would expose the work
we've been doing in the schools," Lancedale added. "And even inside
the Fraternities, that would raise the devil. Joyner and Graves don't
begin to realize how far we've gone with that. They could kick up a
simply hideous row about it!"

"And if Pelton found out that his kids are Literates--_Woooo!_" Cardon
grimaced. "Or what we've been doing to him. I hope I'm not around when
that happens. I'm beginning to like the cantankerous old bugger."

"I was afraid of that," Lancedale said. "Well, don't let it interfere
with what you have to do. Remember, Frank; the Plan has to come first,
always."

He walked with O'Reilly to the street door, talking about tomorrow's
election; after shaking hands with the saloon keeper, he crossed the
sidewalk and stepped onto the beltway, moving across the strips until
he came to the twenty m.p.h. strip. The tall office buildings of upper
Yonkers Borough marched away as he stood on the strip, appreciatively
puffing at Lancedale's cigar. The character of the street changed; the
buildings grew lower, and the quiet and fashionable ground-floor shops
and cafés gave place to bargain stores, their audio-advertisers
whooping urgently about improbable prices and offerings, and garish,
noisy, crowded bars and cafeterias blaring recorded popular music.
There was quite a bit of political advertising in evidence--huge
pictures of the two major senatorial candidates. He estimated that
Chester Pelton's bald head and bulldog features appeared twice for
every one of Grant Hamilton's white locks, old-fashioned spectacles
and self-satisfied smirk.

Then he came to the building on which he had parked his 'copter, and
left the beltway, entering and riding up to the landing stage on the
helical escalator. There seemed to have been some trouble; about a
dozen Independent-Conservative storm troopers, in their white robes
and hoods, with the fiery-cross emblem on their breasts, were bunched
together, most of them with their right hands inside their bosoms,
while a similar group of Radical-Conservative storm troopers, with
their black sombreros and little black masks, stood watching them and
fingering the white-handled pistols they wore in pairs on their belts.
Between the two groups were four city policemen, looking acutely
unhappy.

The group in the Lone Ranger uniforms, he saw, were standing in front
of a huge tri-dimensional animated portrait of Chester Pelton. As he
watched, the pictured candidate raised a clenched fist, and Pelton's
recorded and amplified voice thundered:

"_Put the Literates in their place! Our servants, not our masters!_"

He recognized the group leader of the Radical-Socialists--the masks
were too small to be more than token disguises--and beckoned to him,
at the same time walking toward his 'copter. The man in black with the
white-handled pistols followed him, spurs jingling.

"Hello, Mr. Cardon," he said, joining him. "Nothing to it. We got a
tip they were coming to sabotage Big Brother, over there. Take out our
sound-recording, and put in one of their own, like they did over in
Queens, last week. The town clowns got here in time to save
everybody's face, so there wasn't any shooting. We're staying put till
they go, though."

"_Put the Literates in their place! Our servants, not our masters!_"
the huge tridianimate bellowed.

Over in Queens, the Independents had managed to get at a similar
tridianimate, had taken out the record, and had put in one: _I am a
lying fraud! Vote for Grant Hamilton and liberty and sound
government!_

"Smart work, Goodkin," he approved. "Don't let any of your boys start
the gunplay. The city cops are beginning to get wise to who's going to
win the election, tomorrow, but don't antagonize them. But if any of
those Ku Kluxers tries to pull a gun, don't waste time trying to wing
him. Just hold on to that fiery something-or-other on his chest and
let him have it, and let the coroner worry about him."

"Yeah. With pleasure," Goodkin replied. "You know, that nightshirt
thing they wear is about the stupidest idea for a storm-troop uniform
I ever saw. Natural target in a gunfight, and in a rough-and-tumble it
gets them all tangled up. Ah, there go a couple of coppers to talk to
them; that's what they've been waiting on. Now they can beat it
without looking like they been run out by our gang."

Cardon nodded. "Tell your boys to stay around for a while; they may
expect you to leave right after they do, and then they'll try to slip
back. You did a good job; got here promptly. Be seeing you, Goodkin."

He climbed into his own 'copter and started the motor.

"_Put the Literates in their place!_" the tri-dimensional colossus
roared triumphantly after the retreating Independents. "_Our servants,
not our masters!_"

       *       *       *       *       *

At eight thousand, he got the 'copter onto the lower Manhattan beam
and relaxed. First of all, he'd have to do something about answering
Slade Gardner's telecast propaganda. That stuff was dangerous. The
answer ought to go on the air by noon, and should be stepped up
through the afternoon. First as a straight news story; Elliot Mongery
had fifteen minutes, beginning at 1215--no, that wouldn't do.
Mongery's sponsor for that time was Atomflame Heaters, and Atomflame
was a subsidiary of Canada Northwest Fissionables, and Canada
Northwest was umbilicus-deep in that Kettle River lease graft that
Pelton had sworn to get investigated as soon as he took office.
Professional ethics wouldn't allow Mongery to say anything in Pelton's
behalf on Atomflame's time. Well, there was Guthrie Parham, he came on
at 1245, and his sponsor was all right. He'd call Parham and tell him
what he wanted done.

[Illustration:]

The buzzer warned him that he was approaching the lower Manhattan
beacon; he shifted to manual control, dropped down to the
three-thousand-foot level, and set his selector beam for the signal
from Pelton's Purchasers' Paradise. Down toward the tip of the island,
in the section that had been rebuilt after that Stalin Mark XV
guided missile had gotten through the counter-rocket defenses in 1987,
he could see the quadrate cross of his goal, with public landing
stages on each of the four arms, and the higher central block with its
landing stage for freight and store personnel. Above the four public
stages, helicopters swarmed like May flies--May flies which had
mutated and invented ritual or military drill or choreography--coming
in in four streams to the tips of the arms and rising vertically from
the middle. There was about ten times the normal amount of traffic for
this early in the morning. He wondered, briefly, then remembered, and
cursed. That infernal sale!

Grudgingly, he respected Russell Latterman's smartness, and in
consequence, the ability of Wilton Joyner and Harvey Graves in
selecting a good agent to plant in Pelton's store. Latterman gave a
plausible impersonation of the Illiterate businessman, loyal Prime
Minister of Pelton's commercial empire, Generalissimo in the perpetual
war against Macy & Gimbel's. From that viewpoint, the sale was
excellent business--Latterman had gotten the jump on all the other
department stores for the winter fashions and fall sports trade. He
had also turned the store into a madhouse at the exact time when
Chester Pelton needed to give all his attention to the election.

Pressing the button that put on his private recognition signal, he
rose above the incoming customers and began to drop toward the
private landing stage, circling to get a view of the other four
stages. Maybe the sale could be turned to some advantage, at that. A
free souvenir with each purchase, carrying a Pelton-for-Senator
picture-message--

He broke off, peering down at the five-hundred-foot-square landing stage
above the central block, then brought his 'copter swooping down rapidly.
The white-clad figures he had seen swarming up the helical escalator
were not wearing the Ku Klux robes of the Independent-Conservative storm
troops, as he had first feared--they were in Literate smocks, and among
them were the black leather jackets and futuristic helmets of their
guards. They were led, he saw, by Stephen S. Bayne, the store's Chief
Literate; with him were his assistant, Literate Third Class Roger B.
Feinberg, and the novices carrying books and briefcases and cased
typewriters, and the guards, and every Literate employed in the store.
Four or five men in ordinarily vivid-colored business suits were
obviously expostulating about something. As he landed and threw back the
transparent canopy, he could hear a babel of voices, above which
Feinberg was crying: "Unfair! Unfair! Unfair to Organized Literacy!"

He jumped out and hurried over.

       *       *       *       *       *

"But you simply can't!" a white-haired man in blue-and-orange business
clothes was protesting. "If you do, the Associated Fraternities'll be
liable for losses we incur; you know that!"

Bayne, his thin face livid with anger--and also, Cardon noticed, with
what looked like a couple of fresh bruises--ignored him. Feinberg
broke off his chant of "Unfair! Unfair!" long enough to answer:

"A Literate First Class has been brutally assaulted by the Illiterate
owner of this store. Literate service for this store is, accordingly,
being discontinued, pending a decision by the Grand Council of the
local Fraternity."

Cardon grabbed the blue-and-orange clad man and dragged him to one
side.

"What happened, Hutschnecker?" he demanded.

"They're walking out on us," Hutschnecker told him, unnecessarily.
"The boss had a fight with Bayne; knocked him down a couple of times.
Bayne tried to pull his tablet gun, and I grabbed it away from him,
and somebody else grabbed Pelton before he could pull his, and a
couple of store cops got all the other Literates in the office
covered. Then Bayne put on the general-address system and began
calling out the Literates--"

"Yes, but why did Pelton beat Bayne up?"

"Bayne made a pass at Miss Claire. I wasn't there when it happened;
she came into the office--"

Cardon felt his face tighten into a frown of perplexity. That wasn't
like Literate First Class Stephen S. Bayne. He made quite a hobby of
pinching salesgirls behind the counter which was one thing; the boss'
daughter was quite another.

"Where's Latterman?" he asked, looking around.

"Down in the office, with the others, trying to help Mr. Pelton. He's
had another of those heart attacks--"

Cardon swore and ran for the descending escalator, running down the
rotating spiral to the executive floor and jumping off into the
gawking mob of Illiterate clerks crowded in the open doors of Pelton's
office. He hit and shoved and elbowed and cursed them out of the way,
and burst into the big room beyond, and then, for a moment, he was
almost sorry he had come.

Pelton was slumped in his big relaxer chair, his face pale and twisted
in pain, his breath coming in feeble gasps. His daughter was beside
him, her blond head bent over him; Russell Latterman was standing to
one side, watching intently. For an instant, Cardon was reminded of a
tomcat watching a promising mouse hole.

"Claire!" Cardon exploded, "give him a nitrocaine bulb. Why are you
all just standing around?"

Claire turned. "There are none," she said, looking at him with
desperate eyes. "The box is empty; he must have used them all."

He shot a quick glance at Latterman, catching the sales manager before
he could erase a look of triumph from his face. Things began to add
up. Latterman, of course, was the undercover man for Wilton Joyner and
Harvey Graves and the rest of the Conservative faction at Literates'
Hall, just as he, himself, was Lancedale's agent. Obsessed with
immediate advantages and disadvantages, the Joyner-Graves faction
wanted to secure the re-election of Grant Hamilton, and the way things
had been going in the past two months, only Chester Pelton's death
could accomplish that. Latterman had probably thrown out Pelton's
nitrocaine capsules and then put Bayne up to insulting Pelton's
daughter, knowing that a fit of rage would bring on another heart
attack, which could be fatal without the medicine.

"Well, send for more!"

"The prescription's in the safe," she said faintly.

The office safe was locked, and only a Literate could open it. The
double combination was neatly stenciled on the door, the numbers
spelled out as words and the letters spelled in phonetic equivalents.
All three of them--himself, Claire, and Russell Latterman--could read
them. None of them dared admit it. Latterman was fairly licking his
chops in anticipation. If Cardon opened the safe, Pelton's campaign
manager stood convicted as a Literate. If Claire opened it, the gaggle
of Illiterate clerks in the doorway would see, and speedily spread
the news, that the daughter of the arch-foe of Literacy was herself
able to read. Maybe Latterman hadn't really intended his employer to
die. Maybe this was the situation he had really intended to contrive.

Chester Pelton couldn't be allowed to die. If Grant Hamilton were
returned to the Senate, the long-range planning of William Lancedale
would suffer a crushing setback, and the public reaction would be
catastrophic. _The Plan comes first_, Lancedale had told him. He made
his decision, and then saw that he hadn't needed to make it. Claire
had straightened, left her father, crossed quickly to the safe, and
was kneeling in front of it, her back stiff with determination, her
fingers busy at the dials, her eyes going from them to the printed
combination and back again. She swung open the door, skimmed through
the papers inside, unerringly selected the prescription, and rose.

"Here, Russ; go get it filled at once," she ordered. "And hurry!"

Oh, no, you don't, Cardon thought. One chance is enough for you, Russ.
He snatched the prescription from her and turned to Latterman.

"I'll get it," he told the sales manager. "You're needed for the sale;
stay on the job here."

"But with the Literates walked out, we can't--"

Cardon blazed: "Do I have to teach you your business? Have a sample of
each item set aside at the counter, and pile sales slips under it.
And for unique items, just detach the tag and put it with the sales
slip. Now get out of here, and get cracking with it!" He picked up the
pistol that had been taken from Pelton when he had tried to draw it on
Bayne, checking the chamber and setting the safety. "Know how to use
this?" he asked Claire. "Then hang onto it, and stay close to your
father. This wasn't any accident, it was a deliberate attempt on his
life. I'll have a couple of store cops sent in here; see that they
stay with you."

He gave her no chance to argue. Pushing Latterman ahead of him, he
drove through the mob of clerks outside the door.

"... Course she can; didn't you see her open the safe?" he heard.
"... Nobody but a Literate--" "Then she's a Literate, herself!"

A couple of centuries ago, they would have talked like that if it had
been discovered that the girl were pregnant; a couple of centuries
before that, they would have been equally horrified if she had been
discovered to have been a Protestant, or a Catholic, or whatever the
locally unpopular religion happened to be. By noon, this would be all
over Penn-Jersey-York; coming on top of Slade Gardner's accusations--

       *       *       *       *       *

He ran up the spiral escalator, stumbling and regaining his footing as
he left it. Bayne and his striking Literates were all gone; he saw a
sergeant of Pelton's store police and went toward him, taking his
spare identity-badge from his pocket.

"Here," he said, handing it to the sergeant. "Get another officer, and
go down to Pelton's office. Show it to Miss Pelton, and tell her I
sent you. There's been an attempt on Chester Pelton's life; you're to
stay with him. Use your own judgment, but don't let anybody, and that
definitely includes Russell Latterman, get at him. If you see anything
suspicious, shoot first and ask questions afterwards. What's your
name, sergeant?"

"Coccozello, sir. Guido Coccozello."

"All right. There'll be a medic or a pharmacist--a Literate,
anyhow--with medicine for Mr. Pelton. He'll ask for you, by name, and
mention me. And there'll be another Literate, maybe; he'll know your
name, and use mine. Hurry, now, sergeant."

He jumped into his 'copter, pulled forward the plexiglass canopy, and
took off vertically to ten thousand feet, then, orienting himself,
swooped downward toward a landing stage on the other side of the East
River, cutting across traffic levels with an utter contempt for
regulations.

The building on which he landed was one of the principal pharmacies;
he spiraled down on the escalator to the main floor and went directly
to the Literate in charge, noticing that he wore on his Sam Browne not
only the badges of retail-merchandising, pharmacist and graduate
chemist but also that of medic-in-training. Snatching a pad and pencil
from a counter, he wrote hastily: _Your private office, at once;
urgent and important._

Looking at it, the Literate nodded in recognition of Cardon's
Literacy.

"Over this way, sir," he said, guiding Cardon to his small cubicle
office.

"Here." Cardon gave him the prescription. "Nitrocaine bulbs. They're
for Chester Pelton; he's had a serious heart attack. He needs these
with all speed. I don't suppose I need tell you how many kinds of hell
will break loose if he dies now and the Fraternities are accused, as
the Illiterates' Organization will be sure to, of having had him
poisoned."

"Who are you?" the Literate asked, taking the prescription and
glancing at it. "That,"--he gestured toward Cardon's silver-laced
black Mexican jacket--"isn't exactly a white smock."

Cardon had his pocket recorder in his hand. He held it out, pressing a
concealed stud; the stylus-and-tablet insignia glowed redly on it for
a moment, then vanished. The uniformed Literate nodded.

"Fill this exactly; better do it yourself, to make sure, and take it
over to Pelton's yourself. I see you have a medic-trainee's badge. Ask
for Sergeant Coccozello, and tell him Frank Cardon sent you." The
Literate, who had not recognized him before, opened his eyes at the
name and whistled softly. "And fix up a sedative to keep him quiet
for not less than four nor more than six hours. Let me use your
visiphone for a while, if you please."

The man in the Literate smock nodded and hurried out. Cardon dialed
William R. Lancedale's private number. When Lancedale's thin, intense
face appeared on the screen, he reported swiftly.

"The way I estimate it," he finished, "Latterman put Bayne up to
making a pass at the girl, after having thrown out Pelton's nitrocaine
bulbs. Probably told the silly jerk that Claire was pining away with
secret passion for him, or something. Maybe he wanted to kill Pelton;
maybe he just wanted this to happen."

"I assume there's no chance of stopping a leak?"

Cardon laughed with mirthless harshness. "That, I take it, was
rhetorical."

"Yes, of course." Lancedale's face assumed the blank expression that
went with a pause for semantic re-integration. "Can you cover yourself
for about an hour?"

"Certainly. 'Copter trouble. Visits to campaign headquarters. An
appeal on Pelton's behalf for a new crew of Literates for the store--"

"Good enough. Come over. I think I can see a way to turn this to
advantage. I'm going to call for an emergency session of the Grand
Council this afternoon, and I'll want you sitting in on it; I want to
talk to you about plans now." He considered for a moment. "There's
too much of a crowd at O'Reilly's, now; come the church way."

Breaking the connection, Cardon dialed again. A girl's face, over a
Literate Third Class smock, appeared in the screen; a lovely golden
voice chimed at him:

"Mineola High School; good morning, sir."

"Good morning. Frank Cardon here. Let me talk, at once, to your
principal, Literate First Class Prestonby."

       *       *       *       *       *

Ralph Prestonby cleared his throat, slipped a master disk into the
recording machine beside his desk, and pressed the start button.

"Dear Parent or Guardian," he began. "Your daughter, now a third-year
student at this school, has reached the age of eligibility for the
Domestic Science course entitled, 'How To Win and Hold a Husband.'
Statistics show that girls who have completed this valuable course are
sooner, longer, and happier married than those who have not enjoyed
its advantages. We recommend it most highly.

"However, because of the delicate nature of some of the visual
material used, your consent is required. You can attach such consent
to this disk by running it for at least ten seconds after the sign-off
and then switching from 'Play' to 'Transcribe.' Kindly include your
full name, as well as your daughter's, and place your thumbprint on
the opposite side of the disk. Very sincerely yours, Literate First
Class Ralph C. Prestonby, Principal."

He put the master disk in an envelope, checked over a list of names
and addresses of parents and girl students, and put that in also. He
looked over the winter sports schedule, and signed and thumbprinted
it. Then he loaded the recorder with his morning's mail, switched to
"Play," and started it. As he listened, he blew smoke rings across the
room and toyed with a dagger, made from a file, which had been thrown
down the central light-well at him a few days before. The invention of
the pocket recorder, which put a half-hour's conversation on a
half-inch disk, had done more to slow down business and promote inane
correspondence than anything since the earlier inventions of
shorthand, typewriters and pretty stenographers. Finally, he cleared
the machine, dumping the whole mess into a basket and carrying it out
to his secretary.

"Miss Collins, take this infernal rubbish and have a couple of the
girls divide it between them, play it off, and make a digest of it,"
he said. "And here. The sports schedule, and this parental-consent
thing on the husband-trapping course. Have them taken care of."

"This stuff," Martha Collins said, poking at the pile of letter disks.
"I suppose about half of it is threats, abuse and obscenities, and the
other half is from long-winded bores with idiotic suggestions and
ill-natured gripes. I'll use that old tag line, again--'hoping you
appreciate our brevity as much as we enjoyed yours--'"

"Yes. That'll be all right." He looked at his watch. "I'm going to
make a personal building-tour, instead of using the TV. The animals
are sort of restless, today. The election; the infantile compulsion to
take sides. If you need me for anything urgent, don't use oral call.
Just flash my signal, red-blue-red-blue, on the hall and classroom
screens. Oh, Doug!"

Yetsko, his length of rubber hose under his arm, ambled out of
Prestonby's private office, stopping to stub out his cigarette. The
action reminded Prestonby that he still had his pipe in his mouth; he
knocked it out and pocketed it. Together, they went into the hall
outside.

"Where to, first, captain?" Yetsko wanted to know.

"Cloak-and-Dagger Department, on the top floor. Then we'll drop down
to the shops, and then up through Domestic Science and Business and
General Arts."

"And back here. We hope," Yetsko finished.

       *       *       *       *       *

They took a service elevator to the top floor, emerging into a
stockroom piled with boxes and crates and cases of sound records and
cans of film and stacks of picture cards, and all the other
impedimenta of Illiterate education. Passing through it to the other
end, Prestonby unlocked a door, and they went down a short hall, to
where ten or fifteen boys and girls had just gotten off a helical
escalator and were queued up at a door at the other end. There were
two Literate guards in black leather, and a student-monitor, with his
white belt and rubber truncheon, outside the door.

Prestonby swore under his breath. He'd hoped they'd miss this, but
since they hadn't, there was nothing for it but to fall in at the tail
of the queue. One by one, the boys and girls went up, spoke briefly to
the guards and the student-monitor, and were passed through the door,
Each time, one of the guards had to open it with a key. Finally, it
was Prestonby's turn.

"B, D, F, H, J, L, N, P, R, T, V, X, Y," he recited to the guardians
of the door.

"A, C, E, G, I, K, M, O, Q, S, U, W, Y," the monitor replied solemnly.
"The inkwell is dry, and the book is dusty."

"But tomorrow, there will be writing and reading for all," Prestonby
answered.

The guard with the key unlocked the door, and he and Yetsko went
through, into an utterly silent sound-proofed room, and from it into
an inner, noisy, room, where a recorded voice was chanting:

"Hat--_huh-ah-tuh._ H-a-t. Box--_buh-oh-ksss_. B-o-x.
Gun--_guh-uh-nnn_. G-u-n. Girl--_guh-ih-rrr-lll_," while pictures were
flashed on a screen at the front, and words appeared under them.

There were about twenty boys and girls, of the freshman-year
age-bracket at desk-seats, facing the screen. They'd started learning
the alphabet when school had opened in September; now they had gotten
as far as combining letters into simple words. In another month,
they'd be as far as diphthongs and would be initiated into the
mysteries of silent letters. Maybe sooner than that; he was finding
that children who had not been taught to read until their twelfth year
learned much more rapidly than the primary grade children in the
Literate schools.

What he was doing here wasn't exactly illegal. It wasn't even against
the strict letter of Fraternity regulations. But it had to be done
clandestinely. What he'd have liked to have done would have been to
have given every boy and girl in English I the same instruction this
selected group was getting, but that would have been out of the
question. The public would never have stood for it; the police would
have had to intervene to prevent a riotous mob of Illiterates from
tearing the school down brick by brick, and even if that didn't
happen, the ensuing uproar inside the Fraternity would have blown the
roof off Literates' Hall. Even Lancedale couldn't have survived such
an explosion, and the body of Literate First Class Ralph N. Prestonby
would have been found in a vacant lot the next morning. Even many of
Lancedale's supporters would have turned on him in anger at this
sudden blow to the Fraternities' monopoly of the printed Word.

So it had to be kept secret, and since adolescents in possession of a
secret are under constant temptation to hint mysteriously in the
presence of outsiders, this hocus-pocus of ritual and password and
countersign had to be resorted to. He'd been in conspiratorial work of
other kinds, and knew that there was a sound psychological basis for
most of what seemed, at first glance, to be mere melodramatic
claptrap.

He and Yetsko passed on through a door across the room, into another
sound-proofed room. The work of soundproofing and partitioning the old
stockroom had been done in the last semester of his first year at
Mineola High, by members of the graduating class of building-trades
students, who had then gone their several ways convinced that they had
been working on a set of music-class practice rooms. The Board of
Education had never even found out about it. In this second room, a
Literate teacher, one of the Lancedale faction, had a reading class of
twenty-five or thirty. A girl was on her feet, with a book in her
hand, reading from it:

    "We are not sure of sorrow;
      And joy was never sure;
    Today will die tomorrow;
      Time stoops to no man's lure;
    And love, grown faint and fretful
    With lips but half regretful
    Sighs, and with eyes forgetful
      Weeps that no loves endure."

Then she handed the book--it was the only copy--to the boy sitting in
front of her, and he rose to read the next verse. Prestonby, catching
the teacher's eye, nodded and smiled. This was a third-year class, of
course, but from h-a-t spells hat to Swinburne in three years was good
work.

There were three other classes, a total of little over a hundred
students. There was no trouble; they were there for one purpose
only--to learn. He spoke with one of the teachers, whose class was
busy with a written exercise; he talked for a while to another whose
only duty at the moment was to answer questions and furnish help to a
small class who were reading silently from a variety of smuggled-in
volumes.

"Only a hundred and twenty, out of five thousand," Yetsko said to him,
as they were dropping down in the elevator by which they had come.
"Think you'll ever really get anything done with them?"

"I won't. Maybe they won't," he replied. "But the ones they'll teach
will. They're just a cadre; it'll take fifty years before the effects
are really felt. But some day--"

The shops--a good half of the school was trades-training--were noisy
and busy. Here Prestonby kept his hand on his gas-projector, and
Yetsko had his rubber hose ready, either to strike or to discard in
favor of his pistol. The instructors were similarly on the alert and
ready for trouble--he had seen penitentiaries where the guards took it
easier. Carpentry and building trades. Machine shop. Welding. 'Copter
and TV repair shops--he made a minor and relatively honest graft
there, from the sale of rebuilt equipment. Even an atomic-equipment
shop, though there was nothing in the place that would excite a Geiger
more than the instructor's luminous-dial watch.

Domestic Science--Home Decorating, Home Handicrafts, Use of Home
Appliances, Beautician School, Charm School. He and Yetsko sampled the
products of the Cooking School, intended for the cafeteria, and found
them edible if uninspired.

Business--classes in recording letters, using Illiterate
business-machines, preparing Illiterate cards for same, filing
recordings--always with the counsel, "When in doubt, consult a
Literate."

General Arts--Spanish and French, from elaborate record players, the
progeny of the old Twentieth Century Linguaphone. English, with
recorded-speech composition, enunciation training, semantics, and what
Prestonby called English Illiterature. The class he visited was
drowsing through one of the less colorful sections of "Gone With The
Wind." World History, with half the students frankly asleep through an
audio-visual on the Feudal System, with planted hints on how nice a
revival of same would be, and identifying the clergy of the Middle
Ages with the Fraternities of Literates. American History, with the
class wide awake, since Custer's Massacre was obviously only moments
away.

"Wantta bet one of those little cherubs doesn't try to scalp another
before the day's out?" Yetsko whispered.

Prestonby shook his head. "No bet. Remember that film on the Spanish
Inquisition, that we had to discontinue?"

It was then that the light on the classroom screen, which had been
flickering green and white, suddenly began flashing Prestonby's
wanted-at-office signal.

       *       *       *       *       *

Prestonby found Frank Cardon looking out of the screen in his private
office. The round, ordinarily cheerful, face was serious, but the
innocent blue eyes were as unreadable as ever. He was wearing one of
the new Mexican _charro_-style jackets, black laced with silver.

"I can't see all your office, Ralph," he said as Prestonby approached.
"Are you alone?"

"Doug Yetsko's all," Prestonby said, and, as Cardon hesitated, added:
"Don't be silly, Frank; he's my bodyguard. What could I be in that he
wouldn't know all about?"

Cardon nodded. "Well, we're in a jam up to here." A handwave conveyed
the impression that the sea of troubles had risen to his chin. He
spoke at some length, describing the fight between Chester Pelton and
Stephen S. Bayne, the Literate strike at Pelton's Purchasers'
Paradise, Pelton's heart attack, and the circumstances of Claire's
opening the safe. "So you see," he finished. "Maybe Latterman tried to
kill Pelton, maybe he just tried to do what he did. I can't take
chances either way."

Prestonby thought furiously. "You say Claire's alone at the store with
her father?"

"And a couple of store cops, sterling characters with the hearts of
lions and the brains of goldfish," Cardon replied. "And Russ
Latterman, and maybe four or five Conservative goons he's managed to
infiltrate into the store."

Prestonby was still thinking, aloud, now. "Maybe they did mean to kill
Pelton; in that case, they'll try again. Or maybe they only wanted to
expose Claire's literacy. It's hard to say what else they'd try--maybe
kidnap her, to truth-drug her and use her as a guest-artist on a
Conservative telecast. I'm going over to the store, now."

"That's a good idea, Ralph. If you hadn't thought of it, I was going
to suggest it. Land on the central stage, ask for Sergeant Coccozello
of the store police, and give my name. Even aside from everything
else, it'd be a good idea to have somebody there who can read and
dares admit it, till a new crew of Literates can get there. You were
speaking about the possibility of kidnaping; how about the boy? Ray?"

Prestonby nodded. "I'll have him come here to my office, and stay
there till I get back; I'll have Yetsko stay with him." He turned to
where the big man in black leather stood guard at the door. "Doug, go
get Ray Pelton and bring him here. Check with Miss Collins for where
he'd be, now." He turned back to the screen. "Anything else, Frank?"

"Isn't that enough?" the brewer-Literate demanded. "I'll call you at
the store, after a while. 'Bye."

The screen darkened as Cardon broke the connection. Prestonby got to
his feet, went to his desk, and picked up a pipe, digging out the
ashes from the bowl with an ice pick that one of the teachers had
taken from a sixteen-year-old would-be murderer. He checked his tablet
gun, made sure that there was an extra loaded clip in the holster, and
got two more spare clips from the arms locker. Then, to make sure, he
called Pelton's store, talking for a while to the police sergeant
Cardon had mentioned. By the time he was finished, the door opened and
Yetsko ushered Ray Pelton in.

"What's happened?" the boy asked. "Doug told me that the Senator ...
my father ... had another heart attack."

"Yes, Ray. I don't believe he's in any great danger. He's at the
store, resting in his office." He went on to tell the boy what had
happened, exactly and in full detail. He was only fifteen, but
already he had completed the four-year reading course and he could
think a great deal more logically than seventy per cent of the people
who were legally entitled to vote. Ray listened seriously, and proved
Prestonby's confidence justified by nodding.

"Frame-up," he said succinctly. "Stinks like a glue factory of a
put-up job. Something's going to happen to Russ Latterman, one of
these days."

"I think you'd better let Frank Cardon take care of him, Ray,"
Prestonby advised. "I think there are more angles to this than he told
me. Now, I'm going over to the store. Somebody's got to stay with
Claire. I want you to stay here, in this room. If anybody sends you
any message supposed to be from me, just ignore it. It'll be a trap.
If I want to get in touch with you, I'll call you, with vision-image."

"Mean somebody might try to kidnap me, or Claire, to force the Senator
to withdraw, or something?" Ray asked, his eyes widening.

"You catch on quickly, Ray," Prestonby commended him. "Doug, you stay
with Ray till I get back. Don't let him out of your sight for an
instant. At noon, have Miss Collins get lunches for both of you sent
up; if I'm not back by fifteen-hundred, take him to his home, and stay
with him there."

       *       *       *       *       *

[Illustration:]

For half an hour, Frank Cardon made a flying tour of
Radical-Socialist borough headquarters. Even at the Manhattan
headquarters, which he visited immediately after his talk with
Prestonby, the news had already gotten out. The atmosphere of
optimistic triumph which had undoubtedly followed Mongery's telecast
and his report on the Trotter Poll, had evaporated. The Literate
clerical help was gathered in a tight knot, obviously a little
worried, and just as obviously enjoying the reaction. In smaller and
constantly changing groups, the volunteers, the paid helpers, the
dirt-squirters, the goon gangs, gathered, talking in worried or
frightened or angry voices. When Cardon entered and was recognized,
there was a concerted movement toward him. His two regular bodyguards,
both on leave from the Literate storm troops, moved quickly to range
themselves on either side of him. With a gesture, he halted the
others.

"Hold it!" he called. "I know what you're worried about. I was there
when it happened, and saw everything."

He paused, to let them assimilate that, and continued: "Now get this, all
of you! Our boss, and--_if he lives_--our next senator, was the victim of
a deliberate murder attempt, by Literate First Class Bayne, who threw out
his supply of nitrocaine bulbs and then goaded him into a heart attack
which, except for his daughter, would have been fatal. Claire Pelton
deserves the deepest gratitude of every Radical-Socialist in the state.
She's a smart girl, and she saved the life of her father and our leader.

"But--she is _not_ a Literate!" he cried loudly. "All she did was
something any of you could have done--something I've done, myself, so
that I won't be locked out of my own safe and have to wait for a
Literate to come and open, it for me. She simply kept her eye on the
Literates who were opening the safe, and learned the combination from
the positions to which they turned the dial. And you believe, on the
strength of that, that she's a Literate? The next thing, you'll be
believing that professional liar of a Slade Gardner. And you call
yourselves politicians!" He fairly gargled obscenities.

Looking around, he caught sight of a pair who seemed something less
than impressed with his account of it. Joe West, thick-armed,
hairy-chested, blue-jowled; Horace Yingling, thin and gangling. They
weren't Radical-Socialist party people; they were from the Political
Action Committee of the Consolidated Illiterates Organization, and
their slogan was simpler and more to the point than Chester
Pelton's--the only good Literate is a dead Literate. He tensed himself
and challenged them directly.

"Joe; Horace. How about you? Satisfied the Pelton girl isn't a
Literate, now?"

Yingling looked at West, and West looked back at him questioningly.
Evidently the _suavitor in modo_ was Yingling's province, and the
_fortior in re_ was West's.

"Yeh, sure, Mr. Cardon," Yingling said dubiously. "Now that you
explain it, we see how it was."

       *       *       *       *       *

It was worse than that in some of the other boroughs. One fanatic,
imagining that Cardon himself was a crypto-Literate, drew a gun.
Cardon's guards disarmed him and beat him senseless. At another
headquarters, some character was circulating about declaring that not
only Claire Pelton but her younger brother, Ray, as well, were
Literates. Cardon's two men hustled him out of the building, and,
after about twenty minutes, returned alone. Cardon hoped that the body
would not be found until after the polls closed, the next day.

Finally, leaving his guards with the 'copter at a public landing
stage, he made his way, by devious routes, to William R. Lancedale's
office, and found Lancedale at his desk, seeming not to have moved
since he had showed his agent out earlier in the day.

"Well, we're in a nice puddle of something-or-other," Cardon greeted
him. "On top of that Gardner telecast, this morning--"

"Guthrie Parham's taking care of that, and everything's going to be
done to ridicule Gardner," Lancedale told him. "And even this business
at the store can be turned to some advantage. Before we're through, we
may gain more votes than we lose for Pelton. And we had an informal
meeting--Joyner for Retail Merchandising, Starke for Grievance
Settlements, and four or five others including myself, to make up a
quorum. We had Bayne in, and heard his story of it, and we got a
report from one of our stoolies in the store. Bayne thought he was
due for a commendation; instead, he got an eat-out. Of course, it was
a fact that Pelton'd hit him, and we can't have Literates punched
around, regardless of provocation. So we voted to fine Pelton ten
million for beating Bayne up, and to award him ten million for losses
resulting from unauthorized withdrawal of Literate services. We
ordered a new crew of Literates to the store, and we exiled Bayne to
Brooklyn, to something called Stillman's Used Copter and Junk Bazaar.
For the next few months, the only thing he'll find that's round and
pinchable will be second-hand tires. But don't be too hard on him; I
think he did us a favor."

"You mean, starting a rift between Pelton and the Consolidated
Illiterates' Organization, which we can widen after the election?"

"No. I hadn't thought of it that way, Frank," Lancedale smiled. "It's
an idea worth keeping in mind, and we'll exploit it, later. What I was
thinking about was the more immediate problem of the election--"

The buzzer on Lancedale's desk interrupted, and a voice came out of
the commo box:

"Message, urgent and private, sir. Source named as Sforza."

Cardon recognized the name. Maybe the Independent-Conservatives have
troubles, too, he thought hopefully. Then Lancedale's video screen
became the frame for an almost unbelievably commonplace set of
features.

"Sforza, sir," the man in the screen said. "Sorry I'm late, but I was
able to get out of the building only a few minutes ago, and I had to
make sure I wasn't wearing a tail. I have two new facts. First, the
Conservatives have been bringing storm troops in from outside, from
Philadelphia, and from Wilkes-Scranton, and from Buffalo. They are
being concentrated in lower Manhattan, in plain clothes, with only
concealed weapons, and carrying their hoods folded up under their
coats. Second, I overheard a few snatches of conversation between two
of the Conservative storm troop leaders, as follows: '... Start it in
China ... thirteen-thirty,' and '... Important to make it appear
either spontaneous or planned for business motives.'"

"Try to get us more information, as quickly as possible," Lancedale
directed. "Obviously, we should know, by about thirteen hundred,
what's being planned."

"Right, sir." Lancedale's spy at Independent-Conservative headquarters
nodded and vanished from the screen.

"What does it sound like to you, Frank?" Lancedale asked.

"China is obviously a code-designation for some place in downtown
Manhattan, where the Conservative goon gangs are being concentrated.
The only thing I can say is that it probably is not Chinatown. They'd
either say 'Chinatown' and not 'China,' or they would use some
code-designation that wasn't so close to the actual name," Cardon
considered. "What they're going to start, at thirteen-thirty, which is
only two hours and a half from now, is probably some kind of a riot."

"A riot which could arise from business motives," Lancedale added.
"That sounds like the docks, or the wholesale district, or the garment
district, or something like that." He passed his hand rapidly over the
photoelectric eye of the commo box. "Get me Major Slater," he said;
and, a little later, "Major, get a platoon out to Long Island, to
Chester Pelton's home; have the place searched for possible booby
traps, and maintain guard there till further notice. You'll have no
trouble with the servants, they're all in our pay. That platoon must
not, repeat not, wear uniform or appear to have any connection with
the Fraternities. Put another platoon in Pelton's store. Concealed
weapons, and plain clothes. They should carry their leather helmets in
shopping bags, and roam about in the store, ostensibly shopping. And a
full company, uniformed and armed with heavy weapons, alerted and
ready for immediate 'copter movement." He went on to explain about the
intelligence report and the conclusions drawn from it. The guards
officer repeated back his instructions, and Lancedale broke the
connection.

"Now, Frank," he said, "I told you that this revelation of Claire
Pelton's Literacy can be turned to our advantage. There's to be a full
Council meeting at thirteen hundred. Here's what I estimate Joyner and
Graves will try to do, and here's what I'm going to do to counter
it--"

       *       *       *       *       *

A couple of men in the maroon uniform of Pelton's store police were
waiting as Prestonby's 'copter landed on the top stage; one of them
touched his cap-visor with his gas-billy in salute and said: "Literate
Prestonby? Miss Pelton is expecting you; she's in her father's office.
This way, if you please, sir."

He had hoped to find her alone, but when he entered the office, he saw
five or six of the store personnel with her. Since opening her
father's safe, she had evidently dropped all pretense of Illiteracy;
there was a mass of papers spread on the big desk, and she was
referring from one to another of them with the deft skill of a regular
Fraternities Literate, while the others watched in fascinated horror.

"Wait a moment, Mr. Hutschnecker," she told the white-haired man in
the blue and orange business suit with whom she had been talking, and
laid the printed price-schedule down, advancing to meet him.

"Ralph!" she greeted him. "Frank Cardon told me you were coming. I--"

For a moment, he thought of the afternoon, over two years ago, when
she had entered his office at the school, and he had recognized her as
the older sister of young Ray Pelton.

"Professor Prestonby," she had begun, accusingly, "you have been
teaching my brother, Raymond Pelton, to read!"

He had been prepared for that; had known that sooner or later there
would be some minor leak in the security screen around the classrooms
on the top floor.

"My dear Miss Pelton," he had protested pleasantly. "I think you've
become overwrought over nothing. This pretense to Literacy is a phase
most boys of Ray's age pass through; they do it just as they play
air-pirates or hi-jackers a few years earlier. The usual trick is to
memorize something heard from a record disk, and then pretend to read
it from print."

"Don't try to kid me, professor. I know that Ray can read. I can prove
it."

"And supposing he has learned a few words," he had parried. "Can you
be sure I taught him? And if so, what had you thought of doing about
it? Are you going to expose me as a corrupter of youth?"

"Not unless I have to," she had replied coolly. "I'm going to
blackmail you, professor. I want you to teach me to read, too."

Now, with this gang of her father's Illiterate store officials
present, a quick handclasp and a glance were all they could exchange.

"How is he, Claire?" he asked.

"Out of danger, for the present. There was a medic here, who left just
before you arrived. He brought nitrocaine bulbs, and gave father
something to make him sleep. He's lying down, back in his rest room."
She led him to a door at the rear of the office and motioned him to
enter, following him. "He's going to sleep for a couple of hours,
yet."

The room was a sort of bedroom and dressing room, with a miniscule
toilet and shower beyond. Pelton was lying on his back, sleeping; his
face was pale, but he was breathing easily and regularly. Two of the
store policemen, a sergeant and a patrolman, were playing cards on the
little table, and the patrolman had a burp gun within reach.

"All right, sergeant," Claire said. "You and Gorman go out to the
office. Call me if anything comes up that needs my attention, in the
next few minutes."

The sergeant started to protest. Claire cut him off.

"There's no danger here. This Literate can be trusted; he's a friend
of Mr. Cardon's. Works at the brewery. It's all right."

The two rose and went out, leaving the door barely ajar. Prestonby and
Claire, like a pair of marionettes on the same set of strings, cast a
quick glance at the door and then were in each other's arms. Chester
Pelton slept placidly as they kissed and whispered endearments.

It was Claire who terminated the embrace, looking apprehensively at
her slumbering father.

"Ralph, what's it all about?" she asked. "I didn't even know that you
and Frank Cardon knew each other, let alone that he had any idea about
us."

Prestonby thought furiously, trying to find a safe path through the
tangle of Claire Pelton's conflicting loyalties, trying to find a path
between his own loyalties and his love for her, wondering how much it
would be safe to tell her.

"And Cardon's gone completely cloak-and-dagger-happy," she continued.
"He's talking about plots against my father's life, and against me,
and--"

"A lot of things are going on under cloaks, around here," he told her.
"And under Literate smocks, and under other kinds of costume. And a
lot of daggers are out, too. You didn't know Frank Cardon was a
Literate, did you?"

Her eyes widened. "I thought I was Literate enough to spot Literacy in
anybody else," she said. "No, I never even suspected--"

Somebody rapped on the door. "Miss Pelton," the sergeant's voice
called. "Visiphone call from Literates' Hall."

Prestonby smiled. "I'll take it, if you don't mind," he said. "I'm
acting-chief-Literate here, now, I suppose."

She followed him as he went out into Pelton's office. When he snapped
on the screen, a young man in a white smock, with the Fraternities
Executive Section badge, looked out of it. He gave a slight start when
he saw Prestonby.

"Literate First Class Ralph N. Prestonby, acting voluntarily for
Pelton's Purchasers' Paradise during emergency," he said.

"Literate First Class Armandez, Executive Section," the man in the
screen replied. "This call is in connection with the recent attack of
Chester Pelton upon Literate First Class Bayne."

"Continue, understanding that we admit nothing," Prestonby told him.

"An extemporary session of the Council has found Pelton guilty of
assaulting Literate Bayne, and has fined him ten million dollars,"
Armandez announced.

"We enter protest," Prestonby replied automatically.

"Wait a moment, Literate. The Council has also awarded Pelton's
Purchasers' Paradise damages to the extent of ten million dollars, for
losses incurred by suspension of Literate service, and voted censure
against Literate Bayne for ordering said suspension without consent of
the Council. Furthermore, a new crew of Literates, with their novices,
guards, et cetera, is being sent at once to your store. Obviously,
neither the Fraternities, nor Pelton's, nor the public, would be
benefitted by returning Literate Bayne or any of his crew; he has been
given another assignment."

"Thank you. And when can we expect this new crew of Literates?"
Prestonby asked.

The man in the screen consulted his watch. "Probably inside of an
hour. We've had to do some re-shuffling; you know how these things are
handled. And if you'll pardon me, Literate; just what are you doing at
Pelton's? I understood that you were principal of Mineola High
School."

"That's a good question." Prestonby hastily assessed the circumstances
and their implications. "I'd suggest that you ask it of my superior,
Literate Lancedale, however."

The Literate in the screen blinked; that was the equivalent, for him,
of anybody else's jaw dropping to his midriff.

"Well! A pleasure, Literate. Good day."

       *       *       *       *       *

"Miss Pelton!" The man in the blue-and-orange suit was still trying to
catch her attention. "Where are we going to put that stuff? Russ
Latterman's out in the store, somewhere, and I can't get in touch with
him."

"What did you say it was?" she replied.

"Fireworks, for the Peace Day trade. We want to get it on sale about
the middle of the month."

"This was a fine time to deliver them. Peace Day isn't till the Tenth
of December. Put them down in the fireproof vault."

"That place is full of photographic film, and sporting ammunition, and
other merchandise; stuff we'll have to draw out to replace stock on
the shelves during the sale," the Illiterate objected.

"The weather forecast for the next couple of days is fair," Prestonby
reminded her. "Why not just pile the stuff on the top stage, beyond
the control tower, and put up warning signs?"

The man--Hutschnecker, Prestonby remembered hearing Claire call
him--nodded.

"That might be all right. We could cover the cases with tarpaulins."

A buzzer drew one of the Illiterates to a handphone. He listened for a
moment, and turned.

"Hey, there's a Mrs. H. Armytage Zydanowycz down in Furs; she wants to
buy one of those mutated-mink coats, and she's only got half a million
bucks with her. How's her credit?"

Claire handed Prestonby a black-bound book. "Confidential
credit-rating guide; look her up for us," she said.

Another buzzer rasped, before Prestonby could find the entry on
Zydanowycz, H. Armytage; the Illiterate office worker, laying down one
phone, grabbed up another.

"They're all outta small money in Notions; every son and his brother's
been in there in the last hour to buy a pair of dollar shoestrings
with a grand-note."

"I'll take care of that," Hutschnecker said. "Wait till I call control
tower, and tell them about the fireworks."

"How much does Mrs. H. Armytage Zydanowycz want credit for?" Prestonby
asked. "The book says her husband's good for up to fifteen million, or
fifty million in thirty days."

"Those coats are only five million," Claire said. "Let her have it; be
sure to get her thumbprint, though, and send it up here for
comparison."

"Oh, Claire; do you know how we're going to handle this new Literate
crew, when they get here?"

"Yes, here's the TO for Literate service." She tossed a big chart
across the desk to him. "I made a few notes on it; you can give it to
whoever is in charge."

       *       *       *       *       *

It went on, like that, for the next hour. When the new Literate crew
arrived, Prestonby was delighted to find a friend, and a
fellow-follower of Lancedale, in charge. Considering that Retail
Merchandising was Wilton Joyner's section, that was a good omen.
Lancedale must have succeeded to an extraordinary degree in imposing
his will on the Grand Council. Prestonby found, however, that he
would need some time to brief the new chief Literate on the
operational details at the store. He was unwilling to bring Claire too
prominently into the conference, although he realized that it would be
a matter of half an hour, at the outside, before every one of the new
Literate crew would have heard about her Literate ability. If she'd
only played dumb, after opening that safe--

Finally, by 1300, the new Literates had taken over, and the sale was
running smoothly again. Latterman was somewhere out in the store,
helping them; Claire had lunch for herself and Prestonby sent up from
the restaurant, and for a while they ate in silence, broken by
occasional spatters of small-talk. Then she returned to the question
she had raised and he had not yet answered.

"You say Frank Cardon's a Literate?" she asked. "Then what's he doing
managing the Senator's campaign? Fifth-columning?"

He shook his head. "You think the Fraternities are a solid,
monolithic, organization; everybody agreed on aims and means, and
working together in harmony? That's how it's supposed to look, from
the outside. On the inside, though, there's a bitter struggle going on
between two factions, over policy and for control. One faction wants
to maintain the _status quo_--a handful of Literates doing the reading
and writing for an Illiterate public, and holding a monopoly on
Literacy. They're headed by two men, Wilton Joyner and Harvey Graves.
Bayne was one of that faction."

He paused, thinking quickly. If Lancedale had gotten the upper hand,
there was likely to be a revision of the Joyner-Graves attitude toward
Pelton. In that case, the less he said to incriminate Russell
Latterman, the better. Let Bayne be the villain, for a while, he
decided.

"Bayne," he continued, "is one of a small minority of fanatics who
make a religion of Literacy. I believe he disposed of your father's
medicine, and then deliberately goaded him into a rage to bring on a
heart attack. That doesn't represent Joyner-Graves policy; it was just
something he did on his own. He's probably been disciplined for it, by
now. But the Joyner-Graves faction are working for your father's
defeat and the re-election of Grant Hamilton.

"The other faction is headed by a man you've probably never heard of,
William R. Lancedale. I'm of his faction, and so is Frank Cardon. We
want to see your father elected, because the socialization of Literacy
would eventually put the Literates in complete control of the
government. We also want to see Literacy become widespread, eventually
universal, just as it was before World War IV."

"But Wouldn't that mean the end of the Fraternities?" Claire asked.

"That's what Joyner and Graves say. We don't believe so. And suppose
it did? Lancedale says, if we're so incompetent that we have to keep
the rest of the world in ignorance to earn a living, the world's
better off without us. He says that every oligarchy carries in it the
seeds of its own destruction; that if we can't evolve with the rest of
the world, we're doomed in any case. That's why we want to elect your
father. If he can get his socialized Literacy program adopted, we'll
be in a position to load the public with so many controls and
restrictions and formalities that even the most bigoted Illiterate
will want to learn to read. Lancedale says, a private monopoly like
ours is bad, but a government monopoly is intolerable, and the only
way the public can get rid of it would be by becoming Literates,
themselves."

She glanced toward the door of Pelton's private rest room.

"Poor Senator!" she said softly. "He hates Literacy so, and his own
children are Literates, and his program against Literacy is being
twisted against itself!"

"But you agree that we're right and he's wrong?" Prestonby asked. "You
must, or you'd never have come to me to learn to read."

"He's such a good father. I'd hate to see him hurt," she said. "But,
Ralph, you're my man. Anything you're for, I'm for, and anything
you're against, I'm against."

He caught her hand, across the table, forgetful of the others in the
office.

"Claire, now that everybody knows--" he began.

       *       *       *       *       *

"_Top emergency! Top emergency!_" a voice brayed out of the alarm box
on the wall. "_Serious disorder in Department Thirty-two! Serious
disorder in Department Thirty-two!_"

The voice broke off as suddenly as it had begun, but the box was not
silent. From it came a medley of shouts, curses, feminine screams and
splintering crashes. Prestonby and Claire were on their feet.

"You have wall screens?" he asked. "How do they work? Like the ones at
school?"

Claire twisted a knob until the number 32 appeared on a dial, and
pressed a button. On the screen, the Chinaware Department on the third
floor came to life in full sound and color. The pickup must have been
across an aisle from the box from whence the alarm had come; they
could see one of Pelton's Illiterate clerks lying unconscious under
it, and the handphone dangling at the end of its cord. The aisles were
full of jostling, screaming women, trampling one another and fighting
frantically to get out, and, among them, groups of three or four men
were gathered back to back. One such group had caught a store
policeman; three were holding him while a fourth smashed vases over
his head, grabbing them from a nearby counter. A pink dinner plate
came skimming up from the crowd, narrowly missing the wired TV pickup.
A moment later, a blue-and-white sugar bowl, thrown with better aim,
came curving at them in the screen. It scored a hit, and brought
darkness, though the bedlam of sound continued.

[Illustration:]

[Illustration:]

Cardon looked at his watch as he entered the Council Chamber at
Literates' Hall, smoothing his smock hastily under his Sam Browne.
He'd made it with very little time to spare, before the doors would be
sealed and the meeting would begin. He'd been all over town, tracking
down that report of Sforza's; he'd even made a quick visit to
Chinatown, on the off chance that "China" had been used in an attempt
at the double concealment of the obvious, but, as he'd expected, he'd
found nothing. The people there hardly knew there was to be an
election. Accustomed for millennia to ideographs read only by experts,
they viewed the current uproar about Literacy with unconcern.

At the door, he deposited his pocket recorder--no sound-recording
device was permitted, except the big audio-visual camera in front,
which made the single permanent record. Going around the room
counterclockwise to the seats of his faction, he encountered two other
Lancedale men: Gerald K. Toppington, of the Technological Section,
thin-faced, sandy-haired, balding; and Franklin R. Chernov, commander
of the local Literates' guards brigade, with his ragged gray mustache,
his horribly scarred face, and his outsize tablet-holster almost as
big as a mail-order catalogue.

"What's Joyner-Graves trying to do to us, Frank?" Chernov rumbled
gutturally.

"It's what we're going to do to them," Cardon replied. "Didn't the
chief tell you?"

Chernov shook his head. "No time. I only got here fifteen minutes ago.
Chasing all over town about that tip from Sforza. Nothing, of course.
Nothing from Sforza, either. The thing must have been planned weeks
ago, whatever it is, and everybody briefed personally, and nothing on
disk or tape about it. But what's going to happen here? Lancedale
going to pull a rabbit out of his hat?"

Cardon explained. Chernov whistled. "Man, that's no rabbit; that's a
full-grown Bengal tiger! I hope it doesn't eat us, by mistake."

Cardon looked around, saw Lancedale in animated argument with a group
of his associates. Some of the others seemed to be sharing Chernov's
fears.

"I have every confidence in the chief," Toppington said. "If his
tigers make a meal off anybody, it'll be--" He nodded in the direction
of the other side of the chamber, where Wilton Joyner, short, bald,
pompous, and Harvey Graves, tall and cadaverous, stood in a
Rosencrantz-Guildenstern attitude, surrounded by half a dozen of their
top associates.

The Council President, Morehead, came out a little door onto the
rostrum and took his seat, pressing a button. The call bell began
clanging slowly. Lancedale, glancing around, saw Cardon and nodded. On
both sides of the chamber, the Literates began taking seats, and
finally the call bell stopped, and Literate President Morehead rapped
with his gavel. The opening formalities were hustled through. The
routine held-over business was rubber-stamped with hasty votes of
approval, even including the decisions of the extemporary meeting of
that morning on the affair at Pelton's. Finally, the presiding officer
rapped again and announced that the meeting was now open for new
business.

At once, Harvey Graves was on his feet.

"Literate President," he began, as soon as the chair had recognized
him, "this is scarcely _new_ business, since it concerns a problem, a
most serious problem, which I and some of my colleagues have brought
to the attention of this Council many times in the past--the problem
of Black Literacy!" He spat out the two words as though they were a
mouthful of poison. "Literate President and fellow Literates, if
anything could destroy our Fraternities, to which we have given our
lives' devotion, it would be the widespread tendency to by-pass the
Fraternities, the practice of Literacy by non-Fraternities people--"

"We've heard all that before, Wilton!" somebody from the Lancedale
side called out. "What do you want to talk about that you haven't
gotten on every record of every meeting for the last thirty years?"

"Why, this Pelton business," Graves snapped back at him. "You know
what I mean. Your own associates are responsible for it!" He turned
back to face the chair, and, with a surprising minimum of invective,
described the scene in which Claire Pelton had demonstrated her
Literacy. "And that's not all, brother Literates," he continued.
"Since then, I've been receiving reports from the Pelton store. Claire
Pelton has been openly doing the work of a Literate; going over the
store's written records, checking inventories, checking the credit
guide, handling the price lists--"

"What's that got to do with Black Literacy?" Gerald Toppington
demanded. "Black Literacy is a term which labels the professional
practice of Literacy, for hire, by a non-Fraternity Literate, or
Literate service furnished for criminal or politically subversive
purposes, or the betrayal of a client by a Fraternity Literate.
There's nothing of the sort involved here. This girl, who does appear
to be Literate, is simply looking after the interests of her family's
business."

"She was taught by a Literate, a Fraternities-member, under, to say
the very least, irregular circumstances, and without payment of any
fee. Any fee, that is, that the Fraternities can collect any
percentage on. And the Literate who taught her also taught her younger
brother, Ray Pelton, and this Literate, who is known to be her
lover--"

"Suppose he is her lover, so what?" one of Lancedale's partisans
demanded. "You say, yourself, that she's a Literate. That ought to
remove any objection. Why, if she were to come forward and admit and
demonstrate her Literacy, there'd be no possible objection from the
Fraternities' viewpoint to her marrying young Prestonby."

"And as for Prestonby's action in teaching Literacy to her and to her
brother," Cardon spoke up, "I think he deserves the thanks and
commendation of the Fraternities. He's put a period to four
generations of bigoted Illiterates."

Wilton Joyner was on his feet. "Will Literate Graves yield for a
motion?" he asked. "Thank you, Harvey. Literate President, and brother
Literates: I yield to no man in my abhorrence of Black Literacy, or in
my detestation for the political principles of which Chester Pelton
has made himself the spokesman, but I deny that we should allow the
acts and opinions of the Illiterate parent to sway us in our
consideration of the Literate children. It has come to my notice, as
it has to Literate Graves', that this young woman, Claire Pelton, is
Literate to a degree that would be a credit to any Literate First
Class, and her brother can match his Literacy creditably against that
of any novice in our Fraternities. To show that we respect Literate
ability, wherever we find it; to show that we are not the monopolistic
closed-corporation our enemies accuse us of being; to show that we are
not animated by a vindictive hatred of anything bearing the name of
Pelton--I move, and ask that my motion be presented for seconding,
that Claire Pelton, and her brother, Raymond Pelton, be duly elected,
respectively, to the positions of Literate Third Class and Literate
Novice, as members of the Associated Fraternities of Literates!"

From the Joyner-Graves side, there were dutiful cries of, "Yes! Yes!
Admit the young Peltons!" and also gasps of horrified surprise from
the rank-and-filers who hadn't been briefed on what was coming up.

Lancedale was on his feet in an instant. "Literate President!" he
cried. "In view of the delicate political situation, and in view of
Chester Pelton's violent denunciation of our Fraternities--"

"Literate Lancedale," the President objected. "The motion is not to be
debated until it has been properly seconded."

"What does the Literate President think I'm doing?" Lancedale
retorted. "I second the motion!"

Joyner looked at Lancedale in angry surprise, which gradually became
fearful suspicion. His stooge, who had already risen with a prepared
speech of seconding, simply gaped.

"Furthermore," Lancedale continued, "I move an amendment to Literate
Joyner's motion. I move that the ceremony of the administration of the
Literates' Oath, and the investiture in the smock and insignia, be
carried out as soon as possible, and that an audio-visual recording be
made, and telecast this evening, before twenty-one hundred."

Brigade commander Chernov, prodded by Cardon, jumped to his feet.

"Excellent!" he cried. "I second the motion to amend the motion of
Literate Joyner."

If there were such a thing as a bomb which would explode stunned
silence, Lancedale and Chernov had dropped such a bomb. Cardon could
guess how Joyner and Graves felt; they were now beginning to be afraid
of their own proposition. As for the Lancedale Literates, he knew how
many of them felt. He'd felt the same way, himself, when Lancedale had
proposed the idea. He got to his feet.

"Literate President, brother Literates," he raised his voice. "I call
for an immediate vote on this amended motion, which I, personally,
endorse most heartily, and which I hope to see carried unanimously."

"Now, wait a minute!" Joyner objected. "This motion ought to be
debated--"

"What do you want to debate about it?" Chernov demanded. "You
presented it, didn't you?"

"Well, I wanted to give the Council an opportunity to discuss it, as
typical of our problems in dealing with Black ... I mean,
non-Fraternities ... Literacy--"

"You mean, you didn't know it was loaded!" Cardon told him. "Well,
that's your hard luck; we're going to squeeze the trigger!"

"I withdraw the motion!" Joyner shouted.

"Literate President," Lancedale said gently, his thin face lighting
with an almost saintly smile, "Literate Joyner simply cannot withdraw
his motion, now. It has been properly seconded and placed before the
house, and so has my own humble contribution to it. I demand that the
motion be acted upon."

"Vote! Vote! Vote!" the Lancedale Literates began yelling.

"I call on all my adherents to vote against this motion!" Joyner
shouted.

"Now look here, Wilton!" Harvey Graves shouted, reddening with anger.
"You're just making a fool out of me. This was your idea, in the first
place! Do you want to smash everything we've ever done in the
Fraternities?"

"Harvey, we can't go on with it," Joyner replied. He crossed quickly
to Graves' seat and whispered something.

"For the record," Lancedale said sweetly, "our colleague, Literate
Joyner, has just whispered to Literate Graves that since I have
seconded his motion, he's now afraid of it. I think Literate Graves is
trying to assure him that my support is merely a bluff. For the
information of this body, I want to state categorically that it is
not, and that I will be deeply disappointed if this motion does not
pass."

An elderly Literate on the Joyner-Graves side, an undersized man with
a bald head and a narrow mouth, was on his feet. He looked like an
aged rat brought to bay by a terrier.

"I was against this fool idea from the start!" he yelled. "We've got
to keep the Illiterates down; how are we ever going to do that if we
go making Literates out of them? But you two thought you were being
smart--"

"Shut up and sit down, you old jackass!" one of Joyner's people
shouted at him.

"Shut up, yourself, Ginter," a hatchet-faced woman Literate from the
Finance Section squawked.

Literate President Morehead, an amiable and ineffective maiden aunt in
trousers, pounded frantically with his gavel. "Order!" he fairly
screamed. "This is disgraceful!"

"You can say that again!" Brigade commander Chernov boomed. "What do
you people over on the right think this is; an Illiterates'
Organization Political Action meeting?"

"Vote! Vote!" Cardon bellowed.

Literate President Morehead banged his gavel and, in a last effort,
started the call bell clanging.

"The motion has been presented and seconded; the amendment has been
presented and seconded. It will now be put to a vote!"

"Roll call!" Cardon demanded. Four or five other voices, from both
sides of the chamber, supported him.

"The vote will be by roll call," Literate President Morehead agreed.
"Addison, Walter G."

"Aye!" He was a subordinate of Harvey Graves.

"Agostino, Pedro V."

"Aye!" He was a Lancedale man.

So it went on. Graves voted for the motion. Joyner voted against it.
All the Lancedale faction, now convinced that their leader had the
opposition on the run, voted loudly for it.

"The vote has been one hundred and eighty-three for, seventy-two
against," Literate President Morehead finally announced. "The motion
is herewith declared carried. Literate Lancedale, I appoint you to
organize a committee to implement the said motion, at once."

       *       *       *       *       *

Prestonby flung open the door of the rest room where Sergeant
Coccozello and his subordinate were guarding the unconscious Pelton.

"Sergeant! Who's in charge of store police, now?"

Coccozello looked blank for an instant. "I guess I am," he said.
"Lieutenant Dunbar's off on his vacation, in Mexico, and Captain
Freizer's in the hospital; he was taken sick suddenly last evening."

Probably poisoned, Prestonby thought, making a mental note to find out
which hospital and get in touch with one of the Literate medics there.

"Well, come out here, sergeant, and have a look around the store on
the TV. We have troubles."

Coccozello could hear the noise that was still coming out of the
darkened screen. As he stepped forward, Claire got another pickup,
some distance from the one that had been knocked out. A mob of women
customers were surging away from the Chinaware Department, into
Glassware; they were running into the shopping crowd there, with
considerable disturbance. A couple of store police were trying to get
through the packed mass of humanity, and making slow going of it.
Coccozello swore and started calling on his reserves on one of the
handphones.

"Wait a moment, sergeant," Prestonby stopped him. "Don't commit any of
your reserves down there. We're going to need them to hold the
executive country, up here. This is only the start of a general riot."

"Who are you and what do you know about it?" Coccozello challenged.

"Listen to him, Guido," Claire said. "He knows what he's doing."

"Claire, you have some way of keeping a running count of the number of
customers in and out of the store, haven't you?" Prestonby asked.

"Why, yes; here." She pointed to an indicator on Chester Pelton's
desk, where constantly changing numbers danced.

"And don't you have a continuous check on sales, too? How do they
jibe?"

"They don't; look. Sales are away below any expectation from the
number of customers, even allowing for shopping habits of a
bargain-day crowd. But what's that got to do--"

Prestonby was back at the TV, shifting from pickup to pickup.

"Look, sergeant, Claire. That isn't a normal bargain-day crowd, is it?
Look at those groups of men, three or four to a group, shifting
around, waiting for something to happen. This store's been
infiltrated by a big goon gang. That business in Chinaware's just the
start, to draw our reserves down to the third door. Look at that,
now."

He had a pickup on the twelfth floor, the floor just under the public
landing stages, and at the foot of the escalators leading to the
central executive block.

"See how they're concentrating, there?" he pointed out. "In that
ladies' wear department, there are three men for every woman, and the
men are all drifting from counter to counter over in the direction of
our escalators."

Coccozello swore again, feelingly. "Literate, you know your stuff!" he
said. "That fuss in China is just a feint; this is where they're
really going to hit. What do you think it is? Macy & Gimbel's trying
to bust up our sale, or politics?"

Prestonby shrugged. "Take your choice. A competitor would concentrate
where your biggest volume of sale was going on, though; political
enemies would try to get up here, and that's what this gang's trying
to do."

"He's absolutely right, Guido," Claire told the sergeant. "Do whatever
he tells you."

Sergeant Coccozello looked at him, awaiting orders.

"We can't commit our reserves in that Chinaware Department fight; we
need them up here. Where are they, now, and how many?"

"Thirteen, counting myself and the man in there." He nodded toward the
room where Chester Pelton lay in drugged sleep. "In the squad room, on
the floor below."

"And for the mob below to get up here?"

"Two escalators, sir, northeast and southwest corners of office
country. And we got some new counters that Mr. Latterman had built,
that didn't get put out in time for the sale. We can use them to build
barricades, if we have to."

"How about a 'copter attack on the roof?"

Coccozello grinned. "I'd like to see that, now, Literate. We got
plenty of A-A equipment up there--four 7-mm machine guns, two 12-mm's,
and one 20-mm auto-cannon. We could hold off the State Guard with
that."

"That isn't saying much, but they're not even that good. So it'll be
the escalators. Think, now, sergeant. Fires, burglary, holdups--"

The sergeant's grin widened. "High-pressure fire hose, one at the head
of each escalator, and a couple more that can be dragged over from
other outlets. Say we put two men on each hose, lying down at the head
of the escalators. And we got plenty of firearms; we can arm some of
these clerks, up here--"

"All right; do that. And put out an emergency call, by
inter-department telephone, not by public address, to floorwalkers
from the fifth floor down, to gather up all male clerks and other
store personnel in their departments, arm them with anything they can
find, and rush them to Chinaware. Tell them to shout 'Pelton!' when
they hit the mob, to avoid breaking each others' heads in the
confusion, and tell them they're expected to hold the Chinaware and
Glassware departments themselves, without any help from the store
police."

"Why not?" Claire wanted to know.

"That's how battles come to happen at the wrong time and place,"
Prestonby told her. "Two small detachments collide, and each sends
back for re-enforcements, and the next thing anybody knows, there's a
full-size battle going on where nobody wants to fight one. We're going
to fight our main battle at the head of the escalators from the
twelfth floor."

"You've done this sort of work before, Literate," Coccozello grinned.
"You talk like a storm-troop captain. What else?"

"Well, so far, we've just been talking defense. We need to take the
offensive, ourselves." He glanced around. "Is there a freight elevator
from this block to the basement?"

"Yeah. Wait till I see." Coccozello went to the TV-screen and dialed.
"Yeah, and the elevator's up here, too," he said.

"Well, you take what men you can spare--a couple of your cops, and a
couple of the office crew--arm them with pistols, carbines, clubs,
whatever you please, and take them down to the basement. Gather up
all the warehouse gang, down there, and arm them. And as soon as you
get to the basement, send the elevator back up here. That's our life
line; we can't risk having it captured. You'll organize flying squads
to go up into the store from the basement. Bust up any trouble that
seems to be getting started, if you can, but your main mission will be
to rescue store police, Literates, Literates' guards, and store help,
and get them back to the basement. They'll be picked up from there and
brought up here on the elevator." He picked up a pad from a desk and
wrote a few lines on it. "Show this to any Literate you meet; get
Literate Hopkinson to countersign it for you, when you find him. Tell
him we want his whole gang up here as soon as possible."

"How about getting help from outside?" Claire asked. "The city police,
or--"

"City police won't lift a finger," Prestonby told her. "They never
help anybody who has a private police force; they have too much to do
protecting John Q. Citizen. Hutschnecker; suppose you call
Radical-Socialist campaign headquarters; tell them to rush some of
their Lone Rangers around here--"

       *       *       *       *       *

[Illustration:]

Russell M. Latterman was lunching in the store restaurant, at a table
next the thick glass partition, where he could look out across
Confectionery and Pastries toward the Tobacco Shoppe and the Liquor
Department. There were two ways of looking at it, of course. He was
occupying a table that might have been used by a customer, but, on the
other hand, he was known by sight to many of the customers, and the
fact that he was eating here had some advertising value, and he could
keep his eye on the business going on around him. Off in the distance,
he caught the white flash of a Literate smock at one of the counters;
one of the new crew sent in to replace the ones Bayne had pulled out.
He was glad and at the same time disturbed. He had had his doubts
about staging a Literates' strike, and he was almost positive that
Wilton Joyner had known nothing about it. The whole thing had been
Harvey Graves' idea. There was a serious question of Literate ethics
involved, to say nothing of the effect on the public. The trick of
forcing Claire Pelton to reveal her secret Literacy was all right,
although he wished that it had been Frank Cardon who had opened that
safe. Or did he? Cardon would have brazened it out, claimed to have
memorized the combination after having learned it by observation, and
would probably have gotten away with it. But that silly girl had lost
her head afterward, and had gone on to brand herself, irrevocably, as
a Literate.

One of the waitresses was hurrying toward him, almost falling over
herself in excitement. She began talking when she was ten feet from
the table.

"Mr. Latterman! Mr. Latterman!" she was calling to him. "A terrible
fight, down in Chinaware--!"

"Well, what do we have store police for?" he demanded. "They can take
care of it. Now be quiet, Madge; don't get the customers excited!"

He returned to his lunch, watching, with satisfaction, the crowd that
was packing into the Liquor Department, next to the restaurant. That
special loss-leader, Old Atom-Bomb Rye, had been a good idea. In the
first place, the stuff was fit for nothing but cleaning drains and
removing varnish; if he were Pelton, he would have fired that fool
buyer who got them overstocked on it. But the audio-advertiser,
outside, was reiterating: "_Choice whiskies, two hundred dollars a
sixth and up!_" and pulling in the customers, who, when they
discovered that the two-hundred-dollar bargain was Old Atom-Bomb, were
shelling out five hundred to a grand a sixth for good liquor.

He finished his coffee and got to his feet. Be a good idea to look in
on Liquor, and see how things were going. The department was getting
more and more crowded every minute; three customers were entering for
every one who left.

On the way, he passed two women, and caught a snatch of conversation:

"Don't go down on the third floor, for Heaven's sake ... terrible
fight ... smashing everything up--"

Worried, he continued into Liquor, and the looks of the crowd there
increased his worries. Too many men between twenty and thirty, all
dressed alike, looking alike, talking and acting alike. It looked like
a goon-gang infiltration, and he was beginning to see why Harvey
Graves had wanted the Literates pulled out, and why Joyner, bound by
ethics to do nothing against the commercial interests of Pelton's, had
known nothing about it. He started toward a counter, to speak to a
clerk, but one of the stocky, quietly-dressed young men stepped in
front of him.

"Gimme a bottle of Atom-Bomb," he said. "Don't bother wrapping it."

"Yes, sir." The clerk seemed worried, too. He got the bottle and set
it on the counter. "That'll be two C, sir."

"I see you're wearing a Radical-Socialist button," the customer
commented. "Because you want to, or because Chet Pelton makes you?"

"Mr. Pelton never interferes with his employees' political
convictions," the clerk replied loyally.

Saying nothing, the customer took the bottle, swung it by the neck,
and smashed it over the clerk's head, knocking him senseless.

"That's all that rotgut's good for," the customer said, jumping over
the counter. "All right, boys; help yourselves!"

       *       *       *       *       *

For a surprisingly long time, the riot was localized in China, where
it had begun. Using, alternately, three TV-pickups around the scene of
the disturbance, Prestonby watched its progress, and watched
successive details of store personnel, armed with clubs and a few
knives and sono pistols, hit the riot, shouting their battle cry, and
vanish. They were, of course, lambs of sacrifice, however unlamblike
their conduct. They were buying time, and they were drawing groups of
goons into the action in China and Glassware who might have been
making trouble elsewhere.

There was an outbreak on the sixth floor, in Liquor; Claire, touring
the store on the other TV-screen, spotted it and called his attention
to it. Back of the shattered glass partition, a mob of men were
snatching bottles from the shelves and tossing them out to the crowd.
One of the clerks, in his gray uniform jacket, was lying unconscious
outside. While Prestonby watched, another, and another, came flying
out the doorway. A fourth victim, in ordinary business clothes,
tattered and disheveled, came flying out after them, to land in a
heap, stunned for an instant, and then pick himself up. Prestonby
laughed heartily when he recognized Literate--undercover--First Class
Russell M. Latterman.

"I ought to have anticipated that," he said. "Any time there's a riot,
the liquor stores are the first things looted. The liquor stores, and
the--Claire! See what's going on in Sporting Goods!"

Sporting Goods, between Tools & Hardware and Toys, on the fifth floor,
was swamped. One of the clerks was lying on the floor in a puddle of
blood, past any help; none of the others were in sight. The gun racks
and pistol cases were being cleaned out systematically. This had been
organized in advance. There were four or five men working
industriously wiping grease out of bores and actions before handing
out firearms, and a couple more making sure that the right cartridges
went with each weapon. Somebody had brought a small grinding wheel
over from Tools and plugged it in, and was grinding points on the
foils and épées. Others were collecting baseball bats, golf clubs, and
football helmets and catchers' masks. The Tool Department was being
stripped of everything that could be used as a weapon, too.

The whole store, by this time, was an approximation of Mutiny in a
Madhouse. Dressgoods was being looted by a howling mob of women, who
were pulling bolts of material from shelves and fighting among
themselves over them. Somebody had turned on the electric fans, and
long streams of flimsy fabric were blowing about like a surrealist
maypole dance. Somebody in Household Furnishings had turned on a
couple of fans, too, and a mob of hoodlums were opening cans of paint
and throwing them into the fan blades.

The little Antiques Department, in a corner of the fourth floor back
of the Gift Shoppe, was an island of peace in the general chaos. There
was only one way into it, and one of the clerks, who had gotten
himself into a suit of Fifteenth Century battle armor, was standing in
the entrance, leaning on a two-hand sword. There was blood on the long
blade, and more blood splashed on the floor in front of him. He was
being left entirely alone.

       *       *       *       *       *

Hutschnecker, called to the telephone, spoke briefly, listened for a
while, spoke again in hearty thanks, and hung up.

"Macy & Gimbel's," he told Prestonby. "They heard about our
trouble--probably one of their price-spotters phoned in about it--and
they're offering to send twenty of their store-cops to help us out.
They'll be landing on our stage in eight minutes, rifles and steel
helmets."

Prestonby nodded. It would have been quite conceivable that Pelton's
chief competitor had started the riot; since they hadn't, their offer
of armed aid was just as characteristic of the bitter but
mutually-respectful rivalries of the commercial world. A few minutes
later, another call came in, this time on the visiphone. Prestonby
took it when he saw a Literates' Guards officer in the screen and
recognized him.

"That you, Prestonby?" the officer, Major Slater, asked in some
surprise. "Didn't know you were at Pelton's. What's going on, there?"

Prestonby told him, briefly.

"Yes; we had some of our people at the store, in plain clothes,"
Slater said. "Just in case of trouble. On Mr. L.'s orders. They
reported a riot starting, but naturally, their reports were
incomplete. Can you get one of your landing stages cleared for us? We
have two hundred men, in twenty 'copters." Then he must have noticed
some of the store Illiterates back of Prestonby, and realized that
this offer of help to Literacy's worst enemy would arouse suspicion.
"Not that we care what happens to Chester Pelton, but we have to
protect our own people at the store."

"Yes, of course," Prestonby agreed. "Come in on our north stage.
You'll probably find a fight going on on our twelfth floor, just
inside. Anybody who's trying to get up the escalators to the office
block will be an enemy."

"Right. We're halfway there now." The Literates' Guards officer broke
the connection.

"You heard that?" he asked, turning to the others in the office. "If
we can hold out till they get here, we're all right. Did you contact
Radical-Socialist headquarters, yet, Hutschnecker?"

"Yes. I talked to a fellow named Yingling. He said that all the party
storm troops had been lured out to some kind of a disturbance in North
Jersey Borough; he'd try to get them recalled."

Prestonby swore bitterly. "By the time his own party-goons get here,
the Literates' Guards and Macy & Gimbel's will have pulled Pelton's
bacon off the fire for him. Nice friends he has!"

An alarm buzzer went off suddenly, and an urgent voice came out of the
box on the wall:

"Here come the goons! South escalator!"

Prestonby grabbed a burp gun and a canvas musette bag full of clips.
By the time he had gotten down to what, in deference to the
superstitions of the Illiterate store force, was known as the
fourteenth floor, an attack on the north escalator had developed as
well. In both cases, the attackers seemed to expect no organized
resistance. They simply jumped onto the escalators, adding their own
running speed, and came rushing up, firing pistols ahead of them at
random.

The defenders, however, had been ready: the fire hoses caught those in
the lead and hurled them back. Some of them vaulted the barrier
between the ascending and descending spirals and let themselves be
carried down again. Less than five minutes after the buzzer had
sounded the warning, the attack stopped. The noise on the twelfth
floor increased, however, and, leaning over into the escalator-way,
Prestonby could see the rioters firing in the direction of the
entrance from the north landing stage. Within a matter of thirty
seconds, they began to flee, and a wave of Literates' Guards, in their
futuristic "space cadet" uniforms, came pouring in after them.

       *       *       *       *       *

Douglass MacArthur Yetsko put the burp gun back together again, tried
the action, and laid it aside with a sigh. He had cleaned every weapon
in his and Prestonby's private arsenal, since lunch, and now he had to
admit the unpalatable fact that there was nothing left to do but turn
on the TV. Ray had been no company at all; the boy hadn't spoken a
word since he'd started rummaging among the captain's books. Gloomily,
he snapped on the screen to sample the soap shows.

Della Pallas was in jail again, this time accused of murdering the
lawyer who had gotten her acquitted on a previous murder rap.
Considering the fact that she had languished in jail for almost a year
during the other trial, Yetsko felt that she had a sound motive.
Rudolf Barstow, in "Broadway Wife," was, like Bruce's spider,
spinning his five hundredth web to ensnare the glamorous Marie
Knobble. And there was a show about a schoolteacher and her class of
angelic little tots that almost brought Yetsko's lunch up.

He shifted the dial again; a young Literate announcer was speaking
quickly, excitedly:

"... Scene of the riot, already the worst this year, and growing
steadily worse. We take you now to downtown Manhattan, where our
portable units and commentators have just arrived, and switch you to
Ed Morgan."

The screen went black, and Yetsko swore angrily. Ray lifted his head
quickly from his book and reached for the sono pistol Yetsko had given
him.

"Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen, and just a moment, until we can
give you the picture. We're having what is usually labeled as 'slight
technical difficulties,' in this case the difficulty of avoiding
having a hole shot in our camera or in your commentator's head. Yes,
that's shooting you hear; there, somebody's using an auto rifle! How
are you coming, Steve?"

A voice muttered something which, two centuries ago, would have caused
an earth-shaking scandal in the whole radio-TV industry.

"Well, till Steve gets things fixed up, a brief review, to date, of
what's sure to go down in history as the Battle of Pelton's
Purchasers' Paradise--"

"Huh?" Ray fairly shouted, the book forgotten.

"... Started in the Chinaware Department, as a relatively innocent
brawl, and spread to the Liquor Department, and then, all of a sudden,
everybody started playing rough. At first, it was suspected that Macy
& Gimbel's had sent a goon gang around to break up Pelton's fall sale,
but when the former concern rallied to the assistance of their
competitor with a force of twenty riflemen, that began to look less
likely, and we're beginning to think that it might be the work of some
of Pelton's political enemies. About ten minutes ago, Major James F.
Slater, of the Literates' Guards, arrived with two hundred of his men,
to protect the Literates on duty at the store. They captured the
entire twelfth floor, where we are, now, with the exception of the
Ladies' Lingerie and Hosiery departments around one of the escalators
to the lower floors; here the gang who started the riot, and who are
now donning white hoods to distinguish themselves from the various
other factions involved, have thrown up barricades of counters and
display tables and are fighting bitterly to keep control of the
escalator head. Ah, here we are!"

The screen lit suddenly, and they were looking, Ray over Yetsko's
shoulder, across the devastated expanse of what had been the Ladies'
Frocks department, toward Lingerie and Hosiery, which seemed to have
been thoroughly looted, then stripped of everything that could be used
to build a barricade.

"... Seems to have been quite a number of heavy 'copters just landed
on the east stage, filled with more goons, probably to re-enforce the
gang back of that barricade. The firing's gotten noticeably heavier--"

       *       *       *       *       *

Yetsko had turned from the screen, and was pawing in the arms locker.
For a job like this, he'd need firepower. He took the ten-shot clip
from the butt of his pistol and inserted one with a curling
hundred-shot drum at the bottom, and shoved two more like it into the
pockets of his jacket. And now, something to clear the way with. He
took out a three-foot length of weighted fire hose.

Then he saw Ray. That kid was pinning him down, here, while the
captain was probably fighting for his life! But the captain'd told him
to stay with Ray--He dropped the weighted hose.

"What's the matter, Doug?" the boy asked. "Pick it up and let's get
going."

He shook his head. "Can't. The captain told me I had to take care of
you."

The boy opened his mouth to speak, closed it again, and thought for a
moment. Then he asked:

"Doug, didn't Captain Prestonby tell you to stay with me?"

"Yes--"

"All right. You do just that, because I'm going to help Claire and the
senator. That's who that goon gang's after."

Yetsko considered the proposition for a moment, horrified. Why, this
was the captain's girl's kid brother; if anything happened to him--His
mind refused to contemplate what the captain would do to him.

"No. You gotta stay here, Ray," he said. "The captain--"

Then his eye caught the screen. Ed Morgan must have found a place
where he could run his camera up on an extension rod from behind
something; they were looking down, from almost ceiling height, at the
barricade, and at the Literates' guards who were firing from cover at
it. A sudden blast of automatic-weapons burst from the barricade; more
men in white hoods came boiling up the escalator, and they all rushed
forward. The few Literates' guards skirmishers were overwhelmed. He
saw one of them, a man he knew, Sam Igoe, from Company 5, go down
wounded; he saw one of the white-hooded goons pause to brain him with
a carbine butt before charging on.

"Why, you dirty rotten Illiterate--!" he roared, retrieving his
weighted hose. "Come on, Ray; let's go!"

Ray hesitated, as though in thought. "Ken Dorchin; Harry Cobb; Dick
Hirschfield; Jerry McCarty; Ramon Nogales; Pete Shawne; Tom
Hutchinson--"

"Who--?" Yetsko began. "What've they gotta do with--?"

"We need a gang; the two of us'd last about as long as a pint of beer
at a Dutch picnic." Ray went to the desk, grabbed a pen, and made a
list of names, in a fair imitation of Ralph Prestonby's neat
block-printing. "Give this to the girl outside, and tell her to have
them called for and sent in here," the boy directed. "And see if you
can find us some transport. I think there ought to be a couple of big
'copters finished down at the shops. And if you can find a couple more
Literates' guards you can talk into going with us--"

Yetsko nodded and took the paper without question. He was not, and he
would be the first to admit it, of the thinking type. He was a good
sergeant, but he had to have an officer to tell him what to do. Ray
Pelton might be only fifteen years old, but his sister was the
captain's girl, and that put him in the officer class. A very young
and recently-commissioned second lieutenant, say, but definitely an
officer. Yetsko took the list and looked at it. Like most Literates'
guards, he could read, after a fashion. He recognized the names; the
boys were all members of the top floor secret society. He went out and
gave the list to Martha Collins.

He'd expected some argument with her, but she seemed to accept Ray
Pelton's printing as Prestonby's; she began checking room charts and
class lists, and calling for the boys to be sent at once to the
office. He went out, and down to the 'copter repair shop, where he
found that a big four-ton air truck that the senior class had been
working on for several weeks was finished.

"That thing been tested, yet?" he asked the instructor.

"Yes; I had it up, myself, this morning. Flew it over to the Bronx and
back with a load of supplies."

"O. K. Have somebody you can trust--one of your guards,
preferably--bring it around behind the Administration Wing. Captain
Prestonby wants it. I'm to take some boys from Fourth Year Civics on a
tour. Something about election campaign methods."

The instructor called a Literates' guard and gave him instructions.
Yetsko went to the guards' squad room on the second floor, where he
found half a dozen of the reserves loafing.

"All right; you guys start earning your pay," he said. "We're going to
a party."

The men got to their feet and began gathering their weapons.

"Mason," he continued, "you have your big 'copter here; the gang of
you can all get in it. I'm taking off in a four-ton truck, with some
of these kids. I want you boys to follow us. We're going to Pelton's
store. There's a fight going on there, and the captain's in the middle
of it. We gotta get him out."

They all looked at him in puzzled surprise, but nobody gave him any
argument. Funny, now that he thought of it; it had been quite a long
time since anybody had ever given him any argument about anything. A
couple of guys out in Pittsburgh had tried it, but somehow they'd lost
interest in arguing, after a little--

When he returned to the office and opened the door, a blast of shots
greeted him through the open door of Prestonby's private office. He
had his pistol out before he realized that the shooting was going on
at Pelton's Purchasers' Paradise, ten miles away. Literate Martha
Collins, in the inner room, was fairly screaming: "Shut that infernal
thing off and listen to me!"

The dozen-odd boys whom Ray had recruited for the improvised
relief-expedition were pulling weapons out of the gun locker, pawing
through the boxes on the ammunition shelf, trying to explain to one
another the working of machine carbines and burp guns. Yetsko
shouldered through them and turned down the sound volume of the TV.

"This is absolutely outrageous!" Literate Martha Collins stormed at
him. "You ought to be ashamed of yourself, taking these children to a
murderous battle like that--"

"Well, maybe it ain't right, using savages in a civilized riot,"
Yetsko admitted, "but I don't care. The captain's in a jam, and I'd
use live devils, if I could catch a few." He took a burp gun from one
of the boys, who had opened the action and couldn't get it closed
again. "Here; you kids don't want this kinda stuff," he reproved.
"Sono guns, and sleep-gas guns, that's all right. But these things are
killing tools!"

"It's what we'll have to use, Doug," Ray told him. "Things have been
happening, since you went out. Look at the screen."

Yetsko looked, and swore blisteringly. Then he gave the burp gun back
to the boy.

"Look; you gotta press this little gismo, here, to let the action shut
when there's no clip in, or when the clip's empty. When you got a
loaded clip in, you just pull back on this and let go--"

       *       *       *       *       *

Frank Cardon looked at his watch, and saw that it was 1345, as it had
been ten seconds before, when he had last looked. He started to drum
nervously on his chair arm with his fingers, then caught himself as he
saw Lancedale, who must have been every bit as anxious as himself,
standing outwardly calm and unruffled.

"Well, that's the situation which now confronts us, brother
Literates," the slender, white-haired man was finishing. "You must
see, by now, that the policy of unyielding opposition which some of
you have advocated and pursued is futile. You know the policy I favor,
which now remains the only policy we can follow; it is summed up in
that law of political strategy: If you can't lick 'em, join 'em, and,
after joining, take control.

"In spite of the Radical-Socialist victory in this state at tomorrow's
election, it will not be possible, in the next Congress, to enact
Pelton's socialized Literacy program into law. The Radicals will not be
able to capture enough seats in the lower house, and there are too many
uncontested seats in the Senate now held by Independent-Conservatives.
But, and this is inevitable, barring some unforeseen accident of the
order of a political cataclysm, they will control both houses of
Congress after the election of 2144, two years hence, and we can also be
sure that two years hence Chester Pelton will be nominated and
overwhelmingly elected president of the Consolidated States of North
America. Six months thereafter, the socialized Literacy program will be
the law of the land.

"So, we have until mid-2145 to make our preparations. I would estimate
that, if we do not destroy ourselves by our own folly in the meantime,
we should, two years thereafter, be in complete if secret control of
the whole Consolidated States Government. If any of you question that
last statement, you can merely ask yourselves one question: How, in
the name of all that is rational, can Illiterates control and operate
a system of socialized Literacy? Who but Literates can keep such a
program from disintegrating into complete and indescribable confusion?

"I don't ask for any decision at this time. I do not ask for any
debate at this time. Let each of us consider the situation in his or
her own mind, and let us meet again a week from today to consider our
future course of action, each of us realizing that any decision we
take then will determine forever the fate of our Fraternities." He
looked around the room. "Thank you, brother Literates," he said.

Instantly, Cardon was on his feet with a motion to recess the meeting
until 1300 the following Monday, and Brigade commander Chernov
seconded the motion immediately. As soon as Literate President
Morehead's gavel banged, Cardon, still on his feet, was running for
the double doors at the rear; the two Literates' guards on duty there
got them unsealed and opened by the time he had reached them.

There was another guard in the hall, waiting for him with a little
record-disk.

"From Major Slater; call came in about ten minutes ago," he said.

Cardon snapped the disk into his recorder-reproducer and put in the
ear plug.

"Frank," Slater's voice came out of the small machine. "You'd better
get busy, or you won't have any candidate when the polls open tomorrow.
Just got a call from Pelton's store--place infiltrated by goons,
estimated strength two hundred, presumed Independent-Conservatives.
Serious rioting already going on; I'm taking my reserve company there.
And if you haven't found out, yet, where China is, it's on the third
floor, next to Glassware."

Cardon pulled out the ear plug, stuffed the recorder into his trouser
pocket, and began unbuckling his Sam Browne as he ran for the nearest
wall visiphone. He was dialing the guard room on that floor with one
hand as he took off the belt.

"Get a big ambulance on the roof, with a Literate medic and
orderly-driver," he ordered, unbuttoning his smock. "And four guards,
plain clothes if possible, but don't waste time changing clothes if
you don't have anybody out of uniform. Heavy-duty sono guns, sleep-gas
projectors, gas masks and pistols. Hurry." He threw the smock and belt
at the guard. "Here, Pancho; put these away for me. Thanks." He tossed
the last word back over his shoulder as he ran for the escalator.

[Illustration:]

It was three eternal minutes after he had reached the landing stage
above before the ambulance arrived, medic and orderly on the front
seat and the four guards, all in conservatively cut civilian clothes,
inside. He crowded in beside the medic, told him, "Pelton's store,"
and snapped the door shut as the big white 'copter began to rise.

They climbed to five thousand feet, and then the driver nosed his
vehicle up, cut his propeller and retracted it, and fired his rocket,
aiming toward downtown Manhattan. Four minutes later, after the rocket
stopped firing and they were on the down-curve of their trajectory,
the propeller was erected and they began letting down toward the
central landing stage of Pelton's Purchasers' Paradise. Cardon cut in
the TV and began calling the control tower.

"Ambulance, to evacuate Mr. Pelton," he called. "What's the score,
down there?"

One of Pelton's traffic-control men appeared on Cardon's screen.
"You're safe to land on the central stage, but you'd better come in at
a long angle from the north," he said. "We control the north public
stage, but the east and south stages are in the hands of the goons;
they'd fire on you. Land beside that big pile of boxes under
tarpaulins up here, but be careful; it's fireworks we didn't have time
to get into storage."

The ambulance came slanting in from uptown, and Cardon looked around
anxiously. The May-fly dance of customers' 'copters had stopped; there
was a Sabbath stillness about the big store, at least visually. A few
small figures in Literates' guards black leather moved about on the
north landing stage, and several Pelton employees were on the central
stop stage. The howling of the 'copter propeller overhead effectively
blocked out any sounds that might be coming from the building, at
least until the ambulance landed. Then a spatter of firing from below
was audible.

Cardon, the medic and the guards piled out, the latter with the
stretcher. The orderly-driver got out his tablet pistol and checked
the chamber, then settled into a posture of watchful relaxation. Major
Slater was waiting for them by one of the vertical lift platforms.

"I tried to get hold of you, but that blasted meeting was going on,
and they had the doors sealed, and--" he began.

Cardon hushed him quickly. "Around here, I'm an Illiterate," he
warned. "Where's Pelton? We've got to get him and his daughter out of
here, at once."

"He's still flat on his back, out cold," Slater said. "The medic you
sent around here gave him a shot of hypnotaine: he'll be out for a
couple of hours, yet. Prestonby's still here. He's commanding the
defense; doing a good job, too."

That was good. Ralph would help get Claire to Literates' Hall, after
they'd gotten her father to safety.

"There must be about five hundred Independent-Conservative storm
troopers in the store," Slater was saying. "Most of them got here
after we did. The city cops have all the street approaches roped off;
they're letting nobody but Grant Hamilton's thugs in."

"They were fairly friendly this morning," Cardon said. "Mayor Jameson
must have passed the word." They all got off the lift two floors down,
where they found Claire Pelton and Ralph Prestonby waiting. "Hello,
Ralph. Claire. What's the situation?"

"We have all the twelfth floor," Prestonby said. "We have about half
the eleventh, including the north and west public stages. We have the
basement and the storerooms and the warehouse--Sergeant Coccozello's
down there, with as many of the store police and Literates and
Literates' guards and store-help as he could salvage, and the
warehouse gang. They've taken most of the ground floor, the main
mezzanine, and parts of the second floor. We moved two of the 7-mm
machine guns down from the top, and we control the front street
entrance with them and a couple of sono guns. The store's isolated
from the outside by the city police, who are allowing re-enforcements
to come through for the raiders, but we're managing to stop them at
the doors."

"Have you called Radical-Socialist headquarters for help?"

"Yes, half a dozen times. There's some fellow named Yingling there,
who says that all their storm troops are over in North Jersey, on some
kind of a false-alarm riot-call, and can't be contacted."

"So?" Cardon commented gently. "That's too bad, now." Too bad for
Horace Yingling and Joe West; this time tomorrow, they'll be a pair of
dead traitors, he thought. "Well, we'll have to make do with what we
have. Where's Russ Latterman, by the way?"

Prestonby gave a sidewise glance toward Claire and shook his head, his
lips pressed tightly together. _She doesn't know, yet_, Cardon
interpreted.

"Down in the basement, with Coccozello," Prestonby said, aloud. "We're
in telephone communication with Coccozello, and have a freight
elevator running between here and the basement. Coccozello says
Latterman is using a rifle against the raiders, killing every one he
can get a shot at."

Cardon nodded. Probably vindictive about being involved in action
injurious to Pelton's commercial interests; just another odd quirk of
Literate ethics.

"We'd better get him up here," he said. "You and I have got to leave,
at once; we have to get Pelton and Claire to safety. He can help Major
Slater till we can get back with re-enforcements. I am going to kill a
man named Horace Yingling, and then I'm going to round up the storm
troops he diverted on a wild-goose chase to North Jersey." He nodded
to the medic and the four plain-clothes guards. "Get Pelton on the
stretcher. Better use the canvas flaps and the straps. He's under
hypnotaine, but it's likely to be a rough trip. Claire, get anything
you want to take with you. Ralph will take you where you'll be safe
for a while."

"But the store--" Claire began.

"Your father has riot-insurance, doesn't he? I know he does; they
doubled the premium on him when he came out for Senate. Let the
insurance company worry about the store."

The medic and the guards moved into Chester Pelton's private rest room
with the stretcher. Claire went to the desk and began picking up odds
and ends, including the pistol Cardon had given her, and putting them
in her handbag.

"We've got to keep her away from her father, for a few days, Ralph,"
he told Prestonby softly. "It's all over town that she can read and
write. We've got to give him a chance to cool off before he sees her
again. Take her to Lancedale. I have everything fixed up; she'll be
admitted to the Fraternities this afternoon, and given Literate
protection."

Prestonby grabbed his hand impulsively. "Frank! I'll never be able to
repay you for this, not if I live to be a thousand--" he began.

There was a sudden blast of sound from overhead--the banging of
machine guns, the bark of the store's 20-mm auto-cannon, the howling
of airplane jets, and the crash of explosions. Everybody in the room
jerked up and stood frozen, then Prestonby jumped for the TV-screen
and pawed at the dials. A moment later, after the screen flashed and
went black twice, they were looking across the topside landing stage
from a pickup at one corner.

A slim fighter-bomber, with square-tipped, backswept, wings, was
jetting up in almost perpendicular flight; another was coming in
toward the landing stage, and, as they watched, a flight of rockets
leaped forward from under its wings. Cardon saw the orderly-driver of
the ambulance jump down and start to run for the open lift-shaft. He
got five steps away from his vehicle. Then the rockets came in, and
one of them struck the tarpaulin-covered pile of boxes beside the
ambulance. There was a flash of multicolored flame, in which the man
and the vehicle he had left both vanished. Immediately, the screen
went black.

The fireworks had mostly exploded at the first blast; however, when
Cardon and Major Slater and one or two others reached the top landing
stage, there were still explosions. A thing the size and shape of a
two-gallon kettle, covered with red paper, came rolling toward them,
and suddenly let go with a blue-green flash, throwing a column of
smoke, in miniature imitation of an A-bomb, into the air. Something
about three feet long came whizzing at them on the end of a tail of
fire, causing them to fling themselves flat; involuntarily, Cardon's
head jerked about and his eyes followed it until it blew up with a
flash and a bang three blocks uptown. Here and there, colored fire
flared, small rockets flew about, and firecrackers popped.

The ambulance was gone, blown clear off the roof. The other 'copters
on the landing stage were a tangled mass of wreckage. The 20-mm was
toppled over; the gunner was dead, and one of the crew, half-dazed,
was trying to drag a third man from under the overturned gun. The
control tower, with the two 12-mm machine guns, was wrecked. The two
7-mm's that had been left on the top had vanished, along with the
machine gunners, in a hole that had been blown in the landing stage.

Cardon, Slater, and the others dashed forward and pulled the
auto-cannon off the injured man, hauling him and his companion over to
the lift. The two rakish-winged fighter-bombers were returning,
spraying the roof with machine-gun bullets, and behind them came a
procession of fifteen big 'copters. They dropped the lift hastily;
Slater jumped off when it was still six feet above the floor, and
began shouting orders.

"Falk: take ten men and get to the head of this lift-shaft! Burdick,
Levine: get as many men as you can in thirty seconds, and get up to
the head of the escalator! Diaz: go down and tell Sternberg to bring
all his gang up here!"

Cardon caught up a rifle and rummaged for a bandolier of ammunition,
losing about a minute in the search. The delay was fortunate; when he
got to the escalators, he was met by a rush of men hurrying down the
ascending spiral or jumping over onto the descending one.

"Sono guns!" one of them was shouting. "They have the escalator head
covered; you'll get knocked out before you get off the spiral!"

He turned and looked toward the freight lift. It was coming down again,
with Falk and his men unconscious on it, knocked senseless by bludgeons
of inaudible sound, and a half a dozen of the 'copter-borne raiders, all
wearing the white robes and hoods of the Independent-Conservative storm
troops. He swung his rifle up and began squeezing the trigger,
remembering to first make sure that the fire-control lever was set
forward for semiauto, and remembering his advice to Goodkin, that
morning. By the time the platform had stopped, all the men in white
robes were either dead or wounded, and none of the unconscious
Literates' guards along with them had been injured. The medic who had
come with Cardon, assisted by a couple of the office force, got the
casualties sorted out. There was nothing that could be done about the
men who had been sono-stunned; in half an hour or so, they would recover
consciousness with no ill effects that a couple of headache tablets
wouldn't set right.

The situation, while bad, was not immediately desperate. If the
white-clad raiders controlled the top landing stage, they were pinned
down by the firearms and sono guns of the defenders, below, who were
in a position to stop anything that came down the escalators or the
lift shaft. The fate of the first party was proof of that. And the
very magnitude of the riot guaranteed that somebody on the outside,
city police, State guards, or even Consolidated States regulars, would
be taking a hand shortly. The air attack and 'copter-landing on the
roof had been excellent tactics, but it had been a serious
policy-blunder. As long as the disturbance had been confined to the
interior of the store, the city police could shrug it off as another
minor riot on property supposed to be protected by private police, and
do nothing about it. The rocket-attack on the top landing stage and
the spectacular explosion of the fireworks temporarily stored there,
however, was something that simply couldn't be concealed or dismissed.
The cloud of varicolored smoke alone must have been visible all over
the five original boroughs of the older New York, and there were
probably rumors of atom-bombing going around.

"What gets me," Slater, who must have been thinking about the same
thing, said to Cardon, "is where they got hold of those two
fighter-bombers. That kind of stuff isn't supposed to be in private
hands."

"A couple of hundred years ago, they had something they called the
Sullivan Law," Cardon told him. "Private citizens weren't even allowed
to own pistols. But the gangsters and hoodlums seemed to be able to
get hold of all the pistols they wanted, and burp guns, too. I know of
four or five racket gangs in this area that have aircraft like that,
based up in the Adirondacks, at secret fields. Anybody who has
connections with one of those gangs can order an air attack like this
on an hour's notice, if he's able to pay for it. What I can't
understand is the Independent-Conservatives doing anything like this.
The facts about this business will be all over the state before the
polls open tomorrow--" He snapped his fingers suddenly. "Come on;
let's have a look at those fellows who came down on the lift!"

There were two dead men in white Independent-Conservative robes and
hoods, lying where they had been dragged from the lift platform.
Cardon pulled off the hoods and zipped open the white robes. One of
the men was a complete stranger; the other, however, was a man he had
seen, earlier in the day, at the Manhattan headquarters of the
Radical-Socialist Party. One of the Consolidated Illiterates'
Organization people; a follower of West and Yingling.

"So that's how it was!" he said, straightening. "Now I get it! Let's
go see if any of those wounded goons are in condition to be
questioned."

       *       *       *       *       *

Ray Pelton and Doug Yetsko had their heads out an open window on the
right side of the cab of the 'copter truck; Ray was pointing down.

"That roof, over there, looks like a good place to land," he said. "We
can get down the fire escape, and the hatch to the conveyor belt is
only half a block away."

Yetsko nodded. There'd be a watchman, or a private cop, in the
building on which Ray intended landing. A couple of hundred dollars
would take care of him, and they could leave two of Mason's boys with
the vehicles to see that he stayed bribed.

"Sure we can get in on the freight conveyor?" he asked. "Maybe it'll
be guarded."

"Then we'll have to crawl in through the cable conduit," Ray said.
"I've done that, lots of times; so have most of the other guys." He
nodded toward the body of the truck, behind, where his dozen-odd
'teenage recruits were riding. "I've played all over the store, ever
since I've been big enough to walk; I must know more about it than
anybody but the guy who built it. That's why I said we'd have to bring
bullet guns; down where we're going, we'd gas ourselves with gas guns,
and if we used sono guns, we'd knock ourselves out with the echo."

"You know, Ray, you'll make a real storm trooper," Yetsko said. "If
you manage to stay alive for another ten years, you'll be almost as
good a storm troop captain as Captain Prestonby."

That, Ray knew, was about as high praise as Doug Yetsko could give
anybody. He'd have liked to ask Doug more about Captain
Prestonby--Doug could never seem to get used to the idea of his
officer being a schoolteacher--but there was no time. The 'copter
truck was already settling onto the roof.

The watchman proved amenable to reason. He took one look at Yetsko,
with three feet of weighted fire hose in his hand, and gulped, then
accepted the two C-notes Yetsko gave him. They left a couple of
Literates' guards with the vehicles, and Ray led the way to the fire
escape, and down into the alley. A few hundred feet away, there was an
iron grating which they pulled up. Ray drew the pistol he had gotten
out of Captain Prestonby's arms locker and checked the magazine,
chamber, and safety, knowing that Yetsko and the other guards were
watching him critically, and then started climbing down the ladder.

The conduit was halfway down. Yetsko, climbing behind him, examined it
with his flashlight, probably wondering how he was going to fit
himself into a hole like that. They climbed down onto the concrete
walkway beside the conveyor belts, and in the dim light of the
overhead lamps Ray could see that the two broad belts, to and from the
store, were empty for as far as he could see in either direction.
Normally, there should be things moving constantly in both
directions--big wire baskets full of parcels for delivery, and trash
containers, going out, and bales and crates and cases of merchandise,
and empty delivery baskets and trash containers coming in. He pointed
this out to Yetsko.

"Sure," the big Literates' guards sergeant nodded. "They got control
of the opening from the terminal, and they probably got a gang up at
the other end, too," he shouted, over the noise of the conveyor belts.
"I hope they haven't got into the basement of the store."

"If they have, I know a way to get in," Ray told him. "You'd better
stay here for about five minutes, and let me scout ahead. We don't
want to run into a big gang of them ahead."

Yetsko shook his head. "No, Ray; the captain told me I was to stick
with you. I'll go along with you. And we better take another of these
kids, for a runner, in case we have to send word back."

"Ramon, you come with us," Ray said. "The rest of you, stay here for
five minutes, and then, if you don't hear from us, follow us."

"Mason, you take over," Yetsko told the guards corporal. "And keep an
eye out behind you. We're in a sandwich, here; they're behind us, and
in front of us. If anything comes at you from behind, send the kids
forward to the next conduit port."

Ray and Yetsko and Ramon Nogales started forward. Halfway to the next
conduit port, there was a smear of lubricating oil on the concrete,
and in it, and away from it in the direction of the store, they found
footprints. It was Ramon Nogales who noticed the oil on the ladder to
the next conduit port.

"You stick here," Yetsko told him, "and when Mason and the others come
up, hold them here. Tell Mason to send one of the guards forward, and
use the rest of the gang to grab anybody who comes out. Come on, Ray."

At the port beyond, they halted, waiting for Mason's man to come up.
They lost some time, thereafter, but they learned that the section of
conduit between the two ports was empty and that the main telephone
line to the store had been cut. Whoever had cut it had gone, either
forward or back away from the store. A little farther on, the sound of
shots ahead became audible over the clanking and rattling of the
conveyor belts.

"Well, I guess this is where we start crawling," Yetsko said. "Your
father's people seem to be holding the store basement against a gang
in the conveyor tunnel."

One of the boys scouted ahead, and returned to report that they could
reach the next conduit port, but that the section of both conveyor
belts ahead of him was stopped, apparently wedged.

Yetsko stood for a moment, grimacing in an effort to reach a decision.

"I'd like to just go forward and hit them from behind," he said. "But
I don't know how many of them there are, and we'd have to be careful,
shooting into them, that we didn't shoot up your father's gang, beyond
them. I wish--"

"Well, let's go through the conduit, then," Ray said. "We can slide
down a branch conduit that runs a power line into the basement. I'll
go ahead; everybody at the store knows me, and they don't know you.
They might shoot you before they found out you were a friend."

Before Yetsko could object, he started up the ladder, Yetsko behind
him and the others following. At the next conduit port, they could
hear shooting very plainly, seeming to be in front of them. At the
next one, the shooting seemed to be going on directly under them, in
the tunnel. With the flashlight Yetsko had passed forward to him, Ray
could see that the dust on the concrete floor of the three-foot by
three-foot passage between and under the power and telephone cables
was undisturbed.

A little farther on, there was an opening on the left, and a power
cable branched off downward, at a sharp angle, overhead. Ray was able
to turn about and get his feet in front of him; Yetsko had to crawl on
until he had passed it, and then back into it after Ray had entered.
Bracing one foot on either side, Ray inched his way down the
forty-degree slope, hoping that the two hundred pound weight of Doug
Yetsko wouldn't start sliding upon him.

Ahead, he could hear voices. He drew his hands and feet away from the
sides of the branch conduit and let himself slip, landing in a heap in
the electricians' shop, above the furnace rooms. Two men, who had been
working at a bench, trying to assemble a mass of equipment into a
radio, whirled, snatching weapons. Ray knew both of them--Sam
Jacobowitz and George Nyman, who serviced the store's communications
equipment. They both stared at him, swearing in amazement.

"All right, Doug!" Ray called out. "We're in! Bring the gang down!"

       *       *       *       *       *

Frank Cardon and Ralph Prestonby were waiting at the freight-elevator
door when it opened and Russell Latterman emerged, a rifle slung over
one shoulder. Cardon stepped forward and took the rifle from him.

"Come on over here, Russ," he said. "And don't do anything reckless."

They led him to one side. Latterman looked from one to the other
apprehensively, licking his lips.

"It's all right; we're not going to hurt you, Russ," Cardon assured
him. "We just want a few facts. Beside rigging that business with
Bayne, and almost killing Chet Pelton, and forcing Claire to blow her
cover, how much did you have to do with this business?"

"And who put you up to it?" Prestonby wanted to know. "My guess is
Joyner and Graves. Am I right?"

"Graves," Latterman said. "Joyner didn't have anything to do with it;
didn't know anything about it. He's in charge of the Retail
Merchandising section, and any action like this would be unethical,
since Pelton's is a client of the Retail Merchandising section. All
Graves told me to do was fix up a situation, using my own judgment,
that would provoke a Literate strike and force either Claire or Frank
here to betray Literacy. But I had no idea that it would involve a
riot like this. If I had, I'd have stood on Literates' ethics and
refused to have any part in it."

"That's about how I thought it would be," Cardon nodded. "Graves
probably was informed by Literates with the Independent-Conservatives
that this riot was planned; he wanted to get our people out of the
store. Unfortunately for him, he wasn't present at the extemporary
meeting that reversed Bayne's action in calling the strike." He handed
the rifle back to Latterman. "I just took this in case you might get
excited, before I could explain. And you can forget about the
Graves-Joyner opposition to Pelton. We had a meeting, right after
noon. Lancedale gained the upper hand; Joyner and Graves are
co-operating, now; the plan is to support Pelton and get on the inside
of the socialized Literacy program, when it's enacted."

"I still think that's a suicidal policy," Latterman said. "But not as
suicidal as splitting the Fraternities and trying to follow two
policies simultaneously. I wonder if I could put a call through to
Literates' Hall without some of these picture-readers overhearing me."

"You've been out of touch, down in the cellar, Russ." Prestonby told
him. "Our telephone line's cut, and the radio is smashed." He told
Latterman about the rocket attack on the control tower, which also
housed the store's telecast station. "So we're sandwiched, here; one
gang has us blocked at the twelfth floor, and another gang's up on the
roof, trying to get down at us from above, and we've no way to
communicate with the outside. We can pick up the regular telecasts,
but nobody outside seems to be paying much attention to us."

"There's a lot of equipment down in the electricians' shop," Latterman
said. "Maybe we could rig up a sending set that could contact one of
the telecast stations outside."

"That's an idea," Prestonby said. "Let's see what we can do about it."

They went into Pelton's office. The store owner was still lying
motionless on his stretcher. Claire was fiddling with a telecast
receiving set; she had just tuned out a lecture on Home
Beautifications and had gotten the mid-section of a serial in which
three couples were somewhat confused over just who was married to
whom.

"Nobody seems to realize what's happening to us!" she said, turning
the knob again. Then she froze, as Elliot C. Mongery--this time
sponsored by Parc, the Miracle Cleanser--appeared on the screen.

"... And it seems that the attack on Chester Pelton has picked up new
complications; somebody seems determined to wipe out the whole Pelton
family, because, only ten minutes ago, some twenty armed men invaded
the Mineola High School, where Pelton's fifteen-year-old son, Raymond,
is a student, and forced their way to the office of Literate First
Class Ralph N. Prestonby, in an attempt to kidnap young Pelton.
Neither Literate Prestonby, the principal, nor the Pelton boy, who was
supposed to be in his office, could be found. The raiders were put to
flight by the presence of mind of Literate Martha B. Collins, who
pressed the button which turned in the fire alarm, filling the halls
with a mob of students. The interlopers fled in panic after being set
upon and almost mobbed--"

Prestonby looked worried. "I left Ray in my office, with Doug Yetsko,"
he said. "I can't understand--"

[Illustration:]

"Maybe Yetsko got a tip that they were coming and got Ray out of the
school," Cardon suggested. "I hope he took him home." He caught
himself just in time to avoid mentioning the platoon of Literates'
guards at the Pelton home, which he was not supposed to know about.
"Don't worry, Claire; if anything'd happened to Ray, Mongery'd have
been screaming about it to high heaven. That's what he's paid to do."

"Well, I'll stake my life on it; if anybody tried to do anything to
Ray while Yetsko was with him, you'd have heard about it," Prestonby
said. "It'd have been a bigger battle than this one."

"... Can't seem to find out anything about what's going on at
Pelton's store," Mongery continued. "Telephone and radio communication
seems to be broken, and, although there is continuous firing going on
inside the building, the city police, who have a cordon completely
around it, say that the situation in the store is well in hand.
Considering Chester Pelton's attacks on the city administration and
particularly the police department, I leave to your imagination what
they mean by that. We do know that a large body of unidentified
plug-uglies whom Police Inspector Cassidy claims are 'special
officers' are holding the conveyor line into the store at the downtown
Manhattan terminal, and nobody seems to know what's going on at the
other end--"

"They have the sections of both belts at the store entrance end
wedged," Latterman said, coming up at the moment. "Coccozello has a
barricade thrown up across the store end of the tunnel, and they have
a barricade about fifty yards down the tunnel. That's where I was
fighting when you called me up."

"Anything being done about gold-berging up a radio sending-set?"
Prestonby asked.

"Yes. I just called Coccozello," Latterman said. "Fortunately, the
inter-department telephone is still working. He's put a couple of men
to work, and thinks he may have a set in operation in about half an
hour."

"... And if, as I much fear, Chester Pelton has been murdered, then I
advise all listening to me to go to the polls tomorrow and vote the
straight Anarchist ticket. If we've got to have anarchy in this
country, let's have anarchy for all, and not just for Grant Hamilton
and his political adherents!" Mongery was saying.

       *       *       *       *       *

There was a series of heavy explosions on the floor above. Everybody
grabbed weapons and hurried outside, crowding onto the escalators. The
floor above was a shambles, with bodies lying about, and the
descending escalator was packed with white-robed attackers, who had
apparently prepared for their charge by tossing down a number of
heavy fragmentation bombs. Cardon had a burp gun, this time; he
emptied the fifty-shot magazine into the hooded hoodlums who were
coming down. Prestonby, beside him, had a heavy sono gun; he kept it
trained on the head of the escalator and held the trigger back until
it was empty, then slapped in a fresh clip of the small blank
cartridges which produced the sound waves that were amplified and
altered to stunning vibrations. Still, many of the attackers got
through. More were dropping down the lift-platform shaft. Cardon's
submachine-gun ceased firing, the action open on an empty clip. He
dropped it and yanked the heavy pistol from his shoulder holster.
Then, from the direction of the freight elevator, reinforcements
arrived, headed by a huge man in the black leather of the Literates'
guard, who swung a three-foot length of fire hose with his right hand
and fired a pistol with his left, and a boy in a black-and-red jacket
who was letting off a burp gun in deliberate, parsimonious, bursts. It
was a second or two before Cardon recognized them as Prestonby's
bodyguard, Doug Yetsko, and Claire Pelton's brother Ray. There were
four Literates' guards and about a dozen boys with them, all firing
with a variety of weapons.

At the same time, others were arriving on the escalators from the
floors below, firing as they came off--Slater's Literates' guards, the
Literates and their black-jacketed troopers of Hopkinson's store
service crew, the fifteen survivors of the twenty riflemen from Macy &
Gimbel's. The attackers turned and crowded onto the ascending
escalator. Most of them got away, the casualties being carried up by
the escalator. Doug Yetsko bounded forward and brought his fire hose
down on the back of one invader's neck. Then, after a last spatter of
upward-aimed shots from the defenders, there was silence.

Cardon stepped forward and yanked the hood from the man whom Yetsko
had knocked down, hoping that he had a stunned prisoner who could be
interrogated. The man was dead, however, with a broken neck. For a
moment, Cardon looked down at the heavy, brutal features of Joe West,
the Illiterates' Organization man. If Chester Pelton got out of this
mess alive and won the election tomorrow, there was going to have to
be a purge in the Radical-Socialist party, and something was going to
have to be done about the Consolidated Organization of Illiterates. He
turned to Yetsko.

"You and your gang got here just in the nick of time," he said. "How
did you get into the store?"

"Through the freight conveyor, into the basement."

"But I thought those goons had both ends of that plugged."

"They did," Yetsko grinned. "But Ray Pelton took us in at the middle,
and we crawled through a cable conduit to get around the gang at this
end."

Cardon looked around quickly, in search of Ray. The boy, having come
out of the excitement of battle, was looking around at the litter of
dead and wounded on the blood-splashed floor. His eyes widened, and he
gulped. Then, carefully setting the safety of his burp gun and
slinging it, he went over and leaned against the wall, and was sick.

Prestonby, with Claire Pelton beside him, started toward the
white-faced, retching boy. Yetsko put out a hamlike hand to stop them.

"If the kid wants to be sick, let him be sick," he said. "He's got a
right to. I was sicker'n that, after my first fight. But he won't do
that the next time."

"There isn't going to be any next time!" Claire declared, with
maternal protectiveness.

"That's what you think, Miss Claire," Yetsko told her. "That boy's
gonna make a great storm trooper," he declared. "Every bit as great as
Captain Prestonby, here."

Claire looked up at Prestonby almost worshipfully. "And I never knew
anything about your being a fighting-man, till today," she said.
"Ralph, there's so much about you that I don't know."

"There'll be plenty of time to find out, now, honey," he told her.

Cardon stepped over the body of Joe West and went up to them.

"Sorry to intrude on you two," he said, "but we've got to figure on
how to get out of here. Could we get out the same way you got in?" he
asked Yetsko. "And take Mr. Pelton with us?"

Yetsko frowned. "Part of the way, we gotta crawl through this conduit;
it's only about a yard square. And we'd have to go up a ladder, and
out a manhole, to get out of the conveyor tunnel. What sorta shape's
Mr. Pelton in?"

"He's under hypnotaine, completely unconscious," Prestonby said.

"Then we'd have to drag him," Yetsko said. "Strap him up in a tarp, or
load him into a sleeping bag, if we can get hold of one."

"There are plenty, down in the warehouse," Latterman interrupted,
joining them. "And the warehouse is in our hands."

"All right," Cardon decided. "We'll take him out, now, and take him
home. I have some men there who'll take care of him. We'll have to get
you and Ray out, too," he told Claire. "I think we'll take both of you
to Literates' Hall; you'll be absolutely safe there."

"But the store," Claire started to object. "And all these people who
came here to help us--"

"As soon as I have your father home, I'm going to start rounding up a
gang to raise the siege," Cardon said. "Radical-Socialist storm
troops, and--" He grinned suddenly. "The insurance company; the one
that has the store insured against riot! Why didn't I think of them
before? They're losing money every second this thing goes on. It'll be
worth their while to start doing something to stop it!"

       *       *       *       *       *

The trip out through the conduit was not so difficult, even with the
encumbrance of the unconscious Chester Pelton, but Prestonby was
convinced that, except for the giant strength of Doug Yetsko, it would
have been nearly impossible. Ray Pelton, recovered from his
after-battle nausea and steeled by responsibility, went first. Cardon
crawled after him, followed by a couple of the boys. Then came Yetsko,
dragging the sleeping bag in which Chester Pelton was packed like a
mummy. Prestonby himself followed, pushing on his future
father-in-law's feet, and Claire crawled behind, with the rest of
Ray's schoolmates for a rearguard.

They got past the battle which was still going on at the entrance to
the store basement, letting Pelton down with a rope and carrying him
onto the outward-bound belt. They left it in time to assemble under
the ladder leading to the alley through which Ray said they had
entered, and hauled Pelton up after them. Then, when they were all out
in the open again, Ray ran up the alley and mounted a fire escape,
and, in a few minutes, a big 'copter truck which had been parked on
the roof let down to them. Into this, Cardon ordered the unconscious
senatorial candidate loaded, and the boys who had come with Ray.

"I'll take him home, and then run the boys to the school," he told
Prestonby. "You and Ray and Claire get in this other 'copter and go
straight to Literates' Hall." He pointed up to the passenger vehicle
which was hovering above, waiting for the truck to leave. "Go in the
church way, and go straight to Lancedale's office. And here." He
scribbled an address and a phone number and a couple of names. "These
men have my 'copter at this address. Call them as soon as you get to
Literates' Hall and have them take it at once to Pelton's home, on
Long Island."

Prestonby nodded and watched Cardon climb into the truck. The
Literates' guard who was driving lifted it up and began windmilling
away toward the east. The passenger 'copter, driven by another guard
from the school, settled down. Putting Ray and Claire into it, he
climbed in after them.

"Ray," he said, "how would you like to be a real white-smock
Literate?"

Ray's eyes opened. "You think I'm good enough?"

"Good enough to be a novice, to start with. And I don't think you'll
stay a novice long."

Claire looked at him inquiringly, saying nothing.

"You, too, honey," he said. "Frank fixed it all up. You and Ray will
be admitted to the Fraternities, this afternoon. And that will remove
any objection to our being married."

"But ... how about the Senator?" she asked.

Prestonby shrugged. "It's all over the state now that you can read;
there's nothing that you can do about it. And Frank has a lot of
influence with him; he'll talk him around to where he'll be willing to
make the best of it, in a week or so."

       *       *       *       *       *

Russell Latterman noticed that Major Slater was looking at him in a
respectfully inquiring manner. He said nothing, and, at length, the
Literates' guards officer broke the silence.

"You didn't go out with the others."

Latterman shook his head. "No, major; I'm an executive of Pelton's
Purchasers' Paradise, however unlike its name it may look at the
moment. My job's here. I'm afraid I'll have to lean pretty heavily on
you, until Mr. Cardon can get help to us. I'm not particularly used to
combat."

"You've been doing all right with that rifle," Slater told him.

"I can hit what I aim at, yes. But I'm not used to commanding men in
combat, and I'm not much of a tactician."

Slater thrust out his hand impulsively. "I took a sort of poor view
of you, at first. I'm sorry," he said. "Want me to take command?"

"If you please, major."

"What are you going to do, after this thing's over?" Slater asked.

"Stay on with Pelton's, provided Mr. P. doesn't find out that I
organized that trick with his medicine and the safe," Latterman said.
"Since Lancedale seems to have gotten on top at the Hall, I am, as of
now, a Lancedale partisan. That's partly opportunism, and it's partly
because, since a single policy has been adopted, I feel obliged to go
along with it. I'll have to get the store back in operation, as soon
as possible. Pelton's going to need money, badly, if he's going to try
for the presidency in '44." He looked around him. "You know, I've
always wanted to run a fire sale; this'll be even better--a battle
sale!"

       *       *       *       *       *

Cardon watched Chester Pelton apprehensively as the bald-headed
merchant and senatorial candidate sipped from the tall glass in his
hand and then set it on the table beside him. His face was pale, and
he had the look of a man who has just been hit with a blackjack.

"That's an awful load of bricks to dump on a man, all at once,
Frank," he said reproachfully.

"You'd rather I told you, now, than turn on the TV and hear some
commentator talking about it, wouldn't you?" Cardon asked.

Pelton swore vilely, in a lifeless monotone, cursing Literacy, and
all Literates back to the invention of the alphabet. Then he stopped
short.

"No, Frank, I don't mean that, either. My own son and daughter are
Literates; I can't say that about them. But how long--?"

"Oh, for about a year, I'd say. I understand, now, that they were
admitted to the Fraternities six months ago," he invented.

"And they were working against me, all that time?" Pelton demanded.

Cardon shook his head. "No, Chet; they were for you, all the way. Your
daughter exposed her Literacy to save your life. Your son and his
teacher came to your store and fought for you. But there are Literates
who want to see you defeated, and they're the ones who made that
audio-visual, secretly, of the ceremony in which your son and daughter
took the Literates' Oath and received the white smock, and they're
going to telecast it this evening at twenty-one hundred. Coming on top
of the stories that have been going around all afternoon, and Slade
Gardner's speech, this morning, they think that'll be enough to defeat
you."

"Well, don't you?" Pelton gloomed. "My own kids, Literates!" He seemed
to have reached a point at which he was actually getting a masochistic
pleasure out of turning the dagger in his wounds. "Who'd trust me,
after this?"

"No, Chet; it isn't enough to beat you--if you just throw away that
crying towel and start fighting. They made one mistake that's going
to wreck them."

"What's that, Frank?" Pelton brightened, by about one angstrom unit.

"The timing, of course!" Cardon told him, impatiently. "I thought
you'd see that, at once. This telecast comes on at twenty-one hundred.
Your final speech comes on at twenty-one thirty. As soon as they've
shown this business of Claire and Ray taking the Literate Oath, you'll
be on the air, yourself, and if you put on any kind of a show worth
the name, it won't be safe for anybody in this state to be caught
wearing a white smock. Now, if they'd only had the wit to wait till
after you'd delivered that speech you've been practicing on for the
last two weeks, and then spring this on you, that would have been
different. They'd have had you over a barrel. But this way, you have
them!"

Pelton took another gulp from the tall glass at his elbow, emptying
it. "Fix me up another of these, Frank," he said. "I feel like a new
man, already." Then his face clouded again. "But we have no time to
prepare a speech, now, and I just can't ad lib one."

Cardon drew a little half-inch record-disk from his pocket case.

"Play this off," he said. "I had it fixed up, as soon as I got wise to
what was going to happen. The voice is one of the girls in my office,
over at the brewery. Pronunciation, grammar, elocution and everything
correct."

Pelton snapped the disk onto his recorder and put in the ear plug.
Then, before he pressed the stud, he looked at Cardon curiously.

"How'd you get onto this, anyhow, Frank?" he wanted to know.

"Well ... I hope you don't ask me for an accounting of all the money
I've been spending in this campaign, because some of the items would
look funny as hell, but--"

"No accounting, Frank. After all, you spent as much of your own money
as you did of mine," Pelton interrupted.

"... But I bought myself a pipe line into Literates' Hall big enough
to chase an elephant through," Cardon went on, ignoring the
interruption. "This fellow Mongery, for instance." Elliot Mongery was
one of Literate Frank Cardon's best friends; he comforted his
conscience with the knowledge that Mongery would slander him just as
unscrupulously, if the interests of the Lancedale Plan were at stake.
"I have Mongery just like this." He made a clutching and lifting
gesture, as though he were picking up some small animal by the scruff
of the neck. "So, as soon as I got word of it, I started getting this
thing together. It isn't the kind of a job a Literate semanticist
would do, but it's all honest Illiterate thinking, in Illiterate
language. Turn it on, and tell me what you think of it."

While Pelton listened to the record, Cardon mixed him another of the
highballs, adding a little of the heart-stimulant the medic had given
him. Pelton was grinning savagely when he turned off the little
machine and took out the ear plug.

"Great stuff, Frank! And I won't have to ham it much; it's just about
the way I feel." He thought for a moment. "You have me talking about
my ruined store, there. Just how bad is it, anyhow?"

"Pretty bad, Chet. Latterman says it's going to take some time to get
it fixed up, but he expects to be open for business by Thursday or
Friday. He's going to put on a big Battle Sale; he says it's going to
make retail-merchandising history. And the insurance covers most of
the damage."

"Well, tell me about it. How did you get the riot stopped, after you
got me out? And how did you--?"

Cardon shook his head. "You play that record over again; get yourself
in the mood. When you go on, we'll have you in a chair, wrapped in a
blanket ... you're supposed to have crawled back out of the Valley of
the Shadow of Death to make this speech ... and we'll have the wire
run down inside the blanket, so that you can listen to the speech
while you're giving it. Chet, this is going to be one of the great
political speeches of all time--"

       *       *       *       *       *

Literate William R. Lancedale looked up from his desk and greeted his
visitor with a smile.

"Well, Frank! Sit down and accept congratulations! I suppose you got
the returns?"

Cardon nodded, dropping into a chair beside the desk. "Just came from
campaign headquarters. This automatic tally system they use on the
voting machines is really something. Complete returns tabulated and
reported for the whole state within forty minutes after the polls
closed. I won't be silly enough to ask you if you got the returns."

"I deserved that, of course," Lancedale chuckled. "Can I offer you
refreshment? A nice big stein of Cardon's Black Bottle, for instance?"

Cardon shuddered and grimaced horribly. "I've been drinking that slop
by the bucketful, all day. And Pelton's throwing a victory party,
tonight, and I'll have to choke down another half gallon of it. Give
me a cup of coffee, and one of those good cigars of yours."

Lancedale grinned at him. "Ah, yes, the jolly brewer. His own best
advertisement. How's Pelton reacting to his triumph? And what's his
attitude toward his children? I've been worrying about that; vestigial
traces of a conscience, I suppose."

"Well, I had to keep him steamed up, till after he went off the air,"
Cardon said. "Chet isn't a very good actor. But after that, I talked
to him like a Dutch uncle. Told him what a swell pair of kids and a
fine son-in-law he had. He got sore at me. Tried to throw me out of
the house, a couple of times. I was afraid he was going to have
another of those attacks. But by the time Ralph and Claire get back
from their honeymoon and Ray finishes that cram-course for Literate
prep school, he'll be ready to confer the paternal blessing all
around. I'm going to stay in town and make sure of it, and then I'm
taking about a month's vacation."

"You've earned it, all right." Lancedale poured Cardon's coffee and
passed him the cigar humidor. "How's Pelton's attitude toward the
Consolidated Illiterates' Organization, now?"

Cardon, having picked up the Italian stiletto to puncture his cigar,
looked at it carefully to make sure that it really had no edge, and
then drew it quickly across his throat.

"Just like that. You know what really happened, yesterday afternoon,
at the store, don't you?"

"Well, in general, yes. I wish you'd fill me in on some of the
details, though, Frank."

"Details he wants. Well." Cardon blew on his coffee and sipped it.
"The way we played it for propaganda purposes, of course, there was
only one big riot, and it was all the work of the wicked Literates and
their Independent-Conservative hirelings. Actually, there were two
riots. First, there was one the Independents had planned for about a
week in advance; that was the one Sforza tipped us on, the one that
started in China. Graves knew about it, enough to advise Latterman to
get all the Literates out of the store before noon, which Latterman
did, with trimmings.

"Then, there was another riot, masterminded by a couple of
Illiterates' Organization Action Committee people named Joe West and
Horace Yingling, both deceased. That was the result of Latterman's
bright idea to trap Claire and/or me into betraying Literacy. These
Illiterate fanatics made up their minds, to speak rather loosely, that
the whole Pelton family were Literates, including Chet himself. They
decided that it was better to kill off their candidate and use him for
a martyr two years from now than to elect him and have him sell them
out. They got about a hundred or so of their goons dressed in
Independent-Conservative KKK costumes, bought air support from Patsy
Callazo's mob, up in Vermont, and made that attack on the top landing
stage, after starting a fake riot in North Jersey, to draw off the
regular Radical-Socialist storm troops. Incidentally, when I found out
it was Callazo's gang that furnished those fighter bombers, I hired
another mob to go up and drop a block-buster on Callazo's field, to
teach him to keep his schnozzle out of politics."

Lancedale nodded briskly. "That I approve of. How about West and
Yingling?"

"Prestonby's muscle man, Yetsko, killed West. I took care of Comrade
Yingling, myself, after I'd gotten reinforcements to the store--first
a couple of free-lance storm troops that the insurance company hired,
and then as many of the Radical Rangers as I could gather up."

"And Pelton knows about all this?"

"He certainly does! After this caper, the Illiterates' Organization's
through, as far as any consideration or patronage from the Radicals is
concerned."

"Well, that's pretty nearly the best thing I've heard out of the whole
business," Lancedale said. "In about eight or ten years, we may want
to pull the Independent-Conservative party together again, to cash in
on public dissatisfaction with Pelton's socialized Literacy program,
which ought to be coming apart at the seams by then. And if we have
the Illiterates split into two hostile factions--"

Cardon finished his coffee. "Well, chief, I've got to be getting
along. O'Reilly can only cover me for a short while, and I have to be
getting to this victory party of Pelton's--"

Lancedale rose and shook hands with him. "I can't tell you, too many
times, what a fine job you did, Frank," he said. "I hope ... no,
knowing you, I'm positive ... that you'll be able to engineer a
reconciliation between Pelton and his son and daughter and young
Prestonby. And then, have yourself a good vacation."

"I mean to. I'm going deer hunting, to a place up in the mountains,
along the old Pennsylvania-New York state line. A little community of
about a thousand people, where everybody, men, women and children, can
read."

Lancedale was interested. "A community of Literates?"

Cardon shook his head. "Not Literates-with-a-big-L; just people who
can read and write," he replied. "It's a kind of back-eddy sort of
place, and I imagine, a couple of hundred years ago, the community was
too poor to support one of these 'progressive' school systems that
made Illiterates out of the people in the cities. Probably couldn't
raise enough money in school taxes to buy all the expensive
audio-visual equipment, so they had to use old-fashioned textbooks,
and teach the children to read from them. They have radios, and TV, of
course, but they also have a little daily paper, and they have a
community library."

Lancedale was thoughtful, for a moment. "You know, Frank, there must
be quite a few little enclaves of lower-case-literacy like that, in
back-woods and mountain communities, especially in the west and the
south. I'm going to make a project of finding such communities,
helping them, and getting recruits from them. They'll fit into the
Plan. Well, I'll be seeing you some time tomorrow, I suppose?"

He watched Cardon go out, and then poured a glass of port for himself
and sipped slowly, holding the glass to the light and watching the
ruby glow it cast on the desk top. It had been over thirty years ago,
when he had been old Jules de Chambord's assistant, that the Plan had
been first conceived. De Chambord was dead these twenty years, and he
had taken the old man's place, and they had only made the first step.
Things would move faster, now, but he would still die before the Plan
was completed, and Frank Cardon, whom he had marked as his successor,
would be an old man, and somebody like young Ray Pelton would be ready
to replace him, but the Plan would go on, until everybody would be
literate, not Literate, and illiteracy, not Illiteracy, would be a
mark of social stigma, and most people would live their whole lives
without personal acquaintance with an illiterate.

There were a few years, yet, to prepare for the next step. The white
smocks would have to go; Literates would have to sacrifice their
paltry titles and distinctions. There would have to be a
re-constitution of the Fraternities. Wilton Joyner and Harvey Graves
and the other Conservative Literates would have to be convinced,
emotionally as well as intellectually, of the need for change. There
were a few of the older brothers who could never adjust their
thinking; they would have to be promoted to positions with higher
salaries and more impressive titles and no authority whatever.

But that was all a matter of tactics; the younger men, like Frank
Cardon and Elliot Mongery and Ralph Prestonby, could take care of
that. Certain changes would occur: A stable and peaceful order of
society, for one thing. A rule of law, and the liquidation of these
goon gangs and storm troops and private armies. If a beginning at that
were made tomorrow, using the battle at Pelton's store to mobilize
public opinion, it would still take two decades to get anything really
significant done. And a renaissance of technological and scientific
progress--Today, the manufacturers changed the 'copter models twice a
year--and, except for altering the shape of a few chromium-plated
excrescences or changing the contours slightly, they were the same
'copters that had been buzzing over the country at the time of the
Third World War. Every month, the pharmaceutical companies announced a
new wonder drug--and if it wasn't sulfa, it was penicillin, and if it
wasn't penicillin it would be aureomycin. Why, most of the scientific
research was being carried on by a few Literates in the basements of a
few libraries, re-discovering the science of two centuries ago.

He sighed, and finished his port, and, as he did probably once every
six months, he re-filled the glass. He'd be seventy-two next birthday.
Maybe he'd live long enough to see--


THE END





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