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´╗┐Title: The Day of the Boomer Dukes
Author: Pohl, Frederik
Language: English
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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.

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         _Just as medicine is not a science, but rather an
         art--a device, practised in a scientific manner, in
         its best manifestations--time-travel stories are not
         science fiction. Time-travel, however, has become
         acceptable to science fiction readers as a traditional
         device in stories than are otherwise admissible in the
         genre. Here, Frederik Pohl employs it to portray the
         amusingly catastrophic meeting of three societies._


                                 THE DAY
                                 OF THE
                                 BOOMER
                                 DUKES

                            by Frederik Pohl

                          _Illustrated by EMSH_


[Illustration: There was a silvery aura around the kid ... the cops'
guns hit him ... but he didn't notice....]



I

Foraminifera 9


Paptaste udderly, semped sempsemp dezhavoo, qued schmerz--Excuse me. I
mean to say that it was like an endless diet of days, boring,
tedious....

No, it loses too much in the translation. Explete my reasons, I say. Do
my reasons matter? No, not to you, for you are troglodytes, knowing
nothing of causes, understanding only acts. Acts and facts, I will give
you acts and facts.

First you must know how I am called. My "name" is Foraminifera 9-Hart
Bailey's Beam, and I am of adequate age and size. (If you doubt this, I
am prepared to fight.) Once the--the tediety of life, as you might say,
had made itself clear to me, there were, of course, only two
alternatives. I do not like to die, so that possibility was out; and the
remaining alternative was flight.

Naturally, the necessary machinery was available to me. I arrogated a
small viewing machine, and scanned the centuries of the past in the hope
that a sanctuary might reveal itself to my aching eyes. Kwel tediety
that was! Back, back I went through the ages. Back to the Century of the
Dog, back to the Age of the Crippled Men. I found no time better than
my own. Back and back I peered, back as far as the Numbered Years. The
Twenty-Eighth Century was boredom unendurable, the Twenty-Sixth a morass
of dullness. Twenty-Fifth, Twenty-Fourth--wherever I looked, tediety was
what I found.

       *       *       *       *       *

I snapped off the machine and considered. Put the problem thus: Was
there in all of the pages of history no age in which a 9-Hart Bailey's
Beam might find adventure and excitement? There had to be! It was not
possible, I told myself, despairing, that from the dawn of the dreaming
primates until my own time there was no era at all in which I could
be--happy? Yes, I suppose happiness is what I was looking for. But where
was it? In my viewer, I had fifty centuries or more to look back upon.
And that was, I decreed, the trouble; I could spend my life staring into
the viewer, and yet never discover the time that was right for me. There
were simply too many eras to choose from. It was like an enormous
library in which there must, there had to be, contained the one fact I
was looking for--that, lacking an index, I might wear my life away and
never find.

"_Index!_"

I said the word aloud! For, to be sure, it was the answer. I had the
freedom of the Learning Lodge, and the index in the reading room could
easily find for me just what I wanted.

Splendid, splendid! I almost felt cheerful. I quickly returned the
viewer I had been using to the keeper, and received my deposit back. I
hurried to the Learning Lodge and fed my specifications into the index,
as follows, that is to say: Find me a time in recent past where there is
adventure and excitement, where there is a secret, colorful band of
desperadoes with whom I can ally myself. I then added two
specifications--second, that it should be before the time of the high
radiation levels; and first, that it should be after the discovery of
anesthesia, in case of accident--and retired to a desk in the reading
room to await results.

It took only a few moments, which I occupied in making a list of the
gear I wished to take with me. Then there was a hiss and a crackle, and
in the receiver of the desk a book appeared. I unzipped the case, took
it out, and opened it to the pages marked on the attached reading tape.

I had found my wonderland of adventure!

       *       *       *       *       *

Ah, hours and days of exciting preparation! What a round of packing and
buying; what a filling out of forms and a stamping of visas; what an
orgy of injections and inoculations and preventive therapy! Merely
getting ready for the trip made my pulse race faster and my adrenalin
balance rise to the very point of paranoia; it was like being given a
true blue new chance to live.

At last I was ready. I stepped into the transmission capsule; set the
dials; unlocked the door, stepped out; collapsed the capsule and stored
it away in my carry-all; and looked about at my new home.

Pyew! Kwel smell of staleness, of sourness, above all of coldness! It
was a close matter then if I would be able to keep from a violent
eructative stenosis, as you say. I closed my eyes and remembered warm
violets for a moment, and then it was all right.

The coldness was not merely a smell; it was a physical fact. There was a
damp grayish substance underfoot which I recognized as snow; and in a
hard-surfaced roadway there were a number of wheeled vehicles moving,
which caused the liquefying snow to splash about me. I adjusted my coat
controls for warmth and deflection, but that was the best I could do.
The reek of stale decay remained. Then there were also the buildings,
painfully almost vertical. I believe it would not have disturbed me if
they had been truly vertical; but many of them were minutes of arc from
a true perpendicular, all of them covered with a carbonaceous material
which I instantly perceived was an inadvertent deposit from the air. It
was a bad beginning!

However, I was not _bored_.

       *       *       *       *       *

I made my way down the "street," as you say, toward where a group of
young men were walking toward me, five abreast. As I came near, they
looked at me with interest and kwel respect, conversing with each other
in whispers.

I addressed them: "Sirs, please direct me to the nearest recruiting
office, as you call it, for the dread Camorra."

They stopped and pressed about me, looking at me intently. They were
handsomely, though crudely dressed in coats of a striking orange color,
and long trousers of an extremely dark material.

I decreed that I might not have made them understand me--it is always
probable, it is understood, that a quicknik course in dialects of the
past may not give one instant command of spoken communication in the
field. I spoke again: "I wish to encounter a representative of the
Camorra, in other words the Black Hand, in other words the cruel and
sinister Sicilian terrorists named the Mafia. Do you know where these
can be found?"

One of them said, "Nay. What's that jive?"

I puzzled over what he had said for a moment, but in the end decreed
that his message was sensefree. As I was about to speak, however, he
said suddenly: "Let's rove, man." And all five of them walked quickly
away a few "yards." It was quite disappointing. I observed them
conferring among themselves, glancing at me, and for a time proposed
terminating my venture, for I then believed that it would be better to
return "home," as you say, in order to more adequately research the
matter.

       *       *       *       *       *

However, the five young men came toward me again. The one who had spoken
before, who I now detected was somewhat taller and fatter than the
others, spoke as follows: "You're wanting the Mafia?" I agreed. He
looked at me for a moment. "Are you holding?"

He was inordinately hard to understand. I said, slowly and with
patience, "Keska that 'holding' say?"

"Money, man. You going to slip us something to help you find these
cats?"

"Certainly, money. I have a great quantity of money instantly
available," I rejoined him. This appeared to relieve his mind.

There was a short pause, directly after which this first of the young
men spoke: "You're on, man. Yeah, come with us. What's to call you?" I
queried this last statement, and he expanded: "The name. What's the
name?"

"You may call me Foraminifera 9," I directed, since I wished to be
incognito, as you put it, and we proceeded along the "street." All five
of the young men indicated a desire to serve me, offering indeed to take
my carry-all. I rejected this, politely.

I looked about me with lively interest, as you may well believe. Kwel
dirt, kwel dinginess, kwel cold! And yet there was a certain charm which
I can determine no way of expressing in this language. Acts and facts,
of course. I shall not attempt to capture the subjectivity which is the
charm, only to transcribe the physical datum--perhaps even data, who
knows? My companions, for example: They were in appearance overwrought,
looking about them continually, stopping entirely and drawing me with
them into the shelter of a "door" when another man, this one wearing
blue clothing and a visored hat appeared. Yet they were clearly devoted
to me, at that moment, since they had put aside their own projects in
order to escort me without delay to the Mafia.

       *       *       *       *       *

Mafia! Fortunate that I had found them to lead me to the Mafia! For it
had been clear in the historical work I had consulted that it was not
ultimately easy to gain access to the Mafia. Indeed, so secret were they
that I had detected no trace of their existence in other histories of
the period. Had I relied only on the conventional work, I might never
have known of their great underground struggle against what you term
society. It was only in the actual contemporary volume itself, the
curiosity titled _U.S.A. Confidential_ by one Lait and one Mortimer,
that I had descried that, throughout the world, this great revolutionary
organization flexed its tentacles, the plexus within a short distance of
where I now stood, battling courageously. With me to help them, what
heights might we not attain! Kwel dramatic delight!

My meditations were interrupted. "Boomers!" asserted one of my five
escorts in a loud, frightened tone. "Let's cut, man!" he continued,
leading me with them into another entrance. It appeared, as well as I
could decree, that the cause of his ejaculative outcry was the discovery
of perhaps three, perhaps four, other young men, in coats of the same
shiny material as my escorts. The difference was that they were of a
different color, being blue.

       *       *       *       *       *

We hastened along a lengthy chamber which was quite dark, immediately
after which the large, heavy one opened a way to a serrated incline
leading downward. It was extremely dark, I should say. There was also an
extreme smell, quite like that of the outer air, but enormously
intensified; one would suspect that there was an incomplete combustion
of, perhaps, wood or coal, as well as a certain quantity of general
decay. At any rate, we reached the bottom of the incline, and my escort
behaved quite badly. One of them said to the other four, in these words:
"Them jumpers follow us sure. Yeah, there's much trouble. What's to
prime this guy now and split?"

Instantly they fell upon me with violence. I had fortunately become
rather alarmed at their visible emotion of fear, and already had taken
from my carry-all a Stollgratz 16, so that I quickly turned it on them.
I started to replace the Stollgratz 16 as they fell to the floor, yet I
realized that there might be an additional element of danger. Instead of
putting the Stollgratz 16 in with the other trade goods, which I had
brought to assist me in negotiating with the Mafia, I transferred it to
my jacket. It had become clear to me that the five young men of my
escort had intended to abduct and rob me--indeed had intended it all
along, perhaps having never intended to convoy me to the office of the
Mafia. And the other young men, those who wore the blue jackets in place
of the orange, were already descending the incline toward me, quite
rapidly.

"Stop," I directed them. "I shall not entrust myself to you until you
have given me evidence that you entirely deserve such trust."

       *       *       *       *       *

They all halted, regarding me and the Stollgratz 16. I detected that one
of them said to another: "That cat's got a zip."

The other denied this, saying: "That no zip, man. Yeah, look at them
Leopards. Say, you bust them flunkies with that thing?"

I perceived his meaning quite quickly. "You are 'correct'," I rejoined.
"Are you associated in friendship with them flunkies?"

"Hell, no. Yeah, they're Leopards and we're Boomer Dukes. You cool them,
you do us much good." I received this information as indicating that the
two socio-economic units were inimical, and unfortunately lapsed into an
example of the Bivalent Error. Since p implied not-q, I sloppily assumed
that not-q implied r (with, you understand, r being taken as the class
of phenomena pertinently favorable to me). This was a very poor
construction, and of course resulted in certain difficulties. Qued,
after all. I stated:

"Them flunkies offered to conduct me to a recruiting office, as you say,
of the Mafia, but instead tried to take from me the much money I am
holding." I then went on to describe to them my desire to attain contact
with the said Mafia; meanwhile they descended further and grouped about
me in the very little light, examining curiously the motionless figures
of the Leopards.

They seemed to be greatly impressed; and at the same time, very much
puzzled. Naturally. They looked at the Leopards, and then at me.

They gave every evidence of wishing to help me; but of course if I had
not forgotten that one cannot assume from the statements "not-Leopard
implies Boomer Duke" and "not-Leopard implies Foraminifera 9" that,
qued, "Boomer Duke implies Foraminifera 9" ... if I had not forgotten
this, I say, I should not have been "deceived." For in practice they
were as little favorable to me as the Leopards. A certain member of
their party reached a position behind me.

I quickly perceived that his intention was not favorable, and attempted
to turn around in order to discharge at him with the Stollgratz 16, but
he was very rapid. He had a metallic cylinder, and with it struck my
head, knocking "me" unconscious.



II

Shield 8805


This candy store is called Chris's. There must be ten thousand like it
in the city. A marble counter with perhaps five stools, a display case
of cigars and a bigger one of candy, a few dozen girlie magazines
hanging by clothespin-sort-of things from wire ropes along the wall. It
has a couple of very small glass-topped tables under the magazines. And
a juke--I can't imagine a place like Chris's without a juke.

I had been sitting around Chris's for a couple of hours, and I was
beginning to get edgy. The reason I was sitting around Chris's was not
that I liked Cokes particularly, but that it was one of the hanging-out
places of a juvenile gang called The Leopards, with whom I had been
trying to work for nearly a year; and the reason I was becoming edgy was
that I didn't see any of them there.

The boy behind the counter--he had the same first name as I, Walter in
both cases, though my last name is Hutner and his is, I believe,
something Puerto Rican--the boy behind the counter was dummying up, too.
I tried to talk to him, on and off, when he wasn't busy. He wasn't busy
most of the time; it was too cold for sodas. But he just didn't want to
talk. Now, these kids love to talk. A lot of what they say doesn't make
sense--either bullying, or bragging, or purposeless swearing--but talk
is their normal state; when they quiet down it means trouble. For
instance, if you ever find yourself walking down Thirty-Fifth Street and
a couple of kids pass you, talking, you don't have to bother looking
around; but if they stop talking, turn quickly. You're about to be
mugged. Not that Walt was a mugger--as far as I know; but that's the
pattern of the enclave.

       *       *       *       *       *

So his being quiet was a bad sign. It might mean that a rumble was
brewing--and that meant that my work so far had been pretty nearly a
failure. Even worse, it might mean that somehow the Leopards had
discovered that I had at last passed my examinations and been appointed
to the New York City Police Force as a rookie patrolman, Shield 8805.

Trying to work with these kids is hard enough at best. They don't like
outsiders. But they particularly hate cops, and I had been trying for
some weeks to decide how I could break the news to them.

The door opened. Hawk stood there. He didn't look at me, which was a bad
sign. Hawk was one of the youngest in the Leopards, a skinny, very dark
kid who had been reasonably friendly to me. He stood in the open door,
with snow blowing in past him. "Walt. Out here, man."

It wasn't me he meant--they call me "Champ," I suppose because I beat
them all shooting eight-ball pool. Walt put down the comic he had been
reading and walked out, also without looking at me. They closed the
door.

       *       *       *       *       *

Time passed. I saw them through the window, talking to each other,
looking at me. It was something, all right. They were scared. That's
bad, because these kids are like wild animals; if you scare them, they
hit first--it's the only way they know to defend themselves. But on the
other hand, a rumble wouldn't scare them--not where they would show it;
and finding out about the shield in my pocket wouldn't scare them,
either. They hated cops, as I say; but cops were a part of their
environment. It was strange, and baffling.

Walt came back in, and Hawk walked rapidly away. Walt went behind the
counter, lit a cigaret, wiped at the marble top, picked up his comic,
put it down again and finally looked at me. He said: "Some punk busted
Fayo and a couple of the boys. It's real trouble."

I didn't say anything.

He took a puff on his cigaret. "They're chilled, Champ. Five of them."

"Chilled? Dead?" It sounded bad; there hadn't been a real rumble in
months, not with a killing.

He shook his head. "Not dead. You're wanting to see, you go down Gomez's
cellar. Yeah, they're all stiff but they're breathing. I be along soon
as the old man comes back in the store."

He looked pretty sick. I left it at that and hurried down the block to
the tenement where the Gomez family lived, and then I found out why.

       *       *       *       *       *

They were sprawled on the filthy floor of the cellar like winoes in an
alley. Fayo, who ran the gang; Jap; Baker; two others I didn't know as
well. They were breathing, as Walt had said, but you just couldn't wake
them up.

Hawk and his twin brother, Yogi, were there with them, looking scared. I
couldn't blame them. The kids looked perfectly all right, but it was
obvious that they weren't. I bent down and smelled, but there was no
trace of liquor or anything else on their breath.

I stood up. "We'd better get a doctor."

"Nay. You call the meat wagon, and a cop comes right with it, man," Yogi
said, and his brother nodded.

I laid off that for a moment. "What happened?"

Hawk said, "You know that witch Gloria, goes with one of the Boomer
Dukes? She opened her big mouth to my girl. Yeah, opened her mouth and
much bad talk came out. Said Fayo primed some jumper with a zip and the
punk cooled him, and then a couple of the Boomers moved in real cool.
Now they got the punk with the zip and much other stuff, real stuff."

"What kind of stuff?"

Hawk looked worried. He finally admitted that he didn't know what kind
of stuff, but it was something dangerous in the way of weapons. It had
been the "zip" that had knocked out the five Leopards.

I sent Hawk out to the drug-store for smelling salts and containers of
hot black coffee--not that I knew what I was doing, of course, but they
were dead set against calling an ambulance. And the boys didn't seem to
be in any particular danger, only sleep.

       *       *       *       *       *

However, even then I knew that this kind of trouble was something I
couldn't handle alone. It was a tossup what to do--the smart thing was
to call the precinct right then and there; but I couldn't help feeling
that that would make the Leopards clam up hopelessly. The six months I
had spent trying to work with them had not been too successful--a lot of
the other neighborhood workers had made a lot more progress than I--but
at least they were willing to talk to me; and they wouldn't talk to
uniformed police.

Besides, as soon as I had been sworn in, the day before, I had begun the
practice of carrying my .38 at all times, as the regulations say. It was
in my coat. There was no reason for me to feel I needed it. But I did.
If there was any truth to the story of a "zip" knocking out the
boys--and I had all five of them right there for evidence--I had the
unpleasant conviction that there was real trouble circulating around
East Harlem that afternoon.

"Champ. They all waking up!"

I turned around, and Hawk was right. The five Leopards, all of a sudden,
were stirring and opening their eyes. Maybe the smelling salts had
something to do with it, but I rather think not.

We fed them some of the black coffee, still reasonably hot. They were
scared; they were more scared than anything I had ever seen in those
kids before. They could hardly talk at first, and when finally they came
around enough to tell me what had happened I could hardly believe them.
This man had been small and peculiar, and he had been looking for, of
all things, the "Mafia," which he had read about in history
books--_old_ history books.

Well, it didn't make sense, unless you were prepared to make a certain
assumption that I refused to make. Man from Mars? Nonsense. Or from the
future? Equally ridiculous....

       *       *       *       *       *

Then the five Leopards, reviving, began to walk around. The cellar was
dark and dirty, and packed with the accumulation of generations in the
way of old furniture and rat-inhabited mattresses and piles of
newspapers; it wasn't surprising that we hadn't noticed the little
gleaming thing that had apparently rolled under an abandoned potbelly
stove.

Jap picked it up, squalled, dropped it and yelled for me.

I touched it cautiously, and it tingled. It wasn't painful, but it was
an odd, unexpected feeling--perhaps you've come across the "buzzers"
that novelty stores sell which, concealed in the palm, give a sudden,
surprising tingle when the owner shakes hands with an unsuspecting
friend. It was like that, like a mild electric shock. I picked it up and
held it. It gleamed brightly, with a light of its own; it was round; it
made a faint droning sound; I turned it over, and it spoke to me. It
said in a friendly, feminine whisper: _Warning, this portatron attuned
only to Bailey's Beam percepts. Remain quiescent until the Adjuster
comes._

That settled it. Any time a lit-up cue ball talks to me, I refer the
matter to higher authority. I decided on the spot that I was heading for
the precinct house, no matter what the Leopards thought.

But when I turned and headed for the stairs, I couldn't move. My feet
simply would not lift off the ground. I twisted, and stumbled, and fell
in a heap; I yelled for help, but it didn't do any good. The Leopards
couldn't move either.

We were stuck there in Gomez's cellar, as though we had been nailed to
the filthy floor.



III

Cow


When I see what this flunky has done to them Leopards, I call him a cool
cat right away. But then we jump him and he ain't so cool. Angel and
Tiny grab him under the arms and I'm grabbing the stuff he's carrying.
Yeah, we get out of there.

There's bulls on the street, so we cut through the back and over the
fences. Tiny don't like that. He tells me, "Cow. What's to leave this
cat here? He must weigh eighteen tons." "You're bringing him," I tell
him, so he shuts up. That's how it is in the Boomer Dukes. When Cow
talks, them other flunkies shut up fast.

We get him in the loft over the R. and I. Social Club. Damn, but it's
cold up there. I can hear the pool balls clicking down below so I pass
the word to keep quiet. Then I give this guy the foot and pretty soon he
wakes up.

As soon as I talk to him a little bit I figure we had luck riding with
us when we see them Leopards. This cat's got real bad stuff. Yeah, I
never hear of anything like it. But what it takes to make a fight he's
got. I take my old pistol and give it to Tiny. Hell, it makes him happy
and what's it cost me? Because what this cat's got makes that pistol
look like something for babies.

       *       *       *       *       *

First he don't want to talk. "Stomp him," I tell Angel, but he's scared.
He says, "Nay. This is a real weird cat, Cow. I'm for cutting out of
here."

"Stomp him," I tell him again, pretty quiet, but he does it. He don't
have to tell me this cat's weird, but when the cat gets the foot a
couple of times he's willing to talk. Yeah, he talks real funny, but
that don't matter to me. We take all the loot out of his bag, and I make
this cat tell me what it's to do. Damn, I don't know what he's talking
about one time out of six, but I know enough. Even Tiny catches on after
a while, because I see him put down that funky old pistol I gave him
that he's been loving up.

I'm feeling pretty good. I wish a couple of them chicken Leopards would
turn up so I could show them what they missed out on. Yeah, I'll take on
them, and the Black Dogs, and all the cops in the world all at
once--that's how good I'm feeling. I feel so good that I don't even like
it when Angel lets out a yell and comes up with a wad of loot. It's like
I want to prime the U.S. Mint for chickenfeed, I don't want it to come
so easy.

But money's on hand, so I take it off Angel and count it. This cat was
really loaded; there must be a thousand dollars here.

I take a handful of it and hand it over to Angel real cool. "Get us some
charge," I tell him. "There's much to do and I'm feeling ready for some
charge to do it with."

"How many sticks you want me to get?" he asks, holding on to that money
like he never saw any before.

I tell him: "Sticks? Nay. I'm for real stuff tonight. You find Four-Eye
and get us some horse." Yeah, he digs me then. He looks like he's pretty
scared and I know he is, because this punk hasn't had anything bigger
than reefers in his life. But I'm for busting a couple of caps of H,
and what I do he's going to do. He takes off to find Four-Eye and the
rest of us get busy on this cat with the funny artillery until he gets
back.

       *       *       *       *       *

It's like I'm a million miles down Dream Street. Hell, I don't want to
wake up.

But the H is wearing off and I'm feeling mean. Damn, I'll stomp my
mother if she talks big to me right then.

I'm the first one on my feet and I'm looking for trouble. The whole
place is full now. Angel must have passed the word to everybody in the
Dukes, but I don't even remember them coming in. There's eight or ten
cats lying around on the floor now, not even moving. This won't do, I
decide.

If I'm on my feet, they're all going to be on their feet. I start to
give them the foot and they begin to move. Even the weirdie must've had
some H. I'm guessing that somebody slipped him some to see what would
happen, because he's off on Cloud Number Nine. Yeah, they're feeling
real mean when they wake up, but I handle them cool. Even that little
flunky Sailor starts to go up against me but I look at him cool and he
chickens. Angel and Pete are real sick, with the shakes and the heaves,
but I ain't waiting for them to feel good. "Give me that loot," I tell
Tiny, and he hands over the stuff we took off the weirdie. I start to
pass out the stuff.

"What's to do with this stuff?" Tiny asks me, looking at what I'm giving
him.

I tell him, "Point it and shoot it." He isn't listening when the
weirdie's telling me what the stuff is. He wants to know what it does,
but I don't know that. I just tell him, "Point it and shoot it, man."
I've sent one of the cats out for drinks and smokes and he's back by
then, and we're all beginning to feel a little better, only still pretty
mean. They begin to dig me.

"Yeah, it sounds like a rumble," one of them says, after a while.

I give him the nod, cool. "You're calling it," I tell him. "There's much
fighting tonight. The Boomer Dukes is taking on the world!"



IV

Sandy Van Pelt


The front office thought the radio car would give us a break in spot
news coverage, and I guessed as wrong as they did. I had been covering
City Hall long enough, and that's no place to build a career--the Press
Association is very tight there, there's not much chance of getting any
kind of exclusive story because of the sharing agreements. So I put in
for the radio car. It meant taking the night shift, but I got it.

I suppose the front office got their money's worth, because they played
up every lousy auto smash the radio car covered as though it were the
story of the Second Coming, and maybe it helped circulation. But I had
been on it for four months and, wouldn't you know it, there wasn't a
decent murder, or sewer explosion, or running gun fight between six P.M.
and six A.M. any night I was on duty in those whole four months. What
made it worse, the kid they gave me as photographer--Sol Detweiler, his
name was--couldn't drive worth a damn, so I was stuck with chauffeuring
us around.

We had just been out to LaGuardia to see if it was true that Marilyn
Monroe was sneaking into town with Aly Khan on a night plane--it
wasn't--and we were coming across the Triborough Bridge, heading south
toward the East River Drive, when the office called. I pulled over and
parked and answered the radiophone.

       *       *       *       *       *

It was Harrison, the night City Editor. "Listen, Sandy, there's a gang
fight in East Harlem. Where are you now?"

It didn't sound like much to me, I admit. "There's always a gang fight
in East Harlem, Harrison. I'm cold and I'm on my way down to Night
Court, where there may or may not be a story; but at least I can get my
feet warm."

"_Where are you now?_" Harrison wasn't fooling. I looked at Sol, on the
seat next to me; I thought I had heard him snicker. He began to fiddle
with his camera without looking at me. I pushed the "talk" button and
told Harrison where I was. It pleased him very much; I wasn't more than
six blocks from where this big rumble was going on, he told me, and he
made it very clear that I was to get on over there immediately.

I pulled away from the curb, wondering why I had ever wanted to be a
newspaperman; I could have made five times as much money for half as
much work in an ad agency. To make it worse, I heard Sol chuckle again.
The reason he was so amused was that when we first teamed up I made the
mistake of telling him what a hot reporter I was, and I had been visibly
cooling off before his eyes for a better than four straight months.

Believe me, I was at the very bottom of my career that night. For five
cents cash I would have parked the car, thrown the keys in the East
River, and taken the first bus out of town. I was absolutely positive
that the story would be a bust and all I would get out of it would be a
bad cold from walking around in the snow.

And if that doesn't show you what a hot newspaperman I really am,
nothing will.

       *       *       *       *       *

Sol began to act interested as we reached the corner Harrison had told
us to go to. "That's Chris's," he said, pointing at a little candy
store. "And that must be the pool hall where the Leopards hang out."

"You know this place?"

He nodded. "I know a man named Walter Hutner. He and I went to school
together, until he dropped out, couple weeks ago. He quit college to go
to the Police Academy. He wanted to be a cop."

I looked at him. "You're going to college?"

"Sure, Mr. Van Pelt. Wally Hutner was a sociology major--I'm
journalism--but we had a couple of classes together. He had a part-time
job with a neighborhood council up here, acting as a sort of adult
adviser for one of the gangs."

"They need advice on how to be gangs?"

"No, that's not it, Mr. Van Pelt. The councils try to get their workers
accepted enough to bring the kids in to the social centers, that's all.
They try to get them off the streets. Wally was working with a bunch
called the Leopards."

I shut him up. "Tell me about it later!" I stopped the car and rolled
down a window, listening.

       *       *       *       *       *

Yes, there was something going on all right. Not at the corner Harrison
had mentioned--there wasn't a soul in sight in any direction. But I
could hear what sounded like gunfire and yelling, and, my God, even
bombs going off! And it wasn't too far away. There were sirens,
too--squad cars, no doubt.

"It's over that way!" Sol yelled, pointing. He looked as though he was
having the time of his life, all keyed up and delighted. He didn't have
to tell me where the noise was coming from, I could hear for myself. It
sounded like D-Day at Normandy, and I didn't like the sound of it.

I made a quick decision and slammed on the brakes, then backed the car
back the way we had come. Sol looked at me. "What--"

"Local color," I explained quickly. "This the place you were talking
about? Chris's? Let's go in and see if we can find some of these
hoodlums."

"But, Mr. Van Pelt, all the pictures are over where the fight's going
on!"

"Pictures, shmictures! Come on!" I got out in front of the candy store,
and the only thing he could do was follow me.

Whatever they were doing, they were making the devil's own racket about
it. Now that I looked a little more closely I could see that they must
have come this way; the candy store's windows were broken; every other
street light was smashed; and what had at first looked like a flight of
steps in front of a tenement across the street wasn't anything of the
kind--it was a pile of bricks and stone from the false-front cornice on
the roof! How in the world they had managed to knock that down I had no
idea; but it sort of convinced me that, after all, Harrison had been
right about this being a _big_ fight. Over where the noise was coming
from there were queer flashing lights in the clouds overhead--reflecting
exploding flares, I thought.

       *       *       *       *       *

No, I didn't want to go over where the pictures were. I like living. If
it had been a normal Harlem rumble with broken bottles and knives, or
maybe even home-made zip guns--I might have taken a chance on it, but
this was for real.

"Come on," I yelled to Sol, and we pushed the door open to the candy
store.

At first there didn't seem to be anyone in, but after we called a couple
times a kid of about sixteen, coffee-colored and scared-looking, stuck
his head up above the counter.

"You. What's going on here?" I demanded. He looked at me as if I was
some kind of a two-headed monster. "Come on, kid. Tell us what
happened."

"Excuse me, Mr. Van Pelt." Sol cut in ahead of me and began talking to
the kid in Spanish. It got a rise out of him; at least Sol got an
answer. My Spanish is only a little bit better than my Swahili, so I
missed what was going on, except for an occasional word. But Sol was
getting it all. He reported: "He knows Walt; that's what's bothering
him. He says Walt and some of the Leopards are in a basement down the
street, and there's something wrong with them. I can't exactly figure
out what, but--"

"The hell with them. What about _that_?"

"You mean the fight? Oh, it's a big one all right, Mr. Van Pelt. It's a
gang called the Boomer Dukes. They've got hold of some real guns
somewhere--I can't exactly understand what kind of guns he means, but it
sounds like something serious. He says they shot that parapet down
across the street. Gosh, Mr. Van Pelt, you'd think it'd take a cannon
for something like that. But it has something to do with Walt Hutner and
all the Leopards, too."

I said enthusiastically, "Very good, Sol. That's fine. Find out where
the cellar is, and we'll go interview Hutner."

"But Mr. Van Pelt, the pictures--"

"Sorry. I have to call the office." I turned my back on him and headed
for the car.

       *       *       *       *       *

The noise was louder, and the flashes in the sky brighter--it looked as
though they were moving this way. Well, I didn't have any money tied up
in the car, so I wasn't worried about leaving it in the street. And
somebody's cellar seemed like a very good place to be. I called the
office and started to tell Harrison what we'd found out; but he stopped
me short. "Sandy, where've you been? I've been trying to call you
for--Listen, we got a call from Fordham. They've detected radiation
coming from the East Side--it's got to be what's going on up there!
Radiation, do you hear me? That means atomic weapons! Now, you get th--"

Silence.

"Hello?" I cried, and then remembered to push the talk button. "Hello?
Harrison, you there?"

Silence. The two-way radio was dead.

I got out of the car; and maybe I understood what had happened to the
radio and maybe I didn't. Anyway, there was something new shining in the
sky. It hung below the clouds in parts, and I could see it through the
bottom of the clouds in the middle; it was a silvery teacup upside down,
a hemisphere over everything.

It hadn't been there two minutes before.

       *       *       *       *       *

I heard firing coming closer and closer. Around a corner a bunch of cops
came, running, turning, firing; running, turning and firing again. It
was like the retreat from Caporetto in miniature. And what was chasing
them? In a minute I saw. Coming around the corner was a kid with a
lightning-blue satin jacket and two funny-looking guns in his hand;
there was a silvery aura around him, the same color as the lights in the
sky; and I swear I saw those cops' guns hit him twenty times in twenty
seconds, but he didn't seem to notice.

Sol and the kid from the candy store were right beside me. We took
another look at the one-man army that was coming down the street toward
us, laughing and prancing and firing those odd-looking guns. And then
the three of us got out of there, heading for the cellar. Any cellar.



V

Priam's Maw


My occupation was "short-order cook", as it is called. I practiced it in
a locus entitled "The White Heaven," established at Fifth Avenue,
Newyork, between 1949 and 1962 C.E. I had created rapport with several
of the aboriginals, who addressed me as Bessie, and presumed to approve
the manner in which I heated specimens of minced ruminant quadruped
flesh (deceased to be sure). It was a satisfactory guise, although
tiring.

[Illustration]

Using approved techniques, I was compiling anthropometric data while "I"
was, as they say, "brewing coffee." I deem the probability nearly
conclusive that it was the double duty, plus the datum that, as stated,
"I" was physically tired, which caused me to overlook the first signal
from my portatron. Indeed, I might have overlooked the second as well
except that the aboriginal named Lester stated: "Hey, Bessie. Ya got an
alarm clock in ya pocketbook?" He had related the annunciator signal of
the portatron to the only significant datum in his own experience which
it resembled, the ringing of a bell.

I annotated his dossier to provide for his removal in case it eventuated
that he had made an undesirable intuit (this proved unnecessary) and
retired to the back of the "store" with my carry-all. On identifying
myself to the portatron, I received information that it was attuned to a
Bailey's Beam, identified as Foraminifera 9-Hart, who had refused
treatment for systemic weltschmerz and instead sought to relieve his
boredom by adventuring into this era.

I thereupon compiled two recommendations which are attached: 2, a
proposal for reprimand to the Keeper of the Learning Lodge for failure
to properly annotate a volume entitled _U.S.A. Confidential_ and, 1, a
proposal for reprimand to the Transport Executive, for permitting
Bailey's Beam-class personnel access to temporal transport. Meanwhile, I
left the "store" by a rear exit and directed myself toward the locus of
the transmitting portatron.

       *       *       *       *       *

I had proximately left when I received an additional information,
namely that developed weapons were being employed in the area toward
which I was directing. This provoked that I abandon guise entirely. I
went transparent and quickly examined all aboriginals within view, to
determine if any required removal; but none had observed this. I rose to
perhaps seventy-five meters and sped at full atmospheric driving speed
toward the source of the alarm. As I crossed a "park" I detected the
drive of another Adjuster, whom I determined to be Alephplex Priam's
Maw--that is, my father. He bespoke me as follows: "Hurry, Besplex
Priam's Maw. That crazy Foraminifera has been captured by aboriginals
and they have taken his weapons away from him." "Weapons?" I inquired.
"Yes, weapons," he stated, "for Foraminifera 9-Hart brought with him
more than forty-three kilograms of weapons, ranging up to and including
electronic."

I recorded this datum and we landed, went opaque in the shelter of a
doorway and examined our percepts. "Quarantine?" asked my father, and I
had to agree. "Quarantine," I voted, and he opened his carry-all and
set-up a quarantine shield on the console. At once appeared the silvery
quarantine dome, and the first step of our adjustment was completed. Now
to isolate, remove, replace.

Queried Alephplex: "An Adjuster?" I observed the phenomenon to which he
was referring. A young, dark aboriginal was coming toward us on the
"street," driving a group of police aboriginals before him. He was
armed, it appeared, with a fission-throwing weapon in one hand and some
sort of tranquilizer--I deem it to have been a Stollgratz 16--in the
other; moreover, he wore an invulnerability belt. The police aboriginals
were attempting to strike him with missile weapons, which the belt
deflected. I neutralized his shield, collapsed him and stored him in my
carry-all. "Not an Adjuster," I asserted my father, but he had already
perceived that this was so. I left him to neutralize and collapse the
police aboriginals while I zeroed in on the portatron. I did not envy
him his job with the police aboriginals, for many of them were "dead,"
as they say. It required the most delicate adjustments.

       *       *       *       *       *

The portatron developed to be in a "cellar" and with it were some nine
or eleven aboriginals which it had immobilized pending my arrival. One
spoke to me thus: "Young lady, please call the cops! We're stuck here,
and--" I did not wait to hear what he wished to say further, but
neutralized and collapsed him with the other aboriginals. The portatron
apologized for having caused me inconvenience; but of course it was not
its fault, so I did not neutralize it. Using it for d-f, I quickly
located the culprit, Foraminifera 9-Hart Bailey's Beam, nearby. He spoke
despairingly in the dialect of the locus, "Besplex Priam's Maw, for
God's sake get me out of this!" "Out!" I spoke to him, "you'll wish you
never were 'born,' as they say!" I neutralized but did not collapse him,
pending instructions from the Central Authority. The aboriginals who
were with him, however, I did collapse.

Presently arrived Alephplex, along with four other Adjusters who had
arrived before the quarantine shield made it not possible for anyone
else to enter the disturbed area. Each one of us had had to abandon
guise, so that this locus of Newyork 1939-1986 must require new
Adjusters to replace us--a matter to be charged against the guilt of
Foraminifera 9-Hart Bailey's Beam, I deem.

       *       *       *       *       *

This concluded Steps 3 and 2 of our Adjustment, the removal and the
isolation of the disturbed specimens. We are transmitting same disturbed
specimens to you under separate cover herewith, in neutralized and
collapsed state, for the manufacture of simulacra thereof. One regrets
to say that they number three thousand eight hundred forty-six,
comprising all aboriginals within the quarantined area who had
first-hand knowledge of the anachronisms caused by Foraminifera's
importation of contemporary weapons into this locus.

Alephplex and the four other Adjusters are at present reconstructing
such physical damage as was caused by the use of said weapons.
Simultaneously, while I am preparing this report, "I" am maintaining the
quarantine shield which cuts off this locus, both physically and
temporally, from the remainder of its environment. I deem that if
replacements for the attached aboriginals can be fabricated quickly
enough, there will be no significant outside percept of the shield
itself, or of the happenings within it--that is, by maintaining a
quasi-stasis of time while the repairs are being made, an outside
aboriginal observer will see, at most, a mere flicker of silver in the
sky. All Adjusters here present are working as rapidly as we can to make
sure the shield can be withdrawn, before so many aboriginals have
observed it as to make it necessary to replace the entire city with
simulacra. We do not wish a repetition of the California incident, after
all.



Transcriber's Note

This etext was produced from _Future Science Fiction_ No. 30 1956.
Extensive research did not uncover any evidence that the U.S. copyright
on this publication was renewed. Minor spelling and typographical errors
have been corrected without note.





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