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Title: Subversive
Author: Reynolds, Mack, 1917-1983
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 "Subversive" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.

Transcriber's Note:

    This etext was produced from _Analog_ December 1962. 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. Subscript characters are
    shown within {braces}.


 "Subversive" is, in essence, a negative term--it
    means simply "against the existent system."
     It doesn't mean subversives all agree ...

                 by Mack Reynolds

             Illustrated by Schoenherr

The young man with the brown paper bag said, "Is Mrs. Coty in?"

"I'm afraid she isn't. Is there anything I can do?"

"You're Mr. Coty? I came about the soap." He held up the paper bag.

"Soap?" Mr. Coty said blankly. He was the epitome of mid-aged husband
complete to pipe, carpet slippers and office-slump posture.

"That's right. I'm sure she told you about it. My name's Dickens. Warren
Dickens. I sold her--"

"Look here, you mean to tell me in this day and age you go around from
door to door peddling soap? Great guns, boy, you'd do better on
unemployment insurance. It's permanent now."

Warren Dickens registered distress. "Mr. Coty, could I come in and tell
you about it? If I can make the first delivery to you instead of Mrs.
Coty, shucks, it'll save me coming back."

Coty led him back into the living room, motioned him to a chair and
settled into what was obviously his own favorite, handily placed before
the telly. Coty said tolerantly, "Now then, what's this about selling
soap? What kind of soap? What brand?"

"Oh, it has no name, sir. That's the point."

The other looked at him.

"That's why we can sell it for three cents a cake, instead of
twenty-five." Dickens opened the paper bag and fished out an ordinary
enough looking cake of soap and handed it to the older man.

Mr. Coty took it, stared down at it, turned it over in his hands. He was
still blank. "Well, what's different about it?"


"There's nothing different about it. It's the same as any other soap."

"I mean, how come you sell it for three cents a cake, and what's the
fact it has no name got to do with it?"

Warren Dickens leaned forward and went into what was obviously a
strictly routine pitch. "Mr. Coty, have you ever considered what you're
buying when they nick you twenty-five cents on your credit card for a
bar of soap in an ultra-market?"

There was an edge of impatience in the older man's voice. "I buy soap!"

"No, sir. That's your mistake. What you buy is a telly show, in fact
several of them, with all their expensive comedians, singers, musicians,
dancers, news commentators, network vice presidents, and all the rest.
Then you buy fancy packaging. You'll note, by the way, that our product
hasn't even a piece of tissue paper wrapped around it. Fancy packaging
designed by some of the most competent commercial artists and
motivational research men in the country. Then you buy distribution.
From the factory all the way to the retail ultra-market where your wife
shops. And every time that bar of soap goes from one wholesaler or
distributor to another, the price roughly doubles. You also buy a brain
trust whose full time project is to keep you using their soap and not
letting their competitors talk you into switching brands. The brain
trust, of course, also works on luring away the competitor's customers
to their product. Shucks, Mr. Coty, practically none of that twenty-five
cents you spend to buy a cake of soap goes for soap. So small a
percentage that you might as well forget about it."

Mr. Coty was obviously taken aback. "Well, how do I know this nameless
soap you're peddling is, well, any good?"

Warren Dickens sighed deeply, and in such wise that it was obvious that
he had so sighed before. "Sir, there is no difference between soaps. Oh,
they might use a slightly different perfume, or tint it a slightly
different color, but for all practical purposes common hand soap, common
bath soap, is soap, period. All the stuff the copy writers dream up
about secret ingredients and health for your skin, and cosmetic
qualities, and all the rest, is Madison Avenue gobbledygook and applies
as well to one brand as another. As a matter of fact, often two
different soap companies, supposedly keen competitors, and using widely
different advertising, have their products manufactured in the same

Mr. Coty blinked at him. Shifted in his chair. Rubbed his chin as though
checking his morning shave. "Well ... well, then where do you get _your_

"The same place. We buy in fantastically large lots from one of the
gigantic automated soap plants."

Mr. Coty had him now. "Ah, ha! Then how come you sell it for three cents
a cake, instead of twenty-five?"

"I've been telling you. Our soap doesn't even have a name, not to
mention an advertising budget. Far from spending fortunes redesigning
our packaging every few months in attempts to lure new customers, we
don't package the stuff at all. It comes to you, in the simplest
possible wrapping, through the mails. A new supply every month. Three
cents a cake. No middlemen, no wholesalers, distributors. No nothing
except soap at three cents a cake."

Mr. Coty leaned back in his chair. "I'll be darned." He thought it over.
"Listen, do you sell anything besides soap?"

"Not right now, sir. But soap flakes are coming up next week and I think
we'll be going into bread in a month or two."


"Yes, sir, bread. Although we'll have to distribute that by truck, and
have to have almost hundred per cent coverage in a given section before
it's practical. A nickel a loaf."

"Five cents a loaf! You can't _make_ bread for that much."

"Oh, yes we can. We can't advertise it, package it, and pay a host of
in-betweens, is all. From the bakery to you, period."

Mr. Coty seemed fascinated. He said, "See here, what's the address of
your office?"

Warren Dickens shook his head. "Sorry, sir. That's all part of it. We
have no swanky offices with big, expensive staffs. We operate on the
smallest of shoestrings. No brain trust. No complaint department. No
public relations. No literature on how to beautify yourself. No nothing,
except good soap at three cents a cake, plus postage. Now, if you'll
sign this contract, we'll put you on our mailing list. Ten bars of soap
a month, Mrs. Coty said. I brought this first supply so you could test
it and see that the whole thing is bona fide."

Mr. Coty had to test it, but then he had to admit he couldn't tell any
difference between the nameless soap and the product to which he was
used. Eventually, he signed, made the first payment, shook hands with
young Dickens and saw him to the door. He said, in parting, "I still
wonder why you do this, rather than dragging down unemployment insurance
like most young men fresh out of school."

Warren Dickens screwed up his face. This was a question that wasn't
routine. "Well, I make approximately the same, if I stick to it and get
enough contracts. And, shucks they're not hard to get. And, well, I'm
working, not just bumming on the rest of the country. I'm doing
something, something useful."

Coty pursed his lips and shrugged. "It's been a long time since anybody
cared about that." He looked after the young man as he walked down the

Then he turned and headed for the phone, and ten years seemed to drop
away from him. He lit the screen with a flick, dialed and said crisply,
"That's him, Jerry. Going down the walk now. Don't let him out of your

Jerry's face was in the screen but he was obviously peering down, from
the helio-jet, locating the subject. "O.K., Tracy, I make him. See you
later." His face faded.

The man who had called himself Mr. Coty, dialed again, not bothering to
light the screen. "All right," he said. "Thank Mrs. Coty and let her
come home now."

       *       *       *       *       *

Frank Tracy worked his way down an aisle of automated phono-typers and
other office equipment. The handful of operators, their faces bored,
periodically strolled up and down, needlessly checking that which seldom
needed checking.

He entered the receptionist's office, flicked a hand at LaVerne Sandell,
one of the few employees it seemed impossible to automate out of her
position, and said, "The Chief is probably expecting me."

"That he is. Go right in, Mr. Tracy."

"I'm expecting a call from one of the operatives. Put it through, eh


Even as he walked toward the door to the sanctum sanctorum, he grimaced
sourly at her. "_Righto_, yet. Isn't that a bit on the maize side?
Doesn't sound very authentic to me."

"I can see you don't put in your telly time, Mr. Tracy. Slang goes in
cycles these days. They simply don't dream up a whole new set of
expressions every generation anymore because everybody gets tired of
them so soon. Instead, older periods of idiom are revived. For instance,
scram is coming back in."

He stopped long enough to look at her, frowning. "Scram?"

She took him in quizzically, estimating. "Possibly _dust_, or _get
lost_, was the term when you were a boy."

Tracy chuckled wryly, "Thanks for the compliment, but I go back to the
days of _beat it_."

In the inner office the Chief looked up at him. "Sit down, Frank. What's
the word? Another exponent of free enterprise, pre-historic style?"

Frank Tracy found a chair and began talking even while fumbling for
briar and tobacco pouch. "No," he grumbled. "I don't think so, not this
time. I'm afraid there might be something more to it."

His boss leaned back in the massive old-fashioned chair he affected and
patted his belly, as though appreciative of a good meal just finished.
"Oh? Give it all to me."

Tracy finished lighting his pipe, flicked the match out and put it back
in his pocket, noting that he'd have to get a new one one of these days.
He cleared his throat and said, "Reports began coming in of house to
house canvassers selling soap for three cents a bar."

"_Three cents a bar?_ They can't manufacture it for that. Will the stuff
pass the Health Department?"

"Evidently," Tracy said wryly. "The salesman claimed it's the same soap
as reputable firms peddle."

"Go on."

"We had to go to a bit of trouble to get a line on them without raising
their suspicion. One of the boys lived in a neighborhood that was being
canvassed for new customers and his wife had signed up. So I took her
place when the salesman arrived with her first delivery--they deliver
the first batch. I let him think I was Bob Coty and questioned him, but
not enough to raise his suspicions."


"An outfit selling soap and planning on branching into bread and heavens
knows what else. No advertising. No middlemen. No nothing, as the
salesman said, except standard soap at three cents a bar."

"They can't package it for that!"

"They don't package it at all."

The Chief raised his chubby right hand and wiped it over his face in a
stereotype gesture of resignation. "Did you get his home office address?
Maybe there's some way of buying them out--indirectly, of course."

"No, sir. It seemed to be somewhat of a secret."

The other's eyes widened. "Ridiculous. You can't hide anything like
that. There's a hundred ways of tracking them down before the day is

"Of course. I've got Jerome Wiseman following him in a helio-jet. No use
getting rough, as yet. We'll keep it quiet ... assuming that meets with
your approval."

"You're in the field, Frank. You make the decisions."

The phone screen had lighted up and LaVerne's piquant face faded in.
"The call Mr. Tracy was expecting from Operative Wiseman."

"Put him on," the Chief said, lacing his plump fingers over his stomach.

Jerry's face appeared in the screen. He was obviously parked on the
street now. He said, "Subject has disappeared into this office building,
Tracy. For the past fifteen minutes he's kinda looked as though the
day's work was through and since this dump could hardly be anybody's
home, he must be reporting to his higher-up."

"Let's see the building," Tracy said.

The portable screen was directed in such manner that a disreputable
appearing building, obviously devoted to fourth-rate businesses, was

"O.K.," Tracy said. "I'll be over. You can knock off, Jerry. Oh, except
for one thing. Subject's name is Warren Dickens. Just for luck, get a
complete dossier on him. I doubt if he's got a criminal or subversive
record, but you never know."

Jerry said, "Right," and faded.

Frank Tracy came to his feet and knocked the rest of his pipe out into
the gigantic ashtray on his boss' desk. "Well, I suppose the next step's

"Check back with me as soon as you know anything more," the Chief said.
He wheezed a sigh as though sorry the interview was over and that he'd
have to go back to his desk chores, but shifted his bulk and took up a
sheaf of papers.

Just as Tracy got to the door, the Chief said, "Oh, yes. Easy on the
rough stuff, Tracy. I've been hearing some disquieting reports about
some of the overenthusiastic bullyboys on your team. We wouldn't want
such material to get in the telly-casts."

_Lard bottom_, Tracy growled inwardly as he left. Did the Chief think he
liked violence? Did anyone in his right mind like violence?

       *       *       *

Frank Tracy looked up at the mid-century type office building. He was
somewhat surprised that the edifice still remained. Where did the owners
ever find profitable tenants? What business could be so small these days
that it would be based in such quarters? However, here it was.

The lobby was shabby. There was no indication on the list of tenants of
the firm he was seeking, nor was there a porter. The elevator was out of

He did it the hard way, going from door to door, entering, hat in hand,
apologetically, and saying, "Pardon me. You're the people who sell the
soap?" They kept telling him no until he reached the third floor and a
door to an office even smaller than usual. It was lettered _Freer
Enterprises_ and even as he knocked and entered, the wording rang a

There was only one desk but it was efficiently equipped with the latest
in office gadgetry. The room was quite choked with files and even a
Mini-IBM tri-unit. The man behind the desk was old-fashioned enough to
wear glasses, but otherwise seemed the average aggressive executive type
you expected to meet in these United States of the Americas. He was
possibly in his mid-thirties and one of those alert, over-eager
characters irritating to those who believe in taking matters less than

He looked up and said snappily, "What can I do for you?"

Tracy dropped into an easy-going characterization. "You're the people
who sell the soap?"

"That is correct. What can I do for you?"

Tracy said easily, "Why, I'd like to ask you a few questions about the

"To what end, sir? You'd be surprised how busy a man I am."

Tracy said, "Suppose I'm from the Greater New York _News-Times_ looking
for a story?"

The other tapped a finger on his desk impatiently. "Pardon me, but in
that case I would be inclined to think you a liar. The _News-Times_
knows upon which side its bread is spread. Its advertisers include all
the soap companies. It does not dispense free advertising through its
news columns."

Tracy chuckled wryly, "All right. Let's start again." He brought forth
his wallet, flicked through various identification cards until he found
the one he wanted and presented it. "Frank Tracy is the name," he said.
"Department of Internal Revenue. There seems to be some question as to
your corporation taxes."

"Oh," the other said, obviously taken aback. "Please have a chair." He
read the authentic looking, but spurious credentials. Tracy took the
proffered chair and then sat and looked at the other as though it was
his turn.

"My name is Flowers," the Freer Enterprises man told him, nervously.
"Frederic Flowers. Frankly, this is my first month at the job and I'm
not too well acquainted with all the ramifications of the business." He
moistened his lips. "I hope there is nothing illegal--" He let the
sentence fade away.

Tracy reclaimed his false identity papers and put them back into his
wallet before saying easily, "I really couldn't say, as yet. Let's have
a bit of questions and answers and I'll go further into the matter."

Flowers regained his confidence. "No reason why not," he said quickly.
"So far as I know, all is above board."

Frank Tracy let his eyes go about the room. "Why are you established,
almost secretly, you might say, in this business backwoods of the city?"

"No secret about it," Flowers demurred. "Merely the cheapest rent we
could find. We cut costs to the bone, and then shave the bone."

"Um-m-m. I've spoken to one of your salesmen, a Warren Dickens, and I
suppose he gave me the standard sales talk. I wonder if you could
elaborate on your company's policies, its goals, that sort of thing."


"You obviously expect to make money, somehow or other, though I don't
see that peddling soap at three cents a bar has much of a future. There
must be some further angle."

Flowers said, "Admittedly, soap is just a beginning. Among other things,
it's given us a mailing list of satisfied customers. Consumers who can
then be approached for future purchases."

       *       *       *       *       *

Frank Tracy relaxed in his chair, reached for pipe and tobacco and let
the other go on. But his eyes had narrowed, coldly.

Flowers wrapped himself up in his subject. "Mr. Tracy, you probably have
no idea of the extent to which the citizens of Greater America are being
victimized. Let me use but one example." He came quickly to his feet,
crossed to a small toilet which opened off the office and returned with
a power-pack electric shaver which he handed to Tracy.

Tracy looked at it, put it back on the desk and nodded. "It's the brand
I have," he said agreeably.

"Yes, and millions of others. What did you pay for it?"

Frank Tracy allowed himself a slight smirk. "As a matter of fact, I got
mine through a discount outfit, only twenty-five dollars."

"_Only_ twenty-five dollars, eh, when the retail price is supposedly
thirty-five?" Flowers was triumphant. "A great bargain, eh? Well, let
me give you a rundown, Mr. Tracy."

He took a quick breath. "True, they're advertised to retail at
thirty-five dollars. And stores that sell them at that rate make a
profit of fifty per cent. The regional supply house, before them, knocks
down from forty to sixty per cent, on the wholesale price. Then the
trade name distributor makes at least fifty per cent on the sales to the
regional supply houses."

"Trade name distributor?" Tracy said, as though ignorant of what the
other was talking about. "You mean the manufacturer?"

"No, sir. That razor you just looked at bears a trade name of a company
that owns no factory of its own. It buys the razors from a large
electrical appliances manufacturing complex which turns out several
other name brand electric razors as well. The trade name company does
nothing except market the product. Its budget, by the way, calls for an
expenditure of six dollars on every razor for national advertising."

"Well, what are you getting at?" Tracy said impatiently.

Frederic Flowers had reached his punch line. "All right, we've traced
the razor all the way back to the manufacturing complex which made it.
Mr. Tracy, that razor you bought at a discount bargain for twenty-five
dollars cost thirty-eight cents to produce."

Tracy pretended to be dumfounded. "I don't believe it."

"It can be proven."

Frank Tracy thought about it for a while. "Well, even if true, so what?"

"It's a crime, that's so-what," Flowers blurted indignantly. "And that's
where Freer Enterprises comes in. Very shortly, we're going to enter the
market with an electric razor retailing for exactly one dollar. No name
brand, no advertising, no nothing except a razor just as good as though
selling for from twenty-five to fifty dollars."

Tracy scoffed his disbelief. "That's where you're wrong. No electric
razor manufacturer would sell to you. They'd be cutting their own

The Freer Enterprises official shook his head, in scorn. "That's where
_you're_ wrong. The same electric appliance manufacturer who produced
that razor there will make a similar one, slightly different in
appearance, for the same price for us. They don't care what happens to
their product once they make their profit from it. Business is business.
We'll be at least as good a customer as any of the others have ever
been. Eventually, better, since we'll be getting electric razors into
the hands of people who never felt they could afford one before."

He shook a finger at Tracy. "Manufacturers have been doing this for a
long time. I imagine it was the old mail-order houses that started it.
They'd get in touch with a manufacturer of, say, typewriters, or
outboard motors, or whatever, and order tens of thousands of these, not
an iota different from the manufacturer's standard product except for
the nameplate. They'd then sell these for as little as half the ordinary
retail price."


Tracy seemed to think it over for a long moment. Eventually he said,
"Even then you're not going to break any records making money. Your
distribution costs might be pared to the bone, but you still have some.
There'll be darn little profit left on each razor you sell."

Flowers was triumphant again. "We're not going to stop at razors, once
under way. How about automobiles? Have you any idea of the disparity
between the cost of production of a car and what they retail for?"

"Well, no."

"Here's an example. As far back as about 1930 a barge company
transporting some brand-new cars across Lake Erie from Detroit had an
accident and lost a couple of hundred. The auto manufacturers sued,
trying to get the retail price of each car. Instead, the court awarded
them the cost of manufacture. You know what it came to, labor,
materials, depreciation on machinery--everything? Seventy-five dollars
per car. And that was around 1930. Since then, automation has swept the
industry and manufacturing costs per unit have dropped drastically."

The Freer Enterprises executive was now in full voice. "But even that's
not the ultimate. After all, cars were selling for as cheaply as $425
then. Let's take some items such as aspirin. You can, of course, buy
small neatly packaged tins of twelve for twenty-five cents but
supposedly more intelligent buyers will buy bottles for forty or fifty
cents. If the druggist puts out a special for fifteen cents a bottle it
will largely be refused since the advertising conditioned customer
doesn't want an inferior product. Actually, of course, aspirin is
aspirin and you can buy it, in one hundred pound lots in polyethylene
film bags, at about fourteen cents a pound, or in carload lots under the
chemical name of acetylsalicylic acid, for eleven cents a pound. And any
big chemical corporation will sell you U.S.P. grade Milk of Magnesia at
about six dollars a ton. Its chemical name, of course, is magnesium
hydroxide, or Mg(OH){2}, and you'd have one thousand quarts in that ton.
Buying it beautifully packaged and fully advertised, you'd pay up to a
dollar twenty-five a pint in the druggist section of a modern

       *       *       *

Tracy had heard enough. He said crisply, "All right, Mr. Flowers, of
Freer Enterprises, now let me ask you something: Do you consider this
country prosperous?"

Flowers blinked. Of a sudden, the man across from him seemed to have
changed character, added considerable dynamic to his make-up. He
flustered, "Yes, I suppose so. But it could be considerably more
prosperous if--"

Tracy was sneering. "If consumer prices were brought down drastically,
eh? Mr. Flowers, you're incredibly naïve when it comes to modern
economics. Do you realize that one of the most significant developments,
economically speaking, took place in the 1950s; something perhaps more
significant than the development of atomic power?"

Flowers blinked again, mesmerized by the other's new domineering
personality. "I ... I don't know what you're talking about."

"The majority of employees in the United States turned from blue collars
to white."

Flowers looked pained. "I don't--"

"No, of course you don't or you wouldn't be participating in a
subversive attack upon our economy, which, if successful, would lead to
the collapse of Western prosperity and eventually to the success of the
Soviet Complex."

Mr. Flowers gobbled a bit, then gulped.

"I'll spell it out for you," Tracy pursued. "In the early days of
capitalism, back when Marx and Engels were writing such works as
_Capital_, the overwhelming majority of the working class were employed
directly in production. For a long time it was quite accurate when the
political cartoonists depicted a working man as wearing overalls and
carrying a hammer or wrench. In short, employees who got their hands
dirty, outnumbered those who didn't.

"But with the coming of increased mechanization and eventually
automation and the second industrial revolution, more and more employees
went into sales, the so-called service industries, advertising and
entertainment which has become largely a branch of advertising,
distribution, and, above all, government which in this bureaucratic age
is largely a matter of regulation of business and property
relationships. As automation continued, fewer and fewer of our people
were needed to produce all the commodities that the country could
assimilate under our present socio-economic system. And I need only
point out that the average American _still_ enjoys more material things
than any other nation, though admittedly the European countries, and I
don't exclude the Soviet Complex, are coming up fast."

Flowers said indignantly, "But what's this charge that I'm participating
in a subversive--"

"Mr. Flowers," Tracy overrode him, "let's not descend to pure maize in
our denials of the obvious. If this outfit of yours, Freer Enterprises,
was successful in its fondest dreams, what would happen?"

"Why, the consumers would be able to buy commodities at a fraction of
the present cost!"

Tracy half came to his feet and pounded the table with fierce emphasis.
"_What would they buy them with? They'd all be out of jobs!_"

Frederic Flowers bug-eyed him.

Tracy sat down again and seemingly regained control of himself. His
voice was softer now. "Our social system may have its strains and
tensions, Mr. Flowers, but it works and we don't want anybody throwing
wrenches in its admittedly delicate machinery. Advertising is currently
one of the biggest industries of the country. The entertainment
industry, admittedly now based on advertising, is gigantic. Our
magazines and newspapers, employing hundreds of thousands of employees
from editors right on down to newsstand operators, are able to exist
only through advertising revenue. Above all, millions of our population
are employed in the service industries, and in distribution, in the
stock market, in the commodity markets, in all the other branches of
distribution which you Freer Enterprises people want to pull down. A
third of our working force is now unemployed, but given your way, it
would be at least two thirds."

Flowers, suddenly suspicious, said, "What has all this to do with the
Department of Internal Revenue, Mr. Tracy?"

Tracy came to his feet and smiled ruefully, albeit a bit grimly.
"Nothing," he admitted. "I have nothing at all to do with that
department. Here is my real card, Mr. Flowers."

The Freer Enterprises man must have felt a twinge of premonition even as
he took it up, but the effect was still enough to startle him. "Bureau
of Economic Subversion!" he said.

"Now then," Tracy snapped. "I want the names of your higher ups, and the
address of your central office, Flowers. Frankly, you're in the soup. As
you possibly know, our hush-hush department has unlimited emergency
powers, being answerable only to the President."

"I ... I've never even heard of it." Flowers stuttered. "But--"

Tracy held up a contemptuous hand. "Many people haven't," he said

       *       *       *       *       *

Frank Tracy hurried through the outer office into LaVerne Sandell's
domain, and bit out to her, "Tell the Chief I'm here. Crisis. And
immediately get my team together, all eight of them. Heavy equipment.
Have a jet readied. Chicago. The team will rendezvous at the airport."

LaVerne was just as crisp. "Yes, sir." She began doing things with
buttons and switches.

Tracy hurried into the Chief's office and didn't bother with the usual
amenities. He snapped, "Worse than I thought, sir. This outfit is
possibly openly subversive. Deliberately undermining the economy."

His superior put down the report he was perusing and shifted his bulk
backward. "You're sure? We seldom run into such extremes."

"I know, I know, but this could be it. Possibly a deliberate program.
I've taken the initiative to have Miss Sandell summon my team."

"Now, see here, Frank--" The bureau head looked at him anxiously.

Tracy said, impatience there, "Chief, you're going to have to let your
field men use their discretion. I tell you, this thing is a potential
snowball. I'll play it cool. Arrange things so that there'll be no
scandal for the telly-reporters. But we've got to chill this one
quickly, or it'll be on a coast to coast basis before the year is out.
They're even talking about going into automobiles."

The Chief winced, then said unhappily, "All right, Tracy. However, mind
what I said. Curb those roughnecks of yours."

       *       *       *

It proved considerably easier than Frank Tracy had hoped for. Adam
Moncure's national headquarters turned out to be in a sparsely settled
area not far from Woodstock, Illinois. The house, in the passé ranch
style, must have once been a millionaire's baby, what with an artificial
fishing lake in the back, a kidney shaped swimming pool, extensive
gardens and an imposing approach up a corridor of trees.

"Right up to the front door," Tracy growled to the operative driving the
first hover-car of their two-vehicle expedition. "The quicker we move,
the better." He turned his head to the men in the rear seat. "We five
will go in together. I don't expect trouble, they'll have had no advance
warning. I made sure of that. Jerry has equipment in his car to blanket
any radio sending. We'll take care of phones in the house. No rough
stuff, we want to talk to these people."

One of the men growled, "Suppose they start shooting?"

Tracy snorted. "Then shoot back, of course. But just don't you start it.
I shouldn't have to tell you these things."

"Got it," one of the others said. He shifted his shoulders to loosen the
.38 Recoilless in its holster.

At the ornate doorway, the cars, which had been moving fast, a foot or
so off the ground, came to a quick halt, settled, and the men disgorged,
guns in hand.

Tracy called to the occupants of the other vehicle, "On the double.
Surround the house. Don't let anybody leave. Come on, boys."

They scurried down the flagstone walk, banged on the door. It was opened
by a houseman who stared at them uncomprehendingly.

"The occupants of this establishment are under arrest," Tracy snapped.
He flashed a gold badge. "Take me to Adam Moncure." He turned to his men
and gestured with his head. "Take over, boys. Jerry, you come with me."

The houseman was terrified, but not to the point of being unable to
lead them to a gigantic former living room, now converted to offices.

There was an older man, and four assistants. All in shirt sleeves in
concession to the mid-western summer, none armed from all Tracy could
see. They looked up in surprise, rather than dismay. The older man
snapped, "What is the meaning of this intrusion?"

Jerry chuckled sourly.

Frank Tracy said, "You're all under arrest. Jerry, herd these clerks, or
whatever they are, into some other room. Get any other occupants of the
house together, too. And watch them carefully, confound it. Don't
underestimate these people. And make a search for secret rooms, cellars,
that sort of thing."

"Right," Jerry growled.

The older of the five Freer Enterprises men was on his feet now. He was
a thin, angry faced type, gray of hair and somewhere in his sixties. "I
want to know the meaning of this!" he roared.

"Adam Moncure?" Tracy said crisply.

"That is correct. And to what do I owe this cavalier intrusion into my
home and place of business?"

Jerry, at pistol point, was herding the four assistants from the room,
taking the houseman along with them.

Tracy looked at Moncure, speculatively, then dipped into his pockets for
pipe and tobacco. He gestured to a chair with his head. "Sit down, Mr.
Moncure. The jig is up."

"The _jig_?" the other blurted in a fine rage. "I insist--"

"O.K., O.K., you'll get your explanation." Tracy sat down on a couch
himself and sized up the older man, even as he lit his pipe.

Moncure, still breathing heavily in his indignation, took control of
himself well enough to be seated. "Well, sir?" he bit out.

Tracy said curtly, "Frank Tracy, Bureau of Economic Subversion."

"Bureau of Economic Subversion!" Moncure said indignantly. "What in the
name of all that's holy is the Bureau of Economic Subversion?"

Tracy pointed at him with the pipe stem. "I'll ask a few questions
first, please. How many branches of your nefarious outfit are presently
under operation?"

The other glared at him, but Tracy merely returned the pipe to his mouth
and glowered back.

Finally Moncure snapped, "There is no purpose in hiding any of our
affairs. We have opened preliminary offices only in Chicago and New
York. Freer Enterprises is but in its infancy."

"Praise Allah for that," Tracy muttered sarcastically.

"And thus far we have dealt only in soap. However, as our organization
gets under way we plan to branch out into a score, and ultimately
hundreds of products."

Tracy said, "You can forget about that, Moncure. Freer Enterprises comes
to a halt as of today. Do you realize that your business tactics would
lead to a complete collapse of gainful employment and eventually to a
depression such as this nation has never seen before?"

"Exactly!" Moncure snapped in return.

       *       *       *

It was Tracy's turn to react. His eyes widened, then narrowed. "Do you
mean that you are deliberately attempting to undermine the economy of
the United States of the Americas? Remember, Mr. Moncure, you are under
arrest and anything you say may be held against you."

"Undermine it!" Moncure said heatedly. "Bring it crashing to the ground
is the better term. There has never been such an abortion developed in
the history of political economy."

He came to his feet again and began storming up and down the room. "A
full three quarters of our employed working at nothing jobs,
gobbledygook jobs, non-producing jobs, make-work jobs, red-tape
bureaucracy jobs. At a time when the nation is supposedly in a breakneck
economic competition with the Soviet Complex, we put our best brains
into advertising, entertainment and sales, while they put theirs into
science and industry."

He stopped long enough to shake an indignant finger at the surprised
Tracy. "But that isn't the worst of it. Have you ever heard of planned

Tracy acted as though on the defensive. "Well ... sure ..."

"In the Soviet Complex, and, for that matter, in Common Europe and other
economic competitors of ours, they simply don't believe in planned
obsolescence and all its related nonsense. Razor blades, everywhere
except in this country, don't go dull after two or three shaves. Cars
don't fall apart after two or three years, or even become so out of
style that the owner feels that he's losing status by being seen in it,
the owners expect to keep them half a lifetime. Automobile batteries
don't go to pieces after eighteen months, they last for a decade. And on
and on!"

The old boy was really unwinding now. "Nor is even that the nadir of
this socio-economic hodge-podge we've allowed to develop, this economy
of production for sale, rather than production for use." He stabbed with
his finger. "I think one of the best examples of what was to come was to
be witnessed way back at the end of the Second War. The idea of the
ball-bearing pen was in the air. The first one to hurry into production
gave his pen a tremendous build-up. It had ink enough to last three
years, it would make many carbon copies, you could use it under water.
And so on and so forth. It cost fifteen dollars, and there was only one
difficulty with it. It wouldn't write. Not that that made any difference
because it sold like hotcakes what with all the promotion. He wasn't
interested in whether or not it would write, but only in whether or not
it would sell." Moncure threw up his hands dramatically. "I ask you, can
such an economic system be taken seriously?"

"What's your point?" Tracy growled dangerously. He'd never met one this
far out, before.

"Isn't it obvious? Continue this ridiculous economy and we'll lose the
battle for men's minds. You can't have an economic system that allows
such nonsense as large scale unemployment of trained employees, planned
obsolescence, union featherbedding, and an overwhelming majority of
those who are employed wasting their labor on unproductive employment."

Tracy said, "Then if I understand you correctly, Freer Enterprises was
deliberately organized for the purpose of undermining the economy so
that it will collapse and have to be reorganized on a different basis."

"That is _exactly_ correct," Moncure said defiantly. "I am devoting my
whole fortune to this cause. And there is nothing in American law that
prevents me from following through with my plans."

"You're right there," Tracy said wryly. "There's nothing in American law
that prevents you. However, you see, I have no connection whatsoever
with the American government." He slipped the gun from its holster.

       *       *       *       *       *

Frank Tracy made his way wearily into LaVerne's domain. She looked up
from the desk. "Everything go all right, Mr. Tracy?"

"I suppose so. Tell Comrade Zotov that I'm back from Chicago, please."

She clicked switches, said something into an inner-office communicator,
then looked up again. "He'll see you immediately, Mr. Tracy."

Pavel Zotov looked up from his endless paperwork and wheezed the sigh of
a fat man. He correctly interpreted the expression of his field
operative. "Pour us a couple of drinks, Frank, or would you rather have
it _Frol_, today?"

His best field man grunted as he walked over to the bar. "Vodka, eh?
_Chort vesmiot_ how tired one can become of this everlasting bourbon."
He reached into the refrigerator compartment and brought forth a bottle
of iced Stolichnaya. He poured two three-ounce charges and brought them
back to his bureau chief's desk.

They toasted silently, knocked back the colorless spirit. Pavel Zotov
said, "Well, Frol?"

The man usually called Frank Tracy said, "The worst case yet. This one
had quite a clear picture of the true situation. He saw the
necessity--given _their_ viewpoint, of course--of getting out of the
fantastic rut their economy has fallen into." He ran his hand over his
mouth in a gesture of weariness. "Chief, do you have any idea of how
long it would take us to catch up to them, if we ever did, if they
really turned this economy on full blast, as an alternative to their
present foul-up?"

"That's why we're here," the Chief said heavily. "What did you do?"

The man sometimes called Tracy told him.

Zotov winced. "I thought I ordered you--"

"You did," the man called Tracy told him curtly, "but what alternative
was there? The fire will completely destroy the records. I have the
names and addresses of all the others connected with Freer Enterprises.
We'll have to arrange car accidents, that sort of thing."

The fat man's lips worked. "We can't get by with this indefinitely,
Frol. With such blatant tactics, sooner or later their C.I.A. or F.B.I.
is going to get wind of us."

Tracy came to his feet angrily. "What alternative have we? We've been
sent over here to do a job. We're doing it. If we're caught, who knows
better than we that we're expendable? If you don't mind, I'm going on

As he left the office, through the secret door that led through the
innocuous looking garage, the man they called Frank Tracy was inwardly
thinking, "Zotov might be my superior, and a top man in the party, but
he's too soft for this job. Perhaps I'd better send a report back to
Moscow on him."

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