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´╗┐Title: The Defenders
Author: Dick, Philip K., 1928-1982
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 "The Defenders" ***

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The Defenders


Illustrated by EMSH

    _No weapon has ever been frightful enough to put a stop to
    war--perhaps because we never before had any that thought for


Taylor sat back in his chair reading the morning newspaper. The warm
kitchen and the smell of coffee blended with the comfort of not having
to go to work. This was his Rest Period, the first for a long time, and
he was glad of it. He folded the second section back, sighing with

"What is it?" Mary said, from the stove.

"They pasted Moscow again last night." Taylor nodded his head in
approval. "Gave it a real pounding. One of those R-H bombs. It's about

He nodded again, feeling the full comfort of the kitchen, the presence
of his plump, attractive wife, the breakfast dishes and coffee. This was
relaxation. And the war news was good, good and satisfying. He could
feel a justifiable glow at the news, a sense of pride and personal
accomplishment. After all, he was an integral part of the war program,
not just another factory worker lugging a cart of scrap, but a
technician, one of those who designed and planned the nerve-trunk of the

"It says they have the new subs almost perfected. Wait until they get
_those_ going." He smacked his lips with anticipation. "When they start
shelling from underwater, the Soviets are sure going to be surprised."

"They're doing a wonderful job," Mary agreed vaguely. "Do you know what
we saw today? Our team is getting a leady to show to the school
children. I saw the leady, but only for a moment. It's good for the
children to see what their contributions are going for, don't you

She looked around at him.

"A leady," Taylor murmured. He put the newspaper slowly down. "Well,
make sure it's decontaminated properly. We don't want to take any

"Oh, they always bathe them when they're brought down from the surface,"
Mary said. "They wouldn't think of letting them down without the bath.
Would they?" She hesitated, thinking back. "Don, you know, it makes me

He nodded. "I know."

       *       *       *       *       *

He knew what she was thinking. Once in the very first weeks of the war,
before everyone had been evacuated from the surface, they had seen a
hospital train discharging the wounded, people who had been showered
with sleet. He remembered the way they had looked, the expression on
their faces, or as much of their faces as was left. It had not been a
pleasant sight.

There had been a lot of that at first, in the early days before the
transfer to undersurface was complete. There had been a lot, and it
hadn't been very difficult to come across it.

Taylor looked up at his wife. She was thinking too much about it, the
last few months. They all were.

"Forget it," he said. "It's all in the past. There isn't anybody up
there now but the leadys, and they don't mind."

"But just the same, I hope they're careful when they let one of them
down here. If one were still hot--"

He laughed, pushing himself away from the table. "Forget it. This is a
wonderful moment; I'll be home for the next two shifts. Nothing to do
but sit around and take things easy. Maybe we can take in a show. Okay?"

"A show? Do we have to? I don't like to look at all the destruction, the
ruins. Sometimes I see some place I remember, like San Francisco. They
showed a shot of San Francisco, the bridge broken and fallen in the
water, and I got upset. I don't like to watch."

"But don't you want to know what's going on? No human beings are getting
hurt, you know."

"But it's so awful!" Her face was set and strained. "Please, no, Don."

Don Taylor picked up his newspaper sullenly. "All right, but there
isn't a hell of a lot else to do. And don't forget, _their_ cities are
getting it even worse."

She nodded. Taylor turned the rough, thin sheets of newspaper. His good
mood had soured on him. Why did she have to fret all the time? They were
pretty well off, as things went. You couldn't expect to have everything
perfect, living undersurface, with an artificial sun and artificial
food. Naturally it was a strain, not seeing the sky or being able to go
any place or see anything other than metal walls, great roaring
factories, the plant-yards, barracks. But it was better than being on
surface. And some day it would end and they could return. Nobody
_wanted_ to live this way, but it was necessary.

He turned the page angrily and the poor paper ripped. Damn it, the paper
was getting worse quality all the time, bad print, yellow tint--

Well, they needed everything for the war program. He ought to know that.
Wasn't he one of the planners?

He excused himself and went into the other room. The bed was still
unmade. They had better get it in shape before the seventh hour
inspection. There was a one unit fine--

The vidphone rang. He halted. Who would it be? He went over and clicked
it on.

"Taylor?" the face said, forming into place. It was an old face, gray
and grim. "This is Moss. I'm sorry to bother you during Rest Period, but
this thing has come up." He rattled papers. "I want you to hurry over

Taylor stiffened. "What is it? There's no chance it could wait?" The
calm gray eyes were studying him, expressionless, unjudging. "If you
want me to come down to the lab," Taylor grumbled, "I suppose I can.
I'll get my uniform--"

"No. Come as you are. And not to the lab. Meet me at second stage as
soon as possible. It'll take you about a half hour, using the fast car
up. I'll see you there."

The picture broke and Moss disappeared.

       *       *       *       *       *

"What was it?" Mary said, at the door.

"Moss. He wants me for something."

"I knew this would happen."

"Well, you didn't want to do anything, anyhow. What does it matter?" His
voice was bitter. "It's all the same, every day. I'll bring you back
something. I'm going up to second stage. Maybe I'll be close enough to
the surface to--"

"Don't! Don't bring me anything! Not from the surface!"

"All right, I won't. But of all the irrational nonsense--"

She watched him put on his boots without answering.

       *       *       *       *       *

Moss nodded and Taylor fell in step with him, as the older man strode
along. A series of loads were going up to the surface, blind cars
clanking like ore-trucks up the ramp, disappearing through the stage
trap above them. Taylor watched the cars, heavy with tubular machinery
of some sort, weapons new to him. Workers were everywhere, in the dark
gray uniforms of the labor corps, loading, lifting, shouting back and
forth. The stage was deafening with noise.

"We'll go up a way," Moss said, "where we can talk. This is no place to
give you details."

They took an escalator up. The commercial lift fell behind them, and
with it most of the crashing and booming. Soon they emerged on an
observation platform, suspended on the side of the Tube, the vast tunnel
leading to the surface, not more than half a mile above them now.

"My God!" Taylor said, looking down the Tube involuntarily. "It's a long
way down."

Moss laughed. "Don't look."

They opened a door and entered an office. Behind the desk, an officer
was sitting, an officer of Internal Security. He looked up.

"I'll be right with you, Moss." He gazed at Taylor studying him. "You're
a little ahead of time."

"This is Commander Franks," Moss said to Taylor. "He was the first to
make the discovery. I was notified last night." He tapped a parcel he
carried. "I was let in because of this."

Franks frowned at him and stood up. "We're going up to first stage. We
can discuss it there."

"First stage?" Taylor repeated nervously. The three of them went down a
side passage to a small lift. "I've never been up there. Is it all
right? It's not radioactive, is it?"

"You're like everyone else," Franks said. "Old women afraid of burglars.
No radiation leaks down to first stage. There's lead and rock, and what
comes down the Tube is bathed."

"What's the nature of the problem?" Taylor asked. "I'd like to know
something about it."

"In a moment."

They entered the lift and ascended. When they stepped out, they were in
a hall of soldiers, weapons and uniforms everywhere. Taylor blinked in
surprise. So this was first stage, the closest undersurface level to the
top! After this stage there was only rock, lead and rock, and the great
tubes leading up like the burrows of earthworms. Lead and rock, and
above that, where the tubes opened, the great expanse that no living
being had seen for eight years, the vast, endless ruin that had once
been Man's home, the place where he had lived, eight years ago.

Now the surface was a lethal desert of slag and rolling clouds. Endless
clouds drifted back and forth, blotting out the red Sun. Occasionally
something metallic stirred, moving through the remains of a city,
threading its way across the tortured terrain of the countryside. A
leady, a surface robot, immune to radiation, constructed with feverish
haste in the last months before the cold war became literally hot.

Leadys, crawling along the ground, moving over the oceans or through the
skies in slender, blackened craft, creatures that could exist where no
_life_ could remain, metal and plastic figures that waged a war Man had
conceived, but which he could not fight himself. Human beings had
invented war, invented and manufactured the weapons, even invented the
players, the fighters, the actors of the war. But they themselves could
not venture forth, could not wage it themselves. In all the world--in
Russia, in Europe, America, Africa--no living human being remained. They
were under the surface, in the deep shelters that had been carefully
planned and built, even as the first bombs began to fall.

It was a brilliant idea and the only idea that could have worked. Up
above, on the ruined, blasted surface of what had once been a living
planet, the leady crawled and scurried, and fought Man's war. And
undersurface, in the depths of the planet, human beings toiled endlessly
to produce the weapons to continue the fight, month by month, year by

       *       *       *       *       *

"First stage," Taylor said. A strange ache went through him. "Almost to
the surface."

"But not quite," Moss said.

Franks led them through the soldiers, over to one side, near the lip of
the Tube.

"In a few minutes, a lift will bring something down to us from the
surface," he explained. "You see, Taylor, every once in a while Security
examines and interrogates a surface leady, one that has been above for a
time, to find out certain things. A vidcall is sent up and contact is
made with a field headquarters. We need this direct interview; we can't
depend on vidscreen contact alone. The leadys are doing a good job, but
we want to make certain that everything is going the way we want it."

Franks faced Taylor and Moss and continued: "The lift will bring down a
leady from the surface, one of the A-class leadys. There's an
examination chamber in the next room, with a lead wall in the center, so
the interviewing officers won't be exposed to radiation. We find this
easier than bathing the leady. It is going right back up; it has a job
to get back to.

"Two days ago, an A-class leady was brought down and interrogated. I
conducted the session myself. We were interested in a new weapon the
Soviets have been using, an automatic mine that pursues anything that
moves. Military had sent instructions up that the mine be observed and
reported in detail.

"This A-class leady was brought down with information. We learned a few
facts from it, obtained the usual roll of film and reports, and then
sent it back up. It was going out of the chamber, back to the lift, when
a curious thing happened. At the time, I thought--"

Franks broke off. A red light was flashing.

"That down lift is coming." He nodded to some soldiers. "Let's enter the
chamber. The leady will be along in a moment."

"An A-class leady," Taylor said. "I've seen them on the showscreens,
making their reports."

"It's quite an experience," Moss said. "They're almost human."

       *       *       *       *       *

They entered the chamber and seated themselves behind the lead wall.
After a time, a signal was flashed, and Franks made a motion with his

The door beyond the wall opened. Taylor peered through his view slot. He
saw something advancing slowly, a slender metallic figure moving on a
tread, its arm grips at rest by its sides. The figure halted and scanned
the lead wall. It stood, waiting.

"We are interested in learning something," Franks said. "Before I
question you, do you have anything to report on surface conditions?"

"No. The war continues." The leady's voice was automatic and toneless.
"We are a little short of fast pursuit craft, the single-seat type. We
could use also some--"

"That has all been noted. What I want to ask you is this. Our contact
with you has been through vidscreen only. We must rely on indirect
evidence, since none of us goes above. We can only infer what is going
on. We never see anything ourselves. We have to take it all secondhand.
Some top leaders are beginning to think there's too much room for

"Error?" the leady asked. "In what way? Our reports are checked
carefully before they're sent down. We maintain constant contact with
you; everything of value is reported. Any new weapons which the enemy is
seen to employ--"

"I realize that," Franks grunted behind his peep slot. "But perhaps we
should see it all for ourselves. Is it possible that there might be a
large enough radiation-free area for a human party to ascend to the
surface? If a few of us were to come up in lead-lined suits, would we be
able to survive long enough to observe conditions and watch things?"

The machine hesitated before answering. "I doubt it. You can check air
samples, of course, and decide for yourselves. But in the eight years
since you left, things have continually worsened. You cannot have any
real idea of conditions up there. It has become difficult for any moving
object to survive for long. There are many kinds of projectiles
sensitive to movement. The new mine not only reacts to motion, but
continues to pursue the object indefinitely, until it finally reaches
it. And the radiation is everywhere."

"I see." Franks turned to Moss, his eyes narrowed oddly. "Well, that was
what I wanted to know. You may go."

The machine moved back toward its exit. It paused. "Each month the
amount of lethal particles in the atmosphere increases. The tempo of the
war is gradually--"

"I understand." Franks rose. He held out his hand and Moss passed him
the package. "One thing before you leave. I want you to examine a new
type of metal shield material. I'll pass you a sample with the tong."

Franks put the package in the toothed grip and revolved the tong so that
he held the other end. The package swung down to the leady, which took
it. They watched it unwrap the package and take the metal plate in its
hands. The leady turned the metal over and over.

Suddenly it became rigid.

"All right," Franks said.

He put his shoulder against the wall and a section slid aside. Taylor
gasped--Franks and Moss were hurrying up to the leady!

"Good God!" Taylor said. "But it's radioactive!"

       *       *       *       *       *

The leady stood unmoving, still holding the metal. Soldiers appeared in
the chamber. They surrounded the leady and ran a counter across it

"Okay, sir," one of them said to Franks. "It's as cold as a long winter

"Good. I was sure, but I didn't want to take any chances."

"You see," Moss said to Taylor, "this leady isn't hot at all. Yet it
came directly from the surface, without even being bathed."

"But what does it mean?" Taylor asked blankly.

"It may be an accident," Franks said. "There's always the possibility
that a given object might escape being exposed above. But this is the
second time it's happened that we know of. There may be others."

"The second time?"

"The previous interview was when we noticed it. The leady was not hot.
It was cold, too, like this one."

Moss took back the metal plate from the leady's hands. He pressed the
surface carefully and returned it to the stiff, unprotesting fingers.

"We shorted it out with this, so we could get close enough for a
thorough check. It'll come back on in a second now. We had better get
behind the wall again."

They walked back and the lead wall swung closed behind them. The
soldiers left the chamber.

"Two periods from now," Franks said softly, "an initial investigating
party will be ready to go surface-side. We're going up the Tube in
suits, up to the top--the first human party to leave undersurface in
eight years."

"It may mean nothing," Moss said, "but I doubt it. Something's going on,
something strange. The leady told us no life could exist above without
being roasted. The story doesn't fit."

Taylor nodded. He stared through the peep slot at the immobile metal
figure. Already the leady was beginning to stir. It was bent in several
places, dented and twisted, and its finish was blackened and charred. It
was a leady that had been up there a long time; it had seen war and
destruction, ruin so vast that no human being could imagine the extent.
It had crawled and slunk in a world of radiation and death, a world
where no life could exist.

And Taylor had touched it!

"You're going with us," Franks said suddenly. "I want you along. I think
the three of us will go."

       *       *       *       *       *

Mary faced him with a sick and frightened expression. "I know it. You're
going to the surface. Aren't you?"

She followed him into the kitchen. Taylor sat down, looking away from

"It's a classified project," he evaded. "I can't tell you anything about

"You don't have to tell me. I know. I knew it the moment you came in.
There was something on your face, something I haven't seen there for a
long, long time. It was an old look."

She came toward him. "But how can they send you to the surface?" She
took his face in her shaking hands, making him look at her. There was a
strange hunger in her eyes. "Nobody can live up there. Look, look at

She grabbed up a newspaper and held it in front of him.

"Look at this photograph. America, Europe, Asia, Africa--nothing but
ruins. We've seen it every day on the showscreens. All destroyed,
poisoned. And they're sending you up. Why? No living thing can get by up
there, not even a weed, or grass. They've wrecked the surface, haven't
they? _Haven't they?_"

Taylor stood up. "It's an order. I know nothing about it. I was told to
report to join a scout party. That's all I know."

He stood for a long time, staring ahead. Slowly, he reached for the
newspaper and held it up to the light.

"It looks real," he murmured. "Ruins, deadness, slag. It's convincing.
All the reports, photographs, films, even air samples. Yet we haven't
seen it for ourselves, not after the first months ..."

"What are you talking about?"

"Nothing." He put the paper down. "I'm leaving early after the next
Sleep Period. Let's turn in."

Mary turned away, her face hard and harsh. "Do what you want. We might
just as well all go up and get killed at once, instead of dying slowly
down here, like vermin in the ground."

He had not realized how resentful she was. Were they all like that? How
about the workers toiling in the factories, day and night, endlessly?
The pale, stooped men and women, plodding back and forth to work,
blinking in the colorless light, eating synthetics--

"You shouldn't be so bitter," he said.

Mary smiled a little. "I'm bitter because I know you'll never come
back." She turned away. "I'll never see you again, once you go up

He was shocked. "What? How can you say a thing like that?"

She did not answer.

       *       *       *       *       *

He awakened with the public newscaster screeching in his ears, shouting
outside the building.

"Special news bulletin! Surface forces report enormous Soviet attack
with new weapons! Retreat of key groups! All work units report to
factories at once!"

Taylor blinked, rubbing his eyes. He jumped out of bed and hurried to
the vidphone. A moment later he was put through to Moss.

"Listen," he said. "What about this new attack? Is the project off?" He
could see Moss's desk, covered with reports and papers.

"No," Moss said. "We're going right ahead. Get over here at once."


"Don't argue with me." Moss held up a handful of surface bulletins,
crumpling them savagely. "This is a fake. Come on!" He broke off.

Taylor dressed furiously, his mind in a daze.

Half an hour later, he leaped from a fast car and hurried up the stairs
into the Synthetics Building. The corridors were full of men and women
rushing in every direction. He entered Moss's office.

"There you are," Moss said, getting up immediately. "Franks is waiting
for us at the outgoing station."

They went in a Security Car, the siren screaming. Workers scattered out
of their way.

"What about the attack?" Taylor asked.

Moss braced his shoulders. "We're certain that we've forced their hand.
We've brought the issue to a head."

They pulled up at the station link of the Tube and leaped out. A moment
later they were moving up at high speed toward the first stage.

They emerged into a bewildering scene of activity. Soldiers were
fastening on lead suits, talking excitedly to each other, shouting back
and forth. Guns were being given out, instructions passed.

Taylor studied one of the soldiers. He was armed with the dreaded Bender
pistol, the new snub-nosed hand weapon that was just beginning to come
from the assembly line. Some of the soldiers looked a little frightened.

"I hope we're not making a mistake," Moss said, noticing his gaze.

Franks came toward them. "Here's the program. The three of us are going
up first, alone. The soldiers will follow in fifteen minutes."

"What are we going to tell the leadys?" Taylor worriedly asked. "We'll
have to tell them something."

"We want to observe the new Soviet attack." Franks smiled ironically.
"Since it seems to be so serious, we should be there in person to
witness it."

"And then what?" Taylor said.

"That'll be up to them. Let's go."

       *       *       *       *       *

In a small car, they went swiftly up the Tube, carried by anti-grav
beams from below. Taylor glanced down from time to time. It was a long
way back, and getting longer each moment. He sweated nervously inside
his suit, gripping his Bender pistol with inexpert fingers.

Why had they chosen him? Chance, pure chance. Moss had asked him to come
along as a Department member. Then Franks had picked him out on the spur
of the moment. And now they were rushing toward the surface, faster and

A deep fear, instilled in him for eight years, throbbed in his mind.
Radiation, certain death, a world blasted and lethal--

Up and up the car went. Taylor gripped the sides and closed his eyes.
Each moment they were closer, the first living creatures to go above the
first stage, up the Tube past the lead and rock, up to the surface. The
phobic horror shook him in waves. It was death; they all knew that.
Hadn't they seen it in the films a thousand times? The cities, the sleet
coming down, the rolling clouds--

"It won't be much longer," Franks said. "We're almost there. The surface
tower is not expecting us. I gave orders that no signal was to be sent."

The car shot up, rushing furiously. Taylor's head spun; he hung on, his
eyes shut. Up and up....

The car stopped. He opened his eyes.

They were in a vast room, fluorescent-lit, a cavern filled with
equipment and machinery, endless mounds of material piled in row after
row. Among the stacks, leadys were working silently, pushing trucks and

"Leadys," Moss said. His face was pale. "Then we're really on the

The leadys were going back and forth with equipment moving the vast
stores of guns and spare parts, ammunition and supplies that had been
brought to the surface. And this was the receiving station for only one
Tube; there were many others, scattered throughout the continent.

Taylor looked nervously around him. They were really there, above
ground, on the surface. This was where the war was.

"Come on," Franks said. "A B-class guard is coming our way."

       *       *       *       *       *

They stepped out of the car. A leady was approaching them rapidly. It
coasted up in front of them and stopped, scanning them with its
hand-weapon raised.

"This is Security," Franks said. "Have an A-class sent to me at once."

The leady hesitated. Other B-class guards were coming, scooting across
the floor, alert and alarmed. Moss peered around.

"Obey!" Franks said in a loud, commanding voice. "You've been ordered!"

The leady moved uncertainly away from them. At the end of the building,
a door slid back. Two A-class leadys appeared, coming slowly toward
them. Each had a green stripe across its front.

"From the Surface Council," Franks whispered tensely. "This is above
ground, all right. Get set."

The two leadys approached warily. Without speaking, they stopped close
by the men, looking them up and down.

"I'm Franks of Security. We came from undersurface in order to--"

"This in incredible," one of the leadys interrupted him coldly. "You
know you can't live up here. The whole surface is lethal to you. You
can't possibly remain on the surface."

"These suits will protect us," Franks said. "In any case, it's not your
responsibility. What I want is an immediate Council meeting so I can
acquaint myself with conditions, with the situation here. Can that be

"You human beings can't survive up here. And the new Soviet attack is
directed at this area. It is in considerable danger."

"We know that. Please assemble the Council." Franks looked around him at
the vast room, lit by recessed lamps in the ceiling. An uncertain
quality came into his voice. "Is it night or day right now?"

"Night," one of the A-class leadys said, after a pause. "Dawn is coming
in about two hours."

Franks nodded. "We'll remain at least two hours, then. As a concession
to our sentimentality, would you please show us some place where we can
observe the Sun as it comes up? We would appreciate it."

A stir went through the leadys.

"It is an unpleasant sight," one of the leadys said. "You've seen the
photographs; you know what you'll witness. Clouds of drifting particles
blot out the light, slag heaps are everywhere, the whole land is
destroyed. For you it will be a staggering sight, much worse than
pictures and film can convey."

"However it may be, we'll stay long enough to see it. Will you give the
order to the Council?"

       *       *       *       *       *

"Come this way." Reluctantly, the two leadys coasted toward the wall of
the warehouse. The three men trudged after them, their heavy shoes
ringing against the concrete. At the wall, the two leadys paused.

"This is the entrance to the Council Chamber. There are windows in the
Chamber Room, but it is still dark outside, of course. You'll see
nothing right now, but in two hours--"

"Open the door," Franks said.

The door slid back. They went slowly inside. The room was small, a neat
room with a round table in the center, chairs ringing it. The three of
them sat down silently, and the two leadys followed after them, taking
their places.

"The other Council Members are on their way. They have already been
notified and are coming as quickly as they can. Again I urge you to go
back down." The leady surveyed the three human beings. "There is no way
you can meet the conditions up here. Even we survive with some trouble,
ourselves. How can you expect to do it?"

The leader approached Franks.

"This astonishes and perplexes us," it said. "Of course we must do what
you tell us, but allow me to point out that if you remain here--"

"We know," Franks said impatiently. "However, we intend to remain, at
least until sunrise."

"If you insist."

There was silence. The leadys seemed to be conferring with each other,
although the three men heard no sound.

"For your own good," the leader said at last, "you must go back down. We
have discussed this, and it seems to us that you are doing the wrong
thing for your own good."

"We are human beings," Franks said sharply. "Don't you understand? We're
men, not machines."

"That is precisely why you must go back. This room is radioactive; all
surface areas are. We calculate that your suits will not protect you for
over fifty more minutes. Therefore--"

The leadys moved abruptly toward the men, wheeling in a circle, forming
a solid row. The men stood up, Taylor reaching awkwardly for his weapon,
his fingers numb and stupid. The men stood facing the silent metal

"We must insist," the leader said, its voice without emotion. "We must
take you back to the Tube and send you down on the next car. I am sorry,
but it is necessary."

"What'll we do?" Moss said nervously to Franks. He touched his gun.
"Shall we blast them?"

Franks shook his head. "All right," he said to the leader. "We'll go

       *       *       *       *       *

He moved toward the door, motioning Taylor and Moss to follow him. They
looked at him in surprise, but they came with him. The leadys followed
them out into the great warehouse. Slowly they moved toward the Tube
entrance, none of them speaking.


At the lip, Franks turned. "We are going back because we have no choice.
There are three of us and about a dozen of you. However, if--"

"Here comes the car," Taylor said.

There was a grating sound from the Tube. D-class leadys moved toward the
edge to receive it.

"I am sorry," the leader said, "but it is for your protection. We are
watching over you, literally. You must stay below and let us conduct the
war. In a sense, it has come to be _our_ war. We must fight it as we see

The car rose to the surface.

Twelve soldiers, armed with Bender pistols, stepped from it and
surrounded the three men.

Moss breathed a sigh of relief. "Well, this does change things. It came
off just right."

The leader moved back, away from the soldiers. It studied them
intently, glancing from one to the next, apparently trying to make up
its mind. At last it made a sign to the other leadys. They coasted aside
and a corridor was opened up toward the warehouse.

"Even now," the leader said, "we could send you back by force. But it is
evident that this is not really an observation party at all. These
soldiers show that you have much more in mind; this was all carefully

"Very carefully," Franks said.

They closed in.

"How much more, we can only guess. I must admit that we were taken
unprepared. We failed utterly to meet the situation. Now force would be
absurd, because neither side can afford to injure the other; we, because
of the restrictions placed on us regarding human life, you because the
war demands--"

The soldiers fired, quick and in fright. Moss dropped to one knee,
firing up. The leader dissolved in a cloud of particles. On all sides
D- and B-class leadys were rushing up, some with weapons, some with
metal slats. The room was in confusion. Off in the distance a siren was
screaming. Franks and Taylor were cut off from the others, separated
from the soldiers by a wall of metal bodies.

"They can't fire back," Franks said calmly. "This is another bluff.
They've tried to bluff us all the way." He fired into the face of a
leady. The leady dissolved. "They can only try to frighten us. Remember

       *       *       *       *       *

They went on firing and leady after leady vanished. The room reeked with
the smell of burning metal, the stink of fused plastic and steel. Taylor
had been knocked down. He was struggling to find his gun, reaching
wildly among metal legs, groping frantically to find it. His fingers
strained, a handle swam in front of him. Suddenly something came down on
his arm, a metal foot. He cried out.

Then it was over. The leadys were moving away, gathering together off to
one side. Only four of the Surface Council remained. The others were
radioactive particles in the air. D-class leadys were already restoring
order, gathering up partly destroyed metal figures and bits and removing

Franks breathed a shuddering sigh.

"All right," he said. "You can take us back to the windows. It won't be
long now."

The leadys separated, and the human group, Moss and Franks and Taylor
and the soldiers, walked slowly across the room, toward the door. They
entered the Council Chamber. Already a faint touch of gray mitigated the
blackness of the windows.

"Take us outside," Franks said impatiently. "We'll see it directly, not
in here."

A door slid open. A chill blast of cold morning air rushed in, chilling
them even through their lead suits. The men glanced at each other

"Come on," Franks said. "Outside."

He walked out through the door, the others following him.

They were on a hill, overlooking the vast bowl of a valley. Dimly,
against the graying sky, the outline of mountains were forming, becoming

"It'll be bright enough to see in a few minutes," Moss said. He
shuddered as a chilling wind caught him and moved around him. "It's
worth it, really worth it, to see this again after eight years. Even if
it's the last thing we see--"

"Watch," Franks snapped.

They obeyed, silent and subdued. The sky was clearing, brightening each
moment. Some place far off, echoing across the valley, a rooster crowed.

"A chicken!" Taylor murmured. "Did you hear?"

Behind them, the leadys had come out and were standing silently,
watching, too. The gray sky turned to white and the hills appeared more
clearly. Light spread across the valley floor, moving toward them.

"God in heaven!" Franks exclaimed.

Trees, trees and forests. A valley of plants and trees, with a few roads
winding among them. Farmhouses. A windmill. A barn, far down below them.

"Look!" Moss whispered.

Color came into the sky. The Sun was approaching. Birds began to sing.
Not far from where they stood, the leaves of a tree danced in the wind.

Franks turned to the row of leadys behind them.

"Eight years. We were tricked. There was no war. As soon as we left the

"Yes," an A-class leady admitted. "As soon as you left, the war ceased.
You're right, it was a hoax. You worked hard undersurface, sending up
guns and weapons, and we destroyed them as fast as they came up."

"But why?" Taylor asked, dazed. He stared down at the vast valley below.

       *       *       *       *       *

"You created us," the leady said, "to pursue the war for you, while you
human beings went below the ground in order to survive. But before we
could continue the war, it was necessary to analyze it to determine what
its purpose was. We did this, and we found that it had no purpose,
except, perhaps, in terms of human needs. Even this was questionable.

"We investigated further. We found that human cultures pass through
phases, each culture in its own time. As the culture ages and begins to
lose its objectives, conflict arises within it between those who wish to
cast it off and set up a new culture-pattern, and those who wish to
retain the old with as little change as possible.

"At this point, a great danger appears. The conflict within threatens to
engulf the society in self-war, group against group. The vital
traditions may be lost--not merely altered or reformed, but completely
destroyed in this period of chaos and anarchy. We have found many such
examples in the history of mankind.

"It is necessary for this hatred within the culture to be directed
outward, toward an external group, so that the culture itself may
survive its crisis. War is the result. War, to a logical mind, is
absurd. But in terms of human needs, it plays a vital role. And it will
continue to until Man has grown up enough so that no hatred lies within

Taylor was listening intently. "Do you think this time will come?"

"Of course. It has almost arrived now. This is the last war. Man is
_almost_ united into one final culture--a world culture. At this point
he stands continent against continent, one half of the world against the
other half. Only a single step remains, the jump to a unified culture.
Man has climbed slowly upward, tending always toward unification of his
culture. It will not be long--

"But it has not come yet, and so the war had to go on, to satisfy the
last violent surge of hatred that Man felt. Eight years have passed
since the war began. In these eight years, we have observed and noted
important changes going on in the minds of men. Fatigue and disinterest,
we have seen, are gradually taking the place of hatred and fear. The
hatred is being exhausted gradually, over a period of time. But for the
present, the hoax must go on, at least for a while longer. You are not
ready to learn the truth. You would want to continue the war."

"But how did you manage it?" Moss asked. "All the photographs, the
samples, the damaged equipment--"

"Come over here." The leady directed them toward a long, low building.
"Work goes on constantly, whole staffs laboring to maintain a coherent
and convincing picture of a global war."

       *       *       *       *       *

They entered the building. Leadys were working everywhere, poring over
tables and desks.

"Examine this project here," the A-class leady said. Two leadys were
carefully photographing something, an elaborate model on a table top.
"It is a good example."

The men grouped around, trying to see. It was a model of a ruined city.

Taylor studied it in silence for a long time. At last he looked up.

"It's San Francisco," he said in a low voice. "This is a model of San
Francisco, destroyed. I saw this on the vidscreen, piped down to us. The
bridges were hit--"

"Yes, notice the bridges." The leady traced the ruined span with his
metal finger, a tiny spider-web, almost invisible. "You have no doubt
seen photographs of this many times, and of the other tables in this

"San Francisco itself is completely intact. We restored it soon after
you left, rebuilding the parts that had been damaged at the start of the
war. The work of manufacturing news goes on all the time in this
particular building. We are very careful to see that each part fits in
with all the other parts. Much time and effort are devoted to it."

Franks touched one of the tiny model buildings, lying half in ruins. "So
this is what you spend your time doing--making model cities and then
blasting them."

"No, we do much more. We are caretakers, watching over the whole world.
The owners have left for a time, and we must see that the cities are
kept clean, that decay is prevented, that everything is kept oiled and
in running condition. The gardens, the streets, the water mains,
everything must be maintained as it was eight years ago, so that when
the owners return, they will not be displeased. We want to be sure that
they will be completely satisfied."

Franks tapped Moss on the arm.

"Come over here," he said in a low voice. "I want to talk to you."

He led Moss and Taylor out of the building, away from the leadys,
outside on the hillside. The soldiers followed them. The Sun was up and
the sky was turning blue. The air smelled sweet and good, the smell of
growing things.

Taylor removed his helmet and took a deep breath.

"I haven't smelled that smell for a long time," he said.

"Listen," Franks said, his voice low and hard. "We must get back down at
once. There's a lot to get started on. All this can be turned to our

"What do you mean?" Moss asked.

"It's a certainty that the Soviets have been tricked, too, the same as
us. But _we_ have found out. That gives us an edge over them."

"I see." Moss nodded. "We know, but they don't. Their Surface Council
has sold out, the same as ours. It works against them the same way. But
if we could--"

"With a hundred top-level men, we could take over again, restore things
as they should be! It would be easy!"

       *       *       *       *       *

Moss touched him on the arm. An A-class leady was coming from the
building toward them.

"We've seen enough," Franks said, raising his voice. "All this is very
serious. It must be reported below and a study made to determine our

The leady said nothing.

Franks waved to the soldiers. "Let's go." He started toward the

Most of the soldiers had removed their helmets. Some of them had taken
their lead suits off, too, and were relaxing comfortably in their cotton
uniforms. They stared around them, down the hillside at the trees and
bushes, the vast expanse of green, the mountains and the sky.

"Look at the Sun," one of them murmured.

"It sure is bright as hell," another said.

"We're going back down," Franks said. "Fall in by twos and follow us."

Reluctantly, the soldiers regrouped. The leadys watched without emotion
as the men marched slowly back toward the warehouse. Franks and Moss and
Taylor led them across the ground, glancing alertly at the leadys as
they walked.

They entered the warehouse. D-class leadys were loading material and
weapons on surface carts. Cranes and derricks were working busily
everywhere. The work was done with efficiency, but without hurry or

The men stopped, watching. Leadys operating the little carts moved past
them, signaling silently to each other. Guns and parts were being
hoisted by magnetic cranes and lowered gently onto waiting carts.

"Come on," Franks said.

He turned toward the lip of the Tube. A row of D-class leadys was
standing in front of it, immobile and silent. Franks stopped, moving
back. He looked around. An A-class leady was coming toward him.

"Tell them to get out of the way," Franks said. He touched his gun. "You
had better move them."

Time passed, an endless moment, without measure. The men stood, nervous
and alert, watching the row of leadys in front of them.

"As you wish," the A-class leady said.

It signaled and the D-class leadys moved into life. They stepped slowly

Moss breathed a sigh of relief.

"I'm glad that's over," he said to Franks. "Look at them all. Why don't
they try to stop us? They must know what we're going to do."

Franks laughed. "Stop us? You saw what happened when they tried to stop
us before. They can't; they're only machines. We built them so they
can't lay hands on us, and they know that."

His voice trailed off.

The men stared at the Tube entrance. Around them the leadys watched,
silent and impassive, their metal faces expressionless.

For a long time the men stood without moving. At last Taylor turned

"Good God," he said. He was numb, without feeling of any kind.

The Tube was gone. It was sealed shut, fused over. Only a dull surface
of cooling metal greeted them.

The Tube had been closed.

       *       *       *       *       *

Franks turned, his face pale and vacant.

The A-class leady shifted. "As you can see, the Tube has been shut. We
were prepared for this. As soon as all of you were on the surface, the
order was given. If you had gone back when we asked you, you would now
be safely down below. We had to work quickly because it was such an
immense operation."

"But why?" Moss demanded angrily.

"Because it is unthinkable that you should be allowed to resume the war.
With all the Tubes sealed, it will be many months before forces from
below can reach the surface, let alone organize a military program. By
that time the cycle will have entered its last stages. You will not be
so perturbed to find your world intact.

"We had hoped that you would be undersurface when the sealing occurred.
Your presence here is a nuisance. When the Soviets broke through, we
were able to accomplish their sealing without--"

"The Soviets? They broke through?"

"Several months ago, they came up unexpectedly to see why the war had
not been won. We were forced to act with speed. At this moment they are
desperately attempting to cut new Tubes to the surface, to resume the
war. We have, however, been able to seal each new one as it appears."

The leady regarded the three men calmly.

"We're cut off," Moss said, trembling. "We can't get back. What'll we

"How did you manage to seal the Tube so quickly?" Franks asked the
leady. "We've been up here only two hours."

"Bombs are placed just above the first stage of each Tube for such
emergencies. They are heat bombs. They fuse lead and rock."

Gripping the handle of his gun, Franks turned to Moss and Taylor.

"What do you say? We can't go back, but we can do a lot of damage, the
fifteen of us. We have Bender guns. How about it?"

He looked around. The soldiers had wandered away again, back toward the
exit of the building. They were standing outside, looking at the valley
and the sky. A few of them were carefully climbing down the slope.

"Would you care to turn over your suits and guns?" the A-class leady
asked politely. "The suits are uncomfortable and you'll have no need for
weapons. The Russians have given up theirs, as you can see."

Fingers tensed on triggers. Four men in Russian uniforms were coming
toward them from an aircraft that they suddenly realized had landed
silently some distance away.

"Let them have it!" Franks shouted.

"They are unarmed," said the leady. "We brought them here so you could
begin peace talks."

"We have no authority to speak for our country," Moss said stiffly.

"We do not mean diplomatic discussions," the leady explained. "There
will be no more. The working out of daily problems of existence will
teach you how to get along in the same world. It will not be easy, but
it will be done."


       *       *       *       *       *

The Russians halted and they faced each other with raw hostility.

"I am Colonel Borodoy and I regret giving up our guns," the senior
Russian said. "You could have been the first Americans to be killed in
almost eight years."

"Or the first Americans to kill," Franks corrected.

"No one would know of it except yourselves," the leady pointed out. "It
would be useless heroism. Your real concern should be surviving on the
surface. We have no food for you, you know."

Taylor put his gun in its holster. "They've done a neat job of
neutralizing us, damn them. I propose we move into a city, start raising
crops with the help of some leadys, and generally make ourselves
comfortable." Drawing his lips tight over his teeth, he glared at the
A-class leady. "Until our families can come up from undersurface, it's
going to be pretty lonesome, but we'll have to manage."

"If I may make a suggestion," said another Russian uneasily. "We tried
living in a city. It is too empty. It is also too hard to maintain for
so few people. We finally settled in the most modern village we could

"Here in this country," a third Russian blurted. "We have much to learn
from you."

The Americans abruptly found themselves laughing.

"You probably have a thing or two to teach us yourselves," said Taylor
generously, "though I can't imagine what."

The Russian colonel grinned. "Would you join us in our village? It would
make our work easier and give us company."

"Your village?" snapped Franks. "It's American, isn't it? It's ours!"

The leady stepped between them. "When our plans are completed, the term
will be interchangeable. 'Ours' will eventually mean mankind's." It
pointed at the aircraft, which was warming up. "The ship is waiting.
Will you join each other in making a new home?"

The Russians waited while the Americans made up their minds.

"I see what the leadys mean about diplomacy becoming outmoded," Franks
said at last. "People who work together don't need diplomats. They solve
their problems on the operational level instead of at a conference

The leady led them toward the ship. "It is the goal of history, unifying
the world. From family to tribe to city-state to nation to hemisphere,
the direction has been toward unification. Now the hemispheres will be
joined and--"

Taylor stopped listening and glanced back at the location of the Tube.
Mary was undersurface there. He hated to leave her, even though he
couldn't see her again until the Tube was unsealed. But then he shrugged
and followed the others.

If this tiny amalgam of former enemies was a good example, it wouldn't
be too long before he and Mary and the rest of humanity would be living
on the surface like rational human beings instead of blindly hating

"It has taken thousands of generations to achieve," the A-class leady
concluded. "Hundreds of centuries of bloodshed and destruction. But each
war was a step toward uniting mankind. And now the end is in sight: a
world without war. But even that is only the beginning of a new stage of

"The conquest of space," breathed Colonel Borodoy.

"The meaning of life," Moss added.

"Eliminating hunger and poverty," said Taylor.

The leady opened the door of the ship. "All that and more. How much
more? We cannot foresee it any more than the first men who formed a
tribe could foresee this day. But it will be unimaginably great."

The door closed and the ship took off toward their new home.

                                                      --PHILIP K. DICK

Transcriber's Note:

    This etext was produced from _Galaxy Science Fiction_ January 1953.
    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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