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´╗┐Title: DP
Author: Savage, Arthur Dekker
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 "DP" ***

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



                                           _Illustrated by Paul Orban_

DP

    _Once upon a time life was perfection. Government made sure its
    citizens were supplied with every comfort and pleasure. But
    sometimes perfection breeds boredom and ..._

BY ARTHUR DEKKER SAVAGE


Allen Kinderwood slowed his pace so his forelock would quit bobbing. The
damn thing wasn't supposed to bob; it was supposed to be a sort of
peaked crest above rugged, handsome features--a dark lock brushed
carelessly aside by a man who had more important things to do than fuss
with personal grooming. But no matter how carefully he combed it and
applied lusto-set, it always bobbed if he walked too fast.

But then, why should it matter now? He wasn't looking for a woman
tonight. Not when his appointment with the Social Adjustment counsellors
was tomorrow morning, and he would get a Departure Permit. _Should_ get
one, he corrected himself. But he had never heard of a petition for a DP
being refused.

He wanted to spend his last night in the city over here in the main park
of C Sector, walking in the restless crowds, trying to settle his
thoughts. He moved through slow aimless eddies of brightly appareled
citizens, avoiding other pedestrians, skaters and the heavy,
four-wheeled autoscooters. Everything was dully, uncompromisingly the
same as in his own sector, even to the size and spacing of the huge,
spreading trees. He had hoped, without conviction, that there might be
some tiny, refreshing difference--anything but the mind-sapping
sameness that had driven him to the petition.

[Illustration]

Allen was careful not to brush against any girl with an escort. Since he
wasn't on the make, what would be the use of fighting? Kind of an odd
feeling, though, to know you'd never date or fight again, or ... Or
what? What else was there to do, if you hadn't the luck to be a jobman
or a tech? You ate, and slept, and preened, and exercised, and found
what pleasure you could, and fought mostly because it was momentarily
stimulating, and, eventually, after a hundred and fifty years or so, you
died.

Unless you were a tech. If you were a tech, Government gave you stuff to
keep you alive longer. A jobman got a somewhat different deal--he got
nothing to keep him alive abnormally, because ninety percent of Earth's
population was waiting for his job anyway.

Allen skirted a huge fountain throwing colored, scintillant spray high
into the dark summer sky, stealing a glance backward over his shoulder.
That girl was still behind him. Following him? It wouldn't be anything
new, in his case--especially in his own sector--but maybe she just
happened to be going his way.

It would be easy to find out. He circled the fountain twice. With her
looks she should have been picked up before she'd left her compartment
building block--except that whoever got her might have to fight more
than once during the evening to hold her. Definitely a young man's
darling.

And, the way it began to look, definitely Allen's darling. On the second
trip around, she had backtracked to meet him face to face--her purpose
obvious.

He tried to dodge, but there was no way it could be done without insult.
Damn....

"Hi, brute. Nedda Marsh. Alone?" She ran soft hands along the hard
biceps under his short jacket sleeves. The motion threw open her
shriekingly bright orange cloak, displaying saucy breasts, creamy
abdomen and, beneath her brief jeweled skirt, long smooth thighs. And
the perfume assailed his nostrils with almost physical force.

"Hi, Nedda. Allen Kinderwood. Alone, natch." Natch, hell. But what could
any male do to combat Government perfume? He smiled, his pulse suddenly
quickening. "Date, darling?" She _was_ a beautiful thing.

Her large, sparkling eyes showed pleasure. "Take me, Al." She touched
vivid red lips lightly against his. And the formula was complete.
Private citizens Allen Kinderwood and Nedda Marsh were dated at least
until dawn--or a better man did them part.

He squeezed her arm where she'd snuggled it against his side, starting
with her away from the fountain. "How come the most gorgeous thing in
Kansas City wasn't dated earlier?"

She looked up at him, and the passion in her gaze made his heart skip
like a teener's. "Could be I'm very particular, darling, but," her look
was suddenly beseeching, "the truth is, I'm protected."

A slow, tiny fire of distaste fanned itself alive in Allen's brain. Why
in the name of World Government did every other girl who made first play
with him have to be protected? But there was his out. By unwritten
social code he could declare the date off. Except that he had grown to
increasingly hate the spiteful practice of 'protection'. It meant Nedda
had peeved some local lothario who, along with other males in his
clique, was going to damn well see she wasn't intimate with anyone else
until she begged another date with the original one. If you had a
sadistic turn of mind, it meant you could keep a delectable bit in
freeze until her natural inclinations forced her into your arms. But
you'd have to fight any man who tried to date her in the meantime.

Fighting was legal, of course, as long as the loser was surgically
repairable, and it was considered a normal catharsis for strained
relationships between males.

Not, Allen thought glumly, that he had any stake in the future of
frantically weary society, but he had reached the conclusion long ago
that a man without the courage to back up his personal convictions
wasn't worth the energy it took to down him.

He stopped and held Nedda against him protectively. "I still want the
date, sprite," he said. "I have to leave early tomorrow, but I'll try
to get you out of protection--okay?"

Her lips trembled. "Oh, yes. If you knew how it's been, these last few
days--"

He shook her again, but more tenderly. "Deal. We'll try to reach your
compartment." Living quarters were a sanctuary no one but a medic could
legally enter without invitation. He removed his stainless
identification plaque and slipped its chain about her throat. "If you
see any of the guys who're watching for you, tell me but don't look at
them." He took her arm again and alertly began to work through the
throng. "Describe your protector."

"Jeff Neal-Hayne. He's big, Al. Bigger than you. Heavier, but you've got
muscles like he never saw. You look faster, too."

Allen didn't know him, but the name was revealing. Not that anything but
your Earth society number was official, but use of a double surname
meant your father had elected to stay with your mother for at least a
while after you were born. Most babies, of course, were immediately
turned over to a Government creche, but it had always seemed to Allen
that kids raised by one or more parents had other advantages too,
although he had never been able to figure out just what they were. Maybe
it was only his imagination.

       *       *       *       *       *

At the edge of the park they chose the nearest double scooter which
showed full battery charge.

Allen leaned against the forward rail. "Herd it, will you, Nedda? Every
time I think of the hundreds of hours I've spent plowing air with one of
these gut-weighted things I want to break one. Hell, I can run faster.
Anyway, you know where we're going."

The girl smiled, pushed the power lever into forward range and steered
into slow-moving traffic. "I saw a man lift a single, once, but that's
all he was able to do with it."

The lighted street seemed intensely bright after the dimmer reaches of
the park. "Ever think of running one into the river?"

She looked at him in amazement. "Fright, no. Why--you'd have to drive
along a pedestrian path for at least a block to reach the bank!" Nedda
spun the steering wheel to avoid a long string of solemn teeners playing
follow the leader on singles. "You have funny thoughts, Al."

"I'm laughing." He flexed his muscles, impatient, as usual, with another
citizen's sluggish mentation. "I suppose the damn music never gets on
your nerves, either?"

"Music? Oh--the music." She listened as though for the first time to the
muted strains which played continuously throughout the city--calming,
soothing, lulling. "Of course not. Why should it?"

"They've got it synchronized," said Allen. "Government's got it
synchronized so you hear it just the same volume no matter where you are
outside. You _have_ to listen to it."

"Darling, your boredom's showing."

He squeezed her hand reassuringly. "Don't let me spin you, lovely. I've
got the answer."

"Oh?"

"Yeah. I applied for a DP this morning."

"Al--_no_!"

"Why not?" He put it like the needle thrust of a fighting knife, daring
her to find a reason, half hoping she could.

"I--" She glanced at him once, quickly, then away. Then she drew a deep
breath and let it sigh out. "How about Mars, Al? There aren't many
service machines, and they even let women do lots of little detailed
things. I almost went, once."

He was watching her shrewdly. "Why didn't you?" He had fought this one
out with himself before.

"Oh--I don't know. Just never did."

"I'll tell you why you really didn't. It'd be too different. When the
Government provides every convenience, every comfort you can think of
here, you can't stand having to work in a mine, with an oxygen helmet,
stuffed into heavy clothes. You can't stand the danger and the fear--and
somehow, inside, you must know it. I'm pretty strong, and I never met a
man I was afraid of, but I know I couldn't stand Mars." He gripped the
rail and stared out over the wide, swarming street. "But Earth is a
trap, Nedda. A big comfortable trap where you walk around endlessly
without being any use at all."

She trod the brake and barely missed bumping a couple who had stopped to
embrace. "_I'm_ some use, hon. Wait'll we get home." Her eyes held a
promise she could barely restrain.

Automatically, he caressed her with a practiced hand--and grabbed the
wheel when she suddenly strained against him, trembling, pressing eager
lips against his neck.

Christ, how long had she been protected? He felt a mounting anger
against the social ennui which drove men's minds to such inhuman
activity. Departure was the only escape from this kind of thing, and
from the city--from any city.

But the Departees had always been only a tiny minority. Did that mean
they--and he--were wrong? He brooded about it for seemingly the googolth
time, guiding the scooter without conscious thought, turning as Nedda
directed.

A trap, he'd told her. Well, he could see no reason to change that. The
blazingly glorious sensotheaters, cafes, gymnasiums, dancing salons,
amusement rides and hypnodream houses, crowding every main thoroughfare
with their fantastically ornate architecture, were--when you thought
about it--designed to trap people's minds, keep them from thinking of
anything but a gossamer, useless pursuit of personal pleasure. And
wasn't the design faulty when everyone was bored, when some chose
Departure and others sank to the unnatural practice of protection to
whet their sated appetites?

Nor was there any apparent hope for the future. Theatre productions,
dream tapes, even the elaborate home teleview shows were all historical.
Why? Was Government admitting there was nothing but staleness in the
present? Why the concern with backtime?

Because of Government entertainment diet, Allen could probably, with a
bit of practice, fish skillfully from an outrigger, make and use a
longbow expertly, run a store profitably in the Money Ages, weave cloth
correctly, build complete wooden houses--oh, any number of ancient
things.

But he couldn't even talk the same language as the relative handful of
trained men who built and operated the unbelievably intricate
robomachinery which activated and maintained the complex cities of
Earth.

       *       *       *       *       *

Nedda's soft voice broke into his thoughts. "Al--Dan Halgersen's coming
up behind us on a single. He's one of Jeff's--"

"Hold on." Allen swung the scooter hard right and adroitly darted across
traffic toward an emblazoned theatre entrance. Here, now, was a
situation he knew how to deal with. He said rapidly, out of the side of
his mouth, "Jump off when I stop at the entry and kiss me like good-by.
Register your plaque in the ID slot and head for the door--then look
back. If I'm down, go on in and lose yourself. If he's down, come back."

He made a wrenching stop at the very edge of the crowd, swung Nedda
through the opening between front and side rails and gave her a hard,
sterile kiss.

She clung to him a moment. Without letting her eyes stray she said,
"Slowing down right behind you. Luck, lover." Then she turned and
started to pick her way across the walk.

Allen swung the scooter in a fast, tight circle to the left. Assuming
his opponent to be right-handed, this would help avoid a knife slash
from the rear if the other rammed his scooter--further assuming the man
had _not_ been tricked into thinking his presence was unnoticed.

He hadn't. When Allen whipped his head around to look at him, there was
barely time to brake the heavier double to avoid a shrewdly planned
collision. Halgersen, Nedda had said. He was thick-set, with heavy brows
and large jaw. The type Allen had learned to associate with power and
endurance but not too much speed.

Halgersen was holding a knife in his right hand. Allen quickly slipped
his own blade from the sheath conveniently held at the front of his
belt. They cut intricate patterns of feint, attack and withdraw, using
passing vehicles as buffers. But not for long.

A voice from the crowd called, "Fight!" and space grew miraculously
about the combatants, leaving a huge clearing in the street rimmed
solidly with scooters and pedestrians. A few shouts of encouragement
began to be heard as individuals selected one or the other of the men as
a likely winner.

Allen dodged a sudden attempt at a side-swipe collision and the
attendant vicious swipe of Halgersen's blade--and then drew first blood
by a lightning riposte to the arm. Legal knife target was arm, leg,
abdomen and a forehead cut without thrust--which would obscure vision
with blood without doing organic damage.

The bright yellow luminescence of a police copter dropped and hovered as
Allen tried to follow up his momentary advantage. The scene, he knew,
would now be simultaneously filmed for possible legal record and
broadcast on all teleview news programs. Entertainment for adults,
education for the teeners.

A feminine voice in the front ranks called, "Two stunts to one on green
jacket!" and was immediately taken up by another girl near by.

He had little time to think with satisfaction that no female had ever
been forced to pay off a bet of some ingeniously embarrassing public
behavior on his account. Halgersen was now trying to maneuver him for a
straight ram which would bring them definitely together. He wasn't being
weakened by the slow drip of blood from his arm and he didn't seem to be
bothered by pain.

And then they were close to the circle rim. Allen swung his scooter so
the cooling downdraft from the copter--coming from above the center of
the cleared area--was directly against his back, a method he had devised
for knowing his position without having to take his eyes from a close
opponent. He let his shoulders droop suddenly, as though he was tired,
and at the murmur of disappointment from many onlookers he began to back
slowly away from Halgersen.

The blue-jacketed figure rolled into the trap scowling. He tried again
for a head-on ram. Allen let him come, and at the last possible instant,
when Halgersen would be unable to reverse, stop, or even swerve, he
flipped the bar to full power ahead. And braced himself accordingly.

The scooters met with a bone-jarring thud of perimeter rubber. Halgersen
was hurled neatly over his own guard rail to land gaspingly across
Allen's.

Allen grasped the back of the other's belt in a grip that had dismayed
many a combatant, hauled him into position and hamstrung both legs with
two dextrous thrust-and-cut movements. It took but a moment longer to
leap above a desperate slash at his own legs, drag the heavier man to
the thick floor of the scooter and render him unconscious with a
stamping kick of one sandaled heel. It left an easy repair job for the
medics, but would keep one Dan Halgersen from fighting again for more
than a week--and maybe make him think twice about joining in another
protection pact.

Allen leaped up and balanced on two guard rails while the police copter
settled down to pick up Halgersen. He signaled Nedda to move on along
the walkway.

While the onlookers were clapping approval of the show, he removed
Halgersen's plaque, leaped down and dodged an attempted kiss from the
girl who had given odds on him--glancing back warily in case her escort
felt insulted--then pushed through the mob to join Nedda.

She hugged his arm ecstatically. "Darling, every woman should have a guy
like you."

"Yeah." He felt no sense of triumph. It had happened too many times
before. Everything had happened too many times before--repetitive,
palling and purposeless. He tucked the won plaque into her decorative
belt. It was Nedda's proof that protection was ended, and Halgersen
would have to call for it accompanied by a witness.

"Where the hell is your place?" he asked. For a moment he wondered why
he didn't just turn abruptly and leave her, social mores
notwithstanding. Then Nedda's perfume began its chemical magic again,
and he carefully straightened his jacket and set his forelock in its
proper place.

       *       *       *       *       *

"Nedda," he accused lazily, "you're a nymph. Ever tried
psychoconditioning?"

She gave him a tender, lingering kiss and burrowed more comfortably in
his arms. "Not yet, darling. Would you prefer me less--responsive?"

Allen patted her as carefully as possible to show approval without
arousing her again. "No man would. But it must be rough between dates,
isn't it?" And just why should he be worrying about anyone else at this
stage of the game? Maybe he wasn't. Maybe he was just curious now that
it no longer mattered.

She avoided his eyes in the cool semigloom of the compartment.
"I--usually manage to have enough dates. Until some moron like
Neal-Hayne puts me under protection."

He disengaged himself gently, rolled off the pliant couch and increased
the room's light with the wall knob. "You should register a complaint,
Nedda. After three he'll be forcibly psyched, you know." He dialed the
servoconsole and focused a morning meal menu on the viewscreen. "Ready
for breakfast, pip?"

"Mmm--if you are." Nedda came over and lifted the phone from its panel
recess. "That number six algal protein is supposed to be a new taste
sensation. Like?"

He shrugged. "Let's try it. It'll be my last go at this robot feed."

When the meals had been deposited in the service chute she looked at him
pleadingly. "Hon, why don't _you_ try being psyched? They could make you
satisfied with--things as they are."

Allen lifted a thin transparent food cover while he shook his head.
"Maybe they could, Nedda. But it would have to be almost total erasure
to change my slant on everything, and being forced to accept what I hate
is worse than anything else I can think of. It wouldn't be me when they
got through. Whatever causes me to think like I do is the _me_, and
that'd be gone."

Some of the resentful animosity surged up in him and he had to talk
about it. "Look at your compartment. The same as every other single in
the city--or any city. The walls are the shade of green that's best for
the eyes. Furniture and fixtures are always the same colors. Every
compartment has a servoconsole to condition the air, control the
temperature and humidity, bring you food or any other standard service,
provide teleview shows, music or requests. You could live your life
inside this square hole. Everybody has everything and nothing means
anything--can't you see that?"

She came around the table and sat on his lap with her head against his
neck. "No, presh, but if you'll change your mind about a DP you can date
me any time, always. I'd like to share a double with you forever."

He traced soothing circles on her smooth back with his fingertips.
"That's the closest I've ever come to _owning_ anything," he mused.

"But, hon, Government owns everything and takes care of everything. When
you can always use a thing, how could it be better if you owned it?"

Allen held her against him tightly, fighting the old fight to find
words. How could you explain how you _felt_ things to be right or wrong,
without really knowing the reasons?

"Maybe," he said slowly, "it's as though I wanted to keep you for myself
alone. But Nedda, if another man made the right approach, could you
refuse him?" After a minute he repeated, "Could you?"

Eventually, she made two answers.

They were warm and wet and dropped onto his chest.

       *       *       *       *       *

The Adjustment Building was a soaring, chastely white structure of
silicoid plastic, dazzling in the hot morning sun. It crossed Allen's
mind fleetingly that everything built nowadays would long outlast the
builders. That seemed right, but he didn't know why.

He took his ID plaque from Nedda and kissed her. He had tried to
dissuade her from coming with him, but she had merely smiled and held
his arm and urged him toward a double scooter.

"This is it, beautiful," he said shortly, at the entrance. And, with an
attempt at levity, "Don't take any more protection." Actually, what
could you say? He went inside quickly, without looking back.

At the door marked _Kansas City Department of Social Adjustment_, he
slipped his plaque into the correct slot for a moment and was admitted
directly to the waiting room for those who had appointments for the day.

There was only one other waiting--a handsome blond youth whose knife was
new. Allen sat down in a lounge chair across the room.

And Nedda came in and sat down beside him.

He could have understood almost anything but that. "How in the name of
fear--"

"Do you think," she said mischievously, taking his hand, "the B Sector
champ is the only one who can get an appointment?"

Before it could more than flash through Allen's mind that he'd not told
her that, the blond youth was standing before them, his eyes hotly on
Nedda. Then, obviously confused that she was already holding hands, he
addressed himself to Allen as though it was what he had intended doing.

"Marty Bowen, sir. Uh--I'm going to see if they'll let me have a double
compartment with some gym apparatus in it." He shifted his weight to the
other foot and hung a thumb nervously in his belt, unable to keep from
darting glances at Nedda.

Allen noted, with rising anger and some other unpleasant emotion he
couldn't define, that she hadn't dropped her eyes. He said curtly.
"Fine, kid--hope you make it." The youth mumbled something else and went
back to his chair.

He had barely seated himself when a voder speaker crooned a number
melodiously. With a quick backward glance at Nedda, the blond lad went
on into the counsel room.

Allen's mind remained in confusion, shot through with anger at himself
that he should waste thoughts now on anything but the coming interview.
The room was beginning to fill quietly with others.

His number was called a few minutes later.

And Nedda's was called along with it.

Well--the place to get the answer was the counsel chamber. He got up
slowly, barely noticing that Nedda continued to hold his hand as they
went in.

The brilliant room was two stories high, with fluted walls and no
windows. Obviously the size was to impress interviewees. But why should
they have to be impressed? Wasn't the wisdom of the five tech doctors
sufficient by itself? Wasn't it?

He sat in a chair indicated by the dark-skinned one, and listened while
the very old one in the center talked to Nedda.

Had dating the B Sector park champion solved her difficulty with the man
she had reported? Fine. It was the second such report about him in a
year--the other also coming from a girl who was highly sexed. Did Nedda
not consider herself to have a problem which required psychoconditioning?
No? Well, perhaps in later years, when her beauty and her mind were
somewhat changed.... No, there would seem to be no justification for
giving her a compartment in another sector, unless she had persuaded the
champion or another to share a double with her. Would that be all? Much
happiness to her.

Abruptly, Allen realized Nedda had left and that the frail old man was
talking to him.

"... unusual to have joint interviews without a more definite emotional
tie, but we felt you would like to know how you had rendered civic aid."

So pitting him without choice against any of several men was their idea
of civic aid. No wonder he'd met so many protected girls in the past.
This time, they'd harnessed Nedda's restless passion to the task of
dissuading him from a DP. Very neat.

It made him feel better to know they'd failed where he was concerned,
and his resentment abated somewhat. He said, "Glad I could help,"
careful to keep his voice emotionless. Then, determined to have no
further subtleties, "If I can have my departure permit, I won't trouble
you further."

Maybe his approach wasn't right, but all they could do would be to
refuse him. In which case there were other ways--and the hell with
legality.

"We hope," smiled the old doctor benignly, "there may be another way.
Perhaps, if we discuss your problem, we can find a solution which won't
cost the city a handsome young citizen."

Allen made it a direct attack. "Why should the city miss any citizen? In
fact, what good is the city itself--what good is any city?"

And almost, the techs seemed startled. But a younger one said easily, "A
city, Mr. Kinderwood, permits a maximum of efficient service and
pleasure, with a minimum of waste and discomfort."

Allen leaned back and stubbornly folded his arms. "I've had enough of
pleasures and comforts without meaning, and I've nothing to do, and it
doesn't look like anyone's making any progress anywhere. Even on the
planets they're just repeating backtime stuff with modern equipment."

The old man waved a hand at the others and looked at Allen intently. His
voice was softly insistent. "The one continuous thread in human history
has been the seeking of more pleasure and greater comfort for all
members of the race. Our technology gives us a maximum of both. No one
labors, and the few who work prefer to do so. No one is diseased, no one
stays in pain longer than the time necessary to reach a medic. Everyone
can have everything he needs, without striving and without debt. And as
technology advances, there will be even greater benefits for all. What
more can be done to make the citizens of Earth happy?"

For the first time, Allen felt confused. "I don't know," he said slowly.
"The way you put it, it sounds right. But where does it all lead? What
reason have I got for living? What reason does the human race have for
surviving?"

The sociologist looked even older. "In all seriousness, sir, can you
answer the questions you have just asked?" His eyes were expectant--but
there didn't seem to be much hope reflected in their depths.

Allen noted a tenseness around the table. Why were they asking him for
answers they were supposed to know? Or was it another of their
subtleties?

"No," he said curtly, "I don't know the answer to any of them. Has it
got a bearing on my getting a DP?"

The central figure sighed. "None at all." He pressed several tiny
buttons on the polished table and an inscribed card rose halfway out of
a slot. "We merely hope that some day a man will come along who can tell
us--before someone who may not be a man comes along and makes the
answers futile." He handed Allen the card. "Here is your permit. You may
take it to the third office south on the corridor through that door. We
don't feel it is the answer to your problem, but we admit we don't--"

"Pardon me, sir," interrupted Allen. He wet his lips. "Did you say
'someone who may _not be a man_'?"

"Yes. It is an aspect you have not considered, Mr. Kinderwood." The
sociologist's face seemed haggard. "Even a few generations ago, Earth as
it is today would have seemed like a concept of heaven. We know now it
is not enough, but we don't know why. Perhaps, if we can reach the stars
the problem will cease to be critical. By the same token, life from the
stars may come here first.

"We have no remotest idea what such an eventuality would entail. It may
provide a solution. It may quite conceivably send man back to the
forests and jungles.

"You have experienced our only answer to the latter possibility. While
providing man with everything to which he has aspired for milleniums, we
instill in him, through the media of entertainment, knowledge of all the
survival practices known to the backtimers who painfully nurtured
civilization from an embryonic idea to its present pinnacle. We can do
no more."

Allen flexed his arms involuntarily at the sheer enormity of the idea.
It was one thing to let a useless race expire, quite another to think of
its being forced back to-- "But--can't anyone think of anything else to
do?"

"Whoever is capable of devising anything else," the old doctor said
resignedly, "will undoubtedly be able to carry it out with or without
our assistance." He pressed more buttons and there was a muted sound of
the voder calling a number. "The exit over there, Mr. Kinderwood.
And--much happiness."

Allen's thoughts swirled in tumultuous confusion. Dimly, he realized
that man had outstripped himself, and saw with intense bitterness that
there was no answer on Earth for any ordinary citizen. Or was there? And
if there was, was it worth trying to find? He flung open the door to the
corridor violently, as though the force could quiet his mind. Maybe, if
he didn't use the permit, he could stay and figure out an answer. Nedda
would be sympathetic and patient while-- And then he stopped. Across the
wide hallway, Nedda stood beneath a window, looking at him. And the
blond youth held her with flushed understanding, impatiently waiting,
caressing her arm with his hand, binding her to him with the one bond
she could not break.

She watched Allen start slowly down the corridor. Once, when he
stumbled, she gave a stifled sob, and tears brimmed and spilled silently
when he passed through the door marked _Kansas City Department of
Euthanasia_.



Transcriber's Note:

    This etext was produced from _If Worlds of Science Fiction_
    September 1954. 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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