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´╗┐Title: The Freelancer
Author: Zacks, Robert
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.

*** Start of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "The Freelancer" ***

                            The Freelancer

                            By ROBERT ZACKS

                         Illustrated by ASHMAN

           [Transcriber's Note: This etext was produced from
                Galaxy Science Fiction September 1955.
         Extensive research did not uncover any evidence that
         the U.S. copyright on this publication was renewed.]

               Once these laws were passed, any time in
             history--however bad--were the good old days!

Jeb was shaken from his bed; his dream told him it was a glacier with
wild winds howling laughter, and when he opened his eyes, shivering, he
saw his wife, Laurie, had pulled the heat switch off. She stood there
glaring. Today her hair was a lovely purple with a fashionable streak
of gold starting from the forehead, but it didn't help the cold look on
her face.

"Get up, you bum," she said in her sweet contralto. "Go out and earn
some credits or I'll certify you."

The thought of being transferred by the Economy Agent to Assigned
Duty Status, with its virtual imprisonment to monotony by the Welfare
Office, made Jeb tumble from bed and fumble for his shoes.

"My darling," he said placatingly, "how beautiful you are this morning!
How undeserving I am of you!"

"You're damn right about that," said Laurie with bitterness. "When I
think of the men I could have married, the wonderful life I might have
lived, instead of scrimping along with a no-good freelance Monitor
like you...."

"_Sometimes_ I do pretty well. Three years ago, I sent you to the
Pleasure Palace for a month, remember?"

"Three years ago. Big deal."

       *       *       *       *       *

She flounced out of the room. Sadly, Jeb went to the closet and
examined the various uniforms and disguises that were part of his
equipment as a freelance Monitor. As he selected the silver and black
skintight suit of an Air Pollution Inspector, he wistfully remembered
how nice it had been when Laurie had smiled at him. Immediately a flood
of determination filled him to go out and do big things today. Maybe
he would make a big strike and get a nice fat commission; then Laurie

The televisor buzzed, flickered, and the genial face of the man from
Marriage Relations appeared.

"Good morning, Monitor Jeb," said the man, smiling. "And how are things
'twixt you and your beloved?"

"Rough," moaned Jeb. "She's really in a foul mood today."

The man from Marriage Relations beamed. "Fine, fine, glad to hear it."

"Huh?" said Jeb.

"Her Sadism Index Rating went up five points," the man explained. "We
wanted to make sure we hadn't made an error. Well, that certainly is
good news for you two. I'll guess you'll both be all right now."

"All _right_? Are you _kidding_?"

"Now, now, we know what's best for you. Your Masochism Rating is quite
high, you know. Laurie is just what you need. Why, you two were _made_
for each other."

Suddenly the man stopped talking, gasped, and the screen flickered and
went dead. Jeb's astonishment was wiped away by the soft, silvery bell
tone of his portable Monitex, a flat two-by-six-inch machine resting on
a shelf nearby. As Jeb wildly lunged toward it, he saw it was glowing
red, activated by a violation, and as he snatched it up, the coded
reading dial had a notification: _Bx-P-203_.

Trembling, Jeb pressed a button on the lower left of the Monitex and
a voice promptly droned mechanically from the waferlike loudspeaker
hidden under the surface, giving details of the violation.

"Bx-P-203--At ten minutes after eight A.M., Monitex 27965 of
Freelance Monitor Jeb picked up violation of Copyright on the phrase
'were made for each other.' Said phrase property of Joint Owners
registered under Copyright of Verbal Phrases Act of 1996. Owners,
Magnum Motion Picture Studios and Universal Publications. Fee for use
80 credits, commission fifty per cent."

       *       *       *       *       *

The voice went dead and the flat metal surface glowed with letters
strung into words reading "Please Collect and Remit Total Fee."

As Jeb uttered a yelp of delight, Laurie came running into the room.

"I heard the Monitex bell," she said eagerly.

"You sure did," crowed Jeb. "Now aren't you proud of me? I was smart
enough to leave the Monitex on all night. We picked up a Verbal
Copyright violation...."

"You left it on all night?" screeched Laurie, her joy fading. "You
imbecile, the leasing charge on the Monitex is ten credits an hour,
isn't it? What's your commission on this violation?"

"Forty credits. I--I guess I'm losing money, b-but...."

Laurie gave him her opinion of his supposed shrewdness.

Jeb unhappily went to the televisor and punched out a call on the
button keyboard which would recall the image of the Marriage Relations
representative. He shrank back in alarm as the man's glaring face

"Sorry to hook you this way, old boy," said Jeb meekly, "but it's
my job, you know. Got you on a Verbal for using 'were made for each
other.' That phrase is owned by--"

"You dirty, sneaking spy!" yelled the man on the televisor screen.
"I'll bet your grandfather informed on diamond smugglers for a

"He...." Jeb feebly started to protest.

"It's a hell of a thing," raved the other, "when a man can't even use
words to express himself without paying...."

In alarm, Jeb leaned forward and hastily punched a combination of
buttons on the televisor. One half the screen blanked. The image of
the Marriage Relations representative moved to the right and the lean,
puritanical face of Jeb's supervisor, Dirdon, flared onto the left half.

Dirdon looked icily at Jeb. "What is it?"

"Complaint on policy and purpose of Copyright Law," said Jeb nervously.
"Would you please handle it, sir? I'll switch you."

       *       *       *       *       *

As Dirdon's mouth pressed into a thin line and he nodded, Jeb flicked a
switch. Both men on the screen immediately turned profiles to Jeb and
Laurie, seeing each other in their own screens.

"Did you have a complaint, sir?" asked Dirdon.

"I don't know who the devil you are," shouted the man from Marriage
Relations, "but I assume you're one of those pirates cashing in on that
copyright swindle. That new law has gone much too far. Copyrighting a
work of skill, art, or expression is okay, I suppose, but to extend it
to everyday speech, to verbal phrases--"

"Now just a minute," said Dirdon briskly. "You buy greeting cards, I
suppose, sir?"

"So I buy greeting cards, so what?"

"What are greeting cards exactly? Just a small square of paper with
a few words, a _very_ few words of sentiment on them. Words that any
normal person certainly might be able to--"

"Any moron can write a better sentiment than those lousy cards express."

"But _you_ buy them sometimes?"

"Well ... sometimes."

"Why?" demanded Dirdon.

"Saves me the bother of figuring out what to say, I guess," was the
growled answer.

"Right. And you _paid_ for these very few moronic phrases, paid good
hard credits for them. Now isn't it just as logical to protect owners
of a phrase when somebody else uses it verbally?"

"But," said the man desperately, "I didn't _want_ to violate the
Copyright on Verbal Use. I didn't _know_ that phrase was under
Copyright. Who can keep track of them all? Every day, more phrases and
expressions are under Copyright as somebody else's property. Why, first
thing you know, there'll hardly be any words left to say."

       *       *       *       *       *

"That isn't true," objected Dirdon. "Copyright Law on Verbal Use is a
great boon to society. Rule 7 for admission to protection requires that
the phrase covered be one which may be considered 'shopworn, overused
and so artistically traditional that it is a wearisome truism.' That
means that verbal mediocrity is heavily penalized, which is right and
proper. Why, you ought to be ashamed to use a phrase like 'were made
for each other.' It's Monitors like Jeb who make you watch your words
and think very carefully before you speak."

"Listen, stupid--"

"Already," Dirdon plowed on, happily oratorical, "our citizens are
being forced to express themselves more richly, with initiative,
casting off triteness!"

The man from Marriage Relations looked disgusted. "Ah," he said
angrily, "why don't you drop dead."


       *       *       *       *       *

The man moaned as the Monitex Jeb held glowed red with another
violation. Jeb grinned and pressed the loudspeaker button.

"Mz-R-14," droned the voice. "At half-past eight, Monitex 27965 of
Freelance Monitor Jeb picked a violation of...."

The man covered his ears. After a few moments, he took his hands away
and looked numbly from the screen as Dirdon smirked.

"What's the Copyright fee on that one?" he asked.

"The use of the words 'Drop Dead' will cost you ten credits," said Jeb.
"We'll bill you for both violations."

Dirdon was beaming as Jeb snapped the whole screen dark.

With a start, Jeb remembered Laurie and turned to face her anger. "See,
honeybunch?" he said hopefully. "Even if I did lose a few credits on
the leasing charge by leaving the Monitex on all night, it looks like a
lucky day. Why, I'll bet I make enough commissions today to send you on
a nice vacation."

Laurie gave him a narrow-eyed, cold stare.

"You'd better," she said. "Because I've just about had enough of you.
Either you make a big killing today or I certify you by midnight
tonight. Do you hear me?"

Jeb nodded in fright. He scuttled out of the room, picking up a gravity
harness from the stand in the foyer and not pausing to buckle himself
into it until she slammed the door behind him.

Sighing, Jeb got into the harness and took off. He floated out the
opening at the end of the corridor at the sixty-story level and joined
the stream of commuters at two thousand feet.

As he set his speed at thirty miles an hour, he came abreast of a man
wearing the solid gray uniform of an Unassigned Citizen. Jeb saw the
look of misery on the man's drawn face and felt so sympathetic, he
didn't even bother to hide his Monitex in its disguising parcel. You
had to be pretty low to make your money out of a guy in that tough
status. _Hell_, thought Jeb defiantly, _let him see it and be warned; I
don't care. Even if the Inspector sees me._

He noted the Unassigned Citizen staring down at the panorama of the
vast city beneath them. At different lower levels, myriad flights of
streaming citizens moved in various directions. The tremendous blocks
of buildings had thin slits between them at the bottom of which were
walks filled with antlike figures.

"Ugly, huh?" said Jeb.

He got a moody stare in return. "Believe it or not, I suddenly find it
beautiful. Compared to where I'm heading, anyway."

       *       *       *       *       *

Jeb was shocked. "Oh?"

"I've been certified," said the man bluntly. "Not enough credits for
support. I had to go to the Welfare Office and ask for assistance. Had
my own gravity harness repair shop till a month ago. But the new ones
are foolproof, business fell off. Now I'm in for it."

"Gosh," muttered Jeb, "that's really tough. But what do you mean,
'compared to where you're heading?' Sure, you'll be assigned a dirty
underground job, on the cables maybe, and the pay will be ridiculous,
but it'll be right here, won't it?"

"Haven't you heard?" The other smiled grimly. "So many of us small
business guys are being certified, the Welfare people had no more jobs.
And you know the law. Indigents must be assigned to some duty. And it
just happens that they're opening new mines on Mars and they can't get
help. I've no choice."

"Mines?" Jeb paled at the thought. "That Melbonite dust. One speck
through the sealed-in suit and you've got a burn they still can't
heal." He shuddered; then, seeing the face of the Unassigned Citizen,
he said soothingly, "But those suits are foolproof, I understand."

"Not always," said the man in gray. "Anyway, they haven't licked the
ventilation problem. The last suits they tried to air-condition, so
much Melbonite dust filtered in...." He took a deep breath of horror.
"So the ones in use become awfully sweaty. I'm going to a living


Jeb's Monitex glowed red with a violation. "Living Hell" was an
old-fashioned dramatic phrase somebody sharp had dug up after diligent
study and copyrighted in the hope of picking up a few credits.

As Jeb numbly listened to the droning voice detail the facts and four
credits charge, the man in the gray suit said mirthlessly, "Well, well,
that's just fine. Thanks a lot, my friend, for a nice sendoff."

Jeb snapped off the Monitex. "Look," he said hurriedly, "that was an
accident. This one is on me. Here." He took four credit tokens from a
pocket and thrust the silvery rectangles at the Unassigned Citizen.
"Put these aside until you're billed for the violation and pay it with
my credits. Okay?"

"Thanks," said the man gratefully. "I'll remember you."

Jeb gave him a twisted grin. "You may not have to, pal. I may be right
beside you in the next shipment. My wife is ready to certify me for
non-support. If I don't clean up a nice fat commission by tonight,
blooey, it's the mines for me, too."

       *       *       *       *       *

The Unassigned Citizen started to form the words _Good luck!_ when Jeb
hastily interrupted, "That's on Copyright. Take it easy."

"Uh ... my heart goes beside yours," said the man, choosing his words
carefully. "My sympathy has arms, one of which is around your mighty
shoulders. I say to you farewell."

"Wonderful!" exclaimed Jeb. He pumped the other's hand. "I like the way
you put that. It's new. It has a freshness."

They smiled at each other. Then the oval building that housed The
SuperMonitex Feeder came into view and Jeb waved good-by and swung out
of the commuter stream in the regulation spiral under the cold eyes of
a golden-clad traffic cop. Jeb landed on the balcony ledge outside the
ninetieth-level corridor and walked in, finally entering a huge room in
the center of which was a circular wall with plug outlets and sets of
dials and screens at intervals all the way around.

Jeb greeted a few of his co-workers, but didn't pause to gossip. He
wasn't in a gay mood this morning, as were many of them who were
gleefully recounting some of the slick violations they'd picked up. Jeb
went to the circular wall and plugged his Monitex into a receptacle. He
punched a button marked _New Copyrights_ and waited for the humming to
stop indicating that his Monitex had been fed all the latest phrases
added to the huge group protected by law.

With his Monitex coded up to date, its memory bank fattened, Jeb went
to the supply room to requisition a hollowed-out air pollution meter to
conceal his Monitex. A hand tapped his shoulder.

"Hi, there," said Monitor Platt, a lean-faced, smirking man Jeb
disliked. "I just came off night shift. Had a big evening."

"Yeah?" asked Jeb, his skin crawling. Monitor Platt specialized in
copyright violations in the area of lakes and parks where lovers
murmured words they soon found out were not at all new and quite

Monitor Platt chuckled. "Been cleaning up on a new copyright just
registered. The good old wolf whistle. One hundred credits fee."

Even Jeb was startled. "But that's not a phrase."

"No, but it's a 'shopworn, overused and wearisome truism,' so they
slipped it through."

"Golly, next thing you know, they'll be copyrighting a deep sigh or
the smacking sound of a kiss."

       *       *       *       *       *

Monitor Platt laughed in appreciation. Then, as Jeb frowned and
attended to fitting his detector into the shell of the air pollution
meter, Monitor Platt regaled him with the violations that had poured
credits into his pockets.

"Got a cute dame, nice curves, getting a good hugging under the moon
near the lake. She says timidly to this sap, 'It's the first time
I've ever been kissed, honestly.' Bong! Fifty credits for the expense
account. And another one I picked up in a canoe parked on the bank.
This guy says soulfully, 'I'm not the marrying kind, but....' He never
gets a chance to finish. Bong! Thirty credits. I sure cleaned up today.
If I were you, I'd head straight for the snuggle spots. A whole raft
of corny love lines have been blanketed in, you know, and nobody's

"Uh, well," muttered Jeb, who didn't want any enemies and so didn't
express his feelings about making a living from such a source, "I
already have my schedule figured out, but I'll keep it in mind."

"Where you headed for?"

Monitor Jeb was relieved when the big bell sounded, its brassy
reverberations warning Monitors to quit gabbing and get out into the
field to scoop up violations and revenue for the corporation. The
paunchy office manager, seated up on a small balcony overlooking
the giant hall, saw that the signal was, as usual, being ignored.
Indignantly he punched a button on the board facing him and a repulsive
odor filled the air which had the Monitors hastily seizing their
equipment and leaving the building.

Jeb gladly took off into the windy canyons between the skyscrapers.
Instead of ascending, he plummeted down forty stories and drifted
along, his nostrils twitching with the bad air at this height.
Fleetingly, he had the grumbling thought that, with present-day
technology, there was no excuse at all for polluted atmosphere.

_Oh, well_, he thought, _one of these days, somebody public-minded
will do something about it. Right now, I've got to make enough to stop
Laurie from certifying me._

He felt a sudden chill as he recalled his wife's threat. Quickly he
sought out the first location he'd mapped out for some easy revenue,
the personnel office of the Air Pollution Control Corp. Jeb switched
off anti-gravity and heavily walked through the corridor, stepped
inside the deep-rugged, gray and green office and joined the small
nervous group of inspectors waiting for interviews.

       *       *       *       *       *

Jeb, in his air pollution uniform, was as acceptable as a long-used
piece of furniture. Unnoticed, he sat on one of the hard benches with
the others. They stared and listened to the interview being conducted
by the genial, balding man behind the open partition ten feet away. The
air pollution inspector facing him was tense, pale and overanxious.

"Yes, indeed, you _do_ have a good record," the personnel man was
saying approvingly. "No absences in five years, no latenesses. Very
good indeed."

"Then," said the air pollution inspector eagerly, "I'll be upgraded?
I'll get that promotion promised two years ago?"

The personnel man cleared his throat, but his smile remained radiant.
"Just as soon as business picks up, we'll give you a promotion and
raise in pay...."


A roar of mirth arose from the waiting air pollution men as Monitor Jeb
nervously pulled his Monitex from its concealing pollution meter shell
and read the violation off to the enraged personnel man. A fifty credit
fee for use of the copyrighted verbal phrase _Just as soon as business
picks up, we'll give you a promotion and raise in pay._

As Jeb escaped the wrath of his victim, one of the men snickering
nearby muttered, "Hah! He'll have to rack his tiny brain for a new way
of stalling us from now on."

In the next three hours, Jeb drove himself hard. He picked up a twenty
credit fee when a doorman outside a Teletheatre had bonged the Monitex
with "Plenty of seats inside!" He scooped up another violation in a
bar when a bleary-eyed man with veins showing in his nose murmured to
the bartender, "Well, I'll have just _one_ more." He wandered to the
telephone booths and waited for one of the standby violations to fall
into his pocket; sure enough, a handsome, dark-eyed fellow murmured
into the mouthpiece, "I'll be working late tonight again, honey; sorry."

The time passed too swiftly and when Jeb paused to get a bite of food,
he saw, dismayed, that even though he was having a pretty good day, it
was far from the killing he'd promised Laurie. Ten and twenty credit
violations didn't make a man rich.

_What I need is one of the really big ones_, thought Jeb desperately.

With fumbling fingers, he pressed out a core number on the Monitex.

It glowed blue.

The voice droned, "Information!"

Jeb asked eagerly, "What have we got with fees of a thousand credits
and higher?"

       *       *       *       *       *

A moment hummed by. Then the voice announced that a large batch of
political "corn" had been copyrighted in view of the current election
campaign. Jeb listened with mounting excitement to some of them: _If I
am elected, taxes will be reduced.... As I look upon the intelligent
faces in my audience.... I am reminded of a story.... What a lovely
child, Madam.... A helicopter on every roof...._

Jeb shut it off, perspiration breaking out on his face. It was a
uranium mine! Jeb's mind reeled at the astonishing fee set for these
copyright violations. A thousand credits per use. The party in power
was really out to fight off the opposing Traditionalist Party with
every possible trick, with the result that Jeb could make the biggest
cleanup of his life.

That is, if he got away alive.

Full of foreboding, Jeb floated up toward the meeting rooms of the
local Traditionalist Headquarters, which were on the fiftieth level
of a nearby skyscraper. His terrified adrenal glands kicked his heart
into a frenzy. The boys who ran the local club were no patsies. Many
an argumentative citizen had been found floating in the rarified
stratosphere, frozen stiff, with his anti-gravity belt turned on full
and his hands bound so he could not stop the upward climb.

Monitor Jeb nervously drifted into the corridor opening and restored
gravity. He sneaked past the open door, getting a quick glimpse of a
hall filled with citizens listening to a red-faced, stoutish man on a

Jeb frantically searched for and, with throat-catching relief,
found the back entrance to the big hall. It led to a dusty area of
scaffolding and discarded, rusting tools. Now Jeb was crawling down an
incline leading under the platform and found the small, railed-off area
which once had housed a hidden prompter for musical entertainments.

Panting, Jeb squatted in the dark, hearing the booming voice just above
him, only slightly muffled. As Jeb shoved the Monitex up against the
crack in the boards over him, the speaker's voice came to him strongly,
"Now, fellers, you're all precinct captains and it's a helluva empty
title to have when your party is outa power. But if we get back on the
gravy train--well, need I say more?"

A muffled roar from the audience made Jeb crouch worriedly.

"Now we're gonna take this election, see? I want all you _loyal party


       *       *       *       *       *

Howls of rage shook the walls and reverberated through to Jeb as the
political hacks recognized the sound and understood that somewhere a
Monitex had automatically recorded the voice vibration pattern of the
speaker in a Verbal Copyright violation.

"Kill the dirty spy!" screamed the speaker.

Bong! went the Monitex.

"Lynch him!"

In three minutes of unguarded outrage, Jeb had recorded ten thousand
credits in violations which the speakers never could escape because,
like fingerprints, all voice patterns were registered by the government.

Jeb turned to the exit behind him and crawled painfully for twenty
feet, then got up and began running. He ran straight into a brawny body
at the turn of the corridor. The next thing he knew, he was on his back
and ruthless hands were banging his head against the floor.

The siren of a golden-clad policeman cut the air and magically the
hands fell away, leaving Jeb sprawling and groggy.

After a moment, he was able to focus his eyes. The policeman stared
down at him, fists authoritatively on his hips.

"Well, I came just in time, eh?" said the cop. "Saved your neck."

Bong! went the Monitex.

Jeb said hastily, "It's all right, Officer. It's on the house."

"It had damn well better be," growled the policeman. "If you know
what's good for you--"

Bong! went the Monitex.

"Go on, get outa here before I run ya in," yelled the officer.

Bong! went the Monitex.

       *       *       *       *       *

"Have a good time, dear," Jeb called after Laurie as she happily took
off into space from their level, clutching her purse, which was jammed
with enough credits to keep her brimful of fun for two whole months at
the Pleasure Palace.

"Don't you worry about that," said Laurie over her shoulder.

Jeb went back to his apartment. He stretched out on the couch,
contentment welling up in him. He opened the footstool nearby
and, within its archaic shape, slid open the cunningly concealed
refrigerator. He took out a plastic cone of beer.

"A-ah!" sighed Jeb. How wonderful to be alone, free of Laurie's nagging
for two whole months! A superb reward for his hard work. How clever of
the government to have passed such a regulation!

After a while, like wax melting, his grin drooped away. It certainly
was quiet, wasn't it?

Within half an hour, he was wild and didn't know why. Jittering, he
dialed his televisor and the man from Marriage Relations appeared on
the screen. He glared at Jeb and cautiously looked around for the
Monitex until he spotted it.

"Shut that thing off or no advice," snapped the man.

"It's _off_! Look, I don't know what's bothering me. Can I have special
permission to join my wife on her vacation? Or get her back here?"

"Afraid not," said the man. "The principle of working so one's wife
can have a vacation has been established through the centuries; the
government merely put it into law. And as for joining her or getting
her back here--that's against the law."

"But that's unfair!" yelled Jeb.

"Oh?" The man smiled. "So! I'm glad to see how happy, how perfect is
the marriage we arranged for you." He rubbed his hands in delight.
"She's just barely gone and already you miss her. Wonderful."

"Wonderful? I'm _suffering_!"

The man from Marriage Relations glanced at a dial nearby. "Of course
you are. Suffering is the ideal joy for a Masochist. Just think what a
lovely two months of missing her you'll have."

"All right, so it's a rule that I have to send her on a vacation and
can't join her," Jeb complained savagely, "but, damn it, she doesn't
have to _enjoy_ it!"

"Well," said the man, looking back to Jeb, "there's the answer. Your
Masochism index has gone down any number of points. You're angry!"

Jeb thought it over. "You bet I am! But what do I do about it?"

"Why," said the man from Marriage Relations, "the same thing husbands
have been doing ever since they started working to send their wives
away on vacations. When the cat's away, you know--" He stopped in alarm.

Jeb grinned. "I told you the Monitex is off. But thanks for the trite
truism. She thinks _she's_ the only one who'll have a vacation, eh?
I'll show her!"

"Service is our motto. And it really is," the man said pugnaciously.
"We own the Copyright."

The face flickered off the screen and Jeb began poking around in
innocent-looking secret places for a little black book he hadn't
thought of using in years.

He was dismayed to find himself singing "My wife's gone to the country,
hooray, hooray," until he remembered that he actually had shut off the

*** End of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "The Freelancer" ***

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