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´╗┐Title: Dead End
Author: Macfarlane, Wallace
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 "Dead End" ***

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                               Dead End

                         By WALLACE MACFARLANE

                      Illustrated by DAVID STONE

           [Transcriber's Note: This etext was produced from
                 Galaxy Science Fiction January 1952.
         Extensive research did not uncover any evidence that
         the U.S. copyright on this publication was renewed.]



                 Sparing people's feelings is deadly.
                 It leads to--no feelings, no people!


Scientist William Manning Norcross drank his soup meticulously and
scooped up the vegetables at the bottom of the cup, while his attention
was focused on the television screen. He watched girls swimming in
formation as he gnawed the bone of his steak. He stolidly ate the
baked potato with his fingers when the girls turned around, displaying
"Weejees Are Best" signs pasted to their shapely backs. The final
flourish was more formation swimming, where they formed a wheel under
water, swimming past the camera to display in individual letters stuck
to their bare midriffs: "Wonderful Weejees!"

Norcross chuckled appreciatively when a fat old man swam after
them with an "Is That Right?" strung across his behind. Young
men followed him, each carrying a one-word card that spelled:
"You--Bet--It's--Right--Don't--Be--Left--Buy--Weejees--!" The scene
ended on the surface. The grotesque old man was far in back, while the
young men caught the young women, and together they kicked up a cloud
of spray in the distance, which by a trick of photography mounted to
the sky and the words swept around the globe in monstrous letters:
"BUY WEEJEES!"

The dessert was apple pie, and Scientist Norcross turned the screen
to the "Abstractions" channel. Watching the colors and patterns form
in response to the music, he finished the pie and licked his fingers
appreciatively. He pressed a stud to reveal the mirror wall before he
activated the molecular cleanup.

Not many people would do that. It was not contrary to morals, exactly,
but it was like scratching in public, and it took a scientific mind to
study the human form unshaken, immediately after ingestion. There was
pie on his tunic and gravy in his hair and a smear of grease from cheek
to ear. With no sign of squeamishness, he smeared beet juice on his
nose and studied the effect before he depressed the "Clear" stud.

He stretched and stood up while the tray disappeared, then turned
and glanced in the mirror again. Nothing on him. Clean. He yawned
luxuriantly before he tapped the "Finish" panel on the door and stepped
forth, an immaculate and well-fed gentlemen of the year 2512.

He had a well-trained sense of humor, and a smile crossed his lips
as he thought of the terror a 21st Century man would feel in such an
eating chamber. When he pressed the clear button, the barbarian would
be clean--really, sterilely clean--for the first time in his life, and
without clothes, too. Oh, what a jape that would be, for the molecular
cleanup would immediately disintegrate such abominations as the fur
of animals, and much clothing 400 years ago was actually made of such
things as sheep hair.

He bowed to a pretty woman just entering a cubicle and thought
defiantly that a scientific mind afforded much amusement. There was no
illusion in his icy clear thoughts, for they were not befogged by moral
questions.

With a sigh, Scientist William Manning Norcross returned to the
difficult problem he had set aside while having lunch. The garden city
was beautiful outside, but he gave only passing attention to the rain
slithering down the huge dome of force over the buildings. He did not
pause to admire the everlasting flowers in their carefully simulated
beds of soil.

John Davis Drumstetter was in a state of crisis again, and Scientist
Norcross was worried.

His fears were well founded. The young man wheeled on Scientist
Norcross the minute he stepped through the hedge into the force field
under the giant live oak tree.

"Where are they?" he demanded. "I am coming to believe, Scientist,
that your reputation is exceeded only by your inability to live up
to it. The problem is only an extension of your own early work. You
volunteered cooperation, and I accepted it gladly, but your delays are
very distressing!"

"Johnny," said Scientist Norcross, "the press of my own experiments--"

"Then tell me you won't do it!"

"I want to help you. Don't you remember the years we spent together in
your training to the high calling of scientist? I took your young hand,
Johnny, and helped you over the juvenile stumbling blocks. Why, your
first mind machine was one I gave you, and when--"

"You're a fraud, Scientist!" said the young man bitterly.

"The young never appreciate the old," sighed Norcross.

"Go suck a mango!"

Norcross was shocked. "There's no call for being obscene, John Davis
Drumstetter," he said sternly. "To mention eating to another person,
and right in public, where you might be overheard--"

"Eat a slippery, sloppery mango on _television_, you old fool! Smear it
all over your face while you ingest it into your unspeakable digestive
tract!"

"John Davis Drumstetter," said the scientist with great control, "I
have been your friend since you were born. Your father and I became
scientists on the same day. You are young and over-eager. Just
remember," he finished with a warning shake of his finger, "Satellite
Station One wasn't built in a day!"

Drumstetter stopped his furious pacing and subdued his rage with
visible effort. He chilled, like red steel hardening, and when he spoke
he was in full command of himself.

"Now listen to me, Norcross, and keep your mouth shut. For the past
forty years I've been working on the stellar overdrive. We have the
Solar System in our reticule, colonies have been established on
every planet, and ships have been sent to Alpha Centauri, with every
chance that mankind has established itself in that solar system. But
in the four hundred years since science emerged from the dark ages,
we've managed to creep only four light years away from home! And you,
Scientist, are withholding your work on the overdrive relay. Do you
understand why your plea of old friendship does not affect me? In the
past two years, you've done nothing--"

"Experiments that must be kept secret," mumbled Norcross.

"And it is my belief," said the young man in a clipped, cold voice,
"that you have sold yourself to your taste buds and digestive tract.
Either that," and here his burning rage came into the open, "or you are
a pseudo-life!"

At this ultimate insult, Scientist Norcross was silent with
indignation. He watched Drumstetter shrug into a stole, turn down the
power to the huge mind machine, sling his reticule over his shoulder,
and stalk off through the hedge.

       *       *       *       *       *

Norcross slumped into a chair, his mind in confusion. He heard
Drumstetter's plane as it left the ground. Plane, he thought, his
mind avoiding the problem. Plane. What a curious name, handed down
through the ages, to call a swift skip powered by Earth's magnetism. An
original plane fought the air, buoyed up by the lift of plane surfaces
in movement. When the movement stopped, it died.

Died. Death. Pseudo-life.

Scientist Norcross shuddered. His well-trained sense of humor did not
include abominations.

He took the communication from his pocket and cleared to Prime Center.
When the prim, grim face of Prime Center himself in the little disc was
sharp, Norcross reported what had happened, even to the suggestion
Drumstetter had made that he was pseudo-life.

"This is very bad," said Prime Center. "Monica Drake Lane is now
pseudo-life, too."

"God's name!"

"Took her skip into a cliff in the Sierra Mountains yesterday.
Disconnected the anti-collision. A clear case."

"What will this do to Drumstetter?"

"Nothing," said Prime Center, "unless he learns."

"Is she ready?"

"I'm sending her to you right now for indoctrination. Reports are that
Drumstetter is visiting scientists on the West Coast, and Probability
reports that he may cover the world before he returns. Do you
understand? Her indoctrination must be perfect."

"It always has been." Norcross pulled his lip. "The same limitation
will be in Monica Drake Lane?" he asked hopelessly.

"Of course," said Prime Center. "We'll keep you posted on developments."

"You'd better try women," said Norcross.

"Women, narcotics, or anything else! I'd eat a blueberry pie with my
hands behind my back at high noon," said Prime Center with fierce
obscenity, "if I thought it would do any good!"

He cut the connection.

Norcross was still under the oak tree, lost in contemplation of a color
abstraction on his little communication, when a tall blonde girl, brown
as a berry, stepped hesitantly through the hedge. She walked to him
and, when he looked up, she buried her face in her hands. He stood and
held her shoulders.

"Now, now," said Scientist Norcross, "don't cry, my dear."

"But this is so puzzling--and I wasn't crying," she answered. "What's
happened to me?"

"Sit down, Monica, and tell me what you think has happened."

"But I don't know. You see, the last I remember is walking through the
Psych Lab in San Francisco, and suddenly--suddenly, I'm in New York and
they're sending me to you. What has happened?"

"Where do you first remember being in New York?"

"In the--oh, I don't know!" She was in a flush of embarrassment.

"I'll help you, my dear. You were in the pseudo-life clinic. You
are not _exactly_ Monica Drake Lane any longer. She died. You are
pseudo-life."

Her eyes were bright and the pupils were pinpointed from shock.

"You are the pseudo-life Monica Drake Lane. To all outward appearances,
you are an exact counterpart of the girl. Inwardly? Well, your
internal organs have been simplified, and you cannot reproduce. Aside
from such minor changes, you are identical, and incidentally a much
more efficient creature than your prototype. And if your mind, which
is a very good one, was a human mind, I could not tell you this.
Pseudo-life is a most remarkable thing, but Lewis and Havinghurst
and Covalt, who developed it 300 years ago, were never able to imbue
pseudo-life with what they called the minus-one factor, which includes
the phenomenal human emotional sensitivity, among other things. Are you
feeling better now?"

"Why, yes--" Her voice trailed off.

"You are no longer a slave of your emotions," said Scientist Norcross
complacently. "None of us are."

"You--you are--?"

"Oh, yes. We generally don't speak of such things, but since I'm to
introduce you to pseudo-life, I can tell you that I died two years ago."

"I'm afraid I never did know--or Monica Drake Lane never--that is, I--"

"You _are_ Monica Drake Lane. If you will sit quietly, I'll tell you
about it." Scientist Norcross took two cigarettes from his reticule
and offered the girl one. The lip play was considered somewhat daring
between the sexes, but under the circumstances he thought the mild
narcotic would be good for her, as well as the sharpening of the senses
brought on by actually smoking together.

"When the Americans, who inhabited this continent, gained domination
of the world in the 21st Century, they consolidated their position by
carrying their customs to the ends of the Earth. For that matter, to
Alpha Centauri, if the ships did get through.

"Forgive me," he interrupted himself, "if I seem improper or even
immoral in this little talk of ours. Believe me, it's not with an easy
disregard of proprieties that I bring myself to speak of such things.

"Well, the Americans believed, and rightly so, that death is a dreadful
thing. Until Lewis and Havinghurst and Covalt developed pseudo-life,
a great deal of time and effort and money went into such things
as cemeteries--places where they literally buried their dead with
elaborate ceremonials and much anguish. They had other equally wasteful
practices, such as madhouses and jails, which were done away with when
it became practical to replace a useless person with another, who
matched the original to near absolute perfection, but without fatal
flaws of body or weaknesses of the mind.

"Emphasis has shifted since those early years, when the abnormals
were dealt with, to the comforting of human beings. Should John Davis
Drumstetter suffer greatly at the loss of his mentor, the man who
guided him in the ways of science? Of course not. He never knew I died."

Norcross puffed complacently, sending iridescent rainbow smoke rings
over the mind machine.

"And I am his fiancee," said the girl.

"Should he suffer because you died? No reason for it," said Norcross
heartily. "A psychic trauma of that nature would make him desperately
unhappy. Happiness is the proper state in life, as everyone knows.
In fact, you will make him much happier than Monica Drake Lane, the
original, ever could."

"Yes, I shall be happy," mused the girl, as if feeling a more limited
capacity for sorrow within herself. "But you spoke of a minus-one
factor."

"Yes, it takes in a lot of things. Though we are immortal, barring
accidents, and we retain all the knowledge we had as human beings, the
flaw to pseudo-life is that no original thought is possible. Students
of the matter compare it to glancing at a page in a dictionary.
Of course you don't consciously remember the words there, but in
pseudo-life you are capable of remembering and using them properly, so
to speak, but not using them creatively. That is our trouble with John
Davis Drumstetter. I was a brilliant physicist, but the understanding
of new problems is beyond my limitations, and he is beyond me."

"But I woke in New York," she said irrelevantly.

"Because your master pseudo-life file was kept there," explained
Scientist Norcross. "As a human being, you were required to visit the
psych lab every month, where your changed pattern was recorded by the
mind machine. The pseudo-life girl could never lose more than a month
of the human being's life. What was your regular appointment date?"

"The 21st."

"Let's see--you died yesterday, so that would be only three days gone.
We're very fortunate."

"But won't he notice a difference in me?"

"Absolutely not."

"Am I--still capable of love?"

Scientist Norcross blew a plume of rainbow smoke into the air.
"Suppose, my dear, we find out."

Monica Drake Lane agreed, for morality, which is essentially organized
taboo that changes as society changes, had, in the 26th Century, been
confined exclusively to eating. Scientist Norcross had often amused
himself by imagining how people of other ages would have been outraged
by the moral standards of his own era, but his famous sense of humor
was not rugged enough to be amused by the moral standards of the past.
Not, at any rate, if he had had to endure them, though he found them
sufficiently comic as history.

She built a bower, an attractive courtship custom that had been adopted
from the birds, and the day ended much more pleasantly than Scientist
Norcross had expected at lunch.

       *       *       *       *       *

The reports came in from Prime Center. Drumstetter stayed in Los
Angeles two days, in San Francisco three, and then consulted with
Dowson in Honolulu. He skipped to New Zealand, back north to Japan,
and swung across Siberia with short stops at various laboratories and
universities. He was in Finland for three days with old Scientist
Theophil Gertsley, who, though little better than a witch doctor,
called himself a psychologist.

When John Davis Drumstetter set his skip down beside the live oak
tree, Scientist Norcross and Monica Drake Lane were waiting for him.
He was gaunt from hunger and weary from travel, but the expression in
his eyes was not one to be assuaged by any food cubicle. Nor was it
love he had been seeking and not found, for Prime Center had seen to
it that opportunities were offered, from austere tropical girls to the
warmth-seeking women of the north, who would even eat with a member of
the opposite sex.

He greeted Scientist Norcross and his fiancee with an offhandedness
that Norcross had not expected, and asked that he be excused from any
long immediate association with them, due to the press of uncompleted
work.

"But, Johnny," said Monica Drake Lane, "I've made a bower close by, and
you seem very tired."

"There's work to be done," said the young man firmly. "I have no time
to--Wait. I'll see your bower."

As they walked over the lush artificial grass, Scientist Norcross
explained that his results from the overdrive relay equations were in
the mind machine even now, but John Davis Drumstetter only patted him
on the shoulder in a friendly way and told him not to bother.

When they reached the bower, Scientist Norcross expected that
Drumstetter would sleep there after all, for it was an exceptionally
pleasant design. The force field was night, and the sky was filled with
adapted creatures from Mars dancing to their susurrate music, and
the air was permeated with the bitter-sweet and exciting scent of a
Venusian lake, the very odor of romance. In the background was the song
of the sea.

John Davis Drumstetter stepped out of the bower and said gently, "It's
one of the nicest I've ever seen, and we spent some happy nights in it
a year ago, didn't we, Monica?"

He kissed her gently, as he might kiss a child, and walked back to the
oak tree.

"He's behaving very oddly," reported Norcross to Prime Center, as soon
as he could, and gave the details.

"I'd give a lot to have him meet a human female," said Prime Center
wistfully.

"What shall I do?"

"Stay with him and wait," ordered Prime Center. "This is the first
time the hopes of humanity lie in one man. Remember that. We can only
serve," he added bitterly. "He hasn't tested the final limitation?
Good. Keep me informed."

       *       *       *       *       *

John Davis Drumstetter stayed beside his huge mind machine for nearly a
week, and, though he was only sixty, he looked like an old man when he
greeted Monica and Norcross at the end of that time.

"The relay is finished," he announced. "It's being installed in the
_Last Hope_ now. That's what I'm calling my ship, the ship to make
mankind free of the stars. My work on Earth is nearly done."

"But, Johnny darling," said Monica Drake Lane, looking up at him
through her eyelashes, "what about our marriage?"

He looked at her with grim pity. "The bower was an old bower," he
answered. "Did you have the courage to be a unique in a patterned
world? Can you reproduce, Monica Drake Lane?"

"Oh, Johnny--"

"The final limitation!" he said. "Humans have the power to command
pseudo-life. Pseudo-life, answer! I command!"

She sank to the ground.

"No," she said, "no, Johnny, I can't have a baby. I died over a month
ago. I'm sorry you found out."

John Davis Drumstetter turned on Scientist William Manning Norcross.
"You've done no new work because you have no capacity for it. Correct?
Answer, pseudo-life, I command!"

Norcross lifted a calm face. "Why, yes," he said, "I'm pseudo-life.
Have been for over two years. But don't you worry, Johnny, it's better
this way and only natural that--"

John Davis Drumstetter paid no attention. He spoke as if explaining
to himself. "You see, they're pseudo-life, dancing to the very end of
the masquerade ball that started so long ago. It began when measurable
science, the science of finity, made a finite man, a man _nearly_
as good. It was the mental climate of an age that wanted its books
digested, and then abandoned reading for television. They froze
food and precooked it and said it was even better than garden fresh
vegetables.

"Do it the easy way, they said, never knowing that the hard way is the
only way in the last analysis. Why try to cure a neurotic when you can
make a pseudo-life of him? Don't let his grieving friends and relations
suffer; provide them with a pseudo-life. He's just the same, they said,
and he's not sick. And should a man die? Oh, no! Make a pseudo-life for
his wife and children."

"But, Johnny--"

"Be still, pseudo-life! Why bother with men who were beginning to
understand the human mind, when you can create pseudo-life? The cheap
drives out the good every time. Oh, with the kindliest intentions, with
the softest sympathies! Hide. Conceal. The truth be damned!"

"But, Johnny darling--" began Monica Drake Lane.

"Be still, pseudo-life. There's one more thing, the final capstone to
mankind's pyramid of folly." He got Prime Center on the communication.
"Answer, pseudo-life, I command. Am I the last human being on Earth?"

"Since you put it that way," said Prime Center reluctantly, "you are."

"And in the Solar System?"

"I'm afraid so."

The communication dropped from John Davis Drumstetter's hand.

"This is the logical conclusion," he said slowly. "The actors are
playing on a stage of worlds for an audience of one. At the solar
observatory on Mercury, astronomers study the Sun and send in their
reports, in case I should glance at them. In the mines of Pluto, miners
dig ore to provide a market quotation I might see in the telepapers."

He kicked the communication across the floor.

"Get out," he told them with infinite weariness. "The last human being
commands."

       *       *       *       *       *

He slept for a day and had breakfast in _full public view_ under a
tree. Peeping Toms of both sexes watched him.

Prime Center appeared in person just as he finished mopping up the last
of his once-over-lightly egg. Prime Center coughed and blushed and
looked away, and John Davis Drumstetter laughed aloud, humorlessly.

"Good morning," he said cheerfully.

"Hm, yes," said Prime Center.

"Sit down. Have an egg?" A wicked light appeared in his eyes, and he
went on in a low, sinister voice, "A coddled egg, soft and white and
runny? Maybe you want to gulp some coffee? Or snap your way through
a piece of crackling toast? No?" His guest was turning pale and
sick-looking. "Well, let me finish this bacon, and state your business."

He threw back his head and slipped the bacon into his mouth. Prime
Center shuddered.

"Scientist Drumstetter," he said, keeping his gaze fixed on the trunk
of the tree, "I have come to offer you all the worlds. Yes, the whole
Solar System, including the asteroids and Pluto. You will be more
powerful than Alexander or Caesar or Stalin or O'Toole. We will create
a new office--Prime _Squared_ Center--to rule the Solar System. Do you
mind not doing that?"

John Davis Drumstetter was licking his fingers thoughtfully. He nodded.

"Then you accept?"

"No, I'm through licking my fingers. I'll give you your answer on a
systemwide communication. Arrange it, pseudo-life, immediately."

As a concession to morality, John Davis Drumstetter agreed to step
into a molecular cleanup booth. When he came out again, he spoke to the
worlds and all the ships in space:

"My friends, from now on the blind will lead the blind. Moral obliquity
has triumphed and becomes common morality." He laughed and rubbed his
nose. "I'm sorry. I was speaking to an audience of one--myself. What
I want you billions to do is to continue your work, to maintain the
system as it now stands. Pseudo-life will be replaced with pseudo-life
till the end of time. It will be a static world. It will be a
nearly-as-good world. It will be a pleasant world by your standards.
I wish you to do this, and you must, of course, obey my command. My
purpose reaches a little beyond your natural inclination; this system
will serve as a fertile warning to any beings with intelligence who may
come after me.

"I will not be with you long, myself--"

"Suicide?" asked Prime Center hopefully.

"Alpha Centauri," said John Davis Drumstetter with a chuckle. "The
colonists left because they didn't like pseudo-life, either. Good-by to
you all."

He snapped off the communication, waved to the little group under
the tree, and entered the _Last Hope_. The entry port swung closed.
The force field glowed, and then the ship was gone, leaving behind a
whirlwind of dust.

"Alpha Centauri?" asked Monica Drake Lane.

"Following the others of his wild, unstable breed," said Scientist
Norcross.

"Easy come, easy go," the girl said, shrugging.

Prime Center had the last word. "Yes, and good riddance. Human beings
have always been a nuisance."





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