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   Copyright (C)  by Philip Dick
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     PAYCHECK

     ALL AT ONCE he was in motion. Around him smooth jets hummed. He was  on
a small  private rocket  cruiser, moving leisurely across the afternoon sky,
between cities.
     "Ugh!" he said, sitting up in his seat and rubbing his head. Beside him
Earl Rethrick was staring keenly at him, his eyes bright.
     "Coming around?"
     "Where are we?" Jennings shook his head, trying to clear the dull ache.
"Or maybe I should ask that a different way." Already, he could see  that it
was not late fall. It was spring.  Below the cruiser the fields  were green.
The last thing  he remembered was  stepping into an  elevator with Rethrick.
And it was late fall. And in New York.
     "Yes," Rethrick said.  "It's almost two years  later. You'll find a lot
of  things  have  changed. The Government  fell  a few  months ago.  The new
Government is even stronger. The  SP, Security Police, have almost unlimited
power. They're  teaching the schoolchildren to inform,  now. But  we all saw
that coming. Let's see, what else? New York is  larger. I understand they've
finished filling in San Francisco Bay."
     "What  I  want to know  is what the hell I've been  doing the last  two
years!" Jennings lit a cigarette nervously,  pressing the  strike end. "Will
you tell me that?"
     "No. Of course I won't tell you that."
     "Where are we going?"
     "Back  to the New  York Office. Where you first met me.  Remember?  You
probably remember it better than I. After all, it was just  a day  or so ago
for you."
     Jennings nodded. Two years! Two years out of his life, gone forever. It
didn't  seem  possible.  He had still  been considering,  debating, when  he
stepped into the  elevator.  Should  he  change  his  mind? Even  if he were
getting  that  much  money --  and it was  a lot, even for him  -- it didn't
really  seem worth it. He would always  wonder what work he had  been doing.
Was  it legal?  Was it -- But  that was past speculation, now. Even while he
was trying to make  up his mind  the curtain had  fallen. He looked ruefully
out the  window at the afternoon sky. Below,  the earth was moist and alive.
Spring, spring  two years later. And what did he  have  to show for the  two
years?
     "Have I  been paid?" he asked.  He  slipped his wallet  out and glanced
into it. "Apparently not."
     "No. You'll be paid at the Office. Kelly will pay you."
     "The whole works at once?"
     "Fifty thousand credits."
     Jennings  smiled. He felt  a little better, now that  the sum had  been
spoken aloud. Maybe it wasn't so bad,  after all. Almost like being paid  to
sleep. But  he was two years older; he  had just  that much less to live. It
was  like  selling part  of  himself, part of his life. And life  was  worth
plenty, these days. He shrugged. Anyhow, it was in the past.
     "We're  almost there," the older man  said. The robot pilot dropped the
cruiser down, sinking toward  the ground.  The  edge of New York City became
visible below them. "Well, Jennings, I may never see you again." He held out
his hand. "It's been a pleasure working with you. We did  work together, you
know. Side by side. You're one of the best mechanics I've ever seen. We were
right in hiring  you, even at that salary.  You  paid us back  many times --
although you don't realize it."
     "I'm glad you got your money's worth."
     "You sound angry."
     "No. I'm just trying to get used to the idea of being two years older."
     Rethrick laughed.  "You're still a  very  young man.  And  you'll  feel
better when she gives you your pay."
     They stepped  out onto  the  tiny rooftop  field of the New York office
building.  Rethrick led  him over  to  an elevator. As the doors  slid  shut
Jennings  got  a mental  shock. This was the last  thing he remembered, this
elevator. After that he had blacked out.
     "Kelly will be glad to see you," Rethrick said, as they came out into a
lighted hall. "She asks about you, once in a while."
     "Why?"
     "She says you're good-looking." Rethrick  pushed a code  key against  a
door.  The door responded, swinging wide. They  entered the luxurious office
of Rethrick  Construction.  Behind a long  mahogany desk a  young woman  was
sitting, studying a report.
     "Kelly," Rethrick said, "look whose time finally expired."
     The girl looked up, smiling. "Hello, Mr. Jennings. How  does it feel to
be back in the world?"
     "Fine."  Jennings  walked  over  to  her.  "Rethrick  says  you're  the
paymaster."
     Rethrick  clapped Jennings on the  back. "So long,  my friend.  I'll go
back to  the plant.  If you ever need a lot of money in a hurry come  around
and we'll work out another contract with you."
     Jennings nodded. As Rethrick went back out he sat down beside the desk,
crossing  his legs.  Kelly slid a  drawer open, moving her chair back.  "All
right. Your  time  is up, so Rethrick Construction is  ready  to pay. Do you
have your copy of the contract?"
     Jennings took an  envelope from  his pocket and tossed  it on the desk.
"There it is."
     Kelly removed a small  cloth  sack and some sheets of handwritten paper
from the desk drawer. For a time  she read  over the sheets, her  small face
intent.
     "What is it?"
     "I think you're going  to be surprised." Kelly handed  him his contract
back. "Read that over again."
     "Why?" Jennings unfastened the envelope.
     "There's an  alternate  clause.  'If the party  of the second  part  so
desires, at any time  during his time  of contract to the aforesaid Rethrick
Construction Company --' "
     "  'If  he  so desires, instead of the  monetary sum specified, he  may
choose instead,  according  to his own wish,  articles or products which, in
his own opinion, are of sufficient value to stand in lieu of the sum --' "
     Jennings snatched up  the cloth  sack, pulling  it open.  He poured the
contents into his palm. Kelly watched.
     "Where's Rethrick?" Jennings stood up. "If he has an idea that this --"
     "Rethrick has nothing  to do with it. It was your  own  request.  Here,
look at this." Kelly passed him the sheets of paper. "In your own hand. Read
them.  It was  your  idea, not ours. Honest."  She  smiled  up at him. "This
happens every once in a while with people  we take on contract. During their
time they decide to take something else instead of money. Why, I don't know.
But they come out with their minds clean, having agreed --"
     Jennings scanned the pages. It was his own  writing. There was no doubt
of it. His  hands shook. "I can't believe it. Even if it is my own writing."
He folded up the paper, his jaw set. "Something was done to me  while I  was
back there. I never would have agreed to this."
     "You  must have had  a reason. I  admit it doesn't make  sense. But you
don't  know what  factors  might  have persuaded you,  before your  mind was
cleaned. You aren't the first. There have been several others before you."
     Jennings stared down at  what he held in his palm. From  the cloth sack
he had spilled a little assortment  of  items. A code  key. A ticket stub. A
parcel receipt.  A length  of  fine wire. Haifa poker chip, broken across. A
green strip of cloth. A bus token.
     "This, instead of fifty  thousand credits," he murmured.  "Two years. .
."

     He went  out of the building, onto the  busy  afternoon street.  He was
still dazed, dazed and confused. Had he been swindled? He felt in his pocket
for the little  trinkets, the wire, the ticket stub, all the rest. That, for
two years  of  work! But he had seen his own  handwriting,  the statement of
waiver, the  request for the substitution. Like Jack and the Beanstalk. Why?
What for? What had made him do it?
     He turned, starting down the  sidewalk. At the corner he stopped  for a
surface cruiser that was turning.
     "All right, Jennings. Get in."
     His head jerked  up.  The  door  of the  cruiser  was open.  A man  was
kneeling, pointing a  heat-rifle straight at his  face. A man in blue-green.
The Security Police.
     Jennings got in.  The door closed, magnetic  locks slipping into  place
behind him. Like a vault. The cruiser glided off down  the  street. Jennings
sank back against the seat. Beside  him the  SP man lowered his gun. On  the
other  side a second officer ran his hands  expertly over him, searching for
weapons.  He  brought out Jenning's wallet and the  handful of trinkets. The
envelope and contract.
     "What does he have?" the driver said.
     "Wallet, money.  Contract with Rethrick Construction.  No weapons."  He
gave Jennings back his things.
     "What's this all about?" Jennings said.
     "We want to ask  you a few questions. That's  all. You've been  working
for Rethrick?"
     "Yes."
     "Two years?"
     "Almost two years."
     "At the Plant?"
     Jennings nodded. "I suppose so."
     The  officer  leaned  toward  him. "Where is that  Plant, Mr. Jennings.
Where is it located?"
     "I don't know."
     The  two  officers looked at each other.  The first one  moistened  his
lips,  his face  sharp and alert. "You  don't know?  The next question.  The
last. In those two years, what kind of work did you do? What was your job?"
     "Mechanic. I repaired electronic machinery."
     "What kind of electronic machinery?"
     "I  don't know." Jennings looked up at him. He could  not help smiling,
his lips twisting ironically. "I'm sorry, but I don't know. It's the truth."
     There was silence.
     "What do you mean, you don't know? You mean you worked on machinery for
two years without knowing what it was? Without even knowing where you were?"
     Jennings  roused himself. "What is all this? What  did you pick  me  up
for? I haven't done anything. I've been --"
     "We know. We're not arresting you.  We only want to get information for
our records. About Rethrick  Construction.  You've been working for them, in
their Plant. In an important capacity. You're an electronic mechanic?"
     "Yes."
     "You repair high-quality  computers and  allied equipment?" The officer
consulted his notebook. "You're considered one  of the best in the  country,
according to this."
     Jennings said nothing.
     "Tell us  the two  things we  want to  know, and you'll be  released at
once.  Where  is Rethrick's  Plant? What kind of work are  they  doing?  You
serviced  their  machines for  them,  didn't you? Isn't  that right? For two
years."
     "I don't  know. I suppose so. I don't have any idea  what I did  during
the two years. You can believe  me or not." Jennings stared wearily down  at
the floor.
     "What'll we do?" the driver said finally. "We have no instructions past
this."
     "Take  him  to the station.  We can't  do  any  more questioning here."
Beyond the  cruiser,  men and women  hurried along the sidewalk. The streets
were choked with cruisers, workers going to their homes in the country.
     "Jennings, why don't you answer us? What's the matter with you? There's
no reason why you can't tell  us a couple  of simple things like that. Don't
you  want  to  cooperate  with  your  Government?  Why  should  you  conceal
information from us?"
     "I'd tell you if I knew."
     The officer grunted. No one spoke. Presently the cruiser drew up before
a  great  stone  building.  The driver  turned  the motor off, removing  the
control cap  and putting it in  his pocket. He touched the  door with a code
key, releasing the magnetic lock.
     "What shall we do, take him in? Actually, we don't --"
     "Wait." The  driver stepped out. The other  two went with him,  closing
and locking  the  doors behind them. They stood on  the pavement before  the
Security Station, talking.
     Jennings sat silently, staring down at the floor. The SP wanted to know
about Rethrick  Construction. Well,  there was nothing  he could tell  them.
They had  come  to the wrong person, but  how could he prove that? The whole
thing was impossible. Two years wiped clean from his mind. Who would believe
him? It seemed unbelievable to him, too.
     His mind wandered, back  to  when he had first read  the ad. It had hit
home, hit him  direct. Mechanic wanted, and a general outline of  the  work,
vague, indirect, but enough to tell  him that it  was right up his line. And
the pay!  Interviews  at the Office.  Tests,  forms.  And then  the  gradual
realization  that Rethrick Construction was finding all  about  him while he
knew  nothing about them. What  kind of work did  they do? Construction, but
what  kind? What sort of machines did they have?  Fifty thousand credits for
two years. . .
     And he  had  come out with  his mind washed clean. Two  years,  and  he
remembered nothing.  It  took him a  long time to agree to that part of  the
contract. But he had agreed.
     Jennings looked out the  window. The three officers  were still talking
on the  sidewalk, trying to decide what to do  with  him. He was in  a tough
spot. They wanted information he couldn't give, information  he didn't know.
But how could he prove it? How could  he prove that he had worked  two years
and come out knowing no more than when he had gone in! The SP would work him
over. It would be a long time before they'd believe him, and by that time --
     He glanced quickly around. Was there any escape? In a second they would
be back. He touched the door. Locked, the triple-ring magnetic locks. He had
worked on magnetic locks many  times. He had even designed part of a trigger
core. There was no way to open the doors without the right code key. No way,
unless by some chance he could short out the lock. But with what?
     He felt in his pockets. What could he use? If he could short the locks,
blow  them  out,  there  was a faint  chance.  Outside,  men and  women were
swarming by, on their way home from work. It was past five; the great office
buildings  were shutting down,  the  streets were alive  with traffic. If he
once got out they wouldn't dare fire. If he could get out.
     The  three  officers separated. One went up the steps into  the Station
building.  In a  second the others would  reenter the cruiser.  Jennings dug
into his pocket, bringing out  the code key, the ticket  stub, the wire. The
wire!  Thin  wire, thin as human  hair.  Was  it  insulated?  He  unwound it
quickly. No.
     He knelt  down,  running his fingers expertly across the surface of the
door. At the edge of the lock was a thin line, a groove between the lock and
the  door. He brought the end of  the wire up to  it, delicately maneuvering
the wire  into the almost invisible space. The wire disappeared  an  inch or
so. Sweat rolled down Jennings' forehead. He moved the wire a fraction of an
inch, twisting it. He held his breath. The relay should be --
     A flash.
     Half blinded, he threw his weight against the door. The door fell open,
the  lock fused and smoking. Jennings tumbled into the street  and leaped to
his feet. Cruisers were all around him, honking and sweeping past. He ducked
behind  a lumbering  truck, entering  the middle  lane  of  traffic.  On the
sidewalk he caught a momentary glimpse of the SP men starting after him.
     A bus came  along, swaying from side to side, loaded  with shoppers and
workers. Jennings caught hold of  the back rail, pulling himself up onto the
platform. Astonished faces loomed up, pale moons thrust suddenly at him. The
robot conductor was coming toward him, whirring angrily.
     "Sir --" the conductor began. The bus was slowing down. "Sir, it is not
allowed --"
     "It's all right,"  Jennings  said. He was  filled, all at  once, with a
strange elation. A moment ago he had been trapped,  with  no way  to escape.
Two years  of his  life had  been lost  for nothing. The Security Police had
arrested him, demanding information  he couldn't give. A hopeless situation!
But now things were beginning to click in his mind.
     He reached into his pocket and brought  out the  bus  token.  He put it
calmly into the conductor's coin slot.
     "Okay?" he said. Under his feet the bus wavered, the driver hesitating.
Then the bus resumed pace,  going on. The conductor  turned away, its whirrs
subsiding. Everything was all  right. Jennings  smiled. He  eased  past  the
standing people, looking for a  seat, some place to sit down. Where he could
think.
     He had plenty to think about. His mind was racing.
     The  bus moved on, flowing with the restless  stream of urban  traffic.
Jennings only half saw the people sitting around him. There was no doubt  of
it: he had not been swindled. It was on the level. The decision had actually
been his. Amazingly, after two years of work he had preferred  a  handful of
trinkets instead of fifty thousand  credits. But more amazingly, the handful
of trinkets were turning out to be worth more than the money.
     With a piece  of wire and a bus token he had escaped from  the Security
Police. That was worth plenty. Money would have been  useless to him once he
disappeared  inside the great stone  Station. Even  fifty  thousand  credits
wouldn't have helped him. And there  were five trinkets left. He felt around
in his pocket. Five more  things. He had used two. The others --  what  were
they for? Something as important?
     But  the big puzzle: how  had  he -- his earlier self  --  known that a
piece of wire and a bus token would save his life?" He had known, all right.
Known in  advance. But how? And the other five. Probably they were  just  as
precious, or would be.
     The he of those two years had  known  things that  he did not know now,
things that had been washed away when  the company cleaned his mind. Like an
adding machine which had  been cleared. Everything was slate-clean. What  he
had known was gone, now. Gone, except for seven trinkets, five of which were
still in his pocket.
     But the real problem right now was not a problem of speculation. It was
very concrete. The Security Police were looking for him. They  had  his name
and description. There was no use thinking  of going  to his apartment -- if
he even still had an apartment. But where,  then? Hotels? The SP combed them
daily. Friends? That would mean putting them in jeopardy, along with him. It
was only  a question of  time  before  the SP found him, walking  along  the
street, eating in a restaurant, in a  show, sleeping  in some rooming house.
The SP were everywhere.
     Everywhere?  Not quite.  When  an individual person was defenseless,  a
business  was not.  The  big economic  forces  had  managed  to remain free,
although virtually everything else had been absorbed by the Government. Laws
that had  been eased away from the private person still  protected  property
and industry. The  SP could  pick  up  any given  person, but they could not
enter and seize a company, a business. That had been clearly  established in
the middle of the twentieth century.
     Business,  industry, corporations,  were safe from the Security Police.
Due process was required. Rethrick Construction was a target of SP interest,
but they could  do nothing  until some statute was violated. If he could get
back to the Company, get inside its doors, he would be safe. Jennings smiled
grimly.  The modern church, sanctuary.  It  was  the  Government against the
corporation, rather than the State against the Church. The new Notre Dame of
the world. Where the law could not follow.
     Would  Rethrick take him back? Yes, on the  old  basis. He had  already
said so. Another two years sliced  from him, and then back onto the streets.
Would that  help  him?  He felt  suddenly in his pocket.  And there were the
remaining trinkets. Surely he had intended them to be used! No, he could not
go  back to Rethrick and  work another  contract  time.  Something  else was
indicated.   Something   more   permanent.   Jennings   pondered.   Rethrick
Construction.  What did it  construct? What had he known, found  out, during
those two years? And why were the SP so interested?
     He  brought out the five objects and studied them.  The green  strip of
cloth.  The code  key. The  ticket  stub. The parcel receipt. The half poker
chip. Strange, that little things like that could be important.
     And Rethrick Construction was involved.
     There was no doubt. The answer, all the  answers, lay  at Rethrick. But
where  was  Rethrick? He had no idea where the plant was, no idea at all. He
knew where the Office was, the big, luxurious room with the young woman  and
her  desk. But  that was not  Rethrick Construction. Did anyone know, beside
Rethrick? Kelly didn't know. Did the SP know?
     It was  out  of town. That was certain. He had gone there by rocket. It
was probably in  the  United  States, maybe  in the farmlands,  the country,
between cities. What a hell of a situation! Any moment the SP might pick him
up.  The next time he  might not  get  away.  His only chance,  his own real
chance for safety, lay in reaching Rethrick. And his only chance to find out
the things he had to know. The plant -- a place where he had been, but which
he could not recall. He looked down  at the five trinkets. Would any of them
help?
     A burst of  despair swept  through him. Maybe it was just  coincidence,
the wire and the token. Maybe --
     He examined  the parcel receipt, turning it  over and holding  it up to
the light. Suddenly his  stomach muscles knotted. His pulse  changed. He had
been right. No, it was not a coincidence, the wire and the token. The parcel
receipt was  dated two days hence. The parcel, whatever it might be, had not
even been deposited yet. Not for forty-eight more hours.
     He looked at the other things.  The ticket stub. What good was a ticket
stub? It was creased and bent,  folded over, again and again. He couldn't go
anyplace with that. A stub didn't take  you anywhere. It only told you where
you had been.
     Where you had been!
     He bent down, peering at it,  smoothing  the creases. The  printing had
been torn through the middle. Only part of each word could be made out.

     PORTOLA T
     STUARTSVI
     IOW

     He smiled. That was it. Where he had been. He could fill in the missing
letters. It was enough. There was no doubt: he had foreseen this, too. Three
of the seven trinkets used. Four left.  Stuartsville, Iowa. Was there such a
place? He looked out the window of the bus. The Intercity rocket station was
only a block or so away. He could be there in a second.  A quick sprint from
the bus, hoping the Police wouldn't be there to stop him --
     But somehow he  knew they wouldn't.  Not with the other four things  in
his  pocket. And once he was on the rocket he would be safe.  Intercity  was
big, big enough to keep free of the SP. Jennings put the remaining  trinkets
back into his pocket and stood up, pulling the bellcord.
     A moment later he stepped gingerly out onto the sidewalk.

     The rocket let him off at the edge of town, at a tiny  brown  field.  A
few disinterested porters  moved  about, stacking luggage,  resting from the
heat of the sun.
     Jennings crossed  the field to  the waiting  room,  studying the people
around him. Ordinary people,  workmen, businessmen, housewives. Stuartsville
was a small middle Western town. Truck drivers. High school kids.
     He  went through the waiting  room,  out onto the  street. So  this was
where  Rethrick's Plant  was  located  -- perhaps. If he had used  the  stub
correctly. Anyhow, something was here, or he wouldn't have included the stub
with the other trinkets.
     Stuartsville,  Iowa. A  faint plan was beginning to form in the back of
his mind, still vague  and nebulous. He began  to  walk,  his  hands  in his
pockets,  looking  around him. A  newspaper office, lunch counters,  hotels,
poolrooms,  a barber  shop, a television repair shop. A rocket  sales  store
with huge showrooms of  gleaming rockets. Family size. And at the end of the
block the Portola Theater.
     The town thinned out. Farms, fields. Miles of green country. In the sky
above a few transport rockets lumbered, carrying farm supplies and equipment
back  and  forth.  A  small,  unimportant  town.  Just  right  for  Rethrick
Construction.  The Plant would be lost  here, away from the city,  away from
the SP.
     Jennings walked back. He entered a lunchroom,  BOB'S PLACE. A young man
with glasses came  over  as he sat down at the counter, wiping his  hands on
his white apron.
     "Coffee," Jennings said.
     "Coffee." The man brought the cup. There  were only a few people in the
lunchroom. A couple of flies buzzed, against the window.
     Outside in the street shoppers and farmers moved leisurely by.
     "Say,"  Jennings  said, stirring his coffee. "Where can a man  get work
around here? Do you know?"
     "What  kind of  work?"  The young  man came back,  leaning against  the
counter.
     "Electrical wiring. I'm an electrician. Television, rockets, computers.
That sort of stuff."
     "Why don't  you  try the big industrial  areas? Detroit.  Chicago.  New
York."
     Jennings  shook his head.  "Can't stand  the big  cities. I never liked
cities."
     The young man  laughed. "A lot of people  here would be glad to work in
Detroit. You're an electrician?"
     "Are there any plants around here? Any repair shops or plants?"
     "None that I know of."  The young man went off to wait on some men that
had come in. Jennings  sipped his coffee.  Had he  made a mistake? Maybe  he
should go  back and  forget about Stuartsville, Iowa.  Maybe he had made the
wrong inference from the ticket stub. But the ticket meant something, unless
he  was completely  wrong about everything. It was  a  little late to decide
that, though.
     The young man came back.  "Is there any  kind of work  I can get here?"
Jennings said. "Just to tide me over."
     "There's always farm work."
     "How about the retail repair shops? Garages. TV."
     "There's  a  TV  repair  shop  down the  street. Maybe  you  might  get
something there. You  could  try.  Farm work pays good.  They can't get many
men, anymore. Most men in the military. You want to pitch hay?"
     Jennings laughed. He paid for his coffee. "Not very much. Thanks."
     "Once in  a while some of the men go up the road and work. There's some
sort of Government station."
     Jennings nodded. He pushed the  screen door open, stepping outside onto
the hot sidewalk. He walked  aimlessly  for a time, deep in thought, turning
his nebulous  plan  over  and over.  It  was a  good  plan; it  would  solve
everything, all  his problems at once. But right now it hinged on one thing:
finding Rethrick Construction. And he had only one clue, if  it really was a
clue. The ticket stub,  folded and creased, in his pocket.  And a faith that
he had known what he was doing.
     A Government station. Jennings  paused, looking around him.  Across the
street was a taxi stand, a couple of cabbies sitting in  their cabs, smoking
and reading the  newspaper. It was  worth a try, at least. There wasn't much
else to do. Rethrick would be something else, on the surface. If it posed as
a Government project  no one  would  ask  any questions.  They  were all too
accustomed to Government projects working without explanation, in secrecy.
     He  went over to the  first cab. "Mister," he said,  "can  you  tell me
something?"
     The cabbie looked up. "What do you want?"
     "They tell me there's work to be had, out at the Government station. Is
that right?"
     The cabbie studied him. He nodded.
     "What kind of work is it?"
     "I don't know."
     "Where do they do the hiring?"
     "I don't know." The cabbie lifted his paper.
     "Thanks." Jennings turned away.
     "They don't do any hiring. Maybe once in a long while. They don't  take
many on. You better go someplace else if you're looking for work."
     "All right."
     The  other  cabbie  leaned  out of his  cab.  "They use only a few  day
laborers, buddy. That's all. And  they're very choosy. They don't hardly let
anybody in. Some kind of war work."
     Jennings pricked up his ears. "Secret?"
     "They come into town and pick up  a load of construction workers. Maybe
a truck full. That's all. They're real careful who they pick."
     Jennings walked back toward the cabbie. "That right?"
     "It's a big place. Steel  wall.  Charged. Guards. Work going on day and
night. But nobody gets  in.  Set up on top of a hill, out the  old Henderson
Road. About two miles  and a half." The cabbie poked at  his shoulder.  "You
can't get in unless  you're  identified. They identify their laborers, after
they pick them out. You know."
     Jennings stared at  him. The cabbie was tracing a line on his shoulder.
Suddenly Jennings understood. A flood of relief rushed over him.
     "Sure," he said. "I understand what you mean. At least, I think so." He
reached  into  his  pocket, bringing out  the four trinkets.  Carefully,  he
unfolded the strip of green cloth, holding it up. "Like this?"
     The  cabbies stared  at the  cloth.  "That's right,"  one  of them said
slowly, staring at the cloth. "Where did you get it?"
     Jennings laughed. "A friend." He put the  cloth  back in his pocket. "A
friend gave it to me."
     He went off, toward the Intercity field. He had plenty to do, now  that
the first step was  over. Rethrick was  here, all right.  And apparently the
trinkets were going to see him through. One for every crisis. A pocketful of
miracles, from someone who knew the future!
     But the next step couldn't be done alone. He needed help. Somebody else
was  needed for this  part.  But who?  He pondered, entering  the  Intercity
waiting  room.  There was  only one person he could possibly go to. It was a
long chance, but he had to take it. He couldn't work alone, here on out.  If
the Rethrick plant was here then Kelly would be too. . .

     The street was dark. At the corner a lamppost cast a fitful beam. A few
cruisers moved by.
     From the apartment  building entrance a slim shape  came, a young woman
in a coat, a  purse in her  hand. Jennings watched  as she  passed under the
streetlamp. Kelly  McVane was  going someplace, probably to a party. Smartly
dressed, high heels tap-tapping on the pavement, a little coat and hat.
     He stepped out behind her. "Kelly."
     She turned quickly, her mouth open. "Oh!"
     Jennings took her arm. "Don't worry. It's just me. Where are you going,
all dressed up?"
     "No place." She blinked. "My golly, you scared me. What is  it?  What's
going on?"
     "Nothing. Can you spare a few minutes? I want to talk to you."
     Kelly nodded. "I guess so." She looked around. "Where'll we go?"
     "Where's a place we can talk? I don't want anyone to overhear us."
     "Can't we just walk along?"
     "No. The Police."
     "The Police?"
     "They're looking for me."
     "For you? But why?"
     "Let's not stand here," Jennings said grimly. "Where can we go?"
     Kelly hesitated. "We can go up to my apartment. No one's there."
     They  went up  to the elevator. Kelly  unlocked the door, pressing  the
code key against  it. The door swung open and they went  inside,  the heater
and lights coming on automatically at her step. She closed the door and took
off her coat.
     "I won't stay long." Jennings said.
     "That's  all right. I'll fix you  a drink." She went into  the kitchen.
Jennings sat down on the couch, looking around at the neat little apartment.
Presently the girl came back.  She sat down beside him and Jennings took his
drink. Scotch and water, cold.
     "Thanks."
     Kelly smiled. "Not  at all."  The two of them  sat silently for a time.
"Well?" she said at last. "What's this all about? Why are the Police looking
for you?"
     "They want to find out about Rethrick Construction. I'm  only a pawn in
this. They think  I know something because I  worked two years at Rethrick's
Plant."
     "But you don't!"
     "I can't prove that."
     Kelly reached out, touching Jennings' head, just above  the ear.  "Feel
there. That spot."
     Jennings  reached up. Above his ear,  under  the hair,  was a tiny hard
spot. "What is it?"
     "They burned through the  skull there. Cut a tiny wedge from the brain.
All your memories of  the two years. They located  them and burned them out.
The SP couldn't possibly make you remember. It's gone. You don't have it."
     "By the time they realize that there won't be much left of me."
     Kelly said nothing.
     "You  can  see  the spot I'm  in.  It would be better for  me if I  did
remember. Then I could tell them and they'd --"
     "And destroy Rethrick!"
     Jennings shrugged. "Why not? Rethrick means nothing to me. I don't even
know what they're doing. And why are the Police so interested? From the very
start, all the secrecy, cleaning my mind --"
     "There's reason. Good reason."
     "Do you know why?"
     "No." Kelly shook  her head. "But I'm sure there's a reason. If the  SP
are interested, there's reason." She set down her drink, turning toward him.
"I  hate the Police. We  all do, every one of us. They're after us  all  the
time.  I don't know anything  about  Rethrick. If I did my life wouldn't  be
safe. There's not much  standing  between Rethrick  and them. A  few laws, a
handful of laws. Nothing more."
     "I  have  the feeling Rethrick  is a great deal more than  just another
construction company the SP wants to control."
     "I suppose  it is. I  really  don't know. I'm just a receptionist. I've
never been to the Plant. I don't even know where it is."
     "But you wouldn't want anything to happen to it."
     "Of course not! They're fighting the Police. Anyone that's fighting the
Police is on our side."
     "Really?  I've  heard  that  kind  of  logic  before.  Anyone  fighting
communism  was automatically  good, a few decades ago. Well, time will tell.
As  far as  I'm  concerned  I'm an individual  caught  between two  ruthless
forces. Government and business. The Government has men and wealth. Rethrick
Construction has its technocracy. What they've done with it, I don't know. I
did, a few weeks ago. All I have now is a faint glimmer, a few references. A
theory."
     Kelly glanced at him. "A theory?"
     "And  my  pocketful of trinkets.  Seven. Three  or four now. I've  used
some. They're the basis of my theory. If Rethrick is doing what I think it's
doing,  I  can  understand the  SP's  interest.  As  a matter  of fact,  I'm
beginning to share their interest."
     "What is Rethrick doing?"
     "It's developed a time scoop."
     "What?"
     "A  time scoop. It's been theoretically possible for several years. But
it's  illegal to experiment with time scoops and mirrors. It's a felony, and
if you're caught, all your equipment  and data becomes the  property of  the
Government."   Jennings  smiled  crookedly.  "No  wonder   the  Government's
interested. If they can catch Rethrick with the goods --"
     "A time scoop. It's hard to believe."
     "Don't you think I'm right?"
     "I don't know. Perhaps. Your trinkets. You're not the first to come out
with a little cloth sack of odds and ends. You've used some? How?"
     "First, the  wire and the bus token. Getting  away from the  Police. It
seems funny, but if I hadn't had them, I'd be there yet. A piece of wire and
a ten-cent token. But I don't usually carry such things. That's the point."
     "Time travel."
     "No.  Not time  travel.  Berkowsky  demonstrated that  time  travel  is
impossible. This  is  a  time scoop, a mirror to see and a  scoop to pick up
things. These trinkets. At least one of them is from the future. Scooped up.
Brought back."
     "How do you know?"
     "It's  dated.  The others, perhaps not.  Things like  tokens  and  wire
belong to classes of things. Any one token is as good  as another. There, he
must have used a mirror."
     "He?"
     "When  I was  working with Rethrick. I  must have  used the  mirror.  I
looked into my own future. If I was repairing their equipment I could hardly
keep from it! I must have looked ahead, seen what was coming. The SP picking
me up. I must have seen  that, and seen what a piece of thin  wire and a bus
token would do -- if I had them with me at the exact moment."
     Kelly considered. "Well? What do you want me for?"
     "I'm  not sure,  now. Do you  really look on Rethrick  as a  benevolent
institution, waging war against the Police? A sort of Roland at Roncesvalles
--"
     "What does it matter how I feel about the Company?"
     "It matters  a  lot."  Jennings finished his drink,  pushing the  glass
aside. "It  matters  a  lot, because I want  you  to help me.  I'm  going to
blackmail Rethrick Construction."
     Kelly stared at him.
     "It's  my one chance  to  stay  alive, I've  got  to  get a  hold  over
Rethrick,  a  big hold.  Enough of  a hold so  they'll let me in, on  my own
terms. There's no other place I can go. Sooner or later the Police are going
to pick me up. If I'm not inside the Plant, and soon --"
     "Help you blackmail the Company? Destroy Rethrick?"
     "No. Not destroy. I don't want to destroy it  -- my life depends on the
Company. My life depends on Rethrick being strong enough to defy the SP. But
if I'm on the outside it doesn't much matter how strong  Rethrick is. Do you
see? I want to get in. I want to get inside before it's too late. And I want
in on my own terms,  not  as a  two-year worker who  gets  pushed out  again
afterward."
     "For the Police to pick up."
     Jennings nodded. "Exactly."
     "How are you going to blackmail the Company?"
     "I'm going  to enter the  Plant and carry out enough  material to prove
Rethrick is operating a time scoop."
     Kelly laughed. "Enter the  Plant?  Let's see you find the Plant. The SP
have been looking for it for years."
     "I've already  found it."  Jennings leaned back, lighting a  cigarette.
"I've located it with  my trinkets. And I have four  left,  enough to get me
inside, I think. And to get me what I want. I'll be able to carry out enough
papers and photographs to hang  Rethrick. But I don't want to hang Rethrick.
I only want to bargain. That's where you come in."
     "I?"
     "You can be  trusted not to go to the Police. I need someone I can turn
the material over to.  I  don't dare keep it myself. As soon  as I have it I
must turn it over to  someone else,  someone who'll hide it where I won't be
able to find it."
     "Why?"
     "Because," Jennings  said calmly, "any minute  the SP may pick me up. I
have no love for Rethrick, but I don't want to scuttle it. That's why you've
got to help  me. I'm  going to turn  the information  over to  you, to hold,
while I bargain with Rethrick. Otherwise I'll have to hold it myself. And if
I have it on me --"
     He glanced at her. Kelly was staring at the floor, her face tense. Set.
     "Well? What  do  you say? Will you help me, or  shall I take the chance
the SP won't pick me  up with the material? Data enough to destroy Rethrick.
Well? Which will it be? Do you  want to see  Rethrick destroyed? What's your
answer?"

     The two of them crouched, looking across the fields at the hill beyond.
The hill rose up, naked and  brown, burned clean of vegetation. Nothing grew
on its sides.  Halfway up  a long steel fence  twisted,  topped with charged
barbed wire.  On  the  other  side  a  guard walked  slowly,  a tiny  figure
patrolling with a rifle and helmet.
     At  the  top of the  hill lay an  enormous  concrete block,  a towering
structure  without windows or doors. Mounted guns  caught the  early morning
sunlight, glinting in a row along the roof of the building.
     "So that's the Plant," Kelly said softly.
     "That's it. It  would  take an army to  get up there,  up that hill and
over  the  fence. Unless they were allowed  in."  Jennings got to his  feet,
helping Kelly  up.  They walked back along  the  path, through the trees, to
where Kelly had parked the cruiser.
     "Do  you  really think your  green cloth band will  get  you in?" Kelly
said, sliding behind the wheel.
     "According  to the people in the  town, a truckload of laborers will be
brought in to the Plant sometime this  morning. The truck is unloaded at the
entrance  and the men examined. If everything's in order they're let  inside
the grounds, past the fence. For construction work, manual labor. At the end
of the day they're let out again and driven back to town."
     "Will that get you close enough?"
     "I'll be on the other side of the fence, at least."
     "How will you get to the time  scoop? That must be inside the building,
some place."
     Jennings brought out a small code key.  "This will get me in. I hope. I
assume it will."
     Kelly took the key, examining it. "So  that's one of your trinkets.  We
should have taken a better look inside your little cloth bag."
     "We?"
     "The Company. I saw several little bags of  trinkets pass  out, through
my hands. Rethrick never said anything."
     "Probably the Company assumed no one would ever want to get back inside
again." Jennings took the code key from her.  "Now,  do you know what you're
supposed to do?"
     "I'm supposed to stay here with the cruiser until you get  back. You're
to give me the material. Then I'm to carry it back  to New York and wait for
you to contact me."
     "That's right." Jennings studied the distant  road, leading through the
trees  to the Plant gate. "I better get down  there.  The truck may be along
any time."
     "What if they decide to count the number of workers?"
     "I'll have to take the chance. But I'm not worried. I'm sure he foresaw
everything."
     Kelly smiled. "You and your friend, your helpful friend. I hope he left
you enough things to get you out again, after you have the photographs."
     "Do you?"
     "Why not?" Kelly said easily.  "I always liked you.  You know that. You
knew when you came to me."
     Jennings stepped out of  the cruiser. He had on overalls and workshoes,
and a gray sweatshirt. "I'll see you later. If everything goes  all right. I
think  it will."  He patted  his pocket. "With my charms  here, my good-luck
charms."
     He went off through the trees, walking swiftly.
     The trees  led to the very  edge of the road. He  stayed with them, not
coming out into the  open.  The  Plant guards  were  certainly  scanning the
hillside. They had burned it clean, so that anyone trying to creep up to the
fence would be spotted at once. And he had seen infrared searchlights.
     Jennings crouched low, resting against his heels, watching the road.  A
few yards up the  road was a roadblock,  just ahead of the gate. He examined
his watch. Ten thirty. He might have a wait, a long wait. He tried to relax.
     It  was after eleven when  the great truck came down the road, rumbling
and wheezing.
     Jennings  came  to life. He  took out  the strip  of  green  cloth  and
fastened  it around his  arm. The truck came  closer.  He could see its load
now. The back was full of workmen, men  in jeans and workshirts, bounced and
jolted as the truck moved along. Sure enough, each had an  arm band like his
own, a swathe of green around his upper arm. So far so good.
     The truck came slowly to a halt, stopping at the roadblock. The men got
down  slowly  onto  the road, sending up a cloud of dust into the hot midday
sun.  They  slapped  the  dust  from  their  jeans, some  of  them  lighting
cigarettes.  Two  guards came leisurely from behind the roadblock.  Jennings
tensed.  In a  moment it  would  be  time. The guards moved among  the  men,
examining them, their arm  bands, their faces, looking at the identification
tabs of a few.
     The roadblock slid back. The  gate opened. The guards returned to their
positions.
     Jennings slid forward, slithering through  the brush, toward  the road.
The men were stamping out their cigarettes, climbing back up into the truck.
The truck was gunning  its motor, the driver releasing the brakes.  Jennings
dropped  onto  the  road, behind  the  truck. A rattle  of leaves  and  dirt
showered after him.  Where he had landed, the view of the guards was cut off
by the truck. Jennings held his breath. He ran toward the back of the truck.
     The men stared at him curiously as he pulled himself up among them, his
chest rising and falling. Their faces were weathered, gray and lined. Men of
the  soil.  Jennings took his place between two burly farmers  as the  truck
started up.  They  did not  seem to  notice him. He had rubbed dirt into his
skin, and let his beard grow for a day. A  quick glance he  didn't look much
different from the others. But if anyone made a count --
     The truck passed through the gate, into the grounds. The gate slid shut
behind.  Now they  were going up, up the steep side of the  hill, the  truck
rattling and swaying from side  to side.  The vast concrete structure loomed
nearer. Were  they going to enter  it?  Jennings watched, fascinated. A thin
high door was sliding back, revealing a  dark interior. A row  of artificial
lights gleamed.
     The truck stopped. The workmen began  to get down again. Some mechanics
came around them.
     "What's this crew for?" one of them asked.
     "Digging. Inside." Another jerked a thumb. "They're digging again. Send
them inside."
     Jennings's heart  thudded. He was going inside!  He  felt at his  neck.
There,  inside the gray sweater, a  flatplate camera hung like  a bib around
his neck. He  could scarcely feel it, even knowing  it was there. Maybe this
would be less difficult than he had thought.
     The  workmen pushed through the door on foot, Jennings with  them. They
were  in  an immense workroom, long  benches  with half-completed machinery,
booms and cranes, and the constant roar of work. The door closed after them,
cutting them off from outside. He was  in the Plant. But where was  the time
scoop, and the mirror?
     "This way," a foreman  said.  The workmen plodded  over to the right. A
freight  lift  rose to meet  them from  the  bowels of the building. "You're
going down below. How many of you have experience with drills?"
     A few hands went up.
     "You  can show the others. We are moving  earth with drills and eaters.
Any of you work eaters?"
     No  hands. Jennings glanced at the worktables. Had he  worked here, not
so long ago? A sudden chill went through  him.  Suppose  he were recognized?
Maybe he had worked with these very mechanics.
     "Come on," the foreman said impatiently. "Hurry up."
     Jennings got into the freight lift with the others. A moment later they
began to descend, down the black tube. Down, down, into  the lower levels of
the Plant. Rethrick  Construction was big, a lot bigger than it looked above
ground.  A lot  bigger  than he  had  imagined.  Floors, underground levels,
flashing past one after the other.
     The  elevator stopped.  The doors  opened.  He  was looking down a long
corridor. The floor was  thick with stone dust.  The air  was moist.  Around
him, the  workmen began  to crowd out. Suddenly  Jennings stiffened, pulling
back.
     At  the end of  the corridor before a  steel  door, was Earl  Rethrick.
Talking to a group of technicians.
     "All out," the foreman said. "Let's go."
     Jennings left the elevator, keeping behind  the  others.  Rethrick! His
heart  beat  dully.  If  Rethrick saw him he  was  finished.  He felt in his
pockets. He had a miniature Boris gun, but it wouldn't be much use if he was
discovered. Once Rethrick saw him it would be all over.
     "Down this  way."  The foreman led them toward  what  seemed  to  be an
underground railway, to one side  of the corridor. The men were getting into
metal cars along  a track.  Jennings  watched  Rethrick. He saw  him gesture
angrily, his voice  coming faintly down the hall. Suddenly Rethrick  turned.
He held up his hand and the great steel door behind him opened.
     Jennings's heart almost stopped beating.
     There, beyond  the steel door, was the time scoop.  He recognized it at
once. The mirror.  The long  metal rods, ending in  claws. Like  Berkowsky's
theoretical model -- only this was real.
     Rethrick went into the  room, the technicians following behind him. Men
were  working at the scoop, standing all  around it. Part of the shield  was
off. They were digging into the works. Jennings stared, hanging back.
     "Say you --"  the foreman said, coming toward him. The steel door shut.
The view was cut off. Rethrick, the scoop, the technicians, were gone.
     "Sorry," Jennings murmured.
     "You know you're not supposed  to be curious around here."  The foreman
was studying him intently. "I don't remember you. Let me see your tab."
     "My tab?"
     "Your identification tab." The foreman turned away. "Bill, bring me the
board."  He looked Jennings up and down. "I'm going to  check  you  from the
board, mister. I've never seen you in the crew before. Stay here." A man was
coming from a side door with a check board in his hands.
     It was now or never.
     Jennings sprinted,  down the  corridor,  toward the  great steel  door.
Behind there was a startled shout,  the  foreman  and  his helper.  Jennings
whipped out  the  code key, praying  fervently as he ran. He came up  to the
door, holding out the key. With the other hand he brought out the Boris gun.
Beyond  the door  was  the time scoop.  A few photographs,  some  schematics
snatched up, and then, if he could get out --
     The door did not move. Sweat leaped out on his face. He knocked the key
against the door. Why didn't  it  open? Surely -- He began  to  shake, panic
rising up in  him. Down the  corridor people were coming, racing after  him.
Open --
     But the door  did not open. The key he held in  his hand was the  wrong
key.
     He was defeated. The door and the key did not match. Either he had been
wrong, or the key was to be used someplace else.  But where? Jennings looked
frantically around. Where? Where could he go?
     To one  side a door was half open, a regular bolt-lock door. He crossed
the  corridor,  pushing  it open. He  was  in a storeroom of some  sort.  He
slammed the door, throwing the bolt.  He could hear them  outside, confused,
calling for  guards.  Soon  armed  guards would  be along. Jennings held the
Boris gun tightly,  gazing around. Was he trapped?  Was there  a  second way
out?
     He ran through the room, pushing among bales and boxes, towering stacks
of silent cartons, end on end. At the rear was an emergency hatch. He opened
it immediately. An impulse came to throw the code key away. What good had it
been?  But surely he had  known what he was doing. He  had already  seen all
this. Like God, it had already happened for him. Predetermined. He could not
err. Or could he?
     A chill went through him. Maybe the future was variable. Maybe this had
been the right key, once. But not any more!
     There were sounds behind  him.  They were melting  the storeroom  door.
Jennings scrambled through the emergency hatch, into a low concrete passage,
damp  and ill lit. He ran quickly along it, turning  corners. It  was like a
sewer. Other passages ran into it, from all sides.
     He  stopped. Which way? Where could he  hide? The mouth of a major vent
pipe gaped above his head. He  caught hold and pulled himself up. Grimly, he
eased his body  onto  it. They'd  ignore a  pipe,  go  on  past. He  crawled
cautiously down the pipe. Warm  air blew into his face. Why such a big vent?
It implied an unusual chamber at the other end. He came to a metal grill and
stopped.
     And gasped.
     He was looking into the great room, the room he had glimpsed beyond the
steel door. Only now he was at the other end. There was  the time scoop. And
far down, beyond the scoop, was Rethrick, conferring at an active vidscreen.
An alarm was sounding, whining shrilly, echoing everywhere. Technicians were
running in all directions. Guards in uniform poured in and out of doors.
     The scoop. Jennings  examined  the grill. It was  slotted  in place. He
moved it laterally and it  fell into his hands. No one was watching. He slid
cautiously  out, into the room, the Boris gun ready.  He  was  fairly hidden
behind the  scoop, and  the technicians and guards  were all the way down at
the other end of the room, where he had first seen them.
     And there  it was, all around him, the schematics,  the mirror, papers,
data,  blueprints. He flicked his camera on. Against  his chest  the  camera
vibrated, film  moving through  it. He snatched  up a handful of schematics.
Perhaps he had used these very diagrams, a few weeks before!
     He stuffed his pockets with papers. The film came to an end. But he was
finished. He squeezed back into the vent, pushing through the mouth and down
the tube. The sewerlike corridor was still empty, but there was an insistent
drumming sound, the noise of voices and footsteps. So many passages  -- They
were looking for him in a maze of escape corridors.
     Jennings ran swiftly. He ran on and  on, without regard  to  direction,
trying to keep along the  main corridor. On all sides passages flocked  off,
one  after  another, countless  passages. He was dropping  down,  lower  and
lower. Running downhill.
     Suddenly he stopped, gasping. The sound behind him had  died away for a
moment. But there was a new sound, ahead. He went along slowly. The corridor
twisted, turning to the right. He advanced slowly, the Boris gun ready.
     Two  guards  were standing  a  little way  ahead, lounging  and talking
together.  Beyond them  was a heavy code door. And  behind  him the sound of
voices were coming again, growing louder. They had found the same passage he
had taken. They were on the way.
     Jennings stepped out, the Boris gun raised.  "Put up your hands. Let go
of your guns."
     The guards gawked at him. Kids,  boys with cropped blond hair and shiny
uniforms. They moved back, pale and scared.
     "The guns. Let them fall."
     The two rifles clattered down. Jennings smiled. Boys. Probably this was
their first  encounter  with trouble.  Their  leather boots  shone, brightly
polished.
     "Open the door," Jennings said. "I want through."
     They stared at him. Behind, the noise grew.
     "Open  it." He became impatient. "Come on." He waved the pistol.  "Open
it, damn it! Do you want me to --"
     "We -- we can't."
     "What?"
     "We  can't. It's a code door. We don't have  the key.  Honest,  mister.
They don't let us  have the key." They were frightened. Jennings  felt  fear
himself now. Behind him the drumming was louder. He was trapped, caught.
     Or was he?
     Suddenly  he  laughed.  He walked quickly up to  the  door. "Faith," he
murmured, raising his hand. "That's something you should never lose."
     "What -- what's that?"
     "Faith in yourself. Self-confidence."
     The  door  slid  back  as he held the  code key  against  it.  Blinding
sunlight  streamed  in,  making  him blink. He held  the gun steady.  He was
outside, at the gate. Three guards  gaped in amazement at the gun. He was at
the gate -- and beyond lay the woods.
     "Get out of the way." Jennings fired at the metal bars of the gate. The
metal burst into flame, melting, a cloud of fire rising.
     "Stop him!" From behind, men came pouring, guards, out of the corridor.
     Jennings  leaped through  the  smoking gate.  The metal  tore  at  him,
searing  him. He ran through the  smoke, rolling and falling.  He got to his
feet and scurried on, into the trees.
     He was outside. He had not let him down. The key had worked, all right.
He had tried it first on the wrong door.
     On and on he ran, sobbing for breath, pushing through the trees. Behind
him the Plant and the voices fell away. He had the papers. And he was free.

     He found  Kelly and gave her the  film and everything he had managed to
stuff  into his pockets. Then he changed back  to his regular clothes. Kelly
drove him to the edge of Stuartsville and left him off. Jennings watched the
cruiser rise  up into  the air, heading toward  New York. Then he went  into
town and boarded the Intercity rocket.
     On the flight he slept, surrounded by dozing businessmen. When he awoke
the rocket was settling down, landing at the huge New York spaceport.
     Jennings got off, mixing with the flow of  people. Now that he was back
there  was the danger of being picked up  by  the  SP  again.  Two  security
officers  in their green uniforms watched him impassively  as he took a taxi
at the field station.  The taxi  swept him  into downtown traffic.  Jennings
wiped his brow. That was close. Now, to find Kelly.
     He ate dinner at a small restaurant, sitting in the  back away from the
windows. When he  emerged the sun was  beginning to  set.  He  walked slowly
along the sidewalk, deep in thought.
     So far so  good. He  had got the  papers and film, and he had got away.
The trinkets had worked every step along the way. Without them he would have
been helpless. He felt  in  his  pocket. Two left. The serrated  half  poker
chip, and the parcel receipt. He took the receipt out,  examining it in  the
fading evening light.
     Suddenly he noticed something. The  date on it was today's date. He had
caught up with the slip.
     He  put it away,  going on.  What  did it  mean?  What was  it  for? He
shrugged. He would know, in time. And the half poker chip. What the hell was
it for? No way to tell. In any case, he was  certain  to get through. He had
got him by, up to now. Surely there wasn't much left.
     He came to Kelly's apartment house  and stopped, looking up.  Her light
was  on.  She was  back;  her  fast  little cruiser had beaten the Intercity
rocket. He entered the elevator and rose to her floor.
     "Hello," he said, when she opened the door.
     "You're all right?"
     "Sure. Can I come in?"
     He went inside. Kelly closed the door behind him. "I'm glad to see you.
The city's swarming with SP men. Almost every block. And the patrols --"
     "I know.  I saw a couple at the  spaceport." Jennings  sat down  on the
couch. "It's good to be back, though."
     "I was  afraid they  might  stop  all the  Intercity flights  and check
through the passengers."
     "They have no reason to assume I'd be coming into the city."
     "I  didn't think of  that."  Kelly sat down across from him. "Now, what
comes next? Now that you have got away with the material, what are you going
to do?"
     "Next  I meet Rethrick  and spring the news on  him. The news that  the
person  who  escaped  from  the Plant was myself. He knows that  someone got
away, but he doesn't know who it was. Undoubtedly, he  assumes  it was an SP
man."
     "Couldn't he use the time mirror to find out?"
     A shadow crossed Jennings' face. "That's so. I  didn't think  of that."
He rubbed his jaw, frowning. "In any case, I have the material. Or, you have
the material."
     Kelly nodded.
     "All right. We'll go ahead with our plans. Tomorrow we'll see Rethrick.
We'll see him here, in New York. Can you get him down to the Office? Will he
come if you send for him?"
     "Yes. We have a code. If I ask him to come, he'll come."
     "Fine. I'll meet him there. When he realizes that we  have the  picture
and schematics he'll have to agree to my  demands. He'll have to let me into
Rethrick Construction,  on  my own terms.  It's  either  that,  or  face the
possibility of having the material turned over to the Security Police."
     "And once you're in? Once Rethrick agrees to your demands?"
     "I saw enough at the Plant  to convince me that Rethrick  is far bigger
than I had realized. How big, I don't know. No wonder he was so interested!"
     "You're going to demand equal control of the Company?"
     Jennings nodded.
     "You  would never be satisfied to go back as a mechanic, would you? The
way you were before."
     "No.  To get booted out  again?"  Jennings  smiled. "Anyhow, I  know he
intended better things  than  that.  He laid careful plans. The trinkets. He
must have planned everything  long in advance. No, I'm not going  back as  a
mechanic. I saw a  lot there, level after level of machines and men. They're
doing something. And I want to be in on it."
     Kelly was silent.
     "See?" Jennings said.
     "I see."
     He  left the apartment, hurrying along the dark  street. He  had stayed
there too long. If the SP found the two  of them together it would be all up
with Rethrick Construction. He could take no chances, with the end almost in
sight.
     He  looked at  his watch. It was past midnight. He would  meet Rethrick
this  morning, and present him with the proposition. His spirits rose as  he
walked.  He  would be safe. More than safe. Rethrick Construction was aiming
at something far  larger than  mere industrial power.  What he had  seen had
convinced him that a revolution was brewing. Down in the  many  levels below
the ground,  down under the fortress of concrete, guarded by guns  and armed
men,  Rethrick was planning a war. Machines were being turned out.  The time
scoop and the mirror were hard at work, watching, dipping, extracting.
     No wonder  he had  worked out such careful plans. He  had seen all this
and  understood,  begun  to ponder.  The problem  of  the mind cleaning. His
memory would be gone when he was released. Destruction of all the plans.
     Destruction? There was the alternate clause in the contract. Others had
seen it, used it. But not the way he intended!
     He was after much more  than anyone who  had  come  before. He  was the
first to understand,  to plan. The seven trinkets were a bridge to something
beyond anything that --
     At the end of the  block an SP cruiser pulled up to the curb. Its doors
slid open.
     Jennings stopped,  his  heart  constricting. The night patrol,  roaming
through  the  city. It  was  after  eleven, after curfew. He  looked quickly
around.  Everything  was  dark. The  stores  and houses were shut  up tight,
locked for the night. Silent apartment houses, buildings. Even the bars were
dark.
     He looked back the way he had come. Behind him, a second SP cruiser had
stopped. Two  SP officers had stepped out onto the curb. They  had seen him.
They  were  coming  toward  him. He stood frozen,  looking  up and  down the
street.
     Across from him  was  the  entrance of a  swank  hotel, its  neon  sign
glimmering.  He began  to  walk  toward it,  his heels  echoing against  the
pavement.
     "Stop!" one  of the  SP men called. "Come back here. What are you doing
out? What's your --"
     Jennings went up the stairs, into the hotel. He crossed the lobby.  The
clerk was staring at him. No one else was  around. The  lobby was  deserted.
His heart sank. He didn't have a chance. He began to run aimlessly, past the
desk, along a carpeted hall. Maybe it led out some back way. Behind him, the
SP men had already entered the lobby.
     Jennings turned a corner. Two men stepped out, blocking his way.
     "Where are you going?"
     He stopped, wary.  "Let me by." He reached into his coat for the  Boris
gun. At once the men moved.
     "Get him."
     His  arms were  pinned to his sides. Professional  hoods. Past  them he
could see light. Light and sound. Some kind of activity. People.
     "All  right," one of the hoods said. They dragged  him  back along  the
corridor, toward the  lobby. Jennings  struggled futilely.  He had entered a
blind  alley.  Hoods, a joint. The city was dotted with  them, hidden in the
darkness. The  swank hotel a front. They would toss him out, into  the hands
of the SP.
     Some people came along the halls, a man and a woman. Older people. Well
dressed. They gazed curiously at Jennings, suspended between the two men.
     Suddenly Jennings understood. A wave of  relief  hit him, blinding him.
"Wait," he said thickly. "My pocket."
     "Come on."
     "Wait. Look. My right pocket. Look for yourselves."
     He relaxed, waiting. The hood on his right reached, dipping  cautiously
into the pocket. Jennings smiled. It was over. He had seen even  this. There
was no possibility of failure. This solved one problem: where to  stay until
it was time to meet Rethrick. He could stay here.
     The hood brought out the half poker chip, examining the serrated edges.
"Just  a second." From his own coat  he took a  matching chip, fitting  on a
gold chain. He touched the edges together.
     "All right?" Jennings said.
     "Sure." They let him go.  He brushed off his coat automatically. "Sure,
mister. Sorry. Say, you should have --"
     "Take me in the back," Jennings said, wiping his face. "Some people are
looking for me. I don't particularly want them to find me."
     "Sure." They led him back, into  the gambling rooms. The  half chip had
turned what might  have  been a disaster into an asset. A gambling and  girl
joint.  One of the few institutions  the Police  left alone. He was safe. No
question of that. Only one thing remained. The struggle with Rethrick!

     Rethrick's face was hard. He gazed at Jennings, swallowing rapidly.
     "No," he said. "I didn't know it was you. We thought it was the SP."
     There  was  silence.  Kelly sat  at  the  chair  by her desk, her  legs
crossed, a  cigarette between her fingers. Jennings leaned against the door,
his arms folded.
     "Why didn't you use the mirror?" he said.
     Rethrick's face flickered. "The mirror?  You did a good job, my friend.
We tried to use the mirror."
     "Tried?"
     "Before you  finished your term with us you changed a  few leads inside
the mirror. When  we  tried to operate it nothing happened. I left the plant
half an hour ago. They were still working on it."
     "I did that before I finished my two years?"
     "Apparently you had worked out your plans in detail. You know that with
the  mirror we  would have  no  trouble  tracking you  down.  You're  a good
mechanic, Jennings.  The  best we  ever had.  We'd  like  to  have you back,
sometime.  Working for us again. There's not  one of us that can operate the
mirror the way you could. And right now, we can't use it at all."
     Jennings  smiled.  "I  had  no  idea  he  did  anything  like  that.  I
underestimated him. His protection was even --"
     "Who are you talking about?"
     "Myself. During the two years. I use the objective. It's easier."
     "Well,  Jennings.  So the two  of you worked out  an  elaborate plan to
steal our schematics. Why? What's the purpose? You haven't turned  them over
to the Police."
     "No."
     "Then I can assume it's blackmail."
     "That's right."
     "What for? What do you want?" Rethrick seemed to have aged. He slumped,
his eyes small and glassy, rubbing his chin nervously. "You went to a lot of
trouble  to get us  into  this position.  I'm curious  why.  While you  were
working for us you laid the groundwork. Now you've completed it, in spite of
our precautions."
     "Precautions?"
     "Erasing your mind. Concealing the Plant."
     "Tell him," Kelly said. "Tell him why you did it."
     Jennings took a deep breath. "Rethrick,  I did it to get back  in. Back
to the Company. That's the only reason. No other."
     Rethrick stared  at him. "To get back into  the  Company?  You can come
back in. I told you that." His voice was thin and sharp,  edged with strain.
"What's the matter  with you? You can come back in. For as long as you  want
to stay."
     "As a mechanic."
     "Yes. As a mechanic. We employ many --"
     "I don't want to come back as a mechanic. I'm not interested in working
for  you. Listen, Rethrick.  The  SP  picked  me up  as soon  as I left this
Office. If it hadn't been for him I'd be dead."
     "They picked you up?"
     "They wanted to know what Rethrick Construction does. They wanted me to
tell them."
     Rethrick nodded. "That's bad. We didn't know that."
     "No, Rethrick. I'm not  coming  in as an  employee you can toss out any
time it pleases you. I'm coming in with you, not for you."
     "With me?" Rethrick stared at him. Slowly a film settled over his face,
an ugly hard film. "I don't understand what you mean."
     "You and I are going to run Rethrick Construction together. That'll  be
the way,  from now  on. And no one will be burning my  memory out, for their
own safety."
     "That's what you want?"
     "Yes."
     "And if we don't cut you in?"
     "Then the schematics and films go  to the  SP. It's as  simple as that.
But I don't want to. I don't want to destroy the Company. I want to get into
the  Company!  I want to be safe. You don't know  what it's  like, being out
there, with no place to go. An individual  has no place to turn to, anymore.
No one to help him.  He's caught between two ruthless forces, a pawn between
political and economic powers. And I'm tired of being a pawn."
     For a long time Rethrick said nothing. He stared down at the floor, his
face dull  and blank. At  last he looked up. "I  know it's that  way. That's
something I've  known for a long time. Longer than you have. I'm a lot older
than  you. I've  seen  it  come, grow that way,  year after year. That's why
Rethrick Construction exists. Someday, it'll be all different. Someday, when
we have the scoop and the mirror finished. When the weapons are finished."
     Jennings said nothing.
     "I know very well how it is! I'm an  old man. I've  been working a long
time. When  they told me someone had got out of the Plant with schematics, I
thought the  end had come. We already knew  you had damaged  the mirror.  We
knew there was a connection, but we had parts figured wrong.
     "We thought, of course, that Security had planted you  with us, to find
out what we were doing. Then, when you realized you couldn't carry out  your
information, you damaged the  mirror. With  the mirror  damaged, SP could go
ahead and --"
     He stopped, rubbing his cheek.
     "Go on," Jennings said.
     "So  you did this alone. . . Blackmail. To  get into  the Company.  You
don't know what the  Company is for, Jennings! How  dare you try to come in!
We've been working  and  building  for a long time. You'd wreck us, to  save
your hide. You'd destroy us, just to save yourself."
     "I'm not wrecking you. I can be a lot of help."
     "I run the Company alone. It's  my Company. I made it, put it together.
It's mine."
     Jennings laughed. "And what happens when you die? Or is the  revolution
going to come in your own lifetime?"
     Rethrick's head jerked up.
     "You'll die, and there won't be anyone to  go  on. You know  I'm a good
mechanic. You said so yourself. You're a fool, Rethrick.  You want to manage
it all yourself. Do everything, decide everything.  But you'll die, someday.
And then what will happen?"
     There was silence.
     "You better  let me in -- for the Company's good, as well as  my own. I
can do a lot for you. When you're gone the Company will survive in my hands.
And maybe the revolution will work."
     "You should be  glad you're alive at all! If  we hadn't  allowed you to
take your trinkets out with you --"
     "What else could you do? How could you let men service your mirror, see
their own futures, and not  let them lift a finger to  help themselves. It's
easy to see why you were forced to  insert the alternate-payment clause. You
had no choice."
     "You don't even know what we are doing. Why we exist."
     "I have a good idea. After all, I worked for you two years."
     Time  passed. Rethrick moistened his lips again and again, rubbing  his
cheek. Perspiration stood out on his forehead. At last he looked up.
     "No,"  he said. "It's no deal. No one will ever run the Company but me.
If I die, it dies with me. It's my property."
     Jennings became instantly alert. "Then the papers go to the Police."
     Rethrick said nothing, but a peculiar expression moved across his face,
an expression that gave Jennings a sudden chill.
     "Kelly," Jennings said. "Do you have the papers with you?"
     Kelly stirred, standing up.  She put out her cigarette,  her face pale.
"No."
     "Where are they? Where did you put them?"
     "Sorry," Kelly said softly. "I'm not going to tell you."
     He stared at her. "What?"
     "I'm sorry," Kelly said again. Her voice was small and faint.  "They're
safe.  The  SP won't  ever  get  them.  But  neither  will  you.  When  it's
convenient, I'll turn them back to my father."
     "Your father!"
     "Kelly is my daughter," Rethrick said. "That was one thing  you  didn't
count on, Jennings. He didn't count on it, either. No  one knew that but the
two of  us. I wanted to keep all positions of trust in the family. I see now
that it was a good idea. But it had to be kept secret. If the SP had guessed
they would have picked her up at once. Her life wouldn't have been safe."
     Jennings let his breath out slowly. "I see."
     "It  seemed  like  a  good idea  to  go  along  with  you," Kelly said.
"Otherwise you'd  have done  it alone,  anyhow.  And  you would have had the
papers on you. As you said, if the SP caught you with the papers it would be
the end of us. So I went along with you. As soon as you gave me the papers I
put them in a good safe place."  She smiled a little. "No one will find them
but me. I'm sorry."
     "Jennings,  you can come  in with us," Rethrick said. "You can work for
us forever, if you want. You can have anything you want. Anything except --"
     "Except that no one runs the Company but you."
     "That's  right. Jennings, the Company is old. Older than I am. I didn't
bring it into existence. It  was -- you  might say, willed to me. I took the
burden on. The job of managing it, making it grow, moving it toward the day.
The day of revolution, as you put it.
     "My grandfather founded the Company, back in the twentieth century. The
Company has always been in the family. And it  will always be. Someday, when
Kelly marries, there'll be an heir  to carry it on after me. So that's taken
care of. The Company was founded up in Maine, in  a  small New England town.
My grandfather was  a little old New Englander, frugal, honest, passionately
independent. He had a little repair business of some sort, a little tool and
fix-it place. And plenty of knack.
     "When he  saw government  and big business closing in  on  everyone, he
went  underground. Rethrick Construction disappeared from the  map. It  took
government  quite  a while to organize Maine, longer than  most places. When
the rest of the world had been divided up between  international cartels and
world-states,  there was  New  England,  still  alive.  Still free.  And  my
grandfather and Rethrick Construction.
     "He  brought  in  a  few  men,  mechanics,  doctors,  lawyers,   little
once-a-week newspapermen  from  the Middle  West. The Company  grew. Weapons
appeared, weapons  and knowledge. The  time scoop and mirror! The  Plant was
built, secretly, at  great cost, over a long  period of time. The  Plant  is
big. Big and deep. It  goes down many more levels than you saw. He saw them,
your  alter  ego.  There's a  lot  of power  there.  Power,  and men  who've
disappeared, purged all over the world, in fact. We got them first, the best
of them.
     "Someday,  Jennings, we're going to break out. You see, conditions like
this can't  go on.  People can't live this  way,  tossed  back  and forth by
political and economic powers.  Masses of  people shoved this way  and  that
according to  the needs of this government or that  cartel. There's going to
be resistance, someday. A strong, desperate  resistance. Not by  big people,
powerful people, but  by  little  people.  Bus  drivers. Grocers.  Vidscreen
operators. Waiters. And that's where the Company comes in.
     "We're  going to provide them with the  help  they'll need,  the tools,
weapons, the knowledge. We're going to 'sell'  them our services. They'll be
able to hire  us. And they'll need someone they can hire. They'll have a lot
lined up against them. A lot of wealth and power."
     There was silence.
     "Do you see?" Kelly said. "That's why you mustn't interfere. It's Dad's
Company. It's  always  been that way. That's the way Maine  people are. It's
part of the family. The Company belongs to the family. It's ours."
     "Come in with us," Rethrick said. "As a mechanic. I'm sorry, but that's
our limited outlook showing through. Maybe  it's  narrow,  but we've  always
done things this way."
     Jennings said nothing. He walked slowly across the office, his hands in
his pockets. After a time he  raised the blind and stared out at the street,
far below.
     Down below,  like  a  tiny  black bug, a  Security cruiser moved along,
drifting silently  with the traffic  that flowed  up and down the street. It
joined a second cruiser, already parked. Four SP  men were standing by it in
their green uniforms, and even as he watched some more could  be seen coming
from across the street. He let the blind down.
     "It's a hard decision to make," he said.
     "If  you go out there  they'll get  you,"  Rethrick said.  "They're out
there all the time. You haven't got a chance."
     "Please --" Kelly said, looking up at him.
     Suddenly Jennings smiled. "So  you won't tell me where the papers  are.
Where you put them."
     Kelly shook her head.
     "Wait." Jennings reached into his pocket. He brought out a  small piece
of paper. He unfolded it slowly, scanning it. "By any chance did you deposit
it  with the Dunne National Bank, about  three  o'clock yesterday afternoon?
For safekeeping in their storage vaults?"
     Kelly gasped. She  grabbed her handbag, unsnapping it. Jennings put the
slip  of paper,  the parcel  receipt,  back in  his pocket. "So  he saw even
that," he murmured. "The last of the trinkets. I wondered what it was for."
     Kelly groped frantically in her purse, her face wild. She brought out a
slip of paper, waving it.
     "You're wrong! Here it  is! It's still here." She relaxed a  little. "I
don't know what you have, but this is --"
     In the air  above them something moved. A dark space  formed, a circle.
The space stirred. Kelly and Rethrick stared up, frozen.
     From  the dark  circle a  claw  appeared,  a metal  claw, joined  to  a
shimmering rod. The claw dropped, swinging in a wide arc. The claw swept the
paper from  Kelly's fingers. It hesitated for  a second. Then it drew itself
up again, disappearing  with  the  paper,  into the  circle of black.  Then,
silently,  the  claw  and the  rod and  the  circle  blinked out.  There was
nothing. Nothing at all.
     "Where  -- where did  it  go?" Kelly whispered.  "The  paper.  What was
that?"
     Jennings patted  his  pocket. "It's safe.  It's  safe,  right  here.  I
wondered when he would show up. I was beginning to worry."
     Rethrick and his daughter stood, shocked into silence.
     "Don't  look  so  unhappy,"  Jennings said.  He folded  his arms.  "The
paper's safe -- and the  Company's safe. When the time comes it'll be there,
strong and very glad to help out the revolution. We'll see  to that, all  of
us, you, me and your daughter."
     He glanced at Kelly, his eyes twinkling. "All three of us. And maybe by
that time there'll be even more members to the family!"



Популярность: 28, Last-modified: Thu, 22 Jan 2004 11:15:21 GMT