The SCRAG copter was a compact turbo- powered affair, hidden, as Blackwish had said, under a
screen of pine boughs. It creaked dolefully as it took Nelda’s weight. Blondel squeezed himself in
beside her overflowing bulk, checked over the controls, started up. The machine lifted promptly,
not without certain evidence of distress from the groaning rotors, and Blondel set course due
Two hours passed in nervous silence. Then Blondel, squinting ahead, said “Ah,” and pointed. In
the predawn gloom, the mighty glow of Chicago provided a beacon visible from fifty miles distant.
No Monitors interfered with their cautious approach across the lake. Peering out through a light
mist, Nelda made a surprised noise.
“Things look different! I don’t see any lights along the water front; or at least not the usual
ones. It looks more like a lot of little Christmas trees … ”
“Probably blacked- out,” Blondel grunted.
“And there are big blank patches beyond,” she cried.
“Sure – – Blackwish told me about the bombing. You’d better prepare to see some gruesome
scenes of death and destruction, Nelda. I guess when the Monitors hit, they hit hard.”
“It looks as though a big rectangle has just been squashed flat — and over there — ”
“Sure, the horrors of war. All the more reason for us to do our best to rally some organized
opposition. Now relax for a few minutes, and let me pick a spot to sneak in.”
The Poopsie whiffled low over a gaping break in the barrier of warehouses and piers, settled in
behind a cluster of billboards. Blondel extricated himself from the pilot’s seat with a sigh of relief,
stretched cramped legs, then helped pry Nelda loose. Together they risked a look from behind
their shelter. From somewhere, the cheery tones of Happy Horinip’s voice echoed across the
“Good Lord,” Blondel muttered. “Acres — square miles, maybe — level as a pool table.”
“Look over there!” Nelda pointed. Dim in the pearly morning gloom, a tall, many- spired tower
rose behind a surviving huddle of gas stations and hot- dog stands.
“Ye Gods!” Blondel hissed. “Instant skyscrapers!”
“They’ve – – they’ve practically wiped out the city!” Nelda gasped. “I’d hardly know the place —
my own home town!”
“I guess Blackwish was right,” Blondel said grimly. “Saturation bombing.”
“Still, it’s odd the destruction is so sort of orderly,” Nelda said.
“Sure, they’ve already bulldozed the wreckage. Probably didn’t even wait to rescue the
“Let’s get moving,” Blondel urged. “We’ve got things to do; every minute counts.”
“Just a minute.” Nelda pulled a zipper, wriggled out of her arctic gear to reveal a zebra- striped
leotard, a coral pink peasant blouse, and a chartreuse leather jacket with copper rivets, a major
general’s stars, and tassels on the breast pockets.
“That’s, uh, quite an outfit,” Blondel commented.
“Kind of conventional, I know,” Nelda confessed. “But I felt I ought to dress inconspicuously,
under the circumstances.”
They crossed a vacant lot, started along a narrow street leading up through a gloomy canyon of
sootblackened masonry which ended abruptly at a cleanswept expanse of bare earth.
“I wonder where all the dead bodies and rubble are?” Nelda wondered.
“Blasted clean,” Blondel marveled. “Looks like the Bonneville Salt Flats.”
“Funny how it left the buildings right next to it standing.”
“Shaped charges,” Blondel explained.
“Listen!” Nelda plucked at his sleeve. “What’s that?”
“Sounds like the El is still running.”
They followed the sound, two blocks east came upon a ramshackle construction of rusted iron
and grimed brick, apparently held together by tattered posters announcing the joys of Fast,
Efficient Rail Service. A string of ancient coaches with the raffish look of drunken sailors surprised
by dawn waited, doors open as invitingly as fresh- dug graves.
“How about it?” Blondel inquired doubtfully.
“I’m game,” Nelda said. “After all, spies have to take chances.”
They selected seats in a car reminiscent of the James Boys’ heyday, looked over the truss and
toupe ads. A thin, seamed man with a narrow crooked head and a thatch of bristly tan hair under
a cloth cap appeared from the shadows at the far end of the car, sidled closer.
“You folks been married long?” he inquired.
“No,” Blondel said shortly.
“We’re not married.” Nelda sniffed.
“Tsk,” said the small man.
“Say, when did the Monitors hit the town?” Blondel inquired. “Many people killed? What’s the
Air Force doing about it?”
“I don’t pay no attention to that stuff,” the man said mildly. “You folks wouldn’t happen to have
a bottle of wine on you, would you?”
“No. What are these buildings they’re putting up?”
“Beats me. You know they closed down every bar in town? Man can’t even drop in for a little
refreshing sip of something.”
“Have they taken hostages?”
“Milk. They’re giving it away. Federal men, hah! I tell you, if this kind of creeping socialism
goes on — ”
“Federal men? You mean we’ve hit back, taken the city back from them?” Blondel asked
“These G Men in the yella suits,” the man explained. “All over like Salvation Army lassies at a
race track. Man can’t even get hold of a good bottle of Port.”
“They’re not government men,” Blondel said. “They’re foreigners.”
” … I mean, you take wine. Good, and good for ye.” The little man swung closer to Blondel,
bumped him lightly. “Well, so long, folks – – ”
“Hey,” Nelda yipped. “That little creep took something out of your pocket.”
Blondel patted himself, frowned. The little man grinned sheepishly and produced a folded
packet of papers.
“You know, a feller can’t work under these here conditions,” he said sheepishly, handing them
back. “That’s these Federal men for ye, take a man’s living right out from under him.”
“You’ve got a nerve,” Nelda stated.
“Takes a good set of nerves, honey,” the man said nodding. “Man spends years learning a
trade, and these boys hit town and put him out of business … ”
“Stand over there,” Blondel directed. “And keep your hands in sight.”
“Been a crowd, the little lady never would of saw me,” the man said sadly. “But these here new
rules — everybody running here, running there, Federal men all over the place. You know a man
can’t even slip into a bar for a little sip of Muscatel — ”
“Where is everybody?” Nelda asked plaintively. “Have they killed them all?”
The little man spoke behind his hand: “Brother, you ought to think about making a honest
woman out of the little l dy.” He clacked his plates, looking Nelda over. “Purty little piece like
“The little lady asked a question,” Blondel barked.
“Why, don’t be rude,” Nelda cooed, turning slightly to display her chest to better advantage.
“I’m sure this nice man just didn’t hear me.”
“They’re making ’em all go in for some kind of tests,” the dip confided. “Me, I slipped away.
Never did like them tests. I mean, who is this Kraut, Wassermann, anyway, he’s so smart?”
“Is there any organized resistance?” Blondel persisted.
“Well, I get off here.” The pickpocket sidled past Blondel. “Nice to of met ye, I’m sure.” He
leaned closer to Blondel, who clapped his hands over his pockets. “Just slip into a church and
pray, brother. You’ll see the light.”
” ‘By, now,” Nelda trilled.
“It says right in the Bible, take a little wine for thy stomach’s sake, and for thine ofttimes
infirmities,” the man announced as he passed on along the car.
“Well, it looks as though he’s taking the invasion calmly,” Blondel said disgustedly. “I guess the
booze has rotted his brain.”
“Why, I thought he was a sweet little man,” Nelda countered.
They rode on in silence for another quarter hour, dismounted at a station ringed in by still-
standing structures. There were half a dozen Monitors in view.
“No blimps in sight,” Blondel noted. “I guess they’ve gone back for another load.” They
proceeded to the street.
“My God.” Nelda prodded his arm. “They’re everywhere.”
Blondel glumly surveyed the early- morning scene. The scattering of pedestrians, almost
outnumbered by trim, gold- uniformed Monitors briskly directing the sparse traffic, retrieving kites
from power lines, minding baby buggies, nodding and smiling at the passersby.
“They act as though they owned the place,” Blondel muttered. “And these boobs seem to like
“Diabolically clever,” Nelda nodded. “They’ve already insinuated themselves into the
dependency pattern of the masses.”
In the next block, Blondel paused to watch a pair of yellow-painted machines at work in a
vacant block ringed with stark structures whose naked brickwork had been exposed by the
removal of their neighbors. The egg-shaped vehicles, painted a bright yellow, rode easily a foot
above the sea of broken rubble, sucking up a steady stream of shattered brick as cleanly as a
vacuum cleaner removing spilled Wheaties from a rug, and disgorging stacks of glossy white discs
in neat rows.
An elderly man standing by observing the process gave a shake of the head and spat. “Beats
hell how them things chew bricks and sh – – ” His eye lit on Nelda. ” … and, uh, excrete dinner
plates,” he finished. “Nice morning, ma’am.” He ducked his head and sidled closer to Blondel.
“You can pick ’em, son,” he stated solemnly from the corner of his mouth. “Give me a well-
fleshed gal every time.”
“What’s that thing?” Blondel pointed to a long, low yellow- painted vehicle of strange design
approaching along the street. Through its clear plastic top and sides a row of passengers were
visible, staring vacantly out at the view as the bus slid past, riding, like the dozers, on an air
“Bus,” the old man stated. “Yep, I recollect one time in Kansas City — ”
“The Monitors are operating a bus service?”
“Sure. Reckon somebody’s got to — ”
“What happened to the old ones?”
“Junked ’em, I s’pose. Ever been in Kansas City, “son? There was this bar – – ”
“The cars — where are they?” Blondel looked around, noting for the first time the virtual
absence of auto traffic.
“What cars was them, son?” the old man said absently. “Like I says, I was having a couple of
quick ones, in this here bar, and – – ”
“The cars! The Buicks and Ramblers and Chevies!”
“Oh, them. Take a bus. Quicker and cheaper. Anyway, cars is outlawed. So I was setting on the
stool, sipping a rye and water, and this — ”
“Against the law?” Blondel queried.
“Not in Kansas City, son. A wide- open town. Booze, women, gambling – – you name it — ”
“How about dirty postcards?” Nelda interposed, and gave Blondel’s arm a jerk. “Tell that old
pimp to get lost.”
“You got me wrong, lady!” the oldster protested. “I was jest — ”
“But doesn’t anybody care?”
“Not if you got a bankroll, son. Anyhow, there I was, rolling that smooth stuff around on my
tongue, and this gal eases up beside me. Well, hell — ”
“Blondel, you come along this instant, or I’m going straight to the police!” Nelda announced.
“I mean about the cars!” Blondel amplified.
The oldster looked sharply in both directions. “I don’t see ’em. Where?”
“I am,” Nelda said. “Just watch me.”
“Nowhere,” Blondel said. “That’s the point! They talk about how they’re bringing freedom, and
the first thing they do is clamp down on private travel!”
“She tipped the scale at three hundred if it was a ounce.” The old fellow gazed back down the
golden years. “Alice, that was her name. Alice of Dallas.”
“Police!” Nelda yelped.
“Where?” Blondel whirled, prepared to sprint for it. The old man held up a veined hand. “No
harm intended, folks,” he quavered. “Anyways, I ain’t one of them childmolesters.” He moved off
“What did you yell for?” Blondel demanded.
“You men,” Nelda dismissed the gender with a daintily lifted lip. “All you think about is just one
“That reminds me,” Blondel snapped his fingers. “We forgot to eat our lunch.”
In the next block, Nelda plucked at Blondel’s sleeve and pointed at a surgical- green front
crowded between a shabby Army store and a dubious- looking pool parlor.
“That looks like a quiet little restaurant. Let’s go there.”
“It looks like a do- it- yourself morgue,” Blondel protested. “I had in mind one of those little
places with a beam ceiling and a big copperbound beer- barrel back of the bar, where you can get
a superbly grilled steak and a dandy little red wine for about a dollar and a quarter.”
“Hunger must have driven you mad. Come on.”
Wide, featureless doors swung open as they came up, causing an unshaven passerby to shy
violently and quicken his pace. Inside, neat white-topped tables, all vacant, were ranged in
orderly rows under ceiling strips which shed a dazzling glare below. They picked a spot near the
door and looked around for a waiter.
“No wonder the place is deserted,” Blondel said. “Rotten service.”
“Good morning, sir, madam,” a well- modulated voice said at his elbow. “May I suggest a blend
of natural fruit and vegetable juices, fortified with appropriate minerals and biomins?”
Blondel jumped and swivelled his head to see a tall well- muscled youth in a neat yellow
cutaway standing by, a napkin over his left arm, a look of alertly pleasurable anticipation on his
“Don’t sneak up on me like that,” Blondel barked. “For a minute I thought — ”
“Why, Blondel, don’t be so uncouth.” Nelda smiled warmly at the waiter. “I’m sure the salad
will be perfectly lovely.”
The waiter inclined his head. “Surely, madam.” He plucked a small silvery tube from his breast pocket, held out a hand to her. “May I?” he murmured.
“Why — you dear man.” Nelda put her plump hand in his. “I never saw any sense in these
artificial social distinct — ow!” She jerked her hand back and sucked at the base of her thumb.
“Blondel!” she said around it. “He stung me!”
“Madam! A thousand pardons!” The waiter looked distressed, staring at the tube he had
touched to Nelda’s hand. “My metabolic assessor must be out of adjustment.” He shook it,
frowned at it, then turned an expression of deep concern on the girl.
“My dear young lady,” he said in a grave tone. “It’s fortunate you dropped in when you did.
Were you aware that you suffer from a number of dangerous physiochemical imbalances, any one
of which might have resulted in permanent somatic damage?”
“I am?” Nelda took her thumb out of her mouth.
The waiter turned to Blondel. “The left hand, please, sir – – just in case you’re in even worse
shape than the young lady.”
“I don’t want my fortune told,” Blondel said shortly. “Just give me a menu.”
“Oh, there’s no need of that, sir — ”
“Right. I already know what I want. I’ll have a sixteen ounce top sirloin, rare, cauliflower with a
cheese sauce, a baked potato with sour cream, and a half bottle of a nice little Beaujolais – – a ’57
“For breakfast?” Nelda’s expression was respectful.
“What do you mean, breakfast? This is last night’s dinner.”
“I regret, sir, that the items you mention aren’t recommended for you. Suppose I just make a
correct selection of highly nutritive mineral jellies and vitamin pastes — ”
Blondel shook his head. “Don’t bother pushing the specialty of the house. I know what I want.
If you’re out of sirloin, make it a fillet – – if it’s not too expensive.”
“Oh, our comestibles are all free of charge, of course, sir,” the waiter assured him. “But I’m
afraid your knowledge of nutrition is deficient. You see — ”
“Skip the personal cracks, Jack, and fetch me a steak – – any cut!” Blondel barked. “And – – ” he
paused and looked startled. “Did you say free of charge?”
“Of course, sir. One of the basic responsibilities of Government is the provision of food,
clothing, and shelter to all citizens.”
Blondel made a choking noise.
“Are you ill, sir?” the waiter inquired solicitously.
“This place — it’s run by … by Monitors?”
“Of course, sir. One of our first acts was to remove all waiters from duty, as public menaces.”
“I’m with you so far. What did you do to them, boil them in oil, or just hang them?”
“Hardly anything so drastic, sir. They were tested and assigned to duties more in consonance
with their natural aptitudes. Many of them are doing nicely now as agricultural assistants,
specializing in porciculture.”
“Porky culture?” Nelda repeated.
“Slopping pigs,” Blondel explained. “Well, that’s understandable. But now, as long as I’m here,
how about rustling up my dinner, if you don’t mind.”
“You’d like the nutritive jelly?”
“Maybe we’d better have the old waiters back,” Blondel said. “At least they gave you meat
when you asked for it, if it was only a thumb in the soup.”
“Do you really insist on this unwise selection, sir? Animal flesh is not the proper ration for you,
“Jelly isn’t the proper ration, psychologically speaking. Better get me the steak before I take a
bite out of a Monitor.”
“Hmmm.” The Monitor looked thoughtful. “The psychological aspect may have been
inadequately considered by our dietetic engineers, which could account for the lack of response to our announcements of the new free food facilities.” He waved a hand at the empty hall.
“You know, on second thought, I’d better consider my psyche, too,” Nelda spoke up decisively.
“Skip the juice and bring me a nice baked squab — make it two — and one of those cutey little
French omelettes. Just a small one – – about six eggs; and don’t bother putting anything much in it
— just some onion, ham, endives, pimento, and maybe just a sprinkling of mushrooms – – the little
gray ones, please. And some coffee. And maybe a few buckwheat cakes to keep me occupied
while you roll the main dish.”
“Madam! Let me urge you to reconsider – – ”
“Bring it now!” Blondel ordered sternly. “Or your customer load may drop off to nothing again.”
“Oh, don’t go, sir!” The waiter hurried away.
“We ought to get out of here, fast, while he’s not looking,” Blondel said. “But I’m too weak to
“My God,” Nelda said. “Wasn’t that the cutest waiter? I hope he remembers to bring real maple
syrup, instead of one of those ghastly apricot- flavored synthetics.”
Blondel looked around at the sterile – looking dining room. “If this is the best they can do, the
masses will uprise to throw out the invader before I can get them organized.”
“Humph,” Nelda said. “I get the distinct impression the exploited masses are sinking into an
even deeper apathy than usual. If we don’t succeed in convincing these Monitors they’re not
wanted, immediately, it may be too late.” Blondel chewed the inside of his lip. “I promised the
general I’d pass his message on to his Underground Unit here in Chicago. We’ll have to attend to
Blondel drew out the packet of instructions Blackwish had passed to him, broke the seal,
released the elastic band and folded back the first sheet. Below a line of excited red print stating
the penalties for unauthorized use, an address caught his eye.
“Where’s South Nixon Avenue?”
Nelda shrugged. “Who cares?”
“We have to find it before we can get on to our rebellion- fomenting,” Blondel pointed out.
“Hah! I didn’t promise Blockwits I’d do his duty spying for him!” Nelda declared. “Just as soon
as I’ve had my little breakfast I’m going to walk right up to the first Monitor I see and tell them to
“Uh – – Nelda. Don’t you think maybe you should just write an anonymous letter? For the
present, we’re OK, as long as they don’t recognize us. But if you come right out and tell them you
don’t like them, they may take you away and operate on that undernourished psyche of yours.”
“Sir, you can rest assured that no citizen will be molested for expressing his views.” The waiter
deftly slipped a laden tray before Nelda.
“Damn it, don’t creep around like that!” Blondel bellowed. “You’re tying my nerves into Austrian
knots!” He stuffed the papers hastily back into an inner pocket.
“Sorry, sorry, sir. I shall try to approach more noisily next time.”
“Blondel, you apologize this instant!” Nelda commanded.
“Hah! You were the one who was going to tell him you didn’t want his kind around, and that
they should all go back where they came from!”
“Why, the nerve!”
“I hope you’ll find the steak savory, sir,” the waiter interjected blandly, as he placed Blondel’s
tray before him. Blondel opened his mouth to reply, sniffed, picked up his knife and fork and
sawed off a large bite of beef. It was crusty black on the outside, pale pink and juicy at the
center. He closed his eyes and chewed. A contented expression appeared on his face.
“Adequate,” he said. “Now go away and don’t come around again until I call you.”
“Yes, sir.” The Monitor disappeared.
Nelda glared at Blondel. “I’m beginning to see you as you really are, Blondel! You’re as
reactionary as old Blockwits, in your own sneaky way! You actually harbor the medieval idea that a cute man like that waiter is your inferior merely because he’s engaged in one of the service
“Um,” Blondel said, chewing.
“I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that your ostensibly superior attitude actually screens a deep
sense of inadequacy, brought on by a suppressed resentment of his tremendous physical
“If you’re not going to eat those crackers, could I have them?”
“This same type of sublimation of unacceptable animalistic impulses is at the bottom of a great
portion of the world’s ills, I’ll bet.”
“Hurry up and eat. We have to get away from here before he realizes who I am.”
“What’s your hurry? I’m thinking of giving him my telephone number, just in case he needs
someone to turn to, or something.”
“Swell. Only you don’t have a phone number. Besides which, I thought we were a couple of
“Don’t imagine that any sympathy one individual may have aroused by his obvious personal
simpatico in any way influences my total ideological opposition to the concept of authoritarian
“The thought never entered my head.”
“You needn’t try to dragoon me into your schemes! I told you – – ”
“You told me you were going to give your pitch to the Monitors. OK, here’s your chance. Just
tell the waiter your views. I’ll wait outside.”
Nelda was shaking her head stubbornly. “I’d be simply too, too embarrassed, after your boorish
Blondel speared the last bit of steak, pushed back his chair. “In that case let’s get out of here
quick, before he comes back.”
“What about the bill?”
“It’s free; you heard him.”
“Aren’t you even going to leave a tip?”
“What’s ten per cent of nothing? Anyway, I didn’t think you approved of such class-conscious
“Well — it seems terribly abrupt … ” She rose, emitted a small, ladylike burp.
“He’s probably out calling in a strong- arm squad,” Blondel guessed. “Come on … ”
They hurried quietly across to the entry vestibule, paused to peer out into the street.
“I trust you found everything satisfactory, sir, and madam,” an eager- to- please voice sounded
in Blondel’s ear. The waiter, in regulation Monitorial yellows, caught the door as it swung open
and gave him an encouraging smile.
“Oh, it was divine,” Nelda cooed. “And your attentiveness made it ever so much better.”
“Somebody needs to hang a bell on you,” Blondel stated hotly. “My pulse has been leaping like
a gazelle at five minute intervals ever since I came into this joint!”
“Pay no attention to my escort,” Nelda said sweetly. “He suffers from a severe case of ingrown
ego.” She fluttered her large blue eyes at the Monitor and swept through the door, bumping both
sides of the frame in passing. The Monitor ducked his head politely at Blondel.
“Sir, since I notice that you and the young lady are new arrivals here, perhaps I might
volunteer my services in showing you some of the improvements that have been made in the last
“Uh, no, we – – ” Blondel started.
“Why, how perfectly ducky!” Nelda trilled. “What a simply sweet suggestion, isn’t it, Blondel?”
He turned to her, muttered: “We want to shake this creep, remember?”
“He can show us where to find that silly address you’re looking for,” she hissed, then gave the
Monitor another burst from her eyelashes. “We’d be too thrilled for words, ah … what is your name, you darling thing?”
“Pekkerup, madam, at your service.”
“How did you know we’re new arrivals?” Blondel inquired as the trimly- built young man took up
his station on Nelda’s left.
“Your arrival was monitored, of course.” Their guide raised a finger and a small yellow
helicopter came whiffling down from somewhere above eye level, settled at the curb. The bubble
canopy popped open. There was no pilot at the controls, Blondel noted.
“Just take seats,” Pekkerup invited, “and — ”
“We’ll walk,” Blondel stated firmly, backing away.
“As you wish.” The Monitor waved again; the hatch slammed shut. The empty copter hopped
straight up, flitted away over the rooftops.
“You boys have some pretty cute gadgets,” Blondel said nervously.
“There are any number of useful devices we’ll introduce in the near future,” Pekkerup said, “For
the present, we’re limited to these rather clumsy machines which approximate the aboriginal level
of mechanical complexity. We always feel it’s important to avoid precipitating cultural shock, of
“Now, suppose we stroll over to the new Avenue of Positive Thinking. It’s just a square away,
and it will give you a better idea of how the city will appear after the slum clearance is
Blondel followed glumly as the Monitor led the way, with Nelda clinging to his arm and
chattering gaily. They passed a block of unwashed display windows stacked with pawned
revolvers, plastic secret agent outfits and artificial limbs, emerged abruptly at the edge of a broad
expanse of immaculate green lawn on the far side of which a row of pastel-colo red structures of
fanciful design rose in an intricate pattern against the early morning sky.
“My God, what’s happened to State Street?” Nelda blurted.
“Just a simple matter of removing the existing huts and installing structures more appropriate
to the aesthetic sensitivities of the people,” Pekkerup explained cheerfully.
“What do you call it, Miami Beach on the Runway?” Blondel inquired.
“Actually, the new name of the city is Sapphire,” the Monitor said. “All the new nomenclature
will be drawn from the existing cultural matrix — ”
“What was wrong with Chicago?”
“The village, or the word itself?”
“Skip it. What’s the idea of a grass street a hundred yards wide?”
“Oh, it isn’t a street in the old sense. That is, it is not a raceway for individually- controlled
personal vehicles. After the remainder of the plantings are in place, the people will find it a
pleasant, shady walk on which to stroll about their business and contemplate the pleasing new
“Swell. The people are going to love that a lot,” Blo ndel stated.
“We thought so. The buildings themselves will house the various official agencies necessary for
the opening stages of organization. Then, after the initial educational effort is complete, they will
be made available to the public as housing for those who prefer to remain in a civic environment.”
They crossed the wide avenue, empty except for a lone mongrel pup trotting along nose to
pavement in pursuit of private canine interests. On the far side, a curbstone, embellished with
carved foliage, edged a wide belt of flower beds set like jewelry displayed on green velvet. The
buildings, each different from its neighbor in design, finish and tint, were placed at generous
intervals, linked by walkways lined with still more blossoms. The trio paused before a fluted and
corniced front of glossy pale purple, trimmed with pale orchid meanders.
“Why – – I do believe those are shops,” Nelda said eagerly, her eyes fixed on what were
obviously display windows nestled back among the flowering shrubs flanking the wide ground level entrances.
“Yes, indeed,” the Monitor agreed. “They stock artifacts appropriate to your present curious
economy. I think you’ll be pleased to see what the planet is capable of producing for your use
when properly managed, even at its present low level of technological development.”
Nelda rummaged in a capacious handbag which she had produced from somewhere. “My God,
and me with only a dollar seventy- nine and an IRT token!”
“Old- fashioned currency will not be required, madam,” the Monitor assured her. “Any debit
incurred will be entered against your basic quotas.”
“You mean – – I can open charge accounts?”
“You might call it that — ”
“I just hate shopping,” Nelda said happily, “but there are a few little things I need … ”
Blondel trailed as Nelda forged to the van, shooting sharp glances at the goods in view. There
were bright displays of cooking utensils, books, fishing tackle, furniture moulded of smooth plastic
and upholstered in vivid hues. Blondel paused to admire a colorfully enameled auto chassis of
unfamiliar design, featuring individual power to each of the four wheels, and what appeared to be
retractable flotation gear.
He looked up at a yelp from Nelda. “A dress shop! My God, I hope they have something cute
for the well- filled- out girl!”
“Yes indeed; provision has been made for deformed individuals of all types,” Pekkerup stated.
“Of course, as soon as the nutrition programs have had time to produce their results, such
measures will be unnecessary,”
“Luckily for you, she’s in a trance,” Blondel advised the Monitor as they followed Nelda up the
broad steps and through a door into a cheerfully-lit interior lavishly decorated with displays of
“My God! What a perfectly darling Hooshkah!” Nelda grabbed a voluminous garment from a
display rack and held it at arm’s length. “With a sweet little reverse- pleated bodice, and that
exquisite Empress Agatha hemline!”
“What is she saying?” The Monitor looked inquiringly at Blondel.
“Who knows?” He went past her, through an arch, and into a second sales room, where display
cases exhibited polished and enameled assemblies of metal, variously equipped with moving
parts, cutting edges, instruction labels, and self- contained motive power.
“Wow!” Blondel reached for a shiny unit the size of a grapefruit, painted a bright hue, with
chrome – plated levers and boltheads. It was satisfyingly heavy.
“It’s a beauty!” he stated. “What is it?”
“A hobbyist’s multipurpose shaper,” an alert voice said behind him. Blondel leaped, almost
dropped the shaper.
“For the more advanced enthusiast, we have the Home Shop model.” The clerk, a handsomely-
built young fellow in tailored yellow coveralls pointed to a slightly larger gadget, this one bright
red. “And then, of course, there is the professional model with extra- high capacity, air bearings, a
thousand MT power unit, and self -honing edges.” Blondel admired the bulky bright orange
machine, moved on to the next table as a yelp of pleasure sounded from Nelda in the shop next
“Say, those are dandy- looking jobs … ” He gazed hungrily at a row of banana-sized green-
bodied machines with milled fittings and large shiny push buttons.
“Yes, sir, we feel that our line of fully internally- grounded auto- tuning grablifiers answers a
“You bet.” Blondel ran his fingers lovingly over the sleek surface, noting the micrometer scale,
the conveniently- placed on-and-off button, the tiny red and green indicator lights. “Uh … what
does it do?”
“There’s nothing like it for tuning an extranial culminator — and for many other uses, as well.”
From the dress shop, another shrill cry of delight rang.
Blondel passed on to the next rack where recognizable hand tools, roller skates, flashlights,
and microscopes were displayed among highly- polished marine clocks and beautifully machined
“Perhaps you’d like to try one of our personalized earplug tape players,” the clerk suggested.
“Weighs two grams and plays nine hours of your favorite music without changing settings.”
“I’m tone deaf,” Blondel resisted, side- stepping the salesman and heading for a row of
iridescent pink, blue, green, puce, and magenta motorcycles as another cry of joy sounded from
“You might wish to try one of our seat – pack roto flyers,” the clerk persisted, pointing out a
display of brightplated six- foot rods attached to padded plastic saddles and topped by counter-
rotating three-foot blades. “A boon to the footsore, and a source of pleasure to those who long to
soar solitary among the clouds.”
Blondel w iped the moisture from his chin, let his dazzled eyes roam across the massed
hardware as the salesclerk patted the sleek prow of a powerboat.
“What about a nice little twelve-foot, two-hundred horsepower, noncapsizing, directionally-
stable, leakproof – – ”
“No.” Blondel took a deep breath, squeezed his eyes shut, and turned, blundered back across
the store and into the neighboring emporium, where Nelda stood picking over an assortment of
“Get hold of yourself,” he said shakily. “I know it’s a great temptation, but we can’t start
trafficking with the enemy.”
“Never mind the sermon.” Nelda wrinkled her nose. “They didn’t have anything I liked.”
“Suppose I take you along to see the new Universal Enlightment Center,” Pekkerup proposed.
“The Individual Potential testing program is in full swing there now. Within the next four days, we
expect to have processed the entire population of Sapphire, and b ready to commence the
“Thanks a lot,” Blondel said, “but I guess we’ve got to be scooting along now … ”
“Don’t be silly.” Nelda attached herself to Pekkerup’s arm. “I’m absolutely fascinated by any
kind of cultural stuff.”
“We’ve, er, got a couple of errands to run, remember?” Blondel muttered to Nelda.
“Later,” Nelda said complacently. “Let’s go, Pecky.”
“I’m sure you’ll both be most interested in what we’re doing at the Center,” the guide
predicted. “Our mission there is to discover the highest potentialities of each individual citizen,
then to administer precisely that training which will enable him to realize those potentials, thus
putting an end to the frightful waste of human capabilities.”
“Oh, I don’t know,” Blondel protested.
“We already have pretty good methods of deciding who gets what job. I don’t know any pilots
who are quadruple amputees, and a blind man doesn’t have much chance of landing a post as a
color consultant — unless it’s with the Civil Service, and — ”
“Many of your potential nuclear physicists are laboring as copra cutters for lack of appropriate
training,” Pekkerup interrupted gently. “The responsible positions have traditionally gone to those
persons with the loudest voices and the most resilient scruples. That situation no longer obtains.”
As they talked, they had followed a winding path that curved between flowering shrubs to
emerge at the edge of a ten- acre reflecting pool lined with white towers linked by airy walkways
and flanked by broad, treedotted gardens.
“Ooooh.” Nelda gripped Pekkerup’s arm tighter. “I’d be petrified if I had to walk across one of
those little bridges!”
“Not at all.” The Monitor pointed, casually lifting the girl from her tiptoes. She yelped and let go. “I can assure you that with half an hour’s reorientation you’ll find yourself relieved of this and
other neurotic compulsions.”
“I’m not sure I’d like that.” Nelda rubbed an elbow she had cracked against the Monitor’s
“You’ll find it most pleasant, Miss Monroe.”
Nelda paused in mid-simper. “Gee,” she said thoughtfully. “How did you know my name?”
“It’s one of the functions of efficient government to be aware of what its citizens are about.”
Pekkerup smiled blandly at her. “Shall we go inside?” He indicated wide steps leading into the
nearest of the palatial white structures.
Blondel looked around. There were half a dozen ordinary citizens of what had formerly been
Chicago in sight, loitering around the edge of the pool or napping in the shade of the trees. The
rest of the visible persons were Monitors, standing alertly in groups of twos or threes, or strolling
casually along the walks.
“Nelda,” he said. “It’s time to go. We’re keeping this fellow from his duties.”
“Not at all.” Pekkerup urged Nelda up the first of the steps. Blondel had the distinct impression
that several more Monitors had turned casually toward them.
“Let’s go.” Blondel took her other arm and tugged. Nelda raised a sturdy foot and placed it
against his stomach.
“Get lost,” she suggested, and administered a hearty shove. Blondel staggered back, sat down
abruptly. A pair of Monitors were definitely walking briskly toward them now. Nelda had turned
her back and was tucking up a stray curl.
“Nelda!” Blondel yelled. “We have to get out of here before it’s too late!”
“Some people just don’t know when their advances have been rejected,” she said loudly.
Blondel leaped up, dodged around Pekkerup, and sprinted for the cover of a clump of weeping