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Philip K. Dick

  Also by Philip K. Dick


  Solar Lottery (1955)

  The World Jones Made (1956)

  The Man Who Japed (1956)

  The Cosmic Puppets (1957)

  Eye in the Sky (1957)

  Dr Futurity (1959)

  Time Out of Joint (1959)

  Vulcan’s Hammer (1960)

  The Man in the High Castle (1962)

  The Game-Players of Titan (1963)

  The Penultimate Truth (1964)

  The Simulacra (1964)

  Martian Time-Slip (1964)

  Clans of the Alphane Moon (1964)

  Dr Blood Money, or How We Got Along After The Bomb (1965)

  The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch (1965)

  Now Wait for Last Year (1966)

  The Crack in Space (1966)

  The Ganymede Takeover (with Ray F. Nelson) (1967)

  The Zap Gun (1967)

  Counter-Clock World (1967)

  Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (1968)

  Ubik (1969)

  Galactic Pot-Healer (1969)

  Our Friends From Frolix 8 (1970)

  A Maze of Death (1970)

  We Can Build You (1972)

  Flow My Tears, The Policeman Said (1974)

  Confessions of A Crap Artist (1975)

  Deus Irae (with Roger Zelazny) (1976)

  A Scanner Darkly (1977)

  The Divine Invasion (1981)

  Valis (1981)

  The Transmigration of Timothy Archer (1982)

  Lies, Inc (1984)

  The Man Whose Teeth Were All Exactly Alike (1984)

  Puttering About in A Small Land (1985)

  In Milton Lumky Territory (1985)

  Radio Free Albemuth (1985)

  Humpty Dumpty in Oakland (1986)

  Mary And The Giant (1987)

  The Broken Bubble (1988)

  Short Story Collections:

  The Variable Man (1957)

  A Handful of Darkness (1966)

  The Turning Wheel (1977)

  The Best of Philip K. Dick (1977)

  The Golden Man (1980)

  The Collected Stories of Philip K. Dick:

  1. Beyond Lies The Wub (1987)

  2. Second Variety Thing (1987)

  3. The Father Thing (1987)

  4. We Can Remember it For You Wholesale (1987)

  Philip K. Dick




  A Gollancz eBook

  Copyright (c) Philip K. Dick 1952

  All rights reserved.

  The right of Philip K. Dick to be identified as the author

  of this work has been asserted by him in accordance with the

  Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.

  First published in Great Britain in 2003 by


  The Orion Publishing Group Ltd

  Orion House

  5 Upper Saint Martin’s Lane

  London, WC2H 9EA

  An Hachette UK Company

  This eBook first published in 2010 by Gollancz.

  A CIP catalogue record for this book

  is available from the British Library.

  ISBN 978 0 575 09824 4

  This eBook produced by Jouve, France

  All characters and events in this publication are fictitious and any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

  No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means, without the prior permission in writing of the publisher, nor to be otherwise circulated in any form of binding or cover other than that in which it is published without a similar condition, including this condition, being imposed on the subsequent purchaser.





  Also by Philip K. Dick



  Jon’s World

  Breakfast at Twilight

  Small Town

  The Father-Thing

  The Chromium Fence


  The Days of Perky Pat


  A Little Something for us Tempunauts

  The Pre-Persons


  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.’
r />   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.’


  ‘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. Half a 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 Jennings’ 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?’


  ‘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?’


  ‘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 Securit
y 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 out 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.