Ubik

Ubik by Philip K. Dick Page A

Book: Ubik by Philip K. Dick Read Free Book Online
Authors: Philip K. Dick
Tags: Fiction
old.”
    “That can’t be,” Edie Dorn said. “This ship didn’t exist two years ago. Everything on it and in it is new.”
    Tito Apostos said, “Maybe Runciter cut a few corners.”
    “Not at all,” Edie said. “He lavished care, money and engineering skill on
Pratfall II
. Everybody who ever worked for him knows that; this ship is his pride and joy.”
    “
Was
his pride and joy,” Francy Spanish corrected.
    “I’m not ready to admit that,” Joe said. He fed a red card into the phone’s receptor slot. “Give me the current number of the Beloved Brethren Moratorium in Zürich, Switzerland,” he said. To Francy Spanish he said, “This ship is still his pride and joy because he still exists.”
    A card, punched into significance by the phone, leaped out; he transferred it to its receptor slot. This time the phone’s computerized workings responded without irritation; on the screen a sallow, conniving face formed, that of the unctuous busybody who ran the Beloved Brethren Moratorium. Joe remembered him with dislike.
    “I am Herr Herbert Schoenheit von Vogelsang. Have you come to me in your grief, sir? May I take your name and address, were it to happen that we got cut off?” The moratorium owner poised himself.
    Joe said, “There’s been an accident.”
    “What we deem an ‘accident,’ ” von Vogelsang said, “is ever yet a display of god’s handiwork. In a sense, all life could be called an ‘accident.’ And yet in fact—”
    “I don’t want to engage in a theological discussion,” Joe said. “Not at this time.”
    “This is the time, out of all times, when the consolations of theology are most soothing. Is the deceased a relative?”
    “Our employer,” Joe said. “Glen Runciter of Runciter Associates, New York. You have his wife Ella there. We’ll be landing in eight or nine minutes; can you have one of your transport cold-pac vans waiting?”
    “He is in cold-pac now?”
    “No,” Joe said. “He’s warming himself on the beach at Tampa, Florida.”
    “I assume your amusing response indicates yes.”
    “Have a van at the Zürich spaceport,” Joe said, and rang off. Look who we’ve got to deal through, he reflected, from now on. “We’ll get Ray Hollis,” he said to the inertials grouped around him.
    “Get him instead of Mr. Vogelsang?” Sammy Mundo asked.
    “Get him in the manner of getting him dead,” Joe said. “For bringing this about.” Glen Runciter, he thought, frozen upright in a transparent plastic casket ornamented with plastic rosebuds. Wakened into half-life activity one hour a month. Deteriorating, weakening, growing dim…Christ, he thought savagely. Of all the people in the world. A man that vital. And vitalic.
    “Anyhow,” Wendy said, “he’ll be closer to Ella.”
    “In a way,” Joe said, “I hope we got him into the cold-pac too—” He broke off, not wanting to say it. “I don’t like moratoriums,” he said. “Or moratorium owners. I don’t like Herbert Schoenheit von Vogelsang. Why does Runciter prefer Swiss moratoriums? What’s the matter with a moratorium in New York?”
    “It is a Swiss invention,” Edie Dorn said. “And according to impartial surveys, the average length of half-life of a given individual in a Swiss moratorium is two full hours greater than an individual in one of ours. The Swiss seem to have a special knack.”
    “The U.N. ought to abolish half-life,” Joe said. “As interfering with the natural process of the cycle of birth and death.”
    Mockingly, Al Hammond said, “If god approved of half-life, each of us would be born in a casket filled with dry ice.”
    At the control console, Don Denny said, “We’re now under the jurisdiction of the Zürich microwave transmitter. It’ll do the rest.” He walked away from the console, looking glum.
    “Cheer up,” Edie Dorn said to him. “To be brutally harsh about it, consider how lucky all of us are; we might be dead now. Either by the bomb or by being lasered

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