Ubik by Philip K. Dick Page B

Book: Ubik by Philip K. Dick Read Free Book Online
Authors: Philip K. Dick
Tags: Fiction
down after the blast. It’ll make you feel better, once we land; we’ll be so much safer on Earth.”
    Joe said, “The fact that we had to go to Luna should have tipped us off.” Should have tipped Runciter off, he realized. “Because of that loophole in the law dealing with civil authority on Luna. Runciter always said, ‘Be suspicious of any job order requiring us to leave Earth.’ If he were alive he’d be saying it now. ‘Especially don’t bite if it’s Luna where they want us. Too many prudence organizations have bitten on that.’ ” If he does revive at the moratorium, he thought, that’ll be the first thing he says. “I always was suspicious of Luna,” he’ll say. But not quite suspicious enough. The job was too much of a plum; he couldn’t resist it. And so, with that bait, they got him. As he always knew they would.
    The ship’s retrojets, triggered off by the Zürich microwave transmitter, rumbled on; the ship shuddered.
    “Joe,” Tito Apostos said, “you’re going to have to tell Ella about Runciter. You realize that?”
    “I’ve been thinking about it,” Joe said, “since we took off and started back.”
    The ship, slowing radically, prepared by means of its various homeostatic servo-assist systems to land.
    “And in addition,” Joe said, “I have to notify the Society as to what’s happened. They’ll rake us over the coals; they’ll point out right away that we walked into it like sheep.”
    Sammy Mundo said, “But the Society is our friend.”
    “Nobody,” Al Hammond said, “after a fiasco like this, is our friend.”

    A solar-battery-powered chopper marked BELOVED BRETHREN MORATORIUM waited at the edge of the Zürich field. Beside it stood a beetle-like individual wearing a Continental outfit: tweed toga, loafers, crimson sash and a purple airplane-propeller beanie. The proprietor of the moratorium minced toward Joe Chip, his gloved hand extended, as Joe stepped from the ship’s ramp onto the flat ground of Earth.
    “Not exactly a trip replete with joy, I would judge by your appearance,” von Vogelsang said as they briefly shook hands. “May my workmen go aboard your attractive ship and begin—”
    “Yes,” Joe said. “Go aboard and get him.” Hands in his pockets, he meandered toward the field’s coffee shop, feeling bleakly glum. All standard operating procedure from now on, he realized. We got back to Earth; Hollis didn’t get us—we’re lucky. The Lunar operation, the whole awful, ugly, rat-trap experience, is over. And a new phase begins. One which we have no direct power over.
    “Five cents, please,” the door of the coffee shop said, remaining shut before him.
    He waited until a couple passed by him on their way out; neatly he squeezed by the door, made it to a vacant stool and seated himself. Hunched over, his hands locked together before him on the counter, he read the menu. “Coffee,” he said.
    “Cream or sugar?” the speaker of the shop’s ruling monad turret asked.
    The little window opened; a cup of coffee, two tiny paper-wrapped sacks of sugar and a test-tube-like container of cream slid forward and came to rest before him on the counter.
    “One international poscred, please,” the speaker said.
    Joe said, “Charge this to the account of Glen Runciter of Runciter Associates, New York.”
    “Insert the proper credit card,” the speaker said.
    “They haven’t let me carry around a credit card in five years,” Joe said. “I’m still paying off what I charged back in—”
    “One poscred, please,” the speaker said. It began to tick ominously. “Or in ten seconds I will notify the police.”
    He passed the poscred over. The ticking stopped.
    “We can do without your kind,” the speaker said.
    “One of these days,” Joe said wrathfully, “people like me will rise up and overthrow you, and the end of tyranny by the homeostatic machine will have arrived. The day of human values and compassion and simple warmth will

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