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We're Friends, Now   By: (1913-1977)

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Transcriber's Note:

This etext was produced from Amazing Science Fiction Stories April 1960. Extensive research did not uncover any evidence that the U.S. copyright on this publication was renewed.

The little man stood in front of the monstrous machine as the synaptic drone heightened to a scream. No ... no, he whispered. Don't you understand....




Today more than other days Raoul Beardsley felt the burden, the dragging sense of inevitability. He frowned; he glanced at his watch; he leaned forward to speak to the copter pilot and then changed his mind. He settled back, and from idle habit adjusted his chair scope to the familiar broad spoked area of Washington just below.

"I'll not have it happening again today!" he told himself grimly ... and at once his thoughts quavered off into many tangles of self reproach. "Blasted nonsense the way I've been acting. A machine , a damned gutless machine like that! Why do I persist in letting it get to me?"

He pondered that and found no solace. "Delusion," he snorted. "Hyper synapse disorder ... that's how Jeff Arnold would explain me . I wish he'd confine his diagnostics to the Mechanical Division where it belongs! He's amused, they're all amused at me but damn it they just don't know!"

Beardsley's rotund body sagged at the thought. Adjusting the chair scope, he fixed his gaze on the broad facade of Crime Central Building far across the city; again he felt the burgeoning embarrassment and foreboding, but he put it down with an effort before it reached the edge of fear. Not today , he thought fiercely. No, by God, I just won't permit it to happen.

There. So! He felt much better already. And he had really made good time this morning. Today of all days he mustn't keep ECAIAC waiting.

[Illustration: Beardsley was the only one not to panic when the infallible machine broke down.]

Mustn't.... Something triggered in Beardsley, and he was assailed with a perverse rebellion at the thought.

Must not? But why not? Why shouldn't he just once keep ECAIAC and Jeff Arnold and his clique stewing in their own tangle of tubes and electronic juice? And wouldn't this , he gloated, be the perfect day for it! Arnold especially just once to shatter that young man's complacent routine....

No. Beardsley savored the thought tastily, and let it trickle away, and the look of glee on his cherubic face was gone. For too many years his job as serological "coördinator" (Crime Central) had kept him pinned to the concomitant routine. Pinned or crucified, it was all the same; in crime analysis as in everything these days, personal sense of achievement had been too unsubtly annihilated. Recalling his just completed task the Citizen Files and persona tapes and the endless annotating Beardsley felt himself sinking still further into that mire of futility that encompassed neither excitement nor particular pride.

He brought himself back with a grimace, aware that he was clutching the briefcase of tapes possessively from long habit. The pilot had touched the news stat, and abruptly one of the new "commerciappeals" grated on Beardsley's senses:

"... we repeat, yes, PROT O SUDS is now available in flake or cake or the new attachable luxury spray . Remember, PROT O SUDS has never been laboratory tested, it contains no miracle ingredients, no improved scientific formula, and NO LANOLIN. Then what is the new PROT O SUDS? I tell you frankly, friends, it is nothing but a lot of pure soft soap! Remember ... we make no fabulous claims for PROT O SUDS ... we assume that you are reasonably clean to start with! And now for your late breakfast news, PROT O SUDS takes you direct to the Central News Bureau for a final survey on the Carmack murder case... Continue reading book >>

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