The Space Merchants

The Space Merchants by Frederik Pohl, C. M. Kornbluth Read Free Book Online

Book: The Space Merchants by Frederik Pohl, C. M. Kornbluth Read Free Book Online
Authors: Frederik Pohl, C. M. Kornbluth
Tags: Fiction, General, Science-Fiction, Fantasy, Classics, Adult, SciFi-Masterwork
mellifluous, hyperbolic, paternalistic, star-making, genius-devouring Moloch of an old—"
    The slam of Tildy's own door cut off the noun. I was sorry; it would have been a good noun.
    I cleared my throat, knocked once, and walked into Fowler's office. There was no hint of his brush with Tildy in the smile he gave me. In fact, his pink, clear-eyed face belied my suspicions, but—I had been shot at.
    "I'll only be a minute, Fowler," I said. "I want to know whether you've been playing rough with Taunton Associates."
    "I always play rough," he twinkled. "Rough, but clean."
    "I mean very, very rough and very, very dirty. Have you, by any chance, tried to have any of their people shot?"
    "Mitch! Really!"
    "I'm asking," I went on doggedly, "because last night a 'copter-borne marksman tried to plug me when I came home. I can't think of any angle except retaliation from Taunton."
    "Scratch Taunton," he said positively.
    I took a deep breath. "Fowler," I said, "man-to-man, you haven't been Notified? I may be out of line, but I've got to ask. It isn't just me. It's the Venus Project."
    There were no apples in Fowler's cheeks at that moment, and I could see in his eyes that my job and my star-class rating hung in the balance.
    He said: "Mitch, I made you star class because I thought you could handle the responsibilities that came with it. It isn't just the work. I know you can do that. I thought you could live up to the commercial code as well."
    I hung on. "Yes, sir," I said.
    He sat down and lit a Starr. After just exactly the right split second of hesitation, he pushed the pack to me. "Mitch, you're a youngster, only star class a short time. But you've got power. Five words from you, and in a matter of weeks or months half a million consumers will find their lives completely changed. That's power, Mitch, absolute power. And you know the old saying. Power ennobles. Absolute power ennobles absolutely."
    "Yes, sir," I said. I knew all the old sayings. I also knew that he was going to answer my question eventually.
    "Ah, Mitch," he said dreamily, waving his cigarette, "we have our prerogatives and our duties and our particular hazards. You can't have one without the others. If we didn't have feuds, the whole system of checks and balances would be thrown out of gear."
    "Fowler," I said, greatly daring, "you know I have no complaints about the system. It works; that's all you have to say for it. I know we need feuds. And it stands to reason that if Taunton files a feud against us, you've got to live up to the code. You can't broadcast the information; every executive in the shop would be diving for cover instead of getting work done. But—Venus Project is in my head, Fowler. I can handle it better that way. If I write everything down, it slows things up."
    "Of course," he said.
    "Suppose you were Notified, and suppose I'm the first one Taunton knocks off—what happens to Venus Project?"
    "You may have a point," he admitted. "I'll level with you, Mitch. There has been no Notification."
    "Thanks, Fowler," I said sincerely. "I did get shot at. And that accident in Washington—maybe it wasn't an accident. You don't imagine Taunton would try anything without Notifying you, do you?"
    "I haven't provoked them to that extent, and they'd never do a thing like that anyhow. They're cheap, they're crooked, but they know the rules of the game. Killing in an industrial feud is a misdemeanor. Killing without Notification is a commercial offense. You haven't been getting into any of the wrong beds, shall I say?"
    "No," I said. "My life's been very dull. The whole thing's crazy. It must have been a mistake. But I'm glad that whoever-it-was couldn't shoot."
    "So am I, Mitch, so am I! Enough of your personal life. We've got business. You saw O'Shea?" He had already dismissed the shooting from his mind.
    "I did. He's coming up here today. He'll be working closely with me."
    "Splendid! Some of that glory will rub off on Fowler Schocken Associates if we play

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