And Gone Tomorrow
And Gone Tomorrow
BY ANDY OFFUT
[Transcriber's Note: This etext was produced from
Worlds of If Science Fiction, December 1954.
Extensive research did not uncover any evidence that
the U.S. copyright on this publication was renewed.]
THE $1000 PRIZE WINNING STORY
in IF's College Science Fiction Contest
Here is the best story submitted in answer to the theme question:"What Will Life in America Be Like 100 Years From Now?" ... Written byan undergraduate at the University of Louisville, Louisville, Kentucky,it pictures the America of 2054 as part of a world empire run by anItalian dictator and very similar to that of the ancient Caesars andthe early Roman Empire. There is one language, one religion and customsand laws have changed to suit the times. But, basically, human naturehasn't changed and there is the omnipresent clash of faction againstfaction. The theme is that a dictatorship is the only perfect form ofgovernment. If there is a moral, it is that there is no permanent formof government.
One of the requirements for entering IF's College Science FictionContest was that the contestant be a "simon pure" amateur—neverhaving been published professionally. This is Andy Offut's firstpublished story, and it has been accorded the same editing we give toprofessional manuscripts. No rewriting or revisions have been made. SeeNovember IF for complete announcement of this and the six other winnersin this nation-wide contest.
He sat down suddenly. He stared up at the man.
"Say it again," he muttered.
He knew what the answer would be even before the man repeated it inthat quiet voice.
"This is June 3, 2054."
The fellow wasn't kidding him. He was serious enough. But a coupleof minutes ago it had been May 15, 1954. He looked at his watch andgrunted. Less than four minutes ago it had been 1954. Reality. Now itwas June 3, 2054. There were four steel walls. There was a steel chair.There were no windows.
He tried to take it calmly. But the unbelievable horror of beingwhere he was and when he was and the man calmly repeating, "Thisis June 3, 2054," screamed for release.
"No! No! You're lying! It's impossible!" He grabbed the man's tunic anddrew back a doubled fist. His chair went over behind him.
Then a stiff thumb jabbed him in the short ribs and he grunted and wentdown.
"This is June 3, 2054. You are still in Louisville, Kentucky. You arestanding in a room adjoining the laboratory in the Time Building on3rd Street at Eastern Parkway. This is the receiving room. My name isKevin Ilaria. You've come through time. Is that so impossible to grasp?You're a thinking man. Educated!"
He looked up from the floor.
"So I'm a thinking man and an educated man. And what happens? I'msapped. I'm shanghaied. I'm walking down Confederate Place to my oldfraternity house at 1:00 in the morning. I've just had a row withmy girl. I'm heading for the fraternity house to see who'll go downto Herman's and get good and drunk with me. And somebody clobbersme. The next thing I remember I'm sitting in a steel chair in asteel room without any windows. Just like this one. There's a manstanding there. A man with watery, myopic eyes under bushy brows andhis hair parted in the middle. He's Doctor Borley, of the Universityof Louisville Chemistry Department. There's another man with him. Alittle fellow with thick glasses and a crew cut and eyes like the slitsbetween closed Venetian blinds. He's Doctor Schink, of the PsychologyDepartment. They're talking about me."
"Umn hmn. Now you're beginning to sound normal. Doctors Borley andSchink are our agents in 1954. Do you know where you were?"
"I told you. In some sort of steel room without win—"
The man made an impatient gesture with his hand. "No, I mean where.You were in a steel chamber in the Daynolds Metals Plant. It stood onthis spot in 1954. Two people knew—know—about that room."
"Doctor Borley and Doctor Schink?"
"I'm glad you've calmed down. Now we can talk."
Jay wasn't quite ready to calm down. "You stand there in that Romanoutfit and talk about being calm. To me. To me, Jay Welch, a historymajor who took his AB from the University of Louisville in 1950. JayWelch, average guy, who got into an average argument with the girl hepinned in 1950 and went for a walk to drown his sorrows and wound upone hundred years from where—when—he started. I—"
"Then you admit you've come through Time?"
"I may as well."
Ilaria cursed quietly. "But you're not an average guy. You have aworking knowledge of chemistry and biology and physics and historyand a few arts and sociology and psychology and geopolitics andliterature and the English language as spoken in AD 1954. You hope tobe successful as a writer. You're Public Relations Consultant withDuo-Point, one of the biggest corporations in your nation in 1954."
"Yes," Jay Welch said. "And I make good money. Even better than a busdriver or a steam-fitter. So?"
"So here you are. 1954's representative to 2054." Ilaria was only aman. He could not keep the flourish and the Hollywood grandeur out ofhis voice.
"Yes! And what happens tomorrow when I don't show up for work? Whathappens in a few days when people find out I've disappeared? Whathappens when they find out Julie was the last person I was with? What—"
"You're getting yourself worked up again, Jay Welch. Don't you thinkwe have thought of those things? We've brought you across one hundredyears, Jay Welch."
"Yes," Jay said quietly, flatly. "Yes." Then just as flatly, just asquietly he said, "Why?"
"So you've remembered to wonder about that at last." Ilaria smiled.Jay noticed that the smile was one-sided and pulled back the leftcorner of Ilaria's mouth. He stood there and looked down at Jay Welch,who had forgotten that he was sitting on the floor. His tunic waswhite and there were three diamond-shaped silver pieces in a verticalline on each elbow-length sleeve. There was a wide blue stripe and anarrow silver stripe at the hem of his tunic and at his sleeves. Hewore sandals. His belt was leather and there was a holstered pistol ofsome sort hanging at his left hip. In tiny blue script above his leftbreast pocket were the words 'Trib. Ilaria'. On the pocket was a reddisk with the letters PR. A silver-worked blue cloak was flung overhis shoulders. Except for the identification and the odd fabric of hisclothes and the holstered gun he looked very like a young Roman of thefirst century.
Ilaria's slow smile pulled back the left corner of his mouth. "Becauseyou are who you are and what you are. Because you attended theUniversity of Louisville and Doctors Borley and Schink knew you.Because they chose you. Merely because they chose you. They might'vechosen anyone else.
"We've your personality pretty well mapped out. We expected violence.That's why I'm here. I'm a psychologist and an anthropologist. I'm afast-talker and I can convince people and place them at ease. I'm alsobig enough to handle you, Jay Welch."
From his position on the floor Jay looked up at Ilaria and decided theman from 2054 was big enough. Jay Welch was six feet one inch tall. Heweighed one seventy-three and wore a 40-long suit. Kevin Ilaria wasbigger.
Jay was forced to grin. The tall blond man was a likeable guy, at that.A human being.
"Who are you?"
"Kevin Ilaria. Doctor of Psychology. That entitles me to the silverband on my tunic. Also a Tribune. That entitles me to the blue stripeand the three silver diamonds and the gun."
"A Tribune? In what? Of what?"
"In the Forces. In the actual ranks, a Tribune commands 7,000 men, 250planes or a base, or 40 tanks. But I've never had a chance to go intothe field. There has been no cause to fight. Meantime I'm stationed atStandiford Field as second-in-command. A friend of mine named Rinaldifills in for me. He's a Sub-Tribune.
"I've been specializing in the study of Time."
"The way you say Time it sounds as though it were capitalized. Where Icome from Time with a capital T is a magazine."
Kevin Ilaria laughed. He reached down a hand. "Get up," he said, and,taking Jay's forearm, helped him to his feet.
"Let's go," he said.
Jay didn't bother to ask where they were going. He followed the Tribuneout the door and into the hall. On the wall just outside the door, wasa black box. Two squares cut into it shone with a faint white light.Ilaria paused and shielded the lighted areas a moment with his hand,and Jay saw the light go out in the room they had just left. Ilariaclosed the door. As he turned, Jay saw the white letters PR emblazonedon the back of his cloak.
"This way," he said. Jay noticed that Ilaria walked on his right, sothat the Tribune's gun was between them.
"The way I said Time, it is capitalized. It means all the Time sincethe beginning. It's a corporation, like your Duo-Point. Only muchlarger, and much less known. Our job is to learn."
"That's a big order," Jay commented. "You learnby—borrowing—emissaries?"
Ilaria laughed again. "Thanks for the phraseology, but it wouldn'tworry me if you called it 'kidnaping' or 'shanghaiing.' You're right,of course. We learn by sending men from this age to other ones, and bypulling men from other ages to this one. Doctor Schink is our Emissaryto 1954. His real name is Clyde Gabrinaldi. Borley is our contactthere ... rather, then."
"Well I'll be damned! I've gone to Clyde a lot of times for advice."
The left corner of Ilaria's mouth pulled back as his grin widened. "Umnhmn. He's married, too. With a child. He's there for good."
Jay was afraid to ask if emissaries from the past to 2054 were "therefor good" too. He changed the subject.
"You started to tell me before—"
"Oh, yes. I'm to be your teacher and companion. But I'll try to giveyou a quick fill-in. Our world of 2054 is quite different from yours.And, we hope, in better shape. We've proved that the only way tomaintain world peace is by world government. And the only successfultype of government is a dictatorship."
Jay gasped. "You mean the entire world—has reverted to dictatorship?"
Ilaria laughed. "Not reverted. We finally accepted it as the onlylogical form of government for an entire world."
"What happens when the dictator goes wild? He always has."
The smile was there again. "You're not quite ready for that," Ilariatold him. "But, it has been taken into consideration."
Out of the corner of his eye, Jay saw the slight puff of Ilaria'schest, the self-satisfied square of his shoulders, the quick set of hisjaw. He wondered what part Tribune Kevin Ilaria played in the 'dictatorcontrol' this world had provided.
"The system has worked and is working. See this?"
They turned a corner in the corridor and faced a great domed room.On the far wall hung a white tapestry of something like 40 x 40 footdimensions. On it, emblazoned in letters of red and yellow made to looklike flame, were the characters PPB. In the lower right-hand corner, inwhite outlined with blue, was the same PR that Ilaria wore. Jay waitedfor the Tribune's explanation.
"PpB stands for Pax per Bello," Ilaria explained. "Peace through War.That slogan was written in 1967 by Julius and adapted in 1971 asofficial."
"Yes. The first Dictator."
Things were beginning to click in Jay's mind.
"I think I know what PR stands for," he said. "Pax Romana."
As always, Ilaria smiled. "That's right," he said.
The command-car marked with the PR symbol pulled over and stopped.
"What is it? Who are you?" the driver demanded.
The Captain on the seat beside him peered into the blackness and cursed.
The man who had waved the vehicle to a halt walked away.
"Here!" the Captain cried. "What in blazes is going on here? Why'd youstop us? Centurion! Stop that man!"
The two Centurions in the back seat looked at the Captain for a moment,then they both jumped out and ran after the man.
An ellipsoidal grey thing streaked out of the darkness, landed in thedriver's lap and thudded to the floor of the car. The Captain threwopen his door and started to climb out. The driver bent over to seewhat it was.
At that moment the driver, the command-car and the Captain blew up.