Philip K. Dick
Friends, this is clean-up time and we’re discounting all our silent, electric Ubiks by this much money. Yes, we’re throwing away the blue-book. And remember: every Ubik on our lot has been used only as directed.
At three-thirty A. M. on the night of June 5, 1992, the top telepath in the Sol System fell off the map in the offices of Runciter Associates in New York City. That started vid-phones ringing. The Runciter organization had lost track of too many of Hollis’ psis during the last two months; this added disappearance wouldn’t do.
“Mr. Runciter? Sorry to bother you.” The technician in charge of the night shift at the map room coughed nervously as the massive, sloppy head of Glen Runciter swam up to fill the vidscreen. “We got this news from one of our inertials. Let me look.” He fiddled with a disarranged stack of tapes from the recorder which monitored incoming messages. “Our Miss Dorn reported it; as you may recall she had followed him to Green River, Utah, where-“
Sleepily, Runciter grated, “Who? I can’t keep in mind at all times which inertials are following what teep or precog.” With his hand he smoothed down his ruffled gray mass of wirelike hair. “Skip the rest and tell me which of Hollis’ people is missing now.”
“S. Dole Melipone,” the technician said.
“What? Melipone’s gone? You kid me.”
“I not kid you,” the technician assured him. “Edie Dorn and two other inertials followed him to a motel named the Bonds of Erotic Polymorphic Experience, a sixty-unit sub-surface structure catering to businessmen and their hookers who don’t want to be entertained. Edie and her colleagues didn’t think he was active, but just to be on the safe side we had one of our own telepaths, Mr. G. G. Ashwood, go in and read him. Ashwood found
a scramble pattern surrounding Melipone’s mind, so he couldn’t do anything; he therefore went back to Topeka, Kansas, where he’s currently scouting a new possibility.”
Runciter, more awake now, had lit a cigarette; chin in hand, he sat propped up somberly, smoke drifting across the scanner of his end of the bichannel circuit. “You’re sure the teep was Melipone? Nobody seems to know what he looks like; he must use a different physiognomic template every month. What about his field?”
“We asked Joe Chip to go in there and run tests on the magnitude and minitude of the field being generated there at the Bonds of Erotic Polymorphic Experience Motel. Chip says it registered, at its height, 68.2 blr units of telepathic aura, which only Melipone, among all the known telepaths, can produce.” The technician finished, “So that’s where we stuck Melipone’s identflag on the map. And now he – it – is gone.”
“Did you look on the floor? Behind the map?”
“It’s gone electronically. The man it represents is no longer on Earth or, as far as we can make out, on a colony world either.”
Runciter said, “I’ll consult my dead wife.”
“It’s the middle of the night. The moratoriums are closed now.”
“Not in Switzerland,” Runciter said, with a grimacing smile, as if some repellent midnight fluid had crept up into his aged throat. “Goodeve.” Runciter hung up.
As owner of the Beloved Brethren Moratorium, Herbert Schoenheit von Vogelsang, of course, perpetually came to work before his employees. At this moment, with the chilly, echoing building just beginning to stir, a worried-looking clerical individual with nearly opaque glasses and wearing a tabby-fur blazer and pointed yellow shoes waited at the reception counter, a claim-check stub in his hand.