Rx for chaoschristopher Anvil

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Rx FOR CHAOSChristopher Anvil

This is a work of fiction. All the characters and events portrayed in this book are fictional, and any resemblance to real people or incidents is purely coincidental.
Copyright © 2008 by Christopher Anvil.
A Baen Book Original
Baen Publishing Enterprises
P.O. Box 1403
Riverdale, NY 10471
ISBN 10: 1-4165-9143-5
ISBN 13: 978-1-4165-9143-6
Cover art by Clyde Caldwell
First Baen printing, February 2009
Distributed by Simon & Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas
New York, NY 10020
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Anvil, Christopher.
RX for chaos / by Christopher Anvil ; edited by Eric
p. cm.
ISBN 1-4165-9143-5
I. Flint, Eric. II. Title.
PS3551.N9R9 2009
Printed in the United States of America 

"Cinderella, Inc" was first published in Imagination, December 1952. "Roll Out the Rolov" was first published in Imagination, November 1953. "The New Boccaccio" was first published in Analog, January 1965. "A Handheld Primer" was first published in Amazing, January 1978. "Rx For Chaos" was first published in Analog, February 1964. "Is Everybody Happy?" was first published in Analog, April 1968. "The Great Intellect Boom" was first published in Analog, July 1969. "Interesting Times" was first published in Analog, December 1987. "Superbiometalemon" was first published in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, July 1982. "Speed-Up!" was first published in Amazing, January 1964. "Rags From Riches" was first published in Amazing, November 1987. "Bugs" was first published in Analog, June 1986. "Positive Feedback" was first published in Analog, August 1965. "Two-Way Communication" was first published in Analog, May 1966. "High G" was first published in IF, June 1965. "Doc's Legacy" was first published in Analog, February 1988. "Negative Feedback" was first published in Analog, March 1994. "The New Way" was first published in Beyond Infinity, November/December 1967. "Identification" was first published in Analog, May 1961. "The Golden Years" was first published in Analog, March 1977. "No Small Enemy" was first published in Analog, November 1961. "Not in the Literature" was first published in Analog, March 1963. MATING GAMESCinderella, Inc.The girl was sallow and scrawny, her face as unattractive as two pills in a smear of mustard. She squinted up and down the street before she hustled across to a wide doorway under a glowing sign: CINDERELLA, INC. She hurried through the door and up to a handsome male attendant standing near a hotel-like desk. "At your service, madame," he crooned.She fumbled in her pocketbook and brought out a piece of torn telescript. She crammed it into his hand. "Can they make me look like that?" she demanded.He unfolded the paper and glanced at the lush advertisement. He smiled and returned it. "Yes," he said, "but it will be expensive.""Oh, I've got the money."He raised his hand in an imperious gesture, and a round purple and gold couch whirled down from above. "Seat yourself, madame, and be borne on your voyage to beauty," he said grandiosely. In a sort of mesmeric trance she flopped down on the couch and it whisked away with her.The couch vaulted through a wide oval opening into a rose colored room ringed with mirrors. From a hidden opening in the ceiling a grayish-green light rayed down on her. "Behold yourself as you are," said a taunting female voice.The girl glanced with irritation at the mirror. "You don't have to sell me," she snapped, "I know what I look like."The couch started forward with a jerk and slid toward a mirror, the image enlarging as it approached. The mirror swung up and the couch slid through to halt before a desk in a softly-lit room done in gray. A window looked out over the city. A man in a white coat rose from his desk and offered her a chair facing him. His eyes went over her impersonally.She got up from the couch and sat down beside the desk."What is it you want?" the man asked."This," said the girl, and spread the advertisement before him.He studied the picture for a minute then looked the girl over again. "Stand up, please." She stood up. "Now turn around. Mm-hm . . . Well, sit down." He bridged his hands and looked at her. "I think we can do the body, but I'm not sure of the face. This will cost money. Ah, we insist on a cash payment . . .""How much money?" She watched him tensely, opening her pocketbook."One hundred thousand."She took out ten crisp bills and spread them on his desk. He nodded, scribbled a receipt, and took her back to the couch. It whirled her out the door and down warm, gaily-lighted perfumed halls to another hotel-like desk where two pretty young girls sat on the counter with their short-skirted legs swinging back and forth. They jumped to their feet and went to the couch. Automatically she showed them the receipt."Oh," said one of the attendants, "you've already paid?""Yes.""Well, then we can forget the sales talk." They glanced at the receipt, and their eyes widened. "You get the full treatment!" They looked envious."Don't you think I need it?" she said coldly. "Why don't we get started?""Don't you be nervous," said one of the girls sympathetically. "You'll come out all right. Joanie and me looked almost as bad as you do when we got the treatment." She straightened and turned around slowly, then laughed in vibrant happiness. "And we didn't get the full treatment!" They climbed onto the couch and waved to an attendant who set it whirling down the hall . . . It was twenty days before she returned to consciousness, and it was thirty days after that before the doctors and attendants could be sure of the results.At last she stood in front of the mirror, naked, and saw what she had hoped. She was, in physical existence, what men with overactive glands and vivid imaginations dream of. She moved sensuously and the male attendants hastily left the room. Her throaty laughter followed them out the door.Later she was called for her final interview. "Please sit down," said the woman doctor, frowning at a sheaf of papers on the desk. The doctor picked up a clinical photograph and showed it to her. "Do you recognize this woman?""Of course," said her sensuous voice. "That was I." She laughed huskily."Quite a transformation. Sometimes I think I'll take the treatment myself." The doctor ran a hand across her face, with the fingers spread out, massaging. "Now you'll admit, there's been quite a change.""Of course.""It would be unpleasant to change back."There was a momentary silence. "Change back?""Yes, yes, I know," said the doctor, "this sounds like a scene from a horror teleshow. But the fact is that the, er, change was brought about, among other things, with the use of glandular secretions. A few chemicals were even used that don't ordinarily exist in the adult human body. Now our doctors have stabilized your physique as effectively as they can." She shuffled through the papers. "But you'll need to use a jectokit. We have yours here."She handed across a small cream-colored plastic box. "The directions are indented into the box, so you can't make any mistake if you read them. Your body can store some of these substances for a time, but don't go longer than ten days without them. Don't get cocky. You're a beautiful woman now, but remember, your beauty rests on that little box. After six months, we'll give you a refill, or one of our branch stores will. You're safe, so long as you do as I say." The doctor looked up to see how her listener was taking it. She received a breath-taking smile in return."I'm off," said the new beauty, "to find a man.""That won't be hard," murmured the doctor a little ruefully. The wedding, three months later, was a striking one. The women stared enviously at the tall handsome breadth of the bridegroom, and the men watched the bride with bulging eyes. When the ceremony was over, and the couple occupied the bridal suite for the night, there was a momentary interlude."Darling," murmured the bride, "forgive me for a moment. I want to pretty up.""You're pretty enough to eat," said the groom huskily.She laughed and slipped past him to the bathroom door with her travel case. "Compose yourself," she smiled. "I'll be out in five minutes."The groom smiled back. "Five minutes, then."Once inside, she locked the door and brought out the little yellow plastic box. She clicked open the cover and looked at the photograph snapped inside. "Cinderella, Inc." said the legend, "reminds you.""I remember," she said, and began her ritual.In the bedroom, the groom was in his shirtsleeves whistling and unpacking his suitcase. Suddenly he stopped and stared at a little brown plastic box rolled up in his bathrobe. "By George," he gasped, "I almost forgot."Hastily, he rolled up his sleeve. . .. Roll Out The Rolov!Maryn was bored. She emerged from her bath dripping and unattractive, and waited resignedly as the Warm-Dry blew her lank young hair back from her forehead. The autotape whipped out and took the measurements of her immature figure.From the bedroom nearby, the memory box spoke with her mother's recorded voice: "Hurry up, Maryn.""Yes, Mother," said Maryn obediently, knowing the memory-box would record her answer."It's almost eight," said her mother's voice, timed to go off when it was almost eight. "Yes, Mother," said Maryn obediently."Well, you'd better hurry. Jackson won't want to be kept waiting.""Yes, Mother," said Maryn. She pressed her hand along the flat length of her body and found she was dry. She waved her hand through the light beam and the Warm-Dry clicked off with a dying sigh. Maryn stepped on the travel-rug and pressed with her toes. The travel-rug slid with her into a luxurious bedroom."Jackson won't want to be kept waiting, Maryn," said her mother's voice from the memory box."No, Mother," said Maryn. The "Jackson" her mother referred to was young Jackson Mellibant VII, just down from Herriman College. To her mother's delight, he had asked Maryn for a date."Remember," said her mother, "the Mellibants are very influential. You may not have another chance like this.""No, Mother," groaned Maryn. She pressed down with her heels and the rug stopped before a pastel pink egg about five feet high. Maryn pressed down with the toes of her left foot and the heel of her right. The rug pivoted her around. Maryn passed her hand through a beam of blue light and the egg snicked open. Maryn stepped in and it closed around her, leaving only her head outside."Maryn," said her mother's voice, "I do think you should hurry. Are you getting your foundation yet?""Yes, Mother," said Maryn, who was now being buffeted about slightly, within the egg. Inside the pastel pink, egg-shaped machine, her body was being, as the advertisement put it, reborn."Remember," said her mother, "you must look your best, Maryn.""Yes, Mother.""Now, Maryn," said her mother's voice from the box, "remember if he gets—forward—you aren't to be naive.""No, Mother," groaned Maryn."Lead him on, Maryn. Remember, the Mellibants are very influential.""Yes, Mother.""And Maryn, if he should—if he should—well, come up after your date, you're to use the rolov, do you understand?" Her mother's voice rose warningly. "Not yourself, do you understand?""Yes, Mother," Maryn mumbled."I don't want you to feel hurt, Maryn, but you simply wouldn't do. What's the use of having these great technical advances, if we don't use them? I've set the rolov so it will have your exact foundation, and he'll never know the difference. That way you'll both have a better time. Well, I'm glad that's settled. Have a good time, dear.""Yes, Mother," murmured Maryn. The egg snicked open and Maryn stepped out. She raised her hands and felt the soft voluptuous curves of the dead plastic fastened upon her. She was now, according to the advertisement, "—Reborn—With mystery, with glamour, with the body beautiful to make men lie at your feet and cry aloud for your favor." She had, according to the advertisement, left behind the drabness of her "everyday self." Well, most of it anyway. Maryn stuck her head into another pink pastel egg to get rid of the rest of it."Hurry, Maryn," said her mother, as Maryn stood with her head in the egg. "Glub," said Maryn. The egg ejected her head."Hurry," said her mother's voice."Yes, Mother," said Maryn. She stepped on the rug, dug in her toes and slid to the dressing machine. This sat like a great metal spider behind a flowered screen in the corner of the room. All the craft of a hundred designers had yet to make a dressing machine attractive, and Maryn approached it with the remains of childhood dread. Once she had started it, the long shiny metal arms flashed over her and Maryn lost her fear in boredom. She was always at first a little afraid the machine would spin a cocoon around her and hang her up for a trophy, but as usual it dutifully spun a dress about her. This time Maryn was surprised to find the dress a trifle tighter than usual."Maryn," said her mother's voice."Yes, Mother?""You're in the dressing machine, aren't you?""Yes, Mother." Maryn raised her legs alternately for the shoes and stockings."Hurry," said her mother. "And don't reset the machine. I have it set properly now."Maryn stood stock still till the dressing machine went click and a series of chimes played a tune, signifying that milady might now profitably move on to the finisher. Maryn pressed down heel and toe and slid around the screen to a pastel rose-and-gilt box about the size and shape of an upended coffin. Double doors popped open and a light lit up the wine colored interior. Maryn stepped in."Hurry, Maryn," came her mother's muffled voice."Yes, Mother," said Maryn. She shut her eyes and stood still as a hundred tiny nozzles opened and squirted perfume. A hot breeze fluffed her hair.Somewhere outside, a chime announced the arrival of Jackson Mellibant VII."Hurry, Maryn," said her mother's voice, in a special peremptory tone. As a child, Maryn had been greatly impressed by the memory box. Now she understood that her mother had merely sat down for a minute and rattled off her comments, touching the spacer button to put three minutes between this one and the next, and setting a special comment to be made when the dressing machine went on and another to be said when the front door chimed.The finisher opened up and Maryn stepped out onto the travel rug. On her way out, she had a brief glance at herself in a full length mirror. To an outsider, the effect was designed to be one of lush beauty, combined with serene sophistication and impeccable breeding. Maryn herself had the impression she was watching a popular solido heroine setting out on her stereotyped adventure for the Caswell Brewing Co."Remember, Maryn," hissed her mother's voice, "use the rolov, not yourself.""Yes, Mother," groaned Maryn, as she slid out the bedroom door and down the hall to the living room. She sighed miserably and ran her tongue over her teeth. Their surface felt unnaturally slick and slippery, and Maryn realized that somewhere along the line they had received a coating of Shinywhite. She wondered where. Momentarily distracted by this question, she did not at first see the tall, handsome, sophisticated, and impeccably-bred figure of Jackson Mellibant VII. She caught only the tail end of his flashing smile as he pivoted on his rug and raised his arm. Together, the two of them slid out the door and down the spiral ramp to the waiting car. The evening passed in stifled perfection. Jackson Mellibant VII said precisely the right thing at exactly the right time. Maryn, well-drilled at the Lacemont Finishing School, found it impossible to give anything but the perfectly right reply. She and Jackson whirled around the dance floor with marvelous grace and precision, their feet locked to smooth metal disks, their motion controlled by the electronic calculator in the nightclub basement.At the table, Maryn and Jackson drank a good deal of champagne, which was automatically removed from their stomachs by the teleporter. The drive home in Jackson's car had, therefore, no element of hazard, since Jackson had no difficulty punching the proper destination on the keyboard.On the drive home, carried out at precisely the city speed limit, Maryn sat in futile boredom as Jackson took up her hand and made a lyrical speech concerning it. Maryn's mouth opened and gave a neatly-turned reply. This led coyly on from stage to stage according to the established routine of Caswell Breweries' heroines, till at last they reached home. The car stopped itself by the walk. "My, the house seems lonely," said Maryn, with the correct degree of impropriety. She studied her gloves. "My parents," she added, "never get home till round three.""Perhaps," said Jackson, "I might come up for a few minutes. Just to see that everything's all right.""That," said Maryn, who felt like screaming and hammering on walls, "is very thoughtful of you." They slid up the ramp together. Maryn turned to Jackson and flashed her Shinywhite smile at him. In turn he bent and kissed her plastic shoulder.Together, they slid in through the living room. Maryn glanced sidewise at Jackson as they slid past the sofa. She was afraid he might choose to continue operations there. A moment later, they entered the hallway. This evidently required more intimacy, as he now put his arm around her waist.At the bedroom door, they came to a halt. "You'll wait here for a moment?" she asked, putting her hand on his arm."Don't be long," he whispered.In the living room, there was a faint rumble.Maryn stiffened. "Did you hear that?""What?" asked Jackson, standing with one hand in his side pocket."That noise," said Maryn, becoming alarmed. "In the living room," she whispered. "Would you—""I most certainly shall," said Jackson, gallantly. He slid off down the hallway and Maryn waited in rising alarm till he called, "Perfectly all right. Nothing here.""Thank Heaven," said Maryn, feeling her first genuine emotion of the evening. If Jackson had been on hand, she might have thrown her arms around him and kissed him, but he was still in the living room. Relapsing into boredom, Maryn slid into the bedroom and pulled back the covers. There on the sheets as a reminder was the small flat black box that controlled the rolov. Maryn stabbed one of the buttons, and the discreetly hidden door by the bed opened up. Out rumbled the life-like rolov, and Maryn sat it on the bed, swung its feet off the travel platform, and slid the platform back into the closet. She closed the closet door, and worked the controls so that the rolov clumsily got into bed and lay down on its side. This part of the rolov's repertoire was not automatic, and took a certain amount of facility with the control box. Maryn, seeing how awkwardly the rolov got into bed, was grateful she did not have to make it walk anywhere. She stood looking at this model of her present appearance and had to admit that, except for the eyes, it looked lifelike. She laid her hand on its shoulder. It was cold as an oyster.A gentle tap sounded on the bedroom door."Just a minute," breathed Maryn, hastily stabbing the warm-up and breathing buttons. She flicked off the lights.The door opened, and a dark form slid quickly in."Over here," whispered Maryn, crouching by the bed."Darling," murmured the passionate voice of Jackson Mellibant VII.Maryn pressed the automatic button."Darling," breathed the rolov, in a voice like pure fire. Maryn, unable to stand it, slipped out of the room. She did not doubt she could leave this end of the evening to the built-in skill of the rolov, but she did not think she could bear to watch it. With the hot murmurings still faintly audible behind her, she tiptoed wearily down the hallway and walked into the living room.On the sofa, reading the night's paper, sprawled Jackson Mellibant VII, his face a study in boredom.Maryn stood transfixed.Jackson, flipping the paper, glanced up, snapped the paper around and looked at it. An instant later he glanced up again at Maryn. "Eh!" he gasped, his eyes wide."Well!" said Maryn.For a moment they stared at each other. "You're not in there!" Jackson commented stupidly."What about you?" snapped Maryn.For a moment, they stared at each other vacantly, then Jackson's face took on a look of shrewd calculation. "Come on," he said. She followed him down the hallway, holding tightly to his hand. They bent to listen at the bedroom door. Giggling murmurs came from within.Jackson started to shake silently. He pulled her back to the living room and burst out laughing."I don't see anything funny about it," snapped Maryn. "Who's in there?"Jackson sank down on the couch and laughed all the harder."Some friend of yours?" Maryn demanded icily.Jackson choked and gasped for breath. "Whew!" he said. "Friend?" He tried to stop laughing and failed. He put his hand on Maryn's arm, as if for patience, and she struck it away angrily. She stamped her foot."Maryn," said Jackson between bursts of laughter, "did you put a rolov in there?""What if I did?" she demanded angrily. "That's better than you—you—""No," said Jackson, "you don't understand." He took a small flat black box out of his side pocket and held it up. "I put one in there, too," he said.As Maryn stared, he started to laugh again. "Two love-making machines," he gasped, "locked in steely embrace. Ye gods, there's progress for you.""I don't think that's very funny," said Maryn. "Why did you have to send a machine in?""Oh," said Jackson. "The Murches are very influential people. Miss Maryn Murch must have nothing but the best.""But—" Maryn stared at him. Jackson Mellibant VII was the precise image of exact physical and social perfection. Very clearly, he was the best. Maryn said so."Oh no," said Jackson. "Don't judge others by yourself. I'm all sham and pretense. You don't get strong leading the lives we lead today. I couldn't compare with that machine.""You mean," said the startled Maryn, "that you're made-up?""That's it," said Jackson, rising sadly to his feet. "I'm a fraud, a fake. Well, I'll get my machine and be going.""Wait a minute," said Maryn, taking him by the arm."What?""I want to talk to you.""Still?" he looked at her in surprise."Yes.""What about the machines?""Oh, they can blow a fuse for all I care," said Maryn. "Won't you sit down?""M,m. All right," said Jackson.She smiled at him and rested her head on his shoulder. It was well into the morning when Maryn's mother returned, went directly to the memory box in the bedroom and ran it through. "Well," she said to Maryn, "everything seems to have gone off very nicely. Did he ask for another date?"Maryn nodded."That's good," said her mother. "Remember, Maryn, the Mellibants are very influential people. You must still do your best.""Yes, Mother," said Maryn, obediently. "I will." The New BoccaccioHoward Nelson shook hands with the white-haired man who stood behind the desk. "Nelson," said Howard, introducing himself, "of Nelson and Rand, Publishers.""I'm Forrick," said the white-haired man, smiling. "Well, we of United Computers seldom meet a publisher. We're usually called in to straighten out production difficulties.""That's my trouble exactly," said Howard."Really? You said you were a publisher?""That is correct. Publishers publish books, and books have to be produced. Let me assure you, we have production difficulties. But my specific problem at the moment is our monthly, Varlet."Forrick smoothed his white hair with one hand. "Oh yes," he said, smiling. "Varlet. I bought a copy the other night on my way to the train and rode three stops past my station. Very fine magazine." He cleared his throat, and blushed slightly."I'm glad you've read it," said Howard. "You can understand it's hard to obtain material that's just right for Varlet. What we like is a humorous, sophisticated, but high-powered approach to sex.""Fine art work, too," said Forrick approvingly. "But I don't see where we can help you.""Didn't I read somewhere recently that you folks claimed you could make a machine that would play chess?""Why, yes, and we could. But there's been no demand for that sort of computer." Forrick frowned in puzzlement. "What does that have to do with your magazine?""Let me tell you some of the difficulties we have in producing Varlet," said Howard, "and you'll see what I'm driving at.""Go right ahead," said Forrick. "I'm interested.""To start with," said Howard, "our need is for a very specialized type of material, and writers only occasionally hit on exactly the right blend for us. This made it hard enough when we first came out, but we managed by using the best original material we could obtain, and by reprinting other stories and articles that happened to meet our requirements. But now—" he spread his hands—"there's not only Varlet on the stands, but also Rascal, Sly, Villain, and I understand there's one coming out next month called Devilish. How are we supposed to compete with that field when there isn't enough to be bought in the first place? It's impossible.""I see your point," said Forrick, frowning. "You'd have to lower your standards. But that would hurt sales."Howard nodded and sat back."It is a production problem," said Forrick thoughtfully. "Hm-m-m." He reached for a telephone. Soon he had a phone in each hand. "Meigs," he roared at one point, "that's our motto! If the job is impossible, we'll do it anyhow!"Howard sat tight. Eventually Forrick put down the phones and mopped his brow with a large handkerchief."We've got the boys working on it," he said. "I'm glad you brought this to us, Nelson. It looks like a real challenge."They shook hands.Howard was cursing dismally over a piece of miserable art work some months later when they brought it in. He watched in amazement as the workmen set the glittering machine by his door, then he got up excitedly. The thing looked like a combination electron microscope and spin-drier, but plainly on the front of it in shining chromium was the word: Writivac-112. He walked over to look at it."Say, not bad," he said.The technicians plugged it in and carried out tests with little meters and lengths of cord. Howard watched interestedly.There was a discreet cough at his elbow. He glanced around. "If you'll just sign here, sir.""How much?""Total cost, installed, is $5,750. Is that satisfactory?""Is it satisfactory?" Howard stared at him for a moment. To be able to just set dials and get exactly what he wanted? "Is it satisfactory?" He grabbed his pen, read rapidly, and signed his name.As soon as they cleared out, he approached the Writivac-112. A little instruction book dangled beside it. "Fred! Don!" he yelled. "Get in here!" He got his two top men into the room, and then they locked all the doors and went to work.The machine had several dials and settings. According to the little instruction book, the three knobs lettered A through C on the front determined the proportion of sex, adventure, and mystery in the story. The fourth knob, lettered D, handled special types, all the data for which had to be put in a feed-in slot at the top of the machine, and the feed-in switch thrown to the right. If a large amount of such special material had to be fed in, both memory and feed-in switches were turned to the right. Then the length and spacing switches were to be set, the On button pushed, and the user must be sure the ink reservoir was full and the paper dispenser loaded."Oh, boy," said Fred, who was art editor. "Check the paper reservoir, chief." Surreptitiously he turned dial A (sex), all the way to the right."I notice there's no humor dial," said Don coldly, looking over Fred's shoulder. As fiction editor and part-time writer, he did not look on the machine with enthusiasm. "It'll be a hell of note if this thing doesn't turn out humor," he said. "I hope we haven't got a white elephant here.""One way to find out," said Howard. He opened the cabinet in back. "Plenty of paper and ink there.""Let's go," said Fred. "Can I push the button?""I'll push it," said Howard. He glanced at the settings. "A little one-sided, but let's see what happens." He pushed the On button.There was a soft, continuous, muffled clacking sound, and a faint sliding noise of sheets of paper slipping over one another. At one point the Writivac hesitated and then went on, just like an author hunting for the right word."Sounds O.K." said Fred eagerly."Maybe it'll hatch an egg," grumbled Don."I don't like your attitude," said Howard, thinking of the $5,750 he had tied up in this."Sorry," said Don.The machine whirred on. At length there was silence. Then there was a loud plop, and a massive stack of papers dropped into view through the Out slot. A bell rang once, like the timer on a stove.Fred and Don and Howard looked at each other.Howard recovered first and reached in the slot.Fred coughed. "Should we say some historic words?""I can't think of any," said Howard."Wait till later," said Don ironically, "and we can have the machine run some up for us."Howard glanced at him suspiciously, then pulled out the paper. The first sheet was a title page. In the exact center of the white sheet, capital letters spelled:LUSTThey huddled around the stack of paper at a large table, and Howard cautiously removed the title sheet to glance at the first page. Immediately his face reddened. Fred's eyes bulged out like onions. Don pursed his lips and made as if to blow live steam out of his mouth.After a lengthy silence interrupted only by the turning of pages, Don reached out a shaky hand to the carafe and poured himself a glass of water. Howard grabbed it. Fred quietly appropriated the rest of the manuscript."Whew!" said Howard. "I feel scorched."Across the room, the machine rang its bell."What did you set the length for?" asked Don."I forgot to set the length," said Howard. He leaned forward and squinted."You've got a novel coming up," said Don, staring at the machine. "But we still don't know if the thing will write stuff for Varlet.""Boy!" said Fred, looking up. "Where's the rest of it?""There's another ten thousand words or so in the Out slot," said Howard.Fred shot across the room, and wandered back, reading as he walked.Howard glared. "Don't hog it!" he roared. "Over here with it!" The three of them hunched over the new set of sheets as the machine clacked busily across the room.The sun was a faint glimmer in the west as they finished the last page. Howard cleared his dry throat, and squeezed a last drop of water from the carafe. He glanced at Don. "What do you think?""My eyes feel like sandpaper just from reading it.""How about it," said Fred. He made motions with his hands in the air. "A half-dressed babe on the cover, her negligee down over one shoulder. LUST in big red letters behind her. Nothing else. No background. No nothing. Just a plain cover with the babe and LUST. How about it?""It'll be banned in Boston," said Don dubiously."So what?" said Fred. "That's good advertising.""We'll have to sell it under the counter," said Don. "We'll have to ship it out in lead-lined trucks and have it hustled over the state line by men in asbestos suits.""Oh, it's not that bad," said Howard. "We'll say it's frank and outspoken, a down-to-earth novel. Could we call it a 'psychological study'?""I doubt it," said Don.Fred shook his head reluctantly."All right," said Howard, "then it's a down-to-earth, plain-spoken novel about the stuff life's made of. We'll say it's a first novel, a masterpiece by . . . ah . . . by the new Boccaccio!" He looked up in triumph. "That's exactly the note to strike. Boccaccio's respectable. We'll say this is the work of a modern Boccaccio, that's all."Don eyed the machine sourly and said nothing."Well," said Howard, "we'll rush it through the presses and publish it in the fall. Can you have that cover ready, Fred?""You bet," said Fred, grinning and raising his thumb and forefinger."I thought we got this thing to write stories for Varlet," said Don."Precisely," said Howard, "but we have to have enough breadth of vision to fit it into the big picture, too.""A stroke of genius, chief," said Fred on cue."Thank you, Fred." Howard looked at Don hopefully."There's bound to be a catch in a thing like this," said Don.Howard looked hurt. "Did any of your writers ever produce a book like that . . . or any kind of a book, for that matter . . . right on order in an afternoon?""No," said Don."All right. Now don't worry about Varlet. We'll set it up for Varlet next."Fred sneaked a glance at this watch. "That book gave me an appetite," he said. "Why not let Don go out for some food?""I'm not leaving this room," said Don. "If anyone isn't needed here, it's the art editor."Howard said mildly, "You can both go. It'll take two of you to bring it back." He pulled over a pad and scribbled his order. "Here, and don't lose the paper."After they had left, Howard made careful adjustments on the Writivac. He fed in several exceptionally good issues of Varlet, three of Playboy, two copies of The New Yorker, and an old issue of Esquire. He replenished the paper supply, checked the level of the ink, and set the length for two thousand words. Then there was a commotion at the door, and he looked up to see Don and Fred come in with covered trays."Well, we eat in style," he said. "You were fast enough.""We naturally wanted to get back in time to see our next issue," said Don."You set it up yet?" asked Fred."Just finished." Howard pressed the button.They had hardly uncovered the tray when the Writivac-112 rang its bell. Fred started eagerly across the room."Wait a minute, will you?" said Don. "Once we start reading that stuff we'll never get to eat."Howard started buttering a roll. "Come on back, Fred. It can wait a minute."Fred came back reluctantly. The minute they finished the food and piled the trays to one side, Fred was across the room again. The three of them crowded over the printed sheets. On the title page appeared the words:

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