Planetary Agent X

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His attire was on the happy-go-lucky side, more suited for sports wear than a fairly high ranking job in the ultra-staid Octagon. He jumped up and shook hands. What a name, eh? Sid Jakes turned back to Ronny and grinned at him. He motioned to the report again. Bunch of screwballs, again. Out in the vicinity of Sirius.

Have to go the whole way. They speak Ancient Greek. The grin was infectious. Jakes cocked his head to one side. When did you first apply for interplanetary assignment, Ronny? At any one period, Section G is investigating possibly a thousand potential agents. We need men but qualifications are high. He hopped down from his position, sped around to the other side of the desk and lowered himself into his chair.

Send it in when it comes. He puckered up his lips. He flicked the order-box switch again. Then what will the children say? Have ballistics do up a model H gun for Ronny, will you? He flicked off the order-box and turned back to Ronny. He was just beginning to adjust to this free-wheeling character. Do you realize this Tommy Paine character has supposedly stirred up a couple of score wars, revolutions and revolts?

Not to speak of having laid in his lap two or three dozen assassinations. They believed that by bumping off a few Grand Dukes and a Czar or so they could force the ruling class to grant reforms. Sometimes they were pretty ingenious. Blew up trains, that sort of thing. Nobody seems to know. Then, possibly after being successful, he goes to another planet and devotes his energies to establishing the same socio-economic system. The more information I have, the better. A bunch of nature boys had settled there.

The Rival Rigelians and Planetary Agent X

So a whole flock of them landed on this planet. They call it Mother, of all things. They landed and set up a primitive society. Lived by the chase and by picking berries, wild fruit, that sort of thing. Not even any agriculture. Bows and arrows were the nearest thing they allowed themselves in the way of mechanical devices.

We had to wear skins for clothes. We had to confine ourselves to two or three long houses. Something like the American Iroquois lived in before Columbus. Their society on Mother was based on primitive communism. The clan, the phratry, the tribe. Oh, it was great. I suppose they were as happy as anybody ever averages. Lots of fishing, lots of hunting. Started way back in the boondocks away from any of the larger primitive settlements. Went around putting himself over as a holy man.

Cured people of various things from gangrene to eye diseases. Given antibiotics and such, you can imagine how successful he was. But in that manner he made himself awfully popular. The local witch doctors would try to give him a hard time, but the people figured he was a holy man. We went looking for friend Tommy Paine, but he got wind of it and took off. Oh, it was Paine, all right, all right. Last I heard, the planet had broken up into three main camps. They were whaling away at each other like the Assyrians and Egyptians. Iron weapons, chariots, domesticated horses. Agriculture was sweeping the planet.

Men were making slaves out of each other, to put them to work. Oh, it was a mess from the viewpoint of the original nature boys. A red light flickered on his desk and Sid Jakes opened a delivery drawer and dipped his hand into it. It emerged with a flat wallet. He tossed it to Ronny Bronston. Ronny opened the wallet and examined it. It was a simple enough bronze badge. Well brief you further on procedure during indoctrination.

You in turn, of course, are to cooperate with any other agent of Section G. Ronny looked down at it in surprise. The gold had gone dull. Ronny got up and walked over to him and handed it over. Jakes handed it back. Nobody can swipe a Section G badge and impersonate an agent. But the red light flickered again and Jakes brought forth from the delivery drawer a hand gun complete with shoulder harness.

Puts you in immediate contact with the nearest Section G office, no matter how near or far away it is. Or, if you wish, in contact with our offices here in the Octagon. He led Ronny Bronston from his office and down the corridors beyond to an elevator. He was initially taken aback by the existence of the organization at all. The very magnitude of the UP, which involved more than two thousand member planets, allowed for departments and bureaus hidden away in the endless stretches of red tape.

In fact, although Ronny Bronston had spent the better part of his life thus far in studying for a place in the organization, and then working in the Population Statistics Department for some years, he was only now beginning to get the overall picture of the workings of the mushrooming, chaotic United Planets organization. In fact, for all practical purposes it was her only major industry. Tourism, yes, but even that, in a way, was related to the United Planets organization.

Millions of visitors whose ancestors had once emigrated from the mother planet streamed back in racial nostalgia. But the populace of Earth, in its hundreds of millions, were largely citizens of United Planets and worked in the organization and with its auxiliaries such as the Space Forces. At one period, Ronny wondered if it were possible that this was a department which had been lost in the wilderness of boondoggling that goes on in any great bureaucracy. Had Section G been set up a century or so ago and then forgotten by those who had originally thought there was a need for it?

In the same way that it is usually more difficult to get a statute off the lawbooks than it was originally to pass it, eliminating an office, with its employees, can prove more difficult than originally establishing it. In spite of the informality, the unconventional brashness of its personnel on all levels, and the seeming chaos in which its tasks were done, Section G was no make-work project set up to provide juicy jobs for the relatives of high ranking officials.

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Ross Metaxa was evidently of the opinion that a man could assimilate concentrated information at a rate several times faster than any professional educator ever dreamed possible. There were no classes, to either push or retard the rate of study. He worked with a series of tutors, and pushed himself. The tutors were almost invariably Section G agents, temporarily in Greater Washington between assignments, or for briefing on this phase or that of their work.

Even as he studied, Ronny Bronston kept in mind the eventual assignment at which he was to prove himself. He made a point of inquiring of each agent he met about Tommy Paine. The name was known to all, but no two reacted in the same manner. Several of them even brushed the whole matter aside as pure legend. Nobody could accomplish all the trouble that Tommy Paine had supposedly stirred up. My final appointment depends on arresting him. There are at least two hundred planets that base their legal system on it. But the majority of his fellow employees in Section G had strong enough opinions on the interplanetary firebrand.

Three or four even claimed to have seen him fleetingly, although no two descriptions jibed. That, of course, could be explained. The man could resort to plastic surgery and other disguises. Why, a revolutionist usually spends the greater part of his life toppling a government. One of the others was shaking his head negatively. The other agent, a Nigerian, grinned widely. The three of them were having a beer in a part of the city once called Baltimore. The more background I get on this guy, the better.

Well, I was on this planet Goshen, understand? It had kind of a strange history. A bunch of colonists went out there, oh, four or five centuries ago. Pretty healthy expedition, as such outfits go. Bright young people, lots of equipment, lots of know-how and books. Well, through sheer bad luck everything went wrong from the beginning. Before they got set up at all they had an explosion that killed off all their communications technicians. They lost contact with the outside. Pretty well organized, but static. Kind of an Athenian Democracy on top, a hierarchy, but nineteen people out of twenty were slaves, and I mean real slaves, like animals.

They were at this stage when a scout ship from the UP Space Forces discovered them and, of course, they joined up. I was the Section G agent on Goshen, understand? So they allowed practically no intercourse. No contact whatsoever between UP personnel and anyone outside the upper class, understand?

Ronny was still blank. The waiter came up with the steins of beer, and Ronny took one and drained half of it without taking his eyes from the storyteller. The other agent took it up. Their system was based on chattel slavery, hand labor. Given machinery and it collapses. Too expensive a labor force, for one thing.

Besides, you need an educated man and one with some initiative—qualities that few slaves possess—to run an industrial society. A friend of mine was working on a planet with a highly-developed feudalism. Barons, lords, dukes, counts and no-accounts, all stashed safely away in castles and fortresses up on the top of hills. The serfs down below did all the work in the fields, provided servants, artisans and foot soldiers for the continual fighting that the aristocracy carried on. Very similar to Europe back in the Dark Ages. The Section G agent laughed. That was the end of those impregnable castles up on the hills.

Toward the end of his indoctrination studies, Ronny appeared one morning at the Octagon Section G offices and before Irene Kasansky. Watching her fingers fly, listening to her voice rapping and snapping, O. Irene was a one-woman office staff. She looked up at him. Got any clues on Tommy Paine? Ronny Bronston retraced the route of his first visit here. It already seemed ages since his probationary appointment.

Your life changed fast when you were in Section G. He looked up and scowled. The Xanadu Folk Dance Troupe. Roaring success everywhere, obviously. They want the troupe to wear Mother Hubbards. The Xanadu outfit is in a tizzy. Ross Metaxa poured himself a Denebian tequila, offered his subordinate a drink again with a motion of the bottle. Ronny shook his head. In any given century every member in the organization threatens to resign at least once. Suppose some reporter got the story and printed it. Why, some of our planets are so far down the ladder of social evolution they live under primitive tribal society; their leaders, their wise men and witch-doctors, whatever you call them, are scared someone will come along and establish chattel slavery.

Those planets that have a system based on slavery are scared to death of developing feudalism, and those that have feudalism are afraid of creeping capitalism. Those with an anarchistic basis—and we have several—are afraid of being subverted to statism, and those who have a highly developed government are afraid of anarchism. The socio-economic systems based on private ownership of property hate the very idea of socialism or communism, and vice versa, and those planets with state capitalism hate them both.

He glared at Ronny. Our job is to keep our member planets from being afraid of each other. No sir, there is no file on Tommy Paine and there never will be. And if any news of him spreads to the outside, this Section will emphatically deny he exists. I hate nasty tempered women.

Look, you go in and see Sid Jakes. Seems to me he said something about Tommy Paine this morning. I feel optimistic about you. He bounced from his chair, came around the desk and shook hands enthusiastically. She was a small girl, almost tiny. She evidently favored her Asiatic blood—her dress was traditional Chinese, slit almost to the thigh Shanghai style.

Bloodhounding old Tommy Paine. A neat trick if you can pull it off. Well, are you all set to go? Ronny mumbled something to the girl in the way of amenity, then looked back at the supervisor. Sid Jakes snorted, and hurried around his desk to resume his seat. Might as well get used to it. Sid Jakes laughed easily.

The advantages will come home to you as you go along. The supervisor plucked a card from an order box. Can you leave within four hours? Fastest way you could possibly get there. The quarry is flushed and on the run. A neat trick, eh? The following hours were chaotic. For all he knew, it might be years. For that matter, he might never return to Earth. Mankind was exploding through this spiral arm of the galaxy. There was a racial enthusiasm about it all. It was the ambition of every youth to join the snowballing avalanche of man into the neighboring stars.

It took absolute severity by Earth authorities to prevent the depopulation of the planet. But someone had to stay to administer the ever more complicated racial destiny. Few were allowed to emigrate from Earth anymore. New colonies drew their immigrants from older ones. Lucky was the Earthling able to find service in interplanetary affairs, in any of the thousands of tasks that involved journey between member planets of UP.

Possibly one hundredth of the population at one time or another, and for varying lengths of time, managed it. Ronny Bronston was lucky and knew it. The thing now was to pull off this assignment and cinch the appointment for good. He packed in a swirl of confusion. Luckily, the roof of his apartment building was a copter-cab pickup point and he was able to hustle over to the shuttleport in a matter of a few minutes. The bottom fell out of everything. It arrives in New Delos on the 31st, Basic Earth calendar.

He looked around at her. Tog Lee Chang Chu fished in her bag and came up with a wallet similar to the one in which Ronny carried his Section G badge. She held it up to the screen. Proceed to your right and through Corridor K to Exit Four. Your rocket will be there. Identify yourself to Lieutenant Economou, who will be at the desk at Exit Four. Was there the faintest touch of sarcasm in her voice?

She even knew the layout of the West Greater Washington shuttleport. Her small body swiveled through the hurrying passengers, her small feet a-twinkle, as she led him to and down Corridor K and then to the desk at Exit Four. Ronny anticipated her here.

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He flashed his own badge at the chairborne Space Forces lieutenant there. In the rocket, Ronny had time to appraise her at greater length. She was a delicately pretty thing, although her expression was inclined to the over-serious. There was only a touch of the Mongolian fold at the corner of her eyes. On her it looked unusually good. Her complexion was that which only the blend of Chinese and Caucasian can give. Her figure, thanks to her European blood, was fuller than Eastern Asia usually boasts; tiny, but full.

This comes under the head of work? She folded her slim hands in her lap, looking like a schoolgirl about to recite. I just happened to miss New Delos. Her mouth expressed disapproval by tucking down on the sides, which was all very attractive but also irritating. He had her there. Have two planets dropped out? At any rate, New Delos is a theocracy. A priesthood elite rules it.

A God-King, who is immortal, holds absolute authority. The strongest of superstition, plus an efficient inquisition, keeps the people under control. Possibly the government is extremely efficient and under it the planet progressing at a rate in advance of UP averages. It stopped him momentarily. Man made some of his outstanding progress under slavery. As far back as Aesop we know of slaves who have reached the heights in their society. Slaves sometimes could and did become the virtual rulers in ancient countries.

No man conspires against his Diety. Supervisor Jakes informed me that it is understood by UP Intelligence that about once every twenty years the priesthood secretly puts in a new God-King. Plastic surgery would guarantee facial resemblance, and, of course, the rank and file citizen would probably never be allowed close enough to discover that their God-King seemed different every couple of decades. She shook her head.

The rival Rigelians and Planetary agent X

It takes a brave man to revolt against both his king and his God at the same time. No doubt about it, definitely killed. There are going to be a lot of people on New Delos wondering how it can be that an immortal God-King can die. She shifted dainty shoulders in a shrug. Even on the fast Space Forces cruiser, the trip was going to take a week, and there was precious little Ronny Bronston could do until arrival. He spent most of his time reading up on New Delos and the several other planets in the UP organization which had fairly similar regimes.

These latter were a dedicated group, high in morale and enthusiastic about their work, which evidently involved the combined duties of a Navy, a Coast Guard, and a Coast and Geodetic Survey system, if we use the ocean going services of an earlier age for analogy. They all had the dream. There was little enough to do in space, practically nothing, but there was always an officer on watch. Stories of far planets, as yet untouched.

Stories of planets that had seemingly been suitable for colonization, but had proved disastrous for man, for this reason or that. Not that I know of. There was an animal on Shangri-La of about the mental level of the chimpanzee. If I could get permission to leave Earth, of course. Ronny scowled in attempted memory. The captain grunted protest. There can be theocracy and theocracy, I suppose. Actually, I imagine Shangri-La has the most, well gentle government in the system.

Briefly, it works something like this.

Planetary Agent X

At the arts, at scientific research, at religious contemplation—any religion will do—as students of anything and everything, and at the governing of Shangri-La. Who decides who is to become a monk and who remain a member of the rank and file? From earliest youth, the whole populace is checked and re-checked.

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  • At the age of thirty, when it is considered that a person has become an adult and has finished his basic education, a limited number are offered monkhood. Not all want it. The planet is a prosperous one. There is everything needed for comfortable existence for everyone. Shangri-La is one planet where the pursuit of happiness is pursuable by all. And almost always, nepotism rears its head, favoritism of one sort or another. One guard against it, in this case, is the matter of motive. At first Ronny leaned forward with quick interest. But, no, he sank back into his chair.

    That name was strictly a Section G pseudonym. Ronny could see, in the brilliant little screen of the compact device, the grinning face of Sid Jakes. Tog looked up at Ronny and smiled, then clicked the device off. She moved graceful shoulders. Mobs are storming the temples. In the capital the priests tried to present a new God-King and he was laughed out of town.

    The more I read about New Delos and its God-King and his priesthood, the more I think the best thing that ever happened to the planet was this showing them up. Tog looked at him, the sides of her mouth tucking down as usual when she was going to contradict something he said. It was probably true.

    The idea grew in him. Agent Mouley Hassan has promised to get the name and destination of every passenger that leaves New Delos. Ronny sat down at a table and dialed himself a mug of stout. There was nothing more to be discussed about New Delos; they simply would have to wait until their arrival. He took a sip of his brew. Noted for its near perfect climate and its scenic beauty. He looked at her. What do you mean, static? The place is stagnating. Tog raised her delicate eyebrows.

    You know perfectly well we both agreed that the eggs for breakfast were quite inedibble. Ronny came to his feet again. Considering her size, she certainly was an irritating baggage. They ban into a minor difficulty upon arrival at New Delos. He nodded in the direction of the communications screen. A bald headed, robed character, obviously a priest, scowled at them. The captain shrugged his hefty shoulders. Can you pilot a landing craft?

    I could spare you one—then you and your assistant would be the only ones involved. You could turn it over to whatever Space Forces base we have here. Tog Lee Chang Chu piloted a landing craft with the same verve that she seemed to be able to handle any other responsibility.

    As he sat in the seat next to her, Ronny Bronston took in her practiced flicking of the controls from the side of his eyes. He wondered vaguely at the efficiency of such Section G officials as Metaxa and Jakes that they would assign an unknown quality such as himself to a task as important as running down Tommy Paine, and then as an assistant provide him with an experienced operative such as Tog. The bureaucratic mind could be a dilly, he decided. Was the fact that she was a rather delicately constructed girl a factor?

    He felt the weight of the Model-H gun nestled under his left armpit. Perhaps in the clutch Section G preferred men as agents. They swooped into a landing that brought them as close to the control tower as was practical. In a matter of moments there was a guard of twenty or more sloppily uniformed men about their small craft. They climbed out the circular port, and Ronny flashed his United Planets Bureau of Investigation badge at the youngish looking soldier who seemed in command. He had the feeling of being high, high on a rock face, inadequately belayed from above.

    Ronny took the hint. Evidently we arrived before we were expected. There should have been a big welcoming committee here. At the administration building there was little of order, but eventually they managed to arrange for their transportation. Luckily, they were supplied with a chauffeur driven helio-car. Luckily, because without the chauffeur to help them run the gauntlet they would have been held up by parades, demonstrations and monstrous street meetings a dozen times before they ever reached their destination.

    Twice Ronny stopped short of drawing his gun only by a fraction when half drunken demonstraters stopped them. The driver, a wispy, sad looking type, shook his head. Last week I was all with the rest—I never did believe David the One was really immortal. But you was just used to idea, see? Now I wish we was still that way. At least you knew how you stood, see? The driver shot a contemptuous look over his shoulder. What do I want with a better world? The priests are trying to hold on, but their government is falling apart all over the place.

    They left the cab before an impressively tall, many windowed building in city center. As they mounted the steps, Ronny frowned at her. So far as I can see, the best thing that ever happened to this planet was toppling that phony priesthood. A surprisingly large percentage of people have them, especially when it comes to institutions such as religion and government. It might give us some ideas about what direction the new government will take.

    They approached the portals of the building and were halted by an armed Space Forces guard of half a dozen men. Their sergeant saluted, taking in their obvious other-planet clothing. They showed their badges and were passed on through. Were over on Montezuma two basic months ago. Now, there was real trouble. Had to shoot our way out. He followed her, scowling. An idea was trying to work its way through. Somehow he missed getting it. Headquarters of the Department of Justice were on the eighth floor. A receptionist clerk led them through three or four doors to the single office which housed Section G.

    A red eyed, exhausted agent looked up from the sole desk and snarled a question at them. All my assistants have already taken off for Avalon. They make a wonderful sparkling wine on this planet. Trust any theocracy to have top potables. Mouley Hassan ran a weary hand through already mussed hair. The other subsided somewhat. Do whatever you want. How long have you been away from Earth? Ronny leaned forward to accept the glass. Ronny sipped the drink, looking at the tired agent over the glass rim. If you ask me, I still needed them, but some brass hat back on Earth decided they were more necessary over on Avalon.

    Ronny put the glass down. Ronny slumped back into his chair as some of the ramifications came home to him. If I can finish some of it, I might have time for some sleep. Ronny came to his feet. A couple of ideas occur to me. He shook hands with them again. Or, possibly, get into the hands of some jingoistic military group and start off halfcocked to provoke a war with some other planet, or to missionarize or propagandize it. They spent their first day in getting accommodations in a centrally located hotel, in making arrangements, through the Department of Justice, for the local means of exchange—it turned out to be coinage, based on gold—and getting the feel of their surroundings.

    Evidently Delos, the capital city of the planet New Delos, was but slowly emerging from the chaos that had followed the assassination. A provisional government, composed of representatives of half a dozen different organizations which had sprung up like mushrooms following the collapse of the regime, had assumed power. Elections had been promised and were to be brought off when arrangements could be made. Meanwhile, the actual government was still largely in the hands of the lower echelons of the priesthood. A nervous priesthood it was, seemingly desirous of getting out from under while the getting was good, afraid of being held responsible for former excesses.

    Tog was off making arrangements for various details involved in their being in Delos in its time of crisis. A dozen times, on his way over to keep his appointment with the official, Ronny had to step into doorways or in other ways make himself inconspicuous. Gangs of demonstrators roamed the street, some of them drunken, looking for trouble, and scornful of police or the military.

    Twice, when it looked as though he might be roughed up, Ronny drew his gun and held it in open sight, ready for use, but not threateningly. The demonstrators made off. His throat was dry by the time he reached his destination. The life of a Section G agent, on interplanetary assignment, had its drawbacks. The Sub-Bishop had formerly been in charge of Interplanetary Communications which involved commerce as well as intercourse with United Planets.

    It must have been an ultra-responsible position only a month ago. Now his offices were all but deserted. You must forgive my lack of ability to offer refreshment. I am afraid my former assistants had rodentlike instincts. Ronny looked at him. UP citizens have complete religious freedom. In my case I am unaffiliated with any church. The Sub-Bishop let it pass.

    Go on, you say you deal with Interplanetary Security. Ronny had to tread carefully here. I am merely here to check on the possibility. If such was the case, my duty would be to arrest the man, or men. The New Delian laughed sourly. We even imported the most recent developments in artificial satellites equipped with the most delicate of detection devices. I assure you, it is utterly impossible for a spacecraft to land or take off from New Delos without our knowledge.

    To what extent do you keep under observation all aliens on the planet? Every person on New Delos, in every way of life, was under constant survey from the cradle to the grave. Aliens were highly discouraged. When they appeared on New Delos at all, they were restricted in their movements to this, our capital city. Ronny let air whistle from his lungs. Can you get me a list of all aliens? The other laughed again, still sourly. None except you employees of United Planets. All commerce was handled through UP. We encouraged no cultural exchanges. We wished to keep our people uncorrupted.

    United Planets alone had the right to land on our one spaceport. The Section G agent came to his feet. This was much simpler than he could ever have hoped for. He thanked the other, but avoided the necessity of shaking hands, and left. Coinage was no longer in use on Earth. To his surprise, not only Mouley Hassan was there, but Tog as well. Hassan had evidently had at least a few hours, of sleep. He was in better shape. Lee Chang tells me that Sid Jakes is now a Supervisor. I worked with him for awhile, when I first joined Section G.

    How about a glass of wine? Mouley Hassan rubbed a hand through his hair. Or they did until this blew up. The local citizens would never have been able to get their hands on such a bomb, or been able to have made the arrangements for its delivery. There is no other alternative. We can assume he was at least twenty when he began. And that case on the planet Mother where he put himself over as a Holy Man. He could hardly have been a woman in disguise in a Stone Age culture such as that. Mouley Hassan thrust his hand into a delivery drawer and brought forth a handful of punched cards, possibly fifty in all.

    Obviously, Tommy Paine is an alien. We have only forty-eight Earthlings and other United Planets citizens working here. He carried the cards to a small collator and worked for a moment on its controls, as Tog and Ronny watched him with mounting tension. He counterfeited fake papers for himself, or something. Possibly a few hundred years ago, but not today. Forgery and counterfeiting are things of the past. That leaves the crew members. Do you know anything about them? Tell our representatives there to be sure that none of the occupants of that ship leaves Avalon until we get there.

    In a moment the screen lit up. An elderly agent, as Section G agents seemed to go, looked up at them. Agent Bronston here is on an assignment tracking him down. There are only ten men aboard, and six of them are Section G operatives. Miss Tog and I can doublecheck here. They checked all ways from the middle, nor did it take long. There was no doubt. If this had been a Tommy Paine job, and it almost surely had, then there was only one way in which he could have escaped from the planet and that was by the single spacecraft that had left, destination Avalon. He was not on the planet—that was definite, Ronny felt.

    A stranger on New Delos was as conspicuous as a walrus in a goldfish bowl. There simply were no such. They spent most of their time checking and rechecking United Planets personnel, but there was no question there either. Mouley Hassan and others of UP personnel helped cut the red tape involved in getting exit visas from New Delos. No one seemed to be so confident of his authority in the new provisional government that he dared veto a United Planets request.

    Mouley Hassan was able to arrange for a small space yacht, slower than a military craft, but capable of getting them to Avalon in a few days time. A one-man crew was sufficient; Ronny, and especially Tog, could spell him on the watches. Time aboard was spent largely in studying up on Avalon, going over and over again anything known about the elusive Tommy Paine, and playing Battle Chess and bickering with Tog Lee Chang Chu. She was a good traveler, which few people are; she was an ultra-efficient assistant; she was a joy to look at; and she never intruded.

    But, good God, how the woman could bicker! He indicated the booklet he was reading. It starts off with a bang, but tends to go sterile. The government is a constitutional monarchy with the king merely a powerless symbol. The standard of living is high. Elections are honest and democratic. Avalon has a system of free enterprise. It finally gets to the point of a closed circle all but impossible to break into.

    These industrial feudalistic families become so powerful that only in rare instances can anyone lift himself into their society. They dominate every field, including the so-called labor unions, which amount to one of the biggest businesses of all. With their unlimited resources they even own every means of dispensing information. If you have the resources. Unfortunately, such enterprises become increasingly expensive to start. Or you could start a radio, TV or Tri-D station—if you had the resources.

    Since childhood every means of forming their opinions has been in the hands of industrial feudalistic families—including the schools. The government is completely dominated by the fifty or so families which for all practical purposes own Avalon. That includes the schools. Some of the higher institutions of learning are private, but they, too, are largely dependent upon grants from the families. Ronny was irritated by her know it all air. They all stand for the same thing—a continuation of the status quo. Actually, pure democracy is seldom seen. They pretty well had it in primitive society where government was based on the family.

    You voted for one of your relatives in your clan to represent you in the tribal councils. Everyone in the tribe was equal so far as apportionments of the necessities of life were concerned. No one, not even a tribal chief, was better than anyone else, and no one had a better home. Somebody with the time to study, to experiment, to work things out.

    But only free men can practice democracy. Wait until I think of an example. Well, back in the Twentieth Century, Christian calendar, they had an economic depression. During it a crackpot organization called Thirty Dollars Every Thursday managed to get itself on the ballot. Times were bad enough, but if this particular bunch had got into power it would have become chaotic.

    At first no thinking person took them seriously; however, a majority of people in California at that time had little to lose and in the final week or so of the election campaign the polls showed that Thirty Dollars Every Thursday was going to win. So, a few days before voting many of the larger industries and businesses in the State ran full page ads in the newspapers. They said substantially the same thing. If Thirty Dollars Every Thursday wins this election, our concern will close its doors.

    Do not bother to come back to work Monday. She shrugged delicate shoulders. But my point is that the voters of California were not truly free since their livelihoods were controlled by others. This is an extreme case, of course, but the fact always applies. A thought suddenly hit Ronny Bronston. Is he going to try and overthrow the government there? She continued to shake her head. A small minority of planets are ripe for the sort of trouble Tommy Paine stirs up.

    Most are working away, developing, making progress, slowly evolving. Avalon is one of these. He acts as a catalyst. Possibly fifty years from now things will have developed on Avalon to the point where there is dissatisfaction. Ronny took up his book again. If I could just put my finger on that. For once she agreed with him.

    Planetary Agent X (United Planets) by Mack Reynolds - Risingshadow

    The Section G agent permanently assigned to that planet had already checked and doublechecked the possibilities. None of the four-man crew of the UP spacecraft had been on New Delos at the time of the assassination of the God-King. They, and their craft, had been light-years away on another job.

    The older agent—his name was Jheru Bulchand—was definite. He went over it with Ronny and Tog in a bar adjoining UP headquarters. He had dossiers on each of the ten men—detailed dossiers. On the face of it, none of them could be Paine. He explained their method of eliminating the forty-eight employees of UP on New Delos.

    The older agent was puffing comfortably on an old style briar pipe. Probably not too large or by this time somebody would have cracked and we would have caught them. Jheru Bulchand pointed at Ronny with his pipe stem. Your assassin could have been one of the women. Would you like to tell us about a lower price? If you are a seller for this product, would you like to suggest updates through seller support? Product details Mass Market Paperback Publisher: Be the first to review this item Amazon Best Sellers Rank: I'd like to read this book on Kindle Don't have a Kindle?

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