Empire, p.1
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       Empire, p.1

           Clifford D. Simak
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  Produced by Greg Weeks, Stephen Blundell and the OnlineDistributed Proofreading Team at https://www.pgdp.net


  A Powerful Novel of Intrigue and Action in the Not-So-Distant Future





  _Copyright 1951_ _by_ WORLD EDITIONS, INC.


  Transcriber's Note:

  Extensive research did not uncover any evidence that the U.S. copyright on this publication was renewed. Minor spelling and typographical errors have been corrected without note.


  Spencer Chambers frowned at the spacegram on the desk before him. JohnMoore Mallory. That was the man who had caused so much trouble in theJovian elections. The troublemaker who had shouted for an investigationof Interplanetary Power. The man who had said that Spencer Chambers andInterplanetary Power were waging economic war against the people of theSolar System.

  Chambers smiled. With long, well-kept fingers, he rubbed his iron-graymustache.

  John Moore Mallory was right; for that reason, he was a dangerous man.Prison was the place for him, but probably a prison outside the Jovianconfederacy. Perhaps one of the prison ships that plied to the edge ofthe System, clear to the orbit of Pluto. Or would the prison on Mercurybe better?

  Spencer Chambers leaned back in his chair and matched his fingertips,staring at them, frowning again.

  Mercury was a hard place. A man's life wasn't worth much there. Workingin the power plants, where the Sun poured out its flaming blast of heat,and radiations sucked the energy from one's body, in six months, a yearat most, any man was finished.

  Chambers shook his head. Not Mercury. He had nothing against Mallory. Hehad never met the man but he rather liked him. Mallory was just a manfighting for a principle, the same as Chambers was doing.

  He was sorry that it had been necessary to put Mallory in prison. If theman only had listened to reason, had accepted the proposals that hadbeen made, or just had dropped out of sight until the Jovian electionswere over ... or at least had moderated his charges. But when he hadattempted to reveal the offers, which he termed bribery, something hadto be done.

  Ludwig Stutsman had handled that part of it. Brilliant fellow, thisStutsman, but as mean a human as ever walked on two legs. A man utterlywithout mercy, entirely without principle. A man who would stoop to anydepth. But a useful man, a good one to have around to do the dirty work.And dirty work sometimes was necessary.

  Chambers picked up the spacegram again and studied it. Stutsman, out onCallisto now, had sent it. He was doing a good job out there. The Jovianconfederacy, less than one Earth year under Interplanetary domination,was still half rebellious, still angry at being forced to turn over itsgovernment to the hand-picked officials of Chambers' company. An ironheel was needed and Stutsman was that iron heel.

  * * * * *

  So the people on the Jovian satellites wanted the release of John MooreMallory. "They're getting ugly," the spacegram said. It had been amistake to confine Mallory to Callisto. Stutsman should have thought ofthat.

  Chambers would instruct Stutsman to remove Mallory from the Callistoprison, place him on one of the prison ships. Give instructions to thecaptain to make things comfortable for him. When this furor had blownover, after things had quieted down in the Jovian confederacy, it mightbe possible to release Mallory. After all, the man wasn't really guiltyof any crime. It was a shame that he should be imprisoned whenracketeering rats like Scorio went scot-free right here in New York.

  A buzzer purred softly and Chambers reached out to press a stud.

  "Dr. Craven to see you," his secretary said. "You asked to see him, Mr.Chambers."

  "All right," said Chambers. "Send him right in."

  He clicked the stud again, picked up his pen, wrote out a spacegram toStutsman, and signed it.

  Dr. Herbert Craven stood just inside the door, his black suit wrinkledand untidy, his sparse sandy hair standing on end.

  "You sent for me," he said sourly.

  "Sit down, Doctor," invited Chambers.

  * * * * *

  Craven sat down. He peered at Chambers through thick-lensed glasses.

  "I haven't much time," he declared acidly.

  "Cigar?" Chambers offered.

  "Never smoke."

  "A drink, then?"

  "You know I don't drink," snapped Craven.

  "Doctor," said Chambers, "you're the least sociable man I've ever known.What do you do to enjoy yourself?"

  "I work," said Craven. "I find it interesting."

  "You must. You even begrudge the time it takes to talk with me."

  "I won't deny it. What do you want this time?"

  Chambers swung about to face him squarely across the desk. There was acold look in the financier's gray eyes and his lips were grim.

  "Craven," he said, "I don't trust you. I've never trusted you. Probablythat's no news to you."

  "You don't trust anyone," countered Craven. "You're watching everybodyall the time."

  "You sold me a gadget I didn't need five years ago," said Chambers. "Yououtfoxed me and I don't hold it against you. In fact, it almost made meadmire you. Because of that I put you under a contract, one that you andall the lawyers in hell can't break, because someday you'll findsomething valuable, and when you do, I want it. A million a year is ahigh price to pay to protect myself against you, but I think it's worthit. If I didn't think so, I'd have turned you over to Stutsman long ago.Stutsman knows how to handle men like you."

  "You mean," said Craven, "that you've found I'm working on something Ihaven't reported to you."

  "That's exactly it."

  "You'll get a report when I have something to report. Not before."

  "That's all right," said Chambers. "I just wanted you to know."

  Craven got to his feet slowly. "These talks with you are so refreshing,"he remarked.

  "We'll have to have them oftener," said Chambers.

  Craven banged the door as he went out.

  Chambers stared after him. A queer man, the most astute scientific mindanywhere, but not a man to be trusted.

  * * * * *

  The president of Interplanetary Power rose from his chair and walked tothe window. Below spread the roaring inferno of New York, greatest cityin the Solar System, a strange place of queer beauty and weightymaterialism, dreamlike in its super-skyscraper construction, bututilitarian in its purpose, for it was a port of many planets.

  The afternoon sunlight slanted through the window, softening theiron-gray hair of the man who stood there. His shoulders almost blockedthe window, for he had the body of a fighting man, one, moreover, ingood condition. His short-clipped mustache rode with an air of dignityabove his thin, rugged mouth.

  His eyes looked out on the city, but did not see it. Through his brainwent the vision of a dream that was coming true. His dream spun itsfragile net about the planets of the Solar System, about their moons,about every single foot of planetary ground where men had gone to buildand create a second homeland--the mines of Mercury and the farms ofVenus, the pleasure-lands of Mars and the mighty domed cities on themoons of Jupiter, the moons of Saturn and the great, cold laboratoriesof Pluto.

  Power was the key, supplied by the accumulators owned and rented byInterplanetary Power. A monopoly of power. Power that Venus and Mercuryhad too much of, must sell on the market, and that the other planets andsatellites needed. Power to drive huge spaceships across the void, toturn the wheels of indust
ry, to heat the domes on colder worlds. Powerto make possible the life and functioning of mankind on hostile worlds.

  In the great power plants of Mercury and Venus, the accumulators werecharged and then shipped out to those other worlds where power wasneeded. Accumulators were rented, never sold. Because they belonged atall times to Interplanetary Power, they literally held the fate of allthe planets in their cells.

  A few accumulators were manufactured and sold by other smallercompanies, but they were few and the price was high. Interplanetary sawto that. When the cry of monopoly was raised, Interplanetary could pointto these other manufacturers as proof that there was no restraint oftrade. Under the statute no monopoly could be charged, but the cost ofmanufacturing accumulators alone was protection against seriouscompetition from anyone.

  Upon a satisfactory, efficient power-storage device rested the successor failure of space travel itself. That device and the power it storedwere for sale by Interplanetary ... and, to all practical purposes, byInterplanetary only.

  Accordingly, year after year, Interplanetary had tightened its grip uponthe Solar System. Mercury was virtually owned by the company. Mars andVenus were little more than puppet states. And now the government of theJovian confederacy was in the hands of men who acknowledged SpencerChambers as their master. On Earth the agents and the lobbyistsrepresenting Interplanetary swarmed in every capital, even in thecapital of the Central European Federation, whose people were dominatedby an absolute dictatorship. For even Central Europe neededaccumulators.

  "Economic dictatorship," said Spencer Chambers to himself. "That's whatJohn Moore Mallory called it." Well, why not? Such a dictatorship wouldinsure the best business brains at the heads of the governments, wouldgive the Solar System a business administration, would guard against themistakes of popular government.

  Democracies were based on a false presumption--the theory that allpeople were fit to rule. It granted intelligence where there was nointelligence. It presumed ability where there was not the slightesttrace of any. It gave the idiot the same political standing as the wiseman, the crackpot the same political opportunity as the man ofwell-grounded common sense, the weakling the same voice as the strongman. It was government by emotion rather than by judgment.

  * * * * *

  Spencer Chambers' face took on stern lines. There was no softness leftnow. The late afternoon sunlight painted angles and threw shadows andcreated highlights that made him look almost like a granite mask on asolid granite body.

  There was no room for Mallory's nonsense in a dynamic, expandingcivilization. No reason to kill him--even he might have value undercertain circumstances, and no really efficient executive destroysvalue--but he had to be out of the way where his mob-rousing tonguecould do no damage. The damned fool! What good would his idioticidealism do him on a prison spaceship?

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