The Dictator, p.1Fritz Leiber
Produced by Sankar Viswanathan, Greg Weeks, and the OnlineDistributed Proofreading Team at https://www.pgdp.net
This etext was produced from Imagination Stories of Science and Fantasy January 1955. Extensive research did not uncover any evidence that the U.S. copyright on this publication was renewed.
Ellaby's society was a perfect democracy, where all men were equal. But some still wanted more personal attention, and they got it, like--
* * * * *
Just looking at Ellaby, you could tell he was going places. He wasfive feet nine inches tall and weighed a hundred and fifty pounds. Hehad an I. Q. of ninety-eight point five-seven, less than fourhundredths off the mode. His hair was mousey and worn slightly longfor a man, slightly short for a woman. Back in High Falls, where hewas born, he was physically weaker than sixty percent of the men butstronger than sixty percent of the women.
He had been in training since his twentieth birthday to assassinatethe Dictator. Ellaby was now thirty years old.
Dorcas Sinclair met Ellaby at the pneumo-station. She was too big andstrapping for a woman, but otherwise not unattractive with herlusterless hair, slightly thick-featured face, small sagging bosom andheavy-calved legs.
"I'll take your bags," she told Ellaby, and led him from the station.She walked quickly, but not too quickly. You always had to find thehappy medium, thought Ellaby. For Ellaby, finding the happy medium hadalways come easy. Ten years ago, when Ellaby had been graduated fromthe High Falls secondary school, the four words MOST LIKELY TO SUCCEEDhad been printed under his picture in the yearbook. It was expected byeveryone: young Ellaby had learned his three R's--rules, rights,responsibilities--satisfactorily. Ellaby had neither excelled norfailed: he was by nature a first class citizen.
Running to keep up with the too big, too long-legged Dorcas Sinclairwho was carrying one of his suitcases in each hand, Ellaby was ledfrom the pneumo-station. The splendid, unimaginative geometricprecision of the Capitol stretched out before him in the dazzlingsummer sunlight, the view serving as a leaven for Ellaby's usuallyphlegmatic disposition. He could feel his spirits rise, his heartthump more rapidly, speeding the sudden flow of adrenalin through hisbody.
This was the city. It was here where the fruits of whatever had gonewrong in Ellaby's upbringing or whatever had gone wrong in the lineararrangement of his genes would ripen. It was here where Ellaby, modalEllaby would pass his tests for top-secret work; unsuspected, averageEllaby, would write his name in flaming letters across the pages ofhistory. It was here where Ellaby would kill the Dictator.
And after that--what? Chaos? A new order based not on modality butsomething else? Ellaby wasn't sure. No one in the organization knewfor sure. The concept was staggering to Ellaby. It was the system--ornothing. Well, let the others worry about it. They did the planning.Ellaby was only the executioner.
* * * * *
The house was like all the others on the block, all the others in theCapitol, a grimly solid structure of lets-pretend brick fronting on astreet which faded into distant haze, straight as a ruled line, tonorth and south, crossing the east-west avenues at precise rightangles every five hundred feet. The grid pattern city, Ellabyremembered from his rights course in school, (every man has the rightto a room and bath in any city as long as he is employed) made thebest use of available space for houses. The strip city is unnecessaryin time of peace--was there ever, had there ever been any other time?the radial city is preferred for rapid transportation, being theaccepted pattern in the great economic hubs and ports like Greater NewYork and Hampton Roads.
"You will have to live here with me" Dorcas Sinclair told Ellaby,"until you pass your tests for employment. I don't have to tell youhow much depends on the outcome of those tests, Ellaby."
"But I can't fail them. I thought you knew my record."
With an unnerving unmodal violence, Dorcas Sinclair's strong fingersdug into the flabby muscle of Ellaby's upper arm. "Well, you hadbetter not," she said, her large teeth hardly parting to let thesounds out.
Ellaby was suddenly alarmed. He had had very little truck with peopleof this sort. They were as unpredictable as the weather in High Fallswhich having a population under twenty-five thousand, had neverqualified for weather control. Unlike modal man, they had never beenexhaustively studied. Their likes and dislikes were not catered to,but their passions couldn't be predicted, either.
"Ease up, Dorcas," a deep voice said from the doorway leading to thekitchen.
Ellaby stared in that direction gratefully. It was indecent for awoman, for anyone, to expose her emotions that way. Ellaby was almostinclined to thank the stranger.
"Stranger, nothing!" Ellaby blurted aloud. Ellaby's face reddened andhe apologized. "I didn't mean to raise my voice," he explained. "Yousurprised me."
"I guess you didn't expect to find me here, at that. You haven'tchanged much, Ellaby."
Automatically, Ellaby mumbled his thanks for the compliment. SamMulden, though, had changed. He'd always been a radical. He wore hishair cropped too short. He was tall and thin, his elbows and kneesexposed by the tunic he wore like knots on gnarled, living wood.Mulden looked older. He hadn't bothered to dye his graying hair, orto smooth the premature wrinkles on his long-nosed, thin-lipped face.He was smiling sardonically at Ellaby now, as if he could readEllaby's mind. "I might have known it would be you," he said. "As soonas they said the assassin was coming from High Falls, I should haveguessed."
"Why?" asked Ellaby. It was a question which had nudged for ten yearsat his docile patience. When people go out of their way to train you,though, to spend ten years teaching you every inch of Capitolterritory without once taking you there, to make you proficient withvarious deadly weapons although your reflexes are splendidly modal, toteach you meaningless phrases like democratic inequality (?) andindividuality (?) and the right to live a self-directed (?) life, tomake your own decisions (?), when people act, in short, like a verythorough government school, even if their motives seem strangelymisdirected, you don't question them.
"For two reasons," Mulden said. "You can understand the first, Ellaby.If the second one bothers you, forget it. In the first place, you'reso perfectly modal, the government would never suspect you. In thesecond place, you're so well adjusted you're bound to follow ourinstructions."
"Or any instructions," Dorcas Sinclair said. "That's what I'm afraidof, Mulden."
* * * * *
Ellaby still couldn't get over it. He never expected to find poor,unfortunate Sam Mulden in such a high position in the organization oranywhere. He remembered Mulden clearly from their school daystogether. Mulden was a character, a real character. Physically, he wasbarely acceptable: more than eighty percent of the men and somesixty-five percent of the women were able to knock Mulden down in theHigh Falls gymnasium classes. But mentally Mulden was a misfit. His I.Q. was in the neighborhood of a hundred and fifty. His gangling,ineffectual physique wasn't too far below the mode, but mentally hesoared intolerably above it.
Now Mulden told Dorcas Sinclair, "Don't worry about that. We've hadten years to work on him. They can't undo it in a few days. Ellaby,you are quite sure you know what you must do?"
"Oh, yes. Tomorrow morning I will take my security tests. According tothe record of my previous physical and mental testing, I should maketop secret classification. I will work here in the capitol. I willfind the Dictator and kill him. The only thing that bothers me is Idon't know who to look for. What does the Dictator look like?"
"Didn't they explain all of that to you in High Falls?" the womanasked irritably, without even making an effort to poker her face.
"Ease off," Mulden told her for the second time. "He's confused.Listen to me, Ellaby. Don't you remember? The Dictator never makespublic appearances."
"Yes. Yes, now I remember. No one knows what the Dictator looks like.He keeps to himself. He issues orders which are instantly obeyed,helping to maintain universal modality in the country. It almost seemsa shame I'll have to kill him."
"So we've pavloved him for ten years, have we?" Dorcas Sinclair raged.Ellaby turned away in embarrassment. "Damn you, Mulden, he stillquestions it!"
"He's supposed to," Mulden explained
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