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The cartels jungle, p.1
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       The Cartels Jungle, p.1

           Irving E. Cox
 
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The Cartels Jungle


  Produced by Sankar Viswanathan, Greg Weeks, and the OnlineDistributed Proofreading Team at https://www.pgdp.net

  Transcriber's Note:

  This etext was produced from Fantastic Universe September 1955. Extensive research did not uncover any evidence that the U.S. copyright on this publication was renewed.

  [_In most ideally conceived Utopias the world as it exists is depicted as a mushrooming horror of maladjustment, cruelty and crime. In this startlingly original short novel that basic premise is granted, but only to pave the way for an approach to Utopia over a highway of the mind so daringly unusual we predict you'll forget completely that you're embarking on a fictional excursion into the future by one of the most gifted writers in the field. And that forgetfulness will be accompanied by the startling realization that Irving E. Cox has a great deal more than a storyteller's magic to impart._]

  the cartels jungle

  _by ... Irving E. Cox, Jr._

  It was a world of greedy Dynasts--each contending for the right to pillage and enslave. But one man's valor became a shining shield.

  * * * * *

  _... and he who overcomes an enemy by fraud is as much to be praised as he who does so by force._

  Machiavelli, DISCORSI, III, 1531

  The captain walked down the ramp carrying a lightweight bag. To adiscerning eye, that bag meant only one thing: Max Hunter had quit theservice. A spaceman on leave never took personal belongings from hisship, because without a bag he could by-pass the tedious wait for acustoms clearance.

  From the foot of the ramp a gray-haired port hand called up to Hunter,"So you're really through, Max?"

  "I always said, by the time I was twenty-six--"

  "Lots of guys think they'll make it. I did once myself. Look at menow. I'm no good in the ships any more, so they bust me back to porthand. It's too damn easy to throw your credits away in thecrumb-joints."

  "I'm getting married," Hunter replied. "Ann and I worked this out whenI joined the service. Now we have the capital to open her clinic--andninety-six thousand credits, salted away in the Solar First NationalFund."

  "Every youngster starts out like you did, but something alwayshappens. The girl doesn't wait, maybe. Or he gets to thinking he canpile up credits faster in the company casinos." The old man saluted."So long, boy. It does my soul good to meet one guy who's getting outof this crazy space racket."

  Max Hunter strode along the fenced causeway toward the low,pink-walled municipal building, shimmering in the desert sun. Behindhim the repair docks and the launching tubes made a ragged silhouetteagainst the sky.

  Hunter felt no romantic inclination to look back. He had always beenamused by the insipid, Tri-D space operas. To Hunter it had been abusiness--a job different from other occupations only because therisks were greater and the bonus scale higher.

  Ann would be waiting in the lobby, as she always was when he came infrom a flight. But today when they left the field, it would be forkeeps. Anticipation made his memory of Ann Saymer suddenly vivid--thecaress of her lips, the delicate scent of her hair, her quick smileand the pert upturn of her nose.

  Captain Hunter thought of Ann as small and delicate, yet neither termwas strictly applicable except subjectively in relation to himself.Hunter towered a good four inches above six feet. His shoulders werebroad and powerful, his hips narrow, and his belly flat and hard. Hemoved with the co-ordination that had become second nature to himafter a decade of frontier war. He was the typical spaceman, holding aFirst in his profession.

  As was his privilege, he still wore his captain's uniform--dress bootsof black plastic, tight-fitting trousers, and a scarlet jacket bearingthe gold insignia of Consolidated Solar Industries.

  Hunter entered the municipal building and joined the line of peoplemoving slowly toward the customs booth. Anxiously he scanned the massof faces in the lobby. Ann Saymer wasn't there.

  He felt the keen, knife-edge disappointment, and somethingelse--something he didn't want to put into words. He had sent Ann amicropic telling her when his ship would be in. Of course, there wasthat commission-job she had taken--

  Abruptly he was face to face again with the vague fear that had naggedat his mind for nearly a month. This wasn't like Ann. Always beforeshe had sent him every two or three days a chatty micropic, using theprivate code they had invented to cut the unit cost of words. But fourweeks had now passed since he had last heard from her.

  In an attempt at self-assurance, he recalled to mind just how exactinga commission-job could be. Perhaps Ann had been working so hard shehad simply not had the time to send him a message.

  Not even five minutes to send a micropic?

  It didn't occur to him that she might be ill, for preventive medicinehad long ago made physical disease a trivial factor in human affairs.A maladjustment then, with commitment to a city clinic? But Ann Saymerheld a First in Psychiatry.

  Hunter fingered the Saving Fund record in his pocket--the goal he andAnn had worked for so long. Nothing could go wrong now, nothing! Hesaid the words over in his mind as he might have repeated the litanyof a prayer, although Max Hunter did not consider himself a religiousman.

  At sixteen he and Ann Saymer had fallen in love, while they had bothbeen in the last semester of the general school. They could havemarried then, or they might have registered for the less permanentcompanionship-union.

  In either case, both of them would have had to go to work. Huntercould not have entered the space service, which enrolled only singlemen and Ann could not have afforded the university.

  It hadn't mattered to Hunter. But Ann had possessed enough ambitionfor them both. She knew she had the ability to earn a First inPsychiatry, and would settle for nothing less. The drive that kepttheir goal alive was hers. She was determined to establish a clinic ofher own. The plan she worked out was very practical--for Ann was inall respects the opposite of an idle dreamer.

  Hunter was to join a commercial spacefleet. His bonus credits wouldaccumulate to supply their capital, while he paid her universitytuition from his current earnings. After they married, Hunter was tomanage the finances of the clinic while Ann became the residentpsychiatrist.

  Even at sixteen Ann Saymer had very positive ideas about curing mentalillness, which was the epidemic sickness of their world. Eight yearslater, while she was still serving her internship in a city clinic,Ann had invented the tiny machine which, with wry humor, she called anExorciser.

  She had never used the device in the public clinic. If she had, shewould have lost the patent, since she had built the Exorciser whileshe was still serving out her educational apprenticeship in the cityclinic.

  "I'm no fool, Max," she told Hunter. "Why should I give it away? We'llcoin credits in our own clinic with that little gadget."

  Hunter had no objection to her aggressive selfishness. In fact, theterm "selfishness" did not even occur to him. Ann was simplyexpressing the ethic of their society. He admired her brilliance, hercleverness; and he knew that her Exorciser, properly exploited, wouldbe the touchstone to a fortune.

  During one of his furloughs Ann demonstrated what the machine coulddo. After a minor surgical operation, a fragile filigree ofmicroscopic platinum wires was planted in the cerebral cortex of apatient's skull. From a multi-dialed console Ann verbally transmitteda new personality directly into the maladjusted mind. After twentyminutes she removed the wire grid, and the disorganized personalitywas whole again, with an adjustment index testing at zero-zero.

  "A cure that leaves out the long probe for psychic causes," she saidenthusiastically. "In minutes, Max, we'll be able to do what no
w takesweeks or months. They'll swarm into our clinic."

  Hunter reasoned that Ann had taken the commission-job in order toexperiment with her machine in a privately-operated clinic. Herinternship had ended a month before, and it had been an altogetherlegal thing for her to do. The fact that she had taken a commissionmeant she would work for only a specific contract period. And becausea commission-job carried a professional classification, Ann had notbeen compelled to join the union.

  Nevertheless the haze of anxiety still lay oppressively over CaptainHunter's mind. No matter what the requirements of Ann's commission mayhave been, she could have met him at the spaceport. She knew when hisship was due, and had never failed to show up before.

  II

  The line of people continued to move steadily toward the customsbooth. Hunter stopped at last in front of a counter where a maleclerk, wearing on his tunic the identification disc of his U.F.W.union local,
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