- Author: Leigh Richmond
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This etext was produced from Analog Science Fact & Fiction June 1961. Extensive research did not uncover any evidence that the U.S. copyright on this publication was renewed.
PROLOGUE TO AN ANALOGUE
By LEIGH RICHMOND
Finnagle's Law shows that many times we don't get the effect we planned on. But ... there's an inverse to that famous law, too....
Illustrated by Schoenherr
he IWC program was a newscast by Bill Howard, and the news was particularly vicious that night.
Bill, his big homely face leaning across a desk toward the viewer, talked in horrified tones of the "pest-sub" that had reputedly got stuck in the Suez and spread epidemic across Cairo.
It was easy to assume, Bill told his audience, that the nations most interested in creating a crisis in the world right now had put the sub there to make an excuse to accuse us of the terror. It was undoubtedly really there, and was undoubtedly really of American make, and the epidemic was undoubtedly very real indeed, he said. The United Nations investigating team, due to go into the Canal Zone the next day and make their report to the world, would find that the epidemic was caused by laboratory-developed bacteria, carried in by an American-made sub. It would be at least as bad, if not worse, than reported.
The question before the world, Bill said, was not whether bacteriological warfare had started, but who had started it—and the fact that the sub carried United States markings and was of United States make did not at all answer the question.
Bacteriological warfare had broken out and where it would strike next was anybody's guess.
"But let there be no mistake," Bill said. "This is war."
It was on that note that the station break came, and the thirteen witches, trademark of the International Witch Corporation, came on.
Harvey Randolph, manufacturer of the Witch line of products, leaned toward the screen intently. He had just transferred his account to Burton, Dester, Duston & Oswald, and they had dreamed up a new-type commercial for the products.
The thirteen witches were long-legged, slender dancing gals, in tall black witch caps and long black capes, crimson-lined, and very little else. Each had long hair that swirled as she danced.
Randolph chewed his lip, watching them thoughtfully.
They came on with what was almost a valkyrie cry—"Witches of the world, unite—to make it clean, clean, clean, Witch clean—NOW!"
"Hm-m-m," thought Randolph. The cry struck rather sourly at the end of that "this is war" sentence from the newscast, he thought, but then that dramatic newscast-ending was rather unusual.
The witches were singing a jingling chorus as they danced. "No task is too big, no task is too small," they sang. "Which Witch do you need? You should have them all—"
Each witch, of course, displayed her particular product from the Witch line—detergent, soap, shampoo, cleanser, cleaning fluid....
"Witch soap or detergent....
"Witch cleanser upsurgent....
"Which Witch do you need? You should have them all...."
This was fairly average as commercials go, thought Randolph. The big BDD&O radical innovation would be next.
It was. On the screen behind the witches appeared a map of the Suez Canal, and then a papier-maché model of the nose of a sub, and a dockside shanty, a gray pall hanging over them.
As the witches turned and began dancing towards it, the deep voice of the announcer spoke over the muted jingle. "Witches of the world, unite! If Nasser had enough Witches, he could solve the crisis which has us all in stitches...."
And the witches, in a united dance-step, approached the sub and shanty singing "Make it clean, clean, clean, Witch clean, NOW!" Each sprayed it with a Witch product, and as they sprayed the pall lifted, the sub and shanty showed shining bright, new-painted.
"Clean, clean, clean," chanted the chorus; "Witch, Witch, Witch, clean, clean, clean. Defy dirt, defy disease."
"Keep Witch clean!"
Well, thought Randolph. And then again, Well.
He wasn't quite sure, he told himself. The commercial came darn near being in poor taste, what with the crisis so near, and yet ... it wasn't something to make you forget the product. By Geoffery, no! You'd think of Witch products quite a bit, after watching that one.
He reminded himself to check the viewer reaction that would be available fairly early next day, as he switched off the TV.
It was almost noon next day before Randolph reminded himself of the call he'd planned to make to BDD&O. He got Oswald on the wire almost immediately.
"Randolph, here," he said. "I called you about that new commercial. It seems a little drastic. Are you planning to use it again tonight?"
"Use it? We're taking full credit, in a witchery sort of way!" Oswald laughed. "Never saw anything like your luck, Randolph. I've got the entire staff tied up doing the follow-up for tonight. You needn't worry about libel, either. We've got the whole legal staff turned out, going over every detail."
"It seemed pretty near the line to me," said Randolph, chewing his lip. He found himself a little puzzled over Oswald's tone, but not too much so. Any public relations man was overenthusiastic by nature, in Randolph's estimation. Maybe it took that to make a good p.r. man. "People might resent our making hay out of sickness, even if you are preaching that cleanliness will prevent it."
"Sickness, you might have a point. I admit I'd argue it, but you might. But wellness, now, it's different. I do know that if the United Nations team reports there's no epidemic, and that the pest-sub is one of the cleanest, healthiest-crewed submarines in the business, it's safe for us to assume it's so, and to imply that Witch Products are used to keep it clean."
"Mr. Oswald," Randolph's voice took on a note of imperious prissiness. "Would you mind explaining just exactly what you are talking about?"
"Haven't you heard the news? There's no bacteriological war! I admit that puts Bill Howard way out on a limb, but there are a lot of very fine people with him. There's no epidemic in Cairo. There's not even a bad cold that the United Nations team could find. And they give that so-called pest-sub the most complete bill of health in the business.
"Now, the deal we plan for tonight...."
At the same moment, a number of very important people were closeted with the President. Their reactions to the United Nations report were quite otherwise than those Oswald was experiencing.
"It's the exact timing, and the detail of execution that scares me, Mr. President," the Undersecretary of State was saying. The Secretary himself was coming in by jet, and would join them immediately on arrival.
"It implies a technology that we can't touch even in our wildest dreams. I've talked to the CIA chief himself, and the reports from our operatives are beyond question. The epidemic was not only real, it was widespread. The pest-sub was as real as this chair I'm sitting on, and its crew near death to the man, and no question about it.
"If they can fight a bacterial war and produce an overnight cure at the same time ... we're at their mercy. There is no bomb ever developed—or that can be developed—to touch the power of what they've just demonstrated."
The President ran his fingers through his hair. His face looked more drawn than any man had yet seen it. Yet he smiled.
"We're not suing for peace terms yet," he said, and turned to the nation's foremost biologist, sitting quiet in a nearby chair.
"What's your reaction?" he asked.
"We've always known," the answer came despondently, "that bacteriological warfare is far deadlier than any bomb—if there were any protection from its effects for the victor. We had a strain of bacteria once, for which we had an immunization course, and we developed it far enough along the line to realize that, even though you immunized every man, woman and child in this country in advance of releasing it in another part of the world, mutant strains would eventually wipe out this nation as well as those we fought."
"How about mutant strains of the Suez bacteria?" the President asked, then answered himself. "No, they've produced an antidote. An antidote, if our reports are correct, that works overnight." He shook his head slowly.
"The ultimatum should come very soon now," the President said.
"It is the timing. I do not understand the timing." The big man in the Kremlin was allowing himself an appearance of indecision that he did not often indulge before underlings.
Of course, there was but the one underling, and any audience that proved to have a later-embarrassing potential could be silenced with ease. Still, it was unusual, and the lieutenant who served as combination secretary and backstop for oratory quaked as he listened.
"The timing is all wrong, but the fact is a fact. It must be a fact, or every operative we have should be Siberianized.
"We must, of course, act. The action must be immediate. We are zeroed in...."
"No!" Vlada heard himself speak, and his whole body was outraged at the action. He stood white, trembling. But he had spoken, and try as he would, the word could not be pulled back.
"No? My little dove, and what would you suggest, then, if we are not to defend ourselves from this capitalistic aggression? That we shall sit with our hands folded and allow them to dictate the terms of our surrender? Speak!"
"Send them a pest-sub, and see if they can handle the bacteria we have developed!" Vlada's throat was dry, and his voice was not his own. No power on earth could have made him open his mouth, but he had opened it, and he fully expected the lightning to strike him at that moment.
"Send them ... ah, of course. They can cure their own, and they have taken a so-dramatic method of saying that they can cure their own. But can they cure the products of our laboratories? Now that, we shall see.
"But we shall be as subtle—more subtle, even, than were our capitalistic friends. We shall not send our sub to them. We shall send it to a small island, and we shall see whether they wish to taste the death, the strangulation and crippling and suffering, the destruction of sanity that shall be the lot of those islanders...."
In Peiping the distress was no less acute—but the reaction was somewhat different.
The scientist being grilled had no hope left. He could answer honestly, for there was nothing that could save him from that which was in store.
"The strain was virulent. There is no known antidote—nothing could have saved that port, nor most of Africa and most of India—and there was no way for the world to know from whence came the death-dealing submarine except that it be the mighty America.
"The bombs should have come in retaliation, spreading their death and adding to the impetus of the epidemic, so that enough of the world was wiped out to give the great People of the Dragon room into which to expand. We calculated that a third of our own would be wiped out in the holocaust, which would have relieved us of many problems. The tan peoples of India and the darker peoples of Africa should have sued us to lead them in a unity of the yellow peoples, against the insanities of the pale peoples of the west.
"There is no antidote ... yet the epidemic is destroyed. I cannot yet believe what is told me. I would go to my ancestors happily if I could go to them with the answer to this riddle."
That night Bill Howard came on the screen his big homely face wreathed in smiles, his tweed suit and shaggy blond hair looking even more informal than usual.
"It's a great day for the people of the world," he said.
"There's undoubtedly tremendous political significance in what happened at Suez, and every statesman and every politician will have statements to make, and conclusions to draw.
"Suez's obvious healthiness has been variously attributed to American technology, garnered from the experts we've sent them over the years; to Russian technology, garnered from their experts loaned to the nation involved; to Mohammed and to the God of the Christians.
"The peoples of the world," he said softly, "are concerned with these things in the abstract, but mostly, we the people are willing to leave this to the theorists, while we rejoice."
"For we the people, who thought we faced that most degrading, that most unanswerable, that most horrible fate of all, bacteriological war, find ourselves at bacteriological peace."
At the break, the thirteen witches danced on, crying their chant,