The Project Gutenberg eBook of Sales Talk

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Title: Sales Talk

Author: H. F. Cente

Release date: January 19, 2021 [eBook #64334]

Language: English

Credits: Greg Weeks, Mary Meehan and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team at




Bennett, the salesman, gave a lot of
thought to a world that was going to the
dogs. But he gave more thought to the Cosmic
salesman who could make it a reality.

[Transcriber's Note: This etext was produced from
Planet Stories July 1953.
Extensive research did not uncover any evidence that
the U.S. copyright on this publication was renewed.]

There are two things to know about a salesman, the first being that his present job is just to tide him over until the position he is really fitted for comes along.

Big Bill Bennett was no exception to this first rule.

Nor was he an exception to the second, of which more later.

Just back from the Moon on a block selling assignment, he lounged into his branch office an hour late and told his boss that, though it hurt his unmarred conscience to quit when the whole corporation would feel the loss, this was it.

His boss, who knew that Bill was as indispensable to Always-Stitch Sewing Machines as a bent needle, pretended great sorrow and wanted to know what Bill was going to do.

"Well," said Bill, throwing it at him, "I'm going into the future. I've inherited a time-machine."

"An alarm clock, no doubt?"

"Don't be funny," said Bill, emptying his pockets and dropping half-used spools of thread, zipper feet, needles, tension disks and stray parts of machinery on the desk. "You know that uncle of mine, the one that died a few weeks ago—"

"Oh. Yeah. He hated your guts."

"Oh, no, he didn't. That was just a front. Deep down, he must have admired my intelligence, even when I argued with him about his screwball ideas."

Bill smiled modestly.

"He left everybody else nothing but money. Me he left the time-machine. Molly and I and the foxes are going into the future about two million years—and we aren't coming back."

That'll show him what I think of him and his stupid sewing machines.

The boss didn't believe the story about the time-machine. Still, no harm in kidding the dope along.

"Aw, come on, Bill. The world isn't that much of a mess."

"Not yet," said Bill, with all the ominous portent he could muster. "The planets are arsenals. Spaceships loaded with weapons and men. Earth is liable to be blown off the map anytime. We're getting out, me, Molly and the foxes."

The boss had never seen Bill so worked up, even after he'd muffed a sale. "So the world is going to the dogs," he mused. Then he grinned. "I bet you wish it would go to the dogs."

"Not a bad idea," said Bill morosely. "They'd do a heck of a lot better than man ever did."

The boss said cautiously, "What does Molly think about this?"

"The wife?" Bill's eyes glazed. "Oh. She does anything I want her to."

The boss went through the amenities. He shook hands warmly. "I don't know how we'll ever get a man to replace you—"

"Yeah, I realize that—"

"—I'd like to sell you on the idea of coming back—"

"Nobody's enough of a salesman for that."

"—but maybe it'll all turn out for the best!"

"You're darn right. I'll never look at another sewing machine the rest of my life."

Bill paled when Molly packed her featherweight sewing machine with their belongings.

"Aw, honey!" he expostulated, cradling her beautiful blonde fluffy head with one arm while his other gripped the yelping bundle of activity that was his wire-haired fox-terrier, Is. "We won't need a sewing machine where we're going. Somewhere in the next ten thousand years we'll find a civilization where nobody does any work, where the whole world is one great big lawn—"

"You're always so certain of yourself, Bill," said she, cocking a pert blue adoring eye up at him. "And you're so certain of that time-machine."

"Why not? Unk and I took a trip in it before he died. It works."

Was, the other fox-terrier, came rocketing red-tongued into the room, stayed a moment, and plummeted madly out the open door.

"Oh, don't think for a minute that I don't think you know what you're doing," said Molly. "It's just that I can't imagine why Unk was so nice to you after those things you said—calling him a fussy old man who couldn't even invent a good excuse to die—"

Bill interrupted hastily. "That was just one of our friendly arguments," he protested. "Nope, Unk loved me like a son. Dope that I am, now I can see it." His eyes watered. "I'm sorry he's dead—almost. Anyway, the sewing machine is out. Where is Was?"

"He was here. He isn't. Is is. I wish you'd put her down, Bill. She's clawing me. That'll give you two arms for me."

Bill hurriedly released Molly, holding the tongue-lolling dog against his chest. Is licked his nose affectionately. Bill grinned.

"What a fox," he exulted. "'A good lean head and a quick dark eye,' as the poem goes."

"Well," Molly said, "I only hope it doesn't get cold where we're going. I was thinking of making some special little jackets for Is and Was, but—"

"Just a minute," said Bill, giving her a quick, severe little kiss. "Who said we weren't going to take the machine? But keep it out of my sight!"

Their possessions being meager, their bank account non-existent, the Bennetts were able to load everything into a jallopy rocket-car that took the curves at a meager seventy per hour.

When they arrived at the sagging Connecticut farm where Unk had puttered around with mostly useless inventions the last few years of his life, they immediately saw the reclining hulk of the spaceship in the yard. It looked like a brown cigar with the end bitten raggedly off.

"Neat, huh?" said Bill. "The time-machine is hooked in with the spaceship controls. We can move in space as well as time."

As soon as the car rocketed to a sputtering stop before the airlock entrance, Was was a furry streak of black and white as he leaped from the car. Is stayed, red tongue lolling, eyes bright. Bill laboriously fished the ship combination slip out of his pocket. Then the Bennetts and Is unloaded from the car, gathered up Was, and they went inside the ship.

It was a good, solid ship, no question of that.

"And it's big," cried Molly. "There must be a dozen compartments. And libraries, Bill!"

"Yeah," said Bill in awe. "Wonder what's the idea? Unk left enough books to last anybody a lifetime. And here's a matter-converter!"

He stood over the matter-converter, fascinated. There was a large filing cabinet giving the matrix combinations for making almost anything. Even a combination-recipe for dog food!

"I did Unk dirt by treating him the way I did," Bill said hazily. "All the while, he had nothing but affection for me."

"A deep freeze," yelled Molly from the galley. "Enough real meat to last twenty years if we space it out with artificial proteins from the converter. Why, Bill, we could live here the rest of our lives if we wanted to—just in this spaceship."

The dogs skittered happily around his heels as he wandered dazedly toward the sound of her voice and got a special arm-squeeze around her special-made waist.

"We can go anywhere we want to," he marveled. "Up and down time, up and down the Solar System. We could spend our lives in comfort. Unk's supplied us with everything—record-player, tape-recorder, transcriber, dictaphone, shaver. We're set, Molly! Let's unload the car and get into the next century—for a starter."

"Hatches battened down," reported sailor Molly with a smart salute some two hours later. "Main sail keel-hauled—or sumpin'."

Bill grinned, but it was a strained grin.

"Man the lifeboats," he quipped back, a bit too inappropriately, because Molly paled. Bill squeezed her hand reassuringly, then turned his attention to the chrono-controls. He threw in the power. A dark vibration swept through the room, robbing the light of some of its intensity.

"That's normal," Bill said hastily, but Molly said "Ooh!" and shuddered against him, while Is and Was sat on their prize-winning hindquarters and whined uncomfortably.

Bill was feeling goose pimples himself. He watched the tubes proceeding through their changes of color. He set the pointer. When the tubes glowed a full violet, he threw the contact-switch down hard.

What happened, he reflected later on when he woke up, shouldn't happen even to the manager of a sewing machine branch office.

First, just before the universe turned hazy white and then quite black, Bill saw one tiny tube on the panel explode in a flash of yellow.

Second, the pointer, which indicated years, centuries, and millenia on an advancing logarithmic scale, snapped to its top position. This meant that the ship was flinging into the future at some fantastic rate measured in millions of years per ship-second.

When Bill staggered wildly erect it was because Was was running madly around the room, tail pointed down, blocky wiry head sniffing along the floor. Is was anxiously licking his face. The wall chronometer told him thirty minutes had passed. Thirty times sixty is eighteen hundred. Eighteen hundred times. He glanced at the pointer and mentally retched.

"Down Was," he ordered groggily. Was huddled to the deck, looking at him with imploring wet eyes. Just then Molly sat up, rubbing her eyes sleepily.

"Something's wrong!" she said.

"Now, now, now, don't worry," Bill chattered, helping her up. "I'll fix it."

"That pointer says," said Molly, pointing while her eyes got wider and wider.

"Look," implored Bill feverishly. "Why don't you go ahead and get your sewing room set up. Take Is. Take Was. I'll fix it!"

Molly stepped to the port. "Oh!" she said, stepping back. "It's—it's shimmery violet. Nothing else. Bill—I'm sick—"

He caught her, holding her helplessly. He should let her drop and fix the time-machine. Instead he carried her to the bedroom, got her under the covers, chafed her wrists. Her eyes opened.

"I'll fix it!" he said desperately. He went back to the instrument room. He didn't dare look through the port, as Molly had. He tried to put the mechanism in reverse, but the pointer stayed where it was. He rustled around in the parts cabinet and found a tube to replace the exploded one. It promptly blew out. The pointer stayed where it was, millions of years per second. How many millions of years? It didn't say.

He'd only wanted to go a hundred years into the future. He'd wanted to play safe. And then a tube blew out.

The truth came slowly. Then he sat back from the machine, staring at it. Then he started giggling. He was still giggling when he went into the bedroom and woke Molly up.

"Molly," he shouted. "It's Unk. Don't you get it? This is his way of getting back at me. He was nuts. He geared the machine so the control tube blew out. We can't go back. All we can do is keep going ahead—toward the heat-death!"

Is jumped lightly onto the bed, bracing her stiff-furred paws on Molly's chest. Was tore into the room, looked around and—was. Molly affectionately patted Is on her well-placed shoulders, put the other hand firmly over Bill's mouth to shut him up.

"Well, why not?" she said reasonably. "We can live on this ship the rest of our lives. Eternity's a long time, Bill. Just you, me, the dogs and—" she broke into a grin—"a pup or two!"

It didn't turn out so bad at that. Molly had always been a self-sufficient, perky little blonde, well able to live with herself. Bill's dislike of civilization turned out to be a built-in part of his personality. He didn't miss people. He didn't miss shows. He didn't miss phony excitement. It was quite a discovery that he was perfectly content reading, puttering, making love to Molly, taking care of the foxes.

He did have a couple heart-qualms when he dared to think about the condition of the universe. Not that there was much to be seen outside the ship. Apparently they were accelerating into time at an enormous rate, so fast, indeed, that individual celestial bodies could not be observed.

Relative to the ship, the universe was vibrating fast enough to produce sensations of color. It started at violet. At present it was a shattering yellow that hurt the eyes to look at. When these color effects moved down the scale to infra-red—?

Maximum entropy? The heat-death of the universe? He wondered.

"So what?" he asked Molly when his mood became lighter. "By this time Earth and all the planets and the Sun and every other star and constellation and galaxy is dust. Less than dust, maybe. Maybe we're near the end of time, when all the matter in the universe is broken down into nothing but pulses of energy. Maybe the pulses will get to the place where there isn't even any pulse anymore. When all energy is distributed equally over all of space. When there's no motion at all. What are you doing, Molly?"

Molly was smiling to herself. She was on her knees, fitting a fancy frilled checked-wool jacket over Is. Bill stared thunderstruck while she buttoned it down the length of Is's spine.

"There!" said Molly, standing back and giggling. "I made it on the sewing machine. Is gets so cold sometimes she shivers. She drags around. I think she's going to have pups."

Bill grinned broadly. He fell to his knees, crooning at the bright-eyed dog. "Pups!" he exulted. "She sure is."

Was scampered into the room, his tail set high. He examined Is with considerable disapproval, then, being a highly sensitive dog, tried to make his getaway. "Oh, no you don't!" yelled Molly, diving for him. She caught him by the hind leg and hauled out her tape measure. Personally Bill commiserated with Was, but, knowing Molly, he gave up, went for the refrigerator, and threw Is a bone with plenty of meat on it.


Molly was in a nightmare. She screamed Bill's name. He was out of bed in zero time, had her in his arms.

"Honey, what's the matter? You screamed!"

She clutched at him. Her heart was beating rapidly. He could feel it pounding away through her silk nightgown. For a moment all she did was moan, then she relaxed, breathing unevenly.

"What a horrible dream! But—but Bill, it didn't seem like a dream. I dreamed I heard a voice—a skittering, ghastly voice, the voice of an old crotchety man trying to talk fast—like Unk—"

Like Unk.

Bill's throat grew something big in it. Fear. He whispered huskily, "Was it Unk? Are you sure it was a dream?"

She eased back against the pillow. "I haven't been feeling good," she sighed. "Maybe—I don't know what to think. Bill, lie down beside me. Let's listen together."

Listen. Listen to Unk? But Unk was dead. Maybe Unk's ghost....

It couldn't be Unk. So what was there out here beyond the ship in a pointless universe? He lay down with her, goose pimples all over his big body.

Then he heard it, and every square inch of his skin got the blue chills. His body seemed to lose identity and floated buoyantly in a sea of horror. A voice. A voice, gnarled with age, high and angry, spoken so fast, like a speeding phonograph record, that the words could not be made out.

That ghostly running stream of inarticulated words came from nowhere, blatted in from everywhere. Birthed inside their heads, grew in demanding volume from outside the ship. A voice that pervaded space, that pulsed like a yammering animal gone mad, that hooted sometimes like a locomotive lost on a whirling track.

"It's Unk," Bill chattered. "I know it's Unk. Somehow he's followed us here. He's after me, Molly. After all the dirt I did him. His ghost."

"Silly." She put her cold palm on his mouth. Is came running down the corridor. She jumped into Bill's arm, shivering. She was frightened. Bill almost sobbed.

"Darn that Unk! If he makes Is lose her pups—"

After awhile he lay down again, drawing the covers over him, Is under one arm, Molly warm under the other. In the darkness somewhere, Was sniffed rather unconcernedly around the room.

All night they listened to the Voice's peevish mutter.

Molly gripped his hand under the covers.

"It's slowing down. I made out a word then. It sounded like—like dogs. Bill, it's not Unk. I'm sure of that."

Bill went nuts. "That makes it worse," he yelled, jumping out of bed. "If it isn't Unk, who is it? There isn't anybody out here. There aren't any suns, any planets, any nothing. Who would be out here?" He paced the room, pulling at his hair. Then abruptly he climbed back in bed, shivering and mortally scared. And listening....

On bumbled the Voice. Speeding. Slowing. Sometimes seeming to catch up with their thought processes, then going past.

"He's trying to synchronize," said Molly quietly. "He's going nuts doing it. He's getting madder and madder. This is liable to go on for days. I'm going to get up and fix breakfast."

After she left, Bill mentally told the Voice to go to hell, and fell asleep. Was climbed all over him a half hour later to let him know breakfast was ready.

The Voice had stopped.

"What a coupla mutts we were," Bill told Molly. "Letting our imaginations run haywire."

"Oh, I agree with you," said Molly, being agreeable as usual. "We imagined it all, didn't we, Is?" Is wagged her prize-winning tail in agreement.

Bill squirmed. "Well," he protested, "Is was just cold. We imagined she was scared. Just like I imagined it was Unk. My guilty conscience. And you weren't feeling so good in the first place. Nice setup for a fancy group hallucination."

Molly was pressing a house-dress energetically and just smiled at him. Bill muttered about the obstinacy of the female mind and ladled out a generous helping of artificial dog food he'd synthetized from the matter-converter. Is stuck her pink tongue greedily into the mess.

Was looked idly on. Not having any unborn pups to feed, Was wasn't hungry. But suddenly Was looked up at Bill and barked once, sharply. At the same time, Is's beautiful dark eyes became anxious. She started to shiver. She cowered. Bill blanched. He scooped up Is, holding her against his chest. Molly stopped ironing.

"What is it, Bill?"

"Don't get scared," he chattered. "It's coming back. The dogs heard it. Maybe they're tuned a little higher than we are. Honey, it wasn't imagination. HERE IT COMES!"

It came. A blatting, vocalized anger that trembled the ship. Molly was somehow in Bill's arms, Is for once forgotten. And the Voice came clear, the angry, peevish muttering of an old man.

"Stupid bits of living matter. Eons have I tried to reach their low thinking level. They are incapable of responding. Best to destroy them."

"Bill! Answer him!"

Bill ran his tongue around the inside of his parched mouth. "Uh—" he said. "Wait a minute, Unk. I mean Voice. We hear you."

The Voice, who most assuredly could not be Unk, went wild. It skittered, it slid, it throbbed with unholy excitement. Then it came back, roaring, "Why did you not answer me, insignificant creatures?"

"Uh—" said Bill, sweating.

"Answer me! Do you dare to ignore me, the Supreme, the Only Intelligence in the universe?"

"Well," said Bill, glassy-eyed. "That is, there doesn't seem to be much to say—"


The Supreme Intelligence went into a spin.

"I shall destroy you, do you understand me, you insignificant accretions of matter? How dare you exist? Know you that matter disappeared billions of years ago. You do not belong in this universe!"

Bill blinked. He met Molly's anxious glance. Then something made him grin. His lips moved. "He's as crotchety as Unk was. I can handle him."

Molly's lips smiled tremulously in agreement.

Bill said brazenly to the Voice, "I am, therefore I am—if you've read your Descartes. In other words, we're here, so we belong. Sell me something else." He waited for the lightning bolt. It didn't come.

"Descartes? Sell? Speak plainly, stupid creature. Or are you incapable of true thought? That would be the final irony. After slowing my thought-rate down over eons of time. To find that you cannot think! Yet, what else could I expect of your intelligence, hampered by its envelope of living matter?"

"We can think, Voice," Bill offered. "What did you—?"

"SILENCE!" The word roared out furiously. "How dare you question me, the Pervader of all, the Only Entity? Do you wish to be destroyed?"

"You're going at this wrong," Bill said doggedly. "You're trying to sell me something. First of all, you get the customer's confidence, after a manner of speaking. You sell yourself first, see?"

Molly nodded vigorously, her hand over her mouth, her eyes sparkling with repressed glee. You're going at it right, Bill. Bill's shoulders went back. He was still scared stiff but he threw himself in full blast.

"Just let me give you a hint, Voice," he said. "We're a couple cooperative pieces of matter. But you ain't said nuthin' that makes us like you. Sell us."

"Speak," said the Voice sternly. "Where are your thoughts? They have faded. Or is it that my strength is failing so that I cannot pick up your lower-order vibrations? Speak, I command you!"

Bill darted a flurried look at Molly. He repeated himself to the Voice, shouting. Back came the Voice, outraged.

"Your thoughts buzz. You are seeking to evade me. I shall destroy you!"

Bill looked desperately around. "Something's wrong!" he told Molly. "Where's Was?"

"He was," said Molly, looking under tables.

"Get him back!" Bill sweated. "Hurry. We still haven't got the Voice where we want him. He's liable to get mean." Distractedly, he started aft, holding the unhappy Is close to his chest. Molly fell into running step beside him.

"But why?" she asked anxiously. "What's Was got to do with it?"

"Speak," cried the Supreme Intelligence. "Your time is short unless you continue communication. You dare—" Vituperation. Outrage. Bill broke into a run.

"It's the dogs," he yelled at Molly. "I can't think of any other reason we'd break contact. Dogs have a high psychic sense. The way they can find their way home. The way they howl when somebody dies. Intuition. Sumpin'. I don't know. But they sensed the Voice coming back before we ever did. Our thoughts are heterodyning through their telepathic level. Like a radio beam. When Was went out, half the power of the beam failed. Get it?"

"Oh, sure," Molly yelled back. "And you throw algebra at me when we're on the brink of death!" She darted ahead, pleading for Was to come out from wherever he was. Was came out readily enough and jumped into Molly's arms and apparently was perfectly willing to continue as part of the hookup.

"All right, Voice," Bill said unsteadily. "We're back." He held his breath. Maybe he was right. Maybe he was wrong. But the Voice came in, drenching them with anger, but with ample evidence that communication had been reestablished.

"Once more," it said sternly, "and you shall be obliterated for having so impolitely intruded upon my meditation."

"We intruded on him," Bill muttered.

"Now, matter, let me speak of myself. Know you that I am the only entity that exists, if I exclude your puny selves. I am thought. I am intelligence. I was born unuttered ages ago, when thinking life first appeared.

"I could be called pure life-force—theta. But that theta was trapped by matter, enturbulated by it. As matter disappeared, Theta was freed from its entrapment, and I, the Supreme Entity, came into greater and greater ego-awareness."

The Voice ebbed abruptly, then came back with a frightened roar.

"My strength is being drained! The millions, the billions of years are passing. I am aging! How hard it is to maintain communication with your low order of intelligence.

"But I must speak, and I must receive your answers, even though—fury—your own voices are like growls and whines, and even though the psychons of my being are inevitably disintegrating. Know you, matter, that once this disintegration is complete I shall—die."

"Sympathy gag," Bill's lips formed for Molly's benefit. "If we don't watch our step from now on, this guy can sell us anything."

To the Intelligence he said cautiously, "Now maybe you're getting to the point. What's your product? What are you trying to sell?"

"Product? Sell?" Then the Voice swelled up. "The UNIVERSE! That is my product, that is what you shall buy—or be destroyed!

"Now listen well. I shall not be able to repeat. When I die—" the Voice dwelt on the words with an exquisite sadness that would have wrenched the heart of anybody but a hardened salesman "—the universe will have come to that state you know as the heat-death.

"No motion—and no source of motion! For eons I have brooded on this sadness. And now I have discovered YOU!

"You, matter, shall resurrect the universe."

Is was lying still, Bill's strong fingers rubbing her absently behind the fluffy ears. Something churned abruptly in Bill's stomach.

Resurrection. Turn back the universe, and give me yesterday.... He paled. Atom bombs, space fleets bristling with men for slaughter and weapons for slaughtering. Poverty. Misery. Kids in tenements without lawns.

"What do you mean by resurrection, Voice?" The question came from the very bottom of Bill. "Would the old universe come back? Our planet Earth? The other planets?"

"Yes, yes! I would arrange it. A matrix sheeted four-dimensionally about the universe—which is myself. A matrix through which all re-created motion would pass. Your Earth would be remade—"

"With all human emotions," said Bill casually.

"Exactly! You shall aid in resurrecting the universe. I have had your answer!" Delirious joy flamed through the Voice's being. "Now I shall tell you how the marvellous occurrence can be brought about!"

Molly was looking at Bill with tears in her eyes.

"Don't you want it, Bill?" she whispered. "The way it was? Some of it was beautiful."

"Some of it," said Bill grimly. "You—and Is—and Was—are the only beautiful things I ever got out of it. But let him talk."

The Voice was already talking at a furious, excited pace. Bill would wait until the time-machine carried them to the very end of entropy. To the heat-death of the universe where all particles were in a state of absolute rest.

"Do you not see it? It is only necessary to recreate motion. Start the process over again. How? You have atom-powered motors aboard your ship. The jets of your ship will spew out what are, in comparison with the particles of my composition, solid particles. Gamma rays. Gravitons. Protons. Electrons. Neutrons.

"When you have exhausted your fuel, you will convert more in your matter-converter. You will strip the ship, if necessary. Everything must go to supply the necessary energy of motion.

"Motion," went on the Voice deliriously. "The universe will once again surge with the motion you have created. Around the loosed particles atoms and molecules will form. They will grow—eventually, as you speed through time, turn into hot suns, flaming nebulae. Planets will be born as the billions of years pass. One of them will be Earth! And Earth will again result in life. Your kind of life. And your kind of life will be master of all other life.

"And of course," the Intelligence added as an apologetic afterthought, "it will result in myself."

Bill sat up, mouth falling open. "So that's it!" he yelled. He gaped at Molly. "That's what he's been beating around the bush for. To bring about his own resurrection after he dies!"

He burst out laughing. "So you want the same cycle to start all over again, Voice. Because, you, as theta, as the life-force, will be born again, and eventually will come to full resurrection as the universe again dies.


"But I'm not sold, see? Get a better sales argument. Molly and I are happy here. We can spend our whole lives on this spaceship and get along famously."

The Voice moaned like an animal in pain. Indeed, its energy of life, whatever that was, seemed to be fading.

"Dying," said the Voice hollowly. "I am dying. To know that one's self will exist no more, not even in a future life. And it would be so easy for you!"

A note of cunning, like an old man hatching schemes to outwit hard youth.

"Matter, I would tell you how to repair your time-mechanism so that you could control your forward flight."

"No sale!" snapped Bill.

"You could stop at whatever point on the newly created Earth you chose. Think of it! I offer you variety, when there might well be monotony!"

"We'll get along," said Bill wearily. "You haven't even got your foot in the door."

Molly tugged imploringly at his arm. "Bill, you might really like it better in the long run. I wish—"

The Voice roared in with new energy, now that it was being backed up.

"Yes!" it roared. "Your mate—your mate—ah!"

Silence, seething with unuttered thought, as if that dying mind were skittering about the ship, exploring, discovering great wonders with its strange senses. The feeling of privacy being invaded was so strong with Bill that he broke loose.

"No!" he yelled. "And that's final. GET OUT OF HERE!"

But then the Voice started laughing. Crotchety, giggly laughter. Then it spoke again, with unholy cunning.

"Matter," it whispered mockingly, "you shall buy my product, to use your own lower-level method of communicating. For, matter, what are you going to do for green grass on this spaceship? For trees? For Sunday schools? For bones buried in soft loam to be dug up later? For big ice cream cones and long runs in the woods after rabbits? For the thrill of snow on your paws and football games and Boy Scout hikes and the sheer joy of howling at the Moon at night?"


"Matter," said the Voice cunningly, "your mate is going to have pups!"

Bill darted an amazed glance at Molly. Molly's was looking back at him just as amazedly.

"I'm not, Bill," she said. "I know I'm not. He's crazy. He doesn't know what he's—"

Then she clapped a hand over her mouth, her eyes wide with sudden hysterical amusement. "Don't you get it, Bill," she choked. "He's mixed up. Is is going to have the pups!"

Bill got it. Suddenly everything clicked into place. The sheer insanity of it. The senility of it. And the utter beauty of it! He began to grin, the grin turned into a laugh, the laugh into something that was momentarily hysterical. Then he quieted.

"Molly," he said, "put Was down."

Molly dropped the dog. Was departed the room in a flash.

"The Intelligence can't hear us now," Bill explained.

Then he stood over Molly, gently clasping her shoulders in his big hands, and shaking her a little, with affection.

"Sweet Molly," he said wryly. "You really want the world back, don't you? But Molly, it's no good, it's no good the way it was. We can't have it that way again.

"But we can have a different order of things. And I'll stake my life that it'll be a better way.

"The Intelligence tipped us off, of course, when he said you were going to have the pups. But, actually, the Intelligence isn't talking to us!"

Molly nodded gravely. "I know, Bill. That's the way it seems, doesn't it? Our thoughts are going through the dogs' heads."

"Yeah." Bill was almost musing to himself. "He's talking to the dogs—and thinks the dogs are talking back to him. He's old, Molly. He's crotchety and self-centered and probably senile. I doubt if he can really see us—only sense us—"

From somewhere the Voice was coming in, querulous, demanding communication, but with fright dominant in its thought-tones. Molly and Bill paid no attention.

"The Intelligence made an easy mistake, for him. After all, in this ship are two sets of beings. Both with four legs. Both wearing clothes—those things you made for Is and Was." He grimaced amusedly. "And remember how he complained that our thought-voices seemed like growls and whines?

"Well, he's mixed up. He's mistaken the dogs for the intelligences aboard this ship. His conception of material life is some weird combination of human and dog characteristics—but mostly dog.

"Therefore he's offered to arrange this matrix-thing he talks about so that dogs will evolve on the new Earth as the dominant, mastering life-form.

"How about it, Molly? Should we throw the universe to the dogs?"

Molly gave him one pointed look, then she stood on tiptoe and kissed him. "I always want what you want, Bill," she said tenderly. "I always do, somehow." Then she went aft, coaxed Was out from wherever he was, and came back with him licking her ear. The communication beam was in operation again.

"I cannot hear you," the Voice moaned weakly. "To lose contact, after I dissipate my life energy and go even nearer to death—"

Bill slipped his arm around Molly's waist. "We're here, Voice," he said gently. "You set up the matrix, the way you planned.

"You've made a deal."

The second thing to know about a salesman? He's a fall guy for a good sales talk.