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Rx For Chaos

Morton Hommel, Ph.D., Director of the Banner Value Drug and Vitamin Laboratories, Inc., pressed himself flat on the floor as the bullets stitched a line of holes through the laboratory wall at about waist height overhead.

A foot away, against the wall, sat a sample of the cause of the trouble, and as Hommel lay pinned from either side by his breathless assistants, he could not help seeing the label on the little bottle: DE-TOX The Antacid Detoxifier. Take one to three tablets per day as required, to counteract harmful mental effects of mild overindulgence in alcoholic beverages, sleeping pills, stimulants, stay-awake pills, nicotine, tranquilizers, etc., etc. De-Tox is a new formulation, designed to fortify the critical faculties of the human brain. Used in moderation as directed, it will overcome that groggy, fuzzy feeling that follows mild over-indulgence. . ..

Hommel had thrown himself under the table with the haste of a man who has only a fraction of a second to pick his spot and dive for it. Now that he was under there, he remembered the half-full carboy of sulfuric acid that was in the lab somewhere. Was it on a neighboring bench, or was it directly overhead?

He lay paralyzed, hardly able to breathe, with his heart hammering to the whine of the bullets, the clatter of breaking glass, and the smash and rattle of falling plaster. A heavy thud made the floor jump beneath him. Viola Manning clung moaning and trembling to his left arm, and Peabody, his fanatical young research chemist, kept trying to mumble the results of his latest experiments in Hommel's right ear. And all the while, scarcely a foot away, that bottle of little pale-green pills stared him in the face. The flag at the bottom of the label, and the motto underneath, seemed to jump out at him:

"A Banner Value Product of the Banner Value Drug and Vitamin Laboratories, Inc. At all better druggists, everywhere."

That, he thought, was the trouble. The stuff was all over the world, like aspirin. No, even that didn't do it justice. It was more widespread than aspirin. Any place where they ate, drank, or breathed anything that befogged their wits, there was a ready-made market for De-Tox.

Hommel experienced the fervent wish that he'd thrown the original report in the wastebasket. Or touched a match to it. Or just slid it in a drawer of his desk, ignored its possibilities, and put the men onto something else. In the beginning he could have suppressed it in any number of ways. Instead, never imagining how it would turn out, he had gone straight out to the golf course, where old Sam Banner himself instantaneously saw the commercial possibilities, and said, "O.K. Push it."

Hommel had come back with a faint professional contempt for Banner's apparently snap decision, but quickly lost that as the old man breathed fire down his neck. Meanwhile, the work unfolded like a freshman laboratory exercise, no untoward side-effects showed up, and the next thing Hommel knew, they were in production.

After that, it was a succession of new sales records, bonuses, and salary raises, plus fantastic coverage in national magazines, with Banner himself turning down honorary degrees, and trying to explain that he was a business man, not a Benefactor of Humanity. Banner solved the problem by shoving the credit off on Hommel, while Hommel, who would willingly have kept the credit, had it violently wrenched away from him by the chemist who had sent in the original report.

The uproar finally died down, the new drug became a standard household item, and there was nothing to do but work the cash register, and send out friendly reminders that De-Tox was a registered trademark, and not to be referred to as "de-tox" or "detox."

It was not many months after this that Hommel, a little before noon one morning, got word to come to Sam Banner's office without delay.

Banner was seated at his desk, swirling a glass about half-full of water, and staring out the window. He glanced at Hommel.

"Something funny about these De-Tox pills."

"What do you mean?"

Banner swung his chair away from the window. "This psycho thing. They can't put the subject under after he takes the pills."

Hommel frowned. "You mean, the drug interferes with induction of the hypnotic trance?"

"Can't put them under," corrected Banner, who had a distaste for long words. "They go through all the usual stuff, and the subject won't go under. Even when they've got him trained to go under at the snap of a finger. Funny."

"Hm-m-m," said Hommel. "That is curious."

Banner nodded, and set down his glass. "TV sales are down."

Hommel blinked, but said nothing. If there was a connection, it would appear shortly.

Banner said, "New car sales are down. Used car sales up. Liquor sales way down. Movies are in trouble. Buying on time is down all across the board."

Hommel started. "Are you saying there's a connection between the fact that hypnotic suscept . . . er . . . that it's hard to put the subjects under, and that there's been a change in sales patterns?"

Banner nodded. "You've been tied up, Mort, so I don't know if you noticed it. But not long ago, the biggest car maker in this country came out with a campaign to put over a new style car design. For a month, anybody who used TV, radio, newspapers, magazines, or looked at a billboard was blind, deaf, and dumb from having the thing thrown at him. You know how many of this new style they've been able to unload so far? Eighteen thousand."

"That's fantastic."

"You bet it is. You study enough sales charts, and you'll see things that will stand your hair on end. People just don't react the way they used to. Not since we came out with these pills."

"But are we sure there's a connection?"

Banner tossed over a professional journal opened to an article titled, "Complex Interrelations of Social Phenomena and Waking Suggestibility."

Hommel frowned at it. It was out of his field, and the style made it abundantly plain that the article wasn't intended for the general public.

"Hm-m-m," said Hommel a few minutes later. "Well, I'm afraid I'm not familiar enough with the terminology—"

"Take a look at the footnote on page 1040, Mort."

Hommel dutifully turned pages, and read:

"Curiously enough, the proprietary preparation known as 'De-Tox' was found to affect negatively all the above-mentioned correlations. The values given are, therefore, those obtained when both experimental and control groups had refrained from the use of 'De-Tox' for a period of fourteen weeks."

Hommel hunted through the body of the article, written in a far less congenial manner than the footnote, and after a brief hard struggle, gave it up.

Banner smiled. "You have to crush all that wordage through a hydraulic press to get the meaning out of it."

"But what does it mean?"

"In his words, 'progressive and ordered civilization depends for its smooth functioning upon the existence, in a sizable proportion of the populace, of an extensive degree of waking suggestibility, and in some cases a mild state of hypnosis.'"

Hommel thought it over. "And he says, just incidentally, that our De-Tox cuts down this suggestibility?"

"That's it."

Hommel groaned.

"Nice, isn't it?" said Banner. "The pills are all over the world."

"Do you suppose he's right?"

Banner scowled. "That's a good question. Do you get out much, Mort?"

"Well . . . lately, since we've been working on this new hay-fever drug . . ."

"I know," said Banner. "I've been tied up lately myself. You've just been going back and forth between your office and apartment, right?"

"That's pretty close to it."

"Read the papers?"

"Just the headlines."

Banner tossed over a folded newspaper. "Take a look at the car ad on the back page."

Hommel turned the page over, and read:


Quality, Comfort, Durability


Abelson's presents the first choice of long-lasting motor vehicles. The price is low but the value is high. Every interior is cleaned, all fittings tightened, and all moving parts lubricated. Why pay $4,000.00 and up for "newness"? Who cares if the fenders sweep up, out, or down? What's a little rust? A car is transportation. Who cares if the style is boxy, stretched-out, flattened, or flaring? Let's be frank; Do you want to buy a new car and look like a fool to the neighbors? Drop in at Abelson's Used Car Lot and see our selection of best buys from the best years.

You'll be glad you did.


Hommel looked at the picture above the advertising message. The picture showed an exaggeratedly modern-looking car, with a grille like two rows of teeth, and the ends of four bills, each labeled $1,000, sticking out between the teeth.

He read the ad over and over again, and one line stood out:

"Let's be frank: Do you want to buy a new car and look like a fool to the neighbors?"

Hommel scratched his head. "I certainly seem to have missed something."

Banner glanced at his watch. "Let's go into town for lunch. We can circulate around a little, and look things over."

Banner Laboratories was located well out of town, so it was after noon when they got there, and the best eating places were crowded.

Banner said, "If you can hold out for an hour or so, Mort, it might be a good idea to just look around."

"Suits me."

Banner parked the car, and they got out, across the street from a large new-car showroom. The big window was plastered with bright stickers, and the face of the building was hung with pennants and streamers.

Hommel felt the usual quickening of his pulse as he and Banner approached the door. They stepped in, to be assaulted by a glitter of polished metal, a fresh new-rubber smell, and the impressive sight of a brand-new car slowly revolving on a turntable.

Across the room, four or five salesmen sat hunched around a table, their ties loosened, coats hanging over the backs of their chairs, and smoldering cigarettes drooping out of the corners of their mouths as they played a listless game of pinochle.

The door clicked and banged shut.

The salesmen looked around, blinking. There was one swift complex movement, a momentary waving of arms, sawing of elbows, scraping of chairs, and a salesman, exhaling a cloud of smoke but with no cigarette in sight, came neatly, briskly, across the floor toward them. His step was confident, and his manner friendly, but his eyes suggested a boxer who had been thrown three times by a judo expert, and is coming out for the fourth time.

"Good afternoon, gentlemen. You want to look at a new car?"

Banner nodded.

"Well, sir, we've cut the price on this model to $2,895.00. For your money, you get something no used-car dealer can offer—newness. The style, of course, is a little different from past years. But what is style but proof of newness?"

He maneuvered them around to a sleek, dark-blue model, and opened the door to show a lush, expensive interior.

"Granted," he said, "it's a little extreme, but . . . ah . . . look how new the upholstery is! Look at the floor mats, and the brake pedal—"

Banner, obviously patterning his reaction after the advertisement they'd read earlier, shrugged. "Who cares about the upholstery?"

"Ah, sir, but remember, it's more proof of newness! Of course, what counts in a car is the running gear. But one of the most important factors in the condition of the running gear is its freeness from wear and misuse. It's newness, in other words. And you'll find no newer car anywhere than—"

Banner peered inside.

"Fantastic dash. Everyone will laugh like—"

"A car, sir," said the salesman quickly, "is a long-term investment. Would you permit uninformed neighbors to decide your choice of stocks and bonds? Of course not! Why, then—"

Like two fencers, Banner and the salesman thrust and parried in a rapid exchange of arguments that lasted five minutes, with the other salesmen listening breathlessly, and the owner wide-eyed in a glassed-in cubicle to one side. At the end, Banner conceded that he hadn't heard such good reasons for a new car in years, but he still wanted to look around. The salesman handed over his card, and managed to shake hands with both of them on the way out, while telling them how welcome they'd be when they came back.

As the door swung shut, a voice could be heard in the background, saying, "We've got to tone that dash down, somehow."

Banner and Hommel glanced at each other after they'd gone a few steps.

"If," said Banner, "that salesman can't sell new cars, who could?"

Hommel said uneasily, "How do we know where a thing like this is going to stop?"

"That's the trouble. We don't."

They walked on in silence. Then Banner cleared his throat.

"Look there. Down on the next block."

Hommel glanced at a huge sign:




Twenty or thirty customers were unhurriedly making their way through a large used-car lot. Here and there, attendants were polishing and waxing cars. Salesmen were raising hoods, and helpfully taking off brake drums so customers could see the condition of the brake lining.

As Hommel and Banner walked past the car lot, Hommel became conscious of some odd quality about the appearance pf the customers. "They look—" he hesitated.

"Neat," said Banner, frowning, "but shabby?"

"I think that's it."

Hommel studied a middle-aged man by a nearby car. He was wearing a clean, frayed, black sweater with three yellow stripes on the sleeve and a big yellow "W" on the back. He was saying expansively to a salesman, "So the wife says, 'Charles, you can't wear that old thing. What will people think?' And I said, 'This sweater's as warm as a new one. They'll think I've got sense, what would they think?'" He shook a little greenish object out of the bottle, shot it into his mouth, crunched it up, and offered the bottle to the salesman.

"Don't mind if I do," said the salesman. He shook the bottle over his open hand, tossed a little pale-green pill into his mouth, chewed contentedly, and handed back the bottle. The word "De-Tox" was momentarily visible on the label. The customer slipped the bottle in a side pocket. The two men chewed placidly.

Hommel and Banner stared.

"Ah," said the customer, "that old stuff really knocks the horrors in the head, doesn't it?"

"Good stuff," agreed the salesman.

"So they drop the bomb—" said the customer.

"Sure. So what? You're no deader than if a truck hit you."

"How much you want for this clunker?"

"Nine hundred. Good tires, good battery. The engine's smooth. Standard transmission, so you got no worry there. Heater. Radio. If you listen to that junk anyway."

"I used to listen to the news. But why bother?"

"Sure. What happens, happens."

"So the Arabs are mad at each other. What can I do about that? How's she start?"

"Fast. We take care of that."

"Jack her up. Let's jerk a wheel off to begin with."

"Yes, sir."

As the customer bent over to examine a tire, the neck of the pill bottle thrust out of his pocket.

Banner tore his gaze away with an effort.

Hommel let his breath out with a hiss.

They walked on, feeling stupefied, and caught sight of a "Bar and Grille" sign down the street.

"Let's go in there and eat," said Banner. "I want to sit down and think this over."

"It will certainly bear thought," said Hommel. "Did you see how casually they shook out those pills?"

"'Really knocks the horrors in the head,'" quoted Banner. "What was it he called them?"

"'That old stuff,'" said Hommel.

"It sounds like some kind of liquor. Of course, it could be that that was just an exception."

Hommel was feeling more and more sure of it as they put the car lot farther behind them. "After all," he said, "some people chew garlic—"

Banner put his hand on Hommel's arm.

Hommel looked around.

Coming out of the doorway of the bar was a man with ruddy complexion and bloodshot eyes. He pressed his hand to his mouth, tilted his head back, and chewed with a solid crunching noise. With his other hand, he held onto the doorpost. "Ah," he murmured, swallowing repeatedly, "that licks it." He reeled out onto the sidewalk, tilted expertly, banged into the building, and walked along with his feet tilted out and hands moving along the brick face of the building as if it were on wheels and he was shoving it to the rear. As he came closer, he saw Hommel and Banner, and muttered, "'M all right. Don't worry. M'body's drunk, but my head's cold sober."

An aproned figure appeared in the doorway. "You take those pills, Fred?"

"Sure, sure. You think I want to get run over or something?"

He reeled out past a storefront with a plate-glass window, staggered over to a door leading to a flight of stairs, expertly grabbed the handle on the third try, tilted forward, and vanished inside.

The bartender mopped his brow with a big handkerchief, and went back into the bar.

Two men in their early twenties came out, absently tossing pale green pills in their mouths, and strolled off down the street.

Hommel looked in the doorway, and saw, beside the cash register, a glass dish of pale-green pills with a cardboard sign, rudely lettered:

"Dettox. Take some."

Banner glanced in over his shoulder. "Let's eat some place else."

Hommel looked down the street. On the corner at the far end of the block, a sign read, "Soda-Pharmacy-Lunch."

Hommel pointed. "How about that?"

"Fine. A sandwich is all I want."

They walked in silence for a moment, then Banner said, "This thing is a lot more widespread than I imagined."

"We might still be getting an exaggerated picture of it."

"Maybe. But it's one of those things you can discount by fifty per cent, and still have too much."

They pushed open the door of the drugstore, sat down at the lunch counter, and ordered ham sandwiches and milk shakes. Hommel gradually relaxed, and was moodily contemplating his sallow and unsatisfactory image in the drugstore mirror across from the counter, when he felt Banner grip his arm. He turned, and Banner murmured, "Look at that boy and girl."

Seated at a table between the soda fountain and a display of alarm clocks were a boy and girl with glasses of some kind of dark-brown carbonated drink. The boy raised his eyebrows at the girl, who giggled as he solemnly dropped two pale-green pills, one in his drink, one in hers. To the accompaniment of a violent effervescence, they crushed the pills with their spoons.

Hommel was momentarily paralyzed. Then he glanced around, horrified that no one was doing anything to stop them.

At the soda fountain, a boy in a light-brown jacket was turned away, just taking two milk shakes from the mixers. At the prescription counter at the far end of the room, a man in a white jacket was handing a woman a package, and smiling at her owlishly through thick lenses. He raised one finger of each hand.

"One for one. You'll be tranquil, but not dopey." He laughed. "No, madam, they won't fight each other." He turned to the next customer. "Yes, ma'am?"

Hommel let his breath whistle out through his teeth. The boy and girl had set down their empty glasses, and were now watching each other expectantly.

For an instant, they both straightened with a look of mutual disapproval. Then a kind of greenish light came into the boy's eyes. The skin at the corners of his eyes tightened up as his ears pulled back. He opened his mouth and made a "whooo" sound, as if blowing out live flames.

Arm in arm, the boy and girl went out the door.

Hommel stared after them. "Great, leaping—"

Banner growled, "That boob at the prescription counter is packaging De-Tox with the tranquilizers."

Hommel started to get up.

Banner gripped his arm. "Hold on. You stop a fan by pulling out the plug, not grabbing the blade."

Another customer was approaching the drug counter. Another large bottle of De-Tox was wrapped up and handed over. The cash register jingled merrily. Another customer stepped up.

"I see what you mean," said Hommel slowly.

Just then, the boy behind the lunch counter set down their milk shakes and sandwiches. They ate somberly, then started back to the plant. On the way, they stopped for gas, and were treated to the sight of a yawning truck driver swallowing a pill to keep awake, and following it with two pale-green De-Tox pills.

Banner and Hommel pulled through the gates of the Banner Value Drug and Vitamin Laboratories, Inc., in silence and a state of profound gloom.

The next six weeks passed with Hommel running a big program to search out the effects of chronic overdosing with the pills, and, if possible, to find some antidote. While Hommel suffered from the gradual discovery that half his research staff was doped to the ears, Banner piled up frustrations trying to get official recognition of the possible dangers of the drug.

"Phew!" said Banner. "How do you convince them when they're already on the pills themselves, with their critical sense working overtime? It was all I could do to get the drug barred from the armed forces. One of the boobs even told me I should 'take medication to quiet an excessively active imagination.'"

"What I've run into is just as bad," said Hommel. He opened a portfolio, pushed some bulky reports out of the way, and pulled out a folder of large glossy photographs. "We've found out what chronic overdosing with the drug does. Here, for instance, we have a dog massively doped with the pills."

Banner leaned forward, and the two men looked at a photograph of a large lean dog inside a square, fenced-in pen, with the fence completely removed from the side behind the dog. The dog was looking hungrily through the woven wire at a bowl of what appeared to be big chunks of meat covered with gravy.

"Hm-m-m," said Banner. "All he has to do is to go back through the open side of the pen, go around the other side, and he's got the meat."

"His approach was different," said Hommel, and handed over another picture.

This photograph showed large and small stones, gravel, and dirt thrown back from the fence, a shallow hole dug under the fence, clumps of fur sticking to the bottom wires of the fence, and the dog, scratched up and exhausted, bolting down the food.

Banner stared. "Is this what it does to people?"

"Well, here are some first-rate chess players, who originally got started on the pills because they wanted to be clear-headed during a tournament."

The photograph showed half-a-dozen intellectual-looking individuals peering over each other's shoulders at a chessboard where a White Pawn sat on Queen's Knight 2, with the White King right beside it on QB2. Arrayed against White was the Black King on QB4, Rook on K4, Queen on K8, and Knight on QKt6.

"Whose move?" said Banner.

"Black's. Now, all that these doped-up chess players had to do was to find a good move. Three of them favored K-QB5. That's a stalemate. One liked Q-Q7ch. That loses the Knight. Another favored R-K7ch; that's another way to lose the Knight. The last one got excited and figured he had checkmate. He moved Q-B6ch. White has four different ways to get out of check, including a choice of two ways to take the Queen."

Banner passed his hand over his face.

Hommel pulled out a photograph of three mechanics squinting under a raised hood. The engine showed up clearly. Hommel said, "Look at that distributor."

"Hm-m-m. The high-tension wire from the coil is interchanged with one of the spark-plug wires. They've plugged into the wrong connections on the distributor cap."

"Right. These expert mechanics figured it out, too—in an hour and forty-seven minutes."

Banner shook his head. "What's that next one?"

"A highly-competent chemist who used the pills to improve his objectivity, and was so pleased with the effect that he gradually increased the dosage."

The photograph showed a man in a laboratory jacket holding a dripping Bunsen burner by the base. Before him was a distilling flask fitted with upright reflux condenser. A length of rubber tubing supplied water to the top of the condenser's water jacket. This water ran down through the water jacket, and was carried off by another length of rubber tubing, which coiled around and connected to the side-arm delivery tube on the distilling flask. Everything was thus neatly connected up, including the pointless side arm. The water from the jacket obediently flowed in through the side arm, filled up the distilling flask, rose up through the inside of the condenser, overflowed at the top, like a fountain, and poured down the outside.

"Ye gods," said Banner, "surely he could figure that out!"

"I think he secretly thought he was witnessing the spontaneous generation of matter."

"But how does this come about? The drug starts off by stimulating the critical faculty."

"Yes, and following repeated overstimulation comes fatigue, exhaustion, and malfunction. Eventually, people get into such bad shape from overdose of the pills that if they stay off them for a while and start to recover, the first flickers of returning intelligence strike them as 'weird ideas,' instability, and so on. They're afraid that they're getting 'strange.' So, they take more pills."

Banner shook his head. "What's that next picture?"

Hommel handed him a photograph of three keen-eyed men, one gnawing the end of a lead pencil, and all studying a circuit mounted on a board.

Banner said, "What's the difficulty?"

"It doesn't work."

Hommel watched Banner's face change expression as his gaze shifted from one part of the picture to another.

"Where's the power supply?" said Banner.

Hommel laughed dryly. "They overlooked that."

Banner shook his head and turned away, to gaze out the window. "This thing has got to be stopped. If we were the only people making the drug, we could shut down our plant to stop it." He banged his fist into his hand. "What we need is some kind of dramatic incident, to jolt people to their senses! But what—"

A pill-colored, pale green sound truck went by off beyond the fence, on the road that paralleled Banner Drugs' main building. Pale-green pennants whipped from poles mounted on the fenders and at the corners of the truck's roof. Banner and Hommel followed it with their eyes as it passed, reading the big sign on the side:

8:00 p.m. Tonight
Be at the Stadium to hear Big Jim!


They stared after the truck as it disappeared down the road.

"What," said Banner, "is the Solid Phalanx?"

Hommel scowled. "I've heard our men talk about it. It's apparently a pseudo-Nazi organization of dead-end pill-addicts looking for someone to blame. 'Big Jim,' I think, serves as imitation Fuhrer, and blames all the troubles in the world on 'eggheads.' The last I heard, his supporters were supposed to get guns and ammunition, and be ready for The Day."

"What happens then?"

Hommel shrugged. "I don't know."

"Hm-m-m," said Banner. "8:00 p.m., in the stadium. Pill addicts." He glanced thoughtfully at Hommel. "Mort, could you make up a few bottles of imitation pills? The same color, size, shape, and flavor—but without the drug?"

"Ye-s," said Hommel, "but—"

"It might pay us to find out more about Big Jim."

Eight o'clock that night found Banner and Hommel getting out of their car in a big parking lot, bottles of fake pills clinking in their pockets. They made their way with a stolid mass of dour-faced people, past black-uniformed guards wearing black leather belts, black boots, and black-and-white armbands, and who relieved them of fifty cents apiece, into a stadium full of silent people, whose only visible movements consisted of breathing, tossing pills into their mouths, chewing, and swallowing. The only perceptible sounds in the stadium were the moaning of the wind, and a continuous low crunching noise, like twenty or thirty cars rolling slowly downhill on a gravel road with their engines off.

The dour faces and endless working of jaws began to get Hommel after a while. He could feel himself starting to get a little choked. His hand wasn't quite steady as he tossed fake pills in his mouth. His stomach muscles twitched in incipient spasms. The effort to keep his face straight was becoming a struggle.

All around him, the munch-munch sound went on endlessly.

Hommel could feel the irresistible burst of laughter build up. Desperately, he told himself what the consequence of that would be.


Just as his self-control neared the snapping point, there was a movement down below. Instantaneously, everyone around Hommel, including Banner, only a fraction of a second late, sprang to their feet.

What happened was a little hard for Hommel to follow, because he was still struggling not to laugh. Between sudden shouted roars of approval, that ended just as abruptly, he could hear a voice shout:

"Who made the first gun?"

The crowd roared. "Eggheads!"

The voice shouted, "Who made the first plane?"

"Eggheads!" roared the crowd.

"Who made the first bomb?"


The munch-munch-munch was clearly audible in the pause between shouts, and Hommel, gagging and straining, was only vaguely conscious of the progression through poison gas, germ bombs, intercontinental missiles, and radioactive fallout, which led to the comparison of murderers and eggheads, which in turn brought up the question of punishment, and "execution of The Plan."

By this time, Hommel had himself in hand again, heard the rousing unified scream of "Death to the Murderers!" and something in the atmosphere of the place got across to him so that he had no further temptation to laugh.

"Big Jim" now finished up with the command to buy more guns and ammunition, and announced that armbands would be distributed on the way out.

Hommel and Banner found themselves sitting in the car a little later, holding black armbands marked with a large "X," which symbolized what The Solid Phalanx was supposed to do to all eggheads at no very distant date.

Hommel had expected Banner to be worn out by all this grimness and activity, but as the old man contemplated the armband, he gave a smile that Hommel would have hated to have inspired, and was cheerful all the way back to the plant. Hommel couldn't get a word of explanation out of him.

Next day, ground was broken for an addition that reached at right angles all the way from the main building to the front fence bordering the road. This addition, seen from above, formed an upright to the long crossbar of the main building, to make a sort of massive T, the lower end of the upright of the T toward the road, and the crossbar parallel with the road and well back from it.

The new addition was wide and deep, massively built, with a broad ramp that led up on either side to a huge loading deck, so that trucks could drive in one electrically-controlled gate in the extra-heavy fence, roll along the curved drive, up the ramp onto the loading deck that ran through the building in a wide tunnel from one side to the other, load or unload, roll down the other ramp, along the other curved drive, and out the second gate to the street.

There was no doubt in Hommel's mind that this addition could serve five times Banner Drug's present needs, to say nothing of some enigmatic fittings in the ceiling of the loading tunnel, that could serve no useful function Hommel could think of.

Hommel, however, had no time to ponder this. It was at this point, with the Phalanx growing daily more formidable, and with a monster rally scheduled for early the next afternoon, that Banner chose to appear on a TV program and remark that Banner Drugs appeared very close to having an antidote to the De-Tox pills.

This was news to Hommel, whose effective research staff was reduced to himself, Viola Manning, and young Peabody. Worse yet, it dawned on Hommel that the people behind the Phalanx would not take kindly to this mythical antidote that would cut their following out from under them. But Banner didn't stop there. When asked about the Phalanx, he referred to them offhand as "a mass of addled brains. I hope we can cure them soon." "Big Jim" got passing mention as "that vulture." Banner finished the interview with the remark that, "I hope we can collapse the Phalanx bubble sooner than anyone expects."

The next day, the big parking lot at Banner Drug was all but empty, as frightened employees stayed away.

Shortly after time for the Phalanx's monster rally, a long line of cars stopped along the road outside the gates, and a crowd of men with black-and-white armbands climbed out carrying guns, and headed for the fence. To Hommel's horror, someone threw the switch that opened the electrically-controlled gates. The mob poured through, spread out, and swarmed toward the main building, directly in front of them.

Hommel, lying under the table, with Viola Manning clinging to his left arm, and Peabody muttering something about pills in his right ear, was just living from moment to moment. It was obvious to him that Banner's foolhardy actions had doomed them all. He felt a momentary pity for the old man, at this moment cowering, no doubt, in his office.

An electrically-amplified voice, unmistakably that of Banner, boomed out over the din. With a kind of pitying contempt, it demanded:

"What's wrong, you poor boobs, can't you find us? Afraid of eggheads? Come on! Let's see if you're yellow."

The volume of fire that answered this left Hommel all but deaf. But after the first few moments, not a shot came into the room. Hommel's curiosity got the better of his judgment, he pulled loose from Viola and Peabody, stood up in a half-crouch, and peered out the window.

Gun-carrying figures wearing armbands ran past outside.

Banner's amplified voice rose over the din:

"You want to fight, do you? O.K. Here we come!"

A host of armbanded figures sprinted toward the sound of the voice.

The building trembled continuously.

Peabody's lips were moving, and Viola had both hands pressed to her ears, her face contorted.

It made no difference. All Hommel could hear was one continuous crash and roar, that left him dazed and unconscious of the passing of time.

Finally it came to Hommel that the noise was dying down.

Someone tapped Hommel on the arm. He looked around.

Banner, an old but efficient-looking Springfield .30-06 in one hand, and a bandolier of ammunition slung across his shoulder, jerked his head toward the door. Dazedly, Hommel followed him outside.

When they were a few yards from the door, Hommel came to his senses. "Listen . . . that mob might—"

"Not for a while."

Hommel followed Banner's gaze toward the massive new addition. Its walls were pitted and pockmarked all over. There was scarcely a sliver of glass left in a window from one end of it to the other. The ramp was littered with knots of men, their eyes streaming, blindly hammering at each other with gun butts, breaking apart to reel over the edge of the ramp, and fall flat in the dirt. A multitude of struggling figures could be vaguely seen through the grayish haze that drifted out the entrance of the loading dock.

Hommel stared. "Who are they fighting?"

"Who do you think? They're drugged. That addition splits the ground here into two parts, with a gate on either side. They came in through both gates, ended up on both sides of the addition, went into a rage when I spoke through the loud-speakers that are under the roof on both sides of the addition, and fired at the building from opposite sides. Some of the shots sprayed through that cloud of tear gas in the loading tunnel, they charged in, couldn't see who they were fighting—"

"They're fighting each other?"

Banner nodded with satisfaction. "At their own cost, they're making a nice big mess that can't be ignored." He glanced around. "Look there."

Way out by the far end of the fence, wary reporters and cameramen could be seen coming forward very cautiously.

Banner took one last satisfied look at the struggling, retching, helpless tangle, and opened the door. "Once word of this mess reaches the majority of people who use only a mild overdose of the drug, they'll drop it like a—"

Peabody, on the way out, all but knocked them down in his haste.

Somewhere, there was the blast of whistle. Hommel glanced around, to see heavily-armed troops well spread out, coming across the open ground to the south.

With a sensation of relief, Hommel knew the mess was coming to a close. He remembered Banner's remark that he had barely gotten the drug barred from the armed forces. By that narrow margin, they should be able to get through the final convulsions. Then the thing would be over. Hommel promised himself that if ever again some wonderful new drug should appear—

Vaguely, he became conscious that Peabody was earnestly talking to Banner. Peabody had been trying to tell Hommel something earlier. Hommel, thoroughly skeptical of the unpromising sidetrack Peabody had insisted on following, now listened curiously.

". . . And then tried the methyl ether, instead," said Peabody, happily holding up a little, pale-pink pill. "I was hoping to get the antidote, but Dr. Hommel was right. It isn't that. But there is a mental effect. This acts to stimulate visual memory."

Viola Manning shut her eyes.

Hommel gripped the doorframe.

"Hm-m-m," said Banner, eyeing the pill.

Peabody said, "I tried it first on rats learning a maze. The effect was unmistakable. I tried it on myself, and I could see almost any page of my college organic text, just as if I were holding it in front of me. The effect lasted almost four hours. Sir, it could be tremendously useful. Students, engineers, doctors—"

Earnestly, Hommel stepped forward to protest—and then paused.

He always had wanted a good visual memory.

Banner was saying thoughtfully, "Not quite as big a market as . . . er . . . some we've had, but still—"

The three men huddled around the little pale-pink pill, looking at it as Eve may have looked at the apple.

There was a slight commotion, and they glanced around.

Viola had passed out cold.

Peabody went for water.

"Women," said Hommel, "are illogical."

"True," said Banner, "but why so, particularly?"

"Well, she came through all that trouble. She didn't faint then."

Banner nodded. "I see your point."

They glanced back at the new pill.

"She only faints now, when there's nothing to be afraid of."


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