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Authors: Edward D. Hoch

The Fellowship of the Hand

BOOK: The Fellowship of the Hand
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The Fellowship of the Hand
A Carl Crader Mystery
Edward D. Hoch


1 Earl Jazine

2 Carl Crader

3 Masha Blunt

4 Earl Jazine

5 Euler Frost

6 Carl Crader

7 Earl Jazine

8 Carl Crader

9 Euler Frost

10 Graham Axman

11 Jason Blunt

12 Milly Norris

13 Carl Crader

14 Masha Blunt

15 Earl Jazine

16 Euler Frost

17 Carl Crader

18 Graham Axman

19 Masha Blunt

20 Carl Crader

The Frankenstein Factory



ho started it all.


in a dozen directions from the core unit, reminding Earl Jazine of an intricately filigreed spider’s web caught in the early morning sunshine. At another time he might have thought the sight pretty, but cramped as he was within the bowels of the FRIDAY-404 election computer there was little space or time for such aesthetic delights.

“All right,” he said into his wrist intercom, “start the power.”

There was a gentle hum in the wires about him, and his induction meters told him that all power was flowing smoothly. The core unit brightened and began to transmit. Jazine waited another five minutes and then squeezed backwards out of the machine.

“Find anything?” Rogers asked.

“Just that I need to lose weight if I’m going to stay in this line of work.” Jazine wiped the sweat from his hands. “The unit seems to be functioning perfectly. What you’ve got is a job for an electronics technician, not the Computer Cops.” He almost winced when he said the name, knowing how his boss Carl Crader hated it. But that was what the newsmen had dubbed the bureau, for better or worse, and Jazine admitted he found it a handy tag when describing his job.

“You don’t seem to understand the problem,” Harry Rogers said. He was young, just out of space college, and with all the assurance of youth. Jazine, at thirty-one, felt like an old man next to his boyish freshness.

“Is that so? Suppose you tell me again.”

“Well, sir, I was running a check on this unit for the November election and I ran into some preprogramming. That’s illegal, of course, so I reported it immediately to Washington. I guess they figured it was a job for the Computer Cops.”

“Sure,” Jazine agreed. Whenever somebody tampered with a stock market computer, or programmed surgery, or just the computerized parking meter at the jetport, it was a job for the Computer Cops. He was used to it by now, and sometimes the assignments were even interesting. This wasn’t one of the times. “Well, I’ll climb back inside and you do a read-out. I’ll see if we’re getting any feed off another system.”

“How could we get feed off another system?” the young man argued. “This is a closed circuit, regulated by the election laws!”

“Well, let’s just see now.”

There were certain advantages to computerized election returns, not the least of which was that the irregular vote-counting methods of the twentieth century were completely eliminated. Every voting machine in the United States of America and Canada was tied into the system, which enabled Washington and every home in the USAC to watch the actual tabulation as each vote was cast. There was a central FRIDAY-404 computer serving every 10,000 individual voting machines, and as the data came into it by microwave relay it was coded and transmitted to the skysphere satellite and then on to Washington. There television and teleprinters took over the task of transmitting the running totals into every American home.

The first presidential election to be fully computerized, back in 2032, had caused an uproar by showing Thurgood leading Stokes through most of the balloting. Then, as the votes from the West Coast and the ocean states drifted in, the tide suddenly turned. The next day Thurgood supporters were blaming their man’s defeat on the computerized results—claiming overconfident Thurgood supporters stayed home late in the day, while the trailing Stokes mustered his western people to win a victory in the final minutes of polling there.

But such a thing had never happened again, and the seesawing election battles of recent years had become more exciting than an antelope race. The incumbent, President McCurdy, had won reelection in a contest that saw the lead change twenty-two times in the course of the day. No one could complain that the new system failed to bring out the vote. Fully ten million more citizens were casting their ballots these days.

Of course the system meant one more job for the Computer Cops, who inherited the policing of elections from the Justice Department. An independent department situated in New York and reporting directly to the President, the Computer Investigation Bureau was responsible for the fairness of elections and the accuracy of the FRIDAY-404 system. With any voting machine, the easiest method of falsifying the returns was to cast a number of fraudulent ballots in advance, registering them on the machine before the actual vote began. Theoretically, the same thing could be done with the FRIDAY-404 through pre-programming, which was why young Rogers had been checking it out five weeks before the election. What he’d found had brought Earl Jazine to the scene.

“Power on,” Jazine said into his wrist intercom. “One more time.” He watched the central core for a moment and then said, “Now do a printout.”

When the computer had shut itself off automatically, he squeezed himself out again and took the sheet of printout symbols from the teleprinter.






Jazine frowned at the sheet of paper. “Give me a clear,” he said.

Rogers pressed another button and the teleprinter chattered some brief symbols.

JASON BLUNT         36455

STANLEY AMBROSE          45390

“Who the hell are Blunt and Ambrose?”

“It seems to be the results of some election. Maybe a local one from last year.”

Jazine shook his head. “The figures couldn’t stay in the machine this long, not after it was cleared.”

“So who would feed them in now, a month before election? And with those names! Who are they?”

“Neither one is running for president, I can tell you that,” Jazine said. “Let me take this back to New York and see what the boss thinks.”

“You agree with me finally that something’s wrong here?”

Jazine studied the printout again. “I agree that something’s not right. That’s about as much commitment as you’ll get out of me for now.”

The Computer Investigation Bureau was located on the top floor of the World Trade Center in lower Manhattan. Taken over by the federal government some fifty years earlier, the twin-towered giant had long since ceased to be the world’s tallest building—an honor it had held, actually, for only a few seasons. But for CIB purposes it was still the perfect headquarters, centrally located in the heart of the computerized business community, and with a flat roof for quick rocketcopter flights anywhere in the country. Best of all, it was far enough from the bureaucratic jungle of Washington to maintain some sort of independence.

Earl Jazine waved to Judy, Carl Crader’s tall blond secretary, as he hurried through the air door into the director’s private office. Crader was thirty years older than Earl, with streaks of gray hair and a developing paunch that he tried to hide. In many ways he was the most powerful and respected head of a government bureau in a hundred years—since the peak of J. Edgar Hoover’s popularity.

“Back so soon?” he greeted Jazine, glancing up from his perennially cluttered desk. “Anything doing on that trouble report?”

“Something doing, all right, chief, but I don’t know what.” He produced the printout from the election computer and passed it across the desk.

Carl Crader glanced at the names and numbers. “Who are Blunt and Ambrose?”

“That’s what I’d like to know. Their names are pre-programmed into that FRIDAY-404 unit. It was causing the trouble Rogers reported.”

Crader frowned and scratched his head. “Any ideas?”

“I already checked last year’s campaigns in every state. No one named Blunt or Ambrose ran for anything. There’s a Stanley Ambrose who used to be head of the Venus Colony, but he’s not in politics.”

“Where does that leave us?” Crader asked. He was always anxious to collect his subordinates’ opinions before committing his own thoughts on a subject.

Jazine hesitated, and then plunged on. “What about HAND, chief?”

“HAND—Humans Against Neuter Domination. I’d almost forgotten about them.”

But Jazine knew he hadn’t forgotten. None of them had forgotten. Less than a year earlier the revolutionary group known as HAND had struck its first blow against the machine civilization by blowing up the Federal Medical Center in Washington. HAND’S former leader, Graham Axman, was safely behind bars as a result of that episode, but many of his followers remained at large, including a youthful escaped exile from the Venus Colony named Euler Frost.

“Wouldn’t it be a natural move for HAND to try sabotaging the election computer, chief?”

“But with pre-programming instead of bombs?” Crader was doubtful.

“Sure! Bombs would just destroy it. Something like this pre-programming, if it went undetected till election day, could undermine the people’s faith in our entire system. They might even start wondering if President McCurdy was really elected last time.”

“Maybe,” Crader mused. “Just maybe.”

“So what do we do about it?”

Carl Crader activated the desk terminal of his memory bank. “Let’s see what the files tell us about the FRIDAY-404.” In a moment he had a lengthy printout, which he quickly skimmed. “Lawrence Friday, that’s the name I wanted! He developed the entire FRIDAY line. If anyone can tell you about it, he can. Why not call on him and see if he’ll shed any light on the matter? Perhaps there’s some simple explanation to the whole thing—one that doesn’t involve HAND and plots to fix the presidential election.”

“Good idea,” Jazine agreed. “Where can I find this man Friday?”

Crader consulted his printout once more. “In a most unlikely place. It seems he’s now the director of the Central Park Zooitorium.”

Earl Jazine liked zoos and always had, ever since his parents had taken him to a zoo in Chicago once to see the last giraffe in the world before it died. That had been nearly twenty years ago, and he’d been going to zoos ever since. Manhattan’s Central Park Zooitorium was unique in its construction, however, consisting of a huge bubble dome which covered the entire southern third of the park. Constructed in the pollution era before the advent of electric cars and climate control, the domed zoo had provided perfect contentment for animals of all species. Even the giant pandas, nearly extinct in Russo-China itself, were thriving beneath the plastic pleasure dome.

BOOK: The Fellowship of the Hand
8.24Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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