Cam's car materialized at the curb, and he hustled the sodden Ev into its dark, merciful confines.
"Granted that this entire affair is not some outre hoax ... a possibility on which I don't entirely close the door ... your 'merchandise' might better be labelled Telempathy," said Cam.
"Button-down lingo," sneered Ev.
"What is that miniature monster in your pocket ... Marmoset? Mutated rat?"
"Super-mongoose. The result of certain esoteric nuclear experiments off Madagascar."
They hove to at "MAB"--the Merchandising Arts Building, West Coast hub of influence on the docile consumer.
They floated up the exterior tube to the 39th Floor (Socio-Economic) which was actually the hotbed of the political efforts of Cam and his associates. Entry through the wall-port brought them face-to-fang with Father Sowles ("Save Your Souls With Sowles"). The lank, fiery pulpit-pounder had been tabbed as a political natural by certain elders whose money was known as wise; and in consequence, his campaign for the Directorship of North America's Western Zone was being master-minded by Pacific Persuaders, Inc., a pseudopod of the MAB complex.
The crusader struck a Charlton Heston pose and snarled: "In the name of Christendom, what peculiar intruder bring you before me?"
Everett meticulously assayed the gaunt, fanatic figure before him, clad in apostolic robes. "I'll do a lot for a dollar, as the girl said to the soldier, but this is ludicrous. Who needs Telempathy? This cat is so phony, any gossoon can peg him."
Sowles motioned to a monkish aide at a desk, who scribbled furiously in a drab notebook. Cam walked to the aides' side and read: "Gossoons."
"I don't have to look, Cam," said Everett. "I have just issued the death warrant for gossoons, if this vampire ever comes to power, and if he ever finds out what they are."
"Down, boy," said Cam. "Father Sowles, this man and his group appear to possess an instinct or faculty that could make the difference between success and failure. Everett, belay the commentary and look sharp: This is your chance at the large dinero."
"Curt!" Cam called the wall-com. On its screen appeared Curt Andrews, bright young assistant account man, reflexively simulating activity at his desk. "Bring in the Name-O-Scope, please."
Cam turned to explain to the waiting group: "This gadget coming up is another of our recent triumphs in the application of the scientific method to marketing. Just as a computer solves problems in a split second that would take human mathematicians months, the Name-O-Scope arrives at and presents all the bewildering array of possible cognomens for a given thing in a matter of hours. The proliferating combinations of possible name components are reeled off in a rapid fire for our evaluation."
Curt came in with what appeared to be a portable rear-screen presentation projector, with dials and an extra lead; which he attached to the conference table.
"With this device," continued Cam, "Edgar Rice Burroughs would not have to have spent weeks playing with nonsense syllables before styling his hero 'Tarzan'." He guided Ev to a specially constructed chair at the table, rolled up one sleeve, applied the clamp to his bicep. "The machine provided evaluation of alternate names on the basis of blood-pressure fluctuation. Till now, we've had to operate on the basis of a cumulative group reaction, with the obvious disadvantages of all group samples. With Everett & Associates, we may well have a single-unit, perfectly representative sounding board."
"Roll 'em, Curt. Ev, if this works, you've made the consultant roster."
"I trust that involves geetus," replied Ev.
Curt dimmed the lights. On the screen, three heraldic cornets sang a fanfare, followed by floating banners: "POSSIBLE TITLES FOR THE SOWLES MOVEMENT".
This dissolved to an aerial view of the 20th Century war (mostly clips of the Normandy landings). The camera picked out one brave, clean column (new footage) and zoomed in on the device at its fore: A Cross of Lorraine with a Star of David at its center. Superimposed wavy letters faded in: "THE NEW CHURCH MILITANT".
Curt studied the dial with the aid of a pocketlite, and made a notation. The scene and the martial music faded out, to be replaced by stock footage from medieval epics: Peter the Hermit exhorting knights to smite the Saracen, the clash of Mediterranean men o' war, chivalric pageantry featuring again the cross-and-star: "CRUSADE FOR OUR TIME".
The eyes of the super-mongoose gleamed in the shadows as Curt took the reading.
Next came a montage of heroic scenes from two millennia of history: from Agincourt to Iwo, from the villagers marching on Frankenstein's castle to the Four Freedoms conference at sea. One familiar strain underscored all the stirring action; its key words flamed to life: "SOWLES' CHRISTIAN SOLDIERS".
Everett's familiar emitted a shrill squeak. Curt gasped, "Cam! Right off the dial!"
"All right, Curt! Hit the lights.... We won't bother with the rest."
"What devil's work is this?" demanded the cadaverous Sowles, blinking as the lights went on.
"Father, for the first time in the history of mass opinion manipulation, we are scientifically certain, in advance, of optimum response. Everett and his Telempathetic Gestalt have proved to be the equivalent of the world's largest survey sample. In the past, whenever a product was about to be launched on the board waters of the American mercantile ocean, but lacked for a sobriquet, prides of copywriters and other creative people huddled late into the night fashioning Names, from which the entire marketing strategy would flow. Remember the Ocelot, Curt?"
"Lord, will I ever forget it. 18,000 names!"
"On behalf of our airplane account, gentlemen. Of those 18,000 names we dreamed up for the 1981 model, some truly ridiculous labels crept in when fatigue and inbred mental circumlocution weakened our defenses."
"The Dawn Play Air Coupe," recalled Curt, with a shudder. "The Pterrible Pterodactyl.... The Crimson Inca...."
"Spare us, Curt. The point is that as a result of this grisly experience, we invented the Name-O-Scope. The name 'Ocelot' was ultimately selected, and worked out superbly--through sheer good fortune alone. For your campaign, Father, the Name-O-Scope came up with 3,248 possible slogan-names."
"I saw only three," Sowles said, dourly. His aide scribbled something in the notebook.
"I wouldn't inflict the whole wild roster on you, sir--or even on your adjutant there. But we did expose them to selected samples in thirty major markets; and the cumulative finding put these three in a class by themselves, at the top. Furthermore, these random tests agreed 100% with Everett in the selection of 'SOWLES' CHRISTIAN SOLDIERS' as the ideal motif, out of those pre-eminent three.... So we are doubly, even triply checked out before take-off; since these findings confirm the humble opinion of our own staff."
The eagle-eyed leader bent his probing gaze on Cam. "So you say, wizard of words. But while you're rejoicing in these strange devices and stranger accomplices, the enemy draws nigh. The primary is but weeks away, and already the invective of the political jackal beats on the ears of the electorate like a stormy sea."
Everett lifted his shaggy head. "You mix a hirsute metaphor, Charlemagne, but my li'l friends tell me that that's the sort of chatter that the idiot voters will lap up like a friendly Frostee."
"You see, Father--this is the break we needed," pitched Cam. "With this weird talent of Everett et al., we can pre-test every element of the great campaign. The pieces of the jigsaw will drop into place overnight, and we can kick off the Big Push next week.... Like with a monster rally by torchlight and Kleig in Hollywood Bowl.... Singing our hymn under the stars while millions view.... How 'bout that, Ev?"
The impresario of the impalpable nodded. "Should be great. Monstrous, in fact."
In the day that followed, Cam and all his cohorts in MAB let themselves go in a good old-fashioned creative orgy. With one large difference. In the past, copy, layouts, and other campaign ingredients were threshed out in endless conferences, and decisions were made on the basis of an informed group guess. Now, each new idea was exposed at infancy like a Spartan baby to the elemental reaction of Ev & Co., and instantly given the yea or nay.
The rotund oracle was kept under lock and latch in the "Think-Box." This room had been scientifically designed for sequestering agency people who had to give birth to slogans and such under deadline pressure. The walls were sound-proofed, the couch pulled out into a properly uncomfortable bed, and a refrigerator was stocked with snack makings. It was also served by dumbwaiter. Phones were banished, of course; as was 3-D and all other distraction--even windows. Visual motion was, however, provided by a giant clock. The only concessions to Ev were a special little hutch for the super-mongoose; and a bar, carefully regulated to make certain he never completely blotted out the hypothetical brainwave "network."
Cam did his best to pump Ev for the identity of his "Associates", but the old sack of iniquity was wise to his game. He'd rear back and squint at Cam like a Lebanese fruit vendor and thoughtfully pick his nose. "Like to know me confederates, is it?" he'd ask. Then, with a great show of candor: "Well, one of them is a sea creature, but I'll say no more than that. I know you'd never be able to live with the thought of being in business with a squid."
Then Ev would laugh wildly. "Ah, wouldn't he like to know!"
"It's only for your own protection," Cam expostulated. "I know there are more people in this lash-up. We've got to make certain that they're safe from accident--can't have the Gestalt disrupted."
"Bosh," was Ev's invariable verdict.
Meanwhile, Cam's little elves paraded through with all the paraphernalia of the Big Push. Livid posters, featuring a Messianic Sowles. Full-page ads, exhorting everyone with an ounce of American decency in his body, to attend the Rally Under The Stars. Subliminal commands were sneaked into the visiphone and 3-D circuits. Couples in Drive-Ins found themselves determined to be among those who stood up to be counted at the Bowl. Christian Soldiers across the continent chartered all manner of craft, from Ocelots to electromag liners, to bear them to the great event. Goodies by the thousand were stamped out to hawk to the faithful: Badges, banners, bumper stickers, wallet cards, purse-sized pix of Sowles, star-and-cross medallions and lapel pins.... The potential proceeds of the Rally alone began to assume war-chest proportions.
And above all they worked on the Speech. This had to be the greatest sockdolager since Goebbels explained Stalingrad. Cam's feverish brain had figured out a host of effects to catalyze the audience reaction. But in the last analysis, triumph or disaster would hinge on the oral effort of the Grim Reaper, as some of the minions at MAB had come to term Sowles.
So, Huckster Heaven became a memory, like a place in a previous existence. Other clients were neglected; and it was even left to Curt Andrews to follow up Occidental Tobacco.
Books were carted in, thumbed through for inspiration, and cast back into the outer corridor in disgust.
"Ev, catch this: "'The flaming light of the Lord shall go forward into the farthest reaches of this planet, to every village and commune where the Anti-Christ has ruled; and indeed it shall go beyond, with mankind's vaulting spirit, to the moon, the planets, and the stars!'"
"Not bad," quoth the half-sodden seer, inspecting another treasure from his nasal passages. "My buddies say the marks will go for it like Gang-Busters."
"Kindly refrain from the pseudo-sophisticated jazz," said Cam, in pain. "One of these days your name's going to get written down in that little book. And besides, this is an intrinsically worthwhile movement."
"Kindly refrain yourself from the adman jargon and attempts to snow the troops. This Sowles is the worst mountebank since Charlie Ponzi, and you know it. You're in this for the fast megabuck same as me, so let's not kid ourselves."
"Euramerica needs just such a unifying figure now," said Cam. "And just such a cause, one that will inspire positive action against the Commie Complex. Otherwise, the U. S. of E. will keep on floundering around in a morass of debate while They single-mindedly weave our doom."
"On a single-minded loom," sang Ev into a snifter. "Who would have thought that my great gift to the world would be put to such a perverse use right off the bat?"
"Speaking of bat, let's get back on the ball." And the hands of the clock rolled round and round....
Two days before the Rally, an exhausted Cam tottered to the visiphone down the hall, and dialled Sowles' Temple.
The monkish aide answered. "Sowles' Christian Soldiers; Brother Kane here."
"What became of Abel?" asked Cam before his cortex could intervene. The aide's eyes glowed with a promise of vengeance, as he put Cam through to Sowles.
"How do the preparations progress?" asked the ex-cleric.
"Well, sir. Which is why I called. The first draft of the Speech is ready."
"I'll be there within the hour," said Sowles, and the screen blanked.
When Sowles arrived at MAB, an Execusec conducted him to the door of the "Think-Box." He stared disapprovingly after her. "When the Soldiers hold sway, modesty will be rigidly enforced."
Cam dictated a memo to his pocket recorder forbidding MAB girls to observe the current abbreviated fashions.
"Well, well; Friar Tuck," burbled Ev from his customary prone position on the couch. "Have a toddy, and get that tired, cold blood circulating."
"Revolting," said Sowles.
"Politics make strange bed-fellows, eh, Sowles? Like you 'n' me! And let's not forget the Little Brown Jug! Ho, ho, ho!"
Sowles turned to (or rather, on) Cam. "The Speech?"
"Right. The Speech. Right here, sir." Cam tendered the manuscript.
The Grimmest of Reapers found the most uncomfortable chair in the room, sat, and began reading. The first page was peeled off and dropped to the floor; the second; the third; and finally, the entire effort was strewn beside Sowles, who rose in what he undoubtedly considered righteous wrath.
"You've missed the whole Message!" he hissed.
"All this Pollyanna frou-frou is all right as frosting--but you've left out the cake!"
Cam was momentarily spooked--and not "on account of the account," either. Sowles looked fully capable of loosing a full-fledged Inquisition, complete with rack and thumbscrew, at Cam's well-barbered head.
Sowles continued to fulminate. "You haven't got one word in there about our enemies!"
"But Father, I refer several times to the Slave World and its evil rulers...."
"Not just Them! What about the traitors in our midst--the sinister cabal of pinko liberals and moderate conservatives that have undermined our defenses...."
"I thought the Smirch Society had staked out that claim," said Cam.
"Bah! The Smirchers are too mealy-mouthed for the needs of the hour. I think they're a little soft on Communism. And what about the race mongrelizers?" spluttered Sowles. "Trying to subvert America with an Afro-Asian Trojan Horse!"
"I suppose you can trace your ancestry all the way back to Caligula," muttered Everett.
"That's right, you human sewer! If I hadn't been assured you might be of use to the Cause--" He left the sentence unfinished.
"I get the picture, Father." Cam ushered Sowles to the door. "We'll get the new draft out right away."
"And don't forget the economic heretics," Sowles shouted as the door closed on him. "The fiends that concocted the income tax, and Social Security, and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, and...."
"Wow," breathed Cam, when the torrent was finally cut off.
"How do you like Galahad now?" asked Ev from the bar.
"Build me one too," answered Cam.
Nevertheless, the revision had to be done, and done it was.
"That'll have 'em seein' Red, all right," pronounced Everett.
"It's got everything in it except a declaration of war on Switzerland," said Cam ruefully.
"Quiet--or he'll hear about that, and want it too," said Ev.
The Day of the Rally dawned bright and smoggy, but the weather boys promised a clear, cool evening. Naturally, the major 3-D nets were all set to 'cast the "birth in the Bowl" of a potentially historic campaign. Satellites would bounce the signal over oceans and continents, throughout Euramerica, as well carrying the presentation as to allies and unaligned nations from Tokyo to Karachi. The crusading aspect of Sowles' candidacy had been tom-tommed so well that pundits were already predicting that Sowles might easily go on to the Governorship of North America two years hence--if, indeed, his Soldiers did not sweep to control of the U. S. of E. Parliament then. That, of course, would install the Grim Reaper in the Presidential Palace.... Cam shuddered and thrust the thought from his mind. But wild dreams aside, there was no doubt that two hemispheres' attention was riveted on the big-time debut of the West Coast's Angel of Vengeance.
En route to the Bowl, the "Soldier" theme was already manifest. Every few feet, a "Brother-Private" in a new, usually ill-fitting uniform was directing traffic or hawking MAB-confected wares. "Father-General" Sowles appeared to have lifted more than one leaf from the Salvation Army's book.
Cam himself had been verbally commissioned Brother Lieutenant-Colonel when the revised oration had been submitted to Sowles. The Reaper ate it up this trip. "You'd have thought it came down from Sinai on tablets," said Ev after Sowles left to begin practicing the Speech.
"He'll make it sound that way," Cam had remarked. "Above all, Our Leader is a great orator."
"Translation: bloody demagogue," Ev had replied.
Now their chauffeured air-suspension limo was tooling them up through the thickening crowds to the hill-cradled amphitheater.
Curt had come along to help. "What's going to happen to the overflow?" he asked anxiously, peering at the turgid sea of faces outside.