The Freelancer

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The Freelancer


Illustrated by ASHMAN

[Transcriber’s Note: This etext was produced from
Galaxy Science Fiction September 1955.
Extensive research did not uncover any evidence that
the U.S. copyright on this publication was renewed.]

Once these laws were passed, any time in
history—however bad—were the good old days!

Jeb was shaken from his bed; his dream told him it was a glacier with wild winds howling laughter, and when he opened his eyes, shivering, he saw his wife, Laurie, had pulled the heat switch off. She stood there glaring. Today her hair was a lovely purple with a fashionable streak of gold starting from the forehead, but it didn’t help the cold look on her face.

“Get up, you bum,” she said in her sweet contralto. “Go out and earn some credits or I’ll certify you.”

The thought of being transferred by the Economy Agent to Assigned Duty Status, with its virtual imprisonment to monotony by the Welfare Office, made Jeb tumble from bed and fumble for his shoes.

“My darling,” he said placatingly, “how beautiful you are this morning! How undeserving I am of you!”

“You’re damn right about that,” said Laurie with bitterness. “When I think of the men I could have married, the wonderful life I might have lived, instead of scrimping along with a no-good freelance Monitor like you….”

Sometimes I do pretty well. Three years ago, I sent you to the Pleasure Palace for a month, remember?”

“Three years ago. Big deal.”

She flounced out of the room. Sadly, Jeb went to the closet and examined the various uniforms and disguises that were part of his equipment as a freelance Monitor. As he selected the silver and black skintight suit of an Air Pollution Inspector, he wistfully remembered how nice it had been when Laurie had smiled at him. Immediately a flood of determination filled him to go out and do big things today. Maybe he would make a big strike and get a nice fat commission; then Laurie would….

The televisor buzzed, flickered, and the genial face of the man from Marriage Relations appeared.

“Good morning, Monitor Jeb,” said the man, smiling. “And how are things ‘twixt you and your beloved?”

“Rough,” moaned Jeb. “She’s really in a foul mood today.”

The man from Marriage Relations beamed. “Fine, fine, glad to hear it.”

“Huh?” said Jeb.

“Her Sadism Index Rating went up five points,” the man explained. “We wanted to make sure we hadn’t made an error. Well, that certainly is good news for you two. I’ll guess you’ll both be all right now.”

“All right? Are you kidding?”

“Now, now, we know what’s best for you. Your Masochism Rating is quite high, you know. Laurie is just what you need. Why, you two were made for each other.”

Suddenly the man stopped talking, gasped, and the screen flickered and went dead. Jeb’s astonishment was wiped away by the soft, silvery bell tone of his portable Monitex, a flat two-by-six-inch machine resting on a shelf nearby. As Jeb wildly lunged toward it, he saw it was glowing red, activated by a violation, and as he snatched it up, the coded reading dial had a notification: Bx-P-203.

Trembling, Jeb pressed a button on the lower left of the Monitex and a voice promptly droned mechanically from the waferlike loudspeaker hidden under the surface, giving details of the violation.

“Bx-P-203—At ten minutes after eight A.M., Monitex 27965 of Freelance Monitor Jeb picked up violation of Copyright on the phrase ‘were made for each other.’ Said phrase property of Joint Owners registered under Copyright of Verbal Phrases Act of 1996. Owners, Magnum Motion Picture Studios and Universal Publications. Fee for use 80 credits, commission fifty per cent.”

The voice went dead and the flat metal surface glowed with letters strung into words reading “Please Collect and Remit Total Fee.”

As Jeb uttered a yelp of delight, Laurie came running into the room.

“I heard the Monitex bell,” she said eagerly.

“You sure did,” crowed Jeb. “Now aren’t you proud of me? I was smart enough to leave the Monitex on all night. We picked up a Verbal Copyright violation….”

“You left it on all night?” screeched Laurie, her joy fading. “You imbecile, the leasing charge on the Monitex is ten credits an hour, isn’t it? What’s your commission on this violation?”

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