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"Alas, Babylon." Those fateful words Title: Alas, Babylon He is best-known for his post-apocalyptic novel Alas Babylon. This book is in the public domain in Canada, and is made available to you DRM-free. site Distributed Proofreaders Canada, we pride ourselves on producing the best ebooks you can find. Download ebook for print-disabled Download Protected DAISY. Other editions of this book may be available: Check Other Editions. Alas, Babylon by Pat Frank. Read online, or download in secure EPUB format.

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I have an acquaintance, a retired manufacturer, a practical man, who has recently become worried about international tensions, intercontinental missiles, H-bombs, and such. One day, knowing that I had done some writing on military subjects, he asked: The subject was on my mind. More to the point, I had been discussing just such a possibility with several astute British staff officers. The British have lived under the shadow of nuclear-armed rockets longer than we. Also, they have a vivid memory of cities devastated from the skies, as have the Germans and Japanese.

We--by we I mean the NATO coalition--aren't going to be allowed time to catch up with them in operational IC's, much less control space. Now don't argue with me. We have their War Plan. They have Turkey ringed on three sides, and if they could upset the Turkish government, and force capitulation of the Bosporus and Dardanelles, they would have won the war without fighting.

The Med would be theirs, Africa cut off from Europe, NATO outflanked on the south, and one by one all our allies--except England--would fall into their laps or declare themselves neutral. SAC's bases in Africa and Spain would be untenable and melt away. The Russians are great chess players. They rarely make the same mistake twice. Now, today, they're making moves.

It's the same gambit--but with a tremendous difference. In 'fifty-seven, when it looked like they were going to make another Korea out of Turkey, we warned the Kremlin that there'd be no sanctuary inside Russia.

They took a look at the board and resigned the game. Then in 'fifty-eight, after the Iraq king was assassinated, we grabbed the initiative and landed Marines in Lebanon. We got there fastest. They saw that we were ready, and could not be surprised. They were caught off balance, and didn't dare move. This time it's different. They're ready to go through with it, because the odds have changed. An air general, a shrewd character, a human being. He brought us their War Plan, in his head. This time, they're not resigning the game.

They'd still like to win the war without a war, but if we make any military countermove, we're going to receive it. For a moment, they were both silent. On the other side of the flight-line fence, three ground-crewmen were throwing a baseball. Two were pitching, an older sergeant, built like Yogi Berra, catching. The plate was a yellow parachute pack. The ball whirred and plopped sharply into mitt. Again, he felt he moved in the miasma of a dream.

Something was wrong. Either Mark shouldn't be talking like this, or those airmen shouldn't be throwing a baseball out there in the warm sunlight. When he lit a cigarette, his fingers were trembling again. Here's the tactical part. They know that the only way they can do it is knock off our nuclear capability with one blow--or at least cripple us so badly that they can accept what retaliatory power we have left.

They don't mind losing ten or twenty million people, so long as they sweep the board, because people, per se, are only pawns, and expendable. So their plan--it was no surprise to us--calls for a T. You get it? You don't fire everything at the same instant. You shoot it so it all arrives on target at the same instant.

Mark glanced at his watch, and then looked up at the big jet transport, still loading fuel through four hoses from the underground tanks. It won't be Zero Hour, it'll be Zero Minute. They'll use no planes in the first wave, only missiles. They plan to kill every base and missile site in Europe and Africa and the U. They plan to kill every base on this continent, and in the Pacific, with their IC's, plus missiles launched from subs. Three years hence, when we have our own ICBM batteries emplaced, a big fleet of missile-toting subs, and Nike-Zeus and some other stuff perfected, they couldn't.

But right now we're in what we call 'the gap. I'm pretty sure they can't--we may have some surprises for them--but that's not the point. Point is, if they think they can get away with it, then we have lost. When you don't deter them any longer, you lose.

Alas, Babylon

I think we lost some time ago, because the last five Sputniks have been reconnaisance satellites. They've been mapping us, with infrared and transitor television, measuring us for the Sunday punch.

Mark shrugged. Let's not alarm the public. Personally, I think everybody ought to be digging or evacuating right this minute. Maybe if the other side knew we were digging, if they knew that we knew, they wouldn't try to get away with it. First, when I left Puerto Rico this morning Navy was trying to track three skunks--unidentified submarines--in the Caribbean, and one in the Gulf. Chances are that haystack is stiff with needles.

CIA thinks six hundred, Navy guesses maybe seven-fifty. And they don't need launchers any more. Just dump the bird, or pop it out while still submerged. The ocean itself is a perfectly good launching pad. We flew down yesterday on a pretty important job--figure out a way to disperse the wing on Ramey.

There aren't enough fields in Puerto Rico and anyway the island is rugged and not big enough. We'd just started our staff study when we got a zippo--that's an operational priority message--to come home.

And two thirds of the Ramey wing was scrambled with flyaway kits for--another place. I made my decision right then. I just had time to arrange Helen's reservation and send the cables. Mark spoke more of the Russian General, with whom he had talked at length, and whom apparently he liked. He came over in desperation, hoping that somehow we could stop those power-crazed bastards at the top.

He doesn't think their War Plan will work any more than I do. Too much chance for human or mechanical error. Randy listened, fascinated, until he saw three blue sedans turn a corner near wing headquarters. Mark brushed cracker crumbs and slivers of chocolate from his shirt front.

Also, there's something I have to give you. Randy unfolded the check. It was for five thousand. Don't deposit it, cash it! It's a reserve for Helen and Ben Franklin and Peyton. Buy stuff with it. I don't know what to tell you to buy. You'll think of what you'll need as you go along. Mark seemed pleased.

Shows you're looking ahead. I don't know whether money will help Helen or not, but cash in hand, in Fort Repose, will be better than an account in an Omaha bank. Randy kept on looking at the check, feeling uncomfortable. I won't care. I've been trying to find out. You don't know her. New people from Cleveland.

Her family built on River Road. Mark hesitated. It is something Civil Defense should have done weeks--months ago. Use your own judgment. Be discreet. Randy noticed that the jet transport's wings were clear of hoses. He saw the three blue sedans pull up at Operations. He saw Lieutenant General Heycock get out of the first car. He felt Mark's hand on his shoulder, and braced himself for the words he knew must come.

They love you and they think you're swell and you couldn't be anything but a good father to them. But I will say this, be kind to Helen. She's--" Mark was having trouble with his voice. Randy tried to help him out.

Anyway, don't sound so final. You're not dead yet. We've been married fourteen years and about half that time I've been up in the air or out of the country and I've never once worried about Helen.

And she never had to worry about me. In fourteen years I never slept with another woman. I never even kissed another woman, not really, not even when I had duty in Tokyo or Manila or Hongkong, and she was half a world away. She was all the woman I ever needed.

She was like this: Back when I was a captain and we were moving from rented apartment to rented apartment every year or so, I got a terrific offer from Boeing. She knew what I wanted.

by Pat Frank

I didn't have to tell her. She said, 'I want you to stay in SAC. I think you should. I think you ought to be a general and you're going to be a general. I guess there wasn't quite enough time, but had there been time, she would've had her star. Randy saw Lieutenant General Heycock walk from the Operations building toward the plane.

They got out of the car and walked quickly toward the gate, and Mark swung an arm around Randy's shoulders. If you let her, she'll give you the same kind of loyalty she gave me. Let her, Randy. She's all woman and that's what she's made for. Heycock's aide fidgeted at the end of the ramp.

The General wondered what happened to you. He was most anxious--". Not much use. This aircraft cruises at five-fifty. By the time you get back to Fort Repose, we'll be west of the Mississippi. I'd look awfully funny in Omaha.

Randy walked away from the transport, got into his car, and drove slowly through the base. At the main gate he surrendered his visitor's pass.

He turned into a lonely lane outside the base, near the village of Pinecastle, and stopped the car in a spot shielded by cabbage palms. When he was sure no one watched, and no car approached from either direction, he leaned his head on the wheel. He swallowed a sob and closed his eyes to forbid the tears.

He heard wind rustle the palms, and the chirp of cardinals in the brush. He became aware that the clock on the dash, blurred, was staring at him. The clock said he had just time to make the bank before closing, if he pushed hard and had luck getting through Orlando traffic. He started the engine, backed out of the lane into the highway, and let the car run.

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He knew he should not have spared time for tears, and would not, ever again. Edgar Quisenberry, president of the bank, never lost sight of his position and responsibilities as sole representative of the national financial community in Fort Repose. A monolithic structure of Indiana limestone built by his father in , the bank stood like a gray fortress at the corner of Yulee and St.

First National had weathered the collapse of the land boom, had been unshaken by the market crash of 'twenty-nine and the depression that followed. Roosevelt, in 'thirty-three, and he had to shut down every other bank in the country to do it.

It'll never happen again, because we'll never have another s. Edgar, at forty-five, had grown to look something like his bank, squat, solid, and forbidding. He was the only man in Fort Repose who always wore a vest, and he never wore sports clothes, even on the golf links.

Each year, when he attended the branch Federal Reserve convention in Atlanta, two new suits were tailored, one double-breasted blue, one pin-stripe gray, both designed to minimize, or at least dignify, what he called "my corporation. First National employed two vice presidents, a cashier, an assistant cashier, and four tellers, but it was a one-man bank. You could put it in at any window, but before you took it out on loan, or cashed an out-of-town check, you had to see Edgar.

All Edgar's loans were based on Character, and Character was based on cash balance, worth of unencumbered real estate, ownership of bonds and blue-chip stocks. Since Edgar was the only person in town who could, and did, maintain a mental index of all these variables, he considered himself the sole accurate judge of Character. It was said you could gauge a grove owner's crop by the way Edgar greeted him on Yulee Street. If Edgar shook his hand and chatted, then the man had just received a big price for his fruit.

If Edgar spoke, cracked his face, and waved, the man was reasonably prosperous. If Edgar nodded but did not speak, nemotodes were in the citrus roots.

If Edgar didn't see him, his grove had been destroyed in a freeze. When Randolph Bragg burst into the bank at Four minutes to three, Edgar pretended not to see him. His antipathy for Randy was more deeply rooted than if he had been a bankrupt.

Bending over a desk as if examining a trust document, Edgar watched Randy scribble his name on the back of a check, smile at Mrs.

Estes, the senior teller, and skid the check through the window. Randy's manner, dress, and attitude all seemed an affront. Randy had no respect for institutions, persons, or even money. He would come bouncing in like this, at the last minute, and demand service as casually as if The Bank were a soda fountain.

He was a lazy, insolent odd-ball, with dangerous political ideas, who never made any effort to invest or save. Twice in the past few years he had overdrawn his account.

People called the Braggs "old family. The Minorcans were shiftless no-goods and the Braggs no better. Edgar disliked Randy for all these, and another, secret reason. Edgar saw Mrs. Estes open her cash drawer, hesitate, and speak to Randy. He saw Randy shrug. Estes stepped out of the cage and Edgar knew she was going to ask him to okay the check.

When she reached his side he purposely ignored her for a moment, to let Randy know that The Bank considered him of little importance. Estes said, "Will you initial this, please, Mr. Edgar held the check in both hands and at a distance, examining it through the bottom lens of his bifocals, as if it smelled of forgery.

Five thousand, signed by Mark Bragg. If Randy irritated Edgar, Mark infuriated him. Mark Bragg invariably and openly called him by his school nickname, Fisheye. He was glad that Mark was in the Air Force and rarely in town. Perhaps now he would have the opportunity to repay Judge Bragg for the humiliation of the poker game. Five years before, Edgar had been invited to sit in the regular Saturday night pot-limit game at the St.

He had sat opposite Judge Bragg, a spare, straight, older man. Except for a small checking account, the Judge banked and did his business in Orlando and Tallahassee, so Edgar knew him hardly at all. Edgar prided himself on his cagey poker. The idea was to win, wasn't it? Judge Bragg played an open, swashbuckling game, as if he enjoyed it.

On occasion he bluffed, Edgar deduced, but he seemed to be lucky so it was difficult to tell whether he was bluffing or not. In the third hour a big pot came along--more than a thousand dollars. Edgar had opened with three aces and not bettered with his two-card draw, and the Judge had also drawn two cards.

After the draw, Edgar bet a hundred and the men who had taken only one card dropped out and that left it up to the judge. The judge promptly raised the size of the pot. Edgar hesitated, looked into the Judge's amused dark eyes, and folded. As the Judge embraced and drew in the hill of chips, Edgar reached across the table and exposed his hand--three sevens and nothing else.

Judge Bragg had said, very quietly, "Don't ever touch my cards again, you son of a bitch. If you do, I'll break a chair over your head. The five others in the game had waited for Edgar to do or say something, but Edgar only tried to laugh it off. At midnight, the Judge cashed in his chips and said, "See you all next Saturday night--if this tub of rancid lard isn't here.

He's a bore and a boor and he forgets to ante. Johns Club. He had never forgotten it. Randy walked into the bank's office enclosure, wondering why Edgar wanted to see him. Edgar knew perfectly well that Mark's check was okay. The clock said 3: It was their custom to hurry to the bank just at three. Randy noticed that Florence, finished at the teller's window, had wandered within hearing. Florence didn't miss much. He was sure his face was reddening. He told himself he must not lose his temper.

But it wouldn't be good banking procedure for me to hand you five thousand dollars and wait four or five days for it to clear all the way from Omaha. It would squash, like a potato. Randy's account stood below four hundred. This had been little to worry about, with his citrus checks due on the first of the year.

Now, considering Mark's urgency, it was dangerously low. He decided to probe Edgar's weakness. He said, "Penny-wise, pound-foolish, that's you, Edgar.

You could have been in on a very good thing. Give me back the check. I'll cash it in San Marco or Orlando in the morning. Edgar realized he might have made an error. It was most unusual for anyone to want five thousand in cash. It indicated some sort of a quick, profitable deal.

Alas, Babylon by Pat Frank (ebook)

He should have found out why the cash was needed. Edgar's pale, protruding eyes shifted to Florence, frankly listening, and Eli Blaustein hovering nearby, interested. After Randy had the cash, in hundreds, twenties and tens, he said, "Now I'll tell you why I wanted it, Edgar.

Mark asked me to make a bet for him. Running in Miami, tomorrow, I suppose? Not the races. Mark is simply betting that checks won't be worth anything, very shortly, but cash will.

Good afternoon, Fisheye. As Mrs. Estes unlocked the bank door she squeezed his arm and whispered, "Good for you! Edgar rocked in his chair, furious. It wasn't a reason. It was a riddle.

He repeated Randy's words. They made no sense at all, unless Mark expected some big cataclysm, like all the banks closing, and of course that was ridiculous. Whatever happened, the country's financial structure was sound. Edgar reached a conclusion. He had been tricked and bluffed again. The Braggs were scoundrels, all of them. Randy's first stop was Ajax Super-Market. It really wasn't a super-market, as it claimed. Fort Repose's population was 3,, according to the State Census, and this included Pistolville and the Negro district.

The Chamber of Commerce claimed five thousand, but the Chamber admitted counting the winter residents of Riverside Inn, and people who technically were outside the town limits, like those who lived on River Road. So Fort Repose had not attracted the big chain stores. Still, Ajax imitated the super-markets, inasmuch as you wheeled an aluminum cart around and served yourself, and Ajax sold the same brands at about the same prices.

Randy hated grocery shopping. None of the elaborate surveys, and studies in depth of the buying habits of Americans had a classification for Randolph Bragg. Usually he grabbed a cart and sprinted for the meat counter, where he dropped a written order. Then he raced up and down the aisles, snatching cans and bottles and boxes and cartons from shelves and freezers apparently at random, running down small children and bumping old ladies and apologizing, until his final lap brought him past the meat counter again.

The butchers had learned to give his order priority, for if his meat wasn't cut he didn't stop, simply made a violent U-turn and barreled off for the door. When the checker rang up his bill Randy looked at his watch. His record for a full basket was three minutes and forty-six seconds, portal to portal. But on this day it was entirely different, because of the length of his list to which he had been adding, the quantities, and the Friday afternoon shopping rush.

After he'd filled three carts, and the meat order had already been carried to the car, he was still only halfway down the list, but physically and emotionally exhausted.

His toes were mashed, and he had been shoved, buffeted, butted in the ribs, and rammed in the groin.

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His legs trembled, his hands shook, and a tic had developed in his left eye. Waiting in the check-out line, maneuvering two topheavy carts before and one behind, he cursed man's scientific devilishness in inventing H-bombs and super-markets, cursed Mark, and swore he would rather starve than endure this again. At last he reached the counter. Pete Hernandez, acting as checker, gaped. Bragg," but after Randy's first date with Pete's sister their relationship naturally had changed.

Pete was skinny, chicken-breasted, his chin undershot and his nails dirty, completely unlike Rita except for black eyes and olive skin. Pete began to play the cash register with two fingers while the car boy, awed, filled the big sacks. Randy was aware that seven or eight women, lined up behind him, counted his purchases, fascinated. He heard one whisper, "Fifteen cans of coffee--fifteen! Unaccountably, he felt guilty.

He felt that he ought to face these women and shout, "All of you! All of you buy everything you can! They would be certain he was mad. Pete pulled down the total and announced it loudly: Gees, that's our record!

From habit, Randy looked at his watch. One hour and six minutes. That, too, was a record. He paid in cash, grabbed an armful of bags, nodded for Pete's car boy to follow, and fled. He stopped at Bill Cullen's bar, short-order grill, package store, and fish camp, just outside the town limits. There was space for two cases in the front seat, so he'd lay in his whisky supply. Bill and his wife, a straw-haired woman usually groggy and thick-tongued with spiked wine, operated all this business in a two-room shack joined to a covered wharf, its pilings leaning and roof askew, in a cove on the Timucuan.

The odors of fried eggs, dead minnows, gasoline and kerosene fumes, decaying gar and catfish heads, stale beer and spilt wine oozed across land and water. Ordinarily, Randy bought his bourbon two or three bottles at a time. On this day, he bought a case and a half, cleaning out Bill's supply of his brand.

He recalled that Helen, when she drank at all, preferred Scotch. He bought six fifths of Scotch. Bill, inquisitive, said, "Planning a big barbecue or party or something, Randy? You figure you'll try politics again? Randy found it almost impossible to lie.

His father had beaten him only once in his life, when he was ten, but it had been a truly terrible beating. He had lied, and the Judge had gone upstairs and returned with his heaviest razor strop. He had grabbed Randy by the neck and bent him across the billiard table, and implanted the virtue of truth through the seat of his pants, and on bare hide, until he screamed in terror and pain. Then Randy was ordered to his room, supperless and in disgrace.

Hours later, the Judge knocked and came in and gently turned him over in the bed.


The Judge spoke quietly. Lying was the worst crime, the indispensable accomplice of all others, and would always bring the worst punishment. Unconsciously, his right hand rubbed his buttocks as he thought up an answer for Bill Cullen. He couldn't risk saying more to Bill. Bill's nickname was Bigmouth and his lying not limited to the size of yesterday's catch.

Bigmouth Bill could spark a panic. When he turned into the driveway, Randy saw Malachai Henry using a scuffle hoe in the camellia beds screening the garage.

Malachai hurried over. His eyes, widening, took in the cartons, bags, and cases filling the trunk and piled on the seats. It goes into the kitchen and utility room. Bragg and the children are flying in from Omaha tomorrow.

As they unloaded, Randy considered the Henrys.

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They were a special problem. They were black and they were poor but in many ways closer to him than any family in Fort Repose. They owned their own land and ran their own lives, but in a sense they were his wards. They could not be abandoned or the truth withheld from them. He couldn't explain Mark's warning to Missouri. She wouldn't understand. If he told Preacher, all Preacher would do was lift up his face, raise his arms, and intone, "Hallelujah!

The Lord's will be done! But he could, with confidence, tell Malachai. With the meat packed in the freezer and everything else stacked in cupboards and closets Randy said, "Come on up to my office, Malachai, and I'll give you your money. Malachai picked his own days to mow, rake, fertilize, and trim, days when he had no fruit picking, repairing, or better paying yard jobs elsewhere.

Randy knew he was never short-timed, and Malachai knew he could always count on that twenty-five a week. Malachai's face was expressionless, but Randy sensed his apprehension. Malachai never before had been asked upstairs to receive his pay.

In the office, Randy dropped into the high-backed, leather-covered swivel chair that had come from his father's chambers.

Malachai stood, uncertain. Malachai picked the least comfortable straight chair and sat down, not presuming to lean back. Randy brought out his wallet and looked up at the portrait of his bald-headed grandfather, Woodrow Wilson's diplomat, with the saying for which he was known stamped in faded gold on the discolored frame: It was difficult.

From the days when they fished and hunted together, he had always felt close to Malachai. They could still work in the grove, side by side, and discuss as equals the weather and the citrus and the fishing but never any longer share any personal, any important matters. They could not talk politics or women or finances. It was strange, since Malachai was much like Sam Perkins. He had as much native intelligence as Sam, the same intuitive courtesy, and they were the same size, weighing perhaps , and the same color, cordovan-brown.

Together, Randy and Sam had dug in on the banks of the Han and Chongchon, and faced the same bugle-heralded human wave charge at Unsan, and covered each other's platoons in advance and retreat. They had slept side by side in the same bunker, eaten from the same mess tins, drunk from the same bottle, flown to Tokyo on R. They had if it were learned in Fort Repose he would be ostracized even gone to a junior-officer-grade geisha house together and been greeted with equal hospitality and favors.

So it was a strange thing that he could not speak to Malachai, whom he had known since he could speak at all, as he had to Sam Perkins in Korea. It was strange that a Negro could be an officer and a gentleman and an equal below Parallel Thirty-eight, but not below the Mason-Dixon Line. It was strange, but this was not the time for social introspection. His job was to tell Malachai to brace and prepare himself and his family. However, note that many search engines truncate at a much shorter size, about characters.

Your suggestion will be processed as soon as possible. He is best-known for his post-apocalyptic novel Alas Babylon. Most of his fiction writing dealt with post-apocalyptic, nuclear aftermath, and war themes: This book is in the public domain in Canada, and is made available to you DRM-free. You may do whatever you like with this book, but mostly we hope you will read it. Here at FadedPage and our companion site Distributed Proofreaders Canada , we pride ourselves on producing the best ebooks you can find.

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