Sentry Of The Sky

by Evelyn E. Smith:

There had to be a way for Sub-Archivist
Clarey to get up in the world—but this
way was right out of the tri-di dramas.


Clarey had checked in at Classification Center so many times that he came now more out of habit than hope. He didn’t even look at the card that the test machine dropped into his hand until he was almost to the portway. And then he stopped. “Report to Room 33 for reclassification,” it said.

Ten years before, Clarey would have been ecstatic, sure that reclassification could be only in one direction. The machine had not originally given him a job commensurate with his talents; why should it suddenly recognize them? He’d known of people who had been reclassified—always downward. I’m a perfectly competent Sub-Archivist, he told himself; I’ll fight.

But he knew fighting wouldn’t help. All he had was the right to refuse any job he could claim was not in his line; the government would then be obligated to continue his existence. There were many people who did subsist on the government dole: the aged and the deficient and the defective—and creative artists who refused to trammel their spirits and chose to be ranked as Unemployables. Clarey didn’t fit into those categories.

Dispiritedly, he passed along innumerable winding corridors and up and down ramps that twisted and turned to lead into other ramps and corridors. That was the way all public buildings were designed. It was forbidden for the government to make any law-abiding individual think the way it wanted him to think. But it could move him in any direction it chose, and sometimes that served its purpose as well as the reorientation machines.

So the corridors he passed through were in constant eddying movement, with a variety of individuals bent on a variety of objectives. For the most part, they were of Low Echelon status, though occasionally an Upper Echelon flashed his peremptory way past. Even though most L-Es attempted to ape the U-E dress and manner, you could always tell the difference. You could tell the difference among the different levels of L-E, too—and there was no mistaking the Unemployables in their sober gray habits, devoid of ornament. It was, Clarey sometimes thought when guilt feelings bothered him, the most esthetic of costumes.

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