Once upon a possible (for though there is only one past, there are many futures), after 12 hours of war and 40-some years of reconstruction; at a time when nothing had stopped technology (for technological progress not only accelerates, so does the rate at which it accelerates), the country was composed of strip-cities, six blocks wide and up to 80 miles long, which rimmed the great superhighways, and wildernesses. And at certain remote spots in the wilderness lived primitives, called Primitives, a hearty breed that liked to stay close to nature and the old ways. And it came about that a certain flack, whose job it was to publicize the national pastime, a game called Quoit, was assigned to find a person who had never seen the game; to invite him in for one game, to get his impressions of said game and to use them as flacks use such things. He closed the deal with a Primitive who agreed to come in exchange for the privilege of shopping for certain trade goods. So...
The dust cloud had a chromium nose and a horrible hiss. It labored down the lane, swinging from side to side, climbed the final rise, slowed beside the rustic gate with the ancient enameled legend OURSER over it, slewed around and stopped, whereupon it was enveloped in its own streaming tail. The hissing subsided, and the dust cloud seemed to slump at its swirling heart. In the silence the dust settled on and around the ground-effect vehicle, its impregnable, scratchproof, everlasting finish ignominiously surrendering its gleam and glitter to the pall of bone-dry marl. There was a moment of silence, accented by the r�les of cooling metal and the barbarous comments of faraway frightened crickets and a nearby unabashed frog. Then the vehicle emitted a faint rising whine as a circular section in a side window began to spin; in a second the sound was up out of the audible range and the dust vanished from the rotating part of the window, presenting a dark porthole in which a jovial head appeared, browless, hairless and squinting nervously at all the unconditioned air. It stared through the bars of the gate at what would have been a footpath except that there were two of them, parallel and winding up through the meadow to a stand of maples. From these, in due course, issued an impossibility outside the pages of some historical treatise—not annealed plastic, but formed metal; not hovering, but wheeled; streamlined outlandishly only where it showed and, most surprising of all, producing constant sound from the power plant.
The man in the hovercraft watched with incredulity the stately progress of this wheeled fossil as it bumped across the meadow and came to a stop on the other side of the gate. From it stepped a tall man dressed embarrassingly, bearing a burden of some kind. He closed the door of his antique and locked it with a key, and walked to the other side to try the door there. At last he turned to face the hovercar. He did so with an expression of distaste, which he wore the whole time he approached.
The hairless man touched a stud on the dash and listened intently to the murmur that came from surrounding speakers. Then he palmed a pale spot on the dash and the side panel snicked out of sight, gone up, down, sidewise—who could tell?—and repeated what the recorder had told him: "Hello. Hello. Bil Ferry speaking. Is Mr. Ourser there?"
The tall man put out a searching hand, found that there was indeed an opening and got in. The driver brushed the pale spot and the opening went snick! and was no longer an opening. The newcomer winced, then said, "I'm Ourser."
"Did I get it right?" asked Bil Ferry.
"You mean the 'hello, hello' bit? That's for the telephone," said Mr. Ourser mercilessly.
"Damn dim research department," grumbled the flack, and started the hovercraft. "Anyway, I tried."
"Nobody but a Primitive tries," said Mr. Ourser starchily. "There's no reason to."
"Passpoint unreason there, classmate," said Bil Ferry rapidly. "Y'll know it, comes ol' Florio flippin."