Paycheck (short story)


Paycheck (short story)

"Paycheck" is a short story by science fiction writer Philip K. Dick, written on July 31 1952 and first published in the June, 1953 issue of "Imagination". The story was later made, with various alterations, into the film "Paycheck" in 2003 starring Ben Affleck.

Plot summary

Jennings, a talented electronic engineer, has accepted a bizarre contract with Rethrick Construction. The terms of the contract state that he will work for two years on a secret project after which he will have his memory of the time erased and will be paid an inordinate sum. He wakes up to find that during his tenure he decided to forgo the payment of money and instead receive an envelope of trinkets.

Soon after exiting the building he is seized by the secret police who want to know what Rethrick is doing. Fortunately one the trinkets he received as payment enables his escape from the police. Jennings soon realizes that the only way to secure his safety is to blackmail Rethrick who will be able to shield him from the government. Using several more of the trinkets he is able to make his way back to Rethrick's hidden facility. He has also realizes during tenure at Rethrick Industries he worked on a machine that allowed people to view the future and the trinkets are part of a carefully crafted plan to ensure his survival.

When he finally enters Rethrick's complex it dawns on him that there is a lot more going on than the construction of an illegal device that can show the future. Rethrick is building an army to support a revolution which will free the country from the oppressive government. The story concludes with Jennings successfully blackmailing Rethrick into allowing him to join the company in a partner-like capacity.

The trinkets that Jennings received as payment are as follows:

*A length of fine wire (allows him to short out and open the door of a police car)
*A bus token (allows him to quickly board a bus and escape the secret police)
*A ticket stub (tells him where Rethrick's building is)
*A green strip of cloth (a worker's armband, enabling him to enter Rethrick's building)
*A code key (opens a rear exit from Rethrick's building)
*Half a broken poker chip (permits entry to a gambling den where he hides from both the Company and the police)
*A parcel receipt (permits access to material stored in a bank that allows him to blackmail Rethrick into protecting him from the government)

See also

* "The Dead Past", a short story by Isaac Asimov first published in 1956 (three years after "Paycheck"), about a machine which views the past.
* Chekhov's gun


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