The number of the beast, p.1
Books by Robert A. Heinlein
ASSIGNMENT IN ETERNITY
THE BEST OF ROBERT HEINLEIN
BEYOND THIS HORIZON
CITIZEN OF THE GALAXY
THE DOOR INTO SUMMER
EXPANDED UNIVERSE: MORE WORLDS OF ROBERT A. HEINLEIN
FARMER IN THE SKY
THE GREEN HILLS OF EARTH
HAVE SPACE SUIT-WILL TRAVEL
I WILL FEAR NO EVIL
THE MAN WHO SOLD THE MOON
THE MENACE FROM EARTH
THE MOON IS A HARSH MISTRESS
THE NOTEBOOKS OF LAZARUS LONG
THE NUMBER OF THE BEAST
ORPHANS OF THE SKY
THE PAST THROUGH TOMORROW: “FUTURE HISTORY” Stories
PODKAYNE OF MARS
THE PUPPET MASTERS
REVOLT IN 2100
ROCKET SHIP GALILEO
THE ROLLING STONES
THE STAR BEAST
STRANGER IN A STRANGE LAND
THREE BY HEINLEIN
TIME ENOUGH FOR LOVE
TIME FOR THE STARS
TOM MORROW THE STARS (ED.)
TUNNEL IN THE SKY
THE UNPLEASANT PROFESSION OF JONATHAN HOAG
WALDO & MAGIC, INC.
THE WORLDS OF ROBERT A. HEINLEIN
THE NUMBER OF THE BEAST
Copyright ® 1980 Robert A. Heinlein
All rights reserved
Published by Fawcett Columbine Books, a unit of CBS Publications, the Consumer Publishing Division of CBS Inc.
All the characters in this book are fictitious, and any resemblance to actual persons living or dead is purely coincidental.
Illustrations copyright © 1980 Richard M. Powers
Printed in the United States of America
First Fawcett Columbine printing: August 1980
10 9 8 7
For Walter and Marion Minton
The Mandarin’s Butterfly
“—it is better to marry than to burn.”
—Saul of Tarsus
“This Universe never did make sense—”
“—Professor Moriarty isn’t fooled-”
Because two things equal to the same thing are never equal to each other.
“—a wedding ring is not a ring in my nose—”
Are men and women one race?
“Avete, Alieni, nos morituri vos spernimus!”
“Let us all preserve our illusions—”
Most males have an unhealthy tendency to obey laws.
“‘—and he had two horns like a lamb, and he spake as a dragon’!”
“—citizens must protect themselves.”
“They might fumigate this planet and take it.”
Being too close to a fireball can worry a man—
“Quit worrying and enjoy the ride.”
“We’ll hit so hard we’ll hardly notice it.”
—a maiden knight, eager to break a lance—
The world wobbled—
“—the whole world is alive.”
The Butterfly’s Mandarin
Something is gained in translation
—right theory, wrong universe.
—three seconds is a long time—
“‘From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs.’”
“The farce is over.”
Captains aren’t supposed to cry.
“—leave bad enough alone!”
The Keys to the City
“Are you open to a bribe?”
“He’s too fat.”
“—we place no faith in princes.”
“Different physical laws, a different topology.”
“—the first ghosts ever to search for an obstetrician.”
“‘Where Cat is, is civilization.’”
“—‘solipsism’ is a buzz word.”
“—all my dreams do come true!”
“It’s a disturbing idea—”
“Pipe down and do your job.”
The First Law of Biology
“—under his vine and under his fig tree; and none shall make them afraid—”
Death and Resurrection
“Is there a mathematician in the house?”
“A cat can be caught in almost any trap once—”
“You’re a figment of imagination.”
To Pull a Hat Out of a Rabbit—
“—where do we get the corpse?”
A Stitch in Time
“I’m gifted with second sight.”
“There are no tomorrows.”
Rev. XXII: 13
About the Author
“—it is better to marry than to burn.”
—Saul of Tarsus
“He’s a Mad Scientist and I’m his Beautiful Daughter.”
That’s what she said: the oldest cliché in pulp fiction. She wasn’t old enough to remember the pulps.
The thing to do with a silly remark is to fail to hear it. I went on waltzing while taking another look down her evening formal. Nice view. Not foam rubber.
She waltzed well. Today most girls who even attempt ballroom dancing drape themselves around your neck and expect you to shove them around the floor. She kept her weight on her own feet, danced close without snuggling, and knew what I was going to do a split second before I led it. A perfect partner—as long as she didn’t talk.
“Well?” she persisted.
My paternal grandfather—an unsavory old reactionary; the FemLibbers would have lynched him—used to say, “Zebadiah, the mistake we made was not in putting shoes on them or in teaching them to read—we should never have taught them to talk!”
I signaled a twirl by pressure; she floated into it and back into my arms right on the beat. I inspected her hands and the outer corners of her eyes. Yes, she really was young—minimum eighteen (Hilda Corners never permitted legal “infants” at her parties), maximum twenty-five, first approximation twenty-two. Yet she danced like her grandmother’s generation.
“Well?” she repeated more firmly.
This time I openly stared. “Is that cantilevering natural? Or is there an invisible bra, you being in fact the sole support of two dependents?”
She glanced down, looked up and grinned. “They do stick out, don’t they? Your comment is rude, crude, unrefined, and designed to change the subject.”
“What subject? I made a polite inquiry; you parried it with amphigory.”
“‘Amphigory’ my tired feet! I answered precisely.”
“‘Amphigory,’” I repeated. “The operative symbols were ‘mad,’ ‘scientist,’ ‘beautiful,’ and ‘daughter.’ The first has several meanings—the others denote opinions. Semantic content: zero.”
She looked thoughtful rather than angry. “Pop isn’t rabid…although I did use ‘mad’ in ambivalent mode. ‘Scientist’ and ‘beautiful’ each contain descriptive opinions, I stipulate. But are you in doubt as to my sex? If so, are you qualified to check my twenty-third chromosome pair? With transsexual surgery so common I assume that anything less would not satisfy you.”
“I prefer a field test.”
“On the dance floor?”
“No, the bushes back of the pool. Yes, I’m qualified—laboratory or fiel
“Ninety-five centimeters isn’t gross! Not for my height. One hundred seventy bare-footed, one eighty in these heels. It’s just that I’m wasp-waisted for my mass—forty-eight centimeters versus fifty-nine kilos.”
“And your teeth are your own and you don’t have dandruff. Take it easy, Deedee; I didn’t mean to shake your aplomb”—or those twin glands that are not gross but delicious. I have an infantile bias and have known it since I was six—six months, that is. “But the symbol ‘daughter’ encompasses two statements, one factual—sex—and the other a matter of opinion even when stated by a forensic genetohematologist.”
“Gosh, what big words you know, Mister. I mean ‘Doctor’.”
“‘Mister’ is correct. On this campus it is swank to assume that everyone holds a doctorate. Even I have one, Ph.D. Do you know what that stands for?”
“Doesn’t everybody? I have a Ph.D., too. ‘Piled Higher and Deeper.’”
I raised that maximum to twenty-six and assigned it as second approximation. “Phys. ed.?”
“Mister Doctor, you are trying to get my goat. Won’t work. I had an undergraduate double major, one being phys. ed. with teacher’s credentials in case I needed a job. But my real major was math—which I continued in graduate school.”
“And here I had been assuming that ‘Deedee’ meant ‘Doctor of Divinity.’”
“Go wash out your mouth with soap. My nickname is my initials—Dee Tee. Or Deety. Doctor D. T. Burroughs if being formal, as I can’t be ‘Mister’ and refuse to be ‘Miz’ or ‘Miss.’ See here, Mister; I’m supposed to be luring you with my radiant beauty, then hooking you with my feminine charm…and not getting anywhere. Let’s try another tack. Tell me what you piled higher and deeper.”
“Let me think. Flycasting? Or was it basketweaving? It was one of those transdisciplinary things in which the committee simply weighs the dissertation. Tell you what. I’ve got a copy around my digs. I’ll find it and see what title the researcher who wrote it put on it.”
“Don’t bother. The title is ‘Some Implications of a Six-Dimensional Non-Newtonian Continuum.’ Pop wants to discuss it.”
I stopped waltzing. “Huh? He’d better discuss that paper with the bloke who wrote it.”
“Nonsense; I saw you blink—I’ve hooked you. Pop wants to discuss it, then offer you a job.”
“‘Job’! I just slipped off the hook.”
“Oh, dear! Pop will be really mad. Please? Please, sir!”
“You said that you had used ‘mad’ in ambivalent mode. How?”
“Oh. Mad-angry because his colleagues won’t listen to him. Mad-psychotic in the opinions of some colleagues. They say his papers don’t make sense.”
“Do they make sense?”
“I’m not that good a mathematician, sir. My work is usually simplifying software. Child’s play compared with n-dimensional spaces.”
I wasn’t required to express an opinion; the trio started Blue Tango, Deety melted into my arms. You don’t talk if you know tango.
Deety knew. After an eternity of sensual bliss, I swung her out into position precisely on coda; she answered my bow and scrape with a deep curtsy. “Thank you, sir.”
“Whew! After a tango like that the couple ought to get married.”
“All right. I’ll find our hostess and tell Pop. Five minutes? Front door, or side?”
She looked serenely happy. I said, “Deety, do you mean what you appear to mean? That you intend to marry me? A total stranger?”
Her face remained calm but the light went out—and her nipples went down. She answered steadily. “After that tango we are no longer strangers. I construed your statement as a proposal—no, a willingness—to marry me. Was I mistaken?”
My mind went into emergency, reviewing the past years the way a drowning man’s life is supposed to flash before his eyes (how could anyone know that?): a rainy afternoon when my chum’s older sister had initiated me into the mysteries; the curious effect caused by the first time strangers had shot back at me; a twelve-month cohabitation contract that had started with a bang and had ended without a whimper; countless events which had left me determined never to marry.
I answered instantly, “I meant what I implied—marriage, in its older meaning. I’m willing. But why are you willing? I’m no prize.”
She took a deep breath, straining the fabric, and—thank Allah!—her nipples came up. “Sir, you are the prize I was sent to fetch, and, when you said that we really ought to get married—hyperbole and I knew it—I suddenly realized, with a deep burst of happiness, that this was the means of fetching you that I wanted above all!”
She went on, “But I will not trap you through misconstruing a gallantry. If you wish, you may take me into those bushes back of the pool…and not marry me.” She went on firmly, “But for that…whoring…my fee is for you to talk with my father and to let him show you something.”
“Deety, you’re an idiot! You would ruin that pretty gown.”
“Mussing a dress is irrelevant but I can take it off. I will. There’s nothing under it.”
“There’s a great deal under it!”
That fetched a grin, instantly wiped away. “Thank you. Shall we head for the bushes?”
“Wait a half! I’m about to be noble and regret it the rest of my life. You’ve made a mistake. Your father doesn’t want to talk to me; I don’t know anything about n-dimensional geometry.” (Why do I get these attacks of honesty? I’ve never done anything to deserve them.)
“Pop thinks you do; that is sufficient. Shall we go? I want to get Pop out of here before he busts somebody in the mouth.”
“Don’t rush me; I didn’t ask you to rassle on the grass; I said I wanted to marry you—but wanted to know why you were willing to marry me. Your answer concerned what your father wants. I’m not trying to marry your father; he’s not my type. Speak for yourself, Deety. Or drop it.” (Am I a masochist? There’s a sunbathing couch back of those bushes.)
Solemnly she looked me over, from my formal tights to my crooked bow tie and on up to my thinning brush cut—a hundred and ninety-four centimeters of big ugly galoot. “I like your firm lead in dancing. I like the way you look. I like the way your voice rumbles. I like your hair-splitting games with words—you sound like Whorf debating Korzybski with Shannon as referee.” She took another deep breath, finished almost sadly: “Most of all, I like the way you smell.”
It would have taken a sharp nose to whiff me. I had been squeaky clean ninety minutes earlier, and it takes more than one waltz and a tango to make me sweat. But her remark had that skid in it that Deety put into almost anything. Most girls, when they want to ruin a man’s judgment, squeeze his biceps and say, “Goodness, you’re strong!”
I grinned down at her. “You smell good too. Your perfume could rouse a corpse.”
“I’m not wearing perfume.”
“Oh. Correction: your natural pheromone. Enchanting. Get your wrap, Side door. Five minutes.”
“Tell your father we’re getting married. He gets that talk, free. I decided that before you started to argue. It won’t take him long to decide that I’m not Lobachevski.”
“That’s Pop’s problem,” she answered, moving. “Will you let him show you this thing he’s built in our basement?”
“Sure, why not? What is it?”
“A time machine.”
“This Universe never did make sense—”
Tomorrow I will seven eagles see, a great comet will appear, and voices will speak from whirlwinds foretelling monstrous and fearful things—This Universe never did make sense; I suspect that it was built on government contract.
“Medium. Nine by twelve. But cluttered. Work benches and power tools.”
A hundred and
My musing was interrupted by a male voice in a high scream: “You overeducated, obstipated, pedantic ignoramus! Your mathematical intuition froze solid the day you matriculated!”
I didn’t recognize the screamer but did know the stuffed shirt he addressed: Professor Neil O’Heret Brain, head of the department of mathematics—and God help the student who addressed a note to “Professor N.O. Brain” or even “N. O’H. Brain.” “Brainy” had spent his life in search of The Truth—intending to place it under house arrest.
He was puffed up like a pouter pigeon with is professional pontifical pomposity reeling. His expression suggested that he was giving birth to a porcupine.
Deety gasped, “It’s started,” and dashed toward the row. Me, I stay out of rows; I’m a coward by trade and wear fake zero-prescription glasses as a buffer—when some oaf snarls, “Take off your glasses!” that gives me time to retreat.
I headed straight for the row.
Deety had placed herself between the two, facing the screamer, and was saying in a low but forceful voice, “Pop, don’t you dare!—I won’t bail you out!” She was reaching for his glasses with evident intent to put them back on his face. It was clear that he had taken them off for combat; he was holding them out of her reach.
I reached over their heads, plucked them out of his hand, gave them to Deety. She flashed me a smile and put them back on her father. He gave up and let her. She then took his arm firmly. “Aunt Hilda!”
The Number of the Beast by Robert A. Heinlein / Science Fiction / Fantasy have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes