Podkayne of Mars, p.1Robert A. Heinlein
Table of Contents
The Great Escape
I went back to my room and closed the door and thought about it. The room was still not made up and still cluttered with dirty dishes. The clumsy, two-decker, roll-around table that had fetched my breakfast was still by my bed, looking like a plundered city.
I took everything off the lower shelf, stowed it here and there in my bath, covered the stuff on top of the table with the extra cloth used to shield the tender eyes of cash customers from the sight of dirty dishes.
Then I grabbed the house phone and told them I wanted my breakfast dishes cleared away immediately.
I’m not very big. I mean you can fit forty-nine mass kilos only one hundred fifty-seven centimeters long into a fairly small space if you scrunch a little. That lower shelf was hard but not too cramped.
Somebody wheeled me off the lift many levels down and shoved me into a corner. I waited a few moments, then crawled out. Two minutes later I was in a taxi . . .
Books by Robert A. Heinlein
ASSIGNMENT IN ETERNITY
THE BEST OF ROBERT HEINLEIN
THE CAT WHO WALKS
CITIZEN OF THE GALAXY
THE DAY AFTER TOMORROW
THE DOOR INTO SUMMER
EXPANDED UNIVERSE: MORE
WORLDS OF ROBERT A.
FARMER IN THE SKY
THE GREEN HILLS OF EARTH
HAVE SPACE SUIT—WILL TRAVEL
I WILL FEAR NO EVIL
JOB: A COMEDY OF JUSTICE
THE MAN WHO SOLD THE MOON
THE MENACE FROM EARTH
THE MOON IS A HARSH MISTRESS
THE NOTEBOOKS OF LAZARUS
THE NUMBER OF THE BEAST
ORPHANS OF THE SKY
THE PAST THROUGH
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
TOMORROW THE STARS (ED.)
TO SAIL BEYOND THE SUNSET
TUNNEL IN THE SKY
THE UNPLEASANT PROFESSION
OF JONATHAN HOAG
WALDO & MAGIC, INC.
THE WORLDS OF ROBERT A.
THE BERKLEY PUBLISHING GROUP
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PODKAYNE OF MARS
Published by arrangement with The Robert A. & Virginia Heinlein Prize Trust.
Copyright © 1963 by Robert A. Heinlein, 1991 by Virginia Heinlein, 2003 by The Robert A. & Virginia Heinlein Prize Trust.
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G. P. Putnam’s Sons edition / 1963
Berkley Medallion edition / January 1970
Ace mass-market edition / May 1987
Ace digest edition / July 2005
Ace trade paperback edition / January 2010
eISBN : 978-1-101-17136-3
For Gale and Astrid
All my life I’ve wanted to go to Earth. Not to live, of course—just to see it. As everybody knows, Terra is a wonderful place to visit but not to live. Not truly suited to human habitation.
Personally, I’m not convinced that the human race originated on Earth. I mean to say, how much reliance should you place on the evidence of a few pounds of old bones plus the opinions of anthropologists who usually contradict each other anyhow when what you are being asked to swallow so obviously flies in the face of all common sense?
Think it through—The surface acceleration of Terra is clearly too great for the human structure; it is known to result in flat feet and hernias and heart trouble. The incident solar radiation on Terra will knock down dead an unprotected human in an amazingly short time—and do you know of any other organism which has to be artificially protected from what is alleged to be its own natural environment in order to stay alive? As to Terran ecology—
Never mind. We humans just couldn’t have originated on Earth. Nor (I admit) on Mars, for that matter—although Mars is certainly as near ideal as you can find in this planetary system today. Possibly the Missing Planet was our first home—even though I think of Mars as “home” and will always want to return to it no matter how far I travel in later years . . . and I intend to travel a long, long way.
But I do want to visit Earth as a starter, not only to see how in the world eight billion people manage to live almost sitting in each other’s laps (less than half of the land area of Terra is even marginally habitable) but mostly to see oceans . . . from a safe distance. Oceans are not only fantastically unlikely but to me the very thought of them is terrifying. All that unimaginable amount of water, unconfined. And so deep that if you fell into it, it would be over your head. Incredible!
But now we are going there!
Perhaps I should introduce us. The Fries Family, I mean. Myself: Podkayne Fries—“Poddy” to my fri
Not that I am opposed to marriage in due time, nor do I expect to have any trouble snagging the male of my choice. In these memoirs I shall be frank rather than modest because they will not be published until I am old and famous, and I will certainly revise them before then. In the meantime I am taking the precaution of writing English in Martian Oldscript—a combination which I’m sure Daddy could puzzle out, only he wouldn’t do such a thing unless I invited him to. Daddy is a dear and does not snoopervise me. My brother Clark would pry, but he regards English as a dead language and would never bother his head with Oldscript anyhow.
Perhaps you have seen a book titled: Eleven Years Old: The Pre-Adolescent Adjustment Crisis in the Male. I read it, hoping that it would help me to cope with my brother. Clark is just six, but the “Eleven Years” referred to in that title are Terran years because it was written on Earth. If you will apply the conversion factor of 1.8808 to attain real years, you will see that my brother is exactly eleven of those undersized Earth years old.
That book did not help me much. It talks about “cushioning the transition into the social group”—but there is no present indication that Clark ever intends to join the human race. He is more likely to devise a way to blow up the universe just to hear the bang. Since I am responsible for him much of the time and since he has an I.Q. of 160 while mine is only 145, you can readily see that I need all the advantage that greater age and maturity can give me. At present my standing rule with him is: Keep your guard up and never offer hostages.
Back to me—I’m colonial mongrel in ancestry, but the Swedish part is dominant in my looks, with Polynesian and Asiatic fractions adding no more than a not-unpleasing exotic flavor. My legs are long for my height, my waist is 48 centimeters and my chest is 90—not all of which is rib cage, I assure you, even though we old colonial families all run to hypertrophied lung development; some of it is burgeoning secondary sex characteristic. Besides that, my hair is pale blond and wavy and I’m pretty. Not beautiful—Praxiteles would not have given me a second look—but real beauty is likely to scare a man off, or else make him quite unmanageable, whereas prettiness, properly handled, is an asset.
Up till a couple of years ago I used to regret not being male (in view of my ambitions), but I at last realized how silly I was being; one might as well wish for wings. As Mother says: “One works with available materials” . . . and I found that the materials available were adequate. In fact I found that I like being female; my hormone balance is okay and I’m quite well adjusted to the world and vice versa. I’m smart enough not unnecessarily to show that I am smart; I’ve got a long upper lip and a short nose, and when I wrinkle my nose and look baffled, a man is usually only too glad to help me, especially if he is about twice my age. There are more ways of computing a ballistic than by counting it on your fingers.
That’s me: Poddy Fries, free citizen of Mars, female. Future pilot and someday commander of deep-space exploration parties. Watch for me in the news.
Mother is twice as good-looking as I am and much taller than I ever will be; she looks like a Valkyrie about to gallop off into the sky. She holds a system-wide license as a Master Engineer, Heavy Construction, Surface or Free Fall, and is entitled to wear both the Hoover Medal with cluster and the Christiana Order, Knight Commander, for bossing the rebuilding of Deimos and Phobos. But she’s more than just the traditional hairy engineer; she has a social presence which she can switch from warmly charming to frostily intimidating at will, she holds honorary degrees galore, and she publishes popular little gems such as “Design Criteria with Respect to the Effects of Radiation on the Bonding of Pressure-Loaded Sandwich Structures.”
It is because Mother is often away from home for professional reasons that I am, from time to time, the reluctant custodian of my younger brother. Still, I suppose it is good practice, for how can I ever expect to command my own ship if I can’t tame a six-year-old savage? Mother says that a boss who is forced to part a man’s hair with a wrench has failed at some point, so I try to control our junior nihilist without resorting to force. Besides, using force on Clark is very chancy; he masses as much as I do and he fights dirty.
It was the job Mother did on Deimos that accounts for Clark and myself. Mother was determined to meet her construction dates; and Daddy, on leave from Ares U. with a Guggenheim grant, was even more frantically determined to save every scrap of the ancient Martian artifacts no matter how much it delayed construction; this threw them into such intimate and bitter conflict that they got married and for a while Mother had babies.
Daddy and Mother are Jack Spratt and his wife; he is interested in everything that has already happened, she is interested only in what is going to happen, especially if she herself is making it happen. Daddy’s title is Van Loon Professor of Terrestrial History but his real love is Martian history, especially if it happened fifty million years ago. But do not think that Daddy is a cloistered don given only to contemplation and study. When he was even younger than I am now, he lost an arm one chilly night in the attack on the Company Offices during the Revolution—and he can still shoot straight and fast with the hand he has left.
The rest of our family is Great-Uncle Tom, Daddy’s father’s brother. Uncle Tom is a parasite. So he says. It is true that you don’t see him work much, but he was an old man before I was born. He is a Revolutionary veteran, same as Daddy, and is a Past Grand Commander of the Martian Legion and a Senator-at-Large of the Republic, but he doesn’t seem to spend much time on either sort of politics, Legion or public; instead he hangs out at the Elks Club and plays pinochle with other relics of the past. Uncle Tom is really my closest relative, for he isn’t as intense as my parents, nor as busy, and will always take time to talk with me. Furthermore he has a streak of Original Sin which makes him sympathetic to my problems. He says that I have such a streak, too, much wider than his. Concerning this, I reserve my opinion.
That’s our family and we are all going to Earth. Wups! I left out three—the infants. But they hardly count now and it is easy to forget them. When Daddy and Mother got married, the PEG Board—Population, Ecology, & Genetics—pegged them at five and would have allowed them seven had they requested it, for, as you may have gathered, my parents are rather high-grade citizens even among planetary colonials all of whom are descended from, or are themselves, highly selected and drastically screened stock.
But Mother told the Board that five was all that she had time for and then had us as fast as possible, while fidgeting at a desk job in the Bureau of Planetary Engineering. Then she popped her babies into deep-freeze as fast as she had them, all but me, since I was the first. Clark spent two years at constant entropy, else he would be almost as old as I am—deep-freeze time doesn’t count, of course, and his official birthday is the day he was decanted. I remember how jealous I was—Mother was just back from conditioning Juno and it didn’t seem fair to me that she would immediately start raising a baby.
Uncle Tom talked me out of that, with a lot of lap sitting, and I am no longer jealous of Clark—merely wary.
So we’ve got Gamma, Delta, and Epsilon in the sub-basement of the crèche at Marsopolis, and we’ll uncork and name at least one of them as soon as we get back from Earth. Mother is thinking of revivifying Gamma and Epsilon together and raising them as twins (they’re girls) and then launching Delta, who is a boy, as soon as the girls are house-broken. Daddy says that is not fair, because Delta is entitled to be older
Daddy says that Mother has no sentimental feelings—and Mother says she certainly hopes not, at least with any problem requiring rational analysis—and Daddy says let’s be rational, then . . . twin older sisters would either break a boy’s spirit or else spoil him rotten.
Mother says that is unscientific and unfounded. Daddy says that Mother merely wants to get two chores out of the way at once—whereupon Mother heartily agrees and demands to know why proved production engineering principles should not be applied to domestic economy?
Daddy doesn’t answer this. Instead he remarks thoughtfully that he must admit that two little girls dressed just alike would be kind of cute . . . name them “Margret” and “Marguerite” and call them “Peg” and “Meg”—
Clark muttered to me, “Why uncork them at all? Why not just sneak down some night and open the valves and call it an accident?”
I told him to go wash out his mouth with prussic acid and not let Daddy hear him talk that way. Daddy would have walloped him properly. Daddy, although a historian, is devoted to the latest, most progressive theories of child psychology and applies them by canalizing the cortex through pain association whenever he really wants to ensure that a lesson will not be forgotten. As he puts it so neatly: “Spare the rod and spoil the child.”
I canalize most readily and learned very early indeed how to predict and avoid incidents which would result in Daddy’s applying his theories and his hand. But in Clark’s case it is almost necessary to use a club simply to gain his divided attention.
So it is now clearly evident that we are going to have twin baby sisters. But it is no headache of mine, I am happy to say, for Clark is quite enough maturing trauma for one girl’s adolescence. By the time the twins are a current problem I expect to be long gone and far away.
Podkayne of Mars by Robert A. Heinlein / Science Fiction / Young Adult have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes