Friday, p.12
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       Friday, p.12

           Robert A. Heinlein
 

  Janet answered, “She whispered to me, ‘Honi soit qui mal y pense,’”—I hadn’t—“a sentiment I commend to you, my good man. Marjorie, you aren’t any worse off than you were an hour ago. You still can’t go home until things quiet down…and when they do, the border will be open, and so will be the comm circuits, and your credit card will be honored again…if not here, then just across the border less than a hundred kilos away. So fold your hands and wait—”

  “‘—with quiet mind and tranquil heart.’ Yes, do,” Ian agreed, “and Georges will spend the time painting you. Because he’s in the same fix. You both are dangerous aliens and will be interned if you step out of this house.”

  “Did we miss another announcement?” Jan asked.

  “Yes. Although it appears to be a repetition of an earlier one. Georges and Marjorie each is supposed to report to the nearest police station. I don’t recommend it. Georges is going to ignore it, play dumb, and say that he didn’t know that they meant to include permanent residents. Of course they might parole you. Or you might spend all next winter in some very drafty temporary barracks. There is nothing about this silly emergency that guarantees that it will be over next week.”

  I thought about it. My own stupid fault. On a mission I never travel with only one sort of credit and I always carry a healthy amount of cash. But I had uncritically assumed that a vacation trip did not call for the cynical rule of a crown of cash per click in iron money. With plenty of cash a cowan can bribe his way into an esbat…and out again, with his tail feathers unsinged. But without cash?

  I hadn’t tried living off the country since basic training. Perhaps I was going to have to see if that training had stuck. Thank God the weather was warm!

  Georges was shouting. “Turn up your sound! Or come out here!”

  We hurriedly joined him.

  “—of the Lord! Pay no heed to vain boasts of sinners! We alone are responsible for the apocalyptic signs you see all around you. Satan’s minions have attempted to usurp the Holy work of God’s chosen instruments and to distort it to their own vile ends. For this they are now being punished. Meanwhile the worldly rulers of mundane affairs here below are commanded to do the following Holy works:

  “End all trespass into the Heavenly realm. Had the Lord intended man to travel in space he would have given him wings.

  “Suffer not a witch to live. So-called genetic engineering mocks the Lord’s dearest purposes. Destroy the foul dens in which such things are done. Kill the walking dead conjured up in those black pits. Hang the witches who practice these vile arts.”

  (“Goodness,” Georges said. “I do believe they mean me.” I didn’t say anything—I knew they meant me.)

  “Men who lie with men, women who lie with women, any who lie with beasts—all shall die by stones. As shall women taken in adultery.

  “Papists and Saracens and infidels and Jews and all who bow down to idolatrous images—the Angels of the Lord say unto you: Repent for the hour is at hand! Repent or feel the swift swords of the Lord’s chosen instruments.

  “Pornographers and harlots and women of immodest demeanor, repent!—or suffer the terrible wrath of the Lord!

  “Sinners of every sort, remain on this channel to receive instruction in how you may yet find the Light.

  “By order of the Grand General of the Angels of the Lord.”

  The tape ended and there was another break. Ian said, “Janet, do you remember the first time we saw Angels of the Lord?”

  “I’m not likely to forget. But I never expected anything as ridiculous as this.”

  I said, “There really are Angels of the Lord? Not just another nightmare on the screen?”

  “Um. It’s hard to connect the Angels Ian and I saw with this business. Last March, early April, I had driven to the port to pick up Ian. The Concourse was loaded with Hare Krishna freaks, saffron robes and shaved heads and jumping up and down and demanding money. A load of Scientologists was coming out the gates, heading for some do of theirs, a North American convention I think it was. Just as the two groups merged, here came the Angels of the Lord, homemade signs and tambourines and clubs.

  “Marj, it was the gaudiest brawl I have ever seen. No trouble telling the three sides apart. The Hare Krishners looked like clowns, unmistakable. The Angels and the Hubbardites did not wear robes but there was no trouble telling them apart. The Elronners were clean and neat and short-haired; the Angels looked like unmade beds. They carried the ‘stink of piety,’ too; I got downwind of them once, then moved quickly.

  “The Scientologists, of course, have had to fight for their rights many times; they fought with discipline, defended themselves, and disengaged rapidly-got out, taking their wounded with them. The Hairy Krishners fought like squawking chickens and left their wounded behind. But the Angels of the Lord fought as if they were crazy—and I think they are. They moved straight in, swinging clubs and fists, and didn’t stop until they were down and unable to get up. It took about as many Mounties to subdue them as there were Angels…when the usual ratio is one Mounty, one riot.

  “It appears that the Angels knew that the Hubbardites were arriving at that time and had come there to jump them; the Hare Krishna crowd showed up by accident—they were at the port simply because it is a good place to shake down rubes for money. But, having found the Hairies and being unable to pin down the Scientologists, the Angels settled for beating up the Krishna freaks.”

  Ian agreed. “I saw it from the other side of the barrier. Those Angels fought berserk. I think they may have been hopped up. But I would never have believed that such a mob of rags and dirt could be a threat to the whole planet—hell, I can’t believe it now. I think they are trying to grab credit, like those psychotics that confess to any spectacular crime.”

  “But I would not want to have to face them,” Janet added.

  “Right! I would as lief face a pack of wild dogs. But I can’t imagine wild dogs toppling a government. Much less a world.”

  None of us guessed that there could be still more claimants—but two hours later the Stimulators put in their bid:

  “This is an authorized spokesman of the Stimulators. We initiated the first executions and carefully selected the targets. We did not start any of the riots or commit any of the atrocities since then. We did find it necessary to interrupt some communications, but these will be restored as soon as conditions permit. Events have caused us to modify our essentially benign and nonviolent plan. Opportunists calling themselves the Council for Survival in English-speaking countries, or the Heirs of Leon Trotsky or other meaningless names elsewhere, have tried to take over our program. They can be spotted by the fact that they have no program of their own.

  “Worse are some religious fanatics calling themselves the Angels of the Lord. Their so-called program is a mindless collection of anti-intellectual slogans and vicious prejudices. They cannot succeed but their doctrines of hate can easily set brother against brother, neighbor against neighbor. They must be stopped.

  “Emergency Decree Number One: All persons representing themselves as Angels of the Lord are sentenced to death. Authorities everywhere will carry out this sentence at once wherever and whenever one is found. Private citizens, subjects, and residents are directed to turn in these self-described Angels to the nearest authority, using citizen’s arrest, and are authorized to use force as needed to accomplish such arrest.

  “Aiding, abetting, succoring, or hiding one of this proscribed group is declared itself a capital offense.

  “Emergency Decree Number Two: Falsely claiming credit or responsibility for any action of a Stimulator, or falsely claiming credit for any action carried out by order of the Stimulators, is declared a capital offense. All authorities everywhere are ordered to treat it as such. This decree applies to, but is not limited to, the group and individuals calling themselves the Council for Survival.

  “The Reform Program: The following reform measures are effective at once. Political, fiscal, and business leaders a
ll are individually and collectively responsible for carrying out each reform measure under penalty of death.

  “Immediate reforms: All wages, prices, and rents are frozen. All mortgages on owner-occupied dwellings are canceled. All interest is fixed at six percent.

  “For each country the health industry is nationalized to whatever extent it was not already nationalized. Medical doctors are to be paid the same wages as high-school teachers; nurses will be paid at the same scale as primary-school teachers; all other therapy and auxiliary personnel will be paid comparable wages. All clinical and hospital fees are abolished. All citizens, subjects, and residents will receive the highest level of health care at all times.

  “All businesses and services now functioning will continue to function. After the transition period changes in occupation will be permitted and required where such changes enhance the general welfare.

  “The next instructive executions will take place ten days hence plus or minus two days. The list of officials and leaders at risk published by the so-called Council for Survival is neither confirmed nor denied. Each one of you must look into your heart and conscience and ask yourself whether or not you are doing your best for your fellow men. If the answer is yes, you are safe. If the answer is no, then you may be one of the next group selected as object lessons to all those who have turned our fair planet into a hellhole of injustice and special privilege.

  “Special decree: The manufacture of pseudopeople will stop at once. All so-called artificial people and/or living artifacts will hold themselves ready to surrender to the nearest reform authority when notified. During the interim, while plans are being prepared for these quasi-people to live out their lives without further harm to people and under circumstances that no longer create unfair competition, these creatures will continue to work but will remain indoors at all other times.

  “Except in the following circumstances, local authorities are forbidden to kill these—”

  The announcement broke off. Then a face appeared on the screen—male, sweaty, and troubled. “I’m Sergeant Malloy speaking for Chief Henderson. No more of these subversive broadcasts will be permitted. Regular programming will resume. But stay with this channel for emergency announcements.” He sighed. “It’s a bad time, neighbors. Do be patient.”

  XII

  Georges said, “There you have it, my dears. Pick one. A theocracy ruled by witchburners. Or a fascist socialism designed by retarded schoolboys. Or a crowd of hard-boiled pragmatists who favor shooting the horse that misses the hurdle. Step right up! Only one to a customer.”

  “Stop it, Georges,” Ian told him. “It’s no joking matter.”

  “Brother, I am not joking; I am weeping. One gang plans to shoot me on sight, another merely outlaws my art and profession, while the third by threatening without specifying is, so it seems to me, even more to be dreaded. Meanwhile, lest I find comfort simply in physical sanctuary, this beneficent government, my lifetime alma mater, declares me enemy alien fit only to be penned. What shall I do? Joke? Or drip tears on your neck?”

  “You can stop being so goddam Gallic, that’s what you can do. The world is going crazy right in our lap. We had better start thinking about what we can do about it.”

  “Stop it, both of you,” Janet said firmly but gently. “One thing every woman knows but few men ever learn is that there are times when the only wise action is not to act but to wait. I know you two. Both of you would like to run down to the recruiting office, enlist for the duration, and thereby turn your consciences over to the sergeants. This served your fathers and grandfathers and I am truly sorry that it can’t serve you. Our country is in danger and with it our way of life, that’s clear. But if anyone knows of anything better to do than to sit tight and wait, let him speak up. If not…let’s not run in circles. It is approaching what should be lunchtime. Can anyone think of anything better to do?”

  “We had a very late breakfast.”

  “And we’ll have a late lunch. Once you see it on the table, you’ll eat, and so will Georges. One thing we can do: Just in case things get rougher than they are now, Marj should know where to go for bomb protection.”

  “Or whatever.”

  “Or whatever. Yes, Ian. Such as police looking for enemy aliens. Have you two big brave men considered what to do in case they come a-knocking at our door?”

  “I had thought of that,” Georges answered. “First you surrender Marj to the Cossacks. That will distract them and thereby give me time to get far, far away. That’s one plan.”

  “So it is,” agreed Janet. “But you imply that you have another?”

  “Not with the simple elegance of that one. But, for what it is, here is a second plan. I surrender myself to the Gestapo, a test case to determine whether or not I, a distinguished guest and reliable taxpayer who has never failed to contribute to the police welfare fund and to the firemen’s ball, can in fact be locked up for no reason whatever. While I am sacrificing myself for a principle, Marj can duck into the hidey-hole and lie doggo. They don’t know that she is here. Regrettably they do know that I am here. ‘It is a far, far better thing—’”

  “Don’t be noble, dear; it doesn’t suit you. We’ll combine the two plans. If—No, when—When they come looking for either one or both of you, you both duck into the shelter and stay there as long as necessary. Days. Weeks. Whatever.”

  Georges shook his head. “Not me. Damp. Unhealthy.”

  “And besides,” Ian added, “I promised Marj that I would protect her from Georges. What’s the point in saving her life if you turn her over to a sex-crazed Canuck?”

  “Don’t believe him, dear one. Liquor is my weakness.”

  “Luv, do you want to be protected from Georges?”

  I answered truthfully that Georges might need protection from me. I did not elaborate.

  “As for your complaints about damp, Georges, the Hole has precisely the humidity of the rest of the house, a benign RH of forty-five; I planned it that way. If necessary, we’ll stuff you into the Hole but we are not going to surrender you to the police.” Janet turned to me. “Come with me, dear; we’ll do a dry run. A wet one, rather.”

  She took me to the room assigned to me, picked up my jumpbag. “What do you have in this?”

  “Nothing much. A change of panties and some socks. My passport. A useless credit card. Some money. IDs. A little notebook. My real luggage is in bond at the port.”

  “Just as well. Because any trace of you is going to be left in my room. If it’s clothing, you and I are near enough of a size.” She dug into a drawer and got out a plastic envelope on a belt—an ordinary female-style money belt. I recognized it although I’ve never owned one—useless in my profession. Too obvious. “Put anything into this that you can’t afford to lose, and we’ll put it on you. And seal it. Because you are going to get wet all over. Mind getting your hair wet?”

  “Goodness, no. I just rub it with a towel and shake it. Or ignore it.”

  “Good. Fill the pouch and take off your clothes. No point in getting them wet. Although, if the gendarmes do show up, you just go ahead and get them wet, then dry them in the Hole.”

  Moments later we were in her big bath, me dressed in that waterproof money belt, Janet only in a smile. “Dear,” she said, pointing at that hot-tub-or-plunge, “look under the seat on the far side there.”

  I moved a little. “I can’t see very well.”

  “I planned it that way. The water is clear and you can see down into it all over. But from the only spot where you should be able to see under that seat the overhead light reflects on the water back into your eyes. There is a tunnel under that seat. You can’t see it no matter where you stand, but if you get facedown in the water you can feel for it. It is a bit less than a meter wide, about half a meter high, and about six meters long. How are you in enclosed places? Does claustrophobia bother you?”

  “No.”

  “That’s good. Because the only way to get into the Hole is to take a deep
breath, go under, and through that passage. Easy enough to pull yourself along because I built ridges into the bottom for that purpose. But you have to believe that it is not too long, that you can reach a place where it opens out in one breath, and that simply standing up will bring you up into the air again. You’ll be in the dark but the light comes on fairly quickly; it’s a thermal radiation switch. This time I’ll go ahead of you. Ready to follow me?”

  “I guess so. Yes.”

  “Here goes.” Janet stepped down onto the near seat, on down onto the floor of the tank. The waterline was at her waist or above. “Deep breath!” She did so, smiled, and went underwater and under that seat.

  I stepped down into the water, hyperventilated, and followed her. I could not see the tunnel but it was easy to find it by touch, easy to pull myself along by finger-thick ridges in the bottom. But it did seem to me that the passage was several times six meters long.

  Suddenly a light came on just ahead of me. I reached it, stood up, and Janet reached a hand down to me, helped me out of the water. I found myself in a very small room, with a ceiling not more than two meters above the concrete floor. It seemed pleasanter than a grave but not much.

  “Turn around, dear. Through here.”

  “Through here” was a heavy steel door, high above the floor, low down from the ceiling; we got through it by sitting on the doorsill and swinging our feet over. Janet pulled it closed behind us and it whuffed like a vault door. “Overpressure door,” she explained. “If a bomb hit near here, the concussion wave would push the water right through the little tunnel. This stops it. Of course, for a direct hit—Well, we wouldn’t notice it so I didn’t plan for it.” She added, “Look around, make yourself at home. I’ll find a towel.”

  We were in a long, narrow room with an arched ceiling. There were bunk beds along the right wall, a table with chairs and a terminal beyond, and, at the far end, a petite galley on the right and a door that evidently led to a ’fresher or bath, as Janet went in there, came out at once with a big towel.

 
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