Friday, p.15
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       Friday, p.15

           Robert A. Heinlein
 

  “You could use them and mail them back…but that may not be the easiest way. You could go to Vancouver, then cross into the California Confederacy simply on tourists’ cards—but as us. You can go all the way to Vancouver on our credit cards. Once across the border into California you are almost certainly home free—Marj, your credit card should be good, you shouldn’t have trouble phoning your employer, and the cops won’t be trying to intern either one of you. Is that any help?”

  “Yes,” I agreed. “I think the tourist-card dodge is safer than trying to use your passports—safer for everyone. If I reach a place where my credit card is valid, my troubles should be over.” (I would draw cash at once and never again let myself be caught away from home without plenty of cash—money greases anything. Especially in California, a place loaded with scams, whereas in British Canada officials are sometimes disconcertingly honest.)

  I added, “I can’t possibly be worse off in Bellingham than I am here—then I’ve got all the way down to the Lone Star Republic to try to cross if there is any holdup. Has there been any word on Texas and Chicago? Are they on speaking terms?”

  “Okay so far as I’ve seen in the news,” Ian answered. “Shall I key the computer for a search?”

  “Yes, before I leave please do. If I had to, I could go through Texas to Vicksburg. One can always go up the river for cash because smugglers run so steadily.”

  “Before we leave,” Georges corrected me gently.

  “Georges, I think this route would work, for me. For you, all it would do is get you farther and farther away from Québec. Didn’t you say that McGill is your other base?”

  “Dear lady, I have no wish to go to McGill. Since the police are being difficult here, my true home, I can think of nothing I would rather do than travel with you. Once we cross into Washington Province of California you can change your name from Mrs. Tormey to Mrs. Perreault, as it is certain, I think, that both my Maple Leaf card and my Crédit Québec card will be accepted.”

  (Georges, you are a gallant darling…and when I’m trying to pull a caper I need a gallant darling the way I need an Oregon boot. And I will have to pull one, dear—despite what Janet said, I will not be home free.) “Georges, that sounds delightful. I can’t tell you that you must stay home…but I must tell you that I am by profession a courier who has traveled for years by herself, all over this planet, more than once to space colonies, and to Luna. Not yet to Mars or Ceres but I may be ordered to at any time.”

  “You are saying that you would rather I did not accompany you.”

  “No, no! I am merely saying that, if you choose to go with me, it will be purely social. For your pleasure and mine. But I must add that when I enter the Imperium I must go alone, as I will be back on duty at once.”

  Ian said, “Marj, at least let Georges get you out of here and into territory where there is no silly talk of interning you, and where your credit card is valid.”

  Janet added, “It’s getting free of that silly internment thing that is important. Marj, you can hang onto my Visa card as long as you wish; I’ll use my Maple Leaf card instead. Just remember that you are Jan Parker.”

  “Parker?”

  “Visa has my maiden name on it. Here, take it.” I accepted it, thinking that I would use it only when someone was looking over my shoulder. When possible, I would charge things to the late Lieutenant Dickey, whose credit should remain viable for days, possibly weeks. There was more chitchat and at last I said,

  “I’m leaving now. Georges, are you coming with me?”

  Ian said, “Hey! Not tonight. First thing in the morning.”

  “Why? The tubes run all night, do they not?” (I knew that they did.)

  “Yes but it’s over twenty klicks to the nearest tube station. And dark as the inside of a pile of coal.”

  (Not the time to discuss enhanced vision.) “Ian, I can walk that far by midnight. If a capsule leaves at midnight, I can get practically a full night’s sleep in Bellingham. If the border is open between California and the Imperium, I’ll report to my boss tomorrow morning. Better so, huh?”

  A few minutes later we all left, by surrey. Ian was not pleased with me as I had not been the sweet, soft, amenable creature that men prefer. But he got over his annoyance and kissed me very sweetly when they dropped us at Perimeter and McPhillips across from the tube station. Georges and I crowded into the twenty-three o’-clock capsule, then we had to stand up all the way across the continent.

  But we were in Vancouver by twenty-two (Pacific Time—midnight in Winnipeg), picked up applications for tourist cards as we entered the Bellingham shuttle, filled them out en route, had them processed by the exit computer as we left the shuttle a few minutes later. The human operator didn’t even look up as the machine spit out our cards. She just murmured, “Enjoy your stay,” and went on reading.

  At Bellingham the Vancouver Shuttle Station exits into the lower lobby of the Bellingham Hilton; facing us was a glowing sign floating in space:

  THE BREAKFAST BAR

  Steaks—Short Orders—Cocktails

  Breakfast Served Twenty-Four Hours

  Georges said, “Mrs. Tormey my love, it occurs to me that we neglected to eat dinner.”

  “Mr. Tormey, you are so right. Let’s shoot a bear.”

  “Cooking in the Confederacy is not exotic, not sophisticated. But in its own robust way it can be quite satisfying—especially if one has had time to grow a real appetite. I have eaten at this establishment before. Despite its name, one may have a variety of dishes. But, if you will accept the breakfast menu and allow me to order for you, I think that I can guarantee that your hunger will be pleasantly assuaged.”

  “Georges—I mean ‘Ian’—I have eaten your soup. You can order for me anytime!”

  It was truly a bar—no tables. But the stools had backs and were padded and they came up to the bar without banging knees—comfortable. Apple-juice appetizers were placed in front of us as we sat down. Georges ordered for us, then slid out and went over to the reception desk and punched us in. When he returned, he said as he sat down again, “Now you may call me ‘Georges,’ and you are ‘Mrs. Perreault.’ For that is how I punched us in.” He picked up his appetizer. “Santé, ma chère femme.”

  I picked up mine. “Merci. Et à la tienne, mon cher mari.” The juice was sparkling cold, and as sweet as the sentiment. While I did not intend to have a husband again, Georges would make a good one, whether in jest, as now, or in reality. But he was simply lent to me by Janet.

  Our “breakfast” arrived:

  Ice-cold Yakima apple juice

  Imperial Valley strawberries with Sequim cream

  Two eggs, eyes-up and gently basted, resting on medium-rare steak so tender it would cut with a fork—“Eggs on Horseback”

  Large hot biscuits, Sequim butter, sage and clover honey

  Kona coffee in oversize cups

  Coffee, juice, and biscuits were renewed constantly—a second serving of steak and eggs was offered but we had to refuse.

  The noise level and the way we were seated did not encourage conversation. There was an Opportunity Ads screen back of the bar. Each ad remained on screen just long enough to be read but, as usual, each was keyed by number to be called back for leisurely viewing at individual terminals at each guest’s place at the bar. I found myself reading them idly while I ate:

  The Free Ship Jack Pot is recruiting crew members at Vegas Labor Mart. Bonus to combat veterans.

  Would a pirate ship advertise that baldly? Even in Vegas Free State? Hard to believe but still harder to read it any other way.

  Smoke the Toke that Jesus Smoked!

  ANGEL STICKS

  Guaranteed Noncarcinogenic

  Cancer cannot worry me but neither THC nor nicotine is for me; a woman’s mouth should be sweet.

  GOD is waiting for you at suite 1208 Lewis and Clark Towers. Don’t make Him come get you.

  You won’t like it.

  I didn’t like it anyhow.


  BORED?

  We are about to abandon a pioneer party on a virgin planet type T-13. Guaranteed sex ratio 50-40-10±2% Median bio age 32±1. No temperament test required

  No Assessments—No Contributions—No Rescue

  System Expansion Corporation

  Division of Demography and Ecology

  Luna City GPO lock box DEMO

  or punch Tycho 800-2300

  I called that one back and reread it. How would it feel to tackle a brand-new world side by side with comrades?—people who could not possibly know my origin. Or care. My enhancements might make me respected rather than a freak—as long as I did not flaunt them…

  “Georges, look at this, please.”

  He did so. “What about it?”

  “It could be fun—no?”

  “No! Marjorie, on the T scale anything over eight calls for a large cash bonus, lavish equipment, and trained colonists. A thirteen is an exotic route to suicide, that’s all.”

  “Oh.”

  “Read this one,” he offered:

  W.K.—Make your will. You have only a week to live.

  A.C.B.

  I read it. “Georges, is that really a threat to kill this W.K.? In a public ad? Where it could be traced?”

  “I don’t know. It might not be easy to trace. I’m wondering what we will see here tomorrow—will it read ‘six days’? Then ‘five days’? Is W. K. waiting for the blow to fall? Or is it some sort of advertising promotion?”

  “I don’t know.” I thought about it in connection with our plight. “Georges, is it possible that all these threats on the channels are some sort of terribly complex hoax?”

  “Are you suggesting that no one was killed and all the news was faked?”

  “Uh, I don’t know what I’m suggesting.”

  “Marjorie, there is a hoax, yes—in the sense that three different groups are all claiming responsibility and therefore two groups are attempting to hoax the world. I do not think that the reports of assassinations are hoaxes. As with soap bubbles, there is an upper limit to the size of a hoax, both in numbers of people and in time. This is too big—too many places, too widespread—to be a hoax. Or by now there would be denials from all over. More coffee?”

  “Thank you, no.”

  “Anything?”

  “Nothing. One more biscuit with honey and I would burst.”

  From outside it was simply a hotel-room door: 2100. Once inside I said, “Georges! Why?”

  “A bride should have a bridal suite.”

  “It’s beautiful. It’s lavish. It’s lovely. And you should not have wasted your money. You’ve already turned a dull trip into a picnic. But if you expect me to behave as a bride tonight, you should not have fed me Eggs on Horseback and a whole big pan of hot biscuits. I’m bloated, dear. Not glamorous.”

  “You are glamorous.”

  “Dear! Georges, don’t play with me—please don’t! You caught me out when I killed Dickey. You know what I am.”

  “I know that you are a sweet and brave and gallant lady.”

  “You know what I mean. You’re in the profession. You spotted me. You caught me out.”

  “You are enhanced. Yes, I saw that.”

  “So you know what I am. I admit it. I passed years ago. I’ve acquired much practice in covering it up but—that bastard shouldn’t have pointed that gun at Janet!”

  “No, he should not have done so. And for what you did I am forever in your debt.”

  “You mean that? Ian thought I should not have killed him.”

  “Ian’s first reaction is always conventional. Then he comes around. Ian is a natural pilot; he thinks with his muscles. But, Marjorie—”

  “I’m not Marjorie.”

  “Eh?”

  “You might as well have my right name. My crèche name, I mean. I’m Friday. No last name, of course. When I need one I use one of the conventional crèche surnames. Jones, usually. But Friday is my name.”

  “Is that what you want to be called?”

  “Uh, yes, I think so. It’s the name I’m called by when I don’t have to cover up. When I’m with people I trust. I had better trust you. Hadn’t I?”

  “I shall be flattered and much pleased. I shall try to deserve your trust. As I am much in your debt.”

  “How, Georges?”

  “I thought that was clear. When I saw what Mel Dickey was doing, I resolved to surrender at once rather than cause hazard to others. But when he threatened Janet with that burner, I promised myself that, at a later time, when I was free, I would kill him.” Georges barely smiled. “I had no more than promised myself that when you appeared as suddenly as an avenging angel and carried out my intent. So now I owe you one.”

  “Another killing?”

  “If that is your wish, yes.”

  “Uh, probably not that. As you said, I’m enhanced. I’ve usually managed to do it myself when it needed to be done.”

  “Whatever you ask, dear Friday.”

  “Uh, oh, hell, Georges, I don’t want you to feel in debt to me. In my own way I love Janet, too. That bastard sealed his fate when he threatened her with a deadly weapon. I didn’t do it for you; I did it for myself. So you don’t owe me anything.”

  “Dear Friday. You are as lovable as Janet is. I have been learning that.”

  “Uh, why don’t you take me to bed and let me pay you for a number of things? I am aware that I’m not human and I don’t expect you to love me the way you do your human wife—not love me at all, really. But you seem to like me and you don’t treat me like—uh, the way my Ennzedd family did. The way most humans treat APs. I can make it worth your while. Truly I can. I never got my doxy certificate but I’ve had most of the training…and I try.”

  “Oh, my dear! Who hurt you so badly?”

  “Me? I’m all right. I was just explaining that I know how the world wags. I’m not a kid still learning how to get along without the crutch of the crèche. An artificial person doesn’t expect sentimental love from a human male; we both know that. You understand it far better than a layman can; you’re in the profession. I respect you and sincerely like you. If you will permit me to go to bed with you, I’ll do my best to entertain you.”

  “Friday!”

  “Yes, sir?”

  “You will not go to bed with me to entertain me.”

  I felt sudden tears in my eyes—a very seldom thing. “Sir, I’m sorry,” I said miserably. “I didn’t mean to offend you. I did not intend to presume.”

  “God damn it, STOP IT!”

  “Sir?”

  “Stop calling me ‘sir.’ Stop behaving like a slave! Call me Georges. If you feel like adding ‘dear’ or ‘darling’ as you have sometimes in the past, please do so. Or slang me. Just treat me as your friend. This ‘human’ and ‘not-human’ dichotomy is something thought up by ignorant laymen; everybody in the profession knows that it is nonsense. Your genes are human genes; they have been most carefully selected. Perhaps that makes you superhuman; it can’t make you nonhuman. Are you fertile?”

  “Uh, sterile reversible.”

  “In ten minutes with a local anesthetic I could change that. Then I could impregnate you. Would our baby be human? Or nonhuman? Or half human?”

  “Uh…human.”

  “You can bet your life it would be! It takes a human mother to bear a human baby. Don’t ever forget that.”

  “Uh, I won’t forget.” I felt a curious tingle, way down inside me. Sex, but not like anything I had ever felt before even though I’m rutty as a cat. “Georges? Do you want to do that? Impregnate me?”

  He looked very startled. Then he moved to where I was standing, tilted my face up, put his arms around me, and kissed me. On the ten scale I would have to rate it at eight and a half, maybe nine—no way to do better vertically and with clothes on. Then he picked me up, moved to a chair, sat down with me in his lap, and started undressing me, casually and gently. Janet had insisted on dressing me in her clothes; I had more interesting things to
take off than a jump suit. My Superskin job, freshly laundered by Janet, was in my jumpbag.

  Georges said, as he unzipped and unbuttoned and undid, “That ten minutes would have to be in my lab and it would take another month, about, until your first breeding date, and that combination of circumstances saves you from a bulging belly…because that kind of remark acts on the human male like cantharides on a bull. So you are saved from your folly. Instead I’m going to take you to bed and try to entertain you…although I don’t have my certificate, either. But we’ll think of something, dear Friday.” He lifted me up and pushed the last of my clothing to the floor. “You look good. You feel good. You smell good. Do you want first chance at the bathroom? I need a shower.”

  “Uh, I’d rather go second as I want to take quite a long time.”

  I did take quite a long time as I had not been fooling when I told him I was bloated. I’m an experienced traveler, careful never to invite either of the twin curses of travel. But no dinner, followed by an enormous “breakfast” at midnight had changed my timing a bit. If I was going to have weight on my chest—and my belly—it was time to get rid of the bloat.

  It was after two before I came out of the bath—bathed, bloat taken care of, mouth fresh and breath sweet, and feeling as fit and cheerful as I have ever felt in my life. No perfume—not only do I not carry it but men prefer fragrans feminae to any other aphrodisiac even when they don’t know it—they just don’t like it stale.

  Georges was in bed with a coverlet over him, sound asleep. The tent was not up, I noticed. So with extreme caution I crawled in and managed not to wake him. Truly, I was not disappointed as I am not that self-centered a slitch. I felt happily confident that he would wake me refreshed and it would thus be better for each of us—it had been a strenuous day for me, too.

  XV

  I was correct.

  I don’t want to take Georges away from Janet…but I look forward to happy visits and, if he ever does elect to reverse my sterility, doing it like a cat might be all right to make a baby for Georges—I cannot see why Janet has not done so.

 
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