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       Friday, p.2

           Robert A. Heinlein
slower 1  faster

  “It do seem like it, don’t it?” Jim clucked to Gog and Magog and we headed for the farm. I settled back and relaxed, listening to the homey, cheerful clomp clomp! of horses’ hooves on dirt.

  I woke up as Jim turned into our gate and was wide awake by the time he pulled under the porte-cochère. I jumped down without waiting to be a “lady” and turned to thank Jim.

  They hit me from both sides.

  Dear old Uncle Jim did not warn me. He simply watched while they took me.


  My own stupid fault! I was taught in basic that no place is ever totally safe and that any place you habitually return to is your top danger spot, the place most likely for booby trap, ambush, stakeout.

  But apparently I had learned this only as parrot rote; as an old pro I had ignored it. So it bit me.

  This rule is analogous to the fact that the person most likely to murder you is some member of your own family—and that grim statistic is ignored too; it has to be. Live in fear of your own family? Better to be dead!

  My worst stupidity was to ignore a loud, clear, specific warning, not just a general principle. How had dear old “Uncle” Jim managed to meet my capsule?—on the right day and almost to the minute. Crystal ball? Boss is smarter than the rest of us but he does not use magic. I may be wrong but I’m positive. If Boss had supernatural powers he would not need the rest of us.

  I had not reported my movements to Boss; I didn’t even tell him when I left Ell-Five. This is doctrine; he does not encourage us to check in every time we move, as he knows that a leak can be fatal.

  Even I didn’t know that I was going to take that particular capsule until I took it. I had ordered breakfast in Hotel Seward’s coffee shop, stood up without eating it, dropped some money on the counter—three minutes later I was sealed into an express capsule. So how?

  Obviously chopping off that tail at Kenya Beanstalk Station had not eliminated all tails on me. Either there had been a backup tail on the spot or Mr. “Belsen” (“Beaumont,” “Bookman,” “Buchanan”) had been missed at once and replaced quickly. Possibly they had been with me all along or perhaps what had happened to “Belsen” had made them cautious about stepping on my heels. Or last night’s sleep may have given them time to catch me.

  Which variant was immaterial. Shortly after I climbed into that capsule in Alaska, someone had phoned a message somewhat like this: “Firefly to Dragonfly. Mosquito left here express capsule International Corridor nine minutes ago. Anchorage traffic control shows capsule programmed to sidetrack and open Lincoln Meadows your time eleven-oh-three.” Or some such chatter. Some unfriendly had seen me enter that capsule and had phoned ahead; otherwise sweet old Jim would not have been able to meet me. Logic.

  Hindsight is wonderful—it shows you how you busted your skull…after you’ve busted it.

  But I made them pay for their drinks. If I had been smart, I would have surrendered once I saw that I was hopelessly outnumbered. But I’m not smart; I’ve already proved that. Better yet, I would have run like hell when Jim told me the boss had sent him…instead of climbing in and taking a nap, fer Gossake.

  I recall killing only one of them.

  Possibly two. But why did they insist on doing it the hard way? They could have waited until I was inside and gassed me, or used a sleepy dart, or even a sticky rope. They had to take me alive, that was clear. Didn’t they know that a field agent with my training when attacked goes automatically into overdrive? Maybe I’m not the only stupid.

  But why waste time by raping me? This whole operation had amateurish touches. No professional group uses either beating or rape before interrogation today; there is no profit in it; any professional is trained to cope with either or both. For rape she (or he—I hear it’s worse for males) can either detach the mind and wait for it to be over, or (advanced training) emulate the ancient Chinese adage.

  Or, in place of method A or B, or combined with B if the agent’s histrionic ability is up to it, the victim can treat rape as an opportunity to gain an edge over her captors. I’m no great shakes as an actress but I try and, while it has never enabled me to turn the tables on unfriendlies, at least once it kept me alive.

  This time method C did not affect the outcome but did cause a little healthy dissension. Four of them (my estimate from touch and body odors) had me in one of the upstairs bedrooms. It may have been my own room but I could not be certain as I had been unconscious for a while and was now dressed (solely) in adhesive tape over my eyes. They had me on a mattress on the floor, a gang bang with minor sadism…which I ignored, being very busy with method C.

  In my mind I called them “Straw Boss” (seemed to be in charge), “Rocks” (they called him that—rocks in his head, probably), “Shorty” (take that either way), and “the other one” as he did not have distinctive characteristics.

  I worked on all of them—method acting, of course—reluctant, have to be forced, then gradually your passion overcomes you; you just can’t help yourself. Any man will believe that routine; they are suckers for it—but I worked especially hard on Straw Boss as I hoped to achieve the status of teacher’s pet or some such. Straw Boss wasn’t so bad; methods B and C combined nicely.

  But I worked hardest on Rocks because with him it had to be C combined with A; his breath was so foul. He wasn’t too clean in other ways, too; it took great effort to ignore it and make my responses flattering to his macho ego.

  After he became flaccid he said, “Mac, we’re wasting our time. This slut enjoys it.”

  “So get out of the way and give the kid another chance. He’s ready.”

  “Not yet. I’m going to slap her around, make her take us seriously.” He let me have a big one, left side of my face. I yelped.

  “Cut that out!”—Straw Boss’s voice.

  “Who says so? Mac, you’re getting too big for your britches.”

  “I say so.” It was a new voice, very loud—amplified—from the sound-system speaker in the ceiling, no doubt. “Rocky, Mac is your squad leader, you know that. Mac, send Rocky to me; I want a word with him.”

  “Major, I was just trying to help!”

  “You heard the man, Rocks,” Straw Boss said quietly. “Grab your pants and get moving.”

  Suddenly the man’s weight was no longer on me and his stinking breath was no longer in my face. Happiness is relative.

  The voice in the ceiling spoke again: “Mac, is it true that Miss Friday simply enjoys the little ceremony we arranged for her?”

  “It’s possible, Major,” Straw Boss said slowly. “She does act like it.”

  “How about it, Friday? Is this the way you get your kicks?”

  I didn’t answer his question. Instead I discussed him and his family in detail, with especial attention to his mother and sister. If I had told him the truth—that Straw Boss would be rather pleasant under other circumstances, that Shorty and the other man did not matter one way or the other, but that Rocks was an utter slob whom I would cancel at the first opportunity—it would have blown method C.

  “The same to you, sweetie,” the voice answered cheerfully. “I hate to disappoint you but I’m a crèche baby. Not even a wife, much less a mother or a sister. Mac, put the cuffs on her and throw a blanket over her. But don’t give her a shot; I’ll be talking to her later.”

  Amateur. My boss would never have alerted a prisoner to expect interrogation.

  “Hey, crèche baby!”

  “Yes, dear?”

  I accused him of a vice not requiring a mother or a sister but anatomically possible—so I am told—for some males. The voice answered, “Every night, hon. It’s very soothing.”

  So mark one up for the Major. I decided that, with training, he could have been a pro. Nevertheless he was a bloody amateur and I didn’t respect him. He had wasted one, maybe two, of his ables, caused me unnecessarily to suffer bruises, contusions, and multiple personal indignities—even heartbreaking ones had I been an untrained female—and had wasted two hours or more.
If my boss had been doing it, the prisoner would have spilled his/her guts at once and spent those two hours spouting her fullest memoirs into a recorder.

  Straw Boss even took the trouble to police me—led me into the bathroom and waited quietly while I peed, without making a production of it—and that was amateurish, too, as a useful technique, of the cumulative sort, in interrogating an amateur (not a pro) is to force him or her to break toilet training. If she has been protected from the harsher things in life or if he suffers from excessive amour-propre—as most males do—it is at least as effective as pain, and potentiates either with pain or with other humiliations.

  I don’t think Mac knew this. I figured him for basically a decent soul despite his taste for—no, aside from his taste for a bit of rape—a taste common to most males according to the kinseys.

  Somebody had put the mattress back on the bed. Mac guided me to it, told me to lie on my back with my arms out. Then he cuffed me to the legs of the bed, using two pairs. They weren’t the peace-officer type, but special ones, velvet-lined—the sort of junk used by idiots for SM games. I wondered who the pervert was? The Major?

  Mac made sure that they were secure but not too tight, then gently spread a blanket over me. I would not have been surprised had he kissed me good-night. But he did not. He left quietly.

  Had he kissed me would method C call for returning it in full? Or turning my face and trying to refuse it? A nice question. Method C is based on I-just-can’t-help-myself and requires precise judgment as to when and how much enthusiasm to show. If the rapist suspects the victim of faking, she has lost the ploy.

  I had just decided, somewhat regretfully, that this hypothetical kiss should have been refused, when I fell asleep.

  I was not allowed enough sleep. I was exhausted from all the things that had happened to me and had sunk into deep sleep, soggy with it, when I was roused by a slap. Not Mac. Rocks, of course. Not as hard as he had hit me earlier but totally unnecessary. It seemed to me that he blamed me for whatever disciplining he had received from the Major…and I promised myself that, when time came to cancel him, I would do it slowly.

  I heard Shorty say, “Mac said not to hit her.”

  “I didn’t hit her. That was just a love tap to wake her up. Shut up and mind your own business. Stand clear and keep your gun on her. On her, you idiot!—not on me.”

  They took me down into the basement and into one of our own interrogation chambers. Shorty and Rocks left—I think that Shorty left and I know that Rocks did; his stink went away—and an interrogation team took over. I don’t know who or how many as not one of them ever said a word. The only voice was the one I thought of as “the Major.” It seemed to be coming through a speaker.

  “Good morning, Miss Friday.”

  (Morning? It seemed unlikely.) “Howdy, crèche baby!”

  “I’m glad that you are in fine fettle, dear, as this session is likely to prove long and tiring. Even unpleasant. I want to know all about you, love.”

  “Fire away. What will you have first?”

  “Tell me about this trip you just made, every tiny detail. And outline this organization you belong to. I might as well tell you that we already know a great deal about it, so if you lie, I will know it. Not even a little white fib, dear—for I will know it and what happens then I will regret but you will regret it far more.”

  “Oh, I won’t lie to you. Is a recorder running? This will take a long time.”

  “A recorder is running.”

  “Okay.” For three hours I spilled my guts.

  This was according to doctrine. My boss knows that ninety-nine out of a hundred will crack under sufficient pain, that almost that percentage will crack under long interrogation combined with nothing more than raw fatigue, but only Buddha Himself can resist certain drugs. Since he does not expect miracles and hates to waste agents, standard doctrine is: “If they grab you, sing!”

  So he makes sure that a field operative never knows anything critical. A courier never knows what she is carrying. I know nothing about policy. I don’t know my boss’s name. I’m not sure whether we are a government agency or an arm of one of the multinationals. I do know where the farm is but so do many other people…and it is (was) very well defended. Other places I have visited only via closed authorized power vehicles—an APV took me (for example) to a practice area that may be the far end of the farm. Or not.

  “Major, how did you crack this place? It was pretty strongly defended.”

  “I ask the questions, bright eyes. Let’s have that part again about how you were followed out of the Beanstalk capsule.”

  After a long time of this, when I had told all I knew and was repeating myself, the Major stopped me. “Dear, you tell a very convincing story and I don’t believe more than every third word. Let’s start procedure B.”

  Somebody grabbed my left arm and a needle went in. Babble juice! I hoped these frimping amateurs weren’t as clumsy with it as they were in some other ways; you can get very dead in a hurry with an overdose. “Major! I had better sit down!”

  “Put her in a chair.” Somebody did so.

  For the next thousand years I did my best to tell exactly the same story no matter how bleary I felt. At some point I fell off the chair. They didn’t stick me back onto it but stretched me on the cold concrete instead. I went on babbling.

  Some silly time later I was given some other shot. It made my teeth ache and my eyeballs felt hot but it snapped me awake. “Miss Friday!”

  “Yes, sir?”

  “Are you awake now?”

  “I think so.”

  “My dear, I think you have been most carefully indoctrinated under hypnosis to tell the same story under drugs that you tell so well without drugs. That’s too bad as I must now use another method. Can you stand up?”

  “I think so. I can try.”

  “Stand her up. Don’t let her fall.” Someone—some two—did so. I wasn’t steady but they held me. “Start procedure C, item five.”

  Someone stomped a heavy boot on my bare toes. I screamed.

  Look, you! If you are ever questioned under pain, do scream. The Iron Man routine just makes them worse and it worse. Take it from one who’s been there. Scream your head off and crack as fast as possible.

  I am not going to give details of what happened during the following endless time. If you have any imagination, it would nauseate you, and to tell it makes me want to throw up. I did, several times. I passed out, too, but they kept reviving me and the voice kept on asking questions.

  Apparently the time came when reviving didn’t work, for the next thing I knew I was back in bed—the same bed, I suppose—and again handcuffed to it. I hurt all over.

  That voice again, right above my head. “Miss Friday.”

  “What the hell do you want?”

  “Nothing. If it’s any consolation to you, dear girl, you are the only subject I have ever questioned that I could not get the truth out of, eventually.”

  “Go soothe yourself!”

  “Good night, dear.”

  The bloody amateur! Every word I had said to him was the naked truth.


  Someone came in and gave me another hypodermic shot. Presently the pain went away and I slept.

  I think I slept a long time. I either had confused dreams or half-awake periods or both. Some of it had to be dreams—dogs do talk, many of them, but they don’t lecture on the rights of living artifacts, do they? Sounds of a ruckus and people running up and down may have been real. But it felt like a nightmare because I tried to get out of bed and discovered that I couldn’t lift my head, much less get up and join the fun.

  There came a time when I decided that I really was awake, because cuffs no longer bothered my wrists and sticky tape was no longer across my eyes. But I didn’t jump up or even open my eyes. I knew that the first few seconds after I opened my eyes might be the best and possibly the only chance I would have to escape.

  I twitched muscles without mo
ving. Everything seemed to be under control although I was more than a little sore here and there and several other places. Clothes? Forget them—not only did I have no idea where my clothes might be but also there is no time to stop to dress when you are running for your life.

  Now to plan—There didn’t seem to be anyone in this room; was anyone on this floor? Hold still and listen, If and when I was fairly sure I was alone on this floor, get noiselessly out of bed and up the stairs like a mouse, on past the third floor into the attic, and hide. Wait for dark. Out an attic gable, down the roof and the back wall and into the woods. If I reached the woods back of the house, they would never catch me…but until I did, I would be an easy target.

  The chances? One in nine. Perhaps one in seven if I got really cranked up. The weakest spot in a poor plan was the high probability of being spotted before I was clear of the house…because, if I was spotted—no, when I was spotted—I would not only have to kill but I would have to be utterly quiet in doing so—

  —because the alternative was to wait until they terminated me…which would be shortly after “the Major” decided that there was no more to be squeezed out of me. Clumsy as these goons were, they were not so stupid—or the Major was not so stupid—as to let a witness who has been tortured and raped stay alive.

  I stretched my ears in all directions and listened.

  “Nothing was stirring, not even a mouse.” No point in waiting; every moment I delayed brought that much closer the time when someone would be stirring. I opened my eyes.

  “Awake, I see. Good.”

  “Boss! Where am I?”

  “What a time-ridden cliché. Friday, you can do better than that. Back up and try again.”

  I looked around me. A bedroom, possibly a hospital room. No windows. No-glare lighting. A characteristic gravelike silence enhanced rather than broken by the softest of ventilation sighing.

  I looked back at Boss. He was a welcome sight. Same old unstylish eye patch—why wouldn’t he take time to have that eye regenerated? His canes were leaning against a table, in reach. He was wearing his usual sloppy raw-silk suit, a cut that looked like badly tailored pajamas. I was awfully glad to see him.

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