Friday, p.28
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       Friday, p.28

           Robert A. Heinlein
 

  Just the same, I was feeling sorry for myself. I had always spatted with him, even way back when he broke my indentures—and made me a Free Person after I had run away from him. I found myself regretting every time I had answered him back, been impudent, called him names.

  Then I reminded myself that Boss would not have liked me at all if I had been a worm, subservient, no opinions of my own. He had to be what he was and I had to be what I was and we had lived for years in close association that had never, not once, involved even touching hands. For Friday, that is a record. One I am not interested in surpassing.

  I wonder if he knew, years ago when I first went to work for him, how quickly I would have swarmed into his lap had he invited it. He probably did know. As may be, even though I had never touched his hand, he was the only father I ever had.

  The big conference room was very crowded. I had never seen even half that number at meals and some of the faces were strange to me. I concluded that some had been called in and had been able to arrive quickly. At a table at the front of the room Anna sat with a total stranger. Anna had folders of paper, a formidable terminal relay, and secretarial gear. The stranger was a woman about Anna’s age but with a stern schoolmarmish look instead of Anna’s warmth.

  At two seconds past nine the stranger rapped loudly on the table. “Quiet, please! I am Rhoda Wainwright, Executive Vice-Chairman of this company and chief counsel to the late Dr. Baldwin. As such I am now Chairman pro tem and paymaster for the purpose of winding up our affairs. You each know that each of you was bound to this company by contract to Dr. Baldwin personally—”

  Had I ever signed such a contract? I was bemused by “the late Dr. Baldwin.” Was that really Boss’s name? How did it happen that his name matched my commonest nom de guerre? Had he picked it? That was so very long ago.

  “—since you are all now free agents. We are an elite outfit and Dr. Baldwin anticipated that every free company in North America would wish to recruit from our ranks once his death released you. There are hiring agents in each of the small conference rooms and in the lounge. As your names are called please come forward to receive and sign for your packet. Then examine it at once but do not, repeat do not, stand at this table and attempt to discuss it. For discussion you must wait until all the others have received their termination packets. Please remember that I have been up all night—”

  Hire out with some other free company at once? Did I have to? Was I broke? Probably, except for what was left of that two hundred thousand bruins I had won in that silly lottery—and most of that I probably owed to Janet on her Visa card. Let me see, I had won 230.4 grams of fine gold, deposited with MasterCard as Br. 200,000 but credited as gold at that day’s fix. I had drawn thirty-six grams of that as cash and—But I must reckon my other account, too, the one through Imperial Bank of Saint Louis. And the cash and the Visa credit I owed Janet. And Georges ought to let me pay half of—

  Someone was calling my name.

  It was Rhoda Wainwright, looking vexed. “Please be alert, Miss Friday. Here is your packet and sign here to receipt for it. Then move aside to check it.”

  I glanced at the receipt. “I’ll sign after I’ve checked it.”

  “Miss Friday! You’re holding up the proceedings.”

  “I’ll step aside. But I won’t sign until I confirm that the packet matches the receipt list.”

  Anna said soothingly, “It’s all right, Friday. I checked it.”

  I answered, “Thanks. But I’ll handle it just the way you handle classified documents—sight and touch.”

  The Wainwright biddy was ready to boil me in oil but I simply moved aside a couple of meters and started checking—a fair-size packet: three passports in three names, an assortment of IDs, very sincere papers matching one or another identity, and a draft to “Marjorie Friday Baldwin” drawn on Ceres and South Africa Acceptances, Luna City, in the amount of Au-0.999 grams 297.3—which startled me but not nearly as much as the next item did: adoption papers by Hartley M. Baldwin and Emma Baldwin for female child Friday Jones, renamed Marjorie Friday Baldwin, executed at Baltimore, Maryland, Atlantic Union. Nothing about Landsteiner Crèche or Johns Hopkins, but the date was the day I left Landsteiner Crèche.

  And two birth certificates: one was a delayed birth certificate for Marjorie Baldwin, born in Seattle, and one was for Friday Baldwin, borne by Emma Baldwin, Boston, Atlantic Union.

  Two things were certain about each of these documents: Each was phony and each could be relied on utterly; Boss never did things by halves. I said, “It checks, Anna.” I signed.

  Anna accepted the receipt from me, adding quietly: “See me after.”

  “Suits. Where?”

  “See Goldie.”

  “Miss Friday! Your credit card, please!” Wainwright again.

  “Oh.” Well, yes, with Boss gone and the company dissolved, I could not use my Saint Louis credit card again. “Here it is.”

  She reached for it; I held on. “The punch, please. Or the shears. Whatever you’re using.”

  “Oh, come now! I’ll incinerate yours along with many others, after I check the numbers.”

  “Ms. Wainwright, if I am to surrender a credit card charged against me—and I am; no argument about that—it will be destroyed or mutilated, rendered useless, right in front of me.”

  “You are very tiresome! Don’t you trust anyone?”

  “No.”

  “Then you’ll have to wait, right here, until everyone else is through.”

  “Oh, I don’t think so.” I think MasterCard of California uses a phenolic-glass laminate; in any case their cards are tough, as credit cards must be. I had been careful not to show any enhancements around HQ, not because it would matter there but because it isn’t polite. But this was a special circumstance. I tore the card two ways, handed her the bits. “I think you can still make out the serial number.”

  “Very well!” She sounded as annoyed as I felt. I turned away. She snapped, “Miss Friday! Your other card, please!”

  “What card?” I was wondering who among my dear friends was suddenly being deprived of that utter necessity of modern life, a valid credit card, and being left with only a draft and some small change. Clumsy. Inconvenient. I felt certain that Boss had not planned it that way.

  “MasterCard…of… California, Miss Friday, issued in San Jose. Hand it over.”

  “The company has nothing to do with that card. I arranged that credit on my own.”

  “I find that hard to believe. Your credit on it is guaranteed by Ceres and South Africa—that is to say, by the company. The affairs of which are being liquidated. So hand over that card.”

  “You’re mixed up, counselor. While payment is made through Ceres and South Africa, the credit involved is my own. It’s none of your business.”

  “You’ll soon find out whose business it is! Your account will be canceled.”

  “At your own risk, counselor. If you want a law suit that will leave you barefooted. Better check the facts.” I turned away, anxious not to say another word. She had me so angry that, for the moment, I was not feeling grief over Boss.

  I looked around and found that Goldie had already been processed. She was sitting, waiting. I caught her eye and she patted an empty chair by her; I joined her. “Anna said for me to see you.”

  “Good. I made a reservation at Cabaña Hyatt in San Jose for Anna and me for tonight, and told them that there might be a third. Do you want to come with us?”

  “So soon? Are you already packed?” What did I have to pack? Not much, as my New Zealand luggage was still sitting in bond in Winnipeg port because I suspected that the Winnipeg police had placed a tag on it—so there it would sit until Janet and Ian were in the clear. “I had expected to stay here tonight but I really hadn’t thought about it.”

  “Anyone can sleep here tonight but it’s not being encouraged. The management—the new management—wants to get everything done today. Lunch will be the last meal served. If anyone is sti
ll here tonight at dinnertime, it’s cold sandwiches. Breakfast, nit.”

  “Fer Gossake! That doesn’t sound like anything Boss would have planned.”

  “It isn’t. This woman—The Master’s arrangements were with the senior partner, who died six weeks ago. But it doesn’t matter; we’ll just leave. Coming with us?”

  “I suppose so. Yes. But I had better see these recruiters first; I’m going to need a job.”

  “Don’t.”

  “Why not, Goldie?”

  “I’m looking for a job, too. But Anna warned me. The recruiters here today all have arrangements with La Wainwright. If any of them are any good, we can get in touch with them at Las Vegas Labor Mart…without handing this snapping turtle a commission. I know what I want—head nurse in a field hospital of a crack mercenary outfit. All the best ones are represented in Las Vegas.”

  “I guess that’s the place for me to look, too. Goldie, I’ve never had to hunt for a job before. I’m confused.”

  “You’ll do all right.”

  Three hours later, after a hasty lunch, we were in San Jose. Two APVs were shuttling between Pajaro Sands and the National Plaza; Wainwright was getting rid of us as fast as possible—I saw two flatbed trucks, big ones, each drawn by six horses, being loaded as we left, and Papa Perry looking harried. I wondered what was being done with Boss’s library—and felt a little separate, selfish sadness that I might never again have such an unlimited chance to feed the Elephant’s Child. I’ll never be a big brain but I’m curious about everything and a terminal hooked directly to all the world’s best libraries is a luxury beyond price.

  When I saw what they were loading I suddenly recalled something with near panic. “Anna, who was Boss’s secretary?”

  “He didn’t have one. I sometimes helped him if he needed an extra hand. Seldom.”

  “He had a contact address for my friends Ian and Janet Tormey. What would have become of it?”

  “Unless it’s in this”—she took an envelope from her bag and handed it to me—“it’s gone…because I have had standing orders for a long time to go to his personal terminal as soon as he was pronounced dead and to punch in a certain program. It was a wipe order, I know, although he did not say so. Everything personal he had in the memory banks was erased. Would this item be personal?”

  “Very personal.”

  “Then it’s gone. Unless you have it there.”

  I looked at what she had handed me: a sealed envelope with nothing but “Friday” on the outside. Anna added, “That should have been in your packet but I grabbed it and held it out. That nosy slitch was reading everything she could get her hands on. I knew that this was private from Mr. Two-Canes—Dr. Baldwin, I should say now—to you. I was not going to let her have it.” Anna sighed. “I worked with her all night. I didn’t kill her. I don’t know why I didn’t.”

  Goldie said, “We had to have her to sign those drafts.”

  Riding with us was one of the staff officers, Burton McNye—a quiet man who rarely expressed opinions. But now he spoke. “I’m sorry you restrained yourself. Look at me; I have no cash, I always used my credit card for everything. That snotty shyster wouldn’t give me my closing check until I handed over my credit card. What happens with a draft on Lunar bank? Can you cash it, or do they simply accept it for collection? I may be sleeping in the Plaza tonight.”

  “Mr. McNye—”

  “Yes, Miss Friday?”

  “I’m no longer ‘Miss’ Friday. Just Friday.”

  “Then I’m Burt.”

  “Okay, Burt. I’ve got some cash bruins and a credit card that Wainwright could not touch, although she tried. How much do you need?”

  He smiled and reached over and patted my knee. “All the nice things I’ve heard about you are true. Thanks, dear, but I’ll handle it. First I’ll take this to the Bank of America. If they won’t cash it offhand, perhaps they will advance me some pending collection. If not, I shall go to her office in the CCC Building and stretch out on her desk and tell her that it is up to her to find me a bed. Damn it; the Chief would have seen to it that each of us got a few hundred in cash; she did it on purpose. Maybe to force us to sign up with her buddies; I wouldn’t put it past her. If she makes any fuss, I’m feeling just ornery enough to find out whether or not I remember any of the things they taught me in basic.”

  I answered, “Burt, don’t ever tackle a lawyer with your hands. The way to fight a lawyer is with another lawyer, a smarter one. Look, we’ll be in the Cabaña. If you can’t cash that draft, better accept my offer. It won’t inconvenience me.”

  “Thanks, Friday. But I’m going to choke her until she gives in.”

  The room Goldie had reserved turned out to be a small suite, a room with a big waterbed and a living room with a couch that opened into a double bed. I sat down on the couch to read Boss’s letter while Anna and Goldie used the bath—then got up to use it myself when they came out. When I came out, they were on the big bed, sound asleep—not surprising; both of them had been up all night in nervously exhausting work. I kept very quiet and sat back down, resumed reading the letter:

  Dear Friday,

  Since this is my last opportunity to communicate with you, I must tell you things I have not been able to say while alive and still your employer.

  Your adoption: You do not remember it because it did not happen that way. You will find that all records are legally correct. You are indeed my foster daughter. Emma Baldwin has the same sort of reality as your Seattle parents, i.e., real for all practical and legal purposes. You need be careful of only one thing: Don’t let your several identities trip each other. But you have walked that tight-wire many times, professionally.

  Be sure to be present or represented at the reading of my will. Since I am a Lunar citizen

  (Huh?)

  this will be at Luna City immediately after my death, Luna Republic not having all the lawyer-serving delays one finds in most Earthside countries. Call Fong, Tomosawa, Rothschild, Fong, and Finnegan, Luna City. Do not anticipate too much; my will does not relieve you of the necessity of earning a living.

  Your origin: You have always been curious about this, understandably so. Since your genetic endowment was assembled from many sources and since all records have been destroyed, I can tell you little. Let me mention two sources of your genetic pattern in whom you may take pride, two known to history as Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Green. There is a memorial to them in a crater near Luna City, but it is hardly worth the trip as there is nothing much to see. If you will query the Luna City Chamber of Commerce concerning this memorial, you can obtain a cassette with a reasonably accurate account of what they did. When you hear it, you will know why I told you to suspend judgment on assassins. Assassination is usually a dirty business…but honorable hatchet men can be heroes. Play the cassette and judge for yourself.

  The Greens were colleagues of mine many years ago. Since their work was very dangerous, I had caused each of them to deposit genetic material, four of her ova, a supply of his sperm. When they were killed, I caused gene analysis to be made with an eye to posthumous children—only to learn that they were incompatible; simple fertilization would have caused reinforcement of some bad alleles.

  Instead, when creation of artificial persons became possible, their genes were used selectively. Yours was the only successful design; other attempts at including them were either not viable or had to be destroyed. A good genetic designer works the way a good photographer does: A perfect result derives from a willingness to discard drastically any attempt less than perfect. There will be no more attempts using the Greens; Gail’s ova are gone and Joe’s sperm is probably no longer useful.

  It is not possible to define your relationship to them but it is equivalent to something between granddaughter and great-granddaughter, the rest of you being from many sources but you can take pride in the fact that all of you was most carefully selected to maximize the best traits of H. sapiens. This is your potential; whether or not you achieve y
our potential is up to you.

  Before your records were destroyed, I once scratched my curiosity by listing the sources that went into creating you. As near as I can recall they are:

  Finnish, Polynesian, Amerindian, Innuit, Danish, red Irish, Swazi, Korean, German, Hindu, English—and bits and pieces from elsewhere since none of the above is pure. You can never afford to be racist; you would bite your own tail!

  All that the above really means is that the best materials were picked to design you, regardless of source. It is sheer luck that you wound up beautiful as well.

  [“Beautiful”! Boss, I do own a mirror. Was it possible he had really thought so? Surely, I’m built okay; that just reflects the fact that I’m a crack athlete—which in turn reflects the fact that I was planned, not born. Well, it’s nice that he thought so if he did…because it’s the only game in town; I’m me, whatever.]

  On one point I owe you an explanation if not an apology. It was intended that you should be reared by selected parents as their natural child. But when you still weighed less than five kilos, I was sent to prison. Although I was able, eventually, to escape, I could not return to Earth until after the Second Atlantic Rebellion. The scars of this mix-up are still with you, I know. I hope that you someday will purge yourself of your fear and mistrust of “human” persons; it gains you nothing and handicaps you mightily. Someday, somehow, you must realize emotionally what you know intellectually, that they are as tied to the wheel as you are.

  As for the rest, what can I say in a last message? That unfortunate coincidence, my conviction at just the wrong time, left you too easily bruised, much too sentimental. My dear, you must cure yourself utterly of all fear, guilt, and shame. I think you have rooted out self pity

  [The hell I have!]

 
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