Friday, p.38Robert A. Heinlein
“If I advertise, I deliver. Are we all straight?” She stood up, I followed.
“All but what I owe you.”
“I’ve been thinking about that. Marj, you know your circumstances better than I do. I’ll leave it up to you.”
“But you didn’t quite tell me what you are being paid.”
“I don’t know. My master hasn’t told me.”
“Are you owned?” I felt sudden distress. Any AP would.
“No longer. Or not quite. I was sold on a twenty-year indenture. Thirteen years to go. Then I’m free.”
“But—Oh, God, Tilly, let’s get you off the ship, too!”
She put a hand on my arm. “Take it easy. You’ve got me thinking about it. That’s the main reason I don’t want to be tied up. Marj, I’m not on the ship’s rolls as indentured. Consequently I can take a groundside excursion if I can pay for it—and I can. Maybe I’ll see you down there.”
“Yes!” I kissed her.
She pulled me to her strongly, and the kiss gained speed. She was moaning against my tongue and I felt her hand inside my robe.
Presently I broke the kiss and looked into her eyes. “Is that how it is, Tilly?”
“Hell, yes! From the first time I bathed you.”
That evening the migrants leaving the ship at Botany Bay staged a lounge show for the first-class passengers. The Captain told me that such shows were traditional and that the first-class passengers customarily contributed to a purse for the colonists—but that it was not compulsory. He himself went to the lounge that night—also traditional—and I found myself sitting with him. I used the opportunity to mention that I was not feeling well. I added that I might have to cancel my reservations for dirtside excursions. I groused about it a bit.
He told me that, if I did not feel perfectly fit, I certainly should not risk exposing myself on the surface of a strange planet—but not to worry about missing Botany Bay, which wasn’t much at best. The rest of the trip was the wonderful part. So be a goot girl or should I lock you in your room?
I told him that, if my tummy didn’t stop acting up, it wouldn’t be necessary to lock me up. The trip down to Outpost had been horrid—spacesick all the way—and I wouldn’t risk anything like that again. I had laid groundwork for this by pecking at my food at dinner.
The show was amateurish but jolly—some skits but mostly group singing: “Tie Me Kangaroo Down,” “Waltzing Matilda,” “Botany Bay,” and, for an encore, “The Walloping Window Blind.” I enjoyed it but would have thought nothing of it were it not for a man in the second row of the group singers, a man who looked familiar.
I looked at him and thought: Friday, have you become the sort of careless, sloppy slitch who can’t remember whether she’s slept with a man or not?
He reminded me of Professor Federico Farnese. But this man was wearing a full beard, whereas Freddie had been smooth-shaven—which proves nothing as there had been time enough to grow a beard and almost all men get overtaken by the beard mania one time or another. But it did make it impossible for me to be certain by looking at him. This man never sang a solo, so voice did not help.
Body odor—at a range of thirty meters no way to sort it out from dozens of others.
I was greatly tempted not to be a lady—stand up, walk straight across the dance floor, confront him: “Are you Freddie? Didn’t you take me to bed in Auckland last May?”
What if he says no?
I’m a coward. What I did do was tell the Captain that I thought I had spotted an old acquaintance from Sydney among the migrants and how could I check? That resulted in my writing “Federico Farnese” on a program and the Captain passed it to the purser, who passed it to one of his assistants, who went away and came back soon with a report that there were several Eyetalian names among the migrants but no name, Eyetalian or otherwise, even vaguely like “Farnese.”
I thanked him and thanked the purser and thanked the Captain—and thought about asking for a check on “Tormey” and “Perreault,” but decided that it was damfoolishness; I certainly had not seen Betty or Janet—and they didn’t grow beards. I had seen a face behind a full beaver—meaning I hadn’t seen it. Put a full beard on a man and all you see is the shredded wheat.
I decided that all the old wives’ tales about pregnant women were probably true.
It was two hours past midnight, ship’s time. Breakout into normal space had taken place on time, about eleven in the morning, and the figures had been so good that the Forward was expected to achieve stationary orbit around Botany Bay at oh-seven-forty-two, several hours better than had been estimated before breakout. I was not pleased because an early morning landing-boat departure increased the hazard (I judged) that people might be prowling around the corridors in the still hours of the night.
No choice. It was rushing at me, no second chance. I finished last-minute adjustments, kissed Tilly good-bye, cautioned her with a finger to make no noise, and let myself out the door of cabin BB.
I had to go far aft and down three decks. Twice I slowed down to avoid night watchmen making their rounds. Once I ducked through a transverse passage to avoid a passenger, continued aft to the next passageway across the ship, then went back to starboard. Eventually I reached the short, dead-end corridor that led to the passenger airlock door for the starboard landing boat.
I found Mac-Pete-Percival waiting there.
I moved quickly to him, smiling, put a finger to my lips for silence, and clipped him under the ear.
I eased him to the deck, pulled him out of my way, and got to work on that combination lock—
—and discovered that it was almost impossible to read the marks on the dial, even with my enhanced night-sight. There was nothing but night-lights in the corridors and this short dead end had none of its own. Twice I muffed the combination.
I stopped and thought about it. Go back to cabin BB for a torchlight? I had none there, but perhaps Tilly had one. If she did not, should I wait until morning lights were turned on? That would be cutting it too fine; people would be stirring. But did I have a choice?
I checked Pete—still out but his heart was strong…and lucky for you, Pete; had I been fully triggered, you would be dead. I searched him.
I found, with no surprise, a pencil light on him—his job (tailing me) could need a torchlight, whereas Miss Rich Bitch does not bother with such things.
A few seconds later I had the door open.
I dragged Pete through, closed and locked the door, spinning the wheel both clockwise and counterclockwise. I turned back, noted that Pete’s eyelids moved a touch—clipped him again.
There followed a bloody awkward chore. Pete masses about eighty-five kilos, not gross for a man. But it’s twenty-five kilos more than I do and he’s much bigger. I knew from Tom that the engineers were holding the artificial gravity at 0.97 gee to match Botany Bay. At that moment I could have wished for free fall or antigrav gear as I could not leave Pete behind, dead or alive.
I managed to get him up into that cross-shoulder carry that some call fireman’s carry, then discovered that the best way for me to see ahead and still have a hand free for dogs on airtight doors and such was to hold Pete’s pencil light in my mouth like a cigar. I really needed that light—but, given a choice, I would have felt my way through in the dark, sans unconscious body.
With only one false turn I arrived at last in that biggest cargo hold which seemed even bigger with only a pencil beam to cut through the total darkness. I had not anticipated total darkness; I had visualized the landing boat as faintly illuminated with nightlights as was the ship proper from midnight to oh-six hundred.
At last I reached the hidey-hole I had picked out the day before: that giant Westinghouse turbogenerator.
I guessed that this big mass was intended to run on gas of some sort, or possibly steam—it certainly was not meant for Shipstones. There is a lot of obsolete engineering that is still useful in the colonies but is no longer used anywhere that
That space was made downright cozy by the fact that the cargo men had placed a fitted glass tarpaulin over this monster before tying it down. I had to wiggle in, between tiedowns, then I had to strain like the very devil to drag Pete in after me. I made it. Minus some skin.
I checked him again, then peeled him. With any luck I would get a little sleep—impossible had I left one of my guards loose behind me.
Pete was wearing trousers, belt, shirt, shorts, socks, sneakers, and a sweater. I took everything off, then tied his wrists behind him with his shirt, tied his ankles with his trouser legs, fastened his ankles to his wrists with his belt behind his back—this is one hell of an awkward position, taught to me in basic as a way to discourage attempts to escape.
Then I started to gag him, using his shorts and sweater. He said quietly, “No need to do that, Miss Friday. I’ve been awake quite a while. Let’s talk.”
I paused. “I thought you were awake. But I was willing to go along with the pretense as long as you were. I assumed that you would realize that, if you gave me any trouble, I would tear off your gonads and stuff them down your throat.”
“I figured something of the sort. But I didn’t expect you to be quite that drastic.”
“Why not? I’ve run into your gonads before. Not favorably. They are mine to tear off if I wish. Any argument?”
“Miss Friday, will you let me talk?”
“Sure, why not? But one peep out of you louder than a whisper and these toys come off.” I made sure he knew what I meant.
“Uh! Easy there—please! The purser put us on double watch tonight. I—”
“Double watch? How?”
“Ordinarily Tilly—Shizuko—is the only one on duty from the time you go to your cabin until you get up. When you do get up, she punches a button and that tells me to set the watch. But the purser—or maybe the Captain—is itchy about you. Worries that you might try to jump ship at Botany Bay—”
I made my eyes round. “Goodness gracious! How can anyone have such wicked thoughts about little ole me?”
“I can’t imagine,” he answered solemnly. “But why are we here in this landing boat?”
“I’m getting ready to go sight-seeing. How about you?”
“Me, too. I hope. Miss Friday, I realized that, if you were going to try to jump ship at Botany Bay, the most likely time would be tonight during the midwatch. I didn’t know how you expected to get into the landing boat but I had confidence in you—and I see that my confidence is justified.”
“Thank you. Some, anyhow. Who’s watching the portside boat? Or is there someone?”
“Graham. Little sandy bloke. Perhaps you’ve noticed him?”
“I picked this side because you toured this boat with Mr. Udell yesterday. Day before yesterday, depending on how you figure it.”
“I don’t care how you figure it. Pete, what happens when you are missed?”
“I may not be missed. Joe Stupid—sorry, Joseph Steuben—the other is just my private name for him—I have instructed to relieve me after he eats breakfast. If I know Joe, he’ll make no fuss at not finding me at the door; he will just sit down on the deck with his back to the door and sleep until someone comes along and unlocks it. Then he’ll stay there until this boat drops away…whereupon he will go to his room and sack in until I look for him. Joe is steady but not bright. Which I figured on.”
“Pete, it sounds as if you had planned this.”
“I didn’t plan to get a sore neck and a headache out of it. If you had waited long enough to let me speak, you wouldn’t have had to carry me.”
“Pete, if you’re trying to sweet-talk me into untying you, you are barking down the wrong well.”
“Don’t you mean ‘up the wrong tree’?”
“The wrong one, in any case, and you aren’t improving your chances by criticizing my figures of speech. You’re in deep trouble, Pete. Give me one good reason why I shouldn’t kill you and leave you here. For the Captain is right; I’m jumping ship. I can’t be bothered with you.”
“Well…one reason is that they’ll find my body later this morning, while they are unloading. Then they’ll be looking for you.”
“I’ll be many kilometers the other side of the horizon. But why would they look for me? I’m not going to leave my fingerprints on you. Just some purple bruises around your neck.”
“Motive and opportunity. Botany Bay is a pretty law-abiding community, Miss Friday. You can probably talk your way out of trouble in jumping ship there—others have. But if you are wanted for a murder aboard ship, the local people will cooperate.”
“I’ll plead self-defense. A known rapist. Fer Gossake, Pete, what am I going to do with you? You’re an embarrassment. You know I won’t kill you; I can’t kill in cold blood. It has to be forced on me. But if I keep you tied up—Let me see—five and three is eight, then add at least two hours before they work back to here in unloading—that’s ten hours at least—and I’ll have to gag you—and it’s getting cold—”
“You bet it’s getting cold! Could you sort of drape my sweater around me?”
“All right, but I’ll have to use it later when I gag you.”
“And besides being cold, my hands and feet are going to sleep. Miss Friday, if you leave me tied up this way for ten hours, I’ll have gangrene in both hands and both feet—and lose them. No regeneration out here. By the time I’m back where they can do it, I’ll be a permanent basket case. Kinder to kill me.”
“Damn it, you’re trying to work on my sympathy!”
“I’m not sure you have any.”
“Look,” I told him, “if I untie you and let you put your clothes back on so that you won’t freeze, will you let me tie you up and gag you later without fussing about it? Or must I clip you a good deal harder than I did and knock you out cold? Run a risk of breaking your neck? I can, you know. You’ve seen me fight—”
“I didn’t see it; I just saw the results. Heard about it.”
“Same thing. Then you know. And you must know why I can do such things. ‘My mother was a test tube—’”
“‘—and my father was a knife,’” he interrupted. “Miss Friday, I didn’t have to let you clip me. You’re fast…but I’m just as fast and my arms are longer. I knew that you were enhanced but you did not know that I am. So I would have had the edge.”
I was sitting in lotus, facing him, when he made this astounding statement. I felt dizzy and wondered if I was going to throw up again. “Pete,” I said, almost pleadingly, “you wouldn’t lie to me?”
“I’ve had to lie all my life,” he answered, “and so have you. However—” He paused and twisted his wrists; his bonds broke. Do you know the breaking strength of a twisted sleeve of a good shirt? It is more than that of a manila line of equal thickness—try it.
“I don’t mind ruining the shirt,” he said conversationally. “The sweater will cover. But I would rather not ruin my trousers; I expect to have to appear in public in them before I can get more. You can reach the knots more easily than I can; will you untie them, Miss Friday?”
“Stop calling me Miss Friday, Pete; we’re APs together.” I started working on the knots. “Why didn’t you tell me a long time ago?”
“I should have. Other things got in the way.”
“There! Oh, your feet are cold! Let me rub them. Get the circulation back.”
We got some sleep, or I did. Pete was shaking my shoulder and saying quietly, “Better wake up. We must be about to ground. Some lights have come on.”
A dim twilight trickled in,
“Complaints. You had the inside of the snuggle. That’s warmer than the outside. I’m frozen.”
“Just what you deserve. Rapist. You’re too skinny; you don’t make much of a blanket. Pete, we’ve got to put some fat on you. Which reminds me that we didn’t have breakfast. And the thought of food—I think I’m about to throw up.”
“Uh—Slide past me and sort o’ heave it back into that corner. Not here where we would have to lie in it. And keep as quiet as you can; there may be someone in here by now.”
“Brute. Unfeeling brute. Just for that I won’t throw up.”
On the whole I felt fairly good. I had taken one of the little blue pills just before leaving cabin BB, and it seemed to be holding. I had a butterfly or two in my tummy but they weren’t very muscular butterflies—not the sort that shout “Lemme outa here!” I had with me the rest of the supply Dr. Jerry had given me. “Pete, what are the plans?”
“You’re asking me? You planned this jailbreak, not me.”
“Yes, but you are a big, strong, masculine man who snores. I assumed that you would take charge and have it all planned out while I napped. Am I mistaken?”
“Well—Friday, what are your plans? The plans you made when you didn’t expect to have me along.”
“It wasn’t much of a plan. After we ground they are going to have to open a door, either a people door or a big cargo door; I don’t care which, ’cause when they do, I go out of here like a frightened cat, running roughshod over anything or anybody in my way…and I don’t stop until I’m a long way from the ship. I don’t want to hurt anybody but I hope nobody tries too hard to stop me…for I won’t be stopped.”
“That’s a good plan.”
“You think so? It’s not really a plan at all. Just a determination. A door opens, I crash out.”
“It’s a good plan because it doesn’t have any fancies to go wrong. And you have one big advantage. They don’t dare hurt you.”
Friday by Robert A. Heinlein / Science Fiction have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes