being, had actually given a poor, respectful spaceship Captain a
It made me want to butt holes in the bulkheads. Not that I hadn't had
time to get used to the treatment; every man in my corps gets a full
dose of awe and respect from the services, from Government officials
and even from the United Cabinets. The only reason we don't get it
from the man in the street is that the man in the street--unless he
happens to be a very special man in a very unusual street--doesn't
know the corps exists. Which is a definite relief, by the way; at
least, off the job, I'm no more than Ephraim Carboy, citizen.
I took a puff on my cigarette, and the Captain followed suit, very
respectfully. I felt like screaming at him but I kept my voice polite.
"The war's definitely over, isn't it?" I said.
He shrugged. "That depends, Mr. Carboy," he said. "The armies have
surrendered, and the treaty's been signed. That happened even before
we left Earth--three or four weeks ago. But whether you could say the
war was over ... well, Mr Carboy, that depends."
"Guerrillas," I said.
He nodded. "Wohlen's a jungle world, mostly," he said. "Sixty per cent
water, of course, but outside of that there are a few cities, two
spaceports, and the rest--eighty or ninety per cent of the land
area--nothing but jungle. A few roads running from city to city, but
"Of course," I said. He was being careful and accurate. I wondered
what he thought I'd do if I caught him in a mistake. Make a magic pass
and explode him like a bomb, probably. I took in some more smoke,
wondering whether the Captain thought I had psi powers--which, of
course, I didn't; no need for them in my work--and musing sourly on
how long it would take before the job was done and I was on my way
Then again, I told myself, there was always the chance of getting
killed. And in the mood I found myself, the idea of a peaceful,
unrespectful death was very pleasant.
For a second or two, anyhow.
"The Government holds the cities," the Captain was saying, "and
essential trade services--spaceports, that sort of thing. But a small
band of men can last for a long time out there in the wilds."
"Living off the country," I said.
He nodded again. "Wohlen's nine-nines Earth normals," he said. "But
you know that already."
"I know all of this," I said. "I'm just trying to update it a little,
if I can."
"Oh," he said. "Oh, certainly, S ... uh ... Mr. Carboy."
I sighed and puffed on the cigarette and waited for him to go on.
After all, what else was there to do?
* * * * *
For a wonder, the hypno had been just about accurate. That was
helpful; if I'd heard some new and surprising facts from the Captain
it would have thrown all the other information I had into doubt. Now I
could be pretty sure of what I was getting into.Download<<BackPagesMainNext>>