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Показать все книги автора/авторов: Harrison Harry

«The Stainless Steel Rat Wants You», Harry Harrison

Transcriber’s note

There are several “unusual” spellings in the original text. They have been preserved in this transcription.


Blodgett is a peaceful planet. The sun shines orangely, gentle breezes cool the brow, while the silent air is disturbed only slightly by the distant rumble of rockets from the spaceport. Very relaxing—but too much so for one like myself who must stay on guard, alert and aware at all times. And I admit that I was doing none of these things when the front door announcer bing-bonged. Hot water splattered my head and I was drowsy as a comatose cat.

“I’ll get that,” Angelina called out, loud enough to be heard over the splash of the shower. I gurgled an answer as I reluctantly turned the thing off and climbed out.

The drier blanketed me with warm air while the lotion mist tickled my nose. I hummed to myself with sybaritic joy, at peace with the world, naked as the day I was born—except of course for the few devices that I am never without. Voluntarily, that is. Life had its joys and, as I appreciated my stalwart body and rugged face in the mirror—the touch of gray at the temples did add a distinguished note—I could think of nothing to worry about.

Other than the sudden angst that gripped me, chilling me to the bone. Was this a psi premonition? No, it was the ticking away of seconds. Angelina had been far too long at the door. Something was wrong.

I burst out into the hall and down it at a run. The house was empty. Then I was through the front door and bounding down the path like a pink gazelle, hopping desperately on one leg as I wrenched the pistol from my ankle holster, my eyes bulging in shock at the sight of my Angelina being bustled into a black groundcar by two burly types. It pulled away and I risked a single shot at its tires, but could not fire again because there was traffic beyond.

Angelina! I ground my teeth with rage, fired more shots into the air so that the spectators who had been admiring my nude form now dived for cover. I managed to keep just enough peace of mind to memorize the numbers on the car.

Back in the house I thought briefly of calling the police, as any good citizen would, but since I have always been a very bad citizen I instantly dismissed the idea. Mighty is Slippery Jim diGriz in his wrath! Revenge would be mine! I turned on the compterm, mashed my thumbprint on to the ID plate, punched in my priority code, then the number of the kidnap car and asked for identification. Not a very complex task for a planetary computer and the answer appeared on the screen as soon as I hit the PRINT button.

When it did I dropped numbly into the chair. They had her. This was far worse than I had imagined. Now, look, don’t go thinking that I am a coward. Quite the opposite, I say humbly.

You are looking at a survivor of a lifetime of crime—who has also survived another lifetime of crimefighting after being drafted into the Special Corps, the elite galaxy-wide organization that uses crooks to catch crooks. That I have stayed relatively sound in mind and body all these years certainly speaks well of my reflexes, if not my intelligence. It was now going to take all my years of experience to extract my dear wife from this nasty situation. Thought was needed, not action and, though it was still early in the day, I cracked out a bottle of 140 proof Old Thought Provoker and poured a generous amount to lubricate my synapses.

With the first sip came the realization that the boys would have to be in on this one. Angelina and I, doting parents, had labored to shield them from the cruel facts of the world, but that time was over. Their graduation from school was still a few days away, but I was sure that this could be accelerated with the correct persuasion in the proper quarters. Strange to think they were almost out of their teens already; how the years slip by. Their mother—Angelina, my kidnapped treasure!—was as beautiful as ever. As for myself, I may be older but I am no wiser. The gray in my hair has not affected the lust for gold in my heart.

I did not waste a moment as I mumbled to myself nostalgically. Throwing on my clothes, kicking on my boots, stowing away about my person a number of lethal and technological devices, I dropped into the garage even as I closed the last closure. My bright red Firebom 8000 exploded into the drive as the door snapped open and hurtled down the road, scattering the dull citizens of the peaceful planet of Blodgett in all directions. The only reason we had settled on this bucolic world was to be near the boys while they were at school. I would be delighted to leave the place without a backward glance. Not only had it all the boredom of an agricultural planet, it was also infested by an octopuslike bureaucracy. Since it was centrally located among a number of star systems, and boasted a salubrious climate, the bureaucrats and League administrators had moved in to create a secondary economy of government offices. I preferred the farmers.

The farms gave way to trees as I burned down the road, then to the barren rock hills. There was a chill in the air at this altitude that went with the somber stone cliffs and, when I whisked around the final turn, the damp morning perfectly matched the rough finish of the high stone wall ahead. As the spiked portcullis rumbled slowly upward I admired, not for the first time, the letters hacked into the black slab of steel by the entrance.


That my dear twins had to be incarcerated here! As a father I felt concern; as a citizen I suppose it was a blessing. What I thought was just good spirits in the lads, the rest of the world tended to frown upon. Before coming here they had been expelled from a total of 214 schools. Three of these schools had burned down under mysterious circumstances; another had blown up. I had never believed that the mass suicide attempt of all the senior masters at another school had anything to do with my boys; but vicious tongues will wag. In any case they had finally met their match, if not their master in old Colonel Dorsky. After being forcefully retired from the military he had opened this school and put his years of service, experience, and sadism to work. My boys had reluctantly gained an education, served their term and in a few days would face the graduating ceremonies and parole. Only now things would have to be accelerated just a little bit.

As always I reluctantly surrendered my weapons, was x-rayed and spy-beamed, locked through the multiple automatic doors and released into the inner quad. Dispirited figures shuffled by, beaten down by the school’s foolproof and escapeproof system. But there ahead, crossing the ferroconcrete artificial grass, were two upright and brisk figures, unbent by any despair. I whistled shrilly and they dropped their books and ran up to greet me warmly. After which I rose slowly to my feet and dusted myself off—then proved that an old dog can still teach the pups a trick or two. They laughed as they rubbed their sore spots and stood up again. They were a bit shorter than I was, taking after their mother there, but soundly muscled and handsome as gods. Many a girl’s father would be out buying a shotgun after they were released from school.

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