And the typewriter kept rattling: LOOKS LIKE RAIN ANY MINUTE NOW HOO BOY IM GLAD I WONT BE IN THOSE WHIRLYBIRDS WHEN THE STORM STARTS SAY VERN WHY DONT YOU EVER ANSWER ME Q Q ISNT IT ABOUT TIME TO TAKE OFF XXX I MEAN GET UNDER WEIGH Q Q.
Some of the "clerks, typists, domestic personnel and others"--that was the way they were listed on the T/O; it was only coincidence that the Major had married them all--were staring at the typewriter.
"Drinks!" Vern called nervously. "Come on, girls! Drinks!"
The Major poured himself a stiff shot and asked: "What is that thing? A teletype or something?"
"That's right," Vern said, trailing after him as the Major wandered over to inspect it.
I GIVE THOSE BOILERS ABOUT TEN MORE MINUTES SAM WELL WHAT ABOUT IT Q Q READY TO SHOVE OFF Q Q.
The Major said, frowning faintly: "Ah, that reminds me of something. Now what is it?"
"More scotch?" Vern cried. "Major, a little more scotch?"
The Major ignored him, scowling. One of the "clerks, typists" said: "Honey, you know what it is? It's like that pross you had, remember? It was on our wedding night, and you'd just got it, and you kept asking it to tell you limericks."
The Major snapped his fingers. "Knew I'd get it," he glowed. Then abruptly he scowled again and turned to face Vern and me. "Say--" he began.
I said weakly: "The boilers."
The Major stared at me, then glanced out the window. "What boilers?" he demanded. "It's just a thunderstorm. Been building up all day. Now what about this? Is that thing--"
But Vern was paying him no attention. "Thunderstorm?" he yelled. "Arthur, you listening? Are the helicopters gone?"
"Then shove off, Arthur! Shove off!"
The typewriter rattled and slammed madly.
The Major yelled angrily: "Now listen to me, you! I'm asking you a question!"
But we didn't have to answer, because there was a thrumming and a throbbing underfoot, and then one of the "clerks, typists" screamed: "The dock!" She pointed at a porthole. "It's moving!"
Well, we got out of there--barely in time. And then it was up to Arthur. We had the whole ship to roam around in and there were plenty of places to hide. They had the whole ship to search. And Arthur was the whole ship.
Because it was Arthur, all right, brought in and hooked up by Vern, attained to his greatest dream and ambition. He was skipper of a superliner, and more than any skipper had ever been--the ship was his body, as the prosthetic tank had never been; the keel his belly, the screws his feet, the engines his heart and lungs, and every moving part that could be hooked into central control his many, many hands.
Search for us? They were lucky they could move at all! Fire Control washed them with salt water hoses, directed by Arthur's brain. Watertight doors, proof against sinking, locked them away from us at Arthur's whim.
The big bull whistle overhead brayed like a clamoring Gabriel, and the ship's bells tinkled and clanged. Arthur backed that enormous ship out of its berth like a racing scull on the Schuylkill. The four giant screws lashed the water into white foam, and then the thin mud they sucked up into tan; and the ship backed, swerved, lashed the water, stopped, and staggered crazily forward.
Arthur brayed at the Statue of Liberty, tooted good-by to Staten Island, feinted a charge at Sandy Hook and really laid back his ears and raced once he got to deep water past the moored lightship.
We were off!
Well, from there on, it was easy. We let Arthur have his fun with the Major and the bodyguards--and by the sodden, whimpering shape they were in when they came out, it must really have been fun for him. There were just the three of us and only Vern and I had guns--but Arthur had the Queen Elizabeth, and that put the odds on our side.
We gave the Major a choice: row back to Coney Island--we offered him a boat, free of charge--or come along with us as cabin boy. He cast one dim-eyed look at the hundred and nine "clerks, typists" and at Amy, who would never be the hundred and tenth.
And then he shrugged and, game loser, said: "Ah, why not? I'll come along."
And why not, when you come to think of it? I mean ruling a city is nice and all that, but a sea voyage is a refreshing change. And while a hundred and nine to one is a respectable female-male ratio, still it must be wearing; and eighty to thirty isn't so bad, either. At least, I guess that was what was in the Major's mind. I know it was what was in mine.
And I discovered that it was in Amy's, for the first thing she did was to march me over to the typewriter and say: "You've had it, Sam. We'll dispose with the wedding march--just get your friend Arthur here to marry us."
"The captain," she said. "We're on the high seas and he's empowered to perform marriages."
Vern looked at me and shrugged, meaning, you asked for this one, boy. And I looked at him and shrugged, meaning, it could be worse.
And indeed it could. We'd got our ship; we'd got our ship's company--because, naturally, there wasn't any use stealing a big ship for just a couple of us. We'd had to manage to get a sizable colony aboard. That was the whole idea.
The world, in fact, was ours. It could have been very much worse indeed, even though Arthur was laughing so hard as he performed the ceremony that he jammed up all his keys.
By Mack Reynolds
Unfortunately, there was only one thing he could bring back from the wonderful future ... and though he didn't want to ... nevertheless he did....
Betty looked up from her magazine. She said mildly, "You're late."
"Don't yell at me, I feel awful," Simon told her. He sat down at his desk, passed his tongue over his teeth in distaste, groaned, fumbled in a drawer for the aspirin bottle.
He looked over at Betty and said, almost as though reciting, "What I need is a vacation."
"What," Betty said, "are you going to use for money?"
"Providence," Simon told her whilst fiddling with the aspirin bottle, "will provide."
"Hm-m-m. But before providing vacations it'd be nice if Providence turned up a missing jewel deal, say. Something where you could deduce that actually the ruby ring had gone down the drain and was caught in the elbow. Something that would net about fifty dollars."
Simon said, mournful of tone, "Fifty dollars? Why not make it five hundred?"
"I'm not selfish," Betty said. "All I want is enough to pay me this week's salary."
"Money," Simon said. "When you took this job you said it was the romance that appealed to you."
"Hm-m-m. I didn't know most sleuthing amounted to snooping around department stores to check on the clerks knocking down."
Simon said, enigmatically, "Now it comes."
There was a knock.
Betty bounced up with Olympic agility and had the door swinging wide before the knocking was quite completed.
He was old, little and had bug eyes behind pince-nez glasses. His suit was cut in the style of yesteryear but when a suit costs two or three hundred dollars you still retain caste whatever the styling.
Simon said unenthusiastically, "Good morning, Mr. Oyster." He indicated the client's chair. "Sit down, sir."
The client fussed himself with Betty's assistance into the seat, bug-eyed Simon, said finally, "You know my name, that's pretty good. Never saw you before in my life. Stop fussing with me, young lady. Your ad in the phone book says you'll investigate anything."
"Anything," Simon said. "Only one exception."
"Excellent. Do you believe in time travel?"
Simon said nothing. Across the room, where she had resumed her seat, Betty cleared her throat. When Simon continued to say nothing she ventured, "Time travel is impossible."
Betty looked to her boss for assistance. None was forthcoming. There ought to be some very quick, positive, definite answer. She said, "Well, for one thing, paradox. Suppose you had a time machine and traveled back a hundred years or so and killed your own great-grandfather. Then how could you ever be born?"
"Confound it if I know," the little fellow growled. "How?"
Simon said, "Let's get to the point, what you wanted to see me about."
"I want to hire you to hunt me up some time travelers," the old boy said.
Betty was too far in now to maintain her proper role of silent secretary. "Time travelers," she said, not very intelligently.
The potential client sat more erect, obviously with intent to hold the floor for a time. He removed the pince-nez glasses and pointed them at Betty. He said, "Have you read much science fiction, Miss?"
"Some," Betty admitted.
"Then you'll realize that there are a dozen explanations of the paradoxes of time travel. Every writer in the field worth his salt has explained them away. But to get on. It's my contention that within a century or so man will have solved the problems of immortality and eternal youth, and it's also my suspicion that he will eventually be able to travel in time. So convinced am I of these possibilities that I am willing to gamble a portion of my fortune to investigate the presence in our era of such time travelers."
Simon seemed incapable of carrying the ball this morning, so Betty said, "But ... Mr. Oyster, if the future has developed time travel why don't we ever meet such travelers?"
Simon put in a word. "The usual explanation, Betty, is that they can't afford to allow the space-time continuum track to be altered. If, say, a time traveler returned to a period of twenty-five years ago and shot Hitler, then all subsequent history would be changed. In that case, the time traveler himself might never be born. They have to tread mighty carefully."
Mr. Oyster was pleased. "I didn't expect you to be so well informed on the subject, young man."
Simon shrugged and fumbled again with the aspirin bottle.
Mr. Oyster went on. "I've been considering the matter for some time and--"
Simon held up a hand. "There's no use prolonging this. As I understand it, you're an elderly gentleman with a considerable fortune and you realize that thus far nobody has succeeded in taking it with him."
Mr. Oyster returned his glasses to their perch, bug-eyed Simon, but then nodded.
Simon said, "You want to hire me to find a time traveler and in some manner or other--any manner will do--exhort from him the secret of eternal life and youth, which you figure the future will have discovered. You're willing to pony up a part of this fortune of yours, if I can deliver a bona fide time traveler."
Betty had been looking from one to the other. Now she said, plaintively, "But where are you going to find one of these characters--especially if they're interested in keeping hid?"
The old boy was the center again. "I told you I'd been considering it for some time. The Oktoberfest, that's where they'd be!" He seemed elated.
Betty and Simon waited.
"The Oktoberfest," he repeated. "The greatest festival the world has ever seen, the carnival, feria, fiesta to beat them all. Every year it's held in Munich. Makes the New Orleans Mardi gras look like a quilting party." He began to swing into the spirit of his description. "It originally started in celebration of the wedding of some local prince a century and a half ago and the Bavarians had such a bang-up time they've been holding it every year since. The Munich breweries do up a special beer, Marzenbrau they call it, and each brewery opens a tremendous tent on the fair grounds which will hold five thousand customers apiece. Millions of liters of beer are put away, hundreds of thousands of barbecued chickens, a small herd of oxen are roasted whole over spits, millions of pair of weisswurst, a very special sausage, millions upon millions of pretzels--"
"All right," Simon said. "We'll accept it. The Oktoberfest is one whale of a wingding."
"Well," the old boy pursued, into his subject now, "that's where they'd be, places like the Oktoberfest. For one thing, a time traveler wouldn't be conspicuous. At a festival like this somebody with a strange accent, or who didn't know exactly how to wear his clothes correctly, or was off the ordinary in any of a dozen other ways, wouldn't be noticed. You could be a four-armed space traveler from Mars, and you still wouldn't be conspicuous at the Oktoberfest. People would figure they had D.T.'s."
"But why would a time traveler want to go to a--" Betty began.
"Why not! What better opportunity to study a people than when they are in their cups? If you could go back a few thousand years, the things you would wish to see would be a Roman Triumph, perhaps the Rites of Dionysus, or one of Alexander's orgies. You wouldn't want to wander up and down the streets of, say, Athens while nothing was going on, particularly when you might be revealed as a suspicious character not being able to speak the language, not knowing how to wear the clothes and not familiar with the city's layout." He took a deep breath. "No ma'am, you'd have to stick to some great event, both for the sake of actual interest and for protection against being unmasked."
The old boy wound it up. "Well, that's the story. What are your rates? The Oktoberfest starts on Friday and continues for sixteen days. You can take the plane to Munich, spend a week there and--"
Simon was shaking his head. "Not interested."
As soon as Betty had got her jaw back into place, she glared unbelievingly at him.