He turned his attention to social analysis, which was offering many double and a few treble figures. He put a thousand on the chance that the mugging-per-adult rate in New York City would break ten percent this year; it had been hovering around eight for an improbably long time and people were losing their enthusiasm, but there was a new police chief in the Bronx with a get-tough reputation and that ought to sew the matter up.
And the technical breakthrough odds were also nice and fat. For old time’s sake he put another thousand on the introduction of an Earth-Moon gravislide before 2025. That was a perennial disappointment. The idea was to haul cargo off the Moon on a cable stretching past the neutral point and spill it direct into Earth’s gravity-well so it could coast to a landing free of charge. It had failed twice already. But someone in New Zealand was on the track of mile-long single-crystal filaments. Given those…
A couple of hungry-faced old men, one black and the other white, who clearly were not here to travel but merely to pass the time, noticed him placing the wager. They studied his expensive clothes, assessed his air of financial well-being, and after some argument agreed to risk fifty apiece.
“It beats horse racing,” he heard one of them say.
“I used to like the horses!” the other objected, and they moved on, their voices querulous as though both craved the tension discharge of a quarrel but dared not start one for fear of losing an only friend.
Hmm! I wonder whether the Delphi systems in Russia, or East Germany, are patterned on stock markets and totalizators the way ours obviously are. One knows that in China they—But at that moment he caught sight of odds being quoted which he simply didn’t believe. One gets three in favor of genetic optimization becoming a commercial service by 2020, instead of a privilege reserved to government officials, hypercorp execs and billionaires? Last time he saw a board it had been up around 200, regardless of the fact that the public was clearly hungry for it. Such a violent crash in the odds must surely be due to inside information. One of the thousand-and-some staff and “students” at Tarnover must have yielded to the temptation to go sell his headful of data, and company scientists somewhere must be busily trying to turn a vague hope into a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Oh, no! It can’t be that they know somebody did get away? After all this time, after these six mortal, hateful years, has the precious secret of my escape leaked out?
There couldn’t possibly be a connection! Even so — !
The world swam around him for the space of half a dozen thumping heartbeats.
Some one jostled him roughly; he was barely able to perceive that it was an economist, wearing a sewn-on badge in bright green and white saying UNDERPOWER! one of the people who on principle declined to use up their full power allotment and did their utmost to prevent others from using theirs. There were alleged to be a great many economists at KC.
Then a bright voice was saying, “Sandy, good to see you—Is something wrong?” Vast effort pulled him back together, smiling, calm, in a condition to note how changed Ina was from the Image she’d presented at the resort. She wore a light but severe coverall in plain black and white, and her long hair was in a snood.
She was very much the head-of-dept doing a special favor to this recruit who was slotting into a higher-than-average level of the hierarchy.
Therefore he didn’t kiss her, didn’t even take her hand, simply said, “Hello. No, nothing’s wrong. Except I just saw what the odds are on my favorite long shot. One of these mornings I’ll wake to find my credit well and truly docked.” As he spoke, he started toward the exit. Ina, and the autoporter, kept pace.
“You have baggage?” she inquired.
“Just this. I sent the rest direct. I hear you have a great settlement block.”
“Oh, yes. It has a fine record. Been in use for ten years and so far not one environmental psychosis. Speaking of accommodation, I should have asked if you plan to bring a house with you. Currently we have room for one on site; we don’t start building our next factory until September.”
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