Voyage From Yesteryear

Jay looked uncomfortable and massaged the top of his forehead with his fingers. “I know you’re not going to believe this, Ms,” he said. “But they’re not going to cost anything. Nothing seems to cost anything. I don’t understand it either, but–“-

“Oh, Jay, don’t be silly. Come on now–tell me where all this came from.”

“Really–you just walk in and help yourself. That’s how they do things here… for everything.”

“What’s the problem?” Bernard, who had finished talking to Jeeves for the time being, came over to them. Marie followed close behind.

Jean looked at him with a worried face. “Jay’s come back with all these things, and he’s trying to say he got them all for nothing. He’s claiming that anyone can just help themselves. I’ve never heard such nonsense.”

Bernard gave Jay a stern look. “You don’t expect us to believe that, surely. Now, tell us where this stuff came from. I want the truth. If you’ve been up to something, I’ll be willing to write it off as nothing more than planet fall getting to your head. Now–are you sure there isn’t something you want to tell us?”

“Everything I’ve said is true,” Jay insisted. “There’s this big kinds market in town. It’s got just about everything, and you just walk in and take what you want. We got talking to some Chironians, and they showed us what you do. I don’t understand it either, but that’s how things work here.”

“Oh, Jay,” Jean groaned. “They were probably taking you for a ride to gets laugh out of it. At your age, you should know better.”

“They weren’t,” Jay protested. “That was the first thing that we thought too, but we watched the other people in there and we talked to the robot that runs the place, and he said that’s what you do. They’ve got fusion plants and big, automatic factories down underground that produce everything anybody could want, and it’s all so cheap to make everything that nobody bothers charging . . . or something like that. I can’t figure it out.”

“Is this the truth?” Bernard asked uncertainly with a strong note of suspicion in his voice.

“Of course it is.’, Jay sighed wearily. “I wouldn’t just walk in with it like this if I’d stolen it or something, would 17”

“I bet he did,” Marie declared.

“Thanks a lot,” Jay said.

“I want to see this place. Is there any reason why you couldn’t take me back there right now?”

Jay sighed again. “I guess not. Let’s go. It’s one stop along the maglev line.”

“Can we go too?” Marie asked, evidently having forgotten her previous convictions. “I want to gets lots of things.”

“Oh, let your father go with Jay, dear,” Jean said. “You can help me finish up here. We can go and see it tomorrow.”

“Don’t you want to come along?” Bernard asked Jean. “It would get you out and give you a break.”

-Jean shook her head and indicated Marie surreptitiously with her eyes. “It would be best if you went on your own. We’ve got plenty to do here.” Marie made a face but stayed quiet.

Bernard nodded. “Okay. We’ll see you later then. Maybe you’d better leave that stuff here for now, Jay. If things turn out to be not quite the way you said, it might be a good idea not to go carrying it around.”

Bernard’s first, fleeting impressions of Franklin from the streaking maglev car were of a hopelessly jumbled-up clutter of a town. Unlike the neat and orderly models of urban planning that had replaced the heaps of American rubble during the recovery after the Lean Years–with business, entertainment, industrial, and residential sectors segregated by green belts and tidy landsculpting–everything in Franklin seemed to be intermingled with no discernible rhyme or reason. Buildings, towers, houses, and unidentifiable constructions of all shapes, sizes, and colors were packed together, overlapping and fusing in some places while giving way to clumps of greenery and trees in others. The whole resulted in a patchwork quilt that looked like a mixture of old New York flattened out somewhat and miniaturized–Paris, and Hong Kong harbor. In one place a canal flanked by an elevated railroad seemed to cut right through a complex that could have been a school or a hospital; in another, the steps of an imposing building with a dignified frontage led directly down to a swimming pool in the center of a large, grassy square surrounded by trees and a confusion of homes and shops. A river opened up as the car crossed through a suspended section of tube, giving a glimpse of a-few yachts drifting lazily here and there, a couple of larger ships moored lower down where the mouth widened against a background of open ‘sea, and numerous personal flying vehicles buzzing to and fro overhead; a scene of robot cranes and earthmovers excavating a site on the far bank came and went, and then the car plunged into the lower levels of the metropolis ahead and began slowing as it approached its destination.

Page: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53 54 55 56 57 58 59 60 61 62 63 64 65 66 67 68 69 70 71 72 73 74 75 76 77 78 79 80 81 82 83 84 85 86 87 88 89 90 91 92 93 94 95 96 97 98 99 100 101 102 103 104 105 106 107 108 109 110 111 112 113 114 115 116 117 118 119 120 121 122 123 124 125 126 127 128 129 130 131 132 133 134 135 136 137 138 139 140 141 142 143 144 145 146 147 148 149 150 151 152 153 154 155 156 157 158 159 160 161 162 163 164

Categories: Hogan, James