Read The Return of Santiago: A Myth of the Far Future Online

Authors: Mike Resnick

Tags: #Literature & Fiction, #Science Fiction & Fantasy, #Science Fiction, #Adventure, #Space Opera

The Return of Santiago: A Myth of the Far Future (5 page)

BOOK: The Return of Santiago: A Myth of the Far Future
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"Why?"

      
"He traveled the Frontier, saw a new world every few days, lived every kid's dream, every romantic's dream. He did important work—and look at the people he got to meet, men and women like the Songbird, Father William, the Jolly Swagman, Peacemaker MacDougal, Johnny One-Note, the Angel, the Sargasso Rose. Just the names alone conjure up such fantastic pictures." He picked up another sheet and began reading:

 

      
"
Moonripple, Moonripple, touring the stars,

      
Has polished the wax on a thousand bars,

      
Has trod on the soil of a hundred worlds,

      
Has found only pebbles while searching for pearls.

 

      
Listen to her name: Moonripple. A girl named Moonripple, who's been to a hundred worlds. Now,
that's
evocative—especially when you live on a dirtball like"—he grimaced—"Bailiwick."

      
The Duchess was unimpressed. "Read the rest of the verse. She found only pebbles while searching for pearls."

      
"She found a lot more than that," said Danny. "You just have to know where to look and how to read it."

      
"It sounds to me like she died as broke as Orpheus," said the Duchess with finality, walking to the chute. "I'm not kidding, Danny. I want to leave here today. I keep looking out the windows every five minutes, expecting to see the police surrounding us."

      
"Soon," he said distractedly, his attention already back on the manuscript.

      
Two hours later he went down to the kitchen and made some coffee.

      
"Well?" she demanded.

      
"I just need a little time away from the poem, time to think."

      
"To think about what, or am I going to be sorry I asked?"

      
"There's stuff there even Orpheus didn't know about," said Danny. "He was too close to the forest to see the trees."

      
"Whatever
that
means."

      
"I don't know what it means." He paused, swaying slightly from lack of food and sleep. "But I
will
know," he promised as he downed his coffee and went back up to the attic.

      
He was back down an hour later, a triumphant smile on his face.

      
"All right," he said. "Now we can leave."

      
"Why now?" she asked. "What do you think you've learned?"

      
"
The
secret."

      
"This is about the poem?"

      
"This is about the Inner Frontier," he replied. "It's all there in the poem, but even Black Orpheus didn't know how to interpret it." He shook his head in wonderment. "The greatest character of all, and he never knew!"

      
"Orpheus was the greatest character?" she asked, puzzled.

      
"No," he said distractedly. "I'm talking about Santiago!"

      
"
That's
what you learned?" she said incredulously. "Everyone knows that Santiago was the greatest outlaw in the history of the Inner Frontier."

      
"But he
wasn't
," said Danny, still smiling. "
That's
what I learned."

      
"What are you talking about?" demanded the Duchess.

      
"Santiago," explained Danny. "He wasn't an outlaw, not in the normal sense of the word. Oh, he did illegal things, but he was actually a revolutionary. I knew that yesterday afternoon."

      
"That's rubbish! Everything I've ever heard about him—"

      
"—was what he
wanted
people to hear," concluded Danny. "You asked once about bounty hunters. Here's your answer: if the Democracy had known he was a revolutionary, they'd have sent the whole fleet, five billion strong, to the Inner Frontier to hunt him down—so he made them think he was an outlaw, and all he had to deal with was a handful of bounty hunters. Orpheus guessed at that, but he never knew for sure."

      
"So Santiago killed all the bounty hunters?" she said.

      
Danny smiled again. "He tried, but he didn't always succeed—and
that's
the secret that's hidden in the poem, the secret even Orpheus didn't know."

      
"You're not making sense. How could he have stayed in business if he
hadn't
killed them?"

      
"There wasn't just
one
Santiago!" said Danny, unable to contain his excitement. "There was a series of them! I'm sure Sebastian Cain was one, and I think his successor was Esteban Cordoba." He paused for effect. "There were at least six Santiagos, maybe as many as eight!"

      
"You're crazy!"

      
"I'm right! Virtue MacKenzie, his biographer—she tried to hide it, but she was so sloppy that scholars never put much stock in her books, even though they sold tens of millions of copies." His arms shot up in a sign of triumph. "The most important single thing in the history of the Inner Frontier, and we're the only two people who know it!"

      
"So now we can leave the planet and then sell the manuscript?" she asked with a look of relief.

      
"We'll leave the planet," he agreed.

      
"And sell the manuscript."

      
He shook his head. "I'm not selling anything, not yet."

      
"Then what are you going to do with it?" she demanded.

      
"Add to it."

      
"What are you talking about?"

      
"Maybe it's time for the Inner Frontier to have a chronicler again."

      
"You?" said the Duchess incredulously.

      
"Why not?"

      
"I thought you were a criminal."

      
"I've
been
a criminal. I've never tried being a poet or an chronicler."

      
"What does the job pay?"

      
"What's the going price on immortality?"

      
"Immortality?"

      
"I plan to create something that outlasts me, just as Orpheus did." He looked off into the distance, at some exotic place only he could see. "Think of all those worlds I've never seen—Serengeti, Greenveldt, Walpurgis III, Binder X, the Roosevelt system, Oceana . . . worlds I only heard about and dreamed about when I was a kid. You know," he added confidentially, "this is the first time I've been excited—really
excited
—about anything since I was that little kid, dreaming of those worlds."

      
"You're really considering it, aren't you?" she said.

      
"I'm done considering it," he said with a sudden decisiveness. "I'm
doing
it."

      
"But why?" she demanded, as visions of the auction receded into the distance.

      
"There are hundreds of thieves here on Bailiwick. There are millions in the Democracy, dozens of millions in the galaxy. But there was only one Black Orpheus, and there will be only one me. A century after I'm dead, someone will read my poem the way I'm reading
his
, and I'll have made my mark on the universe. I'll have done something that outlasts me. People will know I was here."

      
"And is that so important to you?"

      
"It always was."

      
"And what about me?" she said bitterly. "Three days ago I was a law-abiding citizen. Three minutes ago I was a fugitive, but one who'd been promised a substantial amount of money from selling Orpheus' poem. Now I'm still a fugitive, but with no financial prospects again! You owe me something!"

      
"I said I'd take care of you. I will."

      
"How?"

      
"I don't know yet—but a million opportunities are opening up, and one thing I've always been good at is seizing opportunities."

      
"You'd damned well better be," the Duchess shot back. "In the meantime, you'd better work at making the name of Danny Briggs worth something."

      
He shook his head. "That's no name for a Bard."

      
"Did you have one in mind?"

      
"Give me a few minutes," he said, walking to a computer and activating it.

      
She went to the kitchen to pour herself a beer, and she drank it before returning. When she entered the room he looked up at her, a happy smile on his face.

      
"You found one," she said.

      
"We may be going to worlds that seem like paradise, and we may be going to worlds that reek of hellfire. Now I'm prepared for both." He paused. "From this day forward, my name is Dante Alighieri."

 

 

 

      
      
      
      
      
3.

 

      
      
They call him the Rhymer, a wordsmith by trade,

      
      
He can bring you to tears or use words like a blade.

      
      
He roams the Frontier writing down what he sees,

      
      
And he makes men immortal, dotting i's, crossing t's.

 

      
That was the first verse Dante Alighieri ever put to paper. Internal evidence suggests he wrote it while still on Bailiwick, though of course that is impossible to prove.

      
It wasn't true when he wrote it. No one had yet called him the Rhymer (or even Dante), and he had never been to the Inner Frontier. But before long the verse would gain an aura of absolute truth, and eventually it was so widely accepted that people forgot that it was merely a prediction when it first appeared.

      
Finding Black Orpheus' manuscript may have given him his initial impetus to go to the Frontier, but it was the arrival of the police that gave him a more immediate reason.

      
"Hey, Danny!" hissed the Duchess, staring out the kitchen window.

      
"I keep telling you," he replied irritably, looking up from his coffee cup, "the name's Dante."

      
"I don't care what the name is!" she snapped. "Whoever you are today, you'd better know a way out of here!"

      
"What are you talking about?" asked Dante.

      
"Take a look," she said. "We've got company."

      
"You must be mistaken. The owners aren't due back for almost two weeks!"

      
"These aren't the owners! They're the police!"

      
He raced to the window and saw two policemen standing about fifty feet away, staring at the house and speaking to each other.
"Shit!"

      
"I thought you told me no one could see in!" said the Duchess accusingly.

      
"They can't," answered Dante. "But I should have figured once Balsam knew what I'd stolen from the kennel, he'd put a lookout on every house that was boarding an animal there."

      
"So they're just going to set up shop out there and watch the house?" she asked.

      
"Probably," he said. "But we can't count on that. They might decide to check and see if anything's been stolen."

      
"They don't seem to be moving any closer."

      
"They could be waiting for orders to enter, or for a back-up team, or for some heat and motion sensors that will tell them we're here." He stepped back from the window. "We're not going to wait for that."

      
"What will we do?"

      
"Leave, of course."

      
"You're crazy!" she said. "It's broad daylight, and neither of us is armed."

      
"I don't like guns. If you carry one, sooner or later you have to use it. I'm a thief, not a killer." He paused. "By nighttime they'll definitely have the place under electronic surveillance. We're better off leaving right now."

      
"You think we can just go out the door and wave to them as we walk past?" she said sardonically.

      
"They're both in front," said Dante. "We'll go out the back. With a little luck and a little maneuvering, we can keep the house between us and them until we make it to the next street." He saw the doubt on her face. "Trust me. I've gotten out of worse scrapes than this."

      
He walked to the airlift.

      
"What are you doing?"

      
"I've got to get the manuscript."

      
"Five boxes? Do you know how heavy that will be?"

      
"Then you can help me carry it."

      
"What if we have to run?" she persisted. "I know what you think it's worth—but it's not worth a thing to us if they throw us in jail."

      
"I'm not leaving without it. Look through the closets and see if there's something we can carry it in. Most of the boxes it's in now are falling apart."

      
He returned a moment later, and found her waiting for him with a small overnight bag.

BOOK: The Return of Santiago: A Myth of the Far Future
9.68Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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