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 (53 page)

BOOK: The Return of Santiago: A Myth of the Far Future
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"And I'll kill you if you don't," said Dante harshly. "I'm a lot closer to you at the moment than he is. I want you to consider that very carefully."

      
"If I tell you who, you've got to protect me from him!" whimpered Belinda.

      
"The way you protected your sister?" he asked.

      
"She never
needed
any protection or any help! She was always the smartest and the prettiest and the most popular and . . ." Her words trailed off into incoherent sobs.

      
"She needed protection from the aliens," said Dante coldly. "It may have been the only time in her life she needed help, and you betrayed her." He stared contemptuously at her. "I think Santiago and I are going to let you live, just so your sister can take her own revenge on you."

      
"If my sister isn't dead already, she will be soon."

      
"Don't bet on it," said Dante. He paused. "We're going to rescue her."

      
"Why?" asked Belinda, the tears suddenly gone. "What did she ever do for you?"

      
"She saved my life."

      
A look of fury crossed Belinda's face. "That figures. She's just the type."

      
"It's an admirable type," said Dante. "Certainly more admirable than an overgrown petulant brat who sells her sister out to aliens."

      
Belinda glared at him but made no answer.

      
"I'm still waiting," said Dante after a moment.

      
"For what?"

      
"The name of the man who can contact Tweedledee and Tweedledum."

      
She considered the question. "You'll protect me?"

      
"I'll let you live," said Dante coldly. "That's enough of a bargain."

      
She seemed torn, and finally slumped in resignation. "It's Moby Dick."

      
"Moby Dick?" he repeated. "Someone's really walking around with that name?"

      
"Yes."

      
"You know what will happen to you if you lied to me?"

      
"Yes, goddammit!" she snapped.

      
"Where do I find him?"

      
"The Fat Chance. It's a casino."

      
"Where is this Fat Chance in relation to the Windsor Arms?" asked Dante.

      
"A block north, two blocks west."

      
"Does Moby Dick work for the aliens?"

      
"He works for himself," said Belinda.

      
"What does he look like?"

      
"You'll know him when you see him."

      
"All right," said Dante. "I'm off to find him." He checked his timepiece. "You've got two hours to clear your stuff out of here."

      
"This is my house too!"

      
"You forfeited your right to it. I want you and all your possessions gone today, and I don't want to see you back here. If you disobey me, you'll have to answer to Santiago. Is that understood?" "

      
No answer.

      
He took a step toward her. "Is that understood?" he repeated ominously.

      
"Yes," she muttered.

      
"Then get going."

      
"I wish you as much luck with Moby Dick as Ahab had!" she said as he turned and headed off to the Fat Chance.

 

 

 

37.

 

      
      
He's bigger than big, he's whiter than white,

      
      
He's got an IQ that's plumb out of sight.

      
      
Moby Dick is his name, and his talent is vast:

      
      
He changes the future and toys with the past.

 

      
The Fat Chance wasn't like any casino Dante had ever been in. There were no craps tables, no roulette wheels, no poker games in progress. All but a handful of the customers were aliens—Canphorites, Lodinites, Mollutei, plus a few species he'd never seen before—and all the games were of alien origin.

      
There was a long, polished metal bar, manned by two robot bartenders. Given the clientele, Dante hated to think of what was in all the oddly-shaped containers displayed behind the bar.

      
The poet stepped further into the casino, looking around, and finally he saw the man he knew had to be Moby Dick. He was a big man, big everywhere—he stood almost seven feet tall, and weighed close to 500 pounds. The wild part, decided Dante, was that he'd be willing to bet there weren't 25 pounds of useless fat on the man. He was huge, but he was hard as a rock, and despite his weight he somehow managed to look fit.

      
His eyes were an dull pink, his lips were thick, his ears small, his head almost bald. When he opened his mouth, he revealed two rows of shining gold teeth.

      
But the thing that drew Dante's immediate attention, even more than all his other features, was the fact that the man was an albino. It wasn't hard to see how he'd come by his name.

      
The man sat alone at a table, a drink in front of him, watching the action at a nearby
jabob
pit. Dante approached him slowly, and came to a stop a few feet away.

      
"You gonna stand there all day?" asked the albino. "Or are you gonna sit down and tell me why you've come looking for me?"

      
"I'll sit," replied Dante. The huge man snapped his fingers, and a chair floated over and adjusted to the poet's body. "And I'll have something to drink, too."

      
"Do I look like a bartender?"

      
"No," said Dante. "You look like a white whale."

      
Moby Dick smiled. "Most people are afraid to say that, even though it's true." He paused. "I like you already."

      
"Good," said Dante. "I wouldn't want anyone your size taking a dislike to me."

      
This time Moby Dick laughed. "Okay, you've ingratiated yourself enough. Now tell me why you want to see me—and don't deny that's why you're here. No human comes to the Fat Chance to gamble."

      
"Why are you here?"

      
"I own the place."

      
"A casino just for aliens?"

      
"My own kind doesn't go out of its way to make me feel wanted," said the albino. "So I repeat: why are you here?"

      
"I need some information," said Dante. "My name is Dante Alighieri, and—"

      
"How divine is your comedy?" interrupted Moby Dick.

      
"I beg your pardon?"

      
"Never mind. You're not the same one."

      
"But I chose his name for my own."

      
"Do you write poetry?" asked Moby Dick.

      
"After a fashion."

      
"Then it's a fine name for you. Unlike Herman Melville, I don't write epics about whaling. But I'm a whale among men, I'm whiter than any of them, and I'm ready to kill any one-legged man named Ahab." He smiled again. "Haven't found one yet."

      
"Maybe you'd like to go hunting more dangerous game?" suggested Dante.

      
The table glowed, and the albino stared at a holocube. "That's his limit," he said to it. "No more credit for him until he makes good his losses." He turned back to Dante. "Why do I think you have someone in mind?"

      
"Maybe because I haven't got a poker face."

      
"Go home, Dante Alighieri," said Moby Dick. "You don't want any part of them."

      
"Any part of whom?"

      
"We've finished the social niceties," said the albino. "I'd really appreciate if you didn't play stupid with me."

      
"All right," said Dante. "October Morn told me you can contact Tweedledee and Tweedledum."

      
He chuckled. "The little bitch would love to see them kill the pair of us."

      
"Probably," agreed Dante. "But was she telling the truth?"

      
"Yeah, I can contact them," said Moby Dick. "But you don't want me to."

      
"Why not let me be the judge of that?"

      
"Because you've never met them, and your courage is born of ignorance," was the reply. "Believe me, no sane man wants to mess with them."

      
"The man I work for does."

      
"Then the man you work for's not long for this plane of existence," said the huge man.

      
"Nevertheless."

      
One of the
jabob
pit bosses, a Lodinite, waddled up and showed a slip of paper to Moby Dick. He grunted, signed it, watched the alien waddle away, and then looked at Dante. "Maybe I should talk to your boss myself."

      
"He'll be here in a few days' time," said Dante. He paused. "His name is Santiago."

      
Moby Dick seemed amused. "Why not Caligula or Conrad Bland, while he was at it?"

      
"Because he
is
Santiago."

      
"Somebody's been feeding you a fairy tale, Dante Alighieri," said the albino. "Santiago died 70 or 80 years ago, maybe even longer than that."

      
"A galaxy that can produce you and Tweedledee and Tweedledum and some of the aliens walking around this casino can produce a man who doesn't age and die like other men. I work for the King of the Outlaws."

      
Moby Dick was silent for a long moment, analyzing what he'd heard. Finally he spoke. "If he really on his way to Hadrian, I'd like to meet him."

      
"I thought you didn't believe in him half a minute ago," noted Dante.

      
"I don't necessarily believe in him now," said Moby Dick amiably. "All the more reason to want to meet him."

      
"In the meantime, can you set up a meeting between the two aliens and me?"

      
Moby Dick shrugged. "I can ask. What should I tell them you want to talk about? The lady poet?"

      
Dante considered his reply for a moment. "Tell them Santiago's coming to kill them, but I might be able to bargain for their lives. I might be able to convince him to take September Morn and hold her for ransom if they'll turn her over peacefully."

      
"They can't laugh," said Moby Dick. "They're physically incapable of it. But if they could, they'd laugh in your face."

      
"Just deliver it."

      
"You're bluffing, of course," said the albino. "Or out-and- out lying. It won't work. They don't understand bluffs. They'll believe what you say."

      
"I want them to."

      
"No you don't," said Moby Dick. "I keep telling you: you don't want any part of them. Neither does your boss, whoever he is."

      
"How is it that you alone know how to contact them?" asked Dante, changing the subject.

      
"Lots of people know how. I might be the only one currently on Hadrian, or the only one the little bitch sister knows, but there are lots of us."

      
"Why are you and this small handful of men and women so favored?"

      
"There are only two of them in the whole damned universe," answered Moby Dick. "There's just so much they can do, so they rule through hand-picked men and women."

      
"And they picked you?"

      
The huge man shook his head. "Do I look like a ruler? I'm just a supplicant. If things work out, they may toss me a couple of crumbs someday."

      
"Would I be correct in assuming one of those crumbs will be Hadrian II?" asked Dante.

      
"Why not?" Moby Dick shot back. "They can't live everywhere. They can't
be
everywhere. Someone has to bring order to their empire."

      
"How many planets do they control right now?"

      
"Maybe eight or nine."

      
"That's not much of an empire. The Democracy controls about 150,000 worlds, and they influence at least than many more."

      
"It's a start. Even Man started out with just one world, you know," said Moby Dick.

      
"So you're going to fight for them?"

      
"They may never ask me to, and if I do it'll be without much enthusiasm," answered Moby Dick. "Show me a better side to fight for."

      
"I intend to," said Dante. "Order something to drink. This is going to take a while."

      
For the next two hours, Dante filled the huge albino in on what had been transpiring for the past few months, about the poem, and Matilda, and the Bandit, and Silvermane, and—always—the ideal of Santiago. When he finally finished, Moby Dick stared at him for a very long time, and then spoke:

      
"It's an interesting idea," said the albino. "If you had the right Santiago, I'd join up this minute. But you don't."

      
"You haven't even met him."

      
"I don't have to. You've described him. That was the giveaway."

BOOK: The Return of Santiago: A Myth of the Far Future
9.33Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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