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 (55 page)

BOOK: The Return of Santiago: A Myth of the Far Future
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"No problem?" repeated Dante disbelievingly. "Molecular imploders are outlawed on almost every planet in the galaxy, including out here on the Frontier."

      
"I am not without my connections," answered the albino with a smug smile.

      
"So where is it?"

      
"Back at my casino," replied Moby Dick.

      
"But I told you that Silvermane needs it this morning!"

      
"He'll have it—but I'm coming along with it."

      
Dante stared at him sharply. "Why?"

      
"Because I agree with you that it's time for another Santiago, and I want to see how this one measures up."

      
"We're not holding auditions," said Dante. "He's
it
."

      
"Right now he's just a name, and I don't follow names. If I'm going to join your crusade, I want to see just who it is I'm joining."

      
"I don't know if he'll let you come along," said Dante.

      
"He will if he wants that imploder," said Moby Dick.

      
"He's going to be hard-pressed enough without having to protect you as well."

      
"I don't need any protecting. They won't bother me. I've dealt with them, remember?"

      
Dante shrugged. "Have it your way. It's his decision anyway, not mine."

      
"Good," said Moby Dick, approaching the largest chair in the room. It expanded to accommodate his bulk, then wrapped its arms partway around him and began rocking very gently. "When it's all over, I'll let you know how it went."

      
"You won't have to," said Dante. "I'm going."

      
"Didn't you just tell me that he likes to fight alone?" asked the albino.

      
"I'm not fighting. I'm there to write it up, and hopefully bring back September Morn."

      
"He could bring her back himself, you know."

      
"He's never met her," said Dante. "What if they've got 20 women imprisoned there?"

      
"Then he'll bring back all 20 and you'll tell him which one she is."

      
Dante listened politely, then uttered a two-word response: "I'm going."

      
The Security system blinked. Moby Dick began laboriously to lift his 500-pound bulk from the chair, but Dante gestured him to stay seated.

      
"It's not him," he announced.

      
"Who is it, then?"

      
"The friend whose ship I borrowed."

      
"Are you sure this is a hotel room and not a public meeting place?"

      
Dante smiled. "Not as sure as I was 15 minutes ago." He muttered a code to the door and it irised, allowing Virgil to step through it.

      
"How are you doing, Rhymer?" said the Indian. "You don't look any the worse for wear." A pause. "So the Bandit is really dead?"

      
"Really and truly."

      
"You know, I didn't believe it when I first heard the news. I didn't think anyone or anything except maybe Silvermane could kill him." He chuckled. "So it was the lady poet that shot him down?"

      
"That's right."

      
"Doesn't sound to me like the kind of woman who needs rescuing," said Virgil.

      
"She needs it from
these
captors," spoke up Moby Dick.

      
"Yeah, that's what everybody who knows them says," agreed Virgil. He stepped forward and extended a hand. "Virgil Soaring Hawk. Pleased to meet you."

      
"Moby Dick."

      
"Not the Moby Dick who used to live in the Carnasus system?" said the Indian.

      
"No, that was another one," replied the albino. "He was the wrong color, but the right mutation. The way I hear it, he was born with gills, and he could breathe in the water just as easy as in the air."

      
"I didn't know whales could breathe water," said Virgil. "Of course, there ain't been any around for a couple of thousand years, so what do I know?"

      
"They can't breathe water," agreed Moby Dick. "But my namesake could."

      
"He still alive?"

      
"I don't think so."

      
"Someone harpoon him?"

      
Moby Dick shook his head. "Got shredded by a pleasurecraft's motor, or so I heard."

      
"Serves him right for spending all his time in the water when he could have been chasing the ladies—or the gentlemen, for that matter," said Virgil with his usual single-mindedness. He turned back to Dante. "Silvermane hasn't shown up yet, I take it?"

      
"Not yet. And call him Santiago."

      
"Yeah, I know—I keep forgetting."

      
"How did things go on Valhalla?" asked the poet.

      
"Pretty smoothly since word reached them that the Bandit wouldn't be coming back." He paused, then smiled. "Matilda's put together a team she calls the Thieves Carnival."

      
"Catchy name. Any reason for it?"

      
"There's half a dozen of them, they work together, and she sent them to Calliope."

      
"That's the carnival planet, isn't it?"

      
"That's the place," said Virgil. "Ten million vacationers any given day, all of them with money. You couldn't ask for a better world for Santiago to pick up operating funds." He glanced out the window. "When's he due here?"

      
"He's late already," answered Dante. "I expected him right after sunrise."

      
"Maybe he's not in such a hurry to die," offered Moby Dick.

      
"Are you saying he won't show up?" demanded Dante heatedly.

      
"What's the point? He can't defeat them. Whole armies have tried and failed."

      
"Anyone can be defeated," said Dante. "It's just a matter of coming up with the right strategy."

      
"Nonsense," said Moby Dick. "You're a minnow. I'm a whale. You can't defeat me. All you can do is escape to live another day."

      
"That's a defeat of sorts," answered the poet. "And if I tell all the other minnows how, and we
all
escape every day, you might find yourself growing a little weaker and a little slower, which will make you weaker and slower still, until you starve to death."

      
"By God, I
knew
I liked you!" said Moby Dick with a sudden laugh. "Santiago's got himself a hell of a biographer, young Dante Alighieri."

      
"I'm not his biographer," answered Dante. "Well, not exactly. Not primarily. I'm just carrying on what Black Orpheus started."

      
"Isn't it about time you stopped kidding yourself?" said the albino.

      
"What are you talking about?"

      
"From everything I can tell, just about the only thing you've done since you found that poem is try to find a new Santiago."

      
"What the hell do
you
know about it?" said Dante irritably. "I've written hundreds of verses, and I've spent days and weeks honing and revising them."

      
"What's more important to you?" asked Moby Dick. "Writing your poem or making sure that there
is
a Santiago?"

      
"What's more important to you—eating or breathing?" Dante shot back.

      
Virgil grinned. "Do you still like him?" he asked Moby Dick.

      
"Hell, yes!" said the albino. "He's as good at evading questions as answering them. That's a rare talent."

      
"Flatter me any more and I might take an axe to you," said Dante. "Or worse still—I might lock you in here with Virgil and not come back for a day or two."

      
"Promises, promises!" muttered the Indian.

      
Dante was about to reply when the Security system told him that Silvermane was at the door. He commanded it to dilate, and the tall man, immaculate as usual, strode into the room.

      
"Who are you?" he demanded, staring at Moby Dick.

      
"And I'm pleased to meet you too," said the albino.

      
Silvermane did not look amused, and Dante immediately stepped between them. "This is Moby Dick," he said. "He's the one who's supplying the imploder."

      
"Then I thank you," said Silvermane sternly. He looked around. "Where is it?"

      
"It's in a safe place," said Moby Dick.

      
"Get it. I don't have any time to waste."

      
"Once we reach an agreement."

      
Silvermane glared at him. "How much?"

      
"No money."

      
"Then what?"

      
"I'm coming along."

      
"I won't protect you," said Silvermane.

      
"I don't need protecting," said the albino.

      
"Against these two,
everyone
needs protecting."

      
"Not me," said Moby Dick. "I have an arrangement with them."

      
Silvermane looked at the huge man as if he was the lowest form of life, but he made no reply.

      
"Well, we
don't
have an arrangement," interjected Dante. "Maybe we could use some help." Silvermane turned to him. "This whole planet loves September Morn, practically worships her. Give me a day. I'm sure I can gather a few hundred men and women to come along and—"

      
"Santiago doesn't beg for help," said Silvermane.

      
"But he doesn't have to turn it down if it's freely offered," urged Dante.

      
"They didn't challenge Hadrian II. They challenged
me
."

      
"That's your final word?"

      
"It is."

      
"At least let
me
come with you," said Dante. "You don't know what she looks like. If they have more than one captive and they've done them any damage, you won't know which one's her."

      
Silvermane frowned. "Just how stupid do you think I am? I've pulled up a dozen holographs of her from the local newsdisc."

      
"Then consider this: if you're good enough to kill the aliens—aliens she felt could not possibly be defeated—she may find you so terrifying that she won't want to put herself in your power."

      
Silvermane considered what Dante had said for a moment, then nodded his head almost imperceptibly. "All right, you can come." He looked at Virgil. "But not the Indian. I don't like him."

      
"I go where he goes," said Virgil.

      
"You're staying here."

      
"I'm not one of your sycophants," said Virgil. "I don't take my orders from you. I work for the poet."

      
Suddenly Virgil was looking down the barrel of Silvermane's pistol.

      
"When I tell you to do something," began Silvermane, "you'll do it!"

      
"Stop!"
yelled Dante, so suddenly and so loud that everyone froze. "Is this the way Santiago treats his allies? I thought you saved your bullets for your enemies."

      
Silvermane looked uncertain for just a moment, then holstered his gun.

      
"All right," he said to Virgil. "But stay clear of me, in the ship and on the planet." He turned to Moby Dick. "I've wasted enough time. Let's get the imploder."

      
He walked out the door, followed by Virgil.

      
"Four heroes off to slay the monsters," said Moby Dick to Dante, so softly that the other two couldn't hear him. A sardonic smile crossed his face. "I wonder how many of us will still be alive when we get there?"

 

 

 

39.

 

      
      
Oh, Tweedledee and Tweedledum,

      
      
The parts are greater than the sum.

      
      
They send their foes to Kingdom Come,

      
      
Do Tweedledee and Tweedledum.

 

      
Kabal III was a dark world, considering how close it was to its yellow sun, dark and bleak and gray. Rocky surfaces with jagged edges covered the surface. Undrinkable water created small canyons as it wound through the landscape. Opaque clouds crawled slowly across the sky.

      
"I don't like the looks of this place," said Dante, looking at the viewscreen as the ship took up orbit around it.

      
"Nobody asked you to come," answered Silvermane, who sat in the pilot's chair, meticulously oiling and cleaning his pistols and checking his ammunition.

      
"I've never seen them," said Virgil, "but based on all the stories I've heard, you're wasting your time. The most a bullet or two will do is make 'em angry."

      
"Probably," agreed Silvermane. "But if the imploder doesn't function or doesn't work, I need fallback protection."

BOOK: The Return of Santiago: A Myth of the Far Future
8.64Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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