Jim Baen's Universe
Vol 1 Num 3: October 2006
Credits, Issue 3
Written by Jim Baen's Universe! Staff
Jim Baen's Universe, Volume 1 Number 3
This is a work of fiction. All the characters and events portrayed in this magazine are fictional, and any resemblance to real people or incidents is purely coincidental.
Copyright © 2006 by Jim Baen's Universe
A Baen Publishing Enterprises Publication
Jim Baen's Universe
P. O. Box 7488
Moore, OK 73153-1488
"All the Things You Are " Copyright © 2006 by Mike Resnick
"The Old Woman In the Young Woman" Copyright © 2006 by Gene Wolfe
"Every Hole is Outlined" Copyright © 2006 by John Barnes
"A Time to Kill" Copyright © 2006 by S. Andrew Swann
"The Man Who Wasn't There" Copyright © 2006 by Gregory Benford
"Little Sips" Copyright © 2006 by Barbara J. Ferrenz
"Great Minds" Copyright © 2006 by Edward M. Lerner
"The Power of Illusion" Copyright © 2006 by Christopher Anvil
"Protection Money" Copyright © 2006 by Wen Spencer
"Baby Girl" Copyright © 2006 by Jon Skovron
"Femme Fatale" Copyright © 2006 by Jason Wittman
"Gnome Improvement" Copyright © 2006 by Rebecca Lickiss
"A Hire Power" Copyright © 2006 by J. Simon
"Travails With Momma, Episode 3" Copyright © 2006 by John Ringo
"Fish Story, Episode 3" Copyright © 2006 by Dave Freer, Eric Flint and Andrew Dennis
"The Men in the Mirror" Copyright © 2006 by Steven Ray
"Songbird" Copyright © 2006 by Jeremiah Sturgill
"Devil May Care" Copyright © 2006 by Jason Kahn
"Doing a Slow Turn" Copyright © 2006 by David Brin
"Terraforming: A Bumpy Road Ahead" Copyright © 2006 by B. B. Kristopher
"A Matter of Fact" by Rudyard Kipling was first published in 1892
First electronic publication: October 2006
All the Things You Are
Written by Mike Resnick
Illustrated by Pamelina H.
You wouldn't think they'd be so dumb. Here they were, in the biggest spaceport in the country, with hundreds of holo cameras covering every inch of the place, and these three jerks actually think they're going to get away with robbing the currency exchange.
Okay, so they got a couple of ceramic pistols past our security devices and reassembled them in the men's room, and all right, another one managed to sneak a couple of steak knives out of one of the restaurants, but hell, did they think we were just going to sit on our hands and let them waltz out with their loot?
I hadn't seen much action during my four years in the space service, and after all those months of intensive training I'd almost been hoping for something like this. I'd been at OceanPort for three weeks, and was wondering why they even bothered with a live Security team, since their automated systems were so efficient that they discouraged anything worse than spitting on the floor.
Well, now I knew.
The men with the pistols were holding the crowd at bay, and the guy with the knife had grabbed a girl—not a woman, but a kid about twelve years old—and was holding the knife at her throat.
"Don't move on them," said the voice in my ear. "We've got to get the girl away from them unharmed, and we can't have them shooting into the crowd."
That was Captain Symmes. He was just spouting the routine and stating the platitudes: they've been identified, we can trace them wherever they go, they're dead men walking, so don't endanger any bystanders. If we don't nail them here, we'll nail them somewhere up the road. They have to eat, they have to sleep; we don't. Whatever they think they're going to escape in, we'll sugar their gas, rupture their jets, fuck with their nuclear pile. (I kept waiting for him to say we'd also put tacks in their track shoes, but he didn't.)
"Show yourselves, but don't approach him," said Symmes' voice. "If they're going to take a shot at someone, better us than the civilians."
Well, it was better us if we remembered to put on our bulletproof longjohns. Most of us had, and the ones who hadn't were too frightened to say so. An enraged Captain Symmes could be one hell of a lot more formidable than a ceramic bullet from a homemade pistol.
I stepped out from my station, and found myself about fifty yards from the trio. The crowd parted before them like the Red Sea before Moses, and they slowly made their way to the door. Then something caught my eye. It was a well-dressed middle-aged man, not fat or skinny but not especially well-built. While everyone else had moved away, he had simply turned his back and taken just a step or two.
Damn! I thought. It's too bad you're not one of us. You could just about reach the son of a bitch with the knife.
And even as the thought crossed my mind, the man spun around, chopped down on the knife-holder's arm, and sent the weapon clattering to the floor. The little girl broke and ran toward the crowd, but I was watching the man who'd freed her. He didn't have any weapons, and he sure didn't handle his body like an athlete, but he was charging the two guys with the guns.
They turned and fired their weapons. He went down on one knee, his chest a bloody mess, then launched himself at the nearer one's legs. The poor bastard never had a chance; he picked up four more bullets for his trouble.
Of course, the bad guys never had a chance, either. The second they concentrated on him, we all pulled our weapons and began firing—bullets, lasers, long-range tasers, you name it. All three were dead before they hit the floor.
I could see that Connie Neff was running over to the girl to make sure she was okay, so I raced up to the guy who'd taken all the bullets. He was in a bad way, but he was still breathing. Someone else had called for an ambulance. It arrived within two minutes, and they loaded him onto an airsled, shoved it in the back, and took off for Miami. I decided to ride with him. I mean, hell, he'd risked his life, probably lost it, to save that little girl. Someone who wasn't a doctor ought to be there if he woke up.
OceanPort is eight miles off the Miami Coast, and the ambulance shuttle got us to the hospital in under a minute, though it took another forty seconds to set it down gently so as not to do any further damage to the patient.
I'd pulled his wallet and ID out and studied them. His name was Myron Seymour, he was forty-eight years old and—as far as I could tell—retired. Still had the serial number of the chip the military had embedded in him when he enlisted. The rest was equally unexceptional: normal height, normal weight, normal this, normal that.
He didn't look much like a hero, but then, I'd never seen a real bonafide hero before, so I couldn't actually say what they looked like.
"Good God," said an orderly who'd come out to the ship to help move Seymour to the emergency room. "Him again!"
"He's been here before?" I asked, surprised.
"Three times, maybe four," was the reply. "I'll swear the son of a bitch is trying to get himself killed."
I was still puzzling over that remark when Seymour went into surgery. He came out, heavily sedated and in grave condition, three hours later.
"Is he going to make it?" I asked the same orderly, who was guiding the airsled into a recovery room.
"Not a chance," he said.
"How much time as he got?"
He shrugged. "A day at the outside, probably less. Once we hook him up to all the machines we'll have a better idea."
"Any chance he'll be able to talk?" I asked. "Or at least understand me if I talk to him?"
"You never know."
"Mind if I stick around?"
He smiled. "You're walking around with a badge, three lethal weapons that I can see, and probably a couple of more I can't see. Who am I to tell you you can't stay?"
I grabbed a sandwich in the hospital's restaurant, called in to OceanPort to make sure I wasn't needed right away, then went up to the recovery room. Each of the patients was partitioned off from the others, and it took me a couple of minutes to find Seymour. He was lying there, a dozen machines monitoring all his vital functions, five tubes dripping fluids of various colors and consistencies into arms, an oxygen tube up his nostrils, bandages everywhere, and hints of blood starting to seep through the dressings.
I figured it was a waste of time, that he was never going to wake up again, but I stuck around for another hour, just to pay my respects to the man who'd saved a little girl's life. Then, as I was about to leave, his eyelids flickered and opened. His lips moved, but I couldn't hear him, so I pulled my chair over to the bed.
"Welcome back," I said gently.
"Is she here?" he whispered.
"The girl you saved?" I said. "No, she's fine. She's with her parents."
"No, not her," he said. He could barely move his head, but he tried to look around the room. "She's got to be here this time!"
"Who's got to be here?" I asked. "Who are you talking about?"
"Where is she?" he rasped. "This time I'm dying. I can tell."
"You're going to be fine," I lied.
"Not unless she gets here pretty damned soon." He tried to sit up, but was too weak and sprawled back on the bed. "Is the door unlocked?"
"There isn't any door," I said. "You're in the recovery ward."
He looked genuinely puzzled. "Then where is she?"
"Whoever it is, she probably doesn't know you've been wounded," I said.
"She knows," he said with absolute certainty.
"Was she at the spaceport?"
He shook his head weakly. "She wasn't even on the planet," he said.
"You're sure you don't want me to ask at the desk?"
"You can't. She doesn't have a name."
"Everyone's got a name."
He uttered a sigh of resignation. "If you say so."
I was starting to feel sorry I'd stuck around. I wasn't bringing him any comfort, and his answers weren't making any sense.
"Can you tell me anything about her?" I asked, making one more attempt to be helpful before I packed it in and went home.
I thought he was going to answer, he certainly looked like he was trying to say something, but then he passed out. A couple of minutes later all the machines he was hooked up to started going haywire, and a couple of young doctors raced into the room.
"Is he dead?" I asked.
"Out!" ordered one of the doctors.
They bent over the bed, going to work on him, and I figured I'd only be in the way if I stayed there, so I walked out into the corridor. Before long they emerged from the room.
"Is he dead?" I asked again.
"Yeah," answered one of them. "Were you a friend of his?"
I shook my head. "No. I just brought him here from the spaceport."
The doctors walked down the corridor, going to wherever doctors go when they've lost a patient, and a couple of orderlies showed up with an airsled. One of them was the one I'd spoken to before.
"I told you he wouldn't last a day," he said. "Why do these guys think they can charge into a stream of bullets or lasers and come away in one piece?"
"These guys?" I repeated.
"Yeah. This is the second one this month. There was this guy, maybe three weeks back. He stumbles upon a bank robbery, and instead of calling the cops he just lowers his head and charges these four armed guys." He exhaled deeply and shook his head. "Poor bastard never got within twenty yards of them."
"Was he D.O.A.?" I asked.
"Close to it," replied the orderly. "He was sure someone was coming to be with him, and was desperate to make sure everyone at Admissions knew where to send her."
"I think it was a her." He shrugged. "I could be wrong. He wasn't making much sense. I thought he couldn't remember his name for a couple of minutes. Turns out he was right and I was wrong. Daniel Daniels. Funny name." His companion started shifting his weight uneasily. "If you don't have any more questions, we've got to schlep this guy down to the basement for an autopsy. We were on our break, but we're a little short-handed this week."
I stepped aside to let them go into the room, and decided it was time to return to the spaceport. But just for the hell of it, I stopped by Admissions before I left and asked if anyone had inquired about Seymour.
No one had.
* * *
When I got back to my office, I was still curious, so I had the computer hunt up with little there was on Seymour and on Daniel Daniels. Seymour was easy; born and raised in Miami, went to college here, spent nine years in the space service, honorably discharged after getting shot all to hell in a firefight on Kobernykov II, informally known as Nikita. Came back home, got a real estate license, and was selling beachfront property until two years ago, when he suddenly seemed determined to prove he was either a hero or bulletproof or both. Since then he'd tried to throw his life away three different times; the first two times the hospital made him keep it, this time they didn't.
Daniels was harder. There were actually four Daniel Daniels living in Miami at the start of the year. You'd think their parents would have had a little more creativity. Two were still around. One had died of relatively natural causes at the age of ninety-three. And then there was the one the orderly had told me about.
He was thirty-three years old. Dropped out of school at sixteen, signed a couple of minor-league soccer contracts, got cut both times, joined the space service when he was twenty, served seven years, got out on a medical discharge, and had been going from one menial job to another ever since.
I checked the medical discharge. He got it after catching some serious flak on Nikita. He recovered physically, but he'd been seeing a shrink for depression for four years before the night he tried to take on a gang of teenaged hoods and got turned into an animated cinder for his trouble. It took them a year to put him back together with a brand-new epidermis—and damned if he didn't go out and do something equally suicidal a month later. Even the police weren't sure what happened—they found him after all the shooting was over—but he was filled with so much lead of so many different calibers that he had to have taken on at least six armed men.
And that was it: two unexceptional men who had nothing in common but the town they lived in and the planet they'd served on, each willingly faced certain death for no apparent reason—and then, when they were saved, went right out and faced it again.
I was still pondering it when Captain Symmes called me into his office to give him my report. I told him what I'd observed, which matched all the other reports, and then figured I was done.
"Just a minute," he said as I was turning to leave.
"Sir?" I said.
"You accompanied him to the hospital. Why?"
"I was hoping he might be able to tell me why he willingly put himself at such risk," I answered. "I thought maybe he knew something about the men we killed."
"And did he?"
I shook my head. "We'll never know. He only regained consciousness for perhaps a minute after surgery, and then he died."
"I wonder what the hell made him do it?" mused Captain Symmes.
"I wondered, too," I said. "So I ran computer checks on him and on Daniels . . ."
"Daniels?" he said sharply. "Who's Daniels?"
"Another man who threw his life away the same way," I said. "But the only things they had in common were that they lived here and they both saw action on Kobernykov II."
"Kobernykov II," he repeated. "Is that the one they call Nikita?"