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SantiagoA Myth of the Far Future
By Resnick, Mike
Tor Science FictionCopyright © 1992 Resnick, Mike
All right reserved.
Giles Sans Pitié is a spinning wheel,
With the eye of a hawk and a fist made of steel.
He'll drink a whole gallon while holding his breath,
And wherever he goes his companion is Death.
There never was a history written about the Inner Frontier, so Black Orpheus took it upon himself to set one to music. His name wasn't really Orpheus (though he was black). In fact, rumor had it that he had been an aquaculturist back in the Deluros system before he fell in love. The girl's name was Eurydice, and he followed her out to the stars, and since he had left all his property behind, he had nothing to give her but his music, so he took the name of Black Orpheus and spent most of his days composing love songs and sonnets to her. Then she died, and he decided to stay on the Inner Frontier, and he began writing an epic balled about the traders and hunters and outlaws and misfits that he came across. In fact, you didn't officially stop being a tenderfoot or a tourist until the day he added a stanza or two about you to the song.
Anyway, Giles Sans Pitié made quite an impression on him, because he appears in nine different verses, which is an awful lot when you're being the Homer for five hundred worlds. Probably it was the steel hand that did it. No one knew how he'd lost his real one,but he showed up on the Frontier one day with a polished steel fist at the end of his left arm, announced that he was the best bounty hunter ever born, foaled, whelped, or hatched, and proceeded to prove that he wasn't too far from wrong. Like most bounty hunters, he only touched down on outpost worlds when he wasn't working and like most bounty hunters, he had a pretty regular route that he followed. Which was how he came to be on Keepsake, in the Tradertown of Moritat, in Gentry's Emporium, pounding on the long wooden bar with his steel fist and demanding service.
Old Geronimo Gentry, who had spent thirty years prospecting the worlds of the Inner Frontier before he chucked it all and opened a tavern and whorehouse on Moritat, where he carefully sampled every product before offering, it to the public, walked over with a fresh bottle of Altairian rum, then held it back as Giles Sans Pitié reached for it.
"Tab's gettin' pretty high," he commented meaningfully.
The bounty hunter slapped a wad of bills down on the bar.
"Maria Theresa dollars," noted Gentry, examining them approvingly and relinquishing the bottle. "Wherever'd you pick 'em up?"
"The Corvus system."
"Took care of a little business there, did you?" said Gentry, amused.
Giles Sans Pitié smiled humorlessly. "A little."
He reached inside his shirt and withdrew three Wanted posters of the Suliman brothers, which until that morning had been on the post office wall. Each poster had a large red X scratched across it.
"All three of 'em?"
The bounty hunter nodded.
"You shoot 'em, or did you use that?" asked Gentry, pointing toward Giles Sans Pitié's steel fist.
Giles Sans Pitié help up his metal hand. "Yes, I shot them of I used this."
Gentry shrugged. "Goin' out again soon?"
"In the next few days."
"Where to this time?"
"That's nobody's business but mine," said the bounty hunter.
"Just thought I might offer some friendly advice," said Gentry.
"If you're thinking of going of to Praeteep Four, forget it. The Songbird just got back from there."
"You mean Cain?"
Gentry nodded. "Had a lot of money, so I'd have to guess that he found what he went looking for."
The bounty hunter frowned. "I'm going to have to have a little talk with him," he said. "The Praeteep system's got a Keep Out sign posted on it."
"Oh?" said Gentry. "Since when?"
"Since I put it up," said Giles Sans Pitié firmly. "And I won't have some rival headhunter doing his poaching there and picking it clean." He paused. "Where can I find him?"
Giles Sans Pitié looked around the room. A silver-haired gambler on a winning streak, decked out in bring new clothes made from some glittering metallic fabric, stood at the far end of the bar; a young woman with melancholy eyes sat alone at a table in the corner; and scattered around the large, dimly lit tavern were some two dozen other men and women, in pairs and groups, some conversing in low tones, others sitting in silence.
"I don't see him." announced the bounty hunter.
"It's early yet," replied Gentry. "He'll be along."
"What makes you think so?"
"I've got the only booze and the only sportin' ladies in Moritat. Where do you think he's gonna go?"
"There are a lot of worlds out there."
"True," admitted Gentry. "But people get tired of worlds after a while. Ask me--I know."
"Then what are you doing on the Frontier?"
"People get tired of people, too. There's a lot less of 'em out here-and I got me my fancy ladies to cheer me up if ever I get to feelin' lonely." He paused. "'Course, if you want to hear the story of my life, you're gonna have a buy a couple of bottles of my best drinkin' stuff. Then you and me, we'll mosey on out to one of the back rooms and I'll start with chapter one."
The bounty hunter reached out for the bottle. "I think I can live without it," he said.
"You'll be missing gout on one helluva good story," said Gentry. "I done a lot of interesting things. Seen sights even a killer like you ain't likely ever to see." "Some other time."
"Your loss," said Gentry with a shrug. "You gonna want a glass with that?"
"Not necessary," said Giles Sans Pitié lifting the bottle and taking a long swallow. When he was through, he wiped his mouth with the back of his hand. "How long before he gets here?"
"You got time for a quick one, if that's what you mean," said Gentry. "Just give me a minute to check and see which of my frail flowers ain't working this minute." Suddenly he turned to the doorway. "Whoops! Here he sis now. Guess you'll have to go loveless a little longer." He waved his hand. "How're you doin', Songbird?"
The tall, lean man, his face angular and almost gaunt, his eyes dark and work-weary, approached the bar. His jacket and pants were a nondescript brown, their many pockets filled with shapeless bulges that could mean almost anything on the Frontier. Only his boots stood out, not because they were new, but rather because they were so demonstrably old, obviously carefully tended yet unable to hold a polish.
"My name's Cain," said the newcomer. "You know that."
"Well, it ain't what they call you these days."
"It's what you'll call me if you want my business," replied Cain.
"But Black Orpheus, now, he's got you all written up as the Songbird," persisted Gentry.
"I don't sing, I'm not a bird, and I don't much care what some half-baked folksinger writes y shrugged. "Have it your way--and while we're on the subject, what else'll you have?"
"He'll have Altairian rum, like me," interjected Giles Sans Pitié.
"I will?" asked Cain, turning to him.
"My treat." The bounty hunter held up his bottle. "Come on over to a table and join me, Sebastian Cain."
Cain watched him walk across the room for a moment, then shrugged and followed him.
"I hear you had pretty good luck on Praeteep Four," said Giles Sans Pitié when both men had seated themselves.
"Luck had nothing to do with it," replied Cain, leaning back comfortably on his chair. "I understand you didm't do too badly yourself."
"Not so. I had to cheat."
"I don't think I follow you."
I had to shoot the third one." Giles Sans Pitié up his steel fist. "I like to take them with this." He paused. "Did your man give you much trouble?"
"Some," said Cain noncommittally.
"Have to chase him far?"
"You're sure not the most expansive raconteur I've ever run across," chuckled giles Sans Pitié.
Cain shrugged. "Talk is cheap."
"Not always. Suliman Hari offered me thirty thousand credits to let him live."
"I thanked him for his offer, explained that the price on his head was up to fifty thousand, and gave him a faceful of metal."
"And of course you didn't then take thirty thousand credits off his body without reporting it," said Cain sardonically.
Giles Sans Pitié frowned. "The son of a bitch only had two thousand on him," he growled righteously.
"I guess there's just no honor among thieves."
"None. I can't get over the bastarde lying to me!" He paused. "So tell me, Cain--who will you be going out after next?"
Cain smiled. "Professional secret. You know better than to ask."
"True," agreed Giles Sans Pitié. "But everyone's allowed a breach of etiquette now and then. For example, you know better than to make a kill in the Prateep system, but you did it anyway."
"The man I was hunting went there," replied Cain calmly. "No disrespect intended, but I wasn't going to let four months' work go down the drain just because you think you own the deed to an entire solar system."
"I opened that system," said Giles Sans Pitié. "Named every planet in it." He paused. "Still, it's an acceptable answer. I forgive you your trespass."
"I don't recall asking for absolution," said Cain.
"Just the same, it't freely given. This time," he added ominously. "But it would be a good idea for you to remember that there are rules out here on the Frontier."
"Oh? I hadn't noticed any."
"Nevertheless, they exist--and they're made by the people who can enforce them."
"I'll keep it in mind."
"See that you do."
"Or you'll brain me with your metal hand?" asked Cain
"It'll a possibility."
"What's so funny?" demanded Giles Sans Pitié.
"You're a bounty hunter."
"Bounty hunters don't kill people for free. Who's going to pay you to kill me?" "I've got to protect what's mine," replied Giles Sans Pitié seriously. "I just want to be sure that we understand each other: if you go poaching on my territory again, we're going to come to blows." He slammed his metal hand down on the table, putting a large dent in it. "Mine are usually harder." "I imagine they are," said Cain.
"Then you'll steer clear of Praeteep?"
"I'm not aware of any pressing business engagements there."
"That's not exactly the answer I was looking for."
"I'd suggest you settle for it," said Cain. "It's the best you're going to get."
Giles Sans Pitié stared at him for a moment, then shrugged. "It could be years before anyone hides there again, maybe even longer. I suppose there's no law that says we can't behave cordially in the meantime."
"I'm all for living in peace with my fellow man," said Cain agreeably.
Giles Sans Pitié looked amused. "You picked a mighty strange profession for a man who feels that way."
"Well, shall we talk?"
"What about?" repeated Giles Sans Pitié mockingly. "What do two bounty hunters Ever talk about when they meet over a bottle of rum?"
And so they feel to discussing Santiago.
They spoke of the worlds where he was most recently thought to have been, and the crimes he was most recently thought to have committed. Both had heard the rumor that he had robbed a mining colony on Bemor VIII; both discounted it. Both also had heard that a caravan of unmanned cargo ships had been plundered in the Antares region; Cain thought it might well be the work of Santiago, while his companion felt he was far more likely to have been on Doradus IV at the time, masterminding a triple assassination. They exchanged information about the planets they themselves had been to without finding any trace of him, and of the other bounty hunters they had encountered who had added still more planets to the list.
"Who's after him now?" asked Giles Sans Pitié when their tallies had been completed.
"I mean, who most recently?"
"I hear the Angel has moved into the area," answered Cain.
"What makes you think he's come for Santiago?"
Cain merely stared at him.
"Stupid remark," said Giles Sans Pitié. "Forget I made it." He paused. "The Angel's supposed to be just about the best."
"So they say."
"I thought he worked the Outer Frontier, somewhere way out on the Rim."
Cain nodded. "I guess he decided Santiago's not there're;
"I can name you a million place Santiago isn't," said Giles Sans Pitié. "Why do you suppose he thinks he's on the Inner Frontier?"
"Do you think he's got a source?" persisted Giles Sans Pitié.
"It's more than possible," he said after a moment's consideration. "He wouldn't move his base of operations halfway across the galaxy if he didn't have hard information. What planet is he working out off?"
"How many worlds are there out there?" replied Cain with a shrug. "Take your choice."
Giles Sans Pité frowned. "Still, he might know something worth listening to."
"What makes you think he'll talk to you, even if you find him?"
"Because the one thing bounty hunters never lie about is Santiago; you know that. As long as he stays alive, he makes all of us look bad."
"Maybe the Angle does thing differently where he comes from," suggested Cain.
"Then I'll just to explain the ground rules to him." said Giles Sans Pitié.
"I wish you luck."
"Interested ied his companion. "And you will make an effort to keep out of the Praeteep system from now on, won't you?" He flexed his steel fist. "I'd hate to give you an object lesson about trespassing."
"Not really," was the frank answer.
Cain made no reply, and a moment later Giles San Pitié placed the empty bottle on the bar, left enough money to cover another on he ordered for Cain, promised Gentry he'd be back to sample some nonalcoholic wares later in the evening, and walked out into the hot, humid night air of Moritat in search of some dinner.
Gentry finished serving the girl with the melancholy eyes, then brought the bottle over to Cain's table.
"What is it?" asked Cain, staring at the clear liquid.
"Something they brew out Altair way," replied the old man. "Tastes kind of like gin."
"I don't like gin."
"I know," replied Gentry with a chuckle. "That's why I'm just dead certain you're gonna invite me to sit down with you and help you drink it."
Cain sighed. "Have a seat, old man."
"Thank you. Don't mind if I do." He lowered himself carefully to a chair, uncorked the bottle, and took a swallow. "Good stuff, if I say so myself."
"You could save a hell of a lot of money by not supplying glasses," remarked Cain. "Nobody around here seems to use them."
"Savin' money ain't one of my problems," replied Gentry. "And from what I hear, makin' it ain't one of yours."
Cain said nothing, and the old man took another swallow and continued speaking.
"Did old Giles Without Pity warn you off the Praeteep system?" he asked.
"Until the next time I have business there," replied Cain.
The old man laughed. "Good for you, Songbird! Old Steelfist is geetin' a little big for his britches these days."
"I'm getting tired of telling you what my name is," said Cain irritably.
"If you didn't want to be a legend, you shouldn't have come out here. Two hundred years from now that's the only name people'll know you by."
"Two hundred years from now I won't have to listen to them."
"Besides," continued Gentry, "Songbird ain't on any Wanted posters. I seen Sebastian Cain on a flock of 'em."
"That was a long time ago."
"Don't go gettin' defensive about it," chuckled the old man. "I seen posters on just about all you bounty hunters at one time or another. Ain't no skin off my as. Hell, if Santiago himself walked in the door and asked for one of my sportin' gals, I'd trot him out the prettiest one I've got."
"For all you know, he already has," remarked Cain."
"Not a chance," said Gentry. "He ain't that hard to spot."
"Eleven feet there inches, with orange hair?" asked Cain with an amused smile.
"You start huntin' for a man who looks like that and you're going to be out here a long, long time."
"What do you think he looks like?"
The old man took a small swallow from the bottle.
"Don't know," he admitted. "Do know one thing, though. Know he's got a scar shaped like this"--he traced a crooked S on the table--"on the back on his right hand."
"Sure he does."
"Truth!" said the old man vigorously. "I know a man who saw him."
"Nobody's seen him," replied Cain. "Or at least, nobody who's seen him knew it was him."
"That's all you know about it," said Gentry. "Man I used to run with spent a couple of weeks in jail with him."
Cain looked bored. "Santiago's never been arrested. If he had been, we'd all know what he looked like."
"They didn't know it was him."
"Then now come you friend knew?"
"'Cause Santiago's gang broke him out, and one of 'em, called him by name."
"Here I am offerin' to do you a favor, and you turn your nose up at it," said Gentry. "Damned good thing for you I'm an old man who ain't go the where with all to give you a thrashing for insulting me like that."
"I though maybe you might be interested in knowing who my friend is and where you can find him."
"There are half a dozen bounty hunters who frequent this place," said Cain. "Why give it to me?"
"Well, now, give ain't exactly the term I had in mind," answered Gentry with a grin. "Name like that, name of a man who actually spent some time with Santiago, it ought to be worth a little something now, shouldn't it?"
There was a momentary silence.
"I didn't hear no cash offer yet."
"Let's get back to my question," said Cain. "Why me"
"Oh, it ain't just you," said Gentry. "Said it to Barnaby Wheeler a couple of months ago, but I heard on the grapevine that he got killed chasing down some fugitive or other. And I offered it to Peacemaker MacDougal just last week, but he didn't want to come up with no money. And I'll see if I can't tempt old Steelfist with it before he takes advantage of one of my poor innocents tonight." He smiled. "I got to be fair to all my customers."
"People have been after Santiago for thirty years or more," said Cain. "If you have any information worth selling, why did you wait until now to put it on the market?"
"I ain't got anything against Santiago," said the old man. "He ain't ever done me any harm. Besides, the longer he stays free, the longer you guy'll stay on the Frontier lookin' for him, and the longer you stay out here, the more money you'll spend at Gentray's Emporium."
"Then what caused this change of heart?"
"Hear tell the Angel has moved in. Woudln't want no outsider picking up the bounty fee."
"What makes you think he will?" asked Cain.
"You know what they say about him," replied Gentry. "He's the best. I'll bet you Black Orpheus gives him a good twenty verses when he finally gets around to meetin's him. So," said the old man, taking yet another swig, "I'm hedging my bets as best I can. The Angel collects that money, he'll be back on the Rim before he has a chance to spend it. But if you get it, you'll spend a goodly chunk of it on Keepsake."
"If I don't retire."
"Oh, you won't retire," said Gentry with assurance. "Men like you and Sans Pitié and the Angel, you like killing too damned much to quit. It's in your blood, like wanderlust in a young buck."
"I don't like killing," replied Cain.
"Gonna give me that bounty hunter guff about how you only kill people for money?" said the old man with a sarcastic laugh.
"That makes you the first honest one I've met. How many men did you kill for free before you found out there was gold in it--two? Three?"
"More than hope you can imagine," relars if you got any."
"I haven't seen a Bonaparte franc in ten years." said Cain. "I don't think they're in circulation anymore."
"I hear tell they're still using 'em in the Binder system."
"Let's make it credits."
The old man did a quick mental calculation. "I think ten thousand would do me just fine."
"For the name of a man who might or might not have seen Santiago ten or twenty years ago?" Cain shook his head. "That's too much."
"Not for a man like you," Gentry. "I saw the poster for the body you brought in. I know how much you got for it."
"And what if this man is dead, or if it turns out he didn't see Santiago after all? "
"Then you got a free pass to fertilize my flowers for a full month."
"I visited your garden last night," said Cain. "It needs weeding."
"What are you quibbling about?" demanded Gentry,. "How long have you been on the Frontier. Cain?"
"In all that time, have you ever met anyone whe's seen Santiago? Here I am offering you what you ain't never found before, for maybe a tenth of what you just picked up on Praeteep, and you're haggling like some Dabih fur trader! If you're gonna just sit there and insult the most beautiful blossoms on the Frontier and haggle with an old man who ain't got the stamina to haggle back, we ain't going to be able to do no business."
Cain stared at him for a moment, then spoke.
"I'll tell you what, old man. I'll give you twenty thousand."
"There's catch," said Gentry suspiciously.
"There's condition," replied Cain. "You don't supply the name to anyone else."
Gentry frowned. "Ever?"
"For six months."
"Make it four."
"Deal," said Cain. "And if you're lying, may God have more mercy on your soul than I will."
"Ain't got no reason to lie. Only two more of you fellers due in here in the next four months, which means one of 'em's probably dead, and there's only a fifty-fifty chance the other'd come up with the money. Not everyone makes out as well as you and Sans Pitié."
"All right. Where do I find this man?"
"I ain't seen no money yet."
Cain pulled out a sheaf of bills, peeled off the top twenty, and placed them on the table. Gentry picked them up one at a time, held each up to the light, and finally nodded his head and placed them in this pocket.
"Ever hear of a world named Port étrange?"
Cain shook his head. "Where is it?"
"It's the seventh planet in the Bellermaine system. That's where he'll be.
"And his name?"
"How do I locate him?"
"Just pass the word you're looking for him. He'll find you."
"What's he like?" asked Cain.
"A real sweet feller, once you get used to couple of his little peculiarities."
"Well, he drinks too much and he cheats at cards, and he ain't real fond of people or animals or aliens, and he out-and-out hates priest and women, and he's been known to have an occasional disagreement with the constabularies. But taken all in all, he's no worse than most that you find out here, and probably better'n some."
"Shoud I use your name?"
"It ought to get him to sit up and take notice," said Gentry. "When are you planning on leaving?"
"Tonight," said Cain, getting to his feet.
"Damn!" said Gentry. "If I'd of known you were that anxious, I could've held out for thirty!"
"I'm not anxious. I just don't have any reason to stay here."
"I got seven absolutely splendid reasons, each and every one personally selected and trained by Moritat's very favorite son, namely me."
"Maybe next time around."
"You got something better to spend it on?"
"That depends on whether you told me the truth or not," said Cain, walking to the door. Suddenly he stopped and turned to Gentry. "By the way, I assume your friend Stern is going to want to be paid for this?"
"I imagine so. Man sells his soul to the devil, he spends the rest of his life trying to stockpile enough money to buy it back." Gentry chuckled with amusement. "Have fun, Songbird."
"That's not my name."
"Tell you what," said Gentry. "You bring in the head of Santiago, and I'll hold a gun to old Orpheus until he gets it right."
"You've got yourself a deal," promised Cain.
Copyright 1986 by Mike Resnick
Excerpted from Santiago by Resnick, Mike Copyright © 1992 by Resnick, Mike. Excerpted by permission.
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