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"Place of residence?"
"Seventh Base, Jupiterian Development Unit stationed on Ganymede."
"Reason for visiting Luna?"
"I'm checking on performance of the new Dahlmeyer units in the Mare Nubium fields. We're thinking of adapting them for use in our Trendart field on Ganymede."
"I see..." The port inspector fumbled through my papers, "Where's your cellemental analysis sheet?"
I shrugged "What would I be doing with a cell-sheet? I'm a mining engineer, not a damn bureaucrat."
The way I said it made it good for a laugh, but the inspector just pawed some more at my papers, not even smiling. "New regulation. Everyone's got to pass a cell-check now."
"But I've got clearance?"
"That don't matter. All routine clearances are cancelled." The inspector handed back my papers, jerked a thumb over his shoulder. "Go to the last window. They'll fix you up with a sheet and check it."
I went on over to the window and waited while two men in white coats shoved a Van Cize celloscope up against a sad-faced, middle-aged woman's spine.
Then she moved on, and it was my turn.
The younger of the two white-coats adjusted the filter against the back of my neck. I decided he looked half human. "What's the idea?"
He grinned. "Mek trouble. Some idiot picked up a rumor that the Society's sending an agent to Luna, so Security orders cell-sheets for everybody. Me, I think it's a waste of time. If those damned Meks are running a man in, he'll be under his own name. But you can't tell Security that." He stripped the sheet out of the celloscope. "Wait here a minute. This won't take long."
He stepped across to thecheck-frame, and I leaned back against the wall.
The port looked just about the way that I remembered it. A little older, maybe; a little dirtier. That was all.
A couple of other Aurora passengers drifted up to the window to get the cell-sheets. They looked nervous. So did the others, the long lines of men and women still waiting for the port inspectors to check their papers.
I hummed a little tune. Because I didn't have to feel nervous. No one could identify me as Alan Lord, Mek agent--he lay back at The Center in A nutriton unit. I was Robert Travis, mining engineer, come all the way from Ganymede to Luna on legitimate business that anyone could check.
At least, for now I was.
I rubbed my elbow past the neurotron taped flat to my ribs; ran my hand over the spare strapped against my belly. A wonderful little invention, the neurotron. Given that, and my pulsator and my com-set, I could go anywhere. Anywhere!
Young white-coat came back. "Travis..."
I turned. "That's me."
"You're clear." He handed me the cell-sheet. "Go on over through that door to baggage inspection."
The sad-faced woman was ahead of me at the counter. A customs man had her stuff spread out all over the counter. An octagonal metal case about eight inches each way stood in the center of it. The inspector was tapping the case and shaking his head.
I caught the tail end of what he was saying: "...but it's FedGov property, and there's no way in this world or any other that I can let you keep it without a special release."
The woman's face was white as alsop leather. I could see her lower lip quiver. "But it's all I've got!" she choked. "My husband's dead, crashed there on Ceres, and one of the search crew brought me back this astronometer. He was holding it, they said--holding it."
She broke off, digging her chin down against her chest, sobbing in that awful, agonizing, silent way some women have. Looking at her, I suddenly saw Maurine instead, that night so long ago, the night she'd cried.
For all the years, my throat drew tight.
The baggage man looked past the woman to me, brow furrowing, and spread his hands in a helpless gesture. "Lady, I'm sorry, believe me! But even if I let you take it, they'd catch it at the raybot."
I swung round, not too fast, searching for it.
It stood at the far end of the counter, close by the door, where every person who went out would have to pass it.
My neurotrons would get through all right. So would the pulsator. But the com-set...
"I'm sorry, lady," the baggage man said again. He was stuffing the woman's possessions back into the cases now. "Believe me, I'm sorry."
He picked up the astronometer and bent to put it underneath the counter.
I shot one quick glance around. No one was near; no one was watching. The woman still had her face hidden in her hands.
I slipped the pulsator--it was fitted into a writer case for camouflage purposes--out of my pocket and flipped the button. Before the baggage man could straighten, I leaned across the counter and touched it to his shoulder.
He gave a convulsive jerk and sprawled flat on his face on the floor.
I vaulted the counter and dropped to my knees beside him, dragging one of the woman's blouses with me.
Other customs men were turning, staring. "His heart!" I clipped. "Quick! Get a doctor!"
Rolling the unconscious man over, I straightened his legs. That took me half-way under the counter--and under cover--back where the astronometer lay. Twisting open the adjustment panel, I shoved my com-set inside the case, then slapped the panel shut again and wadded the blouse around the bulky instrument.
Two customs men dragged my victim out into the open. I rose and skidded the astronometer across the counter, into the sad-faced woman's welter of possessions.
She stared at me blankly.
"He dropped it, Miss?" I, glanced at her papers, "Mrs. Nordstrom. I hope it's not damaged."
Her blue eyes widened with sudden understanding. Hastily, she fitted the astronometer into one of her suitcases.
I turned to the nearest customs man. "This poor woman's husband was just killed in a crash on Ceres. Can't you get her out of here? He," I nodded toward the prostrate inspector, "was helping her repack when he collapsed."
He glanced at the litter. "Sorry, this had to happen, ma'am. Sure, go ahead." He turned back to the man on the floor.
"Hasn't someone even gotten some water yet?" I demanded. "You people sure would have a hell of a time in a mining camp!" I elbowed my way past the inspectors and ran down the aisle behind the counter towards the raybot.
The switch was on the back, just as I remembered. I brushed hard against it. It snapped off.
I turned around and ran back. "No water at this end. Where in hell's the water?"
One of the customs men glowered at me. "What's it to you, Mister? And what are you doing behind this counter, anyhow?"
I glared back. "If that's the way you feel about it?"
"That's just the way we feel about it! Get back on your own side." The inspector's ears were pink. "Here. Where's your baggage? I'll check it myself."
Out of the corner of my eye, I could see Mrs. Nordstrom hesitate momentarily by the raybot, then step onto the scanner platform, luggage in hand.
Quickly, she went on out the street door.
"Well, you, what about it?" the customs man grunted. "Can't you spot your stuff?"
I glanced down at the man who'd taken the jolt from my pulsator.
His mouth opened; closed; opened again. Noisily, he sucked in air.
Five more minutes and he'd feel as fit as ever.
"Well?" It was Old Sorehead again.
"Right there, behind your man." I pointed to Robert Travis' bags. "That twin chronel jobs."