The Stainless Steel Rat's Revenge is a novel by Harry Harrison, author of innumerable science fiction novels and stories.
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About the Author
Harry Harrison, author of innumerable science fiction novels and stories, divides his time between Ireland and California.
HARRY HARRISON was the Hugo Award-nominated, Nebula Award-winning and New York Times bestselling author of the Stainless Steel Rat, Deathworld, and West of Eden series, as well as Make Room! Make Room!which was turned into the cult classic movie, Soylent Green starring Charlton Heston and Edward G. Robinson. In 2009 Harrison was awarded the Damon Knight SF Grand Master Award by the Science Fiction Writers of America. He died in 2012.
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The Stainless Steel Rat's Revenge
By Harry Harrison
The Berkley Publishing GroupCopyright © 1970 Harry Harrison
All rights reserved.
I stood in line, as patient as the other taxpayers, my filled out forms and my cash gripped hotly in my hand. Cash, money, the old-fashioned green folding stuff. A local custom that I intended to make expensive to the local customers. I was scratching under the artificial beard, which itched abominably, when the man before me stepped out of the way and I was at the window. My finger stuck in the glue and I had a job freeing it without pulling the beard off as well.
"Come, come, pass it over," the aging, hatchet-faced, bitter and shrewish female official said, hand extended impatiently.
"On the contrary," I said, letting the papers and banknotes fall away to disclose the immense .75 recoilless pistol that I held. "You pass it over. All of that tax money you have extracted from the sheeplike suckers who populate this backward planet."
I smiled to show that I meant it and she choked off a scream and began scrabbling in the cash drawer. It was a broad smile that showed all of my teeth, which I had stained bright red, which should have helped her decide on the proper course of action. As the money was pushed towards me I stuffed it into my long topcoat that was completely lined with deep pockets.
"What are you doing?" the man behind me gasped, eyes bulging like great white grapes.
"Taking money," I said and flipped a bundle at him. "Why don't you have some yourself." He caught it by reflex, goggled at it, and all the alarms went off at once and I heard the doors crashing shut. The cashier had managed to trigger an alarm.
"Good for you," I said, "but don't let a minor thing like that prevent you from keeping the cash coming."
She gasped and started to slip from sight, but a wave of the gun and another flash of my carmine dentures restored a semblance of life, and the flow of bills continued. People started to rush about and gun waving guards began to appear looking around enthusiastically for someone to shoot, so I triggered the radio relay in my pocket. There was a series of charming explosions all about the bank, from every wastebasket where I had planted a gas bomb, followed by the even more charming screams of the customers. I stopped stowing money long enough to slip on the gas-tight goggles and settle them into place. And to clamp my mouth shut so I was forced to breathe through the filter plugs in my nostrils.
It was fascinating to watch. Blackout gas is invisible and has no odor but it does contain a chemical that acts almost instantly, bringing about a temporary but complete paralysis of the optic nerve. Within fifteen seconds everyone in the bank was blind.
With the exception of James Bolivar diGriz, myself, man of many talents.
Humming a happy tune through closed lips I stowed away the remaining money.
My benefactress had finally slid from sight and was screaming incontinently somewhere behind the counter. So were a lot of other people. There was plenty of groping about and falling over things as I made my way through this little blacked out corner of bedlam. An eerie sensation indeed, the one-eyed man in the country of the blind and all that. A crowd had already gathered outside pressing in fascinated awe against the windows and glass doors, to watch the drama unfolding inside. I waved and smiled and a shudder passed through the nearest as they pushed back in panic from the door. I shot the lock out, angling the gun so the bullets shrieked away over their heads, and kicked the door open. Before exiting myself I threw a screamer out onto the sidewalk and quickly pushed the stopples into my ears.
The screamer sounded off and everyone began to leave quickly.
You have to leave quickly when you hear one of these things. They send out a mixed brew of devilish sounds at the decibel level of a major earthquake.
Some are audible, sounds like a magnified fingernail on a blackboard, while others are supersonic and produce sensations of panic and imminent death. Harmless and highly effective. The street was otherwise empty when I walked out to the car that was just pulling up to the curb. My head was throbbing with the supersonics that got past the plugs and I was more than happy to slip through the open door and relax while Angelina gunned the machine down the street.
"Everything go all right?" she asked, keeping her eyes on the road as she whipped around a corner on the outside wheels. Sirens began to sound in the distance.
"A piece of cake. Smooth as castor oil ..."
"Your similes leave a lot to be desired."
"Sorry. Touch of indigestion this morning. But my coat is lined with more money than we could possibly need."
"How nice!" she laughed, and she meant it. That irresistible grin, the crinkled nose. I longed to nibble it, or at least kiss her, but settled for a comradely pat on the shoulder since she needed all her concentration for driving. I popped a stick of gum in my mouth that would remove the red tooth dye and began to peel off my disguise.
As I changed so did the car. Angelina turned into a side street, slowed and then found an even quieter street to drive along. There was no one in sight. She pressed the button.
My, but technology can do some interesting things. The license plate flipped over to reveal a different number, but that was too simple a trick even to discuss. Angelina flicked on the windshield wipers as a fine spray of catalytic fluid sprang out of jets on the front of the car. Wherever it touched the blue paint turned a bright red. Except for the top of the car which became transparent so that in a few moments we were sitting in a bubble-top surveying the world around. A good deal of what appeared to be chrome-plated metal dissolved and washed away altering the appearance and even the make of the car. As soon as this process was complete Angelina sedately turned a corner and started back in the direction from whence we had come. Her orange wig was locked away with my disguise and I held the wheel while she put on an immense pair of goggly sunglasses.
"Where to next?" she asked as a huddle of shrieking police cars tore by in the opposite direction.
"I was thinking of the shore. Wind, sun, sand, that sort of thing. Healthy and bracing."
"A little too bracing if you don't mind my saying so." She patted the rounded bulge of her midriff with a more than satisfied smile. "It's six months now, going on seven, so I'm not feeling that athletic. Which reminds me ..." She flashed me a quick scowl, then turned her attention back to the road. "You promised to make an honest woman out of me so that we could call this a honeymoon."
"My love," I said, and clasped her hand in all sincerity. "At the first possible moment. I don't want to make an honest woman out of you — that would be physically impossible since you are basically as larcenous minded as I am — but I will certainly marry you and slip an expensive —"
"— ring on this delicate little finger. I do promise. But the second we try to register a marriage we'll be fed into the computer and the game will be up. Our little holiday at an end."
"And you'll be hooked for life. I think I better grab you now before I get too round to run and catch you. We'll go to your beach resort and enjoy one last day of mad freedom. And tomorrow, right after breakfast, we are getting married. Do you promise?"
"There is just one question ..."
"Promise, Slippery Jim, I know you!"
"You have my word except ..."
She braked the car to a skidding stop and I found myself looking down the barrel of my own .75 recoilless. It looked very big. Her knuckle was white on the trigger.
"Promise you quick-witted slippery tricky crooked lying con man or I'll blow your brains out."
"My darling, you do love me!"
"Of course I do. But if I can't have you all to myself I'll have you dead. Speak!"
"We get married in the morning."
"Some men are so hard to convince," she whispered, slipping the gun into my pocket and herself into my arms. Then she kissed me with such delicious intensity that I almost looked forward to the morrow.CHAPTER 2
"Where are you going, Slippery Jim?" Angelina asked, leaning out of the window of our room above. I stopped with my hand on the gate.
"Just down for a quick swim, my love," I shouted back and swung the gate open. A .75 roared and the ruins of the gate were blown out of my hand.
"Open your robe," she said, not unkindly, and blew the smoke from the gun barrel at the same time.
I shrugged with resignation and opened the beach robe. My feet were bare. But of course I was fully dressed, with my pants legs rolled up and my shoes stuffed into my jacket pockets. She nodded understandably.
"You can come back upstairs. You're going nowhere."
"Of course I'm not." Hot indignation. "I'm not that sort of chap. I was just afraid you might misunderstand. I just wanted to nip into the shops and ..."
I went. Hell hath no fury etc. was invented to describe my Angelina. The Special Corps medics had stripped her of her homicidal tendencies, unknotted the tangled skeins of her subconscious and equipped her for a more happy existence than circumstance had previously provided. But when it came to the crunch she was still the old Angelina. I sighed and mounted the stairs with leaden feet.
And I felt even more of an unthinking fiend when I saw that she was crying. "Jim, you don't love me!" A classic gambit since the first woman in the garden, but still unanswerable.
"I do," I protested, and I meant it. "But, it's just ... reflex. Or something like that. I love you, but marriage is, well, like going to prison. And in all my crooked years I have never been sent up."
"It is liberation, not captivity," she said and did things with her makeup that removed the ravages of the tears. I noticed for the first time that she had white lipstick on to match her white dress and a little white lacy kind of thing in her hair.
"This is just like going swimming in cold water," she said, standing and patting my cheek. "Get it over with quickly so you won't feel it. Now roll down your pants and put those shoes on."
I did, but when I straightened up to answer this last fatuous argument I saw that the door had opened and that a Marriage Master and his two witnesses were standing in the next room. She took my arm, gently, I'll say that for her, and at the same time the recorded strains of the mighty organ filled the air. She tugged at my elbow, I resisted for a moment, then lurched forward as a gray mist seemed to fall over my eyes.
When the darkness lifted, the organ was bleating its dying notes, the door was closing behind the departing backs and Angelina stopped admiring her ring-decorated finger long enough to raise her lips to mine. I had barely enough strength of will left to kiss her before I groaned.
There were a number of bottles on the sideboard and my twitching fingers stumbled through them to unerringly find a knobby flask of Syrian Panther Sweat, a potent beverage with such hideous aftereffects that its sale is forbidden on most civilized worlds. A large tumbler of this was most efficacious, I could feel it doing me harm, and I poured a second one. While I was doing this and immersed in my numbed thoughts a period of time must have passed because Angelina — my Angelina (suppressed groan) — now stood before me dressed in slacks and sweater with our bags packed and waiting at her side. The glass was plucked from my fingers.
"Enough private whoopee," she said, not unkindly. "We'll celebrate tonight but right now we have to move. The marriage record will be filed at any moment and when our names hit the computer it's going to light up like a knocking shop on payday. By now the police will have tied us in to most of the crimes of the past two months and will come slavering and baying after us."
"Silence," I ordered, swaying to my feet. "The image is a familiar one. Get the car and we will leave."
I offered to help with the bags but by the time I communicated this information she was halfway down the stairs with them. With this encouragement I navigated the hazard and reached the door. The car was outside humming with unleashed power, the side door open and Angelina at the wheel tapping her foot with equally unleashed impatience. As I stumbled into it the first tentacles of reality penetrated my numbed cortex. This car, like all other ground cars on Kamata, was steam powered and the steam was generated by the combustion of a specie of peat bricks fed to the furnace by an ingenious and unnecessarily complicated device. It took at least a half an hour to raise steam to get moving. Angelina must have fired up before the wedding and planned every other step as well. My solitary contribution to all this was a private drunk which had been very little aid at all. I shuddered at what this meant, yet was still driven to the only possible conclusion.
"Do you have a drive-right pill?" I asked, hoarsely.
It was in the palm of her hand even as I spoke. Small, round, pink, with a black skull and crossbones on it. A sobering invention of some mad chemist that worked like a metabolic vacuum cleaner. Short minutes after hitting the hydrochloric acid pool of my stomach the ingredients would be doing a blitzkrieg attack through my bloodstream. Not only does it remove all of the alcohol but strips away all of the side products associated with drinking as well, so that the pitiful subject is instantly sober and painfully aware of it.
"I can't take it without water," I mumbled, blinking at the plastic cup in her other hand. There was no turning back. With a last happy shudder I flipped the deadly thing into the back of my throat and drained the cup.
They say it doesn't take long, but that is an objective time. Subjective was hours. It is a most unusual experience and difficult to describe. Imagine if you will what it feels like to take the nozzle of a cold water hose in your mouth and then to have the water turned on. And then, an instant later, to have the water gushing in great streams from every orifice of your body, including the pores, until you are flushed completely clean.
"Wow," I said weakly, sitting up and dabbing at my forehead with my handkerchief. The houses of a small village rushed by and were replaced by farmlands. Angelina drove with calm efficiency and the boiler chunked merrily as it ate another brick of peat.
"Feeling better, I hope?" She dived into a traffic circle and left it by a different road with only a quick glimpse at the map. "The alarm is out for us, army, navy, everything. I've been listening to their command radio."
"Are we going to get away?"
"I doubt it — not unless you come up with some bright idea very quickly. They have a solid ring with aerial cover around the area and are tightening it."
I was still recovering from the heroic treatment of the drive-right pill and had not collected all my wits. There was a direct connection from my muddled thoughts to my vocal cords that had no intervening censor of intelligence.
"A great start to marriage. If this is what it is like no wonder I have been avoiding it all these years."
The car swung off the road and shuddered to a stop in the deep grass under a row of blue-leaved trees. Angelina was out, had slammed the door and was reaching for her bag before I had time to react. I tried to tell her.
"I'm a fool ..."
"Then I'm a fool too for marrying you." She was dry-eyed and cold of voice with all of her emotions strictly under control. "I tricked you and trapped you into marriage because it was what I thought you really wanted. I was wrong, so it is going to end right now before it really gets started. I'm sorry, Jim. You made an entirely new life for me and thought I could make one for you. It has been fun knowing you. Thank you and good-by."
By the time she had finished, my thoughts had congealed into something roughly resembling their normal shape and I was weak but ready. I was out of the car before she had finished talking and standing in front of her, blocking her way, holding her most gently by the arms.
Excerpted from The Stainless Steel Rat's Revenge by Harry Harrison. Copyright © 1970 Harry Harrison. Excerpted by permission of The Berkley Publishing Group.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
The story could have been more fleshed out; a lot was glossed over. The typos made it difficult at times.