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When you are the richest man in the Universe and someone is robbing your banks you can afford the best the in the business to catch the criminals responsible; even if he’s charging 4 million a day plus expenses. And so Slippery Jim DiGriz finds himself on a bizarre undercover mission in a circus.
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Harry Harrison is one of the established greats of SF The Stainless Steel Rat is his most popular creation ‘The Rat can hold his head up high amongst the most elevated superhero company; Bulldog Drummond, James Bond and Flash Gordon’ TIMES LITERARY SUPPLEMENTExcerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
The Stainless Steel Rat Joins the Circus
CHAPTER 1"I'M EXHAUSTED," ANELINA SAID. "ALL this hammering away on a hot computer keyboard.""Productive hammering, my love," I said, pushing away my own keyboard, yawning and stretching until my joints cracked. "In a little under two hours we have made more than two hundred thousand credits through insider dealing in the stock exchange. Some might believe it illegal--but very profitable. I prefer to see it as a public service. To keep the money circulating, to lower the level of unemployment ...""Not now, Jim. I am too tired to listen.""But not too tired to listen to this. Right now we need a complete change. What do you say to a picnic in a leafy dell in Sharwood Forest? With champagne.""A lovely idea, but the shopping ...""Has been already done. I have a complete picnic, basket and all, in the stasis freezer. Everything from caviar to Roc's eggs. We have but to sling it into the hoverfloat, along with plenty of bubbly drink, and let joy begin."And so it did. While Angelina slipped into something picnicky, I slipped the picnic hamper into the hoverfloat--humming happily as I did so for we had been working too hard of late. We must escape the daily grind. A change of scenery. Inthe nearby forest, which was one of the few green spots on the painfully boring planet of Usti nad Labam. The landscape was all dark satanic techno-factories run by computer nerds. It was a pleasure to rob them. Using the most advanced hacking techniques I had slipped some software into the operating system of a prominent broker. With this I could slow their input of information by varying lengths of time. With this advance knowledge I could buy before a price rise--then sell at the higher price. Neat.A favor to them really, because when the scam was eventually discovered, I truly believe that the resultant news stories and jolly police chases would give them something to think about for a change. Instead of the incessant RAM, ROM, PROM. In our own way Angelina and I were benefactors, bringing joy into otherwise boring lives. The price was a small one for them. Infinitesimal. Angelina joined me and we were up, up and away.The engine roared forcefully, the air rushed by swiftly, and we held hands compassionately as our transport of delight soared skyward."Wonderful," Angelina breathed."Merda," I growled as a police warning bleeped and blinked on the console. There it was--a police cruiser swooping towards us. I stamped hard on the power."Please don't," Angelina said, placing a gentle hand on my arm. "Let us not spoil the day with a sizzling chase. Could we just stop, smile at the police? Not you, me. All you have to do is pay the fine. I will charm the police, you pay their fine, and we will then go on."It made sense. There was no point in spoiling our day out before it really started. I sighed dramatically and, with great reluctance, eased off.Our speed dropped.The police cruiser fired its nose guns at us.Things happened very quickly after that.I hit overdrive and pulled back hard into an inside loop.The police missed: I didn't. I blew the cruiser's tail off. Then I banked hard to avoid the hosing slugs from his wingman. As the police vehicle swooped by I saw that it had no windows. Therefore no occupants."Robot policemen!" I chortled. "Therefore we don't have to hold back and spare their lives. Because they have no lives! To the junkyard with the lot!"After that it was Old Home Week in the diGriz partnership. I climbed--then did a 5G dive to get away from the flock of police cruisers that had appeared all too suddenly. Hit the reverse drive when they were all on my tail. Angelina worked the armament and defenses as they zipped by and managed to get three of them. Even on the most peaceful planet I go not unarmed into the sky; our peaceful hoverfloat was a lot more deadly than it looked.But this chase was beginning to turn nasty. We were vastly outnumbered and outgunned. "And running out of ammo," Angelina said, echoing my own thoughts."Change of venue!" I shouted, dropping towards the green forest below. "Grab the survival kit and get ready for a bumpy landing."I screeched low over a rock-tipped ridge, dived into the valley beyond--and braked to a hover under the trees below. Angelina had the door open as we juddered to a stop, the kit thrown out, and was diving right out behind it when I hit the two-second-delay button. I was cutting it a little too close: the doorframe hit my bootheel as I went out. I changed the dive into a roll, hit the ground hard on my shoulders and thudded to a stop, all of the air knocked out of me."My hero," my dear wife said, patting my eheek and kissing my forehead. "Now let's move it."We did. Grabbing up the kit, she gracefully, and I haltingly, dived into the protection of the shrubbery.Meanwhile above the trees the battle roared as our faithful hoverfloat defended itself with all the robotic skill at its command. Alas, the fracas ended suddenly with a tremendous explosion."End of champagne and caviar," Angelina said, her voice so cold I felt my body temperature drop."I'll not contribute to the Policeman's Ball this year." I grimaced.She laughed warmly and squeezed my hand. And the old, cold deadly Angelina slipped away."Let's make tracks," I said. "Before they discover that they were fighting the robot pilot.""Let us not," she said. "This is a nice big tree that we are under. It will shield us from visual observation, perhaps infrared imaging as well. If they suspect that we were not in the hoverfloat they could backtrack and look for us.""Your logic is impeccable," I said, rooting through the survival kit. Guns, grenades, all the necessities of life. "And to carry that logic a bit further--why were the police trying to shoot us up?""I haven't the foggiest. As far as the authorities know we are simple tourists who dabble in the market. Sometimes losing ...""Most times winning!""What do you have there?" she asked as I pulled a silver form out from behind a belt of ammunition."Jolly Barman Instant Cocktails. I bought a couple of these on sale." I pulled the tab and two plastic beakers dropped into my hand. There was a hissing sound and the can turned cold in my hand; moisture condensed on it. I handed Angelina a beaker, poured it full of sparkling liquid. The gray scraps in the bottoms of the mugs were instantly reconstituted by the liquid to pieces of fruit. I poured another drink for myself and we sipped appreciatively."Not too bad." I smacked my lips and cudgeled my brain. "Those police were out to blast us--not arrest us. Are we missing something?""Obviously. I think that we should get out of the forest now and see what we can find out about this mystery attack.""We can't exactly call the police and ask them why they were gunning for us--can we?""We can't. Therefore I will think of something more subtle. Call our son James and have him do a computer search of our problem. After at!--he is in the computer business here and should know how to get information.""An excellent idea. We can also have him come pick us up since it is a long walk home."We finished the drinks and I shouldered the survival kit. There was no sound of aircraft now, just some distant birdcalls and the hum of insects. We moved through the trees, staying undercover, distancing ourselves from the action with the police fleet. We listened closely but there was no sound of any engines behind or above us. I smiled. Then I frowned when I heard the grumble of a motor up ahead."Perhaps that is a sturdy forester, practicing his weald-wise trade," I said hopefully."Would that it were. Because whatever it is out there is coming closer. If they are looking for us, then I am forced to believe that all of this activity and attention is far too murderous for a simple traffic bust.""Unhappily, I agree. They have made no attempt to communicate with us--just came in blasting."I looked on gloomily as she opened the survival kit and took out an immense handgun. "But let us not make it easy for them."We didn't. The armored police cruiser had its tracks blow off as it appeared. It kept firing at us even though it couldn't move. We dived in close, so close it could not depress its guns to get at us. I jumped to the top of the tread, flipped open the top hatch and dropped a couple of sleep capsules. Then I looked carefully inside."Highly interesting." I rejoined Angelina on the ground. "Nobody home. Which means, like the cruisers that chased us, this thing is also robot operated and remotely controlled.""By whom?""By our new enemies, whoever they are."Distant engines sounded from behind the trees and we slipped away in the opposite direction, deeper into the forest. Which did not do much good in the end because there were now sounds of machines from ahead."They have trackers on us--so there is no point in wearying ourselves by running about. We'll stay here and make a stand. Get as many of these robot machines as we can.""I thought that there were laws of robotics--about not killing or injuring humans.""It looks like those laws were repealed. Lock and load--here they come again!"I would have felt a certain compunction about killing a policeman, but I really did enjoy blasting police robots into tiny bits of junk. But it proved to be a no-win battle. Wherever we turned they were there ahead of us. Our ammunition dwindled as their numbers increased."My last grenade," Angelina said as she blasted a hovertank."My last shot," I said, taking out a robocycle. "It has been nice knowing you.""Nonsense, Jim. Y...
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