Authors: Harry Harrison
Tags: #Science fiction
THE STAINLESS STEEL RAT: The SF Gateway Collection
A Stainless Steel Rat Is Born
The Stainless Steel Rat Gets Drafted
The Stainless Steel Rat Sings the Blues
The Stainless Steel Rat
The Stainless Steel Rat’s Revenge
The Stainless Steel Rat Saves the World
THE STAINLESS STEEL RAT IS BORN
As I approached the front door of The First Bank of Bit O’ Heaven it sensed my presence and swung open with an automatic welcome. I stepped briskly through – and stopped. But I was just far enough inside so that the door was unable to close behind me. While it was sliding shut I took the arc pen from my bag – then spun about just as it had closed completely. I had stop-watched its
mechanical reflex time on other trips to the bank, so I knew that I had just 1.67 seconds to do the necessary. Time enough.
The arc buzzed and flared and welded the door securely to its frame. After this all the door could do was buzz helplessly, immobile, until something in the mechanism shorted out and it produced some crackling sparks, then died.
‘Destruction of bank property is a crime.
You are under arrest.’
As it was speaking the robot bank guard reached out its large padded hands to seize and hold me until the police arrived.
‘Not this time, you jangling junkpile,’ I snarled, and pushed it in the chest with the porcuswine prod. The two metal points produced 300 volts and plenty of amps. Enough to draw the attention of a one tonne porcuswine. Enough to short the robot completely.
Smoke spurted from all its joints and it hit the floor with a very satisfactory crash.
Behind me. For I had already leapt forward, shouldering aside the old lady who stood at the teller’s window. I pulled the large handgun from my bag and pointed it at the teller and growled out my command.
‘Your money or your life, sister. Fill this bag with bucks.’
Very impressive, though my voice did break
a bit so the last words came out in a squeak. The teller smiled at this and tried to brazen it out.
‘Go home, sonny. This is not …’
I pulled the trigger and .75 recoilless boomed next to her ear; the cloud of smoke blinded her. She wasn’t hit but she might just as well have been. Her eyes rolled up in her head and she slid slowly from sight behind the till.
You don’t foil Jimmy diGriz that
easily! With a single bound I was over the counter and waving the gun at the rest of the wide-eyed employees.
‘Step back – all of you! Quick! I want no little pinkies pressing the silent alarm buttons. That’s it. You, butter-ball –’ I waved over the fat teller who had always ignored me in the past. He was all attention now. ‘Fill this bag with bucks, large denominations, and do it
it, fumbling and sweating yet working as fast as he could. The customers and staff all stood about in odd poses, apparently paralysed with fear. The door to the manager’s office stayed closed, which meant that he probably wasn’t there. Chubby had the bag filled with bills and was holding it out to me. The police had not appeared. There was a good chance I was getting away with it.
what I hoped was a foul curse under my breath and pointed to one of the sacks that were filled with rolls of coins.
‘Dump out the change and fill that too,’ I ordered, sneering and growling at the same time.
He obeyed with alacrity and soon had this bag stuffed full as well. And still no sign of the police. Could it be that not one of the moronic money employees had pressed the silent alarm
button? It could be. Drastic measures would have to be taken.
I reached out and grabbed up another bag of coins. ‘Fill this one as well,’ I ordered, slinging it across to him.
As I did this I managed to get the alarm button with my elbow. There are some days when you have to do everything for yourself.
This had the desired effect. By the time the third bag was full, and I was staggering toward
the door with my loot, the police began to appear. One groundcar managed to crash into another, police emergencies are pretty rare around these parts, but eventually they sorted themselves out and lined up outside, guns ready.
‘Don’t shoot,’ I squeaked. With real fear, because most of them didn’t look too bright. They couldn’t hear me through the windows but they could see me. ‘It’s a dummy,’
I called out. ‘See!’
I put the muzzle of the gun to the side of my head and pulled the trigger. There was a satisfactory puff of smoke from the smoke generator and the sound effect of the shot was enough to make my ears ring. I dropped behind the counter, away from their horrified gaze. At least there would be no shooting now. I waited patiently while they shouted and cursed and finally broke
down the door.
Now you might find all of this puzzling – if so I do not blame you. It is one thing to hold up a bank, another thing again to
do it in such a manner that you are sure to be caught. Why, you might ask, why be so foolish?
I’ll be happy to tell you. To understand my motives you have to understand what life is like on this planet – what
life has been like. Let me explain.
O’Heaven was founded some thousands of years ago by some exotic religious cult, which has happily since vanished completely. They came here from another planet – some say it was Dirt or Earth, the rumoured home of all mankind, but I doubt it. In any case things didn’t work out too well. Maybe the endless labours were too much for them, this was certainly no picnic-world in the early days. As the teachers
at school remind us as often as they can, particularly when they tell us how spoiled the young folk are these days. We manage not to tell them that they must be spoiled as well because certainly nothing has changed here in the last thousand years.
In the beginning, sure, it must have been rough. All of the plant life was pure poison to human metabolisms and had to be cleared away so edible crops
could be grown. The native fauna was just as poisonous, with teeth and claws to match. It was tough. So tough that ordinary cows and sheep had a shockingly short life expectancy. Selective gene manipulation took care of that and the first porcuswine were sent here. Imagine if you can – and you will need a fertile imagination indeed – a one-tonne angry boar hog with sharp tushes and mean disposition.
That’s bad enough, but picture the creature covered with long quills like an insane porcupine. Odd as it sounds the plan worked; since the farms are still breeding porcuswine in large numbers it
worked. Bit O’Heaven Smoked Porcuswine Hams are famed galaxy-wide.
But you won’t find the galaxy rushing to visit this piggy planet. I grew up here, I know. This place is so boring even the porcuswine
The funny part is that I seem to be the only one who notices it. They all look at me funny. My mom always thought that it was just growing pains and burnt porcuswine quills in my bedroom, a folk remedy for same. Dad was always afraid of incipient insanity and used to haul me off to the doctor about once a year. The doctor couldn’t find anything wrong and theorised that I might be
a throwback to the original settlers, a loser in the Mendellian crapshoot. But that was years ago. I haven’t been bothered with parental attention since Dad threw me out of the house when I was fifteen. This was after he had gone through my pockets one night and discovered that I had
more money than he did. Mom agreed fervently with him and even opened the door. I think they were glad to see the
last of me. I was certainly too much of an irritation in their bovine existence.
What do I think? I think it can be damn lonely at times, being an outcast. But I don’t think I would have it any other way. It can have its problems – but problems have solutions.
For example, one problem I licked was getting beat up all the time by the bigger kids. This began happening as soon as I went to school.
I made the mistake at first of letting them know I was brighter than they were. Bam, a black eye. The school bullies liked it so much that they had to take turns to beat up on me. I only broke the punishment cycle by bribing a university physical education teacher to give me lessons in unarmed combat. I waited until I was really proficient before fighting back. Then I creamed my would-be creamer
and went on to beat up three more of the thugs one after another. I can tell you, all the little kids were my friends after that and never tired of telling me how great it looked to see me chasing six of the worst ruffians down the block. Like I said, from problems come solutions – not to say pleasures.