That's the title that I have settled on, for now.
I followed Sheila Ellis out of Holmes’s office. Ellis was maybe 5’6” and appeared to be Asian. I don’t know the differences between the different nations of East Asia to be able to tell where she or her people were from. Didn’t much care.
“Where are we going?” I asked.
“Medical,” she said.
And Medical was where we went. They had a nearly-complete copy of my medical record already. I was inspected, injected, detected, infected and made to drink some pretty vile stuff. They ran me through some sort of whole-body scanner. Then it was off to dental, where they fixed two nascent cavities. The tech said that my teeth were discolored enough for the outer worlds, which didn’t sound like a compliment.
After that, we went to lunch. There had to be some sort of architectural code, for the dining hall looked like the one back on Earth, other than it being sliced up by bulkheads and pressure doors. They never show that in the science fiction movies, I hadn’t seen a single wide-open space yet. I chose something that looked like a hamburger and sort of tasted like one.
“Let’s go to the armory,” she said. When we got there, there was a guy named Rob. He was the armorer.
“Let’s see what you have, to begin with,” he said.
I shrugged. I opened up the laptop bag and dug out the .357, a Smith & Wesson 686. I put my foot up on a chair and drew the Airweight, then I pulled the Shield. I unloaded the latter two.
“May I,” he asked.
I waved my hand.
He picked up each one in turn and looked them over, whistling softly in amazement. “Damn, these are nice. Totally unsuitable, but sweet.”
“What’s wrong with them,” I asked.
“Nothing, other than in the outer worlds, you could buy a large estate with any one and a continent with all three.” Noting my puzzlement, he added. “Oh, right. You don’t know. Earth weapons aren’t exported and haven’t been for a long time. There aren’t a lot of flights from Earth any more, so what is brought out is either people or really high-value items. And since there’re only two spaceports, smuggling’s very difficult.
“Also, at least in Alliance territory, you can’t get cartridges for most Earth-origin guns. Your 9mm, sure, the Fourth Reich uses that cartridge, still, but you won’t find .38s or .357s.”
‘The Fourth Reich?’ I made a mental note to ask about that later. I put my guns back where they had been.
“So what do you have,” I asked.
“You need at least a sidearm, preferably a compact one, and a backup piece, no?”
“Sounds about right,” I said.
“Come with me,” he said. He went to a closed door and put the palm of his hand on a panel. The door opened. We were in a hallway, the rooms on either side were lined with weapons. I could have sworn that I saw machine guns ranging from a Colt Potato-Digger to a Soviet Dushka. Rob went into a room of handguns, I followed him in. Most were unfamiliar, but there were some old standbys there: 1911s, PPKs, a few Lugers, P-38s, Detective Specials, and so on. I didn’t see much newer than the 1950s, at least, not that I recognized.
Rob looked over the selection. “You’re OK with automatics? I don’t have much in the way of wheelguns.”
“Sure,” I said.
“How about triggers? You like single-action, single/double, double-action or striker-fired?”
“You mean like a Glock? I don’t care for them,” I said. “You have anything in a moderate double-action,” I asked.
Rob thought for a few seconds. “Yeah.” He took one off a hook, racked the slide back, and handed it to me.
I looked at it. It sort of resembled a cross between a Smith & Wesson and a H&K. It was black, made of metal, but not at all heavy. The grips felt like some sort of wood.
“Can I dry-fire it?”
I dropped the slide and tried the trigger. It was nice, it felt like a smooth Smith & Wesson revolver. I tried it again and nothing. I looked at Rob.
“When the slide cycles, it sort of pre-cocks the hammer. Just pull it back a little,” he said.
I did, he was right, the trigger worked. “What caliber is this,” I asked.
“9.6 millimeter, about a true .38. I’ll give you belt and shoulder holsters for it, and seven magazines, fourteen rounds apiece. Five anti-personnel and two armor-piercing sound good?”
“Sure. And for a backup?”
He thought about that. “You want to do ankle carry?”
“OK, maybe this.” He handed me a slim flat pistol, maybe a tad bit larger than a Ruger LCP. “That’s a 8.5mm. Six shot magazines. Shrouded hammer.”
I hefted it. “How’s the recoil?”
“Not as bad as you might think.”
I racked the slide and tried the trigger. It’ll do. “You have a range where I can try them out?”
Rob stroked his chin. “Yeah. But tomorrow, not today.” He put the two guns away.
We were walking back to the entrance, when I said: “Bathroom,” and clamped my hand over my mouth.
“Over there,” he pointed.
I just barely made it when I puked up my lunch. They said that I might have a reaction to the inoculations. They hadn’t been kidding.
When I came out of the bathroom, Rob said: “Damn, I’ve seen tanner ghosts than you.”
I nodded weakly and went out of the magazine to the entrance where Sheila was waiting. “I don’t feel very good,” I said to her. “Is there somewhere that I can lie down for awhile?”
“Yes, you’ve got a room assigned for your stay. I’ll take you there.” On the way, she pointed out some features of the base. I didn’t pay attention. I felt as though I had been dragged the entire way to the Moon.
When we got to the room, she showed me that the room locks worked the same way as the Earth base ones did. She gave me a card with her number on it and asked me to call her when I felt better. I nodded and went into the room. I stripped down and threw myself into the bed. I slept for six hours, woke up, threw up again (dry heaving is fun), and slept for another ten hours.
I was wiped slick.