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The Gateway Anglican

The Rev. Theo Durleigh, Chaplain

Parish Communion 10:30 Sundays

Evensong by Arrangement

Eric Manley, who ceased to be my warden on 1 December, has left an indelible mark on Gateway All Saints and we owe him an incalculable debt for placing his multicompetence at our disposal. Born in Elatree, Herts., 51 years ago,he graduated as an LL.B. from the University of London and then read for the bar. Subsequently he was employed for some years in Perth at the natural gas works. If we are saddened for ourselves that he is leaving us, it is tempered with joy that he has now achieved his hearts desire and will return to his beloved Hertfordshire, where he expects to devote his retirement years to civic affairs, transcendental meditation, and the study of plainsong. A new warden will be elected the first Sunday we attain a quorum of nine parishioners.

But I couldnt keep up with her pace, and after a few moments she asked if I wanted to go back. Nothing is fun when you dont have a choice. Why not? I said, but a few minutes later, when I saw where we were, I said, Lets go to the museum for a while.

Oh, right, she said, suddenly interested. Did you know theyve fixed up the surround room? Metchnikov was telling me about it. They opened it while we were out.

So we changed course, dropped two levels and came out next to the museum. The surround room was a nearly spherical chamber just beyond it. It was big, ten meters or more across, and in order to use it we had to strap on wings like Shickys, hanging on a rack outside the entrance. Neither Klara nor I had ever used them before, but it wasnt hard. On Gateway you weigh so little to begin with that flying would be the easiest and best way to get around, if there were any places inside the asteroid big enough to fly in.

So we dropped through the hatch into the sphere, and were in the middle of a whole universe. The chamber was walled with hexagonal panels, each one of them projected from some source we could not see, probably digital with liquid-crystal screens.

How pretty! Klara cried.

All around us there was a sort of globarama of what the scouting ships had found. Stars, nebulae, planets, satellites. Sometimes each plate showed its own independent thing so that there were, what was it, something like a hundred and twenty-eight separate scenes. Then, flick, all of them changed; flick again, and they began to cycle, some of them holding their same scene, some of them changing to something new. Flick again, and one whole hemisphere lit up with a mosaic view of the M-31 galaxy as seen from God-knew-where.

Hey, I said, really excited, this is great! And it was. It was like being on all the trips any prospector had ever taken, without the drudgery and the trouble and the constant fear.

There was no one there but us, and I couldnt understand why. It was so pretty. You would think there would be a long line of people waiting to get in. One side began to run through a series of pictures of Heechee artifacts, as discovered by prospectors: prayer fans of all colors, wall-lining machines, the insides of Heechee ships, some tunnels-Klara cried out that they were places she had been, back home on Venus, but I dont know how she could tell. Then the pattern went back to photographs from space. Some of them wcre familiar. I could recognize the Pleadies in one quick six- or eight-panel shot, which vanished and was replaced by a view of Gateway Two from outside, two of the bright young stars of the cluster shining in reflection off its sides. I saw something that might have been the Horsehead Nebula, and a doughnutshaped puff of gas and dust that was either the Ring Nebula in Lyra or what an exploring team had found a few orbits before and called the French Cruller, in the skies of a planet where Heechee digs had been detected, but not reached, under a frozen sea.

We hung there for half an hour or so, until it began to look as though we were seeing the same things again, and then we fluttered up to the hatch, hung up the wings, and sat down for a cigarette break in a wide place in the tunnel outside the museum.

Two women I recognized vaguely as Corporation maintenance crews came by, carrying rolled-up strap-on wings. Hi, Klara, one of them greeted her. Been inside?

Klara nodded. It was beautiful, she said.

Enjoy it while you can, said the other one. Next week itll cost you a hundred dollars. Were putting in a P-phone taped lecture system tomorrow, and theyll have the grand opening before the next tourists show up.

Its worth it, Klara said, but then she looked at me.

I became aware that, in spite of everything, I was smoking one of her cigarettes. At five dollars a pack I couldnt afford very much of that, but I made up my mind to buy at least one pack out of that days allowance, and to make sure she took as many from me as I took from her.

Want to walk some more? she asked.

Maybe a little later, I said. I was wondering how many men and women had died to take the pretty pictures we had been watching, because I was facing one more time the fact that sooner or later I would have to submit myself again to the lethal lottery of the Heechee ships, or give up. I wondered if the new information Metchnikov had given me was going to make a real difference. Everyone was talking about it now; the Corporation had scheduled an all-phone announcement for the next day.

That reminds me, I said. Did you say youd seen Metchnikov?

I wondered when youd ask me about that, she said. Sure. He called and told me hed shown the color-coding stuff to you. So?

I stubbed out the cigarette. I think everybody in Gateways going to be fighting for the good launches, thats what I think.

But maybe Dane knows something. Hes been working with the Corporation.

I dont doubt he does. I stretched and leaned back, rocking against the low gravity, considering. Hes not that nice a guy, Klara. Maybe hed tell us if theres something good coming up, you know, that he knows something special about. But hell want something for it.

Klara grinned. Hed tell me.

What do you mean?

Oh, he calls me once in a while. Wants a date.

Oh, shit, Klara. I was feeling pretty irritated by then. Not just at Klara, and not just about Dane. About money. About the fact that if I wanted to go back into the surround room next week it would cost me half my credit balance. About the dark, shadowed image looming up ahead in time, and not very far ahead, when I would once again have to make up my mind to do what I was scared silly to do again. I wouldnt trust that son of a bitch as far as

Oh, relax, Rob. Hes not such a bad guy, she said, lighting another cigarette and leaving the pack where I could reach it if I wanted it. Sexually, he might be kind of interesting. That raw, rough, rude Taurean thing anyway, youve got as much to offer him as I do.

What are you talking about?

She looked honestly surprised. I thought you knew he swings both ways.

Hes never given me any indication But I stopped, remembering how close he liked to get when he was talking to me, and how uncomfortable I was with him inside my bodyspace.

Maybe youre not his type, she grinned. Only it wasnt a kindly grin. A couple of Chinese crewmen, coming out of the museum, looked at us with interest, and then politely looked away.

Lets get out of here, Klara.

So we went to the Blue Hell, and of course I insisted on paying my share of the drinks. Forty-eight dollars down the tube in one hour. And it wasnt all that much fun. We wound up in her place and fell into bed, although the drinks had given me a headache that was still there when we finished. And the time was slipping by.

There are people who never pass a certain point in their emotional development. They cannot live a normal free-and-easy, give-and-take life with a sexual partner for more than a short time. Something inside them will not tolerate happiness. The better it gets, the more they have to destroy it.

Hacking around Gateway with Klara, I began to suspect that I was one of those people. I knew Klara was. She had never sustained a relationship with a man for more than a few months in her life; she told me so herself. Already I was pretty close to a record with her. And already it was making her edgy.

In some ways Klara was a lot more adult and responsible than I ever would be. The way she got to Gateway in the first place, for instance. She didnt win a lottery to pay her fare. She earned it and saved it, painfully, over a period of years. She was a fully qualified airbody driver with a guides license and an engineering degree. She had lived like a fish-farmer while earning an income that would have entitled her to a three-room flat in the Heechee warrens on Venus, vacations on Earth, and Major Medical. She knew more than I did about the growing of food on hydrocarbon substrates, in spite of all my years in Wyoming. (She had invested in a food factory on Venus, and for all her life she had never put a dollar into anything she didnt fully understand.) When we were out together, she was the senior member of the crew. It was she Metchnikov wanted as a shipmate if he wanted anybody not me. She had been my teacher!

And yet between the two of us she was as inept and unforgiving as ever I had been with Sylvia, or with Deena, Janice, Liz, Ester, or any of the other two-week romances that had all ended badly in all the years after Sylvia. It was, she said, because she was Sagitarius and I was a Gemini. Sagittarians were prophets. Sagittarians loved freedom. Us poor Geminis were just terribly mixed up and indecisive. Its no wonder, she told me gravely one morning, eating breakfast in her room (I accepted no more than a couple of sips of coffee), that you cant make your mind up to go out again. It isnt just physical cowardice, dear Robinette. Part of your twin nature wants to triumph. Part wants to fail. I wonder which side you will allow to win?

I gave her an ambiguous answer. I said, Honey, go screw yourself. And she laughed, and we got through that day. She had scored her point.

The Corporation made its expected announcement, and there was an immense flurry of conferring and planning and exchanging guesses and interpretations among all of us. It was an exciting time. Out of the master computers files the Corporation pulled twenty launches with low danger factors and high profit expectancies. They were subscribed, equipped, and launched within a week.

And I wasnt on any of them, and neither was Klara; and we tried not to discuss why.

Surprisingly, Dane Metchnikov didnt go out on any of them. He knew something, or said he did. Or didnt say he didnt when I asked him, just looked at me in that glowering, contemptuous way and didnt answer. Even Shicky almost went out. He lost out in the last hour before launch to the Finnish boy who had never been able to find anyone to talk to; there were four Saudis who wanted to stay together, and settled for the Finnish kid to fill out a Five. Louise Forehand didnt go out, either, because she was waiting for some member of her family to come back, so as to preserve some sort of continuity. You could eat in the Corporation commissary now without waiting in line, and there were empty rooms all up and down my tunnel. And one night Klara said to me, Rob, I think Im going to go to a shrink.

I jumped. It was a surprise. Worse than that, a betrayal. Klara knew about my early psychotic episode and what I thought of psychotherapists.

I withheld the first dozen things I thought of to say to her tactical: Im glad; its about time; hypocritical: Im glad, and please tell me how I can help; strategic: Im glad, and maybe I ought to go, too, if I could afford it. I refrained from the only truthful response, which would have been: I interpret this move on your part as a condemnation of me for bending your head. I didnt say anything at all, and after a moment she went on:

I need help, Rob. Im confused.

That touched me, and I reached out for her hand. She just let it lay limp in mine, not squeezing back and not pulling away. She said: My psychology professor used to say that was the first step -no, the second step. The first step when you have a problem is to know you have it. Well, Ive known that for some time. The second step is to make a decision: Do you want to keep the problem, or do you want to do something about it? Ive decided to do something about it.

Where will you go? I asked, carefully noncommittal.

I dont know. The groups dont seem to do much. Theres a shrink machine available on the Corporation master computer. That would be the cheapest way.

Cheap is cheap, I said. I spent two years with the shrink machines when I was younger, after I- I was kind of messed up.

And since then youve been operating for twenty years, she said reasonably. Id settle for that. For now, anyway.

I patted her hand. Any step you take is a good step, I said kindly. Ive had the feeling all along that you and I could get along better if you could clear some of that old birthright crap out of your mind. We all do it, I guess, but Id rather have you angry at me on my own than because Im acting as a surrogate for your father or something.

She rolled over and looked at me. Even in the pale Heecheemetal glow I could see surprise on her face. What are you talking about?

Why, your problem, Klara. I know it took a lot of courage for you to admit to yourself that you needed help.

Well, Rob, she said, it did, only you dont seem to know what the problem is. Getting along with you isnt the problem. You may be the problem. I just dont know. What Im worried about is stalling. Being unable to make decisions. Putting it off so long before I went out again and, no offense, picking a Gemini like you to go out with.

I hate it when you give me that astrology crap!

You do have a mixed-up personality, Rob, you know you do. And I seem to lean on that. I dont want to live that way.

We were both wide awake again by then, and there seemed to be two ways for things to go. We could get into a but-you-said-you-loved-me, but-I-cant-stand-this scene, probably ending with either more sex or a wide-open split; or we could do something to take our minds off it. Klaras thoughts were clearly moving in the same direction as mine, because she slid out of the hammock and began pulling on clothes. Lets go up to the casino, she said brightly. I feel lucky tonight.

There werent any ships in, and no tourists. There werent all that many prospectors, either, with so many shiploads going out in the past few weeks. Half the tables at the cisino were closed down, with the green cloth hoods over them. Klara found a seat at the blackjack table, signed for a stack of hundred-dollar markers, and the dealer let me sit next to her without playing. I told you this was my lucky night, she said when, after ten minutes, she was more than two thousand dollars ahead of the house.

Youre doing fine, I encouraged her, but actually it wasnt that much fun for me. I got up and roamed around a little bit. Dane Metchnikov was cautiously feeding five-dollar coins into the slots, but he didnt seem to want to talk to me. Nobody was playing baccarat. I told Klara I was going to get a cup of coffee at the Blue Hell (five dollars, but in slow times like this they would keep filling the cup for nothing). She flashed me a quarter-proffle smile without ever taking her eyes off the cards.

In the Blue Hell Louise Forehand was sipping a rocket-fuel-and-water well, it wasnt really rocket fuel, just old-fashioned white whisky made out of whatever happened to be growing well that week in the hydroponics tanks. She looked up with a welcoming smile, and I sat down next to her.

She had, it suddenly occurred to me, a rather lonely time of it. No reason she had to. She was well, I dont know exactly what there was about her, but she seemed like the only nonthreatening, nonreproachful, nondemanding person on Gateway. Everybody else either wanted something I didnt want to give, or refused to take what I was offering. Louise was something else. She was at least a dozen years older than I, and really very good-looking. Like me, she wore only the Corporation standard clothes, short coveralls in a choice of three unattractive colors. But she had remade them for herself, converting the jumpsuit into a two-piece outfit with tight shorts, bare midriff, and a loose, open sort of top. I discovered that she was watching me take inventory, and I suddenly felt embarrassed. Youre looking good, I said.

Thanks, Rob. All original equipment, too, she bragged, and smiled. I never could afford anything else.

You dont need anything you havent had all along, I told her sincerely, and she changed the subject.

Theres a ship coming in, she said. Been a long time out, they say.