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Bill, the Galactic Hero  The Final Incoherent Adventure served the meals
instead of diners having to line up at a service counter, but they still came
on trays, and all the supposedly different parts were gray and
indistinguishable and mixed together at the edges.
The other guests were all tired and monosyllabic after their day's work. Bill
did get to sit next to Sylvia, the only woman in the room, but every time his
hand even started to move toward her knee, she punched him in the side of the
head. And that was the only attention she paid to him, being still absorbed in
her holoromance.
In short, the high point of the evening for Bill was when they went back to
the car for their luggage.
"Gee, Bill," Sam said, "at least you know tomorrow will be restful."
CHAPTER 14
"
BLAAAT! BLAAAT! BLAAAT!
"
The alarm trilled gently in Bill's ear.
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"
Burrrp! Blunnk! Bzzzzz!
"
He sat bolt upright and grabbed for the controls of his turret before he
remembered where he was. Then he reminded himself that, no matter what else
could be said against the neutron mine, no one was trying to kill him here. He
sighed, stretched, and leaned back against the extruded plasticrete pillow.
"
Blaaat! Blaaat! Blaaat!
"
Bill reached out and dealt a mighty blow to the alarm. The plasticrete alarm
ignored the blow. Rubbing his hand, Bill had no choice remaining other than to
get up.
The alarm shut off automatically.
Bill stumbled out into the living room of the suite and sat heavily on the
couch. "Ow!" He shifted position to rub his butt.
Sid or Sam came out of his room, already through with the sonic shower and
struggling with his cleansuit. "Gee, Bill, you'd better get a move on. That
robot'll be here pretty soon, and it won't wait for you to get dressed."
"Rrrmmph."
Sam or Sid grabbed Bill's right arm  that is, the right arm on the right side
 and pulled him upright.
"Am I going to have to put you in the shower again?"
"Rrrmmph. No." Bill dragged himself back to his bedroom, and got back out,
cleansuit hanging off him, with nearly a minute to spare. Sid (they were both
out now, so Bill could tell them apart) sealed him up.
"Today you will tour the mine," the robot said by way of greeting. "Follow
me." It rotated and left.
Sylvia met them under a big sign that said ADIT.
"Adit?" Bill asked.
"Snorri's a big crossword puzzle fan."
"Oh," Bill said, no less confused.
"This neutron mine is unique in the universe," Sylvia began her prepared
speech. "Although all sorts of weapons can be built without neutrons, they are
absolutely essential to the production of neutron bombs.
Therefore neutron mining is controlled by the government as a strategic
industry. Unauthorized removal of neutrons from this mine is a felony,
punishable by a life sentence of hard labor in the lowest levels of the mine.
Each of you will be given a souvenir neutron at the conclusion of this tour,
but taking even one additional one will be treated as a crime."
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Bill, the Galactic Hero  The Final Incoherent Adventure
The adit doors slid open, and they went down a ramp into the mine proper. It
looked very much like the hallways of a very cheap hotel. Except for being
sprayed on rather than extruded, it was just like the upper levels.
"No expense has been spared to make working conditions as pleasant as
possible, as you can see. As the neutron deposits are depleted, the upper
levels are turned into residential, office, and laboratory space."
Sylvia opened a door and let the visitors look in. Bill maneuvered around
until he was directly behind her, and without looking she punched him in the
right arm. "In here, scientists are working on improved ways of tracing the
neutron veins through the surrounding rock." A few sad-looking people with
white lab coats over their cleansuits sat around a table. Sylvia closed the
door before they even registered her presence.
"These elevators take miners down to the actual working levels. There are
three types of levels:
exploration, in the very deepest and newest parts of the mine; production, in
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those areas where exploration has been completed; and reclamation, where the
veins have been mined out and the levels are being prepared for other uses. We
will be going to the main production level, two miles below the surface."
They all stood silently in the elevator as it descended. Bill yawned. Sam
picked it up, then Sid, and
Sylvia passed it back to Bill. This went on for a while, until Bill said, "You
know, I'm a celebrity. People are nice to me wherever I go." Sylvia punched
him in the arm. "That's not what I mean. How come the director can't greet us
personally?"
"The director doesn't see anyone personally," Sylvia said.
"Not even President Grotsky," Sid said thoughtfully. "And they're good [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]