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common bachelorhood.
Mario became aware of the silence. He finished his highball. "Anyone go
another round?" Breaugh made a gesture of assent. "I've got enough," said
Janniver.
Zaer tilted the glass down his throat, set it down with a thud. "At the age of
four I promised my father never to turn down a drink."
Ditmar hesitated, then said, "Might as well spend my money on liquor as
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anything else."
"That's all money is good for," said Breaugh. 'To buy a little fun into your
life."
"A lot of money buys a lot of fun," said Ditmar morosely. 'Try and get the
money."
Zaer gestured, a wide, fanciful sweep of the arm. "Be an artist, an inventor,
create something, build something. There's no future working for wages."
"Look at this new crop of schoolboy wonders," said Breaugh sourly. "Where in
the name of get-out
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they come from? Spontaneous generation by the action of sunlight on slime? ...
All of a sudden, nothing but unsung geniuses, everywhere you look. De Satz,
Coley-atomicians. Honn, Versovitch, Lekky, Brule, Richards-administrators.
Gandelip, New, Cardosa-financiers. Dozens of them, none over twenty-three,
twenty-four. All of 'Ern come up like meteors."
"Don't forget Pete Zaer," said Zaer. "He's another one, but he hasn't meteored
yet. Give him another year."
"Well," muttered Ditmar, "maybe it's a good thing. Somebody's got to do our
thinking for us. We're fed, we're clothed, we're educated, we work at soft
jobs, and good liquor's cheap. That's all life means for ninety-nine out of a
hundred."
"If they'd only take the hangover out of the liquor," sighed Zaer.
"Liquor's a release from living," said Janniver somberly. "Drunkenness is
about the only adventure left Drunkenness and death."
"Yes," said Breaugh. "You can always show contempt for life by dying."
Zaer laughed. "Whiskey or cyanide. Make mine whisky."
Fresh highballs appeared. They shook dice for the tag. Mario lost, signed the
check.
After a moment Breaugh said, "It's true though. Drunkenness and death. The
unpredictables. The only two places left to go-unless you can afford twenty
million dollars for a planetary rocket And even then there's only dead rock
after you get there."
Ditmar said, "You overlooked a third possibility."
"What's that?"
"The Chateau d'lf."
All sat quiet; then all five shifted in their chairs, settling back or
straightening themselves.
"Just what is the Chateau d'lf?" asked Mario.
"Where is it?" asked Zaer. "The advertisement said Try the Chateau d'lf,' but
it said nothing about how or where."
Janniver grunted. "Probably a new nightclub."
Mario shook his head doubtfully. "The advertisement gave a different
impression."
"It's not a night club," said Ditmar. All eyes swung to him. "No, I don't know
what it is. I know where it is, but only because there's been rumors a couple
months now."
"What kind of rumors?"
"Oh-nothing definite. Just hints. To the effect that if you want adventure, if
you've got money to pay for it, if you're willing to take a chance, if you
have no responsibilities you can't abandon-
"
"If-if-if," said Breaugh with a grin. "The Chateau d'lf."
Ditmar nodded. "That's it exactly."
"Is it dangerous?" asked Zaer. "If all they do is string a tight-wire across a
snake-pit, turn a tiger loose at you, and you can either walk tight-rope or
fight tiger, I'd rather sit here and drink high-balls and figure how to beat
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Janniver in the tournament"
Ditmar shrugged. "I don't know."
Breaugh frowned. "It could be a dope-den, a new kind of bordello."
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"There no such thing," said Zaer. "It's a haunted house with real ghosts."
"If we're going to include fantasy," said Ditmar, "a time machine."
"If," said Breaugh.
There was a short ruminative silence.
"It's rather peculiar," said Mario, "Ditmar says there've been rumors a couple
months now. And last week an advertisement."
"What's peculiar about it?" asked Janniver. "That's the sequence in almost any
new enterprise."
Breaugh said quickly, "That's the key word-'enterprise.' The Chateau d'lf is
not a natural phenomenon; it's a man-created object, idea, process-whatever it
is. The motive behind it is a human motive-probably money."
"What else?" asked Zaer whimsically. Breaugh raised his black eyebrows high.
"Oh, you never know. Now, it can't be a criminal enterprise, otherwise the ACP
would be swarming all over it"
Ditmar leaned back, swung Breaugh a half-mocking look. "The Agency of Crime
Prevention can't move unless there's an offense, unless someone signs a
complaint. If there's no overt offense, no complaint the law can't move."
Breaugh made an impatient gesture. "Very true. But that's a side issue to the
idea I was trying to develop." Ditmar grinned. "Sorry. Go on."
"What are the motives which prompt men to new enterprises? First, money, which
in a sense comprises, includes, all of the other motives too. But for the sake
of clarity, call this first, the desire for money, an end in itself. Second,
there's the will for power. Subdivide that last into, say, the crusading
instinct and call it a desire for unlimited sexual opportunity. Power over [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]