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Authors: L. Neil Smith

Tags: #pallas, #Heinlein, #space, #action, #adventure, #Libertarian, #guns

The Venus Belt

BOOK: The Venus Belt
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The Venus Belt

 

L. Neil Smith

 

Phoenix Pick an imprint of Arc Manor

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The Venus Belt
copyright © 1980, 2009 L. Neil Smith.
All rights reserved. This book may not be copied or reproduced, in whole or in part, by any means, electronic, mechanical or otherwise without written permission from the publisher except by a reviewer who may quote brief passages in a r
e
view. Cover copyright © 2009 Arc Manor, LLC
.
Manufactured in the United States of America. Originally published by Balantine Books (Del Rey), 1980.

 

 

Tarikian, TARK Classic Fiction, Arc Manor, Arc Manor Classic Reprints, Phoenix Pick, Phoenix Rider, Manor Thrift and logos associated with those imprints are trademarks or registered trademarks of Arc Manor Publishers, Rockville, Maryland. All other trademarks and trademarked names are properties of their respective owners.

 

This book is presented as is, without any warranties (implied or otherwise) as to the accuracy of the produ
c
tion, text or translation. 

 

Licensing Note for this EBook

 

This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each pe
r
son you share it with.

 

 

*************

 

ISBN (
Digital
Edition):
 
978-1-60450-414-9

ISBN (Paper Edition): 978-1-60450-442-2

 

 

www.PhoenixPick.com

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Visit the Author’s Website at:

http://www.lneilsmith.org

 

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Published by Phoenix Pick

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P. O. Box 10339

Rockville, MD 20849-0339

www.ArcManor.com

 

*************

 

To my parents, Les and Marie Smith, and to
treasured memories of the lives and works of
H. Beam Piper and Karl Bray.

 

*************

 

Let no one hail this occasion as binding together our myriad interests and separate wills. Those represented here, the, respectively, United States of America and Mexico, the former Dominions of Newfoundland and Ca
n
ada, the Republics of Quebec, Alaska, California, Texas, and Cuba—all e
n
joy unique histories and traditions which must be neither lost nor rendered i
n
consequential.

Rather, let us say that the barriers between us have been cast down, so that those histories and traditions might live and mingle freely as they will, toward a new synthesis, greater than the parts combined to create this, our own new North American Confederacy.

President Benjamin R. Tucker

In Continental Congress

July 2nd, 117 A.L.

 

*

The Venus Belt

1: Espionage Confederate Style

T
uesday, February 23, 223 A.L.

Denver’s overzealous District Attorney wouldn’t be raiding any more mom-and-pop porno stands. Not after last night’s covert photo session in his basement—that extra room nobody’s supposed to know about.

I’d chosen a wintry evening when he was out addressing Concerned Prudes Against Literacy, or whatever they call it. Breaking in was a cinch—I’ve had plenty of practice. So were the pictures—my light-amplifier’s bigger than the camera it attaches to, the size of a .38 slug.

And what a collection! Whips, chains, video cassettes. I haven’t seen so many rubber suits since they took “Sea Hunt” off the air. Next mor
n
ing I sent a swell assortment of eight-by-ten glossies to the
News-Post
and
Rocky Mountain Liberty,
following up with an anonymous call, but I didn’t linger on the phone.

It wasn’t that I feared a trace, or SecPol’s voice-analysis procedures. In the first place, the call was routed over a line that isn’t even supposed to exist, courtesy of the Colorado Propertarian Party. And anyway, I used a Confederate-model vocal synthesizer, the kind chimpanzees and gori
l
las use to communicate with other folks. Took me six months to learn how to work the bloody thing.

In the second place, I’m totally above suspicion, with the pluperfect al
i
bi: I’ve been dead for twelve years.

Mainly, I was in a hurry. I had an appointment in a broom closet, and was late for a game of golf. You might
call
it golf. I do.

My death? A reasonable, but fortunately unwarranted conclusion on the part of my former employer, the City and County of Denver, circa 1987. Though another several billion people—including critters I didn’t even know about then—had called it 211 A.L. That’s
Anno Liberatis
,
and if you’ve got enough fingers to count up to 1776, you can figure out why for yourself. Now they’re calling it 223 A.L., and in the good old U.S.A., it’s 1999.

I put the phone away. The
News-Post
wanted the story, all right, and I wasn’t much worried about the city’s second largest paper, because, at that moment, Jenny Noble,
Rocky Mountain Liberty’s
editor in chief—and n
a
tional Propertarian chairperson—was handing me a grilled cheese sandwich. I moved my soggy topcoat so she’d have a place to sit—her desk, after all—and slung my shoulder holster over the back of my chair. The ba
t
tle-worn Smith & Wesson .41 clunked a couple of times before it stopped swinging. The edition in Jenny’s wastebasket was yesterday’s, but I was two months out of touch with my native land, so it evened out. Jenny inte
r
rupted my perusal of the front page before it got started:

“You and your cute little camera have a busy night? I understand they’re really going to run the pictures.”

Slender and freckled, Jenny’s a pleasure to be in the same room with, only partially because she’s pretty. She communicates enthusiasm, and her horde of gentle revolutionaries seemed to get the work out just to please her. Somewhere in her early forties, I believe, but it wouldn’t ma
t
ter, even if she
weren’t
getting antigeriosis in the Confederacy.

“You bet your sweet by-line they are,” I answered through fried bread and melted plastic cheese. “Is it just me, or is there a new appreciation for the Bill of Rights over there? Lady on the city desk said they’ve been tr
y
ing to get the goods on the D.A. for a long time.”

She grinned, which I enjoyed, and shut her door against the clamor from the crowded office beyond. Printers clattered through the glass; people tossed jokes and good-natured insults across the room. An occ
a
sional paper SST dipped and soared among the light fixtures. “There wasn’t always a
lady
on the city desk. Her predecessor got permanently blue-penciled by some lunatic from the Right to Life Action Squad—didn’t change their editorial position on abortion, thank goo
d
ness, but it sparked a timely re-evaluation of the
News-Post
’s
stance on gun control!”

I laughed. She reached past me for a sheaf of print-outs from the in-basket, leafing through to check the status of a hundred subversive little e
x
ercises like mine last night. Somebody entered from the din-filled boiler room and dumped off another two-inch stack of hard copies. She looked up with a little frown. “You really have to go home right away, Win?”

I nodded. Win is me: Edward William Bear, late of Denver’s fi
n
est—even later for my golf game—former homicide dick, now P.I. and part-time spy for the North American Confederacy. If that’s too melodr
a
matic, how about loving husband and soon-to-be-father, at the ast
o
nishing (at least to me) age of damned near sixty?

I swallowed another bite. “I could lie and add ‘regretfully,’ but I’m ge
t
ting pretty old for these uncivilized Colorado winters.” I glugged down half the mug of Campbell’s soup she offered, watching snow fall heavily outside the second-story corner windows. My feet were icy, soaked clear through, but it wasn’t just the weather; it was a dozen years of growing accustomed to clean air, instant hassle-free transport, and virtually nonexistent crime. I glanced at the day-old headline again and shuddered:

87 MISSING IN LATEST KIDNAP ROUND

“Don’t be ridiculous. You look ten years younger just since you smu
g
gled that load of coke and silver over last December.” She gazed out at the noisy, bustling office, remembering. “Now
that
was a merry Xmas!”

I couldn’t help agreeing, on both counts—though ten years might be stretching it. Rejuvenation’s a gradual thing, especially for a guy who lived his first fifty eating, drinking, and breathing all the wrong stuff. “Clarissa gets the credit—Win Bear’s Practical Health Tip
Numero Uno
:
marry up with a Healer, a beautiful one, if possible.”

Another smug survey of the semifrozen brown slush in the street, and I finished my sandwich, set the mug firmly on Jenny’s desk—it would most likely be buried in computer-droppings before anybody got a chance to rinse it out—and “Time to abscond. Tell your fellow-conspirators so long for me. Any time you need my talents as a burglar again...”

“You can’t get off
that
easily, Officer!” She rose with me to deliver a crushing hug and a peck on the cheek. “Love to Clarissa, and I’d better hear the
instant
your daughter arrives, understand?”

“Oof!
You’ll be the first to know—in
this
universe, anyway.” I gathered up my coat and gun, folded the newspaper under my arm, and threaded through the maze of desks in the outer office. Against one wall on a yellow flag, a stylized rattler warned
DON’T TREAD ON ME!,
while a hand-lettered sign read
THANK YOU FOR POT SMOKING
.

Half a hundred defiantly colorful posters advertised the recently launched Fraser campaign. D. Nolan Fraser had created the Party back in 1971, unaware that the Confederacy existed. Two decades later, as De
n
ver’s first Propertarian mayor, he’d pulled the city out of its share of a nationwide depression, and now, with a little imported help, the polls gave him an even shot at dragging the whole country, kicking and screaming, toward “civil liberties and economic freedom” via four years’ residence at 1600 Pennsy
l
vania Avenue. Hail to the Chief.

Hail, yes.

At the last desk, a girl had a dispenser of pop-ups printed to resemble federal neobucks; she blew her nose and threw the tissue in a wastebasket. The guy next to her repeated the gesture with genuine government-issue, and they both giggled at the green ink it left on the end of his proboscis. He grinned up at me and pointed to the placard taped to the wall above him:
IN GOLD WE TRUST
.

BOOK: The Venus Belt
12.29Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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