Жанр книги: Научная Фантастика
Robert A Heinlein To Sail Beyond The Sunset

Let's review the bidding.

In 1982, on 20 June I was in Albuquerque, New Mexico, on my way to a Sunday afternoon motel date for some friendly fornication. .. and that made me a scandal to the jaybirds as I was only days away from my hundredth birthday - while pretending to be much younger and, mostly, succeeding. My assignation was with a widowed grandfather who seemed willing to believe that I was his own age, give or take a bit.

Part of the orthodoxy of that time and place was that old women have no interest in sex and that old men have limp penises and no sex drive - except dirty old perverts with criminal and pathological interests in young girls. All young people were certain of these ideas through knowing their own grandparents, whom they knew to be interested only in singing hymns and in playing chequers or shuffleboard. But sex? My grandparents? Don't be disgusting!

(At that time and in that country, nursing homes for the elderly kept their guests chaperoned and/or physically segregated by sexes so that nothing ‘disgusting' could take place. )

So this dirty old woman on evil bent got caught in heavy traffic, panicked, fell down, fainted - and woke up in Boondock on the planet Tellus Tertius.

I had heard of Tellus Tertius. Sixty-four years earlier, when I was a modest young matron with a snow-white reputation, I had seduced a young sergeant, Theodore Bronson, who in pillow talk with me had revealed himself as a time traveller from the far future and a distant star, Captain Lazarus Long, chairman of the Howard Families in his time. .. and my remote descendant!

I had looked forward to years of happy adultery after the War was over, under the tolerant, shut-eye chaperonage of my husband.

But Sergeant Theodore went to France in the AEF and was missing in action in some of the heaviest fighting in the Great War. MIA equals killed; it never meant anything else.

When I woke up and Tamara took me into her arms, I had great trouble believing any of it. .. especially the ides that Theodore was alive and well. When I did believe her (one cannot disbelieve Tamara), I was crushed with the grief of too late, too late!

Tamara tried to soothe me but we had language trouble; she is not a linguist, speaks broken English only - and I had not a word of Galacta. (Her first speech to me she had rehearsed most carefully. )

She sent for her daughter Ishtar. Ishtar listened to me, talked to me, finally got it through my head that being a hundred, years old did not matter; I was about to be rejuvenated.

I had heard about rejuvenation from Theodore, long ago. But I had never thought of it as applying to me.

They both told me, over and over again. Ishtar said, ‘Mama Maureen, I am more than twice as old as you are. My last rejuvenation was eighty years ago. Am I wrinkled? Don't worry about your age; you will be no trouble at all. We'll start your tests at once; you will be eighteen again in a very short time. Months, I estimate, instead of the two or three years a really difficult case can take. '

Tamara nodded emphatically. Is true. Ishtar true word esspeak. Four century am I. Dying was I' She patted her belly. ‘Baby here now. '

‘Yes, ' agreed Ishtar, ‘by Lazarus. A baby I gene-plotted and required Lazarus to plant before he left to rescue you. We could not be sure that he would be back - these trips of his are always chancey - and, while I have his sperm on deposit, frozen sperm can deteriorate; I want as many warm-spenn babies sired by Lazarus as possible. ' She added, ‘And you, too, Mama Maureen. I hope you will gift us with many more babies. Our calculations show that what Lazarus has, his unique gene patterns, he got mainly from you. You need not bear babies yourself; there'll be host mothers standing in line for the privilege of bearing a Mama Maureen baby. Unless you prefer to bear them yourself. '

‘You mean I can? '

‘Certainly. Once we have you made young again. '

‘Then I will! ' I took a deep breath. It has been. .. forty-four years - I think that is right forty-four years since I last became pregnant. Although Ne always been willing and Nave not tried to avoid it. ' I thought about it. ‘Is it possible for me to postpone seeing Theodore - Lazarus, you call him for a while? Could I be made younger before I see him? I dread the thought of his seeing me this way. Old. Not the way he knew me. '

‘Certainly. There are always emotional factors in a rejuvenation. Whatever a client needs to be happy is the way we do it'

‘I would rather not have him see me until I look more as I looked then. '

‘It shall be done. '

I asked to see a picture of Theodore-Lazarus. It turned out to be a moving holo, almost frighteningly lifelike. I was aware that Theodore and I looked enough alike to be brother and sister; that was what Father had first noticed about him. But this startled me. ‘Why, that's my son! ' The holo looked just like my son Woodrow - my bad boy and always my favourite.

‘Yes, he's your son. '

‘No, no! I mean that Captain Lazarus Long whom I knew as Theodore is a dead-ringer - sorry, a twin-brother image of my son Woodrow Wilson Smith. I hadn't realised it of course, in the brief time I knew Captain Long, my son Woodrow Wilson was only five years old; they did not look alike then, or nothing anyone would notice. So my son Woodrow grew up to look like his remote descendant. Strange. I find I'm touched by it'

Ishtar looked ar Tamara. They exchanged words in a language I did not know (Galada, it was). But I could hear worry in their voices.

Ishtar said soberly, ‘Mama Maureen, Lazarus Long is your son Woodrow Wilson. '

‘No, no, ' I said ‘I saw Woodrow just a few months ago. He was, uh, sixty-nine at the time but looked much younger. He looked just as Captain Long looks in this picture - an amazing resemblance. But Woodrow is back in the twentieth century. I know. '

‘Yes, he is, Mama Maureen. Was, I mean, although Elizabeth tells me the two tenses are equivalent. Woodrow Wilson Smith grew up in the twentieth century, spent most of the twenty-first century on Mars and on Venus, returned to Earth in the twenty-second century and -‘ Ishtar stopped and looked up. ‘Teena? '