Our Friends From Frolix 8
while. But then we set up another, so the number remains generally the same.’ She paused, pondering. ‘I think we’dbetter go in a taxi rather than in your squib. If it’s all right with you.’
    ‘Any special reason why?’
    ‘I’m not sure. They may have monitored your license number; we usually try to reach the printing plants in rented cars. Taxis are the best.’
    ‘Is it far from here?’ he asked.
    ‘You mean like miles off in the country? No, it’s in the middle of town, in the busiest part. Come on.’ She hopped onto the downramp and he followed. A moment later they reached street level; the girl at once began peering into the traffic in search of a cab.

    A cab floated leisurely from the traffic and came to rest at the curb beside them. Its door slid open and they entered.
    ‘Feller’s Luggage Emporium,’ Charley said to the driver. ‘On 16th Avenue.’
    ‘Um,’ the driver said, and lifted his ship up and once more into the flow of traffic, except, this time, going the other way.
    ‘But Feller’s Luggage—’ Nick began, but invisibly Charley dug her elbow into his ribs; he took the hint and lapsed into silence.
    Ten minutes later, the cab left them off. Nick paid, and the cab floated on like a child’s painted toy.
    ‘Feller’s Luggage,’ Charley said, surveying the aristocratic building. ‘One of the oldest and most respected retail establishments in the city. You thought it would be a warehouse behind a gas station on the edge of town. Swarming with rats.’ She took his hand, led him through the automatically-opening doors and onto the carpeted floor of the world famous shop.
    A smartly dressed salesman approached them. ‘Good afternoon,’ he said, affably.
    Charley said, ‘I have a set of luggage put away. Syntheticostrich hide, four pieces. My name is Barrows. Julie Barrows.’
    ‘Would you please step this way?’ the salesman said to her, turning and walking with dignity toward the rear of the store.
    ‘Thank you,’ Charley said. Again she dug Nick in the ribs, this time gratuitously. And smiled up at him.
    A heavy metal door slid aside, revealing a small room in which a variety of pieces of luggage rested on plain wooden shelves. The door through which they had come now slid quietly shut. The salesman waited a moment, consulting his watch, then carefully wound the watch… and, swiftly, the far wall of the room divided, showing a greater room beyond. A heavy pounding reached Nick’s ears, major printing machinery was at work, and he could see it now. As little as he knew about printing, he knew this: it was totally modern, the best there was, and quite expensive. The Under Men presses did not consist of mimeograph machines, not in the least.
    Four soldiers in gray uniforms and wearing gas masks surrounded them, all holding lethal Hopp’s tubes. ‘Who are you?’ one of them, a sergeant, asked – asked hell. Demanded.
    ‘I’m Denny’s girl,’ Charley said.
    ‘Who’s Denny?’
    ‘You know.’ Gesturing, Charley said, ‘Denny Strong. He operates in this area at the distribution level.’
    A scanner swept back and forth, surveying them.
    The soldiers conferred, speaking into lip-level microphones and listening through earfone buttons in their right ears. ‘Okay,’ the sergeant in charge said at last. He turned his attention back to Nick and Charley. ‘What do you want here?’ he demanded.
    ‘A place to stay for a while,’ Charley said.
    Nodding toward Nick, the occifer said, ‘Who’s he?’
    ‘A convert. He came over to us today.’
    Nick said, ‘Because of the announcement of Cordon’s execution.’
    The soldier grunted, pondered. ‘We’re housing just about everyone already. I don’t know…’ He chewed his lower lip,frowning. ‘Do you also want to stay here?’ he asked Nick.
    ‘For a day or so. No longer.’
    Earnestly, Charley said, ‘You know Denny has those psychopathic rages, but generally as far as lasting—’
    ‘I don’t know

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