The Practice Effect

The Practice Effect by David Brin

Book: The Practice Effect by David Brin Read Free Book Online
Authors: David Brin
wear a rich man’s clothes, you
wear a rich man’s clothes, whether you want to or not!’ ” It sounded like an aphorism.
    Dennis shook his head. His subconscious was spinning and seemed to be trying to tell him something.
    “Imprisoned for being ‘built just like’ the Baron … that’s what Tomosh Sigel’s aunt said happened to the kid’s dad.…” Someone nearby gasped aloud, but Dennis continued talking to himself, faster and faster.
force the poor to wear their gaudy clothes for them, day in, day out … but that doesn’t fray the clothes, wearing them out. Instead …”
    Someone was talking urgently nearby, but Dennis’s mind was completely full. He wandered aimlessly, paying no attention to where he was going. Prisoners made way for him, as men do for the sainted or the mad.
    “No,” he mumbled, “the clothing doesn’t wear out—because the rich get someone
like them to wear their clothes all the time, to keep them in …”
    “Excuse me, sir. Did you mention the name of …”
    “… to keep them in
!” Dennis’s head hurt. “Practice!” he said it again and pressed his hands to his head at the craziness the word made him feel.
    “… did you mention the name of Tomosh Sigel?”
    Dennis looked up and saw a tall, broad-shouldered man wearing the finery of a fabulously wealthy magnate—though Dennis now knew him for a prisoner like himself. Something about the man’s face looked familiar. But Dennis’s mind was too cluttered to give it more than an instant’s thought.
    “Bernald Brady!” Dennis shouted and struck his palm. “He said there was a subtle difference in physical law here! Something about the robots seeming to get more efficient …”
    Dennis patted his jacket and pants. He felt lumpy objects. The guards had taken his belt and pouch but left the contents of his pockets alone.
. They didn’t even notice them,” he whispered half frantically. “They’ve never seen zippered pockets before! And those zippers have had
getting to be better and better zippers ever since I got here!”
    The crowd suddenly grew hushed as he zipped one pocket open and drew out his journal. Dennis flipped the pages.
Day One
,” he read aloud. “
Equipment terrible. Cheapest available. I swear I’ll get even with that S.O.B. Brady someday.…
” He looked up, smiling grimly. “And I will, too.”
    “Sir,” the tall man persisted, “you mentioned the name of …”
    Dennis flipped ahead, tearing at the pages. “
Day Ten … Equipment much better than I’d thought.… I guess I must have been mistaken, at first.…

    But he hadn’t been mistaken! The stuff had simply
    Dennis snapped the notebook shut and looked up. For the first time since arriving on this world, he
    He saw a tower that had become, after many generations, a great castle—because it had been
at it for so long!
    He saw gardening tools that would day by day get better with use, until they were like the marvels he had seen on the steps of Tomosh Sigel’s house.
    He turned and looked at the men around him. And
saw …
    “Cavemen!” he moaned.
    “I won’t find any scientists or machinists here, because there aren’t any! You don’t have any technology at all, do you?” he accused one prisoner. The fellow backed away, obviously having no idea what Dennis was talking about.
    He whirled and pointed at another. “
! You don’t even know what the
is! Deny it!”
    The prisoners all stared.
    Dennis wavered. Consciousness flickered like a candle going out.
    “I should … I should have stayed at the airlock and
my own damn zievatron.… Pixolet and the robot would’ve been more help than a bunch of savages who’ll prob’ly eat me for supper … and
my bones into spoons and forks … my scapulae into fine china.…”
    His legs buckled and he fell to his knees, then went face-first into

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