Slippery Jim diGriz, alias the Stainless Steel Rat, the galaxy's greatest thief and con artist, returns in his most devilish caper yet.DiGriz is strenuously fighting boredom on a ritzy pleasure planet when his beloved wife disappears while vising the Temple of Eternal Truth, an enigmatic institution that promises its patrons a sneak peek at Heaven--for a price.Determined to get his wife back, diGriz takes on the Temple. He thinks he's ready for anything, but he never expects to find himself banished to Hell, complete with pointy-tailed devils. Has Divine judgement caught up with the Rat at last? Of course not. At the publisher's request, this title is being sold without Digital Rights Management software (DRM) applied.
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January 15, 1998
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Excerpt from The Stainless Steel Rat Goes to Hell by Harry Harrison
The Stainless Steel Rat Goes to Hell
I POURED A GOOD MEASURE of whiskey over the ice, scowled at it--then added a splash more. But, as I lifted the glass and drank it with glugging pleasure, my raised eyes drifted across the clock that was set into the wall above the bar.
It was just ten in the morning.
"My, my, Jim, you are hitting the sauce a little earlier each day," I growled wordlessly. So what? It was my liver wasn't it? I gurgled the glass empty just as the house computer spoke to me in rich, educated--and possibly sneering?--tones.
"Someone is approaching the front door, Sire."
"Great. Perhaps it is the booze shop delivery?" Venom dripped from my voice; but all computers are immune to sarcasm.
"Indeed not, Sire, for Garry's Grog and Groceries delivers by freight tube. I identify the person approaching as Rowena Vinicultura. She has stopped her popcar on the front lawn and is emerging from it."
My morale plummeted as the name slithered across my eardrums. Of all the beautiful bores on Lussuoso, Rowena was possibly the most beautiful--and certainly the most boring. I had to flee--or commit suicide--before she came in. I was alreadyheading for the back of the house, to possibly drown myself in the swimming pool, when the housebot's computer voice stopped me in my tracks.
"Ms. Vinicultura appears to have fallen down onto the plastic mat outside the door that spells out WELCOME in six languages."
"What do you mean fallen?"
"I believe the description is an apt one. She closed her eyes and her body became limp. Then she descended slowly towards the ground and is now lying, unmoving, with her eyes still closed. Her pulse appears to be slow and irregular as detected by the pressure plate in the mat. Lacerations and bruises on her face ..."
The thing's voice followed me as I ran back through the house.
"Open the door!" I shouted. It swung wide and I dived through.
Her cameo face was pale, her dark hair tousled gracefully, her ample bosom rising and falling slowly. There was blood on her cheeks and a darkening bruise on her forehead. Her lips moved and I leaned close.
"Gone ..." she said, barely audible. "Angelina ... gone ..."
It felt as though my body temperature had dropped thirty degrees. This did not slow me in the slightest. While I was still reaching down for her I managed to tap the number 666 into my wrist communicator.
"Where is the home medical treatment center?" I shouted as I slipped my arms under warm thighs, soft back, and lifted her as carefully as I could.
"The settee in the library, Sire."
I ran, ignoring the cold knot of despair her words had punched into me. Since both Angelina and I were strenuously healthy we had never used the medical services in this house. I had glanced at the specs when I signed the rental agreement; . with the price we were paying, the medical arrangements should equal that of a provincial hospital at least. By the time I had carried Rowena to the library the settee had vanished into thewall and an examining bed had risen in its place. Even as I laid her on the bed the detectors were snaking down from the medbot that had popped out of the ceiling. An analyzer fastened onto the back of my neck and I slapped it away.
"Not me! Her, on the bed, you moronic machine."
I stepped back out of reach while it set to work with mechanical enthusiasm. A glistening row of readouts sprang to life on the screen. Everything from temperature and pulse to endocrine balance, liver function, hair-follicle growth and anything else that could be measured or assessed was there.
"Speak! Tell!" I commanded and there was a rustle of electronic activity as the various expert programs shuffled and sorted their input, compared and interacted and agreed on the results in a speedy microsecond.
"The patient is concussed and contused." The computer-generated voice was deep, male and reassuring. "The bruises are superficial and have been cleansed and sealed," there was a scurry of flashing apparatus, "and the appropriate antibiotics injected."
"Bring her to!" I snapped
"If you mean, sir, that you wish the patient restored to consciousness that is now being done." If a computer can sound miffed--this one was miffed.
"Whasha?" she muttered, blinking lovely purple eyes that were blurrily out of focus.
"You've got to do better than that with her," I said. "Stimulants, something. I must talk to her."
"The patient has been traumatized ..."
"But not badly--you told me that. Now get her to talk, you overpriced collection of memory chips or I'll short-circuit your ROM, PROM and EPROM!"
This seemed to do the job. Her eyes blinked again and looked at me.
"In the flesh, Rowena my sweet. You're going to be fine. Now tell me about Angelina."
"Gone ..." she said. And fluttered her luxurious eyelashes.I felt my teeth grating together and forced a smile.
"You said that before. Gone where? Gone why? Gone when--" I shut up since I was getting into a rut.
"The Temple of Eternal Truth ..." was all that she said as her eyes closed again. It was enough.
I shouted to the housebot as I bolted out the door.
"Cure her. Guard her. Call an ambulance."
I did not mention the police since I didn't want their flat-footed presence interfering with my investigation.
"Switch on!" I shouted to the atomcycle as I jumped into the garage. "Door open!"
I landed in the saddle, hit full power and tore off the bottom half of the garage door, it wasn't opening fast enough, as we burst through it. I managed to miss a strolling couple on the pavement, shot between two vehicles and roared down the road. Shouting into the atomcycle's phone since it would be nice to know where I was going.
"AdInfo, emergency access. The Temple of Eternal Truth--coordinates."
A street map was projected onto the now-cracked windscreen and I screeched tires around the first corner. As I straightened out I saw that the com light was blinking. It could only be an answer to my emergency call since only Angelina, James or Bolivar could access this number after that call went out.
"Angelina is that you?!" I shouted.
"Bolivar here. What's up, Dad?"
I explained briefly and curtly, then repeated myself when James signed on. I had no idea where they were--I would find out later--but it was enough to know that they were informed and on the way. This was the first time we had used the 666 call. Major emergency. Drop everything and assemble. I had set it up when they had left home and both gone their individual ways. To help them in the future, I had imagined; now I was the one who was calling. They clicked off, not wasting my time or attention with needless comments. They were listening and would be here.
I blasted around the last corner and stood on the brakes.