The Stainless Steel Rat Saves the World is a novel by Harry Harrison, author of innumerable science fiction novels and stories. At the publisher's request, this title is being sold without Digital Rights Management software (DRM) applied.
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July 02, 2012
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Excerpt from The Stainless Steel Rat Saves the World by Harry Harrison
The Stainless Steel Rat Saves the World
"YOU are a crook, James Bolivar diGriz," Inskipp said, making animal noises deep in his throat while shaking the sheaf of papers viciously in my direction. I leaned back against the sideboard in his office, a picture of shocked sincerity.
"I am innocent," I sobbed. "A victim of a campaign of cold, calculating lies." I had this humidor behind my back and by touch alone--I really am good at this sort of thing --I felt for the lock.
"Embezzlement, swindling and worse--the reports are still coming in. You have been cheating your own organization, our Special Corps, your own buddies--"
"Never!" I cried, lockpick busy in my fingers.
"They don't call you Slippery Jim for nothing!"
"A mistake, a childish nickname. As a baby my mother found me slippery when she soaped me in the bath." The humidor sprang open, and my nose twitched at the aroma of fragrant leaf.
"Do you know how much you have stolen?" His face was bright red now, and his eyes were beginning to bulge in a highly unattractive manner.
"Me? Steal? I would rather die first!" I declaimed movingly as I slipped out a handful of the incredibly expensive cigars destined for visiting VIP's. I could put them to a far more important use by smoking them myself. I am forcedto admit that my attention was more on the purloined tobacco than on Inskipp's tedious complaints so I did not at first notice the change in his voice. Then I suddenly realized that I could barely hear his words--not that I really wanted to in any case. It wasn't that he was whispering; it was more as though there were a volume control in his throat that had suddenly been turned down.
"Speak up, Inskipp," I told him firmly. "Or are you suddenly beset with guilt over these false accusations?"
I stepped away from the sideboard, half turning as I moved in order to mask the fact that I was slipping about 100 credits' worth of exotic tobacco into my pocket. He rattled on weakly, ignoring me, shaking the papers soundlessly now.
"Aren't you feeling well?"
I asked this with a certain amount of real concern because he was beginning to sound rather distant. He did not turn his head to look at me when I moved but instead kept staring at the place where I had been, nattering away in an inaudible voice. And he was looking pale. I blinked and looked again.
Not pale, transparent.
The back of his chair was very definitely becoming visible through his head.
"Stop it!" I shouted, but he did not appear to hear. "What games are you playing? Is this some sort of three-D projection to fool me? Why bother? Slippery Jim's not the kind who can be fooled, ha-ha!"
Walking quickly across the room, I put out my hand and poked my index finger into his forehead. I went in--there was slight resistance--and he did not seem to mind in the least. But when I withdrew it, there was a slight popping sound and he vanished completely while the sheaf of papers, now unsupported, fell to the desktop.
"Wharghl"I grunted, or something equally incomprehensible. I bent to look for hidden devices under the chairwhen, with a very nasty crunching sound, the office door was broken down.
Now this was something I could understand. I whirled about, still in the crouch, and was ready for the first man when he came through the door. The hard edge of my hand got him in the throat, right under the gas mask, and he gurgled and dropped. But there were plenty more behind him, all with masks and white coats, wearing little black packs on their backs, either barefisted or carrying improvised clubs. It was all very unusual. Weight of numbers forced me back, but I caught one of them under the chin with my toe while a hard jab to the solar plexus polished off another. Then I had my shoulders to the wall, and they began to swarm over me. I smashed one of them across the back of the neck, and he fell. And vanished halfway to the floor.
This was very interesting. The number of people in the room began to change rapidly now as some of the men I hit snuffed out of sight. This was a good thing that helped even the odds except for the fact that others kept appearing out of thin air at about the same rate. I struggled to get to the door, could not make it, then the club got me in the side of the head and scrambled my brains nicely.
After that it was like trying to fight slow motion under water. I hit a few more of them, but my heart wasn't really in it. They had my arms and legs and began to drag me from the room. I writhed about a certain amount and cursed them fluently in a half dozen languages, but all of this had just about the results you would expect. They rushed me from the room and down the corridor and into the waiting elevator. One of them held up a canister, and I tried to turn my head away, but the blast of gas caught me full in the face.
It did nothing for me that I could feel, though I did get angrier. Kicking and snapping my teeth and shouting insults. The masked men mumbled back in what might havebeen irritated mumbles, which only goaded me to greater fury. By the time we reached our destination I was ready to kill, which I normally do not find easy to do, and certainly would have if I hadn't been strapped into a gadgety electric chair and had electrodes fastened to my wrists and ankles.