- Author: Frederik Pohl
Read book online «My Lady Greensleeves by Frederik Pohl (best motivational books txt) 📕». Author - Frederik Pohl
By FREDERIK POHL
Illustrated by GAUGHAN
[Transcriber's Note: This etext was produced from
Galaxy Science Fiction February 1957.
Extensive research did not uncover any evidence that
the U.S. copyright on this publication was renewed.]
This guard smelled trouble and it could be
counted on to come—for a nose for trouble
was one of the many talents bred here!
His name was Liam O'Leary and there was something stinking in his nostrils. It was the smell of trouble. He hadn't found what the trouble was yet, but he would. That was his business. He was a captain of guards in Estates-General Correctional Institution—better known to its inmates as the Jug—and if he hadn't been able to detect the scent of trouble brewing a cell-block away, he would never have survived to reach his captaincy.
And her name, he saw, was Sue-Ann Bradley, Detainee No. WFA-656R.
He frowned at the rap sheet, trying to figure out what got a girl like her into a place like this. And, what was more important, why she couldn't adjust herself to it, now that she was in.
He demanded: "Why wouldn't you mop out your cell?"
The girl lifted her head angrily and took a step forward. The block guard, Sodaro, growled warningly: "Watch it, auntie!"
O'Leary shook his head. "Let her talk, Sodaro." It said in the Civil Service Guide to Prison Administration: "Detainees will be permitted to speak in their own behalf in disciplinary proceedings." And O'Leary was a man who lived by the book.
She burst out: "I never got a chance! That old witch Mathias never told me I was supposed to mop up. She banged on the door and said, 'Slush up, sister!' And then, ten minutes later, she called the guards and told them I refused to mop."
The block guard guffawed. "Wipe talk—that's what she was telling you to do. Cap'n, you know what's funny about this? This Bradley is—"
"Shut up, Sodaro."
Captain O'leary put down his pencil and looked at the girl. She was attractive and young—not beyond hope, surely. Maybe she had got off to a wrong start, but the question was, would putting her in the disciplinary block help straighten her out? He rubbed his ear and looked past her at the line of prisoners on the rap detail, waiting for him to judge their cases.
He said patiently: "Bradley, the rules are you have to mop out your cell. If you didn't understand what Mathias was talking about, you should have asked her. Now I'm warning you, the next time—"
"Hey, Cap'n, wait!" Sodaro was looking alarmed. "This isn't a first offense. Look at the rap sheet. Yesterday she pulled the same thing in the mess hall." He shook his head reprovingly at the prisoner. "The block guard had to break up a fight between her and another wench, and she claimed the same business—said she didn't understand when the other one asked her to move along." He added virtuously: "The guard warned her then that next time she'd get the Greensleeves for sure."
Inmate Bradley seemed to be on the verge of tears. She said tautly: "I don't care. I don't care!"
O'Leary stopped her. "That's enough! Three days in Block O!"
It was the only thing to do—for her own sake as much as for his. He had managed, by strength of will, not to hear that she had omitted to say "sir" every time she spoke to him, but he couldn't keep it up forever and he certainly couldn't overlook hysteria. And hysteria was clearly the next step for her.
All the same, he stared after her as she left. He handed the rap sheet to Sodaro and said absently: "Too bad a kid like her has to be here. What's she in for?"
"You didn't know, Cap'n?" Sodaro leered. "She's in for conspiracy to violate the Categoried Class laws. Don't waste your time with her, Cap'n. She's a figger-lover!"
Captain O'Leary took a long drink of water from the fountain marked "Civil Service." But it didn't wash the taste out of his mouth, the smell from his nose.
What got into a girl to get her mixed up with that kind of dirty business? He checked out of the cell blocks and walked across the yard, wondering about her. She'd had every advantage—decent Civil Service parents, a good education, everything a girl could wish for. If anything, she had had a better environment than O'Leary himself, and look what she had made of it.
The direction of evolution is toward specialization and Man is no exception, but with the difference that his is the one species that creates its own environment in which to specialize. From the moment that clans formed, specialization began—the hunters using the weapons made by the flint-chippers, the food cooked in clay pots made by the ceramists, over fire made by the shaman who guarded the sacred flame.
Civilization merely increased the extent of specialization. From the born mechanic and the man with the gift of gab, society evolved to the point of smaller contact and less communication between the specializations, until now they could understand each other on only the most basic physical necessities—and not even always then.
But this was desirable, for the more specialists, the higher the degree of civilization. The ultimate should be the complete segregation of each specialization—social and genetic measures to make them breed true, because the unspecialized man is an uncivilized man, or at any rate he does not advance civilization. And letting the specializations mix would produce genetic undesirables: clerk-laborer or Professional-GI misfits, for example, being only half specialized, would be good at no specialization.
And the basis of this specialization society was: "The aptitude groups are the true races of mankind." Putting it into law was only the legal enforcement of a demonstrable fact.
"Evening, Cap'n." A bleary old inmate orderly stood up straight and touched his cap as O'Leary passed by.
O'Leary noted, with the part of his mind that always noted those things, that the orderly had been leaning on his broom until he'd noticed the captain coming by. Of course, there wasn't much to sweep—the spray machines and sweeperdozers had been over the cobblestones of the yard twice already that day. But it was an inmate's job to keep busy. And it was a guard captain's job to notice when they didn't.
There wasn't anything wrong with that job, he told himself. It was a perfectly good civil-service position—better than post-office clerk, not as good as Congressman, but a job you could be proud to hold. He was proud of it. It was right that he should be proud of it. He was civil-service born and bred, and naturally he was proud and content to do a good, clean civil-service job.
If he had happened to be born a fig—a clerk, he corrected himself—if he had happened to be born a clerk, why, he would have been proud of that, too. There wasn't anything wrong with being a clerk—or a mechanic or a soldier, or even a laborer, for that matter.
Good laborers were the salt of the Earth! They weren't smart, maybe, but they had a—well, a sort of natural, relaxed joy of living. O'Leary was a broad-minded man and many times he had thought almost with a touch of envy how comfortable it must be to be a wipe—a laborer. No responsibilities. No worries. Just an easy, slow routine of work and loaf, work and loaf.
Of course, he wouldn't really want that kind of life, because he was Civil Service and not the kind to try to cross over class barriers that weren't meant to be—
He nodded to the mechanic inmate who was, theoretically, in charge of maintaining the prison's car pool, just inside the gate.
"Evening, Conan," he said.
Conan, now—he was a big buck greaser and he would be there for the next hour, languidly poking a piece of fluff out of the air filter on the prison jeep. Lazy, sure. Undependable, certainly. But he kept the cars going—and, O'Leary thought approvingly, when his sentence was up in another year or so, he would go back to his life with his status restored, a mechanic on the outside as he had been inside, and he certainly would never risk coming back to the Jug by trying to pass as Civil Service or anything else. He knew his place.
So why didn't this girl, this Sue-Ann Bradley, know hers?
Every prison has its Greensleeves—sometimes they are called by different names. Old Marquette called it "the canary;" Louisiana State called it "the red hats;" elsewhere it was called "the hole," "the snake pit," "the Klondike." When you're in it, you don't much care what it is called; it is a place for punishment.
And punishment is what you get.
Block O in Estates-General Correctional Institution was the disciplinary block, and because of the green straitjackets its inhabitants wore, it was called the Greensleeves. It was a community of its own, an enclave within the larger city-state that was the Jug. And like any other community, it had its leading citizens ... two of them. Their names were Sauer and Flock.
Sue-Ann Bradley heard them before she reached the Greensleeves. She was in a detachment of three unfortunates like herself, convoyed by an irritable guard, climbing the steel steps toward Block O from the floor below, when she heard the yelling.
"Owoo-o-o," screamed Sauer from one end of the cell block and "Yow-w-w!" shrieked Flock at the other.
The inside deck guard of Block O looked nervously at the outside deck guard. The outside guard looked impassively back—after all, he was on the outside.
The inside guard muttered: "Wipe rats! They're getting on my nerves."
The outside guard shrugged.
"Detail, halt!" The two guards turned to see what was coming in as the three new candidates for the Greensleeves slumped to a stop at the head of the stairs. "Here they are," Sodaro told them. "Take good care of 'em, will you? Especially the lady—she's going to like it here, because there's plenty of wipes and greasers and figgers to keep her company." He laughed coarsely and abandoned his charges to the Block O guards.
The outside guard said sourly: "A woman, for God's sake. Now O'Leary knows I hate it when there's a woman in here. It gets the others all riled up."
"Let them in," the inside guard told him. "The others are riled up already."
Sue-Ann Bradley looked carefully at the floor and paid them no attention. The outside guard pulled the switch that turned on the tanglefoot electronic fields that swamped the floor of the block corridor and of each individual cell. While the fields were on, you could ignore the prisoners—they simply could not move fast enough, against the electronic drag of the field, to do any harm. But it was a rule that, even in Block O, you didn't leave the tangler fields on all the time—only when the cell doors had to be opened or a prisoner's restraining garment removed.
Sue-Ann walked bravely forward through the opened gate—and fell flat on her face. It was her first experience of a tanglefoot field. It was like walking through molasses.
The guard guffawed and lifted her up by one shoulder. "Take it easy, auntie. Come on, get in your cell." He steered her in the right direction and pointed to a greensleeved straitjacket on the cell cot. "Put that on. Being as you're a lady, we won't tie it up, but the rules say you got to wear it and the rules—Hey. She's crying!" He shook his head, marveling. It was the first time he had ever seen a prisoner cry in the Greensleeves.
However, he was wrong. Sue-Ann's shoulders were shaking, but not from tears. Sue-Ann Bradley had got a good look at Sauer and at Flock as she passed them by and she was fighting off an almost uncontrollable urge to retch.
Sauer and Flock were what are called prison wolves. They were laborers—"wipes," for short—or, at any rate, they had been once. They had spent so much time in prisons that it was sometimes hard even for them to remember what they really were, outside. Sauer was a big, grinning redhead with eyes like a water moccasin. Flock was a lithe five-footer with the build of a water moccasin—and the sad, stupid eyes of a calf.
Sauer stopped yelling for a moment. "Hey, Flock!"
"What do you want, Sauer?" called Flock from his own cell.
"We got a lady with us! Maybe we ought to cut out this yelling so as not to disturb the lady!" He screeched with howling, maniacal laughter. "Anyway, if we don't cut this out, they'll get us in trouble, Flock!"
"Oh, you think so?" shrieked Flock. "Jeez, I wish