You might say Garrity brought it on himself. The way I put it, Garrity was the architect of his own disasters. It’s a nicely put phrase, I think. Anyway, a lot of people tried to tell him what might happen. I did, for one, though I’d never have thought it would happen in just that way. What I would have predicted for Garrity would be trouble, but just ordinary trouble: jail, or getting his Space Engineer’s ticket suspended, or something like that. Not the kind of trouble he’s got.
I remember distinctly the first time I heard Garrity explaining his theory. It wasn’t a new theory, but the way Garrity talked about it, you’d think he’d invented it personally. We were sitting in the messroom in the Aloha--that was the old Aloha, the one that belonged to the Muller Space Lines. Talking about women--trip like that.
Neither Garrity nor I had ever touched down on Seranis, which was where we’d be in another week or so. The other off-watch man, Gloster, had been there several times and liked the place.
“A lot of Earthside Oriental in ‘em,” Gloster said. “They’re little brown characters, real obliging. The girls especially. You just treat ‘em polite and they’ll treat you right back.”
“Uh-huh,” I said, considering the idea.
Garrity curled his long lip. “It’ll cost you just as much in the end. Women are always looking for something.”
“Not this kind on Seranis,” Gloster said. “Best port I’ve ever been in. I’m staying on the Aloha till I get to putting curtains on my cabin port.”
Garrity shook his head. He looked as cynical as he could, for his age, which was twenty-four. We were all of us fresh out of Lunar, with the ink hardly dry on our Engineer tickets.
“I’ll tell you,” said Garrity. “I haven’t seen a woman yet that wouldn’t cost you more than she was worth in the long run.”
“Long run?” I asked him. “We don’t spend more than a few days down on Seranis. Isn’t going to be any long run. If she runs, let her to catch her before takeoff time.”
Gloster chuckled, but Garrity just looked righteous.
“You’ll see what I mean,” he told us.
“Yeah,” Gloster said. “I guess you and me will go downtown and pick up a couple girls and take in some high-priced amusements, like listening to records at the Spaceman’s Union Lounge. After which we hurl our hard-earned cash away on a quart of pink arrack and we take the girls home with it. In the morning, we haven’t got a credit left, so we blast off with nothing but a set of beautiful memories.” Gloster crowed.
“What’s the matter, anyway, Garrity? The Union gets us the best wage scale in any space fleet and you still think girls cost too much? Even the Seranese?”
Garrity kept on looking wise. “I’m not kidding. I’ve seen a lot of men come up to retirement without a credit put away. Half-pay and nothing else, all because they spent everything having a good time.”
“You can do without women, maybe?” I asked.
“No,” Garrity admitted. “I’m a normal man.”
“Yeah,” said Gloster, very flat.
Garrity looked peeved. “Well, I am. But I’m careful, too. I figured it all out a long time back. I aim to have everything you guys look for and not go to half the trouble and expense.”
“What did you figure out?”
“I’m going to get married.”
Gloster and I just sat there, looking at each other. After a while, Gloster finished his coffee in silence. He got up, looked at Garrity, shook his head sadly, and went out.
It took me a while to finish looking Garrity over, myself. When I managed to get my voice under control, I asked him what he was talking about.
“I saw what happened to my old man,” Garrity told me. “When he came up for retirement, he was broke. He doesn’t complain, but he never has anything left out of his retirement pay. Spends his time loafing around and writing his memoirs. It was women, mostly; after he lost my mother--she died when I was born--he went off to space again. Sent back enough to keep me, spent the rest in one port or another.”
I didn’t say anything, but it was beginning to add up. I don’t know anything about psychology, but I thought there might be something like a reason in what Garrity was telling me for the way Garrity was. Somewhere he’d got the idea that his old man wasn’t happy. I doubted it, because I’ve seen and talked to lots of old retired hands. Most of them had a good life behind them and they were still enjoying the taste of it.
But I didn’t argue with Garrity about it. I’ve got more sense. When a man’s got a pet notion, leave it alone. You won’t pry him off it and you might get him mad at you. A spaceship’s too small to make enemies in.
“Suppose you get married,” I asked him. “So you have a place to go, and a girl in it, in one port. How about all the others? Going to take a permanent port watch instead of seeing a little fun?”
“Easy,” Garrity said. “I’ll just get married in all of them.”
“All of them?”
“Well, the ones I’m in most often. Terra City, Chafanor, some other places. I’m thinking of homesteading on one line as soon as I pad on a little seniority.”
The notion did have a certain cold practicality about it. I didn’t like it, but as far as getting away with it went, he could.
Garrity went on to explain a bit more; his system seemed to have been worked out to the last detail. He’d set up two, three, maybe four or five happy little households, spend his end-of-run leave in each, dividing up his time nice and even. All of them together wouldn’t cost him what a night or two on the town might.
To add to that, he’d pick out his wives with care. They’d all be different in a lot of ways, for the sake of variety, but they’d all be affectionate, home-loving girls, and careful with money. They’d save his credits for him. And when he retired, he could keep active and happy visiting them and his various families, which he expected to include a real lot of kids and grandchildren.
“I don’t believe in small families,” he explained.
At the time, I never thought he’d try to carry it through. I’ve heard wild ideas in messrooms before, particularly halfway through a long trip. They usually fade out when a man gets his feet down on gravity again. This one didn’t.
But it might have worked out, at that. It was just Garrity’s luck that he signed on the Brooklyn.
The Brooklyn carried ore from Serco to Terra, and Terran machinery back to Serco, a regular, steady run. When I bumped into Garrity in the hiring hall, he told me he’d just signed on her, and I told him I had, too. Naturally, I asked him how the Garrity old-age-insurance system was working out.
“Well,” he confessed, “I’m not married yet. But I’ve got a likely girl here in Terra City. All I’ve got to do is ask her. Now if I can line one up in Serco--”
“In Serco?” I turned a little pale, I think. “Listen, Garrity, have you ever been in Serco?”
“No. Why? Aren’t they humanoids?”
“Oh, sure.” I was trying to think just how you’d describe Serco and its peculiar people. “Only different.”
“How’re they different?”
Looking at that stubborn mug of his, I knew I wasn’t going to be able to explain this in a million years. It was just no use. Garrity had everything all figured out. But I took one try.
“They’ve never been much of a mechanical culture; they buy all their stuff from outside, in exchange for ore and timber. But they’re one of the oldest civilizations in the Galaxy. They’ve spent a million years learning about minds and thoughts, all that philosophy sort of thing. I don’t mean they aren’t perfectly all right. They’re human, but they know a lot. It wouldn’t pay to fool around with them.”
Garrity laughed. “Maybe they might read my mind?”
I knew it was no use. I just shrugged, bought Garrity a beer to celebrate, and we headed for the spaceport.
No, the Sercoans don’t read minds. At least, I don’t think they do, though there are times when they’re that clever at adding you up that you’d think they were looking at your thoughts.
Garrity didn’t get caught that way. He got caught because he couldn’t keep from telling the rest of us about his great idea. One of the navigators, a man named Lane, was the one who told Katha about it.