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´╗┐Title: Community Property
Author: Coppel, Alfred
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Community Property" ***

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                          COMMUNITY PROPERTY

                           BY ALFRED COPPEL

             _The first successful non-Terrestrial divorce
            case! Fame for Legal Eagle Jose Obanion for his
              generalship of a three-sexed, five Venusian
            history-shattering precedent! Habits are habits
                 but--alas!--on Venus they differ...._

           [Transcriber's Note: This etext was produced from
             Worlds of If Science Fiction, December 1954.
         Extensive research did not uncover any evidence that
         the U.S. copyright on this publication was renewed.]


One of these days an embittered lawyer is going to write a text on
the effects of spaceflight on the divorce laws. This writer will be a
Terrie, about five ten, with blue eyes, black hair--turning grey very
fast, and the unlikely name of Jose Weinberg Obanion III. Me.

I remember very well the day I was graduated from law school; the day
my father gave me his version of the Obanion credo. _Always remember
you live in a community property state--_

That simple phrase has kept three generations of Obanions in the
divorce trade. And only I have had cause to regret it.

Basically, I suppose, my troubles began the day the Subversive Party
swept the Joe Macs out of Congress and repealed the Alien Restriction
Act of 1998. That bit of log-rolling gave the franchise to almost all
resident aliens and resulted in a situation virtually destroying the
sanctity of divorce as an institution.

I'm a Joe Mac myself--politically, I mean. Obanions have been voting
the Joe Mac Party Ticket for more than a hundred years. Red is our
color. There are even family legends that say an Obanion was with the
first Joe Mac when he became President of that old unit the Euse of Aay.

We have to rely on legends, unfortunately, because the Joe Mac Party
traditionally fed their rally bonfires with books, and when they won
the election and took over the Euse of Aay they had a rally to end
all rallies and somehow the Government Archives--books, you see, as
well as punch cards and the like--got taken over by some very zealous
Party men. The records were always rather incomplete after that. Only
word of mouth information was available during that first Joe Mac
Administration, and that can be sketchy. For example, the party color
is red. All we know is that first Joe Macs had something to do with
red. You see how it goes.

What I mean by all this, is that I can see the faults in my own Party.
I'm no diehard. Nor am I a bad loser. The Subs won control of Congress
by a landslide, so I guess the people wanted that sort of slipshod
government. Only they should have been more careful, dammit, when they
started tampering with the laws.

I'm not antispacegook, either. I have my framed Legal Eagle's Oath
right over my desk and I live up to it. And if Congress sees fit to
make any Tmm, Dccck, or Harry a citizen of our great Commonwealth--I
account it my duty to see to it that they are not denied the benefits
of our Terrestrial divorce laws.

But sometimes it can be _very_ trying.

The new Sub Administration and their rash repeal of Joe Mac laws has
had the effect of putting reverse English on the Obanion credo.

_Always remember you live in a community property state...._

That wonderful phrase that encompasses so many great truths--that
ringing statement that has made me rich and kept me a bachelor--now
means something else. Confusion. Work. Yes, and even spacegook
depravity.

       *       *       *       *       *

I should go back and pick up the story at the beginning before I get
too upset.

My name, as I said before, is Jose Obanion. I'm a licensed Legal Eagle,
specializing in divorce law--and doing well at it. I have a good office
on the 150th floor of the Needle Building, a damned fine address and
a comfortable lay-out, too. A whole room to myself, a private visor
service to the Municipal Law Library, and a lap-desk for my secretary,
Thais Orlof.

On the day it began I was walking to work from the tubeway station and
feeling rather pleased with myself. My income was high and steady, my
protein ration account was in good shape and I was doing my bit as a
civilized Terrestrial.

The morning was remarkably clear. You could make out the disc of the
sun quite nicely through the smog, and there was a smogbow gleaming
with carbon particles in the sky. I felt alert, expectant. Something
BIG was going to happen to me. I could feel it.

Even in the go-to-work press of people on Montgomery Street, I didn't
get shocked once. That's the way my luck was running. And three
characters brushed against me and got nipped by my new Keep-A-Way.

There's been talk about making Keep-A-Ways illegal. Just the sort of
infringement on personal liberty the Subversives are famous for.
Inconsistent, too. They pass laws letting every spacegook in the
universe come here to live and then talk about taking away one of the
things that makes the crowding bearable.

I made a point of arriving at the office a little early, hoping to
catch Thais in the act of coming in late. My secretary was a hard girl
to dock, but I never stopped trying. It was a game we played. If she
came in late, I would be justified in docking a protein credit off her
pay for every thirty seconds of office time she wasted. So far I had
managed to keep her pay low enough so she couldn't think of leaving my
employ--though she was earning a few prots on the side by acting as
correspondent in divorce cases that couldn't be settled by Collusion
Court and actually had to be tried before a judge and jury.

Thais and I were still haggling over the price of her services as
part-time mistress, too. I couldn't see giving her her asking price,
which was half again the regular market price. Thais knew the value of
a prot, all right. And of an erg, too. "Take care of the ergs," she
would say, looking at me meaningfully, "and the prots will take care
of themselves." Thais was a devout Ben Franklinist and she was full of
aphorisms like that.

I settled myself into my Lowfer and glanced over the desk calendar.
A full, profitable day ahead. Tremmy Jessup and his new fiancee were
coming in at 0900 to sign the premarital divorce settlement. A wise
couple, I thought approvingly. Save a lot of trouble later. At 1100
Truncott vs Truncott and Truncott. A multiple divorce case with two
women involved. Very lucrative sort of case. And then at 1200 Gleda
Warick was coming in to have me validate her Interlocutory decree. A
formality. But I hoped to take her to lunch at the Palace where they
were advertising a five ounce portion of genuine horsemeat on their
five prot dinner. That sort of thing would impress Gleda and I rather
hoped for great things from her. Not only that, she was spending 25,000
prots yearly on divorces. No Franklinist, she.

It still lacked a minute to the hour so I switched on the TV to catch
Honest Pancho's commercial. Pancho was my most active competitor and he
cost me plenty, but I couldn't suppress a grudging admiration of his
enterprise. He had Lyra Yves doing his stuff for him, and anyone as
socko as Lyra was dangerous. Sweetheart of the Western Hemisphere is
the way she was billed, and her agent wasn't exaggerating too much.

Lyra was singing his come-on backed by a quartet humming a steady
whap rhythm and doing a slow twitch. The lights were playing her
daring costume big, accenting the fact that she had one breast almost
covered. I frowned. How come the League of Decency let her get away
with anything as suggestive as an opaque breast covering. Pancho must
have friends in the censor's office. It was just another sign of
the increasing degeneracy of our times. Soon entertainers would be
appearing clothed from head to foot, exploiting the erotic stimulation
of imagination.

"--whap me slap me baby doll," Lyra was singing. "Beat my head against
the wall--lover, I don't care at all at all--_Whap!_ Honest Pancho's on
the ball!"

Now the announcer cut in with his insinuating voice explaining how you
could get your divorces quicker, cheaper and twice as funny at Honest
Pancho's Big Splitzmart in the Flatiron Building, as well as his Legal
Eaglery just down from the County Courthouse. "--yes, friends--TWO big
locations to serve you. Come in and see Honest Pancho today!" And then
Lyra again: "Whap! Honest Pancho's on the baaalll! WHAP!" She faded
doing a sinuous twitch. I turned the TV off feeling a little worse than
when I turned it on.

Maybe, I thought, I've been too conservative. Maybe _I'd_ better get on
the baaaalll, too. Or else. I shrugged the thought aside just as Thais
slipped through the door--exactly on time.

I watched her strip off her smog mask and cinder cape--on office
time--and place them carefully in the sterilizer. She was very careful
not to smear the paint that was most of what she wore. I tapped a
NoKanse alight and inhaled deeply. "Good morning, Thais," I said.

"Whap!" she said in return. "I heard the TV all the way down the hall."

She pulled a Lowfer out of the wall and settled down with her lap-desk
across her knees. The tip of one sandal was just brushing my shin. The
office, unfortunately, could have been bigger, but with sixteen million
people living in the city, space was rather costly even for a man with
a better than average prot account.

"New paint?" I asked.

She smiled brilliantly at me. "Nice of you to notice, boss." She
fumbled in the pockets of the belt around her naked, cerise-painted
middle and took out her pad and stylus. "On time and ready for work,"
she said. "A calorie saved is a calorie earned."

But now, somehow, I didn't feel like attacking the day's schedule. Not
quite yet. Pancho's commercial had disturbed me. "Thais," I said. "I
wonder if I'm--well, slowing down--"

"You, boss?" She fluffed her green-tinted hair provocatively and raised
an eyebrow at me. "I wouldn't say so."

"I don't mean that way," I said. "I mean professionally. I wonder if I
shouldn't seek wider horizons."

"New cases? _Different_ cases? Give up divorce work? Oh, _Boss_!"

"Not give it up, Thais. Not that. I couldn't. Divorce is my life. Could
a doctor give up healing? Could a Freudist give up lobotomy? No, I
didn't mean that. Frankly, I meant should I get more aggressive. Go out
and get cases that would have a certain advertising value." I didn't
want to say I didn't feel like spending good protein on the sort of
advertising Pancho and some of the other Legal Eagles, an unethical
lot really, were buying. Besides, we Obanions have always been rather
frugal.

Thais' face had come radiantly alive. "Oh, _Joe_--"

Now, that should have been a tip-off, because she _never_ called me
anything but boss. But I blundered right ahead because she was looking
at me as though I were Clarence Darrow or somebody.

"I have a case. A _real_ case. If you would--if you only _would_ take
it, you'd be famous. More famous, that is. You'd be _really_ famous."

I knew that Thais had some rather questionable friends, being a
Franklinist and all. And I knew too that some of them were spacegooks.
But the combination of Lyra singing for Pancho and the way Thais was
looking at me made me get careless.

"Tell me about it," I said in my best legal manner.

Her face fell. "Non-terrestrial." And then she brightened. "But that's
the whole point. These people are citizens of Terra now ... and _think
of it_--_you_ will be the very first Legal Eagle to represent them in a
divorce case tried under our laws."

_Under our laws._ Oh, I should have known. But almost all law is
precedent. And I was blinded by trying a case that would _set_ a
precedent instead of follow one. Heaven help me, I said yes.

"Where are these spacegooks from? And what time can they be in the
office tomorrow?"

"The Llagoe Islands on Venus," she said excitedly. "And they can be
here anytime you say."

"Okay, ten hundred sharp. What do they do and how many people are
involved?"

"They're musicians. And, uh, there are three. And two correspondents."
She looked rather sheepishly at me as I raised my eyebrows and
commented that even in this day and age of easy morality that was quite
a number of 'people' to be involved in one divorce case. Too many, in
fact.

"Well, they _are_ subject to our laws," she said doubtfully.

"Indeed they are--thanks to a Subversive Congress." I made a few
notations on my desk pad. "Five of them, eh? A multiple marriage."

Thais' voice was very low. "Well, no. Not exactly."

"What then?"

She looked at me resignedly. "Three sexes," she said.

       *       *       *       *       *

I gave up my luncheon with Gleda; as much as I should have liked to
split a five prot pony steak with her. Instead of the Palace, I went
to the library. The _public_ library. And read about Venerians. What
I found out was interesting--and a little frightening, too. They were
trisexual symbiotes. And they were only remotely humanoid.

There were very few of them on Terra--mainly because they relished
their own planet's formaldehyde atmosphere so much they were extremely
reluctant to leave it. When they did, ... and this really interested
me--they generally became very wealthy as entertainers. They were
accomplished musicians and--of all things--tumblers.

For reasons that were only hinted at in the staid _Encyclopedia
Terrestria_, Venerians never entertained through the mass media such as
the Livies or TV. Their stuff was limited to small, elite gatherings
and it cost plenty.

I thought of Gleda Warick and the party she was planning for later in
the week. She'd asked me to be alert for some good entertainment. Her
friends were getting weary of games like Lizzie Borden and Clobber. Too
many people getting hurt and all. Venerian tumblers and minisingers
would be just the thing. And it would assure solvency on the part of my
clients-to-be. Part of the Legal Eagle's Oath binds us to be concerned
over our customer's finances.

The next morning, promptly at ten hundred, I was treated to the first
sight of my clients. Their names didn't transliterate into anything
remotely pronounceable, so they were going by the names of Vivian, Jean
and Clare Jones.

After the first shock of seeing them wore off, I wrote on my pad:
"Names used by humans of both genders. Significant."

They spoke English, the current _lingua franca_, with only a trace of a
sibilant accent and they smelled of formaldehyde.

I explained their rights under our divorce laws. Did the best I could,
that is, not being quite sure who was married to whom and under what
conditions their marriage functioned--if at all. Finally I said, "Tell
me all about it."

Clare, who seemed to be the spokesman for the group and therefore
assumed, in my mind, a male gender, waved a boneless arm excitedly.
"Had we known we were becoming subject to your Terrestrial laws by
residing here we would never have remained. Our situation is desperate."

I wrote on my pad: "Situation desperate."

"Yes," hissed Vivian breathlessly. "Desperate."

I underlined _desperate_.

"We are, as you may know," Clare continued giving Vivian a dark look,
"Trisexual symbiotes. You do not have any analogous situation among
mammals on Terra."

I glanced at Thais. "We sure haven't," she said with feeling. "But it
sounds _fabulous_."

"It is not, I assure you," Clare said running a four-fingered hand over
his scaly crest in what I took to be a Venerian gesture of distraction.
"We are not _married_ as you people understand the term--"

"Not married," I wrote, underscoring it heavily.

"But your law enforcement agencies insist that our symbiosis is
analogous to marriage and therefore subject to the regulations
governing that odd institution."

"What a bore," Thais said helpfully.

"Our problem is this. The three of us live in what you might roughly
call a connubial state. We--what is your word?--co-inhabit?--"

"That's close," I said.

"We live together, that is. But more than eroticism is involved, I
assure you."

"Of course." Now it began to sound like most of my other cases and I
could get my teeth into it.

"You seem doubtful," the Venerian said with a sharp-toothed frown.
"Let me reiterate that what I say is so. The three of us have spent a
_ygith_ together--that is more than fourteen of your long years. But
now the _ygith_ is over and we must seek another--how would you say
it?--liaison?"

"This is essential?" I asked. "Not just a whim?" It is, you see, the
duty of a Legal Eagle to make every effort to save a marriage. In view
of the circumstances, I felt that surely this was a marriage unique and
therefore _worth_ saving.

"No whim," declared Clare emphatically. "Each _ygith_--or what you
Terrestrials would call 'mating period'--we must uh--realign. If we do
not, deleterious effects are certain. Our health goes bad. We may even
die."

"My friends," I said, "you have very little to worry about. There
are many similar cases here on Terra. Just last week, for example,
a divorce was granted in the case of Nork vs. Nork wherein it was
established that the plaintiff, Mr. Nork was allergic to _Mrs._ Nork.
A simple case, and not the first of its kind. I myself tried one such
case wherein a wife broke out in a rash whenever her husband sought to
question her about the household expenses. A divorce was granted on the
grounds of basic incompatibility."

"Ah," Clare said sadly. "If it were only that simple. Our two
correspondents, Gail and Evelyn, are ready to enter the realignment.
But--" and here the Venerian glared at the smallest of the trio.
"_this_ ungrateful wretch is unwilling to adjust to the changed
circumstances."

Great tears formed in Jean's slotted eyes. "How can you speak that way
to me? After we've been through so much together?"

"Now, now--" Thais, who has a very soft heart, patted Jean in an effort
to make he she or it feel better.

"Get to the point, Clare," Vivian said testily.

"It is our understanding that property held in joint tenancy by
two contesting parties in a divorce case may be distributed at the
discretion of the court."

"That's correct," I said.

"We contend, therefore, that Jean--" Clare pointed a scaly finger at
the small Venerian, "is community property. Vivian's and mine. We wish
to make an agreement between us for the disposal of it--"

"Wait a _minute_," I said, shocked. "I don't think you understand the
community property laws at all. Jean is, by definition, a person. A
person cannot be considered property or chattel. Oh, no--"

The small Venerian made a face at them. "I told you you couldn't get
away with it," she said. "This isn't Venus, you know."

"On Venus you would be property," declared Vivian. And to me,
he--she--I still get confused about this--added: "My sex was
emancipated thirty _ygiths_ ago at home. But Jean's is still
considered--what did you call it?--chattel. No vote. No rights. Nothing
but symbiosis."

"And Clare's is still the--uh--dominant one?" I asked hesitantly.

"That's the myth that's perpetrated," Clare declared acidly. "We
_guths_ do most of the work, if that means anything."

I wrote on my pad: "Guths--breadwinners."

"And who--well, forgive my indelicacy, but--" I shrugged mundanely,
"who bears the children?"

"We all do," the three Venerians chorused at once.

Well, that's the way the interview went. When the three Venerians
finally left I had a rough outline for the brief on my pad. Besides
the other comments, I had the following information:

    Re Jones and Jones vs Jones, trsex smbytes!!

                    See Ency
    Clare--guth   } Terrestria
    Vivian--warth } PP 1099,
    Jean--ith     } Vol 17,
                    09 Ed


    Jean--Community Property?

    No. Not under Terr Law

    See US vs Ignatz Wolk 1999.

    What then?

    Correspondents: Evelyn (guth) Gail (warth) Any overt acts of
    infidelity? Probable. No proof.

    Only obstacle: Jean. Must reach agreement.

    IMPORTANT: Plaintiffs and Defendant or Defendants and Plaintiff not
    solvent. Must arrange something.

    See Gleda.

And see Gleda I did. I asked her if she could use not two, not three,
but FIVE Venerian entertainers. She could and would. At 1,000 prots a
head for an hour's entertainment. That took care of that much, anyway.
I was, I felt, well on the road to making legal history.

       *       *       *       *       *

The following day I made arrangements to meet Jean alone in a little
bistro down on the Embarcadero. I felt the salt water air would make
her-it feel more co-operative. But on the way down I became aware of
someone following me. Cinder-caped and smog-masked, the tail I was
dragging was inconspicuous enough, but I figured the thing about right.
It was a Government man. There could be only one answer. Honest Pancho
had tipped the TBI that I was doing something illegal or immoral. I
was an active Joe Mac and that would be enough to put the Witch Hunt
Division of TBI on me even without Pancho getting wind of my dealings
with the spacegooks.

The gimmick would be, of course, that I was taking advantage of them,
violating their rights under the V Amendment of the World Constitution.
Pure falsehood, but my previous unwise political affiliations put me
under suspicion.

I looked up through the smog, and sure enough. An Eyespy hung in the
air just over my head--a tiny transmitter about as big as a half erg
piece. If I spit on the sidewalk, I thought, they'll haul me in on the
double.

This was bad enough, but when and if I actually got the Venerians an
interlocutory decree, I'd really have to watch it--and them, to see
that nothing went wrong. The WH boys would have Pancho right at their
shoulder watching for the slightest excuse to invalidate the decree.

I could get used to the Eyespy, and I thought I could convince Jean.
And above all, I had to keep the Venerians from anything like sexual
activity during the two day period of the decree. Nothing--but
nothing--will invalidate a decree quicker than _that_. And an
invalidated decree is very bad for a Legal Eagle's reputation.

I was, I thought darkly, getting into this thing deeper than I thought.
But the rewards would be worth it. Think of it. To Legal Eagle the
_first_ extraterrestrial divorce case in the history of the world! Holy
Protein, I'd be in song and story.

I made my way through the press of people on the slidewalks, my
Keep-A-Way crackling a jolly tune, and the Eyespy hovering over my head.

San Francisco is a wonderful place. Full of excitement and bustle.
It's a port of entry, for one thing, with starliners letting down
into the Bay from all over the Solar System. On the Embarcadero
there were Sandies from Mars, Rooks from the Jovian System--every
sort of spacegook there is. Except Venerians. And mingled with
the crowd I could make out the distinctive cinder capes of the
Longshoremen--absolute rulers of the district.

The bistro I was looking for was a floating platform moored to the
ancient wharves, the ones that were left after the tidal wave caused by
the bomb back in '59. It was a nautilus type joint, most of it under
water, called the Deep Six.

An attendant took my cape and smog mask at the door and bowed me along
to the maitre d'.

"A table, sir?" He clapped his hands for a waiter. "May I order you
something? A morphine syrette? Phenobarb? We have a particularly fine
aphrodisiac cocktail, sir. Or shall I just send the hostess to you and
you can order later?"

I eyed the line up of girls regretfully. They were all lovely, all
almost fully clothed--and what flesh was exposed was completely
unpainted. If Thais looked like that, I thought sadly, I wouldn't
haggle about her price. But that was sheer depravity, I told
myself sternly. That's what comes of associating with triple sexed
spacegooks--I was here on business. Not pleasure.

"I'm meeting someone," I said. "A spaceg--a Venerian uh--lady. Miss
Jones."

The maitre shrugged. "Everyone to his taste. The person you wish is at
the corner table, sir. Near the window." And sure enough, there was
Jean, her crest waving agitatedly as she pressed her three nostrilled
nose against the glass watching the sandsharks swimming gracefully
among the mossy pilings outside.

"Oh, Joe--just like _home_," she hissed softly as I sat down. She was
very strong of formaldehyde today, I thought.

I didn't quite know how to begin with her. I had to make her see
reason, but she seemed to be unwilling to pay any attention to me
at all except to comment that Clare and Vivian were very cruel to
her. "And after I've given them the best ygith of my life." Then she
returned to her melancholy contemplation of the underseascape beyond
the glass.

I ordered an alkie-and-treacle and sipped it thoughtfully watching
Jean. An amber tear had formed in the outer corner of each slotted eye
and was oozing gelatinously down her pale green cheeks.

It was like someone turning on a light in my brain. The answer was
plain as day. Jean was homesick. Miserable. And a miserable woman--or
man--or--well, does it matter?--a miserable _person_ was always
contrary. Remove the misery and _voila_--gentle as a lamb.

"Jean," I said, "this case is important to me. You must help me get the
decree. If you do--I'll do something nice for you."

Over my head the Eyespy clucked reproachfully, but I ignored it.

"Agree to the divorce. We can settle it in Collusion Court. And
I'll see to it you get passage back to Venus on the first available
starliner. How's that?"

"Back to Venus? Back Home?" Her eyes gleamed redly.

"That's a promise," I said. This would cost me plenty of prots, but the
fame would be worth it. You can see how far gone I was on this case.

"Just one thing," I added thoughtfully. "What will become of the rest
_after_ the divorce? I mean, can two of each sex get along without a
third? It sounds, well, almost unvenerian, if you know what I mean."

"The mating wouldn't be a very high-type experience," Jean said
loftily, "without an _ith_--but it can take place. It's just the
sort of disgusting business you could expect from people like Clare
and Vivian. And those _other_ two--_well_--you haven't met them, but
really--"

"Then you'll do as I ask?"

Jean waved her crest at me seductively. "Joe Obanion, you're really
very nice."

I backed away and swallowed hard as Jean laid a slick, webbed hand on
my wrist. "How about it? Agreed?"

"You know," Jean said dreamily, "you remind me of a _warth_ I used to
know back home. He and I and a really divine _guth_ called Charlie had
the most marvelous _ygith_ together. I wonder if he remembers little
me--?"

"I'm sure he does. How could she forget you?" I asked warily.

Jean blinked her slotted eyes at me and her thin lips split into a
tusky smile. "You say the nicest things, Joe. Yes, baby, I'll do as you
ask. I won't contest the divorce."

"Jean," I said with feeling, "you'll never regret this."

And the Eyespy clucked disapprovingly. Drop dead, Pancho, I thought.
Drop dead twice. I had made it.

       *       *       *       *       *

Gleda Warick's house--mansion, really, lay sprawled over most of the
Twin Peaks Area. From her Lunar Room you could see the whole of the
city stretched out as if for inspection. To the east, the bay and the
floating housing developments, wharves and night spots on and under
the water. To the west the transocean highways, ribbons of plastic
floating on the still Pacific. No one could afford to run ships now
and almost all surface commerce was run over the highways in caravans
of atomic trucks. To the Orient, to Alaska, to the Pacific islands. A
steady string of lights moving at two hundred miles per hour. Rocket
trails streaked the sky as starliners splashed into the bay and burbled
to the surface, hissing and steaming. Market Street--all seven levels
of it--ran from the base of the hills to the bay, a multilevel slidway
jammed with people. The view from Gleda's place was magnificent
because of the infra-red antismog windows she had installed in the
Lunar Room at a cost, incidentally, of 100,000 prots.

She had three rooms and a kitchenette. You entered her place and almost
had an attack of agoraphobia. It was that big.

The place was overrun with people. I'd brought Thais, of course,
resplendent in red and silver paint. Lyra Yves appeared in a solid coat
of gilt, with that one breast and her left arm sheathed in flexible
vinyl. Thais nudged me. "Look at that. I think it's disgusting."

I did look. I couldn't help myself. That shiny vinyl caught the eye of
every man in the room. "Depraved," Thais sniffed.

Honest Pancho came in with an older man who was pointed out to me as
an ethnologist from the University of California across the bay. A
Professor Cripps.

Pancho, dressed in his customary green and orange enamel and
embroidered cowboy boots, stumped across the room to give me the big
hello.

"Jose, my boy! Good to see you...." He glanced up at the Eyespy.
"Trouble with the Witch Hunters? Tsk tsk--"

"As if you didn't know," I snapped.

"You think I'd do a thing like that to a _friend_?"

"Yes."

He grinned a big toothy smile at me. "As a matter of fact, you're
right. I hear you've got a big case. Non-terrie. Worth a lot to a Legal
Eagle to be the first with a non-terrie case--"

"You're too late, you vulture," I said. "Interlocutory decree
granted." I tapped my pouch. "Right here."

He shrugged. "Hope nothing happens to void it, old sport."

He winked at his silent companion, the staid and seemingly dumb
professor. He turned back to me. "Sorry. Should have introduced you.
Prof Cripps--this is my friend and competitor, Jose Obanion."

"Pleased," the Professor said, looking fearfully at the Government
Eyespy over my head. His fingers went automatically to the engraved
tablet he wore on a chain round his neck--a validated Loyalty Oath--as
though to show the unseen TBI observers he wasn't _really_ a friend of
this Joe Mac's.

"The Prof," Honest Pancho said softly, "is a specialist in Venerian
ethnology. He'd like to meet your clients."

That gave me a start. "He'll meet them. They're going to sing tonight."

The Professor's eyes widened. They looked shocked in his yellow painted
face. "And dance?"

I smirked happily at Pancho. "And dance. At 1,000 prots each."

If Pancho had any reply for that, I don't know, for Gleda came in. She
was wearing her hair blue and she wore a really striking pattern of
iridescent blue paint with a double snake pattern coiling up her legs
and torso.

The party got under way very quickly. Gleda supplied the alkie and
treacle and everyone nibbled their own synthetic protein out of their
pouches. The combination soon had an hilarious effect on the gathering
and a couple that I didn't know, a boy and girl in particolored green
and blue, starting throwing small articles of furniture at the Eyespy
over my head.

Couldn't hurt the Eye, of course, but I was kept pretty busy dodging.
Then Thais suggested a quick game of Clobber. I must confess, not
without satisfaction, that I cheated a little and peeked through the
bandage so I could land a real lulu on Pancho's long pointed nose.

When Gleda stopped the bleeding and he was on his feet, someone asked
Lyra for a song and the cry was taken up by all. I caught a glimpse of
the five Venerians' round eyes peering at us out of the kitchenette.
But Gleda was saving them for the last--the _piece de resistance_.

Lyra tore down a drapery and staggering a bit from two or three too
many alkie-and-treacles, wrapped herself in it from head to foot. There
was a shocked sort of gasp from the watchers. Professor Cripps turned
red under his yellow paint.

Gleda put a tape on the MusiKall and Lyra went into her act. I've never
seen anything like it. Swaying like a cobra, her bare feet pounding
out the beat on the plastic floor, she raised the temperature about
ten degrees in that room. Her green painted lips twisted in agony, her
eyes rolled in the chromatic mask of her face. An old folk tune--not
the sort of thing she generally did. Something that really tore at the
heartstrings. A song that dated centuries back. History and the sense
of our way of life lived in that room for a few short moments. Her
voice was a blood-stirring trumpet--

    "Mairzy Doats and Lammsy Doats
    And little kiddsie Divy--
    A Kiddlee Tivy Tooo Wouldn't you--?"

When it was over, there was a breathless hush in the room. I wondered
where in the world Gleda had gotten that MusiKall tape--It had probably
cost her plenty.

There was only one thing, I thought, that could top that. "Gleda," I
said. "_Now._" Besides if the gooks didn't earn their prots, what about
my fee? I was already losing protein on this deal. Passage to Venus
isn't cheap.

The Venerians trooped in and squatted on the floor while Gleda made the
introductions. The room began to smell very like an embalming room must
smell.

"May I present Clare, Vivian, Gail, Evelyn and little Jean. They're
going to sing for us." Cheers from the guests. I glanced triumphantly
at Pancho. The Professor seemed fascinated. "And," added Gleda archly,
"they may even tumble for us." The Venerians looked at one another,
tittered and flushed dark green. I was glad to see they were all on
friendly terms with Jean.

Clare struck an attitude, crest erect, and waited until everyone quit
shuffling around. Presently, they sang. I think it was singing. Very
cultural. Very esoteric. Also very noisy. It sounded rather like they
were all in pain.

After what seemed to me a very long time, they grew silent. There was
a smattering of discontented applause. Gleda glared at me. I looked at
Thais in dismay. "They also dance," she said weakly.

"Yes," Pancho said. "Let's see them dance!"

"By all means," Gleda said, still eyeing me.

"Dance, fellows," I said hopefully.

Jean came over to me and whispered: "Are you sure it will be all right?"

"Do you want to ruin me? Dance. Tumble. Do something."

Jean shrugged and went back to where the Venerians squatted. "He says
dance."

Evelyn and Gail stepped properly, I should say primly, aside and the
other three began stomping about. The rhythm was infectious. The
movements became more heated and shouts of approval began to ring out.

"Dance, Gookie!"

"Whapperoonie!"

"Go go go Gook!"

I was delighted. So was everyone else. The dance grew more and more
violent. There was a great deal of body contact in it. Evelyn and Gail
looked longingly at the gyrating three, but kept out of it. I wondered
why--never knowing that the Venerians are a _very_ conventional people.

Pancho was delighted. So was the Professor. In the middle of it, the
prof raised his hands and made a signal. An earsplitting clangor broke
from the Eyespy.

The Venerians stopped.

Everyone stared at the Eye.

And at me.

The Professor stepped forward and flipped his Loyalty Oath over,
it opened like a poison-ring. The engraving inside said TBI Morals
Division.

"The Interlocutory Decree, if you please," he commanded.

Stunned, I fished it out and handed it over.

He glanced at it. "You realize of course that this is immediately
invalidated."

"_What?_" I couldn't believe my ears.

"You know--as any Legal Eagle should know--that any re-stablishment
of--uh--connubial rights abrogates an interlocutory."

"Of course I know that."

He glanced at Honest Pancho and smiled. There was triumph flashing
between them like a shuttlecock. "You Joe Macs never learn. The law is
the law. What do you think your clients were just doing--and in front
of a roomful of witnesses?"

I felt my heart sink. "You mean--?"

Cripps nodded.

"That?" I asked weakly.

"_That_," he said, and tore up the paper.

I watched my future as a Legal Eagle flutter down to the floor. "And I
thought they were dancing," Thais said sadly.

       *       *       *       *       *

Well, the story doesn't end quite there. Gleda and I were arrested for
running an obscene show. Gleda doesn't speak to me anymore. Nor do any
of the people who were there that night. Lyra and Gleda get all their
divorces at Pancho's Splitzmart now. It took most of my prot account to
bail us out and pay our fines. Thais is with me. We're married and we
haven't a prot between us for a divorce, so we'll just have to _stay_
married.

The Venerians came out all right though. They were deported.





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