The Pirates of Ersatz-Thirteen-Nedda’ house

The Pirates of Ersatz-Thirteen- Nedda’ house

It was not far from Nedda’s house to a public-safety kiosk, decoratively placed on a street corner. He entered it. It was unattended, of course. It was simply an out-of-door installation where cops could be summoned or fires reported or emergencies described by citizens independently of the regular home communicators. It had occurred to Hoddan that the planetary authorities would be greatly pleased to hear of a situation, in a place, that would seem to hint at his presence. There were all sorts of public services that would be delighted to operate impressively in their own lines. There were bureaus which would rejoice in a chance to show off their efficiency.

He used his microwave generator–which at short enough range would short-circuit anything–upon the apparatus in the kiosk. It was perfectly simple, if one knew how. He worked with a sort of tender thoroughness, shorting this item, shorting that, giving this frantic emergency call, stating that baseless lie. When he went out of the kiosk he walked briskly toward an appointment he had made.And presently the murmur of the city at night had new sounds added to it. They began as a faint, confused clamor at the edges of the city. The uproar moved centralward and grew louder as it came. There were clanging bells and sirens and beeper-horns warning all nonofficial vehicles to keep out of the way. On the raised-up expressway snorting metal monsters rushed with squealing excitement. On the fragrant lesser streets, small vehicles rushed with proportionately louder howlings. Police trucks poured out of their cubbyholes and plunged valiantly through the dark. Broadcast-units signaled emergency and cut off the air to make the placid ether waves available to authority.

All these noises and all this tumult moved toward a single point. The outer parts of the city regained their former quiet, save that there was less music. The broadcasts were off. But the sound of racing vehicles clamoring for right-of-way grew louder and louder, and more and more peremptory as it concentrated toward the large open square on which the Interstellar Embassy faced. From every street and avenue fire-fighting equipment poured into that square. In between and behind, hooting loudly for precedence, police trucks accompanied and fore-ran them. Emergency vehicles of all the civic bureaus appeared, all of them with immense conviction of their importance.

It was a very large open square, that space before the Embassy. From its edge, the monument to the First Settlers in the center looked small. But even that vast plaza filled up with trucks of every imaginable variety, from the hose towers which could throw streams of water four hundred feet straight up, to the miniature trouble-wagons of Electricity Supply. Staff cars of fire and police and sanitary services crowded each other and bumped fenders with tree-surgeon trucks prepared to move fallen trees, and with public-address trucks ready to lend stentorian tones to any voice of authority.But there was no situation except that there was no situation. There was no fire. There was no riot. There were not even stray dogs for the pound wagons to pursue, nor broken water mains for the water department technicians to shut off and repair. There was nothing for anybody to do but ask everybody else what the hell they were doing there, and presently to swear at each other for cluttering up the way.

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