WHO OWNS GATEWAY?
Gateway is unique In the history of humanity, and it was quickly realized that it was too valuable a resource to be given to any one group of persons, or any one government. Therefore Gateway Enterprises, Inc., was formed.
Gateway Enterprises (usually referred to as “the Corporation”) is a multinational corporation whose general partners are the governments of the United States of America, the Soviet Union, the United States of Brazil, the Venusian Confederation, and New People’s Asia, and whose limited partners are all those persons who, like yourself, have signed the attached Memorandum of Agreement.
“I believe you have a medical examination this morning at oh eight hundred hours.”
“Do I?” I managed to get the cap off the tea and took a sip. It was very hot, sugarless, and almost tasteless, but it did seem to tip the scales inside my gut in the direction opposite to throwing up again.
“Yes. I think so. It’s customary. And in addition, your P-phone has rung several times.”
I went back to, “Uh?”
“I presume it was your proctor caffing you to remind you. It is now seven-fifteen, Mr.—”
“Broadhead,” I said thickly, and then more carefully: “My name is Rob Broadhead.”
“Yes. I took the liberty of making sure you were awake. Please enjoy your tea, Mr. Broadhead. Enjoy your stay on Gateway.”
He nodded, fell forward off the chest, swooped toward the door, handed himself through it, and was gone. With my head thudding at every change of attitude I got myself out of the hammock, trying to avoid the nastier spots on the floor, and somehow succeeded in getting reasonably clean. I thought of depilating, but I had about twelve days on a beard and decided to let it go for a while; it no longer looked unshaven, exactly, and I just didn’t have the strength.
When I wobbled into the medical examining room I was only about five minutes late. The others in my group were all ahead of me, so I had to wait and go last. They extracted three kinds of blood from me, fingertip, inside of the elbow, and lobe of the ear, I was sure they would all run ninety proof. But it didn’t matter. The medical was only a formality. If you could survive the trip up to Gateway by spacecraft in the first place; you could survive a trip in a Heechee ship. Unless something went wrong. In which case you probably couldn’t survive anyway, no matter how healthy you were.
I had time for a quick cup of coffee off a cart that someone was tending next to a dropshaft (private enterprise on Gateway? I hadn’t known that existed), and then I got to the first session of the class right on the tick. We met in a big room on Level Dog, long and narrow and low-ceilinged. The seats were arranged two on each side with a center aisle, sort of like a schoolroom in a converted bus. Sheri came in late, looking fresh and cheerful, and slipped in beside me; our whole group was there, all seven of us who had come up from Earth together, the family of four from Venus and a couple others I knew to be new fish like me. “You don’t look too bad,” Sheri whispered as the instructor pondered over some papers on his desk.