MEMORANDUM OF AGREEMENT
1. I, _________________, being of sound mind, hereby assign all rights in and to any discoveries, artifacts, objects, and things of value of any description I may find during or as a result of exploration involving any craft furnished me or information given me by the Gateway Authority irrevocably to said Gateway Authority.
2. Gateway Authority may, in its own sole direction, elect to sell, lease or otherwise dispose of any artifact, object or other thing of value arising from my activities under this contract. If it does so, it agrees to assign to me 50% (fifty percent) of all revenues arising from such sale, lease, or disposal, up to the costs of the exploration trip itself (including my own costs in coming to Gateway and my subsequent costs of living while there), and 10% (ten percent) of all subsequent revenues once the aforesaid costs have been repaid. I accept this assignment as payment in full for any obligations arising to me from the Gateway Authority of whatever kind, and specifically undertake not to lay any claim for additional payment for any reason at any time.
3. I irrevocably grant to Gateway Authority the full power and authority to make decisions of all kinds relating to the exploitation, sale, or lease of rights in any such discoveries, including the right, at Gateway Authority’s sole discretion, to pool my discoveries or other things of value arising under this contract with those of others for purpose of exploitation, lease, or sale, in which case my share shall be whatever proportion of such earnings Gateway Authority may deem proper; and I further grant to Gateway Authority the right to refrain from exploiting any or all such discoveries or things of value in any way, at its own sole discretion.
4. I release Gateway Authority from any and all claims by me or on my behalf arising from any injury, accident, or loss of any kind to me in connection with my activities under this contract.
5. In the event of any disagreement arising from this Memorandum of Agreement, I agree that the terms shall be interpreted according to the laws and precedents of Gateway itself, and that no laws or precedents of any other jurisdiction shall be considered relevant in any degree.
“Oh, hell, man! It’s in that packet of stuff they gave you.”
I opened the lockers at random until I found where I had put the envelope. Inside it were my copy of the articles of agreement, a booklet entitled Welcome to Gateway, my room assignment, my health questionnaire that I would have to fill out before 0800 the next morning… and a folded sheet that, opened up, looked like a wiring diagram with names on it.
“That’s it. Can you locate where you are? Remember your room number: Level Babe, Quadrant East, Tunnel Eight, Room Fifty-one. Write it down.”
“It’s already written here, Dane, on my room assignment.”
“Well, don’t lose it.” Dane reached behind his neck and unhooked himself, let himself fall gently to the floor. “So why don’t you look around by yourself for a while. I’ll meet you here. Anything else you need to know right now?”
I thought, while he looked impatient. “Well — mind if I ask you a question about you, Dane? Have you been out yet?”
“Six trips. All right, I’ll see you at twenty-two hundred.” Then he pushed the flexible door open, slipped out into the jungly green of the corridor and was gone.
I let myself flop — so gently, so slowly — into my one real chair and tried to make myself understand that I was on the doorstep of the universe.
I don’t know if I can make you feel it, how the universe looked to me from Gateway: like being young with Full Medical. Like a menu in the best restaurant in the world, when somebody else is going to pick up the check. Like a girl you’ve just met who likes you. Like an unopened gift.
The things that hit you first on Gateway are the tininess of the tunnels, feeling tinier even than they are because they’re lined with windowboxy things of plants; the vertigo from the low gravity, and the stink. You get Gateway a little bit at a time. There’s no way of seeing it all in one glance; it is nothing but a maze of tunnels in the rock. I’m not even sure they’ve all been explored yet. Certainly there are miles of them that nobody ever goes into, or not very often.
That’s the way the Heechees were. They grabbed the asteroid, plated it over with wall metal, drove tunnels into it, filled them with whatever sort of possessions they had — most were empty by the time we got there, just as everything that ever belonged to the Heechees is, all over the universe. And then they left it, for whatever reason they left.
The closest thing to a central point in Gateway is Heecheetown. That’s a spindle-shaped cave near the geometric center of the asteroid. They say that when the Heechees built Gateway they lived there. We lived there too, at first, or close to it, all of us new peopie off Earth. (And elsewhere. A ship from Venus had come in just before ours.) That’s where the company housing is. Later on, if we got rich on a prospecting trip, we could move out farther toward the surface, where there was a little more gravity and less noise. And above all, less smell. A couple thousand people had breathed the air I was breathing, one time or another, voided the water I drank and exuded their smells into the atmosphere. The people didn’t stay around very long, most of them. But the smells were still there.
I didn’t care about the smell. I didn’t care about any of it. Gateway was my big, fat lottery ticket to Full Medical, a nine-room house, a couple of kids, and a lot of joy. I had won one lottery already. It made me cocky about my chances of winning another.
It was all exciting, although at the same time it was dingy enough, too. There wasn’t much luxury around. For your $238,575 what you get is transportation to Gateway, ten days’ worth of food, lodging, and air, a cram course in ship handling, and an invitation to sign up on the next ship out. Or any ship you like. They don’t make you take any particular ship, or for that matter any ship at all.
The Corporation doesn’t make any profit on any of that. All the prices are fixed at about cost. That doesn’t mean they were cheap, and it certainly doesn’t mean that what you got was good. The food was just about what I had been digging, and eating, all my life. The lodging was about the size of a large steamer trunk, one chair, a bunch of lockers, a fold-down table, and a hammock that you could stretch across it, corner to corner, when you wanted to sleep.
My next-door neighbors were a family from Venus. I caught a glimpse through the part-opened door. Imagine! Four of them sleeping in one of those cubicles! It looked like two to a hammock, with two hammocks crisscrossed across the room. On the other side was Sheri’s room. I scratched at her door, but she didn’t answer. The door wasn’t locked. Nobody locks his door much on Gateway, because there’s nothing much worth stealing among other reasons. Sheri wasn’t there. The clothes she had been wearing on the ship were thrown all over.
I guessed that she had gone out exploring, and wished I had been a little earlier. I would have liked someone to explore with. I leaned against the ivy growing out of one wall of the tunnel and pulled out my map.
It did give me some idea of what to look for. There were things marked “Central Park” and “Lake Superior.” What were they? I wondered about “Gateway Museum,” which sounded interesting, and “Terminal Hospital,” which sounded pretty bad-I found out later that “terminal” meant as in end of the line, on your return trip from wherever you went to. The Corporation must have known that it had another sound to it, too; but the Corporation never went to much trouble to spare a prospector’s feelings.
What I really wanted was to see a ship!
As soon as that thought percolated out of my mind I realized that I wanted it a lot. I puzzled over how to get to the outer skin, where the ship docks were located of course. Holding onto a railing with one hand, I tried to keep the map open with the other. It didn’t take me long to locate myself. I was at a five-way intersection which seemed to be the one marked “East Star Babe G” on the map. One of the five tunnels out of it led to a dropshaft, but I couldn’t tell which.
I tried one at random, wound up in a dead end, and on the way back scratched on a door for directions. It opened. “Excuse me—” I said… and stopped.
The man who opened the door seemed as tall as I, but was not. His eyes were on a level with my own. But he stopped at the waist. He had no legs.
He said something, but I didn’t understand it; it wasn’t in English. It wouldn’t have mattered. My attention was taken up with him. He wore gauzy bright fabric strapped from wrists to waist, and he fluttered the wings gently to stay in the air. It wasn’t hard, in Gateway’s low-G. But it was surprising to see. I said, “I’m sorry. I just wanted to know how to get to Level Tanya.” I was trying not to stare, but I wasn’t succeeding.
He smiled, white teeth in an unlined, old face. He had jet eyes under a crest of short white hair. He pushed past me out into the corridor and said in excellent English, “Certainly. Take the first turning on your right. Go to the next star, and take the second turning on your left. It’ll be marked.” He indicated with his chin the direction toward the star.