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Time Enough for Love

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Time Enough for Love

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Author: Robert A. Heinlein
Publisher: G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1973

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Book Type: Novel
Genre: Science-Fiction
Sub-Genre Tags: Immortality
Time Travel
Light/Humorous SF
Avg Member Rating:
(302 reads / 131 ratings)

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Time Enough for Love follows Lazarus Long through a vast and magnificent timescape of centuries and worlds. Heinlein's longest and most ambitious work, it is the story of a man so in love with Life that he refused to stop living it; and so in love with Time that he became his own ancestor.




As the door of the suite dilated, the man seated staring glumly out the window looked around. "Who the hell are you?"

"I am Ira Weatheral of the Johnson Family, Ancestor, Chairman Pro Tem of the Families."

"Took you long enough. Don't call me 'Ancestor.' And why just the Chairman Pro Tem?" the man in the chair growled. "Is the Chairman too damn busy to see me? Don't I rate even that?" He made no move to stand, nor did he invite his visitor to sit down.

"Your pardon, Sire. I am chief executive for the Families. But it has been customary for some time now-several centuries-for the chief executive to hold the title 'Chairman Pro Tem' . . against the possibility that you might show up and take the gavel."

"Eh? Ridiculous. I haven't presided at a meeting of the Trustees for a thousand years. And 'Sire' is as bad as 'Ancestor'-call me by name. It's been two days since I sent for you. Did you come by the scenic route? Or has the rule that entitles me to the ear of the Chairman been revoked?"

"I am not aware of that rule, Senior; it was probably long before my time-but it is my honor and duty-and pleasure-to wait on you at any time. I will be pleased and honored to call you by name if you will tell me what your name is now. As for the delay-thirty-seven hours since I received your summons-I have spent it studying Ancient English, as I was told that you were not answering to any other language."

The Senior looked slightly sheepish. "It's true I'm not handy with the jabber they speak here-my memory has been playing tricks on me lately. I guess I've been sulky about answering even when I understood. Names-I forget what name I checked in by when I grounded here. Mmm, 'Woodrow Wilson Smith' was my boyhood name. Never used it much. I suppose 'Lazarus Long' is the name I've used oftenest-call me 'Lazarus.'"

"Thank you, Lazarus."

"For what? Don't be so damned formal. You're not a kid, or you wouldn't be Chairman-how old are you? Did you really take the trouble to learn my milk language just to call on me? And in less than two days? Was that from scratch? It takes me at least a week to tack on a new language, another week to smooth out accent."

"I am three hundred and seventy-two standard years old, Lazarus-just under four hundred Earth years. I learned Classic English when I took this job-but as a dead language, to enable me to read old records of the Families in the original. What I did since your summons was to learn to speak and understand it . . in North American twentieth-century idiom-your 'milk language' as you said-as that is what the linguistic analyzer computed that you were speaking."

"Pretty smart machine. Maybe I am speaking it the way I did as a youngster; they claim that's the one language a brain never forgets. Then I must be talking in a Corn Belt rasp like a rusty saw . . whereas you're speaking a sort of Texas drawl with an Oxford British overlay. Odd. I suppose the machine picks the version out of its permanents closest to the sample fed into it."

"I believe so, Lazarus, although the techniques involved are not my field. Do you have trouble understanding my accent?"

"Oh, none at all. Your accent is okay; it's closer to educated General American of that time than is the accent I learned as a kid. But I can follow anything from Bluegum to Yorkshire; accent is no problem. It was mighty kind of you to bother. Warming."

"My pleasure. I have a talent for languages; it was not much trouble. I try to be able to speak to each of the Trustees in his native language; I'm used to swotting up a new one quickly."

"So? Nonetheless a courteous thing to do-I've felt like an animal in a zoo with no one to talk to. Those dummies"-Lazarus inclined his head at two rejuvenation technicians, dressed in isolation gear and one-way helmets, and waiting as far from the conversation as the room permitted-"don't know English; I can't talk with them. Oh, the taller one understands a little but not enough for gossip." Lazarus whistled, pointed at the taller. "Hey, you! A chair for the Chairman-chop chop!" His gestures made his meaning clear. The taller technician touched the controls of a chair nearby; it rolled away, wheeled around, and stopped at a comfortable tte-ˆ-tte distance from Lazarus.

Ira Weatheral said thank you-to Lazarus, not to the tech-sat down, then sighed as the chair felt him out and cuddled him. Lazarus said, "Comfortable?"


"Anything to eat or drink? Or smoke? You may have to interpret for me."

"Nothing, thank you. But may I order for you?"

"Not now. They keep me stuffed like a goose-once they force-fed me, damn them. Since we're comfortable, let's get on with the powwow." He suddenly roared, "WHAT THE HELL AM I DOING IN THIS JAIL?"

Weatheral answered quietly, "Not 'jail,' Lazarus. The VIP suite of the Howard Rejuvenation Clinic, New Rome."

"'Jail,' I said. All it lacks is cockroaches. This window-you couldn't break it with a crowbar. That door-it opens to any voice . . except mine. If I go to the john, one of those dummies is at my elbow. Apparently afraid I'll drown myself in the pot. Hell, I don't even know whether that nurse is a man or a woman-and don't like it either way. I don't need somebody to hold my hand while I go pee-pee! I resent it."

"I'll see what can be worked out, Lazarus. But the technicians are understandably jumpy. A person can get hurt quite easily in any bathroom-and they all know that, if you are hurt, no matter by what mischance, the technician in charge at the time will suffer cruel and unusual punishment. They are volunteers and are drawing high bonuses. But they're jumpy."

"So I figured out. 'Jail.' If this is a rejuvenation suite . . WHERE'S MY SUICIDE SWITCH?"

"Lazarus-'Death is every man's privilege.'"

"That's what I said! That switch belongs right there; you can see where it has been dismounted. So I'm in jail without trial, with my most basic right taken from me. Why? I'm furious, man. Do you realize what danger you are in? Never tease an old dog; he might have one bite left. Old as I am, I could break your arms before those dummies could reach us."

"You are welcome to break my arms if it pleases you."

"Huh?" Lazarus Long looked baffled. "No, it's not worth the sweat. They would have you patched up good as new in thirty minutes." He suddenly grinned. "But I could snap your neck, then crush your skull, about as fast. That's one injury beyond the power of rejuvenators."

Weatheral did not stir, did not tense. "I feel sure you could," he said quietly. "But I do not think that you would kill one of your descendants without giving him a chance to parley for his life. You are my remote grandfather, sir, by seven different tracks."

Lazarus chewed his lip and looked unhappy. "Son, I have so many descendants that consanguinity doesn't matter. But you're essentially right. In all my life I have never killed a man unnecessarily. I think." Then he grinned. "But if I don't get my suicide switch back, I could make an exception in your case."

"Lazarus, if you wish, I will have that switch remounted at once. But-'Ten Words'?"

"Uh-" Lazarus looked ungracious. "Okay. 'Ten Words.' Not eleven."

Weatheral hesitated a split second, then counted on his fingers: "I. learned. your. language. to. explain. why. we. need. you."

"Ten by the Rule," Lazarus admitted. "But meaning that you need fifty. Or five hundred. Or five thousand."

"Or none," Weatheral amended. "You can have your switch without giving me any chance to explain. I promised."

"Humph!" said Lazarus. "Ira, you old scoundrel, you have me convinced that you really are my kin. You figured that I would not suicide without hearing what you have on your mind-once I knew you had bothered to learn a dead language just to make palaver. All right, talk. You can start by telling me what I'm doing here. I know-I know-that I didn't apply for rejuvenation. But I woke up here with the job already half over. So I screamed for the Chairman. Okay, why am I here?"

"May we start further back? You tell me what you were doing in a flophouse in the worst part of Old Town."

"What was I doing? I was dying. Quietly and decently, like a worn-out horse. That is, I was, until your busybodies grabbed me. Can you think of a better place than a flophouse for a man who doesn't want to be disturbed while he's busy with it? If his cot is paid for in advance, they leave a man be. Oh, they stole what little I had, even my shoes. But I expected that-would have done the same myself under the same circumstances. And the sort of people who live in flophouses are almost always kind to those worse off than they are-any of 'em will fetch a drink of water to a sick man. That was the most I wanted-that and to be left alone to close out my account in my own way. Until your busies showed up. Tell me, how did they find me?"

"How we found you is not the surprising part, Lazarus, but the fact that SecFor-the cops?-Yes, 'cops'-that my cops took so long to identify you, then find you, and pick you up. A section chief lost his job over that. I don't tolerate inefficiency."

"So you busted him. Your business. But why? I reached Secundus from Out-Far, and I didn't think I had left any back trail. Different everything since the last time I was in touch with the Families . . as I bought my last rejuvenation on Supreme. Are the Families swapping data with Supreme these days?"

"Heavens, no, Lazarus, we won't even give them a polite word. There is a strong minority among the Trustees who favor rubbing out Supreme, instead of simply maintaining embargo."

"Well... if a nova bomb hit Supreme, I wouldn't mourn more than thirty seconds. But I did have a reason for having the job done there, even though I had to pay high for forced cloning. But that's another story. Son, how did you pick me up?"

"Sir, for the past seventy years there has been a general order out to try to find you, not just here but on every planet where the Families maintain offices. As to how-do you recall a forced inoculation for Reiber's fever at Immigration?"

"Yes. I was annoyed, but it didn't seem worthwhile to make a fuss; I knew I was headed for that flophouse. Ira, I've known that I was dying for quite some time. That was okay; I was ready for it. But I didn't want to do it alone, out in space. Wanted human voices around me, and body odors. Childish of me. But I was pretty far gone by the time I grounded."

"Lazarus, there is no such thing as Reiber's fever. When a man grounds on Secundus and all routine identifications show null, 'Reiber's fever' or some other nonexistent plague is used as an excuse to get a little tissue from him while injecting him with sterile neutral saline. You should never have been allowed to leave the skyport until your genetic pattern was identified."

"So? What do you do when ten thousand immigrants arrive in one ship?"

"Herd them into detention barracks until we've checked them out. But that doesn't happen often today with Old Home Terra in the sorry state it's in. But you, Lazarus, arriving alone in a private yacht worth fifteen to twenty million crowns-"

"Make that 'thirty.'"

"-worth thirty million crowns. How many men in the Galaxy can do that? Of those who can afford it, how many would choose to travel alone? The pattern should have set alarm bells ringing in the minds of all of them. Instead they took your tissue and accepted your statement that you would be staying at the Romulus hilton and let you go-and no doubt you had another identity before dark."

"No doubt at all," Lazarus agreed. "But your cops have run up the price on a good phony set of ID's. If I hadn't been too tired to bother, I would have forged my own. Safer. Was that how I was caught? Did you squeeze it out of the paper merchant?"

"No, we never found him. By the way, you might let me know who he is, so that-"

"And I might not," Lazarus said sharply. "Not ratting on him was implicit in the bargain. It's nothing to me how many of your rules he breaks. And-who knows?-I might need him again. Certainly someone will need his services, somebody just as anxious to avoid your busies as I was. Ira, no doubt you mean well but I don't like setups where ID's are necessary. I told myself centuries back to stay away from places crowded enough to require them, and mostly I've followed that rule. Should have followed it this time. But I didn't expect to need any identification very long. Confound it, two more days and I would have been dead. I think. How did you catch me?"

"The hard way. Once I knew you were on planet I stirred things up; that section chief wasn't the only unhappy man. But you disappeared in so simple a fashion that you baffled the entire force. My security chief expressed the opinion that you had been killed and your body disposed of. I told him if that were the case, he had better start thinking about off-planet migration."

"Make it march! I want to know how I goofed."

"I would not say that you goofed, Lazarus, since you managed to stay hidden with every cop and stoolie on this globe looking for you. But I felt certain that you had not been killed. Oh, we do have murders on Secundus, especially here in New Rome. But most are the commonplace husband-wife sort. We don't have many for gain since I instituted a policy of making the punishment fit the crime and holding executions in the Colosseum. In any case I felt certain that a man who had survived more than two millennia would not let himself be killed in some dark alley.

Copyright © 1973 by Robert A. Heinlein


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