Bruggil's Bride can be found in Magazine Entry


Bruggil's Bride

by Robert F. Young

SHE CAME off the Androids, Inc., production line in September, 2241. She was five feet, seven inches tall, weighed 135 pounds, had flaxen hair and pale blue eyes. Her built-in batteries were guaranteed for ten years, her tapes were authentic Kirsten Flagstad, and her name was Isolde.

She was shipped to New York via strato-freight, and late in October she opened the season at the Metropolitanette in what the hundred or so diehard enthusiasts still holding the Wagnerian fort, called the best Tristan ever. Afterwards, she was deactivated and stored away, along with Tristan, Brangane, Melot, King Marke, Kurvenal, the shepherd and the helmsman, and the various knights, soldiers, attendants, and sailors that constituted the rest of the dramatis personae.

At that time the black market in androids was relatively new, and only standard measures were taken to guard the Metropolitanette storeroom. Operatic androids were not exactly the kind of merchandise the average twenty-third century citizen liked most to find underneath his Christmas tree, and to a Wagnerian aficionado, the idea of the average music lover stealing one was as preposterous as the idea of a twentieth century bobby soxer stealing a Caruso original. But an operatic android was potentially capable of doing other things besides singing recitative and arias—as a number of twenty-third century operators had begun to realize some time before the beginning of this history. Hans Becker was one of them.

You've seen Hans. You've seen him in bars and on airbusses, in waiting rooms and in automats. He likes to sit in secluded comers and study people through his cigar smoke. He has a penchant for ostentatious blondes and dirty comic films. He has a passion for the quick credit.

You see him now. He is talking to a mousy little man in a decrepit bar off Fifth Avenue. The little man nods every now and then, smiles a satisfied smile every time Hans sets him up a beer. The little man is a night watchman. He is a night watchman in the very building where the Metropolitanette stores its deactivated androids. He is in his fifties, and he too likes ostentatious blondes. But on a night watchman's pay, the only ones he can afford are a little too ostentatious even for him. He would like them to be a little less ostentatious, and. if possible, a little younger. He smiles, nods his head again. He drinks the fresh beer the bartender sets before him. He licks the froth from his lips with the tip of his gray tongue. He pockets the sheaf of credits which Hans slips him. He nods again. "Tomorrow night, then," he says. "At the backdoor. I'll have her ready for you."

Isolde's first stop, after her abduction, was at the house of a converter Hans knew. The converter's name was Wisprey, and he was an artist in his own right. By the time he finished with Isolde, you never would have dreamed—unless you were a Wagnerian devotee—that once upon a time she had been a bona fide reproduction of an Irish heroine in a German opera. You would have sworn, instead, that she was a Swedish-type maid of the kind Androids, Inc., specialized in, and which retailed for 2500 credits. Her flaxen hair had been drawn back into a little chignon, her period costume had been exchanged for a modern servant's outfit, and her classic features had been subtly altered to suggest sycophancy. As though that were not enough, she could scrub floors, wash dishes, cook, and darn socks.

The only part of her the converter did not alter was the sealed-in unit containing her voice tapes. That, he told Hans, would have involved too intricate an operation. Besides, who cared if she sang instead of talked, anyway, as long as she could work?

"That's right," Hans said. "Who cares? When they see how strong she is, they'll buy her like sixty."

"Sure they will."

"And she's only the first. There's lots of other big ones where she came from and I'm going to grab them off, too."

He didn't grab them off, though. A week later, he fell into his blonde mistress' barbecue pit and was so drunk he couldn't get back out before he was barbecued to the bone. Before this lamentable occurrence, however he sold his pilfered princess to an interstellar trader, and thereby launched Isolde upon her odyssey.

The interstellar trader, whose name was Higgens, owned a Class B merchant ship of the old photon-ejection variety. He stored Isolde in the after-hold and left her there till his fourth planetfall—Sirius 21. Then he got her out, dusted her off, combed her hair and activated her. He led her down the gangplank and stood her on the collapsible auctioneer's block he'd set up at the ship's base. There were a number of colonists gathered around the block already, but he saved her till last, auctioning off the rest of his payload first. By the time he took her hand and led her to the ...

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