"Why don't you move in with him?" Roy said to Pris, indicating Isidore. "He could give you a certain amount of protection."
"A chickenhead?" Pris said. "I'm not going to live with a chickenhead." Her nostrils flared.
Irmgard said rapidly, "I think you're foolish to be a snob at a time like this. Bounty hunters move fast; he may try to tie it up this evening. There may be a bonus in it for him if he got it done by - "
"Keerist, close the hall door," Roy said, going over to it; he slammed it with one blow of his hand, thereupon summarily locking it. "I think you should move in with Isidore, Pris, and I think Irm and I should be here in the same building; that way we can help each other. I've got some electronic components in my car, junk I ripped off the ship. I'll install a two-way bug so Pris you can hear us and we can hear you, and I'll rig up an alarm system that any of the four of us can set off. It's obvious that the synthetic identities didn't work out, even Garland's. Of course, Garland put his head in the noose by bringing the bounty hunter to the Mission Street building; that was a mistake. And Polokov, instead of staying as far away as possible from the hunter, chose to approach him. We won't do that; we'll stay put." He did not sound worried in the slightest; the situation seemed to rouse him to crackling near-manic energy. "I think - " He sucked in his breath noisily, holding the attention of everyone else in the room, including Isidore. "I think that there's a reason why the three of us are still alive. I think if he had any clue as to where we are he'd have shown up here by now. The whole idea in bounty hunting is to work as fast as hell. That's where the profit comes."
"And if he waits," Irmgard said in agreement, "we slip away, like we've done. I bet Roy is right; I bet he has our names but no location. Poor Luba; stuck in the War Memorial Opera House, right out in the open. No difficulty finding her."
"Well," Roy said stiltedly, "she wanted it that way; she believed she'd be safer as a public figure."
"You told her otherwise," Irmgard said.
"Yes," Roy agreed, "I told her, and I told Polokov not to try to pass himself off as a W.P.O. man. And I told Garland that one of his own bounty hunters would get him, which is very possibly, just conceivably, exactly what did happen." He rocked back and forth on his heavy heels, his face wise with profundity.
Isidore spoke up. "I-I-I gather from l-l-listening to Mr. Baty that he's your n-n-natural leader."
"Oh yes, Roy's a leader," Irmgard said.
Pris said, "He organized our trip. From Mars to here."
"Then," Isidore said, "you better do what h-h-he suggests." His voice broke with hope and tension. "I think it would be t-t-terrific, Pris, if you 1-l-lived with me. I'll stay home a couple of days from my job - I have a vacation coming. To make sure you're okay." And maybe Milt, who was very inventive, could design a weapon for him to use. Something imaginative, which would slay bounty hunters . . . whatever they were. He had an indistinct, glimpsed darkly impression: of something merciless that carried a printed list and a gun, that moved machine-like through the flat, bureaucratic job of killing. A thing without emotions, or even a face; a thing that if killed got replaced immediately by another resembling it. And so on, until everyone real and alive had been shot.
Incredible, he thought, that the police can't do anything. I can't believe that. These people must have done something. Perhaps they emigrated back to Earth illegally. We're told - the TV tells us - to report any landing of a ship outside the approved pads. The police must be watching for this.
But even so, no one got killed deliberately any more. It ran contrary to Mercerism.
"The chickenhead," Pris said, "likes me."
"Don't call him that, Pris," Irmgard said; she gave Isidore a look of compassion. "Think what he could call you."
Pris said nothing. Her expression became enigmatic.
"I'll go start rigging up the bug," Roy said. "Irmgard and I'll stay in this apartment; Pris you go with - Mr. Isidore." He started toward the door, striding with amazing speed for a man so heavy. In a blur he disappeared out the door, which banged back as he flung it open. Isidore, then, had a momentary, strange hallucination; he saw briefly a frame of metal, a platform of pullies and circuits and batteries and turrets and gears - and then the slovenly shape of Roy Baty faded back into view. Isidore felt a laugh rise up inside him; he nervously choked it off. And felt bewildered.
"A man, " Pris said distantly, "of action. Too bad he's so poor with his hands, doing mechanical things."
"If we get saved," Irmgard said in a scolding, severe tone, as if chiding her, "it'll be because of Roy."
"But is it worth it," Pris said, mostly to herself. She shrugged, then nodded to Isidore. "Okay, J .R. I'll move in with you and you can protect me."
"A-a-all of you," Isidore said immediately.
Solemnly, in a formal little voice, Irmgard Baty said to him, "I want you to know we appreciate it very much, Mr. Isidore. You're the first friend I think any of us have found here on Earth. It's very nice of you and maybe sometime we can repay you." She glided over to pat him on the arm.
"Do you have any pre-colonial fiction I could read?" he asked her.
"Pardon?" Irmgard Baty glanced inquiringly at Pris.
"Those old magazines," Pris said; she had gathered a few things together to take with her, and Isidore lifted the bundle from her arms, feeling the glow that comes only from satisfaction at a goal achieved. "No, J.R. We didn't bring any back with us, for reasons I explained."