Flight From Tomorrow
That night, Hradzka slept under a bridge across a fairly wide stream; the next morning,
he followed the road until he came to a town. It was not a large place; there were perhaps
four or five hundred houses and other buildings in it. Most of these were dwellings like
the farmhouse where he had been staying, but some were much larger, and seemed to be
places of business. One of these latter was a concrete structure with wide doors at the
front; inside, he could see men working on the internal-combustion vehicles which
seemed to be in almost universal use. Hradzka decided to obtain employment here.
It would be best, he decided, to continue his pretense of being a deaf-mute. He did not
know whether a world-language were in use at this time or not, and even if not, the
pretense of being a foreigner unable to speak the local dialect might be dangerous. So he
entered the vehicle-repair shop and accosted a man in a clean shirt who seemed to be
issuing instructions to the workers, going into his pantomime of the homeless mute
The master of the repair-shop merely laughed at him, however. Hradzka became more
insistent in his manner, making signs to indicate his hunger and willingness to work. The
other men in the shop left their tasks and gathered around; there was much laughter and
unmistakably ribald and derogatory remarks. Hradzka was beginning to give up hope of
getting employment here when one of the workmen approached the master and whispered
something to him.
The two of them walked away, conversing in low voices. Hradzka thought he understood
the situation; no doubt the workman, thinking to lighten his own labor, was urging that
the vagrant be employed, for no other pay than food and lodging. At length, the master
assented to his employee's urgings; he returned, showed Hradzka a hose and a bucket and
sponges and cloths, and set him to work cleaning the mud from one of the vehicles. Then,
after seeing that the work was being done properly, he went away, entering a room at one
side of the shop.
About twenty minutes later, another man entered the shop. He was not dressed like any of
the other people whom Hradzka had seen; he wore a gray tunic and breeches, polished
black boots, and a cap with a visor and a metal insignia on it; on a belt, he carried a
holstered weapon like a blaster.
After speaking to one of the workers, who pointed Hradzka out to him, he approached the
fugitive and said something. Hradzka made gestures at his mouth and ears and made
gargling sounds; the newcomer shrugged and motioned him to come with him, at the
same time producing a pair of handcuffs from his belt and jingling them suggestively.
In a few seconds, Hradzka tried to analyze the situation and estimate its possibilities. The
newcomer was a soldier, or, more likely, a policeman, since manacles were a part of his