Inge

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At the Black Diamond home of a young lady named Inge Hahn, a Sanitation Auditor mentioned that in recent months she had gone from a seven dollar subscription to five dollar a month can, and he wanted to know why.

The war's over now and I lost my job to a returning soldier, Inge explained. You know how it is. Money never seems to go far enough. I had to get my budget more in line with my income and trash pickup was a big item.

How did you manage it?

Oh, you know, I just got a little smarter in the groceries I buy and in the way I prepare my trash. You can nest trash within trash within trash if you just give it a little thought. There isn't a weight surcharge, is there?

Only if there's evidence of compacting, which you've so far managed to avoid. Would you mind if I looked in your backyard?

Inge was a little too savvy for that. Show me a search warrant, she said firmly.

How about your husband, Miss Hahn? the Auditor tried. Is he home? Would he invite me out back?

It's just me here, Inge said sternly. And even if I had a husband, he wouldn't be the sort of fellow who does an end run around his own wife.

You say you're looking for work? he tried again. You know, your future employer might blame the inconvenience of any greater scrutiny of their dumpsters on the uncooperative attitude of one of their new employees, if word got back to them.

Get a warrant, clown! she barked. I know my rights! The door was slammed in the Sanitation Auditor's face.

Damnation! he thought. And the way the liberal judges were ruling nowadays, it would take more than going from a medium can to a small can to get a search warrant. So he left for the easier target next door, who had gone from a family-size jumbo ten dollar a month can to the five dollar one. They certainly had some explaining to do. He made a note that if Inge Hahn's trash was so much as one inch overflowing, to charge her the full seven dollars of the next can up in size.

As soon as the door slammed shut, Jerry, Robyn, Hunky, and Dory came out from hiding to join Inge in her modest living room. Doris Day was belting one out on the large radio that was the center of entertainment in the home. Hunky and Dory, as usual, were holding hands. Robyn was a few months along in her pregnancy and starting to show.

That was very satisfying, Inga told them. She was only a few years older than the four members of the Boda, and so blond that her hair was almost white. But she had an outrageous storm of brown freckles all over her face and body. She was being meticulously groomed to be the first new member to join the Boda.

It only gets better, Jerry Shy Bear told her. Are you ready to go to your training house?

Ready when you are.

Jerry brought out the phantom blade he had manufactured for Inge. It looked like an ordinary flashlight, but when Jerry turned it on it glowed purple, and hissed like an acetylene torch. He fed a banana peel into the lens of the flashlight, which gobbled it up with not a trace left over.

Where did it go?

Each atom of the banana peel is scattered to a random point somewhere in a huge ball, fourteen miles wide and centered on your house. A couple three atoms of the banana peel might even be inside you, Inge, but you didn't feel them pop in.

Why is it hissing like that?

That's the air in the house being sucked in, Jerry explained.

Let me show you a neat trick, Hunky said. She tossed a bottle cap from six feet away. It would have missed, but the hissing air near the flashlight lens guided it in to its doom.

What is that purple glow?

That's the actual phantomizer ray.

It looks more like a steady flame. Why is it shaped like a cone?

It's because fresh air comes in from the edges, so the phantomizer particles meet them sooner, but in the middle there's a vacuum created so the phantomizer particles go higher before they meet their first atom of air.

Is that as high as it gets?

Nope, more juice makes it taller, Jerry said, carefully twisting the lens of the flashlight and making the purple flame grow to three feet.

It's good for cutting too, Robyn said. She passed Inga's softball bat through the purple light. The bat fell into two pieces with the middle section effortlessly carved out.

So with Jerry leading the way, he showed Inge how to open the phantomizer to wide beam and cut a tunnel from her basement to the next door neighbor's house, which had no basement.

The new tunnel was tall enough for them to walk through it without crouching. It ended with a little cave-in of earth. A small ladder from Inge's garage was brought forward. All of them quietly gathered under the floorboards of House Ten and waited for the sounds of footsteps above to stop. When they did, that meant everyone in the house had gone to work or school.

Inga and the Boda all entered through an access hatch in the floor of a closet that had been constructed to allow the owner to make an inspection under the house.

The womenfolk went to the kitchen. Just grab a couple dinner plates, Dory said. Just a couple of coffee cups. Not enough to raise alarms.

I get it, Inga said. Even if they miss them, they'll just assume someone broke them washing them or something.

Right.

Jerry took care of the trash. I'm leaving just enough to fill a five dollar can.

Why not phantomize all the trash? Inga asked him.

We learned our lesson the hard way. No trash raises alarms. Less trash just raises eyebrows. Now if your hosts here in House Ten go to a smaller can just like you did, you'll be saving them five dollars a month. So you can skim five dollars a month in value from this host.

Value in what?

A little food from the fridge, a little beer, electric power. I'm going to show you how to tap into their lines safely. When you get seven or eight host homes on your grid they shouldn't even notice the drain of your own use.

Ah, but living in caves underground, though, Inga murmured, as though having second thoughts.

It's not that bad, Hunky said. Most days you spend in houses while the occupants are away, just like we are right now. Besides, no one is looking for you yet. There's no reason you can't keep living out of your own house for the time being.

Until I get caught.

If you get caught being the Trash Fairy, Robyn said, do what I did when you caught me. Try to convert them.

And if they refuse?

If they refuse, she said with a wicked grin, just remember a phantomizer is the perfect tool to make problems disappear.

Everyone saw the hundred dollars of cash lying on the top of a dresser drawer in the master bedroom, but it remained to be seen what Inge Hahn would do.

Inga saw Jerry watching him. She looked at the money, then back at Jerry. What, are you crazy? We take that money and our whole structure will come crashing down.

Jerry Shy Bear breathed a sigh of relief. A hurdle had been passed. In that moment, in fact, he believed he won.

In truth, Inge had all the money she could want or need. She lied to the Sanitation Auditor when she said she lost her job after the war. Inge had never held a job. She lived on a bottomless allowance from her father, but not even the Boda knew about that. She was, in fact, something of a mystery to them, but if Inge ever truly became one of them, and participated in the Sharing, everything about her would be laid out under the light of day. So they bided their time and guided her along forward.

Several months earlier when Robyn gave Hunky and Dory the Golden Gift and told them to think of something to do with it, they started to dig under the ground, just like Robyn's father had once done, but they did it to create a network of tunnels between many of the houses in Franklin and Black Diamond. Their happy pastime was to explore empty houses when the owners were away at work or on vacations, just as Jerry had explored the abandoned staterooms of Robyn's space station.

Some of the houses on their network were never occupied and became Boda "Safe Houses" most of the time, at least when Realtors were not showcasing them to potential buyers.

Other than Inge, who caught Robyn trying this game, Hunky and Dory recruited women looking for work. It was light industrial labor. Here and there in a variety of Safe Houses gals would do hit-and-run stints assembling parts for phantomizers. They had no idea what they were working on. There was no paper trail whatsoever, all the records were kept in the nanotechnology-enhanced minds of Boda members.

The workers were paid in cash, every day. Their partially completed units would be driven to other Safe Houses where only Boda members performed the final assembly and armed the self-destruct devices inside them before they could be put on the market.

At first, Phantomizers formed the heart of a water heater that ran on the equivalent power of a single light bulb (and that juice was just to maintain the supercooling mechanism). With a little extra effort Jerry could have made the device generate all its internal electic power, just like the Golden Gift, but then people would know something was fishy and never buy them.

Still, with the amount of electricity and natural gas that was saved, the device paid for itself in only three years. The Boda guaranteed the operation of phantomizers for five years, but the warranty was void if it had melted into a solid block of metal, because this meant that tampering by the user had occurred.

Other customers used the Phantomizer together with a creek running through their property as a source of electrical power, like a generator that never needed to be refueled and produced only water vapor for exhaust. This allowed them to drop off the centralized power grid and get back to their self-sufficient pioneering roots as Americans.

Still others modified their cars with turbines that ran on the ultra-hot steam that the phantomizer could produce. It was the very beginning of the Phantom Revolution, but the movement took so long building up speed that as far as the Boda could tell, it remained below the government's radar, and by the time the government knew enough to grow alarmed (for indeed, the phantomizer meant the end of the old order) too many early-adopters were already dependent on their units and the good word could not be stamped out.

Given sufficient time even bumbling government operatives eventually had a few successes. They managed to capture a handful of phantomizers to see what the fuss was about and to see what could be done to neutralize them. The government even found a use for phantomizers. They were far more efficient at destroying incriminating documents than the slower paper shredders, which tended to jam. But any attempt to penetrate the secrets of the phantomizer resulted in an inert unit as the crucial components somehow disappeared.

When the Boda's secret network grew to have tendrils as far as Renton and Issaquah, forty percent of the people were only using the small five dollar cans. The county government made up for the shortfall by charging a flat ten dollars no matter what size can was used.

The Boda retaliated by going to total trash disposal...one hundred percent of their host's garbage was phantomized, and many of the citizens dropped weekly pick-up service altogether.

Citizens who cooperated with Sanitation Auditors and allowed them to come inside their homes were punished by the Boda most severely. The Trash Fairy never visited them again.

But those citizens who were ordered by a judge to allow a Sanitation Auditor to inspect their homes were not punished. Trash pickup continued through a small hole in the bottom of their trash can. All of the citizens treated in this way resented the courts enough not to mention the neat round hole that had appeared at the bottom of their trash can.

The City's next move was a ten dollar surcharge on electric power for every home not subscribed to weekly trash pickup service. Jerry Shy Bear countered with a type of phantomizer that ate only electrons. Tie your circuit to earth ground for a source of free electrons, and Jerry's phantomizer constantly disposed of them. You got a current flow.

Part of this was diverted to run the phantomizer itself but the rest was free juice. The electricity was ran through an inverter, phase-matched to the AC line current, and soon many houses went off the City's power grid for good.

The Boda wasn't just confined to the neighborhoods. A large fraction of the cost of doing any kind of manufacturing was in disposing wastes. The Boda would do that for one company at ridiculously low prices, allowing that company to pass the savings on to the consumer and drive all their competitors out of business. Then, armed with their monopoly, prices would creep back up and the Boda would squeeze them for a share.

Drilling for water costs five hundred bucks? The Boda will do it for one hundred. Drilling for oil costs ten thousand bucks? The Boda will do it for $200 with a phantomizer and a ball of twine to hang it from.

But life in the Boda wasn't all business.

In late spring of 1946 Robyn gave birth to her daughter, Joy Shy Bear. Because she was essentially a fugitive, it had to be a home delivery, a hospital was out of the question. The entire Boda, including now Inge, did what they could but there was no solution for Robyn's labor pain. She said, It hurts like hell.

Still, she did not dare to compare her suffering to that of Bat-El or Chokhmah.

Robyn knew perfectly the reason for her suffering. Humans were the only animals on Earth that walked upright. At every moment, they were faced with the threat of being disemboweled simply by standing up. So the hole in the pelvic floor had to be as small as possible to prevent that.

At the same time, humans had the largest brains of any animal on Earth as a percentage of their total body mass. So the opening in the pelvis could not be too small, or the infant would be wedged in the birth canal and die. The baby's skull did not fully form until after birth, so it deformed during birth to ease the passage, but the ordeal was still very dangerous for both, and painful for the mother.

But when it was over Robyn had Joy, literally and figuratively. She was healthy and came with a little pad of soft black hair. Robyn found that words would always fail to fully convey the greatest possible human experience, that of bringing another human life into the world. Joy was:

Doll-like Dainty Ruddy Feisty Beautiful

Robyn loved to hold her face close to her own and sniff her soft baby scent, that special new person smell. Binah was Joy's mother! And Jerry's joy in Joy was just as great as Robyn's, even if he could never grasp the full depth of her joy in giving life to Joy. Talishi had tried to describe this to Binah, but it was something that had to be lived.

When Robyn was fully recovered, the Boda spent a lot of their time making music once again, just like in their school days. Inge was by far the biggest fan of the bebop jazz band named Hunky-Dory.

During the war there had been a strike by the unionized professional musicians, banning any form of recording, until a better royalty-sharing arrangement was conceded by the labels.

The most popular style of music going into the War was big-band swing, but the recording ban from 1942 to 1944 forced radio stations to feature crooners who would sing over recycled jazz recordings. These crooners such as Frank Sinatra became the first pop idols, and purely instrumental swing faded into the background. Only when the recording strike was over did audiences learn swing had given way to bebop jazz, which emphasized complicated chord progressions over melody, and at first they didn't like it, much as rap music took a long time catching on in the 1980s.

Bebob or rebop was lumped with rhythm and blues and termed "race music". Many whites shifted their tastes to "hillbilly" music, the progenitor of Country and Western, or to folk music which celebrated the politics of the labor movement.

Over the next ten years, bebop and hillbilly music would merge to become rockabilly, and merge again with 1930's style blues to form the final most stable genre of twentieth century popular music, rock 'n' roll.

Folk music would fall out of favor in the wake of the McCarthy hearings attempting to root all communist influence out of American culture, only to emerge again in the 60s and 70s when solo singer-songwriters became prominent.

After tape technology was introduced following the War, there was no longer any need to record a performance in one take directly to a shellac master disk. Musicians with less skill, therefore, could still create acceptable recordings by making numerous attempts. The number of recordings grew far beyond the ability to catalog them, and record companies began to compete for radio air time.

The major radio networks found that television was profitable indeed, and shifted their focus to developing shows for the new technology. Hunky-Dory's big break was on a television show called Sidney Buller Time, which featured amateur performers.

Hunky-Dory was the first white bebop quartet. Race music by a German-American band. It was quite a novelty in 1946, but there was much cross-fertilization of cultures after the war, and some dared hope for an end to racial inequality.

By the middle of the summer of 1946 Inge Hahn became something of a "roadie" ten years before such a thing became popular in the days of touring rock bands. Never without her clipboard, she became very good at directing work crews to set up Hunky's drum kit, Robyn's piano, the microphones, and the amplifiers.

Her organizational skills applied to the band as well. It was Inga who set up their gigs, and scheduled their tours. But the two biggest things she had going for her was that she was rich and bored.

Inge never mentioned that it was her father who kept her well funded, but she was quite generous in throwing it around so Hunky-Dory had everything they needed, from instruments to food for the band. This was important in the earliest day before they started to see a lot of income from phantomizers.

It was a curious thing, Inge's money, but no one in the Body probed too hard, because they didn't want to kill the goose that laid the golden eggs.

It was Inge's boredom that interested Jerry in particular. She was something of a daredevil. One time he cut the leads off from an electronic component called a capacitor and told her it was a narcotic. She instantly took it from his hand and swallowed it. After that, it took very little persuasion to get Inge to accept the Change by allowing herself to be skewered by the Artifact.

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