(1) ARGO PRODUCTIONS INC. Unregistered. Private subsidiary of Sagittarius Security Police.
Hunting and shooting. Your own war to order. Raiding parties, revolutions, religious crusades. In anything from a small commando squad to a 3,000–ship armada. ARGO provide publicity, mock War Crimes Tribunal, etc. Samples:
(a) Operation Torquemada .23–day expedition to Bellatrix IV .20 ship assault corps under Admiral Storm Wengen. Mission: liberation of (imaginary) Terran hostages. Cost: 300,000 credits.
(b) Operation Klingsor. 15–year crusade against Ursa Major. Combined task force of 2,500 ships. Mission: recovery of runic memory dials stolen from client’s shrine. Cost: 500 billion credits (ARGO will arrange lend–lease but this is dabbling in realpolitik).
(2) ARENA FEATURES INC. Unregistered. Organizers of the Pan–Galactic Tournament held trimillennially at the Sun Bowl 2–Heliop1is, NGC 3599.
Every conceivable game in the Cosmos is played at the tournament and so formidable is the opposition that a winning contestant can virtually choose his own apotheosis. The challenge round of the Solar Megathlon Group 3 (that is, for any being whose function can be described, however loosely, as living) involves Quantum Jumping, 7dimensional Maze Ball and Psychokinetic Bridge (pretty tricky against a telepathic Ketos D’Oma). The only Terran ever to win an event was the redoubtable Chippy Yerkes of Altair 5 The Clowns, who introduced the unplayable blank Round Dice. Being a spectator is as exhausting as being a contestant, and you’re well advised to substitute. Cost: 100,000 credits/day.
(3) AGENCE GENERALE DE TOURISME. Registered. Venus.
Concessionaires for the Colony Beatific on Lake Virgo, the Mandrake Casino Circuit and the Miramar–Trauma Senso–channels. Dream–baths, vu–dromes, endocrine–galas. Darleen Costello is the current Aphrodite and Laurence Mandell makes a versatile Lothario. Plug into these two from 30:30 V5T.Room and non–denominational bath at the Gomorrah–Plaza on Mount Venus comes to 1,000 credits a day, but remember to keep out of the Zone. It’s just too erotogenous for a Terran.
(4) TERMINAL TOURS LTD. Unregistered. Earth.
For those who want to get away from it all the Dream of Osiris, an astral–rigged, 1,000–foot leisure–liner is now fitting out for the Grand Tour. Round–cosmos cruise, visiting every known race and galaxy. Cost: Doubles at a flat billion, but it’s cheap when you realize that the cruise lasts for ever and you’ll never be back.
(5) SLEEP TRADERS. Unregistered.
A somewhat shadowy group who handle all dealings on the Blue Market, acting as a general clearing house and buying and selling dreams all through the Galaxy.
Sample: Like to try a really new sort of dream? The Set Corrani Priests of Theta Piscium will link you up with the sacred electronic thought–pools in the Desert of Kish. These mercury lakes are their ancestral memory banks. Surgery is necessary but be careful. Too much cortical damage and the archetypes may get restive. In return one of the Set Corrani (polysexual delta–humanoids about the size of a walking dragline) will take over your cerebral functions for a long weekend. All these transactions are done on an exchange basis and SLEEP TRADERS charge nothing for the service. But they obviously get a rake–off, and may pump advertising into the lower medullary centres. Whatever they’re selling I wouldn’t advise anybody to buy.
(6) THE AGENCY. Registered. M33 in Andromeda.
The executive authority of the consortium of banking trusts floating Schedule D, the fourth draw of the gigantic PK pyramid lottery sweeping all through the continuum from Sol III out to the island universes. Trancecells everywhere are now recruiting dream–readers and ESPerceptionists, and there’s still time to buy a ticket. There’s only one number on all the tickets – the winning one – but don’t think that means you’ll get away with the kitty. THE AGENCY has just launched UNILIV, the emergency relief fund for victims of Schedule C who lost their deposits and are now committed to paying off impossible debts, some monetary, some moral (if you’re unlucky in the draw you may find yourself landed with a guilt complex that would make even a Colonus Rex look sad). Cost: 1 credit – but with an evaluation in the billions if you have to forfeit.
(7) ARCTURIAN EXPRESS. Unregistered.
Controls all important track events. The racing calendar this year is a causal and not a temporal one and seems a little obscure, but most of the established classics are taking place.
(a) The Rhinosaur Derby. Held this year at Betelgeuse Springs under the rules of the Federation of Amorphs. First to the light horizon. There’s always quite a line–up for this one and any form of vehicle is allowed rockets, beams, racial migrations, ES thought patterns – but frankly it’s a waste of effort. It’s not just that by the time you’re out of your own sight you’re usually out of your mind as well, but the Nils of Rigel, who always enter a strong team, are capable of instantaneous transmission.
(b) The Paraplegic Handicap. Recently instituted by the Protists of Lambda Scorpio. The course measures only 0.00015 mm, but that’s a long way to urge an Aldebaran Torpid. They are giant viruses embedded in bauxite mountains, and by varying their pressure differentials it’s sometimes possible to tickle them into a little life. K 2 on Regulus IX is holding the big bets, but even so the race is estimated to take about 50,000 years to run.
(8) NEW FUTURES INC. Unregistered.
Tired of the same dull round? NEW FUTURES will take you right out of this world. In the island universes the continuum is extra–dimensional, and the time channels are controlled by rival cartels. The element of chance apparently plays the time role, and it’s all even more confused by the fact that you may be moving around in someone else’s extrapolation. In the tourist translation manual 185 basic tenses are given, and of these 125 are future conditional. No verb conjugates in the present tense, and you can invent and copyright your own irregulars. This may explain why I got the impression at the bureau that they were only half there. Cost: simultaneously 3,270 and 2,000,000 credits. They refuse to quibble.
(9) SEVEN SIRENS. Registered. Venus.
A subsidiary of the fashion trust controlling senso–channel Astral Eve. Ladies, like to win your own beauty contest? Twenty–five of the most beautiful creatures in the Galaxy are waiting to pit their charms against yours, but however divine they may be – and two or three of them, such as the Flamen Zilla Quel–Queen (75–9–25) and the Orthodox Virgin of Altair (76–953–?) certainly will be – they’ll stand no chance against you. Your specifications will be defined as the ideal ones.
(10) GENERAL ENTERPRISES. Registered.
Specialists in culture cycles, world struggles, ethnic trends. Organize vacations as a sideline. A vast undertaking for whom ultimately we all work. Their next venture, epoch–making by all accounts, is starting now, and everybody will be coming along. I was politely but firmly informed that it was no use worrying about the cost.
(From J.G. Ballard’s 1962 short story “Passport to Eternity”)