It was about thirteen o'clock in the morning, mid-October, with the sunlamps not yet at full output and a look of cold hard rain in the distance over the dome supports. I was wearing a powder-blue suit, with dark blue shirt and tie, black wingtips and black socks with dark blue chocks on them. I was neat, clean, close-shaved everywhere and sober, and I didn't care which surveillance systems knew it. I was everything the well-endowed private detective ought to be. I was calling on four trillion dollars.

The main hallway of the Sternwood place was over ten stories high. Over the entrance doors, which would have let in a troop of Siberian Mastodons, there was a huge animated display panel showing a guy in powered space-armour rescuing an alien-looking lady who was tied to an alien-looking tree and didn't have any clothes on but did have some very long and conveniently revealing hair. The spaceman had pushed up the face-plate of his helmet to be sociable, and he was sucking at one of her taut hard nipples. I stood there and thought that if I lived in the house, I would sooner or later have to fiddle with the animation controls and make sure they got it together good and proper. He didn't seem to be really trying.

There were French doors at the back of the hall, beyond them a wide sweep of emerald grass to a white garage, in front of which a slim silver cyborg, still basically human but with shiny black legs, was dusting a maroon ground car. Beyond the garage were some decorative trees genetically engineered to form immense, twisted, erotic shapes. Beyond them a large icehouse with a domed roof. Then more trees and beyond everything the visibly-curved, uncomfortable line of the dome foundations.

On the spinward side of the hall a free staircase, tile-paved, rose to a gallery with a translucent force-field railing and another piece of animated erotica. Large powered chairs with rounded red seats had backed themselves into the vacant spaces of the wall around about. They didn't look as if anybody ever sat in them. In the middle of the antispinward wall there was a big empty fireplace with a gold screen, and over the fireplace a marble mantel with angels and satyrs coupling energetically at the corners.

Above the mantel there was a large static portrait, and above the portrait two laser-seared or moth-eaten Space Rangers pennants crossed in a plexiglass frame. The portrait was a stiffly posed job of an officer in full regimentals of about the time of the Second Jovian War. The officer had neat black mustachios, hot hard coal-black eyes, and the general look of a man it would pay to get along with. I thought this might be General Sternwood’s grandfather. I could hardly be the General himself, even though I had heard he was pretty far gone to have a couple of daughters still in their dangerous first century.

Part 2