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Barry B. Longyear & 
Kevin O'Donnell, Jr. 



DECEMBER 1980 $1.50 



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Our thanks to the 1980 World Science 

Fiction Convention for awarding the 

Hugo for Best Professional Editor to 

George H. Scithers of 

ISAAC 
ASIMOV'S 

SCIENCE FICTION MAGAZINE. 

THE OTHER WINNERS: 
Best Novel: 
The Fountains of Paradise by Arthur C. Clarke 

Best Novella: 
"Enemy Mine" by Barry B. Longyear {lASFM, September 1979) 

Best Novelette: 
"Sandkings" by George R.R. Martin 

Best Short Story: 
"The Way of Cross and Dragon" by George R.R. Martin 

Best Nonfiction Book: 
Tfie Science Fiction Encyclopedia edited by Peter Nicholls 

Best Dramatic Presentation: 
Alien 

Best Professional Artist: Best Fanzine: 

Michael Whelan Locus edited by Charles N. Brown 

Best Fan Writer: Best Fan Artist: 
Bob Shaw Alexis Gilliland 

John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer of 1978-79: 
Barry B. Longyear 

Gandalf Award 

for Grand Master of Fantasy: 

Ray Bradbury 



FREDERIKPOHL 



BEYOND THE BLUE 




After the Gateway mission that made 
him rich but cost him the woman he loved, 
Robinette Broadhead joined in bankrolling an 
expedition to the Food Factory—a Heechee space- 
ship found beyond the orbit of Pluto. 

But was ending all famine and becoming the 
wealthiest man in history his real mission, or was he driven 
by a vision of his lost love, poised forever at the "event 
horizon" of a black hole? 

"Certainly very few books have ever held my attention in ^uch 
an iron grip right up until the last paragraph.. .(or) left me so breathless 
with admiration... Truly cosmic scope!" —Analog 



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ISSN 0162-2188 
Vol. 4, No. 12 (whole no. 34) December 1980 



COVER, "Companioning" Karl Kofoed 1 

EDITORIAL: WHAT MAKES ISAAC RUN? Isaac Asimov 6 

ON BOOKS Baird Searles 12 

Bloodsong Barry B. Longyear & Kevin 0' Donnell, Jr. 20 

Tube Through the Earth Martin Gardner 40 

ON PLAYING ROLES: A THIRD LOOK John M. Ford 43 

Eight Ball Blues Jack 0. Haldeman li 53 

The Deicides Gerald Pearce 64 

At the Hugo Banquet Susan Casper 88 

The Beanstalk Analysis JO. Jeppson 89 

IS THE WORLD IN CURIOUS SHAPE? Robert J. Schadewald 97 

Checkmate Edward Wellen 107 

THE SF CONVENTIONAL CALENDAR Erwin S. Strauss 116 

The Adopted Father Gene Wolfe 117 

Companioning Jo Clayton 126 

LETTERS 169 



Joel Davis: President & Publisher Isaac Asimov: Editorial Director 

George H. Scithers: Editor 



Published monthly by Davis Publications. Inc., at $1.50 a copy; annual subscription of twelve 
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all editorial matters: Box 13116, Philadelphia. PA 19101. Isaac Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine* 
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EDITORIAL: What Makes Isaac Run? 
by Isaac Asimov 

art: Frank Kelly Freas 




My good friend, Harlan Ellison, openly 
requests that no one bother sending him 
letters telling him how great he is because 
he just tosses them away without reading 
them. 

That is an example of stoic nobility that 
I would follow if I could, but for me it 
would be hopeless to try. The sad fact is 
that I love letters telling me how great I 
am and I read them very carefully so as 
not to miss a single precious word. 

You can imagine, then, how annoying 
it is to find in my mail, every once in a 
long while, a letter that does not tell me 
how great I am but, on the contrary, finds 
fault with me. When that happens, I look all about me carefully to 
make sure no one is watching; and if I am indeed unobserved, I tear 
up the letter and snarl and chafe. 

And just the other day there came a letter that accused me of the 
crime of writing too much. This, apparently, was offensive to the 
letter- writer for two reasons, as nearly as I could tell. First, it showed 
in me an unlovely ambition and a despicable grasping for money 
and fame. Second, it was an artistic crime since, if I had the common 
decency to write less, or more slowly, or both, I might perhaps write 
good literature instead of the miserable stuff I crank out. 

I sent my critic a polite note suggesting that he might suffer less 
if he stopped reading me, and I hope he follows my advice for I don't 
like to be the cause of misery for someone who may just possibly be 
a human being. 

Yet it occurs to me that he may not be alone in his thoughts and 
that some of you, who don't write me, nevertheless have the feeling 
I write too much or too quickly or both. What you think of me, of 
course, matters only to me; but some of that impression you have 
may overflow onto the magazine that bears my name and that is 
another matter altogether. For the sake of the magazine I will have 
to explain myself. 

To begin with, while I am a prolific writer, there are many prolific 



6 



ISAAC ASIMOV 




MSCIENCE FICTION ANTHOLOGY 



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Please send me Volume 4 (Fall/Winter '80 edition). 

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writers, especially among those who grew out of the pulp tradition 
as I did; and I set no records in that respect. There are a number 
of writers who have not only written more than I have — but have 
written more that I can possible write if I live to extreme old age 
and carry on my present level of production to the very end. 

(If you're curious about figures, I have published about 15,000,000 
words in my lifetime altogether; but there are some writers who 
have published, in their lifetimes, anywhere from 40,000,000 to 
100,000,000 words. There's no way in which I can approach these 
marks; and, believe me, I have no ambitions to try.) 

Then what gives me my unusual reputation for prolificity? Partly 
(perhaps entirely) it is because I spread my net wide. I not only have 
this monthly editorial, but 1 have a monthly science essay in F & 
SF, a monthly essay on the future in American Way Magazine, a 
monthly essay on science history in SciQuest, a monthly mystery 
in Gallery; and I appear less regularly in scores of other magazines. 
Then, too, my books, which are numerous in themselves, appear in 
a score of categories so that one librarian told me she found at least 
one book of mine in every major division of the Dewey Decimal 
classification. 

The result is that people who are used to seeing me in one place 
or having me deal with one subject are very likely to run into me 
somewhere else, unexpectedly, dealing with something completely 
different. This astonishes them and makes them feel surrounded. 

Under such circumstances, naturally, people get the impression 
that I'm setting a world record for writing and that I'm some sort 
of unbelievable prodigy. But I'm not! I'm just your garden variety 
of prolific writer. 

To be sure, that, in itself, is considerable. By the time this editorial 
appears, the number of my books should be pushing 220 — and even 
that relatively modest number (the world record, by a South African 
writer, is about 900) seems to puzzle people. 

Why do I do it? 

It does take considerable application of seat to chair and fingers 
to typewriter keys to turn all that out; and I do write very day, 
including Sundays and holidays, unless circumstances physically 
prevent me from doing so. Well, then, why? 

Is it truly unlovely ambition and a lusting for money and 
fame? — Not so, and I can prove it. If I were desperate for money and 
fame I would channel my efforts into steamy sex novels or semi- 
mystic horror, or go to Hollywood. I could then do a lot less and get 
a lot more. To be sure, I might lack the talent for that sort of thing; 

8 ISAAC ASIMOV 



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Davis Magazines like this one. 

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but, if I wanted filthy lucre at all costs, I would at least try to do 
these things; and the fact is, I never have. 

Well, then, if not that, what else? What makes Isaac run? 

The answer is so simple that it always surprises me that no one 
guesses it. It surprises me even more that when I do tell people the 
answer, they find the utmost difficulty in believing it. 

Here it is — I like it. I enjoy writing! I would rather write than 
anything else. 

What's more, I write exactly what I like to write in exactly the 
way I like to write; and the fact that it has brought me money and 
fame (to some extent) is a fortunate accident. I don't either scorn 
the money and fame, nor do I refuse to accept it, but that's not what 
I was after. 

I have lost count of the number of times people have said to me, 
"You must have enormous self-discipline to be able to stick at the 
typewriter day after day." 

My answer is: "Not at all! If I had self-discipline I would move 
away from the typewriter now and then." 

Once someone asked me, "If you had to give up either writing or 
sex, which would you choose to give up?" 

My answer, delivered without hesitation, was, "I can type for 
twelve hours at a time without getting tired." 

Barbara Walters, refusing to believe that I really liked writing 
all that much, asked me (off-camera), "What would you do if the 
doctor gave you only six months to live?" 

My answer was, "Type faster!" 

So in the end, they all say, "Well, you're a workaholic!" 

Why? If I loved to play golf or tennis and did so every chance I 
got, I would be considered a good sport and a very loyal American. 
If I had a wood- working shop in my basement and amused myself 
in every idle hour turning out gadgets and furniture for the house, 
I would get medals. 

But because what I like to do is paid for, I'm a workaholic. 

If I typed and typed and typed and didn't get paid for it, then it 
would just be a hobby; and that would be all right no matter how 
much I worked at it, provided I also had some job which earned me 
a living and which I hated and did as skimpily and as sloppily as 
I could. Then I would be a worthy human being whom it would be 
an honor to know. 

(I'm sorry if I sound a little bitter, but I hate being called a work- 
aholic or being described as "compulsive.") 

But how about the speed with which I write? Have I no feeling 

10 ISAAC ASIMOV 



for my art? Don't I want to do a good job, and wouldn't I turn out 
better stuff if I thought about it and considered it and weighed it 
in my mind and brooded over the first draft and revised it eighteen 
or nineteen times and compared the different versions carefully? 

Maybe. I don't know. I've never tried it and I'm pretty sure I'm 
never going to try it. I can't. 

Why can't I? 

Let me ask you a question. Have you ever experienced an itch on 
your forearm? Am I correct in assuming you promptly scratched it? 

Has it ever occurred to you that perhaps if you considered the 
itch, weighed carefully its location and intensity and thoughtfully 
took into account the various ways in which you might scratch it 
and the various instruments with which you might scratch it, you 
might end up — after fifteen or twenty minutes — in doing a more 
efficient and artistic job in removing that itch? 

I'm sure nothing like that has ever occurred to you. You just 
scratch — as quickly and as thoroughly as you can. 

Well, for me the desire to write is an itch. And I scratch! 



Please do not send us your manuscript until you've gotten a copy of our 
discussion of manuscript format and story needs. To obtain these, send 
us a self-addressed, stamped business-size envelope (what stationery 
stores call a number 10 envelope), and a note requesting this Information. 
The address for this and for all editorial correspondence is Box 13116, 
Philadelphia, PA 19101. While we're always looking for new writers, 
please, in the interest of time-saving, find out what we're looking for, 
and how to prepare it, before submitting your story. 

Joel Davis: President & Publisher Isaac Asimov: Editorial Director 

George H. Scithers: Editor Shawna McCarthy: Managing Editor 
Darrell Schweitzer, Lee Weinstein, Alan Lankin, John Ashmead: Asst. Eds. 
Victor C. Stabile: Vice Pres. & Treas. Leonard F. Pinto: Vice Pres. & General Mgr. 
Robert V. Enlow: Sub. Dir. Carole Dolph Gross: Vice Pres. Mktg. -Editorial 

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Eugene S. Slawson: Sub. Cir. Mgr. Joe Rowan: Newsstand Sales Mgr. 

Carl Bartee: Prod. Dir. Constance DiRienzo: Rights & Permissions Mgr. 

Carole Dixon: Prod. Mgr. Irving Bernstein: Art Dir. 

WHAT MAKES ISAAC RUN? 11 



ON BOOKS 
by Baird Searles 



On Wings of Song by Thomas M. Disch, Bantam, $2.25 (paper). 

A Storm of Wings by M. John Harrison, Doubleday, $8.95. 

The Silver Sun by Nancy Springer, Pocket Books, $2.50 (paper). 

The Edge of Running Water by William Sloane, Del Rey, $2.25 
(paper). 

The Butterfly Kid by Chester Anderson, Pocket Books, $2.25 (paper). 

The Erotic World of Faery by Maureen Duffy, Avon, $3.50 (paper). 

Aliens and Linguists by Walter E. Meyers, The University of Geor- 
gia Press, $16.00. 

As I was reading Thomas M. Disch's On Wings of Song, people 
kept asking me what I thought of it. (Disch is one of those authors 
people ask about because one is never quite sure what he's going 
to do next.) And I kept saying that I didn't know for sure, that I had 
to give it a few more pages. After I passed the half-way point of the 
book, this answer seemed a bit ridiculous, but I must say that even 
after finishing it, I'm still not sure whether I liked it or not. But I 
can certainly say that it's well worth reading. 

Disch is not a likable writer — or to phrase that more felicitously, 
Disch's works are not likable works. If he specializes in anything, 
it's unpleasant futures, and that could even be refined to unpleasant 
near futures, which have a gritty reality and enough links to our 
present to give them a quality of verismo that makes for highly 
uncomfortable reading. Not for him the hip, comic-strip, "satirical" 
approach that has been fashionable for some time, with lots of 
amusing sex, violence, and drugginess (that "amusing" is sarcastic, 
if you hadn't guessed — I, for one, am heartily sick of that subgenre). 
Not that those matters are missing from Disch's work, but they have 
a different quality, a different emphasis. If there is such a thing as 
science fiction verite, Disch writes it. His 334, which I consider a 
masterpiece, is about as close to Last Exit from Brooklyn as the field 
has ever come. 

On Wings of Song is also a near future, but differs from 334 in 
several ways. For one thing, the first half of the book takes place 
in a pastoral, rather than an urban setting, specifically the Midwest, 
more specifically Iowa. Here Disch, whom I think of as an urban 
writer, is obviously drawing on his childhood in Minnesota; and his 
21st-century Midwest rings true. Most of the Bible belt states have 
12 BAIRD SEARLES 



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Every story and feature in ISAAC ASIMOV'S SCIENCE FICTION 

MAGAZINE is reviewed by an editorial board according to Dr. Asimov's 
principles for good SF — so the fiction you get every month is always pro- 
vocative, unusual, but with a sense of reality that makes you wonder. . . . 
''Couid it be . . .?" 



become police states, fundamentalist Christians wield great influ- 
ence, and farming is done more and more on enclaves that smack 
of the feudal estate. 

For another, it's the second recent SF novel that uses music as 
an importantly intrinsic factor (the other — Card's Songmaster). 
Disch seems as involved with music as Arthur Clarke is with tech- 
nology, and laces the novel with it as thoroughly as Clarke high- 
techs his works. Unfortunately, from my viewpoint, Disch chooses 
to concentrate in the second part of the book (which takes place in 
New York City) on opera. For me opera is the art for which I have 
the least sympathy, and what's worse, he specifically concentrates 
on bel canto, which of all forms of opera appeals to me the least. 
There were moments in the novel where I thought if I read one more 
word about opera I would scream (and why should I be different 
from the characters I was reading about?). 

But generally, vocal music is functional in Disfch's milieu — any 
kind of vocal music — since it, in combination with a deliberately 
unspecified electronic apparatus (made by Sony and other like 
firms), releases the spirit (soul? persona? ka?) of the user who sees 
himself as a tiny being with the ability to fly. The process is, in fact, 
called "flying" and the beings doing it are called "fairies." It is a 
highly desirable and euphoric state, and there is an objective reality 
about it — the wealthy, for instance, employ fairy traps to be sure 
that their privacy is not invaded. 

Where 334 was a mosaic. On Wings of Song concentrates on one 
individual, a boy born in the restrictive Midwest whose major am- 
bition is to fly. We see the various cultures of the time through his 
eyes; we see the U.S. sinking beneath "power failures, shortages, 
blizzards, floods and ever more audacious acts of terrorism." Against 
this all-too-real view of the future, Disch himself has the audacity 
to set the fantasy of "flying." Somehow he makes it work. Did I like 
the book? No, not really. Disch's characters as well as his settings 
are generally unpleasant, and I find the ending, which happens in 
the blink of an eye on the last page, unforgivably melodramatic. 
Nevertheless, I was never bored by it (save for a few moments of 
too much bel canto) and almost consistently intrigued by the author's 
amazing flow of inventiveness combined with reality. You don't have 
to like a work to think it's good. 

Month before last, you'll remember, I devoted some space to the 
sudden spate of new novels which I labelled, for lack of a better 
term, "Baroque science fiction." One writer who certainly heralded 
ON BOOKS 15 



this style is M. John Harrison, particularly with his novel, The 
Pastel City. Now, with impeccable timing, a sequel to that ornate 
work has appeared. It is called A Storm of Wings, "being the second 
volume of the Viriconium sequence" ( Viriconium is the name of the 
Pastel City). 

As I made clear, I go for Baroque, but this one may be a little 
over-Baroque'd even for me. Harrison's writing is so elaborate that 
the plot and concepts often get totally lost in the complex giltwork. 
Metaphors and similes pepper the books; "like," "as if," "resembles," 
"with the air of," "the way that" are words and phrases encountered 
in almost every paragraph. The building sinks beneath its orna- 
mentation; the theme is lost in arabesque and obligatto — to criticize 
in kind. In other words, it's easy to lose track of the plot. 

Which is a simple one, luckily. Five inhabitants of the Pastel City 
(some of whom we have met before — it helps to have read the earlier 
book, and more recently than I have, which is at least five years 
ago), Cellur, the birdmaker; Galen Hornwrack, the assassin Lord; 
Alstath Fulthor, the Reborn Man; Fay Glass, the mad Reborn 
Woman; and Tomb, the Iron Dwarf, leave the city to investigate the 
reports of giant insects from the hinterlands and their links to the 
mysterious cult, the Sign of the Locust, at the behest of Queen Jane. 
WTiat they eventually find is an insectoid invasion from Outer Space 
(shades of '50s movies!). 

That's reducing it to the most simple-minded of levels, and I must 
say, despite my grumbling (which is really more of a warning to the 
unpersistent lover of fast-paced narratives), Harrison has made a 
wondrous thing of this tale of the Evening of Earth. Reading it was 
a struggle, I must admit, but I have the disadvantage — to myself 
and sometimes to authors — of having to read against a deadline. A 
Storm of Wings should be read slowly, carefully — and perhaps im- 
mediately again, something I have never suggested before. It will 
amply repay the effort. 

I usually don't touch on sequels or spinoffs, an arbitrary rule that 
is perhaps unfair but is one of the ways that I keep the candidacy 
for coverage to somewhat manageable proportions. I talked about 
the Harrison because his works are so few and far between that 
ignoring this one might mean several more years before I had an- 
other chance to mention him. And I'd like to talk about Nancy 
Springer's The Silver Sun for two reasons: one is that I liked the 
first book of this proposed trilogy (The White Hart) so very much, 
the other is that some clarification is needed about the new book. 

16 BAIRD SEARLES 



Springer's first novel was The Book of Suns, which attracted httle, 
if any, notice. Her second, The White Hart, caused some stir, how- 
ever, as an example of heroic fantasy with quite a bit of originality. 
The new book, The Silver Sun, is not new; it is a rewrite of The Book 
of Suns, integrating it more closely with The White Hart, I gather 
(I didn't read the original version). 

It is laid in the land of Isle, in a very different era from that of 
The White Hart. Isle is very like the England of Ivanhoe at this 
period, with foreign invaders settling in several generations after 
the conquest, and the conflict is very like that of Ivanhoe, with 
villainous "new" overloads, heroic "old" families, and a fair amount 
of both factions in between, simply wanting peace and quiet. In 
place of Ivanhoe's outcast race of Jews, Springer introduces a sort 
of lost colony of elves. 

I wasn't quite so happy with this one as I was with The White 
Hart. There are two heroes and two heroines, and almost everybody 
is so noble and nice that as a cumulative effect by the end of the 
book I wanted to strangle all of them. Even half the villains are 
subject to about-faces and become sympathetic. Nevertheless, it is 
a rich (if sometimes monotonous) tapestry, and I will certainly give 
the third book a chance. 

One of my real weaknesses is a propensity for novels of the 1920s 
and '30s of a sort-that I find difficult to categorize. But from A. 
Merritt to Thorne Smith, they share a quality that I associate with 
curling up in an armchair before the fire and having (oh, dreadful 
expression) "a good read." 

So I plunged into The Edge of Running Water by William Sloane 
with a good deal of anticipation; I'd known the title (an intriguing 
one) for many years though I'd never read it, and it had been first 
published in 1939. 

The book went swimmingly for a while. Young scientist-teacher 
summoned by his old mentor to isolated area of Maine; mysterious 
house with even more mysterious room in it; mentor's lovely young 
sister-in-law to hand as well as strange psychic lady; problems with 
local population, etc. But this time I was thrown a curve; all this 
leads up to the most crashing anticlimax I may ever have encoun- 
tered in all my days of reading. In this case, don't go near the water. 

Science fiction having been a cult genre for most of its history, 
it hasn't had that much chance to develop individual cult novels. 
One that has come close, however, is Chester Anderson's The But- 

ON BOOKS 17 



terfly Kid, first published back in 1967. It's finally reappeared in 
paperback, and I'm happy to say it's just as slapstickily wacko as 
I remember it. 

For anyone who lived through the 1960s, particularly those who 
did so in Greenwich Village, the novel is instant nostalgia. It's set 
vaguely in the fiiture, but all fiitures reflect the period in which 
they're extrapolated, and this one is unabashedly an extension of 
that time and place, a sort of Flower Summer with vidiphones. 
Anderson has his Village geography down pat, too; in fact, one dizzy 
scene takes place in the very building in which this report is being 
written (my apartment building is a converted police precinct 
house). And the dialogue is rife with quaint old expressions such as 
"groovy" and "oh, wow!"; the miracle is that Anderson, writing at 
the time, found them as funny then as we do now. 

The plot, so far as one can discern it through the general chaos, 
has to do with a new drug that appears on the scene, which makes 
hallucinations into reality. It first impinges on the consciousness 
of our hippie hero (one Chester Anderson) in the person of a teeny- 
bopper who is making butterflies — real ones, though psychedelically 
colored — with a wave of his hand. This turns out to be part of a plot 
by a group of aliens, who resemble six-foot-tall blue lobsters, to take 
over the Earth, and the whole thing comes to an epic climax at the 
Croton Reservoir with a battle using the reality drug as a weapon. 
The Butterfly Kid is a thoroughgoing delight, and I am more than 
happy to welcome it back in print. 

And finally, two academic books that are of more than routine 
interest. In cases like these, I am not about to criticize or question 
the special areas of expertise; I can only report on the general read- 
ability of the volume which, in the case of both of these, is very. 

Maureen Duffy's The Erotic World of Faery is fascinating if you 
don't mind having some romantic illusions brought down around 
your ears as she points out the subliminal sexuality of fairy tales, 
fantasies, and even, in a final chapter, some selected works of SF 
(with that chapter, appropriately enough, headed by a quote from 
Asimov). Kingsley's The Water Babies is an anti-masturbation tract; 
in The Wind in the Willows the "three hero animals of the river 
bank are three recognizable phallic or fool types," and you can just 
imagine what she makes of that Freudian festival, Peter Pan. 

A little less sensational, but just as intriguing, is Walter E. Mey- 
ers's Aliens and Linguists. It's a study of manufactured words and 
nomenclature, communication, and linguistics in general in science 

18 BAIRD SEARLES 



fiction (though with a suitable nod to Tolkien, the master of them 
all in the matter of etymology, for obvious reasons). 

I was particularly impressed with Meyers's knowledge of SF, 
which is demonstrated to be extensive; most academics, even those 
who claim to know the field, seem to think that it consists of 1984, 
Brave New World, and Stranger in a Strange Land. Bravo, Mr. 
Meyers! (And Ms. Duffy, too, for that matter.) 



60PP0RT YooR Local 
SF^BOOKSTOR 



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ON BOOKS 



19 



BLOODSONG 

by Barry B. Longyear & Kevin O'Donnell, Jr. 

art: Hilary Barta 




20 




21 



When the Messrs. Longyear and O'Donnell 

discovered they'd both written stories 

based on the same idea ("The Raindrop's 

Role" and "Savage Planet"), they 

decided to try a deliberate 

collaboration — which, 

we think, turned out 

quite well. 

Dwai's talons scratched the rock to which they were chained. He 
could not loosen the bolts, not with his wrists lashed to his neck. 
Nor could he snap his three-meter pinions and fly off with the an- 
chor. He'd tried that all night long; blood still oozed from the scrapes 
on his legs. With an angry cluck, he wrapped himself in the warmth 
of his wings and waited for his trial to begin. 

Brooding, he knew he'd be convicted. The balance had collapsed. 
The harmony — oh gods of storm, the harmony! — had jangled into 
discord. And he, he . . . 

He could remember the smoothness, the poise, the instinctive in- 
terplay. Not a season ago he had perched on a blasted stump and 
chatted with a friend. That was what Poets did: chatted, made art, 
philosophized . . . they had created civilization, and they carried it 
on in all its aspects. The Hunters, on the other hand, fed them, and 
protected them from attack. But it was a clear, windless day, so the 
Poet sat up top, while the Hunter slumbered below, awaiting the 
neural flash, the synaptic summons.* 

PoetDwai had proposed a theory, which his friend was ridiculing. 
"No, hear me out!" he insisted. "The herdbeasts are fewer each year — a 
fact you acknowledge — and the reason, I say, is that we grow more 
numerous. We eat more of them. To extrapolate their extinction is — " 

"—the raving of a demented mind," snapped Khu'a. Poets were 
expected to insult each other freely— and did. "Logic states that if 
fewer graze here, more graze there." He waved a nightblack wing in 
the direction of the eastern mountains. "Nature maintains an equi- 
librium — " 

"—which we overturned with our weapons!" Dwai cut in. "Soon the 
ngah will all be gone — unless we act now to feed them, and to defend 
them against the groundclaws who would also eat them. Not to see 
this is to be blind!" 

"To state it is to be a fool!" said Khu'a hotly. "Tradition says — '' 

"Reality shows — " 

22 LONGYEAR & O'OONNELL 



''Dwai, you idiot, you've soared too high too long, and I think your 
brain died of frost!" 

He tossed up his beak and laughed. His friend had to join in; it 
was well-known thatKhu'a spent twice as much time above the moon- 
silvered clouds as any other member of the flock. Then the corner of 
his eye touched a furry paw. He froze. His feathers bristled. The 
balance beam tilted and the Hunter popped into control. ''Ground- 
claw!" he hissed, touching his cree. 

Hunter Khu'a emerged with a flourish of talons. ''Now?" he grated. 

"Now!" and they struck. Dwai swooped towards the beasfs fanged 
face. As its massive paw swung up to bat him down, he flared his 
wings and floated above its head, just out of reach, yet close enough 
to tempt its hungry eyes. It reared onto its hind legs— and Khu'a 
darted through to rip out its throat. 

Blood still bubbled as they settled back to their perch; they 
smoothed their feathers and wiped clean their beaks. Danger had 
passed. All was quiet. "Good work," the Hunters grunted, then— after 
a last, sharp glance around— slipped back into dormancy. The Poets 
said, "Where were we. . . ?" 

The chains clanked together; he returned to the present. He had, 
indeed, known harmony — no matter what happened at dawn, he 
had once been whole. 

A minute later, sunlight spilled over the valley rim, startling the 
flock out of sleep. Nestlings hopped and squawked while their moth- 
ers sought to feed them. Older children launched themselves into 
the air and spiraled upwards on drafts of pure exhilaration. 

Four formed a diamond and whistled past overhead, synchronizing 
the beats of wings so closely-spaced that feathers brushed on each 
stroke. It was a Poet's sport, but even a Hunter could appreciate 
their coordination — and their faith in each other. They sang as they 
flew. It was a light song, a mock lament that they'd grown old 
enough to feed themselves — and it cut off abruptly. The diamond 
burst open; short knives flashed in the sun. They'd spotted breakfast. 
As silent as night the Hunters dropped, talons first, and vanished 
beyond the shoulder of a ridge. A dart-pierced ngah bleated in pain, 
but death quieted it. The foursome screeched success. 

And seven mild elders approached Dwai. 

He preened himself, for he would not cower. Larger than most 
Grai-Grai, and feathered a shimmering blue-green that faded subtly 
into gold at the crest, he took pride in appearance and dignity. He 
had nothing else, not any more. The prying alien woman had taken 

BLOODSONG 23 



all his life but his stature and his style. Those would have to be his 
weapons against the elders. 

They halted just out of reach, and jostled into a semi-circle of 
peering, bobbing faces. Trhu, the chief, so ancient that only a single 
scarlet plume adorned his crest, spoke in a meek, whistly voice: 
"You are Hunter Dwai?" 

"You know I am," he rasped. 

"Kill for us, Hunter Dwai." He nodded to middle-aged Skwee, who 
threw a hairy brown thing at the captive. It whimpered as it tumbled 
head over tail. 

Bound though he was, Dwai struck. Instinct whipped his hooked 
beak through the air, and'bit the small mammal in half. Hot blood 
gushed on his bony cheekplates; its perfume triggered his hunger. 
Pecking at the ground, he caught the thwart's tail, jerked his head 
up, and swallowed that half of the carcass whole. 

"Now," wheezed Trhu, "sing of sadness. Poet Dwai." 

"Sing?" Gobbling the rest of the thwan, he stretched his neck to 
get it down. He felt strong, and tested his chains. They held. "I 
don't sing." Wistfulness welled in him briefly, but he forced its la- 
ment into darkness with: "Though I hunt and kill and eat — I don't 
sing." 

"This is your last chance, Poet Dwai — " 

"I am Hunter Dwai!" he screeched, bending forward and slapping 
his wingtips together under the old one's very beak. "Hunter. Do 
you hear?" 

"We hear," said Trhu quietly. The black beads of his eyes fixed 
on one elder after another until all had voted with a crestripple or 
a talonslash. "You are insane. Hunter Dwai^ sickened with irrev- 
ocably separated personalities. One's beings must fit like the halves 
of a broken shell; one's beings must ebb and flow with the tide of 
need. Yours are separate. You can't call the poet; he can't call you. 
We fear you, Hunter, as your wife did when she accused you to us. 
Your sensitivity comes when fury is needed. You rage when you 
should be gentle. You must leave before you hurt the flock." 

"Untie me," he sneered, "and see if I roost on cowards' ledge." 

"We will. But first: should you wish to return, you must heal 
yourself. And you must benefit us, to compensate for the disruption 
you have caused. Find the alien, drive it away. Re-shape the nest 
of your soul. Then you may return." 

"I am a hunter," he snarled, though deep within him a distant 
flautist piped a doleful refrain, "and I compensate no one. If I make 
the alien my quarry, it is for my own amusement, not for your 

24 LONGYEAR & O'DONNELL 



benefit. Untie me." 

Trhu nodded, and whispered, "Gentlemen poets, let us be hunt- 
ers." 

The elders stiffened. Statue-still, they swelled and stretched; their 
feathers bristled while their hands fisted and their talons length- 
ened visibly. They they moved — with swift, jerky strides. Each ges- 
ture spoke of controlled ferocity, of sudden death. 

Skwee unlocked the fetters. For an instant he tensed, nearly 
goaded to murder by the smell and sight of blood, but he shuddered, 
and backed away. Trhu bit through the rope looped around Dwai's 
wrists and neck. "Go!" he commanded, in a growl more vicious than 
his age should have permitted. "Go! Your weapons are on the peak." 

Dwai measured the seven elders as he flexed his arms. Free now, 
he almost lashed out at them. He ached to tear their flesh with his 
claws, to rip his beak through their throats . . . but even to him the 
idea seemed mad. A seven-to-one fight would end quickly, indeed. 
"I'll go," he grated, flapping his wings and lifting off, "but don't 
expect me back." 

On the peak. Poet Dwai crossed his arms and spread his wings 
until their tips brushed the rocks. Eyes shut, his beak rose, opened, 
then issued a high-pitched wail. As the sound echoed from the sur- 
rounding mountains, he hung his head, then shook it to remove the 
taste from his mouth. "You have been at your work again. Hunter." 

A flame burned inside his breast, but Dwai whirled about, his 
wingtips knocking small stones from their places, into the depths 
below. "I am the stronger, now. Hunter! I!" The flame subsided, and 
Dwai became still, his keen eyes studying the site of his flock far 
below. He turned and saw the ragged-edged blade of the cree on the 
rocks, next to a short-knife and a quiver of darts. Dwai nodded, then 
threw back his head and cooed a bitter laugh. 

"Hunter, you are a fool! You would not release me even to spare 
us this shame." He studied the weapons for a moment, then looked 
to the gathering clouds. "Can you hate me so much, Hunter? To 
have us thrown from the bosom of our flock?" Dwai snorted. "Crea- 
ture of blood, of kill lust, thou knowest not the meaning of hate! 
Love has given me a hate that even you, in all your brutality, cannot 
equal." 

Dwai's breast swelled. "You are quiet, Hunter. Is it because you 
feel my flame? It is a fire born in love for the woman — " He doubled 
over as a pain seared his spine. " — Yes! Love that has made my hate 
the stronger! Get back! Get back!" 

BLOODSONG 25 



Dwai came upright, then he shuddered. He turned and looked 
down at the flock's roost. "It is just as well. Could the lady who 
finds my art a thing of grace and beauty feel joy in the company 
of . . . animalsl" 

He thought of the delicate, fragile creature who listened to his 
songs and poems, her strange face a thing of curiosity, yet even 
beauty. Then he would listen to the poems she talked through the 
shiny green box with the glowing jewels. "Love, Hunter. You will 
never know it. Does it make you feel as crippled as I see you?" 

He spread his wings, then dropped from the peak, swooping until 
his wings caught a warm column of air. Dwai circled it until he had 
risen high above the peak. His sharp eyes saw the members of his 
flock gliding below, plummeting down that strong talons might rip 
the backs of helpless thwarts. The song rose to his throat: 

'7 spread my wings, and pray you hold me 

God of sky; 
Your children of the clouds see my flight 

Bid them let me pass. 
God of mountains, God of sun, God of stars, 

Guide my way. 

For now I fly." 

Dwai saw the glint of the weapons still on the peak below. "Look 
at them, Hunter, for there they shall remain. I need no weapons to 
go and meet my lady." 

He banked, toward the sun, then pushed his wings against the 
currents, leaving the peak behind. 

The Hunter burst awake, spurting into consciousness and control 
like magma jetting up a volcanic fissure. 

Knocked off balance by his erupting skullmate, the Poet tumbled 
down the slope into darkness and subterranean stasis. There would 
he float, unknowing and unknown, until his desire for the light so 
intensified the pressure of his personality that he, too, could shoot 
to the surface, scooping up the nuggets of musculature and men- 
tation as he fountained. 

Discords jangled in the inner air; the Hunter winced. He'd have 
no more of that foolishness. That prissy nestling would stay buried, 
this time. 

Soaring on a thermal, he circled the alien's landing site. She'd 
chosen a treeless plateau, flat and grassy. Her craft had cut three 

26 LONGYEAR & O'DONNELL 



parallel lines into its surface. From a kilometer up, the metal- 
skinned air blower didn't look so big — if you thought you were much 
lower. Sunset tinged its stubby wings red; the breeze flattened the 
tall grass around its large black wheels. The woman emerged, and 
held to her eyes the glass-tipped tubes that gave her the vision of 
an old nest guard. She pointed them at Hunter Dwai, and waved. 

Not deigning to respond, he continued his long slow circle. He 
studied her as he would a ngah separated from the herd, noting her 
stance and walk, estimating her speed and strength, searching for 
anything on her person or close to her hand that she could use as 
a weapon. 

She was vulnerable. 

Wheeling, more silent than the air that bore him, he hated her. 
She had ruined him with her jeweled boxes, had lashed his brain 
with such pain that he'd lost his talongrip on the Poet, who'd ever 
since fluttered just out of reach, even when mired down under. 

The Hunter had been under that hour. Perched in hooded pride 
on the ledge of their soul, he'd listened to the Poet babble to the 
alien, and awaited danger. 

High above the waving woman, he laughed softly. 

Danger. It triggered fear in the Poet, always and without fail. 
That fear dropped on the little nestling like a great weight, swinging 
him under, and launching the Hunter into the light. Always 
. . . except that once. 

He banked again. The center of his circle moved fifty more meters 
away from the air-blower. As he'd hoped, the maneuver lured her 
further into the open. She looked over her shoulder to mark the 
precipice. 

Yes, the Hunter had stayed under that hour because the Poet had 
been too foolish to recognize danger. She had hypnotized him, per- 
haps with the impossibly slender golden feathers she called hair, 
perhaps with the lake-blue eyes that saw so little they begged for 
help. The Hunter, eavesdropping, had waited for the see-saw to tip, 
to toss him gape-beaked to their defense. But the Poet had chuckled 
fatuously and let her attach the wires. 

She stood alone on the plain, her shadow stretching long and grey 
down the green. The breeze drew her hair across her face, and 
flapped the long-tipped collar of her jumpsuit. Her five-fingered 
hands clutched the binoculars more tightly. 

The Hunter wondered if five fingers were better than three, if five 
fingers held the short-knife more firmly at the moment of thrust. 
And he cursed the Poet for abandoning their own weapons, because 

BLOODSONG 27 



now he'd have to soil his talons. 

The woman had destroyed him. "Fascinating!" she'd burbled to 
the Poet. "Oh, please let me measure it." She'd brought out her 
boxes, her wires. And the Poet had bowed his head, not knowing 
(for if he had, the Hunter would have, too) that she would break 
the birth-bond, snap the see-saw. 

Even in memory the Hunter sobbed at the psychic pain. 

Arrogant Poet, he thought, riding up top when danger lurked, 
riding through the hour of the Hunter. A minor-key dirge sounded 
faint and far within. You call it love, what you feel for this woman, 
this alien thing, this cree that has cleft us. I call it madness to split 
the birth-bond, to shrug off symbiosis. You needed me and I you, 
skull -brother, but you thought to seize our body for yourself Can you 
hear me, prissy nestling? 

Angry music drowned the wind. 

Ah, you can. Well, hear this, glosswing—you chose to fight for 
dominance, but you chose the wrong foe. I am Hunter. I hate. And 
I kill. 

The sun slipped behind the far ridges, casting the plateau into 
darkness. To him it made no difference — he could see as well at 
night as in the day — but to her it meant death. 

His hatred for her crackled and flared like the fire on a tree 
torched by lightning. He flexed his talons. So sharp, so strong. Like 
the lightning, he stabbed down. 

And she, the silly fool, smiled. 

As Dwai plummeted, the Poet struggled, but too strong was the 
Hunter. Closer, almost upon her, and the smile left the woman's 
lips. She turned to flee, then fell, screaming, to the ground. No! 
Hunter, No! Poet Dwai's mind-being flew at the hard wall of killfire 
constructed by the Hunter. No! I beg you, no! Closer, then Dwai 
extended his talons, dipped, then raked the woman's back. Her 
screaming ended suddenly. 

As Dwai banked to finish his quarry, the crazed Poet flew at the 
Hunter, at first confusing him, then driving the brute into the dark- 
ness. The Poet Dwai screamed, "I begged you! I begged you!" He 
whirled down, landing eight wingspans from her bleeding body. He 
wrapped his wings about himself, shivered, then stared at the body 
with unblinking eyes. 

''Emptiness, 
My soul a haunt 

28 LONGYEAR & O'DONNELL 



For naught 
But filmy wisps 
Of memory ." 

He closed his eyes and lowered his beak to his breast. Then the 
woman moaned. Poet Dwai's head rose, then he flapped and ran to 
her side. He caught his breath as he saw the six bloody cuts that 
extended from the small of her back to her shoulders. The tatters 
of her jumpsuit soaked red. But — she moved. She lived! He bent 
over. 

"Lady. Lady, can you hear me?" 

She moaned again, but did not open her eyes. Dwai pushed aside 
a few scraps of cloth from her back and examined the wounds. They 
bled, and badly. Up he jumped, his wings catching the air, his eyes 
searching the ground for the healing-plant. Farther and farther he 
circled, until a familiar orange patch came into view. He swooped 
down, his talons ripping loose several plants, then up he went to 
bank, glide, then put down at the woman's side. He pulled several 
of the pods from the plants, held them over her back, then squeezed, 
letting the sour-smelling liquid dribble into the wounds. In mo- 
ments, the cuts turned black and stopped bleeding. Dwai placed his 
arms under her, keeping clear of the healing wounds, then gently 
lifted her. He spread his wings and moved toward the lady's air- 
blower. 

In the cabin of the air-blower. Poet Dwai crouched next to the 
lady's sleeping place. The healing-plant had stopped the pain, and 
her face was calm. Dwai lifted an arm and stroked her cheek with 
his fingers. He turned the hand and looked at it, then let it fall to 
his side. 

"Hunter, we must come to terms. I know not how much longer I 
can hold you in the darkness, but before she is healed, you will 
again control us." 

He stood and began searching the lockers in the compartment. 
"Yes, you will control us; but you shall not kill her, Hunter. You 
shall tend her. If she wishes water, you shall bring it. If enemies 
come to the door, you shall fight them off." Poet Dwai nodded. "And, 
Hunter, if she is moved to have her jeweled box talk the poems, you 
shall sit and listen." 

Opening a large locker at the rear of the compartment, he nodded 
and pulled out the long knife the woman had called a machete, 
looking much like a cree but with a smooth-edged blade. He placed 

BLOODSONG 29 



the long knife on the counter of the compartment's tiny cooking 
place. 

"You shall do these things, Hunter, because I tell you to do them." 
Dwai removed the cover to the lady's fire plates, then pushed the 
small panel the way he had once seen her do. In seconds, one of the 
fire plates glowed red. Dwai felt the heat on his face, then he reached 
and picked up the long knife in his right hand. "I must leave you 
a message, both to tell you what I would have you do, and to show 
you what I am capable of if you fail me." 

"Are you listening. Hunter?" Dwai felt the fire throbbing within 
his breast. "Good, Hunter; then sharpen your hearing, and mind 
well what I now say: you mistake bloodlust for courage. You mistake 
song for weakness. Had you the wit to compose, you would see what 
true courage is." Dwai stared at the fire plate, now glowing white. 
He placed his left forearm on the counter, lifted the long-knife high 
over his head, then swung the blade down against his wrist. He 
staggered back, dropping the blade, blood spurting from the useless 
stump where his left hand had been. "See . . . see Hunter ..." Dwai 
rocked forward, coming to a halt next to the cooking place. He lifted 
the stump and placed it directly on the white fire plate. He screamed, 
the smell of burning flesh invading his head and lungs, the pain 
slamming at the insides of his head. 

He slumped to the floor, looking at the lady through half-closed 
eyes. "You see. Hunter? I can make you fit to hunt nothing more 
than ground grubs, if I choose. Or I can end us, which I shall do 
should I awaken and find my lady dead." 

He saw her open her eyes. She rocked her head until she saw him 
crumpled on the floor, then her eyes widened. "Have . . . have no 
fear, my . . . lady." He breathed hard, then felt the compartment 
darken and begin spinning. "The Hunter . . . will mind himself." 
He closed his eyes and let the darkness take him from his agony. 

The Hunter rose to a consciousness that simmered with anguish. 
Ascending, he felt it, but broke through to rise above it, as all 
Hunters could. Though it did not disappear from his awareness, it 
bubbled below his threshold of pain, on a sub-sensory level he could 
dip into to check or ignore, if he chose. 

He chose to ignore it. 

Pale, unreal light filled the bare room. Yawning in the stale air, 
ruffiing straight the feathers bent by sleep, he opened his wings to 
examine the wound. 

And hissed at the sight of the charred, swollen stump. 

30 LONGYEAR & O'DONNELL 



You fool! he threw inwards, hoping the Poet was hstening. / was 
the strongest, the bravest— you've made me a nest guard decades 
before my time. What did you hope to prove? It'll be a week before I 
find my new flight balance. 

"Good morning," whistled a harsh, alien voice. No Grai-Grai, not 
even the most senile, could consider that raspy screech a proper 
greeting for the dawn. 

Talons clicking on the shiny floor, the Hunter pivoted, knowing 
he would face a slender, blue-eyed, female Terran. His nerves told 
him that the fingers of his missing left hand had curled into a fist. 
"You!" he spat at the drawn woman leaning on the doorjamb. 

"Of course, Dwai." Her lips moved, but the words came from the 
box strapped to her neck. "Who — oh. You are Hunter Dwai, not the 
Poet." 

"That's right," he snarled, and fought down the urge to slash her 
pink cheeks. "That prissy nestling mutilated our body and now he's 
afraid to come out. Can't stand the pain. Glosswings are like that. 
Although where this one got the guts to cripple us is beyond me." 
He cocked his head and snapped his beak reflectively. Studying her 
soft nose and exposed ears, he added, "And why he's obsessed with 
you is beyond me, too." 

"Now just a minute," she began — 

But he cut her off. "No. The Poet might listen to you, but I don't. 
You're the one who caused this whole mess, and I'm not about to 
forget it." 

"Caused?" she echoed blankly. "Mess?" 

He advanced a step, half-unfurling his wings. The walls cramped 
him; the ceiling confined him. Claustrophobia fueled his fury. "Yes, 
ground grabber, caused. You and your boxes. 'Oh, please let me 
measure it — it won't hurt a bit.' Well, it did! It tore us apart! And 
because of that we were deflocked, the prissy nestling's gone 
crazy — " He waved his stump. " — I am a cripple, and it. Is. All. Your. 
Fault." If he'd had room for a hop and flutter, he'd have disembow- 
eled her on the spot. 

Angry, ominous chords crashed and whirled within. 

Shut up, poet. 

The music swelled and whirled like an oncoming tornado. 

Listen, windthroat, Fm in charge now. 

The notes solidified, and hurled themselves at his underside — but 
slammed into the roiling pain. They dopplered down and away. 

You can't even function up top today — so sink back into the ooze 
and SHUT UP! 

BLOODSONG 31 



Insistent, the refrain demanded obedience. 

All right, I'll let her live— for a while. 

No, forever! screamed the music. Or else — 

Don't threaten me, glosswing. Because after what you did, I'm not 
so sure I don't want to die. Keep pushing and I'll tear out her 
throat— then let you swing up top and commit suicide. Why not? What 
kind of life have you left me? 

Silence filled his interior — shaken, reconsidering silence. 

That's better. He lifted his bony head and stared at the woman. 
"As for you — why are you here, anyway?" 

"I — " Her cheeks reddened, and she half-hid her face behind a toss 
of blond hair. "Fm fleeing," she said simply. 

"You made somebody else hate you?" he mocked. 

She caught her breath. "No," she said at last, exhaling slowly. 
"No, that's . . . well, it's true, but—" 

Despite his animosity, he found her intriguing. "How can some- 
thing be yes and no at the same time?" 

"They don't hate me," she said softly, "they merely want to kill 
me. 

He studied her anew. "Why? Are you their food?" 

"Food?" Her eyes blinked several times. "No, why?" 

"If they don't hate, why else would they kill except to sate hun- 
ger?" 

She laughed shakily. "I have to remember you're the Himter ... no, 
it's what I know that makes them want to kill me." 

"What's that?" 

She drew up her spine like a prophet imparting revelation. "That 
the Grai-Grai are intelligent — and should not be slaughtered." 

"Of course we're intelligent — who could feel otherwise?" 

The woman sagged against the gleaming wall. Greyness suffused 
her skin. "Believe me, Dwai, there are many of my race who would 
classify you as an animal." 

The Hunter shrugged. "Anything that lives and breathes and kills 
is an animal, but — " 

"No," she broke in, "that's not the definition they use — I had no 
idea you were so articulate; the Poet said — " 

"What definition do they use, and how does slaughter enter into 
it?" 

"To them — " She set her jaw tightly, as if to hold back nausea 
" — anything that isn't identical to us is an animal — especially civ- 
ilizations that don't lavish their creativity on tool-making." 

"Our short knives and crees aren't tools?" 

32 LONGYEAR & O'OONNELL 



"You're very proud." She raised her thin hands to her temples, 
then winced as the motion stretched the lacerated areas of her back. 
"Dwai, you don't need to convince me — I'm on your side as it is — it's 
the others who don't believe." 

"Who are these others?" he asked suspiciously. 

"People — humans — they look like me; my race. But they're in 
charge of deciding which worlds we will take, and which we will 
leave for the . . . the natives." 

In a vague way, he understood. His people, too, had elders who 
picked new nesting grounds — although they never would have set- 
tled on a ledge without consulting the established flocks in the 
vicinity, "So your people are planning to take the world from the 
Grai-Grai?" 

She nodded; then at his apparent incomprehension said, "Yes." 

He longed to stretch his wings, to float up warm winds rising from 
rocky slopes while he thought things out. "But why are you telling 
me this?" he demanded. "You should have discussed it with the 
Poet — it's the sort of thing he and his like are good for." 

"I — " Again her cheeks flamed, and she glanced away in embar- 
rassment. "I didn't want to talk about it unless I had to. It . . . it's 
shameful, if you know what I mean." 

He snorted. "And now you have to? Why, because the Hunter is 
here?" 

"No," she said softly, plaintively. "Because my hunters are here." 

Before he could respond, a fanfare of martial trumpets blasted 
him off his perch and back down under. 

The Poet's anger shot to the surface. "Shameful?! You speak of 
shame?" 

The woman cowered against the bulkhead. "Hunter Dwai, I 
only-" 

"The Hunter is gone, lady. The one you betrayed speaks now. 
Explain! Explain, else my talons shall do the Hunter's work upon 
you!" 

She held out her hands. "Poet, don't you remember the songs you 
sang to me, and the poems — " 

"What for? Why did you have me sing for you?" 

She swallowed, then looked down. "My job. It was my job." 

The Poet thrashed his wings in fury. "Job? You mean your work? 
It was your work to have me sing?" 

She nodded. "The recordings would prove the Grai-Grai to be 
intelligent." 

The Poet was without words. Things within his breast tightened, 

BLOODSONG 33 



and the comers of his mouth watered. "I ... I loved you!" He 
grabbed her chin with his right hand and forced her to look into his 
face. "We had art, poetry, and song together, and ... I loved you! 
You . . . loved me! Your jeweled box sang your love to me! I heard 
the songs! You love me! 

Tears welled in her eyes as she nodded. "Dwai, those were the 
poems of other humans. I . . . thought you'd enjoy them." 

Poet Dwai turned from the creature and went to the vehicle's 
hatch. "You have your information, creature. Why do you not take 
it to your masters? I have been used; are you not yet done with me?" 

She looked down at the deck without seeing it. "I do have 
an . . . affection for you, Dwai — " 

The Poet snorted. "Affection!" 

"It's true!" She shook her head as she continued to keep her eyes 
down. "It's true. But ... we could never love, Dwai. Look at us." 
She returned her gaze to the Poet. "Look at us!" 

He returned his gaze to the lady, the wetness streaming from her 
reddened eyes. "I am looking, yet as I looked before, and before I 
loved you!" 

She held out her hands. "We are different. How could we ever 
love?" 

Dwai staggered back as though he had been struck. "You 
talk . . . you talk of rutting, not loveV He felt his good hand itch to 
strike the creature. He breathed deeply, then tossed his head to the 
right. "I would sing to you and tell you my poems, then you would 
sing and tell me yours." He looked back at her. 'That was love." 

She shook her head. "Those were not my songs and poems, Dwai. 
They were simply recordings. I wanted to see what they would in- 
spire in you. The works of other poets — human poets — were tran- 
scribed — " 

Poet Dwai turned back to the hatch. "Then your work is done. 
Why do you not take yourself and leave?" 

"Dwai, there are powerful interests that would see my work fail. 
Don't you understand? If all that I have found out isn't brought to 
the proper people, the Grai-Grai will be destroyed. This planet will 
belong to others. My ship won't fly. I've sent out a distress call, but 
those who would command this planet will have heard the call as 
well." 

Dwai folded his wings about his shoulders. "Of what interest is 
this to me?" 

"If they kill me, your race will die." 

The Poet watched as a small air blower settled to the edge of the 

34 LONGYEAR & O'DONNELL 



plateau. "Another craft comes, lady. Your rescuers are here." 

"The color. What color is it?" 

"Blue." Dwai turned back to see the creature holding her hands 
to her mouth. 

"It's them! Dwai, they will kill me! Please, please help me." 

Dwai looked at the new air blower and watched as six of the 
human creatures emerged carrying weapons. He turned back and 
saw the lady struggle to her feet, move to a locker, then remove a 
deadly-looking hand weapon. She picked it up and extended her 
hand toward Dwai. "This weapon, lady, how does it work?" 

"Hold it in your hand, point it at them, then depress the lever." 

Dwai frowned, picked up the machete, thrust it into his belt, then 
he took the weapon from the lady. He studied it for a moment, then 
looked at the approaching creatures. It did not take the Hunter to 
see that the creatures were exposed and careless. He pointed the 
weapon out of the hatch, aimed it at one of the creatures, then 
depressed the lever. One of the creatures fell to the ground inflames, 
while the remaining five dove for cover. The Poet felt the sickness 
coming over him. 

Hunter . . . Hunter, I need you to fight. And you will need me as 
well to know who to fight and why. I am still strong, Hunter, and 
cannot be forced back. But I am releasing you, for we must do this 
thing together. 

The Hunter burned up from the darkness to find the Poet still in 
residence. Down, glosswing! 

No, Hunter, for we must work as one. The enemy is out there. If 
they are not killed, the Grai-Grai die. 

Your alien woman caused this. Let her die, first. 

No! 

Poet, she plucked our tail feathers while you slept— how can you 
protect a ground-grabber who made a fool out ofyoul 

Hunter, look into my memory. Hear what chants there. 

Your memory'^ he snorted. / suppose they're your eyes, tool 

Please'? 

Oh, all right. He peered into the misty curtain of music that hung 
between them, cutting one off from the other. Only amorphous grey 
met his gaze — but before he could protest that the Poet had asked 
him to do the impossible, the clouds parted, as if sundered by strong 
wind and brilliant sun. Up the far side of the curtain licked flames, 
and beyond them . . . beyond them played a masterful symphony of 
love aroused, elated — and betrayed. The brass shouted joy, the bass 
spoke of strength and depth and force, and the flutes ... ah, the 

BLOODSONG 35 



lonely flutes mourned. The Hunter looked upon a wounded comrade 
fluttering from the sky's ceiling to the waiting teeth of rock and 
ridge, helpless to save himself. The Hunter watched . . . and wept. 
She broke your wings, he whispered, and you still protect her? 

Look deeper, Hunter. Listen closer. 

The rhythm shifted; the fifes shrieked Alarum, alarum! In stac- 
cato cadences air-blowers dropped like rain, a thousand, a million, 
more . . . and their hatches crashed whiW cymbals clashed and feet, 
running feet, diving bounding running feet, weapons flashed, lasers 
slashed, wiping Grai-Grai from the air . . . burned the limestone 
ledges bare ... all the nests, all the eggs . . . bare. 

But hope! A voice, clear and silver, soaring high saying "No!" 
saying "Stop!" saying "Go!" 

Her? gasped the Hunter, stunned. 

The lady. 

He turned from the hatch, spun back, and turned again, confused 
by the rage that filled him. The woman, flattened against the wall, 
said nothing; in her eyes, though, flickered the fear that the ally 
within her ship could be deadlier than the enemy outside. He stared 
at her. So your plan. Poet, is that you pick them, and I kill them? 

Yes. 

Then point them out, glosswing, and stand back — or get splashed 
with their blood. 

The instant he flew out the hatch, he knew he was in trouble. As 
he'd predicted, losing a hand had upset his balance; he wobbled like 
a nestling, and snapped four feathers off his right wing. With a 
squint for the brightness of day, he concentrated on compensating 
for the minute change in his center of gravity. It was almost more 
than he could manage. Cursing, he dropped behind a sun-bleached 
outcropping, and kept it between himself and the aliens while he 
walked to the plateau's edge. There he stopped. He breathed deeply. 
Clumps of fear crystallized in his stomach, slicing his gut with their 
razor edges. / can't do it! he shouted. / can't think about fighting if 
I have to think about flying. 

Then don't, said the Poet calmly. I'll fly. 

You? 

Where do you think my music is born, in a burrow? 

I don't really have a choice, do I? 

No. 

All right, but get us where I want us to be— and for God's sakes, 
when I need the arms and talons, let 'em go! 

They stepped over the precipice; the air shocked their wings wide. 

36 LONGYEAR & O'DONNELL 



Swoop around to the other side, urged the Hunter. The wind sleeked 
their feathers, and carried away the sound of their flight. The 
Hunter swung his head from left to right, watching their shadow 
far below, picking out individual grains of sand in the stone. His 
talons flexed again and again while he listened for noise from above. 

What do you feel, Hunter? 

Hatred. He chiseled his words out of ice. Hunger. Fury. I want to 
tear, to fight, to bite, to kill! Hot blood in my gullet and mewling 
whimpers and muscles that spasm until they go limp with death . . . 

They judged their position and rode a draft up the cliff, above the 
plateau's tabletop, higher, rising, till their back brushed the clouds 
and the shadow of their span blanketed the scene. Far below, five 
puny wingless creatures crawled towards the lady's air-blower. They 
clutched weapons much like the one in his hand. He examined it 
one last time. Ready, glosswing? 

The Poet spoke: 

''This, then, is that truth moment. 

The pitting of my will against the foe 

The strength of my blood against the invaders. 

Fly, then, warrior, into the fray; 

Speed into the test 

For victory, glory, 

Or both." 

Dwai aimed as he stooped, stifling a war cry by clamping shut 
his beak. The backs of five furry heads bobbed above the grasstops 
like seeds on a river; the Poet steered them for the one in the lead. 
You think like a Hunter. 

I feel like one. 

Hah! Ten meters above the ground, he squeezed the trigger once, 
then again. Flames engulfed two of the creatures, who leaped, and 
shrieked, and beat at themselves with burning palms. The others 
whirled and leveled their weapons — a fraction of a second too late, 
for Dwai whistled past them untouched. 

They shouted guttural curses while he looped-the-loop backwards 
and upside down, speeding towards them from straight overhead. 
One looked up — shocked horror stretched his features — but before 
he could raise his weapon, Dwai's talons ripped away the lower half 
of his face. The man fell in the grass and dyed it crimson with his 
life. 

Heat scorched the fronds under Dwai; he fluttered his wings to 

BLOODSONG 37 



come about. Burnt air filled his lungs as he drew a bead on the 
nearer of the two surviving aliens. He pulled the trigger gently. A 
gout of fire crisped the foe before he could scream. 

One left, but he had already rolled to his right, away from Dwai's 
aim, and brought his own weapon to bear. Grass seeds popped and 
crackled as a fiery tongue flickered serpent-like toward the avian. 
He hopped up, and snapped his pinions hard to boost him above the 
stream of orange death, but a vagrant flare curled around the stump 
of his left wrist. He gasped. The sudden pain spasmed his muscles; 
he dropped his gun. 

The human smiled as the hovering Grai-Grai withdrew his mach- 
ete. Slowly, he raised the fire weapon and braced it with his left 
hand. 

We will die! he shrieked inside, yet answered himself with a wry, 
What doesn't? But we die proud. 

He charged straight towards that soot-blackened barrel, swinging 
the machete in an overhand stroke while he watched the alien ten- 
dons tighten and the alien knuckles whiten and — 

The human burst into flames. 

What? 

Settling to the ground, he looked about in confusion, then under- 
stood all when the lady, a weapon of her own in her hand, staggered 
down the hatch ramp and sat with the heaviness of the ill. He 
jumped up, caught the air, and flew to her side. "Lady, you have a 
Hunter's eye and a Poet's timing. I thank you." 

She nodded, and searched in his eyes for — "Which are you now?" 

Dwai opened his beak, then snapped it shut. Who are we? Poet, 
Hunter? 

We are both. We are neither. We are one. 

"Lady ... I am Dwai." He shook his head. "We are not healed, 
for one cannot call the other. We are both at the same time. I am 
. . . Hunter, Poet, and more." 

The woman flew the invaders' ship home, with a promise that the 
Grai-Grai would be safe from her people, and with an apology for 
the Poet. She could not meet his eyes, but bustled about until she'd 
made all ready for take-off. Then she left. 

Afterwards, Dwai circled high above the plateau and watched the 
ground creatures chew on the strewn corpses. Wondering if they'd 
find value in that cindered, foreign flesh, he told the clouds, "I found 
value in the woman — in her talk and in her fight. Value too I found 
in the battle poem as I streaked towards the invaders. Strange. The 

38 LONGYEAR & O'OONNELL 



battle was as worthy as the poem; the victory and its glory no wor- 
thier than the rhjnne." He dipped his wings and banked. "The elders 
will be pleased that the aliens have left, and that I am healed, if 
not in the manner they expected. I am one; I have benefited twice 
over. This I will bring back to the flock. And they will become the 
stronger for it." 
The sun glistened on his feathers as he pushed himself homeward. 




PLAYBOY 
MAfiAZINE 

proudly presents two new classics of science fiction 

In December Issue— on sale now 

FROZEN JOURNEY, a story of ultimate fear in outer space 
BY PHILIP K. DICK 



AT NEWSSTANDS 
EVERYWHERE 



In January Issue— on sale Dec. 2 

THE GOD-EMPEROR OF DUNE, a condensation of the 
complete novel, fourth in the best-selling series 

BY FRANK HERBERT 



BLOODSONG 



39 



TUBE THROUGH THE EARTH 

by Martin Gardner 

Here's the latest from Mr. Gardner: 
a seven-question puzzle. 

A tube that goes straight through the earth's center has been the 
basis of many SF stories and novels. Plutarch seems to have been 
the first to ask what would happen to a body that fell through such 
a tube, and Galileo apparently was the first to answer correctly. In 
eighteenth century France, Voltaire and astronomer Pierre Mau- 
pertuis argued over the question. 

The earliest instance I know of the tube's use in a SF novel is 
Through the Earth by Clement Fezandie, a New York City public 
school teacher. His short stories about "Dr. Hackensaw's Secrets" 
appeared regularly in Hugo Gernsback's Science and Invention be- 
fore Gernsback started Amazing Stories in 1926, and I have often 
wondered why these amusing tales have never been gathered in a 
book. Through the Earth was first serialized in St. Nicholas mag- 
azine, Volume 25, in four installments from January through April, 
1898. 

In Fezandie's novel the tube is drilled simultaneously from the 
U.S. and Australia, using electricity supplied by tidal energy. A 
cooling system in the tube counteracts the earth's intense interior 
heat, and the tube is lined with a new heat resistant metal called 
carbonite. A vacuum is maintained inside the tube to eliminate air 
resistance. Electronic repulsion prevents friction between the sealed 
car and the tube's sides. William Swindon, 16 years old, volunteers 
as the first passenger, but you'll have to look up the serialization 
or locate a copy of the rare book to learn what happens on the trip. 

In 1929 Appleton published Earth-Tube by Gawain Edwards, a 
pseudonym of rocket expert G. Edward Pendray, about a war be- 
tween the U.S. and Asia. The Asiatics, after boring a hole through 
the earth and lining it with a metal called undulal, pour men and 
undulal tanks into the tube to conquer the Americas after they 
emerge near Buenos Aires. The plot is foiled by the U.S. discovery 
of a way to destroy undulal. 

Shorter tubes that go straight from one city to another have also 
been used in SF for transportation. Neglecting friction and air re- 
sistance, no fuel is needed for a train because gravity draws it to 
the middle of the tunnel, then momentum carries it the rest of the 

40 MARTIN GARDNER 



distance. This was the basis of Alexander A. Rodnykh's nov^, Sub- 
terranean Self-propelled Railroad between St. Petersburg and Mos- 
cow, published around 1900, and a 1915 novel by Bernhard 
Kellermann concerning a similar tube from New Jersey to France. 
The idea of using gravity to help start and brake a car is actually 
employed now in many subway systems by putting vertical curves 
at the beginning and end of stops, and we are all familiar with the 
principle's use in bowling alleys for returning balls to the bowler. 

The German Professor in Lewis Carroll's Sylvie and Bruno Con- 
cluded (1893) explains to Lady Muriel how the straight tunnel per- 
mits a gravity train. L. Frank Baum uses a gravity tube for 
transportation in Tik-Tok ofOz. 

If we assume a homogenous earth, ignore air resistance, friction, 
Coriolis forces, and so on, it is not hard to calculate that a car falling 
straight through the earth's center would make the trip in a trifle 
more than 42 minutes. Surprisingly, this time is independent of the 
tube's length. No matter how short, in a tunnel that goes straight 
from one spot on the earth's surface to another, the time for a trip 
is about 42 minutes, or 84 minutes for a round trip. 

It is no coincidence that the falling body's maximum speed is 
precisely the speed (it was calculated by Newton) at which a satellite 
must be fired horizontally to put it in a circular orbit just above the 
earth. Under ideal conditions (no atmosphere, spherical earth, and 
so on) the satellite would complete one orbit in about 84 minutes. 

Imagine the earth's axis perpendicular to the plane of the ecliptic, 
and the satellite circling the earth from pole to pole on a plane that 
intersects the sun. Further imagine that the sun casts a shadow of 
the satellite on the earth's axis. The shadow would oscillate back 
and forth from pole to pole in exact conformity with the oscillation 
of a gravity train — an internal satellite! — inside a tube from pole 
to pole. This is a way of saying that the train would oscillate with 
simple harmonic motion. Indeed, a gravity train on a straight track 
of any length through the earth would oscillate with harmonic mo- 
tion. 

It also is no coincidence that 84 minutes is the period of the so- 
called Schuler pendulum, an imaginary giant pendulum as long as 
the earth's radius and swinging just above the earth's surface. 

Let's assume that a few centuries from now all technical diffi- 
culties are overcome and an airless, frictionless, adequately cooled 
tube is built to connect the metropolises of North Polaris and South 
Polaris. By extending the tube along, the earth's axis, Coriolis forces 
are elminated. Through the tunnel, cylindrical cars carry supplies 

TUBE THROUGH THE EARTH 41 



and people in 42 minutes from one pole to the other. 

How many of the following questions can you answer before turn- 
ing to page 63? 

1. As the car travels from North Polaris to the earth's center, does 
its velocity increase, decrease, or stay the same? 

2. Does the car's acceleration increase, decrease, or remain the 
same? 

3. If you are riding in a car and it stops halfway down to the earth's 
center, would you weigh less or more on a spring scale than on the 
earth's surface? 

4. At what point during the trip would you experience zero gravity? 

5. At what spot does the car reach maximum speed, and how fast 
is it going? 

6. If a car fell down a similar tube through the center of the Moon, 
would the time for a one-way trip be shorter or longer than 42 
minutes? 

7. A famous SF story was written about an attempt to dig a deep 
hole below the earth's crust. It turns out that the earth is a living 
organism, and when its epidermis is punctured the earth lets out 
a mighty yell of pain. What is the story's title and who wrote it? 




HAIKU FOR THE APOLLO ASTEROID MINERS 

Stress workers alone, 

bright cowboys with cyborged hearts, 

tame mustangs of stone. 

— Robert Frazier 
42 



ON PLAYING ROLES: A THIRD LOOK 

by John M. Ford 

art: George Barr 




Mr. Ford's first novel, Web of Angels, 
has just been published by Pocket Books. 

43 



For those of you who missed the previous article and the role-play 
phenomenon in general, here are some aids to navigation: 

In the role-play game (RPG) the players take the parts of char- 
acters in an imaginary world. These characters are defined by num- 
bers that measure such things as strength, dexterity, and intelligence. 
In all but a very few games, the world is laid out and operated by 
an additional participant called the Gamesmaster or Referee (and 
sometimes other things, especially after the players fall victim to 
a fiendish trap of the GM's devising). These "worlds" may use the 
props of heroic fantasy or science fiction, or less often such places 
as the Wild West or the Spanish Main. 

Through movement on maps, conversations between players and 
GM, and the rolling of dice to determine the outcome of battles and 
other risky events, the "player-characters" live and grow and (some- 
times) die; the players enjoy the pleasures of the adventurous life 
without personally suffering its hazards and discomforts. 

Portions of the rules cover such things as the creation of char- 
acters, their social background, combat, magic, economics, and so 
forth. Some of these rules may be optional. Almost always the GM 
will create house rules to fill gaps and personalize the world. 

"Role-playing" should not be taken in too literal a sense. Some 
players enjoy becoming deeply immersed in a character, even one 
radically different from their own personalities. Others prefer to 
remain themselves in an altered environment. Similarly, GMs may 
create worlds ranging from simple arenas for fighting monsters (the 
"dungeon crawl") to completely realized alien societies. 

This is a very powerful form, which explains the tremendous suc- 
cess of RP gaming despite some very badly written and badly or- 
ganized rulesets. Most games — chess. Monopoly, poker — can be 
played for "fun or blood"; RpGs can be played for fun, blood, glory, 
survival, the thrones of kings and the wealth of empires — and all 
for the price of some books and paper and dice. 



CHIVALRY AND SORCERY 

Fantasy Games Unlimited, Box 182, Roslyn NY 11576 

128-page rulebook— $10 

Designed by Edward Simbalist and Wilf Backhaus 

Here we have an attempt to do everything at once: along with the 
usual character, individual combat, and magic rules, CcfeS contains 

44 JOHN M. FORD 



social rules (including Influence and Courtly Love), army rules suit- 
able for miniature figures, economics rules, and a lot of commentary. 
The page count is misleading — C&S is an 8V2 by 11 book printed 
in eyestrainingly small type, containing easily 100,000 words. It is 
not for the casual role-player. 

Character creation involves casting a horoscope, a longer-than- 
usual list of character requisites, and a number of calculated factors: 
Personal Combat Factor, Basic Influence Factor, Body and Fatigue 
Points (which give rise to the unfortunate heading "Fat." in char- 
acter tables), and more. The system is slow, especially for the GM, 
and tends to produce large numbers of superpowered or hopelessly 
inept characters. 

C&S combat uses percentile dice. Each weapon has its own combat 
table (some have more than one; a broadsword behaves differently 
in the hands of a knight than a yeoman) giving chance-to-hit against 
each of ten types of armor. The die roll is modified by personal 
ability, the target's defensive ability, the type of blow chosen, and 
the movements the combatants have made. 

The system is very complex. In addition to weapon and armor 
choice, the player must select movement and attack type; not all 
these choices are apparent or strictly logical. A system of "blows" 
allows lightly equipped characters to strike more often than encum- 
bered ones — if, that is, the players can fathom its use. 

A recurring problem with C&S is that the rules are exhaustive 
but not lucid or organized. This means that one must read and well 
digest the entire book before play can begin, since all the factors 
affecting a particular subject may be spread out over five or six 
sections of the rules. Looking up a specific reference is just about 
impossible. Not one ruleset on the market today has an index worthy 
of the name; in a book of this size this is disastrous, not to mention 
very hard on the binding. 

Probably the most unusual element in C&S is its treatment of 
magic and magicians. Rather than inventing their own system of 
magic (like Runequest) or filching one from fiction (like AD&D) the 
authors have gone to such "real" sources as Aleister Crowley, A.E. 
Waite, and P.E.I. Bonewits and attempted to reproduce and quantify 
the systems and laws of magic (or Magick, if you will) that according 
to these authors actually apply to the real world. 

(As an aside: Bonewits, who has a B.A. degree in Magick, has 
written a manual of such systems and laws specifically for game 
designers. Authentic Thaumaturgy is published by The Chaosium, 
publishers o^ Runequest.) 

ON PLAYING ROLES 45 



This system is complex and highly detailed. It is also quite fas- 
cinating, if one is not put off by the conceit that all this is the real 
thing. There are more than a dozen specialized types of magicians, 
from tribal Shamans to Weaponsmith-Artificers to Cabbalists. All 
types share in various ways in a master list of spells divided by type 
(Divinations, Communications and Transportations, etc.). Casting 
spells costs the magician in physical fatigue. 

Instead of receiving spells as automatic rewards for advancement, 
the C&S wizard must spend large chunks of his time practicing. 
Most of this "practice" takes the form of die rolls, and some have 
complained that the magician becomes a boring, unadventurous 
character who spends the game session in a corner with a box of 
dice. The authors reply that the "real" medieval magician was a 
philosopher who sought to master the Grand Art, not a fireball- 
pitching superhero. 

(Well, he was and he wasn't. I highly recommend L. Sprague and 
Catherine C. de Camp's Spirits, Stars, and Spells, a book that ex- 
plains the anthropological mechanisms behind magic without swal- 
lowing the concept whole.) 

In actual play, the C&S magician is indeed playable. Large parts 
of the character's life must indeed be spent out of action — but not 
necessarily the players time. Soldiers are also inactive during the 
winter; priests must spend time with their congregations. There is 
a great deal to be said for the idea that game characters must back 
up their daring adventures with mundane pursuits. Leiber's Fafhrd 
and Gray Mouser sleep and eat and drink too much, and frequently 
have to hire out to keep eating and drinking; and they are all the 
more believable for it. 

C&S clerics actually are given priestly functions to perform, and 
restrictions of faith and piety on their actions, though they still tend 
to be a specialized, weapon-toting sort of magician. The religious 
framework provided is that of a central monolithic Church, opposed 
by the Powers of Darkness in the form of various Black Witches and 
Demonologists. Though some elements are missing — there are no 
White Witches, no heresies — this is well constructed, if it is what 
you want. 

There is, however, no easy way to modify this structure, something 
that is true of the game as a whole. Despite claims that the rules 
are modular and adaptable, they are quite firmly welded to their 
Medieval European background — though this is changing as FGU 
publishes supplements. Modifications are still a major task. 

And there are many unsettling features to the existing back- 

46 JOHN M. FORD 



ground. The authors have, they say, attempted to simulate the world 
of the High Middle Ages as its inhabitants believed it to exist: magic 
is real, alchemy can turn lead to gold, dragons roam the countryside 
battling parfit gentil knights. A quote from the rules: "The Feudal 
Age was chosen as the setting of the action. There is a powerful and 
most appealing tradition of glorious deeds and stirring events sur- 
rounding the whole period of Chivalry." 

Except that that tradition is the creation of Renaissance nostal- 
gics, nurtured and preserved by such later writers as Tennyson, 
Scott, and White. There would certainly be no objection to using 
this synthetic tradition, provided it were labeled as such. But the 
authors are terribly vague in this area. 

Here is another quote, from the C&S Sourcebook, p. 26: "No mat- 
ter how fantastic the setting, the basic laws of the universe should 
apply." What basic laws? Magic works in the game. Alchemy works. 
Magic swords can cut through tempered steel plate like cheese. 
Biology as understood by the medieval person was a far different 
thing from the present-day science. Yet a few pages after that first 
quote is a sharply worded criticism of RPG monsters that "ignore 
biological truth." 

The authors continuously use words such as "authentic," "real- 
istic," and "facts," but also claim to be using the worlds of fantasy, 
not history. 

Certainly there is such a thing as "authentic fantasy." It implies 
being true to one's source materials and to the subconscious ele- 
ments from which fantasy grows. But the authors never make clear 
when they have drawn from history, when from historical fantasy, 
when from other sources (the C&S Vampire is right out of a Hammer 
film) and when invented entirely — and the whole is prominently 
labeled and stoutly defended as "authentic." 

And none of this is necessary — one must willingly suspend disbe- 
lief to play the game at all — and it is a considerable shame, because 
C&S makes a real effort at completeness, logic, and consistency, 
and is mostly successful. In many ways it is a triumph. Just as a 
GM's aid it is valuable, provided its limitations are understood. As 
a game, it requires a deeper commitment to world and character 
than the usual RPG; its players tend to be its strong partisans, and 
that is certainly an indication of success. 



§ § § 
ON PLAYING ROLES 47 



TRAVELLER 

Game Designers' Workshop, 203 North St., Normal IL 61761 
3-book boxed set— $11.98 

Book 4, Mercenary, and Book 5, High Guard, $5.98 each. 
Designed by Marc Miller 

No, it isn't all swords and sorcery out there. Traveller is science 
fiction in the grand manner: starfleets, space marines, pirates of the 
void, vast interstellar empires (evil and otherwise). 

Traveller players begin by rolling dice for the usual 
abilities — Strength, Dexterity, et cetera. But the rest of the char- 
acter-creation system is absolutely unique. Instead of beginning 
play young and inexperienced and progressing gradually upward, 
Traveller characters enter a service and, through a dice-and-choices 
system that is essentially a small game in itself, earn skills, ranks, 
and decorations. (The basic rulebooks concentrate on military ser- 
vices; the Citizens of the Imperium supplement adds civilian activ- 
ities such as asteroid mining and the Imperial bureaucracy, and is 
recommended.) The system as given in the basic three books is 
simple and rapid — almost always taking under ten minutes per 
character. Books 4 and 5 expand the procedure, taking more time 
but producing more interesting and varied careers and usually bet- 
ter-rounded characters. 

After being mustered out/retired and entering play, a character 
does not change except due to aging and wounds. This lack of an 
advancement system works, at least partly because of the high le- 
thality of the weapons available. Unlike a sword cut, a burst of 
gunfire or plasma bolt tends to settle the issue all at once, all the 
more so if characters are in space or toxic atmospheres. 

Thus, characters (those who get into fights, anyway) are lost fairly 
frequently. But since they do not slowly and laboriously pile up 
experience, and since the creation system is quick and interesting, 
the loss is not so deeply felt as in other games. 

Another, perhaps more interesting, effect of this deadliness is that 
players have a real incentive not to get into fights. Negotiation pays 
off; a quick wit is better than a quick trigger finger. Traveller char- 
acters do not endlessly prowl starship corridors looking for some- 
thing to kill. 

They may, in fact, not prowl starship corridors at all. The eco- 
nomics of starship construction, purchase, and operation are metic- 
ulously dealt with (Book 2 is titled Starships). "High passage," a 
48 JOHN M. FORD 



first-class ticket between worlds, costs ten thousand credits, in a 
society where CR 5,000 is a tolerable annual wage. Even "low pas- 
sage," travel in frozen sleep with a considerable chance of never 
waking up, costs CR 1000. (These terms, by the way, are lifted from 
E. C. Tuhh' s Dumarest of Terra novels, which the author annoyingly 
does not mention.) A small scout vessel, large enough for eight 
persons, double occupancy, costs in the neighborhood of thirty mil- 
lion credits. Ships are normally financed on forty-year leases. 

Wow. Of course, players may hire on to ships that some non-player 
character is struggling to pay off. Or contract with a government 
or supercorporation for some military or shadier service, with a ship 
as payment. Or sign a lease and skip (a rule notes that one ship in 
thirty-six is in skipped status). Or hijack one (about one trip in t^yo 
hundred will see a hijack attempt). 

A straight-faced statement at the end of Book 3 reads: "The typical 
methods used in life by 20th Century Terrans (thrift, dedication, 
hard work) do not work in Traveller. ..." 

To return to the subject of weapons. Traveller combat is resolved 
by a roll of two dice, modified by personal skill, abilities (each 
weapon requires a certain level of strength and/or dexterity), range 
to target, and the type of armor or other protection the target wears. 
If a hit is scored, a number of dice are rolled and applied against 
the strength, endurance, and dexterity of the victim. Weapons ef- 
fects range from one die for bare knuckles to sixteen for the "Fusion 
Gun, Man Portable, Mark 16." Characters will often lose conscious- 
ness and be taken out of action before they are mortally wounded; 
this blunts the aforementioned lethality a little. 

This system is about average in complexity. Choices are limited 
to weapon type, but this choice is real, not artificial, determined by 
user skills and abilities, intended target, purchase price, and tech- 
nological availability (more on this in a moment). Also important 
is "combat environment" — fighting in zero gravity calls for weapons 
that do not inadvertently act as propulsion units, and the heavier 
"small" arms tend to make embarrassing holes in starship hulls. 
(From the rules: "The cutlass is the standard shipboard blade 
weapon . . .") In short, players must choose weapons by other cri- 
teria than simple firepower. 

This functionality — for want of a better word — is characteristic of 
Traveller. There is an enormous amount of functional data in the 
rulebooks. Nothing is presented for its own sake, or to show off the 
authors' erudition. Instead of lists of allegedly unique polearms or 
transcriptions from Latin bestiaries, there are simple, clear tables 

ON PLAYING ROLES 49 



that are aids to design rather than prescriptions. 

Animals, for instance, are defined by their feeding patterns, plus 
size, toughness, etc. — a brilliant idea that allows the behavior pat- 
tern of an encountered beast to be determined while leaving room 
for real alienness in its physical characteristics. 

Planets are created by a series of die rolls, taken in order with 
early rolls modifying later ones; thus the size of a planet influences 
its atmosphere and ocean percentage, and population density influ- 
ences type of government and severity of laws. All these may alter 
the world's technological level. 

Tech level matters a great deal in Traveller, though the author 
does not make an issue of it. Technology, and all manufactured 
items, are rated on a scale from (fire and the wheel, barely) to 15 
(the glorious Imperium) with hints of what Level 16 and up will 
bring. Earth A.D. 1980 fits in at about 7.5. A couple of points' dif- 
ference can determine whether your wrecked starship can be re- 
paired locally, how fast one can travel cross-country, how effective 
one's weapons are against the natives — which by itself is the plot 
of several SF novels, notably Gordon R. Dickson's Spaxie Winners. 
(Though I might point out that a technological superiority does not 
always equal a military superiority, vide Vietnam.) And once an 
item becomes available, its price will decline as the tech level con- 
tinues to rise, setting up opportunities for trade and restraint 
thereof. 

Traveller may have the best-integrated economic system of any 
RPG. Advanced Dungeons & Dragons (see "On Playing Roles: A 
Second Look" lA'sfm September 1980) is widely inflated, with gold 
and jewels in heaps high as a manticore's eye; C&S bogs down in 
the minutiae of medieval agriculture and pay scales — and is cor- 
respondingly deflated; Runequest uses money as a counter of success 
and largely ignores its motion through society, despite the presence 
of a trading cult. 

This is Traveller's great strength and beauty: everything is there, 
everything works — and the background is a framework, not a cage. 
Unlike Dungeons and Dragons, in which everything has a label but 
no structure, in Traveller everything has a structure, but the labels 
are left up to the players. If they find fusion guns too devastating 
(or cutlasses too silly) upper or lower bounds may be set on the 
available technology. If the rich markets and vast armadas of the 
Imperium seem to clutter things with hardware, move the game a 
few dozen parsecs out into the black frontier. If the players would 
rather explore one world in detail than flit among a hundred, build 

50 JOHN M. FORD 



one without a starport, far off the space lanes; if that planet plays 
out a ship can always hard-land there. And if one cannot do without 
a little magic in one's vicarious life, an optional rule section adds 
psionic powers — in fact, this set is better defined and balanced, and 
flows more smoothly into the rest of the game than the magic "sys- 
tems" of many of the strictly fantasy RPGs. 

There is no other role-playing game on the market that allows so 
much freedom to alter the style of the game without altering the 
rules. All this and clean, readable graphics (from GDW's superb art 
director, Paul R. Banner) — it is difficult to ask for more. 



EXTRODUCTION: ON SUPPLEMENTS 

As before, here is a very brief list of some of the player and GM 
aids available. Publishing costs being what they are, no prices are 
given here; send a stamped, addressed envelope to the game pub- 
lishers (not Asimov's, please) for more information. 

For Chivalry and Sorcery, the C&S Sourcebook is indispensable; 
it contains background information on the magic and economic sys- 
tems, rules for medicine and the hunt, and the errata to the original 
rules. Also available are Swords and Sorcerers and Saurians, books 
dealing with barbarian cultures and intelligent reptiles (!) respec- 
tively. Forthcoming are supplements on the Arthurian Age, the 
Crusades, and feudal Japan (this last promises to be especially in- 
teresting). Play-aids include Arden, a complete medieval kingdom, 
and Destrier, a set of rules and special playing cards that attempt 
to make C&S combat more manageable. 

Traveller currently has four supplements (Books 4 and 5 are major 
expansions of the rules, and recommended purchases as such). 1001 
Characters is just that; prerolled people — hard to justify with these 
rules unless the GM's time is severely limited. Animal Encounters 
is similar in format. The Spinward Marches contains star charts 
and world profiles. Citizens of the Imperium contains more instant 
characters, but is recommended for its new character-creation ta- 
bles. An announced fifth supplement, 76 Patrons, promises to be 
more interesting; it will have complete mission-for-hire scenarios. 
An Adventure, The Kinunir, concerns a large starship with a too- 
clever computer; it is, however, short on ideas for using the ship. 
An even bigger adventure on an even bigger ship, Azhanti High 

ON PLAYING ROLES 51 



Lightning, will be released as a board game in Summer of 1980. 
Snapshot and Mayday are board games that may be used as Traveller 
play-aids; Snapshot concerns combat aboard starships, Mayday ship- 
to-ship actions. Both are recommended, particularly Snapshot. 
GDW publishes a quarterly magazine with the awesome title The 
Journal of the Travellers' Aid Society. 

And to insert a much-overdue correction, the address of Alarums 
and Excursions, the extraordinary RP amateur press association, 
is: Lee Gold, 3965 Alia Road, Los Angeles CA 90066. 



r- 



How to order Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine 

To: Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine. 
P.O. Box 2600, Greenwich, CT 06836 

Bill me $6.97 for 6 issues (outside U.S.A. $8.00) 

D By paying now I receive 7 issues for $6.97 (outside U.S.A. $8.00) 

1 prefer to use my MASTER CHARGE or VISA card and take 
advantage of the longett-term, CASH-ONLY BARGAIN . . . 

D 14 issues for $13.94 (outside U.S.A. $16.32) 

Credit Card # 



Expires Signature 

a Enclosed is $13.94 (outside U.S.A. $16.32) 



Name (please print) 

Street /No Apt_ 

City State Zlp. 

Allow 6 to 8 weeks for delivery of first copy. 

52 JOHN M. FORD 



HOL122 



EIGHT BALL BLUES 
by Jack C. Haldeman II 

art: Jack Gaughan 




EIGHT BALL BLUES 



Mr, Haldeman reports he's now living 

in Gainesville FL, a nice place to live, 

with a college, a football team, hook 

stores, and nice libraries. They also 

have lots of alligators, which nip at 

the ankles of joggers on campus. Or 

so he says . . . Mr. Haldeman's novels, 

Vector Analysis and Perry's Planet came 

out recently from Berkley and from Bantam. 

53 



Tucker Moore stroked it clean. He usually did. 

The cue ball rolled smartly across the green felt, hit a cushion, 
rebounded, hit another cushion, gently tapped the eight ball, came 
to rest against the rail. The eight ball hit the corner pocket with a 
firm plunk and dropped in. Nobody in the bar was a bit surprised, 
except maybe Dade City Slim, tonight's sucker. Tucker hadn't even 
waited to see the ball drop in. Soon as he'd stroked it, he'd turned 
his back to study the juke box. 

Tucker was good. One of the best. 

"You owe me another beer," said Tucker without looking up. "And 
while you're at it, I could use a bag of chips." He dropped a quarter 
in the juke box. "Onion flavor." Tucker liked bar food. Hadn't eaten 
much else in years. 

Dade City Slim dug into his jeans and fished out a crumpled 
dollar, laid it on the bar. Pop had already cracked the beer and sat 
the chips down next to it. 

"Not your night, kid," he drawled, making change. 

"You're telling me. That guy's good." 

"Best this side of Lakeland," said Pop. It was true. 

Tucker was near unbeatable in eight ball. No one in the county 
would play him for money. Once in a while some fool would come 
up from Tampa and get cleaned out, but usually they just played 
for beers. That suited Tucker fine. He was not a man of high am- 
bition. He leaned his pool cue against the juke box and took the beer 
Slim ofiered him. 

"You're not bad, kid," he said, punching buttons on the box. "I'm 
just better." 

Slim nodded. Even as far away as Dade City, Tucker had a rep- 
utation. Worth a few beers to play him, though. A fellow could learn 
a lot just watching him. 

Mickey Newbury sang from the juke box: She Even Woke Me Up 
to Say Goodbye. It was a sad song and the record was scratched. 
Next to shooting pool and chasing girls, Tucker liked music best of 
all. 

It was late on a Wednesday night, not much happening, not too 
crowded in the bar. A few of the regulars sat around telling their 
usual lies to each other. Two truckers from the rock mine were 
playing gin at a table in the corner. They were both cheating. A 
dog, one hundred percent hound, slept in the doorway. He belonged 
to Buck, who was leaning at the bar trying to put the make on 
Mary. Mary was having none of it. Both of them were in good humor. 
They'd been playing this game for years, the constant haze of cig- 

54 JACK C. HALDEMAN II 



arette smoke their familiar backdrop. 

Tucker was digging into his bag of chips when the stranger came 
in. An outsider in the bar was rare, especially on a week night. 
Everyone turned to check him out. This seemed to make him ner- 
vous; and he almost stepped on General, Buck's dog. That would 
have been a most grievous mistake, since Buck was 6'2" and weighed 
285. General could be a mean dog, too, when the notion hit him. 

Since the stranger didn't look like a troublemaker, most of the 
bar went back to their drinking, smoking, and lying. Tucker eyed 
the man carefully, though. A new face often meant someone was 
looking to lose some money at pool. Tucker could tell a lot about a 
man by the way he walked, the way he held his body. 

The man looked to be about forty, maybe fifty. A little gray at 
the temples. He was pale, so he must be from out of state, or maybe 
he held down a desk all day. Hands looked soft, no calluses. He was 
dressed all in black, a combination made popular by Johnny Cash 
and Clint Eastwood. It was some sort of a jump suit, all one piece. 
Tucker figured him for an easy mark, good for a few beers. 

The man walked up to Pop, talked to him a second. Pop grinned, 
pointed to Tucker. Another sucker. The juke box changed songs. 
John Prine: Your Flag Decal Won't Get You into Heaven Anymore. 
Tucker wadded up his bag of chips, dropped it into an ashtray. 

"Mr. Tucker Moore?" asked the stranger. 

Tucker nodded. 

"I've got to talk to you. There isn't much time." The guy seemed 
kind of agitated. 

"There's plenty of time," said Tucker. "Place don't close for a 
couple of hours." 

"That's not what I mean. I'm Professor McCann and we've got to 
talk." 

"I'm Tucker Moore and I'm thirsty. Play me for a beer and then 
maybe we'll talk." Tucker was not one to be rushed. 

"Play you?" 

"Eight ball. Usual rules." The guy was either stupid or playing 
dumb. 

"Then we'll talk?" 

"After I drink that beer I'm going to win, I reckon we can talk," 
said Tucker. "Got a quarter?" 

"A quarter?" 

"For the table. You know, it takes money. Twenty-five cents." 

"Oh, money. How much is a quarter in uni-creds?" 

"Uni-whats?" 

EIGHT BALL BLUES 55 



"Uh, I forgot. I'm always forgetting. Fm just not cut out for this," 
muttered the man, fishing a handful of money out of a pouch on his 
jump suit and holding it close to his chest. "This is 1980, isn't it?" 

"Last time I looked, it was," said Tucker. What kind of a scam 
was this guy trying to pull? 

The professor separated some money from the rest, dropped it on 
top of the juke box. "Is there a quarter here?" he asked. 

Tucker groaned, took a quarter from the small pile of money. He 
walked to the table and pushed it through the slot. The balls slid 
noisily into the return. 

"I don't suppose you know how to rack?" he said dryly. 

"I'm afraid not." 

Now Tucker was sure it was a scam. Nobody could be that dumb. 
Deftly, he racked the balls, flicked an imaginary speck of dust from 
the felt. Pop might run a pretty beat-up bar, but he took care of his 
table. 

"I break," said Tucker, chalking the end of his cue, dusting his 
left hand with powder. He was all business. Whatever this guy was 
trying to pull, he wasn't going to pull it on Tucker Moore. 

It was a good clean break, solid. The balls spread out on the table 
and the eleven ball slid into the side pocket. 

"Nine ball in the corner," said Tucker, taking careful aim. It went 
in cleanly. He walked around the table, planning his next shot. The 
stranger was still standing next to the juke box. He hadn't even 
gotten a cue down yet. What was he expecting to pull? 

"Thirteen in the side." Something about the man bothered him. 
Not much, just a little. Just enough that he hit the cue ball a little 
too hard and the thirteen clipped the edge of the pocket and spun 
back into the middle of the table. "Your shot," he said. 

The man looked puzzled. "What do I do?" he asked. 

"You take your turn," said Tucker, rapidly losing his patience. 
"Do I have to explain everything to you?" 

A blank stare said yes. The guy was either a looney or really 
sharp. 

"I've got highs, the striped balls," said Tucker slowly. "That leaves 
you the low numbered ones, the solid colored balls. You call the 
pocket and shoot them. First one to sink all his balls goes after the 
eight. Sink the eight and you win. But you got to get all your other 
balls first." Fat chance. He'd left the guy with the cue ball snuggled 
up next to the fifteen. He'd have to go the other way, against the 
rail. There wasn't a decent shot on the table. 

"I think I understand." 

56 JACK C. HALDEMAN 11 



"I hope so," said Tucker. 

The man reached for Tucker's cue. Tucker pulled it away real fast. 
"No one touches this cue but me," he said. "Get your own." He 
gestured to the cues hanging on the wall. His was a special custom- 
made, three-piece cue. A fellow up in Jacksonville had made it for 
him. Had a case for it, too. 

The joker took the most warped cue in the bar. Didn't even know 
enough to chalk it up. He walked around the table once, stood behind 
the cue ball. Looked like he was concentrating real hard. 

"Mr. Moore, I propose to sink the one ball in that corner pocket." 
Tucker nodded. It was barely possible. On a good night he himself 
might be able to do it one time out often. 

"And the two there, the three there, the four there, the five there, 
the six there, and the seven there'' With each there he indicated a 
pocket. 

Tucker coughed, lost his breath. He didn't know whether to laugh 
or cry. The guy was pathetic. 

"I don't have to sink the eight on this shot, do I?" asked the 
stranger. 

Tucker managed a feeble "No." The joker had to be as crazy as 
a bedbug. The juke box flipped again: Dead Skunk in the Middle of 
the Road. 

Before Tucker had managed to compose himself, the stranger had 
stroked the cue ball. He had terrible form. He hit it hard, and way 
off-center. It spun crazily and hit the one: plonk. It grazed the two: 
plonk. It crashed into the three and four: plonk, plonk. The five, six, 
and seven fell in order: plonk, plonk, plonk. The cue ball came to 
rest in the middle of the table. 

"Did I do that right?" he asked. 

Tucker gaped. He'd been standing with his mouth open since the 
one ball fell in. What he had seen was just not possible. No way. 

"You did that fine," he said. 

"Now what?" asked the stranger. 

"You sink the eight," said Tucker weakly. At least that shot was 
clearly impossible. It was totally surrounded by Tucker's remaining 
balls. "But you have to hit the eight first. You can't move any of 
the other balls until you hit the eight." 

The man nodded, looked it over for a minute. Pointing, he indi- 
cated a pocket, took aim, and hit the cue ball. He hit it low, right 
at the bottom. It lifted into the air and jumped over Tucker's balls, 
striking the eight. The eight jumped into the pocket and the cue 
ball spun to a stop. He hadn't moved any of Tucker's balls at all. 

EIGHT BALL BLUES 57 



"Now what?" asked the stranger. 

"I buy the beers," said Tucker lamely. 

Pop had the beers ready. He was shaking his head. "I ain't never 
seen anything like that," he said. 

"Me neither," said Tucker. "Better throw in some of those Slim 
Jims and a couple of pickled eggs. I feel the need of nourishment." 

"You'll need more than nourishment to beat that fellow," said 
Pop. 

"Ain't that the truth." He laid his money down and headed back 
to the stranger. 

"Can we talk now?" He was still holding the pool cue. 

Tucker nodded, staring at the table. "Can you do that again?" he 
asked. 

"Do what?" 

"Sink all those balls with one shot." 

"Sure." He bent over and casually hit the cue ball. All of Tucker's 
remaining balls went into the pockets. In order. The juke box clicked. 
Jimmy Buffett: My Head Hurts, My Feet Stink, and I Don't Love 
Jesus. 

"Euclid was never wrong," muttered the stranger. 

"How's that?" 

"It's all a matter of geometry. Elementary." 

"Maybe to you, not to me," said Tucker. "Let's talk." He indicated 
a table in the back. 

They sat down. Tucker took a hit off his beer, offered the other 
can to the stranger. He looked at it funny, took a sip, then another. 
Then he tilted it back and emptied it in one long pull. He seemed 
to like it. Tucker waved at Pop, who brought two more beers. As 
the other guy drank. Tucker peeled back a Slim Jim and ate it. 

"How'd you do that?" asked Tucker. 

"You mean the game? That's simple. All a matter of vector anal- 
ysis. My only difficulty was in estimating the coefficient of friction 
for the table's surface. That made the initial shot a trifle inaccurate." 

"You sank them all." He popped an egg into his mouth. 

"Yes, but it was sloppy." 

"I noticed that," said Tucker, who had noticed no such thing. Pop 
brought two more beers, carried off the empties. That fellow was 
putting the brew away like there was no tomorrow. 

"Where you from?" asked Tucker. "I've never seen you around 
here before." 

"You're not going to believe this," said the man, lifting another 
can of beer. 

58 JACK C. HALDEMAN II 



"Try me." Tucker had another for himself. 

"I'm— well— I'm from the future." 

"Future? Never heard of that. That in the Panhandle? Up Georgia 
way?" 

"No, nothing like that at all. Not a place, a time. I come from the 
future, your future. I'm from the year 2046." 

Tucker wasn't ready to believe that. Of course he hadn't believed 
that kind of pool shooting was possible, either. He drained his can, 
signaled Pop to bring over two more. The juke box switched back 
to John Prine: / Guess They Ought to Name a Drink after You. 

Pop set the beers down. Tucker had a long pull at one. It was time 
for some serious thinking. He ate the other egg, offered a Slim Jim 
to the so-called man from the future. 

"Where'd you learn to shoot pool like that?" he asked. 

"This was my first time." He munched on the Slim Jim, washed 
it down with beer. "But I'm a physicist. Handling vectors is second 
nature to me." 

"Not bad at handling a pool cue, either," said Tucker. 

The man looked at his watch. It was one of those fancy new ones 
with lots of flashing lights. He pressed a couple buttons on it. 

"I'm late," he said. "Time is running out. We've got to talk." 

"We are talking," said Tucker. ' 

"Serious talk." 

"Pool is serious talk," said Tucker. 

"No, no. I mean about the future." 

"You going to start that nonsense again?" 

"It's not nonsense. It's the truth. I can prove it to you." He splashed 
a handful of coins on the table. The juke box changed records. Tony 
Joe White: Even Trolls Love Rock and Roll. 

Tucker looked at the coins. Never thought he'd see Reggie Jackson 
on a fifty-cent piece. There were all kind of dates up to 2046. He 
remained sceptical until he noticed the 2046 dollar was smaller and 
thinner than the dime he had in his pocket. Shrinking all the time. 
It was made out of plastic and had a picture of Lawrence Welk on 
it. The guy was either telling the truth or he'd gone to an awful lot 
of trouble to pull something off. 

Actually, the pool shooting impressed him the most. 

"So just suppose you are from the future. Not that I believe it for 
a minute, but what if you are? Did you come here to give me a tip 
on next year's Derby? The pennant race?" 

"Nothing like that. This is important." 

"Baseball is important." 
EIGHT BALL BLUES 59 



"You have to save the world." 

"Wait just a minute. You've got the wrong man. I'm just a working 
stiff." In spite of himself, Tucker was starting to halfway believe the 
fellow. Beer always did make him gullible. 

"No, I'm certain I have the right man. Tucker L. Moore. Bom 
1952 in Deland, Florida. Your friends sometimes call you Skeeter." 

"So you know a little about me. That doesn't prove an5i:hing." 
The juke box flipped. Jimmy Buffett: Cheeseburger in Paradise, a 
real toe-tapper. 

"There's more, a lot more. That music is loud. Good, but loud. 
Isn't there someplace quiet we can talk?" 

"We could go out to my pick-up," said Tucker, rising. The stranger 
had sure gotten his curiosity going. He paid Pop for the beers and 
grabbed a bag of dry roasted nuts. They were both a little unsteady 
as they weaved out the door toward the truck. 

Pop didn't have a real parking lot, just a dirt pull-off by the road. 
Tucker had parked his truck under the oak tree. There was a chicken 
asleep on the hood. Tucker brushed it away and jerked open the 
passenger door. The driver's door hadn't worked in two years, not 
since that time he'd run off the road down Naples way. They climbed 
in and settled onto the worn upholstery. 

"You said there was more. Let's hear it." Tucker felt like he was 
ready for anything. Beer did that to him, too. 

"I'll have to be quick, there's not much time. It all started right 
after you married Betty-Ann Sommers." 

"Now wait a minute! I married — er, I'm going to marry— Betty- 
Ann?" Betty-Ann Sommers was cute as a bug's ear. Always figured 
he'd end up with one of the Johnson sisters. Tucker grinned. Being 
married to Betty-Ann was nice to think about. Real nice. 

"Unless things turn out differently, you will marry Betty- Ann 
Sommers in June of 1981. That's what I want to talk to you about." 

"Betty- Ann . . . Don't that beat everything." 

"Actually, the problem isn't with Betty-Ann, but with your son. 
You see — " 

"Whoa, there! I'm gonna have a son? You mean I'm a daddy?" 

"You soon will be, if we don't change things around. That's what 
I'm here for." 

"I can't believe I'm gonna be a daddy." It was almost too much for 
Tucker to bear. He felt happy and sad all at the same time. He felt 
like crying and laughing all at once. He felt like passing out cigars. 
He felt like a drink and reached behind the seat. He pulled out a 
mason jar. It was almost full. The liquid was clear and potent. He 

60 JACK C. HALDEMAN 11 



took a slosh and passed the jar to his companion. A fellow didn't get 
to be a daddy every day, that was for sure. 

The stranger took a hit. It burned like fire all the way down and 
must have anesthetized his throat, because the second swallow was 
smooth as silk. He coughed, choked a little. 

"That's the problem," he gasped, turning a little red in the face. 
"You can't be a daddy. Not to this boy." 

That hit Tucker hard. Here he was, getting ready to be a daddy 
and all married up with Betty-Ann while this fellow was telling 
him it all couldn't happen. But it did, or would, or already had. 
Something like that. It was pretty confusing. He took another hit 
and stared out the window. The crickets and tree frogs were going 
a mile a minute. A hound somewhere was baying at the moon. Music 
from Pop's place drifted through the open door. Mickey Newbury: 
The Future's Not What It Used to Be. Boy, that was one true fact. 

"What are you tryin' to say?" he asked. 

"All I'm saying is that this boy can't be born. If he's born, it'll 
mean the end of the world." 

"You mean my boy turned out bad?" Tucker took an angry slug 
from the jar. Ain't that the truth. Do everything for the kid; change 
his diapers, give him everything he wants, and look what happens. 
Turns on them what loves him. Maybe it was Betty- Ann's fault. He 
was torn between anger and tears, passed the jar to the man from 
the future. 

"He wasn't bad," croaked the man between sips. "Just made a 
mistake, that's all. He was a geneticist, working with recombinant 
DNA. Made a mistake. A big one." 

"Use simple words," said Tucker, taking the jar back. "I'm a simple 
man." 

"You know about oil spills?" 

Tucker nodded. 

"Well, your son was trying to develop an organism that fed on oil 
spills. Clean things up, so to speak." 

"Sounds like a nice thing for a son of mine to do. That oil plumb 
spoils the fishing." 

"The trouble is that the organism ate plankton instead of oil. 
Found it out too late." 

"Everyone's got to eat," said Tucker, digging into his bag of dry- 
roasteds. 

"That's not the point. Plankton, Mr. Moore, plankton! That's the 
basis for the whole food chain. His organism has destroyed all the 
plankton in the world. Everything else is dying off because of that. 

EIGHT BALL BLUES 61 



By 2050 there won't be a human left alive on the planet. It's the 
end of the world." 

Tucker squinted his eyes, looked at him across the seat. "You're 
serious about this, aren't you?" His words were slurred, but his mind 
was clear. Well, sort of clear, anyway. 

"Deadly serious, Mr. Moore. We're talking about the end of hu- 
manity. You have the future of all mankind in the palm of your 
hand." 

Tucker looked at his hand. Who would have thought of such a 
thing? "Why didn't you go talk to him instead of me?" 

"It's technical. Can't jump less than fifty years. Can't kill anyone." 
He was having trouble forming his words. His tongue didn't seem 
to be working right. He took another sip of white lightning. "Lots 
of other stuff, too. You wouldn't believe half of it. Using a lot of 
energy, maybe more than Earth can afford." He slumped back 
against the seat, half drunk, half dejected. "Only got a few more 
minutes. Got to convince you." 

"Convince me of what?" 

"Don't marry Betty-Ann Sommers. Whatever you do, don't marry 
that woman." 

"It's that important?" Betty- Ann was one fine-looking woman. He 
hated to see his recent thoughts of marriage dashed so quickly. 

"It's more than important, it's vital. The world depends on it. You 
must not marry that woman." 

Tucker mulled it over, taking another sip from the jar. He was 
filled with a sense of patriotism, as well as being filled with booze. 
This was the first time he'd been called on to do something for his 
country. Not marrying Betty-Ann was a big sacrifice, but there 
really wasn't any choice. His country needed him. The world needed 
him. He would save the world. Pride swelled up in him like indi- 
gestion, hardly dented by the music from the bar. Willie Nelson: 
Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain. Usually that song brought tears to 
his eyes, but he was so full of patriotism it sounded like the national 
anthem to him. 

"I'll do it," he said. 

"We of the future thank you," slurred the man with great diffi- 
culty. He patted Tucker on the shoulder with one hand, took hold 
of the jar with the other. "Good stuff," he muttered. "Smooth." 

In mid-sip, the man's edges started to flicker and blur. "Time's 
up," he said. "I'm going. Try the Phillies in 1986. They're going to 
have a good year. Sweep the Series in four straight." His watch 
glowed a bright red and he disappeared with a loud pop. The jar fell 

62 JACK C. HALOEMAN II 



to the seat, sloshing liquor everywhere. 

Tucker wiped his forehead, staggered out of the truck. If that pool 
playing hadn't convinced him, that exit sure did. That had been a 
man from the future, no doubt about it. 

He walked back into the bar, caught Dade City Slim's eye. 

"Rack 'em up, Slim. I feel like a game of pool." Boy, did he feel 
like a game of pool. Grabbed a quick beer and a bag of pretzels from 
Pop. The record changed. John Prine: The Late John Garfield Blues. 

As Slim racked the balls. Tucker chalked his cue and thought of 
the man from the future and Betty- Ann and his never-to-be son. 
He'd stay away from Betty- Ann no matter what, no matter how 
good-looking she was. 

Of course there was always Betty-Sue Sommers. She was Betty- 
Ann's twin sister. Maybe he'd give her a tumble, see what happened. 
They were identical twins, alike as two peas in a pod. 

Sometimes Tucker got them confused. 



ANSWERS TO TUBE THROUGH THE EARTH 
(from page 42) 

1. The car's velocity steadily increases from zero at the start to 
maximum at the earth's center, and steadily decreases thereafter 
to zero at the other end. 

2. The car's acceleration is maximum at the start (32 feet per second 
per second). It decreases as it approaches the earth's center where 
it becomes zero. After that it accelerates negatively until it reaches 
the other end. 

3. Halfway down the tube, in a stationary car, you would weigh 
much less than on the earth's surface because of the gravitational 
pull of the earth above you. 

4. You would be in free-fall throughout the entire trip, and therefore 
always in a state of zero gravity. 

5. The car reaches a top speed at the earth's center of about 17,770 
mph, or almost 5 miles per second. 

6. On the Moon a car falling through the Moon's center would com- 
plete the trip in about 53 minutes; on Mars, in about 49 minutes. 

7. "When the Earth Screamed," a story by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle 
about his Professor George Edward Challenger of The Lost World 
fame. 

EIGHT BALL BLUES 63 



THE DEICIDES 

by Gerald Pearce 

art: Jack Gaughan 





65 



Mr. Pearce was born in England in 1928, 

was raised in the Middle East, came 

to the United States in 1948, and 

graduated from the University of Oregon 

in 1952. He's been a cannery laborer, 

second cook at a fire camp of the 

Forest Service, radio copywriter and 

newscaster, staff writer for Disney's 

TV show, and freelance writer. He 

lives with his wife in a pleasantly 

disorganized house in the Hollywood 

hills. Their son is in college. 

The author's wife does motion picture 

and TV research. Their many cats spend 

the time being friendly and generating 

good vibes and trying to convince 

Mr. Pearce that it is time for 

elevenses, if not lunch. 



He and Nazar were going to kill a prophet. Perhaps today. 

Guilt weighting down his heart like the sadness of a thousand 
lifetimes, Khalid started down to the edge of the river they had 
followed into the gorge last evening. It was not much of a river; to 
a man from the lower Euphrates, like Khalid, it seemed hardly more^ 
than an irrigation ditch — he could have leaped across it and kept 
his sandals dry. And yet — a spare alien figure in the Bedouin robes 
of the far south — he felt dwarfed by the surrounding Kurdish hills. 

He squatted and drank from a cupped hand. The water was hard 
and cold, with the taste of eternity. Just upstream it had carved a 
narrow canyon through solid rock; into this an enormous boulder 
had wedged itself, and from under it the stream slid green and 
silent, breaking into rippling sounds like the laughter of children 
where it ran shallow over pebbles before joining the steeper, bigger 
stream that came from somewhere in the mountains and continued 
down through the deepest section of the gorge. Along the banks, tall 
poplars stood graceful and still. Wild mulberry and scrub oak cov- 
ered hillsides rising steeply to bare rock walls that jutted into a sky 
just turning from dawn gray to a blue of ineffable tranquility. 

Brushing fugitive drops of water from his short dark beard, Khalid 
stood up and climbed toward the camp they had set up above the 
confluence of the two streams. 

66 GERALD PEARCE 



Nazar and Simon were up now, stuffing their belongings into the 
smaller camel's saddlebags. Simon they had found in a tiny village 
in the Caucasus and taken on as their servant — a mute, small and 
dark and energetic, of unguessable age. Nazar was around thirty, 
a little younger than Khalid, fairer, short-muscled, with a Mongol 
hint to his eyes and cheekbones. He wore the turban, jerkin, and 
baggy pants of the Kurdish hill people, his ancestors. 

"Where've you been?" 

"Couldn't sleep, so I scouted a bit." Khalid saw Nazar's look of 
amused malice but ignored it. "Just beyond the remains of the bridge 
a trail leads off into the hills, following the main river upstream. 
Donkey and goat tracks, human footprints. The road proper shows 
the remains of a bitumen finish if you look closely enough. It goes 
down the gorge well above the river and disappears round that bend. 
From there you can see the waterfall where the third river comes 
in from the left. So the description matches. The main stream here's 
got to be the Rowanduz, the third one's the Alana Su, the gorge is 
the one they used to call Gali Ali Beg." 

"Then he's got to be around here somewhere," Nazar said. "Let's 
crank up the Gadget and see what it can tell us." 

"It won't help, it's non-directional. It picks up mass telepathic 
projections, not individual patterns — " 

"If it works. Let's try it out." 

Nazar began unstrapping the improvised crates containing the 
Gadget and its hand-cranked generator. Khalid went to help. Sens- 
ing his reluctance, Nazar grinned unsympathetically. 

"You're getting squeamish, my friend. Your intellectual convic- 
tions deserting you?" 

"No." 

"Thought of a better plan?" 

". . . No." 

"I can do it alone, you know." 

"You won't have to," Khalid said. 

They lifted the Gadget out of its crate, set it down carefully on 
the sheepskin that covered it when traveling. It wasn't much to look 
at: a clumsy oblong box of metal and plastic with a few dials and 
switches and no manufacturer's identification, probably a pirated 
model. Its sophisticated contents might well have been reduced by 
time and accident to a jumble of futility. Neither Khalid nor Nazar 
had more than an elementary knowledge of electronics; the 
Gadget — Huopponen's Gadget — was far beyond their grasp, and 
probably beyond the grasp of anyone in Nasiriyya. 
THE DEICIDES 67 



Packed separately was the generator which some nameless savant 
had rigged when he could no longer get current from a plug in the 
wall. Khalid fitted the twin cranks to the generator, uncoiled the 
cord with its splitting insulation, plugged it into the Gadget. The 
combination looked like an ancient military field radio without a 
microphone. Earphones were packed with the Gadget. Nazar plugged 
them in. 

Simon had finished loading the rest of the gear onto the camels 
and now watched with alert incomprehension as Nazar and Khalid 
began cranking the generator. It resisted at first, then moved more 
easily. Its output was shown on a dial they could not read because 
it was marked in an unfamiliar language, but the indicator moved 
rapidly. In the Gadget's face a light came on. Nazar snatched up the 
earphones, held one to his ear. Khalid pushed his headcloth aside 
to be able to hear the other. 

The Gadget had picked up nothing when they'd tested it amid the 
ruins of the University of Tiflis, where they had found it; but the 
Georgian hills had been depopulated in the religious wars of the 
21st century, and no visionary had arisen to focus the yearnings 
and angers of those few who were left. The convictions of the old 
days had disappeared, or been too fragmented by events and time 
and disillusionment to do more than contribute to the static. 

Static was all they picked up now, meaningless, just audible. 
Khalid touched the volume control. It became louder but no more 
meaningful. There was a slide frequency-selector. He began to move 
it slowly. 

And quite suddenly the sound from the earphones was neither 
random nor unfocused. It was faint but purposive, with a quality 
that suggested at once a raging human voice and the inexorable 
grating rumble that accompanies an earthquake. 

Nazar's eyes were hard and bright. 

"That's got to be it. That emotional content — !" 

"Yes." 

"Get any words?" 

Khalid shook his head. "Perhaps the Gadget's defective. Or the 
prophet's already dead, or away, or is a sporadic, in a quiescent 
phase." 

They had stopped cranking. The light in the Gadget had gone out 
The earphones were silent. Khalid disconnected them. 

"I never heard a god before," Nazar said. "That one's angry." 

Khalid sighed. "If we've got to comb the hills, we may as well 
start with that donkey track. Give me a hand, will you?" 
68 GERALD PEARCE 



They repacked the equipment, with Simon's help loaded the crates 
onto the steadier camel. 

They turned onto the track and followed it upstream, the three 
men on horses, Simon leading the two camels. 

So the Gadget worked. At least partly. It had located coherent 
patterns of electromagnetic energy emanating from a community 
with resentment on its mind. 

The Gadget had been devised by an electronics wizard named 
Huopponen to seek experimental verification of certain theories 
about the electromagnetic nature of telepathic phenomena. These 
asserted that communities of believers created gods in their own 
image, projecting them telepathically into objective if incorporeal 
existence, and Huopponen proved them right. Though he went on 
to elaborate that the apparently random individual of above-average 
telepathic sensitivity could tap the mass projection for insight into 
the communal mind, which explained the success of certain politi- 
cans and preachers, and that the especially gifted could draw on the 
projections for the power to effect physical manifestations — mira- 
cles — ^no one was listening. His Gadget had been intended as a tool 
for psychosocial studies but became a fad; Huopponen, who liked 
good wine and very young women, was not averse to making a 
fortune on patents and licenses and was slow to realize that the 21st 
century was proving as fertile a ground for superstition as the 12th 
had been. Grod-drunk prophets and opportunistic politicians made 
the escalation to disaster inevitable. 

As inevitable, generations later, was the suspicion with which 
those trying to pick up the pieces looked on rumored prophets. A 
prophet could focus mass yearnings according to the requirements 
of his own disordered psyche. . . . 

After a while the track left the stream to follow a rill a child could 
step across. The track joined others and the sun rose over the hills 
and the travelers began passing among apricot and plum trees with 
soft yellow-winged butterflies like fluttering petals dipping among 
the branches. An occasional bee added a lazy buzzing background 
to the clop of horses' hooves and the soft padding of the camels' feet 
on the dusty trail. They paused once to allow a shepherd and his 
flock to pass in the opposite direction. He greeted Nazar in Kurdish, 
recognized Khalid's attire and wished him peace in clumsily ac- 
cented Arabic. Khalid answered politely but was instantly alerted 
to danger. He threw Nazar a sharp look. 

Dust hung in the air from the sheep's passing. The younger man 
THE DEICIDES rq 



wiped dust from his mouth with the back of his hand and spat 
irritably. 

"News of the prophet had reached us down in Nasiriyya, hadn't 
it?" 

"I'm worried about mobility, diffusion, the possibility of conta- 
gion." 

"We all are. But we've always known there was a bilingual in- 
terface between the Arab and Kurdish regions, and now we know 
it's wider than we thought. Rumor of a prophet travels five hundred 
kilometers and an unlikely Kurd knows two words of Arabic: neither 
datum means a plague of prophecy let loose on the world." 

He had spoken with surprising vehemence, even considering the 
irritations built up during two years of difficult and dangerous travel 
and search. More than that, he had cut himself short — Khalid was 
sure of it. 

"Go on," he said. "Let's have the rest." 

"There is no Vest'. You intellectuals are so arrogant you think 
you can read minds." 

"No, but we're human; sometimes we can hear the sound of things 
unsaid. Something's bothering you. You deride me for being squeam- 
ish about a cold-blooded murder, and offer with appropriate con- 
tempt to do it yourself. You assume the role of a simple straight- 
forward man of action, unbothered by the subtleties of philosophers 
and moralists. It's too much; it's not like you. You're like a mule 
with a burr under its saddle." 

"And you're the man with an exposed nerve in a broken tooth. 
You've got to keep worrying it." 

Khalid sighed, made a gesture of defeat. A few minutes later they 
reached the outskirts of the village. 

A giant mulberry tree rose at one side of the trail, which then 
widened into a, broad uneven area scarred by the remains of camp 
fires, pocked by tent-pegs. It was the modern mountain equivalent 
of a caravenserai, spartan but tree-shaded, with the little stream 
running fresh and free along one side and then down the hill toward 
the river. Beyond the open area the trail narrowed once more, lead- 
ing directly into the main street of the village itself, a bare hundred 
meters ahead. 

Khalid rode into the clearing, reined in his horse. The air was 
still and fragrant. The stream made a crystal sound. 

"Your ancestors," he told Nazar as he dismounted, "chose more 
wisely than mine. Or more luckily." 

"Speaking of luckily," Nazar said, "look up the hill behind you." 
70 GERALD PEARCE 



Khalid did so. Among the trees was a hut made of boughs with 
the leaves still attached. From behind it a young woman had just 
emerged. She was scattering feed for a noisy family of chickens. He 
felt suddenly twice his age, bowed down with responsibility. 

"Unload the Gadget first, Nazar." 

"A bout of happy active lechery is just what you need," Nazar 
diagnosed. "Might make you possible to live with." With sudden 
aggressive hunger: "It's been too long." 

Khalid agreed. He made the camel carrying the equipment kneel. 
"Of course, if this is the prophet's country, you might get stoned to 
death for deflowering a sacramental virgin." Nazar only grinned, 
shook his head slightly. They lowered the two containers from the 
camel's pack saddle and Khalid looked up the hill again. 

The girl had come halfway down from her hut to meet them. She 
had lived under a gentler sun than they and for half as many years. 
Her face was fresh and round and her eyes were as wide as a gazelle's 
but not timid. Her mouth was half smiling. She wore a shawl that 
covered her hair and shoulders and a dress that was full and shape- 
less over a full but not shapeless young body. She overcame any 
possible linguistic difficulty by reaching down to the hem of her 
dress and bunching it up above her waist. 

" 'Sacramental virgin,' " Nazar breathed derisively. 

"She's pretty," Khalid said as they manhandled the generator to 
the spot Simon had chosen as the tent site. "She could give you a 
lot more than fleas." 

"We'll be home soon. The Amir of Nasiriyya's hospital has a good 
supply of penicillin." 

"You sure they'll spare you any?" 

"The Amir's your uncle. And if I need it, I predict you will too. 
We'll claim it as our price as good assassins." 

Nazar smiled up at the girl. She smiled back and dropped her 
hem and turned and started back toward the hut with the sturdy 
stride of the hill people. 

Nazar followed. 

Simon stopped what he was doing to watch him go, his thin face 
drawn and pale, in his eyes a mute rage of hunger. 

"You'll get your turn," Khalid told him, with the gesture — hand 
palm up, thumb and fingers pressed together — that to an Arab coun- 
sels patience. That Simon could hear, he knew. How well, he still 
didn't; still less how much he understood of a language foreign to 
both of them, his own indifferent Kurdish. But Simon's narrow dark 
face split into a grin. 
THE DEICIDES 71 



He went to tend the animals, leaving Khalid to wrestle with the 
tent. 

Before Nazar came back, the Gadget and the generator crates 
were stored inconspicuously in a corner of the tent, half hidden 
under their cured sheepskins, a pair of saddlebags thrown on top 
of them. The ancient rug was down, the two bedrolls ready for un- 
rolling. Simon had a small fire going just outside the tent and was 
heating water to which he would add the roasted and pulverized 
blend of scented roots and herbs they had bartered for from an old 
man near Lake Van. He had called it qahva, which Khalid had 
recognized as another form of the Arabic qahwa, coffee. He had 
never tasted coffee but knew from his reading that this was not it, 
only a post-destruction substitute; but it was mildly stimulating and 
made a pleasant drink. 

When Nazar finally entered the tent, Khalid, his back turned, 
was checking the two revolvers carried in a saddlebag. 

"All right," Nazar said. "Don't hide them, we'll be needing them." 

A paralyzing chill spread from Khalid's belly. 

"You mean he's here?" 

"So she says," Nazar said cheerfully. "Go ask her yourself. And 
while you're there don't forget to do a few other friendly things too. 
They'll clear your mind for sterner duties." 

"I envy you. You can turn off the questioning mind at the first 
biological distraction." 

Simon brought in their breakfast: day-old circles of flat unleav- 
ened bread warmed at the fire, goat cheese, the imitation coffee. He 
stood back expectantly. Khalid threw him a small nod in the direc- 
tion of the hill. Simon disappeared with alacrity. 

The two men sat down cross-legged. 

"She'd warm you up in no time," Nazar said. "That girl is a sexual 
miracle — and I promise you that's the voice of experience talking, 
not deprivation. All for a poor-grade silver trinket." 

"I don't need warming up, just turning the mind off. Since that 
can't be done until it has some answers" — Khalid smiled faintly — "I'd 
like to do it the kindness of providing them at the earliest oppor- 
tunity." 

He tore off a chunk of bread and began chewing on it. 

"She has breasts like half-melons," Nazar said meditatively. "She 
smells of youth. She has a body that clings like honey, only sweeter." 
He helped himself to food. 

"What does she say about the prophet?" 
72 GERALD PEARCE 



"That he is very old, and originally not one of the hill people. He's 
been here two days but has just passed the time with the villagers 
and told stories to the younger children. No prophesying, no man- 
ifestations." 

"Does she believe in him?" 

"Completely. He's been here often. She's heard him call down 
thunder from a cloudless sky and speak with the god's voice." 

"Saying?" 

"Oh, commandments, injunctions, stories of the wars. Impreca- 
tions hurled at the Old Ones, the old ways." Nazar chewed and 
drank? "How do we proceed?" 

"Meet him, size him up." Khalid sipped his imitation coffee. He 
liked it better every day, hoped it contained nothing habit-forming. 
"Come back and crank up the Gadget and listen to his god. Then 
decide." 

"You're only delaying it, Khalid." 

Khalid swallowed, brushed crumbs from his beard. Outside, he 
could see his mare and Nazar's gelding browsing at the edge of the 
clearing. That there was anything to browse on showed how seldom 
visitors camped here. The fires that marked the ground had been 
dead a long time. But the girl up the hill meant there must be some 
continuous commerce. Or did she draw her customers mostly from 
the village? Was hers an occupation chosen here by lot? Did it fall 
to every young woman by turn? . . . All most unlikely. He was sim- 
ply complicating the picture because his mind was unquiet. 

He said slowly, "In the past two years, I've learned to survive by 
adopting a measure of ruthlessness. I've killed wolves and bandits 
and don't grieve for them. Now we have two old guns and eight 
rounds between us. Count on fifty-percent misfires. But even one 
soft-nosed forty-five calibre bullet can tear a man apart. I'm shaken 
to the core at the thought of doing that to a harmless old Sensitive 
who once in a while goes vatic and tries to bend the world to fit his 
own private neuroses." 

For a second a shadow — restless, dissatisfied, fleeting — dimmed 
Nazar's face. Khalid saw it but said nothing, popped a final bit of 
strong-smelling cheese into his mouth. 

"Squeamish," Nazar said as though nothing had happened. 

"Common human sympathy. Read it as a projection of self-pity if 
you must, but let's make sure we hit the right man." Khalid poured 
the last of the imitation coffee into their unglazed drinking cups. 
Nazar picked his up and sipped with noisy relish. 

"An old Sensitive who goes vatic can be anything but harmless." 
THE DEICIDES 73 



Khalid grunted. The idea that had occurred to him seconds before 
failed to surprise him. He examined it from every angle he could 
find before saying, without force, "Although I don't like it, I'm hunt- 
ing down a prophet because disturbed prophets shape disturbed gods. 
You, my friend, are using a lot of tough forthright-man-of-action 
talk to cover the irrational fear that we may kill a prophet of another 
sort. You're a believer looking for something to believe in." 

He took hs time drinking before glancing over casually to Nazar's 
reaction. His face was clenched like a fist. The hooded Mongol eyes 
smouldered. 

"You left your brain in Nasiriyya." 

"You're in too much of a hurry; you just want to identify him and 
do the job and run — " 

"Before he tunes in on us and throws a miracle we can't survive." 

"I think to hide your reluctance. Not from me. From you. I don't 
think you put much credence in the Gadget, Nazar — it might be 
wrong, or too superficial, there could be more behind the Huopponen 
phenomena; even if he is crazy the prophet might be in touch 
with . . . something else." 

Nazar said thickly, "No one, not Huopponen, not anyone else, has 
ever proved that every prophet who ever lived was deranged, or that 
every prophet who ever will live is going to be just another Huop- 
ponen footnote. You're as knowledgeable of scientific method as a 
bat; you can't tell a theory from a heap of camel dung." 

"Let's forget theory and examine each case as it comes. This is 
the first case." 

Nazar drained his cup, threw out the dregs, sawed on his lower 
lip with strong square teeth. 

"Then let's get on with it." 

"Soon enough," Khalid said. He finished his breakfast. "I hope we 
can trade for some fruit in the village." 

Nazar relaxed, expelled a long breath. He got up and stepped 
through the tent's opening and stood staring at nothing. 

"A fine pair of assassins," he said at last. "One afraid of finding 
a prophet who's real in the believer's sense . . . and the other afraid 
of hurting anyone. We should both have been illiterate rice farmers 
in the eastern marshes." 

They were washing their few utensils at the stream when Simon 
came down the hill looking sated and content, like a man who has 
seen and done everything, who would be quite willing to die. 

When Khalid and Nazar walked into the village they found it 
74 GERALD PEARCE 



quiet but not empty. There was a stall with apricots and plums and 
cucumbers in baskets, all shaded by a roof of slim branches with 
dry leaves filtering the sunlight. Another had lettuce, melons, and 
dried dates that had not grown in these mountains, and still another 
had live lambs and chickens. There they paused for Nazar to offer 
fulsome compliments. The gray old woman in charge thanked him 
gravely and said there would be much more merchandise tomorrow 
when the market of the quarter moon would bring traders from five 
villages, but no doubt the lords knew that and had come to take 
part. Indeed, Nazar said, they were traders and had goods to barter, 
but had come specifically because on their travels they had heard 
rumors of a prophet and, lately, that he was here. Was he, and could 
she tell where they might find him? 

Following her directions, they found an old man sitting on a strip 
of matting at the far end of the market place where a crudely woven 
awning attached to the sandal-maker's open hut threw a patch of 
shade. He was telling stories to a semi-circle of small children, and 
had established with each a rapport as tangible as a rope. He smiled 
a lot, showing few teeth in a face as worn as the bark of an ancient 
tree. He had a sparse beard the color of dust tangled about his chin. 
He wore a grubby threadbare garment that had once reached his 
ankles and might have been striped. A patterned Arab headcloth 
folded into a narrow strip was wound thickly around his ancient 
head to anchor a skull cap. When he looked over the heads of his 
audience and saw Khalid and Nazar, the faded eyes in their deep 
shadowed sockets under dust-colored brows were a friendly twin- 
kling blue. 

Khalid's heart sank. The old man had the transparent goodnature 
of a pet puppy. He had only time to make a wild guess based on 
study and appearance — Tel Keyfi, probably Christian — before the 
did man extended arms like brown twigs and called words of welcome 
in Arabic. 

Khalid responded heartily, concealing a numb sorrow. The old 
man dismissed the children, assuring them he had enough tales to 
last till the moon was full and would continue later. Respectfully, 
Khalid introduced himself and his companion, attributing Nazar's 
attire to ancestral heritage and his fluent Arabic to his having been 
raised with him in Nasiriyya. 

"A long way off." The old man was impressed. "I think ... I think 
I was there long ago. A cluster of mud huts. But you, gentlemen, 
are clearly rich, so perhaps I misremember. Forgive me." 

"It was a cluster of mud huts," Khalid said carefully. "It's not 

THE DEICIOES 75 



much more now. But at the end of the wars a wise man came there 
and began, slowly, with much care, to gather those who remembered, 
and books, and learning. Now his grandson is Amir of Nasiriyya. 
He is rich enough to have sent my friend and me on a trip to discover 
how the world is faring and to look for useful trade." 

The old man nodded. As a cover story it had the advantage of 
being true. It simply left out their central assignment and the reason 
for their side trip into Georgia in search of the Gadget which old 
records said had been in use at the University of Tiflis when the 
wars began. There had been other Gadgets, of course, but what had 
happened to them was anybody's guess. 

"We traveled north," Khalid continued, "through the land of the 
Twin Rivers. Amara, Baghdad, Mosul, all are dust. So is Tel Keyf." 

"Ah, Tel Keyf ... I was bom there. Or perhaps it was my father 
who was born there. When you grow as old as I, you cannot always 
tell what happened to you from what someone told you long ago." 
The old eyes had clouded over, looked inward, seemed to witness 
horrors. "And yet I remember holy Jerusalem in flames, ancient 
Damascus a smoking ruin filled with the stench of death and burned 
flesh. Did I see such things?" His memories, whether first or second 
hand, were intensely vivid to him. Almost reflectively he scratched 
high on his rib cage, just below the collar-bone. "If not . . . then how 
did I get this?" He pulled his garment open at the neck to show 
converging white stress lines of old scar tissue that continued down 
his arm. He shook his head. 

Nazar said, "Sometimes when there is great pain, the mind refuses 
to remember for fear the memory may be too vivid." 

"Yes, sometimes God is kind." The old man pulled the cloth back 
over the scars. "Did you travel to the cities of Medina and Mecca?" 

"No," Khalid said. "We went to the country once called Turkey, 
traveled briefly in Georgia, then started home again. We do not 
think Mecca and Medina survived the wars." He said it with ap- 
propriate regret in case he had guessed wrong about the old man's 
religious background. "I would have thought, sir, that being from 
Tel Keyf you were probably a Christian." 

"Perhaps I was. But what is Christian? A word like any other to 
name a mistaken faith." A frown. "The Amir of Nasiriyya— he has 
no machines, has he?" 

Unexpectedly Nazar chuckled. 

"No, old grandfather," he lied easily. In fact steam-driven gen- 
erators provided power for the Nasiriyya hospital and, a few hours 
a day, for the experimental laboratories; they had for some time 
76 GERALD PEARCE 



powered a short-wave radio signal trying to locate other commu- 
nities where remnants of scientific knowledge might have been 
saved. The town had not escaped unharmed in the wars, but it was 
now an oasis of enlightenment in the desert of the new Dark Age, 
a place where they still remembered that the world was 
round. . . . "No, the Amir has no desire to return to the past. The 
past was mad." 

"Ignorant," the old man said sadly. 

"Then it is true what they say about you?" 

"That I am a prophet?" The old man shrugged his narrow shoul- 
ders. "Sometimes God speaks from the sky. Sometimes he speaks 
through me, though he knows what a frail and inadequate spokes- 
man I am. Between times, I only wait for his next call upon me." 

"We had hoped to hear your teachings," Khalid said. 

The prophet sighed — an impatient sound, his breath rusty in his 
throat. He moved his arms and shoulders as though straining at 
unseen bonds. 

"To obey Grod, to live with nature, and avoid machines. Thus the 
words of an old man summarizing the teachings of the prophet he 
sometimes becomes, when God enters his body." He made a gesture 
of negation, as though prophethood were a burden almost beyond 
bearing. He stared with pale abstracted eyes down the dusty little 
street toward the giant mulberry standing guard by the camp 
ground, then at Khalild and Nazar in turn. To Khalid, it seemed 
the look of a man who knows a brutal blow is going to fall on him 
and is trying to understand why. 

Khalid reached into the pouch hanging from the belt around his 
waist. 

"I may have what is bothering you." He took out a sophisticated 
gold watch on an expanding metal strap. "I traded a good knife for 
this because I recognized the case was gold. I never thought of it as 
a machine." He had in fact traded it from an Armenian shepherd 
who had discovered an untouched cache of jewelry and had no idea 
what a watch was for. Its performance was erratic at best. Khalid 
hoped the technicians of Nasiriyya would get some value from it. 
Now he gave it to the old man. 

Slowly the old face cracked into a grin. For a moment he was 
remembering, this time with fondness. He raised it to his ear. It was 
unwound. He turned the stem with the practised air of a man who 
wound a watch every day, returned it to his ear, listened to the 
ticking with rapt attention as though to music coming from the 
heart of a flower. Then he stopped grinning, sighed, shook his head. 
THE DEICIDES 77 



"It is a machine," he said regretfully, and swung it by its strap 
with astonishing force against the mud-cemented stones forming 
the low half-wall behind him. The crystal exploded into fragments. 
Then the old man found another stone and held the watch against 
the wall and pounded it to shapelessness. 

He was breathing hard when he handed it back to Khalid. 

"The gold is still gold," he said. 

They maintained their casual visitors' pace and deportment as 
they walked back along the village street. 

Nazar was tense as a coiled spring. "He's at least half mad." 
Keeping his expression mild and his voice down cost him an effort. 
"Partial amnesiac, a hopeless paranoid about anything mechanical, 
and he's half-way convinced he remembers the destruction of Da- 
mascus and Jerusalem. He'd have to be over a hundred years old." 

"He might be." Khalid was just as tense. He knew that something 
unspeakable could happen before they got out of the village. But 
while Nazar's tension demanded action his own dreaded it. "He's 
lucid about the vagaries of memory, and he's suffered some severe 
physical trauma that could account for the amnesia. Those were 
burn scars, I'd swear it. He could've picked them up in a village fire 
when he was ten years old and barely escaped a burning hut, and 
then grafted the memory to tales he'd heard of the cities burning." 

''Listen, Khalid. If he were just an old neurotic verbalizing his 
inner tensions, who would care? But he's a Sensitive — " 

"I know." 

"You know what a disturbed Sensitive can — " 

"I know/' 

They passed the last of the huts. The street became the path 
through the encircling trees leading to the camp ground. They quick- 
ened their pace. Nazar said, "You think he was getting on to the 
Gadget?" 

"Of course. We must've been broadcasting its presence like a sym- 
phony of guilty knowledge. If I hadn't had that watch and thrown 
him off the scent with it, he'd probably have gone oracular and got 
us stoned to death. 'Live with nature, avoid machines.' Not very 
impressive. I think he's amnesiac about what he preaches when the 
fit's upon him." 

"Then in the name of sanity," Nazar demanded, "why take time 
to fool around with the Gadget? Let's do it, before anything has time 
to happen." 

They reached the tent, strode in. Simon was stretched out almost 

78 GERALD PEARCE 



asleep, his lean face slack with satiety. He came awake and stumbled 
out of the way. Khalid got both hands on the saddle-bag holding 
their meager arsenal and stopped, holding it shut, white-knuckled. 

"No. Not every crazy old Sensitive starts a religion. We've got to 
be sure" 

"You're the one who's crazy. I told you — I'll do it myself Give me 
one of the guns." 

"You're full of vengeance because he's not a 'real' prophet. What 
did you expect?" Khalid set aside the saddlebags and threw off the 
sheepskins, started opening the crates. "Give me a hand with these, 
then get Simon to saddle the animals, horses first." 

They dragged the equipment free of the containers and Nazar 
went to give orders to Simon while Khalid connected it up. Nazar 
came back and they began cranking the generator. The light came 
on; Nazar picked up the earphones and held them so both could hear 
the static coming from them. Khalid only had to touch the selector 
slide. 

A clap of thunder. It trailed off, and blending with its rolling echo 
there was suddenly a voice, at once inseparable from it and distinct, 
interrupted at intervals by a crackling burst of static. 

''. . . seek the Old Ones in the caves and desolations of their own 
making . . . (static) . . .By the sign of the machine . . . (static) . . . Let 
the good earth drink their . . . (static) . . . crows and kite hawks feast 
on their eyes, wolves and maggots on their flesh . . . (static) . . . without 
mercy, kill with knife and stone, scythe and bludgeon. . . ." 

— A shadow on the tent's fabric, a movement at the entrance. 
Khalid thought. It's Simon, but threw a quick glance. Not Simon. 
The girl from the hut up the hill stood motionless, intent. 

Nazar put down the earphones. Both men turned. 

"Machine people," she said. 

From somewhere Nazar summoned a grin. 

"No, flesh and blood, like you." 

She said gravely, "Your pardon. I mean men of the past, users of 
machines." She ducked into the tent. Khalid saw Simon hovering 
worriedly outside, but the girl's presence pushed everything outside 
to somewhere as remote from concern as the far edge of the galaxy. 
Whore, he reminded himself; trade goods. He saw Nazar wave Simon 
back to his duties but it barely registered. All the urgency had gone 
from what they were about, transmuted into the single imperative 
of desire. That Simon and Nazar had used her so short a time before 
was immaterial. She wore the same shawl, the same shapeless dress 
from within which her body offered irresistible promise. He was 

THE DEICIDES 79 



staring. Her response was to more than the stare; she made a small 
involuntary sensuous movement, held up a hand and threw him a 
pleading glance: Not now. She looked at Nazar. "I knew it when I 
lay with you. Not from anything you said or did. My skin knew it, 
my belly knew it and my blood, and finally they convinced my mind." 

Khalid thought despairingly, Another Sensitive! That was why 
she had seemed to respond to him physically, why Nazar had found 
her so astonishingly pleasing. She caught and internalized and felt 
and gave expression to the very hunger she was allaying. That 
answered the question about her choice of profession: it was hers 
because — given a basically passionate nature — she couldn't help it, 
the inevitable consequence of telepathic feedback. What a powerful 
instrument she must be. . . . 

"But you didn't come here to kill us," Nazar said. Briefly he met 
Khalid's eyes. Nazar knew. 

"How? Three men? And even if the voice of God says kill, it is 
still a terrible thing to do ... so terrible I — wondered . . . and was 
drawn here to find the answer." 

Khalid started to crank the generator again. Nazar joined in. 
When the light on the Gadget came on Khalid beckoned her near. 
From the earphones the voice spoke out of echoing thunder, re- 
peating in different words its catechism of hate. Khalid held them 
up for her, half stupefied by her presence. She leaned forward to 
hear more clearly, listened, straightened up. Despair had become 
a raging in his blood. 

"The voice of God," she said sadly. Khalid felt her eyes on him 
tangible as the touch of a hand. He stopped cranking, put down the 
earphones. 

"The voice of your people," he corrected. "As taught to think by 
an old man who makes you want to love him but who is mad and 
is known as a prophet. How could a machine, made by the hands 
of men, bring in the voice of God? No, no. This is the voice of your 
people, with all their voices made one in agreement and error." 

The girl shook her head. "The voice of God," she repeated. "And 
now you're going to kill me." 

She kept looking at Khalid. 

Nazar said from behind her, "Doesn't your prophet promise you 
rewards after you die? Others have." 

"That's silly. When you die, you die." She said, to Khalid, "I'm 
not afraid of you. For you, killing would be like dying." 

She stepped close and embraced him, sliding her arms under the 
loose Bedouin cloak, her face turned against his chest. He felt the 
an GERALD PEARCE 



fullness and warmth of her, felt her sigh once in resignation. We 
needn't— well take her with ws— but Nazar had already slipped the 
knife hidden under his jerkin free of its scabbard. It was the one 
thing on his person not of Kurdish design. It was long and slender 
and double-edged and made for one purpose only. His face was mask- 
like and wooden but his movements were surgical in their precision 
as he drove the blade up through the girl's dress under her ribs and 
through her lungs into her heart. She stiffened hideously. Her face 
came up off Khalid's chest, in her eyes amazement and pain, her 
mouth open and small hopeless sounds coming from her throat. 
Ngizar clamped a brutal hand over her mouth, twisting the knife 
with his other hand, withdrew it as she started to relax forward 
onto Khalid's chest again, to slump to the ground. 

Khalid let her down as gently as he could, his mind a nest of 
horrors. He pulled a hand out from under her body and it was covered 
with blood. Murderer, his mind whispered in implacable accusation. 
Murderer. He wiped the blood off on the ground, wiped the resulting 
mixture of dirt and blood off on his cloak, listening to the unrelenting 
whisper. 

Nazar cleaned the blade of his knife on the girl's dress. 

"All right," he said thickly. "Nobody said we had to like what we 
do. She wasn't just a Sensitive, a receiver. She was a powerful se- 
lective sender, too. Hence the multiplying feedback effect. With her 
indoctrination, letting her go would have been suicide." 

Khalid moved her shawl and felt for the pulse in her neck but it 
was still. He took off his cloak and covered her with it, then turned 
back to the Gadget, began cranking the generator. 

"We haven't got all day," Nazar hissed. 

Khalid ignored him. 

Nazar made an exasperated sound. He had replaced the long knife 
in its hidden scabbard, now applied muscle to the generator. The 
output indicator moved, the light blinked on. From the earphones 
came the voice in the thunder with a new element, a continuous 
high thin shriek of pain and violation. 

"If the old man's tuned it," Khalid said, "he'll be ready for us. We 
may be years too late already." 

In his own ears his voice sounded as disembodied as the voice in 
the earphones. His body responded to the dictates of his will, his 
will to the dictates of logic, but all seemed remote, slowed down, 
unconnected to the inner self that listened to the accusing whis- 
per — murderer! murderer! — to which he could find no response but 
THE DEICIDES 81 



agreement and self-condemnation. 

He helped repack the Gadget and the generator without impaired 
efficiency, or he would have heard from Nazar. 

"Next time," he heard his voice say conversationally, "we must 
make sure they don't send anyone on a job like this with my un- 
disciplined capacity for empathy." 

They began manhandling the first crate out to the camels. 

"If you had the intelligence of a mule," Nazar rasped, "you'd know 
that that's the quality you were chosen for. You're the closest thing 
to a Sensitive we could find. They thought you'd be more intuitive 
about people, so they put you in charge — not because the Amir's 
your uncle. They should have sent a halfwit." 

Simon had all five animals saddled but his face was ashen and 
fearful. He must have seen the girl killed through the tent's opening. 
There was no time to try explaining to him. He jittered; the animals 
caught it, moved restively. When Khalid and Nazar brought the 
second crate out he helped secure it to the camel's pack saddle and 
went into the tent for the bedrolls. Nazar told him to forget the tent 
itself and the cloak and what lay under it. Khalid dug the revolvers 
out of the saddlebag, gave one to Nazar, heaved the bag across his 
shoulder, carried it out and tied it to the smaller camel's saddle. 

The three men mounted their horses, Simon holding the lead 
camel's halter. The camels got to their feet with grumpy protests. 
Khalid's horse skittishly pirouetted. He controlled her, patted her 
neck, heard himself murmur automatic soothing words. Nazar told 
Simon to head back the way they had come as fast as was safe, and 
if he came to last night's camp site before they caught up with him 
to start down the gorge. 

Simon left, forcing the protesting camels into a shambling trot. 
Khalid and Nazar watched until they had disappeared around the 
first bend in the trail. 

Khalid sighed, drew a hanging comer of his headcloth across 
his chin, tucked it firmly into the looped black rope-like contrivance 
that held the headcloth in place. Then he broke open his revolver, 
spun the cylinder and checked the contents, aware of something 
compulsively delaying about what he was doing, closed the gun 
carefully with an empty chamber under the hammer and another 
before the first of the four cartridges. On closing, the cylinder spun 
one position further. Cocking the gun or pulling the trigger would 
spin it again and place a cartridge in firing position. 

He was distantly surprised to see Nazar going through the same 
procedure. 
82 GERALD PEARCE 



"I'd feel safer using bow and arrow," Nazar muttered. 

"So would I. But we have no more arrows. If these guns work 
they'll do more damage and help panic the crowd which is gather- 
ing." Again his horse tried to pirouette. He countered it with pres- 
sure from the bridle and the mare danced sideways half way across 
the camp ground clearing. Nazar's mount backed nervously out of 
the way. 

The mare steadied. Khalid relaxed his grip on the reins, stuck the 
heavy revolver into the belt at his belly. Simultaneously he heard 
a sound like a thunderclap. 

It was the sound they had heard through the earphones but a 
thousand times louder. With it the tent collapsed, was almost in- 
stantly snatched up as by a giant hand and shaken. The tent pegs 
came loose as though they had been embedded in soft mud. The tent 
flew like a wind-blown rag, the center pole a twig in a gale. All 
sailed overhead. The tent and Khalid's cloak fell into scrub oak and 
thombush. Going end over end like a broken doll, the body of the 
girl landed where the camp ground narrowed to become the trail 
into the village. Through it all the voice from the earphones raged 
indistinctly. 

For a while it was all Khalid and Nazar could do to keep their 
horses from bolting and themselves in the saddle. 

"Huopponen accounts for physical manifestations," Nazar mut- 
tered. "I don't think he had that impressive a demonstration in 
mind. All that — from just one village?" 

"There are five villages gathering here for the quarter-moon mar- 
ket, remember." If the old man had been preaching a paranoid psy- 
chotic deity, and had six fairly close-knit villages contributing to 
the telepathic energy pool . . . "Start with xenophobia, the religious 
wars started by foreigners with foreign-made Gadgets and foreign- 
made weapons — " 

"Enough talk. Let's get it over with." 

Khalid nodded. His horse was quieter now but quivering. He was 
still remote from himself. That had its advantages, anesthetizing 
feeling. 

"As we planned, Nazar. From stationary horses, at point blank 
range. Otherwise we'll fail." 

Nazar offered no objection to Khalid's going first. 

The body where the trail began made Khalid's mare balk and shy 
away. He urged her forward and she suddenly lunged into a brief 
gallop, was as suddenly past what had frightened her and was slow- 
ing to a walk. Nazar's gelding repeated the performance, thudded 

THE DEICIDES ^3 



down the path, almost prompted the mare to break into another 
gallop. Khalid restrained her. 

Sedately, they completed the distance through the trees. The trail 
widened and became the village street. 

A crowd had gathered, all right. Men, women, children, perhaps 
a hundred of them. They were coming down the street toward them 
and at their head walked the old prophet. Out of the clear sky the 
thunder continued its endless echo with its blurred half- voiced com- 
mandment to kill and the agonized new overtone that was the sound 
the girl had not been able to make while dying. 

The old man was hardly recognizable. He seemed to have shed 
forty years and his eyes blazed bright as the sky. 

He stopped. Someone ran out in front of him, threw up a protective 
hand to ward off danger. Like the pseudopodia of a huge one-celled 
organism, the outer edges of the crowd surged forward. Khalid and 
Nazar were surrounded. But it was not a one-celled organism, it 
was one-minded, and the mind was that of the prophet, and the 
prophet was mad. He was also possessed. If he had not been tapping 
so much power for his charismatic use, Khalid would have expected 
another display like the one in the camp ground, with Nazar and 
himself at the focus of attention. 

Nazar moved up beside him. 

"Close enough?" he murmured. 

"Almost." 

"Hypocrites!" the old man shouted, and from the crowd came a 
muttered echo instantly re-echoed in the continuous echo of the 
thunder. "Machine men! Sinners against God and nature!" 

Nazar lifted a hand, raised his voice to the crowd. 

"We are nothing of the kind." He lowered his hand casually to 
the butt of the revolver protruding from the sash around his middle. 
"You can tell from my tongue and my dress that I am of the moun- 
tains myself. This old man is mad, and has misled you." 

Khalid watched himself pull the revolver from his own belt and 
aim squarely at the old man's chest. He pulled the trigger, heard 
with distant resignation the dry heavy click of a misfire. He fired 
again, thought he had hit the old man's chest, but Nazar had fired 
at almost exactly the same time and split the prophet's skull like 
a melon fallen from the sky. 

The horses reared in panic, plunged into the crowd. The unre- 
lenting whisper Murderer! in his mind became a roar, but the unity 
of the crowd was shattered. The two forty-fives were probably louder 
than any godly thunder they had ever heard and the sound had 

84 GERALD PEARCE 



come from the hands of two men. Those who had been near enough 
had seen the result and were screaming it aloud, while others tried 
to impede or avoid the plunging horses. It was the panic Khalid had 
counted on. If it lasted a few more seconds they would be gone. 

Khalid's horse had taken him to the edge of the crowd before he 
got it turned and headed back toward the trail. He was almost free 
of the people when he felt the heat rising in his revolver, looked and 
saw the barrel starting to glow, instinctively threw it away. It burst 
like a grenade. He kicked the horse's ribs, bent low, was barely 
aware of Nazar doing the same on the far side of the road, throwing 
his suddenly glowing revolver behind him. It too exploded. Then 
both horses were entering the trail side by side. Khalid reined in, 
allowing Nazar to go first, followed a stride behind him. A sudden 
gale-force wind whipped at the trees, uprooted one. It took too long 
to fall, crashed far enough behind them to barely brush Khalid's 
shoulders and his horse's croup with its outermost twigs and leaves. 
Then they were streaming across the camp ground, the air was still, 
the mulberry tree was behind them and they were pounding down 
the dusty track along the stream. 

They had passed their lead camel, or what was left of it, lying 
battered and dead at the side of the track less than three hundred 
meters beyond the giant mulberry, the crates and ever5i:hing inside 
them smashed flat as though by some giant fist. It was a fair guess 
that it had been a manifestation simultaneous to the one with the 
tent. Simon, they learned, had had the presence of mind to unloop 
the second camel's lead rope from the dead one's saddle and drag 
the animal behind him full tilt down the hill to where the little 
tributary met the Rowanduz river and then down the path that 
followed the Rowanduz to where it met the stream that came in 
from the plain. 

They caught up with him as he started along the road leading on 
through the gorge. His face was mottled gray and yellow and his 
eyes were haunted. Nazar tried to explain what had been going on 
but gave up after two minutes. They heard no thunder- voice. There 
were no more manifestations. 

At the third river they left the road and took the animals down 
to the water's edge to drink. There had been a bridge here too, a 
long time back. Its remains could be seen on either side, just above 
the point where the stream widened and became a deep, quiet pool 
that emptied its overflow without fuss or heavy current, running 
shallow over smooth steps of rock and jetting finally into space to 
THE DEICIDES 85 



fall in cheerful sunbright indifference to the Rowanduz below. 

Khalid squatted at the edge, tried to wash off the dried dirt and 
blood he had been spattered with. He stripped and dived into the 
water. It was icy, the shock almost restoring him to the body he had 
seemed so remote from. When he climbed out, Nazar was tearing 
a circle of day-old bread in two, offering him half. 

He chewed thoughtfully, drying quickly in the mid-day sun. 

"It made me as sick as it did you," Nazar said unexpectedly. "In 
the end he was just a pitiful old man, somebody's grandfather." He 
pushed the last piece of bread into his mouth, chewed and swallowed 
and went to the edge of the pool to drink. "At least it's over." 

"You're sure? What happened to those two guns?" 

"We'd used them in the killing. The crowd had already been 
worked up by their prophet and served as a psychokinetic lens, so 
to speak, focusing the energy of . . ." 

"The crowd panicked. It couldn't focus anything. What about that 
lead camel, caught between the Gadget and the generator and what- 
ever pounded them to scrap? Did the crowd know about them?" 

"The girl did." 

"She was dead. Granted that whatever she knew the god-mind 
knew. She did not know we sent the Gadget away ahead of us. 
Perhaps it sought it in the tent, perhaps it was looking for us. It's 
not really tuned in to us. Slow senses, you could say. But it found 
the camel and what it was carrying. It found and identified the two 
revolvers. It whipped up a wind to knock a tree down to stop us. It 
was a second too late. It's still a baby yet: not too much gross physical 
control." 

Nazar stood up, shaking water from the hand he had used as a 
cup. His eyes were frightened. 

"What you're telling me is that this projected entity has devel- 
oped . . . volition? The capacity for independent action?" 

"And is mad. A development of the Huopponen theories by Khalid 
the Assassin, failed deicide." 

"Then what we did . . . had no value at all?" 

"It may have speeded the growth of a system of theology, and 
given it an even bigger charge of paranoia than was already built 
in." Khalid was climbing into his clothes. "We've given them a good 
start on a list of martyrs." 

". . . It hasn't followed us." 

"Perhaps it needs to recharge its energies. Perhaps we're already 
beyond the boundaries of the prophet's influence, but I wouldn't 
count on that. Remember we'd heard of him in Nasiriyya. What we 

86 GERALD PEARCE 



have to do is get back home and find a way to kill a god without 
killing all its believers." 

"Why?" 

Nazar's fists clenched. Muscles in his jaw bunched. The simple 
man of action pose, Khalid though wearily. 

"Because there are already too many of them, or soon will be." 

Khalid stepped into his sandals. Nazar released a ragged breath. 

"So what do we do now?" 

Draping his headcloth over his head, Khalid fitted on the black 
looped headrope that held it in place. 

"We're a long way from Nasiriyya," he said. "We try to get there 
before it does, and dig in for the new religious wars." 



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THE DEICIDES 87 



AT THE HUGO BANQUET 

by Susan Casper 

This seems the right time for a small 

puzzle about the Annual Science Fiction 

Achievement Awards, familiarly known 

as the Hugos — named for Hugo 

Gernsback, who founded the first SF 

magazine, way back in 1926. 

Five new writers met at the award banquet of the World Science 
Fiction Convention, where each was a nominee for an award in a 
different category: Novel, Novella, Novelette, Short Story, and Dra- 
matic Work. The authors' last names (not in the same order as the 
categories) were Adams, Brown, Clark, Davis^ and Ellis; their first 
names (not respectively) were Fred, Gail, Hank, Irene, and Joe; and 
the works they had written (in no particular order) were ATTACK 
OF THE ZORCH, CLONED ALIVE, BETWEEN GALAXIES, ONE 
FOOT ON NEPTUNE, and ANDROMEDA WALTZ. Only one of 
these authors won a Hugo for his work at the banquet, although an 
award was given in each category (the other nominees and their 
authors just weren't listed above). Can you, from the clues listed 
below, work out which first name goes with each last name, and 
which full name goes with which work, and who is the one author 
who won a Hugo? 

1. Hank confided to Clark and Adams that of the other two's 
works, he thought the play was much worse than ONE FOOT ON 
NEPTUNE. 

2. Irene came in second in her category. 

3. The agent who handles Brown and Fred had high expectations 
for those clients and was disappointed that neither won. 

4. Ellis and the playwright agreed that the awards were fair and 
that BETWEEN GALAXIES and the novelette were not as good as 
CLONED ALIVE, but came in higher than ATTACK OF THE 
ZORCH. 

5. No one had expected Adams or ANDROMEDA WALTZ to win 
and in fact both placed very poorly in their categories, behind "no- 
award" in each. 

6. The novelist v/on a Hugo. ONE FOOT ON NEPTUNE and the 
novella both placed second, and both Gail and the play finished last. 

The solution appears on page 106. 

88 



THE BEANSTALK ANALYSIS 

by J.O. Jeppson 



art: Tim Kirk 




Dr. Jeppson once worked next door to a 

demolition site. She is Director of 

Training at the William Alanson White 

Institute of Psychoanalysis, and she 

hopes that nobody there imagines that 

she belongs to the outrageous private 

club described below. Her novel, The 

Last Immortal, was recently 

published by Houghton-Mifflin. 



KutK 



Strange happenings within the field of psychoanalysis are bound 
to surface during the weekly luncheon meetings of the Psychoan- 
alytic Alliance, referred to by the more uninhibited as Pshrinks 
Anonymous because of its strict rule that members must conceal 
the identities not only of their patients but also of themselves. This 
dangerously ecumenical club meets in a fading Manhattan hotel 
willing to risk its reputation with dubious clientele, and has always 
rented a private dining room in the sub-basement. 

At a recent lunch, the Oldest Member — an unreconstructed 
Freudian — was holding forth as usual, drowning out the conver- 
sational attempts of the assembled Jungians, Adlerians, Kleinians, 
Ego Psychologists, and assorted other points of view. 

". ^ .1 admit that the Master himself had a daughter, but letting 
in women as well as these new-fangled heresies ..." 

"Women and heresies are hardly new, even here," muttered one 
of the members grizzled with Eclectic experience. 

". . . is a mistake," continued the Oldest Member, "because these 
new-fangled so-called analysts don't do orthodox depth therapy." He 
scowled at an Interpersonal over his cigar, unlit because this same 
Interpersonal had put through a no-smoking rule the previous week. 



THE BEANSTALK ANALYSIS 



89 



The Interpersonal smiled and crossed her legs. "Fortunately 
there's room for everything at Pshrinks Anonymous, including the 
right of a female member to present a case. . . ." 

The Oldest Member gripped his cigar tighter and cleared his 
throat ominously. "Surely I have never recounted my series of suc- 
cessful cases dealing with the repressed sexual phobia implicit in 
cigar aversion manifested by certain female ..." 

"You have," said the Interpersonal, "here and — voluminously — in 
print. Now I am going to tell about a case that has had to be kept 
not only anonymous but — you must believe me, colleagues, unpub- 
lished." 

"Unpublished!" 

Even the Oldest Member was silenced. 

I was just out of residency at the time [said the Interpersonal], 
renting a small office on the ground floor of an old converted Fifth 
Avenue town house. I was able to afford this prestigious address 
only because it was rapidly going downhill because of the long delay 
in completing the demolition of the building next door. I was working 
my way through analytic school, still paying off loans incurred while 
a psychiatric resident, and I needed patients. 

One of my sources of referral was a well-established analyst 
known to Belle vue resident psychiatrists as Tailored Tweeds, who 
would send me patients so unsuitable for classical analysis that they 
could in good conscience be dumped on a mere stripling who was 
not only of the wrong sex but also of the wrong analytic persuasion. 

When I took a history from my latest referral, it turned out that 
T.T. had actually treated him for several months, which meant one 
of two things: the patient had become too crazy or insolvent. 

"My business is doing better than ever," said Mr. X, raising his 
voice over the demolition noise next door, "and I've remodeled a 
brownstone for my family. . . ." 

I sighed, and then I sneezed. 

"I suppose you're allergic to cigars too," said Mr. X, who had 
obeyed my non-smoking sign but still reeked of tobacco. 

"Too?" I asked. 

"My wife is allergic. That's why Fm in the mess I'm in." 

"What mess?" 

"My ex-shrink thinks I've become psychotic and said a change in 
therapy was indicated, preferably to the opposite sex to work out 
my hostilty from and to my non-smoking wife." 

"Do you think you're psychotic?" 

90 J.O. JEPPSON 



"Well, I hallucinate." 

"What?" 

"I said I—" 

"I heard you. What sort of things do you hallucinate?" 

"Encounters with aliens from outer space." 

"Tell me about it," I said reluctantly. I am an SF addict and do 
not approve of fringe elements invading the field. 

"My wife says I've always been boringly sane, so what's happened 
has been a traumatic experience, especially since I only agreed to 
go into analysis because my wife couldn't stand my cigars and it 
was affecting our sex life." 

"I seem to recall that your ex-analyst smokes," I said. 

"Yes. Cigars. We spent a while analyzing my wife's sexual hang- 
ups shown in her aversion to smoking, but for some reason this 
didn't help in bed." 

There was a loud crash next door and the patient quivered. "I 
think I'm having another hallucination. I imagine that there's a 
crack developing in your wall in back of that avocado plant next to 
the fireplace.' 

I turned to look. "You're right — there is a crack." 

"It's a pity about these old mansions," said Mr. X, staring at the 
crack. "This one should be saved by the Landmarks Commission. 
I noticed the gargoyles when I came in. Of course, if that demolition 
damages your building structurally you'll have to move; and then 
I'll have to get used to another office and ..." 

"I thought you came to tell me about the hallucinations connected 
with your cigar smoking." 

"You interrupted my free association!" said Mr. X plaintively. 
"Do all women analysts talk alot?" 

I ground my teeth but remained silent, demonstrating that I, too, 
could play the. classical analytic game. 

After a few minutes Mr. X reached into his pocket and extracted 
two shiny objects resembling very large black beans. He dropped 
one of them into the small glass vase containing ivy that stood next 
to the inevitable box of Kleenex on the patient's table. 

"See?" he said. 

The water turned dirty gray, foamed, and quieted to reveal a heap 
of sediment on the bottom and wilting ivy on top. 

"Now I've got only one left," said Mr. X. "Do I plant it? Is it real? 
Did you actually see the other bean dissolve?" 

"I saw it, and my ivy is having a traumatic experience. Where 
did you get those beans?" 

THE BEANSTALK ANALYSIS 91 



"A few nights ago I was up on the roof of our brownstone at about 
three A.M. because I couldn't sleep and that's the only place where 
my wife lets me smoke. I was sitting in the doorway because it was 
raining slightly, and my cigar went out, and there right in front of 
me was that damn Greek god my wife picked up during our last trip 
to Europe. It's a big obscene marble statue without even a figleaf — " 

"You didn't like it?" 

"I hated it. That night I had persuaded my wife to let me trade 
it in the morning to our neighbor for a birdbath he didn't like because 
it attracted pigeons, but my wife's crazy about pigeons and agreed 
because she wanted the birdbath — " 

"What happened at three a.m.?" 

"There I was sitting in the dark, undoubtedly full of primal hos- 
tility, when this funny patch of light, like a beach ball full of energy 
and lit up from inside, bumbled along in the air and came to rest 
on the head of the statue and began to talk to me, not exactly in 
words, but ..." 

"Then how?" 

"I don't know how. Meanings came into my mind but I can't re- 
member them. The ball threw the beans at me and left, or died; 
anyway it wasn't there anymore." 

"Is it possible that these beans were up on the roof to begin with 
and that you missed seeing them when you first went there?" 

"You sound like my ex-shrink. If I'd seen the beans then I'd be 
certain I hallucinated the ball — I don't like the alternative," 

"I see. The alternative is that a lighted beach ball actually talked 
to you." 

"Yeah. You seem awfully young to handle a raving psychotic. 
What are you going to do for me, Doc?" 

I didn't have time to tell him that I never answer that one. My 
intuition was working, as indicated by the tingling at the base of 
my spine. "I wonder if perhaps you haven't told me ever3^hing that 
happened," I said. 

"Um. There were a lot of beans but they dissolved in the roof 
puddles. I rescued three before they got wet, and then I put one in 
a puddle to see if it would dissolve, and sure enough — " 

"Isn't there something else?" 

"You do interrupt a lot. Well, all right, I'll tell you, but don't 
laugh. That bastard of a beach ball said it wanted to make a trade 
for the statue, said I'd get something expensive. We sort of seemed 
to bargain; and I forgot all about the deal with my neighbor; and 
the next minute, whammo, the statue and the ball were gone and 

92 J.O. JEPPSON 



there I was with two lousy beans, a missing art object, and a hostile 
wife." 

At that moment my doorbell rang. 

"My time is up," said Mr. X, leaping for the door like an escaping 
prisoner or possibly a well-trained patient. "It's Friday. Can you see 
me for an extra session tomorrow?" 

"I'm sorry, but I'm going out of town. On Monday we'll continue 
discussing your problems about your wife. And the beans." 

"Can I leave the last bean here? Maybe I wouldn't feel so crazy 
if somebody else took the responsibility for a while." 

I nodded. He placed the bean on the soil of the avocado plant and 
went out smiling. 

When I returned to my office Monday morning, I arrived early, 
as I always do after a weekend, to see if the plants needed watering. 

The avocado didn't. It wasn't there, having been replaced by some- 
thing which resembled a large beanstalk. Around the pot was a 
residue of water, possibly all that remained of the avocado, which 
had been a good-sized tree. The roots of the usurping stalk emerged 
from Mr. X's bean but did not actually enter the soil, extending 
instead horizontally to infiltrate the ceramic pot itself. Then they 
emerged onto the marble of the fireplace hearth. When I touched 
a root, it seemed to be anchored to the marble. 

My first patient, also early, rang the doorbell; and there was no 
time to do anything definitive about the beanstalk, like putting in 
an emergency call to the New York Botanical Garden or consulting 
an exorcist. A busy young psychiatrist never has time to do anything 
definitive about an5^hing, but does learn to act quickly in an emer- 
gency. I took the screen from around my typewriter table and used 
it to conceal the fireplace and its beanstalk. 

By the time Mr. X arrived for his afternoon appointment, the 
beanstalk was thicker, tightly wound, and reached the ceiling. The 
roots covered the fireplace in every direction, apparently ingesting 
and digesting the marble with ease. 

With the screen removed, Mr. X and I surveyed the beanstalk. 

"I think I'm having a traumatic experience," he said through 
pallid lips. "May I smoke? Please?" 

"Oh, what the hell," I said. "Go ahead." 

There was another crash from the demolition and the crack in the 
wall widened. Mr. X shuddered and lit up. 

I sneezed. The beanstalk uncoiled. It was much larger than I had 
realized. 

Mr. X puffed nervously on his cigar. I coughed. Vibrating, the 

THE BEANSTALK ANALYSIS 93 



beanstalk slowly bent down from the ceiling, as if searching for a 
way out, and suddenly the top of it dived into the fireplace. Down- 
wards. 

"It's drilling through!" cried my patient. "Tell me this isn't really 
happening!" 

Before I could answer, he had thrown his cigar onto the beanstalk 
in what may have been a hostile act. 

At once the plant whipped around and grabbed both Mr. X and 
me with lashing branches that bound us feet first to separate sec- 
tions of the stalk. The tip of the plant began to tunnel rapidly into 
the basement below, and as the plant's leaf-like structures closed 
around the length of the stalk — protecting us humans, perhaps in- 
cidentally — I saw from inside that the drilling tip had become an 
everted nose-cone which thrust down and down . . . 

["I trust you're not going to indulge in Freudian implications, 
m'dear," said one of her older colleagues.] 

["Oddly enough, some events seem to be indubitably Freudian," 
replied the Interpersonal.] 

While the plant — or whatever it was — grew rapidly from all the 
marble, brick, and cement ingested on the way to the foundations 
of my building, I was not able to discuss this phenomenon because 
one of the tendrils had wrapped around my throat, preventing me 
from speaking. Mr. X was not so inhibited. 

"Straight into the unconscious!" he shouted. "At last, a real depth 
experience!" He began to chortle like a case of back-ward dementia 
or a Pshrink who is writing a scathing review of another Pshrink's 
book. 

I tried to reply but succeeded only in gurgling. 

"What? Did you ask me what I mean by that?" he said, putting 
words into the therapist's mouth as they all do. "I don't know. Is it 
a punishment nightmare? About my sexual problems with my wife? 
About my erotic transference to you? The effects of smoking? It's a 
good thing none of this is really happening because if it were, how 
would we get rescued?" 

How, indeed? People would assume that the demolition next door 
had accidentally destroyed us along with my building. No one would 
know that an alien plant had taken two humans with it to wherever 
it was going. If it needed hard minerals to eat, it might go straight 
through the granite under Manhattan, getting bigger as it went, 
perhaps to revel in the hot basalt under the granite, feeding on the 
entire rocky part of planet Earth. 

I shut my eyes against the dust. Mr. X, still talking, had switched 

94 J.O. JEPPSON 



to believing he was in a particularly symbolic dream which he pro- 
ceeded to interpret in a way that would have made Freud stroke 
his beard thoughtfully. I do not have time to recount this interpre- 
tation, which was in any event contrary to my theoretical point of 
view. 

Suddenly there was a tremendous vibration in the beanstalk, the 
forward section of which was already well beneath the foundations. 
The stalk coiled against itself like a spring winding up, and just 
before I thought I would be squeezed to death, the spring let loose> 
shooting Mr. X and myself back up the beanhole into my office. 

Mr. X staggered onto my couch just as the demolition engineer 
looked through the hole where my fireplace used to be, and apolo- 
gized for having, he thought, broken through our wall. 

Mr. X blinked his eyes, thanked the engineer, and announced 
that he was cured. He said that the structural trauma to his analyst's 
office had miraculously freed him from his neurotic problems, which 
he dimly remembered as stemming from an allergy to beans. 

When Mr. X sent his check in the mail some weeks later, he 
enclosed a note thanking me effusively for the best short-term ther- 
apy since Freud. Not only had he completely lost any desire to 
smoke, but his sex life had improved to the point of being outstand- 
ing. 

There was profound silence in the dining room of Pshrinks Anony- 
mous until the Oldest Member undamped his teeth from his cigar, 
and said, "The speaker should not have discharged the patient from 
treatment since the return to the womb aspects of the problem were 
never analyzed but only acted out. I've always said that you can 
never tell what's going to happen with improper non-classical tech- 
nique ..." 

A fierce argument promptly ensued among dissident analytic 
sects, not for the first time at Pshrinks Anonymous. It was cut short 
when the youngest member spoke. He was only a first-year resident 
at Bellevue Psycho (there's always one as a token example of the 
younger generation), and therefore it was to be expected that he 
would not be able to concentrate on theoretical essentials. 

"I'd like to know," he said, "if that plant is down chomping on the 
bowels of our planet right now." 

The Interpersonal shook her head. "The beanstalk ran into the 
same problem they were having at the demolition site. The long 
delays were due to the fact that every time the excavators dug 
beneath the old foundations they ran into one of those buried 

THE BEANSTALK ANALYSIS 95 



streams that are found throughout Manhattan. I understand that 
the new building erected in that location still has times when the 
underground garage gets flooded." 

"Then did the alien plant—" 

"When I inspected the hole in our basement, I discovered that our 
visitor from, presumably, outer space had reached the underground 
stream and dissolved. Cigar smoke wasn't the only thing lethal to 
its physiology." 

The Interpersonal smiled at the Oldest Member and added, "Soon 
there was no evidence left of any alien, but I defy any alienist here 
to describe a better case of depth analysis." 

They all began to speak at once. 




HARRISON'S RAT 



HEISENBERG'S DATE 



Abracadabra, Dad! 
Dear Harry Harrison 
Dabbled in alchemy; 
Wealth it begat. 



Hickory, dickory, 
W. Heisenberg 
Told us, for certain, un- 
certainty's great. 



Here is the evidence: 

Incontrovertibly 

He has made gold from a 

Stainless Steel Rat. 

— Claire Mahan 

96 



How in the world will we 
Celebrate Heisenberg's 
Sesquicentennial 
On the right date? 

— Marion H. Smith 



IS THE WORLD IN CURIOUS SHAPE? 

by Robert J. Schadewald 

art: Jack Gaughan 




The author is a full-time freelance 

science and technical writer. Magazine 

articles and technical manuals have 

been his mainstays, but he also wants to 

write books about the frontiers 

and fringes of science. He considers 

himself a Fortean, though an extremely 

skeptical one. He's interested in 

firewalking (and has tried it), 

creatures in Loch Ness (which he is 

doubtful about), and earthquake lights 

(genuine). And he's something of an 

authority on rains offish. 

97 



There's no cure for insomnia quite like a lecture on geodesy, the 
science of measuring the earth. Surveyors and satellite trackers and 
a few others perspire for precision, speaking solemnly about oblate 
spheroids and gravitational anomalies. The rest of us are content 
to think of the Earth as a ball of rock and whatever about 8,000 
miles in diameter. 

Well, most of the rest of us. There are minority opinions about 
everything, including the shape and composition of the Earth. Of 
all the alternative theories of geodesy, three have gained reasonably 
large followings in the United States; and each was once head- 
quartered in northeastern Illinois. Koresh, a tum-of-the-century 
Chicago prophet, told his followers that the Earth is a hollow sphere 
and we live on the inside of it. Later, Marshall B. Gardner of Aurora 
theorized that the Earth is a hollow sphere, but we live on the 
outside. In the 1920s, Wilbur Glenn Voliva and his followers in Zion 
loudly proclaimed that the Earth is flat. 

All three theories are still flourishing. 

Cyrus Reed Teed, the man who became Koresh, was bom on a 
New York farm in 1839. Teed served in a field hospital unit of the 
Union army during the Civil War. Later, he attended New York 
Eclectic Medical College, an unconventional school specializing in 
herb remedies. Upon graduation. Dr. Teed established a practice in 
Utica, New York. There, besides concocting his herb remedies, he 
dabbled in alchemy. Alone one night in his laboratory, he had a 
vision in which a beautiful woman revealed the secret of the cosmos 
to him. She told him he was on the inside. Dr. Teed exchanged Cyrus 
for its Hebrew equivalent, Koresh, and set out to reshape the world. 

Koresh described the shape of the world in The Cellular Cosmo- 
gony (editions of 1870, 1898, 1905, 1922, and 1951). He claimed that 
the conventional globe accurately depicts the Earth, except for one 
thing: you have to turn it inside out! The Indian Ocean is indeed 
on the opposite side of the earth from America, but straight up, not 
straight down. We could look up and see most of the rest of the earth 
if it weren't for the dense, distorting atmosphere. We are actually 
on the inside of a cosmic egg, Koresh claimed, but complicated laws 
of perspective and atmospheric refraction make the Earth's surface 
appear to curve the other way. 

The Koreshan system was worked out in detail. To start at the 
outside and work in, we begin with nothing. Outside the Earth, 
there is absolutely nothing, perhaps not even space. (This vaguely 
parallels General Relativity, which holds that space and time can't 

98 ROBERT J. SCHADEWALD 



exist without matter or energy.) The outer shell of the Earth begins 
with seven metallic layers, with the noble metals gold and silver 
first. Five mineral strata lie inside the layers of metal. The familiar 
earth and water lie inside the minerals. 

Above us are three layers of atmosphere, each containing stars 
which are merely "focal points of substance or centers of combus- 
tion." Inside the atmospheres is a solar sphere and, in the very 
middle, the stellar sphere. The Sun and Moon we see are not real 
objects, but are images formed on the first atmosphere by the real 
sun, which is half light and half dark. The planets are "spheres of 
substance aggregated through the impact of afferent and efferent 
fluxions of essence." Whatever that means. 

Koresh was a small man with blazing eyes and an air of absolute 
self-assurance. An electrifying orator, he made a lasting (though 
not always favorable) impression on all who heard him. Koresh 
claimed to be a new messiah, and he sometimes dropped broad hints 
about his remarkable powers. Women found him irresistible.* 

For several years, Koresh travelled around the country lecturing 
on his theories. When he reached Chicago in 1886, the enthusiastic 
reception he received encouraged him to stay. He founded a com- 
munal group called the Koreshan Unity, and money and converts 
flowed in. The Unity established the College of Life and published 
two magazines. The Guiding Star and The Flaming Sword. These 
promoted Koreshan Universology, a strange conglomeration of off- 
beat religion, radical politics, and pseudoscience, of which the Cel- 
lular Cosmogony theory was only a small part. 

Small part or not, the Cellular Cosmogony was crucial to Koresh- 
anity; and Koresh knew it would take evidence to convince the 
skeptics of its truth. With that in mind, on July 25, 1896, he sent 
his secret weapon, Professor Ulysses G. Morrow, to the Old Illinois 
and Michigan Drainage Canal to determine experimentally whether 
its waters were concave or convex. 

Ulysses G. Morrow, former shorthand teacher and part-time- 
preacher, was a fallen-away flat-earther, whose defection had 
shaken the flat-earth movement. Morrow knew about several ex- 
periments performed by British flat-earthers at the Old Bedford 
Canal, north of London. (For a description of one of these, see my 
"He Knew Earth Is Round, but His Proof Fell Flat," Smithsonian 
April 1978.) The experiment he devised to prove the Earth concave 
was nearly a carbon copy of them. 

*Except his wife: she left him. 

IN CURIOUS SHAPE? 99 



A perfectly straight section of the Old Illinois and Michigan Drain- 
age Canal ran northeast from Summit, Illinois, just outside of Chi- 
cago. Near Summit, the Koreshan geodesists drove a stake into the 
canal bottom and attached a twenty-two-inch disk to the stake with 
its center eighteen inches above the water. Morrow and his assis- 
tants got into a boat and rowed three miles down the canal, where 
they set up a telescope a foot above the water. Atmospheric refrac- 
tion functioned wonderfully, and the entire disk was visible. Geo- 
metrically, all but the upper five inches should have been below the 
horizon. Thus encouraged, they rowed two more miles and tried 
again. Although the disk was by now a couple feet below the water 
horizon, it was again entirely visible. Morrow and company repeated 
the observations in the opposite direction with equally satisfactory 
results. 

Morrow, already editor of the Guiding Star, now became the lead- 
ing Koreshan geodesist. He organized several other geodesic exper- 
iments; and, when a new edition of The Cellular Cosmogony was 
published in 1898, it was Morrow who wrote the section entitled 
"The New Geodesy." He shamelessly pillaged flat-earth literature, 
bending "flat" arguments until they were concave. 

Meanwhile, Chicago medical authorities were getting downright 
stuffy about Dr. Teed's medical pretentions, and the doctor pre- 
scribed a change of climate for himself. In 1897, he and most of his 
followers moved to the Gulf Coast of Florida, where they founded 
the town of Estero, also called "the New Jerusalem." Koresh ex- 
pected millions of converts to flock to the city, but few showed up. 
The prophet died in 1908. Though he failed to rise from the dead 
as he had predicted, his followers didn't lose faith. The little colony 
struggled on until at least the 1950s. 

A few years after the death of Koresh, Marshall Blutcher Gardner 
began promoting another version of the hollow-earth theory. Gard- 
ner, a heavy, lantern-jawed man, was in charge of machinery main- 
tenance in a corset factory in Aurora, Illinois, thirty-five miles east 
of Chicago. He first published his views in 1913, in a 68-page book 
entitled A Journey to the Earth's Interior, or Have the Poles Really 
Been Discovered? 

Gardner believed in the conventional spherical earth up to a limit, 
the limit being about eighty degrees north and south latitude. There, 
he believed the Earth's surface curves gently inward, folding back 
on itself to form a spherical shell about 800 miles thick. Since this 
would leave openings 1,400 miles in diameter at both poles, Gardner 

100 ROBERT J. SCHADEWALD 



claimed that Cook, Peary, Amundsen, Scott, and other polar ex- 
plorers either fibbed about their discoveries or were misled by their 
navigation instruments. Certainly none of them reported looking 
into the interior and seeing a central sun 600 miles in diameter 
illuminating continents and oceans there. 

Gardner claimed that substantial evidence supports his theory. 
For instance, the aurora borealis (northern lights) might be light 
from the central sun reflecting off the atmosphere above the north- 
ern hole. What look like polar caps on Mars could be the same thing. 
The frozen mammoths found buried in the Siberian tundra might 
have wandered out of their warm inner world and frozen to death. 
The Eskimos might be descendants of people who ventured out and 
lost their way. The erratic behavior of compasses at high latitudes 
could be due to the close proximity of the openings. Early explorers 
of the Arctic reported several observations — animals apparently 
migrating northward, warm winds from the north, etc. — which are 
neatly explained by the theory. Gardner even thought that some 
explorers actually went part way into the openings without noticing 
it. 

This type of hollow-earth theory is far from new. Edmund Halley, 
of comet fame, had suggested in 1716 that the Earth might consist 
of several hollow spheres, one inside the other, with the spaces 
between them lighted by "peculiar luminaries." Cotton Mather was 
impressed by the idea and defended it in his Christian Philosophy. 
Later, Captain John Cleves Symmes, hero of the War of 1812 and 
nephew of the founder of Cincinnati, expanded the theory and added 
large polar openings to the spheres. Symmes wanted to lead a 
hundred-man expedition from Siberia to the inner earth; and, in 
1822 and 1823, he made several appeals to Congress for financing. 
Though deluged with petitions from Symmes's supporters, Congress 
respectfully declined. 

"Some very unintelligent readers have accused us of putting for- 
ward a theory that is not new but merely a rehash of Symmes's 
Theory of Concentric Spheres," complained Gardner in his 456-page 
second edition, published in 1920. He went on to hotly deny the 
charge. After all, he claimed the Earth was a hollow spherical shell 
surrounding a central sun. Symmes had proposed five concentric 
shells and no interior sun. 

In fact, Gardner might not have heard of Symmes when he pub- 
lished his 1913 edition. He apparently plagiarized most of it from 
William Reed's 1906 book The Phantom of the Poles, and Reed never 
mentioned Symmes. Gardner certainly wasn't aware that a sub- 

IN CURIOUS SHAPE? 101 



stantial corpus of hollow-earth literature — more than a dozen books, 
pamphlets and articles — preceded the work he pirated. Thus he 
couldn't know that Reed's book was also unoriginal. Although 
Symmes himself wrote nothing, the arguments that he used in his 
lectures were published by his followers and then endlessly recycled 
and adapted. Symmes's four inner spheres were considered excess 
baggage by many of his admirers, one of whom, Alexander Mitchell, 
apparently discarded them by 1826. As for Gardner, his only im- 
portant contribution to hollow-earth theory is the central sun. 

Still, except for Symmes himself, Gardner was probably more 
influential than any of his predecessors. His monumental 1920 
edition, though still largely derivative, was certainly the largest 
collection of hollow-earth arguments published up to that time. 
Though he didn't stump the countryside for support, Gardner was 
a prolific letter writer, and he got a certain amount of attention 
from newspapers. He also publicized his ideas by sending free copies 
of his books to major libraries and to influential people all over the 
world. 

In his second edition, Gardner described some of the reactions he 
got from recipients of free copies of the first edition. Minor officials 
of the royal houses of Sweden and Italy dutifully sent thank-you 
notes. Gardner considered these virtually royal endorsements. Ar- 
thur Conan Doyle took time out from his pursuit of fairies to write 
that, if it weren't that the poles had actually been discovered, he'd 
be a convert. And a college professor, tongue firmly in cheek, allowed 
that Gardner's book compared favorably with the work of Ferguson. 
The flattered author obviously didn't know that he was being com- 
pared to Orlando Ferguson, a flat-earther. 

On the whole, Gardner believed that he and his ideas were shab- 
bily treated. He longed to see the Stars and Stripes planted in the 
inner world, both to confirm his own genius and to keep other na- 
tions out. He was irked when no expeditions embarked. He believed 
that there were rich lands inside which could easily feed the outer 
world's hungry multitudes. However, his theory offered neither se- 
curity nor salvation; and it only attracted a modest following during 
his lifetime, which ended in 1937. By then, Byrd had flown over 
both poles without seeing any holes; but Gardner still believed that 
his theory had merit. 

Last, but hardly least of the Illinois geodesists, was Wilbur Glenn 
Voliva, America's best known flat-earther. Voliva was born in In- 
diana in 1870 and grew up on a farm. He began preaching at sixteen, 

102 ROBERT J. SCHADEWALD 



was ordained at nineteen, and subsequently continued his studies 
of theology at four different colleges. He served as pastor of several 
New Light churches; but, in 1899, he joined the Christian Catholic 
Apostolic Church of Zion, a faith-healing-and-fundamentalism sect 
headed by John Alexander Dowie. In 1906, he replaced Dowie as 
General Overseer of the church, then headquartered in Zion, Illinois. 
Sometime afterward, Zion schools began teaching that the Earth is 
flat. 

Voliva believed that the Earth is shaped like a giant flapjack, a 
circular disk with the north pole at the center and a 150-foot wall 
of ice at the rim, the "southern limit." (Obviously you can sail around 
this world, and Voliva did.) He thought that the Sun was only 1500 
miles up and only 32 miles in diameter. The Moon, about the same 
size, shines by its own light. Lunar eclipses are caused by an unseen 
dark body passing in front of the Moon. A special law of perspective 
allows ships to apparently sail over a nonexistent horizon, and this 
law combines forces with a special law of refraction to cause the 
apparent rising and setting of celestial bodies. 

It's not clear exactly when Voliva rejected the spherical earth, 
but it's obvious why. He took his Bible seriously — "I'm the only 
man in the world that literally believes it." — and felt that the 
Biblical descriptions of the Earth don't fit a sphere. Isaiah 40:22 
says, "Grod sits enthroned on the vaulted roof of Earth," and Voliva 
took the verse literally. Other Bible verses refer to the Earth's foun- 
dations, ends, and comers. To Voliva, there was no question that 
the Earth is flat; and he had a standing offer of $5,000 to anyone 
who could prove to him that it wasn't. No one ever collected. 

Voliva was correct in believing that the ancient Hebrews consid- 
ered the Earth flat. So did the Egyptians and Babylonians. The 
spherical opinion espoused by Pythagoras, Aristotle, and Ptolemy 
eventually prevailed, although some of the Fathers of the Church 
fulminated against it. By the time Columbus sailed, few educated 
people doubted that the earth is round. The system Voliva promoted 
(and which Morrow earlier abandoned for the Cellular Cosmogony) 
differed in several respects from the ancient Hebrew cosmology. 
And; far from being ancient, it was devised by an English snake-oil 
salesman, Samuel Birley Rowbotham, in the middle of the 19th 
century. 

Rowbotham, who at various times called himself Tryon, S. 
Goulden, "Parallax," or Dr. Birley, always called his system "zetetic 
astronomy." For 45 years, from 1849 until his death in 1884, Row- 
botham crisscrossed England lecturing on zetetic astronomy. The 
IN CURIOUS SHAPE? 103 



word "zetetic," he would tell his listeners, comes from the Greek 
zetetikos, meaning to seek or inquire. He claimed to inquire only 
after facts, leaving mere theories to the likes of Copernicus and 
Newton. Many of his "facts" came straight from the Bible. Row- 
botham wrote several books and pamphlets, the best known being 
his 432-page second edition of Earth not a Globe, published in 1873 
under the pseudonym "Parallax." In his later years, he became 
wealthy selling "Dr. Birley's Phosphorized Medicine," a worthless 
concoction of sugar water and phosphoric acid. 

When Rowbotham died in 1884, he left behind a large and vocif- 
erous group of followers. The movement continued to gather steam 
and peaked in the mid 1890s under the Universal Zetetic Society. 
The U.Z.S. had a corps of lecturers stumping England and Ireland 
promulgating the plane truth. Its official journal, the Earth-Not a 
Globe-Review, was distributed throughout the English-speaking 
world (Morrow was once a U.S. agent for it). Members wrote books 
and pamphlets; and one, the redoubtable Lady Elizabeth Anne 
Mould Blount, wrote a flat-earth novel, a flat-earth operetta, and 
the Earth not a Globe Waltzl 

It was this tradition that Voliva inherited. The British flat-earth 
movement faded rapidly after the turn of the century and apparently 
died in World War One. The seeds it had planted in America took 
root and blossomed, but randomly. While individual flat-earthers 
lectured and wrote books or pamphlets, there was no flat-earth or- 
ganization of any consequence. Then, under Voliva, the Christian 
Catholic Apostolic Church of Zion grew to include thousands of 
members worldwide. All were, at least nominally, flat-earthers. 

Ironically, this, the largest flat-earth organization of modem 
times, was intellectually barren. Though Voliva's planely worded 
radio broadcasts brought him national notoriety, neither he nor any 
of his followers ever wrote a flat-earth book, or even a pamphlet. 
Voliva did devote the entire May 10, 1930, issue of the sect's peri- 
odical. Leaves of Healing, to flat-earth arguments; but these were 
mostly lifted from the 19th-century British flat-earth literature. 

Perhaps Voliva was too busy with other things. When he took 
over in 1906, Zion and Zion Industries were bankrupt; and he had 
to get them out of hock. Though he held no political office, he ran 
Zion with an iron hand; and smoking, drinking, swearing, gambling, 
and other forms of fun were not permitted. He had far-flung missions 
to manage and Methodists to persecute. There were government 
investigations, court battles, and the Great Depression. On top of 
all this, he had to prepare for the Second Coming of Christ, which 

104 ROBERT J. SCHADEWALD 



he believed would be in 1936. By the time the latter event failed to 
materialize, his political influence had waned; but Voliva was still 
the spiritual head of his church at his death in 1942. 

Voliva, Teed, and Gardner were absolutely sincere in their beliefs, 
and they couldn't understand why others didn't readily accept their 
arguments. All three felt misunderstood and persecuted. Teed and 
Voliva both believed they were divinely appointed, literally prophets 
without honor. Gardner merely believed that he had made the most 
important geographical discovery since Columbus without ever 
leaving his armchair. If all three could be resurrected for a round- 
table discussion of the shape of the Earth, each would probably 
refuse on the grounds that the other two were crackpots. 

Why can such theories attract a following? Well, some people are 
merely rebellious and like to believe that, whatever the accepted 
idea is, it's wrong. Also, such theories may reinforce a cherished 
belief, still a hidden fear, or fulfill a secret fantasy. 

Does the idea of a virtually infinite universe, extending untold 
light years in every direction, make you feel insignificant? Try Dr. 
Teed's hollow world, and limit your universe to 8,000 miles in di- 
ameter. If you are a Freudian, you get the added bonus of symbol- 
ically returning to the womb. 

Were you intrigued by Jules Verne's Journey io the Center of the 
Earth and Arthur Conan Doyle's Lost World? Do you have fantasies 
about undiscovered lands where prehistoric animals still live, and 
of the glory sure to fall on the explorers who discover them? Then 
take an ego trip with Gardner to the center of the world. 

Does the idea of Earth whirling through space at nineteen miles 
per second make you dizzy? Do you feel that a strict reading of your 
Bible requires the Earth to be flat, in spite of Magellan, NASA, and 
a million smart-alec scientists? Then perhaps you should accept 
Voliva's flat Earth. 

As mentioned earlier, all three ideas are very much alive. 

The original Koreshans have pretty well died out in America, but 
the idea was transplanted to Germany after World War One, and 
it later flourished under the Nazis. The HohlweltLehre still survives 
in Germany, and it has been exported back to the United States. 
Bio-Tech Research in Nevada City, California, is promoting a trans- 
lation of the German book Space and the Universe by F. Braun. 

Ironically, in spite of polar-orbiting satellites, Gardner's hollow 
Earth has a wider acceptance now than it did during his lifetime. 
The late Ray Palmer, former science-fiction writer and editor, used 
IN CURIOUS SHAPE? 105 



to promote the theory in his Flying Saucers magazine as the solution 
to the UFO mystery. There are at least half a dozen hollow-earth 
books currently in print, including Secret of the Ages: UFOs from 
Inside the Earth by Brinsley Le Poer Trench, a member of the British 
House of Lords. At last report, two expeditions to the inner earth 
were being planned, one through the northern opening and one 
through the southern. 

Last, but certainly not least, is the flat-earth movement, head- 
quartered in Lancaster, California. Charles Johnson, president of 
the International Flat Earth Research Society, is absolutely on the 
level. Through the pages ofthe Flat Earth News, he editorially blasts 
the space program and predicts the ultimate triumph of the Plane 
Truth. 

THE SOLUTION TO AT THE HUGO BANQUET 
(from page 88) 

By clue 5, ANDROMEDA WALTZ and Adams's work must be at 
least third or lower (since an award was given in each category); 
they must be Gail's work and the play (clue 6). Since Adams did not 
write the play (clue 1), she must be Gail and the play is ANDRO- 
MEDA WALTZ. 

The play was not written by Hank (clue 1), Irene (clue 2), or Fred 
(clues 3 & 5). It is therefore Joe's, whose last name is not Clark (clue 
1), or Brown (clue 3), or Ellis (clue 4). He is Davis. 

Gail Adams did not write the novel or novella (clue 6), or the 
novelette (clue 4). She instead wrote the short story, which wasn't 
ONE FOOT ON NEPTUNE (clue 6), or BETWEEN GALAXIES or 
CLONED ALIVE (clue 4). It was ATTACK OF THE ZORCH. 

By clues 4 & 6, CLONED ALIVE must be the novel which wasn't 
Irene's (clue 2), or Fred's (clue 3); therefore it was Hank who isn't 
Clark (clue 1), or Brown (clue 3), so he is Ellis. 

Fred is not Brown (clue 3), so he is Clark. He did not write ONE 
FOOT ON NEPTUNE (clue 1), so he wrote BETWEEN GALAXIES, 
which must be the novella (clue 6). 

And this leaves Irene Brown as the writer of the novelette ONE 
FOOT ON NEPTUNE. Since the novel won the Hugo (clue 6), Hank 
Ellis is the one Hugo winner of the group. 

Hank Ellis wrote the novel CLONED ALIVE. 

Fred Clark wrote the novella BETWEEN GALAXIES. 

Irene Brown wrote the novelette ONE FOOT ON NEPTUNE. 

Gail Adams wrote the short story ATTACK OF THE ZORCH. 

Joe Davis wrote the play ANDROMEDA WALTZ. 

106 ROBERT J. SCHADEWALD 



CHECKMATE 

by Edward Wellen 

art: Freff 




'lyf^'f'i ^'"-f 



CHECKMATE 



Since the last time he appeared in 

these pages, Mr. Wellen has sold 

several of his mysteries to West 

German TV for adaptation. He says 

that much of his best writing effort 

has gone into correspondence 

with the bureaucracy of the State 

of New York. However, he still 

has time to write SF and mystery 

stories — here is his latest. 

107 



Their chemistry was all wrong. They were college classmates, but 
that was their only bond. She was an ox-eyed Juno, he a bromide 
grind. 

Bonnie Oakley recognized the difference if Vernon Gardner did 
not. When Vernon ventured to inform her that he loved her, some- 
thing she took for granted, and when he compounded that by prop- 
ositioning her, she did not say, "Get lost, you creep." But that was 
the burden of her response. Because she did say, could not resist 
saying, "Maybe if you were the last man on earth . . ." 

Vernon got lost, in a sense. He buried himself deeper in his pre- 
med studies, so that Bonnie stopped seeing him around campus and 
indeed quite soon quite forgot he had ever existed. She heard of him 
once again, during their last year, when there was some strain over 
a missing or mislabeled batch of bacillus, but Vernon dropped out 
and spared everyone the embarrassment of his presence. 

Next time his name popped up in Bonnie's hearing was a full ten 
years later, when the class politician instigated a class reunion. 
Vernon was among those who had the grace not to show up. Someone 
brought up his name and Bonnie spilled hei drink laughing. It was 
surprise more than anything. She hadn't thought of him once in all 
those years. Someone else mentioned having seen Vernon only 
lately, in, of all places, Chemrem, the proprietary drug firm, where 
Vernon seemed to be, of all things, the laboratory janitor; the 
speaker had done Vernon the politeness of not openly recognizing 
him. 

That was the first and last class reunion. That fall marked the 
end of all reunions and the beginning of a wholly altered world. In 
this new world the survivors dared not wallow in nostalgia; nos- 
talgia was too much like self-pity. The commemorators had hardly 
scattered to their homes when Checkmate struck. 

"Checkmate," some headline-writer called the plague, and the 
name stuck. The disease spread with Concorde speed. It was no 
localized Egyptian plague. It left no spot on Earth untouched. Hu- 
man males of all ages, climes, and persuasions dropped like sprayed 
flies. 

Terrible. But everything always happens to other people, so it did 
not really come home to a benumbed Bonnie, even after she had 
served her turn on burial details, till her own lover died. 

Lyle Pressmar was one of the last to go, so she had hoped against 
hope. But Lyle, like all the others, came down with what at first 
seemed only a cold. Then he sank into a coma and died. 

At least it was a painless death. For Lyle. Not for Bonnie. She 

108 EDWARD WELLEN 



took it hard. 

No use railing against fate, though. Like her sisters she had to 
face the new reality and struggle to keep the lessened organic whole 
going. 

A ranking biochemist, ranking even higher with the competition 
more than halved, Bonnie understood the implications better than 
most. She wondered if the world of women could apply partheno- 
genesis and cloning before the line ran out. 

If so, could parthenogenesis and cloning ever truly replace the 
lost joy and sorrow of heterosex? Meanwhile, for non-lesbians, there 
was only one hope. 

The glad whisper went around that the world was not wholly 
manless. Somewhere a man lived. One human male in his potent 
thirties, somehow immune to the Checkmate virus, survived. 

Bonnie'took this drop of honey with a grain of salt. It was only 
natural that such a myth should spring up. The world needed a 
dream figure. It would not be long before this mythical male began 
to take on superhuman attributes. Everyone's father figure, brother 
figure, son figure, lover figure, he would have to be larger than life, 
better than life, truer than life, intenser than life. Bonnie smiled 
wistfully. If there were such a man, the poor fellow would have a 
lot to live up to. 

But then the myth picked up a name. Unless the whisper garbled 
it in transmission, the name was Vernon Gardner. 

A bell rang, of course, but it took Bonnie a while to unblock her 
mind and realize that the Vernon Gardner was her Vernon Gardner. 

And it took her a while longer to see that the Checkmate catas- 
trophe had not been a chance mutation of a virus, one of evolution's 
grimmer jokes. It was manmade. Done unto man by man. She lay 
awake thinking. 

She had caused it. Hadn't she told the creep, "Maybe if you were 
the last man on earth . . . "? 

Vernon had taken her at her word. It was all just too pat to be 
coincidental. 

Bonnie swelled with fury. She was unlikely ever to swell with 
child. Even sperm deposited in sperm banks had, upon withdrawal, 
succumbed to Checkmate. Thinking of that, she froze herself into 
a cold rage. 

Bonnie directed the icicle at Vernon. He was a monster, the great- 
est monster in human history, out-Hitlering Hitler. And out-Cain- 
ing Cain. Cain, way back there at the beginning, had after all killed 
only one-fourth of the human race. That might once have been one 

CHECKMATE 109 



for the Genesis book of records, but Vernon had broken the record: 
he had murdered half. 

He had murdered Lyle. 

Bonnie had the Chemrem lead. She would hunt Vernon down. 

With even essential services curtailed, every workwoman counted. 
Slackers drew scowls and, if that did not work, short rations. 
Bonnie's current assignment was to keep a sewage-treatment plant 
going. She hadn't taken a day off in months. She told herself she 
was entitled. She called in sick. 

Sometimes it paid not to think ahead. Bonnie kept her mind blank 
as she dressed. She looked in the mirror before going out. She 
frowned on finding that she had without thinking pinned a butterfly 
pin to her jacket. And she on a grim mission! But she left it on and 
made up for it by deepening her frown. The pin could serve as a 
weapon. Not that she needed a .weapon; she was a black belt. She 
felt sure she could take Vernon if he was no more formidable than 
the creepy Vernon of old. 

Her face unfroze at the first feeling of soring in the air. Grood to 
get out in the open. A three blocks' walk brought her to the thru way. 

She thumbed a ride on a rig hauling melons to market. Happy to 
have someone spell her at the wheel, the driver asked no probing 
questions. Everyone had a sad story; no need to hear a variant. 

The trucker brought up the myth. "Say, did you know there's still 
a guy somewheres around? Boy, would I like to get him to myself 
for even a one-night stand. Keep your eyes peeled, sister. Last I 
heard, he's up where we're headed." 

"You don't say." 

"It doesn't give you a lift? You're a cool one." The trucker fell 
silent and shot glances at Bonnie. 

They listened to CB chatter as the rig ate up the miles. For the 
moment, women feared no enemies foreign or domestic. Sisterhood 
reigned. With the standing down of what was left of standing armies, 
the demobs had taken over policing, mostly a matter of traffic con- 
trol. Maybe later a few macho women would come to the fore and 
start the territorial business all over again, the having and holding 
of turf, but for now the only worry was to keep goods moving 
smoothly. The trucker nodded knowingly as they crossed into Vir- 
ginia. She told Bonnie that a hardnosed ex-colonel ran this sector, 
that along this stretch Mama Bear had a heavy paw. Sure enough, 
the CB warned, and the rig breezed innocently at legal speed past 
a radar trap. The trucker hummed in triumph and as soon as it was 
safe picked up speed. The rig hummed a monotonously rapid hum 

110 EDWARD WELLEN 



of its own. 

Feeling full, with an unsatisfying fullness, Bonnie stowed melon 
rind in a plastic bag for later disposal at a recycling point. She ached 
with the wish that the men could have been here to see how clean 
the women kept the place. 

She made ready to spell the trucker again but the sister shook 
her head. 

"Thanks to you I'm running way ahead of schedule. If you like 
we can pull up at the next motel and sign in." 

Bonnie knew it was foolish to be so uptight. Maybe in time she 
would get over feeling uncomfortable whenever she found herself 
on the receiving end of a pass. But the time was not yet. She twitched 
a smile. 

"Thanks, but I have to keep going." 

The trucker shrugged. "It was just a thought." 

They traveled in convoy for a while and the CB banter took the 
chill off. Sisterhood solidarity. Then someone touched on the myth 
of the surviving male. Lusty lying blued the air. But soon the CB 
chatter faded as though lured into silence by memory. They drove 
into night. 

The trucker was first to spot a sister walking a male Great Dane 
along the shoulder. The trucker grinned, slowed the rig, and leaned 
out of the cab to shout. "There are laws against that." The sister 
slackened the leash to cut a hand into an elbow. The rig picked up 
speed again, the trucker chuckling. The chuckling died and a sullen 
silence grew. 

Further along, a neon sign — The Tomcat — caught Bonnie's eye; 
the trucker caught that and nodded toward the place. 

"A hook-joint where they all dress up real butch. If you swing 
that way I can drop you off." 

"No, thanks." 

All the same the rig rolled to a stop. Bonnie slid her hand to her 
butterfly pin. The trucker avoided Bonnie's eyes. 

"I been hearing rattling noises. I better check him." Funny how 
all modes of transport, even ships, were now "he." The trucker's 
voice roughened. "You got some kind of deadline up ahead so you'd 
do better not to wait on me. You can easy hitch another ride from 
here." 

"Right. Thanks for the lift." 

"My pleasure." 

"So long, sister." 

"So long, sister." 

CHECKMATE 111 



/ 



The Chemrem plant for the most part was operating at half ca- 
pacity. No need now for men's toiletries and such. And the sisters 
had more pressing wants than nail polish, rouge, and eyeshadow. 
To say nothing of The Pill. But the plant still turned out the same 
amount of uppers and downers, the sisters having doubled their 
consumption. 

Even with controlled substances on the premises, there seemed 
small call to fret about ripoffs. Sisterhood. 

Behaving as if she belonged, Bonnie followed arrows straight to 
the unmanned — unmanned! — personnel office. The files would show 
where Vernon Gardner lived at the time of his employment here. 
She entered and the fluorescents switched on. 

Sitting down to retrieve his card from the revolving file, she gave 
in to weariness and slumped blankly a moment. Hitching rides had 
not been all that easy. She had run into a wildcat strike of truckers 
protesting the two speed limits — the 55-mph one and the 30-mg. 
one. The sisters had resolved it, but only after the roads had been 
tied up for all of eight hours. 

She punched up the Gs and riffled through the cards. She failed 
to turn up his name. She went through the file twice more, card by 
card, before giving up on personnel. Vernon Gardner's card was 
missing. 

Another moment's yielding to weariness, then Bonnie got up and 
followed arrows to accounting. She found no one there to challenge 
her access to the computer. She worked it, again in vain. As far as 
the Chemrem payroll was concerned, Vernon Gardner was an un- 
person. 

Had she misheard her classmate at the class reunion? That was 
in another country, another world, another state of being. But that 
was her only lead, all she had to go on. She had to believe she 
remembered right. 

She walked out onto the floor. The vast maze of the production 
line was almost entirely automated. She spotted just three workers 
among the rolling pills and marching bottles. Down among the cap- 
ping and sealing machines she braced the first. 

The sister popped her gum thoughtfully. "Vernon Gardner? Ain't 
that the name of the guy that's still alive? What would he be doing 
here? Hell no, I ain't seen him." 

"I heard he worked here once — Before." 

"Well, he don't work here now. Believe you me, I would' ve noticed 
him." 

The second and third, though the second had attained to foreper- 

112 EDWARD WELLEN 



son Before and was now plant supervisor, were no more able to play 
dea ex machina. 

Bonnie dragged herself toward an exit. Dead end. Not quite: if 
there was an executive in the executive suite. . . . She turned back. 

She encountered no guardian secretaries. Here too the plant ran 
itself She opened doors, found dark offices . . . till she came to the 
last and highest. 

Light edged the not-quite-to door of the president's office. The 
door gave silently to her touch. A kingsize chair showed its back 
and overflow bits of a dozing figure. Softly she stepped into the room. 
Carpeting muffled her footfalls but not her heartbeat. 

She coughed. 

The chair swiveled suddenly and swiftly unswallowed a clean- 
ingperson who made to move a vacuum nozzle over the carpet. The 
cleaningperson looked so outlandishly and garishly female — ^bewigged, 
beplatform-soled, and beflounced in-between — that Bonnie first 
thought herself to be face-to-face with a Screwloose, one of those 
who had convinced themselves Checkmate never happened and the 
men were merely lying low. Then Bonnie saw through the guise. 

Under the makeup and the getup it was Vernon Gardner. 

He let fall the nozzle, then recovered himself. 

"Hello, Bonnie." He spoke calmly and smiled, but his eyes kept 
shifting and his voice stayed hushed. 

For a heartstopping moment she believed she had been dreadfully 
wrong about him. 

He seemed to sense this and rushed, in a deeper tone, to set her 
straight. 

"Don't let this outfit fool you. I have to dress in drag to stay alive. 
They'd tear me apart trying to get their hands on me. You wouldn't 
believe what I've been through." He looked her up and down. "You 
haven't changed." 

"You have." It was true. Bonnie's awareness of what Vernon had 
done somehow vested creepy Vernon with a strange dignity despite 
the drag. 

At the same time she horrified itself What was wrong with her? 
Why was she making small talk? Where was her rage over Lyle's 
death? Where was her outrage at all the other deaths? 

She had only to shout to the sisters in the plant, "Come quick! 
He's here!" 

And then what? 

No. She alone had to deal with him. She herself had to have it 
out with him. 

CHECKMATE 113 



But first there was something she wanted to find out. She felt 
almost shy asking. 

"Why didn't you look me up?" 

He gestured. "You remember how things were. The world was 
upside down. In all that turmoil I just didn't know how to get in 
touch. And then when things settled down and I started searching 
I got made as a man and snatched by a roaming bevy of ex-marines." 
His eyes grew dreamy. "I learned to play one against another. But 
I couldn't stand captivity. I let one think I was willing to slip away 
with her. Once I got free I made a run for it. And here I am. Till I 
can come out of the closet on my own terms I've made myself scarce." 
He listened to the inner echo of what he had just said. "That's a 
good one, isn't it? 'I made myself scarce.' In more ways than one I 
made myself scarce." 

There. He had all but said it. 

But she had to ask him outright. 

"You did it? You caused Checkmate?" 

He looked surprised. "Of course." 

"You feel no guilt?" 

He lifted high his head. "Why should I? Survival of the fittest. 
That's the name of the game, isn't it?" 

"But your male friends, your male relatives." 

"What friends?" He dismissed friends with a wave. "Tell you the 
truth, I hated my old man and my younger brother." Another wave. 
"But that's all bygone." His eyes lit up. "I guess you want to know 
how I did it. I was janitor Before in this very plant just so I could 
use the facilities. Every night for years I sneaked into the lab to 
perfect the virus. Of course, I made sure to immunize myself before 
I let it loose." 

And he had done this monstrous, this fabulous thing, for her. Of 
all the sisters she was the one. The thought gave her a dizzy feeling. 
I'd he happy only my mind keeps hutting in. Mind, mind your own 
husiness. The ghost of Lyle grew fainter. But was it fair for the 
murderer to enjoy the fruits of his crime? Still, evolution cared 
nothing for fairness. And done was done. 

Guilt's shadow brushed her. Sisterhood. Who of her sisters would 
believe, want to believe, or care, that Vernon had done it for her? 
What mattered was that she knew the truth of it. Vernon had lav- 
ished on her the greatest flattery that ever a man had lavished on 
a woman. Poor second-best Cain had killed Abel not over a woman's 
favor but over God's. Her heart swelled. Blind to the drag, she looked 
at Vernon and in a flash her mind retrieved something from her 

114 EDWARD WELLEN 



freshman chemistry. The greater the electronegativity difference 
between two atoms, the more polar the bond between them. 

He was mad, of course, but gloriously mad. No, it was not all 
madness. Above all, it was love. If that was madness she was mad 
too. 

"You did it all for me?" She wanted to hear him say it. 

And he did. Readily. "Of course it's all because of you, Bonnie." 

"Then take me." 

Almost at once emptiness filled her. 

Vernon gazed through her as though seeing all the world's lonely 
lovely women. 

"Things have changed, Bonnie." 

She stood stunned, her head in a roar. 

Slowly he focused on her and gave her a half smile. 

"Maybe if you were the last woman in the world. . . ." 

After the shock of that passed, Bonnie looked thoughtful. 



ANGER IN HEAVEN 

(on hearing of the Nobel award for physics) 

In her celestial rocking-chair, 
electric charges stiffen her hair. 
Her needles click like piston-rods 
as Hanna-Hanna, grandmother of gods, 
knits a new spiral universe. 
Remembering bipeds she mutters a curse: 

"Knit one, quark one, knit one, quark; 

proton, meson, neutron, spark. 

Impertinent creatures, arrogant blight, 

dragging my mysteries out of the night; 

moths in my clothing, gnats in my beer, 

I shall humble your hubris, flog you with fear." 
As her fabric expands with the speed of light, 
mad stitches are dropped, black holes appear. 

— Hope Athearn 
CHECKMATE 115 



THE SF CONVENTIONAL CALENDAR 

by Erwin S. Strauss 



There aren't too many SF con(vention)s in the next couple of 
months, so now's a good time to start planning for social weekends 
with your favorite authors, editors, artists and fellow fans in the 
Spring. For a longer, later list and a sample of SF folksongs, send 
me an addressed, stamped envelope (SASE) at 9850 Fairfax Sq. 
#232, Fairfax VA 22031. The hotline is (703) 273-6111. If a ma- 
chine answers, leave your area code and number CLEARLY and 
ril call back. When calling cons, give your name and reason for 
calling right away. When writing, enclose an SASE. Look for me 
as Filthy Pierre. 

Darkover Grand Council Meeting. For info, write: Armida Council, Box 7501, Newarlc DE 19711. 
Or phone: (302) 368-9570 (10 am to 10 pm only, not collect). Con will be held in: Wilmington 
DE (if location omitted, same as in address) on: 28-30 Nov., 1980. Guests will include: 
Katherine Kurtz, Marion Zimmer Bradley, 0. J. Cherryh, Nancy Springer. 

ChattaCon, Box 21173, Chattanooga TN 37421. (615) 892-5127. 16-18 Jan., 1981. Jack (Well 
of Souls) Chalker, Forrest J. (Famous Monsters) Ackerman, Gordon Dickson, B. Longyear. 

LastCon, c/o Connell, 50 Dove, Albany NY 12210. (518) 434-8217. 23-25 Jan. Hal (Mission of 
Gravity) Clement, Jan Howard Finder. After two cons in Nov., 1979, Albany is back. 

AquaCon, Box 815, Brea CA 92621. Anaheim (Disneyland) CA, 12-15 Feb. Philip Jose (River- 
world) Farmer, William Rotsler, Jan Bogstad & Jeanne Gomoll of JANUS. Masquerade. 

CapriCon, Box 416, Zion IL 60099. Evanston IL 20-22 Feb. Terry Carr, editor of Universe. 

Boskone, c/o NESFA, Box G, MIT PO, Boston MA 02139. 13-16 Feb. If they survived NorEasCon. 

StellarCon, c/o Allen, Box 4-EUC, UNC-G, Greensboro NC 27412. 27 Feb.-l Mar. Masquerade. 
Participation by the S. C. A., who live medievally (e.g., leaders chosen by combat). 

WisCon, c/o SF3, Box 1624, Madison Wl 53701. (608) 233-0326. 6-8 Mar. The Coulsons. 

FanCon, c/o The Alliance, Box 1865, Panama City FL 32401. 5-7 Mar. 

CoastCon, Box 6025, Biloxi MS 39532. (601) 374-3046. 13-15 Mar. At the Royal D'Iberville. 

UpperSouthClave, Box U122, College Heights Sta., Bowling Green KY 42101. 13-15 Mar. 

MarCon, Box 2583, Columbus OH 43216. (614) 497-9953. 13-15 Mar. Andrew J. & Jodie Offutt, 
Bob & Ann Passovoy. This con is legendary among long-time fans. Intimate atmosphere. 

LunaCon, Box 204, Brooklyn NY 11230. Hasbrouck Heights NJ (near New York), 20-22 Mar. 

SatyriCon, Box 323, Knoxville TN 37901. 3-5 Apr. Anne (White Dragon) McCaffrey, A. Offutt. 

CineCon; c/o Sp. Age Books, 305 Swanston, Melbourne 3000 Vic. Australia. 663-1777. Easter. 

DisClave, c/o Gllliland, 4030 8th St. S., Arlington VA 22204. (703) 920-6087. 22-24 May. 

ConQuest, 4228 Greenwood PI., Kansas City MO 64111. 22-24 May. Poul Anderson, Lee Killough. 

Advention, Box 130, Marden SA 5070, Australia. Adelaide, Queen's Birthday weekend. 

X-Con, c/o Inda, 1743 N. Cambridge #301. Milwaukee Wl 53202. 12-14 Jun. L. S. & C. de Camp. 

MidWestCon, 3953 St. Johns Terr, Cincinatti OH 45236. 26-28 Jun. Where old-timers meet. 

WesterCon 34, Box 161719, Sacramento CA 95816. Held over the July 4th weekend in 1981. 

August Party, Box 893, Silver Spring MD 20901. 7-9 Aug. The fannish Star Trek con returns. 

Denvention II, Box 11545, Denver CO 80211. (313) 433-9774. 3-7 Sep., 1981. C. L Moore, C. 
Simak, R. Hevelin, Ed Bryant. The 1981 World SF Con. Join before rates go up any more. 

116 



THE ADOPTED FATHER 

by Gene Wolfe 

art: Laura Buscemi 







After graduation from the University 

of Houston — with the help of the GI 

Bill after the Korean War— the author 

married Rosemary Dietsch, a girl he had 

met when they were both four. He started 

writing in 1956, the year they were 

married, in the hope of earning enough 

money for furniture. In 1973, his novella 

''The Death of Dr. Island" won a Nebula. 

His best known book (so far) is probably 

The Fifth Head of Cerebus. The Wolfes 

now live near Chicago with their four 

children: Roy Emerson II, Madeleine, 

Therese Georgeanne, and Matthew Dietsch. 

117 



John Parker's hands gripped the edge of the counter. "Do you 
mean," he said, "that although I paid for the deliveries, I can't see 
the records?" 

"I mean," the nurse in the screen answered carefully, "that there 
are no more records, Mr. Parker. We have already given you copies 
of all those we have. Our records show the names, dates, and times 
of birth of your three children, their medical history here, and the 
medical history of Ms. Roberts. That is all we have." 

"There must be more," John Parker said. To either side of him, 
women stood arguing with similar nurses in similar screens. 

"There is no more, Mr. Parker. You have seen what we have. Ms. 
Roberts has been here three times. Your children were named — by 
her — Robert, Marian, and Tina. There were no complications. Ms. 
Roberts's confinements were paid for by the North American Di- 
vision of World Assurance — not by you, as you appear to believe." 

"You must fingerprint them," John Parker said. "For the police, 
if for no other reason. Or footprints. Don't you take footprints?" 

"No, Mr. Parker," the nurse said. "That hasn't been done for many 
years. At birth the infant remains with its mother until its wrist 
has been banded. The band cannot be removed. There is no possi- 
bility of an exchange." 

"Is there some way I can talk to a human being?" John Parker 
asked. 

The nurse in the screen shook her head. "Not in my hospital, Mr. 
Parker. Not in any modern hospital." 

Although he would have liked it very much if there had been, 
there was nothing modern about the foyer of John Parker's building. 
There was nothing old about it either, no suggestion of more gracious 
days. It was contemporary, in a period when contemporary meant 
the cheapest possible construction that would do the job, a period 
when a hundred million people drew unemployment benefits and 
the cost of labor was (John Parker smiled bitterly to himself) as- 
tronomical. Snow had been tracked onto the floor of this foyer, and 
a pouch of orange drink had been spilled in the elevator. John Parker 
pressed the button for the seventy-fifth floor, wondering why he did 
so. 

A few days before, the elevator had stopped on the sixty-seventh, 
no doubt because some child had pushed UP, then dashed back into 
his own apartment. John Parker had not noticed. He had left the 
elevator and walked down a corridor precisely like his own. He had 
knocked on the door that should have been his, before he had seen 

118 GENE WOLFE 



the obscenity painted on it. Obscenities were no novelty; but this 
one had been old, the day-glow magenta paint flaking, and not his. 
He had walked back down the corridor to the elevator then and seen 
that he had gotten off at sixty-seven, eight floors too low. 

Possibly it was my apartment after all, John Parker thought. I 
have done what the sign said. 

The soles of his shoes were slightly sticky as he walked the corridor 
today. Now he read the graffiti, something he had not done for years. 
Yes, this was the seventy-fifth floor, to which a few new injunctions 
had been added. He searched it with his eyes — someone was as- 
saulted in the building every month or so. He knocked at his own 
door, liberally besprinkled with short words, though most of the 
boys in this part of the building were supposed to be afraid of Robert. 

"Yes?" 

"Me. John." It was what he always said. He listened to Roseanne 
unfasten the chain and turn the bolt, then stepped into the 
warmth — struck again, as he had been every day for the past week, 
by how little Roseanne resembled him. Or, he thought, as he stared 
at his reflection in the window later, how little he resembled her. 
Weren't couples supposed to come to look alike? He and Roseanne 
had been together for nearly twenty years now. 

Yet that was all right. Roseanne was no blood of his, not his sister, 
not his cousin. The children resembled neither of them, and that 
was not all right — not quite. Robert was tall and fair. Tina was fair, 
and would be tall. Both had blue eyes; his own were brown, Rose- 
anne's hazel. Marian was small and dark, much smaller than 
he — smaller, for that matter, than his mother or his sisters. Her 
eyes were brown, but darker than his own; her hair nearly black. 

An accident of the genes? Quite possibly, and it did not really 
matter. But none of them thought the way he did, they all thought 
he was eccentric or worse, and that mattered a great deal. He got 
out a sheet of paper and squared it on his board, using the inex- 
pensive little drafting machine his scholarship had supplied him 
with when he had entered the university. It had had to be repaired 
many times since then; but now, when he had long since lost sight 
of every human friend he had made there, it still functioned. He 
thought, this is the big day. This is the day I'm going to do the park. 

"Another park?" Roseanne asked. 
John Parker nodded, not looking up. 

She leaned over his board as she always did, her hair just brushing 
his cheek. "That's a lovely one. What are these?" 

THE ADOPTED FATHER 119 



"Habitats. It has a small zoo. African veldt here, pampas there. 
Andes over here. Refreshment complex — I'd like to have a real res- 
taurant, but you can't put that in a drawing, and you know they'd 
never do it. Rest rooms. Security station. Petting zoo for the chil- 
dren." 

"Maybe if you sent some of your plans to the mayor, he'd build 
them." 

"You have sent him some," John Parker reminded her. 

"I have, but you haven't." It was necessary to Roseanne's peace 
of mind that she believe him vaguely important. 

"Perhaps someday I will," John Parker said. 

"He was on TV just now. He looked very nice — you should have 
seen him. He asked everyone to cooperate with the police and refrain 
from vandalizing city property." 

"I'm not a vandal," John Parker said. 

Robert came in to borrow money. "Where's this one?" he asked. 
"On the moon?" 

"Mars," John Parker said. "It would be perfectly possible to make 
Mars a world much like Earth. A cloud of finely powdered aluminum 
behind it would reflect back enough heat to raise the night tem- 
perature. Bringing down Deimos and Phobos and a little of the 
asteroid belt would increase the planet's mass enough to let it hold 
an atmosphere, which you could make by breaking down the stony 
matter in the asteroids and moons. Pretty soon you'd turn the red 
planet green." 

"What's this?" 

"A hedge maze for children and lovers. There are seats, you see, 
and bowers. Sculpture the kids can climb on. They can wade in the 
pond too, and go up the tower in the middle to watch the people 
trying to find their way out. That's the goal." 

"I bet I can solve it," Robert said. He put his finger on the drawing 
to trace the paths, but soon gave up. 

John Parker had expected a screen and a computer persona at the 
agency. He was surprised and pleased to be ushered into the presence 
of a human being, a gray-haired woman who did not even look 
particularly motherly. "I'm here to inquire about adoption," John 
Parker said carefully. 

"Certainly." The woman paused. "I take it you are — how should 
I put it? — one half of a couple?" 

John Parker shook his head. 

120 GENE WOLFE 



Her hand went toward a button on her desk. "Perhaps we should 
have one of the legal staff present." 

He covered the button with his own hand and smiled. "That won't 
be necessary. Really it won't, Ms. — ?" 

"Harris. You needn't be married, you understand, Mr. Parker." 

John Parker nodded. 

"And of course the other member of the couple can be of your own 
gender — we don't inquire. But there must be two persons willing to 
make a home, willing to take responsibility for the welfare of the 
child." 

"I don't want to adopt a child. I want to be adopted myself." 

Ms. Harris stared at him. 

"I'm not being facetious. I want a group of children to take me as 
their father. I'm over forty, I have a good job and no criminal record." 

"You want them to adopt you," Ms. Harris said. 

John Parker nodded. "Is that ever done?" 

Ms. Harris shook her head slowly. "I don't think so. I've never 
heard of it. I'll bring it up at the next board meeting. It might be 
a good idea." 

"So much can be done with our minds now," John Parker said. 
"Implanted learning and so on. It should be possible to erase whole 
areas of experience. After it was over, the man could forget it wasn't 
his own family." He leaned forward. "Honestly, Ms. Harris, didn't 
they think of that long ago?" 

Too quickly to be stopped, Ms. Harris's hand stabbed one of the 
buttons. John Parker rose, got his overcoat, and walked out. No one 
attempted to stop him. 

He got off at the sixty-seventh floor and went down the corridor 
counting doors. The old obscenity had been partially obscured by a 
new purple one. He knocked on it. 

There was no answer. 

He knocked again, louder. There was still no reply, and he 
thumped the door with his fist, and at last began to kick it. At the 
thirteenth or possibly the fifteenth kick, wood shattered and it flew 
open. 

The strange living room was cool. Not as cold as the corridor 
outside, but not nearly as warm as his own. It had been an ordinary 
enough living room once, perhaps — two chairs, a sofa, the television, 
an end table. Yet it appeared (John Parker smiled to himself) that 
now someone was actually living in it. There was an untidy knot 
of blankets at one end of the sofa, a half-full glass of water on the 

THE ADOPTED FATHER 121 



end table, crumpled foil packages on the floor. He thought, If only 
I were enough of a detective, I could tell how long it's been since 
anyone was here — but there are no detectives now, only police. . . . 

The back of the television felt slightly warm, but he might have 
been wrong. 

In the kitchen, the sink was filled with dirty plates and gummy 
cups and glasses. A full canister of synthetic coffee and three uno- 
pened packages of irradiated food lay in one of the cabinets; they 
were Ham and Lima Beans, Liver and Onions, and Smoked Tongue 
withAu Gratin Potatoes. "A kid," John Parker said under his breath. 
He went into the living room again. "Come on out. I know you're 
in here." He did not, not really. 

There was only one bedroom, and he wondered why the child did 
not sleep in it. When he opened the door, it was like opening the 
door of the foyer. Worse. A blast of icy wind hit him. He stepped 
inside, leaving the door open so he could keep an eye on the one to 
the corridor. 

A dead woman lay in the bed. Her face was uncovered, her eyes 
open. John Parker pulled down the sheet. She wore only a night- 
gown; there was no blood, and there were no marks on her neck. He 
tossed an empty pill bottle into a dresser drawer and slid it closed, 
then pulled the sheet over her face, obscurely glad he had not had 
to touch her.. 

In the living room again, he shut the bedroom door behind him. 
The bathroom was locked; he told himself he should have thought 
of the bathroom to begin with. "Come out," he said. "It's no use. I'll 
just break the lock." He turned on the television and sat down on 
the sofa. 

Twenty minutes passed before he heard the rattle of the knob. 
Without turning his head he said, "Come on out. I won't hurt you, 
and I might be able to help you. You're almost out of groceries." 

It was a boy, small and dark as Marian. "How'd you know?" he 
said. 

"That you were in here? Somebody was. The nightbolt was out in 
your front door — I could see it through the crack, and it has to be 
turned from inside. A grown-up would have answered when I 
knocked, or at least yelled for help when I kicked the door. Then 
too, I looked at what you ate. There'd been soft drinks, but they 
were all gone and you were drinking water. You never made coffee, 
and the meals you've got left are the kind my own kids — " John 
Parker stopped, unable to finish the sentence. "I suppose I'm lucky 
I wasn't arrested. I don't know what made me come here, except 

122 GENE WOLFE 



that I'd been here once before. For some reason I thought Fd find 
something out here. You try to go back ..." 

"What are you going to do, Mister?" 

"I don't know," John Parker said slowly. 

"Ain't you a blue?" 

John Parker shook his head. "I'm an architect. Why didn't you go 
to the police, or somebody, instead of just staying here and playing 
games with the elevators? If you'd told your teacher at school, it 
would have called some social agency." 

"They would have taken me away from here," the boy said. "I 
didn't want to go." 

"So you just opened the window and closed off the bedroom. How 
long ago?" 

"I don't know " 

The boy began to cry; the sobs shook him like convulsions, and 
for the first time John Parker realized how young he was. He picked 
him up. The room was still cold, and he opened his overcoat, wrap- 
ping it about them both. "Less then three weeks anyway. It hasn't 
been this cold for longer than that. What's your name?" 

"Mitch." More sobs. "Why'd mama die?" 

"Heart attack, probably. Bad food, bad air. People die young, 
Mitch, but she's gone and that's the thing to remember, and what- 
ever it was that hurt her can't hurt her an)Tnore. Did you ever play 
some game when you knew the other kid was going to beat you?" 

Interested, Mitch looked up and nodded. 

"Then remember how when he does beat you, the game is over 
and you can go away. Dying's like that. Your mother's gone away, 
and she's finished with whatever it was." 

"Do you know my father?" 

"Perhaps," John Parker said. "Who is your father?" 

"I don't know his name. He lives here in this building." 

"Do you think it could be me?" 

Mitch shook his head. "I don't think so. Mama showed him to me 
once." 

"And that's why you stayed. You've been trying to find him." 

"Do you know who he is?" 

"No," John Parker said. "But I know what he is. Do you know 
that, Mitch?" 

"No," the boy said softly. 

John Parker set him down and began to pace the room. "He's 
someone like you. That's what makes him your father. Take my 
own children. If I have any, they'll be more or less like me — in logic, 
THE ADOPTED FATHER 123 



that's "called a tautology. If you're crazy, your kids are crazy too, and 
crazy in more or less the same way you are. That's what makes them 
your kids." His foot sent a yellow envelope skittering across the 
floor. He retrieved it and tore it open: This is your FINAL warn- 
ing. If we do not receive . . . "They're going to throw you out of 
here," John Parker said. "How long ago did this come?" 

"I don't know." 

"Today?" 

Mitch shook his head. 

"Yesterday?" 

"Maybe." Mitch shrugged. 

"There are probably two or three more in the series after this, but 
there may not be too, and anyway it's possible you've already got 
them. Did your mother keep any writing paper?" 

Mitch went into the little kitchen and brought a stack of cheap, 
white stationery from a drawer. "We only need one envelope," John 
Parker said. He wrote the Housing Authority's address on it and 
added a stamp from the supply he carried in his check folder, then 
dropped the bill in. 

"Are you going to pay?" 

"Your mother must have been at least four months behind," John 
Parker said, "and I can't afford to. But this will buy us some time." 
He tore out a check and crossed off his own name and Roseanne's, 
then drew a line through the account number and wrote in a fic- 
titious one. He made the check out for the amount specified on the 
bill, and signed it Robert Roberts-Parker, explaining, "The bank's 
computer will read my account number anyway — it's printed in 
magnetic ink. When I send the check back, they'll credit my account 
and go looking for Robert, who'll be hard to find since he doesn't 
have an account and isn't in the telephone directory. With any luck, 
they'll spend a while on the number I gave them too." 

Mitch stared at him without comprehension. 

"Eventually they'll disallow the check and send you more letters. 
Something may have turned up by then. If it hasn't, we'll have to 
think up another game." John Parker thrust the check into the 
envelope and licked the flap. "It's a great principle — you could call 
it the principle of adventure or even the principle of play. 
Robert — that's the young man who just paid your rent — tried to 
solve my maze and couldn't, even after I told him that the tower 
was for the kids to climb, and the pond was for them to wade in. 
You have to wade across the pond to reach the tower, of course. He 
saw a barrier when he should have seen an invitation. I'll show you 

124 GENE WOLFE 



that maze sometime. You like to play, Mitch?" 

The boy nodded. 

"Me too." John Parker crossed to the window and stared at the 
dark sky beyond the glass. "That's coal smoke, the technology of the 
nineteenth century brought into the twenty-first and hard at work. 
They could have conquered the solar system and harnessed the sun, 
but they did this instead, because there was no fun involved. Their 
great grandfathers had done it, and they knew it would work. Tom 
Swift and His Steam Everything. I've got most of the Tom Swift 
books, Mitch; and I'll let you read them when you're a little older. 
Coal makes great buttons for snowmen, though." 

"Are we going to look for my father now?" 

"A§uSOon as I fix your lock," John Parker said. He found epoxy in 
the Kitchen and recreated the wood around the shattered socket. 
"That'll set in three or four hours," he told the boy. "If no one pushes 
on your door before then, this place will be all right. Tonight we'll 
do something about your mama, put her where the right people will 
find her and take care of her." 

In the elevator, he grasped the boy's shoulder. "You know what 
we've been doing wrong, Mitch? We've been looking seriously — me 
for my own kids, you for your dad. Looking seriously only finds little 
things, and those aren't little things. We have to have fun. Then 
maybe we'll both find what we want. I know a place that has a 
heated pool. Let's go swimming." 

The elevator jolted to a stop. Three young men were waiting in 
the foyer. One held a tire iron, one a doubled length of chain. John 
Parker thrust a hand into his coat pocket. "This fires high energy 
gamma rays," he said levelly. "You don't feel a thing now, but within 
six weeks you'll develop leukemia and in six more you'll be dead." 

The three hesitated, and he flipped open a match box with his 
other hand. "I'm calling in Star Patrol to pick up the pieces," he 
announced. 

When they were safely outside, John Parker told Mitch, "See, you 
just learned something — be crazy. Nobody bothers the crazy people." 
He paused. "In the end, maybe it's the crazy people who win after 
all. Is swimming okay? You like to swim?" 

Mitch nodded, his eyes shining. 

John Parker raised the match box to his lips. "We're in trouble 
down here," he whispered, "but don't beam us up quite yet." The 
hand that a moment before had been a radiation pistol was hailing 
a cab. 

THE ADOPTED FATHER 125 




127 



The author reports that she is now 
subsisting — or attempting to do so — 
on writing alone, having parted com- 
pany with her teaching job. She's 
currently working on the sixth volume 
in her ''Diadem" series (DAW Books) , and 
the second volume in a fantasy trilogy, 
tucking in short stories, such as the 
one that follows, whenever she has time to breathe. 



"Damn him. Five days and not a word." Gleia stabbed the needle 
through the soft black material, pricked her finger, and jerked it 
away before blood could stain the cloth. Sucking at the small wound, 
she laid the shawl aside and swung around on the window seat 
where she'd taken her work to save on lamp oil, using instead the 
pale red light from Horli that struggled through the heavy layer of 
clouds. She propped her elbows on the window sill and gazed out at 
the busy street below. The pattern of silver and green on the shawl 
heaped beside her was nearly finished. Another day and there'd be 
coins plumping out the limp money pouch she'd left on the table by 
the bed. One more thing to worry about. That and Shounach. Damn 
him for not letting me know whether he's alive or dead. 

She was still chuckling at that absurdity when an iron bird 
swooped past to hover over the street. As she watched, it darted 
back and forth over the suddenly quiet people, then soared back to 
hover in front of her, humming like an outsize insect, wings a foot 
long moving slightly but constantly, the red light from cloud-hidden 
Horli sliding along crisply modeled feathers. The ball-head's single 
eye set above a needle beak scanned her, small flickers of red light 
stirring in the depths of the dark lens. The thing made her shiver — a 
parody of a living bird. Deel called it an iron bird, the Lossal's iron 
bird, though it was made of a shining metal more like polished silver 
than iron. It's only a machine, she told herself, not a creation of some 
devil sorcery. As it swung suddenly and whirred off, she shivered 
again. Temokeuu-my -sea- father, I wish you were here to tell me it's 
only a machine. She continued to watch as it soared inward over 
the middle city, dipping finally out of the sight behind one of the 
Family Houses that dominated the center of walled Istir. 

She rested her chin on her hands and looked dreamily out the 
window, thinking of her adopted family of sea-folk, wondering how 
128 JO CLAYTON 



Tetaki-her-brother was coming with his new trade route, wondering 
whether Jevati-her-friend had married again. Snatches of music 
from neighboring taverns drifted up to her; street sounds floated 
around her — men's voices as they passed along the street, arguing, 
talking, laughing; the clop-clop of horses' hooves on the dank stone 
paving, a whinny or two and some snorts; the distant blended noise 
of huckster cries coming from the markets on both sides of the 
Stranger's Quarter. Sharp smells floated on the lazy breeze — frying 
oil, fish, cooked meats, urine, horse manure. Her eyes dropped; she 
studied the people passing by, feeling a comfortable familiarity with 
a mix much like that she'd grown up with in Carhenas across the 
ocean: dry landers in silent groups; hunters; hillmen; boatmen from 
the highland rivers; an enigmatic group of veiled and armored 
women who seemed to call out hostility in the men around them. 
Gleia blinked, frowned as they passed out of sight followed by curses, 
uneasy laughter, obscene gestures. 

Once the women were gone, Gleia lost interest in the street and 
turned back to wondering about Shounach. How is he? she thought. 
What's he doing now? Whafs he been doing the last five days? Why 
doesn't he send word? She scratched at her arm; living with the 
Juggler was making her itchy. Companion, she thought. That red- 
haired bitch, the LossaVs daugher. . . . She flexed her fingers, then 
began rubbing at the line of her jaw. It was difficult . . . she wasn't 
used to fitting her actions to someone else's needs. If he isn't back 
by tomorrow, she thought, I'm getting out of here. With a feeling of 
relief, she let her hand drop into her lap. Relief and anger and 
uncertainty. 

Relief because she was going back to the comfortable simplicity 
of living alone; she could feel her taut muscles relaxing. 

Anger because she hurt at the thought of leaving him. She didn't 
want to allow him that much importance in her life. With an in- 
voluntary smile she remembered the long, lazy nights on the smug- 
gler's ship that had brought them across the ocean from Thrakesh 
to this new land — new for her if not for Shounach. Remembered the 
painful, clumsy beginning of intimacy. Remembered his patience 
and skill — a skill she teased him about later when she'd regained 
some of her assurance — as he taught her body to respond. She 
clenched her hands into fists and beat on her thighs. The Lossal's 
daughter. He's with her. Five days, five damn days. . . . The thought 
was fire in her blood. She pushed at the pain, trying to deny it, and 
sat for some minutes, the heels of her hands pressed against aching 
eyes. As her breathing steadied, the anger altered to uncertainty. 
COMPANIONING 129 



Uncertainty because she wanted to stay as much as she wanted 
to go. Because she had no place to go to if she left. Rubbing absently 
at the brands on her face, she leaned her head against the end of 
the shutter and wondered what she was going to do. 

A rippling laugh from the street pulled her from her painful mus- 
ing. She caught hold of the sill and leaned farther out. 

A cloaked figure was slapping at the hands of a Harrier, one of 
the mercenaries hired by the six Families to act as guards and as 
a small private army if necessary. The long slim arm, the fluid 
movement looked familiar. The woman laughed again, called back 
a last cutting comment to the Harrier as she moved along the street 
with a free, flowing swagger that sent the ends of her cloak flying. 
Gleia smiled with pleasure, leaned down and waved. "Deel!" 

The dancer looked up, pushed the hood back off her head. Raising 
her voice over the noise of the street, she called, "He come back 
yet?" 

"Not yet." Gleia coughed to clear her throat then yelled, "Going 
somewhere?" 

"Work." Deel wrinkled her nose, twisted her mobile face into a 
comical grimace. "New bunch of boatmen in from upriver. One-eye 
sent word I was to get there in half a breath." She shrugged. "Good 
money, but I hate those sorry slobbering bastards. Have lunch with 
me tomorrow?" 

"I'd like that. Meet here?" 

The dancer nodded. Gleia watched her swing off until she was out 
of sight, then pulled her head in and slid off the window seat. Making 
sure the needle was tucked securely into the material, she folded 
the shawl neatly and set it on the table by the bed, smiling as she 
remembered her meeting with Deel. Five days ago I didn't know her 
and dow I have a friend. 

In the Square of the Cloth Merchants, Shounach stood on a plat- 
form he'd rented, the blue glass halls circling his white-painted face, 
changing in number and shape as he turned slowly to face the crowd 
of traders and sellers, shoppers, market women, other entertainers, 
scattered Harriers, and a number of pickpockets and other thieves 
that pressed about the four sides of the platform. Gleia sat on the 
coping of the market weJJ, watching what she could see of Shounach 
past the heads of the onlookers. A constant stream of people moved 
past her, edging along the fringes of the crowd, going on to stop at 
one or another of the small open-faced shops that lined the square. 

As Shounach' s routine neared its close, she felt a brief tugging at 
130 JO CLAYTON 



her cafta, heard an angry yell, then a boy's shrill, rapid protest. She 
looked around. A Harrier had a small hoy by the nape of his neck. 
Behind him a tall woman muj^fJed in a long cloak stopped to watch, 
stiff with disapproval as she saw the Harrier drag the boy back to 
Gleia. 

"Had his hand in your pocket." He scowled at the boy. "Fork 
over, SchJop." 

"I din' do nothin'," the boy shrilled. He wriggled, trying to pull 
away from the Harrier's cruel grip. "I din' do nothin'." 

Eyes on the child's tear-streaked face, Gleia thrust her hand into 
her pocket. Her handkerchief was gone, nothing more. She smiled 
up at the glowering man. "You're mistaken, despois. The boy took 
nothing. Let him go." 

The Harrier grunted, hesitated a moment, then loosed his grip on 
the boy's skinny neck. He watched the child dart away, then stalked 
off, muttering about fool women. 

"You might want this back." 

Startled, Gleia looked over her shoulder. The woman who'd been 
watching was smiJing at her, holding out her handkerchief. 

"It's a beautiful thing; whoever gave it to you must think a lot of 
you." The woman smoothed out the square of katani with its wide 
band of white-on-white embroidery, her fingers lingering over the 
exquisite stitching. 

With a laugh Gleia waved the handkerchief away. "If it pleases 
you, then keep it. It's no gift, merely my own work and my own 
design." 

"I couldn't." The woman's dark amber eyes gJowed as she touched 
the delicate pattern. 

"Please do. I have others." 

SmiJing with pleasure, the woman tucked the handkerchief into 
her cloak pocket and settled beside Gleia on the well coping. "Why 
did you let the boy go?" 

She was a tall woman with high cheekbones and almond-shaped 
eyes, a wide mobile mouth that flashed easily from smiles to frowns. 
Her skin was a silky red-brown that looked poreless and fitted 
smoothly over long, eJegant bones. Her hair was a disciplined foam 
of tiny curls only sJightJy darker than her skin. Underneath the dark 
cloak she wore wide amber siJk strips arranged to flow around long 
slim legs. "My name's Deel. I dance at the Horn of Sandar in the 
Stranger's Quarter. You're new in Istir, aren't you. Why did you let 
the boy go?" 

"I grew up in the streets myself." Gleia touched the scars on her 
COMPANIONING 131 



cheek, and met amber eyes bright with interest and understanding. 
"Not here. You're right about my being new." She flipped a hand 
at Shounach. "I came with the Juggler; we've only been here a few 
days." Reaching out, she touched Deel's hand. "My name's GJeia." 

"I've been watching him the past few days. He's damn good, your 
Juggler." They sat in friendly silence as the Juggler began putting 
away his paraphernalia. 

A litter carried by four brawny men eased into the square and 
moved through the scattering crowd toward the platform. The litter 
was giJded and profusely carved, its occupant hidden behind paJe 
bJue curtains. 

GJeia frowned. "Who's that?" 

Deel wrinkled her nose. "Toreykyn, the Lossal's daughter; that's 
the Lossal's sigil stitched on those curtains." She looked up, pointed. 
"Yeah, has to be her in there. The Lossal's iron birds are keeping 
an eye on her." 

Two glittering metal bird-shapes were circling over the square. 
Gleia squinted up at them, trying to see them more clearly. "Iron 
birds?" 

"Lossal's spies." Deel's mouth twisted, turned down at the corners. 
She tapped her polished nails lightly on her silk-covered thighs. 
"You've lost your man for a few days. Until she gets tired of him." 

Gleia hid a smile as she watched the litter stop in front of Shoun- 
ach. The Fox's luck has turned, she thought, remembering his frus- 
tration as he paced the room, cursing the insularity of Families that 
shut the Lossal away from him. Now he was riding in with the 
Lossal's daighter. She looked down. Her hands were closed into fists, 
fingernails cutting into her palms. After forcing her hands open, she 
glanced at Deel, and said with outward calm, "We do what we have 
to. No point in staying here any longer. Going back to the Quarter? 
Come have a glass of wine with me." 

Shounach snapped the lid off the solvent and poured some on a 
rag. Kneeling beside his bag, he wiped the paint from his face, then 
began on his hands. His eyes moved restlessly over the scattering 
crowd; he was impatient with this waiting time, wanted to get on 
with his search for the source of the Ranga Eyes. He saw Gleia talking 
to a strange woman, felt a touch of irritation; she hadn't bothered 
to watch the performance. He scrubbed at his hands, annoyed at the 
way the white paint clung around his fingernails, jabbed the rag at 
the stubborn paint in the creases. At the same time he fought against 
the rising waves of rancor that threatened to explode into shapeless, 
132 JO CLAYTON 



unreasonable anger spilling over anyone or anything around him. 
It never ends, he thought. He looked down at his hands, fJexed the 
fingers, then put the solvent and the rag hack in the hag. 

He saw the litter approaching and remained on his knees waiting 
to see where it was going, holding his face calm as excitement rose 
within him when he recognized the Lossal's arms on the curtains. 

The litter stopped in front of him; a slim, bangJe-iaden arm came 
through the curtains. With a flurry of cJanks and tinJcJes, a delicate 
hand weighed down with many rings pulled the curtain back, re- 
treated. Inside, the woman smiled up at him; she was stretched out, 
leaning on one eJbow, paie-biue cushions piled around her; the hand 
that had drawn the curtain back now played with long strands of 
red-gold hair flowing over large, firm breasts which thrust against 
the silver-shot white avrishum of her long, loose dress. 

Red hair. His eyes fastened on the bright waves for an instant. He 
shivered, forced a smile as he bowed his head and waited for her 
to speak. 

The big, brown eyes focused on him began to blink nervously, the 
hand caressing the hair stiffened. The soft smiJing mouth moved 
into a pout. "Juggler!" Her voice was sharp, petulant. He got the 
feeling she'd expected more response from him than a poJite bow. 
He widened his smile and let his eyes traveJ sJowJy over her, ap- 
preciating the slim curves scarcely concealed by the soft, clinging 
materia]. 

"Juggler." She was smiling again, her voice soft and caressing. 
"The Lothal wanth you to perform." Her long Joshes fell, then lifted, 
as she lisped the words, the command in them smothered in sugar. 
"I'm motht interethted in your performanth. Juggler," she mur- 
mured. Her plump JittJe hand closed tightly around cloth and hair. 
"Come with me now, Juggler, to my father." She stretched out her 
hand, more as a token of intent than as an offer of touching. 

Shounach smiJed, jumped easily down from the platform, his 
jacket swinging opening to show the flat, hard muscJes of his chest. 
He slipped the strap of the bag over his shoulder, slapped it into 
place against his side, then walked the two steps to the woman's 
side. "My pleasure. Lady," he said quietly. He reached out and 
aJmost touched her hand, letting his hand hover over hers for a 
moment as he smiled into the dark brown eyes. Her red hair fluttered 
gentJy as the litter moved toward the gate to the market. She lisped 
banaJ and impertinent questions, her eyes moving over him with 
the possessive expression of a herdsman assessing a prize bull. At 
the gate he looked up and saw Gleia watching him, an odd expres- 
COMPANIONING 133 



sion on her /ace, a gentJe vulnerable look as fleeting as a moment's 
thought. She turned and moved away with the tall, dark woman 
beside her. He glanced back a moment later, saw the cluster of soft 
brown curls held high, saw a brief arc of cheek as Gleia turned to 
talk to the strange woman. A sharp note in the Lossal's daughter's 
voice brought his attention hack to her. He listened to her question, 
then answered her as they walked along the broad avenue leading 
to the Families' quarter, walled in, apart from the rest of the city. 

Gleia picked up the pouch, poured the coins into her hand, frown- 
ing as she counted the diminishing supply. With a sigh she dumped 
the coins back in the pouch, jerked the drawstring tight, and slipped 
the loop over her head, dropping the pouch inside her cafta to dangle 
between her breasts. She brushed off the bottoms of her feet, slid 
them into sandals, ran a comb through her tangled curls, went out. 
She grimaced with disgust as she locked the door and slipped the 
key into her pocket; given thirty seconds and a bit of bent wire she'd 
be inside with no trouble at all. Good thing there isn't much to steal. 

Outside, she looked up, shading her eyes with one hand. The sky 
was clear, with blue Hesh edging past fuzzy red Horli. She pulled 
the hood of her cafta up over her head. The respite was over. With 
Hesh emerging from behind Horli she'd have to watch her exposure. 
The blue sun was a killer. She stepped back and stood waiting as 
clusters of men moved past, some strolling, others walking briskly. 

"Gleia, thanks for waiting." Deel came rushing up, her cloak flut- 
tering about her long legs. "Merd had some time off this morning 
and I couldn't get away earlier." 

Gleia turned, began walking along beside her, threading through 
the thickening crowd as late sleepers joined those already moving, 
blending into the same mix as before, even to the compact group of 
veiled women. Gleia nodded at them. "You know who or what they 
are?" 

Deel followed the nod and saw the women. She shivered. "Never 
mind them." She sounded uncomfortable. 

"Why?" Gleia caught hold of Deel's arm. "Who are they?" 

"They call themselves trail women," Deel said reluctantly. "Come 
from somewhere upriver like the boatmen. Men say they're witches, 
unnatural creatures; they live together, won't let men in their com- 
pounds; lot of funny stories about them and when I say funny I don't 
mean ha-ha." 

With Gleia silent, thinking over what she'd just heard, and Deel 
too disturbed to talk, the two women wound through the streets 
134 JO CLAYTON 



toward the row of cook shops in the shadow of the outside wall. 

After buying meat pies and mugs of cha, Gleia and Deel moved 
outside and sat down on a shadowed bench in a quiet corner where 
the massive outer wall turned to follow the line of the river. Deel 
finished the meat pie quickly, lifted the cheap clay mug to her lips, 
her amber eyes sweeping over Gleia. "Still no sign?" 

"No." Gleia sipped at her cha, then settled back, pushing the hood 
off her head with a sigh of pleasure. 

Deel chuckled, unfastened the clip holding her cloak around her 
shoulders and let it fall away. She shook the springy, foaming curls 
haloing her head, pushed straying tendrils off her face. "He must 
be something special, your man." She raised an eyebrow. "Most of 
Toreykyn's fancies don't last half this long." Her mouth turned down 
again. "If she gets too taken with him, the Lossal will open the eyes 
he keeps shut. Then, good-bye Juggler." 

Gleia folded both hands about the coarse clay of her cup, sipped 
at the cooling cha. She could feel the clay clicking dully against her 
teeth. Her hands were shaking. The cha burned down her throat. 
After a moment she rested the cup on her thigh, feeling the spot of 
warmth through the material of her cafta. "What choice do people 
like us have? We do what we must to stay alive." 

Deel leaned back, her amber eyes narrowed, her long legs like 
polished wood coming through the slits in her costume. "Istir's no 
place for a woman on her own. You should look around, find yourself 
a protector." She grinned at Gleia's grimace. "No need to make faces, 
girl; it's the truth and you know it." 

Gleia's mouth twitched. She rubbed her thumb under her lower 
lip, then stroked the scars on her cheek. "No," she said quietly. 
"Deel, I've been on my own since I was born. I wouldn't know how 
to act with a protector." She took a long swallow of cha, lowered the 
mug back to her thigh. "And I don't want to learn." 

"What about the Juggler?" 

"That's different." 

Deel snorted. "It always is." 

Gleia scowled stubbornly. "You don't know." She examined Deel's 
face over the edge of the mug as she lifted it to her lips. "What 
happened to your eye?" 

Deel grimaced. "Merd. His captain's been riding him hard the 
past few days so he takes it out on me." 

"And you want me to fmd a protector. No thanks, friend." 

Deel spread out long slender arms, her narrow hands turning in 
quick flashing gestures. "Lot worse than Merd around. Me being a 

COMPANIONING 135 



dancer, I get lots of hassles. Some of the bosses're worse than the 
drunks hanging around the bar when I dance. Since I've been with 
Merd, both types leave me alone. He got physical with hecklers and 
clods hard-timing me." She chuckled. "He's half as big as a house 
and a Harrier besides. No one wants to get the Families stirred up. 
It's worth a few lumps. Anyway, he's not so bad." She shrugged, 
stroked her finger along the clean-cut curve of her upper lip. "You 
wouldn't be bad looking if you covered up those scars. Why don't 
you let me give you some stuff I have? I'll show you how to fix 
yourself up." 

Gleia grinned at Deel. "I don't give a damn about trying to change 
myself, friend. I know how I look. I like the way I look." 

"Dumb." Deel leaned forward, spread her hands out in front of 
Gleia. They were meticulously manicured, the nails polished a dark 
plum that matched the gloss she wore on her lips. "Put your hands 
by mine." 

Gleia spread her smaller hands beside the dancer's. Short fingers, 
short nails, the tip of her middle finger and the side of one thumb 
rough as sandstone from repeated needle pricks. 

Deel clucked with distress. "Didn't anyone ever show you how to 
take care of yourself?" She lifted one of Gleia's hands and turned 
it over, scowling at the dry skin of the palm. "You got any money 
left?" 

"A little." Gleia gently freed her hand. "I've almost finished em- 
broidering a shawl. A couple hours' work left on it. I could use some 
help finding a reasonably honest merchant to buy it." 

"Got it, hon." Deel frowned, tapping the tips of her fingernails 
lightly on the amber silk covering her thighs. "I'll see if I can get 
hold of Merd. With him along, no merchant's going to cheat you 
more than reasonable. If your man's not back by tomorrow morning 
we can grab a bite to eat and hunt out a couple men I know of 
What're you going to do once you've got the money?" 

Gleia was silent a long moment. Finally she smoothed her hand 
across her eyes. "I don't know," she said slowly. "Last night I thought 
I'd leave. Now ... I don't know. I . . ." She stopped talking, shook 
her head, sat frowning at the dregs of cha in the mug. "Deel, what's 
happening here in Istir? What's got people so stirred up?" 

The amber eyes studied her, then the dancer nodded. "Right. You 
and your Juggler picked a bad time to come here." Deel crossed her 
arms over her breasts and leaned forward until her head was close 
to Gleia's. "The Stareyn's getting feeble, so I hear. They don't let 
it out, the Families, I mean, but a lot of people work in the Kiralydom 
136 JO CLAYTON 



and go home to their families when their hours are done. So people 
know more than the Families think. And Merd has duty in the 
Kiralydom twice a week. He tells me the Stareyn drools and goes 
to sleep in the middle of what he's saying. He's a Sokklaun, the 
Stare5ni, I mean. The Sokkla have held the Stareynate for the past 
three Stareyns which means they've ruled Istir and the Istraven for 
years and years. But the Lossalni are prowling around ready to take 
it from them soon's they figure out how." She looked cautiously 
around, then leaned closer and whispered, "Rumor is they have. The 
Stareyn's Lot is supposed to be tamperproof, pure chance, but men 
keep saying the Lossal's found a way to change the odds. Me . . ." 
She glanced about again, but none of the men moving past seemed 
interested in them. "Me, I'm thinking hard of getting out of here, 
maybe going south to Zindaira. I've got family there. And I'm a 
damn good dancer. I won't starve. Why don't you come with me? 
You said you were thinking of leaving. Two women would be safer 
than one." 

"What about Merd?" 

"I'll miss the big idiot, but I'd miss my head a lot more. If the 
Stareyn goes, he'll be on duty till he drops. What I see, there's going 
to be a lot of trouble. When powerful families fight, the little people 
get smashed flat. Like you said, you can feel the tension even here 
in the Stranger's Quarter. Any day now the mess starts. One of the 
reasons Merd's captain is so edgy." She giggled. "One of the reasons 
I got this eye." She looked up. Clouds were beginning to thicken 
over the suns. "Damn. It's going to be a wet night. On top of every- 
thing else that means the Horn is going to be wall-to-wall boatmen." 
She hitched her cloak back around her, fastened the chain and pin. 
"Think about what I said, Gleia. The Juggler's got himself in a real 
sticky spot. The Lossal, that little viper, would poison half the city 
to protect his daughter. He'll never admit even to himself that she 
sleeps around worse than a whore. Six days now." She shook her 
head. "Don't think you'll see him again, Gleia." Sighing she stood 
and pulled up the hood of her cloak. "I've got to go. Merd's coming 
back later this afternoon and he expects me to be home. Think over 
what I said. If you want to leave, come with me." 

Gleia watched her swing off, then looked down at the skim of cha 
left in the mug. With a sharp cry of pain and frustration, she tight- 
ened her fingers about the mug then flung it against the wall where 
it crashed into crumbly shards that pattered softly on the stone 
pavement seconds later. She dropped her head into her hands, her 
dilemma intensified by Deel's offer. "Shounach, Shounach," she 
COMPANIONING I37 



whispered. "What should I do? If I knew what was happeniijg to 
you. If I knew . . . knew why me . . . why you try so hard with 
me ... if I knew ... if I knew what I . . . Ranga Eyes . . ." She lifted 
her head and stared down at cupped hands, remembering the whis- 
pering temptations of the egg-shaped crystal she'd found in the 
streets of Carhenas; she'd looked into the crystal and seen beauty 
and friendship, an idyllic world that called strongly to her. She'd 
denied that temptation once to walk her own road; now the Ranga 
Eyes were back in her life, back with Shounach. / wish the smuggler 
hadn't told you where he got the eyes he sold. If it wasn't for those 
damn eyes you wouldn't have gone off with her . . . and left 
me . . . Madar bless, I don't know . . . I don't know . . . / don't 
know. . . . She jumped to her feet, jerked up the hood, walked 
quickly away. 

Late that evening when she came back to her room, tired from 
wandering aimlessly about the market quarters, she shut the door 
and turned to find rain drifting in through the open shutters. With 
an exclamation of annoyance, she ran to the window and reached 
out to unhook the braces, the rain misting into her face. 

Four large men came trotting down the street, rain painting high- 
lights on their oiled skins and running down the sides of the elab- 
orate litter they carried. Gleia recognized the blue curtains, stiffened, 
wondering whether she was glad or not to see it. 

Shounach slid out, shook his bright head as the misting rain 
settled on his hair, pressed a lingering kiss onto the small, plump 
hand thrust through the curtains after him. Ignoring the rain slant- 
ing down harder now, he watched the litter move off, then looked 
up. When he saw Gleia, he grinned, waved, ran into the building. 

Gleia swung the shutters closed and dropped the bar-latch. She 
moved to the bed and sat down, shoulders bent, feeling strange. All 
the pain, anger, and uncertainty was back. 

He rapped on the door. "Gleia, open up." 

She slid off the bed, kicked off her sandals, padded to the door. 
After a momentary hesitation, she turned the key in the lock and 
retreated to the windowseat. Her body tucked into the corner where 
the walls met, she sat with legs pulled up, hands resting on her 
knees. 

Shounach stepped inside, shut the door, looked around. The only 
light in the room came from the torches in the hall, trickling in 
through the cracks around the door. He was a nervous shadow in 
the darkness. She could hear him moving about, could feel his an- 
138 JO CLAYTON 



noyance in the jerky movement. He dropped his bag beside the bed. 
"Gleia?" 

She closed her eyes. Accusations, bitter complaints, questions 
boiled inside her, all of them futile, it seemed to her. Without speak- 
ing she watched him light the lamp. Her hands were shaking again. 
She folded her arms across her breasts, hugging the cafta tight 
against herself, waiting for him to speak. 

"Sitting in the dark?" 

She examined his face, still saying nothing. He looked tired and 
irritated, but the grinding frustration that had been wearing him 
down was gone; he'd found out what he needed to know. She swal- 
lowed and let her eyes drop. 

"Sulking?" He dropped onto the bed and began pulling off his 
boots. "Come here." With a grin he patted the bed beside him. "Got 
some good news." 

She pulled her legs up farther, pushed back into the corner. "No." 

He slipped out of the loose jacket and threw it on the floor by the 
boots. "What's eating at you?" 

Sucking in a deep breath, she fought with the urge to spill her 
anger over him; she swallowed repeatedly, finally burst out, "Five 
damn days and not a word!" 

"You knew where I was." He started undoing the fastening of his 
trousers. "And why I went there." 

She heard the irritation in his voice as he snapped the words at 
her; it sparked her own anger. "So?" She wriggled out of the corner 
and swung her legs off the windowseat. "It couldn't have been that 
hard to get a word, one word, out to me. Let me know you're still 
alive. How do you think I feel when I hear how jealous the Lossal 
is of his daughter, that he'd poison half the city for her?" She leaned 
forward, her hands closed tight around the edge of the seat. "I saw 
her; she's beautiful. I never knew why you took up with me; you 
could decide to pack it in any time." She lifted her head, stared at 
him, the anger draining from her. He looked tired and unhappy. His 
shoulders slumped. He wiped a hand across his face, dropped the 
hand on his knee. Gleia closed her eyes a moment, opened them 
again, said, "You did forget me, didn't you?" 

"You finished?" 

"No. But what's the point of going further?" She shrugged. "I 
planned to leave tomorrow — when I thought you weren't coming 
back." 

"And now that I have?" 

"I don't know." 
COMPANIONING 139 



§ § § 

Gleia was leaning back against the shutters, her face lost in 
shadow. The loose cafta fell about her body, concealing it, but her 
hands were restless, fingers twitching, palms brushing over her 
thighs, shifting across the wood of the windowseat. Shounach sup- 
pressed a burst of anger, felt a frisson of fear as this repeated an old 
pain. He was afraid of his anger, afraid of what it made him do. 
She'd wriggled in under his skin without knowing what she'd done, 
had stirred up emotions he'd thought dead. He rubbed his hand 
across his face again. He was tired, half-sick with a self-loathing 
born of his pandering to Toreykyn's fancies, sick too from the ancient 
anger that drove him after the Ranga Eyes. He watched her hands 
a minute, then asked, "What do you want to do?" For the first time 
in far too many years he found himself caring about what another 
person decided; he could feel long-stifled emotions unfolding pain- 
fully. He tried to shut them away again as he waited for her answer, 
arms crossed tightly over his chest. 

For several minutes she said nothing. Her hand lifted, her fingers 
moved slowly over her scars — her talismans. "I don't know." 

"You said that before." He smiled briefly, let the smile fade when 
she continued to stare past him. 

"I said it to myself a lot the past two, three days. Until I was sick 
of hearing it." She sat up, bringing her face into the light. "I don't 
know if I can run double; that's the truth." 

"I see." He looked down at his boots, at the jacket falling over 
them. After wriggling out of his trousers, he carried bag, boots, and 
clothing to the wall pegs where Gleia's bag already hung, its canvas 
sides bulging. He touched it, looked over his shoulder at Gleia. 
"You're ready to go. All packed." 

She thrust her fingers impatiently through her hair. "I told you." 

•"So you did." He dropped the bag and boots, hung jacket and pants 
on the pegs, then walked slowly back to the bed, stretching and 
yawning as he moved. After stripping the quilt back until it pooled 
at the foot of the bed, he lay down on his back, pulled a pillow under 
his head, folded it, wriggled about until he was comfortable. "Come 
here, Gleia. I'm tired of yelling across a room at you." 

Smiling reluctantly, she shook her head. "I don't trust you, Fox. 
You could talk a tars into skinning himself for you." 

"That windowseat looks damn uncomfortable and it gets cold be- 
fore dawn." He rolled onto his side, propped himself up on an elbow 
and held out his hand. "Don't be silly, love. Come here and listen 
to the story of my life." 

"Damn you, Fox." She slid off the windowseat. "Five days in that 
140 JO CLAYTON 



bitch's bed. I should kick you out that window." She jerked her head 
back at the shutters, then began pulling the cafta over her head. 
Her words muffled, she went on, "You don't know how tempted I 
am." After draping the cafta over the unfinished shawl on the bed- 
side table, she blew out the lamp, then stretched out beside Shoun- 
ach, lying on her stomach, her head resting on crossed arms. "The 
story of your life?" 

"A part of it." He smoothed his hand slowly down the curve of her 

back, her flesh cool and taut under his fmgers. "I had a brother 

once." Catching hold of one of her curls, he drew the silky length 

between thumb and forefinger. "A long time ago. A half-brother 

^ really, although we grew up almost like twins." 

She pushed his hand away, turned slightly on her side. "I'm mak- 
ing no promises, Shounach. Tell me what you want, but remember, 
it won't make any difference. I'll make up my own mind; I won't be 
pushed." She settled back on the bed. What he could see of her face 
was set in stubborn lines. 

He turned on his back, stared into the shadows thick on the ceil- 
ing. "Remember how we met?" 

"On that ship the Thissik stole. Why?" 

"You told me you couldn't remember your parents. They must 
have been mountain folk." He lay silent. The noise from the taproom 
filtered up the stairs and hovered over them. Shounach could feel 
Gleia resisting him; she was moving away. Could have been a mis- 
take bringing her this close, he thought. / don't know. He smiled into 
the darkness, scratched at an arm. After three centuries of wander- 
ing, to know so little . . . 

"When the Thissik brought you in and dumped you on that bunk 
I thought I'd been fooling around too much with the Eyes. I saw my 
brother . . . you could have been his twin." 

"Your brother?" She pushed up from the bed, swung around until 
she was sitting cross-legged, looking down at him. "Your brother? 
All this time you've been making love to your brother?" There was 
anger and revulsion in her voice. She started to slide off the bed. 

He caught her ankle. "Don't be stupid." 

"Let go." She kicked her foot, trying to shake him loose. 

He hesitated a minute then released her. "Go if you want." At the 
same time he rolled over, turning his back on her, waiting tensely 
to see if his gamble worked. There was silence for several minutes 
then he heard the sheets rustling as she stretched out on her stomach 
again. 

"Well?" The word was sharp, almost spat at him. 
COMPANIONING 141 



"Well what?" He grinned into the darkness, but kept his amuse- 
ment out of his voice. 

"What has your brother got to do with anything?" 

"Ummmph." He turned on his back again, punched the pillow up, 
angled his head so he could see her. Her face was lost in shadow, 
her curls tumbling forward until all he could see was the curve of 
her jawline. "Half-brother," he said, and saw her start at the sound 
of his voice. "Same father, different mothers; my mother was a red- 
haired witch with a curse on her head. She ..." He stopped ab- 
ruptly, finding after all that he couldn't talk about her even now. 
"Never mind. My brother had a temper like yours, Gleia. Lava-hot 
one minute, gone the next. I was different. I held grudges a long, 
long time, love. Far beyond any reasonable point. I found a Ranga 
Eye one day, fished it out of the river that ran past the back of the 
house where my family lived. If you're interested, that's the river 
that comes to sea a little south of Carhenas." 

Gleia made a soft startled sound. He shifted onto his side, 
smoothed the hair back off her face, touched the scars on her cheek. 
"Odd to think we might be related, isn't it?" 

"I thought you were off-world born. You let me think that." 

He raised up on his elbow and began smoothing his hand over her 
back. "I don't talk about this much. I killed my brother." 

"Shounach." She wriggled around, caught his hand — then drew 
back, peered through the darkness at his face, her skepticism re- 
turning. 

He closed his hand about hers, drawing strength from her. The 
next part was painful; no matter how he struggled to distance him- 
self from the memory, he could still see his brother's emptied face. 
"I was about six standard-years old, Gleia. The Eye was shining in 
the gravel at the bottom of the river. I took it to the bench where 
my father liked to spend his mornings and sat with it, turning it 
over and over, fascinated as it began playing its dreams for me. You 
know. Before it could take me, the bell rang for the evening Madar- 
chant. I hid the Eye in the roots of the tree and went inside. The 
next day my brother and I quarrelled over . . . something. Some- 
thing so unimportant I can't even remember what it was. That night 
I set the Eye beside him, then went to bed, pleased with myself, 
figuring he'd lose a night's sleep and be punished for it in the morn- 
ing. He must have been extra-sensitive. In the morning he was 
already lost. Burnt hollow." He pulled his hand free, moved away 
from her, lay staring up into the shifting shadows. The ancient 
anger was growing; he struggled to control it. "I ran away," he 
142 JO CLAYTON 



muttered. "Couldn't face up to what Fd done. Got off-world after a 
while. Wandered about a lot, running away from myself much as 
anything. Taught myself not to feel. Something happened not long 
ago, sent me back here." 

"Hunting for the Ranga Eyes." 

"Hunting," he said harshly. Turning his head to her, he half- 
smiled, a quick upward jerking of one corner of his mouth. "I told 
you I hold grudges a long time." 

Outside, the rain hissed down, drumming steadily against the 
shutters. Voices from the taproom below rose and fell. In the silence 
that followed, Shounach could hear curses as a man was thrown out 
into the wet, then his pounding feet as he ran for another shelter. 
Beside him Gleia shifted restlessly; she pushed up on one elbow and 
flattened her hand on his chest. She was smiling a little, the whites 
of her eyes gleaming softly in the dimness. "What happened these 
past six days?" Catching a bit of flesh between thumb and fingernail, 
she pinched hard. "And don't brag about your conquest. I don't want 
to hear about it." 

He laughed, happy with her, caught her hand. "You delight me, 
my vixen. Damn, I've missed you." 

She pulled away. "No promises, Fox." Her voice was cool; she 
wasn't about to let him talk her into forgetting her doubts. 

He sucked in a deep breath, let it explode out. "What happened? 
I performed for the household and for the daughter of the House. 
In between times I wandered about, asked a few questions, listened 
a lot, and found out nothing at all about the Lossal and the Ranga 
Eyes. Though I listened to more than I wanted to hear about the 
Lossal and his activities." He yawned, then laced his hands over his 
ribs. "Until last night." 

He slid carefully from the bed, stood looking down at the sleeping 
Toreykyn, fiiJed with souJ-weariness and self-loathing. "Whore," he 
whispered and didn't mean the woman snoring slightly, her face 
slack, empty for once of the greed and fretfulness that marred its 
beauty. He passed a hand over his face, then turned away from her, 
trying to throw off his weariness of body and spirit. 

Aab's light crept through the curtains, turned the darkness into 
a pearl-grey shimmer. Shounach dressed quickly, then knelt beside 
his hag, reaching through the membrane into the hyper-pocket for 
his tools. He hung a tingJer in his ear, a pear-shaped red gem that 
would warn him of electronic spying. The Lossal's iron birds had 
startled him; they had no place in this pre-industrial society. As he 
COMPANIONING I43 



slid the finder ring on his finger, he wondered idly about the source 
of the birds. Off-world trader probably. He turned the grey-white 
stone inward, his lips tightening as he saw a faint gJimmer in the 
dull gem. The finder was tuned to Ranga Eyes. For tJie first time he 
had evidence of their connection with the Lossal. He transferred 
lock picks, a small stunner, a cutter, and a laser rod to his pocket, 
then closed the bag. 

Toreykyn stirred, muttered. Holding his breath, Shounach went 
quickly back to her. She was still asleep but moving restlessly. He 
touched her temples, concentrated, sent her deeper into sleep. 
Straightening, he drew the tips of his fingers down his jacket. She 
was snoring again, soft little whistling snores. She even lisps in her 
sleep, he thought. His revulsion passed off and he felt only pity. She 
was, after all, a rather stupid woman without enough imagination 
to be evil. 

He left her and moved to the window. For the past two days he'd 
been trying to get into the room the Lossal called his library. He'd 
tried every avenue he couJd discover, had returned again and again 
at different times during the day and night; tiiere were guards around 
aJJ the time, people going in and out at all hours of day and night. 
There was one last thing he could try — going in from the outside. 
He slipped through the heavy drapes and went into the window on 
his stomach. The wall here was five feet thick and the window 
narrowed as it went outward, but it was still high enough for him 
to sit upright when he reached the outer opening. He wriggJed 
around until he was sitting with his legs dangJing among the vine 
tendrils, the over-sweet perfume of the vine fruit strong around him. 

The garden beJow was siJent, filled with a peace that seemed to 
mock him. The shrubbery and trees were dark areas separated by 
the paler grass and the silver gJint of streams converging on the 
fountain in the center. Beyond the garden, the wall that shut in the 
privileged part of the city was dark and suJien, its creneJJations 
etched against the torchlight from the market quarter beyond. He 
started to push out of the window, then stopped as he saw three 
figures moving at a rapid walk from the Stranger's Quarter, heading 
for the inner gate. He watched with considerable curiosity, high 
enough so he couJd Jook down into the wide street but too high to 
see more than vague dark shapes. As the shapes disappeared behind 
the wall, Shounach felt heat against the palm of his iiand. He looked 
down, excitement coJd in his stomach. SJowJy he unfolded his fin- 
gers, uncovering the finder gem. The glow was getting stronger. 

As the three appeared on the near side of the gate, a pair of iron 
144 JO CLAYTON 



birds swooped from the house to circle around the gate towers. 
Shounach frowned, then pushed out from the window and floated 
down close to the wall, dropping through wavering vine tendrils, 
his eyes fixed on the birds. 

He landed crouching, scrambled back into the shadow close to 
the wall. The vine stalks were ancient twisting monsters with loose, 
fibrous bark that curled away from the inner wood and came loose 
at the slightest touch, dinging to the materia] of his trousers, even 
to his bare feet and hands. He grimaced, brushed cautiously at the 
itchy fragments, looking out through the skim of leaves at the birds. 

One of them hesitated in its circle, then came soaring around over 
the garden. Shounach slid his hand into his jacket pocket, closed 
his fingers about the laser rod, siJentJy cursing the bird. He had to 
get a look at those men, had to know who was bringing the Ranga 
Eyes to the Lossal. The smell of the vine fruit was stronger, near- 
stifling here. The leaves whispered, the vine stalks groaned and 
thrummed in the rising wind. In the trees and brushes he could hear 
a few night birds crying, night insects creaking and chirping. And 
over aJi the small night sounds, he could hear the steady humming 
of the iron bird. 

It circled the garden and came back along the House wall. Ruby 
Jight shot suddenly from the eye and began sweeping along the 
wall's base. Shounach waited tensely; once he used the laser, he'd 
have to get out fast. The red light splashed on stone and leaves, 
moved swiftly toward him. 

The gate in the garden wall swung open and the three men came 
through. Two were Lossalni Harriers, the third a boatman from 
upriver; an important man, Shounach thought, judging by his strut. 
An ugJy, arrogant man hugging a large leather pouch against his 
barrel belly. Shounach stared greedily, his ring hand clenched in 
a fist, the ring-fire burning into his palm. Madar be blessed, he 
thought, echoing the formula of his childhood. The Fox's luck, as 
Gleia would say. Forgetting about the searching bird, he stared at 
the man, fixing the blunt, lined features in his mind. 

The boatman looked up, saw the bird. "Get that damn thing away 
from me." He stopped walking, glared stubbornly at the Harrier. 
"Not another step till that abomination is gone." 

Shounach started, then held himself very still as the bark and 
leaves rustled noisily against the stone; he cursed the obsession that 
made him forget the danger he was in, looked back at the bird. The 
red light had stopped moving about six feet from him and the bird 
was bouncing up and down in the air as if it rode invisible waves. 

COMPANIONING 145 



"It sensed something or someone in the garden. I'll . . ." The Har- 
rier broke off as the bird hummed away from the wall and darted 
back to the gate. "Must Ve been nothing. Come on. No talking once 
we're inside. Not till we're with the Lossal." The boatman nodded 
and the three men walked rapidly across the garden to the recessed 
door with its small flight of steps. Shounach crouched in the shad- 
ows, not daring to follow them, watching them go with a sick feeling 
of futility. Shaking with anger and frustration, he pressed the heels 
of his hands against his eyes, trying to convince himseJf that he had 
all he needed. He's a boatman and I know his face. He leaned against 
the stone, dizzy from the fumes of the vine fruit, too tired to force 
himself farther. 

"I went back to the room, tucked things back in the bag, slept 
hard until Toreykyn woke me the next morning." He yawned, turned 
on his side, trying to make out her features in the darkness. 

Gleia pushed her hair back from her face, raised on one elbow. 
"A boatman." She swung up, sat cross-legged, elbows on her knees, 
chin braced on her hands, her curls falling forward around her face 
as she focused her eyes on him. "You've got the next step. What 
now?" She hesitated a moment, then went on, "Deel says the Stareyn 
is close to dying." 

"Deel?" 

"You saw her — that time you went off with Toreykyn. The dancer 
standing next to me. She says when the Stareyn dies, the Families 
lock the gates and don't let anyone in or out until the Stareyn's Lot 
has been cast and the new Stareyn installed. That could make prob- 
lems for you." 

"For me?" 

"Deel's leaving soon; she asked me to go south with her." 

"I see. Are you?" 

"I don't know." She started laughing, straightened her back, 
stretched extravagantly, then folded her arms across her breasts. 
"Stop pushing. Fox." She yawned suddenly. "Madar, I'm tired." She 
patted at her mouth, yawned again. "In the morning. We can talk 
this out in the morning." 

Gleia jerked upright, dazed with sleep, as the door slammed open 
and a Harrier stalked inside. Shounach came awake like a startled 
animal, diving off the bed in a swift movement that changed into 
an awkward scramble as the quilt twisted around his legs. He kicked 
it away and ran for his bag. 

146 JO CLAYTON 



The Harrier yelled an order and Shounach came to an abrupt stop, 
a sword at his throat. A third man came in, an archer. He stepped 
away from the door, a bolt ready in his crossbow, his dark, cynical 
eyes turning between Gleia and Shounach. The leader of the three 
waved a hand; Shounach was backed into the center of the room 
where he stood, narrowed eyes turning constantly as he searched 
for an opening. The lead Harrier tossed Shounach's clothing at his 
feet. "Get dressed," he said crisply. He turned to Gleia. "You too, 
girl. On your feet and put something on." While Gleia pulled the 
cafta over her head and smoothed it down, he moved about the room, 
poking into its meager furnishings, tossing the two bags onto the 
bed, throwing the unfinished shawl over them. Shounach fastened 
his trousers and slipped his arms into the sleeves of his loose open 
jacket, watching grimly as the burly lead Harrier thrust his arm 
through the two straps and shrugged the bags up against his side. 
He turned to frown at Shounach. "The Lossal wants you. Don't try 
nothin'; Herv there can wing a gnat." He nodded at the archer. "We 
can tie you on a pole and haul you to him like a side of meat. Or 
you can walk. Up to you." 

"I walk." Shounach held out his hand. Gleia took it and together 
they walked out the door, the leader ahead and the other two Har- 
riers following close behind. 

The rain had stopped; the pavement glistened wetly in starlight 
that had broken through the tattered clouds. The torches were ex- 
tinguished in front of the taverns and all the buildings in the 
Stranger's Quarter were dark and silent. In the near distance she 
could hear the shouts and other noises of the produce carts coming 
into the produce market. The only other sounds were the shuffle of 
their feet on the wet stone. 

The Library was a large room, filled with racks of scrolls and 
layers of flat pages sewn together. Between the piles of books, the 
piles of scrolls, sat small statues, vases, objects that glowed with 
color. The corners of the room disappeared in red-tinted gloom as 
the dawn light fanned through the line of long, narrow windows in 
the outer wall, red light with motes dancing in the beams like points 
of fire. The Lossal sat behind a massive table in a low-backed mas- 
sive chair. He was a small man with an exuberant halo of white 
hair touched dramatically with crimson by the light pouring in the 
window just behind him, haloed in crimson light so that his features 
other than the pale glint of colorless eyes were lost in shadow. He 
sat waiting for them, watching them intently as the Harriers es- 
COMPANIONING 147 




corted them into the room. The leader set the two bags on the table 
in front of him. 

"As ordered, Lossal-vais." 

The chair and table had elongated legs so the old man's eyes were 
on a level with theirs though he was sitting while they stood. His 
pale eyes moved past the Juggler, stopped on Gleia. "Why'd you 
bring the woman?" 

"She was in bed with him, Lossal-vas." 

Gleia shivered as she saw him frown, then glance upward. Deel's 
wrong, she thought. He knows about Toreykyn's fancies. He knows 
about her and Shounach. 

The Lossal leaned forward and hooked Shounach's bag toward 
him. He flipped the top back and pulled out the contents — the blue 
glass balls, the red crystals, three small gilded dragons, a gilt dancer 
balancing on one foot, some bits of facetted glass, cheap brass jew- 
elry, some crumpled scarves and dingey rags and fragments, other 
odds and ends. He upended the bag, shook it, then set it aside. 
Pushing the balls about with his forefinger, he smiled tightly at 
Shounach. "These look a lot better by torchlight and at a distance. 
Like you. Juggler." Sweeping everything from the table back into 
the bag, he dropped the bag beside his chair, then began investi- 
gating Gleia's possessions. As he fingered her spare caftas and 



148 



JO CLAYTON 



reached for the unfinished shawl, Gleia forced herself to stay quiet, 
anger burning in her at this invasion of her privacy. He unfolded 
the shawl, touched the design, fingered the needle, then swept the 
shawl aside and took up the two handkerchiefs. He spread them out 
on the table before him, ran his fingers over the fine stitching. He 
dug through the rest of the things in the bag — her bag of thread, 
her book of needles, the tambour hoop, the small thread-knife with 
its razor-edged half-inch blade and horn casing, a ragged brush and 
some cakes of black ink, some parchment for sketching designs. He 
unrolled the wrinkled parchment, examined the scribbled sketches. 
After contemplating these for several minutes, he pushed the other 
things aside and pulled the shawl back in front of him. Smoothing 
the soft black triangle out on the table, he ran his fingers slowly 
along the band of silver and green embroidery above the elaborately 
knotted fringe. 

Fuming and impotent, Gleia hugged her arms across her breasts 
and refused to look at the old man. The room was still; the only 
sounds were the soft rasp of the old man's dry fingers over the cloth 
and the steady breathing of the men beside her. There was a dry, 
dusty smell to the room, a dusty smell to the old man as if he sat 
here like a withered spider, fingers on the threads of his plots. 

The Lossal dropped the shawl and leaned back in his massive 
chair, dominating it and the room by the cold intensity of his col- 
orless eyes. "Bring the woman closer." 

Gleia jerked her arm away from the Harrier's hand, marched up 
to the table and stood glaring at the Lossal, too angry to give in to 
the fear that was clutching her stomach. 

The Lossal leaned forward, frowned. "Turn your face." His eyes 
opened a little wider. "Show me the marks." 

Reluctantly, Gleia turned her head. She moved stiffly, forcing 
herself to an outward calm she was far from feeling inside. Her 
fingers twitched; her hand stirred, started to lift to her face; she 
stiffened her arm, brought her hand back to her side. 

"Carhenas marks. Thief?" 

"Yes." Her voice was harsh. Though he waited, obviously expect- 
ing her to expand her statement or justify herself, she said nothing 
more. 

He placed his hands palm down on the shawl. "Your work?" 

"Yes." 

"You're his woman?" He pointed at the Juggler. 

Gleia stirred; she glanced at Shounach's blank face, then she 
shrugged. "For now." 
COMPANIONING 149 



He reached over, picked up the hmp money bag, his eyes on her, 
a small tight smile curving his thin lips. "You don't need this now." 
His smile widened and he tossed the pouch to the leader of the 
Harriers. "A small bonus for a good job, Ciyger." 

Gleia clenched her hands, watching the money she and Shounach 
had worked hard to earn thrown so negligently away. Anger and 
a growing fear alternately burned and chilled her. Once again her 
skill was saving her neck; her fear wasn't for herself. What she'd 
begun to understand on Zuwayl's ship was coming clearer to her. 
What happened to Shounach happened to her; she was vulnerable 
in a way she'd never been before. The thought dismayed her, made 
her more uncertain than ever about what path she should take in 
the future. 

"Move aside, girl." The Lossal's impatient command brought her 
from her unhappy thoughts; hastily she moved from in front of him 
and stood watching as the Harriers brought Shounach forward. 

She stared. He looked furtive, cunning; his shoulders were 
rounded, his head thrust forward, an ingratiating smile twisted his 
mouth upward. Unconsciously she relaxed, realizing that the Fox 
was fitting himself into the Lossal's image of him, intending that 
the Lossal despise him and in despising him underestimate his ca- 
pability. She glanced at the Lossal, saw him watching her, began 
to feel uneasy again. She clasped her hands behind her and tried 
to keep her face blank. 

The Lossal shifted his gaze to Shounach. "Juggler." His voice was 
silken smooth. Gleia heard amusement crouching behind the soft- 
ness and felt a lump of ice growing in her stomach. His next words 
weren't a surprise, she'd been waiting for them since the Harriers 
had broken in on them. "Tell me what you were doing in the garden 
last night." 

The smile was wiped from Shounach's face; he looked startled and 
increasingly nervous. He rubbed a shaking hand over his mouth 
and stared at the floor. Forgotten for the moment, Gleia began to 
enjoy his performance. Nothing overstated, she thought. He's turned 
into a whole other person. "The bird spotted me," he muttered. He 
shivered, his eyes turning and turning, visibly searching for some 
escape from this difficulty. The Lossal waited, fingers tapping on 
the table. Shounach seemed to collapse in on himself "I'm a thief," 
he said sullenly. "Too many people in the halls, couldn't lay my 
hands on anything worth the trouble. I went down the wall, meant 
to come inside on this floor, see if I could pick up something worth 
putting my head in the strangler's noose." When he finished, his 
150 JO CLAYTON 



words were coming fast, piling out one on top the other, but the last 
words trailed off under the Lossal's cool and skeptical gaze. 

Reptilian lids drooping over pale eyes, the Lossal studied Shoun- 
ach's face. "You could be the trash you seem." He waved away 
Shounach's protests. "No matter. I'll find out." The jerk of his head 
brought the lead Harrier to the table. "Take that downstairs; tell 
Ottan Ironmaster to play with him a little, find out what he knows. 
I don't think he'll find anything interesting so he doesn't have to 
waste effort trying to keep the Juggler alive. Leave one of your men 
here to take the girl." 

Gleia swung around, her hands pressed briefly over her mouth, 
then pulled back to her sides. Shounach went without further pro- 
test, without even a look at her. It would have worked, Gleia thought. 
It would have worked except for Toreykyn. She turned back to face 
the Lossal. His hands were folded on the table; a small, satisfied 
smile pulled his thin lips into a tight arc. She suppressed a shudder. 
She must have made some sound, though she wasn't aware of it; he 
swivelled his head and examined her, his smile widening as he 
enjoyed her distress. He began touching the shawl again, watching 
her intently as he pinched and smoothed the material. A faint flush 
bloomed in his cheeks; the tip of his nose reddened. Gleia began 
sweating. She swallowed, nauseated by the feeling that his hands 
were moving over her body. 

He pushed the shawl away and leaned back. "You're gifted with 
your hands, girl." 

She stared at him. 

"No point in wasting that talent." He got up smoothed his robes 
down over his small round belly, walked across the room to the 
guard. "Put her in a room in the servants' quarters, away from the 
others, put a guard outside to see she stays there. See she's fed, 
bring me the shawl when she's finished with it." He strolled out 
leaving Gleia seething behind him. 

The Harrier reached for her. She jerked away. "I need my things," 
she snapped. 

He scowled at her. "Don't take all day." 

Gleia moved around the table without arguing. For the moment 
she was too tired to keep fighting. She folded her things and put 
them back into her bag, ignoring the Harrier's impatient muttering. 
When she leaned over, reaching for one of the handkerchiefs, she 
kicked something on the floor. Shounach's bag was sitting beside 
the Lossal's chair. She folded the handkerchief with shaking hands 
and slipped it into her bag. The Harrier was fidgeting by the door, 

COMPANIONING 151 



paying little attention to her. She caught the strap of Shounach's 
bag and slipped it over her shoulder, then covered it with the strap 
of her own. Holding her bag in front of the other, she walked slowly 
to the door, her shoulders slumped in weary acceptance of her ser- 
vitude, trying to hide her nervous anxiety. 

The Harrier grunted impatiently and urged her out of the room, 
too much in a hurry to bother about what she carried. She walked 
ahead of him along the high, echoing hall to a pair of swinging 
doors. On the far side of the doors the hall was smaller and a great 
deal rougher. A few horn lamps lit the undressed stone of wall and 
ceiling; the coarse matting on the floor was worn but thick enough 
to mufile footsteps. They passed several closed doors then came to 
a busy kitchen. Gleia's stomach cramped as she smelled the scent 
of cooking food. She stopped walking. The Harrier went on two steps 
before he realized she was no longer with him. He wheeled, grabbed 
for her. She evaded his fingers. "The Lossal told you to see I'm fed. 
Food and candles. I need both." She faced him, her head up, her eyes 
defiant. For the moment she didn't give a damn about anything. 

Reading this in her face, he backed away. "Wait here." 

He left her standing in the hallway outside the kitchen. She was 
tempted to slip away but she couldn't leave Shounach. She hugged 
his bag against her hip, wondering what was happening to him, 
then shied away from the thought. He can't die. It would be absurd 
for him to die now. Even as she thought this, she knew that any 
one could die any time, absurd or not. 

The Harrier came back with a covered pannikin and a handful 
of candles, thrust both at her and hustled her on down the hall. 
After turning several comers, he caught her arm and shoved her 
inside a small room. After he slammed the door and stalked off, she 
tossed the two bags onto a narrow cot and looked nervously about. 
There was a small barred window, and a table holding a battered 
candlestick clotted with wax. She put the pannikin and the candles 
on the table, stretched, then went quickly to the door and pulled it 
open. 

A Harrier was coming down the hall, not the one who'd brought 
her. He speeded up to a trot, opened his mouth to speak. She shut 
the door. 

There was a narrow space between cot and table, just wide enough 
to let her walk back and forth. She paced nervously, angry, confused, 
and afraid, worried about Shounach, worried far more about Shoun- 
ach than she was for herself. Back and forth until her legs ached. 
Back and forth, rubbing her sweating palms up and down her sides, 
152 JO CLAYTON 



feeling the rough material of her cafta riding up and down against 
her skin. Abruptly she kicked the stool from under the table and 
sat, taking the lid off the pannikin. There was a hunk of bread 
soaking in a thick stew. It smelled good and re-awakened her hun- 
ger. She fished the spoon out of the gravy and began eating. 

The morning dragged by. Again and again, she went to the door, 
but the guard was always there. She tried talking with him. He told 
her to get back inside and stay there, said nothing else. She worked 
on and off at the shawl, stopping when her hands began to shake, 
paced a while, sat down again to send the needle dancing in and 
out of the material as her mind circled endlessly and futilely around 
and around Shounach and her own "trilemma" of choice. 

Once Shounach and she were loose, she could let him go off on his 
obsessive quest and strike out on her own. In a way that was the 
easiest road, the most comfortable choice. She wouldn't have to 
change at all, just go on the way she always had. She could sell the 
shawl or trade it for passage to another city where she could keep 
herself with her skill. There were times when this path seemed 
irresistible, when she was sick of trying to adapt herself to another 
person's needs, friend or lover. 

Deel had asked her to go south with her. The dancer was brisk 
and practical; she represented a way of life that was strange and 
exotic to Gleia. The dancer fascinated her both as a person and as 
a symbol. 

Or she could go on with Shounach, trying to learn the rules of 
pairing, finding herself forgotten again and again as he pursued the 
source of the Ranga Eyes, moving in and out of danger with him, 
living in pain and fear and confusion. But never bored. 

Late in the afternoon she was sitting on the edge of the cot, the 
shawl on her knees, her mind milling in its endless circle. She jerked 
her head up, tried to smile as Deel swept inside. The dancer shut 
the door, leaned against it, her arms crossed below her breasts. 
"Some mess you got yourself in." 

"How did you know?" Gleia tucked the needle into the material 
and folded the shawl into a neat square. 

"Merd." Deel laughed, left the door and went to sit beside Gleia. 
She dropped a hand on Gleia's, a brief comforting touch, then wrig- 
gled around until she was leaning against the wall, her long legs 
tucked to one side. "He got me in here to dance for the Lossal, guess 
he figured he could make points if they liked me. They stick us 
artists with the servants." She chuckled. "Unless like your Juggler 
we're sleeping with the masters. Anyway, the servants, they're buzz- 
COMPANIONING 153 



ing like a bunch of night-crawlers about you and your friend." She 
wiggled long fingers at the door. "The guard out there, he's seen me 
with Merd so he let me in. Why the hell'd the Juggler go fooling 
about in the garden?" 

Gleia ran her hands over her curls, shook her head. "He had good 
reasons. You said it right, Deel. Some mess. You better keep away 
from us." 

"Get away's a better way to say it." Deel sucked in her lower lip, 
bit down on it with small white teeth. "The servants got other things 
to talk about. They say the Stareyn is laid out, barely breathing, 
that he could go any minute. Look, I'm not going to be penned up 
in this stinking city while a bunch of power-hungry families fight 
for the Stareynate. Bad enough if I was sworn to one of the Families. 
I figure people like you and me, we're going to get squashed. I'm 
not hanging around for that. We could get out of the city, go south 
like I said." She narrowed amber eyes. "I don't suppose you'd care 
to forget the Juggler?" 

"Not while he's in here." Gleia rubbed nervously at her forehead. 
"You know where they've got him?" 

"I can find out." 

"Be careful." 

"You're telliiig me?" Deel grinned. "I'll be so damn careful no- 
body'll know I'm around. Can you use a knife? I could get us a 
couple." 

"Deel, I grew up running the streets. You know what that means." 

"Yeah. Too well." She pushed up off the bed. "I'd better get back. 
I have to be dancing soon. It'll be late when I come; better that way, 
I suppose; most of the place should be asleep." Deel touched Gleia's 
cheek, then swirled out of the room with a flutter of her favorite 
amber silk. 

The candle was guttering in the gusts of cold air coming through 
the window. Gleia paced back and forth past the table, her distorted 
shadow jerking dramatically on the wall. She wheeled and faced the 
door as she heard voices, then a choking sound and a thud. The door 
opened and Deel stepped in over the body of a Harrier. She bent 
down and took hold of one of his arms. "Help me. Quick." 

Together they pulled the dead man into the small room. As Gleia 
shouldered the two bags, she looked down at the Harrier. He was 
very young; she hadn't noticed how young he was before. He had 
a wispy blond moustache, a scattering of pimples on his nose and 
cheeks, a reed-thin neck. Deel pulled her knife loose, wiped it on 
his trousers. She looked up at Gleia. "Had to be done." 
154 JO CLAYTON 



"I know. I don't have to like it." Gleia shifted the straps to settle 
the bags more comfortably then took the knife Deel handed her. 
With a last glance at the dead boy, she followed the dancer out of 
the room, pulling the door shut behind her. 

Talking softly as she walked, Deel said, "Far as I can tell, there 
won't be any Harriers down below. The Lossal left with a bunch of 
them not so long ago. There's no one in the halls, not in this part 
of the house anyway. Feels like they're all shivering in their beds. 
Bet the Stareyn's really going this time. Piece of luck for us since 
that keeps the old viper busy." Her hand on Gleia's arm, the dancer 
pulled her along the hall and around the corner. "The stairs to the 
cellars are just ahead. We better not talk after this." She stepped 
briskly ahead of Gleia, pulling her dark cloak tight against her 
body. Stopping in front of a heavy door, she swung it open enough 
to slip through. Gleia followed, eased the door shut behind her. 

She found herself on a small square platform at the top of a steep 
stairway, one side against the wall, the other a precipitous drop to 
a floor some distance below. Gleia moved quickly to the wall side, 
refusing to look down again. Deel glanced back at her, grinning, her 
teeth glistening in the uncertain light from the torch burning smok- 
ily halfway down the stairs. Fingertips of one hand brushing the 
wall, Deel ran down the stairs, sure-footed and silent, her dancer's 
body balancing easily. Gleia followed more cautiously. The darkness 
off the side spread in a vast silent cellar under the floor of the House, 
dark and eerie, amplifying the slightest sounds until the whisper 
of her feet on the stone came back to her as a harsh susurrous like 
the breathing of some great animal. 

At the bottom of the flight Deel stopped her. "Cells just ahead," 
she whispered. "Through there." She pointed at a torchlit arch a few 
feet farther along the wall. "I'll go in first, distract the guard. When 
you see a chance, take him out." She stripped off her cloak, handed 
it to Gleia, patted at her hair, moistened her lips, shook her arms, 
took several deep breaths. "Don't wait too long, hon." Without wait- 
ing for an answer she moved toward the arch, hesitantly at first, 
then with her usual swinging swagger. 

Gleia hurried after her, feeling it almost like a shock to the heart 
when the dancer vanished through the opening. At the arch, she 
dropped to her knees, edged forward until she could see what was 
happening. 

Deel was smiling at the only man in the room, a hard-faced thug 
with a hairy bare chest, short bowed legs encased in greasy trousers, 
knotty bare feet. He wore a leather apron stiff with old stains. Deel 

COMPANIONING 155 



touched his bulging arm with a teasing giggle, dancing back as he 
grabbed for her. 

He scowled at her, moved around the table where he'd been sitting, 
stopped in front of her. "Who you, girl? What you doin' here?" 

Deel circled closer, ran her slim red-brown fingers up his arm. 
"I wanted to see the strongest man in Istir." She danced around 
behind him, running her fingers over the massive muscles of his 
shoulders, reappearing on the other side of him, pulling him around 
so his back was to the arch. "Show me how strong you are." 

The man lunged clumsily at her, his meaty hip knocking aside 
the table. He was at least half drunk. There were two empty bottles 
on the floor and a third rolling across the table top. It smashed 
against the stone as Deel danced away before the Ironmaster, smil- 
ing and flirting her eyes at him, narrowly avoiding his groping 
fingers, the slotted skirt swirling around her long slim legs, her 
light teasing laughter bringing the blood to his face. He lumbered 
after her, caught her arm, pulled her against him. 

Gleia slipped the straps from her shoulder, was up and on her 
feet, running for him. As he held Deel helpless against him, his 
mouth avid on hers, Gleia drove the knife between his ribs, slam- 
ming the blade home with all her strength. 

With an animal bellow he threw Deel sprawling and turned on 
Gleia, his animal strength as awesome as his ugliness. She fled, 
terror dark in her. 

Then he faltered, his face went blank, he coughed, spat blood, 
cnmipled to the floor, falling on his face. Feeling a little sick, Gleia 
looked at Deel. The dancer rose slowly to her feet, walked to the 
Ironmaster, scrubbing and rubbing at her mouth. She thrust her toe 
in his ribs. He gurgled, moved his hands slightly. Deel beckoned im- 
patiently to Gleia. "Come on. Help me turn him over." The dancer 
caught one of the man's thick wrists in both hands. "Hurry, I don't 
know how long we got. The keys, Gleia. We need his keys. And take 
your knife back." 

They labored several minutes, finally got the heavy body on its 
back. Gleia ran her bloody knife under the leather thong that held 
his keyring, cut it free. While Deel stood watch near the arch, Gleia 
ran along the line of cells. 

In the third cell a dark figure lay sprawled on a rough plank 
bench. "Shounach?" she hissed. 

The figure stirred, tried to sit up, collapsed. Hands shaking, breath 
harsh in her throat, Gleia tried the keys until the lock finally turned 
over. When she slipped inside, he was trying to sit up, using the 
156 JO CLAYTON 




backs of his hands to push against the planks. He looked up, moved 
his battered mouth into a slight smile. "What took you so long?" 
The words were slow and slurred so badly it took her a while to 
understand what he was saying. He lurched heavily and was finally 
sitting. She reached out. 

"No!" The word was whispered but vehement. She waited, biting 
her lip, hugging herself, as he got slowly and painfully to his feet. 
In the dim light from the torches outside the cell she saw that he 
was naked, his body covered by cuts and bruises, his face distorted 
into a crude mask hardly human. He stretched out one trembling 
arm. "Let me lean on you, love. I'm a bit sore for hugging." Again 
his words were indistinct, spoken slowly and with difficulty. His 
arm came down on her shoulders until she was supporting much of 
his weight. "Not too fast," he muttered. 

Deel gave an exclamation of horror when they emerged. She 
brought the Ironmaster's chair and helped Gleia ease Shounach into 
it; then she stepped back and raised an eyebrow. "Juggler, you're 
a mess." Gleia bit her lip, ran to the arch. 

She came back with the garish bag hugged against her breasts. 
When he reached for it, she gasped. The inner side of his fingers 
and both palms were seared black, the skin charred and cracking. 
COMPANIONING 157 



She looked from the bag to him, not knowing what to do. 

Shounach examined his hands, grimaced. He was badly beaten, 
his face bruised and swollen, his back raw with lashmarks that 
circled around his ribcage and ended in ragged purpled cuts. There 
were marks of the hot iron on his groin and flat stomach. His mouth 
moved in a painful smile. Swollen and reddened, his changeable 
eyes glinted green. "Companion," he murmured. He brushed her 
hand with the backs of his fingers. "You are a delight. Hold the bag 
open in front of me. Deel?" 

"What?" The dancer glanced anxiously at the arch, then back to 
the battered man. 

"See if you can find my clothes. They should be somewhere around 
here." As she swung off, he grimaced, opened and closed his savaged 
hands, then reached into the bag. 

"Fox, can't I do that for you?" 

"No." Sweating, his face twisted with pain, he pulled a small 
leather case from the bag and dropped it onto his thighs. He reached 
in again and pulled out a thick roll of bandage. He leaned back 
carefully, closed his eyes, said wearily, "Put the bag down and open 
the case for me." 

The case opened easily when the two sides were pressed apart. 
Following Shounach's instructions she tipped a pale blue wafer from 
one of the vials and slipped it between his lips. 

While he was resting, waiting for the drug to act, Deel came back 
with his jacket, trousers, and boots. She dumped them on the floor 
beside him. "Can't we hurry this? I'm having a fit every few minutes 
when I think of someone finding us like this." She waved a hand 
at the arch. 

"You can leave if you want." Gleia began smoothing a thick white 
liquid over Shounach's cuts, bruises, and burns. Sighing with im- 
patience Deel began helping her. Together they covered him with 
the pain-deadening antiseptic and began wrapping the gauze band- 
aging around his body, finishing with his hands, wrapping the gauze 
neatly over the palms and, at his whispered instructions, around 
each of his fingers so he could use them. When they were done he 
stood, swaying a little at first, working his fingers stiffly. 

He dressed quickly. When he'd stamped his feet into his boots, he 
looked around, his eyes pale grey with effort, glittering with the 
effects of the pain and the drug. Gleia watched, worried, then went 
slowly to the arch to fetch her own bag. When she returned he was 
kneeling beside his bag. 

He pulled out one of the blue spheres, then got unsteadily to his 
158 JO CLAYTON 



feet with a grunt of effort. 

"Shounach?" She touched his arm, but he ignored her and walked 
away from her, stumbling a little, then stopped by the body of the 
Ironmaster. He dropped the ball on the man's chest, watched as it 
rolled down the slope of his belly and came to a stop between his 
legs. Gleia shivered at the expression on his face, remembered him 
saying, / hold grudges a long, long time. She closed her fingers 
around his wrist, careful not to touch the burns. "Shounach!" 

He blinked at her, awareness slowly returning to his eyes. His 
face was shiny with the liquid she'd spread over his bruises, his long 
red hair was matted, dark with blood and sweat. She chewed on her 
lip, then went back to the bags, slipped both straps over her shoulder. 

Deel was fidgeting in the archway, fastening the clasp of her 
cloak. "You two ready?" she hissed. "We're really pushing our luck, 
hanging around like this." 

"I think so." Gleia moved to Shounach's side, offering her shoulder 
as a prop. 

With Deel striding ahead, Gleia and Shounach following more 
slowly, they went up the stairs and eased into the servants' quarters. 
The rough, narrow hall was deserted and dark, most of the horn 
lamps blown out. 

A few steps past the silent, empty kitchen, Shounach called softly 
to Deel, dragged Gleia through a door into a small, empty room. 
Deel followed, startled and a little annoyed. "What . . ." 

"Quiet." Shounach leaned against the wall and closed his eyes. 
"Someone's coming." 

For a moment they heard nothing, then confused footsteps and 
deep voices as several men strolled past. The sounds faded but the 
Juggler continued to wait, pain and weariness dragging at his face. 
Finally he opened his eyes and pushed away from the wall. "All 
clear. Let's go." 

Deel turned amber eyes on him as he settled his arm on Gleia's 
shoulders. "You're something else. Juggler. For a while there I 
thought I'd made a big mistake." She grinned and swung out, the 
swagger back in her walk. Gleia saw a flicker of appreciation in 
Shounach's slitted eyes; she poked him gently in the ribs. He 
grunted, grinned down at her, wincing as a cut on his lip reopened. 
"Vixen." 

She sniffed. "Fox." 

Deel thrust her head back inside. "Come on, you idiots." 

They moved swiftly through the dark silent house. Just inside the 
door to the garden Shounach stopped them again. 
COMPANIONING 159 



Deel leaned close, whispered, "Someone outside?" 

"No. Those damn iron birds." He closed his eyes a moment, pulled 
his arm from Gleia's shoulder, leaned against the wall, the false 
energy from the drug beginning to melt away. Eyes still closed he 
said, "Gleia, bring my bag here and hold it open for me." 

"You all right?" As she held the bag up, she watched him anx- 
iously. 

"No." He reached into the bag, sweat gathering on his forehead. 
"Silly question." He pulled out a small rod, handed it to her, glanced 
over his shoulder at Deel who was fidgeting with curiosity and 
impatience. "Hang on a minute, dancer." 

"This is the slowest escape I ever heard of. Grood thing the Lossal's 
busy in the Kiralydom." She twitched her cloak higher on her shoul- 
ders. 

Shounach returned to Gleia, touched one end of the rod. "Twist 
this a half- turn and be damn careful what else you touch." When 
she'd done that, he continued. "The black spot is a sensor. If one of 
the iron birds shows up, point the rod at it, touch the sensor, slice 
the beam through the bird. Don't use it unless you have to." He 
looked bleak for a moment. "I hate to see that here. I hate seeing 
those damn birds on this world." He watched as Gleia twisted the 
cover back over the sensor. "Be careful with that. Deel, lend me a 
shoulder so Gleia can keep a hand free." 

"About time." 

They moved across the garden and stopped in the shadow of the 
wall. Deel looked up. "Hope you've got a few more tricks. Juggler. 
Don't think I can climb that." She watched him expectantly, waiting 
for him to come up with another bit of magic. Aab's swelling crescent 
broke through the scatter of clouds, the silver light turning the 
dancer into an exotic figure wholly out of place in the garden. 

Gleia held the rod tight in a sweaty hand, her eyes fixed on him. 
"Can you do it?" 

"Think so." He rubbed the back of his bandaged hand along her 
cheek. "You first." 

"No." 

"Don't argue. Help me sit. Stretch out flat once you're up. You 
hear?" 

She nodded then eased him down until he was sitting cross-legged 
on the grass. Then she moved close to the wall. "Ready, Fox." 

She felt something grip her body, something like a tight second 
skin. It held her, lifted her. She rose slowly up the wall. When she 
reached the top he shifted her to the right a few inches then turned 
160 JO CLAYTON 



her loose. She stumbled, went to her knees. Then she stretched out 
flat, her body in the shadow of the thinner crenellations. Below, 
Deel gasped and rose into the air. In seconds she was flat beside 
Gleia, temporarily speechless. 

When Shounach reached to top, he let go suddenly and slammed 
into the stone hard enough to send the air from his lungs in a small 
puffing sound. 

Gleia touched his arm. "Fox . . ." 

His answering whisper was slow, broken by the air he was sucking 
in. "Be ... all right ... in a . . . minute . . . look around . . . iron 
birds?" 

The sky was still empty. "Nothing," she whispered. "Some torches 
by the gate, guards there, I suppose. No birds." 

"Help me up." 

As soon as he was standing, he moved away from her to lean 
against one of the stone uprights. He looked down then beckoned 
her into the opening beside him. "Ready?" 

"Ready." She stepped off the wall, felt the skin catch her and lower 
her gently to earth. As soon as she was down, he sent Deel after 
her, finally dropped himself beside them. He folded onto his knees, 
stayed there, unable to get up. Gleia knelt beside, helpless and 
frustrated; she could do nothing except stay futilely at his side. In 
Aab's light his face was ashen around the purpling bruises. Deel 
began walking up and down, six steps each way, the hem of her 
cloak flaring out around her strong slim legs. Across the street this 
section of the Market quarter was filled with the noise of the produce 
carts rumbling in, louder than ever because the wagons from the 
surroundings farms were bringing in the fall harvest of tubers and 
grains. There were several streets of small shops between them and 
the open stands of the central market, shops that were shuttered 
and deserted, the shutters barred also on the living quarters above 
them. 

Shounach lifted his head, let it rest a moment against the wall. 
He watched Deel pacing, her body crackling with suppressed energy. 
Gleia met his eyes, grinned. "We better start moving again," she 
murmured. "Before she succumbs to spontaneous combustion." 

With Deel flitting before them, running ahead and returning, 
they moved slowly along the narrow side street past the folded-in 
shops. By the time they reached the end of that street, Shounach 
was leaning heavily on Gleia, stumbling more and more as his weari- 
ness and pain began to overcome the drug. He stopped, looked at 
the busy noisy scene in front of them. "This isn't going to work," he 
COMPANIONING 161 



muttered. "Let me sit a minute. I need to think." 

With a grunt of pain, he settled on the third step of a flight of 
stairs rising up the side of one of the shops to the family living space 
above. Gleia dropped beside him. Deel came swinging back and stood 
leaning on the shaky railing, looking down at both of them. Shoun- 
ach opened his hands. The gauze showed dark stains near the crease 
lines. "Hand me the bag." His voice was hoarse, strained. 

Gleia held it open for him while he fished inside. When he brought 
out the leather case, she took it from him, opened it and found the 
vial of pale blue wafers. She touched it, hestiated. "Just how dan- 
gerous is this stuff. Fox?" 

His eyes glinted blue in the torchlight. He looked past her at the 
black bulk of the Lossal's house looming against the paler clouds; 
there was a crazy glare in his eyes for a moment, then he looked 
back at her and the glare faded. "About as dangerous as staying 
here and letting myself be caught." As he swallowed the drug, a 
great gong note reverberated over the city. Gleia jumped to her feet. 
Deel's hands tightened on the rail. She looked sick. 

Shounach stood. "Deel. That an alarm?" 

She shook her head. "Look." She waved an arm at the chaos 
developing in front of them. For a moment the drivers had frozen; 
now they were whipping their teams, racing for the gate giving on 
the wide main street, ignoring everything and everyone between 
them and the exit. When Deel spoke her voice was nearly drowned 
by the overpowering clangor of the great gong as it was beat con- 
tinually, each stroke blending into the next until the air itself shud- 
dered. She leaned closer, yelled, "Our luck's run out. That's the 
Knelling. The Stareyn's dead and they're sealing the city off. Once 
the gates are shut nobody's going to get in or out." 

Shounach looked past her at the city wall, rising high above the 
roofs on the far side of the market. "Will there be guards walking 
the walls?" 

Understanding wiped the despair from Deel's face. She lifted her 
head, her eyes glowing with excitement. "Not yet. Not yet," she 
chanted, then danced away only to stop and stare at the monstrous 
confusion in the long rectangle of the produce stalls. The noise was 
appalling, the wagons, carts, teams, merchants, drivers all involved 
in an intricate tangle. She looked back at the Juggler, raised her 
eyebrows. He walked slowly past her, scanned the confusion, began 
walking along the edge of it, heading away from the main gates, 
his tall form fitfully visible in the light from the market torches. 
Deel looked at Gleia, eyebrows going up again. Gleia shook her 
162 JO CLAYTON 



head. "Don't know," she yelled. "He's got some kind of idea." They 
started after him, Gleia tired and feeling a bit grim, Deel excited 
and beginning to enjoy herself, her long legs scissoring in her 
dancer's swagger. 

Gleia shifted the straps on her shoulder then ran after Deel. She 
saw the dancer take Shounach's arm and move along beside him. 
She sighed. Complications, she thought. At least she doesn't look like 
the brother he killed. But is that an advantage or a disadvantage? 
Damn them both, let them keep each other company, I can get along 
without either of them. She rubbed at the back of her neck; it was 
starting to prickle — as if someone was staring at her. The prickle 
grew to a tingling apprehension that grew stronger as they neared 
the wall. She walked faster, coming up on Shounach's left side. He 
was sweating again; the glazed look of his eyes bothered her. She 
touched his hand. Even through the gauze she could feel the heat 
in his flesh. Fever, she thought. She rubbed her neck again, looked 
up anxiously. A ragged layer of clouds rushed across the face of Aab, 
then past Zeb. The little moon was higher, adding its small fraction 
to the light pouring into the street. Gleia shivered. Too much light. 

The gonging stopped. Behind them the confusion around the mar- 
ket sheds seemed to be* sorting itself out. Even that noise was muted. 
The shutters of the dwellings above them were beginning to open. 
Gleia saw several heads thrust out, felt curious eyes following them. 

A man called down to them, cursed when they didn't answer. The 
buzz of voices grew louder. 

Shounach stopped in the deep shadow at the base of the great 
wall. He drew in a breath, let it out, looked down at Gleia. There 
was a question in his eyes and a great weariness. "I don't know. . . ." 

"I think you can do it, Fox." She moved her shoulders restlessly. 
"I think you'd better. I feel itchy." 

Deel tilted her head back, looked dubiously at the height of the 
wall, then over her shoulder at the people leaning out their windows 
staring at the strange three. "Better hurry; any minute now, one 
of those gogglers is going to think of making points by turning us 
in." 

Shounach set his back against the wall, eased himself down until 
he was sitting crosslegged on the dirty stone pavement. "Get as close 
to the wall as you can, love." 

The skin tightened round her, lifted her. It wasn't the easy glide 
of the inner wall. She could feel the effort he was making as she 
rose and paused, rose and paused. 

When she finally reached the top, she stumbled again as he re- 
COMPANIONING 163 



leased her; for a moment she tottered on the edge of the wall, then 
sank onto her knees and looked down. He was breathing hard, his 
shoulders rounded, his head trembling. 

Deel stepped close to the wall, rising in the same fitful increments. 
When she was high enough, Gleia caught her around the waist and 
dragged her onto the wall. 

Below them the street was beginning to fill as the watchers came 
running down the stairs to stand about chattering and staring at 
the Juggler on the ground and the two women kneeling on top of 
the wall. As Gleia watched a man broke away from the crowd and 
began running down the street. She sucked in a breath, her heart 
bounding painfully. "Come on, Fox," she whispered. "Come on." 

He began to rise slowly, his body taut with effort. He sank back 
a little, rose again. The crowd sui^ged closer, excitement changing 
into disapproval. He continued to rise jerkily. Two men came closer, 
then ran at him, leaping to catch hold of his feet. He strained higher; 
their hands brushed his boots, then they fell back. 

Gleia and Deel caught him as he rose above the wall, rolled him 
onto the stone beside them. Overhead the clouds thickened and 
darkened. As Shounach lay trembling and panting, a few drops of 
cold rain came splatting down. Gleia knelt beside him, the itching 
at the back of her neck growing and growing. She touched Shoun- 
ach's face. It burned her fingers. 

"He's in bad shape." Deel lifted her head, jumped to her feet and 
went to look at the angry muttering crowd below. "If we just had 
a bit of rope." 

"Well, we don't." Gleia settled back on her heels and tried to pierce 
the growing gloom over the city. More rain fell, a short flurry of 
large drops. The wind was rising; it pushed the heavy material of 
her cafta against her body, tossing her curls about until they tickled 
her face. It seemed to her that she saw the torchlight reflected 
against bits of metal in the sky, bits of metal circling and soaring 
like wind-caught sparks. She fished in her pocket, found the small 
rod, looked up again. "Deel." 

"What?" The dancer came back from the edge of the wall, the 
stained amber silk whipping about her legs. 

"Help me move the Juggler." 

The two women shifted Shounach until he was stretched out at 
the base of the crenellations. "Stay with him," Gleia murmured. She 
moved away from them, stood in the center of the wide wall, peering 
tautly into the darkness, the sense of danger rising like a geyser, 
ready to explode. She fingered the rod nervously, hoping it was the 
164 JO CLAYTON 



magic she needed, afraid, terribly afraid of the demon birds, birds 
that were not birds, birds whose knife-like talons were wet with 
poison. She drew on her store of stubbornness, her anguish, and 
even her fear, drew on all she'd learned from the seaborn who kept 
longer memories of their lost technology. She held the image of her 
adopted father in her mind. "It's only a machine," she whispered. 
She heard Deel stirring behind her and ignored that. She heard 
shouts from the crowd, stones striking against the wall, ignored 
that. Kept scanning the black sky for the circling sparks, waiting 
for one or more of them to come closer. "The Lossal is back in his 
house," she said suddenly. 

"What?" Deel's voice was sharp; she was strung taut again with 
the waiting. "How do you know that?" 

'The birds are out." Gleia pointed at the flecks of crimson riding 
through the darkness, coasting on the surging winds. There was a 
strained silence behind her then she heard Shounach and Deel talk- 
ing quietly, heard a scraping on the stone as the dancer helped the 
Juggler sit up. 

"Gleia." 

"I've still got the rod. Fox. You rest." She bit her lip, rubbed at 
her eyes. One of the sparks broke from the pattern and glided to 
the wall. It started toward them, skimming over the stone about 
five feet off the surface. She faced it, twisted the cover off the sensor 
and aimed the rod at the flicker of red and silver. 

"Good, Vixen." Shounach's voice was calm, steady, feeding her 
confidence. "Don't touch the sensor yet. Wait a little . . . wait . . . now!" 

Gleia touched the black spot with her forefinger, nearly dropped 
the rod as a beam of intensely white light about as big around as 
her finger cut through the air. She steadied the rod, brought the 
beam up until it woke glitters in the polished metal of the bird's 
body. She moved the beam until it touched the bird, cut across it. 
She gasped. The bird melted, then blew apart, fragments tinkling 
like distant rain on the stone. Hastily she twisted the cover back 
over the sensor, awed and a little frightened by the power she held 
in her hand. 

"Help me up." Shounach's struggles brought her around. Mutter- 
ing protest, Deel was propping the Juggler against the stone upright 
of the crenellation. He looked around. "Gleia." His eyes were glit- 
tering with fever. 

She came to him, touched his face, shook her head. "Not this time. 
You go first. Fox. Once you're down you can bring us." 

He reached for her; she backed away. "No." 

COMPANIONING 165 



Deel shivered. "Dammit, do something. We've got to get out of 
here." 

Shounach looked past Gleia at the House. He smiled suddenly, 
a smile more like a snarl. "A minute more," he muttered. "A minute. 
Minute . . . minute . . ." He broke off, shook his head. "Right." Turn- 
ing unsteadily, he stepped off the wall. 

Deel gasped. "He's falling like a damn rock. Ahhh ... all right 
now. He stopped himself just before he was going to splash on the 
ground." She glanced at Gleia." "He's waiting for you." 

Gleia rubbed wearily at burning eyes. "No. You next. There's 
another bird coming. I have to deal with it." 

Deel looked down, then at the bird. "Oh well, it'd be a quicker 
and easier death than the Lossal would give me." With a flourish 
of her arms, she stepped off the wall. A moment later Gleia heard 
a startled cry and knew the dancer had reached ground safely. 

The second bird came more slowly than the first, wavering er- 
ratically from side to side. She couldn't keep the rod aimed at it, 
couldn't anticipate where it would be next. Pressing her lips to- 
gether, she waited until it reached the spot where the other bird 
had exploded, then she touched the sensor and swung the beam in 
an arc, cutting through the bird, feeling an intense satisfaction as 
it fell apart and rained fragments on the pavement below. 

She waited a moment longer, searching the sky for more of the 
birds, then twisted the shield back over the sensor and thrust the 
rod into her pocket as she ran to the opening in the stone. Shounach 
was leaning on Deel, both of them looking anxiously up. "Coming," 
she cried. She stepped off the wall. For a terrifying time she fell, 
the cafta ballooning up about her body, the wind whipping at her, 
then she felt the skin tighten around her, slowing her fall. In spite 
of this she landed heavily, going to her knees, the breath knocked 
out of her. 

Deel helped her to her feet, then gasped with fear. Gleia followed 
her gaze and saw more iron birds circling the place where she'd been 
standing. She fumbled in her pocket for the rod, turned to question 
Shounach. 

He was standing, swaying a little, the wind tugging at his matted 
hair, a wild glittering triumph in his fever-glazed eyes. "Shounach," 
she called. He didn't hear her. Or ignored her. She didn't exist for 
him; only the wall and the birds existed for him. 

She sank to the ground, pulled her knees up against her breasts, 
tired of fighting, waiting now. Waiting with Shounach for whatever 
he expected to happen. Deel walked past her, cloak whipping about, 
166 JO CLAYTON 



amber silk slapping against her long legs. Not too far from them 
the river was a shimmering rippling surface whispering past low 
stone piers toward the sea, opening below the city into a wide estuary 
where a number of large ocean-going ships were anchored. Smaller 
boats were tied up at the piers, their owners joining the crowd 
milling outside the gates. Deel turned. She came back and stood in 
front of Gleia. "One of those ships could take us anywhere. If you're 
worried about passage money, I've got plenty." 

Gleia looked up at her, then over at Shounach. This is the end, 
she thought. / can't drift any more. She closed her eyes. Shounach, 
Deel, or neither? Trouble is, if I take the easiest way and go on by 
myself, I know what my life will be like . . . day and day and day 
with no surprises. No pain and fear and anguish. No highs either. 
It could be very comfortable. I could go back and live contentedly 
enough with Temokeuu-my -father. And be bored to death. End up 
hurting the both of us. No. I turned my back on that. What's the point 
of going back. Deel. I like her. Friendship without the complications 
of sex. Fve had that too. Jevati -my -sister. She smiled affedtionately 
as she remembered the slim silver-green sea-girl. She glanced up 
at Deel who had turned again and was looking out to sea. It was 
tempting, yet. . . . She shook her head and turned to Shounach. 
There never was any real question, she thought. I just didn't want 
to admit it. I need him. I've never needed anyone before. I don't like 
it. It hurts. And it's hard, trying to be a companion, as he calls it. 
Harder than anything I've done before. She shivered. Scares hell out 
of me. Stiffly, slowly she pushed up onto her feet and v/alked slowly 
over the stony earth to Shounach. 

She touched his arm. The fever in him burned her even through 
the heavy material of his jacket sleeve. She looked up at him, be- 
ginning to be frightened. His intensity frightened her also; he 
seemed unaware of anything but the city, didn't even feel the touch 
of her hand, didn't even know she was there. It's beginning, she 
thought. Madar, will I ever be able to . . . 

The sky above the city seemed to open; springing from behind the 
wall a blue flash fanned out, searing her eyes, covering a large 
portion of the sky. Almost immediately she heard an explosion; the 
blast deafened her. Beside her Shounach started laughing. She 
couldn't hear that laughter; seeing it was bad enough. She heard 
his words echoing in her mind like the gong strokes of the Knelling. 
/ hold grudges. I hold grudges a long, long time. She saw his face 
when the blue ball rolled down the Ironmaster's belly to sit rocking 
between his legs. 

COMPANIONING 167 



He slapped his arm onto her shoulders still laughing, then she 
felt him sag against her; when she looked at him, the strained 
madness was gone from his face. He said something, but her ears 
were still ringing and she couldn't understand him. She swallowed, 
swallowed again, felt the ringing diminish. Wriggling around until 
she was more comfortable under his weight, she settled herself then 
smiled up at him. "What'd you say, Fox?" 

"Coming with me?" He spoke slowly, with great difficulty. 

"If you can put up with me." She hesitated, added, "It won't be 
easy. I ... I get itchy." 

"I know. We make a cranky pair, my Vixen." He tugged her around 
until they were facing the smaller piers at the far end of the line 
of landings. "We need a boat before I wash out. Once I crash, love, 
I'll be out a good long while." 

With Shounach leaning heavily on her, Gleia started walking 
slowly to the east, angling toward the riverbank. She heard a patter 
of quick steps, a flurry of silk, then Deel was beside her. "You've 
made up your mind." 

"I'm going upriver with the Juggler." She glanced at Shounach. 
His eyes were glassy; he was stumbling along in a daze, close to 
doing what he called crashing. "If we can reach the damn river." 

Amber eyes narrowed, Deel moved swiftly ahead, gliding easily 
over the stony earth as she walked backward examining Shounach, 
measuring what strength he had left. Then she nodded, shifted to 
his other side and slid her shoulder under his arm, helping Gleia 
support him. "Mind if I come with you?" 

The scattered flurries of rain were merging into a steady drizzle 
that the wind drove fitfully against their backs. Gleia looked across 
Shounach at Deel. "If you want." She smiled. "At least you won't 
be bored." 

Deel burst out laughing, continued to chuckle at intervals as they 
slogged through the rain toward a quiet eddy where several small 
boats rocked unattended. As they stopped beside one of these boats, 
Deel glanced back at the still glowing city, then up the river. The 
clouds were matting heavily across the sky, blocking out moonlight 
and starlight until the river flowed into a heavy darkness. She 
chuckled again as she helped Gleia maneuver Shounach into a boat. 
"No, my friend. With the Juggler around, we certainly won't be 
bored." 



168 JO CLAYTON 



LETTERS 

In the matter of letters: keep them coming! Letters to the editor 
should he addressed to us at Box 13116, Philadelphia PA 19101. 
Letters on subscription renewals, subscription changes of address, 
and other subscription matters should go to Box 2650, Greenwich CT 
06836. Matters for the publisher's staff— such as advertising and 
classified advertising rates and so on should go to Davis Publications, 
Inc., 380 Lexington Ave., New York NY 1001 7. 

Letters on just how well we're being distributed to newsstands have 
been coming in, and they've been a great help. But— we do need more 
of this information. If your local newsstands do — or don't— carry the 
magazine, we'd like to know details. Newsstand distribution infor- 
mation is the biggest help you can give us just now. 

How long after you submit a story should you expect to see some 
kind of reply? With this magazine, in an overwhelming majority of 
cases, we respond within a couple of days — but that's a couple of days 
as measured from our post office back to our post office. If II be longer, 
by a variable amount, when you add in transit time both ways. A 
general rule is: if you don't hear from us (or any other SF publisher) 
in about a month, send a polite note asking if the manuscript was 
received. Our experience is that the post office loses — completely 
loses — about 1 manuscript in 2,000. If it was lost on the way to us, 
we'll tell you we haven't heard of it and you can send another copy; 
and if it was lost on the way back to you, at least we can tell you more 
or less why we did send it back. Please understand, however, that 
certifying your mail is no protection against this kind of loss; and 
registering your mail is generally more expensive than the cost of 
duplicating your manuscript is worth. The one protection against 
loss in transit is to keep a good copy of everything you send out. Or, 
you can send us the good copy and keep the original for your files. 

But this still leaves the question of what on Earth is the post office 
doing with all that lost mail — burning it to keep down their fuel bills? 

—George H. Scithers 



Dear George Scithers: 

This is a belated thank-you letter for (of all things) a rejection 
slip. It is for publication if you like; sometimes it seems from your 
letters column that your readership consists largely of unpublished 

LEHERS 169 



authors. I find this hard to understand — surely I am not the only 
person who finds it hard to keep reading in the field after getting 
more and more widely rejected? Each good story saps my self-con- 
fidence: how can I compete with this? And each story I can't stand 
makes me angry: how could anyone print this tripe and not mine, 
which, whatever its faults, is not this bad? 

And each printed form rejection slip makes me feel more and more 
as if editors are grisly mythical beasts, half Charon, keeping the 
strait gate between writers and would-be readers; and half fish that 
refuse to bite. That's why it is good to get a note back with a story 
saying what it was you liked about it and what it was you didn't 
like. 

It also saves you time and me postage. The reason I have not yet 
sent you any more manuscripts is not only that I have been putting 
most of my energy into writing a novel (isn't everybody?) but that 
none of the three or four stories I have completed since you asked 
to see more of my work are likely to be more to your taste than the 
ones you thought weren't quite for lA'sfm. 

Last of all, critical comments are valuable because they help one 
to grow as a writer. It is possible to agree with them, to say, here 
are specific faults I can fix next time; or to disagree, and then ask 
oneself why such a misreading on the editor's part was possible. 
Each way, it's a learning experience. Thanks. 
Sincerely, 

Millea Kenin 
Oakland CA 

Appreciating a creative rejection is intelligent, but expressing that 
appreciation is more than intelligent; it is kind. 

— Isaac Asimov 



Dear George and Isaac: 

A few issues back you ran an editorial on the subject of rejections. 
I was very impressed with your views and handling of an often 
delicate subject. As one writer who has had some rejections from 
your magazine, I felt those comments from you, George, were a very 
nice gesture considering how busy you are. 

Unfortunately, the last rejection was something altogether dif- 
ferent and if I didn't know better, I'd swear it was from another 
place, not lA'sfm. Admittedly, I'm not very good at SF yet and my 
SF stories have been published in fanzines only, but I or any other 

170 LEHERS 



writer don't deserve the insulting printed rejection that was sent 
to me a while back. 

I refer to the one that begins with, "I recommend you get a hard 
cover version of The Elements of Style as you will be rereading it 
a lot." Is this how you encourage your submitters? Surely, I'm not 
the only one who has received such a form response; and that's a 
pity. Has your magazine gotten so big that it stoops to that level? 
I've had rejections and acceptances from some of the finest publi- 
cations and never has an editor or his associates had to insult me 
to make a point. Firstly, I'm a published writer, not well known but 
published; therefore I'm not that much of an amateur. Secondly, 
even if it was my first submission anywhere, do you really believe 
that rejections of that type are encouraging to a new writer? For 
your information, in spite of the curt rejection, I read the book, but 
only because I had bought it long before I received your "advice." 

One editor I know, who accepted a story for publication two 
months ago, takes the time for personal comments with each sub- 
mission whether or not the story has merit. I have received some 
criticism from him, but no time has it been in an insulting tone. 

Our local writers' workshop here is brutal in their criticism, but 
not insulting. When an editor (and I've been one in the past) insults 
writers rather than criticizes, he or she should examine the reasons 
they became an editor in the first place. In your editorial, Isaac, you 
stated that you were sympathetic towards the recipients of rejec- 
tions, yourself included; and I believed you. Then, isn't it somewhat 
hypocritical to send out such a form as I've mentioned? 

As a writer and long time reader of your magazine, frankly I'm 
very disappointed. 
Yours truly, 

Vicki Carleton 
Lansing MI 

/ think that any writer, published or unpublished, will benefit from 
frequent re-reading of Strunk & White's The Elements of Style. /^'s 
not a book to read once and then put aside: it must be re-read fre- 
quently, first to understand what the authors are saying, then what 
they mean by that, and eventually, to disagree on one point and to 
realize how true another point really is. "You'll be re-reading it a 
lot," is not a putdowh; any ''you'' should be re-reading it a lot, for 
anyone who takes writing seriously will be re-reading Strunk & White 
a lot. 

— George H. Scithers 
LEHERS 171 



Dear Sirs: 

I have greatly enjoyed my subscriptions to IA*sfm. The consistent 
quality of the stories and the poetry are a delight. There are a few 
areas of particular interest. 

The science articles have been uniquely informative. They seem 
to be written "up" to the readers instead of being written "down" 
to us. In spite of this, they are very readable. 

The stories by new writers are very uneven. Some of them are so 
good, they make up for the really rotten ones. Keep publishing them. 
(I have enclosed an SASE for your needs and manuscript format.) 
Somtow Sucharitkul and Barry Longyear seem to have developed 
very interesting worlds to explore. 

Please do not ever print another serial. As is usually the case, the 
second part of your one previous attempt was the one that got lost 
in the mail. 

The good doctor has quite a sense of humor. It shows in the letters 
and their responses. Does he still have to wear his corrective hat 
indoors? 

Yours truly, 

Clifton D. Baird 
Tempe AZ 

Sorry, I've split all my corrective hats. I can't even get through 
doorways anymore. 

—Isaac Asimov 



Dear Sirs: 

I wish to comment on a section of your excellent magazine that 
has apparently been overlooked: namely, your book reviews. THEY 
ARE FANTASTIC! 

Baird Searles has just exactly the right touch for book reviews. 
He is commendably brief in most cases, highly intelligent and per- 
ceptive in all cases, and has a refreshing sense of humor which is 
sprinkled throughout the column. 

Book reviews, in general, are either long and incredibly boring, 
or short and exasperatingly uninformative. Seldom can you find one 
that is the proverbial happy medium, nor can you find many that 
are actually entertaining to read. 

So, gentlemen, if I were you, I would get Mr. Searles to put his 
signature on a life-time contract. He seems to be an extremely rare, 

172 LEHERS 



endangered species. 
Most sincerely, 

Ellen Lane 

Route 1 

McLeansboro IL 62859 

/ agree with you whole-heartedly — to the pointy in fact, of writing 
an editorial on the subject. 

—Isaac Asimov 



Dear Mister Scithers and Dr. Asimov, 

As a charter subscriber I would like to say that I have enjoyed 
every issue of lA'sfm I have received. However, there are some 
aspects of the magazine that could be improved, so here are some 
questions and comments. 

First, while going through my back issues I noticed that the recent 
issues have fewer pages than previous ones. What happened to those 
extra 16 pages? 

Second, I noticed that if you cut down the borders on the mailing 
labels they would be only slightly larger than that computer code 
on the cover. Thus, if the labels were placed over the code (if you are 
mailing the issue the code is not needed anyway), they would not 
obscure the art work on the cover. Speaking of art work, I applaud 
your policy of keeping illustrations to a minimum and thus allowing 
the reader to use his/her own imagination to visualize the scenes. 
It is also admirable of you to encourage new unpublished authors. 

I will be a sophomore at Boston University next semester and 
have heard that the good Dr. has taught courses here before. This 
prompts me to ask whether he will have time in the future to teach 
here again and, if so, would it be a course concerning science fiction 
or biochemistry (S.F., I hope, since chemistry is not one of my best 
subjects)? 

Thank you and keep up the good work. 
Sincerely, 

David Anderson 
Pequannock NJ 

Alas, I don't actively teach at the University, or get paid — though 
I'm a full member of the faculty. You'll find the whole story in my 
autobiography. 

—Isaac Asimov 
LETTERS 173 



Dear Sir: 

Please send me a copy of your manuscript format and story needs. 
(Business before criticism.) 

My thanks to Dr. Asimov's editorial on serials. It has prompted 
me to an action that I have been putting off for 5 + years (id est, 
write those short stories I've been kicking around in my head). His 
editorials are an infinite source of inspiration, information, and 
insight. More than any other section of the magazine, his editorials 
should be expanded (a few more pages each month from such a 
prolific writer could be easily accomplished and would be greatly 
appreciated). 
Sincerely, 

James D. Taylor 
Houston TX 

/ appreciate the thought but please. Everyone says ''What's a few 
more words, Asimov?" and by the time I try to please everybody, 
there's no time left to breathe. 

—Isaac Asimov 



NEXT ISSUE 



This issue of lA'sfm will be our last monthly Issue. No, we're not 
folding— just the opposite, in fact. Our next issue will be called the 
19 January 1981 issue, because we're going to a 13-issue-per-year 
schedule. This means that lA'sfm (and our sister publication, Analog) 
will be appearing on your newsstands and in your mailboxes every four 
weeks. To kick off our new schedule, our 19 January 1981 issue will be 
one of our most exciting ever. The cover story is "Island Man" by 
R. A. Wilson, with a lovely cover painting by David Mattingly. In addi- 
tion, we'll have stories and articles by James Gunn, Larry Niven, Isaac 
Asimov, Martin Gardner, and John M. Ford. On sale 23 December. Don't 
miss it! 



174 LEHERS 



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NOW! Be Independent! Have Time and Money 
to Enjoy Fascinating, Successful Life Easily! 
Details Free. GPL, P.O. Box 10170, Cleve- 
land, Ohio 44110. 

COINS, CURRENCY & TOKENS 

BUY-Sell: Gold & Silver. Nation Galleries, 
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DO IT YOURSELF 

TORNADOES- You can stop them. Own ac- 
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EDUCATION & INSTRUCTION 

UNIVERSITY DEGREES BY MAIL! Bache- 
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UNIVERSITY DEGREES No Classes. Fast, 
Economical. ACCREDITED. FREE Reveal- 
ing Details: EDCHO, Box 98 Southview Sta- 
tion, Binghamton, NY 13903. 

EMPLOYMENT INFORMATION 

GET THE JOB YOU WANT. Easy to read, 
gives you an edge on others. Send $3.50 to 
Bucks Services, P.O. Box 122, Hershey, PA 
17033. 

JOURNEYMAN CREDENTIALS GRANT- 
ED! LEGITIMATE. Write: National Crafts- 
man Union, 210 Fifth Avenue, Suite 1102, 
New York, N.Y. 10010. 

JOBS ON WATER! Special report on inter- 
esting and unusual wayt, ♦o earn an income on 
lakes and rivers. $2.00. Cal'che Pres^, P.O. 
Box 1516, Muskogee, OK 74401. 

COME! Thousands of Houston Overseas Jobs 
Beckon! Details, Assistance, $10. Jobs Report, 
10149 Hammerly, Houston, TX 77080. 



GIFTS THAT PLEASE 



COLORFUL CHRISTMAS CATALOG-2,500 
Bargains. $2.00 (refundable). Ace Merchan- 
dise Co., 20 Knight Lane, Epsom, NH 03234. 

ORIGINAL watercolor painting 10" x 14" of 
portrait, animals, Isoidscape, etc. done from 
any photo. Send $10 and photo to: Fine Arts, 
2028 Bergen Ave., Brooklyn, N.Y. 11234. 

INK Drawings of Wildlife on Parchment Note 
Cards. $1.00 samples and leaflet. Art 'N' Stuff, 
P.O. Box 523D, Markham, Ontario, Canada 
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GOVERNMENT SURPLUS 

SURPLUS JEEPS-$19.30!-CARS-$13.50!- 
650,000 ITEMS!-GOVERNMENT SUR- 
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FORNIA 94109. 

JEEPS $26.50. Video Electronic Equip. Low 
as 2^ on dollar. 725,000 Items, Many Available 
Your Area. Also Government Land Oil Lot- 
teries. Send $2.00: Surplus, P.O. Box 10170, 
Cleveland, Ohio 44110. 

HOBBIES & COLLECTIONS 

GREAT SCIENCE FICTION SHOWS from 
radio's golden era. On cassettes, &ae sound, 
moderately priced. Free list. Rare Radio, 
Dept. 1, Box 117, Sunland, CA 91040. 

ASSASSIN'S WANTED, no experience neces- 
sary. Computer desperately needs help in fill- 
ing a new game. Only the brave need apply. 
THE ASSASSIN'S QUEST, PO BOX 2307, 
DEPT 'a', Downsview, Ont., Canada M3N 
2V8. 

HYPNOTISM 

FREE Fascinating Hypnosb Information! 
Startling! DLMH, Box 487, Anaheim. CA 
92805. 

INVENTIONS WANTED 

INVENTIONS, patents, wanted cash, royalty. 
Auto, electro-mechanical, mechanical devices, 
Hou.sewares, etc. We develop, finance, manu- 
facture and market from an idea to perfected 
product. Free evaluation and brochure. Request 
Kit DP, Pixonic Corporation, 22 Walter 
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LOANS BY MAIL 

BORROW $25,000 "OVERNIGHT." Any pur- 
pose. Keep indefinitely! Free Report! Success 
Research, Box 29070-6Z, Indianapolis, IN 
46229. 



176/ISAAC ASIMOV'S SCIENCE FICTION MAGAZINE DECEMBER 1980 



Classified Continued 



LOANS BY MAIL— Cont'd 



BORROW $1.000-$50,000 secretly-"over- 
night." Anyone! Credit unimportant. Repay 
anytime. Incredibly low interest. No interviews, 
collateral, co-signers. Unique "Financier's 
Plan." Full information, $2 (refundable). 
Spectrum, 79 Wall St.-16, New York 10005. 

GET cash grants— from Government. (Never 
repay.) Also, cash loans available. All ages eli- 
gible. Complete information, $2 (refundable). 
Surplus Funds-DG, 1629 K St., Washington, 
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BORROW by mail! Signature loans. No col- 
lateral! Free Details! Write MBG-DPClll, 
Box 2298. Sandusky, OH 44870. 

THE ARABS HAVE MILLIONS to Loan, 
Invest. (Not Iranian) Free Details. Arab-DC, 
n:\5 M^in, Vidor. TX 77662. 

QUICK $CASH$ SIGNATURE LOANS! Ad- 
vire amount & purpose. Details Free. ELITE, 
Box 454-DG. Lynbrook, New York 11563. 

MAIL-ORDER OPPORTUNITIES 

FRAUD? Learn secrets behind mailorder. New 
report tells all. "Mailorder Robbers?" $2.95. 
Truth Publications, Box 746, Saybrook, CT 
06475. 

MEMORY IMPROVEMENT 

INSTANT MEMORY . . . NEW WAY TO 
REMEMBER. No memorization. Release your 
PHOTOGRAPHIC memory. Stop forgetting! 
FREE information. Institute of Advanced 
Thinking. 845DP ViaLapaz, Pacific Palisades, 
CA 90272. 



MISCELLANEOUS 



TRANSLATIONS: English to German, Ger- 
man to English. All subjects. Professional, 
prompt, accurate. Charles Reavis, 1138 Blvler 
PI., South Bend, Indiana 46616 (219) 287-1353. 

MEET sincere, beautiful people-like YOU. 
Very low fees. Call DATELINE toll-free: 800- 
451-3245. 

FULL COURSE VEGETARIAN MEXICAN 
DINNER. Send $2.00 with self addressed 
stamped envelope to: L.B. Sherby, 117 North 
First, Ann Arbor. MI 48104. 

STARSHIP EMPIRES, computer moderated 
mail SF game. Information $1. 152 Valley, 
Laconia, NH 03246. 

SAVE! Fabulous Gems For Jewelry, Collect- 
ing! Gemcutter to You! Details Free. Taylor's, 
113-A Martin, Indian Harbor Beach. FL 32937. 

BEAT INFLATION with COMMON SENSE. 
Pamphlet $3.00 (refundable). MJS/FOADCO, 
P.O. Box 7042, Ck>lumbus, GA 31907. 

NUCLEAR WAR SURVIVAL! Information 
and techniques, $5.00 Report. Terry's Multi- 
service, Box 328, Dept. A, Hummelstown, PA 
17036. 



MISCELLANEOUS — Cont'd 

HILARIOUS! "AIN'T LIFE A TOAD" 
photo. B&W 8"xl0" Suitable for framing. Rvish 
$2.50 along with name and address to: TOAD, 
Box 121. Reeds Spring, MO 65737. 

CONTROL YOUR DESTINY-Know your 
moods in advsmce. Personalized BIO- 
RHYTHM chart showing graph and critical 
day list. The following information is needed. 
Your mo/day/yr of birth, date you want chart 
to start, number of months chart is to cover 
(3 mo. min.), and your name & Address along 
with $1.00/mo. or $10.00 for a one year chart. 
Send to T. M. M. Co., Caller #1516, Downers 
Grove, IL 60515. Allow 2 wks. for delivery. 

EXPERIENCE THE FUTURE with "Astral 
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HIGH! Send $9.95 per tape plus $1.00 postage 
or write for a free brochure explaining all 
about "Astral Sounds." J. B. Estrin, 6302 
Ethel Avenue, Van Nuys, California 91401. 

MONEYMAKING OPPORTUNITIES 

MAKE YOUR CLASSIFIED AD PAY. Get 
"How to Write A Classified Ad That Pulls." 
Includes certificate worth $2.00 towards a 
classified ad in this publication. Send $1.50 
(plus 25^ postage) to R. S. Wayner, Davis 
Publications, Inc., Dept. CL, 380 Lexington 
Ave., New York, NY 10017. 

$45,000 in Three Weeks! Guaranteed! Gene 
S'lnders, 1316DC Lyric, Fort Worth, TX 
76134. 

$60. 00/ Hundred Stuffing Envelopes (per in- 
structions)!! Offer-details: Worldwide-P 460, 
X15940, Fort Lauderdale, FL 33318. 

EARN Big Money CJollecting Names! Easy 
Work! Start Immediately! Write: Day, 104-HH 
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COLLECrr names. Guaranteed weekly income. 
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$45,000.00 in three weeks Guaranteed! Send 
self-addressed stamr>ed envelope to Arnold 
Lange, 246 Dayton Ave., Clifton, N.J. 07011. 

$80/100 Stuffing. Mailing Envelopes. No Limit. 
Free Details. Greenwood Publications, Box 
776 (DP) , Tualatin. OR 97062. 

HOW Never to be Broke Again, and Always 
have Money, or "Become A Millionaire!" Z. 
Thomas, P.O. Box 1410, N.Y., NY 10017. 



ISAAC ASIMOV'S SCIENCE FICTION MAGAZINE DECEMBER 1980/177 



Classified Continued 



PERSONAL 



UNIVERSITY DEGREES BY MAIL! Bache- 
lors, Masters, Ph.D.s . . . Free revealing de- 
tails. Counseling, Box 389-DP12, Tustin, CA 
92680. 

HAVE CONFIDENTIAL CHICAGO MAIL- 
ING ADDRESS or branch office. Business, 
Personal; Since 1944! Mail Center, 323 (g) 
Franklin, Chicago 60606. 

PRISONER help getting out. $2 successful 
legal plans. P.O. Box 333-F, Haslett, MI 
48840. 

WOULD you like to practice a profession, pri- 
vately or with an existing firm, where your 
services are in demand by attorneys, business- 
men and government agencies? Regardless of 
your background, you could be interning in 
this challenging, controversial, high-paying 
and wide-open profession within weeks or even 
davs. I know, I did it. Complete how-to info., 
including state laws. $15. Or, send $1 plus self- 
addressed, stamped envelope for details. FVL, 
P.O. Box 151001, Salt Lake City, UT 84115. 
References, 30-day money-back guarantee. 

WAGE EARNERS eet larger tax refunds with 
TAX TIPS. Send $3.00 to Taxlady, Box 81, 
Indian Lake Estateg, Florida 33855. 

JOBS OVERSEAS, FULL FACTS and AIDS. 
BASCO, Box 98, Southview Station, Bingham- 
ton. NY 13903. 



PROFITABLE OCCUPATIONS 

DIAMOND Brokers earn big profits. Requires 
$250 investment. Free details. Diamonds Un- 
limited, Box 4348, University Park, NM 88003. 

RECORDS. TAPES & SOUND EQUIPMENT 

FREE Promotional albums, concert tickets, 
stereos, etc. Information: Barry Publications, 
477 82nd Street, Brooklyn, New York 11209. 

RUBBER STAMPS 

FREE! Illustrated Catalog. Hundreds of Stock 
Cuts, etc. Send 500 postage. Applicable first 
order. Kingsborough-IA12, 1571 W. 11th 
Street, Brooklyn, NY 11204. 

SONGWRITERS 

POEMS WANTED. Songs Recorded For 
Radio Promotions. Pageant Records, Box 
7416-DA, Sarasota, FL 33578. 

SONGWRITERS: We were organized to help 
writers produce good songs and sell them. 
N-^tional Songwriters' Guild. 2421D WaUiut 
Rd., Pontiac, Michigan 48057. 

TOYS, GAMES & ENTERTAINMENT 

A FUN GAME anyone can play, anywhere, 
anytime. Send $1.50 to Bucks Services, P.O. 
Box 122, Hershey, PA 17033. 



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178/ISAAC ASIMOV'S SCIENCE FICTION MAGAZINE DECEMBER 1980 



TAKE ANY 6 BOOKS FOR $1 

WITH MEMBERSHIP 

SAVE UP TO 65% OFF PUBUSHERS' EDITIONS WHEN YOU JOIN! 




0034 Lord Valentine's Castle. By 

Robert Silverberg. A man struggles 
to regain his stolen memory on the 
planet Majipoor. Pub. ed. $12.50 

1081 The House Between the 
Worlds. By Marion Zimmer Brad- 
ley. A man is projected into a paral- 
lel universe where ethereal people 
fight hordes of carnivores. Pub. ed. 
$10.00 

2824 The Snow Queen. By Joan D 
Vinge. An almost immortal ruler 
tries to avert destruction and pre- 
vent her planet's regression. Pub. 
ed. $10.95 



"2576 Voorloper. By Andre Norton 
Survivors on the planet Voor are 
determined to stop the Shadow 
Death which has devastated their 
families and town. Spec. ed. 

'4317 Players At the Game of 
People. By John Brunner. A man 
owned by aliens is in danger when 
he questions his odd way of life. 
Spec. ed. 

2717 The Rinoworld Engineers. By 

Larry Niven Sequel to Ringworld. 
The planetary system is doomed — 
unless the Engineers' identities are 
discovered. Pub. ed. $9.95 



0075 The Chronicles of Amber. By Roger Zelazny 
Two vols Nine Princes in Amber; The Guns of 
Avalon; Sign of the Unicorn; The Hand of Oberon; 
The Courts of Chaos. Comb pub. ed. $30.30 

6288 A Heinlein Trio. By Robert A. Heinlein. 
Includes: The Puppet Masters; Double Star; The 
Door into Summer. Spec ed 

6239 The Best of Walter M. Miller, Jr. A superb 
collection of short fiction by the author of the clas- 
sic A Canticle for Leibowltz. Spec ed. 



Note: Prices shown are publishers' edition prices 
'Explicit scenes and language may be offensive to som 




*4291 Fireflood and Other Stories. 

By Vonda N. Mclntyre. 11 of her 
finest including "Aztecs. " runner- 
up for the Nebula Award. Pub. ed. 
$10.95 

0422 The Empire Strikes Back!" 

By Donald F. Glut The novelization 
of the action-packed continuation 
of the Star Wars saga. Spec. ed. 

6254 Universe 10. Terry Carr, ed. 
A thought-provoking anthology by 
such authors as P.M. Busby and 
the award-winning James Tiptree, 
Jr. Pub. ed. $8.95 



FREE 

carryall 
membership 



TH^:©Lucasfilm, Ltd. (LFL) 1980 
See other side for more choices. 



Cut along line and nnail — no postage necessary 



How The 

Science Fiction Book Club Works: 

When your application for membership is accepted, 
you'll receive your introductory package of six boolcs for 
justSI, plus shipping and handling. You may examine 
them in your home, and if not completely satisfied, 
return them within 10 days — membership will be can- 
celled and you'll owe nothing. 

About every four weeks (14 times a year), we'll send 
you the Club's bulletin. Things to Come, describing the 2 
coming Selections and a variety of Alternate choices. If 
you want both Selections, you need do nothing; they'll be 
shipped to you automatically. 

W you don't want a Selection, or prefer an Alternate, 
or no book at all. just fill out the convenient form always 
provided, and return it to us by the date specified. 

We allow you at least 10 days for making your deci 
sion. If you do not receive the form in time to respond 
within 10 days, and receive an unwanted Selection, you 
may return it at our expense. 

As a member you need take only 4 Selections or 
Alternates during the coming year. You may resign any 
time thereafter, or remain a member as long as you wish. 
One of the two Selections each month is only $2.98. 
Other Selections are slightly higher but always much less 
than hardcover Publishers' Editions. A shipping and han- 
dling charge is added to all shipments. Send no money 
now. Cut off this postage-paid reply card and mail today. 



Yes, I want to join 

The Science Fiction Book Club. 

Science Fiction Book Club 

Dept. BR-014. Garden City. NY 11530 

Please accept me as a member. I agree to the member- 
ship plan as described above. Send me the 6 books whose 
numbers I have indicated below, and bill me just $1, plus 
shipping and handling. I agree to take 4 additional books 
at regular low Club prices in the coming year and may 
resign any time thereafter. SFBC offers serious works for 
mature readers. 















Mr. 
Mr. 




(Please print) 


Apt if 
7in 


nity 


Statft 


If under 1 


8, parent must sign. 



The Science Fiction Book Club offers its own com- 
plete hardbound editions sometimes altered in size 
to fit special presses and save members even more. 
Members accepted in U.S.A. and Canada only. 
Canadian members will be serviced from Toronto. 
Offer slightly different in Canada. 77-S222 



€grlk\ 



\ 



TAKE ANY 6 BOOKS FOR $1 

WITH MEMBERSHIP IN 
The Science Fiction Book Club 




*6346 Beyond the Blue Event Horizon. By 

Frederik Pohl. Sequel to Gateway. More 
about the mysterious aliens whose artifacts 
may be the salvation of Earth. Pub. ed. 
$9.95 

2543 The Dragonriders of Pern. By Anne 
McCaffrey. Includes; Dragonflight; Dra- 
gonquest; The White Dragon. Comb, pub 
ed. $26.85 

'Explicit scenes and language may be offensive to some. 



8532 The Hugo Winners, Vols. I and II. 

Isaac Asimov, ed. In one volume; 23 

award-winning stories, 1955 to 1970. Pub. 

ed. $15.45 

6221 The Foundation Trilogy. By Isaac 

Asimov. The ends of the galaxy revert to 

barbarism. A SF classic. Comb. pub. ed. 

$20.85 



M503 The 1980 Annual World's Best SF. 

Donald A. Wollheim, ed. Another winning 
collection of eleven great short stories by 
such talent as John Varley and Larry Niven. 
Spec. ed. 

6197 Riddle of Stars. By Patricia A. McKII- 
lip. In one volume; The Riddle-Master of 
Hed; Heir of Sea and Fire; Harpist in the 
Wind. Comb. pub. ed. $24.85 

See other side for more choices. 



Cut along line and mail 
No postage necessary! 



NO POSTAGE 

NECESSARY 

IF MAILED 

IN THE 

UNITED STATES 



BUSINESS REPLY CARD 

FIRST CLASS PERMIT NO. 1 GARDEN CITY N.Y 



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