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| | BITNET Fantasy-Science Fiction Fanzine
___|___________|___ X-Edited by 'Orny' Liscomb
X-Editorial 'Orny' Liscomb
Waiting Here For You Steve Boyko
It Slid Ron Trenka
*The Edged Tool Jim Owens
Men Shall Have the Stars Carlo Samson
Wiring Jim Owens
Date: 121487 Dist: 521
An "*" indicates story is part of the Dargon Project
All original materials copyrighted by the author(s)
Well, with the end of the semester and the approach of
Christmas things start getting hectic, and FSFnet is no exception.
We are rapidly approaching the deadline for submissions in the
FSFnet cyberpunk short story contest (as outlined in Vol09N1), and
hopefully we'll have one or two entries by the end of the month. I
am still negotiating to purchase the prizes, which will (hopefully)
be a book of Geiger artwork, and a poster print of Geiger artwork.
Those of you unfamiliar with the name might recall that he did the
preliminary artwork for the movie "Alien", among other works.
Due to the shutdown of the WISCVM gateway and the opening of a
local gateway at MIT, the YALEVM-CUNYVM link has been absolutely
saturated of late. This is the reason why some of you may have
received two copies of the last issue. It was originally sent on
11/23/87, but due to the large file queue it was purged and most
readers did not get their issues until I re-sent the issue last
weekend. Apologies to all for the confusion.
And speaking of confusion, what happens when you have a machine
which allows people to subscribe to FSFnet, but never sends out
issues? I recently discovered a list of people who had subscribed to
an FSFnet list on a LISTSERV which hadn't received an issue in
nearly two years! I hastened to request that the list be shut down,
and invited those users on the list to be added to the main
distribution list, which many have since done.
And that brings us to another topic, and that is this issue's
distribution. As you can see, we have broken the 500-reader barrier
with over 460 BITNET readers and over 50 internet subscribers! And,
of course, this doesn't include people who get issues from local
lists or newsgroups, servers, or other second-hand methods. I must
thank everyone who is spreading the word about FSFnet. And, as
always, a warm welcome to all our new readers. This issue is a
particular treat, and I hope you all enjoy it. We have a Dargon
story by Jim Owens, and several excellent short stories and poems
from BITNET authors. I'm sure that you will find it a pleasant
change from the standard fare.
And, finally, one last comment. For some time, I have found
myself in the most remarkable position of not having to ask for
submissions. However, with the distribution of this issue, I find
that we are again in need of material. If you are an amateur writer,
please feel free to send in original stories, articles or poetry. If
you are interested in writing stories for the Dargon Project, please
so notify me. And, of course, all readers are encouraged to write a
story for the cyberpunk SF short story contest. As mentioned in the
very first issue of FSFnet, it cannot function without the support
of its readership in the form of letting other people know about
FSFnet and making contributions. Please get in touch with me if you
would like to submit an article to FSFnet.
Waiting Here For You
When the call came I took heed,
To fight within this hour of need,
I said "My lady, I must go"
"To find and slay our deadly foe."
To which she said, "Take care, my dear,"
"Within my heart you're always near"
"I'll be waiting here for you,"
"I'll be waiting here for you."
My heart was heavy, my sight was dim,
Aboard the ship with men so grim,
To recover that which was our own,
Within my heart her love still shone;
As I watched men live and die,
I recalled our last goodbye:
"I'll be waiting here for you,"
"I'll be waiting here for you."
We knew our cause was just and right,
Our foes' hearts were black as night,
On and on the battles raged,
Our lives and more were being waged;
For months we fought for every hill,
And yet her words echoed still:
"I'll be waiting here for you,"
"I'll be waiting here for you."
While deep within our foes' domain,
A war did end our good king's reign,
Cities sacked and temples burned,
To death and ruin we returned;
We slew them all with sword and steel,
And deep within I knew for real:
"I am coming back for you,"
"I am coming back for you."
And after foes were all laid down,
I traveled back to my home town,
To find it burned down to the ground,
And my love nowhere to be found;
The people came and said, "Be brave,"
"Your lady she lies within her grave,"
"She waited here for you,"
"She waited here for you."
-Steve Boyko <9090920@UNB>
The car sat under the tree, its occupants basking in the silence
and the illusion of privacy.
The man clasped the breast of his shapely companion in a
passionate embrace. She responded with a moan as her hand slid
between his thighs. She knew that she should be home with her
betrothed, yet the passion of this stranger was more than her will
The smell of sweat from the lover's bodies filled the interior
of the car as the two twisted and turned in an ancient dance that
man had performed since he fell from the branches of the Tree of Life.
In the darkness, a shadow stirred. It lifted It's hideous head
and paused, as if listening for something in that accursed darkness.
A faint voice drifted through the heavy air and It heard. It moved
It's hellish frame toward the voice and the voice grew stronger,
more demanding. Soon, a spot of dim, flickering light appeared in
that world of eternal night. It moved nearer and the voice boomed
inside It's horrid skull.
"Come, for it is I who beckon", the voice said. "I have a task
and a sacrifice for you."
And It slid through the gate.
"It was his fault", she thought, as the stranger's manliness
slid inside her. "If he paid more attention to me than those old
books I wouldn't need this."
Their bodies moved in a rhythm that followed an unheard tune.
Their moans grew louder as their senses became aware, every nerve
alive, sensitive to the slightest touch.
And It slid.
Her moans became screams of passion, then screams of fright as
It's horrible head came crashing through the windshield and fixed
It's toothy jaw over the head of her lover. Her screams, mingled
with the tossings of her lover's dying body, formed a morbid scene.
Then she was alone.
And It slid.
In a small room, surrounded by ancient tomes and scrolls, a man
leaned over a ball of crystal and watched.
A smile stole across his face as It left the car and moved into
the night. The face moved closer to the crystal and watched the
naked and hysterical form of his wife as she looked at the blood of
her lover smeared across her belly and chest, felt the warmth of his
blood on her face, tasted the saltiness of the blood on her lips.
The man looked past the wrecked car to where the blackness clung
to It's body, as It headed toward the gate It had been summoned from.
"She will learn", he said sadly.
And It slid......
The Edged Tool
The Edged Tool: The Metal
The street was basically empty, unusual for any street in
Dargon. Most streets were usually filled with people, going about
their business. Some were almost impassable. This street, however,
had only one person on it.
Levy Barel walked crisply down the cobblestone. His staff made a
tap each time he set it down on the rock. He was whistling quietly .
He was on his way to the house of Cavendish, an old friend of his.
There he planned to eat supper, and, if the evening ran pleasantly
enough, possibly even spend the night.
He was passing one of Dargon's many alleys when the sound of
voices drew his attention. He looked sideways down the alley, and
what he saw stopped him in his tracks. In the alley were four men.
One, obviously a foreigner, had his back to a wall. The other three,
swords drawn, were facing him. The foreigner had his hand on one of
his two swords, but had not drawn.
Levy hesitated. From the looks of the three natives, he could
guess what was going on. Alone in a strange town, the foreigner was
an easy target. Levy could not conceive of the stranger as being in
the wrong. At the same time, cutthroats did not earn their title
through good deeds, and a second murder came easier than the first.
He put one foot forward, toward the confrontation, and then stopped,
Levy looked around. He saw no one else.
Levy leaped forward. He ran full tilt towards the group.
"Hey! Hey!" Levy yelled as he ran. He had no sword, no armor,
only a small knife that was buried under his travelling clothes. He
wondered what he would do when he reached the thieves. "Hey!"
The four men turned and looked at Levy. Under any other
condition, the flapping cloak, awkwardly held staff, and bug-eyed
expression would have been hilarious. Instead, however, the three
ruffians took to their heels and fled.
Levy slowed down to a walk. He and the foreigner watched as the
thieves disappeared out the other end of the alley. Then they looked
at each other.
The stranger was shorter than Levy, and yet still had a good
presence to him. He was wearing a long tunic under a heavier
overcoat. Judging from the foreign make of the other's clothes, it
was obvious that he came from a land not much warmer than Dargon.
"Are you all right?" Levy asked.
"Yes. We did not hurt each other." The other looked to the far
end of the alley, where the cutthroats had fled. He then looked back
at Levy. "Thank you for helping me. I... appreciate it." The other
gave a short bow. He spoke as if he was still learning the language.
"It was...nothing." Levy thought back. Who's voice had
admonished him to aid the stranger? There had been no one else around.
"Who are you?" At the question Levy looked back at the other.
"My name is Levy Barel. Who are you?"
"My name is Ittosai Michiya. I..."
"Let us get out of this alley." Levy interrupted. "Please. Come
Ittosai paused. He was still not used to the west's strange
ways. Finally he relented and followed Levy. The two reached
Cavendish's house without further incident.
Cavendish welcomed Ittosai warmly. It didn't take Levy long to
realize that Cavendish not only knew Ittosai, but that Ittosai was
on his way to Cavendish's house when he had been attacked.
Over supper Levy learned many things. He learned that Ittosai
was on a self-imposed exile from his country, something Ittosai felt
some embarrassment over. He learned that Ittosai had only been in
Dargon a few months, and that Lord Dargon had commissioned Ittosai
and Cavendish to record all Ittosai could remember about Bichu, his
native land. Cavendish thought it wonderful that he could take a
break from his dull court records, and while Ittosai would not admit
it openly, Levy knew that it was an opportunity to get his feet
under himself in a strange land.
Levy spent that night at Cavendish's house, and, at the scribe's
insistence, the next night as well. Levy had contracted a room at a
local inn, but the innkeeper refunded some of the fee, and both
parties were satisfied. Ittosai had been living with Cavendish as
well, and Levy found himself in a strangely furnished room that he
knew he had once slept in, but that now looked like it was in
another country. It was neat, however, and so Levy didn't mind much.
The second morning Levy was packing his horse up for the trip
home. He had come to Dargon to buy gold and gems to make into the
golden articles he fashioned for a living. The stones were worth a
lot of money, and even though Levy's inheritance would be great,
Levy's father was not dead, and so Levy had worked long for the
money. He was tightening the last knot when Ittosai startled him
"You are leaving now, yes?" Levy turned to see Ittosai dressed
in heavy traveling clothes.
"Yes. I have to get back to my village. Are you leaving also?"
Ittosai shrugged. "I have recorded enough for Lord Clifton
Dargon. He has rewarded me, and I... can now go." He held up a
bulging leather sack for Levy to see.
"Where are you headed?" Ittosai had told Levy that he knew no
one outside of Dargon.
"I know not. I was wondering... a companion, you would like?
Someone to travel with? I would be honored to go with you." Ittosai
was smiling confidently.
Levy smiled back. He had been dreading the lonely trip home, and
would be happy to have a partner. He told Ittosai so.
"Good! We can leave now then!" Ittosai ran around the corner of
the house, and returned a moment later leading a huge horse loaded
with twice as much baggage as Levy had ever carried in his life. "Is
that all yours?" Levy stared at the bundles.
"Yes. Most it came from Bichu, my home land. Don't worry, I know
Levy nodded hesitantly, and then the two started off.
The Edged Tool: The Forging
Levy stooped near the fire. He stirred the broth carefully,
trying not to slosh any into the fire. The scent was good, and it
was bubbling fiercely. He and his travelling companion, Ittosai
Michiya, had stopped for the evening. They had stopped early,
several hours before dark, so that they could replenish their
depleted supply of water and meat. Ittosai set out to catch some
birds, and Levy had set up camp. When Ittosai didn't return soon,
Levy searched out a small creek and filled their water bottles. He
found Ittosai cleaning his catch when he returned.
As they cooked the fowl and ate them, along with generous
helpings of week-old stew, they discussed Ittosai's plans.
"...want to see much...as much... of your land as I can."
Ittosai paused to take a bite of stew. He had discovered that the
technique of using a wide spoon didn't differ as much from the
technique of the chopstick as he had originally thought. The stew,
on the other hand, was something he would need time to get used to.
"I think that's a good idea. I have seen much of it myself. It's
beautiful, for the most part. Some parts are wild and uninhabited.
Some parts are wild, and inhabited." Levy chuckled at his own humor.
Ittosai gave Levy a puzzled look. "Please...What do you say?"
"Some parts of Baranur have bands of men, thieves, murderers,
robbers. Others are cities, like Dargon, only in the warmer south.
They can be very rough. I am careful not to go where I know I might
get into trouble."
"No man will trouble me. I will...dee...defend? Defend my honor.
I will make my ancestors proud." He patted the swords at his side.
Levy looked at him. "You seem awful sure of yourself. It doesn't
pay to depend on yourself for too much. No matter who you are, there
is always someone or something you need to fear."
"I fear no one." Ittosai finished his supper, and stood up. He
dusted himself off and walked off to clean his bowl. Levy watched
him, then shook his head and finished his own meal.
The next morning they continued on their way. They had been
traveling for four days already, and that afternoon they came into a
small village, one just big enough to have an inn. There they bought
more food, and continued on. A few miles out of town they left the
main road. Levy explained that this path would take them south
toward his village. Ittosai continued with Levy, although he was no
longer as talkative as he had been before.
That afternoon they paused in a clearing in the woods. It was
one obviously used by travellers, and there was running water
nearby. Levy topped off the bottles while Ittosai busied himself
with a flute he was carving.
Levy returned after a few minutes. He was carrying the two
bottles on either end of his walking stick. He set the jugs down,
and threaded the stick out from the handles. He stood up, and saw a
man step out of the woods between Ittosai and himself. He called out
to Ittosai, but even as Ittosai stood up another man followed the
first out. Within a few seconds, the two found themselves surrounded
by a dozen armed men.
Ittosai watched the intruders approach. He rested his hand on
the hilt of the sword his uncle had given him. Perhaps this would be
its first real use. Five of the men formed a rough half-circle
around him. The rest surrounded Levy. They all carried drawn swords,
but the ones confronting Ittosai stopped just out of his reach.
Levy watched as Ittosai surveyed the situation. The five men
confronting Ittosai seemed content to stand their ground, as did the
ones Levy faced. Ittosai was not made of similar material however.
He had never been taught to take the defensive.
The first man never even moved his arms. Ittosai killed him on
the draw. The next man took a defensive stance, but failed to take
into account his foe's longer blade. The remaining three stepped
back, forcing Ittosai to pause to realign himself. He then once more
pressed the attack. He dropped the next with a belly cut, and
stepped into the fourth. Their swords struck once, and then Ittosai
whirled and cut down the fifth, who was trying to come in from the
side. He then turned once more to the fourth one, who was standing
with his sword outstretched. Ittosai saw the other's eyes flicker
for an instant, and stepped in with three quick blows, the last of
which cut almost all the way through his opponent's body.
Ittosai pulled his sword out quickly, but before he could
straighten up completely he felt a massive blow on the back. He fell
to the ground, something pinning his lower body down. He quickly
levered himself up with his right arm, and swung his sword up behind
him with his left. It connected, and Ittosai felt blood spraying the
back of his neck as the weight rolled off his backside. He tried to
get up, but discovered to his horror that his legs didn't want to
respond. He looked up at the rest of the people in the clearing.
They all just stood there, none moving. Ittosai reached behind
himself, and felt down his spine. In the small of his back, his
fingers encountered something hard. He grabbed it, and pulled. It
came out, and he suddenly felt very weak. With trembling muscles he
held the bloody knife up to his face. It fell from his weakening
fingers, and a moment later his right arm also gave way, dumping him
across one of his victims. As he watched, the others turned away, to
consider their other captive, Levy. Ittosai saw Levy, head bowed,
forehead resting on his hands, which were clasping the top of his
staff. Then the other men obscured Ittosai's view of Levy, and a
moment later Ittosai closed his eyes.
"Ittosai. Ittosai. Wake up. Ittosai."
Ittosai opened his eyes. Levy was staring down at him. When Levy
saw Ittosai's movement, he smiled, and extended his hand. Ittosai
grabbed it, and felt himself being pulled to his feet. He looked
around. He was standing on the edge of a mound of gore. Bleeding
bodies littered the clearing. Ittosai put his hand to his back, but
while he had no problem finding a small slit in his cloak, there was
no corresponding hole in his skin.
"When I saw that ruffian knock you down, I was worried. I
started praying that you would be all right. I guess you just got
the wind knocked out of you, though." Levy seemed unconcerned about
the carnage behind him.
"I... but...no..." Ittosai was severely confused. He looked at
his hand, felt at his back, and looked around once more. "What did
"Me?" Levy was surprised. "I didn't do anything." He surveyed
the clearing smoothly, almost casually. "I'm not a fighter. I can't
give anyone life, so why should I take it? My god fights for me."
Ittosai stared; at Levy, standing there in true sincerity; at
the bodies littering the ground; at his hand, which no matter how
many times he put it to his remembered wound, would come away dry.
Ittosai numbly helped Levy drag the bodies into a large pile in
the center of the clearing. Levy considered the pile for a few
minutes, and then walked over to the fire. He grabbed a burning
branch, and with Ittosai's help proceeded to burn the bodies. Once
the fire was going properly, Levy and Ittosai packed up and hurried
away from the stench. All the while Ittosai was running the matter
over and over in his mind, and every time his hand would wander to
the small of his back.
They made camp well after dark. Levy once more dug out the stew
pot, and heated up its well churned contents. Ittosai declined his
offer of the pungent food, and watched as Levy ate it with obvious
relish. Finally he could take it no longer.
"Did I die?" Ittosai wasted no words of introduction.
"Huh?" Levy stopped in mid-bite.
"Did I die? Did I ..." Ittosai fought for a word. "Did the man
"You're here, aren't you?" Levy was looking confused now.
"He knife me!" Ittosai was loosing his mastery of the native
tongue as he grew more and more excited. "Here! He knife me!" He
turned and showed Levy the tear in his clothes. Levy examined the
blood-stained tear carefully, and the skin underneath.
"Maybe he did. Maybe you did die, or something. But you're alive
now. If you died, and are alive now, then my god didn't want you to
die. If you didn't die, well,..." Levy paused, looking for a good
answer. "...Well then he still doesn't want you to die. Maybe he
wants you." Levy looked thoughtful, then turned back silently to his
Ittosai considered this. His religious teaching had not involved
the worship of any particularly large deities. The idea of a god
powerful enough to save a life was new to him. He silently left
Levy, and retired to the privacy of the shadows.
Levy watched him leave. He had not explained to Ittosai how he
had prayed for deliverance, and how when he opened his eyes all his
enemies were dead on the ground. Nor had he ever told Ittosai of the
voice he had heard back in Dargon, urging him to go to the aid of a
foreign stranger. He pondered his own words. They had come out
clumsily, but suddenly he saw a greater meaning in them. Of course,
in the dark, after such a frightening experience, it was easy to
assign meaning to meaningless things. Such speculation was best left
for the morning. Levy sensibly finished eating, and went to bed.
The next dawn found Ittosai returning from a small stream,
having finally washed off the previous day's dried gore. He once
more looked neat, his blades at his side. He stepped into the
clearing, and was shocked to see a man once more step into the
clearing with Levy and himself.
Ittosai's reaction was blindingly fast. His blade whistled as it
arced through the air. The stranger's reflexes were faster, however.
Ittosai's blade screamed harmlessly off a steel bar clamped to the
other's forearm. Before Ittosai could recover from the follow-though
the intruder had grabbed Ittosai with a grip like iron.
While the two struggled, Levy ran up to the pair. "No! No!
Ittosai! Stop! Captain Koren! Stop!"
At the sound of the name, Ittosai paused, as did his opponent.
Sure enough, when he really looked at the man, Ittosai recognized
the captain of Dargon's city guard. The two released each other.
"Many pardons, please. I did not know." Ittosai returned his
sword to its sheath and gave a short bow.
Captain Koren smiled as he stepped back and ran his fingers
through his hair.
"It's all right, my friend. After your little encounter
yesterday, I'm not surprised you're a little edgy."
Levy and Ittosai stopped at Koren's mention of the fight.
"How did you know we had an encounter yesterday?" Levy looked
suspiciously at Koren, who was grinning broadly.
"I was following that group. I caught up with them just after
you left. I followed your tracks from the pyre. Who else could it
"Did the bodies all burn completely?" His secret discovered,
Levy was his usual businesslike self.
"I don't know. They were still burning when I left to follow
you. What a stench!"
"Why were you following them? Is Dargon so quiet you can track
down mere road toughs?"
Koren paused for a moment, then spoke. "You're a trusted fellow.
Lord Dargon has uncovered a plot against his life. These men were
somehow linked. We think they were waiting for his death, so that
they could come in and pillage the city. There are other groups to
the east as well. They all seem to somehow know that there is a plot
"Preying on the dead." Ittosai broke his silence. He was
secretly smarting that Koren had deflected his blow so easily, and
at the same time grateful that he had not killed the man. To add to
his turmoil, someone was trying to kill the man who, up until a week
ago, had been his lord and master. "What will you do now?"
Koren turned to Ittosai. "Actually, I think that depends on you.
I was thinking as I followed you. I'm alone on this mission, and I
know that you are loyal to Lord Dargon, Ittosai. If you can handle
fifteen armed cutthroats, alone, I think you might be a good person
to have with me. Lord Dargon set you free to go, didn't he?"
Ittosai nodded, willing at least temporarily to allow Koren to
believe him to be a greater fighter than he was.
"Ittosai was planning on seeing the lay of the land, Captain
Koren." Levy looked to Ittosai as he spoke. "I was thinking of
taking him to see my village. Of course, it's Ittosai's decision."
The two looked at Ittosai. He pondered for a moment. He could go
with Captain Koren, and help the man who had helped him when he
needed help, or he could go with Levy, who seemed to think that
there might perhaps be some purpose to Ittosai's wanderings. Ittosai
thought back to the things his father had taught him, of destiny, of
karma, of the world of the spirit. He looked up through the branches
at the rays of light streaming from the sun.
"I would be of little use to you, Captain Koren. I do not yet
speak your language that well, and I would be ... obvious? in a
crowd. I will go on with Levy."
The Edged Tool: The Honing
The sun was shining brightly when Levy stepped out from among
the trees, and looked down on his house, a small square set in the
midst of a golden field. He smiled broadly. No matter how
interesting, there was no place that could make him feel like that
tiny building made him feel.
A moment after Levy stepped into the light, another person also
stepped out. This person also looked out at the small house, but his
mood was far from happy. He was remembering the large, beautifully
decorated mansion he had grown up in. It was now many hundreds of
miles away, and Ittosai Michiya, as this man was called, was not
likely to see it ever again. Ittosai Michiya was an exile.
Levy and Ittosai crossed the remaining distance to Levy's house.
Once there they unpacked the horses and let them go. The two then
carried their baggage into the house. Ittosai looked around the dark
interior. The dim light seemed oppressive, as had much of the last
two days of their journey. To Levy, though, the dim light was the
quiet stillness of home. He promptly started to set the usual
household proceedings back in motion, lighting the fire, setting a
pot on to cook (the same pot of stew as during their journey), and
drawing water from the well. At first, Ittosai shunned to do what he
considered to be slave's tasks, but soon realized that he had left
his exalted status back home in Bichu, his homeland.
They hadn't been there long when there came a delighted shriek
from the doorway. Levy turned around just in time to catch a fair
haired young girl as she flung herself at him.
"Levy! You're home!" She gave him a bear hug, accompanied by
much happy squealing. Even Ittosai was forced to smile at such an
"You almost knocked me over there! Yes I'm home! Home at last!
How's everyone? Mother? Father? The farm? What's happening?" The joy
of seeing a familiar face shaped Levy's face into a big grin.
Ittosai noticed that there were two young men standing in the
door. They looked so much like the girl he realized they must be
related. He also saw in them a clear resemblance to Levy. Levy
noticed them also, as they stepped into the room.
"Kane! Kine! How're you doing?" They both stepped in to give
Levy a hug as well, although in a more restrained manner than their
sister. Levy turned to Ittosai, one hand around each brother and his
sister looking over his shoulder.
"Ittosai, I want you to meet part of my family. This is Kane,
Kine, and Kara, the triplets in our family. They're two after me, in
order of birth. Folks, I want you to meet Ittosai Michiya, my
travelling partner from across the sea."
"Hello. I'm Kane." Kane stepped forward, as did his brother.
Kara came around from behind Levy and stepped right up to
Ittosai. Before he knew what was going on, she gave him a kiss, and
then leaped out the door. "Let's go tell everyone Levy's back!" The
four men watched her bound through the grass, then looked at each
other. Kane and Kine smiled at Ittosai's startled expression, and
then waved and followed their less restrained sister out. Levy
watched them go, then turned to look at Ittosai.
"Well? What do you think?"
Ittosai rubbed his cheek where Kara had met him. "I..interesting."
The two resumed unpacking, while Levy proceeded to tell Ittosai
all about his family, for about the fourth time. It wasn't long
before heavy footsteps could be heard outside.
"Levy!!" The call sounded like a bull getting ready to charge.
It was followed by a great bull of a man. He snatched Levy
completely off his feet in a hug, then held him up at arms length
for a better view. "You almost look like you've grown! I'd better
watch out, or you might get bigger than me!" From the size of the
man, Ittosai doubted it.
As he was lowered to the ground, Levy turned to Ittosai.
"Mattan, this is Ittosai, my travelling partner. He's from a country
called Bichu, across the sea." Mattan stepped up and clapped Ittosai
gently on the shoulder. "Wellmet, Ittoshi. Will you be staying long?"
Ittosai looked up at the behemoth before him. "I .. do not know."
Mattan turned and clapped his hand against Levy's shoulder,
almost knocking him down. "Ma's throwing a party for you. She's been
planning it almost since you left. At dark, at the house. O.K.?"
"Yes. I'll be there." Levy knew better than to turn down his
mother's party. Not only would he miss a great time, but he'd never
live to see the end of it.
"Good! Bring Ittoshi, he'll like it." With that, and a wave,
Mattan also walked off. Ittosai wondered briefly how often he would
hear his proud name so badly mangled, then turned once more to his
After unpacking Levy stepped outside and called the horses. Both
came running at his call. With Ittosai's help he loaded the gold and
gems he had bought in Dargon onto the horses, and then he and
Ittosai started towards the village proper. Once there they were
again met by many people happy to see Levy. Ittosai noticed,
however, that there wasn't as many happy faces along the streets as
Levy had said there would be. The two made their way to the smithy,
where Levy was apprenticed. The smith was a wide fellow, with a wide
face and an equally wide smile. Levy endured yet another bruising
"Well, it's about time you got back! I've missed the extra arms!
We've got a lot of catching up to do before winter comes!"
"Yes, I can imagine." Levy looked around the shop. Everything
looked much like had seen it last, although there were the few
inevitable changes. He looked back to the smith. "I've heard they're
throwing me a party tonight. Were you invited?"
"But of course! You know your family! It's no fun unless
there're a few hundred people there!" Levy and the smith both
laughed at that, although the smith didn't laugh long. "Well, I'll
let you have the rest of the day to get caught up. I'll see you
after sunset." With that he turned back to his hearth.
Levy and Ittosai returned to Levy's house. They continued to get
Levy's house back in order, checking the fences, finding Levy's two
cows, and finally drawing more water. Ittosai tagged along, feeling
out of place. While drawing the water, Ittosai spelled Levy after a
bit, something for which both were grateful. He worked quietly for a
while, and then turned to his host.
"I wonder." Ittosai said that like a question. "Why is there no
woman in your house?"
Levy looked up from where he was sprawled in the grass. "I don't
know. I suppose it's not from lack of opportunity. I guess there's
just been too much else to do. I never had time to catch one, or to
chase one long enough for her to catch me." He grinned at that, and
Ittosai did too, after thinking about it for a moment.
Ittosai pulled up the bucket. He was about to dump it into the
basin, like he had the other bucketfuls, when he noticed that the
water was suddenly muddy.
"What is it?" He got up, and walked over to look into the
bucket. Frowning, he took it from Ittosai and dumped it onto the
grass. He then carefully dropped the bucket back down the well,
noting how long it took to fall. The frown on his face deepened when
he realized it had dropped basically all the way to the bottom. He
pulled it back up, and grimaced when he saw how muddy the water was.
"Looks like someone's used my well recently. It never gets this
low this time of year." He and Ittosai stared down into the black
hole for a moment, and then Levy shrugged, and turned away. The two
of them carted the water into the house, changed clothes, and
started off for Levy's parents' house.
By the time Levy and Ittosai arrived the party was already well
underway, as a well planned welcoming party should be. Levy spent
almost two hours introducing Ittosai to all his family, relatives,
neighbors, and general well wishers. Never had Ittosai been so
confused and bewildered in his life. Any social event he had ever
been to was dignified and restrained. This party was anything but
restrained. There was dancing, singing, wrestling, eating, drinking,
talking, and laughing, all at the same time. It wasn't long before
Ittosai found a nice quiet spot in the shadows where he could just
sit and watch.
Levy, on the other hand, couldn't have sat down even if he had
wanted to, and he didn't. After being away for almost three months,
and living in a strange and sometimes hostile city, he was glad to
get back to a place where he didn't have to watch his back, his
step, and his wallet all at the same time. He danced wildly with
every pretty girl, including his sisters, he wrestled with all the
young men, except Mattan (daring he might be, but he wasn't
suicidal), he ate and he drank and he even sang a song for the
crowd. He talked with everyone about everything, he greeted even the
people he didn't like, and it was only when the crickets went to
sleep and the people started to leave that he finally sat down to
catch his breath. It was only then that he realized that he didn't
know where Ittosai was. He looked around, then got up and started
searching. He finally found him, sitting on a bench talking with Eli
Barel, Levy's father and town Elder.
"... thought to try distilling it. We've always liked it the way
it was." Eli looked up as Levy approached. "Ah! Levy! I hope you
feel sufficiently welcome now, if you didn't before."
"I always feel welcome here, Father." Levy sat down next to his
father. "What were you talking about?"
"Ittosai here was telling me about what they drink in Bichu. He
says our beer is water compared to it." Eli smiled at the foreigner,
who was drinking some of that water out of a wooden mug.
"It is. But that's because here it flows like water, while in
Bichu it is rare stuff. Ittosai told me that Bichu is a crowded
country." Ittosai nodded in assent.
"Yes, it is true that here we don't go thirsty." Eli's face
darkened at that word. "Or at least we haven't yet. But that time
might soon come. Levy, there's something I want to show you. Come."
Levy and Ittosai followed Eli through the dark. They walked down
a well worn path as it led down a fairly steep slope. Suddenly the
dirt gave way to water worn rocks. Strangely enough, though, there
was no water flowing over them.
Levy stood on the dry riverbed, his hands on his hips.
"It's not right for the river to be dry at this time of the
year, is it?" Ittosai could hear concern in his voice.
"Nor is it right for wells like yours to have nothing but mud in
them. Ittosai told me what happened. So far our well still has
water, but further north wells are empty, and the drought moves
further south each day. The crops still need water, at least for a
few weeks yet, and if this keeps up we are going to be hungry and
thirsty this winter."
"Could you not send someone north? To find the problem?" Ittosai
tried to make out Eli's expression in the dark.
Eli's voice was flat as he answered. "I did. I sent two men
north, first Jorden, son of Jesh, then Eli, son of Tharah. Neither
have come back. They were to have been gone only three days. It'll
be two weeks tomorrow."
The night was quiet for a several minutes. Finally Levy spoke.
"Ittosai. Do you wish to stay, or do you want to go with me?"
The Edged Tool: The Use
Levy and Ittosai left at first light. They took with them their
horses and as much food and water as they could carry. Levy knew
that it could always be unpacked if necessary. They followed the
riverbed, walking right up its middle. At first Ittosai felt nervous
about this, having once seen a man carried away by flood waters, but
he soon realized that the river would not be dangerous unless there
was a heavy rain, and there had been none for weeks.
Soon they left all houses behind. They started to see some of
the effects of the lack of water. Weeds, which normally clotted the
shallows of the river in these uninhabited parts, now matted the
shoreline with their dry stalks. Occasionally, in the deep pockets
of the riverbed, the two travelers found flattened corpses of fish,
dried by the fall sun. Nightfall found the pair camping without a
fire, fearful that any spark might ignite the dry leaves that were
falling from the dying trees. The next day at dawn they continued
north. By noon they found themselves forced to travel single file,
as the river narrowed down to a stream, a brook, and then finally
gave way to what had been a marsh. Here Levy and Ittosai stopped for
the night, again without a fire.
The next day they started moving northwest, as that was the
direction that Levy thought looked the driest. His judgment seemed
good, as they were soon moving through what was rapidly becoming a
desert. Trees stood almost leafless, their foliage lying at their
feet, most of it still bearing traces of green. The only animals
they spotted were dead, the rest having left for better feeding. As
the two continued north, they approached some small hills. To their
surprise, when they reached these hills they found them to be green
and living. Strangest of all, the dividing line between the dead
land behind them and the green trees ahead of them was as thin as a
thread, running around the base of the hills.
Ittosai watched while Levy studied the area. After a few minutes
of walking around looking at things, Levy walked back to Ittosai.
"The answer to this whole problem must lie at the base of these
hills. There has to be a reason why these hills mark the boundary
between this desert and living ground. I'm going to walk around this
hill westward. I want you to walk around the hill eastward. We'll
meet on the other side. If you see anything unusual, remember where
it is, so you can show me. Understand?"
Ittosai nodded. Levy took his horse, and started west. Although
he didn't say it, Ittosai felt that somehow Levy was on the wrong
track. Levy seemed to be trying to find a reason why one area had
water and another didn't. To Ittosai, the question was not one of
differing characteristics, but of change. Why would an area that had
an abundance of water suddenly become practically a desert? To a
person of Ittosai's upbringing, a change of state could only be
brought about two ways, either by human or divine intervention.
Therefore Ittosai waited until Levy was out of sight, and started to
climb the wooded slope.
To Ittosai's way of thinking, he needed to see the whole problem
to understand it, and the only way to see an entire hill was from
the top. Ittosai climbed boldly, his eyes focused on the slope up
ahead. He made no effort to be quiet or inconspicuous. The slope
started out easy enough, but soon the way became steep, and Ittosai
was forced to tie his horse to a tree and leave it. Ittosai
continued upward, pausing occasionally to check his progress. It was
only when he was close to the top that he realized that he could
hear sounds from above, sounds that did not belong in a forest. He
slowed down, and started to try to be quiet. Like any warrior from
his country, he managed very well.
As he neared the top, he could see that there was a large
clearing at the crest of the hill. Only the tall trees prevented the
bald spot from being dramatically visible. Through the trees Ittosai
could see figures moving about. As he drew close to the open space,
he could see that the clearing was littered by large, stone ovens.
While he watched, men busily forged swords, knives, and spearheads
over bright fires. It wasn't until he had been watching for a few
minutes when he realized that the fires were not producing any smoke
at all. Not only that, but there was no wood or charcoal nearby to
fuel the fires.
While Ittosai crouched in the shadows, he became aware of a
commotion approaching. It soon resolved itself into a group of men
carrying buckets. Guarding them, and hustling them on their way were
two soldiers carrying spears. While Ittosai watched, they approached
the men working at the hearths. The men with the buckets relieved
the others, who were herded back the way the others came. It was
then that Ittosai noticed the guards watching the smiths. The
newcomers took their buckets, and poured water from them on the
fires. To Ittosai's shock, instead of the fires going out, they
burned hotter! It was then that he realized where all the water was
going. It was somehow being used to fuel these fires!
While Ittosai watched, another group of men approached. These
were led by two men. One was garbed in thick leather and metal
armor, and carried a long sword. The other wore nothing but a cloak
over his shoulders, despite the cool fall air. He had a detached
look to him, as if he were not actually part of the group, but was
merely walking in the same direction. The armored one, however, was
angrily remonstrating him. The group finally stopped halfway between
Ittosai and the nearest forge.
"Here, wizard. Make me one here." The military one pointed at
the ground firmly.
The wizard lost some of his detached look, and regarded the
other coldly. "Here? Another? You already have enough. Why do you
The armored one's face grew red, and his expression showed rage.
"I'm not asking you if I need another, I'm telling you to make me
The wizard's expression grew suddenly stern. "You are telling
me? With a word I could wipe out this entire, pitiful band of yours,
and you're telling ME!?!"
The armored man was taken back a bit. "We need another spring,
so that we can fire more furnaces. Is that a good enough reason?"
There was a moment of silence. "I suppose so." The wizard took a
step towards Ittosai, and the group fell back. Ittosai gripped the
hilt of his sword. Somehow he could feel evil here. As he watched,
the wizard made a motion, and mumbled a word. Suddenly a fountain of
water burst out of the ground. With a shout, soldiers prodded slaves
with buckets forward. They started hauling the water away. The
armored man stepped up to the wizard and started to thank him,
albeit rather stiffly. After a few moments, however, the spring
faltered, and then stopped all together.
There was silence as the wizard stared at the spot of mud on the
ground. From all over the clearing there came cries and shouts. The
wizard made the motion again, and repeated the word, but only a
furtive bubbling rewarded him.
"What's wrong? Why'd it stop?" The warlord was angry, yet fearful.
The wizard looked around wildly. He waved his hands through the
air, as if feeling for something. "I don't know. It's almost as if
we've drained all the water we can from this area."
The soldier grabbed the wizard by the cloak. "If we don't have
water, we won't be able to make enough weapons to take the city when
At the mention of the man who had helped him, Ittosai felt a
strong and sudden urge to act. He had no ideas, no plan of attack,
but the urge was just too strong to resist. He stepped into the
light, drawing his sword. All around there was an abrupt silence.
Suddenly Ittosai felt alone, and sickeningly directionless. The
urge that had pulled him from the shadows had left him, and now he
felt empty. Remembrances of the fight on the road came to his mind.
Unlike then, he now felt naked and unprotected. For the first time
in his life, Ittosai realized his own inadequacy. He was one man,
alone, with two hands clutching a thin piece of steel. Facing him
were over a hundred armed and armored men, desperate, and skilled in
battle, with an unknown power on their side. The wizard started to
wave his hands in a menacing fashion, and as he started to mutter
strange words, the war lord drew his long blade and stepped forward.
Ittosai started to make the standard attack, but fear paralyzed him.
The small of his back started itching where the rough had struck him
from behind, and Ittosai had to fight an urge to turn and run.
"Throw down your sword."
Ittosai felt a chill cover his body. The words had seemed to
come from inside his own head.
"Throw down your sword!" The words were more insistent.
Unbidden, Levy's words came back to Ittosai's mind: No matter
who you are, there is always someone or something you need to fear.
In a moments inspiration, Ittosai realized that, in the native
tongue, the word 'fear' could also mean 'respect'. All his life he
had been drilled in respect: respect for his elders, respect for his
betters, respect for his enemies. Now he realized that there was one
more being in the universe he needed to respect, and possibly
respect as he had never respected anyone before.
Instantly his terror vanished. He straightened his back, and
reversed his grip on his blade. Lifting his face skyward, he shouted
in his own tongue: "I give my blade to you!" With that he flung the
sword point first into the ground.
The moment the blade struck the ground shuddered. The tremor
soon grew into a quaking that made it hard to stand. Yells and
shouts could be heard over the awesome rumbling. Men were running in
two basic directions: the soldiers inwards, towards the center of
camp, and the slaves outward, for the safety of the woods. The small
group in front of Ittosai fell back.
"Take your sword up again."
Ittosai obeyed, and pulled the blade from the ground. The small
hole the sword had made suddenly grew into a fissure that raced
around the clearing, surrounding the army's camp. Its natural
cohesiveness gone with the ground water, the soil turned suddenly to
a dry fluid. With a horrible noise, everything inside the circle
made by the crack in the earth suddenly disappeared, swallowed by
the earth. Ittosai was knocked to one knee. Within moments, what had
been an army camp was suddenly a bare, brown, expanse.
When the shaking stopped, Ittosai stood. He still held his sword
in his hand. He dusted it off, and sheathed it. He then turned, and
walked down the hill.
At the bottom he met Levy, who was understandably shaken by the
tremor. He was even more shaken by what Ittosai told him. To make
matters worse, men started stumbling out of the woods. Within
moments there was a crowd of hundreds of freed slaves. To Levy's
surprise, among them were Jorden and Eli, the two men from the
village. Before they could finish telling Levy their story, however,
dark clouds covered the sky. The group hastily headed for one of the
other nearby hills, fearing mudslides if they remained near the
shaken mount. By the time they reached the far slopes the ground was
already almost too soupy to traverse.
It rained for two days. The third day the sun came out, and by
noon the men were sweating even with their shirts off. They started
back, making their way around the swamp. They reached the creek, and
found it full and muddy. The next day they were forced to walk
through the woods beside the swollen river, although by night the
water was no longer brown. By the time they reached the village the
river ran crystal clear, and they found children playing in the
flow. Elder Eli welcomed the freed slaves. The ones that had been
taken from their homes were given food and clothes, and seen off on
their way back, and the truly homeless were offered lands and a
place in the village. Levy was again greeted enthusiastically, and
this time Ittosai was not allowed to remain on the outskirts of the
It was raining again several days later when Ittosai left Levy's
house for the last time. He checked to make sure he had packed
everything, and then carefully bowed to Levy and Elder Eli. Levy
then gave him a last embrace.
"You're welcome here forever, as are your children, and their
children." Eli had to shout a little to be heard over the rain.
"Thank you, Elder Eli." Ittosai turned to Levy. "I thank you,
Levy. I think now... I mean, now I know there is a meaning to my
"I've learned as much as you, Ittosai. Take care." They clasped
hands once more, and Ittosai turned his horse, and started to ride.
Men Shall Have the Stars
In the beginning Apollo achieved the moon
Next Viking landed on Mars;
And in the future, very soon
Men shall have the stars.
When the solar system is all explored
And men seek new adventure,
To the stars they shall all turn toward
And embark on this newest venture.
In ships that surpass the speed of light
They shall cross interstellar spaces,
And find new worlds at the end of their flight
And colonize alien places.
But when the Earth is dead and gone
Throughout the galaxy humans still roam;
And to the edge of the cosmos wander on
And call the stars their home.
Bradley noticed something strange about the place the moment he
stepped off his ship. That wasn't unusual, however, for all new
planets are strange. He'd seen many new planets, and therefore took
the strangeness in stride.
Bradley strolled casually over to the depot, enjoying the warm
breeze and sunny sky. He walked into the obligatory rental office
and rented a small craft. While he waited he scornfully examined the
young man who was serving him, observing the neat uniform, the
cosmetic smile, the polished hair and face. Sucker, he thought. They
already got you trapped, just like they almost trapped me, wound up
in the lair of respectability. He almost considered offering the
young man a 'ride', but thought better of it. No telling what the
laws are like on this world, he told himself. No sense in getting
picked up for 'kidnapping'. Taking his keys, he strode out to get
He passed row after row of glistening craft, all neatly
arranged, all dreams of conformity. He slowed after a bit, and
started to check the numbers painted on the sides of the cars
against the number stamped on his keys. It was soon apparent that
his car was obviously the last one on the lot. Typical bureaucratic
screwup, he fumed. Making me walk all the way out here...
He got to the end, and there was his car. Totally unlike the
others he had passed, this one was old, rusty, decrepit, broken
down, in short, just the kind of car one would never expect to find
in the kind of a world he had seen so far. He looked at the key
ring. He was not surprised to see a small, sticky patch on the
backside of the tag, just the kind of spot left by a 'CONDEMNED'
sticker when it accidentally falls off. He considered returning the
rings for a new set, but rebelliously decided not too. He didn't
want to get too used to the idea of conformity.
Several minutes later he was cruising down the super highway,
relaxing and enjoying the ride. He had a day or two to spend here,
before he was supposed to rendezvous with a buyer at a nearby solar
system. I'll sightsee for a day, see what trouble I can get into,
spend the night, and be on my way, he told himself. Not that there
looks to be much trouble to get into around here, he chuckled to
himself. At least the car's reasonably functional, even if it is a
little dinged up. Any damage to the machine was mostly superficial.
It had no viewer, or even a radio, indeed it even lacked an
antennae, but it was comfortable, and required little effort to
drive. Bradley looked out the window while he reclined in the plush
seat, his right pinkie handling the wheel.
As he drove towards what appeared to be a big city, he examined
the other cars. Must be a holiday, he thought, lot's of people on
the road. Each car held from one to eight people, in what seemed to
be a rather normal distribution. He pondered this, reflecting on how
there were usually many more cars with only one occupant than there
were cars with multiple occupants. He made a quick (but
representative) survey, and found that just as many cars had eight
occupants as had one. Strangely enough, there were many cars that
had several adults packed in with two or three children, rather than
the usual father-mother-kids type of arrangement. Another thing he
noticed was that all the cars had these large whip antennas
protruding from the roofs. He tried to find one that didn't, but
even on that crowded expressway there wasn't a single one to be
found. He pondered on that little piece of information for a bit,
before his attention was distracted by the approaching city.
Bradley had been to many cities before, but none quite like this
one. All the buildings were clean and spare in their design, totally
unlike the mad mixes usually found in large cities. As he entered
the city, he also noticed that the closer the buildings were to the
center of the city, the taller they got, effectively giving the city
a rounded, domelike skyline. All nice and neat, just like a city
park, he thought. Perfectly planned, flawlessly executed, just like
a ballet. I'll bet they even die on time around here. Bradley
considered for a moment that there might just be some advantages to
an ordered life, and then snorted. Too dull, he told himself, no
life. It was in the middle of this thought that he glanced down from
the bridge he was driving on, and saw the wreck.
The car was completely totalled. Smoke and fumes poured out of
the engine compartment, and nothing moved inside. Bradley's heart
started thumping, and he fought to control it. He had seen death
before, just not recently. Get a grip, Bradley. People buy it all
the time. They'll even get you one of these days. Then, as he
watched, another car veered off a nearby road. It's movements were
purposeful and direct, not erratic, as it jumped a concrete bank and
slammed into the damaged car. It was followed by another, and then
by a large truck. Finally a sports car swerved off the bridge just
ahead of Bradley, vaulted the guardrail, and fell easily one hundred
feet to land exactly on top the smoldering pile. With it's impact,
the whole heap burst into flames.
Suddenly Bradley felt afraid. Not the kind of fear you have when
you realize you forgot to turn your taxes in, or when you realize
you left you wallet in your other coat, but the kind of fear that
forces all the breath from your lungs, and causes your testicles to
crawl up into the pit of your stomach. He looked around wildly. All
around him the people in the other cars sat, stonily ignoring the
accident, him, and the whole world in general. Bradley let out a moan.
"Something is definitely wrong here," he said, his voice
breaking. He searched wildly for an off-ramp. Finding one, he cut
across four lanes of traffic to reach it. He slid down it, and made
a left at the intersection at the bottom. He pulled into the first
driveway he saw, and up to the door of a large tower.
Leaving his car parked in the middle of a large curving
driveway, he rushed through a set of glass doors and into a large
lobby. There was only one person in the lobby, a woman standing
behind a desk, wearing a pink outfit with a tall hat. He rushed up
"Miss! Miss!" Bradley staggered up to clutch her desk. "You've
got to help! Please!"
"Yes? How can I help you?" The girl's smile didn't waver at the
sight of the wild-eyed man panting in front of her.
"There's been an accident! Cars, a couple of them! And a truck,
too. All mashed together! And burning!"
"Yes?" She continued to smile, as if Bradley were discussing the
"You gotta call the authorities, or something! It was terrible!
They just ran right into each other! I mean, one wrecked, and then
the others ran into it, just Bam! like some big crashup derby, like
they were just a bunch of..."
Bradley looked at her bland, smiling, face.
"Just like they were a bunch of toys." Bradley stared at her,
fear once more welling up in his gut. He thought back to the
freeway, to all the cars, moving neatly along, all with their...
Suddenly he leaned forward, and with a broad sweep of his arm,
knocked the receptionist's hat off. His arm also brushed her head,
mussing her hair, but still she beamed on. Bradley cautiously walked
around the desk, his eyes never leaving her. She watched him come.
He leaped forward, grabbing her by the arm and twisting her around.
There, plastered against the back of her neck, was a thin, flexible
steel wire. He grabbed it, and pulled. It came out easily, trailing
a thin cable, which was slick with blood. He stared at her in horror
as she turned, still smiling. He backed away from her, then turned
He raced out of the lobby, and leaped into his car. Without
looking back he gunned the engine. It responded smoothly, hurling
him down the drive. As he approached the road, however, he slowed.
He looked back toward the tower. There was no one in sight. Bradley
sat, panting. Am I going nuts or something? he asked himself. People
don't have wires in them, no matter how much alike they look. They
may act like a bunch of robots, but that doesn't mean they are
robots. He considered. Maybe I'd better go back and check things
out. He turned back around to take the wheel, just in time to see a
man in gardener's clothes reaching for the door handle. Bradley
didn't need any more convincing. As the door opened, Bradley kicked
it with all his strength, sending the gardener flying. Bradley then
shut the door, locked it, and sent the flitter flying into traffic.
Almost immediately Bradley saw a sign directing him to the
freeway. When he turned down that road, however, he suddenly found
himself circling a large, round park, with a fountain in the center.
Everything was green and beautiful, with children running around
with balloons, and parents walking strollers. Then he saw that the
fountain pool was filled with a dozen or so men and women, in
business clothing, calmly swimming laps.
"That does it. I'm out of here." Bradley swung the car towards
the outside of the traffic circle, looking for an exit. It wasn't
until he had made two full revolutions that he realized that the
road that he had take into the circle had suddenly and totally
disappeared. If that weren't enough, though, he suddenly noticed a
commotion in the park. As he watched, all the swimmers stood up, and
began to walk towards him, spiralling outward towards the edge of
He made a quick search of the control panel. It was sparse,
but...there. He reached down and grabbed a large lever.
"You can't fool me! I've seen too many different vehicles not to
realize that this isn't just a ground car!" Bradley shouted to no
Lifters in the stub wings whined as the flitter lifted off the
ground. It cleared the ground clutter easily, and Bradley turned the
flitter toward the landing area, accelerating as he went. He watched
anxiously as he flew, but there appeared to be no pursuit. Once at
the landing port, Bradley set the flitter down right beside his ship
and leaped out of the car before it even stopped. He franticly
activated the port lock, all the while closely watching the nearby
ground attendants as they repaired a nearby ship. The door was just
starting to open when they suddenly dropped what they were doing and
turned to face him. They took a step toward him...and then the port
was open, and he was inside, slamming it shut.
Once inside his own ship he finally felt safe, or at least
safer. Sensors showed no one else on board. For once the stench of
thousands of accumulated man-hours didn't annoy him. He leaped up to
the conn before the first blows started to fall on the side of the
hull. Bradley wasted no time with trying to raise the tower. He
activated the emergency flight mechanism, and strapped in.
The launch pinned him to his seat, but his overhead view unit
showed him the view below. As he rose above the plain, he saw long
lines of flitters streaming toward the spaceport. Try and catch me
now, suckers! he thought, the acceleration not permitting him to
actually talk. As the ship rose higher, Bradley could see the city
laid out below, then the plain it was built on, and finally hills
surrounding it. Shining objects, arranged regularly around the city
on the surrounding hills, caught his eye. Were they towers? Once
free from the clawing atmosphere, the ship started accelerating in
earnest, making its heated rush for the stars. Bradley's eyes
started to fog. Before he finally blacked out, however, he thought,
or perhaps hallucinated, that he saw, moving in the hills far below,
large shapes, carrying large boxes, each with a large rod, or
antennae, protruding from its end.
Little Orf got up from where he was hiding, behind the dirt
mound. Across the model city from him, Tad did the same.
"Aw, what'd you do that for? I wasn't gonna hurt him!" Orf
adopted that whine he always did when he was begging.
"Whaddya mean? I thought he was yours!" Tad's facial tentacles
"It wasn't mine." Orf looked at Tad. Tad looked back at Orf.
Then they both looked up, at the small point of light fading into
the sky. Then they both turned and ran home.