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From: chuq@Sun.COM (Chuq Von Rospach)
Subject: FSFNET Vol 11 #2
+-+ +-+ +-+
+-+--+-+--+-+ VOLUME ELEVEN NUMBER TWO
| | ==========================================
+___________+ FFFFF SSS FFFFF N N EEEEE TTTTT
| ++ | F S F NN N E T
| ++ | FFF SSS FFF N N N EEE T
| | F S F N NN E T
|_________| F SSS F N N EEEEE T
| | BITNET Fantasy-Science Fiction Fanzine
___|___________|___ X-Edited by 'Orny' Liscomb
X-Editorial 'Orny' Liscomb
Your Order... Paul A. Clayton
*A Sudden Storm Becki Tants
DNA For Sale, Slightly Used... Peter Scott
*Unlikely Partners, Part 1 Max Khaytsus
Date: 070688 Dist: 672
An "*" indicates story is part of the Dargon Project
All original materials copyrighted by the author(s)
Many of you are probably unaware just what is going to happen to
FSFnet within the next couple months, beyond what has been mentioned
in recent issues about my graduation. The current plans go like this:
In late August, I will be graduating from UMaine, and coincidental
with that, FSFnet will stop production. However, before I alarm you
too much, let me mention that the Dargon Project will continue under
new leadership, and there are plans to begin a new magazine after
FSFnet ends, and all users who are subscribed to FSFnet at the time of
its last issue will automatically be subscribed to the new magazine
when it begins publication. The new magazine will be edited by John
White , and will publish Dargon Project stories, and
everyone who is subscribed to FSFnet will automatically be subscribed
to the new magazine. Several people I've talked to have asked "Why
bother ending FSFnet and starting a new magazine if they're going to
be so similar?" In a discussion in FSFNET CSNOTICE (available from the
server CSNEWS@MAINE) I talked about why I think it better to end
FSFnet; what follows is a reprint of that discussion. All readers are
welcome to join the discussion and add their comments via CSNEWS.
First of all, let me mention that running a magazine is a
gratifying experience. It would be silly of me (or any editor) to deny
some degree of emotional attachment to his magazine, particularly if
the magazine is successful. With that in mind, here's the basic
reasons why I think the 'new' magazine should be considered a separate
entity from FSFnet, even though they will be almost identical in their
basic nature, as Leo pointed out.
Firstly, but not necessarily most importantly, I'm posessive about
it. I'm rather attached to it, and the thought of turning it over to
another editor, whom I don't know and over whom I have no control, is
difficult for me to accept. This is putting things a little more
bluntly than is actually the case, but I do feel some
defensiveness/protectiveness about it, and that's natural for any
editor to feel.
The flip side of this is the real reasoning behind ending FSFnet.
Presumably, if FSFnet continued, a new editor would be recruited and
be forced to adhere to formats and policies which I set three years
ago. I mentioned that editing a magazine is a personal experience, yet
I suspect that editing a magazine which, in the end, is not your own
creation, lessens this tie. The new editor would probably find running
FSFnet much less rewarding and put less effort into it than if he were
running a magazine which was his own creation, and could make his own
policy decisions from scratch. Sure, the two magazines will be very
similar (particularly with the continuation of the Dargon Project in
the new mag), but because of the change in editors, they will not be
identical, and separating them (at least theoretically) into two
distinct magazines will make both parties happier.
So, what appears to be best for everyone, is to discontinue FSFnet
as such, while starting up another (very similar) magazine to fill its
void. Let the old editor have his wish of not letting someone else get
their hands on 'his' magazine, and let the new editor start a zine
which he can take pride in and truly call his own, without being bound
by the policies of the old. Keep the readers involved by allowing the
new zine to make use of the same mailing list. The key to improvement
is to not to be afraid of changes, and I feel that a change in (at
least) the name of the magazine will permit the new editor more
freedom to improve than if he were bound to a set of guidelines not of
his own choosing.
So that should give you a fair idea of what is going to happen,
and why. I'll keep producing issues as frequently as I have enough
material (hint hint), and I anticipate perhaps two more issues before
the end of summer. Speaking of which, there will be a (hopefullly)
large gathering of FSFnet people at the Pennsic War this year, and if
anyone is going to be around, drop me a line to be included in the
planning. But back to the matters at hand; we've got a very
interesting issue here. It includes two very entertaining SF shorts,
Becki Tants' newest installment, and the first in an excellent series
by Max Khaytsus; I'm sure you'll enjoy it.
"Rhadhishe Sheffield will be with you momentarily," said the
attractive young woman. "Can I do anything for you while you wait?"
"Yes, you can answer a few more questions," the chief delegate
said, "To start with, how is it that one in her early twenties is part
of the famous diplomatic corps of S'lah?"
"I am not really a member yet," the woman replied, "but I belong
to Sheffield, and I am training to be a rhadhishe. Is there anything
else you wish to ask?"
"Uh--no," the delegate said, forgetting his other questions in the
surprise caused by her answer.
"Well, then I shall leave," the woman said, pressing a small green
button causing the door to slide open, "If you have any further
questions, you can ask Rhadhishe Sheffield, himself."
The woman left the room, and the chief delegate turned to face the
six other delegates from his world as the door to the room closed.
"Did you hear that?" he asked, "Apparently, this culture has some
peculiarities that were not mentioned in the briefing, including
slavery. I suggest we be especially careful to avoid breaking any
The delegates mumbled their agreement, and then broke back into
grumbling about the clothing that had been provided for them.
"This stuff looks so silly. I mean, look at this pattern of vine
and long-bodied fish with black splotches that look like oil stains."
"Mine isn't much better. Do we really have to wear these clothes?"
"Yes. It's part of the tradition of peace negotiations here on
S'lah that all parties wear these diplomatic clothes. They are
symbolic of fair treatment for all sides of a dispute. And, remember,
the N'rr said that we should do our utmost to secure a FAIR peace. You
wouldn't want to fail her over such a trivial matter as clothing,
"No. It's just that these clothes are so--"
A short buzz came from the control panel beside the door,
interrupting the delegates speech. The chief delegate walked over to
the panel, pressed a small button, and spoke at the panel.
"Who is it?"
"This is Rhadhishe Sheffield. I have come to guide the delegates
from Kruetos to the Meeting."
The chief delegate pressed a button and the door slid open,
admitting a short, cheerful-looking man wearing a dull red robe with a
white sash hanging from his right shoulder to his left side.
"Hello. I am Rhadhishe Sheffield, but you may call me Sheff," the
man said, "I see you have put on the clothes we have provided. Good.
You do realize, of course, the significance of these clothes?"
"Yes," the chief delegate said, "that was covered in the standard
"Good. Many do not realize their significance. They do not
remember that for many years our people were tossed by warring
neighbors and that we developed our diplomatic policy as a defense
response. The clothes that you now wear ensure fair treatment to all
the delegates and put you under a very strict code of conduct. If any
one of you breaks part of the code, not only the individual, but his
entire people will be liable to punishment. This ensures the safety of
the other delegates and the safety of our world from retaliation if a
delegate should come to harm.
"Do you have any questions to ask before we go to the Meeting? It
is my responsibility to inform you on any matters that interest you
concerning our culture in general or the nature of the Meeting."
"We presently only have a few short questions," the chief delegate
said, "You can answer them while guiding us to the Meeting."
"As you wish. Shall we leave then?"
The chief delegate nodded, and Sheff began to lead them away.
"You said that you have some questions that you would like to
ask," the rhadhishe said, "What would you like to know?"
"Well, first," the chief delegate asked, "the woman who came to us
to announce your coming said that she "belonged" to you. What exactly
did she mean?"
"Oh," the rhadhishe said, mildly surprised by the question, "She
is my cumbre--you might call her an indentured servant. I am quite
fortunate to have her; the queue for such intelligent and readily
trainable servants is quite long. In fact, colloquially they are known
as line-servants because one must usually wait so long before one can
"You shouldn't consider us less civilized because we practice this
form of slavery," the rhadhishe said, catching the look on the
delegates' faces, "It is the only way we have found to ensure that the
poor are not thrust into poverty. Our laws protect the rights of all
cumbres and ensure that they are fairly treated. The demand for such
servants keeps the prices high; and our laws prevent any single
contract longer than seven years and ensure the servant's right to buy
himself out of any remaining time; and, of course, only a willing
citizen can become a cumbre. In addition to being a path for the poor
to escape poverty, this ensures a high standard of education and
allows gifted individuals to receive special training. Admittedly, not
all individuals have equal opportunity nor are all owners
exceptionally kind to their servants, but our system seems to us the
best of the systems to which we have been exposed. Remember, this
system has ensured the stability of our society for almost two hundred
years; few other societies at our advanced level of technology can
make such a claim about their social systems.
"At any rate, I think that answers your question. Is there
anything else that you would like to know?"
The chief delegate asked Sheff several more questions which he
answered at some length. Then, after a brief moment of no questions,
the chief delegate spoke again.
"Oh, yes," the chief delegate paused before he continued speaking,
"As you may know, the N'rr, the leader of all Kruetos, ordered this
gathering as she lay on her deathbed. For this reason we are obliged
to attempt to make peace with our enemy, though all indications are
that we could start an invasion of B'konbi itself within the next year
and thus ensure victory; but we must be certain that the treaty will
be fair, otherwise we will be forced to settle our dispute with the
weapons of war. We have heard that a Terran will be presiding over the
Meeting; is this true?"
"We are almost at the place where the meeting will be held. Is
this your last question?"
"Yes." the chief delegate nodded.
"Well, then follow me."
The rhadhishe turned at a fork of a type particular to the
architecture of S'lah and led them into a small rectangular room with
a large window offering a view of the room that had been prepared for
"There, in the center of the room, is the one who will preside
over this gathering," the rhadhishe said, pointing through the window
at the bowl-shaped room beyond.
The room had trees, shrubs, and other plants spread throughout it.
It was filled with greens, as was the custom among the people of
S'lah. At its center, sitting behind a small, curved table which faced
the seats for both delegations, was a woman whose long brown hair was
streaked with grey and who looked at once both above all concerns and
open to the concerns of others.
"Her name is Sherry Mato, though she prefers to be called by her
middle name of Theresa," the rhadhishe continued, "As you may know,
our world has significant economic interests on B'konbi-- significant
enough that these interests might make one of our diplomats favor
their side, or, in an effort to avoid this, favor your own side.
Fortunately, we are prepared for such problems. We make a habit of
adopting people from other worlds, and training them, in a politically
neutral environment, to deal with these relatively rare situations.
"To answer your question, yes, she is a Terran, though she was
adopted at a very early age and has received the same training as all
native arbitrators. She was picked especially for this gathering
because of her special understanding of the underlying circumstances.
You need have no worries that she is less well trained or in any other
way less ripe for this situation than a native arbitrator would be."
"Are you ready to enter the Meeting?" Sheff asked after a long
period of silence.
The chief delegate nodded, and Sheff led them back to the corridor
from which they had come and into the Meeting-room.
Once all the delegates had seated themselves the arbitrator stood
and addressed them.
"Now that the Kruetons and the B'konbits have arrived in S'lahd
dressings, let us begin. . . ."
-Paul A. Clayton
(with Jason Malkoff, Bryan Paschke and Thomas Payerle)
A Sudden Storm
Arrangements didn't take long. The next night, a young dock worker
named Johan was waiting for her at the door and walked all the way
home with her. He was a nice enough young man, about her age, with
dark hair and fiery blue eyes. Nice and muscular too. She immediately
got the feeling he had been handpicked by Karina or Camron as not only
a good body guard, but a good husband candidate as well. He seemed to
have the same idea.
"So, I hear you're new to the city" he said. Interested in a tour
sometime? I've lived here all my life and could show you some really
"That's really very nice of you," Ariel said, ducking just out of
reach as he tried to put his arm around her. He saved the gesture from
looking stupid by going into his pouch with his hand as it came
around, but that didn't stop a couple passers-by from giving him a
look and a chuckle. Ariel blushed, amazed at how unworldly city men
could be. "I really don't think I'll have time. Camron is keeping me
"Well that's OK," Johan said, "Uncle Camron will be more than
happy if we went for a picnic sometime."
"Uncle Camron?" Ariel said with a sinking feeling. She KNEW she'd
been set up.
"Ya. He suggested I walk you home because I know where my sister
Karina's house is. So what about that picnic?" Johan asked.
Luckily the walk home wasn't long and she was able to claim
fatigue to get out of answering the question. She climbed the stairs,
mildly cursing Karina for setting that one up. Her and her idea of
getting Ariel "properly married". Unfortunately, her thoughts were
overrun by the ache in her legs from the previous night's run. Opening
her door, she was about to collapse on her bed, when she stopped,
staring at the man sitting on the edge of her bed.
"Good evening, Ariel. Come in, close the door and sit down. We
have quite a bit to discuss." he said. He was an older man, not very
out of the ordinary looking, but it didn't matter. All she could see
was the symbol of Haargon hanging about his neck.
"Like it?" he asked, holding up the pendent, "It took 7 long years
of searching for the stone and weeks spent in the smithy and jewlers
shops to make it. I made it myself, so that I would know it had been
done right. Would you like to see it closer?"
Ariel couldn't take her eyes off the pendent. She began to move
forward toward it with a faltering step. There was a nagging in the
back of her mind that said she should run away, but it was quickly
fading away as she got closer to the amulet.
"Good. Come here, touch it if you like. You may hold it. It's
really the only way to examine the excellent workmanship of the
amulet." the old priest said, with a wonderful, friendly smile.
Ariel began to reach up for the medallion, to pick it up and look
at it, when she caught sight of Stefan's ring on her finger in the
candle light. With a start, she came back to herself, out of the
drug-like stupor she had been in and snapped upright, taking several
steps backwards to the wall. "What are you doing here?" she asked,
panic in her voice.
"I see you are a bit stronger then I thought. it takes quite a bit
of power to break a mind lock. So be it." he said, as he put his
amulet back on and walked to the door.
"I just came to see for myself who you were and what you were
like. I do so hate killing people who are no threat. So messy. But I
see now that you are a viable concern. Therefore I will give you this
warning and this offer. My god Haargon has commanded your death. he
says you are a grave danger to myself and my followers. I give you 48
hours before I kill you to decide on one thing. You have the potential
to be an extremely talented mage. I would rather not destroy that
potential. So I ask you to join us. I will train you myself. You have
48 hours to decide. At the end of that time, I will return for your
decision. Remember tho, that if your decision is wrong, you will die."
He walked out of the room and closed the door. Panicing for Karina and
Marcus' sake, she ran to the door and opened it, looking for him, to
make sure he didn't harm them. He was nowhere to be seen. It was as
though he had disappeared.
Walking back into her room, she collapsed onto her bed in tears.
She felt so powerless. What could she do against someone who had the
power to disappear like that? She was so caught up in her tears that
she jumped when Marcus knocked on the half open door, saying " I
thought I heard voices up here." One look at her face tho, and he was
immediately at her side, with an arm around her trembling shoulders
saying "It's OK now." and smoothing her hair.
By the time she had calmed down, Karina had come up to see what
was wrong. Karina sat with her, while Marcus went and made some tea.
When he came back, he asked her the question she had known was coming
but dreaded. "OK, Ariel.. We'd like the whole story now. All of it."
he said as he handed her the cup.
Taking a long slow drink, she began her explanation. By the time
she had finished, the tea was cold in the pot, yet she continued to
"Why didn't you tell us in the first place?" Karina asked.
"Several reasons. I hoped that it was over and I could settle back
down to being a normal person again. I didn't want to worry you. Most
of all I was afraid you wouldn't believe me." Ariel said.
Karina came over and gave her a hug. "Well, I admit it is a bit
out of the ordinary, but I don't believe you to be a liar. We'll help
you." Marcus nodded in agreement.
"No!" Ariel protested. "You've done too much already. And now,
because of me, you're in danger. I must leave. Maybe I could go to
Baranur. Find a job there. Maybe they'll leave me alone then."
Marcus spoke up for the first time since he initially came into
the room. "Ariel, you heard what the priest said. You're special in
some way. They won't leave you alone...ever. You're going to have to
fight them, one way or another. At least let us give you what help we
can. Camron might be able to get some information on this other cult.
And we can go to one of the fortune tellers on the dock and see if
they have any guidance for us. I hear Corambis recently returned. He's
the best they say." He was in his fatherly tone. Caring, but firm. She
knew better then to go against him. "And we'll get that young man who
walked you home to stay with you all the time. We'll work this out."
He gave her a hug, saying "Now you go to bed. You're exhausted. I'll
go talk to Camron first thing in the morning so he doesn't worry and
can get things moving."
"OK," she said, "you're right. I do need some sleep." She quickly
crawled under the covers as Karina came over, gave her another hug and
tucked her in. "Good Night" she said as they closed the door.
She waited until after she knew they were in bed and asleep before
getting up. It took Ariel less then 5 minutes to pack her few
belongings and quietly walk down the stairs. In the kitchen, she took
a loaf of bread, some cheese, and a wine skin, and added it to her
pack. Then she left a quick note on the table for them.
I'm sorry, but I can't stay here. My presence puts you
in danger, and I care too much for you to do that. I am
going to find myself somewhere to live where I won't be
hurting anyone. You can reach me at Camron's, as I still
have to work for at least the next couple of days. Thank you
Folding the note and placing it where she knew it would be seen,
she took one last fond glance around the kitchen before walking out
into the night and off to find somewhere to stay.
Marcus shook his head as the door closed, swore under his breath,
and followed her out the door into the night air.
He wasn't the only one.
DNA For Sale, Slightly Used...
Changing technology doesn't mean changing people...
...but the problems may vary...
2800 Whitney Drive
General Genetics Corporation
14000 Michigan Way
Research Triangle Park, NJ
To Whom It May Concern:
I have recently taken care of four thousand square feet of your
"Everlush Living Carpet", impressed by the salesman's demonstration of
its ability to devour cigarette butts, cookie crumbs, and household
dust, turning same into natural pine scent and negative ionization. I
was initially pleased with the carpeting, and even wrote off its
propensity to leach out the cellulose from newspapers as a timely
reminder not to be untidy. Later, I noticed that it had also been
absorbing the feet of wooden furniture, so I installed steel caps on
the legs of those chairs and tables.
Last week, however, my youngest son tripped and dropped a large
pepperoni pizza on the hearth rug, which promptly gulped it down. I
could forgive this indecent haste for cleanliness were it not for the
fact that it was a sudden swell in the carpet that caused my son to
trip in the first place, and the carpet had been making subtle
advances towards the kitchen for the previous ten days.
Things have now gone too far. Yesterday my prize rubber plant
disappeared, and there is a new springiness to the carpet (I leave the
obvious inference to your imagination). Visitors have been discouraged
from entering ever since the welcome mat developed a habit of
dissolving their shoelaces. The pile is now over a foot thick in
places and my daughter's dachshund has not been heard for two days.
And while I find a small quantity of negative ions to be beneficial to
the health, I don't think it appropriate that there should be arcing
between the wall sockets. I am not writing at this time to request a
refund, but I would be profoundly grateful if you would ship a
sufficient quantity of specific weedkiller to eradicate your Everlush
carpet before I call out the National Guard.
Nathaniel S. Horner, M.D.
141 Podunk Drive
General Genetics Corporation
14000 Michigan Way
Research Triangle Park, NJ
To The Boss:
See here, I'm not looking for trouble or nothin', but one
afternoon Ira brings home this gizmo he says is a "Biogulp" organic
vacuum cleaner. What do I care, it picks up schmutz and there ain't no
bag to change.
The first day it's here, Amos 'n Andy -- the kittens -- mark it
for a stranger and pounce. Why not, I said, they could use the fun.
But now it's hiding in the closet under the stairs and refuses to come
out. I call your service man, he comes and talks to it, and says it's
gotten neurotic. Then he says the warranty don't cover repair of
"malicious damage", but any schmuck can see it's only got a coupla
scratches. That ain't no reason for it to be whimpering and
complaining about the spiders.
My husband says you're supposed to find the psychos before they
leave the factory, and that I have a prima facie case (whatever that
is) for a full refund.
Irma Goldstein (Mrs.)
General Genetics Corporation INTEROFFICE MEMORANDUM
To: Departmental Manager, Quality Control
From: Director of Field Inspection
Ed, your boys have got to stay on their toes more! My division
doesn't like playing quis custodiet any more than the next man, but
yesterday they earned their pay. Regs say that any spillage in a
storehouse means everything in the room gets cancelled, but yesterday
your people knocked over a box of self-regenerating tampon RNA
substrate and a vial of Magic Mix Cocktail Shaker base and didn't
sterilize for thirty minutes! You know I hate to get officious --
besides, I've joined in the poker game myself, won a few beads from
your people at times -- but this was one time when the size of the pot
shouldn't keep the men from their work. Fortunately, the only thing
shipped out during that half hour was a box of towels, but it could
have been a lot worse. 'Nuff said, Ed?
10231 Sunset Boulevard
Beverly Hills, CA
General Genetics Corporation
14000 Michigan Way
Research Triangle Park, NJ
I just want you to know right off that this is not a complaint, in
fact quite the opposite, I simply had to write and compliment you for
the wonderful quality of your "Sta-Warm" self-heating body wraps. In
the movie business a girl's kept working a fourteen-hour day most of
the time, a hot bath is about the only luxury I can expect when I get
home, and when there's no-one around to dry me off, your towels are
really better than the usual cheap kinds that make you do all of the
I must confess I was unprepared for some of the things the towel
did, but I've grown used to it since then. The towel seems to enjoy
it, too: more than once it has snuck into my bedroom after a hard day;
and although it did try to strangle my director when he called to go
over the next day's script with me there was no harm done in the end.
Mitzy Moreno (Ms)
1200 Madison Ave Suite 501
New York, NY
General Genetics Corporation
14000 Michigan Way
Research Triangle Park, NJ
As you know, Consolidated has grown into Fortune 500 status in a
record period, and I'm writing to share with you one of the secrets of
our success, seeing as indirectly, you brought it about.
At the beginning of this year we were facing a projected first
quarter loss of $27 million, and as part of the cost cuts I had to
halve my secretary's hours. Well, to cut a long story short, I bought
the latest telephone answering machine from your AI division, figuring
that it would be good for telling people when I would be back, fobbing
off salesmen, maybe even pacifying my wife.
Your literature leaves the limits of the machine's capability
rather open-ended (don't worry -- you're not the first to market
before you've researched: just common business practice), but does
mention that they depend on "heuristic factors". At the time I thought
that meant something to do with background noise; anyway, I plugged it
into the listed line and left it for a few days. Now, I get a lot of
calls. Most of them at that time from people I owed money to. I was
pleasantly surprised to discover that the machine had developed a
smart strategy for handling these people by playing them off against
each other. I was still strapped for time, so I let it have the run of
the whole board. For a week it was doing a great job -- even learned
to imitate my voice -- until one day I caught it haggling with a
distributor over his contract. I listened to it for a while, and
discovered it was actually a pretty shrewd operator!
Anyway, that must have given it some ideas, because the next week
it told me I had a 10:30 appointment with Higgins of Amalgamated.
"You're wrong," I said, "I haven't talked with Higgins in five years".
It turned out that the machine had made the appointment so I could
rubber-stamp a merger deal it had made! I didn't mind making it a full
partner -- in fact, if it bucks for the chair, it can have it. I still
have my stock and that's all I need...
Hiram X. Hamilton III
7343 Waterside Avenue
General Genetics Corporation
14000 Michigan Way
Research Triangle Park, NJ
Dear Sir or Madam:
I am returning my "Adapta-Mirra" to my dealer forthwith, and
advise you that I will be consulting various consumer protection
groups as to the safety of this product. Your mirror functioned quite
adequately in wiping condensation off itself, dimpling into a shaving
mirror for my husband, and giving the time-honored response to my
teen-age daughter whenever she asked it to identify The Fairest Of
However, when my daughter woke up one day with a small pimple on
her nose, she was aghast to see in the mirror a malignant fungus
spreading over half her face. I did not think it funny when my mother
visited and the mirror shrieked loudly and pretended to shatter in its
frame. Nor do I find it amusing that your mirror chooses to portray me
variously as a wizened old hag, a pregnant sow, or Tyrannosaurus Rex.
I have raised my family never to shirk away from reality, and this
has been a traumatic experience for us all. We may seek punitive
1102 Forest Drive
Carson City, NV
General Genetics Corporation
14000 Michigan Way
Research Triangle Park, NJ
Dear Sir or Madam:
I am writing on behalf of my wife and myself to tell you about an
application of your "Slumber-Rite" active-deforming beds which you may
not yet be aware of.
When we bought the bed, Adele and I were on such bad terms that we
even discussed at the same time who would get custody of it. Sex was,
frankly, the only thing keeping us together at that time (if you'll
pardon the crude pun), and that hadn't much life left in it. That
night as we glared at each other across the pillows, wondering who
would draw first, your bed coughed apologetically through its
diagnostic vocoder, and asked us how long things had been that bad. I
started to snap, "None of your business!", but Adele -- who always had
a way with machines -- gave it an honest answer. Soon we were both
talking with the bed, which proved to have a considerate and urbane...
well, bedside manner.
Well, the rest is history. We sold the house to take a second
honeymoon, and gave the bed to a pair of friends whose relationship
seemed headed for the rocks, and that set us wondering: could your bed
be certified as a bona fide marriage counselor? Come to think of it,
formal recognition might spoil the surprise value of its approach. Hey
maybe you guys had more to do with this than we thought!
Old Farm Road
General Genetics Corporation
14000 Michigan Way
Research Triangle Park, NJ
What with the recession forcing us to close down the east wing of
the old homestead, and my having to lay off the groundskeeper, we
considered ourselves somewhat fortunate to acquire your new model
"Genetigardener" on very reasonable terms, but there have been several
slight problems that I think you ought to know about.
Firstly, it has a most inconvenient allergy to tea. What's the use
of having a gardner that doubles as a manservant if the wretched thing
throws up all over the serving tray every afternoon? First time this
happened was when we were entertaining the Buffington-Joneses. Can't
tell you how embarrassing it was...
Secondly, it's quite obvious that the thing was educated in the
colonies, since it can't tell the difference between game and poultry.
Discovered this after I found the best grouse being pecked to pieces
in the chicken coop where the blasted thing had herded them. And why
should it keep asking me where the swimming pool is? Elizabeth and I
haven't touched the waters since a spot of paddling at Blackpool in
Talking of the mem-sah'b, this brings me to the most perplexing
problem. A few weeks ago, she started spending an inordinate amount of
time in the gardner's shed teaching it how to behave in the Old
Country. Then, one day, both she and the thing were gone! I can't get
a word out of the butler and the maid about the whole affair. What the
deuce d'you suppose is going on?
Major Harrington Dexter-Smythe (ret'd)
General Genetics Corporation INTEROFFICE MEMORANDUM
To: All Operations Staff
From: Director, Security
Last night Research had an accident in the bio-electronic lab: a
prototype intelligent television was fed several 1950's 'B' movies and
got the idea to break out. Unfortunately it contains the new
controlled mutation genes, and there may be problems with recognizing
it. Please look out for an object that resembles at various times a
gelatinous blob, a giant fly in a double-breasted suit, Godzilla or
the Smog Monster, or an Egyptian mummy.
Since it also saw both editions of "The Thing", all personnel are
to report to Medical for a full check-up after clocking-on.
-Peter Scott (PJS%GROUCH@JPL-MIL.JPL.NASA.GOV)
"A very rare form of lycanthropy is mutation into a
wolf. This should not, however, be confused with the
legendary lore of werewolves. A wolfling, as commonly called
by mystics, this lycanthrope is a product of fusion of a
werewolf and a wolf by a group of mad alchemists and
wizards. Three quarters wolf blood, this animal is a blood
thirsty, vicious killer that by bite can repopulate its own
kind. A sort of venomous substance will, on contact with its
victim, begin the incredible transformation of man to near
wolf. This ferocious, large creature has been know to bring
beasts as large as bears to the ground with sheer strength
alone. Being an intelligent creature, a wolfling will
selectively attack and kill only those it can not convert to
its own species..."
-Ilyan, alchemist to King Dillas of Gledon, "A Discourse
on Alchemy, Magic and the Consequences of Their Use",
"It has come to my attention that in centuries past more
myth has been developed around the prospect of a man
becoming a wolf than of the actual strength of the Fretheod
Empire. Being a historian, I feel that I do not need to
exaggerate the facts, as often done by Bards, and as a
scientist, I feel I can understand the facts that lie in
this terrible affliction.
"Let me begin by saying that there is no such creature
as a werewolf. A transformation of a human (or any other)
body to creature such as that is simply impossible,
particularly two times in one night. A wolfling, on the
other hand is a diseased man that over a long period of time
becomes a wolf.
"My personal research and experimentation has shown that
such a transition is possible, though not for all creatures,
to experience the mutation specified above. Let me reprint,
for your information an exerpt from the journal of perhaps
the first man to come across the condition described:
"...I can no longer discern between what is real and
what is not. My dreams have become primitive in nature and
bloodthirsty in content. I feel myself slowly going mad.
"The potion I created weeks ago to cure the madness dogs
carry works, but it also adjusts the organisms that imbibe
it to that of a dog. Already the animals that I experimented
on died of the severe changes to their metabolisms. Their
fate did not become mine. Though cured of one disease, I
carry the other. My skin is becoming grey and covered by
thicker hair. I noticed that my teeth are much sharper and I
am growing fangs. Yesterday I woke up to blood, carnage and
a partially gnawed animal in my house. The blood on the
floor was also on my hands and face.
"To these ends, I am leaving my home, to live out my
life in the woods as far from human life as possible. I feel
that if I do not find a cure soon, I may become the father
of a new 'human' race..."
"This was written by Aran Leigh, an alchemist in the
city of Kevra.
"There is no longer evidence of the potion or its
ingredients that are mentioned, but it is quite clear that
the disease is in no way supernatural or a wrath of the
Gods. It is simply an infection that can be transmited from
one individul to another, such as a cold. While not being
one hundred per cent certain of the precise methods of
transfer, I feel I can unerringly say that by the transfer
of body fluids, such as when bitten, would successfully
"The disease itself can take anywhere from a few months
to a full year to come to completion. In its progress, the
only species known not to die before the process is
completed, is humans. Perhaps it is because of stubborness
to live or that the original potion was designed to work on
humans only, but all other animals for which a record of
this disease exists, died very quickly. Humans infected most
often go mad from the striking changes they go through in
the progrees of the mutation..."
-Bistra, head chronicler, city of Shakin, "The Realities
of Myths", pages 33-37.
Rien jumped off his horse near a squeaky old cart labled
'Salamagundi Stew'. Its owner was busy with a sailor, making a sale
and took little notice of Rien, who in his turn became fascinated with
a monkey sitting atop the stew cart. He carefully put out his hand in
front of the animal, allowing it to examine his riding glove. The
monkey pulled at his fingers and uttered a loud scream.
"Looks like Skeebo doesn't like the animal that gave up its hide
for that glove."
"Skeebo?" Rien looked up at the preprietor, puzzled.
"The monkey! I'm Simon Salamagundi. What can I do for you?"
"Ah!" Simon exclaimed. "Regular, sweet and sun-sweet. Which will
Rien looked at the three kettles, as a sailor approached at the
side. "A sweet stew, Simon!" the man exclaimed.
With an adroit move Simon scooped up a bowl and handed it to the
sailor, not once changing his focus of attention. The sailor paid to
Skeebo and left.
"Regular," Rien said. "Seems to be the least traveled of the lot."
"Least traveled because it's so regular," Simon smiled, picking up
Skeebo screamed as Rien was violently pushed aside by a running
girl. Simon stretched out the bowl of stew as Rien regained his
balance. "On the house," he said, seeing Rien reaching for his pouch
with coins. "She's got it," he pointed to the girl moving through the
crowd. "Just take the stew and forget her."
"Watch my horse," Rien growled, his crystal eyes fading to grey.
"I wouldn't if I were you..." Simon called after him, but Rien's
heart was already set on his action. He chased the girl across the
docks and into a maze of alleys. She did not seem aware of him, but
this did not mean his guard could be let down.
Rien drew his long dagger on the run, following the girl into a
less than respectible neighborhood. What did Simon mean 'forget about
her'? The answer was just around the corner.
Making the turn, Rien spotted three well armed cut throats
blocking his advance to the girl. She dangled his purse in a teasing,
you-won't-get-it manner and Rien reached for his sword.
"This isn't worth it," he thought aloud, realizing his sword is
was still strapped on his horse. "Damn fool!"
"Ain't worth it's right," one of the cut throats uttered in a
drunken voice. "No challange at all!" and threw his sword to Rien.
"Still ain't no challange!" the second thug roared. His laughter
ended in a cry of pain as the 'borrowed' sword cut deep into his side.
The third rogue charged Rien in frenzied anger. His charge was cut
short by the dagger. Rien took his time letting the wounded man slide
off the blade. He stared at the one who gave up his sword. "LEAVE" and
the man charged past him like a bat out of hell.
"Next time pick friends who are not drunk," Rien turned to the
girl. "If there is a next time." He slowly advanced towards the girl,
who now backed herself into a wall.
A few more steps and...
A sharp pain spread through his leg and Rien spun around, letting
out an abrupt cry. The grey in his eyes disolved to his normal shade
of crystal blue. He grasped his calf, coming nose to muzzle with a
growling dog. He swung his dagger, losing his balance, but avoided
being bit again by the dog. Rien rolled and stood up, expecting to be
attacked, but was surprised to see the animal lying on the ground with
a crossbow bolt in its side. Down the alley a town guardsman lowered
his weapon as three people rushed past him. Two were dressed in town
guard uniforms, but the third was elderly and dressed in lose fitting
The man knelt over the dog and produced a white sphere that begun
to glow green after a short chant. "This is the animal," he stood up
and looked at the guards. "Dispose of it. Burn it."
One of the guards pulled out a sack and started wraping the dog,
while the other two looked over the alley. "What happend here?" a
guard asked Rien, who was diligently searching the other end of the
alley for the girl. Both she and his money were gone.
"I was ambushed while taking a shortcut."
The guard nodded. "There's a reward for the capture of those two,
Rien shrugged. "I wasn't aware of that. There were three of them.
This is the last man's sword."
The guard took the weapon and looked it over. Not finding anything
distinct in it, he passed it to one of the other guards. "Burn the dog
and find a physician who'll treat them," he instructed.
"What's with the dog?" Rien asked.
"It did not hurt you, did it?" the guard asked and called the old
"No, no it didn't, but shooting it and burning its body on such a
suspicion does seem a bit extreme."
"Burning a creature diseased with lycanthropy is no crime," the
old man said to Rien as he approached. "A lycanthrope's bite makes
others into lycanthropes."
"You mean like those stories about men turning into werewolfs and
howling at the moon?"
"That IS a myth. Being a wolfling is not."
Rien made a mental note to check into this later and accepting the
small reward, bid them farewell.
He returned to the spot where he last saw the girl and scanned the
area again. She could have left in any direction, while he was
struggling with the dog. No chance of finding her now.
As Rien was preparing to leave, he heard a voice behind him and
spun about. The grey haired wizard was still standing in the alley.
"The dog bit you." The old man's words were a statement.
"Who are you?" Rien asked.
"Taishent, the mage," the man bowed low.
"Yes, the dog bit me. What's it to you?"
"Why so hostile? You will need my council if you are to survive,"
the wizard said and again produced the white sphere. The glow about it
was faint green. "You have the disease. You have only a few months."
"All this wolfling-werewolf talk strikes me as stories for
children, not a sickness."
"When magic goes bad, it becomes a curse," the wizard responded.
"You do believe in magic?" he asked and not waiting for an answer,
turned to leave.
"Is there a cure?" Rien stopped the old man, not quite ready to
believe that he would be howling at the moon a few months down the
road, but wanting to know more.
"If there was, I would have given it to that poor animal. I wish
you luck." He walked out of the alley and disppeared down the street.
An hour later Rien found Simon's stew cart and his horse. Skeebo
was jumping up and down in the saddle, with the realization that a
hard enough landing would make the horse stir.
The surprised Simon looked at a smiling Rien.
"Regular, please," Rien said and handed a coin to Skeebo. The
monkey jumped off the horse and handed the pay to Simon.
"Good show," the vendor laughed. "Not many get their money back
"Many aren't persistant," Rien grinned. He may not have gotten HIS
money back, but was working on it. "What's her deal anyway?"
"I'm sure you know every town has some problems," Simon began.
"Dargon just happens to have a monopoly on them. Kera, the girl who
took your purse, is the legal ward of Lord Liriss, who is rumored to
be the man behind a lot of the crime in this town. I'd watch out for
his men. Bad things happen to those who cross him, I hear."
"Why doesn't the local Duke do anything about the problem?" Rien
shifted, sipping the spicy stew.
"What can he do? Lord Dargon is rumored to have enough problems of
his own. Liriss is but a small problem compared to what is really
going on in this town."
"And what is really going on?" inquired Rien.
Simon looked about uncomfortably. "They say there is an
assassination plot against Lord Dargon. There've been some deaths in
nobility recently. Slowly, but surely, the assassins are getting
closer to him."
"Sounds like the town guard has its hands very full..." Rien said.
"It's only a rumor," Simon replied. "What's your interest in
Dargon anyway? What do you do?"
Now it was Rien's turn to look about uncomfortably. "Just out to
have an adventuresome vacation... You wouldn't be able to point me to
a local alchemist, would you?"
Terell was a tall, young man, dressed very commonly, so as not to
reveal his life's calling. Besides, no one wore the "traditional"
starscape cap and robe in real life anyway - no reason unless you were
a showman or a fraud. He looked about absent mindedly as Rien pushed
open the door to the alchemy shop. "What can I do for you, young man?"
Rien stopped dead in his tracks. 'Young man'? Right. "I'm looking
for Terell, the alchemist...this is his shop?"
"You found 'im!"
This caused Rien to pause even longer. "You?" he finally asked.
"Been m'self for up over sixty years."
Sixty? This man looks well preserved for someone his age, though
he does act it.
"So what can I do for you?" the man presisted.
"I am interested in what you can tell me about lycanthropes," Rien
said, leaning on the counter across from Terell.
The alchemist smiled. "Heard o' that crazy dog Taishent captured,
have you? Well, there isn't much I can tell you about that. Taishent
is said to o've been casting his cards for the town when he came
across the dog. No one knows where it came from or how it got 'ere,
but town guard's always pleased to shoot some'ing."
"I meant the disease," Rien explained his need, grateful for the
alchemist's loose mouth. "Do you know anyhing about the curse?"
Terell paced his lab for a minute. "The disease can be passed in
many ways. Most common is bite. The infected either die or mutate into
those beasts - wolflings. Takes different amount of time for different
people, but it get's 'em all. I never heard of a cure for it, but I
just know I could find one if I'd have a sample! Ah, they sh'uldn't
've killed that dog!"
Rien thought for a moment. If there was the slightest chance of a
cure, he was in desprate need of finding it, but telling someone of
the disease was just about as intellignet as running naked through the
middle of the market place, screaming about having leprosy. Terell
looked young for his supposed age. Thirty at the most and that means
that his potions really do work. Sometimes risks have to be taken in
"What if I can get you a subject?" Rien asked the alchemist, who
was now reorganizing the vials on his counter.
Startled, the man dropped one of the glass vessels. "And just
where d'you propose to come up with one?" he asked, ignoring the smoky
vapor raising up toward the ceiling.
"Let's just say," Rien smiled, "that I can locate one. What would
be in it for me?"
I'll pay you!" Terell exclaimed, his old-like tones dissipating.
"I'll be rich and you'll be famous..." Rien said slowly.
"No," Rien shook his head. "I don't want money. The deal is you
cure the subject. Then you can have your fame."
"All right," Terell agreed. "I'll make a profit either way and
you'll have a cure for who ever you want to aid. Yes?"
"Yes," Rien nodded.
"So where is my subject?"
Rien could not believe that this old man could act so young. "I am
he," he answered, almost expecting death.
Terell made a step back in shock.
"I won't bite you, honest," Rien promised.
Kera snuck up on a fat man leaning over a table with trinkets. The
items appeared cheap, but since he intended to buy something, he had
some funds. Besides, anyone that fat had to have money to support his
Kera looked over the man's shoulder at the assortment of glass,
clay and metal statuettes of people and animals. Her left hand ran
across the belt pouch on the man's right hip, while her right picked
up a crystal clear unicorn. Neither the fat man nor the booth owner
noticed what she did. Kera smiled, pocketing both her prizes and
allowed a young child to squeeze in before her. Her "profit" for the
day was already well above average and thinking that Liriss would be
pleased, she turned and left the market place.
Kera had been working for Liriss ever since she could remember. He
picked her up off the streets as an orphan and trained her to steal.
Liriss provided everything she needed, even luxuries at times. Perhaps
there was a better life somewhere, but it certainly was not as an
orphan in the Fifth Quarter. She even had Liriss' thugs for
protection, when she needed them...like the day before.
Oh, Liriss was mad to learn what happend! Not only were his guards
drunk, but they also got trashed by a single man and later arrested by
the town guard. Still, that last purse she lifted would more than pay
for new hirelings; especially in the Fifth Quarter. It's the stupid,
careless people who provide the most profit.
Kera turned into an alley, winding up face to face with the
stupid, careless person she just been thinking about. Stupid and over
confident. He hadn't camped out here all day, did he?
"Just your luck," Rien smiled, grabbing her arm.
"You're hurting me!" Kera screamed trying to wriggle free.
Rien's grip did not lessen. "You're hurting yourself."
Kera stopped trying to pull free. "Bastard! I'll have you killed
"I don't think so," Rien smiled again. "You used the same alley
twice too often. Your body guards will not be able to help you today."
Stealthily Kera pulled out her stolen unicorn figurine and jabbed
it into Rien's hand, the one that was holding her, horn first. The
glass snapped and with a curse Rien withdrew his hand. Kera took off
down the alley. For the first time in her life, she wished she had not
neglected carrying weapons on her person. She desperately hoped that
Rien had lied about Liriss' guards not being able to help her. It
wouldn't look good to lose two sets of men on consecutive days.
Right about then she went sprawling to the ground over the out
stretched arm of one of the downed guards. He lay on a pile of trash,
with his companion not far away.
Kera picked herself up, surprised that Rien was already next to
her. His eyes were a strange shade of grey, producing a hypnotic
effect, as he thrust her into the wall. 'Weren't they blue?' she
thought, bending over from pain. The jolt gave her the right state of
mind to shrug the useless thoughts off. With the last of her breath,
Kera screamed "Help, rape!"
She saw a red streak before her and Rien's hand clamped over her
mouth. She turned her head, spitting blood and smearing it across her
right cheek. A finger of her assailant passed across her lips and she
bit into it.
Rien looked startled. Kera could have slipped away, but the change
of color in his eyes kept her watching. His hand slipped off her face.
"I could have killed you..."
Kera shrunk further into the wall behind her.
"The dog that bit me..." Rien continued, "you saw it happen. It
was a lycanthrope. I have the disease and now that you've tasted my
blood, so do you. I tell you this becase you have the right to know,
Kera looked at the broken statuette still in her hand. The horn
and part of the head were missing. She let the figure fall to the
ground, where it shattered completely. "I have no reason to believe
you!" Her defiant eyes challanged Rien.
"No," he said, "but then I have no reason to lie to you. I only
want my money back."
"You're not getting it back, so you might as well kill me...or
whatever it is you do!"
"I am not going to hurt you if you cooperate."
"I don't have your money. Liriss has it."
"Then I'll just take what you've collected today," Rien said.
"The hell you will!"
Rien held up the pouch containing her days work. "I already have."
"You bastard!" she tried to grab it, but missed.
Without saying anything, Rien turned to leave.
"Hey!" Kera screamed.
"I have a name."
After a moment of hesitation, Kera caught up to Rien. "May I know
what it is?" she asked, wiping the blood off her face.
"Rien Keegan," he answered without hesitation.
Rien did not respond.
"If I don't bring Liriss what I stole today, he'll have me
punished," Kera said. "I am not going to entertain his troops again!"
"Should have thought of that earlier. Just be sure and tell them
what disease you have so they can decide if they want it."
"Damn you! Please? It's too late to start over."
Rien shrugged. "That's your problem."
Kera clenched Rien's arm. "If I have some disease, you are
responsible for it!"
"You'll try every approach until you find one that works, eh?"
She smiled. "Did this one work?"
Rien shrugged. "Let me think about it."
"If I don't have anything to show for my day's work, I'm not going
back," Kera stated.
"Then don't," Rien answered. "Why do work like that at all?"
"It's the only thing I know how to do well," Kera answered. "I
would have run away long ago if I'd be assured of a better future."
"How old are you?"
"Twenty. And you?"
"Even if Liriss had some wardship over you before, you are old
enough to leave now," Rien ignorred the counter question.
"Where would I go?" Kera asked. "The only life I know is what most
would consider to be the wrong sid of the fence. Besides, he'll have
me hunted down and killed."
"How can you live in that environment," Rien wondered aloud.
"The punishment may be great, but so are the rewards."
"Oh? The guards get to entertain you if they screw up their job?"
Kera threw a disapproving glance at Rien. "Sometimes," she finally
said, casting down her eyes. "There are other rewards too."
"Like what? Doing the boss?"
Kera stopped dead in her tracks. "That's damn unfair!"
Rien stopped to look at her. "But it's true, isn't it?"
"Yes," Kera said after a moment and burst into tears.
In spite of himself Rien gave her a hug and held her until she
calmed down. This was certainly not a good way to earn someone's
trust, but perhaps there could be a second chance... "I am sorry," he
finally said. "That was unfair."
"I'll go with you where ever you're going," Kera said. "I don't
want to stay here any longer."
That was a sudden change. "I am planning to remain in Dargon until
I find a cure for the disease," Rien stated flatly.
"It's real..." Kera whispered. "You're a warrior, right?"
"You could say that."
"If you're willing to take the risk, I'm willing to be your
apprentice." Kera looked hopeful.
Rien needed an apprentice about as much as a cow needs a saddle.
When he was apprenticed in his arts, it was expected that he would do
housework as much as learn what he was there for. Granted, the master
may have wanted some payment for the services rendered and skills
taught, but for some reason that just didn't sit well with Rien. If he
was going to agree, the deal would have to be changed...a little.
Of course there was a second problem as well. The risk Kera
mentioned. Naturally Liriss would not be happy to lose an investment
that just the day before brought in such a yield. Taking on two or
three of his drunk guards was no problem, but a dozen sober men could
be a bit more risky. "I'll bite them," Rien smirked to himself and
"Are you sure that's what you want?" Rien finally asked.
"Yes," Kera answered without hesitation. "I think it was you who
made the point that my life could be better."
"Then you have a mentor. Come, it's beginning to get dark."
"What about my things?" Kera stopped him.
"Is there anything irreplaceable?" Rien asked, trying not to seem
impatient, but wanting to leave the alley.
Kera thought for a moment, then shrugged. "I suppose not. I tried
not to grow too attached to my things for some reason. What about your
"If Liriss has any intelligence at all," Rien said, "he would have
hid or invested that some place by now. Don't worry about it. I have
enough funds to draw on."
"I'm really sorry about that," Kera continued. "I'll try to make
that up to you."
"That will be a lot of pockets to pick," Rien smiled. "Come."
E-Mail Fredric L. Rice / The Skeptic Tank