Dance by the Light of the Earth

by

G. Haven d’Amaury III

 

 

Foreword

“There must be a beginning of any great matter, but the continuing unto the end until it be thoroughly finished yields the true glory” - Sir Francis Drake, 1587

About: (James) http://ghdaiii.co.uk/gavin-embry.phpGavin Embry I [GE]

Descendant of: Henrie Embrie [HE]: (GE’s Xth Great Grandfather) was born in 1615ad.  Twenty   years later HE re-launched in the sailing ship, America, from Graves End near London England (in 1635) to Jamestown Colony, Virginia (Sir Walter Raleigh’s [SWR] second colonial launch, in 1607, after SWR's  failure of the Roanoke Colony). Both colonies were sponsored by  Queen Elizabeth I [QEI].

After QEI died in 1603, SWR was imprisoned in the Tower, this time for allegedly being involved in the Main Plot (paid for by the Spanish) against King James I, who was not favorably disposed toward him. In 1616, SWR was released to lead a second expedition in search of El Dorado. This was unsuccessful and men under his command ransacked a Spanish outpost. SWR returned to England and, to appease the Spanish, was arrested and executed in 1618,  under the order of James I, who nevertheless continued to support Jamestown, as well as Plymouth Rock, the second successful colony, in 1620, 13 years later. But, 15 years before HE arrived in Jamestown.

Sir Francis Drake [SFD] died just off Nombre de Dios (which GE knew well, having mapped the Darien Coast) after SFD's Knighthood, his great fortune for himself and even more for the Virgin QEI, to finance her defense against Catholic Spain.

There are several connections between:

·         (James) Gavin Embry I  [GE]

·         James Gavin Embry II (GE's 1st Son)

·         Georg A. Embry (GE's 2nd Son)

·         G. Haven d’Amaury III [GHA] (GE’s nom de plumb)

·         'Ira' Embry [Ie]/Smith (GE’s 2nd personality, also a factional 'character' in Dance by the Light of the Earth [DLE], called

·         Georg Cantor Smith [GCS]) named after Georg Cantor by his factional mother, a math teacher

·         Chateau d’Embry (a former French Embry family site in Embry France. possible birthplace of HE's father).

·         GE's Xth Great Grandfather Henrie Embrie

and

·         Shirley Goulden [SG] (Author, adoptive family name and honorary  stepdaughter of Mike Goulden,  Chairman of W. H. Allen, Ltd),

·         Shirley May (nee) Simmons, (daughter of Jane Mohr and Ben Simmons)

·         Shirley van Eyssen [SvE] (after married to John van Eyssen), and until

·         Shirley vE. Embry [SvEE] (after married to GE, and Author, Editor and General Secretary of RDL) and 

·         S. Haven d’Amaury [SHA] (SvEE's nom de plumb).

G. Haven d’Amaury III [GHA] is the author of all books and films by GE, with contributions by any actual or “adopted” member of the Embry family, especially Ie and SvEE.

S. Haven d’Amaury is the author of the sequels of Shirley Goulden’s original and retold books, plus film scripts and scenarios, based on her books. For example, the sequels to her first two historical romances, probably called The French Salute featuring the career of Jackson, the son of Beth and Kincaid (the heroes of Paradise Walk and The Caribbean Salute).

Now, on Dance by the Light of the Earth [DLE]: In 1987, GE re-read The Physicists (By: Daniel J. Kevles) published in 1971, which refocused his attention on the discussions, conflicts and disputes, especially among Albert Einstein, Niels Bohr and Werner Heisenberg, mostly about the relationship between quantum mechanics and classical physics.  GE had been interested in quantum mechanics, as treated in Amazing Stories in the 30’s, which used super-heroes to compete with what little physics was in the press or books. Interested in atomic energy, electronics, and matrix algebra also, GE felt safer and more likely to get support by supporting, and following the guidance of Einstein: While just enjoying Schrödinger, his equations (and his cat), Michelson’s and Morley’s speed-of-light, and “faster-than-light” as entertainment (unlikely to actually happen).

Oddly, Shirl’s fanciful, factional writing triggered some of GE’s repetitive dreams, which involved instantaneous communicating (not actually teleportation). GE took them to be Ira encouraging him to write, like Shirl. Not fact, but fiction… or maybe faction…But, was GE arguing with Ira? GE thoroughly reviewed quantum mechanics: Does/could that have anything to do with space-travel, which he had gone away from as far, far in the future and too dull to even write about? Stick with anti-matter, maybe close enough to practical Star Trek, to write something about… without kicking Einstein's relativity in the butt. GE’s first draft (of Dance by the Light of the Earth [DLE]) did not seem to be of interest to a publisher. And, GE did not offer it to Scientific American (East Coast New Englanders --- won’t look west of the Mississippi, nor Old England… Phutz!)

In the early 90’s, something began to get somewhere: about quantum mechanics/physics, not confined to electrons, quarks, photons, atoms nor even tiny molecules: but something big enough to see without a microscope, began to come into view. Superposition got confused with superimposition (such as deliberate double-exposing). Superposition means making a copy of something (getting to be almost anything) and moving the two parts apart, to see if changing one part still changes the other part… and how long it takes to happen. (It happened so quickly it may be instantaneously, not limited by 300,000kilometeres/second, the 'maximum' speed-of-light!)

That idea came to GE by 1995ad, perhaps based on some “super-hero” or Star Trek… How is it possible? Is it ever? Most physicists said, “Impossible, Einstein said 'God doesn’t play dice'”. He looked that up, ‘When did he say that’?: October 1927, the month GE was born, and Lindbergh landed in Paris. (Leave it an itty bitty while longer??)

Don’t look at it as, “Einstein was wrong”. “Newton wasn’t wrong either”. But, both times, there was more to reality. Neither one had all the angles, nor all the ways of looking at it. Neither GE, nor Ie (GHA) can prove it. Nobody can, quite yet! But, if it can be done: the World, the Milky Way Galaxy, the Galaxies, the Universe…s? will change: And, the fate of homo sapien sapiens [hss) can face up to trillions of new worlds for them… and their/our progeny. (Watch! Watch very, very carefully!)

In the meanwhile, GE wrote and Shirl edited about their cats, Amber and Ami [A&A], The Teleport Too Far [T3F]. Trained (as GE had been as a photo-journalist at the Univ. of Texas – Austin, as the reporter/subeditor for Texas Ranger): Amber II, traveling (as a super-positioned copy) to Ur, 4000 years ago. By mistake, Amber II traveled to Ur Continent 3,000,000,000 years ago, not from a mistake in arithmetic but in her missed 'double' meaning of 'Ur'.

GE and SG waited till 2008ad (after moving from London to Folkestone, after the obvious financial disasters which they saw coming by 2004). In March 2008, GE & SvEE founded RDL to save the World from Global Warming, desperately more importantly than guarding whatever was left from their earned wealth.  Funds were running out by 2009; so, they had to move with A&A to smaller, cheaper house in Hawkinge. Shirl was defeated almost immediately, by:

·         A simple accident,

·         Third return of  cancer,

·         Losing the 50/50% chance of choosing a doctor who might save her, failing to find

·         Even one doctor (in less than a year, who knew the difference between ferro-magnetism in iron, and para-magnetism in the titanium pegs in her neck to support weakened cervices crushed in her neck ),

·         Cheats and

·         Rule by (and criminality) by landlords

·         Forcing still another (fifth, unnecessary) move, which

·         took Shirl away from GE and A&A, on 21st of July 2010.

In the rest of Shirl and GE's time left, they agreed to re-launch (like Drake and Raleigh) this time to write and publish. No money left to pay for moving things, even A&A, just GE’s and her work already on Google, w/her laptop and GE’s big screen. Under their noms-de-plumb, and a few hundred dollars, they boarded the Amazon and (with the help of Caroline Bunting) put together:

·          I am Jack by Shirley Goulden (two books as one, about Dr Cream being also, Jack the Ripper)

·          Paradise Walk [PW] (about Beth, a woman hearing about former lives) and Caribbean Salute [CS] (Including Beth’s lover Kindaid, in the Revolutionary War) By SG and

·         The French Salute [NS] By SHA (The factional career of Beth and Kinkaid’s heroic son, Jackson, defeating  Nappy; borrowing from GE’s wartime experiences, for China and against Communist China)

·         Dance by the Light of the Earth [DLE1][DLE2] By GHA (two books as one, and two apart. The life and times of GCS’s ambitions, helping an American Woman, while helped and hindered by a panoply of European women ), available Here.

·         Sequel to DLE2, [DLE3] By GHA (about GCS, cutting off from GCS’s European Women, taming SG:SvEE’s “re-unification” and learning together, how to deal with Global Warming and superpositioning, along with their cats (A&A), and, finally

·          Sequel to DEL3, called Shirl-Aten [SA], of Super-Earth [SE] [SASE] (preparation, travel to and celebrations in SA: Super-Sky-Utopia, called SASSU, ~3012ad, 1000 years in the future

 

Sic parvis magna!

Rather than the Head

Or

Heart of

Sir Walter Raleigh


 


 

CHAPTER I

 

As a child in Idaho, Allyne had fallen through ice while skating. The freezing water had been paralyzing but, oddly, not unpleasant after the first shock. That was nothing compared to this cold. It denied existence that anything existed. Then came the feelings of isolation and loneliness. Not alone in a room or in a house, nor alone in the world, but alone in an empty Universe, a Universe that didn’t exist. Next followed hopelessness, helplessness and the certain knowledge that there were no landmarks, milestones, no end nor beginning.

She could recall, from catechism, the nuns' descriptions of purgatory. Perhaps there really was a limbo, but she didn't remember dying. How could she be there without dying? She had memories, proving she had once. . . still lived. There can be no memories without someone to remember them. Can there?

She sensed, rather than saw, a small, faint and distant point of light at the limit of perception. Distance? But no direction. There were no directions. It neither intensified nor diminished. Change, if any, was imperceptible. She struggled against immense resistance to bring it closer. . . for an immeasurable time. It began to grow brighter but there was no heat or comfort in it. 

After unnumbered aeons, she heard sound, a voice. She snatched at hope, to remember, to fabricate a world and populate it with people, trees, houses and streets, anything to distance herself from this forbidding place. . . or state. An image formed. . . of a beach, somewhere in Mexico. She lay on it, absorbing the sun. Georg was there too, complaining about the cost of a fish he had caught, comparing its cost to one bought. She thought, `'Silly man. He sails his mumble-hundred-thousand dollar yacht to Mexico with a load of guests, then moans about the cost of a fish.' 

That was last summer. Everything was there, the sky, the sun, the sand and sea, Georg and the Aleph One, anchored at the edge of the blue water. Faintly, other sounds intruded; a car engine, children’s cries the beep of her answering machine. 

Rousing from her Corbusier lounge, she groped groggily toward the telephone and turned a knob to replay the message. It was Georg's voice. "Allyne, it's me. How about dinner at L'Omelette? Eight o'clock in the bar. If you can't make it leave a message on my machine. Going to Cupertino to see a guy about a dog. . . company, not canine."

When the message finished, Allyne dialled his number, "Georg, can I see you? Big problem. Personal."

Georg said "Oh! You were there. Is it urgent? Your voice sounds like you're real down."

"Yeah. Have to talk to somebody. No, not somebody, you."

"Okay. Trip's off. Yours or mine? You want privacy?"

"Your's? All right? On my way."

"Be here. Are you up to driving? Pick you up?" asked Georg.

"No. It's fine. Be there in about ten minutes. Bye," Allyne hung up.

Georg had finished brewing a pot of Allyne's favorite, very strong, Guatemala Antigua: and was filling two large mugs as Allyne entered his open front door, without knocking. She took up a mug and drank a third of the coffee right down.

Georg said "Hey! Careful, it's hot."

"It's fine. I need a kick. . . sensation. Guess you're wondering why I called this meeting," she said with a pale effort at a smile.

"You sounded desperate. What's wrong?" 

"The symptoms are back. No! Something else, much worse," she said.

"Christ! I still think you should sue somebody. The hospital or the Lick Observatory, or both, ought to be forced to accept responsibility," Georg said angrily.

"Maybe I could have got something for pain and suffering, but my medical expenses amounted to a jug of Gallo once a week as a bribe for your massages. The lawyers would claim the pleasure outweighed the pain. Anyway, your fees are too low, `Doc' Smith, not worth chasing ambulances," Allyne said, with the first touch of her customary humor.

"Yeah, but you say this is much worse. Massage may not suffice this time. Must be really tough to put an old Digger like you in a panic," Georg continued. Allyne claimed Digger Indian ancestry, which was supported by her high cheek bones and the remarkable visual acuity of her slightly tipped eyes. But, her blonde hair, fair skin and grey of those eyes meant that nobody, least of all Georg, who was a tiny part Apache, took her claim seriously. Maybe one of the Plains tribes, but not a Digger, she was not even native Californian. Usually, as his father taught him about himself, he insisted her Indian ancestor wasn't a tribe, just a wandering Indian.

Allyn began again, "I couldn't prove these symptoms are caused by trank addiction, I don't believe it myself. These are real bad. They are to the others like total annihilation to depression. I don't mean annihilating me, I mean annihilating everything, space, time and the whole f'ing space-time-continuum. Only thing I had left was a little math or, maybe, some logic."

Allyne described her sensations up to the point his call came in. "I don't know what would have happened if you hadn't brought me out of it. I might have stayed in purgatory permanently. It seemed eternal, or more like timeless, before there was anything like Time, way back, before the Big Bang," she concluded.

"This is your first trip like this?" 

"Well, there were a couple vaguely similar, but much milder, episodes, both about three in the morning. I put it down to my cup of Stoli after dinner, maybe tacked onto the ass end of the withdrawal willies and ante-dawn dudgeons. As in `darkest just before', you know. This is the first time it's clobbered me, awake, in the daytime. This had visuals too, on top of the bad vibes."

"What kind of visuals? Do you think you were dreaming, or were they visual hallucinations?" Georg asked with mounting concern.

"Well, I got this point of light that brightened, very, very, slowly like the little hand of the big clock. I wasn't aware of anything outside this experience. You could say all I was aware of was that nothing existed except the point of light and its observer. That is, whatever was left of me?"

"This point, was it like a single star in the sky?" asked Georg.

"Yeah. But, it didn't twinkle, and I never ever saw a point that small. It was a true, zero-dimensional-geometrical point. It wasn't in the sky 'cause there was no sky for it to be in." Then she added ruefully, "Sorry about the pedantry, but you knew what you were in for when you let in a systems programmer."

"You feel all right? Better, or want to see a doctor?" Georg was still alarmed.

"I feel okay now, here with you. I even used you to prove the third dimension, but I'm scared out of my tree it'll hit me again when I am alone." Allyne looked at Georg with concern. He might think she was moving in on him.

"Flattery will get you everywhere. What did you use for the fourth dimension?" Georg laughed?

"The answering machine, I think, or maybe some passing car, so don't get too uppity," Allyne answered.

"You were alone when it happened. At home. . . were you off sick?"

"Yeah, home but not ill, I took a compensatory day off for one of the all-night debugging sessions at the Think Tank (Much, much later.). I was lying on my lounger, reading Schopenhauer," Allyne paused, evaluating whether to explain the Schopenhauer. She continued, "Emmette brought over a new arty-farty friend last weekend. He claims you can't appreciate art unless you know Schopenhauer. I was riled because I'm really into art and I’d hardly heard of Schopenhauer. I asked him about all the art before Schopenhauer, like those caves in France. Didn't anybody appreciate them? Not in the true sense, he insisted. He had bought over a copy of The World as Will and Representation and left it for my enlightenment, which I was determined to avoid. 

"Today, I had read everything else in the house. I got so bored I was about to go back to work. Then I spotted the book, decided to see if it might be better than playing TRAVELER again on Golem... and dove in. Halfway through, I got zapped, so here I am," Allyne concluded with a grimace.

"I suppose Schopenhauer could give some people the shivers, but this is the first bad trip I've heard of from only half a book," observed Georg, refilling their mugs with coffee. "Seriously, what about seeing a doctor, to be on the safe side? There may be a medical reason behind this, apart from the withdrawal symptoms," Georg warned.

"Yeah. Maybe I should ask Emmette. If it's neurological, she knows all about my condition after the accident. If I'm going off my head, she could tell me what I'm in for, without putting me on record as a psycho. I might want to do some politics, or adopt a baby... someday," Allyne answered thoughtfully.

"If you ever want to hold the Medical Center responsible, it could be a problem talking to Emmette. She treated you after the accident, right?" asked Georg.

"She looked at me, but she didn't treat... touch me when it turned out that the actual nerve damage was minor. Mainly my spine got corkscrewed, pinched something and turned me into a female Schwarzenegger, hence the Atavan. Anyway, I don't think she would stab me in the back to protect the Medical Center from a suit, even if she could," explained Allyne.

"What do you want to do now? If you want to see Emmette on the sly, she won't be free until after six o'clock," Georg asked.

Allyne fumbled briefly in her commodious shoulder bag, coming up with a bottle of Gallo's Hearty Burgundy.

"This must be really serious. My fee's gone up," Georg laughed, "I think we may have time for some therapy before we call Emmette."

Allyne rose slowly, heading toward the bathroom. Georg had spent many hours leaning over her to administer her massages. They seemed the best, actually the only, relief for depression brought on by stopping Atavan. She never undressed in his presence, but always went to the bathroom to disrobe, returning with mineral oil, and essence of cloves, or wintergreen, for scent. 

Removing his shirt and moving toward the gym he recalled the way she had come to him for help, having heard of his skill at massage from a mutual friend. That was after he had 

Georg sold that company and became totally engrossed in another start-up. Allyne left also, before her accident, to be Lead Systems Programmer at the Think Tank Institute. (Some, impudently, called it `Tity', a play on the initials and an allusion to the extreme youth of most of its staff.)

employed her as a systems programmer for the second company he founded after doing his MS in Electronic Engineering from Berkeley. He had been attracted to her beauty, warmth and high spirits, as well as her delightful intelligence. But, as his employee, she was strictly off limits as a sexual partner, in Georg's view (and, oddly, out of consideration as his next wife, ipso facto).

Allyne had spent the evening previous to her accident with two couples in a wine bar a few steps off University Avenue in Palo Alto. Walking home alone shortly before two am, she had been crossing El Camino Real when the motorcycle struck her. The driver died instantly. A motorist found her unconscious and in danger of bleeding to death. He applied a tourniquet and took her, still unconscious, to the nearby Stanford Medical Center. Not normally an emergency facility, the Medical Center had admitted her, because of her condition and perhaps the intervention of her friend Dr Emmette de Montefou, on duty when Allyne arrived. Dr de Montefou was a Resident Neurosurgeon. She, while not formally qualified in the field, she also maintained great interest in psychiatry.

Georg heard about the accident two months later, on return from a trip to England. He called and offered his help; a loan, or a job. She declined both with thanks, saying the Think Tank had stood fully behind her and she was almost over the effects of the accident. They agreed to share a meal together, sometime, and Georg put her out of his mind. 

She called some weeks later, invited him to dinner and asked him to try massaging her. She explained that, unaware that she was unusually sensitive to drugs and easily addicted, they had given her a muscle relaxant in the hospital. Some error, perhaps a smudged decimal point, in the prescription, gave her ten times the normal course. She took the drug until it stopped working and, worse, she was addicted. She stopped it immediately, leaving her with nightmares, tense muscles, an intense aversion to bright lights and sharp sounds, depression and a constant, nagging craving for Atavan. 

Georg agreed to try a course of massage. The effect was immediate. All symptoms disappeared except the need, which Allyne blocked with long hours of intense concentration on her job. Over several months it tapered off, their sessions became less frequent and finally stopped. 

From the start, Allyne had no bashfulness about nudity, hers or his, appearing to feel it was a perfectly natural and a necessary adjunct to massage. Georg was more affected, mainly fearing an erection that might spoil the quasi-medical status of their relationship and depict his altruism as a fraud in the Elmer Gantry tradition. Their routine stabilized, with Allyne undressing in his bathroom and reclining on an exercise bench, covered by a large bath towel, in his gym. Georg stripped to the waist with a towel tucked in at the waist protecting his trousers from the oil and her from his embarrassing bulges. 

Georg regretted they had not met when they were both at Stanford, while he was studying for a BS in Physics. It might have made a difference in their lives. He could have taken her along to the “Open University” massage classes (now, sadly, defunct). Then, at least, she could have returned the favor in kind. 

Allyne's return terminated Georg's reminiscences. Handing him the oils and a towel she spread another over the bench and lay prone under his gaze. He paused a moment to admire the view. His early glimpses revealed hints on her bronzed shape of the braces and stays, retainers for the three small triangles comprising a bikini halter and bottom and some finer lines where the doctors had repaired the cuts from her accident. The effect was highly decorative, emphasizing her nudity and validating the utter naturalness of it all. 

"Any sore parts I should avoid?" he asked.

"No. I'm just tight all over, mean and nasty. That is how depression affects me, or they come in the same package," Allyne said without opening her eyes.

"Exactly what you need is to get out there and dig those roots and grubs, Digger Girl," Georg gibed.

"I'll dig me a root right now if you don't get on with it," Allyne responded with what might have been mock irritation.

Georg began with the toes and sole of her right foot, continuing with the right heel, moved up the calf, kneading, flexing, smoothing, urging the blood toward the heart, never losing touch entirely even on the return stroke. He inched up the calf, skipping the knee, massaging her thigh until he arrived at the rise of her buttock. Then, with a slow, sensuous stroke, he returned to the heel where he had begun, turned his attention to the other foot, and repeated the process on her left leg. On reaching the buttocks again he began a soft circular kneading and stroking, continuing until the muscles softened and offered no resistance. At this point he gently shifted to the other buttock and reduced it to the same state. 

Through his screen of concentration Georg noticed a mounting melody of soft sensual cries, halfway between a groan and a yelp but more musical than either. Allyne alternated her encouragement from mini-groans while he lingered in one area, with yelp-like sounds to mark new conquests. 

Georg concentrated for a time on the spine from the coccyx-to-neck, thumbs and knuckles applying gentle and even pressure. That area relaxed, he kneaded the thick layer of muscles on either side of the waist. He continued by lifting and gently dropping the flesh on the left and right from underneath, both sides at the same time. To do this he had to stand astride her, almost sitting on her buttocks. Then, leaning forward, he grasped both shoulders, gently lifting and dropping them and combining this with a sort of rotation until the muscles across her shoulder blades were soft. Next, the muscles at the tops of her shoulders commanded attention. He used both hands in synchronization from the outside toward the center till he concentrated on the neck itself, up to the base of her skull. This was the part Allyne liked best so he was careful to give full measure. The cries then stopped. She slept, breathing slowly, evenly, and deeply; obviously at peace with all creation. 

Georg felt a surge of caring, of wanting to help and protect her. He had always thought it was the ultimate sign of trust to sleep in the company of another person. How could one be more totally in another's hands than to fall asleep? Then he choked back a guffaw, at himself. He was behaving like a sentimental slob. A beautiful woman had fallen asleep as he labored to please and succor her. . . Well, it was a medical success. That was the point, wasn't it? `So be it. I'll have a beer,' he thought. Covering her with his towel, he got a Michelob from the kitchen, washed the oil from his hands, opened the can and returned to the gym where he relaxed, thinking about this latest development.

"Slacking on the job, are you? Ah? Drinking on the job too. At least not your ill earned wages." Allyne glanced at the unopened wine bottle.

She sat up, throwing the towel aside, leaned on one elbow with her other hand behind her head. An unconscious imitation of the famous nude picture of Marilyn Monroe. Georg's breath caught. He thought, `God, she's a phenomenon. How can she be so smart and so beautiful?', but he said grumpily, "I'd have said well earned, judging from the effect." The scene was beginning to wear on him. 

"I was faking, to boost your male ego," she said, but belied her comment with a smile. "I'm done on that side, now the other." 

Flipping supine, she looked at him invitingly but he ignored the invitation. The beer and banter had inexplicably cooled him off. He wanted to finish and get her back inside her clothes.

Georg repeated the procedure on Allyne's ventral side, as he thought of it. That term made it seem more objective, or it did until he thought of the derivation of `ventral'. Then it made him even more than usually careful to avoid touching anything near her pubes or groin. He also avoided her breasts as he knew breasts are so sensitive they shouldn't be touched except for the gentlest, sexually-oriented caresses. He got no sounds for his trouble, but he did earn a beatific smile through most of the session, slightly more evocative that the Mona Lisa's. 

To make up for those necessary omissions he took special care with her fingers, hands and, finally, her face which he did with the lightest possible touch. When he aimed to give her a light kiss on the chin signaling he had finished, she tilted her head so their lips brushed. Georg could not honestly be sure if he had refused the advance or she had decided not to complete it. No matter, it relieved him to have survived `virgo intacta', so to speak.

Georg signaled the end by taking her hands and drawing her upright. She leaned forward, hands on his shoulders, her full, firm breasts against him. Her nipples, probably from the cool sunset air, were erect, practically digging into his bare chest. The warm, scented oil, now covering her body, glued their flesh together above the waist. She stood still for a moment, her large gray eyes gazing into his, as if trying to discover the soul behind his blue ones. An electric shock of comprehension hit Georg, `Jesus Christ! She thinks I'm gay! Maybe she'd like the idea of turning me, doing an inverted, inside out "Pussy Galore" number on me'. 

Before he could resolve his confusion, she put her arms round him, laid her head on his shoulder and spoke, "You'll never know how grateful I am for what you have done. You saved my life. If you ever need anything that I can give, or want anything done, ask me. You are the best and most selfless man I know. . ." 

Georg interrupted, "Hold it, hold it. I only did a little laying-on of hands. Thank my Father. Fill up the pool, wouldya? I feel like taking a walk."

Georg had never learned to take compliments gracefully, especially when he felt they were undeserved. This time he had been so tangled up in his own emotions that he had completely misjudged the situation. He had obviously mistaken her lack of hangups, massive overestimation of the size of a stiff prick's conscience, and gratitude, for cock-teasing, manipulation, and a soft-ball version of now-I've-got-you- you-son-of-a-bitch, not necessarily in that order. 

"Joking aside, you probably were not in much danger. Miserable, but not in deadly peril, as far as I can see. I was already amply rewarded. Most men would give their left. . . leg to be allowed to fondle your nubile body and lean flanks as I did. . . and do," he said, matching action to his words. 

"Yesterday I would have agreed with your first point, not now. I don't know how suicides feel before they make with bare bodkin but I know if I had one handy, I could have used it within a few minutes of your phone call. As to your reward, if you really don't want one, and right now, you better stop rewarding my tush with your hands. You will be the first man west of the Rockies to be sexually assaulted in his own gym by a greased pig before sunset. I'd say in about fifteen seconds," she looked at her watch-less wrist as if counting the seconds. 

Georg stopped his caresses but did not remove his hands, nor did she release him. He said, "I was Navy, I have to be courted, a little candy and some flowers. Anyway, I didn't tush your touch. . . touch your tush, I can't even say it till I've had another beer," his hands still cupped her buttocks, which were beginning to squirm a little. He could not say if with pleasure or an attempt to escape. 

"Of course you did, you're still holding on to it. Look, I'll return the favor, let me wash off all that oil in the hot tub," she proposed.

"No way! I'd never get the oil out of the tub. Don't you know anything about hot tubs? You have to get everything clean in the shower before you go near the tub," he objected.

"Right, you win then, lower the pants and hoist the lanyard, Navy Man, shower ahoy! Last one in is a pogue." She broke for the shower, leaving him struggling to get his pants off over his shoes, having undone his fly and pulled his pants down so quickly he could not, in his surprise, do anything to prevent it. 

While he pulled up his trousers, got his shoes off and slipped his remaining clothes, he thought, `I still don't know what is going on, I'm definitely not in control here. I think she is, but I'm not sure. If she is, is she only playing? Is she just larking, drawing me out, or testing herself? Does she want a baby? Is she on the pill? Does she carry condoms? I don't have any. Has she had bisexual lovers? I have heard of foreplay but this is ridiculous. She's had a scare but is she going to use the situation to seduce me or provoke me to seduce her? Sex is too complicated if I'm not doing the driving. Crap! Who cares? Nothing is going to happen tonight.'

Allyne greeted him at the shower with a cold stream from one of the side jets. She was clean already. After turning it back to warm, still laughing with childish glee at his cold shock, she switched on the soap injector and covered them both with soapy water and went to work on his torso with a two-foot-long, rough sponge. Finishing in front, she turned him around and started with his back, from top to bottom, including the cleavage, jabbing the sponge through between his legs after the briefest warning "Watch-yer-balls." She knelt and scrubbed the inside, back and sides of both legs, finishing that side with another flush of soapy, and then warm, clean water. 

Rotating him again, still kneeling, she brought him around so his genitals were in front of her face. His glans penis just brushed her lips. She took it in her hand, drew back the foreskin and looked up, shielding her eyes from the streams of water. He thought with a shock she was going to ask permission for fellatio, but, instead, she said, "I have always wanted one of these."

"Where?", he asked, as blandly as he could. 

"Nowhere in particular. . .", she said.

"But, you prefer it some places rather than others," he insisted.

"Oh, you mean Deep Throat," she grinned up at him and kissed the glans lightly. "No, I meant to own one, with the power and privileges that go with it. My brothers both had them. Though they were younger and dumber than I, they got to play while I did the dishes. On top of that, they got the best pieces of food `so they would grow up big and strong', and, oh, so on and on. I didn't want to put one in. . . side. . ." she drifted off. 

"You'd like to have it inside sometimes, wouldn't you?" Georg tried to keep the pleading out of his voice and silently willed her to answer, `Now'. It came out more as a clinical question, as in, `You're not a Lesbian, are you?'

"Oh, lots of times, but mostly it's a problem of what it's attached to. Y'know. . . complications. Getting pregnant, catching VD or, now, Sangre de Cristo, AIDS. I suppose those risks could all be reduced to acceptable levels, but there's still the emotional implications, the guy wanting to marry you, or wanting to marry him, career conflicts, financial entanglements and jealousy. Usually it is not worth it. If we did it now, I'm afraid it might change things irrevocably. We couldn't go back and maybe we wouldn't want to go on. I have lots of things to sort out before I consider taking on a relationship which would make heavy, complicated and unpredictable demands on me... and you."

Georg said, "I'm fascinated by what you say, but could we continue this discussion in the hot tub, I'm getting cold and slowly sluiced away."

"Oh! Right. Here, I'll finish this." She flushed the remaining areas with soap, scrubbed them and finished with all the jets spraying pure warm water. She then led him to the hot tub, dipped out some hot water in the wooden pail, slowly and carefully poured it over them both until their skins were hot enough to stand entering the hot-tub.

Meanwhile, Georg was thinking about what she had said. It made sense. Allyne was not prepared for a one-night stand, perhaps was not the type ever to be. He was not sure how he would react either. If they made love now it was likely to complicate both their lives. Although they had spent many hours alone together in what many would construe as intimate circumstances, he did not know her well. They had not discussed the things lovers do. She had just made it clear that sex, for her, was not a thing to be taken lightly. She might be right: that it would interfere with sorting out her problem. Right now he liked and respected her as a friend, but was not exactly in-love, whatever that means. Friendship seemed to rule out satisfying his lust at the risk of messing her up further. 

He switched on the stereo, flooding the small room with the strains of Ebb Tide as she gradually eased herself into the tub. Snagging a robe from a hook on the wall, he wrapped it around himself and spoke. "If we are to see Emmette tonight, there are some things I must do first. You relax here and I'll join you later if I finish in time."

She looked at him with a trace of surprise in her eyes, then understanding, "Okay. Don't worry about me. I'll go home in time to dress for dinner."

Georg retrieved Allyne's address book from her purse in the bath and walked slowly to his study and sat at the PC with the modem. He booted Sidekick, entered Emmette's number into Phone.dir and typed "EMM". The computer found and dialed the number. In seconds Emmette was on the line. He explained that they wanted to see her for dinner. He asked for her favorite restaurant and, putting her on hold, used another line to call Dinah's Shack on El Camino Real, getting a table at eight o'clock. Emmette accepted, conditioned on bringing a friend along. Georg suggested her friend come at eight-thirty, so Allyne could first talk privately. That arrangement was agreed.

After dressing and rearranging his appointments in view of the canceled trip, Georg picked up Allyne on the way to Dinah's Shack. While they waited in the bar, Allyne told him about Emmette. She had met the neurosurgeon years earlier when Emmette had arrived to study at Stanford Medical School. The medical student needed to make heavy use of Wilbur, Stanford's campus wide computer network. Allyne had been responsible for some of Wilbur's most advanced features and Emmette induced her to teach her the system, in exchange for lessons in Spanish, her only link with her putative Digger ancestry. Emmette had come roundabout from somewhere in Europe, probably Geneva or Paris, and spoke several European languages.

Emmette was under constant medication which she never explained. Allyne first suspected she had studied medicine to find a cure for herself, as psychologists are supposed to take up psychology to learn to fix their own heads. When Emmette took up neurosurgery rather than virology or internal medicine, it put a hole in that theory. She acquired a consuming interest in neuropsychology and psychiatry and read widely in both. That fitted Allyne's theory so well that she probed it with Emmette at one of those weekend bull-session-cum-pyjama-parties which female students occasionally held or, more accurately, evolved spontaneously. 

Allyne asked her why she didn't like feminine things such as getting her hair done, buying a new dress or going shopping when she needed nothing, to combat boredom. Emmette explained that she had been raised as a boy and didn't know she was a girl until adolescence. Her original study of psychiatry was to find out if sexual orientation was controlled by social pressure, by genetics or some developmental twist of fate. Allyne felt vindicated, although she did not understand the intricacies of Emmette's argument. She had even challenged it as an incredible feat of abstraction for a twelve year old. Emmette had replied "Oh! I didn't know it then, I only found it out much later through hypnotic regression." 

"Zapped you, did she! Taught you a lesson," laughed Georg, "Did she ever clarify the matter further?" 

"*Claro que si!," replied Allyne, "She found that they are all influenced by behavioral and physical characteristics. The compendium interacted with the prevailing culture to form the integral social persona. Gottit?"

"Hell no! I don't think she did either," snapped Georg, "Did she publish anything on this, did anybody else understand it, or agree?"

"She didn't publish as far as I know, but I understood and agreed with it," Allyne came back with some heat.

"Howzat?" said Georg encouragingly.

"Take her case: Born with a penis and a scrotum. No balls in it, of course, they would have come down later. Her parents followed the most obvious cue and raised her as a boy. The ambient culture constrained her to behave as a boy and avoid girlish things, so she didn't learn that set of skills. She was disposed genetically to an physically intermediate state, I think the technical term is "perfect hermaphrodite", with the organs of both sexes. At adolescence, when the ovaries (her testicles may have been working to some extent since she was a foetus) started to function, they brought on behavior which was antithetical to her appearance and social persona as a boy. Ie attractive to and by her rejected brother-in-law."

Georg had waited this explanation through with growing excitement, "She had a sex change. The medication was hormone treatments. She must have had surgery too! I remember meeting a. . . transsexual at a Mensa skinny-dip in Sunnyvale. After a few glasses of wine I, stupidly, asked her if she enjoyed being a woman more than a man. She said she didn't have an operation to be a woman, but to be a Lesbian. I thought she was ticking me off for asking personal questions, probably justifiably, so I dropped it. She was in Medical School too. . . "

"There, you have met her. That was a jokey way of turning off people she didn't want to talk to about herself," Allyne interrupted.

The bartender, probably a post-doc in molecular biology having a term off to replenish coffers and rest, had surreptitiously followed as much of their talk as he could in the noisy bar, now offered, "They've crossed lions and tigers and got `ligers', sheep and goats and got `shoats', it was only a matter of time to cross girls and boys and get `goys'," with an air of triumph. 

Not sure whether the joke was verbal, genetic, pediatric or ethnic, and startled that they had been overheard, if not precisely understood, both Allyne and Georg broke into gales of laughter. This was how Emmette found them. She said, "Am I too late? The party has already started."

When Allyne could speak, "Emmette, I want to present Georg, my very true friend whom I've told you about. You met before, in Mensa. Georg says you scolded him for prying into your psyche."

Emmette extended her hand. Her grip was firm and precise. `A surgeons hand', Georg thought. 

"I don't recall that incident, but I do know your name and reputation." (`She didn't say what kind of reputation,' Georg observed, silently.) "I am honored meet you formally," she said. Her English and manners were as correct and precise as her handshake. Georg guessed she had learned it or, at least, perfected her accent at Oxford or Cambridge. 

"The pleasure is mine and long overdue, I thank you for caring for Allyne after she destroyed the motorcycle. She tends to have these impulses when her friends are not around to restrain her. Unfortunately, I was away at the time, and couldn't save the motorcycle or the driver, but as you managed to salvage Allyne, I am eternally grateful to you," Georg responded with an equally formal but somewhat too light a touch.

"I fear the Medical Center deserves the credit, and the blame for her subsequent difficulties. I only made sure Allyne was admitted and not merely patched up to send her to a proper emergency facility," she demurred.

Georg noticed a continental quality in her phrasing and a suspicion of some Germanic vowels. "We have a table ready. Shall we go in for the private meeting," he urged, with a glance toward the bartender who was at the other end of the bar, pointedly, and politely, paying no attention to them.

"Most certainly," responded Emmette.

When they were seated, Georg addressed Allyne, "Would you tell Dr. . . de Montefou what happened this afternoon, and how you feel about it." 

"Call me ‘Emmette’, and may I call you ‘Georg’?" Emmette omitted the `e', making it sound like `Gee-org', seventh in a line of alphabetized organizations.

"Please do, Emmette," responded Georg, "Allyne, please go ahead."

Allyne repeated her story. Then she added, with a malicious smile in Georg's direction, "I had some spare time before I left home which I used to write down my recollections of the experience. Here is a copy for each of you. Georg began to review his copy:

 


REFLECTIONS FROM BEFORE TIME BEGAN


Cold.

Bitter cold. 

Breaking cold. 

Dark.

Cold darkness.

Nothingness.

Notness. 

No time. 

No existence. 

Never existence. 

No past. 

No future. 

No now. 

No ever.

Neverness. 

Never everness. 

No one. 

Nobody.

No I. 

No else. 

No one else

Non-ness. 

No light. 

Coldness.

Aloneness.

Darkness.

Nothingness.

I am alone. There is no other.

I am all.

I am coldness.

I am darkness.

I am loneliness.

I am nothingness.

I am notimeness.

The cold is I.

I am coldness.

I feel cold, I feel alone. I see darkness.

I am coldness, loneliness, darkness.

I feel cold, there is no other, therefore I am coldness.

I am coldness. I am loneliness. I am darkness.

I am a point of timeless nothingness in zero-space.

I am I. 

I name me ‘Allyne’.

I am nothingness. I am alone, there is no other.

There is cold, I am the-cold, I am, therefore there is other.

If no other, I being I makes other, I make other from my coldness.

My loneliness, my darkness, my nothingness.

I made other, other. 

I name other Ylem.

I am zero. I made difference. I made other.

Other is one. Difference is the mother of form. 

I, making difference make form, make time.

Other is one point. 

I am zero, other is not-me, other is Ylem.

I am zero. Other is one. 

Two points make one-space.

I see difference.

Difference is a point.

Difference is nothing but difference.

I am darkness. 

Difference is light.

I see light.

I see not-me. 

I see not-darkness.

I see difference.

Difference is a point of light.

I am lonely.

I hear you.

You are not a point of light.

You are not-light.

You are difference in Ylem.

You are one zero. You are other than other. 

You are not lonely.

You are not-me. 

You are not-all-Ylem. 

I name you Georg. 

You are not-me. 

I am not lonely.

Three points make two-space.

I hear another.

Another is not not-lonely

Not not-cold. 

Not not-dark.

It is not I.

It is not you.

It is difference in Ylem.

It is point one-one. 

Four points make three-space.

 



When they finished reading, Georg explained, "Allyne has two reasons for wanting your opinion. You know her neurological condition. Also, if there is any potentially mental problem here: which may require treatment, she wants to avoid a stigma on her record. I admit being a bit. . . crackers, is a positive recommendation for systems programming but if she should want to adopt a child or become an airline pilot it could make problems. That's what we want to get out of the way before your guest arrives.

Emmette began, "Before I comment, may I take your picture, Allyne. Only yesterday I noticed that I have a blank in my album where your picture should go," As she spoke she fished a small white Minox 35EL camera with an attached electronic flash from her purse and took the picture. Allyne blinked but did not flinch at the flash of light. While replacing the camera in her purse, Emmette removed a small, thick address book and poised it on the edge of the table. It fell, hitting the floor with a resounding thwack. Several people at the surrounding tables jumped at the sound but Allyne did not respond.

Seemingly distracted, Emmette retrieved and stowed the book, observed Allyne for a few seconds, reached with her left hand taking one of Allyne's, "Thank you, I apologize for making a disturbance. Do you remember that Class ring I had? I always wear it on my left hand."

"I recall you wore it on your right. . . and there it is," Allyne pointed it out on Emmette's right ring finger, resting on the table near the left edge of Allyne's field of view.

"Thank you, I must have got confused," responded Emmette and continued, placing both hands in her lap, "I do not think there is a neurological problem here nor that you are still addicted to tranquilizers. There is a superficial similarity to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, PTSD, which has been found in about 12% of the Vietnam combat veterans who have been treated in VA hospitals since the war. Based on the evidence at hand, that does not seem to fit either.

"What is the treatment for PTSD, if one has it?" Georg asked.

"There is no proper cure, but some patients are helped by art therapy, that is, painting and drawing. They start with scenes from their nightmares. If there is improvement, they go on to more pleasant material," replied Emmette.

"So one of the symptoms is nightmares and, I judge, disturbed sleep," said Georg, "That doesn't seem to fit Allyne's case."

"That is what I have said. You were not dreaming, Allyne. You were reading a book?" Her tone made it a question.

"No, I don't fall asleep unaware. I wasn't tired, only bored, when I started reading. Some of the book was interesting, but it took some puzzling out to get the hang of the deal. It's sorta like scie-fi. You gotta remember if the trolls or the Klingons are the bad guys," she responded.

"Compelling, if mixed, metaphor," inserted Georg.

"But, do you recall what you were reading when it happened?" Emmette continued her interrogation as if she was on a scent.

"Not exactly, but the sense was that the paranoid view of the world is the right one. Not `somebody is out to get you', rather everybody and everything is hostile. . . horrible, and meaningless. I. . . I mean, you are part of it and can't escape," Allyne shivered and stopped, staring at a nameless spot on the wall.

"We are all on a bad trip to Nirvana," said Georg.

"Wait," Emmette broke in again, "Did he suggest a way out?"

"If he did, I didn't get that far. Does he?" Allyne almost pleaded with Emmette. 

"I think Schopenhauer eventually suggests the answer is to opt out, I never quite understood how that is done," Emmette seemed to be at an impasse. Then she continued "How did you feel about this idea at the time?"

"I thought he was on his way to cloud coo-coo land, with a one way ticket," recovering her verve.

Georg laughed, "You have a lot of company there.  Some people think that notwithstanding his brilliant intellect, Schopenhauer was pathologically pessimistic." 

"The cause of your episode is hard to identify. I know of no common syndrome. . . grouping of symptoms, in the literature, close to this. I suggest we schedule a longer interview." 

"That could take a lot of time. I can't ask you to do it for free, Emmette," Allyne searched Emmette's expression for a reaction.

"No need. I have said this not a medical matter. You are my friend, not my patient," Emmette smiled. "I'll put it down as library research in the unpublished manuscript stacks, on one or another of the projects I am doing."

Giving Allyne no time to say yea or nay, Emmette continued, "Now, may I tell you about my friend who is coming to join us. Her name is Bertha Bohra, with several degrees following it. She runs seminars for MBA candidates in the Business School and is on the Board of the Think Tank and several other companies. Her advice is much sought by venture capitalists interested in high-tech start-ups and so on. By the way, she detests her own name. She will ask to be called `BeeBee'. Do it. She might be a good contact for you, Georg. I hear you have hoisted the Jolly Roger again." 

"I hope they didn't mean that I gave anybody a jolly rogering," Georg said, sure that Emmette had spent enough time in England to get the pun.

"You been to England as well, I hear," she said a little too accurately. "I lived there three years, at University, before medical school. In the event, it is my impression that most English girls would not mind being rogered in a jolly manner or, indeed, in most any manner, by such a handsome bloke as yourself." Then she turned to Allyne and, shutting Georg out, commenced to chat with her about her latest problem with Wilbur and such.

Ordinarily Georg would have been irked by this, and the takeover manner she had put on this evening. He was not used to being side-lined, and he now realized that some of his slightly disruptive interjections had been the product of that irritation. Emmette was entitled to take charge as she had been called into this case, as far she was concerned, to solve it. 

Despite her protestations that there was no medical aspect to it, and Georg was not completely convinced of that, she could hardly be expected to behave other than as a professional on the job. 

As was his personal habit, he took advantage of the break to recap what he had learned so far. First, nothing was cleared up about Allyne's case. Even so, he was sure Emmette thought she was on to something. Then, her appearance, demeanor and dress: She was of average size, height and build, not overly voluptuous nor manikin thin. She wore only a grey suit, purse and shoes. She wore no jewelry except small grey pearl earrings, and no hat. Her skin was perfect, and her makeup was lightly and perfectly applied. Oddly enough, although her makeup's basic color scheme was creamy shades of rose, her lipstick was carmine red. The matte lip color picked up a tint in highlights of her soft, medium auburn hair. It shouldn't have worked but it did. 

Her square, symmetrical face had strong features without masculine overtones. The simplicity and color of her costume shifted attention away from her figure, which was erect without being stiff, toward her perfect legs and face. The only false note was that her breasts were slightly larger than would have been expected for a woman of her size and build. The shape and separation were perfect. The overall effect suggested solid engineering. The Mercedes-Benz was named for Senorita Mercedes Jellinek. Mercedes must have looked a good deal like Emmette. 

Her comportment had been courteous and professional, neither laid back nor stiff. English was not her first language. Georg would have bet on French but there were traces of German or Austrian, most likely Switzer-Deutsch. Her age was hard to judge, always Georg's weak point, near thirty but how near depended on how much cosmetic surgery she had. On her history, she was bound to have had some.

His review was broken by the approach of one who could be no other than Madam BeeBee. She had spotted Emmette from across the room and during her rapid approach Georg had time to think only `Margaret Mead under full sail.' She sat heavily and abruptly in the vacant chair without ceremony or introductions, her glance swept across the room, the two women, and then riveted Georg.

"Georg Cantor Smith. Recognize you. Talked about you at Tity. Two hours ago. Emmette, you didn't tell we meet? I change dress. No. Come hour sooner." Returning her full attention to Georg, she continued apace "Mr Smith, you think I am awful. . . awesome. I introduce me. Bertha Bohra. `BeeBee' to you. I am. . . was Israeli. Army Major. BigBeeBee they called me. Or Super-Beez. My boobs stuck out. Gun turrets. See. No manners." Each sentence was like an economical burst from an Uzi machine pistol. "I resigned. Didn't take to Operation Entebbe. Said no insure plane I flew in. Male chauvinist pigs. Israelis treat women worse than Arabs. Worse than Arabs treat women. Resigned. Attitude to women. If had balls I been General BeeBee. They had balls, they’d take Amin. Try. Hang. Not live in luxury. Saudi Arabia." 

Switching aim directly to Allyne, "Introduce me. Reincarnation. Grace Kelly. Believe in reincarnation. You, Darling?" 

Allyne was the first to recover, "I'm Allyne Rogers, I have heard marvelous things about you. I'm overjoyed to meet you at last." Georg was astounded; he had never heard Allyne in a courtier role before.

"I. You." BeeBee unlimbered her Uzi again. "Astounded. Meet you. Georg Smith. Same night. No warning. Whatever." She shot a crushing look at Emmette, then refocused on Allyne. "Talked on you. Too. Know about you. Meant call. Tomorrow. Morning. Hammerlund not know what doing. Needs help. Can't wait. May pardon Emmette. . . Eventually. Not telling knew you. Both. Could make introduced. Now eat. Starving! Have ordered?" 

"No," said Georg, signaling the waiter who had been passing by the table, ostentatiously, for the last half hour. They ordered quickly, including a round of cocktails. Georg resumed his ruminations; Emmette's takeover attitude had been put into proper perspective. If BeeBee could shoot as fast as she could talk she should have made General. Was that all only heavy Israeli charm or did she really have such a high opinion of him and did she have something special for Allyne? She would tell them soon if the pace continued.

"No talk this. Outside. Agreed! Specially Emmette. Strict confidence. Like doctor. No case. Names changed," BeeBee checked the other tables, no one was near enough to overhear. 

Lowering her voice confidentially she co-opted the meeting for her own. "Good luck. Couldn't arranged. Somebody mess TeeTee. Why?. Who? Big computer hacked. Much time. Many times. Data read. Not gone. Removed. Erased. Allyne, you know what mean." BeeBee's high speed translation mechanism was being overwhelmed. "Somebody compute much. No payment. Maybe worse. Much worse. Not your fault. Allyne. Start before you. You not there. Turned up accident. Security Boss broke leg. Skiing. First run. Season. New man found computer on. Nobody logged. Running. Impossible know what. Nothing in log. Power on. Lights flashing. Security man trigger own alarms. Power down. Disk jumps. Maybe erase. Power off. Never again. We know. PC compare meter power to normal. Twenty percent overmuch. Plus or minus two. Points." 

Allyne began slowly, weighing each word carefully, "I know of one possibility, but it could be only part of it. It may be marginally my fault."

BeeBee burst in, "Before you. When you gone. Out cold. Coma. Checked. Cleared as bell." 

Georg thought `Israeli malapropism'. 

Allyne continued, "Yes, not only me. I sometimes play a sort of Adventure Game. Someone, most likely one of my predecessors, left it on the machine. It may have had a legitimate purpose originally. I still use it to check out the machine. It tests thoroughly all the operating system and most of the hardware. If I have made big changes, I like to play it for a double check after the standard tests are okay. It is fun too. It helps me unwind after a tense session. But, I don't see how enough people could be playing to pull that much more power. Most power is consumed by having the machine on, no matter what programs it's running. Only peripherals, and the telecommunications subsystems, change the power requirements very much. I think that's the case. Right, Georg, you're the hardware guru?"

Georg nodded. Before he could speak, BeeBee started up again. "Why not logged?" she challenged. 

"That's because it bypasses the bookkeeping functions of O/S. . . the Operating System. It's hidden, pretends to be part of O/S. O/S doesn't keep track of its own functions, maybe it can't, I never thought about it before. Anyway, I suppose it was done that way to keeping it from showing on the log, disk directories or file dumps. I found the Adventure Game because O/S took more disk space than it did at my last job. I did a hex dump and found this segment added on the end, rather crudely. To find out what it was, I found the entry point and searched the rest of the system software for a branch to that address. It's in the telecom monitor. An "Escape" sequence causes the game program to execute. You can't play it from the console, only from a terminal. I used one in my office or at my house." Allyne paused.

"One more thing, I don't think whoever did it was a very good programmer. I mean, whoever patched it into the system was not good enough to have written the game himself. . . The game uses some pretty clever tricks. That original guy was good, maybe as good as I am," Allyne conceded reluctantly. 

Emmette asked, "What game about?"

Allyne paused, "You know the Star Trek kind of thing, with some new twists."

"What kind of twists?" insisted Emmette.

"Carramba, how can I explain to someone who has not played adventure games? In the conventional fantasy adventures each player takes the role of one of the characters, if any characters are left over their roles are played by the program. The hero has to accomplish some task allocated... assigned to him, rescue the princess from the dragon or bring back the Holy Grail. He meets all kinds of hazards and people, wizards and such. Some of whom will help, some hinder and some will kill him. They may all interact; some goodies will give him charms to protect him from the baddies, from falling into the pit, etc, etc. 

"The `Traveler Game' is less Gothic and the period is the present, or very near future. The eponymous hero, to win, must choose a type of space ship, launch from the Earth, navigate to another star or star system with planets, select and finally land on a suitable planet. Along the way he has to collect the answers to eight questions. If he succeeds he becomes immortal, omnipotent and. . . Very, very bored," Allyne concluded, wryly. 

"Bored. Why bored?" BeeBee was patently disgusted.

"I think Allyne means that an omnipotent being could have no equal as a companion, and there would be nothing he could strive for," added Georg helpfully. 

"Ach! God is bored! Explain many things," BeeBee was mildly swayed.

Emmette picked up the theme, "The questions, what are the questions, Allyne?" 

"Ah. That is part of the game. I have learned there are eight. I have no idea what the answers are, except there are clues that some of the questions are answers. That is, to find out the right question to ask, is the answer. That could be the answer to one question. For myself, I will answer no more questions till I have something to eat," Allyne had had no time to touch her food.

Everyone realized that they had been served and had eaten nothing. Several minutes of relative silence ensued. As might have been expected, BeeBee was the first to finish and pick up the thread of conversation again. "I go. Meet two more. Tonight. I call London. When wake. Allyne. Find in Tity computer. Hidden things. Tell me. No one there. Ask me, you need. Computer Center Director will resign. You replace. Nine morning. Put people new job routine. Replace old job. Insiders. Faster. Consultants. Temps. What need. Georg help. I know you make. At worst, pay. You need his talk. I call. Every day."

"Wait," Allyne arrested BeeBee in flight. "I have some personal projects under way, which may have some connection with this, Emmette is also involved."

"Ah so. . . Emmette join. I fix Medical Center." Emmette had no time to agree or disagree. BeeBee was gone. 

Georg said, "Can she do all this, she is only a member of the board." 

"You want to tell her she can't, chauvinist pig," said Emmette resignedly.

"I'm in if you two are. Allyne, how about you?" Georg capitulated.

"I was looking for a job when I found the one at Tity. The worst that can happen is they can fire me. At least my resume will show `Director of Computer Center'. . . for a day and a half." Allyne was in too.

"Let's split," said Allyne, "I want to be at Tity at nine sharp, not to waste a minute of my tenure as Dee of TeeTee's CeeCee."

Emmette remained subdued and thoughtful, speaking only to ask the waiter to arrange a taxi. When it arrived, she excused herself, saying she would call Allyne before noon, suggesting they all meet for lunch. She needed the morning to clear things at the Medical Center. 

Georg and Allyne walked to Georg's Audi Quattro, and drove to Allyne's apartment. 

When they arrived, she said, "Coffee?" 

Georg asked, "Guatemala Antigua?" 

"What else?"

Entering the living room Georg noted the tome of Schopenhauer, the lounger, the stereo, and the big workstation. There was also another book open on the desk. Turning it over he read the title, The Great Philosophers by Bryan Magee. 

Allyne was in the kitchen making coffee-brewing noises.

He called, "Were you checking what other people thought of Schopenhauer?"

"No. Why?"

"The Great Philosophers open on your desk."

Allyne re-entered with two mugs of steaming coffee on a tray, no sugar or cream. That would have been sacrilege. "No particular connection, one of my baby brothers is studying philosophy at Berkeley and always trying to recruit me. He brought the book. I was looking up the kinds of truth. You know analytic truth, synthetic truth?"

"No. I don't know exactly what the difference is," drawled Georg with a modicum of interest.

"Well, the analytic truth of a statement depends on whether it is consistent with the axioms of the system it is embedded in and the grammar of the language it is written in. One only needs to know the language, particularly it's grammar, to deal with it. Our compilers check code for errors like that."

"On the other hand?" Georg felt he was expected to carry part of the load.

"From the synthetic point of view, truth value depends on whether the statement matches with its analog in the external world, compilers can't check for that kind of error. If they are to be found, they must be detected at run time."

"Does this have anything to do with your current concern?" 

"Perhaps, you see, there is a question: If my impression of being Allyne living in Palo Alto in 1987, having coffee and discussing philosophy with you is `true' in the analytical sense I should, in principle, be able to construct some kind of a proof, based on the `grammatical' rules of my existence, to rule out any inconsistencies or `compile time' errors." 

"I see. In principle: But, it would be a horrendous project to codify the rules, and what would you use for the axioms in your system of existence. . ?" Georg questioned.

"Right. Then there is another hitch also. A Mr Godel has proven that there are always some true statements in every system which cannot be proven using only the rules in that system. I take that to mean that I could have some experiences which might be analytically true but which I couldn't prove in my system. How would I tell, if what seem to be glitches to me, are proof that my experience is false are such, or are just one of the truths inaccessible to me in my system."

"So that's a dead end. What about the synthetic leg of the solution?" Georg asked.

"Even less useful: If I am living in a simulated world with no external referents, how can I detect that from inside my simulated world? If not, how can I prove it. What I have to prove has to be taken as an axiom, which cannot be proven but must be taken on faith." 

"But how did you get interested in these kinds of truth, anyway?"

"Well, I suppose, because when I get depressed, or whatever it is, I get the impression that the outside world is false, or unreal, or something. If I want to counteract this, should I look inside. . . Is my mental language changing, inside my brain?  Do I need a pill, change my brain chemistry. . ? Or, should I prove their validity by experiment, stick a pin in me, for example."

"What is your conclusion so far?" Georg really wanted to know.

"What works best is your massages," responded Allyne with a grateful smile.

"So, the outside world wins. St Georg to the rescue," said Georg rising to his feet.

"Not so simple, Emmette says that massage, the relaxation, and especially the sexual excitement, changes the brain chemistry, maybe more so because it is not satisfied, replaces bad tension with good tension," Allyne added, moving into his arms, "That is why I chose you for my massage sessions, not some overdeveloped physiotherapist in the clinic. Faulty experimental design, but fun. `No science can exist without values.'"

"In that case why not maximize the sexual excitement," said Georg, only half in jest. 

"Oh! I'd love to make love to you but I might feel that I did it for medical reasons, not fair to you, and I would feel rotten, probably kill the effect," she looked deeply into his eyes. 

"So you prefer to frustrate me for medical reasons, Teaser," he said, smiling.

"No, frustrate my gross desires for a higher cause, saints have done less, Lecher," she said thrusting him out the door with a farewell kiss.

When Georg's Audi Quattro entered the garage at his Portola Valley home and he switched off the engine he could hear the extra loud telephone bell he had installed in the garage. Out of the car, he reached for the wall mounted phone. Allyne was on the line. Suddenly apprehensive, he said, "You have had another episode." 

"Not at all," she replied reassuringly. "Why did you think that?"

"Oh! Never mind. Why did you call then?" said Georg.

"To say good night, to thank you again and apologize for not letting you spend the night after practically forcing you to ask. I wanted to get an early start in the morning," Allyne explained a last time. 

"Okay, would have been nice. Thanks. Another time," he added hopefully.

"Sin duda. Good night, Love. Don't forget to check the refrigerator."

Georg hung up, suddenly aware that he was very tired. It was hard to believe that this whole business was barely six hours old. At this rate, he would age at a year per hour. `I got up thirty five and a half this morning, yeah, now I feel forty two. Skipped the dreaded `forty' milestone.' He unconsciously started his bedtime routine, check the computer, nothing but a list of calls to return. He reactivated the security system which he had disabled on entering the house, tested it and headed for the shower. No need. He couldn't need another one of those today. He gazed at the bench, sniffing the scent of cloves in the air, remembering the feel of Allyne's breasts against his chest, her hand on him and excitement began to stir again. `Stop! I'll never get to sleep at this rate.' 

In the bedroom, he slipped off his shoes, placed his trousers in the press, hung his jacket over them, and threw his shirt and socks in a chair where the Vietnamese girl would find it in the morning. He punched the `sleep routine' selector on the headboard console. The alarm clock demanded the programmed `wake up' time be verified, changed or suppressed.

The lights in the rest of the house went off with the pump for the radiant heating. A single reading light came on with the `musical wall paper' selection (recorded and automatically edited, skipping anything vocal or with a dynamic range of more than 5 Db, from the day's broadcast of KPEN-FM) from the stereo receiver. 

Taking the issue from the top of a stack of Scientific American magazines, Georg prepared for a deep and dreamless sleep. In less than five minutes, the magazine fell to the floor. Later, the music faded very slowly, along with the reading light. Georg had finished with October 14, 1987.

 

 

CHAPTER II

Georg had been up for two hours when Allyne's call came in at 9am sharp. He had dressed, breakfasted, done his morning chores, answered his messages from the day before and keyed up Sidekick to call Allyne, when the phone rang.

She had arrived at TT early, at 8:30, to discover the Director, Dr Per Hammerlund, waiting in her office. He informed her of the resignation of the Director of the Computer Center and offered her the job, starting immediately with a fifty per-cent raise, to nearly $60k a year. In addition, she was to be a Fellow of the Think Tank Institute, with freedom to do her own research (up to twenty five per-cent of her time, with a generous budget for computer support) and with one-year-in-seven, paid sabbatical. The only stipulation was that she keep the Board informed of progress on her research and that she let them read anything she wanted to publish, in advance. He did not suggest the possibility of them vetoing the publication of anything, but she could think of no other good reason why prior review would be required.

George congratulated her and was about to speak to her about the Adventure Game, when she said, "There's more, I'll tell you about it at lunch. May I come to your house, with Emmette? Your girl can fix us a snack? Early, about 11:30.?"

Obviously, something had spooked her. She didn't want to talk about it on the telephone but she did want to talk, urgently. Georg replied simply, "Will do. Don't have any more adventures before lunch, then?"

"Gotcha! Adiosito," she hung up. 

Georg sat back, thinking. `If she thinks she might be bugged, maybe I'm bugged. Wouldn't hurt to check. This is Silicon Valley.' 

He spent the rest of the morning with an oscilloscope, frequency meter, and various test instruments from his lab, checking for connections to any of his electronic systems, as well as looking through all the rooms for any visible sign of micro-transmitters. 

He found nothing out of the ordinary, as expected, but he felt relieved when he had finished. Of course, a real professional would only need to train a laser on one of his windows or glass doors to hear what was said inside. As an afterthought, he checked for any emissions from gaps in the Faraday cages he had installed around his PC's and computer terminals. Okay there too. Opening all the drapes and shades to be able to see anyone parked in the street he found no strange vehicles, or people wandering around.

Doll came in at ten o'clock. He gave instructions for lunch for three at 1200h. She suggested crab salad. Then he put a bottle of Gallo Fume Blanc on the middle shelf of the refrigerator. `Should be champagne, to celebrate Allyne's promotion.' That's how he found the box of chocolates and a dozen red roses, and remembered Allyne's admonition: "Check the refrigerator." `How had she done that? Security! This place is like a sieve. I'm not cut out to be a master spy. Any old Mata Hari would have had me drained in a second, not to consider a young one. Oh, well, when espionage is inevitable, relax and enjoy it.'

He put on an open necked corduroy shirt, chino pants and bush jacket, finished off with suede loafers, all in shades of tan. He rejected a paisley cravat in maroon colored silk. Then he took off the jacket and hung it over the back of a chair. Too much, he thought, even the English don't dress for lunch at home any more, though he was sure it would have impressed Emmette.

He had started to program the music for lunch when he saw Allyne’s red Porsche 914 pull into the drive. Typing quickly: `start 11:30,R>14', he opened the door before they rang the bell. 

They entered the room with cheerful cries, like children coming to a party. Georg began, "Lunch is ready when you want it, we could talk a while first if you prefer, and eat, say, at 12:30." (He was about to thank Allyne for the flowers and chocolates and ask her how she got them into the house, then thought better of it, what with Emmette present.) They both nodded their assent. 

Emmette had arrived wearing grey-suede boots, jockey cap and a grey, wrap-around dress, its style obviously inspired by a laboratory smock. Once inside, Georg's surmise was confirmed as she slipped off the smock. As luck would have it, Georg was holding on to a chair at the time, otherwise he would had fallen over.

When she removed the dress, she revealed flesh-colored, one-piece, fine-jersey tights, absolutely without seams, fasteners or wrinkles, so closely molded to her figure that Georg could see the sharply etched groove where her nipples joined the soft bulge of the aureoles. The area around the nipples and the bulge at her groin seemed to an almost imperceptibly darker rose. He could not be sure if the cloth was slightly sheer… or it was a trick of the shadows. There were no lines or seams to suggest she wore any kind of undergarment. Emmette had, apparently, been carved from a flawless block of pink marble by a master sculptor, say Michelangelo? A large round medallion of beaten gold, bearing the rough outline of two fishes, the sign of Pisces, hung immediately between her breasts, cutting into and emphasizing their softness at each movement.

Allyne made a marked contrast, dressed in a mannish, Savills Row pinstriped suit, no hat, her golden blond hair with silver highlights pulled away from her face and coiffed tightly into a large bun at the nape of her neck. Her skirt ended at the knee, showing all of her long, tapering calves. Her shoes were black oxfords, tapered and perforated at the toe, and supported by what Georg's mother would have called `Cuban' heels.

Georg thought: `Squire and doxy'. `Tristan and Isolde'. No, `Butch and Flower'? Georg was sure he had been inured to titillation by the sight of nude female forms; surely his experiences with Allyne had proved that, admittedly he had some help from Allyne herself. But, the prospect of Emmette's nuder-than-nude image excited and discomfited him unbearably. He could feel himself getting horny. The contrast of the two women made the whole thing worse. He suppressed fantasies of the two of them together, limbs intertwined, bodies shining with scented oils, he caressing them both. . . Stoppit! Down that path lies madness. . . Or, at minimum, a monumental hard-on. 

How could they work this way? He excused himself with a throwaway remark about checking up on lunch. Heading toward the bath, he paused in the office to change the air- conditioning-cum-heating-system setting, ordering the computer to stabilize the ambient temperature to 65* F. Reaching the bath, he considered a cold shower and felt silly. He finally hit on brushing his teeth, hard, and was surprised when it worked. He felt nearly normal again. 

Regaining the living room, he noted Emmette had thrown his jacket over her shoulders, not as good as the smock, but it would have to do. "I'm sorry you are cold, Emmette," he dissembled, "The heating system's been acting up, I'll have to have somebody look at it."

"Do not concern yourself, I'm quite comfortable," Emmette smiled sweetly.

"In that event, may we get to the business of the meeting," said George with an air of mock pomposity.

"Adelante, corazones valientes!" Allyne, the Queen of the Diggers, was ready. 

"I'm concerned with that game on the TT main-frame, Allyne. It sounds vaguely like the Schopenhauer book, I guess I mean your reaction to it. It might trigger one of your attacks. Perhaps you'd better not play it unless I'm around, I would like to learn more about it anyway. What do you think, Emmette?" Georg launched the meeting. 

Emmette replied, "Yes, it is best to be cautious, whilst we become better informed. However, if it proves necessary, I could monitor Allyne sometimes and learn more of it as well."

"I don't see any problem with that, and the same thing applies to Schopenhauer, no more solo flights," agreed Georg. "What have we got so far? I had the idea, Allyne, that you had something to say but didn't want to tell me on the phone this morning."

"That's right. I don't think we should discuss this project on the phone. I had finished moving into my new office this morning when a note arrived from BeeBee, by courier. She said my salary was doubled, from whatever the Director had told me. Suggested I deposit the second half in a bank overseas, Cayman Islands or something like that. Then it said to burn the note, and not to trust the phones or the mail and especially not the computer nets unless I coded my messages. She suggested Georg should fix me up with some kind of safe cryptographic system, but no one-time pads, `they can be copied', whatever that means. She said to have my new office swept for bugs," Allyne paused.

"Okay, we can do it," said Georg, "Do you have the note?"

"No. I shredded and burned it," said Allyne with a giggle, "They will never get it out of me, not even with a bribe, at my new salary."

"You were right, don't trust a shredder alone. I hear the Ayatollahs have finally pieced together all the shredded documents from the American Embassy in Teheran. Took hundreds of man-years, but they did it. Is that all?" said Georg. 

"Yes, I spent the rest of the morning promoting people and playing Gregory Peck in Twelve O'clock High. Actually, I'm modeling myself on BeeBee, stuffing Kleenex into my codpiece and, oh, do you know where I can find a bayonet for an Uzi, I'll need to move quietly on night raids on the Comp Center," Allyne was still playing with her new power.

If Emmette was affected by this reference to prosthetic balls, she gave no sign. She had gotten used to the coolness of the room, and shifted Georg's coat to the back of her chair, just in time to dumbfound Doll, who had arrived to announce lunch. 

Emmette detoured by the bathroom on the way to lunch, leaving Allyne and Georg alone. Georg occupied his mind with speculations on how Emmette could manage her bathroom requirements, in view of her costume, until they arrived at the patio, where, it being a warm day, Doll had set lunch. Surveying the perimeter is search of lurking spies, Georg inquired in a low voice, "How did you get the chocolate and roses into the refrigerator, or into the house for that matter?"

"Simple, I called Monty from Dinah's Shack and asked her to buy them and leave them there," Allyne explained.

Momentarily Georg was still puzzled, until he remembered that his maid, who was a Montagnard, with a practically unpronounceable name, so some people nicknamed her "Monty". Georg had found that incongruent as she was nothing like a British Field Marshal in manner or appearance, so his nick-name for her was "Doll". Or, sometimes, "China Doll."

"I see," he said, "Mil gracias, mi Amor Encantada," and kissed her hand. 

"You are gracious but ungrammatical, My Love. It's `encantado'. El Amor is masculine, so it takes the masculine adverb, adjective, whatever, even if the reference, mine own person, should be distinctly feminina."

Georg, deliberately mistaking the subjunctive for the pejorative, muttered, "A consummation devoutly to be wished." 

She did not respond.

Georg seated Allyne, selected one of the roses, from the arrangement Doll had created in the center of the table, for Allyne's button-hole, kissing her ceremonially on both cheeks. Finally, he poured a glass of Fume Blanc for each of them and congratulated her again on her double promotion.

"Better drink that Fume Blanc fast," said Allyne, "I've a feeling this job may not last long."

"Could be," Georg responded, "My mother, who taught me most of the useful and important things I know, said `All good things come slowly, only bad things come quickly'. Of course, she was a math teacher," he added. 

"There is a good deal of sense in that. But, could it be that the bad things only seem to come quickly, 'cause we really don't want them to come at all? Like death and taxes, for instance," Allyne philosophized to fill the time. . .

"I wonder what has happened to Emmette, I had worries about her getting her pants down, with that outfit," Georg ventured. 

Allyne began with a pregnant calm, "From the expression on your face, and your sudden rout to the shower room, I'd have thought your worry was about how fast you could get her pants down."

Georg was truly stunned by Allyne's totally unprovoked attack, "Hey, just a minute, I didn't walk into her living room with nipples blazing. Where'd she get that outfit anyway, there ought to be a law."

"I gather it is some kind of fiber-plastic composite, substitute for skin, from the prostheses research at Stanford," offered Allyne, then teasingly, "Did you like it?"

"Won't work, too perfect, they will have to throw in some moles and warts, nobody wants to screw a piece of alabaster," suppressing the thought `I did'. "Anyway, it was as much you as her. . . she, you came in like the Chairman of the Bank of England, exuding power, contrasted with this marble Greek goddess. It was the combination I couldn't take."

"Aho, La Diosa Arrodillada," Allyne was a fan of Mexican films especially those with Maria Felix and Arturo de Cordova. The allusion was totally lost on Georg. She continued, "So, you wanted both of us, at the same time. Lucky Pierre is physically impossible, for a man. But, what would you do if we were both available, menage au trois, so you didn't have to choose?"

"A few more days of this and I would Mount Rushmore," muttered Georg. It was Allyne's turn to be lost. 

She was saved by Emmette's return, who, seating herself, said, "You have elaborate bathing arrangements here, I was tempted by the hot tub. Will I be allowed to try it sometime?" 

"Mi casa es tu casa. Y, especialmente, mi bano es tu bano," said Georg, adopting the familiar form of the second-person pronoun.

"Is it customary to bathe ensemble or does one have to luxuriate alone," Emmette seemed to want genuinely to explore the possibilities.

"Oh. Bring friends if you wish, the Japanese include the whole family, or in the public baths the whole neighborhood, whoever drops in," offered Georg. 

"I'd be glad to share with you, and Georg would join us if we asked him nicely," Allyne added, with a mischievous edge on her voice.

Georg didn't like the direction the conversation was taking and with growing awareness of apprehension, said, "I feel sure, if our neighbors should overlook us, they will worry you should catch cold, or sunburn, Emmette. Would you like a wrap?"

"Not to worry, my costume is warm enough. If they look closely they will see I am clothed, my bush doesn't show, you see?" she said, shifting and spreading her legs to expose her groin. True enough, Georg thought, no bush, it was a trick of the light, but at close range the gentle ravines of the vulva and its alluvial delta were finely defined. For a moment they were all three locked in quiet contemplation. Emmette broke the silence, "But I take the point. Perhaps if I could have my smock?"

Taking advantage of Doll's arrival with the large bowl of crab salad, Georg called, "China Doll, please bring Doctor d'Montefou a wrap, she is cold. I will serve the salad." 

Doll turned, with a strange expression on her face, bowed slightly without speaking, and re-entered the house.

Georg busied himself, serving the salad, Emmette's wine and refilling their other glasses. Meanwhile the women conversed lightly, of the weather, the outdoor pool, and such. Georg recalled an incident from his childhood. 

He was at the family ranch, near Fresno. It was summer vacation. He had climbed to the roof and was observing the patio, probably re-enacting a scene from the latest cowboy movie. He noticed with alarm that a large diamond-backed, rattlesnake had wandered into the patio and was taking the sun from atop a rock, the largest of his mother's rock-collection. He was about to climb back into the house to retrieve his BB gun, planning to pot shot the snake from his vantage on the roof. Suddenly one of the new kittens entered the yard on one of its regular patrols. Georg watched, fascinated, as the kitten approached the rock and, sensing something wrong, began circling it cautiously, stiff legged and with its hair standing on end. 

Georg felt a shock of danger, especially as the kittens were his mother's pride and joy. He shouted at the top of his voice, "Snake! Rattlesnake in the patio!." Neither the snake nor the kitten took any notice. Then without warning the rattlesnake struck. The kitten teleported, to one side and away from the rock, a good three feet. It continued to circle, but keeping its distance. Georg repeated his warning, again with no effect. He was about to re-launch his plan with the BB gun, when his mother appeared with garden rake in hand, scooped up the snake and threw it over the fence. She then banged on the fence with the rake, calling "Shoo! Shoo! Go find a rat! Leave my cat alone!" 

Georg was ecstatic, dancing on the roof. He called to his mother, "You should have killed it. I was going to bushwhack him with my BB gun."

"I was thinking about the vermin they eat. But, you're right, black snakes are just as good, and they don't bite people. Find it and kill it if you can, but be careful. And, you better take the twenty-two/four-ten gauge double-barrel," his mother answered. 

He never found the snake and had to content himself with stopping all the holes around the base of the patio fence.

"Una real para tus pensamientos, you have been on Mars, and you haven't started your salad. It is delicious," Allyne spoke.

Georg came back to the present with a start, wondering why he had recalled that incident, but he said, "My thoughts are not worth a real even at current exchange rates." Now he had it. China Doll's walk and manner was just like the kitten, as soon as she noticed Emmette sitting in the chair with her legs apart. 

Emmette thought it was time to get to the business of the day, beginning, "I gather you are running this project. . . investigation. BeeBee seemed to put Allyne in charge but she wants you to lead us, or so she says. That being the case, what do you want me to do?"

Georg responded, "I think we have two things going here. First there is Allyne's problem. You don't think it is medical, but I'm not so sure. Then, there's the goings on at Tity. Allyne is in the middle of both. We've got the best chance if you take the prod on the first one, Emmette, and I'll honcho the other one. We will need to keep in close touch; in any case, nobody makes a move without the others knowing all about it."

Allyne broke in, "You think there's danger, I mean I know I had a bad turn, but do you think the black hats are on our trail?" Allyne got her metaphors from the western genre too.

"Yo no se, exactamente, but something has spooked our tame Israeli Major and they are not known for panicking at the wind in the willows, or in the eucalypti."

Emmette added, "I agree to the leadership arrangements and that we should be careful. How can we secure our communication lines? We cannot stay together always, and where can we meet in a secure place?"

Georg said, "Why not here, I've checked the house and I can cover any further security arrangements and setting up encrypted communications as being required by my business activities."

"Very well, that should do until we find out more," Emmette subsided.

Then she offered, "I have been relieved of my hospital duties, `To accommodate my request to do independent research', which of course I never made." She did not sound pleased.

"Did they give any sign of what kind of research the expected you to do?" asked Georg.

"Not precisely, but they did allude to my good fortune in getting a grant from Tity and `as it was not classified, they hoped I could credit the University as well', when I publish."

"I know TT is into artificial intelligence, especially neuron nets. Does anyone have any more details," ruminated Georg.

Allyne explained, "They have roughly three divisions, to the extent you can corral whiz kid scientists. There's one for the stuff you mentioned, Georg, one for space exploration and another on the socio-political and environmental impact of high technology, especially genetic engineering and ULSI. . . er, ultra-very-micro-electronic. There has been some talk about a new one on the problems of extending the human life span, but they are hung up on the question of whether it's different enough from population growth to sustain a new division. Truth is, these are just abstractions. People move around freely. Some work on more than one project and some do other things altogether."

"Well, I see someone is finally taking my theory seriously. I've always thought that 95% of what happens is determined by the blind march of technology, 4% by tradition and the rest by all the politicians, theologians and moralists," said Georg with mock triumph.

"I don't see how I would fit into this structure, my cover is not credible," said Emmette.

"How about the artificial neuron net side, Emmette, wouldn't your background set you up there?" replied Georg with concern.

"I know the basic the principles, but my current research deals with real neurons. I have had some success with inducing nerves to regrow connections after trauma, and on another project we were able to stimulate nerve cells to regenerate, to divide and reproduce in mature animals and human cells in en vitro culture. We are. . . were about to try it en vivo. . ." Emmette was still rankled by her sudden impressment.

"Will you have access to the labs at the Medical Center? As far as I know TT doesn't have facilities for lab research, just offices and computers. Right, Allyne?" Georg tried to be helpful.

"No labs there, but some of the Fellows of the Institute have their own labs or do work at other facilities. One guy is doing work at SLAC and another at the Xerox Parc where they did Dynabook, Smalltalk and, some people say, the Mackintosh," Allyne said.

"It sounds like BeeBee has set you up with a reasonable cover, without. . ." Georg was interrupted by Doll, cordless telephone in hand. 

Taking the telephone he was greeted by BeeBee, "Have you got Allyne and Emmette?"

"Sure have, we're having lunch in my patio. Care to join us?" Georg asked solicitously.

"Not time. Speak Emmette," after a short pause, "Please."

Georg handed the telephone to Emmette. She listened for thirty seconds, turned off the telephone and handed it to Doll, or she tried to hand it to Doll who seemed not to realize she was to take it. Absently, Emmette laid it on the table.

"It appears I am a fellow too," Emmette blushed, "of the TT Institute. I'm to keep my lab at the Center and will have research to publish as needed. I'm to ask for what is required and I can check it if I wish. My salary is doubled, in view of not having private patients. My job is to look after Allyne, I think she said to guard her back, except from you Georg, you were specifically excluded, you are welcome to her front or backside," Emmette's mood was clearly improved. 

"All that in half a minute, BeeBee is on form," remarked Georg.

"That is not all, she wants us to keep each other informed of our locations, be in constant communication. She wants to be able to locate any of us in thirty seconds, anytime, day or night. She said you would arrange it, Georg."

"I'm not sure, I'll think about it," said Georg thoughtfully.

"Oh, she said you would say that but you would do it," Emmette finished her message from BeeBee. 

"If there's nothing else urgent, I feel I should put in an appearance at TT, or I'll blow my cover," said Allyne. "What say we meet back here for dinner, talk and hot tub?"

"While you're there, would you like to arrange a dial up comport on TT's mainframe, `for your research', we can use a PC as a terminal, temporarily, and replace it with a workstation later? When you leave, switch your phone calls to my number."

"Done. See you around six," said Allyne, kissed Georg on both cheeks, blew a kiss to Emmette and departed.

No one spoke until the sound of Allyne's 914, four-cylinders faded.

"Do Americans always give orders under the guise of inquiring about one's fetishes?" asked Emmette. 

"What? Oh! Sometimes," said Georg, absently, his mind divided among thoughts about security arrangements, Doll's strange attitude toward Emmette and inevitably, consciousness of Emmette's form under the smock. 

For no particular reason, he asked, "Would you like a swim?"

"That would be nice but I have no swimming costume," Emmette looked to Georg inquiringly.

"I have some suits, for guests, perhaps one would fit. But many people don't use them, nobody around here objects," replied Georg.

"You are around here and you are a body," she said, smiling.

"But I don't object," he said, `anymore' he thought.

"What about Monty?" she insisted.

"I expect she has gone, anyway she is used to the shenanigans of my guests. Orientals don't have the western taboo about nudity. But, use a suit if you prefer."

"I would like to try au naturelle, it will be a new experience without the bottom. Will you come too, sans costume. Otherwise I would feel strange."

Georg led the way to the cabana, removing his shirt on the way.

In a minute or so, he was undressed and stepped onto the beach, Emmette joined him shortly. At a single unobtrusive glance he took in her nude form. It was nearly as perfect as her previous costume, and not as exciting. There were no visible surgical scars, and the pubic hair was a perfect inverted triangle of soft copper gold, oddly lighter than her head hair. Her skin was a pink shade of white, fine blue veins showing through and with barely visible freckles, the skin of a true redhead. She could not stay in the sun long, she would not tan but burn. Suddenly he realized that she dyed her hair to make it darker. He had not considered the possibility earlier, why would a naturally light haired person darken their hair? 

He was not excited by her nudity. Was it because to be nude to swim was not a sexual come-on or because their discussion earlier had defused the situation? Had she deliberately manipulated his. . . his impression. . . his appreciation of the situation. . . to cool him off?

As Georg mused, Emmette turned and dived into the deep end of the pool, swam to the other end and rested, holding onto the bank, waiting for him to join her. 

When he had done so she said, "I feel suddenly free, as if I were on holiday. I have not had a break since I left boarding school, and those were to go to some camp to learn sports, or another language. After they decided that I was a girl, I had to have treatments, and catch up on my training to be a woman. . . I almost resent Allyne's projects keeping me from being completely without responsibilities even now. But I do appreciate that it is only because of her, and her problem, that I am even this far out from under the yoke." 

Georg thought to use this change in mood to advantage, "Do you think Allyne's experiences could be brought on by something in the environment, not to do with the accident. . . or the drugs she took?"

"I think that is most likely. You know that, while it is not strictly a medical or even a mental problem, Allyne is extremely suggestible. No one knows why, but it is often the case for people who are hypersensitive to drugs. Most people must be in deep hypnosis to come to believe, wrongly, that their hand has been burned or frozen, and develop blisters. Allyne can develop real symptoms from reading about a disease. She also identifies strongly with characters in books and movies, even television, though she knows on another level that they are fictional. She has a photographic and phonographic memory. If she has seen a good film, she can play the part, usually the heroine, perfectly, with all the feeling of the original. Except in her case she is not playing a part, she is the person she is playing. I have often thought `the world lost a great actress when Allyne decided to take up computer science'". 

"You think she may have caught this from something she saw or read?" asked Georg.

"I think it may be possible. As the great English detective said, `Once you have removed the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth'," Emmette swam to the other end, then returned to Georg. 

Georg was completely comfortable now and had drawn himself up at the shallow end to sit on the bank. When Emmette returned she stood up between his knees, her face shadowing his sexual parts from the afternoon sun. Glancing up she said, surprisingly, "You are a well hung buck, Allyne, the Digger, must appreciate that immensity . . . immensely."

"Not very immense at the moment, and Allyne can't appreciate it because she hasn't had it. Well, `to hold but to have not'."

"Perhaps she is fearful of the massive male reality of it. It may be that not everything is available to the purely mental without the instantiation of a real referent. For me, holding is father to the having," she reached for him as he slid backward out of her grasp. 

"Like I tell them all, ex-Navy men have to be courted, candy and flowers," he laughed.

"So, the roses, how do you know it was not I who sent them?" Emmette was not yet to be defeated.

"You are not the rose sending type, you would have sent orchids, rosy, with freckles," Georg laughed again.

"Very well, you may have won this round. My vulva is cold. If you do not intend to warm it, I must return to the Center. There are some cases I want to look up, for the discussion tonight. Help me out," she ordered.

Emmette gone, Georg occupied himself with the arrangements for secure communications. Having proposed using his house as headquarters for the project, he needed to equip it accordingly. 

Later, he sat at the PC to work up a scenario, listing the possible causes for Allyne's episode, and to brainstorm what Tity could be up to. Assuming at first that there was a connection between the two, going on what Allyne had told him about Tity's activities and what Emmette has said about Allyne's suggestibility, he began:

1) If Tity is studying space exploration and artificial intelligence they might be working on the feasibility of an unmanned probe, using a neuron network, programmed with the expertise of a scientist, or a group of scientists, to conduct the research at planet-fall. The launch and navigation to the target star would most likely still use well established technology, employing ordinary `von Neumann' computers. 

2) At the target it would be a big advantage to have a computer on board which could recognize patterns, draw conclusions and act independently on what the sensors had detected. That might be possible with a computer based on neuron net technology. Expensive, but possible. In view of the time required for messages to be sent to Earth and orders to be sent back it would absolutely necessary for some such stratagem to be employed. If Alpha, Beta or Proxima Centauri, the stars closest to the Earth, were the target it would take over four years each way, for messages between the Earth and the probe in the neighborhood of those stars.

3) Say, as a guess, it would take fifty years (at an average velocity of, say, 1/50 the velocity of light, 3720 miles/second or 13,392,000 miles/hour) for a probe to get to Proxima Centauri, and four point two years to get a message back, then another four point two to send back changes in the program. . . the whole thing doesn't seem practical. . . unless of course somebody has come up with a much more potent propulsion system, maybe that idea I got from Dad, when I was still in high school, for a torch ship, using an antimatter star drive. 

4) Two problems:

a) Why bother with a neuron net computer on the probe? Just send all the sensor data back to Earth and send it through the computer here? That strategy would give 54.2 more years here on earth to develop the computer, and more importantly, the software.

b) Why bother to send a probe to a star at all, a large observatory in space, outside the atmosphere, would produce so much new data that it would take fifty years to process it, at much lower cost. In fact this is already under way. If the Challenger had not blown up, the Space Telescope would already be in orbit. Also with the Space Telescope the whole sky can be surveyed, not just one star.

Georg sat thinking for several minutes. He had reached an impasse. He had shot down the scenario that Allyne had discovered, or sensed, (that an artificial brain was going to be sent to outer space, and mistook it for a real brain, in fact her brain) in two easy shots.

He rose and went into the kitchen to make some coffee, only to discover that Doll had not gone home but was making a big pot of Guatemala Antigua. Wordlessly, she served a large mug of coffee, placed on a tray with half a dozen Almost Home Oatmeal Chocolate Chip cookies, his favorites. "Would you make dinner for three tonight, about seven o'clock," Georg had remembered.

"I will make Carroll Shelby's Texas Chili if that is acceptable," said Doll.

`Doll's English is excellent, if somewhat pedantic', thought Georg. He replied, "Yes, I suppose. I prefer to make my own though, or would you like to learn how to make it."

"Are you not very busy?" said Doll.

"Right, you do the Carroll Shelby's then, do we have any beer?"

"I brought a six-pack this morning, but I drank one, you may take it from my pay," she said.

"No way, what you eat and drink in this house is part of your pay, you don't pay for it. Understand?" insisted Georg.

"Okay. . . Sir," she agreed. 

Georg speculated that she had learned English in a military environment. Whenever she addressed him directly she called him "Sir." It was her only concession to authority structure; otherwise she was a perfect democrat.

Having completed the dinner arrangements, Georg returned to the PC keyboard. For a moment he considered Doll, he should ask her what she thought about Emmette, but she world probably say nothing. He then thought of her uncanny talent for anticipating his needs, like the coffee and cookies just now. Perhaps Allyne's talent for identifying with others was not so rare.

Then he began to type again:

5) If the probe is aimed at a planet outside the solar system, Bernard's Star is the closest (probably), six or so light years away. To explore a planet, you have to get close, preferably land on it. The big gas giants like Jupiter and Saturn would be hard to land on, even if there is a surface in the accepted sense, and survive long enough to send data back. Why bother with exploring a gas giant circling around Bernard's star, we haven't done much with the ones nearby, they're a lot easier to reach and you would have the same kind of problems once you got there?

6) If there are rocky planets, like Earth, in reach, that would make more sense. We have the technology to land on them, whether or not they have an atmosphere, or observe them in detail from orbit. But why spend the money for the trip and accept the additional problems of communication time, we have Venus, Mars, Mercury and, why not, the Moon, and rocky moons of other planets in the local system?

7) If the target were a truly Earth-like planet, that would be a better case. Another planet just like Earth would be a terrific coup. There might be life, even intelligent life. That would justify, and require, sending the most intelligent probe possible.

8) Four possible hitches, that I can see, to explaining Allyne's episode this way:

a) Is there any evidence that an Earth-like planet orbits a nearby star?

b) Does Tity have a project to determine the feasibility of exploring it with an artificially intelligent probe?

c) Did Allyne pick up some clue about it?

d) Would she identify closely enough with an artificial brain to blow her mind in sympathy with it?

Georg sat back, very pleased with himself. He now had a basis for his. . .their, investigation. Just find out the answer to these four questions. How? Well, that is another matter. But, he had a start. One more hitch, who would have the audacity and the money to finance such a project? It would take a long time to pay off, and the immutable velocity of light offered no chance of shortening that time significantly.

George thought a moment, there had been some astronomy majors in his physics classes at Stanford but he had not kept track of any of them. Fitting action to his plan, he pressed <ctrl-alt> on the keyboard, calling up Sidekick, then he pressed <d> for "dialer." When the box appeared on the bottom of the screen, he pressed <F3> for "keyword search" and then typed <stanford> for "Stanford University". Picking up the telephone handset, he heard the rapid tones of the modem's dialing followed by the voice of the operator "Stanford University." 

Georg replied, "College of Astronomy."

After a pause, the operator asked, "Whom did you wish to speak to in the College of Astronomy?"

Georg guessed quickly, "Anybody in Planetary Sciences."

"I'll give you Professor Smith if he's in. One moment," there was another series of tones, then "Smith here," in a distinctly British accent.

Georg began, "This is Georg Cantor Smith speaking, I would like to ask you a question. Do you have a moment?"

"Just. In the event. I have a class in five minutes. But I suppose the little buggers would be happier if I were late. Proceed."

"I'll make it quick. Are there any earth-like planets outside our solar system?"

"Thousands of millions, maybe thousands of millions of thousands of millions. Is that all?" 

Georg had been neatly trapped, `ask a stupid question' he thought, "I mean, is there any direct evidence that such planets exist in the neighborhood of stars within, say, ten light years of the Sun?"

"Depends. . . on how direct you want your evidence. You're not an astronomer yourself, then?"

"No. I had a class when I was studying for my physics degree at Stanford," replied Georg, hoping to curry some favor as an "old boy."

"You didn't listen in class, did you get your degree?" the professor was not impressed. 

"Yes, and an MSEE. How did you know I wasn't an astronomer?" Georg thought, `For a guy in a hurry he wastes a lot of time'.

"You said light years. Astronomers measure distance, not time, the unit is a parsec, which means a second of parallax. Roughly speaking, if you position a star, against the general background of fixed stars, in July and it is one second of arc away from where it was when you looked at it in January, that is, when the Earth is directly opposite its former position in its orbit, the body is one parsec away. In your terms, a parsec is equivalent to 3.258 light years, or 3.086 times 10 to the 13th kilometers, unless you prefer miles. . . "

Georg interrupted, "That's okay, they're all further than I can spit. I guess I'm talking about, roughly, 3.1 parsecs."

"Very well, the honest answer is `no', nothing that is really convincing even for anything that is definitely a planet, leave alone Earth-like or Earth-size. What evidence there is, is based on anomalies in the paths of stars which cannot be explained by the gravitational attraction of visible companions. The reasoning is that if it is not a binary or multiple star system the anomalies must be caused by dark companions, perhaps a planet, if the calculated mass is right." 

"No chance of checking for eclipses. . . occultation. . ." Georg struggled.

"Much a matter of luck, finding one with a orbit which brings it between the star and the observer here on Earth. Also a problem with sorting out periodic changes in intensity from the noise, thermal and otherwise. You say you are a physicist?" the Professor showed a flicker of interest.

Georg headed him off, "More of an EE. I think I have what I wanted. Thank you," suppressing an urge to add `awfully'.

"We've been working on some observational refinements using charge coupled devices, CCD's, and speckle interferometry. If you are interested perhaps we could get together. . ?" he left the question hanging.

"I've just a casual interest, thanks anyway. Goodbye," Georg cut the connection.

`Not much help, but he seemed to know more than he was saying', thought Georg. 

Georg felt that he had settled one of his four questions. The answer was a clear cut `maybe'. `Suppose that's better than, "No way!"'

Recalling his typed scenario to the screen, he summarized what the Prof had said, and scrolled back to the four questions:

`There (maybe) is a earth-size planet in a radius of 3.1 parsecs. Huh, would that be reachable in a finite length of time?' 

Calling up the Sidekick calculator, he wasted five minutes, finding out that it was too awkward to use for these calculations. Reaching for his HP27, he had an answer in another five minutes, based on some pretty arbitrary assumptions. 

`Setting an outside limit of 100 years for the trip, I would need an average velocity of 1/10 C, which would require twice that, ie 1/5 light speed at the half way point, five light years out. Then it would be necessary to turn around and decelerate all this assuming that the star was not moving toward or away from the sun at a great rate.

`The energy required accelerating to velocity V is 1/2MV 2, plus the same amount to slow down again. With 100% efficiency that would be the mass `M' times the velocity squared, `V 2', or (300,000/5) 2. . . so that is M times 60,000k/s squared, so that's 36 times 10 8, times M. M is the mass of the payload, say a metric ton (10 3 kilograms) for M, makes it 36 times 10 11 kilogram-kilometers-seconds. If I could reduce the payload to 100 kilograms that would make it 36 times 10 10 kilowatt-seconds.

`Ha! I think the Titan develops about 5 million horsepower for a few, say, five minutes. That is 5 times 10 6 times 0.7457 kilowatts/horsepower or 3.7285 times 10 6 kilowatts. Times 5 minutes, make that 300 seconds, makes 11.1855 times 10 8 kilowatt-seconds, say, a little over 10 11 kws. 

`That means I need the equivalent of 322 Titans.

`What about the thrust requirements? The average thrust needs to be 36 times 10 13 watt-seconds divided by 3600 seconds/hr, that takes out the 36 and two of the zeros, leaving 10 11. Then divide by 24 hours/day times 365.25 days per year times 100 years(8.766 times 10 5) times 1000 to get to 114 kilowatts of thrust. Divide by 0 .7457 to see it in horsepower. . . 153 horsepower.

`It sounds like something like a Titan to put me in orbit (or hitch a ride on the shuttle), another Titan to give me a hard kick in the ass to get out of the earth's (and the sun's) gravity hole (maybe a sling shot around Jupiter like the Voyagers) and then a long slow pull to the half-way point. Then reverse the procedure for the second half.

`Very roughly, neglecting the mass of the motors, tanks, fuel etc, and the problem of sustaining the thrust for 100 years, but with the budget of NASA for a few years it might be done. See if I can find a rocket buff to check and refine my calculations.' 

Georg had proved to himself that the was a launch window there, for anybody with several boatloads of Titans, or a couple of Titans and an engine with the power of a medium priced car which could operate in outer space for a 100 years, an artificially intelligent computer smart enough to do something useful when it got there and the patience to wait about 120 years for the answers. Could be improved, by extending the time. He guessed power requirements would come down about by the inverse cube root of any extension of time, by the square root because of the V squared in the 1/2MV squared law, another reduction for the smaller mass of fuel, some more for the mass of tanks and motors, etc, etc. Further reduction of the payload mass would help too. There might be something even closer than 10 light years, Proxima Centauri is only four light years away.

The PC screen changed, signaling an incoming call. Georg swept up the handset and said, "Georg Smith here."

"This is Pete Bowen at United Instruments, Georg. Has anyone spoken to you about United buying Ferrari Electrodynamics?"

"No. Why do we want to buy it? Have you made an approach, or are you just thinking?" Georg answered with a question.

"We just heard somebody else is trying to buy it, one of our engineers has been trying to get a license on some of their patents. If somebody buys it and doesn't want to license us, it will cost a lot to find a way around them. He suggested we buy the company, license the patents to us and sell off the rest of the company. . . to whoever is trying to buy it now, unless you want it yourself?" replied Pete.

"Ah! Ha! I see. You want me to pull your fat out of the fire. Why would I want the company if you have the licenses? Anything else in it worth anything?" George probed.

"Well, you already have 25% of us, so you would still have 25% of the licenses, and you would have the rest of the company 100%. I hear they have a good marketing setup in the Common Market, running out of Cambridgeshire in the U.K. There's a plant there and one in the south of Paris. They're profitable, with a good line of products. By the way, their current products don't use the patents we want," continued Pete.

"So, you want me to buy the outfit and give you the licenses as a finder's fee?" Georg said.

"Done! We would expect to pay for them at the going rate, unless you want to buy the whole company," said Pete. "I'll fax through the papers. If you move this week we can block the other guys, whoever they are," Pete was on a roll.

"Hold it! I'll have to know more, especially the price. You're very vague on who these other people are. Come on, give."

"Maybe Varian Associates, not sure. The going price is 145p per share, and they have two million voting shares out. Only one large shareholder, some kind of charitable family trust has 10%, no other institutions, 20% would be enough to get control, and not enough to make you have to file a formal take-over bid under U.K. law. You might go for a 5 pence premium, make it 150p per share for 400,000, say 600,000 sterling. That's slightly over a million bucks, if you catch the exchange rate before it goes up any more," Pete outlined the deal. 

"No wonder they call it Ferrari. Then I would have the most expensive one on the block, or 20% of it. Tell me about the rabbits, what's in it for me?" Georg tried to keep the interest out of his voice.

"First, you'd own a bigger share of your Ferrari than any of those other guys on the block. Then, on present projections, they'll make 22.5p per share after taxes, that makes the price to you 6.67 times earnings, excellent return even if only half as good as ours. You might also want to consider that their earnings are in pounds. If Baker and Greenspan keep letting the dollar slide, that could be important," Pete was heading for the kill.

"You know of course, if I do this, I may have to sell a block of my United stock to raise the money, so watch your options," Georg set the trap.

"If you do, let me have first call. With those patents, in a couple of years I'll buy the rest of you out," the jaws had snapped shut, the patents were the key.

"Send me all the poop, I'll let you know in a few days," said Georg flatly.

"Don't wait too long, Varian may be slow off the mark, but they're tough once they get on the scent," Pete was nearly sure Georg was hooked.

After the traditional `How's-your-families?' etc, they broke the connection. 

Ethics required that if the deal was as Pete had said and he went through with it, he had in turn to agree to license the patents to United, but at a price which would be fair to the other Ferrari stockholders. He had to keep himself distanced from those negotiations. He could legally, and ethically, refuse to sell his stock in Ferrari (or even buy more) thus making it very difficult if not impossible for Varian to acquire control of the company and the patents with it. Varian was undoubtedly the other buyer; Pete probably had a pipeline into there and didn't want to completely give that fact away. 

Allyne was back, Georg heard the sound of the 914 in the driveway.

Turning off the PC after Control-Kay-Deeing to save his scenarios, Georg met Allyne at the front door. She had changed her outfit and was carrying a Toshiba T5100 portable computer in her left hand.

"New toy?" Georg greeted her.

"Tools of the trade, part of my new status. I drew it from supplies and I've already had it rigged to talk to a mainframe port at TeeTee at 2400 baud," she said and waited for Georg's congratulations.

"`Beware of ventures which require new clothes' sayth the English sage. He should have mentioned new computers. It could have done for playing PACMAN, pity it doesn't do colors," Georg teased.

"Does Adventure games, though, don't need color for Adventure games. If you really want color, hook it up to that NEC Multisync I saw in the corner of your office," Allyne was not fazed.

"The outfit, is that part your new status too? That dress's sexy enough to stop all work within a 100 meter radius, maybe more," Georg stood back admiring her.

"Solamente un trapo, a rag, I picked it up at I. Magnin's at Stanford Shopping Center on the way here. I used to be J. person, but now I'm moving up to an I. person. Spent some of my salary in advance. Gotta feeling I'd better before the bubble bursts. Do you really like it?"

"I've always admired leopard skin, and it fits you even better than it did the leopard," George stood admiring the dress which was molded to Allyne's figure. The colors made a melody with her hose, shoes, and scarf, all obviously new and selected to go with the dress, as well as with her hair. The only dissonance was her lipstick, which she had renewed but not changed. Its harsh crimson tone recalled her lunch outfit, but was not ineffective. Noting her smile, Georg thought `This cat has teeth'.

"You could spend some of your money on a new car, trade in that Volkswagen with pretensions above its station on a real Porsche," he continued.

"Don't you insult Pegasus, he's a Porsche with an explanation," she laughed.

"Would you like some wine, and maybe some chocolates, I have a large stock," Georg invited, with a conspiratorial smile.

"A glass of wine, white if you have it. `Red wine for a blue lady' is my rule and whatever you were gonna say about the lady part, today I'm gay enough for white wine," replied Allyne.

Georg was about to call Doll, when she entered the room pushing a small serving cart with a bottle of Pouilly Fume, in an ice bucket, two glasses and a small mound of sourdough bread slices and a bowl of Gourney cheese seasoned with garlic and spices. Stopping by Allyne's chair she served her some wine, saying, "Good evening, Ma'm. Your dress is lovely, it must have been very expensive but it deserved you."

Georg was astonished. It was the longest and cleverest speech to any of his guests he had heard from Doll. He also noted that Allyne also rated a commission in Doll's army. While she was in a talkative mood he determined to find out more about her, "Where did you learn English, Doll. In Viet Nam or after you came here? You speak it very well."

"Not so well as I would like," she said, "My French is better, but thank you very much. I learned all my languages first in the mountains, but my English used to be improved on the trip to the coast, and here of course," she moved the cart to serve Georg.

"How many languages do you know, then?" asked Georg.

"The language of my people in the mountains, I do not know what it is called in English, then French, English and Mandarin but that one only to speak not to read and write."

"That's great. How did you learn so many?" interpolated Allyne.

"My first language I learned within my family and French from my people. . . then the missionaries came from China and I learned English and Mandarin," Doll replied.

"But no Spanish. . ." from Allyne.

Georg interrupted, "The Chinese missionaries taught you English?"

"I'm sorry. I misled you. They were not Chinese, though they came to us from China. They were American, of the Seventh Day Adventist's Church. They taught in China until the Red Guards forced them out. Then, they came to us to teach us how to read the Bible in Mandarin. It was too difficult so they taught us in English instead. . . until Charlie came," said Doll in a sad tone. "Please excuse me. I answer the door," she added.

Emmette had arrived. Doll conducted her to the living area. She also had changed for the evening, to a pants suit which was a perfect replica of a man's tuxedo, except that the black cloth was fine and thin, perfectly molded to her figure. `She does dress for dinner', thought George, and once again the two women complemented each other, but the roles are reversed. 

Georg was watchful to see if Doll's attitude toward Emmette had changed. Apparently Doll had control of herself, she was still wary, but entirely proper. She seemed to have distinctly warmed to Allyne, observing her with friendly interest, even while serving Emmette with her wine.

After a few minutes of chat, about Allyne's new clothes, etc. Georg opened the discussion with a summary of his four questions and his, as yet tentative, answer to the first one.

Emmette lead the questioning with intelligence and insight, and not a little interest, "If I understand you correctly, if one of the superpowers, say Russia, had a lot of extra rockets at hand, evidence of another Earth nearby, a small but powerful computer programmed for AI, and were willing to wait for over a hundred years they would have an advantage over the other superpowers for some centuries?"

"Essentially, in my opinion right now, that's true. But. . ."

Emmette interrupted, "And Russia, for the first time, is proposing to reduce its stock of ICBM's by one half, perhaps to zero."

"Hey, that's right!" exclaimed Allyne, "But, if she gets rid of her rockets how can she use them for the probe?"

Georg countered, "She wouldn't be promising to destroy them, just to make sure they can't be used as weapons."

"I geddit! What better way of getting rid of a weapon than shooting it off into space. Watch out Andromeda. Cheap too," Allyne liked the idea.

Georg thought aloud, "Why just Russia, Uncle Sam will have to get rid of a lot of rockets too, not as many or as big, but enough. And, with the shuttle, we really have no other need for them."

"And we have the best computers and we're way ahead in AI. Son los Gringos Estado Unidienses quienes lo hacen, seguramente!" Allyne was so excited she was going completely into Spanish. 

"I only said it was possible, it would still cost a lot of money, and take a long time to reap any benefit at all. Also, how could you be sure that if you did this, somebody might not come along in fifty years with a faster way to travel or observational techniques thousands of times better? It would all have been wasted."

"Any possibility of either of those things happening," inquired Emmette.

"Not that I know of but I didn't predict room temperature superconductors, either," admitted Georg. 

"Then it won't happen, if Georg doesn't predict it, it doesn't happen, Rogers's first law," Allyne said flatly.

"Thanks, Allyne, for the vote of confidence, but us physicists say `If it's not forbidden, it's mandatory'," Georg laughed.

"Do they say how long it takes?" asked Allyne. 

Allyne paused for a second, when Georg didn't answer, she said, "Right. If Georg doesn't predict it, it doesn't happen until it's too late to matter. Allyne's corollary to Rogers's first law."

Emmette snorted, "You two are too fast for me. What about your other questions, Georg?"

"I was hoping you two could lend me a hand on those, Allyne has brought her own probe to hack into TT's computer, we might be lucky enough to uncover something about what Tity is doing, related to this. Also we can monitor her with the game and see if she is especially sensitive to something about it. Whatever we find, Emmette, you can help us gauge Allyne's powers of identification. Now, I suggest we eat something. China Doll has a big pot of chili on the back of the chuck wagon, with plenty of grubs from the potato patch, especially in honor of the Diggers among us." 

To give him credit, Georg recognized his gaffe as soon as he noticed Emmette go pale. Her sense of humor, such as it was, evidently did not extend to the food she was about to eat, "What did your Digger ancestors drink with their chili?" he said, hoping to divert Emmette, unobtrusively, from the ingredients of the chili itself.

"The blood of an Englishmen, when they could get it. But, when it really became plentiful, they OD'ed on it. That's why we're so scarce now," she said.

"Bad to worse," Georg muttered, cursing himself for allowing Allyne to trap him so easily, and held his counsel until they were seated next to the barbecue in the patio. 

Georg noted that Doll had set out bottles of Dos Equis, a fiery Mexican beer, and a bottle of 80 proof Tequila Sauza. One night he had brought a bunch of guys back from the Oasis. China Doll had been there and one of his guests came on to her, pinching her and copping a feel whenever she came near him. Georg had been on the point of throwing him out when China Doll signaled him to cool it. She brought out the Tequila and served her tormenter a glass of beer accompanied by a half a tumbler of ice cold tequila. Then she took the same for herself, silently challenging him to a drink off. The fellow had passed out after two rounds. After a quarter of an hour under a cold shower, Georg managed to send him home in a taxi. 

He had called about noon the next day to ask what he had been drinking. Georg had said, "Just Mexican boilermakers." His friend replied, "That stuff would send any honest boilermaker back to making little china teapots. I don't remember anything after watching Monty drink a tumbler of Tequila. I was taking a shine to her, was gonna ask her to marry me, but I couldn't keep up with that." Georg later established that Doll had pulled off her feat by letting some ice cubes melt in her glass, simulating the appearance of tequila. She had been drinking beer chased with water. 

'I wonder what Suzy Wong taught her that trick?', Georg thought, `And, who is the target for tonight’?

Their dinner went pleasantly after all, Doll showing up with a bowl of Frito chips and another large one of salad with guacamole dressing, which drew compliments from both of his guests. Even Emmette had two full bowls of chili. Nobody took any of the Tabasco Sauce, provided for those whose mouths were tougher than the leathery parts of an 80 year old, male armadillo, the usual quality control standard for Carroll Shelby's Chili.

Allyne and Emmette kept up a dialogue of girl talk, with only cursory effort to include Georg, mostly chatter about clothes, ways Allyne might enjoy her new income, whether the best hairdressers were queer, whether all hairdressers were queer, about the straights who had nightmares about three gays breaking into his house and redecorating it in the middle of the night (Doll had been passing on one of her patrols, and had nearly burst something trying to keep her face inscrutable at this story). 

Georg kept half an ear open to their talk, in case anyone addressed him directly. The rest of his mind wandered over the four questions, should he buy the Ferrari outfit, (Emmette doesn't identify with gays, or that wouldn't be funny, are the roles of butch and flower interchangeable?), what will they do with all those rockets, all that plutonium, how unusual is Allyne's talent (sickness? unusual ability?), have I ever dreamed I was somebody else? of course not, if I did I would still be me in the dream, however I have dreamed I remembered something that the real "I" didn't remember, are your memories you, part of you, would I be a different person if my memories were different?

"I'll be F'ed if I know," too late, he realized he had spoken this aloud.

Allyne was the first to respond, "If you knew what? Just ask me, I'll tell you."

"No! Let me!" Emmette echoed.

"I can't remember," Georg played for time to collect his thoughts.

"*Cristo Rey! He tells us in a loud voice he's ready but for one small item, then he won't say what it is," complained Allyne.

"He wants us to guess, bring back the Golden Fleece, cut the Gordian Knot, and then he says all he wanted was another bowl of grub steak," Emmette got her revenge.

"One more glass of beer and you guys go back to work, gotta earn your inflated salaries."

Doll appeared as if by magic, and served three more glasses of Dos Equis, which they carried to Georg's office. 

Once settled in, he said, "Allyne, would you like to get the Toshiba going, with the Multisync, if you like. See if you can sign on to the adventure game, while I get us some background music?"

Allyne nodded, and Georg ran the cursor down the list of selections, using Sidekick's Dialer again but this time programming the stereo rather than the telephone. When he came to Liszt, he thought "Franz Lisp, Franz Liszt" he should be good for AI research. I'll do the `Toten Danse, then Dante Suite."

Emmette, having nothing to do, watched him. "That's a clever system, but why did you connect it through the telephone system?" she asked, as the music began to softly permeate the room.

"So I could use the security system, which is set up to dial the police, to also set off a tape of two bloodthirsty Alsatians. The sound is set up to move from room to room like dogs searching for a way to get at the intruder," laughed Georg. "Once I had the stereo set up to respond to the security system it was simple to get the PC to signal it with dial tones to program the music."

"I understand, but your dogs are all bark and no bite. What if the burglar decides to take his chances, or shoot the dogs?" Emmette insisted.

"I only mean to delay them until the police come. Anyway, most break-ins in this area are by kids, looking for an empty house to have a party, not pros with guns," Georg defended his design.

"But why not just keep real dogs, they would serve as well and might actually attack the intruder," said Emmette.

"Same reason why I don't keep a gun. If a dog is vicious enough to attack a burglar, he might harm someone else. Anyway, I think it is unkind keep large dogs in a house. They need lots of space, like their ancestors had."

"You are not a bloody of tooth and claw man. . ." Emmette stopped short. "What happened to Allyne, has she fainted?"

Georg saw Allyne, collapsed over the Toshiba. He thought `Christ! She's in trouble already!' He picked her up and carried her to the sofa, while calling for Doll to bring brandy. He thought of calling a doctor, then realized that Emmette was a doctor. "See what you can do for her, Emmette, I'll check the screen to see what she was watching," he said, moving to the Toshiba. There was only a log on sequence to the TT mainframe, not finished. 

"There is nothing here, she didn't get connected yet," said Georg.

Emmette called brusquely, "The music! Turn off the bloody music!"

Georg, dumbfounded, moved to obey, "What happened?"

Emmette explained, "It was the dead bodies in the music, Allyne identified with them. Put on something lively, hold her up, and make her dance."

Georg thought, `They're both nuts', but, as quickly as possible, he selected a Sousa march, drew Allyne to her feet and marched her around the room. 

Slowly, she began to move to the cadence of the music, raising her head from his shoulder, she shook it, opened her eyes and said, "I was dead, we were all dead, it was so cold."

Georg, relieved, said, "Are you okay now, would you like some brandy?"

Doll had arrived with some Hines' Antique and snifters, on her serving cart, which she served to Allyne, Emmette and Georg in turn. "Will you need anything else this evening, Sir?" she asked.

"We're likely to need some more of this brandy, and then the ladies won't be able to drive themselves home. Could you stay in the guest suite tonight, then you could make us breakfast in the morning?" asked Georg. Before she could answer, and looking at his guests, he said, "You are welcome to stay, I have two extra bedrooms, Doll can make them ready and there are toothbrushes, night clothes aplenty, whatever you may need?"

Allyne and Emmette looked questioningly at each other, Allyne giggled and said, "We're invited to an orgy, I'm game. Dibs on the middle, or," looking at Doll, "the muddle, as the case may be."

Emmette paused, then said seriously, "Perhaps it is best. Aside from the brandy, Allyne should not be left alone for a while. I should stay as well, in case there is a relapse. If you really don't mind, Georg?"

"Done! Doll?" Georg looked at her. Doll acknowledged with a nod and left the room.

"I still don't understand about the music, why should that music send her off, what's wrong with it," inquired Georg.

Emmette began, "Liszt wrote that piece after seeing a painting of dead bodies. He was fascinated with images of death, with the legend of Faust, the writings of Dante and such. The Totem Danse probably has the most powerful imagery of all his works, some people say they actually visualized the painting which inspired it, which they had never actually seen up to that time, while listening to the piece." 

"I never knew anything like that, I picked it because it was a dance and because of a silly pun. Sorry, Allyne," Georg apologized.

"*No te preocupes! Who gets to sleep in the big room with you, or do you prefer we come visit you one by one like a sheik with a harem?" Allyne teased.

"China Doll has the suite, she has some things in there and all the guest things are in the guest rooms, you will be very comfortable. Do you think we could learn something about Allyne's passing out?" he addressed them both.

"As far as you can remember, have you ever seen the painting which inspired that piece, or heard the music before?" Emmette asked Allyne.

"No, neither," Allyne responded, "I was busy, then I noticed the music, it was pretty, I was thinking what a hunk Georg is, so many talents, gradually I began to see some dead people, they were very dead, long rotting dead. I wondered what it would feel like to be dead, then I was dead. That's all I can remember. . . till I was dancing. . . marching with Georg," concluded Allyne. 

"Do you think often about being dead, want to die, how do you feel about the idea?" 

"It's a bummer, I don't think about it much, only when I've had a scare, like when I woke up after the motorcycle hit me, after once when I almost drowned in a skating pond. . . Lately, the last day or so, I've worried but I try to put it out of my mind. It's not that I mind dying, the sensations are not so bad, but I'd like to put the whole thing off for say about a thousand years," Allyne looked at Emmette as if to ask, `Is that all right?... I'm okay?'. 

Emmette stirred as if she were going to propose a new direction, then she relaxed and said, "On the surface, I see nothing morbid, just a healthy lust for life. If you want to get deeper, it would need some real psychotherapy, probably hypnosis as well."

Georg said, "Then there is nothing unusual here, nothing we should be afraid of, I mean in the course of our investigation."

"Not exactly, from what Allyne says, and I must say I am guided more by what I know about her as a friend, her behavior and such, she has none of the textbook afflictions. She is, however, a very unusual person. Her ability to identify with others, to integrate on a set of experiences, not necessarily her own, and come up with a coherent role, or even set of roles. . . is. . . unknown. . . I don't mean that other people don't do it as well, the difference is in degree, not in kind," Emmette waited, still thinking.

After a moment Georg went on, "It sounds more like an unusual talent when you talk about it. Something like Shakespeare might have had. How could that sort of thing be dangerous?"

"Firstly, we have independent proof that it is dangerous. Barring some coincidental condition of which we are unaware, she has been driven near to suicide by something. This very evening she has assumed a deathlike posture, unconscious and helpless. Secondly, there is much controversy on the effect on behavior of second hand experience. Whilst some, more liberal, people maintain that books and television drama are appreciated for what they are, fiction, many others maintain that: say, pornography, can influence people to commit heinous crimes."

"And what do you think?" asked Georg, bluntly.

"I don't know. I suspect that people who say that there is no effect are influenced more by their liberal ideology than by scientific evidence, but I tend to agree with them. . . Or, I did, until now. Allyne's talent, as you call it, may turn out to settle the matter. If there are many other people like her," Emmette answered.

"Hold it," Allyne interrupted, "You mean my case might be used to justify suppression of free speech, freedom of the press, maybe even music? I won't let me be used that way. Never! Never! Never! Jamas!" cried Allyne, furious at the thought.

Georg responded in a mollifying tone, "We are a long way from that, anyway, there is a positive side. If people can be influenced so strongly they could be enhanced also, think of the pleasure of actually feeling the rush and swirl of the warm water when you listen to Ebb Tide as well as hearing the sound."

"Sin verguenza, you just want to save the cost of running the hot tub, Cheap Bastard! I want to use it now, before he gets rid of it. Cummon, Emmette," Allyne would not be placated.

"Wait! Wait!" said Georg, "Later, I promise, later. I've got a lot of ideas piling in here at once. One, obviously Allyne is not as strongly affected by Ebb Tide as by Totem Danse. Why? Two, has she always been this way and if not what caused the change? Three, you, Emmette, didn't make the objection I thought you would to my analogy with Shakespeare, that is, that he not only. . . integrated, you said, the behavior he observed but also described the personalities he saw, or perhaps created, in a powerful way, made them accessible to other people. . ."

"I'll take the first one, since you promised, Georg. There is nobody to identify with in Ebb Tide, there is only the water, which is great, enhances the hot tub experience no end. In Totem Danse there are bodies, dead bodies, nasty, rotten dead bodies. . . Dance with me Georg. . . I don't want to die. . ."

Georg swept her up and danced around the room. She livened up immediately. After a moment, Georg said, "I can see you were not born to be a wall flower, My Love, okay?" 

"Now I am. Weren't we going to hack Tity's computer," said Allyne.

"I didn't mention it because I wasn't sure you were up to it," said George, "what do you think, Emmette?"

"You seem to be able to bring her out of these episodes well enough. You wouldn't be a closet MD would you?" Emmette asked rhetorically.

"Adventuring we will go; to the Happy Digging Ground in the Sky," Allyne urged.

Emmette waved her down, "There is another thing I would like to bring up before we start. Georg, and perhaps you too, Allyne, have noticed Allyne's personality comports a slightly larger than life quality. High enthusiasm, or depressed. This can, if it is very pronounced, indicate a manic-depressive illness. That is usually accompanied by some paranoid symptoms, which are missing in this case. I have been thinking it might be an adjunct to her identification. What I mean is she has been there before, she has experienced most situations as strongly as if she had lived them, so she is very sure of herself. She is a divvy, a diviner. In a milder form we would call it intuition. She may be wrong, sometimes gloriously wrong, but she is never without a position. Do you follow me?"

"Sounds familiar. . ." "I div to crack the Tity nut." Georg and Allyne spoke together. She was anxious to get on with it.

In a few minutes Allyne had signed on to the Traveler Adventure Game. The game scenario was displayed on the big NEC monitor in glorious color graphics. The rules scrolled slowly through a narrow box at the bottom of the screen. There were five roles which could be assumed by the players, known simply as TRAVELER I, through TRAVELER V. Each TRAVELER was free to choose from several strategies to reach an alien planet, (as well as choose from a number of different routes), and from another set to orbit and eventually land on it.

The solar system with its nine planets were centered in the main view, but there was an alternate view which could be called up, showing the sky from the vantage point of other putative solar systems. Any section of the sky could be zoomed to fill the screen, showing successively more detail. As far as Georg could tell, recalling the star maps he had memorized as a naval navigator, the details at all scales were accurate. He immediately spotted Sirius (the dog star), Altair, Aldebaron, Betelgeuse, Polaris the pole star, Ursa Major and Minor, the Southern Cross, and all the other common navigational stars and familiar constellations. One jarring note was that the fields, at the larger scales, were very rich, about what one would expect from a good twelve inch Schmitt camera. The big NEC was getting a good workout.

Georg began the game alone by unanimous agreement, choosing a strategy similar to his speculations of the afternoon. He chose a route skirting Jupiter, and then Saturn, to get a sling shot effect. Then, he set course for what he took to be Proxima Centauri intending to swing around it to head for Alpha Centauri, whipping around again toward a fainter star nearby, which logically should be Beta Centauri. After five or so minutes, equivalent to, according to the screen, seven light years, the screen lit up with the notice:

VOYAGE TERMINATED ** PROBE INOPERATIVE ** SCORE ZILCH

DO YOU WANT A CRITIQUE?(Y/N):

Georg pressed <Y>.

"You got too close to Saturn, that sent you toward the Crab Nebula, X radiation degraded the navigational system, which caused you to use too much fuel trying to get back on course. You are out of fuel and you are dead. Oh, and you are a parsec and a half from anything bigger than a mothball. Want to know what happened to the other guys?(Y/N)"

Georg said, "That's a rip-off, I didn't tell it how close to approach Saturn."

Allyne said, "Moths don't have balls. But it did the best it could, Saturn is out of position for that kind of shot. You can't get there from here, not that way anyway."

"Why didn't it tell me then, instead of letting me go off to a cold and lonely death?" said Georg in mock protest.

"You didn't ask?"

"How do I ask?" 

"When it asks a question, just hit <Enter> before you answer. But you can only ask questions of someone else in the game, and they may not tell you the truth. Probably won't, unless you have helped them before, with truthful, and helpful, answers. Ask TRAVELER I, that's me and I would answer truthfully if I knew the answer, might not be helpful though," Allyne explained.

"But I can't do that, I'm TRAVELER I myself," Georg was puzzled.

"Not if you ask TRAVELER I a question, then you are asking whoever else is TRAVELER I at the time," replied Allyne.

"Still, how can I be sure who is TRAVELER I. . . at the time?" Georg asked.

"You ask him/her, you say `who are you?' simple," Allyne said patiently.

"But they might not tell me the truth," Georg was mired.

"No, but you could ask them a question to which you already know the answer. Of course they could tell you the truth about that, but lie about something else. TRAVELERS are people, they can do anything people can do." explained Allyne.

"Thanks a lot, I was beginning to think we were into a Crows and Cree’s situation. But I still don't know how a certain TRAVELER, acquires a particular identity. It didn't ask me for my name," George asked.

"It doesn't care about your name, but it has established a personal profile on you. Of course another TRAVELER may ask you or you can introduce yourself. In either case you can adopt a moniker if you wish, or just refuse," Allyne made it a little clearer.

Georg was off on another point, "What sort of profile does it maintain?"

"Your characteristics at the keyboard, speed of typing, mistakes, vocabulary and such. Then there is the history of the decisions you have made, your reactions to how previous games turned out. This data is kept on each player, that's another way you can check on liars," Allyne continued to explain.

"Yeah, I know radio operators using Morse code, who can recognize the fist of another operator in seconds," George had been a Communications Officer as well as the Navigator on his ship.

Emmette joined the conversation, "The TRAVELERS personalities are synthesized by the game program from information it has gathered about real players, and are assigned provisionally to a particular TRAVELER at a given time, that is, they may have different personalities at different times. Is that correct?"

Georg said, "You said one TRAVELER can be two people at the same time. Right Allyne?"

"Right. Well. The best way of putting it is that the TRAVELER number is like seats at a poker table, they can be used as temporary labels for the people sitting at them. You're not required to know the TRAVELER's name to play a game with them, but in the case Georg brought up, he could ask something of TRAVELER I, unless his manner indicated he was just talking to himself, it would be assumed that he meant to address it to the last person, before himself, to have sat in that chair. The question could be, for example, `Who is TRAVELER I?', most likely that would have been me, so my persona would answer. If you think of them as five people at the table, but not always the same five, you will be right most of the time," Allyne had adopted an uncharacteristic care in her speech.

Emmette was obviously anxious to say something, but Georg drove ahead, "You seem to be very concerned that we understand this part. Why?"

"Mierda. . . I suppose I wanted you to appreciate the subtlety of it. I wrote. . . rewrote most of this part myself," she responded.

"Did you introduce the part that uses pattern recognition. . . to check the identity of the player?" asked Georg.

"Well, I guess you could say I did. There was a primitive version of it in the program when I found it, but it was too slow to be much good, I replaced it with a new mainline. For the pattern recognition I adapted a module I found in one of the libraries they use for signal processing, but I set it up to use some CAM, that's Content Addressable Memory, which I also found," Allyne had been busy.

"I'd have thought they would have used neuron nets for that, wonder why they didn't?" mused Georg.

"They don't have any, that's why. They simulate neuron nets with conventional software. That's what was wrong with the original program. It was too slow. Might've been all right for real time, but this was a simulation running millions of times faster than the wall clock. Wouldn't have felt remotely realistic the way it was," Allyne glowed with pride.

"D'you imagine the embarrassment for Tity if it got out that a bootleg game on their mainframe runs faster than the programs they use in their serious research projects," Georg chuckled.

Emmette took advantage of the relaxation to get a word in, "You said earlier that your persona would respond as TRAVELER I. Why didn't you say you would answer?. . . Wait. Does it have anything to do with the personalities of the TRAVELER'S being synthesized, not just an abstract of the personalities of the people they represent?"

"Bien dicho. They were abstracts, as you say, but I added a feature to synthesize what I call a `persona', from the different traits and experiences of a person," Allyne was basking in the warmth of displaying her arcane talents to such an understanding and appreciative audience.

Georg had a brainstorm, "You can take a trait from one, an experience, that is, behavior learned from experience, from another and so on." 

"Yes you could. I set it up that way because it was easier to program. I divide my programs into modules; each module handles a pattern of behavior. Some modules also use data structures (in unprotected RAM) so they can be modified as the person learns or the system learns more about them. The combination of a module and a particular copy of a data structure make up part of an object or persona which I call a psycon. You could make combinations which never existed before, ha! like Dr Frankenstein did. Of course it might be a disaster, I don't know, I haven't tried it. . . Yet," Allyne returned to her own thoughts. 

Emmette spoke admiringly, "You can apply sexual reproduction to experience, in addition to genetic characteristics. We can have Darwin and Lamark, both, and at will. Why don't you publish? Oh! I understand. The game is bootlegged, but you could extract your own contributions, fit it into a new superstructure, describe how it works. You could get a Nobel Prize."

"They don't give out Nobels for software. Anyway, it sounds very elegant, but the technique of modularization is prior art, there is even a language which has been designed to designed specifically to make it easier, called Modula II," Georg discouraged Emmette, "But, you said the only difference was that you use RAM for some data structures and, I assume, ROM for the others?"

"There isn't any Erasable ROM, EPROM, on the mainframe that a programmer can program, I use ordinary RAM, which I write-protect after I have put the data I want in it, just as a safeguard, in case I or some other idiot programmer makes a stupid mistake and accidentally writes something over it before I get signed off," said Allyne, "speaking of which we better get on with it or sign off. I don't want to be sitting on this too long without any activity, some operator at the Center could wonder what is going on. . . better said, not going on, and do some checking."

Emmette said, "I, for one, have enough to think about. Would you two consider a bit of relaxation before sleep?"

Allyne was eager, "I want to do the hot tub, conjunto, Georg, let's call it a night."

`Not much more cooperation from these two tonight. Could use some think time myself', thought Georg, "Okay, bring her in Allyne, here I'll quit the Game first, in case it's checking my fist," he agreed.

As soon as they were disconnected, Allyne spoke. "You promised us to let us use the hot tub if we did what you said. We did, so you have to. Please Daddy, please, please, please. . ." she nagged.

"You said we could do it in a group, I could bring a friend. I choose Allyne and you, as my best friends. Surely you cannot refuse that?" Emmette chimed in.

"I want Monty. . . Doll too. Is she your Geisha? Will she do our backs?" Allyne asked.

"She is certainly not mine, and she is not a Geisha either, you have to be Japanese and trained from childhood to be a Geisha. If you want one for your own you must buy her, not employ her. At least that was the way before the revolution. . . I mean occupation. If you want her to join us you must ask her as a friend, not a slave?"

"I will," said Allyne, "I think she likes me," and went to find Doll.

Suddenly Georg realized, with an almost physical shock, that he was about to betray his rule `No hanky panky with employees.' `Why hanky panky? Doll probably doesn't consider communal bathing immoral, and why should it go any further than that? I would only break the rule if I took advantage of my position to exploit Doll for sexual purposes. Since I won't do that, I'm in the clear, right. But what if Emmette talked? How could she, she's a party to the business, and a doctor. Hey, why am I getting all worked up about Doll, what about nude bathing with the new Director of Tity's Comp Center and a `prominent neurosurgeon on the staff of Stanford Medical Center', he imagined the headlines in the Palo Alto Times. George's musings were halted by Allyne's return.

"She's coming; I told her she was just a guest who needed a bath, not a Geisha. Georg, can we have Ebb Tide in the bath, I love it?" Allyne was already drawing her leopard skin costume over her head, without retreating to the bathroom first, contrary to her normal custom. 

Emmette held back and suggested, "Would you mind if we took the brandy with us, it could be useful, medicinally I mean, if Allyne decides to go out with the Ebb Tide."

Georg nodded, and took the handle of the cart. He thought he detected an element of irony in Emmette's tone. Was she trying to convey a disbelief in Allyne's story, or inadvertently conveying it. Was Allyne having him on? For what purpose? No. He couldn't believe it. Allyne's distress was genuine. Nobody is that good an actor. Unless they are... to acting plays... as Shakespeare was to writing them. In which case it comes down to the same thing. "La misma vaina," as Allyne would say. Then he remembered he had agreed to program Ebb Tide in the bath. If they stayed very long, it would run out. On impulse, he set the program to reverse the tape at the end, playing backwards to the beginning, wondering if the crashing of the waves would sound different backwards. 

Arriving at the room with the hot tub, he found Allyne and Emmette already in the tub, arranged as far apart as possible, only their toes were touching. Doll was nowhere to be seen. `Maybe she won't come, she'll say she will but she won't', Georg thought. "Miladies, may I withdraw to undress mine modest self," he found himself saying. 

"Prithee, Milord, thine servants await thine auspicious presence," Emmette exercised her Shakespearian English.

"I shall be with thee in a trance," Georg replied, with a stab of uncertainty, retreating in the direction of the shower. 

Shucking his clothes, as rapidly as possible, abandoning his misgivings and realizing this might be his only chance to compare the two, point for point, Georg was back in forty-five seconds. 

George had been nude with mixed group in Japanese baths, and in massage classes, but those were more or less public venues and the nudity was conventional in those situations, as expected as a bathing costume in a California swimming pool or at the beach. The quality of this was different. Both Allyne and Emmette had declared a sexual interest in him, individually and, perhaps, jointly. The nudity could be a sexual come on, `Ah', he thought, `except for Doll, they would not have arranged for Doll to join them if that was the scene they were setting up'. Sliding into the hot water after washing thoroughly, he felt a sense of relief mixed with disappointment. Allyne and Emmette were evidently enjoying the relaxing heat. Georg also relaxed, forgetting even to profit by both women's presence for his studies in comparative anatomy. 

With eyes half closed, through a sort of mist, he began to visualize a kind of nude Venus, arm held high, slowly entering the water. Before he realized it was Doll, holding a tray of drinks over her head, she was seated on the bench around the base of the tub and the warm brandy was floating in the center. 

Evidently, the tension of the day, the heat of the water and the hour were having their effect, especially on Allyne and Emmette whom were also making substantial inroads on the brandy. Soon everyone, except Doll, was nearly asleep. Apprehensive that they might fall asleep and be difficult to get to bed, Georg signaled Doll for help. Between them they were able to lead Allyne and Emmette from the tub, rub them down briefly with moisturizing lotion, and roll them into their respective beds. 

In a tired daze, Georg did his normal bedtime chores, and fell asleep in the middle of an article on neuron net research, in the Scientific American. 

His dreams were restless and turgid. His mother was petting a rattlesnake and kissing it on the nose until its tongue shot out. She bit off the tongue and threw the snake over the fence. Then he found himself in the hot tub with Allyne and Emmette. Allyne was stroking his penis which has become very large. Emmette was observing closely as if under instruction. Allyne offered her a turn, but she didn't grasp it but took it into her mouth. Georg felt the slippery, smooth warmth of the inside of her mouth and helped her by thrusting and withdrawing gently. He realized her head is under water, she can't breath, she must come up soon. Something is wrong, it can't be happening this way. Then he realized she had transferred his penis to her vagina, he felt her buttocks, slowly undulating, twisting and shivering slightly, and heard her ecstatic gasps. 

Slowly, as through a heavy warm, oily mist, he realized that what he thought was a sex dream is really happening, Allyne has come into his bed and they are really making love, at last. He ran his hands down her back, cupped her buttocks in his hands, visualizing rather than actually seeing her nude body writhing over him. In her excitement she arched her back, pushing hard against his groin, pivoting her pelvis forward, urgently striving for maximum penetration. Dimly, in the dark shadow of the room, when she drew herself upward, her small, neat breasts hung just below his face. Carefully and gently he captured one in his hand, guiding the nipple into his mouth. It had a calming effect, `the good comes slowly, only the bad comes quickly'. The nipple was hard and getting still larger. 

Then, like the crashing of a giant wave (a vision of Hiroshige's famous woodblock print flashed through his consciousness):they came simultaneously, a mutual straining effort to become one entity, eternally, in space and time. Then came calm, like a thunder-clap. . . He struggled to recall something, a puzzle, something about prostheses. Ask Allyne, Emmette... Then he murmured, `My Love, My Love. . . At last My Love. . ." 

Sleep reclaimed its own.

 

 

CHAPTER III

Georg awoke with a glow, to the sounds of Doll making breakfast. Allyne and Doll were speaking Spanish. Dressing for breakfast, Georg thought, `Good, Allyne will have someone to practice Spanish with. I wonder if Allyne would like Doll to live-in, when we marry. I'm sure they like each other. Maybe too much to be mistress-servant? Doll is very intelligent, she may not be happy to have a career as a servant. Maybe I could help her get an education, in part exchange for her services, for a few years, like an au pair.' Georg was ready to do anything for Allyne's comfort. 

When he sat down in the breakfast area, Emmette had joined them and was conversing with Doll in French. Emmette said, "My father once lived in Indochina, where he had many Vietnamese friends. He helped some of them to emigrate to France."

Allyne, noting Georg's arrival, greeted him, "Thank you very much for the romp in the hot tub. It's almost as good as massage for my state of mind, especially with the music. I went in and out with the tide, getting more and more relaxed and sleepy. Hope I wasn't too hard to get into bed."

Georg could not be sure if she was referring to being put to bed by him and Doll, or making a veiled reference to coming to his bed later. Deciding to play it cool, he replied, "No. You were no trouble. You should thank Doll, not me, in any case. She did most of the work."

"Yes. Thank you, Doll," replied Allyne.

"And I, as well," echoed Emmette.

"Il n'y a pas de quoi," responded Doll with a smile.

"What is the plan for the day?" asked Emmette, eager to start the day's business.

Allyne began, "I have a staff meeting, with my new staff. Likely most of the morning. I could come out here for a couple of hours lunch, by tagging on some of my personal research time, if you want that, Georg?"

Georg said, "In that case, Emmette, would you like to check on any medical research going on at Tity, and which kind of AI they are doing. Some AI research is directed at using computers to model human behavior, or understand human intelligence. The rest finds ways to make computers do things which otherwise would require human intelligence. It might be helpful to know which kind Tity is doing, and very interesting to know who is sponsoring their work. If you can find out their research objectives, that would be priceless."

Allyne broke in, "Tity is interested in both. They are not so separate, some research projects furthers both." 

"Right," said Georg, "it may be difficult to sort out, but any details we can get would be good."

Emmette said, "I should think BeeBee knows who sponsors what, and what their objectives are, but I'll find out what I can, around the Medical Center."

"Okay, I'll see what I can find out from BeeBee. To tell you the truth, I'm not sure how far to trust her. Let's have an independent check. Agreed?" Georg asked.

Both women nodded their assent and left together.

Georg dawdled over his coffee while Doll cleared away the remainder of breakfast. He was aware Doll was watching him, evidently looking for a opportunity to speak. "Want something, Doll?" he asked.

She said, "Sir, I need some advice on American customs, what is proper in this country."

"Shoot. I mean, ask me. I may not have the answer, but I'll try," he responded.

"Thank you. If one overhears something which could be bad news for a friend, is it permitted to tell the friend, so he can protect himself... for example?" she asked.

"In most cases I would say yes. The original rule, one of the Ten Commandments, which forbids lying, and I have always felt that includes repeating lies, with the intention to hurt someone. Some people think even truthful statements should not be repeated, if the intention is harm someone. But if the intention of the person who repeats is to do good, overall, not harm, it is a good deed not a bad one. Does that help you at all?" Georg replied. 

"Yes. I feel I must tell you what I heard. I was waiting in the hot tub last evening when Madam Allyne and Emmette came in. They were speaking Spanish, which they may have assumed I don't understand. Emmette wanted Madam Allyne to have a baby for her. She asked Madam to have you make her have a baby. After the baby came, Madam would give it to Emmette. That is Emmette would marry you and adopt the baby," Doll explained.

"I find it incredible; can't Emmette have her own baby? It's very complicated anyway. Are you sure you understood correctly?" inquired Georg.

"I did not hear the whole conversation. Emmette insisted that Madam should sleep with you last night. It would be easy with you together in the house. I became worried and left to find you, but you went to the tub while I searched for you elsewhere. I brought the brandy so Madam would drink so she could only sleep. I could warn you before you made her pregnant," Doll finished her report.

Georg asked, "Did Madam agree to do as Emmette asked?"

"Not while I listened, but I felt it was not the first time they had talked about it," Doll replied.

"Thank you very much for telling me this, China Doll, you were right to do so. I will have to think what to do," said Georg.

"May I ask you another question, Sir?" inquired Doll.

"Certainly you may," said Georg.

"Do you want a child of your own?"

"Yes, but not if its mother is going to leave it to another woman to adopt. Sometimes such things happen, but there are many women who want to stay with their child and its father. It is unfair to a child, and its father, secretly to plan to break up their family life from the start," explained Georg.

"I am pleased," said Doll, "I wish... you... a strong son." She bowed ceremoniously, for the first time, and left the room.

Georg went to his office; entered BeeBee’s code (BB) and phone number into the Sidekick "PHONE.DIR" file and used it to call BeeBee at her office. After the preliminaries he questioned her about Tity's activities. She assured him there were no Defense or CIA sponsorship and no government classified work going on. They had some confidential clients, and several which were not, the latter including:

Ford Foundation

Rockefeller Foundation

Hughes Medical Institute

Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (Mormon)

Kaiser Foundation

National Science Foundation

National Institutes of Health

The Society of Jesus (Jesuits)

American Mental Health Association

The Sultan of Brunei

The Aga Khan

The African National Congress

and several others. 

 

In addition they cooperated with many Universities in the US and abroad and some foreign government agencies. In the AI area they had particularly strong ties with MIT, Brown, Carnegie Mellon, Stanford and the University of Edinburgh as well as several on the European Continent. 

She did not know who was sponsoring work on stellar exploration, or that there was any such work going on. She stuck strictly to her story that her concern was with the possibility that someone was stealing time on the computer, explaining that, not knowing how high up the corruption reached or how extensive or serious it was, it was difficult to take steps to eliminate it. Also it was difficult to know what countermeasures the culprits might take if they suspected they were in danger of exposure or prosecution. 

Georg bored in on the AI question,"I've heard that their main line of research is on neuron nets. Is that so and, if it is, who is sponsoring it?" 

BeeBee replied, "Most independent. Director General. Two or three associates. Long range. Non-commercial. Support other projects if goes. Out of just-thinking. His justification. Why? Important?"

Georg explained his half formed theory that Allyne was affected by a mis-identification with an artificial brain on a star probe, and that Emmette, Allyne and he were trying to locate the source of this idea and find a way to protect Allyne.

BeeBee was intrigued by this, "Is possible?"

Georg came back with, "I think it might be possible to send a small probe to a nearby star. They would have to wait. maybe a hundred years, to find out what it found there. Emmette says Allyne's problem is not neurological nor psychiatric, though she is very suggestible and tends to identify strongly with other people. . . or minds, in her case."

"Cost?" probed BeeBee.

"Can't say. Minimum $10 billion, maybe $100 billion. Depends on accounting, how far away the target is, how long they're willing to wait for answers and other factors I can't estimate."

"Why?"

"It's not the cheapest or fastest way to find out about stars and their planets. Only reason I can think of is to search for and explore other planets, other than our nine," replied Georg.

"No. Why accounting?" BeeBee had finally tripped him up with the terseness of her expression.

"Well, it's gonna take a lot of rocket power, maybe the equivalent of 100's of ICBM boosters. If we get an agreement with the Russians to junk half, or all, their strategic missiles, there will be plenty available. They, and we, will have to get rid of them. If the cost of the rockets and the cost of launching is charged to the star probe project it could run to several tens of billions. If those costs were charged to compliance with a disarmament treaty, the star probe would cost that much less. There are other similar situations, but that is the main one," Georg tried to satisfy BeeBee's curiosity.

"You businessman. How you charge?" BeeBee continued.

"I could make a strong case for not charging it to the star probe, unless someone came up with an alternate use for the rockets which they could get paid for. The scrap men charge you for hauling away your waste, reduced maybe by some proportion of the net salvage value," Georg paused, "Do you think someone could be planning such a project?"

"Don't know. You?" BeeBee answered his question with another question.

"Don't know either. Maybe. Allyne thinks so," they had come to the end of this line.

"Suppose do. Use much computing?" BeeBee offered, "Use other computers. Cost little. Not Notice."

"Right. Most sensitive area would be in telecommunications, but if they used mostly one large installation with lots of unused capacity and not very strict procedures, it might not be noticed," Georg agreed. 

"Both need know. You find. How long? Can do?" BeeBee was going for a deal.

"Think so. Not sure," Georg was falling into BeeBee's style of exposition, he went on, "I'd need Allyne's help, and I may have to take a trip to the U.K. Got some business there anyway. Research on a company."

"What company?" insisted BeeBee.

"It's confidential," Georg thought quickly, "But if you will keep my secret, I could send you the name with Superkey. Do you have it?"

"Yes. Send name. What need. I'll get," BeeBee offered, then she continued "Not leave Allyne. Tell me first. Not safe. Her. Check in daily. Wherever. Code messages. Exchange procedures for email." Finally, she said, "Send bill and expenses. Check before you go over. . . ... two million. . . ..."

Georg, startled, said, "You can't be serious!" before realizing she had hung up. 

While Georg arranged to send the material BeeBee had requested, he reviewed the conversation. She had told him very little and had extracted a lot from him. He wondered if her style of interrogation had something to do with the imbalance. Nothing in her way of speaking gave away what she knew or much of what she was interested in. Of course she had told him directly that she was concerned for Allyne's safety (and didn't mention, curiously, Emmette, or himself). She gave no clue as to why, or what she thought might happen. She was practically manic on the possibility of someone using Tity's computers illegally. Her interest in the star probe theory seemed to be motivated primarily by the possibility that it might explain why someone was stealing time on the computer. 

She evidently felt it was very important to keep Allyne in place at Tity, more important than keeping him, her hireling, on the job. She didn't make the obvious suggestion to protect Allyne by getting her away from Tity, a trap that he had carefully laid.

She didn't question him about the feasibility of using the neuron net technology on the space probe, fortunately for him, as he did not know the answer.

Bringing up WordStar, Georg typed in a review of what he knew about neural networks:

Neuron net computers are an extreme form of parallel computer architecture. Ordinary (Von Neuman) machines have one or a few central processing units (CPU's), which do simple arithmetic and logic and make decisions. They use a main store or memory which does no processing but only stores data in single bits and allows it to be read out of or written into very fast. The data is accessed several bits at a time, in words. Everything is synchronized by a clock. The speed of the clock, which can tick up to 50 or a 100 million times per second (or even higher for supercomputers) and the number of bits in each word determines the raw speed of processing. The CPU can also write and read data, using much slower input/output circuits, to and from magnetic disks, tapes, screens, keyboards, card readers and punches, telephone lines, special high speed data links to other CPU's etc. A British scientist, the late Alan Turing, has proposed that anything computable could be computed on this type of machine. No one has proved him wrong.

Parallel machines have many CPU's, each having its own small, high-speed store, and each can com-municate with its neighboring CPU's. Individual CPU's are not as fast as the fastest von Neuman machines, but as there are many more of them and, if the problem can be divided into parts which can be worked on simultaneously, they could be much faster than any von Neuman machine. The input/output of both types are similar.

Neuron nets also have many, very simple CPU's, thousands or maybe millions of times as many as ordinary parallel machines, each with a few bits of store, all operating in parallel. Each CPU is directly connected to many, up to millions of others. A CPU can `fire' or `not fire' according to the number of inputs from other CPU's it gets, their strengths and a number in its store. Each connection can be temporarily adjusted to give it a particular weight (the biologists would say `inhibited' or `enhanced'). Isolated problems which require speed in excess of what von Neumann or ordinary parallel computers can reach, such as robot vision, detecting submarines with sonar, speech recognition and such may be doable by these machines. Another interesting characteristic is that they do not need to be programmed, but can `learn' to recognize patterns they have `seen' before. Many researchers think this is similar to the basic operating mode of the brain (reconizing a face from among billions).

True to Turing, von Neuman machines can be programmed to simulate neuron nets, but operate much more slowly. (Georg thought, 'Plato was right, I never knew I knew so much about these things'.) 

I can not bring myself to believe that Allyne or anyone would identify with such a contraption, even assuming that it was going to be built and sent off to the depths of space. She had not had such a reaction with respect to space monkeys, the Russian dog Laika, or the cow whose ground up bits she ate in my chili. She was behaving as if it were she, herself, at least her brain. . . no, her own mind, bereft of body, which was on the probe. She had no trouble keeping herself separate from animals, other people, not feeling the full force of their agonies… joys. Her feelings seemed to come from belief that her own identity was involved. 

How is it possible to imagine that one's self is present in the patterns etched in the circuits of a neuron net? If my memories were somehow transferred to a machine would that mean that the machine took on, in some sense, my identity? Do amnesiacs lose their identity? They don't know their names, but do they have a sense of self? Is it like being a newborn baby? 

Her account sounded a little like that. It could be a recall of being born, but she went about reconstruction of her world and her place in it in a very logical way. Certainly, well beyond the capability of the mind of a baby, unless Plato was really right that we are all born with an understanding of geometry. Noam Chomsky maintains that the fundamental rules of grammar are innate, passed on to us through the genes. 

Neuron nets are taught their functions, not program-med. They cannot be loaded with the experience of a human, but must go through the process of learning their jobs, as humans do. One of my mother's favorite proverbs, which she quoted to me when she was particularly exasperated, `Experience is a dear school, but a fool will learn in no other'. 

A neuron net would hardly be expected to be born, go to school, get into fights at recess, etc like a child (be a fool) so it would have to be fed stimuli from a simulated environment. Be fooled into accepting the simulated environment as real. Catch 23. You can't be a fool and learn from real experience, so you must be fool enough to learn from unreal experience. If all your reality is unreal, could you be blamed for thinking there is nothing out there, it is all a dream with no substance? But Allyne's description didn't sound like a dream. It was not wild enough to be a dream, it didn't have the distortions of pattern, the exaggerated feelings. It was coldly logical, more like a philosophical thought experiment. Maybe it was not Schopenhauer's pessimism but his expository style which set the tone of Allyne's experience.

Georg glanced back at the last paragraph on the screen. Simulated environment. Like the Traveler Game. Could it be more than a programmer's doodle? Part of the system for training the neuron net for the space probe? The neuron net could be one of the Travelers, with a goal to win the game against the other contestants, in the context of the physics and astronomy of the Milky Way, learning from simulated experience. (Didn't learn much from me!)

Georg kicked in Sidekick's Dialer, typed "ALLY" to get Allyne at her office. In a few seconds Allyne answered. Georg said, "Afraid I wouldn't catch you before you got away for lunch."

"Just came by my office for my briefcase, what's up?" she replied.

"Can you find out the maximum capacity of the Tity mainframe? Give it a benchmark that will take all its capacity for a few seconds. We can compare that with its calculated rated capacity to see if anything is missing," Georg requested.

"Maybe. Why? How soon do you want it?"

"Set it up before you leave. I think there may be program running in the background, better said 'behind the background, low priority, but always there, waiting to take advantage of any leftover computing time'. Better set up several shots of different lengths, from say a few microseconds to 10 or 20 milliseconds, introduced at random times. Have the output put on a file you can read out from here. It can be running while you are on your way here. After you arrive we can dump the results. Oh! be sure you wipeout all traces of what you have done, that I asked you to do."

"I'll try. I'll be late, at least an hour to set it up. I'll have to bypass the scheduler. Okay, see you later," Allyne was already thinking it out.

"Thanks. Bye," said Georg.

He sat back, thinking, `That could explain the power discrepancy, at least a few percent of it, with little or no input/output. If they set this up at several powerful computer installations they could get millions of dollars worth of computing time for free. Allyne has been unwittingly helping them with her improvements to the Game program. The perfect parasite doesn't really harm its host, practically undetectable, lives and evolves only using waste products. If there are several sites they could select the best of each location, combine them into one game, in an “Olympiad of the Electro-Neurotic Brains”. The gold medalist gets to travel to the stars. It was brilliant, but did it exist? We will know, or most of it, in a matter of hours if my scheme works.'

The doorbell rang and he heard Doll's answering footsteps, seconds later. `Must be Emmette. Better not tell her until we know.' Georg saved his work and rose to greet Emmette.

Emmette launched almost immediately into her report of what she had learned at the Medical Center about Tity's affairs. Her story was very similar to what he had learned from BeeBee, but she was able to add Bell Laboratories and Jet Propulsion Laboratories to the list of clients. She also mentioned UC Santa Cruz, Cornell, Brown, Caltech and University of Helsinki as collaborating Universities.

Georg was sure Emmette was now aware that Doll had understood her and Allyne's discussion in the hot tub, or at least some of it. She might not know that Doll had reported it to him. He decided to risk some discreet probing, being careful not to betray Doll's confidences. In the circumstances, he felt justified to practice a small, if temporary, deception.

"I need advice, on a personal matter. You have been a friend of Allyne's for a long time, you know her very well?" he began.

"Yes, we met at Stanford, when she was still an undergraduate," responded Emmette warily.

"Do you think she is very interested in having her own children," Georg held up his hand, "I must explain myself. I was married to an Englishwoman, an Olympic athlete. She already had a child, a boy by a previous marriage, when we met. She didn't want to take out time to have more children, and she couldn't take the pill because it made her fat. She made it a condition that I have a bilateral vasectomy. I was in love, so I agreed. A year later she was killed in riding practice with a new horse. It's doubtful if my vasectomy could be reversed to allow me to father children. So, if Allyne's and my relationship should show signs of advancing to the next stage, possibly marriage, it's necessary that I know what her position is. I don't want to take it up with her directly, unless I have to," Georg outlined his position, carefully noting Emmette's almost perfectly concealed concern.

"I'll try to answer your question. First you should know that I have a personal bias which could affect my answer. You will have to judge how much weight to give it, if you want me to continue," responded Em-mette carefully.

"I'll risk it, go ahead," Georg urged.

"Very well. Allyne has the normal female urge to have a husband and children. But, right now, her career is paramount. I suspect she hopes to combine marriage and career. If she doesn't work that out, in the next six or seven years, she may have to choose one over the other. I couldn't say which will win... in that event. 

"Now for my caveat. I also have normal female urges, and I am in a position to combine both marriage and a career. But, for medical reasons, I cannot have children, at least not conventionally. You and I are somewhat in the same boat. I am also very much drawn to you, I admire and respect you and I think we complement each other to an extraordinary degree. It seems we even have a similar handicap, nyther of our own making. But, we are resourceful and ruthless enough to overcome. . . even mitigate it. I have not been in love since I was an adolescent. . .boy, so I don't know if I am in love with you. Perhaps not. Still, we may have an excellent basis for a strong and permanent relationship," Emmette paused, awaiting Georg's reaction.

Georg was shocked at these revelations, marriage proposal really. And, ashamed for his trick, which had rebounded on him in an entirely unexpected direction. There was much truth in what Emmette said, but he still had the feeling there were depths still unplumbed, more layers to the onion. He replied, "I accept what you say and I respect and admire you immensely and value your friendship highly. . . Hell! You're amazing." He drew her to her feet, embraced her and kissed her on the mouth. 

"Sir?" Doll's voice came from the intercom.

"Yes Doll, I'm here," answered Georg.

"Shall I serve lunch, or will you wait till Madam Allyne arrives?"

Georg, anxious to fend off further tete-a-tete with Emmette, until he could organize his thoughts, said, "Go ahead, we'll both be there in a minute."

"Allyne will be late, she has some chores at Tity that can't wait," Georg explained, drawing Emmette toward the dining area by the hand.

When they were seated in front of Doll's club sandwiches on whole wheat, Georg drew the conversation back to Allyne's experience, "This morning, I was thinking about Allyne's tussle with Schopenhauer. I agree with her that it was not a dream. There was not enough visual material or feeling in it, unless you count the lack of feeling as some kind of feeling."

"Yes, I spent some time checking that this morning. Dreams are thought to originate from the right side of the brain, where visual patterns and graphic material are handled. I could find no reports of left brain dreams. The left side is where logic is processed and judgments are passed," explained Emmette.

"So those right/left brain theories are accepted," said Georg, "I had an impression they were kinda speculative, with little experimental proof behind them."

"Not at all. There is a wealth of proof of segregation of function, for example, it has long been known that language is handled in the left temporal lobe. I have had several patients with injuries in that area who have had to relearn their native language, but are otherwise nearly normal. Back to dreams, I don't want to mislead you. There are some reports of the `watcher'. That is what some people call an entity which observes a dream in progress, from a distance. This is very often reported by people who have had psychedelic hallucinations. I think this is related to the left side's involvement in the dream."

"Wow! I have had those dreams," said Georg. "Once or twice I have been able to stop, or change the progress... plot of a dream, or perhaps I should say `the watcher' has."

"Some people would say you just dreamed that it happened that way," said Emmette with a laugh.

"Yeah, how can you sort it out. If I dreamed there was a watcher in the dream was there really a watcher or did I just. . ." Georg began, to be interrupted by Allyne's arrival, escorted by Doll.

"Carrrr-a-jo, the lengths some people will go to, to do you out of your lunch. I'm starved." Allyne seated herself and launched into her six inch thick club sandwich. 

"Shush, I hate you. You eat like a bird, that is your own weight every day, and you still look like Jane Fonda on a desert trek," Emmette teased.

Allyne didn't answer, her face buried in the sandwich. Georg and Emmette kept up inconsequential patter as Allyne wolfed her lunch. Then, Doll served a delicious fresh fruit salad, with a light Cointreau flavored dressing of her own invention. 

After lunch, they all drifted into Georg's office, with profuse compliments to Doll on the excellent lunch.

"Shall we check the output?" asked Georg, turning to Emmette, "Allyne is trying to detect if there is a parasitic program in the Tity computer, as BeeBee suspects."

Allyne turned on the HP ThinkJet printer which she had connected to the Toshiba. In a few seconds, the paper jumped noiselessly about ten lines. She tore it off and, after glancing at it for a few seconds, handed it to Georg. There were five columns of eight lines of figures, forty real numbers. They meant nothing to George. He handed it back and looked questioningly at Allyne.

She said, "I caught the hijo de perro pendejo." He was pretty clever. See, all the columns should be the same, but actually the second and third columns are smaller than the first and fourth. Those are the ones I stuck in under a nonmaskable interrupt with all other interrupts disabled, so nothing could block me out. They ran just a little faster, about twenty percent, looks like. Checks with what BeeBee said, if the power used is proportional to the time the instructions take."

Georg said, "Not exactly, but good enough to prove there is something there they don't want us to find. Is there any way they could tell that you have detected them?" 

"Possible but not likely, I disabled all maskable interrupts first thing in my routines, read the clock, did the routine, read the clock again, wrote out the time difference, re-enabled interrupts and returned. But nobody interrupted me `cause it'd have to show up in the times, but it didn't. The last column is the calculated time, it's the same as two and three," Allyne responded.

Georg explained to Allyne and Emmette the idea he had in the morning about someone using the Adventure Game to train neuron nets with simulated experience, and how it could explain some of the power discrep-ancy which had BeeBee in a tizzy. He concluded, "Allyne, is there a way to find out what this parasitic program in doing, to verify the other part of my hypothesis?"

"I could have Systems Programming take random dumps of the whole memory, say I suspect a major bug in the operating system. That is bound to raise hell, though. It would stop the machine for several seconds every time it happened. Everybody would know something drastic was going on," responded Allyne.

"Can't do that, it'd raise too much ruckus," cogitated Georg. 

Emmette interjected, "Did you not say earlier that there is some Content Addressable Memory on Tity's machine?"

"Yeah, it's really dual purpose. It can be used as ordinary RAM or as CAM. As RAM it's a quarter megabyte bank in the 16 megabyte main store, but that's no real advantage because it `phantoms out' the same amount of the regular RAM. I suppose it's set up that way to make it easy to dump the CAM data to disk and restore it later with the standard O/S utilities," responded Allyne.

"I recall a conversation with a bloke from Brown University who was maintaining that a CAM, I think he called it `associative memory’; can be set up as a logical analog of a neuron net. That is, the method of storage is by a network of associations, not data linked to hardware addresses. This is the same as one, maybe the only, method used by living brains to record and recall memories," Emmette went on, "My main point is that even if you did dump it, how would you under-stand what is stored in it by looking at a printed record of its contents."

"I got a problem here." said Georg. "Neuron nets use opamps, a kind of saturable amplifier: RAM, even CAM capable RAM, is made with digital devices. How can the same circuit be both analog and digital? Wait, I got it. Either one can emulate the other. I can think of several design strategies to make it work."

"If you guys are right, we're trying to piss up a rope," obviously Allyne couldn't find a Spanish expression to fit the situation.

Emmette took her turn, "The weight of the evidence is that someone at Tity is diverting substantial computing resources to the education of a simulacrum of a, probably human, brain. If you agree, what more do we need to know?"

Allyne shot back, "I for one would like to know if it is my brain."

"Fair enough," Georg retorted, "and if not yours, whose?"

Emmette was less sure, "It may not be a human brain at all. The human brain is the most complex; it would be extremely ambitious to start there. If there has been no colossal, secret breakthrough in this field, it would be the equivalent of going straight from the discovery of fire to the hydrogen bomb in one step, in physics. Granting for a moment that possibility, it may not be the brain of anyone who now exists. If as you suspect, Georg, the Traveler Game is part of a scheme to educate their brain, the product will be unlike to be anyone who played the game."

"So memories, not clothes, maketh the man," Georg mused.

"Or woman," Allyne said.

"Not precisely. Personal identities do not change with each new day's experience, any more than with the turnover of somatic cells. Identity is rooted in a supernal pattern, in the case of the body, stored in the genetic code, the DNA. In the case of the brain, or mind, partly in DNA and partly in a stable system of electrochemical interrelationships which, under normal conditions, change slowly in response to experience."

Georg had a flash, "That sort of thing could be stored in a CAM, or associative memory?"

Emmette responded, "In principle, yes. In the sense that a gnat could contemplate screwing an elephant, but the engineering difficulties are considerable. I doubt if one could administer a Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory to a person and transfer their personality to a CAM."

Georg persisted, "So how is personality formed, then?"

"Leaving out the supernatural, and the dualists' contentions, I would surmise by the interaction of the brain with stimuli, mitigated by the sensory systems, from the environment. There is some influence of the DNA controlled brain structure, the body-image and the body's endocrine system," said Emmette.

"Learned from experience, impressed on a matrix constructed from plans contained in the subject's inherited DNA, which is capable of integrating the experience on a preexisting set of electrochemical relationships. Does that capture the flavor?" asked Georg.

"Essentially and still, simplistic... simplistically: Yes," replied Emmette.

"So, now, if you will grant that the chemical part of the electrochemical system can be emulated electronically, then the Traveler Game could be part of the mechanism for collecting the personality charac-teristics of real people (your MMPI's), and also to educate the pseudobrain," George announced in triumph.

"I said your idea was AND is simplistically simplistic. 

"Point one: Nobody knows how the chemical aspects of brain function work, in any significant level of detail. How can you emulate a system without knowing how it works? 

"Point two: There is no general agreement on how learning is acquired from experience. In lower level organisms evolutionary pressure has brought about a system which behaves to enhance the probability of survival and reproduction in the environment where the organism lives, which you might call species specific or `learning: type 1'. 

"The evolved organism is also capable of adaptation, say, `learning: type 2', in response to stimuli from the environment. This is sometimes called `operant conditioning'. The basic principles of this are also understood, at least well enough to program a computer to do it. The problem is that the computer will be bigger, heavier and consume much more power than the corresponding biological version, and we don't know how to construct a biological version. 

"What we do, of course, is let, or help, the organism reproduce, so get at least as many as we want, that way," Emmette objected.

Allyne joined in, "You also get a lot of excess baggage, I mean apart from the learning circuits you'd get all the other stuff necessary to keep the thing alive and able to reproduce. Even a mule, which can't reproduce, has all the organs, they just don't work... together"

Emmette continued, "Correct. And, we have not yet discussed the higher level animals, such as mammals (including intelligent humans). These employ a still different kind of learning, shall we call it `learning type 3'? Apparently it constructs a model of the environment (this time I include the body of the organism itself in the term "environment"), this model is then operated by running through simulations of what would happen if one does this, and what would happen if one does that. One type of learning in this case involves modifications and refinements of the model. Another kind consists of forming and storing of strategies, for later use, evolved by means of the simulations, and selected from the best ones, measured by some sort of criteria, for a new... given situation. . ."

Georg broke in, "Surely you are now referring only to man, rather sophisticated men, using all the paraphernalia of, ah. . . business or science, building models and running simulations on them?"

Emmette paused for a moment, reached for her purse and said, "Georg, could you hand me that ashtray?"

Georg, after a flicker of delay, reached behind him, picked up the ashtray from a nearby shelf, without looking, and set it in front of Emmette.

"Let us talk about you just did, Georg. 

"Firstly: I only asked you if you could hand me the ashtray, not to do it for me. You assumed I wanted you to do it, because your model for interpreting that sort of question reads it as an order, or if consitered polite, a request. 

"Then: you didn't hand it to me, you placed it on the table in front of me. "Further: you didn't look for it first, you knew where it was, and assumed it was the one I wanted. 

"Finally: Why did you hesitate a second before reaching for the ashtray?" Emmette asked?

"I thought you didn't smoke, I was surprised that you asked for the ashtray," answered Georg.

"Have you ever thought about me being a non-smoker, which, in fact I am?" responded Emmette.

"Not that I remember. Your overall point is that I did it without hesitation because I had a model in my head of the whole situation, and a ready-made strategy for handing ashtrays to ladies," Georg was impressed.

Emmette came back with, "The only thing which cost you any time was the one discrepancy with your internal model, I shall call it your `subjective field of awareness', ie that a non-smoker asked for an ashtray. That bit took some conscious analysis. Not much, because there was not much at stake for you. If I had asked you to take off all your clothes. . . or better, to cut Allyne's throat, you would have needed more time." 

"Hey! You guys! I don't like the direction this discus-sion is taking. Talk about cutting von Hammerlund's throat, not mine," Allyne contributed.

"Now I have a question. Why did you reach for your purse, if you didn't have any cigarettes in it?" asked Georg.

"In order to manipulate your field of awareness, to support the suggestion that I was going to smoke a cigarette. That was not strictly necessary but made the demonstration go more smoothly. As I think I have shown, you are constantly refining and updating, spontaneously, your subjective field of awareness, [SFA] without being consciously aware of doing so. 

"It is also possible for others to cause you to do so, in this case to cause you to behave under the assumption that I was a smoker, to manipulate your SFA. If it is done smoothly, with sufficient guile, you will not be aware that it is being done. The best way is for the selfsame manipulator to be also not aware of doing any manipulation," Emmette capped her exposition.

Allyne said, "Now I don't understand how someone can manipulate my awareness, without them even being aware of doing it. How could they gain any advantage if they don't even know they are doing it, much less why they are doing it?"

"There are many ways. I shall give you some more examples. I once-upon-a-time had a penis. I'm sure Allyne has told you, Georg. My parents', nannies', and nurses' SFAs were manipulated to cause them to treat me as a boy. They called me `Emet', dressed me, and trained me to behave as a boy. Everyone else, based on my name, dress etc also behaved toward me as they normally did toward a boy," began Emmette.

Allyne interrupted, "But it was a mistake, trying to fit you into a classification system with only two classes. There are many slots and you fit into one of the very rare ones. It was like trying to diagnose a very rare disease, maybe as rare as mine!"

"Perhaps it is a bad example. Okay, think for a moment of women who wear makeup and high heeled shoes. Most, if you asked them why, would say `to look good'. Some, more insightful, might say `to look feminine'. It is hard not to conclude that this is genetically programmed to emphasize their femaleness (just as protuberant breasts and big round buttocks are) in aid of any nearsighted males who might not otherwise come calling on them. Now, I would not claim that genetics requires high heeled shoes, but it may very well be an aspect of `clear sexual markings', which has the effect of manipulating the SFA of the opposite sex (and the same sex, for that matter)," Emmette defended her position.

"As a naval officer," offered Georg, "I wore a distinctive, highly identifable uniform, was afforded privileges such as quarters, precedence in boarding boats, ships and so on according to my rank. Would that be an example, in this case enforced by institutional rules, of manipulated SFAs?"

"As an extreme case, undoubtedly deliberate and conscious at some level in the institution, and probably… possibly, justified by their missions. This is not confined to human institutions either. All social animals have dominance hierarchies and territoriality `rules'. There is no reason to believe that the mechanism is different. As has been demonstrated, there is no requirement for conscious thought, for the system to work."

Allyne asked, "So the queen bee hoodwinks the worker bees. . ."

Emmette interrupted, "I am certainly not a expert on social insects. It is my impression that the roles of social insects are determined by diet. I don't know what determines their diet."

"Okay, I want to get back to this learning business. Are you saying there is no hope of Tity training a psuedobrain by using simulated experience?" asked Georg.

"What about me, my brain. . . mind?" asked Allyne, "I got into a state like I would be in, I think, if I were halfway to heaven on a one way ticket and found out I took the train going the other way. Emmette, you say I'm not crazy, or on a bad trip, so what happened to me and is it going to happen again?"

Emmette answered, "That is a very important point, even if Georg's hypothesis were true, which is very unlikely, why should it have anything to do with Allyne? There are several players of the Game, which we assumed are only unwitting contributors to the pseudobrain's education. Her only special relationship to it is that she made some changes. . . improvements to the Game program. Even that is not so special, someone else wrote it."

"Then we're stumped. There has got to be a piece missing, or there is a possibility we haven't thought of," Georg was discouraged.

"Or both," Allyne chimed in. 

"Don't give up so easily, Georg. I know I said it is very unlikely that anyone has solved the mysteries of how the human brain works in enough detail to build a machine which duplicates its capabilities, but I also suggested another way to `construct' one." remarked Emmette.

"What?" asked Georg.

"How?" echoed Allyne.

"Reproduce one. As they say, it takes only nine months of unskilled labor, part-time at that", responded Emmette, ”Which I have discussed with Ally”.

Georg objected, "But, Allyne pointed out that you'd get all the surplus parts as well."

"I know what she said, but how does she feel about it?" replied Emmette.

"How do you feel. . . Ally!. . . Allyne!" interjected Georg.

They both observed Allyne, eyes closed, curled up in the fetal position in her corner of the sofa. "Christ! She is off again," shouted Georg.

"Dance with her!" Emmette moved toward the stereo console.

Georg picked up Allyne and half danced, half marched around the room. Allyne began to rouse after a few steps, just as Emmette began to complain angrily that she couldn't operate the stereo. "Okay. It's okay, she's coming around. This is getting worse, you can't tell what is going to set her off. What do you suppose it was this time?" Georg asked.

"If it is only one trigger, then the trigger has to be present in Schopenhauer's books, Liszt's music and in the idea of growing a brain in a bottle. You and I have been present on two of the three occasions, but not on the first, and we have all been together many other times, when nothing happened. . ."

Georg interrupted, "I was talking on the telephone, through her answering machine, even the first time. Maybe it is just me, nothing to do with you."

"It must be more complex than that, else all the other times you have been together would have triggered it," Emmette pointed out.

"What could have planted such a trigger in her mind,?" asked George.

"Elementary hypnosis, my dear. . . Georg," rejoined Allyne, "Even I know you can plant a trigger with hypnosis. It's called a post-hypnotic suggestion."

"Do you remember what it was and who did it?" asked Emmette.

"No. But that could have been part of the suggestion, not to remember if I were asked about it. Right, Emmette?" asked Allyne.

Before Emmette answered, Georg had another question, "Isn't it true that a person can't be made to do anything under hypnosis that is against their own interests?"

Emmette responded, "I gather you are referring to the legend that a subject cannot be made to so something under hypnosis which is morally repugnant to him. I fear that is a fiction put about by the legal profession to prevent all the criminals from pleading that they committed their crimes under hypnotic compulsion. It is quite untrue, but apparently had the desired effect. As far as I know, no one has offered that defense in modern times."

"Okay, if Allyne has been given a suggestion, which she can't remember, could you still remove it, under hypnosis?" Georg suggested to Emmette. 

"It is doubtful that I could get past the suggestion to conceal the trigger and the circumstances of its implantation. I could try to counteract the effects by a general prohibition against going into a trance for any reason, unless you and I were both present, Georg, so we can continue to investigate what is happening to her...that acceptable to you, Allyne?" offered Emmette. 

"I suppose I'd better, or I'll have to hire a chauffeur. I can't take the risk of zonking out doing 70 M. P. H. on the Nimitz freeway," agreed Allyne.

"We don't have time before you return to Tity, and it is risky to let you go back there alone. Can't you do your work from here this afternoon?" requested Emmette. 

"Yes, I suppose it's possible, using the Tosh as a terminal, I can retrieve the reports I need and exchange emails. Oh, I will have to reroute any phone calls to this number," Allyne was already moving about the office, setting things up for her temporary occupation, "If you guys are going to sit there looking at me all afternoon, I won't get anything done."

"Just a minute," said Georg, "I'll set up the security system in this room to sound the alarm if your luscious warm body doesn't move for 30 seconds. You will have to disable it if you decide to leave the room or take a nap, Allyne. Otherwise we'll come running." Allyne nodded her agreement, and Georg went to work on the PC keyboard. 

"Okay, it'll go off if you don't move, until you reverse it, then it goes off if anything moves, unless it is reset within 30 seconds. Let’s go get some coffee, and give it a test."

The alarm went off duly in a half minute after they left the room, sounding for about two seconds. Georg said, "Just hit any key on the PC to reset it." 

Allyne returned to the office to continue her efforts to hack Tity's mainframe, resetting the alarm on the way. Georg and Emmette resumed their conference in Georg's big live-in kitchen with a plentiful supply of coffee and munchies, thoughtfully supplied by Doll. 

Reopening the question of how to get a brain for a star probe, Emmette began: "To duplicate, genetically speaking, Allyne's brain, would require one of two approaches, to my mind."

"I'll bite," encouraged Georg.

"The easiest route would be to start with one of Allyne's unfertilized ova, stimulate it to develop parthenogenet-ically, arrest its development during the early part of the trip, then cause it to resume ontogeny upon nearing the target. Fertilized ova, or their embryos and fetuses have of half their genetic inheritance is from someone else," Emmette responded.

"And the other way," Georg asked?

"Take a cell from her central nervous system, cause it to grow and divide in the manner of an ovum. Mature nerve cells don't replicate, under normal circum-stances, but there are some experimental methods to cause them to do so. Those were have been developed for the benefit of people with spinal cord injuries, brain damage etc. This method would work equally well with cells from either sex, depending on who. . . whom one wished to clone," she added.

Georg asked, "Has parthenogenetic development been reduced to practice for mammals. . . or humans?"

"Nothing reported in the literature. Of course there are ethical issues involved, which might inhibit anyone who had done it from publishing. However, there is no particular reason why it wouldn't work," answered Emmette.

"Wouldn't it have been much simpler to obtain embryonic cells from the embryo which developed into Allyne, freeze them until needed. . ." Georg began.

Emmette interrupted, "It might have been if the current techniques had been available at the time Allyne was an embryo, especially if she had been a test tube baby, with fertilization taking place outside her mother's body. I have already checked with Allyne and the records of the hospital where she was born. They indicate a completely conventional conception and birth."

"That could have been covered up, but the timing of the technology is a problem," Georg agreed. 

"I fear there is still more evidence against Allyne's idea being correct," continued Emmette. "If, as we assume, it would be desirable to have a genetic duplicate of Allyne's brain and a detailed record of her life experiences, all sensory input, her responses and the kinesthetic feedback from those and so on and on, it would have been necessary to have started those recordings at the time of her birth (perhaps even before). That technology was not available at that time, either. I don't believe that it is now."

"But: is it not true that there is a detailed record of all a person's experience recorded in their brain, even though recall may be blocked by trauma, or just to prevent flooding the centers of consciousness, so it isn't normally recoverable," objected Georg?

"I'm not certain that is true. In any event, there is no way to recover the information at the level of detail required, within the limits of known technology. I think you can forget that, for a while," concluded Emmette. 

"You make a very convincing argument. What is your conclusion then? Is Allyne simply bonkers?" Georg's disappointment showed in his voice.

"No. I have not enough evidence for that either. There is, perhaps, something wrong with our initial assumptions. . . "

This line of inquiry was broken off by Allyne shouting from the office, "I caught one! He won't get away this time! Now if I can just reel him in. Tosh got him. . . Mierda, forty megabytes isn't enough. Not enough time either."

"What's happened?" called Georg as he and Emmette neared the office.

"I hooked some files onto the Traveler game. Last time I worked on the game program I planted a computer demon. He was sitting there keeping a rolling record of the inputs and outputs, in RAM, and doing a CRC (cyclic redundancy count) of the game program itself. When the CRC changed, indicating that somebody had changed the program, my demon dumped the I/O addresses to a disk file. I used these addresses to backtrack and check the data read in before the change. Turns out they were reading a text file, probably as a check that what they were about to do was in line with the design concept." 

"What was the problem at the end," asked Georg nervously, "you lost it?" 

"Not completely. When I tried to grab the file it was too long to store on Tosh's hard disk and anyway it would have tied up the telecomm channel for hours. Somebody would have been bound to have copped on. I just got the top layer: it's some kind of hypertext structure. We can use what we have to locate the parts we are really interested in and I can get those details out later, piecemeal, or dump the whole thing to a cassette I can carry out in my bag," explained Allyne.

Suddenly, "Holy shit," Allyne had forgotten to talk Spanish.

"What now," echoed both Georg and Emmette.

"They got my demon: he just now picked up another CRC change, started to write out the data when he was interrupted and then never came back to finish up. The CRC blip he detected was the beginning of his own exorcism," Allyne replied in a tone of exasperation. 

"And therefore ‘Never send to know for whom the blip blips; It blips for thee‘", incanted Georg.

"So, somebody is on to us. Do you think they can connect this demon to you," asked Emmette?

"Not really. It could have been put in by any highly skilled programmer, with a terminal and the right access codes," replied Allyne thoughtfully. 

"How many of those are there likely to be," asked Georg gently?

"A half dozen here where they could get hold of the access codes, maybe a hundred in the world could do it, if given the codes up front," answered Allyne. "Of more interest, I don't think there is any body in the act, that was automatic. No one working a terminal could get in and remove a running program like that. My guess is some kind of anti-virus demon, probably put in by Security. He intended it to trigger on a write to some forbidden addresse, but the idiot triggered it on reads too. It took it a while to locate the code which did the writing. . . reading, then when it found and started to remove the offending code, my demon triggered again, a sort of dying gasp."

Georg came in with rising excitement, "Did you get anything which would let you locate the routine which shot down your demon?"

"Hey! No. I just tracked I/O, but next time I could make him keep track of the program counter instead, like the core dump routines do. If we are quick, and lucky, we might nail him before he reports back to base. We could cover up the whole incident. Go away, you two. No me molestes till I come out, or call you," Allyne was already hammering the poor Tosh's keyboard so hard it was doubtful it would survive.

Georg and Emmette withdrew quietly to await developments.

Emmette stood directly in front of Georg, "Now, can you seriously consider that lady is bonkers," she asked with a smile.

"If she is, the world could use a regiment of the same, they could be called the First Queen's Life Bonkers," laughed Georg.

Emmette tried to suppress a giggle, without much success. 

Georg waved Emmette to a seat at the breakfast table, selected a couple of glasses and got a Dos Equis from the refrigerator and said, "So you think our axioms are wrong, which is why we have come up with a paradox."

"Yes. I have put a lot of thought on this. It is not at all clear yet, but it seems inconceivable that so much effort would be expended just to be sure to have the duplicate of some particular persons brain. It ties you up in so many knots and what is the advantage, in the end. Why not just a high quality, human brain, educated and socialized (if that is the right word), then given the special training appropriate to the mission. I think we have been led astray by this obsession of Allyne's," continued Emmette.

"My head is broke," complained Georg, "Let's wait till we have studied what Allyne comes up with." 

"I allow we are all getting stale. It would be good for us, and the project too, if we could have a break," proposed Emmette.

"We have to stick together, BeeBee's orders," said Georg.

"Yes, but couldn't we go somewhere. . . ah, safe, but away from here?"

"Actually, I bought a beach house in Big Sur last summer, more as an investment than anything else. I haven't been there since the agent sold it to me. No one around here knows I own it. If we could all get there without being followed, They'd have a devil of a time finding us," Georg answered. 

The next half hour was spent in planning a roundabout way to get the three of them (and as it happened, Doll also) to Georg's Big Sur hideaway. 

Toward the end of the half hour, Allyne joined them, "If this ever comes out, I bet the media calls it Titygate," Allyne offered as an opening remark.

"What have you got," Georg demanded?

"We have to get into the Think Tank Computer Center, to the main console, without anyone else around," she said.

"Is that all! If we are caught, it could be serious. Who has to go in, and why," Georg insisted?

"As to why, there are some blocks which can only be removed from the console. I can't tell if they are there to keep us out or just part of that stupid Security guy's idea to keep out viruses. He is so dumb it's a miracle he didn't break his neck as well as his leg," Allyne still rankled over the loss of her demon.

"And who gets to go on this expedition," Georg prompted?

"You and I, with Emmette as lookout in case the alarm has a link to the Palo Alto Police or an outside security agency. You, I need in case there are any hardware gadgets, and also for a alibi in case we are caught. I plan to say you are kinky and wanted to do it on top of the mainframe. So I took you in with me."

After a moment of shock and disbelief, Georg said, "I think I get it. Security would never believe we'd make up such an embarrassing cover story. Tity wouldn't dare let it out to the police or the press. They couldn't do anything to me without publicity. BeeBee would protect you, whatever. Keyrist, Allyne, I'm glad we are on the same side." 

Emmette, who had been preternaturally quiet, said, "Don't we have enough already, why do you need to break in?"

"I got enough to see where they are coming from, but it is not clear what they plan to do," responded Allyne impatiently.

"So where are they coming from, then," Georg asked?

"What I have is just the background, a set of scenarios on space exploration, the pros and cons, out of the box, of various approaches, one of which fits into the brain- on-a-probe idea. All the details and records of what they have actually done is hidden in encrypted files which are impossible to read without knowing the passwords used to encrypt them. I figured out that they are not using DES algorithms, which I think means they are not working for the Defence Department or even defence industry. It is not a public key system either. Seems to be a straight password encryption key, not more than 64 bytes long, chosen from the ASCII character set."

"Oh goodie," said Georg, "that means we have one chance in 128 to the 64th power of guessing the right one straight off."

"128 to the 64th, minus one," said Allyne.

"Oh! I feel much better," Georg said in a tone of disgust.

"F-off, Georg," Allyne came back with some heat, "Why d'ya think I want to get to the console. From there I can use my own access codes to get most of the way in. The rest is apt to be much simpler to defeat than what they have set up against the great outside. If they put in too much security crap that deep, it gets in the way of insiders just trying to do their jobs. I'd bet they rely more on restricting physical access to counter an attack from inside."

"Sorry. Didn't mean to be an ass. When do you want to go in."

"Tonight."

"Right."

"As soon as it is dark," continued Allyne.

"Why wait," asked Emmette?

"Because you are taking up astronomy. The top of the hill up there behind this patio has a good view of the Tity grounds and the streets leading in. Georg has a couple of telescopes and a cellular telephone. You pretend to take pictures of the Orion nebula, or something else low in the southeastern sky, with his big 8" monster, and to use the wee, innocent looking, little Questar as a spotter. It will actually be trained on Tity. When I get to my office I will just dump my bag, with an FM microphone inside, on top of the answering machine. If you see any unusual activity around Tity, `leave a message' on my telephone. I'll be listening on the Walkman I'll take along to pick up the love tunes I programmed for Georg and my session on top of Golem the Magnificent." 

"Is that what people call the mainframe at Tity," asked Emmette?

"When it behaves."

"Why?" 

"Don’t know, why d'ya ask?"

"Forget it for now. What's next?" Emmette dropped that line.

"Check out our gear and wait till dark. Any chance of chowing down before we shove off, Georg?" Allyne was well into her commando role borrowed from some otherwise forgotten classic war flick.

Georg waved his agreement and punched a button on the intercom to signal Doll to see him on her return.

"We shall have about two free hours. I propose we try the hypnosis we discussed. It would also leave you prepared for a restful nap, and I could use one too," Emmette proposed.

"Okay here," concurred Allyne.

"May I be excused? I would like to go over the material Allyne has captured so far," responded Georg. There being no objection, he moved to the office, collected a half inch sheaf of printout from the printer table and seated himself in front of the PC to record some notes.

`It seems to be as Allyne said, very high level reviews of the various ways to explore nearby stars.' Here he paused and considered a table, extracted from and credited to Isaac Asimov and Stephen Dole in their book, `Planets for Man', based on a Rand Institute study and published by (Methuen in the U.K.) in 1965. `I'd like that in my notes,' he thought, `but how?" `No way I'll type it in. She must have captured this material on the Tosh's hard disk before she printed it. I'll LapLink it over to the PC. Then I can extract it with WordStar, into my notes. No. Take too long. Boot up Sidekick on the Tosh, extract the table, write it to a disk file then <Ctl-K-R> it into my notes." In a few moments, with only one hitch, he had succeeded. The hitch was that Sidekick would not accept such a large file into its Notepad without using up all his RAM so he had to use BROWSE.COM to get the desired section of the file on the screen, capture the screen into Sidekick's Notepad, save that to a floppy disk, carry it to the PC and incorporate it into his notes.

 

TABLE OF NEARBY STARS

Distance Probability of

Name Declination in L/Y Habitable Planet

Alpha Centauri A 90S 4.3 .054 

Alpha Centauri B 90S 4.3 .057 

Epsilon Eridani 10S 10.8 .033 

Tau Ceti 10+S 12.2 .036 

70Ophiuchi A opp/Orion 17.3 .057 

Eta Cassiopeiae A opp/S+- 18.0 .057 

Sigma Draconis ->GC 18.2 .036 

36Ophiuchi A 18.2 .023 

36Ophiuchi B 18.2 .020 

HR7703A Sagittarius S 18.6 .020 

Delta Pavonis 90S 19.2 .057 

82Eridani 46S 20.9 .057 

Beta Hydra 90S 21.3 .037 

HR8832 Cassiopeia 21.4 .011' 

 

Then he reviewed the text to find the criteria which had been used to construct the table, extracting the following for his notes:

Bernards Star B has planet 1.5 times the size of Jupiter -- 6 lightyears away from Earth

Lalande 21185 A has planet 8 times Jupiter

61Cygni A&B C is planet Jupiter's size 

Size range for planets habitable by man (Earth = 1)

a) mass .4-2.35 (down to .35 if planet has an extremely large or close satellite)

b) radius .78 (3090 miles) - 1.25 (4950 miles) (Earth 3960miles)

c) gravity .68 g - 1.5 g

d) upper limit of mass of primary 1.43 (Sun = 1) (limit is set by time on main sequence)

e) lower limit of mass of primary .72 (Sun = 1) (limit is set by tidal braking effects at ranges close enough to the primary to also allow for enough energy to be intercepted from primary)

f) longest day consistent with habitability = 100 hours

g) shortest day ditto = 3 hours (oblateness) 

h) maximum inclination = 80 degrees

i) maximum orbital eccentricity = .2

`Of course none of this was based on actual observation, but on speculation, starting from the assumption that it is normal for stars to have planets, then eliminating, or reducing the probability for, those whose planets were less likely to be suitable for human habitation.' 

Georg observed that most of the stars in the table are located in the southern celestial hemisphere. The closest ones, eg the Centauri's, so far south they could not possibly been observed from Lick Observatory. The table was in error though, Georg was sure. 

Alpha Centauri is a very bright star. George had often used it for navigation when his ship went into the South Pacific. It was not at 90* south, that would make it the south pole star and there is no south pole star. He rummaged until he found an old Nautical Almanac and started to correct the table as shown below. He also added right ascension (more or less the celestial longitude) and added up the combined probability for stars he knew were near one another, on the celestial scale at least.


CORRECTED TABLE

Distance in Probability of 

Name Latitude R.A. Light Years Habitable Planet

Alpha Centauri A 61S 14:36 4.3 .054\.107

Alpha Centauri B 61S 14:36 4.3 .057/ 

Epsilon Eridani 10S 3:31 10.8 .033 

Tau Ceti 16S 1:41 11.8 .036 

70 Ophiuchi A opp/Orion 17.3 .057 

Eta Cassiopeiae A opp/S+- 18.0 .057 

Sigma Draconis ->GC * 18.2 .036 

36 Ophiuchi A 18.2 .023\_.042

36 Ophiuchi B 18.2 .020/ 

HR7703A Sagittarius S 18.6 .020 

Delta Pavonis 90S 19.2 .057 

82Eridani 46S 20.9 .057 

Beta Hydra 90S 21.3 .037 

HR8832 Cassiopeia 21.4 .011' 

 

* (Probably means `toward Galactic Center'. GCS)

 

Calling up Sidekick's calculator, Georg soon had:

Total probability of a habitable planet within 22 light years = 0.555, ie greater than 1 in 2 .

He wrote: 

`I see what got them excited, based on this, rather crude and unreliable data, there could be better than one chance in two that there is another world out there close enough to Earth conditions for people to live on. That is a lot better odds than Columbus had going in.'

Georg turned to the material on the different methods of travel: He summarized them all, including some he had never heard of, in order, roughly by the size of the payload required, and interpolating his own observations between parentheses:

`1) Terraform a planet or moon, large enough to retain an atmosphere, to make the surface habitable. Focus a huge solar powered laser on one side to supply energy to heat up and eject the propellant. Waste heat would be used to maintain the inhabitants. (The laser would have to be sited on a large body without an atmosphere fairly near the sun because of the reaction force on the laser site. Mercury?? GCS)

2) Hollow an Asteroid from the center out. Live on the inside. Use nuclear power (fusion/fission? GCS) to expel the excavated matter as a propellant. Use waste heat to maintain the inhabitants.

3) Construct a huge space ship in space. Boost out of the solar system with chemical rockets. Erect sails made of polymers synthesized from organic matter seined from space to catch the sun's radiation (focused into a directed beam by mirrors or lenses in the solar system. GCS) to propel the vessel on its way.

4) Various combinations of the above.

`(All the methods discussed so far involve generation travel, and take several hundred years to make ready and thousands of years to reach anything of interest. For a reasonable size crew, inbreeding problems probably mean that the voyagers would not be allowed to reproduce themselves, but would be caretakers for embryos, or sperm to fertilize the females, placed on board at the start, when the crew needed renewal. Random thought: then why have any males at all on board? GCS)

5) Use a more or less conventional size space ship, with a small crew in hibernation until arrival at the destination. (Depends on a reliable system of human hibernation being developed. GCS)

6) A leap frog system, launching with a crew of one small child on board, looked after by a computerized robotic nanny. The child would grow to adulthood, while being trained for its duties, including replacing itself before old age and death overtook it. This last involves an artificial womb with pre-fertilized embryos put on board before departure. A certain amount of recycling of vital material must be assumed. (Emmette says storing embryos for long periods is impractical. How does she know? GCS)

7) A variation of 6) above: female child is trained to inseminate herself, artificially, at age 35 or 40, with specially selected sperm guaranteed to produce one only female offspring. The ensuing generations would be fathered by sperm from unrelated males to avoid inbreeding. This is superior to 6) because it avoids problems in long term storage of ova and embryos, which do not occur with spermatozoa, and engineering difficulties of providing an artificial womb. (What drama if a `male' producing spermatozoa slipped through the net. Oddly, there is also a reference to a special stock of sperm to be used by the "last generation," the details of this must be at a lower level in the hypertext. GCS)

8) An unmanned probe equipped with advanced computers based on neural net research, trained to respond appropriately even in the uncertain circumstances at the target. (From cursory treatment this is given, I feel that it was not considered a serious option but has been included just to make the list exhaustive. GCS)

9) A probe with a brain on board from, say, a shark or dolphin, equipped to survive in the seas of the target planet.

10) An unmanned probe equipped with one of the smaller, better understood, organisms. . . such as a reptile, or amphibian (interesting if high G forces are expected, GCS).

This completed the survey, up to the date of the file, in late 1985.

George noted that option 9) showed the first reference to landing on and, possibly, colonizing an extra solar planet. 

Georg's favorite idea for a star drive, which he had conceived while still in high school, was not included. This involved capturing positrons (anti-electrons) in a magnetic bottle sustained by superconducting magnets, easily kept at the required low temperatures in interstellar space. By allowing a small leakage of antimatter to impinge on a target containing electrons, the positrons and electrons would spontaneously and mutually annihilate. Their rest mass would be converted to energy, in the proportion E=MC 2, in the form of gamma rays. These rays, pointed in the direction opposite the course of the spaceship would cause a huge reaction force in proportion to the mass of propellant employed (specific thrust). He had felt that the cost of obtaining an adequate supply of positrons could be reduced to an acceptable level using currently understood techniques. The killer was that nobody knew (even theoretically) how to line up (focus) the gamma rays into a beam so that the reaction force was concentrated in one direction and to keep them from wiping out every form of life aboard the vehicle. But, if the SDI people got onto this and realized that such a gamma ray beam could peel the surface off Russia like an onion, they might find a way to focus gamma rays.

Georg's ruminations were halted by the arrival of Doll, who had picked up his signal from the intercom and came to the office.

He discussed with Doll her role in the escape to the beach house in Big Sur and asked for an early, light supper for them all about 6pm. She suggested a large bowl of cruditee, fortified by hot potato cakes flavoured with bacon. These were served with a sauce made of mayonnaise, pureed garlic and mustard, seasoned with salt and white pepper. As far as Georg could tell this was an ailloli sauce, from Provencal cuisine, with a nod toward the Imperial Valley vegetable crop, unless it was Doll's invention from the ingredients at hand.

Emmette and Allyne returned to report that Allyne was a good subject for hypnosis and Emmette had succeeded in implanting an inhibition on losing consciousness under any circumstances except to go to sleep after a pre-sleep ritual (Georg noted that this was a sort of password protection scheme). 

Doll announced supper almost immediately, and they began to eat silently. The women evidently took the ailloli sauce to be a dip for the raw celery, radishes etc. Neither used it on the potato cakes until observing Georg do it. He suggested it might be improved by the addition of some fresh chives and grated cheese, when used as a dip.

As darkness began to fall, Georg loaded the Audi with the telescopes, lent Emmette a melton pea jacket and a wool knit sailor's watch cap as a costume for her role as an amateur astronomer. Although the little plateau Allyne had suggested as a lookout position was very near Georg's house, to reach it along the road took Georg and Emmette nearly a mile and several minutes. As he put the finishing touch on the setup of the telescopes, he said, "You are not likely to be disturbed here. I'll leave the Audi with you, here are the car, house and garage keys. We will park in the northwest corner of the parking lot at Tity, facing this way. After I park, and before turning off the lights, I will cover the left light and uncover it several times, then the right one once (pretending to clean the lenses). When you see this, wait exactly five minutes and call Allyne at her office number, to test our communications. When we start back, I will start the engine up and turn on the headlights, then stall the engine and turn the lights off, repeating this three times before driving away. When you see the lights behave this way you can load up and meet us at the house."

"Excellent. Good luck," Emmette waved and smiled as Georg crawled through the fence and made his way slowly down into his own back yard.

In less than ten minutes Georg and Allyne drew into the parking lot at Tity, in Allyne's 912. There were no reserved parking spaces at Tity, except a few near the main entrance for visitors, so it was not remarkable for her to park in a remote corner of the lot. This Saturday night the lot was practically empty. 

Allyne had explained that Security was not a serious matter at Tity. There had never been an incident and most people assumed it was only a sort of reserve in readiness against the possibility of riot or civil disturbance, a circumstance almost impossible to conceive of in this location. Whatever alertness they might have displayed under normal circumstances had been further diminished by losing their leader, still out with his leg broken.

Their plan was to go to Allyne's (new) offices, leave her bag with the FM microphone inside on the answering machine. Then, they would go the computer room and mount their attack through the console. They paused at the desk where the guard sat reading Sports Illustrated while Allyne signed the visitors book. From the entries in the book she saw no one was in the building where her office and the Computer Center were located, except an operator at the computer console.

After Allyne's office they proceeded directly to the Computer Center where Allyne sent the operator to another building to man one of the numerous distributed minicomputers connected to the mainframe. She told him Georg (whom she introduced as her Telecomms Consultant), would be carrying out some tests of the downlink to that machine.

The mainframe was quietly humming, occasionally flashing some of its single row of lights. The activity lights on the disk drives turned on and off in a regular but unintelligible pattern, accompanied by the muted "chuntering" of the flying read/write arms buried deep inside the mechanisms. Allyne sat at the console, keying in commands which Georg tried to connect with the subtle changes in the rhythm of the machine. Suddenly the pulsing of the lights speeded up and the disk activity concentrated on one drive with only occasional flickers from the others. Allyne waved Georg to observe the console screen, which showed a meaningless series of commands and prompts from the mainframe. 

Allyne elucidated, "I've got into the partition where the game is played, and reinstalled my demon. This time I have given him top priority, once he gets control he won't let go until he's finished his job and I relinquish control from the console. Once I do, he self destructs by writing an innocent program over the memory area where he used to live. I was going to have him thumb his nose at whoever was trying to catch him, but it would have taken far too long for me to give him a nose and thumb. . ."

"So your plan is to use the addresses the demon finds to break into the files we want to read," inquired Georg?

"No, I got all the names of the top level data files the first time. That's how I got the stuff you were reading earlier," explained Allyne, "Now I have to find the program they use to edit that file, so I can retrieve and read the file in hypertext fashion as they do. Chances are the subordinate files, the edit program, or all of them, are encrypted. I hope they used the same scheme and the same key. If I can capture them at least I'll have a shot at decoding them without the great white virus hunter looking over my shoulder." 

"I see, except how do we get away with the material once you do locate it," questioned Georg. 

"We can't get away with all the files tonight, they're too large, but I can get the program and copy it through an encryption process to CAM memory. If anybody looks at it they will find what looks like ramdom hash, just what they would expect to see if they looked at the stuff in a CAM. During the week, I'll save the CAM on the disk where the text is kept, use some pretext to get a dump of the disk file to a cassette which I can carry out, take it to another computer and work on it at my leisure" 

Emmette's voice came clearly through the Walkman, "This is the North American Service of the BBC with the world news at 2:30 Greenwich Civil Time. (whistle, crackle) Our Science Correspondent has reported that the chicken has landed. It is clearly visible on the surface and there appears to have been no difficulties so far. We shall keep you informed of any developments in this most poignant drama of our times. . " the message was terminated by a heterodyne whistle simulating a shift in the Heaviside layer, leaving only static as the gain control turned up the volume while the Automatic frequency control on the Walkman searched for a signal.

Allyne and Georg struggled to avoid breaking into gales of laughter. After a good minute they had recovered and Allyne launched her demon on it's quest. In another five minutes she had finished and remarked, "I have everything tucked away where I can find it again and I have fixed the great white hunter too."

"Wha'd you do," Georg demanded?

Before she could answer the voice from the BBC came back, "And now on the automotive front, the leading automotive firm, S. O. B., also famous for their interceptor aircraft, have announced a new model line called Thorcars after the Norse god of lightning and featuring a new system of anti-burglar devices. The system administers a high voltage shock to anyone touching the car without first disarming the alarm system. The intruder's screams of agony are is expected to attract the attention of passersby and the eventually the police. . . whistle. . . pop. . . pop." the signal faded again.

"What the hell now. . ?" began Georg.

"Hammerlund is on his way in, apparently in a hurry. He may call the police. . . before we can give him our "poison pill" cover story," Allyne interpreted the message from Emmette. 

Georg demanded, "Hammerlund has a company car, is it really a SAAB and what is the license number?"

"Yes a white 9000 and the number is `TT ONE'," Allyne responded.

Georg scooped up the telephone on the operator's desk, dialed 9 to get an outside line. Upon hearing the buzz of the exchange dial tone, he dialed all but the last digit of the number of his own cellular phone. He then waited for Emmette's hang-up click, passed through the answering machine and the FM microphone, before dialing the last digit. 

After a few seconds Emmette's voice came on, "Broadcasting House. . . Who's calling please," she demanded? 

"What's going on," George demanded?

"I was just checking the roads going toward Tity. I spotted a big white SAAB coming down Page Mill Road from 280 going at well above the limit. My guess is Hammerlund. Somebody there has reported your visit to him and he is very upset."

"Okay. We are clearing out, never mind the signals we set up. Call the police and tell them you were just forced off the bike path by a drunk in a speeding SAAB, license TT ONE, two letters and one three letter word, no numbers, on Page Mill headed this way," instructed Georg. "Terminate the call with one of your `Snap, Crackle, Pop" endings and get back to my house as soon as possible."

In the meantime, Allyne had been on another extension, telling the operator to return to the center and tell no one about their visit as she had found an unauthorized game on the computer and had set a trap for the culprit.

By the time they had regained Allyne's office, they could hear at least two sirens. Pausing only to retrieve the bag with the microphone, they walked casually to the guard's desk where Allyne signed them out. The guard, attracted by the sirens and sounds of commotion was trying to locate their source by looking through the window. He didn't seem to notice their departure. Outside, they stayed in the shadow of the building till they reached the parking lot and gained the shelter of Allyne's car. Driving slowly toward Page Mill Road they passed two police cars, bracketing a white SAAB. The tall, silver haired driver was caught in the glare of the headlights undergoing the indignity of a breath test.

Georg mused, "It would be best for us if he had three martinis about an hour ago. The police will not be too worried about who made the report if they have caught a drunk driver charging a bike lane. They will probably assume the offended cyclist saw what happened and concluded the driver would get the slammer without any help from her, so decided not to be involved any further."

Back at Georg's house, Emmette and Allyne dissolved into paroxysms of girlish giggles, releasing the tensions of the last hour. In Allyne's case it was also an outrush of glee at putting one over on Hammerlund. He had done nothing bad to her specifically, but she considered him a pompous ass who served no useful function in the enterprise.

Georg had some misgivings about rough treatment handed out to Hammerlund (after all he was chairman of a couple of companies himself) but his primary concern was how that worthy had been informed and why he was coming to Tity at panic speed. Why had he not just notified Security (and/or the police) and had Allyne and himself detained, to be disposed of at his leisure? Perhaps when they really and truly obtained the files from the mainframe, that answer, along with the answers to the other mysteries of the last few days, would be there.

There was no time to puzzle the matter further. He had to put in motion their escape to the Big Sur hideaway. He called Pete at United, to ask for a few days loan of his house in Sea Ranch, a hundred miles up the Coast from the Golden Gate. This might throw off anyone who had a tap on his telephone, or was checking on him through contacts at United. The next step was to remove the charts for the West Coast all the way from San Francisco to Portland, Oregon from the drawers in his office. All that remained was to load up some supplies, take them and the women to the Aleph One, at her berth in Foster City, attracting as much attention as possible while not seeming to do so.

 


 

CHAPTER IV


Emmette and Allyne, exhausted by the day’s exertions, turned in as soon as they boarded.  Once under way, Georg headed the vessel north under power, against a gusty north wind, then west through the Golden Gate.  Outside, the wind from the north freshened. He set course due west, toward the Farallons.

Anyone watching would assume he intended to turn north when he left the coastal eddies of the California current behind, if the wind changed.  The winds were usually from the west in this area, the water too deep to anchor till too close to shore and engine failure not unknown.  It was prudent to have a lot of water between him and the lee shore.  Of, course there could be an option to anchor in a sheltered spot and wait for the wind to change.

Rounding the Farollons about 3:00 am, Georg did not anchor but turned south, staying out of sight of the mainland till he was due west of Half Moon Bay.  The brisk wind now blew steadily from the north.  Georg laid on all the sail he could handle unaided, cut the engine and retracted the prop to cut drag.  The Aleph One fairly flew.  Near dawn, the wind shifted to the west,  and as he turned toward the anchorage at Half Moon Bay, drove him straight toward the coast.  About once a minute the autopilot grunted and grumbled for a few seconds.  He saw one lonely and antiquated "T2" tanker of World War II vintage, heading south, well out into the Humboldt Current, riding it to LA or San Diego.  

In the two hours it took to reach the coast, Georg's main problem was to keep awake, just in case another sailing vessel should cross his path or there was a change in the wind, requiring the sail to be adjusted.  With one ear cocked to the Marine Band, to catch weather forecasts that might apply to him, he mused on the name of his boat.  Most people supposed this was the first of several of his yachts named "Aleph", or an inane pun on the fact that the Hebrew letter “Aleph” also meant “one”, when used as a number.   When he tried to explain that it was really named after the most infinite of the infinities and that some infinities are really more infinite than others (as had been proven nearly a hundred years ago by his namesake, Georg Cantor) they usually changed the subject more or less politely.  Only Allyne got the point immediately, which was that this bit of mathematical knowledge was of absolutely no practical use, the same as the yacht, and that was its chief merit and all the justification it needed.

Georg had arranged for a berth shielded from view from the highway by a large building and high ground.  Striking the sail at just the right moment, the Aleph One coasted slowly toward her berth, the bow just kissing the fenders hanging from the dockside as he reversed the prop and goosed the throttle, using the side wash of the screw rather than the its thrust, or the rudder, to swing the stern toward the dock.  Without rising from the cockpit, he tossed the loop of a line over a bollard jutting from the dock, to secure the stern.  He then made his way to the bow, tossed a line to a dockhand who had been waiting on shore to catch the bow hawser.  Declining the dockhand's offer of help to rig a gangplank and spring lines, Georg went below.  

The Aleph One officially slept nine, two couples each in more or less private staterooms, two in the Captain's cabin, plus up to three in crew's quarters in the foc’sle.  The captain's, or owner's, quarters were athwart the stern, below the poop, in the traditional position (for a galleon or ship of the line).  It was reached via the ladder leading below from the cockpit.  Georg made his way there in a fog of fatigue, barely noting that the women had lowered a bunk for him and made up the p-jays ready for sleeping.  

His sound and dreamless sleep was ended by noises from the galley and smells of bacon and coffee.  Managing to extricate his wrist and focus on his Seiko Data watch, he noted the time: 11:47!  There remained less than fifteen minutes till Doll was scheduled to arrive with the rented car and the supplies for their sojourn in Big Sur.  One thing about shipboard life, it is either not very far at all to go anywhere, or it is much too far.  Showered and roughly shaved, Georg slipped into the galley/mess/salon just forward of his cabin, over the engine room, to a chorus of greetings and good natured riding about sleeping till noon.

They had prepared a brunch of bacon, crisp but not quite burnt, coddled eggs (cooked in a cup in the microwave, with a saucer on top to retain the moisture) served on a bed of leaf lettuce wilted with the bacon grease, with a choice of raisin-toast or whole-wheat pancakes and maple syrup.  Hot coffee and a pitcher of fresh squeezed orange juice in a champagne bucket packed around with ice-cubes were on the table.  Somebody had put two drops of Tabasco Sauce, and some freshly-ground, aromatic black-pepper on Georg's egg, for character.

Georg went on deck and casually rigged spring lines at both bow and stern and a small gangplank which could be pushed back out of sight after they had left, to give the impression that they had not come ashore, to anyone who had not actually seen them leave.  This illusion was also furthered by the fact that Georg had rigged timers on the TV and several lights to come on and go off at the appropriate times to simulate occupancy.  When Doll's call came (some fifteen minutes behind schedule) to say she was waiting at the filling station just outside the harbor area, they all went ashore, Georg pushed the jury rigged gangplank out of sight and they sauntered toward the Marina entrance, past the gas station and around the corner.  Doll drew up on cue and rolled down the window.  They chatted for a minute or two before they all clambered into the car.   An observer would have assumed they had accepted a friend's offer of a short lift.

Georg originally planned to drop Doll at a convenient bus stop to return to Palo Alto, but he decided in the end to ask her to accompany the party.  It would have been a possible security breach and though he did not really expect violence, if Hammerlund were really involved in something criminal, he might now be mad enough to hurt someone.  Better if Doll disappeared along with the rest of them.   She agreed to his plan with the proviso that she could call her landlady who might worry if she went missing for several days.  Georg suggested she say she was going on a cruise along the coast with her employer and a party of his friends for several days.  She would call when they came into port, every few days.  

The drive to Big Sur, along the US Highway 1, hugging the coast, is one of most spectacular in the world.  Georg and Allyne had driven it before, but the other two women had not.  Georg concentrated on the driving, having taken the wheel after the stop in Santa Cruz for Doll's phone call. Allyne kept up a `tour guide' commentary, explaining to Doll the difference between whales, dolphins and porpoises (dolphins are smaller than whales, porpoises are still smaller, have round heads and do not have beaks) and to Emmette why there are practically no fossils of sharks except their teeth (as they have no proper bones).  

Georg added his own bit of esoterica: killer whales are large dolphins that kill other dolphins, presumably the smaller ones.  Also, dolphins are sex mad, both males and females, will proposition any other dolphin regardless of age, sex, or previous condition of servitude, as well as people, turtles or practically anything else.  Doll suggested that whales may be the same but no one has survived to report the fact.   Emmette suggested that the whole genus probably didn't give a XXXX for anything else.

On this note, Georg rounded Nepenthe, drove down the road to the beach, entered the driveway, opened the garage door with the remote control aimed through the windshield, drove in and closed it behind them in one smooth flow.  The garage was built to accommodate three cars and afforded plenty of space to move around the car and unload their supplies.  In a few minutes the, kitchen shelves were stocked, the freezer in the garage had been turned on and the frozen food loaded inside.  They had brought only enough fresh food for one day as the refrigerator would take several hours to cool down enough to keep food fresh.


Georg told the others how he had bought the house and its furnishings, bidding on an estate sale on his banker's advice.  He and an agent had toured the main (entry) level of the house briefly, while Georg pointed out things to be given to Good Will Industries, the St. Vincent de Paul Society or, if rejected by both of these carted to the nearest dump, if his bid was sucessful.  This was why the house had a bare look without the personal clutter that residents always collect.   However,  as all the necessities were there: including bedclothes, bath towels and table linen, China Doll set immediately about making beds, putting out towels, and generally making the house ready for occupancy.  

The drive from Half Moon Bay had taken almost three hours.  Emmette and Allyne begged to be excused for a nap, in their respective bedrooms, while Georg explored the house, grounds and path leading down to the beach, in that order.

On the main level, he discovered fishing tackle for surf casting in the cabinets and loft of the garage.  On the lower level a photographic studio with lights, backdrops and props was located under the bedrooms at the north end of the house next to a small, well equipped darkroom.  

He found a few black and white photographic prints of male and female nudes, posed, oiled and lighted to accentuate their exaggerated muscular development, in a drawer underneath the enlarger.  Georg could not imagine what kind of person would be interested in taking or viewing such photos.  His own tastes ran mainly to Playboy centrefold poses and he felt uncomfortable looking at the excruciatingly detailed anatomical studies of the opening of the vaginal canal and its surrounding flora and fauna popular in the top-of-the-rack-magazines.  The body-builder shots, even of the women, just left him cold.  

At the other end of the house, on the same lower level was a sauna and shower complex which rivaled that of his Portola Valley house. The hot tub and sun deck, arranged on a peninsula with a panoramic view of Pacific and up and down the coast but cleverly shielded from overlookers, even exceeded it.  Georg wondered how long it would be before Allyne and Emmette discovered it.

There were no television sets, antenna or satellite dishes.  There were no books or magazines either as Georg had asked that they be donated to a local library, anonymously (with the address labels destroyed).

He tried the cellular telephone he had brought, which didn't work, and the house telephone, which did.  Just to be sure he checked the telephone book.  There was nothing listed under his name.  He did not remember the name of the former owner so he could not check if the number was still listed under that name or not listed at all.  No matter, at least at the moment.    

Returning to the garage area, he took a half hour sorting out a rod, reel, line, lures and bait (some, still  frozen) shrimp from the freezer, which might give him a chance of catching a Bonita or sea bass in the rolling surf off the beach.  He would not be able to go far out or stay long in the cold water as he had not brought his wet suit from the Aleph One.  Pausing only to caution Doll to plan, provisionally, for a fresh fish main course for dinner, he pulled on his bathing trunks, gathered his gear and clambered down the narrow trail to the beach.

The water, as anticipated, was cold.  After the first few minutes, the parts out in the wind felt colder than those actually in the water so he waded over his waist where he could cast over the breakers into the calmer water farther out.  He lost his bait every time and was left with only the lures with their shiny, flashing vanes to attract his dinner.  The mechanical act of casting, reeling in, waiting for the surf to die down, casting again did not fully occupy his mind which wandered back over the last three, or was it four, days since Allyne returned his telephone call.

Beginning as a friend asking for help in dealing with a disturbing experience, the affair had gone through several phases, in Georg's mind.  At first he had intended to use massage and talk sessions to mitigate Allyne's distress, while he looked for a solution to the philosophical (or physics) puzzle.  The difficulty of disproving the solipsistic fallacy (he was convinced it was a fallacy) was not apparent to him. The possibility of Tity's mainframe being involved, or Tity or someone using their facilities, presented itself.  Then BeeBee got into the act.  He was not sure if she was peripheral or central to what was going on.  What about Emmette?  It had all started with her seeing Allyne after the accident.  Ah! That too. The accident.  Was it Emmette, the treatment at the Medical Center, or something else about the accident which started off Allyne's trouble?  Did Emmette's strange affliction have anything to with it?  

Then there was Doll's strange, possibly garbled, story of Emmette's plot to have Allyne bear his baby and turn it over to her. And, Emmette's proposal of marriage following his own concocted story of being sterile.  Every time he tried to cut some of the threads of mystery, he seemed to en-tangle himself even more. . . 

Just as Georg's review was threatened to be cut off by the debilitating effects of the cold, he had a strike.  The next ten minutes were consumed in a tense battle to land the fish.  He finally succeeded in hauling the fish into shallow water, where he inspected it for spines and other such weapons.  Finding none, he fell on his prey and managed to get his fingers into its gills on either side and drag it onto dry sand before suffering minor bruises from the still flailing tail.  Holding on with one hand, he used the other to draw on the line, recover the rod and use the butt to stun the fish.  On inspection, as he removed the hook, it appeared to be a fifteen or sixteen pound sea bass.  Enough for several dinners.

Very full of himself, he gathered his gear and the fish and made his way back up the trail.  This path brought him into the house at the lower level and past the photo studio, where he noted the studio lights were no longer on.  His curiosity piqued, he followed on past the ascending stair to the area of the sauna and hot tub.

Rounding the corner the sun deck came into view, revealing a most astonishing tableau.   Doll, fully dressed, was holding a 35mm, single-lens-reflex camera, equipped with a motor drive, aimed at Emmette and Allyne.  These two were buck-naked, their bodies oiled, posed in positions of attack and defense, and protected by prop shields strapped to their left forearms.  

Their weapons were the most remarkable of all.  Huge dildos protruded from their pubes areas, strapped below the waists by a crude leather belts buckled at the back, manipulated and held erect by their right hands.  They performed a crude impromptu ballet, a sort of parody of the movements of photographic models, arresting at the extreme of each thrust and parry, awaiting the stroke of the camera flash before proceeding to the next movement.   

Noting Georg's arrival, Allyne broke off the mock combat and offered brightly, "Is that supper I see from the sea? We're starved from a hard day in battle."

Georg, still fixated by amazement, did not answer.

Doll put down the camera, took the fish from Georg and departed in the direction of the stairs.   Emmette, Georg observed, was not even wearing her second skin.  She began to take off her shield and buckler, paused and asked, "Would you like a particular pose to keep?  We could do it before wrapping up.  Or, you are invited to join in if you do not feel you would be outclassed in the rapier department," she added.   

He shook his head grimly…and followed silently after Doll.

Georg kept to his room until Doll came in to tell him that dinner would be served in about ten minutes.  "What happened while I was fishing this afternoon?" he asked.  "What started that game on the sun deck?"

"Emmette showed me how to use the camera and asked me to push the button when they stopped moving", Doll said flatly.

"No.  I mean who suggested the nude poses with those. . . costumes," continued Georg? 

"I was not present at the time, but I believe Allyne found the toys in a cabinet in the darkroom.  She said they should take pictures for you, for fun, and you could trust them more if you had them.  I did not understand.  Maybe it was a joke," Doll offered.

"Yes, perhaps it was, in very bad taste," answered Georg.

"You are not pleased.  I should not have taken pictures," it was an apology, not a question.

"No, no, you did nothing wrong.  I'll be in to dinner primary instigator.  Who in hell lived in this house before?  Had the studio and dark room been more than a rich hobbyist's toy?   

As far as he was concerned this trip was already a disaster.  He did not look forward to dinner.  Should he confront them?  Accuse them of being a gang of rampant Lesbians playing stupid games, taking advantage of him, using him for some mysterious and probably painful purpose?  What proof did he have if they denied it?  Allyne had come to his bed.  Emmette offered him sex, marriage, everything except her child, maybe even that.

Only Doll had shown no particular interest in him.  That could hardly be otherwise for an employee who could not be sure of how their boss would react.  This assumed, of course, that all women were ravenous for his flesh.  On the other hand, women can fake an interest they don't actually feel.  A hallowed tradition really. . .  "Close your eyes and think of England" was the advice given to the Royal brides.  So what! So, say, Emmette or Allyne are bisexual or Lesbian?  It wouldn't be the end of the world.  It did not seem to a barrier to an affair with him in either case.  As far as marriage went he had not seriously thought about it, despite Emmette's proposal.  When it became a serious subject he would certainly want to know what his bride's basic sexual orientation was, and what that might imply for him, and his children.   

For the moment, he determined to go along with whatever explanation they offered, or none, if that were the case.  On this thought he stepped into the `Great Room' of the great beach house and made his way to the dining table, a three inch slab of a roughly oblong, redwood burl, hand rubbed and finished with a transparent acrylic finish.  Its considerable weight was supported in the center by a single steel column with its lower end sunk into the floor.  Apparently the table could be raised and lowered by a mechanism. Georg guessed that had been salvaged from the hydraulic grease rack of a filling station.  

The table was large enough for twelve, but Doll had set their places in a semicircle at one end.  Rough reed place-mats, not so much protected the table surface, as cushioned and deadened the clatter of the hand-made, pottery plates, cups and saucers if they should be put down too hard by boisterous diners.

The walls, floor and ceiling of the room were made of rough sawn planks of various varieties of wood, finishes and sizes.  He surmised that they were made from driftwood gathered from the nearby beaches; or, more likely, from the rivulets which emptied into the Pacific Ocean, up and down the coast.  

The chairs continued the natural-wood theme.  Each was turned and carved from a single section of tree trunk.  Below the seat they were shaped like the base and stem of a wine glass, perhaps inspired by the Saarinen's tulip chairs: crude copies of which were seen in every American ice cream parlor in the '60s. The seats and backs had been roughly shaped to accommodate the human form, and excess material removed from the backs and sides, by a series of straight saw cuts.  Corners were gently chamfered and the seats hollowed out in the interest of comfort and freedom from splinters.  The surfaces, a raw weathered grey, had split in some places and been repaired with an ingenious, visible system of pegs and tenons.  Georg suspected that these defects, if not actually planned as part of the decorative effect, had been anticipated and provided for.  

To complete the ensemble, a chest under the window wall on the beach side of the room contained bolts of rough, hand woven material and complete animal hides with the fur intact, to throw over the chairs, protecting them from grease and detritus from the table.  Doll had already covered the four chairs they would use for the meal.  

For herself, she had selected a shimmering jade-green silk material flecked with gold threads.  Allyne's chair was covered with a panel of woven wool, reminiscent of an Indian blanket or a serape.  Emmette had been favored with the richest of them all, a miniature copy of the Bayeux Tapestry, while Georg presided from a deep pile of snow white llama fur. 

The overall effect was that of Baronial hall, heightened by the large cooking-fireplace and barbecue with roaring fire, forming one wall of the kitchen area and visible from the Great Room.

All the women were seated, politely awaiting the arrival of their host while sipping an assortment of aperitifs.  They had evidently been warned about the adornment of their respective chairs, as each had chosen a dress to complement it.  

Allyne wore a soft buckskin pants-suit molded to her figure and shaped around her fine, full breasts.  The pants and jacket were adorned only by fine fringes but the costume as a whole was set off by a suite of handsome, beaten silver and turquoise jewelry.  

Doll's white silk-satin changosang was trimmed with gold and open on each side almost to the waist, which was cut high.  This had the effect of increasing the apparent length of her well-shaped legs giving her figure the proportions of a Caucasian or Negro woman, rather than the long waisted figure of an Oriental.    She wore neither trousers nor any sort of undergarment as far as he could tell.  There were no lines or seams evident anywhere.  Her legs and exposed flanks were the same silky saffron color and texture as her arms.  Her small breasts shaped the white silk so subtly that they were evident only when she leaned forward or extended an arm in the process of caring for her charges.

Emmette was attired entirely in lace, a dress and slip, over a bra and "French knickers".  It seemed that ninety-eight per cent of her skin was visible through the interstices in the multiple layers of lace, at any given time.  But, with her slightest movement or shift in the viewer's point of view, the parts actually visible changed.  It was impossible to contemplate any feature larger than a few square millimeters, or to keep even that in view for more than a second.  Attempting to focus on the flesh through the layers of lace only produced a dizzying shimmer.  Georg was forced to learn to slightly soften the focus of his eyes, washing out the detail and bringing her overall shape into view.  That, in itself, was disturbing enough.   

Even Georg, might have been accused of contriving his appearance to set off the white fur thrown over his chair.  He wore pearl grey, unbelted slacks, a slightly lighter hue of the same color in a silk shirt, open at the neck and exposing a few wisps of blond, kinky, chest hair.  He still wore the grey suede Porsche Design driving shoes he had used for the trip down.  The overall impression could have been construed as a sort of "black pearl in the oyster" motif. 

Seating himself and pouring a glass of white Chablis from the moisture-beaded, decanter Doll had provided, he opened the conversation, "Did you have a pleasant afternoon while I captured our dinner?"  He tried to keep any edge of irony from his voice. 

Allyne was the first to respond, "We, that is Emmette and I, napped for a half hour.  After that we occupied, in the military sense, our rooms.  That took another half hour.  Then we explored the surrounding terrain.  Found the studio, darkroom and the sun-deck-sauna-hot-tub doo.  Isn't it amazing how you can see everything from there but no one outside, or inside, the house can see you?"

Emmette interrupted, "With a helicopter or a tall ship and, half mile out, it might be possible but not without being detected and countermeasures mounted, if anyone considered it necessary."   

"Of course all those problems of isolation could be overcome with a big telescopic camera and a small distribution network, based on, say, a fax machine" Georg could not resist offering the barb.

Emmette took up the defense, "Our aim was to control the distribution to just one spectator selected for the privilege: your exalted self."

"Why should I be so honored?" Georg asked, trying to keep the resentment out of his voice.

Allyne took up the argument, "Well, you are the other Male-Member of our hot-tub and nude-frolic club.  We wanted to include you. . . hoped you would join in when you got back, but you put on a sour face and walked away."

"It seemed to me that all the roles were taken in your backyard extravaganza.  Indeed, there seemed to be already two players for each part, or perhaps the extras were only stand-ups... er, stand-ins," responded Georg with a mocking smile.

"Carajo!  I think he was jealous of the dildos," said Allyne. "Those were, as you surmised, stand-ins.  Regretfully, I can't speak from direct experience in either case, but I'm sure that one on Georg is worth two out of the box.  Wouldn't you agree Emmette?" 

This denial hit Georg like a physical blow.  He studied Allyne's face for some clue, some trace of complicity.  Could she have made this statement to assure him of her approval of his sexual organ, or better. . . prowess, which she had excellent reason to know, while denying to the others that she had such personal knowledge?  Why should she deny it when her argument would have been just as strong, even stronger, by asserting it?  Why bring it up at all, in this ironic way.  Then, Allyne had always acted standoffish, even explained her reasons. Only once, in the darkness of his bedroom and in total silence, had she physically acknowledged her desire for him.    

Georg became aware that Emmette had been speaking at some length.  He had no idea what she had said.  "I'm sorry.  I missed that," he said.

"I was just observing that if you object to phallic art,  you are going to have some bad turns in this house, or to paraphrase the psychiatric patient, `You're the one who bought the dirty house'."

"Whatever do you mean?" inquired Georg.

Allyne waved toward the fireplace with a giggle, "Check the andirons."

Moving to the switch and turning on the light over the fireplace, he observed two large andirons and looked at them closely for the first time.  They were rough, black, wrought iron, about four times life size replicas of erect pinuses, each supported by a crinkly scrotum.  The lifelike detail was such that each left testicle hung an inch lower than its companion.  On closer inspection he could tell that the urethra was open at the tip, with the result that the hollow inside of the shaft could be filled with some kind of liquid.  This would probably boil off, or expand and run out as the heat built up, to what effect or for what purpose Georg could bear to, nor not, imagine.  

A new interpretation of the day's events occurred to Georg.  The two women could have thought that he was turned on by this sort of thing.  He had, after all, "bought the dirty house", and brought them there with no prior warning.  "Have you found any more of this stuff around," he turned to the women?

"Only some paintings in cupboards in the studio," offered Emmette, "and some lighter patches on the walls, where pictures have been taken down, probably by the estate agents who feared to offend prospective buyers.  They must have overlooked the andirons, as you did,  in the bad light."

Georg framed his next question to Emmette very carefully, "In your professional. . . Ah, amateur. . . psychiatric opinion, what sort of person used to own this house." 

"A raving, male homosexual who used pornography as a signal of his sexual proclivities to other such males and to turn them on.  I would say of middle class or higher social status, not only from the fact that to own all this would require some wealth, but the peculiar methods used indicate a need to preserve deniability.  He could pass off his possessions as evidence of his artistic appreciation to the straight community, whose approval he must have had a need to maintain, while accepting the alternative interpretation when convenient and needed.  For it all to work he must have also been credible as an artist; or, at least, a  knowledgeable art patron."

Allyne added, "Don't you think he would gotten a kick out of parading his vile taste in public, putting it over on them.  Like, `Hey! Look! Those straights are too stupid to catch on.'" 

"Well, the andirons, carefully concealed in open view, seem to bear that out," agreed Emmette.

"What about the harness you guys were wearing this afternoon," questioned Georg?

"Sadomasochistic gear for group games is my guess," offered Allyne. "We assumed, at first, you brought them along for our party, in case you ran out of steam".  Allyne's joke fell flat.  She raised her hand to stifle Georg's protest, "You already made it clear you didn't."

Doll had risen to clear the table prior to serving the desert course, a delicious place of sea bass decorated with shrimp and servings of tomatoes and sliced onions, with the leaf-lettuce from the backyard garden.

They continued the meal in relative silence.  At the end, Georg asked Allyne for the loan of the Toshiba T5100 and excused himself to do some telecommunicating.  The next several hours he searched the conferences on BIX, the Source and Compuserve for references to neural networks, space colonization, or artificial intelligence, jointly or severally.  He would have liked to search for data on identity, or "how-do-you-know-who-you-are" but he could not find the key words to get started.  There were no conferences on philosophy.  A couple of conferences on psychology which he found were oriented to user interfaces, "user friendliness", which was just the opposite of what Georg sought.

Exhausted by the ardors of the day, before midnight he fell asleep across his bed.  Awakened about 5:00am by the predawn chill, he decided to undress and perform an abbreviated version of his bedtime routine.  He then found he had not brought in his toilet gear from the car.  On his way to the garage, passing the door to Emmette's room which was ajar he saw the light on inside.  Surprised she should be awake; he nudged the door open and eased into the room.  Emmette was asleep in the queen sized bed with her arm about Allyne's shoulders, who was curled, thumb in mouth, in the fetal position.  Neither woman wore clothing nor did the bed clothes conceal much.

Standing at the side of the bed he studied the scene with less emotion that he would have thought possible a few hours ago.   After a minute or so he straightened the light blanket, pulled it under the chins of the pair and withdrew quietly from the room.  Having finally retrieved his gear, it was only a few minutes till he was asleep under his own blanket.  But his repose did not last long.  Sensing a warm softness against the skin of his back he turned slightly and opened his eyes.  Emmette had snuggled under his blanket, and arranged her nude form "nested-tables" fashion against him.  

"Did you come to see me a while ago," she asked?

"Not exactly.  I was just passing by and saw the light.  I thought you might be awake."

"But you did come in," she insisted.

"Yes, but I didn't intend to disturb you."

"You saw Allyne, what did you think," she asked?

"About what?"

"I regressed her to age two, practically pre-verbal, but not pre-nap-tual.  She insisted on having her's.  I fear I slipped off too, waiting for her to wake again."

"So what was the purpose of this exercise?  You were going to try to remove inhibitions against remembering a previous hypnotic experience?  Was that what you were working on?"

"No.  I gave up on that.  We were trying to discover anything which might indicate an attempt to dump, Allyne's term for it, her memories," responded Emmette.

Georg was becoming more and more aware of the peculiarity of his position.  He was in bed with a woman, both of them nude.  His body if not his mind was getting turned on.  His lover was asleep in the next room, likely to wake any moment and go looking for her former bed partner, now his bed partner.  In a few moments, Allyne would most likely find them actually in the act of love, if she did.

Suddenly he made up his mind.  He could not continue in this situation.  He must distance himself, not only from the immediate crunch but from this pressure cooker of Emmette and Allyne.  Too much energy was being diverted into trying to unravel the relationship between them, and determine where he fitted into the triangle.  For a moment, before he disentangled himself from the seductive warmth of Emmette's arms, he considered taking her, inserting his now rigid penis into her warm chamber and with a few thrusts removing at least one or two of the doubts which flooded his mind.  

Then he recognized this `clear' bit of reasoning as rooted in simple lust, only slightly adulterated by a desire to relieve some of the mental frustration he felt in the `mock' combat of sex.  As he stood up, he sensed what a close thing it had been, he had nearly risked `who knows what' complications, and almost certainly removing any hope of him helping to get to the bottom of the puzzle or helping Allyne.  One of the few things he was still certain of was that Allyne was a friend who had asked him for help, and he had promised to give it.  The fact that this also fitted in with his own desire to solve the problem they had set was a bonus.  

He calmly explained to Emmette, with the request that she inform Allyne when she awoke, his decision to return to Palo Alto where he had better facilities for working.  He was satisfied that no one knew where they were,  and if he returned to Palo Alto, there would be even less possibility of tracking them down through Georg.  Rousing Doll and asking her to get ready in 30 minutes, by 6:30 they were on he road.  

He did not retrace his steps, but cut through the coast range to Highway 101, proceeded north through the outskirts of San Jose, connecting with US580 which he followed through Walnut Creek and Concord to the Bay.  Taking the Richmond  Bridge across the Bay he headed southwest,  entered San Francisco via the Golden Gate Bridge and proceeded to the Foster City Marina.  There he transferred to his own car.  Doll took the rented car to the airport Avis lot, turned it in and caught one of the frequent shuttle buses to the Terminal.  Georg picked her up outside the Terminal at about 10:30 am and they were home in another fifteen minutes.  

The computer conferences of the previous night had not produced any relevant information directly but he had collected several references to check out.  Georg was already familiar with Jerry Pournelle's columns Computing at Chaos Manor in Byte, and had read a couple of his science fiction novels.  He had not known that Pournelle was also a tireless advocate of the space program and had written several non-fiction books on the subject.  One of the conferees last evening had recommended "A Step Farther Out", a compilation of articles Jerry had written on the subject.  He asked Doll to make a note to pick it up at the Palo Alto Public Library when she went shopping in the afternoon.  When he had time he would go to the library himself and browse the stacks, checking out some of the other references.

As soon as the Audi was safely in his garage, Doll took charge of unloading and restoring of their baggage and, after checking and resetting the security system, Georg sat down at the PC to record the conclusions he had reached on the long drive back:

Allyne (and everybody else) has a real life and a fantasy life.  Most people read books, watch TV and daydream, without confusing the real and fantasy aspects.  

But sometimes there is trouble.  Allyne's unusual ability or tendency to identify with fantasy characters has misfired.  As far as I know she has never been in love.  Perhaps she was driven to overcompensate, by wearing her "heart on her sleeve", in this way.  

One of the main ideas I got from Eric Fromme's Escape From Freedom, was that falling in love is one example of identifying with and turning over the values and direction of ones life to a fantasy "love-object" (usually based, loosely, on a real person).  It can be a response to an emotional crisis caused by doubt of one's own ability to cope.  Whatever the immediate provocation, her love object, the mind on the probe, is in an intolerable plight, and her identification is clearly complete. I suppose a slightly more conventional example of such cases is that of women who fall in love with men on death row.

She has maintained a strong, almost religious, faith in logic.  I believe I could break her out of this if I could show that a mind based in a computer `brain' could not be self aware, therefore could not have mental states or emotions such as fear.  My reasoning goes like this: Allyne (Mark I) is self aware, but if her memories etc (Allyne II) had been transferred to a neural network which could not be self aware, then it could not have her fears. ("I fear I'm a copy, but copies cannot feel fear, therefore I cannot be a copy"). 

The key question is then: can a machine based mind be self aware, or is there some "vital essence" required for self awareness which a machine cannot support?  

Another several hours on the networks (he was conscious that the rates on Sunday were at their lowest, though he didn't really need to save the money) did not turn up any answers to this new question either.  That was a sort of answer in itself, which Georg began to elucidate in his notes:

There does not appear to be any work or any interest in the question of self awareness in machines.  It could be that there is no real definition of what constitutes `self awareness'.  As I have defined it:  as feeling emotions, like fear, it is not a quality which would be much sought after by machine designers.  As machines are designed, or in the case of computers: programmed, to have only the qualities the designers wish, it would be very unusual for such a machine to be built.  

On the other hand, fear would be useful for a machine to have to protect itself against destruction or damage by accident, or inadvertently, by its operator.   It would be necessary to impart an admonition to avoid danger to itself.  Asimov's Laws of Robotics treated this.  As I recall they are something like this:

1. Thou shalt not harm a human being.

2. Thou shalt not allow harm to come to a human being.

3. Thou shalt not allow harm to come to yourself, except as may be required by obedience to the first two laws. 


If this were imposed at an emotional, rather than a rational, level it is a prescription for `fear'.  It also assumes three concepts: `self' (the machine), `others' (humans), and `everything else' (the environment, or source of danger).  (This is beginning to sound like Allyne's `dream'.) 

It would require careful design to make sure the machine's interests did not conflict with its owner's, especially when the time came to scrap the device at the end of its useful (in the owner's view) life.  

Conflict of interest should be minimal in the case of the `brain on the probe'.  It would be in the interests both of the designer (owner) and the probe brain to keep it operational for the duration of the mission.  

Once the `fear' emotion was in place it would still have to be able to detect and recognize dangerous situations in advance. I would build in templates, in memory, to compare to incoming sensory data.  (Could it be called the "Near Occasion of Danger Technique", [NODT] for short?)

Georg recalled the chickens his mother used to raise on the ranch.  Shortly after hatching en masse in the incubator and never having seen a snake, nor having any opportunity to learn from older birds; anyway, they were afraid of anything that resembled a snake.  He had tested this by shoving the end of a crooked stick along the ground toward them and wiggling it.  All the little chicks would strut about,  drawing  back in fear and chirping their `alarm' signals.  While still a child, Georg had concluded that they must have some kind of image of a snake in their heads when they hatched out.   It seemed to him less likely that people got their fears that way.  Some people seemed to him to have an inborn fear of snakes, spiders and other small crawlies, but most human fears seemed to have been acquired by experience or indirectly through the medium of language, being taught or warned verbally.

So, even a (primitive) chicken brain can be programmed with `fear', a concept of self (drawing itself away from danger), a concept of others (the warning calls), and a concept of everything else (eg snakes in the grass).  But, could a computer (specifically, a Turing machine) have these qualities?  Perhaps more usefully, even if a machine could be so programmed, is there an existing computer language which could be used to do it?  If not, is there a proof that it is not possible to do so?  In a particular language?  In any language?

Back on the networks, he posted these  questions to several Special Interest Group (SIG) conferences on languages.  He didn't bother with COBOL, BASIC, ForTran or their derivatives, but concentrated on more modern languages like Ada, Pascal, Modula II, Prolog and, after some hesitation, C, LisP and Forth.

That taken care of, Georg turned himself to matters of more urgent concern.  One) he was hungry.  Two) having cut him self off from Allyne and Emmette, at least temporarily, he had no one with which he could discuss the problem.  He found it difficult to get new ideas without `batting around' with another person.  His habit of making notes with `Sidekick', reading and revising them later was a sort of substitute for the two way communication he needed.  At first he hesitated, but as he had to check with Doll about dinner anyway, he searched for her, winding up in the kitchen.

Doll was almost finished with preparing the meal, built around a dozen and a half baby globe artichokes she had purchased near Castroville where Georg stopped for gas on the way back. She had trimmed off their outer green leaves, topped, tailed and quartered them.  After sauteeing two small, chopped shallots in two tablespoons of olive oil she sauteed the artichoke quarters, brought them to a boil, then covered and simmered them for an hour in a cup of Fume Blanc to which she had added:

1 pound of fresh peeled and seeded tomatoes, 

2 teaspoons of Schilling's Salad Herbs, 

1 teaspoon fresh chopped rosemary 

1 teaspoon fresh oregano and 

2 cloves of crushed garlic.

As Georg sat down, Doll served about half of the artichokes, and offered him shakers containing lemon pepper and celery salt which he applied till satisfied with the seasoning.  The dish she had prepared for the artichokes had been ringed with delicate Bibb lettuce leaves and the center lined with paper thin slices of Spanish onion and beef heart tomato.  By the time he had finished seasoning the dish, she had served a large glass, very chilled, of the same Fume Blanc used to prepare the artichokes.  With a wave of his hand Georg invited her to join him.  She served herself and took a seat on his right.

"How much have you followed the problem Allyne, Emmette and I have been working on, I mean Allyne's passing out because of something on the computer at the Think Tank," Georg asked?

"I understand that she is afraid she is the soul of a computer far, far away which is only dreaming of when she was Allyne here with us," she replied simply.  

Georg was taken aback by the conciseness and simplicity of her reply, and wondered briefly if the idea of reincarnation of souls was prevalent in her native culture.  That would have made it easier to concept-ualize Allyne's situation.  He said, "The crux of the matter is that she can't tell whether it is a fantasy or real.  We know she is `our' Allyne, but she thinks she may only be dreaming us, still dreaming when we assure her she is not the `other' Allyne."

"I also would like to help Allyne.  I have had some thoughts about this.  May I tell them to you?" Doll asked.

"Certainly. Please tell me your thoughts, Doll," requested Georg. 

"I can change bad dreams to good dreams.  I can not do this for bad things which happen when I'm awake.  If Allyne learned to do this perhaps she could then know which are dream thoughts and which are awake thoughts," Doll offered.

"That is a terrific idea!  Reality is the one which is hard to change," Georg laughed, "but, how did you change your dreams, could you teach me to do it?"

"I could try, but it may take a long time.  I needed meditation and much practice to take command of my thoughts in that time just between being awake and being asleep.  After that, I could do it when the half asleep time of dreaming came, especially when a bad dream came and started to wake me," responded Doll. 

Georg considered the offer, and then rejected it, considering that he seldom had nightmares so there would be few occasions for training.  He had to think of a faster way.  He remembered the brain wave monitor he had built as an experiment a year or so ago.  He had hooked it to a analog-to-digital converter (ADC) port on his PC to record brainwave activity and had worn it for several nights. He had marveled mildly at the different wave patterns, but finding no practical use for the gadget, gave up using it.  

Now, he could program the computer to administer a very mild and harmless electric shock to his finger on the appearance of the brain waves which accompany rapid-eye-movement (REM) sleep announcing the onset of dreaming.  If he got it right it should rouse him just enough so he could take charge of dream in progress and make it go the way he wanted to, without wakening him up entirely.   If it worked he would make a miniature version for Allyne.  When she `freaked out' the device could be used to get control back for Allyne I, thus proving that `Allyne I' was dreaming of being `Allyne II' and not the other way around.  

Insisting that Doll go home to rest and to reassure her landlady friend, Georg started work on the new version of the brain wave analyzer.  The problem of providing a shock caused difficulties.  He did not have the necessary components in his junk box to generate the required voltages and make sure the current could not rise over safe limits.  In the end he settled for programming the PC to emit a low warbling tone through its built-in speaker, not so loud  as to wake him completely, but enough to rouse him slightly.  By bedtime it seemed to be in working order, ready for the first trials.  

Before turning in, he logged onto BIX again to see if anyone had responded to his inquiries.   Another conferee, on the East Coast, had relayed his questions to a European network called CIX.  A researcher in Scotland, working on natural language understanding, came back with a request to be kept informed of the progress Georg made.  Not exactly an answer but at least evidence that someone else thought the question was important.    

Just managing to complete his usual bedtime routine and don the analyzer before exhaustion bludgeoned him to sleep, Georg retired.  The first several hours were undisturbed.  Then, the faint warble of the PC's speaker made him aware of a dream in progress.  He was back in the Navy, as a navigator. This time there is no Shoran or Loran gear.  Navigation was strictly by celestial observation.  The familiar stars are brilliant points of light in a coal black, cloudless sky.  He prepared to take a star sight with his sextant, but he could not measure the angle of the star above the horizon as there was no discernible horizon, the sea was as black as the sky.  Not to be outdone he selected an aeronautical sextant, with a built-in,  artificial horizon.  

He punched the readings into the ships computer which calculated his position on the chart. This he found it to be well inside the land mass of the Antarctic subcontinent.  Georg consciously reordered the dream, placing himself on the Aleph One, in Tropical seas.  She was running before he wind, the spray from the bow wave cooling his cheek as he manned the wheel on a bright sun soaked day.  He made flying fishes and porpoises play ahead of the ship.  He was about to order the smell of coffee and bacon from the galley and Allyne in a skimpy bikini coming topside to bring him breakfast, when the dream faded away.  

The rest of his sleep was punctuated by fragmentary dreams.  None lasted long enough for him to get control.    He actually awoke to the actual sounds of Doll working over breakfast in the kitchen.  This brought back the memory of one of the dream fragments, a vision of Doll, standing on the bow of the Aleph One, in a white shift, as sheer as a cloud and cut high on each side, which did not hide but merely softened the contours of her form.  Her long, slim waist and small, perfect breasts were clearly visible, nipples rampant from the breeze.  She turned and walked across the raised deck toward him, halting just in front of him with his eyes level with her waist.  She looked at him with a question in her expression as the wind billowed the shift over her hips.  Georg's glance fell to the small dark triangle between her legs.  The hair there was as straight and silky as the hair of her head. 

IT WAS DOLL WHO HAD COME INTO HIS BED!!!  

The nagging memory of something sensed but not fully realized was now totally clear.  His lover's pubic hair had been soft and silky, not tightly curled like Allyne's.  There could be no mistake in Allyne's case.  He had spent hours carefully avoiding those corn silk curls during their massage sessions.  The smallness of his actual lover's breasts was explained also, along with the long torso which placed her nipples in reach of his lips as she arched above him.   

Why did she do it?  And, once she did, why had she said nothing, allowing him to assume it had been Allyne?  What about the story of Emmette's and Allyne's plot?  Most puzzling of all was his own failure to recognize her.   Was he so anxious for it to have been Allyne that he deliberately deceived himself?  Or, had he repressed the knowledge so he would not have to deal with this still further complication, or out of guilt for having broken his rule about employees?  All these thoughts flooded his mind, then he realized he would have to go out to breakfast in a moment and face Doll.  He had to decide how to handle this.

Doll was serving coffee as he entered the kitchen.  She turned to get his breakfast plate from the microwave, giving it one turn to bring the food and plate to just the right temperature.  The main course was an omelette as thin as a crepe, filled with fresh, lightly sauteed shiitake mushrooms, in thin and delicate slices, accompanied by one strip of crisp bacon.  A large wine glass with fresh orange juice and two ice cubes accompanied the steaming mug of coffee.

"Did you sleep well," inquired Doll, as she filled her cup and sat down.

"Well enough," replied Georg before going on to explain briefly his project to get control his dreams, and the results.  However, he did not mention the dream fragment starring Doll, or the insight he had gained.  He could not get rid of the feeling that he had somehow taken advantage, and once the situation was acknowledged, he could not see an honorable outcome for himself.    

They discussed household matters during the rest of the meal, and the telephone rang just as Doll started to clear up.  Georg snagged another cup of coffee on his way to the office to take the call.  It was Allyne's voice.  "Why'd you do a bunk with the cook," she demanded?

"Well, I had you guys stashed out of harm's way, or at least I did until you made this call.  I couldn't work there."  Georg continued, "Where are you calling from, no don't tell me, if anyone is listening don't give it to them on a plate."

"You could have told me," she objected. "I would have come back with you."

"I told Emmette to tell you.  You were dead to the world when I left, very early.  Anyway, it wouldn't have helped to have you come back.  I would have to spend all my time looking out for you.  Look.  I can't talk to you now, let me call you back. . . at the Stallion's Arms, shortly. Okay?"

"Gottit. . . I'll wait there.  Adiosito."  Allyne hung up.  Allyne had caught the allusion to the huge andirons, and would stay at the beach house till he called back.  

He made the call from a pay phone at the library.  He went there to pick up the Pournelle book and check other references.  Having informed Doll of the change of plan and asking her to wait for his return, he was at the library in a few minutes, carrying a Sidekick disk with room for several pages of notes.  Rather than leave a trace by checking out books, he found the books himself in the stacks, used one of the library's PC's to make the notes he needed, and took the notes out on his own disks.  Soon he had collected the following notes:


A STEP FARTHER OUT

(Jerry Pournelle)

IBSN 0 491 02941 I

W. H. ALLEN, London 1980


Formulae and notes:


centrifugal acceleration: a = w 2R

w is rotational speed in radians/sec (ie rpm x 2*/60 sec/min)

R is radius in centimeters

a is centrifugal `force' in dynes (centimeter 2/sec 2) 


Figure 22: Travel times and distances at one `g' acceleration.                

TIME IN   DELTA V 

     DISTANCE                               HOURS       KM/SEC

300,000km (Earth to moon)              3.5               122

1 AU *   (Earth to Mars or Venus)      68             2,421

3 AU    (Earth to asteroid)                119             4,194

9 AU    (Earth to Jupiter or Saturn)  206            7,265

50AU    (Earth to Pluto)                    485           17,123


* (1 AU = 150,000,000 km)



Fig. 23 How far can I go at acceleration of one gravity?


BOOST             VELOCITY           DISTANCE

1 hour                         35                     63,500 km

1 day                         650                       1/4  AU

1 week                    5,930                        12   AU

1 month              25,000                        220   AU

1 year                300,000 (C) *            1/2   light yr


* (You would, except for relativity. GCS)





Equation 1, page 227


T=(M0 - M1) * Ve/t

T  is thrust in pounds, dynes or newtons

M0 is mass at start of journey

M1 is mass at end of journey (ie M0 less fuel burnt)

Ve is exhaust velocity of propellant 

t  is time of the burn  


____________________________________ 


Equation 2, page 228


Specific Impulse, Isp = Ve/g

Isp is specific impulse (seconds)

Ve  is exhaust velocity of propellant

g   is acceleration of gravity in ft or cm or m /sec 2


____________________________________ 


Equation 3, page 228   

Delta v = Ve loge(M0/M1)

TABLE ONE 

Best Delta v for chemical rockets

Isp = 400   Ve = 3.9 km/s

Mass Ratio            % Fuel        Delta v (km/s)

2                              50            2.7

4                              75            5.1

5                              80            6.3

10                            90            9.0

20                            95          11.6


____________________________________ 


TABLE TWO, page 233


Delta v for NERVA Ships (Km/s)

Mass ratio

-------------------------------------------------------

Isp                  2                  4                       5

850              5.8              11.5            13.5

1200            8.2              17.1            19.7



On his way to the telephone be saw a copy of Brainstorms by Daniel C. Dennett.  Flipping through the table of contents he saw that the title of section 11, in Part III was called:  "Why You Can't Make a Computer that Feels Pain".  I had no time to read it so he decided to buy a copy, in paperback of course, from Stacy's on University Avenue.

Allyne answered immediately.  "Alo. *Quien habla?  El Senor no esta aqui.  Ha ido a pescar un gran pescado." *  She had put on a very good Mexican peon's drawling accent.

"Habla el Pescado Grande.  Ya he cogido El Senor.  Vente a comerle conmigo hoy tarde.  *No?" ** replied Georg in the same accent.  Then he continued "I don't think they could have traced your number and tapped your phone there in this amount of time, unless it's Feds on this case."

"I think it was safe.  I called Emmette's number which has call forwarding for your number.  I'm calling from a pay phone at the Ventana Lodge, across from Napenthe.  Emmette and I walked up here after breakfast.  We just got back here in time for your call.  That should screw them up," Allyne explained.

"Nonetheless, it's best not to discuss anything important on the telephone.  Fortunately, I have nothing important to report, anyway." `Only that Doll was the one I screwed,' he thought, ruefully.  "What are your plans?" Georg asked.  "When will you have to return?" he continued.

"I told them I was taking a long ski weekend; they'll not expect me before Wednesday, maybe Thursday if I do some work from a remote terminal so they think I'm working from home."

"I'll set up a line with call forwarding to a port on the Golem.  If you call that number, anyone trying to backtrack won't get any further than that. I'll also arrange to trace him instead, `hoist him by his own petard'". 

"That would be very painful, wouldn't it," she asked?

Georg had momentarily forgotten Allyne's conviction that Shakespeare was actually a Mohican medicine man, one "Lance Brandisher", whose stories had been badly translated, and Bowdlerized, into Elizabethan English from the original oral Algonquin-Wakashan versions, by one Edward de Vere, the 13th Earl of Something or Other.  This theory was hard to prove, or disprove, as the Mohicans had not achieved a written language before their total extinction.  Allyne maintained that their extinction was brought about to cover up the traces of this dastardly theft of their cultural treasure.

"Yes, I believe it would," said Georg.  "Please give Tosh his workout this evening before the sunset gun.  He needs pacing for about a mile.  Stop him once, but not to urinate, and watch out for rana pippins." ***

"Shall I feed him small bites or large ones", Allyne checked for seven or eight bits per byte.

"The bigger, the better," replied Georg.

"Siempre y verdaderamente," Allyne said and hung up. 

____________________________________

* "Hello.  Who is speaking?  The Master is not here.  He's gone to catch a big fish."

** "This is the Big Fish speaking.  I have already caught the Master.  You come along to eat him with me this evening.  Okay?"

*** "Connect the Toshiba to the telephone this evening.  (The sunset `gun' is a hint of the encryption keyword).  Set the modem to 2400 baud (the closest standard setting to 5280ft * 12in/ mile/ 30in/ pace, which = 2112), one stop bit, and no "pee" (ie no parity). Use Kermit protocol."


At home, he prepared to transmit the telephone number he had promised to Allyne.  He selected the stop watch mode of his Seiko and started the timer.  Moving to the PC he started Carbon Copy, set it up, using a script file,  to transmit a file to the beach house at 6:12 pm (1812 hours) .



Passing by Stacy's on his way back to Portola Valley, Georg picked up the copy of Brainstorms and, on impulse, The Society of Mind by Marvin Minsky, exactly.  Then, he saved a 227 byte file (the odd length selected to give no clue that it was mostly rubbish) from memory to disk with DEBUG.COM.  Just to make sure that nothing useful could be recovered, he encrypted the rubbish file using LOCK.COM and a 20 byte keyword, also rubbish, which he didn't bother to remember or write down.  

To randomize the position of the telephone number in the transmitted file, he stopped his Seiko without looking at it and checked the hundredths counter, which read `21'.  He calculated 227*21/60 = 77, using Sidekick's calculator, and overwrote the telephone number for Allyne to call to reach Golem, beginning with the 77th byte of the file.  He encrypted the entire file, including the embedded telephone number, with the keyword "1812 Symphony".  Finally, he deleted all the source files with DELZ.COM, which not only stopped the files from being read normally, via the disk directory, but also overwrote the disk area where the files had resided with a copy of itself, making them impossible to recover even if the disk were read by a track editing program.

His encryption might not stop a determined and sophisticated adversary but it would slow them down, even if they had also intercepted his earlier voice call and knew something about what to expect.  He was fairly sure Allyne would guess the keyword, prompted by the odd choice of the time (1812h, in military style) for what she would recognize as an automatically timed call, and helped by his reference to `sunset gun' (cannon), on the phone.  Anyone else would almost certainly assume they had enough foresight to agree on keywords in advance and not bother to look for such obscure clues.

Georg did not know if PacBell's call forwarding feature would block a trace back to the originating number, so he had previously planned his own call forwarding scheme using Carbon Copy.  When Allyne called his PC (PeeCee), PeeCee would use Laplink to send a copy of UNLOCK.COM followed by the encrypted object code of another Carbon Copy with a different serial number, LOCK.COM and a batch program which would set up the communications link with the Tosh functioning as a remote terminal attached to PeeCee.  All Allyne had to do was use the password with UNLOCK.COM to all decrypt the others.  

PeeCee would relay communications between her and Golem employing a different, unlisted, line to call Golem.  Anyone trying to trace the call to Golem would only be able to tell that the call originated from an unlisted number, somewhere in Georg's exchange area.

He piped all the communications to and from Allyne through LOCK.COM and UNLOCK.COM so that everything on that channel would be encrypted.  This masked the fact that the messages on both lines were the same, giving away that they were being relayed.

All this took much longer than he expected, as he found Carbon Copy was not set up to operate on two separate lines simultaneously.  He just made the 1812 hours deadline with seconds to spare.

The next hour was taken up in composing a summary of recent events (including the fracas at the Think Tank), which he encrypted with Borland's Superkey,  and transmitted to BeeBee's email box.  Superkey used a DES algorithm approved by the government for commercial use, and was used by many defense contractors.  He included an invoice for car rental on the Big Sur trip, the docking charges for the Aleph One in Half Moon Bay, and (after a pause) $5000 for a day's rental of the yatch.  That would test BeeBee’s glib assurances about `costs up to 2 million dollars', at the (possible) cost of demolishing the myth that Aleph One was absolutely useless.

This chore completed, he constructed a sandwich from a baguette of ready-to-bake garlic bread which Doll kept in the freezer, cheese and salami which he carried back to the office with a quart of fortified, half fat milk and a glass.  Between bites, he dug a Touchbase Systems Worldport 2400 modem out of his briefcase, attached it to COM1 of the old IBM XT he had kept stashed in the garage as a spare, plugged the machine into the power socket and a cable with RJ11 connect-ors between the modem and the phone socket in the wall, brought Procomm up and started checking his own email boxes.  

On BIX, he found a message from his contact in Edinburgh, one M. McDonald, including several questions and the source listing of his Prolog program for understanding natural language text.  McDonald said the program was accurate about 99% of the time.   

The program was written in `standard' Prolog * with the `DEC-10', or `Edinburgh' extensions.  Georg had an Arity, Version 4, Interpreter and the Turbo Prolog Ver. 1 compiler.  It would probably run on Arity but not on Turbo without a lot of changes.  

He scanned the program briefly to understand the basic logic.  The method was to input text, eg a short story or newspaper article, and then type in questions in English about what happened in the story.  Where the text involved simple declarative sentences with a subject, object and a predicate it did very well, except when pronouns like `I', `you', and `they' appeared.  

It seemed to Georg that, at most, a simple fix was required.  Allyne could do it in a day or so.  People, even small children, did not have any trouble with this.  It would require a switch in memory to keep track of who was talking, or perhaps a set of pointers to a list containing the names of the parties.  If `A' is speaking the `I' pointer points to `A', the `you' pointer points to `B'.  If the context changed, ie `B' started to speak, the pointers were switched, so that the `I' pointer pointed to `B' and the `you' pointer to `A'.  The `they' pointer still points to the list of all the others. . . until one of them starts to speak.  `Well it could get slightly complicated,' he thought, `but I don't see any serious blocks in it.'      

Leaving the empirical testing of these ideas to Allyne when she returned, Georg took up Dennet's Brainstorms, turning directly to the section on `Why You Can't Make a Computer that Feels Pain'.  The overall sense of this work seemed to be that, as there is no generally accepted definition of what `pain' is, it is impossible to make a computer (which would be generally accepted) to feel it.  In Georg's mind, this reasoning should apply doubly to `fear of pain', but the logic was not very satisfying.  Matters seemed to depend on the observers more than on the "feelers of pain".

From somewhere in the background of his thoughts, a realization swam into his consciousness.  He had being trying to solve the wrong problem with McDonald's program.  The `I' he was interested in was the `I' of the computer, not the `I' of the characters in the narrative.  Would the `I' he was looking for be tied to the hardware, or could it be a different `I' for each program loaded into the computer?  

That's what the whole thing came down to really.  If `I's' could be transferred from one computer to another by running the same program on the other computer, then Allyne's fears might be justified.  It would also require that her brain was just another type of computer, certainly not a Von Neumann machine, but perhaps a Turing machine of some type and subject to the same laws.  If `I's' can't be transferred like this, at least that avenue to immortality would be closed forever.  

How's that for a moral dilemma?  Prove that it can be done and sacrifice his friend to a horrible fate, prove it can't be and close off a chance of immortality for all homo sapien sapiens in the Universe.  Heaven and Hell seemed to be irrevocably linked.  You can't have one without the other.  He consoled himself with the thought that it was not actually his responsibility.  He could not change the outcome, only discover the truth of the matter. . . assuming a hell of a lot more luck than he had been having.

He scanned McDonald's questions more closely:

`Where is the SELF located?  Is it in the predicate where the patterns stored in the database (Facts) are matched to those derived from the Goals?

`Is it a piece of code, or a process distributed over the program?

`If distributed, could it be incorporated in several programs in a multiprogamable machine?  In a multiprocessing machine?  In several machines? In a local area network?  Wide area network?

`Some expert systems can explain the reasoning processes they used to arrive at the Goals they are given.  It would seem that they have unique, private knowledge, inside themselves.  Does this mean that they are self aware?  If the same program is given the same Facts and the same Goals, but run on a different machine, it will give the same explanation.  But is it the same SELF, or just like two different experts with exactly the same training and experience and exactly the same facts who think about the same problem in the same way?

`Does the SELF exist while the program isn't running?  Do the different runs of the program give rise to different SELVES or are they "re-ensilications" of the same SELF?'

Georg thought the questions were related more to consciousness, that little place between the eyes that was accessible to introspection, than 

SELF.  Most likely, consciousness was located where the pattern matching was done, the place where his chicks had compared their inherited image of a snake to the wiggling stick projected by their eyes, got a match and triggered the signals for `snake attack!'.  

SELF, to Georg, was the seat of uniqueness, that thing which needed to be protected from harm, or if not, risked only for the highest cause.  It was the self in `self preservation'.  It is true that one can be conscious of self preservation, but a lot of activity was guided by it without even a whiff of conscious thought.  In fact conscious thought was sometimes inimical to self preservation.  Many reflexes, perhaps all of them, have evolved because they are the first line of defense of SELF.  

He recalled Aldous Huxley's thesis in Doors of Perception and Heaven and Hell.  His position was that the extravagant visions seen under LSD were true perceptions of nature, allowed to come into conscious contemplation only under the influence of the drug.  He reasoned that evolution had led to an inhibitory mechanism to prevent attention from being distracted from its primary role, of keeping the organism alive, by these marvelous coruscations. (Perhaps the original Puritan Ethic).  LSD was supposed to have disabled the inhibiting mechanism.  

Georg was not entirely uncritical of the idea.  Evolution had provided several other mechanisms to enhance self preservation, eg pain and the memory of pain, a severe aversion, to the point of nausea, to the smell of rotten foods, excretion etc.  It should have been more consistent to have made it painful or `stinking to the thoughts' to contemplate the dew on the rose petal too closely.  In such cases the conscious mind was allowed to be aware of the sensory data, but given a strong push to react in a way which usually led to safety.  

He felt it probably had more to do with the economics of providing the machinery for processing visual data.  Analogous cases were providing telescopic lenses and wide band retinas for the eyes.  Such things, in the last 100 years, have been provided as artifacts, such as optical and radio telescopes and LSD for that matter.

Georg could not see that this line of speculation was leading to anything profitable, so in search of new inspiration the took up the tome The Society of Mind which he had bought earlier in the day.  He first took the precaution to set up his brain wave analyzer on the spare XT, to leave PeeCee free for Allyne, and put on the sensors, just in case he fell asleep reading the book.

He studied the Table of Contents (with some difficulty with the terminology), mentally posed questions for which he would seek the answers in each chapter.  Then he located the topic paragraph of each chapter to refine his impression of what the chapter was about.  Before actually reading a chapter, an examination of the topic sentence of each paragraph formed the basis of a strategy: which paragraphs to read carefully, which to skim, and which to skip entirely.  Then he read the 320 page book in about an hour, mentally marking certain sections to review more carefully, in the morning, with a clear head.

Georg's sleep was fitful, and he came fully awake long enough to change the signal from the computer to a less strident one.  Apparently this tactic was successful as he was able to control the progress of the next dream.  In it he was testing a computer program he had written, in Prolog, similar to the one M. McDonald had sent him.  The task he had set was to learn English.  He had organized the program as many small modules, more or less modeled after the `agencies' of Minsky's book.

 

 

CHAPTER V

He seemed to be able to wake and return to sleep and pick up the dream where he left off. The program failed because it couldn't interpret pronouns correctly and thus deduce the context of the material, that is who was "you" and who was "I". He surmised the reason for the problem was that the program had no "ego", ie no concept of self-identity, and so couldn't conceive of other selves, either. (It occured to him that this particular program had already achieved Nirvana, or more likely, had never left it.) In lucid moments Georg thought of strategies to incorporate a sense of "selfhood" into the program, and then returned to the dreamscape to incorporate the fixes. Each time some vagueness prevented him from getting the program to work properly. At last he was well and truly awakened, by the telephone.

It was Allyne from Big Sur. She and Emmette had made plans to return in a rented car as far as Monterey Airport and then take a plane to San Jose. 

After a solitary breakfast of bran flakes and coffee (he missed Doll and her ministrations) he carefully reread Chapter 4, The Self, of Minsky's The Society of Mind, over his second cup of coffee. Minsky's begging off a definition, and even suggesting that seeking one might be dangerous, led Georg to the idea that SELF can may only be defined empirically: It is that which persists, is constant, in a person's behavior which makes him the same today as he was yesterday. The definition is necessarily an operational definition, based on what happens rather than by what is. It cannot be located in any particular place, but is an epiphenomenon, a by-product of what goes on. Going back to the PC, he listed the computer's components by their persistence, the long lasting ones first:

 

 

HARDWARE

1) cabinet (with power supply, mounting hardware etc) 

2) motherboard 

3) CPU, support chips (including firmware) and peripherals on the mother board

4) plug in cards

5) disk drives and other storage devices

6) monitors, modems and other accessories

SOFTWARE

7) Operating System Software 

8) Utilities

9) Shells and environments, (eg GEM, Desqview, Windows)

10) Application software (mainlines)

11) Application software (overlays)

12) TSR's (Terminate and Stay Resident programs)

13) Data

On inspection of this list he was struck by the fact that the most persistent elements were hardware, whereas the elements which had the most influence on behavior (what the machine actually did, as opposed to what it looked like) were software, all from the ephemeral end of the list. 

Georg composed an email letter to the McDonald in Edinburgh summarizing his ideas about the "self" problem in understanding language, and suggesting they collaborate to solve it in the Edinburgh program. The response from Edinburgh (delivered over the telephone by a secretary) was to invite him to an artificial intelligence conference in London, to which McDonald was already enroute, to meet with him and discuss the problem.

The two women returned about 3:00 pm. George had decided that he wasn't really jealous, and to take the tolerant view if they are having an affair. This is especially convenient because he needed to talk to Emmette about the dream which he was sure had some kind of hidden message about the project. 

Emmette was not very encouraging. Apparently she was more neurosurgeon than psychiatrist when it came to dreams. Her interpretation of the dream was that he dreamed the whole sequence including the waking, returning to sleep etc etc. She thought the dream was an elaboration of a trace memory of some fleeting thought he had during the preceding day or so. Perhaps he could remember the thought behind the dream if he tried. 

She suggested hypnosis to relax his mind so the idea could be recalled using free association. He had been hypnotized before and was a good subject. He did, in fact, recall ruminating on the question of identity of the clone-brain, and wondering if the second law of thermodynamics did not forbid there being an exact duplicate of any person, even a clone or so-called identical twin. Georg was familiar with and used thermodynamic principles in his work but did not consider himself a philosopher, or able to understand the deeply philosophical implications of the second law. He was relieved when these musings were cut off by the only fish he caught that day. 

Apparently his subconscious was not willing to leave it at that and recalled that subject in a distorted (and Emmette insisted probably stupid) way to ruin his sleep. Georg was not so sure the dream was either stupid or off the point. He was not sure it dealt with the Think Tank project. However, it could be a pointer to the solution of an important research problem or possibly both.

Georg determined to get more mileage out of Emmette's participation in the investigation by posing her a set of written questions, to which she could supply the answers out of her knowledge or search them out in the literature. 

These were:

'1) What work has been done in supplying the stimuli needed for proper development of an organism's nervous system by supplying the appropriate nerve signals artificially, rather than through the natural senses?

2) In your opinion, or that of reputable workers in molecular biology and microelectronics, is it, or could it soon be, possible to record the life-book of a human (all the stimuli, ie inputs to the brain) and play them back along the nerve pathways so that it is "fooled" into believing that it is re-living the original life, in real time?

3) If the answer to 2) is “no”, is there any theoretical barrier to such a thing ever being done?' 

The questions were left in Emmette's Compuserve email box, from San Francisco airport on his way to London. Needing something to read on the 10 hour flight to London he picked up a book on the airport about dreams. He finished it before the stewardesses got around to serving lunch, ate the lunch, fell asleep and dreamed again, more or less the same dream he had before. 

This time, he did not awake and doze again but proceeded to fix the program bugs in the context of the dream itself. The solution proved to be deceptively simple, but rather daring. He deleted the entire program from the computer's memory, and excised the computer's operating system as well. Then he entered a fragment of code which merely performed a "bootstrap", ie read his program from disk into memory. (This obviously would work only in a dream as the functions normally performed by the operating system would be missing.) 

After waking, standing in line for the restroom, Georg was struck by one quaint feature of the dream. He had called the bootstrap fragment: `George' (with a final `e'). Georg got two associations on this. One, it suggested that the "ego" was contingent on having a 'personal, proper name'. Emmette would have fun with this, when he told her, a clear case of `'e' envy’. The other, a little more recondite, was: in that he was on his way to England, where one of the most popular, early operating systems was called "George", which, taking the place of an operating system, could 'logically' be called "George". 

Shaved, washed and derumpled, in his seat over breakfast, he rechecked his book Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Onierocriticism but Never Dreamed You Would Find Out. It still didn't seem to have anything useful to him.

Georg arrived at Imperial College that morning after a fifteen minute stop at his hotel, the Brown's and St. George, to drop off his bag and make sure a room was kept for him. He was greeted by Mungo McDonald at the entrance to the Physics, Mathematics and Computer Science Building where the conference was being held. Mungo stood in a baggy outfit: coat, pants, shirt and tie, each of a different variety of tweed, and looking like he had slept the night in them all, all night.

This was not far from the truth as Mungo was one of those rare people who, like Margaret Thatcher, need only four hours sleep per night. He had not actually been to bed but had taken advantage of the Imperial College facilities to tap all the databases and Wide Area Networks (WAN's) of the Western World checking progress in artificial intelligence, especially under-standing natural language and the SELF problem. Incidentally, he checked for citations on the work of Georg Cantor Smith, BS Physics and MSEE without success as Georg was an engineer and entrepreneur rather than a scientist: So, was not required to publish to advance his career. In fact, Georg's fellow shareholders would have taken a dim view of his publishing anything of technical interest about the work he engaged in. 

Rising from the couch in the anteroom of the computer center at 7:00 a.m. had given him just time to breakfast at McDonald's (in which he took a somewhat proprietary interest) on Kensington High Street before meeting Georg on the steps of the Computer Center. 

Mungo explained that there was no urgency as the subject they were interested in would be presented on the following afternoon in a paper called The Role of Context and Roles in Context - A Study of the Man-Machine Interface, (RCRCSMMI, to the initiated) They agreed to coffee in the cafeteria while Mungo briefed Georg on what to expect, before joining the main conference. Mungo explained that he had spent the night on the WAN's, without finding anything about the SELF problem, as they called it, or even realized there was one. Mungo asked Georg how he had come across it in the first place. 

Embarrassed to say it had appeared in a dream, he took the line that he was doing research with a group of associates (leaving Mungo to assume that it might be the beginning of the next "Apple Computers" start-up in Silicon Valley) where the problem had cropped up. Mungo seemed to accept this so readily that Georg briefly considered if it might actually be possible to start a company (or, better, an industry) to exploit the idea, whatever it turned out to be. In one sense, this was not idle speculation, as Georg's financial independence and relaxed life style was possible because he had started several such companies and took them public before they got too big to manage personally or he lost interest in the problem (which they were founded to solve) once it was solved, whichever came first.

He soon dismissed this idea. All he had so far was a cover story for his (secret) investigation of Tity. What he expected to find, or find out, was not clear. He had a moment of panic. He had come to London on an impulse not even firm enough to be called a hunch. His associates were undependable (at least morally), and at least one was of dubious mental stability. As soon as these thoughts came into his mind he had such a strong pang of guilt that he forgot the panic. Why shouldn't he spend some days off in London, especially on such an interesting project? Even if conceived, somewhat, as a cover, it might turn out to have value in and of itself. Mungo seemed to think it had possibilities. He tried to remember if he had any kind of critical judgment when he was a grad student like Mungo. He couldn't remember that he had had, which was not reassuring. 

Meanwhile, Mungo had been going on about some kind of plan to extend the search for people doing this kind of research, checking with MIT, Carnegie Tech., (Georg can do Stanford when he goes back to Palo Alto) some university in the south of France, apparently letting everybody assume that Imperial College was the interested party. Mungo evidently assumed that Georg had enough clout in university circles to swing this with Imperial College. Georg hedged by suggesting they find out if there was any related work going on at the Imperial College. Mungo accepted this as a brilliant suggestion, rather than being astounded that Georg didn't know the answer already. 

Mungo reviewed the printed program of the conference in 2-1/2 seconds, and commented "Outside of RC squared SM squared I, nothing like it in here. We should split up and open up contacts with as many people as possible. If they are working along these lines, they haven't got far enough to publish. They may be first looking for collaborators. Edinburgh might come along, if your budget doesn't extend to this maybe we can find somebody else we could put together with them." Mungo shot a quick glance at Georg, seemingly checking his reaction to this. 

Georg was convinced that Mungo had determined to work on the SELF problem with his support or without it. `I wonder how he would react if he knew this is basically a ricochet from a couple of dreams I had, probably the after-effects of too much cheddar in my the salami sandwich,' thought Georg.

The morning passed in nearly unintelligible and very boring presentations on AI and Expert Systems problems and somewhat fewer solutions. Georg chatted, during the breaks, with a half dozen assorted research assistants and associate professors. None of the people who gave the presentations appeared on the floor. None were of any interest to Georg. None questioned him closely enough to risk blowing his cover, or to discover that he hardly had one. 

Georg began to regret the whole trip. There had been no progress or prospect of any. Only the dream on the plane might have helped, and he could have dreamed just as well at home in his bed. Georg wonders if he should level with Mungo. He realized the tale would seem pretty stupid to anyone who had not been in at the beginning. Mungo might walk away in disgust. Another kooky American, more specifically, from California - land of the nuts and the fruits, wasting honest people's time. He needed desperately to recap the situation with someone with a fresh point of view. It all seemed muddled, nothing certain, no way to separate the essentials from the irrelevances and not even great urgency… to give it excitement. 

What a dull book this would this all make, if I wrote one just like it happened. To cap everything he couldn't find Mungo at lunch time, until at last, at the end of a long corridor, Mungo sat hunched over a terminal in a tiny office, with such a air of concentration that Georg decided not to interrupt him.

He found the student's cafeteria again, crowded with students. He was shocked at how young they all looked no one over 18, except a couple of 25 year old punk types behind the steam tables. He must stand out like. . .

Ah! Here is Mungo, coming through the line, carrying a hamburger with an fried egg on top, on a bed of French fries. In his other hand he carried the hugest mug of the blackest ale Georg had ever seen. Mungo came directly to Georg's table; practically dropped the tray on it, took a long drag of ale and spoke with no preliminaries. 

"I knocked up the Frenchies", he announced. 

"All of them" Georg snapped? 

Mungo retorted "No. Just a couple at the Sorbonne, eh, University of Paris, in the Philosophy Department. I got the idea from Sartre, or maybe Descartes. Actually it was from a friend of mine in Nice who got it from one or the other of them."

Georg, quizzically, "No way I'm following you".

Mungo, glancing behind him, "Ach, you know, `I think, therefore I am '." "I checked a couple of databases, got the names of the two leading professors of existentialist philosophy, both turned out to be at the Sorbonne. I set up a conference call, I'm afraid I had to use your name, they weren't about to talk to a mere grad student." 

"You impersonated me?, Georg demanded.

"No, not precisely. I only said I was your Executive Secretary. . . They may have gotten the impression that you are Professor Emeritus of AI at Stanford University. Of course I insisted on speaking in my not-so-good French. It's more heavily accented than my Scottish". 

"I see." said Georg, trying not to break up, "So what happened then? 

"Not a lot, so far. But, l left them arguing fiercely, over the limits of the scientific-experimental method, and its pre-eminence over philosophical speculation in the manner of Plato, as best I could gather." 

"What got them going like that, did you start the argument", mused Georg.

"No. I just asked if they had heard of an experimental proof of `I think, therefore I am', or if it was still only ‘axiomatic’," replied Mungo with an air of mischief. 

"What'd the French ever do to you" inquired Georg.

"Not a lot, since Mary Queen of Scots," commented Mungo, taking the `you' in the question to refer to Scots en masse rather than solely himself. (A baby angel flew over, crying in frustration over having an eternity to not to be able to learn ‘Angleise’.)

"Listen," said Georg, deciding to open up at least a little to Mungo, "I had a strange dream while flying over the Atlantic. Maybe something to do with our problem. I was trying debug a Prolog program (not yours, but similar) to understand natural language."

"You mean speech recognition" interrupted Mungo.

"No, keyed-in or OCR'ed text from scanner input. The problem was to understand the meaning of the input, and respond in context," clarified Georg.

"Did the dream relate to anything you are involved in at the moment, a real program, or was it completely imaginary" Mungo asked.

"It's like some research I'm doing, but there is no program as yet." Responded Georg, adding "I think it's got to do with the problem that we've been talking about, I'd like to get your reaction."

Mungo said, "I don't see the connection, is there more to the dream."

"I'm coming on to that. The program didn't work because it didn't understand pronouns like "you", "I" "it", etc. In the dream I fixed the program by excising the operating system and using a bootstrap to load the application program." 

"That wouldn't work," Mungo drawled.

"Yeah, I know. But in the dream I had the feeling that was the right solution, in principle at least. Oh! the name of the bootstrap loader was `George'. . .with an `e' on the end." 

"That's the name of an old operating system that ICL used to use," reminisced Mungo. "It's also the name of the last 47 Sassenach Kings and the patron Saint of England, you know, the one who slew the Dragon." 

"Right", said Georg, "But what in hell does that tell us, or what my dreaming mean to say to me awake, if anything. Or, this dream thing could be just a red herring." 

Georg pondered and Mungo returned with, "I've another thought, with an `e', `George' is a proper name. Adding something with a proper name was necessary to get the program to understand the concept of `I' and `you'. The property "proper" is very strong here, `Georg' is not really, eh. . . properly a proper name without the terminal `e'". Mungo continued the dream theme. 

"You should meet my friend Emmette, the amateur psychiatrist. She says dreams exist mostly to provide a source of rotten puns," said Georg.

Mungo broke in eagerly, "I see another meaning here, the SELF essence (Freud would have called it `ego') and you called it `George' had to be there first and to be in direct contact with the rest of the understanding program for the whole thing to work. . . The old operating system is an inhibiting accretion and has to be dumped. Realistically though, it can't work though without the services the operating system provides. It couldn't do any input/output. It would be completely isolated from the outside world."

Georg suppressed a shiver as Mungo's peroration recalled Allyne's crushing feelings of isolation. "Of course the application program could be set up to do its own I/O, or anything else it needs for that matter. After all, early computers had no operating systems. Each program had to do everything for itself. That couldn't be what it's trying to say, that the system has to be isolated from the outside to work. Anyway, we have about 5 billion counter examples at last count."

Mungo, with rising excitement, "Back to the part about the bootstrap loader `George' being in direct contact with the application, maybe it has to be there first to serve as a tabla rasa on which to erect the application. In other words, the application has to evolve from it as, Ha!, as in evolution, cum Darwin. In order to understand language you have to start with an essential self-ness, which a priori understands or has a sense of self, and builds the understanding of the rest of language onto it. . . I'd have to clean that up a bit for publication or NO one could understand the language," chuckled Mungo. 

"I didn't follow your reasoning completely; it sounds something like `ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny', which it doesn't... really. But, I think I can accept it as an hypothesis, a fundamental sense of separate identity is essential for understanding human lang-uages. Computers can understand computer lang-uages and behave in accordance with what we tell them to do in them. They are best at understanding procedural languages like FORTRAN and COBOL. They can do whatever they are told but have no kind of understanding of why, to whom, or by whom the things are being done. No one would mistake this kind of thinking for a human's thinking. It couldn't pass the Turing test."

Mungo broke in, "In Prolog, in its purist `Edinburgh' dialects, it is almost totally declarative rather than procedural." 

Georg came back quickly, "Even with straight `single malt' Prolog (Georg bowed slightly to acknowledge Mungo's appreciation of the allusion) a lot of declarations are used for their procedural side effects. I doubt if you can have a useful language without any procedural elements. . . But, that's not my point. It seems to me that humanity, or at least human language is tied to identity. I mean the existence of separate entities with independent existences, one of which, the self, is the most important. It is the matrix on which all the others are engraved." 

"I think I am many, therefore I am one-uvem, yclept `Human'," mused Mungo.

"Somewhere in there," Georg paused and checked the time on the wall clock, "I also think that we have blown the whole afternoon. It is after four and the last presentation has already started," expounded Georg. Mungo did not seem to be concerned. 

"I wonder if those two Frenchies are still at it," Mungo smiled. 

"How did you leave it with them?" asked Georg.

"They probably think I'm still on the line, afraid to interrupt. I told them you would be in London tonight and would like to talk to them. If you would rather not I will call and say your plane was delayed, your trip was canceled or whatever," Mungo cocked an eyebrow, awaiting a response.

"No, no that's great. I'll talk to them. Do they know what number to call?"

"No, but I said I'd leave your number in their email boxes. You are invited to dinner at the house of Professor Sir Harold Smyth-Hawkings (he's the Head of AI here), along with some other visiting VIP's. Here is the invitation. If you mean to accept, I'll leave that number for the Frogs. One of them is a Frogette, literally. She is a Baroness under the old order." 

Mungo smiled at Georg's astonishment and said, "l don't run in these circles, I got it all out of the database". 

"I'm jetlagged but not paralyzed. Do you think it will advance the cause if I go to the dinner?" asked Georg.

"If I had an invitation I would go, jetlag or no. It's hard to be sure. We dinna ken what we are looking for, who's to say where we might find it."

"Okay, I'll go, if you will promise to make some notes of our discussions of this afternoon, tonight, while the memory is still fresh", said Georg, accepting the invitation proffered by Mungo. 

Georg continued, "But there is one last thing. Why has Edinburgh University, and you in particular gone to so much trouble for me? This goes far beyond what is expected of one researcher to another, and I'm not even, as you know, connected with the academic community… at this time."

"I am not so sure of the answer, but I will tell you what I ken. When I picked up your email letter asking for suggestions on how `self' could be incorporated into my Prolog program, I didn't understand what you were on about. I asked my tutor, Dr Michael MacMichaels, (triple Ms) for help. He couldn't, or didn't, answer my questions but seemed very intrigued. He asked what I knew about you. I said nothing beyond what was in your letter. . . which he read. He said he might know someone who knew you.” 

"While I was still there he called Ms Allen-dash-Somebody in California. The lady had gone off to the mountains somewhere for a day or two, but the operator passed him on to Ms Allen-et cetera's guvnor at Think Tank Institute. That worthy knew your reputation and although your type of work doesn't usually get published, he knew you as a brilliant engineer and business man. He said you were not working on classified projects now and promised to have Ms Allen-So-and-so call back when she returned to civilization. M-to-the-third told me to invite here, to give you my assistance and any information you asked for if I had it or get it for you if I didn't. How am I doing?"

"Great. Did he ask you to find out anything in particular?" asked Georg.

"No, but I got the impression that you were not on any sort of secret mission... Are you?"

Georg paused before answering. "No. Nothing really secret. There are a couple of things I'd rather not talk about, but only because it would embarrass me if some of my suspicions turned out to be ridiculous. Can you live with that? I promise I'll tell everything as soon as I am reasonably sure of it."

"Of course. I just asked because I want to respect any obligations you have. Oh, I wouldn't want to be involved in any C. I. A. operation or anything like that". The eyebrow was cocked again. 

"I promise I know of no interest on the part of any government in what I'm doing." Georg smiled. "Of course, any C. I. A. man worth his salt would say that, wouldn't he? Well, you will just have to decide whether to trust me."

"That I will. I'm too curious to back out now. Of course any good MI-5 counter intelligence man would have to say that too, wouldn't he?" Mungo grinned at turning the tables so neatly. He added mildly, "What could interest any government in these musings of academia."

"Right" Georg responded slowly, rising to his feet. "Old Mr Jetlag is calling me. I shall risk a short nap before going to dinner. You know how to get me if you need me?" On a nod from Mungo, he left the room.

Georg, despite his fatigue, decided to walk through Kensington Gardens and Hyde Park to Brown's and St. George Hotel to clear his head and review his thoughts. If he could simplify the problem, perhaps he could dream a solution, or at least a suggestion of one. 

The walk through the park was very depressing. In mid-October the worst hurricane in human recall had flattened hundreds of trees in the park, making certain pathways impassable. Georg picked his way along the peripheral streets, head down, concentrating fully on Mungo's revelations. 

Obviously Miss Allen-so-and-so was Allyne Rodgers. Mungo had mistook it for a double-barreled name. Either Mungo was reporting the truth as he knew it or he was a hell of a good actor. The little trap Georg had set about the difference between Prolog and COBOL hadn't caught him out. Didn't prove conclusively that he was authentic either. The byplay about the CIA and MI5 was more convincing. If Mungo had any British intelligence connections he would certainly have known already that Georg was not CIA and probably that he was not ex-KGB. So almost certainly Mungo was exactly who he said he was.

Now, who the hell was Allyne, and what was she? How did she know Michael MacMichaels (M cubed)? And what a ridiculous cover name that was! And why does identity, in every sense, mean so much in this case. Why am I thinking like Sam Spade. On a case. Stupid. Now wait, I didn't invent the mystery. I just found it, there in Think Tank's computer. 

He cast his mind back to what Allyne had told him as they fled the Think Tank's premises following the intrusion into Golem's secret back-passages. The outline of the the Think Tank project was there in the database protected by an idiotic password, the date of John Kennedy's assassination: 63-11-22. Wait a minute, dammit! That way of writing dates is an International Standards Organization standard for data processing. Like a lot of standards (especially international ones) it is not used in most countries, least of all in the U.S. So, whoever entered that file and assigned the password was a bit pedantic, and, most likely, a foreigner who has a special reason to remember the day of John Kennedy's death. 

George tried to recall how they had come up with the password. He had suggested trying for birthdays as a lot of naive people pick them because they are easy to remember and are (falsely) assumed to be inaccessible to outsiders. Allyne knew that the password routines worked on a `time out' principle rather than throwing you out after some number of tries. Allyne also knew or thought she knew there was no provision for the machine to call security if an illegal password were entered. They could work the "ten billion names of god" technique, from Arthur C. Clark's famous story.

On about the five thousandth try they had it. That meant they started with dates 5000 days before November 22, 1963, ie dates in 1950. Georg recalled that he chose 1950 as the starting point because no one around the Think Tank was likely to be over 37, so their, and their wives' and children's birthdays and their anniversaries would be caught in the net. 

`Now, how did the dates get into ISO form?'

`Ah, Allyne had objected to typing in thousands of dates and had used a pipe and a small utility program which took in Julian date and output a date in conventional form, looking just like they came from the console keyboard. Allyne didn't know or overlooked the fact that the dates were output in ISO format (probably so they would sort correctly in one shot). Within five minutes it didn't matter as they had found the keyword. Nobody had thought to check the output itself, until now.

`So, it had been an accident, the choice of a well-known date, more or less encoded by putting it into ISO form would normally have withstood such a light attack. 

`Still it was not the kind of security used to protect really important secrets. Did that show it was meant to be found? (Nobody but a Russian would be so subtle!) It probably meant no one was expected to look for it very hard. It was only being protected as a matter of general policy, not because any special importance was attached to it.

Georg laughed at an Irish joke which came into his head: 

Police Sergeant: "Why did you pick the date of Jack Kennedy's death as a password?"

Prisoner: "Because I didn't know his birthday." 

He blushed and rushed past several passers-by who looked up; startled by a lone, grown man laughing aloud, in Kensington Gore. Yes, why would John Kennedy be associated with such an outlandish plan for exploration of space? Because he was of Irish descent, and/or because he committed the U.S. to space exploration, started the whole thing, (if you leave out the Russians). A list of maybe's:

1) A continental European is involved? (How do the Russians write dates?).

2) There is a link with John Kennedy. (Not a Russian, then.)

3) They are not very worried about protecting their secrets.

4) Because they don't think anyone is likely to try to dig them out, or,

5) they are deliberately leaking their secret(s).

In the file which Georg and Allyne had discovered (or purloined), the concept of the project had been set out in an outline form, with section titles, buttons to push (figuratively) to reveal more detail, etc. It was a form which Georg had not seen before. It reminded him of the rhyme: 

"The bigger fleas have little fleas,

On their backs to bite'em,

And little fleas have littler fleas,

And so on ad infinitum." 

There had been no time to learn the scheme well enough to garner all the details or to dump the file in a form they could take away and study at leisure. Flush with the success of his work on the password, Georg tried to recall any other characteristics of the file which could give a clue to its origin. Nothing came to mind. Perhaps if he could get a copy of the file on his personal computer he could do some style analysis, word frequency counts, etc to pin down what sort of person wrote it. Allyne could get him a copy now that she was back at Tity. He would to phone her as soon as he got to the hotel. 

Having missed the entrance to Brown's, he came up short at the end of Albermarle Street and had to backtrack to find it. On his way through the lobby to the lift, he was approached by a uniformed employee. . . 

"Mr Cantor-Smith?" 

"Yes, that is: I am Georg Cantor Smith", 

"We have a number of urgent messages for you, your key was out, but you were not in your room." 

"I'm sorry", Georg apologized, "I forgot to leave the key at the desk this morning." 

By this time the man had returned with a sheaf of messages. Riffling through them, he found one from Allyne, one from Emmette, one from both of them jointly, one from Michael MacMichaels and, finally, one from Lady Martine de la Noy. 

On reaching his room he asked the hotel operator to make the calls in reverse order, starting in 8 minutes. After a three minute argument with the operator, who strongly felt he should dial the calls himself, wasting all the time he intended to save, he stepped into the shower. Two minutes later, the telephone rang. He stepped out of the shower, losing all the water to the carpet he had managed to accumulate from the dribbling shower head. The operator announced that Lady Tannoy did not answer and Mr Mack Michaelmas was on the line, which she abandoned with a sharp click. 

MacMichaels was indeed on the line. He inquired on Georg's health and comfort, and how he had found the first day's conference. Georg sidestepped the question, saying he had mainly come because Mungo was there and that they had spent the afternoon in private conference. He added that he hoped to make some useful contacts at the dinner, which he thanked MacMichaels for arranging. On the last point MacMichaels demurred, Mungo had set it up on his own, only inspired by MacMichaels general direcion that he assist Georg.

Georg told the story of the two French professors left locked in combat by Mungo's insinuation that experimental proof existed for the foundations of Cartesian philosophy. MacMichaels thought that was hilarious, if a little unfair to the French. Georg decided to press MacMichaels a little harder.

"Is anyone other than Mungo working on natural language understanding at Edinburgh?" he asked. 

"Not as you mean," responded MacMichaels. "There is some work going on in voice recognition, sponsored by Tee Eye in your country, and I have a project in man-machine interface problems in automated factories which abuts on language understanding." 

"You say... Tee Eye, not Tee Tee", ventured Georg.

"Right. Texas Instruments out of Dallas. I don't think we could teach anything to Tee Tee in their field. It is very challenging and far reaching work but the payoff is too long term for Europeans to sponsor. We have to have a prospect of a payoff within, at most, ten years to get money from anyone, even Esprit II."

"You mean the new research, not the neuron net stuff, that could pay off in a ten year timeframe, easily." Georg threw another piece of bait in the water.

"I meant to ask," said MacMichaels, and paused. (While an angel passed over with an H-bomb strapped under each wing.) "We apparently have a mutual friend, I talked to Allyne Rogers early this morning. She says you may be consulting for Tee Tee on their new project?"

Georg thought quickly, "We have no firm arrangement yet, but I admit I am fascinated by the problem, and they seem to have enough money to do whatever they want. I suspect it is more a matter of them deciding that I could be of any use."

"There's not likely to be any doubt about that. Language understanding is definitely a barrier and practically no one else has thought deeply about the difference between computer languages and human language. Anyway, Mungo is over the moon. I have twenty messages in my email box. They say `The bomb will go off.', `DNA is a double helix', 'That pond at Sutter's Mill is all fished out,' and such like. Christ, I'd best let you go to your dinner, you will miss the sherry and chat altogether. I hear Lady de la Noy is your dinner partner, have fun!" There was a click as MacMichaels hung down.

Georg stood, nude and shivering, while he thought `If this has been a ruse to get me interested in the Think Tank's project, it's the damnedest recruitment approach I have ever seen. Couldn't they've just offered me money?'

The phone was ringing. The operator had tried both the California numbers and the one in Paris again, no one was available. He settled by giving the operator the number of the Professor Smyth-Hawking's house (from the invitation) if anyone called urgently, and asked her to call him a taxi. After some argument, "porters get taxis", she acquiesced.

He really was late. Just time to throw on some clothes and dash out the door. He no longer needed a nap. Was he aroused by the rush of events or the prospect of dining with the Lady Baroness Professor Madame de la Noy?

Fifteen minutes later Georg was at the residence of the Professor. The blue plaque near the front door identified the house as the last London residence of the poet, Robert Browning House. According to the name tags by the doorbell buttons, the professor and his family occupied the top three of five floors. He was greeted at the top of the little lift shaft by a Chinese maid, dressed (like Doll) for the occasion, and conducted wordlessly to the reception area on the middle floor of the maisonette, which appeared to be given over entirely to entertaining.

As he arrived there were about 15 people, standing, sitting, and drinking sherry and cocktails. About half were men, 30 to 50 years of age, and the rest women, perhaps a little younger. He recognized the presenters of all the sessions he had attended. 

The Chinese maid solicited his drink order with a single word "Dlink." He said "vodka martini." No one else had paid any attention to him, but he had an impression that he was being observed which was fair enough as he was observing them, trying to find his bearings. 

Then, the group in the center of the room divided, making way for a most astounding apparition to pass through them, headed directly for Georg. It was about four feet high, vaguely anthropoid, with a broad base concealing what appeared to be wide wheels or, possibly, tracks. On one side, resting on a sort of protuberance or arm was a tray, carrying an absolutely arctic martini. It stopped two feet in front of Georg, shot out another arm, crablike, tipped with a single claw, grasped the martini glass under the rim, and offered it to Georg to grasp by the stem. 

"Thank you," said Georg accepting the proffered martini and took a tentative sip. 

"You are welcome," replied the robot butler, as Georg had now surmised he was faced with. 

"Is it too cold?" asked the robot with evident concern.

"No," Georg replied, though it was the coldest drink he had ever tasted. He was beginning to squirm, feeling the center of attention, though no one had yet spoken or looked straight at him. The robot turned slowly in place, and made its way back along the same exact path it had used before. 

"Guy would have warmed it up for you if you wanted," said a low voice near Georg's left elbow. 

"Is that right," asked George, noncommittally?

"Right, yes, he has a small microwave oven in his tummy," said the voice.

Georg glanced at his interlocutor. "Is Guy that good, it would take very precise controls to avoiding over-heating such a fine martini?" 

"Yes, I designed Guy's cybernetics myself. More accurately, I adapted them from an aerial torpedo that never got built. A much better use for them in my opinion. My name is Albert Fineman. I teach at Birmingham Polytechnic. That's my daughter, Judy, over there in the red dress with no discernible skirt. She presented a paper this afternoon on robot couture. . . by that I mean using robots to cut cloth, not designing clothes."

"Sorry I missed it," said George, politely.

"Oh, it is a pretty narrow field of interest, more engineering than science, with maybe a little art thrown in," continued Fineman.

"I'm an engineer... from California" said George, at a loss and preparing to move away.

"Yes, I know, and a damn good one as I hear it", retorted Fineman.

Georg said with a growing sense of inanity "In the rambling wreck, from Georgia Tech. . . tradition?" And quickly, allowing no chance to reply, he added "I was supposed to meet a Frenchwoman, a professor from the Sorbonne here. Problem is we have never met, we could pass each other in the night"

Fineman looked around, "I know who you mean, I heard she was coming. I asked our host how a philosophy prof got invited. He said she asked to meet you, so you probably know why. I have never met her either, but I hear she is a doll. Everybody else is here, so she will be the next, and last, to arrive." 

At that moment there was a muted tone from the area of the lift landing. The maid scurried to the door, and presented Georg with his second shock of the evening. Standing in the door of the lift, was the most splendid woman he had ever seen. 

When Georg was at Stanford there were frequent bull sessions at the Oasis, always about women and, frequently, about the ideal woman. It usually came around to the idea of assembling a woman from the best characteristics of various public figures, or races, or movie stars, etc. Each man specified a different ideal design, the only thing they all had in common was that they were all very willing, but only with the man constructing the ideal. 

Madame Baroness Martine de la Noy was exactly the ideal amalgam of feminine characteristics Georg had imagined, but never dreamed could actually exist. She was tall, with very long legs, with a full shapely figure, neither thin nor fat, but all woman. Her face had the high cheeks, fine nose and large, slightly tilted eyes all really beautiful women have. Her full hair softly encircled her face like the frame of a Boticelli portrait he had once admired in the Louvre. 

He knew he would want to remember what she had been wearing the first time he saw her, but had difficulty focusing on her dress. The shape of her body seemed to intrude on his vision and occlude all else. It had to be some masterpiece of the French dressmakers' art, a cloud of soft mauve, moving smoothly, softening the image like an impressionist painting. 

She glided down the steps to the floor level and came directly to him, holding out her hand. He had a ridiculous impulse to kiss it, cavalier style. He quickly suppressed it, cursing jetlag and the vodka martini. He took her hand, and gazed into two large green-gold eyes. She said, "I want to meet you. You are Georg Cantor Smith". 

"Yes, I want to meet you too, you are Lady de la Noy. Tell me, how did you know I am Georg Smith?"

"You are standing up. . . out. . . like a stranger. . . And, you are the only one I see with a watch on California time. Not proof, but enough for an informed guess. "

Startled, Georg looked at the large Seiko on his wrist. It said 12:22. She was 22 minutes late and his watch was eight hours early. Her voice was clear and musical like a blend of pure sine waves, with no harsh timbre or overtones.

She filled the pause, "How did you know I am Martine de la Noy?" she leaned toward him quizzically.

"You are the only one with an English accent," he retorted. They both listened. True, there were only Scots, Welsh, borders and perhaps cockney voices to be heard. "'Strooth", joked Georg, "But honestly, I was told to expect you and that you would be very beautiful". 

"One of two is batting well, n'est pas? Who has been informant of me?" 

"Michael MacMichaels of the Edinburgh MacMichaels", replied Georg, "You did not want me to know you were coming?" 

"Mais si! Pardonne, but you do speak French? I do hope it is better than your secretary?"

Georg was briefly confused, "Ah, Mungo, he is more a colleague", squirmed Georg, "Was it too bad, I have wondered?" 

"Ah! Yes, tres pauvre . . . very bad. . .", at this point Lady de la Noy's observations were interrupted by Guy with a split of Moet et Chandon, a champagne saucer, and a small bottle of creme de cassis on his tray. 

Waiting for her to stop talking, he offered "Madame, would like the kir royal now?" Lady de la Noy nodded. Guy proceeded to open the split, pour some cassis in the saucer, pour the champagne over it and proffer the mixture to Lady de la Noy.

Georg could not completely conceal his amazement, as much at Lady de la Noy's sang froid as the performance of the robot. There has to be some trick, and she must know what it is. There is no way robotics could have made such strides in Europe and he would not have heard of it. Conceivably in Japan, but not here. 

Lady de la Noy was still looking at him, apparently unconcerned. He must say something. "There is a human intelligence there somewhere", he commented, somewhat ambiguously. 

"C'est une blague," she paused searching for a word, "The other earwig is a ventriloquist," she laughed, pointing discretely at a tiny TV camera in the corner of the room, near the ceiling. Then Georg was really damned. A whole basket of revelations dropped into place. 

1: the old joke about the prisoner and the ant band has made it to Europe,

2: Guy is a remote probe, a waldo, not a robot at all, but a very sophisticated probe nonetheless, and 

3: Georg has been an unwitting participant in a controlled experiment. 

Then, he realized, Guy had not served anyone else since he came in, except the Baroness, of course. Someone had to have asked for a refill in over a half hour since he came in. This has been a variation on the “Turing Test”. If one (ie an experienced practitioner) can't tell it from a robot, it has to be a robot. 

"Could've fooled me", he muttered, stifling the sequel `and damn well did'. Somebody evidently expected American good nature to smooth over the chagrin of being taken in. Who said, `Don't get angry, get even', he thought. `How deeply is Lady de la Noy involved in this charade? I'm reasonably sure she is playing a different, maybe peripheral game. But, nobody bores in like that without having a personal interest.' 

`Damned shame, why did it have to be a personal-professional interest? Why not a personal-personal interest? Sadie, Sadie, married lady. Capital Lady but not capital Married, maybe. Is that the way to get even?' He rejected the thought. If there was going to be something there, he didn't want his side of it to be based on revenge. 

"Welcome one and all," a loud voice boomed from a corner of the room, from strangely high up, near the ceiling. Turning in that direction, Georg observed a tall man, silver haired and dark suited, seeming taller still by standing halfway up a previously unnoticed stair-case. Lady de la Noy's voice, sotto voce in his ear, said "Sir Harold, notres hote, s'arrivee." 

"Voila!" exclaimed Georg, surprised and confused by the her French and the sudden dramatic entrance, heightened even more by Sir Harold's black eye-patch. Turning toward Lady de la Noy again, he murmured "This evening has been more like a ball at Sir Henry Morgan's palace than a faculty tea." 

"Morgan. . . Ah, the famous English pirate, who became Governor of Jamaica", observed Lady de la Noy. 

"Yes", snapped Georg, "The pirate who plundered the Caribbean and burned Panama Vieja." George still rankled at being tricked, and, blamed his host as having allowed it, if he had not actually instigated it. 

As if in answer to his complaint, Sir Harold, having strode through the other guests directly to Georg and Lady de la Noy broke in, "Please forgive me for not greeting our guest of honor and our lovely distinguished Lady colleague on arrival. I have no excuse, only an explanation which I beg you both to accept." 

Lady de la Noy got in first, "And, I pray you tell us your explanation?"

"I was required to finish some laboratory work, which requires rigid conditions which come about only infrequently, but it is almost finished. With your assistance we could finish in a few minutes?" 

Georg, suddenly interested, "How can we help?"

"Just as you are", then noting Georg's puzzlement Sir Harold added "That is by giving your reactions to the situation. For instance, what do you think of Guy?"

"He is very impressive, he could have a brilliant career on stage," riposted Georg, remembering he was still rankled.

"Verily, his is an ancient theatrical family. He is related to the Daleks, of the Who Daleks, you see." Georg didn't get the joke, if it was a joke.

Georg decided to surface his feelings, "I assume I was the pigeon in this experiment."

"Not precisely, at least not in the B. F. Skinner sense, this does not involve operant conditioning, but you and Lady de la Noy were experimental subjects. I regret that it was necessary to preserve your naivete, until now." 

"So the TV camera in the corner was to record our reactions as well as to be Guy's eyes?", inquired Georg.

"It is still going, for this debriefing, but it is not Guy's eyes. His eyes are in his chest and they operate in the infrared, much better in murky environments. He started life as an underwater torpedo," explained Sir Harold.

Lady de la Noy asked, "I have several questions, it is permitted to ask now?"

"Certainly. Your questions may be our answers", from Sir Harold.

Unphilosophically, she ignored the paradox, "One: is Guy a true robot, two: why is it so important to have our reactions, and three: is Imperial College turning to marketing research?"

"May I beg your gracious permission to explain over dinner, which is, I fear, seriously delayed? Again I have no excuse, and any explanation would only aggravate the injury. We dine on the floor just below us. If Mr Smith would be so kind as to assist you there. . . I shall organize the staff to serve you. Oh! Then, the rest of your questions, and any others you have will be answered at your pleasure." Turning, Sir Harold disappeared in the direction of the bar.

Moving toward the staircase, Georg discovered the descending stairway, narrow and tucked underneath the ascending section Sir Harold had employed for his dramatic entrance. 

He was forced to go ahead, half turning to offer his hand to Lady de la Noy. From this viewpoint her long skirt did not cover her evening shoes. The soles were nearly FOUR INCHES THICK. Standing together above, her eyes had gazed directly into his. Now he realized that, without her shoes her head could tuck under his chin. Also, she could not have traveled dressed as she was. She had to have changed in London. Another small mystery, how could she have gotten from Paris to London, after finishing the argument with her colleague, dressed and arrived only twenty minutes late. A private jet, and a residence in London, most likely. Georg was very well off, even by California standards, but not in this league. 

Reaching the bottom of the stair, they doubled back through a short, narrow hall and came to a dining room, the same size as and directly under the reception room above. In the center of the room was a large rectangular table set for dinner, with 15 chairs, seven on each of the two long sides and one at the head, opposite the entrance.

A butler, `warmware, this time,' Georg thought, ushered them to seats, Georg on the right of the host's chair at the head and Lady de la Noy opposite him. The other guests were arriving slowly, being directed to their seats. 

Professor Fineman was seated beside Lady de la Noy, and his daughter, Judy, next to Georg. Georg started to rise to assist her gaining her seat, but she briskly pushed him down, and smiling brightly, mounted her chair as if it were a skittish pony. In the process, her ultra-short skirt rode up: so, Georg was treated to the glimpse of a bright red triangle (matched to the skirt color) not quite covering her pubic pad. Gaining her seat she did not smooth or tug her skirt down. Only the slight flare of the skirt kept her bottom and indeed her groin from being in full view of anyone seated on that side of the table. Her unconcern and apparent lack of awareness removed any suggestion of lasciviousness from the situation, at least for George. It was as if she were eight or nine years old, without concept of sex or sexuality. In the event, Georg decided to take it in that spirit, at least until further notice, but with mounting exasperation. `Another F'ing mystery, or maybe not,' he thought.

"I hear you're a couturier?", opened Georg, slightly facetiously. 

"Not precisely I," she said too precisely, "My Group. I was chosen to give the presentation because I had the best legs."

Georg thought, `So much for good intentions.' He said "In the circumstances wouldn't that divert too much attention from the ostensible subject of the presentation," unable to avoid the slight flattery.

"Not important" she said, "they just go to get their cards marked. They can get anything technical out of the published proceedings, or ask me for a copy if they need it right away. Did you see my presentation or did Father tell you, I saw you talking?" Obviously, but sadly, she was referring to the earlier presentation, in the College. 

Trying as he would he could not maintain her nine-year-old status, "Unhappily no, I missed the afternoon, urgent matters elsewhere. He did point you out."

"He probably complained about my skirt", she smiled, looked down and tugged it lower by a couple of millimeters. It immediately flared up again even higher than before, as she glanced across the table to her father. "Like most men, he is more concerned about my legs than my brain". 

"He seemed very proud of you. I'd suppose he, and most men, would admire both considerably. And, you could say legs are more on view than brains, to the casual observer. Don't you want to impress people as a woman?".

"Most certainly, but I want my intelligence appreciated too. Why must it be a zero sum game? Is it not more important that I am a person than that I am a woman." 

"I'm sure it is important that you be both. Don't your legs mark you as a person, as well as a woman. To me game theory is not a suitable paradigm, legs don't compete with brains, they are on the same side".

"Sight better than being on the same end, frightful mess if they were, but could be useful in certain circumstances." Although Miss Fineman had opened her mouth to speak, this had come from Sir Harold who had slipped unnoticed into the seat at the head of the table. "I do beg your pardon for interrupting, you were going to say?" he continued, regarding her invitingly.

She did not respond. Sir Harold paused for a moment, and then turned to Lady de la Noy, "Shall we proceed with your questions? Or, would you indulge me one more moment while I settle a matter with Mr Smyth. . . Smith?" At her nod of acknowledgement, he continued "There has been a call for you, Mr Smith, one Miss Eileen Harrison, from California. I arranged for you to return the call in a half hour, which is a quarter past nine. There is a telephone in my office at the end of the hall. Will that do?"

Georg nodded "Yes. Certainly. Thank you." 

"As you will be a bit pushed for time and it's really your lunch time I have asked the chef to take appropriate steps. I'm sure you will be pleased", Sir Harold went on, "Now to the questions or, rather, the answers which you richly deserve for being more tolerant than I could have managed in the circum-stances." 

"So," adopting a slightly lecture hall tone, "Guy Fawlks is a true robot, he operates completely independently once he is given a mission. I can give you more details later if you desire. Now to the second question, I must ask you both to clarify one point for us before I can give you my answer. Were you both truly convinced there was a human intelligence behind Guy? Here of course I mean a real-time, human, remote controller, not just that he was a product of human intelligence?"

"Yes, I certainly was", Georg snapped, "In fact it burned my. . . irritated me that someone was trying to fool me with such a transparent ruse, the TV camera and all that." 

Lady de la Noy broke in, "I say I still do not consider that premise proven, and I am vexee, I mean I share Mr Smith's vexation."

Sir Harold looked at them both and said, "You have answered my question so I now owe you your answers. You are both familiar with the work of the late Alan Turing, on the proof of machine intelligence." After a short pause, he went on, "We have come recently onto an extension of that problem. Whilst Turing devised a proof that machines could think, relying on the idea: if one can not distinguish between the responses of a machine and a human, and one allows that humans can think, one is forced to accept, as well, that machines can also think." 

Georg interrupted, "According... to the ancient principle that: `If it looks like a duck, waddles like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it's a duck', and we were to serve as the experts on waddling and quacking. So…, I hereby declare Guy Fawlks to be an Aylesbury duck." 

"No, but you are right, not about the duck but about the experiment." Sir Harold continued mildly and professorially, "The experiment that Turing described was never performed. People who wanted to believe that machines could think were willing to go on doing so without actually doing the experiment. Those who did not, simply took the position that whatever the outcome of such an experiment, they would never accept believing in a `thinking' machine. I assume, on some metaphysical grounds such as one must have a soul to think, machines don't have souls: obiter dicta et ipso facto, machines cannot think. Sorry, you must know most of this but I must get the frame right so you can see how you fit into the picture. As eluded to earlier, we are interested in a refinement of the Turing proposition, namely the proof that there is something uniquely human about thinking by humans or, also useful to us, proof that there is not." He paused, for breath, and to give his audience thinking space.

"You want to know if an intelligent observer (or observers) could distinguish a human from a machine by its thinking processes, disregarding external appearances and such", Lady de la Noy responded first.

"Precisely, you were our expert of the essence of human thinking and Mr Smith here would not let you be fooled by Guy's robotic facade, and of course both of you would give due weight to the capabilities of computers," said Sir Harold. 

During these exchanges, dinner (or, in Georg's stomach's time-zone, lunch) was served, the wines tasted and distributed, and a low sursuration of conversation from the rest of the guests suggested they were very quietly following the events at the head of the table. Georg's lunch consisted of a cheeseburger, concocted of ground filet mignon, the thinnest possible slice of a large Spanish onion the same diameter as the meat patty, a similar slice of tomato and two thin strips of gherkin. All of this was flavored by a subtle whiff of aromatic pepper and the finest Dijon mustard.

He could not be sure, but it seemed the mustard had been made with red rather than white wine. Certainly there was no clash with the marvelous Echazeau '67. (How rare to find an Englishman who served burgundy rather than claret-- especially with the current price premium.) The rest of the guests were partaking of beef Wellington or, if they preferred, a portion of the largest scotch salmon Georg had ever seen. More the size of the tuna Georg was used to catch off the Lower California coast; on those rare expeditions (between companies) he was able to take.

At the end of Sir Harold's explanation, Georg's Seiko emitted a light tone unnoticed by the other guests. "I have to make my call," he said, rising and proceeding to the exit from the hall. As he reached the door, the light clear voice of Lady de la Noy came after him, "I shall wait for you," she called, evidently expecting the dinner would be finished by the time he returned. As he half turned to wave acknowledgement, his eyes took in the scene at the head of the table. Sir Harold was arranging something with the butler, Lady de la Noy and Miss Fineman were both smiling at him and the cleavage of Miss Fineman's smooth, hard, round buttocks was reflected in the brilliantly polished seat of her chair. `She must a trial to her father,' he thought. `And any other male 11... or over,' he thought ruefully.

George had no trouble deciphering Allyne's coded message: 'Eileen Harrison' indeed! Allyne and Emmette both wanted to talk to him urgently, and did not want it generally known. Something spooked them. He would have to be circumspect, until he could get some sense of the lay of the land.

A narrow door at the end of the hall stood open. Inside was a tiny office, crammed with computer gear, an 19" equipment rack and a Danish looking easy chair which probably reclined into a lounger. Guy stood in the opposite corner near the room's only window. Georg wondered, crazily, if he (it?) enjoyed the view.

Georg lowered himself into the easy chair, took up the telephone hand set nearby and punched 01014152352255... after an unusually long period of grumbling and shunting there was a millisecond ringing tone followed by Allyne's rapid fire voice, "This-is-a-bad-line, can't-hear-you, find-another, phone-me-and-give-me-your-number. Click." She had hung down. 

Rubbish, probably wouldn't fool anybody listening in, but the message was clear. Allyne didn't want to be overheard, she wanted to place the call herself to a safe number. If he moved fast enough, it should be safe from anyone outside the National Security Agency or Cheltenham. He strode to the door across the end of the hall, surmising correctly that it led to the stairs and lift well. Even with pausing to release the deadlocks so he could regain the flat again, in thirty seconds he was outside, on the pavement of De Vere Gardens. None of the red telephone boxes were visible on the street. Someone had said they were being replaced. Had it happened yet, what should he be looking for? 

A few yards away, across the street and towards Kensington Gardens was the marquee of a small hotel. He walked to it as rapidly as possible without attracting attention. Not liking the appearance through the window, he continued to the end of De Vere Gardens where there was a larger more brightly lit hotel. Just inside the lobby he spotted a row of telephone booths, evidently for the use of guests of the adjacent restaurant and coffee shop. In another fifteen seconds he heard the ringing signal and then the sound of the handset being lifted. He read the number from his telephone "9371001" and hung up. Thirty seconds later the phone rang. Lifting the handset he glanced at the Seiko, set to stopwatch mode as he left Sir Harold's tiny office, just over two minutes had passed.

"You're late, La mierda ha pegado el abanico. . . electrico," Allyne translated painfully "the shit has hit the electric fan" into Spanish. "I've been fired, moved aside very politely but very definitely fired". 

"But why. . . Is this a secure line at your end, its O.K. here?" Georg said. 

"Right on, Emmette fixed me up with a little blue box before she left. This is going through the cable under the Atlantic: Look Ma, no satellites; even NSA couldn't tap this one."

"I bet," questioned Georg? "Gone where, what kind of blue box, Ma Bell will have your cojones for billiard balls. . . if you have'em?" `Now, why did I say that,' he thought. `The scene on the beach-house-sun-deck must still irk.'

"I got a lot more cojones than some of you self-styled, macho bastards. Don't you want to know what they fired me into?"

"Right. Shoot." 

"Jughead, my boss, the one you talked to the other day on the phone. . ."

Georg broke in, "That wasn't me, but I know who you mean: Go ahead."

"Well, he says they have been offered a real deal on a new mainframe computer, complete with parallel processors. German company, Siemens I think. It will use Unix V, specially adapted, but the computer and its special operating system won't be released for a year. Catch is they don't want to do any maintenance on the current system before the new one comes in. No payback time, you see. I said they'd need me again in half-a-years time, even before, to get ready for the new machine. The story is full of holes, how they expect me to believe it... But, there’s a kicker, they agree it's no fault of mine. I get a year's salary, whether or not I get another job, and they got me three offers, one is fifty percent more than I'm making, officially, with a Porche 928 company car, use of a lodge in Squaw Valley and beach-house in Puerto Vallarta, thrown in." 

"What's your problem," asked George?

"Yeah, but" she said, "They have already locked me out of the telecom monitor. None of my access codes work. I complained and they all claimed to know nothing about it. Mierda, if that is true and anything goes wrong nobody could get in and fix it. It got to be a pack of lies, the whole scene stinks, I think I'll quit. . . right after they give me that check for next year's salary," she giggled at the ridiculousness of it all. 

"What do you want to do. How can I help?"

"I want to find out what is happening. I think it is a part of this other business. I want to come to England and work with you..." Allyne tapered off uncertainly.

"Where has Emmette gone? You said she went somewhere." said Georg after a short pause. 

"She's booked on tomorrow morning's Concorde to Paris. After that I'm not sure. Probably depends more or less on you. There is one to London in the morning too, shall I be on it?"

"Come ahead, the more the merrier, God knows there is more going on here than I can cover. You know my hotel; I’ll book you a room there for tomorrow night. Check the schedules; you might do just as well, or better, on a 747 over the pole, directly from San Francisco. Oh! Can you dump the file we were after and bring a copy over, or are you locked out of that area too?

Allyne sighed, "I don't know, I've been afraid to try. But, I've made a dump of the disk it's on, onto a tape cartridge.'

"That'll do, bring it along", 'Mungo would be able to scrounge some computer time.' Georg prepared to hang up. Then he remembered "Sorry about the cojones crack, I don't know what it was about" he added.

"I know what it was about" snapped Allyne.

"Huh, what?

"You're pissed about finding Emmette and me in bed at the beach house, you're worried I'm a bull dyke", she said slowly and distinctly. 

"Maybe so. Guess I got to wondering why we never became lovers. I gave you plenty of opportunity," he replied lamely.

"CRAP! YOU gave ME plenty of opportunity", she replied with astonishment, "I lay under your gentle caresses, with the mineral oil and essence of wintergreen twice a month for two hours at a crack. D'ya think I was gonna scream rape?"

"Come on, be fair, you said needed those massages to help you kick the Atavan habit. Why'd you have to depend on body language if you wanted me, you've got a mouth after all."

"Jezzus, I didn't think you were old enough to need that kind of help." 

"You're just razzing me. You're not serious about wanting to screw. You just get your kicks on fifty-five-hundred mile obscene phone calls," teased Georg. 

"You're the one who's telling the dirty stories. I’m not talking to you on the phone any more, we'll take it up tomorrow, face to face. . . or vice versa, if you insist," she said, and hung up. 

Georg improved his time on the return trip by a good 30 seconds. According to his Seiko he had been gone just over nine minutes. As he picked up the telephone to call Mungo to arrange for restoring the disk dump tape, and decided that it would be unwise to make the call from this telephone, the figure of Sir Harold appeared in the doorway. 

"We thought you were having trouble getting through. Everything O.K.," Sir Harold stressed the okay, as if it were in a foreign tongue. 

"As per usual. As soon as you leave town everybody forget's everything they ever knew. It's all right now. How's the dinner going, are they finished", inquired George?

"No, not at all. I feel Lady de la Noy and Miss Fineman may abandon the field in disgust if you don't come back soon. You might as well. I'm not happy sitting between two beautiful women who both obviously wish I were you. In fact why don't you take my chair and cover for me. I must clean up a little emergency of my own. You needn't explain anything. I have already made my excuses," Sir Harold paused politely awaiting Georg's response.

"If you wish, but I must leave soon, myself, I've not slept since somewhere over Greenland," responded Georg amicably.

"Very well. Tell the butler to call for a minicab when you are ready, but don't pay the driver, you are on expenses. Our guest," he explained.

"That's not necessary," declined Georg as graciously as possible, "I do thank you very much for your hospitality," and could not stop himself adding "Are you satisfied with the outcome of the experiment upstairs, can I do anything else?"

"Downstairs too", Sir Harold added cryptically, "We have plenty of data to analyze for the moment. I may call on you later, if you don't mind, at least to give you our conclusions". 

"Please do so. Any time,” 'It would be best to keep in touch with the situation if possible.' 

Georg regained the dining room and was conducted to the chair at head of the table. Relieved to be shielded from Miss Fineman's delicious distractions, he accepted. This relief was to be shortlived because she then slid into his own former chair revealing even more, if that were possible, of her lithe body. 

Several of the other guests had also departed, including Professor Fineman. Everyone had finished their meal and were partaking of Jamaica Blue Mountain coffee from small espresso type cups... and brandy in big balloon glasses, or both. He had already observed the half empty bottle of Hines Antique on the sideboard. He refused the proffered brandy, but accepted the coffee, having no fear of keeping him awake.

As if surmising some of his intentions, Miss Fineman offered "How is your jet lagging?" smiling sweetly.

"It's been a struggle keeping my pecker up, as the long distance albatross said to the ancient mariner, or maybe it was the other way round." He sighed. "Or, maybe it was the other, other way round."

"You mean your pecker's keeping a struggle up," she said in a matter of fact tone. 

"I never even thought of it that way."

Lady de la Noy had been listening to this exchange with obvious mystification. "The words and grammar seem to be English but I can make no sense of the context."

Georg said "Idiomatic English-English prepositional phrases are notoriously ambiguous, and very expressive. It is difficult to discover the meaning unless one has grown up with them: eg, knock up, knock down, knock over, knock around, knock about, knock in, knock out, knock for six... all have several different but sometimes related meanings."

Miss Fineman broke in "In this case it's more closely related to rhyming slang. Mr Smith was trying to convey that he is too tired to fuck me tonight. By making it jocular he impressed me that he was not disinterested as a matter of principle, as in `ask me later'."

George was aghast, "I said all that. Never," he gasped. 

"Of course not, but you conveyed it. I'm right about your altitude...attitude, am I not?" she shot back.

Georg, obviously not sure how to proceed in the presence of both women said, "I'm not sure. . .Je n'y sais pas." 

Miss Fineman interpolated, "That is exactly what I said. But you will be when you have had some sleep."

George shot an appealing glance at Lady de la Noy, without any idea what she could do to help. 

She got the message at last and in her liquid clear voice said, "Our friend is clearly tres fatiguee, I shall see him savement a dodo." There was barely detectable emphasis on "safely" and somewhat more on "to bed".

Miss Fineman lapsed into French, Bonne chance, au revior!, she said emphatically, including both in her glance. . . taking care to reveal as much of her high, firm breasts as possible, she kissed Georg on both cheeks, then full on the mouth, shook hands solemnly with Lady de la Noy, turned and left the room.

Georg had been conscious for some time that the remaining guests had been aware, at least peripherally, of happenings at the head of the table, so he was glad to move to the exit, Lady de la Noy close behind. When they had gained the street, he recalled that he had neglected to ask the butler to order him a taxi. 

"May I escort you to your hotel, there will be taxis at the rank, by the park," he offered. 

"Non, Merci bien, I feel need to stroll. Perhaps you could walk me to my flat, it's near the Albert Hall. I'll call you a taxi from there if you like."

"I'd be honored," Georg said, feeling slightly silly at the pompousness of his reply.

`She'll think I'm one of those Americans who is overwhelmed by titles, even defunct ones,' he thought.

She merely put her arm through his and they walked toward the Park, wordlessly. Rounding the de Vere Hotel, and heading for Albert Hall and the West End, he broke the silence. "However did you get to London from Paris so quickly?" he asked.

"I took the Eurocity Airline from Paris to the London City Airport. It opened just this week, and saves an hour from some parts of Paris to some parts in London," she explained. 

"Even so," he went on. "How did you have time to dress for dinner, you couldn't travel dressed as you are, could you?"

"So, you noticed my little deception, it is great fun sometimes to pretend I am a meter seventy-five Dior manikin; but when one needs a completely different wardrobe, I can't do it often."

"But how did you do it then," he insisted. 

"It is quite simple really. I keep some things in my old flat I used when I lived in London. If I need to dine in London, impromptu, I change there. Alors, before I depart, I lay out what I'll need next time. Is it clear for you?"

"I'm sorry I pressed you. There have been so many things in the last few days which seem, how would you say, slightly outre, off key. I'm afraid I have taken to questioning everything," apologized Georg. 

"What else has puzzled you?" she asked directly.

"Everything, since an old friend came to me with unexplained feelings of depression. No!" he said holding up his hand, "I'm not a doctor, she was convinced that her depressions were be caused by the computer she works on. She wondered if I knew of such a thing elsewhere. I didn't."

"You have come to Europe to find if such things happen here," she seemed genuinely interested.

Before he could reply, she said "Nous sommes arrivee, chez mois, my humble abode." They had turned off Kensington Gore, or the High Street, Georg was not sure what it was called in this section, into Exhibition Road, and again into a mews which Georg now observed was Prince's Gate Mews. They stood in front of a two story building facing the Mews entrance. She held out a key, allowing him to open the door. 

"Come in," she said. "I will call a minicab for you. Would you like a drink, or a sandwich? Vous avez mangee tres mois diner." 

"You are very kind," he demurred, "I just need to get to bed, the old frame is well past it's second wind." He glanced around the flat as he spoke. It seemed to take in the whole ground floor, but the building was so small the flat was tiny, what in California would be called a studio. The entry and kitchenette occupied a raised platform, on the same level with a walkway leading to a door at the right rear of the room. Presumably the door led to a bathroom. The floor of left-rear, three-quarters of the flat was at a lower level, forming a sunken bedroom, entertainment and sleeping area. Everything in the flat was extremely elegant and ultra-modern. The design was based on simple geometric shapes and beautiful, extremely well finished materials. 

It was not recognizable as a woman's or a man's taste, it was just. . . stunning. Lady de la Noy led him to the lower section, waved him to a long seat across the back of the room, which must convert to a bed, he thought dully. She busied herself at the telephone. He leaned back, closed his eyes. . . and fell into a deep, dreamless sleep. 

 

 CHAPTER VI


Some hours later, the sound of a bugle playing a strange version of reveille, dragged Georg awake. He was in the same room but the seat had truly been converted into a bed. He was in it, dressed in a raw silk, unisex night shirt. The bugle started its refrain again. Looking around, he found a button on the bed-head, marked "Kill the bugler". 

Pressure immediately cut off the bugle sounds but the clear voice of Lady de la Noy announced, "I'm sorry I could not be here for breakfast. Everything you will need is in the kitchen. If you prefer, push the button next to the French Maid, she will attend to you". 

Georg did find the proper button, but recalling an old story of a GI who became a TV star in France, whereas his father had only been on postcards, he did not push it. 

After a short pause Lady de la Noy's voice went on, "I have gone to see someone who may be able to help your friend. I will attend the `Role of Context' presentation after noon. Please meet me there; I am sure you will want to see it. . . A bientot."

Stumbling up the steps into the kitchen, he found the coffee-maker making coffee, and a toaster making toast. Everything was apparently wired to the alarm switch. He had to get some butter and milk from the refrigerator, and pour out some bran flakes from a box into the bowl, already on the breakfast counter, without any electronic assistance. He was amazed he did not want to use the toilet; apparently the long flight had jerked all the water from his bladder. Thoughtfully, he felt around in the refrigerator, found a carton of orange juice, poured a tumbler full and drank it all down. Pouring a cup of coffee, drinking a half-cup immediately, his brain began to function. He had fallen asleep on the sofa, Lady de la Noy (Christ, did he have to keep calling her that, by all appearances they had spent the night in the same bed) after she had put him to bed like a baby. 

Walking to the rail he looked down. There was only one pillow, but that was no proof. Walking down the steps to the near side, he felt the sheets deep under the covers. Very nicely warm. He sniffed his hand, Eau Sauvage, Christian Dior's man's scent, worn by some women and, last night he recalled, by Lady de la Noy. `The great detective has proven by the warmth of the sheets and the distinctive scent, that he had spent the night in bed with an astonishingly beautiful woman.' Disgusted, he reviled himself. 'Most men have to drink themselves into a stupor: Georg, leading lover of the Western World can black himself out with one martini. Could he have been drugged? By a cheeseburger. Crap! There were no after effects. Anyway, to what advantage. To use my body. Ha!'

Returning to the breakfast table, he finally saw a fine digital clock on the oven: 8:30, at last he had time to set his Seiko to local time. Then, he finished his breakfast, watching the ITV news on the tiny JVC color TV set on the bar. Gorbachev has finally agreed to a summit with Reagan. Washington, on December 7th 1987. Was that date especially chosen, or just a coincidence? 

Some sprightly notes from America 'tis of Thee were coming from the front door. After about 30 seconds, the voice of Lady de la Noy said, "You have a visitor at the door."

Opening the door eagerly, expecting to see Lady de la Noy, Georg was surprised to see Judy Fineman, dressed for fox hunting, holding the reins of two hunters, a bay mare and a dapple gray stallion. "Tally Ho, you're not dressed for the hunt, well maybe for vixen but not for dog foxes," opened Miss Fineman brightly. 

More than a little confused, Georg answered with an inspired, "Huh."

Miss Fineman broke the impasse, "Are you going to invite me in, the horses won't stray," she said, looping the reins through a convenient run of exterior plumbing on the side of the house, and squeezed by George, into the interior. Taking in the bed and one coffee-cup on counter she sat on the opposite stool and poured a cup of coffee for herself.

"Lady Martine called to say you were sleeping in, might need transport about now. Brought a couple of trotters so we could go wherever, whenever you like, or not as the case may be. It's the best way to get across the park, especially after the big wind," she sounded slightly breathless as if she had been riding hard. 

"I've just finished breakfast, haven't made my plans yet, except for an afternoon session at the College," George ruminated thoughtfully.

"Get your shave, shower, and some clothes on, that garb is distracting. I do have rules, you know?" 

"What sort of rules?," asked Georg, casually.

"About stubble for one, you have no idea what that can do to the inside of a girl's thighs, makes for distracting reminders all day. Most importantly though, about two telephone poles and the sun being over the yardarm. I digress, or I will in a minute, go prithee and prepare thyself for adventures of the blooming day." 

Georg dismissed himself and opened to the door of the bathroom. Again elegance was the keynote, this time with a distinctively Japanese flavor. The dominant materials were unvarnished wood and rough stone. The entire room could be a shower, steam-bath or sauna. By opening some `shoji' panels, access was provided to shaving and washing facilities or indeed a commode and bidet. A large sunken tub, fitted with Jacuzzi nozzles, doubled as hot tub, or as a bench for saunaing. 

Inasmuch as Miss Fineman was waiting, Georg took the fast way out, shedding his nightshirt, he turned on the whole assemblage of shower nozzles, and selected a razor with a cream dispenser built into the handle and a self contained battery to vibrate the head. He was clean and clean shaven in slightly under three minutes. The one disturbing note was that the shower system operated with a sort of traveling vibrato, which had begun to be arousing. He had a moment of panic at the thought of having to come out into the direct view of Miss Fineman, in viral condition. 

Luckily, after switching off the shower, a large wall panel gapped slightly open revealing a stock of huge fluffy towels, any one of which was enough to wrap himself (and another person if they had one handy) from head to toe. Pausing only to apply aftershave (Eau Sauvage) and use one of the traveling, disposable with integral tooth-paste-in-the-handle toothbrushes, he rejoined Miss Fineman, who had restored the bed to its sitting condition ('Probably to remove temptation,') he thought and was seated on it.

She had a pad on her knee and a small headset with attached microphone on her head. She was deep in conversation with someone and was taking copious notes in a strange form (Pitman?) of shorthand. She did not look up. 

Georg draped the towel over the rail as a shield, recovered his clothes from the adjacent closet, and managed to dress himself before Miss Fineman had finished her call. Putting down the pad and headset, she turned to him and said, "Where are we going? Or, do you want to work here?" She had evidently dealt herself in on whatever Georg was doing, possibly at Elle de la N's request. 

"In any event I need to brief you," she said, taking the decision out of his hands for the moment. Sensing his confusion, she went on, "Martine has had Brown's refer calls to this number. . . Mungo McDonald wants to meet you for lunch, at the College lunchroom." "A Ms Rogers has checked into Brown's, she had no reservation but they took her in notwithstanding. She paused to find a place in her notes, "She is `hot to trot', or maybe, `a hottentot' her accent is abominable".

Georg thought, `They're not going to be friends'. 

"Could you get her back, Miss Fineman" Georg requested, eager to pit Miss Fineman against Brown's telephone operator.

"Could you get her back, JUDY?" she replied perkily.

"Okay, Judy. I'm Georg, (with-one-`e')," Georg grinned, relieved to have broken through at least one level of formality.

In less than ten seconds Allyne's voice filled the room, "Hello. That you Georg?"

"One moment please, Mr Smith wishes to speak to you," intoned Judy in a mellifluous version of Queen's English. 

"Put'm on then," Allyne said impatiently.

"I'm here, can you come over," Georg interjected.

"Address?"

"Just tell the taxi driver the first house in Prince's Gate Mews, the one with the stallion and the mare, he'll find it.," appended Judy.

"I'm there already," Allyne hung up.

Georg, mystified, said, "Quite a phone system."

Judy explained, "Martine's people set it up, when they redecorated the flat, part of the experiment, I venture."

Georg, "What experiment is that?"

"I believe it was a question of comparing the strategies of distributing intelligence in a living space, versus intelligent mobile units, like `Guy Fawlkses'. I have not been directly involved, and they haven't published yet, Martine could tell you more, or at least who to ask. Its important?" perused Judy.

"Don't really know whether or not, just idle curiosity," George dismissed the question. "I have something more urgent for you. I need someone who knows the ropes, for a few days or two weeks at most, here in London. Mungo McDonald has been very helpful, but I need an agent of my own, an alter ego so to speak. Could you do it?" 

"I do freelance consulting under the auspices of my father's firm. Your could retain us, that's me, for whatever time you want. What project you are doing, and how could I fit into it?," responded Judy, after a moment's pause.

"What does your father's firm do, and who else is involved," questioned Georg warily?

"It is just he and occasionally me. About to retire from the University. He set up `Fineman and Daughter, Limited' to handle outside work and to provide continuity with him... after he retires." she explained.

"Fine, Fineman,“ Georg said, "Can you start right away?"

"I already have. Now I can tell you, I would have done it for nothing, or rather as a favor for a friend. Martine has asked me to assist you as much as possible, but I gather she has no budget, or has not got around to setting one up. I said I would cover a few days, business development you see. . ." 

Before they could continue, the strains of America ‘tis of Thee’, this time full orchestral, filled the air "The door, the door," called Judy over the sound, moving to open the front door. Allyne moved inside quickly, apparently to avoid the horses, who, startled by the music and restlessness, were prancing about within the constraints of their tethers.

"At the sign of the stallion and mare, 'sblood," she observed without preliminaries, "I thought you two had just had a wild night, and couldn't resist a little bragging". 

"I brought them along in case Georg needed a demonstration, his American background seems to have left him somewhat deprived," offered Judy in the same vein. 

Georg broke in "Ladies, now we have business to attend to". Turning to address Allyne, "Judy Fineman has agreed to join our enterprise... temporarily. I think this would be a good time to bring everyone up to date. I'll start by filling in Judy, and then we'll have the details of what has happened since I left California...yesterday." Georg then recapped events to date, with nothing left out, for Judy's benefit. He ended by asking Allyne to give her report.

Addressing Georg, Allyne began, "You remember the first time you met Emmette. You told me that you had met someone (or something, I believe you said at the time) at a Mensa nude-swimmer party, who had been born with the external characteristics of a boy, but had an operation to become female." 

Georg nodded, "Yes, but the thing which stuck in my mind was that she said that the point was not to become a woman but a Lesbian. It struck me as a joke, but not so funny. I left for an extended project in Europe right after that and didn't run into her again, until we called her in to help with the project. To be honest I would not have recognized her the second time if you had not told me it was the same person."

Allyne went on "Her appearance changed a lot after the first time you met her. She had just begun hormone treatments. Now she has really filled out as a woman, and the facial and body hair is not far from the female pattern. . . as you can attest, Georg".

"What do you mean by that? Oh! The sundeck deal," interpolated Georg.

"Right, and the nudie-party" responded Allyne with a laugh. "I suppose we should apologize to you for that. We staged it on a whim of Emmette's. She wanted to find out if you had provided the toys and, if so, why. The result was inconclusive, so she came on to you that night." 

"You mean she has doubts about my masculinity? What would she have done if I had given her hard proof? And, what about her? If anyone's sexual orientation is in doubt, it's her's."

"My guess is, she is thoroughly a female in body and mind, except for having babies, and probably a little hung up on toy boys, like you in the bargain," retorted Allyne mildly.

"Very interesting, but why is this important now. We don't have much time to get on top of whatever is going on here." said Georg impatiently. "Did you bring the disk dump with the Star Probe file with you", he asked?

"It's right here in my bag. Have you got a computer to restore it? It'll take an IBM 370 type-ball," responded Allyne. 

"I'll take care of it," interjected Judy.

"Why don't you turn it over to Mungo," suggested Georg, "We may need you close-by, this afternoon."

"If you like," she agreed, reaching for the telephone set.

Allyne said "I think it is important to get to the bottom of Emmette's part in all this, don't you agree?"

"All right," agreed Georg, "anything else I should know?" 

"I'm not sure where this fits in, if it does, but Emmette was one of the doctors who saw me in the hospital after the motorcycle accident. She was an acquaintance before then and I had asked to see her in case I needed any surgery. Actually there was no serious treatment except some stitches, physical therapy and some doctor put me on a muscle relaxant, Atavan. I called them the blue downers," continued Allyne.

"Did anything seem strange to you at the time?"

"Well, there was one thing. You know I was brought in unconscious from the scene of the accident. When I checked out, the hospital returned my personal effects gathered from the scene. When I got home and examined my things, I found a data cassette, just like the one I brought over. It wasn't mine, I didn't have the hospital number handy, so I called Emmette to find out what to do with it. She said bring it to her and she would take care of it."

"Did she," prompted Georg?

"She told me later that it had been dropped by the motorcyclist, who died in the accident. He had been coming from Lick Observatory, on Mt Hamilton, where he worked, and the cassette belonged to them."

"How did she find out it was their's? If it had an external label identifying it as their property why did they give it to you in the first place," asked Georg with mounting suspicion?

"There was no `PROPERTY OF:' label," said Allyne, "only a serial number written on a small sticker on the case, it said `CCD#72a' as I remember." 

"Wow, what a memory, for gibberish" said Georg inquiringly, but not quite a question.

"No, I looked it up when I decided to tell you about it. It was listed on the receipt I had to sign when they gave me my things. I got a copy to keep," explained Allyne. "And there was a date `11-22-86'. That was the day up to over an hour before the accident. Perhaps someone at the hospital wrote it on there, but none of the other items were dated though some were tagged with my name." 

"So, the young man was coming down from Mt Hamilton, carrying a data cassette marked `CCD#72a', dated `11-22-86' on the night of 22 November 1986, " summarized Georg. "What time was the accident?"

"Almost exactly 2:00 a.m. on Sunday morning, the 23rd. I had been it up wineing with some buddies, two couples, in a wine bar on University Avenue, the group broke up in anticipation of the bar closing at 2:00, the rest were going to one of their apartments to continue, I decided to walk home alone, as I was the fifth wheel." 

"It doesn't make sense that the hospital wrote that date on the cassette. By the time they saw it was already the 23rd. If the Observatory dated it, it probably means the data was recorded on the 22nd. Do observatories date things by local dates, or Greenwich dates? If it was telescopic data, it had to have been done at night. In Greenwich the 22nd is over at 4:00 pm California time, too early to do any observing at Mt Hamilton," reasoned Georg.

"So, if they go by Greenwich time, the observing had to have been done on the night of the 21st-22nd, local dates. But, why do you think it was telescopic observations?" asked Allyne.

"The serial number and the date. I guess the `CCD' means `Charge Coupled Device"..

"What exactly is a Charge Coupled Device?" asked Judy on returning to the group.

"They are extremely sensitive, electronic, light sensors, capable of registering a single photon, or a quantum, of light energy," explained Georg. "They are often used on optical telescopes, and now even on microscopes."

"Emmette used one on a microscope in the Medical Center" offered Allyne.

"If these things are so sensitive, why can't you fit one to any old telescope and see everything in the Universe" asked Judy skeptically.

"In theory you could," agreed Georg, "if you ignore the 2nd law of thermodynamics."

"How does the 2nd law stop you?" pursued Judy.

"Loosely interpreted, it says that there is always noise associated with any measurement, or slightly more strictly, that you cannot rule out the possibility of noise. In this case it means that there is always a finite probability that a photon which seems to form part of an image came from somewhere else, somewhere in the atmosphere, cosmic dust in the line of sight, or something within the measuring instrument itself. A computer programmed with the character-istics of the noise can cancel some of it."

"So Emmette would have known how to process the output of the CCD on a computer. And, it wouldn't make much difference whether it came from a microscope or telescope." from Judy, who had obviously been listening carefully.

"A computer could convert the photon readings into a visual image, but it would help a lot to know what it was supposed to be looking at," enterjected Georg.

"Yes. If the image was from a microscope, but there are a limited number of things an astronomical telescope can be trained on, most simply: moons, stars, planets, asteroids, and natural and artificial satellites," cited Judy.

"If you stick to this galaxy, you still need to add star clusters, binary and multiple star systems, maybe neutron stars, but definitely not black holes," chuckled Georg. "But, essentially, you are right. Anyone who has taken Astronomy 1A, or read a little Arthur C Clark or Asimov, could guess at the general nature of what he was looking at." 

"If there was an image of a star and its planetary system, surely that could be recognized easily, and the significance grasped immediately," insisted Judy.

"That would probably be the easiest thing in the world. . . Galaxy to recognize, and realize that it was a new discovery of thunderous implications," Georg was obviously impressed by her grasp.

Allyne interjected, "There has been no publicity and there certainly would have been if there had been such a discovery". 

"Yes," observed Georg. "Astronomy is the most open of the sciences and astronomers are very quick to announce their discoveries."

Judy would not let her point go, "But if no one, that is no astronomer knows about it, why could it not be that only the young man who died knew and if this lady, your friend, Emmette, found out she could be keeping it to herself for her own reasons?" She looked challengingly at the two Americans. 

"Sounds pretty far fetched to me, " said Georg. "They would have analyzed the data on the tape as soon as they got it back. Also, why wouldn't they have repeated the observations, once they discovered the tape was missing?" Then, as if arguing with himelf, "Of course, something like that, at the edge of detection, might not show up again if conditions were different. They may not have known there was anything special about them, and maybe there wasn't, we only have our hypothesis, not a fact. . ." 

Allyne broke in with "Something I've been wondering about, is it standard practice to record telescopic observations on cassette tape. I've only used them for disk dumps for security backup and data exchange, 'cause they're much easier to store and carry around. Disks are better for working-data, to find the part you want. If I'm right, the observatory has the data on disk, the cassette is just a copy. Also, where was the motorcyclist taking the cassette to? He was apparently headed for the Stanford campus when he hit me, but he didn't live there. He must have been delivering it to someone, but who would up at 2:00 am on Sunday morning. Even the Data Center is on low boil at that time, just support for some Arpanet globetrotters. Maybe it was supposed to be transmitted somewhere, the data didn't have to be processed at the observatory."

Georg objected, "If it was to be transmitted why not just stick it on a modem and send it from the Observatory. No need to dump it to tape and take it down the mountain on a motorcycle, unless it was too much data to risk sending it by phone lines or for reasons of cost." Then he added, "We are running out of time, we need some lunch, and so do the horses, then we have to go to the presentation after lunch. Judy, would you see to the horses, get the cassette to Mungo and follow up on what observational programs were going on at Lick in November of 1986."

"Allyne, would you poke around the Stanford Data Center and see if you can find out if anyone was using the Center to process Lick Observatory data or sending it out on any of the wide-area nets they support. Oh! See if you can find out if U-of-C, Santa Cruz was doing any planetary studies using the Lick telescopes. I think they are big in planetary astronomy."

Judy announced, "Mungo is waiting for me to deliver the cassette at Imperial College. I'll take the mare. You two can take the stallion (his name is John Brown), leave him with the mare in front of Imperial College. I'll have a boyo from the stables pick them up. See you at the cafeteria." Pausing, only to tuck a cellular telephone in her bag, Judy swept out of the flat. 

Allyne fell into Georg's arms as soon as the clatter of the horses hooves had died away. She kissed him full on the mouth for, it seemed, a full minute. Georg remembered she had never kissed him before. Pecks on the cheek but not this way. With a sigh she said, "Where did you get Lolita, is this her place, what's it with you two, anyway? You do work fast when you are away from home turf!"

"Whoa! Give me a chance. One: At dinner last night. Two:No. The flat belongs to Baroness de la Noy. Three: Judy came here to go riding, to somewhere, this morning and Four: make up your mind, whether you are going to complain that I'm too fast or too slow. You can't have it both ways", he said, grinning at his own sally.

"Of course I can, you're too fast with the other girls and too slow, or better, never ever get there, with me," riposted Allyne.

"We'll see about that", said Georg, moving toward her and taking her in his arms. "But not just this minute". He kissed her before going on. He refilled their two cups and briefed her in on what had happened since his arrival in London. Allyne questioned him closely, but warily, on the subject of Baroness de la Noy. He held back only the magnitude of the impact she had made on him and, obviously, that it appeared he had spent the night in the same bed (innocently??) with her.

He, in turn, questioned her on the circumstances of being fired by TT, and what she and Emmette had done as a result. Nothing of any interest came out. Allyne could add nothing of Emmette's sudden trip to Paris, except that she had promised to get in touch as soon as possible and explain herself.

"Now we must get on our horse, literally," he concluded, "and meet Mungo at the College."

When Georg and Allyne arrived, Mungo was already in the cafeteria, with a micro-everest of French fries, topped by another hamburger patty (in its turn crowned with another fried egg), in front of him. Judy had not arrived and there was as yet no sign of Lady de la Noy.

Georg introduced Mungo to Allyne, promoting her (half seriously) to the position of President and COO of Smith, Rodgers Associates, Cybernetics Consultants, in the process. Mungo responded in a similar vein, styling himself as the senior (as measured by date of rank) graduate student of the United Kingdom, throwing in Northern Ireland and (most of) the dominions beyond the seas, for good measure. 

Mungo opened up immediately, handing over several sheets of computer printout to Allyne and Georg, "I summarized our position. We discussed it last p.m."

"Can you tell us briefly what is in the summary" asked Georg, smiling.

"Right. Well, firstly, we concluded implicitly, that to pass a Turing-Smith Test, ie to be considered a human style thinker, a system has to understand human language and operate with it in a manner indistin-guishable from a human, but (perhaps) distin-guishable from anything else. Secondly, explicitly, we hypothesized that such a system would have to have a fundamental feeling of `selfhood' made explicit by a proper name for itself. Furthermore, the element containing the self-concept had to come into existence first and the human-language learning system must be built on it, or, possibly, evolved from it. Thirdly, there was a point which we didn't quite resolve. That was: a degree of isolation may be required. Perhaps it could be said, `Only independent systems can be human', that'd be a blow to Marxo-Engleo-Lenino-Maoism, if it were proved," concluded Mungo, wryly.

"Francamente," ventured Allyne, "I don't grasp the relevance of this to our. . . research objectives". 

Georg stepped in quickly, "I haven't told Mungo about your project, but I think there could be a connection." Turning to Mungo, Georg invented a cover story on the fly, "Allyne is working on some questions of manned-versus-unmanned probes, used for interstellar explora-tion. That is, what are the inherent limitations and advantages of the two types? My point is that there has to be a way of distinguishing the two, else there may be no inherent difference." 

"Yeah, the TST, the Turing-Smith Test", added Mungo helpfully. Then he added, "Seems to me life span is an insuperable problem for manned star-probes, unless you guys have found that Michelson and Morley were wrong about the velocity of light. That would also mean that the “C” part of Einstein's E=M'C'2, could be wrong, in which case, Christ, I should have read Druid". Mungo seemed genuinely depressed.

"Don't throw away your Actuarial Tables yet," said Georg. "Life span is a problem for both types of probe, eg what good does it do me to get a message in 200 years saying that the Dog Star has a black hole companion on the other side of the Galaxy. I wouldn't pay a lot now to have someone 200 years in the future to have my answer."

Allyne shifted nervously, obviously uneasy at this diversion brought about by Georg's attempt to cover the slip she had made earlier. Somehow, she was being carried along. She said hesitantly, "There is a point here. I need to get it straight in my head. You say you wouldn't pay anything for information that would not come back until after you are dead. But, people do pay for their children's education without knowing what's going to happen. Society often makes investments which pay off in the far future, maybe only if their (putative) descendants will benefit."

Georg rebutted,"Not often will people pay for something which returns nothing during their lifetimes".

"Don't mention anything to the life insurance people" interposed Allyne with a touch of malice.

"Damn! Right! But, usually, that is for the benefit of spouses and children." countered Georg.

"My point exactly. lifespan is not necessarily a problem if their descendants are their beneficiaries," Allyne announced with an air of triumph.

"There is still a problem with `net present value'," Georg continued, "It is not worth a dime to me now for my descendants to get a dollar in two hundred years. A penny maybe, but not a dime. My point is that it is going to take a lot of dimes to get any kind of interstellar probe off the ground. What possible economic justification could you offer?"

"One problem with your analysis is that you assume that the payoff has to take place here on earth, what if you pay the premium here and take the payoff there. Wouldn't that double the `net present value'?" said Allyne.

"Cutting the payout time in half does a lot better than double the `net present value', but as you have to wait at least till the probe arrives at the target for the payoff and it must travel at substantially less than 'C' (the velocity of light in a vacuum) you will still not cut the time in half."

Mungo broke in, "What about relativistic time dilation effects, wouldn't that cut the time of the journey for a passenger on the probe and raise the net present value. That is, he could go out for two hundred years earth time and come back two weeks older, and a multimillionaire."

Georg responded, "Depends on the average velocity, as a fraction of 'C' which, with available technology, would not likely be high enough to cause a worthwhile time dilation. You're different in that your payoff is on a conventional investment on Earth. Lots of other problems too, the twin paradox and all that. Then, there is the problem of coming back into a world that has moved on, changed, had rampant inflation, gone communist, taxed away your profits, etc, etc, etc. Finally, there is no need to have a probe, you could just take a little cruise around the Galaxy, come back, and have the same result." Georg was anxious to dismiss this idea because it didn't tie in with the Lick tapes, which Mungo didn't know about.

Allyne renewed her argument "Sticking to the exploration theme, isn't it true that all explorers are either merchants, missionaries or mercenaries, or some combination of the three `m's, isn't it? That says something about their motivations."

Mungo answered her, "Those will only work if there is somebody to trade with, convert or kill [TCK] at the other end. We don't actually know of anyplace else in the Galaxy where that's possible."

Georg was quick to seize the opening, "Then we're not talking about exploration but colonization. Colonists go to new lands to get away from the one they're in, and to bring up their descendants under better conditions. In view of the difficulties and risks for the immigrants themselves, in many cases it must have been concern for their descendants (Thanks, Allyne) which was the main motivation. It's becoming clear that the situation is complex enough to require a computer to work out the details. Mungo, would you help Allyne set up some scenarios and test them." 

"What kind of equipment do you think we will need? And, when do you need the results?" Mungo was already off and running.

"Work with Allyne on that, it's her problem and her area of expertise," answered Georg, "Now we have to go soon to the presentation we came to see. You got us into this Mungo, what are we looking for in this RC squared M squared I."

Before Mungo could answer, Judy's voice came from behind Georg, announcing her rejoining the group, "I can tell you about that, I have just been talking to the Chief Presenter himself, arranging parts for us all in the play."

Mungo said, "That's smashing, Judy. I'll just have time to check on that tape dump. I'll rejoin you in the hall." He was away before anyone could say `Yea' or `Nay'. 

Judy said, "He'll regret that, he has the most important part".

"Okay, you are dying to tell us," invited Georg.

"The Professor Dr Sean O'Kennedy, has developed a conceptual framework for the database architecture of android robots. Actually only I call them androids, they don't look much like humans, but the important point for me is that they move around and interact with their environment like people do." 

"Like our old friend Guy Fawlks," Georg interjected ruefully, "How does this involve a play?"

"Dr O'Kennedy has set up his presentation as a simulation of the Battle of Waterloo, or perhaps a simulation of a simulation. What I mean is that the battle is fought, repeatedly, by a cast of humans and two types of robots. The whole thing is simulated, except that, each time, some roles are taken by real humans. Others are taken by (simulated) android robots and some are just simulated by conventional computers. The android types use O'Kennedy's special database architecture. Questions from the audience," asked Judy with a smile?

"Several," said Allyne, "Uno, isn't O'Kennedy going a long way around the barn? Dos, why do we need to go to the presentation, now that we know what it is all about? Three, I thought the presentation was about databases, they seem to hardly figure in all this.

"I can't really say I understand your first question, for the second we need to go because we are part of it, and lastly, as I gather the point of the exercise is that the database structure is what makes people different from robots, or robots different from computers or something. We will have to go there to find out," explained Judy patiently.

"Point taken, I think I can surmise the answer to my first question, what we have here is an experiment intended to test, demonstrate and publish his discovery in one swell foop. I wish him luck. If I tried something like that, Murphy* would bring me low in six picoseconds, or under" offered Allyne in a conciliatory tone. * 'If anything can go wrong, it always will.'

Meanwhile, Georg had been nursing a growing sense of unease at the idea of yet again playing guinea pig. The feeling of being manipulated and imposed upon by an unseen element was coming back. Only that he did not see what could happen in front of such an audience, other than possibly some mild embar-rassment, or what anyone could gain even by that, unless it stopped him from refusing to participate.

Allyne renewed her questions, "Who else is in this with us"? 

"We three (leaving out Allyne, he probably didn't know she would be here) and Lady Martine are the human players, Michael MacMichaels and Sir Harold Smyth-Hawkings will assist Prof O'Kennedy with the presentation of the results" Judy answered.

"Okay. This thing must have been a bear to program, what setup are they using," inquired Allyne, out of professional curiosity? 

"The hardware was built here in the College, using a lorry load of Inmos Transputers. I think they programmed it with Occam, a lot of Hope and a dash of Parlog for flavor", responded Judy.

"You don't have much confidence in it then," asked Allyne quizzically.

"Ah, not little `h' hope, big `H' Hope," laughed Judy. "`Hope' is a programming language developed here at the College," she clarified. 

For the simulation, the Campaign began in February 1815ad with Napoleon's escape from Elba. But the real action started on March 20, 1815 with his arrival in Paris. Napoleon 'took' command of about 125,000 men, as against Wellington's army of just over 90,000 and the Prussian, Blucher's, 150,000. Another large army of Russians and Austrians under Prince Swartzenburg was poised on the eastern borders of France. 

CHRONOLOGY

February 1815 Napoleon escaped from Elba

March 1, Napoleon Arrived in France

March 7, 7:30am Prince Metternich, Austrian foreign minister, got news of Napoleon’s arrival, at the peace conference in Vienna

March 7, 9:00 Kings and Emperors of the Allies had agreed to march on France

March 8, the Duke of Wellington left Vienna to take charge of the Allied Armies

March 20, Napoleon arrived in Paris

June 12, Napoleon departed for the front 

June 14, Wellington attended the Duchess of Richmond's ball

June 15, 16 and 17 Wellington did not sleep at night for taking time to gather forces

June 16, Napoleon defeated Blucher at Ligny, Blucher retreated with Grouchy in pursuit (how many of his force of 120,000 Prussians did he still have? -- at least 113,000 as the total Prussian casualties were only 7000)

June 18, day of Battle of Waterloo, 11:25 am, Napoleon started bombardment, before 7:00pm Blucher joins Wellington, after evading Grouchy. At 7:00pm Napoleon orders in the Old Guard, 9:00pm the Old Guard retreats, triggering panic in French lines

June 22, Napoleon signs second and last abdication

 

TROOPS AND GUNS

Wellington had 67,661 men 

Napoleon had 71,947 men, + 33,000 under Grouchy which he did not use (they were on a wild Blucher chase to Namur while Blucher actually went to Wavre)

Wellington had 156 cannon, Napoleon had 246 larger guns

CASUALTIES

French casualties 25,000 (some of the French total was probably due to the fact that the British surgeons treated them only after the British horses had been operated on: of course they did save the lives of scores of British horses: while half the horses died anyway.)

British 15,000

Prussian 7000 

Georg entered the following comment on the original battle in his notes for the day: `Why did Napoleon split his forces by sending Grouchy with 33,000 men after Blucher? Without this, he might have smashed Well-ington to smithereens, before Blucher joined him. Also what would Grouchy's 33,000 men have done with Blucher's 120,000 if they had caught them? Maybe the quote should be: 'Blessed are the not quite so fucking arrogant, for they shall inherit the Earth.'

PARTICIPANTS:

Napoleon

The Duke of Wellington

Grouchy, French General

Prince Swartzenburg, in charge of Russian and Austrian forces

Blucher, Pussian General

Marshal Ney, of France

Six rounds of 10 iterations each were played. The type of participants on each side was kept the same for all 10 iterations of each round, but individuals were transferred from one role to another to smooth out the effect of individual qualifications or talent. The results of the 10 iterations, casualties, area captured, enemy dead, captured etc were averaged. The opposing forces were arranged as follows:

Round French Allies

 

1 Androids Human *

2 Androids* Computers

3 Human Androids *

4 Human* Computers

5 Computers Androids *

6 Computers Humans *

* The winners of the rounds.

At the end, Allyne's comment was that if the Allies had tried to use computers, or androids, against Napoleon's Officers, today we would all be saying `logiciel' for software and `materiel' for hardware. 

Dr. O'Kennedy's conclusion was, however, different. Either human or android officers could have beaten the Allies' conventional computer-based expert systems, even given their superior forces and strategic disposition at the start. That proved the superiority of Self-Centered Intelligence which, he claimed, was just what his database architecture provided. It would make the difference in conflict situations, if the forces were anywhere near evenly matched. 

After the last round, the meeting broke up into small groups discussing the events of the game. As Georg made his way to where Drs MacMichaels and O'Kennedy were talking the thought `this sort of thing could take the place of Tupperware parties if the overheads weren't quite so high'.

Dr MacMichaels greeted Georg with, "O'Kennedy, Smyth-Hawkings and I want to have a chat with you before you leave. Would that be convenient?"

"It would be my pleasure," responded Georg, "May I invite Lady de la Noy to join us?"

"Certainly, if she is staying in London this evening, we would be very pleased to have her with us," Mac-Michaels concurred.

"Please excuse me for a moment, while I check my colleague’s plans for the evening. . ." Georg moved away.

Joining his group: Allyne, Mungo, Judy and Lady Martine, Georg said, "Allyne would you like to take Judy and Mungo for a drink in Brown's? Put the bill on my room. I'll join you there, and we'll go to dinner later. Just now I've been asked to a small meeting with Dr O'Kennedy and some colleagues. Lady de la Noy, they have asked me to invite you to come too, if you can." 

Allyne leaned forward, probably to ask to go along with Georg, but she subsided and then said, "I'll get a dinner reservation in L'Aperitif. How many of us will there be, will you invite O'Kennedy's group too?"

"Say nine or ten for now, at 9 o'clock, we can change it later, if necessary. And thank you," added Georg with a smile. 

Georg led Lady Martine toward the group of professors, "How long do you plan to stay in London? Did you come just for the conference," asked Georg? 

"My plans are soft. . . flexible. I arranged a secondment before I left Paris. It is only that I must go back to my classes on Monday next. I will stay if I can have some time together. . . with you," she replied. 

After the necessary introductions the group retired to a small conference room on the same floor. After a few minutes it became apparent that the object of the meeting was to pump Georg about the program at TT. MacMichaels had obviously passed on Allyne's intimations that he may soon join TT's project, at least to O'Kennedy and Smythe-Hawkings. As Georg knew very little, he decided to extract everything they already knew before giving anything back, hiding behind a pretense of modesty and, not entirely sham, ignorance.

"They have not actually approached me and I am as surprised by these rumors as you are," protested Georg. "Their kind of work is not exactly in my line. TT's payback times go out decades, while mine have to be less than two years, one year if you measure from product launch." 

"At interest rates today only governments can afford to wait years for a return," commented MacMichaels, sympathetically.

"True," responded Georg, "but for me the primary deterrent is the rate of evolution of technology. If I'm looking at niche in the market, I have to know it will still be there and that nobody has taken a spinoff from a defense contract, which their taxpayers (including me) paid for, and stopped it up before I get there. I just can't guess confidently further out than two years." 

Lady de la Noy asked, "You feel that Think Tank projects take too long to pay off?"

"Not so much that. It may be okay for their clients, but my investors wouldn't touch most of their projects, or any of them that I am aware of. My real point is that my style and their's is very different. It's partly the difference between basic research and product development. And, anyway, after I have a widget product I have to take it to market and, usually, support it. You need a different kind of mind set, a different kind of team and a different kind of manager. . . also a different kind of investor," Georg explained, actually more than he had intended. 

He continued, before anyone could pursue that subject further, "You know, it struck me that in your android database architecture, Dr O 'Kennedy, most of the attributes of a given entity are the same whether it occupies the `I' role, `you' role or the `Other' role. Do you revise the entity-attribute link structure when the context switches, or is it sufficient leave the links in place and modify the routing, through program logic?"

Whatever the real purpose of the meeting, Dr O'Kennedy was not going to miss a chance to discuss his speciality with an intelligent and knowledgeable interlocutor, "I have investigated both ways. In particular, recently, I have been working on a scheme of weighted links, in which every entity has some probability of being related to every attribute. Most weights are vanishingly small, but never absolute zero. In this system, even the role to which the entity is assigned is an attribute, and has a weight, never quite as large as one or quite as small as zero. At a particular moment, the actual weights are determined by the total history of the system."

Lady de la Noy asked, "I don't understand this. Surely I am `I' or I am not `I'. How can I be 40% `I' and 60% `you', at this or any other time?"

"What I say is: a probability function is associated with each entity-attribute relationship. In any string of logic leading to a conclusion, there is a tiny but finite probability that `pigs can fly'. It may be so small that the universe will die of heat death before it is observed to happen." retorted O'Kennedy. Holding up his hand to forestall interruption, he went on, "I should say I did not use this approach in today's demo, as I wanted to validate the new data base architecture independently of the probabilistic/relational-link, knowledge-base technique. Perhaps that will be demonstrated next year."

"Do you train your probabilistic systems; allow the weights to evolve with experience? Is that why you don't allow the probability to go to zero, for fear it will cut off certain chains of reasoning prematurely," asked Georg?

"I suppose you could say that, it has that virtue, but it was actually arrived at by analogy with quantum mechanics." O'Kennedy paused for breath, "At the subatomic level particles (our entities) exist but their location and momentum (ie attributes) cannot be fixed. There are only probabilities, functions specifying the odds of finding it in a particular place or that it will have a certain momentum. 

"The other borrowing we did was from nueral nets. In this case, the experience (you might call it memories or knowledge) is stored in the synapses, the connections between the neurons, as weights. Put the two together, with the right architecture of course, and you have nailed it down." 

"I'm sure we would all love to hear more about this and we have had little chance to get acquainted on a personal level," began Georg. "Would all of you consent to be my guests for dinner at L'Aperitif in Brown's Hotel this evening at...(looking at his watch) let's see, 9:00? Please bring your ladies if they can make it."

All the participants accepted, notwithstanding the late notice, to the astonishment of Lady Martine, "You have been greatly honored, Mon cher Monsieur Smith, it is normal to make such invitations at least a month in advance. Then your guests will actually arrive only if the have not a better bid in the interim," she commented, as soon as they were alone.

Georg was not a home in French usage sufficiently to be sure if her use of the endearment was an indication of her affection or just a social courtesy. `Where did you sleep last night!!??', he thought, but he said, "We shall see how many actually do come, then. Will you join us for drinks at Brown's, before dinner?"

"I must take care of my voiture first, it is in the garage," she replied. 

"May I drop you at the garage, on my way to the hotel?" 

"Ah! The garage is here at the College. Some students asked to. . . controler the exhaust system of mon voiture. Can I drop you at your hotel, and then I must go to my flat to refresh myself," she replied.

"I accept", said Georg, and immediately interested, asked,"What kind of car do you drive... of such interest to students to inspect?" 

"It is a Ferrari, Model F-40. It used to be the personal car of my late husband, Baron Jean-Claud. His team supplied it to him for road use on the, with quel-que-chose especial. . . modifications, to make it drive well off-track. Some students heard me arrive today. They noted quelle-que-chose etranger in the tone of the exhaust and wished to know why. I exchanged that privilege for parking, otherwise a brulo, a big chore, n'est pas?"

On the short trip to Brown's, Lady Martine took the route alongside Hyde Park, down Park Lane to the Intercontinental, along Piccadilly Avenue past the Ritz and turned left into Dover Street. Georg probed gently about Baron Jean-Claud, ascertaining that the Baron was deceased some two years ago, from a Grand Prix racing-practice accident. The marriage had lasted five years, all of them stormy. The basic problem had been obsessions. The Baron had been obsessed with his racing career, took unnecessary chances, and earned a reputation as a very fast, `wild', driver and hard on cars. He always finished in upper three points, or not at all. 

His mother had been obsessed: also, but with the need for a male heir to continue their noble lineage, which would otherwise pass to a collateral male, of a, well hated, branch of the family. 

Lady Martine, caught in the middle, was under pressure from the mother to pressure Jean-Claud, in turn, to father a son. The mother pushed and nagged her constantly to dress and act seductively, to inveigle her son into the marriage bed, and to do his duty as a husband. She forbade her to accompany her husband on the racing tour because she did not approve of his racing, with good reason, as it turned out.

From Jean-Claud's side, he forbade her to pursue her career, forcing her to drop out of the University of Paris Faculty. He made no sexual advances and rejected her's, presumably to frustrate his mother. He even preferred the company of her slight and ailing, younger sister, who lived with them in the chateau until she was committed to a recovery hospital, and finally went to study in England and America, when he was not on tour, or out with his male friends. 

His sudden death had been less a tragedy for her than a release from what had become an impossible situation. Just before his end, the Baron had apparently made some sort of peace with his mother and showed signs of relaxing his guard, but this promising prospect was cut short by his untimely demise. She immediately moved out of the family chateau, took an apartment on the Rive Droit over-looking the Seine, overlooked by Tour d'Eiffel, rejoined the Faculty and picked up her life more or less as she had left off five years earlier.

Drawing up at the entrance of Brown's, Georg was astonished that she had told him so much of the intimate details of her life, so quickly and so early in their acquaintanceship. Thanking her for the lift in the marvelous car, and assured she would join them in an hour or so, he waved her off.

Allyne had laid dibs on the only bottle of tequila in the possession of St George's Bar and was in the process of teaching Mungo and Judy the subtleties and ceremonies of lemon juice, salt, pepper and tequila as practiced in the best Tijuana dives. Several matrons from Birmingham and Manchester, wearing turbans of the sort Queen Elizabeth II had abandoned twenty years earlier, were viewing their activities from a distance, with barely disguised disdain. 

Georg had originally started going to Brown's on the recommendation of a friend, years ago. One of the prevailing mysteries he had not been able to solve was how Brown's managed to attract both Americans and the English provincial trade, down through the years. Perhaps some Americans were drawn there by the novelty of the quintessential English atmosphere, the English may not have been aware of any special ambience, just felt thoroughly at home. 

"Hello again. Set for dinner? Looks like we'll have about 10 or 12, at last count," said Georg, more or less to the group as a whole.

"Welcome back the wanderer; we weren't sure we'd see you again tonight. Didn't you bring the Duchess along with you? You were thick as thieves when we last saw you," Allyne had a definite edge to her voice. 

"No. She'll be along later. Judy, would you like to call Baroness de la Noy and make sure her Ladyship knows she is welcome to bring an escort... if she wishes. I'm not sure I made that clear. Wait. Just a minute. . . How about we all adjourn to the Duke of Albermarle, down the street. The atmosphere is not so stuffy there. She can meet us there about 8:30, or, tell her if she is late to come directly to the L'Aperitif Restaurant here. Okay?"

Amid sounds of general approval, Judy and Mungo went to find a telephone, and Georg and Allyne started to the Duke. Putting his arm about Allyne's waist and drawing her close as they walked along, Georg said quietly, "Is this going to be the night of nights? Do we pick up where we left off this morning?" 

"You may have to, that John Brown got me all hot and no place to. . . go." 

"John Brown who," asked Georg?

"John Brown Stallion, that's who. These English saddles are not much. . . oh, they may be fun but not very satisfying in the end. They're not at all horny". 

`You are incorrigible' said Georg, and kissed her, standing on the step-up into the Duke of Albermarle.

Inside, the `L' shaped bar was crowded, three deep. There was nothing for it but to bore through the thinnest part of the line, and try catching the eye of the barmaid. This maneuver took all of five minutes to complete. Georg ordered a pint of Whitbread's best for Judy, a large black Guiness for Mungo and a couple of Carlsburgs for himself and Allyne.

When he found Allyne again, she had been joined by Judy and Mungo. They relieved him of the proffered drinks and Judy leaned close to impart the message, "It is all in hand. She will join us at nine... alone." 

It was almost impossible to carry on a conversation or find a place to sit, and Georg was not inordinately fond of beer, even Carlsburg. He began to regret his initiative. Allyne had struck up a running banter with three other male patrons. He could make out nothing of what was passing between them. Mungo had disappeared somewhere in the direction of the toilets on the lower level. Georg found himself wedged into a corner with Judy jammed into him face to face. The acoustics of the enclosing walls just made it possible to hear her words, "Which of us are you planning to take to bed tonight?"

"Are you registering your application for the honor," he parried. 

"Things are a bit crowded at the moment, a bit like the china department in Harrod's Sale. Give me a bell when we can relax and get acquainted. `Come quickly, go slowly' is my motto." 

"You know, you could be a big help just now. I am going to need the cooperation of both Allyne and Lady de la Noy in the short term, so I don't need to have a woman, nor Lady, scorned on my hands. Is there some way to keep them both occupied in some way for a few days? You know London better than I. What do you suggest? I'll bankroll you to take them about."

"London has a lot to offer, there are plays, opera and ballet, museums, and special events of all kinds. . ." offered Judy.

Georg interrupted, "Those are day or early evening activities and most really go best with a male escort. The real crunch is going to come after eleven. What could tire them out and keep them interested in the wee hours?" 

"The pubs and wine bars close at eleven, but there are a few London-late-night clubs, then there are the casinos if you can afford it." 

"Casinos sound like the best bet, but I thought they were all private clubs. Can you get them in?" asked Georg.

"No problem. Martine could get into to most of them on the Baron's record. He was a big punter in his day, with good credit which he used frequently. For the rest of us it would have to be cash up-front, or a guarantee by someone they know. Martine might be able to help with that as well," explained Judy.

"I'm going to split back to the Hotel, tell the others I remembered a call I have to take. See you all in the restaurant by nine," Georg extracted himself from the corner with some difficulty, pushing against Judy's body to make enough room to get by. It was not that she actively impeded him; she just didn't cooperate, so that they were effectively in a full coital embracement in the vertical for. . . well, at least long enough to bring about a pounding erection. Having finally passed by her he was rewarded by a smile, whether of gratitude, or triumph, he could not tell. 

Crossing the street and moving toward Brown's he recalled an old English rhyme his late wife, the Olympic horsewoman, had taught him:

In days of old

When men were bold

And women weren't so particular

They stood'em up against the wall

And took'em perpendicular

She had been very fond of `knee tremblers'. She believed, as English girls during WWII did for a time, that she was less likely to get pregnant in that position. 

In his room, he placed a call to BeeBee. To his astonishment the connection was made in a matter of seconds, and her crystal clear voice came on, "BeeBee here. Who is it?"

"Georg Smith, in London. Brown's and St. George’s to be exact," Georg conveyed that the line was not secure.

"I was about to call you. Changes at TT. Von Hammerlund gone. Under fire. For DWD...driving drunk. Slugged a cop. Already fired Rodgers. Need back urgently. Acting Director. You will help her. . ." BeeBee promised to continue her rapid fire delivery indefinitely.

Georg interposed,"You want her back how soon?"

"Next Concorde. She with you?"

"Not in the room, she's across the street. I'll see her within half an hour. If she agrees, she still couldn't be back before tomorrow afternoon," Georg temporized.

"Must do. You come with her," Bee Bee insisted.

"No can do." Georg caught the brevities against his will. "Must stay. Days, at least." Then with a conscious effort, "Do you know where Emmette is, she skipped out after I left the Valley?"

"Paris. See sister. Epistomologist. Call you soon. Call me. Allyne's ETA. Flight number." she broke the contact. 

`Crap! Didn't get to ask her set up line of credit. May not need it now. Talk to Allyne first,' Georg thought as he dialed her room in case she had gone there to prepare for the dinner. There was no answer. He checked his watch: 8:32. Too early to go to the restaurant. He wandered to the bathroom, rubbed his jaw, didn't need a shave, decided to change his shirt and trousers. `Why do trousers always wrinkle around the crouch first, maybe the codpiece was a good idea, save a fortune in cleaning bills, keep the Judys' of the world happy too,' he thought, `might as well shower too'. 

At 8:51 Georg stepped into the lounge, just by the lobby, refreshed and ready to intercept Allyne, her party, Lady Martine, or his other guests before they went into L'Aperitif". Gradually he began to sense there was something he had forgotten. `To ask for the credit line’? Do that later if necessary. No. There was something else. Something BeeBee had said. Emmette has a sister who lives in Paris. An epistomologist? Why would she suddenly have to see her? Some family problem... perhaps. 

Lady Martine would probably know her. Epistemology is a branch of philosophy, study of the nature of knowledge. As opposed to what? Logic for sure, study of the laws of thought. Probably teleology, study of purpose in the Universe, or maybe more the idea that there is an ultimate purpose of existence and trying to find out what it is. Ethics certainly, and Esthetics...' His musings were terminated by the arrival of Allyne and Judy, not from the street as he had expected, but from the lift. 

Allyne was dressed in a long, black, slightly sheer dress with black-patent-leather-spike-heeled pumps. The garment did not hug her figure but draped and (only) partly obscured it. She apparently wore nothing at all underneath, or perhaps flesh colored tights. At any rate a shimmery pink area showed, underneath a fine, black, moire patch, where-ever her form touched the inside of the dress. `Through a dress, darkly,' thought Georg. 

She wore no jewelry, and no discernible makeup. The effect was close to that of a lady in her night dress, ready for bed, somewhat further heightened by the sharp points of her nipples, which threatened to puncture the thin fabric at any moment. Honey blond hair was brushed smoothly down the sides, dividing over her shoulders and pulled back on one side by a single shiny, black enamel clip, in a style slightly reminiscent of Veronica Lake.

Judy appeared in what must have been a creation of her Robotic Couture Systems. First, it seemed to be made completely of shiny-metal plates, of various sizes, shapes and colors down to the size of sequins, more or less conforming to the form underneath. On closer examination, these were held together loosely by dozens of flexible, probably elastic, links. These allowed the plates to overlap and fit together in various ways, now covering, now revealing the shapes of her form. Tonight, rather than bikini patches covering the minimum necessary to avoid arrest, she wore opaque, shiny gold-mesh, leotard-and-tights underneath. Here the effect was of a decidedly female Three-Cee-Pee-Oh, wearing high fashion, jewelry finish, access plates. 

Allyne was the first to spot Georg in the lounge. As she approached she spoke excitedly, "Judy lent me an outfit. Her father brought it down here with her stuff. We got her a room here tonight. We're doing the town. You are invited, too. Bring your Platinum Cards."

"Marvelous," responded Georg in a noncommittal tone. "I've news for you. BeeBee wants you back in Palo Alto on the next shuttle. You are to be the new Acting Director of TT." 

"I don't get it. I was DCC director and the Director fired me... Ajo! You mean that kind of Acting Chairman Director. You're joking! What happened to Hammerlund," Allyne did a double take?

"No, you did get it. Hammerlund was arrested, charged for drunk-driving and charged with resisting arrest. My guess is that BeeBee capitalized on that to get the Board to take him out, probably convinced them with my report of our night on the Golem," Georg looked around to see if anyone could overhear them, only Judy, who didn't look like she was following, or even cared.

"Hijo de perro bribon! It'll look like we set him up to get me his job. If we'd planned it that way it wouldn't've worked. That's real rotten. I can't do that. I can't take his job under those circumstances," protested Allyne.

"Whoa! You haven't got his job, you're just Acting. Also, Hammerlund was more than ready to tie the can to your tail, and on top of that, you didn't do it, the Board did, with full knowledge of all the facts. Well. . . They didn't know that it was Emmette who called the police, unless Emmette herself told BeeBee she did. I just said it was a friend who owed me a favor."

"Ajo! I feel like a pedacio de mierda," said Allyne. 

"Look! Don't take the job if you don't want it. But the Board wants you. I bet if you go to San Jose State in evenings, got your PHD in the next two or three years, they'll make you full Director General, provided you don't drop any real clangers on the way. That'd be so tough to do you can assuage your conscience and be damned sure you earned it." 

"I'm going to have to think more about this. Let's go in to dinner, your guests must already be there!"

"Right," agreed Georg and they moved to L'Aperitif. The Maitre-d'Hotel had seated the ladies across from each other about midway down the table and led Georg to the head of the table. As Georg brushed by Judy he noticed that she did wear one actual piece of jewelry. On a fine chain of linked miniature spheres hung around her neck, a pendant-fashion, gold-mounted-can-opener of classic design. 

Before Georg took his seat, Dr O'Kennedy rose and introduced his wife, Bridget, who was seated across from the Doctor, and on Georg's left. Mrs O'Kennedy was in her mid-30's, perhaps ten years younger than her spouse. Her stature and figure were both on the slightly stocky side of average. It was topped by a round, fair face, with little makeup, framed by short, mousy blond hair. A silk paisley dress of indeterm-inate design neither added or detracted from the overall effect, though the amount of cleavage and area of bulging breasts it showed, left more the impression of a publican's wife than the wife of a college professor. 

As Georg took his seat, she smiled sweetly and offered, "Call me Bridy, everyone does."

"Thank you, Bridy. I'm Georg. I'm sorry for the short notice. I may have to leave London soon and I'm anxious to talk more to Drs O'Kennedy and Smyth-Hawkings. This seemed the only chance I might have without interrupting their very important work at the College."

"And where would you be going next in such a hurry," inquired Bridy? 

"Probably back to San Francisco. One of my colleagues may need my help. I wanted to go to Paris this time, and I also have some business in Cambridge, if there's time before I go back," Georg explained. 

As this was going on, Lady Martine arrived, escorted by Mungo. The Maitre-d'Hotel seated her at the foot of the table with Mungo on her left. 

The restaurant fell silent until she was seated. She had obviously found another costume to go with her high shoes as she again stood at least five-feet-ten inches tall. Her long dress of ivory colored, curved, rolled pleats, cut in a pattern of diagonals which clung to and emphasized her superb figure, was suspended by a single narrow strap over the left shoulder. The skirt wrapped around, opening on the right, to reveal flashes of white calf and thigh when she took the long strides required by her choice of shoes. There were no straight seams, pleats or lines of any kind in the dress. As appropriate, it seemed to have been designed with a French curve as the only drafting instrument, not one of those ancient attempts to square the circle, using only a compass and straightedge. 

She wore two pieces of jewelry, a small, fine, six pointed coronet, almost hidden in the her mane of auburn hair, and a delicate wristwatch. Both appeared to be made entirely of diamond encrusted platinum, also set with larger diamonds. None of the diamonds were huge, but they were not small either. `If they're real they will be worth more than ‘Aleph One', thought Georg. The platinum, melted down, would have bought a nice suit of sail.

Excusing himself for a moment, Georg approached Lady Martine, "You look fabulous, like one of those marvelous meringues with cream inside, from the Left Bank. Good enough to eat," offered Georg, somewhat awkwardly.

"Milles Mercis, vous etes tres gentils. Et vous avez beaucoup de faim, aussi," she responded with a luminous smile. 

George noted her use of the formal form of verb but couldn't decide what it meant, if anything, under the circumstances.

Mungo broke in with,"I have a message," and pretended to narrate, "`Professor MacMichaels regrets that he's unable to dine today, Sir.' He has been ordered back to base for an emergency and has nominated me to represent him tonight. The Professor is now on his way to Scotland on the BA Shuttle." 

"I'm sorry to hear that. I'd have liked to talk to him some more," said Georg. Georg was sincerely disappointed because he was sure that MacMichaels had some information about TT and the situation they were in. Mungo was being used as a stalking horse for MacMichaels to keep in touch with Georg's activities without the risk of revealing too much. He made a mental note to probe Allyne more thoroughly on how MacMichaels knew her or, at least, knew about her. He was a little suspicious about MacMichaels' sudden flight to Scotland. It would have been entirely possible for him to take the early shuttle to Edinburgh in the morning and arrive in time for any business meetings he needed to attend, rather than tonight, missing the dinner. 

Smyth-Hawkings and his wife were arriving and Georg went back to the head of the table in time to greet him and be introduced to Lady Smyth-Hawkings. This elegant gentlewoman was almost as tall as her husband, with long jet black hair drawn back by clips on both sides to reveal her long graceful neck. Her creamy skin had a touch of umber coloring. This, with the slightly Eurasian cast of features and a kind of melodic cadence in her voice suggested that at least one grandparent had been from India. 

Her slightly tipped eyes were a light coffee brown, the dark pupils clearly visible and motile, lending a distinctly hypnotic aura. When she looked straight at Georg, the pupils enlarged, slowly but clearly. It was like one of those long, slow, uninterrupted zooms, from a very long shot to an extreme closeup that pretentious movie directors are fond of, except this time Georg was not a spectator, but the sole subject. The sensation was extremely flattering but somewhat paralyzing. She moved with a slow languor, just short of stealth. Georg, who almost never approved the choice in husbands of the women he knew, concluded that there must be unplumbed depths to Smythe-Hawkings to have won this Jewel of the Raj to share his bed… and board.

Georg slowly became aware that Zaarha, for that was how she had been introduced, had asked him a question, "How do you find London?"

Barely suppressing the retort, `Just a few miles upstream from the mouth of the Thames,' actually answered "I find the City charming and her People kind, especially Professor Smyth-Hawkings, mine host last evening," with a slight bow to the Professor who listened attentively from the other side of the table. Georg could not resist the notion that this might be another experiment with a naive subject, like the Guy Fawlks episode last evening. 

"But you are the kind one. My husband has told me how you were immensely tolerant and helpful to him, though he took advantage of a social occasion to avail himself of your services while you were being drawn in other directions," she said, somewhat mysteriously.

"What other directions," asked Georg bluntly?

"Harold and, especially I, wish to apologize. You have already said you forgave him his ruse, as being required for the scientific integrity of the experiment, but I gather you have not yet been informed of my role in the affair?" Her inflection made it a question.

"No, but I can guess, at least a part of it," replied Georg in a none too pleased tone.

"I was the observer, monitor if you like, on the data acquisition system. We have the experiment on video tape, of course. You surely noticed the camera in the room, in a corner near the ceiling. But, if anything had gone wrong during the experiment, it would have been needful to have a human in the circuit to repair the situation. Else, we would have lost too much time in recreating the initial conditions, if it were possible at all. I observed all the events of the evening and have spent much of the day studying and documenting the results," Zaarha explained at length.

"What other directions," Georg repeated his question with deliberate rudeness?

"Ah, You seemed to be at pains to divide your attention fairly between Lady Martine and Miss Fineman, but of course you absented yourself from the premises entirely for nine minutes, probably to make a local telephone call. That was the conclusion of ASS, on the basis that it was hardly long enough to get an overseas connection with a credit card. I was not completely convinced as you had the same coins on you when you came back, and you probably would have used them for a local call. . ."

"What is an ASS," asked Georg, "Oh! I know one meaning but you must have in mind another one," he added with a somewhat malicious grin. 

"It stands for Automatic Surveillance System. I'm not cognizant of any other meaning," she said questioningly, her pupils growing momentarily larger… again.

"In American English. the letters spell the word for. . ." he searched his memory for his late wife's euphemistic word for it, "botty". Perhaps Zaarha didn't understand that word either, as she showed no reaction. 

Smythe-Hawkings made his first contribution, "We still cling to the archaic spelling `a-r-s-e', but only the working class pronounce it that way. We are working on a new version which we were going to call the Automatic Robotic Surveillance for the Environment [ARSE] until someone pointed out the problem. We will have to rename it before we go public."

Georg allowed the conversation to lapse momentarily. Evidently the state of robot vision and pattern recognition was very advanced here, much further than he had thought, even after his encounter with Guy Fawlks. Expert systems also had to be in a very advanced state. They could analyze the sights and sounds (plus some kind of tomography data, to read the coins in his pocket) of a social gathering, detect the pairings and check who went out to reserve a hotel room for the night and in what city, with a human monitor such as Zaarha, only in case the equipment broke down. 

Something didn't jibe. The simplest explanation he could think of was a time gap, had he been asleep for ten years? He checked his Seiko to see if it was 1997 rather than 1987 as he thought. No year on the display. Ah, the menu, which the waiter had just handed him, showed 1987. So much for that. How could this field have gotten so far away from him? He had been sitting in Silicon Valley, Galactic center of computer hardware and, to a slightly lesser extent, software development, with a keen interest and lots of contacts. 

There had to be a big budget behind Guy Fawlks & Company and very tight security. But, if that were so, why was he being let in on the secret now, in such an unorthodox way, and in a manner almost calculated to offend him? The feeling of being maneuvered and not very subtly manipulated was extremely strong. What was the purpose of this? Why did he need to be convinced so thoroughly of their power?

All the guests having arrived, a waiter was quietly passing around the table soliciting orders for the dinner. George quietly summoned the sommlier to order six bottles of Pouilly Fuisse to be served forthwith and four bottles of Chateau Margeaux 72 to be opened, to allow the contents to breath for at least a half hour, before serving. He would have liked to have used an Echezaux or one of the better Spanish Rioja's of the late 60's but these would have to breath a least an hour to reach a state equal to the Margeaux, and justify their lower cost.

Bridy O'Kennedy requested help with the menu, "What do you recommend, Georg. You're bound to be familiar with the menu here. My husband and I usually eat Pakistani or Vietnamese, when if ever we have a meal out." 

"You like spicy food?" inquired Georg mildly.

"No I detest it, but it's the cheapest, and I have the satisfaction of sharing some of the misery of the world's most oppressed peoples," Bridy, retorted with a cautionary glare at her husband's chair.

"I see," said Georg, "then you send the difference in cost to the Save the Children Fund."

"No. That is not what I said. On his salary there is naught left for charity. I can only share some of the pain of occasionally eating the same putrid food they have to eat every day," Biddy came back aggressively.

"From this menu it does not seem we are in a position to effectively share the gustatory fate of the third world this evening," mused George, "I suggest Fois gras de Canard on a caramel of pineapple with summer dressing, as an hor-d'oevre, followed by steamed fillet of sea bass on a hot–nettle-potato and spring-onion salad with a light, lobster glaze. If you wish an entree, I suggest the saute of fresh, bay-prawns with baby cauliflower and orange butter. The main course should then be the grilled tender eye of Angus rib and Anette potatoes. Then, to cleanse the palate, a mixed salad. A Selection of English and Continental Cheese could follow, and finally a selection from the Sweet Trolley, and coffee or tea, as you prefer. The Pouilly Fuisse should see you through to the seafood course at least, unless you prefer red, Scandinavian style. In that case, I suggest a Volney unless they still have some of the Beaujolais Nouveau 87. I hear it was exceptionally good this year. How does that sound," he asked?

"It sounds like it would feed a refugee camp in Beirut for a week, but it would undoubtedly make them ill, so I shall have it if you please, with the white," Bridy accepted.

From this exchange Georg was led to believe that Bridy was not seriously caught up in the problems of third world hunger, but meant to needle Professor O'Kennedy for his meanness, and perhaps buried in her peroration was also an obscure slight for Lady Smyth-Hawkings. Both these worthies seemed to confirm this view as they became increasingly agitated as she went on, and were unable to conceal smiles of satisfaction as Georg seduced Bridy with the delicacies of L'Aperitif's voluptuous menu. 

Not to be outdone, Zaarha asked, "Would you be so good as to order for me as you did for Bridy, but, please no beef, and I do not favor fish as a main course?"

"It would be my pleasure," Georg replied,"at least I can suggest some possibilities. Perhaps you could start with a Salad Jacqueline, that is lobster claws, smoked chicken, celeriac, broad beans and tarragon. The Gratin of baby vegetables in puff pastry with two sauces is delicious as an entree. For the main course, fillet of pink lamb with a compote of aubergine, courgette and almonds with a light watercress sauce. The salad, cheese, Sweet Trolley and coffee to follow. If you prefer you could start with the soup, a Minestrone of English vegetables and fresh garden herbs. This would give you the choice of the Salad Jacqueline or Mixed Salad before the cheese. I assume you prefer mineral water in any case."

Zaarha said, "Exactly, and I will start with the Salad Jacqueline."

"You will not regret it, that's what we'll do," Georg glanced at the waiter who nodded affirmation that he had already taken it all down. "I shall have the Dover Sole Aperitif', from the Table d'hote menu, starting with Scottish Salmon. . . and would you please ask the Somellier to step this way again?" he added.

Georg determined to take advantage of the break to draw out Dr O'Kennedy and Sir Smyth-Hawkings, basically the reason for the dinner, even at the risk of offending their spouses. He addressed both of them with his next remark,"I have been very impressed by the advanced state of robotics evident in both your works. Are there any other teams which have reached this level, I'm sure no one is ahead of you."

After a short exchange of glances to resolve who would answer first, O'Kennedy said,"We lead the field in most respects to do with integration of the various technologies to support autonomous operations. For example, I believe you have met Guy Fawlks. He is based on the component technology available about a year ago, in mid-86. Professor Smyth-Hawkings'team and especially Dr Fineman, have regularly improved integration and training procedures since then. Certain components and even subsystems, such as the visual perception subsystem, where we don't have access to the best technology, which have been developed by other teams."

"What kind of barriers have you found, government restrictions, cost or commercial secrecy," asked Georg? 

"All those," replied Smyth-Hawkings". None of them are insurmountable, but, taken together, they hold back progress significantly. As you surely appreciate: as integrators, we can only advance as rapidly as the slowest element, as with ships in convoys."

"From my naval experience it is sometimes justified to leave the stragglers to the wolves or, to stay with the metaphor, the pig-boats," offered Georg.

"That is were the metaphor breaks down," replied O'Kennedy. "In some cases, we can't advance without an improvement in one of the critical subsystems." 

There was a short pause while Georg directed the Sommelier to increase the wine order by 50%, both white and red, after checking the rate of consumption so far.

"Is there one subsystem which is especially critical at the moment," asked Georg, with a feeling that they were reaching the nub of the matter.

Both O'Kennedy and Smyth-Hawkings answered simultaneously:

"Vision," said Smyth-Hawkings.

"Associative Memory," from O'Kennedy.

With a smile, Smyth-Hawkings elucidated, "We need a quantum leap in the visual perception subsystem. We believe this means adopting a special kind of associative memory, modeled on the retina of animals. We propose that certain sensors, equivalent to rod and cone cells in the retina, should be dedicated to detecting predefined features in a scene, eg edges at particular orientations, or, say, movement. A pattern, in the form of a compactly coded representation of the various features in the scene, is sent to the higher level for comparison to remembered patterns (stored in the same coded form) to see. . . pardon, to detect if there is anything recognizable in the scene."

O'Kennedy picked up the theme, "This way the required bandwidths between adjacent levels are drastically reduced and, as the feature extraction is actually a part of the sensory function itself, the whole process could be speeded up to biological speeds, a feat you can appreciate if you have ever tried to swat a fly with a newspaper."

Georg was already aware of the paradox that even primitive animals, using abysmally slow and unreliable circuit elements, ie neurons, were faster and more versatile pattern recognizers than the fastest super-computers, to say nothing of the relative size or energy demands the systems required. Leaving aside the possibility that life forms, including the housefly, were divinely endowed with some supernatural quality, outside the laws of physics and the ken of mankind, which made them so good at this task, it could only be a question of how they were organized. 

"Do you have an idea about how to go about constructing such an artificial retina", Georg asked cautiously?

There was again the flicker of glances, with the result that Smyth-Hawkings spoke, "We and several of our associates have already commissioned work on this. We decided to use CCD arrays as sensors and to work primarily in infrared, both because of the sensitivity profile of available CCD technology and because some of the most important applications need to operate in murky environments, where infrared has a distinct advantage. Also, it appealed to us that the technique of storing electric charge used by CCD's might be extended to provide weights for the connections in neuron network type of organization. We hope these electric charges could be used as an analog element, ie provide a continuously variable weight rather than strictly digital `zero' or `one'. This would seem to be closer to the biological analog. . . Pardon, and might open the way to multiplexing techniques which could greatly increase the capacity of the systems." 

"I actually don't believe that physical laws prohibit such an approach but it extends the state of the art in several directions. . . literally. It requires fabrication of 3-D integrated circuits. Have you been successful," asked Georg?

"Not yet, at least not precisely," replied Smyth-Hawkings, "we’ve managed to have someone fabricate some sample chips, and put them out to test, but the results have been lost and, worse still, in the meantime we have been put under a court injunction to cease and desist as our supplier there is alleged will infringe on some pending patents."

"Amazing," exclaimed Georg,"What a rotten run of luck. Can't you agree to pay royalties, or are they too greedy?"

O'Kennedy jumped in, "It is not the chip itself which infringes, but the method of fabrication. Specifically, to get the necessary penetration to print the masks through several layers, as you observed it's a three-D chip, the fabricator used gamma rays, focused by a new method. The technique for focusing the gamma rays is the subject of the patent dispute." 

"Still it should be possible to buy out of the bind. Who owns the patents in question", inquired Georg? 

Both interlocutors answered,"Ferrari Electrodynamics, PLC."

"Of Cambridge, Cambs," added Zaarha, who had been listening for some time. 

Georg was sure the trap had snapped shut, finally. Now he knew why Varian was on the case. He could not be certain yet but he would bet his share of United, even money, that the reason he had been so ardently, and sometimes crudely, courted was that someone had got wind of his interest in Ferrari Electrodynamics and, incorrectly, assumed that he controlled, or could control, the patents. They wanted to use his influence to obtain a license to use them. But, why not a direct approach, just offer me money, or a share in something that could amount to money. It was probably foreign to the academic mind to think in such terms. Then,`A patent on a device to focus gamma rays, that's something I wouldn't know how to begin to do and as the patents are only pending they don't have to publish how they do it,' he thought.

For the last fifteen minutes Georg had been noticing an occasional pressure above his right knee. Initially it could pass for Zaarha idly resting her knee against him, perhaps under the impression that it was a table leg. To test this theory, Georg had slouched in his chair, slightly canting his legs to the left, well out of range of wandering knees. When he straightened up a few moments later, there was the pressure again. Engrossed in conversation with the two profs, he decided that it was a bearable, even somewhat pleasant, distraction.

Soon thereafter, the situation escalated. He felt a gentle stroking, beginning about two inches above the knee and progressing halfway up the thigh. He glanced toward Zaarha, who was carrying on an animated conversation with Bridy across the table, and eating with her right hand. The left hand, to all appearances, lay on her lap, underneath the table cover. The warm tingling in his right thigh gave lie to this impression, however. 

On mention of Ferrari Electrodynamics, Georg forgot all about Zaarha's game and his speculations about her intentions. "I appreciate the advantage of gamma rays in this case, better penetration than E-Beam and better resolution than X-rays. Do you know how this gamma ray focusing device works? Perhaps there is another way to do it without infringing their patents," he asked.

"We are neither physicists nor EE's. Somebody told me it depends on the magnetic properties of neutrons. . . or anti-neutrons perhaps it was. As I never dreamed that either of them had any magnetic properties, I was lost from the beginning," Sir Harold complained. 

Georg knew that even though neutrons carried no net electric charge they had a magnetic moment due to their +1/2 unit of spin and so could be diffracted in an electric field. It was hard to see what practical use could be made of this. The magnetic moment of a neutron is very small, a few thousands that of an electron, the mass is over a thousand times as great and the supply of free neutrons is severely limited, outside a nuclear reactor or an atomic explosion. 

A possible, but probably fantastical, approach occurred to Georg. X-rays are scattered by crystals, even the shortest wave length: gamms rays, to a certain extent. If neutrons could be made to assemble into crystals, presumably a neutron star is one large neutronic crystal and they do emit tightly focused beams of X-rays, perhaps one could also focus gamma rays. With growing amusement, Georg reviewed in his mind the engineering difficulties of creating such a crystal in the neighborhood of Earth: Collapse one star of somewhat less than 1.5 solar masses (by exhausting its nuclear fuel so that gravity is no longer overcome by thermal forces) to a radius of a few kilometers. Make sure you have aligned the spins of the constituent neutrons so that you have a gigantic ferromagnet. Set the whole mess spinning from once to a thousand times a second. Now you have a way of focussing gamma rays. All you need to do is mount this in a machine to direct the beam into piece of silicon, or perhaps gallium, crystal covered by a mask with microscopic lines and points which will stop gamma rays (another small problem) and penetrate the unshielded areas to a depth of a few thousandths of a millimeter. 

Thinking feverishly, Georg was at pains to keep up his end of the conversation, especially as Zaarha had begun a gradual extension of the stroke of her thigh massage and Bridy was now treading his left toe clumsily, in her own version of footsie. 

"I have some contacts with Ferrari Electronics, let me see what I can do," he offered.

"We would be very obligated to you if you can overcome the impasse," answered Smyth-Hawkings and was fervently seconded by O'Kennedy. Zaarha lent her own emphasis by lengthening her stroke to cup in her palm the now sizable lump in his trousers. She commenced to squeeze it gently and rhythmically. He could hardly credit that no one else had noticed what was going on, especially as he now realized he had said "Electronics" rather the correct name "Electrodynamics". 

The situation was rapidly becoming insupportable. "I must speak to Allyne, she may be able to help," he lied, arising, casually holding his napkin on his lap and moving to her end of the table. The entrees had been finished and the waiters were passing around the salad courses. Some, including Lady Martine and Mungo, had not ordered salads, but had left the table temporarily. Georg sat in Mungo's chair, leaned toward Allyne and asked, "Have you decided? You should ask the Hotel to make reservations if you are returning tomorrow. There is a TWA about noon, gets in before four pm. It usually has first class seats available right up to flight time."

"Yeah. Thanks. I need to talk to you. How much help can I expect from you if I do it? Those Tity nipper-whiz-kids are notoriously hard to manage. I don't know what half of them are talking about most of the time."

"I can give you one piece of advice right now. Let the money do the talking. If they want some of it, make them put it into terms you can understand. If you can't understand what they want it for. don't give them any. Don't try to scare them with losing their jobs; they can get another job anywhere, anytime. But they can't get a budget for their pet project unless they can explain themselves to somebody; it might as well be you. At least they must get it by you to get it up to Board level."

"You make it sound simple. But there are some in-house directors, drawn from the various divisions. I won't be able to absolutely control what gets to the Board. I'll only be Director General... Acting, at that, and, I suppose, a Member of the Board, but not the Chairman."

"Yeah. Who is the Chairman," asked Georg?

"It was Hammerlund, he was Chairman too. Don't suppose he is any more, though.", answered Allyne. After a pause, she continued, "Suppose I make a condition. If I insist that I be reinstated as Director of the Computing Center as well as being Acting Director General I really should have dibs on two seats on the Board. I keep the one that goes with the Director General's spot and insist that my man is honcho for the other one. When they ask who honcho is, I say `Georg Smith'. *Que piensas tu d'esto, Compadre?"

"That sounds like several conditions. What if they don't accept them," he insisted?

"Then I don't take their lousy job. I'm another one of those who can get a job anywhere, anytime. Or, we could activate Rogers &Smith, Cybernetic Consultants for real. Would you prefer to do that or will you back me up on the Tity Board," she asked again.

"You mean Smith, Rogers, Consultant Cyberneticists," Georg laughed. 

He was sure she would prefer the TT setup, if they bought her conditions, and he mildly preferred that too, if he didn't have to go back right away and if it left him free to start up new companies on his own when he found a ripe opportunity. He explained that and Allyne agreed. She would call BeeBee as soon as dinner was over and get her preliminary reaction. If positive, she would take the noon plane back to finalize the deal. Nobody had mentioned money... Yet. 

The arrangement also had an advantage, which Georg found a little difficult to admit to himself. If they were so related, in business, the `two-telephone-pole' rule applied. He could insist that their personal relation-ship remain at least as platonic as it had been up to now. He suddenly realized he preferred it that way. Whether to leave the decks free for something to develop with Lady Martine, fear of making a binding commitment, or just the desire to sample some of the `wares' which seemed to be thrust upon him from every direction, he could not yet say at that moment. He even thought of Emmette for a moment, but could not tell if she was a special case like Martine or just one of the `wares'.

While they were talking, Mungo had returned, found his seat occupied and, on Georg's waved invitation, taken Georg's chair between the two rapacious ladies. 

Judy had been carrying on an animated conversation with Smyth-Hawkings and she now spoke to Georg in a low voice, "Some of us are planning to go to a Club after dinner and Allyne is anxious to try a Casino. Some of the group is interested in one and some in the other. O'Kennedy, Allyne, Sir Harold and I are definitely in the Casino group and Lady Martine has to go with us to get us in. Mungo and Mrs O'Kennedy want to go to the Club. Lady Zaarha hasn't decided yet. I think she's waiting to see where you go. What is your pleasure, Sir?"

Georg would have chosen to go with Martine, but that threw him together with Allyne also, and until he had a chance to discuss the implications of their new situation, it would be uncomfortable to be in intimate social contact with them both at the same time. At best he would be blocked from making any moves in Martine's direction, with Allyne around.

"I'll go along with the Club party, but Allyne and you should come to my room before you go if you need some money for the Casino. I'll get some travelers checks from the Hotel safe." 

The dinner had proceeded apace and most people were finishing their desserts. Georg, who seldom ate desserts (and had long ago given up on getting a European waiter to bring him coffee, until the last person had finished his choice from the Sweet Trolley) waited patiently. After a long absence, Martine returned to the table to announce that she had just been reached with a message from her mother-in-law, the Dowager Baroness, to return to Paris urgently to Paris for a family emergency. She proposed to leave as soon as the dinner was over to pack for the first flight.

Judy and the gentlemen at the table, aided discreetly by Allyne, prevailed on her to go to the Casino for at least an hour or so. Georg suspected self interest as much as love of the Baroness was at work, as her presence would smooth the way for the party to gain admission to the Casino. 

The dinner party itself soon broke-up, in deference to the Baroness' need to get a few hours sleep before her flight. True to Judy's prediction, Zaarha chose to accept Georg's invitation to a night club with him, Mrs O'Kennedy and Mungo, while both husbands left for the Casino with Lady Martine, Allyne and Judy. The latter two had each drawn five thousand pounds from Georg's funds to finance their expedition. 

George was struck by the way every couple who had arrived at the dinner in some sense together that evening had split up for the second half of the evening. He had a feeling that in some cases the split might last longer than that.

 

 

CHAPTER VII


A few minutes earlier, Allyne had left Judy and Georg in his room while she went to her room to reapply make-up before the Casino party left the Hotel.

"Are you going to bring Zaarha to your room after the club," Judy asked?

"I should think her husband would object strenuously," Georg tried to pass the matter off as a joke.

"Oh! He will not be inclined to object if he is managed properly. I do beg your pardon for asking such a personal question, but I do have a personal interest. You see, Harold and I plan to dally a while after the Casino. If it is safe, we'll come to the Hotel, else back to Browning House. If you come to the House, she will catch me and he will catch you. If both couples come back here, there could be embarrassing encounters in the hall. The situation needs a clear understanding, a discreet set of seconds," Judy explained.

There was no option offered Georg to go, alone, to his own bed. Recalling the surveillance facilities of Browning House, Georg said, "I'll come back to the hotel, why don't you give me the key to your room? If you have anything personal in there, leave it in Allyne's room. If we don't hit it off, I'll offer her that room, if she insists on going home I'll sent her off in a taxi and call Browning House. . . I've got the number. . . let you know she's coming. Otherwise, before you come back in the morning, call me. I'll check if she has cleared out."

As Georg and Judy joined the group in their staging area in the bar, Allyne also arrived. The Casino group departed with only a moment for Georg to get Lady Martine's home number in Paris, which he promised to call soon. She offered to return to London, or she would show him her Paris when he arrived. He was treated to a French style kiss, on both cheeks, before she swept away with her retinue in tow.

Mungo and the two ladies who had elected to go to a late-night club were deep in conversation at a table at one end of the bar. 

He felt the icy fingers of a depression coming on. Things had been happening too swiftly. He had ended his affair with Allyne before it had started. `She just doesn't know it yet' he thought, with a wave of self- reproach. His new amour had left suddenly on a mysterious errand, with his love still undeclared, perhaps hinted at, but not unequivocally reciprocated. He had, tentatively and indirectly, agreed to fuck someone he had just met and, notwithstanding a certain carnal attraction, was not sure he even liked that. She was also the wife of his host of last evening and his honored guest of the present evening. He had not even clearly rejected the aspirations of the plump little Irish crumpet who had stamped his toe with such vigor... and hope. 

It was time; he decided to roll out the heavy artillery. Calling the bartender, he asked "D'ya know how to make a `Wallis Blue'?"

From the blank expression he might as well have asked the way to the `Crab Nebula'. . . "Right! Take a shaker. Pour in eight measures of gin. . . English measures, Okay? Now, eight measures of Cointreau. . . Squeeze in two limes and add a heaping teaspoon of sugar. Rose's will do, instead of the lime juice and sugar, if you don't have fresh lime. . . Top it up with chipped ice, let it sit for a minute. . . Swish gently. . . Pour through a strainer into four martini glasses. Add a single drop of Angostura bitters to one glass. That glass and the bill are mine. The others are for my three friends over there. The residues of this note and the shaker are your tip." He had paced the instructions to the progress of the bartender and dropped a twenty-pound note on the bar as he finished serving out the drink.

"Didn't y'all drive up early-on in a Ferrari Eff-Forty driven by a Goddess of the Greek persuasion? Los ty'r shoffer, dintya, 'r wuzat 'er sister djist left?" The question came from a consummate Texan type character, distinctly misguided in his choice of hotels, on Georg's left. 

Georg's business. in the past, had taken him to several Dallas - Fort Worth area roadhouses contributing to his conclusion that rattlesnakes were cozy and friendly creatures compared with a short-statured Texan, bourbon-bloated and in quest of his misplaced manhood. "Mebbe," answered Georg, with his best James Garner imitation,"Ya know them wheels? I'z athinkin bout buyin one ubbem. Come ahl-away t'London jist t'chekiddout."

"Bedder-a brawt y'r Plaatin'm Card. I heerd dey run t'neer haf-a-mill a copy secunt han. No use'n askinfer anoo'n. Soldout t'enda tha run."

"Don'say? Guess'l hafta jist merry th' warmen dat-onzit. Cain't ford t'byit outryet, leasentilla prica aisle gozupagin. Anyow, gotta ryyde. Seean-ya'etha bunk-house," Georg started to move off. 

"Hold on. Godda good'n fer'ya: Thur'za gal driv'n 'long bout tha Taixass-Noo-Mayexhico border, 'n'er car broke down. She pulledoff d'road, open'dup the hood an' leen'd over try'n'ta lookin' th'in gen. 'Soth'r guy comes 'long real quiet n'pops tha'hood down, 'er skirt up, 'er panties down and screws'er right there. 'N'iny runs offen fore she cud'ev'n gida lookat'im. N'a lil'whyl th' hi-way pattrol comz'long 'n' she tel'zem shez ben rayped by a Taix'n. 

They say, `Wha'dee look lyke?.' 

She said `I didn't see'em but I know he wuz a Taix'n.'"

"Howya know he'za Taix'n f'ya den see'im?

"Well, I knew'iz belt buckle wuz four inches long 'n' I knew'iz prick wuz two inches long."

"That could give it away, “said Georg. "What part of Texas you from?"

"Oh! I'm from Tucson, Arizona, but we do get a lot of'em through on their way to Californee and I like to practice my accent."

"Thanks for the story," said Georg, as he moved to join his friends at the end of the bar.

"Thank you for the drink," said Bridy," It was exactly the right thing to follow the fabulous dinner you ordered for me."

`You're very welcome, I'm pleased you liked it," Georg returned. "Does anyone have a favorite night spot? I have to admit I don't know the late-night scene in London very well."

Zaarha came to the rescue, "You have to be a private club member or guest in the hotel to drink after eleven. I can get us into `Al & Vicky's' until four, if you wish. It has Victorian decor after the manner of the 'ole Gentlemen's Clubs. French maid's costumes with nothing over their backsides,  and the like. They don't cover their `asses'. Is that right Georg? I did wonder what that meant."

"You gottit. I'm with you. Shall we go there? I'll order a taxi, or shall we walk?" 

"It's a ten minute amble and quite safe," suggested Zaarha.

Following Mungo's lead with Bridy, Georg invited Zaarha to take his arm for the stroll to the A & V. She walked with a fluid grace, fitting her body against his, never leaving contact completely but constantly in motion. Her breasts against his upper arm took turns with her hip and thigh in caressing his corresponding parts. "I think I have deduced whom you called last night. You sent for Miss Rogers, did you not? Are you lovers, as well as business colleagues? I could certainly understand if you are, she is a stunning woman and I hear she is a brilliant executive as well. My husband says she is a Carlsburg, that is, `probably the best’ practical computer scientist in the world." She stopped speaking but not her rolling caresses, to give him a chance to respond.

His mind was full of questions. He constantly underestimated these people. It was hard to believe he hadn't been set up. How could they possibly know so much about him and Allyne if there hadn't been some special interest in them even before they left California? Could he have been manipulated into coming to London? It had probably been MacMichael's idea.

Abruptly and apropos of nothing in particular, he tumbled to the connection between O'Kennedy and 63-11-22. Oh-Kennedy, zero Kennedy, Kennedy's dead, 63-11-22. It was a macabre but excellent mnemonically coded form of O'Kennedy's name. Did that mean that he had supplied the password? Not for sure, but likely, and certainly it had been someone to whom the name was very familiar. Of course the rationale fitted for Bridy just as well. He observed her form bouncing along, hanging onto Mungo's arm. He knew practically nothing about her. She apparently had some perverse kind of identification with oppressed people. She was angry, probably permanently, at her husband and enjoyed insulting him in public. They seemed to be mismatched in most ways. 

"Well, are you," insisted Zaarha?

"Am I what," retorted Georg?

"Are you and Miss Rogers lovers, or merely colleagues?"

"We are colleagues. We are not now and never have been lovers," answered Georg. Adding the emphasis, to cover his deliberate neglect to add that he had thought that they were, for a while, and that they were going to be, for even longer, up to an hour ago. After a pause, he added, "Don't you and Sir Harold sleep together either?"

"Oh! Yes, occasionally, if there has been no one attractive, from out of town, for a while. It is necessary to be discrete. Everyone from the academic community (or of our immediate social circle) is forbidden, at least to me. I suspect Harold of occasionally crowding convention a little too closely. As long as they are provincial, young enough, and ‘cummun’; it doesn't much matter to him, if they are vaguely academic." She pronounced `common' as `cummun', imbuing it with a criminal quality, exactly like a MacCarthyite, pronouncing "Cummunist".

Al and Vicky's was divided into two main sections, "Al's Club", an 1890's Gentleman's Club and (probably) ersatz, whorehouse with red, plush-anaglypta-wall-paper, overstuffed furniture, `French-Maid' waitresses and scantily-clad `hostesses'. Zaarha informed him that the frock-coated gentlemen, `hostesses', some of the `French-Maids' and tight-trousered bus-boys were not Employees but Members. Some of these kept their costumes in lockers and dressed on premises to act out their ‘role-of-the-evening’. The general rule was that Members had to serve their first year of membership as maids and/or bus-boys, the ladies were given six months to work up to going without bottoms. However, they were allowed to wear face-masks for the whole year if they wished. There was no rule that their actual sexual preferences had to correspond with the role. Some of the hardier, better endowed, females actually elected to wear the Empire tops, which exposed the bosom, save only a small underpinning `shelf' most of them required.

Vicky's, reached either from the street or through a short, sound-deadening passageway from Al's, was a 1990's Discotheque (dark, with deafening music, laser show, acid rock murals, a few small tables, each capable of holding two drinks, and even smaller stools). At that hour, the tiny dance floor was packed with dancers who gyrated and writhed in, and out-of-step, with the monotonous beat of the music. It was impossible to tell who was dancing with whom, or, even if, the couples were heterosexual. There did not seem to be much mixing from Al's to Vicky's, and none of the costumed staff or members from Al's were in evidence. 

As Georg, after a half hour in Al's, was led through by Zaarha to Vicky's, he was struck by what he could only call `temporal shock',  a hundred years. in a few seconds. It was almost incredible that less than a minute ago, he could have as well been in the 1890's. Shortly, among the dancers, Zaarha and he were separated. After five more minutes dancing more or less with several variously dressed women, he tired. He decided that he could just a well find his partner by holding steady at one of the tables on the periphery as circulating on the floor. 

Bridy was first thrown up on the beach by the pulsating waves of dancers. "The music is fantastic! I can't stand it," she shouted cryptically, insinuating her body onto the minuscule stool just behind Georg as he stood leaning on a table. "No! Don't turn round, I want to hold you while we watch," her lips against his right ear. She gripped him between her ample thighs and held him in the jaws of her trap by a pudgy arm around his waist. The muscles of her legs began to pulsate and she explored his ear with her lips and tongue,"The music! The music! It drives me mad. I must have it! Give it to me! Give it to me!" Her voice threatened to disrupt his hearing apparatus almost as much as her words did to his mind. What she was asking was obviously impossible under the circum-stances. It must be part of some fantasy she did not mean him to fulfill, would scream her bloody head off if he tried, and get them, or him arrested. 

He tried to visualize what the scene must look like to the casual spectator on the floor, or. . . God! He had completely forgotten about Zaarha, circulating out there somewhere. Actually, he concluded, in view of the darkness, relieved only by the flickering of the strobes and lasers, it would be practically impossible to make out anything cogent. It was remarkable that Bridy had recognized him standing by the table. Perhaps she hadn't, didn't recognize him, just saw a lone man, and was compelled by her fever to grab any prop available to fill in the outlines of her need. Could that be the turn-on, to fuck a stranger, never seen, forever anonymous, the ultimate anomienistic act?

This line of speculation was utterly destroyed in the next event. "Georg! Georg! UUUUGGGHHH! Georg! Georg! Georg! I'm fuuuckkkt." There could be no question of anonymity now. Nor any question that the frenzy of the music and the dance had driven her to the point of orgasm and past it, for she now slumped, completely exhausted, perhaps conscious, held more or less erect only by her entanglement with the stool and Georg's body. 

He held on to prevent her falling sideways off the stool. Then, in an attempt to stand her limp body on its feet, to give at least the impression of normality, he grasped her thighs to lift her off the stool. Her skirt had ridden up in the excitement, and his hands fell on her bare flanks and buttocks. Shifting his grip he put one arm about her waist freeing the other to tug her skirt down. . .

"May I offer you any assistance," Zaarha's voice inquired? 

"She seems to have fainted, could you help me get her to Al's where she can sit until she can walk?" Most of Georg's words were carried away by the noise but Zaarha seemed to understand the gist.

In the quieter zone of Al's, Zaarha explained, "I should have warned Mungo to not leave her alone. Whenever she hears loud music she has a Big "O" and sometimes she faints. I hope you weren't embarrassed, there is really no harm in it and she doesn't attack anyone."

`Oh no!' thought Georg, but he said, "I wonder what's happened to Mungo? Speak of the devil!" Mungo surged though the door from Vicky's place with a look of concern.

"There she is. I lost her. I thought she had gone ahead without me, perhaps I had offended her somehow," Mungo expressed his misgivings, apparently not having witnessed the recent drama.

Georg explained,"The music and the crowd were too much for her, so we came back here. Perhaps you would like to take the lady home. She seems to have had enough for one night." 

Bridy interrupted,"No. I want to go home with you Georg. I owe you something I have to repay." She looked slyly at Mungo and Zaarha. 

"You are more than welcome to whatever you feel I have done for you. Absolutely no payment is required nor will be accepted. Now I think you should let Mungo take you home. You must be exhausted. I will escort Lady Zaarha back to Brown's where she can wait for Sir Harold," Georg's tone brooked little opposition, and Zaarha and Mungo fell in with that arrangement readily. 

In twenty minutes, Georg and Zaarha inquired at the desk of Brown's whether the Casino party had returned. As expected, they had not. The lounge was dreary and St. George's Bar was closed. Georg ordered some ice and Rose's Lime Juice Cordial from Room Service along with hors d'oeuvres for his room, and escorted Zaarha there to await the return of the rest of the party. He broke out his duty free Absolut Vodka and a small bottle of Angostura aromatic bitters from his luggage, collected some glasses and started to construct two vodka gimlets on the rocks. At the point of adding the vodka to Zaarha's drink he looked at her inquiringly. She nodded her assent and held her finger and thumb out to measure the amount.

Notwithstanding the powerfully sexual cues emanating from Zaarha as she arranged herself on the bed, leaning back against the headboard, and lifting one knee which she embraced, Georg had no definite plan for the rest of the evening. That was, except as he had arranged with Judy, to prevent Zaarha from going back to Browning House or, if she insisted, to notify Judy that she was on her way. Georg, for the first time, really noticed what she was wearing...apart from her figure, hair and face, and especially her eyes. 

Without jewelry, her silk chiffon dress, in a much darker shade of her own skin hue, was gathered in front by a strap around her long, graceful neck. The folds over her bosom neither emphasized nor suppressed her natural form, nor the movement of her breasts as she walked or shifted in place. A large, brown, embossed leather belt, curved and studded at the edges caused the dress to flare its folds over her shapely hips. Her shoulders, arms and a Vee at the back were the only areas of her skin exposed and none showed through the layers of fabric. 

The impression of complete, almost Franciscan, modesty was only incomplete by the ease of sensing the contours of her moving shape underneath the outer sheath. The fluid curves of thighs, buttocks and breasts complemented the easy, feline graces of her movements. The costume supported and supplement-ed the Woman, calling no attention to itself. The only excess of the garment, actually resident in the eye of the beholder, was the compulsion to fantasize the pleasures of removing it, piece by piece. 

Once again, he marveled that such a woman could be attracted to Sir Harold, who was at this very moment likely to be found in the steely embrace of Judy of the Robot Couture. It would serve him right if he accepted the Lady's favors as he was quite sure she was offering and pinning horns onto her wandering spouse. He had to abandon the anticipation of this enjoyment on realizing that Sir Harold had devalued her adultery by leaving it to fate, in pursuit of his own lust or, perhaps, had actively conspired in it. His discomfiture could only be brought about by depriving him of Zaarha as a wife, not as a bed partner. This was an attractive idea and might be achievable. . . for he was a great believer in the `screw and glue' phenomenon,"those who screw together, get glued together." But Georg was not yet ready to commit that far. . . 

There was also the possibility that Zaarha was Sir Harold's stalking horse, as Georg was sure Mungo was (probably innocently, on his part) for MacMichaels. In her case, if she was, she was not likely being used unknowingly or against her will. She had openly admitted collaborating with him on his projects. She might have a different goal in mind, the pleasure of a roll in the hay, or a petty revenge on her husband. If he had thrown her at him, it was hard to believe his only gain was to divert her from his own tete-a-tete, (He could not understand why it should not be cul-a-cul) with Judy.

"It seems we have been left in the lurch," commented Georg, as Zaarha silently took the first sips of her gimlet.

"I'm not sure what is a "lurch", but if it is what we are left in it is not at all that bad," she said, leaning over to grasp delicately one of the hors d'oeuvres from the tray. The top of her dress fell away from her breast, revealing its color, slightly lighter than her arm, and a crescent of the aureole the color and sheen of a French-roast coffee bean. Georg was overwhelmed with a desire to see, touch and fondle the whole orb, which had taken on a sort of shimmering aura, slowly spreading to the other breast as well. She drew back her hand and the dress fell back into place. The prize was covered again but the aura did not exactly fade, rather diffused outward from the center and downward to include the lower part of her body as well. His throat was tight and he did not trust himself to speak. 

To his immense relief, Zaarha broke the silence, but only partially the spell,"I'm curious of the outcome of Miss Roger's experiment tonight, are you not also," she asked, as soon as she had consumed the hors d'oeuvre?"

Georg managed to croak,"Which experiment is that?"

"Ah! You did not know. Of course, you have not talked to them since they made the plan."

"No. I haven't, if they made plans at dinner," he said.

"As Mungo explained it, Allyne fears her life is duplicate copy of an earlier life. To prove, or disprove it, she has gone to the Casino to try to entail herself in a set of circumstances where the branches are determined purely by chance," Zaarha explained.

"I don't see what that would prove," Georg retorted with some annoyance. 

"She has eliminated the possibility of recording a lifetime of choices, with all the branches followed up, in detail, etc, as requiring more memory than could possibly exist. The memory requirements could be lower, though, if certain ramifications were eliminated. Say if a system of weights were used where any branch with a probability of less than, say, 10 -10 were excised. Perhaps in a brain with 100 thousand million neurons (that would be 100 American billions) with an average of 1000 connections per neuron, there would be 100 thousand billion, or 100s of your trillion's, synapses in which to store data. Now, if she bets on things that have odds of less than 10-10 to win, but wins, the branching out from such an event would increase the memory load enormously. The system, not being built for such a load will crash. If it doesn't, she will know she is herself, not a copy."

"If it crashes she will be dead," said Georg gloomily.

"Oh! No. That only proves she was a copy and the original was already dead. I gather she doesn't want to continue being, as a copy."

"Hey, the whole thing is ridiculous, if she could find anything with such low odds and get anyone to bet on them, on average she would have to place ten to the tenth power bets to win once. At ten seconds per bet, the Universe will be already in heat death before she wins once."

"Not so. There is also a unique chain of events leading out from losing the bet. If she makes many such wagers and detects no discrepancies, and the system doesn't crash, she is safe," rejoined Zaarha, smoothing her skirt which had mounted and threatened to reveal a silky `cafe-au-lait' thigh.

"I still don't understand. What kind of discrepancies do you mean," Georg was having difficulty concentrating on the intricate argument.

"Please understand the details were not explained to me. I think I understood the essence and I can extrapolate from that." On a nod from Georg, she continued,"When she comes to one of the critical nodes, that is one where the limiting weight would force the probability of a particular branch to zero, there would be no data in memory for that branch, it would be as if that branch didn't exist. For Miss Rogers it couldn't happen, not just be virtually impossible but totally impossible. She would continue to believe and behave as if it didn't happen, but to others around her, Judy and the men, were to observe her, this would appear as a discrepancy."

Georg was sure there was a fallacy in the interpretation of the experiment. The `rounding off' of the very low probabilities to zero would introduce an error in the system, true enough. If the event chain following the decision point (branch) were wildly and visibly different, the fact that the wrong branch had been taken might become apparent. If Allyne were subject-ively satisfied with the assurances of her partners, rather than assuming that they and their assurances were only part of the artificial environment maintained by the `life-book' system, the experiment might solve her problem. That would be enough. His current situation did not allow the time and clear thinking necessary to find and elucidate the fallacy, and concern for Allyne's welfare did not recommend that route.

When he glanced toward her, Zaarha was stroking her lower abdomen with a frown,"Please come to me, I need you now. I cannot wait longer. My body is insisting." Her tone was matter of fact, more so than any women he had ever been with including his late wife when, on those rare occasions she had initiated sexual relations. 

Georg had come off the peak of his excitement, triggered by the glimpse of her bare nipple and breast, but he was sure it could be regained with little effort. The gain was a calm and freedom from speculations, perhaps even suspicions. He remembered one of the few pieces of advice he had ever received from his father, on the subject of successful seduction, "You have to behave as though sex were not the most important thing in the world." 

As he rose she said, "Perhaps I should remove my makeup, in case we fall asleep afterwards. . . May I?" She swung her feet off the bed and turned her back to him. "Please release the buckle at the back," she requested.

************************ Episode “A” suspended ********************

Episode A

*************************** End of Episode “A”***********************

"That was lovely. I adore your body," Zaarha said, after a few moments. 

"I've never had such an exciting experience, or such a tremendous conclusion," he said and kissed her longingly. 

"Do you need sleep now, or would you prefer to make love again," she asked as soon as their lips separated.

"I'm wide awake, but I'm not at all sure I can go again right away," he said apologetically. 

"Ah! That is my responsibility, unless you wish to leave it off. Perhaps you need your sleep for a clear head tomorrow."

He calculated quickly, he couldn't see his watch but he was sure it was after two a.m. That means 6:00 pm California time. He felt okay but he had never tried such rapid fire multiples before. She seemed to feel there was a way, would he have another chance to find out? "I'm game if you are," he said and felt a bit childish. There was no verbal answer but he felt her---sphincters recommence their rhythmic contractions.

*************************Episode “B” suspended********************

Episode B

****************************End of Episode “B”**********************

His last thought before sleep was,`’Come quickly, go slowly. Who said that?’ 

He was awakened by the sound of the shower. The room was dark save a sliver of light under the bathroom door. Turning on the bedside light he saw the time was 6:22 a.m. `How had Judy arranged for the "exchange of prisoners. . . spouses" in the morning?' She would call when she came back to the Hotel, and he had to keep Zaarha there, or in the Hotel, till then. Rolling out of bed, he joined Zaarha in the shower.

Their reunion was marked by several moments of kisses and expressions of tenderness. Zaarha began the same shower ritual silently as random thoughts ran through Georg's head. `Making love literally makes love. It removes all tensions and puts one in a distinctly agreeable frame of mind. Mata Hari had the right idea. It would be very hard to deny Zaarha anything she asked for right now. She must know that too. Will she ask for something and, if so, what? Of course she would be agreeable to my requests also, what should I ask for? I would like to know more about her. I know very little. I could ask for her life story, but I'm too hungry to listen before breakfast. I know, I'll ask her to stay for breakfast. We'll order a breakfast for Judy's room and one here. When the waiter's gone, I'll take my tray to Judy's room and we'll breakfast there together.'

This time they did not share the same towel on exiting the shower, although Zaarha did dry a few spots he had missed, and he returned the favor. Georg could not remember ever feeling so relaxed and at peace with the world. It was not a feeling of lethargy, just that there was nothing which required his immediate attention: leaving him free to commune with his innermost thoughts. 

As they reentered the bedroom Zaarha quickly pulled the bedclothes into shape and reclined, nude, hand behind her head, ankles crossed, in much the same pose she had adopted earlier before shedding her dress. Georg recalled Goya's famous set of paintings of the Duchess of Alba in the Prado Museum in Madrid. One was fully clothed and the other nude, both in the same setting and pose. He now understood the erotic impact of the pair. From now on whatever she wore, Georg would be able to visualize Zaarha as she was now, in his minds eye.

Arranging himself beside her, and closing his eyes he gave himself over to he machinations of his unshackled mind. This was his first experience with exogamy. His English wife could hardly be considered called foreign in any real sense. Zaarha was maybe only a quarter Indian, but her attitudes were distinctly different to his ken, and, even distant, kin. If he had been any less confident of his manhood, perhaps he would have been put off by her initiatives. He could not deny some suspicion of her motives. In his experience, women how made their desire for sex evident were usually in search of some ulterior objective, not only the sensual pleasure of his sexual endeavors, wanted to exploit his supposed naivete, for money or something equivalent. The mildest and most acceptable form of this, in the view of the popular mores, was the simple search for a meal ticket for herself and her once and future offspring: the ploy of the selfish gene, to ally itself with a successful lineage for the voyage toward the future of the race. 

In Zaarha's case it did not seem likely that she was in search of a new husband and protector. Her current one appeared to be adequate in that respect and for his own good reasons made few, if any, demands on her, in exchange. It could be that he didn't want children or couldn't have them. Was it possible she was trying the Coo-Coo ploy, to conceive a child to pass off as her husband’s? It didn't seem credible, better said Sir Harold was unlikely to be fooled under the circumstances; especially if he had low sperm count himself. Dead end. The best hypothesis, and most acceptable to him at the moment, was that Zaarha was a warm, passionate and highly skilled sexual animal, who knew what she wanted and he was the current, lucky beneficiary of her attentions. 

The only other option was that she had fallen instantly and irretrievably in love with him in the, what was it, first five minutes of their acquaintance. Even his considerable ego would not allow him to credit that notion. 

Zaarha had shifted her position and resting on one elbow was caressing his body lightly and fleetingly with her fingers, lips and tongue. He was softly drawn into reciprocating in kind. In moments, the entire surface of his body was alive and tingling to her touches, each part seemed to be jealous of whatever was the focus of her attention at the moment. His sexual organ, though on fire with anticipation, had so far refused to respond in the ordained fashion. 

They both shifted positions constantly to bring new areas within reach. At a point Georg found his head resting on her thigh, as she moved again---

************************** Episode “C” suppressed **********************

Episode C

****************************  End of Episode “C” ************************ 

They held each other tightly for what seemed like several minutes. 

Then she whispered in his ear,"You are my man. I never want to let you go," and emphasized her meaning by gripping him even more tightly in her arms and with her special embrace, below. 

Instantly, Georg had a totally unwelcome vision of a line of Brown's waiters, with buckets of water, coming in just before noon to force them apart. Try as he would he could not stop himself from laughing, and laughing. 

Zaarha pushed him violently away with rage in her expression, and her voice, "You bastard! What's so funny! I hate you! I hate you!" She began to beat him with her fists and kick out with her legs and knees, not playfully but fiercely, murderously. 

George thought, `If she had a weapon she would kill me here and now.' He held her arms and protected himself against her assault the best he could, especially his testicles, which seemed to be her special target. "Sorry! Sorry! Sorry! I love you! I'm so happy I couldn't stop laughing! Please! My Darling! My Love!" 

She stopped her struggles, looked at him closely, with doubt in her eyes, "You're crazy," she said. "You don't love me. You think I an a harlot. You laughed at me." 

He held onto her. "No. You are a wonderful woman and a fantastic lover. I have never met anyone like you. I do love you. We have only known each other a few hours but we have shared more than many couples do in a lifetime. Wait. . . I don't know why I laughed but it was not at you. I was suddenly assailed by the thought of us stuck together, like we were, for life. It seemed funny, embarrassing. I had to laugh. . . but not at you."

She subsided; relaxed a little and he released her arms. "You are right, we have shared much. Much more than I have shared with any other man. But, we know little of each other. There must be much tension. Where do we go from here? Where can we go from here? Are we stuck together by our mutual experience? I think I can understand. But you will not laugh like that again... and if you do I will bite off your manhood, ---

************************* Episode “D” suppressed **********************

Episode D

****************************End of Episode “D” **************************

"Easy! Easy! I take the point. Leggo! I promise! Truly I do," he cried, with real tears welling up in his eyes. 

Thankfully, she released him and sat up gazing at him, with an unwanted smile growing on her face. In seconds this exploded into gales of giggles and laughter, and she began to beat on him again, this time enough to sting but not to injure seriously. In the midst of their tussle Georg's laughter finally broke through in full force. It is doubtful when their mutual hysteria would have stopped except for the insistent ringing of the telephone.

Georg, broke away from the fray with some effort, scooped up the handset and boomed "Hello!." 

"I see you have risen already," piped Judy in her perky tones, "I was about to leave for the Hotel and I'm checking if the coast is clear?"

"Oh! I promised to meet Zaarha for breakfast in your room at eight, I suppose she could bring her breakfast over here since you need the room."

"I have a better idea, I have the key to Martine's flat in Prince's Gate. I'm there now, don't trust the phones in Bee-Aiche. I can tuck in and kip here until you need me?"

"Great! I'll give you a bell before things heat up. Before you go, what happened at the Casino last night."

"Allyne was many thousands ahead, when Sir Esse-Aiche dragged me away, and no sign of a glitch. I even won four thousand five hundred on the stake you gave me."

"Capital! I'll let you go now. You'll need your tucker and kip. Ta Ta," Georg affected an eclectic range of British slang.

"Ta yourself," Judy left the line. 

For no particular reason, he continued to hold the handset to his ear for a few seconds. There were a series of confused clicks and chunters and finally a dial tone. There was some kind of equipment connected to the line, whether in the hotel or at Martine's flat, he could not tell without his equipment, which he had left in Portola Valley. He was not sure of the attitude of customs to such things. Most kinds of bugs and sweeps, mini-recorders and FM transmitters and such were openly sold in `Security' shops in London, but it was strictly illegal to use most of them in British jurisdiction. `A clear case of bug thy neighbor' thought Georg. In review, he could think of nothing they had said which would be of use, or could be held against him, or Judy. 

While he talked to Judy, Zaarha had retired to the bath, this time with her shoes, purse and dress in tow. Checking his jaw told Georg that he certainly needed a shave but he hesitated following Zaarha until she had some privacy for her morning rituals. 

In the years of his marriage his wife would never allow him near her while she applied her makeup, or even fixed her hair. He couldn't even begin dressing as Zaarha had undressed him and arranged his clothes in the bathroom in the early morning hours. 

His gaze wandered around the room,`Where would I have planted a bug if I wanted to bug this room? Depends a lot on how much time I had and the kind of access available, but the idea would be to put in a pawn sacrifice, something reasonably hard to find but if it were found, would assure the searcher that he was now safe. Then the real bug remains, totally unsuspected. It has to be in this room, the bath is too noisy.' 

He moved around the room without probing, except with his mind. The challenge was to deduce where the thing was, if it was, hidden. The spy would not be imaginative, taking advantage of the unique decor of Brown's. He/she would use a standard device, made for use in any hotel room. Ha! The TV set. The sacrificial pawn would be there. Close to the power, and undetectable unless you knew what the inside of TV sets were supposed to look like, so proof against most people, those frightened off by the warning sign on the back, "Caution! High Voltage. No Serviceable Parts Inside. To be opened only by Qualified Service Personnel." 

Ten seconds searching in his luggage produced the leather bound set of Japanese tools, a gift of a grateful girl friend whose TV he had rescued after several service men had declared it hors de combat and offered to replace it for a measly $995. In thirty more seconds he had the back off the set and peered carefully inside using the small flashlight from the tool packet. The TV was a fancy set with two speakers, but not new enough to be actually set up for stereo. Oddly, the wiring of the speakers was different, one of them had an extra wire leading from it. 

Georg stood well back, tracing the wires of the speaker with the smallest number of connections to their destination, with the narrow beam of the pencil light, and memorizing their routing. On the other speaker the color coding revealed immediately the surplus wire, which he traced in the same way. It led to a small circuit board with several other connections. One pair of these wires led to the main power switch of the TV where it was connected to sense if the TV was turned on or off. On the circuit board itself, it led to a small relay which he judged would disconnect it from a dime sized electric cell whenever the TV was actually on, but, when off, switched the cell into its own recharging circuit. 

This thing was built for the long haul, rechargeable batteries and all. Clever the way it turned off when the TV was on and it was useless, taking advantage of the TV's power to recharge itself. Then it came on when the TV was off, to listen. A little crude though. A microprocessor could have subtracted the TV sound and retained the other sounds from the room, especially if one had access to the program being broadcast at the time. 

"Georg Love, Precious Heart," Zaarha needed some small service in the bathroom. 

Without replying, he entered the bathroom, gathered her in his arms and whispered in her ear,"We were bugged last night." 

She drew back regarding him intently. "We did not. I didn't know you wanted that. Now there is no time," she said. 

"No! No! I didn't," he whispered, holding his hand up to warn her not to speak. "There is a spy microphone in the telly. They listened to us all night."

Her mouth, freshly lipsticked, formed a perfect "O". Georg suppressed a surge of sexual excitement. He felt charged, super sensitive. He supposed it would be days before he would cease being distracted. 

Zaarha reached into the shower, turning it on full. She then took his hand and led him back to the bedroom, stopping in the back of the TV set, peering inside. He traced out the foreign circuits for her with the beam of tiny flash, in complete silence. She took the flash and examined the rest of the internals of the machine carefully. Motioning him back to the bath and closing the door, she said,"Wrap my dress, and catch it with the belt, Darling. I am very hungry. That was a marvelous meal last night. You must have put some rhino horn in it. I have never been so randy before." She accompanied this dialogue by helping him don his clothes.

Georg took the cue to talk of mundane matters, especially things likely to distract the listener and convince him that what he was monitoring was a `dirty weekend' crammed into a few hours. "You are the most ravishing creature I ever saw. I don't want to let you out of my sight, but I have to shave first. If you are starved why don't you go ahead and order breakfast. I'll take the English breakfast. No. Australian style, with a steak, if they have it," he said, fishing Judy's room key out of his pocket and pressing it into her hand. 

She responded with an arch conspiratorial wink from one of her large luminous brown eyes, which somehow shook him like a blow to the heart, but it was followed by something which felt like a wave of satisfaction. She actually said,"Don't be long, or I shall go on without you." 

He lathered his face with some of the soap from the tray, took two identical Gillette G-II razors, one in each hand, and with identical motions shaved both sides of his face simultaneously, except a 1 inch strip of chin squarely in the middle. Two or three swipes with the right hand finished the job. He washed his face, dried it and applied a liberal coating of after shave. One minute and twenty seconds. Two minutes with the Braun Electric toothbrush, a thorough rinsing and wash with mint flavored Listerine and he was ready to sally forth. He considered another shower, he had two very thorough ones in the last few hours, and the only effect would be to wash away all traces of Zaarha. He decided keep them a little while longer.

Zaarha opened the door of Judy's room at his first tap. "I decided to order three breakfasts. A Continental for Judy, who is still in the bathroom, or will be when the waiter arrives, an English for me and an Australian for you. By the way, they don't recognize that term, but I got a steak added on to the English breakfast."

"Thank you. I hope it comes soon, I'm starved. My stomach thinks my throat has been cut. Last night. . ." Georg halted, looked questioningly at Zaarha.

"There are no listening devices in this room, I have checked it thoroughly," she reassured him, "especially inside the telly." 

"Ah! That's a relief. Did you ever see anything like it?" he asked more as an exclamation than a question.

"I suppose it is SAS gear, probably to catch Irish terrorists. I doubt if is enabled at the moment, but we could test it later, if you are concerned." she cocked an eyebrow.

"Well yes, not that I'm ashamed but I'd feel a lot better to know we weren't taped, and if it is working I'll change rooms or maybe even Hotels. Actually it doesn't seem the kind of hotel that would be frequented by IRA bomb squads."

"It would seem logical to me, for the reason you have mentioned and also as a certain number of those people manage to blow themselves up in their hotel before they plant the bomb. In such case, even the disaster would cut off the flow of rich American travelers for months at least. That would damage the English economy and be a sort of victory for the Provisionals."

"You have a nasty mind. I'm glad you are on my side. You are aren't you?" he smiled ruefully.

"I recall being on both sides of you for much of the night," she quipped. 

He gathered her into his arms and kissed her. When the waiter's knock came she said, sotto voce, "Let him in", entered the bathroom and closed the door. As Georg opened the room door, he heard the sound of the shower. The waiter pushed his table into the room as Zaarha opened the door of the bath, looked at the waiter, holding the door slightly open and calling over her shoulder, "Breakfast is here. Hurry up." Then she sidled into the room, carefully shielding the imaginary occupant of the shower from the waiter's eyes, and just as effectively keeping him from seeing there was no one in it. 

Georg thought, `If Judy needed an alibi for this time, that waiter would swear that she was in the shower. The world lost another great actress, and playwright, when Zaarha decided to take up. . . What did she take up?'

When the waiter had left, Georg asked,"Do you work at Imperial College or is your assistance to Sir Harold only the contribution of a good wife?"

"I'm the head of the Psychology Department at London University. Harold helps me as well sometimes when I need access to a supercomputer," she said matter-of-factly. 

"You must be very highly qualified, to have such responsibility so young," Georg congratulated himself on his courtier style. He had extracted himself from a dumb situation, by only speaking the truth. Furthermore, her connubial bargain didn't seem to be a good trade, in his opinion, though perhaps he should allow for some bias.

"I have my Masters from Cambridge, an MD from UCSF and a Phd. from London University, awarded this spring."

"Even so you must have had to serve a apprenticeship and all those years of school. . ." Georg encouraged her to go on.

"Yes. But I was lucky, worked hard and had some well placed friends. I left public school at fourteen and a half. It takes three years to get a degree at Cambridge and the Masters comes automatically three years later. UCSF was the toughest. That took four years more. I came here six years ago as a part time lecturer and post-doc scholar. I got my Phd and my fifth promotion at the same time. To save your fingers, I'm thirty," she smiled, "and I have been kissed, most passionately, My Love."

Both had made substantial inroads on the breakfasts notwithstanding the conversation. As she poured him another coffee and herself another tea, she said, "I must be at my office at a quarter after ten, so I must take a taxi at ten at the latest, so I only have a half hour. If you would be so kind as to purchase a bra and tights from one of the local shops, perhaps Boots, on the corner across from the Ritz. I should feel much more comfortable as the day proceeds."

"Now?"

"Yes. If you please. Medium size tights in the color you prefer, and 36 C-cup brassiere, any shade of beige, but neither white nor black."

Even as he chided himself for acting like a schoolboy, he could not hold back a small thrill in the idea of her spending the rest of the day with her legs and lower body encased in the panty-hose he had bought and chosen the color. He took less joy in the idea of the bra, perhaps because of the reluctance to being a party to restraining them in any way, or disinclination to admit to being totally besotted. If it was his fate to be a Sampson, he hoped Zaarha would be his Delaila.

Ten minutes later he was back with his purchases. He had been unable to resist bringing a plain gold chain belt he had spotted in one of the jewelry stores on the way. It was flat enough to wear under the wide leather one, by itself, or even inside, against her skin, if she chose. 

He presented her with the things with a mock bow, "Silks and jewels for my Queen of Sheba."

She embraced him, kissed him and placed his hand on the belt fastener in the back. He released the belt; she caught the dress and placed in on the bed. "Dress me in the loot of your conquests, I shall be your slave forever, and never wear another's chain or silken frippery," she said, pirouetting her bare form just within his reach. 

He fastened the chain about her waist. She seemed to take on the aura of an houri, dancing to the rhythm of a mock tamborine held in her hand. Approaching him closely she drew his head down level to her breasts, still dancing so that they caressed his face, alternatively each nipple tried to force its way into his mouth. Without any further encouragement he took the right one between his lips and nuzzled it with his tongue. 

After a moment, she stopped dancing,"Now my Baby, it is time to put your toys away, till Mummy comes home again." She slipped her arms through the bra straps, and held them out for him to complete the investment. He pulled the bra into position and gently inserted each breast into its compartment, after a final kiss. Turning her around, he adjusted the straps and, with a sigh, fastened it in the back. 

"Help with the panty. . . tights?"

"I will sit on your lap while I pull them on, if you please," she responded.

She sat on his leg with her back to him as she raised her left leg to draw the tights to the height of her knee. Shifting to the other side she repeated the process. She shifted back again, adjusted the left stocking foot, calf and around the knee. Again on the right side she meticulously arranged the right stocking. Turning again to the left, her expression not quite satisfied she continued detailed adjustments, all the while sliding up and down his leg. Then she said,"I can't quite get it from here, I shall have to change sides." She changed to his other leg and apparently intended to re-start the whole procedure. 

Georg was having an increasing amount of trouble keeping his thoughts away from the sensations caused by the soft flesh between her legs rubbing his thigh as she sat astride him, squirmed and rode up and down in her vain attempts to get her stockings on right. He had never heard of anyone having so much trouble putting on panty hose. Several times he was on the point of offering help, but each time she seemed on the point of making it, only to pull back and re-strart. "One moment," he said, losing patience. He grasped the top of the panty hose, pulled them down from between her thighs, moved his legs so that both his were between hers. A instant's effort with his fly and he was able---

*************************  Episode “E” suspended  **********************

Episode E 

**************************** End of Episode “E”**************************

When he had recovered sufficiently to be able to compose a coherent thought, he said, "You'll be late. It must be after 10:00 already."

"I lied," she said with a beatific but mischievous smile, her pupils widening invitingly as she lay on him, still coupled, and gazed into his eyes.

"But why," he asked, puzzled.

"Stolen fruit, don't you have in your country the legend of stolen fruit. Have you not reveled a bit, as we lay together that I am another man's wife? Did it not add some piquancy just now that `We shouldn't be doing this'," she asked?

"Yes. But not to the part about you being married. When I thought about that it was to. . . rationalize my guilt, by. . . by. . . thinking he would do the same if given a chance. And, perhaps, some regret that you were not my wife instead."

"Oh! Oh! You would want me for your wife? Remember, I should not be stolen fruit to you, then. To another man I would be stolen fruit, and any other woman would be fruit stolen for you. You had a President in your country who said it very well. One Mr Coolidge, I believe, but I doubt, on the evidence at hand, or `inside' is probably better, if you would ever have his problem." 

"Still, there are many things to be said for marriage. But it is difficult to say them without being sure how they would be received," Georg said seriously,"anyway; don't you have to go to work at all?"

"Yes, I have a class at 11:00. Please arrange a taxi while I dress." 

Georg stood phone in hand, calling the porter, while Zaarha disappeared in the direction of the bathroom with all her new possessions and her dress in tow. As she disappeared through the door she turned her head, fixed him with a hypnotic glance and, very. . . very. . . slowly, winked. 

It seemed not more than a minute and a half when Zaarha reentered, dressed in a sari-like garment. With some effort he recognized the fabric of her classic evening gown, transmogrified into a sari, supported by a strap over her left shoulder, what must have been an Indian printed scarf arranged over the other sholder and covering the bra strap and breast on that side. The bra had probably been necessary as an anchor for this part of the costume. The leather belt was in her hand and his gold chain gently constrained the sari at the waist. Her hair was pulled back smoothly, through a single fabric ring at her neck. The black tresses hung between her shoulder blades, completing the impression of subordinate modesty, completely at odds with her activities and behavior of the past eight hours.

As the telephone rang to announce the arrival of the taxi, Georg took her in his arms and kissed her on the lips. It was a cold, impersonal kiss. Her eyes were dull and uninteresting. She turned and left the room without a backward glance. She had reentered the role of academic executive. 

Georg stood alone, bereft, in Judy's room. Only the faint scent of Zaarha's L'Aire du Temps hung in the room, reminding him of her passage though his life. `Hell,' he thought,`Why so pale and wan fair Shithead! She is not necessarily gone forever, and even so you're not sure what you will do when. . . and if, she comes back. Whatever happened to your blazing romance with Lady Martine, your blasted one with Allyne, your little pang of lust for Emmette, wherever she has gotten to? You even got a hard-on for Bridy last night, though you wouldn't admit it at the time. Judy was looking so good you invented a job for her just to bar you from taking her on John Brown's back, if you could have gotten up there. Christ, Zaarha got me so hot, I couldn't trust myself within fifty feet of the breach of BeeBee's Uzi. I'd bet her belly button is a safety catch.'

This comic vision finally broke the spell. `Ah!' looking at his watch. `It's 2 am in California. Where the hell is Allyne?'

Two minutes later, from his own room, he dialed Allyne's number. 

"Who is it? Why can't I sleep?," Allyne's voice responded, thick with sleep.

"Up 'n att'm. You got a plane to catch. Did you reserve a seat," he chided.

"Hell no! I forgot! What time is it? I didn't get in till seven, or maybe it was eight. Do I have to go today?"

"You can't miss the first day on the job. You can sleep in First Class. It'll be the same movie you saw coming over anyway, like as not. I'll call a taxi and take you to Heathrow, pour you on the plane. Pick you up in ten minutes, just shower and lipstick, you can do the rest on TWA's time," insisted Georg, and hung up, giving her no chance to object again.

He dialed the telephone, spotted a brochure on the desk for a Limousine service, disconnected and redialed its number. Putting on his best Arab accent, he ordered a Golden Daimler in five minutes for Madame Al En'Roget at Brown's, for the trip to Heathrow. His accent turned out more French than Arab. `Well,' he thought,`a lot of Arabs speak French better than English, and anyhow, it worked. It would have been even more sure if I'd called from the Dorchester'. 

When he knocked at Allyne's room there was a short delay, then she called,"It's not locked, I'm in the shower."

Entering, closing the door, he stared at the bathroom door which was open a crack. "Come on in," she requested,"I can't work this thing."

She opened the shower door, revealing her nude form, barely damp from the intermittent stream from the shower head. He took in her strangely pink, almost sickly skin, the limp, crinkly wisps at her groin and her shape, oddly stick like and craggy. Her breasts, once objects of great awe, sagged slightly. Allyne's hair was caught up in one of those hotel shower caps, especially selected for their ability to turn any woman instantly into a bag lady. "I'm afraid that's the best it's got. The English never forgave the Roman's for forcing plumbing on them. Their showers are a modern remnant of Boadicea's revenge."

"Mierda!," she said peevishly,"It'll have to do. Here, help dry me off. It shouldn't be too much work. Why are you looking at me so. Haven't you had your surfeit of my sylvan grace? There's no time for your lecherous intentions. You'll have to settle for a platonic kiss and a quick grope." She held his head in her hands, kissed him, then drew one of his hands to her groin, still damp from the shower, and held it against her while she rotated her hips several times. She broke free, ran to the bedroom and commenced to dress. "That'll have to keep you for now. Coming with me to the airport, lots to tell you. Taxi here?" 

"One moment," he dialed the concierge, "This is Madame Al En'Roget's room. Has her limousine arrived and please prepare her bill for my signature, Georg C. Smith, I'll sign it on the way out?"

"Ah! Lady Allyne Rogers. Yes, it is here. The bill will be arranged as you asked. Thank you, sir."

`I think the limousine has already made an impression,' thought Georg.

"There is something we have to arrange before I leave. I have here a check for 102,400 pounds sterling, on the Casino. It's all your money, actually, since I used your stake and I had no intention of paying it back if I lost. Anyway, if I took it back and put it into my account I'd have horrible tax problems. I'd better turn it over to you, here, and you can take care of it the best way." 

"Okay. I mean, I don't accept that it is my money but we don't have time to discuss it now. Give it to me, unendorsed. I'll put it in the Hotel safe until we can work something out." He noted that Allyne was still only half dressed. "I'd better go down, take care of this and the bill while you finish. I'll be waiting in the gold Daimler, if I finish first."

"One more favor, I don't have time to sort this stuff out, Judy has mixed her things in with mine and I don't even have time to pack. Ask her to sort things out, she's your secretary, right."

"Fine," Georg slipped the check in one of the Hotel envelopes, sealed it, patted his pocket to be sure he had his cards, and left. 

In the lobby he had finished his business and was looking around for the Limousine when a voice from the Concierge's booth called to him,"Mr. Canter-Smith. Please! There are messages for you." There were three. A telephone slip from Lady Mary Dunnoy of Paris, the same from Emmy from Mount Fur, Paris, France. There was also a small expensive looking envelope, sealed, in a kind of burnt umber color. Inside, a single sheet, a pastel shade of the same hue, carried a simple message,"Thank you for my chains, and everything,." A florid "Sl" followed by a stylized drawing of a cloud with huge drops falling from it, formed the puzzling signature, quite unnecessarily. 

Georg thrust the note into his pocket as Allyne passed him without luggage, already on a beeline for the taxi rank. Following her, they both reached the car at the same time. The driver sprang out, opening the door for Allyne. Georg said,"I'll go with you," and to the driver, "We need to make the next TWA flight to the US West Coast. Do you know when it is? She has no luggage to check." 

"We'll make it, Guv'ner. You can relax there in the back and I drop you right at the dock in Terminal Three."

Settling back in his seat, George surveyed the grand expanse of space in the rear of the Daimler. Allyne was dressed in her `Savile Row' full dress, pinstripe uniform for the second time. Her honey blond hair was pulled back in an almost identical fashion to Zaarha's as she had left the Hotel earlier in the morning, but the result was completely different. The classic bone structure underlying Allyne's face was enhanced and her skin appeared luminous rather that pale as it had earlier. The light streaming through the dark rose tinted windows flattered her cheeks and hair.

"This is not a regular taxi. Nooobooody can see in," she cooed, apparently noticing the Golden Daimler for the first time. "Georg, you devil. I'm not dressed right for this. You weren't going to take me in the taxi to the airport, were you? I would have worn a full skirt and no skivvies if you'd have told me. What about the driver, I can see he can't hear but can he see?"

"Not unless he pays extra," joked Georg, sure she was teasing him.

"Well, fucking is out but I can go down on you if you like. I've never done that. In a car. You know. I've always wondered what it would be like." Her hand wandered toward his fly. 

"Seriously, I think the driver could see us. It wouldn't be safe to distract him,” Georg had remembered that he had not washed Zaarha's juices from his body yet. As well, the rush of events threatened to disorient him completely. He still had work to do. He needed to finish something before everything else poured in on him and he sunk without trace.

Holding her searching hand in his he said, "Allyne, if we are going to work together, do you agree we should put our personal intimacy on hold for now, at least avoid increasing the intensity until we find out what is going on?"

Allyne withdrew her hand. For a moment Georg thought she was going to be angry. Then she said,"I thought you would never ask. I was waiting for you to give me some kind of a steer. I would never have called a halt on my own, I wanted you too much. I have been getting confused, these last few days. I was afraid of the whole thing getting too sticky and on the other hand I was afraid of losing you, even your friendship, altogether."

"You need never be concerned about that," he reassured her, "we'll always be buddies and whenever you want to show up with a bottle of Gallo's best and a lithe body to stroke and pummel, you'll be welcome even if I have to shoo the kids into the back pasture. They giggle at ladies' bare bottoms, you know."

Momentarily Allyne looked startled, then she laughed,"Yes, I suppose I can't ask you to wear a chastity belt. You wouldn't anyway. You'll have to get my permission before you bed any of these foreign sluts, except Emmette, of course, she's my friend… or her sister. Now there is a woman for you, but you might not come back to me and I got a feeling once she got herself around that statuesque shaft of yours, she would fight like hell to hold onto it." 

An unwanted memory of the hysterical scenes brought on by Zaarha's grip on his penis flooded his mind, threatening to bring back another fit of laugher. Then, "What sister?" asked Georg, with as much aplomb as he could muster.

`Why, Lady Martine, Baroness la Professeur de la Noy, who else," with irony in her voice. "Didn't you know that?"

"I think I did, but I must have blocked it out somehow. I don't know why. I suppose if I knew why, I wouldn't have blocked it. I wish I could say that information explained something, but it doesn't. It adds to the confusion, if that's possible. . ." The Post Hotel was coming into view on the right, signaling they were near Heathrow. There were still matters to be discussed. What exactly happened last night at the Casino? Shouldn't they negotiate the conditions of Allyne's new position as a pair? When did he need to come back to California? For an instant he almost decided to accompany her on the airplane, but then he remembered she would sleep the whole trip, and he was sure there were important developments about to break in London and in Europe.

He got her commitment to mostly listen to BeeBee's proposals, agree to nothing final without consulting with him. They could meet, in New York City, maybe, before things were put to bed. 

She said Judy and Mungo had the details of the experimental design at the Casino. Judy knew how it started out, it had gone on in the same way after Judy left, except more so. About six am she got worried that the whole exercise was attracting too much attention from the staff and the patrons, and scared she would not be allowed to leave with her winnings, on some pretext. When she decided to cash out she was astounded that she had won nearly a hundred thousand pounds on top of her five thousand stakes. 

He said nothing, but he did not take her suggestion, that he clear his sexual partners with her in advance, seriously. He noticed there was no quid pro quo, and he was mildly startled by her `recommendation' of Emmette and especially the backhanded and ambiguous approval of Martine. Why? Could it be that Allyne didn't object herself, but thought Emmette would be pissed off. Was that sarcastic stringing out of Martine's titles a sign of sibling rivalry. `Did I deliberately choose the neuter term -sibling- instead of -sisterly-?'

They went straight to the TWA ticket desk as soon as they were dropped in front of the Terminal, pausing only to make sure the limousine stuck around to take Georg back to the Hotel. There was no line. "One First Class on today's flight to SFO, here is the ladies card," requested Georg, pushing Allyne's Gold American Express across the desk. The clerk roused from a deep funk, slowly looking around to see who had disturbed his regal reveries. Finally, fixing Georg from a great height, he said with disdain,"Sold out till Friday," and sunk back to wherever he had come from. 

"First Class," Georg insisted.

"And Ambassador Class and Coach. I said `No seats till next Friday.'"

"Thank you very, very much. Your helpful attitude makes staying at home a priceless treasure. I wish you every success with your Herculean labors," replied Georg, in mock unctuous tones, mentally consigning the clerk and all his descendants to pose astride the Beirut Green line, without passports, in perpetuity. 

"Wha?" said the clerk, rolling his eyes in a vain attempt to locate the source of this continuing assault on his peace and quiet.

"Cummon," Allyne drew him by his arm, "There are other airlines, for Chrissakes"

"Yeah. There are, Goddamit"

Allyne glanced at the clerk to see if he had heard. He was perfectly capable of calling security to arrest Georg for disrespect of his Royal person, the Queen and blasphemy, under old English statutes.

"Wait," said Georg, moving toward the PanAm area. He skipped the ticket desk, going directly to the door marked `Special Services.' The door was locked, but in response to Georg's firm but polite knock it was opened by a pretty woman in PanAm uniform and with a handsome mane of jet black hair. "I'm Felicia Pascuas, may I help you?"

"And I am Prospero Ano-Nuevo. Or am I too early," replied Georg.

Felicia answered with a pleasant tinkling laugh,"No! They already drove me out of Madrid with that stuff. You're not going to start it again here are you, Georg Smith. You better be careful, you got your own problems, perro chocante. 

"Hey, can the reunions, I need a seat on a plane," Allyne was getting nervous.

"My friend here, Allyne Rogers, needs to get back to San Francisco, de repente. She is the new Director General of the Think Tank Institute, and she has to get on board before the ship sails. Do you have anything going that way," asked Georg?

"Our flight is scheduled to leave about now, come in, I'll see if I can hold it," she waved them to a small office with a table and some chairs, herself going to a computer terminal in the main area.

In less than a minute she was back. "We are in luck, ATC has a small hitch and we won't be going out to the line for fifteen minutes. I'm holding the ramp and the Captain has agreed to keep the front door open until his turn is called. If you have hand luggage only, we can make it. I'll take you through security and passport control myself. Then we'll take an electric runabout to the door of the aircraft. Get lost, Georg, you'll only slow us down. Buy me a drink in the Clipper Club after Ms Rogers is airborne."

Georg managed only to give Allyne a small kiss on the cheek and say "Have a good flight," before he was thrust on his way by both women. 

At the Clipper Club he signed himself in and, after a five minute search for a bottle of Rose's, constructed a fair facsimile of a vodka gimlet. Unable to choose between Time and Newsweek, he picked up the Paris Edition of the Herald Tribune, which was full of news of the forthcoming Summit with Reagan and Gorbachev, and speculation on the future course of the detente, perestroika, glastnos and Europe's role in the new era. 

 

 

 

CHAPTER VIII

“Wall, skin ma rattler ta hold up ma briches, 'f'taint my fren frum Dover Street and parts West End-ian," the voice of Georg's erstwhile bar buddy intruded. 

"Hot Dam! Ida sayd youz frum down east, rounbout N'Oorleens, this tyame," riposted Georg. 

"Yeah. Thaza problum. 'Tza mitey slip'ry slope frum Aba-leen t'th' Mississip. Taksa lotta watchin'."

"Wha'daya soun lak wen you're down home, and whada they call you, out'na the desert," Georg demanded.

"Name's `A. M. Smith' and I soun like everbuddy else round there. What's your'n, then."

"Smith too. Then and now. Handle's `Georg'."

"Putter there, Bro," A. M. Smith offered a bone crushing handshake. "What brings you to this here hub of modern civvylaizaashun. See'n a body off. . . like me, lak's not." 

"That's like. Uh'mean That's right," Georg glanced at the status monitor nearby, Allyne's flight had already taken off. He was about to depart this interview which he found vaguely irritating when he recalled he was waiting for Felicia Pascuas. She probably did have to leave Madrid. With a name that sounded like `Merry Christmas' in Spanish, she must have been the butt of many silly jokes. 

He offered, "You know, us Smiths don't have it so bad as some. Parents can really be stupid when it comes to naming their children."

"Do I know, my Mom wanted to call me Quentin, but somebody told her she couldn't, 'cuz I wuz th'third sted'na fifth. I almost got called Tercy, actually," answered A. M.,"Kin you imagine growin' up'na Arizonee cow town bein' called `Tercy'.

"I've run across several examples, Richard Bender, Leslie Dick and. . . Oh! There was I'ma and U'ra Hogg, real daughters of the first governor of the State of Texas. Obviously he did it deliberately, so it doesn't really count. Then there was the Englishman, whose mother, one Mary N. Other, called the tenth one `Alfred Nathan'."

"My prize is a guy I knew in college. His name was Michael Hunt. . . Often abbreviated 'Mike Hunt'" 

A.M.'s story was interrupted by Felicia. `What is the matter with that. I think it's a nice name," she had been listening, unnoticed for some time. "Oh! *Dios mio!," she got it, with a blush which turned her creamy skin to olive.

To give Felicia time to recover, Georg began the introductions, "Felicia, I would like to introduce another Smith, I'm sure you don't know enough of them. This is A.M. of the existential Smiths. A.M., this is Felicia Pascuas. Felicia is absolutely the one to see if you have any problems inside West European aerospace."

"Thank you, Georg, I think I begin to feel a problem coming on already." A.M. smiled, taking Felicia's proffered hand. As she did not cringe perceptibly, he evidently did not crush it.

"Of course, you may not get a place in the queue if your annual travel budget is not in the upper half of the United Nations GNP table," Georg warned.

"As you are a member of our Clipper Club, you are obviously already a valued patron of Pan American Airways," Felicia practiced her considerable PR skills. Turning to Georg, she said, "Ms Rogers is safely away. They should be over Lockerby by now. She is a lovely woman, Georg. You certainly have good taste in friends, recently departed present company definitely included."

"Thank you. She is a very good friend and colleague. She heard about her new appointment last night and was desperate to get back. You saved her career, she will be very grateful," he responded.

"You mean this guy has another one. You should have seen the one who kissed him goodbye last night, 'n'then he had another one stashed in the bar, a brunette that wouldn't quit, with a body like a brick S.H. . ." glancing at Felicia, ". . .bomb shelter," A.M. glowed. "D'ya mind if I just hang about in the area, just in case you drop any crumbs. Hey! 'R'you goin’ back to Brown's Town? I'd share a cab with you!"

"Yes, but a car is picking me up. You're welcome to a ride if you wish," turning to Felicia, he added, "Hey! It's great running into you again. Why don't we just run away to Mexico together, say Acapulco, leave all this hassle behind?" He embraced her, kissing her cheek.

"That's where it all started, in La Reforma, remember? If we wanted Mexico, we could've just stayed there. You'll have to come up with something better to get me away from London where I hobnob with Stars and dine with Royalty. I put Gregory Peck and his lovely wife on a flight just the other day and Princess Anne was riding her horse right on my telly while I ate my chicken chop suey from Sainsbury's." 

"Thanks again, I'm at Brown's. Give me a ring if you have time for dinner, anytime next week. I'd love to catch up on what happened in Madrid," Georg began to move away, A.M. closely in tow.

Felicia waved, "I'll do that. . . Bye." 

On the way downstairs to the passenger pickup area, Georg decided he would have rather not have entrained A.M. in his affairs. He found him vaguely irritating with his fake accents and used-car-salesman bonhomie. He didn't really suspect A.M. of anything devious; but, no one could have predicted he would show up in the Clipper Club, just at that time. 

On his last trip to Europe, in Paris, several months back, he had walked down from his usual hotel, the Raphael on Avenue Kleber, to a Bureau de Change on the Champs Elysee, across from Le Drugstore. They gave a better rate than the Hotel in changing dollars into francs. The guy behind him in the waiting line, after about five minutes wait, tapped him on the shoulder and asked "Are you going to change dollars for francs? I need to change francs for dollars to go back to the States and I can't wait any longer or I'll miss my plane. I'll give you the price I'd get from them, and take your dollars. You'll save their commission and we'll both save a lot of time. Okay?"

Georg hesitated, the fifty francs he'd save wasn't really important, but he was getting impatient and irritated at the studied sloth of the tellers, typical of bank clerks and their ilk who made capital of the only power they would ever have by imposing their will on the hapless queue of customers before them. A twinge of caution asserted itself. "Okay, give me your francs and I'll figure out what they are worth in dollars," he said. 

"Okay! Fine! Here you are'" his interlocutor handed him a wad of francs, a 1000 franc note, several 500's, some hundreds and some small rubbish which Georg handed back, "Give these to your kids." he said, "There are 2800 francs left, at the current rate that is a little less than 500 dollars. Here are five 100 dollar bills, okay."

"Right. Thanks. Now I can catch my plane. Bye", he turned and started to walk away rapidly.

Georg stepped out of the line and recounted his francs, there were still 2800 francs. 

"Just a minute," the man was back, "You cheated me, you bastard, I gave you 5800 francs and you gave me dollars for 2800. You took me for 3000 francs."

"The hell you say. There were are only 2800 there, I just checked them. Anyone here can swear that I not taken any out, and you can search me if you like." Several people backed up Georg in this statement, one even volunteered that he had heard Georg tell the man that there were 2800 francs and he had accepted it at the time."

"I got confused, or maybe you are all in this together. Fuck it, give me my money back. I'll miss my plane, that's all."

Georg, by this time thoroughly regretting he had ever gotten involved, but quite sure of himself, said, "So miss your plane, but I'll not give you the francs till I have my dollars back." This was greeted by signs of approval and applause from the lines, whose members had lost interest in their own errands and were enjoying the impromptu street spectacle. 

"All right, here," he handed Georg the dollars, still folded in the neat stack in which Georg had handed them to him, took the francs rudely from Georg's other hand, turned with a sneer, and walked slowly away.

Georg started to pocket the dollars when it struck him as odd that they were in the same neat folded stack, as he had seen the man count them. Unfolding and turning them over he saw the back of a $1 note. Riffling through produced three more ones, and a $100 note on the back he swore, "I'll be damned, the bastard stole my money." In retrospect it was easy to see how the trick had been done. 

Georg was furious, as much for being made into an asshole as for the loss of the money which was not a large part of his fortune. He deemed it hopeless to attempt to recover the money, or find and punish the thief. But, he determined to revenge himself on the whole tribe of thieves by making especially sure that neither he nor any of his people would be conned in the future. 

He leaned through the window of the limo, speaking to the driver, "Did you bring the cellular phone I ordered, I need to make some calls. By the way, Mr Smith will be keeping you company on the ride in, my calls are private."

"Righto, Guv. The phone is in the compartment at the back of my seat. Here is the key, we just add it to our bill."

Georg held the door for A.M.,"I hope you don't mind. If you do there's a taxi rank right across the pavement and buses down at the end. If you walk around to Terminal Two you can take the Underground, it is just as fast, safe and leaves you at Green Park, in front of the Ritz, a block from Brown's." 

"This is fine. I'll ask your driver to drop me at Harrod's if you don't mind. I need a new howdah for my lead elephant," A.M. slipped in beside the driver and closed the door with an expensive sounding 'thunk'.

Martine was not at the number for her office in the Sorbonne, so he tried her home number. She answered on the first ring,"Georg!" she pronounced his name in the rich, vibrant French way, quite different from her sister's treatment. "Are you still in London? When you didn't return my call I thought puet-etre you couldn't wait to respond to my invitation and were on your way here."

"I am still in London, will you go first, or shall I, it was your call?"

"I will. Emmette, my sister, is here. She says you are working together on a project, with Ma'm'selle Rogers. She has come for my help. I think we should confer together. Is Ma'm'selle Rogers still there? I could come to you for the week-end. Or you could come here, Sil-vous-plait. You could both rest in my apartment."

(An angel flew over in a hot air balloon with a tiny basket in which were crowded Georg, Martine, Allyne, and Emmette together with Zaarha, handling the burner, and Judy, hanging onto a rope, scrambling in over the side. The angel was jumping overboard.)

"That is extremely kind of you but Allyne has just left for San Francisco. Is Emmette staying with you now?"

"At the moment, but the weekend she is going to the Chateau to visit La Douairere Baronne. They are very fond of one another. She lived there almost tout-le-monde while I was married to Jean-Claud," Martine explained.

"Let me think about it and call you later. Is that all you have, for now?"

After a pause,"Only that Je te manque beaucoup, deja. Il etait moins que viente-quartre heures, et je vout. . . Tu n'vas comprendre pas", you probably wouldn't understand. Je regrete that we had to dine with so many others around us last evening. I had. . . J'etait planifie diner a deux, we two, in Prince's Gate Mews. You will come to me soon, n'est pas vrais?."

Georg came within a millimicron of asking her if they had slept together in the bed at Prince's Gate Mews. Almost too late to recall his words, he realized that it was a no win situation. If they had, and he didn't remember, it would be a monumental insult. If they hadn't and he imputed that they might have, she might, just, take offense that he thought she was the type of woman who would go to bed with a man she had known less than three hours. With a little luck he could work it out so she would be offended on both counts, that he thought she was a whore and one whose performance was not worth remembering. 

"I miss you too, all of me," he said, a trifle mysteriously. "We will be together soon, I'll see to it. Nowm before you go could I speak to Emmette also?"

"Ne quitez pas, I have to call her from another room."

Emmette answered almost immediately. "Alo. Emmette ici. Georg, c'est tu?.

"Oui, c'est moi meme. Q'est-qu' c'est passe a toi? What are you doing in Paris, anyway?" he demanded.

"What are you doing in London? You go first," she replied with heat, but Georg thought he could detect a trace of false bravado, or perhaps panic, in her tone.

"Fair enough! Okay, we won't fight. I suppose you know I've met your friend, here in London. I came here for an AI conference which promised to shed some light on the nature of consciousness, self-awareness, whatever it's called. I thought it might be a key to helping Allyne. Oh! Have you heard, she has been called back to Tity, as Acting Director General. . ."

"Thank you, but you are going too fast. Yes, I have heard about you from Martine, practically nothing else in since she returned. What did you do to her? I probably shouldn't tell you but she seems totally smitten," Emmette broke in.

"I really don't know," he replied, with more truth than she could guess at, "Martine and I have agreed to meet in the next few days. Of course, Allyne has gone back to Palo Alto. Could you manage the week-end, I hear you plan to go to the country?"

"It is not really the country; Maison-Lafitte is more a suburb. The Chateau is not so grand, and I can come into Paris by train in less than an hour and driving in is not bad on the week-end," offered Emmette.

"Fine, let's make it a date, then. Martine has invited me to stay in her apartment. We could meet there, to talk."

"Georg, I can't explain to you on the telephone, but I think you should stay in a Hotel, at minimum for the first night or so, till you and I have had a chance to talk privately. The Plaza Athenee is convenient, do you know it?"

Georg was curious about what Emmette had in mind, but now that she had proposed it, he actually preferred that course. He only had to figure a way to decline Martine's invitation without giving offense. "I usually stay at the Raphael but I have heard a lot of good things about the Plaza. . ." he attempted to temporize.

"Excellent, I'll make the reservations for Friday night and for the next three or four days. Call me when you have your flight, I'll meet you with a car. It is arranged, n'est pas?"

"Roger, Wilco, over and out," Georg parodied the antiquated fly-boy, voice-radio procedure. 

The gold limousine was approaching the Hammersmith flyover on the M-4, it would soon be on Cromwell Road, leading to Knightsbridge--Harrods--Piccadilly, and if he took Exhibition Road left, before Knightsbridge he would soon be at the entrance to Prince's Gate Mews and. . . Christ! he had clean forgot about Judy!

Georg rolled down the window to the driver’s compartment. "A.M., I am going to have to make a diversion, we'll have to drop you in front of the Brompton Oratory, across from Thurloe Place. From there you can see Harrods. I have to turn up towards Hyde Park before we get to Harrods itself."

"That's okay, Bro Smith, I could use a little overland trek just now," A.M. had switched his stamping ground from India to South Africa. Georg hoped he didn't try to put his new howdah on an African elephant, with or without the elephant pistol he had under his coat. 

He had almost finished dialing Judy's number when he recalled the strange noises on the line after she hung up, earlier in the morning. He would have to knock on the door without warning. He replaced the handset in its compartment, locked it, rolled down the window and handed the key to the driver,"It's busy, I'll wait till I get there. You take the key lest I forget and carry it away."

Having dropped A.M. off, they headed for Prince's Gate Mews. Georg dismissed the driver and the car at the head of the Mews and walked down after the limo had gone out of sight towards the Park. Judy answered the door, after a short wait, wearing a black Japanese Hopi coat with red ideograms, which Georg recognized as standing for "Peace", embroidered, one to a side, just over the rise of her breasts. "Is this a social call or should I have greeted you au naturelle," she asked, as she drew him into the interior. The coat was made for a slightly shorter torso, probably Martine, and failed to cover a small triangle of silky brown curls, punctuating the reunion of her smooth, ivory thighs. 

"It's business, but before we get into that, does that red Mercedes 280SL, with the dish roof, parked down at the end, belong here?"

"Where?" 

Georg pulled her to the window, pointing to the car. There was only one occupant, a big burly, curly haired, blond man, behind the wheel. He seemed to be very interested in the dashboard instruments and did not look outside the car as they watched. "I've never noticed the car, but the man looks a little familiar. Maybe he attended my presentation day before yesterday at the College. I can't say for sure. I only talked to two or three people who came up after the questions. He definitely was not one of those."

"How are you so sure of that," inquired Georg.

"They each asked me out. I didn't go. If he had asked, I would have gone, without seeing his car first," she said simply and with impeccable logic. "I was just going to take a bath. You look a little scruffy, would you like to join me, and then we can have some lunch. Or, do we have to start work directly."

Actually, Georg did feel a little sticky and he was beginning to feel the effects of jet-lag and the lack of sleep. A Japanese bath would set him up again. As to his having sex with Judy in the bath, his and, presumably, her surfeited condition should make that easy to avoid. It would be a little difficult to invoke the Japanese convention that a public bath is just that, and not a place of assignation, as this was closer to a private, very-luxurious "Yoshiwara", say "geisha" atmosphere, in his visits to Kyoto. All these thoughts flashed through his mind as he framed his answer. "I think we have the time, but would you have gone with him on account of car?"

She laughed, "There is a long waiting list for that model car, filled with names of sugar daddies that need to reward the faithful services of their mistresses. It's unusual to see one driven by a man." 

"So, your price would be lower, up front,” he teased?

"You don't get me on that one, I've read Shaw too. I'll draw the bath, M'Lord, and await your divine presence, or anything else you have that's divine." She turned and strolled down the raised passageway like Lily St Cyr on the catwalk, most of her dorsal cleavage in view. She must have undone the belt of the Hopi coat in advance as, when she arrived at the door of the bath, she shifted the coat from her shoulders, pirouetted through the open door and closed it behind her, offering him only the briefest glance of her completely unclad form. 

'This is going to be more difficult than I thought, but I have let it go too far to back out without being taken for a monumental prude,' thought Georg, as he adjusted the blind to make sure no one could see in, walked to the bath and opened the door. The room was exactly as he remembered it from, could it have been, two nights ago? He removed his clothes, hung them in one of the compartments, carefully washed his body and doused with hot water before attempting the steaming tub. Judy was already in it, leaning back against the side with the water just lapping over the small, pink, nearly flat nipples of her high, hard breasts. Her legs were drawn up into the lotus position, widening the angle between them and emphasizing the dark inverted triangle with the lower apex vertically bisected by two wavy, rosy pink lines, at her groin. The shimmer of lights in the water lent an amber green cast to, and picked out the hardness and smoothness of her body. She could have been carved from a solid block of old ivory. Georg was reminded of the little, anatomically correct, Japanese Dolls which modest ladies used to point out the location of their symptoms to physicians. 

She did not speak or move. There was only a slight suppuration of a pump hidden somewhere and the gentle lap of water coming into the tub to maintain the requisite temperature. After a few moments, Georg relaxed, closed his eyes and made his mind blank for the first time in many days. He may have slept. When he opened his eyes again, Judy was not in the tub and the room was clouded with water vapor. As he looked about for her, she came in from the bedroom, calling, "Need help to get out?"

"No. Thanks. I can make it," as he rose and tried to lift himself over the side, only to slip back, his muscles incapable of effort. 

"I thought so," she said, "I almost didn't make it and I didn't exert myself last night as much as you did." she chattered as she lifted him up to the first step.

She was dressed in a huge, white, terry-cloth robe, with her head, capped off by still wet hair, hands and ankles protruding from the various corners. 

"Here. I'll help you dry and dress. I've just been putting lunch in the microwave. You will probably want that next, I'll admit of thoughts of tripping you and beating you to the bed, but I gave that up after. . ." She raised the end of his penis with one hand and let it drop, limply. It was not a pretty sight.

In mock anger, he said,"Why do you keep accusing me of spending the night in debauchery? Nothing happened. It always does that in hot water. Anyway, if something had happened, you set it up to clear the way for your own peccadillos."

"Oh! I did? I can now say there were very little `pec' and less `dillo'. It was my first time out with Sir Esse-Aiche and he was a dead loss. I should have known a man wed to that male sex-fantasy, Zaarha of the Thousand Knight's Nights, wouldn't have anything left for me. You still insist she didn't come onto you? If so, perhaps we could have some fun, you proving it to me." Again she picked up his penis, looked at it closely, and, this time, laid it down more carefully.

"Confucius say, `He who kiss and terll soon have no kisses to terll about,'" quoted Georg, in an accent more Japanese than Chinese.

"So you don't actually deny it, you just won't say. I suppose I should be pleased, if it should ever became my turn, perhaps I shall receive the same consideration. There, you look just like you came in, but maybe ten years younger." Judy led the way to the micro-dining-area at the front of the flat. Leaning and peering through the blinds, Georg could see the man in the red Mercedes was still there.

"So, Zaarha has a reputation for seducing noblemen, does she?" Georg tried, flatly, to keep any sign of concern out of his voice.

"Not that I know. . . Oh! That nickname was invented by his students, I'd say provoked by envy of his good fortune and, perhaps, trying to fantasize some of it for themselves. She is actually considered a bit of an ice-maiden at the College, but I deduced that she must have something going on the side, to be willing to put up with her husbands antics. He is known as "Sir Out-of-town Harry" by every girl under 18 in Birmingham and Manchester. Maybe I'm just too old for him," she concluded with a wry smile. 

"I see. Do you know were Mungo went? I just realized I don't know where he is staying. He wouldn't have gone back to Edinburgh, would he? He still owes me that tape dump he was going to get done."

"I will call Brown's and see if he has left a message," Judy volunteered, "You can take our lunch out of the oven, if you want to have lunch before it gets cold." 

Before he had time to serve the steaming Marks and Spencer’s prime-dressed Lobster Americaine into two plates and pour two glasses of white wine from the decanter he found in fridge, Judy was back with a handful of notes. "He has done the dump, and here is a number to contact him, somewhere around here from the exchange," she reported. 

"Chow down. This is French wine, from the Loire Valley, seven or eight years old, probably a "Pouilly Fuisse," he said. "Anyway it is excellent, and a marvelous match to the food," he continued as he tasted a delicious morsel of lobster. "Please remind me to call Mungo and ask him to come here with all his material. If you don't think Lady Martine would mind, I would prefer to use this place for business, rather than the Hotel. You better call and clear it with her. Oh! And, could you please get hold of a laptop computer somewhere, something like a Toshiba `Tee' 31 or 51 hundred with a built in modem. The modem needs to have been approved by British Telecom for use in this country. It will have a little green triangle tag attached to it if it is". The excellent wine and food was making him voluble, or perhaps it was the need to keep his mind off her nude body underneath the white bathrobe. 

She answered,"I'd venture this wine is part of the old Baron's private stock, decanted from a keg. Martine got it, all as neither Jean-Claud nor his mother had a nose. I mean he didn't appreciate wine or food or anything else that required the sense of smell. His father hated him for it, considered him a traitor to his family, lineage and the Nation. I'm sure he would have passed the title directly to Martine if Napoleonic Code permitted," Judy was making the lunch into a girls lunch with gossip and everything.

"I suppose you mean custom. France is a Republic, so all those noblemen are only pretenders, like the Greeks and the Russians," corrected Georg.

"By no means, French titles are valid by law. Of course, there is no recognized title of `King' or, God Forbid, `Emperor', but the others are quite as legal as the British and accepted socially, as well," Judy defended her French friends' rights vigorously. 

For the umpteenth time, Georg was puzzled by the paradox of the British, one of the world's most vigorous defenders of democracy and the rights of man, who simultaneously supported, with tax money and otherwise, a system of hereditary privilege and social, if no longer strictly economic, apartheid. "I shall have to defer to your superior knowledge," he responded amicably.

"I will make the arrangements you asked, on the second line. Here is a phone to call Mungo, when you are ready," Judy handed him a cordless telephone.

`It would be no trick at all to listen to a call made on one of these, never mind tapping into the line. . . And, the same thing was true of the cellular phone in the limo. I don't think it is even against the law, only if you use the information you obtain that way. How is anyone going to prove that unless you admit it in public?' Georg thought long and hard about the security problem. "Do you remember if you used the cordless telephone to call me this morning," Georg asked?

"Ah. Yes, why do you ask," Judy responded?

"Maybe no reason. Just a minute," Georg moved to the window, adjusted the blind and dialed `123'. In a few seconds a male voice announced "At the third stroke the time, sponsored by Accurist, will be two thirty one and ten seconds. Blip blip blip." The big blond in the Mercedes shifted in his seat, lifted his left hand into the light and gazed at his wrist. Then he seemed startled, looked around carefully, taking in the window where Georg stood, and settled in again. In about 30 seconds he ducked down out of sight for short time. When he rose up again, it was to start the engine and, almost silently, glide out of the Mews. 

Judy had come up behind Georg. He turned and said, "Did you see that? It was the funniest thing I have seen in years."

"He's gone. What did you do to him," she asked, puzzled?

"I only told him the correct time," Georg was hardly able to abstain from a fit of the giggles. "I'll explain it later. Now I have to call Mungo before they get reorganized." 

Mungo was instructed and Georg also asked him to go to Edgeware Road and pick up an assortment of electronic gear on his way. He suggested Mungo start at Henry's Radio Shop and sweep down toward the Edgeware Tube Station till he had acquired everything. 

Reluctant to make any more calls until Mungo arrived with the equipment, Georg sat down at the dining table and started to doodle absently, on a stray notepad. 

"Stormy weather ahead?" asked Judy, gazing at Georg's doodles, which depicted a cloud with big round drops falling from it. 

"Could be rain in Spain, but I can't see any plain," mused Georg.

"Looks more like hail to me, I'd hate to be Mary if those are hailstones," Judy played the game.

"`Hail Mary'. `Ave Maria.' `S' `l' `ave', Slave. That's it, she's my slave," cried Georg.

"Careful it's not just marriage. . . Ambrose Bierce style," ruminated Judy.

"What's that?"

"Oh! `Marriage is a state. . . consisting of a master, a mistress and two slaves making, in all... two'."

"You know I have had similar thoughts myself, from time to time," said Georg, anxious to leave the subject.

"Do you want to hear what I have done," on a nod from Georg, Judy went on, "I have contacted `Micros for Managers' and talked to a compatriot of yours named Roland Saam. He sending over in a taxi a new model Toshiba called the T5200 for you to try. It is not available to the general market yet but when I told him we might need several and price was no object he offered to lend us his advance unit for evaluation. It has all the gadgets you wanted and a big collection of software. You will have to decide on those before you break the seal, except Lotus' Metro. . . that is. . . Ah. . .," Judy consulted her notes, "bundled." 

"You have been a busy girl. Did you get in touch with Martine," asked Georg.

"Yup," Judy was falling into an American accent,"It's all kopescetic. She is anxious to hear about the week-end, though?"

"All in good time," Georg answered,"We still have a day to go."

The taxi from Roland Saam's place and Mungo arrived at the same time. It took another half hour to sort everything out. Mungo had spent several hours with the tape cartridge Allyne had brought over and had the foresight to get everything onto 1.4 megabyte 3 1/2" microdisks which, by sheer chance, fitted the T5200 drive. 

There were ten disks in all, with the data on them compressed about 4 to one, which meant that there were more than 56 megabytes of files. Some of them were probably not the ones he was interested in, as Allyne had dumped the entire disk, which was unlikely to have been dedicated to the Star Probe files. Georg was very anxious to get to work on sorting them out, but didn't want to leave Mungo and Judy without direction. He was beginning to feel that this project was taking on some substance, without the diversions of love, sex and the demands of friendship. Perhaps he could soon show some signs of progress, to BeeBee, Allyne, or most important of all, himself.

The first task for the T5200 was to check Georg's email boxes on BIX. He dialed the `New Jersey and International' number, shivering at the line charges being run up on Martine's telephone. There was an encrypted message from BeeBee, which, when decoded, acknowledged his report, confirmed their arrangement and authorized a budget of $2,000,000.00, to include all professional fees and expenses, for the scope the work as agreed and subject to further negotiation if there were changes in or extensions to the work to be done. Georg wondered if there was any legal precedent concerning the enforceability of a contract entered into exclusively by cryptographic media. There was also a long file to be downloaded, which Georg guessed was data concerning Ferrari Electrodynamics which he had requested from BeeBee. He decided to leave it till later, perhaps when the rates were lower, after 8:00 pm.

There were, also, several inquiries, requesting more data and clarification of the questions he had posted on the bulletin boards of the various language conferences. Nobody had yet come up with any answers or clues.

Mungo, having taken one look at the screen on the T5200, had gone off to scrounge a big Sony ProTek RGB monitor he could borrow from a friend, opening up color and conference viewing once connected to the VGA port of the T5200. As Georg finished his transcontinental-transatlantic data hopping, Mungo returned and demanded access to the machine. 

Judy had made tea, actually coffee, with some breaded sausages, which she referred to as `toads-in-the-hole', followed by buttered toast and, what Georg first took to be jam, Bovril. Again Georg was forced into inactivity, but contrary to his usual experience, he did not have the creative ideas, admittedly some were wildly so, which came to him when he relaxed after a period of intense activity. Judy chuntered on about something or other until Georg's ear was caught by, "J.B.S. Haldane said that `aristocracy' is a sound system for a race which reproduces by cuttings. I sometimes wondered if the preoccupation of aristocrats with horses, dogs and such, bred for quote excellence unquote, springs from the same thought." Judy was groping for some kind of idea.

"I'd guess is it has to do with both requiring land and money. If you infer special merit on a pursuit that only you and your exclusive club can follow, you've got a badge to set yourself off from the 'mob'," Georg wondered again if Aleph One was quite as useless as her name implied.

"Aye," Mungo came in from somewhere underneath the Sony monitor, "start with a Muckle who owns all the land, pass some around to your cronies and lickspittles, as they do to their descendants, in perpetuity, you can all get together to hunt some varmint and celebrate your superiority to the unwashed, without having to actually wash yourself."

Georg concluded that Mungo was not an ardent royalist. . . or friend of the aristocracy. He wondered if it had anything to do with taking Bridy home last night. "What exactly did Jay Esse Haldane say," pursued Georg?

"It was Jay Bee Esse Haldane, not his pater, Jay Esse w/o a Bee, Haldane. He said `If. . . (people) were propagated by cuttings, like apple trees, aristocracy would be biologically sound', as well as I can remember, I could look it up if you wish."

"No. That's okay. Just why were you thinking about that just now," Georg probed a bit further.

"I'm not too sure. It just seemed that if a group is desperate to get off the Earth to another world they have to have a very good reason in view of the cost of the ticket. They would need a bit of influence with the establishment, as well. If the method of propagating the race, implied by the conditions of the voyage, were cloning, the equivalent of cuttings, it would fit with the aristocratic cast of mind. Does that make any sense," Judy held up uncertainly?

"What is your point, exactly: if interstellar travel required reproduction by cloning, or something similar, it would attract aristocrats preferentially, or is it, if aristocrats chose their method of reproduction it would be cloning?"

"Why not both, or either," Judy defended her position.

Mungo had completed his task and seated himself at the tea table,"You have both missed the most important implication, what happens after planetfall. These people have to be going to stay, not to plunder: they are in the Anglo-Saxon, not the Roman tradition. What could be more natural than to continue with the systems perfected for use on the voyage, especially if it fitted in with the way things should have been in the first place." 

"You mean establish a society in the Exo-NewWorld where aristocracy is the biologically proper form of government," asked Georg?

Judy agreed vociferously, “And economically and socially proper as well as validated by science, which was responsible for placing them in this marvelous place. Let any incipient Karl Marxes try to get out of that one."

Georg was startled, "Are you seriously suggesting that this project is real and is sponsored by a cabal of aristocrats. Which aristocrats? A House of Lords plot?"

Mungo temporized, before casting his lot, "I'm not ready to go that far. Yet… But, if it is real, it doesn't have to be an existing aristocracy. Given the opportunity, many people would be willing to join that `Band of Brothers'--- especially as it would only be consigning their offspring to such a place, not themselves."

After a short pause, he continued, "I have an assignment for the two of you, get on the networks and the libraries and find out all you can about a Swede called `Pers' or `Per', `Hammerlund'. He was Secretary General of the Think Tank in Palo Alto up until a few hours ago." Georg was beginning to move. Also get what you can on a female Israeli Army Major named Balka Bohra, now an outside Director of the Think Tank. But, be careful; don't leave any traces that you have been checking into them. Let me know what you have first thing in the morning."

"Do you plan to use the Toshiba, if so we'll need at least one more machine? There are the two telephone lines plus one which is used for the burglar alarm, we can use that too, as we only need it for outgoing calls," Judy was on her way.

"Yes, I will need a machine always available to me. Get what you need. Just make a note for the budget, for when we need to invoice our expenses. Judy, you'd better take charge of the accounting. Use your normal billing rate and get one from Mungo. Don't let it slip, I don't want a lot of costs I can't justify and have to eat myself," Georg cautioned.

"Right on Boss. Is our friend in the 280SL back?"

"I don't see anyone out there. I'll get to work on sweeping this place electronically for bugs, the telephones too." It took almost and hour and at the end he was not quite sure as some of the electronic gear in the flat was completely foreign to him. There were no telltale emissions indicative of a transmitter bug and nothing suspicious connected to the telephone lines. He checked the power lines extra carefully as he was not sure the British power-distribution-system used a separate power-transformer for each residence, as was the practice in the U.S. If not, a signal from a bug sent over them could be picked up anywhere in the neighborhood.

When he had finished, it was after 5:30 pm and dark in these northern latitudes. "Judy, fix us up with somewhere to eat about seven, nearby and quick but where we can relax. It will be a long night and we will be thankful later for having had a break."

"Now I know who was your slave," Judy teased, then contritely, "It was just a joke, I'm always be happy to do the booking whenever you want take me out to dinner."

"Fine. If we pull this off I'll take you and Mungo to the finest restaurant in. . . in. . . Paris or New York, for everything you can eat," promised Georg.

Mungo said,"I'm with you, but what do we have to pull off, exactly? I suppose you have gathered that Allyne and Judy filled me in at dinner on how this thing started. But, I ken I must be missing something in the middle."

"Ha. I'm sorry Mungo. I've been very delinquent with you. I hope you will forgive me for that and also if I put you off a little longer. Let's use dinner to compare notes and get everybody up to date. For now, I need to find out some things which might make things clearer for us all."

"I got a feeling I'm in for the long haul. Probably a couple more hours won't matter," Mungo said, in a conciliatory tone.

"Same here," echoed Judy, agreeably.

Georg had made himself sound much more clear than he actually was. He had some things to check out, but this situation was proving much harder to get to gel than he was used to. It was desperately important to get as much as possible out of the data from the disk dump. It was not encrypted, apparently, and he already had the password for access, if the protection had even come through on the data as it was copied. He would get on that right away. 

He also needed to clear up the mystery of what was on the tape from Lick. That would have to wait till he could talk to Emmette again. He was sure she knew more than she had said, or could find out more.

What was the significance of the plague of Lords and Ladies who seemed to surround this affair? Could there be anything to Judy's suggestion? For the moment he could think of no way to check it out, aside from the probes he had set in motion into the background of Hammerlund and BeeBee. See what comes out of that.

He really wanted to spend the night with Zaarha again, but that could be nothing but self indulgence and the height of irresponsibility. He knew himself well enough to know the reason, whatever kind of excuses he tried to construct for himself. He gave in enough to let himself check the hotel for messages, in case she had tried to get in touch. Martine would have called thls flat, but Zaarha didn't know where he was. There were actually five Brown's Hotel messages, from Zaarha, Emmette, Felicia, Allyne and A. M. Smith. 

On the basis that it was likely to lead to fewer complications he returned the one from Smith first. He came on the line immediately the hotel operator plugged the call through. When Georg had identified himself A. M. said, "Brother Smith! Thanks for returning the call. You in the Hotel, let's meet in St. George's for a drink, I'll even buy you one of those fancy 'Blue Galluses'," he proposed. 

Georg demurred and explained he was not in the hotel but with clients and would be spending the evening with them, until very late. 

A. M. Said, "Check with me tomorrow, there is someone I'd like you to meet, in the same line of work. Here, I'll give you the number, I'll be there all day."

Georg took the number and promised to call. He did not extend the conversation as he was almost sure he had not mentioned anything about what kind of work he was doing. If it was not a complete fishing expedition, Smith must have called Felicia and pumped her. She would have told him the minimum but as Georg had made no secret of his occupation, she may have told him something about that. 

Felicia was next. She wanted to be taken out to dinner. She also confirmed that A. M. Smith had called, asked her out and had asked her several questions about Georg. She had put him off on both counts, telling him only what everybody already knew about Georg. "I'm afraid I may have left him with the impression that you were a modern version of Sir Henry Morgan, probably looking for a new Panama Vieja to loot and burn," Felicia teased. 

"If he calls again tell him you suspect I'm an Austrian Prince who freelances for the C.I.A. from time to time to pay for the roof repairs on his ancestral palace," requested Georg.

"Ajo! You mean `Su Altissimo Serenidad, Prince Malko'," she laughed. That should keep him going, I could feed him all 39 books, one by one. By the time those are finished, Gerrard de Villiers will have written several more." 

"That would be a better basis for a happy marriage than most, `Felicia and the Thousand French Nights', he should be so lucky." Georg joked.

Felicia collected these spy thrillers written in French and also translated into Spanish (but, oddly, not into English). She read the French version with the Spanish one by her side so she could immediately find the meaning of any unfamiliar French word or phrase she came across. The result was that she knew them virtually by heart, each language reinforcing the other. Also, her French vocabulary had a distinctly exotic, not to say erotic, slant. Georg had employed the same trick with the French and English versions of Freddy Forsyth's books. The main difficulty was waiting till the French translations came out before reading the English one. To balance his vocabulary he read both the Scientific American and the French version, La Science et L'Avenir, of that magazine.

Georg begged off dinner, promising to take her out ASAP. He next called Allyne, in order to catch her before she went out to lunch.

To Georg's surprise the operator at TT demanded his name, and when he gave it demanded the maiden name of his maternal grandmother. After a moments search of his memory he said `Amberzine Hoskins'. `Let somebody try to guess that one', he thought, with a private chuckle.

When he got through Allyne was with BeeBee. After a few words she put BeeBee on the line. "Mr Smith. Thought you understood. Need you. Can't let take over. No assets to sell. No good to you. Just Allyne. Will work out. She be full Dee Gee. Two years. Chairman five. Marry her. Work out the same. . ."

Georg interrupted,"Please put Allyne back on, I don't understand what's happening."

Allyne answered,"You're on a speaker phone. It is just BeeBee and me. Totally safe. You can talk freely."

"Okay. What is this about me taking over. I never asked for that. I only agreed to be an outside director, if asked, to protect Allyne's back in Board Meetings."

"Sorry, Georg. I thought it over last night and that's not enough. We gotta fight with an informal clique here, dedicated to subverting the Institute to its own ends. Three Board members would not be enough to hold them off once they get the bit in their teeth, unless one of us is Chairman and controls the agenda. I can't do everything at the beginning. At least that is not being disputed. If you don't get the Chairmanship I can't make it go, and I won't even try. You both know I don't have any financial worries, and I have another job to go to anyway," Allyne paused.

"Right. All Right. Smith, you do. It. I sit up. . . Put contract on BIX. . ." BeeBee had come around.

"Wait! I haven't agreed yet. Put your contract on, but it has to say I promise no more than two months per year of my time and won't bind myself to any restrictions not required by contracts with third parties, which terms I have approved in advance. I'll let you know on Monday, after I have read the contract. However, you can count on me if we can get the terms right," Georg knew it was only a matter of a few days. "Now that we have that settled, BeeBee, could I have some words privately with Allyne? Personal. You understand."

BeeBee agreed readily, "I go now. Put me down for ten percent. Ferrari. When you move. Call before. Come back. Shalom!"

"She's gone. I've missed you. But, you don't have to marry me now. Aren't you pleased," Allyne's voice seemed to be smiling.

"What did you do? Why did you do it," Georg was at a loss.

"You heard it. I wouldn't take the job unless you were the Chairman. Of course, BB may not be able to deliver. We will have to see what she comes up with. If she gets this by them before they get wise, it may work. They must be disorganized by the loss of Hammerlund. And, I can keep effective control of the Computer Center. That gets'em by the short and curlies. My first official act will be to fire the Financial Director and bring in an unassailable audit firm to make sure there is nothing funny in the books. Then I'll pick my own man as the new Financial Director," Allyne explained.

"Your will have it locked up three different ways, your own personal control of the Computer Center, the Chairman of the Board in your pocket along with the Financial Director. If it comes to a showdown, with yourself, Comp Center Director, Financial Director and BeeBee you'll have half the Board, and the Chairman, holding the casting vote," Georg was gaining a new insight into Allyne's personality, and respect for her executive instincts. 

"It still hangs on BB's skill and motivation, and probably on several factors we aren't even aware of. It'll be an exciting three or four days, no es verdad?" I haven't had so much fun since that old sow ate my little baby brother!" Allyne was obviously well caught up in the game.

"Stay in touch. Judy is my contact, she will always know where to reach me," Georg gave Allyne the number of Martine's flat.

"Judy, can you arrange to stay here in the flat as much as possible, and I'll keep you informed how to reach me at all times? Mungo, I've got another job for you too. Find out everything you can about the Think Tank Institute. Corporate structure, who owns the stock and anything else," Georg asked. 

"Is it day and night? Will you be here too," Judy simulated a begging tone?

Georg slapped her bottom, and wrestled with her for a few seconds. "Behave yourself, we have work to do. Maybe you could convince Mungo to share the load and spell you if you have to go out. We'll take a chance for dinner tonight, just set the answering machine with a good out-going-message, say, just the phone number and a promise to get back quickly."

Mungo asked,"How soon do you want the output on Tity? And, where and when are we going to eat? My corps is about to lose its esprit. 

"Anytime yesterday," answered Georg.

Judy chimed in with, "Mr Chows, just down the Gore towards Knightsbridge. We can walk," looking at her watch, "we are booked 20 minutes from now." 

On the walk to the restaurant, Mungo explained that he had been working on the data from the tape cartridge, even while the data was being converted to floppy disks, at the computer bureau he had located. It had turned out to be unencrypted text files, stored in an inverted file structure based on an old mainframe data base management system (DBMS) called System 2000, originally developed by Rand Corporation in the 60's. At least half of the data was indexes, which had been adapted to simulate a hypertext system. He had not been able to find the DBMS programs, but had written a small program to thread through the indexes and output the text as one continuous, flat, text file on the T5200's big 100 megabyte hard disk. It would be awkward to work with but should be ready when they got back to the flat. 

Afterwards, Mungo and Judy got involved in a mild argument about the merits of Chinese food, as prepared by Italian cooks, leaving Georg free to think about what he was going to say during the dinner. 

They were seated immediately, upstairs. Georg ordered crispy duck, served with pancakes and plum sauce, spring onions, and sliced cucumbers. Mungo ordered beef with oyster sauce and Judy, a dish of prawns. In common they asked for fried rice and mixed vegetables. The waiter suggested the starter: elephant eyes, a concoction of breaded prawns with a coating of sesame seeds, which were delicious. They shared all the food and a bottle of warm sake served in fine, china, thimble-sized cups. 

In response to Mungo's prompting, Georg summarized the lead-in to the project with special care with his being drawn in to help Allyne, and the nature of her problem. He did not mention her, as yet tentative, appointment as Acting Director General, or his, as Chairman.

In the discussion, it was revealed that Mungo was an inveterate reader of science fiction of the more factual variety, including some of the best Asimov, Jerry Pournelle, Larry Niven, Carl Sagan and Arthur C. Clark. His favorite work was a classic called A Canticle for Horowitz, a one-off by an author whose name no one could recall, chronicling the rebirth of human life on Earth after a merely atomic, not nuclear, war. 

Judy preferred finely etched, detailed biographies of kind for which Anne Edwards was already famous. She said it was a counterweight to her robotics engineering work. 

Georg explained that he had one simple goal when the project started: to prove to Allyne that her fear was groundless. He planned to do this by either proving that there was no such interstellar mission, of if there were, there was no `human' mind aboard, or failing that, it was not connected with Allyne's personal identity. This goal had become entwined with the question of the abuses at Tity and mired in the difficulty of defining `identity' itself. He was then inclined to view the question of machine-based `selves' as a dead end, notwithstanding O'Kennedy and his data base architecture.

By the end of the meal, Georg was feeling more relaxed, intellectually, than he had in the week since the affair had started. The additional computers had not yet been delivered, the T5200 was still working on the files and he felt no urgency in returning Zaarha's, or Emmette's, calls. Talking to Zaarha was likely to be sticky in view of the surveillance on her end and Judy and Mungo in the flat.

"I've got some calls to make, why don't you two take a stroll down Knightsbridge and pick up some liquor. Vodka, Roses and Angostura for me and whatever you guys like. We'll have our after-dinner drink(s) and coffee at the flat, snack-food too, if you run across some," he handed Judy four twenties.

He didn't come across a phone box till he came to Albert Hall. Zaarha answered, reassured him her telephone was clear and he could talk freely, "I was about to report you missing. I have been missing you all day. I'm free until 10 in the morning. Harry has gone to Edinburgh suddenly. Probably a rendezvous with a cook from one of the oil rigs. Can I see you?"

"I'm tied up with something, can't get away before midnight. Why don't you wait for me at the Hotel. Just ask for Judy's room key, you remember the number. She will not be using it and I forgot to tell her to check out."

"Right. I'll be there by midnight. Love you tout la monde."

"Before you go. With your background you may be able to answer a question for me. It's a bit hypothetical, but here goes. It is kind of related to brainwashing. If you had to replace someone's personality, with their consent and with access to all the available pharmacology and electronic aids, unlimited funds and without any ethical constraints, could you do it, and, if so, how," he asked?

She laughed, a high, clear sound, extremely pleasant to the ear, "Guy Fawlkes has you stumped, does he? That is not how he works."

"No. This is nothing to do with robots. At least I don't think it does. It's a problem I'm helping Allyne Rogers with," he tried to minimize its importance to him.

"My first reaction is that it would be a lot easier if the object person had a weak personality in the first place. The experience, of the North Koreans for example, is that if one can disrupt the existing belief set, coping response patterns etc by drugs, deprivation and such, and then control the environment completely, it is possible to succeed, for a time..." she reacted carefully.

"What if you started with a baby," Georg countered?

"I'll check some of my references and we can discuss it tonight."

"You don't know grateful I shall be," said Georg, "or how much I will love you."

"I will find out. Both," she said, with a teasing ominousness in her tone.

Georg guessed he would have the place to himself for twenty minutes before Judy and Mungo arrived with their load of supplies. He needed rest but he did not want them to find him asleep when they returned. He prepared by dialing Emmette's telephone number in Paris, replacing the handset, before it rang. 

Then he lay on the sofa bed and began to refresh himself with a self-hypnosis session, in anticipation of getting practically no sleep in the hours to come. He counted backwards from five to zero to trigger a previous "post-hypnotic suggestion" to reenter a trance state. Then he intoned instructions to awake when he heard their steps on the Mews outside, rested, eager and full of energy for the work ahead. 

He focussed on each part of his body in turn, from his toes to his shoulders, head, arms and hands, relaxing them and urging himself deeper and deeper into the trance. When he reached his abdomen he began to slow and deepen his breathing. Coming fully awake as Judy inserted her key in the door lock, he felt as relaxed as if he had four hours of sleep. By his stop watch he saw he had been lying down for 32 minutes, asleep for most of that time.

Sitting up, he picked up the telephone and touched the `redial' button. In a few seconds, Emmette answered and Judy and Mungo found him talking to her on the telephone when they entered.

"Is Martine there now," Georg asked. 

"Why no, do you need her?"

"No. I'm actually returning your call. It's late, about 10:30 there, and I was wondering why I had not heard from her," said Georg.

"I think I hear her coming in now. You can talk to her when we finish. Is that well?" Emmette's grammar was shifting toward the French.

"Bien. Bien. Q'este-que tu veuts? Tout va bien?"

"Mais oui. I was checking your travel plans. I prefer to meet you Friday evening. We could have dinner and go to meet Martine at her apartment on Saturday morning. I can make the flight reservations for you if you have not done so."

"Yes. Please do," Georg agreed, anything which saved himself or Judy time, at the moment, was a gain.

"Do you want to talk to Martine now?"

"Fine. Put her on," This was going to be a stilted conversation with listeners on both ends.

"Alo! Mon Cher Georg. When are you coming," Martine's dulcet tones shared some of the qualities of her sister's but Georg was sure there was more love in them, whether for him, or just as from a more loving soul, he could not say.

"Invite me for breakfast Saturday morning, Ma Petite Choute. I can't wait to see you." All he said was absolutely true but he was in big difficulty. He had spent the wildest night of his life with Zaarha last night and had an appointment for a repeat performance tonight, only limited by his own stamina and other demands on his time. He did love Martine and wanted to see her, very, very much. It could have been his unfamiliarity with French forms of endearments which held back his ardor, but he knew it wasn't.

"Dac! A bientot. Bon dodo," Martine signed off.

"Good night Darling"

Now the real work of the day was about to start. Micros for Managers had sent with the T5200 an HP Deskjet printer, a kind of a Porsche 914 of the laser printers, which had been percolating quietly in the corner since before Georg arrived back in the flat. Georg called to Mungo,"What's this stuff coming out on the printer?"

"It is a search I set up to run as soon as the computer finished creating the Flat File. I used Turbo Prolog to index through and print database entries containing any synonym of the terms we are interested in: eg self, mind, context, cyborg, etc. When I got back from dinner I added: propulsion, engine, rocket and other terms related to space travel." Picking up one of the sheets, he said,"This is interesting. Looks like the design of an antimatter star-drive is coming off now." He scooped up the stack of sheets in the output tray, replaced the sheet on top and handed the stack to Georg. The print quality was excellent, as good as a laser printer.

There was a short tussle as Georg discovered the sheets had come out of the printer in reverse of the order necessary to be read. He found the beginning of the section on antimatter and sorted those sheets into the correct order.

`There are two leading candidates to serve as fuel for antimatter drives: electrons and positrons, or protons and antiprotons.

`In the case of electrons and positrons, the product is gamma rays directly, which can be used to heat a working fluid or if an efficient focusing method is available the gamma rays can be used as a working fluid. This is the theoretically best possible method of providing thrust. It could be used to approach very closely the velocity of light, ie 300,000km/s. The major problems are: 1) economic production of large quantities of positrons, their containment, completely segregated from contact with ordinary matter until the instant of use and guiding and regulating their flow, 2) focusing of gamma rays, either by reflection or refraction and, finally 3) shielding of the crew and equipment as well as any neighboring installations from the gamma rays.

`When using protons and antiprotons the end product is the same, gamma rays (*), but also electrons, positrons, pions (*), muons (*) and several varieties of neutrinos are produced in a complex cascade of particles and radiation. In the first stage, positive, negative and neutral pions are produced. Each neutral pion decays rather quickly into two gamma ray photons. The charged pions can be `herded' by magnetic fields in a particular direction for about 70 billionths of a second, during which they travel 21 meters, where they decay into positive and negative muons and neutrinos. The energy, not substantial, carried off by the neutrinos is lost to the system, but as far as is known is harmless. The muons can also be steered magnetically until they decay 6.2 millionths of a seconds later, during which time they will have traveled 1.85 kilometers. The final decay products of the muons are electrons and positrons. If a way were found to capture the positrons before they encountered their counterparts they could fuel the star-drive of the first type described above. These reactions are set forth below:

Positron + Electron ----> * rays

Proton + Antiproton ----> * rays + * + + * 0 + * -

* + + 70 nanoseconds ----> neutrino + * + + 6.2 microsecond + positron

* - + 70 nanoseconds ----> neutrino + *- + 6.2 microsecond + electron

* 0 ---> * rays

`The reaction force on the magnets used to steer the charged particles provides a substantial thrust, but a much more powerful scheme is to use hydrogen as a working fluid, heated by interaction with the charged pions. Calculations indicate that each gram of antimatter would be the equivalent of 12,000 metric tons of hydrogen and LOX.

`Surplus NERVA engines, from the discontinued atomic rocket project can be, and are being, adapted, at a very reasonable cost, to use antiprotons as an energy source. Other designs under consideration include the Augenstein Engine, designed by Bruno Augenstein at Rand Corporation and several designs by David Morgan of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. The Augenstein Engine is very attractive for deep space missions because of its size, less than a meter in its longest dimension, and its weight, less than half a ton, dry. The whole assembly could be boosted into earth orbit at a cost of $2 to 3 million at current commercial rates.

`The major difficulty, in the way of general use of antiprotons as rocket fuel, is a supply of antiprotons at a cost low enough to make the system competitive overall with chemically fueled rockets. Preliminary calculations indicate that this would be approximately $10 billion per gram. Current costs are a quintillion ($1 million billion) dollars/gram but these are based on machines which are designed for general research in high-energy physics, only producing antimatter along the way. We may expect the general march of technology will produce antiprotons in a acceptable cost range by the turn of the millennium, provided that the merits of antimatter as replacement for chemicals in rockets is generally recognized. 

`Aside from the cost question, there is the fact that, with current methods, it takes 250 times the energy obtained by annihilation to manufacture the anti-particles in the first place. Our missions require approximately five kilograms of antimatter per ship. Practically speaking, and allowing for improvements of several of orders of magnitude in efficiency, we are still left with only two conceivable sources of energy input to the fuel manufacturing process: the Sun, and nuclear fusion (not fission). The best place to gather energy from the Sun is on the surface of the planet Mercury. There has been only one probe to Mercury so far and no further ones are planned. Sustained nuclear-fusion as a source of significant amounts of power seems to be still as far away from fruition as it was thirty years ago. However, there are rumors, probably unreliable, that fusion may be possible without using hot plasma at millions of degrees. This will be watched carefully. 

`Whether the positron or the antiproton route is taken in the end, the requirement for a practical way of controlling gamma rays is imperative. This development is beyond our resources and those of any client we could hope to interest in it. It is of prime importance that a close watch be maintained on all research, here or abroad, which might bear on this matter. Once promising work is detected, immediate steps must be taken to obtain access, exclusive if possible, to the technology involved.'

The entry ended at this point, but Georg was sure there were more detailed texts below this in the original hypertext structure. For example, the references to the sun and nuclear fusion in the penultimate paragraph practically begged for elucidation and amplification.

It had taken less than a minute for Georg to scan the two pages of the entry. Before he had finished he had extracted several conclusions:

Tity is doing R & D on antimatter drives to reach the stars

They have not decided between positrons or antiprotons as fuel

They are depending on others to get fuel costs down

They expect that to happen by the end of the century

If so, they can't launch for at least 12 - 14 years

They are going to try to pirate a method of gamma ray focusing, reflecting and/or refracting, from whoever comes up with it first, before they realize the value of their discovery

Tity was going to have a problem on their pirating expedition. Most firms can and do keep research results secret until patents are applied for. During the pending stage they might give out some information to selected prospective buyers or licensees under the protection of non-disclosure agreements. Of course, when the patent was actually granted the description of it and how it worked was available to anyone who asked for it. Once a patent was granted on controlling gamma rays, somebody would recognize its importance to the antimatter rocket field very quickly. During the pending stage this was less likely, first because the number of people who knew about it would be severely limited and those who did would be biased in the direction of using it in microelectronic applications, as O'Kennedy and Smyth-Hawkings were. This was an important application, but not of literally Galactic consequences like the antimatter application. 

It then occurred to Georg that some, perhaps all, the surplus computer time on the Golem could come from an illicit search, of every mainframe it could reach over the networks, for information on gamma ray technology. First thing in the morning he would have to find out if Ferrari Electrodynamics could have been penetrated. Wait, he had BeeBee's rundown on Ferrari on a BIX file already. She must have been excited, she had asked him for a piece of the action, personally.

With the force of a physical blow, an idea hit Georg. `I HAVE BEEN HAD. As Chairman of TT, I cannot, ethically, hold them up for the rights to the Ferrari patents, even if I get personal control of them. Any court would construe that, as Chairman, I must have had inside information on their value to TT and even without that must have some influence over how much TT would agree to pay me as an individual for the blasted things. I wonder if Allyne knew anything about this? BeeBee certainly did, she gave herself away by giving way much too easily. But, why did she ask me for 10% of the deal, that puts her in almost the same position? She could be thinking that even if the whole thing got assigned to some outside arbitrator or was settled in court that I would still get a fair return on my investment matter, which she could share in. I would have to fight her case, in essence, on the back of mine.'

An hour later he had downloaded and gone through the file which BeeBee had put together on Ferrari Electrodynamics without finding anything which changed the situation materially. The patents were mentioned only briefly, and were described as related to important advances in Ultra Large Scale Integrated (ULSI) electronic device manufacture. If as undoubtedly was the case, Varian had the same information, it was clear what had lit the fire under their butts. 

But, there were a few details which were news to him, such as the fact that Bridy O'Kennedy controlled one of the largest blocks of shares, with respect to her position as sole Trustee of the O'Houlihan Family Charitable Trust. (It seemed likely that her maiden name was O'Houlihan). 

Some question was thrown on the identity of the other suitor of Ferrari. It was even money that it was EMI Plc. (the former Electro-Mechanical Industries) rather than Varian Associates. He discounted this possibility somewhat as he recalled EMI had its financial fingers burned with its recently acquired subsidiary, Inmos. Inmos' problems stemmed from the collapse of DRAM prices in the face of (alleged) Japanese dumping, an area close enough to Ferrari's arena to be tarred with the same brush. 

He judged that in view of the close ties between the Varian and EMI that they would not be competing with one another in this situation. He put the question of whether to probe Lord Delfont (another Peer!) on hold, as probably inviting danger rather than producing any useful information.

In his defense, Georg was fairly sure that he could find his father’s notes, 20 years old by now, proving that he had the idea of an antimatter drive before he had ever heard of TT, actually before it existed. This should shield him from accusations of using TT insider information to prompt him to acquire the patent rights. If he could show that he had seriously started negotiations for them before the idea of him being elected to TT Board, he had a good shot at avoiding the trap altogether. The United management would also back him to prove that he had gone into the takeover to obtain their product lines for himself and that the patents were only incidental to the transaction, at that point, it would probably clench his defense, and Bee Bee's also.

He moved to the T5200, his personal floppy disk in hand. In a minute or so he had set up directory for his programs and data on the hard disk, copied everything onto the hard disk and was ready to begin operating. A small hitch occurred when the plasma screen didn't show some of his data. He surmised that the monochromatic display didn't display some of the colors output by Sidekick. Fortunately, Sidekick's Install program menu allowed him to fix it quickly by selecting colors which did show. He preferred this to switching over to the Sony monitor which would have shown all the colors in color and correctly, but would also have made his work visible to everyone in the flat at a glance.

The call to Pete at United took some time to put through as the numbers on his Sidekick telephone directory were set up with the dialing codes for use in the 415 area in the U.S. The numbers had to be prefixed by `0101415' to get through to the international exchange, the U.S. of A. and the 415 area.

Pete picked up the telephone, "United Pete. Speak!"

"London Smith. Georg here! How are we doing on the new recruits?" Anything for me to sign, yet?"

"It's all lined up. I set up a million dollar loan from United to you, at zero-point-zero-one percent interest, to bridge the deal. Of course the Ferrari stock stands as collateral till you pay up, but you can still vote it in the interim. Our consideration is that we get limited licenses on the patents, the up front royalty forgiven as a finder’s fee. We will agree on some kind of ongoing royalty based on what we do with them. I honestly don't think this is fair but you'd have ethical problems with the other Ferrari stockholders if we didn't pay something and it's not really important in the over-all context of the deal. The other provision is that if you default, after three months we have the right to foreclose on the stock."

"In effect you are giving me an option which I have to pick up in three months and your fee is the down payment on the licenses. What I don't really understand is why you came to me at all?"

Pete came back with, "Come on. You had to be consulted as a member of the Board anyway. You wouldn't have approved, quite correctly, of United taking on a million dollar liability and placing a big drain on the management to acquire just another high-flying electronics company, and in Europe at that. Our guys want access to those patents and if we don't sew up the deal right away we may have to pay through the nose for them. This way, if you force us into that situation, by defaulting on the loan, you can't complain and you'll be morally obligated to come in and help us straighten out the mess. If everything works out they will have access to the patents at a reasonable price, you will have a new Ferrari to play with and everybody's happy."

`Pete is not a very good poker player, giving away his hand like this, unless he has something in the hole he is not showing and this is a bluff. Only way I'll find out is call his bet,' thought Georg.

The ethical problem of passing on the patent rights at a bargain price at the expense of Ferrari's other stockholders, still bothered him, in spite of what Pete had said. But it did seem that as there would also be a much bigger revenue stream from antimatter applications, Ferrari shareholders were not likely be criticize any other aspect of the deal. Just to make sure he was covered, he said "What would you think of one percent of the gross sales of all products and services using the patents, as royalties on a non-exclusive license?"

"Sounds to me like the right ball park. Of course we would have to get it past a majority of the other United Board members. I'll pencil that into the loan agreement, if you wish," Pete tentatively agreed.

Georg agreed, gave Pete his London telephone number and asked him to get the deal on paper as soon as possible and keep in close touch. He also referred Pete to his lawyer in Menlo Park, who had a power of attorney adequate to cover this deal and would handle the investment bankers, etc. He had mentioned nothing about his own pending election as TT's Chairman, or the possibility that the patents would be worth infinitely more to TT than to United, though there did not appear to be any conflict of interests. Except, of course, that if Pete knew the real value of the patents he would not be willing to settle for a non-exclusive license. None of the Ferrari stockholders would be willing to sell their stock if they appreciated the situation, either, and some sharp lawyer better check on current and possible changes on the laws about insider trading. 

It was now 11:30 in the evening. Mungo and Judy had been keeping away from him, difficult in the small flat. Once Judy had slid a vodka gimlet under his hand without speaking. Mungo seemed to have been going through the printout, and making up a new list of search criteria to focus the search more sharply. Judy had been on the other telephone, mostly to the U.S., running down the data he had asked for. "I'll go back to the hotel now. I need some of the papers in my briefcase there. I'll do some more phoning and be back about 7:00. You can fill me in over breakfast, here, at the flat. If I leave the Hotel, except to come here in the morning I'll call you first. Please leave the answering on when you go to sleep, or if you go out for any reason. Gniesneau!" 

"Scharnhorst," returned Mungo immediately.

"Ta," from Judy.

 

Chapter IX

Georg took the same route he had taken on his way back from the first day's conferences at Imperial College. This time darkness masked the scope of the destruction. Many of the blasted trees had now been removed, and small piles of cut logs rose out of the gloom beside his path. The British, true to their traditions, clearly did not lead the world in keeping out of trouble but they were top class in repairing the damage. 

He chose to walk in spite of hoards of black taxis with their yellow signs lit, to give time to reorder his thoughts. He was on the move again, gaining control, not only being driven by the force of events. Question: where was he headed?

He judged Allyne, with BeeBee's help, had passed her crisis-point. She had her problem well in hand and was no longer worried about her… Well, sanity. Perhaps, putting a buffer between herself and the Golem and being able to pull its plug out of the wall had been enough. 

Now Georg could concentrate on the other aspects of the situation. After a mild struggle, he decided to elevate the project to colonize extra-solar planets in first place, even above any financial opportunities which might present themselves. Next, came the question of who was playing which role in the unfolding drama. The exploitation of opportunity came third, followed closely, he had to admit, by the need to bring some sense to his love life.

Two garishly made-up, teenage, school leavers passed him by. They giggled to themselves over some shared secret, their unrestrained boobies bouncing under their Tee-shirts and tight buttocks writhing under even tighter skirts. `"San Quentin Quail", or, a better term would be "Wormwood Scrubbers", in this part of the world.' 

Is it really possible that evolution is about to come to an end. The `selfish genes' have brought about such subtle things as big rotund breasts, like buttocks, manipulating the pattern recognition circuits of the male brain to adopt the missionary position, most appropriate to an animal which stands on its hind legs and lies down to sleep when darkness comes. Now they have exhausted their repertory. The sophistication of shifting some of the load to culture and social behavior, as documented and elucidated by the sociobiologists, would not hold up to the task of. . . sowing the genes of carbon-based life among the stars. 

The dinosaurs' minuscule, reptile-like brains had failed some mysterious hurdle and left the race to the rather unpromising proto-marsupials and proto-rodents scurrying about among the fern fronds. The new life-form's only merit seemed to be that their females had the physiology and instinct to care for their young a little longer on their way to reproductive age. First inside their own bodies, viviparous, so their babies were born alive and already kicking. Then, the food supply was further assured, along with immunity boosters, by milk from their mothers' breasts. 

One group of their descendants advanced a bit further by providing a peculiar set of sexual instincts, at a minimum: constant female receptiveness, but restrict-ed, more or less, to one male at a time. This incentive kept her male in the neighborhood, not only to assure additional fertilization but also to protect and support her and their mutual progeny. To the extent that this system enhanced survival preferentially, the world was soon overrun with little males with a preference for monogamy and lifelong male-female bonding. 

Next, based on the invention of agriculture, a population explosion occurred ten or twelve thousand years ago which not only tied the males and females still closer together, and through them the young, but tied all of them to the cornfield. First to plant and care for them, while the crops grew, ripened and were harvested. Then, as hunting and foraging skills were lost through disuse, the males were bound to their granaries and storehouses. Thus villages were born and trade (and money) was not far behind.

Georg was fairly sure technology and agriculture were at odds with regard to their influence on human society, taking sides in the war of the sexes. They support each other in some ways but in others they are diametrically opposed. 

Agriculture demands a settled life. Technology frees people, especially men, to wander, to hunt, to discover, to plunder, to screw at will. In every culture, except in certain restricted enclaves in France, women are uniquely identified with agriculture and its products, eg, cooking, sewing, preservation and careful storage of food. 

Even on family farms, women were in charge of gardens, truck patches, chickens and animals raised for the family table. Men, on the other hand, were concerned with growing and selling products abroad: fields of corn and whole herds of cattle and sheep. 

Agriculture, as long as it was confined to subsistence farming and a little more, served the female interest, technology the male, both in the service of reproductivle success. When the clash came and technology invaded the domain of agriculture, the male genius took it up with a vengeance, till today, supply outstrips demand to the point of embarrassment. 

Oh! Many people still starve, but that is because the food is not brought, prepared and put on the table. . . The female genius, which controls the palate, will not permit it. Of course, no mother would watch her children starve only to express her horror of the artifacts of technology, or participate in an overt campaign to cause it to happen. But, ancient instincts, governing the social attitudes passed on at mothers' knees and across her dinner table (economics of food distribution are determined by such) bear the blame.

Part of Georg's education on the ranch, according to his mother and indulged by his father, was to help with the chores, sowing seed in the garden, planting potatoes and harvesting artichokes for the dinner table. Planting potatoes involved slicing up the best examples left over from last years crop, being sure there was an `eye' in each slice. Each slice was planted deep in a furrow and covered over. In a matter of weeks the young plants broke the ground. `According to Judy, and J. B. S. Haldane, aristocracy is the best form of government... for potatoes,' he chuckled to himself.

Other plants were sown by `broadcasting', flinging handfuls of seeds in every direction to land on top of the ground in a fairly uniform layer. Many of these seeds did not grow, but with seeds like mustard or clover, the seeds were small, and enough were sown, so that a good stand of plants came up in most years. The idea of broadcasting had caused Georg to hesitate when he had thought of planting life among the stars. What exactly did get planted when the seed are sown?. . .Broadcast? Basically, the fertilized ovum containing the genetic specifications of the next generation and an initial supply of food, all protected by some kind of cover until the right conditions arrive, start a new cycle of life.

The function of the ovum is to convey information. Now, if the information were conveyed otherwise, say, by radio, or  laser beam, it just might land on some surface with the proper food to support development. If it were absorbed by something else, before reaching such a niche, that would be the end of that particular seed. Wait, information conveyed by DNA can be already equipped to function, chemically, to reproduce itself. The information conveyed by radio waves, as far as I know, doesn't reproduce itself, no matter what kind of food it impinges upon. `I could design a circuit, a relay, or a multiplier to do it: But, not one which would be formed out of an unstructured lump of matter by the information in the radio wave which fell upon it.' 

What was hovering around at the back of Georg's mind was the fact that a major part of the National Science Foundation budget for the next several years was planned to be spent on the specification of the human genome. The project was budgeted at about $3 billion and would probably result in an overrun. Theoretic-ally, if this description of a human were sent to superior race somewhere in the Galaxy with a superb command of organic chemistry at the molecular level, they could synthesize the nucleus of a human cell and, using some sort of artificial ovum and womb, grow a homo sapien.

If broadcast in every direction, there was a chance, if such races exist somewhere, that one of these messages would eventually reach them. If they took any interest in it, they might `make a baby'. He looked into the sky above London, in which, notwithstanding the lights of the city, many stars were visible. `The universe is finite,' he thought, `so, it is not inevitable that a message would reach an intelligent race, even if we assume that the laws of physics are such that intelligent life will evolve wherever the conditions are suitable.' 

`I know the universe is finite because the night sky is not uniformly as bright as the surface of the average star. In a infinite universe, there must be a star exactly in any direction you wish to look. If the light from that star is intercepted by interstellar dust or dark matter, it is not destroyed, but will be re-radiated in some form. Also, light deflected in this way would be made up for by the light from the infinity of stars which would be in a position to have their light reflected to the observer. As the sky is not so uniformly bright: according to Herr Olber' Paradox, and I can see no way to quarrel with this, it cannot be infinite.' To be fair, this part of his analysis had first been worked out by Georg one night in the Gulf of California, lying on his back on a clear night on the deck of the anchored Aleph One. He recalled it for further service this night in London.

To Georg, this was his most elegant bit of scientific reasoning ever. Everyone who has normal eyesight eventually acquires the data required, the perception of individual stars in the sky. But only a few of all the people who had ever lived had drawn the correct conclusion without having it pointed out to them, in advance.' 

He stopped and thought,`What started this line of thought? Why, teenage girls. . . and the list of keywords he had glanced at over Mungo's shoulder, but not registered consciously at the time, as he exited the flat. "Human genome' and `broadcast' were adjacent on the list.' Mungo had obviously seen some reference to them in the printout and, intrigued, proceeded to find out more about that.

Georg put these ideas aside till later and looked around to see where he was: right by the Intercontinental Hotel at the beginning of Piccadilly Avenue. Continuing along Piccadilly past the Hard Rock Cafe toward the Ritz, he gave himself over to planning the coming encounter with Zaarha. 

She had promised to check into `brainwashing', the closest he could come to the idea of transplanting a `personality'. He hoped that was near enough to transplanting `identity' to be useful. Her preliminary comments suggested that the idea was not outrageous, but seemed to suggest the result would be unstable if more than one personality competed for the same body. 

He had seen some of the popular literature, starting with Robert Lewis Stevenson's Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, The Three Faces of Eve etc, on multiple personalities. He had also been in the U.K. when a documentary on experiments in hypnotically induced age regression had been broadcast on television. The reaction of professional commentators had been that the subjects had innocently fabricated their stories of previous lives as a result of, probably unintentional, and misunderstood suggestions from their hypnotists. 

The ring of extreme authenticity of their stories, consistent in detail with the historical records of the times when and where they claimed to have lived, was very impressive. The argument against this being taken as proof of reincarnation was that the brain was capable of storing a massive number of facts read, heard or viewed on television without being aware of when or where they had obtained them. Such data was recalled and worked into their story, quite honestly on the part of the subject, to create spurious `memories' of a prior existence. If memory makes man, then these people were, in a way, vessels of several personalities. He had not heard of any ill effects among the hypnotized subjects, counter to the situation with some cases of spontaneous `multiple personalities', which were accused of creating  mental disorder. 

Georg picked up his key at the desk. There were no messages except for the ticket to Paris tomorrow. . . today, it was just past midnight. The flight on British Airways, from Terminal One at a quarter to six in the evening, would arrive at Aeroport Charles de Gaulle at eight thirty, losing an hour due to the time change. He and Emmette would just have time for a late dinner, by the time they arrived in the center of Paris. In his room he stuffed the ticket in his briefcase, swore, and said to himself, for the benefit of any bugs remaining in the room,'"Alka-Seltzer”! Hope Boots is still open. Probably have to go all the way to Leicester Square. When is this bloody country gonna drag itself into the twentieth century!' He picked up his briefcase, slammed and locked the door on the way out.

Zaarha answered his soft knock on Judy's door immediately. She embraced and kissed him thoroughly, till he almost forgot the questions he had prepared for her. Pushing into the room and closing the door, he said,"Hi Doll," wincing inwardly at his automatic use of the nickname, "I missed you. You left me in a terrible state. I almost grabbed a couple of punk girls off the street on the way over here but I decided to save myself, just for you."

"Pig! You only see me as a sex object. I should as well stop with my husband if you are going to equate me to that sort. At least he behaves himself in this town. . . most of the time," but she smiled.

"Ave Maria, I was just trying to convey that you are a tough act to follow." he smiled back.

"You solved it. I am your slave, and I don't act I. . . I. . . do. You know what I mean. For you it is real. I love you. All of you. Your smile, your shy. . . manner, the way you think and do things. . . " she, not so much left off as continued without words, drawing him to her, onto the bed, proceeding to disrobe him and signaling him to do the same service for her. She had come to him dressed more or less as she had been for an evening at home. Her lounging outfit, jacket and pants, was made from printed silk, of the sort used for men's ties. The jacket was wrapped around and secured with a tied belt of the same material, so that it needed only to pull the free end of the knot to release it. Underneath, in need of no actual support, she used a bra of very open lace, which was secured, oddly, by one simple hook between her breasts, like a nursing bra. Georg found this idea obscurely erotic.

They paused, shoeless and topless but trouser-ed, kissing and caressing one another and murmuring what may have been endearments, until she lay on top of him, her fine breasts rested on his chest. His, by then considerable mound of, genitals were nestled in the hollow formed by her groin and the intersection of her thighs. Resting on her elbows, she touched his face with her fingers and kissed it from time to time. "Don't you want to know what I found. About brainwashing," she asked?

"Do you want to tell me now," he asked, with a note of surprise?

"I don't mind with you in my trap, whom I can ravish at my leisure. Meanwhile I can revel in my power, like a tiger with a kid," she pretended to release him and then recapture him.

"Very well then, but I'm not interested in military or propaganda applications. My project is to evaluate manned-versus-unmanned space probes for inter-stellar exploration. A possibility has been suggested that manned expeditions a smaller crew might be required if a sort of induced schizophrenia were used. Doctor Jekyll could come out when a doctor was needed, that sort of thing. I only need to know if the idea is totally ridiculous," Georg invented a cover on the fly, a version of the one he had given Mungo originally.

"You must judge: if what I shall say is relevant. My doctoral dissertation was on the development of human personalities. It was based on Gregory Mazlow's hierarchy of needs, the idea that emotion is the manager of attention and motivation, and finally that the resultant personality is a more or less integral set of strategies for coping with the problems of survival and reproduction."

Georg responded, "The part I got was the bit about Mazlow. He claimed people have three kinds of needs: 

1.  physical, like food and shelter, things which actually threaten life if you run short

2.  social, including love and approval and 

3.  individual: the need to realize oneself, to maximize one's potential. The kicker is that until type 1 needs are satisfied there is no way to pay attention to the others. Once types 1 and 2 are okay, one can have a go at type 3. Is that what you had in mind?"

"Exactly. I extended this to show that in the developing human, learning to fulfill needs is addressed, in that order, as well. The child needs to learn the skills to get fed and cared for before he can spend any energy being nice to get people to love him. Next, he learns the social skills to gain acceptance. Finally, he gets to work on differentiating himself, to become an opera singer, astronaut or both." she continued.

"We are still talking about learning, informally from experience, or formally, from education or conditioning, impressed on a matrix of some kind. What is the nature of the matrix, and how can the effects of a unique lifetime of experience be suspended and another one substituted for it in the same brain? We know it does happen, at least, sometimes. How does it work within your system?"

"I don't know how it works at a physical level, but it does happen under hypnotic suggestion and sometimes spontaneously. There is a lady named Stewart running around who is sure she remembers being James the Fourth. She had never been hypnotically age regressed. I suspect the way suggestion works is to give permission, and motivation, to construct one of these extra personalities. Stored away in most people's minds is enough building material to construct as many personalities as one needs. By the way, young children can do this before they can read, `remembering' adult lives with incredible verisimilitude. Unfortunately the relevant experiments were done after television, so it was impossible to be sure that the raw data did not come from TV broadcasts, to the disgust of the reincarnation freaks," Zaarha laughed.

"I suppose novelists and playwrights might use a milder version of this a capability to create their characters," said Georg with amusement.

"And actors to play their parts," Zaarha rejoined. 

(An angel flew over, wearing a mask in the form of Allyne's face, its breasts sagging slightly.)

Zaarha replied,"Would you like to try a little acting? I have brought along my copy of the Kama Sutra, illustrated, in the original language. I would be happy to translate any bits that are not clear from the pictures."

"I think that would be terrific, and so educational too." Glancing over his shoulder he pointed at an especially beautiful drawing,"Shall we start with this one?"

***********************************Episode “F” suppressed**********************************

Georg awoke fully at 5:00am, rising slowly, he joined Zaarha in the shower, wondering if it could be their last time. She methodically washed him and he returned the favor. It seemed far the most superior way, he could not remember clearly bathing himself, alone. When they had finished and were dry again she began to dress herself, starting with the smallest possible bikini bottom, barely a gee string, and then the lace bra. With the last, Georg stopped her until he could kiss each breast before it was caught once more in its delicate cage.

"When are you free today? Do you have classes in the afternoon," Georg asked?

"My class is over at 12:30pm. I have office work to do in the afternoon but that could be put off to the week-end if you wish."

"Could you meet me at Drone's at one, for lunch. Perhaps we could spend some time together in the afternoon before I leave for Paris? Would you like to do that?"

"Is that an order," she teased.

"No. But it would please me very much," he replied.

"Then I shall obey, My Beloved Master!" she said and kissed him once again before putting on the rest of her clothes, topped off by a cloak of one of the colors of her printed silk outfit. She wore her long dark hair loose and fanned out over her shoulders, setting off her long arched neck. Another kiss and she was gone.

It was too early to start back to Martine's flat, and there was no way he could get breakfast at this hour, in the hotel or out. He lay on the bed, pulled the sheet up and repeated the self hypnosis ritual to suggest that he would arise rested, alive and energetic to face the new day. In moments he was in a semi-trance. Then he began to dream.

He was back in the navy, alone on the bridge, conning his ship in the Southern Seas. The ship was navigated by an automatic control center elsewhere. There were no voice tubes, telephones or engine-room telegraphs, he only had to think a decision and the ship responded. Looking out from the almost 360-degree observation port he could see a fleet of ships arrayed around his own, which occupied a protected position he recognized as that of a flagship. Raising his arm to view the sleeve, he saw it was crossed by one wide and four narrow golden stripes and a star of a full Admiral of the Line.

Moving to the wing of the bridge and inspecting the sea more carefully, he realized the accompanying ships were not spread out on a flat surface. Actually, there was no surface. The fleet was making its way through three dimensional space. By moving about a bit he could see all the constellations in the sky, even the ones opposite one another in the sky of Earth so were never all seen on the same night. Both the southern and northern hemisphere constellations were visible simultaneously, which is impossible from any single point on the earth's surface. 

Pushing to the end and looking as close to the edge of the blind arc as possible he could see the disk of a very bright star, with four slivers of dim lights distributed around it at varying distances. The crescents, clearly, were lit by the bright star at their center. Of course that is what the solar system would look like from a position well out of the plane of the ecliptic. He could just make out three other half moons, and some points near the larger ones, probably Triton and Titan. Two of the smaller points were obviously the Earth and Venus but he could not be sure if the other was Mercury or Mars. Then the knowledge was in his head, unbidden, and a little contemptuous. The dimmest one was farthest away from the star than two of the brighter ones, it was obviously Mars. Mercury was lost in the glare of the Sun from this angle.

He sensed the presence of another person on the bridge with him. "Who is it? What do you want," Georg demanded.

"Admiral Georg C. Smith, Commander of this expedition. With whom do you wish to speak to, Sir?"

He racked his brain for an analogy, perhaps literature: Scrooge, Hamlet, Jiminy Cricket. . . Nothing seemed to fit the situation. "Then who the hell do you suppose I am then, Admiral Smith?"

"I can only guess that you are the Watcher. If not, something must have gone wrong."

The scene dissolved in brilliant lights of every hue and tint and a crash of silence. 

Georg had swept the telephone off the hook. He was sure it had rung. Scooping up the hand set, still confused, he answered, "Smith speaking," as noncommittally as he could.

"Mungo McDonald. Sorry. Didn't want to take a chance you might oversleep, jet-lag and all. Called your room and you didn't answer so we tried this one. Got a lot of hot stuff here. Breakfast'll be ready in ten minutes."

"Give me fifteen," he looked at his watch, 6:32am. he looked at himself, not dressed and his razor was in his room. Shave at the flat. Pull on clothes. Hail a cab. 

"See you then," Mungo finished.

When he arrived at the flat he was a couple of minutes early so he walked around the building looking for any signs of surveillance. There were none. Either they had given up or had adopted more subtle ways.

Inside, breakfast was on the table. Coffee hot in the cup. Judy and Mungo were full of hustle and bustle. The bed was made up. Despite the hour, both were dressed for the street. Mungo was clean shaved and his clothes were reasonably pressed, as much as tweed can be.

Georg sat down at the table and launched directly into business. "What is the excitement about?" 

"Shall I start with the Think Tank Institute. Stop me if you already know some of this. Firstly, it is a non-profit corporation in Delaware, but no actual presence there. Its main offices are in Palo Alto, California, very near Stanford University. It was founded about twenty years ago, by a group of individuals, that is, not corporate, philanthropists to do research on energy conservation. They apparently had a premonition of OPEC, and didn't like the idea of the U.S. being blackmailed. Hoped they could help avoid dependence on foreign oil. They have been evenhanded politically, probably to protect their tax status. They were capitalized at less than a million dollars and have maintained themselves on revenues from industrial and governmental clients in the U.S. and abroad. Here is a list if you want to look at it."

Georg glanced at the list, it was nearly the same as BeeBee had already given him. There was one name he had not noticed before, `Ardent House' of Paris, France. At the bottom of the list, it was obviously a late addition to the otherwise alphabetical list. `Sounds like a perfume house, probably "Chez Ardent", in French.' He made a mental note to ask Martine and Emmette what they knew about it. 

"Okay. Go on," Georg encouraged.

"Right. The original sponsors are pretty much out of it now. Most are dead and their heirs don't seem to have much interest. It is pretty much run by the Board and, till yesterday, especially the Chairman. The annual Stockholders Meeting is sparsely attended and rubber stamps for the Chairman, as long as he doesn't get into too much financial difficulty. Funny though, there was a special meeting called by one of the Board Members just a couple of days ago and, according to a three line story in the Palo Alto Times, the Chairman, one Dr Per von Hammerlund, resigned. I've got a call in to the reporter but he hasn't called back yet. I expect he will go off to bed soon now and the paper won't give me his home number."

"Did you put something in his Email box? No self respecting reporter would go to bed without checking that," suggested Georg.

"No, I didn't think of that. . . "

Mungo was interrupted by Judy, "I'll take care of it, you two go ahead."

"Thanks, Judy. Actually that is about all I got on TT so far. Do you want to go on with von Hammerlund. There is a lot of confusion about the `von' part. The name sounds Swedish, but `von' is German. It means `from' or `of', and is used by noble families which take their title from an estate, village or town. The Germans, and especially the Dutch, sometimes use the form even when there is no title of nobility involved. The Dutch version is `van' of course."

Georg interrupted,"Does all this have anything to do with us?"

"Probably not," replied Mungo,"I'll get on with the meat of the matter. Von Hammerlund came to TT from the Hughes organization where he was a Division President, about five years ago. He is credited with taking the firm further out of the energy area and into space travel, especially use of computers to overcome the limitations imposed by the long voyage times of deep-space missions. He has published several papers on self-adapting systems, which repair themselves in case of damage, or redesign and rebuild themselves, without human aid. This apparently stimulated them to get into expert-systems in a big way. Probably, their support of neuron-net research was so motivated, as well."

Georg thought,`Somebody said: 'An institution is the lengthened shadow of one man.' "What about the man, what do we know about him, apart from his career at TT?"

Mungo mused, "What about Single-Male-Ruler-Foundation [SMRF]) rulers [SMRFR] to establish, guide and control all the above to support the  SMRFR and the SMRF they created and passed on to their descendant hss (mostly exclusively mhss) as their (God-authorized) successive SMRFR,  Now where did I see that."

"Just one of my old notes.  I misplaced it somewhere," answered Georg.

"The only thing I could find was an entry in the `International Who's Who". There is no data on where Hammerlund was born or grew up, but I'd guess somewhere on the Continent during WWII. He went to Hochschule in Heidelberg after the war, took a degree in Physics at the University of Chicago, under a scholarship, a Masters in Industrial Management from Columbia University (probably an early form of MBA program). He is divorced, with no children, lives in Los Altos Hills, and has served on various committees having to do with the space program. The only one I remember at the moment is the L5 Society. . . " Mungo ran out of steam.

"I don't suppose it mentions if he has an alcohol problem," asked Georg wryly?

"No. I assume they publish what the person submits, within reason. I don't suppose he would mention that in his own entry," answered Mungo.

"Beuhla Bohra? What have you got on her."

"She has about six degrees from the University of Tel-Aviv, also taught there. Has been an officer in the Israeli Army, probably Reservist, though that doesn't make much difference. Was a low-ranking minister in the Department of Technology, or whatever they call it. Transferred to Foreign Office, two or three foreign postings. Dropped out of sight for about five years, then showed up in Northern California about four years ago. Guest professor at Stanford and U.C. Berkeley, San Francisco and San Jose. Non-executive Board member, never Chairperson, of various companies, from R&D to Banking, including TT. . . which is why you asked, right?"

"Right. I guess," said Georg uncertainly. "Would you say she is just where she should be to pick up opportunities for venture-capital investments as early as possible?"

"Looks good to me, but you would be the best judge," Mungo said deferentially, perhaps. "Could also be industrial espionage on a higher, quasi-diplomatic level."

"You are much too romantic. It would be easier and safer to get a personal computer, hook up to the packet switching networks and hire a couple of grad students to screen. . ." Georg teased.

Judy got it first and broke out in gales of laughter. "Yeah, but wouldn't it be a good idea to have somebody on the ground to check out the good leads. Someone with standing in the community who could ask questions and sort the wheat from the chaff. It's probably not illegal, especially if you only freelance for interests in friendly countries. You could support yourself with `finder's fees'."

"All right. Seems we have covered the ground we wanted, and it's not even eight yet. We had better get organized for the weekend. I've got to go to Paris this evening and stay till Sunday night. I'm going to take Sunday off and so should you two. I also have a luncheon appointment today at Drone's. After that I plan to go back to the Hotel and check out, before I go to the airport. I'll swing by here on the way to Heathrow to check the situation. 

"By the way Judy, when I return Sunday night, I plan to stay here in the flat here till we finish up and I go back to San Francisco. I might have company. You should make reservations in case, all on the tab of course."

"Understood. We'll make out," Judy answered for them both and Mungo nodded his agreement.

"Right now I suppose I should call that guy in the Hotel to see what he wants. Before that, Mungo, did anything come through from your search of the Flat Text File," Georg inquired?

"I got a heap of printouts, Judy and I spent half the night going through them," Mungo hesitated, not knowing how to start.

"Can you give me any kind of summary. Put me in the picture. I can check any doubtful points later," urged Georg, "but first let me tell you what I think, so you can skip anything redundant. 

Firstly: It is the project files of an expedition to colonize extra-solar planets. The material is drawn largely from other projects they have or are working on. The launch is sometime around the year 2000.

Secondly: There are three major parts to the project, the design of the propulsion system, the design of the science package, that is the systems which come into play at planet-fall and decides if, when and where to make a landing, and the design of the landing module which carries the colonists to the surface and supports the `beachhead' operations.

Thirdly: The major issue in regard to the propulsion system is the choice between antimatter fuels, ie positrons or antiprotons. Both of these need a breakthrough in the technology for controlling gamma rays, to go at all, and a massive reduction in fuel costs, to keep anywhere near schedule. 

Fourthly: Almost more important and super-critical is the issue of the substrate for the intelligence carried for the science package and landing module. This involves the choice of a neuron-net and an actual human-brain in combination, or just a human brain or, possibly, brains. 

It must be decided by weighing the ethical problems of using human brain tissue as part of a mechanism and dealing with the public reaction when this intention becomes known, as it inevitably will, and the prodigious technical simplification it offers. Without it, the project may be delayed hundreds of years. Who knows whether there will, then, still exist, both the technology and the will to do it. The opportunity may be lost forever. 

"You seem to imply that a human brain must used in the landing module. The only choice is whether to use one in the science package as well," Judy asked?

"If it is a colonizing expedition, something human, at minimum a brain and a means of reproduction, must be landed. Technical considerations favor the same brain being part of the landing module and I don't think this would be repugnant to the popular mentality. Do you?" Georg argued his case.

"I suppose not. Some people would probably insist that if one were staking his life, and his progeny, on a maneuver, it would be wrong to deny him right of participation. You also say: if other brains are used which are not a part of the colony, it would cause the `Man On the Clapham Omnibus' to lose his breakfast," Judy attempted to clarify the problem. 

"There is a certain element which revolts at the idea of brain tissue, perhaps on the ground that it is the domicile of the soul, to benefit another person. Already there is even an outcry at the idea of transplanting fetal brain cells to help sufferers from Parkinson's disease. I think they will also react that way to the idea of a whole brain being sacrificed to put others on the surface, into the colony and with some kind of a future, however precarious." 

Mungo could not resist getting involved,"Intrinsic to the idea of generation-travel is that the early generations have no chance of getting to the end of the trip alive. Only their progeny do. In fact, if one believes, as some of us do, that the teleological purpose of life on earth is to carry the torch to the rest of the Galaxy, then all generations but the last are pawns, sacrificed just to be able to get to the end-game." 

Judy added,"Perhaps there's a difference if the sacrifice is made for one's descendants, if the. . . people on the landing module were the children of those in the science package it might be all right, and save MOCO from losing his breakfast."

"Yeah. That might be the way out. Anyway, that's what I think I already know about the situation. Does your review conflict with, support or confirm my views," Georg inquired.

Mungo began,"Mostly confirm, as far as propulsion systems go. Those and the material on astro navigation were mine, Judy took the science package and landing module. You didn't say much about the astro navigation, I suppose because you expected the approach to be conventional, which it is. A little bit complicated by being out of range of effective guidance from Earth for the end of the trip and the Doppler effects as the probe picks up and reduces relative speed. These blokes are all geniuses or the have pipelines into every advanced research lab in the country, or maybe the world." 

"Could be both," remarked Judy. "I mean they could be geniuses and also have pipelines everywhere," Judy was about to launch into her report.

"Wait a minute. I have more. One of their people has a scheme for harpooning a comet on its course away from the sun and letting it pull the probe out of the gravity-well of the Sun, like Captain Ahab and Moby Dick. It is worked out down to the design of the harpoon and the tow line, which is hollow and filled with a superconducting fluid to carry away the heat from the working of the barb in the `flesh' of the comet. Without this, the heat generated would melt the material around the barb, causing it to come loose," Mungo continued.

Judy objected, "You wouldn't be able to escape completely that way, you would fall back toward the Sun in the end, wouldn't you, Georg?"

"Yes, assuming that was the only method of propulsion you had. In fact there is no profit in hanging on the comet once relative velocities have equalized. Both bodies would continue on, in the same orbit anyway, without a tow line. I am neglecting certain non-gravitational effects, not likely to be important outside the Earths orbit and headed away from the Sun," Georg explained.

"Right," interjected Mungo, "It's all worked out here. Each comet travels in a huge, highly-elongated-ellipse with one focus at the center of gravity of the rest of the Solar System, some spot inside the Sun. The trick is to find a comet with the right components of velocity, at an accessible point in its orbit, at about the same time you wish to depart. Then, get into position to harpoon it as it comes by. Hang on till you have acquired the maximum speed in the desired direction and then shut down the heat exchanger. The barb melts loose and you reel it in. When you get near the destination, find another comet in that system, reverse the procedure to sluff off unwanted velocity, setting up your own new orbit."

"You make it sound like catching a train to Brighton from Victoria Station," commented Judy, with a wry smile.

"There may not be as many trains leaving every day but I wager they're more on time than British Rail," Mungo replied.

Georg, aroused from deep thought,"This sounds much better for getting around in the Solar System than a deep-space mission. The magnitudes of the velocities you could achieve would not be worthwhile. There is a chance you could spot a comet in a hyperbolic orbit on its way in. They travel at higher speeds, but only make one pass at the Sun. That might be interesting for a mission to Mercury, or a probe to enter the Sun's atmosphere." Georg was still stinging from his experience with Jupiter, in the Traveler Game, a maneuver based on a similar idea.

"Are there any clues on what is the function of the Traveler Game on Golem? That is the nickname of TT's mainframe," asked Georg.

Judy responded,"I suspect there are two main purposes for it when it is perfected. One is to implant in the minds of Candidate Travelers by bitter, if simulated, experience, that they cannot hope to contend with the complexities of astronavigation. To teach them to `trust their instruments' so to speak."

"I can verify that one works, and the other purpose?"

"That is a little more puzzling. There may be some bits we have not yet printed out, or more likely that they haven't figured it out yet, themselves. I think it is part, but not all, of a system to provide what I would call a `false mind-set'. Perhaps I should say a crucial, a priori assumption which is incorrect; `misleading' may be a better word."

"It's working already. I'm really not getting this," Mungo chided.

"I know it is not clear. Let me try an example. Have you ever got caught up in something so much that when you stopped what you were doing your mind wouldn't quit, and you did inappropriate things, for a while," Judy struggled valiantly. "That example, which occurs to me, happened when I was reading an essay by G. B. Shaw on spelling reform. As he went along, suggesting orthographic changes, eg spelling `rough', `ruf' and `enough', `enuf', he began to use his new spelling in the essay itself. By the end, the sentences would have been completely unintelligible to a person who had not read the proceeding part. But, as I had, they were no trouble at all.

"That, however, is not the point I'm making. . . After I had finished G.B.S.'s small work, I turned to the next essay in the book, written by someone else, using conventional spelling. I could understand hardly a word of it. It took at least ten minutes of concentrated effort to clear my head of Shaw's pernicious little reform. I never found out if he realized the effect it would have on people who read it. I suppose he must have, as I have also met several people who had a similar experience with it.

"That is certainly an amusing story and I think I understand the effect you describe. In my case it came about because my mother decided to teach me to play chess. Never one to stint, she started about nine o'clock one Saturday morning and we played through lunch to about five in the evening until my father came back and liberated me. 

"I didn't really notice my problem until we had parked in the parking lot of the movie theatre in Fresno. He gave me three bucks and went off to do the week's shopping, warning me not to stay to see the movie the second time around. It took me all of 15 minutes to get to the box office, buy my ticket, and find my seat. At every move I made, I was obsessed with checking the position of every person on the street, `pieces on the board', trying to remember if I could move that way, and so on and on. I could not shake off the environment of the chess board."

"Are you trying to say the game is intended to entrain the mental processes of the Travelers so that they can think only in terms of the navigating the star probe," Mungo tried to get the point.

Judy replied,"Not that exactly. I'm really jumping ahead here, but I think it is more to plant an experience so strongly that it is credible that one is suffering from the after effects of it, as Georg and I described, and discount the true situation in favor of another, actually false, interpretation of the data."

"In down-to-earth terms, excuse the expression, you mean the Traveler is actually navigating a space probe, but he is meant to believe he is doing something else, say, having a Big Mac at McDonalds, and just day dreaming, or mentally engaged in playing the game." Mungo went on.

"Excellent. But there may be more to it. Imagine this: If you were engaged in some activity which took most of your, let us say `subconscious' resources. It would be so boring and so demanding that you couldn't keep it up very long without some kind of break or relief… Now, say you are provided with a pleasant and compelling fantasy, with a very strong suggestion to concentrate on the fantastic pleasures, and keep the subconscious activity out of your thoughts. 

"The designer of this system could not be sure it would work perfectly. Reality might break through, in a dream, in an idle moment, whenever the fantasy experience failed to hold your thoughts completely. So, here comes the really neat trick, he presents reality as a fantasy, a game embedded in a situation presented as fantastic. Then the dreams and idle thoughts could be explained away as traces, after effects of the game, only a game, nothing to worry about," Judy elaborated her theory.

"Ach! I knew we would find a use for people with delusions of grandeur, if we tried hard enough," Mungo was only half joking.

Georg had considered a similar idea, but had not been able to describe it to himself so clearly. Perhaps it was the use of the Traveler Game in the example which made it easier to grasp. `I must check this with Zaarha,' he thought. This time he was sure it was not just a pretext to see her again. "Sorry. I have to break this off for a while. I promised to call Smith in the Hotel, he has someone he wants me to meet. I may have to do that before lunch. Judy, keep digging, in the Flat File or anywhere you think of. See if you can prove, or disprove your theory. Mungo. Concentrate on deep-space propulsion systems. Look for ideas on where the energy could be obtained, especially for making antimatter particles. If they were planning to use chemical energy it would take even more energy to produce the chemical fuel needed.

"You are both doing a fantastic. . . no, excellent job, we will have to think of a better bonus than dinner at Maxims," Georg said.

He remembered he had not shaved or brushed his teeth. After ten minutes in the bathroom, Georg picked up the telephone just as a van load of computer equipment arrived in boxes marked "Micros for Managers", and addressed "Fineman and Daughter, Milky Way Substation, Consignee".

"Aaron Carpenter's Office," a female voice answered, when Georg had dialed the number A. M. Smith had given him. 

"May I speak to A. M. Smith," Georg asked.

"May I say who's calling," came the sweet inquiry.

"Tell him 'Georg Smith'."

"Oh!," came the reply, with obvious interest. "He asked me to request you to meet him at the U. S. Embassy, Commerce Department of Consular Section, Room 300, if you please. Before noon if possible. May I tell him when you plan to arrive. I will meet you at the Reception Desk."

"Make it twenty minutes from now, if that would be convenient," replied Georg. 

"Excellent, I'll tell the Captain."

"See you them."

'Aha! This A. M. Smith has unplumbed depths,' he thought. "Do you want to keep the room in Brown's, Judy. If not, I'll check you out when I do, before lunch. You didn't leave anything in it did you? I have to go to the Embassy first. I will be in Aaron Carpenter's office, Room 300, if you need me."

"Oh, I left some things there. I'll drive you over. Martine left me the keys and permission to use the car. I'll get it out as soon as I sign this."

He gathered up his briefcase and put all his other things in one spot, pending picking them up later, stepping through the front door just as he heard the distinctive sound of the F-40 pulling up. They arrived at the Embassy in Grosvenor Square exactly on time. Georg had chosen to drive, and as Judy changed seats he glanced at the windows on the third floor front of the building, spotting A.M. Smith gazing down at him. The same vibrant voice as he had heard on the telephone called, from the reception area as he entered, "Commander Smith, here I am."

Georg was confused. His naval reserve rank was Lieutenant Commander. When he was on training duty most people still called him `Mister', as they were entitled to do for all naval officers below the rank of full Commander, whatever their own rank. He shook hands with his escort, a tall, obviously English woman, who reminded him of Princess Diana, whom she obviously emulated in dress, coiffure, and mannerisms down to the slightly forward tilt of the head so to seem always to be looking up, with a shy smile. "I am just a Lieutenant Commander, and not on active duty, so no title is necessary." 

The marine guard evidently had other instructions so rendered a smart salute. Georg, un-hatted, did not return the salute but smiled and nodded. His escort began,"Titles are a nuisance are they not. I, myself, am an `Honorable' but I discourage anyone who addresses me that way by saying only `I should hope so'. They usually take the hint. I answer best to Annabelle."

Without further explanation, she led him by example to the third floor lift and the door at the end of the corridor. A. M. Smith sat on the edge of a secretary's desk in the outer office, obviously waiting for him. He rose, greeted Georg effusively and conducted him immediate-ly to the inner sanctum, "Please meet Captain Aaron Carpenter, USN Retired. Our key man on high-tech, international trade-matters. Commander Smith," A.M. performed the introductions.

"I'm very sorry to start this on a sour note, but I have no idea why I am here and I'm getting annoyed with this `Commander' business. I'm a Lieutenant Commander, USNR, not on active duty, yet the. . . Annabelle called me 'Commander' and the Marine on guard saluted me. Am I being called back to active duty? Or what?"

Captain Carpenter answered, "It seems we've started off on the wrong foot. May I explain why we asked you here first, then I'll try to satisfy you on the business of the title, or at least apologize?"

"Please do," Georg agreed.

"First, let me say we understand that you may have played some part in the sudden departure of Dr Pers von Hammerlund, from his position as Chairman of The Think Tank Institute," he glanced at a file on his desk. "Yes, I seem to have got the facts right."

Georg leaned forward, preparing to give his cover story about being hired by Allyne Rodgers to sort out the computer network, but the Captain went on, "Our sources indicate that you are also the leading candidate to replace him. And, you have made an extremely interesting new set of friends and associates recently. Wait," the Captain raised his hand to check Georg, who had started to rise. "No one here questions your right to associate with whomever you please. However, we do feel we may be able to help you. And, you may also be in a position do something for us. Before we can start that discussion we want you to clarify some points for us. We are mildly puzzled at you, with your background and track record, going for the Chairmanship of a stodgy old firm like TT, and a non-profit one at that?" He let the question hang in the air.

Georg took his time, then answered,"The short answer is that I'm doing it as a favor to a friend. Before I go any further than that I'm going to have to know to whom I'm talking, and why? For example, who exactly is Mr Quote Smith Unquote? Is his name really Smith, or is that just as pretended as his Texas accent?"

"You are right, his name is not Smith and it's been a long time since he lived in Texas. His real name is not important and you can call him whatever you wish for this meeting, it's unlikely you will meet again. I suppose you really want to know what he does and his connection with this matter," Captain Carpenters tone made it a question?

"That would help," encouraged Georg. 

"I can tell you this much. He is one of those who keep tabs on intelligence activities of friendly foreign countries, seeing that they don't exceed the limits of reciprocity and, occasionally, picking up penetration by hostile elements, wolves in the neighbor's sheepdog's clothing," Carpenter smiled at his own recondite metaphor.

So far the conversation had bypassed `Smith', Georg and the Captain both talking about him as though he was not in the room. As Georg had hoped, he was sufficiently provoked to speak for himself,"I want to add that I am also a competent scientist. My work in voice recognition and synthesis is widely recognized, and that I occasionally amuse myself and others with my skills in the field, doesn't take away from that one whit."

"Of course none of this is checkable as you obviously don't publish under the name A. M. Smith," retorted Georg.

`Smith's' reply was cut off by the Captain,"Very well, you don't need to defend your record. You did very well to bring. . . Georg here, to me. You may go now. Call me in the afternoon, about four. And, thank you." 

`Smith' left the room with as much dignity as he could muster. 

"Very well," the Captain attempted to regain control of the interview, "As you know, I am a retired USN Captain, temporarily employed in a civilian capacity to help with some international trade projects in the purview of the State Department. Don't look for my name on the roster of the Embassy or Consular Station, but I assure you I enjoy the confidence of the Ambassador, and his Superior. . . "

Georg was aware that Ambassadors, though under the direction of the Secretary of State, were considered, in diplomatic terms, to represent and speak for the President of the United States. The Captain seemed to be trying subtly to imply that he was on a mission for the President himself. 

On a nod from Georg he continued,"I was graduated from Annapolis and the Naval War College as well as the Industrial College of the Armed Forces. I have been Acting Commandant of the 15th Naval District, and held some intelligence commands, as well as Commanding Officer of an Attack Carrier and a missile cruiser or two."

"I accept your credentials, pending verification of your specific commission, from the President, in the event we are approaching any kind of contractual arrangement," Georg wanted to get on with it without burning any bridges.

"Now would you please let me in on your game plan. What do you hope to get out of this deal with TT," Captain Carpenter came directly to the point.

"It is as I have already said, of course, all of this is only for your and your "Superior's" ears, and nobody's eyes."

The Captain nodded.

"Allyne Rogers, is my old friend and former employee, until a couple of weeks ago was Head of TT's Systems Software Department. She got caught in the crossfire of some kind of political battle at TT, got suddenly promoted, and just as quickly fired. She came to London a few days ago to consult with me. While she was here the Director General, Per von Hammerlund was fired, maybe triggered by his arrest for drunk driving and resisting arrest. More likely the real reason was his high handed treatment of some employees, including Allyne, which set off a revolt inside the Board. 

"They recalled Allyne, offered her the job as Acting Director General and a seat on the Board, but not the Chairmanship."

At this point Annabelle came in with a tray. Georg noticed the coffee pot and cups were the same as those used in every wardroom and Captain's mess of the U.S. Navy. Two sips told him the coffee was the same too. This probably did more than anything the Captain had said to validate his credentials. 

Georg continued,"Allyne felt, however, that she could not be sure of the Board, if Hammerlund's cronies counterattacked before she consolidated her position. She had her own seat, the seat of her replacement as Comp Center Director, and the Finance Director which she intended to replace with her own man. Then there was one other sure Board Member, the non-executive director who had sponsored her. The other half of the Board and, especially, the Chairman, whoever he turned out to be, would not necessarily support her."

"So you allied yourself with her and went after the Chair yourself," ventured Carpenter.

"No. She made it a condition, up front, of taking the Acting Director General's spot. I agreed to cooperate, with certain conditions, if she could swing it, as a favor to a friend," Georg concluded. 

"And your conditions," the Captain asked bluntly?

"That I would not dedicate more than one sixth of my time, and they would not interfere unreasonably with my own operations as an entrepreneur. The exact wording is being worked on and there is no contract as yet," he added.

"You didn't ask for any particular role in their Star Probe Project," Carpenter pressed?

"No."

"And, you came to England before this situation arose," the Captain turned the screw tighter?

"Yes. Now I have said enough, till I know what your interest is in this," replied Georg.

"I'm sure you are familiar with the goals of the Strategic Defense Initiative, I mean the political goals, not the technical ones," Carpenter hesitated.

"I think so, but I would like to hear your definition," said Georg with what he hoped sounded like polite interest.

"Overall, Peace on Earth. An end to the arms race. Open borders and free trade. Competition on the capitalist model, with only such restrictions as necessary to preserve the dignity of man: every individual man, or woman, or child, specifically to include the truly disadvantaged, That is the way it was described to me. How do you feel about it," the Captain asked.

"I, personally could live with it, or my interpretation of it. Stylistically I would say it is highly abstract, perhaps simplistic. I'm sure there will be quarrels with some on the primary place given to competition with only a nod in the direction of caring for the wounded. It sounds very `macho', the philosophy of a frontiersman, or perhaps the job description of a space age Marshal Dillon. . ." Georg paused, he could have said more, but he wanted Carpenter to come to the point.

"I see. Well. . . Let me explain. But I must warn you that this is Top Secret. No one outside this room is to know we had this conversation. Of course, if you told anyone I would deny it all. One more thing. I hope you will understand that there must be some safeguards. Papers have been prepared recalling you to active duty as a full Commander, with date of rank in the upper half of the list, on the authority of the President. They await the signature of the Secretary of the Navy. He will sign them under either of two eventualities. One, if you request him to do so in furtherance of our mutual endeavors and two, unilaterally, immediately prior to your general court martial for divulging classified information in the event you go beyond this point in our negotiations and reveal anything about them to any other person whatever, without proper, prior, written authorization."

He paused for a moment,"Do you understand what I have said?"

"Yes."

"Do you wish to accept your appointment as full Commander?"

"Only on the same conditions as I gave TT, and a third, that I can also serve as Chairman of TT, concurrently," Georg knew these conditions were unacceptable and gave them only to reject the offer gently.

"That would not be possible, unless you could give us at least four months the first year. We could cover it, if necessary, as extended training duty, part of your Naval Reserve obligation. You would not need to wear a uniform, but perhaps it would be better if you did when you visit government installations. You will have an allowance, and full-time pay also, if that matters," the Captain had called his bluff, he could not back out amicably now. Why not agree, it would only be four months, and he might never find out what was going on if he didn't. He didn't actually believe the bit about recalling him to active service involuntarily, it would take an Act of Congress to do that, he was almost sure. And, it would blow the cover on the whole operation.

"Agreed, then," said Georg, "but my conditions must be in writing." 

"I have to make a telephone call, when I have finished you will be `Commander' Smith. Step out to the outer office, Annabelle will take your dictation. Sign it and I'll countersign `By order of' SecNav."

Annabelle ducked her head and looked at him through her long eyelashes,"Is it all right to call you Commander now, 'Commander'?"

"Maybe in a little while. Take a letter Annabelle," he smiled his request. In five minutes she had typed the page and he had signed it, just as Carpenter called him back to his office.

"I have someone on the line who wants to talk to you," he said, smiling, motioning Georg to pick up the handset on his side of the desk.

He picked it up and heard the voice, probably the most recognizable in the world,"I'm not surprised. . . Are you on, Georg, I've just been telling Aaron here that I've heard of the mean swath you cut in your industry. If we had fifty more like you we wouldn't have this balance of payments problem. He also says you could write my speeches if you ever decide to come to Washington."

Georg was not sure it wasn't some kind of a joke. Calculating quickly 5:30am in Washington, 2:30 am in California,"Holy. . . It must be the middle of the night. . ." he couldn't resist the remark.

"Oh don't worry. SecNav is home in bed, Aaron's call came into the White House Situation Room. I was awake on another matter and the Watch Officer knew I wanted to talk to you, so he put me on. Figgered you might be hard to catch up with later, I guess."

Georg decided to play along,"I don't know yet, we haven't finalized our planning."

"I understand. Aaron is a good man, you can trust him. But, if he doesn't let you have everything you want, call me. . . anytime."

"Thank you, Mr President."

"Good luck. And, good hunting, Commander." The line was dead.

"What was that all about, was that who I think it was," Georg knew who it was, but he needed a little time to recover.

The Captain pushed back his chair, stood up and saluted. "That was about you owing me a buck… There is nothing in Naval Regulations that says a Captain can't salute a Commander, with or without a hat on, if he wants to, and I want that buck." 

Georg returned the salute, reached in his pocket, retrieved a dollar bill and handed it over, honoring the old naval custom that the first time a newly promoted officer is saluted he has to pay a dollar forfeit. "Now that we have the formalities out of the way, Captain, what is this deal you want to make with me?" asked Georg.

"It is quite simple really, we want you to keep a eye on this Star Probe Project. If it looks like any country or group is trying to take advantage of it to further their own private ends at other people's expense, stop them. If you need any kind of help, up to and including calling up Delta Force, or a squadron or two of Seals, for a couple months special training exercises, you've got'em. Otherwise you are on your own. You don't report to me, when you need something, go into any U.S.Embassy in the world and ask to speak to Nancy. If they ask Nancy who, just say `Nancy Reagan, who else?' Just that, okay?" 

"What about in the U.S.," Georg asked.

"Call the White House Situation Room, here is the number, memorize it and eat the paper, it's rice paper, tastes good actually. Use the same password," Captain Carpenter explained.

Georg had an amusing thought,"What if I actually get put through to Nancy?"

"Then walk, do not run, to the nearest bomb shelter, the enemy has penetrated the White House Situation Room," the Captain took up the joke. "Seriously, there is a procedure for that. Ask her for a date, to the Pasadena High School Junior Prom. If she accepts, tell her what you want. If not, hang up politely, then take such personal defense measures as you can, something is really wrong."

"Is there a procedure if someone wants to contact me," Georg asked?

"We had not supposed that would be required, but as a precaution, would you like to give me a recognition password and authentication procedure? Please keep it simple, it will be given to only two or three people, none of which are intelligence professionals," the Captain requested.

"For the moment I will assume that anyone who introduces himself as `A.M. Jones" is authentic, he will have to assure himself that I'm okay. I feel strongly that I need a. . . cutout, someone who serves as a contact point. He should handle all these matters of security and know nothing about the content of the messages," Georg outlined his requirements.

"Do you have anyone in mind for this job," asked Carpenter.

"Yes. Our mutual friend, hitherto a.k.a. A. M. Smith."

"Right. He'll be p. .  pretty querulous, at first, but we'll bring him around even if it takes giving him a new lab."

"Thank you. Now could you tell me what is going on? Please," Georg asked firmly. 

"All right. I take it you are familiar with the history of atomic science, or as you would refer to it as `sub-atomic physics'," he did not pause for confirmation. "In the early part of the century there were a number of experimental discoveries about the nature of radioactivity, and related theoretical breakthroughs. By the early thirties there were even a few reports in the popular press about the possibility of building an atomic bomb. Nobody of importance took any of this seriously, until the War. Then, under the prevailing conditions, it was possible to set up the Manhattan Project, which proved the engineering feasibility of such a device, and even provided a few examples to carry the message forcibly to the public consciousness in almost every part of the world.

For a time it seemed that the control of this technology could be reserved to the defense of democracy. The postwar situation, an open society was what we had fought for after all, made it impossible for this to endure indefinitely. The best that could be had was a `Balance of Terror', MAD -- Mutual Assured Destruction --, holding the whole world hostage to enforce restraint on the part of the misguided, doctrinaire, possibly mad leaders of any popped up country which they could take control of, and lead their populace on a mission of conquest. 

The American response was a mixed strategy, infantry on the ground where sufficient, while restraining other atomic powers with M.A.D. Once, in Korea, the result was permanent stalemate, at a huge cost. In by the time of Vietnam the bankruptcy of the strategy was obvious to so many people that we could not even get a stalemate. Defeat, national trauma, splintering of generations, destruction of institutions, relative anarchy, a permanent subculture of scofflaws was the outcome. The only way the country could now go back to being a `United' States, would be for someone to mount attack on the continental forty-eight."

Georg leaned forward to speak, but the Captain's raised hand held him back. "I know you have a luncheon engagement, I'll wind this up soon but I need to put you in the picture. And, no we are not going to provoke Greneda to invade New York," he smiled at his joke. "The key to understanding is that we have to not only believe in and die for an open, democratic society, we have to learn how to make it self-supporting, and self-guaranteeing. We must teach everyone except the terminally unteachable and self-destructive, that open society is in their own self interest as well as the only possible avenue toward the future of the world and the future of the human race," the Captain paused to gather his thoughts.

"I am beginning to see a role for Marshal Dillon, that is to take out the malcontents, the `terminally unteachable', as you put it," Georg struggled to come to grips with this onslaught.

"I wouldn't have used such a drastic a term. I would prefer `neutralize', by the most benign and humane method available. For example I don't support that it is necessary to drop a 2000 pounder in Gadaffy's lap for instance. Noriega is another matter, if it could be done without injury to other Panamanians, who would be harmless without his evil genius."

"But I am the, or one of the, 'Marshal Dillons' in this scenario?"

"You are the only one, and it is within your purview to adopt the role required by the circumstances. Your basic mission, should you decide to accept it, is to further the interests of international, cultural, racial, political, sexual, and generational participation: in the next and, probably greatest, adventure of mankind. There is room enough for everybody. But, if you need sticks as well as carrots, you shall have them," said Captain Carpenter.

"Earlier on, you mentioned the nuclear disarmament situation. What does that have to do with all of this?"

"You know there is a summit meeting scheduled for December 7, in Iceland. `We have inside information from Moscow that Gorbachev will go for the zero option on medium range and strategic weapons. The Gipper is in favor of accepting this, with proper safeguards. The NATO bunch will scream bloody murder, as this would take away the US nuclear umbrella and make it certain that any future war between the superpowers would be fought in Europe with conventional and battlefield nuclear shells and missiles. So it probably won't happen, or will be strung out, but the handwriting is on the wall. The era of MAD is coming to an end. The President will not live to see it or take credit for it in the history books. 

"There is just a chance he will be recognized, eventually, for having set in motion the successor, an Open World where the principles of democracy and capitalism can flourish for the gratification of the deepest needs of individuals as well as the common welfare and future of the race."

"I understand. If you agree, I think we are running out of time for general discussion, I would like to get some minor preparations in motion," Georg responded.

"Yes, go ahead, Commander."

"I have a boat, a small ship, actually, the Aleph One, tied up to dock in Half Moon Bay. She's a big tops'l schooner, just possible for me to handle myself in fair weather. I need her rigged to go practically anywhere with no crew, livable for long voyages and equipped so I can stay in close communications with the outside world."

"We could ask the British for one of their Polaris submarines they are taking out of service to make way for the Trident system."

"Sorry, I should have said all equipment has to be available on the civilian market, it has to look like a rich man's folly. Also I need it ready before Christmas, in Acapulco. I'll have no time to run her down there myself. But, I'll shake her down on the way to the Galapagos," Georg insisted.

"We'll do the best we can. Give your list of requirements to Jones, I mean Smith, of course, as soon as possible. Are we finished."

"Almost. I need background checks on several people, Americans and Europeans. Oh! One Vietnamese, Montagnard in fact," Georg elaborated.

"Very well, give the names to Annabelle before you leave. Just a minute, that reminds me. I said you were the only `Marshal', that is true, at the moment. We had a dry run a while back, a French nobleman, Jean de la Noy. He had done some free-lance work for the C.I.A. Didn't work out, in the end he got himself killed. We think it was an accident. That's all you need to know really. You might turn something up on this and I don't want you to think we hadn't been open with you."

"Thank you very much, it has been a most interesting interview," Georg rose and extended his hand.

"Smooth sailing," the Captain shook his hand. The interview was finally at an end.

Georg hailed a taxi on South Audley Street, having given his list to Annabelle, declined her invitation to dinner one evening soon on grounds that he was leaving town, but promised to call next time he got to London. He just had time to get to Drones to meet Zaarha for lunch, but, waiting for a taxi, he took five minutes to order and deliver two matched Purdey double-barrelled, 12-guage shot-guns as “A secret gift to Sir and Lady Smyth-Hawkings, look up them in Browning House, the best pair for up-to £20k. Here is my card in California if you need to call me.”

Zaarha was waiting at Drones, on Pont Street, in the tiny bar at the entrance. She had dressed for school-teaching, in a khaki, chino suit, reminiscent of the Raj. She would have looked at home with a .50 caliber, over-and-under-barreled, anti-elephant gun (probably too heavy to be supported) across her shapely knees. There were drinks on the table, for him a frosty vodka-gimlet on the rocks with Roses and Angostura, her's a frozen daiquiri. She leapt up and embraced him with a sensual kiss, full on the lips. "They will have a table at the back, in the corner, presently. I'm sure you will like it," she greeted him warmly, her melodic tones full of Eastern promise. 

She had snagged the admiring attention of every male in earshot and the envy of every female. `So much for my cover,' thought Georg, though he didn't see what harm had been done, if, as reputed, Sir Harry didn't object.{Two guns might smooth all bad feeling, if and when he confessed, and explained why.}

They chatted quietly about the recent storm, the antics of Anne and Mark and such, until the Headwaiter came to conduct them to their table. They both ordered the house version of Salade Nicoise and another round of drinks. The walls were decorated profusely with mirrors in art deco frames. Potted plants were cleverly arranged to provide an illusory feeling of privacy for the guests. All of this might have foiled a junior Hungarian operative trying to lip read English from across the room, but for George, the multiple reflections gave welcome opportunity to observe Zaarha from every possible angle, without even the exertion involved in moving his head. 

Reluctantly, he opened the conversation on business,"At our last meeting," he deliberately did not refer to last night, to frustrate the surrounding and listening ears,"we talked about novelists, actors and ordinary people fabricating personalities out of second- hand material. By second-hand, I mean acquired from reading books, listening to stories, or television."

"Yes, I remember," responded Zaarha.

"You made the point that even preliterate children can `remember' adult lives, right."

"That should not be startling. Perhaps the confusion comes from the fact that different kinds of information seem not to be conveyed in the same way. I have used the term `information' rather than `data'. Data is signal, stimulus, that sort of thing. Information goes one step further: it changes behavior. Data carries information, but if there is no change in behavior, from what would have been the case if the data had not been sent, then no information has been passed on," Zaarha responded. Georg noticed that Zaarha had lost her audience, there were still several interested observers but no listeners left.

"In communications engineering we were taught that information is the negative log of the probability. If someone tells me that your name is. . . `Mary' and I already know it is `Mary', he has sent me data, but no information. If I already knew that it was even money that it was `Mary' or `Jane' it takes exactly one bit of information to tell me it is `Mary', not `Jane'. This sounds like a similar idea," Georg grappled with the concept.

"It is the same idea in a different dress. You know the old paradox, `If a tree falls in the forest, and no one hears it, was there any sound?' The physicist says, `Yes. There were sinusoidal pressure waves in the air, and that is sound'. The psychologist says `No. There were no stimuli flowing along an auditory nerve to a brain. Only that is sound, to me."

"I get it, from the behaviorists point of view, if the data had no effect it might as well not have been sent," Georg paraphrased his understanding. `Alan Turing is alive and well, and teaching reverse psychology at Harvard,' he thought.

"That is not exactly the whole story, but it will do. I shall get back to the basic point. The effect of information on the brain is a change in behavior. It has long been understood that acculturation, by which I mean instilling values of the prevailing culture into the young, can be facilitated by giving them stories to read, telling tales, drama and now cinema and the telly, or a children's book by Shirley Goulden. A child's environment is perfused with this material, building blocks for value systems. In some manner, probably primarily parental example, the child selects an internally consistent assemblage of this material to construct his values. An aphorism here, a moral there and some guiding principles to bind the whole thing together. I won't go into the consequences, what happens at adolescence and so on, but that is the gist.

"What about learning to walk, throw a baseball and all that," asked Georg?

"Teaching the kid to be a diamond cutter is another matter. Perhaps `media' can be of some use, but there seems to be no substitute for physically practicing the act oneself. Watching or reading about it is of limited use for this kind information transfer. Speaking of which, is any of this useful to you?" Zaarha concluded.

"It's pure diamond-shrouded gold. Please go on."

"Very well, you asked for it. In my own research papers, as yet unpublished, I argue that the reason for this is that the different kinds of information involves different parts of the body, not only parts of the brain. For example, learning motor skills requires muscles, and peripheral nerve connections, to exercise... along with the brain. The system is set up to operate only in this way. Either the correct wiring is provided by the genetic heritage, or it is acquired, enhanced and engraved by actual practice. Another point is that emotion is not involved, directly. In layman's terms, it is only necessary that motivation be provided to overcome boredom of the repetition required to form the grooves, a fact well understood by generations of sitar, or, I could as well say `piano', teachers."

The food had arrived. Fortunately for Georg, the service was slow, though otherwise excellent. The discussion wandered over the range of their respective preferences in food. Zaarha preferred Mongol cuisine, followed closely by French, Indian and Italian in that order. She had never heard of Cajun. 

The edge off their hunger, Georg encouraged her to continue her revelations. "You have referred to the emotions, what is their function in your system," he asked.

"It is not uniquely my system. Researchers in Britain, Europe and elsewhere support this view. Emotions are the embodiment of the goal-seeking mechanism. They determine what receives conscious attention in the short term, and allocation of `Share-of-the-Mind' in the medium term. In concert, they determine tempera-ment, ie the characteristic mode of reaction to events, in the long term. They are ultimately the source of all motivations and drives. 

"Their physical substrate is even more diffused than the motor system we have already discussed. A dozen endocrine glands and, in some cases, individual cells contribute to the chemical balance of hormones, enzymes and neurotransmitters which ultimately govern practically everything the organism does and, as well and especially, what it decides to do. There! You thought you had missed my lecture this morning, didn't you, My Darling Truant" she smiled.

"Teacher deals harshly with naughty students," Georg's voice oozed with mock humility and abjectness.

"Only if they are. . . real men. Others are excused if they bring an apple."

"And what do real men have to bring, then," Georg took the bait.

"I can't tell you here, but you might guess if I recounted the plot of the latest `Bill' episode on the telly."

"Try me."

"A have-a-go lady's purse-snacher snatched a lady's purse in Safeway's. She chased the villain into the street, past the ironmonger's and the newsagent's... all the way to the cobbler's."

"Ah Ha! Rhyming slang, `Cobblers Awls'," Georg got it.

"Speaking of such, what are our plans this afternoon? I'm off till Monday, 9:20 a. m., save two hours work, sometime, in the office," Zaarha asked in an almost nonchalant tone.

To his complete confusion, Georg felt forced to declare some kind of position. He was sure Zaarha's brilliant and selfless collaboration had been forthcoming because she was somewhat besotted with him, and he, to be fair, had become totally besotted with her. He did not feel that it would be a betrayal if he terminated the situation now, but he had used her feeling for him and she had asked nothing, except perhaps a measure of reciprocated affection, in return. "Zaarha," he feared leading with her name signaled something unpleasant to come, "I have to go to Paris this evening. There is no way I can avoid it. We basically have the next three hours, unless you want to come to the airport with me." 

"When will you be back," her hold on nonchalance was fast slipping?

"Perhaps Sunday night. Else not until I have gone to California again. It might be a month or two," he reassured her.

She looked immediately relieved,"Let's go where we can really talk. There is much I want to tell you about myself and to know about you. We can't talk freely here."

Miracle of miracles, the check was on the table. They would be spared the perennial tug of war to get the check and then retrieve the change, or card, that bedeviled every client of a French, or self styled French, restaurant. Georg left thirty-five pounds to cover the meal, drinks and tip. They were on the street in thirty seconds.

"There is an art gallery on Dover Street, why don't you browse a few minutes there till I can make arrangements to keep the room till 4:30. Then come directly to my room," Georg proposed.

Though the black cab's privacy partition offered some isolation from the driver, neither of them felt disposed to talk. He put his arm around her shoulder and she snuggled close to him until they arrived at the Ritz, at end of Dover Street. Georg paid off the taxi and they strolled arm in arm to the Gallery where she kissed him with a little more fervor than was really required for two friends parting for ten minutes.

Zaarha's knock came just as he had completed his check of the room for bugs. The TV had been replaced and there appeared to be no extra circuits installed in it. Georg opened the door and drew her into his arms, kissing her and holding her close.

"Tell me what you wanted to say about yourself," he invited.

Settling into the easy chair, while he lay across the bed, she began, "My grandfather was a great scientist, if I told you his name you would recognize it, across half a century and half a world. He could not marry my grandmother, the daughter of a British officer in the Indian Service, and in fact was already married. Their daughter, my mother, was Anglo-Indian. As such, she was socially confined to the small colony of similarly afflicted people and in the end married one of them. She was very beautiful and attracted the attentions of many Westerners, one of whom was my father. 

"In the event, my father was wealthy and adored me as much as he did my mother. Attitudes changed. Racial prejudice relented to the point that they could have divorced their respective spouses and married each other. The technology of biological reproduction had not changed in time, however, so there were other children on both sides. 

"More important, I believe, was the attitude of my mother who was not ready to forgive the hurt that stupid convention had inflicted on herself and on me. So, you see me before you, the third generation of women who lives outside convention. I have inherited the brain of my grandfather, the beauty of my mother and much of the wealth of my father. Sir Harold has given me some of the status which I might still be denied by the color of my skin." 

"What about your children. Do you have any," ask Georg, as clinically as he could.

"None. I do not wish it with Sir Harold, nor does he. He says the title is only for life anyway," she laughed. "Perhaps I shall find a man who wants me to have his children, then I shall consider it. My life fulfills me. . . I would have said, until I met you, in every way. When you are gone, I fear there will be a large void."

"I shall miss you too, as a friend, lover, counselor and in many other ways," Georg was completely sincere. 

"Two strong people with our resources must be able to take what they need and deserve on their own terms, do you not agree," she asked?

"Certainly, but those terms must not bring pain to anyone else. Discomfort or frustration maybe, but not pain. Agreed?"

She kissed him. `Much better than a gentleman's handshake,' he thought.

The next hour was spent consummating their pact. By the end, Georg was extremely impressed with the disciplinary procedures of the English educational system. He would never be late for class again, nor miss her a single one of her lectures.

Georg asked, "If there were sufficient funds put at your disposal, could you investigate your ideas experimentally. What I would like to know is: Is it possible to pass on the wiring through the genes to enable a child to play Rimsky Korsikoff's Flight of the Bumblebee on the piano, without practicing for years, not just a talent for learning to perform, but a reasonably high level of skill?"

"If I did this research you would have to come to the lab quite often to check my progress, would you not," Zaarha teased?

"Indubitably," Georg promised.

"Then I'll do it," Zaarha paused, then went on more seriously, "What does the result mean, though?"

"I accept that the high level structures, which determine up what we have been calling `personality' can be impressed on a genetically based substrate by coded information. By coded, I mean in words or video images. This kind of information travels at the speed of light, 300,000 kilometers per second. It can also be stored in a CDROM, a gigabyte or two on a 5- 1/4 inch, thin platter."

Zaaha interposed,"Motor skills and similar things aren't normally coded that way, in humans. But they obviously are coded genetically, sometimes. It is doubtful if insects learn very much beyond what they are born. . . hatched with. The bumblebee doesn't have to practice. If I can discover how the genetic coding is done, it should be possible to emulate it on a CDROM, or send it on a laser beam." 

"Jesus Christ, you're way ahead of me," Georg was genuinely taken aback. He had only a glimmer of an idea, an offshoot of his musings on `broadcasting' as he walked through the Park the night before.

"Do we publish my results," asked Zaarha? She appeared to have no misgivings about getting them.

"By all means. Let me know how much you need. And, your working schedule, going in."

"I'll start small, a couple of grad students, get some suggestive results, then go for a grant. We could get started for 80 or 100k sterling. Perhaps 125k all in."

"And, when will you publish the first paper," probed Georg?

"Tentatively, within six months. Let you know better in a month or two, when you come back," she smiled mischievously.

"Do I get a feeling I will not be allowed to be a silent partner in this project," he chided?

"I don't mind how much noise you make but you are going to have to be deeply involved," she sunk the hook.

"Now that we have that settled, I'll send you the accounts to draw on early next week."

Sexually fulfilled, bodies and minds relaxed and their business concluded, they separat

CHAPTER X

Emmette was waiting, just outside the barrier at Aeroport Charles de Gaulle. She led him directly across the ring corridor to a big-black, stretched version of one of those Citreon DS-19's favored by Big Charlie himself, in his heyday. A minuscule crest topped by a six pointed coronet, just below the window, marked it as belonging to the Baron's stable.

The chauffeur, whom she introduced as Giles, took his hand luggage to stow in the capacious trunk. Entering the car caused it to settle on its suspension a couple of inches. When they took their seats, they sank two more inches into the cushions. Georg had the uncomfortable impression that his ass was resting on the pavement. Giles adjusted something from the cockpit and the behemoth rose again, reassuringly, before silently pulling away from the curb. Thereafter, the trip resembled skimming the surface in a hovercraft, including an alarming tendency to lean on the bends, but completely free of their characteristic noise and vibration.

Emmette began, "La Douairiere Baronne has had the Louis Quinze Suite made ready, at the Chateau, for your use while you are in Paris. It is quite an honor. It hasn't been used since the Comte de Paris, the Bourbon Pretender, stayed there. Giles and the car are also at your disposal. Its, that is the car's, name is `Michi Foo'. I understand it is a pet name for a cat, perhaps the equivalent of `Pussy' in some language or another. The Baronne will not say how the name was acquired, except that a Spanish bullfighter was somehow involved."

"Fascinating, but what about the Hotel," queried Georg?

"You may keep that, or cancel, as you wish, " she replied.

"If we go straight to the Chateau where do we dine tonight?"

"I made reservations at the Coq d'Or, near Maison Lafitte, at nine. That should give us time to settle you into the Louis Quinze and go directly there," Emmette explained.

Giles had turned off the direct motorway into the city. Georg saw no more familiar landmarks. Only the moon and a few bright stars were dimly visible through the darkened glass of the limousine. From their position, he was aware that they were heading west and southwest which would bring them to the outlying western suburbs of Paris. The darkness and unfamiliar surroundings caused him a mild shiver, not exactly fear, more a warning like one of those road signs on Highway 1, "Beware of Falling Rocks".

"How did you and your sister come to get involved with the Baron de la Noy and his family," he asked?

"I was introduced to the old Baronne by my doctor from the clinic in Basel-Stadt. La Baronne  asked me to come stay with her as a companion when I was well enough. My sister came to visit me, met the young Lord and they were married. When the old Baron died, Jean-Claud became the Baron and my sister the Baronne. He was away most of the time, enjoying the freedom of his new status. My sister could not cope with the old tyrantess, her mother-in-law, and the situation deteriorated till I could not tolerate it. 

"I took some of what was left of our family fortune, our parents were dead by then, and used it to finance my education. Just as that was about to run out, Jean-Claud was killed. His family fortune passed, in principle, to the new Baron and the rest to La Douairiere Baronne, but Jean-Claud had earned millions as a professional Grand Prix driver. All of that, plus his life-insurance, went to Martine. She sponsored me through medical schools in the UK and California, and I have supported myself since. Is that what you wanted to know?"

"Much more than I really asked for, but I thank you for your confidences," he replied.

"I wanted to be open with you because, if you should ever be called on to choose between Martine and myself, you should know that she has almost all the money," she held up her hand to check his response, "Not that I expect that would sway your decision. . ."

Georg decided to clear the air, "If as you say, it ever came to that, I would expect to support my wife and our family, without denying her the right to contribute out of her own current earnings, if she wished to do so. More to the point, if I should ask Martine to marry me, I would suggest that she assign to you any proceeds remaining from her first marriage."

Neither spoke for several minutes. Then Georg asked, "Did you get anywhere with the research I asked you to do before we left Palo Alto?"

"I thought you would never ask," she laughed, "I brought my notes." Pulling down the desk from the seat back and turning on the light she said, "On the question of developing a brain outside the body, it has never actually been done. There is enough work on hand to show that it probably could be done as far as the electrical input and output signals are concerned. The amount of engineering and testing required is substantial, to quote one of my contacts, `we're talking billions, not millions'. 

"The hard part is the electrochemical systems. The chemical environment of a neuron in the brain is extremely complex and not at all well understood. There is one bright spot: Our brain is a uniquely isolated system producing most of the chemicals which are used in its own operations. The precursors of these have to be obtained from our blood, of course. But here the body:brain barrier stops all interchange except for very small molecules. There are only about fifty to a hundred types of chemicals in the blood which can make it through. The chemicals which the brain and the associated glands produce, interact in various ways, supplying energy, inhibiting, stimulating, blocking pain, inducing sleep and so on. Almost all mental illnesses are now thought to involve imbalances in one or more of these systems, vaguely similar to Dr Galen's idiotic theories, but not remotely as simplistic.

"I'm sure I don't need to tell you the ethical difficulties in doing research in this area, even with animals, not to mention humans," she concluded.

"What about the genetic angle? Is it likely to be easier to get the pattern of neuronal connections of an adult brain by modifying their genetic instructions rather than simulating the normal developmental processes?"

"That's a wild idea. Where did you get that?" Emmette was taken aback.

"Maybe it's not feasible. I just thought that as some behavior is prewired, for example the suckling reflex of babies, it wouldn't be ruled out that more complex patterns could be transmitted in the same way," Georg was obviously thinking of his chicks and their `snake'.

"If you can perfect it, may I have a share of the royalties? I'll need a new source of income as Stanford U will be out of business," Emmette laughed.

"You think it is a ridiculous idea," Georg asked earnestly?

"Well, no. Not totally. If the human genome were really and truly mapped it might turn out to be possible to determine how such things are coded. Noam Chomsky, at Harvard, thinks that the ability to learn a language is inherited, it must be through the DNA... by humans and only by humans. Not any particular language, but language. What appeals to me is that a predilection for learning of any kind, or I should say various kinds, is inherited. It is well known that musical and mathematical talent runs in families. Whatever is measured by IQ tests has at least some hereditary basis."

"But some `full-bodied' practice would still be required to exploit this inherited talent, in your opinion," he continued to probe.

"Look at it this way. I cannot imagine that a brain can be genetically programmed to have the necessary skills to operate a body it never had. But, that only means you can't transplant a brain into an untrained body and expect it to run 400 meters in under a minute. Whatever environment the brain was actually brought up in, with the right genetic endowment, it could learn to deal with it. In this instance, `environment' must be understood to include sensors and effectors provided for it to gather information from and to operate in the outside world," Emmette toyed with the idea.

"What about the other question? Where do we stand on transfer of a 'life-book' to another brain," prompted Georg? 

"Straightforward `xeroxing' of the neural connection patterns is out of the question for a long time, if not forever. The sheer number of connections is, excuse me, mind- boggling. I haven't actually run out the numbers but I would wager that all the world's computer's memories couldn't hold one bit for each connection in one human brain. Nobody knows how to start to scan them out, or read them in. But all is not hopeless," she smiled. 

"There are obviously about 5 billion of these units in operation at the moment. Their pattern of connections was determined in some way. We have already discussed that a some of the work is done by the genetic code. Some more is done by practical learning. The rest, in the human example by symbolic, coded messages conveyed to the brain by the senses, primarily the eyes, the ears and to some extent touch."

"To summarize my findings, it is a long term, multibillion dollar project to grow a human brain in isolation, unless a breakthrough based on your idea of genetic manipulation comes about. Given the existence of such a brain, it would be a serious effort to train it to carry out a mission with unconventional peripherals and imbue it with a personality... of sorts."

"You know, I think with this, we might be able to set Allyne's, pardon me, `mind' at rest, if she still needs it. What do you think," Georg seemed relieved?

"I don't see what has changed," Emmette responded.

"Well if growing an isolated brain is so difficult to do, and I am the only one who has thought of a shortcut, then her fear that she is one, is very unlikely to be true," Georg explained.

"No. I mean why shouldn't she still need it," Emmette questioned?

Georg explained the events at TT in the last few days, Allyne's and his own new positions.

"I see, if you can't beat'em, join'em," she commented.

"No. Take'em over." 

They both laughed. Emmette had seemed much subdued, even preoccupied, and had not offered to explain her sudden flight from Palo Alto. Georg had decided not to bring the matter up. 

The limo had entered the countryside, only an occasional house whooshed by on either side of the road. Emmette sat quietly, evidently deciding it was two late to bring up any new subject before their arrival at the Chateau. She had turned off the reading light and Georg sat looking at her in gloom. Her perfect face was slightly drawn, she looked a couple of years older than the last time he had seen her in his bed in the beach house. She wore a dark-knit suit, no jewelry, and her hair was done in no particular style. She very wore little makeup. He thought, `She looks more like a professor at the Sorbonne than her sister.' 

On some impulse he drew her to him and kissed her, she responded fervently, prolonging the kiss and moaning faintly. His hand sought her breast, cupping it gently. She drew back, "Wait," she said, "we are almost there." But she still held his hand to her breast.

As if to confirm her remark, the limo entered a long circular driveway, on the far side of which loomed a huge pile of pinkish French limestone, capped by a random assortment of Mansard roofs.

As the Michi Foo glided to a stop under the canopy of the coach entrance, she let his hand drop from her breast, opened the door and drew him out of the car, "Giles will bring your luggage. We have a bit of time before we go to dinner, perhaps you want to rest." She escorted him directly to the Louis Quinze Suite. Georg guessed it was so called from the style of furnishings, all ormolu and reddish-stained wood, elaborately carved with Cupids and nymphs in absurd postures of play, some highly suggestive, others probably impossible. 

She left him at the door with the warning, "I'll wake you in time to dress for dinner."

Georg surmised he was the only guest, aside from Emmette of course, if she was so considered. La Douairiere Baronne was not in evidence. If they were intended to meet, it would have to be in the morning, unless she intended to accompany them to dinner. 

Georg kicked off his loafers and stretched out on the cover of the elaborately draped four poster bed. There were no city, country nor house sounds, to disturb him. He decided on self-hypnosis as the most efficient way to refresh himself, this time careful to insert the suggestion to wake when he heard Emmette's footsteps in the hall.

Soon he dozed and then dreamt: He was alone in a plane over the desert. there were no landmarks, only the brilliant, blazing sun in the sky. The desert was smooth to the horizon in every direction. He knew he could land and take off again anywhere but why, and in what direction was he headed? The plane actually flew itself, which was fortunate for, in that dream, Georg didn't even know-how to fly. The plane began to land, on a long black strip that wasn't there before. The land on either side turned green and brown and then there were buildings thicker and thicker together. He was in a city and the strip was a road, more like a track, curving back on itself to form a complete circuit. 

Now, he had the tiny steering-wheel in his hand, the vehicle lunged around corners. In the rear view mirrors he could see showers of sparks flung up when "G-forces" bottomed the racing car on the hard surface. He had nominal control of the throttle, gear-change and steering, but it was necessary to correct the automatic systems only occasionally, when it veered slightly off the correct line. Gradually it became more demanding, until he was completely in charge. At the same time he could hear the throaty roar of the crowds lining the course, even over the high pitched whine of the engine and gears, urging him on to go 'faster, faster, faster'.

"Master, master, master. Please wake up! Ma'm'selle Emmette m'a demande vous revielle. Votre bain este pret, alors il faut aller diner," Giles was waking him, to bathe and go to dinner.

`Stupid, literal-minded subconscious. Got to be careful of that! Told it to wake me at Emmette's footsteps, it couldn't guess that she might send Giles instead,' he thought, but he said,"Merci beaucoup, Giles, je suis debout, deja. Merci beaucoup. Je viens."

Giles closed the door to the suite softly, on his way out. The only other door in the room, not counting the ones obviously part of the half dozen huge, freestanding wardrobe closets, had to lead to the en-suite bathroom. None of Georg's luggage was in sight, so the first task was to locate that. It was arranged and hung in the first wardrobe he checked. He undressed, re-hanged his old clothes, swept up his toilet case and walked nude directly into the bathroom. . . straight into the arms of Emmette, also nude and sitting on the edge with her back to a leviathan bath tub filled with steaming water. 

Notwithstanding his recent sexual history, his penis snapped to attention with a salute as smart as if Georg had wandered inadvertently into Admiral's country and encountered the Admiral himself. Emmette's astonishment was hardly less as she seemed to feel a sudden thrust of hardness between her legs, pressing against her groin. Her eyes went round and her lips formed a circle of surprise . 

Then. . . Georg was never sure what was her basic intention, she spread her legs and bent her knees, possibly to take him inside her. In the event, the actual result was to tumble them both headlong into the tub, which was, fortunately, so wide and deep that neither was de-brained n0or bruised. The only casualty was Georg's erection, which absconded as quickly as it had arrived.

The comedic aspect was so compelling that they both dissolved in laughter as they drew up opposite one another, backs against the sides, legs drawn up, almost neck deep in the green water. Emmette was the first to speak, "I was thinking, as you came in," she paused to suppress her mirth, "that this is France, not California nor Japan. Here, people who bathe nude together, sleep together."

"And, Saint Tropez?" he countered.

"That exception proves the rule. Then, technically, they are not meant to be absolutely nude, and who is to say they don't also sleep together."

"Well, you had your chance and missed it," he teased, looking at his decrepit organ through the shimmering water.

"As I saw it, you missed me, in both senses," was her instant riposte.

"Do I get a rematch," he asked.

"No time now. We will be a half hour late at the Coq d'Or, not so bad but they will sweep us out at eleven, in any event."

She rose and stepped out gracefully. He tried to remember the name of the classical painting, one of the goddesses rising from the sea. 'How could I have missed that they were sisters. Their build, and the hourglass shape was the same. Perhaps Emmette's breasts were slightly larger, and her hips seemed to flare more abruptly below her waistline. I had not actually seen Martine nude, that I could remember. Damned jet-lag!' His cold comparison of the two sisters was making him uncomfortable, or was the water getting cold? He reluctantly struggled out of the tub. Emmette had thrown a voluminous, white-terry-cloth dressing gown over her shoulders and was engaged in drying her hair with a huge, monogrammed, continental style towel.

Twenty minutes later Michi Foo dropped them at the Coq d'Or, where they were seated without delay. The evening being unseasonably warm, the terraced veranda, almost a conservatory, behind the restaurant proper was in use. Their table was on the second level, facing the other guests. Emmette wore a blue wool knit suit with wide white piping and large buttons on the boxy jacket. She wore a white turban of similar fabric with a large, smooth, blue-green stone, possibly a real sapphire, which set off the auburn tints in the still damp wisps of hair which were attempting to escape around the edges. Her makeup, including, for once her lipstick, was subdued, almost pastel. It occurred to him that she could have taken the color scheme from one of the Monet's he had seen hanging on the walls of the Chateau. 

The sommelier suggested champagne. Georg accepted with a nonchalant wave, and proceeded to inspect the menu. All the standard haute cuisine dishes were there, including the delicacies made from entrails and offal of various animals which were delicious if one did not inquire too closely into their provenance, such as ris de veau a la Princesse and palait de boeuf a la poulette. Perhaps his appetite for food had been suppressed by the days events as he decided on a single dish, salade de fruits de mer to carry him through. Emmette was not so backward, starting with a dish of Huitres frites Colbert, the ris de veau as entree and finally tournedos Rossini for the main course. Their decision on dessert they left till later.

The champagne came in its silver bucket, but after an authoritative feel the sommelier advised waiting five more minutes for it to come to exactly the right temperature. While they were waiting Georg told Emmette about the dreams he had recently, including the one before their adventure at the bath tub. The waiter deigned not to bring his salad till she had finished her oysters, which she dawdled over, so he was able to recount both and get well into her analysis before the meal began in earnest.

"Did you seriously consider a career as a naval officer," she asked?

"Yes, but the prospect for real action seemed slight and advancement would be slow: Because of that and also as I didn't get my commission from Annapolis. The most interesting possibility would have been nuclear submarines. With my background it might have been swung: But, what really killed my naval career was that the Navy screwed up." 

He explained, "At one point they selected a group of specially qualified reservists to go Regular Navy. As an inducement, among other things, they gave out choice assignments, but with no warning. I was ordered to duty the United Kingdom, where my wife and 'temporary' home had been. A great deal, foreign duty-pay in a great location, and at home with the wife and, prospective, kiddies. I had previously reported my wife's accidental death, required to do so, for pay purposes, but they had not managed to put it together. 

"Of course the U.K. was the last place I wanted to be in the circumstances. I went to Washington DC to talk to BuPers, but they said it was too late for them to change it. I said it was not too late for me to change it, walked out, tore up the Regular Navy application and, with my obligated reserve service over, mustered out to inactive duty." He concluded, without telling her about the latest wrinkle in this saga, however.

Emmette took up the conversational baton, "The first dream could be a type of simulation, a fantastic play conjured out of what might have happened if you had stayed in the Navy. Some of the details seem to mix in things from this space-probe affair."

"What do you think about the second part of the dream," he urged.

"The element of simulation is very strong there as well. It is practically a scenario on using a simulator for driving a Grand Prix car. Was it a Grand Prix car, I mean once it was clear you were driving a car, rather than an airplane," she asked?

"It was open and there was no room for a passenger, it must have been a formula car of some description. I'm pretty sure the course was in Europe, too. On the streets of a town, like Monte Carlo. Perhaps it was Monte Carlo, now I can remember seeing some water, an ocean, or sea," he ruminated.

"That could be Long Beach, California. Jean-Claud raced there at once," Emmette added. "No matter, what is unmistakable is the influence of Jean-Claud in the second dream. Of course you were sleeping in his house, on a mission to court his widow and screw his ex-lover. . . "

Georg, startled, interrupted, "You were his lover… too!"

"Of course, before my sex change we were homo-lovers off and on. He came to me a few times afterwards, up until the time he and Martine were married, in fact. After that I refused. That is, I did until Martine let me know she thought we were having an affair and no longer cared. She planned to move out, and I waited for him to return to my arms. He never did. Perhaps he would have if he had not been killed. He was dead within a month," tears began to well up in her beautiful eyes.

"I'm sorry, I never suspected. Will you forgive me," he pleaded?

With a strong effort of will, she brought herself back, "What is more important is that your dreams seem to be telling you that the solution to your problem is `simulation'," she continued.

"What I noticed, was that I was carried into dangerous situation under the control of the `autopilot'. Then, I was gradually introduced to taking control. I wasn't asked to take the risks in the run-up. In the Navy most pilots who are lost, die in the first few weeks of carrier practice. After that it is rare, unless there are new conditions, bad weather, mechanical failures or the like." Georg was also thinking that this approach would be just right for a situation where basic, say, `driving' skills, requiring no high-level judgment, was provided genetically. Then, this sort of training in a simulator would be very efficient at teaching racing tactics and strategy.

He was also struck by the parallel with using conventional computer control systems supplemented by artificial intelligence or human intelligence, as in modern airliners. It was hardly necessary to have a human pilot on board until some rare eventuality, such as equipment failure (eg autopilots), came to pass.

Georg's food and her entree had arrived and they fell silent, savoring the excellent food, interdicted by an occasional sip of champagne. Their section of the restaurant was still half full, the lateness of the hour and the advancing chill of the night reducing the ranks of their fellows. Georg was involved in a struggle with the biggest part of his fruite de mer, one of those large crustaceans, half lobster and half crawdad, which the French serve whole, including antenna and large staring eyes. `Alas, poor Yorick, I knew him,' quoth Georg... to himself.

"Madame La Baronne wishes to breakfast with you tomorrow, a duette. I, myself, have been consigned to the coal cellars to stoke the furnaces. . . " Emmette was obviously miffed at being excluded.

"What does she want to do with me. Do you know?" asked Georg.

"I should like to be able to say `as a courtesy to a guest', but I well know the old she-dragon never does anything except for several very good reasons. My guess is she will offer you some kind of a deal. Of course it could be simpler than that. She may just want to have your genitalia stuffed and mounted for her collection, to complete a set of andirons, perhaps." They both laughed, recalling the ridiculous artifacts in the Big Sur beach house.

Georg wondered, `what kind of a deal', "Tell me something about her?"

"Visualize General de Gaulle with long hair and big boobs, add in the wiliness of Clemenceau and the single mindedness of Robespierre, pour it into a 100,000 franc Dior model gown, and you have it.

"What could she want... money?" probed Georg.

"That would be about the last thing. She has managed the family finances since marrying the old Baron, many years ago. Got into Swiss holdings, not bank accounts where you have to pay them interest, during the worst of the post-war inflation, diversified into dollars, marks and yen at the right time, hid everything offshore while the socialists were in power. She shuffled things around so fast that Jean-Claud's cousin wound up only with the title and very little else. She didn't even have to give up the Chateau, the nexus of her claims on feudal power."

"So what, then?"

"She has already lost the only other thing she really cared about when the Baron, I mean Jean-Claud, died without issue, and the title passed out of the line of her descendants. When we are in the car I'll tell you something about this. If you can find a way so that your son, her grandson, becomes the Baron de la Noy, you could name your price."

"She obviously couldn't have another son and if she did a Baron wouldn't be the father so it wouldn't count," Georg idly explored the possibilities.

"You’re right, she couldn't have another son. The problem of the Baron could be fixed, maybe, with enough money," commented Emmette.

"How," asked Georg?

"She could buy the title back from the present holder, or threaten to break him with court cases until he gave up."

"Does that happen," Georg was surprised?

"I think there have been some similar cases. They tend not to be fully reported in the popular press, for obvious reasons."

They had finished their meal and started on desserts of strawberries, probably imported from South Africa this time of year, and cream, from the surrounding countryside to judge from the number of cow barns they had passed and cattle crossings Giles had negotiated on their way to the restaurant. . . Georg ordered a split of the same champagne to finish off the meal. Their section of the restaurant was otherwise empty. He could see only a few clients inside, though the windows. A waiter arrived with a discreet note. Giles had arrived with Michi Foo to take them back. Georg instructed the waiter, "Tell him he must wait till they bring me the bill."

Emmette objected, "Giles can wait as long as you like but there will be no bill, we are the guests of Madame Baronne de la Noy. But the restaurant staff will be anxious to dispose of us. I suggest we finish our dessert and take coffee in the Suite Louis Quinze, unless you prefer to go into Paree to a night club."

"What would you like to do," Georg temporized.

"I would enjoy a night club, I don't really have to get up early to stoke the furnace," she smiled. "But, you must say, you need to be alert for breakfast."

"Done," Georg agreed.

On the way Emmette explained what she had not wanted to say in the restaurant. It was truly a startling tale. Madame Baronne and her son had been locked in a form of deadly combat. A dedicated `pede', the young lord had no interest in girls, not even as required to father a child and assure the perpetuation of the noble line. His mother held that his interest in motor-racing was deliberate and contumacious revenge for her attempt to control him and bend him to his duty, or her will, depending on whose point of view. On the basis that he might be injured in such a way as to become sterile before doing his duty, and enforced by the threat to cut him off without a sou to finance his racing activities and exalted lifestyle, she induced him to deposit in a sperm bank an adequate supply against whatever eventuality. 

Then her plans began to elaborate. She exhorted him to marry, and when he refused, introduced Martine into the equation. With Martine's beauty and charm, and other inducements which Emmette was not privy to, the Baronne succeeded in getting him to marry, but not to impregnate, his wife. 

She had tried to convince Martine to use some of the sperm to have her child by artificial insemination, arguing that the technique was as justified to overcome a psychological block, as it was, in some, more clearly, medical cases. 

Martine had already begun to have second thoughts about the whole set-up... and refused. La Douairiere Baronne increased her pressure on Martine after the demise of her son. Still frustrated by Martine, who considered herself well out of the situation, she denounced her and threatened to carry forth her plan with Emmette, who had been having an affair with Jean-Claud since before her sex change (as La Douairiere Baronne known about all the time), neglecting to mention that it had broken off at her son's marriage. Notwithstanding Emmette's outright refusal, this had been the cause of the sister's split, final, until a few days ago.

Georg found much of this story confusing and perhaps at odds with other accounts he had been given. There was not enough time to sort it out and he did not like to press for details of a situation which was none of his business and was being offered as an unsolicited confidence.

About forty minutes after their departure the big Citreon pulled up in front of the Crazy Horse Saloon, just off the Champs Elysee. The show was on as they arrived. Having no reservations for a table they were shown into the bar, thronged by patrons, all struggling to get a glimpse of the nude-ballet on stage. With two glasses of champagne from the bar they stood behind the line facing the stage and were quickly jammed in solidly by people crowding behind them. Emmette stood on his right, a tall American on his left, two women directly in front, one buttock of each pressing against Georg's thighs. He could not tell even the sexes of the crush behind him. 

On stage, the pair of dancers were nude, except a small cache-sex worn by the male. The woman had bleached her pubic patch blond, or shaved, most of it so at that distance it was not actually discernible. The dance ebbed and flowed, a sort of courtship borrowed from some bucolic drama. The buck approached, first from the front then from back. The doe shrank from him, tiptoed away then returned, only to retreat again, coyly. The buck attempted intro-mission via all the bodily orifices, save perhaps her ears, only to be rejected... but not dismissed. Undaunted, he resorted to actual foreplay, stroking her breasts, buttocks and thighs. As a kind of minor climax he picked her up and rolled her body around his own, occasionally stimulating her clitoris against his more bony protrusions. She seemed to like that. She became more and more frantic in her dancing, endeavoring to introduce something of his inside her but, apparently, not sure exactly what, or where, it should be.

While this was going on to the accompaniment of a small but excellent orchestra, Georg's attention was drawn to the area directly in front of him. The line had shifted so that both of one of the women's buttocks now pressed into his thighs and the other woman was in the same position vis-a-vis Emmette. His impromptu partner's derriere squirmed constantly, but not sufficiently rhythmical to pass for a disco-episode. Somehow she managed to get a hand free behind her and grasping his left hand drew it around her waist with a definite signal for him to draw her even closer to him. Georg was concerned that she had mistaken him for her escort, but glancing down he could make out that Emmette left arm was also around her partner in the same way. The coincidence of two such mistakes was hardly credible.

Georg's ipso-partner seemed not concerned with her escort, if such he was, and he, in turn, took no apparent interest in her antics. Georg's first hypothesis was that it was a huge practical joke. He half expected she would stimulate him to a powerful erection, pop it out of his fly, the house lights would go up, the dancers would march to the edge of the stage and point out to the audience the real show going on amongst them. In this case he would undoubtedly be handed 10,000 francs with the advice that this was scale for the show at the Crazy Horse.

Nearing desperation, Georg checked discretely how Emmette was faring with her partner. The latter, a petite blonde, her makeup and coiffure heavily influenced by Brigitte Bardot, had abandoned all pretext of being interested in the show and turned about to face Emmette squarely. She appeared to be executing some parody of movements which could have been mistaken by some of the more inebriated patrons as an attempt to leave the line in the direction of the door. The practical effect of this was, however, to bring every part of her curvaceous body in contact with some part of Emmette's. Unable to `effect her escape' she embraced Emmette and, giving in to her excitement, kissed her on the lips with a fervor only dreamed of by Sappho in her most ecstatic moments.

Among the dancers, the doe had discovered that it didn't actually matter what part of her partner she employed, so urgently tried to cover him with herself. The buck, rigid with astonishment, neither helped nor hindered her labors. The music was faster, and more insistent.

As for Georg, his partner was a veritable bulwark of restraint, in relative terms. She too had reversed her position, facing away from the stage, and absently reached out to stroke Emmette's partner. It was not possible to say if to encourage or restrain her. So far none of the other patrons paid any attention. He did note that she had managed to raise the front of her full skirt to the level just below her waist and was rubbing her bare groin against the cloth covering his left thigh.

On stage the drama reached a climax. After several convulsive attempts at self impalement, the doe went limp, was caught by the buck who carried her gently off into the wings of the stage, to what possible end Georg could not fathom. During this last movement the orchestra went silent, the stage lights dimmed, the house lights came up and the audience burst into a fury of applause. 

The crowd began to thin out. On the home front, Georg and Emmette's partners relaxed, adjusted their clothing, smiled sweetly and strolled arm in arm from the bar and out into the street, followed at a discreet distance by their putative male escort.

Georg and Emmette moved to the bar for more champagne and to discuss the rest of the evening. "Who do you think they were," Georg asked?

"Evidently not putains as I first suspected," replied Emmette, "since they gave no indication that we were invited to play out their vignette, elsewhere."

"Is it possible they expected us to make the proposition, if we were interested, so to guard against entrapment by the police. Or maybe they decided we weren't rich enough," puzzled Georg.

"First, the French police aren't that worried about entrapment, if they wanted to arrest them they wouldn't bother about who first mentioned money. Also any high class professional, and they were pretty enough and skillful enough to be high class, would have checked us out before we got inside. Michi Foo would have given us away," she objected.

"What do you think then? What was it all about?"

"My hypothesis is a couple of female bisexuals looking for erotic titillation. The put-upon boy friend is along for protection and probably recharges his batteries with the show and thrills to the public antics of his friends, which he couldn't get away with himself. Even in Paris, a man who tried that would be arrested. 

"They could be a menage au trois right out of the mystic of Paris in the thirties." Then she added, "All of this is, of course, only relevant if you still have your wallet."

"I'd thought of that, I'm only carrying a Visa card and a few francs, not even a passport. These haven't been disturbed."

"Well, I suppose we have had value well in excess of the cover charge. Shall we push on?" Emmette was ready to move.

Back in Michi Foo in a few minutes, they agreed they were too tired and would continue their carouse, perhaps, the next day. Once they had left the lights of the Champs Elysee, the back of the limo fell into dark gloom and they snuggled together in the warmth, like two babes under a blanket. Georg could hardly remember how the day had begun. 

She took his right hand in hers, inserted it inside her jacket and arranged it about her bare breast. He could feel the warmth returning to his groin which he deliberately sought, well, not exactly to repress but at least to rein back. The softness of her body pressed against him along his full length. She tipped her head, obviously inviting to be kissed. When their lips met her's were parted and she began to explore his mouth with her tongue. At this rate he was not going to be able to hold on to the reins much less check the horse. Slowly, almost by mutual tacit consent the fervor of their kisses cooled and then stopped. He moved to remove his hand but she checked him.

"I almost broke my promise to myself, second time today, too," she said.

"What promise was that," he asked, fairly sure of the answer?

"Not to seduce you, or let you seduce me. Though your first approach to me was hardly a seduction, more like a low-level, skip-bomb-attack of the sort they used in `Dam Busters'.

"In the event, it crashed and burned, or would have, saving falling into the water," he laughed. "But why did you make yourself such a promise?"

"I wanted to avoid the kind of situation which developed with Jean-Claud. It seems my sister and I are predestined to share a man, at least as the only man either of us wanted was the same one. I wanted to break the cycle. The only way I know to make it certain is to hold off until your relationship with Martine has run its course, or until you give up hope that it will," she explained.

"You want to stand aside till Martine and I work out what we are going to do."

"Exactly. But I keep wishing I could enjoy you erotically without linking it with sex, love and reproduction. In the event, Jean-Claud couldn't manage it and he was French," she continued.

"I have always assumed that `erotic' was tantamount to sex," Georg commented.

"Of course you do, you are an American," she retorted. "The Anglo-Saxon tradition views `eroticism' as just a fancy, probably stuck-up, foreign euphemism used to justify sex, without responsibility. In the French system it is a term for all forms of pleasure where there is some kind of art or artifice involved. It does not involve sex, except incidentally, and reproduction comes into it only in the event of some grotesque accident." 

"It sounds to me like eating, under that definition, is as erotic as sex," observed Georg. 

"If you include wine in that, I'm sure you will find many French men, and women, who would consider it more erotic than anything sexual. To a Frenchman it is not a sin to enjoy life, and any little aids to that end are perfectly legitimate, be they technique (after all that's a French word), or mechanical. My problem is that anytime I get close enough to you to share any erotic pleasure, I want to faire l’amour with you. Then I can't avoid realizing that my sister's interests are involved too. Do you understand?" she pleaded.

"Yes, and I accept it also, for the moment," he relented.

When Michi Foo arrived at the Chateau again, they embraced, kissed and parted to their separate quarters for the night.

  

CHAPTER XI

Georg's Seiko woke him reliably at eight. His mouth was dry and he had a slightly tender feeling from the champagne of the previous evening. The warm, delicious residues of Emmette’s kisses were gone. He was anxious to get to the bathroom to slake his thirst. There, he found some thoughtful person had left a large bottle of Evian and a wine glass by the washbasin. Three glasses put him well on the way to re-hydration, if a shade tipsy. 

The adjustable shower head was driven by a non-European substantial pressure. The fine spray stung his skin in a most satisfactory manner. Five minutes of alternate soaping and rinsing left him ready to face the day with a certain degree of hope. A two-handed shave and teeth brushing completed his toilet. After dressing and applying a silicon impregnated sponge briefly to his shoes he stepped in to the hall, to the subdued clatter of dishes, somewhere near the far end of the lower floor.

The breakfast room was easy to find. He needed only to follow the smell of frying bacon and brewing coffee. It was also easy to recognize the Douairiere Baronne from Emmette's description and the fact that the maid was the only other occupant of the breakfast room. Her costume was a copy of her counterparts' in Al's Place, but she must have been in the first six months of her enrollment as her backside was modestly covered. The large room was about 8 by 10 meters. The outside wall and about a third of the adjacent ceiling were made of glass panes giving the appearance of a conservatory. The most impressive thing in the room was the Douairiere Baronne, a tall, strikingly handsome woman in a long toga-like robe, who looked to be a well preserved matron of certain years. The phrase `Une femme d'une certain age' commended itself to Georg. 

Unaccountably, he felt sure this encounter would have repercussions. Life, whether for better, or worse, he did not know, must change. La Baronne turning from observing something in the grounds outside, said, "Good morning, Commander Smith. Welcome to our home. And your home, for so long as you wish." She embraced him formally and kissed him on both cheeks.

George, embarrassed by this onslaught, could only manage, and then not even in French, a "Thank you. Thank you very much. You are very kind." `So much for State Department, or whomsoever's, security,' he thought.

"You rise late for a farmer's boy." 

Georg glanced at his watch, `Eight-twenty! I forgot to set it to French time, its really nine-twenty!' 

She gave him no time but continued, "Do you have cattle on your California ranch? I have been observing the morning's working of our dairy. Several heifers are being brought to the bull this morning. I hope he is up to his metier, Avez-vous entendu: that is, how you say, a tough life, n'est pas?," She laughed. "The heifers are in estrus for only a few hours and it is difficult to detect the onset, especially in the virgins, or if it occurs at night. If we miss, there is a delay of forty days in starting the calf and  milk. But, of course, you know all this?" 

"Yes. Mostly, I do. When I lived on the ranch, we had a herd of about a hundred milch cows. I'm afraid I was not allowed to watch the breeding work, though of course I did." For the first time Georg noticed a compact pair of Nikon binoculars in her hand. They looked to be about 6 or 8 x 30 mm. With those she would have a ringside view of whatever went on in the dairy yard, less than a kilometer away.

"I keep you from your breakfast. Please sit and give your order to Chantal. Afterwards, we can go there and observe; provided they, or the bull, haven't finished by then."

Georg took a seat at the small table, and asked for cafe-au-lait, a croissant and two rashers of British style bacon. La Baronne seated herself opposite and said, "When you have finished those, may I suggest a baked potato and caviar. I find it very satisfactory for late breakfast. It is especially good after, and with, champagne."

"Certainly then, thank you, if you will accompany me, Madame Baronne," replied Georg.

"I shall, but you must promise to address me as `Marie-Rose'. My friends do, and I'm sure we are. . . deja, already... so."

It was the first time she had been at loss for an English word. Her accent was pure `Queen's English', dropped terminal and embedded `R's' and all-over-broadened vowels. It would have made any Ivy Leaguer literally green with envy. "Thank you, Marie-Rose, I agree." He did not stipulate if he agreed only to call her Marie-Rose or, also, that they were already friends.

She did not resume immediately. There was no hint yet of her objective, unless the visit to the barnyard had something to do with it. If so, the only thing he could surmise was an attempt to turn him on. He could not credit that the Baroness would be so crude, before breakfast. There was no denying that she was a sexually desirable woman. In earlier times she would have been very much in demand as the older, experienced woman by whom young gentlemen were introduced into the joys and duties of manhood. 

If the question arose, his primary reluctance would be that the only issue from her had been Jean-Claud. Now, there was a rotten piece of work, screwing one sister, then marrying the other and refusing to screw her. With a shock he realized that, as of last night, he was well on his way to accomplishing two thirds of that scenario, and now sat coolly calculating his chances with the nearest thing they had to a mother. `Incest is a family affair, or extended incest, in the case of an extended family.' On return from his musings, their baked potatoes and champagne had been served and Chantal had disappeared. 

He was about to speak when Marie-Rose exclaimed, "You are not sleeping with my daughters. Are you?"

Georg flushed with anger. It was not clear to him why. Nevertheless, he rose from the table, took several steps toward the door, turned and said, "No! Neither one, nor the other. Furthermore, they are not your daughters and I am not answerable to you, now or in the future!"

"Attendez! N'etrez vous assez ombrageux. I did not scold but asked only for information. Americans are so impulsive. Come! Finish your meal. How do you know I am not interested in you, myself? If you were involved with my belle-fille, or her sister, it might be awkward, n'est pas? Don't look so shocked, I am an attractive woman. You are virile, masculine, and very presentable. What is more natural than we should become lovers. But do not fear. That is not my wish… at this time," she seemed to suggest that it might well be so later: But her wishes would govern. 

He felt sure she was toying with him, but he was too curious to break off. He sat down, attacked the remainder of the potato and drained the glass of champagne. He hoped silence at this point would make her to show her hand.

"My husband's family earned their titles and estates in the First Crusade, under Count Raymond IV of Toulouse, my family in the Second Crusade, both from their respective Popes. For eight hundred years their names have been reckoned with whenever the bloody Musulmen threatened to arise against Christendom.

"He and I united these two lines of heroes' blood, at a time when not only the Middle East, Europe and what remained of Africa were under siege: But while, the rest of the World, including your country, mon cher Commander, were held to ransom under the whim of those pederasts whose idea of a courageous act of jihad is to shoot unarmed children in their backs.

"Now, through unfortunate accidents, these lineages may pass out of existence," she glared down any hint of resistance or interruption. "Yes! There is another `de la Noy', though I am the last of the `de Montefou', but that is much of the trouble. Let me tell you about the monster who poses, presently, as Baron de la Noy. His mother was a slut, a household menial, who seduced my husband's nephew in his cradle, barely twenty when they were married. She was much older. 

"She also had an ungentle taste for pork. One of her wedding presents was a prize young boar from the family estates south of Mantes. She had it brought to their wedding chamber. The next morning the boar was not only dead but butchered, and its animelles de porc a la creme were served to the guests at their wedding breakfast. This much is certain. I shall not foul your ears with les histoires du paysans of what happened in that room. But, it is a fact that one child conceived that night could be described as human in only the most general way, hunching on its hind legs and grunting out words like an angry, drunken Corsican."

Georg was becoming increasingly uneasy and searched for a way to stem these unwanted family confidences, "You cannot seriously ask me to believe that a boar fathered a child on a woman. . . "

"Certainly not. My researches do show clearly that mateings of species so far apart, on the tree of life, are invariably infertile, spontaneously aborted or stillborn." She raised her finger. "But I have also found that if sperm, even from widely separated species, are mixed together. It is possible for genes to be exchanged spontaneously among them. In the five hours, or so: That is required, for their father's sperm to be prepared to fertilize her ovum, inside the female. In view of the hundreds of millions of spermatozoa in an ejaculation, it is practically inevitable that some such exchanges shall take place. It only remains that if: One of these `hybridized' spermatozoa is the one which succeeds,  you have, I believe the technical term is, a `chimera'."

George was under the impression that `chimera' were mythical beasts, though he had heard the term applied, by fanciful extension, to `ligers', 'tigion' and such, the products of crossbreeding, and grafted plants. The idea of gene exchange between spermatozoa was new to him. He grasped immediately that it would be extremely hard to prove, under normal circumstances. She had obviously been much further into these matters than he had. 

"If you have evidence that the present Baron de la Noy is a chimera, in effect, part pig, I don't see how you can use it," he remarked, striving for composure, "Public knowledge of such, if believed, would bring down every monarchy and Nobelity in Europe...not to mention what it would do to the meat-packing industry."

She winced at his attempt at levity, "I surely have evidence, and have proven here at this Chateau, that gene exchange actually does take place. By genetic `finger-printing' I could prove that it happened in his specific case. The most direct evidence of his pig parentage, the boar, was destroyed the morning after," she smiled wickedly, "but I have all its surviving descendants in my keeping."

"You would also need a fair sized sample of the Baron's body cells for comparison, or some of his sperm. He would never agree," he pointed out.

"His sperm was easily obtained, a wodge of francs and a slightly modified vaginal diaphragm into the hands of the right brothel keeper were sufficient. It is now stored in the same sperm bank in Paris where Jean-Claud's is stored, which I obtained as a condition of supporting his addiction to the deadliest of sports. I have held off full confirmation, which I'm sure will be positive, for the reasons you have just mentioned."

"Yes. You can expose him, but only at the cost of what you want to preserve. MAD, as in Mutually Assured Destruction," Georg concluded.

"True, but not precisely relevant to the main issue, which is: What I can do, can be done by others. I need not tell you that there are forces who long to destroy Christendom, the West and everything in it. (The Hezbollah have already penetrated the Baron's household.) What better way than to reveal that the oldest lines of Christian nobles in the world are, literally, pigs. The way they would present it, Western Civilization is a porcine conspiracy, fit only for barnyard animals. Jews would not walk on the same side of the street with us. The only answer is for the beast to be utterly destroyed. Not a gene of its nuclear chromosomes can be left intact," she concluded.

Georg could not immediately see an alternative. Nor a way, leaving aside the Ten Commandments, to do it, short of very thorough cremation. Destroying his pig relatives would not be enough. He had read of comparisons between human and ape genomes. The chimpanzee chromosomes turned out to be closest, with about 98% of their genes the same as human genes. Other apes had fewer in common with humans. With the genetic distance between man and pig, it should be a snap to show the Baron was not entirely human, was part pig, in fact. "I don't see how I can help you. I'm neither an assassin nor an incinerator," Georg said, in as calm a voice as he could muster.

"Certainly not, though I'm sure you could have absolution, privately of course, from the Pope himself. It would only be roasting a pig, not murder. But, if any one were publicly accused, the truth would have to come out in their defence. That would do the very damage we are trying to avoid. The best outcome would be that the beast himself destroys the damning evidence."

"Self immolation is very rare in the West. What motive could you give him to do it."

"Several: One may be, to allow him to become a martyr for the future of Christianity, perhaps even a Saint. A Saint Jean-Pierre de la Noy would bring no dishonor on the family escutcheon." 

Somehow, Georg did not think this would be enough. "What else could you offer him and what does that have to do with me?" Georg was getting impatient with this fantastic tale. He was willing to tolerate it for a while but he did not know if he believed any of it. But, what held him back was that he could not imagine her motive for telling it to him, if it were not true.

"At the moment, the 33rd Baron is the last male `de la Noy'". I have in my power his only descendants, including the herd of swine in my porcherie. They are quite a marvelous breed, derived from the great Champagne, the equivalent of noble blood in their procine world. They could carry forward the name `Ima de la Noy' , or 'Ura de la Noy) proudly in the name of their new breed. Or: I may decide to terminate my little experience  with hog breeding and send them to the boucherie for as many francs as they will bring per kilo." Machiavelli's blood would have frozen in his veins at this woman's cold and ingenious calculation.

"I understand. What about the sainthood?" asked Georg.

"That takes more thought. My best idea, so far is send Le Baron to Teheran as a spy, secretly on the rolls of the Vatican Holy Office."

"What is to keep him from pretending to go along, then turning his coat once he gets there?" Georg questioned.

"He would not have that opportunity. But, to be convincing, he would be told that if he does not follow our instructions exactly that will be the end of his family, hock, neck and animelles. Also, if he is taken, or goes over, before he accomplishes his mission, he will miss his chance at sainthood. 

"Actually, at the appropriate time, we will leak to the Hezbollah, through one of their own spies in the World Health Organization, that he has fled there from a secret quarantine center where he was being treated for a highly communicable swine disease, a sort of porcine AIDS (shall we call it `PAIDS') a retrovirus which is relatively benign in pigs. However, we will say, it has recently undergone a mutation which allows it to infect jihadists. It will be described as non-fatal, but it carries foreign, in this case porcine, genes which are inserted into the DNA of its hosts, after the fashion of retroviruses. This has the effect of turning jihadists, and their progeny, into swine, at the level of pig-genes incorporated into their chromosomes. 

"They will also be given means to prove for themselves that he is already changing into a pig," she added, "if they wish to approach so closely. But, I am certain they will incinerate him, from a safe distance. Then we shall have fulfilled our promises. He will be a martyr and, in due course, beatified and eventually sanctified."

"Doesn't there need to be a miracle, to be made a saint, there must be a sign of God's intervention," Georg asked, half fearing the answer. 

"That is a problem the Devil's Advocate will have to face: say, five hundred years... later. We shall think of something, as you Americans say. For a start, there is the idea of a brute turning into a man, by God's Grace, to save the Holy Church from the Infidels. But, we shall see."

"I still don't see why you are telling me this. You have it all worked out for yourself," Georg protested.

"There are a number of things you can do for us," she did not explain who exactly `us' consisted of, "but you must be tired of sitting indoors. I see you have finished your caviar. . . and champagne. Let us go round the estate. It should be a treat for you to see how much better a French dairy operates."

It had been years since Georg had concerned himself with dairy operations. His struggles to get through college and toying with the idea of a naval career had been driven, as much as anything, by the desire to leave ranch life as far behind as possible. But, he still enjoyed going back for short visits and he understood enough to be an intelligent listener.

Georg went to his suite to fetch his jacket. It was a cool morning and from the behavior of the leaves outside there was a brisk wind. He felt he had stepped into another world. The morning's revelations had been nothing like he expected. As far as he could see the `de la Noys' were not long for this world and everything this crazy Lady was planning to do, if she was serious and not just freaked out on the pages of La Science et L'Avenir, could only bring that day closer. Now she was taking him to watch cattle couple to prepare him for. . . what?

In the courtyard behind the Chateau, La Baronne waited astride a speckled-grey horse which could have been a twin to John Brown Stallion. A groom was seated on a bay mare, while he held the reins of a huge, black, blaze-faced stallion, obviously Georg's mount. Marie-Rose headed toward the dairy complex, then waited for George to come abreast. The groom hung back out of earshot.

Following her lead, he held his horse to a walk. "I wanted to explain earlier," he said," my naval title is not normally used in civilian life, while I am on inactive duty status. I'm surprised you know my rank, perhaps Emmette has spoken of me," he probed.

"That is a quaint custom. We French Nobility have been on inactive duty status, as you say, for most of the last eight hundred years but we continue to enjoy, and employ, our titles," she explained. 

"As we have spoken of my. . . charges, which of them do you prefer, Emmette or La Petite Baronne? I venture Emmette has told you she has no money. She has such a fear she will not be loved for herself. As I am certain that you would not be influenced by it, nevertheless, I can say she shall share in my estates, substantially, in any case. The final results will depend on the outcomes of our current endeavors," she concluded mysteriously. 

Georg was unable to untangle this intricate question quickly, so was constrained to reply, "I adore them both and would be honored to have either of them as my wife, if she should ever agree." He had startled himself with this flowery speech, and was not sure it were true. It had sounded, coming back to his ears, like a `May I have your belle-fille's hand in marriage' speech. He had gone further than intended. His safeguard was that he had not committed himself to either one of the two, specifically.

Their arrival at the dairy rescued him. Marie-Rose had responded, almost off-hand, something to the effect of: `I'm sure both would be pleased and flattered at your declaration of esteem and affection'.

The bullpen housed only one occupant at the moment. A large sable-colored, long-horned bull with a hump, apparently betraying some Brahma ancestry, stood dejectedly in a corner, passively chewing his cud. His hang-dog appearance was emphasized by the auburn bangs which almost covered his face and eyes. It was impossible to tell if he was exhausted by his morning exertions or merely accumulating energy for the next round. 

Marie-Rose's next remark, after some words with one of the workers, clarified the situation, "The heifers are all satisfied. This fellow, his name is `Butterbull', is a cross of Brahma and several European milch breeds, principally Scottish Highlander. We will perfect a strain which combines the disease resistance of the Brahma, the hardiness of the Highland breed in cold climates and the high butterfat production of the European Holstein. Once we get a superior cross to breed true, we can use our gene-exchange to cross further out with water buffalo, deer, antelope, elk, even Mongolian ponies to get the best combination of qualities according to the exo-local infrastructure."

"Is all your work with cattle, or bovine species," Georg wondered if pigs were excluded, aside from the Baron's cousins, of course.

"I started with small laboratory animals, rats, mice, rabbits and guinea pigs, for convenience. Bovines fitted in with the work at the existing dairy, cover, if you like. Then project `P', for Pachyderms, inspired by the 33rd Baron, got started. Come, I'll show you some of his relatives."

They skirted the bullpen, passed through a building on the other side, leaving the groom and horses behind, crossed an open passageway and entered another building, just like the first on the outside. A faint whiff of pig dung hung in the inside air. Otherwise, it resembled a clean room in one of Georg's integrated-circuit plants, more than a pigsty. At the end of a long corridor, near the center of the building, they passed through an airlock into a room with a central pit. Inside the pit lay a large, rather rangy sow. At least a dozen piglets, two or three weeks old, tugged at her flaccid teats and occasionally squealed their demands for access. 

The heads and snouts of the sow and her litter seemed curiously pugged, as if they had run in a line, squarely and headfirst into a brick wall. Otherwise, the pigs looked normal. The sow had two other odd features. Her long-teated udder looked to have a capacity twice that of a normal sow of her size, and just in front of each ear was a small nub, exactly like the ones seen on the polled cows at Georg's dairy ranch.

"The sow is the Baron's double great-grand niece. The sires of the litter were a great-grand nephew and Butterbull, who is also their half grandfather, as you can see by the sow's udder and vestigial horns stubs," offered Marie-Rose.

"Why breed, if that is the word, milchsows when milchcows give milk for human consumption and also produce meat," Georg wanted to know? 

"There are several reasons. Omnivores hogs eat the same kinds of food as homo sapiens. The food-supply infrastructure for herbivores doesn't have to be provided. Next, hogs and homo sapien sapiens have very similar diseases, require the same sanitary provisions and are cured by the same medicines and therapeutic procedures. They are small enough to share quarters with humans in restricted conditions. Hogs can be trained to hunt, kill and eat game, do guard duty, also to find food, even truffles underground and root it out. They make intelligent and affectionate pets, if you don't mind a little difficulty in house training. Of course there is nothing like the smell of bacon in the morning," she was obviously proud of her accomplishments.

"I must agree it sounds like the ideal domestic animal," concurred Georg.

"One major problem remains," she said.

"Yes?"

"You surely noticed it when you came in. We use the latest clean-room scrubbing equipment from Japan and America, to get rid of. . . bouse. I am beginning to feel it will require some kind of strict control of diet as well as re-engineering the alimentary canal. Perhaps that will work for humans in close quarters, as well…" 

He could think of no reply to this, if it was a question.

At intervals around the walls were benches for observers, rather like an operating theatre for instructing neophyte surgeons. La Baronne motioned Georg to a seat in a corner and took her own place, her hyu|||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||back against the adjacent wall. She wore jodhpurs, boots, a silk blouse and a riding jacket. Except for the jacket, Georg surmised, she must have worn these clothes under her robe at breakfast, already dressed for riding. She sat down and unbuttoned the jacket, allowing it to flare at the front and reveal three relevant conditions: she wore no bra, the top four buttons of her blouse were unbuttoned and the blouse itself was nearly as sheer as a wet tee-shirt and somewhat more finely textured. As a final touch, she threw her left arm over the back of the adjacent seat. That side of the jacket fell back revealing her left breast: large, perfectly formed, the outlines of the aureole and nipple slightly blurred by the silk cloth. 

With characteristic bluntness, she began, "I see you prefer the full female form to those emaciated fugitives from Belsen who populate the Rue de Saint Honore. If you wish, you may paint or photograph my figure later. Do you paint? But you must at least take photographs," she asked?

"I always carry a camera in my luggage," he managed to croak.

"Tres bon, but no sculpture. For that you would have to touch me and I could not resist that. If you should give up your projects for my 'daughters', then I could accept. But, now we have more important matters to discuss. . . "

Georg interrupted, "Before we go on, presumably your interest in experimental genetics began with the discovery of the Baron's strange parentage. . . "

She interrupted him in turn,"No, I have always been interested in scientific breeding. When gene manipulation was developed I already had the practical background, as sound as anyone working with large animals. Emmette's situation stimulated my interest in the relation of specific genes to physical. . . and mental, characteristics. Sex, for example, is determined by a single, "Y", chromosome. If the sperm carries it the child is a male... if not it is a female. This brings me to what you can do for us."

"That would be tres interesting," Georg agreed.

"I'm sure you noticed that the animals I am developing here would be ideal for exo-planetary colonization. I have developed varieties which are fitted to serve most of man's needs in almost any conceivable environment. Naturellment, that is conditioned by man being able to survive there, as there is no point in designing domestic animals for a world without people. . . "

"I assume you know my interest in such projects. Still, you are proposing to do something for me, rather than vice-versa," he objected.

"I have no influence on what is taken on exo-expeditions, but you have, how do the Americans say, `clout'. It would strengthen my hand with the Baron to tell him that his famille would not only form the nobility but would have a monopoly in... `Exo-New Worlds'," she smiled, it seemed to him, somewhat maliciously. 

She held up a hand to refuse questions, "Now we come to the more important matter of the de la Noy heritage and my own, the Montefou. Given that `de la Noy' blood flows in the veins of Martine. . . and Emmette. . . " she stopped suddenly as the blood flowed out of Georg's face, leaving him white and weak. The only cogent explanation he could muster was. . . 

But she hastened to continue,"Je m'excuse, mille fois. I was certain you knew that they were 'marriageable'  second-cousins of my son. I did not expect them to have told you that they are from the same set of triplets as the present Baron. I hasten to tell you, which was what I intended today in any case, that they do not have a single operative gene from his non-human father." 

"How can you be so certain," Georg asked, hardly aware of what he was saying, such was his shock to hear his worst fear confirmed?

"I shall have to assume a basic knowledge of Mendelian genetics. Each body cell carries, in its nucleus, two paired sets of genes. Each set is an exact copy of the single set carried in the nucleus of the sex cell, ovum and spermatozoon, received from each parent. In the body cells of the child, of the pairs of genes, only one gene of the two is expressed, the other corresponding gene has no influence. Each gene is either dominant or recessive when it competes for expression with the corresponding gene inherited from the other parent. 

"For example, I see you have blue eyes. It is thus certain that you were passed only blue genes by both your parents. A gene for brown eyes is always dominant when competing with a blue one. If either of your parents had given you a brown gene your eyes would be brown. This is a simple view of the situation, and there are many other ramifications of these rules, but that is sufficient to our present purposes."

She leaned toward him, apparently inspecting his eyes closely, and pursing her lips thoughtfully. Her, effectively- exposed, breasts fell forward, practically inviting him to cup them in his hands, fondle them and kiss them, taking the rampant nipples in his mouth. He could feel the heat in his blood, driving out the coldness of fear and aversion. He had never been in such a dilemma, held rigidly between the need to flee or  to. . . well, not exactly... `fight'. 

He said weakly, "Mendel, the monk, grew peas of different colors and worked out the mathematical rules of inheritance."

"Let me explain, Emmette and Martine are... developed from the same fertilized ovum, they have exactly the same genetic inheritance, as do identical twins. Now, Emmette has been examined with extreme care, internally and externally and of course her nuclear DNA has been analyzed as well. She has not a single expressed porcine characteristic. There were, obviously, at least two ova fertilized that night. Possibly only the ovum fertilized by the spermatozoon carrying a Y-chromosome, also carried a pig gene, mixed it with the other chromosomes, or even among the mitochondrial DNA (m-DNA) from their mother.  

"I do understand this basically, but if a recessive gene is somehow inherited, though not expressed, it can still be passed on to their children," insisted Georg. 

"I cannot, within the limitations of present techniques, prove she doesn't carry a recessive porcine gene. Remember, however, in nuclear DNA, that recessives are expressed only if they are competing with another recessive gene for the same characteristic: Which, by definition, must have the same effect if expressed. If she carries a recessive porcine gene there is chance it will be passed on to her children. However it will be expressed in her progeny only if paired with another similar recessive gene. This is possible only if there is incest of some degree among her offspring. Or, if porcine genes become widely distributed in the human gene-pool through another route. Both these are remotely possible but obviously extremely unlikely."

Georg was not sure this was an entirely accurate representation of the case but he was anxious to terminate the interview and get somewhere away, to himself. "I understand," he fibbed.

"Tres bon. The next step is very critical that you understand exactly what I say. I have made certain arrangements, at great expense and a mountain of correspondence with the Holy Office. In the future, the `de la Noy' title, its estates and the family’s holdings will pass through the senior, closest relative, if there are no eligible senior siblings in the immediate family. The rules are now approximately the same as those likely to become effective in the English Royal Family and most of the other monarchies of Europe. This means that when the 33rd Baron dies without issue, his eldest sister will inherit the title, so the 34th Baron will be in fact be Baronne de la Noy, in her own right, not by virtue of her marriage to a Baron Jean-Claud. Her next husband shall be her Consort, not a French Baron. Her oldest legitimate descendent, will inherit the title from her."

None of this had to do directly with Georg, especially as she had not said which of the sisters would be the Baronne. "So is it Emmette or Martine?"

"There is no way to be sure which was born first. It can and shall have be settled by agreement between them, this will undoubtedly cause the holdings to be split somewhat, but the title itself will remain undivided. The situation is not entirely satisfactory. . ." she paused to assess his reaction before going on.

He noticed that her right knee now pressed strongly against his. He suddenly had an almost irrepressible yearning for Zaarha and the simple life of ordinary adultery, once-removed, and the satisfaction of mutual lust. 

"That is why I have been recently considering some alternatives. If you would be willing to convert to Catholicism, and accept certain guidance’s regarding the rules for extra-solar colonization, the kind of materials which would be dispatched, etc. . . With my sponsorship it may be possible for the title to pass to yourself. It would also depend on you marrying; actually Martine would be best, and coming to an agreement with me on the matter of the genetic fatherhood of her first born. In view of your situation... limitations, which Emmette has conveyed to me, this should not be an important objection. . ."

She could but refer to his fabricated story of having had a vasectomy at the behest of his late wife. Georg rose, and in as even a voice as he could muster, said, "I am not sure I am can discuss these matters further, even in principle. I have already had to absorb more shocks than I suspected I could in any one day." Rather lamely, he added, "You are aware that it requires an Act of the Congress of the United States for one of her citizens to accept a title from a foreign monarch? I assume that includes the Pope. I'm not sure it has ever been done."

"I do not believe that is the case for titles granted by the Pope such as bishops, archbishops and cardinals. If you want to be a Cardinal, it would, in the current situation, require an oath of celibacy which would not suit our purpose, and would be such a pity. But, very well," she sighed, "you should have a rest before lunch, at one o'clock. After lunch, I am to dispatch you to Martine at her flat in Paris. Tell me then if you have more questions. Always remember, if we find no other role for you in the future of the `de la Noy' family, my bed and my heart are both large and you are welcome in either, or both of them." 

She embraced him, arms under his jacket, her warm, soft breasts pressing into his chest. Her lips were warm and wet and her lower abdomen pressed against him with a will of its own and an urgency which seemed nearly impossible to deny. 

Then, throwing her head back, she looked into his eyes while a single tear coursed down her left cheek. She took one step backward, threw an exasperated glance at the sow and her brood of piglets, turned on heel... and was gone. 

Georg was alone, relieved, and somehow... somewhat bereft. He studied the scene in the pit. There was the soft sound of an electronic oscillator which hung briefly in the air. The brood of piglets, a few asleep and others still trying ritually to extract some milk from the sow's collapsed udder, sprang to their feet and rushed to a corner of the pit. There, at the corner of the floor, hinged about two meters from the apex, dropped, revealing a line of holes under the foot of the wall. The tone changed and the brood defecated and urinated in unison. Shortly, the tone stopped. A gentle sheet of water flowed out from somewhere near the hinge, funnelling the excretions, but not the pigs, through the holes, much like the head on a small ship or boat. The piglets returned to their former occupations. `Pavlov is alive and well and living in La Chateau de la Noy,' Georg thought.

He checked the horn stubs on the sow, trying to see if they could possibly have been faked. Without a telescope, he had left his Canon with the zoom lens in the Suite, he could not be sure. On impulse he removed his tie, worn loose at the neck, and dangled it over the side of the pit in an attempt to get the sow to come closer to investigate, where he could see her better. She, of course, paid no attention. However, one of the smallest piglets, perhaps the runt of the litter, was more active than the others. Suddenly, it approached to the wall below the tie, stood glaring, head lifted and legs braced ready to move in whatever direction away from where this `snake' should press attack. Just in front of each ear was a tiny telltale bulge. This, as Georg had seen on many a calf before, would soon erupt into nascent horns. 

"So much for faking it," he breathed to himself, retrieving his tie and gently closing the exit door behind him. In a minute, he had regained the area where they had left the horses. La Baronne. the groom and their two horses were not in evidence. The black stallion was tethered to the fence at the other end, requiring him to pass close to the bullpen. Butterbull was alert again, probably anticipating another batch of heifers. 

Without warning, he charged Georg, with only the light fence between him and a three quarters of a ton of prime beef behind horns of a size and spread Georg had seen only on Longhorns some cattle millionaires kept as a reminder of their origins. Just as suddenly, Butterbull skidded to a stop, his huge eyes peering through his bangs, pleading for something? What? Another heifer? 

Out of the corner of his eye Georg spotted a blue-plastic bucket by a fence post. It contained turnips, with tops still on. Georg handed one through the fence, and Butterbull took it gently from his hand. The entire vegetable disappeared at one bite. Gazing at the masticating animal, Georg remembered the piglet looking up at him. The family resemblance was unmistakable. 

Snagging another turnip for `Old Blaze', the name Georg had selected, he fed,  unfettered and mounted the blaze-faced stallion. The horse seemed to have his own ideas about the proper route to return to the Chateau, insisting on going around the dairy complex and taking another track, passing by what evidently was the Chapel. Only the front of the building was directly visible, the grounds at the sides and rear enclosed by a wall of the same pink limestone used for most of the other buildings on the estate. Georg was beginning to be captured by the peace of the place and would have dismounted to investigate, but again the horse had other ideas, heading directly for the stables built into the west end of the Chateau. The groom was nowhere in sight. Georg dismounted to find a stall for Old Blaze, a place for the saddle, tack and perhaps some oats and water.

The first door led to all those things and in moments, Blaze was divested of his accouterments and happy with his oates and water. The only hitch was finding a rack for the saddle, where it could be stored properly to prevent loosing its shape. Searching through the door at the back, Georg came to a large room, nearly dark, but he could see the shapes of several cars parked at various angles. The switch by the door was eventually persuaded to do its duty, revealing the most expensive collection of mobile hardware Georg had ever seen short of Harold's Motor Museum in Nevada. A half dozen Bugatti, resplendent in French racing blue, except the Royale in deep maroon, were visible along with a rare touring Hispano-Suiza -- probably the finest car ever built, a 1912 Rolls-Royce with swooping aluminium-riveted running-boards and mudguards, and a Pierce Arrow Roadster, just in case one were needed to impress a (very, very old) Hollywood Star. 

The modern era was not slighted either. Several models were classics and collector's cars even before they were built, such as the Alfa-Romeo Disco-Volante, an Aston-Martin-Lagonda, a Bentley Mulsanne, and a Rolls Corniche. Racing cars were represented also, gullwing and open Mercedes 300SL's of the type driven by Sterling Moss and Juan Fangio, for pleasure, a Porsche 500 Spyder, a Lotus 11 and a tiny Cooper sports racer, with its Coventry Climax engine mounted amidships, the layout which presaged all modern Formula cars. The last of the moderns, and probably the fastest, was another flame red Ferrari F40, a duplicate of the one which Martine had driven in London. The boy Baron, assuming he was the one who had collected these, had enjoyed the taste, money and sense of history needed to assemble this fantastic collection of motorized might. 

The one jarring note was a Porsche, the same super light model, built primarily of magnesium, which had crashed, burst into flames and vaulted over the massed spectators at the Nürburgring. Flaming bits of magnesium had left over 80 spectators dead, still a world's record of motor racing carnage. Here, in the position of honor, in the center and well separated from the other cars, as though they shrank from the specter in their midst, was an exact duplicate of that Porsche. Georg could not believe it had been allowed to survive. He made his way to the side of the machine, leaned inside and with the point of a key scraped a few fine slivers from the metal between the inner and outer door walls, underneath the drivers window, a spot totally invisible without use of something like a dentist's mirror and light.

He cupped his hand, holding the shiny, silver blue slivers. In the light they appeared to be magnesium, but he could not be sure as he was not familiar with every exotic aluminum alloy used in German racing machinery. Further tests would have to wait till he returned to his own room.

Georg turned off the light, leaving things otherwise as he had found them, and went back to Blaze's stable still carrying the saddle. He left it in a corner where the horse was unlikely to step on it. Just outside he encountered the groom and in a short awkward conversation in French managed to convey his concern for the safety of the, by this time `damned', saddle.

Shortly, back in the Louis Quinze Suite without encountering La Baronne or the staff, he found that he had half an hour before lunch and, most likely, another round with the redoubtable Marie-Rose.

In his room he searched in the wardrobe where Giles had unpacked his things. Readily he found a his Canon F-1, with its normal F-1 50mm f1.2 lens, a Vivitar Series I, 75-210mm zoom lens, a 2x telephoto attachment --which converted the maximum focal length of the Vivitar to 420mm -- and a tiny Leica folding tripod. The camera had a half dozen shots left on a roll. According to the tag on the back of the camera it was Polagraph Instant HC-135-2 ISO400/37*, a high contrast monochrome film for copying documents, which he occasionally used to capture letters or articles for his archives. One of its advantages was, if one also carried the development equipment, the size of a shoe box, it could be developed instantly. He had not brought the development kit from London. 

For what he had in mind it didn't matter. Switching to the Zoom lens with the 2x adapter and selecting the macro setting he mounted the camera on the tripod on the table in the best light, near the window. Then he focused on the slivers of metal taken from the car. The effective magnification seemed to be at least 10x with the viewfinder he was using. He could still not be sure they were magnesium. He would need fire, a match or a lighter, to be sure. There were none in the Suite. He would ask for some at lunch. 

He was not sure what he intended to do if he proved the car was made of magnesium. Certainly warn La Baronne. She was sitting on, virtually, a 1200lb thermite bomb. If a fire started in the garage, the priceless collection of cars would be vaporized. The Chateau would go, along with everyone and everything in it. But first it must be verified. To say anything prematurely, might make him look like a fool… and a sneak.

As he prepared to store the camera again he moved it from the macro (close-up) setting to normal. Through the viewfinder the campanile of the Chapel sprang into view, glittering in the sharp sunlight. The building faced generally east, Rome perhaps, and lay directly north of the Chateau and Georg's window. The sun, just now crossing the local meridian, etched harsh shadows, outlining the objects in view. Georg was reminded of those typefaces used in desktop publishing which give the impression of three dimensions by outlining two sides of the letters with dark shadows. The effect was most striking when viewing the tombstones, which were visible near the north wall, behind the Chapel. Even with the 420mm lens, only the largest of the lettering in the inscriptions on the stones was legible, but the pattern of light and shade was both peaceful and dramatic. 

Selecting the most striking of the stones, he adjusted the zoom to maximum magnification and the focused as sharply as possible. 

The image he saw through the viewfinder was:

 

E M E T

 

BARONNET DE LA NOY

 

***

** ********* ***** **

****

** ***** **** **

 

On impulse, he decided to finish the roll of film. F-A-S-T, Focus, Aperature, Speed, Take. He already had a sharp focus with maximum focal length. He choose the smallest aperture possible for the light available and film speed; halfway between f11 and f22. The film speed, ASA 400, was already correctly set. He checked the meter inside the viewfinder, screwed in the cable release he had fished from his pocket and exposed one frame. He opened up the aperture a half stop and wound the film forward each time for four more frames. The sixth and last frame he shot at f22. He rewound the film into its protective can but did not remove it from the camera.

He dismantled the Zoom lens from the camera, replacing it with the normal lens, and removed the 2x extender from the Zoom. `What if I focus an image of the sun on the shavings?' he asked himself. The extender did nothing. `I need a small intense image. . . that means the 50mm f1.2.' This time the tiny bright image of the Sun's disk formed at the sharp point of one of the shavings. In a few seconds it flared to a blinding, blue-white, ball of light, and gave off a small, acrid cloud of white smoke. The sudden `phutt' sound almost caused him to drop the expensive lens, but he was now sure the Chateau sat on a potential volcano in more than one sense. 

Lunch was in a small room served by the same kitchen as the breakfast room, but decorated much more lavishly. A long Louis Quinze table covered by Belgian lace carried a large center-piece of garden flowers, incorporating two candles, as yet unlit. `There must be a greenhouse somewhere on the estate.' The table was set with ornate dishes for two at the end and on the right, in convenient knee wrestling range, he noted. He was the first to enter, on the stroke of one, but Chantal came in immediately, apparently responding to his footsteps. She silently poured a saucer of champagne. `Vineyards too.' She turned, smiled sweetly, perhaps coyly, and left. 

Georg planned how to open the subject of the `car-bomb'. He did not wish to say, `I was snooping in your automotive museum and I found one which might. . . explode.' Perhaps he could just bring up that he glanced inside the garage, looking for a place to leave the saddle, just happened to notice she had a collection of rare cars. If she offered to show it to him or describe some of the cars, he would find a way to mention the Porsche and its macabre history. 

He felt in his pocket for the remaining bits of magnesium, he had tucked them into a spare envelope. The maid returned with a lighter to light the candles, before she could leave again he motioned for the lighter. She gave it to him and, probably thinking he wanted to smoke, left again to return in a moment with a freshly opened pack of Kent cigarettes and an ash tray. He was now equipped for a demonstration, if he could get around the `spying' inference. He tuned the lighter for the bluest, hottest flame possible and sacrificed one of the remaining slivers for a final, re-demonstration test. It behaved just like the one he had lit with the lens earlier. This time he did not flinch from the noise.

However, he did jump a foot or so when La Baronne's voice spoke, "Cold fusion really exists, or is this a device to give the Ayatollah a hotfoot." she joked.

Georg decided to barge through regardless,"I spotted the Porsche, the centerpiece of your museum display, when I was searching for the tack-room to put away the saddle."

"That was my son's pride. I have never been fond of them, especially the racing cars. I suppose they are Martine's property now, but she has never asked about them. If you would like one, ask her, she would probably give it to you, or the lot for a wedding present," she misread his reason for mentioning the cars.

To be completely honest, Georg was momentarily tempted by this proposal. The collection, he quickly calculated, would bring at least sixty million dollars at auction. That was the price of two new IC facilities for his companies. And, he was planning to marry her anyway, more or less. The Royale alone was almost beyond price. Or, selling one or two of the more easily replaceable examples, say, the new Rolls or Bentley, would finance the repair and maintenance indefinitely, save perhaps the insurance. That thought brought him back to earth. 

"Getting back to the Porsche, the experiment you just witnessed indicates that it is made of magnesium, which under certain circumstances can be extremely flammable. It has the further quality that normal fire fighting methods won't put it out," he continued. 

"You mean the metal burns. That is incredible. How could anyone make a racing car out of such materialle." 

"Nevertheless, they were built. One of its sisters crashed in a race and burned, over 80 spectators to death, in the open stands," Georg insisted. "Thick chunks of the metal are hard to ignite. It is a good conductor so heat is carried from the surface so fast the area in contact with oxygen cools below the ignition temperature. Thin bits, like the one you saw me light, can catch easily and once enough of those do, the heat they generate set the rest on fire."

"I take it you will not have the car as a gift," she said, half humorously.

"Thanks! But, no, thanks. I don't think there is an immediate danger. But, I would suggest it would be wise to store that car well away from the others, in its own fireproof building perhaps. Most importantly, drain the fuel tank of petrol. If I had to own it, I would build a glass case around it filled with some inert gas, say, something cheap like nitrogen,"

"I believe my son used a sort of nitrogen based fuel, perhaps for safety. I shall have it moved away this afternoon, and disposed of properly early next week. I am very, very grateful, I would like to give you your pick of the collection as a token of my gratitude. If Martine objects I shall reimburse her in cash at whatever you say it is worth."

"No way," he rejected her offer, "Perhaps you will invite me again to view the collection properly, once it is safe," he grinned.

"But I insist, you may have saved the entire collection, the Chateau, my life and all my people. I cannot let it go unrecognized. It is a debt of honor," she practically pleaded.

"But, I did not do it for a reward, I did it for. . . curiosity. If my action was a boon to my good friend," he used her earlier characterization against her, "that is all the reward I need or will accept." This was Georg's version of the `If nominated, I will not run. If elected, I will not serve.' speech.

She was silent, perhaps thinking of a way to renew the attack.

Georg relented slightly, perhaps she did feel honor required something, "If you insist, I could take the Royale into Paris after lunch, Giles driving. It would be marvelous to meet Martine in it. I'll tell her to meet me outside her apartment for a drive in the Bois de Bolongne, giving her the number plate to look for. We'll consider it's mine for a day. I'll take responsibility for any damage." Georg repressed a shiver as he imagined the reaction of Allstate Insurance, `You crashed your Bugatti Royale which you just bought in Paris, and you want us to pay for the damage of only a hundred million dollars American?'

"D'accord, Mon Cher Georg. Je t'aime tois, beaucoup," she kissed him, a friendly, grateful, almost little-girl kiss. Georg thought she would make a tolerable mother-in-law, once removed, if she could be kept in her present mood.

The first course of the set lunch maintained the light vein, urged along by the champagne which Chantal replenished unobtrusively. The conversation was informal without being trivial. She carefully steered him to talk about himself and he told the story of Allyne's struggle to free herself from the `other-mind' illusion, giving it an almost comic cast.

As the meal proceeded he brought the subject around herself, as a young girl, a person, rather than her current projects. An only child, she had grown to young womanhood in Paris. Her family's wealth and estates had long gone, save only a small house in the Sixteenth Arrondissement, and impeccable connections. Her father, reserve Colonel Charles, Comte de Montefou of the Artillery, had been one of the first casualties, shortly after the end of the `Phony War', in mid-1940s. 

He was pensioned off, as a result of his wounds, before the French collapse in front of the German onslaught. Unable to work, under the Petain regime, things had been very hard. The family had survived only by the charity of their well born friends, including the old Baron de la Noy, fellow member of the Jockey Club, and 31st of his line. After the liberation, her mother had taken up the task of the supporting them, as a petty bureaucrat in the post office, the sinecure of a grateful government. This, combined with a liberal pension due an officer, now retired as a Brigadier, gave a start to reinstating the family fortunes. The next development would have a much more potent effect. 

When Marie-Rose was seventeen, the 31st Baron, elderly and still without surviving children, was widowed. He faced an urgent need to remarry, to a young, strong wife of good stock who could bear and raise a son to carry on the title. Otherwise it would pass to his brother, the only other extant de la Noy. This well hated relative was rumored, but never proven, to have collaborated with the Nazis. Even before that, they had not spoken to one another for forty years. 

The 31st Baron and her father arranged the match and by her eighteenth year she was La Baronne de la Noy and pregnant with her first and only child, the future 32nd Baron, Jean-Claud. Evidently that had been the last desperate effort for the old man who considered his duty done. Then, her father, mother and the 31st Baron had all died in one tragic year when her son was seventeen and she was only thirty six. She broke off her narrative at this point, perhaps the memory was painful, or alternatively the arrival of the main course interrupted her train of though. 

Georg was busy estimating her age. He needed only the young Baron's age at the time of his fatal accident. `She was eighteen when he was born. He was killed five years ago. That is eighteen plus five plus his age at death. Twenty three plus capital "D". As a guess she is forty seven to fifty three. Maybe eleven years older than I am. Maybe sixteen. ‘Hi mum!'

Marie-Rose resumed the conversation first, "I feel that I may have given you the wrong first impression this morning. My families have always been Catholic nobles, but Catholicism for the nobility is different than it is for plebeians. For the latter, it is one of the least democratic institutions in the world. The hierarchy is a perfect meritocracy. Since the Middle Ages, the son (not the daughter, of course, though there are some suspicions) of the lowest paysan may become the Pope. There is no longer even a shadow of a hereditary aristocracy, almost guaranteed by the vows of celibacy." 

"I have always admired the Church, as an institution, it has the longest history of continuous operation of any organization on earth," Georg encouraged this line, curious to see where she was leading.

"The rules for the laity are strict, nearly as strict as they are for the hierarchy itself, and there is seldom any effective appeal against them. But, for nobles it is a different story."

It seemed she was again embarked on her `Come, be the 34th Baron' crusade. Georg was not really ready to listen, "Henry the Eighth didn't find the Church so flexible, even for a King," he objected.

"You don't really think that was all about the divorce, do you? That was only a pretext to bring the King into line. The real reason for the split was the politics of the Reformation, and you should appreciate that the reformers were insisting on stricter interpretation of the scriptures, not flexibility. This, and an economic incentive, the Church's land and assets to be distributed, among the treacherous nobles."

This way the lunch could easily be over without settling whatever it was they had to settle. Desperate, Georg decided to charge through the middle of the line. "What you wish to suggest is that I use my position as Chairman of the Think Tank Institute to implement the Catholic Churches policy, whatever that is, on colonization of extra-solar planets. Is that right?"

There was a smile of triumph, or relief, on Marie-Rose's lips. "I do not suggest that you do anything against your best judgment, once you are fully informed. I think we would agree on many things, once we came to know one another. And, I represent myself here. If some of my ideas happen to agree with the position of the Church, it is because there is informed intelligence in the Church, and I, also, am both informed and intelligent. What could be more natural than we should all agree."

"What would you say are the most marked difference between your position and the Church," Georg wanted to save time?

"The most fundamental difference is the question of the immortal soul. In my case, I believe `What you do is immortal, not who you are.'"

"You don't believe we will meet again in the afterlife."

"Not in the sense you mean," she said simply.

"In what sense then?"

"This world, and here I do not refer only to this planet, will be a different place for our having existed in it. Our influences will meet and mingle in the future, something like the themes in a symphony, carried forward from movement to movement into the indefinite future," her eyes had a far away look in them. Then she smiled, "Certainly, our interaction is more intense and more exciting here and now, together as we are, intent on each other and somewhat isolated from the rest. The act of love is the most intense mutual interaction we know, but it truly can be enjoyed only as a duet. For those who are capable of it, the best arrangement is one love and many friends."

In the beginning it sounded much like the genetic tree, branching, mixing and mingling. This idea was then combined with `pair-bonding'. Georg needed to consider this at length, but not now, "Are there other differences?"

"I am not sure of the Church's position in this, but I believe, as it was put in the mouth of one of his characters by Arthur C. Clark. . . I will have to interpret from the French version where I read it."

"Yes, go ahead," he urged.

"He said, `If there is a god whose primary concern is the planet Earth, he cannot be a very important god.'"

"I remember that, it impressed me too," agreed Georg.

"My interpretation is, of course is that there actually is a very important God, and that he is a Universal God, literally," she continued. "I also believe there is a Universal Church, the Catholic Church, for me is the nearest approximation we have to that today, but others, even philosophical systems, have a contribution to make, as does Science, the most empirically successful of these systems."

"If I now understand, you propose that we should have a relationship, an understanding," he added quickly, "going forward, which leaves us free to make personal choices, but that we share information and resources, in the interest of the Universal Church, including organized religion, science and the. . . other institutions supporting the destiny of man. . . and of course you would wish to add, women," he asked?

"And, other forms of life, not just man. But that is an excellent precis. Do you agree with it?"

"In principle, yes." 

"Now, would you like my first practical suggestion to implement our arrangement," she asked?

"Shoot."

"I would like to contribute my research with les Porc. This also includes the use of various animals as host mothers, carrying to term the young of other species, from ova fertilized outside the mother, and transplanted to the fallopian tubes of the host to continue their development. I am in the unfortunate position, for the foreseeable future, of not being able to publish my work as it could draw attention to the origins of my work in the two family scandals, that is, Emmette and the 33rd Baron."

"I don't see how I, or the Institute, could publish your results. . ."

`I did not make myself clear. You do not need to publish them. It would be easy to replicate. . . les experiences, having a clear knowledge of what worked and what didn't," she explained. "You may find that some of the techniques are adaptable to colonization needs, for example it would be possible to carry along a small animal, say a piglet, in a state of suspended animation. At the destination. it could be revived, grown to the necessary dimensions, and its womb used to bear the first generation of human infants. With further development it should be possible to use gene-exchange to endow it with an udder to produce milk suitable for human infants as well as its own young, as cows do now. This would be useful in case it were desirable to perpetuate the breed, as well, later in the Exo-New World."

He had to admit, to himself, that the idea had not occurred to him. It had a superficial elegance. "It certainly deserves consideration."

The meal had been completed some time ago, and he had accepted the proffered coffee, but not the Courvoisier Brandy or Calvados. By mutual consent they postponed further discussion to leave some time before dark for his drive in the Bois with Martine. He packed his gear, or rather watched as Giles did so, for his plan was to spend the night in the Hotel and return to London on Sunday. Giles had already seen to the Royale, driving it several times around the estate to test the steering, the engine and the brakes, always a problem on Bugattis. In fact, the legendary Le Maitre, Ettore Bugatti himself, was reputed to have said `I build my cars to go, not to stop'. 

When Giles brought the huge car to the coach entrance, Emmette and Marie-Rose waited with Georg. He had invited them to share in the excursion, and they had agreed, as far as the Rue de Saint Honore where they had appointments with their couturiere. 

On board, it seemed to him more the size of a ship or at least a large boat. Marie-Rose pointed out landmarks of interest as they drove along, making no reference to their earlier discussion. 

Marie-Rose pointed out especially the evidences of the native produce and viande of the Ile-de-France. The small section they were passing through, contained fields for asparagus, cabbage, lettuce, Brussels sprouts, turnips and potatoes. Along the fence rows, grew the delicious mushrooms the French call morel or morille which add savor to all kinds of meats, but were recommended by Marie-Rose especially for omelettes. In the pastures several varieties of hogs, from Champagne to Limousin; where beef and dairy cattle, sheep and goats grazed. The kitchens of Paris did not have to send far for their ingredients, except for sea food and spices, perhaps. 

After they left the countryside the sense of the interest reversed, they were the ones pointed out by the people along the way. The great car was a rare sight but instantly recognized. Only those who were very close could see the shield and coronet which marked its provenance. All too soon it seemed, Giles turned into the Avenue de la Grande Armee following its majestic sweep to the Arc de Triomphe and around the great, frightening traffic circle to the Rue Saint Honore, lined by the famous names of fashion, echoed as far away as Union Square and Rodeo Drive. At one of these houses Marie-Rose and Emmette took their leave, with formal French kisses and promises to meet again as soon as possible.

Unfortunately, Giles took a route which apparently was favored by every other day tripper and tourist in Paris for the next leg, to the apartment building of classic design near the Trocadero, just across from the Tour d'Eiffel. It was over a half hour before Giles sprang out and strode to the entrance. He returned accompanied by Martine, who was wearing one of those creations of the fashion houses they had just left. She was even more beautiful than he remembered her, the evening they met in Browning House in London. There was a further advantage in that the day was still bright and he could feast his eyes on her as easily as if she had been bathed in stage spotlights. He could find no fault or error.

Her surprise and childish pleasure that he had come in the Royale was extremely gratifying. In the wide expanse of the passenger compartment she kissed him thoroughly in the full view of the crowd of passersby; attracted by the vision from the past, parked on their street. When they parted she snuggled under his arm with her hand on his thigh for all the world like a Santa Clara teenager on her first date with the quarterback, steaming down El Camino Real in a Chevy convertible on a sunny Saturday afternoon. Georg felt like an eighteen year old, out with his first virgin.

The car, conducted by Giles with regal awareness of his own importance, and that of his cargo, flowed silently westward toward the Bois de Boulogne.

 

 

Chapter XII

Martine was dressed for an outing, in the style of seventy five years ago. Her hair was tucked into a large, soft hat, which was in turn protected by a diaphanous canopy tied at the neck, protecting her head and face from the sun, wind and dust. An ivory, full length coat with exaggerated lapels and a wide belt, at the waist; provided similar service to the rest of her, except her feet and hands. Her feet were protected by serviceable suede boots, buttoned up the sides, with medium heels suitable for walking along trails in the woods. Gloves of a similar design completed the external outfit. 

The ensemble had the air of having been custom designed, not for everything to match, but for a stated purpose, say, to blow the mind of your lover when he comes to take you for a drive in the country. She wore no shades to hide her lovely golden-green eyes.

Georg was physically and mentally stunned to be reunited with her and waited for her to set the tone of their conversation. After a flood of endearments which they exchanged in both English and French (except momentarily when Georg lapsed inadvertently into Spanish), it was apparent that the tutoyer phase of their relationship had well begun. Gone were the `vous's' and `votre's' and the stilted verbs, replaced by `tu's' and `tois's' and the euphonic but more irregular verbs that matched them. This was not an unmixed blessing, for though he could understand the `familiar' forms well enough, he had never before reached this stage with a French speaking person, so was halting in his delivery. 

"Comme t'a trouvee ma cherie belle-mere," she asked? "Did she ask you to decant a new grandson for her from a laboratory flask?"

"Not exactly, we had a very interesting breakfast and lunch. She showed me her animal breeding experiments and lent me Your Bugatti Royale, for the day," he replied in a neutral tone. "In fact, it was you who lent it really. Hope you don't mind." 

"I think it is a wonderful idea. C'est une merveille and it sits in the dark and no one enjoys it, or even sees it. I don't dare use it myself, il est sans prix. But I trust you with it, use it wherever and whenever you like. Or, if you promise not to take any woman except me to ride it, you may have it. You will have to pay a forfeit first, though," she added with mock slyness.

"What forfeit?"

"I want to faire l'amour the first time we do it, ici meme."

"I see, in the car, but not in this spot on the road," he pretended to ask for clarification.

"Ici," she patted and stroked the seat, "on the seat."

Georg tumbled that he had learned another piece of vital information: they had not made love that night in her bed at Prince's Gate Mews, his last-first-night in London, Tuesday, just four nights ago. Was it possible? Also, somewhat to his chagrin, he realized felt that if he accepted the car, on this basis, he would establish a new Open World Record for the price of a single piece of ass. "What about Giles," he asked.

"He will have to get his own woman," she joked. "It should not be too difficult, in the Bois."

"Marie-Rose will be sharp if we get Giles into trouble," Georg quibbled.

"Not so sharp as she will be if you get me into trouble," she laughed, with the clear, bell-like tones Georg adored. "I hazard she tried to convert you to Catholicism," Martine teased.

"Not that exactly, either, though she did explain to me the roles of the Church hierarchy, the nobles and the laity... or the commoners, I'm not sure which. It sounded a little like a recap of the Three Estates in French pre-Revolutionary politics," he tried to be a little more forthcoming to her questions, but he didn't really care to spend the rest of the afternoon talking about Marie-Rose.

"Did you spend some time with Emmette, she picked you up at the airport, n'est pas," Martine inquired?

"We had dinner at the Coq d'Or, and drove into Paris to see the show at the Crazy Horse Saloon." He followed this by a humorous account of their encounter with the two women in the Crazy Horse bar. 

"What would you have done if she did take out your sexe to play with it like this," she said, playfully reaching for his fly with both hands.

"Sin verguenza," he said in Spanish, not knowing the term in French and finding no exact English equivalent, "I would have called her a shameless hussy, but she might not have understood me, or taken that as a compliment." He drew her arms around his neck and kissed her, lovingly but not sensually as he was in enough trouble. He was pretty sure she was teasing him, perhaps signaling to him the joys to come tonight, not actually inviting him to take her now in the car in daylight, as it were. Whatever it was, it was turning him on in spite of himself. 

After a moment, she pulled back with a serious look on her face and said, "Did Emmette talk to you about us, about us three? You know, she came to Paris to discuss you with me, to ask my advice about you? That was the main reason I came to London: to meet you, when I heard you were there."

Georg racked his brain, he could recall nothing which called for a `yes' answer to Martine's question. Emmette, the same as Marie-Rose, seemed to be putting their dibs in, for marriage and/or for an affair, respectively, in the event he did not plan to court Martine. "No," he answered, "we are very good friends, not lovers, and I think we have both agreed to stay just friends." He did not add, `For the moment, depending on what you and I come up with.'

"You know we are identical twins, or two members of a set of triplets I suppose, technically speaking. Identical twins frequently have a special relationship, sharing clothes, toys, everything. Tu savais?"

"I have heard something like that. Are you and Emmette very close," Georg had a premonition of trouble?

"Yes. Even when we spend long periods apart we seem to be aware of each other, in a strange way."

"I am curious about one thing. Do you mind if I ask you a personal question?" 

"Of course not," she answered.

"I understood that identical twins are always of the same sex, but Emmette tells me she was originally raised as a boy, also had male organs, which were removed surgically. How is this possible?

"I am not an expert on these matters. For a technical explanation you should ask Marie-Rose. My understanding is, however, that the sex of a child is determined by the sex chromosome in the spermatozoa which fertilizes the egg. If the chromosomes are 'Y' and 'X' the child is a boy, if both are 'X' chromosomes the child develops as a girl. Both Emmette and I are devoid of 'Y' chromosomes so there is no doubt that we are females, genetically, and thus no contradiction in being identical twins but being of different sexes." She paused for him to take this in... and she proceeded.

"Now, why was Emmette a hermaphrodite? What the 'Y chromosome actually does is cause the fetal gonads to generate male sex hormones and that is what causes the male physical characteristics to develop in the rest of the body.

"In our case, our brother was developing in the same womb at the same time. For some reason, he developed much more rapidly that we did. At a critical point in Emmette's development as a fetus, our brother flooded the uterine environment with male sex hormones, causing her to develop male organs, on top of, so to speak, her own female ones," she concluded.

"So the real mystery is why you were not affected in the same way," cogitated Georg. 

"It was a rare and complex situation. Probably the reason Emmette and I were twins was that our brother's precocity starved the other ovum of oxygen, causing it to split in two. I have read of these results obtained in some experiments. If he had not been there, probably one of us would never have been born. But as he was, we're both here, but we have problems as a result."

"As the English say `What you gain on the swings you lose on the roundabouts," commented Georg, philosophically.

"There is still a problem, at least I think there is, Emmette is not so sure. Twins don't actualment always agree," she laughed.

Georg felt it was time he began to speak for himself, "Before we get into that, I have a problem. Frankly, I have fallen in love with you... I know it is sudden. We hardly know each other. That is my problem. I have taken on commitments which I cannot duck, at least for the next few months. I will not be able to spend very much time in Paris. I can't ask you to drop everything and come to California to be near me, even if you felt the same way. You would be taking all the risks," he paused for her reaction.

"What I was going to say is very close to what you talked about. Now I see it more as a solution than a problem. If you decide, sometime in the future that you want to marry one of us, you must take the other, ”officiallmente”, as your mistress..." She warded off his response with her hand. 

"Before you respond, you should know that we could never marry to different men. It would tear us apart. I learned that in my first marriage. Perhaps you will be shocked, but I was at the point of asking Jean-Claud to take Emmette as a lover again, as they were lovers before we were married. They both thought, incorrectly, that I would be jealous, so they broke it off. Of course I would have had moments of jealousy, but that would have been nothing to the pain of loosing Emmette."

Georg sat quietly, this was really too much, she was saying in effect that they were a matched pair, take one, take the other. He only got to choose which one he married and which one was his mistress. There were probably laws against it, and think of the possibilities for blackmail. "What happens if you don't find a man agreeable to this... arrangement," he asked.

"There are two other options: neither of us marries, or one marries and the other is celibate. Perhaps the best solution would be for the celibate one to go into the Church."

"I don't see how this is a solution to the problem I mentioned," Georg called her attention back to him.

"Tres simple, you go back to California now with Emmette, as your mistress, if you wish. If, after a while, you decide to marry her, then I shall be your petite amie in Paris, or wherever you want to meet me. Else you come back to Paris, marry me, set up un ménage au tois. Alors, when your business takes you to California or les Etats-Unis, Emmette will remain your mistress."

Georg thought, `Neat eh! Then why am I hesitating. Odd though, Marie-Rose had made it a condition of having an affair with me that I must break with both girls. They are making it a condition that it must be kept in the family. Difference in generations? Marie-Rose knew something they didn't know? Sherlock Holmes! Where are you?'

Whatever was going on he was going to have to stop temporizing and make his choice. In this sense, he was …spoiled for variety. 

Once in the Bois they left the Royale in Giles capable hands and walked along the multiplicity of pathways, arm in arm, talking of everything and nothing as lovers do. Eventually the sun sank low and darkness began to gather. By that time Georg's love had grown from simple desire to a need to protect Martine from any hurt which might threaten her. She had vigorously reiterated her wish to faire l'amour with him, as soon as possible even without his declaration of which sister he wished to marry, or any promise to marry one. or the other. 

They cuddled cozily on the ride back into the city, where they drew up in front of the LeDoyen, one of the most famous, and expensive, restaurants in Paris. It nestled in the parkland alongside that stretch of the Champs Elysees between Franklin D. Roosevelt and the Place de la Concorde. Martine had asked to be taken to dinner there in celebration of their reunion. Even before they were sure they could get in, she dispatched Giles to the Hotel Plaza Athenee with Georg's luggage and to register him. He had further instructions to take the car directly back to the Chateau from the hotel, but not to garage it there until the Porsche had been relocated.

Perhaps someone had seen the car arrive, or Martine's title and beauty was enough, for they were admitted immediately and given the best table in the house. The dinner went extremely well, the best Georg had ever had. The only regret was that: later, for some reason, he could not remember the name of a single dish they had. 

They strolled away from the restaurant, seemingly sans soucis, mingling with the moviegoers along the Champs Elysees to the Avenue Montaigne where they turned toward the Plaza Athenee. In a small sidewalk cafe, just before the hotel, she treated him to Pernod, a latter day version of the infamous Absinthe, derived from wormwood, and sharing some of its reputation as an aphrodisiac, while they simultaneously savored and tortured themselves with anticipation of the pleasures to come. 

In their suite at last, the next several hours were consumed with the sights, scents and tactile sensations of mutual exploration of each other. The precise details of these hours, discretion demands that they be left behind a veil of respect for their privacy.

Sometime after midnight, Georg slept lightly, without dreams he could remember. His waking moments were plagued with a feeling that he now had all the facts needed to solve the myriad puzzles of the recent days, if his intellect was capable of sifting the pertinent facts from the chaff and arraying them correctly. Just after 6:30am, he came fully awake, an image of the camera shop they had passed on their walk back to the hotel burning into his consciousness. There was a silence outside, known only to a big city on a Sunday's early dawn. No chance the shop was open, or would be, anytime Sunday. 

What could he obtain there if he could get in? The storefront window was full of cameras, lenses... a tripod or two. He was sure he had everything useful