Dance by the Light of the Earth --- CHAPTER I & II


By G. Haven d'Amaury III [GHA]
(Copyright  ® 1987,  2011 ad     By: Gavin Embry)


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 mumbly-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; car engines, 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 company dog. . . not canine."

When the message finished, Allyne dialed his number, "Georg, wan'a 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. Your's 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 gray 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 himelf, he insisted her Indian ancestor wasn't a tribe, just a wandering Indian.

"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 my 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 Swartzenegger, 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 massages from a mutual friend. That was after he had 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 considera-tion as a next wife, ipso facto).

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.)

Allyne had spent evening previous to the 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 maybe 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 necessary adjunct 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 his waist, protecting his trousers from the oil and her from viewing his embarrassing “lunch-box” bulge.

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 her 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 his 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 her 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 a bodkin handy. I would have used it within a few minutes if were not saved by your phone call. As to your reward, if you really don't want one, right now, you better stop rewarding my tush... You will be the first man west of the Rockies to be sexually assaulted in his own gym by a greased pig before sunset... 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? Or doesn'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 power and privileges going 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, A.I.D.S. 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 most 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-room 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. Arrangements were 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, Allyne's 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 generally 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-pajama-parties which female stud-ents 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 character-istics. 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 fetus) 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 a Mensa skinny-dipper. 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, nether vile nor great' 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 never fall asleep unaware. I wasn't tired, only bored, when I started reading. Some of the book was vaguely 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 a reservation 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, "Does 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 quite 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. 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 sidelined, 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 some-thing. Then, her appearance, demeanor and dress: She was of average size, height and build, not overly voluptuous nor manikin thin. She wore only a gray suit, purse and shoes. She wore no jewelry except small gray 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, or sloped forehead. The simplicity and color of her costume shifted attention away from her figure. Which was erect, without being stiff, and promoting 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. Their 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 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 quarter 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 coopted 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. 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 is the 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 will 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.

"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 needs to 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 xan 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 reentered 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 said 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, Amorcito. 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, 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 percent 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 percent 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 whould 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 wanted to talk urgently. Georg replied simply, "Will do. Don't have any more adventures before lunch then."

"Gotcha! Adiosito," she had 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 gray-suede boots, jockey cap and a gray, 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 reentered 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 reenacting 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 relaunch 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 sociopolitical and environmental impact of high technology, especially genetic engineering and ULSI. . . er, ultra-very-micro-electronics. 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 myself, 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 planetfall. 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 four years each way, for messages between the Earth and the probe in the neighborhood of the star.

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 years to get a message back, then another four years 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 the idea I had 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 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 point two 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 Vietnam 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 Nobel Prize 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 Shakespearean 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.