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Jan 2, 2016

The Connatic's Library

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The League of Yrinna
Part 2: The Katenary Islands (Part 1)

The Pelorix Rhode departed from Trullion with Glinnes and Duissane on board. Since this was her first journey through space, simply exploring their cruise-ship was a great adventure for Duissane. She was delighted that every feature of the ship's interior had been crafted to evoke nautical charm with many sly hints of mythological events from the long human past. Some of the passengers were playing along and paraded through the decks dressed in jaunty costumes that matched the Pelorix Rhode's décor.

With Duissane enthusiastically pulling Glinnes along by the hand, they toured the theaters and recreation facilities before she discovered the shops of the Market Deck. Duissane was captivated by the diversity of displayed goods from every planet of the Cluster, but she was too busy people watching to do any serious shopping.

When the scheduled departure time arrived and the spaceship lifted off the surface of Trullion, there was no sound or large change in the ship's artificial gravity field. However, Duissane felt a sudden wave of dizziness and had to sit down for a few minutes.

With his arm around her shoulders, Glinnes explained, "Some people are very sensitive to changing gravitational fields. About five percent, based on data from Whelm recruits."

She closed her eyes and waited for a wave of nausea to recede. "This is not fun. Will the nausea go away?"

"Yes, it should. Do you want me to take you back to our cabin so you can rest?"

Duissane's vision (source).
"No, I'm feeling better already. That was so odd! My vision seemed to shift. For a second I was seeing a wild light show!"

"Lights?" Glinnes was mildly alarmed by Duissane's symptoms. "Maybe we should visit the ship's doctor."

Duissane rose to her feet and leaned against Glinnes. She closed her eyes once more and said, "Just hold me for a minute." Glinnes wrapped his arms around her and massaged her back. Soon she opened her eyes and started walking again. Ten minutes later she was back to being her usual buoyant self.

When dinner time approached, they returned to their cabin and Duissane dressed in one of the elegant gowns that she had purchased in Gaetu. Glinnes had the pleasure of watching her undress and then transform from a simple tourist into an enchanting nymph, quite suited to the themes and fanciful decorations of the ship.

While Duissane put the final touched to her costume, Glinnes picked up a thick book from the night stand. Although printed books were common on Trullion, he was surprised to see one on a modern luxury liner. He opened the book and fell into gazing at a garishly illustrated title page that simply said 'The Ship's Book' but then it was almost as if a voice said to him, "Next page". Thinking it was a cleverly roboticized book, he turned the page and saw another fanciful depiction, this one labeled: the Book of the Pelorix Rhode.

Again, almost as if commanded, Glinnes turned to the next page and he read out-loud: "On Old Earth, the mountainous island of Rhodes was watched over by two magical Dodeca, the nymph Rhode and the oread Muon. The Verft shipyard on Brevik (Alastor 23) is located upon that planet's own Island of Rhode and a giant transport spaceship named Rhode has been built there in each century. The Pelorix Rhode is now over 400 years old, but was recently upgraded to expand her first class accommodations and recreation facilities."

Duissane held her hands out to her sides and presented herself to Glinnes. "Do you think I'm silly and vain?" Glinnes looked up from the book and saw that, unusual for Duissane, she now had her face decorated. She had allowed the cabin's robma to paint her as a mythical nymph and the machine had intelligently accented the colors of her gown when it had applied her face paint.

Glinnes replied, "I don't care, I just like seeing you happy. You're beautiful, and I'm hungry." He jumped out of his chair, dropped the Book of the Pelorix Rhode on the floor and put his arms around Duissane. He kissed her face and discovered that her makeup was still slightly wet. He pushed back her curls and then started nibbling her ear, which had not been painted.

Duissane giggled and asked, "How do I taste?"

"Like a salty sea nymph."

Duissane gently pushed him away. "Oh, good. At dinner, every time someone at our table uses salt, I want you to use the word 'nymph' and think of the dessert you will have when we return here later tonight." Duissane insisted that Glinnes wear a jacket that hung in their closet, part of a military style costume that was provided for male passengers by the cruise line. After the robma made a few tailoring adjustments to the coat, Duissane took his hand and led the way to their assigned dinning room.

They were seated at a table for twelve and everyone introduced themselves. Glinnes and Duissane were the only ones at their table from Trullion. The Pelorix Rhode would be making two more stops along the way to Numenes, taking on and discharging passengers. Half of those at the table were bound for Numenes as tourists.

The couple to the left of Duissane were elderly; two retired teachers from Dreavero: Alastor 1921. After dessert was served, Magnes Vernih asked Duissane, "Is this your first time in space?"

"Yes, it is. How did you know?"

Magnes gestured towards the observation port, "You keep looking at the stars."

"I've never seen them so bright!"

"It is a trick, to enthrall tourists. The view screens amplify the star light."

Heshter Vernih noted, "In contrast, Glinnes seldom looks at the stars."

Magnes confirmed Heshter's observation, "Yes, he only has eyes for Duissane. Ah, to be young again!"

 Glinnes grinned and continued gazing into Duissane's golden eyes. He whispered to her, "My nymph."

Heshter sighed and swirled her spoon in her empty bowl, eliciting a strange musical squealing from the crystal. "I too am old, but in my heart I've never aged."

When Glinnes had gone into the Whelm and traveled to other worlds of the Cluster, he had become aware of the fact that on many planets the average age of the population was much older than on Trullion. Still, Magnes seemed exceptionally old and he apparently made little use of the sophisticated cosmetics technology that was available on the wealthy worlds of the Cluster. Glinnes could not restrain his curiosity, "Do you mind me asking, sir...how old are you?"

Duissane chastised him, "Don't ask such a question!"

Magnes laughed. "I don't mind this topic: I know I'm old. I have seen 183 years."

Glinnes explained his curiosity, "On Trullion, few people live into old age. Duissane and I just are not accustomed to seeing gray hair and wrinkles."

Heshter giggled and asked, "Oh, are my wrinkles showing? I should have followed the silly custom of the Pelorix Rhode and painted myself like a nymph. But I know it is wasted effort to compete with true beauties like Duissane."

Magnes patted his wife's hand, "Heshter still fights to keep her beauty, and with her lucky set of genes she has never had to fight very hard. I've given up pretending to be young. I have no fear of growing old and dying."

Duissane nodded towards Glinnes, "On our world, many people fear death, but I am not afraid."

Glinnes set down his bowl of iced juvsy and shrugged. "I don't want to die. I like to think that my fear of death has served me well and kept me alive."

Heshter was still feeling slightly queasy from having heard some tales of Glinnes' life of adventure. She'd even been told during the meal about how merlings had taken both Glinnes' sister and father to their deaths. "On Dreavero life is placid. Long ago there was strife, but then the two continents were divided between humans and the native Iidi. The Iidi were naturally peaceful and were in danger of being driven to extinction, but the Connatic set up Wilson's Land as their sanctuary. I'd hate to live on a world where my people were constantly at war with the natives. Why doesn't the Connatic find a solution to Trullion's woes?

Magnes suggested, "Humans could be kept ten miles from the sea. Surely that would end the merling war on Trullion."

Glinnes did not agree. "I grew up in the Fens, on an island. I would not want to be forced away from the ocean. No, the merlings are actually quite rational. If sensible precautions are taken, there is no danger. My sister brought trouble upon herself and my father. She was always wandering off and getting into trouble."

Heshter shook her head in dismay. "Children! Magnes and I had one child, 150 years ago. She was a wild one; always asking questions and arguing. She went into the Whelm and died in a raid on a starmenter base."

Duissane said confidently, "I'll have many children." She asked Heshter, "Why didn't you have more than just one?"

Magnes explained, "Heshter and I both had our careers to distract us. We've taught thousands of children. We were so busy with our teaching that we never found time to have a second child."

Glinnes had seen population flow diagrams for Alastor Cluster. "This I learned in the Whelm: most planets have trouble maintaining their population. A few worlds like Trullion actually have large families and a significant level of emigration. Without the rare worlds like Trullion where women take the time to be mothers, the human population of the Cluster would dwindle away. The rather primitive conditions on Trullion serve a useful purpose."

Heshter complained, "So your world must have warfare between humans and merlings in order to keep the women functioning as baby factories? The Connatic is cruel to rely on such a heartless scheme!"

Magnes took hold of his wife's hand, raised it to his lips and kissed. He suggested, "The Connatic is wise: he simply takes advantage of the Cluster's diversity."

Glinnes agreed, "The Connatic seldom acts. Recently he allowed a new war to flare up on Trullion. Duissane's father was killed."

Heshter exclaimed, "How horrible! It was better when Connatica Eleen ruled. She at least tried to get people talking about social change. Oman is next to invisible. He does nothing!"

"The latest rumor is that we will soon witness another coronation."

Duissane leaned towards Heshter, and speaking over the rim of her coffee cup said, "It is time for a change. Do you think the next Connatic will be a woman?"

"No. Wilken is next in line. And he's as hard-headed as Oman."

Magnes stood up and rubbed his hip. "Come, Glinnes, walk me around the observation deck. With all this sitting, my tired old hip is freezing up." Magnes bowed to Duissane and kissed her hand, "Do excuse me for taking Glinnes away from you for a few minutes." The two men departed from the dinning room.

Heshter asked Duissane, "What are your travel plans on Numenes?"

"We're going to the Connatic's Library."

"Wonderful. Which island are you staying on?"

"I don't know. Glinnes has made all of our travel arrangements."

"On our first trip to Numenes, Magnes and I visited the Library. We stayed on Chylick Island, which has a wild and distinctive polynese culture. My, how the years have flown! We were young enough to be a bit wild ourselves back then. Of course, we only saw a tiny slice of the Library. I wouldn't mind going back there sometime, but Numenes is too close to Dreavero; Magnes is always wanting to go visit more distant worlds. We've even been to Old Earth!"

Duissane rested her chin in a palm and gazed out at the stars. "I can't wait to reach Numenes. It will be my first look at another world!"

"Oh, my. That won't do. Tomorrow we'll have three hours of layover on Layerna. Come out with me and we'll do a quick tour of the area around the spaceport."

"I'd love to. I know nothing about Layerna."

"Well, it is famous for its high gravity, about at the limit of what humans can tolerate. Be sure to wear comfortable shoes when we go out. Of course, Magnes will stay on the Pelorix Rhode, protected by its artificial gravity. He's not a spry as he should be, but he refused to have his hip reconstructed again."

"I'll ask Glinnes if he wants to go out with us."

Heshter gave her head a shake. "My advice: don't smother the boy. As they say, absence makes the heart grow fonder. As it is, you'll be cooped up together in the ship far too much on the way to Numenes."

Duissane mused, "I can't seem to get enough of him. We've only been living together a week. I want to be with him all the time."

"Only a week? And you go rushing off to the Connatic's Library? My dear, anything you need to know about men and sex I can teach you right now. Start by not crowding your man."

Duissane laughed. "Glinnes is great teacher. He keeps telling that if I want good sex then I need to learn by doing. He gives such good advice!"

"Well, you are feeling the full enchant of love, which cheers my old heart. Why are you going to the Library? To hunt up a copy of the Kamasutra?"

"Kamasutra?"

"Never mind. That was a joke."

"Oh. It is quite simple, really, Glinnes wants to do some research into the lives of his ancestors and other residents of the Fens, the part of Trullion where he grew up."

"I'm sorry, but 'fens' makes me think of dank swamps and snails."

"The Fens are beautiful." A robot came to the table and cleared away the last remaining dishes and refilled the drinks. Again Duissane gazed out at the stars. "I've heard some people favorably compare the islands of the Fens to parts of Numenes. Of course, Trullion is very rural and has no megastructures."

"You'll be stupefied by the giant structures on Numenes. Each Connatic feels obliged to build something bigger and taller than anything constructed before. Oman built his silly space elevator, but with its limited capacity it is only used by government officials. Don't let me rant about the Connatic..." Heshter thought back across the decades. "Whichever island you stay at, the Library will be looming above you, like a great artificial sky."

Duissane had never heard about people living underneath a megastructure. "An artificial sky?"

"The foundations of the Library extend down into the heart of the largest islands of Pestraw Archipeligo, what the locals call the Katenary Islands. Each day an artificial sun shines down from the underside of the Library. At night there are artificial stars and the glowing threads of the elevator tubes. Every third day there is an artificial rain storm."

"I guess I never thought about the bottom of the Library. I assumed that the scholars and students lived in the library."

"Oh, yes. They do, but visiting tourists all stay on one of the Katenary islands at night and then ride on elevator cars each day, rising up to reach the Library."

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

When the Pelorix Rhode landed at Emmeney spaceport on Layerna the local time was near midnight. Although it was the middle of the day by ship's time, Glinnes had insisted that Duissane lie down on their bed in advance of planet fall.

Duissane teased him, "You'll do anything to get me into bed."

Glinnes allowed the robma to activate the cabin's view screen and show them the landing. When the Pelorix Rhode broke through a high cloud layer and the lights of Emmeney became visible, Duissane suddenly closed her eyes. "It's happening again."

Glinnes shut off the viewer and held Duissane close. She warned him, "I'm afraid I might decorate you with my lunch." She squeezed Glinnes and her fingers dug into his back.

"What is it?"

She relaxed a little. "I thought we were going to crash into the... clouds. Layers and layers of clouds. I can almost read them."

Glinnes asked her several questions, but she said no more until the ship had landed on the surface of Layerna. Finally Duissane opened her eyes. "That was strange."

"You were reading clouds?"

"They were not clouds. It was almost like I could read a message, but the message was not for me."

Glinnes was becoming increasingly alarmed by her strange comments. While in the Whelm, he'd seen other cases of gravitational sensitivity, but none like this. Of course, all recruits in the Whelm were warned about the condition and few wanted to complain about having a bad reaction to space travel -doing so might land a recruit on permanent planetary duty. Glinnes made Duissane promise to take some medicine that would treat her gravitational sensitivity before their next liftoff. "I don't think you should risk going out and leaving the ship's artificial gravity field."

In the end, Duissane would not be deprived of her outing. She wore a small radio transmitter on a chain around her neck. Glinnes said, "It is programmed to transmit to me. Just speak my name. If you step outside and get dizzy, just turn around and come back on-board."

Duissane was headed out the door to meet Heshter. "I'm fine. I don't think my visions have anything to do with gravity fields."


Duissane and Heshter left the ship along with a cadre of squat and muscular passengers who were returning to their home world. The Layernites were a distinct breed, selected through the centuries for their ability to thrive in the crushing gravity of Layerna.

They stepped out of the terminal and Duissane looked up at the night sky. She recognized features of the local constellations, tilted askew and somewhat magnified and distorted from what she had grown up seeing on Trullion.

The air was heavily scented with sweet fragrances emitted by the local citrus trees that were in full bloom. For a time Duissane and Heshter allowed themselves to be taken on an automated tour of the district, but then Heshter shut down their little tour car and guided Duissane on foot into a local market square.

Inside the the Pelorix Rhode, Magnes had latched onto Glinnes and they walked to the trail that wound its way through all of the great ship's observation lounges and decks. Making small talk, Magnes quizzed Glinnes about his ten years of service in the Whelm.

When they reached a small, unoccupied observation alcove (often used by lovers) Magnes sat down on a bench and gazed out into a projected view of the sun-lit surface of Layerna. He gestured towards the view screen, "Probably some park on the other side of the planet. The local time is in the middle of the night."

Glinnes was still worrying about Duissane. He took one last look at his radio receiver and saw that her heart and respiration rates were elevated, but in the expected range for accommodation to Layerna's powerful gravitation field.

Magnes was still speaking and as he talked, the old man's voice seemed to change, taking on a tone that was stronger and more lilting, seemingly feminine, yet somehow distorted and artificial. "Sit down, Glinnes, and brace yourself, I'm going to make a speech." Something about Magnes' new voice seemed familiar to Glinnes.

Glinnes sat down rather reluctantly, fearing more advice from Magnes about how to entertain Duissane and which tourist sites to show her on Numenes. He rubbed his forehead and whispered, "I should expect such things from a mentor."

"Magnes the Mentor! That has a ring, but on Dreavero he is simply called 'Instructor Magnes'. Years ago, I made use of him to study the history of the Iidi. When I found that he was on this ship, I returned to him so I could have this chat with you."

Glinnes was perplexed: why was Magnes suddenly using someone else's voice and speaking about himself in third person? He asked, "Who studied the Iidi?"

"I've studied many of the native humanoids of the Cluster, always by making use of some scholar like Magnes to do the dreary research. The pattern is clear: not all of species now residing in Alastor Cluster originated here. The Iidi are a good example."

Glinnes protested, "Excuse me sir, are you telling me that you are not Magnes Vernih?"

"Correct. And you can call me madam. I'm just using his body temporarily, for convenience. Isn't this better than talking to a book?"

"The book!" Glinnes realized that Magnes was now speaking in the same archaic voice that he had heard while in his cabin and holding the Book of the Pelorix Rhode. Suddenly he could recall having had a half dozen brief conversations with the book during the past day, each one occurring whenever he'd picked it up and thumbed through it, usually while waiting for Duissane.

"Most people prefer talking to another person."

"What's wrong with my memory? How could I have forgotten a talking book? And why didn't Duissane believe me when I told her about a book speaking to me?"

"Well, of course the book was not talking. Anyhow, I had to erase her memories of all that... no point in making her think that you are crazy."

Glinnes demanded, "What's going on?"

Don't freak out, Glinnes, or I'll have to erase and start over again.

"You are inside my mind." Glinnes had noticed that the lips of Magnes has stopped moving, but the "voice" continued.

Don't let that worry you. It's part of the human condition. Or rather, the humanoid condition. The Iidi provide a good alien example from the relatively recent past. When their planet was sucked into the Cluster, they lost their old-style pek endosymbionts and were able to become hosts for the Phari. That's what Alastor Cluster does to all the humanoid species that evolve in the galaxy.

Glinnes was able to not freak out because he now remembered the earlier conversations he'd had with this "voice" in his head. Glinnes had no choice but to interpret this "voice" as a spirit that was haunting him. He asked, "Who are you?"

Hm, let me see. What answer can I give you that would mean something sensible to you? I was born as Arabella Clarke, on Old Earth, back in the pre-space age 20th century, but I had the good fortune to be immortalized.

Nothing that Arabella was saying surprised Glinnes: it all fit into his thought pattern, activating old memories that had been strongly suppressed. "Immortalized? What does that mean?

Like all Earthlings, my biological body was host to a pek endosymbiont. That endosymbiont kept a record of all my thoughts and memories and eventually an artificial life form was constructed with what you might call the heart, mind and soul of Arabella, packaged up in hierions as an immortal being.

"You've told me this before."

Repetition is good for human brains.

Glinnes sat there tracing the linkages of his memories back into the past, to when he had first been contacted by Arabella. The links continued all the way back to Trullion. "It was you that reminded me where the messenger lived!"

Precisely. I had to spell it out for you. Without my help you never would have found the missing ransom money.

"Why are you helping me?"

You are perfect for the next step in our investigation of the Phari. Now stop asking questions and listen. I need to prepare you for what to expect on Numenes.

"What do you mean 'our investigation'?" Who are you working with?

You'll find out, eventually. I can't tell you everything at this time, so hush! At Numenes you must go to the University of Lavaida and visit with the head of the Department of Cryptesthesiology.

Why? Glinnes realized that he had also stopped speaking. He was in direct mental contact with this "voice". Why are you telling me this?

Don't worry. Your education in the field of Cryptesthesiology won't deflect you from your effort to learn about your past and the history of the Fens. In fact, no matter how crazy things get, you'll just keep on being you. I mean, I'm going to once again block your access to most memories of me, so you will continue being a typical Trill, ignorant of the role you are playing in Humanity's battle with the Phari.

Glinnes was unnerved by the idea of a secret war. Who are these Phari? Are you saying that humans are at war against them?

Inspector Ravensroke will brief you on that. He and his wife are the experts, having discovered the Phari. Arabella was reluctant to provide any additional details. What can I tell you? Perhaps it is worth mentioning that dark matter was the key to discovering the Phari.

Glinnes was intrigued by Arabella's mention of dark matter. What does dark matter have to do with it?

It was their investigation of dark matter anomalies that first brought Isaac and Jackie to Alastor Cluster. You were trained by the Whelm, so you know all about the Cluster's gravitational anomaly.

It was well known that the stars in Alastor Cluster were more tightly gravitationally bound than could be accounted for by the conventional matter in its stars. Yes, I was taught about that as a trainee.

Alastor Cluster has almost 1000 times more dark matter than conventional matter. What is not very widely known is another strange astronomical fact: the Cluster's unusual trajectory. The entire cluster is not in a simple orbit around the galactic core. It is being guided and its momentum slowly shifted. Alastor Cluster is like a giant spaceship, being flown around the galaxy.

Glinnes objected: That's crazy! What could shove an entire star Cluster around?

The Phari. Oh, we don't know how, but Glisten says it is true.

Glinnes was baffled by all of the name dropping. Who is Glisten?

She's Inspector Ravensroke's partner. You'll meet them both. She was the first person to make sustained contact with the Phari.

Glinnes paused while a couple strolled past the bench where he and Magnes sat. He briefly wondered if others, perhaps Duissane could also be made to hear this "voice". "I still don't understand what you mean by 'Phari'."

They are apparently the remnants of the most ancient humanoid species that evolved in our galaxy. Now, they only exist as an artificial life form, composed of hierions and sedrons. For billions of years they have guided and absorbed every humanoid species that arose in the galaxy. Apparently Earth is next in their sights.

Glinnes fell back into communicating without speaking. So, these alien Phari are at war with Earth?

In a sense. In fact, if the adjustments to Alastor Cluster's trajectory continue, then in 3 million years Earth will merge into the Cluster.

Glinnes was astounded by that idea. Earth will become part of Alastor Cluster?

According to Glisten, that is what the Phari are working towards. Dreavero's star was pulled into the Cluster and the Iidi are the species that was most recently absorbed by the Phari.

Absorbed?

There is much to explain, some of which I can't tell you right now. Not yet. Look, I told you about my endosymbiont. All humans have one. As a human, you have your own endosymbiont residing in your body. The Phari endosymbionts are different. All the humanoids of Alastor Cluster are part biological, part Phari endosymbiont. Glisten thinks that the Phari want to become the new human endosymbionts, replacing our current type of endosymbiont.

What exactly are these endosymbionts? I don't like the idea of some other entity residing inside my body.

Well, that is not the only way to look at it, Glinnes. Part of what makes you Glinnes Hulden is your endosymbiont. In fact, you could not survive without your endosymbiont. It is part of you... an important part. The spooky thing is that your current endosymbiont could be extracted from your body and replaced by a Phari.

I still don't understand why you are telling me about this. Why not tell everyone? Let the Connatic and the Whelm deal with these Phari.

The royal family might already be in the grip of the Phari. For thousands of years, humans in the Cluster have been selected and bred to make them suitable hosts for the Phari.  According to Glisten, the Idite dynasty was installed as the rulers of the Cluster because they can be controlled by the Phari.

Wait. Iidi...  Idite, are you saying that the Connatic is not human?

The Idites originated on Dreavero. Inspector Ravensroke's theory is that the Iidi, having most recently been given Phari endosymbionts, could be used as a model for selecting and breeding humans... for making humans that are easy for the Phari to control.

Glinnes jumped to his feet and began pacing between the view screen and the bench where Magnes sat. "I must warn the Whelm. Or do they already know? Admiral Lane had something he wanted to tell me..."

Me and my colleagues have already informed the Whelm High Command of our on-going research. But you are getting too excited, so I'm going to have to shut this down. Enjoy your visit to Numenes. You'll only be there long enough to get your mission assignment.

Glinnes wanted to ask more questions, but he could no longer control his body. He sat on the bench and slumped against Magnes. His memories were carefully adjusted and then his consciousness slowly returned with Magnes droning on about his teaching duties and the academic subjects that he had specialized in. Glinnes yawned and Magnes slapped his leg. "Sorry to bore you, Glinnes. Let's walk some more." They resumed walking along the foot path that led between observation ports.

Glinnes was unable to remember falling unconscious and only a few key fragments of the conversation that he'd had with Arabella remained adrift in his consciousness like sea foam.

Soon they came to one of the many bars that were located along the trail, this one called Monk Whiskey. Magnes led Glinnes inside the dimly-lit establishment. Magnes ordered an obscure blended whiskey and Glinnes drank ale. View screens to the side of each table showed a hussade match, already in progress. The top team of the Whelm, the Demmulney Dragons was playing an exhibition game against the championship team of Nant: Alastor 392, the Tasmin Devils.

Magnes was not a hussade fan and he continued to speak in his rambling way, now describing far worlds that he and Heshter had visited, but he noticed Glinnes watching the match. "Do you follow hussade?"

Glinnes nodded. "I just retired from the Whelm. The Dragons trounced my team a few months ago during the annual All Fleets Competition. Now the Dragons are touring the Cluster. It is a publicity stunt for the Whelm and not much fun. I went through it a few times myself."

"You must be a talented player to have been on a championship team. I assumed that you were some kind of scholar." For a minute Magnes watched the view screen. "Still, you will enjoy the Connatic's Library. I'd rank it favorably even if compared to the great libraries of Earth."

Glinnes gulped some ale. "I'm particularly interested in space pirates. When I was in the Whelm I dreamed of hunting down pirates, but I never qualified for patrol duty."

Magnes shook his head. "Worlds like Dreavero are well defended. With a sustained effort, all the worlds of the Cluster could be defended and the starmenters would give up and move off towards the Beyond."

"Poor world's like Trullion can't afford orbital forts and constant Whelm patrols."

"But you can afford to pay ransom money to the starmenters. That makes no sense." Magnes finished his drink and stood up. "Let's make our way towards the dock tubes, the girls should be returning from their jaunt."

Glinnes was amused by the way that Magnes still referred to his wife as a girl. He checked the time and briefly wondered what he would do should Duissane get delayed and fail to return to the Pelorix Rhode before the scheduled departure from Emmeney. But Duissane and Heshter were back aboard a full half hour before the passenger gates closed.

Back in their cabin, Duissane showed Glinnes her purchases from the shops that she and Heshter had visited on planet Layerna. While modeling her new outfits, she casually asked, "What trouble did you and Magnes get into?"

"We went to the infirmary and got you some medicine to treat your gravitational sensitivity. Here, swallow this."

First Duissane read the provided information about the remedy. "Effective in about 55% percent of cases."

Glinnes shrugged. "If this one is not effective then we'll try another treatment." Glinnes felt like there was something he needed to tell Duissane, but all he could remember was a bunch of old stories that Magnes had told from his time as a mentor. He sat on their bed, not far from the Book of the Ship. Suddenly a thought popped into Glinnes' head. "Magnes told me that the University of Lavaida has a vast amounts of genealogical data. It will be a good place to start my research in the Connatic's Library."

Duissane nodded, "Heshter mentioned that she and Magnes had visited the Library long ago." She'd finished showing off all the new clothing that she had bought on Layerna. Now she unstrapped the knife sheath from her leg and stepped close to Glinnes. He could see that the leather strap had made a bruise on her leg. "The gravity was brutal out there. My legs swelled up before I thought to loosen the strap."

Glinnes leaned over and gently kissed her leg. She pushed him over, tumbling him across the bed and she jumped onto the bed with him. "Move over. Fighting all that gravity wore me out... I need a nap." She snuggled with him on the bed and told him about the sights and smells of Emmeney. "The market was mostly deserted, but robots were on duty and sold us anything we wanted to buy. The night was rich with the smell of blossoms. I wish you'd come with me."

When the Pelorix Rhode took off, Duissane closed her eyes and emitted a small shriek of startlement. "They don't want me to go!"

Glinnes, startled by her sudden shout, felt helpless in the face of her continued attacks of gravitational sensitivity. He sputtered, "Wh-who?"

Duissane fell silent until they were again in deep space. Her eyes popped open and she focused on Glinnes. "Glinnes!" For a minute she just rested in his embrace. "I thought I would not make it back."

He tried to pull her to her feet. "I'm taking you to the doctor."

She refused to leave their bed. "Just hold me." They spent the rest of the day there. Eventually Duissane fell asleep. Glinnes lay there next to her, trying to make sense of what Duissane was going through during takeoffs and landings. He used the robma to make an appointmet for Duissane with the ship's doctor.

Glancing at the Book of the Ship, his thoughts turned to Magnes the mentor. Glinnes tried to reconstruct his strangely disjointed memories about what Magnes had said concerning the University of Lavaida. Finally he used the robma to access information about the Connatic's Library and the many scholarly institutions that were located there. For some reason he noticed the Department of Cryptesthesiology among the hundreds of listed academic departments at the University of Lavaida. He was still reading when Duissane awoke. She seemed completely refreshed after the nap. She pushed away the robma and said, "Come take a shower with me, then we'll go to dinner."

At dinner, Magnes was back to being himself and neither he nor Glinnes were conscious of any reason why he shouldn't be.

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

The next day, the Pelorix Rhode was scheduled to land on Dreavero. Glinnes took Duissane to the infirmary. When the busy doctor finally met with them, he was reading her file as he entered the examination room. He held out his hand to Duissane and said, "Doctor Eski." She shook his hand while staring at his hair. What at first glance was an unruly red mop, upon closer inspection seemed to writhe and crawl over his scalp. Finally she realized his head decoration was part of the ship's mythology theme.

Surprised by her strong grip, Eski looked up and caught her watching his hair. He switched off the decorative display hologram. "I often pretend to be the famous Doctor Medusa. It usually entertains the children. With your motion sickness, I should have turned it off before coming in." He was only a few years into his practice and had a thick accent that was characteristic of people from the Apex Worlds.

"I don't get motion sickness easily."

"Mmm. Sometimes motion sickness and gravitational sensitivity are linked." He was surprised that there were no genetic records available for Duissane. "I want your genome." He handed her a sterile swab which she swiped around inside her mouth then inserted into his genomex. Glancing over his shoulder at Glinnes he casually asked, "Are you two on a helioseleen?"

Uncertain if she had heard him correctly, Duissane asked, "Seen what?"

The doctor laughed. "It is an ancient Earth term: helioseleen. Young lovers on vacation together for a few weeks."

"Ah, we Trevanyi call it a dulcilune." She smiled and looked at Glinnes. "The Trills just say that the lovers go off to 'visit friends'."

Eski was about to ask about their travel destination, but Duissane's genome data were now available. He read through the report, looking for the known gene patterns that would cause gravitational sensitivity. "Strange. Based on your set of genes, there is less than a zero-point-five percent chance of you having gravitational sensitivity."

He made Duissane wear a diaghelm for a minute. Dr. Eski summarized the test results, "There's nothing wrong with your vision or your inner ears. Tell me about the visions or hallucinations you've had."

Not knowing how to describe what she had experienced, Duissane shrugged and murmured, "It was like dreaming. I'm not really concerned, but Glinnes insisted that I come see you."

Eski again reviewed her genome data. "Hmm... there is something odd about your sleep regulatory gene pattern. Have you been getting enough sleep?"

Duissane blushed pink, "Well, there have been so many other things to do..."

Eski nodded. "Right." The doctor glared at Glinnes and said, "Why don't you two cool it for a while and make sure that Duissane gets enough sleep." He touched a small device to her communicator pendant. "I just programmed your pendant to monitor your sleep pattern and transmit the results back here to the infirmary for analysis. You might have some unusual form of gravitational sensitivity that triggers a sleep-like pattern of brain activity. And here, take this." He gave her a small vial. "It is the most likely medicine to help you, if indeed this is gravitational sensitivity. But I think it is something else. If I had free time, I'd study you. How much longer will you be on the Pelorix Rhode?"

"Only until we reach Numenes."

"Okay. Try the new medicine and let me know if it helps. Good luck and enjoy your dulcilune." He bowed to Duissane, led her out of the room and took Glinnes aside. In low tones he explained, "You might not know this, but the Trevanyi have an unusual reproductive physiology. When the females become sexually active, their ovaries start to function. Duissane is going through major hormonal shifts and brain circuit remodeling right now. So, doctor's orders: find her something to do other than making love all the time."

From a young age Glinnes had heard rumors about Trevanyi girls being sexual athletes and Duissane's behavior during the past ten days had seemed to confirm it, but he'd never heard that there was a real biological basis for the rumors. "I will, but I don't understand how her desire to have sex could cause hallucinations."

Eski shrugged, "Unfortunately there has been almost no published research on Trevanyi brain physiology." The doctor rushed off to his next patient and a robotic nurse guided Glinnes and Duissane out of the infirmary.

As their space cruiser approached Dreavero, Glinnes and Duissane said farewell to Magnes and Heshter Vernih. Again they waited in their cabin during the landing and again Duissane had a difficult time, reporting more cloud-like visions. During the lay-over on Dreavero, Doctor Eski gave Duissane one more drug for her to try during liftoff, but like the other medicines, it did not solve her problem.

Once again cruising through space, Duissane quickly forgot about the Vernihs and her strange visions. She was bubbling with excitement over their next port of call: Numenes. Her periods of nausea and disorientation were not fun, but she had already come to accept them.

In search of ways to expend their energies outside of the privacy of their cabin, Glinnes and Duissane visited the recreation deck. Duissane complained, "What kind of quack is Eski, setting a limit on our love making?"

Glinnes was philosophical, "We'll have many long years to explore each other's bodies." They strolled along the recreation deck and passed a rather explicitly sexy sign for a pool where passengers could receive high-diving lessons. Glancing in through the entrance gate, they could tell that the wearing of swimsuits was optional. "And if you don't like Eski's advice, we'll be off his ship in just one more day."

They were now passing a music hall and could hear the sound of a band. Already knowing the answer, Duissane asked Glinnes, "You don't play any musical instruments?"

"My mother couldn't interest either me or Glay in music. If you want to participate in one of the passengers' music activities, I'd be happy to watch."

"No, I want to do something fun with you." They continued walking through the recreation deck.

Glinnes pointed at one of the recreation facilities and said, "Here, this is fun. I played this game some when I was in the Whelm."

Duissane read the sign, "Golf?"

They entered the golf range and Glinnes showed her how to swing a stylized club inside the simulator. Computers monitored the swings and simulated the movement of a golf ball for each player. They quickly discovered that Duissane as a knack for the game. After the first few holes on the simulated course, she was easily beating Glinnes. She said, "It is like throwing a knife, but you don't let go of the club." The simulator automatically imposed handicaps to keep game play competitive. By making Duissane's required swing precision increasingly constrained, they ended up finishing the round with Gliness only a few strokes behind.

Glinnes asked, "Was that fun?"

"Yes. I hope you did not mind losing to a beginner."

"You are amazingly good. It is fascinating to watch the way you move."

"You should see me juggling with half a dozen knives flying above my head."

Glinnes pointed to another sign up along the concourse. "There. Come on."

They entered another section of the recreation deck where Duissane was shown how to use a holographic juggling simulator. She would juggle a set of well balanced rods and holographic images would be superimposed over the flying rods. She asked to start with just the rods and the projector switched off and she quickly adapted to the feel of the rods. Soon she had six of them flying at once.

Duissane now felt ready to try the holographic display. She casually flipped one of the rods end-for-end and said to Glinnes, "These are like the wooden training rods I first used, before I touched a knife."

The holographic projector came on and created the illusion that she was throwing knives. A crowd began to gather and watch. Soon she had the air full of flying blades: 6, 8, 10... then she lost control. Laughing she turned off the simulator and those who had gathered applauded.

A crew member of the Pelorix Rhode approached Glinnes and Duissane. She introduced herself as Trainer Lauden. She asked Duissane, "Would you perform some knife juggling in the theater tonight?"

Duissane asked, "Real knives?"

Lauden laughed. "Just using a simulator. It will appear to the audience that you are using knives."

Duissane said, "I could, but I'm suppose to be getting my rest." She looked at Glinnes.

"As long as she would not have to be out too late, it should be fine."

Duissane's after-dinner performance in the theater went well. Her juggling performance had been written into a scene of a scheduled play. After the play ended, they mingled with the cast and passengers for a time, then she managed to get to sleep before midnight, ship's time. Glinnes found it difficult to sleep and he was up late, reading the Book of the Ship.

During the next few days, Glinnes occasionally remembered Magnes, and at times it was almost as if he could hear Magnes speaking to him, in high-pitched, almost womanly voice.

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

2.  The Pelorix Rhode often carried passengers who were on their way to Numenes, but cruise ships seldom landed on the Capitol world. Like most passenger cruisers, Pelorix Rhode only got as close to Numenes as Blazon Spaceport. There, passengers debarked and boarded a shuttle that would drop down from space and deliver them to the particular part of Numenes that was their destination.

While waiting for their connection to the Connatic's Library, Glinnes and Duissane explored the Spaceport. View screens showed the coming and going of many spaceships against the backdrop of stars and the nearby planet, Blazon. Numenes was still a hundred million miles away.

Duissane paused to look upon Blazon, an uninhabited world with a thick atmosphere and a solid white cloud layer. She imagined that there was a message for her written in the clouds. It was as if she could reach out and..."

Glinnes had an arm around Duissane and he noticed that he could feel her ribs protruding slightly with each breath that she drew. He'd come to know her as energetic and constantly moving, and quite able to best him in physical competitions. She never seemed very interested in food and he wondered if she had enough body fat to even support an ovulatory cycle. He suggested, "How about lunch?"

She shrugged and seemed to have trouble pulling her eyes off of the bright planet below them. She quietly said, "Yes, fine." Another minute passed and she looked at Glinnes. "Oh, Glinnes. There you are."

He'd gotten somewhat used to her enigmatic statements. Clearly there were intriguing aspects of the universe that she saw at certain times and in places where Glinnes perceived nothing out of the ordinary. He told himself that while he had seen many planets in his travels, looking upon the face of a world was new for her. Surely her inexperience as a space traveler explained her mysterious behavior?

Among the many dining houses that were scattered through the spaceport, Glinnes selected the Aspir Tukey for their lunch. Glinnes said, "I seem to remember eating here once, when I was in the Whelm." Strangely, he also seemed to remember Magnes mentioning this particular restaurant.

Inside the Aspir Tukey, the robotic matradee said to Glinnes, "The rest of your party is already here."

Suspecting an error, Glinnes asked, "Our party?"

The machine double-checked the reservation and its visual recognition system. "You are Glinnes Hulden and Duissane Drosset, correct? No mistake, sir. Please follow me to your table."

Glinnes and Duissane were led to a table for four with a view out into space. A young man in a uniform of the Whelm Special Services stood up and greeted them, "I'm Inspector Ravensroke. Admiral Lane asked me to contact you upon your arrival in system." He shook Glinnes' hand. "Glinnes, welcome to Blazon." He bowed to Duissane, "Welcome, Lady Drosset. And this is my wife, Glisten." They all sat down and ordered their lunch.

Strangely, Glinnes felt like he already knew Jantiff and Glisten Ravensroke. Duissane and Glisten began talking about the Ravensroke's children and Glinnes asked Jantiff, "What is the message from Admiral Lane?"

Jantiff explained, "It concerns Bela Gazzardo."

"I heard the name on Trullion."

"It is an ancient name, from the legends of the early Cluster, before the first Connatic. Bela was a pirate, some say she was the first member of the League of Yrinna to reach Alastor Cluster."

Glinnes had never studied ancient history. "But Admiral Lane described Gazzardo as an active space pirate, from a few decades ago, during his early career in the Whelm."

Jantiff shrugged. "These days, the term 'Bela Gazzardo' is used like a label for a certain type of pirate, much like the term 'galactic fringe pirate' might be used. Down through the millennia, some pirates have always used the names 'Bela' and 'Gazzardo' as cover identities. The search for information about the original 'Bela Gazzardo' is a kind of joke among historians, almost like saying 'wild goose chase'."

"I see." Glinnes noticed that Glisten and Duissane were now listening to him. "I guess that means that there is no way to really know who Lord Gensifer was referring to. You mentioned the League of Yrinna?"

"The League of Yrinna is an organizations of space pirates, going far back into the early centuries of space exploration."

"I wonder... might there be some link between Lord Gensifer and the League of Yrinna?"

Glisten nodded, "We're still investigating the ultimate fate of one particular 'Gazzardo' from thirty years ago who was also known as 'Gaz the Razor'. Often space pirates seek to hide their identity, but in this case it is possible that Lord Gensifer knew the pirate's true identity and he was purposively using the the pseudonym 'Bela Gazzardo' in order to conceal the identity of a particular contact among the pirates, someone well known to his family for many years."

Glinnes had never heard of Lord Gensiver mention any living relatives. "Family? I thought he was the last of the Gensifers."

Jantiff shared what he and Glisten had already discovered about the Gensifer family: "He was the last member of his family on Trullion. However, other members of the Gensifer clan are alive and well on Yrinna: Alastor 2385."

For a time the two couples ate and the conversation was general, mostly about the megastructures of Numenes. Glinnes eventually mentioned his plan to visit the University of Lavaida and investigate the family histories of the Ambal and Gensifer clans.

As was often the case, Duissane was gazing out at the stars. Hearing mentioned Lord Gensifer again, Duissane shuddered. She wondered out loud, "Tammi always acted like he was the last Gensifer." She turned her head and spoke to Glisten, "He told me he wanted me to produce a dozen children for him. Why would Tammi hide the existence of his family on Yrinna?"

Jantiff asked, "Tammi?"

Glisten chuckled, "I assume she is referring to Lord Thammas Gensifer."

Glinnes nodded, "We started calling him 'Tammi' when he was pretending to be a hussade captain. It was quite comical watching a stiff-legged aristocrat trying to play hussade."

Glisten gave Glinnes and Duissane some more background information. "There are some powerful and ancient families that have lived on Yrinna since the fabled time of Bela Gazzardo. There is nothing in the official record about the Gensifers of Yrinna beyond their long existence on that planet. Those clans each have their own private estates and they have never delt with the Whelm or even participated in a census."

Glinnes asked, "Are you suggesting that the Gensifers originated as space pirates in the pre-Connatic era?"

Jantiff replied, "Who knows? What we need is a spy. Someone who can penetrate the secretive clans of Yrinna and obtain some facts."

Glisten glared at Jantiff and said warily, "Don't even think about volunteering to go to Yrinna. We're going back to Zeck and taking our accumulated leave time. All of it!"

Just then, his bionic communications device signaled a priority message from Ryl Schermatz. Jantiff quickly assimilated the contents of the message. He laughed and told Glisten. "I did volunteer to visit Yrinna, but Ryl has another victim picked out."

Glinnes was surprised to hear mention of the Inspector. "You know Ryl Shermatz?"

Jantiff seemed to take some miscievious pleasure in breaking the news: "Of course, and it is you that Shermatz is sending to Yrinna!"

Glinnes wondered if Jantiff was joking. "Surely not? I've only just heard of the place. Although I seem to recall someone telling me about Yrinna's odd style of hussade."

Jantiff had reviewed the basic shape of social organization and the culture on Yrinna. "They have an interesting variant of the game on Yrinna, with no water."

Now Glinnes could recall what he'd heard about the playing of hussade on Yrinna. "That's right! When I was in the Whelm, one of my team mates told me about that. Beneath the runs there is only air."

Duissane was reminded of Loreene's hussade dream. She said with dread, "Oh, no... now I understand. Shermatz wants us to go to Yrinna and play hussade."

Glinnes looked at Duissane with fascination. She was pale and a look of terror was on her face. What she had said sounded crazy to Glinnes, yet somehow he knew it was true.

Jantiff described the plan that Schermatz had formulated: "After you complete your stay on Numenes, I'll issue a warrant for the arrest of Glinnes Hulden, fugitive and thief of 30,000,000 ozols." He nodded to Glinnes, "You will then go under cover, using a false name and hide on Yrinna. We've arranged for you to join the Demmulney Dragons who are going to Yrinna on their exhibition tour."

Glinnes objected, "I can't join the Demmulney Fleet's hussade team. I'm no longer in the Whelm."

"I've already altered the official personnel records of the Whelm so as to create a new identity for you. Should anyone ever investigate, they will find that you work in Special Services and details of your early life are secret. You can invent any background details for your new identity that you feel comfortable with."

Glinnes mused, "It would be interesting to play for the Dragons. My team lost to them in the playoffs earlier this year. Some of the players might recognize me."

Jantiff shook his head, "Well make some changes, including new eye and hair color."

"Interesting. Duissane has been making me play dress-up games. I already feel like a master of disguises."

Glisten complained to Jantiff, "It sounds like Glinnes is crazy enough to go along with this plan, but Ryle can't do this to Duissane!"

Duissane reached out and took hold of Glisten's hand. "No, it is alright, this is our destiny." Duissane turned her head and once again seemed to be staring off into the depths of space, but her lips were moving, almost as if she were in whispered conversation with the stars.

Glinnes, intrigued by the far away look in Duissane's eyes nervously chuckled, "What do you mean?" Then, suddenly he could 'hear' the voice of Arabella: I have shown her your destiny. His memories of past discussions with Arabella flooded into Glinnes' consciousness. He asked angrily, "Why are you toying with her mind?"

Jantiff asked, "Who are you talking to, Glinnes?"

"Sh!" Glisten explained, "Both Glinnes and Duissane are in contact with Arabella."

Jantiff looked back and forth from Glinnes to Duissane. He muttered, "Now I understand why Ryl selected you."

Glisten now "spoke" to Glinnes and Duissane without words, using Arabella as a medium to connect their minds: Janty can't communicate with Arabella. There are not many of us who can become consciously linked to the Hierion Domain.

Glinnes wondered, "Hierion Domain?"

Sending the information directly in Glinnes' brain, Arabella said: You will go to Numenes and learn about the Hierion Domain before you journey to Yrinna.

Jantiff asked, "Why have have you all gone quiet?" He snarled at Glisten, "This 'Arabella' is becoming a major annoyance!"

Glinnes could also sense Duissane in his mind. She 'said' enigmatically: It is another dimension where souls like Arabella and the Phari reside.

Glisten added: We need both of you to visit Yrinna and reveal the human population there that is in contact with the Phari. But time presses: I'll let Dr. Lamre provide your mission briefing. I'm eager to get back home to my children.

Glisten now spoke again to Jantiff, "Arabella was just here, but she's done with us for now."

Glinnes and Duissane now both slumped into unconsciousness. Glisten and Jantiff jumped up and went to support them, preventing them from falling out of their chairs. Glisten said, "Arabella is editing their memories."

A concerned robot came to the table, "Do you need assistance?"

Glisten ordered the machine away, "Bring me a pitcher of ice water!"

Jantiff was annoyed. He muttered to Glisten, "I don't like Glinnes and Duissane being tricked into going to Yrinna. It is dangerous. They should be allowed to decide."

Glisten nodded in agreement, "They will get to decide, when the time comes. This is not the time to worry about that or even mention it."

The robot returned with the water and glasses. Slowly Glinnes and Duissane returned to consciousness. Duissane said, "I feel tired. Did I doze off?"

Glisten replied, "You've had a busy day. If you like, you can now board you shuttle and take a nap."

Glinnes rubbed his eyes and tried to remember why Jantiff was holding him by the shoulders. He tried to reconstruct his memory train... they had been discussing hussade and then...

Jantiff helped Glinnes to his feet. "Yes, let's go find your departure gate. We'll have to abandon you there. Our flight to Zeck departs within the hour."

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

3. The shuttle carrying Glinnes and Duissane dropped into the atmosphere of Numenes. Glinnes watched the landing sequence and held Duissane's hand.

Duissane was sleeping and Glinnes hoped that she might have an easier time if she slept through the landing. He wondered: could her symptoms of gravitational sensitivity possibly be psychosomatic? Glinnes could see her eyes dancing under her eyelids.

Arabella: Each world has its own Hierion Nexus.

Duissane: Yes, I swim through the ocean of the Phari souls.

Arabella: How I envy you! Sadly, I am blind What do you see?

Duissane: Words... written is sea foam. Sadly, we humans lack the ability to read foam. It is a code. If I could only find the key...

Arabella: Stop! This is not the time!

Duissane: I must...

Duissane emerged into full waking consciousness and vomited. A robotic steward was quickly at her side, cleaning. Glinnes watched helplessly, intrigued by the beads of perspiration that had suddenly formed on her skin.

When the retching subsided, Duissane relaxed back into her seat and asked for water. The robot quickly brought a p-tube of rehi. Duissane drank some of the liquid then rested the cool tube against the hot skin of her face. The shuttle landed and Duissane felt her vertigo quickly dissipate. She looked at Glinnes and said cheerfully, "Numenes!"

Glinnes wondered if he should take Duissane to the Connatic's Hospital, but again that concept seemed to slip from his thoughts, replaced quickly by the conviction that he must pursue his research. When that task is complete, then you can seek a cure for Duissane's sickness....

A half hour later, Glinnes and Duissane emerged from the downport, walking hand-in-hand. Like the other tourists around them, they paused and gawked at the Library, the stupefyingly huge mega-structure, cloud-decorated and rising into the sky while defying their ability to judge its size and distance. Duissane whispered, "It looks like it is floating in the sky."

Intellectually, Glinnes knew that the Library could float, but it was anchored to the planet's crust by a dozen 'roots' that penetrated into the Katenary Islands. Squinting into the haze, he could see some of the 'roots' on the horizon. He signaled to the robotic porter that carried their bags and led the way towards the slipline.

They were whisked to the sea port and carried along with the human tide of tourists to the dock. Ten minutes later the passenger gates closed and their hovership pulled away from shore. Soon they were flashing across the surface of the sea, heading directly towards the Library.

Glinnes and Duissane sat on the upper deck, the wind making her curls swing and flap behind her head. "Glinnes, it looks like the Library is falling on us."

Glinnes knew that it was not true, but he also felt the illusion. Rather than watch the looming mass, he kept his eyes on Duissane. With the sunlight upon her skin and hair, she had never seemed more beautiful. He felt his heart leaping and he rested a hand on her leg. The robotic porter spoke, "Would you care for any refreshments?"

Duissane was hungry and thirsty, but she took a deep breath and looked out at the vast ocean and shuddered. She squeezed Glinnes' hand and exclaimed, "They are here!"

Glinnes looked off in the direction of her gaze and asked, "Who? The tourists?"

Enigmatically, she looked into his eyes and said, "We are not alone." With her next breath, Duissane issued orders to the porter and she then leaned against Glinnes and smiled. "Thank you for bringing me with you. I know I'm difficult to travel with, but I'll make it up to you."

"Sometimes you frighten me."

She laughed. "Good! I want to have complete dominion over you. You are mine, forever mine."

He kissed her mouth and whispered, "Forever yours."

For the rest of the short trip, they were relaxed and amazed to watch as they cruised under the Library. When the hovership docked, the Library above them could not be distinguished from sky: the illusion was completely effective.

They soon forgot about the Library; they would not visit it until the next day. Glinnes and Duissane became immersed in the sights and sounds of Chylick Island.

Chylick Island was popular with young couples and many of the tourists and natives wore minimal clothing. In their cabin, Duissane and Glinnes found swimsuits and then went out upon the beach. They walked completely around the circumference of the island. When the simulated star field began to glow on the underside of the Library, they stopped into a hut that bore a sign proclaiming: "Tuvaly Bistro".

They ordered dinner and Duissane gazed out at the dark water, sprinkled with bouncing glimmers of star light. A robot came to their table and lit a fragrant candle. Glinnes watched the light of the candle flame dancing in Duissane's golden eyes. "Glinnes, are there merlings here?"

"Of course not." He thought about her question and added, "Although there is a dolphin-like species here that is protected by the Connatic. Fishermen must take precautions not to disturb them."

"I never learned to swim. Trevanyi have a taboo against salt water."

"Trill children are taught to swim in pools. Sea-side pools are always kept in a hypersaline condition which repels merlings and makes the swimmers more buoyant."

Duissane sat close beside Glinnes. She rested her head on his shoulder. "I feel buoyant tonight."

"Gravity here is even less than Earth-standard. It might take you a day or two to adjust to the low gravity."

Duissane ate well and lingered over two desserts then she hurried Glinnes back to their cabin. She pulled him into the spa and with an abundance of splashing she made love to him. When they began to chill they moved inside and retired to the bed. Glinnes noticed that she was bleeding. She said, "I should be fertile soon. Should we make a boy or a girl first?"

They quickly dried off and the snuggled in the warm bed. "Maybe both. Twins are common among Trills."

"Not so much for Trevanyi. And I am not large... I'd look frightful carrying around twins."

He rested a hand on her belly. "You'll look glorious no matter how large you grow."

For a minute they were silent, each imagining the future and their children. Duissane asked, "Do you ever feel like you are being watched?"

Not knowing what she meant, Glinnes voiced some of his guilt. "Sorry, but I can't keep my eyes off of you. You are spectacular."

"No, I love the way you look at me. I want to bask in your gaze for the rest of my days." She paused. "I felt it first on Layerna. Heshter and I were on the streets of Emmency... there was almost nobody out in the middle of the might. Still, I felt like I was being watched."

"I don't think I'll ever become comfortable being among robots."

"I did not mind the market robots. But now it is even... particularly this little bungalow. Could this house be haunted?"

"For years after my sister Sharue's death, I felt like she was still in the house. Eventually that feeling just wore out... she had become part of the house, of Rabendary."

"That's what Numenes feels like to me, particularly the ocean. On each wave there are eyes, watching us. Waiting."

He chuckled nervously, "That's a hunting image. Waiting for what?"

"I can't figure it out. I know that I must solve the mystery, but I can't imagine where to begin. Oh, well, we are here for your research. I'll try not to distract you with my silly fantasies."

"Maybe it is not that simple. I have the feeling that Inspector Ravensroke and Admiral Lane are expecting something more important from this visit than what I set out to accomplish. It is as if they expect us to discover something astounding in the Library."

"Us?"

"I was going to suggest that you stay here, on the island. I don't want you to be bored while I spend all day looking through old genealogical records in the Library."

"Why do you have to go to the Library? Can't all of the information be accessed from here?"

"Yes, most of it. What is particularly useful about being in the Library is having access to its people. The scholars know how to search the data banks and interpret the findings. Records from a thousand years ago can be unreadable because of changes to the language. Anyhow, I don't want to leave you here, but I don't want to bore you with my obsession."

"I want to be with you. I'm sure that I won't be bored. I'll behave and let you pursue your muse." Duissane reflected on Jantiff and Glisten and tried to remember what they had said at Blazon spaceport. "I feel like Glisten was expecting me to go to the Library with you."

"I heard you two talking about her children. What else did she say?"

Duissane rubbed her head. "It is almost as if I fell asleep when she was talking to me. Maybe it was because we were shifting over to Katenary local time. And now it is night and I don't feel tired."

Glinnes was also unable to clearly remember everything that Jantiff had said. Somehow it seemed of little importance. Something was pushing Glinnes to act. "We have two choices. We could luxuriate in the fun of entertaining each other until we fall asleep or we could get dressed and go up to the Library right now."

Duissane rolled out of bed and started strapping on her knife. "Let's go. We came all the way from Trullion; it is foolish to stop here."

It was only a short walk inland to the nearest elevator. Glinnes and Duissane were quickly lifted up into the simulated sky, rising quickly within a glass-walled tube. Soon the lights of Chylick Island were spread out below them, then they crossed the boundary of the "sky" and were inside the Library.

Inside the public spaces of the Connatic's Library, the lighting was always at standard Earthly daylight levels. When Glinnes and Duissane stepped from their elevator car into the vast Embarcation Hall, they were welcomed by a robot. "I am tour guide 47539, please call me Threni. According to my facial recognition system, you are Glinnes and Duissane. Welcome to the Connatic's Library."

Duissane was amused by the robot's stylized imitation of a feminine female form. "Thank you, Threni. This is our first visit to the library."

The machine suggested, "It might be best to start with my half hour orientation tour. Alternatively, this is a good time of day to attempt entry to the Earth Archive. The waiting line is now only six hours long."

Glinnes was not interested in playing the role of tourist. "Please take us to the University of Lavaido."

"At once, Sir Hulden!" The robot guided them to a transport tube and was soon driving Glinnes and Duissane upwards towards the University of Lavaido. "Did you know that the University of Lavaido was the first educational institution on Numenes?"

Duissane replied, "I had no idea."

"Originally founded on the island of Ugrab, the university specialized in history, archeology and exobiology. Of course, the University was widely know for housing the collections of artifacts gathered from Dr. Lavaido's archeologically digs across all the Ketenary Islands."

It was common knowledge across Alastor Cluster that the first humans to arrive on Numenes had found the remnants of a long-collapsed civilization. The ruins were centered on the Ketenary Islands. Threni turned the aircar off the vertical line and onto a lateral spoke. "Beginning with the University of Lavaido, the Ketenary Islands grew into a major center of research and study. Finally, almost a millenium ago, Connatica Consweul began construction of the Connatic's Library, which eventually absorbed all of the nearby schools. Construction was completed three hundred and eighty three years ago, although there are now plans for a top-deck expansion project."

Threni landed the car and helped Glinnes and Duissane out of the compact flying machine. The robot pointed towards an entryway. "The university is through that archway. Inside you will be met by a local guide. Enjoy your time in the Connatic's Library!"

Glinnes had no patience for robots, particularly when the pretended to be human. However Duissane was amused and politely said, "Thank you for the ride, Threni."

Glinnes put his arm around Duissane and guided her towards the entrance to the University. He glanced over his shoulder and said, "What a creepy robot."

Duissane laughed, "She was cute. Did you notice her shoes?"

Glinnes did not want to think of the robot as being female. "It had no feet, just some kind of morphing array of wheels and treads."

"But the holographic boots were quite elegant and the leg movement simulation was very creative."

"If you say so." He pulled her hand to his lips and kissed the back of her hand. "I leave such judgements to you, my love."

They passed through the high archway and their surroundings shifted from the Grand Classic architecture of the public parts of the Library to another style that was cleaner and less decorative. A tall woman approached Glinnes and Duissane. She was wearing a light suit that was like ancient silk pajamas, but because of its comfort it was in style among the scholars of the Library and had been for almost two centuries. She held out a hand and said, "Duissane Drosset?"

Duissane shook hands and asked, "Are you a robot?"

"I'm Archivist Joole." She turned towards Glinnes. "I'm quite human." She and Glinnes shook hands. "Welcome to UL, Glinnes. Dr. Lamre is awaiting you in her office." She led them to a nearby slideway. "Hold the rails, please."

Glinnes asked, "Who is Dr. Lamre and why is she expecting us?"

"Dr. Lamre is the head of the cryptesthesiology research project. Inspector Ravensrok let Sedre know that you were on Numenes." The moving way quickly carried them to the heart of the University.

They all stepped off of the slideway and walked towards a gate that was marked "Department of Cryptesthesiology". Duissane asked, "Who is Sedre?"

Joole muttered a terse apology and explained, "Sorry, Dr. Sedre Lamre. Judging from the way that she spoke about you, I thought you were old friends."

"No, we've never met."

"I see. Well, in any case, Dr. Lamre has been expecting you. She wants to meet with Glinnes and suggested that Duissane and I kill some time by visiting the Museum of Cultural History."

A woman, even taller than Joole waved to them from down the hall. "There's Sedre." When Archivist Joole reached Dr. Lamre they embraced and kissed. "I wasn't expecting them until morning, but I made it to the entrance in time to collect them."

With one arm still around Joole, Dr. Lamre shook hands with Glinnes and Duissane. "Welcome, welcome, even if it is the middle of the night. Duissane, I leave you in the competent hands of Joole. I'm sure you'll enjoy visiting the Museum." Releasing Joole, she said, "Let's all meet at Hemeni Park for brunch."

Dr. Lamre took Glinnes by the arm and led him into her cryptesthesiology lab. With some unease, Glinnes looked over his shoulder and briefly locked eyes with Duissane who was being led away in the opposite direction by Joole. Sedre said, "Relax, Duissane will have a wonderful time at the museum." She pointed into a research bay where a test subject was encased in a complex apparatus. Two technicians and a robotic helper were working under the direction of a research student, collecting data. "The typical kind of experiment we do here. This particular test subject is very sensitive to the presence of phanasmoids. Actually, a fairly common condition here on Numenes."

Glinnes wondered how a scientist might try to detect ghosts. "How do you get volunteers? Most people prefer to leave the dead in peace."

Sedre took hold of Glinnes's hand and led him a short distance through the lab to her office. They sat down at a large desk and Glinnes examined Dr. Lamre with some care while she spoke. She was middle aged and in obviously good physical condition; impossible to guess her numerical age. Her large eyes were soft and a kind of muddy brown. "Some of our research volunteers are in a rather desperate condition. Usually they complain of being watched. They are literally haunted, sometimes to the point of evoking suicidal behavior." She smiled broadly and asked, "Have you ever felt like you were being followed?"

Glinnes replied, "No, even when I knew that the ghost of my sister was in our house, it seemed like she was just going about her own affairs."

"Ah, so you do have some paracosmic sensitivity... I suspected so from your genome and other data that Jantiff sent to me. I'd like to take some measurements on you while you are here." Sedre activate the display screen that was built into the surface of her desk. "Sorry to revive painful memories, but the fate of your sister reminds me... I want to show you something."

Glinnes examined what was being displayed on the desktop. It was clearly a map of the Fens, but ancient. Sedre gestured towards the map and said, "This is from the time when the Gensifer and Ambal clans were at their peak on Trullion. As you know, the influence of the Gensifers lasted until the recent death of the final Lord Gensifer."

Glinnes tapped a finger on the Five Island, "Luckily, Ryl Schermatz was on hand, otherwise Tammi would still be there now." He did not like to think about how close Lord Gensifer had come to marrying Duissane.

Sedre nodded. "I've been getting reports from both Ryl and Cursar Pakken."

Glinnes did not recognize the name. "Pakken?"

"Ryl installed her as the acting Governor. She's an officer in the Whelm and she's investigating connections between space pirates and the local Lords on Trullion. She has discovered that Lord Rianle collaborated with Tammi. It was Lord Erzan-Rianle who carried a radio transmitter on-board the starmenter ship, allowing the Whelm to capture Bandolio."Sedre tapped the map at the position of the Rianle estates. Briefly the family tree of the Rianle clan was projected along with images of the recent Rianle Lords. Then Dr. Lamre turned off the display.

Glinnes was surprised by the idea that an academic researcher like Dr. Lamre would be the recipient of starmenter intelligence from the Whelm. "Do you work closely with the Whelm?"

Sedre sat back in her chair and shrugged. "Not as much these days as in the past." Originally, they hoped that some paraesthetes might be trained to help hunt down starmenters.

Glinnes noticed that Sedre had stopped speaking, but he could still "hear" her voice. He muttered, "Oh, no."

Sedre giggled. Oh, yes! Actually, Dr. Lamre has been an excellent host for me these many long years. Dacades! I've learned much by taking over these research facilities.

Glinnes felt a flood of suppressed memories returning to his conscious awareness. He said, "You are like Arabella."

Sedre nodded. Arabella and I both originated on Earth, long ago. We were immortalized and we went out into space, searching to discover the aliens who visited Earth even before human civilization first arose.

Glinnes no longer bothered to speak out-loud. I don't like the idea of immortal beings who can take over the bodies of people.

Well, Glinnes, you should be glad that you feel that way. Examine your memories and recall how easy it has been for Arabella to control your experiences and your memories. The original Sedre Lamre has been continually subjected to that kind of cognitive suppression for decades and she does not really exist anymore. Were I to withdraw from her body now, she would be a kind of reflection of me.

Glinnes demanded: What gives you the right to oblitterate someone like that?

Sadre shrugged. I don't say it is right, but it must be done. And now we are close to our goal. With luck, you will successfully penetrate the core of Phari activity on Yarinna. Arabella reports that you and Duissane have enough capacity to use the Bimanoid Interface. I'd like to take some quantitative data, but I'm already impressed by the way your endosymbiont is using the Interface.

I'm not comfortable with the idea that there is a hidden creature inside me and another inside Duissane.

That's part of being human, Glinnes. Of course, if Arabella is correct then you two might actually be capable of having conscious contact with your replicoids. There is evidence that this sort of thing might already have been accomplished on Yrinna. Somehow Arabella and I and our whole team has thus far been excluded from the part of the Hierion Domain that is linked into Yrinna.

What do you mean by 'Hierion Domain'?

You reside in the universe of conventional hadronic matter. There is much more to the universe than the stars and planets that you are familiar with. Most of the universe is composed of hierions and sedrons. The Phari are artificial life forms of the Hierion Domain.

And you need Duissane and I to infiltrate this Hierion Domain?

Arabella and I reside in the Hierion Domain, but we are only replicoids. We hope that you and Duissane have unprecedented abilities to use the Bimanoid Interface and will be able to actually contact the Phari. Glisten has significant powers and is still in training to better use the Interface, but she seems to be restricted in her abilities to roughly the level that Arabella and I have attained. If that level were adequate, we would have long ago made contact with the Phari. The strategy behind your mission to Yrinna is to position you and Duissane close to the Hierion Tube that the Phari have deployed at Yrinna. We will then suddenly release your full abilities and hope to take the Phari by surprise, With luck, you will slip past their defenses and make contact.

What do you mean by contact? What do you expect to accomplish by all this infiltration and scheming?

It is clear that the Phari have been working to modify humans and create a new type of human subspecies that is compatible with the type of endosymbont that the Phari have implanted in all of the native species of Alastor Cluster. The Phari have apparently been doing this for billions of years and absorbing every space-faring civilization that arises in the galaxy. At the very least, we'd like to inform the Phari of our objection to their plan to assimilate humans and Earth in the same way that they have absorbed other species such as the Iidi.

You imply that the insertion of Phari endosymbionts into human is bad, but you seem to not mind the fact that humans are already infected by endosymbionts.

It is not really an infection. All life on earth evolved with endosymbionic elements inside the hadronic shells. That type of symbiosis is what Earthly life is all about. As a replicoid, I can view your endosymbiont and read out your life story. For example, I see Loel...

Glinnes felt his memories of the past reactivate and suddenly it was as if he was again with Loel when she laughed at his promise to move with her into the grand house on Ambal Island. She Merrill mocked him for imagining that they could live like aristocrats.

Suddenly Glinnes felt his consciousness shift again and he was back in Dr. Lamre's office. Glinnes jumped to his feet and shouted, "I was on Trullion!"

That was a simulation of your past, powered by your memories. You were just experiencing the Hierion Domain.

Glinnes sat down in his chair. He wondered: If I can experience such a life-like illusion, then how do I know that anything I experience is real?

That is a good question. Think what it would be like were the Phari able to place their endosymbionts inside every human. You are familiar with the species that are native to Alastor Cluster: none of them have space-faring civilizations. It seems evident that if the Phari were to absorb humanity, we would be turned into creatures like the Iidi or the Fwai-Chi of Marune.

Marune?

Alastor 933. It was by investigating the Fwai-chi on Marune that Jantiff and Glisten reveled the existence of the Phari.

Their mission on Marune was one of your projects?

No, Jantiff and Glisten were deployed by the Connatic.

I'm not sure that Arabella trusts the Connatic.

Nor do I, but we are collaborating with the Connatic. We are keeping some of our information hidden from the Connatic and I'm sure he's doing the same. For example, we are not sharing our trigger mechanism that will be used to activate access to the Hierion Domain for you and Duissane once you are positioned on Yrinna. We must retain the element of surprise, so after today, most of what I have told you will be suppressed and kept away from your memory recall system. At the critical time, you will remember the true nature of your mission on Yrinna and be able to act.

I suspect that Duissane is better attuned to the Hierion Domain than I am. She has had the feeling of being watched that you mentioned.

Yes, the trvanyi are one of the subtypes of humans that have been carefully bred and crafted by the Pheni here in Alastor Cluster. However, the Trills have also been genetically sculpted. The result is, on those rare occasions when Trills and Trevanyi mate, the children are interesting hybrids. In the past, such children have been taken away from Trullion by starmenters. We believe they have been delivered to Yrinna and used by the Phari. For example, we believe that Slabar Velche was born on Trullion.

What? Glinnes was shocked by the idea that such a ruthless space pirate was from his home world. Slabar Velche the starmenter?

Yes. Further, we believe that after his retirement, Velche has been living on Yrinna. We think his new identity is Rancep Kulff, the wealthy sponsor of the Nilshira hussade club. By joining the Demmulney Dragons, you will be able to get close to Kulff. The Dragons are scheduled to play the Nalshira Fangs on Yrinna.

Glinnes sat back in his chair and glared at Sedre. He felt that he had been carefully manipulation and fed just enough information to keep him moving along towards the goals that had been established by these scheming replicoids. For emphasis, he returned to speaking. "You are still not telling me everything."

Dr. Lamre stood up walked around her desk. She took hold of Ginnes' arm and led him from the office back out into the laboratory. I can't tell you everything, including why I can't be completely open with you. "Now, please seat yourself in the apparatus."

Glinnes looked at the complex device at the center of the research bay. "It looks like a holographic simulator." He sat down and two robots arrived. They started attaching various sensors and dynometers to his body parts.

Dr. Lamre explained, "This apparatus started out as a simulator similar to the one that you used while being trained to pilot troop landing craft." Sedre continued silently: Just relax. The robots will first run a baseline calibration and equipment check. It is best if you are distracted during this process, so let me complete for you the mission that you were originally on when you set off from Trullion.

Glinnes tried to ignore the robots as they worked and he was becoming completely encased in the apparatus. Sedre acknowledged: Your initial 'guesses' about Lord Gensifer and Lute Casagave and their possible involvement with starmenters were all correct because they were based on information provided to you by Arabella. The Gensifer clan on Yrinna might be the primary contacts with the Phari. We suspect that Slabar Velche is a member of the Gensifer clan; hopefully you will be able to confirm that once you reach Yrinna.

Glinnes was now going through a simple set of exercises inside the simulator. He was quite familiar with this sort of equipment calibration process because of all the flight simulation he had done while in the Whelm. So when Tammi spoke to me about Bela Gazzardo-

A technician stepped into the bay and told the robots, "Everything is nominal." The two robots retreated from the bay. The technician turned to Sedre, "Which program should we run? I'm not finding a preference file for this test subject."

Sedre explained, "Glinnes is a personal friend, so I didn't put him through the standard intake process. However, he has experience both in hussade and as a pilot for the Whelm."

"Ah, that explains his speed in navigating the calibration routine."

Sedre spoke to Glinnes who was now buried within the apparatus. "Would you prefer a hussade simulation or flight simulation?"

"Since I'll be joining the Dragons, I better start getting some hussade practice. I haven't played for weeks."

Sedre instructed the technician, "Run that Whelm hussade training sequence that Inspector Ravensroke sent to us yesterday." The tech nodded and returned to the control booth. Sedre told Glinnes: The simulation will start in a minute. You'll experience a hussade game, but we'll be collecting the data that I want concerning your ability to control your endosymbiont and communicate with me -that is to say, the Asimov replicoid in the Hierion Domain.

Glinnes wondered: Asimov?

That was my name back when I was a human living on Earth. Sedre shifted back to normal speech, "Now, this simulation will run about an hour then you'll have time for a shower before we meet Joole and Duissane for brunch."


_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Joole interdigitated her fingers with those of Duissane's hand and walked quickly out of the Department of Cryptesthesiology. She spoke while they headed for the slideways. "Sorry to take you away from Glinnes, but he and Dr. Lamre will be discussing tedious matters such Lord Gensifer's family."

"Ug. I'd prefer to forget all about Tammi."

They climbed onto a slideway and were soon rushing across campus. "Well, fine then. You'll enjoy our visit to the Museum. Just inside the entrance is the display for the Muu're."

"Muu're?"

"That name is misleading, but it is the term used by scholars to refer to the extinct natives of Numenes. Dr. Lamre believes that you have an extreme sensitivity to contact with the Muu're."

The two women exited from the slideways and approached the Museum's grand entrance. "But if the Muu're are extinct.."

"This is where the jargon can mislead. The biological species, the Muu're, is extinct, but their replicoids live on in the Hierion Domain."

Arabella 'spoke' directly to Duissane's mind: Just as I, a replicoid can communicate to you from my 'location' in the Hierion Domain, the Muu're replicoids can also achieve some contact with you, but almost completely at an unconscious level. Indeed, they have been watching you.

Joole was still speaking as she and Duissane entered the museum, describing the main features of the Muu're technological artifacts collection.

Duissane asked Arabella: Is Joole hearing you now?

No, she has no ability to use the Bimanoid Interface.

Joole quickly led Duissane through the Muu're exhibit. Duissane felt rushed, but Arabella explained: Joole is impatient to move you along. Duissane asked, "Why did the Muu're become extinct?"

Joole shrugged, "Their population steadily declined along with their use of technology. We fear that this is the fate of all species that have Phari endosymbionts. Think about worlds such as Trullion. Over the centuries, the use of technology has been brought down almost to the level of Old Earth before the spaceflight era began."

"But the population of Trullion is not dwindling."

"Nor is it growing. We suspect that the Phari have kept the birth and death rates high on Trullion in order to keep selecting for the type of human that they need." Joole was now leading Duissane away from the Muu're wing of the Museum.

"Dr. Lamre hypothesized that what the Phari want is people like you, humans who can consciously control their endosymbiont and use the Bimanoid Interface. You might prefer to forget Lord Gensifer, but he was not interested in you simply because you were a beautiful sheirl. However, his desire to breed with you apparently conflicted with Phari intentions and so Tammi was quickly and efficiently eliminated."

Duissane stopped walking and pulled her hand out of Joole's grip. They had reached the part of the Museum that was devoted to sports. "Wait, are you saying that the Phari wanted me to be with Glinnes rather than Tammi?"

Joole glanced over her shoulder. "I'd rather not discuss that here. At brunch you can ask Dr. Lamre that question. It might be that the Phari intended that you be taken during the starmenter raid on Welgen."

Joole took Duissane's arm and led her into the exhibit about the history of hussade in Allastor Cluster. Joole was speaking about the exhibits, but Duissane carried on a parallel conversation with Arabella who told her: I was present during the starmenter raid. I made sure that you and Glinnes both took action to save you from being kidnapped.

Joole and Duissane now passed into a chamber where guests in the Museum could participate in a virtual reality hussade game. Joole said, "Come on, let's play. This is a good time of day, the simulator is not very crowded."

The holographic simulator equipment in the Museum was very similar to what Duissane had used on-board the Pelorix Rhode for her knife juggling act. A few children were trying to use the simulator in a disorganized fashion and a few tired parents lounged on benches along the walls. The children ran around shouting and laughing and pushing at simulated hussade players. Joole took charge of the simulation and adjusted the simulation settings for she and Duissane to match the rules of Hussade that were used on Yrinna. After adjusting the simulation controls, Joole said, "Okay, we are entering into the same game."

Inside the first level of the simulation, Duissane worked through a menu of options that allowed her to select features of the game simulation like uniform styles and masks for the two teams. "This is fun. I can design my uniform."

Joole waited a minute while Duissane played at unifirm design, then rather impatiently said, "We don't want to be late meeting Dr. Lamre and Glinnes for lunch." Duissane then started designing her own nymph-like mask. "Just use one of the preconfigured mask designs."

Duissane complained, "But they're all so ugly."

Joole laughed, "Of course, that is the idea. You are supposed to intimidate your opponent. Oh, wait, the machine identified you as a resident of Trullion, so it is showing you masks from home." She performed a manual over-ride and brought up a list of masks from Yrinna.

Duissane was pleased. "Much better! These are beautiful."

Joole commented, "As you will learn, the purpose of hussade as a mechanism for allowing controlled breeding is even more explicit on Yrinna." Duissane, entralled, was examining the various masks of Yrinna's hussade teams and barely heard Joole.

Finally the game simulation began with a team parade across the hussade field. Duissane, who had never played the game, was familiar with the field design. She tried a few jumps between adjacent lanes. Joole simply walked cross the floor, ignoring the simulated voids between the holographically displayed runways, thus incurring penalty points in the simulator. In contrast, Duissane's graceful leaps and landings were quickly escalating her score in the simulation. Joole, truly impressed by Duissane's cat-like jumping ability, commented, "You're a natural."

 Duissane was completely immersed in the simulation. The teams assembled for pre-game huddles then the simulated players took their positions in preparation for the first light of the game. She was distracted by what sounded like the voice of Glinnes discussig hussade strategy and techniques. She looked around the chamber, suspecting that Glinnes had arrived to join the fun, but besides Joole, only small children were using the simulator. The 'voice' was wrong, but Duissane asked: Arabella, is that you yammering?

There was no reply and the game began. Of course, Duissane had watched games from the sheirl's pedestal, but now she did her best to actually play the game. Some of the rules were significantly different for Yrinna hussade compared to the rules used on Trullion. In particular, there were three sheirls on each team. Joole had programmed the simulation to position both she and Duissane as sheirls. Joole went and sat on the pedestal and kept incurring penalty points. Duissane played like a guard, intercepting and "tanking" opposing players who approached Joole.

In the Yrinna game, there was no actual tank of water below the grid of runways. In the simulator, players who were knocked off of the lanes fell into a deep hole. After a penalty delay, the "tanked" players could emerge from behind their team's pedestal and return to the playing field.

Duissane quickly grew accustom to the sound of Glinnes advising her on game play, but several times during the game the simulator glitched and she found herself in a small room with a man and a woman who seemed to be watching her. Once the woman spoke in the 'voice' of Arabella: I think she came right through the Interface!"

Duissane found the game exhilarating, but then she began to tire. She was very thirsty and hungry. Suddenly the holographic simulation switched off and Duissane found herself back in a room echoing with the sound of playing children. Joole put her arm around Duissane's sweaty body and guided her from the chamber. "You really got into the game! Since you were having fun, I let the simulation keep going, but now we must hurry to Hemeni Park."

Along the way, Joole pulled Duissane into a restroom and pulled off her sweat-drenched clothing. Catching a glimpse of herself in a mirror, Duissane thought her eyes looked odd, but Joole was rushing her towards the shower facility.

Joole put Duissane's clothing in the laundry machine and Duissane took a cold shower. Now chilled, Duissane emerged from the shower and dressed in her freshened clothing while Joole watched. Duissane felt uncomfortable under Joole's gaze. "How long have you and Dr. Lamre been lovers?"

Joole replied, "Not long, only since the Connatic became aware of the importance of Sedre's research."

Duissane noticed that her hair was strait and it seemed to be growing darker while she watched. "Oh, my!"

Joole explained, "While you were in the simulator your iris pigmentation cells were altered. This shower just laced you with skin and hair pigmentation nanites. Both you and Glinnes are being sent undercover on a mission to Yrinna."

Arabella added: You'll learn to control the appearance of your eyes, skin and hair, but for now just let it be.

Duissane had dressed and now Joole rushed them through the University to their next appointment.

When a robot guided Joole and Duissane to a table in the Hemeni Park Saloon, they found that Dr. Lamre and Glinnes were already there with beverages, fruit and pastry arrayed on the table. Duissane threw her arms around Glinnes and exclaimed, "What happened to your hair?"

He reached out and ran his fingers through her straight black hair, "I got the same treatment as you. We are being sent undercover on a mission for the Cannatic."

Duissane sat down and told Glinnes, "I had fun playing hussade!"

Joole kissed Sedre and also sat down. "Duissane is a natural player. She only received a few bad jump penalties."

Duissane sampled the available drinks and began eating. Glinnes nodded, "Duissane can do anything." He described how she had bested him while playing her first golf game." Then he added, "Dr. Lamre allowed me to get a look at Yrinna-style hussade using the holographic simulation equipment in his lab."

Duissane said, "Well then, that explains how you were helping me. I could hear you inside the game simulation."

Glinnes asked, "Helping you?"

She explained, "Through the whole simulation I could hear you guiding me, telling me how to play. They must have linked us through the virtual reality interfaces so that we were in the same game."

Glinnes shook his head and looked at Dr. Lamre. "I didn't see you in my simulation and I certainly was not talking to you."

Duissane stared off into space. "Strange, it was as if you were right there with me, guiding me through the game play. Maybe it was a bug in the simulator. A few times the program seemed to cross circuit and I was in another place with these two observers."

Joole asked, "Observers?"

"Two people, a man and a woman. They were watching me. One of them spoke to me."

Dr. Lamre said, "I wish we had time to also study you in my lab, Duissane."

Just then a robot approached their table. Glinnes recognized the oddly decorated tour guide 47539.

Threni spoke directly to Joole, "Chief Investigator, an arrest warrant has just been issued for Glinnes Hulden and a watch has been issued for his possible accomplice, Duissne Drosset, both of Trullion. I believe they both are present." The machine gestured to Glinnes and Duissane.

Dr. Lamre handed necklaces to Glinnes and Duissane. They snapped on the necklaces and immediately their faces were shrouded in high-quality holographic disguises. Sedre explained, "Simple changes such as altering your hair color are not enough to fool the robots."

Joole pointed a small device at the robot and reset the machine's memory. She dismissed the robot and Threni departed. She said to Glinnes and Duissane, "We had best finish eating and get you on your way to Yrinna."

Dr. Lamre added, "Until you complete your mission on Yrinna, you two are officially wanted for your suspected involvement in the theft of 30 million ozols and evading arrest." She have them each a small packet of identity credentials. "Use these new cover identities from here on during your mission."

Joole said, "There will be Whelm agents watching you, but they won't dare make contact. We cant risk blowing your cover. Now, your cruise liner departs from Blazon in three hours, so we should not tarry."

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _


UNDER CONSTRUCTION

The League of Yrinna    -   Part 3

Glinnes and Duissane investigate starmenter clans and the alien Phari on the planet Yrinna.

Next: plans for a new banner.

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