The Voyage of the Minotaur – Chapter 21 Excerpt

Senta walked up the steps of the stone pyramid, her bare feet making no sound. She moved quickly and carefully. Though there were lizardmen guards placed on either side of the stairs on every tenth step, they did not see her. Her body was completely invisible and didn’t even cast a shadow in the bright light of mid-morning. Up ten more steps, between two more guards the little girl continued, constantly watching to see if the reptiles would notice something—a sound, a moving pebble, her scent. But they didn’t notice anything. The sounds of the vast city drowned out any small sounds that she made. The smell of wood fires burning, beasts of burden on the streets, and most of all the waste of fifty thousand primitive people safely obscured her smell. Up two hundred forty steps, past forty-eight guards, she finally reached the top of the bloodstained, stone staircase.

At the top of the pyramid, Senta looked around and shivered. The square, white stone temple that sat on top of the immense structure was carved with bizarre and inhuman forms—combinations of lizardmen and other animals, engaged in all manner of disgusting activity. Far more distressing however, were the human body parts hanging above and to either side of the open doorway. Human arms and legs and human heads, attached by the hair or through protruding tongues were tied up with thin ropes made of woven grass. The temple entrance was dark and frightening, like the gaping maw of some bloody and horrible creature.

Shaking, Senta moved into the darkness of the structure anyway. The horrifying look of the place outside was nothing next to the horrifying smell of the place inside. The stench of urine, both human and reptilian, was overwhelming. She could also smell sweat, human sweat, since the lizardmen being cold-blooded did not perspire. And she could smell blood, mammal blood, reptile blood, new blood, old blood, forever blood.

As her eyes adjusted to the light, she could see that the walls were decorated with carvings very much like those on the outside of the temple. Here in many places they were covered up though by colorfully painted and died animal skins, stretched wide, and in a few places by blankets of brightly hued bird feathers. Two men were in the middle of the room on their knees; their arms stretched straight back behind them. Ropes bound the men’s wrists and then stretched up to a stone in the ceiling, twisting the men’s arms back cruelly. Looking up, Senta could see that the stones in the ceiling, one directly above each man, had been carved into the likeness of a lizardman or dinosaur face. Each face had its mouth open and a tongue sticking out. The ropes that held the men in their kneeling positions, no doubt at the cost of tremendous pain in their arms, shoulders, and chests, were attached through holes in the tongues of the carved faces.

Senta stepped gingerly toward the men. Neither moved. Both had faces caked with dried blood and wore torn and tattered shirts covered in blood. She bent down to see if she could recognize either face, but they were both too badly swollen and torn. Standing directly in front of one of the two men, she reached around her own neck and lifted one of three silver necklaces over her head. Each necklace had a pendant representing the shape of a bird. She carefully draped it over the man’s head. He didn’t move. She stepped quietly over to the second man and slipped the second of the three necklaces from around her head and started to place it over his. He moaned and turned his head slightly, startling her, and she dropped the necklace to the stone floor. When she reached down to pick it up, she found the stones almost carpeted with layer upon layer of dried blood. She stared at the brown surface for a moment, and then noticed another change in the room.

The square formed in the center of the room by the light streaming into the temple doorway had changed. There was a shadow in it. Senta stood up and looked at the doorway. Framed in the brightness was a lizardman.   He was not as frightening to the girl as the other lizzies she had encountered, though she was still frightened that she would be seen and captured. This lizardman was shrunken and shriveled, and its skin had faded away to a dull grey. It wore a necklace of human hands, and it carried a small lizard attached to a stick. Keeping one eye on the creepy reptile, she slipped the necklace over the second man’s head. This time he didn’t move.

The shriveled lizardman began to shake the lizard on the stick. It rattled as though it was a dried gourd. The lizardman began to hiss. Senta could feel magic in the air around her. She could see it swirling like a purple mist.

“Your magic’s not as strong as ours,” she said.

The old reptile stopped. He stared into the room for another moment. Then he started shaking the lizard and hissing again. Senta looked down at herself. Though invisible, she had been able to see herself, and of course she still could. But something seemed different about her. The grotesque lizardman suddenly hissed loudly and looking up, Senta saw that it was pointing right at her. She was visible.

She grabbed the bird talisman on her necklace and shouted. “Now Zurfina! Now!”

For a moment, nothing happened. Then the room around Senta began to shimmer as though it were being seen through the curtain of a waterfall. Finally the room, the lizardman, and everything else vanished.

His Robot Wife – Chapter 2 Excerpt

The next morning after breakfast, Mike was just thinking about making a run to the store when the doorbell rang. Opening the front door he found two teen-aged boys. He immediately recognized their faces as those of former students though only one of their names swam to the surface of his brain.

“Hey guys.”

“Mr. Smith, I thought you lived here.”

“I do. I have since before either of you were born. Come on in.”

He led them inside and gestured for them to have a seat in the living room. The teen whose name he remembered as Curtis was a tall thin African-American with close-buzzed hair. His friend was just as tall, though not quite so thin, with long blond hair and a very red face. Both were obviously hot.

“Patience, would you bring these young men something cool to drink please?” he called, and then turned back to them. “What would you like?”

“Just water,” said Curtis.

“Yeah,” said the other one.

Both stared at Patience when she brought them their drinks. Curtis had to elbow his friend to remind him to take the glass. It wasn’t that she was dressed provocatively, in a shorts combo and a pair of pump sandals, but it was just impossible it seemed for her not to be attractive. They both kept staring at the spot where she exited the room long after she was gone.

“So what can I do for you guys today?” asked Mike.

“Francis is doing a paper for his junior History class and he has to have an interview as one of his references. So I told him to come and ask you.”

“It’s August.”

“We’re taking summer school so we can get a credit ahead. He’s taking History and I’ve got Pre-Calc.”

Mike looked and noticed for the first time that the other boy, Francis, had a small wriTee tucked under his arm.

“Francis,” he said, more to reinforce the name in his memory than to address him. “What is your paper on?”

“The 1950s. Do you remember what it was like?”

“Well first of all boys, I was born in 1982. In fact, my father wasn’t born until 1963.”

“Oh. Well, do you know anything about the fifties?”

“I’m a teacher. I know everything about the fifties. I don’t worry about the bomb, I’d rather be dead than red, and I like Ike.”

“Who’s Ike?” wondered Francis.

“Eisenhower. Dwight D. Eisenhower. That was his nickname—Ike.”

“How do you get Ike out of Eisenhower? There’s no K in it.”

“I don’t know. That’s just what they called him.”

“They should have called him Ice,” offered Curtis, “like Ice-enhower, or Ice-double H.”

“Yeah,” agreed Francis. “That’s edge. Wait a second. I thought he was that World War II guy. That was the forties, not the fifties.”

“He was a general during World War II and he was President during the fifties.”

“See. I told you he knows it,” said Curtis to his friend. “Turn on your Dictathing.”

Curtis unfolded his wriTee on the coffee table and with a swipe of his finger the screen came to life.

“So what was life like in the fifties?”

“There was a sort of dichotomy. There was the good and the bad. On the one hand, average Americans were richer in the 1950s than they had ever been before or have been since. On the other hand people were in a constant state of fear that thermo-nuclear war was right around the corner. The cold war between the United States and the Soviet Union threatened to erupt into World War III at any moment.”

“I thought people didn’t make much money in the old days,” said Curtis.

“Money had a different value then. You might only make five or six hundred dollars a month, but that was enough to support a family. You could buy a big, new house for $15,000 and you could buy a brand new Cadillac for $5,000. A loaf of bread was twenty cents. A comic book was a dime. Gas was less than… you guys know that cars ran on gasoline then, right? Gas was ten to twenty cents a gallon.”

“Wow. How much was a vueTee then, fifteen bucks?”

“Um, no. A vueTee, they called them TVs, only a fifth as big as this one,” Mike pointed to the vueTee above the fireplace, “was $500. And those TVs had no interactivity, no threed, no inscope, no Infinet… they didn’t even have color.”

“Man, I wouldn’t even bother,” said Francis.

“Sure you would. Everybody wanted one. It was the cool new thing. Remember, nobody had anything else—no texTees, no tPods.”

“So how come it was so expensive?” asked Francis.

“That’s just how technology is. TVs got cheaper as manufacturers geared up to keep up with demand and competed against other companies for business, and then cheaper still as they found ways to make them with fewer and less expensive parts. When real vueTees came out, it was the same thing. They were thousands of dollars, but got cheaper even as manufacturers added more features.

“The same thing happened with robots. When the first humanoid robots came out they cost a butt-load of money—millions. Now they’re under thirty thousand.”

“Going up though,” said Curtis. “The new Daffodils are more expensive.”

“That’s because Daffodil is the biggest corporation in the world now,” said Francis. “They can do whatever they want.”

“I remember my dad told me about buying one of the first personal computers back in the eighties,” continued Mike. “It cost him three thousand dollars and it didn’t have any graphics at all, no connectivity, no video, no sound. All you could do was type on it and calculate things.”

“Why would anyone buy a computer? That would be like buying a part of something—like buying a steering wheel instead of a car.”

“Well, that’s the way things are now… in our world. We have computers in our media creating devices—our wriTees and our andTees. We have computers in our media consumption devices—our texTees and vueTees. We have computers in our cars, our refrigerators, and our thermostats…”

“And in your wife,” added Francis.

“Um, right…but they didn’t back then. They were just things by themselves. Everything else was analog.”

“But everything else got more expensive right?” asked Curtis. “Like food?”

“Food more than anything else, especially after all the bees died. Back in the 1950s, you didn’t have to use robots to pollinate everything. It was part of nature.”

“Man, I want to live in the fifties,” said Francis.

“Even with no andTees and no tPods?”

“They had Rock and Roll, right?”

“After about 1955.”

“Then I’d get along just fine.”

The Voyage of the Minotaur – Chapter 20 Excerpt

The mood was light in Iolanthe Dechantagne’s tent. It was a bright, sunny day outside, though not too hot. A cool breeze was blowing in off the ocean. The colony had enjoyed a huge mid-day feast, and if eating the last of the fresh vegetables taken on at Enclep was not exactly a cause for celebration, at least everyone knew that they were safe from starvation. The canned food stored at the colony would last a long time, and there was still the promise of trade with the natives.

Yuah Korlann, Merced Calliere, and Phillida Marjoram sat around the desk counting ballots for the election of the Colonial Council. The paper slips upon which all adult members of the colony had written the name of their choice were divided up into piles. Though there were more than two dozen piles, one for each candidate, it was soon obvious which four piles would end up being the tallest. Calliere’s final pronouncement was a mere formality. The winners of the election and the chosen members of the Colonial Council were, in order of votes received: Zeah Korlann, Padgett Kelloran, Dudley Labrith, and in a surprise, a young Freedonian woman named Honor Hertling.

“Lovely,” said Iolanthe. “I was sure that Zeah and Dr. Kelloran would be elected, but I’m surprised at the wizard. Does anyone know this Hertling person?”

Yuah and Calliere both shook their heads.

“I believe I know of her,” said Mrs. Marjoram. “A dark-haired young woman, if I’m not mistaken. Pretty, in that Zaeri sort of way. I believe she’s known for her work helping the sick on that ship of theirs. No doubt that’s why she was chosen.”

“So she’s from the Acorn?” asked Iolanthe, ignoring Yuah’s look of shock at Mrs. Marjoram.

“Yes, if she’s whom I’m thinking of.” The woman seemed oblivious of the effect of her words.

“Excellent. One more chance to get the Freedonians integrated into our society. Before long, nobody will know they weren’t born Brechs.”

“Hmph,” said Mrs. Marjoram, but didn’t openly correct her.

“So it will be myself, Terrence and Augie, whoever replaces Father Ian, Zurfina, and these four. I think we can work with that.

“Yuah, why don’t you go bring your father in here? Mrs. Marjoram, would you be so kind to see if you can locate this Miss Hertling? And Mercy, perhaps I can persuade you to bring Dr. Kelloran.”

Twenty minutes later the three of them had returned with the three newly elected leaders of the colony, Wizard Labrith, of course being on the military mission with the Iolanthe’s two brothers, was not present. Zeah looked every bit the senior statesman, tall and straight in his charcoal suit. Dr. Kelloran on the other hand looked tired and drawn. Though still nicely dressed and stylishly coifed, she had lost weight since arriving in Birmisia and had dark circles under her eyes.

The young woman who arrived with them was, if not beautiful, certainly striking in appearance. She was so thin that Iolanthe thought her figure might have been mistaken for that of a boy without a corset and bustle. Her wavy black hair reached well past her shoulders, and framed a cute face with a small nose and extremely large, sad eyes. Her olive skin was far more tanned than was considered fashionable, no doubt due to the lengthy journey from Freedonia, and she had a deep scar across her left cheek down to her chin.

“Miss Hertling, I presume,” said Iolanthe, stepping forward to shake hands.

No sooner had she taken the young woman’s hand than a dozen gunshots rang out in the distance. It was obvious that they came from beyond the protective wall. Iolanthe broke into a broad smile.

“Wonderful,” she said. “Zeah, it looks as though we will be having a celebration tonight.”

“Yes, Miss. A welcome one.”

A young soldier burst into the tent, running into the back of Miss Hertling, and knocking her forward. She would have fallen completely to the floor had not Professor Calliere caught her.

“Kafira’s eyes!” snapped Iolanthe. “Don’t you know how to knock?”

“Sorry ma’am,” said the soldier, nervously. “Sergeant Clark’s compliments, ma’am. There is a large force of lizardmen approaching from the southeast. The sergeant has already called for all troops to man the ramparts. And the lizardmen have rifles, ma’am.”

“Where the hell did they get rifles?” wondered Calliere.

“From our troops,” said Iolanthe, gravely. “How many lizardmen are there?”

“We don’t know, at least a thousand.”

“Tell the sergeant to hold the wall,” she ordered. The soldier then ran out of the tent. Turning to the women, she said, “Thirty-five men aren’t going to hold the wall for long. Get everyone moving. We’re evacuating out to the end of the peninsula.”

His Robot Wife – Chapter 1 Excerpt

Mike Smith first noticed the bright blue sign on his sixth circuit around the indoor jogging track. It was Thursday and he came every Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday morning to jog twenty-five laps. Twenty-five laps equaled two miles. The sign was in somebody’s yard. That’s why he noticed it. It wasn’t an advertisement like the ones on businesses you could see from the other side of the track. It was bright blue and it had yellow writing and some kind of picture. The seventh lap around, he tried to make out the three large words at the top. It looked like they said “stop the perverts.” The next lap, he looked again. Now he was sure that it said “stop the perverts,” but what did it say below that? He strained his eyes but after three more laps, he couldn’t make out the smaller words below.

He put it out of his mind and instead watched the people on the track with him as he ran. There were two girls in their late teens or early twenties who both looked too chubby to be jogging. Never the less, they lapped him about every fourth circuit. There were eight or ten people walking, mostly in pairs. But one little old man was walking quite fast, about half as fast as Mike was jogging, and he constantly leaned to the left. Mike was sure he was going to just fall right over sooner or later. Twenty-four. Twenty-five. Mike hit the finish line and immediately dropped his speed, walking over to get a towel and a bottle of water. Remembering the sign, he walked to the back wall of the running track and looked down over the neighborhood. There was the sign. He pressed his forehead against the hot glass and squinted. “Stop the perverts. Vote yes on 22.” Or was that thirty three?

Wiping his face and finishing his water, Mike walked back to the cubbyhole and picked up his texTee. “What is California proposition twenty-two?” The screen immediately came to life and began playing a news story. “Just let me read it.” The video dissolved into a page of text. “Blah blah blah. Supporters include blah blah blah. The proposition will amend the state constitution to define a person as a biological entity, preventing robots seeking redress for blah blah blah. Blah blah blah essentially an anti-robot marriage proposal. What? If this amendment is passed it will prohibit the state of California from acknowledging the marriages between humans and robots currently being performed in four states.

“Son of a bitch.”

Hopping down the stairs with much more energy than he usually had after jogging, Mike crossed the blistering parking lot and climbed into his Chevy, letting the cool air wash over him before he turned on the ignition. He counted it as a blessing that all cars now had auto-cooled interiors. He wouldn’t want to have to wait for the cool air. He pulled out of the parking lot and drove up the street, turning left into the neighboring block so that he could get a better look at the blue sign. But it took him several minutes to find the correct house. Finally he stopped in front of the one featuring the placard. “Stop the perverts. Vote yes on 22.” Beneath the words was a stick figure diagram, the kind used on street signs, of what looked like a man trying to have sex with a toaster. Mike thought about getting out of his car and ripping the sign out of the ground, but he saw the face of a little old lady looking out at him through the blinds.

“Assholes,” he said, and slammed his foot on the gas pedal. The car sped away, but failed to make the screeching tire noise that he was hoping for.

His house at 11 North Willow was a five minute drive from the track, which was not nearly enough time for Mike to calm down before he pulled into the driveway. Then on his way from the car to the front door, he tripped over the yardbot, which was busy pulling gnarled desert weeds from between the red brick stepping stones. Finally, the front door lock seemed to take forever to recognize him and allow him to enter the cool interior of the house.

“The world is going to hell,” he growled as he kicked off his track shoes. “Literally. It is literally as hot as hell outside.”

“Here you go, Mike.” Patience was suddenly beside him, with a towel in one hand and a tall glass of ice water in the other.

She looked as perfect as she had the day she came out of the box. Big blue eyes, a cute little button nose, and that slender, curvy body; all of which were just outside the possibilities of a real human form. She stood there with a smile not only on her lips but radiating from her eyes as well.

“What are you so happy about?” He took the towel and wiped the back of his neck and then took several long gulps from the water glass.

“I’m happy that you’re home. Why don’t you sit down and cool off for six and one half minutes, then you can take a nice cool shower.” Patience turned and glided down the hallway to the kitchen.

The Voyage of the Minotaur – Chapter 19 Excerpt

Terrence followed his gaze and saw spread out across the savannah, a line of lizardmen. They were so well camouflaged that they blended right into the rising landscape behind them. They stretched out to the left and the right so far that they created a half circle around the humans, and this at a distance of more than a mile. Many of the lizardmen were painted red and white and black, and most wore feathers. Most also carried the swords, made of wood and flint, that the men had seen before.

“Kafira,” said one of the soldiers. “There must be a thousand of them.”

“More like five thousand,” said Labrith.

“Talk to them,” said Terrence to Augie, indicating the two lizardmen with them. “Find out if these are our friends or the enemies.”

Augie hissed. Sarkkik hissed back. Augie translated.

“We know of your people. Though it is far away, we know of your people living in Mallontah. We know how they have enslaved the natives there. We know you intend to do this here. We have shown you to Suusthek.”

“What does that mean?” asked Terrence. “We have shown you to Suusthek.”

“Oh, sorry. My mistake,” said Augie. “Not ‘show’. It’s ‘delivered’. ‘We have delivered you to Suusthek’. Oh, that doesn’t sound good.”

“We have dealt with you in good faith,” said Terrence.

“Your blood runs warm. You cannot be trusted. We have heard your talk. Szuss can hear your speech. He hears how you want to rule the land.”

“Bugger!” shouted Terrence.

Sarkkik hissed again.

“He says ‘now you die’,” translated Augie.

Terrence turned around and walked two steps then turned around again. Then he pulled out his .45 revolver and shot Sarkkik in the head. It seemed as if the reptilian would fall backwards for a moment, but this was prevented by his tail. He rocked back, then from one side to the other, and then collapsed in a heap. Before Sarkkik had hit the ground, Terrence had fired a second time, and Szuss had a hole through his skull as well. He fell forward onto his alligator-like face.

More than a mile away, a deep rumbling sound rose up. It was a low gurgling, growling noise. It came from the massive army of lizardmen and it grew louder and louder as five thousand warriors joined in.

“Formation!” shouted Augie. “Get into formation!”

The soldiers rushed to form two lines, one behind the other, ninety men wide. The formation looked pathetically small compared to the line of reptilians that dominated the landscape.

“First rank, kneeling positions!”

The front row of soldiers knelt. The rear row stayed standing.

“Fix bayonets!”

Each soldier pulled a wicked looking dagger from a sheath on his belt and attached the six and three quarter inch blade to the end of his rifle.

The throaty sound of the lizardmen continued for several minutes. Suddenly and seemingly without a signal, it stopped. Then like a wave moving from the ocean onto the beach, the lizards surged forward. They moved quickly, at a sort of slithering trot, brandishing their stone-encrusted swords as they came. And they were silent—eerily silent.

“Ready!” called Augie. “Aim!”

“Fire!”

The one hundred eighty soldiers fired their rifles in unison and more than a hundred reptiles fell to the ground. The hole created in their moving line quickly filled in with others of their kind, and kept moving forward.

“Ready! Aim! Fire!”

The soldiers fired again, and another hundred reptile warriors fell. Running headlong into thundering death, the lizardmen directly in front of the humans began to falter, while to either side, they surged forward. Terrence had holstered his pistol and pulled the .30 caliber rifle from his shoulder.

“Uuthanum rechthinov uluchaiia,” said Labrith, and a lightning bolt, beginning at his fingertip, spread out shooting through the bodies of a dozen reptile warriors.

“Fire at will!” shouted Augie. The soldiers began to pick their own targets.

“Watch your flanks!” he shouted. Fanning out slightly on either side, the humans began firing on the lizardmen coming in from the sides.

“Uuthanum beithbechnoth,” said Labrith, and a missile of magical energy darted from his fingertip, striking one of the lizards square in the chest, killing him. A half second later a second magical dart shot forth, and then a third.

Seconds later similar magic missiles shot from the lizardmen’s lines, hitting two of the soldiers. Terrence aimed his rifle in the direction from which they had come. The reptiles had their own magic user. He was easy to spot too. Unlike the others whose greenish skin was painted black or red, he was covered in blue. Terrence shot him through the throat.

Suddenly the lizardmen stopped coming and dropped down into the tall grass. So sudden and so well coordinated was the move that it seemed that they had just vanished into thin air.

“Hold your fire!” shouted Augie. “Are they crawling? Watch the grass!”

His Robot Girlfriend – Free at Smashwords

Mike Smith’s life was crap, living all alone, years after his wife had died and his children had grown up and moved away. Then he saw the commercial for the Daffodil. Far more than other robots, the Daffodil could become anything and everything he wanted it to be. Mike’s life is about to change.

His Robot Girlfriend is available free wherever fine ebooks are found.  You can download it free in a variety of ebook formats at Smashwords.

The Voyage of the Minotaur – Chapter 18 Excerpt

Many people on the shore were watching as the two ships steamed out of the bay and no doubt many people had many different emotions flowing around within them at the sight. Some might have felt frightened with the realization that their last tenuous lifeline to the world of civilization was now severed. Some might have been excited that the challenge of taming the new world was now theirs and theirs alone to pursue. Zeah Korlann didn’t know what he felt. He didn’t have time to dwell upon any feelings however, he had plenty to do.

By the time the sun set that evening, he had accomplished quite a bit. He had arranged for new work details for the former Freedonians. Like the colonists who had arrived eight days before them, these individuals would be expected to provide six months of service to the colony. After that, they could purchase land and begin whatever lives they wished. That was the theory, anyway. He had also overseen the clearing of the first bit of forest outside the protective wall. The first shops and stores would be built here hopefully, when that six month period had ended. Zeah looked forward to visiting a bakery there. Inside the walls, they had finished constructing a large smokehouse. And finally, that afternoon, the colony’s first fishing boat had floated out into the bay.

Zeah had two stops to make after dinner and before he went back to his own apartment. The first was to the headquarters tent of Miss Dechantagne. He would have gone to report to her in any case, but he felt doubly obligated to stop because the Royal Colonial Governor was alone. Her brothers had left at first light the day before with one hundred eighty soldiers and accompanied by a half dozen reptilian aborigines. Their mission was to elevate one of the local chiefs to dominance, and at the same time show off modern Brech firepower—put the fear of God into the locals, let them know who was the boss. Nobody expected stone spear equipped lizardmen to be able to face the power of four platoons of riflemen, and both brothers had spent their time in the army. Still, it was a combat mission, and things could happen.

Knocking on the tent pole that served as a doorjamb, he was rewarded with a “Come in.”

Miss Dechantagne was not alone. Zeah’s daughter Yuah was in the tent. She was sitting in one of the folding chairs in front of Miss Dechantagne’s massive desk and Miss Dechantagne herself was sitting in the heavy oak swivel chair behind it. The two women were sipping cups of tea.

“Hello Papa,” said his daughter, standing up to kiss him on the cheek.

“Good evening. I didn’t expect to find you here.”

“We were just having tea,” said Miss Dechantagne. “Would you like some?”

Only Zeah’s carefully regulated composure allowed him to reply without stuttering. Miss Dechantagne inviting him to tea? The heat must have somehow addled her.

“No, thank you. I just wanted to check in and let you know that everything is on schedule.”

“I’m quite excited about the smokehouse, myself,” said Yuah. “Mrs. Colbshallow is already planning sausages.”

Zeah looked at his daughter with a raised eyebrow. It seemed that the governor was not the only one who had lost her mind. Yuah was sipping tea and making small talk with Miss Dechantagne.

“Thank you Zeah,” said the governor. “I’m pleased to see that our new arrivals are proving to be more of an asset than a hindrance.”

“Indeed.” Zeah stood for a moment

“You should go get some rest.”

“Very well. Good night.” He nodded to the women and stepped out the tent flap. The two women laughed. Zeah shook his head and walked off.

His second stop was to see Egeria Lusk. She had completely recovered from her wounds at the hands of an unknown attacker and had in fact, spent much of the day supervising work on the Result Mechanism, though she had left the actual pressing of buttons and throwing of switches to someone else. He knocked on the door of her apartment and again was asked to “come in” and again found two women sitting and sipping tea. This time it was Egeria and Sister Auni, the Kafirite cleric. Sister Auni rose as he entered.

“Good evening, Mr. Korlann,” she said. “I was just leaving.”

“No need to leave on my account.”

“No, no. We’ve had a lovely talk, but now I must get back to my own room.”

“Well, good night,” he said, as he held the door open for the clergywoman.

“I’m so glad you came by,” said Egeria, once Sister Auni had left. “Please sit down.”

“Thank you. What were you two talking about?”

“Oh, life, the universe, and everything.”

“And what was her take on it.”

“We were just chatting, really,” said Egeria. “I was sorry that we didn’t get to have supper together.”

“I didn’t really have time for supper today,” said Zeah. “I was hoping that you would join me tomorrow though.”

“I would be delighted,” she smiled.