uranian throne
- episode twenty

the immigrants

robert gibson

For the story so far, see:

volume I: the terran heir
Dynoom; 2: Hyala;
3: the nebulee; 4: Exception
5: the lever of power;
6: the infrastructure throbs
7: the claw extends;
8: the brain-mist writhes; 9: the last card;
10: the londoner; 11: the terran heir;
12: the city cracks; 13: the validator rips;
14: the heartland beckons; 15: zyperan

volume Ii: the golden cloak
16: confluence at ao; 17: the scared logician;
18: the rash down-payment;
19: the non-dummy run 

[ + links to:  Glossary - Timeline - Maps - A Survey of Ooranye - Plan of Olhoav -
guide to published stories ]



The ego-track of Neville Yeadon:

Stop being so jumpy, I chide myself.  A dark plain and a stand of drunken-looking trees a half-mile off, but no visible enemy.  Peaceful enough, for me to bivouac here for the night.

I realize, however, that for one moment my fingers had strained as though to point my laser at one of those scrawny, leafless growths which clutch at the sky. 

In fact, I heard the actual click, meaning I made more than just an abortive grab at my holstered sponnd: I got as far as to snick the catch on the weapon, setting it for bolt-mode, for distance combat.

Momentarily, as the saying goes, I was "beside myself".

And that's not so much a figure of speech for me as it is for most people.

My head is like two countries, two realms which adjoin.  Along the leaky border that divides my Terran from my Uranian identity, immigrant ideas pour across, in both directions: hundreds of thoughts and habits smearing their way through my awareness until by now I suspect I'm developing a hybrid Terro-Uranian consciousness, which in the long run is, I suppose, inevitable.

For example that tingle of impatience, which readied my hand just now to snatch sponnd from holster, might have come from either "country" or from both.  I was no kind of fighter on Earth, but I was as keen a believer in the right of self-defence as any average Earthman.  Here on a strange planet (Uranus will always be overwhelmingly strange) it's natural for Neville Yeadon, Londoner, to be hyper-vigilant and sensitive to appearances; but equally such edginess must appertain to the Olhoavan, Nyav Yuhlm, student of the arts of survival in the hard schools of travel and adventure on both Uranian hemispheres, Starside and Sunside.  The world of Ooranye will always overwhelm any human mind, be it from the third planet or the seventh.

...Hand, hand... that figure of speech from card-play, "the hand I've been dealt", though a thoroughly Terran metaphor, can temptingly snuggle into conditions here: the hands dealt by fates, all tangled and meshed together like the weather-systems of Earth. 

Still, here that "weather" is more purposive.  It allows a co-operative individual to contribute, if he's willing, from his own puny strength. 

Or am I fooling myself?  Does it amount to the same, in the end, on both worlds?  That's what I think and feel whenever what I might call the "power of the plot" gets to me.  At moments like those, it seems that I can no more influence a fate-current here than a swipe of my arm could have diverted a meteorological tempest back on Earth.

In such moods I sadly fear that my growing reputation is nothing to be proud of.  It's a a role I've been handed, not earned, because whatever I do seems to splash and then encrust me with another coating of legend, another spattering of undeserved fame that glistens on me like frost.

Thank goodness Syoom is wide, with four hundred million square miles to get lost in; not to mention the sixteen hundred million square miles beyond its boundaries.  Always, a way out... 

The air is dimming; evenshine is drawing on.  I shall go no further today.  Tomorrow is time enough to ride through, or to avoid, that peculiar stand of gnarly trees, which look like they're frowning at me.  A fanciful thought, that.  But it's the kind of thought that may have its uses: the more dire the things look, the more they spur me to retaliate, mood-wise, with bright thoughts, while I'm arranging my gear to prepare for sleep.  Here's a good thought, the brightest of all: I did do the job I was sent here to do.  Old Dynoom entrusted me with a message to take to Syoom, and I delivered it faithfully.

Yes, faithfully.  But - effectively?

Well, umm... since my adoption of a vagabond lifestyle I have rather lost track of time, and I'm not sure how much has happened, or can have happened, while I've been wandering around Syoom.  How long is it in Terran years?  Four or five, I suppose.  A fair stretch, during which I've heard not the slightest rumour of any campaign to send help to the victims of Dempelath's tyranny in response to Dynoom's appeal.  You'd think I'd have heard, if appropriate action were being taken by the Sunnoad.  So far, then, I can't say I'm impressed by the result of my great journey from Starside to Sunside.

Well, anyhow, I did my bit, the matter is out of my hands, and after all Olhoav is so very far away...

Sleep...  sleep...

Awakening.  Morningshine glows about me as I lie swathed in my cloak on the cork-like gralm of the plain.  I am alive for another day on this strange and wonderful planet.  My mood has lightened.  My thoughts are crisper -

Yesterday evening my eyes deceived me in the failing light.  Those funny-looking 'trees' are in reality guard-towers!

They're sculpted to look like trees, except the tallest.  That middle one more resembles a giant flimsy kiosk.  It's held up - in daylight I can see this - by cables connecting it to the "trees" around it.  And what does it all mean?

Who cares, I reply to myself in somewhat un-Earthly mood: I neither need nor wish to know the answer.  Let it be.  Ignorance is power - declares a Uranian principle which has strayed over the border into my Terran identity.  The idea is one which I've learned to respect during my life here: the insight that you are less likely to get pulled into a trap if you insulate yourself from its meaning.

For if, instead, you strive to understand, you may find yourself in some mesh of reflexes and reactions which will end with you sucked into a current you'd rather miss, playing a game that you don't want to play, and developing a character which you'd rather not have.  But none of that can happen if you simply refuse to know what it's all about!

Nevertheless, while avoiding the "knowledge-game", I can put my own gloss on things.  I dubbed the things "guard-towers", did I not?  And as such I shall respect them.  I'll go past them carefully.  I shan't retreat from them, for whoever's there will have seen me by now, or at any rate they'll have seen the gleam of my skimmer's whitish-silver porrang hull.  It could well be safer for me to go on than to go back.  Not that I can be certain.  Whithersoever I look I see sufficient cause for wariness.  My nerves for some reason have become skittish - but now let the outward calm, which others apparently see in me, come true; let it seep inwards so that I become as cool a customer as I am reputed to be.

Having tidied up and removed all trace of my night's bivouac, I mount my skimmer, and nudge the steering lever to set off at slow speed.


I aim to ride past the central group of "tree-towers", so as to skirt them at a moderate distance of a few hundred yards.  To veer further might look too much like sneaky evasion.  On the other hand, closer in, my track could be viewed as impertinent defiance.  The golden mean is what life demands.  Every second, I'm watching carefully.  This area seems (the phrase comes to mind) an ungenerous zone.

I'm almost past the shapes when I see, from a spot up in the "branches", a white cushiony thing undulate into view.  Too big to have have been occluded, it must just now have thrown off a camouflage colour.  I order my mind to give the thing a label, gloss it, categorize it.  Doubtless some member of one of the innumerable species of sentient cloud which infest this world...  but what is it doing here, oozing among the towers?  It floats into fuller view.  It has now detached completely from its base about fifteen yards up.  It has begun to slide through the air.  Is it coming at me?

I decelerate and turn my skimmer, to keep the thing in my sight as it turns to trace an orbit around the stand of towers, for though it seems not to be coming at me, I'd rather not turn my back on it. 

The thing's swerving flank brings into my view a discolouration, a brown-black indentation, a bruise.  It throbs on a five-second pulse.  I halt, hover and stare, and I wonder about the timing of this horrid Bruised Cloud's arrival.

I guess that it's employed in a morning patrol.  Like a sentry-and-dog on their round guarding some compound on Earth.  Fanciful analogy, maybe, but I often have to sustain myself with imagery of this sort.  One has to make one's own kind of sense of life on Ooranye.

Having stood my ground for some moments, I decide that honour is satisfied and I can now go on my way at a respectable pace.  I therefore turn again, so that my vehicle's bow is once more directed into the forward distance.  Just a touch on the lever and I'm off once more -

But no: I hear an explosion behind me.  Then the whizzing of a projectile, a plop and a fizzle, and I get the message, as clear as any "shot across the bows" can be, that some object (I can't see what) has been hurled onto the plain ahead of me. 

Should - can - I lunge off at full speed?  Foolishness.  I'm neither a desperate nor a guilty man.  Whoever's in that guard-tower, since he wants to stop me I must allow it.  This is his patch after all, and he may have the right of it.

I turn my skimmer, descend to a low half-yard altitude, step off and begin to walk, leading the vehicle with my right hand on a deck-ring, towards the stand of tower-trees.

For the first time I get the sense of something very old and familiar in my life.  Something which is common on Earth though seldom seen on Ooranye.


Umbrageous zones on this planet aren't completely unknown but they tend to be noticeable, if at all, for special reasons - nothing to do with interruption of the far sun's feeble light.  Ooranye's daytime airglow, normally ubiquitous and pervasive, naturally seeps around every object, with the result that everything in a landscape is illuminated from all sides, and therefore scenes are more like impressionist paintings dominated by colour than like Renaissance-style chiaroscuro.  Yet here, as I enter the grove of guard-towers, I perceive some definite shadow.   

Memory now comes to me of a few rare occasions when, on my travels around the seventh planet, I have come across plants which have evolved to stain their surrounding air with a protective darkness.  Here, though, it doesn't seem to be a case of such plant-hugging cloaks; here it's a wider diffusion of shade. 

I meawhile begin to sense the sussurous tracery, the warning whisper of a fence-plant, which you sometimes see around dwellings on the plains.  This one's meshy curtain becomes partly visible, a ghostly fence surrounding the bole of the central guard-tower.  Well, if they - whoever they are - wish to see me, I suppose I'll be provided with a way through.  Sure enough, as I plod on, I see a ripple shake the fence, and now some of its dark green strands have parted.  It's an invitation which, as I reach that point, I accept.  (I glance up as I walk through, and see that I'm now crossing the orbital path of the Bruised Cloud which floats by over my head.)  I approach the tower - pre-fabricated, as I now see from the screw-heads in the wood, and the slats and joints, all of which make it easy to imagine it being taken down and packed at short notice.  Whoever it is that I'm about to meet will be organized!  Next, a door opens in the bole.  All right then...  I squeeze in.  And immediately shoot upwards!  Straight upwards. 

This must be wrong.  Because of the tower's contorted shape I had been wincing in anticipation at being jerked about, and instead the impossible comfort of my actual rise makes me more queasy than I would have been if subjected to the anticipated corkscrew ascent. 

But isn't this daftness typical of the whole crazy planet? - asks my fed-up intellect.  Behold a tower that denies on the inside what it looks like from outside.  Isn't it time I ceased to adapt?  Opt to reject!  Or go as crazy as this world.

Now the upward whoosh is over and I'm facing an opened door.  I step onto an almost transparent platform.  My head for heights is fairly good but ordinarily I wouldn't tolerate a floor that's so see-through that you feel you're suspended fifty yards up in the air.  What's more, it is so flimsy that it ought to be heaving in the breeze like the deck of a ship -

Only, it isn't.  The platform is rock-steady because - the heaving has been transferred...

That's to say: the plains below me, and the remote horizon itself, are swaying, bucking and yawing, while contrariwise the transparency I'm standing on, and the seated couple waiting for me, remain rock-steady.

They're doing it through will-power. 

It must be.  The same will-power that was used, just now, to make the ascent through the twisted tower seem straight. 

This immigrant thought, which (to be fair) is helpful, trickles up through the horizontal barrier I'm furiously trying to maintain between my consciousness mind and the vast alien archive lurking below it.  Must stop grinding my teeth...  They're staring at me, those two Uranians, and I stare back.  Unusually for the inhabitants of this world they wear no cloaks but shiny-plated tunics and helmets, though I notice the ubiquitous cloaks aren't far away - thrown over the back of the chair.  They rest their lasers across their knees. 

Both man and woman are younger than I, but severe.  I hope I never acquire that look.  The man's glower is the most fanatical, but even the woman looks like a younger and prettier Madame Defarge.  I mentally rummage, fast; it is possible that somewhere in my brain is the knowledge of who they are.  One thing I can tell: no everyday jobs suffice for this pair; they are obvious chirrs, vigilees, folk whose work is done entirely in a state of full awareness rather than in the tranced routine which suffices for humbler toil in the streamlined societies of this ancient planet. 

No third chair is available, but if there had been I somehow doubt that I would have been invited to sit...

"I am Sol Ostobon," the man coldly announces, "and this is my wife Zadrun Mok.  We are of the Bostanga Fom, which gives us the right to detain you, to ask who you are and what is your business."

The term Bostanga Fom means nothing to me.  Whether or not it ever did, I have failed to remember.  In any case I just want out of this. 

(Out of the corner of my eye I see the Bruised Cloud creep into view.  I glimpse that it suddenly pastes itself to one of the lesser tree-towers in the stand.  Apparently, the cloud's "bruise" is an anchor pad of some sort.  Re-attached to that base, it deflates rapidly, to a mere discolouration on the tower.) 

"I am Yadon, a homeless wanderer," I reply. 

They're looking at me, expecting more.  Any chance they'll not ask where I'm from?  I notice they were watching my reaction to their funny cloud.  Perhaps they can guess that I'm a stranger to Syoom.  To stress my vagabond status, I add: "I live off the land, or by contractual Wayfaring."

"We thought so," says Sol Ostobon.  "So - we meet at last, Starsider." 

So they know.

He makes a sign to his wife as if to say, Keep him covered...  and she, understanding, turns the tip of the laser she's holding in her lap, so that it points to me.  Oh heavens - this "come in Mr Bond, we've been expecting you" stuff shows that all they had to do is wait for the fate-lines to bunch their coincidences their way.  Despite the fact that Syoom is eight times the land area of the Earth, they've found their needle-in-the-haystack. 

Sol Ostobon, using both hands, has lifted a heavy volume from the floor.  He has opened it and now begins to read aloud from it, punctuating his words with sharp stares in my direction. 

"The reports," he says, "cover several pages.  Here are some recent samples.

"On Day 10,545,487 Ac, at Invun, one of my agents overheard you in the Swoa Zoalzh in conversation with one Thendon Arek, Wayfarer, who remarked that he was leaving Invun the next day on a transect to Pjourth.  You are recorded as having replied in these words: Quite a journey!  But a bigger one needs to be made!  We'd be leaving Syoom altogether in our hundreds of thousands if we knew what's at stake; we ought not to breathe freely until the Sunnoad leads a fleet to Starside.

"On Day 10,545,561 at Xydur you were overheard in the central market chatting to a farmer who had planted a new field of vheic.  Your recorded comments included, It's time the Sunnoad led us to plough the first furrow of victory on Starside.

"Most recently, on Day 10,545,614 Ac at the Museum of Relief Operations in Jaax you were heard to interrupt a guide's speech with the words, It's comfortable to cloister ourselves here in Syoom but the passage of time will darken all our prospects unless and until the Sunnoad gets a move on and does his duty on Starside."

Sol Ostobon shuts the book with a snap.  He leans forward, his stare more concentrated and more grim.

"I don't pretend to know what cloister means," he says, "but the drift is clear."

"Did I really say all that?  Yes, I suppose I did," I reply, lightly.

"You are discontented with the Sunnoad," the man's tone tolls like a bell.  "Seriously discontented.  That makes you our business.  We of the Bostanga Fom have the duty to act, if need be, pre-emptively.  You understand."

Despite my previous determination not to comprehend I do, indeed, sadly grasp the situation.  For now the memory at last comes back.  Clearly it recounts my previous brush with the voluntary elite of the Bostanga Fom, some two thousand days ago, shortly after my arrival in Syoom.  Yes, after all, I do know them and, moreover, I can understand them.  Analogies from my Earthly home come to mind.  Recorded in the history of England are those associations which sprang up for the protection of Elizabeth the First and of William the Third, two sovereigns much threatened with assassination.  In both cases the members of the association swore to defend the endangered ruler and that if the worst happened they would wreak vengeance upon the plotters.  Of course the time scale is vaster here on Ooranye, and as I understand it the Fom is a more or less permanent feature of this Actinium Era.

I speak - relieved to hear no tremor in my voice -

"If you really believed that I am a threat to the Sunnoad, would you not have resolved to shoot rather than talk?"

"I can do both," replies Sol Ostobon without hesitation.

It's no good pretending I don't see the point.

"You wish me to name my accomplices first?  But surely, if you've listened to the rumours that follow me around, you must know that I work alone."

"Then you admit that you're working towards..."

An immigrant thought is banging for admission, crazily provocative, and on a whim I allow it:

"It would not be the first time a Sunnoad was Corrected," I say.

"You dare to smile as you score that point," remarks the sponndar who has my life in his hands. 

Perhaps the only reason I'm not yet dead is that my super-confident antagonist has no reason to hurry.  Not only has he "got the drop on me" but also, though younger than I am, he oozes that kind of seniority that comes from being steeped in a vastly older culture.  It comes to me that I have seriously erred for a long time, carelessly creating the wrong impression on a world which, lacking laws, is networked instead with steely lines of responsibility.  If this fellow really is sufficiently dubious about me he will follow his conscience by firing his laser.  If it's not too late I had better add some emollient remark.

"Actually you needn't worry," I assure him; "I have not the slightest intention to become a Corrector.  Having read some history I'm well aware that the role is just about the most dangerous which anyone can play.  Death and ignominy are the penalty for failure, and I'm not crazy enough to take that risk."

He slowly shakes his head, and the moment sparkles with a glitter of finality.  I have been privileged to live a life on two wonderful worlds; let that suffice.  The greatest adventure of life now awaits within the next second - I am going to find out what awaits on its other side -

"Stop!" says the woman.  She now has her own laser pointed at her husband. 

"Zadrun!  What - ?"

"The Starsider may be on a destined path."

"What do you mean, by the Skies?"

"He could really be a Corrector!"

One fragment of memory flashes: I'm a schoolboy at the school play, and Romeo is making his great speech.  "But soft: what light through yonder window breaks? / It is the east, and Juliet is the sun."  At which point, an aeroplane happens to fly overhead, and, at the noise of it, some in the audience chuckle at the incongruity.  Aeroplane-noise plus Shakespeare; funny haha.  Back to the present, I sense a droning overhead, not a real sound this time, but something that presses down on one's Uranian senses.  Sol Ostobon feels it too.  His suddenly pursed-up mouth and the too-and-fro flicker of his eyes are those of someone having second thoughts.

His eyes come to rest on mine and he reads the recognition of the same truth that I simultaneously read in his. 

"I dare not shoot," he admits. 

He lowers the point of his laser, and I vow henceforth that I shall never more resist the immigrant thoughts in my skull.

"Why?" I ask, levelly.

"My wife may have seen a reason to trust you."

Neither of us mention the 'overhead thing', the droning murmur of the fate-wave, which admits no question.

How grateful I am, that I did not make any desperate move to escape the threat of death!  I might have attempted to lunge forward, to wrest Sol's weapon from him; almost certainly such an attempt would have failed, but even if my chances had been far better than they were, an undignified scrimmage would have been a poor swap for the higher-grade salvation now on offer.

The overhead sound-that-wasn't-a-sound has flown by, leaving us with a dreamlike sense which causes speech to falter.  I'm sure that Zadrun and Sol, same as I, feel that our concerns have paled by contrast with the mighty wave.

The woman's voice bites into the solemn silence.

"Now that it is decided, Starsider Yadon, that we are not going to kill you, logic requires that we ought, instead, to help you."  And she cups her hands in front of her mouth, and trills... a piercing sound which causes me to shudder.

"Er... may I ask..." I begin.

"Nuruk," she says with a gesture that directs my gaze to where the Bruised Cloud is re-inflating itself. 

"No," I say, watching the thing as swells; "no thank you; I work alone; let Nuruk stay here; truly, I'm better relying on myself."

Zadrun with an acidic smile says, "I believe you, Yadon, having noted the speed of your decision!  Very well, Nuruk stays here."

Her husband says, "If we can do nothing more for you, we bid you farewell.  Skimmjard, sponndar!  May luck favour you."

Looks like I can go.  Just to make sure, I spread a patter of speech to cover my retreat. 

"I'm of the opinion," I say, "that I have already enjoyed all the luck I can reasonably expect, but since Fate is not reasonable, maybe I shall indeed receive more; who knows?"  With that, I reach the elevator door, it opens, I step in, and down it goes, while I hope that this is not some nightmare trick in which, once I'm in the open, they set Nuruk onto me.

Down on the ground at last, I am being allowed to mount my skimmer, and to set off... which indicates that I am free of the clutches of the Bostanga Fom. 

Leisure to breathe easily, after a while brings the thought, that perhaps I may have to take seriously what's been said.  No, dammit!  I won't!  I am not the stuff of which Correctors are made!

Back over my shoulder I look at the grove which is dwindling behind me.  It's oddly changing.  Not understanding what I see, I slow down for a better look.  It... the entire complex... is coming to pieces; it is being disassembled - skies above, Sol and Zadrun aren't losing any time: they're packing away, or rather, ordering their prefabricated fort to pack itself away.  A chatter of ideas surges up from my subconscious store of Uranian knowledge: a well of hints, immigrant suggestions which my Terran consciousness is forced to entertain.  Some kinds of organic units had been lifted off a grove many days ago and - but hold it, I don't want or need to know all this.  Why should my proper mind be forever huffing and puffing as it strives to run alongside the justifications for Uranian events?  All that I need to understand is: the couple who detained me, whether they had been waiting here only to assess me, or simply because their watch in this district happens to be over, have finished with this scene just as (thank the Skies) they have finished with me, and I with them.

I am thinking now like a purely Terran mind.  Risky, of course, since I'm here and not on Earth.  Nevertheless, for better or worse the blocks against Uranian immigrant thoughts have again gone up in my head.  Reaction against the past few seconds, I suppose.  Perhaps it's all right for a while, I tell myself; yeah, block it all off.  The more so, because, in a sense, on whichever world I am, it's the same old story!  Whether I'm being pushed about by historical forces (as on Earth) or used as a lever by fate (as on Ooranye), I have to accept the hand I have been dealt.  That's choice for you...  Stuff happens; causes are followed by effects.  Maybe the Uranian way of looking at things amounts to a different mode of expression from that which is used on Earth, but so what...

Grouchy thoughts, but happy ones too, as I look back once more at the disassembling grove.  It's further and smaller and also fuzzier with the dust of activity.  I'm not sorry to see the whole scene blurring; alone and free, I accelerate away, enjoying the emptiness of the plain.

Now that my Terran self has renewed the claim to be indisputable boss, I can afford to condescend, allowing dribblets of native knowledge to seep up from the basement, such as:

It is the preferred style of the Bostanga Fom to guard the Sunnoad remotely, unobtrusively; they don't crowd him; they leave him space.  So their presence does not mean he is close.  Indeed it is reasonable to assume that he is far away from here, which means he is far from me, which suits me well, for thus I shan't be pressurised by fate to become a Corrector; it cannot happen if I am nowhere near the Sunnoad.


My compass (or direction/distance indicator, as I suppose it would be called on Earth) tells me that I am 6,000 miles from Skyyon, the Sunward polar city. 

That, which I've picked as my next destination, I could reach, at top speed, in a day.  Or rather, I could if I travelled at top speed of 200 m.p.h. for the whole 30 hours.  However to my way of thinking it's seldom advisable to go at top speed for such a length of time.  Sometimes I have done it, and the skimmer motor is sufficiently robust to continue for years at full power if need be.  My hesitancy is due to a reluctance to attract attention; to whizz blindly past some clue of a threat is, I strongly feel, never a good idea on this giant world.  I am therefore travelling at half-speed, trading caution for time. 

This makes for easier sightseeing as I pass through a notable region of giant windbent flowers which nod their stelliform heads, each twice man-length, thirty yards above me as I skim by; they arouse in me a wonder at their isolated profusion of beauty.

Then some metallic glints on the gralm - possibly the litter of an ancient airship crash - hint to me the origin of the giant flowers.  On the Uranian plains it can happen that the debris of disaster gives rise to remarkable growths.  Many a unique ecosystem has evolved to feed upon a foreign admixture of trace elements in the ground furnished by wreckage.  And so I, the wandering tourist from Earth, am treated to a fascinating but brief view.  A blessing, which prompts my mind to count other extraordinary blessings as the majestic flowers recede.

Just suppose I had remained on Earth and somehow survived the attack on me in that London backstreet, I would be an old man now, or dead; whereas here, having lived a great part of a marvellous second life, I am still in my middle-aged prime, stronger and fitter than I could ever have become as an Earthman.

Fate's backlash, though, sends a sort of jagged prickle of awareness that threatens to sink my heart.  Awareness of something coming, I don't know what.  It is as though, while not seeing anything to crash into, I know I am about to collide. 

More plants, again quite different from what I've seen before, rattle around me in the wind.  Hundreds of them now, man-high, each of them a bare stem above which the slatty part swings to and fro, like the swinging saloon doors in Wild West movies.  Those which are close together, with rhythms that don't match, thwack each other often, and the whole effect becomes noisier as the growths become more frequent.  I slow down to sixty, fifty, forty miles per hour.  I now have to weave around so as to avoid the clumps. 

Ahead, I see some hills completely covered in these slat-plants.  I could go round, where they thin away, but curiosity invites me onto another route, to steer through the valley between.  Now watch out.  Better steer myself as well as the skimmer!  Most of the time I feel reasonably accustomed to this world.  I'm attracted by its Wayfaring ethos.  I approve of the high value set on adventure and voyaging, and since these aspects of life are valued on Earth too (though far fewer opportunities are provided there), I feel I can prize the Uranian way of things without ditching my Earthly mind-set.  Now and then, however, it's not so easy.  Here for example.  A muffled condition, so to speak, where the view threatens to break into a grin of terror, urges me to open an emergency valve in my mind, to assimilate another puff of native mentality.  That way, without completely succumbing, I can nevertheless sip enough of the strength that's needed here on Planet Seven, strength which my Terran self could never provide.

A shimmer from a racket-thing, a few feet high, stuck in the ground, facing me, tells me that the object is enormously valuable.  To get the reason I'd have to allow a gush of other stuff into my consciousness, and I don't want any such spurt right now, so I'll go round the thing; just avoid it; and since it stands between me and the small hills, I'll alter course, veer around and circle them instead of passing through.  So, to shun the racket-thing, I steer my skimmer onto my new, swerving course.  Flash!  Mere seconds have gone by and all of a sudden the hills are gone.  Gone as if they had never been!  Heavens preserve me - flat plain is all I see!  Without coherent thought, I pull the lever and halt once more.

I look again at that little object, that racket-thing.  Now that I've gone far enough to the side, it is no longer facing me.  Quite sensibly my inner voice says, the object must be the creator of an illusion, and the hills were the illusion.  If you're directly in front of the gadget you see past it to a landscape that does not really extend in that direction.  Maybe it does not exist at all, anywhere, anywhen, or maybe it is a reflection of the far past, when those hills did rise in that area, though they've since relaxed into the horizontal.

I experiment.  A short skim in the other direction confirms the idea, that you have to be fairly in front of the racket-thing to see the illusion.  Well, what now?  I was about to leave this whole scene, passing by its mysteries, which don't concern me.  That still seems like a good idea: just go!  That's the great thing about this world: if you don't like something you can just go!  I reach for the starting lever.

Yet the inner voice still babbles: 

... you could say HE positioned it as a decoy... ...that's to say HE placed the chaomattaz [racket-thing] some way off from his workplace.  Raiders approaching from this direction would be satisfied with snatching and making off with it... ...though so far nobody has thieved it...  Anyhow, when it does happen, HE will either have to find some other spot to work in or find some other decoy, another chaomattaz or a different gadget altogether, to plug this gap in HIS line of defence...

And so on and so on, sentence following sentence with reference to "he".  All without overtly specifying who "he" is.  Deduce, then, that it is somebody who, to decoy unwelcome callers, uses the chaomattaz, despite or rather because of its value, which is so great as to tempt some Uranians to theft: and theft is a rare crime on the seventh planet.  "He", therefore, is one who can surround his workplace with a ring of artifacts that are each worth a fortune.

That's disturbing enough.  My own behaviour is even scarier.  Instead of proceeding with my original intention to give the whole area a wide berth, I turn my skimmer to penetrate this particular stretch of plain.  What am I about? 

Makes me think, perhaps Bostanga Fom weren't wrong about me.

I'm permitting the force that carries me along to educe the potential of this time and place.  From a toy, the chaomattaz, the imminent next stage of my life is educed, and then the next, namely tracks in the gralm, tracks of a Crawler -

Like graffiti on the surface of the plain, these tracks were scored, I'd say, over a period of a few hundred days, the older ones more eroded than the newer from windblown dust, vegetable debris and loose granules of gralm.  Skimming along very slowly now, I carefully examine the culture layer in this district.  Clumpy concentrations of the slat-plants are becoming closer-packed and taller.  One unusual clump further ahead rises into a featureless mass.  Somewhat nearer and to one side of it a small-model Crawler rests: it looks like a cross between Terran military tank and farm-tractor.  It has apparently been abandoned upon what looks like an ancient junk-pile, crumbled down to a mere yard-high swell of trash.  I keep an eye on it as I skim past.  The main mass of slat-plants is where I'm headed; as it resolves into several dark groves, I enter among them.  My determination now is to face what is here, since I have come this far.

Behold, here are some ramshackle clusters of low buildings; they're built of parts of slat-plants and - why am I muttering to myself "I told you so"? - parts of crashed skyships.  Interesting how they seem to have been patched up and arranged into buildings...  At this point I stop the skimmer, sink to the ground and get off. 

I stand, amidst this somewhat gloomy set-up of junk-like structures, warning myself.  The scene is quietly shouting at me to mind my manners.  Tactfully does it, says my Uranian mind; and in my Terran mind a wise obedience accepts.

I detect motion, about a hundred yards in front of me.  A creature has appeared around the corner of a shed.  With a fluid metallic twinkle it curves into view: a body the size of a gas-truck, a hunchy head, a cylindrical back and multiple legs that scissor as they ripple along.  I start to hear a reverberating growl like exrre, exrre, exrre.   

The metallic beast is circling a central group of sheds.  A fragment of contemporary lore wells up from the native depths of my Uranian mind: "Exrre guards the golden one".  Another fragment: "Exrre radds from place to place."  What the verb "to radd" is, I don't know. 

The thing does not scare me yet; I successfully assure myself, it's "only" the equivalent of a guard-dog.  Does this coolness of mine mean that I am reserving all my fear for the owner?  Maybe; still, I walk forward, while in my busy head I piece together clues which would be inadequate to a pure Terran.  What have I seen so far?  A lumbering guard-doggy thing.  A tractor-vehicle which amounts to a small-model trading Crawler, rather than the flat-bed titan convenient for large construction work.  And clusters of improvised buildings.

I deduce that what I see has been put together during a long span of time by one lone recluse, who has the wealth and the status to arrange things how he wants in the place he has chosen.

At last I come to what looks like the nerve-centre, the dwelling-shed of the Noad of Noads. 

The size of a cylindrical hut, this unlisted address amidst the thousands of miles of plain between Jaax and Skyyon actually jogs a name in my memory.  "Icohi."  I have heard of it!  So, what do I know, what does my education tell me about Icohi?  For a start, it tells me that it's a place to leave alone.  Unless, that is, you're pushed there by one heck of an excuse.  Now, let me decide.  Is being pushed here by fate a sufficient excuse?  It ought to be. 

Anyhow the sensors will have spotted me and it would look too suspicious if I slunk away now.  I'll pay my respects to the Sunnoad; I'm sure he'll understand; after which that I can move on.

I walk towards that modest-looking door... and before I get to it, it opens. 

No servants, of course, observes my Uranian self without surprise.  The golden-cloaked man himself has operated his own front door.  He's waiting on the threshold.  Terran self - cut down on the stupefaction!  Must call my mental processes to order.  The man looks discernibly tight-lipped; whoa, should I turn tail?  No!  Adopt a studied manner, advance coolly, halt and wait for him to speak first. 

"A visitor," says Sunnoad Brem Tormalla 80437.

"A datum," say I, "to be ignored or not as the Sunnoadex chooses."

His face, as I anxiously watch, relaxes.  "I'm disinclined to ignore data," he says, moving aside.

Suddenly he's no more scary than that genial, burly man with whom I was briefly acquainted back in the city of Ao about two thousand days ago.  The lines of his broad features have not deepened as a result one might expect in someone who has been transfixed all that time by the status of the world's most vertiginous post; on the contrary, I sense an enhancement of his natural granitic serenity by that further expansion of the persona which must happen to a Noad of Noads.  His former self is now magnified, shrouded in the overlay of symbolism, his welcome almost drowned in some phosphorescent chorus of living history.

It would be a huge mistake to spout something inane about not wishing to waste his time!  All the same I wish - as I cross the threshold - that the fate-wave was not so smelly-strong! 

Well then, I tell myself, put your trust in Providence rather than in this planet's convoluted paths of destiny.  But no, that won't do.  It's not a case of one or the other.  Fate, here, is a force of nature, not a competitor with Providence.  To play at juggling priorities between them would be like trying, on Earth, to pit theology against meteorology.

He clicks the door behind me.  At the same moment, at a glance, I take in the fact that I am in a circular room.  It's maybe six yards across, so it must occupy the whole of the interior of the "hut".  It has no windows, but a transparent ceiling lets in the airlight and the meagre sunlight.

Round the wall, from waist to head high, in three separate arcs run stretches of instrument board.  In the room's centre stands a chart table, likewise round; on it are winking luminous dots and lines.

My eyes play around all this for a second or two and then I turn to look at my host.  He, too, is scanning the interior, more intently than I, as though he were anxious to check on the instrument clusters after his attention had wavered.

Then he switches back to me.

"I can't invite you to sit," he says, with a gesture around the room, which, indeed, lacks any chair or bench.

"I shan't voice any peeve about that," I reply.  I gesture at the winking tell-tales which, for all I know, are signalling some urgency.  "Nor shall I mind if you have to interrupt my visit at any moment."

"Perhaps you count as a warning-light yourself," says the Sunnoad.

That brings it out into the open.  I swallow, as the moment stretches.  "I suppose," I hazard gloomily, "the Bostanga Fom has warned you about me."


A reminiscent smile, by the looks of it, grows upon Sunnoad Brem Tormalla's face. 

He nods gently as he addresses me: "Daon Nyav Yuhlm of Olhoav, alias Yadon the wanderer, I am not terribly surprised to see you.  I have had some reports from the Bostanga Fom, and from my own agents, who have tracked you as you sweep your lazy curves through Syoom.  In fact, never have I entirely forgotten your existence since that occasion when you entrusted me with the message which you had brought all the way from your Starside city."

"A long time ago," I murmur.

"Two thousand days ago.  Since then, most of what I've heard about you I like and even envy; in my view, you ought to be a contented man."

Leave yourself a loophole, I warn myself.

"So far contented," I agree, "to know that as a messenger I did my job."

"Yes, you made a good guess, leaving your data with me, even before I was elected Sunnoad.  You need have no regrets about that.  But... afterwards?"  He rests one hand on the chart table, while his speech probes me as though I were one of the moving lights on his maps. 

Heaven help me if I try to fool him.

I answer: "My active part was finished."

"But you must have kept your ears open."

"For rumours, Sunnoad Sponndar?" 

He nods.  "Regarding the purport of your message, and what is being done about it."

"I have heard no rumours," I shrug.

"Which, in itself, you must deem unsatisfactory.  Admit it, sponndar!  You have heard of no plans or preparations to send a skyfleet to Starside to rescue Olhoav from the tyranny of Dempelath.  Admit, you don't think this is good enough!"

"I cannot presume to say more about it," I speak with words chosen as warily as steps that inch along a narrow ledge, "except that I count myself immensely fortunate to live the life I love, the life of a happy vagabond, wandering through this utterly fascinating land of Syoom; and I'd be a lot less happy, did I not well understand that the hardest questions of policy are entirely your business, Sunnoad sponndar, and not mine."

His eyes flicker around the room.  "One discrepant side to your picture of contentment: it needs revision to accommodate those occasions in which you HAVE been heard to comment upon my apparent neglect of the appeal from Olhoav."

"No - that is - "  I gulp for air.

"Go on.  You must know that the report by the Bostanga Fom is factual, undeniable.  They read parts of it to you, did they not?  But you can still try for exculpation.  Indeed if you have the sense I credit you with, it must be fairly clear to you that I don't want to condemn you but to make use of you.  I know the thin though far-spread rumour, that your mind is partly that of an Earthman, and I believe that you do, indeed, possess that unique faculty."

"And it's all the harder to talk about," I babble, "as the distinction between my Terran and Uranian personae is becoming blurred at their common frontier."

"Mental miscibility," nods the Sunnoad.  "All the better; all the more useful.  You're one of us Uranians at the same time that you aren't."  His expression breaks into a grin.  "You have had to think fast on that one."

"In this game one has to be extemporaneous," I grin back.

"The 'game' being...?"

"Fate-ball!" says I with a sudden laugh. 

He laughs too, deftly catching my amusement though he can't possibly know anything at first hand about Terran culture.  And it's true that this conversation is flowing on like the best kind of World Cup match, with the added convenience of kicking around the truth.  I can't remember ever being able to speak so frankly as this concerning my dual nature.  In relief I further trace out my thoughts:  "Even if I had retained my Terran body by physically travelling through space to this world, I would have had to change profoundly to adapt.  As things are, my mind alone did the journey; my physical self is perfectly Uranian.  What is Terran in me is just what's left of my memories.  Plus that side of my soul.  That's all that allows me to call myself an Earthman still."

"And allows you equally to count as a native of this world." 

"Yes, because one is allowed to have more than one home."

At my utterance of "home", the Sunnoad, to my brief surprise, assumes a gloomy expression.  He broods at the floor. 

Then he raises his head and jbs at a button, which startles me; I hear a faint grinding noise, and sense a gentle vibration under my boots - "Regarding your particular Uranian home in Olhoav, allow me to express some regret that I have not, so far, answered the call for help which you brought me from that city."

Can it be that I have just heard a Sunnoad apologizing

That's how it sounds, for certainly I heard the words aright.  So, of necessity, my insight expands.  From what I know of history and from this unornamented control room I get hints of that life which Brem Tormally must be leading - of the  homeless dedication which the world's loftiest rank can bring.

Again with a casual gesture he jabs at another button.  I hear another soft grind.  The floor faintly trembles again.  And yet again, with an absent air, he presses with his finger a third time.

Now he's taking a few steps around the chart table; he bends as if reaching down to a side-drawer, straightens up...  I hear him say:

"I still have these, of course."

What he holds, causes a tremor in me.  Past is knitted to present in the depths of my being.  The message-crystal, which was brought to me from Dynoom, glows again in Brem Tormalla's right hand; in his left, the artefact called the "stupp" - the thing I purloined in my raid upon the Husnuth so long ago - protrudes from his grip.

I crossed half a world to bring those things to him.  Is he now going to hand them back to me?  I desperately hope not.

"Yes," he continues, "here they are.  They summon memories, do they not?"


"Of that room where 80436 lay dying.  I owe you, Yadon."

Curse my wobbliness; I jumped then!   Must focus, must be sharp.  "Indeed, Sunnoad Sponndar?"  That's perhaps not the suavest way to say it.  Like the way he refers to his predecessor Sunnoad Arad Thastu 80436 by her number alone, that's to say by her place in the sequence of the sunnoadex, maybe I should address Brem Tormalla as "80437", rather than "Sunnoad Sponndar", and though to Terran ears it sounds dry to call a man by a number, it's not dry here, oh no, it's more like magic here - ah but concentrate, concentrate, as he draws breath to say more -

"Upon investigation," he explains, "I found that before leaving Ao you took action against one Tem Talfarn."

"Yes, that's true, because - " I stop.  He's holding up his hand.  He knows.

"Tem Talfarn," summarises the Sunnoad, "had been about to use some Fyayman gadget to inflluence the thuzolyr-election.  In other words if you had not acted as you did, I might not be wearing this cloak.  To repeat: I owe you, Yadon."

"Ifs abound, Sunnoad Sponndar.  Ifs without end."

"And some are vital," he says quietly.

"I stopped Talfarn," I admit, "and that makes me one, just one, of a world-full of factors in your rise."  Carefully thus I dilute the suggestion of my importance.  My strong instinct is to counter the suggestion that he owes me a lot.  It has occurred to me, that at this dizzy height it could be just as dangerous to be owed as to owe. 

I'm being strategic here, terribly strategic as I strive to match wits with the Noad of Noads.  It's on the assumption that if I fail to do so, he'll somehow redefine our roles at my expense.  But this is crazy: who am I to resist his fate-wave anyhow?  Must kick these thoughts away and just use my eyes and ears.  Stuff is happening.  I just then saw the Sunnoad reach to flip a switch in response to a beep from some tell-tale on the encircling bank of lights.

Now he reverses another switch, perhaps putting something on hold.  Catching my eye he says: "I'll show you a sample of business here."

A groaning rumble and a movement follows.  They forcibly alert me to the fact that that the blank areas in the circumference of this 'Kiosk' are all three of them doors, sliding open as I watch, giving, to my confusion, not onto open ground but onto covered walks.  Ah, it has been slickly done.  Doubtless for some reason to do with security, these protected walks can be raised in almost no time at the press of a switch.  Where do they lead?  Brem Tormalla brushes past me and without turning his head he gestures for me to follow.


I could refuse.  No - that would never do.  Dismiss the thought.  This is a moment to move.

In the old courts of Earth you had to back out of a ruler's presence because etiquette forbade you to turn your back on him; here, in a way, the contortion is more difficult still: not "which way can I face", but "which way can I disagree" - for if he's right now he must have been wrong before...

I stride in his wake down the cloche-like way towards an arch.  Through it I pass into a humming brightness.  More instruments, more lights; and, dominating them all, a curved glowing screen that largely fills a 120-degree arc of wall which leans at us as we stand before it. 

My guess is, the entire installation was built by one man - by this man.  The offsets and minor irregularities in the fused plastic coamings suggest to me the work of one individual: so judges my native under-self.  If only my instinct could penetrate further, to answer that question: was he wrong before or is he wrong now?  Then within me a deeper whisper: Perhaps it's not "either-or"

Meanwhile, punching switches, the man remarks:  "I built all this from the wreck of a grounded skyship, the Niom Krarb.  It's good to have a hobby..." 

Well, that confirms one of my hunches.  He built all this; in hobbyist fashion it's his domain.  Snap goes another switch as he continues: "The locking collar.  Just in case this place has to turn into a fort." 

While he continues his disquisitions they're drowned out for me by the next, more troublesome question, Why is he telling me all this?  It's as thought he believes I might sometime need to know!  Laughable.  It must simply be, that he is honouring me in this way as compensation for his having failed to act in the matter of Olhoav.  Showing me this interesting room, where my thoughts lurch this way and that as blotchy images appear and swirl on the big screen.  I feel obliges to say something intelligent. 

"The swirls of fate, Sunnoad Sponndar!"

"What about them?" he asks without turning his head.

"They press so thickly," I find myself saying, "around the wearer of the golden cloak."

"Your point being - ?"  (Is that a tone of impatience?  He still doesn't turn to look at me; he's staring intently at the screen, waiting for something to come into focus.)

"They press so thickly," I repeat, "around the Noad of Noads, that nen never does make a real mistake.  Decisions may seem like mistakes at the time, but..."

But now I seem to hear a ghost from Earth.  It is Thomas Jefferson, in his inaugural, remarking, 'Let history answer this question'.  I'm wrong!  Real mistakes are made!  Disasters are caused by rulers!  And with regard to Uranian history I recollect that Sunnoads Fiarr Fosn and Tu Rim went catastrophically wrong.  Rare cases - but that's the way of catastrophe.

The man turns.  "Watch this, Yadon!" he says briskly.  "I'm getting the pre-arranged signal from Byndin Ghelanver, Noad of Toolv."

I automatically step back as light blazes in my face.  I see the Sunnoad limned against the image of a beautiful woman who has flashed into magnified view on the screen.  Her glory towers over us.  Even in a world in which everyone is handsome by average Terran standards, this lady excels.  I sort of expect someone like that to be surrounded by courtiers; but no.  Haughtily she broods in high-ranking solitude as she sits wrapped in furs which match her grey-caramel skin.

They've begun to speak to each other and I'm losing track - I can distinguish the words if I make the effort, but particular drops of meaning are hard to distil from the downpour of impressions, though I gather that the conversation began with an exchange of courtesies whereby the Sunnoad thanked the Noad for reporting and she thanked him for his interest in her city's problem.  Whatever it is.  I can't fathom it.  She's interlacing her fingers and leaning forward, now, to say something desperate.  She speaks and I get individual words.  As for the context, I don't get any of it, but the Sunnoad does.  He straightens and replies to her - in words that I repeat to myself in vain effort to comprehend -

"What we know is that the flomquaz is closing in on a spiral."

"Indeed it is, Sunnoad Sponndar.  But at any rate it has not yet begun to smile."

"We can at least be thankful for that," Brem Tormalla answers, and I grimly guess that I shouldn't worry at all about my lack of the faintest idea what they are talking about; on the contrary, it should be fine with me.

But this is not altogether true.  I am developing a sketchy feel, of the "flomquaz" as a mountainous spherical monster which rolls forward with a threat to "smile", that is, to show an arc-shaped rent in its surface.  Shudders shake my frame, but next I become aware that the great screen has gone blank.  Whew!  The interview is over.  I wonder how far the lady Noad of Toolv was satisfied with it. 

Standard stuff, I dare say; all in the day's work for Sunnoad Brem Tormalla.  Wiping away the sweat from my forehead I find I still have to exorcise my own big question: am I merely being honourably shown a glimpse of the golden-cloaked man at work or am I being trained?

Another big picture blazes on the screen, but rather than concentrate on it my memory keeps clinging to the sight of the lady just gone: the beautiful Noad Byndin Ghelanver of Toolv, her pouting self-possession, her vulnerable power.  I dig into my knowledge of the world.  I know something about the city of Toolv, which, my education tells me, has a unique constitution: its Noad is always a woman, and just below her in rank are the Four Hundred Lords, all male.  But for the time being I really must switch my attention over to the new, different screen-image. 

Its viewpoint is hovering outside a geodesic dome.  Through its panes I can glimpse something huge flapping inside.  Meanwhile in a voice-over a man is debating with the Sunnoad.  I catch some names: Trarral Htem, Noad of Jaax; the dome is called the "wjait"; the giant bird inside it, the "paom".  The whole lot seems metaphorical rather than real.  I can't grasp how or why.  A thing is either real or it isn't, surely?  I catch a place-name, "Htem".  That means it's real...

Flick!  Another picture!  No time to finish puzzling over the last one!  Blocky cliffs now confront me on the big screen.  Saurian forms are spread-eagled against the rock.  More chatter, the Sunnoad now exchanging comments with someone he addresses as "Wayfarer Alom Tharro".  This man is talking about "the Abutments of Mezenk" where the "Ghardinu" must decide how far to trust the "preceptor of klorr" with regard to the "metamorphism of trarral", while I thank the Lord for the merciful truth that all this incomprehensible stuff is nothing to do with me...  Ooranye is a fascinating world, but there are limits to what I can take in, and hence my profound gratitude for the fact that it's not my job to do so; though, thankful as I am for my non-involvement, I'm starting to feel rebelliously grumpy about the pushy throng of mysteries. 

The light dims; the pictures vanish.  The transmissions, the reports, the updates are over.  I catch the Sunnoad's eye.  To my surprise I sense that the grumpiness is not mine alone; he has a slightly crabby look.

"It's hard, hard," he mutters, shaking his head. 

He straightens up and puts some sort of plug in his ear.  Next he makes a call on a different, minor screen.  I hear the word "captain", and deduce that he's talking to the control room of a skyship.  His tone sounds easier, relaxing the atmosphere somewhat, but I'm meanwhile wondering what he meant by "It's hard, hard".  An excuse for his failure to help Olhoav, blaming the hail of other tasks that pour onto the sunnoadex?  Well, that's a fair point, is it not?  Why should this juggler of Syoomean crises give priority to a remote Starside city's plea?

Oh, he's clicked off the communicator and he's turned to me. 

"What do you think of it all so far, Yadon?"

"I'm almost speechless, 80437."  It's all I can say.

He lifts ironic brows, "That may be because you're wondering exactly how these people are the better for having conferred with me.  Noads Byndin Ghelanver and Trarral Htem, and Wayfarer Alom Tharro: what have I given them?"

"No, that was not in my mind at all," I truthfully reply.  "You're not a separable link in the story, you're..."  I trail off.

"Good, you're raising my hopes, Earthman!  Hopes that the fluid grasp of situational dynamics which we Uranians call renl is part of your armoury too.."

I dare to correct him:

"Part Earthman."

"Pick and choose the best of both worlds, then!  I've been reading reports about you for some while.  They amount to a mental barograph, that tells me you can do it."

"Do what, sponndar 80437?  You're confusing me.  I am only a wanderer.  I used to be a Daon, but can hardly even claim that any more.  "

He waves this aside.  "Now listen, Yadon.  You've watched, just now, as I offer help and moral support to some of my people who are under pressure.  I want you to do the same for some other folk whom I am currently too busy to reach.  That's all.  Lighten my load that little bit.  Will you do this?"

I consider various prevarications. 

"Who are these people you wish me to help, Sunnoad Sponndar?"

"Recent immigrants to Syoom.  Will you hear more?"  I nod, and he continues: "They're currently at the periphery.  The Grardesh border patrols spotted them, and notified Noad Amnen Narsh of Vyanth because his is the closest city to the newcomers.  But although Amnen Narsh, while reporting the matter to me, offered to help, I reckon - for reasons I shan't specify today - that you're the man for the task."

"Immigrants..." say I, to make sure I heard aright; for though the word exists here it is not often used. 

"Immigrants, exiles...  Captain Tak Valakar of the Zeztul has agreed to take you most of the way to the encampment."

I ponder.  "Whence came these people?"

With a tightening of the mouth the Sunnoad answers: "They appeared out of Fyaym; it happens now and then.  And it can transpire that such folk have had experiences which... well, you, Starsider and part Earthmind, stand as good a chance as anyone..."

"A chance to do what?  Oh, sorry, 80437 sponndar.  We of Earth ask too many questions."

He smiles.  "You're learning, though.  You will plough your own furrow." 

I smile too, at how the idiom exists on both worlds.  And as a job description, it's the sort I like best.

Anyhow - can one refuse the wearer of the golden cloak?


Up in the skyship and looking down, I keep doing double-takes, exclaiming in my mind, I'm out, I'm out!  Escaped, without humiliation, yes I did all right, yes really I did converse with the Noad of Noads without disgrace to my equilibrium, and the splendid chime of this thought gave me all the poise I needed while the platform floated down to fetch me, to carry me up into the Zeztul

Well, well, I dare say I shouldn't care so much that my poise has been preserved.  What, after all, would a little loss of dignity matter?  But on the other hand, if word has got around so generally that I possess the consciousness of an Earthman, then perhaps for the sake of my former home planet's image, if not for myself, it is natural for me to wish to preserve some scraps of that reputation which I have somehow acquired on this giant planet, where people seem to have fitted me out in the legend of a resourceful, fate-favoured wanderer.

Part of me stands back, amused at how full I am stuffed with confidence at the kind greeting I got from Captain Tak Valakar, who has taken the trouble to show me the settings for the vision sensors in this alcove of the control room.  At the touch of a button I can see the outside all around, as if I were dangling in clear air underneath the skyship.

Really he needn't have shown me; skyship design has remained mostly unchanged for thousands of lifetimes, since Uranian culture has outgrown technological fidgets, and so virtually anyone on this world knows a control room like nen knows the alphabet; therefore with not much effort I can access that native memory in my Uranian head - but he wanted to have his moment of explanation!  It seems that a lot of people are, like this Captain, eager to show the allowances they can make for my exotic Terran mentality, which they see as something that sits on top of my normal self like a magic hat.  For the folk of the Seventh Planet, the enigmatic Third - a place hardly visible even in telescopes, because it's so near the Sun - counts as some mystery-shrouded fantasy world.

...My understanding has just caught up with a word the Captain spoke to me before going to see to his own duties.  "Our departure is delayed while we pick up the swaffr."  I didn't asked him what swaffr meant; I let the syllables flow past my ears while he continued, "Meanwhile you can study the sprawl of Icohi." 

Ah, but now my understanding has caught up.  The swaffr - yes - how could I have forgotten?  Containers full of them, semi-transparent blocks coming up from the ground, pulled along bright lines which radiate out and down from this skyship.  Either the lines are physical, like glowing wires that stream out from the hull, or they're lines of force, which seems more plausible from the way they flashingly multiply into a winnowing-fan formation, overspreading the acres of "the sprawl of Icohi" - that complex of structures on the ground which has been built by the Sunnoad - which is yielding the crop of containers, perhaps some harvest of knowledge collected by the Sunnoad.

I think back to a scene long ago when I, the youngster Nyav Yuhlm, gawped at the ground-floor of the Pnurrm in Olhoav.  Since then I haven't been much involved with signal blocks.  Though many Wayfarers do liaise with the cartographers in the use of swaffr, I prefer to leave that task to the experts, whose vocation it is to compose the kinematic, existential maps of Ooranye. 

However, those loads  being hoisted - the delay they're causing - could I be looking at the opportunity I need?

While the Sunnoad's doodles are being so carefully transported up here, persumably so they can be distributed to eager cartographers throughout Syoom - might I pop back down for a second interview?  Use the delay to get a proper briefing from 80437?

Popping back down would admittedly appear to be a retrogade move.  But then, isn't that what one might expect from an Earth-minded eccentric?  I'm one who isn't so bound by the flows of the fate-waves of Ooranye, and who ought to be indulged if he changes direction...

It's not as if I am refusing the commission outright.  I'm willing to go and see the immigrants from Fyaym.  But it's reasonable to ask nicely for a bit more solid content to my instructions. 

Yes, if people wish to make allowances for an Earthmind, they can surely do it this way: they can allow me a job-description in black and white.  I don't even insist on a contract; just something a bit more definite than faith in a fate-wave! 

I could seek out the Captain and say I need to go down again, just for half an hour maybe, or even less.  "Sorry, you know, but this is how we Terrans do things; you people needn't wait for me anyhow; I shan't inconvenience your schedule..."  That ought to work, I should hope. 

Conducting the conversation in my head, while more and more of the swaffr are borne up to the ship, I feel a constriction in my chest, and I know it's no good: I am not merely an Earthman; my soul straddles both worlds.  I cannot, must not step off the wave.

The chest pressure eases.  I breathe better.

"We're almost set - "

I give a start; it's the Captain again.

To show respect, I stand, and my eyes follow his gesture as he thumbs at one of the lower view-screens: 

"Looks like it's break-time for Exrre."

Complying with his intention I stare straight down at a grey-blue patch of surface gralm, and I note what he wants me to note: the truck-sized arthropodal shape of Exrre, lurching, waddling on its way.  Even as I watch, a flap of gold approaches it: the Sunnoad is striding to the beast's side.  Break time, eh?  Yes, literally, for when Brem Tormalla reaches with what looks like a key, suddenly Exrre splits down the middle of its spine and falls apart.  From between the exoskeleton's halves, a bright fluffy creature emerges, bouncing with glee.  Brem Tormalla gives the thing a pat, ruffles its fur, and then turns away with a spring in his august step.

The thoughts of the Captain are coincident with mine.  "It's quite gratifying, Yadon sponndar, that when just now I exchanged some words with the Sunnoad, he seemed lighter of heart than usual.  You must have lifted some weight off his mind."

Well, yes, I dare say it probably did make 80437 cheerful to sling-shot me whithersoever he's keen I be flung -

"I'm naturally honoured," I say faultlessly, "to be tasked by the Noad of Noads."

Equally impeccably this youngish Captain, in his smart tunic and super-relaxed air of command, restrains his curiosity with ease, and, after assigning me a cabin, takes his leave of me without having asked anything about my mission.

I have never been superstitious, but when a mild acceleration and a soft thrum under my boots, and a shift in the scene outside, tells me that the skyship is underway, what I sense is akin to, only more meaningful and more powerful than, superstition, namely how things on this world persistently point, point, point, so that even the otherwise unrelatable fact of Exrre's "break" seems like a breeze-blown guidon fluttering at my break from vagabondage.  I'm being steered onto an official lane of activity. 

Oh well, I suppose my freedom isn't necessarily lost, for I can 'up' the scale, to subsume it all in a larger pattern.  If my commission is looked at that way, the fact that I've wandered into doing a job for the Sunnoad is not so much a change of direction as a zoom-out into a larger adventure... perhaps...  We'll see.


Nine thousand miles, three days' travel at the standard skyskip speed of one hundred miles per hour, and now, I'm told by Valakar, we are about to land...

I see no recognizable destination. 

I have been informed that the immigrants have settled in an area known as Namrol, which is close to sfy-50, the boundary between Syoom and Fyaym, and some few hundred miles from other settlements in the border territory. 

Namrol is, I'm told, patchily forested.  So far, through the scanner "windows" I see no forests; nothing but open plain.  Yet the Zeztul has begun to descend. 

Dissatisfied by my ignorance, I ask myself: might I, during these three days, have learned more from the crew?  They're an affable lot, friendly and respectful towards me, but somehow I can't bring myself to ask the questions which I might have asked on Earth - because, of course, this isn't Earth but what, precisely, is it that makes so much difference to my faculty of inquiry?

The answer that surfaces is oblique: here I am living amidst what in Terran terms is an impossibility - a civilized land without laws.  That, somehow, makes the difference. 

Laws, admittedly, have existed in Uranian history; even police forces and detectives have existed - but not often.  Such legalistic cultures, my studies tell me, form a tiny minority in the saga of this giant world.

Mostly, instead of laws we have pointy waves.

Now comes Tak Valakar to say something to me. 

"Your skimmer has been placed ready for release," Valakar tells me (and simultaneously the skyship's descent ceases; now it hovers).  "We are honoured to have transported you, Yadon."

Can't ask for more help, after that!  "Thanks for the lift," is all I can think of to say, and as soon as the trite Terran phrase leaves my lips I see it has gone down well.

"I'm sure you could have reached this area twice as fast on your own, though not as safely," he smiles.  "I bid you goodbye and I wish you success."

Whatever protection the Zeztul has provided is about to be withdrawn, and I must continue on my own for the last lap, but any rational objection (like, why leave the escort job uncompleted?) is over-ridden by the pointiness of things.  To shut off the logical Terran perspective, I sort of feel inside my head...

What have I done?  Not sure.  But as I step through the ribwork surrounding the hold, across a vast bare floor and onto the platform where my skimmer has been placed, I feel good!  Mounting my trusty vehicle, I notice that they’ve cleaned every part of it shiny-new.  The small rectangle of the pilot-board glows before my eyes especially invitingly. 

The platform under my skimmer begins to tilt.  I hear the soft tchut-kunk as the under-hatch opens.  The ship must be drifting low, so low that I should be able to slide out of it and drop neatly onto a level flight-path six yards above the plain. 

Giving a wave to those watching on-screen, out I go; the wind soughs against the shield and I am free.  Within seconds I've dropped into steady flight.  No navigational bother - my course is quite simply aimed at the horizon ahead.  The skyline is sparsely dotted with patches of forest concealing I don't know what.  I'm plumb lucky, I forcibly realize, as I contemplate the recent turn in my fortunes.  Just a few days ago I ran into the Sunnoad himself, no less, who has honoured me with a mission which, when it's over, will leave me with my last worry gone, for he has reassured me (I have his word) that he hasn’t forgotten about the message I brought him all the way from Starside.  I can henceforth trust him to do what he can to help Olhoav.  I, for my part, shall not complain about my return to the centre of things.  Centrality wasn't what I wanted but I accept that my life won't go back to what it was, and though I would have preferred to wander on and on without commitments, I am able to welcome the supersession of my old aims with that pliancy of will you absolutely must have in order to surf the fate-waves of Ooranye.  And the priorities don't have to be re-shuffled too far, for, though I am no longer a vagabond but a man with a mission once more, the mission still leaves me open, still permits me the tang of the breeze as my skimmer’s prow cleaves the air of the giant world...  What difference does it make on whose scanty orders I travel?  Wherever on Ooranye I happen to go I shall be exposed to the blizzards of adventure; discoveries will pelt my awareness; for it's that sort of world.

Even as I reflect on that, I see a blurry enormity rise above the skyline.

I’d happily bet a million genthou that what I’ve spotted is the top of great Kafumabapsu, the “wooden peak”.  Yes... the conformation of the giant tree is unmistakable from pictures I've been shown, when they told me what section of the border this is. 

I wasn't told, though, how circumspect I need be on my approach to Kafumabapsu.  I'll therefore please myself what special precautions I take against this wonder of the world.  The authorities were content to let me out of the skyship alone; therefore I shall assume I may reasonably skim onwards alone, to where the bushy patches begin.

Here, my natural instinct bids me slow down, at maximum alertness.

Sizeable vegetable clumps surround me.  The pathways between them wind out of sight in all directions.  More difficult, now, to keep a linear fate-wave in mind.  All my actions must ramify like the forkings of a road system.  Likewise the actions of others...  In this mood of uncertainty, I slow to a cautious creep. 

I hear voices.  Too far, as yet, for me to distinguish individual tones and words.  The obvious line of action draws me forward, and I approach a clearing. 

People, perhaps a hundred or more, loosely congregated, look like they're having a picnic.  They're not particularly alert and I manage to position myself behind a thicket close by, quietly descend from my skimmer, tie it to a branch, inch forward, and peer through the leaves. 

My gaze roves among the seated and standing figures; the tables of food; the strung lamps on the boughs.  With a bit more of an effort my vision penetrates to the far end of the clearing, perhaps a quarter of a mile off, to a scattering of huts.  Then back again, towards the near figures, I scan the faces that are turned my way.  Comprehension dawns: I am no longer the only Olhoavan exile in Syoom.  That grizzled fellow yonder is old General Thergerer!  Following on from that shock I see others whom I can name.  I see Gevuldree and Lanok Ryr, Aatul and Ambrerl and Raddao Cruvunnd - old acquaintances who now slap a big new canvas onto the easel of my mind, by which all is affected, all is changed, because they've actually got here.  Lots of them have, anyway.  I must find out how many.  And - a tremendous further idea won't let me rest till I know exactly who has made the journey and who hasn't.  Oh but no need to wait at all - in a sunburst of love and wonder I right now discern two figures who are still unmistakable despite being several Terran years older than when I last saw them: my two children, now adults, Tsritton and Idova.  Losses now un-lost, re-gifted to my life!  A joyous vision, granted furthermore under the best circumstances imaginable: for this gathering has no smell of danger about it. 

It's plainly an innocent celebration, without any aura of anxiety.  I guess it's to do with these exiles' successful advent in Syoom.  Perhaps they've just raised their new homes: it's a house-raising, or hut-raising at least, to complete their settlement.  Drawing on my courage I step from concealment.

My eyes have blurred but I see a few figures start in a manner that suggests they've spotted me.  One of them reaches to draw the attention of Thergerer.  I meanwhile have begun to walk into the clearing.  My senses intensify; I half-see, half-imagine a narrow expression on Tsritton's face, his eyes have become thoughtful slits; he looks to the General; the General waves him forward; I advance further and the people make way for me; suddenly voices are hailing, “Yadon!  Yadon!”  Idova, too, is now stepping forward; her lips are parted in astonishment but she believes.  My eyes sting, my heart races.  I and Idova and Tsritton come to a halt within yards of each other, our gazes lock, and then their faces (and mine, I feel) contort with incredulous joy.  We don't just realize, we really realize that we are together again.

Tsritton falls back a step.  "Thremdu!" he ejaculates, swearing by the World Spirit.  In a choking voice he adds, "This is zandralg." 

I reckon that word, for "over-weighted moment”, is nicely chosen.

“No it is not zandralg,” says his sister, and runs up and hugs me. "Not a load but a brilliance!"  She opens her arms.

“Your brother’s right, though,” I say to her with a merry laugh.  "So jettison the load!"  But my voice drops as I realize it may not be that easy.  This is not just a reunion; it's a shovelful of history.  Besides, even in purely personal terms, it's heavy enough: a moment ago they had the usual image of me, the public legend of famous wanderer ‘Yadon’, and the next moment here I actually am.

Tsritton recovers, grins, joins...  “Ah but father, we can't take stuff in our strike like you do.”

“Ah, stop quavering, brother," says Idova.  She gazes into my face at arm’s length.  “We knew father'd turn up sometime.”

Tsritton says, "True enough."

I echo, "You knew?"

"From what we kept hearing," nods Tsritton, "yes, we knew."

“So this is inevitable,” I smile. 

"Inevitable" - "inevitable - " they both chuckle at once.  But their softened eyes say different: that they're drinking a draft of amazing luck. 

I likewise harbour no doubt about how fortunate we are.  I allude to this benevolence of fate:  “But all depended on you surviving the journey from Olhoav!  Can't wait to hear about that!”   


The celebration has sprawled over longer hours than planned, and I'm still waiting to hear my children's story.  I suppose it's no use being impatient about it.  While the air has darkened to yyne - the deepest part of night - the Olhoavan exiles’ settlement has stayed completely awake.  In joyful and unruly vivacity, bobbing lights betray the whirls of dancers and the flung trails of those ornamental comets called lixxou which merrymaking Uranians like to chuck around.  I meanwhile have talked late and long.  Mostly answering questions.  A torrent of them.  Not only from Tsritton and Idova but from Darilar, Razpar and Latal, friends of Idova, and Sumul, friend of Tsritton, and with the older folk including Thergerer, Lanok Ryr and Gevuldree whom I never thought to see again.  They all want to know what the legendary Yadon has been doing... and though I want to know what they have been doing, their questions have hogged the time...  and I surrender on the issue.  At least I've learned enough to discern from many sources that Idova and Tsritton have won golden opinions from the exiles' community; the pride they show in me is matched by mine in them; and  Thergerer has provided explicit confirmation that they played a noble part in the trek across Fyaym. 

Well then, since it's all such pure gain, since all the excellent folk here seem to like what I am and what I've done, it definitely looks as though I can and must continue on the path they have approved, the path, that is, of a problem-solver-errant answerable to my own legend.

Here come Darilar and Razpar, two fine-looking girls wearing secretive smiles.  “We bear a message,” they say, beckoning me, indicating a direction in which others are beginning to steer their steps.  “A presentation, Yadon, has been prepared for you.”

I can no longer see Tsritton and Idova; they may have gone ahead to cook up some sort of surprise.  Nothing for it but to follow my guides deeper into the scrubby forest.  Through more glades I am led, and past groves inside the glades, under occasional patches of sky which allow me glimpses of giant Kafumabapsu towering over his leafy children.

At a respectful distance, crowds are accompanying us; they're partially visible amongst the growths around us, but silent, apart from the continual tramp of boots over fallen brush.  A sense of purpose is strong in the atmosphere.  A determination to enact something, for the sake of those in the know, and the one who isn't in the know.

I'm approaching a lantern-lit grove, surrounded by flame-shaped trees.  Come to think of it, they're reminiscent of Terrestrial poplars.  No sooner does this thought occur to me than I hear, in syllables that sound half-English: “The perpars ploint!” 

A garbled rendition of the poplars point?  Absurdity!  Or, perhaps not. 

Long ago (I now recall), hundreds of days before I set out for Syoom, in the period when I and my people were political exiles in the lands around Olhoav, many of my English words had rubbed off onto Uranian tongues.  The hybrid lingo thus formed has been dubbed celeriton-speak.

All right then!  "The perpars ploint”.  Now what?

The space in front of me is emptying: the crowd moving aside.  I warily step forward, my attention splintered in several directions.  Up above me are the quivering "plointing perpars"; around me are the folk strolling into position to line the edges of the grove.  Looks like the centre space will soon be just for a few.  For me and... what? 

The mood has flowed from convivial to solemn.  Not much chatter can be heard any more.  My ears catch the portmanteau word consuff.  I work out its meaning: “convivial sufficiency”.  Well, at least it contains the idea of "convivial".  But next I almost jump as a sudden whistle - DZEEEE - draws into an eerie shriek and I realize that one of those "perpars" has fired a laser bolt up into the sky. 

Usually this kind of Uranian plant aims at some prey.  For instance, when the target is a cloud-creature lured by infra-red emission.  This time, however, the plant appears to have been goaded into making the shot as a ceremonial signal. 

I am approached by Tsritton and Idova and a middle-aged man, Rallix Noom, the settlement head.

They point me forward to a table.  It's a simple piece of furniture, the size and shape of a barbacue grill.  I wonder at it while I obediently approach, my advence now seconded by the crowd jostling in again from the edges of this deep-hidden grove.  Nobody wants to miss what's about to happen. 

The jostling is restrained, not like a Terran mob hemmed in by a line of police but as if the police were inside them: that's to say, being Uranians they are restrained by their own self-control. 

Rallix Noom, the headman, appears blanched, as pallid as grey-skinned Nenns can ever get, and this can only be because, for some reason, he's nervous.  Rather strange, that he’s hardly spoken to me at all this evening; surely it can't just be an unwillingness to butt into a family re-union, since I’ve chatted to so many other members of this throng of exiles.  They’re my people, after all.  All one Olhoavan family, as far as that goes.  Come to think of it I am technically still the Daon of Olhoav.  Then what is his problem?  Must process my impressions quickly, as I'm surely facing the a fate-wave's crest.  Rallix Noom, is, I can tell, burdened.  As headman he possesses some knowledge or responsibility which others aren't glad to share in full; they're happy for it to rest on his shoulders, not theirs.

A deeper hush has descended upon the clearing.  More than the hush of respect, it is an awareness.  Weird, the way I and this crowd, despite our mutual affection, are, at this moment, on our mutual guard.

Rallix Noom clears his throat.  “Here is your property, Daon Nyav Yuhlm,” he says, while he stretches an arm -

Following his indication I approach the table.  Recognition surfaces as I make out what rests on a piece of charred cloth.  It can't be - but it is.  The thing is my own laser-sponnd.  It's the one I dropped amid the scene of what was simultaneously the greatest horror and the greatest triumph of my life.  I pick up the weapon, with a shudder at the thought of where I had let it fall.  I wince at the memory of the dread, collapsed ruin of Zyperan.

“You followed my exact route?” says I, and I answer myself:  "You must have done."

“We did, father,” Tsritton nods; "we saw with our own eyes what fate had befallen the city-monster."

I'm in, forever in, this legend that is going to grow and grow, all the stronger for being true.  Always shall I be “the slayer of Zyperan”. 

No escape, ever.  No chance that I can ever outrun the further demands attracted by the status of hero.  Demands... to do with monsterkind.  I lick dry lips. 

Rallix Noom must have given a signal - I turn and see four people wheeling a man-high panel, an upright field-vidscreen, from the grove's periphery, towards where I am standing; evidently the Syoomean authorities have lost no time.

I don’t dare refuse the next stretch, nor do I feel capable of doing so, so strong has my curiosity become part of destiny's wave propelling me to face the face on the screen: that of my acquaintance Captain Tak Valakar, whose expression is not the one he wore during my voyage in his skyship.  Now he seems... stuffier.

“Greetings once again, Yadon.  Your re-union has gone well, I trust.”

“Greetings, Captain,” I chirpily reply.  "Yes it has gone well; but do divest yourself of your unpleasant news.”

“It is only," he smoothly says, "a matter of what your band of immigrants have unwittingly dragged in their wake, during their trek across Fyaym.”

I respond, “Something bad, you mean?” - and immediately wish I had curbed my tongue.  Why should I have retorted so harshly when all he meant was that the exiles had brought with them a reminder of Olhoav's need for help? 

“80437 does not believe that you should be given all the information all at once.”

“Still, you've evidently been authorised to supplement the ration allowed me," I say, once again speaking more tartly than I intended. 

"You're right," begins Valakar, "because - "

Still mettlesome, disclosing within me the still-surfacing submarine of disgruntlement, I interrupt him!  "Because it seems that 80437 is about to give me an extra job, that's why.”

I'm now so put off by my own tone, and especially by that ugly word "job" - which I didn't translate but pronounced as I would have spoken it on Earth - that I feel quite abashed and humble.  I can only hope that my bluntness is still in the expected range for Yadon the half-alien. 

Be that as it may, Tak Valakar seems unoffended, nay, even pleased!  Moreover the bystanders, those close enough to have overheard, are looking positive in a pleased and excited sense, even old Rallix is looking brighter, and as for my children, they are holding their breath as though expecting a treat!  Yes, thank goodness, it seems that I haven't spoiled the atmosphere.  Quite the reverse; it's as though I have fulfilled expectations somehow.

“You're right, as I was saying," says Valakar, and muses: "This 'djaobb' of yours, from what I glean, is one in which you will be given a lot of latitude.  So look on that as the reason why you are not being given too much information.  You'll fill in much of its outline yourself."

"The 'djaobb' being...?"

“You are to recruit for the Sunnoad’s expedition."

Hoping intensely that I have heard aright, I say, "Expedition?" 

"To defeat Dempelath and to rescue Olhoav.”

My expectations pivot at the news I have longed for; joy bursts open the flood-gates of belief.  It could not have come at a better time or place!  That it is Valakar who is telling me, instead of the Sunnoad himself, is (if anything) a reassurance: for the tremendous deeds being planned, for a project involving layers of command, require that I be no longer a mere one-off errand-boy sent by Brem Tormalla but a part, henceforth, of something huge.  And my earlier resentment – born I suppose of a childish wish to wander on for ever free of responsibility – was a mere wave-flick signing the change to a better direction.

The cheers spreading around me from throat to throat are not of astonishment: these folk all knew what the outline of the news must be, and they kept their secret well.  With my son’s and daughter’s arms suddenly around my neck and the congratulations issuing from countless lips I ask myself in amazement, why the heck I had I not thought more about getting back to my people during the past 2000 days?  Admittedly, in order to see them earlier, it would have meant a return across Fyaym, tempting fate for the second time, with scant chance of survival.  But the real reason must be that a fate-wave is a blinker, focusing the front-view, suppressing the side-view: and all has turned out for the best because they managed to get here without my help, and meanwhile the rescue of our home city, Olhoav, has shifted to the front view.

The ceremony is over.  We leave this special grove where the memento had been stored which I now carry at my belt: the slayer of Zyperan.  As we retrace our steps to the settlement I keep hearing "djaobb", the new-minted Uranian word, bandied around. 

I shan't spoil the unique few hours of the rest of this day with business, yet the "djaobb" has begun.  For as of now I am receptive to anything (sights, words, ideas) that may pertain to my role of Recruiter.


Uranian Throne Episode 21:   

The Cincture