Date Written: 

"...the printed word and the paper it's printed on (not worth anything)"

   Barry Andrews/Shriekback, `Lines from the Library'

Genesis had received one of Kely's typically cryptic mail messages that morning: `Am trapped in the Syndaine State Library. Please read me'. So he went down to the Simulation bay, plugged himself in, stuck his credit card in the slot. Reality faded and was replaced by the communal electronic fantasy-world of Syndaine.

The Syndaine State Library was located just north of the Market at Nimyf-a-Tel, which, according to the available documentation, had been built around an asteroid that had landed at the crossroads of five common trading routes. This asteroid had originally orbited just outside the Syndaine system's cometary halo, but when the plural Demons Bandahrue discovered that its orbital components matched some complex numerological quotient of theirs, they caused it to be carved into their own likenesses, and arranged for it to be dropped on Syndaine, near the library, as a monument to themselves. Rather than travel around it, the inhabitants of the area had moved two nearby markets into the complex nickel-iron stonework, and (perhaps due to the influences of the Demons Bandahrue) the market at Nimyf-a-Tel had flourished.

Genesis hadn't logged in there for a while, and was slightly disoriented at first, as he had arrived in a dark alleyway, facing the wall. He turned, located the exit, and stepped out into Second Avenue. He noted with satisfaction that he had retained the settings that he had left the system with last time: he was in the shape of a tall, relatively unmodified human male, with black hair, three fingers (and a thumb) on each hand, metallic hooves instead of feet and the short horns that Kely had thought so much of sprouting from his temples. He was wearing the coal-black sarariman's business suit that he had taken from the body of an alien accountant he had duelled with last time. Unbalanced ledgers at twenty paces.

Second Avenue hadn't changed at all since he had been here last; the way was lit by flickering red light which came from the burning, crucified bodies of those who had upload/download ratios less than one. The gigantic soldiers of the Syndaine System, clad in smoked-lexan body armour, strolled up and down the avenue, occasionally dragging another hapless victim to his or her allotted position. Much more infrequently they would turn off the flames and release someone. Genesis had been up there once; when he had first entered the system, he had made the mistake of uploading without downloading, and the system had interpreted the figure `9.45 gigabytes divided by zero' as a number less than one, and so the next time he got on, they were waiting for him. It was less painful than it appeared, and was more an inconvenience than anything else; the screams and groans were mostly sound-effects.

`Sir! I beg of you, carry a message to Barker's Tavern! There are friends there, of the Parkry, who will - a-aarhh!'

`Kr-rih! Kohr-burr koor-Chyeh-diy!' (this from a plateau Bythian, with nails driven through its shell)

`Tovarisch! Mozhno buitye, shto vyy umyuete dayetye nyeskolko Megabityi?'

Effective sound effects, nonetheless.

Reaching the intersections of Second and Third Avenues, Genesis realised that he had got turned around again (as usual), that he was on the south side of Nimyf-a-Tel and would have to either go back along the way he had come or go straight through the centre of the main marketplace. He chose the latter, and started along the maze of twisty, little passages, all alike except for the strange shops set into their walls. The shelves of one stall he had not seen before, with a banner proclaiming, in twisting Syndainin-native, `Parkry Circumcision' were lined with what appeared to be living mantis heads about the size of televisions; he saw a prospective customer front up to the stall, undo the front of his trousers and move up to one of the heads. Genesis passed the stall with the sound of clacking jaws and a shrill scream ringing in his ears. There was a plump eunuch dressed in silks and holding a wicked-looking scimitar, standing outside a round stone door. He looked puzzled, and was muttering, `Duh, open... sarsparilla? Open, uh... septuagenarian? Saddlesoap?' Further down what was marked at various points as `Turdburglar Lane', the stonework grew more convoluted, joining overhead to form archways from which dangled vines and the occasional Ylurian cocoon, one of which had a still-living person inside, wet outlines softened by the glistening translucent fibers. He could hear faint moans of pain coming from within as whoever was inside writhed while being slowly consumed by the Ylury. He had just passed one of Nimyf-a-Tel's numerous brothels, waving to a reptilian girl with glittering red scales that he knew slightly when he rounded the corner of the lane and was in the market square (or, to be more accurate, market triangle, as Nimyf-a-Tel was bordered on three sides).

As always, the wealth of visual, aural and olfactory sensation overwhelmed him at first. He resolutely strode past a stall which had ancient books stacked taller than the Moridani shopkeeper tending them, past a seemingly haphazard arrangement of glass bowls presided over by three chittering Parkry, who occasionally moved handfuls of what appeared to be wriggling human fingers from one bowl to another. A delicious smell of roasted cashews drifted from behind a tepee-like stall lined with tattooed human skins, outside which stood an ancient Moridani, holding a bunch of balloons. Genesis realised with a start that the balloons were small children, still living, inflated to almost spherical proportions. The Moridani wore a Sony DiscMan, which was playing a track from Skinny Puppy's `ViviSect VI' album into an antique ghetto blaster at his feet. Genesis exchanged a ten-kilobyte token for a grotesquely overinflated four-year-old girl with a string attached to her tongue.

`Come along, my dear,' he said, gently tugging on the string. She stared at him, eyes wide in horror, and squeaked unintelligibly.

He emerged from the convoluted clutter of the center market, and started along a winding path, down the slight hill that had been raised by the asteroid's fall to the Syndaine State Library, a sprawling building in the old style, fluted grey stone columns and wide stained glass windows more reminiscent of a church than anything else. The steps leading up to the main doors were just large enough to make the going uncomfortable. He showed his library card to the dummy at the counter; the entire building was staffed by dummies, because the Sysop was too lazy to generate the characters for thirty or more real people for something like a library, preferring to devote his attention to the market and attendant brothels.

`I'm afraid that you'll have to leave your pet at the counter, ser.' the dummy said through the cloth that covered its head, nodding its head at the balloon. Genesis looked offended.

`This happens to be my little sister, you electronic special-effect. I'm looking for some Enid Blyton books for her.' The balloon squeaked in agreement. The dummy managed to convey apologetic embarrassment by lowering its head slightly, and waved them through. Genesis glanced at the soldiers, wielding cattle-prods, mounted into the walls on either side of the doors, and entered.

He faced the thirty-metre-tall stacks that ranged for at least a kilometre around him, narrowed his eyes as he spotted the catalogue terminal. He logged in:

CITY OF SYNDAINE on the 19 OCT 2061 at 12:26:56

INTIMATE COMPUTER SYSTEM Rev 170S+ ==================================

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++ ++ You are logged in to the Libraries System (LIB) ++ +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Note: backups are done from 8:30 PM onwards.

Logon please:SYNPAC

Welcome to SYNDAINE STATE LIBRARY Your automated catalogue, by DYNOX.

For assistance press "?" then the key labeled "".


Welcome to the online catalogue system. You can search by any of the methods listed below -- Enter the number of the type of search you want:

1. AUTHOR search
2. TITLE search
3. SUBJECT search
5. SERIES search
6. Review Patron Record
7. Quit searching Examples:

SCHISMATRIX (Single word search) BOOKS BLOOD (Multiple word search) NECRONOM? (For words starting with NECRONOM...)

Title Search: KELY CAMDEN

KELY CAMDEN Searching ... Running total


It took him only three minutes to establish that if Kely was in here somewhere, she wasn't in the catalogue, which meant that no-one else would have borrowed her. He breathed a sigh of relief as he sauntered through the stacks on the first and second floors, wondering where to start looking. `If we can assume that this was done by someone who has it in for her, then they will know that I'm the only one who will come to get her. So they would put her where I wouldn't be likely to look. Or they might employ reverse psychology, put her where I would be certain to look.' His balloon squeaked twice. `Of course, you're right, if they had done that and I wasn't looking for her, I might find her anyway... so, where? Back to the first option, I suppose.' After scanning the single fourth-floor stack devoted to the works of Dorothy Dunnet, he found nothing except an allergy to dust. `Crap,' he muttered, `what would Aleister Crowley do in a case like this?' Balloon squeaked again. Genesis nodded.

In the reference section on the ground floor, opening the monstrous nine-hundredth edition of Webster's Absolutely Complete and Final Encyclopedia of Everything Imaginable at random, Genesis closed his eyes, pointed at the page and looked at the word: `CRYSTAL'. Eyes shut, he turned to another page, pointed again:

`EXPRESS'. again:

`PAY'. again:

`PER'BACH'. once more, to fit the Law of Fives:


He found her on the fifth floor, between an a3-sized volume of Giger and a paperback issue of Bruce Sterling's `Crystal Express'. He carefully drew her from the shelf, and a soft slapping sound walked off to his right as hundreds of books fell, filling the two-inch gap that she had left. She was bound in a smooth, soft, pale-peach- coloured material, unlabeled except for the initials `K C' on the spine in a dark, almost black red. Stroking her cover, he realised that she was bound in human skin. Slowly, as if he were defusing a bomb, he opened her cover, read her first two lines, and quickly closed her, shutting his eyes. He breathed deeply, almost falling off the small step-ladder. He got down and made his way down to the dummy staffing the desk on that floor.

`I'd like to borrow this, please.' The dummy examined the book.

`This isn't one of ours. No barcode. Where did you find it?'

`She was on the top shelf, stack 7A75F, between an a3-sized -'

`-volume of Giger and the Sterling paperback, yes, I know the spot. Hum, well, it's not from the reserved stack, so I suppose you can borrow it... one moment...' Genesis started as the dummy held the book against the imprinter. There was a hiss, the faint stench of burned skin, and the dummy returned the book, with a barcode burned into its spine. `You can check this out on the ground floor.'

Genesis lay on his bed in his room above the Suteriik Kitchen, reading the book while listening to This Mortal Coil's `Filigree and Shadow'. The book was written entirely in twisted, Druillet-like symbols that made his eyes cross; he had to stop every few minutes and shake his head to clear it. Even so, meaning was filtering into his backbrain, the runes interpreted by some pre-literate section of his mind still outside the electronic simulation he was experiencing. He was about a third of the way through the book when he noticed a faintly glowing figure sitting at the foot of his bed. He squinted at it, and it faded. He shook his head vigorously, and kept reading. Half way through the book, he looked up again, and it was back, more clearly defined.

It was Kely.

As he watched, it faded slightly, but the outline remained. He frowned; what was happening here was that the book had encoded routines that caused the brain to generate a complete personality-entry in the electronic fantasyworld. That sort of thing was illegal, as it was considered to be in the grey area between neuroprogramming and bioelectronic preference-mapping; whoever had done this obviously had little respect for the law.

He kept reading.

The last page had a diagram on it, which his eyes began to trace automatically. It spiraled inwards, drawing his attention in faster and faster. The path weaved in and out, now shifting clockwise... the room seemed to be spinning... suddenly the room was filled with soft white light, like fog under stadium spotlights. When it faded, Kely was there, lying in a corner, unconscious. He picked her up, laid her out on the bed, and went down to the kitchen to get some coffee (he could have generated it spontaneously, but the Suteriik was noted for its coffee, which, even for electronically simulated coffee, was exceptional).

When he returned, she had awoken, and was rubbing her eyes as if she had been asleep for a week. They kissed, and he used some two-K tokens to generate some clothes for her. She sneezed twice, and as he drew an armored windcheater past her shoulders, he noted a barcode burned into her back, between her shoulder-blades. He touched it lightly, withdrawing his finger when she hissed,

`Oww! Anyway, you took your own sweet time in finding me!'

`Well, next time, get yourself checked in properly. That way, you'll be in the catalogue. So, who was it this time? Let me guess... Avalon?'

`It was Alannah Savaj. She's still pissed off because I shopped her to the Sysop of TreWorld, for lifting my pig-blimp genomes. She got kicked off there, and she's been annoying me in minor ways for weeks.'

`Well, this is hardly minor... you could have died in there.'

`So, what do you think we should do about it? I don't really want to spend the rest of my time on here exchanging "jokes" with her... she's a raving nut-case.' Genesis stood, and noticed a book poking out from underneath the bed. He retrieved it, opened it. The pages were blank.

`I think it's time we talked to the Sysop.'

The Anarch's palace was some twenty megabytes west of Nimyf-a-tel, on a separate disk drive, so Genesis hailed a taxi from the roof of the Suteriik Kitchen. It arrived a scant thirty seconds after he placed the call, a gargoyle the size of a double-decker bus. They climbed the jagged scales over its ribs, and up its spine to a point just behind the dense muscles that supported its wings. Its reptilian head swivelled around on a long serpentine neck, milky membranes flicking over emerald eyes.

`Good afternoon, my name's Ivo. Where'yuh headed?' Genesis smiled. It was interesting to note that the Sysop had finally worked out a credible way of representing human speech coming from a reptile's mouth.

`Well, it's such a nice day, we'd thought we'd pop over to the Anarch's palace and say `hi' to Tjerzibashjian.' The taxi's eyes narrowed; he muttered, `Hang on' and commenced beating his forty-foot wings.

The Anarch's palace looked more like a concrete tower-block than the standard Disney representation of a palace. The ground floor, in fact, looked decidedly seedy, and only the presence of six warrior-caste Parkry, lounging about playing `Leech' on a truly ancient XT, indicated its importance in the simulation. This was an area that nobody hacked into.

There was no reception area, no secretaries' desk. There was only a single elevator door, with a button labeled `PAGE SYSOP'. Kely pressed it. After about twenty seconds, there was a `ding' sound, and the doors opened. They got in. The lights weren't working inside, and their faces were lit only by the dim radiance of the floor indicator, which must have been a joke by the Sysop, as it changed at random instead of moving sequentially. They had been in the lift for about three minutes, moving up and down aimlessly, when Genesis picked up the emergency phone and said sarcastically,

`Come on, Tjerzibashjian, we ain't got all day.' There was a faint snicker from the receiver, and the lift stopped. The doors opened on an infinite plain, deep azure sky directly overhead fading to a pale eggshell at the horizon, the floor marked in a checkered black-and-red pattern. Overhead was a large mirrored sphere. They watched the distorted images of their reflected figures expand as they approached it. `Could you drift down a bit, Tjerzy? We're gonna get stiff necks from looking up at this angle.' The sphere drifted down until its base was touching the checkered floor.

`Yeah, so whaddaya want awready? I'm busy.'

`What's the big idea, letting Alannah Savaj lock Kely into being a book? I thought you'd removed all those sort of passive-form loopholes from the System.' The sphere rippled in embarrassment.

`Shit, so had I. Well, I'll round 'Lannah up, next time she gets on, ask her how she did it, and close that option off. You know, that girl is beginning to be a twenty-two megahertz pain in the ass.' Kely gnawed on a thumb-nail, and suggested,

`Well, since you're so busy, how's about you give us temporary assistant Sysop privileges, and we'll sort her out for you?'

Genesis snorted, and was about to suggest that Kely not waste her time, when to his surprise, Tjerzibashjian agreed. Genesis half-expected him to do the whole magical-cold-white-light routine, but the sphere merely rippled again, and over the sound of distant address registers incrementing, Tjerzibashjian quoted Bugs Bunny:

`Ickety Ackety Oop, oh-oh-squeak, ah-ah-flop, and all that crap, Okay, you're both assistant Sysops. Don't fuck anything up, okay? I'll be keeping an eye on you.'

They were flying over Nimyf-a-Tel, invisible to all (except Tjerzibashjian), deciding on the form of their revenge. Genesis held out his hand, and a puzzle-box covered with ornate designs in bronze appeared on the flat of his palm. Kely smiled, but said,

`No, she's awake to that trick. What I had in mind was something really base, ignoble, revolting, disgusting, you know, what with her being such a stuck-up elitist.'

`How about drowning her in a vat of her own excrement? Or maybe somebody elses'?'

`Not bad, but not painful enough.' Genesis held up his index finger, smiled.

`Okay, try this sequence on for size...' He generated a closed-field simulation, and they watched as:

Alannah-Savaj was nursing a Kahlua Brownie and checking out the guys in the Lylesburg House of Ill Repute, when she felt an inexplicable urge to visit the lavatory.

`What the hell? I didn't know they even had toilets in Simulation. Hey, Narcisse! Where's the ladies' room?'

`Upstairs, down the end of the hallway, on the left. you can't miss-' She was already halfway up the creaking stairs, pausing only to flick a padded brassiere off the banister. She reveled in the thought that every male in the place was tracking her superbly-rounded behind with his eyes. The sound of the cheap honky-tonk piano faded as she approached the toilets, absorbed by the shin-deep shag pile carpets, and was replaced by the faint sounds of bestial grunts and sensual moans coming from behind the locked doors around her.

She bolted the door behind her, lifted her white lace dress up over her head and sat down. The seat was rather wide, she thought, as she balanced on the edge; it was almost as large as a manhole. She felt a sudden pang through her bowels, and then let go with a rush. `That's a relief,' she sighed, leaning back and almost falling in. `Whoah!' She grabbed at the large white towel hanging on a rack next to the toilet, missed, and fell back into the bowl. She was stuck, her arms pointing almost straight up, her thighs pressed against her breasts, bare feet waving daintily in the air. `Hell piss fuck hell!' she snarled, wriggling to try and work herself up slightly, with the result that she slipped further down.

(`We could leave her like that,' Kely remarked. `It gets better,' Genesis replied.)

She kicked her legs, but her feet couldn't reach the edge of the toilet bowl, and her arms were firmly caught. She tried to unfold and lever herself out by pure charisma, but slipped a few centimetres further down when she relaxed. Her eyes widened when her behind touched the cold water at the bottom of the bowl. She suddenly became aware of the stench of sewage, and heard a faint gurgling sound deep below. She wrinkled her nose hesitantly, and suddenly a gush of foul water shot up, splashing up her back and the insides of her thighs. She shrieked in disgust, and redoubled her efforts to escape. She paused and her eyes widened in astonishment as she heard something scraping along the inside of the outflow-pipe below her. `Uh-oh.' she murmured. She was still for a moment, and the scraping sound stopped. Then, something touched her, which made her shriek again and almost gave her the impetus to leap out of bowl, but not quite. She kicked her feet frantically as a large hand explored her, stroking her genitals; she screamed when it stuck two fingers up her behind, withdrew, and then suddenly its entire hand was thrust up her ass. She could hear pounding on the door over her screams as another hand reached from the depths of the bowl, snaked itself around her waist, and tugged her further down. Her knees were now pressed into her face, and the foul water had risen to the level of her chin, as she heard someone outside breaking the door down. The hand up her ass clenched into a fist, and dragged her further down. It was trying to force her around the s-bend, but she wouldn't fit. Narcisse had appeared above, and was tugging ineffectually at her feet. With halting efforts, she was slowly, agonisingly pulled into the s-bend, her pelvis cracking, her ribs snapping in pairs as she was dragged down. She lost consciousness, gagging with the stench of shit, cloudy brown water filling her ears. Narcisse sighed, closed the lid and flushed.

`Well, it's appropriate, but I don't know if we're allowed to do that. It might physically kill her.' Genesis passed the sequence to a safety evaluation routine, which responded almost immediately:

`74% probability of external-body fatality. Contraindicated.'

`Well, that's out. How about-' Genesis was interrupted by a pinging tone from the login monitor they had set up. `She's logged in. Hey - did you see that Moridani balloon-seller in the market...'

Alannah was dozing in a stable at the back of the Suteriik, snuggled in the hay between a sweaty percheron stallion and a dummy which was a mirror-image copy of her. A feeling of warm well-being washed through her, and she tried to stretch languidly, only to find that she couldn't move. In alarm, she ran her custom diagnostic routine, which reported no interference at the standard level.

`Oh, great, Tjerzibashjian's finally discovered the backdoor I wormed into his stats file,' she thought. She heard someone approach from behind, saw a massive shadow fall over the side of her horse. She felt arms slip under her waist and knees, glimpsed a broad, spatulate three-fingered hand that appeared to be made of greasy grey-brown plastic, and she was lifted almost two metres into the air. Her mirror-dummy stirred, awoke and stared up at her in shock. Alannah took the opportunity to view from the dummy's position, and saw herself in the arms of a huge warrior Parkry, with bronze patterns etched into its carapace, which was lit from behind by red torchlight. Its barbed jaws opened and closed reflexively, and a thread of saliva drooled onto her face. Alannah tried to log out, but there was an override in place. The dummy shuddered sympathetically, and then vanished in a hissing haze of static. The Parkry carried her outside. It was about ten o'clock in the evening.

Nobody in the market seemed too concerned about a two-and-a-half metre tall Parkry warrior carrying a naked girl around, occasionally ducking to avoid the overhead stonework. It was a common sight, apparently. The Parkry carried her to the tent of the balloon-seller, chittered loudly. A flap drew back. The aged Moridani appeared, murmuring a greeting in slightly accented plateau Bythian. The Parkry handed her over, and the Moridani took her inside, limbs creaking with age.

The tent was lit by a cluster of silvery glowing spheres tethered at the apex. The room was mainly taken up with a long copper bathtub, filled with what appeared to be raspberry jelly. The Moridani carefully placed her in it, avoiding contact with the thick stuff, and gently pushed her down into it with the rounded end of a ceremonial staff. Just before she went under, she glimpsed two figures in the shadows. One was holding a pale peach-coloured book, and then she knew.

The raspberry jelly-stuff felt cool at first, but it began to itch after a few moments. It seeped into her ears and nostrils; the Moridani opened her mouth with the end of the staff, and it slopped in over her tongue and teeth, slithered down her throat. It had no taste. At the other end, it insinuated itself into her privates as if it were alive. She felt some physical control returning then, and she tried to struggle out of the tub. As she writhed, the stuff began to burn, and pour itself down her throat, swelling her stomach painfully. She tried to scream, started thrashing about. The Moridani held her under with the end if its staff, and the last sensations she felt before losing consciousness in a haze of heat were the feeling of cool air on her rounded belly as it protruded above the surface and the convulsive rush of jelly forcing its way down her swollen throat and up into her rectum.

`Then we will leave her as she is for one of, how is it spoken? howar? No, one of `hour'. And then we will, from the bath, remove her again.' The old Moridani closed its eyes and pursed its lips in the Moridani equivalent of a satisfied smile. It rested one long-fingered hand on a green helium cylinder, with a long rubber hose attached to the valve. The thrashing in the tub stopped after a few minutes.

When the hour was up, Kely allocated a space for a sensory recording in her private workspace, keyed it to Alannah's ID and started recording. The Moridani carefully threaded a belt underneath Alannah's arms, and lifted her from the tub. Her arms and legs drooped bonelessly, and she began to sag like an empty sack as the jelly seeped out of her. He held her over the tub until most of it had drained out, then lifted her onto a workbench, and began wiping her down with a bright blue chamois.

`She looks rather flat. What happened to her internal organs?' Genesis asked. By way of response, the Moridani pointed to the tub of jelly. Genesis silently mouthed, `Oh.' Alannah's head was deformed by the softening of her skull, but her eyes were open and aware. The Moridani took a tub of thick white paste from a shelf, poked some in each ear, up each nostril, up her vagina, and the rest down her throat. Her tongue wagged senselessly. He then flopped her over on her stomach and dragged the helium cylinder over. When he was sure that the paste had set, he stuck the hose up her ass, and opened the valve slowly. Her eyes widened, and she began to assume a more human shape as the gas filled her with a soft hissing sound. Her arms and legs poked out stiffly, her head tilted back, and her mouth gaped. She made a sort of `k-k-k' noise as the Moridani, at Kely's insistence, overinflated her to junoesque proportions.

`Not more,' the Moridani said, `If we should, her seals will not remain so.' Even so, she was swollen like a bald racing tyre about to burst. Genesis tapped her stomach, stroked the tight skin between her painfully expanded breasts, tweaked a nipple. It squeaked like rubber. He smiled, bent down and kissed her on the forehead.

`What we need now is something like a Macy's Parade, maybe fly her down First Avenue.' Kely giggled.

`Hey, let's take her back to the Suteriik, rent her out to the Sthelane, and see how long she lasts before somebody bursts her.' Alannah's eyes widened and she made a vigorous `k-k-k' noise to convey her opinion of that particular idea. `Oh, I'm sorry, I didn't know that you'd done it with a Sthelane before.' The Moridani clamped something like a wire-stripping tool over the end of the hose where it disappeared between Alannah's bulging buttocks, clicked it and sealed off the hose. He poked the seal into her, like an inverted belly-button, with a hollow-sounding pop that made her shudder. When he released her, she drifted slowly upwards, feet first, until her toes were brushing the roof of the tent. Kely reached up, hooked her index finger into Alannah's mouth and drew her down. The Moridani clipped small lead weights to her ear-rings until her weight reached equilibrium and she was just light enough to remain suspended in the warm air inside the tent.

`She is now yours,' he announced with the satisfied air of Moridani pride in workmanship. Genesis snapped his fingers in annoyance.

`Damn, we forgot to ask her about the passive-form loop-hole. Tjerzibashjian's gonna be pissed off.'

`Well, she's not really in any position to take advantage of it again. Hang on - I'll poke around in her private workspace, see if she left any notes behind.' Drifting along the floor, her legs splayed out and waving in the air, Alannah's eyes narrowed when she heard this.

Kely opened a remote window into Alannah's area, stuck her arm in and rummaged about. `Yecch - I hate to think what I've just put my hand in... okay, usage log.' She retrieved an ancient, tattered parchment scroll, unwound a few feet, and examined it, with Genesis looking over her shoulder. The first line they read trapped their attention like ball bearings to a magnet.

Helplessly, they read four feet of convoluted image- and behavioral-modification code, and when they reached the last line, Kely dropped the scroll. The remote window into Alannah's workspace snapped shut. They stood there for a moment, blank-eyed, while their minds compiled the neurologically- LHARC-ed code they had just read.

Kely began to change first. Her skin faded to the colour of premium-bond photocopy paper; her short dark hair twisted and writhed until it reached her shoulders, shimmered through a dozen shades and finally settled on a pale spun-gold colour. Her windcheater bulged behind her shoulders, and two large dove's wings burst through the plated material, fluttered outwards, almost filling the small tent. They stretched, quivered spasmodically, and folded neatly behind her. Meanwhile, Genesis' skin had darkened to a burnished copper-red. His hooves remained unchanged, but his ankles twisted, snapped into different shape, folding his feet forward. A tail had snaked out of the back of his pants, ending in an arrow-shaped barb. The pupils of his eyes had become slitted like a cat's. Together, they stumbled out of the tent, followed by the uncomprehending Moridani balloon-seller.

At the first relatively open space they found in the market, they turned to face each other, and tore their clothes off. They regarded each other blankly for a moment, then leapt together, and began coupling like things possessed. His demonic grunts and her angelic sighs drew a small crowd, which gradually dispersed after a few minutes as they slowed down. They stopped, locked together, and with a barely noticeable click, they froze. Their skins gradually darkened in the night air, until all that remained was a crudely detailed monument cast in black iron.

Later that evening, the Moridani sold Alannah to a plump eunuch dressed in silks, carrying a scimitar in one hand and a basket filled with jewels in the other.

`Open, SESAME!' it exclaimed, grinning.

kelanie camden & nikolai kingsley December 1990

Average: 3.5 (6 votes)
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