Part the Seventh

1 Some Identities Revealed

Drs Spigot, Crinckle and Principle sat before the sage of Hinga Lum Dura while the wind howled around them. Perceiving the silence, the wind howled longer, with all the desolation it could muster.

“Shut up!” The sage cried.

The wind moaned long and low, making the hair rise on Drs Spigot and Principle. The only reason Dr Crinckle’s hair did not rise was that he had removed all of it with a special lotion he had devised when he started going bald. All his hair follicles, however, behaved the way Spigot’s and Principle’s were.

“I can’t think here,” the sage complained. His name was Fritz, a name which, understandably, he had ceased to go by long before he had finished his examinations and passed out of school wearing the special robe made all of raven feathers in which sages go to seek a remote place to live and think. The name Fritz was a common name on the sinister planet Golf, in certain quarters. To be more precise, there was one city on the planet where the name was common. Few people in that city ever left to live elsewhere, for to depart was an act of treason. A renegade who left, having the name, learned quickly to use a different one.

“What is your name?” Crinckle asked the sage.

“Fitzwilliam,” he replied.

“A common enough name.”

“Yes.”

“Except in certain quarters.”

“Yes.”

“Why don’t you level with us?”

“I am constitutionally unable to level with anybody at all.”

The doctors exchanged glances while the sage of Hinga Lum Dura looked up at the ceiling. He noticed that he had scratched his name all over the ceiling. He had done it back in the early days before he had found out how compatible with the life of a sage satellite TV could be; after that he had forgotten all about the ceiling. His mind almost wandered away on the tangent of satellite TV and down the usual road of idly wondering about programming, to the less than idle consultation of the guide to the inevitable and inevitably futile attempts to make the contraption work which involved attaching all the wires, climbing out on a perilous ledge to adjust the angle of the satellite dish, squeezing out and back in through a crack almost too narrow for him, fiddling with the remote and changing its batteries, all of which efforts were to no avail for the excellent reason that while satellite TV and even a weekly guide were regularly sold to customers and even a few sages all over the planet Golf, the planet itself had not a single artificial satellite. But the sage of Hing Lum Dura’s mind did not make its wending way in this direction because he remembered the doctors and lowered his gaze. As he did he noticed the doctors had finished exchanging glances and had turned their eyes on him. At the same moment his eyes descended, their eyes ascended, and they read the incriminating word.

“FRITZ!” All three of the doctors exclaimed at once.

The sage of Hinga Lum Dura scrambled through a crevice and fled down the mountain, with the three agents of the city of Ornilda who had been posing as doctors in pursuit.

2 Interdicted Fowl

High above the plain rose up the city, tall and conical, tier upon tier, round layer resting upon slightly larger round layer, like a distended wedding cake of madly multiplied layers. And spurting out at ever angle were towers, cranes and antennae which festooned each layer with eccentric decorations. The city had a weird, unlovely attraction, a magnetic and disturbing draw. It had about it something of parody, an air of distorted beauty. It had about it the exaggeration, that transgression beyond taste that is glamour, a weird and scintillating allure, a scent of sweetness verging on rancid.

The plain might have been made of iron, the sky above of brass, the light between unearthly. The light between . . . this too was a curious thing, rejected from the ground, and yet not emanating from the skies, unheavenly it was, sepulchral in its quality, emanating from some mystical fen, for around the city was a desert everywhere. It could not be said to be a dim light, and yet it was not so much bright as it was unavoidable and unwelcome. Some would go so far as to say the light reminded them of insane asylums; but these people tended to be looked upon oddly as if they were either going too far indeed, or indeed, and in a troubling way, remembering.

The light came from behind the city and cast it into silhouette, a towering cone of writhing protuberances; the smoke reeking up from various outlets now cast no pall but rose silent into the still air. Around the cone were specks, moving specks wheeling, circling idly, meeting one of the wild antennae only to be assimilated into the great, fantastic shape of the city.

On the plain, on the approach toward the city (all the plain was an approach to the city, flat, even, packed down until it was like iron) stood a man gazing at the monstrosity. Nor was he alone, for the caravans of merchants moved over the plane from every direction to and from the city. The only marking for a road was the caravan moving ahead. The man stood out of the way, watching the moving merchants now, thinking they probably resembled the spokes of a wheel from above; the city was the hub.

As he drew closer to the city he saw its mottled splendor: the shining glass, the great granite blocks, the smooth sandstone, the iron beams, the tumult and riot of its finery. It flashed with chaos; it bore a symmetry of evenly spread confusion; it was a unity of discord. And everywhere, on every outer surface were the droppings of the birds that circled overhead, the birds that perched on every available place, the pestilential fowl, unclean and odious, which lived on the enormous daily refuse of the city. No wholesome bird, none wise or sapient, none graceful or mystical or sweet of song attended that place freely—though many came in chains, in cages gilded and elaborate from the distances the caravans traversed, there to languish without song within. Only the interdicted fowl, birds of ill omen, foul feather, harsh cries and the carrion appetite of slothful predators moved over the foul air of the great city.

“Home again, home again, jiggety-jig,” he said to himself. He looked around to see whether the agents had followed him; they were nowhere to be seen. The sage of Hinga Lum Dura, Fritz, smiled and walked jauntily toward the checkpoint.

3 Arrival

Meanwhile, back on the ship powered by the Etymological Confabulation Drive, our group from earth was pondering the dilemma posed to them by the Conglomerate. But at that moment the ship’s alarm sounded and soon the last leg of the journey began, so they had to abandon that dilemma for the while.

Arriving, Ned dropped the ramp and went out of the ship to see where it was they found themselves. This proved to be a mistake since the space port’s hair-trigger security shot him with a laser and that was the end of Ned. His corpse rolled off the ramp as the ship closed itself down and locked the security.

“It looks like the port security just shot Ned,” Bud explained. Blaze was at the controls but was momentarily speechless. At that moment the ship’s systems began flashing an alert.

“Incoming missile!” Bud cried.

“That’s it!” Blaze cried, snapping out of his stupor. “Strap in everybody!” And he flipped on the manual override. “I want everything you have,” he told the ship’s computer,” and two dozen green lights began to flash on the ship’s schematic.

“Ah,” he said, sliding down in his couch a little way. “Migatron bombs, eh?” And then he shouted, “Hang on!”

The ship abruptly lifted, twisted in mid air, and then descended to glide in an erratic pattern close to the surface of the landing pad, firing at intervals of three seconds in two second bursts. In twelve seconds it was all over and the ship rested again. The screen in front of Blaze no longer flashed any red and two thirds of the green lights were still on, the rest showed yellow.

Blaze watched the screen without blinking for five minutes and then relaxed. “I reckon that’s taught them . . . who wants to go out and check?”

Nobody, of course, volunteered to go out and check.

“Can’t you get them on the radio?” Kat asked.

“The radio?” Blaze looked puzzled and scanned the panel before him. “The radio . . .” he found a part of the panel on the right and touched one of the buttons.

“—come in, this is the Ornilda Transport Authority; please identify yourself or we will take severe measures,” they heard.

“I wonder what severe measures are.” Kat said.

“Severe measures,” the radio said, “would be total encapsulation of your vessel in a bomb-proof container and immediate expulsion in the direction of the sun.”

“I’d like to see—” Blaze began, but Kat interrupted.

“Shut up, Blaze. Look,” she said, turning her head up toward the ceiling, “can we talk about this? You’ve killed our captain and we are kind of nervous.”

“I’m not nervous,” Blaze muttered.

“Please identify yourselves.”

“This is—” Kat began and then paused. “What do we call this ship anyway?”

“The Pannitokis,” Blaze said.

“Really? Is that Greek?”

“I’m not sure—I think so, but it was Ned who named it.”

“Well, why Greek—”

“Please identify yourselves,” the radio said.

“This is the Pannitokis,” Kat said. “We come in peace. Why did you kill our captain?”

“Unfortunately, he violated security, disembarking without prior identification.”

“It would be nice if you posted some information about it.” Kat raised her eyebrows as she said this, and now she began to pace the cabin.

“Unfortunately, we have been beaming information at you ever since you entered the atmosphere,” the radio protested.

“It still seems kind of drastic,” Kat went on. “Don’t you have any signs or audible warning at the pads?”

“Unfortunately, everybody else gets it. We’ve never needed them before. Ships have been landing in this space port since the founding of our city and nobody has ever been killed except in the accident with the parakeets a few years ago.”

“So someone has to die before you guys figure out the system isn’t working, is that it? Who is in charge of this place?”

There was silence from the radio.

“Hello? Can I talk to your manager?”

“Unfortunately, we don’t have managers at the port; we have supervisors,” the radio said.

Kat ground her teeth. “I want to talk—” Kat turned back to Blaze and asked him, “Still have those migatron bombs?”

“Yeah,” he said, perking up.

“Look,” Kat said, raising her voice again. “Get me whoever is your boss or I’ll blow this place up, do you understand?”

“Unfortunately, you are in no position—” but here the voice cut off abruptly and was replaced by another voice.

“This is Fritz, the supervisor on this shift. I apologize for the trouble; maybe we can work something out without incurring further damage on either side?”

“Well,” Kat said, looking around sarcastically, “someone with intelligence at last.”

Arrangements were made, both sides stood down—to the disappointment of Blaze—the ramp was lowered, and they prepared to disembark. It was at that point that they noticed that in the intervening time, the Conglomerate had grown a third eye.

4 Albertus Parvus

“Please present yourselves for inspection!” a cheerful voice called up the ramp.

They turned from staring in horror at the Conglomerate to staring in consternation toward the exit.

“Inspection?” Kat asked.

“That’s what he said,” C. S. Lewis told her.

“Well—” Kat began, turning back to the Conglomerate. “I’m not sure he’s going to pass an inspection.”

“What about the Draculas?” Bud asked.

“And Pete?” Blaze added.

“Yeah,” Kat agreed.

“Please present yourselves for inspection!”

“We ought to go; at least just us,” C. S. Lewis said.

“Yeah,” Kat agreed. “It’s just one of those things where I don’t want to get stuck in a situation where they make it tougher on us in customs—or whatever they have here—when we have undeclared stuff.”

“Well,” C. S. Lewis said, “we can see what they ask us, answer their questions and proceed as they tell us.”

At the bottom of the ramp was a group of people wearing blue uniforms and blue latex gloves. They had set up a few long, low tables behind which most of them were standing. In front of them were two taller desks, also manned, and in front of the whole stood a small man with some kind of electronic device. He smiled as the group hesitated on the ramp of the Pannitokis.

“Welcome to Ornilda,” he said, beaming. “I am Albertus Parvus, chief officer at customs and immigration. Have you filled out all your forms already? No? Well, then, step this way. We will need to search all the contents of your ship. I don’t think this ship is registered in our database—”

* * *

“You know,” Kat said to Bud a few hours later—they were waiting for a special customs form to be printed for the dormant Draculas, “I never thought going to another planet would work out like this.”

“Yeah, I always thought I’d step off the ship and say, ‘Greetings, we come in peace,’ and then start learning amazing things, or exploring, or get into a fight.”

“I wonder what happened to the Conglomerate?”

“Yeah, how did he, or it, get away? Wish I had stayed onboard with him . . . them . . .it.”

“With Pete,” Kat added. She sighed and shifted in the folding chair that had been brought for them to wait. “Is anything else missing?”

“I can’t think of anything we brought that they still haven’t gone through, but something could be. I never thought we had so many things on the ship. The dingo’s kidneys, for example.”

Kat raised her eyebrows and nodded slowly; Blaze had had a few surprises in his treasure chest.

C. S. Lewis, who had been helping the customs officials catalog the ship’s library came over to where Kat and Bud were sitting and said, “The complete works of Charles Grandison Finney are missing too.”

“Ah!” Kat said. “So that’s it!”

“Huh?” Bud said.

“It all makes sense now.”

“It does?”

“Yes,” Kat said, leaning back in her chair, “he’s carrying on the search for Kamedeergard, which is why he took the complete works of Finney—remember the Da Finney Code?”

“The complicated proleptic code?” C. S. Lewis asked.

“Right,” she said. “That’s part of it and he’s carrying on. It is probably the best way, because we’re going to be stuck in customs, immigration and quarantine for about three months, from what I gathered from Albertus Parvus.”

“But what about Pete? Why does he need Pete?” Bud asked.

“He needs Pete,” she explained, “because a yak is just is exactly what he would think would be the best way to carry the complete works around inconspicuously.”

They looked at her, nodding in comprehension.

“And what about us?”

“It looks like the search goes on without us for a while, unless we can bribe Albertus Parvus or something.”

“I shouldn’t like to do that,” C. S. Lewis said.

“Hey,” Kat asked, sitting up in her chair, “What happened to the SA device? Did they catalog that?”

“They didn’t even mention the ketchup,” Bud said.

5 Criten De-Marketing Services

“It’s highly unusual,” the Criten said.

“I need to disappear; I’ve made mistakes—look, if they catch me . . . well, you know what they do.”

“We always pay for our mistakes,” the Criten said, looking out into the city. “We cannot avoid paying for each one. And this might induce paralysis,” he said, swiveling in his chair, “but for the realization that this also is a mistake.”

Fritz, the Sage of Hinga Lum Dura looked uneasily at the Criten.

“They’re after you Fritz, no doubt about it.”

“I know they’re after me,” Fritz said, trying to glower at the Criten, but failing because of the special challenge of trying to look the Criten in the eyes directly. “We have established that they’re after me. I need to get away from them; that’s what you specialize in, you say . . .” Fritz broke off, licking his lips. “How long have you been in the business anyway?”

“Long enough, shall we say.”

“Why is there still plastic wrap on this chair?”

“Because I just recently got it.”

“Did you replace the old one?”

“No,” the Criten said calmly. “I hadn’t a chair there before. Now I do.” He raised a hand, forestalling the objection from Fritz. “What my clients did before is immaterial. I have a plan you can use.”

Fritz shifted on the plastic wrap that covered the seat. “I’m not sure if I can pay you, you see.”

“That we can work out: I help you and you help me.”

“I can’t do anything illegal,” the sage of Hinga Lum Dura said.

“Your position at the moment is not exactly legal,” the Criten pointed out.

The sage got up and began pacing the room, running his hands through his hair and sighing. Maybe—he thought—I should have gone back to the sage of Dinga Punalda . . . except I can’t stand him. He looked at the Criten and wondered if perhaps, after all, he might not bring himself to trust the detestable, know-it-all sage of Dinga Punalda.

“No,” the sage admitted to the Criten, “it isn’t exactly legal.”

“The good news for you,” the Criten said, “is that I’m not asking you to change that.”

The sage struggled with this last, but his mind was exhausted and after a few seconds gave up, conceding the point. “Fine: what’s your plan anyway?”

“Have you ever heard of an Etymological Confabulation Drive?”

6 The Lady Magnolia

“Clamm!” the raven called.

“Clamm,” they said. “Clamm!”

Clamm, head of the bureaucracy and all of its appendages, sat brooding in his office amid the endless drawers full of files, papers, information, facts.

Lumpenproletariat shuffled in, said, “Howdy Clamm,” and then paused awkwardly.

“What is it?” Clamm barked.

“They are calling for you, Clamm.”

Clamm looked at the janitor angelicus.

“The Raven McRune calls you, Clamm, and all the people call you also.”

Stolid, Clamm sat in his chair so still it did not even squeak He pondered, he sucked in air as if to suck the universe into the room around himself and paused for effect. A cry was heard in the basement bowels of the bureaucracy, faint but distinct: “Clamm!”

* * *

The lady Magnolia walked her belvedere in the dawn, looking out over the city, remembering her grief, her lover, the man who had made promises and had abandoned her. In the dawn the last owl hooted. She watched the bird moving through the early morning, flying home to the abandoned smokestack rising from the old boiler house at the end of the palace garden. How many mice? She wondered. How many squirrels?

It pained her heart.

“Aine,” she called. Her little servant came swiftly, silent on her bare feet, like a little grey mouse. “Ah, Aine,” the lady Magnolia said, “bring my tea and some pigeon pie to my table by the window.”

Aine curtseyed and departed, silent. In the city a door slammed, a dog barked, a space ship landed in the restricted sector of the space port, and a large man went hurrying through the chilly air.

“Mr. Clamm,” the footman muttered as he shut the door of the carriage. The carriage whispered away, bouncing a little as it rode over the cobbles, saluted by guards in dark uniforms and wearing helmets that concealed their features. It hastened through the city to the palace, where it gained admittance after a little difficulty.

* * *

“Listen,” he said. “If you’re going to do crime get into the organized crime, cause the disorganized stuff is nuts.”

The Criten was sitting behind his desk, looking out of the window, away from the Sage of Hinga Lum Dura. The sage shifted uneasily, groaned, made deprecatory movements with his hands—a habit he had picked up in grade school where he had been the worst student and the most sincere.

“Get in with Clamm.”

The sage looked up startled, “Clamm?”

“Don’t you know who Clamm is?”

“What?”

“You don’t know who Clamm is?”

“Fritz laughed, a short nervous one. “I mean . . . do I know who Clamm is? Are you kidding? Everybody knows who Clamm is—what’s he got to do with organized crime? I mean, he’s in the govern—.”

The Criten simply nodded and looked out of the window. Fritz sat silent, trying with his rather spent brain to digest this latest conclusion.

The Criten swiveled back. “Clamm,” he said, “is a bureaucrat—The Bureaucrat—and a man of many drawers.”

The Criten regarded the top of his desk: the notebook, the sharp pencil, the metal pencil-sharpener, the chicken feathers—three—and the small glass of tepid water. He reached for the glass and drank it down. He trinked.

“I don’t want to get tangled in something to do with Clamm,” Fritz said nervously.

“Isn’t it a bit late for that? Who do you think Spigot, Crinkle and Principle work for, the Intergalactic Rabbit of Hope?”

“Clamm also runs the Bureau of Consolidated Citizens of Ornilda?”

“Of course,” the Criten said, adding, “among other things.”

7 Clamm Pays a Visit

“Clamm! My God!” The lady Magnolia was so startled she almost coughed up a bit of pigeon, which would have been a waste. She shook plumply, gawped widely, and lifted a greasy hand to her curls and ringlets before remembering and reaching for a napkin. “Aine! I need a napkin!”

Clamm stood before her in his glory.

“Magnolia,” he said, and that was all.

“Clamm, what are you doing here? Why have you come?”

“Where is the Big Cheese?” he asked in his grim way.

“Oh, Clamm!”

Clamm looked at her with uneasiness. It was not usual for Clamm to be uneasy, she reflected, so perhaps he was not uneasy and just dyspeptic.

“Clamm, something is wrong and it is affecting you personally,” she said, realizing the truth as she said it. He was uneasy because whatever it was bothered him and now he was less than the complete bureaucrat. “You’re getting personally involved, aren’t you?”

Still Clamm maintained his silence. So the Lady Magnolia waited, eating quietly.

Clamm had been standing, holding something in his clenched fist. She had not noticed until now that he did, but at that moment he began to lift his hand slowly. He opened his clenched fist, palm upward and she saw what lay on it: three small chicken feathers.

“Oh Clamm!” she exclaimed, and hesitated. “Are you . . . hungry?”

“No!” he said angrily, breaking his silence at last. “No, of course not. I ate on the way. This—” he struggled. “This is about Linda.”

Lady Magnolia collapsed back into her chair. “Linda?”

“Linda.”

“At the grocery store? The checkout?”

“Yes.”

“Linda with longish white hair that she curls at the bottom? Linda with the encyclopedic knowledge of snack foods and tablo—”

He held up his hand to interrupt her, closing his eyes with a look of pain and then thumping himself on the chest near the bottom of the esophagus. He belched discreetly and looked at her with pathetic supplication. “Precisely.”

“Wh—” she began, but then it started to dawn on her. “The Raven?”

“Please! Say no more.”

The Lady Magnolia sat back again, overwhelmed.

Aine pattered in carrying a tray with tea for Clamm, bustling about quietly. Clamm downed his tea with a grimace, extracted a flask from a pocket in his trench coat and added a splash to the empty cup, and indicated that Aine should pour more tea. He screwed the cap back on the flask and put it away, grunting.

The Lady Magnolia reached for her cup and saucer with trembling hands, and the china rattled.

Outside the seagulls were disporting in the morning air, screaming and calling, diving at the harbor and hovering over the cheerful waves. They liked to rise in a troubled flock over the city when the pigeons rose and both flocks would mingle, flapping confusedly and crying in their various ways while the townspeople below sought shelter.

Now a white splatter on the windowsill brought the Lady Magnolia out of her troubled reverie.

“Clamm, don’t you want some pigeon pie?”

He shuddered.

“I don’t understand the significance of the chicken feathers, Clamm.”

Clamm blanched and fumbled with the flask, taking a long pull directly from it. “That’s the trouble,” he said. “They’re growing a third eye at a compound near one of our experimental facilities.”

“But that is nothing, Clamm. Chickens have always been underrated and dangerously neglected. What does it have to do with Linda?”

“Have you heard of the Plovalis death-ray?”

“Clamm,” she said, sitting forward and swallowing a large piece of pigeon whole, “have you come to ask for my help?”

An unusual expression of helplessness settled on Clamm’s features awkwardly, and the Lady Magnolia looked at him for a few seconds, her mouth shut and her plump jaw set. Then she said, “Aine, pack me a bag.”

* * *

As the sun warmed the cobbles of the city, the carriage returned to the space port and passed through the whispering gates. The passengers mounted the craft and after some difficulty in stowing the baggage, the ship rose into the sky and departed the atmosphere of Kameldeergard.

Clamm looked across the aisle, studying again the familiar profile that looked through the porthole at the diminishing beaches of Kameldeergard.

“Oh Maggie,” he said when she looked over, “I’m glad you’re along.”

“Clamm,” she replied with a touch of sadness, “I just hope its not too late.”

Two hours later the ship docked in its special underground berth in the complex of the Bureaucracy on Ornilda, and Clamm went to catch up on business while the Lady Magnolia went in search of a suitable hotel.

8 An Interview & A Situation

She came in slowly and sat down carefully. She stared a long time at the Criten, blinking every once in a while. He stared back at her in silence, and every time she blinked he trinked, deliberately and with great emphasis, his face an inscrutable mask—like a mask from the Carnival of Venice with a third eye.

“Who are you?” she asked at last.

“I am the Criten. You may have noticed the sign on the door.”

She looked away with a deprecatory smile. Then she looked hard at him and said, “Yes, but what are you?”

He smiled grimly.

“You’re not human, are you?”

Again he smiled, ironically.

She sighed, and the tide of lace that spilled over her bosom rose and ebbed.

Then he suddenly asked, “Did Clamm send you?”

It was so unexpected she had no time to affect surprise. She looked at him in silence for a few seconds, realizing he had ascertained the correct answer. She asked, “How do you know about Clamm?”

“He likes large women,” the Criten said, his expression unchanged.

She flushed. “You’re insolent, whatever you are.”

He trinked gravely. He took a drink of water.

“Well, Mr. Criten, you will find that between myself and Clamm we have more than enough resources to get to the bottom of your little mystery. You’ve only been in these offices for two days,” she said sniffing, “and yet somehow you manage to make it look like it has been a long while, to the casual observer. You are being observed.”

“Ah,” the Criten said, “but I have more eyes.”

She rose in indignation and rustled forth. The Criten sat in the chair behind the desk, thinking.

* * *

Harmless Linda of the grocery store, yeah right—Clamm thought as he glanced through the report. Linda was an intergalactic terrorist with connections in Alcantarillicon, and now she was operative near the Plovalis Death-Ray . . . appeared to have modified it, somehow.

Clamm slammed his fist on the desk and swore. How had she gotten at the Plovalis Death-Ray? And who had sent the war signal to the Hard-Boiled Eggs? They would invade the earth in a few weeks, and if Linda got her army of mutant chickens mobilized—Clamm shuddered, wondering which would come first.

A bell dinged, and he heard the Morse telefax stuttering away in the drawer. He opened it and read the printout: Space port facility security breach at 0957 hours. Quarantined ship Pannitokis boarded without authorization by unidentified individual leading yak—Clamm’s eyes narrowed suspiciously: a yak? He read on: Pannitokis is beyond reach of Ornilda’s weapons systems and has escaped beyond atmosphere of Golf. It does not even appear to be anywhere in Swilli System. Full alert and vessel standing by to pursue unless countermanded. End.

“Clarinda!” Clamm shouted.

His secretary opened the door.

“Where is this Criten personage?”

“I’ll find out, Mr. Clamm.”

She closed the door, and in a few seconds the Morse telefax began to stutter in the drawer. He opened it and peered at the paper: Still in his office. He leaned back, and his chair groaned under him. Then he sat forward with a smile and shouted for his secretary again.

“Yes, Mr. Clamm?”

“Have the order to pursue the ship delayed until Spigot, Crinkle and Principle are on board. I have a special dispatch for them I will write and give to you in a few minutes.”

“Yes, Mr. Clamm.”

As he was about to heave himself out of his chair, Clamm heard the Morse telefax stutter again in the drawer.

“What now?” he said, opening it and glancing at the paper.

Security breach in quarantine. One unprocessed individual escaped and currently holed up in the control room with hostages. Full alert and elite troops in place covering all avenues of escape.

Well—Clamm thought, closing the drawer and heaving his bulk out of the chair—at least they can’t get away on their own ship now.

He went out to the antechamber where the secretary sat in front of a complicated control console.

“Here’s the message for Spigot, Crinkle and Principle.”

“Yes, Mr. Clamm.” She pointed at a flashing warning on one of her screens and asked, “what do you want them to do about the escapee from quarantine?”

“Take him alive, but don’t worry about the hostages. Who was the one that escaped?”

“It’s a her, Mr. Clamm, apparently answering to the name of Kat.”

“Huh. Well, have them lock the other ones up in something more secure than the quarantine facility.”

“Yes, Mr. Clamm.”

_________________
Special Note: The Inter-Galactic Etymological Lexicon of English, What Remains of It* explains a trink in this manner: Well, think about the activities of a being with two eyes and their corresponding eyelids. To close one eyelid is called a wink, which is derived from the word one: a word which makes a sound like the W in wink. To blink is to close both eyelids and it comes from the Greek bi—as in bipolar, having two poles. To trink, therefore, is to close three eyelids—providing you have three eyes. In its more narrowed, special meaning it means to close the eyelid of each of your three eyes in succession, but the reader will have to consult the context to determine if that meaning obtains.

*The Inter-Galactic Etymological Lexicon of English, What Remains of It is the result of a project endowed by memorial money and is housed at the memorial to the wreckage of the Pannitokis, the only ship ever to have been powered by an Etymological Confabulation Drive before the technology was abandoned. It is not believed that the drive was left functional after the crash although some have tried to discredit the Lexicon by suggesting that the spirit of the drive lives on it the book.

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