He came down the mountain one early summer afternoon, toward the end of what had not yet been dubbed the Hydrogen War. He was just in time t
He came down the mountain one early summer afternoon, toward the end of what had not yet been dubbed the Hydrogen War. He was just in time to catch the climax of the war.
His goal was to find a replacement for Melinda. Not that he believed he could. He had read the newsfiches. Yet he retained faint hope that someone like Melinda still existed and might want to be his companion.
Jet-cars passed him repeatedly. He ducked every time that happened, envisioning the car's riders staring down at him, even though the skyway was as high above him as the skyhomes that soared on their slender stalks. He had lived in such a home, once.
The groundhomes, where the poorer folk dwelt, worried him more. He sidled through the countryside, skirting the city of Cumberland at the foot of the mountain. Just as he was congratulating himself on his successful effort to avoid being seen, he rounded a forest and found himself facing a person.
He stepped back, intending to flee. But he could not, for the person was an old lady, and she was lying on the ground.
"Well, there you are," she said in a cheerful fashion, as though she had been awaiting him. "I figured that someone would find me eventually. It's this hip of mine. Makes it difficult for me to pick myself up when I fall. Will you lend me your arm?"
He'd as soon have cut off his arm and left it to do the work on its own. But he couldn't abandon her. With his heart thumping, he approached, taking care not to look her in the eye. He helped her up. It was like helping Melinda up after she had taken a spill, he told himself.
"Thank you very much, young man," the old lady said briskly when she was on her feet. "I used to have a cat who would squall something fierce when I fell down; she always attracted the attention of the neighbors. But last year . . . I still can't understand it. Why they killed all the pets, I mean," she added, as though it weren't obvious what she meant. "The Vovimians claimed their sonic weapons were intended to kill the dogs in the Yclau army, but to kill every pet in the Midcoast nations. . . . But here I am, chattering away." She smiled and offered her arm to shake. "I'm Mrs. William Allegany. You are . . . ?"
He said nothing. He couldn't have spoken, even if he were normal. Every pet, she'd said. Every pet in the four nations along the Midcoast of the Northern Continent.
He couldn't travel outside the Midcoast. He had no passport. Maybe he could buy an imported dog?
Mrs. Allegany's smile faded as it became clear he would not shake her arm. He should leave now, before matters worsened. Instead, he fumbled with a piece of paper from his pocket. He dropped it. Just an accident, that was all.
"Oh, dear." Mrs. Allegany looked down, then reached over with a gardening fork she had apparently been using to weed before she fell. She spiked the paper with it. "I can't bend down these days," she said with a smile. "Arthritis, you know. Is this yours? Or is it for me?"
He stared up at where the skyway remained thick with jet-cars. The paper was nothing to do with him. It had left him; it was no longer his.
But as he heard the paper rustle in her hands, he knew what it said.
Hello! My name is Melinda. I'm Phillip Schafer's service dog. Due to social neurosis, my master is unable to communicate directly with you. However, he can give messages to me, and I can give them to you. You don't need to write a message back. Just speak to me, and he will overhear what you say. Thank you! I'm so happy to meet you!
Mrs. Allegany raised her gaze from the paper, but only as far as Phillip's hands. He was holding now the collar, with Melinda's name upon it.
"I'm so sorry for your loss," Mrs. Allegany said softly.
Phillip looked down at the dog collar, feeling tears prickle his eyes.
"Between MacDonald and the sky was a giant dish held aloft by skeleton metal fingers - held high as if to catch the stardust that drifted down from th"Between MacDonald and the sky was a giant dish held aloft by skeleton metal fingers - held high as if to catch the stardust that drifted down from the Milky Way. . . . Then the dish began to turn, noiselessly, incredibly, and to tip. And it was not a dish any more but an ear, a listening ear cupped by the surrounding hills to overhear the whispering universe." I fell in love with this novel as a child. I still think it's one of the finest science fiction novels ever written....more
Deeply moving, intellectually inspiring, and excellent stylistically. The blurb doesn't do justice to the storyline, which blends emotional drama withDeeply moving, intellectually inspiring, and excellent stylistically. The blurb doesn't do justice to the storyline, which blends emotional drama with joyous scientific wonder. This was one of the novels that made me fall in love with science fiction as a child. Its message of hope is as badly needed now as when it was first published....more
The first novel of the Administration series fits with Dorothy L. Sayers's subtitle of one of her novels: "A Love Story with Detective Interruptions"The first novel of the Administration series fits with Dorothy L. Sayers's subtitle of one of her novels: "A Love Story with Detective Interruptions" – provided that one treats the word "love" broadly. It's the tale of a torturer and an opponent to torture trying to best one another and being a little too interested in each other to make for an easy power play. Then fate intervenes in the form of a corpse.
At the time of the merger with Investigation, Toreth had been at the Interrogation Division for a year and he'd enjoyed his work. However, it hadn't taken him long to see where the brighter future lay. He'd worked hard to win a place in the first round of appointments for the newly created post of para-investigator, a job that theoretically combined the skills of both investigator and interrogator.
Interrogation was a profession that had certain basic requirements. Primarily, the ability to hurt people, sometimes kill them, and not care. Plenty of interrogators had applied for the conversion course, and few had made it. The successful ones were on the more socially adept end of the spectrum – those who could be let near citizens of the Administration without the precaution of a damage waiver. At the time, Toreth had heard the term "high-functioning" used.
Or, as Sara put it in her less tactful moments, the difference between paras and interrogators was that the former weren't quite so dead behind the eyes.