Dustcover: The Rainbow Cadenza

J. Neil Schulman's
THE
RAINBOW
CADENZA
A Novel in Vistata Form

Dust Jacket Edition Info Dedication Author's Note Contents










The Rainbow Cadenza
Copyright © 1983 by J. Neil Schulman.
All rights reserved.

"Some Rainbow Cadenzas"
Copyright © 1986 by J. Neil Schulman. All rights reserved.

"A Glossary of The Rainbow Cadenza"
Copyright © 1986 by J. Neil Schulman. All rights reserved.

LASERIUM® photographs courtesy of Laser Images, Inc.
Copyright © 1994 by Laser Images, Inc.. All rights reserved.

This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents either are the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual locales or persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner except in the case of quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews.

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Author's photo by Kevin Merrill.
1979 Author's photo by Victor Koman.







To My Father
The Lord High Violinist
and to My Mother
The Lord High Everything Else













Author's Note

The Wiccen rituals portrayed in this novel have been adapted from rituals described in The Book of Shadows by Lady Sheba (Llewellyn Publications, 1973) and from The Feminist Book of Lights and Shadows, by Zsuzanna E. Budapest (Luna Publications, 1976). I have, however, seen fit to adapt, edit, and rewrite the entire universe to fit the needs of my story, and these rituals are no exception; they should not be taken as authentic by serious students of the Craft, whom I refer to these two volumes.

The only actual location in this book is the Villa Olga, a resort hotel in Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas, where I spent a pleasant three weeks in 1972 playing chess with its owners and drinking pina coladas. Since I have not been back since, I have no idea of its current status as of this writing, and references should not be taken as literal.

Except for philosophers, authors, and artists mentioned for literary purpose, no names, events, characters, customs or institutions should be taken as referring to actual events, people, customs, or institutions, past or present. For the record, Clive Staples Lewis has not been canonized--yet.

LASERIUM® is a registered trademark of Laser Images, Inc. of Van Nuys, California, for laser concerts of the kind described in this novel. The use of laserium as a lower-case generic term for the place where such concerts would be performed in the distant future--presumably when such a trademark had normally expired-- is a device common to futuristic fiction, and should not be held to deny, weaken, or otherwise louse up Laser Images, Inc's, use of the LASERIUM trademark.

The opinions and lifestyles of the characters in this book should not be taken as being the author's own, or those of any real person. If there's anything I want to pin myself down on, I'll do it in my own voice.

J.N.S.













T h e S c a l e

I. l3800Å to l4100Å

1Violet b...........3800Å
2Violet bb..........3875Å
3Violet..............3950Å
4Violet #...........4025Å
5Violet ##..........4100Å

II. l4200Å to l4500Å

6 Indigo b...........4200Å
7 Indigo bb..........4275Å
8 Indigo..............4350Å
9 Indigo #...........4425Å
10 Indigo ##.........4500Å

III. l4600Å to l4900Å

11 Blue b.............4600Å
12 Blue bb............4675Å
13 Blue................4750Å
14 Blue #.............4825Å
15 Blue ##............4900Å

IV. l5000Å to l5500Å

16 Green b...........5000Å
17 Green bb..........5125Å
18 Green..............5250Å
19 Green #...........5375Å
20 Green ##..........5500Å

V. l5600Å to l5900Å

21 Yellow b...........5600Å
22 Yellow bb..........5675Å
23 Yellow..............5750Å
24 Yellow #...........5825Å
25 Yellow ##..........5900Å

VI. l6000Å to l6300Å

26 Orange b...........6000Å
27 Orange bb..........6075Å
28 Orange..............6150Å
29 Orange #...........6225Å
30 Orange ##..........6300Å

VII. l6400Å to l7600Å

31 Red b...........6400Å
32 Red bb..........6700Å
33 Red..............7000Å
34 Red #...........7300Å
35 Red ##..........7600Å

VIII. l2970Å

36 Ultraviolet ...........2790Å


Appendix I:
"Some Rainbow Cadenzas"

Introduction
by J. Neil Schulman

Violet:
"House of the Laser"
by Ivan Dryer, CEO, Laser Images, Inc.

Indigo
"New Wine in an Old Bottle"
by Wendy McElroy

Blue
"Sex Selection:
Some Predictions Based on Present Technology"

by Ronald J. Ericsson, Ph.D., President, Gametrics Limited

Green
"Two Advocates of Reason:
Ayn Rand and C.S. Lewis"

by Brad Linaweaver

Yellow
"Feminism, Autonomy and Libertarianism"
by Sharon Presley, Ph.D.

Orange
"Reflecting on the Human Soul"
by Michael Grossberg

Red
"The Draft is Slavery"
by Paul Jacob

Ultraviolet
"Remarks Upon Accepting the 1984 Prometheus Award"
by J. Neil Schulman


Appendix II:
"A Glossary of The Rainbow Cadenza"
by J. Neil Schulman


Appendix III:
"A Gallery of Laser Images"
by LASERIUM®


About the Author


Begin Reading Part One.













I.

l3800Å to l4100Å



1



She loved the lights.

She watched as they circled around her, a merry waltz of blue sparks and red. She watched as one of the red sparks quite suddenly turned bright gold. She watched as the other lights began dancing around the gold, teasing it, then finally chased it away from the waltzes of red and blue, to dance alone.

She watched the dances of red and blue as they rose and fell, advanced and retreated, changed size and form then changed back again, burned brightly, then, one spark by one, winked out. She watched the single, golden spark begin a new dance by itself, dancing until it exploded into hundreds and hundreds of other sparks: golds and oranges, oranges and reds, reds and violets, violets and indigos, indigos and blues, blues and greens, greens and more sparks of gold.

She watched thousands of sparks dance wildly, ecstatically, for a few minutes, then, beginning slowly, race around her faster and faster and faster and faster until she was surrounded by an immense spiral rainbow.

When the dance was over, she did not understand what, or how, or why, but she knew the lights were telling her something, if only she could understand them. She knew she had to find out what the lights were telling her, and more: though she was not yet five years old, Joan Seymour Darris made a promise to herself that someday she also would tell the colors how to make a rainbow.

Go to Next Chapter.

Return to Table of Contents.






2



The Pyradome sits on Manhattan Boulevard in midtown Newer York, about where Saint Patrick's used to be, a thirty-story-high pyramid whose dome, bulging out the sides, makes it look pregnant. Indeed, as one watches it--an immense jewel pulsating in kaleidoscopic colors under the noontide sun--one can easily believe that this is not a building but a huge, primordial creature about to give birth.

Give birth it did, almost precisely at noon, as five thousand children, teachers, and very harried mothers swarmed out the apex of the McDanald Media Temple onto the escalators descending the outside of the pyradome. Well into the maternal category, but looking spectacularly composed in spite of the four children she was herding. Eleanor Delaney Darris paused on the pyradome's middle landing long enough to light a desperately needed joynette, then exhaled in time to tell six-year-old Nick for the third and last time to stop calling his twin brother, Vic, a dirty Touchable.

The twins had been just impossible for the hour-long children's concert. The boys'-section usher had reported to Eleanor afterward that he had shushed them twice during the performance, and Eleanor had promised them a spanking from their father when they got home, though this was an idle threat meant only to settle them down. Eleanor did not blame six-year-olds for having the attention spans of, well, six-year-olds...not anymore. Thank the Lady, that was one mistake she wasn't making this time. She blamed herself, instead, for not sitting with her children in a family box, where she could have explained things a bit, but of course this possibility was excluded by the very reason she had taken them to this concert on an impossibly busy day.

She was there as head of the Darris Foundation to introduce the morning's two solo performers: the elderly lasemeister, Wolfgang Jaeger, and a twelve-year-old prodigy whom the Foundation was sponsoring to study under the semiretired virtuoso at the conservatory Jaeger now headed in Ad Astra. So Eleanor consoled herself that at least eight-year-old Mark had behaved, and was delightfully surprised when the pyradome patron had reported to her that four-year-old Joanie--who'd had a couch all to herself in the girls' section--had been completely entranced by her first lasegraphy concert.

She glanced down at Joanie, who was staring back at the pyradome's changing colors. Was there any possibility..? But no. Eleanor's first daughter, Vera, had taught her not to make that mistake again either. Don't fool yourself into believing it, she cautioned herself. Whatever seeds you plant here, the harvest will not be your own.

She told Mark to grab on to his sister's hand, then guided the children back down the escalator. Eleanor was no longer inclined to let worries about children mar her enjoyment of an April day such as this. When they reached the promenade level, transferring onto a slidewalk to the parking zone, she leaned into the wind, allowing it to ripple her ash-blond hair. Eleanor inhaled deeply. The promenade smelled of marigolds and freshly cut grass, here and there mixed with confectionery odors from hovercart vendors. Taking a final toke from her joynette, she hurried her children past a red cloaked woman selling hoop dogs on bagels. She reassured herself that she had nothing against Touchables--what enlightened person did?--but merely wanted to avoid the twins' wheeling her for something to spoil their lunch.

Visits to the city were a rare luxury for Eleanor these days, what with taking care of a husband and five children, and another pregnancy--another boy--planned for next year. If one added in her chair duties for the Darris Foundation, her administrative responsibilities for her family circle, and her U.S.O. volunteer work, a trip to town for a concert was near priceless, even if she did have to emcee the concert.

Eleanor felt a proprietorship over spring in Newer York. She had been born on this island, grown up here, gone to school here, and--except for nine years immediately following the Colonial War--had spent the better part of her sixty-three years living here. When she was nine, on a school field trip to Staten Island, she had watched a rain of meteors kill Manhattan, orphaning her, but she did not often think about the War, and she did not think about it now. Spring was a time for rebirth, not for mourning a long-dead past. So, rather, she thought of this Newer York's resurrection, a city designed as a single work of art. She knew this city's rhythms and its seasons as well as she knew her own, and she felt in this particular spring a promise of great things about to happen.

But there was no time to spend admiring the season; she keyed her wristphone, then ordered her limousine to wait for them at passenger loading. Eleanor had promised Mr. McIntosh that she would take back two-year-old Zack by one o'clock, giving the governor his afternoon off before taking charge of visiting children during the ball that evening. Vera's coming-out ball, Eleanor reminded herself again; the thought caused a point of light inside her to flare, as if she'd touched a fire gem. Tonight, Vera was returning home after her three years in the service.


It was not that Eleanor was particularly patriotic, as one might naturally have assumed. She was not particularly patriotic--no more than anybody else, and no more than she had to be. Eleanor had been thirty-four when the first women's draft lottery had been held--just under the age limit--and she had accepted her own term of service with neither pride nor resentment. It was just something she was being made to do. But Eleanor had wanted to be proud of her twin-daughter for so long, and Vera had provided Eleanor with so little opportunity to be. While a good term of service was not quite the same thing as the premiere at the pyradome Eleanor had once wished for Vera, still, it was something.

If the cliche` was true that twinning yourself only doubled your problems, then Eleanor had found in Vera the classic twin. Eleanor had self-conceived right after her own term of service had ended, twenty-six years before, by what was poetically called virgin birth--poetic since Eleanor had by no means been untouched by men. Three years of serving under men, day in and day out, had seemed enough for a while, and a daughter who was all her own was to be Eleanor's claim to her own destiny again, after the regimentation of service life.

A parthenogenic daughter, with all forty-six chromosomes taken from her mother, would be virtually a genetic duplicate of Eleanor. Eleanor decided to call her Vera, since she would breed true. Vera was to be a creative extension of Eleanor, in a way no child born of both mother and father could be, because not only would she be a twin of her mother, but also she would be raised according to her mother's beliefs alone. Her upbringing would not subject her to the male-centered channeling by which a little girl was programmed, before she could consciously question it, that being female meant being the passive and the inferior.

That had been her own lifelong barrier, Eleanor thought, which prevented her from attaining what she could only call "something of my own." It wasn't possessions, it wasn't a home, it wasn't friends, it wasn't lovers, it wasn't a husband, it wasn't wealth or power, it wasn't any job she had ever had, it wasn't--she had found out the hard way--a twin daughter. She had traveled the world looking for it. She had searched through libraries and museums, universities and cathedrals. She had explored her soul, self and psyche through dozens of techniques, with dozens of masters. But what she was looking for was not to be found in this way. She had always known there was something--there had to be something--that she could do in a way nobody else could, and it would be doing this particular thing that would be her existence and her joy. But she had never found it, and her inability to find it was a mystery to her and an open wound.

She tried to think what events in her childhood had done this to her, but she had only a dim recollection of her parents during her formative years before the Colonial War. When her parents and younger brothers had been killed, Eleanor was sent to live with her mother's parents in Kentucky, while her three older brothers remained at boarding schools.

Grandma and Grandpa Collier were strict Southern Baptists who had raised Eleanor's mother, then Eleanor, on their marijuana farm. Grandpa Collier had been one of the first subsidized male babies in the thirty-year-long Brushfire War, and when he got out of the army he bought the marijuana farm with G.I. loans. Soon he had earned a fortune large enough to win Grandma's hand in marriage, as he phrased it. This was no small feat, considering that as a result of militarists' paying families to produce extra male babies for a generation, at the end of the Brushfire War there were already four men for every woman.

The Colliers had a typical Brushfire War mentality and even forty-five years later Eleanor found it difficult to break free of it entirely. Men were supposed to work, fight, and achieve; women were supposed to keep their country strong by having lots of male babies. But men were dangerous creatures who had no compunction about using force to have a woman, just as they'd used force to have enemy women in the Brushfire War they'd just fought. Even today, one war later, forty years into the World Federation, and three decades after the women's service had solved the rape problem--as popular history had it--Eleanor felt nervous walking out alone at night, after Grandma's incessant warnings. How many times had she had to listen to Grandma's story about how she'd been raped the one night she'd gone out having forgotten to wear her chastity electrobelt?

Eleanor had rebelled against these hopelessly old-fashioned attitudes, and at eighteen had broken free from her grandparents to return to what was now Newer York. There she had lived alone and with a number of lovers of both sexes. Her father's fortune had been wiped out with Wall Street, and her grandparents could send her no money because they'd traded in their farm for a condominium in the first postwar colony, St. Clive, but Eleanor never had to worry where her rent money was coming from. With six men for every woman on Earth such things were not a problem for an attractive girl who frequented the mocha houses in those days--even without outright prostitution, which was still legal then.

It was after sixteen years of living the free-spirited life of a boh--consorting with the coca drinkers and roga players, doing what she wanted, when she wanted, where she wanted--that the Federation had begun Universal Service and Eleanor had been drafted into its Peace Corps.

Vera was to have been Eleanor's reply both to her grandparents -- now living in the colonies--and to her own society. Eleanor had given Vera the opportunity and the encouragement to sample the world's culture--to choose an ascending path for herself -- and to demonstrate to the world that a mind and a spirit in a female body could equal or better any accomplishment a mind and a spirit in a male body could achieve.

It had not quite worked out that way. Though Vera had proved to be neither passive nor inferior, she directed her talents in ways that her mother could interpret only as perverse. Eleanor had wanted to dress her daughter to emphasize her individuality; Vera had been more interested in indentical mother-daughter outfits. Eleanor had given her daughter toys and games designed to encourage her intellectual development. These remained in the toy chest while Vera played Mommy endlessly to a doll her great- grandparents had sent her: a lifelike re-creation, taken from holograms, of Eleanor as a baby.

Later on, Eleanor wanted her daughter to experience the great cultural treasures of the world. Vera sat in the Louvre, in the Kremlin, and on the steps of Chichen Itza playing trashy storydiscs. Eleanor was left to experience the great cultural treasures of the world.

In school, Vera's teachers acknowledged that she was capable of brilliant work, but her grades never seemed to reflect it. Eleanor heard variations on the same theme over and over again: Vera's test had been perfect, but she had allowed another student to copy from her, failing both of them. Vera's essay had been brilliant, but the teacher was sure she had plagiarized it, even though the original source couldn't be located. Vera's homework assignments had proved she knew the material cold, but mysteriously she still managed to fail the final.

Eleanor's worst disappointment with Vera, however, was caused by their one mutual love; lasegraphy. Eleanor had started Vera on lessons when she was four--the same age at which Eleanor's mother had started her on the console. Vera's teacher, Jack Malcolm, had told Eleanor that her daughter showed an unusual grasp of sequential logic, as well as having a formidable sense of color, motion, and form. She continued her lessons for eleven years--developing a brilliant console technique along the way -- and performed remarkably in student competitions.

When Vera was fifteen, Malcolm arranged financial backing through the Darris Foundation (and in doing so introduced Eleanor to her future husband) for Vera to give a premiere recital at the pyradome. Several of Newer York's most influential lasegraphic critics had promised to attend. Vera was to perform Geoffrey Moulton's Vistata No. 3, several rather pyrotechnic Konzertstucke by Wolfgang Jaeger, and a new composition of her own, Fugue in Blue.

Fugue in Blue was never premiered. Three hours before her recital, Vera went into convulsions and was rushed to Golden-Sky General Hospital. She stayed there five days while doctors ran every conceivable test on her. And though they reported that her convulsions had been genuine, they were never able to detect any physiological cause.

Vera refused ever to return to the console, and she refused to give her reasons to anyone. For years afterwards, she even refused to remain in the same room where a lasegraphic recording was being played. It was only in her senior year of university, where she maintained above-mediocre work in a political-science major, that Vera relaxed enough to begin participating in lasegraphy again, but solely as a viewer. She began attending concerts and playing recordings, but she never again allowed it any importance in her life.

She entered into the service immediately after her university graduation, as soon as her student draft deferment was up. From all accounts her mother had been able to receive. Vera's service record was consistently excellent. Although this was the only consistent excellence Vera had shown since abandoning the console, Eleanor wondered why this knowledge now filled her with a dread that wiped out the warm tingle she'd felt a few minutes before. The apprehension lasted just an instant, but when it was gone it took the warmth with it, leaving only the chill of someone's death.


Eleanor tried putting this out of her mind as she marched her second daughter and three of her four sons--all conceived in the usual way--into the pyradome parking zone. Soon she was aided in her attempt by the slidewalk, as it merged them into the crush of departing passengers. Her limousine phoned her back to let her know that it was waiting for them at Platform Green. Then she struggled to keep her children together as they passed through red, orange, and yellow platform, where schoolmasters were shepherding uniformed boys back onto the airbuses they'd arrived in. When the family reached Platform Green, Eleanor did some quick shepherding of her own, until they reached a queue of private skymobiles. Past a Schwinn station wagon, past a Cadillac de Sade, past a Mao miniflyer, a powder-blue Astarte limousine was hovering.

Eleanor's skymobile was a brand-new bubble-top model and there was the usual argument with the children about which one would get the prized seat up top. She awarded it to Mark, this time, for his good behavior at the concert. As soon as everyone was strapped in, she told the computer to fly them directly home.

"Home," to both the Darris family and the onboard computer pilot, was an estate in upper Hudson Parish about 160 kilometers north of Manhattan via the Hudson River Air Corridor--in Kingston, to be exact. Traffic control cleared them for takeoff, only to stick them into a holding circle at 1,000 meters for nine minutes. Eleanor smoked another joynette and allowed Joanie to join Mark in the bubble for aerial views of the pyradome and the Rainborough Bridge. Nick, feeling left out, started complaining that he had to go to the bathroom. Not to be outdone by his twin brother, Vic immediately chimed in. Eleanor told them she should have thought of that back at the pyradome, thinking herself that the little monsters deserved to wet themselves.

Joanie was already rebelted into her seat by the time traffic control routed them through Newark--the wrong direction, but avoiding the worst of noon traffic--and when they were eventually into the Hudson Corridor they were assigned a 5,000- meter cruising altitude. Eight minutes later, they dropped out of the corridor at Poughkeepsie, circled Port Ewen, and in another few minutes were into a final descent over the Darris apple orchards. A quick pass over their squatball course, their horse stables, and Lake Kingston brought them to the landing strip on the Darris estate, Helix Vista.

Suddenly, the computer sounded collision alarm. All of them were shoved back into their seats as the craft accelerated into a steep, banked climb. What the rape is going on? Eleanor wondered. Then they were hit by the airwash of another skymobile cutting only meters under them, and were violently rocked back and forth several times until the computer managed to compensate. All three boys started crying.

As suddenly as it started, the alarm stopped. The computer brought them around again in preparation for their landing. Eleanor could see a silvered craft on the Darris strip just ahead of them, taxiing across the lawn to their house, but it was too far off to recognize.

They came into the landing strip again and slowed to a hover. Eleanor manually taxied them off the runway before she cut out the impellents. Only after she had checked to make sure her children were all right, and had quieted down the boys, did Eleanor notice her own galloping pulse rate. No computer would have cut it that close. That other skymobile had been on manual. She was going to have that cloneraping pilot's heart for lunch.

Eleanor let Mark and Joanie out--her little girl amazingly serene, as if nothing unusual had happened--then turned around to let the twins out. "Oh, scat," she said.

The twins had wet the seat.

Go to Next Chapter.

Return to Table of Contents.






3



That cloneraping pilot was, of course, Vera.

Eleanor marched across the lawn, her cubs in tow, a lioness preparing to make cat food out of the brainwiped lout who had dared to frighten her children. When she approached her house, though, she saw not a delivery boy's craft but a stiletto-shaped Phaethon sportster. The sportster's trunk was open, so she did not immediately see the jump-suited woman who was pulling out a general-issue Kevlar valise. When the bonnet was slammed shut, allowing her to see Vera, Eleanor was stunned.

Vera was not supposed to be home until that evening, arriving by suborbital shuttle; Stanton Darris--Eleanor's husband and Vera's stepfather--was supposed to pick Vera up at Soleri Skyport on his way home from work. Moreover, when Eleanor had seen her daughter on the last holiday leave Vera had used to come home--Beltane, almost a year ago--Vera had not even owned a skymobile.

So when, somewhat uncharacteristically, Vera shouted, "Mother!" and dropped her valise to throw her arms around Eleanor, it may be understandable why, in the spirit of the moment, Eleanor decided to forget the incident.

When lunch was served up. Vera was at the table, not on it.


Corporal Vera Delaney had been stationed in Honolulu. The night before her discharge, she had gone out to celebrate with several of her messmates; as usual the women went to the casinos on Molokai. They'd had a few tokes in the cannabistro, spent some time at the blackjack tables, and eventually lost all their money gambling. They were about to head back to their quarters when they passed by a velletrom table just as a player started a psycho-kinetic winning streak. Vera stopped for a moment to look, the man immediately associated his sudden streak of velleity with Vera's presence, and he asked her to stick around.

He kept pulling threes. And sixes. And twelves.

He'd just read a disc called Velletrom: Free Will Can Pay Big!

He owned a local skymobile dealership.

It was, of course, against regulations for a civilian to give a gift to a corporal in the Federation Peace Corps while she was on active duty. So he told Vera to drop by his dealership as soon as she was officially a civilian again. The silver Phaethon was a demonstrator.

"He didn't even want to fuck me," Vera told her mother.

"Lavender," Eleanor said.

Vera shook her head. "Would I have brought this up if he wasn't wearing blue? Uh-uh. He said if we fucked it wouldn't be a gift. Then where would he be the next time he wanted the Lady to bring him kinesis?"

"Gamblers and their superstitions," Eleanor siad. She had been put off by her grandparents' religious fanaticism and believed in neither God nor Goddess.

Rather than have her new toy freighted home, Vera had decided to fly the craft herself, leaving that evening. From Honolulu to Newer York, 8,000 kilometers. Ten hours' flying time, with a two hour rest stop in Pacifica and nothing to keep her going but a reservoir of hot coca mocha. And, of course, the Phaethon being a sportster, it was manual control all the way.

Aside from an hour's nap she'd caught in the parking zone of a Quiche & Knish in Los Angeles, Vera had been up since 9 A.M. Honolulu time, the previous day. Eleanor could well appreciate why Vera might have been a little bleary-eyed by the time she came into Helix Vista for a landing.


"But why didn't you phone me last night, to let me know your change of plans?"

"I thought I'd surprise you," Vera said.

"You did," Eleanor replied. She didn't add that she'd just as soon pass up such surprises. "But I'll get even tonight," she told her daughter. "I've managed to work up a little surprise of my own."

Vera went up to get some sleep before her ball. Eleanor made a quick call to Stanton's office, letting his secretary know that Stanton no longer needed to pick Vera up, then went to the kitchen to check on preparations. One of the robots brought her a bowl of dip to taste. She dipped her finger into it, then scowled. "Much too much garlic. Throw this away and start again." The robot threw the dip into the scintillator and made more dip while she checked on the caviar. This time she gave her okay.

She was just about to head into the children's den, to relieve Mr. McIntosh, when the repairman for the lawn dome and the champagne delivery arrived simultaneously. This day was becoming more impossible by the minute.

When Eleanor stopped into the children's den, Mr. McIntosh and the children had finished lunch, and the boys were on the floor with him playing a round-robin game; two-year-old Zack was perched on the governor's lap. Joan was sitting Indian-style in a big old beat-up armchair, drawing on rainbow paper with thermocrayons.

Mr. McIntosh was the youngest, and the best, governor Eleanor had ever hired; the slim, light-brown-haired boy had been nineteen when he had come to work for the Darris family three years before. His gentleness, endless patience, and easygoing intelligence ensured his rapport with the children. Eleanor just couldn't understand how some families could trust their children to a robot. A robot couldn't make a sulking child laugh, no matter how flexible its programming was supposed to be.

Eleanor sighed. "Mac..."

"I'll stay," the governor said. His rapport seemed almost magical at times. "Your turn, Mark."

"Onions," said Mark.

"But your afternoon," Eleanor said. "I promised."

"Nothing I can't put off," Mr. McIntosh said. "Very good, Mark. Vic?"

"Oranges."

"Sorry, Nick said oranges already. Try again." He turned to Eleanor again. "You can make it up to me next week."

"He did not. Go ick yourself!"

"I did too! You go ick yourself!"

"You're a sweetheart," Eleanor said.

Mr. McIntosh smiled. "Let me prove it sometime."

Eleanor smiled slightly. "I'll take my word for it." The young man grinned again, then was immediately busy mediating between the twins.

She decided to put off her duties for another minute and walked over to Joan. Her daughter had drawn a big yellow dot with a multicolored spiral shooting out of it. It changed color with each orbit: yellow to orange, orange to red, red to violet, violet to indigo, indigo to blue, blue to green, green and circling back into the yellow again. A rainbow helix, of sorts.

"What have you got there, darling?"

Joan held up the paper to her mother. "See? I'm telling the lights."

"Telling the lights?"

"Telling them, like this morning. They're dancing for me."

Eleanor crouched to examine the paper more closely. It was true. Joan had exactly remembered a spectral sequence from the children's concert--the finale to the last movement of Wolfgang Jaeger's Resurrection Vistata. She had drawn the correct sequence for a color scale.

For just a moment, Eleanor let her hopes sweep away her doubts. But once burned by Vera, Eleanor was shy of the fire. She believed it was her stage-mothering that had pressured her first daughter into a nervous collapse.

"Honey, can I have this when you're through with it? I want to keep it."

Joan handed it to her mother. "I'm gonna do another one."

Eleanor kissed Joan on her cheek, then rolled up the drawing, deciding to hang it in the kitchen. When she left to supervise unloading of the champagne, she began singing to herself, happily.


In the year Joan Seymour Darris turned five, there lived seven men for every woman on Earth.

A century earlier, cynics had commented that given an opportunity to create an advantage, the human race inevitably turned it into a disadvantage. Ecologists had said that given the possibility of destroying the natural balance, the "Cancer of the Planet" just naturally chose the unnatural. Clergy had found the chance to preach that once men and women turned from God's ordained plans, nothing but evil could result.

Only one thing was certain. Repeatedly given the choice between self-control and its opposites, tyranny and dissipation, too many of the race forswore self-control.

On February 15, 1979, working from a technique developed by Dr. Ronald Ericsson of Sausalito, California, Dr. W. Paul Dmowski of Chicago announced his successful demonstration of a procedure whereby androsperm--those spermatozoa producing male off-spring -- could be concentrated to increase the probability of male children. The technique, however, would not work with female producing gynosperm, and could therefore be used only to help create male babies. But the procedure was expensive, and there was no noticeable effect on population demographics.

Some years later, Dr. Bowie Golden-Sky of Los Angeles perfected a drug that, taken by a man the day before sexual intercourse, would deactivate his gynosperm entirely, thus ensuring that any offspring resulting from such a union would be male. There was nothing at the time that a woman could take to change this. The most she could manage was the null result of no offspring at all.

After laboratory testing, Upjohnson Pharmaceuticals began marketing the drug worldwide under the commercial name Adamine.

Oddly or not, Adamine encountered little political opposition. Perhaps the pro-abortion arguments feminists had used regarding absolute control over their own bodies restrained them from telling men what they, in turn, could put into theirs.

It did not take long for the statisticians to notice that just about twice as many male babies were being born as female babies. Patriarchal cultures, particularly in the Middle and Far East, demonstrated a preference for male offspring. By the time the demographics became obvious to all, the Brushfire War had started. Male military leaders saw advantages to a surplus of males in a conventional war that looked bound to drag on. Politicians saw their advantage in victory from the cradle.

Manpower--specifically male--was demanded. In totalitarian countries, men were simply ordered to produce male babies. Those families not producing the desired surplus were punished. That women played a less-than-peripheral role in producing babies was a minor point that male political rulers never seemed to notice.

For the United States, it was another generation of young American men being chewed up in remote jungles, deserts, and ice floes. A long war seemed inevitable, but the constant drain on the country's supply of young men was making the war uneconomic and unpopular. Two solutions were arrived at.

In the short term, the United States persuaded Canada, Mexico, and its new ally Cuba to combine with it--on the models of NATO and the European Common Market--to form the North American Concord.

In the long term, the Concord parliament passed an act granting progressive tax rebates to families producing healthy male babies. Female babies were still allowed, of course, but were not subsidized.

It was a popular law. For many families, the tax rebates were the difference between soyaburgers and beefalo steaks--with enough, perhaps, left over for a new holovision set. In Cuba and Mexico, the rebates were for many families the difference between squalor and the much higher level of American squalor.

The Concord eventually won its war but by the time the Brushfire war ended, males under twenty-six years old outnumbered females by four to one. The subsidies were repealed, but it was much too late.

With a shortage of young women, the overall birthrate was dropping rapidly. Illegal prostitution thrived, then was legalized to be inspected and taxed. Men who had learned how to rape the wives and daughters of their enemies brought this lesson home with them. The ratio of men to women made rape epidemic. As in prisons and boarding schools for centuries earlier, men turned to--and on--other men.

New and inexpensive technologies perfected during the war provided at least the hope of an exit for the surplus of men; outer space. A permanent lunar-exploration outpost was established. Laser launching systems and, later, continuous- boost thermonuclear spaceships provided access to the entire solar system. Scientific footholds were made on Mars, on several of Jupiter's moons, and even on Venus.

Several free-space habitats--huge orbiting cities envisioned the previous century by such pioneers as Gerald K. O'Neill of Princeton--were constructed, each housing thousands of colonists. Permanent mining operations on the moon, and later in the asteroid belt, combined with near-free solar energy to make such efforts both technologically and economically possible.

Second and third generation O'Neill colonies--massive cylindrical habitats, each with a population capacity in the millions--included the Concord's Ad Astra, the Chinese Confucius, and the Soviet Lenin. O'Neill, Kibbutz, Uhuru, and Rising Sun soon followed.

Nonetheless, only a small fraction of the surplus male population was able to leave. Political measures throughout the world tried to control the marauding young men.

In the North American Concord--using the precedent of minimum wage laws--a minimum-sex law was passed. All healthy, adult females were legally required to have sex at least three times a week.

The only trouble was that only those men who were getting any in the first place got any more.

The marauding young men were still marauding.

An equalization-of-sex-opportunity law was passed. Women were now issued what were euphemistically called dance cards. New partners from the "sexually deprived" had to be accommodated.

A huge black market in false dance-card signatures arose.

The marauding young men were older, but still marauding.

Again, science came to the rescue. A new drug was born that, when taken by a woman, reactivated Adamine-inhibited gynosperm, at the same time sterilizing male-producing androsperm. It was developed in Ad Astra--its manufacture requiring elaborate facilities for zero-gravity mixing--and was commercially marketed to Earth under the name Eveline.

Its sole manufacturer--by exclusive license from its inventors--was a young asteroid miner who had risked venture capital on the drug's testing. The young miner was named Zachary Armstrong Darris. He returned to Earth to set up a marketing network for the new drug.

More years passed, with the ratio of male-to-female births dropping back to the pre-Brushfire War level of only two-to-one again.

Aside from the still serious, but now lessened, sexual imbalance, the world was enjoying one of its freest and most prosperous periods in history. Gone were oil shortages and pollution as cheap solar energy was collected by orbiting "powersats" and beamed down by laser beams to Earth-based distribution stations. Space manufacturing revolutionized industry after industry with miraculous new, and miraculously cheap, products. Laissez-faire was becoming the worldwide watchword in both economics and personal lifestyle. Even the Soviet Union found affluence easing its political grip. The problems of inflation, soaring taxation, energy shortage, unemployment, the destructive business cycle, and poverty itself began disappearing.

New advances in gerontology lowered the deathrate to match the lowered birthrate: the average human lifespan more than doubled, with fertility and youth continuing in both sexes well past a century. Gone were cancer, tooth decay, the common cold, and venereal disease.

Then came the War of Colonial Secession.

Stanton Darris, like his father the asteroid miner, viewed the Colonial War as a personal attack on his family. It was a rather parochial view concerning a war that had killed five million in the colonies and thirteen million on Earth. Nevertheless, there was some truth to it. It was true that the War had cut off all trade between the colonies and Earth for two decades, to the personal gain of certain Earth-bound manufacturers who had been unable to compete with free-space factories, several of these latter being Darris-owned. It was also true that the War effectfively halted the sale of Eveline on Earth, and by the time colonial-Earth trade had resumed, sociological and political changes on Earth had shifted the balance of power so far that the new Federation succeeded in passing laws banning Eveline from the planet permanently.

But it was ridiculous to suppose that the generals of the North American Concord had these results mapped out when they launched the preemptive first strike destroying the free-space habitat O'Neill.

Regardless of why it had started, half a century later Stanton Darris was still dealing on a daily basis with business problems that resulted directly from the War.

Today the problem was ferrofoam futures.

Ferrofoam--a steel product that, in terms of industrial usefulness, was to steel as steel had been to iron--could for all practical purposes be manufactured only in the colonies. Its production required the free-fall injection of microscopic gas bubbles into molten steel, then cooling it to produce a metal that was lighter than steel but could surpass it in a number of ways.

Both before and after the War, except for the embargo just after it, ferrofoam was one of the chief exports of the free- space colonies to Earth. One of the main causes of the colonial secessionist movement had been a difference of opinion between colonial residents and absentee owneers back on Earth with respect to profit sharing and who could do without whom when push came to shove. On this issue the colonists won.

Ferrofoam, thought Stanton Darris. Fifty-four years postbellum and taking a futures contract on the financially volatile metal still made his stomach churn, as if the gas bubbles being pumped into the molten steel were ending up in his belly instead.

He was seventy-seven years old, with smooth skin, a body he kept athletically trim, craggy features, and bright red hair. Of his children only four-year-old Joanie had inherited the red hair intact; all four of his sons had strawberry-blond hair that more- or-less favored his wife. He wondered whether a redhead would show up in the next three sons he and Eleanor planned as a tax shelter--the Federation levied stiff progressive taxes on second and further female babies, with progressive tax rebates for male babies. A redheaded son, however, would be something he could enjoy for his own sake--his father had been redheaded too.

Ferrofoam, thought Stanton Darris. He sat facing a video price listing and longed for the days of his great-grandfather, when the price of structural shapes was stable enough that there was no need for a futures market at all. His office was in the penthouse of the 150 story-high Darris Tower, his father's phallic reply to the society he felt had given him the bird. The building had been sold soon after completion to pay off debts caused by the embargo, but Darris Investment Corporation still held the top dozen floors.

Far below him, Stanton could see Harlem Lake, where a neighborhood by that name had once been. Family history said that his father's paternal grandfather had lived in that neighborhood, but the closest the man had ever come to knowing anything about structural shapes of steel was the searing pain of the stiletto that had murdered him.

The video terminal finally displayed the information Stanton was awaiting. He spoke to it. "Offered," he said, "on one hundred kilotons of March ferrofoam, Au 2,730 grams."

The terminal printed out the bid on its display and said, "Please confirm."

"Confirmed. Transmit."

TRANSMITTING appeared on the display, and "Transmitting," the terminal said aloud. Stanton turned back to the window and began tapping his fingertips together rhythmically.

Racists might have said this sense of rhythm had come from that black man in Harlem--Neil Armstrong Darris, born July 20, 1969, dead of knife wounds received thirty-two years later while defending his pregnant wife from bread rioters during the monetary collapse. His wife, the former Mary O'Hare--a third generation Irish Bostonian--survived; seven of the rioters did not. The family name and the beginnings of a tradition were passed on.

Their only son, a light-skinned mulatto whom she named Louis Armstrong Darris, was born forteen weeks after his father's death. Louis Darris enlisted in the Aerospace Force on his eighteenth birthday, in the ninth year of the Brushfire War, rose to shuttle pilot, and was disabled out with a back injury, sustained during reentry, in the war's twentieth year. He lived on his benefits until the war was over, got a pilot's job with Trans European Skylines, and married a blond, blue-eyed copilot named Candice Bach.

Candice's fourth child, Zachary Armstrong Darris, shipped out to the asteroid belt at sixteen, using a false birth-record printout, after flunking out of prep school. After making his first 100,000 grams of gold, Zachary bought himself a seat on the board of trustees of that school, solely for the pleasure of bringing about the firing of a particular math teacher, who he felt had ruined him for the scientific career he'd wanted.

He considered the firing of that teacher as the most fun he'd had out of bed, where he spent much of his spare time to the day he died, at the age of ninety-one, shot by a jealous husband.

The life of Zachary Armstrong Darris had been one filled with fortunes made and lost, fame--or infamy, depending on whom one talked to--and three marriages in an age when most men couldn't enter even one. Three marriages produced three offspring, two sons from his first wife--a platinum-blond nightclub singer named Kate Seymour--and a daughter from his last marriage.


Stanton Armstrong Darris always felt he'd been a disappointment to his father. He felt he wasn't cast from the same mold as his ancestors. He just wasn't the sort to face off rioters, or fly combat missions, or blast a fortune out of worthless rock a few hundred million kilometers away from Earth. Maybe he'd inherited some of his father's business ability, but he felt he'd missed out on the ancestral guts. The only thing Stanton felt sure he'd inherited from his father was the red hair.

The terminal spoke to Stanton again: "Bid accepted. Carlisle, St. Clive, D.H. Transaction on display."

Stanton stood up, not bothering to look at the screen. "Just store it," he told the terminal. "Notify me if trading on March ferrofoam goes plus or minus this transaction 15 percent or greater. I'm going home."

"I will, I will, I hear you," the computer said.

Stanton looked across the office to a portrait of his father -- one of those damnable holographic atrocities in which the eyes followed you wherever you went in the room. As usual, the eyes were looking right through him, mocking and critical. Even thirteen years after his death, his father was still disapproving. "You bastard," Stanton told the portrait.

He called his secretary, Larry, to say good night, and put on a jacket. Then he took his personal lift up one level to the roof of the 150-story-high Darris Tower, and after taking just a minute to prepare himself, Stanton Armstrong Darris jumped off.

Go to Next Chapter.

Return to Table of Contents.






4



Helix Vista was lit up like a Solstice tree.

Approaching it by air, soon after nightfall, he first saw the squatball cource, floodlighted although it was deserted this evening. Receiving approach instructions from the estate's domestic computer, he circled around the perimeter of the stables to avoid having his engine noise frighten the horses. He skimmed low over Lake Kingston, enjoying the spray caused by the airwash, watching his path alternating red and blue, red and blue under his anticollision beacons.

Helix Vista reached to touch the sky, a staircase of seven ovals spiraling upward to heaven, each level lighted a proper color in the spectral sequence of a rainbow. Topping each level was a garden, and on the uppermost oval there was an open-air terrace from which one could oversee the entire estate.

Few guests had arrived at a quarter to seven, so there was no one but serving robots to watch what would have made a spectacular entrance. But he could see, during his approach, that there was an open, lighted window with a small, red-haired girl waving to him, so he decided to make his descent to please her.

Like Peter Pan flying up to Wendy's window, Stanton Darris guided his General Electric Joob flying belt to the garden on the fourth oval of Helix Vista, next to his daughter's fifth-story bedroom, then dropped into it for a landing.

No father had ever had a more appreciative audience.

Joan was squealing with delight as he slipped out of harness, removed the headpiece and leather jacket, then climbed in through the window. "Daddy, Daddy!" Joan shouted as she ran toward him.

The run ended with a flying leap. Stanton caught her and accepted a sloppy, wet kiss. He returned it. "How's my little tangerine-top?" he asked her. "And how come you're not in your pajamas yet?"

"Mr. Mac is helping Cousin 'lizabeth get into hers first. Daddy, can I stay up and come to the party?"

"I'm sorry, honey, but it starts way past your bedtime. You wouldn't be able to keep your eyes open."

"I would, I promise!"

"Darling, you'd be so bored you'd fall right asleep. There won't be anyone your own age there to play with, and all the grown-ups will be too busy doing grown-up things to spend any time with you. Besides, aren't you having a party of your own next week for your birthday?"

Joan nodded. "I'm gonna be five."

"Well, parties for five-year-olds are lots more fun, I promise you. Now tell me what you did today."

"Mommy took us all to the peer--peera--"

"Pyradome."

"Peeradome, and she got into a hole in the center with a boy and an old man and Mommy talked to everybody. Then it got all dark and the colors did a dance in the sky. Daddy, who tells the colors how to dance?"

"Well, it's a hard word to say, honey. They're called lase- graphers."

Joan looked crestfallen. "Can't people tell the lights?"

"Eh? Of course they can, darling. Why do you ask?"

"Well, if people can tell the colors how to dance, then why do they use lazy gophers?"

Stanton received a clear image of a shiftless furry rodent in a hole, communing with the heavens. "Uh, sweetheart, it's not 'lazy gophers'. It's 'lasegraphers'--a funny word that means something else."

"I didn't think gophers were that smart," Joan said.

Stanton smiled. "No. Lasegraphers are people who study for a long time until they learn how to draw dancing pictures with lights, like you saw today at the pyradome. In fact, your sister Vera used to be a lasegrapher."

Joan's eyes widened. "She was?

"Mmm-hmm."

"Could I draw with lights? Real lights, not pretending?"

"Darling, if you really want to, and you're willing to spend enough time learning how to do it, I'm sure you can. Now can you get into your pajamas, like a big five-year-old?"

"Uh-huh." Joan went to the pajamas dispenser and pulled out a plastisealed package. "Daddy, will you sing me a song, like Mr. McIntosh does?"

"Uh, I don't know a lot of songs, sweetheart."

"Please?"

"Well, get into your pajamas while I try to remember one."

Joan spent the next few minutes getting out of her play dress, throwing it away, then changing into her pajamas. Her father helped her only in breaking the plastic seal on the package. Stanton tucked Joanie into bed, then started a song his mother had recorded when she began singing professionally again, about the time his father had married the third time.

"As I was going to St. Clive
I met a man one-hundred-five
Who's with his ma, one-hundred-thirty
Who's with her pa, one-hundred-sixty
Sixty, thirty, hundred-five--
I hear they're living in St. Clive
But how long can they stay alive?
"

Stanton paused, Joanie asked, "How does the rest of it go?"

"Those are all the words, honey. It just keeps on over and over, going faster each time."

"Will you sing it again? As fast as you can?"

"Well, alright. But then you'll go right to sleep."

Stanton sang the song again, this time running the words together so quickly he thought he'd surely trip over them. Amazing himself, but not his daughter, he got through it perfectly.

When he finished, Joan asked, "Daddy, will you teach it to me?"

"I'll tell you what, sweetheart. Grandma is staying over tonight and she taught it to me. Suppose I ask her to teach it to you tomorrow?"

"Okay."

"Now give me another kiss, then go to sleep."

She kissed her father and slid back under the covers. "Good night, Daddy."

"Sweet dreams, carrot-top."

He dimmed the lights on his way out. Reflections from the lawn dome, still being tested, projected in through the window, flickering colors onto the bedroom wall. "Daddy?"

"Hmm?"

"You sing much better than Mr. McIntosh."

"Thank you, honey."

Stanton went out. He decided that maybe he didn't need a red- headed son after all.


Colors in motion, thought His Gaylordship Wendell Darris; that was the essence of a ball. That, at least, was all he could discern of the swirling rooftop dancers as his official Federation limousine came into Helix Vista that night. It felt good coming home again, even if there was a slight bittersweet flavor. Stanton was the only Darris heir who lived here nowadays, and it was almost a year and a half since Wendell had visited his brother at home.

His last visit, the family circle's traditional Hallowmas feast, had been during happier times, before Wendell's adoption of Marion had gone sour, before the two of them had separated. Their upcoming divorce was still a closely held secret, with Wendell's seat in the House of Gentry coming up for election this June, but for all his sexual infidelities, Marion was a Libertarian Party loyalist who had no desire to see the North American Concord's lavender seat in the Upper Manor lost to the Chauvinists. Still, Wendell wished Marion had accompanied him tonight.

Colors in motion, Gaylord Darris thought, as he entered onto the terrace and saw the ball close up: the improvisational lasegraphy of the roga player, backed up by the hard-driving music of the Ramon Raquello Orchestra. Wendell's escort of sky marshals had discarded their flying belts and now discreetly prededed him onto the terrace, where they took up guard posts. Wendell did not see his brother and sister-in-law right off and used his few free minutes before he was recognized to look around.

Eleanor was an expert hostess when it came to keeping the proper proportions at a party, he observed. There was just the right number of gaily plumed commen, carefully selected to try for the attentions of the equal number of invited single women. And equivalent number of andromen couples--mostly husbands and wards--were more drably attired in their lavender capotes; Wendell gave thanks that hoods were no longer required on cloaks for full dress. Just the correct number of society witches were towing their husbands around the dance floor, here to pass judgement on the newest postulant to their order. And just the suitable dash of clones were here to prove the Darrises had compassion--a few too many to be considered tokens, but not enough to create a scandal. Wendell smiled as he thought he could use Eleanor's expertise the next time he had to assemble just the right mix of gaylords, ladies, and commen in a joint- Manor conference committee.

At five to nine, a stunning woman with ash-blond hair, sky- blue eyes, and the figure that was an exercise in lightness ascended onto the terrace. As did every veteran at this ball, she wore the white dress uniform of the Federation Peace Corps: a gown that revealed nothing but promised it all.

A tall, black-skinned, and handsome comman walked up to her, presenting his dance card. "Mademoiselle," he said with a slight quebecois accent, "may I escort you until our first dance?"

For a moment she looked no older than sixteen, and she laughed. "Thank you, but I believe my husband might object."

The young comman was even more taken aback when Stanton Darris walked up and led Eleanor away, winding their way across the roga imagery reflected from the gossamer canopy onto the mirrored dance floor.

The comman was not to be blamed for his mistake. What biological distinctions there were between Eleanor Darris and her parthenogenic daughter would have shown up only in a medical or Federation Monitor laboratory--assuming their brainprints hadn't already been scanned.

The comman stood watching after them as Eleanor and Stanton reached the cannabistro, where they approached a tall, somewhat stout, and curly-haired androman the comman recognized from holovision as His Gaylordship Wendell Darris.

Wendell stood at the cannabistro, loading his pipe with a marijuana blend Darris Investments imported from the Lenin colony -- Colombian seeds grown in lunar soil. "A fine welcome," Gaylord Darris said to his brother before Stanton could open his mouth. "No balloons, no pretty boys waving placards, no holy reporters. And in an election year."

Stanton shook his brother's hand. "There's a kid here from the Harvard Crimson," he said "You want me to get him?"

"Lady, no," Wendell said. "He might win the Murdoch Prize for the interview and I'd be thrown out of the Yale Alumni Association. Hello, Eleanor. You can still fit into the uniform, I see."

"And you're looking particularly effete tonight," she said.

"Thanks, but you can save the compliments. If I look at all the way I feel, I must look like scat. Has our surprise arrived yet?"

"Not till ten."

Wendell nodded and turned back to his brother. "I haven't seen Mom yet."

"She's still vesting, and burning mad that we allowed the party to start before she gave the service."

"You know how traditionalist she can be."

"Wendy, where's Marion hiding?" Eleanor asked. "I'd like to say hello before I have to start playing hostess again."

Wendell paused just a moment, to underscore a warning "Marion sends his regrets. A last-minute stomach-ache, I'm afraid."

Eleanor caught his tone. "That's dreadful. Was it something he ate?"

"Probably," Wendell replied, tamping down his pipe. "Marion seems never to have learned what not to swallow."

Precisely at nine, a stunning woman with ash-blond hair, sky- blue eyes, and a figure that was an exercise in lightness ascended onto the terrace. As did every veteran at this ball, she wore the white dress uniform of the Federation Peace Corps: a gown that revealed nothing but promised it all.

A tall, black-skinned, and handsome comman walked up the her, again presenting his dance card. This time, Vera Collier Delaney nodded to him, but she told him to wait.

Right behind Vera, a silver-haired woman in flowing emerald robes, a regal strength belying her one hundred years, ascended onto the floor. Though she no longer wore the vernal beauty of her daughter-in-law and adopted granddaughter, Kate Seymour could still command every set of eyes on the terrace. The High Priestess of the Darris family circle moved in front of Vera and -- with years of nightclub experience--took her stage. The crowd naturally made a pathway as she led Vera up to the bandstand. As Kate Seymour stepped onto it, the orchestra immediately shifted into an ancient and rhythmic strain. All lights went out.

The High Priestess lit two white candles on the bandstand, then removed a short sword from her emerald robes. She traced a nine-foot circle, east to east, around her, and as she traced it, it appeared in glowing light on the floor--courtesty of the roga player.

Then she took her sword and pointed it at Vera, who was suddenly bathed in white light. By stage magic, there stood Vera just outside the circle, naked and blindfolded.

The High Priestess drew next to her and pointed the sword directly at Vera's heart. "O you who stand on the threshold of initiation, the world of men, and the domains of the Dread Lords of the outer spaces, do you have the courage to undergo the trial?"

"I do," Vera replied. "I have two passwords."

"Speak them."

"Perfect love and perfect peace."

Kate Seymour dropped her sword; the clatter echoed across the terrace. "All who bring such words are doubly welcome." She drew Vera into the circle with her. "I give you a third password -- a kiss." She kissed Vera on the lips. "This is the way all are first brought into the circle."

For the next ten minutes, Vera was subjected to ancient rituals of consecration, bondage, and scouring. Vows were made and presents given. Finally, Vera stood before her grandmother, without blindfold and again in uniform, as the old High Priestess completed her last service. "Listen, O Mighty Ones! Vera Collier Delany has been consecrated a High Priestess of the Art and a Sister of the Wicce."

Kate Seymour left the bandstand and walked off the terrace.

Vera waited for silence, then spoke. "Listen now to the words of the Great Mother."

"I who am the beauty of the Green Earth, and the White Moon among the stars, I call unto your soul to arise and come to me. Rejoice, for all acts of love and pleasure are my rituals. Let there be beauty and strength, power and compassion, honor and humility, mirth and reverence--within you. And you who think to search for me, behold--I have been with you from the beginning, and I am that which is attained at the end of all desire."

"So be it ordained," the crowd intoned.

"Blessed be," said Vera. "Let the festivities resume."

The lights came back on. Vera signaled to the roga player to begin again, then led the young comman, whose dance card she had signed first, onto the floor.

A few minutes later, the party was in full swing again. Even Kate Seymour, who had changed from her emerald robes into an evening formal, had dragged Stanton onto the dance floor.

Over at the cannabistro, Gaylord Darris was holding court, surrounded by Eleanor and a dozen of her guests. At the moment, Wendell was trying to stump--with a 1-centigram bet on the line -- a commercial envoy from Lenin. "So," he said, speaking in Russian, "The Minister of Ecology says to the waiter, 'Waiter, there's a fly in my soup.'"

The envoy smiled. "And the waiter says, 'Don't worry, tovarishch, it won't drink much.'"

Several of the guests understood Russian and laughed. "Rapier," Wendell said, blunting the tip of his profanity at the last instant. He withdrew an aurafoam coin from his capote and dropped it into the envoy's hand. "I could have sworn that one was new."

The envoy shook his head. "I heard it in Daedalus more than six months ago."

A puzzled matron asked, "But I thought they didn't import any flies to the habitats."

"We don't, madam," the envoy said. "That's what makes it so funny."

"Vladimir!" a woman's voice called.

"My wife wishes to dance," the envoy said, bowing to Gaylord Darris, then withdrawing.

Wendell and Eleanor spent the next few minutes discussing classical lasegraphy, their joint work for the Darris Foundation, and some folk etymology Wendell had recently discovered regarding the illegitimate derivation of the word "vistata" from the Italian vedere.

After the first dance, Vera took the young comman over to the cannabistro to meet Eleanor; the crowd around Wendell began dispersing, allowing some privacy, as robots began handing out glasses of champagne. "Mother and Wendell," Vera said, "may I introduce Francois Duroux. Francois, my mother, Eleanor Darris, and her brother-in-law, Gaylord Darris."

"How do you do?" Duroux freed his right hand from a champagne glass so he could shake hands with them. "Madame," he said to Eleanor. "I apologize for my confusion earlier tonight. I hope I did not cause you and your husband embarrassment."

Eleanor smiled pleasantly. "Please don't give it a second thought."

"Certainly not," Vera said, somewhat acidly. "My mother has always played our resemblance for all it's worth."

The remark stung Eleanor, though it didn't surprise her. Eleanor was about to comment when she saw Wendell quickly shake his head once at her, so she said nothing.

Duroux carefully tried to disappear into his champagne glass for a moment.

Vera changed the subject. "Francois wants to recruit me for his mother's judiciary firm in Montreal."

"That is not quite right," Duroux corrected her. "Maman wishes Vera to work for her. I merely convey the offer as her employee."

"You do have your own desires, though?" Eleanor asked.

"But of course."

"Then I assume you met my daughter in the Hawaiian dicteriat?"

"Mother!" Vera said, scandalized.

But Duroux was quite used to overprotective parents, so he rolled with the punch. "Madame, the judiciary profession is much too sensitive to public opinion for a firm to risk--shall we say -- so intimate a channel. No. Vera and I met several months ago at our corporate offices in Montreal."

"I used a leave to take their company's entrance exams," said Vera.

"I apologize," Eleanor said. "But getting back to your mother's offer--which firm is this?"

"Legos, Limited."

"Legos would sponsor her law training?"

"To a Doctor of Jurisprudence degree--three years. Then another year of internship as my mother's law clerk before Maman would give Vera a bench of her own."

"Your mother is Claudine Duroux?" Gaylord Darris asked. The young comman nodded. "I met her when she ovafied before the Select Committee on the Touchable Riots last session--something about cost overruns?"

Duroux nodded again. "I don't know what was more costly, sentencing Touchables to the microwaves--capital cases just drag on--or fining the Marnies for daylight venery. The costliest was the trial of the Marnies who had icarated about a dozen Touchables. By the way, Your Gaylordship, do you hunt?"

Wendell shook his head. "Barbaric practice."

"Chacun a son gout," Duroux said, abandoning the idea of inviting His Gaylordship along on his next nightstalk. "Regardless, all this backed up our court dockets for almost a year. I should know. Scheduling of trials is my primary responsibility for Legos."

"I also recall your mother's appearance before my Ways and Means Committee, several months later..."

"Maman spoke of it. Painfully."

Wendell laughed. "I'll just bet Her Honor did; I'll just bet. Gaylord Chung and Lady Weinstein were batting her back and forth at the hearing like a squatball in the fifth down. If I hadn't stepped in, I think they'd have stuffed her up the net too."

Duroux smiled. "She remembers, and has told me she will support your ticket this June, even though she dislikes your running mate."

"Tell her not to worry. A first-term lady doesn't have seniority to get anywhere near the Judiciary Committee. You will understand why I can't comment more explicitly."

"Of course."

"A toast," said Stanton Darris from the bandstand, where he addressed the assemblage. "Vera, come on up here where people can see you."

Go to Next Chapter.

Return to Table of Contents.






5



Eleanor and Wendell's surprise for Vera arrived on schedule at ten o'clock. Colors in motion, observed Wolfgang Jaeger as he was flown in by taxi to Helix Vista. But it was by no means an infrequent perception for him, since he saw colors in motion whenever he looked, in much the same way that a sculptor can't help noticing passing faces. For Jaeger, colors in motion weren't only the essence of a ball, they were the essence of his life--the essence of everything.

A sculptor looking at Jaeger's face would have seen it lined with age and pain. He was one hundred fifty-five years old, and this was his last night on Earth. He was not sorry to be leaving. His bones ached from too much sustained gravity, his neck still ached from the identity transponder implanted at Federation customs, his mind ached from too many remembrances, his eyes ached from having seen much too much.

Though he was one of the last children of the old millennium, virtually his entire life had been in the new one. The art form of which he was, and had been for the last century, the uncontested master had barely reached its puberty when he'd reached his own. Under his tutelage, lasegraphy had grown to rival music as the essential expression of the human soul.

Such growth had not come automatically. A lover had said to him half a lifetime ago, "Wolf, you treat yourself like a hothouse plant." It was true. But for a tropical plant in a northern climate, a hothouse was what it took to survive. He had told her, "If you want lushness, you pay for it."

She had left him soon thereafter.

He was often unspeakably alone. Everyone was perfectly willing to stand up after his recitals, applauding wildly for his finished masterpieces, but no audience had ever wanted to know the pain he'd had to endure to make the masterpieces possible. He heard backstage and during interviews phrases such as "the nobility of artistic suffering," but these had only been words. He saw nothing noble in his own pain. It just existed, silently, like a star exploding in a vacuum.

So he had paced and he had worried; he had debased himself before the backers, booking agents, and promoters; he had waited for them to get back to him. Then he would wonder why he didn't have enough energy left to sit down at the console. He wondered why the lights wouldn't dance, why the dreams had stopped. He was spiritually dead, and he haunted anyone who came to visit his grave.

He ranted and he raved, he cursed the universe and he cursed himself, he drove away anyone who'd had the misfortune to love him. But no one understood--could understand. Only someone whose mind took the same odd turns his mind took, could have understood. Others tried, they made mighty and worthy efforts, but they had never been up against the chromatic laser and a cathedral of empty night.

One night, when the pain became too much to take, he returned to the console.

And, my God, the lights began to dance. The pain began flowing out of his fingers and slashing through the dark. Dreams of wandering and speaking, trial and suffering, death and rebirth were translated into colors and motion, patterns in cadence.

When his fingers had stopped moving, he had finished a composition that had eluded him for six years. When he played it once all the way through, and shut off his instrument, he felt he had returned to God the rainbow He had given Noah after the flood.

Vistata No. 7: "The Resurrection" had premiered in New York the next spring. He had come back to Newer York now to celebrate the centennial of that premiere.

It had not been an easy decision to come back to Earth. In the two catastrophic wars his long life had driven him through, he had seen human beings heedlessly set against each other. He had seen the Brushfire War set East against West, and its aftermath set men against women. In this war he had refused to become a partisan. He had seen the War of Colonial Secession set Earth against the heavens. But in this war he had sided with the heavens. This was his only return trip to his native world since.

A thought struck him and he laughed. Here he was, on the last night of his only trip to Earth since he had moved to Ad Astra sixty years ago, and he was spending it playing at a witch's bat mitzvah. At age eleven, he had started his career by playing at a bat mitzvah of the original sort. It was an appropriate goodbye.

After the taxi had landed, Jaeger paid its computer with a credit card, telling it to have dispatch send another taxi for him at 1 A.M. Then he took a tall, flat ferrofoam case--bulging at one end--from the seat beside him and climbed out of the taxi with some difficulty. A robot butler met him at the house, took his coat, and directed him to a lift which took him directly to the terrace. When he had ascended onto it, he set his instrument between his feet and looked around.

It was a celebration like so many other celebrations he'd attended in a long life. The details never seemed to change. There was loud music, that horrible roga--people dancing, eating, drinking, smoking. Clusters of people talked about things that didn't matter to them. For a moment, Jaeger forgot that this was the world he was born on and felf himself completely an alien. Why, he wondered, was doing this considered celebrating? What did these people do with their lives that this was their most prized way of marking it? For him, his best moments were spent alone at the console, with no one watching, and what he found there needed no external celebration. And if he felt, when the hunting was particularly good, that he wished to celebrate it further, the celebration came in sharing what he had found with others. But what were these people sharing with each other that this mindless chaos was the result? Give me even one person who sees the things I see, Jaeger thought, and you can keep all the champagne and caviar on Earth.

He did not have long to dwell on these thoughts; he spotted his hostess on the way to greet him. For just an instant, Jaeger thought he was having a stroke--wasn't seeing double one of the symptoms? But the two women weren't moving together, and there were two men with them who shared only a familial resemblance, so he decided he wasn't done for yet.

Eleanor relieved his confusion by stepping forward. "Maestro Jaeger, thank you so much for coming tonight. May I introduce my daughter, Vera; my husband, Stanton; and His Gaylordship Wendell Darris."

"Delighted to meet each of you." Jaeger shook their hands in turn, carefully extending his index finger to apply counterpressure in case of too crushing a grip.

Vera said, "I'm so honored you've decided to play for us, Maestro. This is a greater surprise than I could have possibly imagined."

Eleanor wondered just exactly how Vera meant that.

"The honor is all mine, young lady." Jaeger looked back and forth between Eleanor and Vera. "Excuse an old man for staring, but I can't help studying your remarkable resemblance to your mother. We don't have very many clones in the habitats. Different eugenic goals, you know."

Vera concealed her annoyance; she knew the word "clone" was used less precisely in the colonies--the "habitats," she must remember to say around Jaeger, if she didn't want to provoke war. "I'm my mother's twin," she told Jaeger, "by parthenogenesis. The process doesn't produce the various inadequacies that clones suffer from."

"Forgive me my error," Jaeger said. "I didn't mean to insult you. But I must say it was rather my impression that such 'inadequacies' resulted from nurture rather than nature."

"Hear, hear," Wendell said.

Vera flushed deeply but avoided looking at Wendell. "Some people," she told Jaeger, "reject any scientific conclusion that doesn't happen to support their convictions."

"Some people do indeed," Wendell said.

"Maestro," said Stanton, "you've just walked into the middle of one of the most hotly debated political issues on the planet."

"And this discussion is getting altogether too serious for a party," Eleanor said. "Maestro, can I get you anything to smoke, or to eat? Or perhaps you'd like to meet some of our guests?"

"Thank you, but if you don't mind, I'd like to spend some time in the laserium warming up--if it wouldn't offend you?"

"Not at all," Eleanor said. "Vera, why don't you escort the Maestro down?"

"Of course."

Wendell laughed. "Pardon me, Maestro, but this reminds me of a story I've heard about you--"

"Yes?"

"--that a well-known society hostess, some years ago, once asked you what your price would be to play at one of her exclusive parties. And it's said you gave her a price of five hundred auragrams. She supposedly agreed without flinching, then said to you, 'You realize, of course, that I will expect you not to mingle with my guests.' And you are supposed to have said, 'In that case, madam, I will charge you only one hundred auragrams.'"

Everyone laughed, especially Wendell, a confirmed self- panicker if ever there was one. "This story has followed me around for years," Jaeger said. "I only wish it were about me. It actually goes back to the celebrated virtuoso Fritz Kreisler."

"Really?" Wendell said. "I thought I knew all the great names of lasegraphy, but I've never heard of him."

Jaeger smiled wistfully; he knew too well that time wounded as often as it healed. "Kreisler was a virtuoso before the laser was even invented," he said. "He was a violin player."

Wendell shrugged.

A few minutes later, Vera took Jaeger down to the lawn dome. When they entered, Jaeger was happy to learn that the Darrises had a top-notch private laserium, one of the best home facilities he'd ever seen. It wasn't the pyradome, of course, but them again, what was? There were reclining couches here to seat over two hundred around the dome's perimeter, with a Tiger Pit in the center for the performer. Jaeger himself had been the one who'd tagged the Tiger Pit after performing one night to a paticularly hostile audience. The name had stuck. Jaeger found the day glow controls, since Vera didn't know where they were anyway, and he raised the dome lights. He began unpacking his instrument while Vera look on attentively; Jaeger had no way of knowing the significance.

His instrument comprised two parts. Jaeger's console was merely a very light, very modern LCAA 1600 keyboard, not very much different from consoles in use a century before. The controls were seventy-two touch-sensitive finger panels and a dozen foot pedals, with a monitor screen and an electronic scroller for written scores; inside the console were mostly just some very prosaic oscillators and microprocessors.

The Merlino chromatic laser Jaeger owned was a different matter altogether. Aside from superlative eighty-two-year-old craftsmanship, there was nothing unusual about the array of scanners, mirrors, prisms, dichroic filters, holographic plates, and other opticals designed to modulate pinpoint laser beams into dimensional imagery. What distinguished the Merlino was an almost intangible warmth and subtlety of expression, possible only through its use of nine of the rarest, most expensive, and most perfect cut fire gems in existence.

Nobody knew precisely what fire gems were--whether they were natural crystals or synthetic artifacts--but they had been found in some quantity on one of the asteroids. Opinions respecting whether they were natural or created by some previous human or alien civilization tended to shift with the latest theories regarding the probable existence of an ancient, exploded planet where the asteriod belt was now.

Touching a fire gem had been found to produce warm, tingling feeling in human beings, with analogous effects reproducible -- but not explained--by experiments on laboratory animals and plantlife. More important from the technologist's standpoint was the fire gem's very odd behavior when subjected to various bands of electromagnetic radiation. Most important from the lasegrapher's viewpoint were the gem's ability to lase easily and continuously, with a very high efficiency of power input to output, and the gem's remarkably variable range of spectral lines in lasing, with no intermodulation to disrupt the laser's spatial coherence.

For Jaeger, this meant a laser instrument that could operate on little power, without cooling, and throughout a fully tunable spectral range.

Vera and Jaeger talked while he set up his instrument--a little about life in the habitats; a little about Vera's service experience, a subject Jaeger found particularly interesting since the habitats had never instituted any kind of service. "The worst part is the utter loss of privacy," Vera explained, "the feeling of being ordered around all the time, of being just another anonymous corporal. But there's also a feeling of doing something really important, of relieving the social pressure that might lead to another war, so you learn to forget your own personal problems and just do your job."

Finaly, Jaeger plugged his instrument into a power outlet and touched it on.

Nothing happened.

Jaeger looked at an indicator on his console. "No juice," he said.

Vera looked disgusted. "My mother told me repairmen were in here all day getting the dome ready for you. They were supposed to have the problem fixed."

"'Supposed to' is not one of my favorite expressions," Jaeger said.

"Can you run off internal?"

Jaeger checked another indicator, then shook his head. "I did a concert on Harlem Lake last night and haven't had a chance to recharge."

"Couldn't you stretch time by running the laser at quarter power?"

Jaeger looked at Vera oddly.

"I used to play," she said.

Jaeger shook his head again. "Quarter-power is what I was counting on when I checked the power pack."

"Maybe I can find somebody up at the party who can figure out what's wrong."

"A sensible approach," Jaeger said. "Meanwhile I'll take a look around here and see if I can find the problem." He hesitated a moment. "You said you 'used to' play?"

Vera nodded.

"Why did you give it up?"

Vera paused in the dome's entranceway, moonlight framing her face. "I found myself deathly afraid of the laser," she said.

"Afraid of it how?" he asked. "Afraid it would burn you?"

She shook her head. "Afraid that it wouldn't have burned me. That it would've gone right through me like I was a ghost. Like it was real and I wasn't." She paused a moment, shaking her head, before leaving. "I was only fifteen. Crazy the sorts of things teenagers are afraid of."

Jaeger stood watching after her as she walked back to the house. Then he began opening up cabinets and panels in the Tiger Pit.

A few minutes of rummaging around didn't produce any solution to the power problem, but Jaeger did find some lasegraphic scores that fascinated him. He was looking them over--one in particular--when Eleanor walked in. She strode to the far side of the dome, opened a blue panel on the wall, and pressed in a clear-plastic module. "Try it now," she said.

Jaeger touched his console again. "Success," he reported.

"The repairmen left the circuit breaker out."

"I thought so, but I didn't know where it was."

"If it's all right," Eleanor said, "we'll start seating at ten to eleven."

"Fine."

"I've got to run back to the party. Can I bring you anything?"

"No," Jaeger said, "thank you. One thing, though, which I'd better check with you about. While I was looking for the power problem, I came across some scores of yours. There's one in particular I'd like to play. Would you have any objections?"

"No, of course not, Maestro," said Eleanor, "whatever you like."

Eleanor returned to the party and Jaeger began his warming-up exercises.

He started by playing a composition he had written early in his career, but he ran his fingers over the keyboard without turning on his laser. The spectral scales and lissajou patterns he keyed, had they appeared on the dome, would have told him nothing he didn't already know, and would have meant nothing to a casual observer. Jaeger's Blind Exercises had been composed only for the fingers, not for anyone's eyes. After a few minutes, however, he judged the circulation in his fingers sufficient for some real work. He inserted the score he had found into his console and began sight-reading it. When he cycled the laser up to half-power--all that was needed in this size dome--and lowered the day glow lighting, a blue figure-8 began a dance in the sky.

It was a happy little dance. The blue figure-8 warbled and squiggled its way across the dome and around the edge. It turned sommersaults and cartwheels. It metamorphosed into different shapes and sprang back again. It shrank down to a pinpoint, then rebounded into a giant. When it had finished, a red figure-8 repeated the dance the blue one had done, while the blue now weaved in and around the red figure's dance like a dog running around and between its master's feet.

When the red figure had finished its exposition, a green figure-8 began the dance still again, while the red began its own embellishments. The pattern continued with a violet figure doing the dance, then embellishing, then a yellow, then an indigo, then an orange, then the blue once again, while each of the other figures now weaved into, out of, and around the blue in a sprightly, contrapuntal moving design.

When Jaeger had finished playing the piece, he found he had an audience of one. He turned up the dome's day glow lighting a bit. "Shouldn't you be in bed?" he asked.

"I couldn't sleep. The dancing lights woke me up."

Jaeger was surprised. "I'm sorry," he said.

"I dreamed them in my head."

"You dreamed about the dancing lights?"

"Uh-huh."

"I dream about them too," Jaeger said to Joan. "Come on down here and keep me company."

Dragging a small orange blanket behind her, Joan padded over to the Tiger Pit and climbed down the three steps into it. Jaeger gestured to a spot next to him on his reclining bench, and she climbed on alongside. "Were you with my mommy this morning?" Joan asked.

"I don't know. What's your mommy's name?"

"Eleanor D'laney Darris. My name is Joan Seymour Darris."

"Yes, I was."

"Then I'm allowed to talk to you," Joan said. "I'm not allowed to talk to people we don't know."

"That's very wise," Jaeger said. "And I imagine I'm allowed to talk to you too, then."

Joan nodded.

"But I'm forgetting my manners, Joan. My name is Wolfgang Jaeger, and my friends call me, 'Wolf.' You can call me 'Wolf,' if you'd like."

"Do your friends call you 'Wolf' because you bite them."

Jaeger smiled. "Not anymore," he said. "I haven't bitten any of my friends for many years."

"Wouldja promise not to bite me?"

"I promise."

"Okay," Joan said seriously. "Are you a lasegrapher?"

"Yes, I am. And you said that very well."

"My daddy says that my sister used to be one too."

"Your sister told me." There were a few seconds of silence; Joan didn't seem to have anything else she wanted to say. "Would you like to see me make a butterfly?" Jaeger asked. Joan nodded. "Well, let me turn down the lights so we can see it better."

Jaeger dimmed the day glowing again, watching Joan to make sure she didn't mind the dark; then he began running his fingers over the key panels again. He built up the stylized image of a butterfly, line by colored line, in the center of the dome, then fixed the image and began concentrating on movement. Joan watched as a small butterfly began flapping its wings slowly, flying around the dome in larger and larger loops.

"How about two butterflies?" Jaeger asked. Instantly, a second butterfly appeared in the dome and began flying parallel to the first, and whatever the first butterfly did the second one did a split second later.

Joan watched them for a few moments. "Don't they like each other?" she asked.

Jaeger glanced down at Joan intently for a second, then back up at the butterflies in the dome. "Why do you say they don't like each other?"

"Well, that butterfly is always doing the same thing as this one."

"And that means they don't like each other?"

"Uh-huh."

Jaeger touched a panel and the second butterfly veered off in the opposite direction from the first, beginning to fly in counterpoint to the other one. "Do they like each other any better now?" he asked.

Joan thought about it for a second, then shook her head. "Now that butterfly is always going the other way jus' so it isn't being a copycat."

"I see," Jaeger said. "How will I know when they start liking each other?"

"Well... they'll start helping each other 'stead of fighting all the time."

Jaeger considered this, then touched a panel which put each butterfly under discrete control; they began a complex series of complementary aerial maneuvers in which each one finished a motion started by the other.

"Now they like each other," Joan said emphatically.

The two butterflies looped around several more times, slowed up to halt, dipped their wings to each other in a bow, then disappeared.

Jaeger raised the glowing and turned back to Joan. "Do you know that you're a very bright young lady?" he asked her.

"Uh-huh."

His eyes twinkled. "How do you know that?"

"I saw it in the mirror," she said.

Jaeger did a double take, regarding Joan more seriously.

"There she is!" Stanton called out from the entranceway.

Stanton headed toward the Tiger Pit; very shortly, Eleanor, Vera, and Wendell followed him, Eleanor telling her wristphone, "In the lawn dome, Mac. You can stop worrying."

There was the standard back-and-forth as Eleanor and Stanton brought their daughter up on charges of Being out of Bed. Joan pleaded "guilty-with-an-explanation" and was given a suspended sentence. As soon as Mr. McIntosh arrived, she said good night to everyone, waved to Jaeger, and was carried off to bed again.

Of course, Eleanor then felt compelled to spend some time apologizing to Jaeger for Joan's interruption, and he spent some time telling her that he didn't mind at all, which naturally she didn't believe since she thought he was just being polite. In fact, Jaeger was being polite; the absolute truth, which he refrained from telling Eleanor, was that he considered the child who had just been dragged off to bed far more interesting company than she was.

What he did say was, "Your little girl has a very fine sense of symbolic relationships. Most refreshing."

"Well, she is very precocious," Eleanor said, "and I must tell you she was completely enchanted by your performance this morning -- her first concert. In fact, I caught Joan doing some drawings later, from memory, of your vistata. She got the color scale right, too."

"Most interesting."

"I put one up in the kitchen. Would you care to see it?"

"Mother, we should start seating," Vera said.

"I would like to see it," Jaeger said. "Perhaps afterward?"

"I was thinking, earlier today," said Eleanor, "that Joan is just the right age to start on the console."

"The perfect age," Vera said. "And in eleven years she'll be the perfect age to be floated out of a Tiger Pit on a stretcher."

"My dear," said Jaeger, "it was not by accident that I named this enclosure the 'Tiger Pit.' Every lasegrapher--indeed, every artist--is a gladiator, a matador, a Christian thrown to the wild animals. Each artist must confront the ultimates many times--the Truth, the Self, Death itself--with the Lady there to reward the winners and the Tiger for the losers. Such myths are admirably accurate. It is learning to survive one's encounters with the Tiger that distinguishes the living artists from the ghosts."

Vera shuddered.

Wendell said quietly, "I wish there had been somebody to say that ten years ago."

They started seating. Soon family and guests had filled the two hundred couches, with family circle in the outermost row. When Jaeger announced the composition and lowered the day glowing once more, a rainbow appeared in the dome.


At each stage in the development of an art form, there is an individual who defines its possibilities and discovers its limits. Aristotle's Poetics formalized drama. Leonardo da Vinci's studies of light and of human anatomy made possible more accurate representation in painting. Niccolo Paganini's Twenty- four Caprices for Violin defined the limits of that instrument. Wolfgang Jaeger's Rainbow Vistata (Vistata No. 11 in Seventh) set the practical limits of lasegraphy.

Lasegraphy, like other performing arts, derives its power from the sexual principle. Like drama, music, and dance, lasegraphy teases. The lasegrapher seeks to communicate with others by creating a visual tension in them corresponding to their own experience of life, the release of such tension being pleasurable. The means by which tension is created, then released, defines the lasegraphic periods.

Also like other performing arts, lasegraphy gives its audience the "athletic" tension that the performer may royally screw up.

In its infancy, lasegraphy was the offspring of music and dance, relying on its two parents for its forms and patterns. Indeed, the imagery was not properly lasegraphy but choreography designed to accompany music, a practice later found only in roga. Tension and release was fleeting at best. Except for some fundamental uses of "exciting" colors versus "soothing" ones, hues usually served no function other than differentiating one image from the next or, in the case of gossamerlike interference lumia, providing a pleasant but boring interlude of swirling colors.

Over the form's first quarter-century, in its Nascent period, lasegraphers had begun experimenting with creating tension by the juxtaposition of two-dimensional shapes with three-dimensional forms. Now the first uses of color-created tension were found, which involved advancing cool-colored imagery, which the eye naturally expected to recede, and retreating warm-colored imagery, which the eye expected to advance.

In the Chaldean period, lasegraphers learned that when motion was formalized in paths the audience could expect--most characteristically, clockwise orbits around the dome's perimeter, with completion of the circle then blocked by contrary movements -- tension could be raised further. In the Symbolist period which followed, lasegraphers produced tension by the dramatic conflict of putting mythopoetic images into "battles" against each other. Combined with rhythms borrowed from music and patterns common in dance, the art now had enough of its own identity to be performed without the crutch of accompanying music.

But it was in revolt against the excesses of Symbolism that Impressionism arose. The Impressionists declared that the art form that had more control of its use of pure color than any previous form had yet to make full use of color itself to create an emotional bond between a lasegrapher and the audience.

This above all is what Jaeger did in The Rainbow Vistata.

Rainbows and spectral sequences, even spectral keys, were common in earlier compositions, though without much regard for the direction--violet to red or red to violet--in which sequence departed from its key. But to compose the seven movements in descending keys of The Rainbow Vistata, Jaeger had to acknowledge the ancient truth that a spectral sequence and a musical scale were in fact, both of a kind--that comparisons were not just metaphorical. In researching human color response, Jaeger learned that subconscious tension was greater at the red than at the violet, which told him what end of the scale was up. Furthermore, though music was capable of using multi- octave harmonics, while the spectrum of visible light takes up just about one octave, Jaeger realized that tension was created by delay in the completion of a spectral sequence--violet, indigo, blue, green, yellow, orange, red...violet--in the same way that tension in music was created by climbing the scale from do to ti then withholding the final do. Lasegraphy did not require a higher octave, as music did, to find unity: the color circle provided unity enough.

With the long-sought relationship between musical notes and colors finally established, much of musical form--tonic, dominant, subdominant--could now be adapted to lasegraphy; and most important, it was now possible for lasegraphy to compose the equivalent of melody--coloratura--with predictable results.

In variation after variation, The Rainbow Vistata made use of these discoveries.

The Rainbow Vistata was the composition which established as standard that scales should ascend from violet to red--the extropic scales, Jaeger called them--rather than from red to violet--those Jaeger tagged the entropic. It was the first composition to rely more on coloratura for its effect than merely on pattern and rhythm. It was the first composition written entirely to lasegraphical form.

Seventy-three years after Jaeger had composed it, performers still regarded The Rainbow Vistata as the most difficult virtuoso piece that art form had ever known. In fact, they competed widely to compose ever-more-difficult cadenzas for the final movement. It was this composition, therefore, with which Wolfgang Jaeger warmed up every morning. He knew that the day he could no longer play it would be the day he would end his concert career. His one hope was that he would see the coronation of his artistic heir--someone who could compose and perform a cadenza that he couldn't perform himself--before that day arrived. As yet, however, Jaeger had found no one who showed such ability.

So, as he had done countless times before, he performed The Rainbow Vistata.

The rainbow lighted up the dome, displaying the seven colors of the extropic scale in sequence, then spun off into discrete lines which began pulsating in the red-tonic, primal birth pains of the first movement, in Seventh. Second movement, in Sixth: the charging orange spheres bringing a rousing message of hope and good cheer. Third movement: the dazzling conterpoints in yellow lightning, brilliant and logical. The fourth "Jolly Green Giant" movement, jovial, sweeping, and grand. The spiritual, awe-inspiring waltz in the key of blue, the fifth movement segueing directly into the sorrowful, lilting indigo movement. Finally, the gentle lumias of the sensual violet movement, the impossibly fast rainbow cadenza, leading inevitably to the rebirth of the extropic rainbow, a coloratura that drew all who watched it into its compelling vortex.

The dome was pitch-black again. Wolfgang Jaeger, bathed in sweat, raised the glowing to take his bow.

He accepted the applause, then announced an encore. "For the Lady who confronts the Tiger," he said. "Delaney's Fugue in Blue.

There was a rumble of confusion--with several gasps in the back row--as the glowing went down again.

A blue figure-8 began a dance in the sky.

It was a happy little dance. The blue figure-8 warbled and squiggled its way across the dome and around the edge. It turned somersaults and cartwheels. It metamorphosed into different shapes and sprang back again. It shrank down to a pinpoint--

And Vera Collier Delaney screamed in the dark.

There is one lesson that lasegraphers have burned into their souls before their teachers will allow them anywhere near an audience: if you hear a scream, get the lights on fast. This rates in the lasegraphic catechism even higher than the theatrical doctrine "The show must go on." It may be a fire; it may be only that someone has seen a mouse. It may be an assassination; it may be that a woman has felt an unexpected hand on her knee. The most common cause is simply that someone has panicked from the darkness. But the performer is not to consider this probability, not to evaluate the content of any scream. Whatever the cause--real or imagined--it can spread into a deadly stampede to the exits in seconds.

Wolfgang Jaeger had the day glowing up to general visibility, without blinding glare, in split seconds. Yet he was not so fast that there was not time for Vera, who was in the couch nearest the exit, to be halfway outside when the lighting came up.

Jaeger took command immediately. "There is no danger. Everyone please remain seated for the moment. Mrs. Darris?"

Flanked by Stanton and Wendell, Eleanor went forward to the Tiger Pit, accompanied also by an uneasy rumble among her guests. "It's Vera," Eleanor told him softly. "I'd better go after her."

"Perhaps it would be best to continue the concert," Stanton suggested.

"If you would, Maestro," Eleanor said, "but for Goddess' sake, play something else!"

Jaeger looked deeply troubled. "I don't understand. I thought she would be pleased by my interpretation--"

"Maestro," Wendell said, sotto voce, "there's an old expression among us andromen: never surprise anybody by sticking your finger up his ass."

"Surprise?" Jaeger asked. "But there was no surprise. I asked Vera for permission to play one of her scores before the concert. She told me to play whatever I liked."

"Oh, no!" Eleanor turned as white as her uniform when she realized what she had done. "Maestro--" She barely got the words out. "You asked me."

Eleanor left the dome to find Vera while Stanton and Wendell returned to their couches. "By special request, another encore," Jaeger announced as he lowered the glowing again. "Kaelin's Gossamer Albatross."

Vera was not difficult to track down at all; Eleanor found her in the kitchen leaning against the irradiation sealer. She had obviously been crying, but seemed to be past the worst of it, which Eleanor took as a good sign. "Are you all right?" she asked her daughter, putting an arm around her shoulder.

Vera shook her head.

"Will you be all right soon?"

Vera shrugged.

They didn't say anything for a little while, then Vera said suddenly, "It was mine. He had no right!"

"He thought you had given him permission."

"How could he think that?"

Eleanor stroked Vera's hair. "Because he asked me by mistake."

Vera slipped out from under her mother's arm. "You gave him permission to play Fugue in Blue?"

"He said something ambiguous about playing 'some scores of yours,'" Eleanor said. "The way he said it, I thought he just meant some pieces we had lying around in the Tiger Pit. I had no idea he meant--"

"You had no idea, you had no idea," Vera started. "Do you have any idea what you've done to me?"

"Vera, I'm so sorry--"

"Three years, Mother. Three years in a service dicteriat as a daily sacrifice to the gods of war. Three years of 'I'm gonna ram it in you now' and 'Suck me faster' and of having every square inch of my body groped eight times a day by any male past puberty who had his taxes paid up. But I knew that even though I'd never have the courage to compose another one, there was one part of me--the only real part of me--that no one could touch. Just so long as nobody had ever seen it--"

"Vera, I didn't mean for this--"

"Oh, yes, you did," Vera said. "You've never allowed me to have anything that was all my own."

Eleanor started. "That's not true," she said slowly. "I have always encouraged you to develop your own interests--"

"--and become a dilettante just like you. You've never succeeded at anything you've started, and I'm exactly like you. How could I?"

"You are not exactly like me. You are a separate person with your own identity, your own soul--"

"Mother, if you were so cloneraping set on your daughter being different from you, then why did you have me in a way that made sure that when I looked in a mirror I'd see your face?"

"It wasn't what I expected," Eleanor said softly.

"What? I could barely hear you."

"I thought then when I looked in a mirror, I'd see the face of my daughter, who had reached things I could only dream about. But what I expected isn't important. The point is that I'm not living inside your body, making all the moves. You are."

Eleanor kissed Vera on the cheek, then turned to leave. "Will you come out to say good night to your guests? And Jaeger?"

Vera looked daggers at her mother. "Why don't you say it all for me? Nobody will be able to tell the difference anyway."

Eleanor paused a moment to reply, then thought better of it and went out to the lawn dome alone.

Vera remained in the kitchen a short while longer before deciding to go up to bed. On her way, she came around the other side of the irradiation sealer and saw a little girl's drawing, in the shape of a spiral rainbow, fastened to the wall.

Vera ripped the drawing down and threw it into the scintillator.


End of Sampler!

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