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Somewhere in the galaxy is the planet Dreaming. Its aged rulers rule absolutely: they are almost immortal and only operate out of the dark. Anyone who is young and wants to make a career has to take the "hard" route under the eyes of the elderly, because the media are also under their control. Video Kid is ready to make a name for himself in his own way. As a gladiator of the future, he is constantly accompanied by flying robot cameras that record all his actions and make them accessible to an interested audience. In a certain sense, Kid is a "hooligan," a highly paid bully who doesn't care about politics, because personal success is more important to him. Until one day he is drawn into an intrigue of enormous proportions: Moses Moses, the legendary founder of the autonomous planet Träumerei, has returned after a centuries-long deep sleep and is preparing to turn the world off its hinges. For Video-Kid it will soon be about to be or not to be ...

Bruce Sterling is a Texan writer whose particular strength lies in creating exotic worlds and characters. VIDEO-KID, his latest novel, is an adventurous and colorful reading pleasure that is second to none.

Bruce Sterling

Video kid novel

Science fiction

Science Fiction Editing: Ronald M. Hahn Ullstein Book No. 31090 published by Ullstein GmbH, Frankfurt / M - Berlin - Vienna Title of the original edition: THE ARTIFICIAL KID Translated from the American by Marcel Bieger German first edition Cover design: Hansbernd Lindemann Cover illustration: Peter Gudynas Alle Rights reserved Copyright © 1980 by Bruce Sterling Translation Copyright © 1984 by Verlag Ullstein GmbH, Frankfurt / M - Berlin - Vienna Printed in Germany 1984 Total production: Elsnerdruck GmbH, Berlin ISBN 3 548 31090 7

1

Daydream shines. The planet's edge is surrounded by a bright layer of atmospheric haze, the wide, flat seas sparkle, and the great coral atoll continents shimmer brown, green and white through vacancies in the fraying clouds. The air over Telset, my home island, is clear as glass when the camera moves closer. I did a lot of research using weather satellite photos before I started recording. This makes the scene calming and somehow hypnotic. The camera moves further down, and the streets and squares of my city are getting bigger and closer. A single block, a single street, a single person. I. And my picture swells until it fills the whole canvas. In addition, a voice from the off can be heard: “Ladies and gentlemen: Video kid. This tape was made possible by Reichhart Münz-Scheinberg and Video-Kid. Copyright C.R.Y. 499 by Video-Kid for Cognitive-DissonanceEnterprises, Dreaming. «My viewers are mostly made up of high gliders who orbit our coral planet in city-sized orbital islands. I pull them down to the surface of the planet, I include them personally in those first thirty seconds of the tape. Orbital dreaming eggs consider the planet to be a wonderful, but remote place and the inhabitants down there, like me for example, as lovable, but a bit backwoodsmen. I destroy the distance of the recording. I look straight into the camera coming down, and mine

only a trace of narrowed eyes, rimmed with black eyeliner, look as cold and angry as those of an adder. I challenge the viewer. I believe in direct challenges. They are essential to martial arts. A lot of people used to ask me how I became a martial artist and got the name Video Kid. They quickly stopped being so curious after I ruthlessly beat them up. Every interview with me usually ended with my "losing my temper," or artfully and systematically hitting the reporter. But today have passed the days when I felt it necessary to spread the cry of savagery and uncontrolled violence around me. Today I am ready to answer curious questions with words. So why do you call me the video kid? The only answer I can answer is that all martial artists need an unmistakable specialty. For me this has always been my boyhood and artistic savagery. As elsewhere, “kid” refers to a young person in reverie, but here one also associates something like snotty or anti-social behavior with it. I continue to analyze my tape image. I know this image inside and out, and what's more, I'm obsessed with it. On many days I did not get up until it was dark and worked the entire eighteen hour dreaming night. For Scheinberg and the market, I filed the ribbons and cut them over and over again. My image on the tapes is one thing

young man, a very young man. This kid is well trained, but not overly muscular. Under a thin and shiny layer of green oil, his skin is dark and suntanned. Kid isn't tall, just six feet tall. He wears a thick, padded and reinforced leather jacket. Two support poles armored his shoulders, and a heavy, stiff collar protects his neck. He wears glittering metal plate trousers with elastic joints and a belt, of course with black lapels. There are shiny black combat boots on his feet. His head looks a bit disproportionate to the small body. No lines stand out on his face. He has no beard, but broad cheekbones, a narrow, pointed chin and epicanthic eyes. The eyelids are framed in thick black. His hairstyle is also unusual for daydreaming. Every single strand of hair is laminated with plastic. Together they form a feather-like tangle of hard, black and pointed spines. Six small, silent camera modules float in the air above him. Each is equipped with two lenses and a sound recorder. Those floating cameras are always around him. In his right hand, Kid casually holds a nunchuck. This weapon consists of two moderately tapered, forty-five centimeter long rods that are coated with black, blood-repellent plastic. At the tips they are connected to one another by a twenty centimeter long crystallized metal chain. Kid holds one of the bars in the middle and lets the other dangle. The massive metal under the plastic guarantees satisfactory cutting power. The elasticity of the plastic

coating ensures impressive bruises and prevents the bloody meat chopping and bone splintering of the normal, all-metal weapon. The top priority for kids is the aesthetics of the show. This means that his opponents fall stunned, paralyzed or exhausted on the ground in front of him. It is incompatible with the aesthetics of the show to knock chunks of flesh out of the opponent's body or otherwise shred them. Video kid moves smoothly. At every moment he knows the exact position of all his body parts. The nunchuck looks like a living being when walking, but it obeys kids' will absolutely because of its ninety-eight years of practice. "Ninety-eight years, kid?" I hear my audience ask. "Isn't that at least seventy years longer than you live?" That's true, and that's exactly why I'm a video kid. I happen to have the minutes of my "birth" on tape. Professor Armbrust recorded them, the tutor and mentor of my first twenty years. A person to whom I am deeply indebted. It did it very skillfully (Professor Armbrust is a neuter, that's why I speak of him as "it", whereas it has absolutely nothing to object to) to point the camera directly at my face. During the first few minutes of the recording we of course see my former personality on Rominuald Tanglin, although he doesn’t make a sound. He's two hundred and seventy-one standard years old and doesn't look a day younger. The madness shows in his face. The eyes move quickly - like one that has become too hot -

nes, black ball bearings - back and forth. There is tension in the thin, pale gray lips. Tanglin is about to commit mental suicide. His hair is shoulder length and inappropriately old-style curls. There are half a dozen shaved spots on his skull where the metal contacts are supposed to touch his scalp. The bald spots give the whole process a special, makeshift touch. The machine that will murder him descends from the ceiling, stretching out six glittering contacts. Tanglin still doesn't say anything, only his larynx is clearly twitching. The contacts touch the scalp. A discharge occurs. Tanglin dies instantly. His eyes close. His face sags in complete relaxation. The narrow chin drops and a thread of saliva loosens from the left corner of the mouth. Crossbow's hand appears and wipes it off with a sponge. The body, momentarily devoid of personality, collapses in the chair. But transparent, barely visible plastic supports keep your head high. Tears form in the eye canals that are kept open and run down the broad cheeks. The memory eraser did its job. Tanglin's spirit is gone, his personality weed. The machine rises back to the ceiling. Crossbow quickly wipes away the tears and removes the headrests. Consciousness returns within seconds. I am born and I lift my head. "Hello," says Crossbow gently. Amazed, I raise a hand and run it over the cool dampness on my cheek. "Hello," I say too, and rub my eyes with two fingers.

CROSSBOW: Do you know who you are? YOURSELF: Yes. I am R.T. (PAUSE) R.T. Video (I MOVE MY MOUTH AND TASTE THE WORDS.) CROSSBOW: And do you also know who I am. YOURSELF: Yes. You are my friend, Professor Crossbow. And we are in your house dreaming. CROSSBOW: (WITH LIMITLESS KINDNESS) Very nice! (I GLOW ALL OVER FACE) Come on, let's see how it goes with walking, video, huh? Yes, that's right. (I GET OUT OF THE CHAIR. ALTHOUGH I AM NEWBORN, MY BODY HAS NOT FORGOT ITS REFLEXES. I WALK IN THE ROOM WITH THE AMAZING SECURITY AND MOBILITY THAT CAN ONLY GET AFTER CENTURIES OF OUR EXPERIENCE MEMORY TRANSFER LOOKS UGLY, EFFECTS TOO CLOGGY AND TOO SQUARED IN THE CROSSBOW'S ROOM, AMID THE TASTEFUL AND WARM DRIVEWOOD CLADDING, THE AIRY MOBILES AND BLOSSOMS, THE GLASS AQUARIUMS, THE LUNCH.) Very nice. How are you feeling now, video YOURSELF: Really good, Professor. CROSSBOW: Wonderful! Now drink this (I HAVE A CERAMIC CUP WITH A THICK, DARK LIQUID, THAT DUE TO THE AMOUNT OF

YOUR ADDED TESTOSTERONE INHIBITOR IS ALMOST CRYSTALLINE), and then I'll take you to the reef to swim. Then we have a fine meal before we start your class. You don't feel tired yet, do you? YOURSELF: (PUTS DOWN THE EMPTY CUP) No! (EARLY) Let's go swimming! The recording ends when we both walk through the door. Crossbow was not exactly enthusiastic about the reception of my birth, only its value for his scientific work interested him. After all, the Academy of Sciences requires that every step, no matter how small, be strictly recorded in an attempt. Rominuald Tanglin is completely different. Tanglin, or "Old Man," as my friends and I soon called him, was a fanatical believer in the possibilities of video. He created images, and at one point he was one of the most influential politicians on the planet Niwlind (in a world that is currently known for its enormously intrigues). I can't help but believe that I have inherited some of his remarkable skills in this field. It must have pained Tanglin to erase hundreds of years of memories on the personal computer I took over from him. But it was also clear to him that the enormous amount of memories on tape would have crushed a young, developing personality like mine. In addition, he gave me one

Left a record of his last two years. As his carefully compiled, rich legacy, so to speak. These records reside in a computer, a sophisticated Ni-nwlindian model, custom-made for Tanglin. He was far more familiar with the device than I'll ever get to know. He has cunningly hidden it somewhere inside the computer, as part of a virus program that apparently activates and plays it at random. The tapes are addressed to me personally. Usually the old man introduces them with his round face and an unnaturally stern expression. He always addressed me as "kid" or "son" so that not even my closest friends could discover our true relationship. How many times have I played tapes of my own martial arts feats at random, only to see the old man appear on the screen, foaming with rage. A few dozen times, for sure. Basically, his hologram has haunted me all the time and everywhere in my house. He gave me private tuition in politics or told me about the perfidy of his wife, Zanks, pritzgift. Sometimes he warned me about aliens loitering in secret, which he just called "bloodsuckers." These "bloodsuckers" had become an obsession with him in the last months of his life. He claimed that he only practiced the nunchuck to protect himself from these strangers. He insisted that the "bloodsuckers" were degenerate descendants of the Elderly Culture. They were gray-skinned and had rubber bones and had hollow skulls, on theirs

Rough, black fibers spread inside. Of course, he couldn't seriously put forward the slightest trace of evidence for these ludicrous allegations. And once I grew up, I didn't buy any of those scary stories from him. Hundreds of his tapes were in the computer. He must have played at least one a day during the last two years of his life in the orbital island. where he had retired to detox his body. During the last week he spent at Professor Armbrust's house over Thethys Reef, about a hundred miles from Telset, he was revising it. Some tapes, especially the ones on which he goes into great detail about his paranoid theories about the Elderly Culture, actually exude tremendous persuasiveness, and one gets a sense of how he must have managed to get to the top of the Niwlind government a First Secretary. Why did I become a martial artist? Well, what else did I have left? I was young, albeit endowed with the dignity of an old gentleman. My body remembered the combat training. And martial arts can already fascinate a young person. It requires the vitality of youth, their carelessness and their suicidal urge to assert themselves. This present is not easy for young people. Our long-dead ancestors did not live long. And some contemporaries also die early if they are stupid enough on planets with a low tech-

to live at an ecological level. Some don't even live a century. Yes, at that time they did not live on and on and on and on and suffocated their sons and daughters with the weight of their power and experience gained over centuries. When you are young you fear that you will not find a place to breathe. And for people over two hundred years old, it's hard to imagine seeing an eighteen-year-old adult. One answer to this has been found in reverie: the decriminalized zone, where legal and moral persecution are abolished. When the decriminalized zone was opened twenty years ago, the fat citizens were shocked. But the anarchic violence that erupted spontaneously and that was there among the small gangs of wandering, unemployed, bored and defiant delinquents non-stop, also had something fascinating about the citizens. The incredible violence that erupted in the zone aroused interest and sympathy among other boys suffering from frustration.Bootleg tapes, which showed unrestrained gangs and their victims, found increasing sales, and not only young people watched these scenes. The industry soon became interested in the money of those willing to buy. New forms of fighting appeared, old ones were refined. The previously undisciplined and amateur gangs took on these innovations. Martial arts were born and a profession developed from it. During my time at the professor's house northeast of Telset on the coast of the Aeo continent, I followed events in the zone and became a sworn in

Martial arts followers. Crossbow initially disapproved of this enthusiasm, but it was wise enough to keep my ideas as I grew older. During the last few years there, I've seen the old neuter less and less. It spent more and more hours on the reef, documenting the incredibly intricate ecology of daydreaming. One day I left a short letter for the professor and took off into town in my sailboat. After two weeks I settled in there and returned to Crossbow to pick up my computer. My writing was no longer there, as was the professor. My departure had freed it from its final ties to land. I said to myself that it would have to spend the whole day exploring the sea and the coast and that it had set up its new domicile under the bottom of the gulf of memory. I soon found out that I was extremely pleased with Telset. The city covers an island a good twenty kilometers long and eight kilometers wide, which rises in the shape of a pointed slipper like a jewel out of the shimmering and shallow water in the south of the Gulf of Memory. The northern tip of the island is called the lookout point. The original city, Alt-Telset, lies in the middle of the east coast. The high gliders in orbit can see the gulf as a whole: an ocean-sized lagoon, which is almost all around surrounded by the huge coral-covered foothills of the continental tatoll that we call Aeo. Five hundred years ago, the first colonists at Träumerei Telset shot themselves together with orbital lasers to form a red-hot, viscous mass, and everything was there

existing lives destroyed. When the Telset pulp had cooled down again, the pioneers revitalized the sterilized soil with their own flora and fauna, most of which came from Niwlind. The alien species thrived, but over the centuries they had to give way to highly developed native species that had been carried over by birds or washed up by the tide. Today, a disordered biodiversity spreads on Telset, which has its origins in at least a dozen worlds. Each individual species combines with others or looks for a niche in the chaotic, universal ecosystem of the island. The city limits cannot be precisely determined. The modern buildings - made of limestone, travertine, marble, metal or wood - are scattered all over the island. They're hiding in the woods or half buried in the reefs. They protrude from the coastal grass or snuggle up in valleys, bays or depressions. Telset is fully wired, which means that there is no need to live closer together. The most important leisure activity for the citizens is the videotape: leisure tapes, art tapes, life tapes, memory tapes, this is what our life looks like. I explored Telset from front to back, on foot or in a hopper. I know the tightly packed, thick-walled but abandoned buildings of Alt-Telset like the back of my hand. The largest part of Alt-Telset today forms the decriminalized zone; my stage, my arena. I also know about the channels in the Telset Reef. I drove through it with my little skiff, the sea whip, swam through it or dived through it with the aqua hopper. The beavers, mud-

I've seen burrows, skates and giant rays with my own eyes, as well as the kittiwakes, wild geese, scissors bills and cormorants. I watched the huge sea cucumbers spewing mud when they rolled their plump bodies on the beach, the size of a house, and I touched them with my hands. I looked at the huge encrusted cylinders on the tower reef. Some are two stories high. I climbed it and jumped into the water from its top. I've seen, heard, tasted, and touched Telset, and I've smelled the pungent salt water in its air. And most important of all, I met Telset's citizens. Those of my viewers who have followed my career from the start (I know some who have built a whole video store with my tapes) know that my career began as a young member of the cognitive dissonance gang. The gang has been led by a really brilliant couple for eight years: Frost Factor and Ice Cream Lady. Frost and ice were responsible for my development as a martial artist and video star. The fact that I sometimes attacked members of the gang (Six Fingers, Hammer, Millions of Masks, Joyful Anesthesia, Flugbill Flachschnabel, Ketten, Hirn, Sumo, Hinker and Blinker) and mixed them up should not lead any viewer to the erroneous assumption, I wouldn't particularly like all of these great artists and fighters. They bought me my first cameras. You have given me countless tips for the best presentation of my skills

given. They got me my first combat suit and helped me find an apartment. They taught me gang etiquette and initiated me into the rites of martial arts and the code. The code governs our lives. If it weren't for the Code, we would all have killed each other years ago. Of course, that was eight standard years ago. In the meantime I have climbed to the top of this bloody scale. Martial artists spend a fair amount of time in bed despite today's technomedical standards. You can't keep fighting, and then you have to pay medical bills, and the smuff also costs a lot. The expenditures are so varied that even the very best martial artists have only modest wealth compared to the top ten thousand of reverie. But money is not everything in our profession: In my youthful imagination, fame and a terrible reputation have always meant much more. And soon I had enough money to live a comfortable and safe life in the Decriminalized Zone - thanks to a computer-controlled alarm system, regular royalties, a constant supply of Smuff and my housekeeper, Quadra Altmann. Why do I keep a human housekeeper instead of a machine that can do all the work that is not particularly valued at least as well? Well, one thing is for sure, Quadra is not for my sexual satisfaction-

gung here. I've been taking the libido suppressors regularly since Professor Armbrust first gave them to me. My hairless face and my high voice can confirm that sufficiently. Nor did I hire Quadra to imitate the practices of the status and domination-conscious locals. No, I took her to my house because she begged me. I still have the tape that recorded our first meeting. I just couldn't resist her pleading as she knelt in front of me in the midst of her jumble of three-dimensional mosaics so that she could look me straight in the face. (I'm six feet, while Quadra isn't much short of eighty feet.) Two members of the Perfect Stranglers had stepped into their studio in the Zone to hide after their gang clashed with the cognitive dissonances. As the rough bricks that they were, they made fun of smashing Quadra's work: excellent three-dimensional mosaics, if you like that expression for their work - like me. To the great bad luck of both of them, Quadra's falsetto screams and the cracking of the fragile multi-luminous mosaic pieces alarmed me. I broke into her apartment and beat the two Perfect Stranglers to a pulp in an equally perfect way. A wonderful fight, the cameras recorded everything, and afterwards Quadra put on such an impromptu performance that I almost forgot to breathe in admiration. She fell on her knees in front of me, wrapped her incredibly long and thin arms around my neck and pleaded, yes, pleaded me

literally trying to protect them and bring them to a safe place. I hesitated because at the time I was obsessed with the idea of ​​creating the image of merciless inhumanity. Finally, when I decided that I could always cut and copy the appropriate tapes before they were released, I consented to her request and she passed out with relief. I later found out that she passed out almost regularly due to some of the circulatory problems caused by planetary gravity. But that didn't detract from her great performance, and she has since done some of her best mosaic work in my house. Quadra was with me for two years while I was healing a broken shin, looking at a wrist strap and giving myself a nicotine shot. Quadra came into my reception room and brought a light night snack. "The stars are so uniquely beautiful this night," she said, but seemed to mean something completely different. She was flushed slightly and her eyes shone. That yellow film that sometimes covered the whites of her eyes was gone, too. I didn't know what was wrong with the good Quadra, but of course I immediately assumed she was plagued by sex. She hadn't had a lover or boyfriend since living with me. For just as long, I have tried to make the libido suppressors palatable to her, but have only had sporadic success. "Shall I massage your neck?" She whistled. “Can I adjust some pillows for you? Or do you want me to rub the skin ointment into you? Or do you want me to get you something? "

"Quadra, you're killing my nerve," I said. “But you could get me an apron. I hate eating hot naked. ”I lifted the lid of a saucepan on the tray. Steam poured out. Among them was roasted giant skate cut into cubes, under which Quadra had stirred baked marsh grass. I don't put any of these plastic proteins imported from the islands on the table. I appreciate the idiosyncratic taste, even if it's so different from synthetically perfected food. Some fanatics may scold me for ingesting the meat of wild animals. But since we humans have already conquered this island, why shouldn't we enjoy everything on it? Any other behavior would, in my opinion, be an insult to this world. We should share in their riches with due appreciation. Quadra left the room with three long strides. I was about to pounce on the pot when I heard the ping-ping-ping of a personal computer message. I switched on the personal channel and saw the frog-like face of the brilliant Reichhart Münz-Scheinberg, my friend and patron. "Hello, Scheinchen," I said. "How nice to hear from you again." "It's the same with me, kid," said Scheinchen, licking his protruding lips. “Are you going to turn me on with your stunted, hairless hangers? You seem to have overlooked your true destiny so far, sweetheart. You should have applied to the porn producers. "

"I beg your pardon," I said, pulling a pillow over my loin, "I really had no intention of encouraging your depraved passions." Quadra brought me an apron, which I quickly threw on. "Quadra, baby, stay here and rub my feet," I told her, trying to get Scheinchen's attention. As Quadra sat down at the end of the couch and worked my feet in adoration, I took a mouthful of crispy marsh grass from the pot with my chopsticks and handed it to her. She was happy about it. With a quick look at the camera I made sure that Scheinchen had noticed everything. “It was a wonderful sunset again today, wasn't it, Münz-Scheinberg? Got up in time to look at it. ”“ Yes, wonderful, very wonderful, ”he replied absently, and his blue eyes stared at me briefly in amazement. “For my taste it would have been a touch more purple. Now listen to me, my dear. I plan to have another breakfast in about twelve hours. Do we say three hours before dawn? I could use a martial artist to complete my little round, and you know, kid, you're my ace of aces? ”“ I think that's what you say to all the fighters you can't wrap your fingers around, ”said I, »but don't worry, I'm coming. It would be a little too transparent to use this shattered leg as an excuse. ”I lifted the leg in question and showed him the transparent bandage and electrodes that made the bones grow back. "It'll carry me, I'll come over."

Scheinchen wrinkled his nose. “How selfless! Am I really talking to Video-Kid, my star of the stars? Listen, honey, I'm sending you a quartet of my most exciting porn stars to carry you in a perfumed, covered litter. Why do you want to risk running into a couple of mindless bums on the way who want to cool their hats on you and yet are too stupid to recognize your nunchuck when it has already met them? Look, I'll take care of your transport. ”He waved his bulky fingers in the air. That was the end of the subject for him. “How did you pass the time during your convalescence, dear kid? Maybe looked at tapes? ”“ Exactly. ”“ Certain tapes? ”“ Oh, nothing special. A must-have tape with pictures from the wilderness was there, from some high-speed glider. The computer works great. And I looked at channel 85. One thing was really interesting. The woman on 85 is using a manipulation drone. She doesn't just passively watch - she picks up things and looks at them. That's really awesome. ”We shut down our vision link and switched to channel 85. Our audio served as a voiceover. "Oh yes, I recognize this work now," said Scheinchen. “This is Cewaynie Damp. She's brand new to the business ... and younger than you. ”I'd never heard of her. We indulged in a meticulous, expert discussion of Cewaynie's abilities and possibilities. We spent two hours doing it. Scheinchen finally brought me to the promise

he wanted to make him a tape for his art show (a show with which he finally wanted to reach the eyes and ears of Cewaynie Feuchtlocke). Time means next to nothing to a three hundred year old dreamer, but it was kind of nice of the ugly old dinosaur to go to the trouble of trying to entertain me.

2 Three hours before sunrise I was on the northern tip of the island - in the Zaster pavement, the extensive limestone domicile of my friend and patron saint MünzScheinberg, lush with colonnades. I admired the inner strength of my patron, his unbroken tendency to live in the midst of such a stressful and bizarre environment. As usual, the waiters, clients and house friends, the flatterers and droolers, various porn stars, just on the rise to the top, and ambitious band specialists, not to mention the usual unidentifiable eccentricities: Scheinberg's surgically altered pets jostled in his wonderful villa with a view of the lake , mutated and crossed creatures from his huge, enormous terrariums and aquariums, grotesque, walking around holograms and finally an alien actually residing here. In the midst of this panopticon, his vaunted breakfasts must have seemed like an hour of leisure and rest. Indeed, he looked fresh and laid-back as he went about his hospitality duties. Scheinberg had invited five guests ... as always for his breakfast. And as usual, we were an extremely heterogeneous society. I already knew Allrot Thicket, the poet, and Starkbein Nimrod, the researcher. You belong

to Scheinberg's closest friends. But I had never seen Professor Angelhecht from the Academy and Sanktanna Zwiegeboren, who had fled Niwlind for political reasons.Both had recently landed on reverie; after the long and painful decontamination procedure in a single orbital island. Thicket was a short, thin man with a protruding Adam's apple and thick, shaggy red hair. With an air of silent melancholy, he pulled a fist-sized chunk of raw meat from a pocket and handed it to his darling, a praying mantis. The green, arm-length chitin monster followed him everywhere. It accepted the gift with a caution and reserve that could only be compared with thicket of its own noble kind, and nibbled at it. It drew in air noisily through its breathing holes, which had the same diameter as my little finger. "The morning star is impressively bright that night, isn't it?" Remarked Strongbein as he stood on the balcony and looked out at the gentle surf of the reef. "Did I ever tell you about the time I was there?" "But now for a long time, Starkbein," laughed Scheinberg. Conversation was his forte. “It's been four hundred years since the Morning Star was worked. We are all not weak in mental arithmetic here. Or are you trying to fool us here and tell us a grotesque and impossible story about your longevity? ”“ You talked about four hundred years, I didn't, ”said Starkbein. “I was there almost fifty years ago. During my high glider time, you know. The last deto

Nations have melted the entire crust of the morning star. That also gives it its high albedo. ”I liked Strongbein. He could have become a good martial artist, so I forgave him for his notorious habit of lying. “Herr Dickicht,” said Professor Angelhecht in his piercing, pedantic voice, “are you sure that your arthropod was properly decontaminated there? And may I inquire about the origin of this creature? Is it possible that it came from the continental area that we popularly call the mass? ”“ I don't know, sir, ”said Thicket politely, and patted his pet friendly on the hard, transparent protective vault over the left compound eye. “I found him half drowned on the reef, the current washed him up there. I can assure you, however, that I never checked its innards for protozoa, if you wanted to know. ”“ Why are you so interested in the masses, Professor? ”Scheinberg asked, and he was curious about every single syllable of his words to recognize. “Why am I interested in it? Screeched fishing pike. He gestured with his arms in confusion, and one of his three cameras zoomed in to take a close-up of his pinched, pale face. “I am a scholar, sir. I earned my doctorate through research in the field of taxonomic microbiology. In addition, I am connected to the field of epidemology more than mere scientific curiosity. The

Earth is the most fertile area in the world for microorganisms. Many of them are most likely harmful to humans. Insects often act as vectors for such life forms. ”Alarmed and frightened, Thicket put an arm protectively around his companion's narrow, green shoulders. The chitin creature twisted its sinewy neck as it chewed incessantly and cast an indignant look at fish with one of its yellow compound eyes. Scheinberg and Starkbein began to laugh heartily. Even Sanktanna Zwiegeboren allowed herself a small smile. "Don't worry, Professor," said Starkbein. “My research has shown that this particular species of praying mantis is only found in the eastern reaches of Aeo. Do you see the typical swabs on his forearms? We have nothing to fear from this being. ”“ Indeed, sir, ”said Angelhecht, visibly embarrassed by the laughter of the others. “You don't happen to have a degree?” Strongbein grimaced. "I'm a researcher," he replied harshly. “Even the academy cannot do without those who do the practical work.” “Listen, Professor,” said Scheinberg, “we are all laypeople, but I suggest that you should not underestimate us. My dear friend Nimrod has classified almost all living beings that appear in reverie, often at risk to life and limb. ”All six Scheinberg's cameras flatteringly focused on Starkbein, who immediately knew about it

Found humor. “Allrot thicket here is both a recognized historian and an esteemed poet. Even my very young friend Video-Kid has already written some remarkable articles about chain and striking weapons for the HüpfologieJournal and is at the same time one of the most famous camera programmers on our planet. It would surely be inappropriate if I were to list my own merits; I may perhaps leave it at that to mention that I am the author of the work Chemical Analog Theory of Body Politics. And Zwiegeboren still stands as a stranger in front of our shores, but I am convinced that she is as talented and intelligent as she is adorable. And that's where breakfast comes. ”We left the balustrade of the balcony and grouped ourselves around the oval wooden table. Scheinberg's food programmer Rätseling came through the door in his wheelchair and brought first gear with him. Rätseling was confined to a wheelchair while he waited for his cloning to grow new legs. He'd recently lost both of them to a giant skate while swimming across the reef. "Hello, Rätseling," I called to him, "haven't seen you in a while." Rätseling pretended he hadn't heard me and handed the first course: finger-length nerve clams, baked in bread and swimming in a red sauce. I took my chopsticks and dipped them in the bowl. The mussels were just delicious. Sanktanna Zwiegeboren didn't pick up her chopsticks, but stared at me all the time. There was a confused expression

on her broad, freckled face. I had one of my cameras record them. Scheinberg, whose wakeful, bulging eyes did not miss anything, addressed her: "My dear Sanktanna, am I seeing signs of homesickness in your lovely features? Even after two years on a single island, the longing for the old homeland can still suddenly appear strong. Tell us what brought you to us? What power over Niwlind made you see no other way out than exile? ”With an automatic gesture, Sanktanna grabbed her head and smoothed out a clump of dark feathers attached to her hair. She said softly, “I follow the path of righteousness wherever it leads me. If I have come to dreaming on it, then that is perfectly fine with me. On Niwlind I was told that daydreaming is a paradise ... nobody has to work here and the government consists of an invisible plutocracy. But I have discovered that there is a lot for me to do here. And of course you are right, Scheinberg, I really miss my old friends very much. By now the Niwlindian government should have successfully carried out its genocide policy and my people are either scattered or dead. I wish I could have done more for them. That is also what makes me so melancholy. "" Then you see yourself as a force, "said Scheinberg," who wants to help the good in the universe to break through? "When Sanktanna nodded, Scheinberg continued:" Such principles have always interested me a lot. Tell us a little more about your work. If I

I'm right, your friends are a non-human species, aren't they? Around the so-called moor moas, huge, flightless ratites. And you think they are intelligent ... Are you convinced that they have an untouchable soul, that they have a spirit and free will? ”Sanktanna stroked the feathers in her hair again. “My heart tells me. I openly admit that their intelligence is in no way equal to that of humans, but they undoubtedly have their place in the cosmic plan. For this reason I have also organized demonstrations to protect their residential areas, the moors, from drainage and economic exploitation. But our government did not give in to anything and acted brutally. Many of my fellow campaigners saw no other way out than to proceed to desperate, violent acts. Eventually I was arrested and held responsible for everything. The court turned me off the planet, and now I'm here. ”“ Outrageous! ”Said Scheinberg. "I can assume that the majority of your fellow citizens had a completely different, less favorable image of the moas." "Unfortunately," replied Sanktanna. “The Moas have no language, the Niwlinders always said. They have neither hands nor tools, neither a story nor an art of their own. They eat their sick, occasionally break into a stampede and attack and kill both farm animals and game. They are irascible, full of warts on their faces and ugly in general. Oh yes, they said so many ugly things about the moas. ”“ And all of that was probably true, ”said

Allred thicket and then fell silent to lure his praying mantis with a shell. “Yes, unfortunately yes,” said Sanktanna, “but these people have never lived with the moas in the moors, have never seen them dance.” “And what, please, made you go to these beings and friendship to close with them? ”Scheinberg wanted to know. "How does one come up with doing something so atypical?" "All forms of life are sacred," said Sanktanna. “I heard the call inside of me and I followed it.” “How did you prepare for that call? Was it a long period of celibacy? ”When she nodded again, Scheinberg's eyes lit up. "But I can assume that your reproductive organs are fully functional?" Sanktanna nodded again, but this time noticeably more reluctantly. "I've had this experience many times with people who have been called," Scheinberg explained with a wide movement of his arm. “I suspect, dear Sanktanna, that your altruism and your sexual suppression are intimately linked. I congratulate you on your skills in your self-manipulation. ”He took another clam. "It's not quite like that," said Sanktanna. "It is true that I have tried to purify myself through ascetic trials, but the intrinsic pursuit of goodness was there before." "Really?" Asked Scheinberg. “Then let's do such a test and find out how much of your striving for goodness is innate and how much

educated; how much of it comes real and true from your heart and how much comes from the fact that you, like all of us, have been pressed into a prefabricated form and made a human bonsai tree out of you. We want to erase all traces of your sexual discipline. My porn stars are some of the most experienced and skilled sexists in the human race. We could dissolve your painful barriers with drugs, dearest Sanktanna, and then you could throw yourself into her arms with all your freshness and flying legs. I assure you that you will find the chaining of your body in this tangle of bodies extremely pleasant. Many women would voluntarily enter slavery just to have such an experience. But I'm offering them to you for free, out of the spirit of libertarian hedonism. Then later we can check how many of your principles are still upheld, and with what degree of conviction and firmness. So are you ready to embark on such a journey of self-discovery? ”Sanktanna made no answer at first. Then she said: “I feel that you mean no harm to me, Herr Scheinberg, and that is why I want to keep my disgust and my indignation in check. But I must ask you never to make me such offers again. "In astonishment, Scheinberg said:" I did not want to offend you in any way. My offer was honest and louder, and made in the spirit of the curiosity inherent in every human being. Isn't that so, Strongbein? ”“ Yes, yes, ”said Nimrod, playfully tugging the long ends of his drooping mustache. "The

The sex life of the Niwlinders is always extremely fascinating. Take, for example, the following case, for which I can vouch personally ... ”And then he told us a long and unprecedented unlikely lie that lasted until Rätseling appeared, cleared the plates and mixed us with a few bowls of saltgrass rice with delicious Sand crab meat alone again. In the distance, there was the harsh flash of a flying island that detonated somewhere over the continent. A little later there was a dull thunder. "Our fierce anger at such decadence has given our church moral power," said Sananna. "I have always fought against the reprehensible, and I see that this world could use a thorough and profound cleansing." "You need a base for such an undertaking," Scheinberg said hospitably. “May I offer you my home for that? I would also be ready to warn my numerous guests and friends of your prejudices; and I am convinced that afterwards they will make every effort not to be mocked at your work. "" No, thank you very much, "said the saint. “I intend to visit the stinking pool of reprehensibility in the world - the Decriminalized Zone. During my decontamination I saw a few tapes about what was going on there, and I think that is where my efforts will most likely be needed. ”“ Are you mad! ”I said. "Why

do you want to be so foolish and get beaten up and raped before you are five meters in the zone? It's no playground for any idiot fanatics. ”“ Now I know where I've seen you before, ”said Sanktanna. “I recognize your voice. You're that little guy with the tips on your head who beat that big, heavy, screaming woman! ”“ You saw my fight with Screecher? ”I asked. “Then you saw my victory too. My shin was broken, but by no means as dramatic as Kreischer's tapes show. It has almost healed by now. Here, just look at the bandage. ”I swung my leg onto the table and pulled back the pants of my fluff plastic dressing pajamas. I didn't wear the combat suit today. That was probably why she hadn't recognized me straight away. "And that gun around your neck," she said. “It looks just like Secretary Tanglin's status symbol that he carried around with him all the time. In fact, you look a lot like him. ”That reference to Tanglin baffled me. But now I was on my guard. "I'm his son," I answered her with the usual lie. "Thirty years ago he was dreaming." "How horrible!" She said sadly. “It is impossible to imagine that Rominuald Tanglin's own flesh and blood would have sunk into such a thing! How sad that he is already dead and was previously unable to give you a sensible upbringing, at least a trace of his moral one

Transferring integrity to you! ”She shook her head. "I can only pity you." Gradually my anger grew in me. A small device on the back of my neck registered this sensation and sent a burst of static electricity into my plastic-laminated hair. They straightened up immediately - as if filled with their own life. Scheinberg, Dickicht and Starkbein pushed their chairs away from the table and prepared to flee immediately. My cameras followed the movement of the hair and then grouped around me in a fighting stance. "What do you know about Rominuald Tanglin?" I asked her. "Secretary Tanglin was my idol!" She exclaimed. “He was a great leader and a special person! At least he was. Before his wife tried to destroy him and deliberately drove him insane.This man has done more for the moas than any other living person! "Suddenly Professor Angelhecht, who had been shoveling rice into himself all the time, looked up angrily and growled in a demanding voice:" Rominuald Tanglin? About the Rominuald Tanglin? Tanglin, the demagogue, the enemy of science? The man who supported this neuter crossbow, this charlatan, so sustainably in the Gestalt debate? Are you related to that same Rominuald Tanglin, young man? ”“ Yes, ”I replied. I put my hands on the ends of the nunchuck and pulled until the chain tightened around my neck. “Did I hear you said you called Professor Crossbow a charlatan? I'm afraid my ears must have been mistaken. "

Fish pike visibly puffed up. “Are you planning to. Threatening me, boy? "(I heard Jack groan:" Oh, shit, he's done it now! ")" I'm a famous scholar, young man! I am here with the full support of the Cabal, and I just want to warn you that if you approach me, they will pursue you with unrelenting severity! My cameras track your every move so I can get a complete report to the Academy and the government of this planet! ”I didn't say a word, just stood up, spun the nunchuck around once, and smashed its three cameras. It took about two seconds. Then I sat down again just as without a word. Fishfish really had become speechless. I put the nunchuck back around my neck and let go of the ends. Thicket, Starkbein and Scheinberg came out from behind their armchairs, behind which they had got themselves to safety with tremendous ease when I pulled on my nunchuck. "Thank you, kid," Scheinberg said, relieved. “We all appreciate your restraint. Professor, keep your tongue in check if you don't want the kid to split your skull apart. Kid, I want to apologize to you for him. He is not from here and therefore does not know the local etiquette. Look after him, do it for my sake. ”“ It's okay, Scheinberg, ”I said magnanimously. "For your sake, I deprive my fans of the pleasure of watching Professor Pike being beaten into a bloody heap." The cheeky remark about Professor Crossbow

had kindled the anger in me. Of course I knew about the collaboration between Tanglin and Crossbow in the Gestalt debate, because the neuter had told me all about it. On the other hand, I was now able to assess Sanktanna much better. She had made up her mind, she had become clear to me. Sanktanna was one of dozens, no hundreds, of women who had overwhelmed Tanglin's charisma, who admired the politician from afar. What's more, I liked Sanktanna now. We both refused sex. Fish had turned purple, but he was careful not to open his mouth. Allrot thicket decided spontaneously to do something to break the tension in the air. He picked up his pet with both hands and set it on the table. When it jumped nervously on its thick chitin legs and looked around restlessly, Allrot looked into its eyes and pushed a scrap of raw meat between its lips. "Kiss, kiss," he said. "Here, Feinerle!" The praying mantis leaned forward delicately, grabbed the flesh and bit off a piece of Allred's lower lip in the process. "Ouch!" Cried all red in pain. »Plague and Hell! It went well fifty times, and now ... ”We all laughed heartily at Allrot's expense. Then I gave him a little smuff, just enough to kill the pain, and dabbed the wound with a curdler. After I covered the area on the lower lip with a piece of skin sealant, all-red looked like new again. While I was still doctoring him, the praying mantis jumped with me

rustling wings from the table, hopped into my chair, knocked my bowl over with one leg and began to look for tasty chunks in the leftovers. A riddle appeared with the third course: thick, rich omelets made from skate eggs with a seaweed salad. The whole thing was prepared so extraordinarily tasty that even fish pike seemed to forget its anger over it. "I assume you are already in the middle of your preparations for next week's five-centenary, my dear Scheinberg," Allrot said, lisping a little. In a few days it will be the five hundredth anniversary of the founding of the first settlement on Träumerei. A festival that meant a lot to the surface dwellers of Träumerei. "Of course," replied Scheinberg. “The festivities are definitely not going to be a quiet time for me. I've pledged to so many events that I would have to split myself into four to attend all of them. But all in all, the festivities should be very lively. The population seems unanimously to want a kind of carnival. 'I had already heard of the rumors of mumming and antics, but now that they have been confirmed by Münz-Scheinberg, one of the big entertainment organizers, both were to be expected. "Carnival, always carnival," I remarked, slightly irritated. “I'm sick of these jaded festivities. Why can't we have a satyr game or even a water festival instead of a drama? Damn it again, anything else would be fine with me. "

"A water festival with splashing around and splashing around would hardly be suitable for such an important event," smiled Allrot. "Even a carnival would have been considered terribly wild and extravagant five hundred years ago." Strongbein chuckled harshly. "Moses Moses would turn around in the grave if his final resting place had not been blown to atoms." "Well, well, must my honorable gray ears hear a vicious slander about the memory of the founder of our society?" Strong leg twice briefly with the fat index finger. “Oh dear, Stout Legs, you've stained your simple patriotism badly. Does the fellow mock morality? ”Though Starkbein rolled his eyes, for the moment he seemed to accept Scheinberg's not so serious scolding. "Moses Moses wouldn't just turn around in the grave," said Allrot gloomily. “Because he did not rest in an ordinary grave. Moses was buried alive, in a cryo-tomb. Unfortunately, he was murdered posthumously, so to speak, three hundred years ago during the Fox Day riot. The declared intention of our state founder was to be thawed again and brought to life for the 500th anniversary. Politically, of course, its reappearance would be a catastrophe. But as a historian, of course, I would want nothing more than to speak to this man once. Much about him has remained a mystery. "

"What's that supposed to mean?" Blurted out senselessly from Strongbein. "The past is dead and Moses is dead. He hasn't been since Fox Day, and that was three hundred years ago!" "But I remember Fox Day," Scheinberg said softly. “I was amazingly young then, barely older than you, kid. At that time I was far from thinking about death. So many years. That caused quite a stir back then. Somehow we feared the whole world was about to collapse. Eventually the entire Directory was wiped out ... the chairman's seat shattered ... Moses' cryo tomb blew up! Suddenly we were left without a government! And that has caused confusion in everyone. Of course, after Moses' freezing, we never had a strong directory, but when that too was turned off we no longer knew where to turn. Everyone was afraid of the rise of terrorism, of anarchy! But it didn't come to that. ”“ No, it didn't happen, ”Allrot confirmed. “I've studied the history tapes. That three-week period of non-governmentalism was certainly the most interesting period in our history, if you ask me. In all of our cities, even on the islands, the rumor mill was simmering unchecked. Why had the Directory met for a secret meeting after so many years of near-term inactivity? Who was behind the explosion? Then the rump committee was set up, a government that was even more lax and meaningless than the previous one. And suddenly a word was on everyone's lips: Cabal. Cabal, daydream was replaced by a strange and secret

nisful committee governed. Faceless men and women. Everyone was of the opinion that they must be rich, if not super-rich, but that was the only point that the population could agree on. It was clear to the population that the committee had to be made up of the super-rich, for the law that set a cap on the wealth of government members was the main schism of the time and the only plausible reason for a coup d'état. The progressive party called for a relaxation of the regulations, while the old Directory insisted on the primacy of the words of Moses Moses'. The extermination of Moses was thus the quickest and most thorough method to extinguish his influence on society, to put an end to the puritanical discipline of the founding years. Everyone on the Board of Directors had been murdered and the founder of Dreaming had been killed, so now you could take control. The monstrous wealth of the committee members made it possible to recruit informers and hired murderers wherever they deemed it necessary. Any resistance to the new government was therefore useless. No one could argue against the merciless efficiency of their consolidation of power. The names or faces of the opponents weren't even known! ”“ Oh, nonsense, ”scolded Strongbein. “Everyone knows there are thirteen cabalists, seven men and six women. The men are red, orange, yellow, blue, green, indigo, and purple; the women north, south, west,

East, above and below. They live on their own islands, disguise themselves as ordinary high-speed gliders and arrange to meet through agents for their meetings. Any ten-year-old could tell you that. ”“ Every ten-year-old surface dweller, ”said Thicket. “It's just strange that all high-gliders believe something completely different. They believe the cabalists live on the surface. ”“ Herr Dickicht is right, ”said Professor Angelhecht. "The cabalistic agent I met in orbit assured me that the committee members live here in Telset, and in Waldtrotz, Eros and Juckingen, in the four largest cities in the world." As always, I winced at the mention of the name › Itching 'together. Itching! Moses Moses must have really been rascal at the city baptism! “You actually met a Cabal agent?” Scheinberg asked with interest. "Very few can say that, Professor." "Not necessarily," said Pike. “In the Orbital Islands, your name is used quite often in connection with the Cabal, which, sir, should not be unfamiliar to you. Some even argue that the Cabal really sparked your political ambitions. Others suggest you are a member of the organization yourself. "" Me, a cabalist? Replied Scheinberg. "I've already got enough to do with making ends meet this menagerie, how could I go about that?"

take care of an entire planet? So, as far as my political ambitions are concerned, it would be best to forget about them as quickly as possible. I am nothing more and nothing less than an entertainer. And producer. And antiquarian. And social theorists. Of course I put on a lot of hats, but the thorny crown of politics has never held my head, sir, I can give you that in writing. "" Excellent, "said Pike," I could only do the same of some of your misguided rivals claim. ”The hypocrisy of this hidden reference to Professor Armbrust disgusted me. Crossbow had chosen Rominuald Tanglin as an ally for his interstellar war of words against the mothballed reactionaries in the academy. I didn't know all too well about the "Gestalt Debate" and everything related to it, because the dispute had taken place long before my time, but I knew exactly which side my sympathies were on. "And what do you call your own alliance with the Cabal, sir, if not political?" I said. "Of course you've already demonstrated impressively that you need the bloody hand of the Cabal to spread your own senile delusions." "Bloody hand, boy!" Cried Pike, shrugging his shoulders. “I would suppose that the term applied more to you and your worthless cronies than to your own government. As for my alliance with the Cabal, you can name it whatever you want. I care about your stupid sayings as little as you care about the normal standard of human dignity. "

My hair straightened with a static crack. Scheinberg, Starkbein and Allrot disappeared quickly under the table. I got up. Fishfish rose. “I think,” I said, “your connection with the Cabal can best be described as a double mockery of truth and justice. And your arguments and justifications are as worthless and hypocritical as your mind is limited and petty. You, sir, you and your treacherous academic party are nothing but an immense fishbone in the throat of human enlightenment! ”Pike turned white, but I wasn't finished. "There is more information in Professor Crossbow's DNA chain than in that whole dust-dry and decrepit rattle box you pretend to be your brain!" Pike crossed his arms. “Don't coerce yourself and return to your usual violence, which I can only view as cowardice. I am unarmed and therefore a miserable opponent for you in the field of brute force! But don't let the fact that a person of dignity stands before you stop you! ”He nodded to Sanktanna, who suddenly jumped up to stand between us. I had recorded everything with the cameras, and since I didn't want to let her throw the scene at me, I quickly kicked her legs away. so that she fell headfirst on the table. “Sir,” I said, “I am convinced that you will prove to be just as incapable of physical confrontation as you were of spiritual conflict! If you don't mind not carrying a weapon, feel free to mine

borrow! ”I tossed him my nunchuck. He caught it, twisted it unsteadily in his hands, and then shouted, "I'm not going to stain my fingers with anything like that!" He clumsily tossed the gun over the balcony railing into the ocean. "You bastard!" I shouted. “My favorite Chuck!” Without paying attention to my injured leg, I jumped across the table, grabbed the professor's ass and collar, and hurled him after the gun. Screaming loudly, he fell into the water. I had two cameras followed him to record his awkward splashing and fidgeting until the house servants fished him out. I patted my hands on my pants and returned to the table. My host and his two friends crawled out from underneath. "He didn't want it any other way," said Scheinberg. "He's sure of that," said Allrot. He took his praying mantis in his arms, who in the meantime had made herself comfortable on Sanktanna's badly cut, brown hair and nibbled curiously at the clump of flat feathers. "Great performance, kid," said Strongbein. "Now I'm almost annoyed that I didn't bring my own cameras." "I'll send you a copy as soon as I've cut the tape," I promised. I opened the left sleeve of my pajamas and injected two cubic centimeters of a tranquilizer into the plastic channel in my forearm. The remedy quickly calmed me down. Allrot and I put Sanktanna in her chair. I put some smuff in her mouth, examined the lump on her head - not a particularly large one - and poured it on her

Water on the face. Immediately afterwards, Sanktanna came to. "What happened?" She wanted to know. "You fainted," I said. "You were overwhelmed by the excitement." She grimaced. “I feel very strange. Kind of numb ... so far from it all. ”“ It'll pass, ”I said. "Why don't you relax and enjoy this feeling?" "Where's the professor?" She asked weakly."He was gone all of a sudden," said Scheinberg. The three of us all laughed at it. Then came Rätseling with fourth gear. Scheinberg insisted that Dr. Kokokla, his personal physician, examined Sanktanna. The doctor confirmed to the girl that there was nothing wrong with her. He explained to her sensitively. she hit her head and offered her a sedative, which she refused. One of Scheinberg's numerous porn stars stepped out onto the balcony and brought me my nunchuck. They had cleaned and dried it. I took it and thanked me. I never felt particularly good without my gun. "I haven't fainted in my life," said Sanktanna. “And I just can't understand how I hit the back of my head when I fell face forward. Gentlemen, you can spare yourself your tactful lies. I know that man there hit me with his gun! ”“ Yes, it was, ”Scheinberg admitted. “Forgive me, dear Sanktanna. This sudden outbreak of violence was all mine

Fault. I have to admit that I calculated wrongly. I always take great pleasure in seeing opposing opinions clash, especially when there is violence in the air, but I never would have suspected that you would go so far as to push yourself into the middle of a physical argument. Such grandiose gestures unfortunately involve a considerable risk. ”“ Oh, don't be so cringy, Scheinberg, ”I interrupted him. “Yes, Anna, I knocked you down. Otherwise you would have stolen the whole show from me! As always, our honored host is extremely understanding and polite; But you must not conclude from this that the rest of us will listen to your nonsensical remarks just as calmly! Heavenly thunderous weather again, now finally act like a normal person and stop the nonsensical sifting, otherwise I'll throw you over the balcony too. "The mere threat to beat Sanktanna would have made her stubborn at best, but the idea would have been humiliating and ridiculous way of being thrown across the balcony made her reconsider her position. After taking turns looking at us, she dared not argue any more and sat down pouting. Shortly afterwards, she went to work on her bowl. That's one of the effects of Smuff: it seems to increase appetite and taste immensely. In addition, the remedy kills pain completely, but on the other hand numbs and disorientates and affects physical coordination - and sometimes also hearing. "Dear Sanktanna, thank you very much for your understanding",

said Scheinberg. »I think in advance which guests and in which constellation I bring together for my breakfast. I strictly follow the guidelines of my chemical analog theory of body politics. But occasionally I seem to make the acid too hot or the base too bitter, and then it is up to me to deal with the explosion that follows. That is of course quite exhausting, but it doesn’t lack a certain cheerful note. Overall, it keeps me young. I am a very old man, dearest Sanktanna, so check out my oddities. "" I forgive you, Scheinberg, "declared Sanktanna," for I am convinced that you have a good heart. And you have your own wisdom, even if it is probably quite ungodly. ”Scheinberg beamed as if this had been the nicest compliment that had ever reached his ears. All red and Strong Legs suppressed their laughter at Sanktanna's naivete. "I'm only fifty-two," said Sanktanna. “You must have accumulated a great deal of experience and wisdom in your long life, even if you never had a theological training. What is hidden behind your chemical analog theory? ”Allred and Starkbein rolled their eyes, but the three of us were careful not to protest, as Scheinberg's lecture gave us the opportunity not to have to say anything and to tackle the main course: tender, roasted sea beaver tail, for which you had to use a knife and fork. "The chemical analog theory is, of course, as the name suggests, an analogy," began Scheinberg. He pressed

a button on the heavy bracelet on his right, and shortly afterwards his secretary Kreidepfeifer, a neuter, rushed out onto the balcony. Scheinberg had him give him a pen and a plate and began to draw with them while he continued to speak. “As you probably know, dear Sanktanna, the human body is an extremely complex system, actually a real ecosystem with its own flora and fauna. The same goes for body politics, in other words, our human society. The structures and reactions of both are very similar. Now the history of the human body is that of its organic macromolecules and the compounds of its separate atoms - if that phrase is permitted. In the same way, the history of body politics is that of small groups or cliques, connections of friends or like-minded people. In making this comparison, of course, I do not want to go so far as to claim that the individual personality in one corresponds to an atom in the other. In most cases the individual has to be viewed as a small molecule ... for example an acid, a base, a salt, etc. However, for the sake of simplicity I regard them as atoms. The effect of a single atom in the human body is almost meaningless. But when this atom gets to the right molecule, its influence can prove extremely decisive! It does not matter which atom in question connects to the molecule, but that it is one of the right atoms and teams up with the right molecule. The type of molecule is what matters, you see, as is the relationships in one

Group of friends are more important than the individual friends themselves. Of course, some atoms are comparatively rare, just as some personality types are less common. These can then gain a disproportionate influence. But in the end it all comes down to the connection. I see myself as an enzyme that is ceaselessly trying to join groups of molecules together into newer and more potent configurations. This breakfast here is such an endeavor. "" In other words, "objected Allrot," it doesn't matter who you are, but who you associate with. "Allrot, Starkbein, and I shamelessly stuffed ourselves. We had already endured Scheinberg's funny theory, abandoned by all good spirits, more than once. Such a thought construct was the most visible indication of the advanced age of our host. After all, it was no more deviant or stupid than other theories put forward by people his age. One only had to think of Rominuald Tanglin's obsession. “Exactly! Such remarks prove an intuitive understanding of this principle, ”said Scheinberg happily. “Let me give you a concrete example. Maybe you know this molecule, delta-1-tetrahydron cannabinol. ”He held the plate in front of Sanktanna's face. "It's a mild hallucinogen and euphoric," Scheinberg explained. “As you can see, its structure is relatively simple. Fifty-three atoms, all carbon, hydrogen, or oxygen. Neither nitrogen nor silicon is a problem here as in so many other drugs. I have ... myself

determined, deliberately determined, to take its structure as a chemical analogy to determine its effect on body politics. You will surely remember the practical test, dear all-red. Back then, five years ago, at the mid-year Satyricon. ”“ Oh, man, I remember! ”Said Allrot enthusiastically. »What an event! The people laughed, sang, made noises and cried, tore their clothes off and banged openly on the street ... howled at the morning star, jumped from the coral towers into the sea ... and at dusk there was a crowd in Telset Bay. Nude bathing took place! It was unbelievable, simply unbelievable! ' "You don't mean to say that you were responsible for it, Scheinchen?" "Responsible, dear friend?" Said Scheinberg with a mysterious smile. “You yourself were one of the oxygen atoms! Everything could have gone on forever if one of my carbon atoms hadn't burned out with the hydrogen atom of another, turning the structure into a pure cannabinoid ... Anyway, for me the whole episode is clear evidence of the correctness of my theory. The experiment was worth bringing together fifty-three hand-picked friends. - Thank you, Kreidepfeifer, that would be all for the moment. ”Scheinberg erased the drawing on the plate with a thumb press and handed it to his secretary, who then withdrew. "Does anyone have an appetite for a sherbet?" We all wanted a sherbet and left them alone

Domestic workers clear the table and bring out the lounge chairs. Scheinberg distributed mild after-breakfast drugs, and Allrot read to us from a sequel to his Telset cycle. The sky was slowly turning red in the east, and as the bright yellow rim of the sun appeared on the horizon, we greeted them all with shouts of welcome. The gentle waters of the great gulf of memory flared golden for a moment and then found the deep sapphire blue of the daylight. Breakfast was over. It was time to think about going home.

3 I only had one week to prepare for the harlequinade, our form of carnival. And that was the absolute minimum time for a person of my status. Most of the days I amused myself by showing myself and asserting my reputation - which local does not have such cravings? - but there were also times when I was tired of the endless, fixed processes and ritual abuse, and now it was that way again. I had the feeling that the festival and its preparations were growing over my head. The young cannot compete with the old in dominance games. The latter have too much of a head start in terms of self-control, experience and knowledge of human behavior. But thanks to the martial arts and the decriminalized zone, the boys have their own social arena in which they can practice dealing with each other and define each other's boundaries. And yet it is our microcosm where the individual boys at least have the chance to acquire power. In the outside world, you have no choice but to survive a hundred years or more in friendly, nice and subliminal slavery.

In the smaller, the inner world, I was definitely a person of respect. Of course, I also had my clientele, the video kid party. I had limited membership in it to twelve people, and of course there was fierce competition here too: mainly because my honor forbade me to beat up my disciples unless they really deserved it. Preparing for the Harlequinade was taking her time. At first I faced the problem of my costume. I didn't go out of the way to disguise myself, as my plastic-laminated hair and the band of my twelve minions would give me away at once anyway. So I put on my normal combat suit and only camouflaged myself with a wide, black and white smock and shiny black pants with red horizontal stripes. I completed that with a simple black domino mask. It goes without saying that I designed and tailored my own clothing. The next issue was the palanquin. Of course, the carrying device itself was fine: Quadra and I could easily assemble, adjust and redecorate it. Rather, the great difficulty was which six of my twelve disciples should have the honor of carrying me in the litter. The ridge would swell for the half-dozen chosen ones, while the six rejected would spoil the fun of the festival. Then I had to prepare for the various meetings, and in the end I couldn't get around letting my connections play in order to get a worthy place for my litter at the hologram presentation. Me personally

was hardly of any interest less than these holograms, but for the sake of my social position I had to find a preferred place for my litter. I hated harlequinads. Fortunately, my dear friend and fellow artist took Frost Factor, co-leader of the cognitive dissonances and President of the K.D. Enterprises, palanquin in hand. He called me the day before the Harlequinade began. "Best regards, Kiddy, my little angel of violence," said Frost. "What's the leg doing?" "The bandage is coming off tomorrow," I replied. "What's up, Frost?" Frost didn't look too good. On his sharp, narrow, ice-blue face, small wrinkles had spread between the white, frosted browbones. Frozen beads of sweat were on his cheeks and forehead, and the frost was two centimeters thick in his icicle hair. Obviously, his status position barely let him calm down. Behind him, on the wall of his reception room, hung a map of the region in question, neatly divided into a network of hexagons. "I have a place for you here," said Frost, rising from his console chair and pointing to the map. “You sit next to Raphael from the Vierwegern and Todd Tandler from the Munchers. I myself only have a little place up the hill with Eisdame and a couple of the Kognis - blinkers, gavel, joyful anesthesia ... well, you know, the ones who are always with me. "

"Fine, that's where I'm going," I said. The place was really good. Frost looked relieved. He wiped his forehead with the back of an ice-blue hand, breaking the fine layer of ice that had formed between his knuckles. Frost's frozen second skin conformed perfectly to his face, with only a few telltale bumps and wrinkles on his fingers. To this day I have not figured out how his second skin is supplied with the necessary cold energy, but I suspect it comes from small generators hidden in his fur-covered muklucks. "Is everything clear then?" He said. “Very nice, that's how I like my angel Kiddy. The status war this year has caused me a great deal of grief. Some areas have been bitterly contested, including your place. Well, I don't expect any bloodshed, because fights during the festivities are taboo, but the scramble will provoke many a feud of honor next year. ”“ I'll know how to defend my territory, ”I said. "Only call me if you need help." "Maybe I'll come back to that," nodded Frost. "Billy's clubs are the only ones on patrol at this harlequinade." I was horrified. I despised nothing more than auxiliary policemen. Sure, you got a lot of money for it, but in truth it was just a bribe from the new board of directors to keep the combat groups somewhat under control. Somehow the old asses knew how to turn the service into a hotly contested honor. “Damn it,” I growled, “what can the clubs do

watch out? They don't hit a wall within a meter. Darn it, Billy's clubs really are the top. ”“ There's something else I wanted to tell you, ”Frost went on. He rubbed his frosty forehead with an icy palm and had to tear it away with a cracking jerk. "Well, it's about the mysterious man in red." His voice grew louder. »Ice cream lady! Did I put that call under 'Grudges' or under 'Threats'? ”“ I think under “Grudges,” darling, "said Eisdame's voice off-screen. "Oh Lord! I'm afraid the capacity of the resentment deposit exceeded its capacity yesterday ... You know those snobbies, Kiddy, who take every status downgrade so damn personally ... How stupid, the call is sure to be lost. The gentleman in question offered me five hundred shares if I beat the brain out of your head. "" Did you know the man? "" He was wearing a red mask and seemed old, very old in fact. Of course it's hard to say. Obviously he hardly knows the martial arts and its laws, otherwise he would have preferred to turn to one of your enemies instead of me. But I am sure that he has found someone else in the meantime.He looked pretty determined. ”“ Five hundred shares is not bad. ”“ For you, my dear angel Kiddy, I would have asked at least five thousand. ”“ You're embarrassing me, Frost. ”I switched off. On New Years Day the Video Kid Party came together to pomp me through the Decriminalized Zone

wear. The zone is rarely populated. Most of the destroyed buildings are abandoned. But that day the people in the zone huddled together. As always, the sight of such a huge crowd gave me an eerie feeling. For the first twenty years of my life, save for Professor Crossbow, the Ribbons, and an occasional visitor, I had been alone on the reef. And even today, after eight years in Telset, I was worried by the crowd. All kinds of harlequinade costumes were represented here. The motto of this season seemed to be our story: high glider costumes, the gloomy costumes of the mining engineers from the early days of our society, the black and washed-out yellow of the Confederation officials, the decadent, six hundred year old gala suits of the New Indian Board of Directors - and of course the innumerable diverse combinations; Mutations, exaggerations and falsifications, down to the smallest fiber with the playful and at the same time cynical ingenuity of our world. Others had disguised themselves as historical personalities: members of our board of directors, popular artists, composers or scientists, drowned swimmers from Aquaria, the city with the ungracious fate and mad plutocrats from the first days of precipitous expansionism. And finally the advocates of the purely bizarre, as numerous as flies in summer: people in fish costumes, disguised as insects, birds, crabs or jellyfish, people clad in furs from head to toe or with mirrors like a second skin, people without faces, with four

Poor or eight legs, people in chains, in cobwebs or in a bubbling mass of foam, people in costumes as the dead, as the living, as not yet born or those who would never be born. And above all, countless cameras. It took a special occasion to get the whole population scattered across Telset together, but the Harlequinade was perfect for that. Everyone had come, over three hundred thousand people. Such a huge amount that it developed an uncanny life of its own. Multicolored streams and fibers of people poured in and out of the crowd like the drifting of the protoplasm of an amoeba. Colorful stretchers and litters moved lazily like single-cell organisms in search of food above their heads in the crowd. I rolled back the roof of my palanquin and stood upright as we neared the swollen edge of the crowd. Cameras floated in the air like drops of hot fat over a piece of meat in a frying pan, and the crowd itself hissed as if it were sizzling. Thousands of conversations, murmured rumors or tenderness, always shrill laughter that combined to an anonymous boiling, cracking and hissing like an empty tape that has been turned up too loud. Masked faces turned to me. A whisper sprang up and spread quickly. I was recognized right away. Some pulled back in front of me, others stepped forward. I had an excellent view when my clientele broke into the crowd. I had delayed my appearance until the early afternoon. The real fun was hardly going to happen anyway

begin to get dark. "Hey there! The gentleman in the black domino! ”I looked down. Emery Board called me. She was one of the few significant members of Billy's clubs. I recognized her immediately despite her fish mask. She was wearing the auxiliary police rainbow bracelet. "This stranger here would like to be introduced to you." A giant of a villain, covered in a tasteless fringed leather suit, stood by Emery's side. He wasn't wearing a mask. Obviously he wasn't from here. "Is it you who calls yourself the video kid?" He scolded me in boisterous disregard for etiquette. He should at least have shown astonishment at my costume, even if it was only feigned. I pointed two cameras at him. "Why should I deny it?" I replied easily. "Why don't you hop out of your rattle box and talk to me from man to man?" He asked. "I don't like it when my neck hurts from looking up." Shocked giggles came from the rapidly increasing crowd of curious people. "Yes, of course," I said, jumping out of the palanquin and tearing it from its feet with a kick to the chest. He rolled back with the kick and came back up surprisingly quickly. With his rough, coarse hands he patted off the hillbilly clothes that matched him. "You must be imagining something on your feet," he said with difficulty. "But in Juckingen we don't think too much about foot heroes."