Mythaxis

Log of the Mustang Sally - Turner


Gil Williamson


On the vast generation ship, Mustang Sally, an experiment goes wrong. It is decades before the ship will reach any habitable part of the galaxy, and something is loose on the ship.

Some history on this piece: There was a topic on the William Gibson discussion board about a Michael Swanwick spoof review of William Gibson's The Log of the Mustang Sally. Shortly thereafter, Gibson himself wrote in his blog:

"There's a thread in Random Thoughts about Michael Swanwick's LOCUS review of my unwritten novel, THE LOG OF THE MUSTANG SALLY. I actually did have a contract for this title, with Arbor House, but shamelessly ducked out of it after a disagreement over the dustjacket art for their hardcover of COUNT ZERO. This may actually be how NEUROMANCER became, so to speak, a trilogy. I forget. In any case, the very brief and sketchy outline for TLOTMS, as far as I know, resides today in some zillionaire's private collection. It *really* was envisioned as a space opera of sorts, though space of a dirtball postmodern Sol-centric sort, perhaps not unlike some of Sterling's work of the same period. What I recall most clearly, though, is that I was hoping to lift something of the tone of the thing from THE CHINESE LOVE PAVILLION, an excellent if minor novel by Paul Scott, better known for THE RAJ QUARTET. How the hell I intended to do that, I have no idea. In any case, per Swanwick's review, I opted to stick with affectless junkies and their dead but ceaselessly wisecracking sidekicks, and the rest, as they say, is history."

Some of the WGB members, in speculating about the never-written novel, felt that there was scope for some invention here, and a number of short story threads were begun. The basis was that the Mustang Sally would be a "generation" ship - a spaceship with its own self-sustaining environment, capable of crossing vast inter-stellar distances, taking centuries to get anywhere, crewed by generation after generation of its inhabitants. Mustang Sally was of large but unspecified size, carrying 30000 or so crew members, many of them bearing the names of Gibson's later characters. The ship was to be a Navy as opposed to a civilian ship. These were all the constraints I remember. Here is one of the stories. (Ed.)

When they found out what Turner was up to, they didn't stop him right away. "Just keep an eye on him", they told Idoru. But Idoru was only a large self-organising molecular computer, and her main task was to preserve the physical integrity of Mustang Sally, so she didn't necessarily see the significance of one piece of apparently pointless human activity over another. By the time someone got around to seeing how he was progressing in his improvised gene-splicing lab, Turner was long gone. Months. Nearly eighteen months.

Of course, once they were hunting for him, he wasn't going to run very far. A tracking drone smelled his DNA in a forgotten, rusting bay whose gravity was near zero because, sixty years previously, its external phosphor-bronze rotation bearing had taken a hit from a meteorite the approximate size and shape of a Sears torque wrench, and no-one had got around to fixing it yet. Idoru had no active cams in the area, because she had defined it as Disused, and locked the access door. The noise that came from the twisted bearing made the bay almost intolerable anyway.

Turner wasn't able to tell them, because, to all intents and purposes, he was dead
Finding him was one thing. Getting him out was another. He was holed up with a ten week supply of food and water in an inaccessible warren of tiny, interconnected cells separated by metallic blue CRP partitions. He had rigged up a number of laser guns cleverly adapted from stolen surgical instruments, triggered by passive IR detectors. What the Action Group brought back from Bay 16B didn't resemble Turner very much at all. The Action Group never got much opportunity for live training sessions, and Turner had been zapped by a few non-explosive magnetic projectile rounds from a KL44, which had removed both his legs, his left arm, the right side of his face, and, importantly, about half of his cerebral cortex. So, not only did the authorities not know what he had been up to for the last six months, Turner wasn't able to tell them, because, to all intents and purposes, he was dead, though they hooked him up to a Life-Support unit for form's sake, and stabilised him.

Because he was previously Turner's boss, Supervising Doctor Amos Jones from Gene-Splicing was sent in to Bay 16B to try to piece together the situation from the lab equipment and any of Turner's notes and records that had survived. Unfortunately, he discovered that Our Brave Boys of The Action Group had found it necessary to instruct Recovery Control to clean up the damaged area and send the debris to Recycling. Everything ended up in Recycling sooner or later, and recovery of matter was a priority. There was only so much matter of all kinds aboard the Mustang Sally when she left Earth orbit and the survival of the mission depended on not losing any of these precious atoms. The entire cleanup operation had been conducted with unusual efficiency; there was nothing left of the contents of Bay 16B. Even the network of reinforced epoxy cells in which Turner had been working had been scraped up and recycled although epoxy was hard to reduce. When Jones turned up in the bay, there was a team polishing the moisture-induced rust from the walls, and the sounds of space-suited engineers could be heard clamping and re-clamping the magnetic anchors for their safety lines while they crawled around mending the bearing on the outside of the hull.

They would normally just have sent Turner's remains straight from Life-Support to Recycling, but, in the circumstances, they decided to try and reconstruct him to an extent.

Yamazaki was wearing a bulky silver thermal jump-suit, ear-muffs, goggles, a fur hat and thermal boots. The thick gloves he was forced to wear made it very difficult for him to manipulate the bird trap. He forced the spring-loaded door open, just wide enough to slide a gloved hand inside, trapped the rat in a corner, and gripped it firmly. In turn, the rat, a whole kilo of teeth and claws, grasped his sleeve in razor sharp fangs, effortlessly ripping through the fabric and releasing a puff of insulation. Yamazaki sighed, and his breath condensed and fell as light snow. The rat shouldn't even have been there. The trap was intended for ptarmigan. You couldn't find a rat in a purpose-build small mammal trap these days. They could trigger the trap, get the bait and walk away with it. He still hadn't discovered how they did it. It was only a matter of time before they figured out the bird traps, too, At 40 degrees below, no-one could sit and wait for a demonstration. It would have to wait until someone fitted a cam for Idoru. He was rather proud of them, too. They were his rats. He had gene-spliced generations of them until they could take the killing temperatures, and they had become bigger and smarter, too.

A walk of a couple of kilometres round the Arctic bay revealed seven sprung traps, which he re-set, another rat, a big male this time, but no ptarmigan. The rats had probably eaten all their eggs, and he wondered if the ptarmigans had all died. He noticed that some of the vegetation was doing rather well in the freezing environment, but his speciality was animals and birds.

Back in the lab, he first put his captives in the freezer pen, then stripped off the bulky thermals, shedding polyester feathers through the rip in his sleeve. Even here, it was 2 degrees below, as his experimental subjects couldn't survive long at anything resembling a sensible temperature. Once he had removed the ear-muffs and jump-suit, he could hear that his phone was bleating. And what the message said sent him scuttling off to the Admin Centre at the pointed end of the ship wearing only his one-piece underlining, a garment that combined decency with informality, while clearly revealing Yamazaki's sagging paunch and skinny limbs.

The briefing that Yamazaki received in the Provost General's overheated cubicle amounted to no more than the bare facts. His mission: to discover what Turner had done. Provost General Arnold, in a sober business suit with 'Armani' embroidered on the pocket, made it clear that he was to drop everything for the work. The importance of the mission was underlined by the fact that no less a personage than Ship's Captain Rydell, in dark blue uniform, as usual, was seated in the only comfortable chair in the room, a white neoresin construction resembling a diagonally sliced egg, though Rydell contributed little, other than a grunt of encouragement from time to time.

"But why me?" protested Yamazaki.

"You knew Turner."

"Not well."

"You are familiar with the type of work he did."

"Well, broadly, but I'm in Arctic gene adaptation, he was in a totally different field. Besides, I've got a very full schedule. We're starting on baboons soon."

The Provost Marshal sighed. "Landfall is years away, Yamazaki. We will not need your adapted animals within the next twenty years and someone else can do your experiments meanwhile. This will only take you a few days. This is not negotiable. Just do it. The sooner you do, the sooner you can get back to your dogs."

"Rats."

"Rats, then."

Before he left, Yamazaki submitted his ID card for authority update. Once the Provost Marshal's terminal had finished with it, it entitled him to ask anyone anything, and to requisition any item he pleased. Of course, he knew he would have to exercise judgement, because he would be called to account later. Besides, entitlement to ask questions did not guarantee answers, nor did requisition guarantee delivery.

Yamazaki's first port of call was his apartment, where he selected a suit he seldom wore, because people said it made him look like a black marketeer. In truth, he could see where the notion originated. It was just too well-fitting, the lapels just too large, the style just too long. It was his own fault. He had commissioned it from exactly the sort of tailor the racketeers used.

Then he immediately went over to Recycling, because there's no time to waste in these matters. He knew there was not a disposal operative born since the beginning of time who did not sift through the stuff before consigning it to the material sorter. He was lucky. The officer on duty had been the one who'd received the consignment from Bay 16B. 'Recycling Officer Benny Singh' it said on his badge.

Yamazaki didn't produce his card. He tried to appear simultaneously shifty, threatening and prosperous. The suit helped a lot.

"Did you, by any chance, keep anything back from that load?" asked Yamazaki.

"No."

"I only ask, because, depending on what it might have been, I might be able to put something your way..." Yamazaki was finding difficulty breathing here, because of the stench.

"What kind of 'something'?"

"Well... From time to time, I'm in a position to decide whether some goods are of any value, or whether they should be scrapped, and I might make sure they are scrapped on your shift, you see? Depends what you're interested in."

"I could find a home for a few simstim players. Like gold dust, they are," said Benny with a sly grin.

"I bet they are." The market for porn 'feelies' was very active. "What did you get out of the 16B rubbish, then?"

"Not much. It was mostly just tons of blue plastic partitions and doors. Some broken electronics. No use except for parts. I'll show you." Benny led Yamazaki down corridors roaring with the noise of crushers and incinerators, thick with the aroma of decay. Recycling was located near the nuclear reactor, so there were auto-detectors every few yards, most glowing green, the rest not working at all. Yamazaki had been in Recycling before, looking for insulating sheets. The size of the place always astonished him. But then there were about 30000 people on board and countless animals, and every scrap of waste of all kinds, especially excrement, had to be re-used on a voyage that would take hundreds of years. Benny led him to a locked door which opened with an antique, intricately-shaped metal tool into an Aladdin's Cave of rescued items. As Yamazaki gaped at the shelves, Benny pulled down a set of microweight laboratory scales and an auto analyser. Each had sustained direct hits. The auto analyser had been on fire at one point.

"Hmm... Have you cleaned them?"

"Not yet. Could do, though."

"Nope. I don't want them touched," replied Yamazaki quickly, thinking 'Heaven Forbid', "No computer storage cells? Written notes? Records of any kind?"

"We wouldn't keep anything like that, mate." Wouldn't keep storage cells? Would erase them and sell them on the same day, more likely.

"I suppose..." said Yamazaki nonchalantly. But he'd already shown too much enthusiasm. The scales and auto-analyser cost him the promise of two simstim players, with the prospect of more, if anything else interesting turned up from Bay 16B.

Yamazaki dialled an autocab from the office and loaded his purchases. After just a day in Recycling, they already smelled like a blocked toilet. His suit, too. He stopped at a feelie outlet, and bought four used simstims with the Provost Marshal's credit. Took everything to his lab and sent the autocab back to Benny Singh with two of the simstims. Half an hour later, it was back, chiming at the lab door. His first thought was that he'd given the autocab a bad address. But the simstims were gone from the load area, and in their place was a very dented centrifuge and a set of sample containers. Benny had obviously been waiting to see how well Yamazaki paid. The note with it read: THATS IT FOR 16B STUFF BUT IVE LOADS OF OTHER THINGS YOU MIGHT LIKE. He sent the cab back with the second last simstim.

So, now he was a fully-fledged black marketeer. Officially, The Mustang Sally was a Naval vessel with a military chain of command that comprised the entire crew of the ship. But no-one could run a ship the size of a town on the same basis as a 200-man frigate. And even in a frigate, there was always unofficial trading going on.

There were tiny scraps of organic material in one of the centrifuge buckets. A DNA analysis achieved no clear identification. Not unusual. Most of the time the lab was dealing in unknown combinations. Besides, the sample might have been an amalgam of more than one animal. He fed the analysis into a clever program that separated out and recombined DNA components in an attempt to match them. The list of possibles was long. The big surprise was... Rattus Norvegicus wasn't on the list. Nor was Rattus Rattus, nor Homo Sapiens. Norwegian rats and, more rarely, Black rats were the stock in trade of biologists and psychologists. In fact, it was said that the whole of psychology was based upon the behaviour of Norwegian white rats and second year medical students, the usual experimental subjects. No. The list didn't make any sense at all, so the DNA must have been hopelessly jumbled or the analysis flawed. To be certain, he ran the list of possibilities against the master list of animal types held in storage. The only partial hit was 'Kangaroo'.

For the eleventh time, Idoru patiently showed Yamazaki the videos she had of Turner's activities before he had decamped to Bay 16B. The blurred animals were almost brown rats, weren't they? They were too big for rats, really. And the wrong posture, somehow. And they were extremely noisy at feeding time. They clearly had no love for their keeper, attacking his mail-gloved hands every chance they had. They sure as hell weren't kangaroos. They had furry tails, but so had Yamazaki's arctic-adapted rats, as you'd expect. He knew which gene that was. Blind alley. The stuff from the centrifuge was patently nothing to do with Turner. The microscale and auto-analyser were surgically clean.

Suddenly, a total whiteout blizzard interspersed with flashes of glaring short-circuit violet. Strong taste of salt with the sulphurous smell of low-tide mud. White noise accompanied by loud single tones ranging from pipe organ bass to VHF whine. Unbearably overloaded pleasure sensations. Then nothing for several centuries or a few nanoseconds - difficult to tell. Then jagged patterns of indescribable colour, harmonies of sound, the agony of renal colic, smell and taste of citrus fruit. Then nothing again, for eternity. Click. He can see light and shade, but they mean nothing. Then a dark patch appears, moving. Weird smells pulsing in rhythm. Click. The smells turn into rhythmic sounds that appear to be synchronised with the movements of the dark patch. But they mean nothing. Thereafter, there are always patterns to look at if he chooses, sounds to listen to, pain comes and goes and still it all means nothing.

Turner's doctors were a pair of near-identical pasty-white men of medium height, both called Dr van Rental. They were cousins, but their similar DNA had meant that their life choices and aptitudes had directed them down the same career path. The Doctors van Rental regarded Turner's current state as progress, and great fun, too. They didn't often get to reconstruct such a damaged entity. They seemed to have correctly hitched up Turner's optic nerves with the sight centres in his recovering brain, and sound was producing the right kinds of stimuli. Meanwhile, they were sticking prosthetics here, vat-grown skin grafts there, reconstituted organs. If he survived the treatment, they reckoned he'll be pretty viable - even a little more robust than before. But when Yamazaki asked about his memory, they shook their heads and made sucking noises through their teeth, the way technicians have always done when faced with a gullible customer.

"You gotta understand," they kept telling Yamazaki, "What we're producing here is a very large newborn baby. He'll have to learn to talk and understand, walk, use the toilet, all over again," and then, conscious of the fact that if Turner's memory was really gone, then Turner'd be no use, and they'd be taken off this interesting project, "How much he'll remember is anyone's guess." But their unexpressed guess was that he'd remember absolutely nothing. "We've set him up with a video feed and we're giving him a crash course in becoming a human being, but when he isn't sleeping, all he does is squawk and roll his eyes. Still, that's progress. Last week, he crashed seventeen times, and the only thing he did well was drool. Now he's stable, and reacting to his senses."

Mona turned up for work at the kitchen entrance to the forward seventh level restaurant, pressed an elegant finger to the print recognition panel, and leaned on the door, which slowly swung open. The lights came on, to reveal the refrigerator gaping and ravished, its contents scattered about the floor. A CRP bread bin, previously containing forty loaves, was upset, each loaf nibbled and discarded in a pool of synthetic milk substitute. The heated bed under the counter, in which the chef grew his special edible fungi, unmade. And, shockingly, the tap was running, the valve wedged open with a soup packet. No-one ever left a tap running. Water was a precious resource. Mona quickly moved to shut it off, messing up her new shoes in a puddle of Vitamin C juice.

"What the hell, Mona?..." said Lisa when she arrived shortly afterwards. Mona was still wiping off the stylish shoes, which were not designed for contact with liquids.

"Yeah, I know. And the mushrooms, too." Both contemplated the ripped mushroom bed. "And the tap was running."

"Running actually?"

"Actually."

"No. I don't believe this. Who's done this? How'd they get in?"

"Beats me. But I don't think it's rats."

"It's no way rats, Mona."

"That's what I just said."

"No, well. See that bread bin. That's got a lid I can hardly get off."

"That's right. And you have to press the button and pull to open the fridge. How'd they do that? And the amount that's gone. But you've got to see this. I think it's hobbits, Lisa." And she pointed out the greasy little baby foot prints on the shiny surfaces of the kitchen. Dozens of them, very human-like but tiny.

"Hobbits! They never existed, even back on Earth. Might be dwarves, though. They are like small people, right? Ain't they?"

Mona and Lisa didn't tell anyone but the chef. Who needs trouble? They obviously hadn't been paying heed to vermin control procedures. They just cleaned up and talked about rat poison. No Naval vessel in the history of the universe has ever set sail without its complement of rats. So there is always rat poison. No poison for the dwarves, though. Some species of sentimentality impelled Mona and Lisa to leave food and water for them, while securing all the food and drink containers and water stop valves with personal id locks. The dwarves were partial to peanut butter sandwiches; the strangely elongated low-gravity peanuts were one of the ship's success stories. The food was eaten every night.

It was very hard to maintain enthusiasm for a hunt when all the clues had petered out. Yamazaki entered the twelfth week of his investigation with absolutely no plan for progress. At 1100 on the Monday, he was summoned to the office of the Provost General, and subjected to a withering interrogation of the sort normally reserved for mutineers and perverts. Rather than energising him to greater efforts, it merely added to his despair. However, just to seem willing, he returned to Idoru's interminable videos of Turner recorded in the corner of the bio laboratory that Turner had occupied before his defection to Bay 16B. In previous viewings, Yamazaki had been concentrating on the small furry animals. Now he turned to the other, much less remarkable and lengthy footage. The videos showed Turner hunched over his palmtop, Turner centrifuging this, Turner titrating that, Turner picking his nose, Turner freezing something, Turner staring into the middle distance, Turner adjusting his chair, Turner keeping something cosy in the incubator, Turner nibbling at a biscuit, in defiance of lab regulations, a rebel even back then.

Yamazaki now took inspiration from these scenes, and checked every item of lab equipment Turner had been using. Of those which could be identified, all had been sterilised and re-used many times since then, it being months downstream. The palmtop, though. That would have been the prize. Unfortunately, the palmtop had been atomised along with Turner's left arm during the seige of Bay 16B. Absolutely nothing was left of the device's storage and intelligence, though a report from a colleague in the forensic lab had identified the probable model number from an analysis of the sintered metal and plastic ash.

In one sequence, Turner was seen to tap the Close icon as his boss, Amos Jones, entered the frame and spoke to him. Yamazaki could not see the icon. He just knew that in all applications, as had been the case since the dawn of civilization or shortly thereafter, the Close icon would be at the top right of the palmtop screen. A flash of inspiration told him that, even without seeing the screen, certain clear deductions could be made about what Turner was doing on the palmtop. Using the powers invested in him by Captain Rydell, Yamazaki diverted several gazillion nanoseconds of Idoru's time together with the resources of a phalanx of software engineers to start to recreate the thoughts of Doctor Turner as expressed on his palmtop. The videos were reasonably high in definition, yet because Turner's stylus movements were taking place, in general, behind the back of the palmtop from the camera's point of view, the precision did not help a great deal. The angle of attack of Turner's stylus was calculated, and guesses were made. They all got better at it, breakthroughs were achieved, promising lines of deduction led to dead ends, elation succeeded depression - all the usual symptoms of original research taking place under pressure. One false dawn occurred when someone noticed from facial and throat movements that Turner seemed to be subvocalising quite a lot of the time. He was indeed subvocalising, as computer analysis quickly demonstrated. However, what he was subvocalising turned out to be the words of a small number of popular songs. As analysis of Turner's movements became more detailed, Yamazaki was quickly outdistanced by the software engineers, and when he became an irritation to them, he was sent away to await conclusions, which might take weeks to emerge. This was Thursday, now sixteen weeks after the start of the investigation.

Remarkably, on the next day, the Friday, the Doctors van Rental messaged Yamazaki to tell him that Turner's condition was improving. Their patient was now feeding himself, walking and talking. The major proportion of this improvement lived only in the doctors' near-paternal imagination, blinded, as they were, by love for the man-sized baby they had created.

In fact, what Yamazaki observed, when he hurried into Turner's presence, was a pink-complexioned person in soiled pamper pants with considerable scar tissue and skin grafts. Feeding himself? Well, mashing brown protein in a greedy paw, and sometimes getting some of it, as though by accident, into his mouth, the remainder coating other parts of his repaired body and immediate environment. Walking? Toddling, rather, with frequent recourse to handholds and intermittent collapse. Talking? One out of three ain't bad. Turner was undoubtedly talking. Apparently, the portion of his brain that dealt with speech had connected with his vocal chords, and the huge infant was uttering words, real and imagined words. Words like "cabinet", "luminous", "sporran", "bugger" and "focus"; a sprinkling of technical terms - "arthropod", "hermaphrodite", "codominant", "sequence", "dizygotic"; mingled with words like "allegop", "slidisk", "gravelstrabe" and "poggo" - the latter yelled urgently, amid inchoate gurgles and screeches. It was evident, however, that Turner's mind did not accompany his utterances.

The Doctors van Rental were optimistic in general and vague in particular. They reckoned that portions of Turner's memory would certainly return, but could not be precise as to the moment or degree of such an outcome. They were confident of a complete physical rehabilitation, while reserving judgement on the definition of "complete".

Yamazaki impressed upon them the need for haste and precision, but privately resigned himself to the fact this creature, part of which had once been part of Turner, was never going to be an asset in his investigation.

On ship's news, the sensational story was told of Catering Assistant Mona Daventry, found dead apparently of a head wound, and partially eaten by rats in the kitchen of forward seventh level retaurant, a circumstance that seemed to fascinate rather than horrify her ex-colleague Lisa Norwich, interviewed by an excitable reporter.

"She was going to wait for the dwarves! They must have killed and eaten her. How horrible! We should have told someone about the dwarves before but Mona wanted to see them feeding."

"These dwarves, Miss Norwich, what are they like?"

"We don't know. We only saw the footprints. This wasn't the first time Mona waited up for them, but they never came when the light was on. She was going to wait till she heard them eating and then take a flash photo!"

Yamazaki was interested but not convinced by this unlikely story. A later bulletin, however, reported that Miss Daventry had apparently slipped and cracked her head on the corner of a work surface, but not before taking her only photograph, which fuzzily showed what might very well have been one of Turner's furry animals.

His disappointment to discover that the scene of the accident had been cleaned up was matched by his elation that the forensic team had taken extensive evidence and photographs. The wealth of evidence after months of nothing and almost nothing was almost overwhelming. In very short order, the dwarf footprints were identified from Idoru's database as likely to belong to one of the types of terrestrial creature commonly known as a "bandicoot", a species native only to one of Earth's southern continents; the continent, Yamazaki noticed with faint satisfaction, of which the kangaroo was also a native. The most notable feature of this remarkable discovery was that the DNA retrieved from the animals' saliva was similar to several but not identical with any of the known species on record.

Furthermore, it emerged that only two individual "dwarves", as they were quickly dubbed, were involved and that they had succeeded in consuming several kilos of Miss Daventry's flesh before leaving the scene - nearly their own total estimated weight in raw meat, cartilage and bone. Their powerful teeth and jaws were evidently capable of dealing with the whole of a corpse.

Yamazaki quickly organised a potent rat trap to be set in the kitchen for the following night. The trap was sprung, then demolished by the trapped animal in its escape.

In his final report, Yamazaki explained that Turner, seemingly for his own amusement, had re-created an extinct carnivorous marsupial, known only from the fossil record. This conclusion was reached by careful study of the animals' DNA. Turner had cleverly reconstructed the relevant genes and built the first, and apparently only, pair, probably from rat embryos. The life cycle of the species was long and complex, it taking a full year from conception, via early life in a pouch, to a single partially dependent juvenile offspring, a factor that had probably contributed greatly to the extinction of the species in the first place. Yamazaki therefore considered that the overall risk to the ship from the escaped animals was minimal.

He was wrong.

The dwarves never returned to the forward seventh level kitchen. They never again entered a trap. They were occasionally spotted on IR videos in other parts of the ship. They proved adept at concealment. Electrical and aircon conduits were their highways. No food was safe. Rats were their staple diet, it appeared. When rats, despite their better reproductive ability, became scarce on the seventh level, any other small animals, especially cats, of which there were a few kept as mouse predators, fell prey to the voracious dwarves.

Then an unattended baby was killed. This turned the case from an interesting zoological novelty and pest control problem into a menacing threat to the life of the ship.

Turner, by the way, never contributed one iota to the investigation. When he grew up, he spent the rest of his second life as a clerk in Career Re-assignment.

The project to reconstruct Turner's palmtop thoughts never bore fruit, though it persisted for months.

Shortly after the shocking death of the baby, third and fourth animals joined the original pair. Further genetic analysis demonstrated that Turner had made a couple of improvements to the dwarves. He had shortened their gestation period to a few weeks, and rendered them hermaphroditic.

Eventually, the only control on dwarf numbers was the dwarves themselves. When the population increased beyond a comfortable point, the dwarves themselves culled the excess. The crew of the Mustang Sally learned to live with the dwarves by taking precautions against them. At least the rat problem had gone away.

© Gil Williamson 2008 All Rights Reserved


Date and time of last update 15:00 Sat 20 Feb 2010
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