Piers Anthony: Chaining the Lady

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    Chaining the Lady
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Chaining the Lady: краткое содержание, описание и аннотация

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CHAINING THE LADY is the second CLUSTER book. Melody, a product of Flint and the Andromedan’s mating in CLUSTER, must save the Milky Way Galaxy and create a place where creatures can transfer without limitations. Melody must survive in worlds unknown and alien to her and she does that where others fail when her aura augments her skills and abilities. The book opens with the discovery that Andromeda, the enemy galaxy of the first novel, has discovered the secret of involuntary hosting: a Kirlian aura that is sufficiently stronger than that of an individual can take possession of that individual. Andromeda has secretly infiltrated the highest levels of government in Sphere Sol and its allies and resurrect its plot to steal the energy of the Milky Way. Melody of Mintaka, a direct descendant of Flint of Outworld and his Andromedan nemesis, has a Kirlian aura of well over 200. She is pressed into service to “possess” and interrogate a captured Andromedan transferee. Melody, hosted in the young and beautiful body of Yael of Dragon, must, like her progenitor Flint, find a way to defeat the Andromedan threat and save the galaxy. The mysterious Ancients are present again in the form of their artifacts and sites. The themes of Tarot and of various myths of Sphere Sol (in this case that of Perseus and Andromeda) play a big part this novel. The interSphere fleet of starships has forms analogous to the Tarot suits of Disks, Cups, Wands and Swords.

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Piers Anthony

Chaining The Lady


The security guard was young, fresh from the most rigorous academy, and human. That, virtually by definition, meant trouble. As the acolytes of the Cluster Tarot Temple put it, the Suit of Gas equated with both the Sphere of Sol and the condition of Trouble for excellent reason. No wonder that suit’s symbol was the sword of war, despite the efforts of euphemists to redefine it as the scalpel of science.

Yet in defense of this necessarily nameless Solarian guard, it must be stated that he acted in strict accordance with the nature and training of his kind. All the pertinent regulations were imprinted on his awareness, and his decision was guided reflex. By the book, he was correct.

He saw the intruder in the private office of the Minister of Population, poking a tentacle into the computer file cabinet. It was after hours, the illumination had been set low, and no pass had been authorized. So the Solarian fired his laser stunner without challenge.

The intruder fell as the beam touched. It was a good shot; the Academy might not turn out many original thinkers, but it never loosed a sloppy shooter. The guard alerted his immediate superior by bodyphone, for of course he honored the chain-of-command requirements, and approached the suspect.

“A Dino!” the man remarked, employing a grossly vernacular term whose origin had been lost in Planet Outworld’s antiquity.

Indeed, it was a Polarian, now heaped in a boneless mass about its spherical wheel, its tentacle as limp as a dead snake. Not dead, of course; spies were never killed, because of their interrogation value and because they often employed local hosts. It would not be right to kill the host for the actions of the transferee who possessed it. This creature of Sphere Polaris would recover in a few hours.

“Funny,” the guard remarked aloud. Despite the vulgarity he had used a moment before, he was not a Polaphobe; some of his best friends were alien creatures. This was, after all, the Imperial Planet, nexus of Segment Etamin, one of the ten major Empires of Galaxy Milky Way. In fact, without the constant flux of galactics in human or alien guise, he would have no job, “Poles don’t usually snoop. They call it uncircular.”

And this was true. Polarians, in the convenient informal analogy of the Cluster Tarot, equated with the Suit of Solid, symbolized by the Disk of Commerce and Culture. Circularity was the foundation of Polarian nature, and though to ignorant entities it sometimes resembled a runaround, it was also manifest that direct spying was foreign to Polarian concept. Something was very strange, here.

The guard lifted the flaccid tentacle and played his recording beam over the little ball set in its end. “Suspect in Minister’s office,” he said tersely into his phone. “Identity on record?”

Identification procedures were efficient on the Imperial Planet. Soon his superior’s horrified voice came back. “You bet it’s on record, soldier! That’s the Minister of Research.

For an instant the Solarian guard saw his future laid out: unskilled manual labor, trimming the thornsuckers off the great vinetrees of the wilderness reservation, barehanded. Or maybe solitary duty aboard a farflung outpost planetoid, complete with pillmeals and femmecubes to satisfy his physical and emotional needs while his mind went slowly as berserk as the sanity shot permitted.

He had shot a Minister in his own office, a monumentally colossal blunder worthy of redlining in the annals of punishment. The Regulations Book would not protect him from the ravages of an inter-Spherical inquiry.

But then something clicked in the gray matter behind his frontlobe shock, a notion of almost whimsical desperation that abruptly fell into place. “But he’s in the Population office, not the Research office—without a pass, outside hours.”

There was a pause. “It is not for Security personnel to question the affairs of segment Ministers,” the officer said via the phone. “He could readily have obtained clearance. He must be in that office ten times a day, consulting with his associates. He just forgot, this time.”

The threat to his future forced the issue. “Sir, it is for us to question!” the Solarian insisted. “According to the Book—”

A human sigh, one that implied volumes about dealing with Academy recruits in non-ivory-tower situations.

“You really want it by the book, soldier?”

Dry-mouthed, knowing his chances of salvaging even a vestige of respect were fading, the guard answered “Yes, sir.”

“So noted. You are the Entity on the Spot, per that Book. I decline responsibility for your action but I honor the Book. An investigation team will be with you immediately.”

“Thank you, sir.” It was like holding up one finger to stop an avalanche, pleading Book justification in defense against the coming charge of aggravated incompetence. He might well be shipped to the sunside mines of Inworld, a fate marginally preferable to full personality obliteration for involuntary hosting. Nobody shot a Minister with impunity! Not even if he stood upon a stack of Books. The Ministers had written the Book.

In just forty-three Solarian seconds the investigation team arrived: four entities from Executive. They had been selected by lot from the segment pool reserved for such occasions, and represented four Spheres: Nath, Canopus, Polaris, and Sol.

The guard made a formal if shaky salute to the four. “I am the Entity on the Spot,” he said. And how! “I stunned this Polarian, believing him to be an intruder. I proffer the Manual of Sentient Entity Protocol, Subsection Defense, on my behalf. I believe my action was technically justified.” He hoped no one would laugh out loud.

The Solarian officer made an elegant bow from the waist. “I represent the interest of this Entity, who is native to my Sphere of Sol,” he said. The guard noted with mixed satisfaction and alarm that the man wore the insignia of a full colonel; a thoroughly experienced officer of Sol’s military apparatus. This was good because his decision would carry considerable force with the segment authorities, but bad because ranking officers were notoriously indifferent to the problems of enlisted men, especially when the image of the Sphere was involved. Still, the human advocacy was vital; at least a Solarian had the capacity to understand.

The Polarian glowed momentarily in salute, then buzzed his ball against the floor. “I circle the Injured, who is of my Sphere of Polaris.”

The Nathian rippled its thousand miniature hooks in waves, resembling a windblown deep shag rug. A portable translation unit rendered its clicks into audible language. “I pull for the situation, concerned with proper procedure.”

“I supervise,” the Canopian Master said in perfect Solarian. He resembled a monstrous insect, and he did not deign to salute. The Canopian Master species had evolved to command, and what it commanded was a humanoid species. In many respects Canopians were the true governing force of Segment Etamin. When it came to the efficient exercise of authority, this species was matchless. Even the often-unruly Solarians preferred to allocate their supervisory positions to the insectoids, knowing that the job would be done with precision and dispatch.

The formalities completed, Polaris lifted the stunned Minister by heaving him up with his trunk. “My brother is unconscious but undamaged,” he announced, letting the Minister slump back to the floor.

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