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“She is certified by the Foostmam, Lord Starrex, a true action dreamer to the tenth power!”

Jabis was being too eager, or almost so; he was pushing too much. Tamisan sneered mentally, keeping her face carefully blank, though she took quick glances about from beneath half-closed eyelids. This sale very much concerned herself, since she was the product being discussed, but she had nothing to say in the matter.

She supposed this was a typical sky tower. It seemed to float, since its supports were so slender and well concealed, lifting it high above Ty-Kry. However, none of the windows gave on real sky. Each framed a very different landscape, illustrating, she guessed, other planet scenes; perhaps some were dream remembered or inspired.

There was a living lambil-grass carpet around the easirest on which the owner half lay and half sat But Jabis had not even been offered a pull-down wall seat, and the two other men in attendance on Lord Starrex stood also. They were real men and not androids, which placed the owner in the multi-credit class. One, Tamisan thought, was a bodyguard, and the other, who was younger and thinner, with a dissatisfied mouth, had on clothing nearly equal to that of the man on the easirest, but with a shade of difference which meant a lesser place in the household.

Tamisan catalogued what she could see and filed it away for future reference. Most dreamers did not observe much of the world about them, they were too enmeshed in their own creations to care for reality. Tamisan frowned. She was a dreamer. Jabis, and the Foostmam could prove that. The lounger on the easirest could prove it if he paid Jabis’s price. But she was also something more; Tamisan herself was not quite sure what. That there was a difference in her she had had mother wit enough to conceal since she had first been aware that the others in the Foostmam’s Hive were not able to come cleanly out of their dreams into the here and now. Why, some of them had to be fed, clothed, cared for as if they were not aware they had any bodies!

“Action dreamer.” Lord Starrex shifted his shoulders against the padding which immediately accommodated itself to his stirring to give him maximum comfort. “Action dreaming is a little childish.”

Tamisan’s. control held. She felt inside her a small flare of anger. Childish was it? She would like to show him just how childish a dream she could spin to enmesh a client. But Jabis was not in the least moved by that derogatory remark from a possible purchaser, it was in his eyes only a logical bargaining move.

“If you wish an E dreamer . . .” He shrugged. “But your demand to the Hive specified an A.”

He was daring to be a trifle abrupt. Was he so sure of this lord as all that, Tamisan wondered. He must have some inside information which allowed him to be so confident, for Jabis could cringe and belly-down in awe as the lowest beggar if he thought such a gesture needful to gain a credit or two.

“Kas, this is your idea; what is she worth?” Starrex asked indifferently.

The younger of his companions moved forward a step or two; he was the reason for her being here. He was Lord Kas, cousin to the owner of all this magnificence, though certainly not, Tamisan had already deduced, with any authority in the household. But the fact that Starrex lay in the easirest was not dictated by indolence, but rather by what was hidden by the fas-silk lap robe concealing half his body. A man who might not walk straight again could find pleasure in the abilities of an action dreamer.

“She has a ten-point rating,” Kas reminded the other.

The black brows which gave a stem set to Starrex’s features arose a trifle. “Is that so?”

Jabis was quick to take advantage. “It is so, Lord Starrex. Of all this year’s swarm, she rated the highest. It was . . . is . . . the reason why we make this offer to your lordship.”

“I do not pay for reports only,” returned Starrex.

Jabis was not to be ruffled. “A point ten, my lord, does not give demonstrations. As you know, the Hive accrediting can not be forged. It is only that I have urgent business in Brok and must leave for there, that I am selling her at all. I have had an offer from the Foostmam herself to retain this one for lease outs.”

Tamisan, had she had anything to wager, or someone with whom to wager it, would have set this winning of this bout with her uncle. Uncle? To Tamisan’s thinking she had no blood tie with this small insect of a man, with his wrinkled face, his never-still eyes and his thin hands with their half-crooked fingers always reminding her of claws outstretched to grab. Surely her mother must have been very unlike Uncle Jabis, or else how could her father ever have seen aught worth bedding (not for just one night but for half a year) in her.

Not for the first time her thoughts were on the riddle of her parents. Her mother had not been a dreamer, though she had had a sister who had regrettably (for the sake of the family fortune) died in the Hive during adolescent stimulation as an E dreamer. Her father had been from off world—an alien, though humanoid enough to crossbreed. He had disappeared again off world when his desire for star roving had become too strong to master. Had it not been that she had early shown dreamer talent Uncle Jabis and the rest of the greedy Yeska clan would never have taken any thought of her after her mother had died of the blue plague.

She was crossbred and had intelligence enough to guess early that that had given her the difference between her powers and those of others in the Hive. The ability to dream was an inborn talent For those of low power it was a withdrawal from the world, and those dreamers were largely useless. But the others, who could project dreams to include others through linkage, brought high prices, according to the strength and stability of their creations. E dreamers, who created erotic and lascivious otherworlds once were rated more highly than action dreamers. But of late years the swing had been in the opposite direction, though how long that might hold no one could guess. Those lucky enough to have an A dreamer to sell were pushing their wares speedily lest the market decline.

Tamisan’s hidden talent was that she herself was never as completely lost in the dream world as those she conveyed to it. Also, (and this she had discovered very recently and hugged that discovery to her) she could in a measure control the linkage so she was not a powerless prisoner forced to dream at another’s desire.

She considered what she knew concerning Lord Starrex. That Jabis would sell her to the owner of one of the sky towers had been clear from the first, and naturally he would select what he thought would be the best bargain. But, though rumors wafted through the Hive, Tamisan believed that much of their news of the outer worlds was inaccurate and garbled. Dreamers were roofed and walled from any real meeting with everyday life, their talents feverishly fed and fostered by long sessions with tri-dee projectors and information tapes.

Starrex, unlike most of his class, had been a doer. He had broken the pattern of caste by going off world on lengthy trips. It was only after some mysterious accident had crippled him that he became a recluse, supposedly hiding a maimed body. He did not seem like the others who had come to the Hive seeking wares. Of course, it had been Lord Kas who had summoned them here.

Stretched out on the easirest with that cover of fabulous silk across most of his body, he was hard to judge. She thought that standing he would top Jabis, and he seemed to be well muscled, more like his guard than his cousin.

He had a face unusual in its planes, broad across the forehead and cheek bones, then slimming to a strong chin which narrowed to give his head a vaguely wedge-shaped line. He was dark skinned, almost as dark as a space crewman. His black hair was cut very short so that it was a tight velvet cap, in contrast to the longer strands of his cousin.

His lutrax tunic of a coppery rust shade, was of rich material but less ornamented than that of the younger man. Its sleeves were wide and loose, and now and then he ran his hands up his arms, pushing the fabric away from his skin. He wore only.a single jewel, a koros stone set in an earring as a drop which dangled forward against his jawline.

Tamisan did not consider him handsome, but there was something arresting about him. Perhaps it was his air of arrogant assurance, as if in all his life he had never had his wishes crossed. But he had not met Jabis before, and perhaps now even Lord Starrex would have something to learn.

Twisting and turning, indignant and persuasive, using every trick in a very considerable training for dealing and under-dealing, Jabis bargained. He appealed to gods and demons to witness his disinterested desire to please, his despair at being misunderstood. It was quite a notable act and Tamisan stored up some of the choicer bits in her mental reservoir for the making of dreams. It was far more stimulating to watch than a tri-dee, and she wondered why this living drama material was not made available to the Hive. Perhaps, the Foostmam and her assistants feared it, along with any other shred of reality, which might awaken the dreamers from their conditioned absorption in their own creations.

For an instant or two she wondered if Lord Starrex was not enjoying it, too. There was a kind of weariness in his face which suggested boredom, though that was normal for anyone wanting a personal dreamer. Then, suddenly, as if he were tired of it all, he interrupted one of Jabis’s more impassioned pleas for celestial understanding of his need for receiving just dues with a single sentence.

“I tire, fellow; take your price and go.” He closed his eyes in dismissal.

It was the guard who drew a credit plaque from his belt, swung a long arm over the back of the easirest for Lord Starrex to plant a thumb on its surface to certify payment, and then tossed it to Jabis. It fell to the floor, so the small man had to scrabble for it with his fingers. Tamisan saw the look in his darting eyes. Jabis had little liking for Lord Starrex, which did not mean, of course, that he disdained the credit plaque he had to stoop to catch up.

He did not give a glance to Tamisan as he bowed himself out. She was left standing as if she were an android. It was Lord Kas who stepped forward and touched her lightly on the arm as if he thought she needed guidance.

“Come,” he said, and his fingers about her wrist drew her after him. The Lord Starrex took no notice of his new possession.

“What is your name?” Lord Kas spoke slowly, emphasizing each word, as if he needed to do so to pierce some veil between them. Tamisan guessed that he had had contact with a lower-rated dreamer, one who was always bemused in the real world. Caution suggested that she allow him to believe she was in a similar daze. So she raised her head slowly and looked at him, trying to give the appearance of one finding it difficult to focus.

“Tamisan,” she answered after a lengthy pause. “I be Tamisan.”

“Tamisan, that is a pretty name,” he said as one would address a dull-minded child. “I am Lord Kas. I am your friend.”

But Tamisan, sensitive to shades of voice, thought she had done well in playing bemused. Whatever Kas might be, he was not her friend, at least not unless it served his purpose.

“These rooms are yours.” He had escorted her down a hall to a far door where he passed his hand over the surface in a pattern to break a light lock. Then his grip on her wrist brought her into a high-ceilinged room. There were no windows to interrupt its curve of wall; the place was oval in shape. The center descended in a series of wide, shallow steps to a pool where a small fountain raised a perfumed mist to patter back into a bone-white basin. On the steps were a number of cushions and soft lie-ons, of many delicate shades of blue and green. The oval walls were draped with a shimmer of zidex webbing of pale gray covered with whirls and lines of the palest green.

A great deal of care had gone into the making and furnishing of the room. Perhaps Tamisan was only the latest in a series of dreamers, for this was truly the rest place, raised to a point of luxury unknown even in the Hive, for a dreamer.

A strip of the web tapestry along the wall was raised and a personal-care android entered. The head was only an oval ball with faceted eye-plates and hearing sensors to break its surface; its unclothed, humanoid form was ivory-white. “This is Porpae,” Kas told her. “She will watch over you.”

My guard, Tamisan thought. That the care the andriod would give her would be unceasing and of the best, she did not doubt, any more than that ivory being would stand between her and any hope of freedom.

“If you have any wish, tell it to Porpae.” Kas dropped his hold on her arm and turned to the door. “When Lord Starrex wishes to dream, he will send for you.”

“I am at his command,” she mumbled; it was the proper response.

She watched Kas leave and then looked to Porpae. Tamisan had cause to believe that the android was programmed to record her every move. But would anyone here believe that a dreamer had any desire to be free? A dreamer wished only to dream; it was her life, her entire life. To leave a place which did all to foster such a life, that would be akin to self-killing, something a certified dreamer could not think on.

“I hunger,” she told the android. “I would eat.”

“Food comes.” Porpae went to the wall, swept aside the web once more, to display a series of buttons she pressed in a complicated manner.

When the food did arrive in a closed tray with the viands each in their own hot or cold compartment, Tamisan ate. She recognized the usual dishes of a dreamer’s diet, but they were better cooked and more tastily served than in the Hive. She ate, she made use of the bathing place Porpae guided her to behind another wall web, and she slept easily and without stirring on the cushions beside the pool where the faint play of the water lulled her.

Time had very little meaning in the oval room. She ate, slept, bathed, and looked at the tri-dees she asked Porpae to supply. Had she been as the others from the Hive, this existence would have been ideal. But instead, when there was no call to display her art, she grew restless. She was a prisoner here and none of the other inhabitants of the sky tower seemed aware of her.

There was one thing she could do. Tamisan decided upon her second waking. A dreamer was allowed, no, required, to study the personality of the master she must serve, if she was a private dreamer and not a lessee of the Hive. She had a right now to ask for tapes concerning Starrex. In fact, it might be considered odd if she did not, and accordingly she called for those. Thus she learned something of Starrex and his household.

Kas had had his personal fortune wiped out by some catastrophe when he was a child. He had been in a manner adopted by Starrex’s father, the head of their clan, and, since Starrex’s injuries, had acted in some fashion as his deputy.

The guard was Ulfilas, an off-world mercenary Starrex had brought back from one of his star voyages.

But Starrex, save for a handful of bare facts, remained an enigma. That he had any human responses to others, Tamisan began to doubt. He had gone seeking change off world, but what he might have found there had not cured his eternal weariness of life. His personal recordings were meager. She now believed that to him anyone of his household was only a tool to be used, or swept from his path and ignored. He was unmarried and such feminine companionship as he had languidly attached to his household (and that more by the effort of the woman involved than through any direct action on his part) did not last long. In fact, he was so encased in a shell of indifference that Tamisan wondered if there was any longer a real man within that outer covering.

She began to speculate as to why he had allowed Kas to bring her as an addition to his belongings. To make the best use of a dreamer the owner must be ready to partake, and what she read in these tapes suggested that Starrex’s indifference would raise a barrier to any real dreaming.

The more Tamisan learned in this negative fashion, the more it seemed a challenge. She lay beside the pool in deep thought, though that thought strayed even more than she herself guessed from the rigid mental exercises used by a point-ten dreamer. To deliver a dream which would captivate Starrex was indeed a challenge. He wanted action, but her training, acute as it had been, was not enough to entice him. Therefore, her action must be able to take a novel turn.

This was an age of oversophistication, when star travel was a fact; and by the tapes, though they were not detailed as to what Starrex had done off world, the lord had experienced f much of the reality of his time.

So he must be served the unknown. She had read nothing in the tapes to suggest that Starrex had sadistic or perverted tendencies, and she knew that if he were to be reached in such a fashion she was not the one to do it. Also, Kas would have stated such a requirement at the Hive.

There were many rolls of history on which one could draw, but those had also been mined and remined. The future had been overused, frayed. Tamisan’s dark brows drew together above her closed eyes. It was trite; everything she thought of was trite! Why did she care anyway? She did not even know why it had become so strong a drive to build a dream that, when she was called upon to deliver it, would shake Starrex out of his shell, to prove to him that she was worth her rating. Maybe it was partly because he had made no move to send for her and try to prove her powers; his indifference suggesting that he thought she had nothing to offer.

She had the right to call upon the full library of tapes from the Hive, and it was the most complete in the star lanes. Why, ships were sent out for no other reason than to bring back new knowledge to feed the imaginations of the dreamers!

History . . . her mind kept returning to the past. Though it was too threadbare for her purposes. History, what was history? It was a series of events, actions by individuals or nations. Actions had results. Tamisan sat up among her cushions. Results of action! Sometimes there were far-reaching results from a single action: the death of a ruler, the outcome of one battle, the landing of a star ship or its failure to land.

So . . .

Her flicker of an idea became solid. History could have had many roads to travel beside the one already known. Now, could she make use of that? Why, it had innumerable possibilities. Tamisan’s hands clenched the robe lying across her lap. Her mind began to see the problem. She needed more time . . . She no longer resented his indifference. She would need every minute it was prolonged.


The android materialized from behind the web.

“I must have certain tapes from the Hive.” Tamisan hesitated. In spite of the spur of impatience she must build smoothly and surely. “A message to the Foostmam: send to Tamisan ‘n’ Starrex the rolls of the history of Ty-Kry for the past five hundred years.”

It was the history of the single city which based this sky tower. She would begin small, but she could test and retest her idea. Today it would be a single city, tomorrow a world, and then, who knows? Perhaps a solar system. She reined in her excitement. There was much to do; she needed a note recorder, and time. But by The Four Breasts of Vlasta . . . if she could do it!

It would seem she would have time, though always at the back of Tamisan’s mind was the small spark of fear that at any moment the summons to Starrex might come. But the tapes arrived from the Hive and the recorder, so that she swung from one to the other, taking notes from what she learned. After the tapes had been returned, she studied those notes feverishly. Now her idea meant more to her than just a device to amuse a difficult master, it absorbed her utterly, as if she were a low-grade dreamer caught in one of her own creations.

When Tamisan realized the danger of this, she broke with her studies and turned back to the household tapes to learn again what she could of Starrex.

But she was again running through her notes when at last the summons came. How long she had been in Starrex’s tower she did not know, for the days and nights in the oval room were all alike. Only Porpae’s watchfulness had kept her to a routine of eating and rest.

It was the Lord Kas who came for her, and she had just time to remember her role of bemused dreamer as he entered.

“You are well, happy?” he used the conventional greeting.

“I enjoy the good life.”

“It is the Lord Starrex’s wish that he enter a dream.” Kas reached for her hand and she allowed his touch. “The Lord Starrex demands much; offer him your best, dreamer.” He might have been warning her.

“A dreamer dreams,” she answered him vaguely. “What is dreamed can be shared.”

“True, but the Lord Starrex is hard to please. Do your best for him, dreamer.”

She did not answer, and he drew her on, out of the room to a gray shaft and down that to a lower level. The room into which they finally went had the apparatus very familiar to her; a couch for the dreamer, the second for the sharer with the linkage machine between. But here there was a third couch; Tamisan looked at it in surprise. “Two dream, not three.”

Kas shook his head. “It is the Lord Starrex’s will that another share also. The linkage is of a new model, very powerful. It has been well tested.”

Who would be that third? Ulfilas? Was it that Lord Starrex thought he must take his personal guard into a dream with him?

The door swung open again and Lord Starrex entered. He walked stiffly, one leg swinging wide as if he could not bend the knee nor control the muscles, and he leaned heavily on an android. As the servant lowered him onto the couch he did not look at Tamisan but nodded curtly to Kas.

“Take your place also,” he ordered.

Did Starrex fear the dream state and want his cousin as a check because Kas had plainly dreamed before?

Then Starrex did turn to her as he reached for the dream crown, copying the motion by which she settled her own circlet on her head.

“Let us see what you can offer.” There was a shadow of hostility in his voice, a challenge to produce something which he did not believe she could.

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