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А Б В Г Д Е Ж З И Й К Л М Н О П Р С Т У Ф Х Ц Ч Ш Щ Э Ю Я


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Chapter One

J thought, privately, that if war was too serious a business to be entrusted to the generals, then the future of world civilization - and especially England's part in it - was much too important to be entrusted to scientists. J kept his thoughts to himself.

He was an important man in his own right. As head man of M16A he was in charge of a very special branch of the Special Branch. But at the moment he was very much a third wheel at the party. He walked about the rose garden of the magnificent old mansion in Sussex and smoked his fine cigar - which he did not really care for - and sipped at the very expensive scotch - which he did like.

J was a pragmatic man, and he did not much like it when people talked above his head. Not that it was the fault of the other two men. It was his, J's, fault. He simply did not know anything about quarks and molecular reassembly. And he was worried about Richard Blade. They were getting ready to put his boy through the computer again. To send his best agent, and his good young friend, through the dimensional rift.

J did not like it. He had not liked it the first time, either, when Lord Leighton's giant computer had erred and sent Blade spinning into the X-Dimension of Alb. That had been an accident, a mistake, and they had very nearly lost Blade forever.

The three men reached the end of the rose garden and stood smoking and gazing over a box hedge at the river glinting in the moonlight. A swan slept nearby, its head tucked under its wing, and J thought of a glass swan he had had as a boy and had kept on a round mirror in his room in Dorset.

Dorset! J wished he had not thought of it. Dick Blade was in Dorset at this moment. Probably lying in the sweet smelling thyme near the Channel and making love to his Zoe.

And soon, very soon now, J would have to set the phone to shrilling in the little cottage nearby. He hated to make that phone call.

"J," said Lord Leighton, "are you moonstruck, man? I've spoken to you three times. Come, we're going back to the house for a brandy or two. Then I'll make that phone call to Downing Street for final confirmation and you can get on to Blade. Get him up to London first thing in the morning. No use wasting time now that everything is set up."

J nodded and dumped cigar ash on his dress shirt. "Yes, Lord L. Of course. We may as well get on with it." Ordinarily he would have been a bit more tart with His Lordship and would have called him simply Leighton, not Lord L. But the presence of the third man was inhibiting. Mr. Newton Anthony was not only almost as big a boffin as Leighton himself - and Leighton was the greatest scientific brain in England - but Mr. Newton Anthony had some mysterious connection with one of the Treasury Commissions. He had procured the money that was going to propel Blade from the computer.

Mr. Newton Anthony had a very fat backside. As they went up the graveled path, J restrained an impulse to kick it. He sighed. After all it was for England. But why must it always be Blade, a boy who was so nearly like a son to him. Blade was actually thirty, but J always thought of him as a boy. J was himself sixty.

He knew very well why it must always be Blade. Because Richard Blade was the best, the most nearly perfect physical and mental specimen that they had been able to find. Out of a million files the personnel computers kicked Blade's card out every time. There were times, J thought gloomily, when perfection was a curse. Not that Dick was perfect, of course. He was stubborn as hell and he had a murderous temper. And he liked the ladies just a little too well.

Ahead of him Mr. Newton Anthony was waxing philosophical.

"Solipsism," to me, "has never seemed a tenable position."

"Tempting, yes. Oh, indeed yes. Very tempting. But the theory that the self is the only existent thing is not tenable. Why, it's very near to blasphemy. Rather like saying that the whole world, and God, dies when a single man dies."

J, following along, saw one of the security guards near a hedge. The man watched them, recognized them, then retreated into the shadows. J smiled to himself. Someone had to take care of the practical things. He had a hundred men around the place.

Leighton's unction, as he answered, made J a little ill. The old man was actually clinging to the fat fool's arm, as much as hanging on every word. J, who knew the old scientist well and liked him in spite of all their differences, knew what the effort must have cost him. Lord L had more brains in his poor wracked hump than Mr. Newton Anthony had in his whole fat head. Not that the man was really a fool, of course. He was one of the big boffins. But need he be such a pompous bastard?

But as they entered the house and made their way into a great high-ceilinged study where a discreet servant waited, Mr. Newton Anthony made rather a good point. J, who was a fair man, had to acknowledge it.

"And yet this Richard Blade, when you have altered the molecular structure of his brain with the computer, and sent him into the new dimension, will be a viable example of solipsism. He will contain an entire new world, or even a cosmos, in himself. In relation to ourselves back in this dimension, of course. It will be most interesting to see, Lord Leighton, just how your experiments with the chronos computer and the memory-expanding drug have worked out. And I will admit that I have not yet quite grasped the theory. You people are so damned secretive, you know."

J sighed and went to sit by a green phone at one end of the long center table. No help for it. Lord L was going to have to explain it again. Of course only he really understood it.

The servant gave them all brandy. Mr. Newton Anthony lit another fat cigar. J declined, as he was feeling more than a little ill. He watched the old man with compassion. Lord Leighton looked like the sick and overworked man he was. He was a hunchback and polio had struck him early in life, he scuttled like a crab rather than walked, and his evening clothes hung on him. His hair was snow white and thin enough to disclose a wrinkled pink scalp. It was his eyes that carried his spirit. They were large and yellow, lion-like, streaked with red,, and at the moment they could barely conceal their loathing for Mr. Newton Anthony. Lord L knew that only he could understand his "memory stretching" theory. He was bone weary and wanted to get this over with and get to bed.

J took a deep breath and held it. Leighton was set to go off like a pneumatic fuse. J raised his glass of brandy to conceal his expression. If the old man blew now, there might not be any money for future experiments. This trip through the computer - and God help Blade - was pretty well set up. But Lord Leighton thought like a chess master - many moves ahead.

Lord Leighton took a sip of brandy. Very softly he said: "You will remember, Mr. Anthony, that Richard Blade had trouble with his memory his first time through the computer. I thought I had explained all that rather thoroughly?"

He was having difficulty keeping the old lion snarl from his voice. J took a hasty gulp of brandy.

Mr. Newton Anthony caught a hint of the snarl. Rather hastily he said, "Oh, that, of course I remember. I recall our conversation distinctly. It is the precise technique that I do not recall. Just how you enlarged Blade's memory, how you 'stretched it,' as it were, and provided him with this memory reservoir?"

Lord Leighton lit a cigar with fingers that were like yellow claws, then continued. "Blade began to lose his memory almost as soon as he landed in the X-Dimension. We use that term for convenience. Actually it was in a land, or world if you will, called Alb. Blade did not, you understand, lose his memory totally either way. Going into Dimension X or coming out of it. But his memory was very bad. He could remember very little of our dimension while he was in Alb, and when he returned to us he could remember very little of Alb. Some things, of course, but not many. Obviously something had to be done."

"Obviously," said Mr. Newton Anthony, then looked as he wished he had not spoken.

"Since the whole purpose of these explorations through the computer is to acquire knowledge - treasure perhaps, but knowledge first, by which I mean the possible exploitation of civilizations that have acquired a vaster knowledge than our own. And I must admit that in this the journey to Alb was certainly a failure. Still, none of it is much good if our messenger cannot remember what he sees and learns and then bring it back. On Blade's first journey through the dimensional rift it did not make much difference. But I could not risk it again.

"I had to begin work on the memory molecule, Mr. Anthony. And I did, at once. I tried everything. I used known techniques and I invented my own. I tried any number of combinations of disciplines, even complex permutations of the portmanteau theory, in which Blade himself would have to consciously do the work. But this I really did not want - that Blade should have to consciously remember. I wanted to create an automatic memory and a storage well, so that Blade could be left free to fight for his existence in whatever new dimension he lands this time.

"I isolated the memory molecule, Mr. Anthony, and I borrowed a drug from the Americans, something called pentylenetetrazol..."

Here J winced and had a large drink of brandy. "I also borrowed - some might say stole - a great deal of data on the famous 598 rat experiment." Lord Leighton chuckled a little evilly. "We scientists can be just as big thieves as any other profession, including burglars, and when I finally had what I wanted I invented the chronos computer - not to be confused with the dimensional computer - and I stuck it on poor Blade's head like a ladies hair dryer. For three months I subjected his molecular structure to moderate heat and intense pressure. "And it worked. Now, when Blade's brain is addled by the computer, for that is as good a word as any, and he is enabled to see and experience a dimension that we cannot, even though it might be in this very room with us in a spatial sense, his memory molecules will stand firm. They will even be improved. And as a bonus there is the memory tank. Blade will make no conscious effort to remember anything, yet he will forget nothing. He will not even know that he has remembered it. And when he returns from Dimension X I shall simply tap that memory tank and pour the stuff out of him like wine out of a barrel!"

J smiled. For once Mr. Newton Anthony was looking more impressed than pompous. Before he could interrupt, Lord Leighton went on: "Now, sir, if we can make that call to Downing Street for final clearance! I am a very weary old man and I want to go to bed. I must be in London early tomorrow."

"I should certainly think we can," said Anthony, and picked up a phone in front of him.

The conversation was brief. Mr. Newton Anthony hung up and nodded to J. "It's on. You may call your man Blade now."

J picked up the green phone. The Treasury boffin said: "I should like to meet this Richard Blade before he goes through the computer. I cannot begin to imagine what sort of man he is."

J shook his head sternly. "Very few people can. For the simple reason that there are no others like him. But you can't meet him, sir. Strictly against security regulations. Sorry."

He dialed a single digit on the green phone.

Blade had slipped off Zoe's very brief panties and flung them to one side in the tall growing thyme and heather. By now they were dew sodden.

He put down an old mack, in a small depression along the cliff top that Zoe called "Blade's Snuggery," and after making love for the first time they lay close together and, by looking down a sort of winze, could see the Channel. It lay broad and flat, dead calm but for a fleck of lace here and there, and marred only by the lights of a freighter, far out, beating up to Thamesmouth. Just below them, on a ledge, gulls stirred and ruffled and dreamed their gull's dreams. The surf was only froth on shingle. The moon sailed away from them, a silver galleon showing its high stern in disdain.

Blade, his mouth against Zoe's ear - as small and soft and velvety as a pet mouse - said: "The moon is fair tonight along the Straits."

She had taken her mouth from his and turned away, and now she stirred but did not turn back to kiss him again. She muttered: "And idiot armies struggle on the darkling plain."

It was a game they often played, quoting and requoting from a favorite poem, and her reply was not exactly what Blade had expected. She had not used the word love. And she nearly always did, when she could. Love. For, of, about, to, Richard Blade. Not this night. Zoe had not, even in the last gasping throes of passion, murmured that she loved him.

Blade, dark-muscled giant that he was, was acute without being particularly intellectual. In many ways he was a sensitive man, an image belied by his rugged good looks and his outsize, Greek athlete's body. He was as tough as concrete, an efficient killer in England's service, and one of the best secret agents in the world.

Had been. Lord Leighton's computer had changed all that.

Now he kissed her ear and said, "What is it, Zoe? What's wrong? Something is wrong, I've known it all day."

She went tense for a moment, then relaxed. "Who is Taleen?" she asked.

For a moment he really did not know. His memories of Alb were faint, tenuous, like smoke drifting and disappearing, faint beacons flashing for an instant and then doused in black. Lord L had explained it. His memory molecules could not restore the past.

Taleen? Taleen - -the ghost came then, for a breath, a shimmer of golden girl flesh, a savage little mouth slashing at his, an imperious cry of passion somewhere in limbo.

Zoe said: "You don't answer me, Richard." She had been calling him Richard all day, not Dick.

He could not answer her. The brief carnal phantom vanished and he did not know who Taleen was. Had he ever known?

"I don't know anyone named Taleen," he said. "Should I? Why are you asking?"

When he touched her again she went rigid and pulled away, but her voice was calm. Zoe was always calm, except in passion.

"Really, Richard, I wish you wouldn't try to deceive me. I deserve better than that. So do you. We're neither of us fools, nor lying children. If you've found another woman for God's sake tell me, just simply tell me, and that will be that. I am not a clinger, you know. I don't make scenes. But after what we have had of each other I think I deserve honesty. That's why I am so puzzled and hurt, really. I know you are honest, just as I know you are a gentleman - and that is why I cannot understand."

"Can't understand what, Zoe? For God's sake! What is this all about? You have been sulking underneath all day, and when I ask why, suddenly you come up with a name! Taleen? I suppose it's a name. And I don't know what in hell you're talking about!"

Did he know? What just now, faster than light, had pressed against his brain? A golden-orbed and blue - painted breast? Gone.

He pulled Zoe to him in an embrace that was nearly savage. She cried out. "Dick! Please - you're hurting me." For the first time today she had called him Dick.

"I'm sorry, honey." Yet he held her firmly, made her turn to face him so their eyes glinted close in the moonlight. "But you've got to tell me what this is all about, Zoe. It is all getting a little crazy, you know. Barmy as hell!"

Lord L would know, of course, and Lord L must be asked and made to tell. Was the giant computer, and the subsequent, memory treatments, affecting his brain permanently? That could wait. Right now he was in deep trouble with the woman he loved.

"All right," said Zoe. Some of the hurt left her voice. "Maybe it was only a nightmare. Maybe I'm only a jealous fool. After all, Richard, I have never known you to lie to me."

She still called him Richard.

"Last night, Richard, after we had been in bed an hour or so, you began to make love to a woman named Taleen. You woke me up by threshing about and calling her name. You were going through the actual physical motions of love - sweating and groaning and crying. And you - you..." She broke off her words and looked at' him.

Blade stared at her, stunned and a little afraid. "Why didn't you wake me, for God's sake?"

"I couldn't. I tried. Don't you think I tried! But I was afraid of you, afraid of being smashed. I know how powerful you are, and how gentle you are, at least always with me, but last night you were a different man. I had never seen that man before and I did not like him. I hated him! You were a great ravening savage brute, Richard, and I was frightened to death. Finally I just slipped out of bed and watched from a corner until it was over."

"How long?"

"At least half an hour. When you had finally spent, actually spent, you sighed and rolled over and went back to sleep like a tired baby."

He had had time to think now and knew that this scene was only an entry into another - to others. This storm had been brewing for a long time and now it was going to break. He tried the light note.

"All it means, love, is that I had a particularly realistic nightmare, an erotic dream, and you had the bad luck to witness it."

He smiled at her, so close, their eyes mirroring. The smile that J, with his acerbic tongue, sometimes alluded to as the coup de grace.

"It also means," said Blade, "that I am a lousy lover. A selfish pig that cares only for my own satisfaction. A pig that rolls over and snores without even a goodnight kiss. Now I ask you, darling, is that the Blade you know? Even if there were another woman, which there isn't - and I swear that on the Queen and my own sainted mother - would I treat her like that? Even in a dream? So you see it was only a nightmare. Someone else's nightmare. Not me at all. I think we had best just forget it. Come sweets, and give a kiss, and I'll pay you back threefold."

This time the quote did not work. The smile did not work. The famous Blade charm did not work. Zoe turned her face away from his.

"I think we had best not forget it, Richard. The nightmare, yes. You are probably right and it was only that. I am a little fool and there is no other woman named Taleen. It is an odd name, though. To imagine, dream up, even in a nightmare!"

Even the best, the sweetest, of them have nasty claws.

Blade sighed and closed his eyes against the moonlight, plucked a stalk of heather and chewed on it, and silently goddamned Lord L and all the boffins, and computers, and J and M16A, and especially damned himself as far back as Oxford for having let himself be recruited there. He damned the concept of duty and knew he could never refute it. Most especially he damned, to the nethermost regions of the darkest pit, the Official Secrets Act. There was never any release from it. Not ever. Even if duty and country and decency did not deter - the Act did. They had you forever. You opened your mouth once, one faint whisper, and they hung you. Even J would do it. And J loved him like a son.

Zoe was speaking quietly. "Until a few months ago, Richard, you were asking me to marry you."

And so he had been. He had loved her then and he loved her now. He gritted his teeth and was silent. The gulls fluttered on their ledge. The moon sailed away to adventure. Blade waited. He might yet get out of this one, but it was going to be a near thing. Christ! He didn't want to lose this woman.

"I wouldn't at first," she went on, "because of a number of things. There was no rush, I didn't know very much about you, and I wasn't sure if I loved you enough for marriage. Then, when I was sure, and loved you desperately, you stopped asking. Just like that." Blade groaned aloud.

Quickly she leaned to kiss his cheek. Her lips were chill and in her voice was a subtle note of change as she said: "Poor darling. Does it hurt so much?"

She was not, he knew, alluding to any physical pain. She had her lovely little sharp talons ha him now and she was going to rend a little, just to even matters up.

"You disappear for long periods of time, Richard. You never give me any excuses, I'll say that for you. You just disappear and then come back with strange marks and scars on you, and an odd look in your eye, and you walk in and expect me to pick right up where we left off. And I do. I always have, so far. I hop right into bed and I love it. But I can't love it forever, you know. I'm a woman. I want to get married and have children and have a husband I see every day. And every night. You won't even tell me what you really do for a living!"

Blade squinted up at her and made the effort. "Come off it, Zoe. You know what I..."

She put a cool hand over his lips. "Bureau of Economic Planning. Whitehall."

It was a new cover, one that J had dreamed up since the computer experiments began.

"I asked about your real job, Richard. That Bureau thing is only what they call a cover in the thrillers. I've looked into it. Father has friends, I have friends, and all our friends have friends. It wasn't so hard, really. You have got an office in Whitehall, and a pretty little thing as a secretary, and you spend about one hour a week there, signing papers that mean nothing."

Blade closed his eyes again. Somewhere a cuckoo sang a last sad parting note. Wait until J heard about this! The plumbing was leaking. It had, of course, been a hasty setup.

Zoe leaned to kiss him softly on the mouth. Her lips were warm again. "Dick. Sweetheart. If you are some sort of secret agent, doing some sort of dreadfully mysterious and dangerous work, why don't you just simply tell me? Just one word. I'll understand and never ask another question."

Hah!

"I can't tell you," he said. "I can't tell you anything at all."

"Not even yes or no?"

"Not anything."

There was silence. The cuckoo cried a last time. Zoe was leaning over him, her marvelous taut breasts touching his face.

"All right," Zoe said at last. "Will you marry me, then? Right away. I love you so much that I'll settle for just that. Marry me and I'll try my best not to be a hindrance to you in whatever it is you do."

"I can't marry you."

When the computer thing began they voided his old Official Secrets Act and had made him sign a new one - with a special codicil. No marriage. J was the best security man in all Europe and he did not trust bedsprings, even connubial ones.

Zoe drew away from him. "You can't marry me? Or won't marry me?"

"Can't. I..."

They heard the phone ringing in the cottage then, a hundred yards back from the cliff, shrill and angry in the quietness.

Zoe stood up abruptly and starting brushing off her skirt. "I'm not expecting a call."

"I am. Come on. I'll carry you." Blade snatched her up and ran down the path, carrying her as effortlessly as a man carries a kitten. There was a four-step stile just at the turnoff to the cottage and he took it in stride, vaulting the high stone like a thoroughbred at the National.

Zoe cried out. "You fool. You'll cripple both of us!" Ordinarily she would have loved it. There was no particular hurry. Blade knew the phone would keep ringing. It did.

The phone was in the bedroom. Blade flung Zoe on the bed in a flurry of skirts and long bare legs and went to answer it. It was an ordinary black phone with no scrambler attachment. "Hello."

"Hello, dear boy. How are things?" J's tone was bland and calm as the Channel a hundred yards away. He sounded as if he were about to invite Blade to tea the next day.

"Things might be a little better," Blade said. He glanced at Zoe on the bed. She had arranged her skirt and was regarding him with an odd little smile, her chin cupped in her hand. A reclining Mona Lisa.

"My dear fellow," said J, "I hope I haven't interrupted anything." J sounded as though he actually meant it.

"Only a blazing quarrel, sir. Nothing to worry about. What is it? Is the deal going through?"

"It is," said J. "First thing in the morning. Can you be at your office in Whitehall to sign the necessary papers? Quite early?"

"Right, sir. I'll be there." He hung up. Blade went to a closet to get his light suitcase, very conscious of Zoe's dark eyes on him.

"Off again, darling?"

He nodded, still without looking at her, and began to toss things into the suitcase. He hadn't brought much down from London this time.

"When shall I see you again?"

At last he could be honest. "I don't know. And I'm not being evasive, Zoe. I just have no way of knowing when I will see you again."

He was about to add - perhaps not ever, but cut it off in time. That would be cruel. She loved him. She was going to imagine things anyway, but at least they would be in the realm of ordinary human fears. Bad enough. Tell her he was going into a new dimension, with only a fifty-fifty chance of ever getting back, and she would go mad. Or think he was. And anyway there was the ACT.

Blade said: "I have to do a little job. I can't say when it will be finished."

"Dick!"

He turned and she was holding out her arms to him, her eyes moist and her mouth trembling. He went to her. It was like one of those beautifully done scenes in the silent movies when no word is spoken and no shred of meaning lost.

She pulled him down on top of her. He took her tenderly, then with a rising lust and ardent savagery, matched by her own, until the peak was reached and they could be tender again.

Blade did not tarry. He left her crumpled and pale and completed, weeping a little, and went away.

He entered London with the dawn. He drove straight to the Tower - J had meant him to read Tower for Whitehall - and found J waiting for him by the site of the old Water Gate. J was wearing a Burberry against the morning chill and smoking his pipe. The harsh morning light made him look older then sixty, and the sacs under his eyes were a flaccid purple.

Two burly Special Branch types were waiting for them near a postern. As they headed for it Blade looked at the head of M16A and asked, "There is no possible way out of the Official Secrets Act, sir? Ever?"

J's eyes were compassionate above their fleshy bags. In a tired voice he said, "But of course there is, my dear boy. Death."

The Special Branch men took them down a long ramp and into a tunnel that emerged in a maze of subbasements and, finally, to the bronze elevator door that Blade remembered so well. Even J was not permitted beyond this point when an X-Dimension experiment was GO.

They shook hands briefly. J looked as weary, and worried, as Blade had ever seen him. He had little to say.

"Good luck, my boy. Seems strange to say this - where you're going - but don't worry about things here. You've signed all the proper papers and your affairs are in order. I'll take care of everything in the event..."

They were standing a little aside from the armed guards, waiting for the elevator to come up. Blade smiled at his boss and half whispered, "I've been thinking about that, sir. In the event - I'll just be a non-person, won't I? That should cause a sweat over at Somerset House."

It was an effort, more than anything, to cheer the old chap up a bit. Blade had never seen him looking so miserable.

J took him seriously. "It will be arranged, my boy. It will be taken care of. Here's your lift. Good-bye."

Ten minutes later Richard Blade, wearing only the usual loincloth, followed Lord Leighton into the master computer room. The hunchbacked old scientist, in a soiled white smock, hobbled on polio-ruined legs through a maze of lesser computers. Blade, with a feeling of some revulsion, listened to the song of the future: One-oh - one - oh - one-oh-one-oh - . Binary logic. Be-bop-be-bop-be-bop-be-bop - . Milliseconds that would soon be nanoseconds. One billionth of a second. Spinning magnetic drums and tiny bulbs flashing GO-GO-GO-GO.

It was most certainly GO. They entered the small room where the dimensional computer waited like a gray crackled Moloch. Blade had not been in this room since his first trip through the computer. It had not changed. There were the thousands of multicolored wires running through portholes into the penetrailia of the vast machine. There was the small square of floor covered with rubberized fabric. There was the glass booth and the chair that always reminded Blade of an electric chair.

And yet everything had changed. Lord L, as he applied tar-smelling ointment to Blade's huge body, waved a fragile hand at the monster.

"Completely rebuilt. Radical changes. The old one was only sixth generation - this one is at least eight. Skipped one, you see."

Blade, who knew that conventional computers were only in the third generation, was impressed. This crippled old genius was already five generations ahead of the rest of the world in cybernetics. That in itself, with all its implications, should get England back in the race. Was this trip really necessary?

He was in the chair now and the old man was carefully taping the shiny electrodes to Blade's flesh. They were the size of a shilling and shaped like a cobra's head.

Lord Leighton finished the job and flashed his tawny eyes at Blade. "You're nervous. Much more so than the first time out. Afraid?"

Blade was not a liar. "Yes, sir. A bit. The first trip was an error. It happened so fast I had no time to anticipate. I hadn't had time to tense up and I didn't know where I was going."

Lord Leighton patted his shoulder and said, with perfect logic, "You don't know where you're going this time, either. Do you now? But don't let it worry you, my boy. I have made the most complex calculations and the matter is now quite proved out. I'll have you back all in good time. In the meantime you must remember - make no conscious effort to remember! The memory molecule will take care of all that. Ready?"

"As ever I'll be," said Blade grimly. "Get on with it, then."

Lord Leighton closed a switch.

The first time there had been pain. Great slashing scarlet pain. This time there was no pain, only a huge and relentless hand pressing him beneath tons of water. He could not breathe and it did not matter. He did not need to breathe. He was hurtling through a vacuum filled with thunder. Silent thunder that he felt but could not hear.

Richard Blade began to disintegrate. He watched the process with a cold part of his brain that did not care. He felt nothing. He was not interested. He was bored with it all. He saw his hands fall off and his feet detach. His head left his body, which by now was impaled on an icicle the size of the Empire State building. His head circled the body, which was still coming apart, like the planes after King Kong. His belly had split now and his viscera were coming out like pink and blue ribbons and getting tangled in the buzzing planes.

He saw the fist coming. A fist the size of the world. Blade's floating head could not duck. It could only wait He smiled. What did it matter? It was only a fist. The size of the world.

The fist slammed into him and at last there was pain.


Jeffrey Lord The Jade Warrior | The Jade Warrior | Chapter Two