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you can do. Nobody can give you the Flux power you either have it or you
don't. But if you have it, and the math skills and the memory skills, you have
real power, and that's what it's all about out here."
"Money means nothing obviously," Zekah put in. "Nothing means anything in Flux
except power. The more you have and can use, the higher up you go. Now, the
boss he's got power.
More than anybody, I think. If he wants a castle with servants, he just wishes
them up."
She thought about it. "I would think that after a while being a god would get
boring, too. I
mean, what do you do after you have everything you want?"
"You've got the idea," Yorek agreed. "That's really the key to figuring the
boss out. The only fun he gets is showing off his powers to others. We we're
along to learn what we can from him, but he don't think of us that way. People
to the boss are just things stick figures or cartoons drawn for his own
amusement. Playthings. Even us."
"I'd think you'd be a little nervous about that."
"Not really. You see, we're the one thing he needs in the whole world. We're
his audience. No use in power if you don't have people around who can
appreciate it. No, the only people he might think of as people are those with
as much or more power than he's got, and if he finds 'em, he takes 'em on. So
far, nobody's been stronger. That's why the Flux bores him. He likes to spend
most of his time in Anchor, where the power isn't in the magic but in the
head. He likes to win at anything, and he almost always does. Any time he
doesn't, he gets mean and nasty. Everybody's scared stiff of him, even the
rest of the Seven, mostly, I think, because he doesn't believe in anything but
himself."
"He doesn't believe in Hell, then? But I thought that's what the Seven were
about."
Zekah smiled. "They are, and so's he. But not like them. He says there's
nothing supernatural about Hell. It's just another place filled with a lot of
different kinds of creatures who think. A long time ago we and they fought a
war over this place, and they lost, sort of. Maybe it was a tie.
Anyway, the other side's been stuck someplace, kept there by the gadgets on
the Hellgates, and that someplace isn't home. We're in the way to where their
home is. They want to go home now, but they can't do it without coming through
here. Since they invented the Flux, they know just how to work it, so there's
supposed to be a deal. Unlock the gates, let them go home, and in payment
they'll show the ones who let 'em out just how to fully use the Flux on a
worldwide basis. That's ultimate power."
She shivered. "Even if it's true, I don't see why anybody should trust them.
If I'd been locked away in prison for thousands of years, I sure wouldn't be
nice to the children of the ones who put me there."
"That's a good point," Yorek agreed, "but you got to remember that the Seven
are wizards like
Coydt. They're all tremendously old, hundreds of years, and they're all very
bored. They figure a gamble on something new is better than living forever
like this. Maybe they're right, I don't know.
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As soon as it's done, if they get the power, all of 'em will set out to wipe
out the others and become sole god of World. That's the only reason Coydt
hasn't taken them on. That and the fact that to unlock the gates you need a
code, and each of 'em only has part of it."
It was an unreal conversation, part fairy story and part nightmare. Sitting
there at a sumptuous dinner in the middle of a void, the victim and her
kidnappers were having friendly, casual conversation.
"What am doing in the middle of all this?" she asked them. "I don't know the
math, and my
I
mother's surely not going to ransom me for anything. My opinion of her is
actually closer to your boss's."
Zekah shrugged. "They've got something big cooking. Something that's taken
years to set up.
Your momma is the only thing standing in their way. The boss is willing to
take her on, one-on-
one, but she would never be alone. It'd be ten to one, and that's suicide.
Just what the whole thing's about we don't know, but you're important to it,
that's for sure. Better keep this in mind, though. He uses people, that's all.
He don't think much of men, but he thinks even less of women.
Thinks they're kind of inferior to men. You better be ready. Best your mom
would've had a boy."
She thought about it, and didn't like the implications at all.
Coydt returned just then and looked down on the scene from horseback.
"Charming. I trust the boys have been keeping you amused? After all, you are
our guest."
"I'm not your guest; I'm your prisoner," she shot back. "I don't know what
your game is, but it's not going to work. My mother wouldn't do anything to
get me back."
"You might be surprised. Still, it really doesn't matter if she does or she
doesn't. Don't overesti-
mate your importance either. You are not the game, nor even close to it. You
are merely a diversion, some useful window dressing, nothing more. In fact,
your most interesting challenge was something we didn't even suspect until we
got you in Flux. Mount up. We have a short ride left to go, and then we can
relax."
The news had hit Kasdi like a shot to the heart, and it brought up all the
guilt to the fore. It had also triggered a massive manhunt through Flux and
Anchor. Messengers, transformed into swift creatures who could fly in Flux,
took the news and the descriptions to all the other Anchors and
Fluxlands and even to stringer trains within the vast area under the control
of the Reformed
Church. Not that it would probably do much good. Coydt's powers in Flux were
such that he could easily escape detection and get them all away to the
relative safety of the old Church's domains or the wilds as quickly as she
could spread the news.
Mervyn arrived in Anchor Logh within hours of getting the word of the
kidnapping. He had much information, but no news.
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"Coydt grew up in Anchor, the youngest of five children," he told her. "When
his older brother was chosen in the Paring Rite, he turned on the Church and
all its works with a vengeance, practi-
cally inviting expulsion himself. His parental situation is the stuff of
psychology studies, but suffice it to say that he was the worst person on
World to discover he had tremendous doses of
Flux power and the ability to use them. He hates the Church, old or new. In
fact, he hates all religious equally, and believes that there is nothing
supernatural in anything. He believes that women as a group are intellectually
and psychologically inferior to men and that they should be obedient,
subservient, totally passive people serving men. He is worse than immoral, he
is amoral in the extreme he no more thought about killing that poor priestess
than you would think about brushing aside a fly. He is, unfortunately, also
coldly brilliant, as witness his plan here."
Kasdi shuddered. "He makes Haldayne sound like a saint. And Spirit is in his
hands. . . ."
He nodded. "Indeed. But there is more afoot here than mere toying. This is the
start of an organized campaign of some sort. I'm afraid we will simply have to
wait and see what this first move is all about."
She spent the next few days with Cloise, trying to comfort the foster mother
who'd done so well and to take some comfort from her as well, as they waited.
Messengers, as expected, brought no news, although the attack and its
aftermath was the sole topic of conversation in Anchor Logh and made everyone
feel insecure and suspicious. Strangers of any kind had to be restricted, and
still nobody was being allowed out, but the locals were seeing every
unfamiliar face as one of those people in the church.
Far from being a dark secret, Spirit's origin and appearance were now as [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]